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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cover Reveal + Giveaway- Black City by Elizabeth Richards

Today, I have a great cover reveal and giveaway for you! It's of Black City by Elizabeth Richards, which will be published by Penguin on November 13, 2012! Here's the summary, followed by the author's bio:

A dark and tender postapocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable— they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection, that causes Ash’s long dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught they’ll be executed— but their feelings are too strong. When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

Elizabeth Richards is an award-winning journalist and debut author, who spent her early career writing for videogame publications such as CUBE, P2 and GamesTM, and now works as a website editor. Previously, she ran a successful lifestyle website aimed at teenage girls. She won the Jane Hayward Young Journalist of the Year award for her feature on girls in the games industry, and was named 'Editor's Choice' in the industry trade magazine, MCV. She lives in Buckinghamshire, England and can be found online at www.theredpenofdoom.wordpress.com

OK so you want the cover? Here it is:

Isn't it gorgeous?! You have the opportunity to win a copy here! This copy has been donated through the generosity of Penguin. All you have to do is comment on this post by Thursday, March 8 at 9pm EST. It is an INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY FOR A PHYSICAL ARC so ANYONE can enter!

Galley winners from each of the cover reveal blogs will also get a chance to win one of 5 exclusive and personalized drawings of the main characters— Ash and Natalie— drawn and autographed by the author. See below for a sample drawing. The finished drawing will be more polished and each one will be just a bit different, so each winner will receive an original and unique image. Winners of the drawings will be chosen blindly and randomly by the author.

That's not all though. I've also got the first chapter for you guys (link courtesy of The Story Siren because I suck at making these sorts of things; I was gonna copy and paste- not good). Enjoy!

How cool is that? So go ahead and enter below, and if you don't have a blogger profile with an email address that I can easily see, please include your email address in your comment. Good luck to all!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Legacy of Eden Blog Tour- Interview with Nelle Davy

1. What is your daily routine as a writer?

I don’t have one – it’s very fly by the seat of your pants but I tell you I love to write at night. There is something about the darkness that makes me feel much freer.

2. What is your favorite book?

Could not even begin to answer that one – it would be like choosing a favourite child: Matilda, Rebecca, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, The Secret History, I Capture the Castle, Therese Raquin…endless endless lists.

3. What is your favorite part of the writing process?

When you finish a segment and realize you wrote a sentence that is yours – your voice captured in those words and no one else could write what you just did. It makes you feel as if you are coming into your own, instead of a lesser follower of greater authors.

4. Is there a specific element in your writing that you find most challenging?

Not getting distracted. I am so easily swayed.

5. Which author inspires you most?

I can’t even begin to pick. What I will say is there are only two writers out there I would describe as wordsmiths which to me is the ultimate accolade for an author – Milton and Shakespeare. They set the bar – you try to reach it. You never will, but you can try.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Author Interview- Emily M. Danforth

1) How did you get the idea for The Miseducation of Cameron Post? What kind of research did you do to learn about places that try to "fix" homosexuality?

I knew, for many years, really, that I wanted to write some sort of first-person, character-driven coming-of-age novel set, at least partially, in eastern Montana—where I was born and raised—and carefully exploring emerging sexual identity and desire. I eventually found Cameron’s voice in a writing workshop at the University of Montana. At that point “she” wasn’t named Cameron and was, I thought, just the narrator of a short story (that never really went anywhere) but she became a character I wanted to stay with. Other pieces came rather randomly.

In 2005, as I was beginning my drafting process, working out the cast of characters and events, I became aware of Biblically-informed conversion/reparative “therapy” because of the media attention over a teenage boy from Tennessee who posted on his Myspace page about being forced, by his parents, to attend one of these reparative therapy summer camps. I was both horrified and intrigued and began my research into this practice shortly thereafter, knowing that it would be incorporated into Cameron’s narrative. As for the research itself, I did all kinds: from routinely visiting chat rooms and blogs and websites of organizations associated with Exodus International (the umbrella organization for many of these churches and groups) to reading books and other materials by proponents and practitioners of conversion/reparative therapy, to seeking out residence “rules” manuals and other materials specifically from live-in facilities, etc.

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

I’m working on a novel (tentatively titled Well, Well, Well…) that follows one copy of the infamous and historically banned novel, The Well of Loneliness, from the day it comes off the press in London in 1928 and is picked up by it’s author, the colorful Radclyffe Hall, to the day that it—well, I can’t say what happens to it, but suffice it to say that we follow this copy of the book as it passes hands from one character to the next for 100 years. The characters are mix of fictionalized versions of “real people,” like actress/provocateur Tallulah Bankhead (who was friends with Hall), and also those who are complete inventions. The structure is kaleidoscopic, with this individual copy of Hall’s novel as the fulcrum around which these various narratives and worlds collide. However, some sections also make use of material from The Well of Loneliness, reshaping or altering particular scenes or moments from that book so that they comment on the action in my novel. It’s pretty unlikely that (should I be lucky enough to publish it) this particular novel will be marketed as YA.

3) You have an MFA in fiction and a PhD in creative writing. What prompted you to continue going to school to learn more about literature and writing? Do you feel it's helped you in your writing?

I took a couple of years “off” between undergrad and enrolling in the MFA program at the University of Montana-Missoula. I’d had some excellent creative writing instruction in college at Hofstra University, but I wanted to see if I would take the time to write on my own, to make it a priority, while not in school and thereby “forced to write” for a workshop or a grade. I did do some writing during those years (while working a full time job as an Aquatics Director at a YWCA, actually) and I eventually decided that I was serious enough about my writing to dedicate myself to properly learning technique and analysis (and just to being around other serious, dedicated writers—which is absolutely one of the benefits of an MFA program) for a couple of years. During my MFA I learned what it means to “read like a writer,” to read a piece of fiction and carefully consider its construction, the various elements of craft used to render it as a whole. I also wrote quite a lot of short fiction, which was essential in terms of allowing me to try out various modes of storytelling, to experiment with form and style, and then to move on to something new.

I continued on to get my PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, not just to receive additional graduate level instruction in the craft of fiction writing, but specifically to gain experience teaching in the college classroom, to develop my pedagogy, and to commit myself to scholarly work in the analysis of contemporary fiction—specifically the recent American novel and LGBTQ fiction. Importantly, I was also able to carve-out time during my PhD to complete (and even to workshop portions of) The Miseducation of Cameron Post (which was then, for reasons too complicated to go into here, called Lucky Human, actually). Unquestionably both of these programs helped me to develop as a fiction writer (and as a teacher). Yes, yes, and yes. (Though I should mentioned that neither of the programs I attended were at all YA-specific in terms of approach.)

My standard “advice” about graduate level creative writing programs (particularly full time, residency programs) is that unless you’re independently wealthy, don’t enroll if you’re not offered some source of funding (other than student loans). You might get a fellowship, or a partial fellowship, or a research assistantship, or a teaching assistantship (which is crucial—if you ever plan to go on the academic job market—because it helps you gain necessary classroom teaching experience), or any combination thereof. But without those sources of funding, I’m just not sure that racking-up significant debt to earn an MFA is “worth it.” Though, ultimately, I guess it all depends on the program, your intentions, and how you make use of your time there. (There are also lots of great low-residency MFA/MA in CW options now, too.)

4) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor (or flavors, if you're so inclined)?

Oh, Juicy Pear for sure, is my favorite. Though more than, say, a dozen Juicy Pear at a time and I get pretty queasy. I also enjoy many of the “sours” flavors (with the exception of the blue) as well as Sunkist Tangerine and Very Cherry (on occasion.)

5) You teach at Rhode Island College now. What's your favorite and least favorite aspect of teaching? Any funny anecdotes to share?

Favorite aspects: being in front of the class; reading/being inspired by, student work; introducing students to novels and stories and writers they’ve not encountered before; getting paid to talk about creative writing.

Least favorite aspects: grading (ugh, the worst) and lazy/sleepy/routinely disinterested and too-cool-for-school students. (Luckily I seem to have very few of those.) My anecdotes can never leave the classroom. We’re all sworn to secrecy about my bumbling, sometimes-embarrassing, always completely inelegant ways. Sorry.

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

I’ve just finished (for the second time) Karen Russell’s wonderful novel Swamplandia! (ee’ll soon be talking about it in my graduate workshop in the novel), and I’m now re-reading Sarah Waters’ fantastic novel Fingersmith, because we’ll soon be moving on to that book in the same workshop. I also just purchased Ryan Van Meter’s collection of linked, coming-of-age essays: If You Knew Then What I Know Now, which I’ve not yet made it through (in its entirety) but still can absolutely recommend. Van Meter’s essays are elegantly constructed and so nuanced and evocative.

7) On your website, there is a picture of you in a canoe. Is this your canoe, or someone else's? Why are you in the canoe? Was it a comfortable place to sleep (I ask because it looks like you're sleeping)? I want to know everything.

Everything, huh? Everything? That seems a very tall order. What I can tell you about that picture is that it was taken the summer immediately after I graduated from college (so just about exactly one decade ago), while I was working as a member of the swim staff for Camp Mohawk—a day camp in Westchester County, New York. Late in the summer, several of the eldest campers were allowed to go on a weeklong overnight excursion to The Ashokan Center, and I was lucky enough to get to go along as one of the four swim staff. I’m kind of a big nerd about things like this (not even kind of, I just am): things like rope bridges and windy trails through the woods and cabins with bunks, sing-alongs, goofy campfire games, ghost stories, sunlight glinting off the surface of a lake: all of that stuff makes me giddy. (And this was a week full of all of that stuff.)

So, the canoe in question actually belongs to the Ashokan Center and I was sort of napping in the sun, not really full-on sleeping. It’s important to mention that I was not “on duty” as a lifeguard at this point, either. (Just so that no one thinks I was literally sleeping on the job.) One of the counselors snapped that photo with a cheap, disposable B&W camera of mine. (I don’t even remember that woman’s name anymore, which makes me sort of sad, but we only knew each other for a few months one summer.) I had no idea, of course, before getting those photos developed, just how cool a shot it would end up being—the composition is really interesting, I think, particularly the dock and canoe in the background. Anyway—it’s coincidental that you asked about it, since, as I mentioned, this summer is its “10-year anniversary” as a photo, a moment, what have you, and I’ve been thinking about heading back to the Ashokan Center to see if I can re-create it a decade later. I don’t know: seems like it might be a fun adventure. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Taking a Break

Hey all, I'm taking a little break from blogging. I'm not sure how long it will last, but hopefully not more than a few weeks. My life is just hectic right now and I can't keep up with everything I need to do.

There will be some blog posts in the interim- at least two interviews and a review (for a blog tour, so I have to do it), maybe some Meandering Mondays and In My Mailboxes, but definitely no reviews. I'm taking this time to catch up on my reading stack.

I'm also going to be trying something new. In the past, I've done a schedule every month of what to review when. Well, since the beginning of the year, I've had to put down three different books (at different times) because I just wasn't feeling them. This has NEVER happened to me before and I'm wondering if it's because of being burnt out or because of the schedule, so I'm going to deal with both. Taking a break should help me relax and not have to worry about posting every day, and I'm also just going to read whatever I want, release date be damned. Whatever I feel like reading, I'll read that.

But it's so weird because I've been able to live by the schedule for so long and I love putting it together. I've never been the kind of person who really needs to be in a specific mood for something, at least not all the time. I do have that rare urge to read something funny amidst all the serious paranormals and some contemporaries, but that's about it. I'm thinking I may be becoming that person though.

So anyway, please keep commenting even though posts will be sporadic because I still love comments! I'll still be on Twitter and stuff, so you can talk to me there too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Meandering Monday- Sallie Mae

By the title of this post, you can gather that this is not something usually on a book blog. But it's something I've been wanting to write for a while so I figured I'd do it here. I hope you guys don't mind, though I'm sure many of you have strong opinions about this too.

Now, I know very little about student loans, having thankfully not had to deal with them. Believe me, I am extremely grateful that my parents had a plan for college that didn't involve me having to take out loans or anything. I have several friends from college who now have to deal with loans and it makes me sad, sick, and angry that in most cases, it's very hard to bring your principal balance down. It's especially hard when you're dealing with Sallie Mae.

If you don't want to read my full rant, here's the basic idea: Sallie Mae is a horrible, corrupt company that needs to be stopped.

Hearing my friends talk about their experiences with Sallie Mae makes me so angry and I wish I could do more to help them than just being a good listener. I don't truly hate many people or companies because hate is such a strong word. When you meet me, I'm a very friendly, happy guy and I don't like to focus on negativity, so I feel like it's very telling of someone/something when I do get truly angry. It's a very rare sight.

My problems with Sallie Mae are thus:

1) How they still make you pay interest when you're trying to pay down your balance. I don't know if this is how all loans work (and if it does, I think that's just wrong), but it makes no sense. Or, well, it does if you're a corrupt person who just wants to keep taking money from people who are paying you but aren't able to pay their other, more crucial bills or food. I understand interest being tacked on when you're not paying back the loan because they're out of however much they lent you until you pay it back. But I believe that once you start paying it back, the interest should stop so that the balance can go down.

Many college students graduating in the past few years (and those who will be graduating over the next few) are having trouble finding jobs, including myself. It's not for lack of trying, or lack of ability; it's just lack of positions available. Then, even when you do get a job, you have car payments, utility bills, monthly rent, food, gas, etc. to pay for. Where after all of that are you supposed to muster up $600/month to only be able to pay the INTEREST and not the balance? All you're paying is interest and your balance never goes down. There's no way to save because all your money is going to bills and Sallie Mae every month so how are you supposed to be able to actually bring down the actual balance? It sickens me that Sallie Mae is doing this when they know how bad the economy is and I'm sure they get plenty of calls and complaints about this and yet THEY DO NOTHING. It just angers me to no end.

2) They made unemployed people pay an "unemployment fee" to defer their loans. Um... say what now? The entire point of being unemployed is that YOU HAVE NO MONEY. And what little you do have has to go toward gas to get to job interviews and keeping yourself fed and sheltered, not to a rich beyond belief company who just pockets the money. Oh yeah, they just pocketed it. It didn't go toward interest or the principal balance. It was just money they kept. What the heck?! A recent petition with 75,000+ signatures was brought to their attention and they kinda changed their policy, but not really. They're still doing it but instead of pocketing it, they'll put it toward your balance once you've made 6 consistent on-time payments. That doesn't solve anything though- unemployed people still have no extra money to be giving away every three months. It's like they have no concept of this.

3) They are just out of control and throwing their power around because they can. There really needs to be more regulations and rules set on private loaners like Sallie Mae. I don't know why they don't do that. If I were the U.S. president and saw this happening, I would be going to these people and saying "I am enforcing rules now. Deal with it." Why didn't they do that when they bailed them out a few years ago? Like "Hey, here's this money BUT before we give it to you, you have to agree to stop doing these stupid things to your clients.". I'm just surprised no one in power has really done or said anything. I feel like someone should be doing something about this.

I hate this feeling of powerlessness. Whenever something horrible and unjust happens to one of my friends anywhere, I wish I could do something and make things right. Talk some sense into the wrongdoers and show them the right way. It's just absolutely bonkers that there are a lot of people in power who only care about themselves and don't care about the little people. I want to do something, but I just don't know what. Plus, I'm not THAT articulate that I could start something and lead people.

Anyway, that's my big rant. I feel a bit better having written it out but I'll feel much better when change occurs and things are made better for college graduates with a ton of debt. What do you all think? I'm sure you all have opinions. Lay them on me!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

In My Mailbox- Week of February 12 + Retrospective

I have a LONG vlog for you guys this week because I got a TON of books. The list is below the video if you don't have time. Enjoy!

Books Shown:

Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream (paperback, March 2012)
Abandon by Meg Cabot (paperback, January 2012)
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (ARC, June 2012 + PRETTY ENVELOPE!!!)
Wicked Jealous by Robin Palmer (ARC, July 2012)
Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti (ARC, June 2012)
Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer (ARC, June 2012)
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (ARC, June 2012)
Arise by Tara Hudson (ARC, June 2012)
A Want So Wicked by Suzanne Young (ARC, June 2012)
Cold Fury by H.M. Goeglein (ARC, July 2012)
Cordially Uninvited by Jennifer Roy (ARC, April 2012)
My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan by Seth Rudetsky (hardcover, Jan 2012)
The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani (hardcover, Jan 2012)
Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives by Albert Marrin (hardcover, Jan 2012)
Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo (hardcover, Jan 2012)
The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges (hardcover, Jan 2012)
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley (hardcover, Feb 2012)
Gil Marsh by A.C.E. Bauer (hardcover, Feb 2012)
The Nightmare Garden by Caitlin Kittredge (hardcover, Feb 2012)
Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale (hardcover, Feb 2012)

and here's my retrospective for the week-

Tuesday- I reviewed Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, which is out in stores now!

Wednesday- For my Waiting on Wednesday post, I selected Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot, which will be out in stores in July 2012.

Friday- I reviewed A Tale of Two Proms by Cara Lockwood, which can be bought online now!

Saturday- I reviewed The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen, which is out in stores now!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen
"Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that's just fine by her. She's got her friends - the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She's got her art - and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it's hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they're dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?"- summary from Amazon

I loved Jensen's debut a lot and have been looking forward to her second since then. I thought this was a really cute story but I felt like it dragged a lot, at least in the first half. The book is 380 pages long, which is probably the longest romantic comedy I've read, and the length shows. I thought there were some scenes that just didn't need to be there.

I did like Ella as a character because she's just such a realistic teen girl, I think. She has plenty of flaws and insecurities but she has the ability to be an awesome self-actualized woman. I loved her friendships with Sadie and Frankie, particularly Frankie because he's gay and we got to see a bit of his love life too, which was nice. They all had such a warm, strong friendship and I love seeing that in books.

The art aspect was really cool and interesting, and it's always fun to see a main character really into something. Her conversations with Edward were pretty funny (ok, and maybe a little bit insane). But the real relationship is with Alex and I loved seeing their relationship go from first hello to full-on dating over several months. It's handled really well too and is believable.

Overall, a good book and at a great price too- $9! I do recommend this, but I will say I do recommend her debut Falling in Love with English Boys a bit more.

FTC: Received ARC from author (signed!). Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Proms by Cara Lockwood

A Tale of Two Proms by Cara Lockwood
"It was the best of prom, it was the worst of prom.

Miranda Tate returns for her senior year at Bard Academy and she is counting on two things: Prom with her boyfriend, Heathcliff, and then graduation from the haunted boarding school where fictional characters come to life. Fate, however, has other plans.

When Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff's long-lost love, appears on campus, suddenly everything she thought she knew about Heathcliff is changed forever. Catherine seems determined to win Heathcliff back, even if that means destroying Bard Academy and banishing its ghostly teachers - for good.

Miranda and her friends face their most daunting challenge, yet, which will take them for the first time inside the classics that have powered their mysterious boarding school. It's up to them to save Bard Academy - and prom. Can Miranda change her destiny and Heathcliff's? Or is this one story that was written in the stars?"- summary from Amazon

I have absolutely loved the Bard Academy from the first day I saw it on bookshelves. I was browsing the bookstore with a gift card and saw this book called "Wuthering High" and had to immediately pick it up to see what it was about. It sounded really awesome- a funny paranormal taking elements from classic books. I bought it, read the book in two days, and was clamoring for the second one. I think I went back out the following weekend to get it. Then I had to wait around a year for the next one- it was TORTURE. Until I got to the wait for this book, which took four years! But it's here now, and it's the perfect way to wrap up the series.

I will admit that it took me a while to get into the book. I don't know if it was just having not read the series in so long, or if maybe the first half was just not what I'd expected from the books after reading the first three. I felt the humor had been dialed down and it was just reading about Miranda's woes over her relationship with Heathcliff.

The second half though was BANGING! I was scrolling through the pages (it's an ebook only) so fast because I wanted to see how everything was resolved. This was their biggest adventure yet and I think it was worth the wait. There was so much at stake and Lockwood handled the whole complicated situation so well. The ending was a bit of a surprise but it feels right, so I'm happy with it. Although now I kinda want an epilogue, lol.

The characters are all great, especially once their senses of humor come back in the second half. I missed them so much, so it was great to be with them all again for one final adventure. My favorite would probably have to be Samir- he's such a lovable coward! I also love that I kinda get a fun literature lesson while reading too.

Overall, this was a fantastic ending to a wonderful series. If you have not picked up these books, you really should!! I cannot recommend it enough, especially now that the series is complete! The first three books are, in order: Wuthering High, Scarlet Letterman, and Moby Clique. Go buy them!

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday- Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot

"It’s summer break at New York College, but that doesn’t mean assistant residence hall director Heather Wells can kick back and relax. The students may have gone home, but Fischer Hall is as busy as ever.

Only instead of college freshmen, Heather’s got a dorm full of squealing thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls—the first ever “Tania Trace Teen Rock Camp,” hosted by pop sensation (newly married to heartthrob Jordan Cartwright, Heather’s ex) Tania Trace.

But when the producer of the reality television show that’s filming Tania’s every move at the camp ends up dead, and it becomes clear Tania was the intended victim, Grant Cartwright, head of Cartwright Records, turns to his son, family black sheep and private investigator Cooper Cartwright, for help, desperate to keep his new daughter-in-law—and company’s highest earning star—alive.

Heather knows perfectly well she’s supposed to leave the detecting to Cooper, her ex’s big brother and her own brand new fiancĂ©. But with hysterical mini divas-in-training freaking out all around her—not to mention their mothers —how can she help but get involved? Especially when Tania Trace herself begins to confide in Heather, revealing a secret that may be a little more "real" than Cartwright Records ever bargained for.

And if an added bonus to solving the crime herself happens to be that Heather can convince Cooper to bury the hatchet with his family and agree to a large wedding, and not the elopement he's been insisting on, so all of Heather's friends can come, then maybe putting her own life on the line to save Tania’s just might turn out to be worth it...."- summary from Harper catalog

I had to look EVERYWHERE for this summary... I'm wondering if I should even be putting it here since I got it from the catalog, but whatever. I am SO EXCITED for this new Heather Wells book because I absolutely loved the first three books and have been so looking forward to more for a long time. Plus, it's always cause for celebration when a new Meg Cabot book comes out. This will be released as a trade paperback in July.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
"Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other."- summary from Jessica's website

When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to have it; even though it was historical which I'm not a fan of, it contained witches, which I am a huge fan of. I was not disappointed at all. Spotswood does a wonderful job setting up the world and how it works as well as all the characters and how they fit in the hierarchy. There's a lot of characters going around and she gives them such a unique voice and features that the reader is able to remember everyone easily.

I loved Cate as a narrator- she is a definitely flawed character but she's trying to do the best she can with what she's been given, both in regards to information and responsibility. She's an easy character to relate to and sympathize with. Her sisters were great too and had such fun personalities.

The romance is handled well too, feelings burgeoning from a vague acquaintanceship to friendship to full-on relationship. It's just great. Both guys are written really well, and are both just good guys, which was a relief since there usually tends to be a good boy and a bad boy to choose between. This romance was interesting and I had no idea who Cate would pick for a while.

I also want to say that I absolutely hate The Sisterhood and wanted to punch them in the face. Repeatedly. That's my go-to reaction when someone is doing something I don't like and is just WRONG. I don't get that kind of reaction often, from real life or from books, so when it does happen, it's a big thing.

Overall, an amazing debut and I am absolutely looking forward to the next books because this one ends on such a cliffhanger!! Definitely go buy a copy!

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meandering Monday- Retrospective

I don't really have anything for today so I'm just going to post a retrospective. Before I get to that though, I was interviewed by Katie of Katie's Book Blog over the weekend, so check that out and leave a comment please! :)

Now, here's the retrospective-

Monday- I did a fun little survey called Busting the Newbie Blues, which reminded me how much I love answering surveys!

Tuesday- I helped reveal the Don't Breathe A Word book trailer, and Holly Cupala is running a fabulous contest to go along with it, so check it out!

Wednesday- I reviewed The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe, which is out in stores now!

Thursday- I recapped the Incarnate launch party that took place Feb 4 in Harrisonburg, VA. It was a lot of fun!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Incarnate Launch Party Recap

You guys, I had the most awesome Saturday last weekend. It did start off with having to get up early which was not fun but after that, it was great. My roommate, her boyfriend, and a friend of ours came with me on the trip. We stopped at a winery my roommate loved which was only 2 miles out of the way. It was called the Hill Top Berry Farm and we did a wine tasting (my roommate's bf didn't though). I've only had a few sips of alcohol over the course of my life and not really enjoyed it, but with these wines, they're more fruity and they also have a lot of meads (made with honey) so I decided to give it a shot. It was not as bad as I thought, but I could definitely taste the alcohol and that wasn't enjoyable. We got to sample 10 different wines for just $3 and they provided a ginger snap with one of them. We were only there for about a half hour but it was fun. The people working there were really nice; the lady who orchestrated the tasting was the owner's daughter. It was just a nice, local, family-owned winery.
Anyway, you're not here for that, so let's move on. We got to Harrisonburg about an hour or so before the signing and had lunch, then went to the store. We actually showed up a few minutes late- Jodi had already done her reading and had been answering a few questions. There were a lot of people there, which was exciting, but there were also some young children there, which was a bit perplexing. My roommate asked if this was a children's book and I said no, it's 12+. But whatever, they were there and full of questions. Also full of questions was Jodi's agent Lauren MacLeod who is amazingly adorable.

Once the questions were done, the big signing started! I got into line while my friends munched on cookies and cupcakes off in the corner. While in line, I chatted with Joli from Actin' Up With Books and Angela from Reading Angel. It's always fun to meet bloggers at events, though I am very shy so it's hard to get me out of my shell. I got up to the front of the line and hugged Jodi 2.5 times (once for me, once for Emma, and then a side hug for the obligatory picture). We chatted for a few minutes while she signed my book; Jodi is such a sweetheart and I loved her knit hat that she wore.
After that, I did some munching on cupcakes and cookies and won a little butterfly knit because my plate had an Incarnate sticker on the bottom of it. Since there were a lot of snacks left over, Jodi told people to please take as much as they wanted, so of course we grabbed a few of each. I didn't take a picture of the whole setup but imagine what's in the picture I took of our haul times a bajillion and you can imagine how much was there. Or you can just check out Jodi's recap that has a picture of it before people devoured them. Also check out these other recaps: Fictional Distraction and The Musings of Almybnenr.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
"It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they're old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you're dead.

When sixteen-year-old Kaelyn lets her best friend leave for school without saying goodbye, she never dreams that she might not see him again. But then a strange virus begins to sweep through her small island community, infecting young and old alike. As the dead pile up, the government quarantines the island: no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Those still healthy must fight for the island's dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.

Because how will she go on if there isn't?"- summary from Amazon

I had heard some great things about this book before starting it, and I can tell you that they're true. Crewe creates an interesting island world here that's rich with depth, people and locations. Kaelyn is a wonderful main character who feels like a real girl; while she can be strong and spunky, she's also fragile and introspective. The other characters were great to read about too; I enjoyed Tessa, Gav, Meredith, and Nell- they were great friends.

I liked the idea of Kaelyn writing journal entries to her friend Leo on the mainland. It was a great way to learn more about Kaelyn, especially about her life before the virus, and to get her perspective on the virus being spread around. Plus, it was an easy way of seeing when the virus started and the timeline of it since the entries are dated.

The romance aspect was cute, working its way from friendship into love. I always enjoy stories like that since it just seems more realistic. Gav and Kaelyn are really good together. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, but nothing too huge.

Overall, a fantastic start to a new trilogy and I can't wait to see what Crewe comes up with next!

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don't Breathe A Word Trailer Launch Party!

I absolutely loved Holly Cupala's debut Tell Me A Secret and now she's got a great new book out called Don't Breathe A Word! We're celebrating the book trailer release with a launch party and huge contest! Details are posted after the trailer.


1. Click here to go to the DBAW trailer link, then click the Share button to send to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, MySpace, blog, or other social network. 5 pts each

2. Buy the book at this link for more chances to win (include in your entry below)!

3. Click here to enter with your links and/or purchase!


Five Grand Prizes:
Signed copies of Don’t Breathe a Word, Tell Me a Secret, the TMAS special edition audiobook, bookmarks, stickers, and other swag*

Ten Runner-Up Prizes:
Don’t Breathe a Word flyers, bookmarks, stickers, and a TMAS button*

Plus the first forty people who buy the book at this link between now and Valentine’s Day get DBAW bookmarks, stickers, and undying book love from me!*

*Must include mailing address with entry. (US + up to 20% international winners)

Good luck to everyone!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Busting the Newbie Blues

Busting the Newbie Blues is an annual event hosted by Small Review.

I saw this survey on The Sweet Bookshelf while browsing my Google Reader. I love answering surveys!! So here goes:

1. When did you start your blog?

June 2007

2. Do you ever still feel like a newbie?

Not really. I feel like I have a very good handle on my blog and how to run it.

3. What has been the biggest challenge you've faced so far? Did you make any mistakes new bloggers can learn from?

I think the biggest challenge for me was getting a readership and networking. While I did start out on Myspace, just friending people isn't enough. I had to send out bulletins and make my content worthwhile for people to check out, and also be responding to comments and messages. It's a daunting task to take on when you start a blog.

As for mistakes, I don't really remember any. Not necessarily because I didn't make any (but I can't remember any, lol), but really more because there wasn't much of a book blogging community when I started up so there were no real rules or anyone to call you out/start fights with.

4. What did you find most discouraging as a new blogger? How did you deal with this?

Nothing really. There weren't many book blogs around when I started, so I didn't have jealousy or having to deal with the whole numbers/stats battle. I mean, seriously, when I made my blog, I didn't even know there were other book blogs out there. For some odd reason, I actually thought I was the first person to have this idea. I also had no idea that review copies existed, so there was no jealousy or impatience about that (not that I needed to be impatient anyway- see #10); I feel like once the book blogging community started to grow, more and more bloggers starting out knew about review copies so there's that pressure there, you know?

5. What do you find most encouraging?

Comments are always awesome but what really encourages me, even to this day, is how great the children's literature community is. I made some wonderful friends in the beginning and continue to make friends all the time. I love pretty much everyone I've met through blogging, whether it's a fellow blogger, an author, or someone in the publishing industry. It's great to have those sorts of friends who share such a passion for books.

6. If you could go back to your newbie self, what five bits of information would you tell yourself?

I don't know if I'd really change anything, but I might say that I need to stay more on top of my TBR pile from the beginning so it doesn't grow out of hand, which it has, lol.

7. What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog?

Aside from memes, I don't really replicate anything from other blogs. What I do enjoy about blogs I read are reviews that really show off a blogger's voice and style. I love reviews from The Story Siren, Dreaming in Books, Presenting Lenore, among many others. I also love seeing a sense of whimsy in the posts and the blog; while I do think we should do our best to be as professional as possible, we need to have fun implemented into our blogs too.

8. What do you dislike about blogs you've seen? Do you try to avoid this?

I'm not a big fan of a cluttered blog. I do my best to keep my blog as simple as possible, keeping widgets and buttons to a minimum. I also don't like auto-playing music on a book blog- why is music even there in the first place?!

9. How did you bring your blog to the attention of so many people?

Since I started out on Myspace, I just friended a bunch of people, sent out bulletins, messaged people and basically shoved my blog down peoples' throats, lol. So by the time I moved to Blogspot in 2009, two years after starting, I had a built-in fanbase, so that helped.

10. When and how did you get your first ARC's?

Everyone will hate me for this, but I got my first ARCs within my first month of starting my blog. It was all by accident (well, not the second one)! I wanted to interview Meg Cabot because I love her so a week after starting my blog, which was a month before Jinx's release, I sent her an email about doing an interview. I did this because I knew she's a busy woman so I wanted to give her enough time to reply back with a yes/no and if yes, answer my questions by my deadline. She replied back A DAY LATER, no joke. I may have squealed and jumped around my room.

Then I read the email. Not only did she say yes, but she offered an ARC of Jinx for review. I politely declined because I mean really, I'm not a professional. I'm nobody. But she insisted, saying that ARCs are meant for reviewers, like me. So am I really gonna say no again? I accepted and gave her my address, and sent off the questions. She emailed me a week later saying the package had been sent out with some extra goodies. Those extra goodies, aside from Jinx? Finished copies of Queen of Babble #2, the first Avalon High manga (both of which were her other two releases that summer), bookmarks, copies of her newsletter, pins/keychains, postcards, a cover flat or two. It was a HUGE package and I was immensely grateful for it. Meg is such a sweetheart.

My other first ARC was Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer, which I got because Robin sent me an email in July 2007 about a review. Cindy Ella didn't come out until February 2008. How amazing is that? I was a really lucky blogger and still am. I am extremely grateful for every ARC and review copy I receive.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

In My Mailbox + Retrospective

I got no books this week, except for What Boys Really Want by Pete Hautman and Is Everybody Hanging Out without Me (and other concerns)? by Mindy Kaling, but those were from the library. I am loving Mindy's book so far- very funny! But I did also get to go to Jodi Meadows' launch party in Harrisonburg, which was a ton of fun, and there will be a recap soon!

Anyway, I needed to do a retrospective because there were some great posts this week, so check them out and comment please!!

Monday- The Incarnate Theatre Treasure Hunt was unveiled! It's a huge hunt going across 45 book blogs celebrating the release of Incarnate by Jodi Meadows. Check out the post for more details, and be quick- the contest ends tomorrow night!

Tuesday- I reviewed Incarnate by Jodi Meadows, which is out in stores now!

Wednesday- I interviewed Lynn Weingarten, author of Wherever Nina Lies and The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers, both of which are out in stores now!

Thursday- I reviewed The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, which will be out in stores on Feb 14.

Saturday- I reviewed Dead to You by Lisa McMann, which will be out in stores Feb 7.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dead to You by Lisa McMann

Dead to You by Lisa McMann
"Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family. It's a miracle... at first. Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn't going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he'd be able to put the pieces back together.

But there's something that's keeping his memory blocked. Something unspeakable..."- summary from Lisa's website

It is no secret I love Lisa's books and this one is no exception. It's more of a contemporary than her other books; even though there's the "something unspeakable" in the summary, it's not paranormal-related. It was however an interesting twist though but it comes at the VERY end and it feels like a HUGE abrupt ending. I mean, I guess it's a good ending that doesn't necessarily need more, but it still feels like there should be more to it.

But anyway, let's move on. Like all of Lisa's books, it's a real pageturner. I read it in less than 24 hours and pretty much in just two sittings. Ethan's story and his adjustment back to his old life is just so real and interesting. The interactions between him and, well, everyone is fascinating and runs the gamut of emotions. His parents are relieved, his little brother is upset and dealing with a lot of emotions, his little sister who was born after he disappeared just accepts his appearance and is very innocent about it.

Overall, it is a great new standalone title from Lisa, though the ending is a bit off. It's definitely worth a look though.

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

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
"Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place--possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home.

But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire"--a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind.

As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues," with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld much closer to home than she ever imagined--a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death."- summary from Amazon

Wow, this was one hell of a debut! I absolutely loved it and had trouble putting it down. Ellison's prose is just so fascinating to read and the twists and turns are just amazing. It was a compelling mystery and while I had a feeling who the murderer was (mainly through elimination of who'd been in the novel) way before Lo did, it was still a little bit of a shock when it was revealed.

Ellison did a great job handling Lo's OCD and hoarding problems. They were so well integrated into the whole story, which was nice because sometimes I read a book where a character supposedly has something but doesn't exhibit any signs at all. I really felt for Lo when her OCD got the best of her and when others tried to interfere while she did it; plus, she's very insecure about it and how people view her, even though she tries her best to hide it.

While in the middle of writing this review, I had a chat with the awesome Shanyn of Chick Loves Lit about this book. I want to tell everyone that this is not a paranormal. I know it doesn't look or sound it (the "violent underworld" in the summary made me think a paranormal element might be inside), but it is. This is a wonderful, gritty contemporary with a great romance in it too. I loved seeing Lo and Flynt together- they had an interesting chemistry and some rocky obstacles to overcome.

Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough. This book is one of the reasons why I'm glad contemporary is still being published and I'm happy that there's been such great buzz for it. It really deserves it. So go grab a copy on February 14!

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Author Interview- Lynn Weingarten

1) How did you get the idea for The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers? Were you ever involved in your own Secret Sisterhood?

I was reading a non-fiction book about how to pick up women and was thinking about the idea of using “tricks” to get potential romantic partners. Like, it’s kind of icky, but also really interesting because some of these tricks really seem to work. So then I started trying to come up with fun ways of putting this in a YA novel. And SSH was what I came up with.

I have not myself been a member of any Secret Sisterhoods . . . OR HAVE I? ;)

2) Since I've already asked you your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor in a previous interview, what's your favorite snack to have?

Yes! I remember that. That’s still one of my favorite interview questions of all time. I love snacks. I’m currently in Scotland and one of my favorite things to do here is go to the fancy grocery store and browse the snack aisle since everything is still exotic and new to me here. They have a ton of delicious jams and jellies here, so lately I’ve been eating a lot of butter and jam on toast. Also I love little chocolaty things (like chocolate straws or mini Kit Kat darks). Also wasabi peas. And these things called Hula Hoops which are little crunchy circles that you can put on your fingers. I also really like snap peas, orange segments, popcorn, and mini tomatoes. Basically anything you can eat with your hands without getting too messy. (Although I snack a lot while I’m working and very regularly have to de-crumb my keyboard).

3) What was the worst break-up you ever had? Do you think you would have gotten involved with the Heartbreakers if they existed?

I had a breakup in high school that hurt an awful lot, part of the reason it was so awful was because it was my first real heartbreak and while in theory I knew that I would one day feel better, I did not yet have any personal experience of having my heart broken and then getting over it. So I didn’t have any, y’know, proof. I also had a breakup in my mid-twenties, which took me a long time to get over.

I don’t think I would have gotten involved with the Heartbreakers in real life if they existed, however if someone came up to me when I first had my heart broken and said they could fix my heart, I’d definitely have wanted to stick around and hear WHATEVER they had to say.

4) What book(s) are you reading now, or are about to start? Do you have a favorite book from 2011?

I just finished Why We Broke Up this morning and thought it was absolutely wonderful. Now going to dive into Game of Thrones, which a friend and I are reading for our two-person book club. I read a lot of awesome books in 2011 so I’m not sure I have a favorite, but A Visit from the Goon Squad was really excellent.

5) You're currently in Scotland. How are you enjoying it?

I am loving it very much! I’m in Glasgow, which is a relatively compact city (especially compared to NYC which is where I was before), so it is pretty easy to get around and feel like I sort-of-ish kind of-ish know where some things are. I have met some really nice and friendly people. I know everyone is different and generalizing is bad and all of that, but I have found Scottish people to be, as a rule, very hilarious. I have heard some very good jokes from the cab drivers here.

I do get homesick and miss my friends/family in the US, but with email/twitter/facebook/free-texting-apps/skype and my magical phone, which lets my US people call me on a local number (and it goes to my UK phone), make it absurdly easy to stay in touch.