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Saturday, September 29, 2012

WIP:The Next Big Thing - Blog Hop!

So, my friend and fellow writer's group member, Becca, tagged me in this thing called WIP: The Next Big Thing. It's a series of questions designed to give readers a chance to know a little bit about our current WIP (Work in Progress)... So, here we go:

What’s the working title of your WIP?

Well, the working title for my current novel was originally "Revelation" when it began as a short story. Now, I sometimes refer to it simply as "The Fae Story" or "Lis' Story," so it really is only a working title. I'm going to have to brainstorm once I'm closer to publication...

Where did your idea come from for your book?

This will sound slightly silly, but my idea came from a conglomeration of little things. I have loved Faerie stories (not to be confused with their more innocent and happy cousins, the Fairy stories) for years and years and have tried crafting my own more than once. I am also obsessed with trying to find the perfect example of a great guy best friend that becomes the hunky boyfriend story, so again, I've been wanting to craft my own. And... it all sort of came together when I saw two things that directly inspired my main character, Lis (short for Chrysallis)...

One was Ashley Tisdale's video for the song, "Crank It Up"


I just adore the imagery of a club girl with tiny wings...hence a faery who adores the vitality of the L.A. club scene...












...and then Lis really came to life in my head when I started watching the TV show, Lost Girl. The main character's best friend, Kenzi, is actually exactly how I imagined Lis, except human...

What genre does your book fall under?

My book would be considered a young adult fantasy.
What actors would you pick to play your characters in a movie rendition?

As you could see above, I would love to have the actress, Ksenia Solo, from Lost Girl play Lis. As for the guys... Cam Gigandet (Burlesque) would make a fabulously rakish, Gryff, and I can't help but picture True Blood's Ryan Kwanten as the lovable Ewan. 


What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

Faerie accidentally exposes all of her kind and must deal with the fallout in both the human realm and her own.

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?

Though I would love to find a traditional publisher, at this point I think that I will be self-publishing. The publishing world is in an interesting place right now...

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 


First, I have to remind you all that I'm not technically done with the first draft yet, LOL. I'm aiming (pushing myself really) to get a full first draft done and out to my readers by the end of this calendar year. From start (in the short story version) to now, I think I've been working on this novel for about a year... I think.

What other books would you compare this story within your genre?


Oh, I hate doing this! The whole point is to try and not be totally reminiscent of other people's works, but... fans of Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series will probably feel right at home. I know there are also similar elements in Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series...

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
 
As I've already said, I've always wanted to write a Fae story. When inspiration struck, it happened to coincide with the announcement of the annual Writer's Digest short story contests. I decided to craft my idea into a short story to enter (it didn't win, lol) and that's how it all began. Then with some major prodding from Becca (who is amazing, btw) it's been coming together into a much more involved story.

What else about your book might pique the readers interest?

Let's see...there's betrayal, romance, intrigue, creepy Fae, protesting humans, yoga, and more! :)

So, that's it for me, for now... If you stayed tuned here you'll be sure to see a lot more information as I get done with my first draft and start the process of editing and then publication... until then, these are all the teasers you get. LOL.

I'm supposed to tag other authors now to see if they'll participate, but I don't really know any that I think will have the time right now, so I'm breaking the chain! *cringes* Please don't throw anything at me. I'm sorry!   

Friday, September 28, 2012

Home is Beyond the Mountains

Home is Beyond the Mountains
by Celia Barker Lottridge
 
Samira is only nine years old when the Turkish army invades northwestern Persia in 1918, driving her family from its tiny village. They flee into the mountains, but the journey is so difficult that only Samira and her older brother survive. Beginning with a refugee camp run by the British Army, the children are shunted from one temporary home to another, finally ending up in an orphanage where it seems that they will live out their childhood. Then the new orphanage director, Susan Shedd, decides that she will take the 300 refugee children back to their home villages — a journey of 300 miles — through the mountains, on foot. Samira embarks on the journey with wonder and fear. Even if they make it, will there be anyone in her old village to take her in? (description from Amazon.com)


I was surprised how easy this book was to read. It's written in very simple sentences and goes very, very quickly. I think I read the whole book in about 2 1/2 hours. I had not really thought I would enjoy this one that much (thanks in part to a yucky cover :/) but it turned out to be pretty interesting.

I don't honestly know that much about the middle eastern area in history and so this story was pretty much all knew to me. Some themes from history are all the same, though, so this story of children who become orphaned in a foreign land did not feel so foreign that I couldn't relate to it. This was a heartbreaking and yet, still hopeful story.
 

While not quite as epic as some of the other historical fictions I've read recently, I did enjoy breezing through this one.

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my library

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily
by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. .
 
Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.
 
Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.
 
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart. (description from Amazon.com)


I wanted so much to love this book.  First off it has a GORGEOUS cover that I could not stop staring at... Then, it is a totally awesome reconceptualization of the Peter Pan tale.  The way that Anderson reimagined Neverland and its inhabitants was great.  I loved getting to see the way that Tiger Lily's tribe of Sky Eaters functioned and how that influenced who she was and how she fit into the traditional tale we all know. 

The major problem that I had, what kept me from loving the book, was the narrative perspective.  This tale is actually told from Tinker Bell's point of view.  She narrates the events in Tiger Lily's life and her interactions with Peter, Wendy, the lost boys and the pirates.  I had such a hard time connecting in this third person sense.  Though Tink told the reader what emotions and thoughts she picked up from Tiger Lily and those around her, there was still a huge feeling of detachment. 

Even having not felt as connected to the characters as I wanted, I feel that this is a book worth reading.  Revisiting the classic tale this way was captivating.  This truly was a more grown-up realistic version that I wish I could have dived into a little more directly...

Full disclosure: Purchased book for my Nook

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mini Reviews: Animal Picturebooks

All the Awake Animals Are Almost Asleep
by Crescent Dragonwagon
illustrated by David McPhail
 

In this lyrical animal ABC book, a mother tries to tuck her child in for the night by telling him about all the awake animals that are getting sleepy. From antlered Antelope to zzz-ing Zebra, this alphabet of animals becomes an exquisite celebration of language and nature, just right for lulling even the most wide-awake little ones into a cozy, soothing slumber. (description from Amazon.com)

This is a beautiful book. The illustrations are sweet watercolors full of amazing animals.  While there are animals that young children are certain to recognize, the author took this as a good opportunity to also teach young readers about other animals that have interesting and unusual names.  For example, as you can see here, the E is for Elephant, but D is for Dromedary (a type of camel), and Q is for Quetzal, a colorful tropical bird. 

Each page also features a large letter.  Though it is great that the letter is shown on each page, I wish that the letter were done in regular script.  The cursive letters look pretty, but young readers do not usually recognize cursive script.

I also wish that the entire book had continued the rhyming of the first few and final pages.  When the mother addresses the child there is a sleepy rhythm that is established. 

 

My little one, lay down your head.
It's time to doze, it's time for bed.
   You tell me, "I'm not sleepy now."
   "Just try," I say. You ask me, "How?"
 
I know the rhyme was not the focus of the book, though, and in terms of using the alliteration, the author did a great job.  This will make a great bedtime book for parents to explore with young children.

Full disclosure: Finished Copy received from publisher for review

What's New at the Zoo?
by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
illustrations by Travis Foster
 
The hilarious happenings, grumblings and rumblings, at an overcrowded zoo are comically chronicled by Broadway/Hollywood legends Adolph Green and Betty Comden and acclaimed illlustrator Travis Foster. (description from Amazon.com)


This one made me laugh out loud.  With lines like, "Ouch! You're stepping on my pouch!" to the bear said the kangaroo, and "Oh! You're stepping on my toe!" to the kangaroo said the gnu, I giggled my way through this one.  With some pages that have flaps that kids can turn and bright, colorful illustrations, I think this book would be a hit with most young readers.  It would also make for a fun, and only slightly tongue-tying read aloud.

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my library

Winner - The Crown of Embers and Origin ARCs Giveaway!

 
I am pleased to announce that the winner of The Crown of Embers and Origin ARCs Giveaway (via random drawing at random.org) is...

Angie!!

Angie, check your email...and get me your mailing address before the end of the day on Saturday, Sept. 29th, so that I can get those ARCs mailed out to you ASAP! Congratulations again! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Origin

Origin
by Jessica Khoury
 
Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home--and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia's origin--a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever. (description from Amazon.com) 

For all that I had been super excited to read this book (you know how I love my science fiction), there was a strange disconnect for me in this book.  It was a really interesting concept.  I love the idea of a secret, immortal girl being hidden in the jungle, but I just couldn't fully connect.  I felt like Pia was just too foreign for me. 

I actually really enjoyed her interactions with the nearby tribe.  When she would talk to Eio's "little sister," I felt Pia was at her most relatable.  While I really enjoy worldbuilding, I think too much was made, perhaps, of Pia's daily routines and it took a little long for her world to begin changing enough to fully pique my interest.  The last third of the book was a wild ride of danger and secrets and I would have loved to have gotten there sooner. 

I think I'm in the minority in my feelings for this one.  If you want to check out some other reviews, you can go here, here, here or here.

Full disclosure: ARC received at BEA 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Prized
















Prized
by Caragh O'Brien
Birthmarked Trilogy, book two

Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole? (description from Amazon.com)
 
Hallelujah. A second book in a trilogy that tells its own complete story. :) 
 
I was amazed at how different this book was from say Ally Condie's Crossed (see my review here) which although it also involved the main characters relocating to a new, dangerous environment, did not seem to actually have any purpose...it was a book that did not need to be written.  Here, Gaia grows as a person.  She defines her ideals. She faces a new hostile environment and she triumphs. 
 
I was extremely excited to read about an entirely new and believable society.  I thought that O'Brien did a marvelous job with the worldbuilding in Sylum and that the way that Gaia and Leon reacted to it was completely legitimate and realistic.  Gaia and Leon, who have both been forced to grow up way too quickly, must still struggle with regular teen issues. 
 
An excellent second book. I cannot wait to find out how the series will finally end!
 
Full disclosure: ARC originally received from Netgalley; Borrowed from my library

Friday, September 21, 2012

Movie Trailer - Beautiful Creatures

Here it is, the newly released trailer for the movie, Beautiful Creatures, based on the book with the same title by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I think this looks SO good!



It'll be out in theaters in February 2013...I may just have to go see this...

Heartless

Heartless: A Novel of Vampires, Werewolves, and Teapots
by Gail Carriger
The Parasol Protectorate, book four
 
Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband's past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux's latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines and Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf's clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama's second best closet? (description from Amazon.com)


I love the casual snarkiness of this series.  There is always something tongue-in-cheek happening. I find myself giggling all the way through, every time.  Alexia is a woman that I would love to be friends with in real life.  She's real, she's very practical, and like me, she loves nothing better than to eat!

Again I loved how all of the men in Alexia's life have made little accomodations to better fit themselves to her... I love that Alexia has not truly had to bend on any of her beliefs.  Though I do not claim to be a staunch feminist, there is a definitive part of me that applauds Gail Carriger for the way that she writes this series. :)

Since this is book four, I cannot talk too much about the specifics without giving away tons of spoilers.  Needless to say, if this sounds intriguing, I highly recommend you go back and try book one, Soulless.  Lovers of the paranormal, steampunk, high tea, historical fiction, and humor unite!

Full disclosure: Purchased for my Nook

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception

Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception
by Gary Paulsen
 
Kevin doesn't mean to make trouble when he lies. He's just really good at it, and it makes life so much easier. But as his lies pile up, he finds himself in big—and funny—trouble with his friends, family, and teachers. He's got to find a way to end his lying streak—forever. (description from Amazon.com)
 
This book is meant for an upper elementary/early middle school audience.  While it is funny and teaches a good lesson about lying, this is almost too easy of a read! It is breezy and humorous, but I think a lot of older readers will be slightly disappointed when they are done.  I would definitely suggest this to readers on the younger end of that spectrum...


Full disclosure: Borrowed from my library

ARCs giveaway - The Crown of Embers and Origin!
















Origin
by Jessica Khoury

Publication date: Sept. 4, 2012

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home--and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia's origin--a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.
(description from Amazon.com)


The Crown of Embers
by Rae Carson
sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Publication date: Sept. 18, 2012

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.Elisa is a hero. She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from both foreign realms and within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears once and for all, Elisa must follow the trail of long-forgotten--and forbidden--clues from the deep, undiscovered catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her goes a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man who--despite everything--she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.
(description from Amazon.com)



It's someones lucky day! I won this ARC of The Crown of Embers from Epic Reads (Thank you, BTW!!) and I had actually already preordered a copy for my Nook...so I'm going to give the beautiful ARC away. :)  I also figured that if one ARC is a great win, why not have someone win two...even better!  I just finished Origin (review to follow shortly) and want to pass it on. 

So...if you would like to be the winner of these two beautiful ARCS, just leave me a comment, with your name and email address before the end of the day on Tues., Sept. 25th.  I will choose one winner (via Random.org) on Wed., Sept. 26th.  The winner will have until Sat. Sept. 29th to email me back with their mailing address. 

Good luck!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Red Umbrella

The Red Umbrella
by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
 
In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.

As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own.

Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl? (description from Amazon.com) 

An excellent historical fiction set in a time period, again, that I knew very little about... I vaguely knew that while Castro was in power a LOT of Cubans came to the US (thank you, Scarface, LOL), but I'd never heard about Operation Pedro Pan, which was a mission to save children from the Revolution. 

Lucy's story was heartbreaking and very realistically frightening.  She is continuously in danger in Cuba and sees things that no one should ever have to see. Then in an effort to keep her and her brother safe, Lucy's parents send them to America.  I could not imagine going to a foreign country without my parents, without knowing where I would end up, without being able to contact my parents to be assured that they were still alive, as a teen! Lucy's effort to keep her brother safe and with her is one of the bravest things I've ever read.  She truly perserveres through an immensely difficult situation to become a strong and brave young woman. 

I greatly admired the picture of family that is preeminent in this tale.  Lucy's parents are strong, involved figures, constantly putting the safety of their children first and refusing to back away from their own moral beliefs. They were excellent role models.  As were the parents in the foster family that Lucy joins.  My greatest joy in finishing this book was that Lucy and her brother essentially ended the book with two wonderful sets of parents to rely on.  It warmed my heart in a fantastic way.

Another book that I should have read much, much sooner.

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my library

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Winners - My Birthday = Your Presents!!

 
I am pleased to announce that the winners of the My Birthday = Your Presents giveaway (via random drawing at random.org) are...

$20 Amazon Giftcard - Ashly F from Lost in the Stacks!!

$10 Amazon Giftcard - Katherine!!

Ladies, check your email...and get me your mailing address before the end of the day on Thursday, September 20th, so that I can get those giftcards mailed out to you ASAP! Congratulations again!
 
I also just want to thank everyone for listing the book or books that they are looking forward to owning... you've given me another couple to put on my TBR list!! 

Wicked Business

Wicked Business
by Janet Evanovich
Lizzy and Diesel, book two
 

When Harvard University English professor and dyed-in-the-wool romantic Gilbert Reedy is mysteriously murdered and thrown off his fourth-floor balcony, Lizzy and Diesel take up his twenty-year quest for the Luxuria Stone, an ancient relic believed by some to be infused with the power of lust. Following clues contained in a cryptic nineteenth-century book of sonnets, Lizzy and Diesel tear through Boston catacombs, government buildings, and multimillion-dollar residences, leaving a trail of robbed graves, public disturbances, and spontaneous seduction. (description from Amazon.com)

Hilariousity ensues once again! I love Janet Evanovich's humor.  She is definitely one writer that can make me snort while reading her books at least once, every time!  This spin-off from the Stephanie Plum series is definitely a winner.

I love Lizzy and Diesel both...and I LURVE their chemistry.  Very oh-la-la, must fan one's self at times while reading... :)

I find this series to be so much fun, both in terms of the characters and the concept.  I love watching the effects of each of the Luxuria Stones on people in the story...seeing how the different "evils" affect their actions and even their personalities. 

If you're looking for an easy and wildly fun reading experience, give this series a shot.  The first book is Wicked Appetite.

Full disclosure: Borrowed through interlibrary loan

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Peculiars


The Peculiars
by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears. (description from Amazon.com)

I have mixed feelings about this book and I'm not sure exactly how to describe how I felt upon finishing it.  There were things I really loved, but somehow I still found this book to be lacking...something.  I am somewhat frustrated because I can't seem to identify exactly what it seems to need! Grr...

I liked the steampunk aspects of this book.  There were some cool inventions and I especially liked the description of the unique doors that guarded Mr. Beasley's fantastic library. The horseless carriages were cool, too. 

I liked that this book delved into the realm of the fantastic. People with wings, half-goblins, and other strange mutations.  It was an interesting exploration of what it meant to be "human." But... a lot of this aspect of the book wasn't even really address until the last third of the book and it's really left not fully explained to fulfill the need for a sequel. 

Lena was an interesting character, but she wasn't great.  I was actually more interested in Mr. Beasley, the well intentioned and handsome young librarian Jimson Quiggley, and even the beastly marshal that ends up trying to hunt everyone down.  While I was fairly solidly invested in the world of the book, I did not find myself that much behind the main character. :/

Were it not for the action sequence at the end and the idea that the Scree will be more fully explored in the next book, I would find this one almost forgettable. It was by no means awful, but I wanted SO much more. 

Full disclosure: Borrowed through interlibrary loan

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Camo Girl

Camo Girl
by Kekla Magoon
 
Ella and Z have been friends forever, both of them middle-school outsiders in their Las Vegas suburb. Ella is the only black girl in her grade and gets teased for the mottled colors of her face. (Her deceased father was white.) Z is the classic “weird kid” who maintains an elaborate—and public—fantasy life, starring himself as a brave knight. Though Z is content with his imagined world, Ella wishes for a larger group of friends, so she’s thrilled when Bailey, another black kid, arrives at their school. He’s popular and wants to befriend Ella—but to join the cool crowd, Ella would have to ditch Z. Does she stay loyal to the boy who has been her best and only friend for years, or jump at the chance to realize her dream of popularity? (description from Amazon.com)

Though somewhat formulaic and with a few one-dimensional characters, this was a quick middle grade read that easily addresses a very important topic.  Ella has trouble accepting her racial identity because it literally is written all over her face and is commented on every day.  She is biracial and has mottled skin, allowing some bullies at school to tease her mercilessly.  It is not until another black student, one who becomes very, very popular, comes to her school and stands up for her, that her classmates see how hurtful they were being, thus allowing Ella to begin to find self-acceptance.

This book was easy to read and enjoyable.  It directly addresses a problem that many kids face today, self acceptance and discrimination.  There is definitely an audience out there for this book.

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my library

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts
by Martha Brooks
 
On the prairies of Canada during World War II, a girl and her two young siblings begin a war of their own. Stricken with tuberculosis, they are admitted to a nearby sanatorium. Teenager Marie Claire is headstrong, angry, and full of stubborn pride. In a new strange land of TB exiles she must “chase the cure,” seek privacy where there is none, and witness the slow wasting decline of others. But in this moving novel about fighting a way back to normal life, it is the thing that sets back Marie Claire the most—the demise of her little brother—that also connects her with the person who will be instrumental in helping her recover.  (description from Amazon.com)


What a surprising little gem of a book. I should have known! I read Mistik Lake by Martha Brooks and found it to be a really well done historical fiction. I just couldn't imagine that I was going to enjoy a book about a girl who gets tuberculosis.  And yet... I really did! 

Marie Claire was a great character. She is headstrong and stubborn and sometimes just plain rude... yet she is also intuitive and caring and feels responsible for not only her own illness, but that of her brother and sister, as well. She is the only reason I could imagine reading a book about a poor girl living in a TB sanatorium...

While the author absolutely gives accurate historical detail, unflinchingly making readers aware of medical procedures that were done that now would be considered horribly barbaric, the focus is so strongly on Marie Claire's emotional journey into adulthood during her illness, that it does not become overwhelming.  This is the brilliant blend of fact and fiction that great historical writers can create. 

Short, but powerful. I would definitely recommend this to any historical fiction fans.

Full disclosure: Borrowed through interlibrary loan

Friday, September 14, 2012

Payback Time

Payback Time
by Carl Deuker
 
Through the eyes of a distinctly non-athletic protagonist—a fat high school journalist named Mitch—veteran sports novelist Deuker reveals the surprising truth behind a mysterious football player named Angel. When Angel shows up Lincoln High, he seems to have no past—or at least not one he is willing to discuss. Though Mitch gets a glimpse of Angel's incredible talent off the field, Angel rarely allows himself to shine on the field. Is he an undercover cop, wonders Mitch? Or an ineligible player? In pursuit of a killer story, Mitch decides to find out just who this player is and what he's done. In the end, the truth surprises everyone. (description from Amazon.com)


I was really surprised at what this book was actually about when I finally read it.  Working in the library, I've shelved this book a bunch of times and I've even given it to guys looking for sports reads.  I guess I just never actually read the full description on the book.  *slaps forehead*

Sure the cover looks like it's a book about football, right?  Well...that's wrong.  I mean, it does have to do with football, but only in a small way.  This book is actually more of a mystery with a main character who dreams of being a big-time reporter someday.  Mitch is a pretty normal guy. When he teams up with his hot sports photographer co-worker, though, he ends up becoming a somewhat ballsy "Dick Tracy" kind of guy. I admired his determination. 

Though sadly the ending wraps up a little too quickly and felt a little "ho-hum," I really liked the character build up and tone of the rest of the book.  ...and I still can't believe how off I was about this book, LOL!

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my library

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Birthday = Your Presents!!

 
Hey Everybody! Guess what...today is my 31st birthday! So, to celebrate...and to help fill your bookshelves a little...I'm going to giveaway two Amazon.com giftcards!

My Birthday = Your Presents!!

I will be giving away one $20 giftcard and one $10 giftcard. If you would like to enter, all you need to do is leave me a comment before Mon. Sept. 17th with your name, your email, and the title of one book you might spend your giftcard money on if you win. I'm so curious to see what everyone else is dying to read/own right now...

I will choose the two winners via random.org at the end of the day on Mon. Sept. 17th. I will email each winner and they will have until Thurs. Sept. 20th to get back to me with a mailing address where the giftcard can be sent.

Good luck!!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift
by Chris Westwood
 
When Ben Harvester meets the mysterious Mr. October in London's Highgate Cemetery, he has no idea what a strange and dramatic turn his life is about to take. But Ben soon discovers that Mr. October works for the Ministry of Pandemonium, a secret organization responsible for tracking down lost souls and guiding them to the afterlife. And Mr. October wants him to be his new recruit.

As Ben's apprenticeship begins, his eyes are opened to a new world of wonder -- a world where magic is real and ghosts haunt every crime scene, accident site, and hospital corridor.

But with the wonder comes horror. Because the Ministry is not the only organization hunting spirits of the dead. The ghoulish Lords of Sundown want those spirits for their own sinister reasons. And as far as they're concerned, Ben's just chosen the wrong side in a very dangerous war. (description from Amazon.com) 

This was a cool ghost story perfect for a middle school audience.  Ben is a great character trying to balance his new position as an assistant at the Ministry of Pandemonium, helping the dead to find their afterlives, and being the best son he can possibly be to his mom, newly diagnosed with cancer.  He revels in the satisfaction that his work brings him and he feels that it is an important and necessary job, but it takes him away when his mom might need him the most. 

It's not until his mom's name appears on one of the lists for "pickup" that Ben realizes he may have to break ALL the rules...and lose not only his job, but the war against the Lords of Sundown, in order to save her.  Ben's relationship with his mother is one of the best parts of this book. It's inspiring and touching.  There were several heartfelt moments that had me threatening to tear up...

Though the first in a series, this book could also be read as a standalone.

Full disclosure: ARC received to review for SLJ

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering... and a tie to Flesh and Blood So Cheap

September 11th has become a very sad day in American history. It is a day of remembrance. While I sometimes get very, very frustrated with the way that politicians will try to tie this day to blind patriotism, I try never, ever to forget the people who lost their lives eleven years ago. Not only were there the people who died trying to escape the two towers that had been hit, but there were also many rescue workers who sacrificed themselves to help save others. This is a day, one of many, unfortunately, around the world (because we Americans sometimes forget that others in the world have suffered similar, or even worse, days in their history) that should remind us that HATE is something that truly does kill.
It is sort of serendipitous that I just recently finished a book that dealt with another American tragedy and discussed not only how it transpired, but also how it has shaped history and US workplaces since it occured.
 
 
Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
by Albert Marrin
 
On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City burst into flames. The factory was crowded. The doors were locked to ensure workers stay inside. One hundred forty-six people—mostly women—perished; it was one of the most lethal workplace fires in American history until September 11, 2001.

But the story of the fire is not the story of one accidental moment in time. It is a story of immigration and hard work to make it in a new country, as Italians and Jews and others traveled to America to find a better life. It is the story of poor working conditions and greedy bosses, as garment workers discovered the endless sacrifices required to make ends meet. It is the story of unimaginable, but avoidable, disaster. And it the story of the unquenchable pride and activism of fearless immigrants and women who stood up to business, got America on their side, and finally changed working conditions for our entire nation, initiating radical new laws we take for granted today.

With Flesh and Blood So Cheap, Albert Marrin has crafted a gripping, nuanced, and poignant account of one of America's defining tragedies. (description from Amazon.com)
 
It was extremely interesting to learn more about a tragedy that I'd heard of, but never really researched.  The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (a sweatshop in New York City) was one of the most devestating fires in US history.  It was the largest loss of life in New York City's history until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. 
 
This book discusses how the conditions came to be such that when the fire broke out on the top the floors of this building that all of the workers on one floor and about half of the workers from another floor were unable to escape the building safely and thus lost their lives.  It talks about the horrible working conditions that used to be found in the US for immigrant workers until the creation of unions.  It also goes on to discuss how working conditions in the US have been improved through the actions following this tragedy and how in other parts of the modern world there are still plenty of sweatshops and similar fires have claimed hundreds of lives. 
 
In my timely reading of this book, I cannot help but connect the Triangle Fire to the 9/11 tragedy.  In both cases far too many people lost their lives.  It also made me curious about what other major (non-natural disaster related) tragedies occured in the US's history.  I picked out just a few more (from the fairly long list available at wikipedia) and wanted to highlight them today, as well.
 
In chronological order:
1865 - The Sultana sinks due to a boiler explosion, killing approximately 1700 people.
1889 - A dam burst in Jamestown, PA causing a huge flood that killed 2209 people.
1911 - The Triangle Fire in NYC kills 146 people.
1912 - The Titanic sinks after hitting an iceberg, killing approximately 1500 people.
1941 - The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii kills 2403 US citizens and 55 Japanese pilots.
1944 - The Hartford Circus Fire in CT kills 168 people.
1995 - The bombing in Oklahoma City kills 168 people.
2001 - The terrorist attacks in NYC and two other sites in the US caused 2973 US deaths, as well as the deaths of 19 hijackers. 
 
Today is a day to remember, to pass on the ideals of tolerance and safety, and to consider our place in the larger world. 



Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death
by Bethany Griffin
 
Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them. So what does Araby Worth have to live for? Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all. But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club, and Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does. And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for—no matter what it costs her.  (description from Amazon.com)

Holy atmospheric Batman!  Okay. Aside from a *GORGEOUS* cover that I couldn't stop petting staring at, Griffin really has a way with words.  This book oozed creepy, gothic decadence.  There was never any doubt in my mind what this world looked like at all.  I felt as if I was stepping into the Debauchery Club right alongside Araby.  *shivers*

This world sucked me right in and the moment I put the book down, I started hunting online for information about book two (and yes, there is one! It's title is Dance of the Red Death, and it will be coming out in April 2013...). I cannot wait to dive back into this world.  To see the ramifications of Araby's choices.  To see how her friends' actions have affected her relationships with them.  To see if the whole world just implodes...

In a sea of dystopias and paranormal romances, this is a stand-out. 

Full disclosure: Borrowed through interlibrary loan


Monday, September 10, 2012

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
 
Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.  (description from Amazon.com)
 
I have to be fully honest... I tried to read this book about a year and a half ago and I couldn't get past the first two chapters.  Something about it just did NOT work.  So when I tried picking it up again, I was a little leery. Having learned that I LOVE audio books, I decided to try it that way and it made a marked difference.  I'm pretty sure that if I wasn't listening to this book, I would have put it down again...
 
...And, it's not that it's a bad book. Not by any means! It has starred reviews from several publications and it even won a Newbury Honor.  It just is a little hard to start.  This book not only feels like a lazy old western movie, where tumbleweeds should be rolling by (not in a bad way, just setting the tone), but it also has chapters that don't really seem to fit together into a cohesive storyline in the beginning.  It takes almost half the book for things to start to be progressing toward any type of a climactic moment. 
 
Though I really ended up liking Calpurnia, her grandfather and the other members of her family very much, I would have to find just the right reader to recommend this book. It is not for an impatient reader and certainly not for anyone who wouldn't embrace the quirks of historical fiction.  It is well done, but a very quiet read.
 
Full disclosure: Audio book borrowed through interlibrary loan

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bluefish
















Bluefish
by Pat Schmatz

Travis is missing his old home in the country, and he's missing his old hound, Rosco. Now there's just the cramped place he shares with his well-meaning but alcoholic grandpa, a new school, and the dreaded routine of passing when he's called on to read out loud. But that's before Travis meets Mr. McQueen, who doesn't take "pass" for an answer--a rare teacher whose savvy persistence has Travis slowly unlocking a book on the natural world. And it's before Travis is noticed by Velveeta, a girl whose wry banter and colorful scarves belie some hard secrets of her own. (description from Amazon.com)

I was surprised, honestly, by how much I liked this book. It has such a "blah" title and the cover does nothing for it...so without being prodded, I might never have picked up this book. 

Short and quirky, this was a good read.  It has a heartwrenching feel that builds into a heartwarming feel that will stick with you after the book is done.  Both Travis and Velveeta are characters that you just want to see succeed.  Both come from families with some *issues,* but luckily they find one another and one great teacher. 

This is a book that just feels honest and true to life.  It was one that I rolled around in my brain for a few days after I'd finished listening to it.  It is one that I will probably recommend to the right teen in my library. 

Full disclosure: Audio book borrowed through interlibrary loan.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Movie Trailer - Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Oh my gosh. I know there's been a lot of wacky mash-up type movies made lately, trying to cash in on the fairytale/folktale modernization craze, but I would totally go see this!!



What do you think? I think it looks like it *could be* pretty awesome.

The Girl is Murder

The Girl is Murder
by Kathryn Miller Haines
 
Iris Anderson is only fifteen, but she's quickly mastering the art of deception.
It's the Fall of 1942 and Iris's world is rapidly changing. Her Pop is back from the war with a missing leg, limiting his ability to do the physically grueling part of his detective work. Iris is dying to help, especially when she discovers that one of Pop's cases involves a boy at her school. Now, instead of sitting at home watching Deanna Durbin movies, Iris is sneaking out of the house, double crossing her friends, and dancing at the Savoy till all hours of the night. There's certainly never a dull moment in the private eye business. (description from Amazon.com)
 
Love mystery? Love historical fiction?  Love Veronica Mars??? (Of course you do, who doesn't??!!) Then...you NEED to check out this book. 
 
Set in the 1940's, this book's atmosphere was exceedingly well done.  The clothes, the slang, the political unrest... I felt like I'd dropped straight into the forties and I wanted to dance the night away with the Rainbows!  The best part was that even with the slang and the differences in our culture between then and today, Iris still felt like an average teenager.  I didn't have that horrible disconnect that you can sometimes get when historical fiction feels too foreign
 
Iris was a great character through which to view the forties.  She's Jewish, so considered an outsider, and she's just been exiled from the richest section of New York City down to a much lower socially acceptable area because of scandal and economic misfortune... (does this sound familiar to anyone else? Is your name Veronica in real life, Iris? LOL... J/K)  Similar (but not an exact rip-off, I promise) to Veronica Mars in tone, Iris decides she needs to help her Private Investigator father to close his cases because their family desperately needs the money and because she can go places he can't. 
 
Which leads to a new life built on secrets and lies.  Soon Iris is double-crossing "friends" at school and misleading her father... how long can she keep that up?  The answer...not too long.  The real question, though, is will she be able to solve a potential murder before it all blows up in her face??
 
A rollickingly good ride...and I'm looking forward to the sequel, The Girl is Trouble.
 
Full disclosure: Borrowed from my Library

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sweet Shadows


Sweet Shadows
by Tera Lynn Childs
Sweet Venom, book two

Gretchen may have known she was a descendant of Medusa long before her sisters—after all, she's spent her life fighting the monsters that escape the abyss—but that doesn't mean it will be easy to teach the other girls the ropes. Can she rely on Grace and Greer, or even trust herself to keep them safe? Greer has pressing social commitments on her plate and precious little time to train in her newfound powers. But that wretched second sight won't leave her alone, and her fabled heritage seems to be creeping into her fashionable life.

Grace has worries closer to home—like why her brother, Thane, has disappeared. He's hiding something. Could it possibly be related to the secret heritage the triplets share?

With the warring factions among the gods of Olympus coming for them, the creatures of the abyss pushing into their world, and the boys in their lives keeping secrets at every turn, the three girls must figure out where their fate will take them and how to embrace the shadows of their legacy. (description from Amazon.com)

HAPPY RELEASE DAY TO SWEET SHADOWS!!

I am a huge fan of Tera Lynn Childs's writing style.  If you want a fun, easy to read book, you can pick up any one of her titles and throroughly enjoy yourself. There is always a little element of romance and there is also plenty of adventure.

In this series, TLC has definitely taken things up a notch. Not only are there three main characters, the triplets Gretchen, Greer, and Grace, to juggle, but each has her own day-to-day teen problems...and a prophecy that leaves them hunting monsters and running for their lives in their spare time. :P

This book was impossible to put down. From the first page, the girls were battling monsters, uncovering big secrets, and well, trying to figure things out with the help...inadvertantly, of course, of the cute boys in their lives! After the girls had discovered one another in the first book, Sweet Venom, they had still been somewhat  uneasy with one another. Here, though, readers get to watch the girls turn to one another. They start to not only depend upon one anothers' talents, but also to seek each other out for emotional support. I truly think that was my favorite aspect of the book.

I cannot wait to find out all the secrets that are still just out of reach in the next book! I, for one, am *DYING* to know exactly what Grace's brother, Thane's, big secret is...  he definitely knows a lot more about what's happening than he lets on. 

Full disclosure: Signed ARC received from author for honest review