Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cover Craving...Curtsies and Conspiracies!

Curtsies and Conspiracies
by Gail Carriger
Finishing School, book two
Publication date: November 2013
Ahhh!!! Little, Brown for Young Readers and Gail Carriger just released the cover art for this second book in the new YA series! LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. These covers are stunning and even better looking in person (shiny, etc) and I CANNOT wait til it's out!!!!! 

Will Sparrow's Road

Will Sparrow's Road
by Karen Cushman
In his thirteenth year, Will Sparrow, liar and thief, becomes a runaway. On the road, he encounters a series of con artists—a pickpocket, a tooth puller, a pig trainer, a conjurer—and learns that others are more adept than he at lying and thieving. Then he reluctantly joins a traveling troupe of "oddities," including a dwarf and a cat-faced girl, holding himself apart from the "monsters" and resolving to be on guard against further deceptions. At last Will is forced to understand that appearances are misleading and that he has been his own worst deceiver. (description from
While I enjoyed the setting of this book - the Elizabethan English market circuit - I found myself having a hard time really becoming invested in it.  I'm not sure if it just read too young for me or if it was because I found Will to be too naive to believe...or what. I loved seeing the sort-of birth of freak shows and how the market folk treated one another and what life was like on the road.  I also eventually enjoyed seeing Will figure life out and come to a happy ending, but until then I felt sort of ambivalent about the whole thing.
Full disclosure: Audio book received to review for SLJ

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gold Star Review: Etiquette and Espionage

Etiquette and Espionage
by Gail Carriger
Finishing School, book one
Publication date: February 5, 2013
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education. (description from  
Gail Carriger is awesome. I love her blend of steampunk and the paranormal. When I found out she was coming out with a YA series, I just about blew a gasket!! Then I started to worry a little...what if it just wasn't the same as her adult Parasol Protectorate series?
I should have known better than to worry!! I LOVED this first book.  In fact, here's my tweeted reaction from about halfway in:  
The blend of proper behavior, the distinct ignoring of said proper behavior (LOL), adventure, friendships, and "mechanimals" was brilliant. There are airships, balls, poison classes, "sooties," werewolves, and of course, Bumbersnoot. Who is Bumbersnoot? Why he's the most fashionable little mechanical dachsund ever! He eats coal, produces ash, and can conceal a prototype for the proper Lady spy.

The tie-ins to Carriger's adult series had me giggling throughout.  Hints dropped here, there, and everywhere. :)  I don't want to give anything away, but if you've read her other series, you will find at least one or two familiar faces...

With wonderful witty word choices and frankly fashionable fetes, Etiquette and Espionage is a bang-up start to a new series that leaves me shouting, "HUZZAH!" I cannot wait to return to Finishing School!

A gold star book, indeed. And, just to whet the appetite, check out this awesome trailer that was created for the book! LOVE.

Full disclosure: ARC received for review from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave

On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave
by Candace Fleming
Set in White Cemetery, an actual graveyard outside Chicago, each story takes place during a different time period from the 1860's to the present, and ends with the narrator's death. Some teens die heroically, others ironically, but all due to supernatural causes. Readers will meet walking corpses and witness demonic posession, all against the backdrop of Chicago's rich history—the Great Depression, the World's Fair, Al Capone and his fellow gangsters. (description from
This book was interesting. I liked how it was one boy's story that interwove all the tales of the other teens' deaths.  Some of the stories were far more interesting than others, but they were all fun and easy to read.  I loved how each was supernatural and creepy, but not enough to induce nightmares. A simple enough read that I would give to someone who has outgrown Goosebumps but doesn't really want full-on HORROR yet.
Full disclosure: Borrowed through interlibrary loan

Monday, January 28, 2013

ALA's Youth Media Awards!!

Today was the announcement of all of the American Library Association Youth Media Awards at the ALA Midwinter meeting in Seattle.  I'm not going to list all of the winners and honors because the list is *really* long, but... I do want to give a full shout out to two of the winners:

I was SOOOOO happy to see that Ms. Tamora Pierce (my all-time favorite author EVAH!) won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. *squee!!*

Rachel Hartman, author of Seraphina, which I gave a gold star review to here, won the William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens!!

Very exciting!!!

Congratulations to Tamora Pierce, Rachel Hartman and ALL of the other award winners and nominees.  You can check out the full list on ALA's website HERE.

Navigating Early

Navigating Early
by Clare Vanderpool
At the end of World War II, Jack Baker, a landlocked Kansas boy, is suddenly uprooted after his mother's death and placed in a boy's boarding school in Maine. There, Jack encounters Early Auden, the strangest of boys, who reads the number pi as a story and collects clippings about the sightings of a great black bear in the nearby mountains. Newcomer Jack feels lost yet can't help being drawn to Early, who won't believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the Great Appalachian Bear, Timber Rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as The Fish, who never returned from the war. When the boys find themselves unexpectedly alone at school, they embark on a quest on the Appalachian Trail in search of the great black bear. But what they are searching for is sometimes different from what they find. They will meet truly strange characters, each of whom figures into the pi story Early weaves as they travel, while discovering things they never realized about themselves and others in their lives. (Description from
While this received several starred reviews, it just didn't do it for me.  It was a well-written, multilayered book, but the characters didn't grab me (though I did like the portrayal of Early as someone with a form of autism in the days that it was undiagnosed) and I felt it took too long for the different layers of the story to coalesce into one.  While I found the ending satisfying, if I hadn't been officially reviewing this one, I'm not sure I would have finished it...
Full disclosure: Review copy received to review for SLJ

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mini Reviews: The Growing Up Graphic Novels Edition

Meet Lou! She's hardly your average 12 year old. Her handmade outfits are the talk of the school (even though they make the other girls laugh), and her homework gets a lot of attention from her teachers (even though it lands her in the shrink's office). Home sweet home is an apartment she shares with her couch-potato mom and a cat named Cat. At least she can pour her heart out to her best friend, Mina, and scribble her dreams in her secret diary.
Secret Diary
by Julien Neel

Lou! series, book one

Now that she's almost a teenager, Lou's life is becoming even more interesting. Playing with dolls has lost its appeal and the boy across the street gets cuter every day. The new neighbor, Richard, just might be the perfect match for Lou's mom. But will Lou or her mom ever pluck up their courage and actually talk to their crushes? (description from

This was a very cute series starter.  Though the cover art makes it look a little on the young side, this would actually be a great choice to hand to tween girl readers.  Lou and her mom have a wonderful relationship! They tackle life, love, and the pursuit of happiness together.

Summertime Blues
by Julien Neel
Lou! series, book two
Summertime is here! But there's no sun, surf, or sand for Lou. Instead, it's Brussels sprouts, mud, and mosquitoes. Lou and her mom are off to spend the summer with Memaw in the most boring town on earth. Lou's mom keeps busy by exchanging love letters with her new sweetheart, Richard, but Lou's crush, Tristan, only sends her a lousy postcard. Will meeting a new boy chase Lou's blues away? Paul's not exactly a heartthrob, but he's sweet and . . . unusual. He's nothing like Tristan, but could he be just as crush-worthy? (description from

Book two continues this cute series into the summer. Both Lou and her mom are totally bummed out, but they stick together.  I loved the addition of Memaw into their relationship and think they actually have a really strong family unit.  I can't wait to see what's in store for them all next...

He's a teen, he's a boat...He's TeenBoat!!

Teen Boat!
by Dave Roman
ill. by John Green
High school can be a time of terrible angst—Fs on tests, bullying jerks, broken hearts,
and late-stage puberty are just some of the potential issues that all teen boys face. But
what about the issues facing a Teen Boat? In this hilarious send-up of teen story tropes,
the best-selling author Dave Roman and the cartoonist John Green deliver high school
and high seas drama with a boatload of laughs. (description from

This book made me laugh out loud! It was funny and quick, out there, yet totally dealing with normal everyday teen issues, too.  I loved all the Dawson's Creek references, too. LOL.

Full disclosure: Lou series books borrowed from my library, Teen Boat borrowed through interlibrary loan

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Trailer - Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

I just found this book trailer and had to share. I'm so excited to read this one!!

What do you think?

by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles, book two
Publication date: February 5, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Confessions of a Murder Suspect

Confessions of a Murder Suspect
by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
On the night Malcolm and Maud Angel are murdered, Tandy Angel knows just three things: 1) She was the last person to see her parents alive. 2) The police have no suspects besides Tandy and her three siblings. 3) She can't trust anyone--maybe not even herself. Having grown up under Malcolm and Maud's intense perfectionist demands, no child comes away undamaged. Tandy decides that she will have to clear the family name, but digging deeper into her powerful parents' affairs is a dangerous-and revealing-game. Who knows what the Angels are truly capable of?  (description from
Okay, so I'm going to be brutally honest here.  I kind of hated this book. All around.  Yup.
Although I thought this was a clever premise and I went into reading with sort of high hopes, from about three chapters in I just wanted this book to be done already. Tandy is supposed to be cold and emotionless and yes, that comes across just fine.  It made me not connect with her or the other characters at all and then, then... then there were the moments when she obnoxiously addressed the reader directly. 
Dear Reader... I'm going to be really condescending and tell you that I can't reveal everything to you right now because, *gasp* otherwise, why on Earth would you finish reading the book??
Sorry. That got a little mean. I suppose I was struggling my way through the book, hating the voice, but still persisting until the big reveal.  I won't ruin it for any of you that may want to read this book, but I will tell you that I basically ranted to my husband for like 45 minutes about what a cop-out it was.  What a waste of time it was for me to read the book only to find out...
I had a raging ball of hate for James Patterson inside of me.  Not good.  So... well, there it is.  I didn't like it and I won't be reading the other books in the series.  I hope that you Patterson fans out there don't let me influence you, but...
Full disclosure: Borrowed from my library

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures
by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
The Caster Chronicles, book one
There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that's what I thought.

Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them. (description from
Okay, I have to admit it. This was one of those books that sat on my book shelf for years, literally years waiting to be read. I got this in ARC form from BEA the very first time I went.  In a ginormous pile of books that there was no real way that I could read in a timely manner... before I learned to not take everything in sight... and it wasn't at the top of my "OMG, I need to read this right now list" so it kept getting put aside.
Since then, I have had plenty of teens tell me how great the series is and we get requests for them at the library all the time, but it wasn't until I started seeing info for the movie that I thought to myself, "Gee, I should really finally read that." I even have copies of the ARCs for books two and three that I picked up at subsequent BEAs!
So, in an effort to fulfill two of my reading resolutions this year - to clear books off of my endless TBR shelves and to read JUST FOR FUN - I picked this one up right at the beginning of the year.  I also desperately want to see the movie and felt like I would be guilty seeing it without reading the book first... LOL.
I actually enjoyed this one.  It's not my favorite series opener, but that's partly due to the fact that I'm not a real witch book reader.  I love magic in stories, things like Harry Potter, but for some reason when the people are openly called witches, it just hits a switch in my brain that says, eh. Weird. Anyway, I loved the atmosphere of this book. It's Southern Gothic and yet it also manages to be modern.  The flashbacks to the earlier generations and the way that Southerners hold so strongly to their heritage definitely give this effect.
I liked Lena and her awakening powers. I liked Ethan. I liked the supporting characters. I thought they were all quirky and kept my interest going throughout the whole story. I was amazed how quickly I got through this 600 page book. As I delved further into the story and had my suspicions about who was really good or bad or well... the pages just kept turning.  Other than having to lug the gigantic book around, I almost forgot how long it was.
As I said, although this is not my favorite new series, I am very excited to see the movie now.  There is something about this storyline that just translates to the screen, I think. I can totally see the larger than life magic and the epic good versus evil struggle making for an epic movie! I'll let you all know what I think once I've actually seen it. 
Full disclosure: ARC received at BEA in 2009

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blog Tour - Model Spy

Model Spy
by Shannon Greenland
The Specialists, book one

Teen genius Kelly James is in a lot of hot water. A whiz with computers, she agreed to help her college RA, David, uncover some top-secret information. After all, she doesn’t have many friends and David has always been nice to her. it doesn’t hurt that he’s supercute and irresistible, too. All she has to do is hack into the government’s main computer system. but a few hours later, her whole life changes. she is caught and taken in for questioning, only this isn’t your run-of-the-mill arrest. rather than serve a juvenile detention sentence, she accepts the option to change her name and enlist in a secret government spy agency that trains teen agents to go undercover. As if that wasn’t overwhelming enough, she discovers that David works for this agency as well! And before she even begins to understand what is going on, she’s sent on her first mission as an undercover model. And who better to partner with than David himself! (description from

I'm so excited to be participating in this tour today. As some of you following my blog may know, I'm involved in a LOT of "official" reading right now. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, does mean that I don't often get to pick up just fun books anymore. 

Having the chance to read this book for the tour was GREAT.  This was the "fun" book I've been dying to read lately.  This book had adventure, romance, and a smart chick who also just happens to be somewhat klutzy...right up my alley, LOL!

I love the concept of a bunch of teen criminals, I mean geniuses, in different fields being recruited to form an elite squad of spies. Kelly, who has gone to college early and is generally beyond super-smart, was a fun character to follow.  Sheis  not only a whiz in school, but she's funny, loyal, warmhearted, and well...I kinda want to be her!  I laughed my way through her adventure, turning the pages as fast as my Nook would allow me!

...and the romance?  I immediately downloaded book two in the series after finishing Model Spy because I cannot WAIT to see how the romance develops as the series goes on... *fans self*  I want to see what the whole gang gets up to of course, and the spy mission in book two, Down to the Wire, recovering a stolen neurotoxin, sounds exciting, but I am so ready to jump right back into Kelly a.k.a. GiGi's life!!

Anyone on the lookout for a fun, fast-paced read with action, smarts, romance, and more, check out Model Spy. I guarantee you'll enjoy it

Don't forget to check out the rest of the series and info about the author on Shannon Greenland's website.

Full disclosure: Electronic review copy received from JKS Communications for Blog Tour

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday's Movie and TV Talk! (5)

Welcome to Monday's Movie and TV Talk! I don't know if I'll do this every Monday, or just sporadically on Mondays, but I LOVE TV and movies, so I figured why not add some of that to the blog for fun?? It'll be especially awesome when I can tie things into the YA book world...

So, last weekend (I think...) my husband and I watched TED.  We were super excited because we both love FAMILY GUY and this was Seth MacFarlane's first "real" movie (If you don't count the Family Guy Star Wars trilogy).

I'm sorry to say, but I was disappointed in TED. You know when you watch a movie trailer sometimes and you pray that all the funniest bits have not just been shown in the teaser... well, sorry to say about 75% of the funniest bits of the whole movie were. :/

Now, I loved the idea of the movie (total flashback to my Teddy Ruxpin days...) and there were a few moments of PURE COMEDIC GOLD, but then it was like Seth MacFarlane was trying too hard to marry a raunchy guy comedy with a "chick flick." I think he was trying to create the ultimate date night movie - something funny enough to keep a guy's attention and romantic and heartfelt enough to make the ladies sigh - but it just didn't quite mesh and so there were definite moments when it felt like the movie dragged. 

I also really hated the premise that Lori kept trying to change John to make him into the guy she really "should" end up with for the rest of her life... Women, smarten up!! Guys do not change. You cannot make them. You don't like him?  Move on. 

Has anyone else seen TED? Care to weigh in??

Sunday, January 20, 2013

This Week's Library Loot (6)


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

My Library Loot:
by Andrea Cremer
Nightshade prequels, book two
by Raina Telgemeier
by Morgan Rhodes
So, that's what I picked up at my Library this week... did you swing by yours? 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January Bookworms Meeting - Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger

This past Thursday we had the very first meeting of our book club for grades 4&5 - The BOOKWORMS - at our library.  It went really well!  Attendance was a little less than I'd expected, but the girls that came had a really great time and we had some awesome discussions about the book. 

For this first meeting, I chose Tom Angleberger's newest book, FAKE MUSTACHE (check out my personal review here).  It is a hilarious book that manages to touch on some interesting moral issues and it isn't too long, so I thought it would be a great first pick. 

The girls agreed - HA! Victory to the Librarian...LOL. :) 
I was so pleased that they liked the book.  Things are so much easier when that's the case.  Anyway... they had a ton of fun plotting things like what they would do if *they* could hypnotize peolpe with fake mustaches! 

We had a little trivia contest, with blowpops as the prize for most correct answers, and then I had a list of discussion questions that we talked about.  Here are a couple quick examples:

*When you meet someone for the first time, how does what they look like affect what you think of them?

*If you could hypnotize people into doing things for you, would you?

*Have you ever read another book where an object had good or bad feelings or powers attached to it?

Some of their answers were pretty insightful, and some were downright hilarious!

We finished up the meeting by making our own fake mustache rings.  The girls loved it!!

(Photographic evidence, LOL!)

Next month: Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles
by Karen Thompson Walker

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues. (description from

This was an interesting and slightly scary book. Not in the same way that an slasher horror film is scary (ie. people's heads being chopped off, etc!) but in a very realistic way.  What I mean is that I could actually picture the events of this book happening. Totally and completely.  Walker took a really cool post-apocalyptic concept and gave it a very real "life" through her story. 

When the earth begins to slow, there are very real and evident consequences. Julia's family can see the days lengthening and her mother, especially, freaks out about what will this the beginning of the end?  Then as the world continues to go on, they, like everyone else try to move on with their lives, but find that every day brings new little, almost unseen consequences of the slowing. 

As Julia tries to process what's happening on a larger scale, she finds herself distracted by the things in her own neighborhood.  Little slices of life that reflect what readers know is occurring around the globe.  Julia's parents' marriage starts to fall apart.  The boy she was afraid to talk to suddenly becomes a friend.  Her best friend seems to no longer be a part of her life. 

In the most realistic way, Walker reminds readers that life is not easy. Things are not just right or wrong, black or white, easy or hard.  Every day, you just have to keep trying...keep facing the challenges of the day...keep moving on. 

*Very similar in feel to Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life as We Knew It.

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my library

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator

Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator
by Josh Berk
Guy Langman can't be bothered with much. But when his friend Anoop wants Guy to join the forensics club with him in the (possibly misguided) hopes of impressing some girls, Guy thinks why not.

They certainly aren't expecting to find a real dead body on the simulated crime scene they're assigned to collect evidence from. But after some girlish, undignified screaming, the two realize it is indeed a body. Which means they have stumbled across a real, dead murder victim.

Meanwhile, Guy has been looking into the past of his father—a larger-than-life character who recently passed away. He was much older than Guy's mom, and had a whole past Guy never even knew about. Could his father's past and the dead body be linked? Does Guy want to know? He's going to need all his newfound forensics skills to find out . . . (description from

What I really like about Josh Berk's writing is that he deals with real life "issues" and still manages to convey how funny everyday life can be... in the midst of a murder mystery and a family dealing with the grief of losing someone, I still found myself snorting as I read about Guy's daily activities.

In fact, I found myself snorting a lot as I read about Guy. I mean, this is a guy who fully admits to be incredibly lazy and loves to luxuriate in bubble baths...unless the Forensic Club barges in, that is!  There were a lot of moments where Guy was just being your typical teenager.  Playing video games, day dreaming about the girl he's crushing on...and then there were the moments when he was lifting fingerprints and stalking his half-brother in NYC. 

Funny, poignant, and with a mystery that though it seemed to be readily apparent what was going on, ended up having some surprising twists!

Full disclosure: Borrowed from my library

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gold Star Review: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart. (description from

Startlingly intriguing, this fantasy takes place in a world that feels both familiar and completely alien. There are details that make this world feel like an out of time Russia, with very eastern styles of dress and customs, but Bardugo has also taken that baseline for the world and added so much that is unique that it couldn't possibly be truly set there.

The horrible demonic creatures that plague the people of Ravka are scary and very alien-like. I kept picturing the weird creatures from the movie Pitch Dark (*shudders*).
Ugh. So creepy and deadly...
I loved the military-esque society that Alina is part of in Ravka. Led by those who can do magic, but mostly "regular" people. I'm very intrigued to see what happens to Alina now that her place in society has changed so drastically. Will she be able to survive being on the run from those she once revered?
This book left me hanging. I felt like I'd just come back from a world that I'd never imagined, but was totally real. I wanted to dive right back in for more. For that, a GOLD STAR!

Full disclosure: Purchased for my nook

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

ABNA is here again!!

Are you an aspiring author?  Have you self-published a book?  Check out the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award!! Submissions started being accepted for this year's contest yesterday...

Amazon Announces Sixth Annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

One Grand Prize winner will be chosen by Amazon customers and receive a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing, with a $50,000 advance.
Finalists will be chosen in five categories: general fiction, mystery/thriller, romance, science fiction/fantasy/horror, and young adult fiction and receive publishing contracts with Amazon Publishing.
Starting January 14, authors can enter the contest in one of five categoriesgeneral fiction, mystery/thriller, romance, science fiction/fantasy/horror, and young adult fictionfor the chance to win a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing. A finalist will be chosen in each category, and a Grand Prize winner will then be selected by Amazon customers and receive a $50,000 advance. The remaining finalists will also receive a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing, with a $15,000 advance.

This years ABNA contest is open to unpublished and self-published English-language novels, which can be submitted from January 14, 2013 through January 27, 2013. The five finalists will be announced on May 21, and the Grand Prize winner will be announced during a special ceremony at Amazon headquarters in Seattle in June.

Up to 10,000 eligible entries will be accepted for the ABNA contest this year. The top 400 entries from each category will advance to the second round. Amazon reviewers will then read excerpts of the entries and narrow the pool to 100 titles in each category. In the subsequent round, reviewers from Publishers Weekly will read, review and rate the full manuscripts to find the top five semi-finalists for each category. Amazon Publishing editors will then choose a finalist in each of the five categories. In the final stage of the contest, customers will vote for a Grand Prize winner.

CreateSpace, an Amazon company, will again this year host the contest entry platform, which includes a community for authors that will keep them up-to-date on the contest and help them prepare their entries.

For the complete Official Rules for the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and more information about the contest, please visit
This year, I'll once again be one of the Publishers Weekly judges.  Last year, my favorite young adult manuscript went on to actually win the entire young adult category! On Little Wings by Regina Sirois officially goes on sale from Penguin on August 15th.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday's Movie and TV Talk! (4)

Welcome to Monday's Movie and TV Talk! I don't know if I'll do this every Monday, or just sporadically on Mondays, but I LOVE TV and movies, so I figured why not add some of that to the blog for fun?? It'll be especially awesome when I can tie things into the YA book world...
So, today I wanted to talk about the cropping up of Russian spies...I've been watching my normal TV shows and keeping an eye on what's coming out soon and I noticed that several storylines seem to focus on Russian spies.  Are we thinking Cold War part II might be coming?  Hmmm...
For instance, on the January 3rd episode of ELEMENTARY (starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, a woman ends up dead in an industrial dryer in a hotel.  *Spoilers Ahead!!*  In digging deeper into the woman's background, Sherlock eventually deduces that both the woman and her husband are actually Russian spies! I thought it was really interesting, too, to see how the writers crafted things so that the couple fight over whether or not to bring their American-born daughter into the family business as a second generation agent...  *End Spoilers*
Then, premiering on FX on January 30th, is the new show, THE AMERICANS. Starring Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, and Noah Emmerich, the show follows two KGB agents posing as Americans in the suburbs of Washington D.C. I find the whole premise intriguing and will probably watch at least the first few episodes to try it out. 
Have I missed any Russian spy sightings lately?  I feel like there must be more...

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon
by S. S. Taylor/Illus. by Katherine Roy
Computers have failed, electricity is extinct, and the race to discover new lands is underway! Brilliant explorer Alexander West has just died under mysterious circumstances, but not before smuggling half of a strange map to his intrepid children—Kit the brain, M.K. the tinkerer, and Zander the brave. Why are so many government agents trying to steal the half-map? (And where is the other half?) It’s up to Alexander’s children—the Expeditioners—to get to the bottom of these questions, and fast. (description from
This book was a little bit of an unexpected joy for me. While I had read the description and knew that there was a treasure hunt, etc, I don't think it really sank in...what this book would be like...
Honestly, it was one of the best, most interesting steampunk adventures I've read yet.  I think, primarily, because it wasn't *just* steampunk.  This is dystopian steampunk.  In this world, we've gone beyond the computer age to a period where all that technology was distrusted and society withdrew back to steam power! Very, very cool conceptually. 
This book has a heavy focus on family relationships, gadgets, and mapmaking/reading.  Each of the West children has a different "specialty." M.K. can fix any type of machinery. Zander can almost commune with animals.  Our main character, and also the middle sibling, Kit, can read maps and solve codes, having learned from their Explorer father.  In this world, too, the Explorers, like Mr. West are on the hunt to map out and claim new lands.  They joke about the time when we were convinced that there were only seven continents!
This book was exciting and intriguing and once I started reading, I did not want to put it down.  Not only were there great descriptions of new creatures and awesome steampunk technologies, but the illustrator did an amazing job and every chapter there was at least one picture like this one of a typical Explorer's vest, full of cool gadgetry. There were full page illustrations and little ones sprinkled within the text.  The book cover also comes off and on the reverse side is a full character sketch of each of the kids and the friend that eventually goes hunting for the secret cavern with them. 
This book tackled a great adventure, built an awesome and intriguing world, and also threw in a couple of great moral lessons. I cannot WAIT to read the next book in the series!!
Full disclosure: Finished copy received from publisher for review

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Island of Thieves

Island of Thieves
by Josh Lacey
"Only boring people get bored…Interesting people can always find something to be interested in." That’s what Tom Trelawney’s father says, anyway. Tom shouldn’t have been interested in playing with matches but he was...bored. Now the shed is in ashes and strange Uncle Harvey is the only one willing to have him stay while his parents vacation.
Tom soon discovers Harvey is going to South America on a treasure hunt and though nephews aren’t invited, he manages to tag along. Before it’s over he’ll drive a car, fire a gun and run for his life. Tom realizes that life may be about following the rules, but survival may be about breaking them. (description from
This was an exciting book that seemed almost like an action movie playing in my head. It felt very much like I was watching National Treasure where there were car chases and guys shooting guns at them and they were attempting to solve clues. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole second half of the book! 

I'm actually kind of hoping that Lacey writes another book featuring Tom and his Uncle Harvey. I thought they worked well together and just managed to scrape through by the skins of their noses often enough that I never really was assured they'd both be okay in the end...

Love action movies? Love treasure hunts? Looking for a fun easy read? Check this book out.
Full disclosure: Borrowed from my library 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Movie Review: Brave

Disney Pixar
Rated: PG
93 minutes
Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse. (description from

I really enjoyed this movie. I thought the storyline was interesting. I loved the setting. I loved the characters. I LOVED the animation.

This movie was about a girl who wants to make her own destiny...and does... *after* some serious mishaps, having to break a curse, and killing off a giant evil bear that's plagued her country for years. Set in Scotland, I loved the accents, the clothes, the history, the magic, the folk tale feel of the whole movie.

Merida was a great character - fiery, loyal, loving, but also a typical teenager who blames her mother for EVERYTHING. Her mother and father were loving and funny and her brothers were a full-on hoot. *I would love to see a short with just the boys getting into scrapes!* The members of the other clans were also funny and made for a great interaction with Merida's family.

Most of all, though, this movie was visually stunning. The animation of Merida's wild red hair, her horse, the bears, and the will-o-the-wisps were all amazingly well done. You could see individual hairs. It looked like you could reach out and touch soft fur. Wow. Just wow.

If you like family movies, you will probably really like this one. :)
Full disclosure: borrowed from my library

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Blog Tour - The Cadet of Tildor

Today, I am very excited to be posting a review as part of the Cadet of Tildor blog tour through AToMR tours! Some of you may have noticed that I've been a little obsessed with this book...having already posted an Anxiously Awaiting... about Cadet, the book trailer reveal, and then as one of the Tildor Heralds (Alex's street team for the book), I created and oversaw the book's online scavenger hunt in November!  Now, with the book coming out later this week, I'm so happy to finally be able to post a review and tell you what I thought of the actual book!!
The Cadet of Tildor
by Alex Lidell
Publication date: January 10, 2013
There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, angling to exploit the young Crown’s inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.
Reminiscent of my all-time favorite author, Tamora Pierce, Alex Lidell's debut book is a story of a young woman determined to make a difference in the world.  To do so, Renee refuses to let her father buy her a post in the kingdom's guards (as most nobles would have done) and decides to enter the Academy of Tildor to train among the country's elite regardless of social/economic standing, and to become a Servant to the Crown. 
Struggling to compete with boys who are bigger and stronger, Renee finds herself on probation, with the possibility of being asked to leave the Academy.  With a father who does not support her life decision, the Academy is the only place that Renee truly feels at home and she cannot bear to leave it and her close friends, Sasha and Alec. Even when she returns for her final year at the Academy and finds herself clashing with her new instructor, the enigmatic Commander Savoy, legend and reluctant teacher, Renee refuses to give up her life and her pursuit of justice.
Set in a medieval style world, I found Lidell's setting for the book to be fascinating.  Not only does Renee want to help protect her kingdom, especially as a very young ruler has just taken over and assassination attempts seem to be piling up around them, but she is also coming into contact with members of both the Vipers (a drug cartel style family run by a matriarch) and the Family (the mafia like group that extorts people for protection, etc.).  Add to that political boiling pot the existence of mages, strictly controlled by the government, and you have a world full of unrest and potential disaster.
With a main character who has a strict sense of morality, a firm belief in justice, and unwavering loyalty to her friends, The Cadet of Tildor will most definitely appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce's books.  The political unrest and intrigue will appeal to fans of Meghan Whalen Turner. The blend of a medieval setting and fantasy elements will appeal to fans of Sarah J. Maas.  I would personally recommend this book to just about anyone.  It has swordplay, betrayals, BIG secrets, friendships, parties, dancing, and even kissing...but not too much kissing. 
This book right now is a stand-alone, but Lidell left just enough open that there could be *at least* one more book about fact, I'm keeping my fingers crossed because I would love to see her take on the world! (Hear that, Penguin?  I vote, YES!, on another book!!!)
Don't forget to check out the blog tour schedule over at AToMR tours to get more of the scoop on The Cadet of Tildor and to enter the author's giveaway!!
You can also find out more information about the author, Alex Lidell, on her website or stalk, I mean follow her like I do on twitter @alexlidell
Full disclosure: eARC received through NetGalley as part of the blog tour

Monday, January 7, 2013


by Karen Marie Moning
Dani O'Malley series, book one

The year is 1 AWC—After the Wall Crash. The Fae are free and hunting us. It’s a war zone out there, and no two days are alike. I’m Dani O’Malley, the chaos-filled streets of Dublin are my home, and there’s no place I’d rather be.

Dani “Mega” O’Malley plays by her own set of rules—and in a world overrun by Dark Fae, her biggest rule is: Do what it takes to survive. Possessing rare talents and the all-powerful Sword of Light, Dani is more than equipped for the task. In fact, she’s one of the rare humans who can defend themselves against the Unseelie. But now, amid the pandemonium, her greatest gifts have turned into serious liabilities.

Dani’s ex–best friend, MacKayla Lane, wants her dead, the terrifying Unseelie princes have put a price on her head, and Inspector Jayne, the head of the police force, is after her sword and will stop at nothing to get it. What’s more, people are being mysteriously frozen to death all over the city, encased on the spot in sub-zero, icy tableaux.

When Dublin’s most seductive nightclub gets blanketed in hoarfrost, Dani finds herself at the mercy of Ryodan, the club’s ruthless, immortal owner. He needs her quick wit and exceptional skill to figure out what’s freezing Fae and humans dead in their tracks—and Ryodan will do anything to ensure her compliance.

Dodging bullets, fangs, and fists, Dani must strike treacherous bargains and make desperate alliances to save her beloved Dublin—before everything and everyone in it gets iced. (description from

What a great start to the Fever spin-off series. Moning is such a stellar author. I had been initially both excited and a little concerned about having the spunky and smart Dani as the main character in this series.  You may wonder why the concern? Well, because Dani is only a *very young* teen and Moning is known for some pretty steamy situations in her books. 

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the overtly sexual scenes that writers like Moning or Laurell K. Hamilton may be known for, in fact they both write some of my favorite guilty pleasure reads, but to have that type of writing and a teen MC?  That felt a little wonky to me.  I was extremely pleased with how Moning handled the potential problem. 

As those familiar with her writing would expect, Dani is neither shielded from the overtly sexual or seedy parts of life in Dublin post-fae take over, nor is she shielded from becoming the object of fascination for some very, ummm...shall we say alpha male figures in the city.  What keeps things in line, though, is that everyone is very cognisant of her age and treats her appropriately.  Though we all know that someday these men will pursue more from Dani, for the moment their goals remain largely in keeping her alive to reach that someday point...

Well done. Very well done.  Beyond that issue, too, I liked the whole continued world building now that shall we say the sh*t has truly hit the fan for humans.  I will definitely be picking up the newest book in the series as soon as it comes out.

Full disclosure: Borrowed through interlibrary loan