Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book Review: Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien


After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents disappear.

As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she faces the brutal injustice of the Enclave and discovers she alone holds the key to a secret code, a code of “birthmarked” babies and genetic merit.

Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, BIRTHMARKED explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where a criminal is defined by her genes, and one girl can make all the difference.


Enthralling and realistic, Birthmarked forces the reader to really think. Although set several hundred years in the future, this book holds a degradation of the human race into a less fruitful time, forcing decisions to be made that are cruel and inhumane by both our modern standards and those of this futuristic civilization, lending it an old time feel. Albeit a fictional world, it is very easy to see how this scenario could end up playing out- the elite suppressing the poor, humans being used as a breeding ground to keep the population going and several other well thought out and planned instances. All these things have happened in our world's history at one time or another and this is one of the biggest reasons this book, while gripping and engrossing, will also force the reader to think.

This book is shrouded with mystery throughout it- from the reason Gaia's parents were arrested to the "secret code" they held and even to many of the reasons the Enclave exists and how they function. Shocking twists and unexpected turns were rapt throughout, keeping the reader turning the pages and eager to know more. While some things could be guessed in advance, this book was by no means predictable. Many things that could be seen had enough hints and background for the reader to make the connection- things provided by the author.

Gaia's character is well written, harboring both glaringly strong and weak traits. She has her moments of pure irrationality, her times of weakness and feeling nothing but hopelessness but she also finds reasons to keep going, has an innate ability to both survive and think things through, and overall is a strong character. As she becomes more involved with everything inside the walls of the Enclave, the vast differences between the way she grew up and the lifestyle of the elite become obvious, helping to pull not only her character and her parents together, but the book as a whole.

O'Brien does a phenomenal job pitching both sides of the story, forcing the reader to see things from both the point of view of those inside and outside the walls. The battle ground is certainly an ethical and moral one with each side holding persuasive reasons for their actions and beliefs, all the while letting the reader see how shaken one person can be when everything they've known and grew up on is suddenly thrust into a different light. Had the book been written in the mindset of an elite citizen from inside the wall, the reader would very likely have a different overall view of everything- take a different stand than they come out with having watched Gaia's struggle. The ability to bend the reader in such a way is a mark of brilliance and a fine art and O'Brien nails it with this.

The plot progresses at an overall steady pace, building steadily until things pick up towards the end for the climax and a relatively fast tapering, ending with a cliffhanger ending that is leaving innumerable doors open for the next installment. There are slower times but I feel particularly with this book, the reader needs those pages to reconcile things that have happened, the ramifications of actions occuring long before the present, and to prepare themselves for whatever else Gaia was to face. Strongly well written, the imagery is vivid and the emotional pull strong. I strongly recommend this book for both the entertainment factor as well as it's ability to make you think and leave you wanting more. The first in a series, this is a very brilliant and stunning dystopian debut.

Source: Finished copy received from publisher for review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (March 30, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1596435690
ISBN-13: 978-1596435698

Author's Website

What Others Are Saying:
Steph Su Reads
The Book Cellar
Shut Up! I'm Reading
Presenting Lenore

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick is Flash by Michael Cadnum.


When two teenage brothers bungle a bank robbery, their attempt to hide the evidence is witnessed—aurally—by Terrence, a legally blind neighbor. Terrence tells his girlfriend, Nina, and her brother, who then disappears with a handgun. Nina is afraid of what he might do to the brothers. But she also has every reason to fear what the brothers will do to Terrence.

Flash ingeniously interweaves the stories of two who are hellbent on a destructive path, two who stand in their way, and one whose actions may be the spark to set the whole thing off.

My Thoughts:

The cover alone would make me look at this book- it's intriguing with just the slightest hints of creepy. The premise sounds like it has huge potential with plenty of unique twists thrown in, not to mention some characters that already look lively and interesting just from the description and brief introduction. I definitely look forward to this one, hitting shelves June 22, 2010 from Farrar, Starus and Giroux.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blog Tour: Author Bree Despain Interview + Giveaway

As part of Bree Despain's The Dark Divine blog tour, I've had the privilege of asking the author in the spotlight a few questions. You also have another chance to win some of the very beautiful TDD nailpolish in the striking purple of the book cover.

AGA: If you could pair Daniel and Grace with any character from any other book, wh
at would your picks be?

BD: Okay, I tried to break Grace and Daniel up for this exercise but they got really mad and refused to be torn apart from each other.

However, if Meredith Divine (Grace’s mother) had her way, she’d set Grace up on a blind date with Peeta from THE HUNGER GAMES because she admires a guy who is good in the kitchen—and she’d see him as relatively not dangerous compared to Daniel.

I can also see her trying to set Daniel up with Katsa from GRACELING—in hopes that Katsa would get angry and try to kill Daniel off. (But only because Meredith doesn’t know that Daniel could hold his own pretty well against a
professional killer.)

But really, Grace and Daniel are still very not happy with this exercise, so I’m going to stop now. (I’m sorry, okay?!)

What was the hardest part of the book to write?

BD: The scene after Thanksgiving dinner when Grace and Daniel go into the forest to rescue Baby James. My
editor kept pushing me to make the scene better, and each time he’d say, “It’s good, but it needs to be fantastic.” At the time, I cursed him for making me rewrite it so many times, but I’m now grateful that he pushed me to make it the best it could be. I hear from so many people that the forest scene is their favorite part of the book.

AGA: What was the timeline like from start to finish writing this book?

BD: I started the book in January of 2005 and worked on it almost every day for about a year. In January of 2006 I started subbing the manuscript around to agents, and revising it here and there based on the rejections I got. In April 2006, I had a baby. And then my brain melted. I found myself completely unable to write for several months. I kept subbing the manuscript out, but based on the feedback I was getting, I knew that I needed to completely rewrite the entire manuscript—only I was still completely blocked.

I put the manuscript away for a while, and as my brain regained function, I started writing a different book. After some time, I started to get ideas as to how to completely revise TDD, so in January 2008 I started rewriting the book. I re
wrote about 2/3rds of the book and added about 100 pages of new content. I finished in September 2008, got an agent for in October 2008, revised some more with my agent and then went out on submissions with it in late November 2008, and then we got the offer from Egmont to publish the book in December 2008, and officially sold it to them in January 2009—and then the book was published in December 2009. Phew, I’m tired now.

AGA: What was the idea or scene that initially sparked the rest of this plot?

BD: I was driving down the street late one evening in January 2005, thinking about an old friend of mine who
had disappeared from my life many years ago. I stopped at a red light and looked up at a billboard and a conversation between a brother and a sister popped into my head. The brother was warning his sister to stay away from an old friend who had suddenly come back into their lives. “He’s dangerous. He isn’t the person he used to be. You have to stay away from him,” the brother told his sister. I was so intrigued by these characters and the emotions they were feeling that I had to know what was going.

AGA: Which authors have inspired or affected you the most?

BD: I love the Elizabeth Peters AMELIA PEABODY books and how she was able to sustain a romance between the same two characters over the course several books. I also love Meg Cabot, Laurie Halse Anderson, and S
ara Zarr. Martine Leavitt, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and Louise Plummer are three writing teachers who’ve influenced me greatly.

Thanks so much for taking the time for this, Bree! Check out my review of this fantastic paranormal debut here.

Want to sport your own Dark Divine nail polish? Fill out this form! US only. Ends Monday, April 19 at 10 CST.

Please go to The Neverending Bookshelf, tomorrow to see the next stop on The Dark Divine Blog Tour.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Author Interview: Swati Avasthi

Joining me today is Swati Avasthi, author of the recent debut SPLIT- a book about family abuse and moving past it.

AGA: What was the idea/scene that sparked SPLIT?

SA: For three years, I coordinated a domestic violence legal clinic. I listened to thousands of abuse victims recount the incidents that brought them to us for an order of protection. Once, a woman came in with her two children, a boy and girl. The boy was around 5 or 6 years old and was losing a front tooth. During the interview, he would wiggle it at me using his tongue; he was very cute. His mother was telling me about a particularly brutal incident and so I asked her if she'd like an intern to look after her children. She shook her head, no and said they had seen it, anyway. I was haunted by that boy and by the idea that he had witnessed his father, his role model, beat up his mom. I started to wonder about the children who see that kind of abuse every day. Who does that turn them into? That idea percolated in my head for many years and finally found an outlet in Jace.

In writing this book, I realized that I disagree with the way domestic violence is represented in the media: as a women's problem. Since some statistics estimate that 30% of victims are male and 70% of abusers are male, why are we calling this a problem for women? It seems to me to be a problem for men, especially since the abusers have the clearest line of sight to stopping the abuse.

AGA: Some of the abuse scenes in this book are pretty graphic. Were you influenced from somewhere for them or did they come from your mind?

SA: The scenes were entirely fictional, but they were based on what I learned about abuse from the clinic -- the nature of the escalation from insults, to name calling, to threats to fists. i remember specifically, bracing myself when a weapon -- usually a household tool, like a box cutter -- was involved. I tried to render the scenes of violence with specificity and realism so that the violence wasn't sensational. It felt like the only way to honestly represent what I learned about domestic violence.

AGA: Were any elements of this story based on personal experience or is it purely fictional?

SA: I borrowed settings and finer details from real life. A friend said he knew I was writing about his apartment building because of my description of the hall smelling like a combination of hash and cat piss. I counted that as a compliment.

In terms of experiences, in the book, Jace remembers a time when he would bike beside Christian as Christian went for a run. My dad and I used to do that, me on the bike and him running.

AGA: Do you have a stronger preference for any of the characters than others?

SA: Well, I do love them all, but I'd say Dakota's my favorite. She was a breath of fresh air. Her honesty policy made her particularly fun to write and a nice foil to Jace, who says less than half of what he thinks.

AGA: If you could pair Jace up with any character from any book, what would be your pick?

I'd like to see him hang out with Miles from Looking for Alaska. They could swap quotes and bond over girls they can't figure out.

AGA: What is the most rewarding and the roughest thing about writing and being published?

SA: So far, one of my favorite moments was seeing the book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble. It felt so official and real.

The hardest thing for me is striking the right balance between publicizing the first book and writing the second. So far, I haven't been able to manage my time in a way that feels that I'm giving them both the attention they deserve. It's a little like having a second child.

AGA: What's next on the docket for you?

SA: My second novel is currently titled BIDDEN and is about Corey, Holly, and Savitri, who are looking forward to a summer of free running and comic book reading when a shooting changes everything. Now, they are just looking to survive. BIDDEN is about how far we will stretch for our friends.

AGA: Is there anything else you'd like to say?

SA: If any of your readers think they might be victims of abuse, I'd encourage them to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 1-866-331-9474. Sometimes, it is difficult to know if you are being victimized because abuse generally starts out as a threat, a slap, even something like sleep deprivation, and it can be hard to put a name like "dating abuse" which encompasses such a wide range of abuse. But, since abuse tends to escalate over time, it's better to recognize it early. So, my advice is to call and talk. I believe there are peer advocates at the national Teen Dating Abuse Hotline. And keep in mind, that anyone who loves you, anyone who respects you wants you safe first.

Thanks very much for stopping by, Swati!

Want to know more about Swati, her work in an abuse clinic, or SPLIT? Join us tomorrow night, Tuesday, March 30 at 8 CST for a chat on my book forum! Register here for the forum, chat box is at the bottom of the main page when you're logged in- there's a log in button for the chat box itself at the top right of it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Book Review: Party by Tom Leveen

SUMMARY (From amazon):

It's saturday night in Santa Barbara and school is done for the year. Everyone is headed to the same party. Or at least it seems that way. The place is packed. The beer is flowing. Simple, right? But for 11 different people the motives are way more complicated. As each character takes a turn and tells his or her story, the eleven individuals intersect, and reconnect, collide, and combine in ways that none of them ever saw coming.


Comical but memorable, there were plenty of ways this book could fail. Focusing on 11 characters, each one with their own designated chapter in which the reader can see into their mind before passing the spotlight on to someone else, as well as the entire basis being a huge end of the year kegger party, it's easy to see what could go wrong. But this book doesn't go wrong and uses these elements to make it stand out. The order in which Leveen let the character's tell the story worked perfectly and each chapter transitioned smoothly between settings and people before everyone came together at the party. About half way through the novel is where the narrator no longer matters- the reader is still getting a fantastic, engaging, humorous story.

Not one character was given particularly more attention than another- every one of them had a purpose, a spotlight, and an effect. Some characters that wouldn't normally be involved with others suddenly are being forced together and I felt every one of these interactions to be very realistic and brought out the different personalities of all 11 characters. The full spectrum of characters showed up in this book, from the football star to the playboy to the religious kid, even a Turk who wanted nothing more than to make his family proud while still enjoying high school.

Bonds are formed and broken, secrets revealed and others developed as the night progresses and overall, there was little backtracking and retelling of events. Only when POV's would switch would some things be told again but it was always briefly when the different characters were being brought together and in the new person's mindset. Leveen does a brilliant job weaving everything together, keeping the reader engaged the entire time.

Ryan was probably the most comical character for me- his chapter had me laughing almost nonstop. A seemingly typical character, being the playboy, Leveen still gave even this boy some depth and redeeming qualities. Josh is the boy would doesn't sleep with a girl because of his belief in God and his chapter, as well, was humorous despite the events. His inner thoughts provided constant relief and this same lightheartedness even in rough situations persisted throughout the book. Ashley and Morrigan were almost polar opposites but still best friends and I really enjoyed how teenage their actions actually were.

Leveen's writing is fantastic, varying between each POV to stick with each character's true self as well as a teenage state of mind no matter what the personality was. This would be something hard to do, particularly with only one chapter to really get into the frame of mind but Leveen breezes through it. An enjoyable read, I recommend this one for the broad range of characters, writing ability, and the deeper, underlying things happening in a partying situation.

Source: ARC received from the author for review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (April 27, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375864369
ISBN-13: 978-0375864360

Author's Website

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In My Mailbox

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

On this week's edition of "Find The Beagle" I think I did pretty darn good. The library had a book sale last weekend- picked up 2 hardbacks for a buck each. I also hit up Half Price today and found 3 awesome titles, and got several reviews books I am really stoked about. So without further ado...

For Review:
Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey
Crash Test Love by Ted Michael
Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams
Birth Marked by Caragh O'Brien
The Knife That Killed Me by Anthony McGowan
Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda
Something Like Fate by Susanne Colasanti
The Ghost & The Goth by Stacey Kade
A Field Guide for Heartbreakers by Kristen Tracy
The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Winter Longing by Tricia Mills
Kisses and Tells by Cameron Tuttle
(Very special thanks to Beth, Peter, Caragh, Stacey, Kristen, Kelsey at The Book Scout, Razorbill, Delacourte Press and Julie for these books!)

Fallen by Lauren Kate (Read the ARC, now I own it!)
The Poison Eaters by Holly Black
Madapple by Christina Meldrum
A Killer's Kiss by William Lashner
The King of Lies by John Hart

Ghostgirl, Homecoming by Tonya Hurley (From Book Divas)
Not Like You by Deborah Davis (From Hooked on YA Books)

And this last picture is just to show how neurotic and weird Toby actually is. Yes, he did this himself. Yes, he sat there just staring at me. Yes, that's a shower curtain and bath rug protecting the chair from him so he doesn't ruin it. And yes, that's a bungee cord keeping said protection up.

That's my week.... what did everyone else get?

Friday, March 26, 2010

On My Soap Box

Yep, this is a Kari rant... ie, a post in which I stand high on my soapbox, say what I have to say, and let you choose whether or not you want to read it. If you disagree, that's cool. It's allowed. I'm not trying to offend. I'm just speaking my mind. And now that the technicalities are out of the way...

I've noticed lately in my wanderings around the blogosphere several similar posts, the first regarding romance and content in YA. If you've been around my blog for a bit, you've already seen me rant about the common sense media crap and what not. And these rants? To me, it's an extension of that. I don't think romance in YA needs to change and I still very strongly hold my ground that if a teen is gonna read a YA book and base their life on what's in it, there's a whole lot bigger issues going on than the content of that book. It's fiction. Creative license.

I also want to know why everyone, even bloggers who have a better idea of how long the publishing process actually is, always forget, well, how long the publishing process actually is. All these "horrible books" that we're gobbling up- they weren't in response to Twilight. They aren't taking advantage of some Twilight book, they aren't trying to keep that same theme going. Twilight got popular when the movie came out- in 2008. I would be hard pressed to find any author, other than ones who already had contracts set up for books that are likely in a series, who started writing a book and had it hit shelves in under 2 years. But let's push it back, and say Twilight started really growing a following after Eclipse was released- 2007. Again, Less than 3 years. All these books we're devouring now- they were started before that or around then. NOT in response to it. And my honest thoughts on how often books are compared to Twilight, how often people say these authors are feeding off it? You are cheapening them and their work. If you think YA is really so horrible, why read it? Why have a blog devoted to it, if it needs to change?

And the "rape culture" reference going around- that is a horrible, almost despicable term to me. That alone, comparing books with weak girls (face it, there are weak girls out there. Not every chick is strong and can kick butt and doesn't give a damn) and overpowering girlfriends to something like rape- I think that is even more screwed up than the content in these books that is being blown out of proportion. Rape is violent and horrible. Rape is something that can leave even the strongest of women scarred and vulnerable. Rape is not something to compare to books. So what if younger kids read it? It's called YA- young adult, teen. If younger kids are going to read it, how is it really any different than a teen reading an adult title? Should we cut out all violence, sex, affairs, romance, etc out of those too, because what if a teen reads it?

I also want to point out- the people who are having issues with all this, at least for what I'm responding to- are probably not people who actually are in the abusive situations. It isn't the teens who have to clean up their parent's vomit because they are too drunk to do it themselves. It isn't the kid who has to work to help make rent. It isn't the girl altering her life around an abusive dad, brother who molests her, even boyfriend. I could be wrong- and I'm not saying there are none of these but the vast majority of bloggers- we're privileged. Because the people, boys and girls are alike, in those situations? They don't have time to read all the books we do. And they definitely don't have time to maintain a blog. But the fact that us bloggers are trying to cheapen and discredit books with this content is an outrage to me. These situations are real- and living in our little sheltered worlds doesn't make them go away. Open a newspaper. Turn on the news. These situations exist. I applaud the others who include elements like this, however subtle, into their books. And why would I want to read about someone just like me? I get enough of me all day. I want something else in a book.

And finally.... to wrap this up. If you're getting stressed about blogging, take a break. It isn't a big deal. If you don't want to post a meme one week, then don't. There's no law that says once you start a blog, you have to do every meme, every week, rain or shine, sickness or health. If I don't feel like doing it or am too busy, I just don't. I don't feel forced to do anything with this blog- the only requirement I have is when I take on a book for review. And I do that because it's a book I want to read, and I want to promote the author. I want to help these authors get word out about their book, even if I didn't like it. Authors and their books are not equivalent. I can like an author and dislike their book. That's okay, and if they're professional, they'll be okay with it too. Do I give a book a good rating because I have to? Um, no. I'm not that type. Never will be. Do I give a lot of books on here good ratings? Yes. Why? Because if I read a book description and it doesn't interest me, I don't read it. Like with faeries- I just can't get into faerie books. I don't care how amazing you think it is- it doesn't catch my eye. I have plenty of books that grab my eye that I will focus on. Does that cheapen my reviews because they tend to all be good? Heck no. If I think a book is worth 5 stars, it's because I think it's worth 5 stars.

Just wanted to add my two cents... because I don't think we need to make some huge change to how blogging is. I don't think authors need to edit themselves. If you hate it so much, think it's so awful, then stop reading it. Yes, Edward was overprotective and Bella rolled over in submission. So what? Yes, girls in abusive situations stay in them. News flash- that's real life. Even set into a fantasy type world, there's always elements of real life. But stop cheapening these authors who have poured so much of themselves into these books by saying they are just riding some wave started by Twilight. Stop castrating them for content. Obviously plenty of people thought it was good if it's published. Stop making it seem like bloggers are doing something all wrong and we're all just a bunch of idiots. Just stop.

That is all. I will now gracefully (okay, fall) off my soapbox and go back to reading. Because guess what? I like reading. No, I love reading. I love watching what other people's minds can create- the way they say things, the characters they build, and the story they run. It's no different than TV or movies or even video games. I don't care if I'm turning 25 this year, I love YA. I love how easy it is to read but how quickly it can suck me in. There are some very talented writers who are writing YA. Give them the credit they deserve.

Book Review: Prey by Lurlene McDaniel

SUMMARY: A teacher is supposed to impart a love of learning and a thirst for knowledge. It’s a bit different with Ms. Lori Settles. All the kids are talking about how hot she is–and she is especially interested in Ryan Piccoli. When she starts giving Ryan extra attention, he’s feeling more than happy–at first. He’s used to being the class clown, but really he’s a loner. One day after school, the friendship with Lori Settles goes farther than he ever expected. She’s his teacher. She’s at least twice his age. Intimacy with a teacher is wrong, yet it feels so good in every way. Soon, Lori is making demands and Ryan begins to feel overwhelmed, but Ryan refuses to even admit anything is going on. Something immoral is going on and before too long the choices made will change lives forever.


Unique, beautifully grotesque, and cataclysmic. This book takes some very interesting turns, pitching the reader between being grossed out and engrossed. The subject alone- teacher sleeping with student- is one that makes the majority of people cringe and turn their nose up in disgust. But McDaniel writes Ryan in such a way that immediate discredit doesn't exist, even during his first time in bed with this teacher.

This book will make you think. Ryan's homelife isn't ideal- a mother who died when he was 2 and a father who loves him but travels often for work, leaving him alone the majority of the time- but by the end of the book, I found myself wondering how much, in this scenario, that homelife really mattered. How drastically different would Ryan's decisions have been if he had two loving parents who were there? Granted, sneaking around would have been more difficult but even with his father being gone, it didn't go unnoticed. I think this is a very prime example of a teen knowing what he wants and going for it, all legalities aside. Ryan is a cocky yet sweet guy but becomes his own sort of obsessive, falling quickly for a women double his age. He falls into the trap she sets easily, going through the gauntlet of emotions from lust and love to jealousy and betrayal. He puts Lori first for a long while, at least until her unsettling mental state begins to become apparent. It seems like Ryan gains some insight and maybe even grows a pair, turning back towards his schoolwork and the friends he ditched for her, but still masterfully played both sides.

Lori is an incredibly unique character and despite being the sexual predator, she was written in a brilliant way to thrust sympathy and understanding towards her. She could easily have been the victim in this case which added an entirely new element, taking the story as a whole to a different level. This, coupled with Ryan's home life and several other twists- particularly towards the end- all tie together to make this book shocking and memorable. She uses her beauty and body to get what she wants, tossing the reader back and forth between appreciating her for it and despising her.

The ending of this book was very shocking but once that faded, it left me in thought. I didn't see it coming and that one part made me feel a myriad of emotions but ultimately, it did make me wonder long term how this would effect not only Ryan but Lori too- and even Ryan's friends and family. These relationships, while seemingly solitary and intimate, have a ripple effect once they come out and while it's subtle at first, this ending very much emphasizes this point.

Switching between character's, this book gives the reader a look at Ryan and Lori, as well as Ryan's best friend Honey. This varying mindset helps show multiple angles of the story without making it choppy or hard to follow. This book is written very beautifully, building each of the characters artfully. Overall, this one hits in at 4 stars and is one I recommend across the ages.

Source: Library
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (February 12, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385734530
ISBN-13: 978-0385734530

Author's Website What Others Are Saying
Edifying & Edgy
The Compulsive Reader

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield Trailer and Contest

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield just hit stores and to help promote the book, Cheryl is hosting a very generous giveaway. Full details can be found here but prizes up for grabs are a Sony ereader, a 100 dollar bookstore gift card, and copies of the book.

You can check out the trailer for the book here- it is very fitting of the book. This is one that will stick with you and is also autobiographical, adding to the overall phenomenal effect.

Contest ends April 24 and is international. The more you promote, the more entries you get.

Tributing Thursdays

Author Heidi R. Kling had the great idea to devote a week to authors, letting the fans publicly recognize and appreciate them. I thought this was a great idea but sat here wondering, why do they only get a week? No matter the end result, all authors work hard whether they are just starting out or holding years of experience. To keep this notion alive, I'm going to be making a weekly appreciation post. You're welcome to do to the same- I encourage it! Stop by here and comment with your link!

This week, to start this spin off, I am going to spotlight Heidi for very obvious reasons. While it would have been great if some of us fans had thought of this, she did. And she wasn't doing it to draw attention to herself but to all authors- to her fell 2010 Debuts to the veterans. Sure, authors receive reviews and us fans tweet with them but think of how they must feel when a fan actually takes the time to spotlight them on their blog- THEM, and not their book.

I very much applaud Heidi for realizing this- for wanting to do this. If you stop by her website and read her bio, you'll see what a long journey she had before she even started writing Sea but would she have fast tracked that? Nope. She's grateful for what she has and this is a quality that stands out for me.

Thank you, Heidi, for both your open heart and honest appreciation for your colleagues.

You can find Heidi and thank her yourself on her website, her blog, and Twitter.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader

SUMMARY (From goodreads): Sometimes the weakness we fear most can become our greatest strength . . .

Jack McClure has had a troubled life. His dyslexia always made him feel like an outsider. He escaped from an abusive home as a teenager and lived by his wits on the streets of Washington D.C. It wasn’t until he realized that dyslexia gave him the ability to see the world in unique ways that he found success, using this newfound strength to become a top ATF agent. When a terrible accident takes the life of his only daughter, Emma, and his marriage falls apart, Jack blames himself, numbing the pain by submerging himself in work. Then he receives a call from his old friend Edward Carson. Carson is just weeks from taking the reins as President of the United States when his daughter, Alli, is kidnapped. Because Emma McClure was once Alli’s best friend, Carson turns to Jack, the one man he can trust to go to any lengths to find his daughter and bring her home safely. The search for Alli leads Jack on a road toward reconciliation . . . and into the path of a dangerous and calculating man. Someone whose actions are as cold as they are brilliant. Whose power and reach are seemingly infinite. Faith, redemption, and political intrigue play off one another as McClure uses his unique abilities to journey into the twisted mind of a stone cold genius who is constantly one step ahead of him. Jack will soon discover that this man has affected his life and his country in more ways than he could ever imagine.


Strong, memorable characters. Brilliant, intricate plot. Potent, weaving writing. This book hits on everything that makes an amazing novel, keeping the reader intrigued right from the start when it shows you some of the end result before catapulting back to build towards that same point. With several different but related plot lines running at once, this is a book that could easily go wrong but it doesn't. Never once was it choppy or hard to follow with smooth transitions between character focuses and even eras.

Jack is a fantastically well written character, rapt with flaws and flourishing with strengths. He's dyslexic and that alone is explained beautifully and artfully. While written words are meaningless to him, the same thing in 3D is almost instantly imprinted in his mind. He can solve a Rubik cube in 90 seconds, create maps in his head from his surroundings, and plenty of other things that make him very apt for working intelligence. His childhood and teenage years are a big part of this book, even tying in with his later life.

Alli Carson is another very unique but candidly done character. Her time with her kidnapper is shown and the aftermath of such an ordeal, at least for the most part. Questions remain unanswered, of course, some locked away in her mind and others things she prefers to keep secret. The reason for her kidnapping is brilliant and something that was hard to predict, particularly with the rapidly progressing events of the book. This is one where the reader will have no idea who to trust and why or when.

Not one single thing is simply for knowledge in this book- everything is intertwined, connecting in some way to another thing. That alone was the most memorable facet for me as it takes a writing genius as well as a lot of time and thought to pin together a story line like this. It is filled with a constant stream of twists and draws together a wide cast of characters without any of their personalities or purposes lacking. This is a political thriller to excite and engross, both gritty and captivating.

Source: Finished review copy received from Forge publishers for review
Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Forge Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765361426
ISBN-13: 978-0765361424

Author's Website

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick is Stalker Girl by Rosemary Graham.

Summary: Carly never meant to become a stalker. She just wanted to find out who Brian started dating after he dumped her. But a little harmless online research turns into a quick glance, and that turns into an afternoon of watching. Soon Carly is putting all of her energy into following Brian’s new girlfriend—all of the sadness she feels about her mom’s recent breakup, all of the anger she feels over being pushed aside by her dad while he prepares for his new wife’s new baby. When Carly’s stalking is discovered in the worst possible way by the worst possible person, she is forced to acknowledge her problem and the underlying issues that led to it.

My Thoughts: I really like the idea behind this because even if we don't act on it like Carly, how many of us have thoughts after a break up of who he's with now, what's he doing, how is he getting on without me. We can even convince ourselves it's okay to check. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I love that those ideas are the premise for this one. Add in the other hard to deal with, emotional stuff and I think this one will be a hit.

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (August 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0670063037
ISBN-13: 978-0670063031

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book Review: Split by Swati Avasthi


16-year-old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father's fist), $3.84, and a secret. It is about what happens after. After you've said enough, after you've run, after you've made the split - how do you begin to live again?


Pulling readers in from the start, this is an emotional, raw, and sometimes despicable journey through the world of child abuse and escaping it. I've read plenty of child abuse case studies, read books, watched movies- but some of what the father does in this book to both his sons and his wife is gut wrenching and sickening. Several scenes will stand out as something you want to forget but can't but there are also plenty of parts that are memorable for perfect reasons. Avasthi creates a perfect balance between the two, showing brilliant insight into more characters than Jace despite his POV.

Jace shows up with basically nothing and very unexpectedly on his brother's doorstep- a brother he hasn't seen in 5 years since Christian bolted from the family, finally having a way to escape the chronic abuse of their father. Naturally, that abusive hand- and the desire to take the hits for the mom- fell on Jace until he finally fights back and is kicked out. With nowhere to go but his brother's, he drives 19 hours only to be not welcomed. He is a vivid, painful reminder of a life Christian has worked hard to forget about; an easy way for a father who is still livid his son left rather than being forced to leave to find him; a way for his new life to crash down.

The constant push and shove between these brothers was often as hard to get through as some of the abuse because Jace really had no one left. Christian would do little things to show his brother he cared but when it came to the big things, he turned his back often, leaving the reader wondering what was really going on with him, when he would stand up for his brother, and what his priorities were. By the end of the book, Avasti turns Christian- someone that is hard to feel much for because he often seems too cold towards his own brother- into a person the reader can understand, can feel for, can maybe even appreciate.

The plot of this book moves at a steady pace, revealing information about Jace's past in a way to keep some mystery there but still give the reader an overall idea of the situation. With one major thing to look forward to, his mother finally leaving the abusive father, Jace goes through the motions of avoiding his brother, trying to figure out his brother's girlfriend who lives in the next apartment- Christian's way of living together yet separately, and handling work, soccer and school. All this combines to remind the reader constantly that while Jace is a teenage boy, dealing with everything that comes with that, he's also dealing with the aftermath of an abusive homelife and the lasting effects on him.

This ending is brilliant, having a few hitches that take the reader by surprise and make them believe that's how it will end before something else is added. This book also touches on the battered wife who doesn't just leave, the family who buys into the father's words about how it has to be done and how he won't ever be punished for it, and the kid who might be just a little too much like his father. All these facets of abuse are included, each in their own unique way, and tied together seamlessly to make the overall effect stronger. The writing stays true to a teenage boy while still pulling the reader in and Avasthi has made a fantastic debut. She is certainly a writer to watch, having all the right talents to pull off a gripping, harsh story such as this one.

Source: ARC received from author for honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (March 9, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375863400
ISBN-13: 978-0375863400

Author's Website

Book Trailer

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Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading.

"It's not that I'm afraid of him; dude's like two foot three. But he's wearing all his clothes and ten-hole Docs. I'm wearing a pillow." -- pg 137 in the ARC, subject to change.

You can check out that little bit of interesting humor and drama, plus a whole lot more, in Tom Leveen's upcoming release Party, releasing April 27 from Random House.

SUMMARY: It's Saturday night in Santa Barbara and school is done for the year. Everyone is headed to the same party. Or at least it seems that way. The place is packed. The beer is flowing. Simple, right? But for 11 different people the motives are way more complicated. As each character takes a turn and tells his or her story, the eleven individuals intersect, and reconnect, collide, and combine in ways that none of them ever saw coming.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Guest Author Post: Ryan Potter

I have Ryan Potter, author of the recent debut release Exit Strategy, here today to do a guest post about Why Guys Don't Read- And How To Change That. His book is definitely one that could appeal to teenage males, and not only because the MC is a teenage boy.

If you’re reading this right now, chances are you’re a female and you love to read YA fiction. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think it’s wonderful. However, I do wish more guys—especially those in their late teens—would read fiction. So, if you happen to be a male reading this post…well, way to go, brother, but unfortunately you’re a rare specimen.

Which leads me to today’s question. What can we as big-time book fans do to get guys to read more? Let’s start by looking at three reasons why I think guys don’t read. Now, this isn’t exactly scientific data or anything. I’m working purely from gut feeling and personal experience, so you’re welcome to disagree.

  1. Younger guys don’t like exploring and sharing their emotions. Let’s face it. Guys are full of testosterone, which makes us way too competitive, and, I think, makes it very difficult for us to stay focused for extended periods of time. Staying focused, of course, is a key to being a good reader. In a way, then, our own biology works against us when it comes to reading. Puberty might turn a boy into a man, but all too often it turns a male reader into a male non-reader.

  2. The traditional novels assigned in schools are, for the most part, extremely boring for today’s guys. Look, I’m not against the classics, but a seventeen-year-old boy obsessed with girls and sports will find it nearly impossible to get into something written in England more than 150 years ago.

    I use that example because that’s exactly what happened to me when a teacher REQUIRED me to read Wuthering Heights in eleventh grade. I never made it past page 50 and totally failed the mega-huge test the teacher gave on the book. Yes, WH is a “great work,” but I wasn’t emotionally ready for a novel like that. The story had no connection to my life. At home, however, I was devouring Stephen King novels because I connected with his stories.

    There is some good news here. Many public schools now offer excellent contemporary novel choices for students, but there’s still a long way to go. Bottom line: If guys aren’t interested in what their reading in school, they’re more likely to lose the motivation to pick up books on their own in the future.

  3. Guys think reading fiction is a girls’ thing. Again, I think it starts in school and has a lot to do with #1 above. I had some excellent female reading and writing teachers in middle and high school, but I remember wondering why most of them were women.

    I’m guessing there are more males teaching English/Language Arts classes now than ever before, which is great, of course, but it still seems like a female-dominated subject area. That trend extends into YA fiction as well. Just look at the dominance of female authors in the genre. And who buys the books? Girls mainly. What I’m saying is that I think guys need more adult male role models in school when it comes to reading and writing.

    Hey, what if all of those football coaches were top-notch reading and writing teachers as well? Imagine that.

Back to the big question: What can we as reading fanatics do to get the non-reading guys we know to read more?

  1. Recommend a book you think they’ll like, not necessarily something you liked. Pushing vampire books on a fourteen-year-old boy with dreams of being a professional athlete probably isn’t the best approach. However, casually suggesting one of the many excellent sports-based novels by Mike Lupica and/or John Feinstein might do the trick.

  2. Take guys to bookstores. Any bookstores. I don’t care if it’s a huge Barnes and Noble or a tiny independent bookstore you can barely move around in. If you can get a non-reading guy inside, leave him alone and let him browse. I bet he’s thumbing through something within ten minutes.

  3. It’s all about choice. I think choice is the most important factor in getting guys to read. Start small. Thick novels might be too overwhelming for a lot of non-reading guys. If a guy likes magazines, comics, and/or graphic novels, that’s awesome. They’re reading! Yes, in a perfect world everybody would love to read what we love to read, but that’s what book clubs and Facebook fan pages are for.

    So think about this: If you get to the point where you’ve worked your magic and have successfully turned a non-reading guy in your life into a “reading guy,” celebrate with a trip to your favorite bookstore and buy whatever you want.

    And be sure to bring your reading guy with you, because he might blow your mind and buy a copy of Wuthering Heights.

    But probably not.
Thanks Ryan for dropping by with that awesome post! You guys can visit Ryan online at his website!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Winners + A New Contest

I've picked the three winners for my Wherever Nina Lies Giveaway. Congrats to:

Adrienne, Donna, and Debbie

I've emailed all three of you-- you have 48 hours to get back to me and then I will have to pick a new winner.

And now... on to another contest! E.J. Stevens, author Shadows of Myth and Legends, is offering one lucky reader a copy of her book as well as some signed swag! This is a collection of dark faerie tales, inspired by folklore, myth and legend, told in a haunting and lyrical style.

The contest will end in three weeks on Sunday, April 11 at 6 CST. US Only.

Fill out this form to enter!

Want to find out more about EJ? Check out her website here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

In My Mailbox

IMM is a weekly hosted by The Story Siren

For Review:
Split by Swati Avasthi
Forbidden Sea by Sheila A Nielson
Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti
The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen
Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber
(Very big and special thanks to all of the above authors and their publishers)

Bought from Amazon:
The Body Finder by Kimberly Deirting
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph

That's my mailbox... I'm still doing great with the whole don't buy very much thing. I'm proud of myself. I also cranked out a bunch of chapters of addict boy's rewrite... I've finished through chapter 18 in just over a week- granted I'm starting to be able to cut scenes from the first version and tweak to make them fit in this but eh. My goal is to have it finished by next week to start on the revisions/edits. I also got another new idea that is really freaking awesome... although I have no idea what to do with it other than the tidbits floating around in my head. But, it's on hold anyhow.

So what did everyone else get this week?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Author Appreciation Week: Post 5

For those of you long time followers of my blog, today's author should come as no surprise. She isn't YA/MG but I firmly believe there are several books of hers that should be read by teens. They hit hard on some rough issues, and while it is written at an adult level, I think plenty of teens have the mental capacity to completely understand them. If anything, it might even make it more realistic and give a longer lasting effect. Who is the author? You guessed it. My all time favorite Jodi Picoult.

Jodi has a long standing writing career, having just published her 17th- yes, 17th- book at the beginning of the month, called House Rules. While I haven't yet read it because my library is painfully and disablingly slow at getting in new books, the premise sounds fantastic. Jodi takes an idea- a question, really- and delves into it to come out with an amazing book. She knows the ending before she even begins to write and she has perfected the art of blurring the lines, casting something negative into an understandable light and changing a reader's view as the books progress.

Even more impressively, Jodi is cranking these books out- all hitting at a page length of 400-500 or more, at one a year. She also has an ongoing timeline between the books which take place in the year written, often bringing characters back and updating their stories to account for how ever many years have passed. From the initial idea to deciding execution to the research, Jodi keeps busy and still delivers them timely. Most of her books take on a legal/courtroom aspect which is one more area she needs to research, more characters she needs to create, etc. The final product is awesome but when you take the time to really think about everything that each of her books hold, it's impressive. For all these reasons, and plenty more but I will stop my gushing now (And face it guys, I don't often gush), I most definitely appreciate this woman and even if you haven't read her books (in which case, I think you are severely deprived), I hope you can appreciate everything she does, how hard she works, and what she adds to the writing world.

For information about all her books, appearances, who she is, and plenty more, check out her website. You can also find her on twitter. Or you can check out her books.