Saturday, July 31, 2010

In My Mailbox

I had a great week again! I've named the MC of what is going to be WIP3- it's a girl! Shocking, I know. I've also named the other major character in that one, whom I totally love. Plus, I finally read Clockwork Angel this week. So worth it, as my review said. But enough of all that... on to what showed up this week bookwise! I got some awesome titles!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review: The Panic Zone by Rick Mofina


A car crashes in Wyoming:
A young mother is thrown clear of the devastating car crash. Dazed, she sees a figure pull her infant son from the flames. Or does she? The police believe it's a case of trauma playing cruel tricks on the mind, until the night the grief-stricken woman hears a voice through the phone: "Your baby is alive."

A bomb explodes in a Rio de Janeiro café:
The heinous act kills ten people, including two journalists with the World Press Alliance news agency. Jack Gannon's first international assignment is to find out whether his colleagues were innocent victims or targets who got too close to a huge story.

A Caribbean cruise ends in horror:
Doctors are desperate to identify the mysterious cause of a cruise ship passenger's agonizing death. They turn to the world's top scientists, who fear that someone has resurrected their long-buried secret research. Research that is now being used as a deadly weapon.

With millions of lives at stake, experts work frantically against time. And as an anguished mother searches for her child and Jack Gannon pursues the truth, an unstoppable force hurls them all into the panic zone.


Wrenchingly realistic and brilliantly in depth, The Panic Zone is a fictional take on something current technology could have the power to make happen. With a highly complex plot, a wide cast of characters, and strong, smooth writing, this book pulls in the reader at the start and continues to grip tighter throughout.

Although the book has many characters, the primary focus is on Jack Gannon, a New York journalist. Single and without children, Jack feels he only has his reporting in his life. He is quiet and has an interesting mindset though often comes off as much more immature and younger than his age would imply. He is straightforward and simplistic at times but still holds a deeper ability to pick up on things others miss. Some of this is clearly from his journalism experience while the rest is something inherent. He is a very likeable and relatable character, garnering reader sympathy and interest early.

Emma is also focused on, with her own story arc playing a large part in the overall plot. Her grief at losing her husband and child is palpable and beautifully written. Her determination that her son is alive is just as tangible. Emma is a strong woman, holding hints of tenderness but in the face of her situation, she is pure grizzly. As her role grows stronger, the sympathies towards her do as well and she is as prominent and memorable as Jack.

The plot itself is creepy in how easily it could go into place. The culprits have not suddenly shown up with a new biological weapon, but have been putting the entire experiment into place for a long time. The extent to which it covers and the number of people involved is astounding, and Mofina does a remarkable job weaving it all together. Despite the intricate plot, everything is revealed at a steady pace without bogging the reader down or being overly verbose. There is a high level of action in this book, and the plot pushes quickly.

A third person perspective gives intimate light onto many of the characters besides Emma and Jack, helping to tell the entire story in bits even before Jack gains access to them. Motivations and pushing factors are slipped in for many of the characters, leaving the reader with few questions of why at the end. The overall picture starts falling into place early while the investigation continues but Mofina maintains plenty of twists, unforeseen turns, and shocking revelations. Some chapters are short, giving just enough before switching to focus on someone else and somewhere else.

A gruesomely vivid reminder of how little invincibility we have and how vulnerable we are to any change in microorganisms around us, The Panic Zone is sobering and gripping. Mofina’s writing is strong and his descriptions hold a tormenting beauty to them in many of the rougher scenes. With a disturbing premise and a stunning play out, The Panic Zone is a book that will jar readers and stick with them longer after it’s finished.

Source: Review copy received from Planned Television Arts
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Mira (June 29, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0778327949
ISBN-13: 978-0778327943

Author's Website

Author Interview: Danielle Joseph

Dropping by today is Danielle Joseph, the person behind the new release Indigo Blues. You might have heard of her- she's the one with the awesome rocker rubber duckies? Yeah, I thought so. Want one of those rubber duckies AND a signed copy of this great book? Danielle is having a contest on her LJ till August 18 for those very things. The duckies even have the book named printed on their butt. But before you run off to pine for a ducky, check out my interview with Danielle:

How would you react if an ex wrote a song about you, using your name, like Adam did with Indigo?

First off, I would probably be really stunned because I would be like, "Wow, I must have underestimated so and so's musical abilities!" Then I would probably be a little angry depending on the song's contents because I have never ended a relationship badly. Like Indigo, I would not want to be misrepresented.

Not only is Indigo Blues told in split perspectives, but the two characters are at different points in their lives. Did you find it difficult to write to separate but still related story lines?

The most difficult thing was the timeline, making sure if Adam called Indigo on a Thursday, that she would answer the phone on a Thursday! Once I got the hang of it, I found myself racing to the next person's chapter.

Did you find one character's mind preferable to the other between Adam and Indigo to write?

When I started writing the novel, it was Indigo's story but through an editor's suggestion, I decided to explore Adam's voice too. I must say that I really enjoyed writing from both of their perspectives!

If you could pair Indigo and Adam with any character from any book, what would be your picks for them?

I think they might fit in nicely in Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. They might also try to break up Savannah and Jackson in Breathing.

What is the most private things you're willing to share here?

Like Indigo I love pickles, I often change my favorite color and I once split my pants skateboarding in high school!

You're stranded on a deserted island. What piece of sports equipment would you want to keep you company?

I'll take a lacrosse stick, maybe it will help me get some fruit out of the trees. Geez, I hope there's fruit on this island!

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

I'm the Everything Cookie from Whole Foods. My tastes vary which helps me get along with all types of people. And if you haven't tried the cookie, it is very yummy!

Thanks again, Danielle! If you guys haven't checked out Indigo Blues or Danielle's first book Shrinking Violet, you should definitely get on that!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review: I'd Tell You I Love You but Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter


Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school—that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it’s really a school for spies.

Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”—but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s on her most dangerous mission—falling in love.


Completely unique and overall light and air, I'd Tell You I Love You but Then I'd Have to Kill You is a quick read with high interest. This book has an imaginative and descriptive world along with fun characters and a strong voice. It's also a great mix of teenage girl and the world Carter has built.

Cammie is a fun and sprightly character with a comical nature. Her asides and extra thoughts bring character and humor to the book. Despite her unconventional upbringing as the daughter of spies, and now a student of a secret spy school, Cammie's age still comes through the pages. Her relationship with her mom is close- for spies- and adds a great element to the overall story. Though seemingly the leader of her small group of friends, primarily because she's the narrator, Cammie gets along easily with people and shares her problems, for the most part, with them. The overall lack of any animosity between the set also makes this book a great, light read.

Bex and Liz are constantly present and their strong personalities also come through. Bex is tough skinned and would be able to hold her own in any fight even if she wasn't a spy, while Liz prefers the comfort of science over knowing how to take someone out with a magazine. Both girls add something to not only each other and Cammie but the plot as well. Macey, the new student and their roommate, also drives the plot in her own way. Josh is a great love interest- caring and sweet. The glimpses of his family life also make a great addition, overall, and build his character strongly.

One of the most entertaining aspects of this book was watching the girls try to decode boys. Isolated in an all girl's school, with little outside contact, boys are an even bigger mystery than normal. That is, until Macey shows up from a life of private schools and already knowing plenty about boys. Their conversations and determination to figure out Josh is filled with comical banter and scientific focus. The over analysis of most everything related to Josh is reminiscent of many teenage girls, spies or not, and holds a strong age-related element as a result.

The world is a fantastically well built one. Carter constantly slips in small things to bring the school and methods to life, along with remind the reader of the different mindset and view Cammie has a result of her upbringing. From Gallagher Girl inventions to underground top secret classrooms, Carter has not slacked off with her world.

The plot itself is entertaining, focusing both on introducing the characters and worlds while also sticking to the set premise. The pace stays steady with plenty of small things to fill in the gaps between the larger events and the final scenes are filled with action and entertainment. The writing is good, giving Cammie a strong voice and really seeming like something she'd say and holds a simplistic nature in terms of getting everything across.

Overall, this one is a great read when you're in the mood for a light pick me up. Despite some of the sadder parts, it maintains an upbeat air overall. Tying up much of the prominent plot points of this book, it also leaves things open for the next installment without any major cliffhangers in the process.

Source: Purchased

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (March 20, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1423100042
ISBN-13: 978-1423100041

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: Fatal Gamble by J.P. O'Donnell


Twenty years ago, a group of doctors formed a partnership to build a medical office plaza in Massachusetts. While it wasn't the most above-board deal ever made, the doctors have found continued profit and success-until now. Someone wants the doctors dead, and he or she has already succeeded in murdering two of them. The identity of the killer remains unknown. Is it a madman with a vendetta against the medical profession, a small-time bookie seeking revenge for a shady real estate deal, or a disgruntled former construction manager who was unjustly fired? The widow of one of the slain doctors has a clue-but she's too afraid to tell the police. She hires Boston private investigator Daniel Gallagher to help track down the murderer. But as Gallagher begins to unravel the mystery, he finds himself entangled in a web of danger and political intrigue. With the stakes growing higher, Gallagher faces a growing threat to keep him quiet before he reveals the damaging truth. But when push comes to shove, has Gallagher made a Fatal Gamble?


With a central focus on one character but told in third person to provide insight at perfectly selected times to other characters, Fatal Gamble is an intricate, engaging mystery. The writing reads smoothly and the book opens with a stunning start to pull in the reader.

Gallagher is charismatic, insightful and deferential. Now a private investigator, he has a past within the police force that adds to not only the plot but his character as well. Curious and determined, he is used to the mostly run of the mill lost person cases but eagerly accepts the case at hand. Despite having a steady girlfriend whom he cares immensely for, Gallagher also puts much of himself into his work and has a strong desire for it in his blood. The interactions with Kate show a different man than whom the reader sees on investigation but hints of his passion and loyalty are prevalent in both.

Though Gallagher is the primary character, this book is driven by the mystery and the plot. Opening with the shooting of one of the doctors, the intrigue is sparked from the start. There are innumerable players throughout and the entire plotline is weaved together brilliantly. Several seemingly separate things tie together in surprising ways and O’Donnell throws in several twists the reader will not see coming. The final way everything interacts is revealed in a shocking manner and each new addition increases the danger, particularly to Gallagher.

O’Donnell’s writing is detailed without being distracting and several of the passages add an intense air of mystery that fuels the reader more. As Gallagher uncovers more secrets and gets closer to the truth, the reader will try to piece things together, only to be thrown another loop. The pace is quick and the constant twists keep the reader engaged and curious throughout.

High action and a strikingly complex plot line combine to make Fatal Gamble a great read. A sympathetic and intelligent central character also help add to the enticement of this book. With multiple murders and an interesting narrative, it is certainly a hit and easy to visualize much of the scenes.

Source: Copy received for review from author
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: iUniverse (December 3, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 059551409X
ISBN-13: 978-0595514090

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick is Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, coming January 4, 2011 from HarperTeen.

In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees. . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what it is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. Whe
n she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place--and out of place, at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make--between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

My Thoughts: I love the part angel idea, the fact that Christian really is in her dreams, and that there's a darker side going on as well. I also like that Clara doesn't just go cool, I'm part angel- she tries to figure out the reason for it and how she can use it. This book has such a promising premise and the cover is simple but beautiful.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Book Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare


Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.


Richly developed characters, strong writing, and another whirlwind plot make The Clockwork Angel kick off this trilogy in a powerful way. It easily lives up to the expectations set by The Mortal Instruments series, and is written in a way that isn't boring for someone who's read those books to get the Shadowhunter lore again while still revealing everything in a way that wouldn't confuse someone who hasn't.

Tessa has a strong voice and a fantastic mindset to explore and get to know. Her American ways clash nicely with those of the everyone at the Institute, now used to living in London. Add in her her views on how servants should act and be treated and the overall ladylike air she maintains, and Tessa is a refreshing protagonist. Tessa goes through tremendous personal growth throughout this book and her struggles with not only learning the truth about what she is but also being plunged into the Shadowhunter world carry a strong arc. Despite the time period and nature of her struggles, Tessa is still facing her own terms of growing up and expanding her world view and beliefs and Clare easily nails the entire process. Also notable, since Tessa is not a Shadowhunter, she does help in the battles that come up and takes on the damsel in distress type of air. Despite her inherent weakness in this regard, Tessa is still a strong, bold, lively character that has a few punches of her own to throw when needed.

Will is egotistical, closed off, and seemingly self centered. He is straight forward and blunt and full of dry wit and flat humor. He has a quip for most everything and uses his words to keep everyone at a distance. On the surface, Will is a good looking boy and a fantastic fighter but holds little else of interest. Underneath that facade, however, lurks hints of something much deeper. With only glimpses into his past and a few sections centered on his mind, the air around Will stays thickly coated even at the close of this book. Despite this, however, his motivations in most things are still revealed and his camaraderie with Jem adds a fantastic element.

Jem is almost the completely opposite of Will. Though he can keep up with the banter and has a few quips of his own, he is quite, sweet, and has a certain intensity about him that stands out in a different way than the coiled, ready to spring intensity that surrounds Will. Also a well trained fighter and a great partner for Will in battle, Jem has his kick butt side but throughout much of this book, he holds a softer presence. The two have a strong, deep rooted relationship despite their differences

Jessamine holds a much smaller part despite being involved in many scenes. Her views on the Shadowhunter world contrast Will and Jem's and though she is a haughty air about her, as with many of her other immediately disliked characters, Clare has weaved in sympathy and understanding towards her mindset and views. In another setting, Jessamine could be a fantastic character and is simply dealing with everything in her own way. Henry and Charlotte also have a very strong presence throughout the book, and both characters are well developed and passionate about their own things. Henry is especially appealing, similar to a loyal, adoring puppy that is the runt of the litter and lost in the clouds. He is a typical inventor with so many things going on in his head at once he comes off as missing a few screws. His relationship with Charlotte is a beautiful one with a tenderness between them that is there only when looked at long enough. One of the most notable aspects of Clare's writing is the depth and development that goes into every character. Even in the servants Sophie, Agatha and Thomas, this comes through very strongly. Not to mention, the fantastic Magnus Bane makes his own appearance and is as sprightly as ever, simply in a new century.

Building on the fantastic characters is Clare's intense, action packed, and intricate plot. The story itself is refreshing and new even in light of being a prequel. Clare throws some powerful, unexpected turns with plenty of humor along the way. Some of the best humor in YA I've read comes from Cassandra Clare's books and this one is absolutely no different. The majority of the events of this book are tied up and explained, but there are a few loose ends and a final chapter that ratchets up the intrigue and craving for the next installment. The overall plot so far is astounding, in depth and pure brilliance and genius.

Clare's writing is strong and fluid. Despite the time period, it reads easily while still maintaining the London air. The descriptions are vivid and intense, showcasing Clare's mastery of language as well as a very strong inherent ability. The writing alone will draw in the reader but never is it stronger than what needs to be said nor does it distract from the overall story. Clare has nailed the blend between beautiful and enough.

Across the board, Clockwork Angel hits high on the rating charts. From the still defined small and side characters with an in depth view into the minds of Tessa, Will and the like despite the third person perspective to the brilliant plot and masterful playing out of it, Clare has another fantastic hit on her hands.

Source: ARC won from contest
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (August 31, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416975861
ISBN-13: 978-1416975861

Sarah Dessen Promo + Giveaway: The Truth About Forever

You've all heard of her. Some of you have even read many if not all of her books. But what if you haven't? Or what if you're looking for something to tide you over until her 2011 release What Happened to Goodbye? Lucky for you... Sarah Dessen has her own social networking site to connect her to readers!

Sarah Land is a meeting place for anyone who loves Sarah Dessen's books. Information about the Summer of Challenges is on the site which gives you chances to win signed books, Lock & Key necklaces, and other prizes. You can even find a video Sarah made about the town she based Colby on.

During the Summer of Sarah, a nine week focus, one of her great books will be featured each week. This week, The Truth About Forever is thrust in the spotlight! In Sarah's own words, taken from her site:

When I began The Truth About Forever, I knew that I wanted to write about the idea of being “perfect,” and what that does and doesn’t mean. I was also interested in seeing a character go through a loss, and how that affected the way she viewed the world. When the story begins, Macy is scared, and she deals with her fear by trying to control as much as she can: her appearance, her behavior, how others perceive her. She narrows her life, shutting out everything that could possibly be a risk to her. It isn’t until she meets a group of people who have a total opposite approach---courting, enjoying, and surviving chaos---that she realizes that in reacting to her dad dying, she’s stopped living herself.

During the time I was writing this book, there was a lot happening. The movie based on my first two novels was getting ready to come out, I was under a deadline…the list goes on and on. While at first I felt a certain amount of pressure, Macy and her story soon became a sort of solace for me. I’ve never been so immersed in the writing of a book before, and I had a hard time pulling myself away from it, even when I most wanted to. I think that’s a good sign, although it sometimes meant that my house got dirty and the laundry piled up. But to really disappear into a story is never a bad thing, for writers or for readers.

There’s a lot happening in The Truth About Forever. In fact, I think it’s the most complicated book I’ve written, and it was definitely the hardest. Part of this may be because I suffer from a terrible case of perfectionism myself, which led to this awful irony of realizing that I was writing a book about embracing imperfection, and yet I wanted it to be perfect. So, as often happens in my books, I was learning right along with my narrator, struggling with the same issues. I think we both came out okay at the end, though.

Whenever I hear from readers about this book, I’m always interested in what struck them the most. With some people, it’s how Macy deals with the death of her father, how it makes her angry. Others like Kristy’s humor and outfits. But overwhelmingly, I’ve heard the most so far about Wes. I think that in a lot of ways, he was the kind of guy I was always looking for: one who wasn’t so interested in the "perfect," girl, whoever she might be. A boy who likes flaws, who sees potential in everything. While Delia’s company may represent chaos, Wes to me is hope. To him, nothing is ever finished, or broken. It’s just waiting to be incarnated, to begin as something new, again. And that, to me, is what Macy’s story is all about. How life is a continuing series of beginnings and endings, losses and gains, all folding into one long stretch, one lifetime, and one forever.

To celebrate the Summer of Sarah, I have a signed copy of The Truth About Forever to giveaway to one lucky US resident/mailing address! To enter, fill out this form! Contest ends August 3 at 6 pm CST!

For another chance to win, check out the giveaway on Sarah's network here!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Author Interview: Emma Michaels

I'm sure by now you've all heard of blogger turned author Emma Michaels. I thought so. And if not, don't admit it. Just go with it. Emma is the author of the upcoming August 13 release The Thirteenth Chime. Yes, the one with the awesome eyes on the cover that have a clock face in the irises. So now... I bring you Emma.

What factored into your decision to use a clock as the central point to your plot and give it power, rather than another object?

An experience I had one night during a storm here on the island where I live. We lost the power and we went to the neighbors to share a few candles. As the lightning flashed outside and the thunder rumbled the house, there was a moment of silence where only the wind could be heard. Right during this moment, the antique grandfather clock began to chime. The sound echoed throughout the house and it made me unconsciously reach out to grab a hold of someone's hand. It was this moment - the need to find a bond with someone else - where the "The Thirteenth Chime" was born.

If you were forced into a hateful and vengeful mind, how do you think you would react?

I'm not sure as it has never happened to me. I would hope that I would be able to find my way back to sanity afterward, that's for sure! I will say that I firmly believe there is always a light in any darkness as long as you can see it, I guess I would just have to search for that light.

If you could pair Destiny and David with any character from any book, what would be your picks for them?

I would put Destiny with Carlisle from "Twilight". But David... hmm... Oh, I know! I would put him with Cara from "The Sword of Truth Series" by Terry Goodkind - just because I want to see his face when she walks towards him with an Agiel! Cara rocks! *laughs*

What is the most private thing you're willing to share here?

Although I don't often tell him (so that he won't think about it and keep doing it!), I really love it when my fiance does spur of the moment romantic things like chocolate chip pancakes shaped like hearts or changing my screen saver to something super sweet. I just can't help it, I know I always say that I don't like surprises but sometimes they can be wonderful!

What kind of cake/confection would you describe yourself as?

A white chocolate truffle with powdered sugar on the top... because it just sounds so yummy that I can't help but pick it!!!!

Thank you, Emma, for stopping by and congrats on the release! Make sure you guys all check out this book- releasing soon!

Take Me There Blog Stop

A little over a week ago, I was lucky enough to meet Carolee Dean, author of Take Me There, at a local Barnes & Noble. Though she isn't the first author I've seen at this B&N (they host quite a few YA authors!), it's the first where I got to visit in length with an author which was an amazing experience. Carolee has traveled around Texas meeting with several bloggers as part of her Take Me To Texas tour. A good portion of Take Me There is set in Texas- which is the reason for this tour focus. Even better on the tour, Carolee had each of us sign a pair of cowboy boots she has! I felt a little awesome giving my signature out for once.

We chatted for about an hour and a half and had a great time! Having spent most of my life in Texas, I really enjoyed getting to help host something specific to this state- I am incredibly partial to it, after all. Not to mention, my brother is a proud Texas Longhorn alum and even still goes to UT football games. The Red River rivalry? We are all over that in our family. So given our state love of football- and our awesome college team- is it really a shock our state's large mammal is the Longhorn? Yeah, didn't think so. Should I be ashamed of knowing that? Maybe. Am I? Nope. I think what's more awkward is that we also have a state small mammal... because, uh, we need two? Any guesses on it? Yeah. The armadillo. Personally, I think it's the state nuisance but I don't make the rules. Didn't even know it was a mammal, did you? We think it is.

Okay. Enough about my awesome state and back to this tour. My review for the book will be coming this week, but is most definitely one you want to read! I was a bit shell shocked by the end of it- fantastic read. In the spirit of Texas travel, Carolee is stopping by the blog of each of the people she met and visited with to offer a giveaway of things she picked up in the different cities. Along the way with each blog stop, we will be dropping little bits of Texas trivia. Follow each stop for a final giveaway- fill in the quiz answers and be entered to win the grand prize that will be revealed August 30. Want an easy way to follow the tour? Check out this link here- it lists everything for you and will be updated to link directly to each post as they go live.

For others of you in Texas, Carolee has listed on her LJ page the stores where she left signed books behind. A great book AND it's signed? Yep. You want one.

So what can you win from my stop, courtesy of Carolee? A Take Me There tote bag, Texas trivia playing cards, and a really awesome bracelet. To enter, just fill out this form. Deadline is August 30. US only. Also, Carolee is hoping to make this an interactive thing readers can do even after the contest is over so make sure to spread the word- tweet, sidebar, or facebook it and just leave the link in your entry and you're all set!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Author Interview + Contest: Barbara Stuber

Here today is Barbara Stuber, author of Crossing the Tracks. This is a coming of age story focusing on a teenage girl in the 1920s. After losing her mother early, having a distant relationship with her father, and now being shipped off to the countryside to keep the elderly mother of a bachelor doctor company, Iris has a lot of strides to make. My full review can be found here, but I really enjoyed this book. Stay tuned after the interview for a way you can win a copy of this great book.

What would you have done if you were in Iris' position and being shipped off to live in the country with strangers without your father even asking your permission?

I would have done exactly what she did. I would not have been able to speak up or stand up for myself. My first impulse would have been to please somebody else, even if I was boiling inside.

If you were transported back to Iris' time, what do you think would be the hardest thing for you to adjust to?

The slower pace of life and the dismal selection of sanitary products.

Though Iris does interact with Dot and corresponds with Leroy, the majority of her interactions are with the elderly mother rather than someone her own age. Did you find it difficult to write this style of relationship for a YA versus friends of her own age?

Iris had a friend in an earlier version, but when I listened to their dialogue with an honest ear, Iris’s confiding sounded forced and phony so I booted the friend fast. Leroy, Marie and the wallpaper goddesses took over friend duty. Also, in this rural place, in this era, kids didn’t hang out and do things in groups. Even talking on the phone was open to the party line. (Come to think of it, our current electronic conversations are even less private!) But… overarching all this is the fact that Iris’s losses were so huge and the holes inside her so deep that she needed a strong, resilient character like Mrs. Nesbitt – an old soul who had survived a great deal and knew how to respond to the deep ache in Iris. I just couldn’t find a believable peer/friend type person for that fundamental role.

In your research for the time period, what was the most interesting thing you found?

The MUM Museum aka The Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health. Yes indeed, this is now an on-line museum – the real one owned and operated for years by Harry Finley in his basement, has closed. I learned about the “silent purchase,” viewed a range of mind-blowing contraptions, read “Nancy’s Biggest Day at Camp” written in 1941- if you’re feeling “dopey” you can turn that frown into a smile with a properly fitting Modess pad! I even found the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for menstruation.

If you could pair Iris with any character from any book, who would you pick for her?

Lindsay Lohan. She’s a character in her own biographies, right? I picked her not because they would hang out together, but because Lindsay Lohan has become so shredded and shattered by life. She needs to move to Wellsford and absorb the calm, undivided, genuine attention of Mrs. Nesbitt, Dr. Nesbitt and Marie. Come to think of it – we all do sometimes.

What is the most private thing you're willing to share here?

The circumference of my head which is 21 15/16 inches. *Note: circumference varies with the humidity.

What kind of cake/confection would you describe yourself as?

The Original Fat Boy – not because I’m particularly fat or a boy or even that original, but because I really like them. Also they are a litmus test for friends, i.e. if a wad of the sandwich part is cemented between your front teeth and your “so-called” friend doesn’t bother to tell you… well, get a real friend. Another confection I’d like to think I am is that mysterious, hand crafted chocolate thingie in the back of the bakery case with a hundred secret layers.

Thank you, Barbara! If that hasn't whetted your appetite for this book, check out this great trailer:

For your chance to win a signed copy of Crossing the Tracks, fill out this form! Contest is US/Canada only and ends Sunday, August 8 at 6 pm CST.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

In My Mailbox

I had another great week! I'm super excited for these titles!

Won from Cheryl Rainfield:
Scars (signed)

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

That was my week! What did you guys get?

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Contest Winners!

Eleni and I had over 700 entrants- yes, 700 unique entrants- for our joint contest which is amazing so thank you to everyone who entered! Here's the winners, in order of how they get to pick. I'm shooting you emails shortly- you will have 48 hours to get back to me or I will pick a new winner.

Congrats to the winners and make sure you guys all check out the contests I have going on right now- and check for more I've got coming up!

Summer Reading Recommendations

I debated this morning while getting ready for work on what theme I wanted to go with today when I realized one that should be obvious for me that I haven't done yet: writing. There have been a few books that while I enjoyed them, I gave a lower star rating because the writing didn't work as well for me. I am huge on writing. I have a few pet peeves in writing and if they show up, it bugs me too much and distracts me from the story. But if the writing works for me... well, the author could write about a dog taking a dump and I'd still find it awesome. Thus... here are some books that the writing stood out as one of it's most prominent features, regardless of how great the story was to go with it.

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink: Not only is this one set in a historical time, but the writing is absolutely fantastic. The descriptions are intricate and the mental images are very thorough. Even now, close to a year after I read this book, several scenes still stand out in my mind because of how strongly they were created.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey: I never have figured out how to describe the way Rick writes, apart from astounding. This was one of the first books that really made me take focus on writing style. There is a graphic element to this book (which the horror addict in my loved), but the way Rick wrote even a description of a severed head hanging on only by tendons was just... beautiful. Add in the very original plot and how awesome Will Henry is and I still remember a great deal of this book over half a year later (not to mention I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment).

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare: Most of you have read these ones so you can agree- while her characters are amazing and the story is phenomenal, Cassandra's absolutely astounding writing style ties it all together. Particularly in a genre where the majority of things are written in first person, Cassandra has mastered the third person perspective while still giving fantastic insight into the characters and forging strong bonds.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting: Though I admitted in my review to be a little disappointed in this book only because I thought the romance washed out the supernatural element, I couldn't deny that Kimberly is a downright awesome writer. The scenes from the killer's perspective? Creeptastic. Mix that in with a strong voice but still fantastic descriptions and infused emotion? Face it. Not all authors could do cutesy and creepy in one book and put the reader into both.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater: This is another one I’m sure most of you have read but you’d probably agree. There is something lyrical and gorgeous about Maggie’s writing. Even if Sam wasn’t as into music as he is, there would still be a musical quality to the way she writes and it’s a style that cannot be easily imitated and has to come naturally. Though her story and characters are great, the writing alone makes Shiver (and Linger) definable.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White: I’m not entirely sure how to describe this one since it isn’t quite the same as the others. Kiersten’s writing is strong and despite being through Evie’s eyes, the entire world is absolutely descriptive not to mention the voice is spot on. I think it’s the voice more than anything on this that stands out but the writing backs it up and with this book alone, I truly think that Kiersten’s writing in a different setting would still be simply awesome.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review: Crash Test Love by Ted Michaels

SUMMARY: The last thing Henry Arlington wants is a girlfriend. He's just very, very good with girls—reading their body language, knowing what they want to hear, and more importantly: getting them into the backseat of his car. But all that changes when he meets Garrett Lennox at one of the many Sweet Sixteen parties he crashes.

Garrett thinks she's done with guys. She was dumped by her ex when she moved from Chicago to Long Island, and now she realizes that she needs to find out who she is by herself, instead of with a boyfriend. What she really needs is some good friends.

Fortunately for Garrett, the J Squad—the "it" girls of East Shore High School—want her in their clique. All she has to do is pass one little test: get East Shore god Henry Arlington to take her to one of the biggest Sweet Sixteens of the year, then dump him in front of everyone.

Garrett has promised herself not to fall for another guy, so playing with Henry's heart shouldn't be hard. Right?

And Henry doesn't fall for girls, so when he and Garrett start to click, it doesn't matter. Does it?
As William Shakespeare once said, "Love is blind," or in this case, the lovers may be, as Henry and Garrett fall in love—and into the trap that awaits them. Because neither of them can even begin to see what the girls of Henry Arlington's past have in store.


From the premise alone, this book seems like it's lighthearted but Michaels does a fantastic job mixing in emotion and drama without taking away from the fun overall nature. The split narrative gives perfect insight to both Henry and Garrett and builds a connection to both for the reader. Also notable is the way the reader will side with and root for both characters even when they are on opposing sides because of the great voice Michaels gives them.

Henry comes off as a cocky jerk and a heartbreaker, only caring about sex and one night stands but it is clear even early on there is much more to this boy. From problems in his home life to simply how he's become, there are much deepeer lays to Henry that Michaels reveals steadily throughout. Henry uses very corny lines that are laughable but still effective but the drastic way he changes in the way he acts and feels after one meeting with Garrett is a strong driving point for this book. There is also a strong contrast between the way Henry acts around his two best friends- boys I couldn't help but think of Rosencrants and Guildenstern every time they sauntered onto the pages with their love of girls, stupid comments, and fantastic banter- and who he starts to be with Garrett.

Garrett shares a chemistry with Henry that is clear from the start and complicates the entire situation. Her motivations are clear cut and provided throughout but the volatile nature of relationships and emotions interfere with any initial intentions. Garrett is, at her core, a sweet, kind hearted person and this overdrives many others things she does. Though she could be considered a jerk for agreeing to set Henry up, Michaels pitches the scenario in a way to keep her sympathetic.

The plot plays out at a steady pace with a rubber band type motion that gives and takes between Henry and Garrett. Their quips and flirting are fantastic to read but more notable is the way they act when all pretenses are dropped and it is really just the two of them. The reader sees much more insight into both characters in these moments and feels the same despair as Garrett over what she ultimately intends to do to Henry.

As things progress, Michaels keeps the focus unbiased, giving equal time and spotlight to both characters. Even the final climax gives both perspectives as does the tapering off and fall out. The ending is hard to predict and absolutely memorable and fitting for the story. I completely applaud Michaels for the way he played everything out. Great characters with strong development, fantastic side characters that add plenty of amusement and driving points for the plot, and a great narrative and voice make Crash Test Love a cute but still thought provoking read.

Source: ARC received from publisher for review

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (June 8, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385735804
ISBN-13: 978-0385735803

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick is Dark Song by Gail Giles coming September 7, 2010 from Little, Brown.

Mark said he heard the dark song when he creeped houses. The song the predator's heart sings when it hears the heart of the prey. I heard it now. Mark said it had always been in me. Lurking. Waiting for me to hear.

Ames is not the person she was a few months ago. Her father lost his job, and her family is crumbling apart. Now, all she has is Marc. Marc, who loves her more than anything. Marc, who owns a gun collection. And he'll stop at nothing--even using his guns--to get what he wants. Ames feels her parents have betrayed her with their lies and self-absorption, but is she prepared to make the ultimate betrayal against them?

My Thoughts:
First off, I find this cover fascinating; it is beautiful with only hints of the dark, deadly nature of the premise. I have read one of Giles' books before, Right Behind You, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was raw and thought provoking and I think Dark Song will hold the same air. Giles pushes the envelope and I certainly cannot wait to read this one. The idea seems simple but the ramifications and paths it could take are endless and if it follows like the style of Right Behind You, it will be a huge delve into Ames' character as well as unpredictable.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review: Ni'il- The Awakening by James Boyle


When several people are brutally killed in the town of Placerton, on the isolated Oregon coast, most locals think a rogue bear or cougar is roaming the forested hills near town. Police Chief Dan Connor is not so sure. He has witnessed some very strange things lately, such as disembodied voices, muttering a strange foreign language and an old Indian man who seems to be near every crime scene, but disappears before he can be questioned.Dan's investigation takes him to the local Sihketunnai Indians and their legend of the Ni'il, magical shamans charged with maintaining the balance between humans and the natural world. According to the elders, one of the Ni'il is responsible for the murders and intends to kill everyone in the community. It is Dan's job to stop it.It sounded unbelievable, but was the only explanation that fit the facts.As a violent Pacific storm crashes ashore, cutting off power and washing out roads-cutting the town off from the outside world--Dan finds himself entering a strange world of myth and magic that was not covered in his police training. He must use all his wits and new-found powers to save himself and his community from the Ni'il.


Uniquely presented and a great blend of reality with supernatural, Ni'il is a new take on the murder mystery. Though the actual culprits are told in the book summary, the way it plays out, their actual motives, and the way others are involved are unraveled in a very interesting way. Incorporating Indian legends with his own take, Boyle presents both a thought provoking and entertaining tale.

Though Ni'il is written in third person, the central focus is on Dan, the Police Chief. A widower but still a great man, Dan is a very enjoyable character. He has a strong set of personal values and respect and though he still misses his wife, he continues to protect the small town he lives in. Adding to the overall appeal of his character is the way his mind works, particularly at a crime scene. He can go past the evidence and see things others don't and Boyle presents Dan in a way that makes it engaging and interesting to watch the entire story play out. Despite his age, his character still shows great strides in development and the reader can see the shift in the way he thinks and sees the world.

Stephanie works in Dan's office as a receptionist and though she is ten years younger, she does draw his attention. The clear spark between them is present early on, despite the age and employment status. This romantic element does add something to the book and breaks up the tension and growing danger. The two have many cute exchanges, both reverting to awkwardness and shyness. It is a very great element to add because despite their ages and experiences, it's two people just figuring out the feelings are mutual but still unsure how to proceed. Adding to the strength of her character is the story of her past, revealed in bits and helping to build her in the reader's eyes. The way Dan reacts to everything also is a testament to his character and Boyle does a remarkable job developing and portraying both.

Several of the crime scenes are graphic and grotesque though Boyle doesn't hark in excess on them. His descriptions are to the point and get the full setting across without it being a turn off. His writing style is a mix of descriptive and aloof in that some parts waste no time in getting through the scene and letting the reader know what's happened while others go more in depth and paint a greater picture. There are several scenes that are beautifully written despite the wrenching or graphic nature, intermixing beauty and small detail with the overall air.

The plot itself is a really inventive one and the effort Boyle put into the entire thing comes through quite clearly. He has mixed several elements and used an array of characters to play everything out. There are numerous twists and puzzles throughout the book, some of which could be predicted but the majority come from left field and reignite interest. Boyle also incorporates many dream sequences in the book and though that could be considered cliche, it plays into the Indian legend aspect of the book and the analysis on the characters' parts of the dreams adds another level.

Ni'il has several arcs and elements to it, all of which are tied together with an overall air of smoothness. The writing holds it up and the characters are in depth and highly relateable. With a fantastic idea and strong execution, Ni'il is a certainly a book to pick up for the romance, murder mystery, and great characters.

Source: Copy received from author for review as part of a Pump Up Your Book promotional tour Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: IUniverse (December 2, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1440108676
ISBN-13: 978-1440108679

Author Interview + Contest: Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater- yes, the amazing author of Shiver and Linger- has been gracious enough to answer a few questions in honor of Linger. What's not to love about this book? More Sam and Grace... not to mention sexy Cole who is new. If you haven't gotten to read this yet, shame on you! Okay, kidding. You're actually in luck- stay tuned for a way to win a copy of this great book! If you missed it, you can also check out my review of this book here.

If you could pair Grace and Sam with any character from any books (romantically or otherwise, your pick), what would be your pick and why?

I think Sam would make an excellent replacement for Robin in the Batman movies. He and Batman are both so angsty they would be great drinking buddies.

Of all the wolves we've met in Shiver and meet in Linger, which is your favorite to write and develop?

As a writer, the most rewarding thing for me is to write a character who changes a lot from the beginning of a book to the end, so I have to say, I’ve been loving writing Cole’s character. He has a pretty dramatic character arc through the series. Plus, he’s snarky, which is always entertaining.

What is the most fearless thing you've done to date?

Built a clone army. Hid a tiger cub in the closet of my master bedroom. Bought a ’73 Camaro with only a limited knowledge of how to change spark plugs. Well, one of those is true.

If you could step into someone else's shoes for a day, who's life would you like to experience?

Alfred the Great. Don’t ask, okay? It’s just better not to know.

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

One of those NYC black and white cookies. Because I am just a mess of walking contradictions. In fact, my middle name is Dichotomy.

Want a little more about Linger and Maggie? Check out the video trailer she made, her website and her blog.

To win a copy of Linger, courtesy of the great people at Scholastic, fill out this form. US only. Contest ends August 3 at 6 pm CST.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Author Interview: James Boyle

Dropping by today is James Boyle, author of Ni'il: The Awakening, a blending of legend and fiction focused around Indian shamans charged with keeping the balance between humans and the natural world- and committing murder in a small town to ensure it is maintained.

In the book, it is a recent string of strange things that makes the Police Chief question whether the killings are the result of an animal. What is one of the strangest things that you've experienced?

When I was in college at the U of Oregon, I had to walk past the student union to get from my dorm to the classroom buildings. One bright spring day, a lovely young lady approached me. She had long blond hair and was wearing a simple dress. "Excuse me," she asked me. "Have you seen a white rabbit around here." The look on my face must have betrayed my thoughts because she pointed to the student day care center. "The children's pet rabbit got out of its cage. We're trying to find it." I told her that I had seen no rabbit. She thanked me and went about her search. I continued on to my class. In the classroom, I settled into a desk, and took a moment to survey the generations of graffitit previous students had carved into the desk's wooden surface. There, written in pen, was the following inscription: "Alice in Wonderland is alive and well and living in Eugene, Oregon."

I never saw the girl again.

If you were told local killings are the result of the Ni'il, how would you react?

Like most people. "Yeah. Right. Whatever." But then, because I do have a bit of an open mind, I would ask them for proof.

There are several arcs to this book- which line was the most fun for you to write?

Definitely the chess game between ni'ilaquo and Dan and Stephanie. It was fun because I wanted each move to surprise the reader as much as it did the characters, yet I wanted to keep each move in keeping with some sort of logic. For example, why didn't the monster just kill them early on when it clearly could? There had to be an explanation that made sense. (At least to me.)

What is the most private thing you're willing to share here?

I suffer, at least a little bit, from social anxiety disorder. Though I enjoy the company of others, I am much more comfortable in solitude.

What kind of cake or confection would you describe yourself as?

Chocolate-covered ants. At first, I can be something of a nasty surprise; but then, once you give me a chance, you find out it's really pretty good.

Thanks again, James! Be sure to stop by tomorrow for my review of this book!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book Review: Crossing The Tracks by Barbara Stuber


At fifteen, Iris is a hobo of sorts -- no home, no family, no direction. After her mother’s early death, Iris’s father focuses on big plans for his new shoe stores and his latest girlfriend, and has no time for his daughter. Unbeknownst to her, he hires Iris out as housekeeper and companion for a country doctor’s elderly mother. Suddenly Iris is alone, stuck in gritty rural Missouri, too far from her only friend Leroy and too close to a tenant farmer, Cecil Deets, who menaces the neighbors and, Iris suspects, his own daughter.

Iris is buoyed by the warmth and understanding the doctor and his mother show her, but just as she starts to break out of her shell, tragedy strikes. Iris must find the guts and cunning to take aim at the devil incarnate and discover if she is really as helpless—or as hopeless—as she once believed.

Lyrical, yet humorous, Barbara Stuber’s debut novel is the unforgettable story of a girl who struggles to cast aside her long-standing grief and doubt and, in the span of one dusty summer, learn to trust, hope, and—ultimately—love.


Crossing the Tracks is a beautiful coming of story set in the 1920s but written in a way that will resonate with readers today. Iris is a strong character undergoing many changes and Stuber plays them out both age and time appropriately. Incorporating letters to further tell the story adds a welcomed element as well and shows more insight into the characters.

Iris has had an unusual upbringing, particularly for the time, as she lost her mother at an early age. Now at fifteen, she's aware that her relationship with her father is less than ideal. Stuber handles her emotions and reactions with an expert hand, using care but still pushing Iris through the needed events. She is a character who is easy to understand and empathize with, and she is also intelligent and sharp witted. With a soft sense of humor and a few unexpected reactions to situations, Iris keeps the reader interested simply by what she's enduring.

Though there are other teenage characters, the majority of Iris' time is spent with Dr. Nesbit's mother. The bond they form is built in an incredible way and reads smoothly. This teen-adult relationship also adds a new element and voice and is one of the most defining features of the book for me. Iris learns things only the elderly can teach us and comes to welcome the small lessons willingly once she understands the kernels of wisdom being offered. Even Dr. Nesbit comes to form a relationship of sorts with Iris and the pair offers far more guidance to Iris than she ever received from her father. The striking contrast between this country doctor who wanted company for his aging mother and Iris' own father helps build much of Iris' character throughout the book

There is a romantic element to this book but is a subplot, remaining low key in both a character and time appropriate manner. Having known Leroy for years from her home town, Iris maintains contact through letters once she is shipped off to the country to live without electricity and on a small farm with the Nesbitts. Though resistant at first, even the letters begin to show Iris' change of heart towards the situation. Her gentle affection towards Leroy is clear from the start and the few times they do see each other after she's moved are tender and endearing. Leroy is a great match for Iris and the strong bond they already share is clear.

The plot itself has a few separate arcs that mingle in a great way to propel the story without pushing the pace too quickly. Much of this story is character growth not only for Iris but those around her. Decisions her father makes are one driving force and possibly the most prominent for Iris as she struggles with her feelings towards him as a result of the way he's always acted around her. An impending marriage furthers this source of tension. The father and daughter pair that live on the Nesbitt's farm and help out also are a strong driving force throughout the book, adding a new source of development and drama. Stuber does a fantastic job combining the elements and arcs and tying everything up in the end to leave the reader with a sense of overall completion.

With an overall air fitting of the time period, a small but strongly defined cast of characters, and a strong writing style that lures the reader into the 1920s, Crossing the Tracks is a great book even for those who are unsure about historical settings. Stuber puts the reader into the setting smoothly; from daily life with no electricity to the more prominent use of body powder, she builds not only her characters but a very strong setting. A blend of drama and humor also tie this book together and make it enjoyable for a range of readers.

Source: ARC received for review free of charge from the author/publisher
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (July 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416997032
ISBN-13: 978-1416997030