Thursday, September 30, 2010

Before the Split Blog Tour!

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In honor of this, starting tomorrow, Swati Avasthi, author of Split, is kicking off a month long blog tour to run all through the month of October. She has twenty-six scheduled blog stops including contests, cut scenes, and guest posts. Not only is she promoting her book- a 2010 debut for everyone participating in the Debut Challenge- but she is donating $1/comment with a goal and cap of $250. If she hits that 250, she'll double her donation.

But wait, there's more. She's had a lot of fund raising help from close to fifty agents, editors and authors who have donated personalized books, memberships, and critiques for an online auction. All proceeds are going to the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

For full tour details, including what blogs she's visiting, check out the official tour page here, including the starting line along with links to the auctions! There are some incredible ones on there, from full manuscript critiques, lots of great books to choose from, and even an ARC of Jeri Smith-Ready's Shift.

Author Interview + Giveaway: Shutta Crum (Blog Tour)

Continuing her two stop blog tour here on A Good Addiction is Shutta Crum, author of Thomas and the Dragon Queen, to do an interview! Stick around after the interview for you chance to win a copy of this book that is especially great for the younger crowd, boys and girls alike!

Why did you decide to have one of Thomas' traits to be that he's the smallest of the squires?

I had just finished reading a short, wonderful book by Jerry Griswold titled: Feeling Like a Kid. (John Hopkins University Press, 2006.) He spoke about five elements that appeal to children in the best children’s books. Those five elements were littleness, lightness, scariness, coziness, and aliveness. By “aliveness” he means the idea that anything could be alive; after all when we are very young we are just learning what it means to be alive. Why couldn’t candlesticks also dance and sing?

Littleness is something all young children can relate to. When the blame comes down; who always gets fingered? The littlest. The youngest. The weakest. (For ex., Mosquito in Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema.) And every hero must have a flaw. Thomas’ flaw is his stature. His talent is that he doesn’t let that deter him.

(BTW: I think reading Griswold’s Feeling Like a Kid, should be required reading for anyone thinking about writing for kids!)

If you could take any character from any book to go with Thomas on his quest, who would you pick?

If I could have any other character go with Thomas it would be Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli’s wonderful character by the Newbery winning book of the same name. I love Maniac! He’s a doer, not a talker. He’s non-judgmental and brings out the best in others. He would be a perfect companion for Thomas when facing Bridgoltha, or dealing with the dragonlets. MANIAC MAGEE also happens to be at the very top of the list of my favorite children’s books.

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

WAH! What a question . . . as if. But I will tell you that I have rather quietly admitted (on my webpage somewhere) to a childhood nickname that I used in my semi-autobiographical picture book, MY MOUNTAIN SONG. (Clarion, 2004. Illustrated by the talented Ted Rand.) Don’t tell anyone, but one of my nicknames was “Shuck Beans.”

You will know what those are if you’re a true Kentuckian. They’re green bean pods that have been strung on string, hung up and allowed to dry much like one does hot peppers. The beans once they are dry will keep for a long time. To cook them you dust them off, take the strings out, soak them overnight and then boil them for about a day with a ham hock or other meat, etc. Why I got that nickname, I’ve no idea. If you’ve read MY MOUNTAIN SONG you know there is a crazy cousin in it who gives nicknames to everyone and everything. He may have given it to me when I was tiny.

Finally, to finish this talk of names up, let me tell you that my given name of Shutta was my dad’ nickname. I was the oldest grandchild on one side of the family, and to keep folks from arguing about whom to name me after he simply decided I’d get his nickname. His first name was Melvin. So how did he get his nickname of Shutta? Considering he was a non-stop talker and great storyteller, I have my hunches . . .

If you could step into anyone's shoes for a day, who's life would you want to experience?

Oh…another hard question! So many people, past and present, to choose from! This is really difficult. I can’t decide between Neil Armstrong on the day he stepped on to the moon or Shakespeare. I’d love to solve the mystery of who wrote all those wonderful plays. I’d love to be in Shakespeare’s mind--to be either an almost illiterate actor, or a great writer. On the other hand . . . to actually have walked somewhere besides on the Earth! How cool is that? Can’t I be two people, for a half day each?

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

Definitely a chocolate cookie with chocolate chips and chocolate frosting. This may not be terribly original, but it’s honest. I’m an admitted chocoholic. My hubby celebrates whenever I make a dessert that does not have chocolate in it. Poor guy . . . having to put up with all the chocolate in the house!

Thank you, Shutta, for those great answers!

Now to win a copy of Thomas and the Dragon Queen, fill out this form!

Contest is US only. Ends October 10.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review: Thomas and the Dragon Queen by Shutta Crum (Blog Tour)


A kingdom is at war.

A princess has been kidnapped by a dragon queen.

A brave squire volunteers to set out on a quest to rescue her.

But there's just one small problem. He's Thomas, the shortest of all the squires. With little more than a donkey, a vest, and a sword, Thomas will have to use all of his courage and determination to battle a beast with many heads, reach a forbidden island, and rescue the princess from a most fearsome dragon-and an even more fearsome fate!

Part thrilling adventure and part enchanting fantasy, sprinkled with charming black-and-white illustrations, Thomas and the Dragon Queen will delight young readers from start to finish.


Filled with adventure that any early/young reader will enjoy, especially the boys, and a protagonist who is easily relatable by many, Thomas and the Dragon Queen makes a great book that even the parents will find themselves enjoying. With a brave central character and a world of fantasy and adventure, Thomas finds himself in all kinds of situations that the youngsters will love to hear about. There are also plenty of other interesting, kind and likable characters. A strong ending message and a great tie up make this one good for parent/child time.

Though he is twelve, Thomas is the size of about a seven year old. He goes through plenty of ridicule as a result, but he continues through, determined to be able to fight with the knights. Thomas has a huge heart and makes some great friends along his journey, enduring plenty of trials that keep things exciting and entertaining. From the princess to Thomas' new friend, he has help along the way, as well, sending a great message out.

There is plenty of description throughout the book to really bring things alive and make it easy for the reader to imagine things, and the black and white pictures scattered throughout also help with this. Even with several typical knight story type elements, Crum has made this something unique and entertaining. Though this one hits a little more on the early reader side than MG despite Thomas' age, it's a good one across the ages.

Source: Received for review from author as part of a promotional tour with The {Teen} Book Scene
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (July 13, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375857036
ISBN-13: 978-0375857034

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick is Divergent by Veronica Roth, coming May 2011 from Katherine Tegen Books.

Summary: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris, and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together, they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes-f
ascinating, sometimes-exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen.

But Tris also has a secret: one she’s kept hidden from everyone, because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly-perfect society, she also learns that her secret might be what helps her save those she loves . . . or it might be what destroys her.

My Thoughts: Everything about this premise screams freaking awesome. The factions based on virtues? Brilliant. That's taking something that we deem, now, to be good things and twisting them to something not so bright and shiny and great. Add in the fact that Beatrice loses her family if she picks something else? Instant drama and intrigue. And then it continues, with the tests and initiations and oh, wait, is that a boy? Why yes, I believe it might be. Then we find out that there's a big secret that could destroy everything? I am so in for this one and cannot wait. This one just screams epitome of brilliant, awesome dystopian. Oh and that cover?Fan. Frickin. Tastic.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: Covert Youth Agency- The Case of Tangled Love by Jason Ancona (Blog Tour)


An elite group of nerds fight injustices by running a clandestine operation in high school. The C.Y.A., a.k.a. Covert Youth Agency, hacked into the digital school sign and posted their message: - - - If ever you're in need of help and you have nowhere else to go, seek out the C.Y.A. We're always watching and we're here for you - - - Peter "Pi" Samuels, a fourteen-year-old sophomore, runs the shadow operation. Pi's obsessed with the high school band's lead violinist, who's as beautiful as the music she plays. When she contacts the C.Y.A. to find out if her boyfriend cheated on her at a party, Pi's objective becomes clear. Prove that her beau was unfaithful. Then maybe Pi will be the perfect shoulder to cry on. Pi schemes to destroy his love's boy-toy, all while avoiding a deranged coach bent on exposing an untraceable geek squad for hire. The Covert Youth Agency.


The Short Version:
With a well meaning starting premise that holds no guarantee of a smooth outcome for the charaters, Covert Youth Agency is a nice twist on the usual cliques in high schools and a way for the underdogs to take control. Pi is a member of C.Y.A., a secret organization at his school that handles the justices the teachers and administration overlooks or isn’t able to see. Along with his two friends and fellow CYA members, Pi looks into Vera’s boyfriend, learning plenty about himself in the process. Mostly steadily paced, though dialogue heavy with some awkward transitions and narrative style, Covert Youth Agency is an easy and cute read that hits mostly on light humor but with hints of deeper things.

The Extended Version:
Pi is the primary focus of the book, though it’s written in third person and switches to a focus on Vera occasionally. Pi is loyal and intelligent, friendly and a good student. He develops as the plot goes, mostly in response to the events happening. Vera is a good opposite for Pi, though tangled up in her boyfriend and unable to see past Pi as anything but a childhood and family friend. It’s clear from the start her boyfriend might not deserve her, but her feelings towards him keep her pinned. Pi’s two friends, Tollhouse and Lightman, bicker often and bring much of the humor to the book. They are both flamboyant in their own way and the trio have plenty of their own adventures even without CYA.

Though there are some drags in the plot, overall, it moves at a steady pace to both show the characters and move things along. This book is dialogue heavy, but given that it’s written in third person, this helped make the characters more real and relatable. The narrative portions were awkwardly written for my own tastes, but overall there was a mostly smooth flow to the writing.

With unrequited love, cheating in relationships, and an undercover student group trying to bring justice to the school, and some comical and intriguing characters, Covert Youth Agency makes for an amusing read. Bringing in a few age-specific elements and adding a few nice twists, this one is good for a quick, afternoon read.

Source: ebook received for review from author as part of a promotional tour with The {Teen} Book Scene
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (August 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 145372463X
ISBN-13: 978-1453724637

Teaser Tuesday

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

This week's teaser comes from Trance by Linda Gerber.

"He just smiled and as he did, his eyes met mine like we were sharing an inside joke. Then he
walked away." -- page 31 in the ARC, which is very subject to change.

Ashlyn Greenfield has always known when bad things are going to happen. Each time that familiar tingling at the back of her neck begins, she knows what's to come, a trance. She's pulled in, blindsided, an unwilling witness to a horrible upcoming event. But she's never been able to stop it, not even when the vision was of her mother's fatal car accident. When soulful Jake enters Ashlyn's life, she begins having trances about another car accident. And as her trances escalate, one thing becomes clear: it's up to her to save Jake from near-certain death.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Author Interview + Swag Giveaway: Steve Brezenoff (Blog Tour Stop)

Remember that review for that very real, very raw book I posted last week called The Absolute Value of -1? You do? Good. Because here today is the author of said book, Steve Brezenoff. And to make it better, I've got some awesome bookmarks to giveaway to 2 commenter

Which of the three main characters proved the most difficult to develop and write?

Without a doubt, Lily. I wrote Lily’s section last, because I kept putting it off. I hadn’t written much from a girl’s point of view before, and I worried a lot about establishing a believable voice for her. After all, writing for Noah or Simon comes pretty naturally, since I’m, ya know, a guy! So for Lily, it took some practice. I sat down at my laptop one day and just started writing as a girl. I ended up doing a hundred pages of practice before I felt ready to start writing Lily’s section. It’s funny to read those hundred pages now. The narrator starts out as a total tomboy—then gradually over the course of the hundred pages, I thought, started turning into someone who could be Lily. Of course, Lily isn’t exactly a girly-girl, but it took some doing to sort of write the boy out of myself.

If you were in Noah's situation and knew the girl you liked could only see another guy, how would you handle the situation?

I think everyone’s been in that situation, right? Sometimes we just crush on the wrong person at the wrong time. In my own past, I’ve done it myself, for sure, and there are few ways you can go: You can move on and forget the inconvenient crush. You can wait out the other guy, and then be there when the crush is available again. Or you can do everything in your power to break them up or keep them apart for good! I’ve done all three at one time or another. The first way is the hardest, sure, but I have a feeling it’s the best idea when it comes to your own personal sanity and happiness.

If you could pair Noah, Lily, and Simon with any characters from any book, who would you pick for them?

Tough question! I think Lily needs some good clean affection from a guy who will never do anything to hurt her. She’s been crapped on enough, right? So for her, someone who will worship her completely, put her on a pedestal. I think Colin Singleton from An Abundance of Katherines can be counted on to worship her with some degree of enthusiasm.

I think Noah should probably get Katniss from Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and M
ockingjay. First of all, she’s cool as all hell, but more than that, she’s tough as nails. Noah clearly has a thing for saving girls, so this should turn that little impulse right on its head. Katniss might end up saving him, though.

And for Simon? Some time alone. He’s done enough damage for one school year, and with everything he’s been through and is going through, I think getting to know himself a little better—and taking some time to deal—would probably be a good idea.

What is one illegal thing you've fantasized about doing even though you know you'd never do it?

I was at the Mall of America this morning, so this is on my mind: I’d love to ride my bike all over the mall, not during business hours, of course, or I’d probably end up killing someone. It would be even more fun if I could do BMX tricks. . . .

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

My wife sometimes calls me Cakes, first of all, so this question is especially great. And, since my beard is orange, I’ll say carrot cake.

Thank you so much, Steve!

Now for your chance to win some snazzy bookmarks for The Absolute Value of -1, just comment on this post. I'll pick two winners out of the comments there through 10/4. US only.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

2011: Top Five Most Wanted

I'm sure you know Princess Bookie is starting off her Contest Craze. Officially, it kicks off tomorrow, but right now you can do a mini challenge for a prize pack. Honestly, this is something I would do even without the incentive of books. This one? Listing your top 5 most wanted books of 2011. Face it, 2011 is going to be an phenomenal year in YA.

5. A Need so Beautiful by Suzanne Young: This one doesn't have a cover yet, and isn't coming out until June, but it is going to be amazing I'm sure. The basic premise: A girl has a Need to do good things for others, but as time passes with each new act, she's at risk to fade away and be forgotten completely. This gives new meaning to kindness kills. Add in the unavoidable romance that comes with all of Suzanne's writing, and this has all the makings for something fantastic.

4. Clarity by Kim Harrington: Smoldering son is in the premise. Do you really need anything else? Okay fine. The cover is beautiful. The premise sounds so fantastic. Maybe it has hints of things in other books but its already clear how much Kim has made this her own thing. Murder mystery. Sexy, wait smoldering boys. Paranormal aspect. Sign me up.

3. Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz: I've pretty much been vying for this one since I found out about it a good while ago. I loved Break, and I adore Hannah's voice. Her writing is so raw and straight forward. Though the cover is nice and sexy, I have no doubt this isn't a fluffy summer romance and I look forward to what Hannah has in store with it.

2. A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford: Part of my jonesing for this one comes from a few people telling me how good it is- people I trust. But when the premise has a boy who saunters, well, that's much like smoldering. Yes. Please. Now, hot guy aside, this one sounds like a fantastic spin on the heaven/hell stories out there.

1. Where She Went by Gayle Forman: I loved If I Stay. It was emotional and beautiful, with the perfect ending. So to get something now, later, in Adam's POV? I am over the moon with excitement and cannot wait to get my hands on this one.

Author Interview + Giveaway: Rick Mofina

Being featured today is Rick Mofina, author of the fantastic and through provoking thriller The Panic Zone. I really enjoyed this one, and you can check out my review here if you missed it. After the interview, enter for your chance to win 1 of 2 copies of this book!

There are several different characters playing into this book. Which was the most interesting for you to write and develop?

All of them were interesting, but I grew fond of Gretchen Sutsoff. She was complex and I wanted the reader to know her story.

What was the most challenging aspect of this book for you to write and develop?

The entire enterprise is challenging. I worked extra hard in attempting to pull the reader into the lives of the characters to live, smell and breathe with them.

If you found yourself in Jack's situation, immersed into something that seems simple at first but is suddenly being exposed as something much more, how would you react particularly with the increasing danger?

I'd call the police.

If you could pick one character from any novel to help Jack in this book, who would you like to see him partner with?

Well, I did. While Jack was alone throughout much of the book, he had to partner with Emma Lane to see things through to the end.

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

My passion for cashews.

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

I think it would be cool to be a member of the Rolling Stones on the 1972 tour, jut for one day.

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

Butter pecan.

Thanks so much, Rick!

To win 1 of 2 copies of The Panic Zone, fill out this form. US only. Contest ends 10/10 at 6 pm CST.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

In My Mailbox

I once again have nothing enlightening to say to kick off this post... so let's just get to the books that came this week. Mostly, I feel like I have to do an intro of some sort. Don't ask why, or say I don't. I'll still think it. Also. I admit it. I am entirely too lazy to link the books. But is it really that hard to look it up yourself with a title and author if you're interested? Yeah... didn't think so. Your understanding is appreciated.

For Review:
Girl Stolen by April Henry
The Second Base Club by Greg Trine
Pull by B.A. Binns
From the Dead by John Herrick

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel
Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn
Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan
Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings
Grace by Elizabeth Scott

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Plot Devices: Cliche or Useful

Cliches. They are something many of us immediately roll our eyes at. There’s an immediate negative connotation to them. But things are cliché for a reason. Some of the best plot devices are considered cliché only because of their prevalence. But why are they prevalent? Because they work. Sure, they can be a cop out at times, but think about the books where some plot device was unique but not well executed? A well used plot device isn’t just cliché. It’s a great element, like the following ones.

The Love Triangle: This one works, especially in YA, because confusion is so prevalent. In a world filled with what ifs, even later in life, where is the assurance you will make the right choice? Without knowing more about either romantic interest, how can you pick the right one for you?

Losing a loved one to a car crash: I know this runs crazy in books, but is it really so horrible, when you consider that one of the top killers throughout the age groups is car accidents? They happen instantly, without warning. Seemingly innocent crashes kill people, while other horrible ones somehow has people walking away. They are unpredictable in scope and outcome. But the damage that remains is lasting. It’s something that everyone can relate to, something they understand. What good is a “unique” way to achieve the same effect, when it might not have the impact on readers?

The Reappearing Ex: Whether it’s the ex who suddenly shows back up or an old fling that didn’t mean anything, character’s pasts come back to haunt them often. And having it be something intimate is one of the most effective ways to not only twist the reader towards the character who is suddenly finding this out, but force that character to really face some hard things. As readers, we learn a lot about not only the character in question, but the romantic interest whose ex is suddenly back for more.

The cheating best friend and boyfriend: This one happens often, where the main character ends up finding out that their boy/girlfriend has kissed/slept with their best friend. The reason it’s so common? It’s painful, and it’s real. There is always that fear of losing your boy/girlfriend. And what hurts more than finding them with the one person you thought you could count on? This one challenges not only the relationship, but the friendship, both of which are important.

The “Chosen One” Concept: There are a lot of books, especially in the fantasy/paranormal section, where the main character is more special than everyone else. They are “The Chosen One.” But if someone besides the main character was the special one, why are we reading about the main character? A lot of the purpose of the book would be lost if we’re seeing it through someone else’s eyes. It’s a sidekick for a reason- because they are on the side, not the center.

Poor Girl/Rich Boy (or Poor Boy/Rich Girl): Basically, love between the social classes. But this has hints of forbidden romance to it, particularly when the families have a hard time with it. The differences in how the pair has grown up will influence their relationship, and the things they do also is affected by it. Not to mention, particularly on places where there is a clear difference between the classes, finding someone in a different class is new and exciting. It adds a new element for both the couple, and the reader.

Those are just some of the bigger ones that I’ve noticed. Maybe it seems repetitive, but how many o the books that had those same concepts did you still enjoy? When done well, they are just devices to keep things moving. They are something we understand, and something that doesn’t distract us from the actual purpose of it because the device is something new.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review:The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger


Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.


The Short Version:
Funny and emotional and hitting on so many issues relevant to teenagers, Keplinger's debut has a little of everything. With a well developed cast of characters, brilliant insight into the issues at hand, and a unique presentation for it, The DUFF will worm its way into the heart of many. Bianca and Wesley's relationship and reliance on each other is both intriguing and heartbreaking. The several story arcs that run throughout this book weave together seamlessly and tie up for a fantastic ending.

The Extended Version:
Bianca is cynical and guarded, keeping most everyone at a distance. Weary of love and uninterested in much of what her peers and friends are, she comes off as a bit of an outsider. Bianca is hard to connect with at first, though given her small circle of friends, this isn't surprising. Right away, Bianca is introduced to the concept of being the "duff," or the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Though she wants to blow this off, considering the playboy who tells it to her, Bianca has a hard time not noticing all the ways she is physically unimpressive compared to her two best friends. The circling thoughts and their constant presence is frustrating for Bianca, and gutting for the reader.

With a home life that isn't ideal and getting more complicated, Bianca finds an escape in someone: Wesley Rush, the same boy who called her the duff. Her distaste for him is clear and often comical in delivery, but the underlying hurt comes through just as strongly. As their relationship becomes physical, it is clear what a train wreck this is destined to be but Keplinger does a fantastic job explaining Bianca's reasoning without excusing it in the end. It is through this that Bianca's character really starts to grow and develop, and she comes full circle and is a truly three dimensional character by the end.

Wesley is a cocky jerk who can sweet talk his way into just about any girl's bed, and Bianca sees right through his seemingly sweet words. The quips and banter between the two are well written and smooth, never seeming forced or there just to try to lighten things. But Wesley has his own emotional baggage and pain, and as things with Bianca progress and feelings start to change, this aspect of him comes through more. Wesley, too, makes fantastic changes and growth through the course of the novel, at his own pace and in his own way.

Keplinger holds nothing back in the emotions of this story, nor does she close the curtain on the intimacy between Bianca and Wesley. She writes some steamy scenes in, each one a little different than the last. There truly is a difference between raunchy and steam, and she hits on the latter even in the early, less than ideal moments between the pair.

No matter their physical looks, everyone from teenage to adult has times where they've felt like the weakest link of the group. Maybe not what the initial for DUFF actually stand for, but they've felt like they were the one there to make the others look good. Using and expanding on this, Keplinger has written a raw and beautiful tale of body issues, using flawed but realistic characters to do so.

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Poppy (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316084239
ISBN-13: 978-0316084239

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick is Locked by Ryan G. Van Cleave, coming March 1, 2011 from Walker & Company.

Andy is the janitor's son, an outcast, a nobody. Then the rumor starts--that Blake has a gun in his locker. In a moment of misguided hopefulness, Andy steals the keys from his dad and opens up Blake's locker, hoping that finding the gun will change his own status. But the gun isn't there and Andy remains an outcast. When an unlikely friendship develops between the two loners, Blake shares most of his secrets with Andy, including the gun. But there's one secret that worries Andy more than anything--the date circled on Blake's calendar. Does Blake have something planned? Something that Andy can prevent? In a fascinating look at how teens deal with the now constant threat of school violence, debut author Ryan G. Van Cleave provides a unique, emotional perspective on how it feels to be the one who can prevent a tragedy.

My Thoughts: First, it's male POV which is definitely a perk in my book. Add in the outcast status of Andy and most likely of Andy, along with the school violence angle, and I think this is going to definitely be a gripping book. Having to make a choice like that is huge, especially for a teenager. It seems simple enough, but what if you were the one knowing of a date like that? And more importantly, how can you stop it? I also like how simple the cover is- it fits well with the premise and the title, but it would still pick up my attention in store.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Review: The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff (Blog Tour Stop)


The absolute value of any number, positive or negative, is its distance from zero: |-1| = 1

Noah, Lily, and Simon have been a trio forever. But as they enter high school, their relationships shift and their world starts to fall apart. Privately, each is dealing with a family crisis—divorce, abuse, and a parent's illness. Yet as they try to escape the pain and reach out for the connections they once counted on, they slip—like soap in a shower. Noah’s got it bad for Lily, but he knows too well Lily sees only Simon. Simon is indifferent, suddenly inscrutable to his friends. All stand alone in their heartache and grief.

In his luminous YA novel, Steve Brezenoff explores the changing value of relationships as the characters realize that the distances between them are far greater than they knew.


The Short Version:
A multiple voice narrative, each distinct in it's own way, and a hugely realistic portrayal of events make The Absolute Value of -1 a painful but enlightening read. The interactions between these three friends aren't as great as they seem, and the slow realization for the trio comes as a new shock, each time. Mixing in love and lust, drugs, and a need for both connection and solidarity, Brezenoff has pitched a beautiful look that will resonate with plenty. The writing shifts slightly with each new section and character perspective, but still holds a strong, connected note that ties all three together and to the author. Though the ending was abrupt and left me feeling confused in some ways, the overall story is phenomenally well done and beautiful in its integrity and realism.

The Extended Version:
Unflinchingly raw and achingly real, The Absolute Value of -1 centers around three teens who are a mess of their own making, bringing each other down in the process. With insight straight into all three character's minds, the reader gains a strong connection to each.

Lily is sarcastic and flippant, but struggling with the divorce of her parents and the often constant presence of her mom's post-split boyfriend. Much of what she does centers around wanting Simon to notice her, and her several year long crush on him is painful and palpable. Things through her eyes have a certain dominating depressed air about them, with bits of hope and happiness mixed in. Watching the way Noah acts towards her is frustrating, and Simon often comes off an uncaring jerk- but that's only through her eyes.

Noah loves girls, especially Lily. His seemingly harassing comments, when seen with his perspective, are failing attempts at compliments. Brezenoff handles this forwardness beautifully, painting a highly realistic and gripping teenager. Noah spends much of his time getting high, and smokes cigarettes in the intervals. He provides Lily and Simon, and it often seems as though the weed is the only real tie this trio has. Mixing in Noah's home life creates a sympathetic edge to a brash character, tying the entire picture up in a great way.

Simon was the most intriguing of the three for me. His uncaring nature takes a new turn once the reader is thrust into his mind. With flashbacks of growing up, his closeness to his sister, and his relatively tight-knit family now having to deal with the father's sickness, Simon has more on his plate than he knows what to do with. While he knows about Lily and Simon's home lives, he hides his own worries and fears. Feeling a growing need to get his life back on track, Simon starts pushing away from the others before he even realizes it. Simon's section was the most heartbreaking and thought provoking, and absolutely unadulterated in its reality.

Despite the three different sections, each with a different character's narrative, Brezenoff kept the pace relatively steady. This isn't a high action book, but rather an intimate look into these character's minds and lives. The same general time line is told from each perspective, shedding new light on the same events or giving it a different angle. All three characters were gutting and flawed, but that added to the striking realism infused throughout the pages of this book.

Things build quickly towards the end of the book and explode in a shocking ending. The final section, which mirrors the beginning and gives a brief glimpse into the mind of Suzanne, Simon's sister, throws an interesting hook that I admittedly had a hard time swallowing. Though I felt the ending was jarring in its abruptness, that in part due to how deeply connected to the characters I felt. The final section and ending are the only criticisms I have of this otherwise stunning book. These three are facing real issues, handling them with all the fumbles that could be expected and more, and Brezenoff doesn't hold anything back in their portrayal.

Source: Finished copy received for review from author as part of a blog tour with The {Teen} Book Scene
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 296 pages
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0761354174
ISBN-13: 978-0761354178

Guest Post + Giveaway: Cheryl Rainfield (Blog Tour Stop)

Here today is Cheryl Rainfield, author of the gripping and raw Scars. A real life survivor of abuse and self harm, Cheryl's turned to art to cope with everything. Now, Cheryl is opening that part of herself up and sharing both a piece from her teenage years, and a happier, later piece.

The black-and-white drawing I’ve shared here is one that I actually mentioned in Scars. I did this drawing as a teen when I was remembering and dealing with the sexual abuse. I drew it first in pencil, and then in ink.

To me, the bandages on the girl’s crotch were saying that sexual abuse and rape is so painful and traumatic that the bits of comfort and healing that you first get and make for yourself don’t seem like they can ever make a difference. (But they do over time.) And the strands, reaching up all
around and over her, represented the way the abuse affected my whole life—and also, though I didn’t realize it at the time, the way my abusers still had a hold on me (that they were still abusing me). There was so much pain that I was trying to get out in this drawing. Art, and the expression and release of pain, of intense emotion—it does help.

I did this drawing first in pencil, and then in colored pencil. That there’s happiness and hope in this drawing is a big thing for me; like my main character, Kendra, in Scars, I didn’t used to be able to draw happiness without pain. I also was rarely ever able to use color; most of my artwork was black and white. So using color and bringing happiness into it was a great step that reflected my healing and also my increased safety.

This drawing meant to me hope and happiness. Being able to hold the light, the day inside of you even when it’s night all around you. And it was also, for me, about dreams, about there being a sense of magic in the world, of goodness.

Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing that! Cheryl is working to break the silence, and shares her story so others in similar situations know they aren't alone. Click here to check out an interview Cheryl did recently on Daytime Toronto.

For your chance to win a signed copy of Scars, fill out this form!
Contest is US/Canada only. Ends October 10 at 6 pm CST

Monday, September 20, 2010

Author Interview + Giveaway: Natalie Standiford (Blog Tour Stop)

Dropping in today as part of her blog tour is Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters author Natalie Standiford. This is the author that brought us How to Say Goodbye in Robot, and now she's back with a tale of secrets. Stick around after the interview for your chance to win both these great books.

The premise of Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters hints at big secrets that go beyond stealing a cookie out of the cookie jar. Which of the confessions were the most difficult for you to come up?

Jane's voice came easily to me, but her confessions were the hardest. I had to think up a whole, plausible family history for the Sullivans, and sins for each generation to commit, so she could post them on her blog ( –it's real! Check it out.) I had to do a little research to see what was historically plausible for Jane's ancestors to have done, and then come up with things that were both evil and realistic.

If you had a deep secret and were the reason for your grandmother to cut the entire family out of her will, would you confess if it benefited everyone or keep quiet and protect it?

I'd confess it. First of all, I'd hate to have my whole family mad at me, but also, since my grandmother would already know the secret, it would probably come out eventually anyway.

If you could pair the three sisters with any character from any book, who would you pick for them?

Do you mean, pair them romantically? I'm going to assume that you do.

Hmm… I'd put Norrie with a Jane Austen hero, probably Mr. Knightley from EMMA.

Jane's a tough one. I don't think she's too interested in being paired up with a boy, so I'll put her with James Hoff from DESTROY ALL CARS by Blake Nelson, since he's rebellious like she is. She's probably not environmentally-aware enough for him but they'll enjoy fighting about it.

For Sassy: Harold from HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON. I know it sounds crazy because he lives in a picture book
and is just a little boy, but I think if he grew up to be Sassy's age they'd share a similar vision of the world.

What is the most private confession you're willing to make here?

I haven't read TWILIGHT yet.

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

Dark chocolate cake with vanilla icing.

Thank you, Natalie! Now for your chance to win both of Natalie's books, fill out this form!

Contest is US only and ends October 10 at 6 pm CST. One winner will receive both Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters and Ho

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Review: Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford


The Sullivan sisters have a big problem. On Christmas Day their rich and imperious grandmother gathers the family and announces that she will soon die . . .and has cut the entire family out of her will. Since she is the source of almost all their income, this means they will soon be penniless.

Someone in the family has offended her deeply. If that person comes forward with a confession of her (or his) crime, submitted in writing to her lawyer by New Year's Day, she will reinstate the family in her will. Or at least consider it.

And so the confessions begin....


The Short Version:
With three different, well written voices, a flamboyant and entertaining family set up, and confessions that are both amusing and surprising, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters lays everything of this rich family out for the reader, holding nothing back. Despite the few qualms I had with the ending, the overall feel is a great read with a smooth mixture of depth and lightheartedness. This is not just rich brats throwing a fit, but teens muddling through and balancing a few different things thrown at them, handling it both with fumbles and brawn.

The Long Version:
Quirky and funny, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters blends a rich lifestyle with humor and teenage realism. With three different perspectives, a certain flamboyance throughout, and an amusing, simplistic premise, it is easy to get into and engaging from the start. Which sister has offended Almighty to the point of no inheritance? What did they do that was so heinous the entire family has been cut out of the will? Interest in piqued from the start and the ultimate answers are not revealed until the end.

Norrie is the oldest of the three, and the first to confess. Many of the family and setting introductions are made in her section, but are blended smoothly and come from her voice, making it more realistic. With an upcoming debutante cotillion looming over her head, pressure to use a grandmother approved escort, and her own fiery romance starting, Norrie has plenty to confess about. She is kind and funny, perceptive and able to piece things together. Norrie thinks things through, and takes her family into consideration often, but she also feels a strong urge to do things her way.

Jane is the middle of the three girls, and the black sheep of the family, so to speak. Her basic reason for confessing is hilarious and plays out in a fantastic way, and her growth as things progress plays out tremendously well. She struggles with her religion and beliefs, struggles with her family, and struggles with her friends. Jane was incredibly authentic, and stood out the most to me.

Sassy had an interesting voice and some amusing beliefs. She has a huge, kind heart, is selfish in the most selfless of ways, and wears many of her feelings right out on her sleeve. Her confession was the most surprising, even if a bit predictable by the time her story came around. She makes her own growth strides, but I felt of the three, hers was the least notable and clear.

The interactions between the sisters was one of the most notable aspects of this book. They got along well, spent quite a bit of time together, and clearly cared deeply for each other, but all three still had their own hobbies and secrets. Another unique aspect of this book was the perspective shifts, getting first all of Norrie's story, then Jane, and finally Sassy. The same time period was told from the different viewpoints, with some variations according to memory of the same events, and new things thrown in that were specific to each girl. This did lead to some repetition and predictability, but it was also interesting to see it in different lights.

Each of the three confessions are both surprising and interesting, making the reader question which one would really upset Almighty that much. The actual confession is unpredictable, and not given until the last few pages of the book. While I did feel the very last little bit was rushed and unexpected, overall, the flow and tie ins were well paced. There are subtle but clear differences in voice between the three girls, and the three sections are written in a way that really does make it seem like the girls have written it, rather than a typical narrative voice.

Source: ARC received for review from publisher/author as part of a promotional tour with The {Teen} Book Scene
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545107105
ISBN-13: 978-0545107105

Speak Loudly!

I am sure you all have heard by now about the flat out ridiculous "opinion" piece written by an associate professor in Missouri. The one where he equates rape to soft porn, and completely misses the point of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak? He even goes so far as to bring in Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer, appalled at the teenage drinking and sex in it and again completely mischaracterizing not only the book but the purpose of the events in it.

He's got his opinion (which I find to be a piece of crap and ridiculous), and I've got mine. And that opinion is that Speak was one of the first YA books I read, without fully realizing it was YA. It was a movie I rented one night, because it sounded both interesting and heartbreaking. And I was right. It was gutting to watch this teenage girl suffer through memories of being raped. Of wanting attention from a guy, and being held down, and hurt, and violated. That is not soft porn. That is horrible and painful. That is something that is hard for the victim to get over, not because they can't handle things, but because it is the ultimate invasion to a person.

Speak is not a novel of family dysfunction. Could her parents have been better? Maybe. But they didn't know, because she didn't tell them. She didn't tell anyone, and she didn't even have friends. What would you do, Wesley Scroggins, if you were held down and raped? If you had no one to tell because everyone turned their back on you? And even if you did tell, it isn't instantly over. It doesn't work like that.

I didn't just finish reading the book, or later watching the movie, and go about my life. It made me think. It made me feel horrible for this "fictional character" because there are so many people this really happens to. I can give you a list, right now, of books I've read that deal with rape and sexual abuse. Cheryl Rainfield's Scars, which takes on a whole new element because it's her story. Because her parents abused her. Because she was taught to harm herself to forget. And what does Cheryl think about this nutjob's opinion? She's appalled, because as she says, how can anyone think rape can be erotic, unless they are like her parents? You can read her full opinion here, but hers is an opinion rooted deeply in reality.

But did I find any of those books to be a turn on, and did I find some need to go do that to someone else? No. I thought about the people in my apartment complex, in the neighborhoods I've lived in throughout my life. I thought about what could really be going on behind those doors. I thought about the girls at my schools who were quiet and kept to themselves, who seemed to have poor social skills. What was really going on? And was I just too oblivious to realize, when maybe they were screaming for help without a voice to do it?

Speak and the other books that deal with this subject need to be in schools. Teachers, parents, educators and students need to have access to this. They need to understand how it isn't the victims fault, and that they can help. Victims need a link to something that lets them know they aren't alone, and that they can speak up. This isn't just an author's work that needs defending, but a voice for the thousands who have had to endure sexual abuse.

And what I want to know, more than anything, is why Wesley Scroggin's issue is not with the fact that teenagers are being raped, but that an author included them and he now thinks it's porn. How many teenagers in his community have been date raped? How many were drugged and don't even know it happened? But are those the issues he's having a problem with? No, despite the fact that they should be. Despite the fact that he is making some big call for Christ, and yet something that is far more heinous than teenage (consensual) sex is what he is targeting.

That's my opinion on this. My opinion on how important Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak is. How Speak is not just some book, but a strong message that can reach so many, both victims and not. Rape is not to be taken lightly. Rape is not just something that happens and you move on. And "opinions" like this one are not to be ignored.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

In My Mailbox!

I want to start by saying... the Smart Chicks stop in The Woodlands was awesome! So worth taking time off work and the 3 1/2 hour drive! At this stop were Alyson Noel, Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong, Cassandra Clare, Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, Holly Black and Rachel Vincent. It was a crapton of awesomeness all in one spot, and I have to admit, I was pretty overloaded by the time I got to the end of the signing line. I had 22 books total to get signed (19 were mine), including the few I bought at the store. Also, you know those orange chucks I won from Heidi Kling in the summer? They are filliping with signatures nicely- and Cassandra Clare even signed it as Team Magnus (definitely my favorite of her characters)! All in all, it was awesome though! And now on to my IMM post....

For Review:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Book Review: Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl


Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen.

Sometimes life-ending.

Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.


Intricate and intriguing, Beautiful Darkness delves deeper into the Caster world, both building it more and creating new questions. With many of the same characters and a few new ones, things kick up a few notches in this installment in the series. Garcia and Stohl continue to smoothly blend a modern setting with a supernatural world. The Southern setting is still striking, memorable and well done, holding a very true not to small towns of the Deep South while maintaining a fluidity for anyone not accustomed to that way of life.

Ethan is still loving, thoughtful and intelligent. His heart is firmly with Lena, and the character development he gained in book one carries through to this one. Even when he is in clear denial of a situation's truth, the reasons are clear and concise. Ethan endures some heartbreaking challenges in Beautiful Darkness, handling some more smoothly than others, and the impact it has on him comes through strongly by the end. I switched from wanting to hug him to having a strong desire to smack him upside the head and knock a little sense into him, and it is this shifting that signifies how well Garcia and Stohl are able to write their narrator.

Lena goes through her own trials and changes, all seen through Ethan's eyes which adds an interesting perspective and bias. She is confused and unsure, guilt ridden and overwhelmed. Her actions are both understandable and frustrating, and she drives this book's plot in a big way. Lena is both an open book and an enigma in this book, as she was in Beautiful Creatures, and Garcia and Stohl continue to both strengthen and shroud her overall character and personality.

Apart from Lena and Ethan, the side characters continue to hold a strong presence, and their personalities are well developed and brought forth. Link is a great best friend, willing to have Ethan's back no matter the situation. He is caring and funny in the dorkiest, most awkward of ways, and brings quite a bit to the table. Ridley, my personal favorite character, makes her appearance in this book and of course brings all the trouble we'd expect with every new lick of a lollipop. She slips into this plot in a surprising way, and shows up when you least expect it to build her character and purpose. Her quips are perfectly delivered and her nonchalance well written.

This plot is unpredictable, intricate and brilliant. When linked with the book one events, it's overall nature is astounding in how deep everything runs, how well thought out and put together it is, and how beautifully things play out. Though parts did lag for me, the overall scope is fantastic. With small things that end up being something important, plenty of tie ins to the Beautiful Creatures events, and numerous unforeseeable twists, Beautiful Darkness takes Ethan and Lena's struggles to a new level.

By the end of the book, the majority of this book's events are wrapped up, with just hints of what might be coming. Despite those hints, the specifics remain unpredictable and innumerable. The writing is still smooth, detailed in a subtle way and very strongly able to build scenery in a reader's mind. From the great cast of characters, the realistic and detailed setting, the intricately built world and unpredictable plot, Beautiful Darkness is another great installment to the Caster Chronicles and showcases the natural ability of Garcia and Stohl in the simplest of ways.

Source: ARC borrowed from friend
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (October 12, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316077054
ISBN-13: 978-0316077057