Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book Review: Girl Wonder by Alexa Martin [Teen Book Scene Tours]

Title: Girl Wonder
Author: Alexa Martin
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Publisher: Hyperion Book
ISBN-13 Book: 9781423121350
Source: Read galley from NetGalley. This is my honest review!

Girl WonderGirl Wonder by Alexa Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After moving to a new town and a new school, Charlotte Locke, struggles to find a place where she can fit in. After being refused admission to the GATE (Gifted and Talented) program at her new school because of her learning disability in math, Charlotte feels like she is stranded in a sea of substandard education; until she meets Amanda (aka Girl Wonder). Amanda is everything Charlotte wishes she could be, confident, intelligent, and fun. As Charlotte begins to enjoy the newness of popularity, she begins to discover that the higher you are, the harder you fall.

WOW! Alexa Martin has written a novel that transports the reader back into high school once more complete with insecurities, competition, and a deep seeded desire to fit in.

Martin's characterization is phenomenal. I couldn't believe how much I connected with Charlotte while reading this novel. Charlotte's insecurities were so understandable and believable for a teen in her situation. In some ways it reminded me very much how I felt in high school, desperate to fit in, but still wanting to be myself. I love how Charlotte makes excuses at first for not wanting to do some of the more outrageous or rule breaking things that Amanda did. I was pleased to see her be true to herself in the face of peer pressure, yet even the strong sometimes falter.

Amanda was everything Charlotte longed to be; smart, sexy, confident, rich, and in control of her environment. People looked at Amanda with awe and Charlotte wanted to be just like her. Charlotte bases her decisions on her desire to fit in and get the guy--even if you have to go along with antics she didn't agree with.

In many ways this was a novel of self discovery. Charlotte has to learn what she wants and learn to be comfortable with herself. She has spent so long trying to please everyone, be what everyone wants her to be, and to fit in that she loses herself.

I can't say how much I enjoyed this book. The realism was fantastic and the character development was spot on. I could believe that Charlotte was a real person, and I could understand her desperate desire to fit in and be liked--it is a desire that I believe all teens feel at one point or the other.

This is a must read though for lovers of realistic fiction, though I would recommend this to older teens due to some mature themes.  Sex,  some drug and alcohol use may make this one a bit much for younger teen readers who aren't comfortable with those topics. 

Overall this is realistic fiction at its finest.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review: Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Title: Rage
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Genre: Teen Fiction, Fantasy Fiction
Publication Date: April 4, 2011
Publisher: Graphia
ISBN-13 Book: 9780547445281
Source: Read galley from NetGalley.  This is my honest review!

Rage (Horsemen of the Apocalypse, #2)Rage by Jackie Kessler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Missy Miller has a secret that hidden away in a lockbox at the bottom of her closet.  A secret, revealed only by the scars hidden beneath her clothes.  A sharp edged secret that cuts away at her pain.  One night when things are really bad, Missy miscalculates and cuts a little too deep.  On that night, Death, the Pale Rider, knocks on Missy's door and bestows her with the symbol of her office, a sword forged in rage and pain and emotion.  A sword to symbolize what Missy has become, War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Once more Kessler has done it.  She has taken a serious teen issue and successfully wrapped it in the trappings of fantasy while staying true to the issue.  In this novel, Missy is a cutter.  She cuts herself because the pain of cutting is something she can control when she can't control the world around her.

This novel takes a look at the darker side of being a teen.  Feeling isolated and outcast, misunderstood because of the clothing you wear or the way you look.  Missy is bullied, and forced to endure humiliation that is beyond what anyone should be forced to endure.

I loved Missy's character.  She is constantly at war with herself.  She knows she shouldn't cut, but there is no release for her any other way.  This novel focuses on Missy's conflicts.  She is the epitomy of War.  She was easy to relate to, because anyone who has been the unfortunate target of cruel pranks and taunting will know how she feels.  That feeling in your chest when it has gone too far and you feel like you can't breathe anymore.

Most of the characters aren't as well developed, but this was Missy's story told from her point of view.  I did find the other horsemen to be very interesting, particularly Death who bears "a passing resemblance to a certain dead alternative rock star" (51).  Death is at once amusing and frightening.  He is a character I really want to know more about. 

This was a spectacular novel, and I am impressed with how well Kessler conveyed Missy's feelings.  The fantasy element adds to the success of the novel.  It makes difficult medicine easier to swallow and allows you the hope that maybe Missy will find her way home.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 25, 2011

What Do Guys Read?

This week at the library I had three different middle school boys all excited about reading one particular series.  All three of them came in looking for books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.  If you aren't familiar with this series I describe it as Harry Potter meets the Greek gods.  This series is a win win for boys.  It has action, adventures, and a lot of humor.  It is a series that doesn't take itself too seriously as is evident by the title of the first chapter of the first book The Lightning Thief.  That first chapter is called "I Accidentally Vaporized My Pre-Algebra Teacher."  Believe me, just mentioning that chapter usually has the guys I promote it to, holding out their hand and wanting more.

In my library these books are hot!  They fly off the shelves.  But finding other great books for boys can be a bit of a challenge.  The next most popular series would be Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series which has just finished with its last book Scorpia Rising which came out March 22, 2011.  What I will recommend to boys after this one, I'm not sure.  Horowitz has other series, but they haven't been nearly as popular.

Boys are sometimes a hard lot to please.  Of course there are exceptions, but the number of boys I see who need help finding a book that is right for them far outweighs the number of girls.  Most of the guys I see are coming in looking for books that are on their school's Accelerated Reader list.  Most of them are dragged to the reference desk by a distraught parent who is attempting to help their son find something so they can fulfill the school's required reading.  These boys are rarely excited to be in the library let alone attempting to find books that they will have to read.  Which makes finding books for these boys even more difficult.

Over the years I have had some successes with books like Riordan's Percy Jackson series and Horowitz's Alex Rider.  Many boys are fans of the Gary Paulsen books like Hatchet.  To them I usually recommend Will Hobbs as an alternative.  Many of his books have the survival aspect that the boys enjoy.

Another great resource for boys who don't like to read are graphic novels.  Some people will argue that graphic novels aren't reading, but I feel differently.  Reading graphic novels requires a different type of literacy for lack of a better term.  You can't just read the words, you have to look at the pictures to truly follow what is happening in the story.  There are even biographies and other types of nonfiction available in graphic novel format, so before you say it isn't reading, I say tell that to Persepolis author Marjane Satrapi who wrote her biography in that format.

What I am saying is that with the glut of material out there for girls these days, there are still books out there for the guys too.  We don't want to forget to find books for them and to make note of what they like.

Here is a list of a few of my favorite books to recommend to the guys who need books to read:

  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians  series by Rick Riordan
  • Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
  • Hatchet and the other Brian books by Gary Paulsen
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney (I'll admit, it isn't one of my favorites, but that doesn't mean it won't strike a cord with one of my guy readers.)
  • The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan
  • Hoot or Flush by Carl Hiassen
  • Artemis Fowl series or Airman by Eoin Colfer
  • Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Non-fiction
  • Graphic Novels
So what good guy reads do you recommend?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Review: The Delta Anomaly by Rick Barba

Title: Delta Anomaly
Author: Rick Barba
Genre: Teen Fiction, Science Fiction
Publication Date: November 2, 2010)
Publisher: Simon Spotlight
ISBN-13 Book: 9781442414259
Source: Purchased a ebook from Barnes and Noble. This is my honest review!

The Delta Anomaly (Star Trek: Starfleet Academy)The Delta Anomaly by Rick Barba
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is another book in the new Starfleet Academy series that features events taking place in the new time line that was established by the 2009 J. J. Abrams film.  This series takes place while Kirk, Spock, Bones, and Uhura are at Starfleet Academy.  In this novel a mysterious killer is prowling the streets of San Francisco and it is up to Kirk and the gang to track him down and stop him before more people fall victim to this madman. 

Like so many ongoing series it is easy to sit down and fall into the story.  The characters are familiar, so not much development is needed.  The setting is also familiar, so we can jump right into the story.  The action starts at the beginning and this book really is a quick read.  You follow the characters while you try to figure out the mystery and enjoy the journey.

As to quality, this isn't going to be the next Pulitzer Prize Winner, but the story is entertaining and if you are looking for some brain candy this will certainly fit the bill.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review: Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Title: Wings
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Genre: Teen Fiction, Fairies, Fantasy Fiction
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Publisher: HarperTeen
ISBN-13 Book: 9780061859083
Source: Purchased a free copy of the ebook from Barnes and Noble. This is my honest review!

Wings (Wings, #1)Wings by Aprilynne Pike
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When Laurel's parents buy a bookstore and leave their small town for the city, Laurel is thrown into public school for the first time. Just as she starts to meet friends, she makes an unusual discovery about herself and the home she so recently left. When her father develops an unusual sickness, she discovers that she may be a pawn in a game far bigger than she realized and that some may be willing to kill to protect the secrets they are hiding.

I had waited to read this book expecting it to be another fairy book, but I must say I was surprised. I read this book as part of the Read Along over at the Mundie Mom's Blog. Not only did I have fun participating in the read along, I also really enjoyed this book.

I liked how Pike adapted and changed the fairy lore to fit her story. Her fairies were different and new, and in the case of Tamani positively yummy.

I wish there had been more character development. The characters were rather flat, and somewhat superficial--what you see is what you get. I think this prevented me from really feeling anything for the characters. Yes they were attractive and intriguing, but in the end what did I really know about any of them.

My other complaint is that there wasn't more. While the main storyline wrapped up, I felt like there was more story to tell. I know this book has sequels, but I have always been slightly annoyed when books leave me wanting so much more at the end--even if they do have sequels. I want to know more about Avalon and the other fairies--I felt like we only brushed the surface.

Overall this was an entertaining read, and a story that may have more potential in the sequels.  

The next book in the series is Spells, and I think Pike intrigued me enough with this story that I will seek out the next book. The third book, Illusions comes out May 3, 2011.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Genre: Teen Fiction, Science Fiction, Mystery
Publication Date: January 11, 2011
Publisher: Razorbill
ISBN-13 Book: 9781595143976
Publisher CD: Penguin Audio
ISBN-13 CD: 9780142428993
Source: Purchased a copy of the book from Barnes and Noble. Checked out audio CD from my public library. This is my honest review!

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)Across the Universe by Beth Revis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When Amy joined her parents and agreed to be frozen to travel for 300 years to to a new planet, she had no idea that she would be waking up 50 years before reaching her destination to find her parents still frozen, a tyrannical leader who threatens to kill her, and a killer who is targeting the frozens loose aboard the ship.
Across the Universe is told in alternating chapters by the two main protagonists; Amy who was supposed to travel as frozen cargo to the new planet and Elder, a sixteen year-old inhabitant and future leader of the ship Godspeed. Amy expected to wake up on the new planet and be reunited after 300 years of sleep with her parents. What happens instead is truly upsetting for her. She is woken from her frozen slumber and discovers that she woke up 50 years too early. Elder is being trained by Eldest to take over as leader of the ship. He is young and inquisitive, and has become fond of Amy.

Godspeed is a ship of secrets. The people act like drones with the exception of those designated as crazy, Eldest runs the ship with an iron hand, and to top things off, there is a killer on the loose.

Revis has built a novel that both science fiction and mystery. Her characters are interesting, but it is the mystery that holds the novel together. Although you may figure out the "who dunnit" part of the mystery early on, the why's of the mystery keep you reading.

Prior to reading this novel I had seen many reviews of it. Unfortunately, I am not sure that it lived up to the hype. I did enjoy the novel, but not as much as I had hoped. I am a person who loves character driven novels, and while the characters in Across the Universe were interesting, I think they fell a little flat. Amy was perhaps the best developed character, but the others left me wanting more.

The audio version of this book is read by Lauren Ambrose and Carlos Santos who read for our two narrators. I found Ambrose's interpretation of Amy to be spot on and very entertaining. Santos does an equally good job with Elder. Their performance was well done and made the audio book pretty easy listening.

It seems like there will be a sequel currently titled A Million Suns that will come out in 2012. I do think I will read it because I do want to know what is going to happen.

Overall I did enjoy the Science Fiction/Mystery aspects of the story, but felt that we lacked some character development. It is definitely worth a read for those looking for some Science Fiction without the dystopian fiction taking over.

Cautions for sensitive readers: Sexual activity is witnessed and commented on in the novel and there is an attempted sexual assault. 

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blog Tour Character Interview with Julian from Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban's novel Two Moon Princess and Comment Contest

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Don Julian from Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban's novel Two Moon Princess.  Julian is a fascinating and somewhat mysterious character for most of the novel and hopefully this will answer some of your questions about his motivations.  If you haven't read Two Moon Princess I recommend you check it out.  It is a wonderful story of adventure spanning two worlds.  Need more convincing?  Check out my review!  Also, if you comment on this post you could win a copy of the book!  (US only, must be 13 years or older.)

Two Moon Princess

Character Interview with Julian from
Two Moon Princess

Were you in love with Rosa?
I thought I was when I proposed to her. I know now that what I felt wasn't love.

Why did you want to marry Rosa?
Because she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and I thought I loved her at the time.

But that is not the total truth. I would have asked her to marry me even if I hadn't thought myself in love with her.

Don Andres, Rosa's father, killed my father. To take his kingdom from him, either by war or by marriage, seemed fair to me, back then.  So, yes, I would have married her to spite Don Andres. But I never planned to take my anger at her father into our relationship. I would have been faithful to her.

What did you think when you first saw Andrea?
I was in a terrible mood when my men brought Andrea to my tent. The building of the bridge was behind schedule, and the fact that someone from Gothia had been apprehended crossing the river to Suavia, raised the question of whether Don Andres already knew about the bridge.

As for her claim that she was a princess of Montemaior, I didn't believe it.

Until she refused to kneel to me as she repeated her claim.

And I looked up from the dispatch I was writing to have her sent to Alvar, and saw this waif, dressed in a dirty outfit, staring at me with absolute contempt.

I had never met anybody before, man or woman, with the courage to held my eyes. So when Andrea did, I was curious and impressed, especially when I realized how young she was, for in her hunting outfit she seemed no older than fourteen. I could tell that, behind her bravado, she was scared, yet, she challenged me.

I thought she was magnificent.

By he time I cut the rope that bound her hands, she had my heart.

What about Andrea first caught your attention?
As I explained before, her audacity.

Why are you so interested in the door to the other world?

By reading the ancient texts of the Xarens, the original inhabitants of my kingdom, I learned that, although the door my ancestor used to come to Xaren-Ra had been destroyed, others still existed. From an early age I was curious about them.

But my interest in finding one became more pressing when I learned that, according to the old codices my ancestors that came from Spain wrote, the Arabs that defeated them in the other world had the knowledge to transform a desert into fertile soil.

Half of my kingdom is dry and barren. I wanted to go to this other world to learn how to change that.

What do you hope to gain by finding the door to the other world?
I want to learn how to tame the wild streams up in the mountains and channel them so my people can grow crops in the arid lands.

If you want to know more about Julian, you are in luck, as Julian is one of the narrators in the sequel of Two Moon Princess, The King in the Stone..

Thank you Julian for joining me today.

Don't miss your chance to read this fantastic tale! I personally can't wait to read the sequel, The King in the Stone. I want to know more about about Julian and see what happens next.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blog Tour Tens List from Rebecca Ryals Russell Author of Odessa: Seraphym Wars

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Rebecca Ryals Russell to my blog.  Rebecca is the author of the book Odessa: Seraphym Wars.  She is here to day to tell us what she wants us to know about her new series. (BTW:  I absolutely adore this cover art!)

Top ten things I want readers to know about the Seraphym Wars Series

  1. Incidents of violence appearing in dreams/visions or seen while traveling were ALL taken from actual news accounts. I couldn’t even make up stuff like these.
  2. Place names were determined using Latin bases. For example, anything containing volcanoes has ‘Cauld’ in the name; or green areas contain ‘verde’.
  3. Character names were determined based on personality, role in the story, physical properties. For example, the main character Myrna Ashlin Watts means ‘high-spirited’ + ‘vision(s)’ + ’ruler of army’; Conall Sean Wyman, a demon-warrior, means ‘strong wolf’ + ‘God’s precious gift’ + ‘warrior/fighter’.
  4. Mythology played a huge role in the story through Characters like Griffen Oisin Gilmore and Aurora Neave Hubert who develop a very close relationship. In Celtic Mythology Oisin and Neave were lovers. I also used many Mythological creatures/monsters, such as: Harpies, Graes, Griffins (I called them Andergryphs), Phoenix and more. My names for Heaven=Asgard and Hell=Tartarus came from Viking Mythology.
  5. My choice to make the demons able to shapeshift into dragons came from Revelations, in the Bible. According to Revelations, when Satan and his followers were tossed from Heaven, it was in dragon form which they had assumed during the battle. Since I enjoy dragons I chose to keep that aspect and work it with the demon nature.
  6. The creation of the Dracwald world maintains geographical logic found on Earth. Effects of geology on climate and establishment of civilizations closely resembles that of Earth as well. This helps the reader understand the nature of the world while introducing alien ideas.
  7. Book 3, Majikals, will introduce a whole new series of civilizations via the Faeries, Elves, Dwarfs and other creatures found on Caldelub, the island where the Vigorios receive training. These Majikals will introduce the Vigorios to Celtic Druidic lifestyle, with some Wicca thrown in, as they learn to trust in themselves and the Elements.
  8. A spin-off series for Middle Graders called Stardust Warriors reduces the story to smaller novels minus the love story and violence. It brings the epic journey nature of the story out for MG readers to enjoy. The first in this series, Zarena, comes out July 2011.
  9. I’m also working on a series of Picture Books based on the Majikals found on Caldelub.
  10. Lastly, I want readers to sit back and enjoy the ride. With aspects of Lord of the Rings, Mythology, Revelations, dragon lore, creative use of new monsters, a Steampunk civilization, Fairy Tales, Celtic Mythology and more, I hope readers will become immersed in the world I created and fall in love with the characters as they battle for their very survival.
A big thank you to Rebecca for joining me today.  If you are interested in finding out more about the Seraphym Wars series or about the first book Odessa visit

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Guest Post: Jennifer Archer Author of Through Her Eyes [Blog Tour]

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Jennifer Archer to my blog.  Her book, Through Her Eyes has to be one of my favorite books this year.  Her characters are wonderful, and the ghost story is riveting.  I encourage you to seek out this book.  It is too good to miss. 


A Day in the Life of An Author

One of the most appealing aspects of a career as a writer is that not every day of work is the same. On Monday morning, I might sleep late and not sit down at the computer until noon, then write late into the evening. On Tuesday, I might do research all day. On Wednesday, I might wake up at 3 a.m. thinking about my story, get up at 4, and write until lunch. On Thursday, the edits for the book I turned into my editor last month might arrive in the mail and so I set aside my current work-in-progress to read through her notes and get started on the revision. On Friday, maybe I take the day off to shop and have lunch with a friend, then work on Saturday. I have been known to pull an all-nighter when I have only one or two days left to meet my deadline. I’m not a 20 year old college student anymore, and working through the night is hard on my body and my mind – I don’t do it unless I’m desperate and wouldn’t recommend it to any new writers!

In addition to a lack of monotony, another perk of the profession is that I don’t have to write in the same place every day. While some writers can’t do their best work unless they’re in their usual space, that isn’t the case for me. The places I write include my home office, my backyard patio, my sunroom, and my kitchen table. On rainy days, I’ve been known to take my laptop to my bedroom and work in bed! My husband and I have a cabin in the mountains, and when we’re there I work in front of a window overlooking a sweep of aspen and pine trees. I also often write at a coffee shop, in doctor’s office waiting rooms, in my car while sitting in a parking lot waiting on my husband or other family members, or at an intersection when the light is red!

Despite this flexibility in an author’s work schedule and work place, I try to maintain a loose routine when research isn’t necessary at the moment, and no revisions are waiting, and the deadline isn’t looming. On those days when I’m focused exclusively on the writing, I’m up in the morning by seven at the latest. I feed my dogs, Marge and Harry, take a shower then listen to the news while I’m dressing. Then I grab my laptop computer and head out the door for my favorite coffee shop. I’ve gotten friendly with the baristas there, as well as the regular customers, and I chat for a few minutes after ordering my coffee and oatmeal, then get down to business. Usually, I write until noon, and then break for lunch. However, if the writing is really rolling along, I’ll lose track of time and lose myself in the story and not come back to reality until 1:30 or 2:00. After leaving the coffee shop, I either go home to check on my dogs and have lunch, or I have lunch out and run errands. Then, if the weather is pretty – which in the Texas Panhandle where I live means that the wind isn’t blowing more than 30 M.P.H.—I’ll take my dogs for a nice long walk. 

In the afternoons before my husband comes home from work, I do some light housework or laundry, before continuing work on my book, unless I made really great progress during the morning, in which case I work on the business side of writing. That means Facebook, Twitter, email, and promo-related tasks. Sometimes, this stretches on into the evening, but normally I try to leave evenings open for family, friends, and personal business. (Personal business can be anything from paying bills to drinking a glass of wine with my husband. If I’m being really good, it might also mean exercising, but that doesn’t happen often enough!)

Because writers don’t have a “boss” watching over them or an office they’re required to report to at a specified time every day, they must be somewhat self-disciplined in order to be productive. There are mornings when I wake up and am very tempted to play the day away. Since I’m a fairly laid-back, unstructured person, I admit that I succumb to that temptation on occasion, but I can’t do so very often or, later, I’ll pay for my overabundance of stolen fun in one way or another. I’ve learned through trial and error, that I’m not one of those people who work well under a lot of stress and pressure. It’s better for me in the long run if I maintain some semblance of relaxed order, if that makes sense!

In the past, I’ve worked as an accountant, a legal assistant, an office manager, and many other jobs. As the expression goes, I “punched a time clock,” and I wore skirts and dresses to the office. When I think of those days, they seem like they’re a part of someone else’s life! I can’t imagine working like that anymore. The creativity and freedom that go along with being a writer more than make up for dealing with writers block, tight deadlines, occasional all-night work sessions and struggles with self-discipline. I love my job!  

Through Her Eyes

Thank you Jennifer for stopping by! In the meantime I encourage everyone to check out Jennifer's book Through Her Eyes.  Need more convincing?  Check out this fantastic book trailer!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Review: Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer

Drop by tomorrow for a guest post from Jennifer Archer and for a chance to see the trailer for this fantastic book!

Title: Through Her Eues
Author: Jennifer Archer
Genre: Teen Fiction, Ghost Stories Fiction,
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen
ISBN-13 Book: 9780061834585
Source: Received ARC from Teen Book Scene Tours. This is my honest review!

Through Her EyesThrough Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tansy Piper has always moved frequently. Living for a short time in whatever town or city her mother's latest novel is set in. She has never had time to make friends until the last move when she lived in San Francisco and met her friend Hailey. Now her mother is once more moving her across the country to Cedar Canyon, Texas, the town where her grandfather grew up. Once again leaving her friends behind, and now having to deal with her grandfather's failing health, Tansy finds herself living in a mysterious old house with a haunting history of its own. As Tansy delves deeper into the mystery of the house and its former occupant, a young man Henry who supposedly committed suicide, she starts to find herself drawn into the story of the house and the town. A story she may not find her way out of.

Archer is an expert at setting a scene and mood. This book will literally give you chills! It all starts out with things in Tansy's camera looking slightly different than the real world. Then she finds herself drawn into the history and the photographs. The house is fittingly creepy, and the history superb.

Tansy is a well developed and believable character. She is curious and talented and is drawn into the story of the house and its former occupant. She is somewhat lost without her Grandfather, who has always been strong for her and been her caretaker, but is now needing to be cared for himself.

Tansy's mother is caring but distant. She has moved Tansy so many times because of her career, but doesn't realize how hard it is for Tansy to fit in always being the new girl.

Tate and Henry are fascinating characters. Both of them keep you wanting to know more about their story. I loved Bethyl Ann, the Shakespeare quoting thirteen year old, who immediately accepts Tansy and offers her friendship.

This book has some slow parts, but it keeps you hooked. You want to know what is going on and you want to know what really happened to Henry Peterson. You desperately need to find out what is really going on with Tansy.

Overall, this is a great book! Wonderful characters, great setting, and a perfect mood for a ghost story. Highly recommend especially to those who love a good ghost story.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 8, 2011

Teens, Sex, and the Media Interview with Megan McCafferty Author of Bumped

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming New York Times Bestselling Author Megan McCafferty to my blog!  She is the author of several books including the Jessica Darling series and her newest book Bumped.  Although Bumped isn't even released is already attracting a lot of attention.  Bumped is a novel that really makes you think and look at our world.  Here's what Megan had to say about her newest novel. (Read my review for Bumped here.)

What was your inspiration for writing Bumped?

It all started with the infamous Gloucester High School “pregnancy pact.” Like many others, I was fascinated by the whole sordid story. Later that year, Bristol Palin and Jamie Lyn Spears went public with their pregnancies and Juno was released to critical and commercial acclaim. All of a sudden there were countless articles arguing for and against abstinence only programming. One letter in the New York Times made a pro-sex education argument with the disclaimer, “while we would never encourage teens to have sex…” That sentence made me stop and ask myself, “What if we did encourage teens to have sex? Under what circumstances would that universally acceptable?” Those are the questions that inspired the story.

The MiNet, marketing, and other media figure heavily into your story and seems to target teens.  Do you feel that today's media is stepping over boundaries when they market to teens? 

The motto “sex sells” has been around for a loooong time, but technology is the game-changer. We live in a 24/7/365 culture now. We’re constantly plugged into one form of media or another and bombarded with more images--sexual and otherwise--than ever before. There’s little time to tune out and evaluate what impact these messages have on how we perceive ourselves and the world.

The teen years are such an intense period of hormonally-overloaded self-discovery. That makes them the easiest targets for sexed-up advertising, which is exactly why marketers use it both in the fictional world of BUMPED and in real life.

When you first started writing your novel, did you realize how much sexuality would figure into your story?

BUMPED is set in a world in which a virus has made adults infertile. In vitro fertilization doesn’t work for anyone either, which means teenagers must have intercourse to repopulate the planet. So, yes, I knew that sex for procreation, not pleasure, would figure prominently in the story.

Do you think that today's media is placing too much emphasis on sex when marketing to teens?

Teens? How about tweens? Toddlers? I’ve seen babies’ onesies with “I’m bringing SEXY back” or “PORN STAR” on them. Maybe they’re supposed to be edgy and ironic, but I think the underlying truth behind the “joke” isn’t all that funny: Kids are growing up more quickly, in part, because of pornification of our culture at large.

Both of your protagonists are in difficult situations, situations that seem to be forced on them by their parents, and everyone around them.  What is it that these two girls have that allow them to go their own way and question their upbringing?

I think there are some people who are innately more inclined to go with the flow, just as there are those who more likely to question the status quo. Melody and Harmony are the latter.

Melody and Harmony both step out of their high pressure situations, Melody by listening to Zen and Harmony by seeking out her sister.  How does that separation help them find what they really want?

First, I’d argue that Melody’s epiphany comes to her more independently than that. She expresses her doubts about being a Surrogette from the very first pages of the book when she admits that she has to practice “fertilicious” slang because it doesn’t come as naturally to her as it does for her friends.

That said, both girls need to get a glimpse of alternative worldviews in order to better understand their options. How can they know who they want to be if they’ve never had a chance to consider other choices?

What is the one thing you would like teens (boy or girl) to take away from reading your novel?

BUMPED satirizes what can happen when extreme thinking crowds out more moderate points of view. I think the only way we can learn from each other is to listen. If BUMPED inspires readers to initiate conversations about controversial subjects—sex, religion, politics—with people who may not agree with their opinions, then I’ve succeeded. Actually, discussing the extreme reactions to this book might be a perfect place to start!
Megan, thank you so much for joining me today and talking about your new novel Bumped.  I hope everyone takes the opportunity to read this novel because it is definitely one that needs to be read and discussed!  Bumped is due out on April 26, 2011.  

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday Thoughts: Shining a Light on Sex in YA Lit

I know this is a topic that I covered recently and it is a topic that I will continue to cover.  In fact, I will be doing a couple of author interviews that discuss this hot topic in YA literature starting tomorrow with an interview with Megan McCafferty.

No matter how you feel about sex in YA literature, you have to face that it is there.  Whether it is there to tell us something about our own society and media as in Megan McCafferty's soon to be released book Bumped (04/26/11) or whether it is to introduce teens to the newness of the sexual experience like you see in novels like Judy Blume's groundbreaking novel Forever and in newer novels like Rich and Mad by William Nicholson, sex is here now in teen novels and it is time that we looked at it seriously.

I really don't care what side of the argument you agree with--whether you are pro sex or anti sex in teen novels.  Some people argue that there is too much sex thrown at teens today and I agree with that, but you have to acknowledge that books aren't the only source for this.  Turn on the TV and you will find sex, listen to the nightly news and you will find sex, listen to music again more sex, sex is everywhere and if we don't talk about it with our teens, how can we expect them to make the right choices about their own sexuality.

I guess that is what I am really getting at with this post.  If you think there is too much sex in YA literature that is fine, you are entitled to your opinion, but before you condemn YA authors for including sex in their books, turn on the TV, the radio, the local news, watch a few commercials, and listen for a bit.  Teens are barraged by sex in ads, movies, TV shows, and every other form of media.  It isn't just books.  On the contrary, some of these books give teens information they need and that they feel they can't get anywhere else--I mean really what teen wants to sit down and talk sex with their parents.  But perhaps it is time we do just that--I know uncomfortable situation here.  But if we don't do it, do you really want them to get all their information from the media or even their peers.

Books can be that conversation starter.  So as parents maybe we should look at those teen books and see what your teens are reading.  If you feel uncomfortable with the sex in a novel your teen is reading, tell them that, and most importantly tell them why!  Don't just take away the book and close the subject--use the opportunity to share your opinions on sex with your teens.  Teens do listen to us, especially when we are listening to them.  If we don't talk sex with our teens, who knows who will.       

As to the sex in YA literature, I say keep us talking, keep us thinking.  If we keep talking and thinking about it, maybe it will help us be more open with our teens.  It is a good wake up call for us to realize that the media is out there and it is marketing sex to our teens.  Media influence plays such a big role in books like McCafferty's Bumped and Julia Karr's XVI.  While these books center around sex, their intent is to remind us that teens are listening to more media than we think, and if we don't talk to our teens about important topics like sex--someone else will.  These books are important and can be great for starting that conversation.  We need to see them as more than just books about sex.  They are books that are attempting to show us something about ourselves.

So remember, don't judge a book by its topic--stop and listen to its message. 
  • Tune in tomorrow to hear what Megan McCafferty has to say about sex and the media in her book Bumped!!!  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Book Review: Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban [Teen Book Scenes Blog Tour]

Title: Two Moon Princess
Author: Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Genre: Teen Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Science Fiction
Publication Date: June 16, 2010
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
ISBN-13 Book: 978-933718279
Source: Received copy from author for review. This is my honest review!

Two Moon PrincessTwo Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Andrea always knew she was different from her sisters.  Unlike the other princesses who were content studying to be a lady with her mother, the queen, Andrea longed to become a squire and serve in the army.  When she turns fourteen (17 in Earth years), her father ends her dream and sentences her to lady lessons with her mother.  As Andrea struggles with her new life, her longing to be more overwhelms her.  One night after fleeing her father's palace Andrea stumbles upon a gateway to another world (Earth) and learns how different life could be.  When she returns to her world, however, everything begins to crumble as her kingdom readies for a war she may have inadvertently caused.

I can't say how much I enjoyed this book.  I usually don't read a lot of books with a time travel (or in this case world traveling) element.  I can say I was honestly surprised by how smoothly this story flowed between the two worlds and how intricate the history was. 

Andrea's character is really what drives you through this novel.  You have a smart, strong willed young woman who wants more from life than what her parents seek for her.  Her story draws you in, and you find yourself eagerly flipping pages to find out what will happen next in the story.  Her sadness will tug at your heartstrings and her happiness will leave you with a big smile on your face. 

While the other characters aren't as well fleshed out as Andrea, this isn't a problem as you spend so much of your time in Andrea's head seeing things as a young woman who is absorbed in her own life will see them.  The details and background stories gradually come forward as  Andrea herself learns the truth.

The transitions from one world to the other was smoothly done.  I love how the author explained how Andrea was able to grasp the English so quickly and was pleasantly surprised when she addressed directly rather than leaving the reader to come up with their own explanations.

Overall this book is a gem.  A likable heroine, a riveting story, and a lot of emotion.  I want more like this!  I loved it!  (Okay I'll stop now, I'm starting to gush.) :)

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Review: The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima [Audiobook Review Included]

Title: The Exiled Queen
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: Teen Fiction, Fantasy, Action Adventure
Publication Date: September 28, 2010
Publisher: Disney Hyperion Book
Publisher Book on CD:  Recorded Books
ISBN-13 Book: 978-1423118244
ISBN-13 Book on CD:   9781449820299

Source: Purchased book from Barnes and Noble and checked out the book on CD from my public library.  This is my honest review!

The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms, #2)The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After discovering that he is a wizard and accepting the Clan's offer to send him to school in Oden's Ford, Han Alister leaves the Fells with his friend Hayden Firedancer and find himself a whole new set of problems. Too many people want to get their hands on Han and use him as an ally in their political games, not to mention he has to deal with the Micah Bayar, the son of the High Wizard of the Fells whom he attempted to kill. Life is going to be difficult for Han, if he can manage to stay alive that long.

Princess Raisa fled the Fells to avoid a forced marriage to Micah Bayar. She was in over her head, and hoped that she could regain her footing by traveling with Amon to Oden's Ford. Disguised as a recruit she participates in the rigorous training at the Ford, and hopes that she can return to the Fells and be the princess and future queen she is supposed to be. But danger lurks around every corner, and if anyone discovers who she really is, she could become a pawn in their attempts to seize power.
This series is phenomenal! I can't say how much I enjoyed coming back to the stories of Han Alister and Princess Raisa. I longed for that moment when they would finally cross path's again and Chima did not disappoint.

All the characters in this novel feel so real. Chima's character development is the best. I felt like I knew Raisa and Han and I found myself eager to see what would happen to them next.

Romance, adventure, danger, magic, and fighting all make an appearance in this novel. You race through the pages eager to find out what will happen next, and hoping that your favorite characters make it through to the end. So many people are trying to get their hooks in Han that you wonder if he will ever be able to choose his own destiny. Things are looking particularly grim for the Fells with Raisa's absence, and she longs to take her rightful place beside her mother.

I highly recommend this series. This book did not disappoint. I think I enjoyed it better than the first, but that was more because of the pacing. I love books that read fast, and this one does that. This is a series you don't want to miss, but you must read The Demon King before you start on this one, or you will miss a lot of the references in book 2.

I did listen to the audio version of this book performed by Carol Monda. Monda does an excellent job creating the voices of the characters and keeping the listening interesting. This has to be one of my favorite books on CD to date.

I am eagerly anticipating the next book in this series and in my opinion it can't come too soon. The ending leaves a bit of a cliffhanger and I am eager to find out what will happen next. Right now this is a projected four book series, so we have a couple more to go after this one. Book three, The Grey Wolf Throne is currently scheduled to be released later this year on September 20, 2011, and let me tell you I will be standing at the doors when the bookstore opens to buy it. (Of course if Disney would like to include me in the blog tour, I would be more than happy to oblige! :) )

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