Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review: Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep

Title: Touch of Frost
Author: Jennifer Estep
Genre: Teen Fiction, Paranormal, Fantasy
Publication Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Kensington
ISBN-13 Book: 9780758266927
Source: I received a copy of the book for review from the publisher. This is my honest review!

Touch of Frost (Mythos Academy, #1)Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Gwen Frost, aka Gypsy Girl, doesn’t seem to fit in at her new school, Mythos Academy.  Unlike her classmates who are the descendants of great warriors like the Spartans, Amazons, or even Valkyries, Gwen’s only gift is her psychometry which allows her to sense the emotions and thoughts of people she touches or objects that belong to them.  In a school where everyone is a warrior, Gwen wonders why she must go there.  When a student ends up dead, Gwen takes it upon herself to solve the murder when no one else seems to care.

I couldn’t put this one down.  It has everything I like in my books; a feisty heroine, a bit of mystery, and I admit I am a sucker for mythology.  This book hooked me from the beginning and despite some minor flaws kept me reading until the last page.  I even had to go out and purchase the e-book novella and will be preordering the sequel.  I loved this one. 

I really liked Gwen’s character.  You could understand her and wish that she would get what she wants.  While her character was superbly done, the rest of the characters were less well developed.  We know there is more to them, and hopefully we will find out more about them in future novels in this series.

The story was fast paced and interesting.  The mystery was intriguing, but somewhat predictable.  I had much of it figured out before Gwen got there, but despite that I still enjoyed the story.

In the end I didn’t mind those minor flaws in characterization and predictability because the journey to get to the end was so worth the time.  Mythos Academy is a fascinating place, and the people and history are definitely things I want to know more about. 

Overall this novel was a fun read start to finish and I can’t wait for the next Kiss of Frost which comes out November 29, 2011 and I have already purchased the novella First Frost for my nook which was released July 1st.  I can’t wait to read it, and I am definitely going to preorder Kiss of Frost.  This is a series to watch. 


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Want to know more?  Follow the Teen Book Scene Tour for this novel!






Was on Vacation

I know I haven't posted in over a week, but that was because I was on vacation. I really didn't go anywhere, but I also didn't have any computer time because it was just me and my 3 year old. We were working on a special project just for him (okay for me too)--we were potty training. The advantage of this little computer vacation is that I did get some reading done, and I now have a mostly potty trained 3 year old! Yay me!


Quality time with my little one was worth it.

Look for my reviews to come!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guest Post: Shawn Thomas Odyssey Author of The Wizard of Dark Street [Teen Book Scene Tours]

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Shawn Thomas Odyssey, the author of the book
The Wizard of Dark Street, a story of magic, mystery, and evil henchmen.  For a complete description of this wonderful novel visit The Wizard of Dark Street on Goodreads.com.  The Wizard of Dark Street comes out July 26th!  I for one can't wait to read this book!

The Wizard of Dark Street

My Favorite Books from Childhood and My Teen Years

Whenever I tell people that I am a children’s book author, they often make the assumption that I read copious amounts of books when I was a kid, and the truth is, I didn’t. I spent most of my time in the backyard making up games, pretending to be characters, and playing with Star Wars men. We didn’t have much money, and books weren’t on the list of necessities. This, of course, would all change for me in a very big way once I got a little older, but throughout elementary school I was relatively unaware of this fantastic thing called fiction. At least in book form. TV cartoons were my number one.

I did, however, live just down the street from a branch library, and I would often check out books on early native American life. I was big into “Indians.” I also remember being very interested in books on magic and how to be a detective. All non-fiction material. That’s not to say I was totally devoid of book fiction. Mr. Scott, my fifth-grade teacher, would read aloud Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein. I was captivated by stories such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits; their dark humor, slightly twisted characters, and bigger than life settings drew me right in.

While I had the ability to read at a young age, I didn’t truly get into reading fiction until I was in junior high. I remember the first fiction book I got into was a Dungeons and Dragons Endless Quest book. A choose-your-own-adventure sort of story. My mother had grounded me to my room for one reason or another, and so I found myself with nothing to do. I picked up this book, I don’t remember how I got a hold of it in the first place, but it had an illustration of a evil looking wizard on the cover along with a frightened ranger type character and a dwarf. Hum, I thought, I wonder what this is about. I had to read out loud at first, because I wasn’t used to reading stories in my head. But once I got through the first twenty or so pages, I was hooked. In fact I was hooked for life. I don’t think I’ve gone more than a few days since then when I haven’t been reading one story or another.

I became a Lord of The Rings fan early on, and couldn’t get enough of the Sci-Fi series Mission Earth. It was The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy that got me interested in writing. I wanted to be funny. Once I got into high school I discovered Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. That was the first book I ever read twice.

And then there was Stephen King. The first book of his I read was called the Dark Half, and I can still remember the feeling it gave me. There was something about his writing—and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this—that made me want to become a writer. The main character in the book was a writer, so that probably had something to do with it, but I think it mostly had to do with the way Stephen King put his words together. He had a distinctive voice, and it made me realize that I wanted to do that. Have a voice. Not his voice, but my own.

I think that, had it been out in the 1980’s, I would have loved the Harry Potter series, and A Series of Unfortunate Events as well. I’m fairly convinced that its because of those books, along with a handful of others, that there has been a kind of revolution in the children’s book world. Those books got kids interested in reading complex plots and deep characterization at a very early age. I believe they would have done the same for me, and I’m a little jealous of kids today, because, let’s face it, it’s a great time for children’s books!

The Wizard of Dark Street is released on July 26th, 2011 in bookstores nationwide and online in both hardback and eBook formats.

Please visit: http://www.thewizardofdarkstreet.com

Thank you Shawn for dropping by today and telling us about your reading experiences as a teen and a young adult! Congratulations on your novel. I can't wait to read it!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Maragret Stohl

Title: Beautiful Creatures
Author: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Genre: Teen Fiction, Paranormal
Publication Date: December 1, 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13 Book: 9780316042673
Publisher MP3 Book on CD: Hachette Audio
ISBN CD Book: 9781600248467
Source: I purchased the book from my local bookstore and ordered the MP3 CD online. This is my honest review!

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ethan Wate can’t wait to get out of Gatlin.  He has been trapped in his small southern town his whole life.  Surrounded by the close-minded women of the  DAR and the historical society who run the town.  Since the death of his mother, he has no reason for staying, and he is counting the days until he can leave.  Until he meets Lena Duchannes.  Lena, the niece of the town recluse Macon Ravonwood, is a mystery to Ethan and completely abhorred by the town.  Yet, Ethan feels that he knows her and that there is some kind of connection between them.  Mysterious dreams, and even more mysterious events begin occur in Gatlin, and Ethan discovers there is more to backward town than he ever imagined.

First off let me say whew—this book is a long one.  At 563 pages it is a huge book and a bit intimidating to start.  Despite its daunting length Beatutiful Creatures is a spectacular read and a fast one at that.  When I first started the book, I read 50 pages in one sitting without even realizing it—it had me hooked.  So if the length of this book scares you—don’t let it.  It is a fast and highly entertaining book to read. 

The setting of this book places you in the deep south.  Ethan lives in a town that has a lot of history and a lot of culture and traditions.  Gatlin was one of the places where Sherman marched and burned through the town.  The only plantation that survived Sherman’s march was Ravenwood, a plantation that is now owned by the mysterious town recluse Macon Ravonwood, Lena’s uncle.  The setting had just the right amount of creepy ambiance, historical intricacies, and of course mystery. 

The characters in this novel were very well developed even some of the supporting ones like Ethan’s best friend Link, Amma, Macon, and Marian the librarian.  These were people you just wanted to meet and know.  Of course there were others that frustrated you to no end like Mrs. Lincoln, the women of the DAR, Emily Asher, and Savannah Snow, as well as the other cheerleaders and basketball players.  Some of those characters were your stereotypical bad guys, but at the same time you knew they weren’t all bad—they were just doing what their parents were.  I loved how the authors made these characters come alive and jump off the page.  They made you feel like you were walking into the town of Gatlin.

In addition to reading the book (mostly because I couldn’t put it down) I also listened to the MP3 recording of the novel read by Kevin T. Collins and produced by Hatchette Audio.  Collins does an outstanding job of narrating this novel.  His southern accent was not over the top, but added just the right amount of character to the novel.  This production does include sound effects, which in places like the flashback scenes enhanced the performance, but in other places were a bit distracting.  The audio production is great though and well worth a listen.  I just wish they had a CD version rather than an MP3.  I had to wait until I finally got an MP3 player for Christmas and another few months before I could purchase an adapter for my car so I could listen in my car since I do most of my audiobook listening while driving to and from work.  It made for some clunky listening, but in the end was worth it.

Overall, Beautiful Creatures is an engrossing Southern Gothic that will keep readers up late at night to finish this fantastic book!


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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: Effie at the Wedding by Tracy Marchini [Teen Book Scene Tours]



Title: Effie at the Wedding
Author: Tracy Marchini
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: March 30, 2011
Publisher: Squirrel Books
Source: I received a copy for review from Teen Book Scene Tours. This is my honest review!

Effie At The WeddingEffie At The Wedding by Tracy Marchini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Effie loves lists, and her lists right now concern her sister’s wedding. She isn’t ready for her sister to get married and leave. Effie at the Wedding is a charming short story about a girl who doesn’t want anything to change. She is a girl who compares herself to her sister and finds herself lacking, but loving her older more perfect sister all the same.

This is such a sweet story. Effie’s concerns are believable and understandable. She doesn’t want to lose the close relationship she shares with her older sister.

Overall this is a sweet short story. I would love to hear more from Effie in the future!


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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tens List from Siren's Storm Author Lisa Papademetriou [Teen Book Scene Tours]


Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Lisa Papademetriou to my blog to talk about the 10 most exciting things that have ever happened to her.  Her book Siren's Storm just came out yesterday and tells the story of Will whose brother has supposedly drowned in a boating accident, but Will has no memory of the event.  Now a year later his friend Gretchen is troubled by her sleepwalking and a mysterious new girl Asia has shown up in town.  Is Will's connection to Asia a coincidence, or could it be something more sinister?  Be sure to pick up your copy of Siren's Storm!

"Ten Most Exciting Things That Have Ever Happened To Me" by Lisa Papademetriou

10. Won tickets to David Bowie concert by saying the Terrible Tuesday Tongue Twister on radio.

9. Appeared in Spanish-Language production of The King And I (El Rey y Yo) in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

8. Nearly drowned in riptide in Guatemala. (Terrifying is exciting, right?) Had to be rescued.

7. (Accidentally) almost bought a live bull decorated in flowers in Pakistan. Had to be rescued.

6. Visited tiny village in Greece (Louvri), where my grandfather grew up. Went into my great-grandmother’s house (she died in 1968); found my parents’ wedding picture still standing by the bed and a trunk full of photos of my family. Stole them.

5. Moved to New York City to work in publishing.

4. Went scuba diving for first time in Mexico. Colorful fish!

3. Published my first book (Sixth-Grade Glommers, Norks, and Me).

2. Despite unsolicited advice from bitter stranger on an elevator (“Don’t do it!”), eloped with man of my dreams.

1. Gave birth to Best Girl in the World.

Thank you Lisa for joining me today and best of luck with Siren Storm!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Guest Post from Janet Ruth Young Author of The Babysitter Murders: How I Got Into Writing and Eventually Became Published

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Janet Ruth Young, author of The Babysitter Muders to my blog.  The Babysitter Muders is a book that is sure to capture teen interest.  A teenage girl who babysits for a little boy starts having disturbing thoughts about hurting the little boy.  When she reveals this secret, her town becomes the center of attention, and she faces people who mean her harm.  The Babysitter Murders is an engrossing and really fast read!  Check it out!

Welcome Janet!

How I Got Into Writing and Eventually Became Published

I had my vocation handed to me in childhood.  A teacher told my mother that I had writing ability, and my mother, who was a great reader of books, ran with that comment for the next fifteen years. I was first published at the age of eight, when the Long Island Press newspaper published my letter objecting to what I heard was going to be a new dumbed-down version of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.

Like my character Dani Solomon, I had an active imagination that was both a blessing and curse. I was a fearful child, and my mom kept saying, “If you’re going to be a writer you have to experience things.” She was referring to stuff like going into dark, scary caves on our family vacation to Virginia.  Later, in my teen years, I felt driven to experiment with and experience things that were riskier than the ones she had selected for me, and perhaps she regretted her words.

As a teen I not only enjoyed writing but got a great deal of reinforcement for it, including being selected as high school graduation speaker.  I got both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in English, with an emphasis on creative writing. Later, managing a good career as an editor at a textbook company, I got up an hour early each day to write, producing a mean-girls novel called “The Four Lessons.” When that book (very derivative and generally a dud, as I look back on it) didn’t find a publisher, I felt discouraged for a bit, but I rallied and decided to attack my writing career with all the attention and devotion I could muster.  I saved enough money to get by for six months, then quit my job to write a second book.

That book, The Opposite of Music, received the PEN New England Discovery Award when it was just a small portion of an early draft.  I finished writing the rest in three months.  The first editor I sent the manuscript to, at FSG, loved it and held onto it for nearly a year while trying to convince management to sign me, which didn’t happen.  But that early response convinced me that I had something special to offer, and I sent the manuscript to only four or five other editors before finding a home with Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum.  As the publication date for Music neared and initial reviews were good, Atheneum signed me for two more books based on brief descriptions I gave an editor over the phone (note the importance of having a honed “elevator pitch”).  The Babysitter Murders is the second of my three books for Atheneum, all of which explore mental illness topics and share some characters.

Thank you Janet for joining me today!

The Babysitter Murders

Don't miss your chance to read The Babysitter Murders which comes out from Atheneum on July 26, 2011!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Review: The Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young [Teen Book Scene Tours]

Title: The Babysitter Murders
Author: Janet Ruth Young
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Atheneum
ISBN-13 Book: 9781416959441
Source: I received a copy for review from Teen Book Scene Tours.  This is my honest review!


The Babysitter MurdersThe Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Dani Solomon is talented, beautiful, and comes from a wealthy family.  She is a member of the Hawtones, an a cappella  group at her high school, and a star player on the school’s tennis team.  She loves the little boy she babysits for, Alex.  But Dani has a secret.  She has thoughts she can’t control.  Thoughts of outing her best friend in public, inappropriate thoughts about those around her, but scariest of all are the realistically disturbing images she sees in her mind of herself murdering little Alex.  When Alex’s mother won’t let Dani quit babysitting for him, she tells Alex’s mother about her disturbing thoughts setting off a series of events that will put her life in danger and turn the media spotlight on her small town.  The town wants justice, and they want to make Dani pay.

First off, let me say that I will be able to sell this book to teens at my library with no problem.  It is a story with the juiciest gossip, a persecuted teen, and the most frightening consequences.  The teens I know will love this book and want more like them. 

Dani is a likable girl with a real problem.  She makes a mistake by telling the wrong person about her inappropriate thoughts and that causes the town to go into an uproar.  The pacing is spot on and propels you through the novel making this an extremely fast read.  There is action and danger that will keep teens on the edge of their seats to know what will happen next.  Most importantly, there are people who are good friends to Dani, even after they find out her secret.
 
On a side note, it has been an incredibly long time since I read a book with third person omniscient narration.  It was kind of startling when I first read the book.  I felt like an outsider looking in at the story rather than an active participant.  It works for this story though, because so much of it depends on the voyeuristic characteristics that Third Person Omniscient narration can give.  You can see all parts of the story while they are happening.
 
Overall this book has a lot of teen appeal and will definitely attract teens.  However, it wasn’t one of my favorite books to read this year.  Yes, it was an incredibly quick read, and yes it was interesting, but I found the story to be a little over the top.  Great sell to teens, but it wasn’t for me.  That said, I made sure to purchase multiple copies for my library.   




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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Character Interview and Giveaway: "Effie at the Wedding" by Tracy Marchini [Teen Book Scene Tours]



“Effie At the Wedding” is a charming contemporary YA short story by Tracy Marchini (www.tracymarchini.com).  It features Effie, who is struggling to deal with her issues with her family and the changes she will face after her sister's wedding.  It is an Ebook available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. 

Character Interview with Ophelia

Ophelia, Effie's older sister, is getting married.

1.As you know, Effie seems to appreciate lists, so Ophelia I would like you to list three you love about Effie?

Hmm, three things about Effie.  Well, one, Effie is great at making lists! (No? That doesn’t count?)

Okay, one, Effie is great at making me laugh.  She’s one of those people that can make you laugh until your sides hurt with one well-placed remark.  I’m not nearly as funny as she is.

Two, sometimes I can be afraid to say what I really think or want if I know it’ll upset other people.  I like to make people happy, and I don’t think Effie has that problem.  (Not that she likes to make people sad, or anything, but she’s not afraid of being honest.)  I admire that about her, and wish that I could be a bit more like that myself.

Three, Effie has excellent taste in music.  She’ll make these elaborately themed mix CDs if we’re going on a longer trip together.  She can’t sing though, but she still tries when she thinks we can’t hear her.  (We can.  Thank God mom is equally tone-deaf, otherwise Effie would probably hear from her about that too!)

2.Why do you think Effie is so upset about you getting married?

Well, I definitely think she’ll miss having me at home as a buffer between her and my mom.  My mom means well, but she can be overly concerned about things.  Like Effie’s dessert intake or the color of my bridesmaid’s dresses.  (You didn’t think I picked the dress all by myself, did you?)  It was either the pink dress that I think I overheard Effie describing as “fluorescent Pepto-Bismol” or this other, even poofier, puke green dress that my mom was in love with.  I was hoping that by giving my mom control of one thing, she wouldn’t try to control everything.  It worked for a little bit… until it was time to talk party favors. 
3.How do you think your relationship with Effie will change?

Effie and I will always have our Friday night dinners, but it will probably be harder now that I’m not living at home anymore.  I mean, George does long hours, and I’m thinking about going back to school, and I know it’s too early to be thinking about this, but we might have a baby at some point… so I’m going to try and keep to our Friday schedule, but I’m hoping she’ll be understanding if I have to bail on some of them.  Plus, I’m sure she’s going to get super busy as well.  She’ll be thinking about applying to college and going to senior prom.  (I promise NOT to let her go dress shopping for prom without me.  I know Effie doesn’t trust my dress judgment at the moment, but trust me, it’d be much worse if she just went with mom!)

4. Describe your relationship with your sister.  Are you close?

I think we’re pretty close.  Our relationship did change a bit before I even got married.  At one point, we were inseparable, but then I started dating and I was spending more time with boyfriends than with her.  And then George became my best-friend, and I didn’t have room to be best-friends with everybody.  But that’s natural, right?  I mean, I hope she understands that my priorities are going to have to change a little.

5.Do you think your family is being too hard on Effie about her weight?

I think my mom can be tough.  She means well, but she doesn’t really understand.   Sometimes I feel bad because I never had to struggle with my weight, and I know that Effie has occasionally held that against me.  I can’t help my metabolism though, and neither can she.  Honestly, I think sometimes my mom and my family think she’s doing it on purpose.  My mother will be so mad when she reads this but sometimes, I think she’s trying to guilt Effie into being more like me.  My aunt and grandma, too.  They mean well, but yeah, I think that they could probably cut Effie some slack.  That’s how Friday dinners all started, I just wanted her to have a night out without judgment.

I make my relatives sound terrible.  But they’re great… they’re just, um, eccentric?  Or, uh…well, they’re also not afraid to be honest with their opinions.  I just hope Effie remembers that they’re just that  -- opinions!

Now for the Giveaway!

Two lucky winners will receive an Amazon E-copies of EFFIE AT THE WEDDING!

Open to anyone who can read Amazon e-books.

  • Must be able to read Amazon e-books
  • Must be 13 years or older.
  • Giveaway ends July 12, 2011 at 11:59 EST.
  • Winner will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.
  • Must fill out the form to win--comments while greatly appreciated will not count as entries.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

Title: The Girl in the Steel Corset
Author: Kady Cross
Genre: Teen Fiction, Steampunk
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
ISBN-13 Book: 9780373210336
Source: I originally started to read this book from NetGalley, but purchased the book from my local bookstore when I had some trouble with my e-reader. This is my honest review!


The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles, #1)The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sixteen year-old Finley Jayne doesn't know exactly what she is, but for your own safety, it is unwise to make her angry.  When the son of her employer attacks her, Finley protects herself, and finds herself out of a job and running for her life.  While running away from the repercussions of her violent actions, Finley stumbles into Griffin King, the young Duke of Greythorne, who has some unusual abilities of his own.  He and his group of unusual friends are after a man they call the Machinist who is turning automatons against their owners, and using them to commit crimes.  Griff, recognizes Finley as one of their own, and tries to convince her that she can help him stop the Machinist and find out who and what she is once and for all.

I can't help it, I am going to gush about this book.  If you want to skip the gushing, just skip to the end of the review, because I have a lot to gush about!

First, the characters are wonderful--even the supporting ones.  Finley Jayne is smart, strong, and even sassy at times.  She has two warring personalities, and this is portrayed very well.  I love Griffin, his calm reassurance that he always has a plan and his desire to save everyone.  Emily is charming and it is so refreshing to see a girl that is smart and mechanically inclined.  Sam was probably my least favorite character, but that is because I felt like he wallowed in his losses.  The character development was outstanding.  I love these characters and wanted to spend more time with them.

Secondly, the setting was exceptionally well done.  The story takes place in a steampunk version of Victorian London.  Although steampunk adds technology that doesn't exist in the time period of the book, it blended well into this novel.  The technology and the Victorian era go well together, and it never felt forced to me.  I could believe that this world existed and I wanted to go there.

Finally, the story keeps the reader engaged.  It was vivid, fast paced, and action packed.  I couldn't wait to keep reading this novel because I wanted to know what would happen next.

Overall, this novel is positively stunning.  I loved this book, these characters, and couldn't stand to step away from it when finished.  To be honest, I am already contemplating rereading it because I enjoyed it so much.  This book is the first book in the Steampunk Chonicles series.  My only regret is that I don't know when book #2 in the series will come out.  Not soon enough for this fan!




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New Header!

You might have noticed today, that I made a couple of changes to my blog.  Well more are in the works, but what I am thrilled about is the new header!  I really, really want to thank Liz at Cleaverly Inked for all the hard work she did to create my new header.  I love it!  THANK YOU LIZ!!!!

If you get a chance, stop by Liz's blog Cleaverly Inked!  She is definitely one of my favorite bloggers to visit!



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