Thursday, July 14, 2011

Haunting Violet


Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Pages: 344,
Published: June 2011, Walker Books for Young Readers
Genre: Paranormal/Historical fiction/Mystery
Cover Score: A
Overall Grade:

As the daughter of a scam-artist "medium", Violet Willoughby naturally doesn't believe in ghosts. But when she is forced to accompany her mother to the wealthy Lord Jasper's country estate to conduct seances, she is forced to reconsider her views on the spiritualist world. There, Violet encounters a frightening vision she can't ignore: the ghost of a young girl, seeking justice from beyond. Thrust into the center of an unsolved murder admidst the highest echelon of Victorian society, Violet must discover the mystery behind this girl's violent death before her twin sister suffers the same fate. The only person Violet can trust with her secret is her mother's assistant Colin...but will she be able to accept her new talent and prevent another murder without risking her own chances for a future with the one she truly loves?

My thoughts: I had a tough time getting into the first few chapters of Haunting Violet, but once I had reached the tenth page or so, this haunting, beautifully written, fast-paced, and easy to understand romance/Victorian mystery/paranormal delight flew by.
I fell in love with Ms. Harvey's Drake Chronicles, so I was thrilled when I heard that she was writing a new book that went in a different direction. All in all, I was pleased with Haunting Violet--equal parts high-class Victorian-era glamour, swoon-worthy romance, and murder mystery, one thing made itself very clear throughout the novel: Ms. Harvey did her research! Each detail that made the book so lifelike and clear was perfectly on-key with the time period: the clothes, the mannerisms, the dialogue, the descriptions of the country manor and gardens.
Although the plot was pretty much that of your average paranormal novel, these details and the Victorian English setting took the book to another level. The plot moved quickly and fluidly, and I loved the realistic relationship between Colin and Violet (you could just feel the social tension), the mystery and glamour of the seances, the strained relationship between Violet and her fraudulent mother, and the chilling murder that Violet had to solve before time ran out.
Interesting, unique, and beautifully, realistically written, Haunting Violet will please both avid paranormal readers and fans of historical fiction.

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Monthly Mailbox: June


June was a pretty quiet month for actual blogging (ahem, school finals and vacation/blogging hiatus). However, my mailbox was full when I got home from a trip to Spain!

Just for fun:
  • The Lovely Shoes by Susan Shreve
  • Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt (And Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell) by Crickett Rumley
  • The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch
  • Haunting Violet (for a Bloomsbury book tour) by Alyxandra Harvey (thank you to Kate Lied)
  • To Catch a Prince by Gillian McKnight
  • Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman
When I came home from Spain, I found this box of books waiting for me from Random House!:

  • Sons of Liberty: Death and Taxes by Alexander & Joseph Lagos
  • Amen, L.A. by Cherie Bennett & Jeff Gottesfeld
  • Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
  • Starstruck by Cyn Balog
  • The Other Countess by Eve Edwards
  • The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt
  • Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris
  • Wildcat Fireflies by Amber Kizer
  • Sass & Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler
These are going to be so much fun to read, I've got a lot of reviewing ahead of me! :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Save the Date


Author: Tamara Summers
Pages: 314
Published: HarperTeen, 2008
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Cover Score: D
Overall Grade: A

17 year old Jakarta (aka Jack) is sick of being a bridesmaid. With two out of five older sisters already married, she's had her fair share of Bridezilla catfights, lacy gowns, pre-nuptial stress, flowery wedding showers, and drama. Not to mention her "wedding curse"--every time she brings a boyfriend to a wedding, it ends the relationship and disaster ensues. However, two of her older sisters are planning summer weddings, which means that Jack is back to making place settings and sampling cake flavors. However, the drama of the weddings might be bearable, what with the company of the wedding planner's attractive son, Leo...Will he be able to break her curse?

My thoughts: I took this book on vacation with me, and was expecting a light, breezy beach read. However, Save the Date blew past my expectations. Don't let the cheesy book cover fool you: Save the Date is a hilarious, honest, and quick summertime read that is not all whirlwind romance and fluff.
The best thing about this novel, to me, was Jack's narration. She was frank and funny, and completely unlike the stereotypical protagonist of a romance novel. She was sarcastic and often ridiculed her sister's following of cheesy traditions, much to their disapproval. I loved the relationship between the sisters: the drama with flower-child Victoria and crazy, artistic Paris planning their own, very different weddings added comic relief. I often found myself laughing out loud at their antics! I also liked the romance between Jack and Leo, as it didn't consume the whole storyline. The book was also about family and sisterhood, not just romance.
As well, the "wedding curse" was a unique addition to the storyline. It was interesting to see Jack trying to push aside her feelings for Leo in order to save her sister's weddings.
Overall, if you're looking for a funny, light, and well-written book that you'll get sucked in to, definitely check out Save the Date. Will the weddings be disastrous? Or is the Wedding Curse over?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What Would Audrey Do?


Title: What Would Audrey Do? Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace and Style
Author:
Pamela Keogh
Pages: 253
Published: Gotham Books, 2008
Genre: How-to/Etiquette/Biography
Cover Score: A
Overall Grade: B+

Audrey Hepburn was more than a movie star--she was mother, humanitarian, Holocaust survivor, and the epitome of class, grace, and style. Whether in fashion, relationships, her work on the screen, or UNICEF, there is no one more worthy of imitation. What Would Audrey Do? presents readers with the necessary tips and mannerisms needed to become a woman of grace and style, just like Audrey herself.

My thoughts:
What Would Audrey Do? is more than an etiquette book based off of the mannerisms of an iconic, timeless cinema star. It is chock-full of interesting facts about Audrey herself, a style guide, and a biographical account that explores the most private aspects of the star's life.
The book is carefully sectioned into chapters that dole out advice in a graceful, endearing manner that Audrey herself would be proud of: "Audrey as a Movie Star", "Romance Central", "Zen Audrey", "Home Studies", "On the Road", "'A Very Stylish Girl...'", "Heartbreak and Solace", "Modern Times", "St. Audrey", and "Legend".
What Would Audrey Do? is a book that you want to snuggle up with on a rainy day, a book that you want to drink tea and eat bonbons with while reading it in a rose garden. It reads quickly, and not like an etiquette book at all, which most often simply lay out rules in a commanding manner.
Ms. Keogh delicately displays the "dos and donts" of a lady in an old-fashioned and quirky manner, while supplementing her facts with tidbits and Audrey history, stories that are both amusing, hilarious, heartbreaking, and relatable. This guide to living life with grace and character is a delightful and charming presentation of Audrey's life, as well.
Ms. Keogh's admiring and spunky account of this iconic star's life verifies that Audrey goes beyond what we believe to be a "celebrity". A true role model, What Would Audrey Do? justifies how much of a role model Ms. Hepburn truly was--and still is.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sartorialist



Author: Scott Schuman
Pages: 507
Published: Penguin, 2009
Genre: Nonfiction/Fashion photography
Overall Grade: A

Scott Schuman just wanted to take pictures of people on the street who looked great. His now renowned fashion blog, The Sartorialist, was an attempt to showcase the wonderful and varied style of real people--not only those of the fashion industry. This book is an anthology of Scott's favorite shots from around the world, including well-known fashion figures, as well as shots of anonymous passersby whose outfits are created with comendable imagination and taste. From the streets of Rio to Beijing, Stockholm to Milan, these are the people that have inspired Scott and in turn, inspired designers and people of all ages, wage and nationalities with an interest in fashion.

My thoughts: The Sartorialist is a book that I want to keep around--sitting on my
dresser as a source of inspiration when I'm getting dressed in the morning, resting on my coffee table when I want a dash of beauty in my day, in my hand as I commute home from school. A collection of beautiful, glossy, color shots, this book truly satisfies the fashion junkie within me.
One of the best things about this anthology is that it is light on words and heavy on images--showing, and not telling, about the extraordinary and unusual job of Mr. Schuman, and the people he meets and encounters on a daily basis, picking them out of a crowd.
I spent a whole afternoon combing through the book and taking notes on my favorite outfits. The book is small (ideal for travel!), but packed full of funny anecdotes, memorable faces, and unique looks that make me want to paw through my closet and put together my own polished outfits.
Mr. Schuman is beyond a "fashion photographer"--he is a portrait artist,
capturing the personality and inner essence of every person he photographs. The way he photographs clothes gives readers tiny glimpses into the private lives of his subjects--the holes in the shoes of the tiny woman on one of the glossy, minimalistic pages hints at a difficult life, but her brightly colored bag is a spark of hope.
Some of the outfits are good enough to be replicated, some are quirky and bizarre, and yet others are stunning takes on "fashion" that you want to hang on your walls.
I will definitely continue reading The Sartorialist blog daily, and this chunky book of style makes a great gift for a fashion or photography-crazy friend.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Monthly Mailbox: May

My take on the Story Siren's In My Mailbox!
Thank you to Random House Children's Books!

  • I So Don't Do Famous by Barrie Summy
  • Things I Know About Love by Kate le Vann
  • Passion by Lauren Kate
  • The Lucky Kind by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
  • Tighter by Adele Griffin
  • Kiss of Death by Lauren Henderson

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The A Circuit


Authors: Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka
Pages: 272
Published: Bloomsbury, 2011
Genre: Realistic fiction
Cover Score: B
Overall Grade: A-

On the A-circuit, talented teenage equestrians travel the country competing at top levels of horse showing, in the hopes of winning prestige and glory. At Pelham Lane Stables outside of New York City, the teen riders are some of the best competing on the circuit. Tommi, a billionaire heiress, and Kate, a working student are serious about their riding. So when party girl Zara Trask, daughter of a famous rock star, shows up at Pelham Lane in a wake of drama and attitude from LA, she is not welcome. Then there's Fitz, the barn's resident Casanova, who just wants Kate to give him a chance. But for these girls, who all want to prove themselves, the real challenge will be when the drama from the real world spills into the show ring!

My thoughts: As an equestrian who competes on the A-circuit herself, I was pleasantly surprised and satisfied by Ms. Bloomberg's debut in young adult fiction. The author's account of the elite level of horseback riding is accurate (although a bit more melodramatic), and she doesn't try to gloss over the less-glamorous aspects of the sport, giving the reader a good understanding of all of the work, sweat, and tears that are part of the horse world.
All three main characters were well-developed and had a good background story: party animal Zara is sick of living under her famous father's shadow, working-girl Kate is trying to make a name for herself despite her self-doubt, and Tommi wants to prove that she is more than her father's money. It was interesting to see how each girl struggled with her personal problems, attempting to solve them, as the plot progressed. The book itself was fast-paced, and I whipped through the chapters, eagerly seeing what was next.
For girls who love horses and enjoy books like Gossip Girl, The A-Circuit is perfect. While I was expecting a Clique-like novel filled chock-full with mean girls, catfights, and tension, I was pleasantly surprised by how I could relate to all 3 of the girls, and the bonds between them and their teammates, their horses. There was still a level of privilege and social drama, but it only made the plot more interesting and juicier
However, I was expecting more action from the novel, and was a bit disappointed by the abrupt ending (I felt that it needed more closure). Nevertheless, Ms. Bloomberg has the makings of a great series on her hands--she has set up conflicts and left me with questions that I am excited to see answered in future books. All in all, I can't wait for more fast-paced action, suspense, and romance.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tempest Rising


Author: Tracy Deebs
Pages: 341
Published: Walker Books for Young Readers, 2011
Genre: Paranormal/Romance
Cover Score: B-
Overall Grade: A

Tempest Maguire is more than comfortable with the life she has: her one love is surfing the California waves with her boyfriend, Mark, and hanging out with her dad and two little brothers. However, Tempest's 17th birthday is approaching, and she will have to make a decision that typical teenagers don't have to face: as a half-mermaid, does she want to remain on land, or does she want to give herself to the ocean like her mermaid mother, who left Tempest and her brothers 11 years ago to return to her true home? Even though Tempest loves her friends and family, the pull of the water is becoming increasingly insistent, as is her attraction to Kai, a mysterious and gorgeous surfer whose superhuman abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. When Tempest enters the underwater world, it is unlike anything she ever could have imagined--she will come face to face with power-hungry sea witches, terrifying monsters, her mother, and, ultimately, her destiny, which the whole sea depends on...

My thoughts: Wow! I am definitely loving this current "mermaid" trend in YA! Tempest Rising was enchanting and beautifully written. I was sucked in to Tempest's story by page one, and it was an exhilarating ride, right up to the conclusion.
I really liked how the book wasn't all fantasy: it was about romance; it was about a mother and a daughter; it was about choosing your future. There was a perfect amount of lead-up (aka Tempest's life on land), so that I got to know Tempest's character and the importance of the decisions she had to make.
There was so much emotion jam-packed into a couple of hundred pages, and as a reader, I felt them all, sympathizing for Tempest. I felt the tension within the Mark-Tempest-Kai love triangle, I felt Tempest's longing for the sea, I felt her anger towards being abandoned by her mother, I experienced her confusion and fear at turning into a mermaid, I felt the love she had for her brothers and father, and I felt her guilt as if it were my own.
In addition, Ms. Deebs created a fantastical underwater environment that gave the novel a genuine 3D feel. I felt as if I were swimming alongside Tempest in this magical alternate reality that was flawlessly created. Tempest was easy to relate to, and I saw a lot of myself in her.
Although I was expecting more action and adventure and less internal monologue, I really enjoyed the fast, thrilling, romantic, ride of Tempest Rising. Overall, a stunning debut. I can't wait to see what's next for Tracy Deebs, Tempest, and Kai!

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Monday, May 9, 2011

OyMG


Author: Amy Fellner Dominy
Pages: 256
Published: May 11 2011, Walker Books for Young Readers
Cover Score: B
Overall Grade: A

Ellie Taylor loves nothing more than a good argument. After all, she's been arguing with her Yiddish grandfather, Zeydeh, ever since she could talk. So when she gets accepted to the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp, she's psyched--the end-of-camp speech tournament could present her with a scholarship to the best speech school in the country! However, winning the scholarship won't be easy. The competition is hot--literally. His name is Devon Yeats, and whether she likes it or not, he makes her sizzle! Ellie is determined to win--until she discovers that the scholarship's private benefactor has negative feelings towards Jews. Will hiding her true identity and heritage be worth a shot at her dream?

My thoughts: I really, really enjoyed OyMG. It was funny, it was witty; it was lighthearted and fun and unique.
First of all, I need to acknowledge all of the wonderful characters. Ellie was a realistic protagonist who was struggling between hiding her true identity to fit in (and therefore disappointing her family), and revealing her secret, which could ruin her dream. I felt that the situations Ellie found herself in were relatable. She had a great, energetic voice, and her story really spoke to me, even though I'm not Jewish. I feel like any teen can relate to her situation. Zeydeh, Ellie's traditional Jewish grandfather, was absolutely endearing--his words of wisdom really stuck with me, and provide a strong, positive message for the book.
I loved the humor in the plot--the witty banter between Devon and Ellie lightened up some of the heavier issues that the novel brought to the table, such as modern-day anti-Semitism and accepting who you are.
Although this story was about so much more than going to a speech camp, the setting of the camp was a fun addition, and gave the story a unique edge (and really helped boost the dramatic ending!).
All in all, OyMG gave me that warm, and satisfying feeling, like I had just eaten a bowl of hot, homemade matzo ball soup. A great debut for middle-grade readers!

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother!

*** Thank you to Kate Lied and Bloomsbury Children's Books for giving me the great opportunity to participate in this blog tour!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Free E-Book Alert!


From May 3 through May 9th, Sourcebooks is offering a free e-book copy of Kim Culbertson's Songs for a Teenage Nomad! If you're interested in checking out this award-winning YA book, click here! As well, keep your eyes peeled for a review of Kim's latest release, Instructions for a Broken Heart, coming soon on my blog! Meanwhile, you can check out the book trailer here and get excited for a novel jam-packed with romance, humor, and Italy!


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Monthly Mailbox

...A very lazy book blogger's take on The Story Siren's "In My Mailbox"! Here's the contents of my mailbox for the month of April...and maybe even February and March, too. :)

  • Famous by Todd Strasser
  • The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky
  • North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
  • Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley

For Review (many thanks to Bloomsbury Children's Books & Sourcebooks!):
  • Are You Going to Kiss Me Now? by Sloane Tanen
  • The A-Circuit by Georgina Bloomberg
  • OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy
  • Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
  • Flawless by Lara Chapman
For Review, cont. (many thanks to Random House Children's Books):

  • The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
  • The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper
  • Exposed by Kimberley Marcus
  • Jersey Tomatoes are the Best by Maria Padian
  • Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
  • Orchards by Holly Thompson
  • Seven Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes by Amber Kizer
(not pictured):
  • Faerie Winter by Janni Lee Simner
  • Flip by Martyn Bedford
  • Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Demonglass


Author: Rachel Hawkins
Pages: 359
Published: Hyperion, 2011
Genre: Fantasy/Mystery
Cover Score: B+
Overall Grade: A

Sophie Mercer's last semester at Hecate Hall (aka reform school for shape-shifters, witches, and faeries) was stressful. Not only did she find out that she was a demon, but her great-grandmother killed her best frenemy and her crush turned out to be working for an organization whose goal is to wipe out all demons. As one of the two demons (the other is her father) in the world, Sophie possesses dangerous and volatile powers that threaten everyone she loves, which is why she decides to go to London to get the Removal--a perilous procedure that would remove all of her powers. But when Sophie arrives, her new housemates are demons--which means that someone's secretly raising demons, with creepy plans to use their powers (and probably not for good). Meanwhile, the Eye is still hunting down Sophie in hopes of wiping her off the face of the earth, and they're using her ex-crush Archer to do it. Good thing she doesn't have feelings for him anymore. Right?

My thoughts: Demonglass as definitely one of the best books I've read this year. While I loved the first book in this series, Hex Hall, Demonglass simply blew me away! This novel was just the right length--there was plenty of action, juicy secrets, and romance packed in, and it wasn't too lengthy or complex.
I loved Sophie as the narrator--she was fresh, funny, and relatable. I enjoyed seeing her relationship with her father flourish, and I loved her witty interactions with Archer. The plotline moved quickly and fluidly, and was easy to follow. Ms. Hawkins clearly spent a lot of time on details when it came to the magical properties of the characters, and it showed. The demon history and background information that she provided helped the plot become 3-dimensional and realistic (well, as real as demons and witches can get!).
Thorne Abbey, where Sophie stays in England, made a great setting. It was mystical and mysterious, and Ms. Hawkins's beautiful descriptions made it come to life.
I do have to put forth a warning--once you start reading Demonglass, you most likely will not be able to put it down until the heart-stopping, cliff-hanging ending. I can't wait to see what's next for Sophie in this thrilling, exhilarating series!

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mystify


Author: Artist Arthur
Pages: 245
Published: KimaniTru, 2011
Genre: Paranormal
Cover Score: C
Overall Grade: n/a

Growing up with parents who are more interested in the Lincoln, Connecticut social scene than their own daughter, Sasha Carrington has always felt like an outsider. That is, until she meets Jake and Krystal--her fellow Mystyx who, like her, possess supernatural capabilities that they use to battle a mysterious dark force that is headed towards Lincoln. Not only is Sasha trying to grapple with her new powers and where they come from, she's also dealing with social pressures from her parents, as well as unexplainable feelings for Antoine Watson, a boy who she shouldn't like, but can't help feeling drawn to. The dark side is getting stronger, and as Sasha's powers grow, she must come face-to-face with decisions that affect her friends, family, and, ultimately, her destiny.

My thoughts: I really, really don't like giving bad reviews, but I just couldn't finish Mystify. At about 100 pages in, I had to put it down. I was really disappointed by the second book of the otherwise promising Mystyx series. After really enjoying the first book in this new ghostly paranormal trilogy, Manifest, I was surprised that Mystify and I didn't click. It had all the ingredients for success: forbidden romance, a modern and realistic protagonist, and a unique paranormal twist that even included mythology, which I love.
I just felt like I couldn't relate to Sasha's character, like she wasn't a real person. Her generic narrative felt very forced and formulaic, and after a while, the storyline became too wordy and slow to keep me interested. I know there is a suspenseful, fast-paced plot hiding underneath all of Sasha's internal monologues and lengthy descriptions of everything and everyone, but I just could not locate it. As well, the powers of the Mystyx and exactly what they do and what dark force they are trying to stop was unclear to me, which muddied the storyline and gave it no clear destination.
Who knows? Maybe I'll give Mystify another try later on down the road, but for now, I can't say that I'll be able to complete this series.

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mini Reviews!

Here's what I've been reading lately during my lapse from blogging (very very bad, I know, but life happens!). I've been super busy and took the small amounts of free time I've had to catch up on books that I should have started way earlier! :)

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Pages: 384
Published: 2008, Scholastic
Genre: Action/Fantasy/Dystopia
Overall Grade: A

In the not-so-distant-future, North America has collapsed into a single country (divided into thirteen districts) called Panem. Each year, two children from each district are selected to battle it out to the death in the televised, gladiator-sport-like Hunger Games, in the hopes of obtaining ultimate glory for their district. A talented hunter and survivalist, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen is used to fending for herself and her family in impoverished, filthy District 12. However, when her little sister is selected to be in the brutal Hunger Games, she volunteers to take her spot, and alongside fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark, she must fight for her life when she is plunged into the violent world of the Games. As time goes by, she must face the difficult decision of love vs. survival.

My thoughts: The Hunger Games was unlike anything I've ever read before. Impossibly brutal, candid, and fast-paced, I was sucked into this dystopian world and into the mind of the book's bold, brave heroine Katniss Everdeen, who was relatable, strong, and admirable. This is one of those books that, after reading, I ask myself: why didn't I read this sooner? I picked up the Hunger Games on a rainy day and was plunged into the violent, harsh environment of the Games. I could picture every event in my mind, and the characters were realistic and interesting.
Ms. Collins' story packs a punch: she has an imagination that, combined with a knack for word-weaving, resulted in a heart-pounding, adrenaline-rushing read that moves quickly and effortlessly. Both devastating and beautiful at the same time, The Hunger Games has the capacity to affect more than just young adults.

Title: Wicked (Pretty Little Liars #5)
Author: Sara Shepard
Pages: 336
Published: HarperTeen, 2009
Genre: Mystery/Contemporary fiction
Overall Grade: B

Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Spencer have had a stressful start to their junior year of high school. After their best friend Alison was murdered, they were taunted by threats from an anonymous stalker who dangled their darkest secrets over their heads--secrets only Alison knew. Now, the stalker has finally been caught, and Ali's killer has been put in jail. These four pretty little liars are ready for their lives to go back to normal. But in the privileged town of Rosewood, Pennsylvania, nothing is as it seems...And these little liars had better watch their backs, especially with the new secrets they've each been harboring: Aria's crushing on her mom's new boyfriend, Hanna's stepsister has questionable intentions, Emily's got a new boyfriend, and Spencer is diving into dark family history. What they don't know is that someone is always watching...

My thoughts: I'm completely addicted to this series. Once again, I don't know why I didn't start reading the Pretty Little Liars books sooner. The books are the perfect combination of fluffy chick lit (boys, clothes, drama) and heart-pounding thriller (mystery, murder, suspense). However, Wicked wasn't as good as the previous four books in this addictive, fast-paced series. Coming off of a huge, scandalous reveal in Unbelievable (book #4), Wicked didn't seem to have the same heart-stopping thrills and constantly-moving action that kept me riveted to my seat, madly flipping pages. In fact, Wicked was mildly ho-hum, except for the big surprise ending. While Wicked is a must-read for series fans, I felt like it was nothing more than a transition from the fourth book to the sixth book--but it sets up what I expect will be big action in Killer, the sixth book.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chatting with Suzanne Selfors


Thanks to Suzanne, the author of newly-released Mad Love, as well as fellow YA reads Saving Juliet and Coffeehouse Angel! Welcome, Suzanne, and congratulations on the new book!

Bookworm: What inspired you to write Mad Love?
Suzanne: I have long loved Greek and Roman mythology. In Coffeehouse Angel I reimagined the Greek messenger god, Hermes. And in my first adult book, Daughters of Crete, I reimagined the story of Ariadne. I knew I wanted to do something with Cupid. So I thought about it for a while. The story took shape over many intense revisions.

Bookworm: Bipolar disorder plays a large role in the novel. How did you research this topic?
Suzanne: I read about it. But I also drew from my own childhood. My father struggled with manic episodes, and he also struggled with anxiety and depression, for which he self-medicated with alcohol. He was never diagnosed bi-polar but I'm guessing he would have been if he'd ever sought help.

Bookworm: Do you believe in Cupid?
Suzanne: Cupid is the God of passionate love, the kind of love that hits you real hard and fries your brain for a month or two. I've experienced it firsthand. Who hasn't?

Bookworm: If you were a cheesy romance-novel writer, like Alice's mom in the book, what would your first book be named?
Suzanne: Well, I have this thing about the Scottish highlands and men in kilts to it would be something like Hung in the Highlands. :)

Bookworm: What was your favorite part of the book to write?
Suzanne: The ending!

Bookworm: Which character is most like you, and why?
Suzanne: I guess I most relate to the mother character, Belinda Amorous, simply because she's a working writer with a teen daughter.

Bookworm: What is your next writing project?
Suzanne: I'm busy with my next teen novel, which will be released in 2012 if I can ever finish the thing. And my next middle grade novel, Smells Like Treasure, comes out in May 2011.

Bookworm: What are your writing essentials (environment, music, snacks, etc)?
Suzanne: I need something hot to drink, usually it's a nonfat latte, sometimes it's Earl Gray tea. I like white noise so I usually work in a coffeehouse.
--------------------
To learn more about Suzanne's other books and to view Mad Love's awesome book trailer, visit her website here!
Thanks, Suznne--we can't wait to see what's next for you!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mad Love


Author: Suzanne Selfors
Pages: 325
Published: Walker & Company, 2011
Genre: Contemporary fiction/Fantasy/Romance
Cover Score: C-
Overall Grade: A

As the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life for sixteen-year-old Alice Amorous should be pretty sweet. But ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness, Alice has been forced to maintain a brave front--living alone; lying to her new crush Tony; forging her mother's signature; answering fan letters; telling the publisher that all is well and the Queen's next book is on its way. Now time is running out, and so is their money. The next book is overdue and the Queen can't write it. Alice needs to deliver a new novel for her mother--and she needs to come up with one fast. That's when she meets Errol, a strange guy claiming to be Cupid, who insists that Alice must write about his tragic romance with Psyche--the greatest love story of all time. Alice needs the story, but can she trust Errol? After all, she doesn't believe in Cupid...

My thoughts: I'm a huge fan of Suzanne Selfors, so I was thrilled to read her latest book. Luckily, I loved it just as much as her previous books--if not more. The thing that made Mad Love such a winner to me was its amazing, hilarious, diverse cast of characters.
I loved all of the characters, from Alice herself to the crazy neighbors that share her Seattle apartment complex: Ms. Selfors clearly spent time crafting each unique personality to perfection. The characters created a fresh, 3 dimensional sort of family unit in the novel, and I felt like the characters were the type of people I'd encounter in real life: lovable, quirky, realistic, funny, and often frustrating.
As well, I appreciated all of the smaller subplots woven into the main storyline, creating depth: Alice's crush on Tony, Alice and Errol's story, Alice's family drama, Alice's neighborhood life. I also appreciated Ms. Selfor's research skills. The facts she included on Alice's mother's bipolar disorder helped build the plot and made me sympathize towards Alice--Ms. Selfors has an ability to evoke emotion in her readers. The plot moved quickly and fluidly, making for an easy read whose pages I couldn't stop turning. In Mad Love, I experienced the mark of a truly good book: while reading, I felt like I was submerged in the plot itself, like I was Alice, experiencing the events firsthand.
A funny, light, bittersweet novel that is fresh and unique, Mad Love gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling after you've finished reading--I'm totally in love with this book!

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cover Love!

Lisa Mantchev's Theatre Illuminata books have always struck me as having the most exquisite covers. What do you think about the cover for the 3rd book, So Silver Bright (coming out September 13th!) I can't wait to see what's next for Bertie & co!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance


Authors: Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin
Pages: 229
Published: Walker & Company, 2011
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Cover Score: B+
Overall Grade: B+

Charlie Tracker and Fielding Withers have two jobs. One is to star on their megahit comedy TV show, Jenna and Jonah's How to Be a Rock Star. Their second job is to pretend to be a real-life couple, boosting ratings and attracting show publicity. The downside? Charlie and Fielding can't stand each other. So when a harmful rumor that could potentially ruin their futures and their fauxmance is started by a pesky paparazzo, Charlie and Fielding must go into hiding until the scandal dies down. Far from Hollywood, Charlie and Fielding finally get to know each other away from the chaos and stress of their job, and find that they actually might have a shot at getting along. Or has this fauxmance-gone-wrong ruined their chance for real love?

My thoughts: Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance as a light, funny, and sincere novel that exceeded my expectations. While I expected the story to be predictable and cheesy, it was witty and had me rooting for the two main characters until the end.
The plot moved fast, and it was easy to follow. My favorite parts? When Fielding and Charlie went into hiding in an isolated beachhouse, and, of course, the Shakespeare festival! I enjoyed how Charlie and Fielding's feelings for each other developed over time in a realistic way, and their banter was sarcastic and amusing, keeping readers entertained throughout the story. I also appreciated all of the "behind the scenes" Hollywood information--the authors clearly either have experience in the industry or did their research.
I only wished that there had been more background information on the characters and their TV show. I felt like Fielding and Charlie lacked depth, and relatability to them was absent until the last few chapters of the book (although I did appreciate the alternating point of view, which helped me see the world through their eyes). As well, I felt like the first three quarters of the book were slow and boring. The story only began to progress when the two main characters headed to Oregon for their "last chance" at the Shakespeare festival--there was simply too much lead-up.
However, the plot evolved from being a romantic, bitingly funny romp into a story about finding the true you, proving yourself, and discovering what you truly want. While it sounds corny, the information and themes were brought up in a way that was interesting, fresh and hilarious.
To fans of Hollywood stories, Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance was a cute, clever, and easy read that's perfect to bring along with you during spring break!

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Last Day to Enter for Ruby Oliver!

If you haven't already, enter the Ruby Oliver contest here! I'll be giving away 6 copies of the final book in E. Lockhart's charming, hilarious, and romantic series. Enter before tomorrow night at midnight for your chance to win!

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Monday Muse: Interview with Jennifer Solow



Today's muse: Jennifer Solow
Author of: The Aristobrats (review here)
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Bookworm: Welcome, Jennifer! Let's start with the vital question--how did you decide to become a writer?
Jennifer: I was a managing partner/creative director of an advertising agency was stuck in a meeting in Manhattan, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center, on September 11th. By the end of that day I decided that, if there was going to be a tomorrow, I better do something good with it. I left my cushy job and took my first writing class. An assignment I was working on in class eventually became a novel. That novel became a national bestseller. That day I learned that there are no excuses for not doing something you love. It's never too late.

Bookworm: Was The Aristobrats based off of any of your life experiences?
Jennifer: I went to Winchester-Thurston, a school that has similarities to Wallingford. Many of the characters and even some of the names in the book are inspired by people I know. There's a scene in the next Aristobrats book which is exactly something that happened to a friend of mine in school. It was highly embarrassing--I knew it would make it into a book some day!

Bookworm: What was the inspiration behind The Aristobrats?
Jennifer: One word? The anti-Clique. My children are in middle school. I wanted to write something I'd be proud for them to read and they, in turn, would be proud for their friends to read. The book is about the struggles of popularity and being a good person and a good friend. Or at least trying your best. I wanted to write a book about popular girls that also has a good message. You don't have to be Massie Block.

Bookworm: Which Aristobrat are you most like, and why?
Jennifer: I'm a little like all of them but mostly Parker. Parker is insecure deep down but has learned to project confidence to the point where she actually feels it. She's also a good friend. I think I may dress a little crazier--like Kiki.

Bookworm: What was your writing process like?
Jennifer: I write everyday either in my office or in the library. I also exercise every day, which helps my brain kick into gear. Some days I get stuck--on those days I go shopping.

Bookworm: What's your next writing project?
Jennifer: The next Aristobrats!

Bookworm: What were your writing necessities while you were writing The Aristobrats? (for example: music, food, etc...)
Jennifer: I can't listen to music when I write--I find it distracting, although I am inspired by music. I have a lot of Taylor Swift on my "playlist" for this book. Cybervixen. Gwen Stefani. The only thing I need is a spot to sit, my computer and an enormous thermos of Japanese Hojicha tea.
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Thank you so much, Jennifer!
To find out more about upcoming books and to see which Aristobrat you're most like, visit Jennifer's website here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Lying Game

Author: Sara Shepard
Pages: 307
Published: HarperTeen, 2010
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Cover Score: A
Overall Grade: A-

When orphan Emma Paxton learns that she has a long-lost identical sister, Sutton, she is thrilled. Stealing away from her foster home, she travels to Arizona to meet up with the twin she never met, only to discover that Sutton has been murdered, and someone (could it be Sutton's killer?) wants Emma to slip into her sister's old life, posing as Sutton as a way to avoid any suspicion. But as Emma becomes her twin, she realizes that keeping up the act is harder then it seems, especially since Sutton's murderer is watching her every move. Emma learns that Sutton has some dirty little secrets to hide--especially in the form of the Lying Game, a vicious prank war that Sutton and her friends orchestrate. Emma's determined to get to the bottom of her sister's murder, but the killer might be closer than she thinks...

My thoughts: The Lying Game was a fast-paced, addictive, and thrilling rush. I was surprised at how different it was from Ms. Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series--but not necessarily in a bad way.
I loved the unique point-of-view and narration of the novel. Sutton, who has been killed, watches over her long-lost-twin sister Emma as she attempts to solve the mystery. The book is dark and full of intrigue, with a cast of interesting characters and and binding storyline.
However, I didn't get the same satisfaction from The Lying Game as I did from Pretty Little Liars. The twists and turns in the novel were often hard to follow, and I felt myself becoming confused at times. I understand that Ms. Shepard wanted suspense and buildup in her novel, but the lack of information was sometimes frustrating when the plot became hard to follow.
The Lying Game was a great set up to future books in the series, where I hope more information will be disclosed. This unique, fascinating, and slightly creepy story makes for one quick, action-packed, juicy read. I can't wait for the sequel, Never Have I Ever, coming out this August.

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Monday, January 24, 2011

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings


Author: Héléne Boudreau
Pages: 206
Published: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2010
Genre: Contemporary fiction/Fantasy
Cover score: A
Overall Grade: A

Jade is having the worst. Day. Ever. Not only does she get her first period and embarrass herself in front of the cutest boy in school, but she comes out of a supposed "soothing and relaxing" bath with a...mermaid tail? Jade soon discovers that she inherited her mermaid tendencies from her mother. But if Mom was a mermaid, then how did she drown? Jade is determined to solve the mystery--no matter how dangerous and difficult it might get. So how does a plus-sized, chocolate-addicted, aqua-phobic, half-mer go about doing that exactly? And how is she supposed to keep her massive secret from her best friend and adorable crush? One thing's for sure: this summer is about to get a whole lot more interesting...

My thoughts: Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings was a clever and fresh take on a coming-of-age story. It was colorful, it was whimsical; it was witty and heart-warming and humorous. Jade made an empathetic main character: she was relatable and funny, and her narration was sincere and heartfelt. I felt like I could really get into her head and feel what she was feeling. I loved the supporting characters, including Jade's dad, her best friend Cori, and her crush Luke. They were all interesting and unique.
The plot was fast-paced and easy to follow. I literally whizzed through this book in a day. The story had perfect amounts of fantasy, romance, and adventure, the action was simple (even though I wish there had been more buildup!), and I loved all of the useful mermaid background information. Ms. Boudreau clearly went above and beyond in building her story and characters. Plus, I loved the chocolate mug cake recipe in the back of the book--I will DEFINITELY be trying that out!!
Creative, clever, and sweet, Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings is a fresh twist on a common plot. A middle grade girl must-read!

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jillian Larkin Interview



I'd like to welcome Jillian Larkin, author of Vixen (one of my favorite books of 2010!)
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Bookworm: Hi, Jillian! To start off: what was the inspiration behind Vixen?
Jillian: I'm a huge film nerd, so a lot of my inspiration comes from movies. One of my favorite films is Annie Hall. I think Annie is such a fantastic character. She's smart, funny, and the lady pulls off suits like it's her job. Her actual job as a nightclub singer helped spark the inspiration for Gloria and her story.
Splendor in the Grass is another big inspiration. It's a gorgeous film that takes place in the 1920s and deals with some very heavy, modern issues. It helped me realize that being a teenager girl back in the Jazz Ages wasn't as different from being one in contemporary times as one might think.

Bookworm: What drew you to writing a book set in the 1920s?
Jillian: I've been in love with the Roaring Twenties practically since before I could remember. I was obsessed with the film Thoroughly Modern Millie as a kid and forced my family to watch it with me repeatedly. I've always admired the independence and strength flappers showed and it continues to inspire me. Also writing about gorgeous jazz, fantastic slang, and sparkly dresses is deliciously fun.

Bookworm: If you could travel back in time, what era would you visit, and
why?
Jillian: Would it be too boring and predictable of me to say the 1920s? I really would love to spend and evening at the Cotton Club listening to Fletcher Henderson and his orchestra play while dancing the Charleston. I would also like to visit the 1960s. That's another era with some amazing fashion, musicians, and historical events that would've been wonderful to witness firsthand.

Bookworm: Which character in Vixen as your favorite to write about?
Jillian: Aw, I love them all in different ways. Before I decided I wanted to be a writer, I planned to pursue musical theater. I still love to sing, but mainly in the shower, so it's nice to follow Gloria through her musical aspirations. Clara is how I wish I had been in high school. She's witty, smart, and unafraid to speak her mind. Despite the fact that she's lying about who she is, I think Clara knows herself best out of the three girls. I have fun with Lorraine too, since she can be silly in ways Gloria and Clara would never be.

Bookworm: What's next for the characters of Vixen in the novel's upcoming sequel, Ingenue?
Jillian: Each of the girls is thrust outside of her comfort zone in the next novel. Instead of the pampered ease to which they've grown accustomed, they try to make their way in new careers and settings. This novel takes place in New York rather than Chicago, which was easier on me research-wise since I live here. A new main character also comes into the fold.

Bookworm: What YA book have you read recently and loved?
Jillian: I recently read Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins for the second time because I read it too quickly the first time, haha. I just love that Suzanne Collins didn't go the easy District 13 = Good, Capital= Bad route. She acknowledges that no side is without corruption and it's staying true to your own values that matters.

Bookworm: What are your writing essentials (snacks, music, setting...)?
Jillian: I have a special Flappers playlist with authentic 1920s as well as Jazz Age-influenced jazz that I always listen to while working on the series. I have three favorite Brooklyn coffee shops I alternate between which all have delicious iced coffee and vegetarian options. When I'm home, I lay on my bed, bend my knees, and write with my computer in my lap. It's probably terrible for my neck but great for inspiration. :)

Bookworm: If Vixen were made into a movie, who would pick to play the main characters?
Jillian: I think Emma Stone would be a fantastic Gloria. She's gorgeous, feisty, and she can even sing! For Clara I could see Dianna Agron from Glee or Mia Wasikowska. Lorraine's tougher..maybe Troian Avery Bellisario? She's got the right kind of angular beauty.

Bookworm: If you could be any one of the characters for a day, who would you choose?
Jillian: It depends on which day--there are certain times in Vixen when I wouldn't want to be any of them! But I would love to spend a day living Clara's fabulous old New York life.
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Thanks so much, Jillian! Check out the Flappers website here, where you can see the (gorgeousamazingwonderful) book trailer and Flapper-ize yourself!

Make sure to check out Jillian's upcoming blog tour stops, too:
Jan. 27-Teen Reads

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss


Author: Stephanie Perkins
Pages: 375
Published: Dutton, December 2010
Genre: Contemporary fiction/Romance
Cover score: B-
Overall Grade: A

Anna's life in Atlanta was perfect, until she was shipped off to American boarding school in Paris, France, with no French skills, no friends, and her swoon-worthy crush stuck back home. Adapting isn't easy, but soon enough, aspiring film critic Anna finds her place in the new city with a new group of friends and the discovery of French cinema. Things especially start to look up when Anna meets Etienne St. Clair, a gorgeous, charming guy--with a girlfriend. Anna's year in Paris is filled with romantic near-misses: but by the end of the year, will Anna get her French kiss? After all, Paris is the city of love...

My thoughts: To me, the star of this book was the cast of well-developed, likable, and realistic characters. I felt like I was involved in Anna's group of friends, and, being a high school student myself, I really appreciated how life-like they were, really acting like a group of teenagers. Although I often found Anna whiny, I grew to really like and understand her point of view, and, of course, St. Clair made a dreamy love interest. The thing I appreciated most was that St. Clair wasn't your obvious Mr. Perfect: he was quirky and witty and sarcastic, which made him all the more lovable.
Anna and the French Kiss didn't really have a structured plotline, but it was set up as more of a "year-in-the-life" story, which I found refreshing and easy-to-follow. The novel was set against a Parisian backdrop, and I loved all the quirky little details that Ms. Perkins included: the sights (Notre Dame! The french cemetary! The funky little Parisian cinemas!), the food (baguette! panini! hot chocolate!), and the people. It was a little like a vacation without going anywhere.
I only wish that there had been more culture and Paris in the novel than romance. After the first 300 pages or so, I was getting tired of and confused by all of Anna and St. Clair's back-and-forthing. There was one too many twists-and-turns, which weren't necessary, as the ending was quite predictable.
However, Anna and the French Kiss is a fun, absorbing, frothy, fresh, and down-to-earth romance with humor and a genuine, sincere heroine that readers will relate to. If this is a delicious French picnic, then bon appetite! This is one delicious read that you don't want to miss.

Must-Read! Check it Out! Don't Bother

Monday, January 17, 2011

E. Lockhart Guest Blog and Giveaway!


Welcome to E. (which stands for Emily!) Lockhart, the author of the fabulously funny Ruby Oliver series!
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Hi--and thanks so much for having me on Bookworm Readers to spread the word about my new book, Real Live Boyfriends. It's book four of the Ruby Oliver novels, the series that started with The Boyfriend List. All the scoop on the book and a preview chapter can be found here.

One of my favorite things to do as a writer is to title chapters. I loved chapter titles as a kid, especially if they were good ones. Reading them let you know what delicious things were in store. I still love them as an adult. Good ones will make me buy a book.

A.A. Milne wrote the most wonderful chapter titles. "In Which Eeyore Loses and Tail and Pooh Finds One." What could be better than that?

In the Ruby stories, I've had a great time playing around with these. In the first book, each chapter was named after a boy on the boyfriend list that ends up ruining Roo's reputation and losing her all her friends. In the second novel, The Boy Book, each chapter is named after a section of the notebook Roo and her friends keep, chock full of spurious advice on "The Care and Ownership of Boobs" or "Why You Want the Guy You Can't Have."

In The Treasure Map of Boys, each chapter is a sentence that begins with "I". "I am a Reluctant Bodyguard". "I Uncover the Secret Mental Health of Hair Bands." And so on.

For the final book, Real Live Boyfriends, I was somewhat stumped for a chapter title gimmick, until a librarian I know only on Twitter said something about how Roo's hysterical tendencies called to mind the hyperbolic headlines of Victorian scandal sheets. Aha! So all the chapter titles in Real Live Boyfriends have exclamation points, as if to evoke "Murder in the Museum Gallery!" or "Adultery on the Upper East Side!" But instead they say things like "Distraction Caused by Bare Chest!" or "Emotional Breakdown in the Parking Lot!"

They were very fun to write.
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In honor of the release of the final book in the Ruby Oliver series, Random House Children's Books is providing me with 6 copies of the concluding novel, Real Live Boyfriends, to give away!

Entering is simple, as always:

1) You must be a follower and you must live in the US (sorry, international friends!)
2) Name and email address below
3) Extra entries can be obtained by blogging/sidebar link (+2 for each mentioned)

Our 6 lucky winners will be chosen on February 14, 2011, so enter now!

Check out Emily's other stops on her tour (you won't regret it--she's quite hilarious):

January 12th: Books on the House
January 13th: Figment
January 14th: Book Butterfly
January 19th: Robin's Roundup

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Last Day to Enter!

3 of my contests are ending tonight at midnight, so enter before it's too late!

Click here to win a copy of Jillian Larkin's YA debut Vixen, full of heart-pounding romance, jaw-dropping action, and thrilling secrets, all set in 1920's Chicago.

Click here to win a copy of Jennifer Solow's The Aristobrats, a middle-grade story with sass and style where 4 popular girls give a new meaning of cool.

Click here to win one of 3 holidays prize packs, which include Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, Kate Brian's Ex-Mas, Sarah Beth Durst's Ice, and Sophie Merrifield's Banished (and 4 other awesome picks!)

All contests are US-only.

* Looking for more contests? I'm also giving away a copy of Sarah Beth Durst's latest novel Enchanted Ivy (Princeton and were-tigers and romance, oh my!)--enter before February 1st!*

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Unbelievable


Author: Sara Shepard
Series: Pretty Little Liars, Book 4
Pages: 335
Published: HarperTeen, 2008
Genre: Mystery/Contemporary fiction
Cover Score: A
Overall Grade: A

Thanks to the intervention of a mysterious stalker named "A", four girls living a privileged lifestyle are going through hell. Emily's been shipped off to ultra-conservative Iowa, Aria's boyfriend is behind bars--because of her, Spencer is afraid that she was involved in Ali's murder, and Hanna is hardly clinging to life in the hospital--because she knew too much. With increased threats and dangerous secrets, these girls have everything to lose. But can they get to the bottom of the mystery of A's identity before someone else gets hurt? And how is A related to the murder of their best friend, Alison?

My thoughts: Why, oh why, didn't I start reading this series earlier? I'm absolutely hooked. Unbelievable was unbelievably good, full of twists and turns and jaw-dropping secrets.
The book was packed chock-full of fast-paced action, heart-pounding mystery, and quick-moving drama. The 4 main characters are well-developed and realistic, and the book is detailed enough so that I felt like I was witnessing the events firsthand.
I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say that a major secret (ahem--A's identity!) is revealed in this book. Unbelievable left me with some big questions that I can't wait to uncover in the next novel, Wicked. Don't wait like I did: start reading this series as soon as you can get your hands on a copy: I can guarantee that you won't be able to put it down!

Other books in this series:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Interview with Sarah Beth Durst & Contest!


Today's author: Sarah Beth Durst
Author of: Enchanted Ivy, Into the Wild, Out of the Wild, and Ice (review coming soon!)
Interested in winning a copy of Sarah's latest, Enchanted Ivy? Check out the details at the bottom of the interview!
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Bookworm: Welcome, Sarah! What was your inspiration behind Enchanted Ivy?
Sarah: Enchanted Ivy was inspired by one of the most harrowing experiences of my life: the college application process. Seriously, junior and senior year of high school, I was obsessed with getting into college. It was all I talked about and practically all I thought about for two entire years.
In Enchanted Ivy, Lily Carter is obsessed with getting into Princeton University. While visiting the campus, she discovers a secret gate to a magical realm and must race against time to save herself, her world, and any hope she has of college admission.
So this novel is completely autobiographical. Except for the were-tigers. And the talking gargoyles. And the dragons...

Bookworm: You yourself are a Princeton graduate--what is one of your favorite memories from your time there?
Sarah: I met my husband there so that memory has to be top on the list. :) He was my next-door neighbor freshman year. In winter, we used to borrow trays from the cafeteria and go sledding on the golf course behind our dorm.
Another favorite memory is working on my senior thesis at the same time as performing in Into the Woods. Literally, the same time. I had my laptop backstage. I'd revise part of my thesis and then I'd jump on stage to sing a song, and then I'd be back at my laptop.
(In case you're curious, I was the Granny in Into the Woods. And my senior thesis was a stage play about the birth of stories called "To Ride a Dragon". It included a live, fire-breathing dragon.)

Bookworm: How long was the writing process for Enchanted Ivy?
Sarah: Enchanted Ivy took about a year to write. This included two research trips to Princeton. You'd think after living there for four years, I wouldn't need to do research, but a place looks different when you see it through a character's eyes. I visited once during the outline stage and once while writing, and I walked every step that Lily took. I really like to get the details right so that the real world feels as real as possible to contrast with the magic.

Bookworm: Ahhhh, I'm so excited! Speaking of magical creatures, which one of the magical Princeton creatures
in Enchanted Ivy was your favorite?
Sarah: I'm partial to my were-tiger. I like shapeshifters. But I'm also fond of the talking gargoyles. The dragon in particular was fun to write. Ooh, and I LOVED writing the fairy. I can't really talk about her without giving spoilers, but she was very fun.

Bookworm: Are you on Team Jake or Team Tye?
Sarah: I adore them both! Plus I wouldn't want to hurt either of them by choosing. That said, I do think Lily makes the right choice for her. I think you should always go for the guy who loves you for who you are, not who you could be.

Bookworm: How are you and Lily alike, and how are you different?
Sarah: We're both devoted to our families and dedicated to our dreams. But other than that, I see her as a very different person. I talk about the novel being autobiographical, but that's only because it's based on emotional truth. The actual events and people are drawn from imagination, not reality. Except for the talking gargoyles. Obviously, they're real.

Bookworm: What upcoming YA book are you dying to read?
Sarah: I can't wait for Tamora Pierce's Mastiff (next in her Beka Cooper series). Also, I'm looking forward to Theodosia and The Last Pharaoh by R.L. Fevers and The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent.

Bookworm: What's your next writing project?
Sarah: Next up is Drink, Slay, Love. It's about a vampire girl who develops a conscience after she is stabbed through the heart by a unicorn's horn. It's been so much fun to write, and I'm so excited about it. It will be out in September 2011 by Simon & Schuster.
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Thanks, Sarah! As always, it was a pleasure to read your latest book. :)
**Want to win a copy of Enchanted Ivy? Simply comment below with your name and email address. You must be a follower and a resident of the US. Enter before February 1st to win!**

Sunday, January 9, 2011

In My Mailbox

Here are the past few weeks of In My Mailbox (created by the Story Siren). Lots of good reads!

  • Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
  • The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  • Diary of a Chav by Grace Dent
  • Timeless by Alexandra Monir (1/11/11)
  • Tutored by Allison Whittenberg
  • Teenie by Christopher Grant
  • Trance by Linda Gerber
Thank you to Random House Children's Books!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wishlist of 2011 (Part One)

Here are some 2011 releases that I'm really anticipating:

THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA by Bianca Turetsky (April 5, 2011): Fashion, vintage clothing, and the Titanic: what else could you want?

PASSION by Lauren Kate: I love, love this series.

THE ROYAL TREATMENT by Lindsey Leavitt: Such a cute series!

DEMONGLASS by Rachel Hawkins: I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Hex Hall


Look for more of my posted wishlist coming soon! :)
Which 2011 releases are you anticipating the most?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Elixir


Author: Hilary Duff
Pages: 327
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2010
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Romance
Cover Score: B+
Overall Grade: A

17-year-old Clea Raymond is used to living in the public eye. The daughter of a famed surgeon and a renowned politician, Clea herself has become a talented photojournalist, traveling the world. But after Clea's dad disappears on a humanitarian mission, Clea starts to notice an eerie, shadowy man show up in all of her pictures. Who is this man? Why is he so prominent in her work? How did she not notice before? When fate brings the two together, Clea realizes they have a deeper, dangerous connection that spans centuries...and that the man might know a key fact involving the truth behind her father's disappearance.

My thoughts: I was so pleasantly surprised by Elixir. Normally, I don't even bother picking up a celebrity-written book, but I had read reviews praising Hilary Duff's debut into YA fiction, and I couldn't resist (I admit, I was also a Lizzie McGuire freak as a kid).
Elixir is just stunning. From page one, I was sucked into the vortex of Clea's life. The plot evolved with every chapter, from a mystery to a romance to a heart-pounding thriller. This also caused a bit of confusion for me: the beginning of the novel starts out with the mystery of the man in Clea's photos, and then evolves into the mystery behind her father's disappearance, the mystery of who Sage really is, the mystery of what the Elixir of Life is, and--the most important--how they all link together, which is where I got tripped up.
Each character is beautifully done-out, and the jet-setting action is intriguing. I loved Clea's narration: I was enthralled with her story (I felt I could really get into her head), madly flipping pages until the cliffhanging ending. Good thing Ms. Duff's started work on the sequel, which will hopefully tie up loose ends!
Well-written and fast-paced, Elixir will please multiple categories of fans: fans of ages-old romance (think Lauren Kate's Fallen), fans of dark paranormal stories, and fans of running-down-the-clock mysteries.