Monday, January 31, 2011

The Monday Muse: Interview with Jennifer Solow

Today's muse: Jennifer Solow
Author of: The Aristobrats (review here)
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.
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!)
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
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.
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!
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.

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


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!
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.
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


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.

Books Read in 2011!

Here is my cumulative list of all the (hopefully great) books I'll get to read in 2011!

Elixir by Hilary Duff
Unbelievable by Sara Shepard
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Héléne Boudreau
The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin
Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Wicked by Sara Shepard

Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy
Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman

What Would Audrey Do? by Pamela Keogh
The A Circuit by Georgina Bloomberg

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Win A Copy of the Aristobrats!

Happy New Year, readers!
What's a better way to kick off 2011 than with a contest?

I'm giving away one copy of Jennifer Solow's novel The Aristobrats (check out my review here!). To enter (you guessed it): you must be a follower, and please comment with your name and email address below. US entries only, please! To earn extra points, you can sidebar link/blog/Tweet/do whatever you want, just as long as you leave me a link to your post(s)!

Contest will be closed January 15, 2010--also check out the Vixen and Super-Holiday Giveaway before then to win!