Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Poem of the Month

POETRY: the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken for exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts.

Poetry is a wonderful form of literature that we want to show appreciation for on our blog. So we will be having a Poem of the Month segment where we will present to you some amazing works of art. Please comment with your thoughts about the poem. It's great to hear different views and input! This month's poem is...

The Highwayman

by Alfred Noyes
This is a video of Loreena McKennit singing The Highwayman. It is absolutely remarkable and is bound to give you the chills. You can listen to it and follow the poem below, if you'd like. Enjoy!

The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.

He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, and a bunch of lace at his chin;
He'd a coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of fine doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle;
his boots were up to his thigh! And he rode with a jeweled twinkle--
His rapier hilt a-twinkle--
His pistol butts a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred,
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter--
Bess, the landlord's daughter--
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim, the ostler listened--his face was white and peaked--
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter--
The landlord's black-eyed daughter;
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say:

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart; I'm after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light.
Yet if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He stood upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the sweet black waves of perfume came tumbling o'er his breast,
Then he kissed its waves in the moonlight
(O sweet black waves in the moonlight!),
And he tugged at his reins in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon.
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon over the purple moor,
The redcoat troops came marching--
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord; they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets by their side;
There was Death at every window,
And Hell at one dark window,
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had bound her up at attention, with many a sniggering jest!
They had tied a rifle beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her. She heard the dead man say,
"Look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though Hell should bar the way."

She twisted her hands behind her, but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it, she strove no more for the rest;
Up, she stood up at attention, with the barrel beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing, she would not strive again,
For the road lay bare in the moonlight,
Blank and bare in the moonlight,
And the blood in her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot tlot, tlot tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hooves, ringing clear;
Tlot tlot, tlot tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding--
The redcoats looked to their priming! She stood up straight and still.

Tlot tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment, she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight--
Her musket shattered the moonlight--
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him--with her death.

He turned, he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the casement, drenched in her own red blood!
Not till the dawn did he hear it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon, wine-red was his velvet coat
When they shot him down in the highway,
Down like a dog in the highway,
And he lay in his blood in the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still on a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a gypsy's ribbon looping the purple moor,
The highwayman comes riding--
Riding--riding-- The highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred,
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter--
Bess, the landlord's daughter--
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Interview with Aprilynne Pike

Aprilynne Pike is the author of WINGS, which will be in bookstores this May!

What was your inspiration to write Wings?
I still laugh at how I came up with Wings. I had an agent who was shopping another book for me, and it was becoming rather obvious that it wasn't going to sell. So I was preparing to finish another book I'd started and do some revisions of a romance I was working on. But before I got a chance to dive in, I was reading an agent's blog and she mentioned--in passing, really--that Barnes and Noble was expecting faeries to be one of the upcoming trends in YA. Now, I have always loved faeries and I have always loved YA. I'm not sure why I didn't manage to put the two of them together until I go whacked on the head with it. I just sat there, staring at the computer, thinking, I want to write a faerie YA!! And something in me knew that I had to do it right then! I spent a mostly sleepless night that night trying to come up with mythos and storyline and characters and had a wisp of what would turn out to be Wings the next morning.

How do you choose the names for your characters and places?
All of the places in my book are either real towns (taken off GoogleMaps!;)) or plucked out of Arthurian legends. Names are another matter. I got Laurel from a long list of plant names. I wanted her name to be nature based, but not something as obvious as, say, Rose. I found it on the list and it just fit! Tamani was originally just a side character and I plucked his name out of a distant memory of an old history lesson about Tamany Hall. I changed the spelling and voila! Then, when he turned into a main character, I liked the name and it stuck! My favorite name story, however, is David's. He was originally Glen because I like the name Glen. But as I was typing I found myself mis-typing Glen as David. (Yes, yes, I realize that that is a HUGE typo; that's why I thought it was so weird!) So I was like, dude, I am the author of this story and I say his name is Glen, so there! But eventually I found myself typing David more often than I was typing Glen. So I sighed, realized that David clearly wanted to be named David, and did a search and replace. After that, I never once mistyped David as Glen. Clearly meant to be.

Where is your favorite place to write?
I actually really like to go out to lunch and write with something yummy at my side. I can drag out a meal three or four hours while writing. Plus it's fun getting strange looks from the servers.:)

You chose to tie the modern day world with a fantasy world. What was the reason behind this choice?
I'm not actually sure. It just fit. My previous books were a traditional high fantasy and a historical romance, so it wasn't like there was precedent. But I started writing and everything fit very nicely in the modern-day world. I don't think I've ever actually questioned that before.

Tell us about your very favorite character that you have ever created.
*laugh* I have a character in a stand-alone novel that I am hoping to pitch to my editor this summer that has a klepto ghost in it. Her name is Kimberlee and I just adore her. I adore her for her blunt sense of humor and the bleak honesty with which she eventually looks at herself. She is always, always fun to write.

What do you think is the most important component of a story?

A compelling storyline. Even bad writing will be forgiven for good stroytelling. Ideally you have both, but if I have to chose between good writing and really compelling story, I'll take the story any day.

What is the most important message you want to portray to readers through your books?
I don't really like to have a message. But I think the theme that has risen to the surface--especially as I work on the sequel--is that you chose what has value in your life. You don't have to let other people tell you what should be important in your life, things are important when you say they are.

What are some of your favorite YA authors?

We'll get Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling out of the way to start with.:) I also love Lois Lowry, Avi, V.C. Andrews, Carrie Ryan, Sarah Rees Brennan, Saundra Mitchell, Libba Bray, Shannon Hale, Scott Westerfield, Holly Black, and Lynne Reid Banks.

What are your hobbies?
I am a total gym rat, and musical theatre fanatic, and a childbirth activist. I also like to run, read, write, sing, and play with my kids.

How do your hobbies and the other things you love influence your writing?

In small ways. I see them sneak into my writing in ways such as Chelsea being a cross-country runner and Laurel loving to sing. However, I believe that all of our passions affect our writing, even if it's in ways that other people can't see.

Do you have to do any research for your books? How much? What kind?
Man, I did so much research for Wings. Any good book has hours and hours of research behind it. For the basics, I studied the geography of Northern California, tons of botany and homeopathy, Arthurian legends, faerie mythology, and specifically, the town of Crescent City (thank you Google Maps!).
What does writing mean to you?
Writing is a gateway. It is a gateway I go through to explore my creative side. To build a world that belongs only to me. But it is also a gateway I invite peple to come through with me. It is a way to share something I am so passionate about and to introduce readers to these characters who are my friends. It also, for me, is a way to reach out to people. I really tend to be a homebody, and writing is a way that I extend myself out into the world without leaving my chair.
To learn more about Aprilynne, you can visit her site by clicking on this link.

Seize the Story by Victoria Hanley

Grade: A

Aimed at ages 11 and up.

This is going to be a very unorthodox review. Seize the Story is an informational, educational book, not fiction, though it is aimed at young adults who like that sort of thing.

Before reading this book, I knew that Victoria Hanley was an excellent writer. Her first book, The Seer and the Sword, has been one of my favorites for years. Seize the Story is a great store of knowledge that showed me exactly how she got there. Any teen--or young adult, for that matter--who has ever had any aspirations to write a novel, curiosity about how authors do it, or a mere passing fancy that you may at some point wish to create art of your own should read this book. It was altogether enlightening, educational, and very, very valuable to the writer within me.

Hanley goes into very great detail about ten important topics writers deal with, and informs the reader in an easy-to-understand, fun way how to go about correcting your mistakes or beginning fresh with each topic. Her book is fraught with writing exercises that will stretch your imagination and make your writing that much stronger.

I take my writing very seriously, but before I read this book I hadn't realized how many different ways there are to improve my own writing, in the simplest ways. In this book, Hanley spills all the secrets using real excerpts from novels and stories that you may have read, and gives examples on how it is done wrong as well as right. Things you thought your English teacher had taught you, you will read about here and realize that there is so much more to it.

But throughout the book, one thing is emphasized beyond anything else: Your writing is yours, and your style is yours. Every author is different.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

IN STORES MAY 14, 2009!

Aerin Renning is a scarred fugitive, Dane Madousin a rebellious son of privilege. On the surface, they have nothing in common. But the two most competitive freshmen at Academy 7 share an undiscovered bond. Both harbor a dangerous secret that threatens their own destruction. And while their safety depends upon their staying apart, the two are inexplicably drawn to each other. Even as unknown forces conspire to separate them, their competition turns to friendship, and their friendship to romance. Now not only their lives--but their hearts--are at stake. To survive, the two must unite all their knowledge, skills, and gifts to uncover a secret bigger than either could have imagined. A secret as ig as the entire universe...

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 8/10
Setting: 10/10
Recommendation: 9/10
Total Score 64/70

Grade: A

Age Appropriate?
Alcohol, Drugs, etc? None
Cussing? Some, very mild.
Sexual Content? No
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some child abuse (not too much or too bad), one short scene of hanging.

For ages 13+.


If there's one thing I know, it's this: Anne Osterlund knows how to keep an audience entertained. I was hooked from the very beginning. She very smoothly alternated between Dane's, Aerin's, and even Dr. Livinski's perspectives. The book was easy to follow and satisfying. The emotion--especially Aerin's--was true and heartfelt.

Unlike some other futuristic books I've reviewed here, Academy 7 definitely relies on the political and physical make-up of the setting for many important plot points, but I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. Osterlund has put so much detail and thought into this world, and it is obvious from the very beginning. I am not usually enthused by spaceships and interplanetary travel, but I found myself seriously enjoying Osterlund's rendition of the future, and I thought it perfectly suited the characters.

The romance in this book is not as prevalent as the cover claims. That does not mean it isn't beautifully realistic and touching, while at the same time being reserved and passionate. Osterlund manages to make a simple scene of talking or hand-holding into something as intimate and tender as the best of kissing scenes in other books.

Academy 7 could, in my opinion, appeal to readers of many genres. It isn't exclusively sci-fi or fantasy or political adventure or romance. It's a generous conglomeration of everything that Anne Osterlund very successfully turned into a deep and touching novel about loosing and finding people you love.

Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors

Two Juliets, both alike in desperation. . .

Seventeen-year-old Mimi Wallingford, of the Broadway Wallingfords, has a life most girls can only dream of—complete with the starring role in her family’s production of Romeo and Juliet. But acting is not her dream, and she’s fighting for the right to trade her script for a scalpel and become a doctor.

Fourteen-year-old Juliet Capulet, of the Verona Capulets, has lived a lonely life—imprisoned by the feud that consumes her family and by her iron-fisted mother’s forcing her into an unwanted marriage. She will do anything to avoid her betrothed, even if it requires faking a boil on her bottom—or something more dangerous.

During the play’s final performance, Mimi’s wish to get away actually comes true when she and her heartthrob costar, Troy Summer, are magically transported into Shakespeare’s Verona. Now that she knows the real Juliet, Mimi doesn’t want to stand by and allow the play to reach its tragic end. But if saving her new friend means changing the ending of the greatest love story of all time, will she and Troy ever make it back to Broadway?

Character Developement: 8/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 8/10
Recommendation: 9/10
Total Score: 50
Grade: A

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Yes, but it's not an unbearable amount.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Friar Tuck's grappa and Juliet's sleeping potion is about it.
Sexual Content: Blatant in conversation
Aimed at age 12 and up

In Saving Juliet, Suzanne Selfors masterly connects a modern day world with that of Shakespearean Venice, Italy. The take that she took on the classic tragedy was very interesting. The characters in Mimi's Romeo and Juliet differ quite a lot from what's printed in Shakespeare's play, and I really enjoyed the exploration of the famous characters in a different way. I would've liked to learn more about Mercutio. I think if we had, his fate would have made a bigger impact.

Mimi's narration was witty, funny, and easy to relate to. The fact that Suzanne Selfors didn't follow the exact plot line of Shakespeare's version kept me interested the entire time. I felt like the ending was a little too perfect, but it didn't bother me too much.

Overall, this is a fun and enjoyable read. Some may call it cheesy, but the cheesy aspects are easily looked past as you delve yourself into the depths of the story.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

In My Mailbox (3)

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi from The Story Siren. On it, we will post the books we have gotten this week from the library, the bookstore, the mail, a friend that leant it to us, and any other ways that we manage to get a book from.

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
The war between humanity and Faerie devastated both sides. Or so fifteen-year-old Liza has been told. Nothing has been seen or heard from Faerie since, and Liza's world bears the scars of its encounter with magic. Corn resists being harvested; dandelions have thorns. Trees move with sinister intention, and the town Liza calls home is surrounded by a forest that threatens to harm all those who wander into it. Still Liza feels safe. Her father is strong and has protected their town by laying down strict rules. Among them: Any trace of magic must be destroyed, no matter where it is found.
Then Liza's sister is born with faerie-pale hair, clear as glass, and Liza's father leaves the baby on a hillside to die. When her mother disappears into the forest and Liza herself discovers she has the faerie ability to see --into the past, into the future--she has no choice but to flee. Liza's quest will take her into Faerie and back again, and what she finds along the way may be the key to healing both worlds.
NOTE FROM ME: I kind of grabbed this as I was walking out of the library. Just pulled it off of the shelf while on the move, not reading the summary or anything. I'm not sure if I'll read it. Should I?

Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors

Two Juliets,both alike in desperation. . .

Seventeen-year-old Mimi Wallingford, of the Broadway Wallingfords, has a life most girls can only dream of—complete with the starring role in her family’s production of Romeo and Juliet. But acting is not her dream, and she’s fighting for the right to trade her script for a scalpel and become a doctor.

Fourteen-year-old Juliet Capulet, of the Verona Capulets, has lived a lonely life—imprisoned by the feud that consumes her family and by her iron-fisted mother’s forcing her into an unwanted marriage. She will do anything to avoid her betrothed, even if it requires faking a boil on her bottom—or something more dangerous.

During the play’s final performance, Mimi’s wish to get away actually comes true when she and her heartthrob costar, Troy Summer, are magically transported into Shakespeare’s Verona. Now that she knows the real Juliet, Mimi doesn’t want to stand by and allow the play to reach its tragic end. But if saving her new friend means changing the ending of the greatest love story of all time, will she and Troy ever make it back to Broadway?


Acadamy 7 by Anne Osterlund

Aerin is a scarred fugitive in search of a better life. Dane is a self-destructive rebel driven by revenge. Despite her defensiveness and his pent-up anger, they quickly establish themselves as the top new students at the most prestigious school in the universe. But they must strip away their inner barriers and brave the scalding secrets of the past in order to meet the true challenge of Academy 7.

Seize the Story by Victoria Hanley

Have you ever wanted to write novels of your own? At last, a book written for teens who are interested in writing fiction. Packed with examples and writing exercises as well as interviews with other successful authors, Seize the Story takes you through the secrets for creating original characters, believable dialogue, dramatic settings, and exciting plots.
--Click here to see our interview with Victoria Hanley.--

--And don't forget about our contest, everyone!--

You can win a signed set of Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier! They are phenomonal books. To learn more about the contest, click HERE.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb

Calder is a Fetch, a death escort, the first of his kind to step from Heaven back to Earth. The first to fall in love with a mortal girl.

But when he climbs backwards out of the Death Scene, into the chaos of the Russian Revolution, he tears a wound in the ghost realm, where the spirits begin a revolution of their own.

Character Development: 4/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 5/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 3/10
Recommendation: 6/10
Total Score: 32/60
Grade: C

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: NO
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: NO
Sexual Content: NO
Aimed at 12+.

Eh. This book was alright. I hesitate to say even that. It was extremely put-downable, in my opinion. The beginning was slow, and I hardly absorbed anything until around page fifty. Calder annoyed me to no end pretty much the entire time.

I hate giving books lukewarm reviews, but I'm only being honest--despite great promise, this "supernatural romance" (as the cover claims) was less romantic than a funeral and half as exciting. Part of my problem, I think, was the history involved. It was a Russian Revolution piece, saturated with politics and war and Anastasia. I couldn't help but sigh and roll my eyes when I discovered it would be another one of those stories.

Aside from that, Calder was a Fetch, and though I respect and appreciate Whitcomb's creativity where Heaven and the afterlife were involved, I admit it bored me. Throughout the story, Calder presses us with suspense about "Will I be forgiven?" and "Where's the Captain?" or "Where's the Key?" scattered around "I want to kiss Ana but I'm too holy and considerate!" Ugh. His virtue was tantamount to tedium, even though the point of the novel was that he broke his Vows and came to Earth.

I thought the research on the era was well done, the characters and situations were mostly realistic, but the voice of the writing was terribly monotonous. I think it could have been made more exciting by shifting the point of view to Ana, though I can't see how the plot would hold up around that. Overall, The Fetch was a book that I'm surprised I was able to finish, but of which I can give little real opinion. It had good and bad points, almost equally, but is definitely not one my favorite reads thus far.

An Interview with Author Victoria Hanley

VICTORIA HANLEY is the author of The Seer and the Sword, Healer's Keep, and The Light of the Oracle as well as two books on writing and publishing--Seize the Story and Wild Ink

We will soon be hosting a contest for copies of Healer's Keep! Stay tuned! :)
Here is the interview:

Your YA Fiction books all have interconnected plots or settings. How did you organize all of this in your mind and create three separate stories that are so ingeniously woven together?

I wish I could tell you that I laid all the plots out ahead of time in an outline, but that's not true. When I write, I feel as if I'm groping my way through an unknown land and trying to find a path that surely must be there but isn't yet visible. Once the first draft is finished, I go back to make sure all the threads are woven together in a way that works.

You have also written a few books on writing for young adults. How does this compare to writing fiction, and what inspired you to write these?

Seize the Story, my book on how to write, grew out of leading writing workshops for thousands of teens. I love teaching, and also love seeing the wonderful writing that teens create once they have a few tips. My goal was to write an instruction book that would read more like a novel than a textbook. Wild Ink, which is a guide to publishing YA (young adult) books, was written to clear up many misconceptions about the business side of publishing, and hopefully save would-be writers some of the pangs of trial and error.
Nonfiction was easier in many ways than fiction, because I knew in advance exactly what I wanted to say. No wandering in the dark. :)

What has been your favorite thing about being a Young Adult Fiction author?

I like to say that a young person is a person of any age who wants to do--and WILL do--new things, things with unknown outcomes. Writing for teens keeps me young.

What is one thing about the experience and process of getting published that interested/surprised you the most?

I was almost entirely clueless about the business side of publishing when I started, so there were years of trial and error. Literally every part of the publishing aspect of writing surprised me in some way. (It's all in Wild Ink.)

How do you decide on the natures of your protagonists?

By the time I write about my protagonists, they seem quite real and alive within themselves. That's just the way my mind works--and I'm not alone in that approach; many writers relate to their characters as if they were actual people. The challenge becomes to write accurately so that readers may come to know the characters too.

Did you have any mentors that led you to writing, or did you choose that path without guidance? If so, why?

No mentors, unless you count all the books that I read. I grew up in a household without a TV, so reading was the main source of entertainment! And from early in childhood, I enjoyed making up stories. I didn't seek out mentors because it frankly did not occur to me to do so. It seemed like bringing other people into it would just make it more difficult to trust my own voice. I probably could have saved myself a lot of time and trouble if I'd done things differently, but I'm still glad that I trusted my voice, and still think it's the most important thing every writer must do. (It's also often the most difficult thing.)

What is your fondest memory of being a writer, getting published, etc?

The moment when my first publisher decided in favor of publishing The Seer and The Sword. That's when I knew the dream was real.

Keep dreaming!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi from The Story Siren. On it, we will post the books we have gotten this week from the library, the bookstore, the mail, a friend that leant it to us, and any other ways that we manage to get a book from.
In Shakespeare's Muse's Mailbox:

The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb

Calder is a Fetch, a death escort, the first of his kind to step from Heaven back to Earth. The first to fall in love with a mortal girl.
But when he climbs backwards out of that Death Scene, into the chaos of the Russian Revolution, he tears a wound in the ghost realm, where the spirits begin a revolution of their own.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (not strictly YA Fiction, but it somehow fell into my possession this week. I may or may not read it.)
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imaging that she would find it in a letter from a man she'd never met, a native of Guernsey, the British island once occupied by the Nazis. He'd come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell hum where he might find more books by this author.
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique, spur-of-the-moment way: as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the Society's charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters she learns about their island, their taste in books, and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

And last but most anticipated, we have:

Fire by Kristin Cashore

It is not a perfect time in the Dells.

Young King Nash clings to the throne, while rebel lords, in the north and south, build armies to unseat him. War is coming. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves.

This is where Fire lives, a girl whose startling appearance is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Everyone...except Prince Brigan.


In Elise's Mailbox:

Switch by Carol Snow

Not much happens in Claire's sleepy beach town, but that's okay. All she wants is to hang out with her best friend, make the high school swim team, and convince Nate, the guy of her dreams, to stop calling her "Dude." And, oh—she'd really, really like to stay in her own skin.

Ever since Claire hit her teens, electrical storms have been making her switch bodies. Usually she's back to her old self in no time. But when something goes terribly wrong, she finds herself stuck as another girl. And not just any girl, but the icy beauty who has caught Nate's eye.

Suddenly Claire goes from being Miss Average to Miss Gorgeous—the model-thin blonde that every girl wants to look like and every guy wants to date. Will she ever figure out how to get back to her old life? More importantly, will she want to?

Fire by Kristin Cashore



It is not a perfect time in the Dells.

Young King Nash clings to the throne, while rebel lords, in the north and south, build armies to unseat him. War is coming. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves.

This is where Fire lives, a girl whose startling appearance is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Everyone...except Prince Brigan.


Character Development: 10/10!!!
Originality: 10/10!!!
Overall Enjoyment: 12/10!!! (Not joking. If I could, I would give it a 324/10)
Voice: 10/10!!!
Ending: 10/10!
Recommendation: 10/10!!!!!!
Total Score: 61/60
Grade: A++

Age Apropriate?
Cussing: No
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Some drug references, nothing too severe, and there is drinking, but not offensively
Sexual Content: Yes. Several scenes. Nothing too graphic. Very mature. And many mentions of rape.
Aimed at ages 14+.

This book is a prequel to one of my favorite books of all time--Cashore's Graceling. I had high expectations for this book from the moment I first discovered it, and let me say this: my expectations have never been so wildly surpassed.

Fire evoked such raw emotion in me that I was astonished at myself. I have never been so empathetic to a character as I was to Fire, the beautiful and cursed girl whose story is thought-provoking and deeply moving. Cashore's writing is natural and hypnotic, with the kind of perfect, earthly voice that I find myself unconsciously using for days afterward. Her imagery is clear and easy to create mentally, thus making the story as a whole more intimate and believable.

The Dells, for me, are as real as the Seven Kingdoms of Graceling, or the factual countries of today. All of them have cruelty, corruption, politics, and war as well as beauty, peace, and humanity.

In both of Cashore's books, she explores the complications, joys, and pains of love, providing situations and feelings that are far from perfect, and so heartfelt and human. Fire is a welcome contrast to Graceling in this way, although the raw passion and purity of love is equal in both novels. Also in Fire, Cashore furthers her exploration of the human mind and its strength that she began in Graceling, giving the reader an amazing insight into humanity as a whole. She also repeats the theme of the exploitation of women, magnified in Fire to a major point of focus.

But aside from these more academic aspects, Fire is truly an amazing piece of literature. A happy, welcome addiction that I hardly realized I had refused to let go of until long after I had finished. It was an experience that both traumatized and refreshed me, and I will not soon forget it. Trust me on this, readers--Kristin Cashore is an artist of a higher caliber.

Friday, April 17, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award!

Thank you so much to Jessica of ChickLit Teens for bestowing upon us this very lovely award!The award is given to new blogs and newly discovered blogs. I'm going to pass the award on to two awesome blogs that are farely new or newly discovered:

Christina at Books Are My Life

Girlwiththebraids at Reading to Myself

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Interview with Juliet Marillier!

Juliet Marillier is the author of Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret,
as well as many other adult fiction novels. She has recieved
multiple awards for her books, and is visiting us today with a wonderful interview! Make sure to enter the contest to win signed copies of her books.
What is your favorite and least favorite part about being an author?
Several favourite parts: being able to earn a living doing what I love best; sharing my stories and ideas with readers; interacting with aspiring writers.

What was the inspiration for Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret?
Wildwood Dancing grew out of a favourite fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I wanted to get away from the Celtic settings of my adult books and try something darker, hence the choice of Romania as the location for the story (Romanian folklore has vampires and werewolves.) I love stories about sisters and about girls growing up, meeting challenges and finding their own strengths. I also wanted to write a Frog Prince story in which the strongest bond of love and friendship was between the girl and the frog, so she was sorry and angry when he turned into a man. Cybele’s Secret developed from the character of Paula as she appeared in the first book. As a scholar and an independent woman in a time and culture when women had limited choices, Paula breaks quite a few barriers during her adventures.

Where do you do the majority of your writing?
I work at home, mostly at the kitchen table. I do have a study, but the dogs like to be close to me and their beds are in the kitchen/ living room. They get anxious if I am not around. My living area opens onto the garden through French doors, so it’s a nice place to work.

Which book were you the most pleased with, Wildwood Dancing or Cybele’s Secret?
Wildwood Dancing ended up being harder to write, because my editor wanted lots of changes to the original manuscript. I was happy with the final versions of both books, so I think it’s a tie.

Who is your favorite character that you created in Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret?

I’m very attached to Stoyan, but if I had to choose only one character, I couldn’t go past Gogu. Every girl should have a frog like him!

Do any of your characters reflect yourself or anyone else you know?
There are bits of me in many of the female characters, especially in scholarly Paula. All authors use their day-to-day experience to build characters and stories, but everything gets mixed up and changed in the creative process, so it is often unrecognizable in the final book. That happens with characters, too. I never write characters who are exactly like anyone I know, but I’m sure some elements or traits of real people make their way into certain characters.

What are you working on now?
I’m writing an adult fantasy called Song of the Island, which is a sequel to Heir to Sevenwaters. My next book out will be Heart’s Blood, a stand-alone adult fantasy set in medieval Ireland, in which the central character is a female scribe called Caitrin. It’s a kind of ghost story, and will be published in November 2009. I will be writing another book in the Wildwood series, probably after Song of the Island.

What are some of your favorite YA writers?
Sarah Beth Durst, Margo Lanagan, Patricia McKillip, Margaret Mahy. And lots more!

What are your hobbies?
Looking after my animals; reading; knitting. I’m currently making a jacket for my youngest granddaughter in red, yellow, green and black stripes. I belong to a gym and enjoy exercise. And I like gardening.

Do your hobbies and the things you enjoy and love have an influence on your writing? If so, how?
Yes, they definitely do. For instance, there’s usually at least one dog in each book. If you meet a male character in one of my books who is good with dogs, he will probably turn out to be the hero! My love of gardens and plant lore and the fact that I belong to a druid order means there’s quite a bit about nature, landscape and plants in the stories. Fabrics and sewing come up quite often, too – I had fun creating the girls’ party dresses in Wildwood Dancing and the exotic clothing Paula wears in parts of Cybele’s Secret. As for things I love, I am very close to my family, especially now I have four granddaughters, and I think I build that theme of family love and loyalty into all my writing.

Would you like to tell us more about your home, the kelpie cross, miniature pinscher, and tricolored cat?
My home is a cottage built around 1900 (that’s old by Australian standards) and it’s in a narrow street in one of the older parts of Perth, Western Australia. I live at the conjunction of two rivers. It’s only a minute’s walk to a riverside area of trees and walking paths, great for exercising the dogs. This area has some wonderful, huge old trees called sugar gums, and a lot of historic buildings from the first European settlement in 1826.

The animals are a big part of my life, sort of substitute family, though I have real human family as well. The old kelpie cross, Outlaw, died last year – it was very sad for me. Some of my feelings about losing him have gone into the next book, Heart’s Blood. However, I do still have two dogs. Gretel, part miniature pinscher, part Tenterfield terrier (delicate little black and tan dog with huge ears) has lived with me for about 7 years, since I got her from a dog shelter. She has the sweetest nature of any dog you could imagine and is very loyal. Sara is an elderly, blind Maltese cross (white fluff-ball) who has been with us for less than a year. I took her in when she lost her previous owner. Sara is the Jekyll and Hyde of dogs – 90% sweet old lady, 10% hell hound. She thinks she is Empress of the house and everyone in it, even though she is the smallest. Sonia the cat, aged 15, has lived with me longest of all. A tri-coloured cat brings good fortune to any home. Sonia puts up with everything calmly. She likes to sleep on the table, spreading herself over as much of my work as she can.

What are some things that your readers probably don’t know about you?
I love watching World Cup soccer. I don’t read much fantasy. In Cybele’s Secret, I made Paula face three things I’m terrified of – swinging bridges, heights and being underground in the dark. Some of my favourite foods are mushrooms, broccoli and sweet potatoes (the Maori name for these is kumara.)

CONTEST: Win Juliet Marillier's simply superb books!

Two sets of signed copies of Juliet Marillier's book Wildwood Dancing and its sequel, Cybele's Secret are up for contest!

Wildwood Dancing
Five adventurous sisters...
Four dark creatures....
Three magical gifts...
Two forbidden lovers...
One enchanted frog...
Cross the threshold into the Wildwood, and enter a land of magic, daring, betrayal, and true love.

Cybele's Secret
An ancient artifact...
A perilous quest...
A trail of magical signs...
A startling love triangle...
One young woman must venture into the forbidden corners of a mysterious city and the realm of the enchanted Other Kingdom. But can she endure inconceivable tests of bravery, wisdom, and true love?

United States residents only (sorry!)
Starts on April 16, 2009
Ends on May 1, 2009
How to enter:
-Become a follower of this blog/ already have been a follower
-Publicize this contest on your blog
-Comment on this post
-Comment on another of the posts
After you have done at least one of the above, please email me ( and notify me that you have entered, what you did to enter, and what your name is. This is mandatory so that I can contact you if you win. Everyone gets only one entry.
Good luck!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stargazer by Claudia Gray

Evernight Academy: an exclusive boarding school for the most beautiful, dangerous students of all - vampires. Bianca, born to two vampires, has always been told her destiny is to become one of them.

But Bianca fell in love with Lucas - a vampire hunter sworn to destroy her kind. They were torn apart when his true identity was revealed, forcing him to flee the school.

Although they may be separated, Bianca and Lucas will not give each other up. She will risk anything for the chance to see him again, even if it means coming face-to-face with the vampire hunters of Black Cross - or deceiving the powerful vampires of Evernight. Bianca's secrets will force her to live a life of lies.

Yet Bianca isn't the only one keeping secrets. When Evernight is attacked by an evil force that seems to target her, she discovers the truth she thought she knew is only the beginning.

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 8/10
Recommendation: 10/10
Total Score: 50
Grade: A

Age Appropriate:
Cussing: a not unbearable amount
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Mentioned college students holding beer cans. But I think that's it.
Sexual Content: Blatant in conversation.

Of course, I made it obvious in my review of EVERNIGHT that I love Claudia Gray's writing, and I still do after reading STARGAZER. It keeps me hooked the entire time. Some things about the story line this time round kind of annoyed me, though. Some of the plot twists were so out of the blue that I didn't register they were occurring. I don't think there was enough build up to leave me thinking "Wow. I can't believe that!" It was more of a, "Wait... what? What just happened?", which pulled me away from the story a bit, and made it less believable.

Lucas kind of disappointed me in this book. He wasn't the angel he used to be! But luckily, he redeemed himself toward the end, and he was on my awesome list again. I loved it despite some of the bad things I said about it! I suppose I have to be even more critical on books I already know will be good. I can't wait for the next book! STARGAZER ended with too many questions to be answered, so I am anxiously awaiting the next in the series, HOURGLASS.

If you are in the mood for a blood filled, suspenseful and dramatic romance, than you should definitely find this series. You will fall in love with the characters and will be flipping the pages at a lightning speed.

To read the prologue and first chapter of STARGAZER, visit Claudia Gray's site!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Weight of the Sky by Lisa Ann Sandell

This trip is Sarah’s first time going away without her family, and she is terrified and thrilled, all at once, but her journey entails more than just being on an adventure far from home; it’s about figuring out how to fit in when you’ve felt so apart all your life.

Character Developement: 8/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10 Ending: 9/10
Voice: 10/10
Recommendation: 8/10
Total Score: 54
Grade: A

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: None at all.
Drugs, alcohol, etc.: A little drinking, I believe it only happened once.
Sexual Content: None at all.
Aimed at age 12 and up.

This book was written by Lisa Ann Sandell, who I have already established as an amazing author (cuz she is). This book was no exception to the grave and beauty of her writing. It is written in verse, like another of her books, SONG OF THE SPARROW. It is easy to fall into the rhythm of the verse, and once your there, hard to leave. The book was very pleasing, though I think I like it least of her three. The motifs that continue through the book will leave you contemplative and thoughtful. Sarah's journey to Israel ties in perfectly with the flashbacks of her hard high school times. And the changes that the trip created in Sarah were prominent at the end of the novel in a relinquishing way. When you put it down at the end, you will feel somewhat cleansed and peaceful.

As an added snippet, this is what Lisa Ann Sandell has to say about the book on her site:

This novel is based very, very loosely on my first visit to Israel, which took place during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. There, I stayed on a kibbutz not so different from Kfar Avivim, and I fell in love. With being on my own, with the land, with a boy, with the whole idea of romance. But that is where the similarities end. Sarah is very much her own person, and her adventures are different from my own. Promise.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Interview with Aimee Friedman!

Aimee Friedman is the author of several YA novels including South Beach, French Kiss, The Year My Sister Got Lucky, and many others. Her newest novel, Sea Change will be released June 1, 2009.
Here is the interview:

What is your favorite and least favorite part about being a writer?
There are many things I love about writing, but I'd say that my favorite part--other than the sheer fun that comes with inventing whole worlds--is what happens after a book is written: that is to say, hearing back from my readers. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that the story you have labored over alone has spoken to another person in some way--inspired them, excited them, entertained them. Luckily, in this era of websites and Facebook, it's easier than ever for authors to hear from readers, and vice-versa. So, readers: please feel free to email me! (

My least favorite part has got to be writer's block. A lot of people say writer's block doesn't exist, but I wholeheartedly disagree! That heavy, unsatisfying feeling you get when you know what you want to say but can't get the words and sentences to obey you--that's torture. Staring for hours at the teasing blank screen, rewriting a paragraph a million different ways... that is the hard, sticky part of writing. Of course, once you get through it, the wonderful sense of relief can't be beat.
If you weren’t a writer, what would be your preferred career choice?
I actually have another job! I work full-time as a senior editor at a big publishing house, which, aside from writing fiction, is something I have always wanted to do. Needless to say, I love books, and it's lovely to be surrounded by them, both at work and at home. There are many times, though, when essentially having two full-time jobs starts to take its toll on me. I don't get enough sleep, and I'll often daydream about chucking it all and running off to live in a secluded small town and work as a nanny.

I also daydream about working in: film (as a director or screenwriter), fashion (as a designer or stylist), or advertising (I love the show "Mad Men").
What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies?
My hobby was always writing--which, sadly, sort of ceases to be a hobby when it becomes your career. The same goes for reading (since I have to read all the time as an editor!). I do, however, love to dance--I studied ballet when I was growing up (and I wrote about it in THE YEAR MY SISTER GOT LUCKY) and I still enjoy taking dance classes when I can find the time. I also love exploring New York City, my hometown, particularly when said exploring involves cozy restaurants and shoe stores.
What is the most important message that you want to portray to your readers in your books?
There are so many books out there that emphasize a "mean girls" culture. I like to think my books promote a more positive image of young women that shows how kind they can be to each other...while still offering a juicy, breathless read! For example, my novel, SOUTH BEACH, is about boys and bikinis and scandals, but ultimately it's a story of true friendship between two girls.
What advice would you give to teens passionate about writing?
Read! Read what you love, read what excites and interests you, whether it's graphic novels, fantasy, "chick-lit," classics, etc. The more you read, the more inspired you will feel to tell your own stories--trust me. And the same goes for your own writing: write down whatever excites and interests you, not necessarily what you feel you "should" be writing. I always say, your own writing should make your heart beat a little bit faster.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I have serious trouble writing in my own apartment--my bed is too inviting, the fridge is too full, the TV too tempting! So I usually write in a nice little coffee shop right near my apartment. It has squishy seats, free WiFi, delicious iced lattes, and, perhaps most importantly, tons of other people with their laptops, working away. Being around other people who are working gets me motivated, too.
What do you do to fight writer’s block?
As I mentioned above, writer's block is my mortal enemy! I have found some ways to combat it, though. The thing with writer's block is, trying to force yourself through it is a losing battle. The key is to give yourself space, and step away. Usually taking a long walk, seeing a movie, having dinner with a friend, or reading another book will do the trick. I think writer's block is all about being burned out, and needing a rest. Sometimes it might take a few days or even a week, but eventually I'll start feeling inspired and invigorated again.
When you’re writing a new book, who do you let read your first drafts, if anyone?
I actally like to show my older sister my work in progress. She's an English professor and a great writer herself, so I trust her opinion completely. Also--and this is crucial--she is always 100% honest with me. If she doesn't think something is working, she'll tell me flat-out. On the other hand, if she tells me something is terrific, I'll know to believe her. The same goes for my editor, who always sees my complete first drafts--when it comes to writing and getting critiques, honesty is the best policy.
Who are your favorite YA authors?
Wow, that's tough to narrow down --this is such a wonderful, rich time for YA fiction. Right now, I'd have to say Kate Brian, Meg Cabot, Maureen Johnson, Libba Bray, Lisa Ann Sandell, David Levithan, Lynn Weingarten, Nina Beck, Micol Ostow, Katie Finn, Hailey Abbott, Claudia Gabel, Gayle Forman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Virginia Euwer Wolff, and many many more...
Sea Change is your first fantasy novel. Was writing a story with a magical aspect a different experience than that with your other books? If so, how?
At first, I didn't really think of SEA CHANGE as fantasy--I just knew I wanted to write a love story with a magical twist. The writing of it was definitely a different experience from my other books. All fiction is about world-building, but fantasy--especially good fantasy--has worlds that are so much more fully realized, so much more developed. It was challenging--but also a lot of fun--to invent the world of Selkie Island, the legend and lore. It involved some degree of research and a lot of careful plotting. In the end, though, I still think of SEA CHANGE as essentially a love story. The magic--or the mystery-- is just an added bonus.
What are you currently working on?
I loved spooky stories when I was young, so I'm actually working on a supernatural, spooky book for younger (tween) readers. It's a nice change of pace! On the YA end of things, I'm brainstorming a novel about traveling--if you've read SOUTH BEACH, FRENCH KISS, or HOLLYWOOD HILLS, you'll know I love writing about exotic, glamorous locales.

What are some things your readers probably do not know about you?
A lot of me spills into the characters in my books--Katie in THE YEAR MY SISTER GOT LUCKY and Norah in A NOVEL IDEA are both very similar to me in lots of ways: daydreamers, book-lovers, sensitive souls. But something that might surprise readers is that, like Miranda in SEA CHANGE, I went to the Bronx High School of Science, and I actually really liked science growing up. The facts and figures of science (and math) often provided such a nice balance to the ambiguities of writing and literature. Eventually, I realized science wasn't for me, but there was a time when I was very passionate about cell division! I guess it goes to show you never know where your interests will lead you...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she's got them all beat. Her dad made a fortune showcasing photos of pretty girls and his party lifestyle all over the Internet, and her mom was once one of her dad's girlfriends and is now the star of her own website. After getting the wrong kind of attention for way too long, Hannah has mastered the art of staying under the radar...and that's just how she likes it.

Of course, that doesn't help her get noticed by her crush. Hannah's sure that gorgeous, sensitive Josh is her soul mate. But trying to get him to notice her; wondering why she suddenly can't stop thinking about another guy, Finn; and dealing with her parents makes Hannah feel like she's going crazy. Yet she's determined to make things work out the way she wants--only what she wants may not be what she needs. ...

Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 5/10
Overall Enjoyment:
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 7/10
Recommendation: 6/10
Total Score: 41/60

Grade: B

Drugs, Alcohol, etc?
Little to none, as far as I recall.
Sexual content? Some. No real scenes, but it is referenced often.

Aimed at 15+.


As far as ChickLit goes, this was pretty good. As a teenager myself, I find that many of the protagonists in these kinds of novels are troubled in one way or another -- they smoke, they drink, they have sex -- and my experience is that not every single teenager is like that. This book, thankfully, proves this. Our heroine, though she comes from a slightly questionable background, is somewhat normal and has ethics. I liked that about her. She had a normal problem, social anxiety and embarassment, that many, many of these readers can relate to. A lot of the plot twists were surprising and juicy, though overall I found the book predictable. And though I know it isn't the author who writes this, the jacket summary kind of gave it away for me. The mention of Finn and the cryptic final sentence, "what she wants may not be what she needs" sort of gives the reader an idea of the whole plotline before we've even passed the title page. However, the writing is pretty well-done and overall, I think it was a worthwhile read.

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns by John Green
Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life--dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge--he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues--and they're for him. Urged down the disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 10/10!
Recommendation: 8/10
Total Score: 51/60
Grade: A

Age Appropriate? (I will discuss this below)
Cussing? Excessively.

Drugs, Alcohol, etc?
Yep. Mostly alcohol. TEEN DRINKING WARNING.
Sexual Content? Uh-huh. A ton.
Aimed at age 16+.
(Anyone of high school level could read this book and be fine with it; I am merely saying that, in order to read it, you will have to be mature--way more mature than the characters)


Paper Towns
was extremely fantastic. Let me just say that now. The writing and voice was hunorous and witty, but also very real. There was a distinct yet not unbelievable difference between Quentin's internal narration/thoughts and his actual dialogue. It made him very real and created depth. Major kudos to John Green for his character development and voice--both of these points surpassed my expectations by miles and kept me reading until I couldn't possibly go further. The character of Margo Roth Spiegelman was beautifully constructed out of a medley of all-too-human emotions under a facade of a girl we all wish we were. Through Quentin, we come to know Margo and, consequently, the entire human race. This is a book of discovery, philosophy, and speculation that took me on a journey from which I emerged feeling cleansed. I strongly urge anyone and everyone who has ever admired someone from the outside to read this book.

Now let me address for a moment the topics I discussed above under "Age Appropriate?" (Cussing, alcohol, sex, etc). Paper Towns takes place in a modern American town, with the protagonist a modern American eighteen-year-old boy. Quentin and his friends are just like all teenage boys at their age--foulmouthed and interested in girls. At first, their awful stereotypical teenage antics offended me and made me question my choice of the book. But I quickly got over it. Green's narration more than makes up for the language and jokes, and, though I don't guarantee that you will be able to look past it as I did, I do urge you to go ahead and read the book if this is your only qualm.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She's not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.
Until now.
Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family--and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Character Development: 7/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 5/10
Voice: 10/10
Recommendation: 8/10
Total Score: 47 points
Grade: A

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: occasionally
Drugs, alcohol, etc.: a not unbearable amount, only smoking and the Alice "Drink Me" bottle
Sexual content: none at all
Aimed at age 12 and up

This is a completely unique book with an enchanting and original plot that will leave you wondering what you will learn next. There is an unsatisfactory ending because half the story is still untold, but it will be finished in Act 2 of Bertie's life. It is interesting to see the struggle of the characters bound to the theatre. Who is the real person behind what is written in their scripts? This question will constantly be running through your head. It was very entertaining to read about the characters we know from famous plays (Hamlet, Ophelia, the fairies from Midsummer's Night Dream, and others) in a different light.

Beatrice is an interesting character. She has a spunky personality that is easy to fall in love with, though some of her actions make you want to shake some sense into her. The magical theatre is completely intriguing. Lisa Mantchev constructs this setting perfectly to where ever nook and cranny of the theatre will be pictured in your mind.

Check out the Theatre Illuminata site because it is simply beautiful and will have you in love with the book before you even read it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

An Interview with Author Donna Jo Napoli
Donna Jo Napoli, author of 19 YA books, including Zel, Bound, and The Smile, was interviewed by me on April 3rd, 2009. Here is what she said:

When did you first know you'd be a writer?

I didn't start writing till I was 28 -- and from the moment I started writing, I was a writer. Not a published one -- that took 14 more years -- but nevertheless a writer. Writing is an activity and a state of mind, and whether or not you get published, if you write, you are a writer.

What influenced your writing and how has that changed over time?

Everything influences my writing. Everything I see and hear and smell and feel and taste. All the things I learn to do. All the things I find in people's conversations. All the stories I've ever been told.
Changes over time? Well, the more I live, the more I experience, so the more there is to influence me.

Describe your experiences of getting published.

I'd send out a MS. I'd wait. And wait. I'd get back a letter: "Thank you for your story; we don't want it."
That lasted 14 years.
Then I sold something.
And once I sold one thing, I just kept selling.

When you're writing a new book, who do you let read your earliest drafts, if anyone?

My family.

How much research do you do per book?

That depends on how little I know about the topic. Sometimes I have to read for months and months (once, a whole year) before I get up the courage to try to write. But sometimes I write about things closer to home -- and the research takes less time.

How do you choose names for your characters and places?

I choose names appropriate to the time/place/culture.
I choose the place by what will make my story better. A story about a man turning into a lion (like Beast) is best in a country where people don't eat bloody meant (like any Muslim country) -- so that the country helps to make the horror of the situation worse. That's what I look for in a setting -- ways to tighten the screws -- to make frightening things horrifying, sad things tragic, funny things hilarious, whatever.

Your books take place all over the world in all kinds of places. Do you travel much for your writing?

Yes, I travel a very lot for my writing. Tomorrow I'm going to India -- and , of course, I'm working on a book set in India in the 1500s.

Which do you prefer writing: historical fiction, retellings of myths, fantasy, or children's fiction?

I don't have a preference. When I'm writing a book, it is totally engrossing me -- and I love that feeling of getting lost in the book.

Have you met any other authors since becoming one yourself?

Tons. There's an organization called the SCBWI -- and they have meetings and invite writers. So I meet lots of writers at these meetings. And at State Library Association Meetings. And at State Teachers of English meetings. And so on.

What is one of your best writing stories that you would like to share?

Oh, my. I guess maybe it's that when I went to try to sell a picture book, after having published many novels, I found that no one wanted to buy it. It was rejected by nearly 30 publishers before someone finally took a chance on me. And then it did well. (It's called Albert.) Here's the rule: one person hates what another person loves. So never take a rejection lying down. Always stand up and send out your story again.

Do have any questions or authors you would like to suggest for future interviews? Please comment on this post.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan


In Mary's world, there are simple truths.

The Sisterhood always knows best.

The Guardians will protect and serve.

The Unconsecrated will never relent.

And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

Now she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?

Character Development: 11/10! (yes, I mean that)

Originality: 9/10

Overall Enjoyment: 10/10

Ending: 7/10

Voice: 10/10

Recommendation: 9/10

Total Score: 56/60


Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Nope.

Drugs, Alcohol, etc: None.

Sexual Content: Depends on personal interpretation (see Carrie Ryan's explanation here)

Aimed at high-school age 14+


This is a book about the zombie apocalypse--and, no, I'm not joking. The Unconsecrated are infected future citizens of the world and they will come eat you if you don't watch out! The Forest of Hands and Teeth, however, is not a lame scream-filled horror (quite the contrary, in fact). It is a beautifully constructed, meaningful, speculative book with a realistic, tortured voice that the reader cannot avoid wanting to die for. Mary is just so real. Her desires and needs and decisions aren't fanciful or outlandish and really let us connect with her on such a personal level that it's frightening. The amazing and horrific setting is both enthralling and disturbing, from the blatant declaration that marriage has nothing to do with love to the vivid descriptions of individual undead. Zombies aside, however, this book is also a love story that will rip you to the core with the all-too-real emotions and complications that come along with falling in love in a world like Mary's involving a heartrending love-square full of pain, sacrifice, and duty that is just all wrong but cannot be put right. But above all, this story leaves the reader with one question, waiting desperately to be answered with Ryan's next novel: How exactly will the world survive the siege of the Unconsecrated?

Look at this book trailer -- a Kirkus Reviews 2008 Teen Book Video Awards Finalist. View the other 2 finalists (Parties and Potions; Persistence of Memory) here.
(sorry for the awful formatting.)

In My Mailbox Elise (1)

Shakespeare's Muse and I will switch off every other week doing the "In My Mailbox" segment. These are the books that I have recieved either in the mail, from the library, or bought this week.
A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell
In A Map of the Known World, Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. This is the tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She's not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.
Until now.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family--and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

The Weight of the Sky by Lisa Ann Sandell
This trip is Sarah’s first time going away without her family, and she is terrified and thrilled, all at once, but her journey entails more than just being on an adventure far from home; it’s about figuring out how to fit in when you’ve felt so apart all your life.

The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable
Calwyn has lived all her life behind the high ice-wall that guards the sisters of Antaris from the world of Tremaris.
The sisters practice ice chantment -- one of the Nine Powers of chantment, a form of magic worked through music. But when Calwyn finds an Outlander man fallen, wounded, through the wall, she is drawn to him ... and drawn into a wondrous, dangerous adventure.
It is an adventure that takes her outside the wall and to the limits of her own powers, as she, the Outlander Darrow, and others unite to defeat the sorcerer Samis, who seeks to claim all Nine Powers and become the Singer of All Songs.