Friday, July 31, 2009

Meridian by Amber Kizer

In stores August 11, 2009!

On the flap:
Half-human, half-angel, Meridian Sozu has a dark responsibility.

Sixteen-year-old Meridian has been surrounded by death ever since she can remember. As a child, insects, mice, and salamanders would burrow into her bedclothes and die. At her elementary school, she was blamed for a classmate’s tragic accident. And on her sixteenth birthday, a car crashes in front of her family home—and Meridian’s body explodes in pain.

Before she can fully recover, Meridian is told that she’s a danger to her family and hustled off to her great-aunt’s house in Revelation, Colorado. It’s there that she learns that she is a Fenestra—the half-angel, half-human link between the living and the dead. But Meridian and her sworn protector and love, Tens, face great danger from the Aternocti, a band of dark forces who capture vulnerable souls on the brink of death and cause chaos.

Rating:
Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 7/10
Setting: 8/10
Recommendation: 9/10
Total Score: 57/ 70
Grade: A

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Yep
Drugs, alcohol, etc: None
Sexual Content: None
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Lots of death scenes (obviously), some bloody scenes as well.

Review:
Meridian's story quickly draws you in, and the book is impossible to put down. I read it in two sittings. The writing is somewhat simplistic, but it compliments the book and the character perfectly. Amber Kizer shows a deep understanding of life and death through Meridian's role as a Fenestra. Though this book might hold some religious controversy, the main motif of life and death remains somewhat neutral.

The chapters flow seamlessly together and create a fast and enjoyable read. The plot and cast of characters will make anger broil up inside of you, happiness elate you and contemplative thoughts run through your mind. Some parts are cheesy, and some relationships seem to develop too quickly, or too choppily. Yet these few negative aspects are easily bypassed as the story comes to life on the pages.

This book is definitely a must for paranormal lovers.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Interview with Amber Kizer


Amber Kizer is the author of One Butt Cheek at a Time and her new upcoming novel, Meridian, which will be in bookstores August 11. Upcoming on READING ROCKS will be a review of Meridian and, maybe, just maybe, if your lucky... a super great contest for both of Amber Kizer's books. Stay tuned!
(And I really apologize for the paragraph formatting with this post. Blogger refuses to be kind today. -Elise-)

Your two Young Adult novels are very different. Do you prefer the end result of one over the other? Did you have more fun writing one than the other?

The funny thing about being a writer is that I'm always in love with whatever project I'm working on in the moment-which means I'm years ahead of what readers are looking at and reading! Trying to pick a favorite is like trying to pick a favorite flavor of ice cream-not possible!

Do you find yourself relating to any of your characters? If so, how?

There are always parts of characters that I feel on a gut level---Gert cracks me up. She hates high school and I did too (for different reasons in some cases but still loathed most of those years!) Meridian's struggle with grief and death is something I completely understand— again, differently, but it's the emotions of the characters that I relate to more than anything else.

For me, a theme in my work is that of learning how to be okay in your own skin— take what you've got and get okay with whatever and whoever you are. Regardless of the book or genre I think that comes up a lot.

How did you come up with the idea for MERIDIAN? I mean, a half-angel, half-human link between the dead and the living is a very original idea. What is the story behind it?

This book is very close to my heart— the idea came from sitting vigil as my grandparents died (about 18 months apart). They both had very different dying experiences, though in both cases, as a family, we chose to work with a wonderful hospice organization (St. Vincent's Inpatient Hospice Care, in Indianapolis, IN).

With everything in life, I like to know as much as possible so I read and did a bunch of research on dying, the physical process itself, the psychological process, and people's near-death experiences.

For this story, I wanted to explore the idea that the "light" people talk about as they die is an actual person and what that might mean.

What if everyday of a person's life was that of being a window to beyond? I wanted to give a face to death that wasn't the Reaper's, wasn't something out of nightmares. And saying "God" is there in death doesn't say much--what does that mean really? How does that look?

And from a science aspect we're all energy. Where does that energy go? And isn't a soul of any animal or plant worthy energy? How does that look? How does that fit with the major religions and cultural norms?

And I also wanted to explore some organized religion as fear based— the idea that people hide behind religion because they're afraid or upset or angry. How does that twist what can be profound and comforting in faith? The mob mentality is so easy to manipulate if you're good at it--I wanted a character (Perimo) who was good at it and used it.

What does writing mean to you?

Writing is like breathing— it's always happening even when I'm not staring at a computer screen. It's necessary.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I don't have a place-for me it's more about the favorite time of day-when the world sighs and slides into sleep. When it's so quiet I can hear whispers of story.

Do you have a cure for writers block?

Writer's block is an excuse (I don't believe in a muse either). It's work. Sometimes it's crap, sometimes it's not usable. Sometime's it's a matter of writing gibberish to find the stream to swim in, but there isn't a wall you can hit if you don't believe in it.

How do you choose the names for your characters and places?

Sometimes they come to me like being introduced to a new person at a party. It's not like you can say "Oh, I'm so sorry your name is Jane, you're so much more an Erika or a Becky." You go with it because that's what the character demands.

Character names are very important to me and usually that's one of the first things I know about a story— who is in it and what are they called? I knew Meridian's name from the very beginning, but it wasn't until we got to know each other (sounds strange to non-writers I know!) that I realized her name has all sorts of levels to it. Meridian can mean a midpoint like midday. It can also be the center of an object. It's used when talking about the longitude of Earth. In Chinese medicine Meridians are the energy pathways used in acupuncture. So it can have many connotations-what the reader should take from that is that our Meridian is caught-she lives-in the middle of life and death.

Actually, all the characters in this book have names that "mean" something to me as the writer and might resonate with readers who like to dissect deeper levels in a story. Tens, the male lead, is a Protector and as such knows things about Meridian that he doesn't really know how he knows. His full name is Tenskawtawa and comes from a Shawnee religious and political leader from the 18th century. He was Tecumseh's brother and he was also known as "The Prophet". With our Tens's backstory, and gifts, I knew it was the perfect choice and it felt right.

For the "new" species of people I introduce in this book: Fenestras and Aternocti, I played with all sorts of different languages and took inspiration from Latin primarily. I wanted names that could be pronounced even without knowing the meaning but here's my definition of both:

Fenestra is a human with Angel DNA that is triggered if they are born at midnight on December 21st. Fenestras are "Windows to the Afterlife"-they literally become windows for dying souls to get to the good place (call it Heaven or Enlightenment or Nirvana).

Aternocti are "Dark Nights," also human with Angel DNA of a different nature. As they are corrupted they lose their humanness, but Aternocti thrive on disaster, fear, destruction, and cruelty. They shepherd souls to a bad place (call it Hell or ignorance or the Underworld).

What is the most important message you want to convey to your readers in your books?

I hope every reader finds something in my stories that speaks to them personally. Hope. Joy. Belonging. Readers bring their own experiences to a book which is what makes it such a subjective art form, and so satisfying as the creator when it resonates on an emotional level. I hope readers have a good time, ideally can't put it down, and are sad when it's over! The best compliment is when a book is a "keeper" and people buy copies for their friends because "they just have to read it!" That's the best!

Are you currently working on anything? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I'm always working on something, but I'm one of those writers who don't talk about works in progress until it's drafted and on paper. I can say a sequel to MERIDIAN is in development, along with three other stories which cross a few more genre lines!

What things could you not survive life without?

Aside from running water and lots of good food? Books, music, animals-I'd probably befriend the rodents if I was in a prison. Animals can be much more enjoyable than people!

You raise chickens, bake difficult recipes, and enjoy quilting. What are some other things that your readers probably don't know about you?

I love shoes. The best and most amazing are the ones that are art and completely unwearable for me, but I love drooling over fashion mags and stores.

I adore basketball and play a mean game of HORSE. I like watching football on TV and get sucked into World Cup action as well. I like Indy Car racing, will check out Nascar, but really can't get into Hockey or Boxing-they just don't do it for me!

I can't resist wedding shows-not because I'm wedding obsessed but because they combine three of my favorite things: flowers, food/cake, and pretty dresses.

You can learn more about Amber Kizer and her books by visiting her website here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hamlet: A Novel by John Marsden


This book will be available August 11th, 2009.

Synopsis:

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but Hamlet can't be sure what's causing the stench. It emanates from Elsinore, the royal palace, and his family seems to be the problem, not the solution. Horatio thinks his friend is acting stranger than usual, but on the other hand, Hamlet's uncle has become his stepfather. The prince's rage at his mother's infidelities -- together with his greed for the beautiful Ophelia and the call of his dead father to revenge a "murder most foul" -- have his mind in chaos.

He wants to be the size of a king, man enough for anything, but can Hamlet believe his own eyes? Was it really his father's ghost that night on the castle ramparts -- or a hell-fiend sent to trick him?

Ratings: (please see review)

Character Development: 7/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: --/10
Voice: 6/10
Setting: --/10
Recommendation: 10/10
Total Score: 52/70

Grade: A

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Some, but not too frequently.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None.
Sexual Content: No actual scenes, but mentioned many times and there is some crude narration. For mature audiences, I would say.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Suicide, murder--it's Hamlet. You get the idea.

Review:

This book is almost impossible to assign number ratings to because it is a classic tale--we've all heard it, we all know how it ends and where it's set. Therefore, I did not try to give those aspects a rating at all. The point of the book is not to create an original tale, but to tell a well-known tale in an original way, and so Hamlet: A Novel received good marks for originality, because this it certainly accomplished.

It may look like Shakespeare's Hamlet, and it is. It is the tale in full, written in prose for a modern audience. Amazingly readable, this book is quick, light, witty, and does justice to the great Bard himself. Marsden's ingenuity is obvious in his writing, where he carefully weaves in the famous words of Shakespeare with his own version of the story. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is expected to read the play for school (ahem) or just wants a thorough understanding of the plot, without the additions or creative license some authors take where this story is involved.

Though beautifully written, some aspects of the voice were not satisfying to me. I get Marsden's intention to make Hamlet easily understandable, but some of the changes he made--for instance, calling pants/men's hose "jeans"--irked me. At other times, it seemed inconsistent. For a few paragraphs the tone would be bordering on Shakespeare's actual words but would then veer off into something casual and contemporary. This was not always a problem, and I think that this would actually appeal to many readers, but not for me.

Overall, a great, entertaining read that only increased my love of Shakespeare. Even for those who don't enjoy his plays, it would still definitely be something I wouldn't want to miss!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Interview with author Kate Constable

Kate Constable
is the Australian author of several YA novels, including:



During your childhood, you moved around a lot in Australia and Papua New Guinea. How did this experience affect your writing?
I think it made me into a writer. It certainly made me into a reader! No matter how many times we moved house and changed schools, I could always find refuge in the world of books and imagination. A friend once suggested that growing up in New Guinea made me want to write about other strange and exotic worlds in fantasy; I'm not sure if that's true, but it might be. I do think that having such an eventful childhood has made me more open to the possibility that anything can happen, which is useful for a writer!
A lot of children's and YA writing seems to be about the protagonist's need to break away themselves from others and establish themselves as an individual, to discover who they really are, but I've realised that my writing tends to focus more on the search for like-minded companions, the need to make a secure home, to find a place to belong. (Maybe that's actually the same thing, but from a different angle.) I wonder if that stems from my wandering childhood and some kind of longing for a mythical home.
Why did you start writing The Singer of All Songs?
I'd been slogging away for years on an adult novel which had been rewritten so many times I was completely sick of it, and someone suggested I put it away for a while and write something totally different. And YA fantasy was about as different from this angsty adult novel as could be. I never intended to show Singer to anyone, I just wrote it as a break from so-called "serious" writing, but it was so much fun to write, I never went back to writing for adults. It was like a light went on: "Oh, that's right, this writing business is supposed to be enjoyable, I remember now!" It was wonderful to have that freedom, where anything could happen in the story, it was like discovering the ocean after splashing in a bathtub for years. If that makes sense.
How did you come up with the awesome names in your books, like Darrow and Calwyn and Mica?
Quite a lot of the place and character names in Tremaris came from worlds I invented as a teenager. I used to write what's now called fanfic, though it didn't have a name then and I would never have shown it to anyone. So I made up a lot of places for my fanfics to happen and I ended up reusing many of the names: Antaris, Kalysons, Spareth, Gellan. Mica and Tonno were characters in a space opera that never quite got written. Darrow was named after Paul Darrow, who played Avon in a 70s sci-fi series called Blake's 7 which I was addicted to (I was in love with Avon). And Calwyn came from a street sign I drive past on the way to my mum's house, Olwen St in Nunawading in Melbourne!
The cultures of Tremaris are very diverse. What inspires you to come up with the Tremaris world and its people?
As I said, I wrote a lot of fanfic-type stuff as a teenager, mostly sci-fi inspired by Dr Who and Blake's 7, so that involved quite a bit of world-building. I always enjoyed that part of writing and I still do, I love writing notes about geography and religious beliefs and the "look" of an imagined country or city, even if none of it makes its way into the finished story. I probably start with a "look" most times, actually. The Palace of Cobwebs in The Waterless Sea has elements of Moorish architecture, Uluru, and ancient Japanese culture; in The Taste of Lightning, Cragonlands was a mix of Tibetan and Afghan elements. Again, it's very freeing to mix and match things that have caught my eye without feeling that everything has to be particularly accurate or realistic!
What most surprised you about being a published author?
I didn't expect the amount of feedback -- letters and emails I've received from readers everywhere. I've had such wonderful, inspiring and moving emails from readers, it's like finding lovely presents in your letterbox.
What is your writing process?
Um.... there's alot of staring out the window...!
I tend to spend a long time mulling before I start actually writing -- thinking about my characters and their situation, turning over story ideas. I make lots of frantic notes, most of which are never referred to again. Then I'll write an outline, which is very rough to begin with and then is rewritten with increasing detail. And then I start at the beginning; then start again; then start again.... I always find it easier to rewrite something rough than make it perfect the first time, I find it quite liberating to say, this doesn't matter, it's just a rough draft -- then I can get going. I might do a dozen drafts before I'm happy.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I'm very lucky to have a bungalow in the backyard which is my study. It's separate from the house, which is important, otherwise I have people coming in and interrupting me all day! I look out on our jungly garden and sometimes the washing flapping from the line, which is very soothing. It's a lovely place to work and I've written (gulp) six books there in the five years since we moved to this house. The bungalow was one of the main reasons we bought this house, actually!
What was the most challenging thing for you during the whole process--writing, editing, publishing, etc?
I was always very shy about showing my writing to people before I was published, so being edited was quite confronting at first. When manuscripts came back with red pen marks all over them, I felt quite depressed! It was like getting a bad mark on an essay at school. But I soon realised how much I was learning about how to improve every aspect of my writing. Working with the wonderful editors I've had has been an invaluable education. I never formally studied writing or taken any courses, so I owe a great deal to my editors for teaching me how to tighten up my writing, how to structure a plot, and loads more besides.
On your site, there is a section labeled "Find out what Kate is writing now!" What are you writing now that comes up under that tab? :-)
Oh, er, gulp! Must get onto that... Yes, that section is woefully out of date, isn't it! I was posting up chapters of TheTaste of Lightning for Tremaris fans in America who couldn't access the book, but that was about five books ago! Thanks for drawing that to my attention, I'll make sure I update it with something slightly more current!
Can you tell us a bit about your books other than Chanters of Tremaris?
Apart from the Tremaris books (including The Taste of Lightning), I've written two and a half books in the Girlfriend Fiction series, a collaboration between Girlfriend magazine and Allen & Unwin to provide stories for teenage girls with a distinctive Australian voice. i was nervous about writing real world stories at first, but the Girlfriends have been hugely enjoyable to write, especially the forthcoming Dear Swoosie. which I wrote together with my good friend Penni Russon (who wrote the Undine fantasy trilogy). My other girlfriend titles are and Always Mackenzie and Winter of Grace. A time-slip fantasy called Cicada Summer has just been published in Australia, about a grieving girl who moves to the country and explores a spooky old house, where she finds an unexpected friend. And I'm currently working on a book, tentatively titles Crow Country, which is a fantasy (again with time-slip elements) set in Australia. I hope it will be published next year.

KATE CONSTABLE was interviewed on July 27th, 2009 by READING ROCKS.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

This book will be available August 2009.

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Lia Milthorpe has just recently lost her father, leaving her parentless. But when a strange mark appears on her wrist, she realizes she is being branded with much more than her newfound title of orphan. Lia and her twin sister, Alice, are part of an ancient prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other.

Lia hides this discoery from Alice and even from her beloved, James, but to escape from the burded this secret bestows she must end the prophecy--before her sister. Only then will she understand the mysterious circumstances of her parents' deaths, the true meaning of the mark on her wrist, the lengths to which her sister will go to defeat her, and the downfall the prophecy could bring.

Ratings:

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

Grade: A+

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: None
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None
Sexual Content: None
Disturbing Images/Violence: Creepy "Souls", murder, suicide

Review:

Michelle Zink should be applauded for her debut novel, a true masterpiece. She captures the true essence of Victorian Age America in the voice of Lia Milthorpe, a well-to-do young lady of intelligence and good sense. I loved it!

The thought-provoking characters fascinated me. The actions and decisions of individuals seemed believable yet atypical for fantasy. I didn't doubt a single moment. Lia and Alice's conflicting relationship was particularly well-developed, making for many riveting scenes. The entire cast of characters defied all my expectations and left me engrossed in the story.

Prophecy of the Sisters is quite an epic tale, full of nightmarish magic, emotion, and the haunting words of the prophecy. Zink's writing has such a clear, pure voice that complimented the plot and the characters flawlessly. I eagerly await the next installment!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Plague by Joanne Dahme


Synopsis:

Fifteen year-old Nell's uncanny resemblance, to King Edward the Third's daughter Princess Joan, brings the orphan and her brother George from the murky streets of fourteenth century London to a grand calling--a means of protection for the Royal Family by acting as a body double in times of danger.

But as the plague that claimed the lives of Nell's parents continues to ravish England and France, and eventually takes Princess Joan herself, Nell is forced by Joan's brother, the Black Prince, to take on the princess's identity for real. Nell mus carry out a plan to expand the empire by marrying the Prince of Castile. Knowing she could never permanently play the role of the Princess, Nell is determined to return to England and report the truth of the Princess's death to the King.

With the help of a number of surprising characters--including a Spanish minstrel, a monk, a gravedigger, a band of merchants--and most devotedly her brother and the young soldier Henry, Nell must escape not only the Black Prince and his army of rats, but the plague as well...

Rating:

Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Recommendation: 6/10
Total Score: 50/70

Grade: B

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: None.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc:
None.
Sexual Content:
None.
Disturbing Images/Violence:
Some scenes of plague and sickness and death.

Review:

While mildly entertaining, I found The Plague to be unrealistic and strangely paced. The author did not take enough time to explain her events and make them meaningful, while at other times she spent pages ranting about nothing in particular or repeated information unnecessarily. I think the plot in itself was a good one; however, the size and style of the book and the writing did not do it justice.

While the voice was eloquent and attractive, I found the characterization lacking. I did not believe a single one of the relationships involved--not between Nell and her brother, not between Nell and the Black Prince, not between Nell and Henry, and most certainly not between Nell and the Princess. The entire story is built around that single relationship, yet there was not one scene that led us to understand the girls' love for one another.

In general, I was disappointed. It was a fast read, and while I wouldn't read it again, I think it presents an accurate representation of the time period (as far as I know, of course). The history involved seems accurate and the author appeared confident about this in her writing. The book was interesting in its own way, but it was somehow dream-like, childish, and unbelievable. Unless you absolutely adore quick reads about the Black Death and princesses, pass this one up.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

EPIC CONTEST winners!


CONGRATULATIONS to our six winners!

The winners are as follows:

  • The Great God Pan by Donna Jo Napoli - Tasha and Eli (There are two copies)
  • Deep by Susanna Vance - Samantha
  • I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Allie Carter - Genevieve
  • Peeps by Scott Westerfeld - fayeflame
  • Tithe by Holly Black - jennifermorrill
Thanks to everyone who participated, particularly those who became new followers. Welcome to Reading Rocks, guys!


Check back on August 1st to enter an exclusive

AMBER KIZER CONTEST

including copies of Meridian and One Butt Cheek at a Time

Monday, July 20, 2009

Harry Potter Winners

Thanks to the random number generater, we now have the winners of the HP contest to announce to you. (Sorry for the delay.)
Thank you everyone who participated in HP week! :)
And without further ado, the 5 winners are...
21
Bianca
bookaholic13
Linda
Paradox
I will be emailing you soon for contact information. Congratulations!

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

In stores August 1, 2009.

On the flap:
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Rating:
Character Development: 9/10
Originality: 6/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Recommendation: 10/10
Total Score: 62/ 70
Grade: A+

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Occasionally
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Not at all
Sexual Content: Yes, but not graphic
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Mention of abuse, wolf-attack scenes

Review:
Maggie Stiefvater has woven an intricate and heart-felt novel that is sure to capture the heart of her readers. It is yet another take on werewolves, but very original and definitely 100% enjoyable. (And I think this is my favorite book cover of all time. Not only is it eye-catching, but it symbolizes the story in innumerable ways.) Though this book is a typical paranormal romance (which seem to be very popular right now), it is like a guilty pleasure: impossible to stop reading.

It is a love story, but one burdened by a terrible fear, and a terrible sadness. The parallel stories of Sam and Grace are beautifully written and amazing to read. The two characters differ greatly, but are still connected. The character development is spectacular. The story is written switching off from Sam's to Grace's point of view. The voice is lyrical and adult-like, but the characters are still very much high-schoolers, portrayed through their actions and words. This makes it a lovely and believable read.

Another amazing aspect of the novel is Maggie Stiefvater's use of figurative language. The placement and meaning of the similes, metaphors, and symbolism were perfect. They were not that of which you had to sit for a minute, trying to place two and two together. As soon as the sentence is read, you understand the subject in a deeper way. It was ingenious!

My only complaint is that the first time Grace and Sam meet, it seems much too casual for the situation they were in at the time. I was easily able to bypass this, though, and it didn't take away from the story. Oh! I thought of another complaint. Haha. I thought it a bit unrealistic that Sam could conjure up absolutely perfect (rhyming and all) song lyrics in a matter of seconds. Maybe people with a musician's mind can really do this... but it wasn't very believable to me personally.

The simple truth is that Shiver is a captivating read that will leave you entranced long after you have closed the book.

Here is the trailer made by the author, Maggie Stiefvater. Like the cover, it is totally symbolic and simply wonderful! Enjoy. :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Trailers

These are some book trailers that we've come across that you might be interested in. some of the books are already out, others will be coming soon
Enjoy!


Candor by Pam Bachorz


The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong



Wicked Lovely by Marissa Marr



Evermore by Alyson Noel



City of Bones by Cassandra Clare




GONE by MICHAEL GRANT

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink


Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert



Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Fire Study is the third book in the Study Trilogy.
Read Elise's Poison Study review and my Magic Study review!

The Glass Trilogy is a companion trilogy to the Study Trilogy. Read Elise's Storm Glass review!

Synopsis:

When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder--able to capture and release souls--spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before...

Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself--and save the land she holds dear.

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10!!!
Voice: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Recommendation: 10/10
Total Score: 70/70

Grade: A+


Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Some, but not very frequently.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None, really.
Sexual Content: A few scenes; some discussion of rape.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some very graphic and disturbing scenes of disembowlment and murder.

Review:


After a long and anxious wait, I finally received Fire Study and was able to read it. I was not disappointed. I read this epic ending to an amazing story in one sitting, completely unable to put it down.

Fire Study had a different feeling than the other two books. The atmosphere for the first three quarters or so was heavier, sadder, angrier. The content was more intense, and our beloved Yelena encountered problems we never believed she would have. Her troubled voice was powerful and human throughout.

In true Maria V. Snyder fashion, the reader is made to wait several hundred pages before the lovers are reunited. I have noticed that in all of her books this seems to be the case. In Fire Study particularly, Yelena and Valek's relationship took many surprising turns.

To get to the point, if you have never read Maria V. Snyder, you need to, as it is obvious that Elise and I are wholly captivated by her writing. The Study Trilogy is so epic, so satisfying, so fantastic. Since reading Fire by Kristen Cashore, I haven't been so in love with a story. These books are essential to fantasy lovers. Don't miss them.

Don't miss Maria V. Snyder's short stories, especially Power Study and Assassin Study, both set in the world of the Study Trilogy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Summary:
As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowen understands trial by fire. Now it’s time to test her mettle. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan’s glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancersparticularly the mysterious and mercurial Kade—require Opal’s unique talents to prevent it happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap into a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. And the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance—including her own—Opal must control powers she never knew she possessed...powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she’s ever known.

Rating:
Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Recommendation:10/10
Total Score: 70/70

Grade: A+

Age Appropriate?
Cussing: Some.
Drugs, alcohol, etc.: Don't think so...
Sexual Content: Yes, but not descriptive.
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Abuse, fights, blood, gore, etc.

Review:
If you've been paying attention to our reviews, you probably realized that Maria V. Snyder has us hooked on her AMAZING writing. Storm Glass definitely lived up to all expectations.

Storm Glass is the beginning of a new series, but takes place in the same world as the Study Books. In it, Snyder introduces a new heroine, one that was a supporting character in the other books: Opal. Masterly, Snyder created a new voice and a new personality much different from Yelena's. Since her books are told in the first person perspective, she must establish a difference between her main characters: Opal and Yelena. She did this perfectly.

The loved characters from the Study Books make a second appearance! But this time, they are seen in a different way from a different person's perspective. It is very interesting and also comforting to hear about the beloved Yelena, Valek, Janco, and Leif.

The writing is phenomenal, vivid, understandable, relatable and amazing to read. The character development exceeds that of many of the books in the young adult section of the bookstore. And the plot is unbelievable. These books will keep you entranced in their world long after you close the pages. READ IT.

Interview with author Kathleen Duey



Kathleen Duey
is the author of a heap of books (
here's a full list), but most notably among YA Fantasy readers is the Resurrection of Magic Trilogy.
(Sorry about the weird things happening with the font in this post. Technology is being ircksome today.)

Are any of your stories based on myths or fairy tales that you have heard of or researched? If so, which ones?
The short answer is no. So far all of my worlds are created and my stories are sociological and very human. The Unicorn's Secret and The Faeries Promise Books are built from dreams I had for almost two years in grade school. I would go to sleep here and wake up there. And when I got tired in my dream, I would fall asleep there and wake up here. It was seamless and like having two lives. I loved it.

When did you start writing?
I had the same teacher for 4, 5, 6th grades (little town, tiny school) and she noticed my interest in books and words. She assigned a story per week--just me, other kids had other special assignments. So turned in a short story every Friday for three school years. Her name was Mrs. Fredericksen and I owe my career to her. She was remarkable and changed many lives.

Many of the names in Skin Hunger are very interesting, such as Sadima and Hahp. How did you come up with these names and what do they mean?
Names for characters often just come to me. Sometimes they have meanings, but not always. Sadima is just a lovely word to me, sonorous, melodic.

Hahp is a shortening of a Mayan word: hahpi: 'seize, catch, arrest, take hold (as a sickness does); afflict (as a sorcerer does his victim)' [cl. 2-1]

Somiss is invented. It sounded sinister to me, snakelike. Sssssss....

Limori, the name of the city, is a Romany (Gyspsy) word that means "graveyard."

The cover and chapter pictures in your book are very unique and interesting. During publication, did you have any say in the layout of your book or the cover?
Covers: After days of searching, I came across David Ho's website and knew I had found the artist I wanted, someone who would paint the emotions, not just a scene or the characters. The art director loved David's stuff and welcomed my input. He used all my suggestions. It was a wonderful experience. For the second book, Sacred Scars, coming out in August 2009, I wanted Sadima hanging upside down, which the publisher found too creepy. So we reversed the art and I revised a scene to make the image fit. Both of David's digital paintings are perfect for the books, I think. I can't wait to see what he does for the third one, which I am writing now.
The interior art is by Sheila Rayyan, and it's perfect, too. She is a wonderful artist who is married to another wonderful artist, Omar Rayyan. I suggested compositions for the spot art and was delighted when they were used.

What is your favorite part about writing stories like A Resurrection of Magic series?
The complexity, managing all the details, even when it drives me nuts, is my favorite part.

You have also written many historical fiction books and horse stories. What kind of writing have you found is your favorite?
All my horse stories are historical novels. Many of my historical novels have a horse or a mule in them that helps shape the story in some way. A couple hundred years ago horses were a part of daily life in this country and much of the rest of the world. I grew up in Colorado, on a horse, so those books are built on the thousands of days I spent galloping bareback down dirt roads in the foothills. Horses are honest and kind and capable of real friendship. They taught me a great deal.

Do you have any writing experiences you'd like to share?
Too many to sift, really. It has changed my life and the way I think about everything. It took a long time to learn to write well, and I am still learning. I love that. The best part about this work is that it never gets easy, so it never gets boring.

Where do you do most of your writing?
I have a room in my home that has been converted into a messy office.


What are some of your favorite Young Adult books/authors?
I have been reading more and more YA, but can't keep up even with my friends' books so I always feel weird trying to list them.

I am looking really forward to reading Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, Can't wait for Holly Black's The White Cat. Last book read: Janni Lee Simner's Bones of Faerie, which I loved. I have a stack of novels taller than I am waiting for me...but for now am writing more than reading.

I have a new, very interesting project being looked at by publishers now: STAYS. It will involve a great deal of research, so the fiction pile will continue to grow...

How much editing do you do to a manuscript before it is ready to be published?
It varies. The only real answer to that is: I edit as much as it takes.


You are currently writing a twitter novel, Russet. What made you decide to start writing this? What would you tell someone about to start writing a novel using a media other than paper?
Russet is an experiment for me. I am channeling the character, not consciously plotting, no notes, no clue where it is going. I began it to jolt myself artistically, in part by doing it in public (scary) and not revising (even scarier). People are loving it, which makes me very happy, because I do, too. The story is strange and unexpected, unlike anything I have ever written. I archive the story in a blog but it is posted on Twitter first. So the format is 140 characters or less per entry. The compression is interesting; every word matters. My only advice for people writing for new media is to stretch, experiment and have fun. And be sure you understand copyright.

INTERESTED?

Volume 1: Skin Hunger
Read an excerpt here!
Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers prey to fakes and charlatans. A "magician" stole her family's few valuables and left Sadima's mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima's joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But Franklin's irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her, too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.
Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students will graduate -- and the first academic requirement is survival.
Volume 2: Sacred Scars
Read my review here!
Sadima, Franklin, and Somiss, driven out of Limòri by a suspicious fire, are living in a cave hidden within the cliffs that overlook the city. Somiss is convinced the dark passages of the caves were the home of ancient magicians, and his obsession with restoring magic deepens. Sadima dreams of escape -- for her, for Franklin, and for the orphaned street boys Somiss has imprisoned in a crowded cage. Somiss claims he will teach these boys magic, that they will become his first students, but Sadima knows he is lying.
Generations later, Hahp is struggling to survive the wizards' increasingly dangerous classes at the Limòri Academy of Magic. He knows the fragile pact he has forged with his secretive roommate, Gerrard, will not be enough to put an end to the evil. It will take all the students acting together to have any chance of destroying the academy. Building trust, with few chances to speak or plan, will be almost impossible, but there is no choice.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder


Second Volume of the Study Trilogy. Read Elise's Poison Study Review!

Synopsis:

Yelena is on her way to be reunited with the family she'd been stolen from long ago. Although she has gained her freedom, she can't help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways, and her newfound friends and relatives don't think it's for the better. Despite the turmoil, she's eager to start her magical training. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia's throne for a lost prince, and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians. If that wasn't bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with her new enemies.


Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10!!!
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Recommendation: 10/10
Total Score: 70/70

Grade: A+

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Some.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Drugging of young female victims of rape and torture by rogue magician.
Sexual Content: Several scenes, but no details.
Disturbing Images: Several graphic scenes of rape and violence.

Review:

If you thought Poison Study was good, just you wait! Those adventures--though brilliant in pretty much every single way known to mankind--are just a little preview to the wonders and horrors of the sequel. The most obvious difference is, of course, the setting. While takes place in Ixia, in Magic Study Yelena returns to her birthplace, the magic-ridden southern land of Sitia.

In this book, Yelena seems to have grown up. Her experiences from Poison Study have truly changed her, and it is evident, unlike so many sequels throughout the YA genre. I cared about Yelena and her choices/actions/well-being so much I hardly realized that I was sitting in my bedroom and not in the Sitian Citadel or the Illiais Jungle or wherever our heroine happened to be. And while her strength is immense, she never becomes a cheesy superhero. In fact, there are more failures than successes this time around, yet the book is an amazing, triumphant story.

Magic Study is many things--fantastical, rereadable, all-consuming--but above all else it is well balanced. A blend of deep magic, dangerous adventure, heartrending romance, hilarious sarcasm, jittery secrets, fascinating discoveries, and an amazing array of new and old characters, there is nothing about this book that I found lacking. It was, in a word, perfect.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Candor by Pam Bachorz

This book will be available September 9, 2009.

Synopsis:


Everything is perfect in the town of Candor, Florida. Teens respect their elders, do their chores, and enjoy homework...because they're controlled by subliminal messages. Only Oscar, the son of the town's founder, knows how to get kids out--for a price. But when Nia moves into town, Oscar is smitten. He can't stand to see her changed. Now he must decide to help Nia escape Candor and loose her forever, or keep her close and risk exposure...

Candor takes the classic sci-fi themes of conformity and mind control and turns them on their heads.

Rating:

Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 8/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 7/10
Voice: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Recommendation: 9/10
Total Score: 61/70

Grade: A+

Age Appropriate?

Cussing: Some, but not too bad.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some teen drinking.
Sexual Content: In conversation and some narration.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Not much.

Review:

As far as dystopian sci-fi goes, Candor was a success. I loved Oscar, for all of his quiet rebellion and purely human thoughts, and I loved Nia, for having a dark soul in a freshly-laundered white world. I thought Pam Bachorz's creation of both characters was brilliant, and the development of their relationship--while quick--was believable and beautiful.

From the very beginning, I absolutely hated Mr. Banks, Oscar's father. He just seemed so untouched by the utter destruction of nature that he caused. But somehow, I couldn't wish for harm to come to him, because Oscar loved him while he hated him. In Mr. Banks' creepy Florida dream made up of flawless molded people, families bought their mindlessness. He pretty much made a living off the saying "Ignorance is bliss".

Nia and Oscar's love seemed natural but dangerous. When both people are fighting the sick brainwashing constantly while severely testing Candor's control, the reader knows all cannot go well. There is a certain hopelessness about the whole book that grows as the story progresses, as person after person gets struck down by Candor.

All there is to hope for is a sequel. Ah!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Poem of the Month-- July

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!

Can you tell that I really like long poems? Well, I do. :) If you don't want to read it, scroll down and listen to the song by Loreena Mckennit. She's a celtic singer, which is WICKED AWESOME. Check it out.

This month's poem is...

The Lady of Shallot
By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Part I

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shallot.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro' the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shallot.

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shallot?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to tower'd Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers " 'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shallot."

Part II

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shallot.

And moving thro' a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shallot.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shallot.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed:
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shallot.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shallot.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shallot.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shallot.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro' the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shallot.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shallot.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance--
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shallot.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right--
The leaves upon her falling light--
Thro' the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shallot.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken'd wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shallot.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shallot.

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross'd themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shallot."



Want to read more about Camelot mythology?

I highly suggest you read Lisa Ann Sandell's Song of the Sparrow. It is PHENOMONAL. It's written in verse, and Sandell's writing is eloquent, beautiful, and lyrical.

Synopsis:
The year is 490 AD. Fiery 16-year-old Elaine of Ascolat, the daughter of one of King Arthur's supporters, lives with her father on Arthur's base camp, the sole girl in a militaristic world of men. Elaine's only girl companion is the mysterious Morgan, Arthur's older sister, but Elaine cannot tell Morgan her deepest secret: She is in love with Lancelot, Arthur's second-in-command. However, when yet another girl -- the lovely Gwynivere-- joins their world, Elaine is confronted with startling emotions of jealousy and rivalry. But can her love for Lancelot survive the birth of an empire?