Sunday, January 31, 2010

Interview with C. J. Omololu

C. J. Omololu

author of the upcoming YA novel
(due February 2, 2010)

Everyone has secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others.

For sixteen years, Lucy has kept her mother's hoarding a secret. She's had to—nobody would understand the stacks of newspapers and mounds of garbage so high they touch the ceiling and the rotting smell that she's always worried would follow her out the house. After years of keeping people at a distance, she finally has a best friend and maybe even a boyfriend if she can play it right. As long as she can make them think she's normal.

When Lucy arrives home from a sleepover to find her mother dead under a stack of National Geographics, she starts to dial 911 in a panic, but pauses before she can connect. She barely notices the filth and trash anymore, but she knows the paramedics will. First the fire trucks, and then news cameras that will surely follow. No longer will they be remembered as the nice oncology nurse with the lovely children—they'll turn into that garbage-hoarding freak family on Collier Avenue.

With a normal life finally within reach, Lucy has only minutes to make a critical decision. How far will she go to keep the family secrets safe?

Here is the INTERVIEW:

What do you think is the most important thing readers will take away from your book?

That secrets can only get big and dirty if you keep them to yourself, and that no matter what the issue, you're not as alone as you think.

Dirty Little Secrets is about a girl whose mother hoards everything--garbage, junk, all sorts of stuff. Why did you decide to write about this kind of life?

I actually read about a similar situation in a magazine and started wondering what it would be like to grow up like that. My parents weren't hoarders, but I've known some during my lifetime so I felt that I could write about it accurately. Once you start talking about it, almost everyone has known someone with the disorder, although it's always very hush hush.

Where have you lived in your lifetime, and how have these places inspired you or impacted your writing?

I grew up in San Diego, lived in Santa Barbara, Scotland and San Francisco. The last two places in particular allowed me to meet many different kinds of people and take down many stereotypes. I highly recommend living in a big city at least once in your lifetime.

What is your writing process like?

I usually get an idea from somewhere - a magazine article, a show on TV or just out of the blue and start "what iffing" it. What if I were that person? What if I grew up in that situation? It usually has to percolate for awhile as I get to know the characters and they reveal themselves to me little by little. Once they've really started speaking to me and tossing out great lines, I usually do a loose, 9 step plot outline and then start writing. For me, I get into a zone where it is almost like a movie is playing in my head and I'm just writing down what happens. I'm a firm believer in the fact that the stories are already there, and it's my job to chip away at them until they are revealed.

What do you think is most unique about your writing or, specifically, Dirty Little Secrets?

I think DLS gives a unique perspective on what it is like to live with someone who has a serious mental disorder. I had a lot of help from adults who had grown up in hoarded homes and they gave me some great advice while I was writing the book. I've had adult children of hoarders tell me that they couldn't read it all at once because it touched too many raw nerves.

What was the experience of getting published like for you?

I write picture books too, and had one come out in July of 2009, but publishing a YA is a completely different animal. Dirty Little Secrets was actually the third novel that I'd written, but it was the easiest to write once I'd figured out the format - about three months from start to finish. My agent loved it, and we both knew it was a matter of time before we found the right editor. A few houses thought the subject matter was too difficult to publish, but my editor Mary Kate ran with it from the start.

What is the most exciting thing about being a published (or almost published) YA author?

That other people are going to read Lucy's story. That's the most terrifying part too.

How do you choose the names for your characters?

They choose themselves really. I just picture the character and the name seems to come along with it. Sometimes for secondary characters, I'll grab my son's school directory and look through it to see what fits. If you try to force a name on a character that they don't want, you'll usually lose.

What are some of your favorite YA books?

Usually the one I'm reading at the moment. I just started Liar by Justine Larbalestier and it's really good so far. I just finished fellow Tenner author Jen Nadol's The Mark and really loved it. Of course, John Green's Looking For Alaska will always be a favorite and I love Maureen Johnson and E. Lockhart. I don't read a lot of fantasy or paranormal in general. My TBR pile is towering with all of the great stuff that is coming out these days.

And, because I've always wondered, who writes the jacket flap synopses for books? Does the author get a say in what they do or don't reveal?

No ;) Actually, it depends on the house. In my case, my editor wrote the first draft, I edited it a bit, sent it back and we came to a happy compromise. The publisher asked us not to reveal certain aspects of the book in the copy and that was fine with me.

CYNTHIA JAYNES OMOLOLU was interviewed by READING ROCKS on September 27, 2009.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets by C. J. Omololu

This book will be available for purchase on February 2, 2010.

Grade: A+


From the outside, Lucy's home looks normal. inside the front door is where the secrets begin--the floor-to-ceiling piles of newspaper and magazines, the bags of junk flooding every inch of open space, the line of mold creeping along the window frames. This is what she's kept from everyone--her mother's compulsive hoarding has reduced their lives to garbage.

It's only two years until graduation, when Lucy can leave this place behind. Her friendship with Kaylie and the newfound attention of her crush, Josh, have made her life in the meantime feel almost normal. Then Lucy comes home one morning to find her mother dead. Should she dial 911 right away and expose her family? Or protect their secret, and her mother's dignity, by cleaning up the house before reporting her mother's death? Her choice will change her life forever.


Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 66/70

free ARC provided by publisher (WALKER & COMPANY)

Age Appropriate? PG

Some, but not too much.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Teen drinking and drunkenness, teen smoking.
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Child neglect, insanity that is occasionally uncomfortable.


C. J. Omololu has crafted a surprisingly powerful, heavy book in just over two hundred pages. Her vivid imagery and mature voice, combined with the controversial subject matter, make for a fascinating read that will truly open your eyes to a very different way of life. Dirty Little Secrets is a perfectly executed novel with a smoothly arcing plot and a wonderful protagonist.

Lucy was an unusual and engaging character whose circumstances really made for an excellent story. The ebb and flow of her emotions were seamlessly timed, climaxing and receding at just the right moments to evoke a response. I empathized with Lucy--her frustration was my frustration, her indecision was mine. Beautifully done.

With insight and sensitivity, Dirty Little Secrets is a conflicting, tense book that ends in a brilliant cathartic release. Short, but packed with energy and force, this story is perfect for a reader of the unconventional and the dynamic.


C. J. Omololu

Interview with C. J. Omololu

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cover Story

"You can't judge a book by a cover."

Currently in the blogosphere there has been an uproaring about covers and their importance. This is mostly due to the whitewashing of the following books, both published by Bloomsbury:

But as a blogging community, we have stood up to the injustice of covers not correctly portraying the character by changing the color of her skin. Making our voices heard has made a difference. The cover of Liar was changed before its publication to portray an African American model. Magic Under Glass, unfortunately, succeeded in slipping under our eyes and onto the shelf with its whitewashed cover. However, Bloomsbury has stated:

“The jacket design has caused offense and we apologize for our mistake. Copies of the book with a new jacket design will be available shortly.”

Do you, as a reader, think it is important for a book cover to correctly model the character? More than anything, the cover should at least have the right skin color. Should the hair color and eye color be the same, too? Should the model be overweight if the character is? Please leave comments with your thoughts.

The cover is not only a representation of the book, but is also an important publicity feature. I certainly know that I don't pick up books that have bland covers don't interest me. I know the saying... yet I do judge books by their covers. Covers should be eye-appealing and enticing... enough to make people pick them up, out of the hundreds of other books, off the shelf. But is that more important than accuracy? Are they both important? Food for thought...
Reading Rocks, following The Book Smuggler's lead, will now be doing a feature on our blog dedicated to discussing covers and their relations to the story they represent.

We will also be joining the Persons of Color Reading Challenge. We'll be making an effort to read and review books this year with characters and/or authors of color.

Lastly, a facebook fanpage has been created: The Readers Against Whitewashing. Very cool. Check it out and join!

We should all take steps to make our bookshelves more colorful. That so much is already being done to achieve this goal is amazing, so thank you to everyone who is taking part in it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

O, Juliet... by Robin Maxwell

This book will be available February 2, 2010.

Grade: A+


Before Juliet Capelletti lie two futures: a traditionally loveless marriage to her father's business partner or the fulfillment of her poetic dreams, inspired by the great Dante. Unlike her beloved friend Lucrezia, who looks forward to her arranged marriage into the Medici dynasty, Juliet has a wild, romantic imagination that takes flight in the privacy of her bedchamber and on her garden balcony.

Her life and destiny are forever changed when Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, a soulful young man seeking peace between their warring families. A dreamer himself, Romeo is unstoppable once he determines to capture the heart of the remarkable woman foretold in his stars.


Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 63/70

Obtained: Free copy provided by publisher.

Age Appropriate? R

Cussing: Some, but nothing obscene.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: References to drinking and drunkenness. Intentional drinking of potions, etc.
Sexual Content: Several very explicit scenes that go into a lot of graphic detail. Younger readers caution. Also, lots of bawdy, lewd, or blandly suggestive talk, sometimes startlingly so.
Disturbing Images/Violence: A lot of graphic murder, some disturbing bloody "crime scenes", entrails, blood, fights, etc. Some decaying corpse images that was a bit chilling. Discussion of gay lovers (which didn't bother me, but just in case someone has a problem with that). Threat of rape by an incredibly creepy, evil man. Bigamy (sort of). Suicide.


Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

O, Juliet is a masterfully crafted retelling of a classic tale by a very gifted author. I was astounded by the mindful historical detail included in this novel. It was careful, natural, completely brilliant. Robin Maxwell makes it insanely easy to immerse yourself in the Italian Renaissance and the lively, unique Florentine world.

I was a bit apprehensive of this book. I love Shakespeare, and Shakespeare retellings, but Romeo and Juliet is just so overused, and I get sick of it. But this... This was the most creative retelling I have ever experienced. It did justice to the Bard's tale, but took many liberties that improved the story for novel-making. The play is woven into the bones of this story. It's recognizable, but the result is entirely original and thus, much more enjoyable than a simple retelling. This was a modified-telling.

This novel is written with the majestic, almost archaic voice that seems to be the most successful with Shakespearean stories. It is poetic yet comprehensible. I fell in love with Juliet and Romeo for their intelligent, clear-headed, but distinguishable voices. The dialogue was fascinating, written with a conversational/slightly formal ease that was perfect for the story.

Overall, this was a surprisingly lovely rendition of the Bard's Romeo and Juliet. It's a story all its own, for Shakespeare lovers and haters alike. Riddled with intriguing allusions to Dante Alighieri's life and work. It made me want to read his Inferno and La Vita Nuova to get a better understanding of Juliet and Romeo's obsession. But whether or not you are a fan of good ole Will Shakespeare or the great Poet Dante, O, Juliet will surely capture your heart.


Robin Maxwell
O, Juliet sneak peak!
Love Games (contest by author)
Lisa Klein (another wonderful Shakespeare reteller)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Captivate by Carrie Jones

Grade: B


Zara and her friends knew they hadn't solved the pixie problem for good. Far from it. The kind's need grows deeper every day he's stuck in captivity, while his control over his pixies get weaker. So when a new, younger pixie king shows up, war is imminent. The new kind, Astley, claims he's not evil, that his pixies can coexist peacefully with humans and weres. Zara's boyfriend, Nick, isn't buying it; no pixie could possibly be a good guy. But Zara is half pixie herself, and she is just starting to think Astley could be right when Astley let her in on another secret: he believes Zara's relationship with Nick is about to come to an end -- and that she is fated to be his queen.


Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 4/10
Overall Enjoyment: 5/10
Ending: 6/10
Voice: 5/10
Plot: 5/10
Setting: 9/10
Total Score: 42/70
Obtained: Free ARC provided by publisher (BLOOMSBURY USA)

Age Appropriate?PG-13

Cussing? Some.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc? Not really.
Sexual Content? Some references in conversation, but no explicit scenes.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Murder, death, graphic violence, lots of blood, etc...


Throughout this whole book, I was bored. It isn't that the story itself is unexciting -- quite the contrary. But the teenager-y voice for which the author has been praised just doesn't appeal to me. Zara seemed overly adolescent, immature, and babyish. If I had met her in real life, I don't think I would have liked her at all. She was flat, whiny, annoying.

I can definitely appreciate the humor in the writing, though. It is riddled with clever puns, entertaining remarks, and witty asides. Carrie Jones is a very crafty author, and I feel that she does her research well. The pixie universe and all that it contains was extremely detailed and well-thought-out. Something about it pained me to read, as if I had read it a dozen times before and was bored out of my mind by the repetition.

If you liked Need, that does not necessarily mean you will like Captivate. If you didn't like Need, you may like Captivate. The sequel is just somehow different, less natural and more shallow. All of the emotion seemed like surface emotion to me and I felt like the (sorta-kinda unromantic except not really) relationship between Astley and Zara was ridiculous. I didn't believe a second of it. There was no build-up, no tension, and no result. It was that way with a lot of things.

Will I read it again? No. Will I read the next one? Probably not. Do I think others may find pleasure in it? Definitely. While I did not particularly enjoy this novel, I do not think that the author failed to write a worthwhile story. For a while now I have not been in the mood for this kind of book, and my current state did not make me look generously upon it. I neither encourage nor discourage reading it; if you absolutely cannot wait to find out the next segment of Zara's story, go ahead, pick it up. If you're indifferent like me, it's not the end of the world.


Carrie Jones

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Lonely Hearts Club WINNER

to commenter #1
(Thanks to the random number generator)...
And to commenter #13,
Samantha LeAnne
AND to commenter #5,
More contests coming soon...
Amendments to this post were made January 19, 2010 in red.
Silly me... I forgot that there were 3 winners to this contest. So embarrassing...

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

This book will be available in April 2010.

Grade: A+


I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? Not like it's all that dangerous--the only neck at risk is my own. Until I accidentally start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution.

I should have just said no...


Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10 (AAAAAAAHHH!)
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 70/70

Obtained: Free ARC provided by author.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: A fair amount.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some mild references to teen alcohol usage.
Sexual Content: Many references to sexual activity ("mating").
Disturbing Images: A whole lot of graphic violence, some disturbing references to death ("recycling"), some murder, execution, and general demise. Some pretty graphic torture and one rather creepy C-section. Also, cruel separation of mother and child (which was pretty depressing).




I haven't read a dystopian/sci-fi this good since Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games! But that is to be expected from the ever-wondrous author Maria V. Snyder. Her skills continue to astound me even after five books!

Inside Out was a very unique novel. While the plot was standard dystopian-sci-fi, the writing contained the fluidity and color of a fantasy novel and the individuality that is characteristic of this author. The world retained its high-tech and futuristic feel, but was easy to read and magnetic. Like her other books, I fell in love with everything.

Maria V. Snyder has a gift with creating strong characters. Her heroes are entirely human, with numerous flaws and believable strengths and interesting circumstances. Trella was a fascinating character. It is impossible to judge her. Even as she is making mistakes or bad decisions, the reader cannot help but agree and empathize. It's frighteningly powerful.

I cannot wait a full year for the sequel. The ending of this book is a HUGE cliffhanger. I don't know what I'm going to do. All I can say is that everyone, sci-fi fan or not, should read this book. Seriously.


Maria V. Snyder

First Chapter of INSIDE OUT
Interview with Maria

Poison Study review
Magic Study review
Fire Study review
Storm Glass review
Sea Glass review

Monday, January 18, 2010

Twitter Party!

Join Lonely Hearts Club author Elizabeth Eulberg and Amy of MyFriendAmy for a Twitter party Wednesday, January 20, between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. EST!
  • Be sure to follow Elizabeth @ElizEulberg and Amy @MyFriendAmy before the party!
  • Join the fun! No one expects you or your tweets to be perfect; we’re just happy you made it to the party!
  • Anyone who tweets during this hour using #LonelyHeartsClub is entered to win a limited edition Lonely Hearts Club t-shirt!
  • Watch for questions from @MyFriendAmy and win awesome prizes including an iPod shuffle, $50 iTunes gift card or $25 VISA gift card!
  • To join the party, you can use the official party tweetgrid or just search #LonelyHeartsClub on Twitter. Ask Elizabeth questions or chat with other partygoers about how excited you are to read LHC—just use the tag #LonelyHeartsClub in all of your party tweets! (This is added automatically in TweetGrid.)
  • Please don’t post any spoilers and don’t forget to pay attention to the time zones, the party starts at 8:30pm EST.
The Reading Rocks winner of The Lonely Hearts Club will be announced tomorrow. The contest closed today.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

O.W.L.'s Sunday Shelves feature

Check out the AWESOME feature at O.W.L. for YA!

Explore other people's bookshelves and hear how and why they organize them. This is a really neat feature that I participated in this last week, which you can see here.

If you are interested in contributing to this with your own bookshelf adventures, fill out the form at the bottom of the Sunday Shelves post.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Interview with Julie Kagawa

JULIE KAGAWA graces us with her presence this fine day. She is the author of The Iron King, which will be in stores February 1st this year!

You can learn more about Julie and her book at her website,
To preserve your copy of The Iron King at Amazon, click here.
Now, Julie, what did it feel like when you realized you were going to be published?
Completely Surreal. Its still a bit of a shock. Even after all this time, I can say to myself: “I got a book published,” and start giggling uncontrollably.

Where do you do the majority of your writing? What time? Is there a perfect atmosphere that simply inspires you?
Most of my writing is done upstairs at my writing table. I work in the morning until 5pm, or until I meet my quota, whichever comes first. It’s also inspiring being surrounded by my army of Mt. Dew cans. ;-)

If you could describe your new book, Iron King, in three words, what would they be?
Really cranky faeries.

Tell us about your very favorite character that you have ever created.
That’s a toughie. I love all my characters, but I’d have to say my favorite isn’t even in The Iron King. My favorite character happens to be a kitsune, a Japanese fox spirit, that I wrote into a story called Kitsune’s Heart. She was playful and mischievous and completely fun to write about. I hope I get to share her with the world someday.

How has writing impacted your life?

Well, it IS nice to be able to go to work in my pjs, lol. But I’ve met so many awesome people since my book was published. I wasn’t even aware of the blogging community before then. Also, I can say my husband and I met through a writing group, so that was a big plus!

What do you think is the most important component of a story?
For me, it’s the characters. I have to have good characters in a story. I can forgive a so-so plot if I care about the hero or heroine, but if they’re blah or worse, I don’t like them, I usually give up on the book altogether.

Outside of the literature world, what do you do?
Read and play video games, mostly. I’m a geek.
Synopsis for THE IRON KING:


Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Read an exerpt HERE!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

O, JULIET Love Games

"Their love was a legend. But legend is only half the story..."

Robin Maxwell, the author of O, Juliet is currently hosting THE LOVE GAMES.
By sharing your favorite love quote, you will have a chance to win an awesome prize:

And this is only one of the Love Games! There are more challenges and more prizes to come.
Go to Robin Maxwell's blog,,
to enter the Love Games and to read and discuss "all aspects of everbody's favorite emotion".

Before Juliet Capelletti lie two futures: a traditionally loveless marriage to her father's business partner, or the fulfillment of her poetic dreams, inspired by the great Dante. Unlike her beloved friend Lucrezia, who looks forward to her arranged marriage into the Medici dynasty, Juliet has a wild, romantic imagination that takes flight in the privacy of her bedchamber and on her garden balcony. Her life and destiny are forever changed when Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, a soulful young man seeking peace between their warring families. A dreamer himself, Romeo is unstoppable, once he determines to capture the heart of the remarkable woman foretold in his stars.

O, Juliet
will be released February 2, 2010.

Visit Robin Maxwell's site here.
Read a sneak peak of O, Juliet here.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sequel to Lisa Jensen's Witch from the Sea

In October 2009, Reading Rocks gave Lisa Jensen's 2001 novel Witch from the Sea an A+ review.

Unfortunately, due to publishing setbacks, the two planned sequels never made it into print.

But Ms. Jensen didn't give up that easily! The first chapters of the sequel, RUNAWAYS, can now be found on her blog:

If there is enough support, Ms. Jensen will continue to post the story through to the final installment in the trilogy,

If you have not yet enjoyed the brilliance that is Lisa Jensen's first novel, I implore you to pick up a copy! It is a pirate novel of epic proportions, and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

In 1823, Tory Lightfoot runs away from Boston's soul-stifling Worthen Academy for Women, seeking freedom that she knows she'll never find there - only to be captured by pirates! She quickly takes to the life of an outlaw, joining the buccaneers as they plunder ships and dodge the pirate-hunting American "West India Squadron." But it is her heart that tests her character and ability to survive. First there is Matt, a handsome gentleman's-son-turned-pirate out to prove himself on his own terms. There's also Jack, her mentor, who reluctantly helps her adapt to the brigand's life.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dark Secrets 1 by Elizabeth Chandler

Grade: A+


In Legacy of Lies, Megan has to stay with the uptight grandmother that she wants nothing to do with. She's determined to get through the visit without any drama, but when she falls into a twisted love triangle with potentially fatal consequences, Megan may be caught up in her family's legacy in more ways than she realizes.

In Don't Tell, Lauren knows that by returning to the town where her mother drowned seven years ago, she'll be reliving one of her most haunting memories. When she arrives, she is propelled into a series of mysterious events that mimic the days leading up to her mother's death. Maybe her mother's drowning wasn't an accident after all...and maybe Lauren is next.


Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 63/70

Obtained: It was a gift. Thanks, Elise! :-)

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: None.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some references to teen drinking and drug use.
Sexual Content: Some subtle references, but nothing explicit.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some extremely scary stuff involving graphic, bloody murder, disturbed children, insanity, ghosts, paranormal activity, attempted murder, etc. I was actually frightened at times. A good Halloween read. :-)


Elizabeth Chandler has a gift for lacing her stories with the supernatural without leaving the realm of reality. In all of the books I've read by her, some aspect of magic has contributed to the plot -- angels, ghosts, telekinesis. Just a touch, enough to make it creepy or creative, but not enough to reinvent our world. If it was anyone else, I would ask: Does that really make a good story? But in the hands of Elizabeth Chandler, it is a powerful device indeed.


This is quite the ghost story! Dabbling in reincarnation, the walking dead, disembodied voices, twisted fate, and possible murder, Legacy of Lies provided a fascinating plot. Every last one of the characters was infinitely intriguing and seemed lifelike despite their eccentricities. A wealthy, paranoid old woman haunted by the ghost of her sister. A strangely hostile young man. A fortune-teller. A telekinetic young woman. And--maybe--a ghost coming back to set things right. All of these things and more come into play in the mysterious Maryland town of Wisteria, which was sometimes frighteningly realistic and at others seemed too shrouded in magic to be real.


Wow. What a story! This was probably my favorite of the two books. It was frightening. The tone was continuously ominous, even when there wasn't any reason to be. The character of insane nineteen-year-old Nora was creepily realistic, as were her sister and mother. In this novel, no one is trustworthy. No one is free of guilt. Everyone is seeped in secrecy. With the vivid memory of Lauren's mother's drowning seven years past haunting the present, and strange, unexplainable events that defy physics occurring at every turn, I can guarantee that you will be chilled and shivering throughout.

These two novels are thoroughly intertwined, yet never fully touch. Their common setting and unique plots made them both decent companions and wonderful stand-alone books. The voices of Megan and Lauren were very different, yet I appreciated how both of them, in their own ways, tried to determine realistic excuses for the paranormal events they encountered and only accepted that supernatural activity existed around them when they were out of options. This struck me as an element that is missing in many modern novels. Chandler's other ingenious part of her writing was the variation in her characters. Megan was an adopted Arizonian. Lauren was the daughter of a famous (and unpopular) political figure. These two girls have vastly different backgrounds, yet Chandler succeeded in crafting both of them to be entirely human and mostly average. Lovely!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Evidence of Angels by Suza Scalora with Francesca Lia Block


Open your eyes.
Open your mind.
Open your heart.
They are with you every day.
They are everywhere.
They are angels.
Open and begin your journey. . . .

This book is not YA fiction, therefore it will not be reviewed according to the format usually used.

Obtained: Free copy received from publisher.
This is a picture book exhibiting truly beautiful and breathtaking photography. The quotes said to have been spoken by angels hold wisdom of life, of grief, of healing, of trust, and of love. Ultimately, this book is about Suza's journey of self discovery and the beauty she found in this world. She hopes that this book will help readers through their own struggles and journeys.


Suza Scalora Photography

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Interview with Jennifer R. Hubbard

Jennifer R. Hubbard

author of the upcoming YA novel
(due January 7th, 2009)

Seventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They’ve never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia’s boyfriend. When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal Julia left behind. But Colt is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept.

Here is the INTERVIEW:

Have you always known you'd be a writer?

Yes, I have been writing ever since I was little, when I would make my own handmade books.

How did your homeland of Philadelphia affect or inspire you as a writer?

I came to Philadelphia when I was seventeen, to attend college. Navigating the city and finding all the great things it has to offer--restaurants, museums, parks, libraries--helped me grow in confidence and independence.

One other note about this city as it relates to The Secret Year. Philadelphia has two rivers (the Schuylkill and the Delaware) and several major creeks. A river plays a major role in my book. That's no accident; I have always lived near rivers and creeks.

Before The Secret Year, what kinds of things did you write about?

I've written literary short stories for years. Recently, I decided to try writing contemporary YA, since I've always loved reading it. But I notice that no matter what the form, my stories tend to have intense relationships at their center.

Is there a specific genre that you love to write in above all others?

Right now, I'm focusing on YA novels. But I will always have a special fondness for the short story.

What is your writing process?

I have an entire blog devoted to my writing process, and I still can't cover it all. :-) Mostly I write something, and then I revise it a zillion times.

Has there been anyone in your life that motivated you to write more than anyone else?

I really don't know what motivated me to write. My parents didn't have a lot of books in the house, but they encouraged me to read and didn't censor my reading much. Writing was, for me, an outgrowth of reading.

How do you choose the setting for your books?

I don't; it chooses me. With The Secret Year, the setting came easily because there are so many places in this country that are undergoing the same changes as Colt's town: farms turning into developments, mansions going up on formerly pristine woodlands.

How do you choose names for your characters?

With a lot of agonizing and a lot of leafing through baby-name books, and trying to avoid names of close friends and relatives.

You mention growing up around a journal-binding factory in your bio. What was that experience like?

My grandfather worked at a place that made notebooks. At the company store, he could get the imperfect notebooks--the ones that had a printing error or a flaw in the spiral binding--at a steep discount, so he bought boxes full. The books were still usable, and having that ready supply of paper (this was before people had home computers) gave me plenty of space to indulge my word games and early writing exercises.

What do you do in your spare time (besides writing)?

Hiking is my favorite activity other than writing.

JENNIFER R. HUBBARD was interviewed by READING ROCKS on October 3, 2009.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Lonely Hearts Club Giveaway!

Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating, so she vows: No more. She’s had one too many bad dates, and has been hurt by one too many bad boys. It’s a personal choice…and soon everybody wants to know about it. It seems that Penny’s not the only girl who’s tired of the way girls change themselves (most of the time for the worse) in order to get their guys…or the way their guys don’t really care about them. Girls are soon thronging to The Lonely Hearts Club (named after Sgt. Pepper’s band), and Penny finds herself near legendary for her non-dating ways – which is too bad, since the leader of The Lonely Hearts Club has found a certain boy she can’t help but like…

3 Winners will recieve a copy of The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Enter by commenting or emailing with contact information.
US Residents only.
To learn more about the book, visit

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard

This book will be available January 7, 2010.

Grade: B

Colt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one—not even Julia’s boyfriend— knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can’t mourn Julia openly, and he’s tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia’s journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he’s desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place?
Character Development: 6/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 5/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 7/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 9/10
Total Score: 50/ 70

Obtained: Mooched from Jill (Reading is Bliss)

Age Appropriate? PG-13
Cussing: A lot.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Teen drinking, alcoholism, mention of drugs.
Sexual Content: Happens a lot.
Disturbing Images/ Violence: A brutal and bloody fight.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot was well executed. The order of events was strategically placed and kept me hooked on reading more. The voice was unique and believable. And I loved the setting! The setting played a significant role in the book and seemed to be a character unto itself... my favorite character quite honestly.

That brings me to the characters. I didn't connect to them. It may be because the morals of the characters are so different than mine that a wall was breached between us. Or... it may be because the writing. All the characters in this novel had messed up relationships. Yes... this is true in real life too, but reading it got a bit exasperating. His life sucks, her life sucks, everyones life sucks! That was the vibe I was getting. I felt like I was watching a television show while reading this. In all the characters, you only see their face value. It didn't seem to dig too much deeper than that.

Colt's journey of coping with loss and with secrecy was an interesting one. Julia's journal entries scattered throughout the book provided him with a guide of sorts... sometimes helping him, and sometimes hindering him. Letting Julia go was the biggest conflict Colt faced, and proved to be a strong aspect of the book.

Overall, I didn't like this book. But I don't regret reading it either. If it seems like something you would enjoy, I would encourage you try it out.

Jennifer R. Hubbard's Blog

Jeniffer's Bio at Teen Reads

Jill's Review

Friday, January 1, 2010

Captivate WINNER!

for winning

an ARC of
by Carrie Jones

Thank you for everyone who entered, especially to all our old and new followers!
Happy New Year!


The winner of HEAT WAVE by Richard Castle is commenter #7...

Stay tuned for more contests, everyone, and for the announcement of the winner of Captivate by Carrie Jones.
To learn more about HEAT WAVE... visit

The Best of '09


2009 has been quite the year for reading! We have had many epic debuts and fantastic releases, and I have discovered many new authors and old books that have made my year a wonderful one.

These are dozen of the most memorable/highest quality/all-around-awesomest novels I have picked up in the last 365 days, in no particular order:

Fire by Kristen Cashore

Thank you to all of these wonderful authors for their beautiful stories. And thank you to our lovely, fantastic, wonderful readers who mean so much to us. You have made 2009 a fantastic year!

Thoughts? Did I miss one of your favorites? Let us know!