Friday, April 30, 2010

Interview with Janet S. Fox

Joining us today on her blog tour is...

Janet S. Fox
author of the upcoming YA book
FAITHFUL
(released May 2010)





Follow Janet on her tour at the next stop on May 3rd with Chick Loves Lit!

Here is the INTERVIEW:


Do you think growing up with your mother as a writer influenced your own choice to become a writer?


Definitely. My mom loved to read and write. She introduced me to most of my favorite books. Every Christmas when I was in elementary school she gave me the next volume of the Narnia series, and when I was sick as a teenager she brought me The Lord of the Rings (I think I pretended to be sick for the next week.) In fact, it was when I found some of her own stories, after she’d passed away, that I was inspired to try writing again. I’d spent years “in denial” – not writing – and her words came back to me like a gift.

How does your love of geology inspire or affect your writing?


I love landscape and try to “draw” it in my writing. Geology is constantly showing up in odd places. FAITHFUL is set in Yellowstone – and I use my geology background to feed my descriptions of the setting. The geology there is both dangerous (the hot springs) and life-giving (the biological life in those springs) so that gives me a lot to work with. And the novel I’m working on right now is about jewelry and gemstones, so I’m tapping into my knowledge of mineralogy.

What about your trips to sea? Have they affected your writing?


Not directly. But, who knows? Maybe my next novel will be set on a ship…or an island…hmm. You’ve given me some ideas!


What are some of your favorite YA authors/books?


I really love Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. And I just finished Rita Williams-Garcia’s Jumped – terrific! I’m a big fan of Laurie Halse Anderson (Wintergirls) and Libba Bray (A Great and Terrible Beauty) and Ellen Hopkins (Identical).


What does the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators do?


SCBWI is a professional, international support organization for adult writers and illustrators of children’s books. When I found SCBWI, I found my critique partners, my agent, and many friends. I attend conferences both large and small, and have learned about the craft and business of writing through SCBWI. And now I’m getting my MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) in Writing for Children at Vermont College of Fine Arts, so I feel like I’m taking the next step toward becoming a better writer.


How does your love of gardening affect your writing?


Gardening makes me happy. I can work in silence and still my mind. So gardening for me is like meditating, or dreaming. Often the strangest ideas pop into my head when I garden.


What differences are there in writing for children and writing for young adults? Which do you prefer?


I think I prefer writing for young adults, and that’s probably because I’m still about 14 in my mind. I have written for middle grades and I like that, too. Picture books are hard to write. I’ve written a few, but they are not as easy as they seem. You need to make a great story in a very few words – often fewer than 150 words! And I love words.


Was there anyone in your life growing up who inspired or motivated you to write more than anyone else?


In 3rd grade I had a teacher who sent a poem I wrote to the local paper and it was published. Wow. That was a terrific feeling. Then I had a teacher in high school – in 9th grade. I thought by that time that I was a writer. A WRI-TER. I got my first paper back, and it was covered in red ink. I couldn’t believe it! Mr. G. made a writer out of me in the end, but it took all of my 9th grade year just to begin. Now, I have to say, my son is my inspiration. I write all my books for him.


What is your writing process?


I write every day, on my computer. I print out my writing when I edit. I write organically sometimes, and sometimes I make outlines or charts. I read out loud (my dog listens, sort of.) I retype things I’m not happy with.
The important thing for me is to write every day. After that, my process changes with each book, with each part of each book, and if something doesn’t feel right or isn’t working I try something else. The only thing that remains the same right now is that I think and type so fast that I do write on the computer because my handwriting is too slow to keep up.

What do you love most about writing? Teaching?


Wow, are these different places for me. Writing: I love being in the dream-place of the novel and inside the character’s head. Teaching: I love being with students and the flow when we get going with the question and answer, when a student suddenly makes a leap or “gets” something. I do love teaching when I see that light in a student’s eyes.

JANET S. FOX was interviewed by READING ROCKS on October 19, 2009.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Showcase: Burned

Burned House of Night P.C. & Kristin Cast

The seventh book in the House of Night Series...

"Things have turned black at the House of Night. Zoey Redbird’s soul has shattered. With everything she’s ever stood for falling apart, and a broken heart making her want to stay in the Otherworld forever, Zoey’s fading fast. It’s seeming more and more doubtful that she will be able pull herself back together in time to rejoin her friends and set the world to rights. As the only living person who can reach her, Stark must find a way to get to her. But how? He will have to die to do so, the Vampire High Council stipulates. And then Zoey will give up for sure. There are only 7 days left… "

LINK TO DOWNLOAD SONG:
http://www.houseofnightseries.com/pages/downloads.html#songs

READ CHAPTER ONE OF 'BURNED':
http://www.houseofnightseries.com/pages/burnedxrpt.html

HOUSE OF NIGHT WEBSITE:
http://www.houseofnightseries.com/index.html

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

Grade: A+

Synopsis:
IN THE ENCLAVE, YOUR SCARS SET YOU APART, and the newly born will change the future.

Sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone and her mother faithfully deliver their quota of three infants every month. But when Gaia’s mother is brutally taken away by the very people she serves, Gaia must question whether the Enclave deserves such loyalty. A stunning adventure brought to life by a memorable heroine, this dystopian debut will have readers racing all the way to the dramatic finish.

Rating:
Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 5/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 65/ 70

Obtained: Publisher
Age Appropriate? PG-13
Cussing: Some
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: I don't think so...
Sexual Content: None
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Hangings, taking babies away from their mothers, prisons, death, etc.

Review:
This book was awesome... I completely devoured it.

O'Brien creates a cruel, cruel world, but intriguing never the less. Her use of imagery scratches the Enclave into my mind and makes sure it will never be erased. I could smell the baking bread, feel the rain on my face, and hear the new born baby's cry.

Gaia was a perfect protagonist to lead this story... a strong, courageous, and righteous female character. Watching her journey unwind held me constantly on my toes. And the change she went through from the beginning of the story to the end was masterfully done, believable and honest. All the characters were well developed, and so interesting to read about.

The last thing I must address is the ending: devastating and hopeful all at the same time, and so heartbreaking it hurt. I'm not sure how much I liked the ending, but at the same time, I've got to respect an author who doesn't make everything turn out happily ever after. Still... I want a sequel!

Birthmarked is an incredible debut. If you like a dangerous adventure, breathtaking romance, and incredible characters... read it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Interview with Ginger Mayerson

GINGER MAYERSON
visits us today with an interview. She is the self-published author of Dr. Hackenbush Gets a Job.

Here's the short blurb:
Set in 1988, Mabel Hackenbush is between gigs, her baritone ukulele smashed, and her car in the shop, she is bravely temp secretarying her way to a kinder, gentler, not to mention, solvent life until she can get back to work as a jazz standards singer.
And here is the interview...

Why should the world read your book?
Because it’s witty, thinky, and so cool the world will get frostbite just reading it.

How did the process of being self published work?
The Wapshott Press LLC is the publisher, I’m just the owner/slave laborer,does that make a difference? If not, then the process of being S-P is: first you write a good book, then you beg your excellent, wonderful, love-you-in-spite-of-everything pals to edit, proofread, and do a cover for it, then you upload it to Createspace.com and start spreading the news.

What inspired you to write this novel?
The way we lived in the 1980s in Los Angeles, and the way I might have liked to live if I was as talented, resourceful, and determined as Mabel Hackenbush. As it was, I was composing string quartets in the 80s, but also going to clubs to see my singer friends, so this novel is for them as much for me. I don’t know if the world knows how much heart and hard work good singers put into their work. They make it look so easy, and it isn’t. So there are insights into the creative life, but also into the socio-political-economic situation Reaganonimics created in the 80s for anyone earning less than $50K/year (that was some money then). Essentially, Reaganomics gave to the rich and made up the difference on the backs of the working class. We still have an 8% tax on waitresses base pay (which is often less than minimum wage) because lawmakers in the 80s presumed (I assume, I can think of no other reason congress would do this) waitresses are going to lie about their tips. Waitresses? Waitresses hardly make any money at all, why take it out on them? Is 8% of very little really going to keep the Treasury in the black? It’s a scandal. So, yeah, this book is for artists, waitresses, and anyone who’s workin’ for a livin’. Also, unemployment benefits became taxed for Social Security (15.02% off the top of desperately little money) and GHW Bush raised the FICA (Social Security again) from 15.02% to 15.3 These look like small numbers but they still make a dent in everyone’s paycheck except when paychecks get to $106,800 in a tax year, then there’s no FICA tax on compensation above that. Yeah. I’ve never worked with anyone who made that much; I’ve just worked for people who made that much. Don’t get me wrong, I love rich people; I just think they should pay their fair share like the rest of us, that’s all.

What are your other hobbies and interests (other than writing)?
I make collages to let off steam(http://collage.gingermayerson.com/) and I have a day job I usually find somewhat interesting.

Is there a certain time, place, or atmosphere that is simply perfect for your writing?
Nah, wherever and whenever Microsoft Word and I get together is the perfect time and place to write.

If you could have dinner with any person (alive or dead) or book character, who would you choose?
Mabel Hackenbush, of course.

Tell us a little bit about your book, Dr. Hackenbush Gets a Job.
It will make you laugh, think, and want to listen to music, especially Billie Holliday and John Coltrane. At any rate, I sincerely hope so. It’s set in the 80s, but the ideas about music and living are the same as ever. Anyone who’s ever worked a job, office or otherwise, has probably run into someone like Mabel Hackenbush at least once. And most artists/musicians have had to take office or other types of jobs to make ends meet until they saved enough or had an art/music job that paid enough for them to get back to art/music full-time. It’s amazing how little one can live on while living for what one loves. “Dr. Hackenbush Gets a Job”salutes all of you and, yeah, it salutes the folks who sign the paychecks,too.

LINKS:
Ginger Mayerson Site
Hackenbush

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

What if the gods of Olympus were alive in the 21st

Century? What if they still fell in love with mortals and had children who might become great heroes — like Theseus, Jason and Hercules?

What if you were one of those children?

Such is the discovery that launches twelve-year-old Percy Jackson on the most dangerous quest of his life. With the help of a satyr and a daughter of Athena, Percy must journey across the United States to catch a thief who has stolen the original weapon of mass destruction – Zeus’ master bolt. Along the way, he must face a host of mythological enemies determined to stop him. Most of all, he must come to terms with a father he has never known, and an Oracle that has warned him of betrayal by a friend.


Rating:

Character Development: 10/10

Originality: 8/10

Overall Enjoyment: 9/10

Ending: 7/10

Voice: 10/10

Plot: 10/10!

Setting: 10/10

Total Score: 64/70


Obtained: Borrowed.


Age Appropriate? PG (as the series progresses and the characters mature, each of these gets more intense. By book 4, I would give it a PG-13 rating.)

Cussing: Mild. (Gets worse as series progresses but nothing too bad)

Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Adult alcohol consumption and drunkenness.

Sexual Content: None.

Disturbing Images/Violence: Graphic violence, blood and gore, monster killing, monster and magical attacks, etc.


Review:

This is a story of truly epic proportions. It is so huge, so adventurous, so exhilarating! I enjoyed every second of it. While middle school heroes usually annoy me, Percy is an intelligent, believable, likable boy with a voice that is compatible for older readers as well as middle grade. It didn't bother me at all. The beginning of the first book is slightly slow-going, I admit, but once you get past it, believe me, it's worth it. This series is one heck of a ride.

I hate to compare anything to Harry Potter, but Percy Jackson gave me much of the same excitement and adrenaline. The similarity stops there, but it is enough to make me anxious to read the next one and the next one and the next one...! Like the Harry Potter books, the Percy Jackson series is simply well written. With a brilliant plot, a fascinating array of characters, groundbreaking worldmaking, and unmatched adventurism, it is clear that Rick Riordan has an endless respect for his craft and the Greek myths, and he marries the two flawlessly.

For the record, seeing the new Percy Jackson movie is not an acceptable substitute to reading the book. The two are almost hilariously different. The plot was dramatically changed. I don't know what those guys in Hollywood were thinking when they wrote that script, but it did not pay tribute to the book. Trust my judgment. The movie was good, but the book was infinitely better. No matter who you are, you need to read Percy Jackson. Seriously.

LINKS:

Percy Jackson Site

Rick Riordan

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Showcase: Anastasia's Secret

ANASTASIA'S SECRET
by Suzanne Dunlap

"Will I never see you again either?" I asked, feeling as though I was about to jump off a high mountain peak and hoping to land without hurting myself. That's how impossible everything seemed at that moment, no matter what I did.

"Perhaps we will meet again," Sasha said, softening his voice. "But you must see that it does not matter. You have so much ahead of you. It's your choice now. Choose the future! Choose life!"


For Anastasia Romanova, life as the privileged daughter of Russia's last tsar is about to be torn apart by the bloodshed of revolution. Ousted from the imperial palace when the Bolsheviks seize control of the government, Anastasia and her family are exiled to Siberia. Yet even while the rebels debate the family's future with agonizing slowness, and while the threat to their lives grows more menacing, romance quietly blooms between Anastasia and Sasha, a sympathetic young guard she has known since childhood. But will the strength of a love that exists in secret be enough to save Anastasia from a tragic fate?

See the TRAILER here!

Did you know that Anastasia Romanova has a BLOG?? Read it HERE.




Monday, April 19, 2010

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder


Grade: A+

Synopsis:
Restless souls and empty hearts...

Brooklyn can't sleep. Her boyfriend, Lucca, died only a year ago, and now her friend Gabe has just died of an overdose. Every time she closes her eyes, Gabe's ghost is there waiting for her. She has no idea what he wants or why it isn't Lucca visiting her dreams.

Nico can't stop. He's always running, trying to escape the pain of losing his brother, Lucca. But when Lucca's ghost begins leaving messages, telling Nico to help Brooklyn, emotions come crashing to the surface.

As the nightmares escalate and the messages become relentless, Nico reaches out to Brooklyn. But neither of them can admit that they're being haunted. Until they learn to let each other in, not one soul will be able to rest.

Rating:
Character Development: 9/10
Originality:6/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Total Score: 61/70

Obtained: Barnes and Noble

Age Appropriate: PG-13
Cussing: Some, but not a lot
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Mentioned, but not used by main characters
Sexual Content: None
Disturbing Images/ Violence: ghosts and nightmares are as bad as it gets

Review:
Hauntingly beautiful, Chasing Brooklyn is a stunning read.

Lisa Schroeder "loves to write in verse because it allows her to really get at the emotional core of the story" (back jacketflap). And she did... wow, she did. The emotion was so high strung that it left me holding my breath. It was so well developed, I could almost touch it.

This novel is told from the alternating perspectives of Nico and Brooklyn, and their characters differed in just the right way. The book is solely about them... about them and their struggle with grief... about them and their journey to learn to love and live again. The supporting characters, in contrast to Nico and Brooklyn, were not very well deveoloped, but for this particular story, it worked.

Schroeder's poetic writing is absolutely beautiful. It's soft, passionate, and inspiring all at once. It's running miles, not to get to the end, but to enjoy the in between. It's a piece of artwork. And you, my friend, should read it.

LINKS:
Lisa Schroeder
Lisa's Blog

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Julie Kagawa's A Very Faery Faceoff


ASH
Prince of the Unseelie Court. Dark, brooding, cold, dangerous.

PUCK

Legendary prankster. Playful, devilish, sarcastic, mischievous.Two sides of the same coin. Once friends, now bitter rivals.

Who is the better faery?
Julie Kagawa, the author of the Iron Fey Series, is hosting a showdown of the teams. Grab a button to support your favorite faery.

Visit Julie's site Monday for a chance to win a signed copy of The Iron King and a secret prize.

Go here to learn more about this internet event.

Read our review of The Iron King here.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Grade: A+

Synopsis:
The most powerful advisor to the King of Sounis is the magus. He's not a wizard, he's a scholar, an aging solider, not a thief. When he needs something stolen, he pulls a young thief from the King's prison to do the job for him.

Gen is a thief and proud of it. When his bragging lands him behind bars he has one chance to win his freedom-- journey to a neighboring kingdom with the magus, find a legendary stone called Hamiathes's Gift and steal it.

The magus has plans for his King and his country. Gen has plans of his own.

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

Obtained: Paperbackswap

Age Appropriate? PG-13
Cussing: Yes
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: I believe there was a little bit of drinking, though I'm not entirely sure.
Sexual Content: None
Disturbing Images/ Violence: horrible prisons, injuries, sword fights... really not bad at all

Review:
The Thief is an amazing book, and I can't wait to read the rest in the series.

Megan Whalen Turner has created a wonderful and unreliable narrator. It's incredible how the reader's view about clever Gen changes completely from the beginning of the story to the end. The start of the novel was slow going, nothing exciting was happening, and Gen's voice was somewhat annoying. Yet the ending is host to many revelations for the reader... Gen is no longer the boisterous and cocky guy from the beginning, but a different person entirely. Genius!

The setting of The Thief is especially interesting. The changing scenery as the characters travel is very believable. The descriptions are vivid, and the sensory imagery pulls the reader so far in, it's impossible to get out.

The writing is perfect, the plot is high in adventure and fantasy, and the characters' relationships never cease to be intriguing. If you are a fantasy lover, this is a series you need to get your hands on.

LINKS:
Megan Whalen Turner
Live Journal Community

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Friendly Reminder


This is a friendly reminder to all you YA fanatics that tomorrow is Teen Book Drop! Help spread the joy of YA by buying a copy of your favorite teen book and leaving it in a public place for a teen to find, read, and love.

Check out readergirlz for more info and for downloadable bookmarks and inserts.



Please, share your stories with us! Tell us what book you decided to drop and where you left it!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Interview with Lisa Ann Sandell


Lisa Ann Sandell is the author of Weight of the Sky and Song of the Sparrow, both written in verse. And her newest novel, The Map of the Known World is written in prose. Sandell's writing is truly a joy to read, lyrical and beautiful. She is a gifted author, and if you haven't read any of her books, get to the bookstore! Today she is with us to discuss the differences between poetry and prose.

What did you begin writing first... prose or poetry?

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was really little, I kept a diary about dinosaurs. Then I got a little older and started writing short stories about my cat. I began writing poetry in high school and carried on with it through college and took some poetry writing workshops. It was also in college that I began experimenting with narrative nonfiction (in prose), which, combined with poems I'd written became the basis for my first novel, The Weight of the Sky. Looking back, that's pretty weird, right--combining poetry and narrative nonfiction? I don't usually put the two together in my mind. :)

Do you have a preference over the two?

Well, I will always love writing poetry. It comes naturally to me--I like the spareness that it allows for, when writing fiction, I love how evocative it is and how well it knits with the senses.

How do you decide which writing style is best for your book?

Whatever comes out first. I began writing both of my first two novels in verse, but then I thought, no one will want to read that, so I began moving the lines up, closing the line breaks, but I found I couldn't keep it up. It felt so inorganic and forced to me, so I rebroke the lines and reverted to verse. But for A Map of the Known World, prose just felt right in my head. I can't explain it better than that.

How is your writing process different for prose and verse?

The writing process is pretty much the same. I just sit down in front of my computer or notebook (whichever is handy) and start writing and hoping that the words will arrange themselves in the right way.

Do you have a certain atmosphere that is perfect for inspiring you to write?

I love listening to music when I write, and when I wrote A Map of the Known World, I sat in the periodicals room of the main branch of the New York Public Library. It's a beautiful, old, wood-paneled room with famous publishing buildings murals that are tromp l'oeil style, so they look like they are paintings in big, gilted frames. It feels very writerly in there.

Are you working on anything new right now that you could tell us a little bit about?

It's still early, but I'm working on a new romance/adventure story...sort of in the vein of Song of the Sparrow. Eep!

LINKS:
Lisa's Site
A Map of the Known World

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Package of Books Contest

In celebration of our blog flourishing for one year, for our amazing followers, and for the joy of giving books away, we are hosting a mega amazing contest!

PACKAGE 1

(best suited to young adult readers)


Books:

Captivate by Carrie Jones (ARC)

Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey (ARC)

And Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman (ARC)

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells (paperback)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling (paperback)

Swag:

Twenty Boy Summer bookmarks

Reading Rocks bookmarks

The Hollow postcard

Secret Society tattoos, letter, red lip stain, and field notes book

PACKAGE 2
(best suited to young adult readers)

Books:

Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey (ARC)

Dawn by Kevin Brooks (Hardback)

Sea Change by Aimee Freedman (Hardback)

Captivate by Carrie Jones (ARC)

The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb (Hardback)

Tagged by Mara Purnhagen (ARC)

Breakfast at Bloomingdale's by Kristen Kemp (Paperback)

Old Magic by Marianne Curley (Paperback)

Swag:

Reading Rocks bookmark

20 Boy Summer bookmarks


PACKAGE 3
(best suited for middle grade readers)


Books:

The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley (Paperback)

The Timekeeper's Moon by Joni Sensel (ARC)

A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup (Hardback)

Darkwood by M.E. Breen (Hardback)


PACKAGE 4
(best suited for middle grade and/or young adult readers)



Books:

The Mermaid Summer by Mollie Hunter (Hardback--library withdrawal)

Out of the Shadows by Sarah Singleton (Hardback)

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau (Hardback)

Daughters of the Sea: Hannah by Kathryn Lasky (Hardback)

The Woman in the Wall by Patrice Kindl (Paperback)

Swag:

Reading Rocks bookmarks

20 Boy Summer bookmarks


TO ENTER:

  • Please leave a comment on this post specifying which package(s) you are entering for.
  • Be sure to include an email address.
  • This contest is open for US Residents only.
  • Old and new followers get an extra entry. Please mention that you are a follower in your comment.
  • If you post about this contest elsewhere, you will also get an extra entry. Just let us know in your comment!
THIS CONTEST WILL END ON MAY 1st, 2010!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Garden by Elsie V. Aidinoff

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

In the beginning there was the Serpent, there for Eve's awakening, and for all days since. Teacher, mentor, companion, friend, and more.

There was God. The Creator. Quick to anger. Dangerous. Majestic.

There was Adam: as God said, a joy to behold.

And there was Eve.

These four hold the future in their hands. And only Eve--or perhaps the Serpent, too--wonders what lies outside the Garden of Eden.

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10 (wow)
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 9/10
Total: 68/70

Obtained: Library.

Age Appropriate? PG-13 (bordering on R, though)

Cussing: None whatsoever.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: None.
Sexual Content: Yes. Sex is discussed in great detail, but in a analytical way rather than a provocative way. However, there are several graphic scenes.
Disturbing Images/Violence: One scene of graphic rape. Some animal-on-animal violence and some blood.

NOTE: Because some are sensitive to this, let me warn you: the author takes many liberties with the original Biblical tale. God is not portrayed as the God of Christianity and Judaism that we often hear of today, but as a more foolish, angry God. He could be considered the antagonist. That might bother some, but I am going to look at this book from an exclusively literary point of view, as a work of fiction and not a statement against any established religions. Please do not take offense and do not let this deter you from reading this beautiful book.

Review:

In The Garden, the reader is transported back to the beginning. Not the beginning most of us know as the Bible's first book, Genesis, but the beginning as it was conceived by the brilliant author, Elsie V. Aidinoff. She reconstructs the tale from its foundations and redefines two pivotal players, Eve and the Serpent. She does this with great grace, respect, and insight. This is a tale that explores humanity at its roots, strips our existence to the core, and paints everything we know about ourselves in a new light. A breathtaking journey.

Aidinoff's writing is beautiful. It is simple but poetic. Intensely clear and unashamed. Utterly and completely natural. It is the exact voice that the first woman on Earth would have--naive, curious, innocent, but aflame with passion and as headstrong as could be. Eve's raw, honest voice was a thing of beauty in itself. And the character was art.

In this tale, Aidinoff reconciles myth and science within the very confines of Eden itself. Her creativity knows no bounds. Her prose is strange, astonishing, surprising and entrancing. Her characters seem to fit snugly into archetypes but really defy all cultural ideas. The Garden is a compliment to human ingenuity, an elegant statement about freedom and choice, a re-imagining of a timeless story--but, in truth, it is simply an incredible work of fiction.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

News for Harry Potter Fans

According to the Washington Post, at the annual Easter Egg Roll, J.K. Rowling said...
“I’m quite sure in the not-too-distant future, I will bring out another book.”


Here are some other notes from the Q&A
(written and compiled by MuggleNet):

- Jo thinks in 10 years time she may want to do something else with Harry's world.

-Jo's favorite Harry Potter characters (besides the trio) are Hagrid, Dumbledore, Lupin, and Snape. But she wouldn't want to meet Snape.

- Jo's not ready to say what she's writing right now, but she is enjoying writing.

- Jo's favorite Harry Potter book is Deathly Hallows, although she will always have a soft spot for Philosopher's Stone since it was her first book to be published.

- Jo does not want a house elf. She thinks they are a little bit creepy, despite being useful.

- After Harry, the next character Jo thought of for the books was Hermione. In an early version of Sorcerer's Stone, Jo explained how Hermione was Harry's next door neighbor and Hermione's father was first on scene when Harry's house blew up, and saw Harry being taken from the rubble. Hermione remembered the story when she first meets Harry.

- Jo's favorite subject in the books was Charms. Because a lot can go wrong with charms.

And here is the video of J.K. Rowling reading The Sorcerer's Stone:

Estevan Vega joins us in the ARSON BLOG TOUR!




ARSON by Estevan Vega will be out on May 4th!
Read it.

See our review here.

Join the fun at the first stop of the Blog Tour, and enter to win the giveaway!
And tag along to the next stop at Cafe of Dreams!

See the Arson Blog!
See Estevan's site!


ESTEVAN VEGA
Currently a college student in Connecticut, Estevan Vega has been writing since he was a teenager. ARSON will be his third published work, following Servant of the Realm and The Sacred Sin. ARSON holds a part of Estevan, a piece he began during a tumultuous time in his own life. With a curiosity for the supernatural, as well as a feeling of discontentment with humanity's complacency, Vega’s story-lines dwell somewhere in between fiction and reality, a place where the world is as blurred and irregular as human choice and consequence.


Here is what he has to say:

A Wedding at Wal-Mart

There’s a song to be sung and a war to be won and something else that rhymes. Yes, it is true that among my gifts, phenomenal, dare I say, near-divine words of inspiration and love exist in superfluous supply. I am a writer at heart, and thus I’m sort of a lyricist as well. So, people frequently ask me about my muse. So I’m sort of obligated to talk about her. Let’s see…she is a spicy seniorita. She occasionally wears her hair down, when she’s not being standoffish, and she really likes V-necks. She comes packaged with…Okay, let’s be real. I honestly don’t know what to say when somebody asks me about my muse. Unlike Dante, I don’t really have my Beatrice, someone I’m willing to brave nine circles of hellfire for. But as far as muses go, I’d have to unapologetically admit that she’s usually music. However, my mistress is movies.

There’s nothing quite like a good song, one that drags you through the gutter of heartbreak or spiritual emptiness, and then rises you up from the ashes. I mean, essentially, we’re kind of sadistic beings if you take the time to examine us. We like to feel things like pain and love and even regret. We pay (cause who downloads?) to have singers muse about their misery or that missing chunk in their heart, while they consistently search for “love” in all the wrong places. We essentially become their invaluable audience, paying to keep their screw ups current so as to create fuel for their next heartbreak lullaby. (nod to my bro, Emilio. www.myspace.com/hurricanemusicgroup)

But I love music. Like, probably too much.

I think I fell in love because of my older brother. He bought me a CD for my birthday years back. It was the album “Some Kind of Zombie” by some obscure rock band you’ve probably never heard of. That album formed a desperate curiosity I fed from then on, so I bought the band’s follow up. The memory of me unrolling my wad of singles at the counter of Wal-Mart to purchase a band I believed in has left a mark upon my mind. A wedding took place that night. A wedding at Wal-Mart, between the young, future writer/philosophizer ( Zoolander, anyone?) and musicalicity.

So after I took my beautiful bride home to the stereo, it was pretty much love at first several hundred listens. Yeah, it was a grower. Fast forward a few years and it really starts to click. I realized that there was more music out in the world than just this one band. Today, my library has an obscene amount of music ranging from rock to hard rock to much harder rock to the quiet stuff to the occasional rap jam to…okay, you get it. Needless to say, there is much to peruse.

Listening to the right song at the right moment can change a person’s life or even inspire a novel. As a writer, lyrics matter so much to me. In fact, they are paramount. A song may have the best rhythm and rock moments and whatever, but if she can’t talk to me, give me something other than lousy first date flatter, I’m likely to avoid the bigger commitment. She needs to mean something to methis muse they call music. A good song is an honest and true song. One that can mean different things to different people or exactly the same thing to two totally different people. One that can change a sunset to a sunrise or fill an empty heart.

There has been a bunch of rambling and a ton of seemingly nonsensical information here, but at the core, all of this is actually true. C’mon. Would I mislead you? I mean, I only make crap up for a living. But seriously, it’s kinda true. So, find your muse, and even contemplate a mistress, because in this story they are allowed to mingle. Oh, and kids, no matter what they tell you…don’t get caught up in the lullaby of bad music. She may seem lovely and inviting, but she’ll just take half your heart…and most likely half your stuff in the divorce.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth


Grade: A

Synopsis:
Hannah is almost thirteen when she discovers her family is cursed...

Desperate to break the dark spell and find her missing father, Hannah starts a treacherous journey back in time. If she can find all four pieces of a magical puzzle ring, her family will be reunited. But her quest takes her back to the days of Mary, Queen of Scots-- a time when witches are burned at the stake and danger lurks everywhere.

Can Hannah put the puzzle ring together fast enough to save her family?

Rating:
Character Development: 5/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 6/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 5/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 53/70

Age Appropriate? G
Cussing: None
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Not that I can remember...
Sexual Content: None
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Nothing too bad at all.

Review:
I must start by saying that this is a middle grade book, so it's not something that appeals to me as much as YA. I would have absolutely devoured The Puzzle Ring when I was in middle school, and even now I quite enjoyed it.

The vivid setting and imagery was my favorite part of the novel. Kate Forsyth pulled me into the story with the sights, sounds and smells. It was marvelous! I wanted to hop on a plane immediately and go to Scotland. And I really wanted to taste some of Linnet's marmalade cake! The difference between the modern setting and that of Queen Mary's time was excellently depicted.

The characters weren't that appealing to me. They were mostly bubbly, flat characters. They didn't have different layers of personality. However, this didn't bother me too much because they were simply a fun aspect of the story.

Overall, The Puzzle Ring is a very entertaining read for all ages, though the middle grade will enjoy it the most. It's just a pleasurable, sit back and escape from every day life, kind of book.

LINKS:
Kate Forsyth
Interview with Kate

The Life of Glass by Jillian Cantor


Grade: A

Synopsis:
Before he died, Melissa’s father told her about stars. He told her that the brightest stars weren’t always the most beautiful—that if people took the time to look at the smaller stars, if they looked with a telescope at the true essence of the star, they would find real beauty. But even though Melissa knows that beauty isn’t only skin deep, the people around her don’t seem to feel that way. There’s her gorgeous sister Ashley who will barely acknowledge Melissa at school, there's her best friend Ryan, who may be falling in love with the sophisticated Courtney, and there’s Melissa’s mother who’s dating someone new, someone who Melissa knows will never be able to replace her father.

To make sure she doesn’t lose her father completely, Melissa spends her time trying to piece together the last of his secrets and completing a journal her father began—one about love and relationships and the remarkable ways people find one another. But when tragedy strikes, Melissa has to start living and loving in the present, as she realizes that being beautiful on the outside doesn't mean you can't be beautiful on the inside.

This is a lyrical tale of love, loss and self-discovery from the author of THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS.

Rating:
Character Development: 9/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 8/10
Total Score: 60/70

Obtained: Publicist

Age Appropriate? PG
Cussing: A small bit
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Mentions of both
Sexual Content: None
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Two accidents, one involving a horse, one a car. Not bad at all.

Review:
This book is perfectly ordinary. There is nothing spectacular or dramatic, nothing action packed or steamy, nothing that had me laughing or crying. Perfectly ordinary... enthrallingly so. It was extraordinary.

Though at first all the elements of the book seemed somewhat sterile and depressing, like a hospital, the unique writing soon let me fall into its rhythm, a beat I couldn't get out of my head. The story blossomed, and I watched in wonder.

The Life of Glass is not a story about a grief stricken girl trying to recover from the death of her father. It is the story of a girl. An ordinary girl leading a pretty ordinary life. It is the story of her learning to love and learning which relationships are worthwhile, and which are not. It is a beautiful, touching, and simply wonderful read.

The characters were so very real, not stereotyped, but real. They weren't just characters that contributed to the plot in some way, but they were real people. They had goals and priorities and views that all differed from each other. It created an interesting web of life to observe from a reader's perspective.

A masterfully written, compelling read, definitely recommended.

LINKS:
Jillian Cantor Site
Cantor's Blog

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Dark Divine Blog Tour

In which I, shame faced, post this two days late...

Synopsis:

A prodigal son
A dangerous love
A deadly secret . . .


Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared—the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood. But she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night really held. And when Daniel returns three years later, Grace can no longer deny her attraction to him, despite promising Jude she’ll stay away.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, her actions stir the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind Jude and Daniel's dark secret . . . and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it—her soul.

Interview with Bree Despain:

How did your experience working with underprivileged kids doing theater influence your writing?

The biggest influence it has on my writing was that it made me realize that I wanted to be an author. I was law school bound when decided to take a semester off to write and direct plays with a summer program for at-risk kids. I loved working with the kids so much, and loved writing plays for them to perform. I went back to school after this experience with a renewed respect for the young adult audience and a passion for writing.

How do you come up with the names for the characters and places in your stories?

The names of my characters just kind of come to me as I’m writing and thinking about what name would best fit characters. For the Divine family, I wanted names that would sound like something a pastor would name his kids—it wasn’t until I was deeper into writing the novel that I realized just how important Grace’s name was the theme of the book.

The name of their town, Rose Crest, came from two different things. The first is that the fictional town in my book is very (very, very) loosely based on Rosemont, Minnesota. The second thing it came from was a sign I passed almost daily while writing the book. Every time I took my son to and from preschool, I would pass a sign for a new housing development called Rose Crest. I guess the name just kind of stuck in my head.

A fun little tidbit is that in the sequel to TDD (THE LOST SAINT) I enlisted my blog readers to help me name a new character. So be on the lookout for Nathan Talbot.

Do you have a certain place/ time/ atmosphere that are perfect for your writing?

I love to write in bed. Preferably, with a small bowl of dark chocolate chips nearby. I find the earliest in the day I can get started, the better. But I often have to wait until my kids are occupied later in the day.

You mention a car accident in your bio. How did this affect you as a writer?

It mostly made me realize that I wanted my family and my writing to be the biggest priorities in my life. I knew that I wanted to be an author ever since I worked with those kids in that summer program, but after a couple of years real life kicked in and I was working full time and raising a new baby with my husband—and had no energy left for writing. After the car accident, I was bedridden for several months so my hubby brought me home an old refurbished laptop and encouraged me to start writing again. And once I was recovered, I made the decision not to go back to work and became a full-time mom and a part-time writer.

If you could travel to any place and any time, where would you go and why?

Victorian Era Egypt during the golden age of archeological discovery, so I could participate in a dig. . . and get to go to fancy balls and wear huge awesome dresses.

Please go to The Book Vixen, http://thebookvixen.blogspot.com/, which is the next stop on The Dark Divine Blog Tour.

Now for a little contest...

3 people will win the nail polish displayed on the cover of The Dark Divine.

To enter, comment with your name, email, and your favorite quote from The Dark Divine or your favorite quote from the interview.

Happy reading!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cover Story: North of Evermore?

Take a good look at the covers of these two books. Notice anything...suspiciously similar?



Most of you have probably noticed by now that the covers of Evermore by Alison Noel and North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley share a background photo that has been messed with enough by different people so that they look passably different. So many people have pointed it out to me recently that I felt I had to address it.

Here is the original image from VEER VenShui Photography:



Evermore's cover was designed by Angela Goddard and Jeanette Levy. North of Beautiful does not have a cover designer specified, but they give credit for the photograph to Michele Constantini.

This leads me to wonder... How do cover designers choose photos for their covers? Do they consult with each other or follow trends? What kind of knowledge do they have of the book's content before they start designing?

And how could two books, both published in 2009, both in the YA Fiction genre, have such a similar cover? How does that happen?

I will try to secure an interview with a cover designer, but in the meantime, what are your thoughts on this curious phenomenon?