Thursday, July 29, 2010

Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

Grade: Low A

This book will be available September 2010.

Synopsis:
What does it mean to be extraordinary? Phoebe finds herself drawn to Mallory, the strange and secretive new kid in school. Soon the two girls are as close as sisters . . . until Mallory’s magnetic older brother, Ryland, appears. Ryland has an immediate, exciting hold on Phoebe—but a dangerous hold, for she begins to question her feelings about her best friend and, worse, about herself.

Soon she’ll discover the shocking, fantastical truth about Ryland and Mallory, and about an age-old debt they expect Phoebe to pay. Will she be strong enough to resist? Will she be special enough to save herself?

In the vein of Nancy Werlin’s previous novel Impossible, Extraordinary is a tale of friendship, romance, and the faerie realm.

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

Age Appropriate?
Language: A few cuss words here and there
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: I do not remember any, but I'm writing this review a couple weeks after I've read the book, so don't mark my words on that
Sexual Content: Discussed between a couple, but nothing graphic or bad, just: "to do the deed, or not to" contemplation.
Disturbing Images/ Violence: One bloody, self sacrificing scene

Review:
Extraordinary wasn't as extraordinary as I hoped it would be, but it was still a great read. Nancy Werlin's writing is very unique, easy to read, and addicting.

The main character, Pheobe, had a very, very low self esteem, which was a bit obnoxious to me. (But I'm a fan of strong heroines.) She as a character had a tendency to aways lean on other people instead of doing things for herself, and believed everything that other people said about her. Her inner dialogue was a bit like this: "He just called me ordinary. He doesn't mean it though, does he? But he's just so smart... Oh... he must be right. I am worthless." And this happened multiple times. The same tone, the same self pity, basically the same words. Yet at the end, she discovers her strength and stands up to everyone, etc. etc. There was just too much whiny-ness throughout the span of the book for the sudden strength at the end to be fully believable.

The plot was a strong point. The new twist on the faerie realm was interesting and wasn't overdone. Nancy Werlin is talented at making a fast paced, mystery of a novel. Nothing is fully understood until the very end. Pretty fantastic.

The book had a really neat concept, but somehow it missed the mark for me in Pheobe's character. However, I am still a Nancy Werlin fan and am looking forward to the next novels she'll dish out.

LINKS:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Contest Winner!

The winner of the Shadow Hills swag contest is...

SAVANNAH

Congratulations! Check your email.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sleepless by Cyn Balog

Grade: High A


Synopsis: 

Eron DeMarchelle isn't supposed to feel this connection. He is a Sandman, a supernatural being whose purpose is to seduce his human charges to sleep. Though he can communicate with his charges in their dreams, he isn't encouraged to do so. After all, becoming too involved in one human's life could prevent him from helping others get their needed rest.

But he can't deny that he feels something for Julia, a lonely girl with fiery red hair and sad dreams. Just weeks ago, her boyfriend died in a car accident, and Eron can tell that she feels more alone than ever. Eron was human once too, many years ago, and he remembers how it felt to lose the one he loved. In the past, Eron has broken rules to protect Julia, but now, when she seems to need him more than ever, he can't reach her. Eron's time as a Sandman is coming to a close, and his replacement doesn't seem to care about his charges. Worse, Julia is facing dangers she doesn't recognize, and Eron, as he transitions back to being human, may be the only one who can save her...

Rating:

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

Obtained: Free ARC provided by author.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Language: Nothing too bad, if any.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Some teen drinking, drunkenness
Sexual Content: Some graphic imagery, nothing too extreme
Disturbing Images/Violence: Kidnapping, controlling relationships

Review:

This was a fun, quick read with an interesting concept, riveting plot, and complex, fascinating characters. The story gets all tangled up in a love square to rival the best of them, and each character faces conflict and confusion from the bizarre events that unfold.

I loved Julia and Eron--both were crafted realistically with their own distinct voices that reflected who they were in an appropriate manner. Julia's modern-day normal teen girl voice and Eron's early 20th century gentlemanly one contrasted each other nicely. Similarly, Griffin (the dead boyfriend) and Bret (boyfriend's best friend) were enigmas of their own, and underwent great changes that brought their true characters to light.

Sleepless will not disappoint. Full of realistically-paced romance and emotional turmoil, it is the most honest and dark rendition of high school drama that I have experience in a paranormal romance in a long time.

LINKS:

Cyn Balog
B-log Blog

Monday, July 19, 2010

Passing Strange Winner

And the winner is...
donnas
Congratulations! Check your email!

Siren by Tricia Rayburn

Grade: B

Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Vanessa Sands is afraid of everything—the dark, heights, the ocean—but her fearless older sister, Justine, has always been there to coach her through every challenge. That is, until Justine goes cliff-diving one night near the family’s vacation house in Maine, and her lifeless body washes up on shore the next day.

Though her parents hope that they’ll be able to find closure back in Boston, Vanessa can’t help feeling that her sister’s death wasn’t an accident. After discovering that Justine was keeping a lot of secrets, Vanessa returns to Winter Harbor, hoping that Justine’s boyfriend might know more.

But Caleb has been missing since Justine’s death.
Soon, it’s not just Vanessa who’s afraid. All of Winter Harbor is abuzz with anxiety when another body washes ashore, and panic sets in when the small town becomes host to a strong of fatal, water-related accidents in which all the victims are found, horrifically, grinning from ear to ear.

Vanessa turns to Caleb’s brother, Simon, for help, and begins to find herself drawn to him. As the pair tries to understand the sudden rash of creepy drownings, Vanessa uncovers a secret that threatens her new romance—and will change her life forever. (http://web.me.com/triciarayburn/Tricia_Rayburn/Siren_.html)

Rating:
Character Development: 5/10
Originality: 5/10
Overall Enjoyment: 7/10
Ending: 5/10
Voice: 6/10
Plot: 7/10
Setting: 9/10
Total Score: 44/ 70

Age Appropriate?
Language: Some cussing
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: None that I can recall...
Sexual Content: The before and after of teenage sex, pretty clean; teenage pregnancy.
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Mysterious deaths, creepy sirens, etc.

Review:
Siren is an entertaining summer read with a bit of spookiness, a splash of romance, and a coming of age tale... yeah, yeah, yeah... you've heard this all before.

Here's the thing: Siren is a fun book. I enjoyed reading it. There wasn't really anything bad about it. But there wasn't anything great about it either. The problem was my over-familiarity with stories like this one. It didn't offer any intriguing angle, depth, unique and developed character, anything that made me say... wow.

It was too predictable for my taste. Of course, it is somewhat a mystery book, so yeah, there were a couple of things that I wasn't completely expecting, but the overall gist of the story I could get after reading the first chapter and the synopsis. Simple as that.

The book wasn't bad by any means though, and if it seems your type, I definitely suggest that you give it a try. Here's what I did like: a monster story where the monsters are actually monsters, not misunderstood and essentially good creatures that inevitably fall in love with the main character. The setting was great. The cover is super awesome and the play on siren mythology was cool. So by all means, read it if you think you'll like it.

LINKS:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Interview with Author Anastasia Hopcus


author of the recently published (July 13th) YA fiction novel

SHADOW HILLS

joins us today in an interview!


Read the synopsis here!
Read an excerpt here!

And...here's the interview!



You started writing at a very young age. What do you think has helped your writing grow and develop the most since that time? 

Briefly---practice, feedback, and reading.  I don't think anything helps your writing as much as doing it---whether it's essays for school or the stories you write for your own amusement, you need to write to improve.  Hard as it might be to accept sometimes, feedback on your writing is very useful, although it's essential that the person you're listening to knows what he or she is talking about.  My writing has improved the most, I think, since I've been working llwith my editor.  And I think that all the books I've read over the years have helped me a great deal, particularly when I take the time to analyze them and see what the writer does that makes me like the book.

Do you think you may ever return to writing screenplays? 

I'd love to try it.  I really enjoy writing dialogue and I am such a fan of movies. I think it would also be amazing to be a writer for a TV show. I’m an impatient person and it takes forever to publish a book or write, film, and edit a movie---but TV writers often see their words being said on screen the very next week. Plus, all the behind the scenes on DVDs of TV make the writers room look like so much fun!

Have your many careers influenced you as a writer? 

I think you pick up all kinds of experiences that influence you as a writer in whatever jobs you have---little bits and pieces of knowledge or insight into people that show up later in your writing.  I felt that there was a lot of connection between acting and writing.  In both you're creating characters and telling a story, and those are the things I really love to do. 

Does your love of horror movies manifest itself in your writing?

Oh, yes. I love to evoke that kind of creepy atmosphere. The old cemetery plays a big part in Shadow Hills.  And then there's a scene in the school where she's being chased.  I visualize those things like something out of a horror movie. But I try not to go to scary or bloody: I want my books to be fun, not terrifying.

What do you think is most unique about your writing? 

That’s really hard to answer. I write what I like to read, and though I put my own spin on the mythos, I certainly can’t say I’m the first person to write about Greek myths or genetic mutations. I guess if I had to pick something, I’d say the importance of music to my characters across the board is fairly unique. I offer a glimpse into Zach, Phe, Adriana, Graham, Toy and even Corinne’s music collections. But even so, there are writers like Jeri Smith-Ready that have a ton of music references as well. I don’t know---I’d probably be more likely to call my ideas ‘fresh’ rather than unique.a

Do you prefer writing poetry or novels? 

Hmm.  It depends.  Poetry is great for expressing a sort of emotional snapshot.  It's immediate and intensely personal.  But I love to tell a story and create people and a place, and a novel suits that better.  I guess I'd have to say writing novels; I just prefer that broader scope. Plus a lot of the poetry I write is only seen by me and I love discussing Shadow Hills with readers.

What is your most interesting experience in publishing your first novel? 

BEA was crazy. It was huge and intense and just go, go, go! I loved the Teen Author Carnival and meeting so many fellow authors. I’d only talked to them on 10’ers or Twitter before that. Plus, I had sooo much fun meeting a ton of bloggers and actually getting to spend time with them and go out to dinner and discuss books. Yep, BEA was really interesting.


And now...A CONTEST!

A parcel of Shadow Hills swag will be sent to one lucky commenter by the author!

Be sure to include your name and email address, and any outside postings (twitter, blogger, whatever) get you an added bonus entry. Same for new and old followers. 

More info on prize content coming soon. 

CONTEST ENDS JULY 23rd!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blog Tour with Tricia Rayburn

Tricia Rayburn is the author of several tween books, including the MAGGIE BEAN series, and her newest novel and debut in Young Adult Fiction, SIREN, was released on July 13, 2010.

Visit Tricia online at http://www.triciarayburn.com/ or http://www.triciarayburn.blogspot.com/.

Friend her on facebook here.

Tricia Rayburn stopped at Mundie Moms yesterday and will be at Bookalicious tomorrow. Make sure to check those posts out too!

Why should the world read SIREN?

To be swept away in a spooky, seductive story—and reminded why they should only swim when a lifeguard’s on duty!

Where have you lived in your lifetime, and how has that impacted your writing?

I’ve lived in New York, Vermont, Boston, and San Francisco. Besides Long Island, where I’m from and where I currently live, I’ve spent the most time in New England, and that’s had a huge impact on my writing. The small seaside town in which SIREN takes place is a composite of some my favorite Northeastern spots.

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

I mostly hope readers will have a fun, page-turning experience that makes them look at the water a little differently the next time they’re at the beach! But if they come away with anything more, I hope it’s the idea that when it comes to facing their biggest fears, they might be stronger than they think.

Is there a certain time, place, or atmosphere that simply inspires you to write?

My creative juices seem to flow best in the morning. I usually wake up, make some coffee, and get to work!

Besides writing, what else are you passionate about?

Spending time with my friends and family, reading, baking, doing yard work, and watching (and re-watching, again and again) Gilmore Girls and Friday Night Lights!


Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Vanessa Sands is afraid of everything—the dark, heights, the ocean—but her fearless older sister, Justine, has always been there to coach her through every challenge. That is, until Justine goes cliff-diving one night near the family’s vacation house in Maine, and her lifeless body washes up on shore the next day.

Though her parents hope that they’ll be able to find closure back in Boston, Vanessa can’t help feeling that her sister’s death wasn’t an accident. After discovering that Justine was keeping a lot of secrets, Vanessa returns to Winter Harbor, hoping that Justine’s boyfriend might know more. But Caleb has been missing since Justine’s death.

Soon, it’s not just Vanessa who’s afraid. All of Winter Harbor is abuzz with anxiety when another body washes ashore, and panic sets in when the small town becomes host to a strong of fatal, water-related accidents in which all the victims are found, horrifically, grinning from ear to ear.
Vanessa turns to Caleb’s brother, Simon, for help, and begins to find herself drawn to him. As the pair tries to understand the sudden rash of creepy drownings, Vanessa uncovers a secret that threatens her new romance—and will change her life forever. (http://web.me.com/triciarayburn/Tricia_Rayburn/Siren_.html)

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood (based on a concept by The Duchess of Northumberland)

Available in the US July 20th, 2010. 
Already available in the UK and AU. 

Grade: A+

Synopsis:

In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .

Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill.

When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . .

Rating:

Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 9/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 66/70


Obtained: Free ARC provided by author.

Age Appropriate? PG

Language: None.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some drinking and drunkenness.
Sexual Content: Nothing too bad at all. Some discussion, one hazy scene that almost counts, but nothing to be weary of.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some scenes of death, madness, and violence. But very little.

Review: 

This book was an enchanting, smooth read from beginning to end. Filled with magic, mystery, danger, romance, adventure, and a glorious setting, The Poison Diaries was difficult to put down. With a fascinating cast of characters who are constantly growing, changing, revealing more about themselves, and surprising the reader, Maryrose Wood creates a world where plants are characters themselves--sometimes sweet and gentle, sometimes evil and manipulative.

Though written in diary format with each chapter being a new entry, I found The Poison Diaries to be a lot easier to read than most diary-style books. Jessamine's voice, though suitable for the time period, flowed well and really submerged the reader in her world. That, in addition to the absorbing plot and action of the story, makes it obvious that this is the work of a highly talented writer.



I recommend this book to all who crave a fascinating English adventure this summer that will leave you thinking about it long after you put it down. Though not a light and happy read, it is riddled with meaning and vivid plant imagery. Read it.


LINKS:


Maryrose Wood's site
Poison Diaries site
Interview with Maryrose Wood
Poison Diaries Trailer
Alnwick Castle (Duchess of Northumberland's home and part of the setting of the novel)
Alnwick Garden (Duchess of Northumberland's famous gardens and the inspiration for the novel)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spreading the Excitement: Linger Twitter Party

Celebrate the release Linger, the sequel to Shiver, which is available in bookstores today!


The wonderful author of Linger, Maggie Stievfater and the wonderful blogger Kristi of The Story Siren are planning Twitter party Thursday, July 22, between 8:00 and 9:30 p.m. EST!

Here's the info from Kristi:

  • Be sure to follow Maggie @mstiefvater and Kristi @thestorysiren 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 the party using #Linger is entered to win a limited edition Linger tank top!
  • Watch for questions from @thestorysiren and win awesome prizes including an iPod
  • Touch, Maggie’s artwork and gift cards!
  • To join the party, you can use our official party tweetgrid or just search #Linger on Twitter.
  • Ask Maggie questions or chat with other partygoers—just use the tag #Linger 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.

In Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabel, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding
love story that explores both sides of love—the light and the dark, the warm and the cold—in a way you will never forget.


LINKS:
Reading Rocks Review of Shiver
The Story Siren Review of Shiver
Maggie Stiefvater Twitter
The Story Siren Twitter

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nerds Can Rock Too!

A while ago we went to a wizard rock concert that blew our minds! We weren't familiar with any of the bands playing, but now have some AWESOME people to introduce you too.


Lauren is one of The Moaning Myrtles and is also an Armoured Bearcub (in which her and her boyfriend, Matt Maggiacomo, sing nerdy songs not necessarily about Harry Potter). She is basically a super adorable nerd all the time and I absolutely love her! Here are some of her songs:

Armoured Bearcub (Lauren and Matt)- Peeing in a Bottle (Papertowns by John Green)


More awesome songs by Armoured Bearcub:

We're on Fire (Hunger Games)
In Which Buffy Slays Edward
A Song from Moaning Myrtle:



Justin Flinch-Fletchy



JFF has an amazing, enthusiastic stage presence and really got the audience rocking. "For the past few years Justin has been touring the US and Canada performing in libraries, bookstores, clubs, and many other places helping to promote literacy, arts, activism, and equality throughout. Justin Finch-Fletchley combines wit and insight along with an unbridled amount of passion and energy to bring eager wizard rock fans their dose of catchy sing-along wizard rock music." (http://www.jffismybff.com/Site/Hello%21.html)

Listen to JFF's songs here.

Luke Conard and Kristina Horner


These people are ahhhhmazing. Nuff said.

Hey Kristina (in which Luke woos Kristina)


Go HERE to listen to the rest of their super cool songs (such as World of Warcraft Ruined My Life, I Love Brains, and Don't Unplug Me).

Also, check out Kristina's other band, The Parselmouths.

That was only a few of the awesome people we saw. So go web stalk them! THEY ROCK!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Grade: High A+

Synopsis:


You saw me before I saw you.

A girl: Gemma, at the airport, on her way to a family vacation.

You had that look in your eyes.

A guy: Ty, rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar, eyes blue as ice.

Like you wanted me. 

She steps away. For just a second. He pays for her drink. And drugs it.

Wanted me for a long time.

He takes her, before she even knows what's happening. To sand and heat. To emptiness and isolation. To nowhere. And expects her to love him.

Rating:

Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 67/70

Obtained: Free ARC sent by publisher (Chicken House)

Age Appropriate? PG-13 (bordering on R) 

Language: Frequent conversational cursing.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Scenes of teen and adult drinking and drunkenness, teen and adult illegal drug use, drug dealing, etc. Teen and adult smoking.
Sexual Content: Allusions to teen sexual activity, mentions/discussions of rape and prostitution.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Stalking and unhealthy obsession, kidnapping, mental instability, some violence, mentions of child abuse.


Review:

Gemma's tale is hauntingly beautiful, vividly painful, excruciating, and overwhelmingly conflicting. When she is displaced from her old life into this new world of harsh beauty, survival, and confusion, she is forced to rely on her captor, a strange, lost young man in search of a life he feels he can only share with Gemma.

Written ingeniously in second person, Stolen is at times uncomfortably intimate and raw. As Gemma explores her memories and recounts the events of her capture, strange things begin to happen to us and to her. The hot, unforgiving Australian landscape starts to look more and more like a home full of life and comfort, and Ty--stalker, kidnapper, loner--becomes, impossibly, something so much more pure--protector, artist, companion.

This journey is complicated, emotional, original, and painful. With great respect for the deserts of Australia, Lucy Christopher has created a spectacular yet horrifying story of an unwilling adventure; an unusual, twisted relationship; complex, real-life characters; and a world unlike any other right in the middle of the outback. Read it.


LINKS:


Lucy Christopher

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book Showcase and Giveaway: Passing Strange

Available NOW wherever books are sold...

"In Passing Strange all-American teenager Karen DeSonne faces more than the usual high school drama—she happens to be dead. Her troubles only multiply as she finds herself caught up in a high-profile scandal— new anti-zombie regulations that have forced nearly all of Oakvale’s undead into hiding.

Obtaining enough evidence to expose this sinister plot means doing the unthinkable for Karen: Betraying her true love and becoming the girlfriend of the one guy she truly cannot stand—Pete Martinsburg. Karen’s only hope is that the enemy never realizes who she really is—because the consequences would be even worse than death." (Daniel Waters http://watersdan.blogspot.com/)

“An interesting look at social prejudices. The dynamic
of his books are refreshing - not only do they offer up an unusual romance
(between a teenage girl, and a teenage zombie), they also push readers to
question their views on societal norms.” – The Examiner


GirlsLife.com and Hyperion Teen are collaborating for this special video trailer contest. The top video that succeeds in portraying the conflicts and drama in Passing Strange will win an amazing prize.

"Do you ever wake up and just feel like a zombie? Uh, yea—everyone's had one of those days (or try several)! The winner of the Passing Strange Video Trailer contest will score a makeover fit for a starlet. She'll get her makeup done by a professional MAC artist and will pick up up to $200 worth of MAC product. The best part? Your video will be featured on Girlslife.com in a video poll. Now a prize like that is sure to zap a zombie back to life." (girlslife.com)

For more information on this competition, visit GirlsLife.com.

GIVEAWAY!

To win a copy of Passing Strange here at Reading Rocks, please leave a comment or shoot us an email with your name and email address. If you post about Passing Strange on your blog or twitter and give us a link, we'll give you an extra entry! No entries will be counted after July 18, 2010.

LINKS:

Generation Dead Site

Daniel Waters Blog

GirlsLife

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jenny Meyerhoff joins us on her blog tour!


QUEEN OF SECRETS
by Jenny Meyerhoff was released last week!

Here's the synopsis: 

Fifteen-year-old Essie Green cannot believe her luck when Austin King asks her out. He is the captain of the football team and the hottest guy at Pershing High School. Unfortunately, as their relationship heats up, so does a rivalry between Austin’s best friend Harrison and Essie’s estranged cousin Micah, an observant Jew. Essie is forced to decide where her loyalties lie. With a family member she barely knows, or the boy she’s beginning to love?


Join up with the blog tour at In Bed With Books!
And follow along at the next stop at TeenReads

See the BLOG!


JENNY MEYERHOFF

To read about Jenny, click HERE!

And this is what she has to say about the beginnings of QUEEN OF SECRETS:

QUEEN OF SECRETS began one day when I wondered what would happen if I retold the biblical story of The Book of Esther and set it in modern times. The more I thought about it the more I realized that the main character, Esther, was probably in her teens. This was an interesting dilemma, because while Esther was in her teens, I don’t think it would be fair to say she was a teenager. Teenagers are a pretty modern phenomenon, I think. Today, a girl of about sixteen years is still in her adolescence. In biblical times she might be considered old enough to get married and have a family of her own.

In the ancient story, Esther is thrust into adulthood. She’s taken from her guardian, drafted into the king’s harem and forced to spend the night with the king. She is married to the king shortly thereafter. In QUEEN OF SECRETS, the growing-up is more protracted. Essie, my modern Esther, has guardians (her grandparents) who do not want her to grow up. They want her to remain their little girl. And for Essie, as opposed to Esther, this is actually an option. She doesn’t have to take responsibility for her actions or choices if she doesn’t want to. She can let her grandparents make her decisions for her and blame them for the results.

It’s weird to think of growing up as optional, but don’t you know a lot of adults who really aren’t grown-up? And on the flip side, I’m sure we all know plenty of young people who already approach life with a grown-up sense of personal responsibility. Where does this come from? Unless you are thrust into adulthood (like biblical Esther) I think growing up is a conscious choice. Sometimes a choice we have to make over and over. I’m fascinated by this (maybe because I’m still choosing) and I think I wrote QUEEN OF SECRETS in part to explore how we do this.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Harlequin Teen Panel

A panel for teen readers to participate in giveaways and discussions, receive Advanced Readers Copies of books, as well as receive a member-only newsletter.

Joining:
Harlequin Teen is looking for girls ages 13 to 17 who live in the USA and love to read young adult fiction. Parental consent is required. To learn more about how to join, please click here.

What do you do as a member?
You’ll be contacted at least once a month via email with a survey or discussion about books and other topics. You should also know that the panel was created for market research only, which means you are not going to be sold anything--ever--Harlequin Teen is only interested in getting your honest opinions.

LINKS:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Interview with author Maryrose Wood

is the author of the upcoming YA novel,


will be available on July 20th in the US and is already available in the UK and Australia.




In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . . 

Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill. 

When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . . 

 


Here is the interview:

What was it like to work with the Duchess of Northumberland on The Poison Diaries?

The basic premise of the book—that a boy could have the power to communicate with dangerous plants—was the Duchess’s idea. I was brought into the project after HarperCollins was already excited about developing this concept into a YA trilogy.

Before I started writing the book, HarperCollins sent me to England to meet the Duchess and see Alnwick Castle and the real-life poison garden with my own eyes. It was a fantastic experience. The Duchess also took me to Scotland to visit a place called Soutra Aisle, which had been the site of a medieval monastery. There’s little left of it now, but centuries ago, the monks there ran a hospital and had a sophisticated knowledge of how to use plants for medicinal purposes.

I was only at Alnwick for two days, but everyone was incredibly helpful and the trip was a real inspiration. I wrote the book at home in New York, but I was able to use quite a bit of what I learned on my trip in the book.

Do you think it's important for authors/publishers to publish YA books internationally? Why or why not?

The more readers, the better! I’m pleased to say that The Poison Diaries is already being translated into German; I believe the German release date will be in summer of 2011. It’s already been published by HarperCollins UK in the UK and in Australia.

I’d love to see more YA books in translation—including books written in other languages and translated into English, which we don’t see nearly enough of in the United States. It’s important to hear the stories of other cultures as told by their own writers.

It’s also great when a book seems to transcend national boundaries. I mean, isn’t it amazing that kids all over the world know Harry Potter? I tend to be an idealistic person, but I do think it’s possible that those kind of shared cultural experiences can enhance a sense of our common humanity across national and cultural differences.


How do you choose the names for your characters/places/things?

Names are funny. Sometimes they just come to you; sometimes you have to really wrack your brain to find the perfect one.

In the case of The Poison Diaries, the place names are all real: Alnwick Castle, Hulne Abbey, Northumberland. The Duchess of Northumberland named the character of Weed, because it captured the stray, unwanted feeling of a person who has no true home.

The name Jessamine was my idea; it happens to be the name of a poisonous plant, but it’s also a pretty and somewhat unusual girl’s name. I thought it suited the character perfectly.

Where do you do your writing?

Everywhere, really. I have an office upstairs in my house, but I haul my MacBook Pro all around and often take it outside to sit on the front porch and work. In the summer I might work by the neighborhood pool while my son is having a swim, or on the train if I’m heading out of town.

My writing schedule at the moment requires me to write two books a year, so I can’t afford to be too fussy about my work environment. I tend not to work well on airplanes, though. I find them very noisy and cramped. For me, airplanes are good for napping or reading, but not writing.

Which of your books was the most fun for you to write?

Writing each book has been rewarding in a different way, but I’d have to say I had the most actual “fun” writing The Mysterious Howling, the first book in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. That’s largely because the voice of the narrator is very entertaining to write; it’s aimed at middle-grade readers and the premise of the series is pretty comical, so it’s all very lighthearted. While working on that book I’d often read something aloud to check what I’d done and find myself giggling away.

The Poison Diaries was a real departure from that kind of book; it’s a dark, romantic YA and kind of a thriller, so it was a different kind of fun. I loved being able to stretch and using all different writing muscles. But I didn’t giggle while I was writing The Poison Diaries, believe me! The story is too spooky for that.


What has been your most fun/exciting experience as a published author?

My trip to England to research The Poison Diaries was amazing. And my launch tour for The Mysterious Howling was really exciting too, on a personal level. It was my first tour and I visited five cities in eight days. The sheer number of kids, teachers and booksellers I met in such a short period of time was mind-boggling.

Writing is such a solitary pursuit so much of the time, so any chance to connect in person with readers is a sincere thrill. I look forward to doing more of that when The Poison Diaries is released on July 20th.

MARYROSE WOOD was interviewed by READING ROCKS on JULY 4th, 2010.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

Grade: A+

Synopsis:
Seventeen year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Miller’s life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alienated from her parents, especially her father… until her mother decides it would be in everyone’s best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie’s father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church. The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story about love in its myriad forms – first love, the love between parents and children – that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that deeply felt relationships can break our hearts… and heal them. (http://www.nicholassparks.com/LearnMore.asp?BookID=15)

Rating:
Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 6/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Ending: 10/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 9/10
Total Score: 63/ 70

Age Appropriate? PG-13
Language: Occasional cussing
Drugs, Alcohol, etc.: Teen drinking
Sexual Content: Discussed, but no actual scene
Disturbing Images/ Violence: Terminal Illness, fire injury, nothing too bad really

Review:
This was my first experience with Nicholas Sparks, and I was completely swept away. The narrative is engrossing, the setting is lovely, and the story kept me hooked from the first page to the last.

There is one single detail that makes Sparks' stories so powerful: the characters. They are so unbelievably real. They make mistakes, they have flaws, they deal with life on a day to day basis... they are humans. Just like us. Relatable. And the relationships between the characters, not just Will and Ronnie, but each friendship, each family dynamic, each spiritual relationship, and each enmity was perfectly not perfect. What I mean to say is that the relationships have depth. There are ups and downs. The relationships change as do the characters. Change is such an essential part of life, and one that authors sometimes miss in their quest to have an exciting plot. Or often in stories only the main character goes through a change, as the other characters stay the same. But truly, in life everyone is constantly changing, and book characters should be no different. Getting to know Sparks' characters and understanding them isn't completely possible. Mysteries mask the surface of what we know, much like they do in our day to day relationships. The characters were the gem of this novel.

If you have not yet picked up a Nicholas Sparks book, you should probably give it a try, but know that you are in for much more than a sweet little romance. You should also know that The Last Song brought me to tears, which only a rare and special book can accomplish. Of course... it was the characters' fault. I loved them too much.

LINKS:

Nicholas Sparks

The Last Song Movie Trailer

How to Write a Nicholas Sparks Movie This last link I had two post for two reasons. 1) It's kind of funny. 2) It's kind of true. But despite similarities between his novels, Nicholas Sparks still has a talent for story telling.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Updates!

As you've probably noticed, Reading Rocks has been under some heavy revamping for the past several days. Our updates are incredibly exciting and, as our dear readers, you should take advantage of some of our cool new stuff!

We now have tabs at the top of the page to help you navigate through the site and give you some resources we have found useful, such as:
  • The LINKS feature: This is a collection of links to author sites, book sites, other blogs, and excellent YA resources on the web. We urge you to add your own links in the comments and we will add them to our lists.
  • The LIBRARY feature: Using LibraryThing.com, we have created an online "library" of all of our favorite reads from past years. Some we have reviewed on the site, but some are new. This is an excellent resource for finding books to read any time of the year. The variety is huge, but all are worth the read. We have also added the "Virtual Librarian" feature to allow you to search through our library with ease.
  • The REVIEW ARCHIVE feature: To help you find books and reviews easier with our alphabetized list of links and at-a-glance info about each of the books we have reviewed in all of Reading Rocks history.
  • The CONTACT feature: At Reading Rocks, we know there's always room for improvement. So whether your a follower, a blogger, an author, or a member of the general public, this is where you can go to submit your ideas, comments, feedback, and suggestions in an easy, hassle-free manner.
Also, Reading Rocks is going independent! Instead of our old URL, http://readingrocks4me.blogspot.com, we now have a domain name all our own!

But don't worry, readers. The blogspot address will still redirect to our site, so no worries! It may take a few days to take effect, so be patient. :)

Also, we have (finally) decided to change our layout! Please let us know what you think. 

Book Showcase: And Then I Found Out the Truth


First there was a kiss.
Then there was doubt.
Then there was danger.
And then…

Delia Truesdale didn’t think life could get more complicated. After all, her mother’s on the run in South America and won’t be coming home anytime soon – at least, not until Delia can outwit the evil-doers who are out to destroy them both.

But it’s hard to thwart evil-doers from an entirely different continent, especially when everyone thinks you should be doing your homework instead. And Delia’s stuck in Manhattan, along with her slightly insane Aunt Charley, her completely uptight Aunt Patience, a petulant psychic, a love-struck detective, a boy-crazy brainiac, and Quinn, who defies description but has kissed her twice.

The answers are waiting in exotic Buenos Aires, and time is running out. Delia might not speak Spanish or know how to tango, but she does have a passport. Will she be able to uncover the truth — before it’s too late.
And Then I Found Out the Truth, sequel to And Then Everything Unraveled, just hit bookstores!
"Fans of the first book will find all the same rewards here:
quirky characters, Gossip Girl–worthy label dropping, a dreamy love interest,
and a mystery that ties up with happy surprises."
- Booklist
And for New York residents: Jennifer Sturman will be reading at the Jefferson
Market Branch New York public library July 12 at 6:00pm.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Authors on NBC's Today Show

Jon Voelkel and Pamela Craik Voelkel are the authors of Middleworld, the first book in The Jaguar Stones trilogy.

About the Book:
Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy, video-gamer extraordinaire, is furious when his archaeologist parents cancel the family vacation to go on a dig in Central America. But things go from bad to worse when Max is summoned to join them, only to discover that his parents have vanished. With the help of Lola, a fast-talking, quick-thinking Maya girl, Max embarks on a quest to find out just what’s going on. Soon Max and Lola are running for their lives in the perilous rainforest, as they unlock ancient secrets, meet mysterious strangers, and begin to understand that, in San Xavier, nothing is ever as it seems.

Fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to Max Murphy. But can a teen whose biggest talent is for video games rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save himself from the villainous Lords of Death?
(http://www.jaguarstones.com/Books.html)

About the Authors:

"Over the last four years, authors Jon and Pamela Voelkel visited over twenty Maya sites across Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. They’ve canoed underground rivers, tracked howler monkeys in the jungle, and met with leading Maya archaeologists—all in order to provide a rip-roaring adventure for children and an accurate portrayal of an incredible civilization. Many of their amazing escapades made into MIDDLEWORLD which focuses on 14-year-old Max Murphy, who finds himself reluctantly traveling through the jungles of the Maya—complete with haunted temples, zombie armies, and human sacrifice—in order to save his parents, both Maya experts and archaeologists."

Jon and Pamela were featured tonight on NBC's Today Show. To watch it, visit TodayShow.com.

To learn more about the Jaguar Stones trilogy, visit the site here.

And to read an exerpt from the book click here.

Wintercraft by Jenna Burtenshaw

Grade: A+

Synopsis: 

Ten years ago Kate Winters' parents were taken by the High Council's wardens to help with the country's war effort.

Now the wardens are back...and prisoners, including Kate's uncle Artemis, are taken south on the terrifying Night Train. Kate and her friend Edgar are hunted by a far more dangerous enemy. Silas Dane – the High Council's most feared man – recognises Kate as one of the Skilled; a rare group of people able to see through the veil between the living and the dead. His spirit was damaged by the High Council's experiments into the veil, and he's convinced that Kate can undo the damage and allow him to find peace.

The knowledge Kate needs lies within Wintercraft – a book thought to be hidden deep beneath the graveyard city of Fume. But the Night of Souls, when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, is just days away and the High Council have their own sinister plans for Kate and Wintercraft...

Rating:

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

Obtained: Free ARC sent by publisher (Headline)

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cussing: None or very little. 
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: A few drug-ish poisons, but certainly nothing too bad. 
Sexual Content: None. 
Disturbing Images/Violence: LOTS of blood, gore, and murder. Witchcraft. Death. Destruction. Corruption of government. Separation of parent and child. 

Review:

Jenna Burtenshaw is a writer with obvious talent. Her narrative is perfect for this kind of fantasy--it flows well, is very descriptive, and catches the reader's attention. She pulled off the third person omniscient perspective in a way that was wholly free of awkwardness. Yay! 

The setting was a work of art all its own. Every facet of this world, from its politics to culture to society and history, has been crafted carefully around the exhilarating plot and still manages to be unique and fascinating. Though the "magic" aspect of the story made it a tad archetypal and predictable, it was still high-quality old-fashioned adventure fantasy. 

Wintercraft's characters were another matter altogether. Some I consider wild successes and the others...not so much. I adored the character of Silas Dane and had sympathy for him long before I cared about Kate. Though he appears to be something of an antagonist (and is certainly not a morally sound individual) I loved him as a character. Conversely, Kate's mindlessness and predictable heroic bravery were slightly annoying, but I came to love her for her spunk as the story progressed. Similarly, the other "good" characters--Edgar and Artemis--I was not too fond of, but I found Da'ru, the twisted evil sorceress, an utterly brilliant creation. Maybe it's just me, but I found Burtenshaw's villainous characters a lot more fun to read. 

I recommend this book to hardcore lovers of fantasy or anyone who can appreciate pages packed with intense adventure. The last few pages are particularly intriguing and make me shiver just thinking about them. I eagerly anticipate the next installment from this promising new UK-based writer!

LINKS: