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Win a copy of Nobody and Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (ends 2/20)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Interview + Giveaway with Wendy Wunder (Probability of Miracles)

1. Your name fits perfectly with the meaning of The Probability of Miracles, but let's pretend it doesn't. Create an alias for yourself or what are some other titles did you consider for POM?
I try to stay away from aliases because I had a bad experience once. One night in college we decided to use aliases and I was supposed to be “Phoebe,” until some guy asked me to spell it, and then my cover was blown.  So remember… Words of wisdom you can only get here at Books By Their Cover… If you decide to use an alias, choose one that’s easy to spell!

As for other titles, the one I remember batting around was One Hundred Words for Blue.   It was a pretty phrase from the book and it summed up how Cam was feeling in the beginning.  But I think there are a lot of similar titles to that one out there.

2. There's a lot of craziness in POM. How do you manage incorporating humor and random animal scenes without losing the underlining tragedy?
My family has always used humor, often self-deprecating humor, (and random animal scenes) to help them wade through difficult times, so the balance between humor and tragedy is sort of a natural state of being for me.  My life has always been tragically funny.  Or comically tragic.  (go ahead... ask around :)  So that's the balance I can naturally strike.  If I had a "world view," I guess it would be tragicomic.  Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, humor and sadness are often two sides of the same proverbial coin.  They are just different ways to express and release deep feelings about something.  The animal scenes you speak of acted as comic relief.  You can’t have a story that is continual non-stop tragedy.  And life is not like that either.  When a family is experiencing terrible times, there are moments of lightness in it all.  There have to be or we wouldn’t survive.

3. When I first saw the cover for POM, I thought "wow is it pink". What was your immediate reaction? Did it seem that POM was finally on its way to becoming a real physical book found in stores?
Yes seeing the cover was a big moment.  Before they even started designing the cover my main question was, “Does it have to have a girl on it?’”   I was hoping it could be just text design or something abstract.  And I probably would have added, “Does it have to be pink?” if I knew they were even considering pink.  I’m not really a pink person.  In fact, the grocery store manager across the street calls my daughter “Violetta” because I often dressed her in purple as a baby to avoid being inundated in the Pink.    But.  When I saw that cover.  I LOVED it.  The pink is appropriate. (and it stands out)  The girl is Beautiful.  The feather is cool .  And the FONT is PERFECT.  Don’t you think?

Yan: Yes! The cover is growing on me as I look at more. Plus, after finishing POM, I can't imagine anything different.

4. What is your favorite part about Disney World?
When we went with my daughter who was then four, we made it on the first day to Opening Ceremonies, and I had Goosebumps! And it was just 8:30 in the morning.  Unlike Cam, I definitely feel the magic of the Magic Kingdom.  I have a lot of favorite parts.  I love the idea of “Character Dining”.  How cool is it for kids to sit down to dinner with Cinderella or Winnie the Pooh?  That’s cool for them.  (They should have that for adults.  I want to go to a huge restaurant  and eat chicken nuggets while Asthon Kutcher and Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon walk around visiting all the tables and stop by to take pictures with you and kiss you on the cheek.)

5. What's your favorite animal?
Tigers.  I just wish they didn’t have the tendency to eat people and I’d have one for a pet. They’re just beautiful.  We just went to a little girls’ birthday party where she asked for donations to save the tigers in lieu of presents.  So Thank You, Hailey, for saving the Tigers!!!

6. When you first told Cam's story, did you already envisioned her to be snarky or was she the one to tell you? Did you find it difficult at times to write her story?
She was always snarky.  She had to be in a place where she could protect herself emotionally and the snarkiness was her armor.  And she had to start off in a low place spiritually in order for her to grow.  As for the second part… writing is Always hard no matter what story you’re trying to tell.  Once I had created all the characters though the story unfolded.  Slowly.  Sometimes tortuously.  As if I were watching a movie in my head.

7. What are some books you're looking forward to in the upcoming months or year?
Right now I’m reading The Marriage Plot.  Then on to: The Art of Fielding,  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (before the movie comes out),  Swamplandia, The Tigers Wife, IQ84,and more.  I tend to shy away from reading a ton of YA, because I don’t want to be derivative.  I want to stay fresh.  Does that make sense?  Plus, I’m a little old for it.  Honestly.  I’m pretty old.

Yan: You can never to be too old for YA! But I understand the worry about staying fresh.

8. I have to know if you have anything else you're working on. I read POM back in July, but it's one of those books that lingered in my head these past 8 months.
Among other things, I’m working on a Thelma and Louise story for teens about the power of friendship and the mysteries of the universe.  For now, it’s called The Museum of Intangible Things.

Read my REVIEW and check out some extras! The book and the author sound amazing right? Then enter to win a SIGNED copy of POM!

Again this is done using rafflecopter so view this exact post to see the form.

Review: The Probability of Miracles

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

Grade: 5 stars out of 5

This is a very early review (about 6 months too early) but I have to gush about this book. It was bittersweet, beautiful, and aspiring. It hits you so hard. (The book hasn’t even been released yet and I’m already hoping for more books from Wendy Wunder.) The Probability of Miracles surprised just as I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan did last year. Both novels give the reader the chance to believe in coincidence and miracles and the need to live for what is perfect now.
Snarky Cam is hard on the outside but soft on the inside. Cam has a rare cancer that's slowly destroying her body that is if the treatments and trials don't kill her first. On a last ditch effort to live her life, Cam and her mother and sister move to Promise, Maine where rumor has it the place is full of miracles. After living and working in Disney World Cam is far from being a full believer. But from purple dandelions to flocks of flamingos to a unicorn in her back yard*, Cam may have to reevaluate her opinion.

With a mix of 13 Little Blue Envelopes and I'll Be There and something all its own, The Probability of Miracles will break your heart, glue it back together, and shatter it all over again. 
Hi Buddy!
Cam was the perfect heroine for me. She was a genuine sister and daughter who fights with her younger sister and mother, but ultimately loves and cares deeply about them. Cam wasn't a romantic or a dreamer. She was sarcastic, she was real. Can breathed life with all of its ups and downs into the novel.

Life isn't prefect, but it can be pretty darn good sometimes when you let people in and the negativity out. That was what Cam learned and we as readers learned with her. Promise was just one more hoax that Cam scoffed at, but the small town with its motley crew of people melted the ice around Cam. She became a softer version of herself and started to be the giver of miracles.

The Probability of Miracles had an array of characters, which gave the book an explosion of voices and personalities. And yet it remained harmonious because at its center was Cam. She brought them in together from the perky sister, to the ever-fighting mother, to the sassy Nana, to the boy who taught Cam how to love, to the best friend who gave Cam a purpose when she felt like giving it all up. They were a perfect cast of supporters to the perfect heroine of an amazing and profound book.

It was slow in the beginning, but worth it in the end. Oh, the end. The last line literally made me fall in love with the book all over again and again. There’s wickedness to the humor, but lightness to the romance.

Savor this book.

*The Probability of Miracles is a contemporary novel and not a fantasy one. So the unicorn was my attempt to throw a little curve ball to you, but it is in the novel, just not what you might expect.

Cover A-
Initially the pink made me flinch but after reading the book, I love the pink. And the feather. And the long luscious hair, which is a big symbol in the book.
Source: ARC from Razorbill
Published: 2011, December 8
Amazon: order

Read the first 5 chapters!
The Probability of Miracles - Chapters 1 - 5

Saturday, December 24, 2011

FREE Kate Daniels Novella

Ilona Andrews is offering readers a FREE novella titled Magic Gifts for 2 weeks! So exciting! This series is AWE-SOME.

"This novella takes place at the same time as Andrea’s book, right after MAGIC SLAYS, and the two stories intersect."

A dinner date after a hard day at work sounds heavenly. Of course, when that date is between the Beast Lord and Kate Daniels, things don’t go as planned. Before you know it, undead are running amok, heads are being chopped off, lawyers are deployed and used with extereme prejudice, and drunk vikings are calling people out.
You can download the novella to your Kindle, in ePub (for the Nook and Sony eReader) and in PDF (for us fans readers who don't own an eReader).

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Catastrophic History of You & Me

The Catastrophic History of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg

Grade: 2 stars out of 5
Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning.... Welcome to forever.

BRIE'S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally.

But now that she's D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after.

With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?
Who else thought how awesome The Catastrophic History of You & Me sounded when they read the summary? Dying because of heartbreak? Wow. That’s different.

When I read the book, however, I had thought that Rothenberg would bring more details. Scientific and biological evidence of how and why Brie’s heart broke in half. Perhaps it’ll be something like from The Sky is Everywhere—a hidden heart problem that no one seemed to catch—or maybe a heart problem that has always been there, but the stress of heartbreak was the final straw. What happened was that Rothenberg introduced a new illness: BHS, Broken Heart Syndrome. Really? Really. Desk, meet head; head, prepare for pain. There are biological anomalies everywhere and I get that this is a work of fiction, but I felt robbed almost. Since I’m already amped up, let’s talk cheese.

What do you do when the MC is a girl that you do like not? Loathed at times even. Well you keep reading and hoping that you will grow to like her. There might be a string of sympathy, or empathy, that sets off a domino effect with a final hit of ‘wow, I wish I knew that girl’. But no, The Catastrophic History of You & Me left me thankful that I didn’t know Brie. (I didn’t get the cheese nicknames until a third way in because I’m not a big fan of cheese so I have very limited knowledge of cheese names.)

While her best friends and her boyfriend(s) and family loved Brie, I could barely tolerate her. She was selfish: selfish actions with selfish motives that did no one any good. It was all about her, her, and oh yeah, her. Brie didn’t care that she might have ruined someone’s life: college plans, friendships, public lives, etc. Brie’s mind only seemed to consider the immediate results from an action. Any long-term effects or consequences never popped into her mind until it hit her face on. Even then I felt like she couldn’t have figured out how it all came to be.

Would I call Brie psychotic? At times, yes. Her actions were extreme: breaking car windows, pushing an oncoming bike down, tripping someone where it breaks their leg, and so forth. Heartaches hurt. It sucks to be dumped and it sucks even more when you are lied to. But to assume only makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. And Brie did was assume the worst. I think being dramatic makes life more fun, but I would not to be her friend just in case she might stab me in the back (literally and figuratively).

While we’re talking bad things let’s continue on about the big reveal in the end. Everyone gets a HEA (happy ever after), but the build up to the HEA was clunky. A little foreshadowing here and there (but it’s pretty much the same scene each time) then BANG. I had a little trouble swallowing it—just a little—especially with the great emotion upheaval that makes me want to puke. We’re soul mates even though just a couple chapters ago I professed that my greatest love broke my heart and killed me so I should now try to kill him because “If I couldn’t have him, nobody could” (ARC 173). L-O-L. Freaking LOL. You’re 15 going on 16 going to jail if you were still alive. This was her first boyfriend.

I couldn’t connect to the love interests. They seemed more like good friends.

I didn’t understand her father’s infidelity. Maybe it’s because The Catastrophic History of You & Me is told through 1st POV and Brie is not the most astute character.

I couldn’t wrap my head around the mechanics of Heaven and being dead. (If there are extras to the novel, I hope they would include a couple of chapters from the D&G handbook.)

I did, however, like the dog. He rocked.

I liked the other characters that were dead. They had personalities.

Brie was not the only thing about The Catastrophic History of You & Me that has a connection to cheese; the entire novel was cheesy in the end.

Cover B-
Source: LibraryThing ER
Published: 2012, February 21; hardcover

Read more reviews:
Sophistikated Reviews's REVIEW

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Personalized Keychains Giveaway

Good news readers! I'm teaming up with Gopromos, the promotional items website the promotional items website, to give away 50 Brightwell Personalized Keychains, worth over $100, absolutely free.

Some product details:

  • Key Tag Color: Burgundy, Forest Green, Graphite or Blue
  • Imprint Color: Laser-Engraved in Silver
  • Imprint Options: Up to 5 Lines (20 Characters per Line) or Up to 3 Lines and a Logo
  • Fully-functional LED flashlight in your choice of color

Here’s how to enter our Personalized Keychains Giveaway:

In the comments form below, tell me how you will use your personalized keychains for your business, organization, or personal use.  OR let me know what message you're considering on engraving onto the keychain!

Be sure to post some form of contact info so that I can contact you if you’re the winner.

I will close the contest by 23rd of December (so get in those entries quickly!). U.S. residents only are eligible for the Giveaway due to legal restrictions. Good luck!

Congrats Michele! Please get back to me ASAP.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Catching Jordan Review & Catching Up with Miranda

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Grade: 3.5 stars out of 5
“What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though - she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team... and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.”
Who says girls aren’t athletic? This book says that girls can and are just as athletic as boys in a male-dominated sport. Jordan is an athlete that many can aspire to be: focus, determined, with a good head on her shoulder. And just as some women athletes are concerned about appealing to the opposite sex, Jordan goes through the same thing. Sometimes it’s easy to be one of the guys and harder to be a “girl”. When hot stuff comes up and messes with Jordan’s mojo, you can’t help but experience the same fluttering anxiety that she does. Because many of us have gone through that.

Catching Jordan extends its reaches from just sports fans, but to everyone who has experienced crushes…sometimes all consuming ones.

That’s not to say that football doesn’t play a big role. Expect detailed games and rules on how to play from Catching Jordan.

Characters I liked: Jordan’s dad. He may seem like a jerk but he has good intentions. Sports are dangerous; I understand his reluctance to let Jordan play football. Jordan is his “little girl” in a heavily dominated male sport that will treat her differently even if she is better than most guys.

Jordan’s mom: really encouraging and a great solid parent figure.

Characters I’m iffy on: Jordan and JJ. JJ is very crash and much like a stereotypical male who’s looking to get laid. He’s very protective of Jordan and does crossword puzzles.

Jordan, separate from what she stands her, I found very frustrating. Like most YA books it seems that as soon as hot new guy comes along, they lose most of their brain cells and common sense. She’s very ambitious and head-strong that fails to see what’s right in front of her. Instead she likes to live her own little world at times.

Characters I can learn to like: Tyler and Henry and Carter. Scratch the surfaces and these characters can offer so much more.

Catching Jordan’s potential far exceeds than what the novel offered. I could have loved the book so much more.

Cover B
Source: Sourcebooks Fire
Published: 2011 December 1; paperback

And an interview with the lovely author!:

can totally see them in Superbowl
Do you think sports promote a healthy lifestyle or can it become an unhealthy obsession?
I think anything in life can become an unhealthy obsession - from video games to spending too much money to working out too hard. Any activity in life should be done in moderation. But overall - yes, sports and being active are very important to healthy living.

Do sports promote teamwork and companionship or does it promote aggression and competition?
I think it all goes back to the coach and/or captain. If the leader promotes teamwork and companionship, then the team is more likely to pick up those qualities as a whole. Likewise, the same goes for aggression and competition. But if a person ever feels like his or her coach or captain isn't doing right by the team, then it's that person's responsibility to step up and act in a responsible manner.

Curling = exciting!
What is fantasy football and how do you play?
Fantasy football is when you choose a team, using players from all of the different teams in the NFL. I am pretty lazy, so in the past when I've done fantasy football leagues, I usually just use an online site to manage the team and players, etc. But you can plan using regular ole paper and pen too.

Which teams do you think will make it to the Super Bowl? Who will win?
Green Bay will play either the Patriots or Baltimore. But I bet Green Bay will win.

What other male dominated sports do you think would benefit from a little female competition?
I'd love to see a female pitcher or outfielder in Major League Baseball. 

What is the most obscure sport you can think of?
Curling! Oh how I want to be on the U.S. Olympic Curling Team. Literary Agent Michelle Wolfson would be my curling partner.

What is your favorite sport and why?
Softball. It's my favorite because it's the only sport I'm truly good at!

Favorite mascot?
Wally, the Red Sox mascot, who is named after the Green Monster outfield wall in Boston. He's so green and cute.

What are some foods you enjoy after a good game/workout?
Whole wheat bagels with peanut butter or creme cheese. And pizza!

The Kid Table by Andrea Seigel

The Kid Table by Andrea Seigel

Grade: 4.5 stars out of 5
Ingrid and her cousins have been stuck at the Kid Table for every family function. At every event, the teenagers have been sitting at a small aluminum card table with a toddler. However, Ingrid cannot believe her eyes when she sees her eldest cousin Brianne sitting at the adult table. Even more disconcerting is how hard Ingrid falls for Brianne’s boyfriend Trevor. Over the course of a year, Ingrid reevaluates herself, her cousins, and the relationships she has with those around her.

I’ll read almost anything. I will only actually like about half of what I read. And even less will I actually say I love. It has to have quality writing, original characters with flaws, a different variation of standard plotlines, etc. Something different, you know? The Kid Table is one of those rare books.

I loved it. I loved how it was written in the course of five family events, and only those events, but that Ingrid narrates what happens in between those events, so you know she has a life outside her cousins. It didn’t feel like there were holes in between chapters, and it was just so REFRESHING.

I love that Ingrid is such a complex woven web of WISDOM and LUST. It just makes her seem so much more real. In real life, people aren’t perfect, so characters in fiction books shouldn’t be either. Ingrid’s cousins Cricket, Dom, Micah, and Brianne are no different (though I wouldn’t say the same about Autumn). Seigel had a way of making sure everyone was heard, but without their issues taking over.

I’m a sucker for super romantic chick lit. What I like even more is unconventional love stories. Ingrid’s love for Trevor was palpable; she saw him across the room and their eyes locked. So was her disappointment when she found out he was Brianne’s boyfriend. I felt her confusion when he sent her mixed signals, her excitement when he kissed her, her devastation at the pool party. I’m a fierce believer in true love, and this was a heart-wrenching example of it.

I’m sorry I’m babbling. I’m trying to express how much I liked this book without giving too much away. No summary will be fair enough, so you’ll just have to read it for yourself. It’s one of the only books I would actually want to see a movie be based on it and I wouldn’t be mad if they changed a few things, namely the ending, which is probably my only complaint (and why I can’t give it a 5). It feels abrupt, even though there was some evidence that led to it.

If I didn’t get the point across yet, I loved it. I would recommend it to everyone that’s a tad bit tired of the same old cliché romances.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winging It (Dragon Diaries 2)

Winging It (Dragon Diaries #2) by Deborah Cooke

Grade: 4 stars out of 5
"Zoë Sorensson yearns to come into her powers as the only female dragon shifter. But being part of two worlds is more complicated than she expected. It’s bad enough that she’s the target of the Mages’ plan to eliminate all shifters—she also has to hide her true nature from her best friend Megan, a human. For her sixteenth birthday, all Zoë wants is one normal day, including a tattoo and a chance to see hot rocker Jared.

Instead, the Pyr throw her a birthday party but ban Megan from attendance, putting Zoë in a tight spot. Things get even worse when Zoe is invited to the popular kids’ Halloween party and Megan’s left out. Zoë knows the party is a trap laid by the host, an apprentice Mage. When Megan gets a last-minute invite, Zoë must save the day—and her best friend—without revealing her fire-breathing secrets . . ."--from Amazon
Picking up from Flying Blind, Zoë and her crew of extremely hot boys never seem to be able to catch a break. Cooke engages the readers in the world of dragons and shifters that is every bit as fantastical as the first. Not a big fan of dragons? Well, these boys might change your mind from a cool, dark and handsome to a cutie pie, there’s enough personality to please everyone.  Don’t forget Zoë, our strong heroine who kicks major booty and still manages to find time worrying about her best friend.

Then there’s Jared, the elusive musician who seems to have all the answers, but likes to tease Zoë with riddles and come-hither looks. (Okay so I might be making the second part up, but he’s really sexy.) What I didn’t really appreciate was the progression the two made in Winging It. There’s a trend where the male characters has to stay away from the heroine because he’s dangerous to her safety, but it causes emotional drama between the two and he has trouble staying away. Yadda yadda yadda. Personally, I was not fond of the recent development as I’ve come to notice that by staying away, it benefits no one. The girl is still in danger; they both become really really sad and angsty. I do, however, like the last scene for the pair: sweet, charmed the boots off me, (and in my head, sensual, though many people won’t see that).

And what’s a sequel without the introduction of some new faces (with a love triangle!). Winging It has plenty of new faces, but it never gets overwhelming. I love how Cooke expanded the Shifting world (I believe that is what you call it). Forget thunderbirds and dragons, you can never go wrong with the classic werewolf. Or you know some new creatures like shifting cats (leopards, lions, alley cats….) Tons of fun to be had! Did I immediately fall in love with the all of the characters? Not really. There are tons of potential and more books to come so we’ll see. I’m not one to put all my eggs in one basket.

Now let’s talk about some old familiar faces. Meagan for one plays a much BIGGER role in Winging It. And if you’ve read the guest post by Meagan *hint hint nudge nudge* you know that she gets a special power. Let’s just say she won’t a damsel in distress anymore andddddd she might even get a cute guy in the end. You just have to read Winging It to find out. However, I found Meagan slightly frustrating to read especially from Zoë’s perspective. As readers, we know why Zoë is keeping secrets but keeping in mind that Meagan doesn’t know escapes me at times.

I love how Cooke also brought in Zoë’s parents. Even dragon shifters have marriage problems. It added just another dimension to this solid sequel.

Winging It was an action-packed sequel. Plenty of fresh new faces and many old ones that never gets boring. It had a clear direction of where it’s heading, some place where I surely would like to find out. With new questions left to be unanswered and relationships really heating up, you can surely bet that I will be reading Blazing the Trails.

Cover B-
Source: review copy from NAL (publishers)
Published: 2011, December 6

BFF With a Dragon Girl -- Deborah Cooke

Hi readers! You're in for a special trick. Meagan Jameson from Flying Blind aka the first book in the Dragon Diaries series has been awesome enough to give us the low-down on what's it like being best friends with a teenage dragon girl.

Read my review on Flying Blind.

Read an excerpt of Flying Blind / Winging It / Blazing the Trail.

slightly filled with spoilers from Flying Blind. so get to reading Flying Blind so you can read this inside scoop! ;)

BFF With a Dragon Girl
By Meagan Jameson
with some assistance from Deborah Cooke http://www.thedragondiaries.com

Hi. I'm Meagan and I'm best friends with Zoë Sorensson.

I've know Zoë forever – we met in kindergarten – but things got weird this year between us. I couldn't figure it out. It was like Zoë suddenly had secrets from me. She insisted otherwise, but I just knew it. When you've known someone your whole life, you know when something's wrong.

Zoë is totally different from me. Zoë can draw, which I think is awesome, and she's always reading stories with dragons in them. (I guess that should have been my big clue.) She's funny and she's smart and she likes making lists. She's good at solving puzzles and riddles, and I think that's because she thinks kind of sideways. Me, I think in logical order. I ace math every year. It's easy for me but not for Zoë (She aces art, which I don't even take). And I take piano lessons. In a way, music is math too.

We both completely suck at sports and gym. That's our common ground. And we're not very popular, unless somebody wants something from us – help with math from me or a dragon drawing from Zoë.

What I really like about Zoë is that she says what she thinks, pretty much all the time. So when she wouldn't tell me what she was thinking, I knew it had to be bad. I had to figure it out, because she is my best friend, and if I was going to help anybody, I was going to help Zoë.

When I found out that her parents were fighting and maybe splitting up, I thought that might be it.

When Jessica moved to our school, Jessica and I really got along. We could talk about math homework in a way that Zoë and I can't. I thought maybe Zoë was jealous of Jessica.

When I found out that Zoë knew all these incredibly hot guys whose fathers were friends with her father, I thought maybe one of them was messing her up.

When I met Jared, and saw him play in his band, I knew those other hot guys had no chance. Zoë was and is crazy for Jared, but he's kind of avoiding her. I thought that might be it.

But it was when she didn't want to talk about the dragon that turned up at our school, the dragon that saved me from Suzanne's bullying, the dragon who had to be one of those Pyr dragon shape shifter guys – and he'd helped ME! – I knew I'd found the problem. Zoë is crazy for dragons. Why wouldn't she be interested in one that was at our school? It made no sense.

Until I figured it out. Zoë said I had my Einstein look, the one that means the mysteries of the universe have no chance of remaining mysteries for long. I also figured out why Jared calls her "dragon girl". I should have known when the dragon stood up for me against a bully – the Pyr defend the treasures of the earth, which includes humans. Plus Zoë is my friend – if anyone stood up for me, it would be her.

By now you've probably guessed, too – yup, my best friend is a dragon shape shifter. She wasn't allowed to tell me, because dragon shape shifters have this code called the Covenant which means they keep their powers secret, but when she saved me the second time – actually it was the third time – I saw the truth with my own eyes. And all those hot guys she knows? They're all dragon shifters too!

You have to know that it was a huge relief to learn the truth. There was nothing really wrong between us, just this secret she had to keep and she didn't have a choice. I wouldn't want to be in trouble with a whole council of dragons either. Plus now that I know her secret, it's easy to understand a lot of other things about her, and to help her out, too.

The amazing thing is that we discovered that I have a special power, too. Zoë figured it out. I can't tell you about it – you have to read WINGING IT to find out – but we're even better BFF now.

Trust me on that. Tune in to BLAZING THE TRAIL to find out how we make it all count.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hiding in a Treasure Box (Wayfair Product Intro)

Officially finished with my fall '11 semester! I will know my final grades come Tuesday, but the stress is over. The anxiety still lingers though. One good thing that finishing school is the fact that I can blog again! I have boxes full of books to dig into and reviews to post and contests to announce.

Speaking of boxes full of books, is anyone else having trouble finding a place for their books? I am. I can barely see the floor anymore with the amount of books I'm stacking. Know a different way to store books for someone else to discover? Toy Boxes:
rediscover treasures!
or something more neutral

I store a couple of my older books away for future uses. The books that I loved when I was a child? I still have it; maybe some time in the future someone else will love it too. Plus it isn't always books that need to be stored away.

Wayfair, formally known as a CSN, has graciously offered a product for me to review. And while I won't be reviewing a toy box it doesn't mean you shouldn't check it out! They're really adorable.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Glow (Sky Chasers 1)

Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Narrated by Matthew Brown and Ilyana Kadushin

Grade: 4 stars out of 5

As someone who has heard of Amy Kathleen Ryan before and read one of her novels, Zen and Xander Undone, I was surprised to see this dystopian, science fiction novel by her. Also not being the hugest fan of her work—found Zen and Xander Undone to be eh/okay—I was very much hesitant about Glow. But the reviews were generally positive when I first heard of it so I dove straight in. Glow was everything that I did not expect.

There are so many different synopses to Glow and many of which doesn’t seem to capture that essence of the book. Here is the synopsis I first read when the news about Glow started buzzing:
"The Empyrean is the only home 15-year-old Waverly has ever known. Part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space, she and her boyfriend Kieran will be pioneers of New Earth. Waverly knows she must marry young in order to have children who can carry on the mission, and Kieran, the handsome captain-to-be, has everything Waverly could want in a husband. Everyone is sure he’s the best choice. Still, there’s a part of Waverly that wants more from life than marriage, and she is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

Suddenly, Waverly’s dreams are interrupted by the inconceivable – a violent betrayal by the Empyrean's sister ship, the New Horizon. The New Horizon’s leaders are desperate to populate the new planet first, and will do anything to get what they need: young girls. In one pivotal moment, Waverly and Kieran are separated, and find themselves at the helm of dangerous missions, where every move has potentially devastating consequences, and decisions of the heart may lead to disaster."--from Amazon
My initial thought: So it’s a love triangle in space. Okayyy. And the first couple of discs seemed to point at what I thought, but then…then the New Horizon came. Dun dun dun. Continuing and finishing Glow was like an obsession that had taken over.

You might have noticed that I said discs. Yes, I listened to Glow as an audiobook while I was doing biology slide drawings* and preparing for my practical. I’m nothing if not a multitasker who doesn’t know when multitasking isn’t exactly the best thing to do. Glow is distracting! I barely remembered what I drew and annotated and am pretty sure I spelled a couple of things wrong. But it was worth it. (Managed to get a perfect score on the drawings so it’s a win-win situation.)

Let’s talk about the specifics on the narration because Glow is my first full audiobook. I’ve sampled bits and pieces of other audiobooks before so I’m not a true “noob”, but it was very exciting. The first thing I noticed was the voicing. Matthew Brown voiced Kieran and Ilyana Kadushin voiced Waverly**. My preference flip-flops between the two over the course of the 8 discs, but I do think they both spoke very clearly and depicted the right emotions. I struggled for a bit on the speed of the audiobooks. I can read about 250 pages in about 3-4 hours so for a 300 page book (of course the fonts are smaller than most YA novels) to take 8 hours had me itching to read the book myself. Another thing that I struggled with was when the characters were screaming, but it was through with whispering(ish) on the audiobooks. Some of the voicing for secondary characters took time to get used to.There were some nasally voices that were not pleasant to the ear. (3.5 out of 5 stars).

Now onward to the storyline!

Glow goes beyond love triangles in space. It’s about inner strength, defying against the norm, and finding the truth for yourself. It’s about religious cults, government propaganda, gender oppression, abuse, and the ever escalating fear of the Earth’s environment. It’s about a lot of things that the synopsis doesn’t seem to hint at. Ryan put everything together so effortlessly.

That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised when I hit the midpoint of the story because it went against my initial judgment. The tension was at its peak. The chance of survival was slim. (And finally a set of characters who manages to show rather than tell their emotions and their actions followed what they say.) The emotions were raw; the desperation could be felt in the air. The actions were sickening. Each character was like an apple: some ripe, some bruised, some tart, but each with its own texture. The antagonists seemed like good guys from one perspective and the perfect villains in the other perspective. The protagonists were just the same—with both good and bad traits.

From the middle of the novel I just couldn’t stop listening. I needed to know what happened next. It’s as what Lauren Myracle said; Glow is “Utterly engrossing.” It is electric. It is all-consuming. It is shocking.

I found the resolution to be impeccably done. None of that happier ever after crap because, really, they hardly happen in real life. There are still questions to answered and people to be rescued (literally and symbolically), but the focal conflict was resolved. The last scene just hit the ball out of the park*** for me. My lips are sealed, but I expect some backstabbing in the next installment.

My qualms about Glow were mostly with Waverly and her relationship with Seth. I was iffy about the whole thing. It had its purposes, but there was nothing fleshed out about it. After Waverly is taken away, she doesn’t really mention him at all. Waverly, herself, I couldn’t connect to. She was all over the place emotionally. What she represented I thought was amazing and powerful.

Look into Glow. The synopsis doesn’t do it justice. Glow is so much more than teens hooking up. Far from a quick and breezy read, Glow is thought provoking and heartbreaking and captivating.

Hey, since the holidays are right around the corner you know what make an awesome present for readers...hint hint.

*they are so tedious to do and it feels like a waste of time

**Glow is broken into two POVs. To recreate this Brown would voice one CD and Kadunshin voiced another. They don’t narrator the same discs.

***I can’t seem to stop my cheesy metaphors. Really got into baseball this season.

Cover B+
I love the simplicity of the cover. It hints to a spaceship with the porthole, but not as much as I would have liked. I do wish that there was male on the cover, but perhaps Kieran will be on the sequel and Seth on the last book.
Published: 2011, September 13; ebook, hardcover, audiobook.
Source: audiobook from Macmillan

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Day in the Life of Marie Lu with a Contest

Before becoming a full-time writer, Marie Lu was the art director at a video game company. She also owns the children’s brand Fuzz Academy. She was first inspired to write Legend while watching Les Miserables one afternoon, and wondered how the relationship between a famous criminal vs. a prodigious detective might translate into a more modern story. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 2006 and lives in Los Angeles, California.

Visit Marie at www.marielu.org
Join the Legend experience!

A Day in the Life

My writing days can be all over the place, honestly. Some days, I have little to do (i.e. waiting for feedback on drafts/edits, no phone calls, plain old procrastinating, etc)...other days, I'm lucky enough to attend conferences and conventions and meet readers and all sorts of other exciting things. But one of my average days is detailed below, for anyone who's curious:

6:30 AM - Wake up, then head off with Boyfriend to the gym to battle the treadmill and/or precor machines. Sometimes I'll even attempt crunches.

7:30 AM - Time to walk and feed the dogs. (We have three. Two are Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and the third is our "accident"--a brown and tan chihuahua mix who absolutely rules the house.)

8:15 AM - Writing time! Okay--I am absolutely, and will forever be, a morning person. My childhood friends still remember how I'd wake them up during slumber parties with my annoying typing at 6 in the morning. (Yes, I wrote in the mornings after sleepovers. What? That's not normal behavior?) I do my best writing before noon. Often I'm forced to write later than that, but it's all downhill--and anything I attempt to write after 8 PM is almost guaranteed to be completely worthless. (I also answer some emails and tweets during this time, although for emails I usually only answer the emergency ones.)

1:00 PM - Break for lunch. This is when I try to get out of the house; I'll usually eat at a local cafe so I can get some exposure to outside life and not become a half-insane hermit. This is very, very important for full-time writers. One cannot stay in one's house all day. One will lose one's mind.

2:00 PM - I might still do sporadic writing, although anything written during this time is kind of second-rate. Instead, I'll usually do a combo of answering non-emergency emails, tweets, Facebook messages, deviantArt stuff, post the occasional blog entry, update and maintain my web presences, and other tasks that are part of a writer's job but do not really involve novel-writing. Believe it or not, this stuff takes up quite a few hours out of each day. (Not that I'm complaining--I enjoy it all very much.)

Sometimes I'll sketch things too, things that are often related directly to Legend. This is a creative exercise that comes in particularly handy when I'm experiencing writer's block. I've noticed that immersing myself in other creative activities will get my imagination flowing again for my writing. Lately, I've also started using my afternoon time to make notes about a new, non-Legend story idea. I have a feeling that, come 2012, I'll start using my afternoons to do some first-draft writing of this story. And that's all I can say for now. :)

Finally, late afternoon is when I indulge in some of my favorite Facebook, iPhone, and console games. (As of this writing, I'm playing Mario Kart 7 (3DS), Sonic Generations (PS3), Serf Wars (Facebook), and Ravenskye City (Facebook).)

5:30 PM - Dog walking/feeding time again.

6:30 PM - Dinner out with the Boyfriend. (This is as good a time as any to mention that I CANNOT COOK TO SAVE MY LIFE. I destroyed a pot once when I tried to boil eggs. I even ruined rice--IN A RICE COOKER. WHICH IS AUTOMATED. Don't ask. So, in short, we eat out quite a lot. :) Occasionally I will cook the one thing I *can* make, which is vegetarian dumplings.)  [Yan: I've actually undercooked rice and burned rice in the automated rice cooker before so I totally understand.]

8:00 PM - The day's pretty much over for me here. I spend time with the Boyfriend, watch some shows, read, and play with the dogs.

Sprinkled in random intervals across the above schedule are additional things like: work-related phone calls and interviews, online writing-related chats, Skype school talks, outlining plot points to prepare for the next day's round of writing, post office runs (which have somehow become more and more frequent these days), and other odds and ends.

Of course, when I'm on deadline, the above schedule pretty much gets thrown out the window and I'll write on and off for the entire day. :)

Now that you know what Marie does in a day, how would you like to spend your day reading Legend!? Well lucky for you, I have this awesome prize pack, which will go to 1 lucky winner! Not sure what's Legend about quite yet? Then...

Read my REVIEW. Trust me, I liked it. A lot.

Read a CHAPTER SAMPLE and be dazzled by the cover!

Watch the trailer:

Sounds awesome right? Well get to entering yourself for a copy then!

P.S. I'm using rafflecopter so you might have to view this exact post to see the form. Also only the "easy peasy entry" is mandatory. Everything else is optional and are for extra points.

EDIT to add: I've deleted many entries from this contest because they were invalid. I do check entries so don't assume you'll get away with it. It only makes me weary of you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Excerpt + Q&A with Julie Kagawa

Stop by Julie's website for more information!

1. Do you try to incorporate what you learned in your kung-fu classes into your novels?
 Lol, actually, I take Kali as well as Kung Fu, which is a Filipino martial art using sticks, swords, and knives.  And yes, it has been tremendously helpful in staging fight scenes.  Totally worth the "badges of courage" I bring home every so often.

2. Your new series is a post-apocalyptic vampire series. That sounds really different from the Iron Fey series! Did you find it harder to write about vampires than feys?
It was very different.  I think the hardest thing to deal with was the fact that the vampire story takes place in the real (though post-apocalyptic) world, and I have to have things make sense.  I can't just explain things with: "they got there through faery magic," lol.

3. Had you already started Blood of Eden series before the Iron Fey series, or did the idea come from nowhere and wouldn't disappear?
I'd been toying with a post-apocalyptic world as I was finishing up The Iron Knight, but the idea to add vampires didn't come until my agent and I were discussing ideas for my next series.  She mentioned that HarlequinTEEN was on the lookout for vampire books, and the idea to mesh the two together just sort of clicked.

4. What are some of your favorite martial arts movies? Classics, animated, or modernized.
Too many to list, lol! But here are a few:  Yojimbo, The Seven Samurai (anything by Kurosawa, actually), Ip Man, The Forbidden Kingdom, Zatto Ichi, Lone Wolf and Cub, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (hush), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, and the list goes on.  (Don't even get me started with anime, we'd be here all night.)

Alright, you're probably curious so here's a little excerpt from The Iron Knight:

“I see,” said the witch, though her face and voice remained expressionless.

“Well, I admire your tenacity, young prince. Grimalkin is not easy to find in the best of times. You must have come very far to seek him out.” She peered closely at me, narrowing her eyes. “And this is not the first place you have searched. I can see it on your face. Why, I wonder? Why does he come so far? What is it that he desires so badly, to risk the ire of the Bone Witch? What is it you want, Ash of the Winter Court?”

Stop by In My Hammock next for the continuation of the blog tour!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Between the Sea and the Sky

Between the Sea and the Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore

Grade: 2 stars out of 5
"For as long as Esmerine can remember, she has longed to join her older sister, Dosinia, as a siren--the highest calling a mermaid can have. When Dosinia runs away to the mainland, Esmerine is sent to retrieve her. Using magic to transform her tail into legs, she makes her way unsteadily to the capital city. There she comes upon a friend she hasn't seen since childhood--a dashing young man named Alandare, who belongs to a winged race of people. As Esmerine and Alandare band together to search for Dosinia, they rekindle a friendship...and ignite the emotions for a love so great, it cannot be bound by sea, land, or air." [from Amazon]

I had hoped that story would be just like the cover: breathtaking. But it wasn't.

Let me go off tangent a bit and hopefully bring this back to Between the Sea and the Sky. For class I read Free to Choose by Milton Friedman and Utopia by Thomas More and currently reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. On paper it sounds terrific, but idealistic. The world has too many variables for many of their ideas to be true. What they had on paper could not and did not translate into the real world. That was how I felt about Between the Sea and the Sky.

Between the Sea and the Sky had wonderful elements that should have transformed the book from being OK to being WOW. Perhaps Dolamore should have pulled back some elements and just focused on one or two aspect of the novel: saving Dosinia and rekindling the friendship between Alandare and Esmerine.

Instead Dolamore decided to incorporate racial discrimination and the rippling effects of stereotypes into the novel. It might have added an additional layer to the novel, but it took away the character development and story development. I felt disconnected to everything.

I thought the secondary characters (such as the younger sisters, all 5 of them) were empty fillers. They brought nothing substantial to the novel and quite frankly I had to edit to number (5) three times before I managed to count them all. I only enjoyed two secondary characters: the bookstore owner who was once a mermaid and Alandare's father. She, the bookstore owner, was quirky with a fascinating history. The same with the father. He was not the most well likable character, but he was fascinating and interesting with so many nuances.

I didn't care for the relationship development between Alandare and Esmerine. I thought their childhood friendship was the best part to read having a soft affection for their shared of books, but the tension ridden sexual relationship was too quick. The leap from friends to something more to {SPOILER} marriage {END SPOILER} blew my mind. Between the Sea and the Sky clocked in at 240 pages. There was not enough pages for me to believe the transition AND the final decision that changed Esmerine's life forever AND saving Dosinia. The characters themselves were good. They had good history, solid internal conflict, and intriguing personalities.

Another aspect that I had trouble connecting to was the cause of the entire novel: Dosinia. I did not like Dosinia. I found her actions very selfish. I know that we should do what makes us happy, but we should also consider how our actions affect others. For me, I was not unhappy about her motives, but rather her inconsideration to not tell anyone. She is a daughter, a sister, and a great sister. It affects a lot of people.

All in all, I love the world Dolamore created. I love it to bits. It was imaginative, vivid, and dark at times. I'm trying to figure out if there was a moral to the story because if there were this would be a great fairy tale story. But the fatal flaw was the shortness. I couldn't connect to characters or the general story.

Cover B+/A-
Source: ARC from Bloomsbury for blog tour
Published: October 25, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Andy Marino on Technology + Unison Spark Contest

"Andy Marino was born and raised in upstate New York. He spent his childhood orchestrating Lego pirate battles, drawing detailed maps of imaginary video games, and cheating death in Choose Your Own Adventure books. Profoundly influenced by the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and the movie Bloodsport, he started writing his first novel at the age of eleven. Tragically, THE RUNES OF ILLIARM was never completed."

Unison Spark in his first book. It was just recently released!

You can visit Andy at his website or you can follow him through his twitter account!

social stratification at one point, but
how much of it has changed
"With new technology becoming available every year and changing living conditions, do you foresee a growing gap between lower, middle, and upper classes in society? Or do you believe that the price of technology will continue to decrease until the population majority can afford it such as PCs. Or, in the worse-case scenario, will the lower class will be wiped out because they were unable to adapt?"
I love this question because I’m used to thinking about the ever-widening gap between rich and poor in terms of good old buying power and basic household economics—being able to get the things you need to live without going broke. But the breakneck speed of technological advancements has really shaken things up.

information at your fingertips
...if you have the technology
Your question made me think about what it really means to be information-rich. Right now, a homeless person can walk into a public library in most places and explore the internet for free. It’s theoretically possible for a human being who has no possessions, no source of income, no credit, and no home to have a thriving Facebook account, a lively Twitter feed, an active blog, and an email address. The Facebook login page proudly proclaims: It’s free and always will be.

The democratization of the internet (the idea that everyone can contribute) is really cool and important, but what really counts—and what rich and middle-class Americans almost never have to worry about—is access. If you are a rich American in 2011, with the latest gadgets and digital efficiencies at your fingertips, you are automatically information-rich. Everything floating around in cyberspace is yours for the taking, the viewing, the listening. If you are a middle-class American in 2011 your mileage may vary, but chances are you’d have to make a conscious decision to disconnect if you want to make yourself less information-rich. You probably never even think about access problems, except for those times when you forget to charge your battery.

the ripple effects of libraries closing;
not just an inaccessibility of the internet
But consider what it’s like to have to scrounge for access. Libraries and schools close, internet cafes and copy centers charge by the minute. Public wi-fi is everywhere, but it’s useless without a laptop or mobile device.

UNISON SPARK is set in Eastern Seaboard City, the connected sprawl of several present-day cities divided into upper and lower sections by a vast canopy. Residents of the subcanopy slums where Mistletoe (one of the main characters) lives are literally denied access to the signal that allows people to go online and experience Unison, the fabulous and all-encompassing social network. Pirate signals and hand-me-down technology have allowed some people to adapt, but the technology gap is just as wide as the economic gap. Subcanopy residents are information-poor.

the blue-haired Mistletoe
The city in the book might seem like an extreme reflection of our society, but think about what things are like in 2011. The wealth of online information doesn’t mean much if you can’t keep your power on. And hot new gadgets always seem to become more affordable, but that doesn’t matter if you’re going to bed hungry.

Thank you so much Andy! I wasn't expecting such a well-thought out guest post, but it's given me tons to think about.

Now for the fun(er) part, the giveaway! Again, it's rafflecopter so you need to be viewing this specific post to be able to view the form.

Be on the lookout for my review on Unison Spark, which hopefully will be up before the end of today!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Interview + Contest with Anna Carey, Author of Eve

The producers of The Vampire Diaries find Eve by Anna Carey so compelling that they’re in the process of producing it as a TV show pilot! To celebrate I have an exclusive interview with the author and the chance for you lovely readers to win a copy!

Follow @AnnaCareyBooks on Twitter
Visit Anna Carey’s blog
Like Eve on Facebook

1. Where is the furthest place you have ever traveled? Was it scary?
I went to China for a month when I was eighteen. Even the Chinese food is different there (no sesame chicken, who knew?). It was a little scary to be somewhere so foreign and not speak the language, but that trip was one of the best I've been on.
Yan: Authentic Chinese food is definitely much different from the take-out restaurants. The dishes I typically eat consist of vegetables, fishes, and soup. I've never had sesame chicken until I stopped by a Chinese take-out and it's so good. 

2. If news of a deadly virus starts to spread, what would you do/say to your followers on twitter?
I recently saw Contagion, so I feel I'm adequately prepared (you can believe everything you see in the movies, right?). I'd tweet: NOW IS THE TIME FOR GOOD HYGIENE. HAND SANITIZER AND SOAP ARE UR FRIENDS. AND, FOR THE LOVE: DO NOT TAKE OFF UR FACE MASK. #APOCALYPSE
Yan: I've heard great things about the movie, but never watched it in fear of being extremely paranoid and germaphobic afterwards.

3. Are cockroaches still alive in Eve's world? They can survive almost anything.
There are definitely cockroaches in the New America. Millions of them. Maybe I'll give some a cameo in the third book...

4. I've read something where Eve has been compared to The Handmaid's Tale? Have you read The Handmaid's Tale? If so, did it influence you when you wrote Eve? If not, do you plan to read it?
There's actually a quote from The Handmaid's Tale in the beginning of the book as a I-bow-down-before-you-Margaret-Atwood nod. I hadn't read it originally, but I sought it out after I finished my first draft. I loved it, and understand why someone would link the two books conceptually, but they're very different reads.
Yan: I haven't read The Handmaid's Tale so I'm curious! A friend read the book in high school (while I was reading The red Badge of Courage) and enjoyed it.

5. In general, do you think secrets are good or bad?
This is a tricky riddle! There are good secrets (surprise parties) and very bad secrets (dead bodies under the floorboards). But, in general, I lean towards the "secrets are bad" side. I like to keep everything out in the open, and own everything I've done--even the more cringe-worthy stuff. I'm known for my embarrassing stories.
Yan: Love embarrassing stories (just not ones about me of course).

Thanks to AlloyEntertainment I have 1 SIGNED copy of Eve for one of you lovely readers! Eve is currently out right now!

(Testing about Rafflecopter *crossing fingers*) Spoke too soon. I'm having some issues with rafflecopter so if you can't see, look at this specific post only. If that doesn't work, leave your name and email address and I will automatically enter for you. I will also email you to let you know.