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Guest Post: The Importance of Middle-Grade Fiction with Derek the Ghost

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Scary School by Derek The Ghost
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Powell's

Series: Scary School #1
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: June 21, 2011

You think your school's scary?
Get a load of these teachers:
"Ms. Fang," an 850-year-old vampire
"Dr. Dragonbreath," who just might eat you before recess
"Mr. Snakeskin"--science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
"Mrs. T"--break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry "Tyrannosaurus rex"
Plus
Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch
And
The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost
Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends--including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf--and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky

The Importance of Middle-Grade Fiction 
Or 
Why Reading my Book Series Scary School is Guaranteed to Turn your Kid
 into a Well-adjusted, Ivy League-bound, World-beater Dynamo 
By Derek the Ghost 

Let’s start off with this question. Why is reading important for children? Wait. I have better question. Why is absorbing a story in the form of text considered a superior means of story-absorption as opposed to pictures and sound through a television or movie screen?

Back in the olden days before TV and movies, reading was the numero uno form of self-entertainment. However, like TV of today, using books to take in fictional stories was considered a highly frivolous activity. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only form of reading not considered frivolous was reading the bible.

So why did the cultural paradigm shift? Television and movies became the dominant form of story dispersion, and suddenly books became the underdog. When books became the underdog, they went from frivolous to intellectually elitist practically overnight. You could argue the same thing happened with theater.

So, are you actually smarter because you read, or is it just our culture’s perception of reading that merely makes you appear smarter?

Here’s the answer. You’re actually smarter.

It goes without saying that reading requires a basic education. But more importantly, it requires that the brain function in a heightened state of stimulation called Alpha Mode. During Alpha Mode there’s an innumerable amount of split-second decisions taking place. The brain is constantly deciphering letters and interpreting their meaning while at the same time forming imagery to correlate with each phrase. It requires a lot of sub-conscious brain energy and millions of electrical reactions.

Because reading requires so much brain energy, the brain becomes tired quickly and wants to switch to Beta Mode. Beta Mode is when you are spacing out, vegging out, or just hanging out. You are essentially on autopilot, just taking things in, but not actively participating. When you are driving a car, you are usually in Alpha Mode. But when you suddenly look up and realize you’ve driven ten miles past your freeway exit, that’s right… you switched over to Beta Mode, buster.

The good news is that reading is like running. When you first start running you can only run a short distance before getting tired. Reading is the same way. The more you read, the more “brain exercise” you’re getting, and staying in Alpha Mode for longer stretches without getting tired becomes much easier. This effect bleeds over into all facets of life. You’ll be able to study longer and more effectively, retain more information, and work more thoroughly and patiently for extended hours. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did this better than anyone.

Now let me ask you this: Why were kids who had never read anything longer than a 150-page Goosebumps book so eager to read a 750-page Harry Potter book? And why were they able to do it so effortlessly, when reading just one chapter of a schoolbook feels like a Herculean labor?

Because they loved it. Reading Harry Potter was as enjoyable to most kids (if not more so) than playing video games or watching cartoons. The pleasure of reading those books caused kids’ brains to squirt dopamine into their system, making them feel euphoric and self-confident. There’s something books provide that all their other forms of entertainment cannot – a deep, almost familial bond with the characters. Only books can create that on such a profound level. Remember Kathy Bates in Misery? That’s the dark side of it, but I don’t think anyone went bat-#$#@ crazy when Friends was cancelled.

The great thing about Harry Potter was the after-shock it created in the middle-grade and YA book market. Kids were addicted to the book. The pleasure they got from the suspense, humor, mystery, and triumph had shot buckets of dopamine into their systems and no other form of entertainment could match that natural high. So, the middle-grade and YA book market exploded with kids seeking their next fix. When the Harry Potter fans grew up, they were naturally attracted to edgier, more adult fare that reflected their changing selves, and the YA market skyrocketed, heralded by Twilight and now The Hunger Games.

Which brings me to my book series, Scary School. With these books, I had only one goal. I was not trying to write to the best middle-grade series ever. I wasn’t trying to win any Newberry medals for literature. All I wanted to do with the Scary School series was make kids laugh. That’s it.

With my background in comedy writing, I felt that I could maybe write the funniest (not the best) middle-grade book ever. Go big or go home, right? I wanted to have at least three laugh-out-loud moments on every page. Did I succeed? You’ll have to tell me, but the most often used words in the reviews of the book have been “hilarious” and “laugh-out-loud funny.” So far so good.

What will happen when your kids read Scary School will be something very magical. It may very well be the first chapter book your kid reads as well as the first chapter of a life of profound and meaningful achievement. It may also be something a reluctant reader gives a shot because it actually looks fun with that zombie skateboarding kid on the cover. Maybe the only reason your kid gets it is because I’m signing copies at the local bookstore, so you think it would be neat for your kid to have a signed book. Let’s play out that scenario:

I sign the inside jacket of Scary School Book One and write him or her a special message with a funny drawing. Your kid is much more excited to receive it than you thought he/she would be.

That night, you hear laughter from across the house late at night. Your kid is supposed to be asleep but is staying up in bed reading Scary School. You figure that’s okay, so you let him/her keep reading, and you keep hearing laughter until midnight. The laughter is forging an imprint on your kid’s brain that reading=fun.

After finishing Scary School, you child will seek out more books to try and recreate that boisterous experience.

In the process, the child will continuing growing up, always reading and seeking that next great story. While other kids are watching TV and living their lives in Beta Mode, your child’s brain will be in Alpha Mode 1,000% more often. The heightened brain stimulation for long hours will increase your child’s cognitive functioning far past his/her peers. Not only that, your child will be armed with amazing moral and practical lessons learned throughout the Scary School book series that helps him/her adjust to new situations, treat people with respect and kindness, and fuel him/her with a yearning to make the world a better place.

This leads your child into doing community service, building the next great invention, and becoming class president.

Harvard and Yale both offer your child full scholarships, but he/she chooses to cash in on his new invention money and attends Oxford because Scary School taught him/her the value of seeking adventure and meeting different kinds of people from all over the world.

You don’t miss him/her as you otherwise might have because in the future there’s holographic communication where it seems like you’re actually sitting and talking in the same room together.

After graduation, your child comes back home where he/she is probably a DA, a famous architect, a prodigious scientist, or CEO of that hot new startup. He/She comes over for dinner one night and puts a knapsack down on the sofa. It falls over, and amongst the futuristic gadgets, you notice an old, dusty copy of Scary School – that book your child read in one all-nighter back in middle school. That book purchased on a whim because the author happened to be signing at the store. You open it up, and read what is says where I signed the inside of the jacket:

Dear (your kid’s name), Have Fun at Scary School! – Derek the Ghost

***

For more info the Scary School series, fun and games, and even tour the school and meet the students and faculty, please visit www.ScarySchool.com Scary School #2 – Monsters on the March will be released June 26, 2012 online and in bookstores everywhere.
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Books I've Read but Haven't Reviewed (1): Contemporary Edition

Monday, February 27, 2012
I've been reading a bunch of great books, but I haven't had enough time to write up the reviews to these amazing books. I've been peer pressured into reading more contemporary books this year, so of course I gave in a picked up a few.

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Powell's

Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: December 8, 2011

I absolutely loved this book. Cam, hands down, is one of my all time favorite characters. She has this dry humor that makes her entertaining. The characters were so well developed and the settings were beautiful.

Overall: 5 out of 5


The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

PublisherLittle Brown
Release Date: January 2, 2012

I LOVE books that are set in a 24 hour time period. I was expecting something light and fluffy from this book, but there is depth to the story and the characters. It was just so CUTE!

Overall: 5 out of 5


Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

PublisherSimon Pulse
Release Date: January 3, 2012

One of the sweetest contemporaries that I've read so far! I loved the cupcake shop, the ice skating, hockey, and the great snowy setting. It was hard not to love every moment of this story.

Overall: 5 out of 5

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

PublisherDutton Juvenile
Release Date: January 10, 2012

SPEECHLESS.
This was my first John Green novel and now I'm in love with his writing.

Overall: 5 out of 5
1 comments

Cover Reveal: Luminosity by Stephanie Thomas

Sunday, February 26, 2012
Luminosity by Stephanie Thomas
Amazon | Goodreads

Series: Luminosity, #1
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Release Date: September 11, 2012

My name is Beatrice. When I was born, I was blessed with the Sight. I was
immediately removed from my parents and enrolled in the Institution. At
the age of twelve, I had my first true vision, earning my raven’s wings.
And when I turned seventeen, one of my visions came true. Things haven’t
been the same since.

The Institution depends on me to keep the City safe from our enemy, the
Dreamcatchers, but I’m finding it harder to do while keeping a secret from
everyone, including my best friend Gabe. It is a secret that could put us
all in danger. A secret that could kill me and everyone close to me.

But the enemy has been coming to me in my dreams, and I think I’m falling
in love with him. He says they’re coming. He says they’re angry. And I
think I’ve already helped them win.
1 comments

In My Mailbox (34)



In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren and inspired by Alea from Pop Culture Junkie. It gives bloggers a chance to share all the books we bought, borrowed, and received this week.

Titles that are linked go to goodreads.




NetGalley: (Thanks to Bloomsberry)

The Academie by Susanne Dunlap
Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby

Don't forget to leave a link with your comment so I can check out what's in your mailbox!
7 comments

Vy's Blog Turns One!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

It is February 25, which marks my very FIRST blogoversary!
This is crazy! I've been blogging for ONE WHOLE YEAR. I know that's not a long time, but it's a lot longer than what I planned. Through this fantastic year, I've met so many people and been to a bunch of fun book events.

Vy's Blog Firsts:
Left to right: Me, Holly, and Cassandra
Book Event - Cassandra Clare & Holly Black
This was one crazy night! Being the inexperienced person that I was, I got lost and showed up late. So of course I stayed anyways and met the two amazing ladies! It was so fun seeing all these people and I totally didn't mind coming home until 11pm. *I want to thank my amazing Dad for standing in line with me the whole time.*


Suzanne and I


Powell's Book Event - Suzanne Young (Author of A Need So Beautiful)
I must have been the only Oregonian to live in Oregon for over 10 years and not step foot in a Powell's. I am now in love with Powell's.

YA Book - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Book Review - Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Blog Follower - Frosy from Books Like Fairytales
Of course I remembered my first follower!

Blogger Encounter - Sara from Novel Novice
This was awesome! Novel Novice is like my blog idol, so of course I freaked a little when the first blogger that I met was Sara.

Favorite Thing About Blogging:
The amazing YA book community
There is a ridiculous amount of nice and generous people in this community that make blogging fun. Everyone is welcoming and very kind in helping each other out. It's also great to be surrounded with so many people like bloggers, readers, authors, etc. who all love to read.

Acknowledgments:
There are many thanks to go around to those that made my first year successful!

When I first started blogging, I looked to these two blogs the most. They really helped shape this blog.
Sara and I
-Novel Novice 
Like mentioned above, I got the chance to meet Sara at a Dark Days Tour. She's also an Oregonian, so I've bumped into her a couple of times at other events.

-Melina from Reading Vacation
Melina was one the most amazing bloggers out there. And she's even younger than I am! I learned a lot from her when I first started blogging and I owe her a lot.

There are many more bloggers that helped shape Vy's Blog, but here's a few that made a big impact.
-Christy from The Reader Bee
-Farrah & Britney from I Eat Words
-Ginger from GReads!
-Small Review

Candace and I
Then recently, I made some awesome blogger friends!
-Meredith from Mint Tea & A Good Book
She also designed my new fancy banner!
-Willa from Willa's Ramblings
-Katie from Katie's Book Blog
-Candace from Candace's Book Blog
I've also had the chance to meet up with her a bunch of times at book events!
-Cynthia from Dog-Eared and Book Marked
-Vi from Confessions of a Vi3t Babe
-Bailey from IB Book Blogging
She's also my Big Sib!
-Harmony from Radiant Reads
This girl right here. I'm still blaming her for being sleep deprived.

Thank You:

My two librarians and I!
A lot has changed since I first blogged. It has been a great year and I'm definitely looking forward to more! As always, I want to thank my two middle school librarians! These ladies are doing an amazing job at getting books into student hands.

Also, thank you to the authors and publicists that are interested in Vy's Blog and had given me the chance to work with you.




And of course, I want to thank everyone who visits my blog. 
Thank you!

photo credit: Sifu Renka via photopin cc
17 comments

Review: Allegiance by Cayla Kluver

Friday, February 24, 2012
Allegiance by Cayla Kluver
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Powell's

Series: Legacy #2
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Challenge: 2012 Sophomore

An eighteen-year-old queen in love with the enemy as their countries pass the point of no return...

Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn't truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica-until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge.

Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time. And when all hope, will and courage seem lost, she must find strength and remember that even the blackest night must have a dawn....
 
Alera is back and married to Steldor. She’s also the new Queen on Hytanica. Talk about intense.

The action started with start of war between the Cokyrian and Hytanica. It got complicated when placed at the front with the Cokrian was Narian. Alera and her family were forced to flee when living in their own house was no longer safe. which lead Alera and her family to escaping with a group of her most trusted men.

It's hard not to love the characters when their lives were constantly endangered. There was a drastic growth with in the characters from this life or death journey. Alera changed into such a strong fighter that was willing to stand up for Hytanica. 

War wasn't the only complicated thing in her life. Alera doesn't know how to act as a wife when her feelings haven't changed about Narian. Falling for Steldor wasn't too hard when Narian wasn't around. Yes, this did result in a temporary switch to Team Steldor. He respected and gave Alera space to give him a chance as her husband. He really knew how to play the gentlemen angle. The only problem was that Alera wasn't giving Steldor a chance.

At roughly 500 pages, there were very few uneventful moments. The first half of the book was at a nice pace, but the second half was when it kicked off. There are many drastic changes that happen in Allegiance.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5
0 comments

Guest Post & Giveaway: The Evolution of my eBook Cover with Lois D. Brown

Thursday, February 23, 2012
The Evolution of my eBook Cover
by Lois D. Brown

I’ve always been a DIY kind of gal. I make my own laundry soap, bake my own rolls, and yes, even design my own e-book cover. Sometimes my ventures turn out well, sometimes not.

Recently I published an e-book called CYCLES aimed at 12-15 year olds. It’s a cross between urban fantasy and science fiction--but not the alien kind of science fiction. The book took about a year to write; a year to sit on my virtual bookshelf; six months to revise and rewrite; and another couple months to e-publish. Which part of that process was the most stressful? The e-book cover.

After designing my own cover, it has become crystal clear to me why publishers typically don’t include the author in the cover creation. The book is too close to our hearts. No cover is good enough.

Here is a VERY simplified version of the sweat and turmoil I went through before publishing. I’ve entitled it: The Evolution of My E-book Cover.

While writing the book, I had come across a picture that I thought was perfect for my cover. It had all the elements I wanted: petroglyphs, solar light, eerie color scheme. I was sure this was to be my cover and so I gave it no more thought. However, when I really sat down to do a “mock up,” I realized I had problems.


Everything seemed too dark and the petroglyphs, which I once thought looked cool, now said “boring” to me. My focus group of teen girls said the cover looked like a science textbook.

This began what I call my “flood” of cover mock ups. I have included just a few of them here with comments as to why they didn’t work for me. Most of the problems stemmed from the fact that my cover did not reflect my genre.


The cover on the left seemed to say “werewolf,” and since my book has nothing to do with them, this one had to go. The cover on the right seemed to portray a “touchy, feely” realistic teen fiction book. Again wrong genre.

I had about five others, but I won’t bore you. They all seemed to have the same problem.
So I moved on to a new approach. I wanted a cover that showed the girl’s face. Something like this:


At this point I’d actually begun began playing with the idea of changing the title. I spent a long time on this cover. The biggest problem with it is that the photo of the girl was poor quality. Her face was dirty (from running mascara) and the color scheme was a big green in the back picture. My attempts to clean the pictures up and combine wasn’t the best. Once the picture was bigger than 150 pixel across, you could really see the flaws. Tip to self: start off with a good picture and it makes cover design a lot easier! I wasted a bunch of time on this one. (P.S. My focus group of teens also vetoed the title change.)

After my mishap with the girl in the previous cover, I took her completely out of the picture and did this cover.

I actually really liked this cover. I felt it had a great connection to the storyline. (The clock approaching noon was very important.) I liked it so much I went ahead and published my book on Amazon with it. However, a few days later at my writers’ group they told me I had to change it. They said it felt like a John Grisham novel, not a teen read. 

Needless to say, I was ready to start pulling out my nails. I got home from my writers’ group at about 11 p.m., sat down at my computer, and did my final cover in less than an hour. I don’t know what happened, but something just finally clicked. It looked good as a small icon. Art quality was great. It looked “teen.” And it portrayed my book. 

After much ado, here it is. Drum roll please. My final cover:

Cycles by Lois D. Brown
Website | Blog
When Renee discovers that her neighbor, Dr. Dawson, has bags of his dead daughter’s frozen blood stored in his basement, she decides it’s up to her to uncover the doctor’s mysterious past. What she learns, however, is not what she expects. Now she and her friend Sam Miller are on the run, hiding from scientists who want to use what the two teenagers know to change human life forever.
 








a Rafflecopter giveaway
2 comments

Cover Reveal: Finn Finnegan by Darby Karchut

Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Finn Finnegan by Darby Karchut
Website | Blog |

Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
ISBN: 978-1-937053-32-1
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Formats: Paper, e-book
Genres: Middle Grade/Young Adult, Fantasy

Finn (not bleedin' Finnegan) MacCullen is eager to begin his apprenticeship. He soon discovers the ups and downs of hunting monsters in a suburban neighborhood under the demanding tutelage of the Knight, Gideon Lir. Both master and apprentice are descendents of the Tuatha De Danaan, a magical race of warriors from Ireland. Scattered long ago to the four corners of the world, the De Danaan wage a two thousand year old clandestine battle with their ancient enemy, the Amandán, a breed of goblin-like creatures.

Now with the beasts concentrating their attacks on Finn, he and his master must race to locate the lost Spear of the Tuatha De Danaan, the only weapon that can destroy the Amandán, all the while hiding his true identity from his new friends, Rafe and Savannah, twins whose South African roots may hold a key to Finn's survival. Armed with a bronze dagger, some ancient Celtic magic, and a hair-trigger temper, Finn is about to show his enemies the true meaning of "fighting Irish."
 
1 comments

Review: Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Blog | Twitter | Powell's

Series: Everneath #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Format: ARC
Source: Vi - Confessions of a Vi3tBabe
Challenge: 2012 Debut Author

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's..

Everneath was a very enjoyable read with a different twist to the retelling of Hades and Persephone.

A nice twist to the story were the immortals, those who live forever but must feed on human emotions to live. Which leads to "the feeding" where they bring someone down to the underworld to feed on. Nikki was sucked into the underworld for a century for the feeding with only Cole for company.

When Nikki returns to the Surface, she finds that only months has passed since she's been gone. Nikki does not start off as the greatest heroine. She's a bit broken and very insecure. She's also constantly paranoid, but that's blamed on Cole since he's trying to convince her to return to Everneath and be his queen.

Compared to Jack, the nice sweet sort-of ex-boyfriend, Cole seems like a big jerk. He's such a sweet person who's there for Nikki even when she doesn't ask. Jack is also described as the stereotypical "popular guy", so Cole clearly has some competition. BUT, Cole isn' too bad. He's described as "the smoldering immortal", obviously he isn't that bad. And he's a also musician, so +1 for him.

The relationship between the three can't exactly be described as a love triangle. It's a bit more complicated then that. With the already complicated relationships and tossing in the struggle to stay on the Surface, Nikki has a lot to deal with throughout the story.

Overall: 3.75 out of 5
The story of the immortals was a nice touch to the retelling. It was a very enjoyable read with an interesting plot. The was something about the characters that came off a bit dry, but they were sure interesting to read about. This series is definitely one that will keep getting better. 
1 comments

Guest Post: Bring On The Heroines with Augusta Blythe

Monday, February 20, 2012
Winterbone (Universe Unbound #1) by Augusta Blythe
Website | Facebook | Twitter
Sixteen-year-old Mia Winterborne is destined to be special. Details are sketchy, though, as her dad disappeared with all the answers when she was five. Mia only knows that she’ll inherit her kickass superpowers on her seventeenth birthday. Helping Mia prepare for her anticipated ascendancy is Loie Bryce, her best friend and eternal sidekick extraordinaire. The girls’ intense friendship has never wavered until now, when Andreas arrives in Salcey Ridge. They both fall hard for the British hottie, who quickly becomes a fixture in their lives. When they discover that Andreas is not who he appears to be, the frightening reality of Mia’s powers finally hits home. The nearer Mia’s birthday draws, the more the danger escalates and long-buried lies are exposed, putting the girls on a path that they never expected.

Bring On the Heroines 
by Augusta Blythe

I’ve noticed in my many years of reading and writing that I gravitate toward a certain type of female protagonist. Hint: I’ll take Katniss Everdeen over Bella Swan any day of the week. She doesn’t necessarily need to be handy with a bow and arrow, but she tends to have either qualities I recognize in myself or qualities that I wish I possessed. She’s someone I find myself rooting for, no matter what.

In my first book, Winterborne, I deliberately made Loie a more passive personality at the start so that we can watch her grow into the strong, confident girl we know she’s capable of becoming. Even she wants to be more like her best friend, Mia. She simply doesn’t know how until circumstances force her in that direction. Let’s face it, if hellhounds are chasing you, you don’t stand there, wringing your hands and worrying about making an actual decision. You run. In the sequel, Ravenstoke, we get to meet that more confident girl and see how she faces life’s latest fantastical challenges.

My preferred heroines aren’t limited to the kickass variety. Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorites. Although Mr. Darcy tends to garner all the attention, Elizabeth is the real catch in that equation (if you ignore that little shack called Pemberley). She is sensible, yet not a killjoy. She is kind, but she’s nobody’s doormat. She speaks her mind at a time when women in her position were better off nodding and smiling. And bonus, there’s no insta love here. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennett don’t fall in love until they actually (gasp) get to know each other.

There are so many YA novels out there now that feature strong, capable young women (or are at least in the process of getting there). These heroines are by no means perfect; they are allowed to make mistakes and still be awesome. And the fact that these books are so popular means that this type of heroine is resonating with readers, which makes all their readers kickass in my book.
Ravenstoke (Universe Unbound #2) by Augusta Blythe

In WINTERBORNE, Loie and Mia's seventeenth birthdays brought more drama and surprises than they ever expected. Now, in Ravenstoke, they are adjusting to the aftermath and struggling to keep those newfound powers in check. When Andreas is called away to England under mysterious circumstances, a new guy is sent to Salcey Ridge in his place. Cian is smarmy and cocksure and Loie wants nothing more than to unleash a hellhound on him. Unfortunately, Cian isn't the only complication in their lives as the girls must also contend with the reappearance of Mr. Winterborne himself and Loie's most dreaded fear of all - a part in the school musical. Can the girls survive the rest of junior year unscathed?
1 comments

In My Mailbox (33)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren and inspired by Alea from Pop Culture Junkie. It gives bloggers a chance to share all the books we bought, borrowed, and received this week.

Titles that are linked go to goodreads and covers that are shown on my iTouch are eBooks.


Gifted:
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
[Thank you Meredith (Mint Tea & A Good Book) and Willa (Willa's Ramblings)!]

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
(Thank you Vi from Confessions of a Vi3t Babe)

Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer
(Thank you Bailey from IB Book Blogging)

Library: 
Tempest Rising by Tracey Deebs
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

NetGalley: (Thanks to Random House and Bloomsberry)
Starters by Lissa Price
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker

Simon-Pulse:
Never Enough by Denise Jaden

Don't forget to leave a link with your comment so I can check out what's in your mailbox!
13 comments

Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Friday, February 17, 2012
Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters
by Meredith Zeitlin
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Publisher: Putnum
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Challenge: 2012 Debut Author & Contemporary
Purchase: Powell's

Kelsey Finkelstein is fourteen and FRUSTRATED. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled – by her impossible parents, her annoying little sister, and life in general. But with her first day of high school coming up, Kelsey is positive that things are going to change. Enlisting the help of her three best friends — sweet and quiet Em, theatrical Cass, and wild JoJo — Kelsey gets ready to rebrand herself and make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny.

Things start out great - her arch-nemesis has moved across the country, giving Kelsey the perfect opportunity to stand out on the soccer team and finally catch the eye of her long-time crush. But soon enough, an evil junior’s thirst for revenge, a mysterious photographer, and a series of other catastrophes make it clear that just because KELSEY has a plan for greatness… it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary throughout her disastrous freshman year will have you laughing out loud—while being thankful that you’re not in her shoes, of course…

High school is tough, especially when you're a freshman.

This is also my freshman year, so Kelsey and I connected very well. But I'm still glad that I'm not in her shoes.

Making a mark was the one thing Kelsey planned to do, but she wasn't planning on how she was making her mark. Everyone always suggest for freshman to join a sport, club, theatre, etc... and of course everything sounds fantastic with meeting new people and trying new things. But sometimes trying new things really bite, especially when Kelsey makes a bad impression with an upperclassmen on the field. And to top things off, someone on the school paper has been printing some pretty embarrassing photos with her in them. That's not even all of it since the drama continues to pile day after day in high school.

Kelsey is a likable character with her hilarious comments through out the story. She goes through the usual high school drama with crappy love interests, gossip, and backstabbing. Her life is one of the more interesting lives, but definitely one you're glad isn't yours. Kelsey does make up for it with her wittiness. She's always ready to say something, even if it's the most ridiculous thing anyone could possibly say.

She noticeably develops as the story goes on with her constant misfortunes. Kelsey becomes more aware and cautious to what she does and who she's friends with. Her friends are great supporting characters. The relationship Kelsey has with her friends is natural and adds onto her high school experience. She also has those typical adolescent moments with her parents that only made her more real. I felt as if I could walk to school and find Kelsey somewhere in the halls.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
This books is full of hilarious moments. It was great looking at high school through the eyes of someone like Kelsey. I'm jealous of everyone who are looking back at their freshman year while I'm still living it. I guess I can't complain too much when comparing my life with Kelsey's. Freshman Year is a light read filled with ridiculous amounts of fun.


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Author Interview: Robert Shields

Thursday, February 16, 2012
Daphne and The Mysterious Girls Secret Bathroom Society
by Robert Shields
Website | Amazon Page | Twitter

Following years of persecution at the hands of Vivica Vance, Daphne Downing levels the playing field wielding her No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil as she belatedly enters the world of witchcraft. Daphne becomes part of the Mysterious Girls’ Secret Bathroom Society and finds out that the politics governing witchcraft are daunting and sometimes deadly. She realizes she is aligned with the Daughter of Charm in this political battle with the Daughters of Spite led by her nemesis, Vivica. Along the way, she discovers that witches do not perform magic or witchcraft but a differentiated form of physics that only some women have mastered. The story deepens as she learns about the long history of witches’ domination and annihilation of wizards.

Tell us a little about you and how you got started writing?

I started writing at an early age. The first thing that I ever wrote was a fan fiction piece on Star Wars where the rebels actually stop the Empire from boarding their ship in the opening scene and they kill Darth Vader. I also started my own sports newspaper that had a whopping circulation of one when I was ten. I have since been writing a weekly syndicated sports column in Arkansas for over fourteen years on the side.

Where did you get your idea to write your book? What inspired you?

I was close to giving up on writing because it can be such a consuming process. I had written three non-fiction works. One was about economics and another was about sports. Both were bestsellers on Amazon in their genres of books. I wanted to write something creative before I gave up. I was always told to write what you know. I fought that for years and creating what you don’t know can be difficult. I started several stories and never got very far. Then I started to write Daphne. I remember my childhood quite vividly. I went to a parochial school. I remember the interactions. It was easy to create. It wasn’t a stretch to think some of those girls were witches. The characters are an amalgam of the greatest strengths and weaknesses that I experienced in my classmates and projected them through Daphne and the other girls of the Mysterious Girls Secret Bathroom Society.

What was your favorite part of the book?

Without spoiling the plot, it’s the Prologue of the book. I know exactly where it takes place and I can clearly envision what is about to transpire. And to a great extent, so does Daphne.

Growing up, what book do you remember reading?

There are two that stick with me. One is where the Red Fern Grows. My fourth grade teacher read it to us and everyone in the class just cried. The other was one that I read. It was “A Separate Peace.” The characters in the book were very relatable to me. I think they would be to any boy in high school.

Who is your favorite author?

I obviously liked all the S.E. Hinton books such as Tex and the Outsiders. My favorite was Rumblefish. The school that I attended often had those books on the reading list. They were short and captivating. At the time, I did not even know that it was a woman that wrote the books and that the “S” stood for Susan.

Where do you do most of your writing?

I can write about anywhere. I have a real knack at blocking out the rest of the world. What I often need is time. It seems to take me at least an hour to engage my brain into writing mode and putting my mind in the story.

Who or what makes you laugh?

Sponge Bob. Every character on the show is so funny because we all know people like that in our lives. The writing on that show is hilarious. It’s a show about a square yellow sponge and it’s known by everyone. That takes great writing.

Any other books in the works? Future projects?

After Daphne, I was really inspired. I wrote more and started several projects at the same time. I have finished another book that will be titled Diminishing Paige that is more of an adult book about a serendipitous high school romance that becomes complicated as the girls promiscuous past becomes a problem. I am also in the process of writing the second book in the Mysterious Girls Secret Bathroom Society. It would sadden me if Daphne never had a second book. I have also completed, but still editing the first book in a companion series to Daphne that will be about the bad girls titled “The Three Skirts.”

When you’re reading or watching a movie what is your snack of choice?

I like chocolate covered raisins. It’s all the fun without any of the guilt. Even though it tastes like chocolate, I convince myself that I am eating a fruit.



Robert Shields is a bestselling author and has been a syndicated sports writer for over fourteen years. “Daphne and the Mysterious Girls Secret Bathroom Society” is his first book in this fictional series.  He has authored other books including “The Three Skirts,” “The Economics of Sex”, “Confessions of the Self Absorbed Observer: What I Saw Today” and “Scarlet Fever: A Razorback House Divided”. Shields is also an expert witness as an economist in the utility industry.  He has testified in a multitude of dockets and other legal proceedings.  He graduated at the top of his economics class at the University of Arkansas and won the award as the “Most Outstanding Student in Economics.” He lives in Arkansas with his wife and children.
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Guest Post: Delta Legend by Kelan O'Connell

Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Delta Legend by Kelan O'Connell
Website | Blog

     When 16-year-old Oakland California teenager, Calvin Pierce, makes a bad decision and winds up getting arrested, his mother is quick to take action. Determined not to lose a second son to the drug and gang violence of the inner city, she sends Calvin to spend the summer working for his great uncle in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
     There in the predominately-white region of agriculture and recreational boating, Calvin’s a fish out of water with a chip on his shoulder. But when severed body parts start floating to the surface, his summer of proving himself takes on new meaning.
      Something deadly is lurking in the deep murky waterways of the Delta. Now the daunting task of containing the living incarnation of a mythical creature falls to Calvin and his ragtag posse of oddball characters.
 
If You Build It... 
by Kelan O’Connell 

I was raised with three older brothers, no sisters. I wasn't a tomboy, but I could hold my own with boys for the most part. When mixing it up with my brothers, it would never be said that I fought fair. What I lacked in physical strength, I made up for in cunning... along with biting and scratching. I'd say my greatest strength as a kid was my ability to wiggle out of a stronghold or a confined space. The fact that I was petite only encouraged my brothers to see how many different physical spaces I might actually fit inside of. Needless to say, I spent a good deal of time in lockers, dresser drawers, and laundry hampers. Shockingly, I am not claustrophobic. Desensitization training—it works.

So, you can see how creating a male main character for my book, Delta Legend, wasn't completely foreign territory for me. While I knew I could never pull off writing first-person narrative for Calvin, I had no doubt I could effectively represent him in all his guy-ness. And in a YA literary world brimming with strong dynamic female MC's, I was eager to break from the pack. Oh, there's plenty for chicks of all ages to relate to in Delta Legend—Mei Li handily carries the female dynamic of the story, no problem. But beyond my choice of a male protagonist, I was determined to write a book that BOTH sexes could relate to and embrace. Maybe even connect over.

If you're reading this guest post, chances are you're female. And not surprisingly, three months after self-publishing Delta Legend its primary audience remains female. Why? Well, as a whole, us gals are simply the more voracious readers. We're also more connected and tuned-in to what's new, what's hot, what's coming down the line in the world of All Things YA, thanks to great Book Blogs like this one. But I'd dearly love to see more guys join us in this passion for reading. They seriously need to figure out that reading is not only entertaining escapism for them, it's downright sexy to us. Think about it: Guy reading a book while drinking a latte outside a coffee house or guy standing around texting. Who's hotter? Please. So, what's it going to take to get more of them to see the light? Two things, really.

1. More YA and YA Crossover novels guys can relate to (If you build it ...)

2. Cool, smart, savvy YA-lovin' women steering guys in the direction of great reads. (This part will require some finesse, not unlike coaxing a squirrel to eat from your hand, or luring E.T. with Reese's Pieces.)

Hey, I've done my part. I've even stocked Delta Legend with the literary equivalent of a HungryMan Dinner: fishing, WaverRunners, beer, speed boats, wake boarding, along with hearty servings of carnage, action, and laughs. Did I mention beer? Now here's your part: Get out there and recommend Delta Legend to a guy. Go on, I'm authorizing you to use my book to strike up a conversation with the opposite sex—like that cute guy in geometry, or the sexy- geeky one who works in the marketing department. You know, the one who recently broke up with his girlfriend?!?! Yeah, HIM. I just set you up with the perfect conversation starter, and one that's got a shelf life.

You're welcome.

The first six chapters of her debut YA Crossover can be found at http://deltalegend.com.
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Guest Post: Hoodie by Brendon Lancaster

Thursday, February 9, 2012
Hoodie by Brendon Lancaster


From the moment Ben Chapman ( 'Hoodie' to the other Shady Boys) crashes out of school, determined never to return and, incidentally, seeking his revenge on the school's drug dealer by stealing and concealing his stash in his trousers on the way out, you know that this is a boy to whom caution and reticence are alien concepts. Outwardly, he maintains that all he wants is a job, his own money and to follow his heart towards the girl of his dreams, Isabelle. But, underneath that concealing hoodie, Ben has a rich inner life, fed by dope, wine and the belief that he is someone special. During his 'summer of love', we follow his attempts to engage with the real world with frustration and compassion. His adventures cause him to question today's competitive, consumer-based values, eventually challenging his perception of reality and prompting him to reflect upon who and what his purpose in life is before finding himself faced with the definitive test of resolve and bravery. Hoodie's blend of up-to-date realism, dream-like escapism, fast-paced, hard-hitting action, wistful musings, humour and tragedy, all while the story navigates its way on a magical mystery tour of Ben's mind, ensures an enjoyable read. It provides the perfect antidote to alarmist Daily Mail reporting of youth issues, exploring the problems facing modern day Britain from the perspective of a disempowered, disaffected teenager. On a deeper level, there is a moral/spiritual sub-text, fed by Ben's belief that he has a secret weapon; the simian lines (fused head and heart lines) on the palms of his hands. These are extremely rare and noted as being a genetic abnormality shared by drug addicts, mass murderers, scientific researchers and religious fanatics (and, by sheer coincidence, Tony Blair). Could these lines hold the key to his future?
  
It’s hard for debut novelists without connections to get published. I’d almost consigned my (blood, sweat and tear-stained) manuscript of Hoodie to an early retirement in the loft, when I read a small article in a Sunday newspaper championing the concept of self-publishing.

Being a slightly cynical soul, I initially dismissed the idea as being too close to what used to be known as ‘vanity publishing’. Besides, I had naively hoped a mainstream publisher would take on my raw manuscript give it a polish, put a shiny cover on it and give it a big marketing push while I spent my days lounging around in a velvet smoking jacket quaffing wine, creating characters and plots for my next bestseller while the cheques ker-chinged their way to the bank. Self-publishing wasn’t part of my plan.

But I also understand that all first novels, whoever they are written by, often struggle to sell as readers shy away from trying new material and – rightly or wrongly – gravitate towards authors and publishers they know and trust. The paradox is that mainstream publishers are no longer the stamp of quality, yet equally we know that they say something: their books have been signed off by a professional literary agent, publishing director, copy editor and proof editor. Whereas, unfortunately, many a self-published title continues to let down and taint the reputation of a sector where many gems lie hidden.

As a reader, I struggle to find books that appeal to me. I’m not the slightest bit interested in reading bland mediocre novels that get published because of the author’s name or connections. So I write instead. It provides a welcome escape into a pleasurable world of self-indulgent fantasy, where I can enhance, create and delete whatever thoughts and feelings I have. Where no rules exist other than those I choose to follow.

‘We’ve all got a book in us’ is a often used mantra and I had reached a point in life not so much that I wanted to write a story, but that I had a story in me which needed telling. And so Hoodie was born.

Although not in any way biographical, it draws on my experience growing up in West London and tells the story of disempowered, disaffected teenager Ben and his struggles to come to terms with himself and the challenges in the world around him. It’s a mix of contemporary realism, dream-like escapism, fast-paced, hard-hitting action, wistful musings, humor and tragedy, all while the story trips its way round a magical mystery tour of Ben’s mind.

I completed the first draft in an obsessive 3 months of manic wide-eyed late night drafting, followed by a further 6 months of editing and redrafting. Many rejections and a couple of near misses from mainstream publishers later, I pitched my own belief in my material against the risk I was asking publishers to take and decided to put Hoodie out there myself (if only to obtain a bound copy of Hoodie to shove in the loft). Also, the idea of total creative control of design, artwork, storyline, ownership of rights and not having to answer to anyone but myself appealed. It was going to be fun!

The most exciting moment was when my first proof copy of Hoodie arrived from Authorhouse. At that point, I was so satisfied to hold a physical copy of my own book anything which followed would have been a bonus.

And the bonuses did follow...first in the form of positive coverage in The Westminster and Paddington Times and then my local paper. Next, a favorable review from ‘Hot Gossip, Hot Reviews’ who gave me four out of five ‘hots’ and said ‘…a flare of teenage realism mixed with slang, palpable dialogue and interesting characters…’ and ‘Everyone will be able to relate to some aspect of the flawed personalities.’

The main drawback of the whole self-publishing/print on demand process is the price. At £13.49 on Amazon and £8.99 from Authorhouse for the paperback, I realize Hoodie can’t realistically compete against known authors. So, with the help of Smashwords, and to make Hoodie more widely available, I’ve just published a variety of ebook versions at 99p.

And the bonuses continue to roll in! Within the past month I’ve been lucky enough to receive further 5 star reviews saying things like ‘a true rising author’, ‘What a read!’, ‘such an inspirational book’ and ‘superbly authentic’, an indepth review on Fiction-books.biz (http://www.fiction-books.biz/reviews/my-thoughts-about-hoodie-by-brendon-lancaster/) and, to top it all, being listed in itunes book store ‘new and notable’ category.

So, at 99p, what have you got to lose? Just don’t forget to let me and your friends know if you like it!
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Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Publisher: Random House Children's Book
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: 2012 Contemporary

Buy it: Powell's

Senior year is over, and Lucy has the perfect way to celebrate: tonight, she's going to find Shadow, the mysterious graffiti artist whose work appears all over the city. He's out there somewhere—spraying color, spraying birds and blue sky on the night—and Lucy knows a guy who paints like Shadow is someone she could fall for. Really fall for. Instead, Lucy's stuck at a party with Ed, the guy she's managed to avoid since the most awkward date of her life. But when Ed tells her he knows where to find Shadow, they're suddenly on an all-night search around the city. And what Lucy can't see is the one thing that's right before her eyes.
 

I have so much love for this book. I love this even more that all of this happens in ONE NIGHT.

There were so many colors! The main colors mentioned were yellow and blue. Each time they were described I just wanted to paint it and hang it up on my wall. Unfortunately I have no skill in painting. Reading this makes me want to go take an art class just to see them on paper. Everything was so artistic and beautiful and the writing was just raw and deep.

The characters were just amazing. Why do I love all of these characters?

Flaws.

I loved all of their flaws. Their flaws made them real that it hurts to understand what they’re going through. I just love all of those flaws that make them, them.

Lucy's the person that lives in her head and has everything planned She knows exactly what she wants to say and always has something to say. But Ed isn't someone who fits into her plan. Ed is deep, sad, and broken. I have a lot of respect for him for trying to make something out of his rough life.

The story was about Lucy and Ed, but also their friends Leo, Jazz, Dylan, and Daisie. They all start off with their personal issues holding them back, but then they help each other find themselves.

Overall: Go get this book! It's amazing and colorful and just FANTASTIC.
2 comments

Guest Post: Why Authors Like Me Love Book Blogs

Sunday, February 5, 2012
Wrecked by Elle Casey
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Release Date: January 1, 2012

If you liked The Breakfast Club and The Swiss Family Robinson, you'll love WRECKED! An ill-fated Caribbean cruise and four teenagers: a nerd, a jock, a mouse, and a beauty queen…an island, a treehouse, some nefarious interlopers…life and death…fear and loathing…love and laughter. Follow Jonathan, Kevin, Candi and Sarah as they find their typical high school lives and their worlds totally WRECKED.

Why Authors Like Me Love Book Blogs 

Hello readers. My name is Elle Casey, and I’m the indie author of three novels (working on my fourth), WRECKED and WAR OF THE FAE: BOOKS 1 AND 2. I was invited here by Vy as a guest poster. Thank you, Vy, for having me. I’m very, very happy to be here!

Today I’m going to tell you why authors like me love book blogs. First of all, I guess I have to tell you what an ‘author like me’ is. I am an independent (indie) author, meaning I self-publish my books. Just a few years ago, being self-published meant “couldn’t find a publisher who would publish the book”, but times have changed. Nowadays, especially with the advent of e-readers like Kindles and Nooks, it’s very cost-effective and technologically easy to publish a book. Many independent authors of ebooks have recently become very successful, garnering many readers and fans, even without having traditional publishing contracts. These authors could have publishers for their books but choose not to.

But how can this be? How can an independent author, who has no money for marketing, book tours, fancy displays at the local bookstore, or any of that other stuff, ever sell a book? Well, the answer is simple: Book blogs like this one.

Book bloggers are my heroes, plain and simple! Without them I’d still be writing books that sat on my hard drive for years and years, going nowhere. With book bloggers reading books and sharing their thoughts and reviews with their readers, the world is slowly hearing about these hidden treasures – independently published novels. I published WRECKED on January 2nd of this year, and over the past four weeks have been featured on just a few book blogs, and I am already seeing the effects of this amazing phenomenon. People are hearing about my book, buying it, reading it, loving it, and sharing their enthusiasm with me. I cannot express to you what an amazing feeling that is; it’s just incredible.

Book bloggers provide a valuable service to readers too. Because it’s easier to publish a book now, there are a lot of books out there that are sub par – books you wouldn’t want to waste your time reading. Maybe they’re not your style, or they have too many problems with (lack of) editing, or whatever. There’s nothing more frustrating than only having so many hours or minutes in a day for reading and to waste that precious time on a poorly written book ... not to mention wasting book budget money! A book blogger can sift through the mediocre and find the hidden gems for readers. Book bloggers save their followers both time and money.

Most book bloggers do all of this for the authors, for the readers, for the entire indie publishing industry ... for no compensation. They do it for the love of good books. My hat is off to Vy and all the other selfless book bloggers out there who have helped make so many authors’ dreams come true ... to be able to write for a living and connect with readers who love their characters and the adventures they create. And a special thanks also to the followers of these blogs. Your support means everything!

If you’d like to learn more about my novels or me, I welcome you to visit my website www.ElleCasey.com. I’d love to have you as one of my readers!
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