Saturday, April 9, 2011

Author Guest Post: Ann Aguirre of Enclave

Whenever I read a new dystopia, I wonder about the influences of classic dystopias on current authors. I love teaching dystopias in my classroom, and wonder which of the books I teach will inspire my students to write their own stories some day.

Ann Aguirre, author of Enclave, stopped by to talk about the classic dystopias that inspire her writing.
 
The first dystopian I ever read was LORD OF THE FLIES. I read it for a school assignment, and it made a large impression on me. I've wondered ever since I read whether children would always devolve to such savage behavior. I wondered if Mr. Golding was, perhaps, a touch pessimistic, and I wanted to create a world where the darkness came from excess order, more like 1984, as opposed to complete chaos and a devolution to primitive instincts.

In high school, I fell in love with A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ. The premise that a butcher's shopping list could become a a religious artifact charmed me utterly. It is a brilliant book and one I could read over and over again. (And I have.)

In college, I read my next dystopian, A HANDMAID'S TALE. I studied it and analyzed it for my Gender Studies class. It is a haunting story, and I suspect some of those themes pervade my Razorland books as well.

Beyond these three works, my inspiration has largely come from films. 


Thanks, Ann! I've read (and taught) both Lord of the Flies and The Handmaid's Tale, but have never even heard of A Canticle for Leibowitz. Looks like I have some reading to do!

Stop by the Teen Book Scene for more Enclave tour information.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Author Guest Post: Jennifer Archer, Author of Through Her Eyes


 Hello, everyone! Thanks to Mrs. DeRaps for inviting me to talk about my novel Through Her Eyes that will be in bookstores on April 5th.

Through Her Eyes was a lot of fun to write for many reasons, one of them being that the main character, Tansy, is the daughter of a horror writer. Tansy’s mom, Millie, writes under the pseudonym Millicent Moon, and Tansy describes her as “the female version of Stephen King, minus the mega bucks and movie deals.”  

When the idea for this story started brewing in my mind, I knew I wanted Tansy’s mother to be a writer, partially because I wanted to step into Tansy’s skin and experience vicariously what it might be like for my kids to have me for a mom! Children of writers have to put up with having a parent whose mind is always “in the clouds,” a parent who stays up into the wee hours of the morning working, or who rises hours before the sun to start banging away on a laptop. They have to put up with their friends’ teasing about “Mom’s embarrassing book covers.” (At least my kids did. I wrote romance novels for a while early in my career, so I had a cover or two that my sons wished they could hide from their friends!)

Through Her Eyes is a ghost story, so having Millie write horror seemed a natural fit. Besides, I’ve always been intrigued by the workings of a horror writer’s mind. For example, I used to think that Stephen King was brilliant, but that he must also be a tiny bit mentally disturbed to come up with the stories he does! Then I read his book On Writing, and although I still think he’s brilliant, I also think he’s a perfectly sane, extremely loving family man, who is incredibly wise. Why did I ever think anything else? As I said, I used to write romance novels, but that doesn’t mean I’m a hopeless romantic. (A romantic, perhaps, but not a hopeless!)

Tansy struggles with that same preconception – people believing her mom is a nutcase because of what she does for a living. She also struggles with embarrassment over the covers of the novels, and some of the titles completely mortify her. Tears of Blood and The Screaming Meemies, for instance. Tansy has to deal with a bit of teasing from classmates, too. One guy at her new school nicknames her “Zombie Girl,” because zombies play leading roles in most of her mom’s books.

I enjoy scary books, and I really love spine-chilling movies, as well; not so much the slash and dash kind, but the sort with a ripple of psychological suspense in them. The sort of movies and stories that don’t just terrify the audience, but make us think and question and try to figure out what’s going on. Books and movies in the genre that I’ve loved probably influenced me, at least in a small way, to make Tansy’s mom a horror novelist. During my twenties, I went on a Stephen King and Dean Koontz book binge, and I still read their novels from time to time; they’re the kings of the genre, in my opinion. If I’m in the mood for a horror novel with writing that’s a bit more on the lush side, I often turn to the writer I consider the queen of the genre – Ann Rice. Her novel The Mummy is a particular favorite.  Of course, the YA market also has many great horror titles, and in these my taste also tends to run more toward the psychologically creepy more than to vampires, werewolves and such, although I enjoy a good story in that vein, too. Some of my YA favorites are older titles, and a few of them are marketed to readers even younger than the typical YA booklover. I particularly enjoyed Coraline, by Neil Gaiman; The Folk Keeper, by Franny Billingsly; and Jade Green, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Owl in Love, by Patrice Kindl is also very unique and intriguing – it’s humorous as well as creepy, and it might very well have been the first shape-shifter novel.

As for movies that influenced me, my favorite chill-raisers are The Mothman Prophecies, Identity, and The Sixth Sense. Oh, and Shadow of the Vampire, which came out in 2000 is by far one of the creepiest movies I’ve ever seen! 

I hope readers of Through Her Eyes will experience a few chills of the same sort these wonderful books and movies induced in me! I invite you to stop by my website www.jenniferarcher.net and my blog www.jenniferarcher.blogspot.com to check out the  book trailer and other information about Through Her Eyes, as well as my other novels.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Book Review: Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Jackson Pearce's newest novel, due out in August, retells the classic tale of Hansel and Gretel. Rather than two young children lost in the woods after their evil stepmother forces them out of their home, this is the story of Ansel and Gretchen. They have been kicked out of their family home, but these characters are teenagers on a road trip to find a new life. When their car breaks down in the town of Live Oak, South Carolina, they are directed to a sweet shop to look for work.

Sophia Kelly, a mysterious but kind girl, owns the shop and finds lots and lots of odd jobs for Ansel to help out with. Ansel and Gretchen lose track of time and the weeks roll on. Being so close to the woods, Gretchen can't help but be reminded of the twin sister she lost when she was little. This sister was taken by a witch and never seen again.

Gretchen is determined to be ready to fight off a witch the next time she sees one. But, there seems to be other dangers crawling around Live Oak, and in the house she's staying at. There are lots of unexplained disappearances of teen girls and Sophia Kelly seems to be to blame. When Gretchen discovers that Sophia id hiding lots of information from Gretchen and her brother, the entire ruse starts to unravel.
*   *   *
There are some fairy tale re-tellings that work rather well, and there are others that don't. There were some aspects of this story that I enjoyed, and I did read it to the end to figure out what would happen, but there was just too little in common with the original to make this story appealing to me. 

At times, Sweetly almost felt like a whole other tale. I was dismayed that the elements that I loved in the original Hansel and Gretel are nowhere to be found in this adaptation.  That said, there are some merits to this story. I enjoyed the fact that Gretchen and Ansel are teenagers, that the "witch" is about their same age, and I liked the setting of a candy shop rather than a house made of candy. 

Also, in the original tale, Gretel outsmarts the old witch and in this story, Gretchen is definitely the heroine. She was definitely my favorite character. 

I wish that I could gush and rave about this book. I really, really wanted to love it. I will continue to read Jackson Pearce's books and fairy tales re-told. I open to re-tellings of old favorites, even if they are not as close to the original as I would've liked!

**ARC received from Book It Forward ARC Tours**

Friday, March 4, 2011

Character Interview: Melissa from Cris Beam's I AM J

Cris Beam's I Am J tells the story of "J," originally called Jennifer. Ever since he can remember, J has felt out of place in his own body. Because of this disconnect, J goes to great lengths to alter his appearance so that he will feel and be seen as a male.

Anyone who knows anyone who identifies as transgendered and anyone who'd like to know more about this experience should read this book. This interview takes place between myself and J's best friend, Melissa. She's a super spunky and complex character herself. Here's what she had to say:

When you first met J, you were much younger and taking a photography class with him. The teacher is refusing to call J anything but Jennifer. You step in and defend him even though you don’t know him. Why do this?

Oh my god, I totally remember that day! That teacher was a fool, and so uptight! Here was J, the new kid, looking completely embarrassed, and I couldn’t stand it. I mean, I’m for civil rights. My mom taught me about that when I was like five years old: nobody gets to tell you who you are. I think it’s because I’m biracial. My mom’s pretty intense, but she practically drilled that into my head.


After meeting J, you offer him a Picasso quotation: “Art is a lie that tells the truth.” What truth are you trying to tell with your dancing?


I love that quote!!!! I don’t think I’m any more “true” than when I’m dancing; it’s like I can say things with my body that I can’t say in words, even though I talk a lot. For me, dancing cuts below the bullshit, because it moves impulsively at first; it’s not trying to prove anything, the way I am when I express myself in other ways. But it’s also a lie, because what you see in dance may not be what I’m expressing exactly, but there in that seeing is a different kind of truth. There are so many layers! Oh, I can’t say it right. Just come see me dance!  

 
Though J is the primary focus of this story, you have a lot going on in your life. Why do you cut yourself? J brings it up a lot in conversations with you. Does that bother you or does it help to talk about it?


I don’t cut anymore, but yeah, I used to. And it used to drive me insane the way J would constantly bring it up like it was nothing. I think he thought I was doing it to get attention, but now I recognize that he was worried. I cut because it brought me relief: sometimes all the crazy thoughts in my head would get so intense, the only thing that would make it better was this direct and focused pain. It’s not really logical when you think about it in one way, but it made some kind of sense when I was really suffering. And yeah, now it does help to talk about it, but I have to talk about it with the right people. I go to a group. And sometimes now, when I think about cutting, I’ll do something like put an ice cube on my wrist until it really hurts. That stops the thoughts, and I don’t do any real damage.  

 
You and J have a back and forth relationship, but underneath your bickering there seems to be a deep respect between the two of you. Why do you think this is?


Well, J is my best friend, and I think he always will be. I would probably marry the guy, if he didn’t stuff his emotions so much! Seriously, underneath all that stuffing, J is really patient. I’ve lost friends over the years because of my temper and my big mouth: I always say what I think, even if I haven’t thought about it first. J has always weathered my storms, and he’s always stood by me. He’s very loyal, and I have a lot of respect for that. I think for J maybe, I help bring him out of his shell. At least I like to think I do.
 

I loved your performance at the end of the book. Without giving too much away for those who haven’t read this book yet, where did you get the strength to perform this “threshold” piece?


I don’t know if that dance was strength—or desperation. That dance came at a really bad time in my life. J had already started hormones, he was going to get into college and move away—I just knew that would happen—he had this big world ahead of him and mine was closing down. I was going to finish high school and I had screwed up my college applications. Plus, my mom was gone all the time and wasn’t paying any attention to me. Nobody was paying attention to me. I was going to be a dried-up dancer at eighteen. Or that’s what I thought. I had this big pain inside that I couldn’t talk about, so my only option was to dance it in front of everybody.   


At the end of this story, we know what happens to J, but I’m not quite sure that I know where your story is going. Everything okay with you?

Yeah, I’m really good! I have a new group of friends from my support group, and I’ve been doing some speaking at high schools for kids who cut. I’ve started taking salsa classes which is weird because I thought I only liked modern dance and especially solos, but there’s something really beautiful about partner dancing and, as my teacher says, “learning to yield.” I have a crush on this guy in my class who’s blind, and I want to ask him to teach me how to read Braille, because I have this idea about choreographing a dance to raised dots on the floor. I’m going to reapply for college in the fall, but until then, I’m just taking the days as they come and appreciating the good things in my life. Like this interview. Thanks for talking with me!


Thanks for the conversation, Melissa!

For more information and a complete list of the stops on this book tour, 
please visit The Teen Book Scene!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Audio Book Review: Radiance by Alyson Noel

Radiance is a middle grade story that deals with a topic that is hard to broach with this age group: death. It can be difficult to talk about death with children, particularly in cases where the person who dies is very close to a child or where the person who dies is very young.

The main character of this story, Riley (only twelve years old), has just died along with her parents and dog. She references her life on the "Earth Plane" briefly, but does not appear to dwell on his previous life too much. Instead, her days are filled with Here and Now. She has the ability to manifest whatever she desires--clothes, money, food, excitement and entertainment. But, the novelty of this ability does not last long. Quickly, she looks for something to do. And it's not long before the The Council comes looking for her to give her a job.

She's paired with Bodhie, a teen whom she describes as "dorky," but who seems to have been cool at one time. Bodhie takes everything a little too seriously for Riley's taste, and she spares no time in telling him just how lame he is. Their conflict feels more like a sibling rivalry than a thinly disguised flirtation, which is nice in a middle grade story.

On their first mission together as "Soul Catchers,"where they try to convince souls who have remained on the Earth Plane to cross over to the other side. Riley's first assignment is one no other Soul Catcher has been able to crack, despite hundreds of attempts. Lucky for her, it involves spirits of the annoying ten year-old boy variety, a demographic she's dealt with extensively on the Earth Plane. I won't tell you what happens, but it is one of my favorite scenes!

I don't always love to read middle grade novels, but this audio book appealed to me because of the subject matter and its relevance to my life right now. My mother-in-law just passed away on Wednesday after a long battle with a variety of cancers. I listened to this book thinking that it might be of some comfort to the pre-teen nieces in my family. I think that, once they've had time to deal with their grandmother's passing, they will find solace in a vision of heaven where the elderly get to pursue all of their interests and dreams.

The reader for this novel is Kathleen McInerney and she does a wonderful job. It must be hard to find a reader who can capture the spirit and energy of a twelve year-old, but McInerney does it well. Also, this book is a quick listen at less than four hours. I can see this book being a staple of middle school libraries. I bet middle grade readers will identify with Riley and maybe even relate to some of what she goes through in the book.



Details:
Narrator: Kathleen McInerney
Length: 3 hours and 55 mins

**This audio book counts toward my participation in the 2011 Audio Book Challenge from Teresa's Reading Corner and Whisper Stories in My Ear Audio Book Challenge**

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review: Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer

In alternating narratives, Sara Bennett Wealer tells the story of two talented teens--Kathryn and Brooke. Both girls are exceptional singers and, though they used to be very close, they have a rivalry that has spiraled out of control.

Brooke seems to have it all. She is the most popular girl in her class, she has talent, money, and people generally look to her to decide who's cool and who's not. Of course, life is not as perfect as it seems. Brooke is lonely and desperately wants her absent father's love and attention. She is surrounded by people who want to be near her so that they can be popular. None of her friends care about her passion for singing; they only care about parties and dances. Brooke finds a true friend in Kathryn during her junior year, but by their senior year their bitter enmity has completely clouded over any friendship they might have had.

Kathryn is more content in the shadows than in the limelight when it comes to being popular. That is, until she gets a taste for the spotlight when Brooke invites her to a sleepover their junior year. After that fateful night, Kathryn is kept busy with parties and activities and shows with all of her new friends. In particular, Brooke seems to want to hang out with Kathryn and talk about music. But, when Kathryn unwittingly betrays Brooke, their friendship crumbles and so does Kathryn's new popularity.

In the end, the only thing these two unlikely friends have in common is their desire to win at the Blackmore--a prestigious singing competition. And, it seems that both girls are willing to crush the other in order to win.

*   *   *

Rival is an excellent debut for Sara Bennett Wealer.  It is always a risky venture to write a book where the main characters are complex and not always sympathetic. There were points in this book where I didn't like either of the main characters, but this dislike was because the girls are presented as real people who make real mistakes and use poor judgment. It would've been much easier for Ms. Bennett Wealer to present one of the girls as "right" and the other as "wrong." It's much more difficult to make each girl complex in their own way. 

In addition to the characters, I loved the format of this book. It alternated between main characters and from their junior to senior years. In all of this, I was not confused in the least by which character was speaking and when the scene was taking place. It was interesting to flip between the girls' senior year, when they hated each other, and their junior year, when they were inseparable. Through the shifting time periods, the relationship and the motives behind the girls' actions becomes much more complex and interesting. 

I loved that this rivalry was based, for the most part, on singing. There were some jealous moments based on boys and beauty, but that was not the crux of the girls' conflict. That story has been played out, in my opinion. In this book, the girls are vying for something real and based on hard work and merit. This focus on singing took away from some of the catty, stereotypical competition over looks that is often portrayed in YA lit. This story was far more serious and interesting than a typical girl-hates-girl story. 

This is an awesome debut novel and I cannot wait to read more from this author. I can imagine that there are several students in my classes, particularly those girls involved in chorus and one of our school's music programs that will understand the richness of this book.

**Thanks to The Teen Book Scene for providing this review copy**

Friday, February 25, 2011

Author Guest Post + Book Giveaway: Savita Kahlan, Author of The Long Weekend

Savita Kahlan is the author of the chilling thriller, The Long Weekend. This book is absolutely terrifying, due to the subject matter and the author's skill at creating a tense, suspenseful situation where the lives of two boys are at stake. Though this book is thoroughly disturbing, I know that it takes a great writer to develop this type of character/ reader connection. I am highly impressed and completely freaked out.

For her tour stop at DeRaps Reads, I asked Ms. Kahlan to share a bit about a nightmare that she's had. As many of you know from previous posts, I have nightmares almost every night. In fact, I just had a horrific one last night, based on a book I'm currently reading. I'm glad to report that it wasn't as terrifying as Ms. Kahlan's, which you can read about here.



My Nightmare
“It’s dark and the streetlamps emit little light. I’m crouched behind a car, hiding. I’m alone. The street is eerily quiet and deserted, the houses on either side are abandoned. I don’t know how I ended up here all by myself with not a single living soul in sight. I’m catching my breath, thinking maybe I’m safe for a while. I’ve been running all night, running and hiding, running and hiding. Am I doomed never to see the light of day breaking over the horizon, the sweet chorus of birdsong, the rattle and clink of the milkman? I can hear a distant rattle and clink, but it’s not the milkman making early deliveries of bottles of milk. This is the rattle and clink of something else, something that may have once been human, but any humanity it once had has been lost for an age and it has no recollection of what it was like to be human.
The dreaded sound is distant, but I won’t be fooled by that. They almost had me before – yes, there is more than one, more than ten, perhaps twenty or more. I did not stop to count each contorted, disfigured being as they defied their stuttering gait, their misshapen limbs, and robot-like seethed across the fast dwindling space that separated them from me. I begin to move, slowly at first using the parked cars as my shield, then quicker as a glimpse of a rotting arm from the other side of the car. I begin to run. They’re closing in on me. Their guttural cries, their agonised moaning, their strange wheezing, the rattle and clink of the chains that once held them dragging across the ground, it all becomes louder. I run into an abandoned house, hoping to find help, but there is no one there, no weapons, nothing I can use to defend myself. I hear the shuffle of footsteps scraping across floorboards. They’ve followed me. I stifle a scream, my hand stuffed in my mouth, my heart beating so fast I think it might explode...”
And this is when I hope to wake up from the nightmare! Sometimes I do, sweating and panting and clutching at the duvet, other times the nightmare continues...
 *  *  *
And that's just a sample of the quality of Ms. Kalhan's terrifically terrifying writing. The Long Weekend is sure to have you feeling disturbed--even the most jaded of readers will have some heightened sense of fear or fright!

Ms. Kalhan is giving away one copy of her book to one lucky commenter. You have one week to enter this INTERNATIONAL giveaway (closes March 4th). Please leave a comment reacting to Ms. Kalhan's nightmare or describe one of your own. Make sure to leave an email where you can be reached if you are the winner.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winners Announced: Three of 'Em!

Yay! I'm finally feeling well enough to post the winners of my most recent giveaways. Sorry for the delay--It's been a rough couple of weeks. But, I am ready to announce and ship out some prizes to the lucky winners of the Valentine's Giveaway and the Rival book and necklace giveaway. Here we go...

Winner of Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer and necklace:

Ms. Ashley of Bookcase Siren!

Winner of Love is Hell and Dark Heart pendant:


Winner of Love, Love, Love and Heart Pendant:


Congrats, ladies. 

Others, please keep your eye out for a super awesome giveaway coming this week-ish!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Is it possible that I like Gayle Forman's Where She Went even more than If I Stay? I didn't know that this was possible. I am a little taken aback. But, from the very first chapter, I was captivated by this second book and could not put it down. Now, I did have a difficult time putting down If I Stay, but there was something so compelling about this book, even without the lure of tragedy and melodrama.

**Please don't read this post if you haven't read If I Stay and want to. I'm going to have to SPOIL it for you if you do! There's just no way to talk about Where She Went without revealing what happened in If I Stay.**

Okay. Phew. I don't want to spoil anything about this series for anyone!

This second book is narrated completely from Adam's point of view. I have to admit that I was intrigued by this from the very start. I loved Adam in book one, but I completely fell for him in book two. He just seemed even more real to me in this second installment. Even though he's now famous and touring the world, his feelings and character just ring true to me.

And Mia. Love Mia. In some ways, she's even more complex in this second book than in the first. She, too, has become an accomplished musician, but there's something about her struggle to both move past and remember that fateful night on which If I Stay is based that feels very real to me. If you've ever had any sort of trauma in your life, I think you'll understand what she's going through.

I love that Adam and Mia are not perfect. I love that they are not fixed and that, though they've experienced success, they don't always feel deserving or good about it. All of this rings very true to me. And, Foreman made some great choices with this book. I loved that she start most chapters with lyrics from Adam's hit record, which is actually written about Mia. I found most of the lyrics to be interesting and to add to the narrative. I want to hear his music!

I know that many of you are waiting for this book to come out and that you cannot wait to read it. In my opinion, this is a great second book to a story that could have ended with the first. But, after reading Where She Went, I am happy to know more about Adam and Mia and understand where they'll go from here. I loved it.

**Thanks to Around the World ARC Tours for this reading opportunity**

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Audio Book Review: Dark Life by Kat Falls

In the futuristic world of Dark Life, the world is divided. There are those who live "Topside" or above water, and those who dwell deep under water. On land, the Commonwealth Government rules what is left of the overpopulated Earth. Due to many environmental and natural disasters, there is too little space for too many people.

Under water, life is more like the Wild West. Those who choose to farm on the ocean floor are called settlers, and they have no shortage of dangers and dangerous personalities to contend with. Ty, a teenager who was the first to be born and raised under water, loves the freedom and adventure that his life brings. His days are filled with chores, roaming the wide ocean plains, and swimming with dolphins.

Some who live Topside say that the children born under water have develop Dark Gifts, but Ty and the other children deny it. One scientist supposedly discovered a boy named Akai, who could communicate with dolphins via sonar, but this boy's existence has never been verified. Nevertheless, there is definitely a divide between those who grow up Topside and those who live under water.

The peace and thrill of Ty's life changes completely the day that he meets Gemma. Ty comes across her just after she's gotten herself into a tough situation. She went under water to find her missing brother, but didn't really have a solid idea of where she was going or the amount of danger that she could encounter under the sea. Ty saves Gemma, but is quickly drawn into her quest to find her brother, which leads them further and further into the "darker" side of Dark Life.

The reader of this audio book, Keith Nobbs, does an excellent job. He reads for all of the characters, but still managed to highlight their personalities in his reading. I think that some high schoolers, particularly those who love a good dystopia, will enjoy this book. On the whole, though, I think that this is more of a middle grade read. I was entertained by it, and liked that the subject matter got a little dark at times. The was that great middle grade balance present, between edge and innocence. There was enough material to make you think about the world developed in the story and the ethics and morals (or lack thereof), but there was no language or sexual stuff going on. Definitely middle grade.

Details:
Narrator: Keith Nobbs
Length: 7 hours and 5 mins 


**This audio book counts toward my participation in the 2011 Audio Book Challenge from Teresa's Reading Corner and Whisper Stories in My Ear Audio Book Challenge**

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Review: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

Phew. Deep breaths. My breathing is a tad labored right now. I just finished this Carrie Ryan's newest installment of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series and realized that I hadn't taken one deep breath in a couple hours. How can you with action and stress and edge-of-seat (or bed, in this case) plot twists and turns?

Okay. Beyond this first paragraph, I am going to admit that I have no idea of how to review this book without revealing any spoilers at all. Not that I cannot review the book without talking about the plot, but I don't know how to review this book with no spoilers about the entire series. Therefore, if you have not started this series, I suggest that you do. Those of you who have read it know how great it is. I'm making a bit of a leap here, but I think that most of what I've read online points to a fairly high approval rating. If you like zombie apocalypse stories, or if you want to start liking them, read this series. It's a great way to become a lover of zombie lit. It was my first. A gateway drug, if you will.

For those of you who have read the first two books in this series, I'll explain why this third installment is so very good. If you haven't, it's okay to stop reading. I still love you.

Okay. Let's get down to business. This third book is told from the perspective of Annah, the twin sister of Gabry (nee Abigail), who left her sister behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth a dozen years ago. Annah escaped the forest with Elias, and they carved out a bit of a life together, posing as brother and sister, in the Dark City. Now, the Dark City is filled with the Unconsecrated. It is unlivable and the Recruiters have begun to terrorize survivors.

Annah has managed on her own for three years. She's pretty much living just to avoid the Unconsecrated and is waiting for Elias to come back to her. That is her life. No companionship, no love, no fun. Just Annah and her fears and insecurities and longing. She's alive but dead.

Until she sees her sister, her twin sister, from across a crowded platform. That sighting changes her entire life. Seeing her sister leads to Annah's search for the long-lost Abigail. And their reunion changes Annah's life and her life's purpose forever.

*   *   *
I was not disappointed with this newest series books in the least. I am left wanting more, but I think that this is good. I don't feel like I need more answers about the characters or that any topic was not covered, I would just love to see what continues to happen in this world. And I'm sure that's exactly where the author, Carrie Ryan, wanted to leave her readers. 

I am such a fan of this series and have enjoyed lending these books to my students. I have a creating a serious following among my freshmen boys. It's kinda like an infection spread by the Mudo or Unconsecrated. One student reads The Forest of Hands and Teeth, "bites" the brain of a friend, and the books are spread. It's like the most awesome virus ever.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review: Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley

Corrinne lives a charmed life. Her parents own a posh apartment in NYC and a house on Nantucket. She has credit cards galore and goes out for sushi and (illegal) drinks with her best buds almost nightly. She plans to attend an exclusive boarding school in the fall and life is generally wonderful for cynical, whiny Corrinne.

Really, she is a little hard to like at first. But, when her life's station falls dramatically after the collapse of the economy and once her parents find that they've fallen victim to a Ponzi scheme, Corrinne joins the real world and becomes a much more human. But, it doesn't happen quickly. First, her whole life as she knows it has to disintegrate and crumble before her very eyes. This includes: the sale of the apartment, her father moving to Dubai, and Corrinne and her brother moving to Texas in order to live with her very Texan grandparents. Even worse, no more private school, no more sushi, no more credit, no more friends.

What she does find in Texas is lots of hot weather, twangy accents, public schools filled with (gasp!) public school students, and food with lots and lots of carbs. Basically, she's on an alien planet.

With the help of some of the locals, though, Corrinne adjusts. It takes time, but she is nothing if not a survivor. And, the fact that the town is home to a couple of extremely hot guys (see book cover) does not hurt matters.

Corrinne is truly a round character. I love her for this. Even as she's complaining and melting down, she has an endearing quality to her story. We can al identify, I'm sure, with having to change our habits after the recession hit. I know I have. I haven't had to move to Texas, but I have had to give up some of the extras. And I know how hard but ultimately rewarding this has been for me. By the end of the book, I was super proud of Corrinne and respected her as a person.

This is not a heavy book or one that's full of mystery and intrigue. You basically know what's going to happen throughout. But, it doesn't really matter. Because debut author Gwendolyn Heasley isn't really trying to develop an entirely new character, but improving on the existing character archetype. I think it's pretty successful in it's attempt at romance and realistic characters. I can't wait to pass it on to some of my romance-loving, cowboy-wanting teen students!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Author Guest Post: Laura Kreitzer on Human Trafficking

Recently, I received a request from author Laura Kreitzer, who asked if I'd be interested in giving her some room to talk about an important issue: Human trafficking. At the time, I was actually teaching Patricia McCormick's novel in verse Sold to my sophomore students. We've finished that book and are on to another human rights topic now, but I still think about the character Lakshmi in that book and her horrific story. Here is what Ms. Kreitzer has to say about this issue:

Hello Literary-Folk!

My name is Laura Kreitzer, and I’m the author of the Timeless Series and the Summer Chronicles. This week I would like to alert everyone on a colossal crisis that’s gone unnoticed in the world: human trafficking. That’s why I’ve asked hundreds of blogs to be involved with spreading the word on this issue that’s become close to my heart.
As an author, and someone whose life is put in the spotlight, I keep most people at a distance. Only a handful of my friends know the whole me and the events from my past. But this week I’d like to share with you a part of myself that the outside world doesn’t see (and a part of me I don’t like to share). I was emotionally abused for five years by someone I thought loved me, my mind beaten into submission. Though the turmoil I went through doesn’t penetrate as deep as someone forced into slavery on the worldwide market for human trafficking, I can sadly relate in some ways: imprisoned, my life dictated down to what I wore, ate, where I went, whom I spoke to, where I worked, when I slept, bending to his every whim. He did not sway, even when I cried through some of the more traumatic things he had me do. I was a slave in my own home. In my desperation for freedom, I held out a gun and asked him to just end my suffering. I was desperate.

I can’t even imagine how many women (and men) in the world are in a similar situation. What’s even worse, I had it mild compared to the children that are sold for labor or sex. Surprisingly, the good ol’ U.S.A. is reported to be the host to two million slaves. Did you know this? Because I certainly did not; not until I was preparing to write my newest novel: Phantom Universe. The main character, Summer Waverly, was stolen as a child and sold as a slave to the captain of a modern-day pirate ship. From a loved child who only knew “time-out” as punishment, to being whipped into silence was something I knew nothing about. So I researched deeply into human trafficking and the psychological effects of torture of various types that one would endure in these circumstances. I felt shaken at my findings and knew I had to tell Summer’s story. (Read a sneak peek here.)
A storm began to brew in my mind; transforming, morphing, twisting, and expanding into this massive, black cloud. I had to bring this tragic atrocity to the forefront. My own emotional experiences, mixed with the research I did on human trafficking, made me feel an intense connection with Summer, and to all women who’ve been through this kind of brutality. The cloud ruptured and rained all over my computer one day. It took one month to write Phantom Universe, the first in the Summer Chronicles. I was so consumed by the story that I wrote nearly nonstop, only breaking for necessary tasks like eating, showering, and occasionally—very occasionally—sleeping.

Though the book I’ve written would be classified as Science Fiction, or as I’d like to call it, Dystopian, the emotions and psychological aspects are not Science Fiction—they're real. Reviewers have said many amazing things about Summer, this character who is so real in my mind and who I cried along with as the words poured from my soul onto my screen.
“I admired Summer's strength and ability to adapt,” says CiCi’s Theories. “I felt tied to her emotions,” Jennifer Murgia, author or Angel Star admits. And Tahlia Newland, author of Lethal Inheritance, remarks, “Summer is strong and smart in mind [. . .]”
Through her overwhelmingly horrendous past, Summer goes on more than just a physical journey in Phantom Universe, she goes on a psychological one as well; growing beyond her mute state to persevere and survive in a new world beyond the whip she’s so frightened of.

Now that the release date is here, I’m excited and terrified to share this story with everyone. I’m emotionally tied in every way to the words I’ve written, because they’re more than words. More than just a story on a page. Beyond the fictional aspects, there’s a real issue that needs to be addressed: human trafficking must be stopped. We shouldn’t sit idly by while this continues to plague us. Our world’s children—our nation’s children—are being affected. It’s time we take action!

Earlier this month Phantom Universe hit Barnes and Noble’s top 100 Best Selling list. I’ve decided to donate 10% of my sales from Phantom Universe, until the end of February, to the DNA Foundation.
“DNA hopes to help abolish modern day slavery, deter perpetrators, and free the many innocent and exploited victims. We are committed to forcing sex slavery out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
Freedom is a basic human right and slavery is one of the greatest threats to that freedom. No one has the right to enslave another person.”
—From DNA Foundation’s Website

I ask that you spread the word to everyone you know. Look around on the DNA Foundation website and find a way to get involved in ending human trafficking. Take action today. Everyone has a voice—you have a voice. Will you have the courage to use it?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

In a futuristic world, Nora and her family live as sheltered as possible from the terrorists that threaten their safety. Lucky for Nora and her mother,  Nora's father is a wealthy business man with great connections and lots of resources. So, when Nora and her mother witness a horrific terrorist bombing while shopping one afternoon, they are instantly given appointments at the Therapeutic Forgetting Center, or the TFC.

Once there, Nora watches her mother take a little white pill--One that will erase any memory of the terrorist attack. For Nora, this is her first time at the TFC. She doesn't want to he haunted by the memories of the violent explosion, but she also does not want to completely forget them and be "glossy." While in the waiting room of the clinic, she sees a rebellious classmate leaving the doctor's office. He spits out the little white pill right in front of Nora, making a point for her to see him doing so. Nora follows suit, and an unlikely but revolutionary friendship is formed.

This entire novel is narrated by three lead characters: Nora, Micah (the rebel teen), and Micah's friend Winter. These three teens start a small uprising, which has a huge impact on their world. Each of the teens has their own motivation for creating an expose of the real group behind the terrorist attacks and the Therapeutic Forgetting Center. United by this common interest, they work to create a "memento" or a reminder of the events that everyone is supposed to forget in comic book form.

Don't be fooled by this tiny little book. It contains less than 200 pages, and it's small in stature, but it packs a huge punch. I feel like I could have read more about the world that's created in this story, but I was satisfied and left thinking big huge wonderful thoughts once I had finished. I love a book that doesn't answer all questions for me, but allows me to think for myself. Which is probably the point of a story like Nora's. We need to be allowed to interpret and deal with our own memories in a way that works for us.

I can see lots of connections to other books in the dystopian genre, but I still feel like this is a fresh take on the future. Certainly, there are definite links between the world of this book and the one we currently live in: Out of control advertising, gated communities, conspicuous consumerism, the culture of pills, and the use of underground tactics to expose governments. Good, old fashioned protests. Almost like the ones in Egypt. But different.

For all of these reasons and more, I'll definitely purchase a copy of this book for my free reading shelves in my classroom. I know that this story will appeal to some of my up-and-coming revolutionaries and the size will lure more than a few reluctant readers. And, once they're in, they'll want to find out what happens.

**ARC Review Copy Provided by Jen Bigheart of Banned Book Tours**

Want to hear more about the dystopian genre? Check out Presenting Lenore's 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Review: Drought by Pam Bachorz

When I first heard that Pam Bachorz had written another dystopian book, I was overjoyed. I absolutely loved Candor and couldn't wait for another book by the same author. At first, I enjoyed this new book and when a bit starry eyed by the possibilities the world of this book held. Unfortunately, though, this love was short lived and was quickly replaced by lots and lots of confusion.

Drought is the story of a sort of cult, the "Congregation," who has lived for hundreds of years in a secluded section of forest.  They first entered the forest as a group of free people, but were imprisoned in it by an evil dictator named Darwin West more than two hundred years ago.

Though the outside world has progressed without them, it's as if Ruby and her brethren are still in the early 1800s. They know nothing of the outside world and are completely focused on the one thing that will keep them alive and spare them from the wrath of Darwin and the overseers--Water. With drought at an all-time high, Darwin is obsessed with the Congregation collecting as much water--single droplet by singe droplet--as they can. Each day, each member of the Congregation stuggles to find a cup fo water. Seems easy enough, but the end of each day finds more and more of the Congregation beaten bloody for their failure to produce.

Why Water? This is not your every day H2O. Darwin thinks the water in this forest, the Water that has sustainned life among the Congregation for so long is magical because of the manner in which it's collected. Little does he know that every night, Ruby's mother Sula sneaks off to the cisterns that contain the magical water to add in the magic ingredient--the blood of the group's prophet.

But, the blood is almost gone and the prophet, Otto, has yet to return after hundreds of years. How will the group survive without the blood of their savior and without magic water to keep the evil Darwin at bay?

Even as I write this summary, the book almost sounds fairly good. In its plot, this book has definite potential. Solid potential, even. In actuality, the promise of the plot is not quite realized. There is a definite underlying story here, an epic one. It might be related to Jesus and those who blindly follow prophets and the blood of Christ and profiteers of religion...But, I'm not exactly sure. Because there is the whole supernatural living-for-hundreds-of years thing thrown in and lots and lots of unanswered questions.

It feels to me (and I'm not saying this as an author, but as a frequent reader of this genre), that there was too big a bite attempted with this book. As in, if there were less issues taken on, there might have been a great book here. I did not hate this book, but I feel like it was never really came together. I am hoping that some of the elements of this story that were not so clean were cleaned up for the final draft. The ARC that I read is rife with errors, more so than many other ARCs I have read. Maybe the published version is cleaner and some of the plot disparities and questions have been cleared up?

I know that I would still read this book even if I had read negative reviews of it beforehand. I love this genre so much that I really and truly can overlook much of the negatives about any book written in this genre. If you're a die hard lover of dystopias, you will probably read this book no matter what people say. It's not perfect, but there's still some great ideas and some interesting moments in this story. If you're  more casual in your approach to dystopias, you may not want to pick this one.

Based on Candor, I will continue to read book written by Pam Bachorz! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Winner + Additional Contest: Our Alphabet of L-O-V-E, Inspired by David Levithan

Happy Valentine's Day! 



I'm writing to announce the winner of my giveaway of David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary AND to encourage a more complete A-Z dictionary of LOVE. Here are your entries so far:

adoration: loving someone not despite their faults but because of them.
amore: Italian for love

amour: A love affair, especially an illicit one.
ardor: passion

biglove: when you have mad love for someone!
blessed: To know that there is someone out there that can share my good times, my bad times and all those wonderful moments in between.
bliss: the feeling of joy that you get sharing amazing moments with those close to you.
butterflies: the feeling you get in your tummy when you realize you are in love, and hopefully continue to feel for as long as you are in love.

cherish: to adore, protect, care for lovingly.
cherish: To hold someone dear to your heart. 
children: there is no greater love than what you feel for your children.
commitment: Realizing your stuck with your partner for life and dealing with it.
commitment: part of love is making a commitment to another person, committing your heart to them, and promising to be there and sticking to it.
companionship: To be by someone's side for the rest of your lives.
companionship: A feeling of bliss and serenity when you realise that not only do you adore your beloved but you also enjoy sharing every moment of your day with him.
compassion: Understanding you're mate and what they may be going through at any given time and understanding when they may feel a bit crabby.
compromise: the ability to understand that you aren't always right.
courtship: The act of dating, or before a couple is married.

devoted: Knowing that there is one person out there that will never have me turning my head to look at someone else and thing "I wonder...." and knowing that he feels the same way to.
devotion: love that is expressed through actions and words
devotion: giving your all for the one you love.
devour: As in "I'm going to devour you"....that's a little sexy, but still full of love.

embrace: An affectionate hug.
empathy: understanding of another's feelings: the ability to identify with and understand somebody else's feelings or difficulties.
enamored: in love, charmed, captivated.
enchanted: utterly delighted or captivated; fascinated; charmed.

faith: The confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, concept or thing.
faith: Believing that no matter what happens, or how many things don't work out, God always has something better waiting for you.
fearless: To love with all your heart & not be afraid to fall.
*fearless: To be scared out of your mind, but falling in love anyway. Winning Definition!*
fidelity: You can't have a lasting relationship without it.
fond: Having a strong liking, inclination, or affection.
fondness: to like being around someone
forgiveness: the act of choosing not to hold past wrongs against someone ; is a necessity to stay in a long term relationship
forgiveness: as in, forgiving them when they do something really stupid like forgetting your birthday or valentines day.

giggles: A side-affect of falling in love (see Shivers, Groans, Gasps and Happy Dances) As in: Ursula found she suffered from the Giggles whenever Thomas was near.

hands: holding someone's hands and feeling butterflies in one's stomach.
heart: The symbol of love; the mascot. What you give to someone when you love them and trust that they'll treasure it always.

helpful: you aren't the only one that feels like everything is crashing down sometimes. be able to share with the one you love...and then be willing to make sure you do what you can to protect them
husband: A man who is loving, honest, fair, generous, empathetic, caring, affectionate, nonjudgemental and respectful of his wife. eg. My husband!

idolize: to love or admire too much.
infatuation: an extravagant passion for something. 
infatuation: A crush. An object of extravagant, short-lived passion.
infatuation: the can't hardly breathe, how am i going to make it through the day feeling
inspiration: the person who gives you all your best ideas/feelings/encouragements. Your love inspiration.
intimacy: Being close to your lover. Something that makes a relationship stronger.

lavish: you can never have too much much love.
love v.
1: willing the absolute good of another and
2: desiring good for yourself in return.
3: a constant exchange of affection and/or support between two people
(see also heroic and charity)
love: /lʌv/ Show Spelled [luhv] Show IPA noun, verb, loved, lov·ing.
–noun 1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for books.


Mother/Mom/Mommy: a mother is loved the longest - from the time you are born. Mother will also love you longest, as she likely loved you before you were born!
Mother: no love on earth compares to that of a mother for her child.
Move: on over Bleep! He's mine!

nurture: nur·ture /ˈnɜrtʃər/ v. To care for another person and bring out the best in him/her; To satisfy one's craving for another person's love.

passion: A powerful emotion, such as love or joy.
passion: kindness and love together. 
passion: That love where your heart aches because you're so in love that it's hard to hold it in - you want to tell the world and you don't want it to ever stop.
power: having the support of the person allows you to have power and do things that you wouldn't normally.
precious: love is precious. It is valuable, and should be cherished.

rapture: An expression of ecstatic feeling.

sex: the showing of love between a husband and wife or partners.
share: Giving of oneself to another.
snookie: (NOT a reference to the Jersey Shore) - an affectionate term of endearment made in reference to a cherished loved one.
soulmate: The magical connection between two people that lasts a lifetime and beyond.
squishy: my niece's nickname, because she loves hugs
support: n. 1) the act of showing encouragement 2) Giving aid to one financially

tenderness: loving someone with affection, honesty, and caution to their feelings.
treasure: Something you find that is of high value or priceless. Your significant other is a treasure.
trust: To hand over your heart, the most fragile yet vital part of you body, to a guy, expecting him NOT to break it. 

unconditional: When you love someone its no matter what. You accept flaws and all.
understanding: To be able to comprehend one's actions and thoughts.
union: The combining of two spirits, two souls.

worship: so much love that you would worship and do anything for the person.

zeal: A feeling of strong eagerness (usually in favor of a person or cause)
zeal: Great warmth and earnest towards a person.
ziggy: my middle son's nickname, because he reminds me of ziggy and how his days are never just perfect, but I still love him.

The winner of this book is: Shahira 

Congrats! Please email me back with your address within 48 hrs to claim your prize!

*   *   *

In related news...

We're missing entries for the following letters: J, K (really?), O, Q, V, X, Y. 

In the interest of creating a more perfect dictionary, I'm looking for some contributions to our list. I'll send on extra commenter a thank-you gift. Please leave an email. I'll keep this open for a day or two. 
Basically, until we've created a complete A-Z of L-O-V-E.

To enter, leave a comment with an additional entry for our lover's dictionary. 
Please, only US folks for this one.

Books With Love Hop: In Love or Out?

Once Upon a Twilight

Welcome to the Valentine's Day Book With Love Hop at DeRaps Reads!

I have noticed that there are two (at least) types of people in this world: Those who look forward to Valentine's Day and feel a surge of love and joy every February 14th, and those who want to retch just thinking about it. The former are usually blissfully in love and the latter are usually those muttering types who complain about "Hallmark" holidays. 

Well, whether you find yourself in the former or the latter category this Valentine's Day, I have a prize for you! Please feel free to enter one or both of these giveaways, as you may just want to win either prize. To enter, simply fill out the form below and choose which prize you'd like to win. I'll announce the winners of these giveaways on February 17th. Happy Valentine's Day!


Prize #1: In Love
A copy of Love, Love, Love by Deborah Reber

Flying Hearts Pendant


Prize #2: Out of Love
Love is Hell by Scott Westerfeld, Melissa Marr, Justine Larbalestier, 
Gabrielle Zevin, and Laurie Faria Stolarz 

Dark Heart Pendant

This giveaway is for US residents only. Sorry, my international lovelies!

Be sure to check out all of the other giveaways in this hop!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Movie Review: Gnomeo and Juliet

This movie is full of awesome. It's funny and adorable and interesting and even somewhat close to the original Romeo and Juliet, given the complete transformation in, um, actors and setting.

I'm not going to rehash the entire plot for you here because, well, you can kinda tell what it's all about from the commercials and from your working knowledge of Romeo and Juliet. Star-crossed lovers, feuding families, mixed messages leading to confusion and tragedy. It's all there. Shakespeare himself even makes an appearance.

But, if you have any reservations about seeing this and you're not completely uptight and against changing the Bard's original texts, go for it. I loved it, my teacher friend loved it, and the adorable 5 year-old stranger sitting next to us rolled with laughter and delight throughout. What a superbly excellent introduction to Shakespeare for that little guy, I think!

Author Interview + Book and Necklace Giveaway: Sara Bennett Wealer of Rival


Recently, I had what Oprah would most likely deem an "Aha" moment. It came after I watched and listened to an amazing performance by our school’s concert band. It was held in our school's gym, with about 800 people watching. As I listened to the music, I looked around at the crowd and saw dozens of students playing air drums and other instruments. This got me thinking about the number of students who could benefit from music education. But, with shrinking budgets, this will not happen any time soon.

I knew that Ms. Sara Bennett Wealer was going to drop by DeRaps Reads for a guest post and knew that her book dealt with two former friends who compete musically. So, I figured Ms. Bennett Wealer might have an opinion or two about the state of music education in our schools. And, I was right!

When people talk about cutting back on music in public education, I often feel like they’re speaking a foreign language. Music was such an important part of my own educational experience that the idea of curtailing or eliminating it just doesn’t compute. Music gave me confidence. It opened new worlds. It made me excited to go to school and kept me motivated when other subjects had me discouraged. 

I often think that the people who want to cut music from public education aren’t thinking about it the right way. They act like music is an “extra” when, really, music can be an integral part of the learning experience.

In fact, you could create an entire curriculum with music as the glue that holds each subject together: 

Languages – How many of us learned French by singing Frere Jacques? I remember my German lessons because our teacher taught us “Du, du liegst mir im hertzen.” Heck, music is its own language, and one that few people end up regretting having learned. 

Literature/Poetry – From lyrics and librettos to symphonies and operas based on myth, legend and classic literature, your lesson plan is almost written for you!

History/Cultures – You can explore everything from daily living, religion and folklore to major historical events by looking at the music people were singing with and for one another.

Science – How do the parts of the body work together to give you your voice? What are the physics of pitch? The mechanics of how a trombone works? How do animals in nature use musical sounds to communicate?

Math – This is a biggie for me. A friend of mine told me his daughter’s school was teaching math by having the children stomp out rhyhms on the floor, and I was so jealous! If someone had taught me that way I might not have grown up terrified of numbers. 

I remember the first time I really, truly understood math – it happened when I was singing Bach’s B-Minor Mass with a symphony chorus. When rehearsals first started, I HATED the piece. It was painful and tedious and hard, with all sorts of changing rhythms, byzantine fugues and harmonies, just a brick wall that I couldn’t get my brain around. I tried to fake it – tried to follow the people next to me, tried to limp along, and I ended up with a headache, a sore throat and a tongue-lashing from my director.

I was forced to face the music – I HAD to count. I had to do the math. I had to work the problem, no shortcuts. So I coaxed my brain into really analyzing and reading, and…

…Seriously? It got way trippy. After a couple more rehearsals, things suddenly clicked! And I felt like I had literally walked into the music. The music took on three dimensions, like I was inside of it – almost like being in an architectural geometric structure. I could feel and hear and see and understand what the numbers were creating, and it was so much more than just digits on a page. It was a gorgeous masterpiece that I love to this day.

Why, oh why couldn’t I have had that experience at age15? 

With today’s focus on standardized testing, I worry that this kind of creative thinking just isn’t being done when it comes to music in public schools. But perhaps we need it more than ever.

Music can get test-weary kids out of their seats. It can help them experience what they’re learning, not just memorize it. It can bring concepts to life. 

Perhaps, instead of putting music in a separate classroom, we should make every classroom musical. Maybe then we’d see that it’s not an “extra” at all!


Find Sara Online: 
Website
Blog
Twitter

And, now for the giveaway. I am so very jealous that one of you is going to win this amazing prize pack. One lucky commenter with a US address will win:

 A copy of Rival 

~AND~

 This cute necklace!

How awesome is that?! To enter, simply comment with an answer to this question:

How has music been important or influential in your life?

Details:

Open to US entrants only
Contest Ends 2/20/2011
Please leave an email address so that I can contact you if you win!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review: Forget You by Jennifer Echols

Zoey Commander's life is a mess. Her father is running off with is twenty-something girlfriend to marry in Hawaii, her normally "together" mother just attempted suicide, and Zoey just slept with her best friend, Brandon. But, the biggest of frustrations is that she had a horrible car accident that could have killed her and a couple of her friends. But, she doesn't remember it or any of the events leading up to it.

Now, Zoey is kinda dating Brandon, her best friend. Brandon has had many conquests, and loves to tell Zoey all about them. And, it appears that he's not really all that concerned about Zoey's accident. Or anything really. Zoey wants for him to want to be her boyfriend, but just never there. 

Worst of all for controlling and (slightly) obsessive Zoey is that the only person who seems to know all of the answers to what happened the night of her car crash is badboy Doug. He went away to juvie when they were younger and his reputation has been forever changed. Sure he's handsome and smart, but he's been to juvie. So he must be crazy. 

Honestly, this book was a fun read. I love Jennifer Echols for romantic-ish, light-ish books. I know when I read her work that it's going to be a bit of the top and filled with heat-of-the-moment scenes. I just know this.  If she were to write a serious "issue" book for teens, I wouldn't know what to do with it. (It would probably be good, because she's an awesome writer. It would just be like drinking soda when you're expecting water. Weird at first, but then good.)

So, when I read criticism of her work that her that knocks her down a little for writing steamy scenes and not being all that serious, I don't take them seriously. I know what Echols is all about. And, my teen girls LOVE her books. In fact, this book was loaned to me by one of my juniors girls who told me that I HAD to read it. How could I resist?

Again, if you're looking for seriousness and a hefty plot that will change your life, this probably isn't it. But, it's a quick, fun read and Echols is a talented writer. I cannot wait to read her next book, Love Story, which is due out in July.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Winner: Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos

Time to announce the winner of Marina Budhos's Tell Us We're Home!

Congrats to Tara of Taming the Bookshelf

Please return my email within 48 hrs to claim your prize!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Follower Love Giveaway Hop: Welcome to DeRaps Reads, Where It's All About the LOVE < 3


Hello and happy love month to all of you! I don't know about you, but I get very excited about this particular holiday. I have been married to my handsome husband for just over three years, and have never felt more happy in my life! We love Valentine's Day and take it as a chance to reconnect and celebrate every year. In this spirit, I am offering up David Levithan's new book The Lover's Dictionary for one lucky commenter!

I have not yet read this book, but have read wildly positive reviews. I have read many, many books by Mr. Leviathan and am a huge fan. He's a great author of YA lit, but this book is more of an adult book, I hear. Hopefully, this does not discourage all of you YA fans from entering this giveaway.

In this book, I am told that Levithan goes through the dictionary and starts each of the 26 segments with a word for love. With this in mind, I'd like you to choose a letter from the (English) alphabet and come up with a love-word for that letter. Then, please write your own definition for that word. This is all you need to do to enter. Oh, please leave your email address so that I can contact you if you win.


You may enter more than once if you like. Just choose a different letter / word each time. This giveaway is open to everyone in the world (as long as the Book Depository ships to you).

In the end, I'll compile my favorite alphabetical list of words/ definitions and arrange an alphabet of love. How fun. And, Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

Author Guest Post: Michael Northrop of Trapped

Michael Northrop, the author of the snowy survival tale, Trapped, stopped by to give his Top Ten Wintry Movies. I haven't seen all of these, but in some (The Shining and Fargo) I can see where he got some gruesome inspiration for his book. Here is Mr. Northrop's list:

The Shining

Fargo

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Thing

Pale Rider

The Dead (based on a brilliant story by James Joyce)

A Simple Plan

Slap Shot

Winter’s Bone


 What are your favorite wintry movies??

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Evie isn't your average every day girl. She's not even an average paranormal girl. Everything about her--from her birth to her teen years--is mysterious and interesting. Only, Evie doesn't quite see her life this way. She think it's pretty boring, not going to high school and having a locker like all other "normal" teens. Her life is anything but normal. And that's never really been enough for her.

She works and lives at the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA for short). She came to the IPCA when she was just eight years old, after she was discovered. You see, Evie can see through the glamours that most paranormals (vampires, werewolves, zombies, mermaids, faeries, etc) use when trying convince humans that they are regular people. So they can kill them. Evie sees what no one else can--the truth behind the lie.

But Evie's truth is that she'd rather have the every day problems of the teens she sees on TV than the ones she has. She has a sort of ex-boyfriend faerie man who is stalking her a little bit, a best friend who's a mermaid in a glass case, and no family that she's ever met. As far as she knows, she's entirely alone in the world. That is, until she catches a mysterious paranormal sneaking around the IPCA center after hours. Of course, she tazers him, but after that she realizes that he's cute and that they have a lot in common. By the time that she's figuring out who he is, she and all of the other humans and paranormals at the IPCA are in trouble. Because there's a serial killer going after paranormals. And it's just arrived at the IPCA.

I'm not even doing the plot justice by summarizing it here, so I'll just switch to gushing about how awesome it is. I really, really wish that I had read this book when it first came out, but I never really saw how great it was. I read the summaries and reviews and wanted to read it, but never got around to buying it.  Until Ms. Kai from Fiction State of Mind sent me this awesome book. I've been wanting to read it for some time and am so glad I did. Thanks, Kai!

What did I love about it? Well, it's funny and light and interesting and there is some suspense, but most of all, it's original. I felt like I was reading something totally new and fresh, which is awesome because I've read an awful lot of paranormal in the past year and I think it takes a great plot and cast of characters to seem "new" and "fresh" in this saturated genre.

I loved that it was funny, too. So often paranormal lacks a bit of the humor because it can take itself a little too seriously. Sure, the world and all of humanity is going to perish in a paranormal-induced whirlwind of fire and craziness, but there is room for a few laughs here and there, no? Best of all, the humor wasn't forced, but felt natural coming from Evie and a couple of the other characters. Not everyone was funny. Evie was because it is part of her personality. Love her!

And the relationships were interesting. I love thinking of this girl who has these powers and can use them to better the world, but who still sees her life as boring. Is any teenager every satisfied with their life? Doesn't every teenager claim to be bored most of the time? Even if they are chasing vampires and werewolves, I think that it's just the nature of the teen years to feel like they're missing out.

I cannot wait to read more of this series. I've read that it's going to be a three-part series, which is delightful. I haven't heard any info about the title/ cover for book two, but I will be on the lookout!

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