Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - The Haunted

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

The Haunted (The Hollow #2) by Jessica Verday
Published by Simon Pulse
Publishing Date: August 31, 2010

Summary from GoodreadsAfter a summer spent reclaiming her sanity and trying to forget the boy she fell in love with by the bridge where her best friend drowned - the boy who must not exist, cannot exist, because she knows that he is dead - Abbey returns to Sleepy Hollow, determined to leave the ghosts of her past behind. She throws herself into schoolwork, perfume-making and her friendship with Ben, her cute and funny lab partner, who just might be able to help her get over Caspian once and for all.

But Abbey is never going to truly be able to move on from Caspian and Caspian has no choice but to return to her side: for Caspian is a Shade and Abbey is his destiny. The two are tied not only to each other, but also to the town of Sleepy Hollow and the famous legend that binds their fates - a legend whose true ending and dark truths they are only just beginning to guess...

I read The Hollow last year, right after it came out.  I actually live near Sleepy Hollow, so it was interesting to see how Verday incorporated the town and legend into her novel.  I'm excited to see how the story continues.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Talk Contest Winners!!

A BIG thank you to everyone who entered!!

The winners chosen by are:
Travis who won The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan


Kris who won The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

They have both been notified and have 48 hours to respond with their mailing information.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Talk - The Power of the Series

Today's Book Talk post comes from Kris from Voracious Yappetite.  Kris is a YA Blogger whose blog is filled with reviews, blogger and author interviews, book news and information about the latest YA releases.  Take some time to visit her blog and experience the greatness for yourself!

The Power of the Series
Why We Stick with Series That Disappoint Us, Get Progressively Worse, or We Just Plain Don’t Even Like That Much

A few weeks ago, I was reading a review on a fellow YA blogger’s website about the latest installment in a well-known YA book series. The blogger lamented that the series started out strong and that they basically devoured the first few books -- but then things changed.

As the series progressed, the story lost its spark. It wasn’t as captivating or suspenseful anymore. The characterization was lacking. The plotting seemed forced. The latest book, the blogger said, was hard to slog through.

Interestingly, though, the blogger admitted that they would most likely continue with the series. Despite the fact that the series had gone from a favorite to a disappointment, the blogger planned to stick it out to the very end.

I realized, as I read this post, that I’ve heard other readers make similar statements. And that includes me.

Which had me marveling over the power that series have over us. How fascinating it is that a series doesn’t have to deliver with every book for readers to continue with it!

After a bit of rumination, I decided that there are a few reasons that I attribute to this strange “sticking it out” commitment that we make to less-than-stellar series:

- Positive thinking. You hope that the series will regain its former glory or improve after a slow start. If you liked the series from the beginning but the latest book was a disappointment, you hope that it was just a fluke and that the next book will be just as great as the first ones. If you didn't really care for the first book but you're planning to read the next book anyway, then the series has probably garnered a lot of publicity and buzz, been a favorite of a friend, or been widely adored by other readers. You think to yourself that maybe you have been overly critical of the first book or that the author just needs time to "come into their own," and that maybe you should give the next book a chance.

- Investment in the characters. Each book you read in a series strengthens the connection you have to the characters. The longer you spend with them, the harder it is to let them go. You become attached. They mean something to you, and even if they’ve annoyed you or let you down recently, you’re willing to give them another shot.

- The cliffhanger. We’re all familiar with the cliffhanger -- it’s that twist plugged in the last chapter of a book, or even the very last page, that leaves your mouth hanging open, eyes popped wide, heart thumping a mile a minute, all the while thinking, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?! It’s that breathless, nail-biting moment that causes you to freak out for the next 6 to 12 months, tossing ideas back and forth with fellow readers about what it all means and what will happen in the next book. Even if the entire book up until that point wasn’t all that great, the cliffhanger is enough to bring you back for another round.

See a theme with the reasons above? It goes like this: we “stick it out” because no matter how we feel about each individual book, the fact remains that after each book, there is no real conclusion. Regardless of whether the main conflict in each installment is resolved, the series as a whole isn’t over. So we are left to wonder: will the series get better? Is this latest book just a blip in an otherwise great series? What’s going to happen next with the characters? In terms of plot? How will the story finally end in the last book? A series’ ultimate power is its ingenious ability to manipulate our desire to know -- and that’s often reason enough to keep us coming back for more.

It’s sure worked on me, a couple of times! Has the power of the series gotten to you before?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - The Lost Hero

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus #1)
Written by Rick Riordan
Published by Hyperion Books for Children
Publication Date: October 12, 2010

Summary from Goodreads: Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently she’s his girlfriend Piper, his best friend is a kid named Leo, and they’re all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids.” What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea—except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn’t recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on?

Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What’s troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all—including Leo—related to a god.

We get not one,  but two books by Rick Riordan this year!  I was very excited about The Red Pyramid, the start to a new series about Egypt and its gods.  But, to be honest, I missed Camp Half-Blood a little, so I'm happy that we get to go back and experience it again with some new characters. 

There was a great article on The Lost Hero at EW's Shelf Life Blog

You can find out more about Rick Riordan and his books at

What is your Waiting on Wednesday pick?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Publisher Spotlight - Egmont USA

I was lucky enough to be able to go to BEA last month and despite the craziness of the exhibition floor, was able to get some great ARCs. Rather than post a list of the ARCs, I thought it would be more fun to take a look at the different publishers and some of their upcoming releases. I noticed that Jenny at Wondrous Reads does a feature called UK Publisher Spotlight where she highlights publishers and their newest titles. So, I asked if I could borrow her idea and focus on US Publishers and she was nice enough to say yes!  Jenny’s blog is made of awesomesauce (plus she let me borrow her very cool idea), so you should definitely go visit.

Today we're taking a look at Egmont USA.  This publisher's tagline is: We Bring Stories to Life

According to their website:

Egmont USA is a children’s book publisher based in Manhattan. We have been building our team and our list and planning our launch since January 2008. We have a small, highly experienced and talented team across editorial and marketing and we are fired up about making a real impact with our books.

Egmont USA is part of the Egmont Group, one of Scandinavia’s leading media groups, with activities including film, TV production, and interactive games.
At BEA, I was able to stop by the Egmont booth.  Everyone at the booth was very friendly and welcoming.  The editors were eager to show off their upcoming books and hand out ARCs.  I have to admit that every book I've read from Egmont has been terrific, so I have high hopes for the ARCs I got from them.

On Wednesday at BEA, Egmont was spotlighting these books:

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus
Publication Date: July 13, 2010
My review

His love captivated her... his secrets might kill her.

Since her sister’s mysterious death, Persephone “Phe” Archer has been plagued by a series of disturbing dreams. Determined to find out what happened to her sister, Phe enrolls at Devenish Prep in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts—the subject of her sister’s final diary entry.

After stepping on campus, Phe immediately realizes that there’s something different about this place—an unexplained epidemic that decimated the town in the 1700s, an ancient and creepy cemetery, and gorgeous boy Zach—and somehow she’s connected to it all.

But the more questions she asks and the deeper she digs, the more entangled Phe becomes in the haunting past of Shadow Hills. Finding what links her to this town…might cost her her life.

Siren by Tricia Rayburn
Publication Date: July 13, 2010
Seventeen-year-old Vanessa Sands is afraid of everything—the dark, heights, the ocean—but her fearless older sister, Justine, has always been there to coach her through every challenge. That is, until Justine goes cliff-diving one night near the family’s vacation house in Maine, and her lifeless body washes up on shore the next day.
Though her parents hope that they’ll be able to find closure back in Boston, Vanessa can’t help feeling that her sister’s death wasn’t an accident. After discovering that Justine was keeping a lot of secrets, Vanessa returns to Winter Harbor, hoping that Justine’s boyfriend might know more. But Caleb has been missing since Justine’s death.

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

Vanessa turns to Caleb’s brother, Simon, for help, and begins to find herself drawn to him. As the pair try to understand the sudden rash of creepy drownings, Vanessa uncovers a secret that threatens her new romance—and will change her life forever.

Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart
Publication Date: August 24, 2010

Could any two sisters be more tightly bound together than the twins, Katherine and Anna? Yet love and fate intervene to tear them apart. Katherine's guilt and sense of betrayal leaves her longing for death, until a surprise encounter and another near catastrophe rescue her from a tragic end. Set against the magical kaleidoscope of the Philadelphia Centennial fair of 1876, National Book Award nominee Beth Kephart's book conjures the sweep and scope of a moment in history in which the glowing future of a nation is on display to the disillusioned gaze of a girl who has determined that she no longer has a future. The tale is a pulse by pulse portrait of a young heroine's crisis of faith and salvation in the face of unbearable loss.

How to Grow Up and Rule the World, by Vordak the Incomprehensible
by Scott Seegert and illustrated by John Martin
Publication Date:  August 24, 2010

Slip on your acid-free gloves, make sure you have a duplicate copy of How to Grow Up and Rule the World (just in case something should happen to this one) and try to follow along as the incomparable, superior-in-all-ways Vordak the Incomprehensible teaches you a thing or two about villainy. Now you, too, can try (and fail) to attain Vordak's level of infamy.

From selecting the most dastardly name, to choosing the ideal henchmen, to engaging in witty repartee with disgustingly chipper superheroes, experienced supervillain Vordak the Incomprehensible guides readers step-by-step toward the ultimate goal of world domination (from his parents' basement in Trenton, New Jersey).

With chapter titles like "Bringing Out the Evil" and "Building a Top-Notch Evil Organization," numerous bold illustrations, and detailed quizzes to assess your level of dastardliness, this book provides everything necessary to rise above the masses, and then rub your ascent in their faces.

In return for this wealth of knowledge, Vordak requests nothing more than an honored place in the evil regime of he who achieves control of the world. (And, of course, the opportunity to assume command, should things not work out.)

Rich and Mad by William Nicholson
Publication Date: September 14, 2010

This is a compelling and beautifully written novel about first love, first sex, and everything in between. Maddy Fisher has decided to fall in love. And not just any sort of love: can't-eat can't-sleep crazy in love. Rich Ross is after the same thing. He's set his sights high, and he's going to make it happen. The problem is, in life's messy whirlwind of friends and lies and sex and porn, the real thing can be hard to fine. But there's always a first time for everything

Notes from the Blender by Brendan Halpin and Tricia Cook
Publication Date: October 26, 2010

Declan loves four things: death metal (particularly from Finland), violent video games, Internet porn, and Neilly Foster. He spends most of his classroom time wondering what it might be like to know her, to talk to her, maybe even brush against her in the hallway.

Neilly is an accomplished gymnast, naturally beautiful, and attends all the best parties (to which Declan is never invited). But in one horrible day, she’s dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her former BFF Lulu, and walks in on her mom and some guy when they are half-naked.

Turns out, Declan’s dad is marrying Neilly’s mom. Soon. Which means they’ll be one happy Brady Bunch–like family.

In a hilarious, smart, seductive romp, Brendan Halpin and Trish Cook take us on a journey with Dec and Neilly as they discover the true meaning of family.

Also from Egmont this fall:

Virgin Territory by James Lecesne
Publication Date:  September 14, 2010

Virgin Territory explores the power of faith and our need to believe in miracles. Sixteen-year-old Dylan Flack is uprooted from his cozy life in New York City by the death of his mother of cancer the night before 9/11. Transplanted to Jupiter, Florida, he finds each day stretching darkly into a future without hope. Enter: the Virgin Club, a nomadic group of trailer kids whose mostly single parents drag them all over the country in search of sightings of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Although not looking for membership in any club, Dylan falls in love with their leader, Angela, who believes that change occurs in direct proportion to desire and the willingness to take risks. In a series of misadventures and brushes with the law, she teaches Dylan to risk a future without his beloved mother. miraculously, his newfound courage leads to a confession from his father that brings them closer together and catapults Dylan into a future that holds more promise.

Blood on my Hands by Todd Strasser
Publication Date: September 28, 2010

Callie Carson couldn’t be happier. She finally got an invite to one of the coolest parties of the year. But her night with the inner circle quickly ends when she makes a horrifying discovery: her friend Katherine has been killed, and the bloody knife is in Callie’s hand.

Now several partygoers are snapping cell-phone pictures of Callie standing over Katherine’s body with the murder weapon. In a panic, Callie bolts into the woods, knowing that she’ll be blamed for a crime she didn’t commit.

With guilt-ridden photos all over the Web, it will take a miracle for Callie to prove her innocence . . . especially since the real murderer is still out there.

The Dragons of Noor by Janet Lee Carey
Publication Date: October 12, 2010

A dreamwalker who has lost her way. A shape shifter who fears his own dark power. A fire herd punished for his magic. Can these three teens keep the human world of Noor and the magical world of Oth from splitting apart?

The ancient trees of Noor are dying. If the blight kills the last azure trees whose deep roots bind the worlds, the bridge between Noor and Oth will split apart forever. Already as Hanna, Miles, and Taunier sail to the source of the blight, the rent between the worlds is widening, and magic is going out of Noor. The quest deepens when a strange wind blows across Noor stealing young children, and Hanna is powerless to protect her younger brother from the stealing wind. The Three journey east to the azure forests of Jarrosh. East to the dragon lands. East to the place where the wind-stolen children were taken. In Jarrosh, among dragons, the Three will be challenged to discover their hidden powers. Each of them must break beyond the boundaries of self to discover the ancient magic joining all to all.
In addition to these amazing sounding YA titles, Egmont USA has a whole slate of Middle Grade books coming out this fall.  Each one sounds more interesting that the one before.  Looks like fall is going to be a busy reading season!

Which of these titles are you most excited about?

Want more information about Egmont USA?  Visit their website:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Review - Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Published on March 30, 2010
Review based on ARC (received from Book It Forward ARC Tours)
Rating: 4 bookcases

Summary from Goodreads:  After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.

Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, BIRTHMARKED explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where one girl can make all the difference, and a real hero makes her own moral code.

Birthmarked takes place in the 2400s; years after most of the Earth’s resources have been depleted. What is left of the population is divided; a small portion lives in the Enclave, a city surrounded by a tall stone wall, while the rest live in Wharfton, outside of the wall. The wall denotes more than the cities’ borders, it represents the separation of the haves and have-nots. Gaia Stone and her parents live in Western Sector 3 of Wharfton, where they have led a happy life until the start of novel.

Birthmarked was a fantastic, well paced novel that tells the story of Gaia and her disillusionment with the society she lives in. At the start, Gaia was happy to do her part for the Enclave, being a midwife and advancing three babies per month and believing what she saw about the Enclave on the Tvaltar. After her parents were arrested for treason, Gaia began to question some of the Enclave’s practices. She quickly realized that her parents would probably not be coming back and put into place a plan to sneak into the Enclave. Once inside the wall, Gaia was amazed by what she saw. The Enclave was the same, but very different from what she expected.

This is when the story really took off. The opening chapter introduced the reader to Gaia and the fact that the Enclave and the Protectorate ruled over Wharfton. Once Gaia took the reader inside the wall, her life changed completely. Her innocence about the Enclave was stripped away and as a result of one simple act, she became a traitor.

We talked about strong female characters on Thursday, and I think that Gaia Stone would fit in nicely with Katniss, Rose, DJ Schwenck, and Frankie Landau-Banks. Gaia was a very driven young woman. She knew what she wanted and did everything in her power to get it. She stood up for what she believed, even when she was branded a traitor. Instead of bowing to pressure from both friends and those in power, Gaia stayed true to herself and her beliefs.

The quick pace and excellent world building had me glued to this book. I wanted to know what happened next, would Gaia find her parents; would she ultimately find her way back to Wharfton? In addition to the action, there was a small amount of romance.  It was a lovely part of the story that really helped to round out Gaia's character.  I liked that in the midst of everything that was happening, Gaia was able to find someone that truly loved her for who she was. Another aspect of the book that I really liked was the characters. Most of the characters felt real to me; from Gaia to her neighbors to the Protectorate, they were all written in a way that made them leap off the page. 
The only part of Birthmarked that I didn’t particularly like was the ending. The last few chapters felt a little rushed. The action at this point was non-stop and the ending felt incomplete. Maybe, I was expecting or hoping for a different ending. Then ending leaves room for the question, what happened to Gaia next? From what I’ve read, the author originally planned Birthmarked as a stand-alone novel, but she is now writing a sequel. So maybe we’ll find out what happens next for Gaia.
Overall, Birthmarked was a great addition to the dystopian genre. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to those who enjoy reading dystopian books. I would also recommend Birthmarked to readers who might be hesitant to read this genre because I feel that it is a great introduction to the type of books that dystopian has to offer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book Talk - Strong Female Characters in YA Fiction

Today's Book Talk post is by Christina T from Reading Extensively.  Christina is a librarian who loves YA and Historical Fiction.  She has been blogging for about 5 months and if you haven't been to her blog yet, you should definitely go visit. 

When I was a little girl I loved stories with princesses who were rescued by brave and handsome princes. My personal favorite was Sleeping Beauty. As I grew older however I slowly became disenchanted with that type of story. I think it partly had to do with my own experiences with the boys I knew-none of them seemed to have "prince potential". They seemed to be more like frogs! I also hated being physically weak (like I felt in gym class) and I didn't like when I was made to feel inferior because I was a girl. Then when I was a teenager one of my English teachers introduced me to Aerin, the dragon fighting heroine of The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. In some ways, Aerin changed my life. I began to realize that I didn't want to be rescued-I wanted to be strong myself and I wanted to read books about intelligent women who made things happen instead of being passive.

What makes a strong female character? It isn't necessarily physical strength. For me this definition can also include characters that are intelligent, brave, or determined. Strong female characters face all kinds of challenges but they don’t give up.

 Here are some books that feature characters with great physical, mental, or emotional strength.

Historical Fiction

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

Mary Quinn is rescued from the noose by a teacher at Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls-a special school that is also home to The Agency, a secret organization of female detectives. The Agency recruits Mary and she is soon assigned her first undercover case, posing as a lady’s companion in the home of a wealthy merchant suspected of smuggling. A Spy in the House is the first book in the Agency series. Book two, The Body At The Tower will be published in August.

What makes Mary a strong female character?

She is intelligent, resourceful, and brave as an undercover spy trying to stop a smuggler. Mary rises above her circumstances as a convicted pickpocket to become a successful detective. She faces prejudice as a woman and as someone of Asian heritage but she doesn't let that stop her.

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

After her parents Cleopatra and Marc Antony are defeated by Octavian and commit suicide, Selene and her brother are taken to Rome to live with Octavian’s sister. They don’t know what fate awaits them.

What makes Selene a strong female character?

Selene shows courage in the face of adversity and great loss. In a time when women had very limited choices Selene is incredibly well educated and she uses her skills to make a new life for herself. She also does her best to fight the injustices she sees around her.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Ida Mae Jones has always wanted to be a pilot like her late father who taught her to fly. After her older brother enlists during WWII, Ida Mae decides she wants to do her part too. She applies for the newly formed Women's Airforce Service Pilots program but they don't accept African Americans so she must "pass" as White. Even though she gets into the program there is a lot of prejudice against women and she is also afraid that someone will find out the truth about her.

What makes Ida Mae a strong female character?

Flying is dangerous, some of the instructors do their best to keep the women from succeeding, and Ida Mae has to keep her real identity a secret. She could easily have given up but Ida Mae is brave and determined to follow her dreams to be a pilot.

Contemporary Fiction

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

DJ Schwenk works really hard on her family's dairy farm. Since her father's injury she is the one who does most of the work. Then DJ is asked to help train the QB of the rival football team since she used to help her older brothers with their training. She enjoys it so much that she decides to try out for football herself even though she knows she will face plenty of opposition.

What makes DJ a strong female character?

I admire DJ because she has strength of character as well as physical strength. She has an amazing work ethic and doesn't give up even with all the obstacles in her way. She is there for her family and she fights for what she believes in. This is the first of three books about DJ, followed by The Off Season (my personal favorite) and Front and Center.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie Landau-Banks is a student at Alabaster Preparatory Academy. As she heads into her sophomore year Frankie suddenly becomes popular when she catches the eye of senior Matthew Livingston. Matthew is a member of a long standing boys-only secret society, The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. When Frankie accidentally finds out about the secret society, she thinks it is unfair that it excludes girls so she decides to infiltrate the club.

What makes Frankie a strong female character?

Frankie is intelligent, creative, and cunning. All her life she has been seen as this sweet little girl and she isn’t taken seriously by anyone. She could have just enjoyed her newly popular status and coveted boyfriend. Instead she decides to do something about the injustice of the male-only secret society to prove to Matthew and others that she is smart and capable.

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter

The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women on the surface appears to be like any other all girl prep school but in reality it is a school dedicated to training female spies.  The main character is Cammie Morgan who is a talented spy but has difficulties in the boy department. The Gallagher Girls series features female characters that are highly intelligent and capable. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You is book one in the Gallagher Girls series.

What makes the Gallagher Girls strong female characters?

The girls are incredibly intelligent, brave, true to themselves, and their friends. Cammie sometimes wishes she could have a normal life but serving her country as a spy is more important to her. She has endured the loss of her father but she chooses to train for active spy duty even with the dangers it entails.

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

After Penny Lane's heart is crushed by a boy she decides to stop dating until she graduates from high school and forms The Lonely Hearts Club, named in honor of her favorite musical group, The Beatles. This club isn't about hating on boys though. It is about helping girls to see that they have to live their own lives instead of being caught up in being what a guy wants them to be.

What makes Penny Lane a strong female character?

She uses her pain to make a positive difference in the lives of other girls. Penny stands up to the challenges of other students who criticize the club and to the boy who broke her heart. She shows strength by being true to herself and eventually giving love another chance.

Speculative Fiction

Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier

In Cybele's Secret, Paula accompanies her father on a trip to Istanbul to buy a rare artifact. Their pursuit of the artifact brings them into danger and it is up to Paula to save the day. This book follows Marillier's other YA novel, Wildwood Dancing, which is about Paula's older sister Jena.

What makes Paula a strong female character?
Paula is a gifted young scholar although some underestimate her since she is a girl. I admired Paula's bravery, intelligence, and her dedication to learning. She goes through many dangerous trials to save those she cares about.

Daughter of the Flames by Zoe Marriott

Daughter of the Flames is the story of Zira, a scarred young woman who is training to be a warrior. Zira is a Ruan and her people have been subjugated by their enemy, the Sedorne. When Zira saves the life of a young man being attacked by bandits she is surprised to find he is a Sedorne lord. While he turns out to be kind and pledges to help Zira if she is in need, her rescue sets off a tragic chain of events for her own people.

What makes Zira a strong female character?

Zira is physically strong and brave but she also has to become a leader to her people. She shows emotional strength and determination in the face of loss. It isn't easy to make decisions when you are being criticized and your actions could have heavy consequences. I found Zira to be a flawed but admirable character.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

Eon has been training for years in the hope that he will be chosen to be a Dragoneye, apprenticed to one of the twelve dragons of good fortune. But Eon has two things against him: he is lame and he is actually a sixteen year old girl named Eona hiding her identity since only boys are permitted to train.

What makes Eona a strong female character?

 Eona faces a lot of challenges on her way to being a Dragoneye including physical pain, competition from other stronger contenders, and dangerous enemies. If it is discovered that she is a girl she could be put to death yet she continues to train.  This is one of my favorite fantasy novels.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy is the first book in a series about mortal vampires with magical abilities called Moroi and Dhampir, their part human/part vampire bodyguards. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir and the best friend of Lissa Dragomir, a Moroi vampire princess. They attend a special school where Rose is in training to be a Guardian, one of the Dhampir elite who are assigned to protect the Moroi from their immortal enemies, the evil Strigoi.

What makes Rose a strong female character?

Rose is blessed with physical strength, a lot of courage and a lot of attitude. While her headstrong ways at times get her into trouble, Rose is very protective and loyal towards those she loves. She isn't afraid to make hard decisions or to stand up to those who are in the wrong. Rose has really matured throughout the series as she faces greater challenges.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In The Hunger Games, teens are forced to battle to the death in a televised event all for the viewing pleasure of the Capitol. When Katniss's younger sister Prim's name is called, Katniss steps forward to take her sister's place. The sequel to The Hunger Games is the riveting Catching Fire. The series concludes this August with Mockingjay.

What makes Katniss a strong female character?

When I think of strong female character the name that immediately comes to mind is Katniss Everdeen. She is brave, fierce, and determined to survive. Katniss protects and provides for her family. In the face of the horrors of the Hunger Games she somehow holds on to her humanity. 

These are just some of my favorite YA books with strong female characters.
Do you agree with my list? Which characters do you admire?

A big Thank You to Christina for this great Book Talk! 

If you have an idea for a future Book Talk post please fill out this form.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - Zombies vs. Unicorns

Zombies vs. Unicorns Edited by Holly Black and Justine Larabalestier
Published by Margaret K. McElderry (Simon & Schuster)
To be Published on September 21, 2010

Summary from Simon & Schuster Fall 2010 Catalog:  It's a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths--for good and evil--of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

Zombies vs. Unicorns sounds like it will be a fun book.  I can't wait to read all of the stories and see which side gives a stronger argument.  Right now I'm leaning towards Team Zombie, but lately all the books about unicorns have made them sound pretty awesome.  Are you Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Sunday, June 13, 2010

In My Mailbox (20)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme that talks about books that have been bought, swapped, received for review or borrowed from the library. In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie.

This week, 2 books that I ordered last month came, YAY!

And then I couldn't resist buying Middleworld (Jaguar Stones #1) by Jon Voekel and Pamela Voekel:

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to a family vacation. But his parents, both archaeologists and Maya experts, announce a change in plan. They must leave immediately for a dig in the tiny Central American country of San Xavier. Max will go to summer camp. Max is furious. When he's mysteriously summoned to San Xavier, he thinks they've had a change of heart.
Upon his arrival, Max's wild adventure in the tropical rainforests of San Xavier begins. During his journey, he will unlock ancient secrets and meet strangers who are connected to him in ways he could never have imagined. For fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to this pampered teenager. Can Max rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save the world from the Lords of Death, who now control the power of the Jaguar Stones in their villainous hands? The scene is set for a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror, as the good guys and the bad guys face off against a background of haunted temples, zombie armies, and even human sacrifice! 

What did you get in your mailbox?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review - Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus
Published by Egmont USA
Published on July 13, 2010
Review based on ARC (Received from YA Addict Book Tours)
Rating: 4 Bookcases

Summary from Goodreads:
His love captivated her... his secrets might kill her.

Since her sister’s mysterious death, Persephone “Phe” Archer has been plagued by a series of disturbing dreams. Determined to find out what happened to her sister, Phe enrolls at Devenish Prep in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts—the subject of her sister’s final diary entry.

After stepping on campus, Phe immediately realizes that there’s something different about this place—an unexplained epidemic that decimated the town in the 1700s, an ancient and creepy cemetery, and gorgeous boy Zach—and somehow she’s connected to it all.

But the more questions she asks and the deeper she digs, the more entangled Phe becomes in the haunting past of Shadow Hills. Finding what links her to this town…might cost her her life.

Shadow Hills has a great mix of different genres - mystery, romance, school story; it was hard to fit it into one category. Ever since the death of her sister, Persephone “Phe” Archer has been having odd dreams. She thinks that by enrolling in Devenish Prep, a boarding school in Shadow Hills, MA across the country from her home in Los Angeles, she can learn what really happened to her sister. Once Phe gets to Devenish, her dreams become more vivid and she finds herself in the middle of a mystery that links her to the town’s past.

I like that Shadow Hills starts with Phe’s first day at Devenish; this allows the reader to learn about the school and town along with Phe. This is really important in a book where the main character is trying to solve a mystery or learn important information. Phe is a fun character to read, even though sometimes I found myself shouting out loud in reaction to some of her decisions. I get that she is set on finding out about her connection to Shadow Hills and that sometimes it causes her to make choices that aren’t always in her best interest, but it made me wish that I could sit down and have a heart to heart with her.

In addition to Phe, Shadow Hills has a wonderful cast of characters. Each character, no matter how much page time they have, feels very rounded, like they have a complete backstory. Phe’s “inner circle” of friends, Graham, Adriana, and Toy each interacts with Phe is a different way and speaks to a different part of her personality. Even Phe’s adversaries, Corinne and Trent were wonderfully written; they are the characters you love to hate. And of course you can’t forget about the love interest, in this case the tall, handsome, smart Zach Redford. He is Phe’s equal in a lot of ways and is hiding a massive secret that Phe partially figures out as part of her investigation into the town’s past.
I found Shadow Hills to be a surprising read. Every time, I thought I had figured out what was going to happen, Ms. Hocus would throw something new into the mix. One element, I was not expecting was that Greek mythology plays a big part in Phe’s story, although I probably should have had some idea since the main character is named Persephone and her sister was named Athena! In addition to the Greek mythology, Phe has several visions that take her to the early days of the town of Shadow Hills. This interplay of past and present gives Shadow Hills a unique feel, which sets it apart from other YA books.
Overall, Shadow Hills was a fun, engaging read. It had a little bit of everything: some action, some romance, a mystery that needed solving, fun characters and fast paced action. I would not hesitate to recommend Shadow Hills.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Talk - Southern Gothic

Today’s Book Talk post comes courtesy of Saundra Mitchell, the extraordinarily gifted author of Shadowed Summer. Ms Mitchell is celebrating the paperback release of Shadowed Summer by going on a “30 Days of Summer” tour. I’m very excited that she decided to stop by The Serpentine Library to talk about Southern Gothic fiction.


I love fiction with a voice of its own, with an atmosphere that transports me to that place and time, so that I live and breathe- and sweat- with the characters. And sometimes, the only thing that does it for me is southern gothic fiction. My own novel, SHADOWED SUMMER, is set in the stultifying heat of a Louisiana summer for just that reason.

When I visit schools, I define southern gothic as "It's hot in the south, and it makes you a little crazy." And while that gets a laugh, it's not the whole picture. Southern gothic fiction engulfs you in the American south. First, in the broad, expected strokes of humidity that drips down the windows, and accents rich as brown clover honey.

Then secondly, and more importantly, in the details. Southern Gothic goes beyond the cliché of the southern belle and the good old boy, to introduce you to the real south. Devilled eggs with filling that's gently pink, and never, ever gaudy baby-duck yellow, the warm friendliness you find even in strangers at the cheese counter. "Bless his heart" is a magical phrase that lets you precede it with, "He's dumb as dirt and ugly as sin," and get away with it in polite company. A casserole is currency.

Thirdly, and finally, is the voice. You can write about the south with a Yankee voice, but it just won't be Southern Gothic. The grammar, the vernacular, and the accents are part of what makes the south a world apart- we are what we speak, and the south has its own language.

I love Southern Gothic- reading and writing it. And if you think Southern Gothic is for you, here are three books to get you started in the genre:

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is sprawling, magical epic- full of prophecies and doomed love, but also filled with fork biscuits and The Way Things Are Done in Gatlin, South Carolina. And if you've already savored the dark arc of Lena Duchannes and Ethan Wate's destiny, I can tell you, you're in for a treat when the sequel, BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS, comes out this winter.

BREATHING by Cheryl Renee Herbsman is set in coastal North Carolina, about a girl named Savannah who believes the only thing keeping her breathing is her first love, her true love- a boy from Greenville named Jackson.

Lesley M. M. Blume's TENNYSON captures completely a southern family clinging desperately to their ancestral plantation house as it falls to pieces, and a young woman who's been abandoned but dreams of being something more.

A big THANK YOU to Ms. Mitchell for Book Talking with us today!

You can find more information about Shadowed Summer at

You can find Shadowed Summer at:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - Rot & Ruin

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Mayberry
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
To Be Published on October 5, 2010

Summary from Simon & Schuster Fall 2010 Catalog:  In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash—but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

Acclaimed horror author Jonathan Maberry makes his young adult debut with this detail-rich depiction of a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has fallen, the dead have risen, and danger is always imminent.

I didn't really like reading about zombies until I read The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.  But, as soon as I was done, I was firmly on team zombie.  Rot & Ruin sounds like it will be a great mix of dystopian and paranormal.  Plus the heading to Rot & Ruin in the catalog called it "An action-packed novel with ample humor, a little romance - and LOTS of zombies."  Sounds pretty perfect to me.
What book are you Waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review - Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell

Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell
Published by Delacorte Press
Published: February 10, 2009 (Hardcover), June 8, 2010 (Paperback)
Review based on Hardcover
Rating: 5 Bookcases

Summary from the hardcover: 
Summer in Ondine, Louisiana, is always predictable: hot and boring.

Not this one.

This summer, Iris is fourteen.  This summer, she doesn't have to make up spooky stories for excitement.  because a real one fall right in her lap.

Years ago, before Iris was born, a teenager named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s convinced it’s the ghost of Elijah.

What really happened to him?

And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris?

Shadowed Summer is a stunning debut novel. It tells the story of fourteen-year-old Iris Rahme, who expects another ordinary, boring Ondine, Louisiana, summer, but finds herself haunted by the ghost of a teenager who disappeared years before she was born.

It was so easy to sink into the story, that right from the beginning I was hooked and read right through to the end. At 183 pages, it is a very quick read. In fact, it was such a quick read that I was disappointed when I got to the end because I wanted to spend more time in Ondine. I usually don’t like ghost stories (I’m a wimp when it comes to being scared), but Shadowed Summer struck the right balance between spooky and mystery.

Ms. Mitchell is a screenwriter and that comes through in her writing because she knows how to set the scene in a way that makes it very easy to picture everything. The characters, especially, were clear and fully developed from the beginning. It was very easy to picture exactly how they looked and sounded. I read Shadowed Summer last fall for an interview we conducted for our library podcast. One thing I learned from the interview was that Ms. Mitchell does amazing amounts of research for her books and it shows. Every detail felt right and added to the depth of the story. As I was reading, I could feel the summer heat, smell the rain and hear the cicadas.

My favorite part of the story was Iris’s friendship with her best friend Collette. Their friendship felt very real, it wasn’t perfect. Iris and Collette definitely care about each other, but they also got mad at and irritated by each other. Their friendship was messy, but that’s what made it feel real and whole because that is exactly how real life friendships are. I liked that this was the main relationship in the story. There was a small amount of romance, but it wasn’t the focus which a nice change of pace from other young adult books.

Overall, I found Shadowed Summer to be a fantastic read. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to mystery lovers, ghost story enthusiasts and readers fond of stories set in the South.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

In My Mailbox (19)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme that talks about books that have been bought, swapped, received for review or borrowed from the library. In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie.

After not buying any books for almost a month, I gave in this week and bought three books that have been on my wishlist for awhile, but were only published recently.  My library finds were a mixed bunch; one author I have never read before (Elizabeth Scott) and one author whose sequel I've been looking forward to reading (Jenny Han). 

From the library:
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell
The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride

For Review:
Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien (from Book It Forward ARC Tours)

While this is not book related at all (other than it happened at a library), I wanted to share a picture of the luna moth that hatched this week in the Children's Room.  Before releasing it into the wild, he got to fly around the program room and decided to take a rest on one of the window casements. 

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Review - The Deathday Letter by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Deathday Letter by Shaun David Hutchinson
Published by Simon Pulse
Published on June 15, 2010
Review Based on ARC (Revceived from Traveling ARC Tours)

Summary from

The clock is ticking…

Ollie can’t be bothered to care about anything but food, girls, and games until he gets his Deathday Letter and learns he’s going to die in twenty-four hours. Bummer.

Ollie does what he does best: nothing. Then his best friend convinces him to live a little, and go after Ronnie, the girl who recently trampled his about-to-expire heart. Ollie turns to carloads of pudding and over-the-top declarations, but even playing the death card doesn’t work. All he wants is to set things right with the girl of his dreams. It’s now or never….

The Deathday Letter asks the question: What would you do if you knew that you only had 24 hours to live? This is the question fifteen-year- old Oliver (Ollie) Travers must answer when he receives his Deathday Letter, the letter that informs him that he will die early the next morning.

From the beginning, The Deathday Letter wasn’t quite what I was expecting. In fact, I wasn’t sure what was in store after reading the summary. But once the story got started, Ollie’s voice and interaction with his friends drew me in. It was clear from the beginning that Ollie had a better grasp on his death than anyone else in his life. He wanted to have a normal day; go to school, hang out with his best friend, Shane, maybe have his favorite dinner. That was his plan until Shane and Ronnie, Ollie’s ex-girlfriend, convince him that he should have a little fun before he dies.

Hutchinson takes serious subject matter and injects humor and some law breaking to create a story that explores. The funny moments actually outnumber the serious ones, but the serious moments pack a punch. Ollie’s conversations with Shane and his last great gesture towards Ronnie show that he really knows and cares about both of them. And even though I knew how it would end, the author actually gives away the ending in a short prologue; it still managed to take me by surprise - that is excellent storytelling.

While The Deathday Letter probably won’t go on my top ten list of 2010, there are several things that set it apart. The first was Ollie. His voice felt like the voice of a fifteen-year-old, the way he talked, dealt with his friends and reacted to situations made him feel real. The second was the first person point of view which made the book feel like a conversation, like Ollie was speaking to me. And the fact that I disappeared into the story, it didn’t feel like reading because I could visualize everything so clearly.

I would definitely recommend The Deathday Letter to anyone who enjoys reading books with male narrators as well as, readers who like books that take a different approach to difficult topics. I will definitely be recommending this one to the teens at the library.

For more information on The Deathday Letter and Shaun David Hutchinson visit:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Nevermore

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
Published by Atheneum (Simon & Schuster)
To be published on August 31, 2010

Summary from Publisher website:

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!
-- from "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe

Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

His life depends on it.

I saw Nevermore in the Simon & Schuster Fall catalog and thought that it sounded very intriguing.  I really like the Edgar Allan Poe aspect of the novel.  I had to memorize "The Raven" for English class my junior year of high school and ever since have loved reading Poe's poems and short stories.  And, I love this cover, especially how the writing is superimposed over everything except Varen's and Isobel's faces. 

What book are you "Waiting On" this Wednesday?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Talk - Why Do You Like That Book? (And a Contest!)

In libraries, book talk is a way for librarians to introduce certain books or types of books to a group of people. Usually it involves a summary, an explanation of why the librarian thinks it’s a great read, a short teaser and some read alike (books that are similar). I thought it would be fun to take this concept and turn it on its ear, by talking about different genres and bookish topics. There is no right way to book talk so, each post will be different. Some will be written by guest authors (authors, librarians, and bloggers) and some by me. Book talk posts will usually be posted every other Thursday. *This post was scheduled for last Thursday, but for some reason it never posted. *

Last week, Deirdre (my fellow Children’s Librarian) and I started talking about how even though many people like the same book, they may like it for different reasons. Has that ever happened to you? You love a particular book, you think the characters are awesome or you love the way the author writes dialogue and then someone else comes along and states that they love that book for the setting or the romance or another reason. I think this is true for most books, that just about every reader likes it for a different reason. But, it always shocks me when people have a different reason for liking a book.

Our conversation went something like this:

D: I think it’s really interesting that several people can like the same book but for different reasons. There are so many books that we both like, but we like different aspects of them.
Me: Like Megan Whalen Turner (MWT)?
D: Exactly, some people like her books for the humor, some for the romance, the intrigue, the world building, and even her writing style.
Me: Hmm, yes. I love The Queen’s Thief series for the world building. MWT builds a world that is so intricate and full of little details that you feel that it could be a real place, that you could travel there and find her buildings and roads and cities.
D: For me it’s the way MWT creates her characters. She shows you the world through the characters and dialogue. Even the minor characters, even though you might not see them often, they have motivations and have a basis in reality. All of the characters seem so real.
Me: The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan is another book, well series now, that is very character driven. It’s really Nick and Alan and Mae and Jamie that drive the story.
D: That and love. What would you do for your sibling? What lengths would you go to, to protect a family member?
Me: Yes, love. Love of all types really, but mainly familial love. That is such a brilliant way to set up a story and give you the characters’ main motivation all at once. It really makes the ending so much more amazing and heart wrenching. What about world building what other books are known for that or that’s the main reason you loved it?
D: People love Tolkien for his characters, but I also loved The Lord of the Rings for the world building. Most of all, I think it's the descriptions that make the story.  His descriptions are so vivid that you can really smell, see, hear, feel everything that is going on while you're reading
Me: And discussing
D: Yes, and discussing. I love getting lost in books and Tolkien's decsriptions let me know the exact temperature and exactly how much rain is falling.
Me: What about vampire books or books with paranormal elements? I’ve been reading a lot of those lately. Sometimes, it’s the characters that draw me in, sometimes it’s the plot or the surprises that author throws in, every once in awhile the setting is just so spot on perfect that it’s enough to make the difference between a “meh” book and an excellent one.
D: I think that some people are drawn in by the horror element or they actually hate horror, but like the romantic element, or the plot and characters are interesting.
Me: The Evernight series by Claudia Gray is a good example of that, I think. Right away, I loved Bianca and Lucas and the mythology that Ms. Gray created was different than the usual vampire lore, and of course it’s a boarding school story. So, it has that element as well.
D: Right, the boarding school setting adds another aspect to the series that some readers love. It’s another layer that adds to the plot because the characters are in there own space, away from the general population, But, I was thinking more of Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith, how she sets the majority of the story in a restaurant. There’s another layer there, with the food and wine and. . .
Me: And the flirting while coming up with the menus. That chef was creepy.
D: Yes, but the restaurant setting will definitely attract readers who may not normally read vampire books.

Our conversation ended here, we were at work and it was time to answer some reference questions.  But, I wanted to continue the conversation with all of you.  What are some books that you like for one reason, but other people like for a different one? Or what about the books we mentioned, why do you like them?  Let me know in the comments.

If you would like to participate in a Book Talk post please let leave a comment or email me at heartsbooks (at) gmail (dot) com

***To celebrate the first Book Talk post, I want to share some of the books Deirdre and I talked about.***

Up for grabs are:
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Evernight by Claudia Gray
The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Rules:
Fill out the form, telling which book you would like to win.
There will be two winners.
This contest is US only
It ends on June 25th at Midnight Eastern Time.


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