Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guest Post - Scott Tracey's Teen Reading Collection

Today, Scott Tracey, author of the fabulous Witch Eyesis here to tell us about some of his favorite books and the types of books we would find in his teen library.

My teen reading collection was seriously eclectic.  I read a little bit of everything.  For about a year when I was a freshman, I was really into crime novels.  The Kay Scarpetta novels, by Patricia Cornwell (POSTMORTEM, BODY OF EVIDENCE, etc), were some of my first.  I also read the Sue Grafton alphabet novels (starting with A IS FOR ALIBI)  and the James Patterson novels (ALONG CAME A SPIDER, etc).  This was the period where I decided I was going to go to Duke for college, major in psychology, and work for the FBI as a forensic psychologist.  Then I realized that was a lot of work...and writers get to wear pajamas if they want.  Sold. 

I started reading epic fantasy around this time - starting with the behemoth that was the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan that started with EYE OF THE WORLD.  Which, honestly, I should have put off.  I counsel everyone to put off big series like that.  Because they're good, but the wait between books is....indescribable.  And it's worse, because I'm one of those people who has to reread the entire series before a new book.  Not so bad, when it's George R.R. Martin, and it's only every 5 years, but Jordan was pumping them out every other year for awhile there.  That's a LOT of rereading (each book is somewhere in the 200-300K word range).

I also read a lot of nonfiction - I was interested in secret societies, crystal skulls, and the history of ceremonial magic. Basically anything New Age I could get my hands on, along with religions like Buddhism, shamanistic traditions, Greek and Roman mythology, and anything that had a different perspective of what was out there in the world.   A lot of that's helped with writing, thankfully, so it was time well spent.  I also read a lot of travel books, which was equal parts as a way to plot escape from Ohio, and because I was fascinated by other places.

I also read one of my absolutely favorite authors, Wally Lamb.  He wrote I Know This Much Is True, and She's Come Undone (my favorite of the two).  I remember thinking that all I could ever want, as a writer, was to bring characters to life half as well as Wally Lamb did in those novels.

So there you go, some of my teen reading.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - The Way We Fall

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
Publisher: Disney*Hyperion
Publication Date: January 24, 2012

It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you're dead.

When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back.

Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest.

Because how will she go on if there isn't?

Megan Crewe crafts a powerful and gripping exploration of self-preservation, first love, and hope. Poignant and dizzying, this heart-wrenching story of one girl’s bravery and unbeatable spirit will leave readers fervently awaiting the next book in this standout new series. (Summary from Goodreads)

The first book in a new series - the last thing I need is to get involved with another series. But, the thing is, the summary just sounds so interesting. It makes me wonder what type of virus it is and is it only on the one island or are other places affected too?

Plus, Megan Crewe has an excerpt and an unofficial soundtrack on her website.

What book are you eagerly waiting for?

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Into The Past With Gretchen McNeil

Gretchen McNeil is joining us today to talk about some of her favorite books at different stages of  her life.

Some information about Gretchen:
Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown.  Her YA horror/paranormal POSSESS debut with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins, August 23, 2011.  Her second novel, TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – is tentatively scheduled for a Fall 2012 release. Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4's Code Monkeys and she currently sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk ( ). Gretchen is also a founding member of the vlog group YARebels ( where she can be seen as "Monday."

Welcome Gretchen!

AGE FIVE – There’s a Monster at the End of This Book

How is this not the best book ever?  An interactive picture book starring Grover from Sesame Street, desperately and futilely trying to keep the reader – in this case, a precocious five year old – from turning the pages of the book.  Brilliant!  Golden!

I positively delighted in thwarting Grover’s attempts – breaking the ropes, toppling the brick wall, busting through a web of two-by-fours.  I must have read that book a hundred times and giggled like a loon every time.  Er, I may or may not still own a copy.  And I may or may not still giggle when I read it.

AGE TWELVE – Anne of Green Gables

Let’s face it, I was Anne Shirley.  I was too smart for my own good.  I was an only child with a penchant for huge flights of fancy.  I was constantly getting into trouble.  I talked too much (I think I still hold my junior high school’s record for being sent to the Principal’s office for talking out of turn…)  I couldn’t back down from a dare.  I was fiercely proud.

I remember watching the PBS adaptation of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, hanging on every scene.  It was like my life!  I ran to the library and zipped through the entire series in the course of a summer.  Anne spoke to me.  And gave me hope that a spastic little kid like myself could grow up to be someone…awesome.

AGE SIXTEEN – Wuthering Heights

Oh, this was the end of hope for any kind of normal teenage love life.  Heathcliff, the possibly psychotic, severely damaged anti-hero was like crack cocaine for teenaged me.  Brooding, obsessive, dark and complex.  He was everything I wanted in a boyfriend – yeah, I know – and thus started my love affair with “bad boys.”

Thankfully, I got over that.  Eventually.

AGE TWENTY – The Secret Adversary

I discovered Agatha Christie when I was in college.  Don’t know how I’d missed getting addicted to her books when I was in high school, but by my junior year at UCLA I was utterly hooked.  I used to wait for my boyfriend to get off work, sitting under a tree whipping through her novels.  The woman was truly a genius.  Her knack for characterization is astounding: you always knows exactly who her characters are in just a few lines.  Amazing.  Inspiring. 

THE SECRET ADVERSARY is one of my favorites.  Set just after WWI, it’s about two young people trying to make their way in an England that’s economically devastated.  On a whim, they create a young adventurers company, and place an ad in the paper for their services.  Immediately, they are thrust into a world of intrigue, spies, missing secret war plans, and mistaken identities.  I literally could not put this book down, and I think I’ve probably read it a dozen times since.  It’s like a comfort book for me, whenever I need a good, rollicking adventure.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review - Luminous by Dawn Metcalf

Luminous by Dawn Metcalf
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: June 30, 2011

I found Luminous to have a confusing premise. I freely admit to peeking at the ending when I was only about one third of the way through reading. I needed to make sure that my hunch about the Flow was correct and once that happened, I was able to settle into the story.

Consuela is shopping for jeans when she collapses. At home she feels an odd bump on the back of her neck and upon further examination realizes that she can take off her skin. As a skeleton, Consuela, or Bones as she is soon known, travels to the Flow. The Flow is a world that exists next to, or is layered over, our world. Consuela learns that she can make new skins for herself, made from water, air, fire, feathers, anything that is near her. She meets some of the other inhabitants of the Flow and gathers that they help people on Earth, people who have given up on life. But the Flow and its residents are being threatened and Consuela must help stop the killer. But what if he's the only one who can help Consuela get home?

The Flow itself was a confusing place. Each of the characters Consuela meets in the Flow gives more details about what it is and what it might look like. Although, it seems like the Flow would be different for different people. Each character has their own place (maybe base of operations is a better way to put it), that is unique to them - Sissy's office, Consuela's bedroom, and lawn outside a high school where Wish can be found are examples. Despite all of the details and explanation, I still wasn't sure what to think of the Flow.

Maybe, because I found the Flow to be a confusing place, I wasn't as invested in the story as I wanted to be. I cared about what happened to only some of the characters - Sissy, Consuela and V in particular. Consuela and Sissy's budding friendship was the highlight of the book. Other characters weren't really around long enough to get attached to. And then there was Tender, who scared me and made me cry, but I still didn't like him. Not even after Consuela learned his biggest secret: Did I understand him better, yes, like him, no.

I did really like that different religions and belief systems had a place in the Flow. Each of the characters used their different beliefs to help them with the main task of helping people on the other side of the Flow. I found the Day of the Dead imagery to be very interesting and liked how Ms. Metcalf wove it through Consuela's story. I wish there were more young adult books that touched upon different belief systems.

Overall, I had mixed feelings about Luminous. Please don't that discourage you from picking it up, especially if you're looking for a book that is different from a lot of other paranormal books.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - Torn

Torn by Cat Clarke
Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: January 2012

Four girls. One dead body. A whole lot of guilt.

Alice King isn’t expecting the holiday of a lifetime when she sets off with her classmates on a trip to the Scottish wilderness, but she’s not exactly prepared for an experience beyond her darkest nightmares…

Alice and her best friend Cass are stuck in a cabin with Polly, the social outcast, and Rae, the moody emo-girl. Then there’s Tara – queen of mean. Powerful, beautiful and cruel, she likes nothing better than putting people down.>

Cass decides it’s time to teach Tara a lesson she’ll never forget. And so begins a series of events that will change the lives of these girls forever...

A compelling story of guilty secrets, troubled friendship and burgeoning love. (summary from Goodreads)

Why am I waiting on Torn?

I loved Cat Clarke's debut Entangled, it was such an awesome, twisty read that evoked lots of emotions while I was reading. Plus, it's a contemporary novel and I need more of those on my to-be-read list (which is more of a notebook now)

What book are you eagerly waiting for?

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review - Possess by Gretchen McNeil

Possess by Gretchen McNeil
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Source: BEA

Sweet cartwheeling Jesus! Gretchen McNeil’s debut novel, Possess, was a great mix of scary and sweet grounded in current day San Francisco.

Bridget Liu is still dealing with her father’s death. She’d rather be left alone than have to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary with her mom or anyone else, especially not with the voices only she can hear. These voices, Bridget learns, are demons and she has the ability to send them back to wherever they came from. Afraid to tell anyone about what she hears and can do, Bridget ends up working with the Monsignor at her high school and soon a priest from the Vatican joins them. Then, the demons pass along a message that has Bridget not sure who she can trust. As she tries to figure out the demons’ plan, Bridget worries that someone close to her will fall victim to the demons.

To be honest, at first, I thought “Demons and Catholic school, haven’t I read this before and recently too?” So, I was a little skeptical as I started to read. But, Bridget’s voice was so genuine and the third person narration was so spot on that it grabbed me from the start. Within a few chapters I found myself wanting Bridget to embrace her talent and find a way to balance exorcizing demons with her everyday life.

Ms. McNeil does a great job of showing the different parts of Bridget’s life: How Bridget essentially starts by trying to keep school and home completely separate from her work with Monsignor Renault. (A small aside here: it took me a long time to place the name Renault; it kept bothering me that I knew this name from another book, another book also set at a Catholic high school. When it finally hit me: Jerry Renault from The Chocolate War. End of totally random aside) She worries what her friends (Hector, Brad and Peter) would think if they found out about the demons. I was hoping that she would be more willing to confide in them, especially Hector, who I found to be funny and sympathetic. But, as the two parts of her life start to blend together, Bridget became an even stronger character. Being willing to confide what was going on with her, allowed her to share the burden a bit, as well as allowing her to be little more vulnerable, which I felt made her more relatable as a character.

Despite the overall darkness, there were enough moments of lightness and sweet that made Possess different from what I was expecting. I would put Bridget’s relationship with Matt Quinn, son of her father’s best friend, in the sweet category. It was more than insta-love, which was refreshing. Actually, it took a long while for them to become friends and then even longer for anything to really start between them and it went slowly, which felt very realistic. Yay for realistic teen relationships! 

If I had to give Possess a genre label, I would label it as horror. And I’m not one to watch scary movies - I’m a complete wimp when it comes to horror, but as I was reading Possess, I didn’t get as scared as I initially thought. Although, there is one particular scene that takes place in a doll shop that made me put the book down, take a deep breath and then start reading again. And I will never look at dolls quite the same way again, but overall, there was enough of the not scary that it creates a good balance. Given all of that, I still wouldn’t read Possess late at night.

I would highly recommend Possess to readers who enjoy both horror and paranormal books, especially if you like your scary with a little not so scary.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Character Interview - Dagon from Misfit

A huge welcome to Dagon from Misfit by Jon Skovron. Despite his gruesome appearance, Dagon quickly became my favorite character. Because who doesn't love an uncle who can teach you to wield your newly found powers and bake a mean loaf of bread?

1. What 5 words would use to describe yourself?

Handsome, charming, elegant, witty, and a genius in the kitchen. Just kidding. More like big, smelly and creepy-looking. But I really am a genius in the kitchen. I'm also a lot more gentle than I look.

2. If they made a movie of your life story, who would they cast to play you?

That would be a long movie... Uh, George Clooney for the first half. And...a hell of a lot of CGI for the rest.

3. How would you describe your niece, Jael?

She's painfully stubborn like her father and highly temperamental like her mother. On the up side, she's also unwaveringly loyal like her father and deeply empathetic like her mother. But she's more than just the sum of her father and mother. She sees to the heart of things more clearly than anyone else I've ever met. And I've met a lot of people. In the end, that will be her salvation. Or her destruction. Jury's still out on which.

4. Currently, you don’t really have a high-profile job, although I am quite fond of baking in general. If you could choose any job, what line of work would you go into?

I really liked godding. All the worship, the free place to stay, the free booze...just show up, say something inspirational, make a few miracles, and they loved you. Great gig. But I don't think that would fly these days.

You know, maybe I could be a spokesperson for Greenpeace or some environmental group. My catch phrase could be "Recycle or I'll carve out your pancreas." Something catchy like that.

5. What is one piece of advice you would give to other halfbreeds who might be reading this?

They're afraid of you because they don't understand you. That fear makes them lash out in anger, because nobody likes to be afraid. You've got a choice. You can hate them for their fear. Or you can pity them for it.

A little more about Misfit:
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: August 1, 2011

Jael has always felt like a freak. She’s never kissed a boy, she never knew her mom, and her dad’s always been superstrict—but that’s probably because her mom was a demon, which makes Jael half demon and most definitely not a normal sophomore girl. On her sixteenth birthday, a mysterious present unlocks her family’s dangerous history and Jael’s untapped potential. What was merely an embarrassing secret before becomes a terrifying reality. Jael must learn to master her demon side in order to take on a vindictive Duke of Hell while also dealing with a twisted priest, best-friend drama, and a spacey blond skater boy who may have hidden depths.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - Try Not To Breathe

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Try Not To Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: January 19, 2012

A dark and provocative novel from the author of The Secret Year. 

Ryan spends most of his time alone at the local waterfall because it’s the only thing that makes him feel alive. He’s sixteen, post-suicidal, and trying to figure out what to do with himself after a stint in a mental hospital. Then Nicki barges into his world, brimming with life and energy, and asking questions about Ryan’s depression that no one else has ever been brave enough—or cared enough—to ask. Ryan isn’t sure why he trusts Nicki with his darkest secrets, but that trust turns out to be the catalyst that he desperately needs to start living again.

Jennifer R. Hubbard has created a riveting story about a difficult but important subject. (Summary from Goodreads.)

I loved Jennifer R. Hubbard's debut novel The Secret Year, it was one of my first blog reviews and I remember being drawn in by Colt and Julia's story. Colt, especially, struck me as this character who was so much more than what other people saw or wanted to see in him. So, I'm very excited to read about Ryan and Nicki. And plus the cover - the waterfall in the background and the bluish hue - love it!

What book are you eagerly waiting for?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Review - The Ultimate Top Secret Guide to Taking Over the World

The Ultimate Top Secret Guide to Taking Over the World
Author: Kenn Nesbitt
Illustrator: Ethan Long
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: July 1, 2011
Source: Publisher for Review

Have you ever wanted to build evil robots? Or recruit minions? Or take over the world? Then The Ultimate Top Secret Guide to Taking Over the World is the book for you! In ten (umm…twelve) easy steps, Kenn Nesbitt will take you through the finer points of preparing to rule the world.

I’m definitely not the target audience for The Ultimate Top Secret Guide to Taking Over the World, but I don’t remember the last time I’ve laughed so much over a book. Mr. Nesbitt hits the right mix of irreverent humor and common sense advice for villains and evil overlords (and let’s face it, he’s not teaching readers how to be a good guy).

He covers everything from how to choose a name, the different types of bad guys, the best way to develop a minion army, how to stop time and how to defeat secret agents. The chapter on stopping time, “Stopping Time for Fun and Profit,” was, hands down, my favorite chapter of the book.

Mr. Nesbitt keeps the tone conversational throughout the book, explaining words or phrases when needed.  He never talks down to the reader, but instead invites them to have fun. There’s even space at the end of the book to take notes or write out one’s plans for world domination.

 The Ultimate Top Secret Guide to Taking Over the World is perfect for fans of Geronimo Stilton, Captain Underpants and Ricky Ricotta. If you have aspirations of taking over the world or simply want to know how to build an evil robot army this book is for you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Review - Who What Wear by Olivia Bennett

Who What Wear (The Allegra Biscotti Collection #2)
Author: Olivia Bennett
Illustrator: Georgia Rucker
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: June 1, 2011
Source: From Publisher for Review

Emma Rose has a secret; she has a designing alter ego named Allegra Biscotti. Thanks to Paige Young, senior editor at Madison, Emma’s clothes have already been featured in a magazine. Only a few people know that Emma is Allegra; she hasn’t even told her best friend Holly. But, then the unthinkable happens: Allegra is asked to design a Sweet Sixteen dress for Rylan Sinclare, the most fashionable and popular girl at Emma’s school. Plus, she scores an invite to the party and is in the know about all of the details. As Holly gets more suspicious of her behavior, Emma must find a way to design a dress both of her clients will love while staying true to herself.

Who What Wear was just as fun to read as The Allegra Biscotti Collection. I liked that the author upped the stakes for Emma, so that this sequel didn’t follow the same exact plot arc as the first book. Emma thought there was pressure before, but now not only does she have to deal with school and designing (she’s going to be one of ten designers showcased in a Madison sponsored pop-up shop), but she’s been commissioned to design a dress for Rylan. To keep her identity secret, Emma poses as her own intern! With regards to Allegra, Emma and Charlie (her only friend that knows the Emma is really Allegra) became more of a team as they each work on different aspects of the her image and brand. Their personalities complemented each other and their interactions were always fun to read.

Even though, Who What Wear is a sequel, it can be read as a stand alone because information about specific plot points from the first book is sprinkled through out the story. In fact, as someone who read The Allegra Biscotti Collection right before reading Who What Wear, I was grateful that there wasn't a recap at the beginning. Instead the opening scene sets the stage for the rest of the book, by introducing new characters and reminding the reader about Holly and Emma's friendship. Speaking Holly and Emma, their friendship, and its ups and downs, felt very realistic. Ms. Bennett did a great job of portraying middle school politics and balancing it with the other side of Emma's life.

Tweens and teens who love fashion and dream about being a famous designer will enjoy reading Who What Wear just as much as The Allegra Biscotti Collection. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to readers who enjoy contemporary novels with just a dash of dare to dream big ambition.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It's My Party And I'll...

Give Away Books if I Want To!

In my family, birthdays are usually low key affairs. 
But this year I've been feeling like this:

So, I've decided to cheer myself up by giving away some of the books I've loved so far in 2011. Because, what's better than sharing book love?

This is what's up for grabs...

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Misfit by Jon Skovron

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

There will be 3 winners, each winner will get the book of their choice.
All you have to do is fill out the form.

Here are the rest of the details:
This giveaway is open internationally, as long as The Book Depository ships to you 
You must be 13 years of age
This contest will end on 8/19/11

Teen Garage Sale with Victoria Schwab

Today I'm super excited to welcome YA author Victoria Schwab to The Serpentine Library.
 The Near Witch is one of the best books I've read this year!

7 Things You Might Find in my Teen Garage Sale 
Oh dear. I was, and still am, an odd child, surrounded by trinkets (if you look at my bookshelf now you'll see everything from Venetian masks to Chinese serenity balls to notes written by bloggers and authors and random friends to a cupcake stress ball. 
But if we rewind a few years, you might find this...
1. Books on origami, martial arts, zen, cartooning, design, illustration, poker.
2. Soccer kleats, fencing swords, volleyball kneepads, running shoes, and the equip for a dozen other sports I tried (seeing a theme yet? I was what we call a dabbler)
3. Bandaids, knee brace, cast, skin glue.
4. A plaid skirt. I went to an all girls southern preparatory school. No, that's not a joke. 
5. Black lipstick. From my two-week-long gothic stint. But I'm keeping the authentic black velvet cloak. 
6. A DVD of The Princess Bride, but only because I'm pretty sure I have three copies (I'd never give away my ONLY copy, you don't grow out/up/over PB).
7. A blue cowboy hat. My best friend and I went backpacking through Europe upon graduating high school. She wore a pink cowboy hat and I wore a blue one. After being surrounded by several spells of ill luck, including being picked up for hitchhiking outside Paris, I began to think the hat was cursed.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review - The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Disney*Hyperion
Publication Date: August 2, 2011
Source: NetGalley

The Near Witch is my favorite book of 2011, so far. And considering that it’s August, it will most likely stay in the top 3. After the first three chapters, I started reading the rest of the book one chapter at a time because I didn’t want the experience of discovering the story to end. I would dole out each chapter like a reward; if these 5 things got crossed off the to-do list, then I could read a chapter of The Near Witch. Then, when I got to the end, I put it away for a few days so that Lexi’s  and Near’s story could really sink in. I found myself thinking about scenes and conversations. After not being able to get it out of my head for almost a week, I reread it in one sitting, amazed by how wonderful it was. I think it may have been better the second time around. I, personally, love books that get better each time you read them and The Near Witch is most definitely one of those books.

The town of Near doesn’t often get strangers walking through or visiting for that matter. But the night after Lexi sees a stranger out on the moor, a child goes missing. The stranger, a boy who seems to fade into the night is blamed for the disappearance. As more children are found missing, Lexi knows she needs to help find them. Despite being told repeatedly that she is not to look for the children, Lexi, with the help of the stranger whom she named Cole, continue their own search. Something about what is happening in Near, keeps bring Lexi back to a story of witch who used to live in Near. Can the story be a clue to what is happening and perhaps how to find the children?

The Near Witch is a breathtaking mix of fairy tale, fable, historical fiction and fantasy. It’s all of those blended together so well, that it is really hard to pin down one word to describe it. If I were going to book talk The Near Witch, I would say that it reminds me slightly of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, with a mystery and some romance mixed in. The writing is what carries the story. Victoria Schwab knows exactly how to set the scene without over explaining; it was easy to picture the characters and how the town of Near was set up. Plus, all of the characters felt so real. Lexi and her sister, Wren, jump off the page from the beginning. And as the story progresses and more characters were introduced, the same was true of them too. 

I really enjoyed watching Lexi and Cole (the stranger) get to know each other. Their relationship really gets going as they are searching for the missing children and trying to figure out the mystery of the Near witch. Their scenes together are just perfect. But, as much as I like Lexi and Cole, my favorite characters are Magda and Dreska. The two sisters live on the outskirts of Near and are also believed to be witches. They give Lexi little pieces of information; sometimes making perfect sense and not making sense until much later. I like to think of them as Near’s real protectors. I was just drawn to them for Magda’s first scene with Lexi and I looked forward to seeing more of them.

There is so much to say about The Near Witch that I’m afraid that I could go on and on. But, I think this is a book that a lot of people will enjoy. If you liked fairy tales as a child, then you will like The Near Witch. If you like reading mysteries, or books with strong female main characters, or books that are about family (because there is a definite family component), or books that have slightly scary settings - I could go on. So I think I’ll end by saying, read The Near Witch, you won’t be sorry that you did. You may even find a new favorite book.

Waiting on Wednesday - Born Wicked

Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles, Book 1) by Jessica Spotswood
Publisher: Putnam
Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship–or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word…especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood–not even from each other.

Why am I waiting on Born Wicked?

1. Witches - looks like one of 2011's hottest trends will still be going strong in 2012.
2. The cover - it's quite eye-catching, but I want to know what's with the branches and flowers coming out of the model's head.
3. Eccentric characters, family secrets, forbidden romance...

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review - A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford

A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins)
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
Source: Library

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started reading A Touch Mortal. The cover copy was very vague, except that it mentioned angels that have fallen. The main characters don’t fit the stereotypes I normally associate with fallen angels, and in my mind that elevates A Touch Mortal above the usual angel novel.

Eden is ready to give up on life when she meets Az and Gabe. She wasn’t expecting them, but with them around Eden is happy and feels loved. So when she suddenly finds herself without Az and in a new situation, Eden lashes out. She wakes up one evening to learn that she is now a Sider, someone who must spread Touch to humans. Without much information about her new “life” Eden must find a way to survive and stay invisible enough that she doesn’t attract the attention of either Heaven or Hell.

Eden is one of those characters you want to root for. She gets put in impossible situations and often has to find her own way out of them. She’s at a disadvantage due to a lack of information, which could have been easily remedies if other characters hadn’t been reluctant to be completely honest. Her whole existence would have been different if she had been told the truth from the beginning.

Gabriel is the character you think you know. His intentions seem pretty obvious; until it turns out he doesn’t match the image you have of him. Gabe was the most conflicted character, but I didn’t realize that until very close to the end and it changed my entire opinion of him. It’s obvious how much Gabriel cares for Eden and Az, so that redeemed him a little for me.

Az is hard to pin down. He doesn’t have as much page time and a lot of that is seen through the filter of Eden’s and Gabe’s perspectives. I’m hoping that he will get more page time in the nest installment, because I want to know more about Az and his history.

The supporting characters add some dimension to the story. Siders like Kristen and Eden’s crew of Adam, Jarrod and James give the reader a little more of the Sider mythology. But there really wasn’t enough. I wonder of that’s because Eden only knew the small amount she was told at the start. Then, she didn’t go after more information on her own. I thought there would be more interaction between the Sider factions but they all seemed content to stay within their boundaries, even though Eden ended up going Rogue (to use the Fallen term).

And speaking of the Fallen, there is Luke. For an antagonist he was quite creepy and very single-minded in his focus. Again, he was a character that was discussed or seen from other characters’ perspectives so that the reader gets the filter, character skewed version. The reader is told what is agenda is without hearing, or seeing it, directly from Luke; this leads to interesting interpretations, which are not really true. The moment his true agenda becomes clear, a lot of what happened before clicks into place. From that point on, it was easy to see that many of the characters’ actions stem from their interpretation of what Luke is really after, what his goal is, and it’s clear to see how that led the characters to make the choices they did. He became the Master Manipulator without actually having to manipulate a lot of people. While he was one of the least likeable characters, he was one of the most interesting.

It was the characters that really stood out to me in A Touch Mortal. They made the story for me and made me want to keep reading. The action felt stop and go and came in bursts, weeks or months would pass by in an instant with little information about what happened. It was here that it felt like the author was telling more that showing what happened. There were moments of brilliance - an intense scene at a rave, Eden’s first contact with Kristen - but I wish there had been more. The ending was very shocking and I’m hoping more will be explained in the sequel.

A Touch Mortal does deal with some dark subjects, specifically suicide. I, personally, would recommend A Touch Mortal to more mature teens that are looking for a book about angels that is different from the usual fare.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review - The Allegra Biscotti Collection by Olivia Bennett

The Allegra Biscotti Collection 
Author: Olivia Bennett
Illustrator: Georgia Rucker
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: September 1, 2010
Source: Publisher for review

A great read for the tween (and older) crowd, The Allegra Biscotti Collection finds the perfect balance of believable contemporary fiction with a dash of what if.

Eighth grader, Emma Rose loves fashion and creating amazing outfits. She even has her own “studio” tucked away in a corner of her father’s wholesale lace business. That studio is where an influential fashionista finds some of Emma’s designs. A few photos and a blog post later and Emma has the opportunity of a lifetime; a feature in her favorite fashion magazine. Instead of owning up to the designs, thinking that no one would believe they were created by a fourteen year old, Emma creates Allegra Biscotti - her secret designing identity.

Emma Rose is one of those characters you want to root for. As I was reading, I wanted good things to happen for her. Emma is passionate about fashion and designing, but she’s also a typical eighth grader worried about friends, a secret crush and getting all of her homework done. All of that makes her very relatable. Plus she sounds like a teen; the snappy, smart dialogue is very believable.

The secondary characters shine as well. Emma’s friend Charlie, the only one who knows the truth about her secret identity, is the perfect sidekick. He’s supportive, comes up with crazy ideas, and is willing to help in any way possible. The Ivana-bees - we can all remember girls like these at our own middle or high schools - rather than make them all clones, Ms Bennett has given each of them their own distinct personalities and how they play off each other and Emma adds another layer to the story. And as an adult reader, I love that Emma’s parents were very present in her life.

I want to mention the format of the book as well. The illustrations that appear on almost every page are spot on. They look exactly like they are straight from Emma’s sketch books.

Overall, The Allegra Biscotti Collection was a fun book that will be a hit with tween readers.


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