Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011 Giveaway!

I am sooo excited to be doing a giveaway as part of the Best of 2011 Giveaway Hop! I feel in love with so many books over the year, and really over the last few months. But I wanted to pick just one that I'd read and decided on Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Even though there were a few books I loved more, this is the one I'm most excited about with the movie coming out in mere months! So the Grand Prize of my giveaway will be a new paperback copy of The Hunger Games.

The other two books I chose to include were not really among my favorites, but they have had such amazing reviews on Goodreads that I wonder if they wouldn't be appreciated more by other readers. Torn by Erica O'Rourke and Tempest by Julie Cross. The copies of Torn and Tempest have been gently used by me as they were parts of giveaways.

Good Luck and remember to come back daily to earn more entries! Please note this is open to US and Canada only.

Check out some of the other blogs included in the Giveaway Hop and enter to win more great books! (Songbird can be found at 89. Prissy Fit)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Contest for Aspiring YA/Middle Grade Authors

I'm so excited to be sharing this opportunity! Keep reading for more info about a chance to win feedback on your manuscript and aid in UNHCR's development of libraries in refugee camps.

Win a literary agent or acclaimed author's feedback on your unpublished manuscript for young adult or middle grade readers.  This rare opportunity is being offered to the six winners of an essay contest recently announced by the literacy charity Book Wish Foundation.  See for full details.

You could win a manuscript critique from:

  • Laura Langlie, literary agent for Meg Cabot
  • Nancy Gallt, literary agent for Jeanne DuPrau
  • Brenda Bowen, literary agent and editor of Karen Hesse's Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust
  • Ann M. Martin, winner of the Newbery Honor for A Corner of the Universe
  • Francisco X. Stork, winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
  • Cynthia Voigt, winner of the Newbery Medal for Dicey's Song and the Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue

All that separates you from this prize is a 500-word essay about a short story in Book Wish Foundation's new anthology, What You Wish For.  Essays are due Feb. 1, 2012 and winners will be announced around Mar. 1, 2012.  If you win, you will have six months to submit the first 50 pages of your manuscript for critique (which means you can enter the contest even if you haven't finished, or started, your manuscript).  You can even enter multiple times, with essays about more than one of the contest stories, for a chance to win up to six critiques.

If you dream of being a published author, this is an opportunity you should not miss.  To enter, follow the instructions at

Good luck and best wishes,

Logan Kleinwaks
President, Book Wish Foundation

What You Wish For (ISBN 9780399254543, Putnam Juvenile, Sep. 15, 2011) is a collection of short stories and poems about wishes from 18 all-star writers: Meg Cabot, Jeanne DuPrau, Cornelia Funke, Nikki Giovanni, John Green, Karen Hesse, Ann M. Martin, Alexander McCall Smith, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Joyce Carol Oates, Nate Powell, Sofia Quintero, Gary Soto, R.L. Stine, Francisco X. Stork, Cynthia Voigt, Jane Yolen.  With a Foreword by Mia Farrow.  Book Wish Foundation is donating 100% of its proceeds from the book to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to fund the development of libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: Tempest by Julie Cross

by Julie Cross
Published: January 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Available: Amazon  

The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun. That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities. But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him. Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

 I really wish I could say that the blurb or the cover attracted me to this book, but neither of them did. I entered a free drawing through Goodreads and it seemed mildly interesting. It also had a lot of interest so I assumed good things. Well, after finishing it, I cannot understand why. According to the ARC version I received there is a HUGE amount of marketing going into this book, and it already has a movie deal signed. But I'm at a total loss as to why?! This book was a complete mess. From the cover to the last page.

First the cover is a complete rip off. Okay so it's in color, but there is absolutely no way the publishing company didn't see an eerie resemblance to Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush cover. What is wrong with cover artists today? The cover doesn't even depict a scene from the book!! There's one moment it seems close to but still, where is the originality?

On to the plot. Time travel? I'll go with it. I'm not a huge fan (apart from Back to the Future movies), but it's not being over done in today's market. The problem is that this came off as a mesh of Time Cop, The Butterfly Effect and Jumper. And not only that, but what seems to be original is a complete mess. There is absolutely no logic to the time jumps happening. The hero Jackson jumps into the past, then into the future, then creates an alternate past and still manages to jump into a future similar to the one he was first in, but not like the one he was going to be in after going into the past and creating an alternate. Confused? Yeah, well so was I. And what's worse is there is absolutely no point to anything he does after the big jump he initially takes. Everything could have been solved if he'd simply stayed there, because no matter what he does in the past, it won't change the future, except when it creates an alternate future (which apparently makes sense in this book).

Oh, the characters, or character I should say. Jackson is a boy. No, he really is. I say that because I think the author forgot this fact at moments (many moments). Like when he goes into the past and thinks about how all the college kids he sees would be surprised that Jon and Kate broke up. Really? Teenage boys know and care who Jon and Kate are? And they assume a mass of other college kids will too? Please. Teenage guys care about very few things. Sex, sports, technology, girls, working out. Any of these I could believe, but a middle aged married couple with eight kids? Anytime there was an opportunity for Cross to address even the faintest physical contact it's glossed over, and it didn't feel like she was trying to shield her young readers, but that she didn't know how to describe it from a boy's perspective. What a cop out. If you're writing from a boy's perspective, and having it centered around a romance (which this book supposedly is), then get me in the mind of this boy, and be honest about it. (This is exactly why I have yet to attempt writing from a male's point of view.)

Jackson is also a flake. And not one I would want as my boyfriend. Here he is with this amazing ability to time travel and instead of telling his girlfriend, he stands her up multiple times, pays off her roommate with his credit card (oh, boy did I mention that he's uber rich?), and then when she's shot and laying dying in his arms he time jumps back too far. So there's the big problem he faces. Not that his girlfriend, Holly, is dying in his future, but that he's stuck in the past. At first he tries to get back to her, but within a couple of chapters, he's trying to see his dead sister, uncover his father's secret government job, and date the younger version of his dying girlfriend, because really, why try and get back to help her when he can have a younger one?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 
by Ranson Riggs
Published: June 2011
Publisher: Quirk Publishing

ISBN: 9781594744761
Available: Amazon


A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.


It's hard to put into words what I felt when I finished ready this book. I absolutely loved it, but it was nowhere near what I thought it was going to be. As always, I fell for the cover. The creepy girl levitating in black and white was enough to get me interested, that it takes place in Wales was just a bonus. 

Throughout the book are scattered photo's that tie into not just the characters, but also the background story of Jacob's grandfather. They were creepy and dark, and some of them were disturbing, despite their innocence. The photo's alone were enough to keep me turning the pages. I felt like a kid again with my first chapter book, frantically reading just so I could figure out the meaning behind the pictures.

Photo's aside, the story is solid. Although it starts out a bit slow with information, it did have some immediate action that made me curious enough to not to skip pages. Jacob's character has some typical boy moments and he comes across as a believable and likable character. The other characters are a bit more on the eccentric side (apart from Jacob's parents). The mix of Peculiar's was great. Yes, there was almost an X-Men feel to them, but they have a believability to their reactions to their situation. Emma is the only one I found hard to follow. She swings back and forth with her feelings about Jacob and his grandfather, and frankly the idea of Emma and Jacob in a romantic relationship was the creepiest part of the book.

Riggs does do an amazing job with the time travel aspect of the story. I've always found time travel books a bit frustrating (check out my upcoming review of Julie Cross's Tempest for more about that), but Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children manages to explain it and still make it understandable. The idea of loops that allow a pause in time while the present continues on was intriguing.

I did feel as though the author was trying to leave it open for a sequel but I really don't feel like I'd want to read any further. My interest in the Peculiars was satisfied, and unless the concept sounded amazing I'd happy with the way this one ended. Sometimes, it's better just to stop while things as good. and I can't see this story getting better than it already is.

This is a definite recommend, and although it looks like it would be for older teens, I think younger teens would find it more enjoyable.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

Bad Taste in Boys 
by Carrie Harris
Published: July 2011
Publisher: Delacorte Press

ISBN: 9780385739689
Available: Amazon 


Someone's been a very bad zombie.
Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steroids are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe--not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate! She's got to find an antidote--before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town  . . . and stay hormonally human.


First, I absolutely love this cover! I just wish it was a bit more representative of the story. It gave me a dark, serious vibe, but the book was definitely more on the humorous side. 

The book does funny well. It's not the flat out kind that gets annoying fast, but it has a touch of self deprecating humor that pops up through Kate and her out look on life. Kate's character really is what keeps this story together. She's smart and knows it. And best of all she's not afraid to show it. Her access to the football team is due to her future goal of going to medical school and she uses her medical knowledge to help her figure out what's going on. 

Kate's brother Jonah is great as the annoying younger brother that ends up not being so bad. Their relationship felt natural and he didn't end up as just a plot device. He played an important role in the story and there were a lot of moments throughout the book that he makes great. 

Aaron is Kate's love interest and even though he's portrayed originally as the super high school hunk, he ends up coming across as a pretty normal guy. Kate has a lot of nervousness dealing with him at first that makes him seem aloof, but once Kate relaxes, Aaron's character becomes a lot clearer.

The best thing about Bad Taste in Boys is that it doesn't shy away from the blood and guts that is the heart of a good zombie story. So many humorous YA zombie books I've red have played it safe, glossing over the gross factor of zombies, even avoiding any part of it by changing the essence of what zombies are. Harris stays true to zombies and gives us the gore. If I didn't want gore then I wouldn't read about zombies!

This is definitely falling into the category of better zombie books I've read. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interview with the Author and Illustrator of Cardsharp, Paul Westmoreland (POW)

I am very excited today to be interviewing author and illustrator Paul Westmoreland (also known as POW) and discussing his Young Adult novel, Cardsharp.

Cardsharp's Goodreads Blurb:

Burning houses. Daring robbers. Motorway chases. Exploding boats. Flying daggers. Brutal policemen. Ruthless pirates. Beautiful women. Deadly bullets. Racing hearts. International Criminals. Narrow escapes. Tricks, stings and electrocutions. And a priceless painting by one of art’s world’s most notorious masters.
Welcome to the adventures of Vincent Ward, where getting through each day alive just isn’t enough.

Did you always want to be an author?

No, I wanted to be a film director. But when I started writing stories that I hoped would become movies, I realized how much fun you can have just writing. With movies you have limits like, Can you film a robbery in the national Gallery? Can you blow up a luxury yacht? In a book you can do it from the moment you decide you want to, and no one can stop you. Writing is still the most liberating place to be creative. Your only limit is the alphabet, and it’s free!

Tell us a bit about Cardsharp.

My novel, Cardsharp is a roller-coaster thriller set in the art-smuggling underworld. It follows Vincent Ward as he travels across Italy to save a lost painting by Caravaggio from a ruthless organization of international criminals. It’s edge-of-your-set action all the way through, with a healthy shot of art history so you can look cleaver after you’ve read it.

How did you come up with the idea for your novel?

I’ve always been interested in art, and I find the art world fascinating. Because paintings are worth so much, people with a lot of money – many of them bad people – will go to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on paintings. All this makes it a rich area for writing exciting stories, and I went from there. I always start with an interesting artist and a goal for Vincent, and the story grows from there.

If you got the chance to spend a day with any character from your books, who would it be and why?

I would choose Mr. Masters, my curator of the National Gallery, because he could open the vaults and show me all the pictures no one else ever gets to see. Though I’d probably chicken out of a day with Vincent, my main character, because too many people shoot at him and there’s always trouble chasing him. 

What drew you to the YA genre? 

Again it’s freedom and creativity. I always wrote for adults, but then my dad told me about a competition for writing YA books, I tried it, didn’t win, but it was so much fun I didn’t want to do anything else. You can do anything with YA, so long as it’s exciting! And I love writing like that.

What do you hope readers will get out of your novel?

I hope readers get a taste for art. Most people, especially my adult readers, have enjoyed it and learned something new, and some of my young readers have dragged their parents to galleries.

Where do you like to do your writing?

My favourite place to write at home, in my kitchen. But I can write anywhere – on the train, in a coffee shop – last week I even wrote while I stood in a queue at the post office.

What are some of your favorite YA books or authors? Non-YA?

H.I.V.E., CHERUB and Young Bond are all great. I also read adult books and biographies by interesting people. I also re-read Tuesdays With Morrie every few years because it’s full of lessons in life.

Are there any books and stories that have influenced or stuck with you from your childhood or youth?

I had a short version of The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle when I was little and read it over and over. There are some scenes in that which had an effect on me that I try to put into my stories. The fear of dinosaur attacks and adventures with nerves of steel – they’re great ingredients for fiction.
Do you have any other works published and how do they compare genre/style wise with your current work?

Sadly I don’t. I have a story set in the circus that nearly got published, but alas, it didn’t happen. I’d like to go back to it, but Vincent’s next adventure is taking up all my time right now!

Do you have any current writing projects? Can you tell us a bit about them?  

As I mentioned, the next adventure for Vincent sees him racing across France and battling an insidious art dealer who is trying to re-write art history. I also have a TV series going to the BBC, which could be very exciting!

If you would like to know more about Cardsharp, read a few sample chapters, or get a copy, visit

Cardsharp is available for Kindle on Amazon, or as a paperback from Lulu. There are also links on my site.
Thanks for reading. POW

Thank you, Paul! 

I'm really looking forward to reading Cardsharp. Look for my review coming later this month!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

by Veronica Roth
Published: May 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN:  9780062024022
Available: Amazon

GoodReads Blurb:

Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place her in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.


I avoided this book at first, mainly because I thought it would simply be a spin off of The Hunger Games. There were a lot of comparisons online and having enjoyed The Hunger Games I was hesitant to read a rip off. I am so glad that I finally picked it up. Yes, it is a dystopian series, but for me that is where the similarities end. For me The Hunger Games trilogy felt a bit forced, the idea of creating a special games for the sequel just for Katniss wasn't logical or believable. Divergent though is a much better premise for a series, it ends with action, grief, and hope to carry us into the sequel. But there is no real finish to Divergent. It's more of a beginning to Tri's story.

Roth does a wonderful job in putting us inside Tris's head. Tris is likable and she's faced with a choice that she never expected. She had assumed that she would be a part of her family's Abnegation fraction, but when her qualities are tested, her results are erratic and the tester's nervousness causes Tris to question her place in Abnergation. When her turn to choose comes she leaves them behind forever to join Dauntless. And after she makes her choice, she commits to it. She doesn't waiver in her attempts to earn her place in Dauntless. But what once seems like the noble and courageous path, has become riddled with pride, ruthlessness, greed and a struggle for power. It is in Dauntless that she discovers the reason behind her strange results. She is Divergent. A sixth fraction in which the people are all fractions together. But they must hide from society and are most often put to death in fear that their existence will disrupt the status quo. Tris really struggles to understand herself and what she faces feels authentic.

The supporting characters are as well developed as Tris. They are flawed and their choices have a profound impact on Tris and her belief in their society. They didn't feel placed there to simply fill space. Even Tris's love interest has a solid roll in what is happening, and the love story could even have been taken out, and his part would have been just as important. 

The major conflict is entirely believable within the parameters of the setting. That these fractions can survive independently while still depending on each other, and not allow for interaction between them is impossible. Roth shows how the separation causes problems within their world, the fear, the anger, the feelings of superiority are slowly tearing them apart.   

The only part that I had a hard time dealing with was the violence. I would definitely not recommend this book for younger readers. Tris and the rest of Dauntless are submerged in an atmosphere of violence. They are in a perpetual battle for life and are expected to physically, mentally and emotionally fight for their place in Dauntless. Tris does not always win. And it was disturbing to think of her being beaten so badly, not just in fair fights, but also when she is attacked by someone she considers a friend. But the violence is necessary to the story. Divergent does not pussy foot around it. Tris's world becomes a violent, scary place that demands she make decisions that will change everything. There were deaths in this book that I never saw coming and a few twists that made the ending perfect.

This was probably one of the best books I've read this year and I can't wait for the sequel. With the current trend of book to movies for YA I'm really hoping that this is the next on the list to make that transition.