Friday, December 31, 2010

What To Look Forward To In 2011

I still can't believe that today is the last day of 2010! Have you made any New Years resolutions? I think mine is going to be to be more organized and not sweat the small stuff :) Have a blast tonight, I'm so happy to say sayonara 2010 & hello 2011!

I'd also like to take this opportunity to make a little blog announcement...The eclectic reader in me is dying to come out more! The kid in me is still alive and kicking but I found I missed out on sharing so many great adult titles by having the blog focus on YA this year. I hope you enjoy the new look next year with lots of YA, historical fiction and a dash of good old adult fiction.

Wishing you all the best in 2011, bring it on :)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of 2010

There were so many fabulous books in 2010. Thanks to the Debut Author Challenge, I found many amazing new authors and was surprised that half of my Best of list is made up of debuts!!!

My Best of list is in no particular order, I hope you enjoy! What were your favorites that I missed? If you also made a top reads list, leave me the link :)

Sea by Heidi R. Kling

Simply beautiful is what comes to mind every time I think of this book!

My Review

Goodreads Link

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Phenomenal writing, you can't help but feel part of the story & hope for a better outcome!

My Review

Goodreads Link

Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1) by Rachel Hawkins

Looking back at my review, I think I loved this one so much! A great fun story that left me speechless I guess LOL

My Review

Goodreads Link

It's Not Summer Without You (Summer #2) by Jenny Han

For the romantic - ahhhhhh Jerimiah <3

My Review

Goodreads Link

Heist Society (Heisty Society #1) by Ally Carter

Non-stop action and girl power!

My Review

Goodreads Link

She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

Filled with characters you love to hate and one swoon-worthy Jake!

My Review

Goodreads Link

The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger

One of the sexist YA books I've read, I smile everytime I think of this one!

My Review

Goodreads Link

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Travel back in time to the French Revolution!

My Review

Goodreads Link

Nightshade (Nightshade #1) by Andrea Cremer

What happens when you're eyes are opened to a whole new world and you question the only life you've ever known!

My Review

Goodreads link

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

This one still haunts me...I'm still not sure what to think of Ty!!!

My Review

Goodreads Link

YA Historical Fiction Challenge

Thanks to Sab for hosting this challenge. As I love historical fiction and YA, this is the perfect match. Oddly enough, I don't normally mix the two so this should be fun!

My book list:
  1. Timeless (Timeless #1) by Alexandra Monir (click for review)
  2. Deadly by Julie Chibbaro (TBR)
  3. Strings Attached by Judy Blundell (TBR)
  4. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (TBR)
  5. Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston
  6. Ingenue (Flappers #2) by Jillian Larkin
  7. Fateful by Claudia Gray
  8. Beautiful Days (Bright Young Things #2) by Anna Godbersen
  9. ?
  10. ?

It's never too late to join in! This challenge runs for all of 2011, you can find more about the challenge here

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Hardcover, 454 pages

Released: October 19, 2010

Publisher: Philomel

ISBN13: 9780399254826

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything— including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

My Rating: 5 / 5

My Thoughts:

Having been all paranormaled out this year, I was hesitant to read Nightshade, but with rave reviews I had to see for myself...and yes, it lived up to the hype. I'd have to say I was taken in from page one, with my love for the book ranking right up there with Vampire Academy! There was so much to love about Nightshade: wolves (my soft spot) and pack interaction, the ultra-sexy love triangle, the lore and magic.

I adore character-driven plots and this one was a fun ride. Calla has never questioned her life, she is part of a pack, a soon to be alpha and knows her role. But the moment she saves a hiker being attacked, her life changes. Shay, whom she meets later, turns her life upside down and opens her eyes to another world of possibilities. I loved the internal struggle: should she keep living the life she has only ever known & follow her destiny OR can she become her own person & make her own choices? Calla isn't the only one trying to figure out who she is, so is Shay, a human who is thrown into the picture thanks to his Uncle who unbeknownst to him, is high up in the ranks. Andrea plays with the reader, giving Calla two great guys to chose from, albeit quite different. The Ren (her chosen Alpha mate) vs. Shay dilemma is still a toss up for me. Andrea also goes out of her way to ensure, although alpha, Ren has many layers to him which is a huge plus in my books. Shay, well he just seems dreamy & innocent (though I am waiting for the curve ball in book two!).

The, I can't wait to learn more! Do the Keepers use the Guardians for good OR are the Searchers really the good guys? What exactly are they guarding? As you can see I am pulled in hoook, line and sinker. Although left with many questions, I didn't feel let down at the cliffhanger ending, just eager to continue what I hope to be a long series :) I'm adding this one to my top 10 list of 2010!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

This was such a great challenge for me last year. It was because of this challenge that I discovered a number of great new talented authors and many made it onto my Top 10 books of 2010. It was a no-brainer that I am joining it again!

My reading list:
  1. The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal (TBR)
  2. Across the Universe by Beth Revis (click for review)
  3. Timeless by Alexandra Monir (click for review)
  4. Clarity by Kim Harrington (click for review)
  5. Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbarb (reading now)
  6. Wither by Laren DeStefano (click for review)
  7. Hourglass by Myra McEntire (TBR)
  8. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (TBR)
  9. Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
  10. ?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review: The Candidates (Delacroix Academy #1) by Inara Scott

Hardcover, 293 pages

Released: August 24,2010

Publisher: Hyperion Book CH

ISBN13: 9781423116363

Dancia Lewis is far from popular. And that's not just because of her average grades or her less-than-glamorous wardrobe. In fact, Dancia's mediocrity is a welcome cover for her secret: whenever she sees a person threatening someone she cares about, things just...happen. Cars skid. Structures collapse. Usually someone gets hurt. So Dancia does everything possible to avoid getting close to anyone, belieiving this way she can supress her powers and keep them hidden.

But when recruiters from the prestigious Delcroix Academy show up in her living room to offer her a full scholarship, Dancia's days of living under the radar may be over. Only, Delcroix is a school for diplomats' kids and child geniuses--not B students with uncontrollable telekinetic tendencies. So why are they treating Dancia like she's special? Even the hottest guy on campus seems to be going out of his way to make Dancia feel welcome.

And then there's her mysterious new friend Jack, who can't stay out of trouble. He suspects something dangerous is going on at the Academy and wants Dancia to help him figure out what. But Dancia isn't convinced. She hopes that maybe the recruiters know more about her "gift" than they're letting on. Maybe they can help her understand how to use it...But not even Dancia could have imagined what awaits her behind the gates of Delcroix Academy.
My Rating: 4 / 5

My Thoughts:

The main character Dancia has just been invited to join a prestigious boarding school - on full scholarship. What she see's at school are students who excel at one thing or another, she doesn't understand is why they chose her. She's not rich, always tried to make herself invisable & her grades are just average....welll sort of, she does have a super power she can't control.

Being a YA book at a boarding school, you have to expect a love triangle. My heart goes out to the mysterious bad boy, Jack but sadly, Dancia is too infatuated with Cam. Dancia's choices are a tad frustrating but being all of 14 & pursued by the hottie class president of the school, I can cut her some slack. She has been taken from here sheltered life & thrown right into a world she never could have imagined, so in all fairness, I probably wouldn't have believed all the signs either.

I knew coming into this book that it was part of a series so expected to have way more questions then answers. Being book one, there is a lot of building of characters, relationships and the plot is just being developed - but boy, it's going to be a fun ride! I can't wait to see how it all plays out: Is the school really and truly only looking to enhance the supernatural skills for the good of the world? Is Cam really the good preppy guy OR is he brainwashed and totally clueless of the schools ulterior motives? Can Jack be saved before he goes to the dark side or is he already there?

Do you like supernatural powers & conspiracies, boarding schools, shows like Heros and X-Men? If so, this series is perfect for you.

Everyone's a winner today!

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway last week. Congrats to NICOLE on winning a copy of The King's Daughter!!!

So how is everyone a winner today you ask? Well in celebration of Jane Austen's 235rd birthday Sourcebooks has graciously offered up FREE ebooks! Here are the details:

Sourcebooks, the world’s leading publisher of Jane Austen fiction, is offering a unique deal to readers who want to celebrate Jane by reading special editions of all six of Austen’s beloved novels in a 21st century format.

Special e-book editions of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Mansfield Park will be available for free for one day only. These celebratory editions include the full novels, plus the legendary color illustrations of the Brock brothers, originally created to accompany the books in 1898.

In addition to the Jane Austen classics, readers can also enjoy these bestselling Austen-inspired novels. The following bestselling e-books will be free on December 16th in honor of her birthday:

Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken
The Darcys & the Bingleys by Marsha Altman
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins
The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview
Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan
Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

Available wherever eBooks are sold.
So head on over to your favourite online bookstore & start downloading!

Edit: there was a little bug this morning, so if you tried & couldn't find them they should all be working soon! Sourcebooks has also extended the free downloads to run two days now, today & tomorrow :)

Stores to visit: iBooks, Google Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Hardcover, 389 pages

Released: October 12th 2010

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN13: 9780061962660
The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star…

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined—and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall—together and apart. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe comes an epic new series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age.

My Rating: 4.5 / 5

My Thoughts:

Why haven't I read more roaring 20's books???!! I love this time, full of lavish parties & dressing to the nines, the carefree attitude...I can go on & on.

Bright Young Things is really about the journey of three young girls. Cordelia, looking for her father, Letty in search of fame and Astrid who SEEMS to have it all. As Cordelia & Letty leave their small town of Ohio for New York City,in search of their dreams, they quickly discover there's more then meets the eye. What I loved most about book was the characters, they were so very different and not one stood out. This was all about childhood innocence and growing up quickly, with each girl's journey taking them on a different path.

If you like a fun, quick read that will transport you back in time, this is the perfect read. Finished in one sitting, this one made me wish I was there enjoying the moments too. Now if only there wasn't that ending, leaving me hanging for another year until book two!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review & Giveaway: The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason

Paperback, 512 pages

Released: November 23rd 2010

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks

ISBN13: 9780061976278
The court of James I is a volatile place, with factions led by warring cousins Robert Cecil and Francis Bacon. Europe is seething with conflict between Protestants and Catholics. James sees himself as a grand peacemaker—and what better way to make his mark than to use his children in marriage negotiations?

Into this court come Henry, Prince of Wales, and his sister Elizabeth. Their louche father is so distrusted that soon they are far more popular than he is: an impossibly dangerous position for a child of the king. Then Elizabeth is introduced to Frederick of Bohemia, Elector Palatine. He’s shy but they understand one another. She decides he will be her husband—but her parents change their minds. Brutally denied their support, how can Elizabeth forge her own future?

At once a love story, a tale of international politics and a tremendous evocation of England at a time of great change, this is a enthralling novel to thrill all lovers of fine historical fiction.

My Rating: 4 /5

My Thoughts:
This is the story of Elizabeth, Daughter of King James I. Having lived a sheltered childhood being brought up away from court and her family, she is desperate for knowledge. It is when she returns to court that she realizes her place, as a female heir, is to be used for political gain. Her father ensures she knows that he is the one to decide whom she shall marry - even if it's the devil!

Christie tries to stick as much as possible to historical facts and it is obvious that she has thoroughly researched this time period. James I is cold and is very obsessive about his safety, going so far as to keep his own children separated from each other. Henry, the eldest son, is headstrong & loved by all, his love for his sister was so strong - it is heartbreaking at the end. Baby Charles is weak and spoiled. Robert Cecil & Francis Bacon add to the political struggle taking place at the time - Robert wanting whats best for England, Francis wanting what was best for him.

To add a little more fun to the plot, Christie creates a fictional character named Thalia. As Elizabeth's mother is emotionally detached, having no interest in her children, she sends Elizabeth a welcome gift instead upon her return to court...a slave named Thalia. It is through this fictional character, that Elizabeth learns many secrets of court, including creating the list of possible suitors (Frederick of Bohemia, Elector Palatine being one of them). Although a little slow at times in the middle, I did enjoy watching Elizabeth flourish & ultimately fight for what she wanted. It took a bit of work, but Elizabeth and Frederick play King James to ensure a marriage takes place. As I enjoy my happily ever after, this book is proof that true love can prevail!

Thanks to Harper, I have an opportunity to giveaway a copy of The King's Daughter to one lucky reader! Please fill in the form below. Open to Canadian or US residents only.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Released: November 30, 2010

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Hardcover, 366 pages

ISBN13: 9780525423645

Literary award: Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year for Fiction (2010)
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

My Rating: 4 / 5

My Thoughts:

If you are a regular blog reader, you'll know that I love my stories to be Happily Ever After. When I think dystopian, I picture a colourless world full of hopelessness. The buzz about Matched and it's stunning (and colourful) cover caught my eye & had me curious...can I do dystopian?

From page one, I knew this wasn't going to be that sad, dreary world I had anticipated. Reading Matched reminded me of watching the movie The Truman Show, people are living in what is attempted to be a perfect world with big brother watching you. Meals are planned, your marriage, job and even death are all determined for you. The Society has good intentions, but in the end they've taken away free will & what it means to be human. This is what the main character, Cassia, slowly discovers as she is introduced to the world through Ky's eyes.

I found the characters a bit harder to connect to (having no opportunity to be themselves has it's draw backs, though I have a feeling this will not be an issue in book two). What did stand out for me was the overall big picture...what would I do? Being a rule follower, not liking change but also being emotional has me torn. Would I follow my heart & risk everything OR stick with what I've always known? I'm looking forward to learning more about Cassia, Ky and Xander in the next book, maybe I'll be more courageous then ;)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Hardcover, 382 pages

Released: August 3, 2010

Publisher: Touchstone

ISBN13: 9781416563723

The second book in Philippa's stunning new trilogy, The Cousins War, brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, a shadowy and mysterious character in the first book of the series - The White Queen - but who now takes centre stage in the bitter struggle of The War of the Roses. The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty.

My Ratig: 4 / 5

My thoughts:

One may find Margaret Beaufort a hard character to connect with, but you have to give the lady credit for her all costs. From early childhood, Margaret compares herself to Joan of Arc and at age ten, is proud to have saints knees from praying so much! She always thought her calling was to be a nun "I am chosen by God to save England" (page 13) but sadly things don't go her way when she is married at age twelve & pregnant. From pregnancy, she believes her son will inherit the throne, and with tunnel vision, her life is about making this a reality. See, I told you she was determined!

We all know how the story ends, but it was interesting reading Philippa's take on how Margaret ensures her only child, Henry, becomes King. There are a few theories about the princes in the tower and in this book Philippa plays on Margarets scheming ways. Although the most commom theory is that King Richard III had them killed, Philippa weaves in the theory that Margaret had the boys murdered to put her son that much closer to the throne. Margaret was willing to give up everything in life, living with one goal in mind but her plotting ways left me feeling no remorse for her setbacks. I must say I felt more sympathy to the Yorkists after reading this book :o

This is the second book in a series entitled ‘The Cousins’ War’, to be followed by The Lady of the Rivers in Autumn 2011 (The Story of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville) and The White Princess (The Story of Elizabeth, Princess of York, daughter of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII). You can click here to read my review of the first book The White Queen which I must admit to liking a bit more.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Format Available: Hardcover, 335 pages

Publisher: HarperTeen

Released: August 31, 2010

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

My Rating: 4.5 / 5

My Thoughts:

I've grown tired of paranormals, reading too many this year, but knew I HAD to make an exception read this one. Thank goodness, as Parnormalcy is one of those books that capture your attention & before you know it you've finished the book! From page one, I was loving the main character Evie... she is seriously one of my favorites this year. Her spunky, witty ways made this story top notch.

Besides Raquel who was a sort of mother figure at the agency, there are two main guys that are shaping Evies life...and they are polar opposites of course. First we have the faerie, Reth, who has some kind of power over Evie & seems to driving her crazy. Then there's Lend, a unique shape shifter who is gentle, kind & makes her happy. Lend may have some competition with Reth down the road though, I know there is some good in him somewhere!

It was interesting seeing the world though Evie's somewhat innocent eyes. Having grown up in the IPCA (International Paranorm Containment Agency) all she knows is what she's been told - that paranorms are bad & need to be contained. After meeting Lend & being on the outside though, she sees a different side and questions what she thought was right! This isn't your typical paranormal read. I can't wait to learn more about the prophecy, The Empty Ones, faeries and how they relate. Bring on book two baby!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Hardcover, 472 pages

Published: October 12th 2010

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 0385737637

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.
My Rating: 5 / 5

My Thoughts:

This books premise caught me right away: time travel, connections and character growth. Add in my love for music and my new found eagerness for books on world history and this book had it all!

The main character, Andi, is deeply depressed, carrying the burden of her brothers death and mom's subsequent withdrawal from the world; she is a straight A student who is now failing. What struck me as odd (in a good way) was that as a reader, I connected with her yet didn't find the book a downer at all! With music, art and friends for support, hope was always there and you knew that somehow things would right themselves again...I loved this!

If you read my blog, you may already know that I cringe when famous names are dropped in books as I find it really dates the book. Jennifer's use of names, however, adds to the book, and I found it fascinating to see the connections and impact that musicians have had on each other over the years. Having no background in the French Revolution, I loved having a quick & fun lesson about life in these times and how it came to be. I enjoyed going back in time and feeling part of it all. (note: thanks Jennifer for the huge bibliography at the end!)

Just like Andi, I found myself anxious as she read Alex's diary, always hoping that maybe, somehow, the history books have it all wrong and Louis-Charles survived! Are you curious too? You'll have to read Revolution and find out for yourself.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Hardcover, 260 pages

Published: October 26th 2010

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.
My Rating: 4 /5

My Thoughts:

A book that starts out in the NY book store Strand, is full of adventures and about finding that special someone who you click with & shares your quirkiness - SOLD!

So maybe this could be considered a fantasy book - the characters are not exactly believable (loved the boot thing & the Cinderella imagery - you'll have to read the book to see how crazy Lily is!) and the adventures that happen over the Christmas holidays are extreme, but it's fun to think anything is possible :)

The chapters alternate between the two main characters, Dash & Lily. Dash was forced to grow up a tad faster & is more introverted due to his parents divorce. Lily leads a sheltered life with family support galore. What they have in common though is their quirkiness and desire to not feel so alone. In the end, Lily gets that extra push to get out there and experience life, while Dash doesn't feel so disconnected and the future has potential.

Set in NYC in winter, this is the perfect cute & quirky read to get into the holiday spirit!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fun Friday & Giveaway Winners! - Day #5

Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel by Michaela MacColl

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Released: October 13, 2010

I love doing the last post in the week as it's always full of fun times & I get to announce the winners!

I've included a few pictures of people or places you will find throughout the book Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl.

Princess Victoria by Henry Collen 1836

London's Great Fire Monument (I can't imagine jumping from this!)

Kensington Palace (though I got the impression it wasn't as nice looking as this back in 1836)

Windsor Castle (which I desperately want to visit one day!)

(drum roll please).....AND THE WINNERS ARE......

Carrie (book)
Vicky (bookmark)
Spav (bookmark)
Taylor (bookmark)
Myra (bookmark)

Check your email guys, and thanks to everyone for playing!

I hope you enjoyed the week & go check out Prisoners in the Palace this weekend :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meet Liza from Prisoners in the Palace - Day #4

In Michaela MacColl's debut, Prisoners in the Palace, Liza's luxurious life came to a halt when her parents were killed in a carriage accident, leaving her an orphan. Now homeless and with debts to pay, she acquires a job as a maid to Pricess Victoria - but with a catch, she must also act as a spy! I hope you enjoy this interview with Liza!

Your luxurious lifestyle and expecting to join society must have made becoming a maid hard to swallow. What was the toughest part?

The sleeping arrangements were definitely my most difficult obstacle! I was used to feather beds and sheets of silk. My bed at Kensington Palace was lumpy and I was always cold. You never realize how much you take for granted just being warm! I wrapped myself in my mother’s Kashmir shawl just to keep the chills away. Even the lack of a private bath pales in comparison to my nightly struggle to find a comfortable spot to sleep.

Do you think you and the Princess would have become friends had you met up different circumstances (assuming she was allowed out of course!)

What an amusing question, as Victoria might say. I do think we would easily have been friends if our ranks were equal. We had very much in common. We both love fashion, music and the theater. We could dance the night away at balls and fall madly in love with tenors at the opera. So long as we did not discuss matters of social policy or anything too intellectual, we could be close confidantes. And as a lady should never be too political or intellectual, Victoria’s company would be excellent discipline for me not to get unladylike ideas!

Why do you think it took so long for Elizabeth to stand up for herself?

Many young women from my background never learn to stand up for themselves. It is actively discouraged by the adults who try to safeguard us. If my life had gone according to plan, I would have been handed from my father’s care into my husband’s. It was fate’s intervention that gave me the opportunity to learn what inner strength I might draw upon. It helped that I first learned to stand up for others before myself.

Do you plan to visit, the now Queen Victoria, in the future?

Of course I do! After all we went through together, how could I resist seeing her in all her royal glory? I hear that she will leave Kensington Palace, so I’ll have to visit her in the new palace at Buckminister. I must also confess to being wildly curious as to how Victoria will handle all that power! She’s not accustomed to making her own decisions. I hope she makes good ones, not just for her own sake but for the nation’s.

If you could say one thing to Simon now, what would be it be?

Hmmm. I think perhaps I would tell him to think twice before he is seduced again by the promise of wealth and rank. Just because the aristocrats seem to have everything in life they could ever want, the truth may be very different. It doesn’t pay to envy your betters.

Today is the last day to enter the giveaway...Click here to enter!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Interview with Michaela MacColl - Day #3

I hope you are enjoying learning more about Prisoners in the Palace! Today on the blog is an interview with the author, Michaela MacColl. If you haven't already, don't forget to click on the giveaway link at the end of this post.

You have a background in history. Was being an author something you always dreamed of?

I fell into history accidentally through literature. I was reading a fabulous edition of Russian fairy tales when I needed to declare a major. I ended up designing an independent program that looked at the end of the Russian Empire and the beginning of the Soviet one from many different disciplines. To the extent that I thought about the future, I saw myself as a professor. However, two years of graduate school killed that dream! I found that to get a PhD, you had to take all the fun out of the history. Happily, I found a way to put it back in!

One of the surprises I found in your author's note was the existence of Inside Boy Jones (although portrayed differently in your book). What fascinates you the most about Inside Boy?

The 1830’s in pre-industrial England were a grim time for the poor. The very limited social safety net, poor houses, had been dismantled by a thrifty government. Instead, they put the burden on the local parishes. If you were born in Surrey, it was Surrey’s job to take care of you if you were indigent. (Sound familiar?) Of course the parishes weren’t equipped to do this and a lot of people ended up desperate.

Inside Boy is a quintessential London Cockney, who lives by his wits, both in real life and in Prisoners in the Palace. He’s found an ingenious way to let the monarchy pick up his bed and board. I found the idea of a clever character who was intimately familiar with both the streets of London and the drawing rooms of the Royal family fascinating. He has a unique perspective and specialized skills that my heroine, Liza, is quick to make use of.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

It’s a tough question, because I like my creature comforts! However, if I had to choose, I would probably pick Elizabethan England. To see Shakespeare performed as it originally was or to see the Spanish Armada sink – that would be a blast! And if I could fast forward, I think I would love to visit Prince Albert’ s Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Crystal Palace.

My BFF and I plan to one day tour the castles in Europe. Have you ever been so lucky to visit?

I lived in France for almost four years with my husband, first in the south of France and then in Paris. We had just gotten married and we didn’t have kids yet. We traveled every weekend – Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany – we went everywhere and toured as many castles as I could bully my husband into visiting. My favorite isn’t a castle, it’s the Abbey at Mont St. Michel in Normandy – put it on your list! Twice a day, the sea sweeps in and cuts it off from the mainland. Very romantic and spooky!

For Prisoners in the Palace I went to London to visit Kensington Palace and Windsor Castle. It was so important to the final book’s credibility. Of course, I had to rewrite huge chunks that I had already written to reflect what I saw.

Are you working on anything new?

I’m putting the finishing touches to my next novel, tentatively titled “ Beryl Above Africa” (I’ m almost certain that this will not be the title!). It’s about Beryl Markham, who was one of the premier female aviators of the 1830’s. She grew up in Colonial Africa when it was just being settled. Beryl was raised by the African tribe who worked for her father and she learned to hunt lion and was mauled once. She grew up to be the first to fly the Atlantic from East to West. Although she crashed, she survived to write a wonderful memoir called West Into the Night.

Thanks so much for stopping by Michaela! Don't forget you have a chance to win a copy of Prisoners in the Palace or one of 5 bookmarks:) Click here to enter!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fact vs. Fiction - Day #2 Prisoners in the Palace

I'm excited to have Michaela on the blog today talking about the fact vs. fiction and how her debut, Prisoners in the Palace came to be. Please give a warm welcome to Michaela :)

When I began writing Prisoners in the Palace, I started with biographies. Victoria is one of the most heavily biographed women in the world (!!!) so there are a lot to choose from. But my task is easier because I concentrate on her childhood, usually only a chapter or two in most biographies. Within those chapters, I looked for nuggets to start me thinking… and that’s where the story comes from. The nuggets in this case were the restrictions on her childhood and the dreaded Kensington System which was what her education regimen was called. Since I’m a parent of teenage girls myself, I knew that the life Victoria led would be intolerable to my kids. But the everyday details of her life were fascinating too because they are at once so similar and so different to our lives today. The way I described her schooling, the music she studied, the tutors she had, what she ate, her daily toilette, etc. are all based on fact.

Another nugget was about broadsheets. It turns out in the 1830’s you could print anything you wanted on broad sheets of paper and sell them on the street. They were often used to promote political agendas. When Victoria was Queen, more than one was addressed to her and designed to influence her thinking – much like we might see a full page ad in the New York Times today. I began to think about how dangerous this kind of publicity could be… and my plot emerged.

The challenge writing about a public figure is that you cannot alter the known facts just because it would improve the story. I can’t make Victoria 20 just because I feel like it. Although one of my critique partners insisted it would be amazing if Victoria snuck out of Kensington Palace and had adventures in London, I had to (regretfully) hold my ground. There was no way that someone as protected as she was could ever have slipped away for any length of time. So I created a character, Liza, who could be close to Victoria but who had the freedom to leave the palace. Liza is a ladies’ maid, and I portrayed her life as accurately as I could, based on my research about servants to the aristocracy. The fate of poor Annie, the maid whose place Liza takes, was also based on research about the working poor of London at the time.

It’s ironic that some of the most useful research about this time in London can be found in literature. Dickens and Thackeray were great sources for language and social mores. One of my favorite research tools was a book called What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool. Another amazing tool is a website called run by Lee Jackson (an author of Victorian mysteries). He has assembled a massive full-text indexed amount of literature and commentary about Victorian London.

Thanks so much Michaela! Don't forget you have a chance to win a copy of Prisoners in the Palace or one of 5 bookmarks:) Click here to enter!

About the book:
London, 1836. Sixteen-year-old Liza's dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady's maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant's world below-stairs as well as the trickery and treason above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?

Meticulously based on new interpretations of history, this riveting novel is as rich in historical detail as Catherine, Called Birdy, and as sizzling with intrigue as The Luxe.
Interested in reading the first chapter? That's easy, click here!

You can find out more about Michaela on her: website, blog, Facebook, Twitter

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's PRISONERS IN THE PALACE week on the blog! (Giveaway)

It is my pleasure to have a week of Prisoners in the Palace on the blog. I really enjoyed Michaela's story of Liza, a maid to Princess Victoria in London, 1838 especially since I have recently been sucked into the world of historical fiction. Each day this week we will have something devoted to the book: character interviews, an author interview and more!

About the book:
London, 1836. Sixteen-year-old Liza's dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady's maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant's world below-stairs as well as the trickery and treason above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?

Meticulously based on new interpretations of history, this riveting novel is as rich in historical detail as Catherine, Called Birdy, and as sizzling with intrigue as The Luxe.
Interested in reading the first chapter? That's easy, click here!

About the author:

Michaela attended Vassar College and Yale University. She earned degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. What happened that helped them to be great? Michaela has two daughters so she's hoping to identify those moments firsthand. She and her family live in Connecticut, but she will travel at the drop of hat to do local research. So far her travels have taken her to London and Florence and Amherst, Massachussetts. A trip to Shanghai, China is in the works. Prisoners in the Palace (Chronicle, October 2010) is her first book.

You can find out more about Michaela on her: website, blog, Facebook, Twitter

...and thanks to Michaela & her publisher, Chronicle, you have a chance to win a copy of Prisoners in the Palace or one of 5 bookmarks:) Please leave a comment and fill out the form below!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hardcover, 427 pages

Released: October 19th 2010

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described as anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away, and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch, or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?
My Rating: 3.5 / 5

My Thoughts:

Crescendo was my top "must read, can't wait for book of 2010" so you may want to take my review with a grain of salt...I had super high expectations, last year I fell in love with Hush, Hush (click for review).

In Crescendo, Nora and Patch are together, and her crazy side-kick Vee is dating...Patch's best bud Rixon. Sounds great right? Wrong. This book is filled with new characters & many twists and turns as Nora comes closer to understanding who she is and what happened the night her dad was murdered.

Nora's character is much stronger in this book, she is not as dependant on Vee to do everything for her. Vee, whose fun/silly/crazy antics in Hush, Hush had me wishing I had a friend like that, just came off as annoying and way too anti-Patch in Crescendo. Add to this, the connection between Patch & Nora being strained for most of the book. I must say I really missed the Patch I loved in Hush, Hush!

Crescendo gives us insight into Nora's background, why her dad was murdered and we are told of a trouble that is brewing. Besides the introduction to a secret society, it was really only the last 50 or so pages that finally sucked me in. I'm not sure of the correct way to put this, but it seems to suffer the Curse of the Trilogy...I would suggest reading this book knowing you will get some answers, be left with more questions (a cliff hanger ending, of course!) & consider it a bridge book to get us to the guts of the story in the next book.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Hardcover, 528 pages

Publisher: Atheneum

Published: August 31st 2010
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.
My Rating: 4.5 / 5

My Thoughts:

Who would have thought weaving Poe into a story about a goth and a cheerleader would work & not be cheesy! I came into reading this book with high expectations; ratings have been great & reviews keep calling this a favorite read. I, however, didn't read the reviews & had no idea what I was getting myself into - other than thinking this was going to rock! I would suggest that you read some Poe prior to jumping into the book (The Raven and The Masque of the Red Death) so that you can see just how brilliant Kelly is at executing a story that parallels Poe's dark, twisted & eerie style.

This is not paranormal fluff! It is dark & gloomy paranormal, I may even go as far to say it verges on a fantasy read as world's collide, the lines between reality & dream blur, even Shadows and Noc's attack! Although to me the pace was slow, the originality won me over big time. Isobel is a great lead character, a cheerleader but not snobby & not one to follow the crowd. Varen (sexy name and... Raven word play!), there is so much to learn about him, you really can't help but feel for this guy. I must add another great feature is that the main characters were not stereotypical (her overbearing ex, the football player was a tad bit). The secondary characters were a nice addition. I can't wait to learn more about her quirky locker buddy and new found friend, Gwen, and Nikky, well I hope to see a change in her & see more support for Isobel.

A fascinating debut by Kelly that really raises the bar on YA fiction. Loved this for it's originality and can't wait for more in the trilogy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading? October 4, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week. Feel free to join in this weekly event if you'd like as well as use the picture above. Thanks Sheila for hosting!

Last week:
I finished & reviewed Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and Zombies vs. Unicorns. I also reviewed The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
which still puts a smile on face just thinking about it :)

I started Nevermore by Kelly Creagh (click for the goodreads link)

This week:
Finish up Nevermore & write a few reviews of books that are way overdue!

What are you reading?


Thanks to everyone who entered the Ook & Gluk giveaway!

*drum roll please* the winner is.....


I've emailed you, please reply in the next 48 hrs.

Happy Monday everyone :)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Zombies vs. Unicorns

Hardcover, 432 pages

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Released: September 21st 2010

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?

My Rating: 4 /5

My Thoughts:

This short story collection is bursting with amazing authors (Carrie Ryan, Diana Peterfreund, Scott Westerfld, Meg Cabot, Cassie Clare and Libba Bray) plus a few new to me authors. This is the best part about short stories, finding those new, great authors! Alaya Dawn Johnson's writing was so catchy and fun, so I'm definitely going to have to keep my eye out for more from her!

Each story begins with a debate between Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier , with Holly being pro-unicorn and Justine pro-zombies. It was fun reading their little jabs at each other. I must admit that I flip-flopped a lot between Team Zombie & Team Unicorn as I was reading, but since a side must be chosen, I'd say I'm..... Team Unicorn!!!

It's always hard reviewing collections so I figure I'd rate a few of the stories that stood out for me:

Favorite - The Care & Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn
Best Ending - Bougainvillea
Creepiest - A Thousand Flowers
Craziest - Love Will Tear Us Apart

So now that you know my side, I should explain myself. Although the zombie stories were great, they are dead, cold & eat brains (yuck!). Unicorns, on the other hand, can be so much more. As noted in the stories, they aren't just white & fluffy, they can be cute & cuddly pets that stick up for you, fall in love with humans and pro-create (yes, ewww), can heal the sick or steal their life! See, so much more variety here.

There you have it folks, go read Zombies vs. Unicorns and tell me what team you're on!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Hardcover, 479 pages

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Released: August 31st 2010

Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
My Rating: 5 /5

My Thoughts:

Once word got out that The Clockwork Angel was coming, I knew it was a 'must read' and even with that hype, this one still exceeded my expectations! When Cassie writes, it's addictive and draws you right into her world both by the descriptive setting & the well rounded characters.

I'm not sure how Cassie does it but there are a ton of characters in this book and yet you can easily follow along. Funny thing too is that other then the obvious Tessa being the main character, I didn't find that one person really stood out, they really all complimented eachother. The Magister was twisted, her brother Nathaniel was...(I can't tell ya or I'd spoil it), Will was the mysterious sarcastic hottie who you knew had more to him if he let himself out of his shell, James (Jem) is the perfect nice guy (with issues). Ahh, the beginnings of love triangle? So far I am Team Jem but with that ending I can see myself considering a switch!

The setting is dark, the magic is creepy (automatons with human skin - shivers-), I love the steampunk elements added to the 18th century! For those that haven't read her Mortal Instruments series, don't worry. This new series is a sequel to MI and Cassie has mentioned you can read it without reading MI (though many have said it is good to know MI first). This is definitely going to be a top 5 read of 2010 :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Hardcover, 288 pages

Publisher: Little Brown/Poppy

Released: September 7th 2010

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.
My Rating: 5 /5

My Thoughts:

A growing up story as told by Bianca, who sadly is given the title The DUFF (designated ugly fat friend). Bianca is one of the most neurotic, sarcastic, tell you as it is characters but also a great loyal friend. Things happen in her life that drive her to search for an escape - in this case she resorts to being sexually active with the school hottie/man whore. I must say for a YA book, this was super hot, as in I blushed a few times & had to fan myself :O so be prepared! What I loved most about the DUFF was seeing the rawness, both the good and faults in ALL characters, the confusion & growth that everyone experiences during those odd teenage years. The message is clear that despite appearances, we all are not perfect...even the school hottie ;)

Kody's writing is superb, you feel part of the group as Bianca shares her story. The characters are almost all screwed up (who isn't as a teen LOL) but learn lessons along the way. If you loves stories about relationships, friendships and growth, where you cheer for the underdog, then run don't walk and get your hands on this book. I think this is a top 10 for 2010!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Winners of the First Annual Teen Read Awards!

This past Saturday night, Jackie & I had the honor of attending the 1st Annual Teen Read Awards presented by the amazing people at Indigo.

Teen fans were able to vote daily over the summer with opportunities to win daily prizes & a grand prize of transportation to the awards, hotel & a copy of each book that made it to the final round (Wowzers 10 categories & 5 nominees = 50 books!!)

Prior to the award ceremony, many authors were in town for book signings. Just across the street from where the awards were to take place, a bunch of authors in town for the awards stopped into Chapters to sign. It was also the final tour stop for the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour in Brampton. Sadly I did not make it to these :(

Here's my recap of the "Big Event"

Jackie and I arrived just before the 6 PM red carpet time. I must say that Indigo went all out. While standing outside were entertained by a magician & mime. Once inside, they had a photo booth, graffiti wall, food & drinks & a DJ blasting music making it feel more like a Saturday night out than a stuffy award ceremony. The venue was perfect, it was a night club with disco balls hanging from the ceiling and everything! If there was any doubt, this proved books nerds rock.

The awards were hosted by Jessi Cruickshank and Dan Levy, with musical performances throw in by Alex Lacasse, Alyssa Reid as well as a surprise set by Hannah Montana co-star, Emily Osment. A cute feature, were mini-clips of the Best Read nominees : Catching Fire, Shiver, Shadowland & Along For The Ride created by Monster Factory. Throughout the night, prizes were given including Kobo readers, books, even signed Mockingjays :o

Here is a list of the winners:
Best New Writer - Fallen, Lauren Kate
Best Teen Series - Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead
Best Lip Lock - Bella & Edward from Breaking Dawn, Stephanie Meyer
Best Hottie - Jace Waylaynd from Mortal Instruments:City of Glass, Cassandra Clare
Best Book-to-Flick - Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, JK Rowling
Best Hero - Percy Jackson from The Last Olympian, Rick Riordan
Best Villain - Alice Milthorpe from Prophecy of the Sisters, Michelle Zink
Best All Time Fave - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling
Best Canadian Read - The Reckoning, Kelley Armstrong
Best Read - Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins

Of all the winners above, only Richelle Mead & Kelley Armstrong were there to accept their awards in person. Kate Lauren, Cassie Clare, Rick Riordan, Michelle Zink and Suzanne Collins all accepted their awards via video & J.K. Rowling, winner of two awards, wrote a thank you letter, which Dan joked was probably worth $75,000! I hope with the success of this first awards behind their belt that next year many more of the nominees will go out of their way to attend the event. The idea of celebrating books, especially for teens, is such an important message to send.

If I could make one suggestion for next year, it would be to have access to the authors attending the event. The event specifically said no signing but was promoted with "special appearances by"... Considering only two winners accepted their awards in person and there were over a dozen authors in attendance, it would have been nice for the audience to have seen the authors - heck even have them on stage at the end of the awards?

A big thank you to Indigo for creating these awards, along with all the publishers for sponsoring. I can't wait to do this again next year :)

So what do you think about the winners? Who did you vote for?

p.s. Jackie, don't wear heels next year ;)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Upcoming Toronto Event & Interview with HALO author Alexandra Adornetto

There was tons of buzz back in May/BEA time about 18 yr old Alexandra Adornetto, author of Halo. Did you know this is not her first book... she published her first book at the age of 14? Oh to be so talented at such a young age.

I have some great news to pass along for all my Toronto area readers. Alexandra will be making a tour stop here next week! Come on out to Indigo Yorkdale Monday September 27th for a chance to meet Alexandra. What an inspiration & amazing opportunity for aspiring teen writers to chat about writing!

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to ask Alexandra a few questions, I hope you enjoy!

Besides possiblly being jealous, I'm sure many readers want to know how by age 18 you've had the time to write four books & somehow keep up with school. Congrats, how do you do it?

When I wrote my first novel I was thirteen and in Grade 8 so I didn’t have too much homework to worry about. Things got a lot trickier when I started writing Halo in my final year of high school. There were quite a few instances when I had to finish a chapter and revise for an exam in the same night! Throughout most of my school-life I’ve had to manage my writing career and after a while you just learn to organise your time. My teachers were very understanding when I had to take time off to tour or do media events and my school principal fully supported my writing. So it wasn’t that bad!

Halo is not your first published novel, though this is your break into the North American market. Does it feel any different?

Halo is actually my first novel published outside Australia and it’s been sold to the USA, Canada and sixteen other international countries, so it feels very different! Up until now, I’ve been writing purely for a local market and engaging with local fans. Now I’m touring around the US and planning visits to England and Brazil next year. It’s an amazing feeling to have fans write to you from across the other side of the world. Being able to reach people on such an international scale is overwhelming and amazing.

My idea of an angel is perfection, yet in Halo Bethany appears very human. How do you envision angels in your world?

In my mind, Ivy and Gabriel are the epitome of traditional angels; they protect and watch over human-kind without engaging with them on a personal level. They are on a completely different plane of existence which is why it’s so difficult for Molly to get Gabriel’s attention. Bethany on the other hand, is a combination of the human and the divine. Her angelic nature gets all tangled
up with her human desires and emotions. In Halo, Bethany has not been around for thousands of years, like her siblings, which means she does not have the same perspective as them, but it also means that she is able to deeply connect with those around her which is powerful in itself. I had to make Bethany more human in the novel so that readers could identity with her and so that I could include my own life experiences.

There's a familiar feel to the love triangle aspect of the story that may be compared to Twilight. What do you think sets it apart and would give those that didn't necessarily like that particular series a reason to read Halo?

I don’t think a love triangle is a specifically “Twilight” trait. It appears in lots of classic novels and Shakespeare was a huge fan of love triangles or even love rectangles which were designed to engage and frustrate his audience and provide comic/tragic scenarios for his characters. However, unlike Twilight, where Bella is torn between her love for Edward and her bond with Jacob Black, Jake Thorn in Halo is more of a threat and his desire for Beth’s affection is part of his own dark and twisted nature. She isn’t battling feelings for Jake; she views him as troubled and is afraid of what he’s capable of. Apart from that, the situation is reversed in Halo with a supernatural girl falling for a human boy. Also angels and vampires are completely different characters. The angels in Halo are glorious and righteous, while the demons epitomise the dark side of humanity. Halo is a very straight-cut, classic story, I think and it deviates entirely from the blood, sex and violence themes which are prominent in most vampire-novels.

Any chance of a sneak peek at book two, Hades?

I can give you some hints!

1. Jake is back with a vengeance and he’s out to get Xavier
2. Beth is torn away from everything she loves
3. I got a little creeped out writing some scary scenes
4. The action and drama kicks into high-gear
5. Characters like Gabriel, Molly and Ivy really develop and you will meet a few new characters
6 . It’s a very different setting!

Thanks Alexandra!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer

Hardcover, 178 pages

Published June 5th 2010

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Fans of The Twilight Saga will be enthralled by this riveting story of Bree Tanner, a character first introduced in Eclipse, and the darker side of the newborn vampire world she inhabits.

In another irresistible combination of danger, mystery, and romance, Stephenie Meyer tells the devastating story of Bree and the newborn army as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullens, following their encounter to its unforgettable conclusion.

My Rating: 4 / 5

My Thoughts:

Having read the Twilight Saga (only once... but loved it!), I was really curious to read this one. I vaguely remembered who Bree Tanner was in Eclipse & really wondered what this novella would add. Being that Bree was a newborn, it was a much darker world. We catch up to the part we all know in Eclipse...only told from a different point of view. I loved that we saw the rawness of the new vamps, but were also given a glimpse of the people behind the vampires. Poor Bree though, sadly we all know how it ends already. Oh and the twist she gives up with the Volturi - wow, Jane is just pure evil I tell ya!

I wouldn't call it "irresistible' but for those Twilight fans, it's a nice addition to the Vampire world Meyer has built. Now if only Midnight Sun would come out next!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review & Giveaway: The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future by Dav Pilkey

Age range: 7+

Hardcover: 176 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Canada

Released: August 10, 2010

In this all-new graphic novel, George Beard and Harold Hutchins present the sensational saga of two silly caveboys named Ook and Gluk. Ook and Gluk have a pretty awesome life growing up together in Caveland, Ohio, in 500,001 BC - even though they're always getting in trouble with their nasty leader, Big Chief Goppernopper. But Ook and Gluk's idyllic life takes a turn for the terrible when an evil corporation from the future invades their quiet, prehistoric town. When Ook, Gluk, and their little dinosaur pal, Lily, are pulled through a time portal to the year 2222 AD, they discover that the world of the future is even worse than the devastated one they came from. Fortunately, they find a friend in Master Wong, a martial arts instructor who trains them in the ways of kung fu, so that they may one day return home and make things right again. And, like the other Captain Underpants books, The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future features the world's cheesiest animation technology, "Flip-O-Rama," in every chapter.

Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

Our Thoughts:

My eldest son, Jake, is a huge Captain Underpants fan. When word came out the author, Dav Pilkey, was starting a new series, I knew this was a must-read for Jake. Each night, just before bed my son has reading time, it's our ritual at home. The day he found Ook and Gluk at home, he grabbed it and ran into his room to read. It was getting late and he wasn't done so he asked if he could take it to the babysitters the next day - wow, this was summer time & I was shocked to say the least! He could be out riding his bike, playing with friends, swimming, playing video games etc. yet he wanted to read! By the next day he was done. He had gobbled this one up in less than 24 hours! Dav Pilkey, thank you so much for writing books that boys LOVE to read.

Unlike the Captain Underpants series, Ook and Gluk is solely a cartoon written by George and Harold. It's filled with cavemen, a time machine, robots, dinosaurs & kung-fu - the perfect recipe to attract any boys attention. Jake's favorite parts were the action scenes, reading "ka-blooey", "boom", "zap" etc. and seeing how the dinosaur outsmarts the mechasaurs. The one downfall of writing about cavemen is the lack of grammar, I did notice Jake struggle a little bit when reading some parts (which then ruined some of the humor).

In the true spirit of all other Pilkey books you will find some typical boy humor, actually a bit more since this entire book is written by George & Harold. As a parent I must admit I discourage it in normal conversation, but in these books I overlook it as I see the benefit of seeing my son eager & excited to read is so much more important to me. It probably makes the books even more hysterical as he knows it's not something he could get away with ;) Although Captain Underpants is still his favorite, we recommend Ook and Gluk as a must read for any Pilkey fan.

Thanks to Scholastic Canada, I have ONE copy to giveaway. Please fill in the form below. NOTE: this is open to Canadian mailing addresses only.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Hardcover, 299 pages

Published: May 1st 2010

Publisher: The Chicken House (Scholastic Canada)

Gemma, 16, is on layover at Bangkok Airport, en route with her parents to a vacation in Vietnam. She steps away for just a second, to get a cup of coffee. Ty--rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar--pays for Gemma's drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what's happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away. The unknowing object of a long obsession, Gemma has been kidnapped by her stalker and brought to the desolate Australian Outback. STOLEN is her gripping story of survival, of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare--or die trying to fight it.

My Rating: 5 / 5

My Thoughts:

WOW. Stolen is one of those books that stick with you long after you've read it. I read this in early August and can still feel the emotions, the confusion. Actually, after reading it, I had to take a book break...there was nothing I would be able to pick up and read without my mind being clear of the thoughts I had from reading Stolen.

The story is told via a letter from Gemma to her captor. She is taken from an airport form a guy who seems cute & sort of familiar to her. Later she wakes up to find herself in the middle of no where & she knows things aren't right. The problem is that her captor, Ty, is nice to her (she keeps waiting for the bad to happen) and everything he's done (and does) has been FOR her. This is where not only Gemma's mind is played with but so is the readers. As crazy as the situation is, you somehow begin to actually feel for Ty!

Stolen is a unique story. I'm not saying this will change your life, but it is definitely one that leaves you questioning things, making it the perfect book club read too!.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - Sept 15, 2010

This weekly event is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

I can't wait to read The Lost Saint (The Dark Divine #2) by Bree Despain, published by EgmontUSA & set for release December 28th. The Dark Divine was a favorite of mine last year and I've been dying for book two! A must read & assuming I'm getting a bookstore giftcard for Christmas, I know exactly what book is coming home with me :)

From Goodreads:
Grace Divine made the ultimate sacrifice to cure Daniel Kalbi. She was infected with the werewolf curse while trying to save him, and lost her beloved brother in the process. When Grace receives a haunting phone call from Jude, she knows what she must do. She must become a Hound of Heaven.
Desperate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot—a newcomer to town who promises her that he can help her be a hero. But as the two grow closer, the wolf grows in Grace, and her relationship with Daniel is put in danger—in more ways than one.
Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace begins to give into the wolf inside of her—not realizing that an enemy has returned and a deadly trap is about to be sprung.
What are you waiting on?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: Love Is The Higher Law by David Levithan

Love Is The Higher Law by David Levithan

Published: August 10, 2010

Publisher: Random House

Format: Paperback

Pages: 176

note: LGBT relationship involved

The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.

Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.

David Levithan has written a novel of loss and grief, but also one of hope and redemption as his characters slowly learn to move forward in their lives, despite being changed forever.

My Rating: 4.5 / 5

My Thoughts:

I remember 9/11 like it was just last week. Working in the financial industry, we had TVs by our desk, though normally kept on the business channel. On 9/11 we got the dreaded call from a broker telling us to put on CNN. We see the first building up in flames, still not sure why a plane would hit, how it got so far off course...then we see the 2nd plane. It was so surreal, I guess this is my generations JFK moment.

I haven't read much about 9/11 and when I started this book I knew it would make me emotional. Love Is The Higher Law takes an alternating look at three teens views during, right after and a year later. Claire's story was the emotional & deep one. You probably wondered the same things she questions from this tragedy. Jasper appeared to grow the most, starting off more removed from, well, people in general. Peter was smack dab in the middle & like a crutch for both Claire & Jasper. I loved the idea of having the story told from three very different perspectives.

The book takes you on a bit of a roller coaster, staring out with the traumatic event, moving onto the shock/grief stage and ending with some peace & hope. A beautiful, touching story that gives us a glimpse of home a tragic event can touch lives in many different ways, even if you weren't there. David captivates the moment perfectly (the thoughts, the fears, the questions) of something I hope never to have to relive again.

My thoughts & prays are with everyone tomorrow.