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.