Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Time For The Canada Day Blog Hop!

I can't believe that summer is finally here! It's time for BBQing, sitting outside in the backyard reading ... oh and I'm sure letting the kids run wild at the park will be a daily routine too! We have no big plans this summer but I do have many fun day trip ideas: the Toronto Zoo is a must every year, it's been a while since I've visited the CN Tower (even though I work down the street from it!), a Toronto Argos football game, plus maybe a trip to Niagara Falls and a stop at the family cottage! Happy Canada Day everyone!

To celebrate, you can win a $10 Gift Card from!  Since this is in honor of Canada Day, there will be TWO steps in this giveaway (and you must do both!) To enter, leave a comment with the name of a Canadian author (click here if you need some hints) you love, then fill in the form below.

Next Stop: Pass The Chiclets

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter

Hardcover, 298 pages

Released: June 21, 2011

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

ISBN13: 9781423147954

Genre: Young Adult

Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life: Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long — and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous, and that is . . . the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all, she has her best friend — the gorgeous Hale — and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses and realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.
My Rating: 4.5 / 5

My Thoughts:

Kat doesn't exactly believe in the family business, but she does have some returning items to their rightful owners to right the wrongs from the past! She takes on a solo job to recover a Cezanne from Moscow which was taken as a spoil of war by the Nazis. When she returns home, she is approached by Constance Miller and her grandson as the person to recover the Cleopatra Emerald. The fact that this is thought of as a cursed gem is pushed aside as Kat is caught up in the rush of the chase. If Visily, who recommended her for the job, believed in her, she could do it! Uncommon Criminals is about Kat's mission, along with the help of Hale and Gabrielle, to return the stolen gem. She needs all the help she can get, even her famous Uncle Eddie failed at his attempt years ago!

It's interesting getting into the mind of a thief, seeing things from a completely different angle. From simple things like counting your steps from the entrance to the closest exit,  to the more complex schemes of how to break into a guarded museum, my normal world was turned upside down. The code names Alley Carter used for jobs, like Cinderella, Jack and Jill, were brilliant as I loved thinking about the actions implied by the name.

Elaborate plotting is done by all, but compared to Heist Society, Hale and Gabrielle took the backseat. This was more of Kat's story: The con gets conned and over the course of the book, she is determined to fix it while at the same time questioning what she should do. With Hale offering to take her away, anywhere, can she leave the only life she's ever known behind? Always a fun read, Uncommon Criminals is either full of action or scheming and a series I am in love with!

(Oh and Ally, darn you for teasing us about Hale's first name...if it weren't for Kat's guesses, I wouldn't have given it a second thought!)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interview with Lesley Livingston for the Once Every Never Tour!

As you will see by the main characters name, Clarinet Reid, Lesley Livingston, is a hoot.  Once Every Never is about Clare and her special ability to travel back in time, way back like two centuries ago, after touching an ancient artifact. Lesley has an amazing ability to bring scenes to life, I loved seeing the old world - especially one with Druids & a hot Celtic warrior ;)  I'm excited to be part of her Once Every Never tour and today I have an interview to share! (On a side note, earlier this week I was fortunate enough to attend the book launch party thanks Penguin & Lesley! I'll have a post about it next week, but I must say that she is one of the sweetest authors (and maybe quirkiest) ever, spending oodles of time chatting with each & every person.)

Hi Lesley, thanks for taking the time to chat with me!

Thanks for having me here, Mel, and for being part of the ONCE EVERY NEVER blog tour!

Having a background in Arthurian lit & Shakespeare, means you've spent quite some time hanging out in the past. Did you find the first century easy to connect with & learn about?

I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out in the past! Sometimes I think I was born into the wrong time – but there are so many other eras that fascinate me, I wouldn’t know which one to choose if I had to live in the time period. (Plus, I’m fond of indoor plumbing and refrigeration…) I found the world of the ancient Celts almost effortless to slip into and connect with. It was a fascinating culture and – contrary to popular belief – these people didn’t live barbaric lives in dark smoky huts, but had rich artistic traditions and, in some cases, downright opulent surroundings. They were skilled artisans and gifted storytellers and musicians and were very fond of the finer things in life like jewelry and clothing.

What sticks out as the most fascinating from that time period?

First century Britain is one of those periods of history that I’ve been fascinated with since I was young. It was wild and dangerous and a land and people on the cusp of dramatic change coming forcibly to their way of life by way of an invading empire. For some reason the plight of the Celts has always sparked in my imagination, especially the story of Boudicca and her revolt against Rome. She was an incredibly brave and driven figure, but that’s not to say that what she did was always on the side of right. In fact, it’s very possible she perpetrated some pretty heinous crimes in the name of rebellion that were really more acts of vengeance. She’s both an incredibly sympathetic figure… and, in some ways, an unforgivable one.

What was your favorite part to write - the bog bodies coming alive OR the Druid's?

Ha! It’s tough for me to choose. I’m very fond of my boggy men… they are tragic and horrible and awesome all at the same time. But I’m also very fond of my Druids because they area mysterious and powerful and, at least in one particular case, kinda smokin’!

Clare is a lucky girl, having two hotties in her life, one a brain, the other a warrior. Who did you use for inspiration (we want pics!)

Oh, forgive me on this one! Milo and Connal actually showed up in my brain as fully formed characters all by themselves. I don’t have any visual references that I used when I was writing them. But I’ll tell you what—I’d be very interested to see who you guys would “fantasy cast” as Clare’s two hotties. How about it? :)
(I'm thinking Jonathan Rhys Meyers for Milo and maybe Stuart Townsend for Connal - but they may be a tad too old!)

If you could time travel, where would you go & what would you do?

Fifth Century Britain. I’d like to spend an evening or two hanging out at King Arthur’s dinner table. I’m pretty sure he would have a few really interesting stories to tell. Also, of course, first Century Britain—although maybe a few years before the Romans got Boudicca all riled up… just so I could experience that culture at it’s height. The feasts were apparently epic! I think Shakespeare would have been a lot of fun to hang out with after rehearsals in the pub. I’ve also always been fascinated with Hatshepsut so a trip to Ancient Egypt might be in the cards, too…

Do you believe in curses?
Shh!! Do you want to be cursed!?!!

Thanks so much Lesley!

And thank you, Mel! It was lovely to meet you at my launch the other night, by the way! Thanks for coming out and I hope you enjoyed the festivities – and the Celts and Romans!

Oh and a big congrats on the recent announcment that Once Ever Never is book one of a trilogy!!!
About the book:

Clarinet Reid is a pretty typical teenager. On the surface. She's smart, but a bit of a slacker; outgoing, but just a little insecure; not exactly a mischief-maker... but trouble tends to find her wherever she goes. Also? She unwittingly carried a centuries-old Druid Blood Curse running through her veins.
Now, with a single throughtless act, what started off as the Summer Vacation in Dullsville suddenly spirals into a deadly race to find a stolen artifact, avert an explosive catastrophe, save a Celtic warrior princess, right a dreadful wrong that happened centuries before Clare was even born, and if there's still time - literally - maybe even get a date.
This is the kind of adventure that happens to a girl once every... never.

You can find the book at,,

About the author:

Lesley is a writer and actor living in Toronto, Canada.  Captivated at a young age by stories of mythology and folk lore, past civilizations, and legendary heroes, she developed into a full-fledged Celtic Mythology Geek, steeped in stories of the Otherworld, Faeries and King Arthur. Lesley went on to earn a Master’s Degree in English from the University of Toronto specializing in Shakespeare and Arthurian literature.

For almost three years, Lesley hosted weekly late-night movie marathons on the nationally broadcast television show, SPACEBAR, as the Waitron-9000, a sparkly holographic waitress with an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure B-movie trivia. She is also a founding member and principal performer with Tempest Theatre Group. Find out more by visiting or following her on Twitter

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - June 22, 2011

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

As I Wake
AS I WAKE by Elizabeth Scott

Hardcover, 224 pages

Expected publication: September 15th 2011

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

ISBN13: 9780525422099

Where to find the book:

From Goodreads:

Ava is welcomed home from the hospital by a doting mother, lively friends, and a crush finally beginning to show interest. There's only one problem: Ava can't remember any of them - and can't shake the eerie feeling that she's not who they say she is.
Ava struggles to break through her amnesiac haze as she goes through the motions of high-school life, but the memories that surface take place in a very different world, where Ava and familiar-faced friends are under constant scrutiny and no one can be trusted. Ava doesn't know what to make of these visions, or of the boy who is at the center of them all, until he reappears in her life and offers answers . . . but only in exchange for her trust.

Eek, the idea of lossing my memory and relying on others terrifies me! What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: What Happened To Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Hardcover, 402 pages

Released: May 10, 2011

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

ISBN13: 9780670012947

Other places to find the book:

My Rating: 4 /5

My Thoughts:
I have to say, this title had me curious and boy was it fun to see how it came about and then come  full circle! McLean's life drastically changed when her parents divorced and her mom started a new family. She sticks with her Dad even as he lives a nomadic lifestyle, where turning around restaurants takes him to numerous places. Being a teen and trying to figure out who you are is hard enough as it is, and for McLean, all this moving provided an opportunity to escape and she uses it to reinvent herself, over and over again. Can you imagine how cool that would be to always start with a clean slate? Well it would be fun for a while, until you find that even you don't know yourself anymore! At the end of the day,  McLean realizes that she is only cheating herself. It takes a few struggles, some heart-to-heart with her parents and one amazing boy next door for her to quit playing the game.

For the town centennial, the kids come together while building a town model. It was obvious the symbolic nature of this model, but Dessen made my heart skip a beat when it was complete. What Happened to Goodbye is full of a great cast of characters, each one unique and likeable. Dave, the amazing neighbor, has become a favorite of mine. Not only is he cute and super smart, what sets him apart from your typical hottie is his thoughtfulness and subtlety. He drops hints to open her eyes but really let's McLean figure things out on her own, quite the opposite of his overbearing parents! Although stubborn, McLean is strong and doesn't need a guy to make things right.

Predictable, but very fun getting there, What Happened To Goodbye is an enjoyable summer read about finding who you are and being true to yourself. Life can be so much more when you aren't hiding from it!

Monday, June 20, 2011

ASHES, ASHES Plague and Pestilence Blog Tour + Giveaway!

I am excited to share an interview with Jo Treggiari today. Her dystopian, ASHES, ASHES takes place in a world that eerily is similar to what we live in now, such as tsunamis and plague breakouts, just on a smaller scale. This is really what drew me into the book, seeing how easily the world could change. One aspect of the book that I was hoping would go into more depth (due to the conspiracy theorist in me) was the scientists actions. As people's actions are quite different when put into a life-or-death situation, I often wondered if they were evil or just desperate when reading the book.

I hope you enjoy the interview! Thanks to Scholastic Canada, one lucky commenter will win a copy of ASHES, ASHES . This is open to Canadian residents only and ends at June 27th 11:50 PM EST. Winner will be drawn using, please leave your email so that I may contact you should you win!

 If you were stuck in a dire situation and could only salvage three things, what would they be?

Bird Flu, SARS and today's erratic weather came to mind as I was reading ASHES, ASHES. How did this story idea come to you?

All those things came to my mind as well. We live in scary times and I guess since I have young children, every tragedy I read about or hear about affects me deeply. I don’t know if there are worse environmental disasters than there used to be (an aspect of global warming) or the media is just more intense about every storm that devastates a region, but it sometimes feels as if something cataclysmic happens every week and that we are completely unprepared. There was the tsunami in 2004, which affected me personally- one of my best friends almost died in it- and then that was followed by Hurricane Katrina, and then Haiti, and I guess I just started wondering if it was the beginning of the end for the human race. We can build weapons and skyscrapers but we are totally at the mercy of the weather.

The plague affected the world, why did you choose NY state as the setting?

I lived in NY for almost 10 years. I guess it’s sort of weird that I took a place I love and re-imagined it as a devastated wasteland. I suppose it was the contrast between the reality of a concrete and steel Manhattan and the ruin I depict in my book. Also NYC is such a symbol of human ingenuity and power, so to literally and figuratively bring that tumbling down made for a really interesting place to set a book.

I'm curious as to why you picked that title S'ans for those who survived the disease but are were left horribly scarred and insane. I often found myself saying 'sanes' and 'sans' in french translates to 'without'.

Oh, I like the French ‘sans’- that sort of works well with the S’ans’ status in society. They are ostracized much like lepers would be.

It’s actually a contraction of “Sitalans”, a word I adapted from the Hindu small pox Goddess Sitala Matan. People who were afflicted with small pox would pray to her.

I also thought it could be slang referring to sanatoriums which might have housed plague victims in the early days of the disease. And of course it makes you think of ‘insane’ as well which plays into people’s fears about the S’ans.

Lucy pretty much lost everything to the plague. Do you think you could have survived alone as long as she did?

I think I’d probably need a dog for companionship. I’m also not sure if I could survive losing my entire family to the plague but the human will to survive is incredibly strong. I do have some survival skills and could probably build a shelter. I’m not so sure about chopping animals’ heads off but I do know how to tie a snare for trapping, although currently I am a vegetarian.

Lucy carried a backpack with her, containing useful & cherished items. If you could only carry three things, what would they be?

A knife. A tinder box or magnifying glass for starting fires. A photo of my kids.

What are you working on now (please say book two!)?

I just finished a novel which follows 2 punk rock girls and their crazy adventures over the course of a day and night in 1983 California. And I’m working on an urban fantasy- coming of age tale with great white sharks. I am also working on another book set in the Ashes, Ashes world.

About the book:
A thrilling tale of adventure, romance, and one girl's unyielding courage through the darkest of nightmares.

Epidemics, floods, droughts--for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she's rescued from a pack of hunting dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can't continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet, a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There's something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her.

About the author:
I was born in London, England but grew up in Canada, Roccasinibalda, Italy and California.Somehow I found myself on the beautiful south shore of Nova Scotia, where I now live.
I used to work in the music industry and eventually owned my own indie record label. The first CD we ever put out was by a gangsta rap group. We also did alt rock and punk.
I have trained as a boxer. I could have been a contender. (Not really).
I started writing stories for my little sister when I was about 8. Often I would rework fairytales so that the princesses had a little more grit. Then I would write them out on white paper, roll them up and tie with a red ribbon.
Later on in high school I penned personalized naughty limericks by request.
I love dogs and octopi.I blog. And I enjoy baking desserts. I am a tattooed person.
My first book, a middle-grade fantasy THE CURIOUS MISADVENTURES OF FELTUS OVALTON, came out in 2006. I am thrilled to be working now with Scholastic, Inc. My post-apocalyptic adventure YA, ASHES,ASHES will be published summer 2011.
I've just finished a punk rock YA- FIERCE and am working on an urban fantasy, BRINY DEEP.

Places to find Jo:
Jo Treggiari on Facebook
Jo Treggiari on Twitter

Chapter One of Ashes, Ashes Audiobook on Youtube
Interview with Jo Treggiari on YouTube

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards: Finalists Announced

Yesterday, the Canadian Children's Book Centre announced the finalists for a number of Canadian Children's literature awards. The works shortlisted showcase some of the best work by Canadian authors and illustrators.  The winners of the English-language awards will be announced at an invitation-only gala event at The Carlu in Toronto on October 4, 2011, while winners of the Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse take place at an invitation-only gala event at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on October 25, 2011. Overall, $115,000 in prize monies will be awarded. Congrats to everyone!

How many have you read? Plain Kate is one I've always heard praise for and I loved Y.S. Lee's A Spy In The House! It appears there are a few more books I should add to my reading list.
TheTD Canadian Children’s Literature Award ($25,000)
Sponsored by TD Bank Group

Written by Alma Fullerton (Midland, ON)
Dancing Cat Books

Canadian Railroad Trilogy
Written by Gordon Lightfoot (Toronto, ON)
Illustrated by Ian Wallace (Brookline, MA)

The Glory Wind
The Glory Wind
Written by Valerie Sherrard (Miramichi, NB)
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
I Know Here
I Know Here
Written by Laurel Croza (Markham, ON)
Illustrated by Matt James (Toronto, ON)
Groundwood Books

Plain Kate
Plain Kate
Written by Erin Bow (Kitchener, ON)
Scholastic Canada

Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse ($25,000)
Sponsored by TD Bank Group

Chasseur de loups-marins (Le)
Le chasseur de loups-marins
Written by Claire Vigneau (Sherbrooke, QC)
Illustrated by Bruce Roberts (Westmount, QC)
Éditions Les 400 coups

Devant ma maison
Devant ma maison
Written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc (Montreal, QC)
Éditions La courte échelle

La fille d'en face
Written by Linda Amyot (St-Charles-Boromée, QC)
Éditions Leméac

Oh ! la vache !
Written by Alain M. Bergeron (Victoriaville, QC), Édith Bourget (Saint-Jacques, NB),Colombe Labonté (Saint-Lambert, QC) and Guy Marchamps (Trois-Rivières, QC)
Illustrated by Caroline Merola (Montreal, QC)
Soulières éditeur

Written by Martine Audet (Montreal, QC)
Illustrated by Luc Melanson (Laval, QC)
Éditions Dominique et compagnie

Sponsored by A. Charles Baillie

I Know Here
I Know Here
Written by Laurel Croza (Markham, ON)
Illustrated by Matt James (Toronto, ON)
Groundwood Books

In Front of My House
In Front of My House
Written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc (Montreal, QC)
Translated by Yvette Ghione (Toronto, ON)
Kids Can Press

Singing Away the Dark
Singing Away the Dark
Written by Caroline Woodward (Victoria, BC)
Illustrated by Julie Morstad (Vancouver, BC)
Simply Read Books

Written by Kyo Maclear (Toronto, ON)
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (Montreal, QC)
Kids Can Press

Stanley's Little Sister (Stanley (Kids Can Press))
Stanley’s Little Sister
Written by Linda Bailey (Vancouver, BC)
Illustrated by Bill Slavin (Millbrook, ON)
Kids Can Press

Sponsored by the Fleck Family Foundation

Case Closed?: Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science
Case Closed! Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science
Written by Susan Hughes (Toronto, ON)
Illustrated by Michael Wandelmaier (Toronto, ON)
Kids Can Press

Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be
Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be
Written and illustrated by Daniel Loxton (Victoria, BC)
Kids Can Press

Not Your Typical Book About the Environment
Not Your Typical Book About the Environment
Written by Elin Kelsey (Pacific Grove, CA)
Illustrated by Clayton Hanmer (Toronto, ON)

Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged
Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged
Written by Jody Nyasha Warner (Toronto, ON)
Illustrated by Richard Rudnicki (Halifax, NS)
Groundwood Books

Watch This Space: Designing, Defending and Sharing Public Spaces
Watch This Space: Designing, Defending and Sharing Public Spaces
Written by Hadley Dyer (Toronto, ON)
Illustrated by Marc Ngui (Cambridge, ON)
Kids Can Press

Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Bilson Endowment Fund

Exiles from the War: The War Guests Diary of Charlotte Mary Twiss (Dear Canada)
Written by Jean Little (Guelph, ON)
Scholastic Canada

Written by Marthe Jocelyn (Stratford, ON)
Tundra Books

The Glory Wind
The Glory Wind
Written by Valerie Sherrard (Miramichi, NB)
Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Queen of Hearts
Queen of Hearts
Written by Martha Brooks (Winnipeg, MB)
Groundwood Books

Wild Geese
Wild Geese
Written by Caroline Pignat (Kanata, ON)
Red Deer Press

Sponsored by John Spray

Written by Allan Stratton (Toronto, ON)

Dead Bird Through The Cat Door
Dead Bird Through the Cat Door (Megabyte Mystery)
Written by Jan Markley (Calgary, AB)
Gumboot Books

The Mystery of the Cyber Bully (Chan Mystery)
The Mystery of the Cyber Bully (Marty Chan Mystery)
Written by Marty Chan (Edmonton, AB)
Thistledown Press

The Agency 1: A Spy in the House
A Spy in the House (The Agency)
Written by Y.S. Lee (Kingston, ON)
Candlewick Press

Victim Rights: A Ryan Dooley Mystery (Ryan Dooley Mysteries)
Victim Rights (Ryan Dooley Mystery)
Written by Norah McClintock (Toronto, ON)
Red Deer Press