Monday, November 28, 2011

Tour Stop: Unleashed (Wolf Springs Chronicles #1) by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié

Hardcover, 382 pages

Released: November 22, 2011

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Katelyn McBride’s life changed in an instant when her mother died. Uprooted from her California home, Katelyn was shipped to the middle of nowhere, Arkansas, to her only living relative, her grandfather. And now she has to start over in Wolf Springs, a tiny village in the Ozark Mountains. Like any small town, Wolf Springs has secrets. But the secrets hidden here are more sinister than Katelyn could ever imagine. It’s a town with a history that reaches back centuries, spans continents, and conceals terrifying truths. And Katelyn McBride is about to change everything. 
Broken families, ageless grudges, forced alliances, and love that blooms in the darkest night—welcome to Wolf Springs.
I love the idea of small towns and their secrets and this one sure has some! After her mother's death, Katelyn is sent to live with her grandfather and this small town of Wolf Springs is not so normal.  Kat slowly discovers their secret, being thrust into the drama herself. A little lacking in a connection to the characters but a great plot carried it along.  Be prepared for a cliffhanger ending! 

Please give a warm welcome to Nancy & Debbie as they reveal their secrets of writing as a team!

People often ask us about how we work together—how we keep the voice consistent, who does what, etc. We are celebrating our tenth year as a writing team, with eleven books to our credit (so far!) So we must be doing something right. We’re definitely doing something fun—we truly enjoy working together. The only things we fight about are how much to tip cab drivers and waiters, and dog training. (Debbie grew up with poodles, and Nancy is ruled by her Corgi overlords. Debbie also had a wolf hybrid named Wolfie, to whom she dedicated Unleashed.)

We think the secret to this friction-free partnership is our emphasis on moving forward. We have discovered that Debbie loves to write first drafts, while Nancy likes to revise. It took a while to figure this out, because each of us thought their preferred “chore” was the easier one, and didn’t want to make the other guy do the heavy lifting. But once we did confess, our system fell into place: after we come up with our concept and a chapter-by-chapter outline, Debbie usually writes the first draft of the first chapter. She gives this to Nancy, who edits that chapter, and adds the first draft of chapter two. She sends that to Debbie.

Now here is our big secret: when Debbie gets back her edited chapter one, she cannot do either of two things: 1) Get mad, and 2) Change it back. We don’t ever check to see what the other guy took out or changed. Whatever is in the inbox is the only manuscript we have, as far as we’re concerned.

If we don’t like something the other guy did, we can try to do something new, but we can never go backwards. This keeps us from innumerable hours of checking, rehashing, and losing momentum. We make a point of leaving our egos at the door so that our books are not part Debbie and part Nancy. They’re all “us”—as if a third person is actually doing the work. When we’re finished, we honestly don’t remember (or care) who wrote what. We’re written two series with lots of POV shifts—Wicked and Crusade—and in Wolf Springs Chronicles, we stick to one POV—Katelyn’s. But it’s all written by the same “third” author.

We are a lot alike in our tastes—we both love fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, Dr. Who, Chuck, Castle—and Disney! Debbie lives in the Orlando area and Nancy lives about 90 minutes south of Disneyland. Nancy went to Disneyland Paris in August and Disneyland on the day after Thanksgiving. Debbie goes to Disney World for lunch, even! Debbie and her husband have also been to Disneyland Paris and had a trip to Tokyo Disney planned, but then the earthquake happened. Nancy flew to Orlando to finish Unleashed with Debbie, although we usually do it all over the phone and by email, and then we partied hard at DW! We’ll see each other in March at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival and the big question on both our minds is, Can we cram a trip to Disney World in there?

What is next for us? We have one more book in our Crusade series, titled Vanquished, and two more Wolf Springs Chronicles books. The next Wolf Springs Chronicles book is Hot Blooded, and we’re putting the finishing touches on it now. We’ve both been werewolf fans for about as long as we have been Disney fans, and we are howling for joy that we get to write about them. We had a werewolf character in Crusade we both fell in love with (Holgar Vibbard) and we swore our next series would be about werewolves. And it is! Nancy has kinfolk in Arkansas, and her mom was from Pine Bluff. We especially loved exploring the tall tales and legends of the hills, and it was neat to watch Dark of the Moon again, although fair warning: It’s a very dark, disturbing play.

Speaking of disturbing, we’ve been putting together an idea for a scary adult horror series, so we’ll be working together for a long time to come. Which is exactly how we like it.

And we’d like to see you at Gallifrey One: Network 23 if you’re in the Los Angeles area in February Hmm, can we cram a trip to Disneyland in there?

And if you can’t…we hope to see you at another event…and that you enjoy Unleashed.

Learn more about Nancy, Debbie, and the Wolf Springs Chronicles: Unleashed site and LIKE the Wolf Springs Chronicles facebook page

Other stops on the UNLEASHED blog tour:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire

Hardcover, 568 pages

Released: November 1, 2011

Publisher: William Morrow

Other places to find the book:

The marvelous land of Oz is knotted with social unrest: The Emerald City is mounting an invasion of Munchkinland, Glinda is under house arrest, and the Cowardly Lion is on the run from the law. And look who’s knocking at the door. It’s none other than Dorothy. Yes, that Dorothy.

Amid all this chaos, Elphaba’s granddaughter, the tiny green baby born at the close of Son of a Witch, has come of age. Now, Rain will take up her broom in an Oz wracked by war.

The stirring, long-awaited conclusion to the extraordinary bestselling series begun with Wicked, Out of Oz is a magical journey rife with revelations and reversals, reprisals and surprises — the hallmarks of the brilliant and unique imagination of Gregory Maguire.

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

My Thoughts:

As someone who absolutely loved Wicked, I HAD to know how Maguire would end it. For me, the first book in this series was so magical. By giving Elphaba a backstory, Maguire made me feel sympathy for a character I had always known to hate, the evil Wicked Witch of the West. Knowing his writing style and the fact the the two previous books in this series did not go over too well, I was hesitant but curiosity got the better of me. For those who have not read the entire series so far, the book begins with a brief refresher of the story so far as well as family charts and maps.

The focus of this book is Rain, the granddaughter of the Wicked Witch of the West, daughter of Lir and Candle. Rain, nor anyone around her, knows who she is as her green skin has been hidden by a charm. It is her journey, along with the protection of the Grimmerie, that we follow and to be honest, it was long and drawn out. Many characters make an appearance, including Glinda (who employed Rain, not realizing she was her best friends daughter), Brrr, Liir, Candle, the Time Clock Dragon, nasty Cherrystone and Dorothy! Oh Dorothy, I really wish her comic relief lasted longer. I wasn't left completely disappointed, with a strong ending the last 50 pages were devoured like there was no tomorrow. There were a few more questions I had hoped to have answered though. Although the entire series didn't win me over, I highly recommend checking out Wicked, a book that still sticks with me years later.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Hardcover, 342 pages

Released: November 15, 2011

Publisher: HarperCollins

Places to find the book:

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

My Rating: 5 / 5

My Thoughts:

Dystopian's are hit or miss for me, this one nailed it. Blown away, this is going to be in my Top 10 for 2010 for sure, maybe even #1!

Shatter Me is a book you will consume in one sitting. I read a lot on my commute to work and stop at the end of a chapter but not with this one, I needed to read as much as I could and didn't waste one minute! Juliette is a strong character who just happens to have a natural ability that people would love to have power over. She is in demand, so to speak, but has her morals and knows that what she can do is not something to play around with. I loved seeing her defy Warner, who stole her to use as a weapon. But what I think makes this book stand out so much for me is that in Warner,Tahereh Mafi created a bad character that you also feel sympathy for! But wait, she doesn't stop there...she also gives us Adam, and the chemistry between Juliette and him is perfectly played out. Full of non-stop action & intrigue, this debut is not to be missed.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday - November 9, 2011

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

Black Heart (Curse Workers #3) by Holly Black

Hardcover, 320 pages

Expected publication: April 3, 2012

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.

But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.

White Cat ended so strong and Red Glove blew me away. Oh Cassel, will Lila break you? Who knew I could feel sorry for a con man!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday

Paperback, 320 pages

Released: October 11, 2011

Publisher: HarperTeen

Places to find the book:
First I find out that my boyfriend is cheating on me. Then he’s pegged as the #1 suspect in a murder. And now he’s depending on me to clear his name. Seriously?

As much as I wouldn’t mind watching him squirm, I know that he’s innocent. So I’m brushing off my previously untapped detective skills and getting down to business. But I keep tripping over dead bodies and I’m still no closer to figuring out who did it. And what’s worse: all signs seem to point to me as the killer’s next victim.

I really need to pick a better boyfriend next time.
My Rating: 4.5 / 5

My Thoughts:
Hartley hasn't had a good day. She just found out her long time boyfriend, Josh, was cheating on her and with the president of the Chastity Club of all people! She decides to call him on it but when he isn't at practise after school, she grabs her best friend and heads over to his place. With his Jeep out front but no answer at the door, that doesn't stop her. She is on a mission so climbs into his bedroom window, searches for him, only to discover he wasn't home after all and there's a dead body in is room! Josh goes into hiding, more bodies are found but Hartley trusts her gut that Josh isn't the perpetrator. Playing detective with the help of her best friend and the guy next door, she wants to solve this crime the risk of becoming the next victim.

After reading a few pages of Deadly Cool, my first thought was "I need to check out all of Gemma Halliday's books". Just like Bumped by Megan McCafferty, her witty writing style has me smiling and giggling even though this premise of the book is not a laughing matter. Some of the time Hartley's actions are frustrating, but that is what makes this serious situation fun. Hartley is a character you wish you could hang out with, someone you feel comfortable wanting to smack upside the head :D Part mystery, part high school drama, Deadly Cool was a hilarious read.

On a side note: This was not what I was expecting, it was even better. For me, the shocking blue eyes on the cover lead me to believe there was some paranormal element when there was none! The fonts used in the title are perfect, the use of iPod headphones ingenious really, but alas, read the synopsis and don't look at this cover to get the feel for this book. This is the start of a series and there is not a year long wait for book two! Here's the link for Social Suicide.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recap of the 1st Annual(?) Ontario Blog Squad Meetup

After days of anticipating 'the big day' as if it were Christmas, it finally happened! It's amazing to see how when a few people say "hey we should all meet up" it can quickly turn into something huge! A big thank you to the fellow Blog Squad members Jackie, Liz, Nicole, Christa, Wendy, Angel and last but not least, Jen.
The Blog Squad Team
It was awesome to see the enthusiasm for the meetup. The 37 free tickets were snagged up within a week; totally not anticipated. Who knew that there were this many eager bookworm bloggers in and around Toronto? But what was even more awesome was the support we received from all the publishers: Random House CanadaHarper Collins CanadaSimon & Schuster Canada, Hachette Book Group CanadaScholastic CanadaPenguin Canada and Kobo! Another big thank you goes out to the participants and publishers for making this event beyond our wildest expectations!

Ok, let's get on with the show...Our day started off early, the organizers all met up at 10:30...we had the big (and exciting) job of putting together the goodies bags! Thankfully we had two cars to lug all the bags, but let me tell you the one block walk from where we parked to The Duke of York pub was painful. Carrying all those books was backbreaking work (there were five books in each bag and 38 bags)!
The Loot Bags
We arrived to see a few bloggers beat us there. Yes, there was excitement all around. Each person attending received a bag full of goodies: books and swag, including a mega size coffee mug! It was an afternoon full of mingling, putting faces to blog/twitter names and snacking on yummy nachos & quesadillas (generously provided by Jen)! Thanks to the donations, we had trivia questions to win t-shirts and raffle draws for rare ARCs, bookish goodies...and the grand finale was a Kobo Touch, generously donated by Kobo!

Here is a picture of my goodies!!! (jumps for joy)

Thanks so much to everyone for an awesome bookish day, we need to do this again :D

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

Paperback, 342 pages

Released: October 4, 2011

Publisher: HarperTeen

Other places to find the book:
Their love was meant to be.

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRís.

But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.

My Rating: 4 / 5

My Thoughts:

Megan's latest move is  from Boston to Ireland for her Dad's new job. On her first day of school she notices a boy watching her and finds herself instantly captivated by the mysterious Adam DeRis. After all the moving around she had never gotten close to people, until now.

If you enjoy stories about mythology, the lore behind the story was fabulous. We learn about Druids, a secret world full of history and power and how when the the four elements (air, earth, fire, water) are together they have the power to transform the world! At times it was a lot to take in so pay attention.

I adore the idea of people being brought together by fate but lately I haven't found one that really worked. It's hard to make people instantly fall in love and for it to be believable. I think Leigh Fallon did a good job making this one work. What for me was lacking was a bit more romance/connection without being cheesey, and to be honest, I didn't get enough of the Irish setting, I wanted more! Megan's acceptance of her new found role was too sudden. She did not fear or question it as I think most would have. After finishing the book, I wonder why the school friends were even there, for me their presence didn't really add anything extra to the Mark storyline. That being said, I see book two as the opportunity to really develop all the characters, now that the world building has taken place. Maybe one of them may surprise me?!

Carrier of the Mark was great debut, I can't wait to see where Meagn and Adam go from here! Did you know Leigh Fallon was discovered on Inkpop?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday - November 2, 2011

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

Expected publication: March 6, 2012

Publisher: Simon Pulse

from Goodreads:
Gabby Gardiner wakes up in a hospital bed looking like a cautionary ad for drunk driving and lacking a single memory of the accident that landed her there. What she can remember, in frank and sardonic detail, is the year leading up to the accident.
As she takes us through her transformation from invisible girl to on-trend Girl Who Dates Billy Nash (aka Most Desirable Boy Ever), she is left wondering: Why is Billy suddenly distancing himself from her? What do her classmates know that Gabby herself does not? Who exactly was in the car that night? And why is Gabby left alone to take the fall?

Putting the pieces together will take every ounce of Gabby's strength. As she peels back the layers of her life, she begins to realize that her climb up the status ladder has been as intoxicating as it has been morally complex...and that nothing about her life is what she has imagined it to be.

Books about memory always fascinate me and it's truly amazing how life can change dramatically in an instant! I also have to admit that this cover is eye catching, I love it!

What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: Variant by Robison Wells

Hardcover, 356 pages

Released: October 4, 2011

Publisher: HarperTeen

Places to find the book:
Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.
My Rating: 5 / 5

My Thoughts:
Not your typical boarding school book, Variant takes the idea of school as a prison to a whole new level.

Benson receives a scholarship to Maxfield Academy and having been through many foster families he's used to new schools. Only given an envelope and a contact name for inside, he is driven to the school and dropped off at the gate. It's odd to see a school surrounded by wire razors and with many cameras. As soon as he arrives, kids are running, hanging signs in windows and he begins to wonder just what he has gotten himself into....and he should. This is not your average school. Benson discovers that there are only three rules to follow, no teachers or adults, there are tests but you never see your score and detention means you may never come back!

 The 'students' have learned that to avoid a fate similar to the kids of Lord of the Files, they must work together. Three groups are formed: Society (the rule followers), Havoc (want to rule) and the Variant (everyone else) and contracts are made so work can be done and rewards earned. The kids are put through stressful situations, many that are strategy based games. Paintball plays a big role in this book and I loved it! As a mom to boys, I am ecstatic when I come across a book that appeals to both girls and boys. Full of action and intrigue, Variant was a wild ride as we follow Benson on his mission to bust out. It keeps you guessing and trusting no one!