Monday, February 28, 2011

You Killed Wesley Payne


You Killed Wesley Payne is a YA crime noir novel written by Sean Beaudoin.

Dalton Rev is a hard-boiled, seventeen-year-old private detective that transfers to the incredibly corrupt Salt River High to investigate a murder. He doesn't do it out of the goodness of his heart. He does it to get paid. And Dalton always gets paid. Dalton always solves the crime.

But this case involves crooked cops, power-hungry cliques, and danger around every turn. The mean hallways of Salt River may indeed be a tough venue for solving a murder no one wants to talk about - but Dalton is tougher...

Okay, so it is hard to write a synopsis of such a noir heavy, awesomely melodramatic novel without almost copying the back cover description - so please forgive its lack of oomph, if it is lacking. Just trust me: it's cool. Really cool.

You Killed Wesley Payne has absolutely fantastic wit and humor, making for a deliciously dark comedy. It's smart, extremely well-executed, and intricately plotted. Sean Beaudoin nearly demands a sharp mind in the reader and expects attention to be focused, a demand, which when followed-through, rewards the reader with a unique, refreshingly original detective novel that merges classic voices of black-and-white drama with biting humor.

At least this is what I thought. ;)

This is the first real "noir" book I've read. I've heard some of the narration over old movies that has that dramatic flare, which always seems fun but kind of weird. But, man, Sean Beaudoin makes it work in a whole new way! And with the introduction of vividly drawn cliques, which are pretty much heavily armored warring gangs and their admirers, he takes cliches and, ahem, murders them.

And then when you get into all the crazy plot twists and marvelously melodramatic romantic entanglements, I was honestly pleasantly surprised with the pleasant, unexpected surprises and likable, lovably different characters and their varied levels of character development.

I am definitely intrigued in what Sean Beaudoin might have coming next, and can't help but wonder what gems may be hiding in his past novels.

Despite You Killed Wesley Payne being first-and-foremost, seemingly, a tongue-in-cheek comedy masterpiece, it still managed to shock me and give it a measure of seriousness.

You Killed Wesley Payne is a truly one-of-a-kind story - I dare you to try and not let it fascinate and grip you!

*I received a review copy of You Killed Wesley Payne from Hatchette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

New Inkpop.com Challenge!


Time for an update on Inkpop.com's Weekly Writing Challenge!!!

This time around it will be in accordance with Penny Blubaugh's Blood & Flower, which pairs a theatre troupe with a fantasy.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is thus: Write a story, poem or essay that takes a realistic element and pairs it with fantastical element.

You'll find all the delicious details here: http://www.inkpop.com/forums/threads/53858/real-fantasy-the-blood-amp-flower-writing-challenge/

But the real question is what you have the potential to win, right? How about FOUR winners, two of which are intelligent and intuitive commenters, two of which are talented writer extraordinaires - all of whom will get a copy of Blood & Flower and three other books from HarperCollins catalog of their choice!!!

Sounds pretty awesome to me! I would enter myself, if I weren't so blissfully head over heels in books!

The deadline is March 3rd so hurry and get writing, bibliophiles!!!

And, in the meantime, check out Blood & Flower here: http://harperteen.com/books/Blood-Flowers-Penny-Blubaugh/?isbn=9780061728624

See ya here tomorrow! ;)

Friday, February 25, 2011

And Then I Found Out the Truth


And Then I Found Out the Truth is the sequel to the delightful And Then Everything Unraveled, by the now beloved-by-me author Jennifer Sturman.

If you have not yet picked up and read your copy of And Then Everything Unraveled after Monday's review, then you need to go yonder and do so - avoiding this review like the plague. This review will hold nothing but spoilers of the first book and will burn your eyes if you try to read it (or I wish I could make it do that - as I hate people spoiling their personal reading experience!).

You have been warned.

Okay - so all of us who HAVE read And Then Everything Unraveled clamored for the sequel, right? Right.

Let's do a little recap of where we left off - Delia found out that she was correct in her assertions and her mother was truly alive and well and hiding out in South America with a potential new boyfriend (which Delia wasn't so sure she liked, but whatever, her Mom is alive!).

Some Bad People wanted T. K. dead and believed themselves to be successful. The tricky part now is to keep letting these Bad People think this, until Delia and company can build a good enough case against them to bring T. K. home.

In the meantime, Delia failed a test (though she doesn't think getting 44 answers right out of 100 is bad at all) and everybody is insisting she study - which makes her mystery solving and vanquishing of evildoers a whole lot harder. But she's still got Natalie, her brilliant but suddenly and inexplicably boy-crazy friend, her perhaps clinically insane but gorgeous and classic teen movie-loving Aunt Charley, and uptight and sometimes quite scary Aunt Patience.

Not to mention the tiny psychic that gets quite irritated with Delia about not believing her completely and totally.

And then there's Quinn... the guy who's kissed her twice but suddenly seems to be avoiding her. Does it have something to do with his potentially up-to-no-good father, or has he just lost interest?

Who knows? But Delia is as determined as ever to figure it all out.

So any of you who read my review of And Then Everything Unraveled know that I absolutely, positively adored it. Well, I'll admit I was super excited about reading this second book, and my expectations were high.

Maybe that's why I was a teeny, tiny bit disappointed...

Okay - don't flip out! Let me finish!!!

And Then I Found Out the Truth felt a bit slower to me, and with initial mystery of whether or not T. K. was alive being resolved, some of the clue-finding dampened. But all of this was small potatoes compared to my biggest pet peeve - too much recap!!! It seemed like every other paragraph of the first half of the novel was a summary of some information, scene, or something from And Then Everything Unraveled. It kind of pulled the momentum back and got a bit annoying.

HOWEVER - once that finally calmed down, I began to settle back into the lovely, eccentric cast and awesomeness of the book.

See, I told ya to let me finish!

I think it was just because I was so ready to continue the story, that I was irritated with the recaps. If it had been a while since I had read And Then Everything Unraveled it probably wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest. But I had JUST read And Then Everything Unraveled and was ready to take off from where we left off.

Once I got over that, the fabulous dialogue, hilarious characters and situations, and tracking down and catching of the Bad People had that same sense of fun and whimsy that I loved about And Then Everything Unraveled. And an excellent new development: more time with Gwyneth, a look into her seemingly absent personality, which manages to be both fascinating, terrifying, and truly and honestly awesome.

This mish mash of a family is both nonstop funny and warm, leaving And Then I Found Out the Truth to be exciting, romantic, and wholly entertaining - my doubts and fears of the recap-filled first half left in the dust, forgotten. And a hope for a third novel fluttering in my bibliophile heart.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Big Show Stopper Blog Tour!!!


Welcome to the Bibliophile Support Group Ken Dalton! You are the author of The Big Show Stopper (which I will review below) - can you tell us a little about the book?

The book opens with the accidental death of Brady Blackstone, a famed and popular concert performer, but Bear spots indications of murder. Pinky defends the accused killer by traveling to a fascinating location while Bear and Flo are relegated to investigating in the stifling heat of another desert. The hilarious romp concludes when the dynamic trio uncovers the murderer of America's top recording star on a dark night in a sandy waste by the Colorado River.

How many novels are you planning on writing in the Pinky and the Bear series?

At least four and I hope for more. The third is nearly complete and I am begining to work through the plot points of the fourth.

What are some of your favorite crime-solving duos in movies and TV?

The BBC team of Morse and Sgt. Lewis—White Collar with Peter (FBI) and Neal (white collar criminal) with Mozzie thrown in for spice

Can you name some of your favorite books you'd recommend to your fans?

Any book by Carl Hiaasen and The Girl With . . . series by Stieg Larsson.

If The Big Show Stopper were turned into a movie, who would you cast as Bear, Pinky, and Flo?

Pinky—Jeremy Piven.

Bear—Nathan Fillion.

Flo—Jamie Pressly

Be brutally honest - are you more like Bear or more like Pinky?

Hey, that’s a tough question. Both characters are made up of composites of men I’ve known and they are infused with the traits of all men, so as I am a male, I guess that includes me. However, Pinky is the worst of the two with a single redeeming quality—he’s your best, and possibly only, bet if you have committed a murder.

On the other hand, Bear’s big and tough, but he can be a nice guy. It’s just that he spends most of his waking hours checking out females with overly developed bosoms.

Flo's personality is quite, um, vivid. Is she based off a real-life acquanitance?

None that I can think of. If I happened to bump into a real-life Flo I would spin around and run the other way.

I can't tell if I think Flo is awesome or annoying! As the author and creator of this character, which way do you lean?

Angie, congratulations on your spot-on observation. You’ve nailed Flo’s role with the trio perfectly. Her job is to do what ever is needed to keep the boat rocking, both figuratively and literally.

Do you do a lot of research into the actualities and minute details of P. I.'s and defense attorneys?

I did more of that type of research for the first book, The Bloody Birthright. Positive feed back, from a retired District Attorney, and many policemen, told me that I was on the right track. The research for The Big Show Stopper came from attending a concert (actual performer’s name withheld to get me future tickets) as a VIP, with backstage privileges. I also travel to each location, both desirable and not so desirable, where I send the dynamic trio. In The Bloody Birthright those locations included Rome, the golden hills of Tuscany, and Eureka, on the loneliest road in America, in the middle of the vast wasteland of eastern Nevada.

What's the hardest part of writing?

Carving out the time in my busy life. It’s easier to find the time in the winter when it’s cold and rainy.

What's the easiest part?

The actual writing. Occasionally, I’ll hit a plot point snag, but once I get past that bump in the road, it’s smooth sailing.

How much planning and thought goes into "whodunnit"?

It takes me at least a couple of months to set out the original outline, something to get me from point A to Z. Once that is complete, I’ll start to write, but remembering that the outline is a guide, not something set in stone. A good example of this is the awesome and annoying Flo. She was suppose to meet Bear in Los Angeles, stick with him for a few days and then Bear, by himself, would drive back to Carson City. But Flo refused to let me leave her in L. A. It was as if Flo yelled in my ear, “Forget the outline. You’re not getting rid of me that easily. I’m jumping in Bear’s truck and heading north with him.”

What can you tell us about the next novel? And about when will it be available?

The reader will get the back story as to why J. Pinkus Delmont, a top-notch attorney, ended up in the back-water burg of Carson City—travel through northern California’s wine country, and solve the mystery of The Amethyst Corpse. The target date for release is the fall of 2011.

Thank you for stopping by Ken Dalton!!! We bibliophile's appreciate it! ;)

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to your questions and meet with your readers. If you, or your readers, come up with a new query, drop me an email at ken@kendalton.com, or visit my web site, www.kendalton.com, and I’ll get back to you with an answer.

Stay tuned below for a review of The Big Show Stopper by yours truly...

The Big Show Stopper is the second novel in Ken Dalton's adult mystery series, featuring the dynamic duo of Pinky and the Bear.

Bear doesn't really get what the big deal is about Brady Blackstone, the richest and most popular country rockstar, but Flo loves him. So, in order to make his lady happy he takes her to one of Brady's concerts for her birthday. But the usually smooth sailing of propelling Brady through the air over the fans on a ski-lift-like chair and onto the stage to begin his first song ends with a bloody, deadly mess - Bear and Flo end up witnessing Brady's accidental death instead of a musical masterpiece.

Our simple but charming P. I. Bear tries desperately to salvage the evening, but before he can get Flo out of the crazy place, they happen across a clue that suggests Brady's death might not have been so accidental. Almost immediately a suspect is taken into custody. Yet Brady's widow calls up the morally questionable but highly talented Pinky to defend him - because apparently, despite America's general public's love for the star, there's a whole lot of people who had a reason to want Brady dead and she has reason to believe they've arrested the wrong man...

I'll admit that for a while I was taken aback with The Big Show Stopper in that it is so testosterone filled it doesn't seem to leave room for a gal like me to really relate to the two wholly male characters. However, even as I was dealing with the utter maleness of Pinky and Bear, I could see that the characters were definitely well-written. Bear is a streetwise investigator that bar tends on the side for extra money to keep his girlfriend happy. He has a lack of class that is disarming but quite funny. Really, the character is a sweetie that says some things that aren't necessarily tasteful, but somehow never stops being likable.

Then we've got Pinky who isn't really all that likable but is colorfully portrayed. Ken Dalton definitely knows how to present characters that transcend the plot and create sparklingly hilarious and snappy dialogue. He is successful in writing a sleazy, yet intelligent defense attorney in Pinky.

And Flo... oh dear Flo. That woman is a dilemma. As y'all saw in my interview with author Ken Dalton - she is one of those women that you can't stand one second and then think she's pretty awesome the next.

There were points in the The Big Show Stopper when I wasn't so entrenched in the story. I was having a hard time staying interested, getting a bit impatient for the momentum to pick up... However, around the halfway point the clue finding and whodunit factor of the novel kicked in to compliment the uniquely drawn, vibrant, and lively characters to really increase the overall fun factor.

So despite finding earlier portions of the book to be slower than I'd like, and having to get over the initial hard swallow of a couple of (to differing degrees) womanizing men, I ended up being quite convinced that The Big Show Stopper is a humorous, entertaining, enjoyable, fast read - and thinking I wouldn't mind reading the first book in the series The Bloody Birthright, not to mention any future novels featuring these characters.

There is kind of a sense of a cinematic duo here - I feel like Pinky and the Bear should be in a movie or a classic TV detective show. And hearing Ken Dalton's dream casting in my interview above - all I can say is, that would be probably be really cool!

If I have piqued your interest (and I hope I have) you should check out the blog tour website here, the Amazon page for the book here, the Amazon excerpt here, and of course Ken Dalton's website (which he provided above in our interview).

Monday, February 21, 2011

And Then Everything Unraveled


And Then Everything Unraveled is a YA mystery dramedy by author Jennifer Sturman.

Delia Truesdale is used to her Internet tycoon mother, T. K., being anything but ordinary. So, when said mother leaves the country for an exploration of environmental concerns in Antarctica, Delia hardly bats an eye. She takes advantage of the time to surf the California waves and avoid studying math, as the brilliant gene seems to have skipped her generation.

But then, all of a sudden, everything unravels.

T. K.'s ship has gone missing - has literally disappeared. And everyone believes she is dead - leaving Delia an orphan. But Delia is convinced that they're all wrong - that her mother is still alive out there, that she would know if her Mom was indeed dead. However, the protestations of a sixteen-year-old girl don't hold up against the evidence of adults, and Delia has to have a guardian, so T. K.'s will is read. Delia gets another shock when she finds out she's going to be sent to New York to live with her aunt, whom she's never met, since a family division took place before her birth.

Before she knows it she's attending a Gossip Girl-esque private school and getting to know her admittedly awesome aunt - oh, and falling absolutely brain-dead and temporaily mute around a particularly good-looking popular guy.

Yet none of this can take Delia's mind off her mother. She's convinced she's out there somewhere in need of rescue. So, she decides to take the investigation into her own hands - but what she's begins to uncover may be something that no one was ever meant to unravel...

First off, I have to say - I absolutely adore this cover! Okay, now that that has been established we can start talking about what is actually inside the cover -

Which is awesome!!!

And Then Everything Unraveled is near to bursting with colorful, hilarious, grin-worthy, vibrant, vivid characters that bring a whimsical flare to a wholly fun, clue-finding sort of novel. There's an honest-to-goodness joyous quality about the book that just made me happy the entire time I was reading it (which wasn't long, as it flew by very fast). And the cast, including the crazy, exploding-with-personality aunts, added immensely to that!

I really did love And Then Everything Unraveled - I was intrigued with the mystery and enjoyed the unexpected, original secondary characters that demand their own spotlight (rightfully), such as a heavily accented, laugh-out-loud funny, mini-skirt-wearin' psychic that shows up later on.

Jennifer Sturman presents pop culture and Nancy Drew mystery solving up the whazoo - creating a delightful, romantic, breezily fun, fantastic treat of a novel that is perfect for fans of Michele Jaffe, Maureen Johnson, and Meg Cabot!

And the "To Be Continued..." at the end brings only happiness to crazy, ol' bibliophile me! ;)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wishful Thinking


Wishful Thinking is a YA fantasy, and a sequel of sorts to Wish, by Alexandra Bullen.

Hazel Snow has learned to fend for herself. She was adopted as a baby, but the smiling woman in the pictures holding Hazel as a baby died before Hazel has any sure memories of her - leaving Hazel to shuffle from home to home, person to person. Never feeling particularly wanted or loved.

But on Hazel's eighteenth birthday she is given a startling gift - her birth certificate, featuring the name of her birth mother. She does a search on the name and is shocked to find out that this woman, her mother, is not far from her at all and will be hosting a fancy event - an event she plans on going to - to see her mother for the first time.

Thing is, the only dress she has that is even close to fancy-event material is the one she purchased at a high school thrift store and has a huge rip, making it affordable. But there's a card for a seamstress on the dress, a card she's never noticed before.

However, when the odd seamstress sends her dress back - it includes three original, stunning dresses instead of her mended one. It's not long before Hazel realizes that these dresses grant her a wish each. And when Hazel wishes to know her mother, she's transported to another time - a time before she was born...

Will experiencing the past help Hazel to accept her own? Or will the decisions she make forever alter the future?

Wishful Thinking is a wonderful follow-up to the lovely Wish - and I have to admit that I hope that this won't be the last book in this series of sorts. Alexandra Bullen has a lyrical writing style and heartfelt punch to her stories that is both delicate and strong - a style that I want more of!

Hazel's story starts off with a touching, sad, realistic birthday morning - bringing us the surprisingly grounded quality Bullen is able to provide in a tale about wishes - and the stunning reveal of the birth certificate sets things in motion right away.

Just as in Wish, Alexandra Bullen quickly shows the reader the main character's personality - Hazel's guardedness, toughness, and vulnerability - in a way that gives me a real sense of who she is. The time travel was a surprise to me, but I thought it was pretty cool - and shows that Bullen has tricks up her sleeve with these wishes and could take us on more unexpected journeys.

Plus, she's great at unexpected twists. I did guess one big game changer early on - but it was just a fluke, and still extremely satisfying emotionally and intellectually. I'm sure a bunch of readers won't see it coming and will be completely shocked. But even so, Wishful Thinking is full of enough bittersweet human honesty that even guessing the twist won't mess much up for you, in my opinion. And with the light fantasy touch, you end up with an original read.

I did feel at times that the time travel was going on too long - that we didn't need quite so much time away from the present... However, a lot of what happens in the past become momentous to Hazel and her healing, so I was okay with that. I guess it just at times felt a little laborious around the middle - but not much!!! Don't you get me wrong, you book lovers! I would just say that, being honest, Wish was probably still even better to me than Wishful Thinking. Yet I still want more, and I still recommend Wishful Thinking heavily.

Wishful Thinking is a truly heartfelt, sweet, believable tale - a tale with an inspiring conclusion that left me with goosebumps and tears in my eyes. Alexandra Bullen gives off a sense of maturity and growth to her novels, a sense that makes you sigh with contentment as you close the final page of the book.

I want mo' please. ;)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guest Post with Author Karen Metcalf!


Howdy y'all!

Today we should be honored to welcome Karen Metcalf author of the brand new YA digital novella, In the Storm, a speculative YA fiction novella! Here's some info about the book:

Abandoned by the world around her, Carly believes she is fated to a life of torment at the hands of her stepfather and is desperate for an escape. When she can bear the abuse no longer and gives in to a thunderous rage, she suddenly finds herself in an unfamiliar, yet beautiful, storm world. This limbo between dimensions appears to be her private sanctuary, but it may just be her purgatory.

No one escapes fate without sacrifice, but is the price more than Carly is willing to pay?


Ooooh, sounds intriguing, right?!

And Karen Metcalf herself is here to tell us abit about herself in a GUEST POST!

Take it away, Karen -

For me, before YA, came sci-fi and good old fashioned tearjerkers.

My father was a huge sci-fi fan. We didn’t share a lot books for the first half of my life, but during my childhood he exposed me to great shows. I think these contributed to my fascination with the genre. I have had many a nightmare after an episode of the X-Files, and was terrified of the guy who turned to sand. Later, he would introduce me to Stargate SG-1, which would become my obsession for several years. Recently, I made him create a list of all the great sci-fi books he has read, and am just now starting to slowly make my way through it. He was right; they are geniuses.

My mother on the other hand, has no interest horror or sci-fi. She introduced me to Nicholas Sparks. We both became fans of tearjerkers. I think this lead directly to my first attempts to write, when I realized I had the ability to make people cry with my imagination. It was addictive. I also read several of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I think we became “cry junkies”. It was nice to be able to pick up a book when you needed a good cry, and it worked every time.

It was this combination of elements that made me appreciate the type of books I read and now, write. My parents were all too willing to buy us books, and my mother always came through on Christmas or birthdays. My step-mom was an English teacher, and my father used to take me to the library almost every weekend, where I would max out the limit I could check out. My favorite trips were to Barnes and Nobles, where I was allowed to roam free and get whatever I wanted. I was grateful at the time, but now that I know it wasn’t like this for everyone, it takes on a new meaning. It very well may be what got me where I am today.


Thanks for stopping by the Bibliophile Support Group, Karen!!!

For a sneak peek at In the Storm go here.

Also, you can enter to win a free copy at http://www.vagabondagepress.com/. If you're a winner you'll get a code to download, which will have a zip file of all three file formats: pdf, mobi & epub. It expires on May 15, 2011. Try it out!!!

See you guys back here on Friday with a new book review!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The False Princess


The False Princess is a YA fantasy adventure written by debut author Eilis O'Neal.

Nalia is the princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor - she has been groomed for the role since infancy with classes in deportment, history, and languages. She is polite and demure, maybe not as outgoing as a princess should be - but she does her best, and tries to keep her natural clumsiness at bay. She spends her days on the palace grounds, comfortable in the close friendship of Kiernan, a nobleman's son.

However, soon after her sixteenth birthday Nalia is called to her parents and dealt a blow. The prophecy that was made regarding baby Nalia was that she would be killed before she turned sixteen. They hid the baby away for her protection and replaced her with a false princess, a stand-in. Now that danger appears to have passed, they will send for the true Nalia, who has been raised with education believing herself to be an orphan, and the girl who has been the princess for sixteen years will be sent to her only surviving relative with a new name. Her real name. Sinda.

Sinda is almost numb from the shock and suddenness of everything. Before she begins to register the startling change in her station, she is far away from her best friend Kiernan and being taught how to perform simple household tasks by her Aunt, who never expected a new household member - nor perhaps wanted one.

But Sinda's life is forever marred, as she cannot successfully be a village girl - yet she is no longer a princess. And when long-supressed, dangerous magic in her veins makes itself known, she decides to return to the city to seek answers and help in controlling it. And maybe a sense of being closer to the home she had known her entire life...

What she finds instead are more questions - and secrets that were never meant to be unveiled. A plot involving the throne that may go deeper than a mere false princess...

First off - is the premise amazing or what?! Right away, I was bewitched and enchanted. The False Princess delivers on it in spades, and the fairy-tale atmosphere and tone is set immediately. O'Neal manages to make the story heartbreaking and gripping, giving a power behind the deceptively simple weaving of words. The journey of Sinda is touching and riveting as it forges unknown and exciting directions.

So, I obviously liked it, right? Yep! In fact, I more than liked it... I loved it! I loved the way magic was introduced and how Sinda's world feels so big and fully realized. This quiet, yet strong in her own way, girl that we have as our main character is so easy to follow and root for in a poignant, understated fantasy journey - a journey that has heart and soul.

There's a truly awesome air to the novel, making me feel like I'm there - like I'm the one going through what Sinda is going through. This, in my opinion, is a sign of a fantastic story and extreme writing skills on Eilis O'Neal's part. The False Princess is a perfect combination of healing self-discovery and entertaining escapism, stacking eccentric, likable, multilayered characters and shocking twists to make an honestly delicious sandwich of a novel.

Getting hungry yet?

No? Well, let me give you a few more adjectives to whet your appetite...

The False Princess has that great political court intrigue and superbly plotted revelations that add a heavy, excellent dose of secrets and fun - as well raw human emotions to keep it grounded. There is romance, too! A lingering, enchanting promise of love that builds slowly but grows stronger as the novel continues.

With its cloak-and-dagger adventure and suspense, dangerous mysteries, intelligent characters, and captivating dash of magical fantasy, The False Princess left me breathless and wholly and completely satisfied.

I hope Eilis O'Neal writes more soon - as these are the kinds of books that turned me into a bibliophile in the first place!!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bitter Melon


Bitter Melon is a YA literary fiction novel, written by debut author Cara Chow.

Frances needs to get all As in her classes. She needs to improve her SAT score. She needs to take calculus. She needs to get into Berkeley and become a doctor. She needs to do this, because this is what her mother has been working towards all these years and set her sights on. Frances accepts this and recognizes how hard her mother works, how bad her mother's health is becoming, and tries her best to meet the standards her mother demands.

But when Frances finds herself electrified and inspired by a new teacher, she's nearly devastated to realize she's in the wrong class. Instead of calculus, she was enrolled accidentally into a speech class. She knows she should fix it right away, and get into the calculus class that may be her key to getting into Berkeley, but this is the first class Frances has ever been interested in. And soon she realizes she has a talent she'd never known before. A talent her mother would find inconsequential and distracting to their goals.

Yet... Frances begins to question whose goals she is desperately trying to fulfill - hers, or her mother's? Does she even want to be a doctor? How come she can never date or get a part-time job? How come nothing she does ever seems good enough?

The speech class acts as a catalyst to changing thoughts - changes that may completely take Frances on a different path than the one that has been set up for her since birth... if she can only find the courage to follow through.

Bitter Melon was amazing. A truly astounding first novel from an author I will keep an eye on from now on. Fellow book lovers, you seriously need to read Bitter Melon!

It's stark and believable, a family drama that presents a raw portrait of love, control, and the unbearable pressure of expectations. There's a sad realism to Bitter Melon, almost making it hard and uncomfortable read at times - but to tear your eyes away from it would be to deny yourself the story of Frances, a character who's strength seems to be simmering below the surface.

This lovely YA novel is tense and suspenseful in that agonizing human way - dramatic without losing its groundedness. Bitter Melon is blistering with truth and integrity - an inspiring, uplifting, honest coming-of-age journey. Cara Chow writes beautifully and lyrically - keeping everything simple but powerful. She has an interesting way of letting the reader consider both sides to every issue presented, and making my own opinion of the matter sway and bend.

Sometimes searingly painful to read, right up to its hurtful, bitterly realistic, part-victorious, part-questioning end, I found Bitter Melon to be a stunning book - giving me chills and tears in my eyes at its magnificent, riveting end. This is literary fiction at its best.

Yeah, you've gotta read this.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Witch & Wizard: The Gift


Witch & Wizard: The Gift is the second book in James Patterson's YA series, cowritten with Ned Rust.

If you haven't read Witch & Wizard, I encourage you to avoid this review because of the inevitable spoilers, and instead read my review of the aforementioned book on Monday's post.

To all of you who have read Witch & Wizard: well, you know what's going on, right? Wisty and Whit have just gone through a rollercoaster ride of imprisonment's, execution orders, finding out they have uncontrollable magical powers, passing through different dimensions they never knew existed, and a desperate and fruitless attempt to find their parents.

Now they find themselves as unappointed, unofficial leaders of the resistance to the New Order. Unfortunately, the resistence is a group of under-18 individuals. But they're doing their best - rescuing as many as possible. Trying to lose as few as possible...

But the New Order is persistent and powerful. And it seems that The One Who is The One is after Wisty specifically... or her Gift, that is...

So I obviously didn't give you much of a premise, but I'm thinking that if you read Witch & Wizard, you don't want many details before jumping in on your own. In order to review the title, I am going to leave out any real specifics for your protection, alrighty?

The opening pages of The Gift are electrifying, promising, and startling - giving me hope that the series won't fall into the cornball trap that will induce endless eye-rolling. Happily, I think there was less of this unfortunate feature of some James Patterson books than in the first novel!

The Gift strengthened my belief that the Witch & Wizard series is more paranormal and cool than I'd initially expected it to be. It's creepy, original, and a ton of fun to read. This is one of those books where you're flying through pages super fast, and next thing you know - you're done!

It's kinda awesome in a just-go-along-for-the-ride way. This is made especially true with the nonstop action, twists, and turns - enough to make you dizzy! Add to that some excellent humor and beginnings of some romantic entanglements, and I can't help but find The Gift to be a must-read for any sci-fi, fantasy, dystopia, adventure/thriller fan!

I'm crossing my fingers that the next book (yes - To Be Continued!) will be as great or better and that the Witch & Wizard series will continue to impress, and refrain from, well, depressing me. ;)

*I received a review copy of Witch & Wizard: The Gift from Hatchette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Inkpop.com!

Hi there my beloved Bibliophiles!

So, this is a special Tuesday post about a special topic - writing.

Most of us crazy, absent-minded, cross-eyed with book-love bibliophiles also have some aspirations to be writers ourselves, right? And quite often the genre we're interested in writing is YA - am I still on the right track? I'm thinking I am - great minds think alike! ;)

Here's the deal: HarperCollins has a writing website called inkpop.com, where all of you amateur authors can participate in writing challenges that go hand in hand with books they are currently publishing. The focus is YA, and the Editors at HarperCollins actively look to publish books found on the site! In fact, they just acquired The Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon, which started off being just a writing exercise by a gal just like you on inkpop.com, and will now be PUBLISHED in the fall of 2011.

Excited yet?

The current Weekly Writing Challenge is running in accorance with the soon-to-be-released A Touch of Mortal by Leah Clifford - and all the entrants have a chance to win books! Enter here, or if the hyperlink isn't working for you for whatever reason (you're not the only one with an ancient PC, believe me) the link you can copy and paste is: http://www.inkpop.com/forums/threads/51888/earth-angel-the-touch-mortal-writing-challenge/

I'm going to keep this info updated as much as I can on the sidebar of the Bibliophile Support Group, where the big Inkpop logo is - and in the meantime, between writing challenges check out the Inkpop blog here, or: http://inkpop.wordpress.com/

Monday, February 7, 2011

Witch & Wizard


Witch & Wizard is a YA dystopian fantasy by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet.

Fifteen-year-old Wisty Allgood and her almost eighteen-year-old brother Whit went to bed that night believing the world was still normal. That they'd wake up the next morning to an ordinary day with an ordinary breakfast with their parents. Instead, they're roughly awoken by swarms of soldiers and arrested for, believe it or not, accusations of being a witch and wizard.

Despite the ridiculousness of the charges and the fact that it's not Puritan times, Whit and Wisty are taken away, leaving their heartbroken, but surprisingly unsurprised, parents in their wake.

It's the New Order - a political party that has slowly but surely taken over every area of government and control and has a tangent against magical powers. But Whit and Wisty don't believe in magic, let alone wield it! Or do they?

Either way, the siblings need to escape before they or their parents are killed - as they are suddenly living in an entirely different world. A world that has taken control over night, while we were all sleeping...

I admit that after the last couple of lukewarm Maximum Ride novels (in my personal opinion, that is), I wasn't sure what I was going to think about this other YA series that James Patterson came out with. But I knew I wanted to give it a shot. Because as much as I can get disgruntled and irritated with Mr. Patterson's books, I can also love them a ton (example, first three books of Maximum Ride series).

I am very happy to say that I actually really, really enjoyed Witch & Wizard! I was hoping the frenetic, exhilarating, entertaining, action-packed start wasn't going to end up disappointing - and it didn't! Whit and Wisty's characters are likable and relatable in their reactions to the crazy goings-on's, and they represent a terrific sibling relationship that I haven't seen portrayed in a YA book for a long time.

The New Order (or abbreviated N. O.), which snuck up on this alternative reality when no one was paying attention is effectively creepy - a perfectly jarring dystopian world that is also highly crazy in the best, most readable way! As you can see, I was pleased.

Witch & Wizard surprised me with its utterly fast-paced, fantasy adventure style. James Patterson may not be quite as reliable as he used to be (again, just my personal opinion), but this time around I found that blockbuster quality I've been missing from him alive and well.

There was only one thing that still bugged me... You know how I have to be honest with you bibliophiles. It's like I can't help it. We're almost like family, connected with our addiction to books and their impact on our novel loving lives.

Why, oh why, does James Patterson insist on having his characters in his YA novels continually refer to themselves as "kids" and the adults as "grown ups"? I'm surprised no one has urged him not to do this. It's one thing when the characters are twelve and under, but once they are in their teens - how many teens do you know who use these terms? It just drives me crazy, as petty as that may be. It dampens the realism a bit, and gives an odd tone here and there.

I'm happy to say, however, that this little hiccup (or pet peeve) doesn't affect the overall novel that much. Witch & Wizard is a picture of dystopian tyranny mixed with magical fantasy and fantastic escapism. The cheesy "kids should rule the world" stuff may have occasionally killed my buzz, but the fun and snappy narrative flow kept me excited to see what will happen next in the series - which will hopefully not get too preachy down the road (*sniff sniff* Will Fang and/or Angel renew my hope in the Maximum Ride series?)!

So - definitely recommended as a great start to what will hopefully be a great series!

*I received a review copy of Witch & Wizard from Hatchette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Logic of Demons: The Quest for Nadine's Soul


Logic of Demons: The Quest for Nadine's Soul, written by H. A. Goodman, is a hybrid YA/adult novel that takes the fantasy genre to a different place.

Devin is reeling with grief and anger after his pregnant wife's murder - he is haunted by the future that was at their fingertips and suddenly ripped from him. At her funeral, Devin tries to accept the calming words of his loving father-in-law, but can't help but be consumed by his need for justice towards the man who killed his wife - the man who is still out there free - the man he might have the approximate whereabouts of...

In a moment of near-insanity, Devin makes a choice to confront his wife's murderer and the deadly results find him in a creepy office building - a place where he is wearing a pinstripe suit and told he is now a demon. All Devin wants is to take back his final choice in life and reunite with his wife - but he's told that in order to do that, he must sell a "Formula" to a mysterious and enigmatically important teenage girl named Nadine. He grapples with his intense desire to see his wife at all costs, and his conscience, which senses something is off about the whole situation - despite his new mentor's insistence that Devin is not in Hell.

But when he comes across an Angel, everything he's been told is thrown off kilter - and his quest to find his wife and protect Nadine become more confusing that ever...

I'm going to be honest with you, my fellow bibliophiles - I don't really like the cover of Logic of Demons at all. It gives off a weird, cheesy tone. However, inside the cover is a powerful, haunting, intense fantasy thriller that takes a different approach to life after death. An existence that is not pleasant, I'll tell you that. At least for poor Devin.

But with Devin as our protagonist, we are presented with a horrifying, starkly realistic portrayal of the lust for revenge and all-consuming grief, melded with a surprisingly fast-paced and gripping foray into the paranormal imaginings of a terrible afterlife.

Logic of Demons is a sad, raw page-turner with a chilling edge, making for a unique fantasy that succeeds in its goal of being different - while also being well-written. Startling and riveting, Devin's plight is horrifying. The mysteries stack up and my interest was constantly piqued.

The novel never slows down as it seems to have a shot of adrenaline powering it through all sorts of thrilling and twisty turns. My only disappointment was the build up to The Boss (in the not-so-good office building below the surface, hint hint), who doesn't come across as evil or creepy as I would've expected, especially after H. A. Goodman did so well portraying scary characters effectively throughout Logic of Demons. All of the instances with The Boss fell flat for me, which is too bad. Of course, you may completely disagree!

Yet, this little hiccup was small in comparison to what ended up being a touching, surprising story with a shocking, unexpected end. It is a very, very different, dark tale. And this time, that meant pretty darn good!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shadow Grail #1: Legacies


Legacies is the first novel in a new paranormal YA series called Shadow Grail, written by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill.

It all happened so fast.

One second Spirit White was carefree and comfortable, driving in the backseat of the car with her Mom, Dad, and little sister - next second all she can feel is pain, physically and mentally. When she wakes up in the hospital, she finds out her entire family has died in the accident, and she is alone. Her parents had no family, no relatives to take her in. Plus, after the accident a fire inexplicably burned her home and all her belongings to ash. In her anguish, Spirit is nearly catatonic as the nurses try to help her heal her body - until the news comes.

Apparently her parents arranged for Spirit to be taken in by Oakhurst Academy, a private combination school and orphanage. She's never heard of it, nor does she care. Spirit's mind is otherwise occupied with her grief.

But when the hospital is ready to release her, a limo is sent for her. She's barely noticed as Oakhurst has sent her clothes and other things to replace the ones she lost in the fire, but now she can't avoid it. Glancing through the pamphlets in the limo, she realizes Oakhurst looks like it was funded by billionaires.

Yet she's seen nothing yet. Because once she arrives, Spirit finds out that it isn't just an expensive-furniture-lover's paradise, but a school for the magically gifted. This is quickly proven to her, and though Spirit doesn't seem to manifest any overt magical abilities, unlike the other students she soon meets, the administrators insist that they don't make mistakes.

Despite how unsettling it all is, and the deep ache of missing her family, Spirit does manage to find friends at Oakhurst. But just as she begins to accept her new home, students begin going missing. The teachers don't have good explanations, but the fact that they are trying to cover up the mysteriousness of their absence makes Spirit and her new friends all the more suspicious and worried. What if the school isn't as on their side as they say?

Spirit and her friends are determined to stop whatever's happening before one of them is the next to "run away"...

The opening of Legacies is intense and heart-rending, setting a fast-paced tone that presents mystery and tragedy immediately. One thing I loved about Legacies is how the authors allowed Spirit to feel grief throughout the entire novel. You never forget that she hasn't forgotten, and it doesn't drag the novel down at all - it just gives it a humanity and realism that I appreciate in a YA paranormal novel. The horror and pain continues for poor Spirit, making her instantly sympathetic and easy to root for.

Legacies has an excellent quality of writing - clipped and enjoyable. This style kept me constantly involved and interested. And there are some pretty funny lines of dialogue scattered throughout, especially once we begin meeting the highly colorful and vibrant personalties of Spirit's fellow students.

I felt the way Oakhurst Academy was introduced to the reader was unique, and a different way to present a magic school. It has shades of X-Men, but remains original and interesting, I felt. The authors did a great job peppering Legacies with flashy, fun, buoyant characters that are charismatic and make Legacies even more enjoyable and entertaining to read. Spirit is a really good main character, both strong and vulnerable. She's a heroine that is smart and independent without being mean or overly sarcastic. And once there begins to be questions about the motivations of the administrators of the school itself, I became very intrigued in where the Shadow Grail series will go - and excited.

As Legacies continued it mixed the awesome entertainment factor of the novel with some creepy and riveting paranormal mystery stuff (my lips are sealed), leading to a nerve-shredding climax and satisfying conclusion that left enough open-ended questions to make the sequel (coming out this year) a must read.