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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Release Date: February 8, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 240
Buy: Fountain Bookstore / Amazon
Description: Fountain Bookstore
The small town of Cryer’s Cross is rocked by tragedy when an unassuming freshman disappears without a trace. Kendall Fletcher wasn’t that friendly with the missing girl, but the angst wreaks havoc on her OCD-addled brain.

When a second student goes missing—someone close to Kendall’s heart—the community is in an uproar. Caught in a downward spiral of fear and anxiety, Kendall’s not sure she can hold it together. When she starts hearing the voices of the missing, calling out to her and pleading for help, she fears she’s losing her grip on reality. But when she finds messages scratched in a desk at school—messages that could only be from the missing student who used to sit there—Kendall decides that crazy or not, she’d never forgive herself if she didn’t act on her suspicions.

 Something’s not right in Cryer’s Cross—and Kendall’s about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried.

Turn the first page, enter the town of Cryer's Cross, and go on faith. It's worth it.

Before I picked up my copy of this book to start reading, I had seen a lot of 4 and 5-star reviews popping up on Goodreads and blogs. That got me really amped up to read it, so I settled back one night, dove in and waited for that good old reading magic to happen.

McMann's unflowery writing style, the intense detail, and deliberate repetition as well as the worldbuilding kept me intrigued and plowing ahead. Cryer's Cross, Montana, was so well-defined that I could picture it my head. The tiny farming community, the one-room high school, the fields and the people. Hector ans Mr. Greenwood sitting on the porch of the general store was a scene that's very familiar to me. (Except where I'm from you hang out at the local pharmacy/grill.) Those things and faith alone urged me forward.

But at about the half-way point I was still waiting for something to really kick-start the plot. I had been promised paranormal after all and at this point it was more of a psychological thriller in the making.

Then, right at the mid-point, it felt like a gunshot went off and it was a race to the finish. That was when Cryer's Cross became bone-chillingly creepy. The town itself shifted. It transformed slowly from a quaint farming community into a darker, more sinister place full of secrets buried deep. Tension built, my chest got tight, and I was flipping pages to so fast that I feared papercuts. I was up until 3a.m. because I couldn't bear to put it down with mere chapters left.

I was blown away when I finally let go of this book. Images and voices from this novel haunted me for days afterwards. I was disturbed, creeped out and somewhat scared to go to bed, and thoroughly satisfied.

The characters were interesting and well-developed, particularly Kendall and Jacian. The build of their relationship is never rushed and is entirely beautiful. Kendall's best friend Nico is the one character I wished had been more fully developed because I wanted to connect with him and didn't. I can't say more for sake of spoilery, but luckily the emotion is well-conveyed through other characters around him. There are also characters that I never expected to be fleshed out much who were. Turn's out there's a linchpin to this story that you might miss if you aren't looking close enough.

Needless to say, there is now a finished copy of this on my shelves.

Friday, February 25, 2011

CSN Stores and the chance cook like never before...

The lovely people at CSN Stores has contacted me again and offered me the chance to review another  product. It's so hard to choose when they come calling because they carry everything from office supplies to lighting to modern duvet covers. (Admittedly, I'm kind of a nut for duvet covers. Anywhere that sells a huge selection of them is my friend.)

Last time, naturally, I chose to review a bookshelf. It fit in the corner and was perfect for my office. It fits right above the file cabinet and holds about 50 books. Aside from some fumbling getting it mounted to the wall, it is awesome and suits my space needs wonderful. No complaints on that one. 

This time I'll be reviewing something totally not bookish. It only has to do with books in the fact that I have a positively gigantic collection of cookbooks. They have a dedicated 5-tier shelf in the dining room. I know. I know. But I like cooking! That's why I'll be reviewing a Lodge dutch oven from Cookware.com.

It's 6-quarts, emerald green, and a thing of beauty. Oh the things I'll be able to cook in it! Behold...

When I receive it and get to cooking I'll be sure to take pictures. We'll see how this thing performs together, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be my new favorite pan.

Caution: Dangerous website ahead. Money may be spent.
Check out all the cool studd CSN Stores has to offer.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Author Insight: Right book, right time...

  Do you believe that the right book at the right time can change a life? Has it ever happened to you?

"I think there are certain books that have the power to change or expand the way we think. I read as much as I can, and most of it is fabulous, but there are those rare gems that really stand out and encourage me to apply the same boldness and honesty to my own writing." - Lauren Destefano, author of Wither. 

 "I do believe that.  Books, unlike movies, are so personal. When you read a book, you're not sharing the experience with a hundred other people in a theater, or even with someone sitting on the couch beside you.  The book is for you and you alone.  And when a book speaks to you...well it can be a transformative experience. It's happened to me many times, actually.  The most profound was when I picked up a copy of Harry Potter.  Until that point, I was unaware of the power that children's books had.  I mean, I'd read a lot of great kids books as a kid, but I'd abandoned them in my teens.  Reading Harry Potter reintroduced me to the magic.  If I hadn't picked up that book I might never have rediscovered YA and might never have written The Deathday Letter." - Shaun David Hutchinson, author of The Deathday Letter.

"Absolutely - I think the universe intervened by putting me in a situation where I had the time to write." - Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

"I'm of the belief that anything can change your life: art, a song, something your grandmother says to you, a story. I remember reading David Levithan's The Realm of Possibility on a plane and thinking, 'I want to write like this.' It planted a seed that led me to quit my job and take a chance on a writing career. So yes, it definitely changed my life." - Robin Benway, author of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Author Insight: Right book, right time...

Do you believe that the right book at the right time can change a life? Has it ever happened to you?

"Absolutely. It happens to me all the time, in both big ways and small ways.  Every time I read a book, it makes me think.  Think about how I would react if something similar happened to me, think about why our world works the way it does.  Every book broadens our horizons – sometimes in ways we don't fully understand until much later.
" - Kay Cassidy, author of The Cinderella Society.


"Yes, and yes. The Chronicles of Narnia--I read them as a child, and re-read them, and it was through them that I learned books can be more than books." - Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

"I absolutely believe that a book can change a life. It has happened for me, not in a singular moment of epiphany but over a series of repeated readings. The book that has had the greatest impact on my life is Thoreau’s Walden, especially his ideas on individualism, imagining and living one’s life for oneself, and defining one’s own standards for success and happiness outside of society’s emphasis on shallow materialism." - Ty Roth, author of So Shelly.

"Yes. Looking for Alaska by John Green is what inspired me to try writing YA. As far as content, there was a book called Cowslip by Betsy Haynes that I read over and over as a kid. It was about a slave girl and for the first time I realized how it felt to look at the world through the eyes of another person. " - Cynthia Omololu, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pink by Lili Wilkinson

Release Date: February 8, 2011
Publisher: Harper Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
Buy: Fountain Bookstore / Amazon

Description: Fountain Bookstore
Ava has a secret. She is tired of her ultracool attitude, ultra-radical politics, and ultrablack clothing. She's ready to try something new—she's even ready to be someone new. Someone who fits in, someone with a gorgeous boyfriend, someone who wears pink.

Transferring to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence is the perfect chance to try on a new identity. But just in case things don't work out, Ava is hiding her new interests from her parents, and especially from her old girlfriend.

Secrets have a way of being hard to keep, though, and Ava finds that changing herself is more complicated than changing her wardrobe. Even getting involved in the school musical raises issues she never imagined. As she faces surprising choices and unforeseen consequences, Ava wonders if she will ever figure out who she really wants to be.

Pink  is the perfect book for anyone who has every struggled to find where they fit.

I'm normally not a fan of contemporary young adult fiction or contemporary anything fiction for that matter. Well, I think I've been converted and am ready to welcome more contemporary onto my bookshelf thanks to Lili Wilkinson's American debut.

Ava, who is desperately searching for self, leaves her school for a more academic and progressive environment, but rigor isn't her real motivation. She wants the chance to reinvent herself, to wear pink and date boys and see what it's like to finally be part of the in-crowd. She's instanted accepted but a strange twist of fate places her squarely between two groups - the perfect Pastels and the outcast Screws.

The first think thst struck me about this book is how surprisingly intellectual it is. Not only is the plot smart, the characters are quick and intelligent as well. Some of this stems from the fact that Ava attends the Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, but no matter whether she is hanging out with her girlfriend Chloe, the Pastels or the Screws, the conversation is clever. Debates about things like the etimology of the word "homosexual" and the idea that pink doesn't actually exist within the color spectrum had me laughing out loud. (That's probably years of inner nerd coming out.) I was genuinely impressed with the depth of characterization, the careful crafting of each groups dynamics, and the development of Ava's relationship with the members of each group.

One of my favorite things about this book is Sam. All of the characters individual stories resonated with me, but I connected with Sam. He's not a popular kid and doesn't try to be. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and is comfortable with his flaws. When Ava firsts meets him it's trial by fire. She has to prove that she is more than just a pretty face. That she has substance. I don't think I've ever fallen for a YA guy as hard as I fell for Sam.

Ava's a different person with each group, which felt entirely believable to me because she feels she has to be to fit in with Chloe, the Pastels and the Screws. But she isn't the only one who is hiding bits of herself in a quest for social acceptance. Her journey is one of reconciliation, not with any particular person, but with herself. Pink is a novel about being real and accepting who you are even if you don't exactly know who that is yet.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More Author Insight: The First Sentence

  What has been the most memorable moment on your road to publication other that the actual book deal?

"Sorry, but you'll have to wait until 2012 to find that out!" - Lauren Destefano, author of Wither. 

 "'Simon lay in the tepid bathwater with only his nose and lips above the surface, his arms folded over his chest and his black hair floating around his head like silky tentacles.' Simon is a different character than Ollie.  He's still a little awkward and obsessed with the things teenage boys are obsessed about, but he's more introspective. When you meet Ollie in The Deathday Letter, he's interested in one thing and one thing only. Simon, on the other hand, has bigger problems than his mother catching him wanking. But they're both funny guys in their way." - Shaun David Hutchinson, author of The Deathday Letter.

"'I'd always welcomed war, but in battle my passion rose unbidden.' In the first draft I had some description of scenery before this scene, which I ended up cutting and jumping right into the action." - Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

"From Rage: 'The day Melissa Miller killed her cat, she met the angel of death.' Same sentence from draft to published novel." - Jackie Kessler, author of Rage

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Author Insight: The First Sentence

What is the opening sentence of your most recent book? How different is it from the original one?

"The first line of The Cinderella Society is exactly the same as it was in the first draft. Sometimes nailing that first sentence is a nightmare, and other times you know immediately how the story needs to begin. The beginning of TCS is:The Cinderella Society.
'There are moments in life when you know things will never be the same. When you’re called to the edge of adventure and given the chance to break free, uninhibited by your past, and claim the life you were meant to live.'" - Kay Cassidy, author of


"Oh, I can't tell you! My most recent work is a sequel to Book 1, and there's a little bit of a spoiler in the very first sentence!!" - Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

"'Most of us like to believe that we are born to do great things, maybe even to be famous.' The original read, 'We like to believe . . . ;' otherwise, nothing has changed." - Ty Roth, author of So Shelly.

"The first line from Dirty Little Secrets is: 'Everyone has secrets. Some are just bigger and dirtier than others.' The first chapter of the book was actually added in the editing process, so it isn’t the original opener. The book used to open with the main character finding her mother dead in the hoarded house, but my editor thought that we needed a chapter to get to know the characters before everything happens. The original first line was : 'We always said the newspapers would bury Mom, but it was the National Geographics that got her in the end.'" - Cynthia Omololu, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

Monday, February 14, 2011

We Heart the Nook Grand Prize winner

All 14 blogs submitted their winners. The mystic Random.org was consulted, and the time honored rituals performed. It has chosen one who is worthy. One who will wield the Nook for good! (Okay, so there was no Lady of the Lake, no Nook stuck in a stone... It sound better this way. Trust me.)

Random.org has chosen...

Jess (Winner of the Page Turners Blog prize pack)

Winner of a $20 GC & a shot at a Nook...

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Hope you're all having a lovely day and that you've planned some quality time with you're loved ones. I'm just popping in quickly to announce the winner of my part of the "We Heart the Nook" giveaway.
The Wastepaper Prose winner will receive a $20 Barnes & Noble gift card and a shot at winning the Grand Prize, a Nook Wi-Fi. The winner of the Grand Prize will be announced on all of the 14 participating blogs soon.

For now, winner of the gift card who has had their name thrown in the hat for the Nook is...

Brittany A.

Congratulations! You'll find out soon if you've won the Nook, but a $20 gift card to feed your reading habit ain't too shabby. I have emailed you to let you know you won. Thanks to everyone for entering and stay tuned to find out who won the Grand Prize!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Author Insight: Memorable Moments

  What has been the most memorable moment on your road to publication other that the actual book deal?

"The initial offer of representation from my agent. It's something I'd worked a long time for, but much like with buying lottery tickets, I never really expected that magical "it" to happen. In fact, I would take that initial phone call over winning the lottery any day." - Lauren Destefano, author of Wither. 

 "The most memorable was getting an email from someone who'd read my book.  It was the first 'fan' letter that I'd gotten and I was over the moon excited.  Throughout the whole process I'd worried that people wouldn't 'get' what I was doing.  They'd think it was a silly book with silly characters that should never have been published.  But this person who wrote me got it.  They understood what I was saying through Ollie and that was maybe the best moment in this whole crazy publication deal." - Shaun David Hutchinson, author of The Deathday Letter.

"I have two agents, Charlie Olsen and Richard Pine at InkWell. When Richard called me to introduce himself and tell me the potential he saw in the book I thought I might pass out. Also when my publisher at Philomel, Michael Green wrote his first email to me it was beautiful and made me cry. I'm fortunate to have wonderful agents, and a fabulous editor - Jill Santopolo - and publisher, all of whom I respect and trust." - Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

"Writing the last 50 pages of both of my books were these crazy-intense situations. For 'Audrey' I was trying to get out of jury duty (which I did), then I sped to a Starbucks and wrote the last words in this adrenaline-fused hour. For the first draft of 'AMJ', I sat on my living room floor in my pajamas for an entire Sunday, typing like a maniac. For the final draft, I figured out one thing that had been bugging me about the plot and worked out this ridiculous outline for my editor, then wrote the whole scene and emailed it two days before the final deadline. Both of those experiences made me feel like a 'real' writer, like I had worked my ass off and had something to show for it." - Robin Benway, author of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June

"Can I say 'When Neil Gaiman kissed my cheek after I gave him copies of my first two books?' If so, that!" - Jackie Kessler, author of Rage

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Author Insight: Memorable Moments

What has been the most memorable moment on your road to publication other that the actual book deal?

"Probably receiving that first fan mail.  A real snail mail letter.  It was a letter from a fan that was sent to my publisher and forwarded on to me.  I'd gotten fan emails before but this completely surprised me.  Letter writing is a lost art in this digital age, so it was a delightful surprise." - Kay Cassidy, author of The Cinderella Society.


"Seeing the first cover comp. It's very different from the final version of the book cover, but when I saw that first image of my story in a visual form....I'll never forget it." - Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

"This summer, my wife and I flew to New York City for a visit to Random House headquarters and the proverbial “lunch with the editor.” It was one of the few experiences in this dream come true that was actually better than I imagined it could be. My editor and all the people involved with So Shelly at Random were welcoming and enthusiastic. For those two hours, I felt like a star." - Ty Roth, author of So Shelly.

"When I saw my book on a bookstore shelf for the first time. Goosebumps." - Cynthia Omololu, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

We Heart the Nook Giveaway

Valentine's Day is almost here, and 13 fellow bloggers and I have decided to make reading our sweetheart. But "Be Mine" is so selfish. We want the love of reading and a fancy new e-reader and some other fabulous prizes to "Be Yours!"

Here's the deal...

I'm giving away a $20 Barnes & Noble gift card. You fill out the form below and you're entered for a chance to win it. Easy peasey, right? The bonus is that anyone who enters my giveaway with also get one entry into the Grand Prize Nook giveaway.

Let's do the math on that. There are 14 blogs. That's one winner per blog for a total of 14 winners. And that means you have a 1 in 14 chance of winning the Nook Prize Pack!

The Nook Prize Pack includes...
  • Nook Wi-Fi
         *My Soul to Steal by Rachel Vincent
         *The Oracle of Dating by Allison van Diepen
         *Past Midnight by Mara Purnhagen

  • U.S. only.
  • Must be at least 13 years old to enter.
  • No P.O. Boxes - Nook will be delivered UPS.
  • Giveaway ends at 11:59 EST on February 13.

And don't forget to enter all the giveaways at the other participating blogs. You could earn multiple entries in the prize pack giveaway!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Winner of The Secret Year

One of my lucky readers has won a paperback copy of The Secret Year and a miniature version of Julia's black and purple stripped notebook, courtesy of author Jennifer Hubbard. Who could it be...

Leslie G.

Congratulations! I have forwarded your information on to Jennifer and she will get your prizes out to you soon. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reading Therapy

Sometimes it takes me a while to digest a book. I know people who can just plow through book after book and never look back. I'm not one of those people.

I have to let it sit, sink in. I have to let the emotional dust settle. This can take as little as a few hours or as long as a few days, but it's part of the process for me. It goes to the core of what reading is. And I'm not telling you anything new here.

Reading is an emotional rollercoaster. It's intended to be. Books give you windows into other walks of life. Really, they're more like one way mirrors. You watch and get drawn into the drama on the other side then you internalize it. The gears of your mind start to turn and as you process all the information you just took in you find some reflection of self or reality or some small truth. People find truth in seemingly trivial, silly things. This happens to me all the time while reading or watching movies or even just people watching.

I guess that's why I can't just spit my thoughts on a book out right after I've finished it. Reading isn't a task for me. Reading should never be a task. It is an experience, often a very personal one. Books can be hillarious and deep and heartbreaking and they can fill you with life and laughter in your darkest times. 

I recall late last year when a friend started reading a book that I recommended to her. She bought it mid-day and it took her less than 24 hours, with work in the middle, to finish. When she was done we talked.

I asked her if she enjoyed the book. She told me that enjoyed wasn't the right term. She said that the book really resonated with her. That it's message spoke to her and that she found herself unable to reshelve it because the experience wasn't over yet. She wasn't ready to let that book go. She said, "Susan, I feel like I need a good cry."

My friend is in the military, where, as some of you may know, suicide is the second leading cause of death. That was the topic of the book, but it had nothing to do with the military. While it wasn't entirely personal for her, it did hit close to home because it is such a big issue in her community. She saw truths in that book that illustrated a story that's been told in the larger military community one too many times.

The book was Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

What I'm saying is that books are more than a good read. Not all books set out with a message, but that doesn't mean that there's no truth in them. Books, even those set in entirely fictional worlds full of mythical creatures, are about life. The human (or inhuman) condition and a person's relationship with the world around them.

Books teach me, and not in that rote memorization kind of way. And, believe it or not, you can learn things from books you don't like on the whole. They are triggers. They kick-start the imagination and generate questions. They make me realize how poingnant the little things can be.

Time isn't something I have a lot of day to day, and books remind me that it's okay to stop and smell the roses and the like. Life is too short and too beautiful and too full of wonder to get caught up in the minutiae or the pettiness. Reading leaves me with a certain kind of satisfaction, even if the book leave me upset, and renewed appreciation for life and all those living it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More Author Insight: Caught in Character

  Have you ever been caught having a conversation with a character, method acting as one, etc? How did you explain it?

"I can't say that I've ever done this. I might have to try it now... " - Lauren Destefano, author of Wither. 

 "I've never been caught doing that.  Most of my conversations with my characters happen while I'm running, while I'm driving, or while I'm trying to sleep.  But they always happen in my head. I suppose you could say that I'm mental." - Shaun David Hutchinson, author of The Deathday Letter.

"It happens when I'm alone, so the only witnesses I'd have to explain my behavior to are my dogs. And they don't ask a lot of questions." - Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

"I've never been caught, but it's really just a matter of time because I'm always having conversations with my characters inside my head. I practice saying their dialogue out loud, too, to make sure it sounds okay and flows well. For me, writing a character is like having a constant one-on-one discussion. "What are you doing? Why are you upset? Why did you say that?" I'm always trying to get those questions answered." - Robin Benway, author of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June

"Caught? As in, in public? I don’t think so. If anyone has seen me working out a scene verbally, they’ve been either too polite or too terrified to comment." - Jackie Kessler, author of Rage