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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Release Date: March 9, 2010 (UK: June 2, 2010)
Publisher: Dial (UK: Walker)
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 288
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.
I honestly believe I could read The Sky is Everywhere every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it.  I sincerely love books that affect me in this way, that captivate me, engage me, truly and fully make me feel like my heart may explode.  The best part is that I’m not alone in this.  When I tweeted about reading The Sky is Everywhere, I was inundated with responses of adoration: how it’s made of amazing, how it makes their hearts feel explode-y too.  I don’t know how Jandy Nelson does it (ahem, pure talent), but she manages to create a story that’s both extremely personal and entirely accessible.  Sweet Something of Some Place, go read this.

The Sky is Everywhere is the story of Lennie Walker.  She’s a clarinetist, a lasagna maker, an avid fan of Wuthering Heights.  She’s also without her beloved sister, Bailey, who died suddenly four weeks prior.  Since then, Lennie’s been drifting through life, writing letters to no one on scraps of paper and walls and trees and shoes just to try to deal with her grief.  She quit her private clarinet lessons, purposely blew her first chair audition, and had generally stopped allowing herself to feel anything.  She shares her grief with Toby, Bailey’s boyfriend, which manifests itself in frenzied moments of passion that she doesn’t understand.  Also assisting in her confusion is the new manic pixie musical genius dream boy Joe Fontaine, who comes by her house every morning to play/experience music, help Gram rid the house of unlucky omens, provide uncle Big with bugs and entertainment, and attempt to crack the shell that is Lennie.  As she falls deeper in epic giddiness with Joe and deeper into uncontrollable grief-passion with Toby and deeper into a mystery Bailey had started, her life spirals in a way she can’t stop.  And she’s the only one who can figure herself out.

Jandy Nelson… how do you do it? (Again, pure talent.)   Such gorgeous verbal illustrations of simple, mundane things.  Even more gorgeous descriptions of complex, extraordinary things.  Stylistic, realistic, melt-off-your-tongue words.  It practically sparkles before your very eyes.  Let’s take, for instance, the very first mention of Joe Fontaine.  “The guy looks unabashedly jack-o’-lantern happy, which couldn’t be more foreign to the sullen demeanor most of us strove to perfect.  He has scores of messy brown curls that flop every which way and eyelashes so spider-leg long and think that when he blinks he looks like he’s batting his bright green eyes right at you.”  Don’t you love him already?  After two sentences?

Lennie’s words encapsulate the amazing highs of first love and the gut-wrenching lows of terrible loss.  She is pretty much a hot damn mess, but she’s so boldly a mess that you can’t help but be on her side.  Her voice is perfection- raw and painful and hysterical and so very real.  She’s struggling hard without Bailey, and her body and brain don’t seem to be communicating at all.  You’re hanging on her every word.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a review by me if I didn’t mention how I adore the fact that she plays clarinet!

The Sky is Everywhere is un-put-down-able.  I finished it a while ago, and I can’t bring myself to take it out of my bag.  I cannot say enough great things about it.  It is a must-read.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More Author Insight: How they shelve it...

How many books would you say you own and what’s your shelving system?

"My books are in storage at the moment, because we were 'staging' our house to try to sell it, so the bookshelves looked nicer half full (I know, crazy, right?) I own probably around 500 books. I plan to have bookshelves built in my new house. I also have about a thousand novels in my classroom." - Bethany Griffin, author of Masque of the Read Death.

"Enough that my friends dread helping me move. As for shelving, when I bought my house in 2007, I carefully arranged my favorite reference books, poetry collections, classic and genre fiction, and kid’s lit. Everything acquired since gets stacked all over the house like sculptural to-do lists." - Barry Wolverton, author of Neversink.

"I try not to think about how many books I own. That's dangerous. My husband already worries about our book habit enough as it is. Bookcase space is becoming difficult to find.

We separate our books by size, so all the mass market paperbacks together, all the trade paperbacks, and all the hardcovers. Everything is alphabetized, of course." - Jodi Meadows, author of Incarnate.

"I own hundreds of books, though I'm always trying to pare down my collection. The 'special' books - my all-time faves - go on the 'special bookshelf' - a handcrafted Christmas present from my boyfriend, who is a carpenter. There's a specific section for plays and a separate bookcase for YA tomes. Other than that, it's rather a free-for-all." - Elizabeth Miles, author of Fury.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Author Insight: How they shelve it...

How many books would you say you own, and what’s your shelving system?

"Thanks to the show 'Hoarders,' my new shelving system is to give away books as soon as I've read them, keeping only a handful of favorites! So, my collection has significantly decreased in volume over the years. - Sarah Ockler, author of Bittersweet

"Probably about 800 at this point, and that's small for me.  I had to get rid of a quarter of my library the last time I moved: my apartment's one floor of a hundred-year-old house, and the trade off for the ridiculously beautiful wood floors and curved plaster ceilings is that we have no storage.  None.  So the bookcases we can fit are double-shelved to the max, and I've gotten very careful about what I bring home, because, well, my roommate also appreciates getting to use the bookshelves!  Let's just say I'm a much better public library user than I was two years ago.

I worked in an independent bookstore for four years, so my library's shelved in total neurotic bookstore rat style: Alphabetical by author and within that, alphabetical by title, although trilogies and so forth are done in the order they came out.  It has 'sections' too: the fiction's all together, with anthologies and graphic novels at the end, and then the nonfiction, textbooks, and my brag shelf are all tucked away in my bedroom.

As organized as my shelves are, I'm running out of space pretty hardcore right now.  Next project: Finding some planks and bricks, and building those bookcases up." - Leah Bobet, author of Above.

"I have one big shelf in my living room dedicated to books. There’s room for about forty. Once I finish a new book, an old one gets kicked off the shelf and gets given away or thrown in my closet." - Aaron Karo, author of Lexapros & Cons.

"Many hundreds of books, some of them shelved by genre but most of them shelved randomly.  Also stacked on closet floors and boxed." - Ann Stampler, author of Where It Began.

Monday, March 26, 2012

10 reasons to read Royal Street

Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson (Tor, 4/10/12)
1. Gripping imagery of New Orleans post-Katrina told by someone who lived through it. (Okay, she took some creative license with the preternatural beasties.)

2. Creepy dancing-skeleton voodoo gods, buzzards, and more black mambas
than you can shake a rattler at.

3. It's proof undead pirates in generally unmanly bloomers
can be sexy. Dead sexy.

4. Dancing voodoo queens. 

5. You can pretend my badass fictional boyfriend (Alex) is
yours for about 300 pages.

6. A grab-bag full of potions. 

7. More Lord of the Rings references than Tolkien himself ever made.

8. The number of sexy men is very nearly proportionate to the number of times
D.J. gets herself in deep voodoo.

9. You can beat people with an elven staff, if you can't aim it. 

10. Wizard trumps hurricane every time

Visit Suzanne Johnson at her website to learn more about the Sentinels of New Orleans series. The first book, Royal Street, hits shelves on April 10! And if you're in the crescent city, be sure to come to the launch party at Garden District Books. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

April ARC Giveaway

I have a few April advance readers looking for a good home. To throw your name in the hat just fill out this FORM.

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong (4/10)

Maya and her friends--all of whom have supernatural powers--have been kidnapped after fleeing from a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set, and after a terrifying helicopter crash they find themselves pursued by evildoers in the Vancouver Island wilderness.

Purity by Jackson Pearce (4/24)

Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby's father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives -- in other words, no "bad behavior," no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision -- to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (4/24)

Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More Author Insight: Publication without the Book

Would publication feel the same to you if there was no physical book to show for it?

"It wouldn't feel the same, there's something indescribably awesome about holding your book. Oh, and seeing other people reading it! That always freaks me out. Oh, and students doing book projects about my book and turning them in to me...again, pretty awesome!" - Bethany Griffin, author of Masque of the Read Death.

"Definitely not. And I am not anti-eBook by any means. I also love audio books and happen to think Neversink would be awesome in full-cast audio. But physical books have been a presence in my life always, and I am dying to hold the first hardback of my first book." - Barry Wolverton, author of Neversink.

"No. While it's always exciting to know someone is reading my book -- no matter how it's formatted -- for me, books are a physical thing. I love books, the paper and jackets and the weight of them. I've always wanted to see my stories like that." - Jodi Meadows, author of Incarnate.

"No, I think the satisfaction of turning a manuscript into a tangible, bound book is irreplaceable. That said, I think there's a place for e-books and e-readers; the opportunity for added content and 'extras' is incredible." - Elizabeth Miles, author of Fury.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Supergirl Mixtapes by Meagan Brothers

Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-galley
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 256
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / Fountain Bookstore
Description: Goodreads
After years of boredom in her rural South Carolina town, Maria is thrilled when her father finally allows her to visit her estranged artist mother in New York City. She’s ready for adventure, and she soon finds herself immersed in a world of rock music and busy streets, where new people and ideas lie around every concrete corner. This is the freedom she’s always longed for—and she pushes for as much as she can get, skipping school to roam the streets, visit fancy museums, and flirt with the cute clerk at a downtown record store.

But just like her beloved New York City, Maria’s life has a darker side. Behind her mother’s carefree existence are shadowy secrets, and Maria must decide just where—and with whom—her loyalty lies.
Supergirl Mixtapes is a deftly written coming-of-age tale encompassing everything a proper coming-of-age tale should have. It’s got family drama aplenty, just the right amount of romance, and (of course) one great big personal epiphany. At 245 pages, it may be somewhat short, but it’s definitely not always sweet.

Maria Costello (as in Elvis) was born in New York City, but she’s spent the majority of her life in teeny Red Hill, South Carolina with her workaholic dad and iron-fisted grandmother. After a somewhat unexplained personal “incident,” Maria asks to move to New York City with her “artist” mother Victoria, whom she idealizes as a spontaneous, somewhat flighty, almost mystical creature, and her mother’s much-younger rocker boyfriend. The novel follows Maria’s time in the city as she learns more about her mother than she ever cared to learn as well as discovering just how much she can handle at the ripe old age of 16.

Supergirl Mixtapes takes place in 1997 (at least it does according to my research of when The Boatman’s Call by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was released). The title already gets you in that 90s mood- I just love the sound of the word “mixtape.” Clearly, I am a huge fan of the 90s. I can always relate to an awkward girl who feels at home with a stereo, a teetering pile of records/tapes/CDs, and a set of those huge earmuff-esque headphones, because I was that girl in 1997. (Actually, I’m still that girl.) Maria lives and breathes music, mostly due to a series of Supergirl Mixtapes made with care by her best friend Dory and from the influence of her mom. While Dory tends to land more on the side of “angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion,” Victoria’s influences are late 70s/early 80s bands from the New York punk scene. Patti Smith’s heavily featured, along with Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Television, The Ramones, and even Joni Mitchell. Simply put, Supergirl Mixtapes is filled to the brim with music references spanning multiple decades, which I love. Also, I thought it was very interesting that, despite the 90s setting, Maria’s tale is pretty timeless. With the exception of a few mentions of Walkmans and portable CD players, it didn’t feel or sound outdated.

The solid talent of Meagan Brothers is the reason Supergirl Mixtapes soars rather than falls into the depths of clichéd despair. There’s excellent flow from one part to the next, with each scene building into the next with ease. It always felt like something was bubbling below the surface, and that slow plot burn succeeds gracefully. The reader should know what’s coming when it comes, but it falls apart in such a way that it isn’t disappointingly predictable. Brothers’ words are as brilliant as they are simple; the writing never gets in the way of the story. They complement each other perfectly. My favorite example of this is the scene at Gram’s place during the Smart Southern Kids party at NYU. The SSK converse and joke around like they actually know each other, and the reader falls right in line with them without feeling the least bit left out.

I would recommend this for anyone looking for an instant gratification read that doesn’t scrimp on plot or characterization, as well as fans of music-heavy books. I look forward to reading more by Meagan Brothers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Author Insight: Publication without the Book

Would publication feel the same to you if there was no physical book to show for it?

"It depends on what you mean by the question. :-) At face value, I would answer no, because without a physical book, my journey simply would have been different. For example, I wouldn't have gone with my mom to stalk my book in the stores the first day it came out, and I wouldn't see it on the library shelves. Instead, I'd have spent more time promoting it through online channels. But if the question is actually about whether I think electronic publication is still 'real' publication, then the answer is yes. If a story is published, it's published, regardless of media or format. Now, if you're asking about whether self-publishing an ebook is the same thing as traditional publication, that's a whole 'nother story that we don't have time to get into here!" - Sarah Ockler, author of Bittersweet

"Surprisingly – since I'm someone who edits an online-only magazine! – it wouldn't feel the same.  I think when you're writing and working so much in the realm of the unreal – made-up worlds, made-up people, abstract words on a screen – realizing that you've made something real and physical can be this visceral, amazing kind of shock.  I spent a lot of time touching my ARCs when I got them.  When I get the real book?  I'll probably hug it for three days." - Leah Bobet, author of Above.

"I’m really platform agnostic. I’m about to release my third stand-up album and there’s never been a physical CD, it’s always just a download. So I guess I’m used to it. I’m more concerned with getting my story out there and consumed than how people do it." - Aaron Karo, author of Lexapros & Cons.

"No. I feel very differently about a physical book versus words on a screen.  It might be generational." - Ann Stampler, author of Where It Began.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols

Release Date: Feb. 7, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 288
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
Gemma can't believe her luck when the star football player starts flirting with her. Max is totally swoon-worthy, and even gets her quirky sense of humor. So when he asks out her so-called best friend Addison, Gemma's heartbroken.

Then Addison pressures Gemma to join the date with one of Max's friends. But the more time they all spend together, the harder Gemma falls for Max. She can't help thinking that Max likes her back--it's just too bad he's already dating Addison. How can Gemma get the guy she wants without going after her best friend's boyfriend?
Jennifer Echols does it again with her new character driven novel The One That I Want, which by the way has nothing whatsoever to do with Grease, the musical.  I have to say that I trust Jennifer one million per cent as a writer and she is my “go to girl” when I want a good romantic story hence the reason I picked this book up last night and READ IT IN ONE SITTING.  Not to mention the fact that she had me googling “hot Asian guys” for inspiration (you’ll see why).

First off the bat, I know nothing about American Football or majorettes (Gemma twirls a baton), I’m not really a sporty person and will often bypass any movie or book that is sports related but it didn’t really matter in this case and I still enjoyed the story.  I learnt this lesson when I watched the movie The Blind Side which I thought was about American Football but it was about much more than that.

Let’s talk characters and I’m going to start with Gemma’s best friend, Addison.   Addison is more of a frenemy than anything else, she is obviously insecure to the core, spoilt and selfish.   I desperately wanted Gemma to tell her to get lost and then I got mad with her when she didn’t but you know what?  Then I remembered a similar situation from my teenage years.  There was a girl who I thought was my friend but whenever we were around any boys, she would constantly put me down.  I think I may have even confronted her about it once.  The thing is, even though I knew what she was doing, we continued to hang around with each other because we were all each other had and so I had to admit that I totally got it.  Thankfully, eventually I got away from her as I’d had enough.  What I’m trying to say is that even though we all know it’s wrong and you shouldn’t have to put up with it, when you’re a teenager, sometimes you do put up with it until you wake up and smell the coffee.

Friday, March 16, 2012

River Road gets a cover!

Okay, so it's had a cover. But my critique partner Suzanne Johnson, author of the Sentinels of New Orleans series coming this year from Tor, just saw it for the first time yesterday and now I'm here to share it with you guys and gals! The other big  news is that it appears River Road will release in HARDCOVER!
River Road by Suzanne Johnson
Folks in New Orleans say Hurricane Katrina changed everything. They don't know half of it. Wizard Sentinel Drusilla "DJ" Jaco can tell them all about it--she had a ringside seat when fluctuating barometric pressures from the hurricane breached the barriers between the human world and the preternatural world Beyond. Now, treaties between the wizard gatekeepers and all the preternatural critters are complete, and DJ and partner Alexander Warin find themselves drowning in water creatures as a feud develops between rival merpeople clans. People are getting sick--or dead-- all over town, and DJ has to figure out whether it's the nutty nix, the monosyllabic merman or the naughty nymph who's behind it--or some critter altogether different. After all, DJ's undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two. Coming November 2012 from Tor Books.
*Description from author website.

River Road (Sentinels of New Orleans #2), which releases November 13, is the sequel to Royal Street, which hits shelves on April 10. Don't forget to pre-order your copies of Royal Street and River Road.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More Author Insight: Mash-up Book Pitches

The popular way to pitch books has become "it’s ____ meets ____." How would you fill in the blanks for your book?

"That is difficult. I think I might say The Stand (for the plague aspect) meets The recent Sherlock Holmes movie (for time period, and a bit of the feel of the setting--if it were post-apocalytpic) I'm pretty sure that's not right at all, but I would read that book!" - Bethany Griffin, author of Masque of the Read Death.

"This is easy, because my brilliant editor, Jordan Brown, already came up with a slew of them: Redwall meets Angry Birds; Watership Down meets Pixar; Redwall meets Ice Age. I would add Watership Down meets P.G. Wodehouse." - Barry Wolverton, author of Neversink.

"I'm really bad at these. I had to ask for help, and this is what was given to me. (She might have been joking. She might not have been. You decide!)

Graceling meets Shirley Maclaine!" - Jodi Meadows, author of Incarnate.

"The Fury series is Pretty Little Liars meets Stephen King." - Elizabeth Miles, author of Fury.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gone Reading: Cool gear, great cause

You know how some people say they're "gone fishing"? Well as a reader, shouldn't you be "gone reading"?

I discovered a site recently that will help you proudly proclaim your love of reading and libraries. Best of all, every cent of the profits go to a good cause! I even have a little surprise for you, thanks to the team at Gone Reading.

Here's a snippet from their mission statement:

One of the awesome T-shirt designs.
"Even in wealthy countries, libraries struggle for funding while demand for their services has never been higher. Gone Reading International, LLC was founded to counter these problems and spread the magic of reading. 

We believe that when people have open access to great reading materials, life always changes for the better.  When libraries and reading materials are made available, people and their communities thrive through increased opportunity and self-empowerment.

That’s why Gone Reading International donates 100% of our after-tax profits to provide new funding for libraries and reading-centered non-profits.  By purchasing GoneReading brand gifts and merchandise, you’re treating yourself and the world at large to a wonderful gift."

They have all kinds of cool reading and library T-shirts, journals, posters and more. Be sure to check them out, and save 25% on everything but bookends by using coupon code WASTEPAPER25. Get shopping and show your support!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Infamous Book Trailer & Chapter Preview

Sherrilyn Kenyon's Infamous, the latest installment in the Chronicles of Nick series is out today and here's what you need to know...

The world has fallen in love with Nick Gautier and the Dark-Hunters. Now Nick’s saga continues in the next eagerly anticipated volume...

Go to school. Get good grades. Stay out of trouble. That’s the mandate for most kids. But Nick Gautier isn’t the average teenager. He’s a boy with a destiny not even he fully understands. And his first mandate is to stay alive while everyone, even his own father, tries to kill him.

He’s learned to annihilate zombies and raise the dead, divination and clairvoyance, so why is learning to drive such a difficulty? But that isn’t the primary skill he has to master. Survival is.

And in order to survive, his next lesson makes all the others pale in comparison. He is on the brink of becoming either the greatest hero mankind has ever known.

Or he’ll be the one who ends the world. With enemies new and old gathering forces, he will have to call on every part of himself to fight or he’ll lose everyone he cares about.

Even himself.

Read the first two chapters of Infamous here, and stop by Sherrilyn's website to learn more about Infamous and all her other books. 

Author Insight: Mash-up Book Pitches

The popular way to pitch books has become "it’s ____ meets ____." How would you fill in the blanks for your book?

"Bittersweet is "Waitress" meets "The Cutting Edge."" - Sarah Ockler, author of Bittersweet

"…I honestly couldn't, and I've had this problem ever since I started writing the query letter to send Above to agents.  It's just such a weird little book.  I've never been able to build a crossover pitch for it that didn’t feel like wearing somebody else's shoes.
" - Leah Bobet, author of Above.

"Lexapros and Cons is the movie Juno with OCD instead of pregnancy." - Aaron Karo, author of Lexapros & Cons.

"Hard to do using comparisons to other people’s books.  How about 'Ann’s unresolved issues with authority, pretention, corruption and life in general meet high school.  Ritzy, high pressure high school.  In upper crust L.A.'" - Ann Stampler, author of Where It Began.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

Release Date: April 1, 2012
Publisher: Point
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 288
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / Fountain Bookstore
Description: Goodreads
Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts school, getting ready for their Senior Showcase recital, where the pressure is on to appeal to colleges, dance academies, and professionals in show business. For Sophie, a singer, it's been great to be friends with Emme, who composes songs for her, and to date Carter, soap opera heartthrob who gets plenty of press coverage. Emme and Ethan have been in a band together through all four years of school, but wonder if they could be more than just friends and bandmates. Carter has been acting since he was a baby, and isn't sure how to admit that he'd rather paint than perform. The Senior Showcase is going to make or break each of the four, in a funny, touching, spectacular finale that only Elizabeth Eulberg could perform.
Take a Bow was a sweet little surprise. My only previous experience with Elizabeth Eulburg was last year’s Prom and Prejudice, the modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic tale of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. While I didn’t think it was poorly written or uninteresting, I just didn’t really care for it (though, perhaps the fault lies not in the novel, but in my slightly prejudicial love of classic Lizzie and Darcy). It’s also been established that I am a fan of the arts, especially schools of the arts, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Once again, I’m glad I did. Take a Bow is entertaining, enjoyable, realistic—an excellent way to spend an afternoon or weekend. It takes place at the fictional New York City High School of the Creative and Performing Arts (CPA for short), a school that prepares students for life in the performing arts world, though CPA seems to be missing out on most of the art school competitive freakouts you’ve seen before. We get four POVs from students during their senior year at CPA: former child actor Carter Harrison, future superstar in her own mind Sophie Jenkins, child composing prodigy Ethan Quinn, and the humble yet wickedly talented songwriter Emme Connelly. They each have clearly defined personal stories that interweave and connect. However, Emme creeps into all the other POVs more than the others (since she was Sophie’s childhood best friend, Carter’s newfound friend/motivator, and Ethan’s love interest). I think it works well since Emme was also a charming protagonist.

Carter & Sophie’s stories are not the deepest or most original, as a child actor questioning whether he wanted to continue and a cutthroat drama queen trying to glom her way to stardom, but each is focused enough to keep the reader’s attention. Carter’s struggle to leave his acting life behind and embrace his artistic side held my attention because I sincerely wanted him to succeed. I also liked Eulburg’s subtle touch of writing all dialogue in Carter’s POV as a script, as if he’d been an actor for so long that his thoughts were in script form. Sophie plays an excellent bad girl, only occasionally dipping into obvious evil mustache twirling. Her saving grace is that she’s featured just enough to not distract from more important stories.

Ethan’s tale essentially revolves around Emme- begging her to stand up to Sophie, staring in awe as she unleashed her inner Rock Goddess, struggling to reveal his true feelings. It is quite lovely to see Emme through the lens of Ethan, to truly appreciate how much she had grown and matured in their 4 years together. He makes mistakes, but it’s all to deal with his inner pain, of course! At least Emme deserves the treatment. She’s charismatic and humble, emerging from her shell in her last year at CPA. She takes tons of chances, and you cheer for her along the way. Plus, she & Ethan are in an awesome band with underdeveloped but delightful characters Jack and Ben. I love their interaction as the members of The Undertones, CPA’s own band of rockin’ misfits. They have an easy rapport, a dynamic that only exists between fellow bandmates. They also truly care about each other, which is clearly evident in the way they deal with Ethan’s “issues.”

If you’re in the mood for a quick little trip into the lighter side of life at a performing arts school, pick up Take a Bow.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Guest Post from Jessica Shirvington & Embrace Blog Tour Giveaway

Author Website - Embrace Series - Facebook - Giveaway
It starts with a whisper: “It’s time for you to know who you are…”

Violet Eden dreads her seventeenth birthday. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. As if that wasn’t enough, disturbing dreams haunt her sleep and leave her with very real injuries. There’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms that wasn’t there before.

Violet is determined to get some answers, but nothing could have prepared her for the truth. The guy she thought she could fall in love with has been keeping his identity a secret: he’s only half-human—oh, and same goes for her.

A centuries-old battle between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity has chosen its new warrior. It’s a fight Violet doesn’t want, but she lives her life by two rules: don’t run and don’t quit. When angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden…

Look for the sequels Enticed in September 2012 and Emblaze in March 2013!
Falling in Love at 17
By Jessica Shirvington

Falling in love is easy. Staying in love … more complicated.

At 17, life is about new experiences. It is about self-discovery, friends, adventure, mistakes, career and university choices. And let’s be honest, there are not many 17 year olds out there that aren’t interested in falling in love.

But how many are truly interested in falling in love with THE ONE at 17?

I’m not sure I was. In fact, I probably wasn’t. I was planning to take the world by storm – solo. So when I met Matt, well, actually … it was pretty darn amazing. But it was a little frightening too.

When we first got together, it was sweet and young and … perfect. I was head over heels. But things became complicated quickly. He was an up and coming athletic star and I was working in hospitality. So basically he worked hard in the day, and I worked hard at night. His lifestyle demanded routine and healthy living, mine … not so much. But we were determined to make it work.

Falling in love so deeply at a young age made it difficult to be as reckless as our friends. We watched them coast in and out of short, fun, but meaningless relationships and it just seemed so different to what we had.

Writing the Embrace series has been an opportunity for me to pour some of the incredibly intense emotions of young love into Violet’s story. It has been important for me as a writer, and a person, to recognize that it’s completely realistic for someone at her young age to experience the full effect and heartbreak of love. Violet is one hundred percent invested with her heart. She makes bad choices, but we have to. She regrets many of her decisions, because we all do. And she fights for what she loves, because she is compelled to. Violet’s story is unique to her, I don’t pull on parallel scenarios from my own life, but I do pull on the emotion of intense love. Love that I think adults sometimes forget that 17 and 18 years-olds are very capable of feeling.

I often find one question helps a lot of adults, who maybe disagree with this view, to be more open minded: Do you remember you first true love? Do you ever wonder what your life would’ve been like if you had stayed together? For some, the answer is a resounding NOT INTERESTED, but for others … the pause says it all.

Matt and I celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary in March - I believe jewelry is in order ;)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

More Author Insight: Choosing an Idea

How do you know which ideas are worth spending time on?

"The ideas that I can't stop thinking about, and when I bring them up to other people they go, 'ooh.'" - Bethany Griffin, author of Masque of the Read Death.

"The very small cocky party of me (as opposed to the gigantic insecure part) wants to say that if you’re creative enough, you can make any idea worth spending time on. It’s also extremely difficult to tell if an idea that seems great today will seem that way after living with it for years. Of course, it helps greatly now to have an agent and editor who are very opinionated about the worthiness of my ideas." - Barry Wolverton, author of Neversink.

"Knowing which ideas are worth spending time on isn't always easy, but it definitely helps having read a lot of books, knowing what else is out there, and having a good idea of what the target audience finds interesting. But the most important part is figuring out which story is calling to you the loudest and longest. Truly amazing ideas don't vanish after a couple days; they stay with you and nag your thoughts until you give in and start writing." - Jodi Meadows, author of Incarnate.
"I believe all ideas are worth spending time on, at least initially. You never know what genius brainstorm will evolve out of a not-so-genius idea. That said, I think it's important to know when to let go, too. If something is making me miserable, it's not worth spending time on - at least in its current incarnation." - Elizabeth Miles, author of Fury.