Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year 2013 Giveaway Hop

Happy New Year Everyone!!
I am happy to be part of the Happy New Year 2013 Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A WriterBabs Book Bistro.

My giveaway is for a book of your choice of up to $15 CDN from The Book Depository (so long as they ship to you).  That makes this giveaway International.
Please fill out the Rafflecopter below. The winner will be contacted by email and will have 2 days to respond. If they don't, I will pick another winner. I am not responsible for books lost in the mail.

Good luck everyone and I wish you all the best in the new year! Be sure to check out the list of other great blogs participating in this tour.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Book: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, 2012 by HarperCollins, 301 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

My Thoughts:
This is such a wonderful book, one that I tore through while it pulled my heart strings. Then I read the notes at the end and saw that it was based on a true story... Of course it was, because even if there hadn't really been an Ivan, we still have animals in cages in malls. I was shocked to learn recently that our largest mall here in Canada still has animals in concrete cages on display, the animals expected to perform. This certainly adds to the poignancy of this book. But, on with the review.

The One and Only Ivan is told from Ivan's point of view, using straight forward language and short paragraphs -- and Ivan is an adult silverback gorilla who has lived in his small, dirty cage, or "domain," in a mall for 26 years. Next to him is an injured elephant named Stella. There is also a little dog named Bobby, who visits, as well as the daughter of the night janitor.

Both art and the arrival of a baby elephant push Ivan to consider more, to become the gorilla he was meant to be, an adult silverback, the protector of his group and of the young. I love how art, the introduction of a new medium, changes Ivan's life, how he is able to express himself creatively and can use this to make changes.

Ivan's thoughts are simple, yet his observations of humanity are profound. Applegate gets her point across without condescending or preaching. Instead, she eloquently invites us into Ivan's life and his thoughts.

Children and adults will find themselves relating to him, cheering him on, feeling his losses and victories. I highly recommend this book to everyone. My husband read it to our six year old daughter and she loved it and it is a compelling, different kind of read for those who are into chapter books.

Here is the book trailer from YouTube -- it really captures the spirit of the book:

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Book Review: Eve Hallows and the Book of Shrieks

Today I am happy to be part of the book tour for Robert Gray's Eve Hallows and the Book of Shrieks.
Book: Eve Hallows and the Book of Shrieks (The Nightmare #1) by Robert Gray, 2011 by Createspace, 252 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Fourteen-year-old Eve Hallows lives in a monster-inhabited place where everything is horrible, which in her world means wonderful, but things are about to become wonderful (horrible) when she must move to the human world.

My Thoughts
This was a cute book with a fun premise. Eve Hallows is the only human living in the monster realm. When it becomes unsafe for them to stay there, her and her family move to the human realm, where only Eve (sort of) fits in. 

I loved the idea of turning everything on its head and having the human realm be the unusual one. Kids will like reading how Eve finds everyday things so strange, how horrible means good and adorable means bad.

This is a fast paced book that will appeal to both girls and boys. We get to watch Eve grow and become comfortable in her human skin, but also have adventures with zombie pirate triplets.  I'm sure most kids will laugh when they read about how her and her family tries to fit into life as humans.

Kids will like reading about the monsters from her world - zombies, gorgons, vampires, fairies, invisible men, and many others - but having them be approachable and even friendly (most of the time). There is a great mix of scary and humour.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Book Blast: Eve Hallows


For fourteen-year-old Eve Hallows, life can be summed up in one word—horrible.  She has the most horrible friends.  She lives in a horrible old castle.  Even her family is a bunch of horrible monsters.

However, in the monster-inhabited world of Gravesville—a world where messages are sent through Ouija boards, jack-o’-lanterns get facials to suit their moods, and the worst thing Eve has to deal with are those annoying zombie tourists who overrun her favorite graveyard during the Halloween season—horrible means wonderful.  And everything for Eve is perfectly horrible.

But her life is about to go head over heels when a mysterious group known as The Source starts terrorizing Gravesville.  Now she must move to the human world—where everything is opposite ... and for Eve, that's absolutely adorable!

Praise for Eve Hallows and the Book of Shrieks:

"Move over, Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK … make room, Lemony Snicket’s A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS … you’ve got company and competition for shelf space!" -- THE HORROR FICTION REVIEW

"WOW! What an absolutely horrible book (horrible meaning fantastic!) ... This book was laugh out loud funny.  I loved when Mom accidentally turned people to stone.  Dad's crazy attempts at running a pizza store were just hysterical." -- KIDS 'N' BOOKS

"This is the perfect book to be read aloud, read at night under the covers or simply devoured in one sitting. Robert Gray’s Eve Hallows and the Book of Shrieks simply shines with all of its fun creepiness, compelling characters and stellar writing. A MUST read for any MG fan!" -- WORD SPELUNKING

 "Eve Hallows is highly imaginative without being too complex for its target audience. Fall in love with Eve, her friends and her family of adorable monsters. Lose yourself in a light read that will remind you of those days when your English teacher just want you to read something, anything. This book is it. The one that you wish you read when you were in grade school." -- JOYOUS READS

"Overall, this book was fantastic. It presents an admirable role model as well as a strong family unit which will benefit young readers. When so many books right now have presented teens in a not-so-flattering light, it is so wonderful to find a book like this one." -- BOOK COVER JUSTICE



Ever since encountering The Source and its minions on Halloween, Eve Hallows has found life surprisingly quiet … not to mention adorably boring!  So when Dad receives a Ouija message that she must return to Gravesville, Eve couldn't be happier—at least until she discovers the Director of URNS, also known as the Grim Reaper, has a special job for Eve … one that will lead her to New York City and to the true identity of The Source.

With The Book of Shrieks offering zero help and a new URNS agent driving the school boys—and Eve!—crazy, Eve's beginning to realize this whole saving-the-world nonsense isn't what it's cracked up to be.

All this and she still has to find The Book of Shadows....

Praise for Eve Hallows and the Book of Shadows:

"This book was perfectly horrible! Horrible meaning amazingly awesome, of course. Eve's world once again sucked me in and would not let go until this part of Eve's story was finished" -- LILI LOST IN A BOOK

"This is a perfect combination of YA, Horror, Paranormal and Fun!" -- BOOK LOVERS PARADISE


Blog Tour: December 10th to 23rd

Tour Schedule

Author Robert Gray

Robert Gray is a writer.  If that job description doesn't impress you, how about fantasy writer? Too general? Well, he doesn't get insulted if you call him a horror writer. If horror's not your thing, then scratch out horror and replace it with suspense. And for the kiddies, you can slap on a YA or MG in front of that title.

Gray lives in Bushkill, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.

Book Blast $50 Giveaway
Ends 12/23/12

*You need not enter your twitter name for each entry. Simply enter it when you follow Robert and leave the others blank.

Open to anyone who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent's permission. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Ivy and Bean

Book: Ivy and Bean (Ivy & Bean #1) by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, 2007 by Chronicle Books, 120 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The moment they saw each other, Bean and Ivy knew they wouldn't be friends. But when Bean plays a joke on her sister, Nancy, and has to hide quickly, Ivy comes to the rescue, proving that sometimes the best of friends are people never meant to like each other. Vibrant characters and lots of humor make this a charming and addictive introduction to Ivy and Bean.

My Thoughts:
I had heard so much about these books from kids. Last year, my son read all that he could get his hands on. My son's friends talk about them because their teacher is reading them to the class. They all say how much they love these books, how funny they are, how much they love when the teacher reads them. We were at the book store and my son wanted me to buy him one, so I did. When his older brother said: What do you want that for? It's a girls' book. My younger son turned around and said: No, it's not. It's a good book.

Now, my younger daughter asked me to read this one to her. She loves it. She begs me for "just one more chapter" and wants to read all of them. And, I have to admit, after years of reading books to my kids, I've found Ivy and Bean to be among the best of the early chapter books, and I can see the appeal for both boys and girls.

Ivy and Bean don't think that they will ever be friends because they are so different, but when they get together for a common cause, they find that friendship is about more than being the same as someone else and you never know what will happen when you give people a chance.

The book is also filled with humour and imagination. Ivy and Bean quickly create their own world, something which kids naturally do. The kids are also silly, get in trouble, get dirty... They do all of the things kids do. 

The illustrations really add to the book.  There are pictures every few pages, simple drawings, but they also add to the tone of the story and make the book accessible as an early chapter book for kids.

Even though this book is about two girls, I can see the appeal for boys too. It is simply a good book, as my wise son said.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Flesh & Bone by Jonathan Maberry

Book: Flesh & Bone (Benny Imura #3) by Jonathan Maberry, 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Reader, 469 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Reeling from the tragic events of Dust & Decay, Benny Imura and his friends plunge deep into the zombie-infested wastelands of the great Rot & Ruin. Benny, Nix, Lilah and Chong journey through a fierce wilderness that was once America, searching for the jet they saw in the skies months ago. If that jet exists then humanity itself must have survived…somewhere. Finding it is their best hope for having a future and a life worth living.

But the Ruin is far more dangerous than any of them can imagine. They are hunted by fierce animals escaped from zoos and circuses. They must raid zombie-infested towns for food and medical supplies. They discover the very real truth in the old saying: In the Rot & Ruin…everything wants to kill you.

And what is happening to the zombies? Swarms of them are coming from the east, devouring everything in their paths. These zoms are different. Faster, smarter, infinitely more dangerous. Has the zombie plague mutated, or is there something far more sinister behind this new invasion of the living dead?

In Flesh & Bone, Benny Imura, Nix Riley, Lou Chong and Lilah the Lost Girl are pitted against dangers greater than anything they've ever faced. To survive, each of them must rise to become the warriors Tom trained them to be.

My Thoughts:
Wow, another intense, page turning book by Jonathan Maberry. I absolutely love this series and was not disappointed by Flesh & Bone.

Flesh & Bone picks up right where Dust & Decay left off. Benny, Nix, Chong and Lilah are making their way through the rot and ruin, trying to find the elusive plane they saw on their quest to find a better life. It seems that the zombie plague has mutated and they must also contend with a fanatical group of reapers. Each character is pushed to their limits, having to evaluate and redefine what it is they are each after.

A large part of this book is about grief, so much so that Maberry even addresses the issue in a note at the beginning of the novel. Each character has lost someone, their old life, and even has had to reevaluate what they are looking for and why. They are each stripped raw and have to put themselves back together. They've even lost their certainty about what a zombie is and how it acts. That being said, each of the four kids grows up a lot in this book.

The reapers add a very dark and disturbing element to the series. Once again, it is not the zombies who are the monsters, it is human beings. Some of the book is told from in Saint John's head, which is creepy and terrifying.

On a fun note, Maberry added Joe Ledger, a character from his adult series, to this novel. I have read some of those, so thought it was clever.

I highly recommend this entire series for young adults and adults. Once again, these books are more than zombie books, they are decidedly human books -- they explore both the good and bad of humanity in a post apocalyptic setting.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Book: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, 2012 by Dutton Books, 313 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

My Thoughts:
A friend whose taste in books I trust told me to read this, that it is amazing, so I picked it up, not even knowing what it was about. As soon as I started reading, I was drawn in, but also knew that somehow or other, I'd end up in tears by the end. I was right. When I realized the book was about teenagers with cancer, some of them fatally, I put the book down for a bit until I was ready to read it. 

I'm glad I did pick it up again. The story is compelling, the characters are quirky, and the writing is beautiful.

Hazel has a fatal cancer, but has somewhat stabilized. However, she has been away from school and much of her previous, normal, life for several years. I like her sense of humour and appreciated her unique outlook on life.

She meets Augustus at a cancer kid support group. They immediately hit it off, relating to one another on many levels. I love the conversations that they have, how they can delve into trivial or deep subjects and dissect them both equally well.

There are so many issues dealt with in this book, some of which are: dying from cancer, living with cancer, mortality, how people treat obviously sick people, how loss of a loved one affects the living, and what kind of legacy to leave.  These issues are all dealt with extremely well by Green, with sensitivity, humour and intelligence. He must have done some great research to have written such a thoughtful book.

I highly recommend this book to both teens and adults. Be warned, though, it is a tear jerker. This was the first John Green book that I've read and I'll certainly be reading more in the near future.

Here is the book trailer:

Friday, 16 November 2012

Slogging Through the Swamp of My Plot

I was talking with a friend this morning and she asked me how my Nano novel was going. I said that I felt like I was slogging through the swamp of my plot. The image that came to mind was that my plot was sucking me in, and not in a good way, that it was murky and convoluted and difficult. Nothing very exciting is happening right now. These are transitional scenes, things that need to happen, but aren't that much fun to write. Scenes that I realize that I will be editing heavily later, because if I feel this way about them, how will others feel?

I think I've also got some swamp monsters who are doing their own thing, distracting me, sending me off in crazy directions. Not that this is always a bad thing. It can be great to be pushed in different directions. At the same time, it can be frustrating and even a bit scary.
But, a funny thing happened. When I started googling pictures of swamps, I came across amazingly beautiful pictures. It was actually hard to find pictures of yucky, sloggy swamps. These pictures immediately made me look at my novel differently.

Swamps are actually exotic, rich, alive, lush, fertile places. Maybe my plot is too. Maybe if I feed it this compost of transitional scenes I'll come out with something worthwhile, something I can work with to edit later. Maybe I just need to stop, step back and get a broader perspective. Taken as a whole, I think it's pretty good. Really, I love my story, it's fun, interesting, and challenging. Sometimes that is hard to see when I look to closely at one little part.

How's your writing going this month?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Blog Hop! Answering Questions about Antigone: The True Story

Today is my turn at answering questions about my work in progress, Antigone: The True Story for a fun blog hop called The Next Big Thing. I heard about it from Elia Winters.

The idea is that I answer ten questions about my work in progress, then tag 5 bloggers at the end of the post and they will answer the same questions in one week. It's like a giant chain letter without the guilt. Instead we get to learn about other great books on the horizon.

Here are the interview questions about my novel. Be sure to check out the end of the post for the bloggers to read up on next week.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

1. What is the working title of your book?

Antigone: The True Story

2. Where did the idea come from for the book? 
From Greek mythology. I love Greek mythology and even studied Classical Studies at university. Antigone was always one of my favorite characters. Last year for Nanowrimo I decided to give her "alternate history" a try as a young adult novel.

3. What genre does your book fall under? 

Young Adult Fantasy

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That's a tough one. Antigone is strong and doesn't put up with much, though she's fiercely devoted to her family. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When the gods start talking to Antigone in her dreams and manipulating her life, she must find a way to overcome her family's curse and still remain true to herself and protect her family.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I would like it to be represented by an agency, but I'm not quite there yet.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft was written in Nanowrimo last year - write 50K words in the month of November. It did take me a little longer to write the whole story, but not much. Recently, however, I've decided to add one more section to the book, so I'm hoping that will only take a couple more weeks.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Again, that's hard. Maybe Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I am part of an amazing writer's group called Some Good Karma and Some Bad Writing. They were a great inspiration and encourage me to "write it anyway" when I was concerned about some the subject matter for a YA audience (ie,Antigone is the daughter of incest, her father is Oedipus who married his mother and killed his father).

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

This is not your typical book about Greek mythology. It takes place in ancient times, but Antigone has a lot to offer modern audiences. This is definitely a creative retelling. And, there are lots of snakes in the book. I honestly don't know where they came from, but there they are.

Okay everyone. Thanks for reading. Don't forget to check out these interesting blogs next week to read about their works in progress.

When Stars Collide
Thardrandian Thoughts
The Wicked Queen's Mirror

Winner in Thankful for Books Hop

Thank you to everyone who entered the Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop on my blog, and to everyone who commented with what book they are grateful for - I now have a huge list of books to check out!

The winner is: Ashfa A.

Congratualtions, you have won the book of your choice, up to $15 CDN from The Book Depository!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Junie B., First Grader: Boo...And I Mean It! by Barbara Park

Book: Junie B., First Grader: Boo...And I Mean It! (Junie B. Jones #24) by Barbara Park, 2005 by Random House Books for Young Reader, 86 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Halloween with Junie B. has got to be a scream! Get ready for a “Halloweenie” adventure with the world’s funniest first grader!

My Thoughts:
I've been hearing about Junie B. books for years, but my boys never seemed interested. Someone told me about them again recently, telling me how hilarious these books are and how much her kids love them, so I picked this one up at the library to read with my daughter over Hallowe'en.

I'll start by saying that my daughter really liked this book. She was engaged and thought it was funny and enjoyed the pictures.

This was a cute story of Junie B. who is scared to go out trick or treating because a boy at school has filled her head with scary stories. It is fun how she tries to get out of the situation, but then also comes up with a solution.

However, I had a terrible time reading it to her. Junie B. uses very strange grammar much of the time - I don't know any kid who talks like she does. I found myself correcting it for my daughter as I don't want her language to regress. I am continually torn with books like this. They are engaging and kids like them but the grammar! I know there is something to be said for being approachable and using authentic language, etc, but much of language is learned from what we read. I can understand wanting kids to sound like kids, but I don't see how consistent, strange grammar helps them at all. It feels condescending, like they couldn't understand the proper use of language. Maybe it's just me because these books are wildly popular.

So, there is my rant. It's possible that my daughter will seek out more of these books. Maybe it will be a good opportunity to talk about language.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Nano Train Wreck

Here we are, well into week two of Nanowrimo. As I posted a few days ago, I felt like I had hit the Nano wall. Now I feel more like I'm the engineer of a Nano train wreck.

This is how I see my Nanowrimo progression this year.

I started off out of the gate, speeding away. I hate even to take credit for my writing then, as it felt like my book was writing itself.
Week one felt so good!

Then came week two and my novel literally felt like a train wreck. My plot crashed, the whole thing had gone off the rails, I had no control, and I was definitely not divinely channeling my story anymore.
And now, this is how I feel:
Yes, that's me, the happy little Thomas train going around in circles. I am making my word count goals, so I am progressing - and I realize that's huge so I am giving myself credit for that - but I feel like I'm getting no where. My characters aren't actually DOING much.

This is strange because there is so much more for them to do! But I just can't seem to get there. As I said before, I'm writing the story of the ancient Greek mythological character of Clytemnestra. She still has to get married, have a baby, have Agamemnon come along and kill her husband and child, then she has to start plotting her revenge, then her son has to plot his revenge. Lots of juicy things to write about. But, what am I doing? Having her sit around worrying about marrying a man she doesn't know, being sad about having to leave her family, eat, talking with her family, getting reassured by her family, thinking deeply about marriage and how her life will change, eat some more... You get the picture, going in circles.

So, today my goal is to get back on track and actually move the story along. I don't need to go great guns, but I need to go forward, at least putt along at a respectable speed.
Everyone else out there in Nanoland... How are you doing? I would love to hear your week 2 stories. If you blog, feel free to leave a link in the comments if you have a post on this. I'm needing some (procrastination) inspiration.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Hitting the Nano Wall

We are now into the second week of Nanowrimo - the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. This is my fourth Nano and, I have to say, I came out of the gate running. I wrote 22,975 words in the first week. This was amazing, even for me, writing about double the minimum amount to keep on track. It felt like the story was writing itself.

But, this week...
...that's me, hitting the wall.

The thing keeping me going is that this happens to me every year, though this year seems particularly bad. My thoughts are going something like:  I hate my book, my characters are terrible, the plot is going nowhere, no one will ever want to read this, and what am I writing anyway????

Then I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am doing this for FUN. No one ever needs to read it and, as long as I keep on typing, I'll get there. I can fix the plot holes later. Then I raid my kid's Hallowe'en candy, check the Nano forums and Facebook and get back to writing.

This year's book is based on the mythological character Clytemnestra (try typing that one out over and over again). She was married to Agamemnon (another finger tangling name), the leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War. When he gloriously returns from war, her and her lover kill him. I think the story is a nice juicy one with lots in it. There's some great, meaty background that lead her to these actions, but the mythology is also tangled like a crazy, incestuous web. I'm a Classicist, I love this stuff, and I'm having trouble keeping things straight.

This is also, most definitely, an adult book, the first one I've written. My other books have been middle grade and young adult, so this is quite a departure for me. I've been hesitating over some of the gory killing, intimate scenes and language, but then wrote it anyway. Again, I can always edit it out later if need be, right? I think it's been good for me to write scenes that make me uncomfortable, it has pushed me and (hopefully) will strengthen my writing.

Ultimately, I know the best thing I can do is to take the great Nano advice and:

So, this is where I'm at part way through week two. If you're writing, I would love to hear from you about how it's going.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Bloggers with WIP Wanted for Hop

Hello everyone,

I am participating in a blog hop of a different kind. I am going to answer questions about my WIP (work in progress) then tag 5 (or so) other blogs who will answer the same questions about their WIP and/or new release on their blog the next week. In a way, it's like a giant chain letter, but without the guilt. Instead we get to learn about some great new books on the horizon.

Is anyone interested in participating? If so, I can tag you in my blog post on November 14, then you'll do your post on November 21.

You can let me know you're interested by leaving a comment or by emailing me at: coreenamcburnie at gmail dot com. I will need your email address, blog name and URL.

I'll pick the first blogs to respond.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Thankful For Books Giveaway Hop

Welcome to my stop on the Thankful For Books Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer and Tristi Pinkson.

I love this hop because books are such a huge part of my life - I've been heavily influenced by them for as long as I can remember. 

The giveaway: a book from The Book Depository (so long as they ship to you, you can check here) up to $15 CDN that you would be thankful to have.
This giveaway is international.
I will post the winner on my blog and email them when the hop is over. The winner will have 2 days to respond to my email or I will have to pick a new winner. I am not responsible for books lost in the mail.

You can enter in the rafflecopter below, then check out the list of all of the other blogs in the hop.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 5 November 2012

Book Review: Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

Book: Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) by Richelle Mead, 2009 by Razorbil, 503 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Rose Hathaway's life will never be the same.

The recent attack on St. Vladimir's Academy devastated the entire Moroi world. Many are dead. And, for the few victims carried off by Strigoi, their fates are even worse. A rare tattoo now adorns Rose's neck, a mark that says she's killed far too many Strigoi to count. But only one victim matters . . . Dimitri Belikov. Rose must now choose one of two very different paths: honoring her life's vow to protect Lissa—her best friend and the last surviving Dragomir princess—or, dropping out of the Academy to strike out on her own and hunt down the man she loves. She'll have to go to the ends of the earth to find Dimitri and keep the promise he begged her to make. But the question is, when the time comes, will he want to be saved?

Now, with everything at stake—and worlds away from St. Vladimir's and her unguarded, vulnerable, and newly rebellious best friend—can Rose find the strength to destroy Dimitri? Or, will she sacrifice herself for a chance at eternal love?

My Thoughts:
This fourth installment of the Vampire Academy series had me turning the pages, yet again. The story was fast paced and there were some great new characters.

I really liked some of the themes of this book, especially how Rose feels she has to explicitly choose between the man she loves and her best friend. The other books have been leading up to this, but this one dealt with it more fully. And, I'm sure, the next book will too.

I liked Rose again in this book. I love seeing strong female characters who can stand up for themselves, but who are flawed as well. Rose is relatable and kiss-ass fun at the same time. I am hoping that her relationship with Lissa gets better in the next book. Not that it's bad, I would just like to see the growth.

Mead uses the fun devise of Rose being able to go into Lissa's head to keep us up with what is going on at the Academy while Rose is in Russia. I thought this was a clever way to keep both story lines going and developing.

There are parts to this book I wasn't thrilled with, especially during some of Rose's time in Russia (I liked the parts with Dimitri's family, but not some of the other times, I'm being vague so as not to spoil anything).  Overall, though, I did enjoy the book and will be on the lookout for the next one. I felt Rose is really starting to come into her own and I can't wait to see what she does in book 5.

Winner of YA Mythology Giveaway Hop

The winner of the YA Mythology Giveaway Hop is:
Kaci V
for tweeting about the giveaway.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by my blog and entered.

The prize is a YA Mythology book of her choice from the list here.
I have emailed her and she has 2 days to respond to my email or I will pick another winner.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Nanowrimo Starts Tomorrow!!!

I am sooooooo excited for Nanowrimo to start this year. This will be my fourth year. I absolutely love the adventure and silliness and pushing the boundaries that I find with this program. And, of course, all of the other great people who participate. I even put the little word count widget on my blog this year, which is kind of nerve wracking because it is so public.

I am having to stop myself from starting my novel early this year. This is the most planned that I have ever been (Which isn't saying much. The first year I did it, I had a vague notion of a character and realized after writing about her for three days that I had better come up with a plot soon or I was going nowhere). 

This year, I am writing about the ancient Greek mythological character, Clytemnestra. She is the original femme fatale and has always received a back wrap through history because she had an affair and helped to murder her husband - even though she was mad at her husband for killing her first husband, then their daughter, then coming home after 10 years with a concubine and twin boys...

This one will definitely be an adult novel, which is a departure for me as I usually like to write young adult books. I am feeling the need to get out all of my deep, dark, shadow muse type thoughts right now, and what better way to rid myself of these feelings than to put them on the page? I met an author recently at a writer's conference who said all of the thriller and murder mystery authors were the nicest people - probably because they were able to channel all of their dark thoughts onto the page.

Who else out there is doing Nano and how are you feeling about it right now? What are you writing? Do you have an outline and plans or are you winging it?

Good luck to everyone! Happy writing!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Whiteout by Ken Follet

Book: Whiteout by Ken Follet, 2005 by Signet, 405 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
As a Christmas Eve blizzard whips out of the north, several people converge on a remote family house. As the storm worsens, the emotional sparks-jealousies, distrust, sexual attraction, rivalries-crackle, desperate secrets are revealed, hidden traitors and unexpected heroes emerge.

My Thoughts:
This is the first book I've read by Ken Follett and I found it to be an easy read full of action and suspense. I really enjoyed parts of the book, the science and technology seemed well researched and authentic and the stakes kept getting higher and higher. There is international espionage and intimate betrayals.

The timeline on the book was so tight that it keeps you reading. The story takes place on Christmas Eve and day after a high tech lab is robbed and the culprits find themselves at the owner's family home.

Toni was a fun character - I love her self reliance and abilities, that she takes responsibility and can take care of herself. She is almost too tough to be true, but that is also part of the fun.

I thought the romantic tension between Toni and her boss, Stephen Oxenford, a bit off, it didn't quite work for me.

Overall, this was a fun, tense, packed book and, though I enjoyed reading it, I didn't love it.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

YA Mythology Giveaway Hop

I am so excited about this hop!! I love YA Mythology books so much that I am even writing one myself that is set in ancient Greek mythological times called "Antigone: The True Story." It's still a work in progress, but I'm getting there.

Thank you so much to For Those About to Read and I Am A Reader Not A Writer for organizing this fantastic hop.

In the mean time, I'm happy to be a part of this hop and to offer the winner their choice of one of the following books.  This giveaway is international, so long as The Book Depository ships to you.

There are so many great YA Mythologically based books to choose from.  I've picked out some of my favorites and some that are on my to be read pile.  One winner will be able to choose one book from this list (or another book in the series, if you would prefer).  Then, be sure to check out the other great blogs in this hop - the list is at the end. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
You can choose one of these books. I've listed the first book in the series. You can choose another in the series, so long as it is less than $15 CDN. Click on the title below to go the the Goodreads description of the book.
Abandon by Meg Cabot
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
American Gods by Neil Gaiman 
The Hunt of the Unicorn by C.C. Humphreys
Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Evolution of a Query

I've been working on my query letter for my work in progress called Antigone: The True Story.  I posted my first draft a little while ago (here).  I wasn't completely happy with it, though, so I did some research and tweaking.

I found Elana Johson's blog and a post about writing queries.  She has a post where she advises writing your query in the voice of your protagonist, tense or person - just get the words out.  Then, after you've done that, change it to third person present.

So, I took her advice and re-wrote my query and I think it's much better.  It may still need more work, but I think I'm on the right track.

Here's the updated query:

Honour and scandal collide and the truth of history is definitely stranger than the fiction of myth in Antigone: The True Story.

Antigone is the famous daughter of an infamous father, Oedipus. Yes, the Oedipus. The one that Freud named a whole complex after. The one who killed his father and married his mother then stuck brooches in his own eyes in a rampage of shame and horror. However, being a dutiful daughter, Antigone leaves her home, her life in Thebes, her sister, and even the boy she loves, to lead her self-blinded and thoroughly disgraced father around Greece until his death.

The poets say that is Antigone's story, but there's more. At sixteen the gods start manipulating Antigone in her dreams, the snakes talk to her, and she finds herself blessed in a cursed family. While struggling to understand her gifts, Antigone learns that she is powerful, summoning ancient forces to heal the sick in a time of plague. However, when the Olympian gods' fickle whims ravage through her life like a whirlwind, devastating everything Antigone holds dear, she is forced to choose between living a lie or embracing her destiny.

Antigone: The True Story is a young adult fantasy complete at 65,000 words and is the first of a planned trilogy. I like to think of it as Sophocles' ancient Greek Oedipus plays meeting Kristin Cashore's Graceling

What do you think?  Do you have any query writing advice?  Do you have a great query?

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Book:  Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy #3) by Richelle Mead, 2008 by Razorbil, 443 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
It's springtime at St. Vladimir's Academy, and Rose Hathaway is this close to graduation. Since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn't been feeling quite right. She's having dark thoughts, behaving erratically, and worst of all... might be seeing ghosts.

As Rose questions her sanity, new complications arise. Lissa has begun experimenting with her magic once more, their enemy Victor Dashkov might be set free, and Rose's forbidden relationship with Dimitri is starting to heat up again. But when a deadly threat no one saw coming changes their entire world, Rose must put her own life on the line - and choose between the two people she loves most.

My Thoughts
I just love this series.  It's easy to read, but, at the same time, completely captures my attention.  Shadow Kiss is the third in the Vampire Academy series.

I like the new challenges thrown at Rose in this book and how this forces her to explore what she truly wants and who she truly is.  Rose has a great, dry humour and clever insights into her own behaviour. 

I like that her friendship with Lissa is evolving too, though sometimes I get frustrated that Lissa is so entitled and clueless.  And I especially like the dynamic between Rose and Christian.  There is also more of Adrian in this book and it will be fun to see where this goes in the next book.

This book has everything, suspense, romance, action, and good friendships.  I love the tension set up around Rose's duty to Lissa versus following her heart.  I probably liked this one better than Frostbite and am anxious to pick up the next book in the series.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Red Glove by Holly Black

BookRed Glove (Curse Workers #2) by Holly Black, 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry Book, 325 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Curses and cons.
Magic and the mob.

In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth — he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything — or anyone — into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion-worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue — crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too — they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone — least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed this second book in the Curse Workers series, though not quite as much as the first one.  It was still fast paced and exciting and full of cons and imagination.

I like Cassel.  I feel for him.  He so wants to fit in, but he's not sure where - at his private school where he is clearly an outsider? with other Curse Workers and the mob who want to make him into a killer?  with his family who have all manipulated him?  with the FBI who have their own agenda?  I like how he tries to do the right thing, tries to be a good friend.  I also like how clever he is.

I enjoyed Sam and Danica in this book and how their characters are developing.  Unfortunately, I didn't like Lila as much.  She's been cursed to love Cassel and so he can't trust anything she says or does until the curse wears off.  This does add to the romantic tension of the book and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the next one.

There are a lot of subplots in this book, which certainly adds to the feeling that there is a lot going on in this book.  Sometimes the main plot got a little lost.

One of the things about coming to a series late is that you don't have to wait for the next book to come out to see what happens next.  I can't wait to read Black Heart to see how this series ends.  I would certainly recommend this series to others, and think it will appeal to both boys and girls, something I enjoy in a YA series.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Getting Ready for Nanowrimo

Participant 180x180 (2)
I've just signed myself up to do Nanowrimo again this year - where you write 50,000 words in 30 days in November.  I can feel the thrill and anticiption.  And the fear.  I'm not sure what to write this year...

So far, I have always written by the seat of my pants without much of a plan.  I may change that up a bit this year.  I met with a friend last night who has a complete outline in a chart and a binder with sticky notes.  Hmmm.  That could be good too.  How do you write?  What's your best Nano advice?

Is anyone else out there writing.  Do you want to connect as writing buddies?  I'm Namaste.

I'm including my favourite Nano YouTube video song just for fun.  It still cracks me up.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in Canada!!
 I know I have so much to be thankful for.  
It's been great having this blog and getting to know you all.
Can't wait to make more friends here.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Writing Queries

I'm so excited to be going to the Surrey International Writers' Conference in just a couple of weeks.  One of the things we get to do is meet with an agent, so I've been working on my query for my novel, Antigone: The True Story.  I'm feeling like the book is done, though I'm sure I could edit it some more (that's another story, when to stop editing), and am now working on my query letter.  EEK.

There are so many great resources for query letters out there - it can actually get kind of overwhelming.  One I found recently that seems to have lots of great advice is Nathan Bransford's site.  His articles are clear and thoughtful and have lots of practical advice.

So, I have been hashing out my query this morning because I got up early and couldn't sleep.  Here is what I have so far.  I would love any feedback that anyone has.  I would also love to read other queries and get links to your favorite query resources, so feel free to comment below.

Antigone: The True Story is a young adult fantasy novel, complete at 65,000 words, where honour and scandal collide and the truth of history is definitely stranger than the fiction of myth.

Over three thousand years have passed since Antigone lived and the gods have finally allowed her to tell the true story of her life. Not just the truth about her being a princess in ancient Thebes whose father unintentionally killed his father and married his mother, whose mother committed suicide and father gouged out his own eyes with brooches. Not only how Antigone, the dutiful daughter, left her life, her sister, and the boy she loves, to lead her disgraced father aimlessly around the countryside until his death.

No, this is the story of the young princess who is blessed in a cursed family. Antigone learns that she can call on the ancient gods to heal others in a time of plague, and can talk to snakes. However, when the Olympian gods with their fickle whims ravage through her life like a whirlwind and devastate everything Antigone holds dear, she must choose between living a lie or embracing who she truly is.

****DISCLAIMER:  I wrote this at 4:30 in the morning because I coudn't sleep and know the middle paragraph especially needs help.  However, some force took hold of me and convinced me it would be a good idea to post this, even in its unpolished state.****

Monday, 1 October 2012

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Book:  Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, 2011 by Scholastic Press, 397 pages. 

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program - or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan - or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

My Thoughts:
This book falls under that category of "What took me so long?"  I'd seen reviews about Beauty Queens for awhile, but never picked up the book until a friend urged me to the other day.  Am I ever glad I did!  It has been a long time since I laughed out loud while reading a book, and I laughed several times during this one.  I loved the humour, the satire, the message, and the overall writing.  I can't recommend this book enough, especially to young girls who might need the message at the end.

Beauty Queens is the unlikely story of a plane full of beauty queens who crash land on a deserted island on their way to a pageant.   The book is told from several points of view, taking turns among the beauty queens.  We learn their histories - why they became beauty queens and how their home life and society has influenced them.  

There are stereotypes among the girls, but the reader will likely find something to relate to in nearly each of the girls on the island.  The characters are concise and yet still well developed.   I love the strength and ingenuity each of them shows as she develops.

Many issues come up, such as societal pressures and expectations of girls, the cosmetic and entertainment industries, eating, sex, language, the list goes on.  Libba Bray is an astute writer with a sharp wit and I will certainly be on the lookout for her other books.

Here is a YouTube video of Libba Bray and the book:

Thursday, 27 September 2012

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

Book:  City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare, 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 424 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And - most importantly of all - she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.

But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine's Circle, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second bloody war. Clary's best friend, Simon, can't help her. His mother just found out that he's a vampire and now he's homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side - along with the power of the curse that's wrecking his life. And they're willing to do anything to get what they want. At the same time he's dating two beautiful, dangerous girls - neither of whom knows about the other one.

When Jace begins to pull away from Clary without explaining why, she is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: She herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

My Thoughts
I keep coming back to this series even though it drives me slightly crazy.  I do like it and enjoy the writing, but I find I am not overly fond of the Jace - Clary relationship.  I don't like it when a girl loves a guy despite how he acts. I know he always has a good reason for being broody, but still, he could crack a smile once in awhile.

This book is more about Simon and the vampires, however, than the Shadowhunters.  I liked that because I like Simon.  I didn't mind reading about his inner turmoils, though I hope he comes into his own one day soon.

There is also Isabelle and Mara.  I was happy to see more of them in this book, as well.  I love strong female characters who can take care of and stand up for themselves and these two certainly fit the bill.

If you are a fan of this series, you won't want to miss this one, though I know that I am in the minority for liking the Simon story line more than the Jace - Clary one.  There is lots of action, especially at the end.  The romance is angst ridden.

Here is the book trailer from YouTube:


Monday, 24 September 2012

Frostbite by Richelle Mead

Book:  Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2) by Richelle Mead, 2008 by Razorbill, 327 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose...

It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians—including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks... This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price...

My Thoughts:
I'm really enjoying this series - it is well written and fast paced and fun to read. 

Frostbite takes place soon after Vampire Academy, with Rose pining over Dimitri and Lissa and Christian are together.  The Strigoi, or bad vampires, are out to kill the Moroi, or good vampires.  They are targeting entire families and have put the whole vampire community on alert.  Everyone at the Vampire Academy goes to a ski resort for Christmas for maximum security, and this is where most of the action unfolds.

The friendship between Rose Lissa isn't as developed in this book and sometimes it annoyed me how much Lissa didn't seem to notice how her best friend was feeling.

I like Rose, even though she goes off on tantrums and acts without thinking sometimes.  However, it is interesting that she is aware of her bad behaviour, but acts anyway.  She is young and impulsive.

There were some great new characters introduced.  The storyline between Rose and her mother was good.  Tasha and Adrian are fun additions.

I like these books because even though they are about vampires and romance, there is more to them than that.  I recommend these books, though there is some drinking and talk about sex.

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

BookShiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009 by Scholastic Press, 392 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Grace and Sam share a kinship so close they could be lovers or siblings. But they also share a problem. When the temperature slips towards freezing, Sam reverts to his wolf identity and must retreat into the woods to protect his pack. He worries that eventually his human side will fade away and he will be left howling alone at the lonely moon. A stirring supernatural teen romance.

My Thoughts:
 The writing in Shiver is just beautiful.  I love how Stiefvater uses words and conjures up images.  There is a richness to her writing which is certainly worth reading.

And then there is the story.  To tell you the truth, this one was a little too much romance for me, but then, I'm not a huge romance fan.  The story did take me in and kept me reading, though I was happy when the pace picked up at the end.  I think I found it hard to buy the instant romance at the beginning.

This is the story of Grace and Sam, with chapters told by each of them from a first point of view. Luckily each character has such a unique voice that this didn't become confusing.  They have a doomed to fail romance, though neither is willing to give up on it - it is almost a star crossed lovers scenario.  Grace is very independent and capable while Sam is good looking, reads poetry and plays guitar.

I liked Stiefvater's explanation for werewolves and their history.  This was original and seamless, and tied together well with the temperature changes in the book.

I would recommend this book to young adult romance fans, especially those who like a paranormal twist.
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide