Friday, 31 May 2013

Book Review: Valiant by Holly Black

Book: Valiant (Modern Faerie Tales #2) by Holly Black, 2006 by Simon Pulse, 313 pages.

Purchase: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads:
When seventeen-year-old Valerie runs away to New York City, she's trying to escape a life that has utterly betrayed her. Sporting a new identity, she takes up with a gang of squatters who live in the city's labyrinthine subway system.

But there's something eerily beguiling about Val's new friends.
And when one talks Val into tracking down the lair of a mysterious creature with whom they are all involved, Val finds herself torn between her newfound affection for an honorable monster and her fear of what her new friends are becoming.

My Thoughts:
I love how Holly Black writes about characters who are normally invisible in YA books, and this book is no exception. This is the second book in the Modern Faerie Tales series, though it is more like a companion book with the world that Black created, rather than continuing the story of the first book. This installment focuses on teens who are living on the street in New York.

I enjoyed this - Black is a fantastic story teller and I enjoy the dark world of faeries that she has created. However, I didn't like this one as much as Tithe, the first in the series.

Seventeen year old Val runs away from home and finds herself living on the streets with a group of other teens who squat in the subway tunnels. They are linked to the world of Fey and take a faerie drug that gives them a unique high.

Val's character was good and I liked how she developed. I could understand her anger and betrayal, but she also grew beyond that. I wasn't as fond of the group of homeless teens that she hooks up with. I also found reading about taking copious amounts of drugs uncomfortable.

Overall, I liked the dark story and that faeries are not portrayed in a "nice" light. Black writes with a frank and honest tone that I think will appeal to many fans of YA fantasy who are looking for something different.
Note: There are significant amounts of drug use, swearing and sex in this book.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Book Review: Ultraviolet

Book: Ultraviolet (Ultraviolet #1) by R. J. Anderson, 2011 by Orchard, 416 pages.

Purchase: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.
This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed this book, but it is a tough one to review. 

For most of the book, 16 year old Alison is in a mental institution because she claims to have killed he friend. She also sees and hears things that aren't really there and her family is concerned and scared about it. I found the mental institution interesting and authentic sounding, feeling like the author really researched this part of the story. I also really felt for Alison and what she's going through, curious about what really happened. 

I also liked the other characters in the hospital and how things weren't glossed over with her family - that it was hard for them to have her there, that they didn't know how to relate to her, that her best friend changed how she felt.

Then, about three quarters of the way through the book, there is a twist. I won't say much, but it is a twist that changes the whole book. In one way, it was fun, but in another, it left me feeling betrayed.

Overall, I enjoyed Anderson's writing and she really pulled me in. I loved the exploration of Alison's condition and the acknowledgement that we all see things differently, some more than others. I am still torn about the ending.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Off to the Word on the Lake Readers and Writers Festival

Today I'm off to Salmon Arm, BC to attend the Word on the Lake festival for Readers and Writers put on by the Shuswap Association of Writers. I'm so excited, as they have a great line up of speakers and they always do such a great job every year. This is their 10th Anniversary and it looks like they may just outdo themselves. I can hardly wait.

I am also bringing my 14 year old son this year, who will help to volunteer and attend some of the workshops. And another friend is going with me as well. It should be a great weekend.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Blog Tour & Review: The Emerald Ring

Today is my stop on The Emerald Ring blog tour. I have a review of Dorine White's fun new middle grade fantasy book.
Book: The Emerald Ring (Cleopatra's Legacy #1) by Dorine White, 2013 by Cedar Fort, Inc., 192 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Ordinary tween life turns upside down when Ancient Egypt intrudes on modern middle school life. Twelve year old Sara Guadalupe Bogus reads about adventures, but unexpectedly is drawn into one when a mystical emerald ring that once belonged to Cleopatra becomes stuck on her finger.
A series of burglaries spook Sara’s small Ohio hometown. Concluding that the root of all the crimes is the emerald ring, Sara realizes it’s up to her and her friends, Heidi and African exchange student Kainu, to save the town and protect Cleopatra’s legacy. Filled with magic, the ring thrusts Sara into a world filled with nightmares, allows her to shape shift into an Egyptian cat and battle assassins.

My Thoughts:
What a fun book! Twelve year old Sara finds a mysterious emerald ring in her grandmother's attic. Once she puts it on, all sorts of strange things happen that throw her into a mysterious and dangerous world of an ancient Roman cult and dreams of Cleopatra.

There is so much in this book that kids will love - adventure, mystery, intrigue, cats, history, cultural diversity, friendship... The story is well written and will keep kids turning the pages wanting to know what will happen next.

I love how White drew the reader into Sara's world and made us root for her as she faced danger and solved puzzles. She also has a fantastic imagination and draws on ancient Egypt, a time that is fascinating for most kids, in a unique way - often from the point of view of a cat.

Overall, this is a great first book in this series and it will be interesting to see where it goes. I think that both boys and girls will enjoy this book because the story is told at a great pace with lots of danger and adventure, along with solid friendships.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

Get in touch with Dorine White:

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Writing Wednesday: Neil Gaiman's Make Good Art Speech

Instead of a post about writing, I am sharing Neil Gaiman's Make Good Art Speech (plus, I'm out of town for a week). I only recently saw this speech, that I believe made the rounds a year ago. It is AMAZING! Well worth the 20 minute watch. My advice - stop checking facebook, turn off the TV, whatever, and spend the time watching this video. There is so much in here about following any of your creative dreams.

Neil Gaimon's Make Good Art Speech:
This speech is being made into a book that is set to be released on May 14. I know I'll be at the store looking for it. Thank you Mr. Gaiman for your timeless advice.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Guest Post: Ten Tools for Writing & Giveaway

Today I have Elizabeth Parkinson-Belows on my blog with a Tens List of tools she uses for writing. She is the author of the Alexander Drake's book series. For more information on these great books, click here. Also be sure to read to the end of the post for the $25 Amazon or Paypal giveaway. You can click here for the rest of the tour schedule.

Now here's Elizabeth Parkinson-Belows with her list:

We all have methods for our daily tasks and tools to use. Here is a list of my tools for writing in random order. This was so much fun; thank you for having me!

Ten tools I use for writing…

1. My clunky old desk – so old I can’t remember where it came from
2. Extra cushion for my chair to prevent my backside from getting sore
3. My laptop with the faded “L” key
4. Caffeine - Starbucks Carmel Coffee and herbal tea
5. Cookies… or anything chocolate
6. Yoga pants
7. Books on CD – anything from Wayne Dyer to The Hobbit
8. My kids (for inspirational purposes)
9. A tablet for when I’m out and have an idea – If fifteen minutes passes the likelihood of me forgetting the details goes way up.
10. My wandering mind… the best time to jot stuff down is when the mind wanders

Author Elizabeth Parkinson-Bellows

Being the frizzy-haired tomboy with buck teeth gave me a slight case of shyness as a kid. A colorful imagination meant escape and adventure at the drop of a hat.
Over the years I learned that the insecurities I carried around were a waste of time. I still prefer a football game to a manicure any day of the week. That indispensable imagination has found its way into my writing providing a sense of joy and a true purpose.

Website * Twitter * Facebook

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Thursday, 2 May 2013

Book Review: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Book: The Goddess Test (Goddess Test #1) by Aimee Carter, 2011 by Harlequin Teen, 293 pages.

Purchase: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Every girl who had taken the test has died.
Now it's Kate's turn.
It's always been just Kate and her mom - and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear that her mother won't live past the fall.
Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld - and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.
Kate is sure he's crazy - until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride and a goddess.
If she fails...

My Thoughts:
I have a huge passion for Greek mythology, so was excited to read this book, though I put it off for a long time. Now having read it, I'm torn.

Kate and her fatally ill mother move to Eden where Kate meets Henry, a mysterious, dark stranger - and who says that he is Hades, the Greek god of the underworld. She makes a deal with him, to live with him and try to pass some mysterious tests, and he will keep her mother alive.

I loved the mythological aspect of this book. Carter does a great job combining the traditional myths with a modern story - she plays with it in a fun way. This was, by far, my favorite part of the story.

The story of Kate and her tests left me wanting. I liked Kate well enough and felt for her, but her time on Henry's estate felt flat. She spent a lot of time whining about her cloths and I couldn't understand how the future queen of the underworld didn't have any say in what she wore.

Then there were the tests - Kate was told at one point that she had passed one, but wasn't even curious what it was. Then the other tests all kind of occurred in an obscure way. I actually felt cheated because there was a loss of conflict. The anticipation was set up, but not fulfilled.

I did like Henry. He is sad and brooding, dark and mysterious, but also powerful and kind.

All in all, it was a book I was able to tear through quickly and I am curious enough to wonder what will happen next, so will definitely look up the next in the series.

Book Blast: Trail of Bones

trail of bones
Trail of Bones
Ready for a new adventure? Are you a fan of fantasy, young adult, science fiction and action stories?
“No mercy, No rules - Welcome to the Trail of Bones!”
Run with Purpose – battle cry of the Shade Wolves
Magnus, the runt of a litter of Shade Wolves, wants nothing more than to be a loyal, strong member of the pack. But when an ancient enemy threatens his friends and family, he faces a choice that could tear him from all he's known and loved. Born in captivity, the giant panther Kelor knows nothing but suffering and loss. He struggles to find his place in this world of terror, and he battles to protect his family without succumbing to the darkness lurking inside him. Falling captive to the evil Warden, the two are forced to fight in the battle of the beasts known as 'The Trail of Bones'. How will Kelor and Magnus learn to work together? How will they escape a fate of despair and death? How will their choices affect their comrades? Their enemies? And the forgotten magic that could doom all life of their world? Let the adventures begin!
A fun, exciting, clean read for teens, young adults, adults and readers of all ages. Pick up your copy of this fantasy adventure today!
Are you a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert Jordan, Orson Scott Card, Jim Butcher and other fantasy and science fiction authors? You’ll feel right at home with Trail of Bones. This fantasy story offers a strong moral message, suspense, action, and mystery, in a world full of magic, unlikely heroes, and devious villains.
Book Trailer

Editorial Reviews Salisbury is a rising star in genre fiction. This book makes a unique and exciting contribution in the fantasy realm. The first of great things to come. --Jake Black, "The Authorized Ender Companion" "Smallville" "Ender's Game: Recruiting Valentine" Amazon Reviews Conclusion: A fantasy adventure that features lots of action and intrigue that is geared to a YA audience. There are moments in this tale that are especially well done... story telling at a level that I'd be interested to see what this author would do with an adult orientated fantasy work. As a dedicated YA work... 5 Stars. ~ Ray Nicholson The beginning of a great adventure! I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first book of the Trail of Bones series. It is an unpredictable adventure, with heartwrenching acts of love and friendship. The story ended before I was prepared to put my Kindle down, and now I will wait anxiously for the second book to be published. In the meantime, I think I'll read it again with my eleven-year-old son; I'm sure he'll love it as much as I do. Give it a read! ~ HRL Enthralling story line that really pulls you in …The characters were some that I will not easily forget because he explains their background in a way that makes the reader really connect and believe they are real. He creates a world that I long to see. I really grew to both love and hate different characters. I think that is a sign of a really great author when they can make us feel so much emotion towards a character. ~ Janason
About Chris Salisbury
Chris Salisbury has been writing fantasy, science fiction, suspense, and action thrillers for years in independent films. Now he’s expanded his love of good movies, such as Gladiator, Counte of Monte Cristo, Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, Star Trek, to the world of books. Trail of Bones is the first book in a planned four part fantasy, young adult series targeted at readers of all ages.
The father of four enjoys a wide range of interests from scuba diving to softball, coaching basketball to playing Battlefield 3 on his Xbox 360 or NCAA Football with his sons. He is also a big advocate for literacy and reading for young boys. There seem to be few titles that appeal to young boys and young men to hold their attention, trigger their imaginations and create a love of reading. Chris is out to change that.
In addition to the Trail of Bones series, he also has a number of other titles in development including historical fiction, action, suspense thrillers, and several science fiction properties. There’s a lot more on the horizon, so enjoy Trail of Bones but be sure to look for more captivating titles from Chris Salisbury in the near future.
trail of bones tour
Book Blast Giveaway
$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 5/24/13
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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

10 Pieces of Advice for (Aspiring) Authors from Wendy S. Russo + Giveaway

Today I am very excited to have Wendy S. Russo on my blog, the author of January Black, as part of her book tour. Don't forget to read down to the end of the post for a $25 Amazon or Paypal giveaway. For the rest of the blog tour, click here.

First, a bit about her exciting new book:
Sixteen-year-old genius Matty Ducayn has never fit in on The Hill, an ordered place seriously lacking a sense of humor. After his school’s headmaster expels him for a small act of mischief, Matty’s future looks grim until King Hadrian comes to his rescue with a challenge: answer a question for a master’s diploma.

More than a second chance, this means freedom. Masters can choose where they work, a rarity among Regents, and the question is simple.

What was January Black?

It’s a ship. Everyone knows that. Hadrian rejects that answer, though, and Matty becomes compelled by curiosity and pride to solve the puzzle. When his search for an answer turns up long-buried state secrets, Matty’s journey becomes a collision course with a deadly royal decree. He's been set up to fail, which forces him to choose. Run for his life with the challenge lost...or call the king’s bluff.

And now for Ten Pieces of Great Advice for Aspiring Authors from Wendy S. Russo:

1. Bookmark "Author! Author!" ( She's has an writing/submitting/marketing guidance archive dating back seven years. Her posts are tagged and searchable. It may be the closest you'll ever get to picking an industry professional's brain, and it's FREE. Schedule time for it, though. She's verbose. Also, several times per year, she invites readers to send her queries that she'll pick apart on her site. She also posts her articles to Facebook, so like her and they'll show up in your news feed.

2. Make friends. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of blogs kept by authors, readers, and reviewers. They have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. You can find beta readers and critique partners. You can win free books and get cool author swag ideas. If the secret to success is knowing people, the next best thing is knowing people who know people, so...go meet some people.

3. Before you submit to an agent/publisher, print out your entire manuscript and read it. Out loud. (From Anne Mini's site. If you take none of her other advice, DO THIS.)

4. I do my edits on hard copy, too. I get a couple of red pens and I bleed them dry. (When I'm done, I use the paper in my flowerbeds as weed cover.) I find it much easier to flip through pages than scroll through a file. I can use sticky notes. I can highlight. Scribble. Draw pictures. And Facebook isn't tempting me from another open window.

5. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest can be awfully distracting. I find that social media eats away at my writing time. (I mean, like months on end.) Set a goal...a number of words you want to accomplish in a day, and then schedule a time to write. Close your web browser. Turn off your WIFI if you have to.

6. Rejection is hard, but it's important. I recommend sending your manuscript to agents/publishers that you're certain will reject you. (In your genre, please, because wasting someone's time is rude.) Set up the initial disappointments and get them out of the way. Meanwhile, keep researching your dream agents and publishers and treat yourself after rejections. Spoonful of sugar, as Mary Poppins said.

7. Don't let other people discourage you. Well meaning though they may be, if they are not helping you reach your goals, they're not helping you.

8. Criticism is only helpful if you can use it to make your story better. Editors are people, too. Many are writers, and all have an opinion about how to tell a story. Listen when you should. Ignore when you must.

9. The only right way to tell a story is your way. Figure out what yours is.

10. Add "aspiring" to your list of curse words. If you write, you're a writer.

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