Archive for October, 2011

Guest Post: Mary Lindsey, author of Shattered Souls

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Today we have Mary Lindsey, author of Shattered Souls joining us as part of a Teen Book Scene tour! For a schedule of all posts on this tour can be found here.  I’ll be doing a review of the book in December. Warning: This post involves (and has pictures of) large insects.

My Unusual “Pets”

Animals have always been a central part of my life. Growing up, we had a bizarre menagerie of animals that amazed and inspired me. My love of nature has carried into my adulthood and people who know me find it a quirky, fun part of being my friend.

One of the strange things about me is that I own dozens (perhaps hundreds) of Madagascar Hissing cockroaches.

Yes. Cockroaches.

I didn’t set out to own roaches, in fact, they used to creep me out. In the past, when I saw indigenous cockroaches (which are large down here in the South…and they fly), I would run shrieking from the room–sometimes even the building.

Now? Not so much. I’ve developed an appreciation for roaches, and maybe an immunity to their yuck factor.  Well, that’s not entirely true. If they fly, I’m gone. *shudder*

I came about being a roach mommy by accident and quite innocently. It was not a choice. They were foisted on me and I didn’t have the heart to kill them. So, now I’m stuck with them. LOTS of them.

They serve a purpose, though. I give classroom presentations with them. Sometimes just about the unique features of this type of insect. (They are one of the only insects to give live birth in the world and they also have a different way of making noises and other cool stuff). I also give conservation and biodiversity presentations using them to make kids aware of the importance of our responsibility as caretakers of the planet. You’d be amazed how well they listen when you are holding a 3-inch cockroach as if it were your friend.

Plus, they make great party features (I’m only half joking). When my kids were little, I threw a Harry Potter party. The kids had rotations through a class day at Hogwarts. Courses included, among other things, Potions (no roaches):

And Care of Magical Creatures, which featured a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach race. Not kidding. The teams got points based on how far their roach got in an allotted amount of time. Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches don’t fly and they are slow moving, so it wasn’t as exciting as you would think. Still, roach races? How cool is that?

Below is one of the contestants. My husband is holding this male, which is much smaller than the females. (You can tell the gender of mature roaches of this kind by the prominence of the protrusions or “horns” on the thorax).

So, now that you are totally freaked out, I’m going to close with the same quote I use in my school presentations about conservation. After I’ve explained the necessity in our world for animals like the cockroach (How many other types of animals would suffer or cease to exist if something even this icky were to become extinct from neglect or negligence?) I tell them I have grown to love these roaches. Because,

“In the end we will conserve only what we love.
We will love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught.” ~Baba Dioum

 My own thought? Teach them well. There’s a lot more riding on this than a cockroach.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Anne! 

And thank you for joining us! The Hogwarts party sounds pretty awesome, but I will admit I am now itchy all over from looking at that roach picture *shivers*! Look for Shattered Souls wherever you buy your books, and keep an eye out for my review, coming soon!

Nanowrimo 2011

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Hands up, who’s doing Nanowrimo this year? *raises hand*

Now hands up, who has said that before and NEVER ACTUALLY DONE IT? *raises hand and looks embarrassed*

So here’s the deal. Due to several circumstances, most of them involving school, I became far too busy to do Nanowrimo last year, despite my promises to myself that I would. Heck, I was so busy I stopped blogging for a month. It happens.

IT SHALL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN! I have most of a plot. I have lots of tea. I have ideas. I have a cheerleader (Thank you, Kate! =D) And most importantly, I should NOT have 10 different projects all due at once (during a week-long conference in Germany, no less). Now, I don’t feel quite so bad about this, because the truth is, I did write a novel last year. It took me from May to the very, very end of December, but it is FINISHED and I have something one might call the -1 draft ready for editing. So, for me, it’s less about writing a novel, and more about WRITING EVERY DAY. (This is actually my goal for nanowrimo – I tend to write with less words than most people, and so I’m very unlikely to actually reach 50,000 words before reaching the end of my story.)

As of this posting there are 7 DAYS LEFT before the madness begins. To all of you not participating, not to worry. I am so very behind on reviews that I should be able to schedule 2ish reviews per week before November even starts. The blog will not go dormant if I can at all help it. Also, I hope to live-blog occasionally (with inspiration from Beth Revis and Stephanie Perkins because they are awesome, and hilarious). In fact, I know Fridays will probably be my catch-up-days so I am tentatively scheduling live-blogging from Nanowrimo for every Friday in November. Which brings me to the actual reason for this post.

I thrive on friendly competition. I will probably be taking full advantage of any Word Wars that come my way, and will gladly accept bets or bribes of any kind in exchange for words finished in certain amounts of time. (As I make chocolate for a living, I imagine it would be quite easy to come up with some interesting forfeits if I lose said bets). But the main thing I’m looking for is other crazy people to share this with. The more the better! And the more people I tell, the less likely I will fail at this like I have for 6 YEARS IN A ROW!


Media Monday: Once Upon A Time

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Title: Once Upon a Time
Media Type: TV Show
Genre: Fantasy
Season/Episode: 1.1
Air date: 10/23/11
Network: ABC

My Review: Remember back at the end of August when I asked you what shows you were waiting for? This show was certainly at the top of my list at the time though I’d heard next to nothing about it at the time. Then, I kind of forgot about it. I had other interesting shows to watch that came out sooner! Then, about a week ago, they showed an ad for it during one of my shows. Let me tell you, they know how to make an ad! It wasn’t just “Oh yeah, I wanted to watch that,” it was “OMG gimme gimme gimme NOW!” I immediately went off to find all the teasers and trailers I missed because I often watch my shows online after the fact. My expectations were high. Almost too high. I was half sure they would fail to live up to it.

I wouldn’t say they failed, not by a long shot. There are many, many good things about the show. I absolutely loved the character of Henry. He reminds me more than anything of the little boy in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (whose name escapes me at the moment. I’ll get it in a minute.) He is cute, precocious, and the only one who has that magical view of the world we’d all love to get back. I really hope he will serve as a major character in the show, not just as the catalyst for everything to begin.

As it’s only the first episode, I’m hesitant to judge everything. Some of the characters felt awfully flat, but then again, with everything else they were trying to do in the first episode, I’m sure they’ll do more for that in the coming weeks. The premise felt a little hole-y for so much of it being given to us in flashback, but then, the holes could be plugged up with a few carefully placed words in future episodes. If there is one thing I’d complain about, it is the flashbacks. Now, I know by hearsay that this is something the Lost writers are very well known for (I never got into Lost myself). Even so, I sincerely hope the future episodes limit themselves to fewer flashbacks. I get very frustrated with jumping every few minutes or so into the past so that the audience can live through something that may not even be completely relevant yet. I want to know what is happening NOW. And Emma doesn’t know any of this stuff, does she? The easiest mistake to fall into with flashbacks is letting your audience assume that because they know something, your main character knows it too, and with them piling so much of it on, I’m just waiting to see them slip and have Emma know something she shouldn’t.

This is not to say I didn’t like the show. There are too many things I loved to list and they far outweigh the things that bothered me. There are a few lines that I’m still obsessing over (“Emma… What a lovely name.” just gave me chills, even though I knew it was coming from the trailers.) And, to top it all off, many critics have seen through the third episode already and they say it only gets better. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next episode! Sunday GET HERE FASTER!

Book Review: Mistwood

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Title: Mistwood (Mistwood #1)
Author: Leah Cypess
Origins: Bought
Summary: [from GoodReads] The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood. But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty—because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can’t help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court… until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart… and everything she thought she knew.

My Review: This book caught my eye one day wandering through the bookstore after a long work day. I decided I needed a bit of a treat so I bought it rather on a whim. I have to say I am very glad I did. 

One of the big things I enjoyed about this was the perspective. Most novels about the paranormal are from the perspective of the human, and for good reason. The reader has to be able to relate to the main character in order to be invested in what happens to them. The easiest way to do that is to make the MC as similar to the reader as possible, which by default means the MC is human. But in this case, despite several completely human options, Cypess chooses to go with the paranormal and make her relatable by erasing her memory. Without any memory of her paranormal activity and stuck in a seemingly human form we are able to stumble along with her discovering everything about who she is only when she does. 

That’s another good thing about this one – the suspense. One of the great things about having an amnisiac MC is the writer really controls what information the audience gets when, without it ever seeming contrived. There is no thinking “how could you fail to mention something so big?” or “You just said that to make more story” because the MC literally knows nothing and can’t just magically “remember” the solution just in time.

Overall I would say this is a pretty good book with an original premise. I would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy fantasy and the paranormal.

Book Review: The Heist Society

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Title: Heist Society (Heist Society #1)
Author: Ally Carter
Origins: My Local Library
Summary: [from GoodReads] When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s history–and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

My Review: I would like to thank the blogosphere in general for leading me to this little gem. I have no idea where I first saw it, but enough of you fawned over it that I decded I’d better at least see what all the fuss was about.

This book reminded me more than anything of the St. Trinian’s movies. (For those of you that don’t know the St. Trinian’s movies are a British thing, popular a few years ago, about a boarding school of “bad girls.” They’re rather amusing.) Katarina is the good girl (Annabelle) though in this case she’s more of a reformed, trying-to-be-good girl, Hale is the one who is good-at-heart but a bad example (I can’t remember her name) and Uncle Eddie even reminds me of the headmistress Camilla at times =)

The place where the two differ is the execution. St. Trinian’s is really a bunch of pop culture references, strung together with a buttload of jokes and a little bit of plot (the literary equivalent of silly putty and bits of string). Heist Society on the other hand, uses this really interesting sub culture of thieving to ask some hard questions – if you had to steal a painting from a museum (and you knew you could do it) to save someone you loved, even though it’s mostly morally wrong, would you do it? I’m not sure if I would.

One of the things I enjoyed about it was the way it was told. There were the big mysteries, of course, and some of them went unanswered, but the little ones were the ones that I enjoyed. I like to imagine this is exactly what it would be like to be part of one of the families – you love your family, but they still have many, many secrets from you. I’m desperate to know what the W.W. stands for in W.W. Hale III, and I would love to know everything Uncle Eddie knows. I do hope that by the end of the series she’ll clear up most of the mysteries (though maybe not all of them). 

I’ve heard rumours recently of the possibility of a movie, and I am so there! This was such a fun ride in book format that I can’t wait to see what they’d do with a movie. 

(Also, as a sidenote, anyone notice that the writers of Castle must have read these books? Art thief who only steals things originally stolen by the Nazi’s and returns them to their owners? Yeah, never heard of that before…)

Book Review: The Falling Machine

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Title: The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam #1)
Author: Andrew P. Mayer
Origins: My Local Library
Summary: [from GoodReads] In 1880 women aren’t allowed to vote, much less dress up in a costume and fight crime…

But twenty-year-old socialite Sarah Stanton still dreams of becoming a hero. Her opportunity arrives in tragedy when the leader of the Society of Paragons, New York’s greatest team of gentlemen adventurers, is murdered right before her eyes. To uncover the truth behind the assassination, Sarah joins forces with the amazing mechanical man known as The Automaton. Together they unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the Paragons that reveals the world of heroes and high-society is built on a crumbling foundation of greed and lies. When Sarah comes face to face with the megalomaniacal villain behind the murder, she must discover if she has the courage to sacrifice her life of privilege and save her clockwork friend.

My Review: I don’t remember which blogger posted the review that made me read this book, but whoever you are, thank you! This book blends steampunk seamlessly with a Batman style superhero tale. This is what I imagine Watchmen would be if it were set in the 1800’s (though I’ve never actually finished Watchmen, so that may be inaccurate).

The thing I liked best was our spunky heroine Sarah. Despite my love of all things steampunk and Victorian era, I have this sneaking suspicion that would be me. I’d be sneaking out at all hours, exasperated at the restrictions of the clothes I’d be forced to wear. And at the same time, I’d love it!

Tom was another favorite character. He was beautifully written, at times very mechanical and at others believably human. Asimov’s Laws of Robotics or not, I really want Tom and Sarah to end up together. They would be so cute!

And of course, as with any Steampunk there’s the believability factor. If the book is particularly well written or focusing on other facets of steampunk it’s not quite so important but here the entire story was based around the technology. The nice thing was that it was explained in a way that made sense, even for someone like me who has absolutely no head for science. (As a sidenote: Those of the scientific persuasion might find it a bit fantastical. I wouldn’t know the difference.)

A slight disclaimer: This is probably not the best book to start a love of Steampunk with. Look for something a little lighter like Westerfeld’s Leviathan series (wonderful in it’s own right but perhaps less startling to those unacquainted with the genre.) But if you’re already a lover of steampunk as I am, you will definitely want to check this one out!

Book Review: Tris and Izzie

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Title: Tris and Izzie
Author: Mette Ivie Harrison
Origins: NetGalley
Summary: [from GoodReads] A modern retelling of the German fairytale “Tristan and Isolde”, Tris and Izzie is about a young witch named Izzie who is dating Mark King, the captain of the basketball team and thinks her life is going swimmingly well. Until — she makes a love potion for her best friend Brangane and then ends up taking it herself accidentally, and falling in love with Tristan, the new guy at school.

My Review: I picked this one out for 2 reasons: 1) because I’ve liked the author in the past and 2) because I love mythology and yet know next to nothing of the story of Tristan and Isolde. I admit they were probably not the best reasons and reason #2 was actually the main cause of disappointment for me. Maybe it was just my lack of knowledge of the original myth, but I barely caught a whiff of mythology aside from the names.

Once I got over that, though I found myself enjoying the book. It was almost refreshing to have our heroine fighting the “true love at first sight” thing that comes up so often in YA these days. It was practically comical how hard Izzie tried to blame it on a potion and ignore what was really happening. I also enjoyed the mysterious elements of the story, and even though I predicted their outcomes pretty accurately the details came as a pleasant surprise. 

If you’re thinking of giving this one a try, I’d definitely recommend it for it’s refreshing heroine and the nice blending of HS drama with magic. It comes out in stores TODAY so go find yourself a copy.

Media Monday: Doctor Who Series 6

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Studio: BBC and BBC America

My Review: Finally another Media Monday. It has been quite a few weeks since I’ve had time to see anything new but now we have the finale of Doctor Who to talk about!

First, let me just say this season was not my favorite. It was good enough and had some excellent episodes (“The Doctor’s Wife,” “Closing Time” and “The God Complex” to name a few) but overall it was a bit too timey-wimey and confusing to me. It felt a bit contrived to be honest. It was like someone said “What’s the biggest thing we can do?” and then “Let’s make it even BIGGER!” For me, that’s not what it’s about. What happened to the simple but poignant moments of episodes like “Human Nature/Family of Blood” or “Blink” or even “The Eleventh Hour?”

Luckily I think someone realized this. The Doctor even says at the end “I’ve become too big, people have begun to notice,” (or something to that effect). Maybe now we can go back to no one knowing anything about the Doctor when he shows up. Don’t get me wrong, unless they do something seriously drastic, I will keep watching the show. I’m particularly excited for the 50th Anniversary seris in 2013. There are rumors it will be the best season yet. I just hope they keep in mind that bigger does NOT always equal better.

Book Review: Wildefire

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Title: Wildefire (Wildefire #1)
Author: Karsten Knight
Origins: Bought at Borders (R.I.P.!)
Summary: [from GoodReads]
Every flame begins with a spark.
Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.

My Review:

Disclaimer: I am prejudiced to like this book. It has mythology, boarding schools and other general awesomeness in it.

My first thought upon finishing this book was “wait… it’s over?” My second? “MOOOOAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRR!!!!1!” This book is so absolutely stuffed full of awesome! the main character Ashline recently moved to a boarding school after her delinquent sister causes a tragedy. As we all know by now, boarding school books are practically a must-love for me. But this new school thing doesn’t go quite as well as planned when Ashline finds out she and several of the other students are reincarnations of Gods from religions all over the world. A book with that description might as well be a home run with bases loaded before I even open the cover!

But the thing that really made this one sing for me was the language. Knight has a way with words that makes them jump off the page. I’ve probably said this before but the truly amazing authors write so well that all I remember is seeing pictures. Knight did that for me. Flipping through now, I can see why. The words flow around the scenes, changing tone so smoothly to fit a new scene you hardly realize where the divide was.

I know I’m slightly behind the general squee-age for this one, but I think I am not alone in saying this is a fabulous book that is ready to take its place with the Harry Potters and Percy Jacksons of our world! Now where/when can I find me some more of this awesomeness?!

Book Review: Die For Me

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Title: Die For Me (Revenants #1)
Author: Amy Plum
Origins: Won from Julie on That’s Swell (Thanks!)
Summary: [from GoodReads] In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier’s parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life–and memories–behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate’s guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he’s a revenant–an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

My Review: This was my very first zombie novel! I have to say now I am firmly Team Unicorn. I have never liked the thought of a shambling, peeling, body-part dropping monster trying to bite me. (I’ll explain more in my upcoming review of Zombies vs. Unicorns). That said, I absolutely LOVED this book. There were no body parts falling off (well, except that once), no peeling skin and no screaming of “BRAAAAAINSS.” So really, not a zombie story at all =)

Firstly, I love the premise. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but the explanation of who Vincent and the rest of his crew are is so poignant and original. Vincent is my perfect knight in shining armor, so gentlemanly and yet so brooding. Just writing about it makes me want to go back and read about him all over again!

I also loved the way I was allowed to come up with my own theories. I have so many thoughts about what could happen in the next book and they could all be fantastic resolutions. I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on the next book, if only to just find out whether I’m right or not! I have to say, major congratulations to Amy on her debut!

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