Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Guest Post: Rebecca Lim

Rebecca Lim is a writer and illustrator based in Melbourne, Australia. She worked as a commercial lawyer for several years before leaving to write full time. Rebecca is the author of ten other books for children and young adult readers, and her novels have been translated into German, French and Turkish.
*Bio taken from HarperCollins Australia
I am delighted to have Rebecca Lim guest post today and discuss writing angels and the difficulties inherent with the subject. Angels have always been a tough sell for me, but I was more than pleased with Rebecca's take in Mercy (click to see my review).

Stumbling towards the light

It’s tricky, writing about angels.

Questions of faith and religion are intensely personal and when your heroine is a fallen angel, you need to step delicately or risk treading on someone’s beliefs because angels crop up in so many faiths and cultures across the globe.

As a species, I think we want to believe that there is something more out there than this concrete reality we see and experience day in, day out. For some, it may be science that fills that void, for others it may be faith, or a constantly shifting amalgam of the two. But many of us want there to be that “something more”. And maybe that’s why paranormal fiction is exploding right now. Because it’s all about possibility, and the existence – in some kind of corporeal or tangible form – of that “something more”.  
Personally? I believe in angels, but how that belief fits in with everything I know about the world I live in, remains a constant work in progress.

Mercy came about through a combination of factors.

I was researching an essay in school when I came upon the classical idea that there are only three known classes of sentient being under God: bestial, human and angelic. The idea had so much potential.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of “the fall” and world mythology and theology in general. Writing Mercy has allowed me to tap into my fascination and work through some of my own questions about how things are supposed to fit together.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, Mercy is also a fictional response to some terrible abduction and imprisonment stories that were emerging around the time I was writing the novel. The news is a potent trigger for book ideas. The stuff people do to each other in real life is incredible and so many stories about women in the media make me incredibly angry. I wanted to create a female heroine who looks outwardly very weak, but who could actually dish out vengeance to her persecutors. Kind of an empowering revenge fantasy, I guess. For once, I wanted some small measure of justice to be meted out by the one who is wronged; because so often in the real world, the perpetrators of crimes against women get away with it, or get off far too lightly.

I guess you could say that in Mercy, a lost angel is beginning a process of stumbling back towards the light that has been denied her for the longest time. And I’m hoping that readers will be intrigued enough by her plight to want to read on and see if she makes it home, wherever or whatever that may end up being.

Wow, what a thought-provoking post. The thing about Mercy that drew me in the most was the fact that the main character is outwardly weak, but is so different underneath that. 
 Thank you for the post Rebecca and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

Buy it online:

Book Review: Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Title: Mercy
Author: Rebecca Lim
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Hyperion
ARC,269 pages
Date Published: May 17, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads):
A fallen angel haunted by her past. Yearning for her immortal beloved. Forever searching for answers. Who will show her Mercy?

Mercy has lost herself. She can’t count how many times she’s “woken up” in a new body, and assumed a new life, only to move on again and again. During the day she survives in the human world on instinct and at night her dreams are haunted by him. Mercy’s heart would know him anywhere. But her memory refuses to cooperate.

But this time is different. When Mercy wakes up she meets Ryan, an eighteen year old reeling from the loss of his twin sister who was kidnapped two years ago. Everyone else has given up hope, but Ryan believes his sister is still alive. Using a power she doesn’t fully comprehend, Mercy realizes that Ryan is right. His sister is alive and together they can find her. For the first time since she can remember, Mercy has a purpose; she can help. So she doesn’t understand why the man in her dreams cautions her not to interfere. But as Ryan and Mercy come closer to solving the dark mystery of his sister’s disappearance, danger looms just one step behind.

Will Mercy be able to harness her true self and extraordinary power in time?

The first in a dazzling new series, Mercy masterfully weaves romance, mystery and the supernatural into a spell-binding tale.
Mercy begins with one of the best opening chapters I’ve read in a while. The main character has no clue who she is, where she is, or whose body she happens to be in, but aptly calls herself Mercy. Rebecca Lim begins her book with Mercy confused and out of sorts, instantly asking the reader to help the character find out who, or what this soul-jacker is. As the story progresses though, Mercy’s time in another’s body becomes a bit lackluster and even confusing.

Mercy ‘borrows’ the bodies of others without any control, living their lives, but not really knowing who they, or she, is. Interesting as this concept is, Mercy gets a little lost in doing so. She’s Carmen, but not really. So she has some of Carmen’s characteristics, but, again, not really. It’s difficult to connect with Mercy (as Carmen) and to get a feel for her voice, but as the story moves along, I was able to get used to it.

Once Mercy (Carmen) insinuates herself into her new life and gets a feel for who Carmen is and what her ‘purpose’ may be in the young girl’s body, her attitude and personality start to come out. The angel aspect barely comes into play, and I would have liked to see more of it, but Lim has built up a good mystery behind Mercy’s history. Entangling herself in Ryan’s search for his twin sister, Lauren, opens the character up and allows the reader to see her for who she is, inside and separate from Carmen. And that person is caring, though brash and more than a little prickly. Mercy is a good person, a good soul, despite the fact that she has little clue about her entire existence.

I have to point out that Mercy is a very strong female character who can care for herself, but the supporting characters, specifically the female characters, all come off as very weak and/or witchy. Ryan has personality to him, but few others do. Luc and the mysterious Eight make rare appearances that hold a great deal of promise, but the rest of the choir members lack in every aspect. Tiffany is annoying and a straight-up mean girl with no other characteristics and Brenda is one of the most wishy-washy, given how little page-time she gets.

Mercy can be described as a sort of paranormal mystery, with a slight romance and a lot of red herrings. The story gets a little slow in the middle, and Mercy’s voice takes a few chapters to get used to, but once you do, you’ll fly through it. Never too predictable or cliché, Mercy tackles the age-old angel story and turns it on its head, creating a worthy mystery, backed by a normally quiet girl who is soul-jacked by someone who cannot bear to see the meek suffer. Mercy is a strong opening in what is sure to be a unique take on angel-lore.

Opening line:  There’s something very wrong with me. ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages: I follow him numbly, just putting one foot in front of the other; every step I take upon the surface of the world imprinting itself upon my borrowed bones. ~ pg. 14
Love this one too:
It’s gradually dawning on me that high school is like swimming with sharks for people like Carmen and Spencer. People who are born without shells, without sufficient armour with which to face life. ~ pg. 152 
*This is an ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy  
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Buy it online:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Guest Post: Helen Stringer + A Giveaway

Helen Stringer grew up in Liverpool, England, and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is also the author of Spellbinder. You can visit her online at http://helenstringer.net/blog/
*Bio taken from Macmillan's website

I am thrilled and excited and overjoyed to have Helen Stringer here today. In case you missed my reviews of both Spellbinder and The Midnight Gate, you can click the links, check out my love for the series, and read on for more about:

Myths, Legends and Belladonna Johnson

One of the things that is almost impossible to predict is exactly what will pique a child’s interest and get them cavorting merrily down a path that otherwise might have held no charms at all. For me it was moving house and discovering a book that the previous owner had left behind.

Source
That’s right – a book. One. They moved everything out and left a single book. How weird is that? Even stranger, it wasn’t some tatty old paperback that might had fallen behind a cupboard, but a stonking great tome of a thing: “Larousse World Mythology.”

Like most kids, I’d learned a bit of mythology at school: some ancient Egyptian stuff (mostly to do with their burial practices, of course), quite a bit of ancient Greece and Rome, and a smattering of Norse legend. But this book opened windows into worlds I had never even heard about. One of the first chapters was “The Problem of Prehistoric Religions.” What? I’d just assumed that they’d maybe worshipped fire. The book is lavishly illustrated and each chapter is divided into short sections, which makes it great for just dipping into. (It’s also really big and heavy, which was cool.) It covered the mythologies I’d heard of as well as the ancient near east (Sumeria, Mesopotamia, etc.), Persia, India, Slavic and Eskimo legends, Siberia, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia.

I still have the book and it continues to fascinate me and provide a great resource. I think that one of the things that really influenced me was the sheer range of mythologies and the robust nature of the characters within them. The Sumerians, in particular, were really good at naming their gods – The Queen of the Abyss comes from the ancient Sumerian title of the queen of the dead. Her name was Ereshkigal and her sister was Ishtar (who is comparable to Isis in Egyptian legend and Aphrodite/Venus in ancient Greece and Rome). “Queen of the Abyss” is just so much better than plain old “Queen of the Dead!”

When I began to write “Spellbinder,” I knew that The Queen of the Abyss would play a part but I wanted to create a world in which everyone had been right, in a way. All of the ancient myths and legends existed together, so there really were oracles and allus and keres. Everything had its place. I also wanted to include some British and northern European creatures, too. Many people say that Britain doesn’t have a mythology, just folk legends, but I think that’s a bit dismissive (not to mention ridiculously hair-splitting). That’s why the Wild Hunt is there. Legends of night riders can be found all over northern Europe and have a variety of different names: Odin’s Hunt, Arthur’s Hunt, etc. They even traveled to the US and can still be seen in songs like “Ghost Riders In The Sky.” There are also dozens of stories of mysterious black dogs, night ravens, stone circles and many, many ghosts.

Although Belladonna and Steve travel to the Land of the Dead where they expect to meet strange creatures, they also discover that their everyday world is also home to things that most people believe to be imaginary (if they think of them at all) and that even the most ordinary and seemingly unimportant person might actually be an ancient god or goddess who has lived since time was young and seen humanity grow from a piece of slime to the kind of people who build empires, discover new worlds…and watch TV talent shows.

Oh, and as for the charnel sprites – I made them up, mostly because I think that’s the way things should be organized when you die.

Who knows? Perhaps I have inadvertently stumbled upon the truth!

Perhaps, indeed! I, personally, loved the Wild Hunt. And if they're a part of British mythology or folklore, even better. Seeing all kinds of mythology, from so many different cultures, mixed together to help create Belladonna's story is wonderful. Each piece of mythology plays off the other and has made the series that much more special. Thank you so much for writing this up Helen :)

Find Helen Stringer online:

Buy it online:

Thanks to Barbara and Sarah from Blue Slip Media, I have a giveaway to tell you about:
Spellbinder series giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive one copy each of THE MIDNIGHT GATE and SPELLBINDER along with some bookmarks!

To enter, send an e-mail to SpellbinderSeries@gmail.com. In the body of the e-mail, include your name, mailing address, and e-mail address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and e-mail address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 6/17/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 6/18/11 and notified via email.

*Please note that I am not running the giveaway, only hosting it here. The Giveaway is run by Blue Slip Media.

Not Just An In My Mailbox - BEA Recap Part 2 (5/30/11)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It is a list of any of the books you may have received in the past week from bookstores, libraries, authors/publishers, trades, etc.

Here's part 2 of my Not Quite An In My Mailbox BEA Recap! I recorded both in one go, but the video was far too long to post at once. This one's all about BEA and some of the books I was able to pick up.

Teen Author Carnival/BEA Books: 
Liesl & Po SIGNED by Lauren Oliver
The Unwanteds SIGNED by Lisa McMann
Witch Eyes SIGNED by Scott Tracey
Imaginary Girls SIGNED by Nova Ren Suma
Skyship Academy SIGNED by Nick James
After Obsession by Carrie Jones & Steven E. Weidel (SIGNED by Carrie Jones only)
The Carrier of the Mark SIGNED by Leigh Fallon
All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer SIGNED by Michelle Hodkin
The Name of the Star SIGNED by Maureen Johnson
Wonderstruck SIGNED by Brian Selznick
Crossed SIGNED by Ally Condie

You'll notice that most of the books are signed, that's because I waited in line to get them signed. A good number of the books I got at BEA are signed because I spent a good chunk of my time waiting in line at the autographing tables or in line at the booths. Time well spent!

*Big, huge, omg thanks to all the publishers, authors, organizers, and anyone who helped make BEA and the Teen Author Carnival possible. My first BEA/TAC experience was certainly a memorable one.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Not Just An In My Mailbox - BEA Recap Part 1 (5/29/11)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It is a list of any of the books you may have received in the past week from bookstores, libraries, authors/publishers, trades, etc.

I attempted this all in one go and the video was 30 minutes long. I split it in two, this part being less BEA-centric, the other one being all BEA. That one will go up tomorrow!

For Review:
Cut by Patricia McCormick
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Gathering by Kelly Armstrong
Plague (Gone, #4) by Michael Grant
Illusions (Wings, #3) by Aprilynne Pike

Bought:
Lies (Gone, #3) by Michael Grant
Something Like Fate SIGNED by Susanne Colasanti (Forgot to add it in vid)

Gifted:
The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley (Thanks Mandy!)
Moonglass by Jessi Kirby (Thanks Briana!)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Thanks Adam!)

*Huge thanks goes to Anna from Authors on the Web, Chelsy from Big Honcho Media, Eric from Quirk Books, Mandy from Literary R&R, Adam from Roof Beam Reader, and Briana from The Book Pixie. You are all ah-mazing!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

- CLOSED - May Dazzling Debuts Giveaway (Karma by Cathy Ostlere)

Here's your chance to win your very own, finished copy of Karma by Cathly Ostlere.

In case you don't remember, here's the description:
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi is gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards. The murder sparks riots in Delhi and for three days Sikh families are targeted and killed in retribution for the Prime Minister’s death. It is into this chaos that sixteen-year-old Maya and her Sikh father, Amar, arrive from their home in Canada. India’s political instability is the backdrop and catalyst for Maya’s awakening to the world. KARMA is the story of how a young woman, straddling two cultures and enduring personal loss, learns forgiveness, acceptance and love.


Rules:
Open INTERNATIONALLY (as long as The Book Depository ships to you)
Normal Contest Policy applies
One entry per person
Fill out THE FORM TO ENTER

Giveaway has ended



Friday, May 27, 2011

BEA 2011 Update

BEA 2011 is officially over, having concluded with the Book Blogger Convention today.

This was my first year going and I hope that it will not be my last. I came, I saw, I met tons of incredible people, and got so many awesome books. I'll try to do a more in-depth recap post in the coming days, but for now, here are some highlights:
 
*You'll notice a running theme of Michelle Hodkin-related happenings because I kept seeing her and I kind of adore her already

Monday:
  • Three words - Harry Potter Exhibition. That says it all, but I also met some lovely bloggers there that became my BEA buddies for the rest of the week.
  • Teen Author Carnival was so, so fun! The library was hot, but the author panels were handled fantastically and I was lucky to get a swag bag. I fangirled David Levithan, chatted with Hannah Moskowitz, got to see and hug Michelle Zink after nearly two years of not seeing her, was in awe of Carrie Jones, Elizabeth Scott knew who I was, and I got a copy of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer AND Michelle Hodkin recognized me from my blog :) All in all, TAC was beyond words, awesome.
  • Amanda Havard (author of The Survivors) is one of my new favorite people. And not just because we shared some seriously yummy Italian food. 
Books of the day: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin & Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

Tuesday (BEA Day 1):
  • Was terrified on the floor by the mob of people going after YA books. Left to a more quiet area and hung out with the lovely ladies over at Candlewick.
  • Hung out with my new blogging buddies.
  • Got to meet the uber-adorable and talented Tahereh Mafi and take a picture with her :)
  • Brian Selznick signed my copy of Wonderstruck AND I took a picture with him!!
  • Ilsa J. Bick is so nice and sweet and funny! Danielle couldn't make it to her signing, so she wrote, 'Where the hell were you?' in her book. Perfect inscription.
  • Many YA books were out and about and I was able to find so many that I cannot wait to read.
Books of the day: The Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon & The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater & Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Wednesday (BEA Day 2):
  • The mad rush wasn't nearly as scary the second time around.
  • Jem is on the cover for Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare!
  • LAUREN OLIVER! I met her. She signed my books. We took a picture. It was amazeballs.
  • Michelle Hodkin was interviewed by Kristi from The Story Siren and we all heard a super secret excerpt from Mara #2.
  • Picture time with Michelle!
  • Crossed by Ally Condie! The line was huge, but I got myself a copy.
  • Julie Kagawa is awesome and so, so friendly.
  • James Dashner travels way too much. He recognized me and I told him I went to a signing in Burlington for The Scorch Trials and he had no clue he was there then. He thought he was promoting The 13th Reality
  • Spencer Hill Press is an indie pub house that people need to pay more attention to. I loved them all before, but you all NEED to love them now too. Kate Kaynak (author of the Ganzfield series) is one of the most generous people you could ever meet. Daniel Cohen (author of Master of the Veil) is not only a sweetheart, but a great hugger. Go meet him and hug him and read his book when it comes out. Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout has plenty of buzz, but everyone needs to make sure they get this one, if not for the story itself, then for the freaking gorgeous cover!
  • Dinner at Mars 2112 was hilarious. I'm talking dancing aliens in skin-tight suits hilarious.
Books of the day: Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver & All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Thursday (BEA Day 3):
  • Thought it was going to be a slow day, but I was so, so wrong. Many signings, chatting with publishers, authors, bloggers, and such.
  •  Maureen Johnson made me smile so much. She's sweet and funny, and loves her readers.
  • Lisa McMann is as extraordinary in person as you would imagine her to be. The Unwanteds looks, sounds, and is sure to be a phenomenal read.
  • Marianna Baer was so cute and nervous, but had a huge line. Everyone wanted to read Frost and I was one of them.
  • Finally took a picture of the Dork Diaries stairs and I love them.
  • Flux is astoundingly gracious and giving and I love them <3
  • Book Blogger Convention Reception - Not an open bar, but fun nonetheless. Met the Hilary Weisman Graham (author of the summer 2012 debut, Reunited), Joseph Lunievicz (author of Open Wounds), put faces to the names that I've worked with in the past, and even held a Twitter tutorial.
Books of the day: Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson & The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann & Frost by Marianna Baer & The Serpent's Coil by Christy Raedeke

Friday (BBC):
  • Woke up at the crack of dawn, ate some food, swag bagged it up, and listened to a very funny keynote speech from Sara from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.
  • Was riveted by a panel with some major publishers as they addressed the pub house/blogger relationship and answered many of the questions bloggers never have the chance to ask. The panel with the indie publishers and public relationships companies was equally as eye-opening. 
  • Bloggers make a difference. So says the indies, the PR companies, and the big publishers.
  • Author speed-dating was fun x1000! Be on the lookout for Hilary Weisman Graham come spring/summer 2012 because with all the ideas we bounced off of her, she will have the best promo stuff going on.
  • Awkward adult author sitting down, pitching her book to a table that tried to tell her we blog YA, and then going on to spoil the entire thing, was awkward.
  • Daniel Nayeri is hilarious. Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow is going to be crazy awesome.
  • Elizabeth Scott is not only an incredible author and a kind woman, but she is humble and beyond sweet. Pictures had to be taken. She's Elizabeth Scott!
  • Violet Haberdasher (author of the Knightly Academy series) rivals Daniel Nayeri in the hilarious category. She's currently working on a YA book and I want it. Yesterday.
  • Michelle Hodkin! She's like everyone's best friend, talking about her dogs, her cats, signing the Mara books that were given away at BBC, and taking picture after picture. I haven't even read Mara yet, but I adore Michelle :)
  • Came back to the apartment to find an email from Maureen Johnson, thanking me for waiting in line to get her book. Thanking me!? Insanity. But insanity that makes me so happy.
Book of the day: Open Wounds by Joe Lunievicz







Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: The Midnight Gate (Spellbinder, #2) by Helen Stringer

Title: The Midnight Gate (Spellbinder, #2)
Author: Helen Stringer
Reading Level: Middle Grade
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Hardcover, 376 pages
Date Published: May 10, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
It’s been two months since Belladonna Johnson discovered she was the Spellbinder, and she’s full of questions about her powers. When a ghost finds Belladonna and her classmate, Steve, and gives them a mysterious map, the friends don’t know if they should be looking for or hiding from the one person who holds the answers to Belladonna’s powers: the Queen of the Abyss. Throw into the mix that Belladonna’s parents, who are ghosts, have disappeared and that her brand-new and maybe even sinister foster family seems to know more than they’ll let on, and you have a sequel made of high adventure and intrigue, seasoned with affecting characters and topped with a dollop of wit.
The Midnight Gate starts off not too long after Spellbinder concluded and while it begins with a much slower pace, the story unfolds cleverly and with ease. Belladonna’s troubles couldn’t have ended with Dr. Ashe being carted off by The Hunt, that would have been far too easy. But her troubles double, triple, just get really, really bad. Yet Belladonna is still Belladonna. She copes remarkably well for a twelve year old girl with dead parents and an ever-mounting pile of bad on her doorstep.

Belladonna’s perseverance is one of her many characteristics that make her, and this series, stand out. She’s tough and intelligent, but still only a young girl. She knows that. She’s unafraid to ask for help, and is more than willing to accept it from her Paladin, protector, and maybe-friend Steve. Just as before, Helen Stringer puts Belladonna and Steve through the ringer and places them in more than a few unsettling positions – Belladonna’s venture into foster care being only one of them. These two are able to work through it though and, from their uproarious banter with ghost girl Elsie, a huge story unfolds.

The Midnight Gate
is a bit slower than Spellbinder, but there are heaping, bountiful bouts of backstory that are captivating. The good and evil – Spellbinder vs. The Darkness – aspect jumps to life with dragons, other worlds, mythical creatures, life and death situations, and even some ancient Sumerian. The ending comes together flawlessly; with small details from the story working into a big showdown that provides the action and adventure young readers crave, but also adding to the series as a whole.

Unexpected twists and turns abound in The Midnight Gate, bringing Helen Stringer’s story about a girl who can see ghosts, into an entirely new light. Mythology runs heavy throughout the pages, leaving the ghost aspect on the backburner, to tackle the new responsibilities that Belladonna is only now realizing she has. Spellbinder is much more than just a nifty title for her and she quickly discovers that she holds a lot of weight in the fight between good and evil, light and dark. This series will entice readers both young and old, with a fantastical element that delights, characters with heart, and a strong backstory that ties each adventure together.

Opening line: “Mr. Evans!”  ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages: Maybe things really were interesting in the olden days. Maybe everyone had been nice and played hockey and had midnight feasts and ripping adventures, but Belladonna doubted it. Something told her that once people left school, a sort of selective memory kicked in and all the bad stuff, all the teasing and humiliation, all the tedious classes and endless mounds of homework, were forgotten in favor of half-recalled sunny summer afternoons filled with laughter, tennis, and surprise picnics. ~ pg. 12
And this one:
For all that she’d longed to return to her normal life while she was in the Land of the Dead, she now longed for something new. Something important. Something where more was expected of her than just turning her homework in on time. Perhaps that was what she wanted, after all, not an escape from ordinariness but a way to be more alive. ~ pg. 49
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Helen Stringer online:

Buy it online:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Welcome BookExpo America 2011 Visitors


To the new BookExpo America 2011 visitors,

Thank you for taking a moment to stop by my neck of the woods and I hope you enjoy your stay! Maybe you saw me at the Harry Potter Exhibition, staring in wonderment; maybe I bumped into you at The Strand and proceeded to chat you up to no end; maybe we stood in line at the Teen Author Carnival complaining about the heat, but saying it was so worth; maybe you just happened to bump into me and not even notice there was a person there because, yes, I am that short; or maybe I stood in line with you, stood in your line, met you at a booth, or just happened to strike up a conversation. Wherever we may have met - whether it be quickly in passing or via a long, long chat - thank you for taking a moment to visit Wicked Awesome Books.

Please take a look around. To find out more about the blog and myself, you can visit my About Me page. If you're interested in a review, please check out my Review Policy and to see the books I've reviewed in the past you can visit my Book Reviews page. There is also a list of Author Interviews I have had the opportunity to host, as well as the Dazzling Debuts feature (that hasn't been nearly as active as I first intended). Don't hesitate to contact me via email or give me a shout on Twitter.

To all the Wicked Awesome Books readers,

I have some posts scheduled to go up throughout the week, but I apologize if I'm not nearly as present as I normally am. I will be tweeting my first BEA experience from @Nikkayme and you can reach me there or through email. If you're here in NYC (and I somehow didn't know already) and want to get together, send me a message and we'll make it happen. Thanks for reading!



I'll also have a giveaway up by the end of the week for a book that I loved and want more people to read, so be on the lookout.

Guest Post: LM Preston

LM. Preston was born and raised in Washington, DC.  An avid reader, she loved to create poetry and short-stories as a young girl.  With a thirst for knowledge she attended college at Bowie State University, and worked in the IT field as a Techie and Educator for over sixteen years.  She started writing science fiction under the encouragement of her husband who was a Sci-Fi buff and her four kids.  Her first published novel, Explorer X - Alpha was the beginning of her obsessive desire to write and create stories of young people who overcome unbelievable odds.  She loves to write while on the porch watching her kids play or when she is traveling, which is another passion that encouraged her writing.
*Bio taken from LM's website 
 I am more than happy to have the lovely LM Preston, author of the upcoming Bandits, and last year's The Pack and Explorer X-Alpha. LM writes sci-fi for teens and middle grade children and does some crazy world-building in the process. Here's a great guest post detailing how she goes about making her worlds.
How I, a Sci-Fi Author Build Worlds – My perspective of World Building
World Building ... my way

I once participated in a Sci-Fi critique group, where one of the authors asked about World Building. Our leader never expanded on this topic. When this topic was bought up, I pondered what I did when I build the many worlds I create for my books.

I believe everyone has their own methods. However, here are some of mine that help me throughout the process.

EXPOSE YOURSELF TO EARTH AND ITS WONDERS

I love to travel, as I have mentioned many times before. Traveling and exposing yourself to different wonders of our world can be a catalyst for the creation of your new world.

STUDY THE WORLD AROUND YOU

If traveling is not possible, or even if it is, take time to study and observe your surroundings. Things that may not seem interesting initially can become an integral part of the world you create. When you are walking, or touring areas take your time, allow your imagination to go beyond the obvious and ask yourself many questions. For example, when I am flying in an airplane, I ask myself, “What if the clouds were black, blue, grey?” What if the sun was white? Or lower to the ground? What if the plants had fingers? Push yourself to expand on the world around you.

RESEARCH AND MAKE NOTE

I do a lot of research on the internet. Truth be told, I don’t do a lot of reading about places, I just look at pictures. I tend to look at pictures for a long time, and sit back and see if it fits into my world.

I note what extremes I want my world to have.

I note what rules my world should have.

I note what kind of species could live in that world.

How would a human sustain this environment?

Should I create something artificial in order to allow my humans to live here?

DRAW IT OUT

I draw out parts of my world or cut out pictures of places or things that fit in the world I am starting to create. I build sort of a map of places, I morph them in my daydreams and note what fits in my desired world.

DECIDE WHAT TO REVEAL ABOUT YOUR WORLD

I tend to create this elaborate world, and then I take out a lot of the microscopic pieces that I believe the reader can fill in. However, I give the backdrop in the world the reader creates. I note the rules for that world, its species, animals and weaknesses.

USE OTHER RESOURCES AND BUILD UPON THEM

Research other mythological worlds, and change them, pervert them or and enhance them to fit your characters needs.

FILL IN THE RULES

Address the main guidepost of your world. How is it powered? Is it advanced? Is it rugged? What’s the climate? What does the land look like? Does it has a sun or moon? Are there animals there? What are the major species?

HOW DOES YOUR CHARACTER FIT IN?

Note how your character fits into this world? Are they from here? Do they visit? How do they survive? Communicate with the species on this planet?

When I world build it comes natural to me, because I’ve always loved science and like to spend time pondering its wonders. However, taking notes, going exploring, drawing it out, and making DA RULES has helped me greatly in creating the worlds in my novels.

by: LM Preston, author of Bandits, The Pack and Explorer X-Alpha, http://lmpreston.blogspot.com or www.lmpreston.com

Thanks for sharing LM! You can check out my review of Bandits posted earlier today and make sure you visit LM's blog and get your FREE e-book of Bandits.

Find LM Preston online:

Buy it online:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Book Review: Bandits by LM Preston

Title: Bandits
Author: LM Preston
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Phenomenal One Press
Paperback, 323 pages
Date Published: June 1, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
Daniel's father has gotten himself killed and left another mess for Daniel to clean up. To save his world from destruction, he must fight off his father's killers while discovering a way to save his world. Time is running out, and Daniel must choose to either walk in his father's footsteps or to reinvent himself into the one to save his world.
Bandits is a sci-fi adventure that takes the reader to an entirely new planet and introduces a society unlike anything we’d know on earth. LM Preston has a way with developing and describing the world of Merwin and dangers inherent with being a Zukar – the gangster-like thieves that populate the planet. Daniel, the main character and a Zukar himself, is a far cry from what one would expect a thief and almost-assassin to be. The word thief invokes a shady sort of character, but Daniel is young loving, but quite a serious young man. He adores his younger brother Nickel and even though he harbors a great deal of bitterness towards his recently murdered father, he still cares for him.

The characters surrounding Daniel, including Nickel, the boys’ cousin Faulk, Daniel’s best friend Gabe, and Gabe’s sister Jade, all add a little something extra to the story. Faulk has more than a few comedic moments and he also helps to get a bit of romantic tension going. Gabe and Jade add depth to Daniel as a character, with the history the three of them share, but they, themselves, don’t have as strong a voice as the lead. The group’s interactions range from being humorous to saddening, but at times, the dialogue between them felt forced and stilted. The strongest sections are most definitely when the action comes into play though.

I don’t want to say Bandits is a ‘boy book,’ because it really isn’t, but it will certainly appeal to male and female audience. Where many YA books focus a great deal on a love story, Bandits focuses on the action, the adventure, and the search for answers. A romantic aspect is present, but never the entire focus. The gizmos and gadgets fascinated me, as did the creatures the group encounters. Learning exactly what Daniel and Nickel’s father died for was both a surprise and a pleasure.

Bandits features pirates, thieves, insanely weird, yet awesome creatures, and a group of wonderfully insane, but heartfelt characters. The book is published by a small press, and it could have used a bit more editing to tighten it all up and eliminate some repetition, but th issues I had didn’t detract too much from the overall story. If you are/know a teen who loves a good adventure with some great action sequences, then Bandits is the one for you/them.

Opening line: Daniel rolled over and punched his pillow. ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines: “You can be scared and brave, swallow your fear and do what needs to be done.” ~ pg. 245
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

**LM Preston has a promotional freebie going on to download an e-book of BANDITS, so if you're interested, visit her blog and get your free copy of the book
 
Find LM Preston online:

Buy it online:

Email Was Hacked

If you received an email from me in the past week and a half with no subject and only a link, DO NOT CLICK IT. My email was hacked. Twice.

I am currently looking to switch providers, so this never happens again. If you desperately need to contact me, then you can find me on my Twitter (@Nikkayme)

So if you were one of the unlucky ones to get my email, I apologize.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

BEA or Bust! NYC Here I Come

If you're reading this before 9AM, then I'm still getting ready to go, but if you're reading this after, then I'm on my way!! *Cue the squeals of delight*

I am beyond excited and I'll try to post semi-regularly throughout the week; maybe post an update each night.

And again, to anyone going:
Book Expo America is only days away now and I, along with thousands of other people, will be there. I know there are a bunch of bloggers going, but far too many to keep track of.

I'm all for getting together with other bloggers, so if you're going and you want to hang out, just drop me an email at:
wickedawesomebooks@hotmail.com

or send me a message/DM on my Twitter account and we can exchange numbers.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Think About It Thursday (16): Star Ratings

Image used under Creative Commons - Original belongs to Salady

Many bloggers, websites, magazines, and newspaper articles employ star ratings when it comes to book reviews, but do we like them? Are star ratings a good or bad thing when it comes to book reviews?

I currently use star ratings (or little out-house looking ratings, really) and I have since I first started this blog. It's the easiest and most in-your-face way to show your overall feelings about a book, but sometimes I want to toss my ratings system out the window. My feeling is that star ratings are wonderful, at a glance, but not really all that dependable, even for the reviewer who uses them.
See, there are many books that I give 3, 4, or even 5 star ratings to, but they really do not measure up against one another. I have completely different feelings towards one book I've rated with 5 stars, than I do to another. Oftentimes, I'll finish a book and immediately put it down as a 5 star book because it was that good. Then I'll read another and I feel that it tops the last, but I can't go higher than 5 stars, so...

Dilemma. 
Many books deserve the great ratings I give them, but just a glance at the rating is never a proper interpretation of how a book made me feel. For now, I still plan on keeping the star ratings because it's helpful to get the teensiest idea of how much I enjoyed a book, but my review - you know that huge thing I write in between the book's description and the picture of houses, at the end? - is the place to go to see just why a book deserved the rating I gave it.

Give a shout in the comments! Let me know your feelings about star ratings. If you blog, do you use them or not? Why? If you like to read reviews, do the star ratings make a difference to you?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jennifer Lawrence IS Katniss on the Cover of Entertainment Weekly

SEE!?

I liked the casting, right off the bat, what with Suzanne Collins' hearty approval and the fact that Jennifer Lawrence has some serious acting chops, but LOOK AT HER! She IS Katniss in this photo.

If I wasn't excited for The Hunger Games movie before - who am I kidding? I was jumping up and down with excitement - I am now. The best thing I can come up with right now is, GAH, that's Katniss.

*Stares and points at EW

Check out a snippet of the EW's interview with Jennifer Lawrence at the EW website and make sure you pick the magazine up on Friday (May 20th).

Book Review: Exposure by Therese Fowler

Title: Exposure
Author: Therese Fowler
Reading Level: Adult (Great for older YA too)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Hardcover, 361 pages
Date Published: May 3, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads):
In Exposure, Therese Fowler has written her most gripping novel to date—a ripped-from-the-headlines story of ardent young love and a nightmarish legal maelstrom that threatens to destroy two families.

Amelia Wilkes’s strict father does not allow her to date, but that doesn’t stop the talented, winsome high school senior from carrying on a secret romance with her classmate Anthony Winter. Desperately in love, the two envision a life together and plan to tell Amelia’s parents only after she turns eighteen and is legally an adult. Anthony’s mother, Kim, who teaches at their school, knows—and keeps—their secret. But the couple’s passion is exposed sooner than planned: Amelia’s father, Harlan, is shocked and infuriated to find naked pictures of Anthony on his daughter’s computer. Just hours later, Anthony is arrested.

Despite Amelia’s frantic protests, Harlan uses his wealth and influence with local law enforcement and the media to label Anthony a deviant who preyed on his innocent daughter. Spearheaded by a zealous prosecutor anxious to turn the case into a public crusade against “sexting,” the investigation soon takes an even more disturbing and destructive turn.

As events spiral wildly out of control and the scandalous story makes national news, Amelia and Anthony risk everything in a bold and dangerous attempt to clear their names and end the madness once and for all.

A captivating page-turner, Therese Fowler’s
Exposure is also a deftly crafted, provocative, and timely novel that serves as a haunting reminder of the consequences of love in the modern age.
It’s hard to know where to begin with a story like Exposure. The premise is simple enough: 18 year old Anthony Winter is in love with 17 year old Amelia Wilkes. The two of them have a sexual relationship – which is perfectly acceptable according to North Carolina law – and happen to exchange nude photos of each other and with each other – which is not acceptable according to the law. Parents are infuriated, blame gets passed around, mostly by Amelia’s father Harlan, yet both teens are still 100% devoted to one another. Like I said, simple enough.

What makes Exposure stand out and truly become this phenom of a story, is Therese Fowler’s remarkable execution. Told in third person, from several different perspectives, the reader has insight into the emotions and the thought process of Amelia, Anthony, Kim Winter (Anthony’s mother), and Harlan Wilkes himself. Each chapter ignites more and more rage about the entire situation, but no one can ever be hated in it. Harlan, the most easily disliked of the characters, isn’t even a bad person. His view of the situation, while biased, unreasonable, and rash, is still understandable. He loves his daughter and he wants to do what is best for her, even when she insists that he’s only accomplishing the opposite. Kim Winter’s love for her son rings just as true as Harlan’s for his daughter, only she sees Anthony for who he is – not a man who should be on a sex offender registry, but as her son. Her son who is madly in love with the wrong man’s daughter and who is being unjustly punished by some backwards law that allows him to have sex with a 17 year old girl, but to not have naked photos of her, or her of him.

Seeing the strains put on each of these characters strengthens the story, and each of their reactions make the entire situation hit that much closer to home. Anthony and Amelia could be any two teens, in any school, in any state. Harlan could be any concerned, upset, outraged father. And Kim could be any devoted, terrified, and loving mother. These people are not out of the ordinary. It is the fact that they are so ordinary, that makes them stick out.

It is this – along with Fowler’s emotional hold on the reader – that gripped me from beginning to end. Exposure is a love story at its heart, yet Amelia and Anthony spend little time together. The majority of their love is displayed in sweet memories and quiet longings. But that love is quite evident regardless. Fowler writes the story like one would a play, in acts, and even with an encore. Each act brings more and more dissolution and despair, almost like one of Shakespeare’s tragedies. And she knows this, doing it with precision and purpose. Creating a poetic connection to her characters and their plight, two teens, madly in love, yet persecuted for the means in which they go about it. For hiding it, for lying, for keeping their private manners private, but doing so with technology they always use, but winds up being their damnation.

Exposure is provocative, gripping, intense, and all too timely – a modern tale of love, family, right, wrong, and the consequences of following your heart. It didn’t leave me breathless, but gasping for a resolution. I was stunned, blindsided, emotionally aghast, and so, so heartbroken that love in the 21st century can be this hard. That two people can love each other that much and have to suffer for it. It defies genres and preferences. It is timeless, a modern twist on a classic tragedy.

Opening line:
Nine hours before the police arrived, Anthony Winter stood, barefooted and wild, on the narrow front porch of the house he shared with his mother. ~ pg. 3

Favorite lines (Had far too many): To Anthony, the simple fact of Amelia, her very existence, was proof that there was magic in the world. ~ pg. 36
And:
What insubstantial things, dreams. Amelia watched the one she’d conjured and nurtured and kept before her for twelve brilliant months dissolve like a sand castle in the onrush of a rising tide. ~ pg. 122
This one too:
Love: it had the power of flowing water to find even the most miniscule crack and to seep through it, then widen it, and then, in the case of a dyke or a dam, to burst the structure entirely. Love was a pleasure and a danger at the same time, a force of nature that humans naively imagined could be controlled. ~ pg. 235
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Therese Fowler online:

Buy it online:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Winner of The Dark City!

The winner of The Dark City by Catherine Fisher is....

Kaya C!
*Prize has been claimed

Monday, May 16, 2011

Book Review: Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

Title: Spellbinder
Author: Helen Stringer
Reading Level: Middle-grade
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan)
Hardcover, 372 pages
Date Published: September 29, 2009
Description (Taken from Goodreads):
Belladonna Johnson can see ghosts. It’s a trait she’s inherited from her mother’s side of the family, like blue eyes or straight hair. And it’s a trait she could do without, because what twelve-year-old wants to be caught talking to someone invisible?

It is convenient, though, after Belladonna’s parents are killed in a car accident. They can live with her the same as always, watching the same old TV shows in their same old house. Nothing has changed . . . until everything changes.

One night, with no warning, they vanish into thin air—along with every other ghost in the world. It’s what some people think ghosts are supposed to do, but Belladonna knows it’s all wrong. They may not be living, but they’re not supposed to be gone.

With the help of her classmate Steve, a master of sneaking and spying, Belladonna is left to uncover what’s become of the spirits and to navigate a whole world her parents have kept well-hidden. If she can’t find her way, she’ll lose them again—this time for good.
Spellbinder is complex, interesting, and way beyond the average middle grade read. Helen Stringer incorporates a great deal of mythology to make her story work, but it’s never overwhelming or confusing. She flawlessly mixes mythology into Belladonna’s journey to save her parents and return the ghosts to the world, while giving the reader a great deal to ponder, in regards to life, death, and everything that comes after.

Belladonna is everything a normal 12 year old girl should be, aside from the small detail that she can see ghosts, and is very cut off from others because of it. Her parents are dead, but she lives with them, going about her everyday life with ghost parents. Sure, they still chat with her and can even cook for her, but they can’t touch her and no one outside her family knows they’re there. That kind of existence is rather depressing; and when Belladonna’s parents disappear, she could easily close herself off, but she doesn’t. She fights.

Along with her is Steve Evans, her always-in-trouble classmate. Where Belladonna is rational and obviously intelligent, Steve is sarcastic, rude, and surprisingly inventive. This otherwise dark story is lightened by Steve’s joking. Whenever Belladonna seems down, he tends to lift her up. Their back and forth dialogue is one of the strongest aspects of the book. Belladonna and Steve are supported by a few ghosts, some riddles, a magical ruler, and an overall compelling plotline. Each little detail comes back into play for the climax, and while the finale isn’t action-packed and beyond thrilling, it left me happy with the end result.

Spellbinder is a must-read for fans of ghosts, fantasy, or just all-around great middle grade stories. Anyone could enjoy it with its strong, lively characters (even the dead ones are lively) and original premise. The story starts off a bit slow, but is unlike any other ghost story out there. Helen Stringer has infused Spellbinder with a lot of heart and it shows. I’ll be reading the sequel, The Midnight Gate, very soon!

Opening line: It was Wednesday. ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines: The strangest thing of all, though, was the fur, which didn’t seem like fur at all, but like a piece of the blackest starless night. A snarling hole into a place of nightmares. ~ pg. 84
And this one:
 “Duh,” said Steve, rolling his eyes. “Don’t you have movies or comics in the Land of the Dead? Special doodads with the power to destroy the universe always fall into the hands of the bad guys.” ~ pg. 259
4.5 for sure
 *This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Helen Stringer online:

Buy it online:
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