Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

In her small Texas town, Lacey Ann Byer has a reputation.  She’s a good girl.  Her father is the local preacher and she is expected to live up to the ideal of “preacher’s daughter”.  But that’s never been a problem for her.  In line with being the good girl in town, she has never wished to be the most popular or the prettiest girl.  But this year, she wants to shine.  For the first time, she is old enough to try out for the most difficult and highly lauded character in the church’s annual Hell House- abortion girl.  The annual Hell House is her church’s way of teaching young people about the dangers of sin and it draws visitors from the surrounding towns.  Then things change when Ty moves to town.  He and Lacey grow close, but his questions cause Lacey to start thinking deeply about her own beliefs and faith.

I loved Small Town Sinners. It is unlike anything I have ever read before. It’s a book about religion without being heavy-handed or preachy. Religion plays a major role in the plot, but it doesn’t read like a “religious” book. Lacey is easy to relate to and all of the characters are real.  They aren’t caricatures of people with faith (which is something I see in some YA books).  They  are who they are and they ring true.  And despite being the preacher’s daughter, Lacey is a normal teenage girl.  She is trying to figure out who she is and where her place in the world is, all while trying to live up to the ideals set by her parents.

A fantastic read for anyone interested in contemporary YA.  I would recommend this to fans of Sarah Dessen.  Fans of Melissa Walker’s Violet on the Runway series will also enjoy her newest book.  Highly recommended.

And how awesome is this cover?  A++++!

*copy courtesy of publisher

#KidLitCon Teams Up With RIF!

I am thrilled to see that KidLit Con is teaming up with RIF, in order to help RIF get books into the hands of those who need them.  RIF was a victim of the recent budget crisis and lost the federal funds that they rely on in order to perform their mission.  Colleen, one of the KidLit Con organizers released the following information on her blog:

I’m sure many of you are aware how RIF’s budget was decimated by the elimination of federal funds this year. I’m not going to get all political with you because the hard truth is that there are few painless answers to our economic mess. But cutting RIF is particularly harsh as it exists solely to put books into the hands of children who otherwise can not afford them. RIF is an investment in our future in the purest and most direct terms. When you think about that way, it’s hard to understand why anyone would ever put RIF on the chopping block but that is what has happened and now we just have to do what we can to make sure that future promise remains unchanged.

There are many generous groups and corporations who have stepped up to help RIF and for that we should all be grateful. KidLit Con is seeking to make a more personal and direct contribution as the funds we raise will be coming directly from book lovers in the pursuit of creating more book lovers. Now is the time, quite frankly, where we need to put up or shut up. If you are a writer or a librarian or a bookseller or a book blogger or if you read blogs about books then this fundraiser is targeted directly at you.

So that’s all of you, right?

Learn more  Colleen’s blog.  I’ll be donating and I hope you will, too!

Come on Irene! Hurricane Preparations!

I live in NJ, smack dab in the middle of the state.  I grew up on the shore (about 30 minutes away) and my parents still live there.  We’ve spent the past few days battening down the hatches.  My parents and many family members are in evacuation zones (though thankfully, they are on higher ground within those areas).  Chris and I have stocked up on food and water, the Aussies have spent almost 4 hrs at the dog park in the past 16 hours, and the bathtub is full of water.  We are ready.

Oh, and I have lots of candles and books. :)  Good luck to everyone else weathering this hurricane!

Magnificent 12

The Magnificent 12: The Trap (available now!) is another fast-paced episode in New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant’s hilarious fantasy adventure series. Mack MacAvoy already answered The Call. Now he must assemble the Magnificent Twelve and avoid The Trap if he’s to save the world from the wicked Pale Queen. But time is short—the Pale Queen’s banishment ends in 35 days and she will be free to destroy the world! Can Mack assemble the Twelve and avoid The Trap?

I am excited to join the adventure as a stop on the blog tour.  You can join in, too!  Read along as Michael Grant introduces characters new and old from the world of The Magnificent 12 and gives sneak peeks at their adventures in The Magnificent 12: The Trap . Each post on the blog tour reveals a clue about a worldly location the Magnificent Twelve visit in THE TRAP. Follow Michael Grant and the characters to each blog until you’ve discovered all eight locations. At the final stop on the blog tour, enter all eight locations to win a signed copy of both MAGNIFICENT 12 books!

Plus, you can join The Magnificent 12 online community: Play free games, create an avatar, enter sweepstakes, and earn points at www.themag12.com!

Ok!

Ready to get your Mag 12 on? Here’s your sixth character and clue:

Post #6: the Golem

Someone, or something, has to take Mack’s place while he’s off finding the rest of the Magnificent Twelve, and that something is the Golem. Imagine a slightly-deformed, mud version of yourself and that’s the Golem. Oh, he might have a single long tooth instead of a row of teeth, and his feet might dissolve when they get wet, but luckily Mack’s parents are too distracted to notice much—even the replacement of their son with a ceiling-walking, nostril-less magic creature.

In THE TRAP, the Golem is doing a fine job living Mack’s life . . . except that he can’t find Mack’s English paper in the computer (is there even room for paper inside the computer?) and he keeps getting detention. And oh yeah, he might have just agreed to date someone the real Mack definitely does not want to date.

Clue: THE TRAP location #6: You can find these massive upright stones arranged in a mysterious circle in England. What you won’t find is an explanation of who put them there. Seriously, what’s up with all these giant rocks?

Find the next clue Monday at  Novel Novice!

And just in case you missed the first 5 clues, we’ll fill you in:

Clue: THE TRAP location #1: If you’re in Beijing, China and craving deep-fried crickets, centipedes, and lizards for dinner, this is the place to go. Hint: it’s not McDonald’s! Read it and meet Grimluk at The O.W.L.

Clue: THE TRAP location #2: With 9,999 rooms, this is the world’s largest surviving palace complex. For 9,999 bonus points, memorize a map of this place. (Note: We lied—there aren’t any bonus points. But if you still want to memorize a map of 9,999 rooms . . . you’re crazy.) Read it and meet Mack at Mundie Moms.

Clue: THE TRAP location #3: People say you can see this Chinese monument from space. We’ve never been to space, so we can’t say for sure if that’s true, but it’s definitely HUGE. For a bonus point, build a model of this monument out of 1 million Popsicle sticks. (Note: We lied again. No bonus points. But we’ll help you eat Popsicles if you want.) Read it and meet Risky at Charlotte’s Library.

Clue: THE TRAP location #4: This location is an ancient distinctive rock formation in Germany. It’s sort of like the German equivalent of Uluru, which you might remember from BOOK 1: THE CALL. Giant rocks. Gotta love ’em. Read it and meet Jarrah at Reading Nook.

Clue: THE TRAP location #5: This location was home to the ancient Norse god, Thor, before Thor fell to earth and met Natalie Portman and became a movie star.  Read it and meet Paddy at Alison’s Bookmarks.

Check out the rest of the blog tour here!

And a book trailer!

Relic Master Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations!  There were 35 entrants in the blogiversary giveaway and I used a random integer generator to choose the winner.

A big congratulations to Deborah Mozingo and her students!

Be sure to check your email, Deborah!


Thanks to the publisher for donating the series for the giveaway! :-D

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

I was intrigued by the cover of You Are My Only when I saw it on the Egmont table at BEA. I flipped it over to read the blurb and was immediately taken in. I am a crime buff- Law and Order addict, news junkie, you name it. I knew You Are My Only was a book for me.

This is a dual narrative.  The chapters alternate between two seemingly independent stories and I was equally taken by both.  It’s obvious that the stories will intersect at some point, but it’s unclear how that merger will come about.  I kept thinking I had it figured out, but Kephart kept me on my toes.

Emmy Rane is married at nineteen and has a baby by twenty.  She is trapped in a loveless marriage, feeling more useless as each day goes by.  Her singular joy in life is Baby.  While she struggles to be  the best mom she can be, she does a great job.  But everything changes the day that she leaves Baby in the yard for a few seconds while she runs into the house.  When she returns to the yard, Baby is gone.  All that remains is a single sock.  She spends the rest of her life blaming herself for Baby’s kidnapping and what she assumes is her eventual death.

Sophie is fourteen years old and homeschooled by a somewhat eccentric mother.  They move constantly, always trying to hide from what her mother refers to as “the No Good”.  But their latest home is different.  Sophie befriends the boy next door, gaining her first real friend.  His elderly aunts treat her as their own and soon Sophie is sneaking out of the house to spend time with them, always worried that her mother will find out and whisk them away to a new home.

This isn’t an action-filled book, despite the blurb.  It’s quiet, meditative.  Both narrative arcs are engrossing.  I found myself loving each story individually.  Whenever the narrative changed I would be upset leaving that character behind. But then, within a few sentences, I was equally as engrossed in the alternate story.  Kephart chooses her words carefully and the prose is gorgeous.  I found myself savoring each descriptive sentence while fighting the urge to fly through the book to reach the conclusion.

Highly recommended.  Available in October.

*copy received at BEA

I Love Jessica Darling and Megan McCafferty!

I love Jessica Darling.  She is smart, sarcastic, and a fellow Jersey girl.  Back in 2008 I picked up Sloppy Firsts: A Jessica Darling Novel after seeing it at the bookstore.  I then flew through the rest of the series in a matter of days and have been recommending it to everyone I know ever since then.  I was eight years late picking up Sloppy Firsts, though.  It was first published way back in 2001, when I was starting college. (This is my excuse for missing out on it back then!).  But Megan McCafferty is throwing a month-long party in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Sloppy Firsts.  I am thrilled to be a part of the party today, interviewing both Jessica and Megan. :)

First, a few questions for Jessica Darling!


Welcome, Meg! I’m a Jersey girl, and I like to think that Jessica and I are very similar (clearly me projecting). One of my biggest guilty pleasures is MTV’s Jersey Shore. So who would Jessica’s favorite Jersey Shore cast member be, and why?

Snooki. Jessica would hate to admit it, of course. But I think she’d have grudging admiration any girl who is bold enough to do a drunken dance-floor cartwheel in a thong.

Haha, very true!  I think we can all agree with that.  How about some other aspects of pop culture.  What’s on Jessica’s iPod today? What is she reading? (I’m cheating, I know- this is two questions. :) )

Jessica listens to LCD Soundsystem because James Murphy was so heavily influenced by 80s new wave and electronica. And she reads Jezebel.com and wishes it had existed when she was in college so she could have gotten an internship there.

Sigh.  More things Jessica and I have in common.  I love Jezebel.  I’m addicted to celebrity gossip and other ridiculousness.  What about Jessica?  If she had to choose one celebrity crush, who would it be?

Len Levy, lead singer of the multiplatinum band The Mighties.

You stumped me there.  Now I have to google The Mighties!  Itunes, here I come.  Forget celeb crushes though.  Tell us what Marcus Flutie is like today! How has he changed? How has he stayed the same? What are your future plans?

Marcus is happier now than he’s ever been. Let’s just leave it at that.

Oooh.  An intriguing answer.  :) And you, Meg?  What’s your life like right now?

As for me, I’m working on the idea for my next book. And THUMPED (sequel to Bumped) comes out in Spring 2012.

Woot!  Can’t wait to read THUMPED!  But first, back to Jessica.  What was her New Year’s Resolution for 2011?

Don’t feel guilty when good things happen to you.

I like that.  Words to live by from Jessica Darling.  So Meg, as you look back to when you were first drafting Sloppy Firsts, what advice would you give to past-Meg?

Oh, to be so clueless about the business of selling books. You’ll never be so blissfully naïve again.

Haha.  I guess there’s nothing better than blissful ignorance.  Before the business end of writing came into the picture, you had to draft.  What came first? Did Jessica come to you as a character, or was the concept/plot the first thing that you started with?

Voice came first. Then I created a character to go with that voice. I struggled with plot, trying to figure out what was going to happen to this Jessica Darling girl that I had invented. The title SLOPPY FIRSTS actually came from another unrelated short story I wrote in college that eventually was published in Seventeen magazine as TRUE BLUE.

And what type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?

It’s a combination of planning, inspiration and intuition. I have to know how the book begins and ends, with very flexible ideas for what happens in between. I love making discoveries about the story and the characters as I go along. Those surprises are what keep things interesting for me as a writer—and for the readers.

 Do you write everyday? Do you have a specific writing schedule?


When I’m working on a book, I write from Monday to Friday while my son is in school. I have a minimum word count that I must get done (usually 750 words) before I’ll allow myself to do anything else, like go to the gym or go out to lunch. Once my son comes home, I’m done for the day. I try to keep my writing life and my real life as separate as possible, which can be a challenge because I work at home.

And what books are you reading now? Any recommendations?

I just finished Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, the most charming romance I’ve read in ages. Now I’m reading Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes. It won a bunch of awards for YA fiction, but I think it could have just as easily won accolades if it had been published as an adult title.

Thanks for stopping by, Meg!  It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. And thank you for giving the world Jessica Darling!  

Do you love Jessica Darling?  Be sure to take part in Megan McCafferty’s SLOPPY FIRSTS: The Epic 10th Anniversary Giving Away of Rare and One-of-a-Kind Stuff.

(from Meg’s blog)

To commemorate the 10th Anniversary, I’d like you, the biggest supporters of my series,  to share with me (and the world) what SLOPPY FIRSTS has meant to you. What form should your tribute take? That’s up to you. Write a heartfelt blog post about discovering SLOPPY FIRSTS in the bookstore. Make a video re-enacting the infamous “lip nip” with finger puppets. Compose a song incorporating one of Jessica’s many graphs, charts and lists. Create a line of SLOPPY FIRSTS inspired t-shirts.  EXPRESS YOUR LOVE ANY WAY YOU WANT TO. Send me the link(s) to your awesome tributes via Twitter or my Facebook Page, tagged #sloppyfirsts10th. (If you are a nonparticipant in these social networks, you can always email me at megan@meganmccafferty.com.)

……BE CREATIVE AND HAVE FUN. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

 

I can’t wait to see what the fans come up with. And Meg has some fantastic prizes up for grabs, including “A SPECIAL 10th ANNIVERSARY EDITION of SLOPPY FIRSTS. A one-of-a-kind copy randomly annotated in my (Megan’s) very own, very sloppy handwriting .”  Umm, yes please!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Beautiful.  Heartbreaking. Haunting.  Powerful.  Life-changing.  The only words that can describe Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd.  A dark and moving story of loss and life.  One that should be in every classroom and school library.

There is nothing that can prepare you to face a life of loss.  There is even less one can do to prepare a preteen.  Connor’s father lives with his new family in the States, leaving Connor and his mother to carry on in England.  He cares for his mother but something is wrong.  She has been sick, but Connor doesn’t realize how sick she is.  When she begins getting weaker, Connor realizes that he may be losing her as she loses her battle.  It’s almost more than he can handle, alongside his problems with the bullies at the school and his overbearing grandmother.

At night, he lies awake staring into the darkness.  Until 12:07am when the Monster appears, answering Connor’s call.  Except that Connor doesn’t know what the Monster means.  He hasn’t called him.  But the Monster continues coming at seven minutes past midnight each night.  Taking the form of a yew tree in the field outside Connor’s window, he presents to three true, yet strange stories to Connor one at a time.  Then the Monster asks Connor to tell him a true story, one that Connor must swear not to tell anyone, or else the Monster will eat Connor alive.

And in the midst of this chaos that is Connor’s life, he wonders what this Monster could mean.  Is he losing his mind? Or is the Monster some form of divine intervention, there to help him come to terms with the difficulties of growing up?

A Monster Calls is a gripping and epic tale.  I found myself crying multiple times as I read, as I followed the emotional rollercoaster of Connor’s life.  It’s a quick read, but one that you will want to reread immediately upon finishing.  The sparse, lyrical prose is rife with metaphors and allegory.  Ness tells a beautiful and raw story that will leave you wiping away tears and contemplating life.

The story is enhanced by Jim Kay’s haunting black-and-white illustrations.  This is the rare MG/YA book that is heavily illustrated and the illustrations are magical.  The splatters, lines, and shadows capture the haunting tone of the story and the ephemeral feeling of the story.  The emotions jump across the page, illustrations and lyrical prose hand-in-hand.

The original idea for  A Monster Calls was developed by the late Siobhan Dowd, the Carnegie Award winner.  After her death, Patrick Ness stepped in and did an unbelievable job in turning Dowd’s characters, premise, and beginning a beautiful story that will move anyone who reads it to tears.  Highly, highly recommended.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,593 other followers