Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a happy and safe New Year's Eve!

What was your favorite 2012 read? What was the last book you finished in 2012? What was the first book you read in 2012? What is the first book you will read in 2013?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Audio Review: Curse Worker Series by Holly Black

Curse Worker Series by Holly Black

Narrated by: Jesse Eisenberg

I really wanted to love The Curse Workers series, but I had a hard time with it. In the world of the Curse Workers there are six types of workers (luck, emotion, physical, dream, death and transformation) if a worker touches you and their gift is luck then that's what you'll receive. Workers are mostly in these mob type families that stick together and everyone wear gloves so that a worker won't touch and work them. For example if a death worker touched you and meant to work you then they would kill that person them. Cassel Sharpe seems to be an exception to his all worker family, he doesn't have one of these gifts. Cassel is in love with his best friend Lila, who is dating his brother. Cassel's mom is in jail, because she worked someone and got caught. All of the Sharpe family bends the rules and laws, Cassel just wants to fit in somewhere, he doesn't feel like he's part of the family since he doesn't have a gift so he wants to go to boarding school so he can be around "normal" people. Of all the family members, the only person I can say I truly liked was Cassel's grandfather who genuinely wants the best for Cassel. I was not a fan of Cassel's brothers or mother, because they all come across as completely selfish. Also I kept saying to myself please don't let Lila be the love interest. I never felt that Lila was good enough for Cassel.

I like the fact that Holly Black created an entirely new world and that the books are told from a male point of view is refreshing. If you are looking for a story about con-artists or mysteries with a great narrator I would say give the Curse Workers series a chance. I do highly recommend Holly Black's earlier books about fey Tithe, Valient and Ironside.

Audio: Jesse Eisenberg is a great narrator. Jesse's voice really fit the teenage voice of Cassel, a boy who is trying to be normal, but feels like an outcast. I also felt like Jesse Eisenberg was telling me this story and not just reading a book.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Event:Jennifer L. Armentrout

Last Saturday I headed out to the Opal Release Party. Some of you might remember that there was a poll about who should host the release party and Houston won by a small number of votes. The event was a huge success. I got to the event a half hour early and there was standing room only! Fans came from all over to meet Jennifer Armentrout and cover model Pepe Toth. Jennifer answered so many fan questions and of course everyone wanted Pepe to remove his shirt. Entangled and Jennifer provided incredible swag.

It was really great to meet Jennifer and Pepe. Some of you who have met me in person know my first name is Maria and when I met Pepe he sang Santana's Maria Maria. Ah hello, when a gorgeous guy sings to me the only thing I try and do is not pass out. Also he put the post it note with my name on his forehead. I think this means I get to keep him. Kidding, but hello he is so handsome!

Direct Link:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Guest Post: Best Guy Books by Geoff Herbach

With the holidays upon us, I thought this would be a great time to invite some of my talented friends to guest post. Today Geoff Herbach tells about his favorite novels for guys!

The following are all great books for boys. You know, I wanted to write a post about YA books only, but I have to admit, one book shook me up so much in the last couple of months, I had to add it. Even though the thing is really, really famous already and is probably MG (although, these distinctions are a little bit meaningless – I just really like good stories), I had to add it, because I love it… and really, there are female POVs in this book so can I even call it a “boy” book? Are you looking at me funny? I you mumbling curses at me? Do I seem defensive? Or sort of paranoid, because I’ve put a multi-perspective MG book in my list? I’m sorry. I really loved Wonder. I need to have it in here. I guess I’ll start with it.

WONDER by R.J. Palacio: Auggie, the main character (yes, a 5th grader), was born with a facial deformity that makes him shocking to look at.  He’s surrounded by lovely parents and a good sister. They can’t protect him forever. 5th grade is his first formal year of school. Luckily Auggie is brilliant and reflective and funny. Yes, your heart breaks for this kid and had the story been constructed entirely from his POV that would’ve been true. What makes the book totally killer, however, is Palacio (a nom de plume) allows just about every kid that matters in the book to speak. Auggie’s friends, his sister, his sister’s former best friend, his sister’s boyfriend. Each POV sheds a little more light on this world (and more understanding). Each adds depth, a new sensibility, a new perspective on a shared set of events, and a different pace. These different POVs work thematically (the theme is revealed so beautifully through different eyes).  They work to reveal Auggie’s true character (he’s not always aware of his impact and his strength).

BLUEFISH by Pat Schmatz (2011 Candlewick): This is another book with a couple of POVs, one of them a girls (she calls herself Velveeta, which makes me love her). Main thing: Travis, who has just moved to town, can’t read. He actually moves through the world with some confidence, because he can handle himself physically. But his inability to read has closed down his world). With the help of a great teacher and the growth in his friendship with Velveeta, Travis begins to put things together. Lovely, subtle, touching book.

OUT OF THE POCKET by Bill Konigsberg (2008 Dutton): I have to admit, I was skeptical. I played high school football. I couldn’t imagine a quarterback coming out of the closet. But, in Billy Framingham, Bill Konigsberg has created the perfect character who you believe in and believe would have the strength to make it through. Billy is a great quarterback, a funny human being, and so likeable, you’d believe even the less than enlightened would eventually come around and be on his side. Great book with a great message.

THE PULL OF GRAVITY by Gae Polisner (2011 FSG): I had to put this in, because I’m such a Gae Polisner fan. Nick’s family is a mess and he’s a nerd boy given to high, hallucinatory fevers. But he’s not concerned about himself. He and his pal Jaycee take an action-packed trip to find the father of a dead friend. Armed with the wisdom of Yoda and a copy of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, the two stumble into the secret tearing his family apart. Touching and entertaining.

WHALE TALK by Chris Crutcher (2001 HarperCollins): Here’s one of the books that made me want to write sports YA in the first place. The Tao “T.J.” Jones is a racially mixed kid in a small town. He’s sensitive to the racism he sees and he’s naturally rebellious, refusing to join team sports, even though he’s a mega jock. To combat unfairness he leads a crew of misfit swimmers in pursuit of a varsity letter, his high school’s golden egg. Great sports story that touches on themes of inequality, bullying, and kindness.

Geoff Herbach is the author of the award winning Stupid Fast YA series. His books have been given the 2011 Cybils Award for best YA novel, selected for the Junior Library Guild, listed in the year's best by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association and many state library associations. In the past, he wrote the literary novel, The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg, produced radio comedy shows and toured rock clubs telling weird stories. Geoff teaches creative writing at Minnesota State, Mankato. He lives in a log cabin with a tall wife.

To learn more about Geoff visit: and

Friday, December 14, 2012

Guest Post: Favorite Middle Grade novels by Lynne Kelly

With the holidays upon us, I thought this would be a great time to invite some of my talented friends to guest post. Today Lynne Kelly tells about her favorite debut Middle Grade novels!

Just one of the advantages of being in debut groups like The Apocalypsies and The Class of 2k12 this year is that I got to be part of the ARC exchange, in which members pass around advance copies of their books to one another. Most of the books I read this year were debut novels that showed up in my mailbox, but luckily we have a lot of fabulous authors in the groups! Here are a few favorite middle grade novels from this year:

MAY B. by Caroline Starr Rose
I can't imagine how hard it must be to write a novel in verse, but Caroline Starr Rose makes it look effortless. Her character Mavis Betterly (or May B.) is brave and resourceful when she's stranded alone on the Kansas prairie in a sod house. One of those books that made me keep saying, “I'll read just one more chapter...okay, one more...”.

A great choice for anyone wanting a midgrade novel with adventure, humor, mystery, and a strong girl protagonist. Oh, and a ghost! While mapping out her town, Goldenrod Moram comes across a gang of grossly-nicknamed troublemakers who’ve kidnapped her brother, a mysterious old woman, and the ghost of Meriwether Lewis, who gives her a new quest. So many funny characters in this one.

One of the best titles of the year, right? Such a funny midgrade novel, and I loved both the living and dead characters. And I was so happy Lilah told her friends about her new ability to communicate with the dead; so often when I read a book or see a movie about a character with a special ability, I'm thinking, "Come on, tell someone already!" It added to the fun that she could share her gift with her friends. And of course if you have to go bra shopping with your dead grandmother, hilarity ensues.

A fun mystery-adventure, but with fantasy, too. Whenever I did have to put it down because of pesky things like jobs that interrupt our reading time, I couldn't wait to get back to it to find out what would happen to Maya and her family, and what in the world was up with that cabinet.

STORYBOUND by Marissa Burt
Love this fantasy about getting trapped inside of a storybook. It wasn't all pleasant, though--plenty of mystery and danger in this story! This is a book with a classic feel to it, and I think kids will be reading this for years to come. I'm excited to see what happens to Una in the next book, STORY'S END.

Next on my to-be-read pile is ONE FOR THE MURPHYS by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. I've heard nothing but fabulous things about this book. (And I've heard I should have a box of tissues next to be before I start reading).

Lynne Kelly was a special education teacher for a few years, until she realized it was a job for someone with good planning and organizational skills. But it was during those years she fell in love with children's literature all over again, so that all worked out. She will cross the street to avoid a clown and run into traffic to avoid a duck or a mime. She now works as a sign language interpreter in the Houston area and writes novels for children and young adults. CHAINED is her first novel.

To learn more about Lynne visit: and pick up Chained from your favorite bookstore or online retailer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Even Santa takes a break from his WIP at Christmas

With the holidays upon us, I thought this would be a great time to invite some of my talented friends to guest post. Today Stephanie Pellegrin tells us a story about taking a break!

Even Santa takes a break from his WIP at Christmas

This is a story of a girl who thought she could do it all. With each day she ticked off on her little wall calendar the holidays were getting closer and closer. Though she didn’t feel very much in the holiday spirit, she pressed on. She was determined to do everything: buy presents, spend time with her family, and write. The stress of everything soon began to dampen the young girl’s spirit.

“No!” she sternly told herself one chilly winter afternoon, “The problem is that I’m not immersed in things enough. To rectify this I shall write a new story! I’ll even write it about Christmas to chase the “Bah Humbugs” away!”

And so she did. She wrote swiftly and quickly. She wrote in coffee shops and on her couch and in the dead of night when she couldn’t sleep.

She wrote as she baked cupcakes and as she trimmed the tree and she even wrote in the car once (though thankfully she wasn’t driving).

The girl wrote so much so quickly that she began to forget what she was even striving for in the first place. Was it because she was excited about the story she was telling? Well, yes. But you see, her heart wasn’t in it. She was writing for the sake of writing. Not because she loved her characters or her plot or even really anything about the story at all. She was simply writing to say, “Yes, I can do it all!” She fell out of love with her story.

In the span of 19 days, the girl finished a 60,000 word draft. And while she eventually did fall in love with her story again, it took her a long time. So long that even now, a year and multiple rewrites later, she’s still working on that same story. All because she rushed and tried to do everything even when she knew she couldn’t.

Don’t be this girl. Writing during the holidays can be tough, but not impossible. Do what you can when you can. Spend time with your family and your friends, but don’t forget to take a little down time for yourself, too. Go for a walk, bake some cookies, let your creative ideas stew.

Stephanie wrote her first novel in second grade about a boy heart who falls in love with a girl heart, only to learn her “heart” was already taken. She now writes young adult and middle grade fiction (none involving love triangles with talking hearts). She's involved in the Austin, Texas chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and is cofounder of Literary Lonestars, a Facebook group dedicated to Texas bloggers and authors. Stephanie is featured in the Dear Teen Me anthology from Zest Books. She lives in Austin, TX with her husband and is currently seeking representation.

To learn more about Stephanie visit: and pick up Dear Teen Me from your favorite bookstore or online retailer.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Opal Release Party: Thank You Giveaway

You might have heard Houston won the Opal Release Party! I promised readers a giveaway so I'm giving one lucky reader all twelve books listed below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway Details:
Only entries on rafflecopter will be valid.
No Anonymous Entries
Must have a US mailing address.
Following with a twitter account dedicated to giveaways will void entries.
Must be at least 13 years of age.
Winner has 48 hours to reply with a mailing address.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway: What’s on Your Literary Wish List?

With the holidays upon us, I thought this would be a great time to invite some of my talented friends to guest post. Today Christina Mandelski is telling us what's on her literary wish list!

Hello Readers – I’m thrilled to take over blog tending duties today – Cari’s love of books never ceases to amaze me. She’s such a champion for books, readers and writers. Also inspiring is her passion for swoon-worthy footwear. Does anyone besides me think the entire corporate structure of Kate Spade would collapse if Cari were to ever start wearing (gasp) sensible shoes?

I like shoes too. A lot. So its okay, Santa, if you want to bring me a nicely loaded DSW gift card. But a good portion of my wish list also revolves around reading and writing. In that light, and since this is a book blog (and not a cute shoe blog), I thought I’d share a few items on my Please-Santa-I’ve-Been-a-Very-Good-Writer- This-Year wish list:

I want to go on a literary tour of London. Can you imagine? The Globe Theater, the British Library (original Jane Austen manuscripts!), the Dickens Museum? Many, many pubs? Sign me up!

I want to be on the New York Times best-seller list. For a week. A day. Ten minutes … I’m not picky.

I want my own writing shack. And by shack I mean this…

I would also like for it to come staffed with a private chef and someone to do the laundry.

I want to finish the book I’m revising and sell it! It follows the adventures of a boy band which means that (for research sake) I have spent way too many hours watching One Direction prance about on YouTube. Lovely chaps, but yikes, I need a break. And yes, they prance.

I want to find a page-turner under the tree. Some of my favorite Christmas memories are when I received an amazing book and embarked on a Christmas Day reading spree. You know the kind of marathon where you glance up bleary-eyed around three p.m. and wonder where all the members of your family have gone? But then you don’t care enough to find out and just keep reading?

The last time this happened to me was the year Catching Fire was released, and I’m so ready for another. Of course, my family knows if this happens there’s a good chance we’ll be eating slightly overcooked turkey for dinner.

If there’s dinner at all.

Maybe I should transfer that private chef to this wish too?

So there you have it – my top 5 literary holiday wishes. Now share yours and Cari will draw from the comments for a signed copy of my young adult novel The Sweetest Thing. Yay!

And whether its shoes you desire (ahem, Cari), or great books, or just a wonderful time with loved ones – I hope you get it all! Happy Holidays!

One lucky person will win a signed copy of The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski!
Giveaway Details:

US and Canada Only
Leave a comment telling us about something on your wishlist!
Make sure to leave an email or twitter account so we can contact you if you win.
Giveaway ends December 16th, 2012.
Winner will have 48 hours to reply with a mailing address.

I want to thank Christina for guest posting and providing the giveaway! I have to run, because I'm on my way to pick up Christina so we can go shoe shopping! I hope she likes the car I got her:

To learn more about Christina Mandelski and The Sweetest Thing visit:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Guest Post: Top 5 Indie Authors

With the holidays upon us, I thought this would be a great time to invite some of my talented friends to guest post. Today Jamie is talk about the Top 5 Indie Authors/Reads and why they’d make great gifts!

Hello, all! The lovely Cari kindly asked me to do a guest post for her awesome blog, at which I of course couldn’t say no! The topic? Indie Authors. Being an “indie” myself (small press, not self-pub; I don’t have the courage to try that one yet!), I jumped at the chance to help spread the love for those authors who most often get overlooked by the mainstream reading audience. And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you all that Indies are exploding onto the publishing scene, snagging deals left and right (Amanda Hocking, Keary Taylor, Abbi Glines, just to name a few)—so you’ll wanna be sure to keep an eye on this short list, because I’d bet they’re gonna be joining those ranks pretty soon!

(note: this list is a mix of self-pub authors and small press authors)

David James (@DJamesAuthor), author of LIGHT OF THE MOON – I’m still reading this one, actually, but James’ writing is so beautiful and poignant and thought-provoking, I knew I had to add him to this list. LOTM is also a unique story in that it’s about a constellation that falls from the sky in the form of a boy (quick, run outside and get ready!). David is truly gifted with spinning words together into something that readers are gonna devour, so I urge you all to check this one out.

Gift it: I think LIGHT OF THE MOON would be the perfect gift for the true romantic in your life (whether that be you or someone else!).

Ali Cross (@Ali_Cross), author of BECOME, DESOLATE, and DESTINED – Ali is a powerhouse when it comes to writing paranormal characters/stories that readers want to love. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Her Desolation series is wonderful, well-crafted, and a sure hit, and she’s definitely an author you should be getting to know.

Gift it: If there’s an angel/demon lover in your family, pick up copies of this series and slap some wrapping paper around them; that person will thank you!

Stephanie Lawton (@Steph_Lawton), author of WANT and SHRAPNEL – Stephanie is a sort-of neighbor of mine (hey, if an author lives an hour away, they’re a neighbor!), and I’ve gotten to know her via Twitter, so trust me when I say she’s a true soul. She’s witty, funny, snarky…and uber talented. WANT is an amazing book, filled with drama and love and steaminess that kept me frantically flipping pages till the end. And I expect her next novel, SHRAPNEL, will be even better. Keep an eye on Lawton, because she’s going nowhere but up.

Gift it: WANT is the ideal gift for those readers who love a deeply-woven story of secrets and tragedy, wrapped nicely in humor and love.

Stephanie Keyes (@StephanieKeyes), author of THE STAR CHILD – Apparently the name Stephanie, no matter the variation in spelling, is a sure-fire way to garner writing talent (excuse me while I set a court date to legally change my name). And this Stephanie is just like the one mentioned above when it comes to said talent. Her debut novel, THE STAR CHILD, is a fun, exciting read, and refreshing in that the MC is male (we don’t see enough of that, right?). I love her writing style, and can’t wait for more from this author. Please be sure to give her a look-see, won’t you?

Gift it: Got a paranormal lover in the midst? Then gift them with THE STAR CHILD and they’ll love ya forever!

T. Michelle Nelson (@tmichellenelson), author of LIFE & DEATH OF LILY DRAKE – T. Michelle (or T, as I like to call her; yep, I got it like that) is not only friendly and hilarious, but she’s also super talented. I absolutely love LILY DRAKE; it’s fun and witty and exciting—not to mention a story about a single mom vampire hunter (hello, unique spin on an old genre). T. Michelle is able to create believable worlds and characters that keep you interested till the end, and I know that there is much more goodness to come from this author. So jump on board the LILY train now, folks—because it’s full steam ahead!

Gift it: If you know a vamp lover (like me!), then LILY DRAKE would make the perfect gift!

Well, there you have it: The top five “indie” authors, as I see ‘em. As with any list, this one is subjective to taste. But I do urge you all to give these authors a shot and pick up their books (they’re all available in print and digital formats). You never know if you like something till you try it, right? (Except squid. I don’t need to try squid to know I don’t like it.)

Jamie is the author of BLOOD BORN and BLOOD AWAKENING. Jamie's love of reading can be traced back to a Sidney Sheldon novel his grandmother purchased at a tag sale when he was young.He's been addicted to books ever since.He prefers getting lost in the pages of a book to just about anything, and it's that love of reading which sparked his interest in writing.He currently lives in a small, humid city in Alabama, where the only thing he pines for is a cooler climate.

To learn more about Jamie visit: and

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: The Tiny book of Tiny Stories Vol 2

Tiny Review: The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Volume 2

I loved The Tiny Book Of Tiny Stories Volume 1, so when I heard about Volume 2 I was thrilled. I got Tiny Book of Tiny Stories 2 for review so when I opened the package I dropped everything and read the book cover to cover a number of times. I smiled the entire time. I love the short stories and the illustrations that go with the stories. The book is so well made from the cover, to the drawings on the inside flaps. I love the dragon egg story you see below and the villain story on page 74. This book would make a great stocking stuffer for anyone! Do you own it? What are you thoughts?

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Looper, 500 Days of Summer) made a big splash with The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories—so now he’s back with volume 2! One of the most ingenious and successful projects to come out of Gordon-Levitt's online creative coalition hitRECord—an international collaboration of artists and writers—The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 2 offers more quirky, delightfully small, ingeniously illustrated haiku-like tales, proving once more that the universe isn’t made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories. The best things do come in small packages.

Book Description:

The universe is not made of atoms; it's made of tiny stories.

Featuring 62 contributors from the 14,946 contributions to the Tiny Stories collaboration on HITRECORD.ORG

To learn more about The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories visit