Sunday, March 27, 2011

In My Mailbox (37)

In My Mailbox highlights all the fun stuff we've received throughout the week and is hosted by Kristi The Story Siren. I missed it last week so here's two week's worth of books!

~Ominous by Kate Brian (pbs)
~Revelations by Kate (pbs)
~Miracleville by Monique Polak (librarything)
~Dreams of Joy by Lisa See (for review)
~Clarity by Kim Harrington (pbs)
~Teenie by Christopher Grant (won from poc challenge)
~Blood and Flowers by Penny Blubaugh (pbs)
~Deadly Little Games by Laurie Faria Stolarz (pbs)

Audio Books this Week:

~Knit Two by Kate Jacobs
~Stork by Wendy Desol
~Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

 Sooo excited about these! What did you guys get?? P.S. If you haven't already, don't forget to enter to win my new contest on the right side!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nickel Plated by Aric Davis

Publications Date: March 22, 2011
Summary from Goodread:

Nickel is a survivor. He has to be. For as long as he can remember, his life has hinged on the flip of a coin. Or, rather, the scribble of a social worker’s pen. He’s been through the system, even had a good dad for a few years, until he was gone, too. But Nickel remembers everything he taught him, and since the day he escaped from foster-care hell, he’s put that knowledge to good use. Just twelve years old, he makes a steady living by selling marijuana to high schoolers, blackmailing pedophiles he ferrets out online, and working as a private investigator. When a beautiful girl named Arrow hires him to find her little sister Shelby, Nickel figures at best the kid’s a runaway; at worst, some perv’s gotten a hold of her. He scours the internet and the streets of Arrow’s suburban neighborhood, and what he finds there is as ugly a truth as he’s ever seen. For beyond the manicured lawns, Nickel discovers children for sale, and adults with souls black as the devil. And people like that aren’t about to let some kid ruin their game. This edgy thriller introduces a canny, precocious anti-hero, the likes of which young-adult readers have never seen.

My Two Cents:

Nickel Plated was truly an unexpected good read. Obviously I am always skeptical when trying out a new author, but Aric Davis shows that a new kid on the block can still bring it. It brings an original plot featuring a kid who's had to grow up way before his time. Instead of feeling sorry for Nickel he makes us readers root for him all the way.

Nickel grew up bouncing from foster homes until finally he decided he'd had enough and escaped. He took what little money he had and tried to make a life for himself. Using his talents that he learned from his late "Dad" he becomes private investigator...and also a marijuana plant grower. He lives alone and takes care of himself. Most times his situation seemed so unrealistic but I still wanted to believe it was true.

Arrow approached him to help her find her little sister Shelby. Nickel can't help but be smitten by Arrow which gives him the drive he needs to find her sister. This novel takes us on a thrill ride with Arrow and Nickel as they race against time to find her sister before it's too late. I enjoyed reading this and rooted for Nickel and Arrow the whole way because....well he wants her so bad. Nickel does so many good deeds throughout the book but doesn't want the credit for any of it. In the beginning Nickel has these "rules" but Arrow slowly chips away at them. This is one of those books you have to give a chance to see that it is a treasure.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tracy Deebs on Love Triangles + Giveaway!

Let's all give a warm welcome to Tracy Deebs, who's the author of upcoming release Tempest Rising. Today she's giving us her take on love triangles and how to make a good one. But first here's a little about her:

Tracy Wolff collects books, English degrees and lipsticks and has been known to forget where—and sometimes who—she is when immersed in a great novel. At six she wrote her first short story—something with a rainbow and a prince—and at seven she forayed into the wonderful world of girls lit with her first Judy Blume novel. By ten she’d read everything in the young adult and classics sections of her local bookstore, so in desperation her mom started her on romance novels. And from the first page of the first book, Tracy knew she’d found her life-long love. Now an English professor at her local community college, she writes romances that run the gamut from contemporary to paranormal to erotic suspense.

I’m about to tell you one of my guilty little secrets, something that up until this blog posted, very few people ever knew about me and that secret is this: I am a sucker for a love triangle.  Movies, TV, books, I love to watch the dynamics as the heroine struggles to choose between two fabulous guys.  Maybe because it’s hard to imagine the average girl having two absolutely wonderful and amazing guys to choose from.  Maybe it’s the uncertainty of not knowing until the very end whether the heroine is going to choose the best friend/boy next door or the bad boy.  And maybe’s it’s just all that great sexual tension and angst that is part and parcel to the situation.  Whatever it is, I am fascinated by love triangles—and judging by the whole Team Edward/Team Jacob phenomenon, I am not the only one.
One of the things I think is most interesting about love triangles is the dynamics of putting one together.  For the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to focus on the two guys, one girl love triangle, but please know that I understand there are a lot of triangles out there with two girls and one guy.  They just don’t happen to be the ones I’m most interested in ;) 
So what does an author need to do to put together a strong, captivating love triangle in YA today?  A few things, actually.
1)      Start with a heroine who is pretty average (everygirl if you will) but make sure she is the self-sacrificing type.  Not in a woe-is-me, everyone-else-is-so-much-more-important-than-I-am kind of way (although there are a few of those out there) but in a there-are-things-or-people-in-the-world-I-care-about-so-much-that-I’m-willing-to-die-for-them. 
2)      Add in the best friend/boy next door/genuinely good guy.  Make sure he’s hotter, stronger, smarter, and smells better than most boys next door, then give him at least one extraordinary characteristic (loyalty, strength, telekinesis, whatever)
3)      Add in the bad boy/lost soul who either thinks he’s worse than he is or who really is a badass (depending on which of these he is, will often help you figure out who the heroine is going to end up with.  When she chooses the bad boy over the best friend, he has to be redeemable.  In other words, he can’t be all bad).  Make him dark, mysterious, troubled, a little lost. Oh, and sexy.  Make him very, very sexy.  Then give him a secret and a few extraordinary characteristics. 
4)      Thrust the heroine into danger of some sort
5)      Step back and watch the sparks fly …

Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her—and that the entire ocean's future hangs in the balance.

So, what do you think of love triangles?  Like them?  Hate them?  Or are you indifferent?  And if you like them, which love triangle is your favorite?  I’m partial to Seth/Aislinn/Keenan (Wicked Lovely) and Damon/Elena/Stefan (Vampire Diaries), although I have to admit that one of my new favorites is the love triangle from my own book, Tempest Rising: Mark/Tempest/Kona.  I had so much fun writing the fireworks between these three …  I only hope readers feel the same.  Leave a comment to be entered to win a Bare Escentuals Buxom Lip Gloss in the shade of Tempest.

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  • Contest Ends April 10, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gillian Philip on Sex in YA

 Today please welcome Gillian Philip to the blog! She's the author of upcoming release Opposite of Amber and I've asked her to give us her take on sex in Young Adult books. But first here's a little about her:

 I live in the north-east highlands of Scotland, with one husband, two children, one labrador (Cluny), two psychotic cats (the Ghost and the Darkness), and four nervous fish. But I like it that I never know just how it's all going to end - not till the fat lady sings, the villain meets a suitably sticky end, and the boy gets the girl (or indeed the boy).Writing for a living is a lot of fun - like taking dictation from the characters in my head, who spend their lives telling me what's going to happen next. 

How do you feel about it? Should it only occur in Adult books? Should there be a limit to how graphic the scene is?

Of all the subjects that come up when queries arise about the 'suitability' of any of my books, sex is the most frequent. For some reason it causes far more problems than violence, murder, drugs or drinking.

I don't think sex should happen in a book for its own sake, but then that applies just as much to adult novels as to young adult ones. Take the sexual subplot in Peter Benchley's Jaws, for instance: Steven Spielberg dispensed with it altogether in the movie. No offense to the book, but I reckon the movie is as close to perfect storytelling as you're likely to get. The extramarital affair was irrelevant to the drive of the movie's plot, and it would only have got in the way of some splendid interplay between the three male leads. All of the characters, including Chief Brodie's wife, developed just beautifully without it.

But when it makes sense in the context of the story? I think it would be wrong to leave it out, and that's especially true of young adult books. After all, the teenage years and the early twenties are when sex becomes the driving, confusing, bewildering, untameable motivator for so many decision. Let's face it, at that age we're seething cauldrons of hormones. It's downright exhausting, physically and emotionally. It would be a bit odd to ignore it.

Of course that doesn't mean characters should have sex on page 82 as if they're remote-controlled automatons--but when I get to a point in the story where I'm thinking well, they just would, right now, wouldn't they... then I'm not going to deprive them.

Like any other factor in a plot, though, it has to mean something, it has to contribute. Sure, it might mean they're being downright irresponsible, but it should mean something, illuminate some aspect of their personalities or actions. Thinking about my four full-length novels so far, all of them includes sex, but that wasn't a deliberate strategy-- I didn't get close to the end and think, uh-oh, I haven't put the sex in yet. It's just that all stories - at least, the ones I like to read and write - contain danger, high emotion, mystery, conflict... and in such a heightened atmosphere, there's quite likely to be sexual tension. Wars kill people, but they also send the birth rate soaring. It isn't just jealousy, fear, anger, apprehension or excitement your characters will feel more intensely -- it's also love.

Now, theoretically speaking, I don't see why there should be a limit to how graphically the sex is depicted. In practical terms, though, the cringe factor is huge. It's incredibly difficult to write a good physical description of the sex act -- that's why in the UK we have the Bad Sex Award, for the purplest prose with the biggest wince factor of the year. Euphemisms for the male sexual organs in particular tend to provoke not titillation, but hearty giggles. And quite right too.

So having said that there's sex in all four of my published books, there's no actual description of the moment. In that sense, I think sex is like violence or horror -- it's so much more vivid if it's only just offscreen. Sex is the Blair Witch of fiction--so much more real in the imagination.

And that's why I'm liberal about fictional sex, but averse to descriptions of anyone's 'manhood' and what they do with it. And it isn't only because my mother's likely to read it.

They found the fifth girl right after the snow melted ...the place where he left her was winter water, crazed with ice-feathers and dusted with snow. The traces from her body were gone, the ones that said his name, but she had an extra skin of ice that protected her and she looked perfect, like Snow White'. Ruby and her older sister Jinn live together on their own, just about making ends meet. Jinn is beautiful, with glittering blonde hair, and makes it her business to look after Ruby. They are horrified by, but try to ignore, the local newspaper stories of prostitutes who are murdered, their bodies eventually discovered underwater. Then the no-good Nathan Baird turns up on the scene - again - and Jinn starts to change. First Nathan moves in with Jinn and Ruby, making Ruby feel an outsider, and then Jinn and Nathan move out, leaving Ruby alone. Jinn no longer has time to look after Ruby. And it seems to Ruby that Jinn herself needs looking after. Her beautiful glittering hair starts to lose its shine. And then Jinn disappears. A deeply moving, chilling, and incredibly powerful thriller that celebrates the love two sisters have for each other and mourns the events beyond their control that will conspire to drive them apart.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In My Mailbox (36)

In My Mailbox highlights all the fun stuff we've received throughout the week and is hosted by Kristi The Story Siren.

 ~Secrets and Shadows by Shannon Delaney
 ~Nickel Plated by Aric Davis
 ~Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Audio Books this week: 
 ~The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
~Vixen by Jillian Larkin
~Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
~The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler Sneak Peek!

Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown.  But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort.  There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past.  As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home.  Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?

PLAYING HURT alternates between Chelsea’s and Clint’s POV.  This excerpt is told from Chelsea’s viewpoint, as she watches a DVD of the moment that changed the course of her life:

Like they always do at this point in the game, my eyes dart away from myself, away from the ball, and land on two boys arguing—front row, far corner of the bleachers, just feet from the hoop.  Pushing.  Shoving.  Not angrily, not like they’re really having a horrible disagreement, more like two brothers toying with each other.  Which is exactly what they are—the Highful twins, Levi and Tucker, elbowing each other, eyes hidden by their filthy ball caps.  Even though Brandon’s camera angle only shows their profiles, their stupid grins still leap out like name tags.  Dopes, both of them.  Morons in Fair Grove FFA T-shirts.


Levi’s holding an enormous soda.  And every time Tucker nudges him, Levi spills a little more on the knee of his jeans.  STOP, Levi mouths, and Tucker throws his head back.  His shoulders ripple with laughter.  Levi punches him in the arm.

But the Chelsea playing basketball doesn’t notice their horseplay.  Now that her feet have landed inside the key, right beneath the basket, she pins her eyes on the ball as Theresa passes it.  She opens her hands; when the ball hits her palms, I can feel it—the me sitting on the edge of my bed, I mean.  Months after the game, I can still feel the skin of the ball, rough and bumpy as a hedge-apple.  It smacks my palms so hard, my skin burns.

Shaking pom-poms, stomping feet on the bleachers.  A frenzy explodes, our small town gymnasium transforming into an enormous outdoor arena the moment before some legendary, world-renowned band bursts onto the stage.

“…a pass to Keyes…” [Fred Richards, the local news announcer, shouts], his voice high-pitched, the sound of pure adrenaline.

NITRO, NITRO, NITRO…the crowd chants.

But powered by explosives is the last thing in the world I feel.  The Chelsea on the TV screen is being pulverized by spinning metal teeth in a blender.  Her hips are being twisted and cracked.  And Beth Hardy is no puppy—she’s a rabid dog, out to attack.  Her defense is so mean, it has claws and blood-stained canine teeth.

As the crowd screams, chants, stomps, I turn my crackling, fire-consumed body away from Hardy and I launch myself into a jump hook.  But I know, even before I release the ball, that the shot’s all whopper-jawed.  I’ve jumped too high to get the most power, and my body’s rotated all wrong.

“…Keyes shoots and…” Fred Richards narrates happily.  But I wonder, as I always do at this point, how he ever could have thought my air ball, soaring wildly, would have landed anywhere near the hoop.  How he ever could have expected to end his sentence with “…SCORES!”

In the bleachers, Tucker mouths an OW and reels his arm back to punch is twin.  Levi tries to lean out of Tucker’s reach; as he twists to the side, Tucker’s hand makes contact with the plastic soda cup, knocking it out of Levi’s fingers.  The cup flies toward the court, hits the floor near the end line, tumbles.  The soda spills beneath the basket.  The brown, bubbly shadow creeps across  the glossy gym floor, spreading across the key.

I hit PAUSE on the remote while Chelsea is still in the air.  At this moment, I have yet to come down from my crazy, desperate jump.  My feet have yet to hit the puddle of Levi’s spilled drink.  I have yet to lose my balance and slide through the sloppy soda.  My legs have yet to shoot out in opposite directions like a Fair Grove cheerleader doing the splits.  My body has yet to slam against the brick-hard surface of the court.

The me on TV has yet to be rushed to the emergency room, where a doctor will let his eyebrows crash together as he points to my X-rays, at the fracture that slices through my hip bone and makes me look like a cracked teacup.  That doctor has yet to shake his head when I finally come clean about the pelvic ache, saying, YOUR HIP WAS SURELY ALREADY WEAKENED BY A STRESS FRACTURE, CHELSEA.  OVERUSE.  YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD SOMEONE YOU WERE HURTING.  I have yet to be sent for hip surgery, yet to be termed OUT OF COMMISSION.  I have yet to see my dreams of college ball ripped to the kind of violent, life-altering shreds that usually fill a trailer park after a tornado.

I stare at myself, wishing I could have paused my LIFE here.  Wishing I could have dangled in the air forever, and never had to endure the excruciating pain that followed.
Check out the extended trailer!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

 Publication Date: February 22, 2011
 Summary from Goodreads:

Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is. Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.
She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.
Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

My Two Cents:
Ari is one of my favorite kind of characters. She's a real independent badass. Her soft spot is family. Having been moved around from different foster homes her whole life, at this point she just wants answers as to who her real family is. She decides to take a road trip to New Orleans where her mom once was. She begins to find a lot more than she bargained for.

In New 2 she meets a gang of misfits who immediately take her in as one of them. With her teal eyes and silver hair she appears to fit right in. There she meets Sebastian who agrees to help her on this journey. My only problem with this book is how fast they seem to fall in love. One moment he wants nothing to do with her and the next they're spooning in a restaurant. Strange.

It takes practically the whole book before the truth about what Ari really is comes to light but I loved the buildup. I would've never imagined what it was. It definitely gets a "wow" point from me. It is so out of the box that I don't even think it's ever been done, especially not in YA. 

Darkness Becomes Her is a refreshing and much needed break from the recycled paranormal creatures we all know. It is truly a must-read!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

In My Mailbox (35)

In My Mailbox highlights all the fabulous things we've received during the week and is hosted by Kristi The Story Siren. 
Right now as I'm getting more and more audio books, I'm getting rid of a lot of my paper ones so I actually have the space for these!

~Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler
~Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
~Entwined by Heather Dixon
~Haunted by Joy Preble

Audio books this week:
~Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
~Another Pan by Daniel and Dina Nayeri
~The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
~Bright Young Things by Anna Godberson
~Bird by Angela Johnson

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Audio Review:Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

Publication Date: December 28, 2010
Narrated by: Nancy Wu
 Unabridged 9 hours 28 mins
Summary from Goodreads:

Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to Med school. But is being a doctor what she wants? It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent. Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her? Set in the 1980s.

My Two Cents:

I'm not sure had I read the actual book versus listening to it that I would've gotten the same experience. The accent of the mom seems so real as if I'm listening to their conversation.

Frances is incredibly smart and a great student. However when she's not at school she's not much of a superstar. Her mom is pretty abusive. She makes Frances feel dumb,dirty, fat, and just plain old inadequate. She works hard to try and please her mom but it never works. Trying her best in school just for her mom to tell her she dropped the ball on something else.

Frances makes a friend it seems out of convenience. At first I liked Frances because I felt bad for how she was treated by her mom. Then towards the middle I really didn't like how she began to use her friend to get ahead with a boy. It was mean and selfish. She made a lot of bad decisions throughout the novel. Her mom bullied her, and she bullied her friend.

I think I probably fist pumped at the end. I think everyone got what they deserved including Frances. This is one definitely worth reading and was an eye opener for me about certain Asian beliefs.