Sunday, December 18, 2011

Essay Contest for Aspiring YA Writers Announced by Literacy Charity, Book Wish Foundation!

This is a great opportunity for all YA aspiring writers. After reading about this book I plan on running out and purchasing a copy. Book Wish Foundation is donating 100% of its proceeds from the book, What You Wish For, to the UN Refugee Agency to fund the development of libraries in Darfuri refugee camps in eastern Chad. So if you are currently writing or have finished writing the next big YA novel I encourage you to enter and be part of this brilliant and unique experience. Details are provided below from Book Wish Foundation.

Win a literary agent or acclaimed author's feedback on your unpublished manuscript for young adult or middle grade readers.  This rare opportunity is being offered to the six winners of an essay contest recently announced by the literacy charity Book Wish Foundation.  See for full details.

You could win a manuscript critique from:
  •  Laura Langlie, literary agent for Meg Cabot
  • Nancy Gallt, literary agent for Jeanne DuPrau
  • Brenda Bowen, literary agent and editor of Karen Hesse's Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust
  • Ann M. Martin, winner of the Newbery Honor for A Corner of the Universe
  • Francisco X. Stork, winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
  • Cynthia Voigt, winner of the Newbery Medal for Dicey's Song and the Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue

All that separates you from this prize is a 500-word essay about a short story in Book Wish Foundation's new anthology, What You Wish For.  Essays are due Feb. 1, 2012 and winners will be announced around Mar. 1, 2012.  If you win, you will have six months to submit the first 50 pages of your manuscript for critique (which means you can enter the contest even if you haven't finished, or started, your manuscript).  You can even enter multiple times, with essays about more than one of the contest stories, for a chance to win up to six critiques.

If you dream of being a published author, this is an opportunity you should not miss. To enter, follow the instructions at

Good luck and best wishes,

Logan Kleinwaks
President, Book Wish Foundation

Friday, December 16, 2011

Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas for Teen Readers

Here are a handful of titles that will help with your teen or young adult reader. At least according to my reader categories. I will be taking time to enjoy my Christmas and catch up on some reading so that I may have fresh reviews for you in January. Don't forget to take a peek at my holiday music below that isn't annoying... at least to me. Happy Holiday's!!! 

Zombie Lovers

Jane/Austen Paranormal Romantic

Indie Music Searchers

Fantasy and Adventure

Mystery Reader

Just For Fun Readers

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares My Official Holiday Pick.

So my eyes where constantly drawn to this book cover over, and over until finally I picked it up and realized it was by Rachel Cohn and David Leviathan, authors of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Uh yes of course I’ll read you! I’m so very glad I did. It is the perfect Holiday read for someone who strives for better sarcasm and witty quips.

The plot of Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares is brilliant. Dash comes across the infamous red moleskin journal in a bookstore and is lead on a sort of scavenger hunt of dares through New York City during the Christmas season. Dash & Lily take us throughout the city, never meeting, challenging each other with dares. In doing so they get to see the city they have lived in through different eyes. Want to know what the dares are? Read this book, I dare you.

I think Lily who in fact initiates the dares is who I judged too quickly. I was expecting this daring girl that is afraid of nothing and always says what’s on her mind. Instead we find a sheltered girl whose brother Langston was the one who gave the push to leave the red moleskin behind in the first place. From the reviews I read before reading this book I found that Lily irritated people, but even though I got their point I feel that she brought the innocence that was needed to counter Dash’s witty and sarcastic personality. There had to be a balance. Lily in my opinion was a bit stuffy but someone had to be, I mean someone has to learn to take a leap every once in awhile and it had to be Lily when she leaves her red moleskin behind. Lily has a cheery holiday spirit that I think a lot of people still have in a world of Grinch’s.

This is where Dash comes in, a hipster cynic when it comes to Christmas. His chapters are especially entertaining.  He’s alone like Lily for Christmas, divorced parents spending time with their new significant others. Of course Dash has lied to both parents saying that he is with the other in order to have a holiday alone. Dash is to the point and doesn’t hold much back when it comes to his opinion. After reading Lily’s thoughts and dares in the moleskin he is more curious about the type of girl who would write such things. He’s hooked on Lily immediately and hasn’t even met her. Dash’s snarky personality is typical of a teen and not unrealistic at all. It’s always refreshing to read a realistically honest character such as Dash.

The star of this book is the red moleskin. It takes the reader on a fun filled, never boring and quirky trip through New York City. What better time to visit New York than during Christmas. Authors Cohn and Leviathan co-wrote Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares back and forth through emails. Cohn wrote for Lily and Leviathan wrote for Dash with no plan! What a great concept and a great outcome of one simple dare on a bookshelf. I’m sure this is premature but I do feel that this will be a holiday classic, especially with a gold seal of a movie set to be made in 2013. So peruse the bookshelf and look for Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares and dare to read something that will put you in the Holiday spirit. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another word about Dark Endeavor

Just a brief mention about this fantastic book that I reviewed in August. If you didn't take a chance on it before maybe you will now that it's only $1.99 at Barnes & Noble for the e-book.  So take a look at my review from the August archives and see why I think this book is so good. 

Don't forget that the movie rights were already sold to Summit Entertainment for this masterpiece. A look into the life of Frankenstein while in his youth. You as the reader will see how he lived before his obsession of life took over completely. Download and enjoy.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Struts & Frets by Jon Skovron is a book for today’s youth.

Jon Skovron has translated a clear voice for today’s teen boy in Struts & Frets. It’s unique coffee stained, notebook looking cover would pique anyone’s interest. It calls to the very character it is written about; music lover, lyric searching heart that has a black hole of life in front of them. Sammy a guitar singing songwriter who literally has music in his blood leads us into his path of discovery and the gritty reality that it will take to hold on tight to his dreams.

Sammy a young adult on the brink of ending high school is in a band just named Tragedy of Wisdom, (not his choice) who has a whole load of other problems besides the ones that involve his band mates Joe, the lead singer with a short fuse attitude, and Rick his gay friend who doesn’t seem to have the heart to be in the band. Sam and his mom struggle with his Gramps, a former jazz pianist who has lost some of his sanity over the years and Sammy’s only musical confidant. Jen5 (the fifth Jennifer in school) is an artist who is Sam’s best friend and wants more out of their friendship. All of this rests on poor Sammy’s shoulders along with a Battle of the Bands contest approaching that he isn’t even sure if he has a band to enter with. The only place he can escape this overbearing tornado is while he writes the one thing he is sure of, music.

Sammy is an uncontaminated version of a teen boy today. He is honest in his thoughts and not always so in his words unless when he writes his music. He curses when he is angry yet can’t stand up to the lead singer Joe during his many tantrums when he criticizes his music. I love how easily he changes his relationship with his friend Jen5. When he realizes that someone else is interested in her he questions his relationship with Jen5 and realizes he can’t lose her and just kisses her without any doubt of calling her his girlfriend. I wish more friends would do this when they find they are attracted to each other, and scared of the almost impossible “what if.” I think Sammy’s interaction with Gramps were my favorite moments in Struts & Frets. You see that Sammy really does appreciate music and the history behind it. Gramps gives the most humorous and poetic advice to Sammy regarding his stage fright, Jen5 and music that it is heartbreaking when Joe realizes that he may be losing his Gramps.

Jen5 is lovable instantly. She is the cool artist that doesn’t care what people say and someone who really strengthens Joe as a songwriter and a man. She is able to make him feel special in so many ways and I credit Jon Skovron for making her confidence in the “next step” Sam and Jen take in their relationship very real and pure from the male point of view. Jen5 is seen as beautiful, strong and very opinionated through Sam’s eyes. When she unveils her paining of Sam at the open mic night I was delighted when Sam couldn’t put his reaction into words but chose to put his feelings into actions. Sometimes words do get in the way of things and they often do when it comes to Jen5.

Skovron has managed to put together a string of crazy characters. Rick, Sam’s best friend is the best comic relief and support needed for the story. He pushes Sam and tells him what he needs to hear but is not always willing to receive the same from Sam. Joe is a cookie cutter impression of a loud mouth lead singer who will still manage to surprise the reader. Sam’s mom is the definition of strength that comes with the title and never disappoints when it comes to supporting her son.

Struts & Frets is a soul-bearing book from a young man’s perspective. It is something that I feel all teens would enjoy. Sam’s inner thoughts are written in a lyrical manner that make you really think and reflect as a reader. It’s a candid look at young life today and really does tell a brief tale of what to expect when you try to follow your dream, especially if it falls in the artistic genre. Your dream doesn’t always work out the way you planned. If you are happy with just doing what you love for the rest of your life and not getting the recognition of the spotlight will you be okay with that? Skovron puts the definition of passion in a young persons face and mind and Struts & Frets will give someone with a dream something to digest. Dreams are not stomped on because someone says no, they just soar with more fierceness then every before saying out load that they will continue to sing, write, dance or play whether you like it or not. That’s what I got from Struts & Frets, now doesn’t that sound like something worth reading.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler, using Face Book, took this lady back in time? As soon as I heard that The Future of Us, took place in 1996 I had to read it. Unbelievably good and remarkably done so that two different generations can enjoy. Do you remember VCR’s, personal CD players, the first time you heard Green Day and when you actually used a pay phone? The Future of Us reveals how far we have come as a new social networking society in a brief amount of time and how telling someone you love them is still complicated.

Emma and Josh live next door to each other and have been friends since early childhood. Emma has received a new computer and Josh has given Emma an AOL CD he received in the mail offering one hundred hours of free Internet. Except when Emma inserts the CD in her computer she is taken to a website called Face Book that reveals a web page that displays her picture and detailed information about her fifteen years later, and discovers that Josh has a similar web page. Will this information change how Emma and Josh trot through life? Will they accept their future, would you?

Emma, Emma, Emma, will you ever be happy? She’s a young confused girl that is going through the struggles of a divorced family and has a boyfriend that she doesn’t seem interested in who is only around for convenience. This doesn’t make her relationship with her best friend Josh, who sort of confessed his feelings to Emma without success, pleased with his friend’s decisions. After not wanting to accept her future, Emma makes quick choices that she thinks will fix everything, making her future brighter. But it only seems to put the future that Emma desires at a farther distance. Emma is a pure realistic character that knows what she wants but also has to face that she is the only one standing in her way. She needs to put in the work when it comes to relationships and not skip out when it starts getting serious. She is a girl who needs to be fearless when it comes to making mistakes and learn from them. Something I think most teenage girls suffer from and may see a reflection of them in Emma.

The sweet boy next door, Josh is happy with his future and doesn’t want to screw it up. He after all is married to the most popular girl in school and tries to put his future in motion by getting her attention. Only Josh gets tangled up in the idea of a planned out life. After seeing his profile he seems happy in the future and a success, he’s even friends with Emma. But he struggles with the now. He doesn’t feel connected with the girl he will eventually marry and wonders how he exactly ended up with her. With the confidence of knowing he will end up marrying the popular girl other girls begin to notice Josh and he wonders if he had not known his future would the same path be laid before him. It’s the common problem that everyone has. A plan is put before us and we have to walk it or risk the pre-empted outcome or strive for the riskier one.

Jay Asher’s & Carolyn Mackler’s The Future of Us is a look forward for teens and a look back for adults who have made their choices. The lesson I feel is that your life is never definite, you can always change it, you just have to have the heart to risk it and walk into the unknown. This is what Emma and Josh must decide for them and realize that life is always scary but you decide whom you want to face the shaky path with. The Future of Us is a book for EVERYONE! Adults like me who were teens during this time will be taken back to a time that seemed like yesterday. You wonder about the friends and people that crossed your path and how they may have unknowingly caused a ripple in your life that you may never know.

As a reader I was amazed at how far we have come from dated technology and when I was a teenager I would never believe in the idea of Facebook, the iPod or DVR. How convenient my life is because of these devices and how I can’t live without them, all these things that would have made my teenage life a dream. How connected we are socially yet with all the teen books that have been written since, I can see the same golden problem still exists in the typical teenagers life. What will I do with my life and does he or she like me?

Read The Future of Us, now! If you were a teen in 1996 it will take you back in time and for the younger generation you will see that people have been faced with the same problems since the beginning of time. I commend authors Asher & Mackler on a great trip to 1996 and I’m sure a lot of teens and adults will learn something and hopefully challenge themselves to do things differently by taking a risk if you feel in your heart it’s right. It’s scary but that’s the fun part of the ride.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick, a surprising left turn in the right direction.

I am a fan of author Becca Fitzpatrick and her series Hush, Hush. She is a talented writer of young adult books and holds nothing back when writing about Nora and Patch the stars of her third installment in the Hush, Hush series, Silence.

Silence leaves not quite where we left off from the second book Crescendo. Our angel Patch who was taken by the Black Hand is now apparently working with the very group that separated him from Nora. Nora awakes in a cemetery with no memory of Patch, or where she’s been for the last three months. Life has gone on without her and she wants to know why. Jev a boy who seems to be around whenever Nora is in danger has her thinking he may know more. Now her friend Scott is back in town, who has a few bits of information that pushes Nora to realize she isn’t being told the whole truth from her friends or family. This plants the desire in Nora to find out what Jev knows and why them being together is a problem for the Black Hand.

Nora, even though she suffers a slight memory loss is still the same girl as always. Always going against what is the safest option for her and falling into just the right amount of danger to not get her killed. She does ask herself the right questions when solving her mystery, I just wished that she would get there quicker, and maybe instead of sneaking around tempting danger stand up for herself and say that she can fight too. After Silence’s ending I can see that this may be the direction that Nora goes…hopefully.

Patch is often portrayed as a bad boy but I just see him as a guy with confidence. He loves and wants to protect Nora and anyone who cares for her. He’s just a guy who wants to be with the girl he loves. But those pesky angels, and Nephilim keep getting in his way. So now he has to figure out a way to keep both sides at bay in order to be with Nora. I was surprised that he is so desperate that he looks up Dabria, his ex, in order to get help for Nora, proving that when it comes to her he’s willing to do anything.     

Final thoughts, this seems like a totally new book with the same characters Fitzpatrick’s fans have grown to love. After reading Silence I can see that she had a lot of fun writing this, and maybe enjoyed putting her comfortable characters in unique left turn scenarios. I won’t spoil it but what she actually puts Patch through in the beginning of the book is pure torture. The descriptive detail to how he feels, and the desperate pain he endures to secure Nora’s safety is heartbreaking. It’s even more so sad when Nora awakes with no memory of Patch and what he has sacrificed for her. Things are so topsy-turvy to us the readers of the series because we know the actual secrets that have been hidden from Nora. It was a different way to from Nora’s perspective. I also enjoyed reading more of Vee, Nora’s BFF. She’s simply fun and a nice ease away from the danger that Nora is involved in.

Don’t judge this book, or series by the covers. Even though beautifully dramatic they do not tell the story at all. This book and series are really about uncovering secrets and after uncovered realizing not everything is at it seems. Will Silence’s characters do what you expected or defy your expectations, read and decide.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

There was a lot of buzz going on about The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer from first time author Michelle Hodkin. After reading a bit about the character Mara and finding out she is a young girl who is the only one of her friends to survive a terrible accident and has lost all memory of it I was intrigued to see what Mara Dyer was all about. Even though a character going through the process of amnesia is a common tale, something about the title drew me in.

Mara Dyer has woken up in a hospital room finding that she is the only one to survive a deathly accident, she has lost all of her friends in the amount of time it takes to blink and can’t even remember how or why. After attending the funerals she asks for her family’s help in relocating to Florida. She is now the new girl at a prestigious academy and is already hated by the queen bee simply because Noah, the guy that every girl wants but can’t seem to tie down has eyes for Mara. Mara wanting to just get through the rest of the school year has to deal with Noah’s persistence, her family constantly worried for her, the high profile murder trial that her dad has taken on plus those pesky hallucinations she sees of her dead friends and that new people seem to be dying around her.

While reading about Mara I constantly felt sorry for her. She is always on the brink of questioning reality and crazy. I think everyone has had a bad thought of an enemy, it’s human nature but Mara’s character goes one step further and actually acts on it, using a supernatural ability, but without any control or knowledge of it. As the daughter of two successful parents she wants to keep up the idea that she is coping with the death of her friends. But her hallucinations and actual conversations with her deceased friends have her second-guessing her sanity. In a nutshell she is an average girl who knew exactly who she was but now has to deal with whom she was really escaping.

Noah is likeable but still the typical teen boy love interest in the book. I guess the only way he differs from most characters like him is that he is able to flirt with Mara without actually doing anything. Weird I know but you’ll have to read it to see what I mean. Noah has his own secrets that I did not see coming. His story gives the book a spin and he is able to take a break from his usual cockiness and be the hero, and encouragement that Mara’s family needs.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was a look into family. Mara’s family was the real entertainment for me. Her parents, older brother Daniel and younger brother Joseph often have kitchen discussions that reveal how bonded they are. All three kids are intelligent and yet they don’t seem pretentious. It’s not thrown in your face and makes the family likable. Daniel is probably my favorite character because he is seen as super big brother when it comes to Mara. I also liked that author Michelle Hodkin laced the matter of bullying into the story and what it might be like for a teen today. Let’s face it, bullying has gone up one hundred levels and is not seen as something that is just a phase in life but more of a life altering matter. As confident as Mara seems she still has to go through a few matters of bullying along with her friend Jamie.

I will definitely be reading the second book in the series. Unbecoming had a very unexpected ending, and I can’t wait to see what Mara will do next. I have a feeling she will go through a dark stage just because of this ending, and with a power like hers it will be something that will be challenging to read about, especially with a likable character like Mara. This book is filled with mystery after mystery. Those nagging questions that must answered at the last second taking the reader from point “A” to a very twisted point “B”. If you like a tooth sinking mystery and a book that just keeps you guessing to the point of desperation that I recommend The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. It is a common tale of amnesia that has an ending that will have high expectations of this reader.    

Monday, November 21, 2011

Root: A Very Cool and FREE Interactive Story.

I was contacted by Guardian Teen Books to take a look at Root, an interactive story in partnership with Random House that is available to read online at Can I just say I am completely hooked and in love with this concept. I read through the first sixteen chapters and anxiously wait for the next ones.  If you are a fan of conspiracy and espionage combined with the talents of memorable computer hackers than this is something you should definitely check out.

Molly Root is a young teen who’s friend Danny a fellow hacker, has desperately enlisted her help in his attempted murder. Molly herself an impressive talent grabs her “go” bag in the hopes of being able to help Danny. Unfortunately she wakes the next morning to the news, reporting that Danny is dead. In an attempt to find Danny’s killer Molly will have to enlist other hackers to bring down the corporations that took her friends life. She currently now has journeyed through London with Piotr, a Russian teen who is often hired by corporations to try to break into their security systems, and has served as a big help for Molly.

For a story that has brief chapters I really am surprised by how much character background I have received in a short amount of time. This is something that anyone can still start and get caught up with quickly. Molly is an intelligent young woman who thinks on her feet and is likable the instant you read about her. She’s a girl with a back up plan always in mind. She is never unbelievable as a hacker based on her knowledge. When she asks for the help of Piotr the story does get more interesting just from his knowledge alone. These two characters manage to take you in a world of computer hacking that does not confuse the reader. It always seems to make sense because Molly and Piotr are believable.

I think the idea of getting the readers involved in the story is great. It was the perfect touch of story interaction when I was able to play the actual voice mails that Molly was hearing when the story took a major turn. Also through Guardian Teen Books you can take quizzes based on your knowledge of the story, and vote on characters that you want to see written in Root. Pretty cool idea to include the reader as part of Root but also to get young people to think creatively about characters they may want to see and how the story may change because of them.

Root really is something worth taking a look at. It’s something quick to read while waiting in line at the movies, maybe on break at work, or just because you’re hooked like me. Lovers of the Bourne Identity movies, Oceans 11, and Mission Impossible would be an audience that would take to Root. It’s something special that I hope to see more of from Guardian Teen Books; it really does have that young flare that I can see teens and adults enjoying. I still can’t stop talking about it with people so I strongly advise that you check out Root and read it now for free. Trust me you’ll be hooked.    

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me, A Likable Series From A Pretty Boy Point of View

Brian Rowe’s Happy Birthday Trilogy is certainly the gift you didn’t know you wanted. I received the first two books of this entertaining series by Brian Rowe himself so that I could review them, and I found the books were so differently good then anything I’ve read before. After the curve ball ending in Happy Birthday to Me Again I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Here’s a look at the first two installments of Brian Rowe’s Happy Birthday Trilogy.

The story seems simple enough, cocky teen boy Cameron Martin who has everything a teen guy could want meets a witch who casts a spell that ages Cam an entire year with each passing day. Cameron lives out his final days with the same teen angst problems like Prom, the state championship basketball game and don’t forget graduating high school. He is no longer treated as Mr. Perfect when his age begins to show. Only one girl takes notice of him, helping him without judgment. Cameron begins to fall for her and realizes that she may hold the key to prevent his cursed death.

Cameron is not someone you like right off the bat. He is full of himself and only sees the face value in everything; you really do want to give him a good slap. He knows that his good looks will get him far and uses them to his advantage. However he winds up a bit wiser because of the aging spell and begins to see the people in his life differently. I think his relationship with his plastic surgeon father is the most dramatic for me. In an ugly way I was able to see how perfect his father wants him to be when he actually performs a surgical procedure on his own son in hopes of hiding his age. Cameron in my opinion is written like a real teenage boy. He has natural urges and surprisingly the same insecurities that a teenage girl would have with her own body. I think this is a character that young men of today would actually want to read about.

This book does deals with some dramatic family issues but also has comic timing that had me cringing and saying, “No, no, no.” I’m speaking of one scene in particular that has a much older teacher attempting to seduce a much older Cameron. I really did feel for Cam at that horrific moment. But it was funny, much like other moments that I know other readers will laugh out loud at.

Reading the sequel Happy Birthday to Me Again was an easy read because I already knew the characters. Some make cameos and more awkward moments occur in the new spell that is cast upon Cameron, the spell of aging backwards, right down to his diaper. And this can’t be good especially when he is to wed the love of his life, Liesel. I wasn’t sure if this was just going to be the same story but just written in reverse, but it had new conflicts that may have only mirrored the first book but with new embarrassing situations.

Cameron does grow up a lot from the first book. Even though he dips his toe a bit towards the old Cam when he backs out of the wedding he snaps out of it quickly and realizes what he has in his life is good. He does go through this book appearing younger yet he seems to take full control of things, which again can read amusing when it comes from an eighteen year old trapped in a much younger body.   

I can say the two characters that I was pleased to see more of were Wesley, Cam’s best friend, and Kimber, Cam’s little sister. I thought that it was pretty obvious that Cam would bond with his sister and am glad that Rowe took advantage of that. I think some teens get so involved with their lives they forget their best friend at home. I think my only disappointment was that I didn’t get to read more about Liesel, but of course that’s because she goes missing and when Cam’s mission is to do anything to find her you can see how much he really loves her. Especially the dark place where he finds her, I really did cringe at the horrific situation she was in and what they both endure.

Brian Rowe’s Happy Birthday series really is something different. It takes a concept that we all know and spins the hell out of it. It has equal parts drama and raw comic timing. I prefer the first book Happy Birthday to Me, to the sequel but may like the third book after the surprise ending of Happy Birthday To Me Again. I think reading about both Liesel and Cam fighting together is what the second book lacked, now that they both have something particularly special to fight for I am really looking forward to reading the final book. If you enjoy books like Beastly or like those can’t help but watch comedies like 40-Year Old Virgin than this may something you can appreciate. It’s an eye-opening point of view and is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.