Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: Ten Things We Did (That we probably shouldn't have done) by Sarah Mlynowski

2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them.

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn't-have-done at a time.

Sarah is the author of BRAS & BROOMSTICKS, FROGS & FRENCH KISSES, SPELLS & SLEEPING BAGS and PARTIES & POTIONS—all in the YA ‘Magic in Manhattan’ series, as well as GIMME A CALL and the upcoming TEN THINGS WE DID (AND PROBABLY SHOULDN'T HAVE). Along with Lauren Myracle and E. Lockhart, she also wrote HOW TO BE BAD.

Sarah's books have been translated into twenty-one languages. Originally from Montreal, she now lives and writes in New York City.

My Review:
There's really nothing I don't like about this author. Look at her, seriously. She's accomplished and beautiful and (What really counts) an incredible writer. Ten Things is the first book I've read by her, and I look forward to reading more. The only thing I could possibly ever count against her is the trouble I have trying to figure out how to pronounce her last name.  It's even a gorgeous, unique last name.

Pros of this novel:
What caught me right from the beginning is how realistic the voice of this novel is. It was endlessly entertaining to read something that echoes how I narrate my own life in my head. For some of you, this might be a con, but it doesn't even go overboard. In fact, the only reason you might not like it is if you're a snooty grown up (no offense to non-snooty grown ups).

For example, a 'sophisticated adult-like creature' might think like this:
  • Beginning>Middle>End
The way we were taught to write and think and report playground accidents in grade school.

But someone like me, a 'non-snooty adult who's not really an adult because I refuse to grow up' might think like this:
  • Middle>Right before the middle>Beginning>before the Beginning>something I forgot in the Beginning>back to the middle>End

And that is EXACTLY how this book is structured, which makes perfect sense to me. It's like an engaging television series that only makes sense at the series finale.

Here's a quote from the first page:

"Maybe I should just go back to sleep . . . No! Phone ringing. In bed with not my boyfriend. I managed to get myself out of the futon without disturbing him and—um, where were my pants? Why was I in bed with a guy who was not my boyfriend without any pants?"

Yes, but, would it make a good movie?

I'm adding this little section to my reviews because some of the kids I talk to about reading will review a book by saying " would make a good movie?" It's almost as if that's their language, whether a book will make a good movie, and what kind of movie, and where does it stand on the scale from 1 to ten, One being Rebecca and Ten being Harry Potter.

My answer:

Yes. Cute boys, cute cat, large target audience, and the book is already set up like a movie. I can imagine some of the chapter titles as headlines. For those of you who watch Spongebob (And bless those who don't) it would be like the intermission signs that say "One day later". It would be perfect.

Overall Review: 5/5 stars

Would I add this author to my 'Author Idols' list?
No, I wouldn't. I loved the book, but it isn't burned into my mental hall of fame. In several years, I may still remember my feelings for this book, but I may not remember exactly why (unless, say, I look back on this post.)

Friday, March 30, 2012

New Winner


My first place winner never actually responded within the 24 hours, so I'm going to move along.

Valerie (The second place winner) chose Incarnate as her first choice, so I'll be sending that to her.

Danielle (The third place winner) I actually promised an e-copy of Incarnate because she really had her heart set on it.

The new winner, who has the choice of Spy Goddess or Open Minds, is....

Suz Reads

I'll go ahead and email you now.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Winners! Yay!

First, I want to say that all your answers to the question made me smile, too! They were just so adorable. ^_^ I saw a lot about kids, about boyfriends and girlfriends, and about The Hunger Games!

I saw the Hunger Games. I loved it. How adorable was Rue?

Anyway, you want to know who won!

The first winner is....

Julie Witt!

She gets first choice of the three books. ^_^

The second will be:

Valerie Redfearn!
(Can I just say, your last name is amazing?)
she gets second choice. :)

And our third winner today is:

Danielle didn't actually put her last name, but I did email her. :)

Hurry, hurry, tell me what books you want, guys! I've emailed you! ^_^ 

Future book Reviews

These are the reviews you'll be seeing soon, in order unless they have an asterisk (*) next to them.

Ten Things We Did (And probably Shouldn't have done) By Sarah Mlynowski

Review expected by  3/31/2012

Incarnate By Jodi Meadows

 Review expected by 4/2/2012

Alif the Unseen By G. Willow Wilson

 Review expected by 4/6/2012

Lost Exit* By Kevin Michaels

 *Not confirmed yet*

Xor: Shape of Darkness By Moshe Sipper

 Review expected by: 4/12/2012

Pawn of Mine, by Tabitha Vale  (Review expected by April 19th)
*No cover yet*

Economics: A Simple Twist on Normalcy By Kersten Kelly

 Review expected by 4/27/2012

Shaman, Friend, Enemy AND Shaman, healer, heretic By M. Terry Green

First Review by 5/10/2012

Second by 5/16/2012

Reviews subject to change.

'Change' here is defined as: Change in expected review date, change in plans, or change on decision to post review either on Author's or blogger's part.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flash Fiction: Death

Definition of flash fiction: Written quickly, in one sitting, with minimal edits.

 Writing this way keeps me sane.

"Kristina...stop taking those pills. Come on, give them to me."
"No...I'm okay, really! I'm perfectly....fine...." I fell over, into the arms of a friend whose face I didn't recognize.
"Get rid of those! Don't let the teachers see her!"
"What's going on here?" It was one of the administration. God....I hated the administration.
"Nothing, you pompous, bloated idiot! Leave usalone already!"
"What's wrong with her?"
"Her!? I HAVE a NAME!" I get up and turn around, seeing double, triple, and blurred visions, depending on who I looked at. Then a glimpse, just a small flash of bright, small colors.
"Hey, give those back!" I grab the pills I felt I desperately needed. I grabbed a handful and cram them into my mouth. But my throat won't swallow anymore. So I run past everyone and go to the water fountain. I move the pills to the back of my mouth and take a huge gulp of water.
As they go down, I feel sick. I race to the bathroom, but don't quite make it. I see the floor, then black.
I open my eyes to a huge door. All the feelings I was so desperate to hide come out. I'm scared, furious, confused, and crazed. With no where else to go, I start attacking the door. "Let me in! I hate you! Open up!"
The door wouldn't open. That's all that really mattered. Then out of nowhere lightning goes through my system, making me fly away from the door. In a flash, people are standing around me. Doctors.
Later, I was told my heart stopped. I was told that, normally, someone in my condidtion wouldn't have been able to be revived. The school counselor comes in. "Why did you do that? You could have died!"
I look at him and shake my head, feeling my bitterness well up and threaten to come shooting out at him. "No. They wouldn't let me in."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: What Learning Leaves, by Taylor Mali

A collection of poems about teaching, love, and dogs.


Taylor Mali is a former teacher and classically trained actor who now makes his living as a professional poet. One of the original poets to appear on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, he is a veteran of the poetry slam and the author of What Learning Leaves and several spoken word CDs and DVDs. He lives and writes in New York City. For more information, visit

My Review:

The perfect book of poems for teachers and fans of learning. I'm a huge fan of Taylor Mali. A couple favorites of mine, "What Teachers Make" and "Girls lending pens" are available on youtube, as well as "The the Impotence of Proofreading". 

Taylor Mali will take you from laughing so hard, you're stopping just short of rolling on the floor (though you can still text your friends "ROTFL at Taylor Mali's awesome poems" and they MIGHT believe you) and then turn around and bring you to the realities of life, to grief, and anger, until you're wondering: Is this the same guy?

It is.

One poem that I found on youtube but didn't find in this book was "I'll fight you for the Library; a poem in four letters." Go ahead and find it, and see if you don't absolutely fall in love.

While the poems are amazing, they don't compare to hearing Mali recite them himself. If you head on over to, you can also get his CDs. And I thoroughly recommend you do just that.

On goodreads, I have listed this book under 'favorites' and 'Author Idols'; my rating should come as no surprise.

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Interview with Michael Spradlin

In the Spirit of giving away the first Spy Goddess novel, I've interviewed Michael Spradlin about the series. Enjoy! ^_^

  1. How did you come up with the titles? All of the Spy Goddess titles were my attempts at a humorous take on the titles of the James Bond films. And since my 'spy' was a teenage girl, Live And Let Die became Live and Let Shop, The Spy Who Loved Me became The Spy Who Totally Had A Crush On Me and so on.
  2. Is there a message in your series that you want readers to grasp? I go out of my way to never write a 'message' book. If there is a 'message' in any of my books, it's that I hope the reader really enjoys it and wants to read all of my other books, tell one hundred of their closest friends and start on online petition for me to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize. That said, at a school visit once a student asked me what the main 'theme' was in all of my books, and I answered 'I really don't know.' And the librarian scolded me and said "Oh don't be ridiculous, all of your books are about the true meaning of friendship.' And thinking about it she may be right. My characters usually start out alone with the world against them or abandoned by those they thought were friends, only to learn that a real friend stands besides you when things are at their worst. 
  3. Can you share a little of your current or most recent work with us? My most recent novels were the Youngest Templar novels. They're historical fiction set during the Third Crusade. The protagonist is Tristan a young Orphan raised by monks in England. He becomes squire to a Templar night and starts a series of adventures culminating in a dangerous quest. Along the way he also discovers the true meaning of friendship. Maybe that librarian was right. I also have a new picture book coming in August called The Monster Alphabet. And in September I have my first book for adults coming called Blood Riders
  4. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? There are a million ideas out there. Practically every story you can think of has been told before in some shape or form. Narrowing down the idea and executing it successfully is the trick. 
  5. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? My favorite author is John Steinbeck. There are a variety of reasons. Mostly because Steinbeck had a tremendous range to his work. Most don't know this because all they've read is Of Mice And Men or The Red Pony. But if you read Cannery Row or Sweet Thursday you find he could be very funny. And he had a love of people, especially for the most downtrodden among us. His humanity shows through in his writing.
  6. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? All I want my readers to take from anything I write is enjoyment and entertainment. And to please read all my books! :)
  7. How did you come up with the idea for the Spy Goddess Series? I actually was watching television late one night and saw an ad for a "Private Investigator School." And I thought how we have schools for everything in this world, what if there was a school for spies. Next thing you know Rachel Buchanan is off to Blackthorn Academy.
  8. Who is your favorite or least favorite character to write? All of my characters become very real to me. Villains are of course a lot of fun. But I think my favorite is writing the hero or heroine. I don't think I have a least favorite. Every character has to serve a purpose. 
  9. There were a couple scenes in your book that made me want to cry (particularly in the third Spy Goddess Novel). Were there any scenes you didn't want to write? Not really. I think as a writer your characters tell the story and they put themselves in positions only they can get out of. 
  10. On the other hand, were there any scenes you liked that didn't make it to the final revision? I think there are always things you wish you could keep or maybe you want to keep. But you have to try and develop some objective distance so that a scene or chapter that really isn't driving the narrative forward has to go. 

Fun time!
  • In the point of view of any character you choose, answer these:
Rachel Buchanan
  1. What is your dirty little secret? I can't find my Jimmy Choo's
  2. You're walking along and a dragon appears in front of you. What do you do? Are you kidding me? A dragon, I'm so taking him on our next mission. Hey Simon Blankenship, eat a little dragon fire, why don't you?
  3. What is your heart's desire? Alex...I mean Brent...I mean wait. Definitely Brent...or Alex. Doh! I can't decide..

Bonus round!
Is there one last thing you want to tell your readers? Visit my website at
And lastly: Where can we all follow you?

There's a lot of places...
Spy Goddess Facebook Fan Club:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Win a book!

ATTENTION: The rafflecopter isn't working for some of you. The required entry is to tell me something that made you smile down in the comments.

Hey everyone! I've decided to participate in a giveaway, and this is my favorite one.

There will be three winners, drawn randomly. The first I pick gets their choice of prizes and has 24 hours to respond after I announce the winner. The second will be contacted and has 48 hours to respond (24 hours after the first has claimed their prize) and the third will get whichever absolutely lovely book is left and has until the 31st to contact me.

Can you tell this is my first time doing a giveaway?

Anyway, the prizes:

(physical, paperback)

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

I'm just misunderstood.
Of course, that's not how the judge saw it.
That's how I wound up at freaky Blackthorn Academy. Talk about boring. There isn't even a mall nearby. I mean, what did they expect a girl from Beverly Hills to do?
Also, from the start I could tell there was something really weird about Blackthorn:
The headmaster, Mr. Kim, knew way too much about me.
The class schedule features Intro to Code Theory and Microelectronics.
A whole section of the school is off-limits.
Then the FBI showed up ... and Mr. Kim disappeared.
Well, here's something Mr. Kim didn't know about me: Rachel Buchanan never gives up when there are secrets to uncover. Watch out, Blackthorn Academy.

And an e-copy (Kindle) of Incarnate! If you don't have a physical kindle, don't freak out. Go to amazon and they'll give you a download of Kindle for your iPod or Computer, completely free.

New soul
Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.
No soul
Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?
Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies--human and creature alike--let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?
Jodi Meadows expertly weaves soul-deep romance, fantasy, and danger into an extraordinary tale of new life.

The rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The linky:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Flash Fiction: Write something that might get you killed.

Flash Fiction definition: Written quickly, in one sitting, with minimal edits.

 PLEASE don't kill me for this.

“Finally, I’m finished!” I smiled and leaned back so I was lying on the art room floor. I wasn’t worried about dirt or anything—I was already covered in paint. I closed my eyes in exhaustion. I had been working on this project for a whole month, and it was finally as near to perfect as it was going to get.
I jumped up and squealed when I felt the soft bristles of a paintbrush sweep across my cheek, leaving a bright streak of green paint. “What was that for?” I laughed and grabbed my own paintbrush to leave a streak of red on the jeans of my partner, Rachel.
“Why did you work so hard on something that’s just going to be burned anyway?”
I admired the painted wooden cross, my eyes following the trails of blue swirls and gliding over the elegant bold black script. I shrugged and turned to her. “I don’t know. Art is art. Everything I paint gets the same amount of attention.” Rachel laughed.
“Better be careful. They’ll think you’re a ‘lic.”
“Lic” was short for Catholic.They were immoral people. No one was sure why they exist, but there were theories. Once, Rachel and I went down to the school basement and found some old history books. According to those, Catholics used to be one of the most popular religions. There were even Catholic presidents. We closed the books and never said another word about them, but I still thought about them sometimes.
I took a hair dryer and started drying the cross. “Of course I’m not. That’s crazy. I still can’t believe Catholics exist. I mean…it’s not like they’re born that way.”
Rachel smiled and took a second hair dryer out of the supply drawer. “I don’t know. But it doesn’t matter. We’ll go up and be with God when she calls us, and those stupid Catholics can be whoever they want to be in hell. Hey, did you do the homework for Chemistry?”
We talked about school and which teachers we liked or didn’t like until the parade bells started ringing. “Oh, no! I thought we had more time!” I helped Rachel lift the heavy cross and we put it on a cart. The annual worship parade was going to start any minute, and we had to get there in time.
“Hurry! Don’t forget the gas!” Rachel started racing the cart down the hall as I grabbed a can of gasoline and a lighter before following her. We made it to the line just in time and the boys on our float helped lift it up and set it in the stand.
One of the boys, Jason, whistled. “That’s some piece of work you did. I’m almost sorry we have to destroy it.” I climbed on the other boy’s shoulders and started pouring the foul smelling liquid on the top of the huge piece of wood.
“Don’t be; remember: ‘That which glistens isn’t always made for heaven.’” He grinned and I tossed him the lighter. The line was moving now, and we had barely made it. “Want to do the honors?”
Jason turned the silver wheel and stood on his toes to reach where the gas was trickling down. In a second, flames were leaping up towards the sky. We had made sure to make the rest of the float non flammable, and stood back as the embers calmed a little. We each took our places next to a fire extinguisher—just in case—and waved to the cheering crowds of people. You could tell exactly which ones were Catholic—they were the only ones not smiling.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Games I Play with my Sister

This will seem random and unrelated to books, but hang in there.

I was a pivotal part in my little sister's education. It's not as if I raised her, by any means, but I helped.

I didn't teach her the alphabet, but I taught her the song.
I didn't teach her how to read, but I created a space in the corner of our room and read with her for hours.

I didn't make my sister the brilliant whiz kid she is today--I certainly had NOTHING to do with her science, math, or history smarts. But I think it doesn't hurt that we had and have games we love to play.

When she was little and we had dial up, we got a loading page often and for long bits of time. So to pass that time we sang a song: L-O-A-D-I-N-G, dot Dot DOT.  We sang it over and over and over, and that is why the first word my sister knew how to spell was 'loading'.

When she got a little older, we'd go to movies. My favorite game to play at the movies is "Say the first word you see during each preview."  with my sister, my mother, and I all in different positions, together we usually got the gist of each advertisement.

She's even OLDER now, and so am I. I just turned 18, so I go out many times a week to work or school and when I come home I have all sorts of receipts and bus passes and packets of buffalo sauce in my pockets. Occasionally when I get home, she'll be on the computer and I'll play "What the hell is in my pockets?"

But I'm kidding. My favorite game to play is "Where should this novel have started?" Sometimes we come across a book that's slow or really hard to drag ourselves through. I don't like leaving a book unread, so I challenge her by saying "Keep going through the book until you find the spot where it should have started."

Sometimes it's a paragraph or a chapter after the real beginning, and we're good. Sometimes (mostly with self published authors) it's closer to the middle of the book that we find the "Real First Sentence".

What word/book/reading games do you play?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Series Review: Hilda the Wicked Witch by Paul Kater

General, but not quite official synopsis:  Meet Hilda, the wicked witch. She's the most powerful being around, until she accidentally ends up in our world. It's not hard to prove herself all over again, but it is annoying. Even more annoying is the human she finds: William. The only person who can help her get back to her own world.

Follow along with Hilda as she deals with Snow White and her wicked stepmother, challenges the most evil and powerful wizard of all, faces her friend Zelda in a power struggle to save or destroy the human world, and meets some cats.

My Review: I loved this series, I really did. I got the first ebook for free, and ended up buying the ones I didn't have so I could continue the series. Hilda is one of those characters that everyone loves. You follow her story, watch her grow and fall in love, cry when she's hurt, and hate anyone who bugs her.

Likewise, William is the one we can actually relate to--a normal human guy who loves books. I love books--it's completely possible for me to get my hands on a pretty, ancient tome that just so happens to be the only way for a powerful witch to get home.

The characters are top notch, we see what happens with Snow White after the wedding, and the writing is brilliant.

Overall: 5/5 stars for the series as a whole.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Just thought you'd like to check this out.

Good gosh, the subject of the blog post sounds like the opening line for spam e-mail. But really, guys.

I'm sure most of you have heard of the Scarlet Letter. Most of you may have even read it in high school, or middle school, or college, or even yesterday on

I read this book as part of English class in high school, myself, and proceeded to write poems about all the characters and a few key settings. I put them all up on Goodreads, so check them out Here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Feature and follow Friday! -- Ides of March edition

Here we are again! Technically, the Ides of March fall on a Thursday this year, right after Pi Day (3.14, obviously. Had an awesome chocolate mousse pie to celebrate.)

Hosted by Alison can Read and Parajunkee, I love this little feature. Most of you know it's the only 'official' meme I do. By definition of 'meme', I also do Flash Fiction and kind-of-sort-of poetry/prose of the day.

Anyway! Alison's feature this week is......
(Click the picture to go there)

And this week's question:

What are the best and worst books you've read this month?

Oh, gosh...
The best would have to be Songs for a Teenage Nomad. It was a great story with awesome writing techniques and something I could relate to.

I read a lot of good books this month, really, there wasn't one that I would deem 'the worst'. There is one called 'A Christmas Jar For Santa' that I don't even want to count because it was more of a short story and took me all of five minutes to read. But, for simplicity's sake, I will deem that the 'worst'.

Even though it was a charming story that I will tell my future grandchildren. Just saying.

And....The Linky! Also, if you've made it this far, I've got a question of my own:

How would your favorite book character handle meeting a dragon?

Poetry of the day: In A Library, by Emily Dickenson

In A Library

A precious, mouldering pleasure 't is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think,

His venerable hand to take, 
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make

To times when he was young.

His quaint opinions to inspect,
 His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;

What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty.
And Sophocles a man;

When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,

He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town
And tell you all your dreams were true;
He lived where dreams were sown.

His presence is enchantment,
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads
And tantalize, just so.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Flash Fiction: Gratitude

Flash Fiction Description: Written quickly, in one sitting, with minimal edits.

 It keeps me alive.

She sighed as the sun sank deeper, threatening to melt into the sea, which was quickly turning crimson. The beach was usually empty around this time, save for the occasional couple. And here she was, alone. Figures it'd turn out this way. She was the girl people were dared to date.
There were two wineglasses cradled carefully in her left hand, and a brand new wine bottle in her right. She abandoned her shoes on shore as she entered the sea, pausing as the cold water welcomed her feet. The sea was her friend. That's why she had recommended they come here. If something went wrong, she would only be a few steps away from open arms.
It wasn't long before she found her cave. No one else knew about it, so it was just as well that it belonged to her. Staying clear of dark, moist line that marked where high tide came in, she sat on the dry ground and set the glasses down, turning her attention to the wine. As the soft hiss of an opening bottle sounded, she paused as another sound was heard. Footsteps? She listened for a bit longer until a soft voice from the dark filled her ears. It wasn't loud, but in the cave it was loud enough to hear and it was...magical.
"you don't plan on drinking all that wine by yourself, do you?" A young woman, the same age if not older than her, came dancing out. Her black hair looked blue-green in the fading light, and her clothes were slightly loose on her, as if they were floating.
"May I join you, Amber?"
"How do you know my name?"
"I've always known you. I've watched over you since you were a child, and carried you to safety when you needed it."
"I'm sorry, I don't understand--"
"Do you remember a time when you were just a child, and ignored the rule to take your shoes off?"
She did remember. It was from a time before her mother had died. She had gone into the sea with her shoes on once, as a kid. Although her mother objected, the only sound she could hear was the splashing of the calm waves. She slowly made her way in until she was nearly neck deep in the water, when one of her her shoes came off. She had learned how to dive safely at home--that wasn't a problem. But suddenly the sea changed. The water came higher and started moving more as rain started falling.
It was a simple plan, but not really thought out. She would get her shoe and doggy paddle to shore. Her mother would surely help her. She was taller. But the rain started coming down harder, as if it were angry and attacking the ocean. A big wave came crashing down on Amber, and she couldn't find her way back to the surface. She opened her eyes, but they burned. It wasn't like the water at the pool. Her shoe's laces were now wrapped around her arm, safe from disappearing again. But she didn't know where she was. Why wasn't her mom coming for her? She tried yelling out, but forgot about the water. As soon as she opened her mouth, her lungs were flooded. Her mouth tasted of salt, and she couldn't breathe.
But someone else was there, swimming for her. They carried her to this cave until she woke up, and then took her to the main beach, where the sand was warm, until people found her and gave her ice cream. She had always thought it was her mother, but...
"Was that really you who saved me?"
"It really was. I'm happy to see you leave your shoes on the beach now."
"Why are you here now? I'm hardly drowning..."
"Not in a physical sense, at least. I see two wine glasses, but one person. I think that's reason enough for me to come."
"Well, then I suppose you should join me. I feel I still have to thank you for many things."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Book Review: Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson

After living in twelve places in eight years with her drifting mother, fourteen-year-old Calle Smith finds herself in Andreas Bay, California, at the start of ninth grade. Fearful of putting down roots anywhere, but armed with her song journal, she moves to her own sound track through a world that bounces her between the school drama crowd, a mysterious loner, and an unlikely boy who will become her first love. But it's the troubling truth she uncovers about her father that forces Calle to face the toughest choice of her young life.

Kim Culbertson technically writes for teenagers, but some grown-ups like her work. Sourcebooks Fire published her award winning first YA novel Songs for a Teenage Nomad (2010, originally Hip Pocket Press, 2007) and her second YA novel Instructions for a Broken Heart (2011) which was named a Booklist Top Ten Romance Title for Youth: 2011. Kim's short fiction has appeared in Cicada, Canary, and The Smoking Poet. When she's not writing for teens, she's teaching them. She's a college advisor and teaches creative writing and English at Forest Charter School in Northern California. Kim wrote her eBook novella The Liberation of Max McTrue for her students who, over the years, have taught her much more than she has taught them. Kim lives in the Northern California foothills with her husband, daughter, dog and rabbit, and drinks more coffee than perhaps she should.
Member, Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
Listed Author, Goodreads
Member, Sierra Writers
Kim Culbertson is represented by Melissa Sarver at The Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency:

My Review:

     Chapter and Writing Format:
           I loved the way each chapter started with a memory, giving the reader a better glimpse into the lives of Calle and her parents.

     Descriptions and Relationships:
          The relationships in this book were complicated and unpredictable. In short: the perfect and realistic kind. There was no 'good' or 'bad' person here. There were plenty of people to blame, but those same people were usually forgiven (I forgave them, at least. Whether the characters themselves did is their choice.) And you couldn't really hate any of them because they all had good qualities--every single one.

          It left me crying at the end. Seriously and honestly, if a book makes me cry at the end, I buy the sequel and add another star to the rating.

     Extra likable thing:
          How to make a song journal. First because by the end of the book, you really really want to make your own song book. Second, because the way the author instructs how to make one makes it seem easy enough to do with a classroom full of children.

why it would or wouldn't make a good movie

   Why It Wouldn't:
          Calle explains the same things a lot of times. Showing that interaction on repeat in a movie wouldn't go as well as it did in the book.

    Why It Would:
           The way Calle explains things for the first time has powerful, but simple description. It's easily pictured while still requiring a fair amount of imagination. Also, the soundtrack is bound to rock.

All in All: 5 of 5 stars

if you like this, read Hope Was Here

What happens when a saucy, optimistic teenager and a terrific short-order diner cook head to Mulhoney, Wisconsin? Great apple pie, a killer mayoral election, and a heartfelt story about life in a rural town.

Readers will immediately fall in love with 16-year-old Hope. She has bounced from place to place, serving plates of meat loaf and frittata specials to diner patrons cooked up by her aunt Addie, with whom she lives. Since changing her name from Tulip to Hope, this protagonist always tries to live up to her name, offering readers an uplifting look at politics, love, friendship, and, literally, life, as a waitress at G. T. Stoop's Welcome Stairways diner.

G. T., who is battling leukemia, decides to run for mayor of the town, so his diner, which is perpetually crowded with customers, becomes a hotbed of political activity. It is there that Hope shines as she runs around refilling coffee mugs, soothing customers whose orders have been screwed up, and fielding questions from curious voters. And it is in this small town's diner that she finds what has been missing from her life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Flash Fiction: Feeling

Flash Fiction description: Written quickly, in one sitting, with minimal edits.

 My FAVORITE type of writing

 Her dreams, everything she looked forward to as a kid...gone.

Her whole future had been formed around this one simple game. How could she lose? It wasn't possible. He wasn't possible. His serve burned a hole right through her racket. She looked away from her treasure; her baby. She looked up into his ocean blue eyes and her gaze rested on his smug smile.

How dare he? He wasn't even sorry! Louise threw her racket, not caring if it was against the rules, and charged over the net. His smirk dropped from his face in an instant, replaced by fear. Her hands curled up into tight fists as she planned her attack...

The shrill whistle of the referee sounded in constant alarm. Don't do that! it said, You're in trouble! Hands clutched her arms, keeping her away from doing this boy harm. She was no farther than a foot away from him, with no hope of getting closer. Hatred clouded her eyes as his smug smile returned, with a small laugh.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

 In 2036 New Jersey, when teens are expected to become fanatically religious wives and mothers or high-priced Surrogettes for couples made infertile by a widespread virus, 16-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony find in one another the courage to believe they have choices.

 Megan McCafferty is the author of BUMPED, a satirical dystopian YA novel published by the Balzer + Bray imprint of HarperCollins. She also wrote the bestselling Jessica Darling series: SLOPPY FIRSTS, SECOND HELPINGS, CHARMED THIRDS, FOURTH COMINGS and PERFECT FIFTHS.

Megan edited a short story anthology called SIXTEEN: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday. She has contributed to several fiction and nonfiction anthologies including DEAR BULLY, MY LITTLE RED BOOK, DOES THIS BOOK MAKE ME LOOK FAT? and EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME. Her work has been translated into eleven languages, including German, Chinese and Hungarian.

THUMPED, the sequel to BUMPED, is on sale 4/24/12.

 My Review:

Where to start?

In most dystopian/Utopian/parallel/"what if?" books, there are certain things that really ruin the story for me. Oddly enough, this had none of them.

The first being: new slang words. Usually I find myself tripping over the new world's slang, and feeling frustrated because it took that much time away from being completely immersed in the story. With Megan's book, the new words--"MiNet," "Neggy," "Fertilicious," even, were right in time with the rest of the story. They weren't overused, and actually helped us see what the characters were feeling. (As with Melody, instead of just smiling because she feels good, trying to fool everyone into thinking she's doing fine by saying "fertilicious.")

The second: being predictable. I had an idea of how the book was going to go by the second chapter. By the third, that idea changed. And then it kept changing with each new chapter until eventually I gave up trying to predict what was about to happen. I LOVE not being able to predict the end of a book.

Also, switching point of views: More often than not, I actually love when authors switch point of views with each chapter. The only time I didn't like it was the summer of sixth grade, reading a book titled 'Flipped' in which you literally had to flip the book upside down at the end of the book to read the other person's version of the story. Needless to say, Megan manages to switch the points of view gracefully and seamlessly, earning her a spot on my top YA authors list. I'll definitely be looking out for Thumped when it comes out.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Book Review: A Brief Conversation With My Hair

By Russell Bradury-Carlin

A collection of forty short literary humor pieces that have been featured on McSweeney's, Opium, and other websites. Titles include "The Calls of Cthulu", "Diary of a Grocery Cart", and "Dionysus: Party Clown". If you ever wondered if Allen Ginsburg could have put his talent to writing pay-per-click ads or how Calvin and Hobbes may have responded to reading Hemingway, you will find the answers.

I just want to say I loved this book. There were plenty of humor pieces about parenting that had me look at my little nephew with tears of laughter from behind my Kindle. My absolute favorites had to be "So now you're a therapist," "Gummy Bear Survival Guide," and "Introducing: Baby Talk."

Of course, the title's namesake, "A Brief Conversation with my Hair," was chuckle-worthy. Particularly so because the hair on the cover looks strikingly like David Tennant's head. As a self proclaimed Whovian, this is a major plus for any book.

Anthologies in general are usually favorites of mine. They require very little bursts of attention at a time, and if one story bombs, there's usually another that will quickly become your favorite. 

Give this read a try--you won't regret it.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The End of ED Awareness Week

Today we end National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Did you all learn something? Anything?

Just because the week has officially ended doesn't mean we should stop spreading the word. We keep helping, keep fighting, keep hoping that more is done to help those with an eating disorder of any kind.

To say goodbye to ED week and resume our regular blog content, I leave you with a few books to check out.

Regaining yourself: Breaking free from the Eating Disorder Identity; A Bold New Approach

By Ira M. Sacker, Sheila Buff

Regaining Your Self offers hope in the battle against eating disorders through a radical new therapy technique pioneered by Ira M. Sacker, M.D. A leader in the field, Dr. Sacker has been treating patients with eating disorders for thirty-five years. This breakthrough book, filled with firsthand accounts from patients, family members, friends, and others, provides what patients and their families desperately need: a therapeutic model that heals.

 Telling Ed No! And Other practical Tools To Conquer your Eating Disorder and Find Freedom
By: Cheryl Kerrigan

Recovery from an eating disorder requires support of all kinds, and this book is filled with ideas, exercises, and insights. Based on Kerrigan’s own inspiring story, Telling Ed No! is a toolbox of over 100 practical recovery tools, from family interventions, yoga, and massage, to music, role playing and even holding ice! Each tool brings the recovery process to life with prompts for reflection and discussion. Readers looking for guidance will learn: why having a “treatment team” is essential and how to assemble one, how to end self-destructive behaviors such as cutting and over-exercising, and how to transform Ed’s controlling rules into powerful, new recovery rules. Part-self-help book, part memoir, this unique workbook combines the power of real-life experiences and candid straight talk with suggestions and exercises that offer both hope and creative guidance.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Flash Fiction: Glimpse into an eating disorder


 (This won't happen again, promise.)

Flash fiction: Write fast and don't edit. Those are the rules.

 A special one for Eating disorder awareness week.

Time froze.
My hand dropped as my head floated towards the ceiling. I was in my own world now. My own dizzy, heart-pounding, lifeless, fascinating world.
"More," the voice said, "You must do more."
One more. Colors spin around me as I drop once again, stare into the porcelain altar. My knees drop as my nails graze the back of my throat. More. More comes out. Acid, blood. More and more.
I reach up to the counter and grab a washcloth, wiping my face and fingers. I must stand before the moment is over. I hold myself up against the bathtub, and straighten my knees as the room does somersaults around me.
"Good," says the voice, "You have done very well today. You are not a failure."
I am not a failure. I take a step, fall onto the pink floor mat. The moment is over. I must clean up now, before my parents come home.
Tomorrow I won't eat, I promise. Tomorrow I will be good. I will not fall. Tomorrow. Always tomorrow.
"You better not eat," the voice growls, "Or you will look like your dad. You could be the next girl sumo wrestler."
I don't want to be a sumo wrestler. I don't want to be fat. I will not eat tomorrow.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Feature and follow Friday!

Welcome again to Follow friday!

This week's feature: Owl Tell you About it. (I get the features from Alison, primarily. Parajunkee has her own feature.)

And this week's question....*drumroll*

(To paraphrase)
What book would you love to see made into a movie or TV series, and do you have actors in mind for the characters?

Wow. I'm just going through my list of awesome action books, here...But I'm going to be selfish, just a little. I'm working on a novel called 'Sarah Claus'--I think it would make the most adorable christmas movie ever. I don't actually have actors in mind, yet. I know what I want them to generally look like, but casting is best left to the professionals.

I posted the prologue to the novel Here, and I suppose I'll post another excerpt just for you guys!

Here we go....

     “Jason? I’m about to leave but I thought I’d check up on you.”
     “I’m sorry for being mean. I didn’t get to make a Christmas card, but I have this.” Sarah waited while Jason dug under his pillow for a worn out envelope. “I made this in April. It’s a letter to Santa. Do… do people really send them in November?”
     Sarah smiled and knelt down so she could talk to Jason. She understood better than most that having someone taller than you made them seem intimidating. Being eye to eye with a child was sometimes just the thing they needed.
     “People send letters to Santa all year round, Jason. Not just November and December. Sometimes I start as early as January, to say thank you, and then I keep sending lots of letters to him over the year.”
     Jason scrunched up his nose, looking skeptical. “Doesn’t that get on his nerves?”
     Sarah made a move to tuck her hair behind her ear out of habit, unknowingly knocking the hood off her head. “From a nice kid like you, Jason, Santa could only love every single letter he gets.”
     “Your hair is white.”
     “Your hair. It’s white.”
     “Oh…I was recruited to be Santa…s helper. An elf came into the kitchen while I was on my break and told me I was now Santa’s helper. The white hair is just a side effect.”
     “Um… yes?”
     “You want to know what I think?”
     “Can you think it using only good words?” Jason had a habit of expressing his thoughts with a lot of colorful words for his age.
     “I think if you’re really Santa’s helper, you can get this letter to him just fine.”
     Sarah smiled. Jason was smart for his age, the perfect age. Young enough to believe her, kind of, but old enough to just go along with it even if he was skeptical. She held out her hand, gently took the envelope, and tucked it in her pocket.
     “I will definitely do that. I’ll even see to it that Santa does everything he can to get you what you want for Christmas.” She hugged Jason, and stood to leave.
     “Miss Sarah.”
     “Your hair is still white. I think I’m the only one who’s going to believe you, so you should cover it up again.”
     “Right.” Sarah brought the hood up again and turned to leave. “Thank you, Jason. Good night.”
     Jason put one hand up in acknowledgment before Sarah crossed the threshold. Making sure no one was there to see, he got on his knees in front of his cot and started a small prayer.
     “Dear God. I’m not sure if I should trust Sarah. Becoming Santa’s helper doesn’t happen just like that, does it? He has his elves. But please make sure that Santa gets my letter. And if he can’t give me what I want, I hope you can. Even though you’re busy with wars and death and other things like that, if you ever have time please remember to take care of my family. Amen.”
     Meanwhile, Sarah was jumping inside as she walked up to Jordan, who already had her coat and bag ready to hand to her. She tried her best to make a sly, flirting smile towards him, but the one she received was a friendly one, not flirty at all.
     “So everything’s cool?”
     “Yeah. Cool. The coolest.”
     “With Jason?”
     “Yeah. Oh, yeah. Jason. You’ll get used to him. We don’t get many details, but things seem to be a bit rough at home. He’s a…”
     “Sweetheart, I know. According to you, every kid is a sweetheart.”
     “Well, they are.” By now they were outside, and Jordan was staring at Sarah. “You’re staring… do I have glitter everywhere?”
     “No!” Jordan started, “I mean, yes, but… why do you have your hood up? It’s not that cold out today.”
     “Oh, it’s—” Sarah wasn’t paying attention and didn’t get to finish her sentence as the ever curious Jordan pulled back her hood, revealing her white hair.
     “Your hair is white.”
     “Your hair. It’s white.”
     “Yes, I know. Gosh, you sound just like Jason.”
     “Why? How? When? Did I completely miss that when we came in?”
     “No, no, it’s really recent. I… would you believe I’m Santa’s helper?”
     “No. Santa’s not real.”
     That made Sarah stop and her shoulders lower a few inches. It always pained her to hear someone say they didn’t believe in Santa. Now more than ever, seeing as Sarah was Santa.
     “But hey, I admire your Christmas spirit.”
     “Yeah. Why are you in trouble, anyway? What did you do?”
     “A harmless prank.”
     “Yeah? How harmless?”
     “I just used duct tape to tie a new guy to the flag pole.”
     “That’s hazing! You should be ashamed of yourself!”
     “Hey, it was my idea to keep his clothes on, at least.” Jordan looked away, and did actually look ashamed. Sarah shook her head in shock, reminding her once again about her hair color. Pulling up the hood, she realized she had nothing more to say.
     This is my moment, she thought, I should flirt with him. Or ask what his favorite color is. Or… oh, here comes my house. Think, Sarah, think!
     “So… Sarah.”
     “Yeah!” Sarah covered her mouth and blushed as she realized that came out a little too enthusiastically. “I mean… yes?”
     Jordan chuckled. “You know I like you, right? Ever since middle school. You’re always happy and never in trouble, and that makes you really special. I… I don’t know, I feel some sort of connection with you.”
     “Really? Me? Why?”
     “I don’t know. I never really know. I’m not smart like you. Or… well, like anyone. But I do know I think we should be really good friends.”
     “Yeah. Yeah, I’d like that. Friends, then. This is my house. Thanks for walking me.”
     “No problem! Come here!” Without warning, Jordan pulled Sarah into a great bear hug, and suddenly she felt the connection he was talking about. It wasn’t puppy love, it was something much older than that. Or more mature. It felt as if they had known each other forever, even if this was the first time since the eighth grade Halloween disaster that they had hugged.

And Finally, the linky list.

ED awareness: how to help someone with an eating disorder

When approaching a loved one about an eating disorder, it’s important to communicate your concerns in a loving and non-confrontational way. Pick a time when you can speak to the person in private, then explain why you’re concerned. Try to remain positive, calm, focused, and respectful during conversations.

Your loved one may deny having an eating disorder or may become angry and defensive. However, it’s important you don’t give up. It may take some time before your loved one is willing to open up and admit to having a problem. Still, as difficult as it is to know that someone you love has an eating disorder, you cannot force someone to change. Unless it’s a young child, the decision to seek recovery has to come from them. But you can help by making it clear that you’ll continue to be there for him or her, with your compassion and support, whenever they’re ready to tackle the problem.

Be careful to avoid critical or accusatory statements, as this will only bring out your friend’s or family member’s defenses. Instead, focus on the specific behaviors that worry you.
  • Focus on feelings and relationships, not on weight and food. Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about the person’s eating behavior. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional help.
  • Tell them you are concerned about their health, but respect their privacy. Eating disorders are often a cry for help, and the individual will appreciate knowing that you are concerned.
  • Do not comment on how they look. The person is already too aware of their body. Even if you are trying to compliment them, comments about weight or appearance only reinforce their obsession with body image and weight.
  • Make sure you do not convey any fat prejudice, or reinforce their desire to be thin. If they say they feel fat or want to lose weight, don't say "You're not fat." Instead, suggest they explore their fears about being fat, and what they think they can achieve by being thin.
  • Avoid power struggles about eating. Do not demand that they change. Do not criticize their eating habits. People with eating disorders are trying to be in control. They don't feel in control of their life. Trying to trick or force them to eat can make things worse.
    Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt on the person regarding their actions or attitudes. Do not use accusatory “you” statements like, “You just need to eat.” Or, “You are acting irresponsibly.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I’m concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.”
  • Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, "If you'd just stop, then everything would be fine!"
Adapted from: National Eating Disorder Information Center and National Eating Disorders Association

 After talking to your friend about their eating disorder and bringing up the idea of recovery, it's time to tell someone else. The school counselor if you're in college or public school, or even as far as that person's regular doctor or parents. NEDA has lots of resources for families looking to help their children or siblings with eating disorders. The point is: Your friend needs help and understanding. Don't wait until their life is in danger or until it's simply too late. Tell someone sooner, not later.

Related reading:

Because I Feel Fat: Helping the ones you love deal with an eating disorder; By Johanna Marie McShane, PH.D

"Because I Feel Fat: Helping the Ones You Love Deal with an Eating Disorder" is a comprehensive guide that gives family, friends, and loved ones a thorough understanding of what eating disorders are and how to help their loved ones recover. Easy to read and understand, "Because I Feel Fat" breaks down complex disorders into simple terms that gives everyone, from the sufferer and worried loved one, a common ground of understanding. Through painfully honest and heartbreaking first-person stories, gathered from interviews with women suffering from anorexia and bulimia nervosa, the reader learns what it is like to have an eating disorder, in hopes that this insight will answer questions and identify the keys to helping with recovery.""Because I Feel Fat..."is a thorough and comprehensive book that will be of great value to both those who have an eating disorder and to their significant others. It fills a much needed gap in the resources that exist today by offering in detail the perspective of people who suffer from eating disorders."

 Friends Helping Friends: A Guide To Approaching Peers About Their Potential Eating Disorder; by

It provides resources and insights regarding body image, dealing with your own issues, treatment options, risk factors, and much more. Most importantly, this book is a guide and teaches the reader how to approach a peer about the incredibly sensitive issue of an eating disorder. There is even a workbook at the back to help you lay out your approach. I hope you find this book useful, encouraging, and empowering.

Flash Fiction: Setting

Flash Fiction Description: Written quickly, in a single pass, with minimal editing.

 My FAVORITE type of writing.

The king of flames stood high on his throne, threatening punishment. The sky joined him in the tantrum, as if they were twin brothers determined to teach their parents a lesson. The clouds adopted a deep crimson, tainting the air with the color of blood. If you looked up, you could see none of the kind blue sky that had smiled at us just moments before. Even the sea joined, hissing and boiling savagely around a scattered graveyard of defeated stones.

I felt the sea not to be part of this tantrum, but fancied it was just as scared as we were; an innocent bystander yearning to get away. The rocks quivered, cracked and scorched as they were, waiting for furthur punishment from their savage creator. The volcano roared louder, screaming a warning of doom. In the horizon, the sky faded into a soft peach color, and the sea was calm. The clouds and rocks ended at the same point, as if there were a boundary line they could not pass.
The worst of it was around the volcano, which we were still desperately stumbling down. With a shriek to envy a laboring woman, fire and boulders spewed out the top, cutting through the smothering ash and smoke like butter. In the second before gravity sent this chaos hurtling towards us, I knew what the citizens of Pompeii must have felt. If I weren't going to die, this would have been a great setting for my novel.