Sunday, February 27, 2011

Suzanne Selfors Interview!

Your newest novel, Mad Love, deals with a variety of subjects, from writing a book to mythology to mental illness to just being a teenage girl. What inspired you to combine everything in one novel? Was there any one part that was harder or easier to write than the rest?

When I step back and think about it, yes, I did cram a lot into this book. But that wasn't planned. I didn't decide that this was going to be my "issues" book or anything like that. The story grew as I got to know my main character. She has a very complicated life. And I liked the complexity of her situation. There wasn't an easy part to the writing but I will say that Errol, the Cupid character, was the hardest part to write. He wanted to take over the book. I had to keep reminding myself that this was Alice's story. I think I may give Errol his own book one of these days.

As I mentioned, Cupid and mythology play a role in the novel. Is mythology something that's always intrigued you? Do you have a favorite myth?I love mythology. It was my favorite class in high school. It always seeps into my novels. In Coffeehouse Angel, I re-imagined the messenger god, Hermes. In my first adult novel, Daughters of Crete, which was published overseas, I re-imagined the myth of Ariadne and Theseus. And now, in Mad Love, I'm playing with Cupid.

My favorite myth would have to be Daedalus and his winged escape from the labyrinth.

In the novel, Alice's mother is a best-selling romance author and Alice attempts to write her own romance novel. Was it ever difficult or weird to write about writing as a major plot point?
I had fun with that. You see, I know some romance writers and we often talk about how much the genre is made fun of. How people think it's easy to write romance because it's just a formula, etc. I even used to think some of those things. But the truth is, writing is hard, period. Whether you're writing sci fi, kids' novels, mysteries, romances, whatever. It's hard to take a story from beginning to end with 300 pages in between. In Mad Love, I poke fun at the false notions about romance writing, and I try to shed some light on the truth.

You write for both middle grade and teen readers. Do you have a favorite? What has been the main difference in writing for the two age groups?

They are completely different worlds. I love middle grade because those books are all about adventure. I can do anything! And I do. With the teen novels, there has to be some sort of romantic tension. That's trickier for me to write.

What are you working on now? What can readers expect from you next?

Next up is Smells Like Treasure, my sequel to kids' book Smells Like Dog, in May this year. And I'm currently writing my next teen novel, out in 2012. It's a fairy tale.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Title: Clockwork Angel

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)


Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

My Thoughts: I expected to absolutely ADORE Clockwork Angel - afterall, I did a little dance when I snagged a copy (and there are various authors that were witness to this) - and I did. It was so different from what I was expecting but oh so good at the same time.

A good part of the first half of the novel involves a lot of world-building and setting up the plot. This doesn't mean that nothing happens because a lot does, but once you reach the middle of the book, you hit Clare's writing at its finest. I dare you to put the book down once you hit page 300!

The plot...whoa. So different from what I was expecting and yet, I also felt like it was perfect. There were so many plot twists that I did not see coming and I was on the edge of my seat for the last quarter of the book. The ending completely shocked me and the very ending left me begging for Book 2.

Character-wise, I think I love this cast of characters even better than those in Mortal Instruments, which is saying a lot because I LOVE Jace. But oh, the cast of characters in Clockwork Angel is just so unique and they all contrast each other so well. Even the minor characters have distinct personalities and I LOVE that. Each character is so complex and I'm definitely looking forward to spending more time with them and learning more about them. Then, there's Jem and Will...honestly, I adore both of them. At this point, I think it's impossible to choose between them and I love their relationship with each other and how they contrast each other so well. I'm particularly intrigued by Will - I can't wait to find out his secrets!

One of the great things about Clockwork Angel is that you can enjoy it without having read the Mortal Instruments but if you have read the Mortal Instruments, it's almost like you're an insider to some secrets within the book. For example, the character Magnus Bane makes an appearance in Clockwork Angel and he's an important minor character in Mortal Instruments, so it's really interesting to see his character years before that takes place.

Overall, Clockwork Angel did nothing but impress me. It's landed a spot in my all-time favorite books and I can't wait for Book 2. Obviously if you enjoyed Clare's previous books, you'll love this. But, even if you haven't read the Mortal Instruments, definitely give this one a shot! It's worth every penny!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Are Mermaids Real? Guest blog by Hélène Boudreau

Today, I have author Hélène Boudreau here to talk about whether or not mermaids exist. For more info about her novel, Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings, check out my review.

Are Mermaids Real?

That is the question, isn’t it? Or, at least the question I hope to answer in this blog post. Well…the scientist in me is pretty sure that there aren’t pods of pesco-sapiens floating around the seven seas but the ‘kid’s writer’ side of my brain isn’t so sure. So, for the sake of argument, and purely for my entertainment (and hopefully yours), let’s review the evidence from all angles.

Pros: what evidence is there that mer-people actually DO exist?

1. A popular theory of evolution involves the idea that all life forms originated from a watery stew called the Primordial Soup. (Mmm…sounds tasty.) Apparently, a bunch of molecules swam around in a liquid suspension, bumped into each other randomly and somehow organized themselves in such a way to support life. So, if humans got their watery beginning this way, what’s to say that there wasn’t a stray branch on the evolutionary tree? Hm?
2. Humans cry salty tears and sweat salty sweat—just like ocean water. Co-inky-dink? I think not.
3. Apparently, humans are the only land animals that can consciously hold their breath. We have a descended larynx like walruses and sea lions, making it easier to block water from flooding our lungs. The evidence does not lie! I read it on the interwebz, after all.

Cons: what evidence is there that mer-people DO NOT exist?

1. Because Youtube says so:

However, IF mer-people actually ARE real, I have a couple of questions for them:

1. What is your preferred mode of communication? Shellphones? (just kidding…) But seriously, do you squeak high-pitched squeals like dolphins or do you use hand gestures? Oh! Can you teach me how to swear in Mermish?
2. There are millions of hits for ‘mermaids’ on Google so why don’t you have a book deal by now? Want me to hook you up with my agent?
3. Boxers or briefs?

So, what about you? Do you have any theories for or against the existence of Real Mermaids? Feel free to share!


Hélène Boudreau is the author of REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS. She’s never spotted a real mermaid in the wild but the writer in her thinks they are just as plausible as seahorses, flying fish and electric eels.

In a fun promotion, Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky is offering signed Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings bookplates with proof of purchase. More info HERE.

*You can find Hélène on Twitter, Facebook and on her Website.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors + CONTEST

Title: Mad Love

Author: Suzanne Selfors

Publisher: Walker Books


When you're the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life should be pretty good. But 16-year-old Alice Amorous has been living a lie ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness. After putting on a brave front for months, time is running out. The next book is overdue, and the Queen can't write it. Alice needs a story for her mother-and she needs one fast.

That's when she meets Errol, a strange boy who claims to be Cupid, who insists that Alice write about the greatest love story in history: his tragic relationship with Psyche. As Alice begins to hear Errol's voice in her head and see things she can't explain, she must face the truth-that she's either inherited her mother's madness, or Errol is for real.

My Thoughts: Mad Love was...everything I wasn't expecting, which is both good and bad.

Mad Love is much more than a fun Valentine's Day story. With the exception of Cupid playing a major role, it's not exactly a very Valentine's Day-y read. In fact, it's not a very light read at all.​ However, that's not necessarily a bad thing because Mad Love weaves together some very important topics and brings a mythological tale to life as a subplot, all while keeping the book realistic.

One thing I loved about Mad Love is that it tackled the issue of mental illness and another disease without becoming an "issue" book or a depressing read. Both were weaved into the story in a way that did not hog the plot while also bringing attention to the matter. That's something that is not usually done well in YA and I think that Selfors did a fantastic job of it.

I also loved the role that writing played in the novel. Alice, who has never written anything in her life, has to attempt to write the next greatest romance novel. As a writer, it was entertaining to watch someone attempt to write a book based on how they think it's done and all of the attempts she made.

The range of characters in the story was great - I don't think there was a single stereotypical character in there. Some characters provided comic relief, others propelled the angst and some did both.

However, the downside to a novel with so many original characters and subplots is that sometimes, I really wanted more and felt like they weren't all fully developed. Since the over-all novel was so well-written, it didn't take too much away from the story, though.

If you're looking for a unique and captivating novel, check out Mad Love!​

The publisher has generously offered not only a hardcover of Mad Love but also a paperback of Suzanne's previous novel, COFFEEHOUSE ANGEL. (Which I loved!)

To Enter:
-Must have a US address
-Must be 13 or older.

-Leave a comment on this post either commenting on my review or letting me know why you want to win.

Ends: February 28th

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

Title: Bitter Melon

Author: Cara Chow

Publisher: Egmont USA


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 Thoughts: It's a bit of an understatement to say I liked Bitter Melon. I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would. It made me think and gave me insight to something that I'd never really thought about, which is something I really love in a book.

To be honest, I'd never given much thought to Chinese-American students and how smart they tend to be. In my tiny little town, I don't think there's a single Chinese-American student at my school so it was just something that never came on to my radar. This book, however, put things into total perspective. It tackled an issue that seems to be very prominent in society without being preachy or whiny.

Bitter Melon is a truly dynamic book - it does not just focus on academics or the mother-daughter relationship or any other particular thing. Instead, it weaves in the high standards Frances is expected to meet and maintain with things that your every day teen faces, like relationships with boy and self-esteem. Each subplot is fully developed and woven together to create a story that's hard to put down.

Frances is a character that everyone is going to be able to relate to and a character that I really admire. Her determination really struck a chord with me and while I don't want to give anything away, I was really proud of her by the end of the novel. Obviously the Chinese culture plays a part in this and honestly, the culture difference shocked me. I'd never really given any thought to how different nationalities within the US live and the little things were However, that insight to Chinese culture also added insight to the characters of Frances' mom and their family friends and why they did the things they did. As I said, Bitter Melon is dynamic and everything works together.

Overall, I highly recommend this one. I had trouble putting it down and it's perfect for when you don't want to read a dark issue book but need something more than a fluff read. It's a book that I'm sure is definitely going to mean something to Chinese-Americans but will also relate to all other teens as well. So if you see a copy in the store, be sure to pick it up!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready

Title: Shift

Author: Jeri Smith Ready

Publisher: Simon & Schuster


Aura’s life is anything but easy. Her boyfriend, Logan, died, and his slides between ghost and shade have left her reeling. Aura knows he needs her now more than ever. She loves Logan, but she can’t deny her connection with the totally supportive, totally gorgeous Zachary. And she’s not sure that she wants to.

Logan and Zachary will fight to be the one by her side, but Aura needs them both to uncover the mystery of her past—the mystery of the Shift.

As Aura’s search uncovers new truths, she must decide whom to trust with her secrets…and her heart.

My Thoughts: Shade was my favorite paranormal of 2010 and I basically idolize Jeri Smith Ready (seriously, if you love paranormal and music, read her adult books!), so I had huge expectations for Shift. So huge, in fact, that once I actually had a copy of the book, I was afraid to read it for fear of being disappointed.

But, of course, Jeri is a genius and I had no reason to worry because well, Shift ROCKS. Hard. I read it when I was sick and wanted to do nothing but sleep and yet it still managed to make me never, ever want to put it down.

Okay, fangirling aside now. (Maybe)

Shift picks up a little bit after Shade leaves off, with Aura still caught between her feelings for Logan and Zachary and Logan basically stuck between shade and ghost. Logan wants to be with Aura, even though he can't touch her, Aura's trying to move on, and Zachary is gorgeous, er, I mean, wants Aura for himself. However, unlike in Shade, there's a few unseen twists that makes this love triangle into more of a love...pentagon, which sounds kind of ridiculous but actually brings out a lot of emotion and lets the reader see other sides of the story.

Aside from the romantic twists, Shift is full of all different kinds of plot twists. Sometimes the reader is expecting them or at least something similar, sometimes the reader isn't. Either way, it pretty much guarantees the book isn't going to be put down. I don't want to say anything else about that because I don't want to spoil it.

One of my favorite things about Shift is that even though it's the second book in a series, it doesn't feel like the second book in a series. What I mean by that is a lot of the time, Book 2 just feels like an extension of Book 1 and is just carrying the characters along to Book 3 with no real plot, no real ending. But Shift is fully developed and the ending is wrapped up nicely while still leaving the reader with enough questions to make them want the next book RIGHT NOW.

I also love how we get to see the different sides of various characters in the story, especially Logan's brothers. And Zachary's accent. And I love reading about the music and the stars and everything else that filters into making Shift stand out from all of the other paranormal books out there. And I love Zachary.

And...I could go on all day. The point is, I LOVE THIS BOOK.

If there's one book you pre-order all year, it should be SHIFT. It's truly refreshing and is definitely going to surpass everyone's expectations. If you haven't read Shade, then you're truly missing out and need to order it ASAP!

Teen Chick Lit

I just wrote a post over at the YA Lit Six that I think many of my readers here will enjoy! Check it out!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guatemala Update #2

(For new followers of my blog, you can view this post, which explains my Guatemala trip and the various fundraisers I was/am doing.)

It's official! My passport came in the mail today and our plane tickets have been purchased! In 6 weeks and 5 days, I will be boarding a plane to head to Joyabaj, Guatemala. I'm starting to get really excited and nervous too!

Unfortunately, I still have a lot to do before then, like raise another $800. I'm applying for a few jobs, so cross your fingers that I'll get one(!), but that still won't be enough.

I am also still offering all of the opportunities from my first post.

-Advertising on my blog is still $5 for two weeks.
-Critiques are $10-$15, depending on the novel length. (I can provide references for this as well.)
-There is still some room left on the shirts but I am designing them TODAY. This is a great promo opportunity for your book but if you're interested, please contact me TODAY.
-Finally, if you aren't interested in any of these options but would still like to help me meet my goal, there is still a Paypal button in the corner of my blog.

I also want to say THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone that has helped me so far. I wouldn't have made it this far without your support. Every little bit does make a difference and I really believe that we'll be making a HUGE difference in the lives of the people we're going to meet. We're basically the first American students to EVER visit this school and we're going to be doing all sorts of community service projects. We're also taking over laptops and other supplies for the students, things that they'd normally never have. I think this is going to be a life-changing experience for everyone involved.