Thursday, April 28, 2011

Author Guest Post: Meg Cabot discusses Abandon

Today I have a special guest on the blog, here to talk about her new book Abandon .... Meg Cabot.  I enjoyed her fresh take on the Persephone myth (I love Greek mythology!).  Take it away Meg!

My new book, Abandon, which is partly based on the myth of Hades and Persephone, takes place on a fictional island in the Florida Keys called Isla Huesos.

Persephone (in case it’s been a while since you’ve brushed up on your Greek myths) is a young girl who was pretty much minding her own business when the earth opened up in front of her, and from out of the chasm came Hades, the god of the dead, who kidnapped her and took her to his palace in the Underworld.

Key West (a non-fictional island in the Florida Keys in which I live) was the inspiration for Isla Huesos, which means Island of Bones. The original name for Key West (Cayo Huesos) is said to have come from the Spanish explorers who discovered it in the late 1500s, because the beaches there were covered in bones . . . human bones. Why human bones?

Well, come on down to the Southernmost point in the USA, and I’ll tell you.


With its palm trees and margaritas, most people think of Key West as a great vacation paradise.

But if you wanted to find perfect location for a horror movie (or a paranormal romance novel), all you have to do is use your imagination, and you couldn’t dream up a more perfect locale than Key West, where we have to bury our dead in stone crypts above ground or when there’s a hurricane, the coffins will float away.

Maybe that’s why the local high school here in Key West has a yearly ritual called Coffin Week, in which the senior class builds and hides a coffin somewhere on the island and the juniors have to find it.

Or maybe they do it because of the reasons in Abandon . . . .

But that’s not all Pierce, the heroine of Abandon, discovers when she’s forced to move to Isla Huesos after a few too many incidents at her old high school get her expelled. See, Pierce has been to the other side . . . .
And by the other side, I mean Pierce is an NDE. She’s had a near death experience, and someone she met there wants her back.

She thinks she’ll be able to make a new start on Isla Huseos.

Maybe not.

Abandon trailer

While I was writing Abandon, I spent a lot of time in the Key West cemetery. I even made a video in the cemetery about the book (click here to see it). We were pretty much convinced the entire time we were filming that the lord of the Underworld was going to come out of the one of the crypts (like he may or may not do in Abandon) and try to kidnap us.

In fact, I find the Key West cemetery so chilling (even though it’s a pretty big tourist attraction) that I had to beg the camera people to finish filming back at my house where I'm pretty sure there aren't any ghosts wandering around.

Happily, they obliged because I don't think they liked hanging around crypts anymore than I did.

Unlike Isla Huesos, Key West is a real place in which tons of ordinary people live and work . . . probably a lot like your own town.

But like anywhere, if you take a moment to learn its real history, look beyond what you see on the surface, and use your imagination, it can become something magical . . . and maybe even supernatural . . .

And the basis for a paranormal romance that could even rival the myth of Hades and Persephone.

To see more of Meg’s pictures, check out her Flickr photostream:

Find out more about the book at Meg's website.

Oh, and by the way - Scholastic has launched a new online community called This Is Teen to connect readers with their favorite YA authors and books. Visit their page on Facebook for all the latest news on Meg Cabot and her new book ABANDON


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (28)

It's been really warm in Frankfurt lately, and the kittehs have been spending lots of time on the balcony.  Emmy likes to curl up in the flower pots.

And Lu and Kaia want in on the fun too.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I don't read much middle grade, but there are some middle grade novels I adore such as:
HOLES by Louis Sachar
THE TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo
THE BAD BEGINNING by Lemony Snicket
THE BIG SPLASH by Jack D. Ferraiolo (read my rave review & interview w/Jack here)

So, Jack D. Ferraiolo has a new book which I am dying to read called SIDEKICKS. (And in interest of full disclosure, yes, Jack and I share an agent - and in fact Jack's book is one of the reasons I was so eager to work with said agent.)

And Jack has created a hilarious digital short for SIDEKICKS.  Check it out (and if you want to see a non-cut off version, go here:

And find out more about SIDEKICKS at Jack's website.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Book Blogger Book Club

The First Book Blogger Book Club is a way to let people know about the great titles that schools and programs serving low-income kids can get through First Book, and get people talking about books!

This month the book club read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, which I read and reviewed way back in June of 2008.  Here's a excerpt of my review:

Two of my favorite themes in literature are coincidence and the search for identity --And when you get a book about how coincidence can have a part in shaping identity, all the better.

Frankie is a strategist, a debater, and someone who wants to be a real “off-roader”. She asserts her unique identity by using “neglected positives” (i.e. ept to mean skilled – from inept) in everyday speech, by challenging the unwritten rules of who sits where in the caf, and of course by covertly taking over the basset hounds.

Frankie is a great character – one that I immensely enjoyed spending time with!

Check out the book club!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (27)

Lu is showing off his fluffy tail:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Introducing the BBC Scholarship Winner: Janssen of Everyday Reading

Please join me in congratulating the winner of the $620 prize package to attend BBC/BEA - Janssen!

Janssen, a former elementary school librarian and current SAHM, lives in Austin, TX and blogs at  Janssen has been contributing to the book blogosphere consistently since 2007.  She agreed to answer a few questions today.

What does the book blogging community mean to you?

When I finish a book, I almost always go read several other reviews of it from other book blogs. I love seeing what things other readers picked up on, what they liked that I liked and what they liked that I hated (or what they hated that I liked). I feel like the vast diversity of bloggers enriches my experience as a reader as I get a chance to see the book through their eyes. And I am constantly amazed by what excellent readers and writers there are in the book blogging community; reading their reviews makes me want to read more deeply and think more critically about what I read.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of your blog? How will attending BBC improve your blog?
I think my blog has a lot of non-book blogger readers, which I've always liked and appreciated. It's fun to write for people who haven't heard tons of buzz about new books and maybe wouldn't hear about them otherwise. I think I also work hard to write only about books I feel fairly passionate about (either positively or negatively). My blog has relatively few reviews (I hope!) that are short and neutral. I really try to only write about books I have something to say about.

I do think I struggle to make strong recommendations for a book, because I am so conflicted about the many many kinds of readers there are out there. Will one reader find the content offensive? Will someone think the writing is lousy? I can really work myself into a complete paralysis about whether or not I can recommend something. I'm hoping BBC will help me focus a little a more on who my audience is, what I want my reviews to accomplish, and how to address my concerns.

What are you most looking forward to about the BEA/BBC experience?
I can't wait for the chance to meet many of the bookbloggers that I've read and admired for a long time and to hear how other people run their blogs and deal with the issues of book blogging. And of course, I am really looking forward to hanging out with a few of my friends from library school who are also attending BEA/BBC. After just attending the Texas Library Association conference in Austin last week, I was reminded that the best part about any conference is the chance to spend time and talk with people who love books as much as I do. I can't wait!

Your blog has been around a long time. What advice do you have for newer book bloggers?
I started reading book blogs after I graduated from college and was trying to figure out what to read (pulling books at random off the shelves at the library was proving to be a lousy system). Now my to-read list is so long I know I will never make a dent in it. There's just SO much out there to read and the more book blogging you do, the more you'll find to read. I waste less time now on books that aren't interesting to me. If you're starting a book blog, read what you're interested in - you have to like it not only enough to finish the book but then to write about it afterward. And try not to be apologetic about your taste (I am terrible at this, but I still think it's good advice); it's okay to like something other people can't stand or to dislike something that is enormously popular. Have something to say about what you read, why you liked or didn't like - if I'm just looking for a synopsis, I can look at Goodreads or Amazon. And try not to compare yourself to other book bloggers. Some get popular really fast or get tons of free books or whatever. Blog about books because you love to read - everything else is very secondary.

Thank you Janssen!  Can't wait to meet you at BBC!

To learn more about Book Blogger Con 2011, visit the official BBC website!

PS - Did you know I will be on a panel at BBC?  Yep - check it out --- I will be on the Practical Challenges of Blogging panel from 10 am - 12 noon.  Come see me!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Future of My Blog + Ask Me Anything!

Over the next few months, I will have less time for my blog because I am writing and revising LEVEL TWO! 

I will still be posting:

- Cat Tuesday
- (hopefully) 1 book review a week (at the very least)
- writing or LEVEL TWO updates (when I have news)

I'm also probably going to have to move Dystopian August to September, but let's see.

Perhaps you have some questions you'd like me to answer?  If so, fill out this form (or comment on this post) and your question could be the subject of a future post!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Advance Buzz Book Review: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

The deal: Carmen is a 17 year old violin prodigy, already accepted to Julliard, already winner of a classical music Grammy. She is pushed to achieve increasing greater success by her mother Diana, a former opera singer who lost her promising career due to a medical condition.  As the story opens, Carmen is preparing for a prestigious violin competition that takes place only once every four years.  If Carmen wins, she’ll tour the world. Losing is not an option.  Her main competition is Jeremy - a handsome Brit who takes a romantic interest in her.

Despite her fame and talent, Carmen comes off as a very relatable teen. She’s sheltered by her controlling mother, which makes her na├»ve. The tension between Carmen and Jeremy (and between Carmen and her mother for that matter) is palpable and is the driving force behind the narrative – is Jeremy using Carmen or does he really care about her? Does Carmen’s mother have her best interests at heart or is she merely using Carmen as vehicle to restore her own broken dreams?

The narrative also affords the reader a fascinating inside look at the competitive world of classical music and what it takes to be world-class.  I loved it!

Add this to your wishlist if:  You're a fan of classical music, Glee and/or Sara Bennett Wealer's RIVAL. You like a romance with a twist.  Add at GoodReads.

VIRTUOSITY comes out October 18, 2011.  Find out more about it at the author's website.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (26)

I just think this Kaia pose is pretty funny:

Monday, April 11, 2011

A look at my top 10 blog posts

I've seen this at a couple of blogs lately (Adele's for example), so I checked out my own stats on blogger to see which ones were getting the most traffic in terms of unique visitors.  Now, keep in mind, this is only for the past year.

1. Mockingjay District 10 Post  - No big surprise here! After all, I did put together an awesome playlist and offered a iPod prize.

2. Book Deal Announced - !!!!  Also probably the winner of most comments at 245!

3. Author Interview: Ally Condie discusses Matched 

4. Author Ann Bonwill discusses Christmas Picture Books - I bet this gets a lot of google searches.

5. Author Interview: Maggie Stiefvater discusses Shiver & Linger

6. Free eBook Ranger's Apprentice - Bet they're disapointed when they see this is from 2008 and expired.

7. Author Interview: Megan McCafferty discusses Bumped

8. Where to get free books and ARCs

9. Dystopian August Kick-Off

10. BBAW sign-up

Interesting...especially for those who claim no one reads author interviews ...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Readathon Book Review: Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart

Philadelphia 1876: Katherine's hollowness after the loss of her twin Anna drives her to contemplate suicide.  Katherine had always been the more responsible twin, self-charged with looking out for careless, carefree Anna.  So when Anna dies in an accident, Katherine feels it was her fault - and she just can't live with her guilt.

As per usual, Kephart writes with clarity, beauty and keen observation.  I felt the weight of Katherine's grief - the tragic fragility of life and how all can be lost in an instant.  Katherine cannot cope with the fact that the world bustles on, despite Anna's departure.  Her parents refuse to talk about it, she has no other friends to turn to. But the Centennial fair, and the chance encounters it provides, brings hope back into Katherine's life.

This is a quiet story - no shocking revelations or sordid twists. It's power lies in its intense emotional honesty and its finely crafted prose.

Find out more about the book at the author's blog.

Readathon Book Review: The Ivy by Lauren Kunze

It is Callie from California's first year at Harvard.  But instead of concentrating on her studies, like you might expect, Callie gets on the party circuit and is well on her way to flunking out ...

If my summary sounds like this novel is a cautionary tale, well ... that's just my takeaway.  Because in reality, THE IVY revels in scandal, parties, hooking up, and making fun of the few people who actually take their studies seriously.

It all starts out engaging enough - flip-flop wearing Callie is a fish out of water in a social scene filled with privileged teens from elite families - and at first, I rooted for her to carve out her own niche.  But then ... I started to wonder how someone as apparently brainless as Callie ever got into Harvard.

I can understand the appeal of a fun, frothy expose type read about "what really goes on" in the Ivy League.  And I am sure the type of stuff presented in this book - backstabbing, casual sex, partying, getting drunk, etc - can happen at Harvard just as much as it can happen anywhere.  Unfortunately, Callie's adventures in higher education - a blur of boys and parties - are mostly mind-numbingly boring.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Readathon Book Review: You Wish by Mandy Hubbard

Kayla's party planner mother throws her a sweet 16 birthday she doesn't even want, complete with a super expensive pink cake.  When it comes time to make a wish, Kayla wishes that her birthday wishes would come true.  And then they do ... with hilarious results.

This is a fun, frothy read that mostly hits the right notes.  I loved how perfectly the various wishes Kayla made over her years of birthdays fit into the narrative (though the pink pony wore out his/her welcome pretty quickly) and the idea of Raggedy Ann coming to life was brill!  In fact, Ann was probably my favorite character of all.  Though there were a lot of wacky, over the top scenes, there was also a definite heart behind it all.  Aww!

Find out more about the book at the author's website.

Readathon Book Review: The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

14 year old Lucia lives in Cuba with her parents and younger brother.  Her concerns are mainly the latest fashions and attending the school dance until soldiers of the revolution come to her town and change her life forever.  Realizing it is no longer safe for them, her parents send Lucia and her brother to the US where they end up living with a family in Nebraska.

Probably the most engaging part of this book was the first part where Lucia slowly comes to realize that something is very wrong in her country.  She has to grow up fast and friendships are tested.  Lucia's relationship with her brother is also a strong anchor in the story, one that keeps her hope alive even set adrift in an unfamiliar environment, not knowing if she'll ever see her parents again.

Powerful and touching historical fiction! Find out more about the book at the author's website.

Readathon a GO!

I'm participating in the 24 hr Readathon today.  As usual, when I finish a book, I'll post my review immediately.  So look for those throughout the day.

First order of business: The welcome meme!

1)Where are you reading from today? At home, in Frankfurt, Germany.

2)Three random facts about me… I am addicted to spinich (seriously!), I've visited 55 countries and 46 states so far, I have two brothers, 1 step-brother and 1 step sister.

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?  Zillions!

4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? No goal - just have fun!

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Choose short books! Now's not the best time to tackle War & Peace.

See you soon!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review: Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Mercy is not sure what or who she is - all she knows is that she jumps from body to body.  This time, she occupies the body of Carmen, a teen singer on a trip with her choir.  Carmen is placed into a host family full of grief - their daughter, also a singer, has been missing for more than a year.  Mercy must play the part of Carmen and try to solve the mystery of the missing girl, all while searching for an immortal love that visits her only in her dreams.

This story reminded me a lot of the 80s TV show Quantum Leap - in that Mercy seems to jump into bodies to set things right for the people involved.  Though the novel touches on Mercy's past and her identity, the main plot centers on preparing for a musical performance and sleuthing.  I loved that Mercy could add an extra dimension to her voice to literally make Carmen sing like an angel.  The descriptions of their choir practices really made me wish I could listen in!

The mystery was also very satisfying and surprising.  At the end, we finish with Carmen's story, but we can also look forward to Mercy inhabiting other bodies as the series continues.

MERCY is available in Australia now and will be published in hardcover in the US next month. Find out more about the author.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Book Review, Guest Post & Giveaway: Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Missy Miller, a cutter, has been chosen to be the new avatar of War.  Will she accept the post, or will War destroy her?

Characters killing cats? It's a deal breaker.  So when Missy admits to killing her cat in the first sentence of this book, I was prepared to hate her.  Heck - I might not have even read on if I hadn't agreed to do a blog tour and if I hadn't enjoyed HUNGER - the first book in the series.  Fortunately, not all is what it seems, and I grew to really sympathize and care about Missy.

Short but unflinchingly brutal, RAGE is the kind of book you read in one sitting, but preferably with purring furry creatures next to you.  Though it's hard for me to believe that Missy's classmates could be so cruel (and they are seriously deranged in their cruelty - on par with the girls in SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers, and that's saying something), it works in the context of this story. 

And now... a word from the author herself!


By Jackie Morse Kessler

When I sat down to write HUNGER, the words came pouring out. That’s probably due to the book building inside for more than 10 years (note to self: don’t wait 10 years to write another book). I hadn’t thought beyond HUNGER until, after my agent sold it, she asked me which Horseman I’d be writing about next. Based on events in the book, it made sense for the next story to focus on War. And that got me thinking about the huge sword that War carried in HUNGER. And that got me thinking about other types of blades, and soon I made the connection to self-injury. So I pitched RAGE, about a 16-year old self-injurer who becomes the new avatar of War. “Great!” said my agent. “Get me a proposal!”

So I sat down and tried to figure out who the protagonist would be. And I sat. And I sat. When the answer didn’t magically appear, I began researching self-injury. Slowly, I got to know the main character. Even so, I was stalled until the day my cat died. When I was putting away her carrier for the last time, the first lines of RAGE appeared in my head:

“The day Melissa Miller killed her cat, she met the angel of death. But he was no angel—and he wasn’t there for the cat.”

I mourned; I wrote. I came up with the prologue and first three chapters, and I wrote a synopsis. I handed everything over to my agent, who then sold it to my fabulous editor at Harcourt. And then I got my deadline: could I finish writing the book in three months?

Um. Sure?

Full-speed ahead. I ate and slept RAGE. I opened myself up to Missy, and she filled my veins with passion and overwhelming despair and a simmering fury. She exhausted me and left me feeling raw around the edges. And the words came flooding out.

Until the day that the words stopped.

I’m the sort of author who gets writers block when I’ve taken the story down the wrong path. So when days passed and the writing just wasn’t working, I knew that I’d done something wrong. And soon I figured it out: my synopsis wasn’t right.

Now, in case you’re wondering, synopses are proof of all things evil. Asking an author to summarize hundreds of pages into a document about 10 – 20 pages is just cruel. And asking the author to do this before she’s written the book? Evil. Evil, evil, evil.

So I did what any self-respecting author would do: I threw away the synopsis and opened myself up to epiphanies.

The best places for such inspiration? The shower and behind the wheel. I don’t know why; it probably has to do with it being horribly inconvenient in terms of writing down those epiphanies. (Once I actually pulled over and grabbed a notebook and hastily scrawled a few lines.) But here’s the thing about epiphanies: they rarely appear on demand. As my deadline came closer, I decided to meet the Muse halfway and just start writing, and see what happened. Some days it worked. Others? Well. Those were the days I ate far too much chocolate. Writing the last third of RAGE was brutal. It was like Missy was fighting me every step. (Which, you have to admit, is rather appropriate in a book about War.) Or maybe she wanted me to be absolutely certain of the words I was committing to paper.

And I had no idea how the book would end until I actually wrote the last two chapters. Do you have any idea how upsetting that notion can be? But it’s also kind of cool. Liberating. And exciting. When I typed the last lines of the book, I felt like cheering—and only partially because I made my deadline.

So don’t be afraid to throw away your synopsis. Just, um, don’t tell your editor. ;)

Riders of the Apocalypse giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive one copy each of HUNGER and RAGE along with postcards and a mini-poster! To enter, send an e-mail to In the body of the e-mail, include your name and e-mail address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and e-mail address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 4/30/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 5/1/11 and notified via email.

Jackie's next stop is Steph Su Reads at

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (25)

I have to say, Lu and Emmy look a bit concerned that we might not let them come back inside...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Heaven by Lisa Miller

What is heaven? In Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife, Newsweek Religion editor Lisa Miller provides a groundbreaking history of the afterlife and offers a new understanding of this cherished spiritual ideal.

I bought this book last year after reading a blog review because I thought it might be useful as research for my own novel about the afterlife. I didn't start reading it until yesterday, but once I picked it up, I found it difficult to put down.  Lisa Miller's writing is engaging and she is full of enthusiasm for the subject.  She interviews so many people about their concepts of heaven - from laymen like a maimed marine who believes that in heaven he will have his legs back so he can play baseball to Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Mormon and other religious leaders.  And she explores how the concept of afterlife has evolved over the centuries thanks to cultural and theological influences.
Like the best journalistic non-fiction, Miller doesn't color the narrative with her own beliefs, though she does share them from time to time. Her storytelling approach makes even the historical bits come alive.  I learned a ton, and have even marked up my copy with highlighter - something I have very rarely done since graduating university.

Highly recommended!  Visit Lisa Miller's website.

I have one copy to give away thanks to the publisher.  Fill out this form by April 11, 2011 at 11:59 PM CST. US and Canada only.
This review has been part of a TLC blog tour.  To follow the tour, go to the TLC tour site.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Clarity by Kim Harrington

Clarity is part of a family of psychics. Her mother can read thoughts. Her brother can talk to the dead. And Clarity can touch an object and she the memories of those who touched it.  When her quiet seaside town is hit by a murder, Clarity is asked to use her special ability to aid the police in their investigation.

CLARITY is a well-crafted mystery with appealing characters.  Clarity has such a open personality and fun ability, I find it a little hard to believe that she has no girlfriends (the book's explanation aside). There isn't a single cool, independent chick in the whole town?  How sad!  If I lived there, I'd be hanging out with Clarity all the time - Tiffany and popularity with the townies be damned.

But at least Clarity has plenty of boy attention.  There's the sweet/sour relationship with her ex Justin, her sizzling chemistry with the mysterious new hottie in town, the easy rapport with her brother's best friend, and the tender bond she shares with her brother.

I was so caught up in the depth of the relationships portrayed, I didn't even mind that I was able to finger the culprit pretty early on and also have a good idea of that person's motives.  I look forward to more adventures with Clarity and crew when the sequel PERCEPTION drops in March 2012.  And here's hoping she gets some girlfriends soon!

Want to win 1 of 2 copies of CLARITY?  Fill out this form by April 10th at 11:59 PM CST. US only.
Watch the CLARITY trailer!
Visit the author's website.