Sunday, August 18, 2013

Authors Are Rock Stars Tour with Kelly Keaton

I'm sure that many of you can hear my fangirling wherever you may be.  Why?  Because today, I have KELLY KEATON, yes, KELLY KEATON stopping by my blog!!

First, let me explain why Kelly is a rock star.  You guys, here heroine in the Gods and Monsters series is totally kick-ass!  She is not one of those whiny girl characters who has to wait for a boy to come save her.  And she fights Greeks goddesses!  And she's a Gorgon!!

Second, her books are ah-mazing!  They have tons of supernatural creatures, lots of action, interesting characters and a plot that doesn't stop.  I can't put them down.

Third, she can write a totally swoon-worthy love interest.  I mean, I am totally in love with Sebastian even though that makes me the world's worst cougar, but he's just so HOT!

Finally, Kelly is a fellow North Carolinian.  It's like we're neighbors!  Now, if I could only convince her that we need to have a sleepover and be BFFs!

I probably can't convince her of that, but I did convince her to give us a playlist to go along with The Wicked Within!  So keep reading to hear from Kelly Keaton herself.

Random Ten Playlist for THE WICKED WITHIN:

Hey guys! Very glad to be here for the Authors Are Rock Stars Tour.  One thing you might not know about me is that I cannot listen to music when I write. Absolutely cannot. I have tried many times—after all, music is so inspiring; it brings out so much emotion and can set the mood like nothing else. Yet, when I try to write the words in my head while an entirely different set of words (lyrics) are playing, my brain seems to short circuit. I end up focusing on lyrics and my fingers freeze over the keyboard.
That being said, I use music to set the mood before I write, as I plot, and to help me work out any issues when I feel stuck. THE WICKED WITHIN was written in a very short amount of time—actually, the story simmered in my head way longer than it took to write the first draft, and during this time I had some terrific go-to songs for the story itself and just to get me in the writing mood:

1. F*CKIN’ PERFECT by P!NK -- the queen of kickass anthems. Love her, and the way her lyrics combine grit and truth and vulnerability. Several of her songs are always on my playlist.

2. STAY by RIHANNA and MIKKY EKKO – This was my ‘go to’ song for Ari and Sebastian’s relationship. In THE WICKED WITHIN, they’re dealing with the aftermath of events in A BEAUTIFUL EVIL and they have a lot of obstacles to overcome. But there is something between them, despite all the issues… 

3. UNTITLED by SIMPLE PLAN – from the very beginning of the series, this song put me right in the middle of all the angst and hurt that shaped Ari before we meet her in DARKNESS BECOMES HER.

4. RADIOACTIVE by IMAGINE DRAGONS – Sebastian’s bad ass song. Makes me see him, how he feels about the changes that happened to him, and how pissed off he is... He’s waking up, people. Welcome to the new age. 

5. DON’T TAKE AWAY MY HEAVEN by AARON NEVILLE – just one of his songs I listen to that always puts me in a New Orleans frame of mind.

6. GIRL ON FIRE by ALICIA KEYS – Every time I listen to this, I can see Ari walking down the battle-scarred French Quarter streets with a bloody blade in her hand. Retribution, baby. This girl is on fire. :D

7. SO WHAT by P!NK – Perfect for when Ari is feeling like she wants to start a fight.. ;-)

8. BABYLON by DAVID GRAY – Always reminds me of New Orleans because I listened to his album, White Ladder, during one of my long driving trip to and from the city.

9. LASERS by LUPE FIASCO – gets me in the mood to start work and get the writing show on the road… :)

10. MY SONGS KNOW WHAT YOU DID IN THE DARK by FALL OUT BOY – St. Louis Cathedral. Major show down. Ari and crew light ‘em up in a big, big way. :D 

Thank you so much, Kelly, for stopping by and sharing your playlist with my readers!  If you haven't read Darkness Becomes Her or A Beautiful Evil yet, what are you waiting for?  You can find my reviews of them below:

You can also check out The Wicked Within on Goodreads and go buy it on September 17.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

45 Pounds (More or Less) but with a message worth its weight in gold!

Book:  45 Pounds (More or Less)
Author:  K.A. Barson
Publisher:  Viking Juvenile
Date:  Available now
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley
My grade:  A+

Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:

She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother. 

And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!

"Deliciously relatable with a lot of laughter on the side." -- Rita Williams-Garcia, New York Times best-selling author  (cover and description from
Initial Reaction
What a delightful book!!!

Cover Story
Love this cover!  It pretty much nails it.  And the title does too.  Why aren’t there more book covers like this one???

What’s the Story?
What a refreshing book!  This book looked at body and self-image issues without taking itself too seriously.  But it still delivered a fantastic message in the end.  How did you do that, K.A. Barson??  You are a freaking genius!

First, let me start by saying that the real success of this book lies with Ann, the main character.  She is just so…..likeable!  Yes, she sometimes falls into the “Woe is me!” routine, but seriously, what girl doesn’t from time to time?  I know I still do!  But she pretty much keeps right on plowing through.  She’s not a popular girl, but she’s not the school pariah either.  She seems to be pretty well-liked by most everyone, even though she’s not really close to anyone.

I think this book really nails it when it comes to weight struggles and body image issues.  What made this book great though, is that it managed to look at weight issues in society while still maintaining a good sense of humor.  It was an uplifting story, even though Ann never did lose that full 45 pounds.  And I was more than ok with that!

I think this book did a great job of addressing America’s unhealthy obsession with weight.  From the whole diet infomercial fiasco, to the revelation of an eating disorder to Ann’s epiphany about how weight obsession is affecting her little sister, this novel cuts to the quick of pretty much every weight issue in modern day America.  And it was inspiring to see how well it addressed all of those!

I loved watching Ann come to terms with her weight and her family and her friendship situation and find a balance that worked for HER.  Her growth emotionally mixed with her physical weight loss had me cheering for her the whole time!  Not to mention the cute boy who liked her no matter what size dress she was wearing.

I was so happy when Ann started to realize that she didn’t have to take scraps of love and friendship from people any longer and that she could start to assert herself and make people treat her the way she wanted to be treated.  This book was such a wonderful statement of standing up for yourself and demanding respect.  It was also a wonderful look at the problems of body image and how our obsession with thinness is hurting girls in our society.

I loved this book and I can’t wait to start recommending it to my students!  If you are looking for a book that deals with some pretty heavy issues (no pun intended!) but manages to leave you laughing and feeling good, pick this book up as soon as possible!

The Soundtrack

Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) by Mika

So Beautiful by Superchick

Video by India Arie

Unpretty by TLC

Beautiful by Christina Aguilera

Born This Way by Lady Gaga

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book is an A+.  This is a very timely book that approaches a serious issue in a way that makes you think but doesn’t leave you completely depressed and despairing.  A fun book about a serious issue might sound like an oxymoron, but this book delivers on both counts!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

It may be The Theory of Everything, but it just doesn't explain this book....

Book:  The Theory of Everything
Author:  Kari Luna
Publisher:  Philomel
Date:  Now Available
Source:  Publisher via Negalley
My grade:  C-???

One part Libba Bray's GOING BOVINE, two parts String Theory, and three parts love story equals a whimsical novel that will change the way you think about the world.

Sophie Sophia is obsessed with music from the late eighties. She also has an eccentric physicist father who sometimes vanishes for days and sees things other people don’t see. But when he disappears for good and Sophie’s mom moves them from Brooklyn, New York, to Havencrest, Illinois, for a fresh start, things take a turn for the weird. Sophie starts seeing things, like marching band pandas, just like her dad.

Guided by Walt, her shaman panda, and her new (human) friend named Finny, Sophie is determined to find her father and figure out her visions, once and for all. So she travels back to where it began—New York City and NYU’s physics department. As she discovers more about her dad’s research on M-theory and her father himself, Sophie opens her eyes to the world’s infinite possibilities—and her heart to love.

Perfect for fans of Going Bovine, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Probability of Miracles.  (Description and cover from

Initial reaction
This is the most bizarre book I can remember reading.

Cover Story
Rather like the book, this is a bizarre cover, but it definitely fits what’s inside.  So, I’m going to say that this one works.

What’s the Story?
To be honest, I’m still not sure what the story is on this one.  I mean, I read the whole thing, and I understood all the words, but I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND!!!!

This is what I think the deal is.  Sophie Sophia is the daughter of a brilliant physicist.  Who has disappeared.  Her mom thought that he was crazy, but he believed in string theory, which apparently is a theory in physics that would allow for parallel universes that at times intersect with our own.

Here is where I had problems with this theory.  I’m ok with the idea of a parallel universe.  However, why would that parallel universe have pandas that could talk, walk and participate in marching band???  Shouldn’t a parallel universe have to follow all of the rules of our own universe?

Another problem I had was that the novel never explained why only certain people were allowed to travel into this parallel universe.  What made Sophie and her dad so special that they could suddenly find themselves in the midst of one of these parallel realities but the rest of us plain joe schmoes can’t do that???

For that reason, I had a hard time buying the whole storyline.  It felt like the end was going to be some big reveal about mental illness instead.  And what happened to bring everything to an end was even more bizarre and unbelievable than the rest of the book.  I don’t know.  I was left totally confused and in complete denial of any of the explanations. 

To me, this felt like one of those paranormal books that doesn’t allow for the suspension of disbelief.  It felt as if the author wasn’t following her own rules, you know?

The writing was great and I enjoyed the characters to a certain extent, I just never was able to buy into the explanations for the dancing pandas.  Honestly, I think that Parallel by Lauren Miller is a better novel exploring string theory.  (Read my review here.)  The explanation for why only one person was experiencing the parallel universe made more sense in that one because there actually WAS an explanation.

The Soundtrack

She’s Lost Control by Joy Division

Brain Damage/Eclipse by Pink Floyd

Day Dream by Smashing Pumpkins

A Quiet Mind by Blue October

Parallel Universe by Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book is C-.  This book just didn’t work for me.  There are a lot of people who like it on Goodreads, so you might want to read some more reviews of it, but it just fell flat for me.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I received no compensation, financial or otherwise, for this review.  And certainly not a talking panda.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

They may be Still Star-crossed, but at least they're still alive.

Book:  Still Star-Crossed
Author:  Melinda Taub
Publisher:  Delacorte Press
Date:  Now available
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss
My grade:  A+

Romeo and Juliet are gone. Will love live on? Despite the glooming peace that's settled on Verona after the recent tragedy, Montagues and Capulets are brawling in the streets. Faced with more bloody battles, Prince Escalus concludes that the only way to truly marry the fortunes of these two families is to literally marry them together. Everyone is skeptical, but none more so than the pair selected, for the most eligible Montague bachelor is Benvolio, Romeo's best friend, still anguished by the loss of his companions, and the chosen Capulet maid is Juliet's older cousin Rosaline, the girl Romeo first loved and whose refusal of Romeo's affection paved the way for bloodshed. Contrary to their late cousins, there's no love lost between Benvolio and Rosaline, yet they forge a bond to end the renewed feud not only to escape their forced betrothal, but to save their lives and the city of Verona itself.

Initial Reaction
I will never look at Rosaline the same way again.

Cover Story
Yes, it has the clich├ęd girl in the dress, but this is a book that continues the Romeo and Juliet story, so I’m pretty sure the dress is time period appropriate.  The title, of course, is a nod to the bard and ties in to the whole Romeo and Juliet continuing saga.  So, it’s good!

What’s the Story?
This is like a sequel to Romeo and Juliet.  Now, I have read some pretty bad sequels to Pride and Prejudice, but since I’m a sucker for anything that has to do with Shakespeare, I had to get my hands on this one.  This book was no cheesy novel that was just an excuse to write hot sex scenes involving Mr. Darcy!  Oh no!  This book was fabulous!

I really felt like Melinda Taub stayed true to the spirit of Shakespeare in this book.  Not only did she write main characters that were reminiscent of some of Shakespeare’s own, but she showed off her Shakespearean knowledge base by including many nods to characters in other plays.  In fact, this book is probably better suited to fans of Much Ado About Nothing rather than fans of Romeo and Juliet, because Rosaline and Benvolio reminded me very much of Beatrice and Benedick.  Which was just fine by me because I love those 2 way better than I love stupid and whiny Romeo and Juliet.  She also included nods to Don Pedro and even to the grave digger from Hamlet.  There were probably more than that but I’ve either forgotten them or was too ignorant to know that they existed!

The language of this book is quite lovely.  Taub chose to continue dialogue in Shakespeare’s style, but with the rest of the prose in the book, I think this makes Shakespeare’s language a little more accessible to teens.  In fact, I think this would be an excellent book to use as a follow-up to Romeo and Juliet in an English class.  It would be fun to speculate on the after math of the tragedy and would help students who struggled with Shakespeare’s language.

The characters in this book were so much fun!!  The bad ones were really bad and most of them were very multi-dimensional.  It was fun to get to know some of the characters better that showed up in Romeo and Juliet but never made it to the forefront.  It was interesting to see just which characters Taub chose to make good or evil or simply complacent.  In fact, I’d love to sit down with her over a cup of tea and discuss why she made those choices.

The action in this novel was non-stop!  It was very fast-paced and there was enough intrigue going on that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.  I raced through this book and honestly, if I had the time, I would probably go right back to the beginning and read it again. 

I was very pleased with everything about this book.  I’m so excited to get a copy for my own library and I can’t wait to share it with my English department.  It’s even inspired me to create a book display of Shakespearean related novels!  It shall be as merry as the day is long!

The Soundtrack

I Hate Everything About You by Three Days Grace

I Hate Myself for Loving You by Joan Jett

Wash It All Away by Evanescence

Half of My Heart by John Mayer

The Space Between by Dave Matthews Band

King and Lionheart by Of Monsters and Men

Live to Tell by Madonna

A Thousand Years by Christina Perri

The Final Grade
My final grade for this book is an A+.  It was a Shakespeare related novel that was worthy of the Bard…..and luckily had a much happier ending than the work that inspired it!  I can’t wait to start dealing this one out at school in the fall!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I received no compensation, financial or otherwise, for this review.  Not even a hot Montague.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Road Trip Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to my stop on the Summer Road Trip Giveaway Hop!

I LOVE road trips.  Possibly they are my favorite thing in the world to do.  The excitement of going somewhere new but also the discoveries you make while on the road.  ::sighs:: I'm ready to go on one now.....

But, since that can't happen, I'm going to give a copy of my favorite road trip book to one lucky winner! As long as The Book Depository will ship to your country, you can even be international.  So here are your choices:

This was my very first road trip novel.  I read it my junior year of high school and it literally changed my life.  A classic!

Not sure if trips by disapparation count, but I'm going to go for it.  A magical road trip is a road trip nonetheless, and what other book has part of the journey take place on a dragon???

I read this one a couple of summers ago and I loved it.  It even has a playlist at the beginning of each chapter and you guys know how I love book soundtracks!

I'm not sure if Witness Protection Plan counts as a road trip per se, but how about a road trip to try and discover why you are in said WPP to begin with?  And it has car chases and hotel nights with a hot boy!

A road trip during the zombie apocalypse is still a road trip, right?

What do you get when you put one Jersey girl with ex-boyfriend issues in a car with 3 other boys and send them on the road to Colorado?  You get this book!  But beware--hilariousness ensues!

Right of Way by Lauren Barnholdt (my review)
Running away from home with a dog and a cute boy is still a road trip, right?

So, enter away!  And make sure you check out the other blogs on the hop as well!  It will be like a virtual road trip!  You can find the links under my Rafflecopter.  Good luck and happy traveling!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I'll Give You the Right of Way, But Can I Just Smack You First?

Book:  Right of Way
Author:  Lauren Barnholdt
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date:  Now Available
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss
My grade:  B+

Can a road trip repair a romance gone wrong? Find out in this standalone companion to Lauren Barnholdt’s Two-way Street.

Here are Peyton and Jace, meeting on vacation. Click! It’s awesome, it’s easy, it’s romantic. This is the real deal.

Unless it isn’t. Because when you’re in love, you don’t just stop calling one day. And you don’t keep secrets. Or lie. And when your life starts falling apart, you’re supposed to have the other person to lean on.

Here are Peyton and Jace again, broken up but thrown together on a road trip. One of them is lying about the destination. One of them is pretending not to be leaving something behind. And neither of them is prepared for what’s coming on the road ahead…

Initial Reaction
Is it possible to love characters and still want to slap them silly???

Cover Story
Why the hell is there a truck on this cover?  There’s no truck in this book.  There’s a sedan.  And no one goes to the beach.  I get that they’re trying to portray the road trip, but don’t these cover designers even read the freaking books????  I like the title though.

What’s the Story?
Apparently this is a companion novel to another one written by Lauren Barnholdt called Two-Way Street.  There are two characters that make quite a few appearances in this novel, Jordan and Courtney, and the first novel is about them.  It’s not necessary to read this first novel, though.  I enjoyed this one and understood it, although now I’m curious about the first one.

This book would have been an A book for me except for 2 things:  1.  The angst factor just killed me.  I am a happily ever after kind of girl and the angst of never knowing if I would get there just about did me in.  2.  These characters were at times so immature and non-communicative that I just wanted to shake some sense into both of them.

Now, having said that, I realize that the reason I could see that they were overreacting to stuff is because I’m 43 instead of 16.  However, I do inhabit space with a 15 year old girl, and let me tell you that Lauren Barnholdt has hit the nail on the head with the teen stupid.  God, these kids do some really stupid things.  Like running away from home.  Like not talking to each other.  Like not talking to anyone about problems.  Like leaving home with no money and no real plan.  Yes, some of us know that these are stupid things, but when you’re 16 and hurt and upset, they don’t seem like such bad options.

The structure of this book was very interesting, although I could see how it might not work well for some readers.  It moves back and forward in time and from Peyton’s to Jace’s points of view.  I had no trouble following it and honestly, I’m pretty impressed that Lauren Barnholdt could pull that off without missing some major plot point.  I have no doubt that I would have missed something major and messed the whole thing up.  But she pulled it off beautifully.

I liked the 2 characters.  Now, it took me a while to get there, mind you, but that was part of the fun.  I had to unravel all the circumstances that led these 2 exes to be riding together in a car from Florida to either Connecticut or North Carolina.  And why one of them was leaving home and the other was willing to miss his high school graduation to do this.  Seeing everything slowly revealed was both a treat and a torture.  Of course, once I got to the end, all the angst was worth it but boy, did it ever hurt so good while I was reading it!

In the end, I loved both the story and the characters and I was glad to see both Peyton and Jace grow more mature as the story progressed.  And thank goodness there was a real sort of ending.  I’m so tired of these books that almost drop off in mid-sentence!  This one wrapped up nicely without making everything too tidy, but wrapping up just well enough to give me a sense of closure.

The Soundtrack

She by Elvis Costello

Say Anything by Tristan Prettyman

A Beautiful Mess by Jason Mraz

The Reason by Hoobastank

Runaway by 3 Doors Down

She’s Leaving Home by The Beatles

The Final Grade

My final grade for this book is a B+.  If you can wade through the angst and control your urge to murder the two main characters, this book really pays off in the end.

I received a copy of this book fro the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I received no compensation, financial or otherwise, for this review. Not even a great road trip dog.