Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bye bye blogging! Hellooooo podcasting.

Hey my awesome readers. Well, I bring news. "Never Gonna Grow Up!" Reviews is going into retirement. I absolutely love sharing my love of books with all of you and am going to continue to do so via the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast. The podcast has just gotten so busy that I simply cannot keep up anymore with writing reviews. Plus, to be honest, interviewing authors and producing the podcast is so much more fun for me. (Who would have thought that a VOICE actor would prefer doing a podcast? I know, big ol' shocker there.)

I'm sad to say goodbye to this blog. It helped introduce me to a whole world I wouldn't have known otherwise (the book blogging community). Luckily, I'm only relocating, not moving out of the neighborhood. So I'll still see you at the neighborhood block party, right? Be sure to go follow over there, subscribe on iTunes and stay in touch, ok guys? I'll also still be doing "short & sweet" reviews over at Goodreads.com.

Also, just so you know... we're giving away 14 signed books right now for our anniversary giveaway. Deadline to enter is 5/11 so you better hurry on over.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Gilt by Katherine Longshore

This book is the perfect “happy medium” choice for young adult historical fiction. If you don’t like mushy historical fiction romances like “The Queen’s Lady”, but don’t want something quite as grimly intense as J. Anderson Coats’ “The Wicked and the Just”... well, then, “Gilt” by Katherine Longshore is the book for you.

Gilt is full of gorgeous scenery, fancy dresses, passion, lies, betrayal and blooooooood. How can there not be blood when Henry VIII’s around? The book opens with Kitty and Cat, best friends, exploring the guardian’s rooms and trying on her things. The duchess has taken in many of the extended family’s unwanted daughters (most distant relations) and uses them as servants until she eventually marries them off. Throughout the story, we see Kitty grow from a quiet girl who would do anything for her friend Cat into a young woman who finally sees the world around her for what it really is. It just takes her awhile and we, as readers, are along for the ride and once she gets drawn into Henry’s court, we hold our breaths seeing if Kitty and her friends will survive the intrigue and deceit of courtly life.

Ms. Longshore’s writing is superb. It flows quickly and while she describes the court, castles, etc, it doesn’t get bogged down with description. It’s still a book you can devour, which says a lot for Ms. Longshore’s ability to write a tight, well-paced plot. That is no easy feat in a 398 page piece of historical fiction! There is some romance, but it is a device for Kitty’s self discovery and the intrigue at court. As her friend Cat says, there is no room for love in the court of Henry VIII. So those of you who are squeamish about mushy gushy romance will be safe reading this book.

Ms. Longshore’s “Gilt” is a well paced and exciting read that could open the door to readers who are hesitant about trying historical fiction. Henry the VIII’s court is not a safe place. Read “Gilt” and see if you can finish without losing your head! ;o)

I received an ARC of “Gilt” from the publisher, Viking Juvenile (Penguin). Ms. Longshore will be joining us on the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast in the month of May. If you have any questions you’d like to ask her, please let me know!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Historical Fiction Week - the book that started it all...

Happy Historical Fiction Week!

I wasn't kidding when I mentioned that in my review of "The Wicked and the Just". It's official. I just love historical fiction. I like to imagine that these books are my very own Tardis. Who doesn't want to be a Time Lord?
Today, I want to open up the discussion to all of you. What piece of middle grade or young adult historical fiction really made an impact on your life? For me, it was Karen Cushman's "Catherine Called Birdy".

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this book, it's the diary of a girl from the 13th century who feels traps. She would rather be "crusading, swinging my sword at heathens and sleeping under starry skies on the other end of the world" rather than fishing for a husband and learning lady like things. Catherine's story gives you a taste of a young girl's life and the troubles girls faced at such a young age. She's a strong willed girl whose interests and ambition are ahead of her time.

The author, Karen Cushman, is also an incredibly sweet and humble woman, despite the many honors she's won for her incredible books! I was lucky enough to meet her at KidLitCon last September and am looking forward to interviewing her for the podcast later this year.

So tell me, what book triggered your love of historical fiction? I want to know!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

Alright, folks. In the name of the moon... errr, I mean in the name of awesome books everywhere, I declare this week on “Never Gonna Grow Up! Reviews” to be YA HISTORICAL FICTION WEEK. Dun duh duh duuuuuun.

To kick off this week of fabulous locales, dangerous intrigue, and bloody deaths, we have J. Anderson Coats’ debut novel, “The Wicked and the Just”. I absolutely love this book. It’s a book I would definitely recommend any historical fiction addict add to the top of their list. J. Anderson Coats obviously did her research. The story takes place in Wales, shortly after the English taken over and are occupying the land. They have taken everything from the Welsh people and yet are taxing them literally to death. She tells the story from two strong-willed women’s perspectives. (Yay strong willed women!) On one hand, we have Cecily, who was uprooted from her English noble woman’s life and moved to occupied Wales by her father, who will help the English keep the “savage” Welshman in check. On the other hand, we have Gwenhwyfar, her servant, who once dreamed of being a lady herself until the English came in and took everything from her and her people, including the life of her father. Now, she and her brother must do whatever it takes to survive, even if it means waiting on a bratty English girl who makes life a living hell. While they both struggle with surviving in their own ways, tensions continue to mount not only between the girls, but the country as a whole. And let me warn you now, it gets messy.

My horrendous summary does not even begin to do this book justice. It’s subtle and beautifully written. It really feels like a slice of the life from this period in time. You can really feel the tension crackling in the air and it never gets bogged down with too much exposition. Ms. Coats’ explanations of unfamiliar terms are simple and feel naturally placed within the story. While it’s a bit intense to read all in one sitting, I still burned through it at a rapid pace. I just had to find out what happened! Both girls burn with unbridled passion that ends up fueling a very complex relationship between them. If they had a status on Facebook for their platonic relationship, it’d definitely say “It’s complicated.”

Seriously, if you like historical fiction, this book is an absolute MUST READ. And if you don’t? Well give it a try anyways. It’s good to try something new every once in awhile and I have a feeling that this is a book you’re going to hear people talking about for quite some time. :)

Want to hear J. Anderson Coats talk about her book? Well then, head on over to Authors are ROCKSTARS! to check out her podcast interview.

I received a digital ARC of "The Wicked and the Just" via NetGalley.com. It came out this month from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Go and purchase your own copy now!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Audiobook Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

WARNING: This review is spoilery. Do not read if you don’t want to know.

I usually take some time to digest a book before writing a review, but I can’t do that with this one. I just finished listening to this audiobook. My eyes are all puffy and red from crying.

“If I Stay” is the story of a girl who goes out on a morning drive with her family and then wakes up to find herself outside her body after being in a major car accident. The book bounces back between the present and memories of her past. My description makes it sound rather cheesy, but it isn’t. It’s so beautiful that it’s heartbreaking and if that wasn’t enough, then it does actually go and break your heart!

I think it’s an emotional book for everyone who reads/listens to it due to Ms. Forman’s gorgeous writing, but it made me fall apart. I know what it feels like to lose both your parents. Sure, it wasn’t due to a car accident like Mia, but I lost them both within 2 years and with my mom, it was completely unexpected. I about lost it while I was listening when Mia goes through realizing what life will be like without her parents. Oh my gosh, I’m about ready to lose it now typing this review. It is so well written that even if you haven’t experienced loss... you will know it after getting to know Mia. You will feel her pain and the weight of the decision that rests before her - should she stay or should she go?

This has to be the most sappy and depressing review I have ever written. However, I hope you can take from it that this book is a masterpiece, full of emotion so strong that it brings a grown woman to tears just thinking about it. If you like emotional books, this one is definitely for you. And if not? Listen to it or read it anyways. The narrator, Kirsten Potter, while having an overly mature voice (lovely, just not a teen!) for the role, does such an amazing job narrating this book. She becomes Mia and does such a wonderful job that you won’t care that she doesn’t sound like a teen. Between her talent and emotional commitment to the role and the gorgeous prose of Ms. Forman, there should be no doubt that this audiobook is top notch and worth a listen.

Do you have a question for the author Gayle Forman? Authors are ROCKSTARS! will be interviewing her along with Nina Lacour and Stephanie Perkins at their Huntington Beach "YA or Bust!" tour stop on Tuesday April 24th. We also will be moderating their panel so be sure to stop by and say hello.

I purchased “If I Stay” via Audible.com. It is published by Penguin. The sequel “Where She Went” is also available.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, Illustrated by David Small

Okay, so I'll be honest. This book is not really E's Pick of the Week. It's Mommy's Pick though. E loves looking through it and we read it while we're doing looong sits on the potty. However, it definitely is for a more mature audience. You know, 5 year olds. ;o)

It's a cute story about a misunderstanding between one very proper young man named Elliot and his father. He asks his father if he can take home a penguin from the aquarium. His father believes he means the plush version. Silliness ensues. While the writing is fantastic, the illustrations are what really drew me in. They are black & white with only hints of color. They are simply stunning and really express the humor of Ms Buzzeo's adorkable (yes, adorkable) story.

"One Cool Friend" would be perfect for the more patient toddler (potty time makes for a captive audience!), but would be best for the late preschool-K age group. It was just published this year by Dial (Penguin).

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Queen’s Lady by Eve Edwards

Eve Edwards is a historical fiction genius.

That’s my entire review.

Okay. I’ll write more. As you all know, I read a lot of dystopian. I like and heck, it’s mega popular these days so why not strike while the iron’s hot and get my fill of awesome, messed up worlds right? Well, after reading... about 6 dystopians in a row, even *I* get it a little exhausted. That’s when I return to books like Eve Edwards’ wonderful historical fiction series, The Lacey Chronicles. It is charming, sweet, and interesting without being pure fluff. I just love her books. She writes super solid historical fiction that is approachable and easy to read, even for those who aren’t usually fans! Oh and never fear! If you did not read the first book (my review), you’ll be A-OK. This book is a sequel, but I think it can totally stand alone. We meet our heroine in the last book, but we don’t get to really know her until “The Queen’s Lady”.

The story this time around is Lady Jane’s, the fiance and friend of our leads from the previous book, and James, the brother of her former fiance. After dramatically spurning our hero from the last book in order to save them both from an unhappy marriage, Jane takes up service to the Queen to avoid her horrible family. Unfortunately, not even being in service to the Queen can prevent her selfish family from getting her entangled in an awful situation. Will the man she loves, who is battling demons of his own, be able to save her?

Lovelovelove. This book is full of everything I need to make me feel good after a long day - action, adventure, pretty dresses, romance, and lovable, real characters. Seriously, I cannot rave enough about Ms. Edwards’ books! Anyone who loves a wonderful romantic tale, set it a beautiful time in history full of luxurious gowns, dangerous politics and secrets of the heart. I could go on and on, but why spend any more time waiting? Go.. now! Order a copy of this book for yourself and be transported back to Elizabethan England.

I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher (Random House) via Netgalley.com. It was released on April 10th, so go! Get a copy today. You can visit my review of the first book, "The Other Countess", by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sorry I've been quiet!

So sorry I've been quiet. So many books to review, so little time! My voice over work has been insane lately as has the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast. We have a ton of interviews in the pipes being edited as ...we type? Super excited.

In the mean time, if you guys want to mosey on over to my voice over fan page on FB, I'm giving away a copy of "Persona 4: Arena" once I hit 500 likes! We're halfway there. Spread the word!

A new review will be up on Friday! :) And next week, we should be back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Trailer for "The Last Echo" by Kim Dertling

I just recently did the VO for this book trailer so I had to share. Sounds SUPER exciting!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

E's Pick of the Week is "Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site", a charming book for any little boy or girl who is in love with vehicles. I bought this book as a gift for my son's friend Emily and of course, had to get a copy for him too! It's just so cute. After E fell in love with Tom Lichtenheld's illustrations in "Cloudette", I knew he'd love this book. I just gave it to him this morning and he's already made me read it at least 5 times. Ms. Rinker's rhyming words are absolutely precious and will help sooth your little one close to bed time. With the setting sun, all the trucks find themselves winding down and settling in to bed. Plus... it's all about big TRUCKS! How much better does it get?! ;o)

It's funny. As a mom, I notice certain kinds of cars and trucks now that I never paid heed to before I had E. I find myself even calling them out when he ISN'T in the car. The other day, I got very excited over seeing two cement trucks and a Mini Cooper (his favorite kind of car) in a row. I squealed and then sheepishly realized that E was not in the back seat. Hehe! Ever have one of those moments?

This is on the longer side for impatient little ones, but it makes for a great night time routine book with its soothing rhyme, fun subject matter, and adorable illustrations. It's a must have for any young truck lover!

"Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site" is published by Chronicle Books. It is available in hardcover.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Perception by Kim Harrington

Kim Harrington is such a fantastic writer. I feel I must lead with that. I loved “Clarity” (click here for my review) and “Perception” did not disappoint. The plots aren’t blow-your-mind magical or creative, but they are so interesting and Ms. Harrington’s writing is so tight, well paced, and exciting. She doesn’t waste a single word. It’s really incredible. Aspiring writers, her books are a must read. Her plotting/pacing is true perfection.

This book picks up at the start of the school year shortly after the exciting events of the first book, “Clarity”. Our heroine, Clarity, is now famous after everything that went down in the last book. Instead of being a “freak” due to her psychic ability (she can read objects), she’s now been adopted by the popular clique as their new toy. Not all of the popular clique is happy about it though and continue to make her life unpleasant. She’d be more than happy to going back to the way things were, living life as a wallflower. That’s not an option for Clarity now. She soon draws the attention of someone whose admiration has gone from slightly creepy to downright frightening. Is it Justin, her ex-boyfriend who heroically saved her life? Or is it Gabriel, the hottie who has conflicted feelings about psychics, but who grew into a friend with potential for so much more in the last book? Well, read the book you silly kiddos. My lips are sealed.

Kim Harrington has twice now written books that have completely consumed my attention. I think “Clarity” and “Perception” would even appeal to the reluctant teen reader. They are books that are not to be missed, especially if you’re a fan of mysteries. These quick, well written books will blow you away. I really cannot get over how incredibly well paced and concise Ms. Harrington’s writing is. Fabulous job, Ms. Harrington. Simply fabulous!

I am giving away a couple signed book plates that Ms. Harrington sent me when I purchased a copy of “Clarity” in a charity auction. Just post a comment here and let me know what psychic power you’d want to have. The winner will be chosen on April 9th!

I was provided with an ARC by the publisher, Scholastic. “Perception” was released in February of this year.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guest at KitsuneKon

Hey folks! I'll be quiet this week. I'm headed out to Wisconsin to be a guest at KitsuneKon! I hope to see you all there.

Reviews will be back on schedule next week. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

I feel pretty silly writing a little "review" about Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham", but the "E's Pick of the Week" is all about what E is reading and this week he is Seuss crazy. We are reading "Green Eggs and Ham" a few times a day. I am starting to hear Seuss rhymes in my head instead of music. Ahhhh! :D

Seriously though, I love that E is so book crazy. He went to the library this weekend for the first time in a loooong time and he went crazy. THE LIBRARY THE LIBRARY MOOOOM! :D I'm curious.. to the moms out there reading, do you just go in, grab some books and leave or do you stay and read a book at the library? They had a cute little reading area.

Sorry for such a light "E's Pick of the Week", but I'll be back next week with more from my little two and a half year old reader.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Audiobook Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

So, I’m discovering that I really enjoy listening to dystopians in the car. I think having these books performed by talented narrators makes for a much more fulfilling experience. It makes them less of a downer, maybe? Not sure, but whatever it is - “Wither” was another wonderful addition to my VW Dystopian car adventures!

Wither” takes place in a dystopian version of our world in which society had conquered disease and created a generation of super healthy human beings, only to find out when procreation began that they had created a virus that effected the children of these disease-free people (called the “first generation”). The children sometimes never made it past the age of 25 for males and 20 for females. This mistake has created generations of desperate orphans and a society that is in ruin with two opposing views fighting against each other (those who believe the human race can be saved and those who believe that it is time to let the human race die out). Rhine and her brother were orphaned not that long ago and lead a tough life just trying to survive. When Rhine is kidnapped, she is forced into the lifestyle of a “bride” to a wealthy young man and she’s not the only one. The wealthy have come to collecting beautiful young girls and having polygamous marriages in order to continue the family line. Her husband is kind and falls head of heels in love with her, but he lives a life full of lives and illusions provided by his father, a doctor who is desperately trying to find an antidote to this genetic bomb. So desperate, Rhine is unsure if she is there to be his son’s companion or his next science experiment and whether anyone is truly safe under his watch.

To be honest, this book is a lot of character development and strategic plotting on behalf of Rhine. Majority of the plot deals with her wanting to escape, but being held back by her emotional connections to her sister wives and husband, the heavy security of the estate, etc. It is definitely one of those first novels that, while enjoyable, lacks the fulfilling feeling of a beginning, middle and end. That being said, having this book delivered to me via audiobook made that much easier to stomach and I have already started listening to book 2. I’m really interested to see what happens to Rhine and find out more about the world in which all of these characters live. I want to know what happened besides this gigantic genetic mistake that made the United States the only country still inhabited (or if that is even the truth!). I also am dying to know what is happening in the romance department. The love triangle to this story was really interesting and well done. It felt honest and true to the story. Angela Lin did a wonderful job narrating this story. At times, she sounded a little old, but Rhine is 16 in a world where girls die at 20 so I think that makes her delivery totally acceptable.

Overall verdict - this is another enjoyable addition to the dystopian YA phenomena. I’ve already started book two and cannot wait to hear what happens next!

And stay tuned to Authors are ROCKSTARS! We are posting a series of interviews and event coverage from the Passion & Prose conference & Breathless Reads book tour. We've also been busy gathering prizes for anniversary giveaway NEXT MONTH. Soooo many autographed books. You will NOT want to miss it.

Wither” is published by Simon & Schuster. The audiobook was produced by Recorded Books. The second book “Fever” is also available now! I purchased these books via Audible.com.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Narrated by Kate Rudd

I am nervous to share my review of this book with you guys because I know how beloved this author is. However, I did not like this book. I didn’t realize this until I was about 60% of the way through listening to the audiobook, but once it hit me...I had a hard time finishing. I did though, mostly due to the fabulous narrating of Kate Rudd who delivered this book with such charm & life that I couldn’t stop listening, if only to hear more of her acting.

WARNING: There are some spoilers here. Tried to keep it as vague as possible, but thought it’d be fair to warn you!

So, if you’re unfamiliar with the plot (maybe I am not the only one who had never read a John Green novel), this book is about two kids who have cancer that fall in love. The love story is sweet and tragic and beautiful, but while Mr. Green’s writing is witty... I really could not distinguish two clear cut characters. Hazel and Gus blurred into ..HaGus, which is nothing like the Scottish dish. The “HaGus” is a witty, intelligent teenager that you wish you knew. It’s Juno, only better and afflicted with cancer. I did love some of the dialogue, but as I said, the characters are so similar that it blurred and lot some of its wit. Had it not been for Ms. Rudd’s distinct voices for the two different characters, I don’t think I would have gotten much enjoyment out of following their love story. Sure, in the end, there was one major difference between them which is kind of what the whole point of the book is...so I won’t spoil it, but in the end, I felt cheated. This book reminded me of “Easy A”. So many people will love it and so many others will feel like they have to say they love it, fearing retribution from fans or worried that they were just too dumb to understand its appeal. I feel the same way about that movie that I do about this book - it was trying too hard. It felt forced.

Another thing that drove me crazy was that I felt like my emotions were constantly being manipulated to feel a certain way instead of naturally feeling that way out of caring for the characters. In the end, I realized that I never really cared about the characters. I was more upset because I was thinking of my loss due to cancer (my mother) and the things I went through. I also felt so much more for their parents and was constantly relating it to how I’d feel if my son got sick.

Oh and the whole plot device of Peter Van Houten, or whatever? So....LAME. It just fell flat for me and when he shows up at the funeral? I couldn’t help myself. I groaned aloud and rolled my eyes (which was dangerous since I was driving!).

This book wasn’t for me. It seems like I’m one of only a handful of folks though who didn’t like it. John Green is an incredibly popular writer and if you just can’t get enough of that fast paced wit, you should check it out.

I listened to “A Fault in Our Stars” on audiobook. It is published by Dutton Juvenile (Penguin) and the audiobook is produced by Brilliance Audio. I purchased my copy on audible.com.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld

This book is adorable! We went on a family outing to one of our local bookstores this past weekend and picked this one up. I just want to pinch Cloudette's little cloud cheeks. She's so cute and E just adores her story. She's just a little cloud who appreciates being little, but also wants to do something big and important like the big clouds. One day, she's blown far away from home by a big storm (though I'm not sure why this cloud didn't warn her. Deus ex machina!). It's in her new neighborhood that she discovers that even little clouds can do big important things.

There is some hokey dialogue that is completely there for the adults and as I said, a big ol' deus ex machina, but overall - a super cute little book that young ones will love. I'd recommend it for preschoolers (or in my son's case, nearly preschoolers). It's the perfect length for little ones who are just starting to get the patience to sit for more than 2 minutes and listen to longer stories.

"Cloudette" by Tom Lichtenheld was just published this month by Henry Holt & Co. It is available in hardcover.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

“Madame Tussaud” by Michelle Moran was a wonderful piece of historical fiction, but incredibly overwhelming. I felt like I had to take notes throughout reading just so I wouldn’t get lost (which in turn, made me start singing “I Wish I Could Go Back to College” from the musical “Avenue Q”). I know that sounds like a bad thing, but if you love historical fiction, this is a must read. I finished it and I have the patience of a six year old most days.

Okay, so, my review. Well, you guys know I’m not known here for in-depth analysis. I’ll leave that to the reviewers who specialize in historical fiction. I’m a quirky, YA lovin’ gal and I hope my reviews reflect that. So for fun, I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m going to share with you my thoughts while reading and upon completion. These are the notes I jotted down, right before turning off the light at night.

Thoughts while reading “Madame Tussaud”:
  • Wow, I really feel like I’m a part of the French revolution. I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep tonight!
  • Um... who? what? I am so confused. /rushes back to character index
  • Mm. I want to be a princess. Princesse √Člisabeth’s house sounds so picturesque. /happy sigh
  • I am so confused right now. I think I’m starting to remember plot lines from “The Scarlet Pimpernel” musical as part of this book. Whoooopsy. Doesn’t Robespierre have a lover?
  • MARRY HIM ALREADY!! There is a war on, you crazy lady.
  • This girl is a ruthless business woman. I’d love to see her duke it out with the fat cats on Wall Street. (yes....fat cats)
Upon finishing:
  • Huh? Did I miss something? Hrm. Interesting time transition.
  • I definitely can see why the publishers think that YA fans may enjoy this. I wasn’t aware of Marie’s existence so it was interesting to be introduced to her through this part of her young adult life.
Honestly, the last portion of the book I could have totally done without. I’m not sure where a better ending would have been, but it just threw me for a loop and made my overall enjoyment greatly decrease. That’s just me though and as you guys know, I’m weird. ;)

So, yeah, it’s overwhelming, intense, but if you like historical fiction, you should definitely check it out. Marie is an incredibly ambitious girl who blossomed into a young, determined woman during an incredibly tumultuous time in her country’s history.

I received a paperback copy of this book from the publisher (Random House). “Madame Tussaud” is on shelves now, so go and grab yours today.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

I picked up this book based on my podcast co-host Allison's blog entry. Boy am I glad that I did! E loves this beautiful little book. I was a bit worried about purchasing a book with no words since E has become obsessed with words and letters. However, this simple story is so beautifully told that even I find myself enraptured every time I look at the beautiful watercolor illustrations.

Allison wrote an amazing review for this, so I'm not going to attempt to try to write something too detailed here. (Seriously, go read her review. She writes amazing, informative reviews.) This book will touch your heart.

"A Ball for Daisy" is published by Schwartz & Wade (Random House) and is available in hardcover. It won the 2012 Caldecott Medal.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Allegiance by Cayla Kluver

I’ve been a bit disappointed in books lately. There were a few that I picked up between “Goddess Interrupted” and “Allegiance” that I just couldn’t get through. For me, after disappointment, I have a hard time getting my reading mojo back. Luckily, I picked up Cayla Kluver’s “Allegiance”, part two in her “Legacy” trilogy. (Click here to read my review of the first book. You can also hear me interview Cayla on AuthorsareROCKSTARS.com.)

Ms. Kluver has outdone herself with “Allegiance”. I couldn’t stop reading. It was only when my body forced me at 1am to finally go to sleep that I put the book down. Within an hour of waking, I was back to reading. That’s saying a lot. (Fun fact: I am not a morning person.) Anyways, you get the point. It was addictive, well written and incredibly epic. This is classic fantasy (although some people are calling it historical, but um, a) not a real world and b) there is some magic). Ms. Kluver seems to really come into her own in this book and I never got the feeling that she was trying too hard like I did in the first book.

This book is also much more focused on the story as a whole rather than just the story of Alera and her emotional journey as a woman and a princess. There is a large cast of characters and so many of them have their own voices and stories to will draw you in. Her secondary characters aren’t just pawns to drive the plot of Alera, but are fully developed characters with interesting personalities and back-stories that you come to truly care about. My only issue is that I’m not sure where book three is going to go, but I don’t want to go into that. It’s hard enough not revealing spoilers as it is! Read this book already, so I can talk to ya’ll about it, okay?

If you’re a fan of fantasy, this series should be a must read. Even if you aren’t a big fan of romance in your fantasy.. read this series. Trust me, it is so much more than just mushy gushy princesses. And if fantasy romance is your cup of tea (seriously, are you a coffee drinker?), don’t despair. The romance is still incredibly moving and definitely worth a read.

I received an e-galley from the publisher, HarlequinTeen, via Netgalley.com. Both “Legacy” and “Allegiance” are on shelves now. The third book “Sacrifice” is coming soon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jessie Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom, Illustrated by Bruce Degen

This charming rhyming book is E's favorite this week. You go through the entire day with Jessie Bear, discovering what he does through the clothing and items he wears. The soothing rhythm of Nancy White Carlstrom's charming text makes this book a perfect choice to read before sleep which is why I love it. E, however, loves it for the illustrations. He is constantly talking about wanting to play with Jessie Bear's toys. I have to agree - Jessie Bear does have some awesome toys. The illustrations are obviously very engaging and surprisingly consistent. You definitely get a feel for Jessie Bear's life through the illustrations. It's incredibly well done.

"Jessie Bear, What Will You Wear?" is published by Aladdin (Simon & Schuster) and is available in paperback, hardcover and board book form.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter

I enjoyed the first installment in this series, "The Goddess Test", so it isn’t a surprise that I liked this book. As I said in my review of the first novel, it’s a “cotton candy” series. You’ll devour it - it’s sweet and fun, but not incredibly filling. I’d say book two, "Goddess Interrupted", upgraded from cotton candy to my favorite sweet - dark chocolate truffles. It still is a bit fluffy, but much more complex in flavor. Oh goodness. Just typing this is making me hungry!

We pick up just as Kate’s six month vacation with her friend and admirer James has ended. She’s returning to the underworld to finally be crowned queen and see the man she loves, Henry (the God previous known as Hades, hehe). All hell breaks loose though and we’re taken on adventure where Kate has to confront emotional challenges of epic proportions (like meeting the sister she never knew excited who happens to be the woman stole & crushed Henry’s heart thousands of years ago? Yeeeeah, pretty big deal!). I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the stakes are high and in the midst of it all, Kate has to grow up incredibly fast and learn how to prioritize what’s truly important to her.

It seems that this book is getting really mixed reactions from Ms. Carter’s fans. If you adored the first book, this one may not be your cup of tea. It’s not as fluffy and there is a lot of angst. A *lot*... to the point where you really want to slap Kate up side the head. However, it’s still a fun ride, full of adventure and world saving escapades. The relationship between Kate & Henry really develops towards the end of the novel. Be patient and wait for it. It’s worth it. I think Ms. Carter has written a fine second installment and I personally am dying to read what happens next after the KILLER (OMG OMG OMG!) cliffhanger that she left us with at the end.

“Goddess Interrupted” is published by HarlequinTeen and will be released on March 27th. I received an e-galley via Netgalley.com for review.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Time for a Hug by Phillis Gershater & Mim Green

Choosing "E's Pick of the Week" today was ridiculously easy. My sister picked this book up for E during her visit to California (she leaves today, sad!) and he hasn't stopped requesting it since. I think everyone in the house has read it to him at least a handful of times and he loves every second of it each time. He squeals with delight when we get to a "time for a hug!" and has started asking "What time is it?" on a daily basis. It's the perfect balance of adorable story, charming illustrations and yes, a wee bit of learning as well. Go through the entire day with the little bunny and learn about what he does at certain times of day. After each section, it's.... you guessed it - TIME FOR A HUG!

You'll fall in love with this beautiful little story right along with your little one. Even if they aren't ready to start learning about time, they'll love the illustrations and all the hugs. It's definitely worth picking up!

"Time for a Hug" is written by the mother/daughter team Phillis Gershator & Mim Green. It is illustrated by David Walker. Sterling Children's Books is the publisher. It was released in January of this year.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

“Born Wicked” by Jessica Spotswood is one fabulous debut novel. I *adored* it. It was full of delicious intrigue, yummy romances, and tantalizing magic. Obviously, I need to eat, but you better watch out “Born Wicked”. Sometimes, I eat books. Om nom nom. Delicious.

In this alternate version of New England, witches were in power until a few generations ago when a religious order called the Brotherhood massacred them. The survivors hid their magical inheritance from the world in order to avoid persecution. Cate and her sisters have continued that tradition, not even their father knows of their abilities (or that of his deceased wife). After a promise she made to her mother, she has dedicated her life to her sisters’ protection. They don’t always appreciate her hard work, but she is determined not to let her mother down. However, she only has six months left before the Brotherhood forces her into a marriage or a chaste religious life in the Sisterhood. After a mysterious letter and the discovery of her mom’s diary, things go from difficult to near impossible and Cate has to figure out a way to save those she loves the most from persecution and from each other.

This structure of this book is magnificent. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard me complain before about books that are all back story, very little plot with commercially designed (instead of story driven) cliffhangers. They drive me insane. It’s lazy writing in my opinion. Well, this book is the perfect example of cliffhanger perfection. It breaks your heart, but doesn’t leave wondering where the rest of the book went. Obviously, the overall story is far from finished, but this first installment wasn’t all back story. There was a lot going on and the action of the book had an ending that left you wanting more, but not feeling cheated. The world is well developed, the characters are real and fun, and the romance so lovely. It has so many elements that I love - witches, sisters (I have two younger sisters too!), mushy gushy romance, and dark & mysterious happenings.

GOLD star to Jessica Spotswood. I am dying to find out what happens next and am still feeling heartbroken for the sacrifice Cate had to make.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Penguin) to review. Jessica Spotswood will be joining us on our Road Trip Edition of the Breathless Reads panel at Passion & Prose. Click here for more Breathless Reads tour dates.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

This book was exactly what I needed right now. Something fun, still paranormal, and incredibly addictive. Yes folks, this book is vampire crack and I mean that in the best way possible. I devoured this book like vampires devour human blood (unless they’re lame like Edward Cullen).

Jessica has her whole senior year planned. She’s going to ask out the cute farmer boy she’s been flirting with at the diner all summer, win her horse riding competition, and enjoy the company of her quirky vegan parents. However, on her first day of school, a wrench is thrown into her plans in the form of a sexy foreign exchange student named Lucius Vladescu. Oh, and guess what? He’s a vampire prince and he’s come to claim her, his VAMPIRE PRINCESS, as his bride. He’s dreamy, but can she become the powerful, confident vampire princess he needs her to be? If she can’t, she could cause a worldwide vampire war that will cost thousands of human lives and she might lose the love of her life in the process.

Man, my summary makes it sound cheesy and to be honest, it kind of is, but in a FUN way. It’s silly, a bit campy, but totally fun and romantic. It’s a vampire rom com with dramatic high stakes (wah wah wah, get it? STAKES!). The characters are fun, especially Lucius. He’s incredibly well developed character for your stereotypical handsome, vampire prince. You really get to know him better through the letters he writes home to his uncle. He goes through a lot trying to figure out what to do with this vampire princess who didn’t even know she was a vampire and finds himself along the way. By the end of the book, you’ll be in love with him and routing for Jessica to save him from his dark side.

"Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side" by Beth Fantaskey is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I purchased my own copy on my Kindle.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

Eric Carle's "Mister Seahorse" has quickly become a favorite and was a no brainer for E's Pick of the Week. It's the story of a father seahorse exploring the ocean and learning about other father fish who are caring for their eggs/babies, just like he is! Along the way, he meets sees other types of fish hiding along his path (using a gimmick of see through plastic pictures which E thinks is SO cool). The book is full of the illustrations you love from Eric Carle in many bright, beautiful colors. We have only owned this book for 48 hours and I have already read it at least 8 times. My husband has also read it a couple times as well. E may be a bit obsessed. ;)

Eric Carle's "Mister Seahorse" is sure to enrapture any young fish lover, such as my little guy. It also makes a wonderful gift for new dads. I always love finding a book about Dads and how much they love their children.

"Mister Seahorse" is published by Philomel (Penguin) and is available in hardcover & board book form. We have the board book! :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Audiobook Review - Eve by Anna Carey

Okay. I think it’s official. I’m obsessed with dystopians. As much as I get tired of these run down, hard knock universes, I find myself drawn to them more and more. I feel like lately it’s all I read! They are all the rage lately, so that’s part of it. Never are stakes higher than when you’re saving world or yourself, right? They tend to have great action, exciting romance, and a lot of them have interesting twists. They’re thrilling without being a thriller. I love the ride.

So it’ll come as no big surprise then that I really enjoyed Anna Carey’s “Eve.” I’ve been listening to it over the past month or so. (I listen to audiobooks slowly. I love ‘em, but I only listen in the car or at the gym. Obviously, I need to go to the gym more.) Before I dive into the story, let me give a shout to the narrator, Tavia Gilbert, who handled the material fantastically. Since I’m a voice actor myself, you know I’m obsessed with the vocal qualities of the narrator. Tavia did an awesome job. She transitions between characters smoothly, while still having them all be distinct. I especially loved the voices she used for the older couple you encounter later on in the book. Top notch! It’s so wonderful to encounter such a talented narrator on a young adult novel. Way to go, Tavia!

Back to the book, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I’m going to steal the Goodreads.com description because every time I attempt to talk about this book, I end up spoiling something. Gah!

The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

The settings are fantastic. I really felt like I was traveling with Eve throughout the book. I loved the memories to her life back at school. It really helped me connect with Eve and get to know her better. I could ramble on and on, but as I said, I liked it. It’s a solid dystopian and I’m interested to see if some of the questions I have about the world & Eve’s future are answered in book 2.

I purchased the “Eve” audiobook via Audible.com. The audiobook was produced by Harper Audio. You can hear an interview with Anna Carey (along with Amy Garvey, Kiersten White, and Claudia Gray) over at Authors are ROCKSTARS!. She’ll be returning to the podcast in May, so stay tuned for that! :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

A.C. Gaughen’s “Scarlet” is a retelling of “Robin Hood” lore. In this version of the tale, Ms. Gaughen takes us to meet Robin’s band of merry men just a couple years after they joined forces. The sheriff is up to no good and of course, Robin and his gang are stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Ya know, the usual. The difference in this tale is that Will Scarlet or “Scar” to the boys is not exactly a “merry man”. No, he’s not sad. He just happens to be a she. A young woman haunted by her past, who trusts no one, not even Robin. And when the evil thief hunter, Gisbourne, arrives in Nottingham, she is forced to face her past head on.

This was just one of those books that I had been anxiously anticipating that fell flat and ultimately disappointed me. I was a big fan of the BBC’s Robin Hood (before the end of season 2. Ugh!), so I was really looking forward to this retelling. I was hoping for the fun, action packed stories of the legends of Robin Hood. And while there was action always present, it didn’t have that action-y feeling. I don’t now how to describe it. There was just some “umph” missing. It was exciting. I devoured it, but when I was done, I instantly thought “That was it?” The plot line just didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t enough. I absolutely loved her character development and the twist of having Will Scarlet be a girl, but the romance, the action, the bad guy (just a bad guy, no personality/back story other than he’s evil)... all left me wanting. It was the skeleton of an amazing story that just didn’t have enough flesh on its bones yet. My goodness, that is a grotesque description, but it’s the only way I can think of putting it!

I don’t want to be a complete “Negative Nancy” here though. I did devour this book and I think that there are many who will absolutely love it. It just fell short for me. One thing I must say though is that the author did an incredibly job developing a strong, flawed female heroine. You really get to know Scarlet and feel for her. It’s because of this wonderful, lush character building that I kept on reading. I really cared what happened to her and even though I didn’t care much for the plot in general, I finished the book and would be curious to find out what happens next.

So, give it a chance. Let me know what you think. :)

I received a digital ARC via Netgalley.com. This book is published by Walker Books for Young Readers (Bloomsbury). It is scheduled to be released on February 14th.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

In My Mailbox - Saturday February 4th

Photo from uglymailbox.com

Doing my IMM a day early so I don't forget. Tomorrow is a busy day! My husband obliged me again this week with my silly photo antics. In fact, he actually came up with some of the ideas. Go awesome hubby! So here you go... this is what arrived in my mailbox this week.

Note: Please excuse my icky hair. I'm growing it out.

I can't hear you. I'm too busy listening to these books.
Are they still there? ;)

Mwahahaha. Going to mad scientist school has finally paid off. I will PLANT "Dreamless" by Josephine Angelini and it will grow to become BOOK 3. I AM A GENIUS. (Don't worry, the book didn't get a bit of dirt on it. We're tricksy like that.)

Books Received this week:
- Dreamless by Josephine Angelini (read my review of "Starcrossed")
-Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne
- Chained by Lynne Kelley

That's it from me this week. Be sure to visit my review of "Midnight in Austenland" and tell me who your favorite Austen gentleman (or heroine!) you prefer. I'll choose one lucky lady or gent at random to get their own copy of the book. :)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme created by The Story Siren. Thanks Kristi! I don't participate weekly, but I sure have fun whenever I get the chance.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

My podcast co-host and fellow book blogger, Allison, and I were having such a wonderful discussion about this book last night. She looks at books by her favorite authors as an opportunity to sit down and spend some time with the author you adore. You may not madly adore every book, but it is always fun to spend time with the author on a new adventure. I really like that way of looking at things. It’s such a lovely thought, isn’t it?

I’ll be honest, this is not my favorite Shannon Hale book (I mean, how could anything possibly beat “The Goose Girl”?!), but I had a wonderful time. I loved the first Austenland book (I have re-read it a couple times. The romance is just so cute and you guys know I’m an Austenaholic. Here’s a picture for proof.
(This photo was actually taken in the old BBC offices in North Hollywood. I used to work for them! This is from Halloween 2007.)

Midnight in Austenland” is a fun little mystery full of Regency goodness. In this book, we meet Charlotte. The top of the book is a fast paced, tongue-in-cheek introduction to Charlotte and the life she has lead. She’s a mother of two, quiet, and thought of as “nice”. Just “nice”. Her husband has left her for a woman named Justice and made her life hell. So, she decides to go on a vacation while her kids are spending time with her husband. She ends up getting to go to Pembrooke Park, an exclusive vacation destination where you completely immerse yourself in the Regency time period, including dashing gentlemen to woo you a la Mr. Darcy. Doesn’t that just sound ah-mazing? While she is there, a few mysteries pop up and she finds focus in attempting to solve them, all the while trying to sort the play from reality. Along the way, Charlotte finds a strength within herself she didn’t know she had.

This book is a ton of fun. I adore Ms. Hale’s writing. (You can listen to me geek out getting to interview her on the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast.) This book doesn’t have the possible crossover teen appeal that the first one did since our main character is older and a divorcee, but so what? It’s fun and it was the perfect “cheerer upper” I needed. Thanks again, Ms Hale. You rock. For those of you who have read the first one, a few of our favorite characters (and I do mean characters) are back from the first book. For those of you who haven’t, you can jump right in with this one or go get yourself both for some fun, Austen-y goodness.

I also have one copy to giveaway! If you'd like to win a finished copy of this book, just comment on this entry and answer the following - If you could have one Austen gentleman all to yourself, who would it be and why? The winner will be chosen on February 14th! Be sure to include your Twitter ID or e-mail in your comment so I can contact you.

This giveaway is open internationally, but international winners are asked to contribute towards the additional shipping costs. See my contest page for more details.

I was sent a copy of “Midnight in Austenland” to review. It hit bookshelves this week! So go get yourself a copy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In the Garden (Green Start book)

I am really into gardening, despite my many failed attempts since moving to California almost seven years ago. (I miss rain! I am terrible about watering.) So, when we moved into a place with a patio, I got straight to work. Last year, we grew (or attempted to grow) blueberries, peas, chard, lettuce, herbs, carrots, and tomatoes. The tomatoes and blueberries were the only success, but it was a great learning process. The best part was seeing E out playing in the garden. He is a really great helper! So it's no wonder that he loves this little board book (made from 98% recycled materials) about gardening. He's a pro!

This book is a great way to introduce your kids to new fruits and vegetables and where they come fun. It's short, fun and a great book to start a discussion about food and the importance of eating fruits & veggies.

"In the Garden" is published by IKids and is available in earth-friendly board book form.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

Despite the buzz, I held off reading “Everneath” by Brodi Ashton because I’ve been a little burnt out lately. Don’t get me wrong, I *love* reading. However, I have picked up so many books in the last few months that I had been looking forward to that I ended up not being able to finish. It breaks my heart to put a book down only partially read. I know it is irrational and I shouldn’t waste my time reading things I don’t like, but I..feel...SO...guilty. But hey, I’ll get over it. Let’s move on to the topic at hand - Brodi Ashton’s debut novel “Everneath”.

“Everneath” is new story inspired by Underworld myths such as Persphone and Eurydice. Such an awkward way to put it, but it always seems that with these myth-inspired stories that there are reviewers who get all up in arms about it not being precise to its source material. I totally do not understand this. Anyways, I digress. At the beginning of the book, we meet Nikki Beckett (or Becks, which confused me for a bit. I missed reading her last name and thought for awhile there were two heroines. Whoopsy!). Nikki has just returned to our present day after spending a century in the Underworld, being fed upon by an Everliving, an immortal who feeds on human emotion. Though for Nikki an entire century has passed, back home only six months has gone by. They have been six long months for her loved ones. No one knows where she’s been, including her boyfriend, Jack, whose smiling face was the thought that saved her from shriveling up and becoming a shell of her former self in the Everneath. She’s returned to earth to reconnect to him, her father and to say goodbye because the Everneath will not let her go forever.

I really enjoyed this book. The one thing that really stood out to me about this one is how real the characters are. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know how much I love this. I think it really shows true writing prowess and grace when you can seamlessly weave in real people within unusual circumstances. Ms. Ashton does this in such a powerful way. Her characters really stuck with me and I was proud of the choices Nikki made as she reclaimed her life and atoned for the pain she had caused others. Nikki was definitely flawed and was still very much a teen girl, but she also showed that she could learn from her mistakes. I’m not doing them justice, but I’ll just state again - so real. They are probably the most genuine real people characters I have ever encountered in an unnatural world.

This book took me a little while to get hooked, due the start being about Nikki’s quest to say her goodbyes and make amends before the Underworld reclaims her. Once you get to know Nikki and Jack, you won’t be able to put it down. I realize that my review totally leaves out Cole, the “Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.” (from Goodreads.com summary) To be honest, that description kind of blows him out of proportion. He does exist. He is handsome and charming... but the love triangle? It is pretty weak. Again though - so very realistic. I have NO problem with this. I just want to warn those of you who are Love Triangle-aholics... Lotriaholics? Trilovers? Triangerosophiles? Anyways, you know, those of you who love that, it’s not a big factor in this book. I adore them too, but they’re not necessary for every single romantic paranormal out there and I’m glad it doesn’t play that huge a part here.

This book is a solid, well-written and entertaining read from beginning to finish. I could not put it down! If you’re a bit burnt out on paranormals, I think this would be a perfect book for you to get picked up and get hooked all over again. And if you’re not burnt out on myth-inspired YA? Well then what are you waiting for!? Go read “Everneath” by Brodi Ashton today.

“Everneath” is published by Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) and was released just last week. I received an ARC for review. This is Brodi Ashton's first novel.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Breathless Reads Tour including a stop at an awesome SoCal conference!

Guys, I am beyond excited and can not contain myself. Have you checked out the tour dates for the Breathless Reads tour yet? They are making stop all over the country! Here's their schedule. See if there is an event near you!

  • February 15th Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville, IL
  • February 16th Politics and Prose Bethesda, MD
  • February 17th Books of Wonder New York, NY
  • February 18th Towne Center Book and Caf√© Collegeville, PA
  • February 19th The Doylestown Bookshop Doylestown, PA
  • February 21st Little Shop of Stories Decatur, GA
  • February 22nd Blue Willow Bookshop Houston, TX
  • February 23rd Barnes & Noble Frisco Frisco, TX
  • February 24th Once Upon A Time Montrose, CA
  • February 25th Passion and Prose Conference Long Beach, CA
Two stops in SoCal?! Lucky us! And oh my gosh, while I'm at it, can I just blabber on for a moment about the "Passion & Prose" Conference? Authors are ROCKSTARS! will be doing a "Road Trip" podcast from the event. We are so excited! It's a conference in its infancy, but we hope to see it become a SoCal book lovers staple! They have so many awesome guests including being part of the Breathless Reads tour. You should go to their website and check it out. It's a bit pricey, but I think it's going to be worth it. It's a whole day event including breakfast and lunch! Meg Cabot is even going to be there! SQUEE! Did I mention I was excited? :P

Not in SoCal but want to go? Heck, I think you should. My sister is flying out from Wisconsin to attend! It's gorgeous here right now. You can escape winter weather, meet awesome authors and then do some SoCal tourist stuff like visiting Hollywood, going on a studio tour (I recommend Warner Bros. Their studio tour rock!), etc. Yes, I know. I'm an evil enabler. If you do end up making a trip out here, be sure to stop by and say hi to us at the conference!

Okay enough blabbering on from me for now. Don't forget - we'll be interviewing author Beth Revis next week (February 3rd). Have a question you're just dying to ask her? Just leave a comment here or over on the podcast page. We'll have a post going up later today!

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems

Better late than never! E's Pick of the Week this week is from the awesome Knuffle Bunny series, by Mo Willems. To be honest, he's been obsessed with both the first book and the second one for quite sometime. We are reading them 2 times a day at least and he sleeps with his very own Knuffle Bunny. I wrote about his love of the first book (and shared a picture of E) awhile back. I won't blab on and on, because really the same praise applies to this book. In "Knuffle Bunny Too", Trixie goes to Pre-K and brings her Knuffle Bunny for show and tell. Unfortunately, another girl has a knuffle bunny too! (Although, she says "nuffle" instead of "kuh-nuffle". Bah!) They argue over who has the best bunny and in the end, the teacher takes the toys away. When the toys are returned at the end of the day, they end up going to the wrong owners and this error isn't corrected until the middle of the night. It's not all bad though. In the end, Trixie makes a wonderful friend and so does her Knuffle Bunny.

As always, Mr. Willems illustrations are amazing. I adore the mixed mediums and love his drawing style.

"Knuffle Bunny" and "Knuffle Bunny Too" are published by Hyperion and are available in hardcover and paperback.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shameless Self Promotion Post - Come listen to the Leviathan Chronicles!

Hi folks. I'm a bit behind on my reading this week due to be insanely busy with voice over work. I apologize. In the mean time, I have some shameless self promotion to do. Are you a sci fi fan? How about a fan of audio drama? Or maybe you're just bored at the gym or during your commute? Well I have just the thing for you - "The Leviathan Chronicles".

This is a professionally produced audio drama which is available almost entirely for free online. On occassion, they release special episodes that you pay for such as the two that I am in - "The Rogue Plague" and "The Ward". I play a random British farm woman in "The Rogue Plague" and Lisette... the ward in "The Ward". I was blown away when I listened to the episodes recently and I'm not just saying that due to my dazzling performance. (Mwahaha...I am totally kidding. Accents are actually something that frighten me and I use them for both of my characters.) Seriously though, they're really good and the producer is incredibly dedicated to only producing the best content. It's original, interesting, and high quality content. I highly recommend checking it out.

You can download the episodes via LeviathanChronicles.com. You can even add "Leviathan Chronicles" on to your Goodreads.com shelves. Please go listen and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you. This has been another episode of Michelle's Shameless Self Promotion. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming. ;oP

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In My Mailbox - January 22nd, 2012

Photo from UglyMailbox.com (fun site!)

This week, I'm going to tell you about what I got my mailbox in a series of photos. I'm feeling exceptionally goofy this week. Are you ready for this? Here goes.

Here is a list of the books featured today.
In My Mailbox is a weekly meme created by The Story Siren. Thanks Kristi!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Vlog Review: A Million Suns by Beth Revis

So, vlogging when the toddler is not napping is super fun. Most of the time he was eating, but then he got noisy. Then the animals got noisy. I cut it all out, but it makes for a bit of a choppy ride. Plus, I had to finish up after he was down so you'll notice lighting/scenery changes. LOL. Now I know...never attempt vlogging when the toddler is awake. :)

I didn't think it was possible to like "A Million Suns" more than I liked "Across the Universe", but I did. Listen to me blab on and on in this very silly (per usual) vlog review.

"Across the Universe" and "A Million Suns" are published by Razorbill (Penguin). I was provided with a copy to review by the publisher. Ms. Revis will be joining us on the podcast in the month of February, so if you have any questions for her, now is the time to ask. We'll try to include as many listener questions as possible on the podcast.

EDIT: We are giving away one pass to the Passion & Prose conference which Ms. Revis will be attending. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Old Bear by Kevin Henkes

Man, this is is my third "E's Pick of the Week" featuring a book by Kevin Henkes. If you haven't picked up on it yet, this man is brilliant and you should go out and buy all of his books right now. E is currently obsessed with this one. It's a lovely little story about a bear who goes to sleep for the winter and has dreams of all the seasons passing by. As always, it features Kevin's magical illustrations that full of so much color and life. You can't go wrong with any Kevin Henkes book. They're perfect for children of all ages, even trouble makin' little two year olds who can barely sit still.

His charming illustrations and stories enchant parents too. I seriously want to get prints of Mr. Henkes work to decorate my house with! :)

"Old Bear" by Kevin Henkes is published by Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins) and is available in board book and hardcover formats.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Ahhh... finally, I got to read this book. I’ve had the ARC for awhile, but I was waiting until January 1st to start reading it so it would qualify for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge. I knew I was going to love it and boy, was I right.

“Under the Never Sky” is a dystopian with a very sci fi feel or is it a sci fi with dystopian scenery? Heck if I know, but whatever it is - it rocks. In this world, the Earth is falling apart and the land is being ravaged by these “aether storms” that tear apart the landscape and make it difficult to survive. Apparently, generations ago, a part of the population decided to leave the struggle and live in a giant dome structure that would protect them from the storms. To keep from going stir crazy in a confined, bland space, they use a virtual reality technology that keeps them hooked up together and able to go and do anything they want. Aria, our leading lady, finds out the hard way that this way of life can have complications though. When her mom goes missing, she knows she has to do whatever it takes to find her. Unfortunately, she messes with the wrong people and finds herself fighting for her survival in a world she’s only heard horror stories about and with a man, a wild man, who isn’t at all like she expected.

I really enjoyed this one... I don’t dish out 5 stars lightly on Goodreads.com, but I was tempted. This book meshes a lot of my favorite things - sci-fi, action, romance (and good ol’ slow building romance, not INSTA-LOVE), self-discovery, strong female character (who wasn’t INSTASTRONG either), dystopian setting (I love it when the stakes are ridiculously high!), etc. It’s sci fi though for people who wouldn’t necessarily love sci fi. I am trying desperately not to spoil you here, but there are different environments at play and not all of them are virtual, okay?

I know some other reviewers didn’t enjoy the romance aspect because it didn’t make them tingle, but I liked that. Not that I don’t like a good tingly romance, but sometimes, romance grounded in reality is a lot more enjoyable. Romance isn’t all anguish or passion with tingly, fiery intensity. (I am so into the word tingly today.) For a sci fi dystopian who’sawhat’sit, this book is so grounded in reality. I love that. Way to go, Ms. Rossi for making this book feel so real. It is so nice to feel instantly connected to characters and really feel for them when they’re going through this “out of this world” experience. To me, that’s a sign of an amazing writer.

Congratulations Ms. Rossi on your awesome debut. I cannot wait to see what you have for us in book 2!

I received a digital ARC from the publisher for review. This book was the first of many debuts I'll be reading this year as part of the Debut Author Challenge hosted by "The Story Siren". This book is published by HarperCollins and hit shelves this month. Pick up your copy today!
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