Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview with L.B. Schulman, author of LEAGUE OF STRAYS

1. Tell me about League of Strays. How did you come up with that story angle or idea?

Answer: I was fascinated by how Columbine came about and what motivated those two boys to do something so horrific. As it turns out, one of them has since been declared a sociopath. It seemed like that one boy influenced the other, which also intrigued me. I also wanted to write something that highlighted revenge as being its own form of bullying.

2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (YA-lit)?

Answer: I have always loved to read YA. I don’t even read adult fiction anymore. I just enjoy the quirky, exciting, adventurous lives of YA characters. As a writer, I’ve never wanted to go anywhere else. (Except for middle-grade, of course, but that's YA's sibling.)

3. What kind of research did you do for this series?

Answer: I spoke to police officers and lawyers, to make sure the ending was as realistic as possible. I also researched the viola so I could capture Charlotte's feelings about music. But I also drew from my own experience playing violin as a teenager.

4. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

Answer: I am inconsistent, though I wish I could say otherwise. Some days I don't write at all, and others, I write for eight hours straight. I live a busy life with kids and other responsibilities and sometimes, I can't squeeze in the hours to write. That is why this book took me so long to write...two to three years to get the first draft done and more to revise. I write in my living room on the couch with my laptop.

5. What is the hardest/easiest part of writing for you?

Answer: It’s hard to begin my writing day when I don't feel inspired. But I know from experience that I need to motor through that lethargy and just start. Soon, I will be on a roll. The easiest part is when my characters seem to write the book for me. My fingers just dictate what they tell me.

6. What’s the best thing about being an author?

Answer: For me, it's being able to pass along my world views through writing. If I have an important thought that I want to share, my characters can help me. As an author, I get to choose the theme and so writing the book is pure fun. I love what I do.

7. What are you working on now?

Answer: Another contemporary YA with a very cool hook. But I don't like to talk about my books until I've written them, because I am always changing my mind about the plot until it's done.

8. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Answer: For most of us, it takes a really long time to be published. Don't give up. Read, read, read. My writing really improved when I started reading a YA every week. And get a critique group. Their reactions have really helped me refine my writing.

9. Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

Answer: I like so many books, it's impossible to say. I find wonderful qualities in almost all of them. I could never pick just a few.

10. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

Answer: What is the number one quality that a person needs to succeed in anything he or she attempts? Perseverance. If you keep knocking, they will answer eventually, even if they are only doing it because they are annoyed with you! 

11. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

Answer: Keep on Knocking: The L.B. Schulman Story (title inspired by previous question.)

12. Is League of Strays being made into a movie/TV series? If you got the opportunity to cast the characters, whom would you choose and why?

Answer: Well, the book would have to be hugely popular for that to happen, I think. I’d take either of the Fanning sisters, or Drew Barrymore as a teenager, for the role of Charlotte. For Kade, I’d have to say Robert Pattinson. Yes, I know: he’s Edward Cullen, and Kade on my cover even resembles him. But still, those eyes and that intensity. Yeah, he’d be good. Real good.

Flash Questions:

1. If you could trade places with a person for a single day, who would it be and why?

Answer: I think it’s hard to be a celebrity, so I really don’t want to be one, even for a day. Everyone has his or her struggles, and no one lives a perfect existence, so I will stay in my own body for now.

2. What was the last movie you saw?

Answer: Oh, you would have to ask this. I am so embarrassed. Gulp. WAYNE’S WORLD TWO. But hey, it was Inappropriate Movie Night at my house. That title came from my constant admonition that such and such movie was “inappropriate” for my children, but I was seriously outvoted so many times that we now make a night of it.

3. What is your biggest TV addiction?

Answer: The Biggest Loser (inspiring while I do my elliptical) and American Idol. I also like any paranormal show, like Touched or reruns of The Ghost Whisperer. I don’t watch much TV though, because I get easily addicted to junk, and it’s a huge time waster.

4. Guilty pleasure?

Answer: Lattes, all day long. And chocolate bits: milk chocolate, not dark.

5. Fruits or veggies?

Answer: Mangoes and avocados….the ones with the most calories possible.

6. Favorite childhood toy?

Answer: My counting jump rope. I liked trying to beat my own records.

7. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Answer: A hard-boiled egg, a latte, and then an hour later, a bowl of Cheerios. I eat all day long. Hard for me to write without food nearby. Bad habit, I know.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Kiss of Frost (Mythos Academy, #2) by Jennifer Estep, Book Review

I’m Gwen Frost, a second-year warrior-in-training at Mythos Acad­emy, and I have no idea how I’m going to sur­vive the rest of the semes­ter. One day, I’m get­ting schooled in sword­play by the guy who broke my heart—the drop-dead gor­geous Logan who slays me every time. Then, an invis­i­ble archer in the Library of Antiq­ui­ties decides to use me for tar­get prac­tice. And now, I find out that some­one at the acad­emy is really a Reaper bad guy who wants me dead. I’m afraid if I don’t learn how to live by the sword—with Logan’s help—I just might die by the sword...

Title: Kiss of Frost
Author: Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Pages: 354
Release Date: November 29, 2011
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

I have read my fair share of books written by authors who try to take myths and legends and transform them into their own modernized mythological story.  Whether those books are good or not, well, we won't get into that. But I can personally guarantee that there is no "mythological retelling" book out there quite as original or well-written as Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep.

Kiss of Frost is the second book in the Mythos Academy series, so if you haven't read the first installment, Touch of Frost, it'd be a good idea to click off this review until you have.

Kiss of Frost opens up shortly after the ending of the first book and, as per usual, Estep has you hooked from the very first page.  The first OMG moment happens when Gwen is nearly killed by an unknown assailant.  After the first attempt to take her life is foiled, Gwen starts getting paranoid and begins taking extra precautions to ensure her safety, but plays it off cool because she doesn't want to ring any alarms and upset her friends, Grandma Frost, or Professor Metis.  However, after the SECOND attempt at murdering Gwen is set into motion, Gwen uses her Gypsy gift of psychometry to get to the bottom of who's trying to kill her.  And what she sees in her vision gets the ball rolling and from that moment on, a chain of exciting, heart-stopping events take place and you literally will not be able to tear yourself away.

Now that I've cruelly teased you all with the passage (above), I'll talk a little bit about the rest of the novel.  First, the characters.  I'll admit, Gwen really annoyed me in the first book and I can honestly say I wanted to slap her around on quite a few occasions, but she completely changed over the course of the second book.  I felt as if Gwen matured a lot and really started taking her place as Nike's Chosen One seriously and stopped bagging on herself for not being "good enough" all the time--because it was really annoying, but that's what character development is for, right?  I really liked Daphne and Carson in this book, too.  I felt as if they were the perfect best friends, and I could definitely feel the sincerity in their friendships.  At first, Logan Quinn (totally hot Spartan playboy/warrior) really pissed me off until the very end of the book.  I didn't understand why he was being such an asshole to Gwen, but things cleared up and by the end of the novel, I had to profess my love for Logan.  All in all, the characters were great and they all felt very real and relatable, and I really liked that aspect of the book.

Next, lets talk about the plot, which I've already given you a taste of in the introduction.  OMFG!  I think that one single acronym should be enough to tell you all how crazy (in a good way!) this plot was.  Action, adventure, romance...what else could you possibly want from a book?!  The plot, characters, and chemistry of this book reminded me a little bit of the House of Night series, (minus the tedious plot line!)

I have to give Kiss of Frost a 5/5 rating.  It was THAT good.  I seriously can't wait to dig into the third and fourth installments, Dark Frost and Crimson Frost (December 24, 2012).

Buy the book:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Unfailing Light (Katerina, #2) by Robin Bridges, Tour Stop + Book Review

Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She's about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia's arch nemesis--who she thought she'd destroyed--is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She'll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina's horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.

Title: The Unfailing Light
Author: Robin Bridges
Publisher: Random House Children's Books (Delacorte Press)
Pages: 400
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Source: Publisher
Format: ARC
Rating: 4/5

Let me start off this review by saying a huge thank you to Random House for letting me take part in this blog tour. Hope you enjoy reading my review!

It was revealed in the prequel, THE GATHERING STORM, that Katerina, a royal Russian, has a very dark, sinister gift...or is it a curse? Katerina's secret ability is to communicate, raise, and command the dead, and she can either use her talents for good...or evil.

One of the things I look for in every single book I read is a strong, independent female protagonist who isn't afraid to do things on her own, and Katerina is just that. She is so strong-willed and knows exactly what she wants, and doesn't let a man control her, which is odd in such a male-dominated culture, especially in Imperial Russia in the year 1888.

Speaking of Imperial Russia, let's talk about the setting of this trilogy: St. Petersburg, Russia, during the Imperial Age (1888). The setting makes for an amazing atmosphere. With most books set in the United States present day, it was a breath of fresh air to be transportation back in time to a foreign country.

I was kept guessing whodunit until the very end, which is very strange for me because I can usually pick up on who's wreaking all the havoc from the beginning, but Bridges wrote so much action, adventure, mystery, and magick into her book that you pretty much just had to "live in the moment."

I highly recommend The Gathering Storm and The Unfailing Light to lovers of YA paranormal romance. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Buy the book:

Here is the complete list of the stops on the tour. Don't forget to drop by!
~September 25th: Casey’s Crew
~September 26th: Much Ado About Books
~September 26th: The Streetlight Reader
~September 27th: Infinite Reads
~September 28th: The Hiding Spot
~September 29th: Girls *Heart* Books
~October 1st: Mom Reads My Books
~October 2nd: Magical Urban Fantasy Reads
~October 2nd: The Book Review Club
~October 3rd: The Book Review Club
~October 4th: Kimba Caffeinated
~October 4th: My Life is a Notebook
~October 5th: My Life is a Notebook
~October 6th: Candace’s Book Blog
~October 7th: Reader Girls
~October 8th: Bookish
~October 8th: Peace, Love, Books
~October 9th: YA Bibliophile
~October 9th: Reader Girls
~October 10th: Wastepaper Prose
~October 10th: Imaginary Reads
~October 11th: Imaginary Reads
~October 12th: Well Read Wife
~October 15th: Libby Blog
~October 16th: Cracking the Cover
~October 17th: A Bookish Libraria
~October 18th: A Novel Review
~October 19th: In the Best Worlds
~October 20th: Tripping Over Books

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vanished (1-800-WHERE-R-YOU, #1-2) by Meg Cabot, Book Review

A gift…or a curse? Jessica Mastriani has never liked attention. All she wants is to make it to high school graduation like any ordinary girl. But when Jess is struck by lightning, she becomes anything but ordinary: suddenly she has the ability to locate missing children. Now Jess is getting noticed in all the wrong ways and by all the wrong people. The media is obsessed with her and her story. The FBI is tapping her phone. And what’s going on with sexy senior Rob? Soon Jess learns the hard way that not everyone who is lost wants to be found…. With no one to trust, it's up to Jess to decide what to do with her new power—before it’s decided for her.

Title: Vanished, Volume 1
Author: Meg Cabot
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 560
Release Date: June 28, 2011
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

I read these books (WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES and CODE NAME CASSANDRA) when they were published as the 1-800-Where-R-You series and when I found out the books were being reprinted into two convenient volumes, I was psyched. I love Meg Cabot's YA paranormal books so I had high hopes for Vanished, Volume 1. From the first page, there is nonstop action. Cabo creatively and smoothly builds her world while making it fast paced and action packed. Vanished tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl named Jessica "Jess" Mastriani who has numerous "issues," one of them being self-control problems. After an altercation at school, Jess is punished with detention an is walking home afterwards with her best friend Ruth when a storm break out and the two girls take shelter underneath a stand of metal bleachers--asinine, I know.

While waiting out the storm, Jess is struck by lightnig and wakes up the next morning with the psychic ability to locate missing children. After that, a ton of drama follows and a string of action and adventure pursues.

I really enjoyed this book. Jess felt very real and I could definitely relate to her, and I loved her voice. She was very humorous and "smart ass" and for that, I loved her. I also fell in love with Rob, Jess's totally hot senior crush--he's a bad boy who only opens up to that one person--and that one person happens to be Jess. How swoon-worthy is that? The only character I really didn't like was Ruth, and I wished Jess would have told her to shut up at a dozen different times throughout the book.

From the very first page, Jess was getting into more and more trouble and at one point takes on an entire army base and blows up a helicopter. If that doesn't make you want to read Vanished, I don't know what will.

Buy the book:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fated (Soul Seekers, #1) by Alyson Noël, Book Review

The first book in a magnificent new series about a girl who can navigate between the worlds of the living and the dead by #1 New York Times bestselling author Alyson Noël.

Lately strange things have been happening to Daire Santos. Animals follow her, crows mock her, and glowing people appear out of nowhere. Worried that Daire is having a nervous breakdown, her mother packs her off to stay in the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico with a grandmother she’s never met.

There she crosses paths with Dace, a gorgeous guy with unearthly blue eyes who she’s encountered before...but only in her dreams. And she’ll get to know her grandmother—a woman who recognizes Daire’s bizarre episodes for what they are. A call to her true destiny as a Soul Seeker, one who can navigate between the worlds of the living and the dead. Her grandmother immediately begins teaching her to harness her powers—but it’s an art that must be mastered quickly. Because Dace’s brother is an evil shape-shifter who’s out to steal her powers. Now Daire must embrace her fate as a Soul Seeker and find out if Dace is one guy she’s meant to be with...or if he’s allied with the enemy she’s destined to destroy.

Title: Fated
Author: Alyson Noël
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 352
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Source: Publisher
Format: ARC
Rating: 4/5

I am a huge fan of Alyson Noël! I fell in love with her writing when I read the Immortals series, and I have been hooked ever since.  Noël has the ability to transport her readers into parallel worlds that are hard to forget once you finish the book, which she exhibited in the Immortals and Fated followed in its footsteps. 

Fated tells the story of a sixteen-year-old girl named Daire Santos who travels from place to place with her make-up artist mother working on movie sets.  Daire has a glamorous life and is constantly surrounded by the rich and famous--but she wants more.  After a string of paranormal accidents, Daire is shipped off to live with her estranged grandmother in dusty Enchantment, New Mexico where she discovers that she isn't the normal teenage girl she thought, but a powerful Soul Seeker destined to defeat her evil enemies and save the world from death, darkness, and destruction.

Let's talk about the plot...I LOVED it.  Noël was inspired to write the Soul Seekers series after doing research for the Immortals series, and while some of the themes in Fated were similar to the ones in the Immortals, Fated is totally unique and exciting!  The characters in Fated was pretty much the only thing that disappointed me.  I felt as if so much development and focus was on Daire and Paloma (Daire's Seeker grandmother) that the supporting characters (Dace, the love interest; Cade, the villain; and Xochitl, the best friend) were kind of left out.  They felt kind of one-dimensional for me, but the Soul Seekers is a four-book series, so I'm sure Noël will develop them in the future. Even though she didn't receive as much development as I'd hoped, I still loved Xochitl--she is really sweet, and I wish she was real!  The setting of Fated is, as stated above, Enchantment, New Mexico which consists of adobe houses, coyote fences, dusty plains, caucuses, and tumbleweeds...and that's pretty much it.  At first glance, the desert may seem like a dull setting but Noël had tons of mystical forces at work, and the drab desert was instantly turned into a fantastical landscape.

I really enjoyed Fated, and I hope you do, too!

Buy the book:
Barnes & Noble

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Summer Essentials Blog Tour

Professional ghost hunter Stacey Graham’s new book, The Girl’s Ghost Hunting Guide, will help pre-teen readers identify the creepy crawlers from the spooky spirits, the howling winds from the haunting phantoms. A paranormal investigator for over 20 years, she has as much experience with ghosts as she does with skeptical teenagers – she is the mother of five daughters.
The Girl’s Ghost Hunting Guide is filled with workbook pages, ghost stories, quizzes, sidebars, and interviews with ghost hunters, this illustrated guidebook gives girls the tools to safely explore the unknown using everyday household items and teaches them to rely on their own strengths, deductive reasoning, and senses to discover the paranormal beings among us. Part practical, part educational, and all-around fun Graham introduces tween girls to a world beyond our own. Check out Stacey’s website for more information: 

You can also check out the Phantom Party Guide here:

In the first book of the series, Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings, Jade discovers she is even more different than the typical teenage girl. She is a mermaid! After her dad swears her to secrecy, Jade must risk her blossoming romance with Luke and friendship with best friend Moe in order to rescue her mermaid mother from her captures …all by herself.

In Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath, Jade begins her summer confused. I mean, more confused than wondering whether today will be a “leg day” or a “tail day”. Jade’s got even bigger problems this time around. It’s been three weeks since her Mom (incidentally also a mermaid) returned to the ocean and Jade has no news of her whereabouts. Plus, and more importantly, it’s been twenty-one whole days since Jade first kissed her mer-boy Luke and now—nothing. NOTHING.

Will Jade’s Mom find the enchanted tidal pool that will allow her to become human? And if she does, what will happen then? And WHY is Luke acting so weird? Boy Drama plus Water Drama? It’s going to be a choppy ride.

Now that you've learned a little bit about Jade, read on for more about Hélène...!

Top Five Summer Splashin’ Activities
Discover Hélène’s favorite summer activities – all involving water of course. Make sure to get your swimsuit ready!

I grew up on a small island surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean so splishy-splashy summer activities are some of my favourite things to do.  Here are my top five summer splashin’ activities!

I am so bad at surfing and have only ever managed to stand on my board about three times in my life but it is so much fun to get out there and catch a few waves even if you’re like me and all you can manage is getting up on your knees. This day, it was only 13 C/ 55 F and the water was even chillier. Thank goodness for wet suits!

My family and I stay at an ocean side cottage every summer and try to schedule our stay during the annual Sandcastle Building Competition. We came in FIRST last year and plan on defending our title again this summer. Jade the mermaid has even been known to make an appearance!

Creatures of the sea have always amazed me (obviously!) so if you ever get the chance—don’t pass up an opportunity to go whale watching. It’s so magical!
Last time, we even discovered a sea cave. I wonder what’s hiding in there…

4. RACE!
I joke that I once came in 141st in a race with 140 competitors and that’s not very far from the truth. I am slow. VERY slow. But I love competing in races at least once a summer. These days I usually do walking half marathons (my best time is 3:01 hrs—a glacial pace) but I’ve also been known to do short triathlons. Swimming is probably my worst leg of the race but it’s a great way to cool down for the biking and running part. This is my ‘I’m so glad THAT’S over’ face.

Yup, you read that correctly. When you live within driving distance of a dozen hockey arenas like do, there’s nothing like loading up the back of the truck with Zamboni snow and dumping it in your front yard for an instant pile of chilly summer fun. Snowball fight!


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

*I would like to thank Stacey Graham (author of THE GIRL'S GHOST HUNTING GUIDE) and Hélène Boudreau (author of REAL MERMAID'S DON'T WEAR TOE RINGS and REAL MERMAID'S DON'T HOLD THEIR BREATH) as well as Sourcebooks for including me on this blog tour--I had a lot of fun, and will definitely be trying out some of those Summer Splashin' Activities!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Underworld (Abandon, #2) by Meg Cabot, Book Review

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, the dark reimagining of the Persephone myth begun in ABANDON continues ... into the Underworld.

Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera isn't dead.

Not this time.

But she is being held against her will in the dim, twilit world between heaven and hell, where the spirits of the deceased wait before embarking upon their final journey.

Her captor, John Hayden, claims it's for her own safety. Because not all the departed are dear. Some are so unhappy with where they ended up after leaving the Underworld, they've come back as Furies, intent on vengeance . . . on the one who sent them there and on the one whom he loves.

But while Pierce might be safe from the Furies in the Underworld, far worse dangers could be lurking for her there . . . and they might have more to do with its ruler than with his enemies.

And unless Pierce is careful, this time there'll be no escape.

Title: Underworld
Author: Meg Cabot
Publisher: Point
Pages: 320
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5

Underworld picks up right where the first installment, Abandon, left off.  We last saw Pierce and John escaping into the Underworld together to save Pierce from the Furies who want to see her dead--for good this time, but Pierce is convinced that the Furies are going to harm her family and friends back on the earth plane where they live unprotected, in the realm of the living.  After much pleading with her true love John, he agrees to help Pierce rescue her cousin, Alex, after receiving a macabre video on her cell phone (aka "magic mirror").  Pierce and John return to the earth plane on a daring rescue mission...and then all hell breaks loose.

I absolutely adored the first novel, Abandon, and Underworld did not disappoint me.  From page one, I was hooked by the mystery of John's past and the love that he and Pierce share.  I enjoyed the fast-paced action and adventure--there was never a dull moment in Underworld.  Whether encountering evil, demonic Furies or vengeful, psychotic grandmothers, Cabot continually kept the ball rolling, and I was thrilled until the very end.

There was a lot of character development in Underworld--in the first book, Pierce was adjusting to her life after dying, coming back to life, and being shipped off to live with her mother in Florida after a mysterious accident in Connecticut, and Pierce seemed much more mature and intelligent in this book.  Pierce is one of my favorite heroines of all time--she's smart, independent, and brave, and that's what makes her so appealing to me.  John Hayden, Pierce's immortal boyfriend, also grew up a lot in many ways--I enjoyed how Cabot combined real-life characteristics of modern day relationships with the traditions of nineteenth-century affairs (which is the time area in which John lived before being named as keeper of the Underworld.)

I highly recommend the Abandon trilogy for fans of paranormal romance, or simply anyone who enjoys a fast-paced, thrilling love story retelling one of the darkest Greek myths of all time--the myth of Persephone.

Buy Abandon (Abandon, #1):
Barnes & Noble

Buy Underworld (Abandon, #2):
Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kirsten Miller Interview-6/12/12

1. Tell me about your books The Eternal Ones and All You Desire. How did you come up with those story angles or ideas?
I always describe these books as thrillers about the mystery of love. They’re rather dark, twisted tales in which most of the heroes and villains believe they’ve been reincarnated. The  series began with a single thought: What if we’ve lived other lives?
I wouldn’t say I’m a believer, but I do think reincarnation offers an interesting explanation for a remarkable number of life’s little mysteries. . . .Why do we feel instantly drawn to certain people—and repelled by others? Why do some of us long for places we’ve never visited? How can little children possess unusual talents or inexplicable phobias? Why do some people believe they were born into the wrong bodies? Why do we all experience déjà vu?

But there was one little “mystery” I was particularly keen to address in the Eternal Ones series. Why do so many of us believe in love at first sight?

2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (YA-lit)?
I didn’t set out to write YA books. I still don’t feel like I write books for a particular audience. I always write to amuse myself. It’s the only way I’m able to stay interested in my work. Writing can be a grueling endeavor, and if I’m not personally interested in the story I’m telling, I know it’s going to come through in my books.

3. What kind of research did you do for this series?
I guess you could say I spent my whole life researching these books. I’ve been fascinated by the subject of reincarnation since I was a kid. I’ve read countless books on the subject. So when it came time to sit down and write this series, I really didn’t need to do much additional research.

4. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
When I’m feeling inspired, I can write for eight to ten hours straight. When I’m not feeling inspired, I force myself to stay put until I’m feeling inspired again. (That’s the hard part.)

I write at a desk in my home office. I always wear earplugs so my concentration won’t be broken. One of my biggest splurges in recent years was purchasing a top-quality desk chair. If you sit on your butt for eight hours a day, a good chair is essential. I drink copious amounts of coffee and almost always forget to have lunch.

When I’m working on a book, I try to write a thousand words a day. Sometimes I manage to surpass that goal, and sometimes I fall short. But I always follow the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given . . . I don’t call it a day unless I’m at a place in the story where I know exactly what happens next.

5. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The isolation.

6. What’s the best thing about being an author?
Meeting and hearing from readers. Never be afraid to send your favorite author a note. It helps us remember why we do what we do.

7. What are you working on now?
I have two books that are at different stages of the editing process. And I’m just getting started on a new novel (my seventh). I’m a big fan of ghost stories and horror novels, and this new book will be a bit of both.

8. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Writing isn’t supposed to be easy. So don’t get discouraged if a story or book is making you suffer a bit. That’s part of the process. Sometimes the hardest books to write are the most fun to read.

9. Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Michael Chabon (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh), Philip K. Dick (collected stories), Angela Carter (Wise Children), Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre)

10. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
Q: What are the three most inspirational things you’ve seen in the past year?
A: The masks on the mannequins at the Alexander McQueen show at the MET. The clove of garlic that was hurled at my bum by the ghost that shares my apartment with me. An untitled work by the painter Mark Rothko at the Museum of Modern Art.

11. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
I Made It All Up

Flash Questions:
1) If you could trade places with a person for a single day, who would it be and why?
Anyone who can really belt out a tune. But I’ll go left-field and say Debbie Harry back in the Blondie days. The lady had some serious style. And I bet she had a really good time.

2) What was the last movie you saw?
I watched Dream House last night. It’s a ghost story (though not a terribly good one) and I considered it research for my next project.

3) What is your biggest TV addiction?
Any show about Bigfoot. And Downtown Abbey. Ha.

4) Guilty pleasure?
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to refuse to feel guilty about enjoying any of life’s little pleasures. Particularly cheese.

5) Fruits or veggies?
Avocados. The missing link.

6) Favorite childhood toy?

7) What did you have for breakfast this morning?
What I always have. A Cliff Bar and coffee.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bloody Valentine (Blue Bloods, #5.5) by Melissa de la Cruz, Book Review

The Blue Bloods have powers beyond human comprehension: strength that defies logic, speed that cannot be captured on film, the ability to shapeshift, and more. But in matters of the heart, no one, not even these immortal vampires, has total control. In Bloody Valentine, a companion novella to the best-selling Blue Bloods series, author Melissa de la Cruz delves deep into the love lives of the all-powerful vamps from New York’s Upper East Side – Schuyler and Jack's passion for each other, Mimi and Kingsley's tangled romantic history, and even a possible cure for Oliver’s heartbreak in the form of a witchy new girl.

In both prose and verse, Bloody Valentine reveals the undying love, the hope and devastation, and the lust and longing that have defined the Blue Bloods throughout history. Prepare to be swept off your feet.

Title: Bloody Valentine
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 160
Release Date: December 28, 2010

Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover

Rating: 4/5

I've been a long-time fan of the Blue Bloods series--Melissa de la Cruz is one of my favorite authors, and I love her rendition of the ancient myth of vampires.  Bloody Valentine is a Blue Bloods novella, which takes place in between Misguided Angel (Blue Bloods, #5) and Lost in Time (Blue Bloods, #6). I really enjoyed seeing Oliver's heartbreaking journey as he tries to heal his wounded heart over Schuyler, and how Allegra and her brother Charles handled living in an elite Blue Blood society at a New England private school in the year 1985, and most of all: the bonding ceremony of Schuyler van Alen and Jack Force.  Bloody Valentine isn't a neccessary book in the series, although it does make the story as a whole seem more complete.  If you're a fan of the Blue Bloods series, I highly suggest that you read this novella.

City of Glass (Mortal Instruments, #3) by Cassandra Clare, Book Review

To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters -- never mind that enter-ing the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City -- whatever the cost?

Love is a mortal sin and the secrets of the past prove deadly as Clary and Jace face down Valentine in the final installment of the New York Times bestselling trilogy The Mortal Instruments.\

Title: City of Glass
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 541
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

Cassandra Clare is a writing goddess! Oh my gawd, wow! Clare, like her works, are a very rare find, and City of Glass, was certainly no exception.  I loved everything about this book--the plot, characters, pacing, setting, EVERYTHING.  The plot was totally unique and never done before, the characters were all smart, strong, and empowered--I loved Clary's dedication to her mother by going in search of the antidote that can bring her out of her slumber once and for all, and Jace's witty and cynical remarks.  I also really enjoyed Alec, Isabelle, and Simon as characters--without supporting characters like them, the book would not have been the complete package. Aside from plot and characters, the setting was rich and beautiful and I could feel the trees, water, and cobblestone-lined streets in Idris--I could see the glass towers of Alicante.  I definitely recommend the Mortal Instruments series (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, and City of Lost Souls) to anyone and everyone who loves to read--whether you enjoy paranormal romance or not, you will fall in love with Clare's urban fantasy creation.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Silence (Hush, Hush, #3) by Becca Fitzpatrick, Book Review

The noise between Patch and Nora is gone. They've overcome the secrets riddled in Patch's dark past...bridged two irreconcilable worlds...faced heart-wrenching tests of betrayal, loyalty and trust...and all for a love that will transcend the boundary between heaven and earth. Armed with nothing but their absolute faith in one another, Patch and Nora enter a desperate fight to stop a villain who holds the power to shatter everything they've worked for—and their love—forever.

Title: Silence
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pages: 438
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5

The third book in the Hush, Hush saga picks up three months after the second book, Crescendo, left off, with Nora waking up confused and disoriented in a cemetery with her memory of the past few months wiped clean.  Throughout the course of the novel, Nora must not only piece back together the remnants of her life, but put her sleuthing skills to use and investigate who kidnapped her--and why.

I really enjoyed the suspense, action, adventure, and romance in Silence.  I didn't really like Nora as a character because she complained a lot throughout the book and treated her "best friend" badly, and that really turned me off from her as a character.  I loved Patch, Nora's fallen angel boyfriend, and Vee, Nora's best friend--she was totally hilarious and sweet, and made me wish she was real so we could go shopping, eat doughnuts, and drink coffee at Enzo's (Silence book reference).  And strangely enough, I kind of liked Marcie Millar, Nora's arch-enemy, in this book--Nora was being really annoying and whiny, and Marcie was more than ready to put Nora and her attitude in place, and I really like that aspect of Marcie.

I definitely recommend this book because of the action, adventure, and romance--and oh my god, what a cliffhanger!  I'm definitely keeping my eyes on the shelves for the fourth and final book in the series.

Buy the book:
Barnes & Noble

Night Star (Immortals, #5) by Alyson Noël, Book Review

After fighting for centuries to be together, Ever and Damen’s future hinges on one final showdown that will leave readers gasping for breath. Don’t miss this explosive new installment of the #1 bestselling series that’s enchanted millions across the world!

Haven still blames Ever for the death of her boyfriend Roman, no matter how hard Ever’s tried to convince her it was an accident. Now she’s determined to take Ever down…and destroy Damen and Jude along the way. Her first step is to tear Ever and Damen apart—and she has just the ammunition to do it.

Hidden in one of Ever’s past lives is a terrible secret about Damen—a secret that illuminates new facts about her relationship with Jude, but that’s so dark and brutal it might be enough to drive her and Damen apart once and for all. As Ever faces her greatest fears about the guy she wants to spend eternity with, she’s thrust into a deadly clash with Haven that could destroy them all.

Now it’ll take everything she’s got—and bring out powers she never knew she had—to face down her most formidable enemy. But in order to win, she must first ask herself: is her own survival worth dooming Haven to an eternity of darkness in the Shadowland? And will learning the truth about Damen’s past hold the key to their future?

Title: Night Star
Author: Alyson Noël
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 302
Release Date: November 16, 2010
Source: Bought
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4/5

It took me three tries before I was finally able to read Night Star from beginning to end because it felt so very tedious and repetitive.  I wanted to escape into the world of the Immortals, but I just could not get into this book until after the first 50-60 pages.  After that, however, the plot began to gain momentum and I got through this book pretty quickly.  I was pleased with the exciting, fast-paced ending that left off on a humongous cliffhanger, and character development.  I feel that with every Immortals book, the heroine, Ever Bloom, becomes more strong and independent in both her physical/mental abilities, but also stronger as a person and that liberated independence written very well.

I loved the romance--a love story that spans across countless centuries, featuring two starcrossed reincarnated lovers who must find each other through time over and over again.  What could be better?  I also enjoyed the character of Damen, Ever's soulmate--he was beautiful, charming, charismatic, understanding, and totally and completely accepting in this book--talk about swoon-worthy!

I recommend this book if you've read the previous four books in the Immortals series and are familiar with Noël's writing style and sometimes tedious prose.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ellie James Interview + Giveaway-5/23/12

1. Tell me about the Midnight Dragonfly series. How did you come up with that story angle or idea?


The Midnight Dragonfly books are a series of romantic YA thrillers following the visions of a teenage psychic in New Orleans. A Louisiana native, I’ve always adored New Orleans’s French Quarter and Garden District, in particular the beautifully haunting architecture. Many buildings there date back 200 years!

As it so happens, back during the sleep deprived days after my little boy was born, I woke up one night from one of the most incredibly detailed, vivid dreams I’d ever had. I’d more than just seen a group of teen sneak into an old abandoned mansion--I’d been with them.  I’d gazed into the darkness, and smelled the decay. I’d felt the fear, and the crazy blast of excitement at the prospects of a game of truth or dare.  My heart was still racing when I woke up. The images lingered. I kept thinking about what I’d seen, and from the questions came: What happened next? What if one of the teens was a psychic? What if she saw something…something bad? What if she had a premonition? What if what she saw actually happened?  What if no one believed her, or at least, no one but the last guy she should let herself begin to fall for?

As I answered those questions, the Midnight Dragonfly books were born!

2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (YA-lit)?

It wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t sit down one day and decide, I’m going to write YA.  The story came to me, and it was 100% Young Adult. I’d been writing Romantic Suspense for years, but I knew this story--Trinity’s story--was more than just a romantic thriller. It was a journey of self discovery, of Trinity finding her place in the world and becoming who she’s meant to become. That journey wouldn’t work if I forced her into any other genre.

3. What kind of research did you do for this series?

Tons!  There was research on my characters, for which my nieces (to whom the first book is dedicated) helped me out enormously. I laugh when I think about the random texts they received at all times of day and night, and graciously responded to, all the way from “what would you say/do if XX happened, to kind of graffiti is on the bathroom walls at the clubs you go to, to what do you find most romantic in the whole world?

I also did a good bit of research into psychic phenomenon and New Orleans, post Katrina. It was incredibly important to me to paint a portrait of how badly Katrina hurt New Orleans, but also the resilient spirit of the city and the people, and how rebirth and rebuilding is everywhere. As it turned out, resiliency, rebirth, and rebuilding became powerful themes throughout the series.

4. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?

I love writing. I love creating. I love exploring story-worlds. My mind is always spinning, whether I’m at the computer or not. Typically I’m at my desk 4-5 hours per day, 5 days per week, with “mind work” happening the rest of the time. I’m constantly grabbing my phone and recording voice messages or jotting random notes. I’m not sure why, but my absolute best thoughts come to me at times when it’s hardest to jot them down: in the shower, while driving, and while running.

As for goals, I stick with weekly goals, rather than hard-core daily goals. I know how much I need to get done every week to meet my deadlines, and while I do divvy this up by day, having a weekly goal allows me some wiggle room if something comes up, such as a sick kid--again, I’m not sure why, but there is some bizarre corollary between imminent deadlines and sick children!

5. What is the hardest/easiest part of writing for you?

That’s an awesome question--I’ve never been asked that before. The easiest part is the characters. Once they form, they become so vivid to me, it’s like they’re part of me and I’m part of them. I feel what they feel, want what they want. Hurt when they hurt. Sometimes that’s emotionally tough, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.

As for the hardest part…I think it’s letting go. I could fiddle with my stories forever, letting my characters turn left instead of right and exploring what happens next. There are so many possibilities, it’s tough to choose one and run with it. With every book I’ve written, there’s something I’d love to change, all the way from adjusting an existing scene to scrapping it altogether and replacing it with something completely different.

6. What’s the best thing about being an author?

The chance to explore. There’s nothing static about writing. Every story brings new challenges and possibilities, new characters to get to know, worlds to create, mysteries to solve, love to feel, decisions to make…crimes to commit. Over the years I’ve found myself delving deeply into human behavior and psychology, to the point where I’m the go to person for family and friends wanting to know why someone is doing something.  It’s an awesome experience to bring diverse characters together, and see what happens.

7. What are you working on now?

On my desk next to me are Line Edits for the third book in the Midnight Dragonfly series, FRAGILE DARKNESS.  In addition to those, I’m exploring possibilities for where Trinity goes next, as well as fleshing out several new series ideas. I’m not sure what’s going to bubble up first, but I can promise you lots of action, adventure, mystery, and romance!

8. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

To believe in yourself and never give up. Each of us has stories to tell, and only you can tell them. The writing life can be incredibly hard. You spend tons of time alone, creating, and then you toss your creation out to the rest of the world, to see what they think. Some will love it, some won’t. That can take a toll of your confidence and your dream. But I have a plaque across from my desk that reads, “You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and I essentially live by those words. You have to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. It’s the only way they can come true.

9. Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?

Far too many to list them all, but as a sampling:

The Stand by Stephen King

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

10. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of book research?

Jumped into a swimming pool with my hands tied together (to see if I could stay afloat)--and broken into a place long abandoned (can’t say where--yet!) to see what it would feel like, and what kind of trouble I could get Trinity into on the other side!

11. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?

LOL! The first thing that popped into my head was LOST IN SPACE J  Then: ONE DAY AT A TIME. But seriously, after thinking on this for more than a few days, I’d have to say DREAMING IN COLOR.

Flash Questions:

1)If you could trade places with a person for a single day, who would it be and why?

Two people: 1) my husband. I’d LOVE to know how his mind works and 2) JJ Abrams. I’d love to know how his mind works, too (see below)!

2)What was the last movie you saw?

Steven Soderbergh’s HAYWIRE

3)What is your biggest TV addiction?

LOST!!!!!!  OMG, I miss that show. Before LOST, it was ALIAS. Post Lost, FRINGE is filling in nicely.  I guess you could say I’m a JJ Abrams fangirl J

4)Guilty pleasure?

Ultra dark chocolate and red wine!

5)Fruits or veggies?


6)Favorite childhood toy?

Any book I could get my hands on.

7)What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Key lime flavored Greek yogurt.

Me: Thank you for taking the time to answer these interview questions for me.

Ellie: Thank YOU, Casey!  Your questions were terrific and thought-provoking! 

 Please let your readers know that if they zip over to my Facebook page ( and let me know they read your interview, they’ll be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of Broken Illusions!

About the Midnight Dragonfly Series

Glimpses. That’s all they are. Shadowy premonitions flickering through sixteen year old psychic Trinity Monsour’s dreams. Some terrify: a girl screaming, a knife lifting, a body in the grass. But others--the dark, tortured eyes and the shattering kiss, the promise of forever--whisper to her soul.

They come without warning. They come without detail.

But they always mean the same thing: The clock is ticking, and only Trinity can stop it.

Find out how in Broken Illusions (St. Martin’s Press), available May 8, 2012.

About Ellie James

Most people who know Ellie think she’s your nice, ordinary average wife and mom of two little kids. They see someone who does all that normal stuff, like grocery shopping, walking the dogs, going to baseball games, and somehow always forgetting to get the house cleaned and laundry done.

 What they don't know is that more often than, this LSU J-School alum is somewhere far, far away, in an extraordinary world, deeply embroiled in solving a riddle or puzzle or crime, testing the limits of possibility, exploring the unexplained, and holding her breath while two people fall in love.

Regardless of which world Ellie’s in, she loves rain and wind and thunder and lightning; the first warm kiss of spring and the first cool whisper of fall; family, friends, and animals; dreams and happy endings; Lost and Fringe; Arcade Fire and Dave Matthews, and last but not least…warm gooey chocolate chip cookies.

Her next book, BROKEN ILLUSIONS, will be available from Griffin Teen May 8, 2012. 

Giveaway: Comment below with your name and e-mail address to be entered to win a signed copy of Shattered Dreams (Midnight Dragonfly, #1) and enter the contest above hosted by Ellie in order to be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of Broken Illusions (Midnight Dragonfly, #2).  Ends 5/30.