Flashback of the Month V: The Pursuit of Happiness

For a short explanation and the first Flashback of the Month post, go here. And, yes, I'm getting this in just in time - August is just about over.

After long battle with cancer, Betsy loses her mother and is left feeling lost in Tara Altebrando’s The Pursuit of Happiness. After the funeral, Betsy’s boyfriend dumps her and her best friend disappears from her life. As if things aren’t miserable enough, her summer plans include dressing like an early American to work at a colonial village (all her father’s fault, of course) along with the class freak, Liza. What begins as work soon turns into an escape for Betsy – from her judgmental classmates, from her breakup, from her mother’s death, and from her uncomfortably quiet home. With the help of her co-workers Liza and James, Betsy learns to work her way through the stages of grief and discover hope for normalcy in the future. While she is taught many colonial crafts and means of cooking, it seems that cutting silhouettes out of paper combined with a certain surfer’s woodcarvings are the perfect recipe for beginning to mend a broken heart.

Though sometimes it’s hard to look past the MTV logo, The Pursuit of Happiness is hardly a fluff novel. So, looking past the cover (and the corny “Declare your independence.”), Tara Altebrando’s novel will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, and Susane Colasanti. This is certainly one of the best young adult novels I’ve read that deals with overcoming grief. Betsy is easy to connect to as a reader (and respect, as she turns into a more proactive character), and Tara Altebrando truly succeeds in writing dialogue that sounds like it actually came out of a few teenagers’ mouths. I also love the setting, having always been fascinated by historical villages, and enjoyed this peak into what it could be like working at one. 9 out of 10.

A Shakespearean Summer: Much Ado About Nothing

Synopsis: Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies. With the encouragement of Don Pedro, a prince from Aragon, Claudio decides to romance Hero, and at a masquerade ball she accepts his hand in marriage. Don Pedro, impatient to wait the week for their wedding, sets forth as a matchmaker with the help of this couple, trying to set up Benedick and Beatrice (who constantly fight with each other). During this time, Don Pedro’s illegitimate half brother, Don John, works to deceive Claudio and trick him into believing Hero was unfaithful.

My thoughts: Though it’s an overused phrase, I think this is a play where lots of characters and situations are thrown together and “hilarity ensues.” Much Ado About Nothing is full of deception, plays on language (pay particular attention to names), and, of course, double entendres. This play was loads of fun to read, and I only wish I could see it performed sometime. At first it was a little difficult to keep all of the characters straight, but a few notes on a post-it took care of that. This is also a great play to read if you want to read one of the first examples (I believe) of the classic boy-and-girl-fight-a-lot then boy-and-girl-realize-they-have-feelings-for-one-another plot line.


After taking a course all about Shakespeare in the modern day, I’ve become absolutely intrigued by adaptations of Shakespeare’s works and references to Shakespeare in pop culture. So, for these Shakespearean Summer posts, I’ve decided to include other ways to take in Much Ado About Nothing. Here are a few of them:

Béatrice et Bénédict – A nineteenth-century opera by Berlioz that’s loosely based on Much Ado About Nothing. As you might guess by the title, this really focuses on the budding romance between Beatrice/ Béatrice and Benedick/ Bénédict, so the Hero’s supposed infidelity part doesn’t play a role in this opera. The overture is pretty well known :D

ShakespeaRe-Told – Recently discovered this series (thanks Jazz!). The Much Ado About Nothing episode is retold with anchors at a news station. The plot/big ideas seemed more or less consistent until the end.

The Boys Are Coming Home – A musical! Written a few years ago, I think (with admittedly mediocre music). This one’s a modern adaptation, moving the play to 1945 with soldiers returning from after World War II.


In My Mailbox: Week 12

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi from The Story Siren. Here's what I found in my mailbox, at the bookstore, and at the library these last two weeks. Summaries are taken from Amazon, B&N, and GoodReads.

Slow week this week, but these are great ones that I'm super excited about. :D

Sea Glass by Maria V. Snyder - Student glass magician Opal Cowan's newfound ability to steal a magician's powers makes her too powerful. Ordered to house arrest by the Council, Opal dares defy them, traveling to the Moon Clan's lands in search of Ulrick, the man she thinks she loves. Thinks because she is sure another man—now her prisoner—has switched souls with Ulrick. In hostile territory, without proof or allies, Opal isn't sure whom to trust. She can't forget Kade, the handsome Stormdancer who doesn't want to let her get close. And now everyone is after Opal's special powers for their own deadly gain….

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David Martín, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city’s underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner. Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has ever existed—a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, and perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realizes that there is a connection between his haunting book and the shadows that surround his home.

That's it for me. What did you get this week?

A Shakespearean Summer: Othello

Synopsis: Othello tells the tale of the Moor and general in the Venetian army, Othello. He loves Desdemona and they arrange a secret marriage. In the meanwhile, Iago, a soldier who is under Othello’s command, is jealous, having proposed to Desdemona previously. Combine this jealousy with Iago’s anger over Othello’s choice to promote Cassio over himself, and Iago’s left with a desire for revenge. Iago slowly begins to deceive and twist Othello’s mind so that he begins to destroy his own life.

My thoughts: Unlike my last selection, The Taming of the Shrew, this play isn’t one to enjoy for its humor and witty remarks. Though this play is still full of wit, it is shrewd wit rather than comedic. Iago is probably my favorite character from any of Shakespeare’s plays, not because I like him, but because I’m always impressed by the way he manipulates others. I think that Othello is gripping, and each scene just builds in intensity. Plus, this is really interesting to read in terms of race (if you’re in the mood for a bit of tough thinking and analysis, that is).


After taking a course all about Shakespeare in the modern day, I’ve become absolutely intrigued by adaptations of Shakespeare’s works and references to Shakespeare in pop culture. So, for these Shakespearean Summer posts, I’ve decided to include other ways to find Othello. Here are some of the more unique ones:

Omkara – Othello meets Bollywood. Enough said.

O – Set in a modern-day high school, where Othello is Odin, the star of the high school basketball team and the only African American at his school. Desdemona is Desi, the dean’s daughter, and Iago is Hugo, the basketball coach’s son. Pretty good film that’s quite intense (especially considering relatively reason school shootings).

All Night Long – A black and white 60’s movie set in London with lots of jazz music. A pretty loose adaptation, but there’s great music.


Feed Your Ears XV: If I Stay

To read about the origins of Feed Your Ears, check out my first post.

This week my selection is If I Stay by Gayle Forman. I had a blast with this one since I love classical music so much.

1. Cello Concerto in E Minor Op. 85: I. Adagio moderato - Elgar

2. Whole Lotta Love - James Taylor Quartet

3. God Bless the Child - Eva Cassidy

4. Libertango Suite - performed by Yo-Yo Ma

5. Schubert's String Quartet No. 14 minor, D. 810 "Death and the Maiden" : I. Allegro - performed by the Emerson String Quartet


Magic Under Glass Contest

As you may guess, I am SUPER excited about tenner Jackie Dolamore's Magic Under Glass. So, I was thrilled to find out that she's giving away an ARC of the copy with sketches of the characters, so it's totally unique.

Here's more on Magic Under Glass along with a link to the contest:

Coming 12/22/09 from Bloomsbury...

Nimira is a music-hall girl used to dancing for pennies. So when wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing accompaniment to a mysterious piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it will be the start of a better life. In Parry's world, long-buried secrets are about to stir. Unsettling rumors begin to swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry’s involvement in a group of corrupt sorcerers for whom the rules of the living and dead are meant to be broken for greater power. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing fairy gentleman is trapped within the automaton, she is determined to break the curse. But even as the two fall into a love that seems hopeless, breaking the curse becomes a perilous race against time. Because it's not just the future of these star-crossed lovers that's at stake, but the fate of the entire magical world.

Want to win an ARC with original sketches from the author inside? See http://fabulousfrock.livejournal.com for details!

Waiting on Wednesday: August 26

Title: Sphinx's Princess
Author: Esther Friesner
US Release Date: September 22, 2009

Summary (from Amazon): Nefertiti may be the dutiful daughter of a commoner, but her inquisitive mind often gets her into situations that are far from ordinary, like receiving secret lessons from a scribe. And she’s the kind of girl who acts first, and apologizes later whenever she witnesses injustice or cruelty. But she is also extraordinarily beautiful. And news of her striking beauty and impulsive behavior attracts the attention of her aunt, the manipulative Queen Tiye, who sees Nefertiti as an ideal pawn in her desire for power. Even though Nefertiti is taken from her beloved family and forced into a life filled with courtly intrigue and danger, her spirit and mind will not rest. She continues to challenge herself and the boundaries of ancient Egyptian society.

Why I'm interested: I love the Nobody's series by her, and I am huge historical fiction fan to begin with. I think her take on Nefertiti should be really interesting.


So many awards, so little time

Didn't y'all love that show, So Little Time? You know, with the Olsen twins? Uh, but yeah... anyway, to the point of this post:

I've been nominated for two blog awards. Yay!

The Zombie Chicken Award!

From Briana at The Book Pixie and Rachel at The Obsessive Reader. Thank you both! You're so awesome.

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...

So, now for my nominees:
J. Kaye at J. Kaye's Book Blog
Khy at Frenetic Reader
Lauren at Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf
Lenore at Presenting Lenore
Yan at Books By Their Cover

And then I was also nominated for the Lemonade Award a second time by Rachel of The Obsessive Reader. Thank you Rachel!!

The Lemonade Award is a feel good award that shows great attitude or gratitude. Here are the rules for accepting this award:
•Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.
•Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.
•Link your nominees within your post.
•Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
•Share the love and link to the person from whom you received the award.

And my Lemonade Award nominees are:
Allison at Read Into This
Alyssa at The Shady Glade
Ashley at Books Obsession
Casey at A Passion for Books
Faye at Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm
Laina at Laina Has Too Much Spare Time
Lee Verday at Lee A Verday's Book/Writing Blog
Rebecca at Everything To Do With Books
Rebecca at Rebecca's Book Blog
Taschima at Bloody Bookaholic

All of the blogs mentioned in this post are totally awesome, so you should check them out, comment on some posts, that sort of thing. :)

Teaser Tuesday: Week 10

Teaser Tuesdays is sponsored by MizB of Should Be Reading. Teaser Tuesdays go like this:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week:

"It was my nemesis Prince Siegfried, of the house of Hohenzollen-Sigmaringen, whom everyone expected me to marry.... I'd been whisked back to Scotland not to solve any crime but to be thrust together with the man I so vehemently avoided."

--page 87, Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen

What was your teaser this Tuesday?


In My Mailbox: Week 11

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi from The Story Siren. Here's what I found in my mailbox, at the bookstore, and at the library these last two weeks. Summaries are taken from Amazon, B&N, and GoodReads.

I seem to be having an issue uploading photos on Blogger, so no pictures this week. Sorry!

My Name is Will by Jess Winfield (won in a contest by A Journey of Books) - A Tale of two Shakespeares... Struggling UC Santa Cruz grad student Willie Shakespeare Greenberg is trying to write his thesis about the Bard. Kind of... Cut off by his father for laziness, and desperate for dough, Willie agrees to deliver a single giant, psychedelic mushroom to a mysterious collector, making himself an unwitting target in Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs. Meanwhile, would-be playwright (and oppressed Catholic) William Shakespeare is eighteen years old and stuck teaching Latin in the boondocks of Stratford-upon-Avon. The future Bard's life is turned upside down when a stranger entrusts him with a sacred relic from Rome... This, at a time when adherents of the "Old Faith" are being hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors. Seemingly separated in time and place, the lives of Willie and William begin to intersect in curious ways, from harrowing encounters with the law (and a few ex-girlfriends) to dubious experiments with mind-altering substances. Their misadventures could be dismissed as youthful folly. But wise or foolish, the bold choices they make will shape not only the 'Shakespeare' each is destined to come... but the very course of history itself.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (ARC from 1 ARC Tours) - For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (ARC for review) - For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment. But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel. For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr (ARC for review) - Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already-worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon (ARC) - Lil is an old woman who spends her days shelving rare books in a tiny Manhattan bookstore and lonely nights at home in her apartment. But Lil has an intriguing secret. Tucked and bound behind her back are white feathery wings–the only key to who she once was: the fairy godmother responsible for getting Cinderella to the ball to unite with her Prince Charming. But on that fateful night, something went terribly and beautifully wrong. Lil allowed herself the unthinkable: to feel the emotions of human beings and fall in love with the prince herself, going to the ball in place of Cinderella in her exquisitely gorgeous human guise. For her unforgivable mistake, she was banished to live among humans, far from her fairy sisters and their magical underwater world. But then one day she meets Veronica–a young, fair-skinned, flame-haired East Village beauty with a love of all things vintage and a penchant for falling in love with the wrong men–and suddenly it becomes clear to Lil that she’s been given a chance at redemption. If she can find a soul mate for Veronica, she may right her wrong and return to the fairy world she so deeply longs for. . . .

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella - Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive. Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts. Or do they? When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie–a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance–mysteriously appears, she has one last request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, and Sadie cannot rest without it. Lara, on the other hand, has a number of ongoing distractions. Her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, her start-up company is floundering, and she’s just been dumped by the “perfect” man. Sadie, however, could care less. Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common. But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from each other along the way.

That's my mailbox! What did you find in your's this week?


Back again...

and it looks like I have a ton to catch up on. My flight got in really late last night (curse those stupid storms) so I spent most of today sleeping late and then unpacking. Anyway, thanks for continuing to visit while I was gone! I was thrilled to come home to a bunch of books to review, lots of comments, and two blog awards. Sooooo... I'll get to that all tomorrow (yeah, I know, I'm lazy right now). Keep reading! :D


GUEST POST BY LISA MANTCHEV: Feed Your Ears XIV: Eyes Like Stars

Today's Feed Your Ears post is super special :) That's because Lisa Mantchev is visiting! Her novel, Eyes Like Stars, was released this July, and I'm thrilled that she was willing to put a playlist together for us to go with the book.


Lisa Mantchev's Eyes Like Stars playlist with her commentary:

1. "Eyes Like Stars" - Faulter - Darling Buds of May

I found this song only after we retitled the novel... I think it speaks for itself (and is especially shiny, given that "Darling buds of May" is a Shakespearean reference.)

2. "The Chairman's Waltz" - John Williams - Memoirs of a Geisha soundtrack

This is the music that would accompany Bertie and the fairies moving past the velvet curtains, around the half-lit backstage area, in the places only they really know about at the Théâtre.

3. "Moonlight Serenade" - Klaus Badelt - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack

Nate's entrance song.

4 and 5. "The Wedding Samba" - Edmundo Ros & His Rumba Band and "Je Chante" - Charles Trenet - A Good Year soundtrack

Two numbers I'm pretty sure Mr. Hastings would play on the Victrola in the Properties Department.

6. "Koop Island Blues" - Koop, featuring Ane Brun - Koop Islands

Very "By The Sea"-esque (you know your Sweeney Todd, yes?) and something I can hear playing in the background as Bertie and the fairies frolic in old-fashioned flannel bathing costumes at the seaside set.

7. "Falling Slowly" - Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - Once soundtrack

Bertie and Nate, summed up in a song.

8. "The Assassins' Tango" - John Powell - Mr. & Mrs. Smith soundtrack

Bertie and Ariel's Tango Music

9. "The Only One"/"Call Me When You're Sober" - Evanescence - The Open Door

The sort of music Bertie probably would have listened to when mad at either one of the boys, had she an iPod.

10. "Prendersi per mano" - Cirque Du Soleil - Corteo soundtrack

Almost ALL the Cirque music instantly transports me to the stage... it's very theatrical and evocative... this soundtrack and the other Cirque music comes even more into play for Perchance To Dream


So, I think this is one AWESOME playlist. Thank you so much Lisa! Plus, Lisa put together this awesome playlist so you can listen to most of the songs:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

If you haven't already, check out Lisa Mantchev's Eyes Like Stars, already on shelves, and the Theatre Illuminata website.


Eyes Like Stars

All Beatrice (Bertie) Shakespeare Smith knows is the Théâtre Illuminata. At the Théâtre, players are born to fill their particular role, bound to the building itself by The Book. Bertie has no idea who her parents are; just that she was left at the Théâtre to be taken care of. Despite not being a player, at the Théâtre she feels like she belongs. Living with the stage as her bedroom and the four fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as her closest companions, Bertie grows up to love the written word, action, and chaos (well, maybe she doesn’t love chaos but she can’t seem to help but create it). Unfortunately, it’s this attraction to disaster that constantly gets Bertie in trouble. When it finally goes too far, Bertie needs to find out what makes her indispensible before she loses her home and her family.

Lisa Mantchev’s Eyes Like Stars is a truly unique new fantasy. Though the beginning of the novel was a bit confusing, it didn’t take very long to become engrossed in Bertie’s story. Eyes Like Stars weaves script with narrative, so that Bertie’s story can’t be told without both. Along these lines, I love how Lisa Mantchev emphasizes the power of words and blurs the distinction between what is written and what is real. Plays that are likely familiar to the reader (such as Hamlet) come to life, and even with such liberty, Lisa Mantchev manages to stay true to the nature of each character. Though sometimes irksome, the four fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream increase the hilarity of the story so that the reader can’t help but laugh. As the scenes unfold, the charismatic yet dangerous Ariel (from Shakespeare’s The Tempest) enters the story, as does the modest and kind pirate Nate (from The Little Mermaid). It is particularly interesting to read how they play off of each other as they vie for Bertie’s attention. Overall, Eyes Like Stars is a really enjoyable read once you get past the very beginning. The characters are wonderful, and the imagination that went into this story is incredible. As the first installment in a trilogy, I was pleased to say that the end of Eyes Like Stars felt resolved enough to leave the reader satisfied while leaving plenty of storylines hanging in order to build anticipation for Act II. 8 out of 10.

P.S. Check back tomorrow for Lisa Mantchev's Eyes Like Stars playlist!


Waiting on Wednesday: August 19

Title: Winter's Child
Author: Cameron Dokey
Series: Once Upon a Time
US Release date: September 8, 2009

Summary (from GoodReads): Kai and Grace are best friends who live in adjoining homes. But when Kai declares his love for Grace, everything changes. Grace years for freedom and pushes away Kai - and their friendship. Dejected Kai dreams of a dazzling Snow Queen, who entices him to leave home and wander to faraway lands. When Grace discovers Kai is gone, she learns how much she has lost - and sets out on a mystical journey to find him...and discover herself.

Why I'm interested: I've read every book in the Once Upon a Time series that's been released so far. Cameron Dokey's are some of my favorites. I like that this is a retelling of "The Snow Queen" because it's a fairy tale I know but am not too well familiar with.


Interview with Amy Efaw

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you all my first author interview :) So without further ado, I welcome Amy Efaw, author of Battle Dress and After. A mother of five, I’m impressed that she has any time to write, let alone do a ton of radio interviews (read more about those on her blog) and even respond to me :D. Amy Efaw’s most recent novel for young adults, After, does a fantastic job dealing with the “Dumpster baby” phenomenon (see my review from yesterday for more on the book).


KB: What was your inspiration for After?
AE: I first got the idea for AFTER while living in Philadelphia with my law student husband and then 3 little kids, all under the age of 5. One cold winter day, the big news story in Philly was of an off-duty police officer and his pit bull. During their early morning walk, they stumbled across a live baby in a trash bag that was left at the curb. That incident got me thinking about the issue – how could someone do something like that? And why? Then a couple of years later, I had just published my first book for teens, BATTLE DRESS, and I was trying to figure out the topic of my next novel. We were living in Washington State, I was pregnant with my fifth child, and my Army prosecutor husband got his own “Dumpster baby” case to try! At that point, I just knew that I had to write a novel involving the “Dumpster baby” phenomenon.

KB: How did you choose the title?
AE: Actually, the working title I used while I was writing the book was AFTER BIRTH (which I thought was perfect – gritty and graphic, but also clever because of its double meaning). But my publisher thought it was just too icky (“afterbirth” – one word – is another term for “placenta,” and my publisher felt that too many people would’ve been grossed out by that title). So, we tossed around many different ideas, which just weren’t working for one reason or another. And then one day, my amazing editor Joy Peskin and some of the other “decision-makers” at Viking were meeting around some conference room table (at least, that’s how I imagine it happened), and they came up with the simple, but intriguing, title AFTER. And I really liked it, too!
In fact, Joy emailed me about their choice right after the meeting, hoping I’d like it. She wrote, “And, hey “After” is half of your original title :)!”

KB: When did you start writing?
AE: When did I start writing, period? Well, one day in junior high, my 7th grade English teacher called me up after class. She told me she was so impressed with one of the creative writing stories I had turned in to her, that she wanted to submit it for publication. That was the first seed – a teacher telling me I wrote well. A couple of years later in high school, I started writing a novel, but I never finished it. Over the years, I’d write poetry just for myself. But I seriously considered trying to become a writer when I became a mom. I’d sit around in the children’s section of this really cool Borders Bookstore in Philadelphia and read picture books to my kids, and I thought, “Hey! I can do this!” So, I got to work.
I wrote a couple of picture book manuscripts first and sent them off to publishers. But I didn’t have much luck besides collecting rejection letters. But I didn’t give up. Then I attended a weeklong children’s writer’s conference in Chautauqua, New York (I had won a full-ride scholarship to it), and when I returned home all inspired, I started a novel, based on my experience as a female cadet at West Point. It sold before I had even finished it! That was my first book for teens, BATTLE DRESS.

KB: Why did you choose to write for teens?
AE: I might get into trouble for saying this, but I’m going to do it anyway – I think in many ways you have to be a better writer to hold a teen’s attention than an adult’s. We young adult authors have a lot of competition – video games and MySpace and TV and iPods and text messaging, etc. If we don’t grab our audience right away, our book will be tossed, relegated to some corner in a closet or under the bed, never to be cracked again. Adults tend to be more patient when they read; they’ll give a book more time to draw them in.
Also, I believe that teens tend to be more open to new ideas than adults tend to be. Not that I write with an agenda in mind, but as an author, I think it’s a powerful thing to possibly affect the way people look at a particular issue or expose them to a new concept.

KB: What do you hope readers will get out of reading After?
AE: Of course I’d like to bring more awareness to the “Dumpster baby” issue. But even more than that, I’d hope AFTER encourages readers to get involved in other people’s lives. Don’t sit by when your friends withdraw into themselves or change. Take a risk, step up, and ask, “What’s going on with you?” OR “I’m worried about you.” And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Life can be tough; we need to help each other get through it when we can.

KB: Are you working on anything right now?
AE: Yep, I’ve started working on my next novel for teens. It’ll be another psychological, “get into the head” type story. The going is kind of slow at the moment since AFTER is just coming out, and I’ve been bombarded with tons of radio and blog interview requests, so I’ve been funneling my time in that direction lately. I get distracted very easily, unfortunately! And having five busy kids, my writing often gets shoved onto the back burner.

KB: Thanks, now for a few random questions. Since it’s August, what’s your favorite summer food?
AE: I really love a good burger, grilled out. Lots of ketchup. And ice cream – anything with chocolate. I have a couple of really cool ice cream shops within walking distance of my house in North Denver, so that’s been my vice this summer – taking a walk in the evenings with my husband, Andy, and stopping to grab a scoop!

KB: What song is playing in your head the most right now?
AE: “Paper Planes” by M.I.A.

KB: What question do you wish you were asked more often?
AE: “So, when is that next book coming out?” Because I could always use that extra kick in the butt to stay on task!
KB: Haha, I’m sure we’ll all have to keep that in mind ;) Thanks so much for visiting and best of luck to you.


After was released just last week - August 11th - so that means you don’t even have to wait to get a copy. And for even more about Amy Efaw, visit her website and check out this website for After.


Catching Fire contest

Since I reached 100 blog posts and 75 followers and I'm super excited, I've decided it's time to celebrate. So, one of you lucky readers will be receiving my copy of... Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

To enter, just leave a comment below including your email address so that I can get in touch if you win. I'm a poor college kid, so unfortunately I have to say that I can only mail to U.S. addresses.

For extra entries (lots of 'em):
+1 if you tell me the best book you've read this summer
+2 if you become a follower
+3 if you already were a follower
+2 if you add me to your blog roll
+2 for each time you blog about/link to/twitter about this contest (unlimited amount of times)
+3 if you comment on one of my reviews or interview
+2 if you comment on a Feed Your Ears playlist

So... Ready, set, GO! This contest will end September 5th.


First, I just HAVE to share the captivating book trailer that Penguin released:

After tells the story of Devon, a girl who was once a completely normal teenager. Scratch that – Devon was never just normal. She was a hardworking straight-A student with an undeniable talent for soccer who as a high school student acted as mature as a college grad. Then one day a newborn baby appears abandoned in a dumpster – the same day that Devon is home sick. It’s not long before the connection is made, identifying the baby as Devon’s and leaving her with multiple criminal charges, the most serious of which being attempted homicide.

I’ve always been horrified and almost disgusted by the concept of dumpster babies, so After really opened my mind. I was incredibly impressed by Amy Efaw’s ability to make Devon a sympathetic character, especially considering that After isn’t even narrated directly by Devon. Amy Efaw creates a likeable though desperate protagonist who is not yet sixteen to make the issue far more complex than today’s media generally makes it out to be. Especially due to the emphasis put on intent, the courtroom scenes were fascinating, and as a reader it felt like you were there in the courtroom with Devon and Dom.

After makes great use of flashbacks to slowly reveal the entire story behind Devon’s pregnancy and her baby’s birth. These flashbacks truly contribute to the novel’s intensity without confusing the reader. Amy Efaw’s characters, especially Devon and her mother, felt very realistic, even when, in the case of Devon’s mother, they weren’t always likeable. I was really moved by the ending and impressed by Devon’s maturity, something you can hardly say about many the protagonists in many young adult novels. Though I only finished reading After a few hours before writing this review, I can say honestly say that I haven’t been able to get my mind off of the book since finishing it. The questions posed by After are incredibly thought provoking, and I expect to continue thinking it over for some time to come. I should warn you, though. After is a gritty novel about a sensitive subject and some of the excerpts are graphic. I believe readers need to approach After knowing you’re in for a serious read in order to really appreciate it. I give it a 9 out of 10.

P.S. Check back tomorrow for an interview with Amy Efaw!!
P.P.S. Don’t you love the cover? The subtlety of the girl’s reflection is ingenious.


In My Mailbox: Week 10

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi from The Story Siren. Here's what I found in my mailbox, at the bookstore, and at the library these last two weeks. Summaries are taken from Amazon, B&N, and GoodReads.

The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong - If you had met me a few weeks ago, you probably would have described me as an average teenage girl—someone normal. Now my life has changed forever and I'm as far away from normal as it gets. A living science experiment—not only can I see ghosts, but I was genetically altered by a sinister organization called the Edison Group. What does that mean? For starters, I'm a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control; I raise the dead without even trying. Trust me, that is not a power you want to have. Ever. Now I'm running for my life with three of my supernatural friends—a charming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch—and we have to find someone who can help us before the Edison Group finds us first. Or die trying.

Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic by Suzanne Weyn - Science, spiritualism, history, and romance intertwine in Suzanne Weyn's newest novel. Four sisters and their mother make their way from a spiritualist town in New York to London, becoming acquainted with journalist W. T. Stead, scientist Nikola Tesla, and industrialist John Jacob Astor. When they all find themselves on the Titanic, one of Tesla's inventions dooms them...and one could save them.

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (ARC, won in a contest by Jennifer of YABOOKNERD) - It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live. A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev (ARC from 1 ARC Tours) - All her world's a stage. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater. She is not an orphan, but she has no parents. She knows every part, but has no lines of her own. Until now. Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every place ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

After by Amy Efaw (ARC from 1 ARC Tours) - An infant left in the trash to die. A teenage mother who never knew she was pregnant . . . Before That Morning, these were the words most often used to describe straight-A student and star soccer player Devon Davenport: responsible, hardworking, mature. But all that changes when the police find Devon home sick from school as they investigate the case of an abandoned baby. Soon the connection is made—Devon has just given birth; the baby in the trash is hers. After That Morning, there's only one way to define Devon: attempted murderer.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (ARC for review) - Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

So there you have it, my mailbox for the last two weeks. What found its way into your hands this week?


Feed Your Ears XIII: Taken By Storm

To read about the origins of Feed Your Ears, check out my first post.

This week for my Feed Your Ears post, I've picked Taken By Storm by Angela Morrison.

1. Weather the Storm - Craig Armstrong

2. Storm at Sea from The Little Mermaid (instrumental)

3. I'm Not Really Sure - The Superfallingstars

4. How to Save a Life - The Fray

5. Rescued - Jack's Mannequin


Just returned, but gone again

Hey everyone. I know I only got back earlier this week, but I have to say goodbye again (only for one week though!). This time, I'm headed to California for a week (to visit the boyfriend who's being stupid and studying abroad all fall). I'm hoping blogger will actually cooperate this time around, so that there are posts every day for you guys. Since I feel bad leaving again, especially so soon, I've made sure to have lots of interesting stuff going up while I'm gone... reviews for After by Amy Efaw and Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev, an interview (my first!) with Amy Efaw, and a guest post by Lisa Mantchev (a playlist for Eyes Like Stars). Plus, because I was so excited to find that while I was gone, I hit 100 posts and reached 75 followers, I will be announcing a special contest next week so stay tuned :D


Lemonade Award

Thank you thank you thank you to OIKZ from Strange Epiphanies for my first blog award! It's the lemonade award for bloggers who display and portray great attitude or gratitude. I am so honored to be nominated for this award. Now it's my turn to nominate 10 other bloggers, and I couldn't be more excited to spread the love (especially since there seems to be a lack of love recently in the blogosphere). I had a really hard time narrowing it down, but here are ten magnificent bloggers who totally deserve the lemonade award:

Waiting on Wednesday: August 12

Title: Candor
Author: Pam Bachorz
US Release date: September 22, 2009

Summary (from GoodReads): Oscar Banks has everything under control. In a town where his father brainwashes everyone, he's found a way to secretly fight the subliminal Messages. He's got them all fooled: Oscar's the top student and the best-behaved teen in town. Nobody knows he's made his own Messages to deprogram his brain. Oscar has even found a way to get rich. For a hefty price, he helps new kids escape Candor, Florida before they're transformed into cookie-cutter teens. But then Nia Silva moves to Candor, and Oscar's carefully-controlled world crumbles.

Why I'm interested: I like stories where the main character fights the norm (i.e. Scott Westerfeld's books) and I love a book that features a bit of dangerous. This book has a whole lot of both, plus it has a fantastic-looking cover.


Teaser Tuesday: Week 9

Teaser Tuesdays is sponsored by MizB of Should Be Reading. Teaser Tuesdays go like this:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
This week, since I don't want to give away too much, my teaser is only one sentence long. So, without further ado...

"Trusting him, even for one second, was the stupidest thing I've ever done."

--page 191, Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

What was your teaser this Tuesday?

I'm Back!

Hey everyone! I'm back from Disney World and I had a FANTASTIC time, though of course I missed you all. I figured I'm share a few photos from my trip...

^Here's the view from the balcony of our first room at Animal Kingdom Lodge's Kidani Village. First, notice how long that is. That was only half of the walk from the lobby! I doubt anyone'll believe me, but it was a quarter of a mile walk to get to our room.

^The best part of the room (other than the Lion King theme) was the savannah view, where I could see animals like these.

^Yup, that's me on the balcony (note the slightly crooked smile that I can't seem to get rid of, so instead I decided to think it builds character).

^While there, we also went out for some mother-daughter tea. In my hand is the Mad Hatter blend - a black tea that blends passion fruit, pomegranate, and vanilla.

^Super-awesome pool at the Beach Club - 3 acres with a sand bottom and a big pirate ship of a water slide

^This was my favorite reading spot. I wish those shelves had been filled with books though!

So, there you go! Some snapshots into my trip. Since I was having some issues with my digital camera, a bunch of my photos were just taken on a disposable one, so these photos will have to do. Thanks for checking in while I was gone and I can't wait to get back into blogging (well, for a couple of days at least until I head off to another sunny place, but I'll fill you all in about that at the end of the week).


In My Mailbox: Week 9

Since I haven't been home this week, I have no clue what's been in my mailbox this week. But that just means twice as much for next week's post!


Feed Your Ears XII: Kiss Me Kill Me

To read about the origins of Feed Your Ears, check out my first post.

So for this week I've picked Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson.

1. Secrets - Bloc Party

2. A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me - Fall Out Boy

3. Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Dionne Warwick

4. Hide and Seek - Imogen Heap

5. Killing Lies - The Strokes


Laura Resau Love

First of all, much love to author Laura Resau for not only linking to my review of Red Glass, but sharing my review with the readers of her blog. :)

And since I've stopped being a lazy butt and have finally started working my way down the long checklist of things I have to write, I have finally finished said review by writing my own summary. You can find the entire review here, but for those of you just wondering what Red Glass is about, look no further:

High school student Sophie had no idea how much her life would change after her family received a phone call, bringing them to a nearby hospital. There they found the six-year-old Pablo, the only survivor of a group of Mexicans attempting to cross the Arizona border. The young Pablo quickly becomes a member – Sophie’s Principito, her Little Prince. A year later, contact is made with Pablo’s remaining family, and so Sophie joins her Aunt Dika, Dika’s boyfriend Mr. Lorenzo, and Mr. Lorenzo’s son Angel on a journey to rejoin Pablo with the only family he has left. Along the way, Sophie is torn knowing the decision Pablo must make and recognizing the risks she faces by allowing herself to get close to Angel.


Waiting on Wednesday: August 5

Title: Bleeding Violet
Author: Dia Reeves
US Release date: January 5, 2010

Summary (from Amazon.com): Love can be a dangerous thing.... Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna's tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas in search of a new home. But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she's far from normal. As this crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.

Why I'm interested: 1. It's another tenner! yay! 2. All of the secrecy sounds really interesting, and the summary totally leaves me hanging wondering exactly what's up with Hanna and what exactly makes her not-so normal. 3. I like violet dresses.

So, what book are you waiting on?


Teaser Tuesday: Week 8

Teaser Tuesdays is sponsored by MizB of Should Be Reading. Teaser Tuesdays go like this:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week, my teaser is...

"So I let Dr. Davidoff blather on, telling me about their study, about the other
kids, about how we'd be 'fixed' and out of here in no time. And I smiled and
nodded and started making my own plans."

--page 26, The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong

What's your teaser today?


The Happiest Place in the World

Hello lovlies. So, as sad as I am to say goodbye to my blog for a week, I am super super super excited to be going to Disney. Some people seem to think that once you're like over 13 it's no longer cool to go to Disney World, but I think they're stupid. I mean, I love that my mom is in love with Disney because it means we head to Florida every couple of summers and I get to see lots of Disney princesses. And of course I get to spend time pretending I tan. But anyway, I'm sure you're not interested in my ramblings (*breaks out into Led Zeppelin's Ramble On*). I've set up posts for every day that I'm gone so it will almost be like I'm really here. Except not quite because I won't be contactable (is that a word?) until next Monday night. I'm going to try to borrow my Dad's laptop to check emails quickly a few times while we're away so if there's something important I'll probably see, but in general you won't hear from me again for real for a week. Soooo... yes. That's all.


In My Mailbox: Week 8

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi from The Story Siren. Here's what I found in my mailbox, at the bookstore, and at the library this week. Summaries are taken from Amazon, B&N, and GoodReads.

Sea Change by Aimee Freidman - 16-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science...and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she's happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother's estate. There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can't make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship...and reality. Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?

The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham - At the age of eighteen, in that first golden Oxford summer, Milly was up for anything. Rupert and his American lover, Allan, were an important part of her new, exciting life, so when Rupert suggested to her that she and Allan should get married to keep Allan in the country, Milly didn’t hesitate. Ten years later, Milly is a very different person and engaged to Simon—who is wealthy, serious, and believes her to be perfect. Milly’s secret history is locked away so securely she has almost persuaded herself that it doesn’t exist—until, only four days before her elaborate wedding. To have and to hold takes on a whole new meaning when one bride’s past catches up with her and bring the present crashing down.

Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan (ARC) - Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him; the other one needs him. When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa’s long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake’s participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend. His experiences range from the comic (surviving his dad’s birth control talk) to the tragic (a harrowing after-hours visit to the morgue). In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself.

That's my collection for the week. What books did pick up?


Storm Glass

After selecting Maria V. Snyder's Sea Glass as my pick for this week's Waiting on Wednesday post, I figured it was about time that I post my review for Storm Glass.

Despite being a uniquely talented glassmaker and apprentice to a Master Magician, Opal Cowen is always questioning her magical abilities. When the glass orbs of the Stormdancers begin to explode, killing several clan powerful members, Opal is forced to gain confidence in her own abilities in order to help save these weather-controlling orbs and discover who is behind such sabotage. Before long, Opal realizes that she carries more power than she ever believed. With the help and protection of many others, including Ulrick, a childhood family friend, and Kade, a Stormdancer who lost his sister to a faulty orb, Opal faces her fears in this novel of magic, adventure, and romance.

Maria V. Snyder’s Storm Glass returns to the world(s) of the Study series without the novel feeling repetitive. Though both somehow end up in life-threatening situations, as heroines, Yelena and Opal are nothing alike. I was really intrigued by the importance of weather and the way Maria V. Snyder developed the magic in glassblowing. As much of fantasy nowadays seems dedicated to vampires, this felt refreshing. I also like the way local legend plays into this novel. Though the very beginning is slow, Storm Glass as a whole is packed with action and mystery, so once the story begins the book is hard to put down. There is plenty of violence as well, but it is not written in a gory way that would disgust readers. While the romance is certainly there, I felt that Opal’s connections with Ulrick and Kade are a bit underdeveloped. Unlike Opal’s feelings about her powers, her emotions surrounding these men weren’t explored thoroughly enough. I’m hoping the sequel, Sea Glass, will address this. 9 out of 10.

P.S. If you haven't read Storm Glass yet, you can read chapter 1 right on Maria V. Snyder's site.