Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Phoenix Comicon Kick-Off 2012 [Local]

Phoenix Comicon invites you to join them on February 2nd for their annual kick off event. The event starts at 7pm at the Phoenix Convention Center, north building room 120D. This is the first major event leading up to the convention in May of 2012 and it promises very exciting announcements.

“Phoenix Comicon 2012 still has a few surprises coming.” said  Marketing Director Jillian Squires “The kickoff event will let everyone in on them.”

It will be the first place to hear announcements about new major guests that will be attending the convention. The new announcements will add more guests to the already exciting list for 2012 that includes Ed Asner, Arthur Suydum, Vic Mignogna, George Perez, Jeremy Bulloch and William Shatner.

The event will include door prizes and giveaways through out the course night, however each person should RSVP at www.onsite.phoenixcomicon.com to be entered for the prizes.

I'm not going to make it since I'm playing photog at a teen formal, but if you're going, let me know in the comments. I'm eager to participate in Phoenix Comicon '12 suspense! ♥

Friday, January 27, 2012

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Karou is an art student.  She lives alone in a flat in Prague, and has lived in many different cities, speaking many different languages over her short seventeen-year life.  The story starts after she's broken up with Kazimir, a few years older than Karou, he is beautiful, but practically soulless and he scares her all the time.  Karou works for Brimstone, the only father she's only known, in tooth trade.  Brimstone is not a man, but a chimaera, as are his shop employees, Issa (half-snake), Kazir, and Kishmish.  These are the only family she has ever known.  She grew up in the shop and when she was old enough, she got her own flat, but returned daily to the shop to run errands (or pick up teeth) for Brimstone.  As far as she can remember, she's always had the eye tattoos on her hands - Issa has them too. Not for lack of asking, she has never discovered what the teeth were for, or who her parents were or where she came from or why she can't touch the wishbone around Brimstone's neck.  She's learned the art of tooth trade, listening to their hums, and how to sort them.  One day, Brimstone sends her to Izil, a tooth trader in Marrakesh, a week earlier than usual.  Izil has not much for Karou to take back to Brimstone, but she does manage to catch the eye of a seraph.  She does battle with him, is gravely wounded, but makes it back through the door with a handprint blazoned on it that was not there when she exited to the shop in Elsewhere before the seraph can finish her off.  This is the story of what happens between the seraph and Karou.

Verdict:  Stunningly beautiful writing.  I was in awe of the way Taylor crafted her sentences and the way she wove her story together.  Okay, let's be real.  I wasn't in awe, I was hard core jealous!  Told in third person omniscient, a rare point of view for YA, the characters are amazing, unique, interesting, and you get into a lot of their heads, not just the main character Karou's.

This was one of those books where I couldn't stop reading, and when I had to stop reading, I couldn't stop thinking about the characters and the story and wondering what would happen next.  With twenty pages to go, sleep forced me to put it down, but the story still haunted me in my dreams.  Partly because the only place I'd ever want to visit in Europe is Prague, and the descriptions and romance of that city grabbed me into the story at the very beginning.  Partly because the other main spot, Marrakesh, is a place I've also always wanted to visit.  She's skilled at setting the book.  While the descriptions were thorough and beautiful, they also didn't make me scream with agony over their length.

I connected with many of the characters and having read this in November, I still remember them well at the end of January.  I care what happens to them and want to know what happens next.  Yeti of Smoke and Bone (the next in the series) can NOT come fast enough.  But even though it's out this fall, I can't imagine having to reread any part of Daughter because it's so unique and so different from anything else that I've ever laid eyes on.

The timeline of the book is somewhat distracting.  There are flips forward and backward between exposition and what's happening now. But after finishing the book, I can't imagine a more powerful way to tell the story.  She holds on to important tidbits and releases them just as you need them to complete part of the puzzle, which lends itself to a better understanding of the motivations behind the choices the characters have made.  It's like aha! moment after aha! moment.  And for the record, I think this is the first time Monster and I have ever agreed on the quality of a book since Harry Potter.

For parents, the content is not completely clean, but the language is for the most part.  There are some scenes with nudes in drawing class at the beginning, but nothing overtly graphic is described.  Karou has lost her virginity, but it's not described in a scene, just a regret.  I'd let sixteen and up read it for sure... but that's me.  You figure out what's appropriate for your teen.

Fans of Fringe will heart this book!

Laini Taylor is also the author of the Dreamdark series and Lips Touch: Three Times.  You can find her on Twitter.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

Plot Sketch:  We all know the Shakespeare classic Romeo & Juliet.  Or do we?  Stacey Jay creates a world wherein Romeo killed Juliet, sacrificing their love for immortality and placing the two at odds for all eternity - Juliet trying to secure soulmates' love and Romeo trying to get one soulmate to betray the other as he did.  Until this time when Juliet is thrown into Ariel's body.  And everything is different.  All the rules, all the procedures, even Romeo.

Verdict:  Ya know what?  I'm not a huge fan of this one.  But I didn't hate it.  I thought it had the potential to be such a great great book.  The writing was done technically well and flowed well for a fast and easy read.  But mans, the plot seemed to drag on and on.  I feel like one third of the book could have been cut out completely because it focused entirely on Juliet's internal struggle.  Now, internal struggle is fine when there's a point to it, when there's progress with it.  But this same exact struggle happened again and again and I wanted to take Romeo's knife and plunge it through Juliet's heart myself to end not her misery, but mine.

That said, the characters were interesting... about as interesting as they could be for spirits inhabiting others' bodies.  Even Romeo, whom I was primed to hate, grew on me.  I loved Juliet for 2/3rds of the book, excepting those times I wanted to stab her, but really enjoyed the fringe characters as well.  The depth that went into Ariel's relationship with her mother and the relationship that she had with her.  You have to pay close attention though because Jay uses the host bodies' and the spirits' names interchangeably.  While this didn't confuse me, I could see how it might confuse someone who had put the book down for a week or so.

Now when it comes to forging a connection with the characters?  Nope.  I couldn't connect with any of them.  Not Melanie, Gemma, Ariel, Juliet, Romeo, none of them.  There was a bit of humanity missing from each of them.  Granted a fair few of them weren't technically human (Stacey Jay is the zombie queen and this is totally a creative zombie book), but I think the characters needed more depth for me to connect.  I think that if there would have been less repetitive internal struggle, and perhaps a bit more internal thought/feeling/reaction to events unfolding, I might have connected better.

So basically, it's an easy read, a brilliant concept, and a little on the *bang head here* side plot progression-wise.  Fans of Romeo & Juliet, the classic, might really enjoy this spin.

Stacey Jay is also the author of The You Are So Undead To Me series.  We reviewed Jay's My So-Called Death, (and loved it) a stand-alone zombie tale.  You can find Stacey at Facebook and Twitter.  And, you can purchase Juliet Immortal, published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (an imprint of Random House), at Changing Hands or Amazon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Four YA Events from Changing Hands January 2012 [Local]

Hey guys!  Changing Hands is hosting some awesome events this month.  You should totally check them out if you have time.

First up is Dark Days of Supernatural Tour featuring Ellen Schreiber, Veronica Rossi, and Tahereh Mafi. That's this Saturday, 1.14 at 4pm at Changing Hands in Tempe.
Ellen SchreiberVeronica RossiTahereh Mafi
Magic of the MoonlightUnder the Never SkyShatter Me

Second on the docket is Nick Lake with his new book In Darkness.  That's Monday, 1.23, at 7pm at Changing Hands in Tempe.

Third is John Green.  With a multi-media presentation and signing.  It's Wednesday, 1.25 at Burton Barr Central Library (1221 N. Central Ave) in Phoenix. If this video doesn't make you want to go?  What's wrong with you?

And last, it's Changing Hands' annual YAllapalooza, Saturday 1/28 at 4pm offsite at Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix.  Authors attending include: Tom Leveen, Cecil Castellucci, C.J. Hill (aka Janette Rallison), Adam Rex, Robin Brande, Amy Fellner Dominy, Aprilynne Pike, Bree Despain, Anna Carey, Kiersten White, and James A. Owen.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Terry Tibke of Upgrader and Actionopolis [Interview]

Please help me welcome Terry to IHM today.  Terry is an author/illustrator from Chandler, Arizona (hey, that's like next door to my city) and a Virgo who loves chocolate icecream.  Straight-up chocolate icecream to be exact.  He's also the next author in our Actionopolis series, the author of Upgrader.

IHM: In Ten Words or less, tell us about your most recent book.

TT: Dude’s gotta use mysterious energy to protect against interdimensional invaders. (Okay, so I slightly cheated).

IHM:  Uh, no, you were just creative.  We heart creative.  So tell us, why are you a writer instead of a car salesman or a shrink or a teacher or any other profession?

TT: Actually, I’m most of those other things too. No! I’m kidding. But I am an illustrator too, and cameo at a very left brained grown up job. I’m an illustrator and artist for all kinds of reasons, most of them revolving around a need to get the visual images of all these cool things out of my head. I enjoy creating and seeing the looks on people’s faces when they see something I’ve made—well, more when they like it, than not. Those reasons all apply to my writing too, but the one reason beyond that is this: pictures (though they may tell a thousand words) are static. I drew my worlds and stuff for so many years without ever really telling the stories that come with it. One day, about ten years ago now, I just decided I’d better start telling those stories before I’m dead. Eh, not that I expect that to happen any time soon, but you never know.

IHM: For sure, you never know.  So, who is your most interesting character never published in the series (yet)?

TT: Upgrader books are super-fast reads, so we try not to jam them with too many characters. I finished up the second book recently, so it won’t be long before she’s published, but Vera’s cool. She’s one of the only new characters introduced after the first book. I like the uncertainty you have about where here loyalties lie, and how kick-butt she is with her long rifle and vegi-ammo. I don’t want to spoil too much else about her. I expect you’ll like her too though.

IHM: Who is your hero?

TT: That’d be eighteen year old Dylan Kent. He wears a lot of black shirts, is into techno and trance music, and loves zombie movies and comics. But he’s also found that he’s pretty good at baseball and is on his high school baseball team—you know, to keep grounded and stuff. Overall, he’s just your standard teenager trying to make it through his senior year without anything too freaky happening. And he totally blows that. He finds the Sunsoul and has to improvise his way through saving his little town from Icarion’s seekers and an interdimensional invasion.

(Wait.... did you mean my personal hero, not my Main-Character?)

IHM: Well, yeah, but that's okay.  Main Characters can double as heroes too, right?  So, tell us the message you want readers to gain from your work?

TT: Reading is fun. Reading can be action packed—even for those comic book and manga readers. These stories are fast paced and really cool. I want readers of all ages to pick up Upgrader and, after the first sentence, dig in ‘till the end.

You can buy Upgrader at Amazon in either paperback or e-book version.  Both affordable at $7.50 and $2.99 respectively.  He's also the author of a YA fantasy released in 2009, Armageddon – The Battle of Darkening Skies (of which I own a signed copy, whee!), and works as an animation in-betweener on Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

And as a side note I have actually met him in person.  Phoenix Comicon 2010:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Midnight Magic Interview with Nancy DiFabbio

Hey guys!  Help me welcome Nancy DiFabbio to IHM today.  We've got a Q&A with the author of Midnight Magic.   So, read up and have fun!  Thanks for stopping by today, Nancy!  We're delighted to have you!

IHM: What sort of research did you do to write Midnight Magic?

ND: One of the first rules of writing is to “write what you know”. My protagonist, Mattie, experiences many of the same fears and desires that I did as a young teen, especially her passion for horses. I naturally drew on those memories when I created her. The horse in the story was inspired by my own little Morgan and my fascination with his breed. I had plenty of experience as a horse owner and equestrian to write factual and realistic descriptions of Mattie’s days working at the stable and participating in the horse show, but I did research the life of Justin Morgan, Figure, and the development of the Morgan breed.

IHM: Do you think YA literature has become over-sexed in recent years?

ND: Love and romance is a basic human need. It’s normal—and expected—to include a love interest in YA and tween literature, but I’m concerned about the message many YA books are giving our adolescents. I wish more authors would address the emotional aspects of “love” rather than focusing on the physical act. Yes, children have become sexually active at very young ages, but our literature shouldn’t imply that this is normal, desirable, or free from long term repercussions. It’s wrong—in my opinion—to encourage the belief that pre-teen and adolescent love is likely to last forever or that proof of love is demonstrated by the physical act.

In terms of the romantic storylines, I find it particularly frightening when the male “role model” is abusive and controlling, while the female character allows herself to be subjugated for the sake of their love. We need to empower young females and provide them with good role models, as I have done in Midnight Magic. Mattie’s mother and grandmother are strong women in their own right; they don’t rely on a male figure to “save” them.

IHM: Did you model your characters after real people? Did you model the plot on real events?

ND: All of the characters are purely fictional creations, but I borrowed physical or personality traits from people I’ve known—or wish I’d known. The storyline is pure fantasy, although Justin Morgan and Figure did exist. There is plenty of documentation about Figure’s amazing feats and incredible genes.

IHM: You write a column, “Tales from the NEIGH-borhood”, for local newspapers and have written both non-fiction and fiction books. What is your favorite style of writing?

ND: I prefer writing fiction because it allows for a freer flow of creativity. However, I do like to include some factual information as well, whether it’s about horse care—in the case of “Tales from the NEIGH-borhood” or historical information, as in Midnight Magic.

My first book, Quest for the Dress, was non-fiction, but it also contains humorous anecdotes about my experiences. Having a background in education, I guess I can’t stop myself from also trying to promote positive moral values, whether it’s non-fiction or fiction.

In the “Tales from the NEIGH-borhood”, each horse always learns something from the adventure he’s just shared. When Sonny spooked at the Christmas decorations on our front lawn and nearly squashed me in his attempt to run away, he learns that he should have trusted me to keep him safe. He advises his readers: “Tell your parents if something scares you, even if you feel silly. Trust me; it helps.”

You can purchase Midnight Magic at Amazon.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Misfit by Jon Skovron [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Jael is the daughter of Astarte (otherwise known as Aphrodite, Delilah, and other female beings throughout history) and a priest named Paul.  That makes her half-human, half-demon.  Her story revolves around the complication of her coming of age and how her demon side makes the relationships in her life super-complicated.  Well, that, and the fact that Belial, Archduke of Hell is after her to destroy her because she's a half-breed.

Verdict:  It took me quite a while to finish reading this one because I felt like I had to take a break every few chapters and process.  I've seen reviews talk about how religious people won't like this book.  I'm religious and I adore it.  It takes traditional perceptions of Heaven, Earth, and Hell and warps them into a completely tangible, wonderful world where Jael's story makes sense.  An immense amount of research was done for this book... either that, or Jon Skovron is a history god/demon.  One or the other.  I found this world where demons are only demons because that's how we perceive them to be both beautiful and startling.  The writing is gorgeous.  Detailed without being verbose is a hard task to pull off.

At the beginning I felt like I was reading two books simultaneously, one about the teen half-breed Jael and one about her parents and how they met and made her.  Again, in reading some reviews, I found that people didn't like that.  I have to say, it's one of the main reasons I liked the book.  Both sides of the story were poignant and both were necessary for you to understand Jael's struggle and the depth of conflict throughout the story.  If you ignored the adult angle, you missed out a ton.  And I thought that the third-person omniscient voice was imperative to Skovron's success.  At times you even get to glimpse inside what air and earth are thinking and I think it's brilliant.

A book that makes me think this much? 5 stars for sure. It was scary good. And by scary, I mean paradigm-shifting, enlightening, and horizon-broadening, while satisfying my desires for paranormal romance. *shakes hand in air* It was hot.

Now.  I have a bit of a warning for parents.  IF your teen is going through some sort of a religious struggle?  This book could make a difference.  And depending on your teen, it could make a difference for the better or for the good.  This is definitely one you'll want to read at least along side them if not before them and have discussions about with them if you have a particular religious philosophy in your home.  I'm saying that this could strengthen a strong belief or weaken a weak one.  Other than that, there is not a lot of graphic violence, but there is violence.  And there is a brief, but not detailed description from Jael's best friend about losing her virginity.
And since I've found out that kids and teens use my blog to cheat on book reports, I'm discontinuing the Gauntlet portion of my reviews.  Because honestly?  I don't like getting bombarded with emails at 6:30 in the morning asking about what the theme of a book was or how it's characters grew because they got the rest of the info from my gauntlet portion, and then getting a reply to that email saying that I suck for not getting back to them in a fifteen-minute window.   READ, dudes, READ.  And yes, it's happened more than once, even this week.  *sigh*

But I will say that if you know who Milo Rambaldi is, you'll appreciate this work.  And if you don't?  You still might appreciate this work.

Find out more about Jon Skovron at his website.  Also, you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and buy his book(s) at Changing Hands or Amazon.