Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Let The Sky Fall & Let The Storm Break by Shannon Messenger [Giveaway]

Let the Sky Fall starts out like many other paranormal romances - it's got a boy, and a girl, with a long, secret, and sort of morbid history, and you quickly find out that they aren't human.  They're sylphs, air elementals.  They control the wind.  There's a villain who is out to destroy the good force of the sylph race, The Gales, as well as humankind because duh, humankind are like cockroaches and so inferior it isn't even funny.

What's different about these books isn't that they're more engaging that your average teen paranormal romance (but they are engaging), it isn't that the world is more plausible (but it is plausible, if you are at all capable of suspending reality), but that the situations that the characters are in are so impossible, but so relatable because everything is stacked against them. If they make the obvious choice on one tangent, the other end of the balance will sway to make things very unpleasant, so you sit there, pondering what the best course of action is rather than cursing the characters for their inability to see the path clearly laid out in front of them.

In other words? It's. Not. Predictable.

We haven't read about sylphs until our eyes bleed.  We don't know about their kind and their world.  We learn as we read through these two novels.  The entire first novel is executed over the course of like a week.  The second, set like three weeks later, is equally-paced.  I love that the setting and the details evolve over the course of the book, appropriately adding bits of information rather than info-dumping all the way through the first-half of the book.

Also, something to note, and to be excited about is that each chapter changes perspective, alternating between the two main characters - a boy, Vane, and his guardian, Audra. They usually pick up right in the timeline where the other left off with maybe one exception where Vane is speaking to another girl, the girl he used to be betrothed to while Audra is in the bathroom with Vane's human adoptive mother.  Yeah, it's dramarama like that.  And it's fun.

We saw Shannon at Phoenix Comicon, and we really loved her panels. She had no shame admitting that she relates to teenagers because she still feels like a teenager herself (with me sitting in the audience vigorously nodding my head because I can definitely relate).  She is very personable, and reminds you of a debut author with her eager smile and easy conversation. Her writing, however, is seasoned.  It is, in fact, quite skillful.  Beautiful setting, even with all of the bugs, brave character development, and a beefy plot will keep you wanting more.  I can't wait until the next installment.  Unfortunately, it's not even up for preorder yet.

BUT!  You guys can get your hands on 2 hardcovers, the second signed by the author with a fun doodle on the cover.  I picked this up at Phoenix Comicon, and am super excited to share it with you.  Leave a comment below, and you're entered.  No extra entries, though we'd be honored if you subscribe and follow us on various social media sites, linked in the yellow glasses near the top of the sidebar.  Ends 12.1.14 at 11:59pm MST (Arizona time).  Winner will be announced on Twitter and the sidebar at this site on 12.2.

Also, you can find Shannon on Twitter and at her blog.  Make sure you stop and say hi after you've met Audra and Vane.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dorothy Must Die - Young At Heart This Thursday 10.16

Join us at Bookmans Mesa at 7pm this Thursday, October 16 for Young At Heart - a book group for adults who love YA.  This month's read is Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Page.  See you there!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Young At Heart: The Giver - This Thursday 7pm Bookmans Mesa

Young At Heart's August selection is The Giver by Lois Lowry!  If you aren't local, and are interested in a Google Hangout discussion about The Giver, drop me a note or leave a comment.  I'm very interested in doing on online version of Young At Heart for those that aren't local in Arizona.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Random by Tom Leveen

I used to think Tom's tagline should be, "Tom Leveen: Better Than Expected!"  After reading RANDOM, I'm pretty sure he's earned an upgrade to, "All Hail Tom Leveen: King Of Teen Contemporary."

If you ask someone what this book is about, they're likely to tell you it's about bullying.

But it's not.

It's about a girl's eight-hour journey to self-discovery.  Tori, on trial for aggravated manslaughter after making some crude jokes about a fellow classmate after he commented on one of her posts and then later commits suicide, receives a call at random from a guy threatening to drive himself off of a cliff. The story is about the conversation they have and the lengths which she goes to try to help him stay alive.

It's about Tori's struggle to find her center, and with a little support from a really good friend, she's able to have some breakthroughs that you normally wouldn't get the night before you are showing up to court to defend yourself for a crime you feel you didn't commit.  It's a beautiful lesson in strength and growth that we all can learn from.  And it's strangely uplifting with such morbid subject matter.

The writing is genius.  It shows the teen brain in a real light, with a heavy focus on fairness and self-preservation.  The use of the mourning dove as imagery is just, I don't even know.  Brilliant?  Epic?  Inspired?

It's a short book, but the character development is amazing.  The plot is easy to follow and the way the story weaves in the history that caused the current situation is flawless.  I honestly couldn't rave more about this book, its structure, or its execution.  The setting is appropriate, and Tom doesn't waste words on unimportant details.  It's concise and powerful and unputdownable.  <--that a="" mmkay="" p="" s="" word="">
I'm usually rather outspoken about the fact that I feel that the term "bullying" has been applied too liberally.  I don't think that saying mean things to someone is bullying them.  I think we have to develop a thick skin somewhere and as someone who was both bullied and did some bullying in my day, I feel like the spectrum I engaged in during my junior high and high school experience has made me a stronger, more compassionate person today.

But, this book turned my perception of bullying on its ear.  By showing me the psychology of the cyberbully, Tom opened my eyes.  And while I still don't think that saying something mean to someone's face should be means for expulsion from school, I do believe that cyberbullying is a real issue.  Deliberately making someone feel small is not okay, not in real life or in virtual life.  Cyberbullying and hiding behind a computer to say horrid things to someone is a real problem.  It's not one that I've faced, but it's one that my child may face.  And it all goes back to that whole thing I was saying a few weeks ago about content and parents managing what their children consume.  That has to stretch to social media as well.  If we want our children to be civil, we have to be involved so that we can teach them how to act in a real -or virtual- situation.  

PARENTS: The subject matter is heavy on bullying.  It has references to drugs (though not any active use thereof), strong language including many instances of the "f-word" and references to homophobia and hate crimes.  Like always, you know what your teen or child can handle, so you decide.  

Tom will be at Changing Hands Tempe tonight at 7pm for his book launch of Random.  You can watch the live stream of the launch here, and make sure you pick up a copy this week from your local Indie, or if you like, from Amazon.

Also, I really liked the first cover better than this one.  It was so much more appropriate.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Islands At The End Of The World by Austin Aslan

My immediate reaction to this book - about a girl and her dad, stuck on Oahu trying to get back to the big island - is that I just didn't know what I thought. It's a sci-fi dystopia.  Leilani, the main character, constantly info dumps Hawaiian lore and Hawaiian language on us.  That part?  I really almost hated.  I hate it when information doesn't come to light in original, creative ways, integrated into the plot.  But this plot was engaging enough to keep me coming back for more, wondering what might happen to the characters.

So let's talk about that plot.  It's a quest.  Leilani and her dad, a University of Hawaii at Hilo professor, have to get home after commercial flights are cancelled and they're stuck a few islands away from Leilani's mom, brother, and grandfather.  They encounter all kinds of obstacles while trying to get home when society and law have completely melted into something... just... ugly.  I found the situations in the plot quite believable and easy to understand the implications if they chose a different course of action.  About two-thirds of the way through the book, it takes a turn for the sci-fi.  A twist that you sort of see coming, but sort of don't because you don't know enough to put the pieces together.  Just take my advice that the seemingly irrelevant, info-dumped Hawaiian mythology does come into play and it becomes relevant, despite what your reader instincts might tell you.  And there's a lot of mythology to learn, which makes me want to make excuses for the info dumping, but I'm still not happy with that aspect.

As far as character development goes, Leilani, bless her heart, seems to act, then process, rather than having questions flying through her mind the entire time she's making decisions and making moves.  She doesn't recognize others' emotions until she has reflected on them. However, you see definite growth for her across the arc.  I really enjoyed that the characters didn't make every choice correctly.  They screw up.  And they try to correct their course before it's too late, but they don't always end up in peachy heaven.  In fact, I really like that.  Also, the fact that there are no throw-away characters earns bonus points.

The sci-fi element was really hard for me though.  It seemed forced and convenient, but then again, sci-fi twists usually feel that way for me.  But the setting, ohhh the setting.  It's almost poetic.  Which is a weird way to describe the setting, I understand.  But it is.  And most of the plants and geography are important to the story, so I really appreciated that it didn't meander and maintained purpose throughout.

As a reader, I'm satisfied with the first book in the series, but curious about book 2.  We had the opportunity to meet Austin at Phoenix Comicon, and that was really fun.  He was a great part of the Debut Authors panel bringing a much needed male voice and perspective to the room.  He's here in Arizona for the time being, working on a PhD in geology.  All of his education comes out in his writing, and you can tell he has a passion for learning all things sciency that have to do with nature (an affinity that I share), and that he's spent a lot of time in Hawaii.

I recommend that you give this book more than the customary 10 pages I usually suggest.  It does get better after the info dumps ebb, and the plot is almost magnetic, making you wonder what could conceivably happen next and how they can possibly get out of the situation they're in.

Parents: There is graphic gun violence inside.  Two instances jump out at me, both of which are reflected upon by Leilani later.  It's appropriate for the kind of book this is, but as always, know your child and how this will affect them.  There is also a scene where Leilani and her dad get high on a local plant they find in the jungle.  They use an empty tuna can to smoke it.  That high leads Leilani to her discovery and then segways straight into the sci-fi twist, so it's integral.

Monday, August 11, 2014

An Artsy Book For Everyone: August Is Art Appreciation Month 2014

Did you know that August is Art Appreciation Month?  Neither did I until a few days ago, and that inspired this guide for the bookish family that would love to celebrate art appreciation month, with an art-themed book suggestion for everyone in the brood.

Baby-Age 2:  Our favorite of the Mini Masters series is Sunday with Seurat by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober.  It has cute rhymes paired with Seurat's impressionist paintings to weave a relaxing and cute story in just a few pages.  The books in this series have remained favorites since before our little one was born, we all treasure these and the sweet little blip of art we get to share while reading.

Age 3-5: Vincent's Colors.  This is a gorgeous book compiled by the Metropolitan Museum of Art complete with excerpts from Van Gogh's letters to his brother about his paintings.  I love it. A lot.  We've also had this on in our library since before the little one got here, but with page ripping ability at level maximum, we put this on the high shelf and only allow access when with an adult.

Age 5-8:  The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt is a really great introduction to Monet for any child who is interested in art, or any parent for that matter.  Laurence Anholt tells a cute story about a city girl visiting the countryside interweaving art history and language along the way.  It's adorbs, guys.  Adorbs. And there are other titles in the series.
Age 8-12:  Under The Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald is a tale about a treasure hunt from a dying-grandfather that takes young Theodora all over Manhattan, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It's a mystery and a fun story for middle grade readers everywhere.

Age 13-18:  Try Zero by Tom Leveen.  Set in Phoenix with a main character who discovers both herself and blossoms her artistic talent, this coming-of-age story is sure to move and inspire.

Grown Ups: The Death Artist by by Jonathan Santlofer.  It's an art thriller by an in-real-life artist.  It's been out for over a decade, but give it a chance and see if you like the story about a former New York cop being framed for murders of people on the New York City art circuit.

Non-Fiction: Priceless: How I Went Undercover To Rescue The World's Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman.

Website: Saatchiart. It's a great way to discover new artists and peruse art that's on the market today - whether you're dreaming about owning a piece, or a serious buyer, this is the website for you to check out and view art that's new and exciting and maybe, perhaps, just discover an emerging artist you adore.

Now that you have a lead on some reading for everyone in your house, enjoy the rest of Art Appreciation month!   Come back and tell us what you thought, or leave another suggestion for any age group below in the comments. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

5 Back To School Books For Grown Ups

Now that the kids are back to school, or very close to it, you might actually have some time to yourself.  You might want some titles that are new to read?  You might want to read something with adult characters?  You might want to know what's coming out that sounds fantastic?

I attended a panel with Colleen Lindsay and Ann Sowards with Django Wexler from Penguin books at Phoenix Comicon.  It was fab, a deck going at the side of the room, pub people talking about awesome books coming out soon or just released.  I couldn't write down titles fast enough!  It was a super great time, and you guys should definitely catch Penguin if they're at any of the Cons you're attending.

Titles that I personally preordered for this fall include:

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one....

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.
Okay, let's be real... a paranormal explanation for Lizzie Borden?  Who isn't on board with this one?  Release Date: September 2nd.

Free Agent by J.C. Nelson
When it comes to crafting happily-ever-afters, the Agency is the best in the land of Kingdom. The Fairy Godfather Grimm can solve any problem—from eliminating imps to finding prince charming—as long as you can pay the price…

Working for Grimm isn’t Marissa Locks’s dream job. But when your parents trade you to a Fairy Godfather for a miracle, you don’t have many career options. To pay off her parents’ debt and earn her freedom, Marissa must do whatever Grimm asks, no matter what fairy-tale fiasco she’s called on to deal with.

Setting up a second-rate princess with a first-class prince is just another day at the office. But when the matchmaking goes wrong, Marissa and Grimm find themselves in a bigger magical muddle than ever before. Not only has the prince gone missing, but the Fae are gearing up to attack Kingdom, and a new Fairy Godmother is sniffing around Grimm’s turf, threatening Marissa with the one thing she can’t resist: her heart’s wishes.

Now Marissa will have to take on Fairies, Fae, dragons, and princesses to save the realm—or give up any hope of ever getting her happy ending…
I'm told that Free Agent is for those who love fractured fairytales and for fans of Once Upon A Time.  The Grimm Agency sounds like a rad concept and this is the ground floor, ladies and gents.  This is your chance to get in on a fun series and be the one that says, "Yeah, oh, that one?  I preordered the first one."  Release Date: July 29th ON SALE NOW!

House Immortal by Devon Monk
One hundred years ago, eleven powerful ruling Houses consolidated all of the world’s resources and authority into their own grasping hands. Only one power wasn’t placed under the command of a single House: the control over the immortal galvanized....

Matilda Case isn’t like most folk. In fact, she’s unique in the world, the crowning achievement of her father’s experiments, a girl pieced together from bits. Or so she believes, until Abraham Seventh shows up at her door, stitched with life thread just like her and insisting that enemies are coming to kill them all.

Tilly is one of thirteen incredible creations known as the galvanized, stitched together beings immortal and unfathomably strong. For a century, each House has fought for control over the galvanized. Now the Houses are also tangled in a deadly struggle for dominion over death—and Tilly and her kind hold the key to unlocking eternity

The secrets that Tilly must fight to protect are hidden within the very seams of her being. And to get the secrets, her enemies are willing to tear her apart piece by piece.…
I'm told that fans of Firefly are going to totally dig this.  I'm thinking Matilda might be a little reminiscent of River and we can always use an intriguing character like her around, right?  Release Date: September 2

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. 
Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows....

In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world.
Patrick Rothfuss.  Novella. Kingkiller.   Need I say more?  No.  But I will.  Not for me. For the hubs.  Release Date: October 28

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented—and highest born—sons of the Kingdom of Britain are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover… 
Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.

Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.

Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost…
It sounds like Harry Potter for grown ups.  I mean, I'm in.  Release date: September 2.

It just dawned on me as I was writing this that these are all fantasy of some sort.  Sorry about that.  But I'm excited to see these titles show up in my Kindle.  How about you?  What are you looking forward to this fall?

Friday, August 1, 2014

THE FAMILY ROMANOV: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming [Giveaway]

I remember watching a documentary on cable about the Romanov family when I was about ten years old.  After that, when I would catch a glimpse of the name Romanov, this gravitational force just pulled me in. Not too long after that, the animated Anastasia was released, and we learned about tsars in World History, and I think that cemented my interest in the subject.  That same pull grabbed me when I had the opportunity to feature this new release from Candace Fleming about the Romanov family!

What's not to love about intrigue and mystery about the fate of a royal family? 

New from Candace Fleming, THE FAMILY ROMANOV: MURDER, REBELLION, AND THE FALL OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA (Schwartz & Wade / On sale July 8, 2014 / Ages 12 up) offers up non-fiction at its very best. From the acclaimed author of Amelia Lost and The Lincolns comes a probing look at Russia's last tsar, his family, and their crumbling dynasty. 
When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew.
Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia’s peasants—and their eventual uprising—Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life. Tragedy, melodrama, and I-can’t-believe-it moments make this a read that both kids and Romanov aficionados will devour. History doesn’t get more interesting than the story of the Romanovs.

And even better yet?  We're doing a giveaway courtesy of Random House Children's Books.  Leave a comment below, and you're entered.  Simple as that.  No extra entries, though we'd be honored if you subscribe and follow us on various social media sites.  Ends 8.12.14 at 11:59pm MST (Arizona time).  Winner will be announced on Twitter and the sidebar at this site on 8.14.

You can find Candace on Twitter @candacemfleming, at, and on Facebook and Google Plus.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How To Choose Board Books For Your Flight: A Guide For The Bookish Adult

You're a bookish mom/dad/aunt/uncle/grandma/grandpa.  I know it.  If you're anything like us, you have just as many books as you do toys.  And your little one loves them all.  So, how do you choose which ones to take with you on the plane?

Tips from a mom of a one-year-old who has been on more flights than she can count with her fingers and toes combined before turning 1½:

Three books I would take on a flight: 1) Frankenstein by
Jennifer Adams has many things besides the words on
the pages to play games with. 2) Hungarian souvenir
A Tenger has a lot of pictures and is very small.
 3) Queen Quail Is Quiet by Erika Barriga is a very fun e-book
for young ones.
1. Don't limit yourself to paper or electronic.  Both are important!  Pick 2 physical books per journey. (LAX-DEN is one journey, even if you have a layover at PDX) You are also going to be taking toys and hopefully, if it's a long enough flight, there will be some sleeping going on.  When we traveled 24-hours straight to get home from Budapest, 2 souvenir books combined with our ebooks was plenty.

2. Load up on e-books on your reader or tablet.  This is a great place to have any books with moving parts such as pop-up, lift-the-flap, or any motion books.  Your child can interact with the book, but you don't have to worry about pages or flaps getting torn on the way.  It's also a great medium for younger readers to engage in books that don't come in the board book format because they won't get ruined by overeager little fingers.  Plan on a 1:2 ratio of ebooks:hours on the plane.  Do not calculate layover and ground travel time into this, as your little one will want to get the wiggles out and view the world around them as much as possible during these periods.

Little Owl's Night by Divya Srinivasan is the
perfect souvenir book: it is new, has many
animals that don't appear in other books and
we got it at a trip to a super-fun Indie in Fort
Collins, Colorado, The Old Firehouse Books.
E-books we love: Flora the Flamingo by Molly Idle, Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You by Dr. Seuss, The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss, Professor Whiskerton Presents: Steampunk ABCs by Lisa Falkenstern.

3. Only pack for the outbound flight.  If you're as bookish as we are you will buy new ones on vacation.  No need to pack fresh ones to bring home because you know you will buy them while you are there, right?  We buy books as souvenirs instead of plushies or toys because it's a fun reminder of the places we've been.  When we visited the Rio Grande Interpretive Center, we saw all kinds of waterfowl and many were ducks.  So, we purchased the Ugly Duckling at the shop and every time we read it, I am reminded of the trip.  I'm not naive enough to think that the little one is, but it's a great memory for me, and a very functional souvenir that provides at least an opportunity to share the memory with your little or remind them of the trip.

4. Pick newer, more unfamiliar books.  You may be tempted to take old standbys, or favorites, but this is a great opportunity for your little to forge a relationship with a different book.  Plus, it's a good break for you.  Download one of the good ol' standbys to your device in case of fits.  (Though, we've never had any issues with that.)

Krtek books ended up being the perfect souvenir from
Prague.  We brought home a national hero and tiny little
books that took up no room, yet entertained the whole flight.
5. Pick books with less words and more illustrated items than the words describe.  Use the book as a tool to play different games rather than just reading words.  No doubt you already do this often, but take this into consideration when selecting for your next flight.  The more details, the better.

6. Think small.  This is sort-of a no-brainer, but the smaller the better.  Board books take a lot of room, and bigger doesn't mean better.

7. After all of these considerations, make sure it's a book you like. There's nothing worse than being stuck on the plane with a teething toddler reading a book over and over that you just can't stand.

It's always hard to select only two books to take, but I'm always glad we did!  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quote of the Week: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

page 131
Delirium starts the series, followed
by Pandemonium, then Requiem. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Quote of the Week: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Context for this quote brings spoilers, so, suffice it to say, Maddie says this in reference to losing someone she cares about.  Also, anyone know how many covers were made for Code Name Verity?  To date, I've seen four.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Young At Heart: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein This Thursday

Hey hey!

If you're an east-valley local, come join us at Bookmans Mesa this Thursday, July 17 for a great discussion about Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity.  7pm.  Comic book area.  17+ are all welcome.  For those coming, don't forget to compare this to similar books you've read and be ready to suggest to people who enjoyed this book!

If you're not a local, and you're interested in doing a Young At Heart Google Hangout to discuss, drop me a note, because I think this could be a fun way to spend about an hour chatting with each other about a book.  If enough of you are interested, we'll pick a day and time!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Quote of the Week: Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins

pg. 369, Sweet Peril, the second book in Wendy Higgins' Sweet Evil series starring Anna Whitt, a half-angel, half-demon girl whose father is Belial, a Duke of Hell. Anna is narrating when she says this, speaking of the Dukes mandate that their children not have love for themselves, but tempt others instead through various vices such as lust, greed and adultery.  She sorta has it bad for the Duke of Lust's son, Kaidan Rowe.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Kitchen Confidence by Kelsey Nixon

When I decided to review this cookbook, I thought it might fit nicely into a post about fun books to send with your college freshman as he/she flies the nest.  I was wrong.

Don't worry, it's not a bad cookbook.  In fact, I think it's a really versatile and hella handy cookbook to have around.  For newlyweds.  People who are out of college and have their first job.  People who don't have to scrape the coins out of the couch to buy ramen for the week, you feel me?  I even consulted a real live college student on this one (Thanks, Katie!) and she said they just took too many ingredients.  Too much time.

The recipes are straighforward and pretty easy, but a majority of them do take some time.  And they do take some ingredients you don't typically find in a dorm room.  Like prosciutto.  And kalamata olives.  The typical recipe in this book has an average of 30 minutes of prep time included in each recipe, separate from the cook time involved.  So there is a definite time commitment in most of the recipes involved.

But the great thing about this book?  It touches on everything: appies, sandwiches, main dishes, even desserts (peanut butter cookies, yum!).  And there are 6-9 recipes per section, which gives you a good variety to choose from.  There are great directions in the front on pantry staples and the like, which would be primo for anyone setting up a kitchen for the first time, or who finally decided to give up takeout and didn't know where to start.

So, add this as a definite yes for the person you know who just got his first apartment, just finished paying off her student loans, or as a really great bridal shower add-on.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Slenderman, Content, & You: How to Screen Content For Your Child or Teen

After reading about the Slenderman killers, I've reflected on content. A lot. Did you hear?  Two twelve-year old girls stabbed one of their classmates 19 times, in an attempt to kill her and gain access to an online wiki whose supposed owner is Slenderman.  The girls maintained that in order to "creep into his realm," one must kill someone.

Reportedly, the girls have read online horror sites for a very long time. One of them, Morgan Geyser, was just found incompetent to stand trial.  The report did not include details on whether or not the girl was mentally ill, that will be determined later.  But the fact that she is incompetent leads me to postulate that she may be incapable of discerning truth from fiction.

I'm not writing because of the atrocity committed by these girls.  I'm writing because they were reading content that was intended for a much more mature audience.  And that's what we talk about around here.  Reading.  And content.

I've maintained through several web-battles that children and teens should have their content monitored by a parent.  My opinion hasn't been very popular.  I believe that the parents know what their children and teens can handle more than the child or teen does, and that they should have an active role in helping their child or teen select material that is good for them.

The other side says that teens can't be free to learn about things in the world with parents hanging over them.  That they need to be able to read things with swear words and horror elements because that's what real life is like and why shouldn't they be exposed to elements of real life while in a fictitious world?  How are they supposed to learn to make up their minds about issues if parents are lording over them and making decisions on their behalf?  No one says that children shouldn't have their content monitored, but many argue that rating systems are in place for a reason, so that parents don't have to pre-screen or research anything.

And I agree with them - to a point.  Children and teens need to be able to select what they are reading and decide for themselves if it is appropriate for them... under the supervision of a parent who can veto a choice that is actually inappropriate for them.  Parents need to read along, or seek out sites who detail potentially objectionable content, so that they can address the behaviors and morals being taught.  They need to be parents!  They need to reinforce good behaviors and correlate poor ones with real world examples of why these behaviors are considered poor.

I'm not going to dare comment on whether or not the Slenderman girls' parents did their jobs as parents correctly.  That's not for me to judge.  What there is for me to do is to tell you that PARENTS NEED TO BE INVOLVED IN ALL FICTION YOUR CHILDREN AND TEENS ARE CONSUMING. Our brains aren't fully developed until we're 25.  Children and teens are considered minors for a reason.  We need to guide them.  Is it a daunting task?  Yes.  Can you possibly read everything your child does?  No.  I'm not saying you should.  But you should take the time to research content and to provide content to your child or teen that you feel you can discuss with them.

"But I have a voracious reader/watcher, and I can't possibly keep up with everything they take in."  Not only can you, it is imperative that you do!  And here's how:

  1. Establish the process of choosing material with your child or teen.
    • Be present when they are choosing what to read or watch: be it the library, the bookstore, Amazon, or Netflix. 
      • If you are unable to be physically present, use all the parental controls at your disposal.  Netflix has them, and you have an account password on your Amazon and Hulu accounts.  Remember, our job as parents is not a convenient one.  Change passwords and passcodes if your children already know them.
    • Create a culture of checking-in with your family.  
      • Talk about what you are reading.  Ask what they've read about that you might not know about.  The key is not to sound like a warden.  It's to be interested.  And if you can't bring yourself to be genuinely interested in what they are consuming?  Fake it.
      • Use methods like tracking charts and free book programs from local and national businesses (like this one from Barnes & Noble) as a platform for monitoring and recording what your child or teen is consuming.
  2. Read and watch with your children or teens.  Yes, even your teens!
    • We all interpret what we hear and see differently. Children don't always see the allegorical inferences apparent in their books or shows.  Teens don't always recognize that a behavior is destructive when everyone else is doing it.  We, as adults, see the destruction, but they just see it as stuff everyone is doing.  They don't see the long-term perspective.  Teens, you see a lot of it! You do!  It's the little bits of it that are unveiled through the experience of getting old that you miss.  Sometimes those little bits are the key to understanding the whole picture, and even though it can be really hard to trust your parents because sometimes they screw up, you have to know they have your best interest at heart.  They want you to be cool, they want you to fit in, they want you to get asked out by the hot girl/guy... but they have to weigh that against your safety and your mental health, because that's their job.  That's their job that's more important than the one that they leave the house every morning and get paid for, to make sure that they do everything in their power to see that you become a healthy, responsible, happy and contributing member of society.  And it's the one they're scared to death they'll screw up the most.  Part of that job is monitoring what you consume - both with your mouth and with your mind.  Don't hate on them for doing something right.  Even if it sucks.    
      • Think about contemporary teen books such as Pretty Little Liars.  Fiction?  Absolutely.  More drama and raunch than I experienced in all of my high school and college days combined? Absolutely.  But to your teens, these books are set in our world.  So in their eyes, there are some parallels to what they are going to experience and how they are going to behave.  Trust me.  I've had multiple discussions with teens about PLL specifically.  Discussion is a must. 
      • Books like We Are The Goldens and #scandal are great books to read alongside your child so that they can discuss with you the issues that they are seeing.  Teacher-student relationships and cyberbullying were almost unheard of when we were in school, but now?  They're everywhere.  Use fiction to your advantage!
    • Talk about what you are reading and watching. The great thing about reading as a family vs. watching as a family is that it's easier to discuss.  We all assume that what the other person saw with their eyes is what we saw with ours, but we all know that words have multiple interpretations from the get go. 
    • Buy two copies of a book. Expensive? Sure.  But worth the investment to have that experience alongside your teen.  Or, buy one and check-out one from the library.  Read separately and have some amazing discussion. 
  3. Research what you can't read or watch.  There's no way you can actually view everything your child does, but you can find out what's inside.
    • There are blogs, such as this one, which tell parents what content is inside a book that might need to be discussed. Address these topics in creative ways:
      • Ask them what they think about a news story whose criminal had a similar path as a character in one of their books.
      • Ask who got in trouble at school that week and discuss why, then relate it to a book you have read.  Allow them the opportunity to do the same, to relate that behavior to one they've seen in fiction.  Teach them how to make the real-world connection with a fictional character's behavior so that they can learn from said character's mistakes.
    • Talk to other parents about what their children or teens are reading.  Be each others' helpers! There is a water cooler at work, and its job doesn't only have to be hosting office gossip or discussion about last night's TV show.  Ask what their kids are reading or watching.  If they don't know, maybe it will prompt them to find out. 
  4. Don't glorify bad behavior in fiction as a way to relate to your children. 
    •  It's tempting.  I know.  This means not calling a character a slut.  Do you want your children calling someone who did what that person did a slut?  No.  You don't.  Even if you're the meanest mean girl in the world and you think you do.  I promise you, you don't.
    • Don't do something questionable in an attempt to relate to your child.  You are not your child's friend, you are their parent.  Act accordingly. 
  5. Don't be judgemental.  
    • When being open and relating these things to or with your child or teen, don't put your parent face on and expound on why these things are bad ideas.  You are sneakier than that.
      • Listen.  Hear what they think and what their perspective is.
        • "Dad, in that scene, Hargrave said that he wanted to kill her."
      • Repeat.  Tell them what you think they are saying, in your own words.
        • "Hargrave said that he wanted to put his sword through her heart..."
      • Addend & Ask. You've let them know that you heard them.  Now ask what they think. 
        •  "...What do you think about that?"
      • Frame.  After listening to their answer, add perspective where necessary. 
        • "I think that's awesome.  She deserves to die."
        • "Well, if she was your sister, that would make me sad.  Do you think she might deserve another chance?"
      • Guide.  This is your chance to weigh in on what they think.  
        • "No.  She's a horrible person.  She killed all 14,000 of the Doinhelm with one swipe of her sword and she burned all the bodies so that their relatives couldn't bury them.  Then she let her horse pee on them. And she didn't even care."
        • "But the Doinhelm killed her brother."
        • "So what, that didn't mean she had to wipe out all of them!"
        • DISCUSS.  Play devil's advocate, hear what your child or teen is thinking. Give them food for thought.  Then follow-up.  
  6. Say No.  If it's inappropriate, don't give them permission.  Will they do it at a friend's house?  Maybe.  Will you find out about it?  Maybe.  
    • Get to know your child or teen's friend's parents.  Be involved. 
      • Stances like, "No porn" or, "No violence" don't really get heeded if a parent isn't like-minded, but if you explain that Billy doesn't handle violence well, or that you believe porn is very harmful, you're more likely to have another parent be cognizant of what media they're feeding your child, much as if you'd mentioned a food allergy.
    • Don't give them access to something they're not ready for as a reward. Even if they think they want it.  Guard them.  Prepare them.  Help them by saying "no."
      • This also means finding age-appropriate material for advanced readers and for curious kids who want to learn more about a subject.  Make sure it's something they can handle.
The key is to know what's going on so that if a questionable behavior arises or an incorrect perception forms, you can correct it.  Your children are exposed to so much that you don't have the opportunity to know about, but books, movies, and online content are something that you can monitor and you can keep your eye on.

I know the majority of this is common sense. I'm not advocating censorship.  I'm a grown woman and I know I can't watch zombie movies, but there's no one there to stop me, so I do.  And I pay the price with nightmares and minor panic attacks that a zombie might be at my front door.  It's in our natures to push our limits, but as parents, we are the ones who set those limits.  What I'm advocating is to be involved in your child's fiction and to make sure that they know that Slenderman is photoshopped and that you can't join his cult by killing someone.  Be there.  Be involved.  What they read and what they watch matters.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer Reading Lists: GROWN UP EDITION

Happy Independence Day!  Since you've got the day off and you've got nothing better to do than read, pick up one of these adult titles and dive into our summer reading list right now.  Well adult?  It has some... unfortunate connotations.  So, we're going with the Grown Ups.  Regardless, here's the list:

Shield and Crocus by Michael R. Underwood

In a city built among the bones of a fallen giant, a small group of heroes looks to reclaim their home from the five criminal tyrants who control it. 
The city of Audec-Hal sits among the bones of a Titan. For decades it has suffered under the dominance of five tyrants, all with their own agendas. Their infighting is nothing, though, compared to the mysterious “Spark-storms” that alternate between razing the land and bestowing the citizens with wild, unpredictable abilities. It was one of these storms that gave First Sentinel, leader of the revolutionaries known as the Shields of Audec-Hal, power to control the emotional connections between people—a power that cost him the love of his life. 
Now, with nothing left to lose, First Sentinel and the Shields are the only resistance against the city’s overlords as they strive to free themselves from the clutches of evil. The only thing they have going for them is that the crime lords are fighting each other as well—that is, until the tyrants agree to a summit that will permanently divide the city and cement their rule of Audec-Hal 
It’s one thing to take a stand against oppression, but with the odds stacked against the Shields, it’s another thing to actually triumph.

Mr. Underwood gave this to me at Phoenix Comicon and I dove right in.  It's superheros and high fantasy and awesome.  It moves quickly for an adult epic fantasy book, which is my major beef with fantasy in general.  Gratefully, he doesn't spend what feels like eons writing about the street his character is walking down.  You find out the details you need before need them, but you're still allowed the freedom to think and picture things in your own light, which to me?  Is paramount for successful world building.

Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy

The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for.  
Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where, if rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia. 
At once a riveting mystery and a fascinating revelation of the grotesque and the darkness in us all, Hemlock Grove has the architecture and energy to become a classic in its own right—and Brian McGreevy the talent and ambition to enthrall us for years to come.

Have you seen the Netflix exclusive series?  It's based on this gothic novel. And it's fabulous.  I'm planning on reading the book before I watch the second season! The second season premiers July 11th, by the way.

Vicky Peterwald: Target by Mike Shepherd

Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Victoria Maria Teresa Inez Smythe-Peterwald, daughter of wealth and power, was raised to do little except be attractive and marry well. Then everything changed—her brother, her father’s favorite and the heir apparent, was killed in battle by Lieutenant Kris Longknife, daughter of the Peterwald’s longtime enemies. Vicky vowed revenge, but her skill set was more suitable for seduction than assassination, and she failed. Angry and disappointed, her father decided she needed military training and forced her to join the Navy.
Now Ensign Vicky Peterwald is part of a whole new world, where use of her ample charms will not lead to advancement. But her father is the Emperor, and what he wants he gets. What he wants is for Vicky to learn to be efficiently ruthless and deadly. 
Though the lessons are hard learned, Vicky masters them—with help from an unexpected source: Kris Longknife.

This is a new spin off from Mr. Shepherd's Kris Longknife series.  I'm intrigued by a main character who fails at her goal because she is more of a seductress than a warrior, who is then sent off to the Navy to learn, aren't you?

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town. 
There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own). 
Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth...
A brand new series from the mind behind Sookie Stackhouse?  Bring. It. On.

California Bones by Greg van Eekhout

When Daniel Blackland was six, he ingested his first bone fragment, a bit of kraken spine plucked out of the sand during a visit with his demanding, brilliant, and powerful magician father, Sebastian. 
When Daniel was twelve, he watched Sebastian die at the hands of the Hierarch of Southern California, devoured for the heightened magic layered deep within his bones. 
Now, years later, Daniel is a petty thief with a forged identity. Hiding amid the crowds in Los Angeles—the capital of the Kingdom of Southern California—Daniel is trying to go straight. But his crime-boss uncle has a heist he wants Daniel to perform: break into the Hierarch's storehouse of magical artifacts and retrieve Sebastian's sword, an object of untold power. 
For this dangerous mission, Daniel will need a team he can rely on, so he brings in his closest friends from his years in the criminal world. There's Moth, who can take a bullet and heal in mere minutes. Jo Alverado, illusionist. The multitalented Cassandra, Daniel’s ex. And, new to them all, the enigmatic, knowledgeable Emma, with her British accent and her own grudge against the powers-that-be. The stakes are high, and the stage is set for a showdown that might just break the magic that protects a long-corrupt regime.
Greg's second novel for grown ups, I'm completely intrigued by what these bones are going to do for Daniel.  Join me and find out in this intriguing tale that will surely crossover from grown ups to young adults.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Quote of the Week: Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

In Belle Epoque, Elizabeth Ross paints a picture of a young girl who has run away from home only to find solace in an agency that hires ugly girls to be companions to other girls to make them look better at social events.  Maude gets paired with a high-society chick and then has to learn a few lessons the hard way. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Did You Catch The Delirium Pilot?

If you haven't caught the Delirium Pilot, know this before you go in: There will not be more episodes.  But, if you are curious to see what the show, based on Lauren Oliver's book Delirium, would have looked like, head to Hulu and watch the pilot there.  I did, am glad I did, but somehow I just want more...

You only have the chance to see this for 24 days, which started on June 24th, so time will run out on or about July 18, 2014, folks.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reading Rainbow Is Now An App... And It Needs Your Help.

When I was a little girl, I loved Levar Burton on Reading Rainbow... I remember singing this song in my head all the time...

I'm sure you've heard about the Kickstarter campaign to fund Burton's new tablet app and get it into schools, and that there are only 2 days left (it's over July 2nd!!).  And I'm also sure you've heard that Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Ted and Family Guy, is matching the next $1MM in donations.

This is just a friendly reminder to those who haven't had a chance to donate yet, that you're running out of time.  That your chance to help bring this to children on the web, or in their classroom, is waning.  The goodies are great, and if you donate at a level that includes a membership, and you don't have use for a membership, you will be able to donate it to a child in your life or school in need when you fill out your backer survey.  So, as Levar said,

"Let's do this, y'all...we can genuinely change the world one children's book at a time."

Friday, June 27, 2014

#scandal by Sarah Ockler

Lucy’s learned some important lessons from tabloid darling Jayla Heart’s all-too-public blunders: Avoid the spotlight, don’t feed the Internet trolls, and keep your secrets secret. The policy has served Lucy well all through high school, so when her best friend Ellie gets sick before prom and begs her to step in as Cole’s date, she accepts with a smile, silencing about ten different reservations. Like the one where she’d rather stay home shredding online zombies. And the one where she hates playing dress-up. And especially the one where she’s been secretly in love with Cole since the dawn of time.
When Cole surprises her at the after party with a kiss under the stars, it’s everything Lucy has ever dreamed of… and the biggest BFF deal-breaker ever. Despite Cole’s lingering sweetness, Lucy knows they’ll have to ’fess up to Ellie. But before they get the chance, Lucy’s own Facebook profile mysteriously explodes with compromising pics of her and Cole, along with tons of other students’ party indiscretions. Tagged. Liked. And furiously viral.
By Monday morning, Lucy’s been branded a slut, a backstabber, and a narc, mired in a tabloid-worthy scandal just weeks before graduation.
Lucy’s been battling undead masses online long enough to know there’s only one way to survive a disaster of this magnitude: Stand up and fight. Game plan? Uncover and expose the Facebook hacker, win back her best friend’s trust, and graduate with a clean slate.
There’s just one snag — Cole. Turns out Lucy’s not the only one who’s been harboring unrequited love…

It was one of those days where I just didn't feel like finishing the stuff I was reading.  So, I got on Twitter to see what the buzz was.  The first tweet I clicked linked to Sarah Ockler's #scandal which debuted that day.  So I bought it, then promptly put down my computer and went for a snack.  I was intrigued by the title, so I went back and picked up the reader, neglecting the clean dishes in the dishwasher...

...and I was still neglecting everything every chance I got so that I could finish it.  I even woke up early to finish the book so that Lucy Vacarro wouldn't have to be constantly interrupted by a totally adorbs 15-month-old.  I. Woke. Up. Early.  That's sayin' somethin' folks.

What's so great about #scandal?  Oh, only that there is a definitive Star Wars vs. Star Trek, hyperdrive vs. warp drive debate, MULTIPLE Veronica Mars references, Fruit Ninja, The Dark Crystal references, and a lot of Walking Dead analogies.  A lot.  And a main character whose inner strength and restraint you just want every teen girl to see, and emulate.  I loved that the romance wasn't your typical crush and ohmigoodness-he-likes-me-back-and-he's-a-broody-crazy-dude-but-I-still-love-him-anyway progression we see so often in young adult.  I liked that Lucy and Ellie and Cole had history.  I liked that you didn't see all of the history until the end.  And I liked that the plot unraveled just enough for you to know that there were significant happenings in the past, but that you didn't have to know what they were to be compelled to flip a page.

While the first chapter and a third are kinda rough around the edges, keep reading.  There are some sentences that just don't mesh and you can tell it was heavily edited to the point where they may have just needed to walk away for a month before finalizing that chapter and a third.  But, it gets way better.  And cheesy as heck, but for some reason, all that cheese just worked for me.  And while it didn't make me turn off auto sign-in on my social media on my phone, if I were in high school or especially college, after reading this, I just might.

PARENTS:  There is language.  I think I counted five f-bombs.  They were true-to-character, and weren't for shock value, but they were still there.  There are sexual themes and innuendos, but there isn't any explicit sex that I can recall.  There is character who is called 420, and is constantly high.  The entire plot revolves around risque pictures taken at an after-prom party at one of the supporting characters' cabin in the woods.  So there's definitely debauchery.  And cyber-bullying.  It's a hot mess of hot-button topics.  I'd say if you've got a sophomore or below you'd best read along.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Quote Of The Week: The Elite by Kiera Cass

Context: In The Elite, the second of The Selection Trilogy, America's (the main character) little sister asks one of her maids, 

“What’s it like to be in love?” May asked.
Part of me ached. Why hadn’t she ever asked me? Then I remembered, as far as May knew, I’d never been in love.
Lucy’s smile was sad. “It’s the most wonderful and terrible thing that can ever happen to you,” she said simply . “ You know that you’ve found something amazing, and you want to hold on to it forever; and every second after you have it, you fear the moment you might lose it.”
I sighed softly. She was absolutely right.
Love is beautiful fear.
Cass, Kiera (2013-04-23). The Elite (Selection) (pp. 61-62). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Reading Guides 2014: YOUNG ADULT EDITION

Young adult fiction is where I feel comfortable as a reader.  My recent Facebook quiz score guessing my age had me at 18 (almost half my life ago), so it's no wonder this is my sweet spot.  I find the authors more engaging and less snobbish, the plot faster and more engaging, and the characters strangely identifiable.  I don't feel like I need to apologize for loving YA, but sometimes, I feel like I need to explain it.  But, that's a whole other issue, right?

So, as with the Middle Reader Edition of our Summer Reading Guides, this list is heavily influenced by our Phoenix Comicon attendance and the authors we met there.  Two authors on this list are local: Erin Jade Lange and Shonna Slayton.  And the rest just have me intrigued by very fun concepts that stand out in a crowd.

In The Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim DiBartolo

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch. 
Thomas and Charles are brothers who've been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can't. 
Arthur is also new to the boarding house. His fate is tied to that of Cora, Minnie, Thomas, and Charles. He knows what darkness circles them, but can't say why, and doesn't even know if they can be saved. 
Sinister forces are working in the shadows, manipulating fates and crafting conspiracies. The closer Cora, Minnie, Arthur, Thomas, and Charles get to the truth, the closer they get to harm. But the threat is much bigger than they can see. It is strangling the world.
Until one of the boys decides he wants to save it.

What I'm excited about in this book is the art.  I recommended the hardcover version to everyone on Instagram because the pictures and the text just aren't the same in the e-version.  I am so excited to jump into this literary/art mashup because it's unusual and intriguing.

Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange

A riddle rarely makes sense the first time you hear it. The connection between Dane, a bully, and Billy D, a guy with Down Syndrome, doesn't even make sense the second time you hear it. But it's a collection of riddles that solidify their unlikely friendship. 
Dane doesn't know who his dad is. Billy doesn't know where his dad is. So when Billy asks for Dane's help solving the riddles his dad left in an atlas, Dane can't help but agree. The unmarked towns lead them closer to secrets of the past. But there's one secret Billy isn't sharing. It's a secret Dane might have liked to know before he stole his mom's car and her lottery winnings and set off on a road trip that will put him face to face with Billy's dad.

This is also on the list of books you might like if you liked Butter, but Erin personally assured us that this book is better than Butter, and if that's the case, I'm totally game.

Cinderella's Dress by Shonna Slayton

Being a teen-ager during World War II is tough. Finding out you’re the next keeper of the real Cinderella’s dresses is even tougher. 
Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she's working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dresses, life gets complicated. 
Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late. 
After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.
I'm a good ways through this one, and I'm really enjoying the innocence of the time period, along with the novelty of Cinderella's dress being a historical force.  Plus, meeting Shonna at Phoenix Comicon was great, she's super down-to-earth and she's super cute.

The Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined. 
Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity. 
But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader. 
As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.
Danielle had a quote on our Ten Lively Phoenix Comicon Author Quotes post, and I really loved that she just daydreams thinking about random things.  So, I've added her book here, sharing it with you guys and hoping you like.

Captives by Jill Williamson

In a dystopian future, eighteen-year-old Levi returns from Denver City with his latest scavenged treasures and finds his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many--including his fiancée, Jem--taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe. 
Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Lands has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago ... and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar's dreams. 
Meanwhile, their brother Mason has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and may be able to use his captivity to save not only the people of his village, but also possibly find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone within the Safe Lands' walls. Will Mason uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Lands' façade before it's too late?

Also met Jill this year at a fun lunch with Book Sparks PR in Tempe.   After I was done with my fangirl for Lisa T. Bergren, I actually paid attention to Miss Jill Williamson and was very impressed.  I'm very excited to add this sci-fi title to the list!  The second in the Safe Lands series, Outcasts is already on sale at an indie bookstore near you.

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