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Maureen Johnson’s Name of the Star Publication Party

4 Oct

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Last week, Books of Wonder in NYC hosted what has to be one of the most interesting and entertaining book signings I’ve been to yet for Maureen Johnson’s new YA novel “The Name of the Star”.

A huge crowd of fans waited for Maureen’s arrival, while two “Jack the Ripper” impersonators roamed around and scared audience members.

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There were plenty of awesome buttons for “survivors” of the event to wear.

After a short wait, Maureen finally emerged to a cheering crowd, and entertained us with tales of Ripper research in London, her writing process, and how she’s always shocked when people actually READ the stories that come out of her head. Like magic!

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After the somewhat crazy and incredibly lively Q&A, Maureen began to sign. The line was quite long, so fellow book blogger Bethany and I decided to indulge in some cupcakes and wine (which, at least for me, was a Books of Wonder first). There is just something *naughty* about drinking wine in a children’s book store.

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We all know what wine looks like. These cupcakes were much prettier.

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Not pretty: the table “decorations”.

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More pretty.

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Maureen signing.

By the time it was my turn to meet Maureen, I was slightly tipsy, and remembered why I don’t usually have wine (and sugar!) before dinner. Or at public events. Pretty sure I mumbled something about how her “rambling, Mean Girls word vomit style stream of consciousness speeches make me feel better about my own propensity to talk too much made me feel as if I’d met a kindred spirit” scared her.

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And then someone took a very blurry photo of us together.

Luckily, I learned a long time ago, there is always someone weirder or more intense than you in the audience. Case in point: this dude, who had Maureen sign his forehead.
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Awesome. But weird.

After much more book talk, and a very in depth discussion about Game of Thrones with some new bookish friends, Bethany and I realized the store was about to close, so it was time to go home. We took the conversation outside, and ended up looking like creepy stalkers who were waiting for Maureen, probably scaring her once again. But I feel like if any author would understand this, it would be her.

The Name of the Star is out now, in bookstores everywhere.

®2011 Bookshelf Lust

10 Days of Anathema Blog Tour Stop #10

15 Jul

Anathema

Evangeline has spent her teenage years in obscurity. Her foster parents have the emotional aptitude of robots and her classmates barely acknowledge her existence. About to turn eighteen and feeling like a social pariah, she is desperate to connect with someone. Anyone.

When Evangeline meets Sofie after literally stumbling upon her café, she believes she’s found that connection. Willing to do anything to keep it, she accepts a job as Sofie’s assistant and drops everything to fly to Manhattan, where she is thrust into a luxurious world of Prada, diamonds, and limitless cash.

With such generosity and kindness, it’s easy for Evangeline to dismiss certain oddities . . . like Sofie’s erratic and sometimes violent behavior, and the monstrous guard dogs. She’s even willing to dismiss her vivid dreams of mob-style murders, beautiful homeless people living in caves, and white-eyed demons that haunt her each night as figments of her imagination—especially when one of those figments is the gorgeous Caden. When she wakes up with bite marks on her neck, the fairy tale quickly turns into a nightmare. She slowly unravels the mystery surrounding Sofie and friends, and the reality of the bites and the “dreams.” What she discovers is far more mysterious and terrible than anything she could have imagined.

In a world where everyone has motive to lie for personal gain, Evangeline must decide which deception is least likely to get her killed.

For the very last stop of the Anathema blog tour, I’m sharing my review of this unique and compelling story. Along with an opportunity to win your very own copy! See after the review, for more details. 🙂

Anathema is one of those amazing stories that you want to run out and tell everyone you know to read—but not tell them anything about the plot. Just reading the book description was enough to make me shake my head and wonder what exactly will happen in this story. Like a movie with a twist ending, I was glad I went in only knowing that this novel came highly recommended from some fellow book blogger friends.

The action in Anathema starts right up within the first few pages. As soon as Evangeline agrees to accompany Sofie to NYC, things get weird. I’ll admit, it took me a bit of time to suspend my disbelief and understand exactly why Evangeline would pick up and move to NYC with someone she just met, but once you understand more about her background, and everything lacking in her life, it makes perfect sense!

I found the story to be a perfect mix of old-time fairy tales (a “princess”, locked in a castle!), mystery (what is happening to Evangeline at night?), and creepy old gothic novels (mysterious voices, deception, possible insanity). In short, many of my favorite genres, blended together!

Mixing “our world” and a parallel world isn’t a new concept. At times, the story actually reminded me of the later seasons of LOST, but spookier. But in Anathema, the two worlds blend together flawlessly, making the concept of “alternate realities”, along with some old familiar paranormal aspects (which I won’t mention, in fear of spoiling you) fresh and new. I really felt as if I’d gone back in time, to my younger days in the 1990’s, when not every book I read seemed suspiciously redundant.

Anathema is also on my short list of “realistic romances in YA”. Yes, there are paranormal elements, but the interaction between the characters, their problems, and how their relationship develops in the first place was refreshingly realistic. Also, it helps that Caden is really hot.

So much happens in this story that in the beginning, you can’t help but wonder “where is this going?”. What is real, and what’s in Evangeline’s head? Who can she trust, if anyone? How much of her life was chance, and how much was straight up manipulation? As soon as I finished, I wanted to go back and re-read it to catch all of the things I may have missed my first time around. The last book that left me feeling this way was CHIME, one of my favorite reads of this year so far.

Overall, I am very glad I went in to the story not knowing exactly what to expect. Anathema is an intriguing tale of lies, destiny, and romance. Plots are tied up (unlike in LOST!), but you’re left with a killer cliffhanger that will have you begging for book two.

4/5 STARS
Thanks to Kathleen Tucker for my review copy!

Kathleen is giving away a signed, print copy of Anathema to one lucky winner at the end of the blog tour. Anyone can enter by visiting her site at http://www.katuckerbooks.com (read giveaway rules posted). Do you want up to 10 extra chances to win? Visit each blog stop for an Anathema Quiz question. Answer it correctly and your name is entered! Simple!
Here’s your quiz question for today, Blog Stop #10: “What does Evangeline need to do to be free of the curse?”
To submit your answer, click here http://www.katuckerbooks.com/10-days-of-anathema-grand-prize-entry-form.html
And if you haven’t read Anathema yet… what are you waiting for?!

Kathleen has also been generous enough to provide an e-copy for a giveaway! All you have to do is comment here to enter. The contest open until 11:59pm on Sunday July 17. PLEASE Leave your email in your comment to enter! No email, no win! 🙂

Review: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

5 May

Dead Reckoning

“With her knack for being in trouble’s way, Sookie witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte’s, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is now known to be two-natured, suspicion falls immediately on the anti-shifters in the area. But Sookie suspects otherwise and she and Sam work together to uncover the culprit – and the twisted motive for the attack. But her attention is divided. Though she can’t ‘read’ vampires, Sookie knows her lover Eric Northman and his ‘child’ Pam well – and she realizes that they are plotting to kill the vampire who is now their master. Gradually, she is drawn into the plot -which is much more complicated than she knows. Caught up in the politics of the vampire world, Sookie will learn that she is as much of a pawn as any ordinary human – and that there is a new Queen on the board…”

My review of Dead Reckoning is going to be short and sweet. This being book #11 in the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Mysteries series, I don’t really feel the need to provide much back story. With that said, if you are spoiler-phobic, don’t read what lies below.

I had high hopes for Dead Reckoning after reading quite a few 4.5 and 5 star reviews the week leading up to publication. While the book is definitely an improvement over the last 2–Books # 9 and 10, which felt like plot “filler” –by the end of the book, I wasn’t that impressed with where the overall story is leading.

The two main mysteries/problems in the book seem to be tied up too neatly. The main antagonist in Sookie’s personal drama was predictable. And Sookie herself seems to have become someone tired, desperately in need of a vacation, and sadly, a bit judgmental in her old age. She has always been a slightly conservative Southern woman (funny for someone who dates supernatural creatures), but again and again I got the opinion that Sookie needs to get off of her high horse.

The males in the story didn’t fare much better. I found the “nearly every male in her life continually disappoints and lets Sookie down” plot boring. Honestly, at this point, I’m rooting for Sookie to either end up living HEA with Sam (who just barely makes it out of the above category), or alone. Jason was the only non-screwed up male in this book, which was probably because he’s barely in the story!

All in all, the fairy drama, and vampire politics have grown tiring. Parts of the book seemed to drag and go nowhere. And the completely unnecessary info dumps regarding Sookie’s “disability” and character background information (If you are unaware who Bubba is by book 11, STOP READING THIS SERIES) distracted me and took me out of the book.

If you truly love this series and world, like I do, then keep reading. Supposedly, everything ends with book #13. Unless #12 ends up advancing the overall plot light years ahead of where it currently lies, I have a feeling future books in this series will be for hardcore Sookie fans only.

3/5 Stars.
I purchased Dead Reckoning myself, via Amazon.

Review: Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

1 Mar

Cryer's Cross

The community of Cryer’s Cross, Montana (population 212) is distraught when high school freshman Tiffany disappears without a trace. Already off-balance due to her OCD, 16-year-old Kendall is freaked out seeing Tiffany’s empty desk in the one-room school house, but somehow life goes on… until Kendall’s boyfriend Nico also disappears, and also without a trace. Now the town is in a panic. Alone in her depression and with her OCD at an all-time high, Kendall notices something that connects Nico and Tiffany: they both sat at the same desk. She knows it’s crazy, but Kendall finds herself drawn to the desk, dreaming of Nico and wondering if maybe she, too, will disappear…and whether that would be so bad. Then she begins receiving graffiti messages on the desk from someone who can only be Nico. Can he possibly be alive somewhere? Where is he? And how can Kendall help him? The only person who believes her is Jacian, the new guy she finds irritating…and attractive. As Kendall and Jacian grow closer, Kendall digs deeper into Nico’s mysterious disappearance only to stumble upon some ugly—and deadly—local history. Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried
–Via Goodreads

Cryer’s Cross is my first Lisa McMann book. I’ve heard good things about her Wake series, and had it on my TBR list for quite a long time, so I was excited when I started hearing buzz about her new stand alone novel.

I have to admit, when I first started reading Cryer’s Cross, I almost immediately stopped. The book is written in a very intense third person, stream of consciousness style. But once I read on through a few more pages, I realized it perfectly complimented the way main character Kendall Fletcher, who suffers from OCD, thinks. Similar to the effect music with pounding bass has on your body, the writing style definitely makes your heart pound faster, and in my opinion, made me read faster! It definitely takes some getting used to, but once I hit my reading stride, I barely noticed.

In the beginning of Cryer’s Cross, Kendall’s world is turned upside down when fellow student Tiffany disappears without a trace from her small town. Kendall is again pushed nearly over the edge when a month or so later, her boyfriend and neighbor Nico also disappears. The chaos left in the wake of both disappearances soon catches up with Kendall, and she begins hearing voices, especially when nearby a certain desk in her classroom. A desk that doesn’t stay where it belongs, in her perfectly OCD organized rows. New student Jacian, who was investigated after TIffany disappeared, slowly transforms from Kendall’s foe and soccer team rival, into a new friend, and one of the few people who believes she isn’t losing it.

It’s hard to say much more without spoiling the mystery, but I’ll say the set up is flawless, and (yay stand alones!) all loose ends are tied up by the end of the novel. Some reviewers have mentioned problems with the seemingly unexplained paranormal aspect of the novel, but if you can manage to suspend disbelief while reading, the story seems realistic enough to happen in any small town in America.

McMann has perfectly captured the life of an emotionally fragile teenager with OCD, and the idiosyncrasies of life in a very small town. The secondary characters are believable, and three-dimensional, even when only appearing on the page for short spans of time. Cryer’s Cross is a haunting and creepy mystery, sharing that eerie atmospheric horror story feeling reminiscent of the best of Stephen King. I stayed up all night reading this book, and finished it in about four hours. By the end, I was definitely freaking out and feeling nervous about being the only person awake in my apartment at 3:30am.

4/5 stars.

Disclosure: I received a review e-galley of Cryer’s Cross via Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab program.