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Maureen Johnson’s Name of the Star Publication Party

4 Oct


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.

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!


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.

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

Not pretty: the table “decorations”.

More pretty.

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.

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.
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

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.

Top 10 of 2010: Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison

12 Dec

black magic sanctionRachel Morgan has fought and hunted vampires, werewolves, banshees, demons, and other supernatural dangers as both witch and bounty hunter–and lived to tell the tale. But she’s never faced off against her own kind . . . until now. Denounced and shunned for dealing with demons and black magic, her best hope is life imprisonment–at worst, a forced lobotomy and genetic slavery.Only her enemies are strong enough to help her win her freedom, but trust comes hard when it hinges on the unscrupulous tycoon Trent Kalamack, the demon Algaliarept, and an ex-boyfriend turned thief.

Full Disclosure: Urban Fantasy is a new genre for me, at least in the realm of adult fiction. I like to do a little research before investing my time in a new book series, spending countless hours reading reviews. Once I learned that not only did Kim’s books about witchcraft come highly recommended, but their titles were derived from Clint Eastwood movies, I was sold.

Fast forward two weeks, and I’ve read the entire 8 book (so far!) series. So many urban fantasy and paranormal romance series feature a kick ass heroine who can beat the crap out of an opponent and/or seduce them in ten seconds flat. It gets old rather quickly. Bounty hunter and witch Rachel Morgan’s imperfections make her stand out. She’s not a flawless warrior goddess. She makes mistakes. A lot.

Black Magic Sanction starts with a bang, with Rachel escaping once again from the hands of an angry demon. Now working as the demon Algaliarept’s student, Rachel (one of the only witches in existence who can kindle demon magic) catches the attention of the Coven of Moral and Ethical Standards for being a “black magic” practitioner. Shunned by Inderlander society, and wrongfully imprisoned and sentenced to sterilization, Rachel escapes with the help of her friends, and spends the rest of the book trying to prove her innocence. In typical Rachel fashion, nothing goes according to plan.

What made Black Magic Sanction one of my favorite books of 2010 (and of the series so far) was the character development. Some fans complain that Rachel “never learns” and makes the same mistakes over and over again. I think the mistakes Rachel makes are necessary for her to figure out who she is, and develop her own sense of right and wrong. Rachel leans painful truths about herself and her world, and finally starts to take responsibility for at least some of her actions. By embracing her dark side, she finally accepts herself as she really is. Yes, she can kindle demon magic, but she still refuses to outright kill another living being. Nothing is ever black and white.

As the books “big bad”, the Coven could have been scarier and more dangerous. But their indiscriminate use of “deadly” white magic provided an interesting contrast to Rachel’s sometimes use of demon magic. Who decides who is truly evil? Shouldn’t one’s actions, and beliefs be more important than the means in which they carry them out? Aren’t people who use “good” magic to cause harm just as bad as demons?

What didn’t I like about the book? Pierce. I found the ghost, and his wordy, old world language a bit tiring. I understand the benefits of having another witch around to help Rachel, but kept wishing any other character would take his place in the story. I’m hoping the next book features more of Trent helping Rachel learn about herself instead. I don’t think we know nearly enough about their backstory. And don’t even get me started on Rachel’s thieving, demon summoning ex-boyfriend, Nick. Rachel needs to let Al kill him already, before he causes some permanent damage to her or her loved ones. I’d also like to know more about Bis, and gargoyles in general too.

A few of my favorite things:
Al. His character has turned into one of the most developed of the entire series. His journey from a terrifying demon taking any and every chance to kill Rachel, into a (almost) trusted teacher adds depth to the books, and what could have quickly become a boring plot point. After the truth about her origins are revealed (earlier in the series) Al comes to an understanding with Rachel, and almost seems to respect her. But he does so without losing the ability to genuinely terrify. He may be “on a leash” now, but won’t ever let anyone forget his true motivations.

Overall, Black Magic Sanction is one of my favorite books in the Rachel Morgan series. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how Rachel would keep herself alive. Nowhere is safe, which becomes more apparent than ever after tragedy strikes, leading to one of the saddest, tear inducing moments of the series so far. The stakes are higher now, and Rachel has more to lose than ever.

I can’t wait for 2011’s Pale Demon to see how Rachel progresses. And I’ve got my fingers crossed, hoping for a little more Trent and Rachel interaction next time around.

Black Magic Sanction: 4/5 STARS.

Vampire Academy: Korean Editions

8 Dec

VA Korea 5
Inside covers: with Rose and Lissa on Book 1, and Dimitri  on Book 2.

A few people I’ve spoken to have expressed interest in the Korean editions of Vampire Academy that I had Richelle Sign last night. So I thought I’d share some more photos and information on the books.
I’m really not sure why book two was renamed Sad Illusion. That sounds more like the name of a K-Pop boy band, than a translation of “Frostbite”.

VA Korea 6
The outside covers.

I’ve been collecting signed books for over ten years, and sometimes buy special foreign editions of my favorite authors’ works. After seeing the books on a VA fan site, I knew they were just too beautiful not to have. The detailed illustrations are even more amazing in person.

VA Korea 1

After a little google sleuthing, I managed to track down copies at a Korean book store in LA. (It’s times like these having past job experience as a researcher really comes in handy!)

VA Korea 3

I’m hoping I can add Shadow Kiss to my collection soon:
Shadow Kiss: Korea

No, sadly I can’t read Korean. But I’ll keep these beautiful editions of one of my favorite book series in my collection forever.

Last Sacrifice: NYC Reading and Signing

8 Dec

Author Richelle Mead.

Last night, I was lucky enough to attend Richelle Mead’s NYC reading and signing, celebrating the release of the final Vampire Academy book, Last Sacrifice. I nearly didn’t make it! Between being slowed down by a broken foot, and bad traffic, I was fashionably late, arriving seconds after Richelle took the stage to read.


The enraptured audience.

Richelle began by reading a selection from the book, then proceeded to a short question and answer session with the audience. Most of the questions were pretty typical— What is her inspiration? What’s going on with the movie rights? Was she sad to leave Rose behind after the end of the conclusion of the series?…One question that really stood out to me was about Georgina Kincaid, from Richelle’s Succubus book series. Richelle said the final book is due out in September 2011, and promises surprises, along with the *spoiler free version*: answer to a certain important question regarding a document that was mentioned in Succubus Shadows. Those of you who missed the webcast can see a typed version of most of the Q&A over at


Another exciting piece of news straight from Richelle: this Friday, December 10th’s issue of Entertainment Weekly will have an exclusive first look at the new spin-off series, Bloodlines!

Once it was time for the signing to begin, everything became a bit of a blur. Because I was in a cast, the Barnes and Noble staffers wanted me to go first in line. I felt sort of weird doing that, so I told them I’d gladly go after the first row of fans had their books signed instead.




When it was my turn, I was escorted over to Richelle. Things went so fast, I barely remember what I said. I forgot everything I had planned to say, but had a nice impromptu discussion with Richelle about the Korean editions of her books that I’d brought to be signed (I’m in LOVE with the gorgeously illustrated covers!), and she asked me if I minded telling her how I broke my foot.

Vampire Academy: Korea 2
The Korean edition of book 1.

Since my Mother was my nurse/escort for the evening, I was able to get six books signed. Between that, and a recent order from University Books, I now will own signed copies of nearly the entire Richelle Mead catalog!

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
I’m less than 10 pages from the ending of Last Sacrifice! My review will be coming soon!

See more photos from the signing here.

Thanks so much to Richelle for coming to NYC, and everyone at Barnes and Noble for helping me out while I’m injured. Here’s hoping Richelle makes it back next summer for Bloodlines!

Richelle Mead

Photos and Content ®2010 RS/BookshelfLust

Bloodlines: The Vampire Academy Spin Off

7 Dec

Bloodlines Cover

Browsing Amazon just now, I came across this cover on the item page for Bloodlines, the new Vampire Academy spinoff series coming in August. No word on whether or not this cover is official, but it wasn’t there previously. Either way, I’m liking the different look and feel! Here’s hoping the release of Last Sacrifice tomorrow will bring more info.

If you’re going to the NYC signing, I’ll see you there!

EDIT 12/10: EW has confirmed the new series will be following alchemist Sydney, and her life surrounded by humans in a California High School. Moroi vampire Jill, and a “male love interest from Vampire Academy” will also be featured.

EW: Bloodlines
Image via the Vampire Academy Facebook Fan Page.

Falling in Love with Richelle Mead

3 Dec

One of the more recent additions to my “favorite authors” list is Richelle Mead.
Richelle Mead

It seems even sweeter that someone who would turn out to be a favorite would be someone I avoided reading for so long. For years I saw the Vampire Academy series books on shelves at Target and Barnes and Noble. And for years, I let the somewhat silly title and cover images drive me away. I’ve read what seems like hundreds of vampire novels over the years. I’ve been  fan of the genre since I was about ten. The recent explosion of paranormal fiction after the success of Twilight drove me away from the genre for awhile. Too many books tried too hard to replicate the gorgeous but untouchable boyfriend, falling in love with the clueless, beautiful and naive girl.

Vampire Academy is not that series. And Richelle Mead is not one of those authors.This is teen Vampire fiction written for adults, and wise beyond their years teenagers. The story centers around two warring factions of vampires. The living vampires and their guardians, and the undead. With plenty of illicit romance, action, and tragedy thrown in to keep things interesting. Like many stunned amazon reviewers have said, until main character Rose Hathaway mentions her age, or year in school, you forget she’s so young.
I’m a complete mythology junkie, and this series satisfies my craving for complete back stories, and—something a lot of YA books lately seem to  lack–REASONS for the action and plots. There are still potential soul mates in these books, but characters don’t fall in love just because they meet eyes once across a crowded room. In the Vampire Academy series, Richelle has drafted a unique world in a universe of annoying copycats, and taken this genre as her own.

Vampire Academy

Lucky for us readers, Vampire Academy is not her only book series! In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a lot more reviews, including Richelle’s “Dark Swan” and “Georgina Kincaid” series.

Richelle Mead Books

All of Richelle’s books feature strong, kick ass female leads, filling that Buffy-shaped hole in my heart. All three of the series are so amazingly good in their own way, I cannot pick a favorite. I read all the entirety of the three series in less than one week each. Completely devouring all five of the Georgina Kincaid books in about four days. They’re just that good!

Like many reviewers, I am absolutely freaking out over next week’s release of the final novel in the series, “Last Sacrifice”.
Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

Pending a lot of begging, and some family assistance, I’ll be at the NYC book signing on release day December 7th. At least I’m hoping—it’s a bit harder to get around the city on your own when you have a fractured foot. Hopefully, next week I’ll have some photos and maybe even video to share if I make it to the signing. I am, after all, a photographer in my everyday life. So I can’t resist getting some shots at a book signing. Whether I make it to the signing or not, I’m sure I’ll be up all night Tuesday like a Harry Potter fanatic with an unreleased JK Rowling novel. Be sure to check back soon for my review.

Get more information
Last Sacrifice teaser quotes and videos