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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

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Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

22 Jul

Dearly, Departed

Dearly, Departedwill forever be remembered as the novel that made me fall in love with zombies. I’m actually not a very big fan of zombies. At all. Much like my fear of heights, which unexpectedly showed up one day the first time I attempted rock climbing, I’m not sure where my zombie fear came from. One night I was re-watching 28 Days Later, and then next thing I knew, I was terrified, and having re-occurring zombie nightmares on a regular basis.

Dearly, Departed definitely has it’s freakier moments–and quite a few straight up nasty scenes–but the love story surrounding it all is so cute and refreshing, it’s easy for a zombie-phobic girl like me to overlook.

The story starts out a bit slow. Lots of background info is given about the protagonist Nora, her recently deceased father, and their futuristic world. But Habel doesn’t fall into the usual debut author traps, so it never feels info-dumpy. Thankfully after Nora’s world is introduced, the action really picks up around chapter 4, and even more so once Nora first encounters zombies.

The action does irregularly jump around from multiple points of view, which can be jarring and get confusing at first. But I also managed to get used to that aspect after a few chapters, after I “got to know” who each of the characters were.

Once Nora is abducted, and begins to interact with the ragtag band of zombie army men and women, the story really hits its stride. The secondary characters have amazing, hilarious personalities, and the camaraderie between them is endearing. I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions.

And the boys? When discussing this book with a fellow blogger friend via twitter, I, much to the amusement of Lia Habel herself, described the male characters of Dearly, Departed as boys “so hot, you’ll forget they are rotting!”.

Obviously, it helps to have a story full of plenty of hotties. Yet it’s the interaction between Nora and Bram, the love interest that really won me over. Their slowly developing (and strangely realistic considering one of them IS DEAD!) love is adorable. Nora is a strong, kick ass protagonist, and independent woman. But with Bram, she really begins to come into her own, and discover who she really is, and what she truly believes in.

I can’t remember the last book that had me giggling, and squeeing like a 12-year-old schoolgirl this much. (Actually, there was one book that similarly affected me, last year—Anna and the French kiss.) Everything from brushes of arms, to sniffing the shirt of the boy you like, to the eventual first kiss was both realistic, and adorable. Seriously, this story can only be described as epicly cute.

In the beginning, Nora thinks Bram is downright disgusting and terrifying. Lia Habel is such an amazing writer, who understands the psychology and motivations behind her characters, that you get exactly why Nora would become attracted to Bram, and find yourself falling in love with him much in the same way. There are dozens of books where teenage girls fall in love with the undead, weirdos, and just plain freaky men that just leave you shaking your head and asking “WHAT?!”. Never have I seen fear and disgust lead so naturally to true love.

Other things I liked: this book had some of the best and most original world building of anything I’ve ever read. It’s steam-punky, but without alienating people who might not be into the Victorian era and clockworks. (I admit I’ve only read a few steam punk short stories, but found my limited exposure to the genre to be weirdly repetitive.) The Neo-Victorian futuristic world Nora lives in is fully developed, and seems 100% logical considering the back-story that led to its creation.

Overall Dearly, Departed was an adorable, unique love story and survival tale that captivated me from page one. Lia Habel, a first time author (who FYI is just as adorable as this book!), has earned a place on my “auto buy” list. I wanted to re-read Dearly, Departed as soon as I finished. And of course, it’s safe to say I am now “dying” for the sequel.

5/5 Stars!

Dearly, Departed will be released on October 18, 2011.
Thanks to Del Rey for providing me with an ARC for review.

Holly Black, Cassie Clare, and Lauren DeStefano at Books of Wonder:

4 May

Last night, I went to another amazing book signing at Books of Wonder in NYC. I almost skipped it to go see Charlaine Harris at a nearby Barnes and Noble. But once I realized how many of my friends were coming to town for the BOW event, coupled with having met Charlaine last year, I decided this was the signing for me.

I am so glad I picked this event! When I arrived just after 5pm, the store was already packed with fans decked out in character t-shirts and hand-written runes on their bodies. I met up with some fellow bloggers: Damaris and Wanda from Good Choice Reading, Jena from Shortie Says, and JL from An Avid Reader’s Musings.They were kind enough to save me a spot, and together we waited for the main event.

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Damaris and JL.

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A decked out audience member.

While we hung out, I spotted a few more bloggers in the audience! Mitali from Alley Of Books/The Teen Author Carnival, and Vania from VLC Productions –who makes awesome book trailers, including The City of Fallen Angels trailer! It was so great to finally meet some bloggers I’ve been conversing with on twitter for the past few months.

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Half of the huge crowd!

After a short wait, Lauren, Cassie and Holly came out and began the event!
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After they were introduced, each author read a passage from their current works. Cassie read the prologue to Clockwork Prince, Holly read “smut” from Red Glove (my favorite!) and Lauren, a debut author told the audience a bit more about Wither.

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Next up, question time! The audience had a lot of good questions for the authors last night. Some a bit silly (lots of cat questions for Cassie), but there was a lot of interesting commentary about movie news, sequels, and the writing process in general.

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During a second, lightning round of super fast questioning, I asked Holly about the possible Curse Workers tv show news, and whether or not the series was indeed a trilogy, or would there be more books? Holly said the tv show was a possibility, but mostly unsure. And that she had three books planned for the Curse Workers series, but it seemed to me that she thought maybe there would be more! Which I hope is true, as it’s one of my favorite current series.

Finally, it was time for the signing to begin!
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A fan’s books, waiting to be signed.

Each author had brought “gifts” to give away to their fans. Holly had Curse Workers postcards (from the old blog ads back when White Cat was first released), “Worker” bracelets for each type, and an excerpt from Black Heart. Cassie had an excerpt, as did Lauren (from Wither #2), who also had candy!

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Dream Worker bracelet.

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The signing area.

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Another fan, in line.

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Lauren DeStefano, who was insanely nice!

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Holly Black

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Signing Red Glove.

I met Holly during the Teen Author Festival, so I had all of my books signed back then. Holly was nice enough to sign a postcard for me, and give me the Black Heart excerpt that I so badly wanted. When I asked for a Worker bracelet, I kind of just reached into the pile and grabbed a black one. Which of course, ended up being Death Worker! Holly said she was surprised I’d pick that one, “knowing the what it meant”, and all of the problems associated with it. I joked with her saying it was ok, I’ve got ten fingers and ten toes! Not sure if I’d actually pick that ability if the choice was real though. ; )

Cassie was fun to talk to as well. I told her I read City of Bones when it first came out, and had yet to finish the rest of the series. She was surprised to see I had an old ARC of City of Glass (a leftover relic from my magazine editor days). I was in line with Jena, whom she recognized from her twitter icon! I thought that was cute.

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Cassie says Hi!

When we we leaving the store, Jena spotted Josh, who played Jace in the book trailer!
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After the signing, a few of us went out for dinner, margaritas, and more book chatter. The whole night felt like a “practice round” for BEA in a few weeks. I am so glad I went to the Books of Wonder signing, and got to see some old friends, and meet so many fun new bloggers!

Thanks to Cassie, Lauren, Holly, Simon & Schuster, and Books of Wonder for such a great event!

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See more photos at my Flickr album.

Review: Die For Me by Amy Plum

21 Mar

Die For Me: New US Cover

In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier’s parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life–and memories–behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate’s guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he’s a revenant–an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again. –Via Amazon

Die for Me is what I like to call a smart girl’s paranormal love story. I’ve been fan-girling over this book since I first heard another author mention it on twitter last Fall. It was one of my 11 Must Reads for 2011. I am so so glad I finally got to read it, and that it has totally lived up to the hype!

Die For Me begins with Kate, who has just lost her parents in a terrible car accident, moving to Paris to live with her Grandparents. Kate is nearly drowning in her grief, and finding it hard to live a normal life again. Her older sister Georgia busies herself with parties and dancing to take her mind off of her parents’ death. But Kate hides indoors, behind the covers of her favorite books.

The real story begins when Kate finally decides to live again, and get out of her house. Time spent outside of the city helps bring Kate back to life, and inspires her to set out and explore Paris. After a near death experience, she meets Vincent, a mysterious Frenchman she has seen around her neighborhood, at a local cafe. What she doesn’t know, is that he’s been watching her. And that Vincent is not exactly human.

If you’ve read the book’s summary, you know that Vincent is a Revenant, a sort of French zombie. Luckily for us readers, that doesn’t involve him doing unromantic things like eating brains, or killing people. There is so much more to this story.

I’m not going to spoil what exactly Vincent is, or what his purpose is. But I will tell you a bit more about his relationship with Kate. Naturally, as she gets to know him, she senses something is a bit “off” about Vincent. She is drawn to the aura of danger that seems to surround him, but is smart enough to realize that might not be 100% wise.

Their relationship develops slowly and organically. Kate and Vincent start as friends, before blossoming into something more. I found that to be very refreshing. As the plot moves along, Kate and Vincent’s love is challenged in more ways than one.

Kate is well aware that life with Vincent will never be normal, and struggles with the impact his close ties with death and dying have on her emotional state. She also realizes that some of his behavior, like mild stalking, is abnormal. Luckily that stalking verges more towards being cute and inquisitive (please, we’ve all spied on hot boys or girls, whether it’s around town, or on Facebook), than creepy or abusive.

Miraculously, Kate actually has a mind of her own, and questions the people around her. She never sits back and lets things just happen to her. Once she breaks out of her depression, she actually lives her life.

Things I loved:

* A very well thought out, original mythology.

* Kate is a strong female main character. She stands up for herself, and refuses to take no for an answer.

* A good, logical, and totally un-creepy explanation for why an “old dead dude” would want to date a teenager.

*Jules, and Vincent’s entire paranormal “family”.

* Parts of the story were slow, but not bad slow. More like good, lingering slow… like the three hour French dinners described in the book. Sometimes everything being in your face gets old!

* The story made me want to run off to Paris asap. Amy (who lives in France) captures a sense of place incredibly well. You can tell she has actually been to, and loves Paris.

*Vincent: He’s a hot guy, with flaws. And he’s not afraid to admit them, or let Kate take the lead.

The only thing I didn’t like:

The average reader wouldn’t even notice, but since I read deleted scenes first, I thought the beginning chapter or two seemed a bit rushed. I’d HIGHLY recommend checking out the extras page on Amy’s site, and reading the deleted prologue, and the clip from Vincent’s point of view. I thought both added a lot to the story, helping to explain both Kate’s grief, and Vincent’s attraction to Kate quite a bit. (Note: both features can be read before or after Die For Me. If you’ve read the summary, they won’t spoil you.)

Die For Me is an intricately written, engrossing, and haunting story that transports you right into the center or Paris as if you were there. I think due to its deeper underlying themes (death, depression, loneliness), it will be taken more seriously than a lot of teen paranormal novels out in the world. And Amy’s Revenants are by far the coolest monster/paranormal creature I’ve encountered in years.

This novel offers a realistic look at depression after a tragedy like losing both of your parents. As well as featuring the most swoon-worthy, yet slightly “weird” romantic relationship I’ve read about in a long time. I am, of course, eagerly awaiting book two. I shall be adding Die For Me to my (very small) “to re-read pile”, something now that I’m a busy blogger, I rarely do.

4/5 STARS!

Learn more about Amy and the Revenants at her web site.

Die for Me is the first book in the Revenants trilogy, and will be released May 10th by Harper Teen.
E-galley provided for Review via Harper Teen and Net Galley.

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.

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 at:www.vampireacademybooks.com
Last Sacrifice teaser quotes and videos
And http://www.richellemead.com