Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blog Tour: Review~ Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss


Passion Blue
By: Victoria Strauss
Pub. Date: November 6, 2012
Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing
Pages: 352
Source: Finished copy from author in exchange for an honest review

"Be sure you know your true heart’s desire, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive."

This is the warning the Astrologer-Sorcerer gives Giulia when she pays him to create a magical talisman for her. The scorned illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, Giulia is determined to defy the dire fate predicted by her horoscope, and use the talisman to claim what she believes is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs–not likely prospects for a girl about to be packed off to the cloistered world of a convent.

But the convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises. There are strict rules, long hours of work, and spiteful rivalries…but there’s also friendship, and the biggest surprise of all: a workshop of female artists who produce paintings of astonishing beauty, using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion blue. Yet even as Giulia begins to learn the mysteries of the painter’s craft, the magic of the talisman is at work, and a forbidden romance beckons her down a path of uncertainty and danger. She is haunted by the sorcerer’s warning, and by a question: does she really know the true compass of her heart?

Set in Renaissance Italy, this richly imagined novel about a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into a fascinating, exotic world where love, faith, and art inspire passion–of many different hues.

I was very excited to be asked to be apart of the blog tour for Passion Blue. I loved the colors in the cover and the synopsis definitely appealed to my historian side. I love stories set during the Italian Renaissance, so I knew I would enjoy Passion Blue. Passion Blue was everything I expected and more.

The story focuses on Giulia, a young women whose has spent her life as a servant in the home of her father, who happens to be a Count. When he dies, the Counts wife forces her to go live as a nun in the Santa Marta convent. Giulia always wanted a family of her own, but she knows if she actually becomes a nun, she will never have what she always dreamed of. It was hard not to feel connected to Giula. She was a brave girl who just wanted to be loved.

I also enjoyed the fact that Giulia was a painter, during the Renaissance! It was very exciting and brought a lot to the story. She had this wonderful commitment to having a family of her own and being an artist.
I loved the message of sacrifice and finding what truly makes you happy. It is something that everyone struggles with at some point in their life, no matter how old you are, or what century you come from.

I look forward to reading more from the very talented Victoria Strauss!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Whisper's Edge by London Cole


Whisper's Edge
(Whisper's Walker Series # 2)
By: London Cole
Pub. Date: October 28, 2012
Publisher: Self-Pub
Pages: 230

Drake and Kelsie quickly discover life won't be quite the same after getting their new abilities, but they hope everything will settle into a sort of normalcy. It doesn't take long for them to realize it's not the kind of normal they were hoping for.

When Kelsie joins Drake for a routine Hunt, they end up stumbling upon an underground bunker that hasn't been opened in nearly a century. When they meet a far-too-friendly ghost, it should be their first indicator to leave things alone and get out of there. Never ones to resist the opportunity for excitement or mystery, they end up in a situation that could cost them dearly–threatening not only everything they've worked for, but their very lives!

Drake's world is turned upside down. A mysterious new girl seems intent on capturing his heart, but that's not all she's after.

Kelsie faces betrayal by the one she holds most dear, only to meet someone new who could change her entire existence; past, present, and future. If only she can stay alive long enough to find out the truth...

I was a huge fan of London's first book, Whisper's Walker, so I was very excited when I received the second book, Whisper's Edge for review. As with the first one, Edge is an exciting, fast-paced read. There were a lot of plot twists that I was not expecting and a lot of character development!

Whisper's Edge begins with our favorite characters, Drake and Kelsie running for their life, thus starts the action that is Edge. While trying to escape, they come across an old shelter, and meet Megan, a seemingly innocent and lonely girl. Drake immediately feels that he needs to help and vows to return to her.

While I enjoyed both Drake and Kelsie in Whisper Walker, I could not stand Drake in this one. He was just such a stupid boy and I wanted to slap him many times for his constant stupidity. He obviously loves Kelsie, but he decided to flirt with Megan right in front of her. He did other things that pissed me off as well. Ugh, boys. Kelsie on the other hand, I absolutely loved. She really grew as a character and I think she came out a lot stronger. While Drake is busy with Megan, she too meets someone and this man, Trip, opens Kelsie's eyes to a whole new world, and to who, or what, Kelsie really is!  

I think the Whisper Walker series is seriously starting to come along, but my one main complaint was the editing, especially in the beginning. It just didn't flow right to me. It was almost like I was missing something in the writing, and it ended up turning me off a little bit. I am glad I stuck with it though, because the writing and editing did get a lot better. I also would have benefited from some recaps added in throughout the story. I was confused a lot of the time because I didn't remember some parts from the first book. I love when authors include recaps of the earlier books in the series. It saves me a lot of mental questioning! 

If you haven't started this series yet, I definitely think you are missing out. Both books are quick and exciting reads. I am looking forward to see where London Cole takes us next!


Giveaway!
I have a signed copy of Whisper Walker, the first book in the series to giveaway. Enter below & good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Spotlight: Two Pair: A Quadruple or Nothing Story by Jessica, Mackenzie, Meredith, and Stephanie Jackson

Two Pair: A Quadruple or Nothing Story
By: Jessica, Mackenzie, Meredith, and Stephanie Jackson
Pub. Date: September 3, 2012
Pages: 250


Ashburg, California; the city that’s split into rich and not rich, the upper class and the middle class, the snobs and the down-to-earth…that’s how the teenagers perceived it, anyway. And it all stemmed from two schools’ rivalries. The rivalry has grown now that there are a set of twins that go to Ashburg Arts and a set of twins that go to Ashburg Academy that don’t see eye to eye.

Reagan and Ronan Jacoby thought that their only problem was wondering if their cop father, Elijah would make it home from work every day. That is, when he wasn’t trying to keep them out of trouble. They didn’t think their father dating would complicate things even further.

Savannah and Mickayla Powers thought their only problem lied in the intense dislike they had of each other. They should be classified as fraternal twins rather than identical. The only thing they can agree on is that their mother, famous fashion designer Dallas, was acting strange.

The four girls’ lives are turned upside down when they realize that they have something in common, more than just their schools’ rivalry and their own problems. There’s a shocking secret that’s at play…do they have it in the cards to figure it out?

This is their debut novel, it is the first in a four-part series.

Links:

Goodreads
Amazon
Twitter

Email address: jsisters4@aol.com







Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Spotlight & Excerpt: Last Regress by Rachael J. Thorne

Last Regress
By: Rachael J. Thorne
Pub. Date: July 15, 2012

Alyssa Matthews thought she had an explanation for everything.  After all, as a slightly skeptical paranormal investigator that was what she was used to doing; researching, observing and explaining.
 
So when she began writing a paper about a long forgotten case of death by Spontaneous Human Combustion, she assumed it would be a run-of-the-mill piece.  Little did she realize that she was about to be plunged into a situation that would not only force her to question her own sanity, but also her skepticism about the nature of the paranormal.
 
Not to mention the dreams that just wouldn't go away...
Excerpt:  

Alyssa had absolutely no idea where she was or more to the point how she had got there.  For a fleeting moment it occurred to her that she might be asleep and consequently dreaming, but everything appeared to be so clear in her mind that this possibility seemed highly unlikely.  All around her, for as far as she could have seen, was a thick, overwhelming darkness that felt bitterly cold, damp and bleak.  It was as though the cold itself was gnawing through her bones, so numbing that it was almost impossible to breathe, like trying to inhale ice crystals.  She had the sensation that she was being suspended in mid air although she could not feel anything that could be supporting her there.  None of her limbs seemed to be touching anything and yet she was not falling.  It took her a while to realise that she was in fact moving forwards.  She was certain that she was floating toward something, but in that terrible darkness she could not see what it could be.  Confusion surrounded, penetrated and engulfed her.  Disorientation made her feel as though she was being pulled at from every conceivable angle, like something was trying to drag her away, off into that awful darkness.  She felt lost and she began to worry that she was never going to regain any control.
           
Somewhere in the darkness Alyssa could hear music, muffled and distorted as if the sound was drifting through the cracks in a closed door.  The sudden realisation that it was this sound toward which she was floating filled her with an inexplicable sense of comfort and contentment.  She now had a purpose, something upon which to focus her mind.  As she became aware that it was the doorway that she was headed for – and she was now convinced that it was indeed a doorway, although she had no idea how she could possibly have come to that conclusion in all that darkness – the music began to grow clearer and louder as though it had started to call out to her, to encourage her.
           
There wasn’t just music though, she could hear a voice.  In and amongst the notes there was a man’s voice, very deep and strong, chanting and singing over a beautiful haunting melody.  He was singing words that Alyssa could not understand, words that should have had no meaning to her, and yet somehow they did.  Stranger still, for some reason that she could not fathom an inner voice seemed to speak to her and tell her that she could trust that man’s voice implicitly, and she felt willing to give herself completely, to surrender herself to it – to give herself to him.  She felt comfortable and calm, happy to simply float along and let that beautiful music wash over her.  She could have stayed like that forever.
           
Suddenly there was a flash of something that looked like lightning and the area immediately around her was illuminated by an eerie blue light.  She was sure that she could see something moving out of the corner of her eye.  She tried to look around her, tried to see what it was, but beyond the boundaries of that light was the same black curtain of nothing.  She didn't really want to know what was out there, she was quite content to just float where she was and listen to the music, and anyway, she had the distinct impression that whatever it was that she couldn't see, it wasn't something good.  Ignorance could be bliss and it was better not to know.  She lay back and allowed herself to float in the blue haze, carried along by the sounds surrounding her, but without warning her entire body was wracked with unbearable pain, like hundreds of blades all around her burrowing deep into her skin.  Whatever was out there wasn't hidden in the darkness anymore.

Author Bio:

Rachael J. Thorne is trying to make it in the world as an indie author between tending her garden and being a geek!
 
She lives in Essex, UK with her husband and crazy dog.
 
Last Regress is her first novel and she is currently working on her second, Running For A Life.





Sunday, November 18, 2012

Blitz and Excerpt: Miss Fortune Cookie by Lauren Bjorkman



Miss Fortune Cookie by Lauren Bjorkman
Pub. Date: November 13, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Meet Erin. Smart student, great daughter, better friend. Secretly the mastermind behind the popular advice blog Miss Fortune Cookie. Totally unaware that her carefully constructed life is about to get crazy. It all begins when her ex-best friend sends a letter to her blog—and then acts on her advice. Erin’s efforts to undo the mess will plunge her into adventure, minor felonies, and possibly her very first romance. What’s a likely fortune for someone no longer completely in control of her fate? Hopefully nothing like: You will become a crispy noodle in the salad of life.


Miss Fortune Cookie Chapter 1 Excerpt

You will have much luck and little hardship.
Or the other way around.

CHAPTER 1

My friends and I were riding home from school on Muni, clinging to an assortment of slippery handholds, when Linny almost blew my secret identity. Intentionally.
“Listen to this one,” she said, reading off her iPhone, a faint but smirky glint in her eyes. “‘Dear Miss Fortune Cookie. My cousin thinks I’m chasing her boyfriend. Her boyfriend and I never flirt, but sometimes we text. What can I do to make her believe me? Just Friends.’”
In fact, I—Erin Kavanagh, alias Miss Fortune Cookie—had posted this very letter on my anonymous advice blog, and Linny happened to be the only person in San Francisco to know that, the only person in the whole world, except for some random administrator at WordPress. She takes every opportunity to harass me about keeping my blog a secret. “What advice would you give, Erin?” she asked, winking this time.
I kept my face as neutral as possible. Luckily Darren and Mei were only paying attention each other. As usual.
Personally speaking, I think nano-deceptions are a good thing. I regularly use them to protect my friends from unpleasant truths. Should I tell Linny that her favorite knit hat makes her head look like a furry meatball? Or nudge Mei whenever Darren winces at her hyena laugh? Should I have cautioned Darren that taking AP physics would wreck his grade-point average? Absolutely not. Sincere lies keep everyone happy.
I blew the hair out of my eyes. “The cousin will never stop suspecting the two of them,” I said to Linny, “so Just Friends has to stop the texting. She could get her own boyfriend. Or move to somewhere far away like Moldavia.”
Muni, a sort of bus powered by electric wires overhead, jerked to a halt. A seat opened up, and Linny took it. “Exactly!” She had the happiest smile ever, so big it barely fit on her face. Metaphorically speaking. “Mei, don’t you think Erin is a natural at giving advice?”
“Hmm?” Mei said. She was somewhat entwined with Darren and therefore distracted.
“Nothing.” I jabbed Linny in the ribs to get her to stop talking. Gently of course. The three of us—Mei, Linny, and me—made an enviable friendship trio. I was the lesser third, maybe because Mei and Linny were gorgeously Chinese-American, while I was just Boring-American. A Person of Irish.
Mei knew nothing about my connection to Miss Fortune Cookie. We used to be best friends, and by best friends I mean we spent every afternoon and weekend together until eighth grade, when things fell apart between us. The truth is, Mei dumped me. Then Linny brought us together again during freshman year, inviting us both to eat lunch with her, forming a little group. A few months later, I mustered the courage to bring up the dumping incident with Mei, except she didn’t want to talk about it. So we became friends again without dealing with the past. Pretty much.
Except I didn’t trust her like I used to.
And she didn’t share as many intimate details about herself with me.
Linny beckoned me closer to whisper in my ear. “I have a question for Miss Fortune Cookie. A very personal one. But you can’t tell Mei.”
“Why not?”
She lowered her voice more. “You just can’t, ’kay?”
I nodded. Linny usually let both of us in on every detail about her life, although lately she’d been secretive about her new boyfriend. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t be boring. I turned my back toward Mei and said in my quietest voice, “Go ahead. I’m listening. What is it?”
Linny shook her head. “Not now.”
Just then, the Muni driver made the sharp turn into Chinatown, and three things happened almost simultaneously: a bicyclist veered into the road, the driver slammed on the brakes, and I fell into another passenger. We came to a halt fifty feet from the stop, and the bicyclist escaped unscathed. I could tell by the vigorous way he flipped off the driver. Then I caught sight of Mrs. Liu, bundled against the fog, among the passengers waiting to board.
“Your mom!” I whispered to Mei. “She’s getting on!”
Mei’s eyes widened. “What the what?”
Which demonstrates a problem with sincere lies—in this case, Mei’s lie to her mom about not having a boyfriend. They can be found out. Darren dropped his arm from around Mei’s waist and grabbed his backpack. “Bye,” he mouthed before zipping to the back and catapulting out the rear door. He’s considerate like that.
Mrs. Liu’s grocery bags thumped against the handrail as she marched up the steps. She has sharp, high cheekbones and is tall like her daughter. She and Mei both have blunt-cut hair that reaches their shoulders. Our favorite salon in Chinatown sometimes offers two-for-one specials.
Mei hurried to the front to take the two largest bags. “Ma, let me.”
Mrs. Liu stretched her swan neck toward the window. “Who is that with you?”
Mei shook her head nervously. “No one. Just Erin and Linny. I invited them to help with the turnip cakes.”
“No. I see boy before.” Mrs. Liu believed with every sinew in her heart that a boyfriend would distract Mei from her schoolwork, ruining her chances of getting into the number one university in the country, Harvard. So when Mei fell in love with Darren last spring, she kept it a secret from her mom. For thirteen whole months. Which showed amazing ingenuity and skill on her part, but once you start a lie, it’s hard to escape it.
“Who is boy?”
“Oh, him,” Mei said. “Someone from AP chem. We were discussing the homework. Chemical reactions.” She blinked fast. “And stuff like that.”
To be fair, most people have trouble lying to Mrs. Liu. Her eyes bore right through your skull and read your thoughts as if you accidentally uploaded them onto Facebook. It’s her superpower.
Linny stood up to offer her seat to Mrs. Liu. “Mr. F assigned loads of homework over the weekend. He wants us in top shape for the AP test.”
Mrs. Liu ignored the seat. She had just turned forty and didn’t appreciate the senior-citizen treatment. “Very good. Homework make you smart.”
“Ma, please sit down. Ni shi lao.” That means you are the elder, a show of respect. It also means you are old.
“I am comfortable,” Mrs. Liu said.
Mei continued arguing politely. Though most Chinese immigrants to San Francisco speak Cantonese, a dialect common in the south of China, Mrs. Liu emigrated from the north, where they speak Mandarin. I was fluent enough to follow their conversation.
Ma, ni zuo.” Ma, just sit.
Gaosu wo ta de mingzi.Tell me his name.
Before they resolved anything, the driver pulled into the stop by Mrs. Liu’s restaurant, and we all got off. Hay Fat occupies a prominent street corner in Chinatown. Mrs. Liu’s heightened culinary sensibility has turned it into a legend, luring in the more adventurous tourists and fussy locals. She serves authentic dishes with ingredients such as fermented bean paste, whole fish with eyeballs intact, and lotus. Her menu also includes beef broccoli in case people with less sophisticated palates wander in by mistake.
We entered the kitchen through the alley. The dinner rush had yet to begin, which meant we had the place to ourselves. After setting me up with the grater and Mei with the bacon to steam, Mrs. Liu tossed a handful of sesame seeds into sizzling oil at the bottom of the wok. I closed my eyes to better appreciate the scrumptious smell.
“What should I do?” Linny asked. I looked at her appraisingly, wondering about her secret. Not that we could talk here in the kitchen.
Mrs. Liu handed her a bowl. “Cut mushrooms. Very small pieces.”
I consider Hay Fat my second home. Mom and Mrs. Liu met when Mei and I were in preschool and have been good friends ever since. We live one floor below them in an apartment a few blocks from here in a quieter part of Chinatown. Mrs. Liu has always welcomed me into her kitchen, even during that black year when Mei and I barely spoke.
What I know of her life before America comes through Mom. Twenty-three years ago, Mrs. Liu studied cooking at a special school in China that trains workers for American restaurants. After finishing the program, she immigrated to San Francisco, where she met Mei’s dad. He soon left her, and she has remained single ever since. Which could explain some of her gruffness.
“No lollygagging,” Mrs. Liu said. The cloth she wore over her hair fell askew, and my fingers itched to straighten it. I didn’t stop grating for a second, though, because sometimes when I slack off from a job she’s given me, she’ll pinch my arm. Not hard, but still.
Linny held out her cutting board for inspection. “Are these pieces small enough?”
Mrs. Liu took the board and tossed the mushrooms into the wok. “Almost. Watch. This is secret part. Very important. Not in recipe.”
Smoke rose from the hot metal. While Mrs. Liu stirred up a storm, I took the chance to rest my aching muscles. As I was standing there, I noticed that the photographs hanging over the sink had been dusted recently. One showed four-year-old Mei holding a pen and scroll, a minischolar. Next to it hung a picture of me dressed as a sunflower for our preschool play.
The turnip cakes were for a party next week, an event to celebrate Mei’s acceptance into Harvard. Mrs. Liu had planned it out a long time ago. I think she decided on which dishes to serve before Mei started high school. Last July, she bought boxes of scarlet and black decorations. She mailed the invitations a month ago. Harvard’s acceptance emails, though, wouldn’t go out until tomorrow, April 1, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
Now Mei just had to get in.
The three of us attend Lowell, a high school for academic types—nerds in the best sense—a rare public school that students compete to get into. At Lowell, we have a popular crowd, hipsters, and partiers like everywhere else, but we worry more about SAT percentiles and college choices than our counterparts. For us, the first of April is bigger than the Academy Awards. Tomorrow, hopes would be mangled and dreams decapitated.
Mrs. Liu spun around to face Mei. “Meihua! That boy on bus. Shi bu shi boyfriend?”
Meihua blinked. “He’s not, Ma.”
Linny and I exchanged glances.
full denial = a lie of omission × 10 3
Mei’s sincere lie had gone bad, turned slimy and evil smelling like leftovers jammed to the back of the fridge behind the sauce jars.
“The stove!” Linny yelled.
Flames shot upward. Mrs. Liu calmly fetched a small broom and beat out the fire in three precise strokes. She’s efficient like that. “You are young. You cannot know love.”
Except Romeo and Juliet were young, and though Darren had not declared his devotion publicly from the alley or climbed a trellis to the window leading to Mei’s bedchamber, Romeo had nothing on him when it came to passion. I’d seen more of that than I cared to, in fact.
Mei laid the steamed bacon on a clean bamboo chopping block and commenced mincing it into molecule-sized bits. Mrs. Liu waved her spatula. “Harvard most important thing. Future more valuable than useless boy. You tell me, Erin. Who is boy?”
My hand flew across the grater, and the mound of turnips grew. “The boy on Muni?”
Mrs. Liu growled with exasperation. “The Master say give elder no reason for anxiety.”
Mei ducked her head. “You’re right, Ma.”
“I am not right,” Mrs. Liu barked. “The Master is right.” By the Master, she meant Confucius, the spiritual grandfather of China, born more than five hundred years before Jesus. Arguing against the Master would be futile. The main dinner chef arrived, and Mrs. Liu dismissed us. “Skedaddle. Do homework. Good-bye.”
Grateful for the reprieve, I slipped out of my apron. Mei planted her feet by the stove and lifted her chin. She looked exactly like she used to long ago when we shoved cooked rice and fruit under the stove to feed the hungry ghost that lived there: scared but determined. She turned to Linny and me. “I’m staying to help Ma. Wait for me.”
Which meant Linny and I would get a little time alone and she could finally tell me what she started to say on Muni.

About the Author:

I am the author of two YA novels, MY INVENTED LIFE and MISS FORTUNE COOKIE. I also contributed a short story to the anthology THE FIRST TIME.

Though I grew up on a sail boat and loved traveling the world as a kid, I'm still afraid of the ocean. I much prefer other modes of transportation these days--plane, train, or car. Walking is best.

I love books with multi-faceted, intriguing characters. The best one make me laugh, cry, and turn the pages long past my bed time.

When I'm not reading or writing, I spend time with family and friends, talking about everything under the sun. Add in some good food to the mix, top it off with chocolate, and I'm truly happy.

Lauren Bjorkman
Twitter  ∞ Website ∞ Pinterest ∞ Facebook




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kiss 'N Tell Blog Tour: Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

I am so excited to have Janet Gurtler on the blog today discussing Sam, the main character in her new story, Who I Kissed.


Body Swapping
By: Janet Gurtler

As a YA writer, Janet Gurtler often has to embody the lives and emotions of her character.  This time, we’re asking her to channel Sam and tell us some of the character insight we’re dying to know – first crush, most embarrassing moment, favorite books, music, & more!  And Janet reveals a little of how she creates such realistic teen characters.
***
“Sam, Sam, Sam. What are we going to do with you?”

If you can’t tell, I’m using my mother voice. Also I’m talking to a fictitious character.  But we’ll ignore that part. When I write teen characters I have to turn my mother voice off. (And embrace the crazy.)  Truth be known, I am able to remove my mother voice pretty easily and I find it kind of natural to slip inside the head of a teenager.

I had a tough time when I was a teenager. I had a lot of internal struggles. I majored in insecurity and angst. And I remember many of those feelings really well. Really, really well.   

So, getting inside the head of a teenager isn’t as hard for me as if should be. Of course, my characters aren’t me.  I give them different challenges and different personality quirks. And then I have to try to think the way they would think. I have to slip into their shoes.

Fortunately, I enjoy imagining getting inside a character’s head. I like to go deep inside and look at things people sometimes try to hide. From themselves and from the world. I like to go there. To places that are uncomfortable. Especially with the challenges of today’s world around them. Technology. Expectations. Social media.

I took Samantha to some uncomfortable places in Who I Kissed. Imagine feeling responsible for the death of someone else. How horrifying would that be?  How would you possibly get over it? Especially when you’re dealing with your own issues.  Sam had some things to overcome even before the accident, but the accident brought them to the surface with a rush.  Ultimately, Sam has to learn to let other people in.  And that’s not always an easy thing to do.  To me she’s a fully formed person with a history and built in likes and dislikes. So let’s take a deeper look at Sam. Let me slide back into her skin for a moment and tell you some of her secrets.

Favorite Book- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time  Indian by Sherman Alexie.  

Favorite Song- Tonight Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae

Favorite Movie- The Avengers

Favorite Food- Jelly Bellies of course! But as far as real food goes, she likes Mexican. Bean Burritos.  Even though they give her gas.  She probably wouldn’t eat them on a date.

First serious crush. Zee.  First heart aches. Zee.  Best kiss ever. Zee.

Celebrity Crush-   Corbin Bleu. She is waiting for his acting career to extend beyond High school Musical

Personal Hero-  Missy Franklin  

Secret Talent- Sam loves to dance. She practices in her room with her iPod. At some point, she’s going to try to convince her swim team to record a dance dare (dancing behind people without them knowing) for the Ellen show. She knows every dance step to Party Rockin by LMFAO.

Most Embarrassing Moment- When her bathing suit split down the butt at a swim meet and she had to finish her race, which was thankfully backstroke.





Monday, November 12, 2012

Blog Tour: Guest Post & Giveaway: Two and Twenty Dark Tales


Two and Twenty Dark Tales
Edited By: Georgia McBride & Michelle Zink
Pub. Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: Month9Books
Pages: 340

In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.

Today I am hosting, Sayantani DasGupta, one of the co-authors of Two and Twenty Dark Tales.



Revisiting the Classics: Mother Goose, and the Marks that Stories Leave

  
There seems to be a cultural moment happening right now – when all sorts of children’s and YA books are revisiting the classics.

There are Greek mythology take-offs like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams’ Goddess Girls series, and Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman’s Sirenz series. There are Grimm’s brothers take-offs like Michael Buckley’s The Sisters Grimm series.

There are Shakespearean take-offs like Michelle Ray’s Falling for Hamlet, and Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly (which I recently wrote about in an essay called “Shakespeare in Black and White.”). And don’t even get me started on the endless Austen take-offs. From Mandy Hubbard’s Prada and Prejudice to Jennifer Ziegler’s Sass and Serendipity to … well, there are a whole lot of them is my point.

But what purpose do classic revisitations serve in the popular imagination? Clearly, there is a hunger for them, and the popularly accepted idea that being introduced to take-offs will make young readers more interested in the original stories from which they originated.

And I guess I can believe that, if it comes to stories we want young people to be reading in their original, stories whose evergreen relevance we want to celebrate – like those of Shakespeare or Austen. But what about all those mythological and fairy-tale take-offs? Are those being published because we, as a culture, are really interested in our children re-reading Ovid’s myths or the original Brothers Grimm Tales? I’m not so sure. Instead, I think, such re-tellings actually reflect how ingrained those old stories already are into our individual and collective psyches.

Take the Mother Goose retellings in Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes, a collection edited by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink and released in October 2012 from Month 9 Books. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to enter a contest on YAlitchat.org to be the one “wild card” contributor to this volume. Unlike the other authors in the book, like Sarwat Chadda or Leigh Fallon, who were asked to contribute and therefore could choose the Mother Goose rhyme they wanted to revisit, I, as the contest winner, was given my task: to write a dark retelling of Little Boy Blue.

And so, I had to ask myself: why are childhood rhymes so important to us? How do they invoke so much memory and emotion, rising to the surface of our consciousness the moment they are mentioned? As I asked myself these questions, I kept mulling over the word "Blue" and suddenly thought of the Joni Mitchell Song Blue (which I listened to over and over again my first year of college on an old tape player I had, but I’m dating myself here):
 Blue, songs are like tattoos/.../Ink on a pin/Underneath the skin/An empty space to fill in                                                                                     ----Joni Mitchell, “Blue”

And so I started thinking about tattoos, ink, and if stories are one way we human beings mark ourselves. In my day job, I'm a professor of Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, so I think a lot about the power of stories and how stories work for human beings, for communities, and for societies.
I came to realize that Mother Goose Rhymes are so powerful, and they stay with us, because they seem to have seeped into the very air we breathe and the atmosphere we live in. It was then that I remembered this line from Shakespeare’s As You Like It (I had just seen the Royal Shakespeare Company perform it in NYC that past summer):
And this our life, exempt from public haunt/ Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, /Sermons in stones                                ---Act II, Scene 1

And then I was off and running with Blue, my retelling of the Mother Goose rhyme - a retelling that begins with a she-creature whose job it is to invisibly inscribe human beings' bodies with our fables, folktales, and nursery rhymes - our old stories that seem sewn into our very skin, right into our bones. And I wondered what would happen if one day, this otherworldly being was mistakenly seen by a human boy, a shepherd, who would then follow her into the woods, calling for her in a voice as loud and pure as a shepherd’s horn.

Would she relinquish her story-needle to the force of her desire for a human being? Would she allow herself to be marked, to become a part of the human story and not just its teller? 



I am also lucky enough to be giving away an ecopy of Francisco X. Stork's Irises! Just fill out the form below to enter. 

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Blog Tour: Book Spotlight & Excerpt~ Gilded Wings by Amy Lignor




Gilded Wings
(The Angel Chronicles # 2)
By: Amy Lignor
Pub. Date: November 1, 2012
Pub: Tribute Books

The Beloved Angel-Warrior Team from Until Next Time Returns!

When Matt and Emily are sent on their second mission they have no idea how truly dark human nature can become...

Emily never wanted to face humans again. With the heartache that went on down below, she’s still trying to figure out how to save souls that don’t deserve saving. The only one she wants to see again is Jason - the young man she fell in love with who became the soulmate she simply can’t forget...

Matt was trained to protect and defend the souls down below. Longing to feel the heartfelt emotions that come from being human, Matt wants nothing more than to have just one life - one chance - to live and love the girl of his dreams...

The powerful team find themselves in a brand new century, living in the Gilded Age of New York City. Emily takes over the body of Anya, a young Russian girl who arrives on Ellis Island after a hideous tragedy. There she meets up with a strangely familiar young man by the name of Drew Parrish, who helps Anya survive in an unknown world of luxury, snobbery and…obsession.

What Anya’s inner angel doesn’t know is that the soul she loves is also back. This time around Jason goes by the name of Max Carrow. Once a quiet and kind boy, he’s now part of the ‘Four Hundred Club,’ and wants nothing more than to be among the most admired as he climbs the shaky ladder of society’s elite.

As two worlds merge, Emily and Matt struggle under the weight of their “Gilded Wings.” Not only will they have to figure out who they should fight to save, but they must also face a romantic choice that could destroy them both. 




An Angel & Her Warrior Walk the Stunning Streets of the Past!

One of the most amazing things about New York City is the fact that so many people have walked the streets and avenues, shopped, went for a carriage ride in the park, sat by the side of Patience or Fortitude outside the most recognized library in the world - or simply taken a deep breath and saw the beauty that lies around every corner.

In Gilded Wings, Emily and Matthew do a great deal on this journey. They laugh, cry, battle, love… They deal with bad people, great things, surprises and a relationship that could just tear them apart. They go from mansions on Fifth Avenue to the frightening tenements filled with poverty and broken dreams that sit just down the road from some of the richest men and women in American history. But the one thing they both seem to truly love about this second journey, is the city itself.

As you get involved with their story and route for them to find a way to survive this time around, I hope you love the ‘scenery’ as much as I did. Included is Emily’s amazing ‘day out’ with her first love from Until Next Time, where she has the ability to walk through the doors of the Hippodrome Theatre and see an elephant disappear at the hands of an illusionist named Houdini. A building that, unfortunately, no longer stands.

During this time period, Emily and Matthew meet up with the likes of Andrew Carnegie - one of the famous members of the high-society ‘Four Hundred Club,’ as he was just cementing into place the cornerstone of his brand new music hall - a building that would become a staple for the world when it came to offering the ‘best of the best’ on their stage. The angel and warrior are in the City when the official opening night in 1891 occurred and a composer by the name of Tchaikovsky would be introduced.

As Emily and Matthew walk the streets of New York during ‘The Gilded Age,’ they also find themselves on Ladies’ Mile, which was the district where all the most famous department stores once sat. Here they could find Lord & Taylor, Best & Co., Bergdorf Goodman, and more. They even saw the Atlas Clock above the storefront of a place called, Tiffany & Co. who, during the Gilded Age, was responsible for making sure that their glittering designs were worn by all the finest families: the Astors, the Vanderbilts, the Morgans - everyone who was anyone made sure to have at least one Tiffany creation on their person at all times.

From a walk down Fifth Avenue hand-in-hand to a carriage ride in Central Park, the beauty that surrounded them as they took their journey was phenomenal. And the best part is, New York City in 2012 still holds the same ‘one-of-a-kind’ magnificence that an angel and her warrior truly loved.

Until Next Time, Everybody,
Amy

Excerpt: 

Sighing, Anya thought back on the last few days. She’d limped away from the hospital in Moscow, returning to the domestic quarters that she’d called home for the past year. The mansion where she worked had been so calm that the screams of the morning massacre had finally faded to a dull painful image inside Anya’s battered brain. She’d packed her possessions, stared longingly at the cross on the wall, and hid seventy-five dollars—her life savings—in the pockets of her dress.

After leaving a short note explaining her actions, Anya limped painfully to the port. With each methodical step a deep masculine voice seemed to whisper in her head, guiding her to the barge office. She paid for her ticket to New York on the S.S. Suevia, and boarded with the rest of her people who were scrambling to escape. The look in their eyes held a mixture of excitement for the New World to come, and the extreme sadness of leaving the homeland they’d once strongly believed in far behind.

About the author: 

Amy Lignor began her career at Grey House Publishing in northwest Connecticut where she was the Editor-in-Chief of numerous educational and business directories.

Now she is a published author of several works of fiction. The Billy the Kid historical The Heart of a Legend; the thriller, Mind Made; and the adventure novel, Tallent & Lowery 13.

She is also the owner of The Write Companion, a company that offers help and support to writers through a full range of editorial services from proofreading and copyediting to ghostwriting and research. As the daughter of a research librarian, she is also an active book reviewer.

Currently, she lives with her daughter, mother and a rambunctious German Shepherd named Reuben, in the beautiful state of New Mexico


Gilded Wings: The Angel Chronicles, Book 2 buy links:

Kindle buy link - $2.99

Nook buy link - $4.95

iBookstore buy link - $4.99

Smashwords buy link - $4.99

PDF buy link - $4.95


Until Next Time: The Angel Chronicles, Book 1 buy links:

Kindle buy link - $2.99

Nook buy link - $4.95

iBookstore buy link - $4.99

Smashwords buy link - $4.99

PDF buy link - $4.95



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Book Spotlight & Interview: Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas Liu



Watering Heaven
By: Peter Tieryas Liu
Pub. Date: October 12, 2012
Publisher: Signal 8 Press
Pages: 206

Watering Heaven from Signal 8 Press is a travelogue of and requiem for the American dream in all its bizarre manifestations and a surreal, fantastic journey through the streets, alleys, and airports of China. Whether it’s a monk who uses acupuncture needles to help him fly or a city filled with rats about to be exterminated so that the mayor can win his reelection bid, be prepared to laugh, swoon, and shudder at the answers Liu offers in this provocative debut collection.


Today, I have Peter Tieryas Liu on the blog where I got to ask him some questions!


1. If you had to describe your book to a friend, what would you say?

This is my debut collection of twenty stories called Watering Heaven out from Signal 8 Press. The stories were written during my travels throughout the world, particularly in China and Thailand. Some of the stories have elements of magical realism, say as in a woman who gives birth to an egg and a man who is able to fly. Others are grounded in reality but take on strange slants on humanity; a man who takes photographs of urban legends and a filmmaker wants to defend the rights of rats who are about to exterminated. Many of the stories have been published in some of my favorite literary magazines and I’m glad for the chance to get to share all of them at once in the form of this book. The title comes from the William Blake poem, the Tyger, describing the celestial war when the angels were forced out of Heaven. It reflects the theme of transition and change that marks many of the stories and protagonists.

2. What made you decide to become a writer?

Would it sound strange if I told you that a strange voice in the back of my neck originating with a third eye inspired me to write a piece about wingless birds fighting against milk-thirsty chimpanzees when I was seven? Later, I was implanted with a brain cell formulated from nanolasers imprinted with a command that I write about the quirky contrasts of urban life with the ambitions that propel a society forward. Machinations may abound, but my focus has been microscopically planktonite. Literally, biochemical plankton infesting fish causing everyone who eats anything that eats aquatic organisms with gills to blog, scribble, and write every concept and idea on a pen, iPad, keyboard, and smart phone. I try to capture some of the nuances. Say watching a centipede or a pill millipede struggling briskly with his legs to cross the sidewalk. It’s an odd analogy for the balancing act present in modern lives. (To answer your question, I just love telling stories)

3. Favorite TV show? Movie? Book?

Too many to list here. Can I just share what I’ve enjoyed in the past month? I loved watching the season premiere of Walking Dead and have also enjoyed Game of Thrones. Movie-wise, my wife and I have been watching some old Kubrick films and have really enjoyed those. The last movie I saw at the theater was Dark Knight Rises and I loved the ambitious nature of the film. I did also see Hotel Transylvania, which I loved, but I’m biased as I worked on the film. As for books, there’s a wide variety: The Art Spirit by Robert Henri, Grim Series Poem by Kristine Ong Muslim, VII by Kyle Muntz, re-reading parts of the works of Marvin K. Mooney by Christopher Higgs. I also re-read Candide by Voltaire and was shocked at how violent and nihilistic it got, even if it was meant as satire. There’s too many good books and not enough time. I really respect a readers time and try to make sure every story I write satisfies them in one form or another.

4. Creamy or crunchy peanut butter? 

Crunchy, as long as I have some jam and wheat bread, and as long as there’s no threat of salmonella, and as long as the nuts have the appropriate levels of protein, B3, E, and magnesium, and as long as there’s no chance of me getting an allergic reaction which might cause anaphylactic shock, and certainly the presence of hydrogenated vegetable oils would be a big deterrent, but as long as it’s neither too salty nor too sweet, and as long as I’m craving peanut butter, I’d say crunchy is the way to go.

Thanks Peter!

My pleasure! Thanks for having me.

Author Bio:

Peter Tieryas Liu has almost 200 publications in magazines and journals including Adirondack Review, anderbo, Bitter Oleander, Bookslut, Camera Obscura Journal, decomP, Evergreen Review, Gargoyle, Indiana Review, Kartika Review, Prism Review, Toad Suck Review, Word Riot, and ZYZZYVA, and was the recipient of the 2012 Fiction Award from Mojo, the magazine run by Wichita State University. He has also worked as a technical writer for LucasArts, the gaming division of LucasFilm. 



For more information on Peter and his book, Watering Heaven, visit his website





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