Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Review: Fateful + ARC Giveaway

Author: Claudia Gray
Published: Harper Collins (September 13, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: For Review
Young Adult  * Paranormal Romance * Historical

Description from Goodreads:
 It's about a servant girl named Tess in 1912, who wants to escape from the house where she works, and most particularly the lecherous young lord of the manor. But that's not her biggest problem. While on a voyage to America, where she plans to escape and start a new life, she meets Alec, who's ruggedly handsome, fabulously wealthy, intelligent and yet so clearly troubled that she'd rather not fall for him, but she does. That also is not her biggest problem. Alec, it turns out, is a werewolf ... one cursed to change every night, unless and until he surrenders his independence and joins the Brotherhood, a pack of violently misogynistic werewolves who have been tracking him for months. You'd think that would be their biggest problem, wouldn't you?

But no. Their biggest problem -- though they don't know it yet -- is that they're aboard the RMS Titanic.

As a huge fan of Claudia Gray's Evernight series, I was very excited to read an advanced copy of her new book, Fateful. This new book is a stand-alone (as far as I know) and it's very different from her Evernight series. Firstly, this is historical paranormal fiction, instead of contemporary, and Claudia Gray does historical so well. Reading Fateful, it was very obvious that Gray had researched the period well. The dialogue, the clothing, the description... everything felt true to turn of the century London. She describes the lifestyle and the environment so well that I felt like I was immersed in the time period. Also, having seen the movie Titanic countless times, I could catch references to different real-life people like Margaret Brown and Mr. Andrews. You don't have to know a lot about the Titanic story to enjoy it, but I think history buffs (or fans of the movie) might get even more out of it.

Another really interesting aspect of the story was the werewolf element. It was handled in an original way, with an interesting twist on the typical werewolf pack, changing in the moonlight, and all the obvious werewolf myths. I also loved the villain in the novel. He was scary and manipulative and everything I want in an antagonist. The characters in general were very well-done. The wealthy family Tess works for is deliciously snobby and unkind and secondary characters, like Irene, Layton, and Myriam are very multi-dimensional and well-written.

Alec, however was my favorite character. His spirit was great, and I think he offered the most complexity. He and Tess had amazing chemistry and with all the obstacles preventing them from being together -- class/status, the fact that Alec is a werewolf, lurking danger of the villain, and their potential deaths when the ship eventually sinks -- their romance was sweet and light. It was very wel-done.

Overall I liked the story.The ending felt a bit rushed, and the plotline with Alec and the werewolves that are hunting him (which was great!) would have probably been developed better if it didn't have to work around the limitations of a short ride on a ship that would eventually sink. I would recommend this book, though, to fans of Claudia Gray's superb writing and people interested in history and/or werewolf mythology.

Claudia Gray is not my real name. I didn't choose a pseudonym because my real name is unpleasant (it isn't), because I'd always dreamed of calling myself this (I haven't) or even because I'm hiding from the remnants of that international diamond-smuggling cartel I smashed in 2003 (Interpol has taken care of them). In short, I took a pseudonym for no real reason whatsoever. Sometimes this is actually the best reason to do things.

I am a full-time novelist based in Chicago. So far, in life, I've been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing. You can follow her on twitter: @claudiagray or on her blog:

Her official website is:

Complete the form below for a chance to win an advanced reader copy of Fateful. Please read contest rules carefully.


1. Please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (it will be deleted if you do), you must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.
2. The contest runs from August 28 to 11:59 PM Pacific Time on August 31, 2011.
3. You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
4. If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail. If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
5. This contest is open to the  U.S. and Canda.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Two Voices Review: Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1)

Author: Moira Young
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (June 7, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: Book for Review
Young Adult * Dystopian * Apocalyptic

Description from GoodReads:
Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back. 

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

We are trying something a little different with this review.  Blood Red Road is a book that we both wanted to read and review. Instead of just flipping a coin to see who would review it, Renée and I decided to both share the responsibility.  It was kind of fun processing the book together via Skype.  Since we had fun working together on this one, we decided to try it with another book in the future.  Let us know what you think of our Two Voices Review.

Blood Red Road has been on my "to-read list" since before it's release.  I always worry a bit if a book will live up to the hype.  Will the book that all of my friends love turn out to be the one that I don't like?  I am happy to announce that I devoured this book in one sitting and it was kind of late at night which is a positive sign.

Here's what I loved about the book -

The characters.  I love books that have great characters and not just the main character but all of the characters.  Saba, the main female character, starts off having no real idea of who she is or what she is capable of.  When her whole life changes in a minute, she begins on a journey.  A journey to find and rescue her brother, but also one where she learns more about who she is.  And Saba is tough!

And then there is Jack.  Yes, most YA fiction would not be complete without a love interest and Jack does a very nice job filling that role.  He is tough, and mysterious, and funny.  And a great match for Saba.  But there are more characters and they are just as essential to the book.  There are the Free Hawks, girl revoluntaries, and Ike, a friend of Jack's, and characters that you want to dislike and others that you want to know their secrets, and one annoying but brave little sister.

The setting.  The world has transformed into a very dangerous place.  Saba learns just how wild and dangerous the world is after her brother is taken.  Hopetown, one place Saba ends up on her journey, is anything but a place of hope.  It actually reminded me of the Wild West with a touch of Roman cage fighting thrown in for excitement.  Though the various locations that Saba passes through on her way to Lugh (her brother) are interesting, I really wanted to know more. How did the world fall into this state?  Who were the Wreckers?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and how Young wrapped it up.  I also liked how the author developed the "romance" part of the book.  I am not sure how to talk about it without spoiling the story.  (Renée, I'll leave that challenge to you if you want to take it on.)  However, I am hoping that the reference of Dustlands #1 means that there will be more to come - especially more of Saba and Jack.

Like Aly, I had heard a lot about Blood Red Road before it came out. It was yet another addition to the fast-growing collection of YA dystopian that was highly recommended by bloggers, so I thought, 'Why not?' Also like Aly, I was blown away by this totally original part-apocalyptic, part-dystopian world, with a wildly original guide in our fierce protagonist, Saba.

Characters were also the best aspect of the story for me. Saba felt like such a real person -- there were even moments when she really annoyed me. She made mistakes, she didn't always act her age, and beneath her tough exterior, she was vulnerable and innocent and felt completely relatable. Her relationship with her sister was one of the most frustrating/beautiful things in the book.... And Jack. I won't keep hammering on about everything Aly mentioned, but I really can't talk about what I loved about the book without mentioning him. Jack. There. I got it out of my system. Anything more risks me going into fangirl-mode and spoiling all the fun squeal-worthy details for you.

Another really interesting thing about Blood Red Road was the writing style. The premise of the novel is of a girl searching the wasteland (or "dustlands") that is post-Wrecker world. (We're led to believe that the world was destroyed, or torn down, by the Wrecker civilization who sound very similar to present day Western world.) Because of this destruction, formal language is gone and they speak in  broken, rural English slang. Except, not just the characters' dialogue is written like this, even the narration is written in this broken style. Words like 'figger' replace 'figure,' and other words are misspelt phonetically. It really immersed me in the story. I felt like I was really reading a narrative from a different culture and time.

There was also an interesting non-normal element to it. (I don't want to say paranormal, because it doesn't appear to involve vampires, faeries, or any kind of creatures.) There is a mysticism to the story that I liked, but it's very subtle. Is there any truth to the saying "written in the stars?" Are some of the old folktales about certain magical objects true? Are these animals just very intelligent or is there something more...? The novel doesn't bury you with fantasy, but I liked the small hints at something different that might be going on.

I don't want to repeat everything Aly said, but I really loved this book, so much of what she enjoyed, I enjoyed. I really hope there is a sequel, because even though the ending wasn't a cliffhanger, there are so many tangents and threads left hanging that I want need answers to! I want more Saba and Jack. I want more of the barren dustlands ruled by a corrupt and cruel government. Mostly, I want more exciting and original books like this on the market to gain popularity and attention.

For more information about debut author, Moira Young:

Official Simon & Schuster Author Page

Moira Young's LiveJournal Page

Check out the Simon & Schuster official trailer for Blood Red Road created by the talented Vania of VLC Productions.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Using, the winner of a hard cover copy of Kelley Armstrong's The Gathering is:


Congratulations, Briana! We've contacted you and your book should be on its way soon. Thanks to everyone who entered and better luck next time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Getting Caught Up: The Gathering + Giveaway

Author: Kelley Armstrong
Published: Harper Collins (April 12, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: For Review
Young Adult  * Paranormal

Description from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn't know much about her background - the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip - but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.

Until now.

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town - from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I didn't finish reading Kelley Armstrong's previous trilogy (The Darkest Powers trilogy), so this review won't strictly be a comparison of the two series. There were several things I liked about The Gathering, the first book in Armstrong's new Darkness Rising trilogy. I loved the creepy atmosphere of the novel. I loved the idea of an incredibly small town living on an island dedicated to medical research. The backdrop of the medical research community, foreign doctors flying in for annual doctor's visits, and a history of unexplained behavior and strange deaths on the island made for a great setting for the story. It was a very different environment for a story. From the prologue, where an unexplainable  accident occurs, the tone is set for a good creepy start to a new story. I also liked that some of the paranormal elements seemed to be derived from Native American folklore. There is a considerably smaller presence of Native lore in young adult novels, so it made some of the paranormal creatures/aspects that readers are familiar with seem more unique and original.

I had difficulty connecting with the protagonist, Maya, but I loved secondary characters Rafe and Annie. Their relationship was interesting and they both had very interesting character histories. I look forward to seeing more from them especially in future books in the series. Characters like Sam and Danial, among others, were fascinating, because there were so many suspicious or different behaviors that they showed, which suggests that they might not be who they seemed either.

The Gathering raised many interesting questions and conundrums, but didn't provide many answers which could leave readers either very excited or very frustrated. The ending was very much a cliffhanger. The last few chapters were fast-paced page-turners, with things building to a great climax at the end. I look forward to future books explaining all of the fantastically creepy elements. Fans of Kelley Armstrongs previous YA series and YA paranormal suspense, will not be disappointed.

Kelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers' dismay. All efforts to make her produce "normal" stories failed.

Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She's the author of the NYT-bestselling
Women of the Otherworld paranormal suspense series and Darkest Powers young adult urban fantasy trilogy, as well as the Nadia Stafford crime series. Armstrong lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets. You can follow her on twitter: @KelleyArmstrong

Her official website is: 

Complete the form below for a chance to win a hard cover copy of The Gathering. Please read contest rules carefully.


1. Please do not enter any personal information in the comments section (it will be deleted if you do), you must complete the Entry Form to officially enter the contest.
2. The contest runs from August 11 to 11:59 PM Pacific Time on August 15, 2011.
3. You must be 13 or older to participate in this contest.
4. If you are selected as a winner, I will notify you by e-mail. If you do not respond within 48 hours, I will select a new winner.
5. This contest is open INTERNATIONALLY!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review: Your Child's Writing Life

Author: Pam Allyn
Publisher: Avery Trade (August 2, 2011)
Audience: Adult (Specifically directed towards parents)
Source: NetGalley (e-book for review)

Description from GoodReads:

New educational research reveals that writing is as fundamental to a child's development as reading. But though there are books that promote literacy, no book guides parents in helping their child cultivate a love of writing. In this book, Pam Allyn, a nationally recognized educator and literacy expert, reminds us that writing is not only a key skill but also an essential part of self-discovery and critical to success later in life. Allyn offers the "the five keys" to help kids WRITE-Word Power, Ritual, Independence, Time, and Environment-along with fun, imaginative prompts to inspire and empower children to put their thoughts on the page.

A groundbreaking blueprint for developing every child's abilities, Your Child's Writing Life teaches parents how to give a gift that will last a lifetime.

 "Reading is like breathing in, writing is like breathing out.  A child reading and writing, one from the other is building the capacity for reflection, synthesis, and inquiry." - Pam Allyn
In July, I reviewed Pam Allyn's The Best Book for Boys and have subsequently recommended it to a number of teachers, librarians, and booksellers that I know.  Pam is a teacher, author, motivational speaker, global literacy advocate, and a parent.  She is passionate about her work and is extremely knowledgeable about the field of literacy. 

Allyn's latest book is directed at parents.  Early in the book, she indicates that there are various books on helping your children to read but really no books on nurturing a child's writing life.  She sets out to provide that resource for parents.  As I read through the book, I had to remind myself of this fact, since often times I have on my educator's hat and in this case, I needed to switch gears and look at the book from a different angle.  Though the book does have useful information and reminders which can be used by teachers, the book is really directed at parents, and specifically parents who are interested in their child's writing.  I can see two groups of parents which will gravitate towards this book - the newer parent who is trying to make sure that he/she provides a solid foundation for his/her young child and the parent of an older school-age child who may be struggling with writing and wants to know more about how to support their child's writing.

Allyn makes an extensive case for the importance of early writing, as early as ages 1 to 2 years, in the role of children being better readers and more confident writers later on.  She discusses five writing pillars that are essential in this process: stamina, creativity, organization, fluency, and phonemic awareness.  Early, frequent writing exploration will stimulate and support each of these areas.  Allyn provides multiple examples from her own children's lives as well as from others about how a parent can encourage and support a very young child in this process and how to continue to nurture it as the child grows.  Additionally, Allyn share 5 Keys for Forever Writers which she connects with the word WRITE: word power, reading life, identity, time, and environment.

Two other sections parents will find particularly helpful are the developmental stages of writing and the section on how to help children when they are struggling with writing.  In the developmental section, Allyn breaks things down by a particular age of the child and focuses on the developmental characteristics of that age as connected with writing, the writing elements that are evident at this age, suggestions for writing activities, and suggestions for books.  This varies per age level and provides some additional information for parents are children become a little older.  With these sections, I can see parents scanning through the sections that are not relevant for their child at that particular time and reading more thoroughly the section relevant to where their child is at currently and then returning later to look at other sections.  I can also see teachers pulling out some of the information for a particular age child when speaking with parents about supporting their child's writing at home.

Though I am not a parent, I do have many friends with school-age children.  As I read through this book, many of them came to mind.  I tried to imagine them reading this book or picking it up.  Hence, my earlier statement that I believe this will be a book sought out more by newer parents interested in literacy development or parents of older school-age children whose child may be struggling with writing.  Most parents with pre-school or school aged children are extremely busy and though the activities provided by Allyn in this book are very practical, I am not certain I see parents sitting long enough to read the book or applying the information without some condensing of material (for example, a teacher using the book to provide a hand-out to parents on a child's writing stage, writing ideas for that age level, and some tips on how to support it at home).

Additionally, for teachers working with lower-income families, and families/parents who have limited literacy skills- especially in English, the information provided by Allyn will certainly need to be teased out and formatted in a manner that they can relate with.  Allyn is a passionate supporter of global literacy and I would love to see a companion piece to this book specifically for teachers working with families who the information in this book would be more of a challenge to access or for ideas that would not overwhelm families with limited literacy skills and different cultural values. 

Please note:  There were some formatting issues with the e-galley which were a bit distracting, and also made checking out the references or notations difficult. 

For more information about Pam Allyn, check out the following websites -

Her official website:
Or her LitWorld page:
Or her LitLife page:

Friend her on Facebook:

Follow her on Twitter: @pamallyn