Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Ten Miles Past Normal by. Frances O'Roark Dowell

Title: Ten Miles Past Normal
Author: Frances O'Roark Dowell
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Pages: 211
Genre: Contemporary/Coming of Age

Synopsis from Goodreads: Janie Gorman wants to be normal. The problem with that: she’s not. She’s smart and creative and a little bit funky. She’s also an unwilling player in her parents’ modern-hippy, let’s-live-on-a-goat-farm experiment (regretfully, instigated by a younger, much more enthusiastic Janie). This, to put it simply, is not helping Janie reach that “normal target.” She has to milk goats every day…and endure her mother’s pseudo celebrity in the homemade-life, crunchy mom blogosphere. Goodbye the days of frozen lasagna and suburban living, hello crazy long bus ride to high school and total isolation—and hovering embarrassments of all kinds. The fresh baked bread is good…the threat of homemade jeans, not so much. It would be nice to go back to that old suburban life…or some grown up, high school version of it, complete with nice, normal boyfriends who wear crew neck sweaters and like social studies. So, what’s wrong with normal? Well, kind of everything. She knows that, of course, why else would she learn bass and join Jam Band, how else would she know to idolize infamous wild-child and high school senior Emma (her best friend Sarah’s older sister), why else would she get arrested while doing a school project on a local freedom school (jail was not part of the assignment). And, why else would she kind of be falling in "like" with a boy named Monster—yes, that is his real name. Janie was going for normal, but she missed her mark by about ten miles…and we mean that as a compliment. Frances O’Roark Dowell’s fierce humor and keen eye make her YA debut literary and wise. In the spirit of John Green and E. Lockhart, Dowell’s relatable, quirky characters and clever, fluid writing prove that growing up gets complicated…and normal is WAY overrated.

Review: I have not really read many coming of age books before, but I am glad that Ten Miles Past Normal was one of my first. It definitely showed me a different side of YA books that seemed to deal with the typical issues that surround being a teenager in a different way...and on a farm.

Maybe because I am new to the whole Coming of Age genre but the beginning for me was pretty slow to get into. I know it is probably coming for coming of age stories to have a long buildup, but for me the character was sort of getting lost in some of the back drop of the story. But towards the middle the characters and plot seemed to pick up a lot more. Janie was the epitome of the confused and idealistic teenager. She was really struggling with the fact that she was an outcast, and throughout the book she is kind of going through this "I want to find myself and disassociate myself from being a farm girl" kind of phase. And she chose every typical teenager route in the book to do it. From joining a band, to breaking the law, Janie is on a mission to become "normal".

This book really focuses on how, for some, the teenage years is really a hard time and the struggle that some teenagers have in "finding themselves". There is focus on friendships, dating, family life, and school life that are all the makings of a coming of age YA novel. I did really enjoy some of the characters in this book. They really complimented one another well without there being just a bunch of supporting characters. That being said, there were parts of the book, mainly in the beginning, where I find the plot moving way to slow, and it seemed like it was just going to be a lot of descriptions before any characters or even a real plot line was introduced. But that was over once we were introduced to the characters Monster and Verbena who add some depth and fun to the story.

Despite some factors, I did enjoy this book. There is a real fun semi- love interest in Janie's life that I definitely found to be apart of most of the highlights in the book. All in all, I felt like this book had a lot to teach, and pretty much put into words a little bit of every teenagers story, told from the point of view of, as Janie would say, a girl on the farm. I felt like somehow, every teenager would be able to relate to what Janie was going through. And how she gets to be, or realize, who she is by the end of the book. It definitely is a book that is quirky, deep at times, and has a linking aspect that every teenager and most likely some non-teens will be able to relate to.

Recommendations: I feel like this book has a lot to offer a lot of teenagers, and for those of you out there like me thinking about picking up a coming-of-age book, this is a good one to try out.

Overall: 3/5

Characters: 4/5
Plot: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Entertainment: 2/5
Ending: 4/5
Writing Style: 3/5
Cover: 4/5

Sunday, May 29, 2011

In My Mailbox #17 + First IMM VLOG!

In My Mailbox is a bookish meme hosted by Kristi The Story Siren and inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie
Hello Everyone!!! Hope you guys are having a great Sunday so far! I am doing another In My Mailbox this week and for the first time I decided to film it and do a vlog!!! I have also listed and linked everything down below too!!!

(That screenshot is HILARIOUS!)


(Paperback Swap):

For Review:  

 I finally did my first vlog! This one was fun to film though, so I might do some more. Tell me what you guys think. Also don't forget to tell me what you guys got in your mailboxes this week!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Maureen McGowan Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty Giveaway [CLOSED]

Hello Everyone! As a part of the Maureen McGowan blog tours I am hosting a giveaway for both of her books. They are both very interesting books and you can read a review of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior here, and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer here.  

This contest is going to have two winners! One winner will win Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, and one will win Cinderella: Ninja Warrior.
All you have to do is:
Fill Out the Form Below
The Contest Ends June 8th.
Good Luck to All that Enter! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: Cinderella, Ninja Warrior by. Maureen McGowan

Title: Cinderella, Ninja Warrior
Author: Maureen McGowan
Publication Date: April 1, 2011
Pages: 320 
Genre: Paranormal

Synopsis from Goodreads: In this fast-paced story full of adventure and romance, Cinderella is more than just a servant girl waiting for her prince—she's a tough, fearless girl who is capable of taking charge of a dangerous situation. Seeking to escape the clutches of her evil stepmother, Cinderella perfects her ninja skills and magic talents in secret, waiting for the day when she can break free and live happily ever after. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Cinderella and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read! 

Review: Cinderella Ninja Warrior is definitely what I call an incredible modern take on a fairy tale. I was engaged the whole time, and even though I know the story Cinderella and it is the basis of this book, that did not take away from the fact that this book is 100% original.

This book was a lot different from Maureen's other "pick your plot" book Sleeping Beauty, Vampire Slayer. The Cinderella plot of this book was evident but with the wizard and magical parts thrown in also, it created a much more intricate plot. There's the evil stepsisters we know and hate, and there's also a missing very powerful wizarding wand that is nowhere to be found. And of course a local "messenger boy" whom has his eye on a certain main character.

When I say the characters make the book, I really mean it. I loved the characters in this book. Not so much the evil step siblings and stepmother, but Ty and Cinderella really made the book for me. Everything between them seemed so natural. I mean there is a way to be charming and not make it seem like its some kind of player's act, and Ty does so very well in this book. I mean how could Cinderella not fall for him. He was just so gentlemanly without being too formal or boring, and he also had some wit to him that just makes him all the more of a great male character.

As with Maureen's book Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, this one is also a "pick your plot" book and for some reason I loved it in this book so much more. I felt like even though I was making the decision for the book while reading, I didn't feel like I was losing the character in my decisions if that make sense. It was so much fun in this book because the romance was a bigger role, you got to make the decisions on how Cinderella and Ty went about their encounters. Because of this book, I think I am definitely going to be on the look out for more "pick you plot" kinds of books. I can still remember the instances where I was like contemplating for minutes over which route I should take. And then when I finished the book I went and took all the routes that I didn't choose. And it was just as much fun the second time around!

I definitely think this was an incredible "remake" of a classic fairy tale. It was engaging and fun to read, and the romance was incredibly sweet and believable. All in all, a very exciting book.

Recommendations:I definitely recommend this book to all to try out their first or maybe just another "pick your plot" kind of book. It is a very fun change of pace!

Overall: 4/5

Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Entertainment: 4/5
Ending: 4/5
Writing Style: 4/5
Cover: 4/5

Review: Sleeping Beauty Vampire Slayer by. Maureen McGowan

Title: Sleeping Beauty, Vampire Slayer
Author: Maureen McGowan
Publication Date: April 1, 2011
Pages: 320 
Genre: Paranormal

Synopsis from Goodreads: In this thrilling story full of adventure and romance, Sleeping Beauty is more than just a lonely princess waiting for her prince—she's a brave, tenacious girl who never backs down from a challenge. With vampire-slaying talents that she practices in secret, Sleeping Beauty puts her courage to the test in the dark of night, fighting evil as she searches for a way to break the spell that has cut her off from her family. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Sleeping Beauty and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read! Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer is an entirely new type of fairy tale–one that will keep today's kids guessing and offer them hours of magical fun.
Review: Reading the original tale of sleeping beauty was not as much fun as reading Sleeping Beauty, Vampire Slayer. This book definitely introduces some cool and definitely intriguing concepts to the story of Sleeping Beauty, completely transforming the traditional fairy tale into Maureen's own creation of kick-butt heroines and romance! 

The book starts off with Lucette (sleeping beauty) being cursed by the Vampire Queen at birth. The curse states that if Lucette ever pricks her finger, she will never be able to wake up while the sun is up and every other person in her village will not be awake during the night, so she will be alone in the dark all of her life. But the fairy queen states that the curse can be lifted if after her 16th birthday, Lucette finds her true love. I thought this sounded like a very interesting plot. Especially since the village where they live has so many vampires, I knew that aspect was going to come into play. There were a lot of interesting ideas that were introduced throughout the book. And the interesting thing about this books is that Maureen has written it in a "pick your plot" kind of format. Meaning for most of the big decisions than Lucette has to make in the books, you get to choose which route she takes. I thought this was pretty interesting, but I also felt that I couldn't get to know Lucette better as a character because of it. I was making the decisions which was fun since the plot plays out how I want it to, but at the same time, not how the characters intended, so that part was a little iffy on my part, but since I went back and read the routes that I didn't originally pick, it was still fun to read about.

The characters to me were, pretty much, unmemorable. First lets begin with Lucette's parents (which I believe have somewhat of a verbally abusive relationship). I understand that there were trying to protect their child, but at times I felt that they were more of depriving and trying to control Lucette than "protecting her". And Lucette herself seemed to be sort of idle. Sure she wasn't the damsel in distressed type, but I also felt that she didn't think much for herself in the beginning of the book, good thing she really bucked up and become a more dominant main character in the rest of the books. Now the male characters in my opinion left a lot to be desired. They both start to play more prominent roles in the end of the book and I was glad that the character Alex was re-introduced. I really enjoyed his character at times, and thought he had a quick wit to him that brightened up the book and the fact that he was a vampire didn't hurt either. Tristan was also reintroduced in the beginning of the book and he fell a little flat to me. But of course, in order to break her curse, Lucette was going to have to make a choice between them.

All in all, I thought that this was an interesting book to read, mainly for the fact that it was sort of like reading 2 books in one. Of course the end result is going to be the same, its fun to read through all of the different ways the possibly get there. The plot idea was very interesting in this book, and though the characters were not my favorite parts of this book, the plot and the fact that this was a "pick your own adventure" book make up for it.

Recommendations: If you are in need for a new kind of book, I definitely recommend this one.
Overall: 3/5 Stars

Characters: 2/5
Plot: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Entertainment: 3/5
Ending: 3/5
Writing Style: 2/5
Cover: 4/5

Maureen McGowan Blog Tour Interview!!!

Hello guys, long time no chat. Today Maureen McGowan is visiting Black and Blue Ink as a part of her blog tour promoting her two new books Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, and Cinderella: Ninja Warrior. She is here talking about her writing career and these two new books that are probably a little different from the books you guys have read before... You can read a review of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior here, and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer here. Here's the interview!

Q: Hello Maureen, first off we would like to know, why choose fairy tales to recreate into Young Adult books.
A: Fairy tale adaptations actually chose me, but I LOVED the idea. A freelance editor came to me with the chance to write a proposal for the series. The only requirement was that the books include a choose-your-own-adventure element.
As soon as I started to brainstorm ways to make the classic stories more action packed and relevant to modern readers, I was hooked.

Q: Were Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty among your favorite fairy tales as a child?
A: When I was a child, I found fairy tales with witches very scary, so I mostly remember Sleeping Beauty being terrifying. Clearly I was a big ‘fraidy cat. And although I think everyone relates to the Cinderella story in some ways, (the idea of feeling oppressed as a child, and the chance to be dressed in magic clothes and swept away from your problems), I don’t remember loving the Cinderella story, either. Even as a kid I didn’t understand why she didn’t fight back or leave her stepmother. And I didn’t like the idea that the prince only fell in love with her because she was pretty and had a nice dress on—then needed a shoe to recognize her the next day.
In Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, I set out to “fix” some of those problems. And I’ve clearly gotten over my witch phobia because I made my villains even meaner and scarier.

Q: Where did you get the idea for “pick your route”  plot kind of books?
A: As I mentioned above, the idea was actually brought to me, and to be honest, I’m not sure I would have chosen to do it, otherwise. But once I started to plan the books, I liked the idea. 
As a writer, and in life, we’re faced with decisions every day. And they aren’t necessarily right or wrong, just different. It was fun to think about how the same character’s story would unfold differently based on her choices.

Q: When you read, do you prefer, or would you prefer to read books that have the type of “pick you route” plot as your books do?
A: I haven’t read many, to be honest. I did look at a few after I was asked to write the Twisted Tales series, and although I thought they were fun, I didn’t like the “wrong choice—you die!”, or “you dummy, why did you agree to date him!” dead ends included in the books I sampled. I figured if my main character was smart, that she could get out of any trouble her decisions got her in to.

Q: What was your inspiration to write these books?
A: Mainly, I wanted to make the heroines stronger and the stories more exciting. I wanted heroines who could fight for themselves. I love the romance elements in fairy tales, but I didn’t want the books to be about the princes saving the girls. I wanted the girls to save themselves—and fall in love with their princes.

Q: Was Is important to you to change up the traditional fairy tale heroines or did you want to keep it somewhat the same?
A: The only elements I wanted to keep were the happily-ever-after endings. I think fairy tales promise happy endings to the reader and I wanted to deliver on that promise. So, while both Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer have other themes, both also contain the themes of good triumphing over evil and the magic of finding true love.

Q:   Is there something you cannot begin writing without or something that keeps you going while writing?
A: I need to set goals for myself. And keeping track of my word count keeps me going. Also my fabulous critique partners. I’m not sure I’d get anything done without their support.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a writer?
A: I like making things up for a living. Creating characters and stories out of nothing, some days feels like pure magic.

Q: What are you favorite writers and/or books?
A: I have so many I could barely list them, but current writers in the YA realm whom I love are Carrie Ryan in the dark and twisty department and Eileen Cook in the light and hilarious department.

Q: Anything else you want your readers to know about you and your book???
A: While I think both of the stories include heroines who are better role models for modern girls than those of the traditional fairy tales, by no means are these “message” or “issue” books. If you pick up Cinderella: Ninja Warrior, or Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, most of all you’ll have a fast, fun read.

I’d also like to invite readers to contact me. You can e-mail me through my website, or follow me on Twitter @MaureenMcGowan or on Facebook at facebook.com/MaureenMcGowanBooks.

Thanks so much for having me!

Maureen McGowan's two books Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, and Cinderella: Ninja Warrior can be purchased at fine retailers everywhere. 

Barnes and Noble
The Book Depository 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Review: Manifest by. Artist Arthur

Title: Manifest (Mystyx #1)
Author: Artist Arthur
Publication Date: August 1, 2010
Pages: 256 
Genre: Paranormal

Synopsis from Goodreads: When fifteen-year-old Krystal Bentley moves to Lincoln, Connecticut, her mom's hometown, she assumes her biggest drama will be adjusting to the burbs after living in New York City. But Lincoln is nothing like Krystal imagined. The weirdness begins when Ricky Watson starts confiding in her. He's cute, funny, a good listener—and everything she'd ever want—except that he was killed nearly a year ago. Krystal's ghost-whispering talents soon lead other "freaks" to her door—Sasha, a rich girl who can literally disappear, and Jake, who moves objects with his mind. All three share a distinctive birthmark in the shape of an M and, fittingly, call themselves the Mystyx. They set out to learn what really happened to Ricky, only to realize that they aren't the only ones with mysterious powers. But if Krystal succeeds in finding out the truth about Ricky's death, will she lose him for good?

Review: Manifest, the first book in the Mystyx series, was an interesting introduction to a new series as well as a an exciting “who done it'” mystery that just keeps building and building until you have a whole list of who could be the killer.

First off let me say that I had high hopes for this book. And those hopes rested mostly on the characters that I thought would have something that made them stand out from the usually generic personalities of YA characters. Some passed those expectations and some didn’t. First off, Krystal is not your everyday character, and I liked that. Sure some may say she has a little bit of an attitude, but to expect her to be thinking about rainbows and the schools “hottest guy” every second is unrealistic. Her life has taken a turn for the unfavorable, so of course a little attitude is going to come off now and then, and going through life thinking you are a delusion ghost seeing crazy can’t help either. And as far as the other characters go…ehh. Meaning that I didn’t really find anything altogether that unique or memorable about them They all seemed to be fillers just so the plot could go a little smoother. Ricky at times proved to be a breath of fresh air, but his character too seemed a little in the background.

The plot in this book was one that grabbed my attention. It begins with Krystal meeting Ricky, the ghost in her bedroom, and then, after much negotiating, trying to figure out who killed him and clear the name of his friends. She finally succumbs to helping to try and figure out his killer when other complications come to surface. Like Ricky’s also dead girlfriend who doesn’t want to tell anyone what happened to her, even though it could probably help figure out who killed Ricky. And then Krystal starts talking to two kids from school, Sasha and Jake, and finds out that they are bear the same birthmark and have similar powers, and as they all group together to try to figure out Ricky’s killer, they learn very interesting things about their powers and their origins.

Figuring out who killed Ricky was a highlight because the plot kept on building and building. It wasn’t a mystery book where you just try to figure out who killed him from the beginning and that’s it, there are so many pieces to the puzzle that you have to try to put together and make a connection with before you can even barely narrow your suspects list. The mystery in this just got better and better

In the end, it is a book that I did enjoy. I would have loved to see Krystal’s romance blossom and be a bigger part of the story, but hey, that’s what a sequel is for!

Recommendations: If you are in need for a good mystery, this one is for you!

Overall: 3/5 Stars

Characters: 2/5
Plot: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Entertainment: 4/5
Ending: 3/5
Writing Style: 3/5
Cover:  5/5

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