Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Author Interview: Mary Pauline Lowry, Author of The Earthquake Machine

I am extremely pleased to host author Mary Pauline Lowry, author of The Earthquake Machine, here on the blog. Her book is a strong representation of Diversity in YA and she has been so great getting to know! 

Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.

1. Can you sum your book up in 5 words or less?
Girl goes on an adventure.
2. What was it like to write such a culturally diverse book?
I first traveled to interior Mexico when I was a little girl. When I was in my early 20s, I took a bus from Austin to Oaxaca; and I’ve spent a lot of time on the border between Texas and Mexico. So I had a lot of experience to draw from when it came to writing a book about an American girl traveling alone through Mexico.
3. What makes this book, "The book every girl should read, and every girl’s
parents hope she’ll never read"?
I think every girl should read this book because: it’s a magical adventure story about a girl who leaves behind the world that she knows to go on a wild adventure all on her own.

It’s also a book that is very honest and straightforward about a 14 year-old girl’s sexual coming-of-age.

And I think every girl (and many women) could learn a lot from this novel about how to leave behind the expectations that are placed on women and girls because of their gender.

I think many parents would NOT want their daughters to read this book because it has explicit sexual content and some drug use. It also has a girl trying to understand her own spiritual beliefs and questioning the patriarchal Christian church she was brought up in. It’s also a story about a girl running away to interior Mexico by herself; and I think a lot of parents would shudder at that.
4. Anything out of the ordinary that you always have in your writing space when
you sit down to work?
I usually sit cross-legged on my couch with my laptop in my lap. If it’s daytime, I almost always have coffee in my writing space as I work. (Though I’m not sure that’s unusual?) I live in a tiny studio (it’s only 300 square feet, including closets and bathroom) so my bed, laundry, etc are also in my writing space .
5. What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced in your path as an author?
One obstacle was the need to support myself financially while I was also writing books. But I tried to make that fun and an adventure, too. I’ve worked as a forest firefighter, as a construction worker, as an advocate in a domestic violence shelter; I’ve done production work on commercials, anything and everything to pay my bills. I would always wake up to write in the magic hours of the early morning before work.

I also always felt for a long time that I wouldn’t be a “real writer” until I was a published writer. But finally I realized I was a real writer because I was committed to the craft of writing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler

I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (March 26, 2011)
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages (Paperback): 285
Source: Library
ISBN-13: 9781402256363
Genre: Contemporary
Author: Blog

“For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel envy…”

Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that’s okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place. Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates. There are senior boys flirting with her. Yet the smiles of her picture-perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying. Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn’t hold it together, who will?



I wanted to love this book. I wanted this book to rip at my heartstrings and break my heart but it fell short. Did I expect a teen execution of My Sister's Keeper? I will admit to it, that is what I wanted; however, the execution of this book not only failed to live up to this expectation, at times I considered not even finishing the selection.


There is no denying that this book is heartbreaking; Tessa, an artistic introvert, is thrust in the middle of her familial crisis as her older, and extremely popular, sister is diagnosed with cancer. This isn't the tale or recount of a girl struggling with a fight to survive; it is Tessa's story about struggling to watch someone she loves suffer as her life changes beyond anything she recognizes.

I wanted to like this book, I wanted to love it but I was exasperated with what I found when I finally got the chance to read it. This book expressed some of the most real and hard situations with cheesy delivery and disappointing execution.

It wasn't that I couldn't get behind the character of Tess, I felt so strongly for her and what she must be going through as she watches her life 360 in mere days. The way that she was handling situations was incredibly accurate to the ego-centrism teenagers can sometime experience; but I feel that it was still unreal that her parents were so numb to their daughter. For her mother to harbor the negativity she did, the lack of belief in Tess, she allowed Tess to get away with saying, and behaving, in some outlandish ways.

A particularly traumatizing situation in the middle of the book, which I will refrain from spoiling, is handled haphazardly. The delivery of knowledge to the character, and in turn the reader, is above and beyond cheesy. That attitude and execution of the event diminishes the effect the event had on me as a reader. Not only was it forecasted but it lost all authenticity by the way in which the author wrote of it.

Towards the end of the book, there were some random and completely pointless subjects mentioned. Tess' mom refers to her habit of scrapbooking that is, at no other point, mentioned or hinted at in the book. She also refers to some completely obscure honor program, The Toastmasters, which only serves to show her complete apathy towards her daughter. These references left me pulling my hair out; they were irrelevant and insignicant.

The closer I came to the end of the book, the more nervous I grew. There was no build towards a soft ending, there was no hint at resolution, there was nothing to indicate the end of the book was drawing near; and then, the book just ended. In the blink of an eye, it was all over with no resolution for the family, for Kristina, and no closure for the reader.

 I can't stress how badly I wanted to like this book, but I just can't.

Rating out of 5:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

ARC Giveaway: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

I just finished reading Under the Never Sky and it was a great read; a fantastic way to start my endulgence of 2012 debuts! That being the case, I have decided to share the wealth and pass on my ARC that was awarded to me from the publisher. Enter to win the goods and be on the look out for the coming review!

  •     Contest Ends February 13, 2012 at 12:01AM EST
  •     Open to US only (sorry)
  •     Must be 13 or older
  •     Extra Entries are available
  •     Fill out the form below to enter!
  •     Comments are love but not entries
  •     Winner will have 48 Hours to respond or another will be chosen
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Supernaturally by Kiersten White

Supernaturally by Kiersten White

Publisher: HarperTEEN (July 26, 2011)
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages (Paperback): 336
Series: Paranormalcy (Book 2)
Read Next: Endlessly (July 2012)
Source: Library
ISBN-13: 9780061985881
Genre: Paranormal
Author: Website | Twitter
Series Reviews: Book 1 (4★)

 Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.

So much for normal.


An interesting comparison to the first, this book has its perks. It brings to life an easy to read voice that shines through as Evie and immerses us in a world of paranormal beings and mystery. This book took a while to find that hook but eventually turned into a true Kiersten White page turner. What this book fell short on was paced action, what did occur was in fantastic fashion, but far too often the lack of action was lulling.


I went into this book hoping that reviews of it not being as good were false; but alas, I have come to understand the validity of those reviews. That is not to say that it is not good, in fact, it is still quite an enjoyable read. The twists and plot points of unraveling the mystery and the history of Evie is still gripping and still unique; but this book falls into a lot of lulling patterns found in contemporary or "normal" life.

This book sets up with Evie having finally acquired everything she ever wanted, everything that is normal. She has a locker, a boyfriend, high school, an after school job, she has it down but then she starts to see that the routine of human (normal) life isn't all it is cracked up to be.This element, the focus on the normal, subtracts from the plot of the story; it hinders the idea of thrills and mystery and when we are introduced to the new character, Jack, we welcome his (probably unhealthy) shenanigans.

The biggest problem I had with this book was its central focus on Evie's relationship and feelings for Lend. In the first book, it was a burning curiosity that grew and an attraction that blossomed, but here, she was a love sick puppy that eat, breathed, and slept Lend. Her jealousy against other girls was evident and the fights between the two of them were at the forefront of what had previously been a cute first love.

The best part of this book is that it is Kiersten White's brilliant writing and I still love the voice that she has created for Evie. I only wish I could have experienced more of her unique creativity that was expressed in Paranormalcy. She uses this book to perpetuate the story into the third book, but it still manages to have its own story with its own agenda for the characters. Lies, betrayals, and even truths come to play as she utilizes this book in the way most second books are, as a continuation to the end.

Rating out of 5:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Debut Spotlight: Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

We are quickly approaching February which means we are also approaching Sarah Wilson Etienne's debut novel, Harbinger. With beauty on its cover and within the pages, it is sure to ensnare the senses of YA fans all around!

Girl, Interrupted meets Beautiful Creatures in this fast-paced thriller... 

When sixteen-year-old Faye arrives at Holbrook Academy, she doesn't expect to find herself exactly where she needs to be. After years of strange waking visions and nightmares, her only comfort the bones of dead animals, Faye is afraid she's going crazy. Fast.

But her first night at Holbrook, she feels strangely connected to the school and the island it sits on, like she's come home. She's even made her first real friends, but odd things keep happening to them. Every morning they wake on the floors of their dorm rooms with their hands stained red.

Faye knows she's the reason, but what does it all mean? The handsome Kel tries to help her unravel the mystery, but Faye is certain she can't trust him; in fact, he may be trying to kill her - and the rest of the world too.

Rich, compelling writing will keep the pages turning in this riveting and tautly told psychological thriller.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Contest for Aspiring YA Authors

I was contacted recently and asked to pass along this information for those of you who may be aspiring authors and are interested in writing Young Adult or Middle Grade Literature. The details to win the opportunity to have your manuscript critiqued is as simple as reading What You Wish For, a collection of short stories, and writing an essay about the selection. Check out the details below!

Win a literary agent or acclaimed author's feedback on your unpublished manuscript for young adult or middle grade readers. This rare opportunity is being offered to the six winners of an essay contest recently announced by the literacy charity Book Wish Foundation. See http://bookwish.org/contest for full details.

You could win a manuscript critique from:
  • Laura Langlie, literary agent for Meg Cabot 
  • Nancy Gallt, literary agent for Jeanne DuPrau 
  • Brenda Bowen, literary agent and editor of Karen Hesse's Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust 
  • Ann M. Martin, winner of the Newbery Honor for A Corner of the Universe 
  • Francisco X. Stork, winner of the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for The Last Summer of the Death Warriors 
  • Cynthia Voigt, winner of the Newbery Medal for Dicey's Song and the Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue 

All that separates you from this prize is a 500-word essay about a short story in Book Wish Foundation's new anthology, What You Wish For. Essays are due Feb. 1, 2012 and winners will be announced around Mar. 1, 2012. If you win, you will have six months to submit the first 50 pages of your manuscript for critique (which means you can enter the contest even if you haven't finished, or started, your manuscript). You can even enter multiple times, with essays about more than one of the contest stories, for a chance to win up to six critiques.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Debut Spotlight: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

To start off 2012 right, Marissa Meyer's retelling of Cinderella, Cinder, has hit the shelves and taken the young adult readership by storm. Life from the futuristic, cyberpunk world Meyer has set before lies in wait to be devoured, savored, and enjoyed.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

In this thrilling debut young adult novel, the first of a quartet, Marissa Meyer introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine and a masterfully crafted new world that’s enthralling.

Monday, January 9, 2012

2011 Challenges Come to an End

Challenges are a great and exciting way to expand your reading horizons and push yourself to new reading goals. Sometimes, like most challenges in life, we succeed and sometimes we don't! In 2011, when I started book blogging and getting back to reading, I joined in several challenges and then picked up a couple more I found them. I had my accomplishments and my not so successful challenges; but taking the experience from the first time, I intend to work on being 100% successful.

2011 Incomplete Challenges

Dystopian Challenge
This was a great way to delve into the world of dystopian literature. I overestimasted a little bit, my eyes were bigger than my reading capacity, while I would have completed the Level 1, I barely skimmed the Level 2 goal of 15 by reading 7 books. This included all three of the Forest of Hands & Teeth, Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Divergent, and Wither. I still have an entire list of books that I plan on reading from this genre including hot picks like Enclave, Matched, Delirium and much more.
Steampunk Challenge
Another challenge that was about me getting my feet wet in a new genre and even though I fell in love with the genre, I simply didn't get around to reading anything other than Clockwork Angel and The Strange Case of Finley Jayne. Already reading one for 2012, Clockwork Prince!

Zombie Challenge
Reading only three out of five of the challenge for books about zombie, the books were the three selections from The Forest of Hands and Teeth. It was very enjoyable even if the books weren't necessarily the best selections.

2011 Completed Challenges

2011 Goodreads Challenge
A whole slew of new books,I set the bar pretty low because I didn't quite now how my reading speed would cross over to reading and blogging, but I managed 35/35, just in the nick of time too, eventually I got very bad at time management.

First in Series Challenge
 As a lover of series, this challenge was easy to complete, I also read more than was necessary because it seems like every book is a series these days; finding a stand-alone is a feat. I read tons of first in series and have recently applied the same knowledge to a project at the library for a staff recommendation list. I really enjoyed this challenge.

A 10 book challenge for vampires, faeries, and more? Yes, please! Out of the 16 books I had listed as possible options, I read 13 of them and loved every bit of it!

I intend to succeed at more challenges this year and expand my horizons! No time to dwell on things that didn't get done, just time to do better!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kick Open the Door on 2012

I think it is more than obvious that life got in the way of my blog for a little while. It kind of got in the way of a lot of things. I could go through all the excuses but instead, this is a year of looking forward and I have to start somewhere. I would like to take a minute to share some visions for the future of this blog and resolutions that I have for 2012.

I now work at the library and this has considerably changed the literary experience that I get to have everyday! It is so thrilling and exciting to see some of the things that come through the library, especially one as mildly expansive as the one I get to be a part of.

What does this mean for the blog? 

It means one thing really. I work in Adult Materials and that means I come across a lot of other titles that in my massive love for YA, I would have never thought to try. This includes mostly fantasy but some nonfiction and general fiction too. So you, as my precious reader and friend, will see a bit more of a sprinkle of book review styles than simply YA. As always, the age group and genre will be published with the review.

What does that mean for me? 

This change allows me to enjoy being a book blogger and a reader. When I want to read something, I will simply do that. This allows me to expand my blog and my horizons and still read some of the exciting things the literary world holds. I am excited for the change. Speaking of there is a mild change in the name of this blog; I always had the vision for this blog and the tagline to explain that "Open a book for worlds of wonder exist...within the pages..." and so I have therefore added "the" to this blog. This change does not directly effect anything like the url but I did want to elaborate on it. 

Moving Forward

The 2012 clock has started ticking and here we are already three days in and in my greatest attempt to get things started, I heard the best news ever; I applied months ago to be a Kismet Blog Tour Host and yesterday, I got the confirmation of my acceptance, my official badge, and invitiations to the current tour sign-ups! What better timing than when I sit down so motivated and something this spectacular happens!? That is the first of many things.  I will be setting up a new look for the blog, wrapping up challenges, and 2011 business and settling in for a new year that is already off to a fantastic start! New computer, new year, new goals...new me!