Sunday, January 31, 2010

V-Day Book Giveaway!

Thanks to the wonderful V at Simon & Schuster, I have a Valentine's Day- and romance-related book prize pack to give to ONE lucky winner! Here's your chance to win the following FIVE books:


Stupid Cupid by Rhonda Stapleton
What Would Emma Do by Eileen Cook
Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
Kissed by An Angel by Elizabeth Chandler
Romantic Comedies: Perfect Shot by Debbie Rigaud

Want them? Then fill out the form below! There are ways to get extra entries as well, so don't forget about those. This giveaway is open to US mailing addresses only, and ends Valentine's Day, 2010.

In My Mailbox (23)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme inspired by Alea and hosted by Kristi. Check out Kristi's blog to see what other bloggers got in terms of books this week!

Over the last two weeks, I received...

For review:

Merlin's Harp by Anne Crompton
(Sourcebooks Fire / March 1, 2010)

Among the towering trees of magical Avalon, where humans dare not tread, lives Niviene, daughter of the Lady of the Lake and apprentice to Merlin the mage. Her people, the Fey, are folk of the wood and avoid the violence and avarice of man. But the strife of King Arthur's realm threatens even Avalon's peace, and Merlin needs his apprentice to thwart the chaos devouring Camelot. And so Niviene must use her special talents to help save a kingdom and discover the treachery of men and the beauty of love. A mystical love story, now back in print, sure to become a modern teen classic.

The Clone Codes by the McKissacks
(Scholastic / Feb. 1, 2010)

The Cyborg Wars are over and Earth has peacefully prospered for more than one hundred years. Yet sometimes history must repeat itself until humanity learns from its mistakes. In the year 2170, despite technological and political advances, cyborgs and clones are treated no better than slaves, and an underground abolitionist movement is fighting for freedom. Thirteen-year-old Leanna's entire life is thrown into chaos when The World Federation of Nations discovers her mom is part of the radical Liberty Bell Movement.

After her mother's arrest for treason, Leanna must escape as she is chased by a ruthless bounty hunter. Soon Leanna finds herself living among the Firsts, and nothing will ever be the same again. But what does The World Federation want with the daughter of a traitor? So much is uncertain. Danger hides everywhere. Fear takes over. With help from unlikely sources, Leanna learns the origin of The Liberty Bell Movement and how its members may have answers about her past-and her new reality.

As family secrets are revealed, Leanna must face startling truths about self-identity and freedom. Through time travel, advanced technologies, and artificial intelligence, this exhilarating adventure asks what it means to be human and explores the sacrifices an entire society will make to find out.

Acclaimed authors Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack have collaborated with their son, John to deliver a novel that is as suspenseful as it is searing.

Airhead, Book 3: Runaway by Meg Cabot
(Scholastic / May 1, 2010)

Emerson Watts is on the run: from school, from work, from her family, from her friends, from herself.

With everyone she loves furious with her for something she can't explain, and nothing but the live Stark Angel fashion show on New Year's Eve to look forward to, Em's reached the end of her rope. . .what's the point of even going on?

But when she discovers the truth about Nikki's secret, she knows there's only one person she can turn to.

Will Christopher be able to put aside his personal feelings and help her expose her employer to the world? Is it even fair to get Christopher involved--since if he agrees, there's every chance that Stark Enterprises will try to have them both killed--this time, permanently?

Maybe it would be better for Em to just keep on running.

I've read the first two books in the series and thought it was okay, but with the whole conspiracy mystery, I just HAVE to find out how it ends.

The Keys to the Kingdom, Book 1: Mister Monday by Garth Nix
(Scholastic / June 2003)

Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues. Seven sins. One mysterious house is the doorway to a very mysterious world -- where one boy is about to venture and unlock a number of fantastical secrets. This is another thrilling, triumphantly imaginative series from Garth Nix, the best-selling author of THE SEVENTH TOWER, SABRIEL, and LIRAEL.

The Keys to the Kingdom, Book 7: Lord Sunday by Garth Nix
(Scholastic / March 1, 2010)

Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues. Seven sins.

In this thrilling conclusion to Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series, Arthur Penhaligon must complete his quest to save the Kingdom he is heir to...and Arthur's world.

I think I was a bit too old by the time I started this series: I had already read Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen and loved them all.

Seven Deadly Sins, Book 1: Original Sin by Allison Brennan
(Ballantine / Jan. 26, 2010)

Haunted by chilling memories of demonic possession and murder, Moira O’Donnell has spent seven years hunting down her mother, Fiona, whose command of black magic has granted her unprecedented control of the underworld. Now Moira’s global search has led her to a small California town that’s about to become hell on earth.

Tormented by his own terrifying past and driven by powers he can’t explain, ex-seminarian Rafe Cooper joins Moira’s dangerous quest. But Fiona is one devilish step ahead. Hungry for greater power, eternal youth, and stunning beauty, the sorceress is unleashing upon the mortal world the living incarnations of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Together with a demonologist, a tough female sheriff, and a pair of star-crossed teenagers, Moira and Rafe are humanity’s last chance to snatch salvation from the howling jaws of damnation.

The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas
(Aladdin / Jan. 26, 2010)

Griffin Penshine is always making wishes. But when a sinister old woman tricks her into accepting a box of eleven shiny Indian Head pennies from 1897, Griffin soon learns these are no ordinary pennies, but stolen wishes.

This box of labeled pennies comes with a horrible curse: People in possession of the stolen coins are Wish Stealers, who will never have their wishes granted.... In fact, the opposite of what they've wished for will happen. Griffin must find a way to return these stolen wishes and undo the curse if her own wishes are to come true.

But how can Griffin return wishes to strangers who might not even be alive? Her journey leads her to ancient alchemists, Macbeth's witches, and a chance to help people in ways she never imagined, but the temptation of the Wish Stealers' dark and compelling power is growing stronger. Can Griffin reverse the curse in time to save herself and the people she loves?

Tracy Trivas's rich and imaginative début novel introduces a talent as bright and sparkling as Griffin's pennies.

I've been wanting to read this for a long time! Yay!

From One Arc Tours:

Swoon at Your Own Risk by Sidney Salter
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - Graphia / Apr. 5, 2010)

You’d think Polly Martin would have all the answers when it comes to love—after all, her grandmother is the famous syndicated advice columnist Miss Swoon. But after a junior year full of dating disasters, Polly has sworn off boys. This summer, she’s going to focus on herself for once. So Polly is happy when she finds out Grandma is moving in—think of all the great advice she’ll get.

But Miss Swoon turns out to be a man-crazy sexagenarian! How can Polly stop herself from falling for Xander Cooper, the suddenly-hot skateboarder who keeps showing up while she’s working at Wild Waves water park, when Grandma is picking up guys at the bookstore and flirting with the dishwasher repairman?

No advice column can prepare Polly for what happens when she goes on a group camping trip with three too many ex-boyfriends and the tempting Xander. Polly is forced to face her feelings and figure out if she can be in love—and still be herself.

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell
(EgmontUSA / May 11, 2010)

Damien Locke knows his destiny--attending the university for supervillains and becoming Golden City's next professional evil genius. But when Damien discovers he's the product of his supervillain mother's one-night stand with--of all people--a superhero, his best-laid plans are ruined as he's forced to live with his superhero family.

Going to extreme lengths (and heights), The Rise of Renegade X chronicles one boy's struggles with the villainous and heroic pitfalls of growing up.

I started this last night. I'm about 100 pages in, and it's great! Who would've thought that a supervillain-wannabe teenage boy would be so interesting to read about?

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
The Looking Glass Wars, Book 3: ArchEnemy by Frank Beddor
Sookie Sackhouse, Book 8: From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
Z for Zachariah by Robert O'Brien
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

Borrowed from a friend:
Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri

Flash Burnout by L. K. Madigan
Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley
The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede
Stray by Rachel Vincent
The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peteron Cameron

All of these books sound great and I can't wait to get to them!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cover Lust (8): People

All too often YA book covers consist of models with their heads chopped off. Now, I read somewhere that this may have been the result of a law involving working minors, but I'm not too sure about that and don't quote me on it. It makes covers with full faces on them sort of a standout in YA lit. Here are some I've discovered that I like for the very fact that the models' full faces are on them, and are treated in an eye-catching way.

The Drake Chronicles, Book 2: Blood Feud by Alyxandra Harvey

Besides for the gorgeous color treatment (black and white everywhere except for their bright green eyes and the vivid purple text), I love how these models are looking right at you. How often does that happen on a cover? This makes a very nice picture.

The Immortals, Book 4: Dark Flame by Alyson Noel

Alyson Noel always gets awesome covers for her series, and the latest is no exception. The models are disgustingly overpretty, but again it's the treatment of color, lighting, and shadows that I really enjoy, something that I've actually enjoyed throughout my not-reading of this series.

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway

I mean, Again, it's the colors and the title treatment that I enjoy here, those two things that make this a standout cover for me.

Vampire Academy, Book 5: Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

I haven't even read Blood Promise yet, but when I saw this cover, I swooned. Yes, we all know that the models have absolutely nothing at all to do with Rose and Dimitri (in terms of looks, I mean), and there's the common complaint that the covers for the VA novels are all so generic and created by people who have absolutely no idea what the books are about. But... I don't... really... care. This is sexy.


So what do you guys think? Do covers with faces on them stand out to you? Do you prefer covers when the models' heads are partially or fully cut off? Let me know!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Blogoversary Giveaway Update

Wow, you guys are unbelievable. I can't believe it's only been, like, four days since I announced my blogoversary giveaway, and I've already reached two "markers" that I set for myself and you guys: 700 and 750 followers. I promised the addition of extra prizes and winners at each marker, so here goes:

For 700 followers, I'm adding in to the ARC pile Runaway by Meg Cabot, the third and final book in her hugely popular Airhead series.

For 750 followers, I'm adding in an ARC of Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, an awesomely intense book that I've been raving about nonstop on Twitter, and another winner who will get his/her choice of one choice book and one ARC from the pile!

So right now there are FOUR winners, and lots of ARCs to choose from. If you haven't entered yet, go HERE to do so. Remember you MUST fill out the form to enter; entries in the comments section don't count. And please, for the love of all that is YA, don't enter twice under different email addresses/Twitter accounts! It's embarrassingly obvious when you do so, and if I'm in a bad mood when I count up the entries and pick the winners, I'll just delete all your entries. We're working on the honesty system here, folks, and the consequences are serious if you mess with me.

Anyway, more prizes and winners to be added if more people follow, so spread the word! Thanks! :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Tags: adult, historical fiction, civil rights movement, South, Mississippi, prejudice, writing

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


America may be undergoing the civil rights movement, but Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 feels like the last bastion of the Deep South. White ladies with their black maids socialize in the heat and talk of sending provisions to starving children in Africa, unaware of their own absurdity. For two black maids, experienced Aibileen and loudmouth Minny, and one young white “spinster,” Miss Skeeter, though, their worlds are about to turn upside down.

An aspiring writer, Miss Skeeter, still reeling from the mysterious disappearance of her beloved childhood maid, is driven to write a book that interviews the ups and downs of the lives of maids in Jackson. Easier said than done: the maids have heard of the blacks who were tortured or even killed when they spoke out. Eventually, Aibileen and Minny agree to help Miss Skeeter, but the going is tough as they fearfully keep their secret hidden from the rest of the town.


It’s hard to put into words the scope of this book. THE HELP deals with a piece of Mississippian history that’s little known and even less spoken of. What could have easily fallen into the clichéd ruts of Southern or black American history instead stands on its own due to its smooth writing and unforgettable characters.

Each of the main characters who narrate THE HELP have their own distinct voice, history, and conflicts, which helped make this book richly layered and so much more than what its synopsis implies. Aibileen, Minny, and even Miss Skeeter will be your best friends, while the side characters also hold their own in this world. Even the “evil” characters like Miss Hilly are fully realized, with all their hypocrisy, deeply rooted prejudices, and borderline horrifying penchant for vengeance. The tension builds throughout as the stakes mount, and you’ll barely want to put this down, desperate to find out if everything will be alright.

Not everyone will love this book. Beyond the great writing, story, and characters is an uncomfortable tension with the real history, and that’s the trouble with this book having been written by a white Southern woman. There are those who will probably be offended by the book’s content, and there will also be those who have no problem with its nervous treatment of this sensitive part of American history. But there is no denying Kathryn Stockett’s talent. THE HELP is an incredible achievement of voice and characterization. You can be assured that Stockett will stay on everyone’s radars for a long time to come.

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: Well, I am far from being qualified to comment on covers of adult books. They're just so different. I'll say that I do very much love the gold foil-ness of it, though.

Penguin / Feb. 2009 / Hardcover / 464pp. / $24.95

The copy I read for review was bought by meeeee.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (49)

Mistwood by Leah Cypess

The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwod.

But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty--because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can't help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court . . . until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart . . . and everything she thought she knew. [summary from Goodreads]

I'll admit: when I first heard of/saw this book, I wasn't impressed. I was barely interested. And you want to know why? It's just that, that cover is just so...


Yeah, you get the picture. But after reading Angie's review of it on Goodreads, my interest was definitely piqued. Now, Angie and I don't have too similar tastes in our favorite reads. But she's a fantastic reviewer, and the few books she does give her recommendation to, I definitely take note of. In Mistwood's case, it's because Angie reported that the back cover of the ARC said:
For fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Fire, Tamora Pierce, and Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia books
Now, I haven't read much Tamora Pierce (I am definitely going to fix that this year), and the Attolia books are sitting on my shelf, but I already know without a doubt that they're going to be mindblowingly awesome. So the only author left in the comparison that I really know of is Kristin Cashore, and she is like a rising GODDESS in YA fantasy. I love her books. Even though they have their own particular flaws.

And so, unequivocably now, I am looking forward to Mistwood.

Mistwood will be published in hardcover by Greenwillow Books, a division of HarperCollins, on April 27, 2010.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Interview and GIVEAWAY: Alexandra Bullen

Today I am hosting a stop on a blog tour for Alexandra Bullen's debut YA novel, Wish (you can view my review here). Alex has kindly agreed to answer a few questions for me and my readers about herself, Wish, and other related topics. Welcome, Alex, to Steph Su Reads!

1. Tell us about your inspiration for writing Wish.

I switched schools when I was in the fifth grade, and it was a challenge, but I've always wondered what it would be like to have to start over in high school. I’ve also always been obsessed with twins, the special bond that they share, and the different ways people handle loss. The story developed out a desire to explore all of these ideas at once.

2. What made you decide to have magic dresses?

I’m not much of a fashionista (just ask my mom, she’s forever trying to get me to dress like a “grown up,”) but I do think there’s something transformative about taking the time to get dressed up.

3. Ooh, interesting point. Dressing up has been pivotal moments in so many beloved fairy tales. So which character in your book is most similar to you?

I’m sure that all of the characters have little bits of me in different ways. Bowie was one of my favorite characters to write, because I think she’s the kind of girl I always wished I could be (or be friends with) in high school. But I’m sure that my friends would say I’m more of an Olivia – usually quiet and grateful to tag along.

4. Wish is less about a fairy tale and more about the complex and endearing relationship between two sisters. Who did you base Olivia and Violet's relationship off of?

I don’t have sisters, but I’ve always had very close girl friends. My best friend from college and I are a lot like Olivia and Violet. We were absolutely inseparable, and she was (and still is!) always on me to try new things. If it hadn't been for her I probably would have spent my entire college career in the library. She made sure we remembered to have fun.

5. What would your dream dress look like?

Probably made out of flannel or a sweatshirt. (I wish I were kidding.) I do wear a lot of dresses, but mostly because they're so easy. My favorites are the ones that look better with boots and flip flops than a fancy pair of heels.

6. Olivia and Violet went to the grandfather's boat when they needed to escape. As a teen, where did you go when you needed to get away from it all?

I played the piano from the time I was five years old all the way through high school. Practicing was hard, but it was my favorite part of the day, because it meant that I had to stop thinking about everything else: school, friends, whatever was stressing me out. It was a sort of forced escape, because it took all of my concentration at once. I loved it.

7. And finally, what is one of your book-related 2010 resolutions?

To keep writing them! And to finally get a chance to start reading again. There are so many great Best of 2009 books that I still haven’t read yet. I can’t wait to catch up!

View of San Francisco

Thank you for the lovely answers, Alex! You can find out more about Alex at her blog, her Twitter, and the Wish website. Alex's next step on her tour will be at The Book Vault tomorrow, January 27, where she'll be guest-blogging about her writing process.

Giveaway Opportunity

If you're interested in reading Wish, here's your chance! Thanks to the generosity of amazing people at Scholastic, one lucky person will receive a finished copy of Alex's novel! You can read it for your 2010 Debut YA Author Reading Challenge, give it as a gift to your favorite female... the possibilities are endless! (But only the nice possibilities. Don't enter if you just need, like, fuel for a fire or something. The BLASPHEMY!)

The prize: A finished copy of Wish by Alexandra Bullen
Open to: Anyone with a US mailing address (no P.O. boxes, sorry)
Ends: Friday, February 12, 2009
To enter: fill out the form below!

Review: Wish by Alexandra Bullen

Tags: middle grade, YA, magic, wishes, dresses, grief, sisters

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


Olivia Larsen doesn’t know how she will survive after the death of her more outgoing twin sister, Violet. When her parents move all the way across the country to San Francisco, Olivia stumbles across a mysterious seamstress’ shop and is given three beautiful, magic dresses, each with the ability to grant one wish. What Olivia wants above all else is to have Violet back, but everyone knows that making wishes is more complicated than you think…


Alexandra Bullen’s debut novel, WISH, is a quick and cute read that will appeal best to younger teen readers and fans of modern fairy tales in the style of the movie Enchanted. More experienced readers, however, may be less impressed by the average writing, characters, and plot.

WISH is less a fairy tale than it is a touching story about the complexities and intricacies of two sisters’ relationship with one another. While neither Olivia nor Violet are actually noteworthy as characters, you can’t help but be touched at the way they play off one another, the way Violet looks after Olivia, even after death. WISH is a very human book, and perhaps that may be startling to some, because that is not what we immediately think of with such a fairy tale-esque premise. But the magic element in the novel is muted, allowing interpersonal relationships—with all their ups and downs—to shine through and stand out.

Unfortunately, the writing left a bit to be desired. The prose was uninspiring: there was nothing particularly captivating or enchanting about it. In fact, the blandness of the writing often took away from the cute premise’s potential, leaving behind what felt like an overmanufactured fairy tale.

Still, if you like the idea of a contemporary fairy tale, WISH is good for a quick read.

Similar Authors
Kate Brian (The Princess and the Pauper)
Aimee Friedman (Sea Change)
Jackson Pearce (As You Wish)

Writing: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - Why are all the cover models for these YA books so unrealistically beautiful? That's not how I pictured Olivia looks like at all, though the color, title font, and stars are rather pretty.

Scholastic / Jan. 12, 2010 / Hardcover / 336pp. / $17.99

Received for blog tour from SME and Scholastic.

Stay tuned for an author interview and giveaway opportunity!

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Blogoversary Giveaway!

Well, seriously, before I knew it, it's already been a year since I've started my blog. And what a year it's been! To think that in a mere 365 days I would've made so many friends, gotten to know so many cool people with similar interests, and have been able to reach so many people and talk so openly about things I care about... Well, I really don't know what to say that would adequately encompass all that. So I think I'll just let the writing speak for itself.

Of course, my blogoversary is, I've decided, a good time to hold a big giveaway, to thank everyone who's helped me grow over this year!

Do you want to win some of these ARCs?


[edited 3/3/10]
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink
Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (signed)
The Snowball Effect by Holly Hoxter
Airhead, Book 3: Runaway by Meg Cabot
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey (signed)
The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Epitaph Road by David Patneaude

12 ARCs to choose from!

And do you want to win some books of your choice?

Yeah, I thought so.

Well, since it, um, appears that I have over 600 750 800 850 950 followers (Wha? *goes to hide in hole*), let's have THREE FOUR FIVE winners!
  • First-place winner will win THREE FOUR of the above ARCs, plus whichever TWO THREE books published between Jan. 1, 2010-Feb. 28, 2010 they'd like.
  • Second-place winner will win TWO THREE of the above ARCs remaining, plus whichever ONE TWO books published between Jan. 1, 2010-Feb. 28, 2010 they'd like.
  • Third-place winner will win one TWO of the above ARCs remaining, plus whichever ONE book published between Jan. 1, 2010-Feb. 28, 2010 they'd like.
  • Fourth-place winner will win ONE of the above ARCs remaining, plus whichever ONE book published between Jan. 1, 2010-Feb. 28, 2010 they'd like.
  • Fifth-place winner will win the remaining above ARC.
That's a lot of possibilities for your prize! And I'll make it even better: if I get to 700 followers before this giveaway ends, I'll add in another winner. 750, I'll add another. 800... yeah, you get the point.

As usual, you can earn extra points by following me, tweeting about this giveaway, linking to it in your sidebar or a blog post, etc. This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY, and will end Sunday, February 28, 2010.

Please fill out THIS FORM to enter.

(Yayayayay! Let the madness begin!)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Author Interview: Lauren Mechling

Yesterday, you heard from me and the main character, Claire, about Lauren Mechling's latest book, Dream Life. Today, you get to hear from the author herself! Welcome, Lauren, to Steph Su Reads!

1. Where did the inspiration for Claire's story come from?

It came from a lot of places--I've folded many of my personal fascinations into Claire's world. But I'd day the primary spark came about five years ago, when I visited a dear friend's grandmother at her hotel apartment. My friend's grandmother is a scream--an imposing woman who wears peacock blue two piece suits, with matching peacock blue shoes and an elaborate jeweled cane. She used to be the biggest heartbreaker of her time and she married quite well. She now lives alone and spends time with those from her social circle who are still kicking around. She is the smartest and funniest woman, always brimming with advice and opinions that she mutters under her breath, just loud enough for those sitting closeby to hear. When I met her I felt simultaneously intimidated by her and in love with her. And thus the inspiration for Kiki, Claire's dreamy grandmother, was born.

2. What's your favorite mystery story, author, or movie?

I love the mystery author P D James; ideally I like to read her whodunnits curled up next to a fireplace, sipping a glass of port. She used to work for the police and criminal law department of the British Home Office and didn't publish her first book till she was 42. She's in her 80s and still writing. I have a soft spot for late bloomers.

3. For the aspiring-author readers on my blog, tell us a bit about your path to publication. How long did it take for you to write your first published novel? (How many unpublished novels before then?) How long was it in the query process?

I wrote my first book, The Rise and Fall of a 10th Grade Social Climber, with my friend Laura Moser as a lark, actually. We were about 23 and we wrote it in the mornings before going to our jobs. We didn't think anything would come of it. When we were done, about a year later, we were rejected by about a dozen publishers before Eden Edwards, who ran an imprint at Houghton Mifflin, said yes. It had been about six months since the submission had gone out and we were back in the swing of our every day lives, certain our odd little creation would never see the light of publication. We were shocked.

4. Why did you choose to make Claire and her family French?

I am a francophile, which can be annoying to other people. I thought it would be funny to write a character who isn't French but thinks she is (Claire's mom).

5. Do you have any personal experience, interests, or anecdotes regarding clairvoyance, visions, or "sixth senses"?

I have intense dreams where people I know do shocking stuff. They're not clairvoyant visions, but they're powerful. I have to say I never look at anybody the same after I've "seen" what they're capable of.

6. Of all the characters in this series, who was the most fun to write? Who was the most difficult?

I loved Louis, Claire's old time BFF. He's like a human teddy bear, except with attitude. And Andy was hard, because I wanted him to be riding the cusp that's just between lovely and aloof--not an easy balance to strike.

7. Which authors/books were you most influenced by when writing Dream Girl and Dream Life?

My biggest influence is my hero Barbara Pym (another late bloome), though her books about quaint English life aren't that related to my books. I just love her. I also read a bunch of James Bond books to get in the butt-kicking, globe-trotting adventurer mindset.

8. Name 3 things you want to do before you die.
  • Learn to drive.
  • Become better at watching TV (I get distracted).
  • Write a big juicy book that isn't a comedy. Not because I don't like funny books, but because it would be the biggest challenge I can think of.

9. Can you give us a teeny tiny hint as to what is next for you in terms of writing?

Im working on a YA project that's part mystery, part, well . . . .I really can't say more but it will be announced later this spring. It's going to be awesome.


Thanks for the interesting answers, Lauren! Readers, I hope you check out Dream Girl and Dream Life for a fun and enjoyable reading experience! (Remember that Dream Life is not readily available in bookstores, so the easiest way to get it would be through Amazon, or have your local bookstore special order it for you.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog Tour: Dream Life by Lauren Mechling

I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour to promote Lauren Mechling's newly released novel, Dream Life, a companion novel/sequel to Dream Girl. When Lauren contacted me months ago to see if I would be willing to review her book (and bloggers, she's, like, one of the coolest authors out there. SO nice and genuine), I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I never expected to like this series as much as I did, and I recommend it without reserve, to almost any reader. Enough of my blabber now; let's get on with it!

Tags: middle grade, young adult, mystery, visions, NYC, friendship, secret societies

Rating: 4 out of 5


15-year-old psychic detective Claire Voyante’s new semester is not getting off to so great a start. Her best friend Becca is too busy with some old friends of hers to spend much time with Claire. And now Andy, Becca’s older brother and Claire’s crush-slash-somewhat-boyfriend, also seems too busy for her.

Then it turns out that Becca’s actually in a secret society responsible for improvement projects all over NYC, and their latest project is about to go downhill with a mysterious enemy attempting to sabotage their plans. It may be all up to Claire and her psychic dreams to help save the day once again.


This companion novel/sequel to DREAM GIRL does not disappoint at all: Claire and her eclectic group of friends and family are all here again, helping us enjoy the heck out of reading contemporary chick lit mystery with a twist of magic. Lauren Mechling proves once again that fluff reading can also be smart, and that smart girls can read fluff.

The most outstanding thing about this series is its gold medal-worthy characters. Claire is not your average teen chick lit heroine: she’s smart, she’s snarky, and she has a way of narrating that will leave us chuckling and wondering why we didn’t think of it ourselves. Likewise, I’m flabbergasted at the way Lauren writes atypical supporting characters, ones whose existence lies beyond being merely a plot device, or the MC’s loyal, opinion-less sidekick.

In fact, even though DREAM LIFE is at its core a gentle mystery novel, I loved the way everything didn’t revolve around the mystery. As in real life, there is more than one issue in a person’s life, and so it is with Claire. Lauren blends the mystery element with family eccentricities, friends’ troubles, choppy romantic waters, and more, to create a well-rounded, enjoyable, yet utterly relatable tale.

Similar to DREAM GIRL, the mystery aspect of this novel requires a bit of suspension of disbelief in order to believe. Secret society novels are rather overdone, and the creed of the one in DREAM LIFE is, well, a little silly and ridiculous. Still, one cannot deny Lauren’s skill at writing these novels. If you haven’t yet read this series, I highly recommend you pick it up. As far as lighthearted yet intelligent fluffy mysteries go, you can’t get much better than this.

[You can also read my review of Dream Girl]

Similar Authors
Rosemary Clement-Moore
Maureen Johnson
Natalie Standiford (How to Say Goodbye in Robot)

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - Okay, okay, it still looks really weird IMO, but at least we've disposed of the excessively girly colors now. The cover has very little to do with what the book is about, and it's one of those cases where you need to overlook appearances for the genius that is inside.

Delacorte / Jan. 12, 2010 / Hardcover / 336pp. / $16.99

Thanks, Lauren and Random House, for providing me with a copy for review!


And now, a few words from the star herself...

Greetings and salutations, book lovers! I’m Claire Voyante, the main character of Dream Life, Lauren Mechling’s rip-roaring detective novel (and no, it is not immodest to say that about a book you didn’t write but in which you star—I checked in one of my grandmother Kiki’s etiquette books).

Dream Life is all about what happened after I found out my best friend Becca had just joined a super-exclusive, centuries-old secret society called the Blue Moons. I figured out how to wiggle my way into the club, and, of course, much drama ensued. I warmly invite you to check Dream Life out—it’s available at a bookstore or Internet site near you.

When Dream Girl, the first book in the series, came out, my creator Lauren fielded questions from bloggers and journalists. Lauren is currently underground working on a secret project so I offered to step in and relief pitch. I’m taking a page from Ann Landers's book and writing an advice column. The questions came from fans of the series. The answers came from the heart.

(Warning: I don't have a degree in psychotherapy--use at your own risk!)
12. Dear Claire,
I heard you new book is all about a secret society. I’ve been a member of my school’s track team and National Merit Scholarship club, and the thrill is gone. I’m writing because I’d to start my own secret society. Got any tips?
Janine Who Could Use Some Excitement In Her Life
Askov, Minn

I hear you! I go to this nerd school called Henry Hudson where everyone is obsessed with joining extracurricular clubs like Young Engineering Professionals and PoWER (People With Excellent Reading [abilities]). I’m sure these societies will look good on college applications, but that’s assuming you don’t die of boredom and you make it all the way to the college application process.

I didn’t belong to anything until the Blue Moons came knocking on my door. Okay, they didn’t exactly come knocking—more like I inserted myself among them. But that’s just a minor detail! The important thing is joining a secret society sure spices up a girl’s life.

If you want to start your own secret society, here are a few tips I picked up:

1. Code words are big. After all, it’s a secret society, so everything can’t just be lying out in the open. I’d come up with a special word for everything, so for example if you started the Orangina Society, you could call getting invited to join getting “juiced,” a member could be called a “seed,” and if somebody gets kicked out, she’s been “spilled.

2. No-nos are huge. Most of the times, a secret society isn’t about something so much as it’s not-about a lot of things. For instance, you might want to say your Orangina Society Society doesn’t allow shoes with laces, the color yellow, and any mentions of Megan Fox in its environs. And it’s always good to have a Major No-No—the society’s nemesis, the force you’re fighting against. It can either be something like pollution or injustice against minors. If you’re really feeling brave, go ahead and say your foe is the devil.

3. You’ll need to come up with a secret ritual or two. These can--and should!--be as preposterous as you like, and if anyone has any questions about why they have to wake up at two in the morning to roll watermelons across somebody’s lawn, you have an easy response. Just say these were the rules of another secret society from the very distant past and your society is that society’s reincarnation.

I hope these tips help, Janine.

L’amour toujours!


In an twist of incomprehensibility, few bookstores have opted to stock Dream Life. The easiest way to get your own copy--which you should do--is to order it through Amazon. I also recommend you ask your local bookseller to special order it for you: special orders generally result in bookstores stocking the book, leading to greater audiences reached. Do so now, if you can! I will leave you with the trailer for Dream Life, for those who need more visual and image-based persuasion:

Dream Life by Lauren Mechling -- Trailer from Richie Williams on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blog Blitz! The Best YA Books You Haven't Read

Well, I did something similar for my 2009 book lists, but amazing blogger Kelly of YAnnabes has put together a massive blog blitz, in which thirty-something book bloggers with LibraryThing accounts will post today about The Best YA Books You Haven't Read! Now, most people in the blogosphere use Goodreads, and it's certainly an excellent platform if you're looking for livestream updates of what your friends are reading, but LibraryThing focuses more on comprehensive individual book stats, the similarities of your reading tastes to other LTers, and so on and so forth. She has done an incredible job of helping thirty-something bloggers figure out which of their highest-rated books in their LT account are the most overlooked, and is helping everyone spread the word about these worthwhile titles.
Since I did a similar post in my Most Overlooked list of from my 2009 book lists, I'll keep this one shorter and sweeter, with quick summaries and "mini-reviews." So, without further ado...

Steph Su's List of the 7 Best YA Books You Haven't Read

1. Fat Cat by Robin Brande
Random House / Oct. 13, 2009 / Hardcover / 336pp. / $16.99

One-sentence synopsis: Plus-size Cat embarks on a caveman diet as part of her year-long science project, hoping to beat Matt McKinney, her ex-best friend who broke her heart years ago.

Why You Can't Miss It: Brilliance like this unfortunately still rarely exists in YA lit, and it’s a real shame, because YA lit needs more authors like Robin Brande. It’s the kind of book that makes you smile as you remember why you still enjoy and read YA contemporary realistic fiction. Brande does not dumb down her fictional teenagers, with the surprising yet joyful result that they will end up appealing to everyone. FAT CAT is a story you catch yourself thinking about randomly even weeks after reading it.

[see my full review here]

2. Good Girls by Laura Ruby
HarperCollins / Jan. 2008 (reprint) / Paperback / 304pp. / $8.99

One-sentence synopsis: Someone takes and circulates a picture of snarky good-girl Audrey in a compromising position with a boy.

Why You Can't Miss It: GOOD GIRLS is a gem of a good read. It’s raw and explicit, yet hilarious and touching. Audrey is a great, strong protagonist with a wonderful voice. Not everyone has been in Audrey’s particular situation, but I’m sure that everyone can empathize with how it feels to be hurt, and then to rise above it with spectacular results.

[see my full review here]

3. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
St. Martin's Press / Jan. 2002 (reprint) / Paperback / 288pp. / $14.99

One-sentence synopsis: Strangers Elizabeth and Christina became fast friends through their schools' pen-pal system, and via notes and letters, they unravel one another's problems, most especially those involving Elizabeth's erratic best friend Celia.

Why You Can't Miss It: It’s impossible to sum up this amazing book in a few sentences. Let’s just say that this is one of my all-time favorite books, and I’ll never get sick of it. FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA will make readers laugh, cry, and wish they could be part of Elizabeth’s crazy but wonderfully interesting life. It's a celebration of uniqueness, personal dreams, and the sustaining love of friendship over distances.

4. As You Wish by Jackson Pearce
HarperCollins / Aug. 2009 / Hardcover / 300pp. / $16.99

One-sentence synopsis: When Jinn, a genie, comes to the heartbroken and lonely Viola to grant her three wishes, neither is prepared for the emotions they end up feeling for one another...nor the obstacles they must overcome if they want to have any hope of ending up together.

Why You Can't Miss It: The development of Viola and Jinn’s feelings for one another was extraordinarily well done, subtle and likable. It is rare nowadays to find a romance that doesn’t start off from insta-connection and physical attraction, so their relationship stands out to me in the best way. Also, how many authors can tell a truly charming story out of a concept that rides the fence on being sweet and too saccharine? This is magical realism at its best, completely worth the list price, and one of the best love stories I’ve read all year.

[see my full review here]

5. Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
Penguin / Dec. 2008 / Hardcover / 544pp. / $19.99

One-sentence synopsis: Crippled Eon--who is actually Eona, a girl disguised as a boy--trains for and is chosen to be a rare and powerful dragon's Dragoneye apprentice, thus entering a dangerous world of politics, conspiracy, and magic.

Why You Can't Miss It: If you want a hardcore fantasy set in a deliciously elaborate and complex world, pick up this majestic tale, which will bring to mind the works of fantasy masters like Garth Nix, Robin McKinley, Diane Wynne Jones, and more. Alison Goodman weaves for readers a multisensory setting that’s a treat to experience. I'm salivating in anticipation for the sequel, so that I can read more about Eon/Eona and his/her adventures in this magnificently complex world.

6. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Alfred A. Knopf / May 2006 (reprint) / Paperback / 256pp. / $8.95

One-sentence synopsis: Francesca must work the ups and downs of her new school while dealing with her mother's severe depression and its effects on the rest of the family.

Why You Can't Miss It: Australian author Melina Marchetta's second book is jam-packed with wit and poignancy. It will make you laugh over and over, and also draw tears to your eyes. A colorful and eclectic cast of supporting characters keeps things fresh and interesting. SAVING FRANCESCA is nearly perfect; now it just needs a large fan base.

7. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
Penguin / April 2009 (reprint) / Paperback / 320pp. / $8.99

One-sentence synopsis: When her musician ex-boyfriend writes about her breakup with him in a chart-topping hit song, Audrey must navigate false friends and publicity if she wants to find happiness, love, and peace.

Why You Can't Miss It: I loved Audrey in this refreshingly exciting novel! Audrey is the kind of cool and witty character who doesn’t get enough attention in the young adult genre. This book will make you laugh and cheer out loud in places where you shouldn’t be snort-laughing at Audrey’s hilarious narration. Read in public places at your own risk of embarrassment by laughing out loud.


That's it! I hope you keep these incredible titles in mind the next time you take a trip to the library or bookstore. Trust me: they're all well worth the money and time. And don't forget to check out YAnnabe's post to see what other oft-overlooked YA books other bloggers think you shouldn't miss!


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