Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas! And Team Novel Teen's 2012 Top Ten List!

Merry Christmas!!!
I hope everyone is having a beautiful Christmas, and I have some recommendations for those of you who are eager to spend their Christmas money and gift cards!
Team Novel Teen, a group I'm a part of that promotes clean teen fiction, cast votes recently for their favorite YA books released during 2012.
Here's the top ten list:
Enjoy! :-)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Recipe: Pumpkin Cupcakes

I feel really bad about not posting in a while (been sick and sooo busy), and it'll be probably another week or two before I'm able to post another book review (and I have some great books I want to share!). In the mean time, if anyone remembers way back last year, when I first started this blog, I said I'd probably have some posts about food, which I have yet to do. So I've decided to share a favorite recipe a friend of mine gave me last year around this time:
Pumpkin Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Crystallized Ginger

Here's what you'll need:

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups of oil
2 cups flour
16 oz. canned pumpkin (slightly more is okay)
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place liners in cupcake pan.
Mix it all together.
Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full or a little more if you like them slightly rounded and full.
Bake about 20 minutes.

When cool, frost with:

8 oz. cream cheese (room temp.)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (salted is okay)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
Mix together.

If desired, top with a few pieces of chopped crystallized ginger.

This recipe is really yummy and a perfect Thanksgiving dessert! I like to eat mine with a mug of hot tea. Mmm...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Book Review: "Spooky" by Crystal Mazzuca


"You have no identity. Legally, you don't exist. On paper, your parents died seven years before you were born. They joined the CIA and gave up their identities--their lives. And you were born into that. But that's not you anymore. You have to be somebody now."
She looked back, speaking through clenched teeth, "I was somebody."
"No," he whispered. "You weren't. Now you are."
Stephanie Pookay isn't her real name. In fact, according to the government, she doesn't even exist. She's a "spook." That all changes when a CIA mission goes awry and Stephanie, or whoever she is, suddenly finds herself orphaned and stranded by the CIA at a fancy boarding school. All her life, Stephanie, or as her new--maybe goth, maybe not--roommate dubs her, "Spooky" has been told who to be and what to do. Now Spooky has to figure out exactly who she is.

Finding something to do, however, won't be a problem. There's something not quite right about Chambers Academy. There's a mysterious janitor roaming the halls, hidden rooms, cameras in strange places, and a school club labeled the "Icarus Project" that doesn't seem to fit the standard after-school extracurricular activity. Spooky is determined to do some snooping around, but without the CIA's help, will she find herself in over her head?

Crystal Mazzuca's Spooky is a light and fun read with quirky characters I loved and felt for. Full of laughs, intrigue, and tender moments, this story ends satisfactorily with plenty of mystery left at the end to dive into another adventure.

Genre: YA/Mystery
Ages: 12 and up
Pages: 231
Publication Date: 2011

Monday, October 22, 2012

Support an Author: Jill Williamson

 I've decided to start something new on my blog. Authors survive in the writing world not only because of their terrific story-telling skills but because of readers. Especially in this new world of publishing that's changing by leaps and bounds, and most authors have to market themselves without a huge marketing team behind them. So, on a regular basis, I'm going to choose a great author I admire and love and have a "Support an Author" day.

 Today's author:

                     Jill Williamson

Author Bio:

Jill Williamson is an author of all things weird. She grew up in Alaska with no electricity, an outhouse, and a lot of mosquitoes. Her Blood of Kings trilogy won two Christy Awards, and she recently released Replication, a science fiction teen novel from Zonderkidz. Jill lives in Oregon with her husband and two children and a whole lot of deer.

Jill is the fearless leader of Team Novel Teen. It's an amazing group of authors and readers who promote clean, teen fiction. Jill also has recently released a young adult spy series called "The Mission League." Read my review of the first book The New Recruit here.

Now, how do we support Jill, you ask? There are some really simple and quick things you can do (besides going out and buying her books and reviewing them, of course!).;-)

1. "Like" Jill's author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jillwilliamson

2. From Jill's author page, you can then "like" ALL of her books by clicking through to each of their pages (paperback AND Kindle).

3. "Like" Jill on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jwilliamsonwrites

4. (For Goodreads users) Mark as to read or rate or review: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16000072-the-new-recruit

Huzzah! You just supported an amazing author! Good for you!
*gives a virtual pat on the back*

For your general "likeableness" today, here's a special treat
for those of you who haven't read any of Jill's books and
would like to sample some of her writing (and for
those fans who just like re-reading her awesome stories!)
The first chapters of each of Jill's books:

By Darkness Hid
To Darkness Fled
From Darkness Won
Replication: The Jason Experiment (podcast)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Book Review and Scavenger Hunt Contest: The New Recruit by Jill Williamson

But I had to stay in. My mother had died for this loony organization.
I'd do whatever it took to live up to her sacrifice,
 at least until I found out who "they" were.
And made them pay.
Spencer Garamond has been recruited into a super secret spy agency known as the Mission League. You'd think, hey, any fourteen-year-old guy would be thrilled to be a spy-in-training, but Spencer was more or less forced to become spy by none other than his grandmother to keep him out of trouble. It was either join the Mission League--a Christian spy organizaton--or be shipped off to military school. So Spencer joins the Bible geeks, who he thinks are just a little off their rocker, if you know what I mean.
But then, his perspective of the Mission League changes when he discovers his parents, whom he never met, were spies, and his mother died for the cause. Combine this revelation with encountering an odd gang of Russian boys and mysterious woman named Anya who's been haunting his dreams for years, and Spencer discovers maybe he should be taking this Mission League thing a bit more seriously.
The New Recruit by Jill Williamson is a fresh twist on a spy tale full of intrigue, humor, and touching moments. One of the best aspects of the book for me was the viewpoint of a non-Christian character in a primarily Christian setting. Spencer's view of various characters' beliefs and actions that provoke misunderstandings and Christian culture clashes is eye-opening and I believe important for other Christians to know about. Spencer and the other characters' paths toward understanding each other is slow but believeable. Add in the over-arching, suspenseful mystery in Moscow, and The New Recruit is a fun and thought-provoking read.
Genre: Christian/YA/Suspense
Ages: 14 and up
Pages: 399
Publication Date: October 2012
Part of a Series: The Mission League (Book 1)
*I would like to thank the author and publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Visit these awesome bloggers who will be reviewing and hosting book giveaways of
The New Recruit all this week:
           Labor Not in Vain 
--Check out the website for the Mission League. It has character details, sketches, the book trailer, classified terms, a map of Moscow, and even summaries of the next books in the series.
--Read Chapter One of The New Recruit.
 Go Undercover Scavenger Hunt 
To celebrate the release of The New Recruit, the author, Jill Williamson, is hosting
a very fun spy contest!
--The Grand Prize is a $100 Barnes and Noble gift card--
(Soooo worth it for all of us Nook impulse buyers!)
--The 10 runner ups will receive Mission League spy kits--
(Sooo worth it for all of us who duck around corners
while humming the Mission Impossible theme song...
wait, am I the only one who does that?)
For more info about the contest just click the banner below:
And just for grins and giggles, here's Jill--or, ahem, Jill's uncle from some
foreign country that prides itself in growing fantastic mustaches and eyebrows--
explaining the rules of the contest:
So come join this undercover mission and unleash you inner spy!
covertly glances in both directions and ducks around the corner while humming
"duh duh...duh duh duh"

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review: Guardian by Heather Burch

Guardian: They chose to protect her. But forgot to guard their hearts.
"You have to know the nature of the one you serve. We have no promise of tomorrow. But we know the character of the One. Our ability to do what we do is rooted in our faith in him."
Nikki looked down... "I've never had faith in anything except what is tangible. I doubt I ever will."
Nikki Youngblood's life has been turned upside down. Her parents are dead and she's abandoned her guardian, Damon Vessler, to stay under the protection of the guardian angel, Will, and the Halflings-- Mace, Raven, and Vine. Unfortunately, Nikki is in love with both Raven and Mace, which is only made more awkward by the fact that all of them are going to be on a small boat bound for Europe with half a dozen other Halflings. Excuse the pun, but Nikki definitely feels like a fish out of water.
Besides the tug-of-war feelings between Nikki and the guys, she's also struggling with her newly-discovered role as a Seer and trying to embrace faith, which is crucial for her journey. Pulled in many different directions, Nikki makes a decision that changes the course of her life entirely, and not for the better.
Several reveals in Guardian by Heather Burch I saw coming, but the way they were revealed I didn't expect. The start of the book was a bit hard to wade through at first, mainly, because I'm not a huge love triangle fan and the beginning was very heavy on the painful feelings between Mace, Nikki, and Raven. However, the way Burch adds a couple twists later balances the book enough for me to be satisfied.
The twists involving Nikki were especially heart wrenching, but I believe they helped in deepening her character. I'm anxious to see how her story pans out in book three, Avenger (which is aptly named, by the way). Also, I actually liked Mace and Raven better in Guardian than in Halflings. Mace's character felt a bit more fleshed out and three-dimensional, and Raven's conscience and vulnerable side were more evident in this installment. Some of my favorite characters though were the minor ones, especially sarcastic and awesome Zero. I mean, can we have a novel just about him?
The only thing I found a bit confusing and frustrating was trying to understand the fate of the Halflings. I'm curious to see how Burch will approach this in the conclusion of the series. Guardian is a bit darker than its predecessor, but I liked it even better. The character arcs are a bit deeper and the story is gaining an almost breathless momentum. I'm looking forward to discovering more answers in Avenger to the many questions that arose in Guardian, including two majors ones: What is the character of Nikki, and who will she serve?
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary Fantasy/Romance
Ages: 15 and up
Pages: 320
Publication Date: October 2012
Part of a Series: Book 2 (Halflings series)

*I received this book courtesy of Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Read my review of Book 1, Halflings here.
Check out the FREE ebook, A Halflings Rescue, that takes place between Halflings and Guardian. It's a fun story!
In this free illustrated short story from the popular Halflings series by Heather Burch, Nikki and the Halflings team intercept important information regarding the kidnapping of Hollywood's hottest teen celebrity, Mandy Mosen. Will they be able come to the young starlet's aide in time, or is Mandy's fifteen minutes of fame about to end? Includes a bonus first chapter from Guardian, the next full novel in the Halflings series!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Review: "There You'll Find Me" by Jenny B. Jones

There You'll Find Me

"It's beautiful," I said, my voice clouded with embarrassment.
"It's more than that." He watched the ocean below. "It's like God painted it himself, then spun it into motion." Beckett angled his head toward me, took his aviators off, and let his eyes burn into mine. "This is Ireland, Finley. It's rough. It's wild. And it is holy."
Finley Sinclair is trying to make a new start as a foreign exchange student in Ireland. But the past is deeply entwined with her present as she uses her deceased brother's journal to follow his time in Ireland years before in the hopes that she can rediscover the same closeness to God Will had when he was alive.
Beckett Rush is a distraction Finley doesn't need. A famous and ridicuously good-looking movie star, Beckett offers to help Finley retrace her brother's steps--if she helps him rehearse lines for the movie he's starring in. Along with Beckett, Finley soon finds her life entwined with a dying old woman who needs peace, a wise nun, a classic mean girl, and the love and warmth of her host family. Stress and a myriad of tiny pressures begin to weigh Finley down, from drama with Beckett to unsuccessfully trying to compose a piece of music based on Will's life for her audition with Julliard. She tries to cope the best way she knows how but it leads her down a dangerous road. Can she find her way back?
There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones is in my top ten favorite books, and I don't see it moving any time soon. Finley is a phenomenal main character who's emotions are felt deeply as if you are inside her head. There are so many great lines in this book I wish I could list them all, from the poignant moments, like in the prologue, to the hilarious moments between some of the characters that had me laughing out loud. All the characters are three-dimensional, complex, and played critical roles in Finley's character growth. The setting is described in rich detail that made me feel like I was actually in the small village of Abbeyglen or in Galway or wherever Finley and Co. went. I wanted to buy a ticket to Ireland after I finished reading!
I actually passed by this book several times in the bookstore before buying it. I saw the cover and thought it looked interesting. The second time, I picked it up and read the synopsis and the prologue, thought it sounded good, but I didn't want to spend the money. Finally, after a few times of being drawn to the book like a magnet, I bought it, read it, and was changed. There You'll Find Me dove deeper than I thought it would and beautifully displayed the dark truth of earthly struggles but also the light that's the truth of God's never failing love.
Genre: Contemporary Christian/Coming of Age/Romance
Ages: 14 and up
Pages: 303
Publication Date: October 2011
Part of a Series: Spin-off of Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer

The Orphan King (Merlin's Immortals Series #1)
My prayer was to watch you grow into a man and become one of us, one of the Immortals. You will help us destroy the circle of evil.
The oath Thomas gave his mother on her deathbed to one day understand and destroy the evil that forced them into exile now directs his life. Smart and handsome, but young and a bit naive, Thomas escapes from the monastery where he's spent his entire life to accomplish this purpose.
On his journey, he encounters several people who play significant roles in his life: William, an ex-Knight Templar, who becomes a grudging mentor; John, a percocious boy with surprisingly helpful pick-pocket skills; and two mysterious young women, the mute Isabelle and the scarred Katherine. One has captured Thomas' attraction; the other, his heart. Finally, an old man who keeps appearing and disappearing seems to know more about Thomas' purpose than he does, but what exactly does he want? As Thomas draws closer to the first stage in his plan--capture the impregnable castle, Magnus--intrigue entwines around him, and he discovers not everything, nor everyone, is what it seems. And who exactly are the Immortals?
My recent fascination with Camelot, King Arthur, and Merlin caused me to buy this book. While The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer is set after the Age of Camelot, several references to Arthur and Merlin hint that the classic legend will influence this new story, which is legendary in its own right. While the first half of the book felt a little slow to me, the second half flew by. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough (or tap the pages since I got the ebook). It's the kind of book that slowly unwraps layer by layer different aspects of each character and elements of the story that hint at something big beneath the surface that's trembling to break through.
Apparently, some events in The Orphan King appear in Brouwer's books, Magnus and Wings of Dawn, which he released twenty years ago, but he wanted to approach the story with new perspectives. I haven't read the original books, but The Orphan King is great on its own. Swirling with mystery, it's a coming-of-age tale that thrusts you into a time and place that lingers, even after you set the book down.
Genre: Historical Fiction/Adventure/Coming of Age
Ages: 12 and up
Pages: 224 (Paperback), 171 (ebook)
Publication Date: July 2012
Part of a Series: Book 1 (Merlin's Immortals)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Update

Okay, so this summer has been way crazier than I thought it was going to be but in a totally good way! I haven't been able to post as many reviews of some fabulous books I've read over the past few months, but don't worry, those will be coming soon as well as a couple more great blog tours. So keep stopping by!

The reason this summer has been so crazy (especially the past month) is because some amazing writing opportunities have landed in my lap. It's been kind of a dry season figuring out some things related to my writing career, but as they say: when it rains, it pours! So here's what's going on:

--I'm self-publishing a children's book! The story was adapted into a ballet this summer and was a great success. The proof for my review is in the mail, and when it's officially published I'll post more information, including the story behind the story. It's been so much fun! Here's a picture of the two main characters, Casper and Vanessa, dancing in one of the scenes --->
Lovely, huh? :-)

--Second, I'm hopefully publishing an e-novella in the next few months! It's a fairytale that's been loads of fun to dive into, and it's just the kind of story that keeps me smiling as I write. ;-) Will share more info when it's closer to being released.

--And, drumroll please...I'm getting published! Officially! *does happy dance* :D Next year, a YA novel of mine will be released. It's a story that's close to my heart and will hopefully bless others. And, again, I will try to share as much information with everyone as soon as I can about this project. I'm just so excited about this opportunity!

So that's what's been going on recently and has consumed much of my time! Please keep stopping by for posts about these new works and, of course, reviews of some great stories!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Character Interviews and Book Review: Bourne and Tributary by Lisa T. Bergren

I'm very excited, because today we have Gabi and Lia, the heroines of the River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren, and their handsome and chivalrous knights, Marcello and Luca, answering a few questions. Enjoy!

We'll start with the guys.
Luca and Marcello, have Evangelia and Gabriella attempted to teach you English yet?
Luca: Nay. They speak passable Italian. *Lia hits him playfully*
Marcello: We have no need of the English tongue here in Toscana.

Now onto the girls.
Gabi and Lia, if you hadn’t landed in beautiful medieval Italy and fallen in love, what other time or place would you have liked to visit via the nifty time tunnel?
Lia: Seriously? I'm so homesick for modern times I don't think I could go anywhere, anytime.
Gabi: Victorian. More cool dresses. :-)

Oohh, yes, Victorian dresses are lovely! Personally though, medieval dresses are my fav. ;-)
Gabi and Marcello, family is obviously very important to you. How would you define “family”?
Gabi: I define family as those you love most and could never be without.
Marcello: Anyone for whom I would die to save, which includes several of my friends who are like brothers to me.

I completely agree. Perfect definition.
Luca and Lia, could you each describe your relationship in three words?

Luca: Passionate, playful, intoxicating
Lia: Irresistible, fun, intriguing
*smiles really big* No words...just... *continues smiling*

This last question is for all four of you. When each of you were young, what was your biggest dream, and how has it changed since then?
Gabi: You know I'm only just 19, right? I think I didn't start dreaming until I got here. Seriously. I just lived my life day to day, rather than really digging in DEEP, you know?
Lia: I dreamed of college, getting married, having kids, a career, maybe as a graphic artist or something. And yeah, you could say my dreams have changed a bit...
Marcello: *looks at Luca and smiles* You people of Normandy have far too much time on your hands. Who has time for dreaming of the future. The day is full enough....

Wow, yeah, gives one alot to think about. Thanks so much, you guys, for visiting today! Now I suppose you must return to your full and crazy lives we love hearing so much about. Yes, definitely do that, and maybe we'll get more wonderful stories from all of you! :-)
Now on to the review of Bourne and Tributary, the latest installments in the River of Time...
*Warning! May contain slight spoilers for those who haven't read the previous three books in the River of Time series!*
Bourne picks up right where Torrent left off. Our main characters are having to deal with the aftereffects of the recent battle. Gabi is drawn deeper into the lives of the Sienese people as she feels their deep pain for losing their loved ones. Marcello has been injured and everyone fears for the lord of the castello. Lord Greco is wracked with guilt for betraying Firenze and is conflicted (as usual!) to such an extent that he begins making rash choices that endanger his life and the lives of others. Luca takes on more responsibility while Marcello is injured, and we see a different--more warrior and leader--side of our usually funny sidekick. This only endeared him to me more. And, finally, we get to see events unfold from Lia's point of view, which I absolutely loved!
The quieter of the two sisters, Lia has a more sensible and even-keeled approach to different situations. However, in Bourne, she is thrust out of her comfort zone when, once again, danger is afoot. The secret brotherhood Marcello, Luca, and Greco have been apart of for years is not so secret anymore and each of the secret brothers have been targeted by assasins. When Lia and Luca go to warn those in danger, they find themselves in a mess of their own.
Bourne feels more like the ending of Torrent than a story on it's own, which I suppose that's why it's labeled as #3.1 rather than #4. But it's still filled with the adventure, romance, and intrigue we all love.
Tributary begins a year after the events of Bourne. There's a restless sort of peace between Siena and Firenze that's put in jeopardy when a young Firenze woman, Alessandra, is injured in a hunting accident involving Gabi and team. This novella is told from various point of views: Gabi and Lia in first person; Luca, Alessandra, and Greco (I know!) in third person. I honestly want to read Greco's point of view more often because it was so interesting!
Alot happens in Tributary that bring changes to our beloved characters physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Lia is still struggling with being stuck in medieval Italy. She hasn't even picked up her bow in a year. Greco finally has to come to terms with his inner struggles. Gabi and Marcello face a change they weren't prepared for. Luca is suspicious of the newcomer at the castello and desperately wants to protect Siena and the ones he loves. And, finally, Alessandra becomes the center of the new conflict between Siena and Firenze, and she discovers not everything is as black and white as she believes.
To me, Tributary had a slightly different feel than the rest of the series, but I'm not complaining at all. Though last in the series (just for now I hope!), it seems to start a whole new chapter in story where the characters are growing older and continuing to discover what it truly means to live life everyday, one day at a time.
Genre: Romance/YA
Ages: 15 and up
Pages: Bourne (116), Tributary (163)
Publication Date: Feb. and June 2012
Part of Series: #3.1 and #3.2 River of Time series
Both enovellas seemed too short, in my opinion, but now they are available together in paperback. Here are the links to the seperate ebooks and the combined paperback:
Bourne Kindle enovella (also available on Nook and Smashwords)
Tributary Kindle enovella (also available on Nook and Smashwords)
Bourne/Tributary paperback
Check out my review of the first three books Waterfall, Cascade, and Torrent here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren

Waterfall (River of Time Series #1)
 When 17-year-old Gabi Bertarrini and her 15-year-old sister, Lia, discover a mysterious time portal that transports them back in time to medieval Italy, they are thrust into an adventure that changes their lives forever. Lost in history, the two sister unwittingly become heroes and prime enemy targets in a war between Siena and Firenze. They also become the targets of affection to two handsome and chivalrous young men, Marcello Forelli and his cousin, Luca. Throughout the whole journey, Gabi is stretched physically, emotionally, and spiritually as she discovers what it truly means to live.

Buy Waterfall here.

There are some books you like, some books you love, and some books you live. The River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren is definitely in the "books you live" category. I picked up Waterfall and Cascade in a bookstore one day because I was drawn in by the beautiful covers. The back summaries and first chapter of the first book intrigued me, so I randomly decided to buy both books, which is NOT normal for me. I usually thoroughly research a book before I read it, and even then, I usually buy just the first book in a series then the rest later. But, boy, am I glad I bought both (and Torrent when it released)! For one, there's a cliffhanger at the end of each book, and two, the story is just beautifully epic and amazing.               
Cascade: River of Time Series, Book 2Buy Cascade here.

The characterization is great. I love how Gabi is a strong yet vulnerable heroine. She doesn't have all the answers, but she honestly thinks things through carefully and approaches situations in a smart and realistic manner (most of the time!). One of my favorite parts of the series was the relationship between Gabi and her family. They have their moments of disagreements, but they genuinely love each other and get along. Parents actually take part in adventures rather than being kept in the dark. I found the family dynamics refreshing. Bergren paints her characters, story, and setting of medieval Italy like a fine oil painting in 3D. It's lush and gritty and real--full of light and dark.

 Buy Torrent here.

Torrent (River of Time Series #3)
I'd like to end this review with one of my favorite quotes from Torrent which I believe describes the series perfectly:

"I think the trick to living fully," I said, thinking through each word, "is to appreciate what we have, day by day, regardless of what we know might come our way...If I live life in fear of what might be, how can I truly live my life to the full in the present? And if I do not give myself to the day, to hope, to life, what do I miss?" I raised my eyebrows and shook my head. "Life itself, I think. At least the way I wanna live it."

* Make sure to check back in a couple weeks for my review of the two novellas in the River of Time series (Bourne and Tributary) and a special character interview with the four main characters: Gabi, Lia, Marcello, and Luca! :-)

Genre: Romance/YA
Ages: 15 and up
Pages: Waterfall (369), Cascade (399), Torrent (388)
Publication Date: 2011


--Become a part of the River Tribe by liking the "River of Time Series" on Facebook. There are constant updates about the series and it's just fun to hang out with other River of Time fans. Also, several main characters from the series, including Gabi, Marcello, Lia, and Luca, have their own Facebook accounts, and when they update every so often it's usually veeerrry interesting and entertaining. ;-)

--Check out the book trailers for Waterfall and Cascade:


Monday, June 25, 2012

Novel Teen Blog Tour: "Swipe" by Evan Angler

Swipe, Evan Angler

In the ten years since it had been implemented, the Mark had quickly become the capstone of a childhood well spent, the crowning achievement in a young man's or woman's life, the opened door to adulthood and independence. Logan couldn't wait to see how it looked on Lily's wrist when she got back.
"Wish me luck," Lily said as she walked out the door...
That was the last anyone saw of Logan's big sister, Lily.

Five years later, Logan Paul Langly is only a few months away from his thirteenth birthday and getting the Mark himself--and he's terrified. He's not just afraid because his sister, Lily, was what the government referred to as a "flunkee," and the Mark didn't "agree" with her. No, Logan is afraid because he knows...he's being watched.

Erin Arbitor is not happy. She and her father had to move away from her mother and the happening, capitol city of Beacon to the podunk town of Spokie all because of her dad's "government work." Erin is willing do anything to move back home and see her family reunited and happy again, so she decides to investigate the project her dad is working on in the hopes that, if she can help, they can return home faster. With her new, sort-of friend, Logan, Erin uncovers more than she bargained for, and in the process, Logan and Erin realize their lives will never be the same again.

Swipe by Evan Angler unfolds like a movie, following several point of views, though Logan and Erin are the primary characters. The two main groups of focus, DOME, a government agency, and the Dust, a Markless rebel group, each have secrets and motives that make perfect sense to them and they each think they are perfectly right about what they believe in, though their way of handling certain situations may be a bit off. I thought these groups and the characters were handled pretty realistically, though the middle-schoolers sometimes seemed older than they were. However, I think it might be understandable, considering the world they live in, where they have to mature much more quickly. And I have to give Angler props for his world building. It was very clear and interesting to read about his futuristic world and society.

Dystopian fiction for middle-schoolers is a first for me, and I enjoyed it. All of the characters, especially Logan, grow because of their experiences in this book, and Angler has left plenty of room for more development as well. The ending took a sudden twist that I kind of saw coming but also made me realize that Swipe was only the very beginning of an even bigger story that I look forward to diving into.

* I would like to thank the publisher and author for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Genre: Dystopian/Middle School/Mystery
Ages: 12 and up
Pages: 273
Publication Date: 2011
Part of a Series: Book 1

Check out Swipe's awesome trailer:

Team Novel Teen is a group of bloggers dedicated to spreading the word about clean teen fiction. Check out other posts about Swipe by Evan Angler by clicking on the links below, and check out www.NovelTeen.com for more information about Team Novel Teen.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Novel Teen Blog Tour: "Failstate" by John Otte

Failstate book cover, by John W. Otte

My control shattered.
Fire rippled through me.
Darkness clouded my vision. And destruction flowed out of my body, coursing through every fiber of my being. An invisible, intangible aura that cut through the field. I gasped with equal parts horror and relief. I knew my power was wreaking havoc...destroying everything around me, but I couldn't stop. I'd have better luck stopping a fire hydrant with my hands.

Name: Robin Laughlin
Superhero Alias: Failstate
Age: Sixteen
Ability: Creates a potential failstate within covalent bonds at a molecular level (aka breaks down molecules).
Goals: To win America's Next Superhero so he can become a licensed superhero...and get the pretty new girl at school, Elizabeth Booth, to notice him.

Robin, aka Failstate's, goals undergo a drastic change when one of the contestants on America's Next Superhero is killed. The mystery surrounding the death is a catalyst that unleashes a chain of events and revelations that have Robin's head spinning, and life as he knew it will never be the same.

Oh. But this was a Fun. Read. Superheroes have made a comeback in the last few years, and with the success of the new Avengers movie, I'd say Failstate by John Otte has hit the bookshelves at just the right time. Failstate has an old comic book aura with new heroes introduced that feel as if they've been around as long as Batman and Superman.

The coming-of-age story of Robin/Failstate introduces a gritty yet relatable world where all of the characters made choices that were both good and bad and then had to deal with the consequences accordingly. They each had understandable motives. The good guys and bad guys weren't necessarily purely good or purely evil, just purely human, and they all had room for change. The plot wasn't overly predictable and often I had to change my opinion of what I thought was going to happen next. Also, it didn't just handle the standard "save-the-world-superhero" issues, but like any good story, it was layered, focusing also on family, friendship, crushes, morals, and faith.

I admit it. I didn't think I would like this book that much, but I was taken by surprise by how much I liked the story and how I look forward to seeing what's going to happen next. I even think it would be great to have some comics or graphic novels based on the "old" superheroes and villains in Failstate, like Meridian and Mind Master. I would definitely read those! Failstate is a great start to a series that both guys and girls will enjoy. Now, bring on the movie!

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Scifi/YA/Christian
Ages: 15 and up
Pages: 426
Publication Date: April 2012

Book Trailer:

Team Novel Teen is a group of bloggers dedicated to spreading the word about clean teen fiction. Check out other posts about Failstate by John Otte by clicking on the links below, and check out www.NovelTeen.com for more information about Team Novel Teen.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Novel Teen Blog Tour: "Interrupted" by Rachel Coker


I paused and tapped my pen to my mouth. What's a descriptive word for love? I racked my brain. Adoration...affection...fondness...devotion...
I smiled and began scribbling in my notebook again.

After thirteen-year-old Alcyone (Allie) Everly's mother passes away, she is forced to move from her home in Tennessee to the shores of Maine. Her adoptive mother, Miss Beatrice, is nice enough, but Allie is convinced that no one can replace her "real" mother. Bitterness and resentment begin to grow in Allie because of the tragedies that she's experienced. She puts a wall between her and anyone who wishes to get close, and she's convinced that true love doesn't exist.

Several years later, the past suddenly collides with the present when Sam Carroll, an old childhood friend, comes to town. Sam's arrival and the war overseas that's beginning to hit too close to home cause changes in Allie's life that force her to deal with the feelings she's held inside for so many years and to discover the truth about love and family.

Sweet...lovely...touching. Rachel Coker's debut novel is truly all of the above. Allie is a well-developed character with a poetic point of view that I loved. I could also relate with her trying to find the perfect word to describe an object or feeling ("dreamy...alluring...enthralling..."). The whole novel itself was sort of "dreamy." I felt like I was watching an old film from the forties. Only a few times was I jolted out of the past when some of the characters spoke a word or slang that sounded too modern.

I will say, that as much as I liked Allie, I wanted to shake her sometimes to snap her out of her mulish tendencies, though I did forgive her later. And Sam...I loved Sam! He was so endearing and sweet. And finally, can I just mention how gorgeous the cover is? When I received the book, I just stared at it for a little while. It's so pretty and fits the mood of the story perfectly. I have to also agree with the Publisher's Weekly quote on the front: "Coker is one to watch."

* I would like to thank the author and publisher for sending me a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: Christian/YA/Historical Fiction
Ages: 12 and up
Pages: 247
Publication Date: February 2012

--I always love to check out the first chapters of books to see the author's writing style, so here's the first chapter of Interrupted: Life Beyond Words: http://media.zondervan.com/media/samples/pdf/9780310729730_samptxt.pdf

--Rachel is also a vlogger! Check out some of her videos. I especially loved the one when she describes receiving her very first copy of Interrupted in the mail. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/user/JCoker1960

--Also, here's the link to the book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7MMGPI3q8A

Team Novel Teen is a group of bloggers dedicated to spreading the word about clean teen fiction. Check out other posts about Interrupted by Rachel Coker by clicking on the links below, and check out www.NovelTeen.com for more information about Team Novel Teen.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Movie Review: "October Baby"

Release Date in Theaters: 3.23.12

Tagline: "Every Life is Beautiful."

File:Theatrical release poster for film "October Baby".jpg

Official Summary:

"You saw me before I was born." Psalm 139:16 (NLT)

As the curtain rises, Hannah hesitantly steps onto the stage for her theatrical debut in college. Yet before she can utter her first lines, Hannah—unscripted—collapses in front of the stunned audience.
After countless medical tests, all signs point to one underlying factor: Hannah's difficult birth. This revelation is nothing compared to what she then learns from her parents: she was actually adopted … after a failed abortion attempt.
Bewildered, angered, and confused, Hannah turns for support to Jason, her oldest friend. Encouraged by his adventurous spirit, Hannah joins his group of friends on a Spring Break road trip, embarking on a journey to discover her hidden past … and find hope for her unknown future.
In the midst of her incredible journey, Hannah finds that life can be so much more than what you have planned.

I had the privilege of attending a pre-release screening of this movie. Forget negative reviews saying that it's overly preachy in the Christian sense or the anti-abortion sense. Any Christian themes are woven into the story in a subtle, relevant, and very real way that doesn't beat you over the head. The abortion issue deals with the fact that the main character, Hannah, is a survivor of a failed abortion and how she deals with this revelation. It's simply Hannah's story, not just an abortion story.

The production of this film had me in awe. Everything was so beautiful, and the actors they chose were brilliant. There were times I truly laughed hard and other times I teared up, held my breath, or smiled because it was just that good. The relationships were real, the romance sweet, and the outcome worth it. October Baby is a lovely and powerful story of one young woman's search for who she really is, and I highly recommend it.

*This movie is rated PG-13, but only because of the subject matter dealing with abortion.

Official Website: http://www.octoberbabymovie.net/

View the trailer and two scenes from the movie below (the beach scene with Hannah and her childhood friend, Jason, is one of my favorites :-) ).


Scene #1, "Wrong Turn":

Scene #2, "On the Beach":

Monday, March 19, 2012

Novel Teen Blog Tour: "Halflings" by Heather Burch


"Everyone is in the middle of this war, Nikki. Humans, Halflings, and angels--both fallen and heavenly. You've ignored the battle for seventeen years, but something on the inside of you knows my words are true. You're in a war and it's time to choose a side. If you don't, a side is chosen for you."

Nikki Youngblood has become a prime target in a supernatural war. She's strong and feisty, but those character traits won't save her from the mysterious evil that's bent on hunting her down for some unknown purpose. However, she's not in this fight alone. Nikki has three Halfling--half-human/half-angel--young men sent to protect her. There's innocent, adorable Vine; brooding, complex Raven; and good, protective Mace. As events begin to rapidly unfold, not only the lives, but the hearts and souls, of Nikki and the three Halfling brothers, also known as "The Lost Boys," are at stake.

I'm a huge sucker for anything Peter Pan, and Halflings by Heather Burch has a sort of darker Peter Pan feel with a "Wendy" character and the "Lost Boys" who live in their own type of "Never Neverland."  To be honest, I was a bit wary about the whole "half-angel/half-human" plot, but I believe the author handled it really well. It could almost be viewed in a allegorical sense with the whole sin nature vs. heavenly nature choice.

I was also a bit nervous about the love triangle. I'm not a huge fan of those, but I thought the Mace/Nikki/Raven love triangle was handled pretty well. It was frustrating and addicting at the same time. One moment I would be "Oh, it's sooo obvious she's going to be with him" then "Oh, well, no, maybe it's this guy..." I could totally relate to Nikki's love and confusion over both guys, because even I would really love Mace one moment then all of the sudden be highly irritated with him, or would want to punch Raven one minute and then hug him the next. I have no idea who Nikki is going to choose, which I believe shows some pretty dang good writing on the author's part.

One part of the writing did bother me though. Often when the story switched scenes, it was kind of choppy or abrupt. At one point, I had to pause and turn back a few pages to figure out how one character came to a certain conclusion. Halflings also raised many unanswered questions that left me a bit unsatisfied, like I was reading only half a novel, but the questions also made me even more eager to read the next books. Since this is Heather's first book, the first book in a series, and the story is just plain intriguing and fun, these things are easily forgiven, and the second book is already on my to-be-read list.

Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary Fantasy/Romance
Ages: 15 and up
Pages: 286
Publication Date: January 2012

*I would like to thank the publisher and author for sending me an Advanced Reading Copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

There are alot of fun goodies that go along with Halflings! Check out:

"In this illustrated prequel to the Halflings trilogy, written by Heather Burch, Mace and Raven are given a mission to stop a catastrophic event. With his halfling abilities still untapped, Vine is allowed to join the mission, but only as a spectator. The clock is ticking and the tragedy is proving difficult to stop. Will Vine be able to sit back and watch, or will the power of heaven unleash just in time?"

  • Become a member of The Halflings Network. This is a fun website where anyone can get connected with the world of Halflings.
Guardian: They Chose to Protect Her. But Forgot to Guard Their Hearts.

  • The second novel in the "Halflings" series is called Guardian and will be released in October 2012.                                                                        (Isn't the cover simply gorgeous?!)

  • Finally, check out the Halflings book trailer:

Team Novel Teen is a group of bloggers dedicated to spreading the word about clean teen fiction. Check out other posts about Halflings by Heather Burch by clicking on the links below, and check out www.NovelTeen.com for more information about Team Novel Teen.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book Review: "The Lady of Bolton Hill" by Elizabeth Camden

The Lady of Bolton Hill

Clara was not precisely sure what the future held for them, but of one thing she was certain: Daniel Tremain was the best friend she had ever had, and no distance or class or circumstance would ever tear them apart.

Wealthy, timid Clara Endicott and poor, confident Daniel Tremain have been best friends ever since they discovered a common love for music when they were just children. Just as their friendship is on the cusp of blooming into something more, Clara's father ships her off to England. Seperated by time, space, and misunderstanding, Clara and Daniel's paths merge again twelve years later. Daniel is now a bitter, wealthy businessman, and Clara is an independent, crusading journalist. The old spark and connection is still there, but is it enough to sustain the two changed individuals?

The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden is a fun, historical, romantic, and surprising ride. Several chapters in, a new character is introduced: Alexander "Bane" Banebridge, and the story takes a sudden twist that had me going, "Whoa! What?" I was a little skeptical how this storyline would work with the main one, but the way the author connects the two made me love the story even more and had my jaw hanging open a few times. I never knew what was going to happen next. And, can I just say, Bane is now one of my all-time favorite book characters. ;-)

Just as a warning for younger readers, there are mentions of opium use, which is not looked at favorably in the story, as well as some violence and other situations hinted or mentioned as happening to some characters off-screen and a couple times on-screen (though these aren't very graphic). These scenes serve a purpose, however, and I believe were necessary in understanding a certain character.

While reading The Lady of Bolton Hill I often wanted to wince, smile broadly, or face-palm myself at some of the things the characters did, but I think that's part of the reason why I enjoyed this book so much. The clever, realistic individuals are people I was rooting for until the very end.

Genre: Historical Fiction/Christian/Romance
Ages: 16 and up
Pages: 331
Publication Date: 2011

*I was ecstatic (literally, I did a mini happy dance in my room) to discover that Alexander "Bane" Banebridge's story is going to be continued in October 2012. This spin-off of The Lady of Bolton Hill is titled Against the Tide.