Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Book Review: Bloodrose

The Ultimate Sacrifice.

Calla has always welcomed war. But now that the final battle is upon her, there’s more at stake than fighting. There’s saving Ren, even if it incurs Shay’s wrath. There’s keeping Ansel safe, even if he’s been branded a traitor. There’s proving herself as the pack’s alpha, facing unnamable horrors, and ridding the world of the Keepers’ magic once and for all. And then there’s deciding what to do when the war ends. If Calla makes it out alive, that is.

In the final installment of the Nightshade trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Andrea Cremer creates a novel with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat until its final pages. A dynamic end to this breathtaking trilogy.

I just finished Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer today. I recently read and reviewed Nightshade and Wolfsbane in preparation. I didn't care much for Nightshade, but Wolfsbane was more enjoyable. So I was hoping Bloodrosewould step it up. It turned out to be my least favorite of the series.

Three books in, and I still couldn't get a handle on the characters. Many times there were odd responses. Things that brought me to a pause, and then I had to go back and see who was doing this. At times, I thought some of the characters had temporarily switched bodies. This happened a lot with the searchers. I couldn’t connect with any of them. Another thing that was off-putting was some of the transitions. The characters would be in a dire situation, or crying over the loss of a team member, and the next page everyone is joking and laughing. If you’ve read the first two books, you know what this one’s about: the war of Searchers versus Keepers with Guardians on both sides. They’re in the middle of battle, they get a break, and instead of regrouping and moving on while the people behind them are fighting and dying, they’re standing around laughing and joking. I was put off by this, and it felt very unnatural.

I really like Sabine and Bryn. I wish they had had more time to shine. I loved all the scenes were Calla got to talk to her father. It has been said for all three books that Calla is a strong alpha female but I feel like here is the first time it shows. I liked the last chapter and the epilogue. It ended on a good note for me.

Warning: spoilers ahead (For some reason, I’ve had trouble reviewing these books while keeping them spoiler-free. Sorry.)

The two characters that annoyed me the most were Ren and Shay. Ren has annoyed me from the beginning. He’s womanizing, domineering, and just plain cruel at times. I liked Shay much more in the beginning, but since his transformation and run for alpha male, he’s become more like Ren. Both claim to love Calla, but neither respect her. She says she’ll choose which guy she loves most after the war. They say they respect her opinion, but they’re both constantly fighting with each other and pushing boundaries with her.

I’ve read several ranty reviews on Goodreads, where people are saying “Really, Cremer? You took the easy way out.” To be honest, I agree that the choosing of Shay over Ren was an easy way out. But if Ren hadn’t died, do you think he’d have let Calla choose Shay? No. He’d have kept fighting. And if Calla had chosen Ren, Shay wouldn’t have backed down. I think Calla loved Shay more since she chose him. And I have to admit that I was happy when Ren died. Because, let’s face it, he’d have never let Calla and Shay be happy. In making both guys vie for alpha-hood, they were too similar in their wanting to possess Calla.

This next bit may also sound a bit ranty. These are some of the specific issues that bothered me and brought down the enjoyment level of the book. CPR on a wolf. Really? I'm CPR trained, and have been re-certified every two years for 13 years. The only way CPR will work is if you cover someone's entire mouth with yours, creating a seal. Otherwise, the air won't go in. So, yeah... On more than one occasion, a male character praised a female character for doing something by saying "Good girl." This drove me nuts. This is something you tell a 2-year-old who is doing a good job with the potty training. Not something you tell your alpha because you like her opinion. It's condescending in my book.

There is a line in which the narrator, Calla, says "I barked and wagged my tail." She gets offended by dog jokes, and then makes her own. Also... there must have been at least two dozen mentions of tail wagging. I've never seen this much tail wagging in a werewolf book. "I'm fierce; watch me wag my tail." I don't think so.

I feel really bad giving these books poor reviews. I’ve met Andrea Cremer, and she’s a very lovely individual. I really wanted to like these books, and I’m sad to say I didn’t. She has a prequel series coming out. The short in the end of the book (I’m not sure if it was only in the B&N edition or others) is a really good hook, and it does make me want to try them. I guess we’ll see when it comes out.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

Thirteen Reasons Whyby Jay Asher has sat on my shelf almost since about the time it came out in hardback. I had heard such amazing things, so I couldn't resist. But I only now got around to reading it. I was inspired to read it since the author was going to be coming to my state for a signing. I hate going to signings when I haven't read anything by the author. I like being able to say "I loved your book!" So I read it earlier this week, and oh my goddess... It was amazing!

It starts with Clay Jensen receiving a box of tapes from Hannah Baker, a girl who had recently committed suicide. "I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you're listening to these tapes, you're one of the reasons why." The first tape isn't so bad, but they continue to get worse as Hannah has to deal with more and more crap from fellow students. This book touches on bullying, rumors, sexual harassment, partying, drinking, rape, and more.

This story is told through two points of view. Hannah through the tape recordings and Clay as he's listening to them. I liked Clay instantly. He seemed so sweet and caring; it was hard to believe he was going to be on the tapes. Hannah, on the other hand, while I felt like I should like her, I had some trouble in the beginning. Her voice originally came off as too cocky and self-assured to be someone who just swallowed a bottle of pills. And then after a while, I started to recognize her tone as a way I've spoken before. It's anger and hurt and so many other things rolled together, that it comes off as snarky and sarcastic. That voice comes out when I'm talking about something very painful, something someone did to me that hurt but this person acts like it's nothing.

I'm going to put a warning here. Not a spoiler warning, but a "this is going to be personal" warning. While much of my experiences and Hannah's were different in the details, there is much that was the same. People talked about me in high school. I wasn't popular. I wasn't in the in-crowd. But rumors flew around so much you'd have thought I was. I found out people I didn't even know were saying negative things about me. Between that and the bullying, I mostly just tried to disappear. But I know how Hannah felt. Hating herself. Hating life. Wanting it all to end. I had to read this book a chapter at a time. I had to distance myself from her because I knew the kind of pain she was dealing with.

And because of that, this book sits firmly on my list of "Books Everyone Should Read." One of my favorite quotes from the book is as follows: "You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything." A lot of the stuff Hannah had to deal with was small. So small it would be insignificant by itself. But things build. And this book really shows how hurting someone, no matter how small, can impact a person in incredible ways.

Thirteen Reasons Why is depressing. It's about suicide, so how can it not be? It's amazingly well-written. And it's full of so many powerful lines, that I'd love to quote about twenty more. I look forward to reading more by Jay Asher.

I always take my dust jackets off when I read hardbacks. I get that the point of a dust jacket is to protect the book. But I take it off so I don't wrinkle or tear the dust jacket while I'm reading. And, every once in a while, I find a surprise under it. Sometimes it's an image or quote on the actual book or the dust jacket has an image on the underside. In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah sends out a set of tapes. Thirteen stories on seven tapes. And a map along with it. The map is starred and marked up... just like the underside of the dust jacket. I enjoy finding these little gems. It gives a little added something to the reader, in my opinion. You can see the map in the image above.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: Wolfsbane

You're an alpha, a leader. That's what we need. It's what we've always needed. When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she's certain her days are numbered. Then the Searchers make her an offer, one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save her pack - and the boy - she left behind.Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? Will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials love can endure.

Despite the fact that I didn't love Nightshade, I picked up Andrea Cremer's sequel Wolfsbane I liked it a lot more than the first book. A lot of the things that annoyed me in Nightshade weren't an issue here. Calla and Shay left their old lives behind and joined in with their old enemy's team - the Searchers - at the end of book one. And book two picked up right where they left off.

Warning: Slight spoilers ahead.

We were introduced to many new characters: Ethan, Ariadne, Connor, Monroe, and other Searchers. It took me a while to warm up to them. Their dialogue and constant joking were a bit much; I had some trouble with their dialogue, especially in the beginning. It caused a bit of trouble for me connecting with them. A few of the pack from Nightshade make an appearance, but Ren wasn't in the book much. That's not so good for Team Ren, but yay for Team Shay! I liked that Calla and Shay were given a chance to get to know each other without Ren around.

Which brings me to the main point of why I liked Wolfsbane over Nightshade. Calla wasn't quite as torn between two guys. She wasn't kissing one in one chapter, and the other boy in the next. It's not that she forgot about Ren or the feelings she has for him. In short, there was less of a love triangle here. Which made me really happy. The Searchers, as a species, were very interesting. The weaving sounded fascinating. And I loved the mysticism. I think if I could be a character in this series, I’d choose Searcher.

I’ve already begun Bloodrose, and I’m excited to see how this story ends. I included the arc cover of Wolfsbane in this post. It still makes me sad that the publishers chose to change the covers from the originals by outstanding artist, Suza Scalora.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Wonderstruck

From Brian Selznick, the creator of the Caldecott Medal winner THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, comes another breathtaking tour de force.

Playing with the form he created in his trailblazing debut novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick once again sails into uncharted territory and takes readers on an awe-inspiring journey.

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother's room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing.

Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories--Ben's told in words, Rose's in pictures--weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder. Rich, complex, affecting, and beautiful--with over 460 pages of original artwork--Wonderstruck is a stunning achievement from a uniquely gifted artist and visionary.

I picked up Wonderstruckby Brian Selznick because I loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret so much. And I loved Wonderstruck even more. The story is imaginative and the illustrations are gorgeous. Above is an image from early in the book where Rose escapes her home. 

Rose is a little girl living in New Jersey in the 20's. She has only her father, as her mother left years prior. Rose is confined to her home. She's deaf, and her parents are afraid that she could get hurt out on her own. But she is strong-willed. She makes her way to the Natural History Museum in NY.

Ben is a little boy living fifty years later, in the late 70's. He recently lost his mother and never knew his father. He's deaf in one ear until an accident leaves him completely unable to hear. When he finds a clue to where his father may be, he makes his way to NY and finds himself in the Natural History Museum. Below is an image from the book of one of the exhibits.

The children have much in common and should they have lived at the same time, they'd probably be best friends. Brian Selznick switches between Ben's story and Rose's until their stories overlap. It's a beautiful story which left me teary-eyed. I can't wait to see what else this amazing author/illustrator will come up with. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book Review: Nightshade

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything- including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

I have a confession to make. I received arcs of both Nightshade and Wolfsbane, and I didn't start the series until after Bloodrose released. Andrea Cremer's books interested me after hearing friends say how much they loved them and telling me that I'd love them, too. But I also heard there were cliffhangers, so I put them off to read them all together.

I have to admit that I wasn't a huge fan of Nightshade.I really wanted to like it. Werewolves, witches, and other paranormal creatures. That kind of thing is right up my alley. I think Andrea Cremer wrote the story well, and that it was an interesting story. I really like the set-up and the mystery, but there was just too much that bothered me to really love it.

Those of you who know me and/or read my blog regularly know that I HATE spoilers. With a passion. So I do my best to keep spoilers out of my reviews, but this one is going to include them, so... beware from this point on.

Things that bothered me about Nightshade:

1. Ren. I don't get the appeal. He's a man-whore, making out, and maybe even sleeping, with a number of girls while he's promised to Calla. And to make Shay jealous, Ren makes Calla sit on his lap at lunch. He was a d-bag.

2. Male dominant society. Ren practically jumps on Calla, kissing her and unbuttoning her shirt, while she pushes him away, and she gets scolded. The Bane alpha male is allowed to be inappropriate to the Nightshade alpha female, and she is to submit to what he wants.  -____- To be fair, I think we, the readers, are supposed to dislike this behavior, but it ruined the enjoyment of the book for me.

3. Magical Changes. I'm not a fan of werewolves that can transform in a second or less with no pain. In this series, not only does it take a second to transform, but when they change back to human, their clothes are in tact, and whatever they had on their person is still with them.

4. Kissing scenes. I don't mind kissing, sex, or romance in books. In fact, I tend to like a little romance in my books. That being said, heavy make-out scenes in every other chapter, switching between two different guys, was a bit much. And the heaving making out in times of peril... wtf?

I own all three books in hardback, and I do plan to read them all. In fact, I've already started Wolfsbane, but I really hope they get better.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: City of Fallen Angels

The Mortal War is over, and Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most important of all—Clary can finally call Jace her boyfriend.

But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her. His mother just found out he’s a vampire and now he’s homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse wrecking his life. And they’re willing to do anything to get what they want. At the same time he’s dating two beautiful, dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other.

When Jace begins to pull away from Clary without explaining why, she is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: She herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

I bought City of Fallen Angelsby Cassandra Clare when it came out. I liked the first three and loved her spin-off series, so I was excited to read this one. But... I hadn't heard the best things. So, sad, I put it off. I finally picked it up in December, and... I loved it.

I had heard a lot of negative reviews and comments about how Cassie Clare only wrote this as a quick money-maker and other negative assumptions. My biggest issue with the first three Mortal Instruments was that Clary was whiny, Jace was cocky, and they were predictable. But here I liked Clary and Jace, and the plot kept me guessing.

There was more Simon than in the previous books, which made me happy. I loved his scenes with Izzie. We had a few new characters and someone from the Infernal Devices shows up. Honestly, though, the thing that excited me the most about this new trilogy (and I call it a new trilogy since it's a new arc in this series) is the potential for Tessa to come into this world. It may not happen, but I've got my fingers crossed.

I'm super excited for City of Lost Souls to hit shelves this year. And have you seen the new cover? It's my favorite of the series!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Guest Post: The Diary of Willow Krimble (Giuseppe Bianco)

The Diary Of Willow Krimble
First Entry

Dear Diary,

Wow, this feels so weird. I’ve never written that before, which is really odd, since Grandma Trisha gave me this Diary two years ago. She knows how much I love to write. I’ve written a few short stories and a ton of poems, but I’ve never written in a diary before. With the strange events that have been happening to me lately, I just feel like I need to express certain things that I can’t share with anyone else, including my best friend, Razzel.

​So, where to begin, Diary? Since I’m new at this, I’d feel a lot better if I gave you little bit of background info on myself – even though you are just a leather-bound notebook – no offense.

My name is Willow Krimble. I’m 13-years-old, I have freckles, bushy, almond-colored hair, and I have to wear a retainer for the next six months, even though I finally got my braces off. Sounds like your typical tween, right? Oh, I promise you, it gets more interesting, Diary. I wouldn’t exactly call my life “typical”. You see, for one thing, I was born without the bottom half of my left leg, so I’ve had to wear a prosthetic limb pretty much my whole life. It’s all I’ve ever known, so I don’t mind it. I often notice my classmates curiously staring at it, which isn’t my favorite pastime, but you get used to it. You never do get used to the insults, though. Shayla Stergus and Snella Burinbine, at school, think it’s pretty funny to call me things like “Prosthetic Princess”, or “One-Leg Wonder”. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bug me. I don’t have to tell you how powerful words can be. They can raise you to amazing heights, where you’re heart begs to remain, or they can drag you to a dark place, where it seems as if the tiniest flicker of hope will never shine again. Sorry to get so deep, there, Diary. It’s the poet in me, I guess.

But thank goodness for my best friend, Razzel Fiora; she’s had my back since we were three years old. She really looks out for me. It’s not the worst thing in the world to have a best friend who’s skilled in the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, complimented by a sarcastic attitude. Comes in handy when someone refers to you as “Robo-Crutch”. Don’t laugh, Diary – not funny.

But enough about my middle school angst. Now that I’ve filled you in on the basics, I think I’m finally ready to share something else with you; something … peculiar … something … curious. You see, the retainer, untamable hair, and steel leg are just the back-story to Willow Krimble. Did I just refer to myself in the third-person? Sorry about that. Anyway, the real thing you should know about me is, lately … well … strange, unexplainable things have been happening around me, and I’m not sure I should tell anyone. But If I don’t share it with someone, I’ll just burst. That’s where you come in, Diary.

​I always tell Raz everything, but suddenly being struck with the power to heal others isn’t information I need to be sharing with anyone just yet. You read that right; I can heal people. Well, at least I think I can. I’ve had three separate instances this week where two people, and one pet-shop guinea pig, were suddenly healed after I came in contact with them. Crazy, right? I mean, why me? What makes me so special? And why now?

Truth is, there was a time when I … well … okay, no one knows this, Diary; not my mom, my older brother, Wyatt, not even Raz, but when my dad was sick, just before he passed away, I wanted so badly to be able to take his illness away – to just pull it out of him and dispel it. I remember on my seventh birthday, when I blew out those candles, I wished with my entire soul, for him to get better. I remember gazing at his frail, withered appearance, after my vicious puffing extinguished the final thin, pink-swirled candle. I remember thinking I’d performed some wondrous magic. When you’re seven, you believe in that stuff – you believe in everything. Call it what you want: Magic, miracles, super powers, whatever… When you’re a kid, you can feel these moments when you think something amazing has just happened. Something that makes your heart feel like it just expanded wider than it ever has; that moment where nothing ugly in this world matters because all you can see is the beauty, surrounding it. That’s what you feel when you’re a young kid and something incredibly unexpected happens, like coming home to a freshly baked batch of chocolate chunk cookies for no particular reason … or getting a snow day off from school … or having your birthday wish come true…. But you should know, Diary, that my wish never did come true that year. That feeling I had when I blew out those candles, was totally premature. Or should I say, “immature”; just a little kid with a big wish. A wish that deep down, beyond that heart-swelling feeling, I knew would never really come true. Sorry to be such a downer, Diary, but if what I can do is truly real, then why did it happen now? Why not six years ago? Life is really strange that way, isn’t it? Things never turn out the way we map them out in our own minds, but I suppose there is a reason for everything that’s happening to me. Grandma Trisha always tells me: “Let life travel where it wants to go; just savor the journey.” I think I get my passion for writing from her, but don’t tell mom I said that.

You should know, Diary, that I just paused for a ginormous yawn, so, clearly, I’m not going to figure this all out tonight. I’d better get to bed; I promised Raz I'd meet her at the library tomorrow to work on our homeostasis paper for Science Class. Well, Diary, thanks for listening. I feel a lot better now that I was able to share all of this with you. Maybe I’m crazy; maybe all of these things have just been a strange coincidence. Maybe I am just a typical kid, with an overactive imagination. I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and, Diary … thanks for keeping my secret.

The winner of a signed copy of A Girl Named Willow Krimble is...

Shannon J!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review: Static (+ extras)

Be careful what you listen to...

During the summer before her senior year, 17 year old band groupie, Salem Vale, has been following her favorite punk rockers, Malice, from gig to gig hoping that one night she might get backstage and meet the sinisterly sexy guys. She’s been saving her virginity for the lead singer Thane. One fateful evening she gets her wish. It’s a dream come true.

Except the dream turns to a nightmare when she wakes up in a dumpster, tossed away like yesterday’s trash, with no memory of what happened the night before. She feels strange, different, as if something is trying to get out. Soon she realizes she’s changing…turning into something not quite human.

Now a hunger deep inside claws at her to feed, to siphon energy from those around her. Before she can do just that, Trevor, the band’s roadie shows up and stops her from killing. With his help she learns to control the hunger inside, because he’s just like her. And in return he wants her help to do one little thing…

Help him kill the members of Malice.

I recently read Staticby Tawny Stokes. Starting with the cover... seriously... I love it. I think it's definitely one that'll catch eyes on a shelf. I would, however, recommend this for the older crowd. It's definitely not for tweens.

I really enjoyed Salem, the book's main character. She was funny and sassy and wasn't perfect. She's dealing with a lot and messing up along the way. Too often characters are "perfect" and that bugs me. Salem was very refreshing. Also, Salem Vale... I kinda want her name.

The supporting characters weren't always likable, but they really fit into the story well. Their interactions and dialogue are realistic. Static fits in the YA Urban Fantasy category, but stands out as being unique. The story is unlike any I've come across.

I admit that I don't read a lot of self published books, but this one was one of my favorites. My biggest issue were some of the continuity errors. One page says 7:30; on the next it's at 6:00. And there were a few times where I stopped with a "Whut? That word doesn't sound right." Little things that could have benefitted an editor or more betas. But all-in-all it was a fast, fun read. I'll definitely be reading more from Tawny Stokes.

Below the wonderful cover you'll find an interview with our heroine and an excerpt of chapter one. And be sure to visit Tawny Stokes' site for more info on her and get books.

Character Interview

A big thank you for having me today.  I have the pleasure of bringing Salem Vale from my book Static with me today…well it took some persuading to get her here….

You said you were taking me to that Doc Marten store.

I know I did, and I will, after this interview….


So, here we go….fast five with Salem Vale.

Five favourite bands:

Sick Puppies, Korn, Sum 41, Papa Roach, and Red, I actually like a lot of bands but those are the first ones to come to my head.  Oh and I used to love Malice until they messed me up.

Five favourite foods:

Um, pizza, tacos, hot pockets, hamburgers, and like gummy bears.

Five favourite movies:

Jennifer’s Body, Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Paranormal Activity, and Superbad.  I love me some Michael Cera.

Five favourite books:

Do graphic novels count as books?  I did read that Hunger Games book. It was pretty cool.  Oh, and basically anything Neil Gaiman writes.  He’s a rock star.

Five favourite actors:

Hmm, there’s that dude from True Blood…the Viking.  He’s hot.  Um, Johnny Depp for sure.  He’s uber cool. Emile Hirsch for sure, oh and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And Michael Cera of course.

Can we go to that store now?  I really want a new pair of books. These ones have holes in them.

Sure, Salem, thanks for coming out today and sharing  a little about yourself.

Yeah, no sweat.  I’ll catch you all later.

Chapter 1

You belong to me…

I own you…

The hypnotic timbre of Thane’s voice surged through my body making me tingle all over. Like a rush of heroin injected into my vein, soothing me, exciting me, I was completely and utterly hooked.
The bustling crowd in front of the stage swayed back and forth and I swayed with them. I was caught in the movement—the flow of people stirred like a whirlpool to the intoxicating rhythm and razor sharp lyrics of Malice.

Your life’s in my hands…

I’m sucking your soul…

My favorite band for the past year, I’d traveled, with my best friend Chloe, across Idaho and Washington in the past two months to see them play. My mom had been really cool about it, even lending me her car—an old POS, but a vehicle nonetheless—to drive to the shows just as long as I didn’t drive home trashed. I’d attempted it one night, but got scared when I couldn’t keep it on the road, and pulled over at a rest stop. Chloe and I slept in the car.

Thankfully no crazed psycho killer raped and mutilated us. The worst that came at us was a stray dog looking for some scraps. Chloe gave it the rest of her cheeseburger that we’d picked up a MacDonald’s drive thru after the show.

For eight gigs, I’d been entranced by the four member—three guys and one girl—band. My body responded to every aspect of their music. My head pounded to the constant heady thump of the drums, my heart thrashed to every guitar riff, and my thighs clenched with every word lead singer Thane uttered into the microphone.

Some songs he looked like he was making love to the equipment, running his fingers up and down the silver pole, uttering a lover’s words in its ear. I ached and throbbed wishing I could be that thin pole of shiny metal. If only he’d hold me like that, gripping me tightly, running his sweet lips over my face and neck. My eyes nearly rolled back in my head in ecstasy imagining what that would feel like.

That was when Chloe punched me in the arm starling me from my fantasy. “Salem?”

“What?” I grunted, peering at her between strands of black and blond hair hanging in my eyes.

“Do you want some of this?”

I glanced down to see her passing me some vodka. I took the offered bottle and tipped it to my lips swallowing down a good portion. It burned going down, but it was a good burn, telling me I was still sober. Which I needed to be if I was going to complete my mission of getting a back stage pass to meet the band. This was their final gig for the summer in my home city—Boise, Idaho—and I wouldn’t get another chance to offer up my virginity to Thane. I’d been holding onto it just for him.

My mom had always told me that virginity was a gift and the guy better be someone special enough to give it to. I figured Thane was extremely special. I mean, my mom had given hers up to some Rock God in the 80’s, I suspected it was either Keith Richards or Iggy Pop because she had signed pictures of them both thanking her for a stellar night and when she mentioned either one of them she got this little smile on her lips and a devilish sparkle in her eye.

Before I could hand the bottle back to Chloe, the couple next to us bumped into my arm and I nearly dropped it. I turned around to glare at them, but they were so busy making out that they didn’t notice. That was one thing I did notice about Malice gigs, there always seemed to be a lot of couples kissing and groping each other either on the stage floor or in darkened corners peppered around the venue.

In Spokane, when I went to the bathroom at the club the band was playing in, I happened upon two girls making out in one of the stalls. Although I was an equal opportunity snogger, that had thrown me for a loop. I certainly knew some people were gay, I didn’t have an issue with that—I had an uncle who was gay and a friend at school—it was just I’d never seen it so graphically displayed before.

Once I’d finally given the bottle back to Chloe, she wiped the top with the hem of her t-shirt—I guess she didn’t appreciate my spit—and took a pull, then tucked it back into the pocket of her army green jacket that swam on her lanky but scrawny frame.

“Did you figure out how we’re going to score backstage passes yet?”

Shaking my head, I set my attention on the security guards off to one side of the stage, handing passes on strings to a few big-breasted Goth wannabes. At every show I watched similar guards giving passes to similar types of girls. The two times I’d asked for one, they’d looked me up and down, likely taking in my black 10 holed Doc Martens, jeans-a few worn spots at the knees and on the ass—shaggy mop of black and white hair, and Betty Boop t-shirt that didn’t stretch out to a DD cup, or to a C for that matter and disregarded me in the time it took to do the bra calculations.

This time I came armed. I’d shoved my mom’s silicone gel boobs into my bra under my vintage Sex Pistols t-shirt. That made me go from an A cup to a perky B. I was also wearing my extra special pair of worn jeans that made my ass look good. I’d considered also wearing my mom’s butt enhancer panties—she had real body image issues—but decided against it. I didn’t want to look like a complete whore.

“I’m going to ask real nice.” A trickle of sweat ran down the back of my neck. I wiped at it. I really didn’t want to have sweat stains on the back of my t-shirt. The heat in the club was nearly oppressive. Too many bodies packed into too small a room.

Chloe eyed me dubiously, black eyeliner starting to run down her gaunt cheeks. “You did that the last time. And the security dude was a real dickhead about it.”

“That was before I had these.” I stuck out my chest and cupped my boobs.

Chloe shook her head, her short cap of fire-engine red hair swinging. “Do you really think that’s going to work?”

“Duh? That’s all guys understand. Boobs. It’s as if they are actually communicating with them, the way they stare.”

“Well, then, good luck with hypnotizing these security assholes with your perfect B boobs.” Chloe laughed. “You should go soon cuz it sounds like they’re getting ready to wrap up the set.”
She was right. Devon, the girl band member, stepped forward to roll into her bass solo, her pink Tokyopop pigtails bouncing to the rhythm. It was the beginning of their song, Sin City, which they always played second to last. Straightening my shoulders, I made my way, by pushing and shoving, through the pulsating crowd toward the right side of the stage.

When I reached my destination, there were three bimbos standing in front of me giggling and jiggling at the two beefy security guys. It just about made me want to barf. I actually had to put my hand to my mouth just in case I did.

“Excuse me,” I yelled over top one of the girl’s bleached blond head. “Can I get a couple of passes?”

The blond whipped around to glare at me. She had one of those hoops in her nose that made her look like a bull. I wondered if I waved a red flap if she’d charge at me. She looked scary enough to do just that.

One of the security guys looked me up and down. “Sorry. I just ran out.”

I noticed the passes dangling from the all three of the girls’ hands. “They got some.”

“Those were my last three.” He shrugged and went back to ogling one of the three girls who was wearing a black fishnet top and nothing underneath. I think her nipples were even pierced. I managed to spy a glint of sliver when she turned to glare at me too.

Blondie continued to glare at me. “Why don’t you run along little girl? Go play with your Goth Barbie.”

I hated when people assumed I was so young. I was seventeen but short—five feet one—and I got mistaken for fourteen all. The. Time. It didn’t help that I was small too—a whopping size one—with petite delicate features courtesy of my mom who looked like a punk pixie most days with her short spiky black hair and colorful tattoos covering a lot of her tight compact body.

So it didn’t surprise me when my hands began to shake from the anger welling up. I despised confrontation but right now I hated not having a back stage pass even more. I glanced up at the stage and watched as Thane moved around with his long sinuous limbs and silky black hair falling in his perfect pale face making my stomach clench. I had to get backstage no matter what.

“I wasn’t talking to you.” I finally said.

She arched her pierced eyebrow and set one hand on her ample hip. “Excuse me? Who do you think you’re talking to?”

I took in her appearance, noticing she wore cheap purple hair extensions, I could plainly see one of the clips in her hairline at her temple, and her face was adorned with several piercings. She looked like she’d been put together with pins.

I smirked. “Skankenstein?”

The two security guys laughed at that, as did one of her friends but not the one with her nipples poking out.

“You bitch!” she shrieked.

I didn’t expect her to hit me. But she did. Hard. An open hand slap right across my left cheek. It stung like hell. I’d never been slapped before and didn’t realize how badly it could hurt. I think my lip was cut as well because I could taste blood in my mouth. I glanced down at her hand and noticed the solid silver rings on her hand. The bitch had turned them in.

“Hey,” one of the security guards shouted, “If you’re going to fight take it outside.”

A little crowd started to form around us. The scent of blood always got teenagers’ attentions. We were like animals in that regard. I don’t know how many times I’d been in one of those crowds watching as two or three or more people beat the crap out of each other for pathetic and irrelevant reasons.

I could read the lips of the guys standing closest to us as they passed the word on about the bitch fight about to happen. What was it with guys wanting to watch two girls fight? I really hated to be in the middle of one, all eyes watching, ready for the scratching and hair pulling that usually entailed in a girl fight and hoping for blood.

Usually a loner, I didn’t like a lot of attention. Preferring to stick to my three or four good friends, I didn’t much like being in a crowd, except at a gig. But then when I came to a Malice concert, it was always just between me and the band. The crowds never bothered me. I just came to hear the music and watch the sexy guys on the stage—I came for the rock fantasy.

So standing in front of a fuming blond bimbo out for blood in a fighting circle surrounded by twenty or thirty people wasn’t making me feel all that good. Again, I felt like I was going to barf. I didn’t want to fight. I wasn’t big on violence; I didn’t even play fighting games on my DS. But I was not the type of person to back down either. My mom had always taught me to stick up for myself. Although I’m sure she didn’t mean that I should punch the shit out of this girl. Even if I wanted to.

Rubbing my cheek, I tried to appeal to the girl’s reasonable side, assuming she possessed one. “I think for that you should give me your backstage pass. We’ll call it even.”

She laughed. “Not likely.” Then she shoved me hard. I stumbled backwards into the murmuring crowd. Two sets of hands pushed me back into the circle. Hey, thanks guys!

It was obvious I wasn’t going to walk away from this easily. Or at all by the murdering look in the blond’s eyes. But no one ever said being a groupie was easy.

Not sure what to do, I glanced up and locked gazes with Thane. He was standing near the side of the stage looking down at me; the microphone stand gripped tightly, his dark eyes piercing me. Heat blossomed inside of me. I’d never been looked at like that by a guy before. As if he wanted to devour me from the toes up. I put a hand to my stomach where butterflies started to flip flop around like beached fish.

A rush of something I couldn’t name shot through my body. Adrenaline or lust, I didn’t know which, but whatever it was made me feel really good. Powerful even. Sexy. Like one of the female members of the X-Men. Storm maybe, or Rogue, maybe even Dark Phoenix before she went insane and killed everyone.

Whatever it was, I liked it.

Putting my attention back on my blond nemesis, I decided I needed to act if I was going to get out of the situation. Faster than I knew I could move, I reached up and snatched the bull ring from her nose.

She screamed and grabbed her nose with both hands. Blood seeped between her fingers to drip on the floor.

The sound of her skin and cartilage ripping made me shiver. Even above the music I had heard it ring in my ears. I felt bad for liking the sound, but she had it coming.

Her two friends gathered her in the safety of their arms but they both stared at me with a mixture of venom and apprehension. I suspected no one saw that coming. I certainly hadn’t.

In a daze, I looked around me, and noticed that she’d dropped her backstage pass onto the floor. Leaning down I snatched it up and smiled. I finally got my backstage pass.

As I hung it around my neck, my gaze met Thane’s once again. He was singing the last lines of their last song but he was watching me. And he smiled.

I smiled in return.

Guest Post: The Teen Inside Me (Tawny Stokes)

I’m pretty sure I never really grew up.  Not really.  Sure I got married and had a kid, and got divorced and pay taxes and pay bills.  I do all the adult things I’m supposed to. But deep down inside I still feel 16.  Which is probably why writing YA feels so normal to me.

I’ve written a lot of books for adults but it wasn’t until I started writing YA that it felt truly right.  Static was the first YA I’d written.  And it was an easy book to write.  And a joy to write.  Some of it was like jotting down old memories. Vivid memories that I could still see, and hear and feel.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Salem’s experiences were mine. Although I had attended many gigs when I was a teen, and I did travel around following different bands, I have in no way had any contact with an incubus and have ever been turning into anything unnatural.  *looks in mirrors checks eyes*.  Nope, still good.

It was the same when I wrote Demon Whisperer.  It was easy.  Well, not easy easy, all writing is hard, but I didn’t have to think about what I was writing, it just flowed.  The difficult part was not interjecting my thought processes into the way Caden would think and behave.  He’s 17 and I’m well, not 17, and I have many life experiences, I’ve learned the hard way some tough lessons.  So, sometimes it proved difficult to allow Caden to make those mistakes when I knew better.  I didn’t want Caden to do dumb stuff, make poor decisions, but I knew to keep his voice authentic I had to let go.  And remember all those painful moments from my teen years.  In some ways, it was fun to relive them.  Like first love.  That’s always my favourite thing to re-experience, that rush.  And Caden’s got it bad for Aspen.  J

So now I’ve come up with the 5 ways you can tell you have a teenager living inside of you, for all those adults out there…

1. You call everyone dude
2. Your thumbs have callouses from texting
3. Your iPod, iPhone and other devices are part of your iDentity
4. You are either Team Gale or Team Peeta, or the fact that you think in teams when it comes to dudes
5. Other words in your vocabulary are: epic, uber, junk and awesomesauce
6. You watched the Hunger Games movie trailer ten times in a row.  (Okay, that might’ve just been me)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Guest Post: Reinvention (Tawny Stokes)

Ch-ch-changes…as David Bowie’s iconic song streams through my head, I think about all the changes I’ve made in the past year.  There has been quite a few.  Some small, and some major.  Some personal like my continual battle with Pepsi addiction, but most are related to my writing career.

As probably a lot of you know, there has been tons of turmoil in the publishing industry, and unfortunately since I haven’t found huge success in the paranormal field, that turmoil has affected me, as well as tons of other authors I know and love.  As with all strife, its how you handle it that makes the difference. And I’ve never been one to let anything get me down.  I’ve been dropped by publishers even before this industry shakeup.  Kensington dropped me after my disastrous showing in sales of my adult post-apocolyptic book Inferno, the sequel to Hell Kat.  And I kept going.  

After my third book came out from Harlequin Nocturne, I did some soul searching, and realized I really didn’t belong in the current paranormal romance field, IMHO.  I realized I had a strong voice for YA, so I wrote one, and sent it to my agent and she shopped it, and shopped it and shopped it. And unfortunately, it didn’t hit.  So I wrote another YA, and sent it to my agent and she shopped it and shopped it and shopped it.  We came closer with this one, so close it makes me cry just thinking about it.  But through this all I realized that I LOVE writing YA.

Also through this shake up, I went back to my first love, writing screenplays.  I actually started writing them before I ever wrote a book.  So I’ve written a couple of scripts, and in the past year, I’ve secured a Hollywood manager, and a producer who loves my work and my voice and we have developed a TV show pilot together, (which is actually based one of my YA books) and it is currently at the networks being considered.  Wheeeeeeee!!  I have a few other scripts being read as well by various producers.  I’m very excited about the future for me in movies and TV.

Oh right, back to books…. J

So through this all, and the rise of ebooks, and the kindle, I decided to selfpublish as well.  I’ve already released an adult urban fantasy called GLIMMER, under my Vivi Anna name, and I’ve just released my first YA, called STATIC, under my real name Tawny Stokes.  And through this all I realized that all I really want to write is YA.  I’m very excited about the choices that authors have now.  I’m excited about the future of publishing for authors.  We have many paths to take to get to publication.  It’s a brave new publishing world and I’m very excited to be part of it.

Oh, and for all those cupcake lovers out there, Mocha are you listening? I just recently had the most amazing cupcake in all the world…at Pink Sugar Cupcakery in Victoria, British Columbia.  I had their trademark cake the Pink Sugar.  It was the most delicious thing I have ever tasted in my whole life. And they do orders online…I’m just saying.  J

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Guest Post: A Few of my Favorite YA Things (Tawny Stokes)

I love to read YA books.  They are usually all I read now.  I find that I am always surprised when I pick up a new book.  I don’t already have expectations like I would when I pick up a paranormal romance or urban fantasy these days.  Yes, I have been disappointed by some YA books, but for the most part I enjoy every one I read.  And it’s not just books, I love teen movies ever since I was a teen. Some of my favourite movies are teen oriented.  I think basically I am still 16 living in a 40 year old form.  

Here are some of my favourites:


Hunger Games (trilogy) – Suzanne Collins

Gone (series ) – Michael Grant

Devouring (trilogy) – Simon Holt

Matched – Ally Condie

Divergent – Veronica Roth

Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver

Delirium – Lauren Oliver

Forest of Hands and Teeth – (series) – Carrie Ryan



Easy A


Jennifer’s Body

The Faculty

The Craft


Breakfast Club

Valley Girl


Tell me about your favourite YA books and movies.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: A Year in Review

This year was a big year. I grew a bit more serious about reviewing books on my blog. I've been networking with authors and publishers. And I'm really excited about the results. I also recently started a Tumblr.

I read many incredible books this year. It's impossible to pick one favorite. But a few that stood out...

I loved everything I read by Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Kim Harrison, Cassandra Clare, Rachel Vincent, and Maggie Stiefvater. But that wasn't much of a surprise. I've been a fan of theirs for years. Melissa released her first adult novel this year with Graveminder. I might even like it more than her faeries. Speaking of faeries, Maggie's The Scorpio Races was amazing. Another book that might've topped my old favorite of hers.

I started a couple of new series this year. Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready had been on my shelf since it came out. I finally picked it up, and I loved it. Shift and Shine will definitely be high up on my 2012 tbr pile. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore was a fun, fast read, and I'm eager to continue the series. Ash by Malinda Lo was a fantastic retelling of Cinderella. I can't wait to read Huntress. Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey was an incredible debut.

An old trilogy I picked up was The Secret Circle by L. J. Smith, originally published in the 90's. I picked it up before the show premiered. And while I enjoy both, they are very different.

I also read a couple of stand-alone novels. Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr was beautifully written. I've not been disappointed by any of her books. And How to Save a Life was even more incredible. She's definitely one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. I came across a used library copy of the out-of-print The Selchie's Seed by Shulamith Oppenheim. It's very short, and I had to force myself to put it down and make it last more than one sitting. It was beautiful. Definitely one I'll be rereading this coming year.

I've been trying to read more middle grade fiction since I have so much of it on my shelf. I really enjoyed Priscilla the Great by Sybil Nelson and A Girl Named Willow Krimble by Guiseppe Bianco. The latter was originally published as a freebie online and later self published in book and ebook format. I read it in two sittings. I read the first half, and then put it down. But then picked it back up thirty minutes later and finished it out. Another wonderful MG book was The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

I'm not big on the classics, but I did finish Through the Looking-Glass this year, and I'm still making my way through the Narnia series. I plan to finish the last two in 2012 as well as read The Wind in the Willows.

This was a big year for manga and graphic novels. I continue to be a huge fan of Bill Willingham's Fables series. I discovered a YA line of graphic novels called Minx and have enjoyed several of their titles, including Clubbing, Emiko Superstar, and The Plain Janes. I read all 8 volumes of Chobits by Clamp. I loved that series and plan to read their Cardcaptor Sakura series in 2012, as well as xXxHoLic. I'm also excited about rereading the rereleases of Sailor Moon. Other manga I fell I love with in 2011 was Kuroshitsuji, aka Black Butler.

And now for the giveaway! I'm giving away a copy of one of my favorite 2011 reads, A Girl Named Willow Krimble by Guiseppe Bianco. Trust me, you want to read this one.

To enter:
1. Follow this blog using GFC.
2. You must be 13 or older. (Since this book is MG, everyone ages 9-12 may be entered, but please have a parent do it for you.)
3. Open internationally.
4. Please fill out this form.

So... those were my favorite books of 2011. What were yours?