Friday, June 29, 2012

Guest Post: Elisabeth Wheatley

Three Things In Fantasy Books That Drive Me Crazy @_@

The beauty of true fantasy is that there are about three rules. You need magic, you need a magical world, and you need a bad guy. Beyond that, there really isn’t a whole lot to restrict the story. But...(yes, the dreaded “but”)...there are three things that are the equivalent of talons on the chalkboard for me. Okay, okay, so I admit that technically I can’t take off points if a fantasy book isn’t historically accurate, but these are things to do with the weaponry and lifestyle. So they count, right?

1. Knights being hoisted onto horse’s back via a pulley system

I haven’t seen this one in awhile (I think the last time I saw it was in The Once and Future King), but I will mention it anyway. In reality, a knight’s armor was heavy and uncomfortable, but it wasn’t so heavy that they couldn’t mount their horses. If it had been that heavy, ground combat for knights would have been a death-sentence, particularly if they were going up against lighter footsoldiers. There was the problem of knights easily expiring from heatstroke because metal, of course, doesn’t breathe, but that’s a topic for another time.

2. Boiling oil poured from castle during siege

I’m sure we’ve all seen this one, right? The bubbling-hot, pitch-black goo sent raining down on the heads of screaming invaders and then set on fire with a flaming arrow. I think this one was in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance, though I’d have to check. Boiling oil looks really intense and scary and, let’s face it, morbidly cool. But I’ve found mixed reports on this one. Some say that it was used while others say that oil was too expensive for it to be literally thrown out the window. Boiling water was sometimes used, as well as animal fat, heated sand, resin, pitch, and they would have a similar effect. But oil was something that needed to be saved, especially if you were in a siege and didn’t know when you would be able to resupply.

3. “Fired” an arrow

This one bugs me the most and I can thank my former-Marine, Naval Academy-graduate father for ruining this term for me. A number of writers use this term. Heck, The Lord of the Rings movies used this term a number of times. But I started thinking about it one day and asked my father if it was accurate. He confirmed my suspicions that the term “fire” in reference to volleys, did not come into use until the advent of firearms. Up until that point they said “loose,” which makes more sense, right? I think they did sometimes use fiery arrows, but not enough to make the term “fire” stick.

Any writer could get away with any one or all of these things. They’re all subjective to how “accurate” the writer wants his/her fantasy story to be. But they still drive me bonkers! Now the question is: Are they going to bug you?

Check out the trailer for Elisabeth Wheatley's The Secrets of the Vanmars.

Janir had the misfortune of being born with one of the hated Argetallams for a father. But unlike other Argetallam children, she was mostly granted a normal childhood, away from the rest of her family. It looked as if she would live a relatively normal life as the foster-daughter of a powerful lord. Until one critical day Janir’s powers awakened and she became entangled in a young enchanter’s quest for a long-lost treasure called the Key of Amatahns...

After her adventures with the Key of Amatahns, sixteen-year-old Janir Caersynn Argetallam returns home to find Brevia on the brink of war with a neighboring country, Stlaven. Her foster-father and even Saoven—a brave young elf warrior—think it will be safe at the castle where Janir grew up. However, while trying to unravel a looming mystery, Karile—self-taught wizard and Janir’s self-appointed best friend—becomes certain that there is danger in the mountains surrounding Janir’s childhood home and that it has something to do with Stlaven’s most powerful family, the Vanmars…

Elisabeth Wheatley started writing very short (and rather silly) stories when she was around six. She became a voracious reader and after being practically forced by her cousins to watch Disney's version of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," she developed a chronic passion for fantasy.

Elisabeth eventually went to work on what would become "The Key of Amatahns" when she was eleven. "The Key of Amatahns" is the first in the seven-book series, "Argetallam Saga."

When she isn't spellbound by reading fantasy books and writing her own, Elisabeth trains and shows her Jack Russell Terrier, Schnay, makes goat cheese, and studies mythology.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Giveaway: grl2grl 2 (+ mini-review)

Readers are immersed into the minds and hearts of lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gay, queer, and questioning young people in this new collection of short fictions, grl2grl 2.

In the first story, "Give Me a D", a young lesbian's need to hide and lie about her sexuality spills over into every aspect of her life as bitterness and blame.

The second story, "Her Secret Life" shows a different perspective of coming out to family as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The third story, "Blessings and Miracles," is a seasonal story of love, joy, giving and receiving.

Everything I've read by Julie Anne Peters has been amazing, so when I found these three short stories at Smashwords, I had to grab them. grl2grl 2 is the second anthology she's done. The first one - grl2grl - you can find in book format, but this one is ebook only.

The first two stories were short, but they left a definite impact, showing the struggle that women go through admitting their sexuality. The third story was my favorite. It was longer than the first two combined. It showed a very sweet relationship between two girls and some of the issues they face in relation to the one's family.

And now for a giveaway! I'm giving away one of these three stories. Your choice! Fill out this form to be entered. The giveaway is open internationally. You must be 13 or older to enter.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Drowned Cities arc Winner Announced

Winner is...
Beth S!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cover Love: The Rising

Things are getting desperate for Maya and her friends. Hunted by the St. Clouds and a rival Cabal, they’re quickly running out of places to hide. And with the whole world thinking they died in a helicopter crash, it’s not like they can just go to the authorities for help.

All they have is the name and number of someone who might be able to give them a few answers. Answers to why they’re so valuable, and why their supernatural powers are getting out of control.

But Maya is unprepared for the truths that await her. And now, like it or not, she’ll have to face down some demons from her past if she ever hopes to move on with her life. Because Maya can’t keep running forever.

Cover Reveal! Kelley Armstrong just released the cover for the last book in her Darkness Rising trilogy. I think it's my favorite of the three. This is one of my most anticipated books for 2013. It's too far away! Who else is excited?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Review: Keeping You a Secret

Is it worth falling in love if you have to keep it a secret.

With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship?

Being gay doesn't have to be a secret anymore. Recent news reports show that many more people are identifying themselves as gay or lesbian during their teenage years, and the number of high schools with clubs such as gay-straight alliances has grown dramatically. But there are still very few young adult novels that celebrate the love between teens of the same sex. In her trademark, darkly humorous voice, Julie Anne Peters has written a moving, compelling, and witty love story between two girls. Keeping You a Secret is a contemporary, worthy successor to such classic YA coming out novels as Annie on My Mind and I'll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip, as well a companion to recent popular gay teen novels, including Rainbow Boys and Empress of the World.

Keeping You a Secret is the second book I've read by Julie Anne Peters. Luna was the first. In fact, Luna was so amazing that I went out and bought several of Julie's other books. I loved both books, and I'm actually not sure which book I loved more.

Holland narrates Keeping You a Secret. She's a high school senior, school president, and someone everyone at school loves. She's one of those girls who has all her shit together. Or so we originally think. She lives with her mother, step-father, and baby sister. Her goth step-sister shares her room every other weekend. Despite all that, her life is really good. Then she meets new girl, Cece, who has a locker right across the hall. And suddenly, she's not so sure of things.

Cece is a lesbian, and she's been out of the closet for a while. From day one she wears t-shirts that lets everyone know who she is. She wants to start a club for LGBT teens, and when Holland brings it to the student council (filled with her friends), she realizes the homophobia runs deep in her school. With Holland's crush on Cece growing, and the confusion of feeling like she may be a lesbian, she feels like her life is falling apart. Her mother is judgmental, and her boyfriend is such a sweet guy that she doesn't want to hurt him. Holland just doesn't know what to do

Julie Anne Peters really captures that feeling of losing everything you've ever known. I had a similar experience when I was finishing high school and moving off to college. Growing up, I always knew what I wanted to do with my life. And then I get there and it's decision time and suddenly I'm not so sure. I think regardless of gender and sexual orientation it's a confusing time in every teen's life, and I don't think just LGBT teens will relate to Holland.

I proudly put Keeping You a Secret on my list of favorite books and my list of books that I think everyone should read. Not only will this book give LGBT teens someone to relate to, but I think (like Luna) it will open minds and teach tolerance. Trust me; you want to read this book.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Book Review: Sirenz (and giveaway)

Hades is Haute

Hades, the god of the underworld, forces bickering frenemies Meg and Shar to become special-assignment Sirens. Finding the delicate balance between their old and new responsibilities turns out to be harder than they expected, especially when an entire pantheon of Greek deities decides to get involved.

I finally got the chance to read Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman. I met them in the summer of 2011 and got my copy signed. I'm ashamed to say it took me this long to get around to it, but that was in part due to the fashion aspect of the book. I have no interest in fashion and most books, movies, shows, etc... that revolve around the fashion world just don't interest me. I don't like or enjoy them. But the other main part of the book was Greek mythology. And it included Hades, god of the Underworld, who I love! So I started this book feeling wary. I really wanted to like it. Charlotte and Natalie are such nice, cool people, and I'd feel awful if I couldn't write a good review. And...

Once I picked Sirenz up, I didn't want to put it down. The chapters alternated between Meg and Shar's point of view. Shar is tall, thin, blonde, and really into fashion. Meg is a short brunette who is pretty much Shar's opposite. They are in a special program for their final school year. They're free from their families but are stuck together as roommates. The book picks up at winter break where they meet a sexy, handsome guy that both girls want to date. It doesn't take long for things go horribly wrong.

But as luck would have it - maybe - Hades shows up and promises to fix all of their problems. In exchange for them helping him with one. He needs new sirens. For those who don't know, sirens are half bird/half woman creatures. (as pictured to the left) If they can use their powers to bring Hades the person he's looking for, they're free. But if they fail, they will be forced to spend eternity in the underworld cleaning up after Cerberus. But he's a god, and deities have a long history of not being forthcoming and playing with lowly mortals' lives.

I'm really glad I read Sirenz when I did. I was definitely in need of something light and fun, and this book definitely hit both of those. If you're into mythology, I think you'll like this one. Charlotte and Natalie twisted a bit of the Hades/Persephone myth, but explained why things are different than the original telling. I don't mind when mythology or folklore is changed, as long as it is explained in a way that makes sense instead of some random change that we never understand. And if, like me, you're concerned about the fashion aspect... I found that to be a minor aspect of the story. Sirenz had made laugh out loud moments, and I'm definitely looking forward to Sirenz 2: Back in Fashion!

And now for a giveaway!

I have a pack of swag, including bookmarks, buttons, bracelets, and a guitar pick. Some swag is Sirenz and some is not. All you have to do to enter is follow this blog and fill out this form.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Book Review: Purity

A novel about love, loss, and sex -- but not necessarily in that order.

Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby's father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives -- in other words, no "bad behavior," no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision -- to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.

Purityis the first book I've read by Jackson Pearce. And it definitely won't be the last. I picked it up thinking it would be fun and light. I was so wrong. Although, it might be a bit lighter for others.

Shelby's sixteen, and she's trying to keep three promises that her mother made her promise before she passed, six years prior. Promise one - to listen to her father - has made her one of the most obedient teens ever. However, her father is kinda distant, so if her father doesn't know about something, he can't say "no", and she can still do as she pleases. And she has a long list of things her father probably wouldn't approve of, but promise three - to live without restraint has her jumping off bridges into water and stealing cars. It's much less radical than it sounds, though. But promise two - to love as much as possible gets lost.

Shelby and her friends come home to find Pastor Ryan having a conversation with her dad. They're planning a Princess Ball. Which is basically a dance for fathers and daughters, where fathers promise to be good role models and support their daughters, while the girls promise to stay pure... meaning no drinking, no drugs, and no sex. Shelby's already sampled alcohol, so she feels exempt from that one. But how can she live without restraint and love as much as possible if she has to promise no sex before marriage? A friend decides the only loophole would be to have sex before the Princess Ball.

Purity had me in tears on almost every other page. But as I said about, it might be a lighter read for others. While my father never suggested we go to a Princess Ball - he'd be more freaked out about having to dance with me at a function than anything else, and I'd run away before I'd go to one - our relationship is very much like Shelby and her dad's. My dad and I hardly ever talk. And since my mom passed away - from breast cancer, like Shelby's - we talk even less. I'm an adult, and I don't live at home anymore, but when I did we more or less lived around each other, never really interacting. It always made me sad that my father and I never really got along. We have virtually nothing in common, and spending time with him is sometimes awkward. My mom and I were extremely close. When I lost her, I lost my best friend. It was really easy for me to step into Shelby's shoes and understand her pain and confusion. This book was a very powerful read for me.

If you haven't picked this one up, and are in the mood for a good contemporary, definitely consider this one. And if you like audiobooks, I heard Jackson Pearce narrates this one herself.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review: Wintergirls

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her step-mother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia's head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way—thin, thinner, thinnest—maybe she'll disappear altogether.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist Speak, best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl's chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia.

Wintergirlsby Laurie Halse Anderson has been on my shelf for years. I picked it up after falling in love with Speak. But it sat on my shelf for far too long. Needing a break from my regular preference of YA paranormal, I picked up this contemporary, also YA. And it was amazing! Brilliant! Superb! There just is not a word in existence to describe it.

Lia is our main character and narrator. She is also a wintergirl. After making a bet with her best friend, Cassie, to be the skinniest girl in school, she stops eating. She starves herself so she can make her goal weight. Except, her goal weight lowers as she reaches previous goals. Until she becomes so sick she lands herself in the hospital, and her family eventually has her put into a facility to help her. This novel starts off after she's been released and is (supposedly) doing well. She and Cassie are no longer friends, but that doesn't mean the news of Cassie's death doesn't bother her. While Lia was anorexic, Cassie was bulimic. Both eating disorders that do more harm than good.

Lia lives with her father, step-mother, and step-sister, Emma. Emma is a tween and looks up to Lia. This causes added strain, as Lia's lifestyle is not anything to look up to. Lia's mother is mostly gone from her life. A cardiologist that has more time for her patients than her family. Lia's life was far from perfect before she started starving herself. But living in a home where she isn't receiving the attention every teen girl deserves pushes her further.

There were a number of things I really liked about this book. This is the first novel I've read that dealt with eating disorders. And in case you don't know, eating disorders is huge in the US. Especially with teens and college students. You can see statistics here. So the first thing I loved was that it was such an amazing, impressive, powerful story that I think could really help people with eating disorders. I have friends, past and current, that have dealt with eating disorders. It's not just about being skinny. It's about how someone perceives themselves. For example, Lia comments on how people see her as being a skinny twig, while she sees a thick, ugly log. Which simply can't be true of someone over five feet and under a hundred pounds. I think Laurie did an amazing job of getting into Lia's head and being true to what girls like her are going through.

The second thing I loved was the story-telling. Laurie Halse Anderson's writing is always fantastic, but this one was definitely up there with Speak. The writing was very similar, whereas Catalyst and Twisted had a slightly different style. Lia narrates the book in first person. There are lines where her thoughts are crossed out and a second thought follows, noting the difference between the real thought/response and the thought/response she feels should be real. It was an interesting insight into Lia's thoughts. I had trouble putting this book down, and it was impossible not to be sucked in.

This is definitely one of the best contemporary books I've ever read. It has earned a spot on my list of "Books Everyone Should Read." So if you haven't read it, go grab a copy. You won't be disappointed.