Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: 'Storm Born' by Richelle Mead

Just so you know, I have a total author crush on Richelle Mead.  I could go on and on about her action packed plots, interesting characters, dry touches of humor and incredible world building...but I won't.  Let's just say that Storm Born, the first book in the Dark Swan series is every bit as wonderful as the rest of her books.
Eugenie Markham, known as Odile to the Otherworld, is a shaman-for-hire.  She works to rid people of pesky spirits and creatures by banishing them back to the Otherworld, or if they are really naughty, to their deaths.  Along the way, she has built up a deadly reputation among the Fae community who rule the Otherworld.  When she starts stumbling upon creatures who not only know her real name, but want to have sex with her, she knows something is wrong.  A little investigation turns up a secret of her parentage and a prophesy that her heir (when she has one) will fulfill...something she must stop at all costs.

The world of the Dark Swan is very different from Mead's other books, because a significant amount of the story takes place in the Otherworld, a parallel world where the Fae and other magical creatures were forced into when the humans kicked them out of Earth.  The Fae, or Gentry as they are referred to, abhor human technology.  They draw power from nature and magic.  Humans used to have magic, but lost it when they turned their back on it in favor of technology.  Very interesting concept.
As with Mead's other books, there is a fair amount of romance and sex.  While fending off the advances of every creep in the Otherworld, she meets two men who seem to like her for more than what power she could give them if they impregnate her.  The first is Kiyo, a half-kitsun, whom she is immediately drawn to and has great chemistry with.  But when Kiyo breaks her trust, she is not quick to forgive.  The other man in her life is Dorian, a Fae king.  Eugenie does not trust him either, knowing full well he is all about power and himself, but she finds herself having to rely on him anyway.  I can feel this ramping up to a love-triangle which will span the whole series.  Both men have faults and good points.  While I find myself rooting for Kiyo at the moment, that may change.

The sex was hot and prevalent, but it also advanced the story.  I like a good sex scene as much as anyone else, but I love them when they serve a purpose for the character or plot.  Eugenie has power and control issues which both men bring out in her.  As the story progresses, you can see these issues cropping up outside the bedroom, too.  Brilliantly done!

I also have to say a little something about the fabulous supporting characters.  First, her roommate Tim was hilarious!  He is of polish decent, but pretends to be Native American.  He drops references to The Great Spirit and crap all of the time when he's talking.  I find this funny because I have some family members who act like this when we only have a tiny bit of Native blood in us and are several generations away from the reservation. 
I also LOVE her spirit minion, V.  (I can't remember his name, but I know it started with a V.)  He absolutely hates Eugenie and resents being bonded to her.  He keeps promising her that when he's able to break free, he will kill her slowly and painfully.  Unfortunately for him, while he is bonded, he must protect her from harm and is unable to lie to her.  This makes him her greatest ally, even with his hatred.  I found V hilarious and endearing.  I just know something cool is going to happen with him and Eugenie in the future.  It would be really neat if he were able to break free of his curse and they fall in love. 

Another really cool supporting character was Wil, an obsessive-compulsive conspiracy theorist who hires Eugenie to rescue his sister who has been kidnapped into the Otherworld.  Wil is such a freak that it's impossible not to laugh at him.
Dang, this is turning into a really long review, huh?  Told you I can't get enough of Richelle Mead!  The bottom line is if you like dark urban fantasy and don't mind steamy sex, this is a perfect book for you.
Overall, I give Storm Born...

Plot - 4 1/2 bookmarks (full of action)
Character development - 5 bookmarks (even the supporting characters had personality)
Love story - 4 bookmarks (I still love Georgina Kincaid and Seth from her Succubus series better, but the sexual tension is great!)
World Building - 4 bookmarks (There is a lot of explaining that Mead has to do to paint the picture, but the world is well thought out and she delivered that information without resorting to an info dump.)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Bryce Dallas Howard (Eugenie), a younger Dean Cane (Kiyo), Eric Dane (Dorian), Alexander Skarsgaard (Aeson)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Author Spotlight: Alex McGrath

Joining me today is debut author, Alex McGrath, who's new novel, All the Same Songs, is available now in paperback and e-book at  

All the Same Songs

"After he and his friends’ botched robbery of a local bingo game leaves one patron dead, eighteen-year-old James Reed leaves his hometown and the girl he loves as he desperately tries to escape the police.  While in hiding James reflects on the past year and on his life as a whole as he tries to figure out how he got to this point, and how he could have changed things."

JLR:  So much about our real-life influences our writing.  Are there any specific things in your past which influenced “All the Same Songs”?

AM:  Definitely.  Anyone who reads “All the Same Songs” will have a pretty good idea of who I am, how I think, what my opinions are, how I feel about life etc.  The events, the scenes, mostly come from my real life experiences, or, in some cases, from things my friends and I have thought about or discussed.  In the book, I told the stories I felt I had to tell.  I wrote about all the things that I’ve been discussing, thinking about, or living for my whole life.  In particular, the conversation two friends and I had about robbing a bingo game sort of started this whole project, giving me an opening scene and a mistake for my main character to make.

JLR:  Many writers draw inspiration from music.  Do you listen to music when you write?  What music inspired “All the Same Songs”?

AM:  Music inspires me in all aspects of my life.  It gives me a soundtrack to dream to and makes me feel things even more strongly than I would otherwise.  Like an emotional amplifier or something.  This evocation and the effect it has on the main character is a huge part of who he is as a person. 

I often listen to the same songs over and over again, or even just the same part of a song continuously.  I have written while listening to music, though I can not do so while revising as listening to the lyrics really divides my attention from the words on my own page.

The understanding of the nature of music and what it is for, helps shape and define the main character’s cyclical view of life.  To him, just as songs are only about a handful of key emotions, life is the same as the stages of hope, frustration, despair, and triumph repeat themselves forever. 

The songs that inspired this book are all my favorite tunes from over the years.  Bands like The Early November, Explosions in the Sky, Rufio, The Junior Varsity, Armor for Sleep, and Thursday to name a few.

JLR:  Have you ever been worried that you might be going too far in your sex-scenes and might alienate readers?  Does anticipating reader reaction ever cause you to censor yourself?

AM:  There was one sex scene in this book that I re-wrote six or seven times because I kept thinking it was too over the top…and it was.  I’d edit it, come back to it a few weeks or months later, and think, ‘This is still crazy.’  It involves the main character’s best friend and an older woman he meets at his job at the local supermarket.  I finally scaled it way down to the point where it left a lot more to the imagination.  This was one of the hardest parts of the book for me to get right. 

Aside from that scene there are three other major sex scenes…these were much easier to write and felt more organic, I think because they are all from the main character’s point of view, and he is simply talking to the reader as normal, instead of hearing about something from someone else as in the other case.  I’ve never worried about alienating readers with sexual content… I think most people would enjoy reading about it the same way I would. 

I didn’t censor myself in any of these scenes or in any other scenes… when I scaled the one down it was just because I thought it wasn’t as interesting to read the way it originally was.  I couldn’t take a part out that I believed in… I’d feel like a phony.     

JLR:  With advancements in technology, self-publishing novels has gotten a million times easier and more affordable.  What made you decide to self-publish, and how has that process been working for you?

AM:  After spending about a year and a half trying to get an agent, I was finally frustrated to the point where I started thinking seriously about the self-publishing route.  I had written about 115 letters with only a few decent conversations to show for it.  It was around this time that I read an article in USA Today about authors “catching fire” with eBooks.  Reading about the number of book downloads they were able to reach in a short time amazed me.  Without it I don’t know how long I would have been waiting for a traditional deal.        

JLR:  There is so much advice given by authors about the writing process.  What type of writing routine do you have?  Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go type writer?  Any tips you want to share?

AM:  I wrote the vast majority of my works late at night, alone in my bedroom.  I’ve always liked the peace that comes when mostly everybody else in the area is asleep.  I type much more than I hand write, just because it’s so much faster.  When I need a break I usually watch TV or play video games or just rest in bed.  I need to do something that involves thinking differently than I do while writing and reading. 

I did not plan things out ahead of time with this first book.  I wrote scenes as I thought of them, and was not sure exactly how the story would end or how the characters would arrive at that ending.  This was certainly fun in its own way.  I did end up with several parts that I either re-wrote or left out, but, most of the scenes I thought of ended up in the final version. 

With my second novel, which I’m still revising, I planned out every scene I could think of first.  I made notes on a calendar from the year it takes place in to help me keep it straight.  I thought of additional scenes and ideas along the way, but I knew where the story would end, and, for the most part, how I would get the characters to that destination.  This second book has been a lot easier for me to revise. 

My advice to new writers would be: Tell the stories you are dying to tell.  Don’t tell the story you think other people will be most interested in just for the sake of popularity.  A story could be set anywhere, and involve any kind of people, and be about anything, and still be captivating, if the writer gives the reader good reason to become emotionally invested.  My other piece of advice, is, don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t do something big.  If you feel passionately about writing, or anything else, let the doubters be your extra motivation to succeed.  I thought about those people a lot while writing and I still do.

JLR: As writers, so much of our work is done alone, and this can lead to discouragement.  How do you keep from giving up?  Who do you get your support from?

AM:  I’ve enjoyed working alone…I think one of the most beautiful things about writing is sitting there telling the story you want to tell, and not having anyone else tell you how you should do it.  I used to worry about what a publishing company’s editor would want me to change, so you could say the absence of that conflict is one major benefit of the self-publishing route.  I felt my most frustrated after getting so many rejections from agents…I’ve always believed in my book and I’ve always known that the issues in it are things that almost anyone could relate to, so, it was hard to feel like I wasn’t getting the opportunity to be heard.  Even just a few years ago self-publishing was not nearly as easy as it is now.  I’m a big fan.

I’ve never thought about giving up during the actual writing process, I just had to abandon the whole query letter thing, for my sanity. 

One good friend of mine, the first one to read this first book, his positive reaction to it was a real emotional boost.  I’ve had a similar experience with my second book, with a family member of mine who has read the early version of it.  

JLR:  Do you feel it’s necessary to read a lot in order to be a good writer?  Why?

AM:  Yes, I would say so.  I guess different people have different ideas about what is ‘a lot’, but, you certainly need to see how something is done before you go and do it yourself.  Not that you want to do it just the way the great ones do it, but, you get an idea of how a message can be conveyed well, and how a message can be conveyed in such a way that it is not so clear.  I’m catching up on my reading now that I am not writing as much… during the book writing process I made a conscious effort not to read many novels because I was worried that I would write too much like them or something. 

JLR:  The Speak Loudly campaign has been fighting censorship in teen books, specifically in schools.  Of the books under fire, many include issue books which deal with heavy themes or controversial subjects such as eating disorders, abusive relationships, sexuality issues, teen suicide, alcohol or drug abuse, etc.  Do you feel there are topics which should be considered off limits in Young Adult literature?

AM:  My second book is in the Young Adult category so I’ve had to think about this for myself… I think any topic should be considered ‘on the table’ for Young Adult writing, because, kids live in the real world.  Even though we would like to completely protect kids from every bad thing, they live among those bad things, and those bad people.  They occupy the same flawed world that we adults do, so, those things effect them too.  Often times kids have to deal with things that we wish they didn’t have to.  It’s better that they hear about the ugliness of the world from a responsible adult than on the street, and, in the case of books, a book could introduce many important topics of conversation between a child and their parent or guardian.  And of course just because a book has a kid as the main character, doesn’t mean it is only for kids. 

JLR:  What types of books do you read?  Are there any genres or subject matters that you avoid?

AM:  My favorite type of book is literary fiction.  I like memoirs that are written like novels… the non-fiction novel approach.  Informational books are good too in a different way.  There isn’t any kind of book I actually avoid. 

JLR:  Where can readers go to learn more about your work?

AM:  The first chapter of “All the Same Songs” is available on    There is also a short story on there, links to where you can purchase the book (paperback or eBook) and a link to T-shirts that feature scenes and passages from the book.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: Incredible dystopian read: 'Divergent' by Veronica Roth

If you are looking for an exciting summer read to get lost in, Divergent, the debut novel by Veronica Roth, is the book for you!

Set in a dystopian Chicago, Beatrice (Tris) Prior is faced with an impossible decision...stay with her family or be true to herself. The people of the city are divided into five factions, each based around a particular virtue they wish to live by; Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peacefulness), and Erudite (intelligence). At sixteen years old, they must choose their faction for life. Beatrice's family are Abnegation, but she's not sure if that is what she wants to be for the rest of her life. But if she doesn't choose Abnegation, she may never see her family again.

Without giving too much away, Tris surprises herself and everyone else by her choice, but the hard part isn't over yet. Next comes a grueling initiation process, the failure of which could mean ending up factionless, and the struggle of harboring a dangerous secret about herself from those who might kill her if they knew.

This book is a fascinating mix of action, danger with just a touch of romance. Roth creates a world that is detailed and interesting. I love that she uses different buildings and places from the real Chicago to serve as anchors, making it that much more real. That she chose to align the factions with different moral virtues was interesting, but these people are far from being saints. Aristotle believed that a good moral exists somewhere between two extremes. In other words, too much of a good thing can go bad. That is certainly what the world of Divergent illustrates. There are no completely good or completely evil characters, only beautifully flawed human beings.

Speaking of flawed human beings, I have to comment on Tris's romance for a moment. While not the central plot in this book, the romance is well constructed and believable. Four is her instructor, but also a huge mystery. At times he can be cruel, but you soon learn there are reasons for everything he does. He is an interesting and deeply conflicted character in his own right, but he's not the brooding emo boy that so many YA's have these days. Underneath is hard shell, there is a kindness that not everyone can see. I can't wait to see how he develops in the coming books.

Overall, I give Divergent...
 Plot - 5 bookmarks

Character Development - 5 bookmarks

World Building - 4 1/2 bookmarks (Still have many questions about how Chicago became like this, but that might be explained in future installments.)

Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Jodelle Ferland (Tris), Shane Harper (Caleb), Rooney Mara (Christina), Emile Hirsch (Peter), Kellan Kutz (Eric), Avan Jogia (Four)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Author Spotlight: Liz Borino

Joining me in the Author Spotlight today is romance author, Liz Borino.  Published by Lazy Day Publishing, her Taylor Twins series is getting stellar reviews on Amazon.  Join me in welcoming her! 

JLR:  There is so much advice given by authors about the writing process.  What type of writing routine do you have?  Are you a planner or a figure-it-out-as-you-go type writer?  Any tips you want to share?

LB:  Lately, I’ve been both. For my first book, Expectations, I wrote whatever came to my head, the rough draft was an insane 128,000 words. That took me nine months to edit. For What Money Can’t Buy and the third book, tentatively titled A Change of Heart, I created a synopsis and grew the books from there. Not to say things didn’t change in the process, but I at least knew where I was going. So, I suppose my advice is to have a structure, but allow for changes.

JLR:  As readers of my book reviews know, I have a habit of casting real people, usually actors, in my mind as the characters when I read.  As you are writing, do you base your characters on real people?  If Hollywood made a movie of Taylor Twins Series, who would you like to see playing the leading roles?

LB:  Alright, the twins, Matt and Chris, look like a taller Matthew Lawrence and Aiden he looks, and sounds, like a shorter, and younger, Colin Farrell. How hot is that pairing?

JLR:  Nice!  I'd go for that.  :)  As writers, so much of our work is done alone, and this can lead to discouragement.  How do you keep from giving up?  Who do you get your support from?

LB:  Sometimes, it’s really hard to not give up. Some days, you’re waiting for an approval, review, or watching your Amazon rankings fall again. Writing is filled with doubt, pain, and tears. Sometimes, your characters don’t do what you want them to do, or the scene isn’t as grand as what you saw in your head. On these days, I want to throw up my hands and get a government job.  So, why not? I believe what I do every day is important. I believe my words have a positive impact on other people. I have fans who ask me at least once a week when my next book is coming out. People are hungry to know more about my characters. They love immersing themselves in my stories. I draw strength from that.  If I ever need support, I go to my friends and my fans. And then my boys go back to demanding my time. How can I say no?

JLR:  Have you ever been worried that you might be going too far in your sex-scenes and might alienate readers?  Does anticipating reader reaction ever cause you to censor yourself?

JLR:  Oh, I alienate readers alright. Exactly one person in my family has read my two published books all the way through. Not everyone’s going to be comfortable with love scenes between two men, but do I take them out? No. Sex is a part of life and an important in relationships. But that’s just it, everything I include goes back to relationships between the two couples.  (I have a male/male couple and a female/male couple.) Before publishing Expectations, I feared reader reaction to sex between two men, but most of my readers appreciate the realness with which I handle it. I’m not as explicit as some romance writers because my love scenes are based upon emotion, even when the characters are tearing each other’s clothes off. They’re doing it in a way which opens them up to their partner and the relationship grows each time.

JLR:  They say good reading habits are developed at an early age.  Have you always been a reader?  Can you pin-point a particular book or author who solidified your love of reading?

LB:  I’ve always read. Every night growing up my mom would read to me. When I first started to read on my own, we’d read together. She’d read a chapter then I would. She instilled in me a love of reading from day one. When I was young, I read the Sweet Valley series, all of them. S.E. Hinton also had a huge influence on my reading and writing style, due mostly to males being the driving force of her books.

JLR:  In the past year or two, e-publishing has soared in popularity.  What made you decide to publish in e-book format?  Do you worry that you won’t achieve as much success as you might in traditional print?

LB:  I chose to publish in e-book format because I believe paper books will become a luxury item sooner rather than later. Digital first companies, like my publisher Lazy Day, offer higher royalties, and more individualized support. I worry about everything, but you don’t know what the future will bring so, I’ll trust my books to rise to the success they deserve no matter what format they’re in.

JLR:  How long have you been writing, and when did you decide that you wanted to write for publication?

LB:  I’ve been writing for more than half my life, but telling stories since I could talk. I decided I’d write for publication at 12, I penned a fan fiction, in a notebook, which I was sure would skyrocket to the top of the NYT best seller list. But see, they’d have to come get it because I only had one copy. I began seriously pursuing it about five years ago with a story called Changes. It went nowhere and I’m so glad. It’s a great first book and I learned a lot from writing it, but I’m happy it isn’t out in the world. Maybe someday I’ll clean it up and publish. We’ll see. Then about two years ago now, I started writing Expectations and I had a feeling that would be my first published book.

JLR:  Tell us a bit about your childhood.  Where did you grow up?  What was your family like?  Has your childhood influenced your writing?

LB:  I grew up in a small town called Bethlehem, Pa. It was rather boring. I wrote to escape. Seriously, I had far less struggles than some people. I lived in a loving home and never worried after my next meal. Yes, I was different than most people my age, but I attribute that difference to my success as a creative. But it does make the teen years kind of suck.

JLR:  How did your formal education prepare you for becoming an author?  Is there anything that you feel you’re your schooling could taught you to better prepare you for the publishing process?

LB:  As a public relations major and a Sociology minor, I took many writing based classes. I learned the difference between passive and active writing and got tested on my ability to use active. In Sociology classes, I learned about the evolution of gender roles and sexuality in society. And I believe that’s helped a great deal in developing my latest series. I would really appreciate some education on patience. Please?

JLR:  If you could give one piece of advice to your teenage self, what would it be?

LB:  You’re too pale to be blonde. Please stop with highlights.

JLR:  What do you think makes for a great romantic hero?  Is it all about the muscles and the smoldering eyes?

LB:  I think that depends on your story. My boys are passionate, caring, affectionate, and they have flaws. You have to make your characters have flaws. Matt and Chris have six packs, Aiden does not. Sometimes, bulging muscles don’t fit your character and that’s okay.

JLR:  Where can readers find your books?

LB:  Expectations: Amazon Barnes and Noble

What Money Can’t Buy: Amazon Barnes and Noble

Review: 'Inside Out' by Lauren Dane

The third book in Lauren Dane’s Brown Siblings erotic romance series follows Ella Tipton, manager of Erin Brown’s cafĂ©. In the years since leaving an abusive relationship, Ella has focused on standing on her own two feet without the help of others. She is finally in a place where she feels strong and independent, but is she ready for love?

Andrew “Cope” Copland is Erin’s brother-in-law and notorious ladies man. But his casual love life has given him a reputation that he is uncomfortable with. He knows that he is capable of love, especially if it is with a girl like Ella, but will she take a chance on him?

I love this series because the characters are fully developed and have distinct personalities. These are people that I want to be friends with. I feel invested in their stories. However, the similarities in the heroines—all have some horrible history of victimization that they have had to overcome—are starting to feel formulaic. I am all for overcoming adversity, but I would like to see some more variety here.

Inside Out is more character driven than the other books in this series, which I love, but some might feel there is a lack of action. If you are looking for a romantic and steamy read where you can fall in love alongside the characters, this book is for you!

Overall, I give Inside Out

Plot – 2 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 4 bookmarks
Love Story – 4 bookmarks
Sex Scenes – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Ellie Kemper (Ella), Ian Somerhalder (Cope)

Review: THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold

The book opens with he brutal rape and murder of fourteen-year-old Suzie Salmon by a serial killer. From there, she tells the story of the aftermath from her viewpoint in heaven, where she watches her family, friends and the killer himself.

My reaction to the book is mixed. While the writing was beautiful and full of imagery, it wasn't the voice of a teenage girl. The varied reactions of her different family members was interesting; her father's obsession with finding her killer, her mother cutting herself off from the people she loved, her brother living with the ghost of her memory and her sister moving on to experience all of the things Suzie missed out on. But there were people that she followed that I didn't get. Rather than watching her best-friend, she becomes absorbed in Ruth, a girl she barely knew on earth. While it makes sense that she would be interested in the boy who had almost been her first boyfriend, I didn't get why she was spending time watching his mother. And I understand why she would watch her killer--I'd want to see him slip up and get caught--Suzie was completely unemotional about him. She never seemed angry or vengeful. In fact, when she had the opportunity to communicate the whereabouts of her body and information on where he was hiding, she didn't do it.

This brings me to the part I had major trouble with...the ending. (Stop reading here if you don't want spoilers.) Lets just say I was completely under whelmed. Her father's forgiveness and acceptance of her mother was completely unbelievable. The storyline of the detective investigating her murder was never resolved. Characters who were talked about in the beginning of the book, her best-friend, Clarissa, and the few people she gets close to in heaven, fade away in the second half of the book. Her body was never found, even thought it was in a really obvious place, and the killer was never caught or punished. I also didn't buy the whole body swap thing. There is no lead up to it and no explanation of how it happened. What she does, or rather didn't do, during her brief time back on earth made no sense. Why wouldn't she go to her family? Or tell someone where her body is?

In summary, I think this had the potential to be a full and satisfying read, but the poor execution of the ending ruined it for me. Overall, I give The Lovely Bones...

Plot - 2 1/2 bookmarks

Character Development - 3 1/2 bookmarks

World Building - 2 bookmarks (So much more could have been done with heaven.)

Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - While I have not seen the movie version, I knew that Saoirse Ronan played Suzie, Mark Wahlburg played the father and Stanley Tucci played the killer, so these are the people I imagined while reading. In addition to these, I saw Evan Rachel Wood as Lindsey, Avan Jogia as Ray and Sarah Clarke as the mother.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: ‘Little Miss Teacher’ Cassandra O’Sullivan Sachar

Little Miss Teacher is a great summer read which chronicles a first year teacher in an urban high school.  Looking no older than her students, Candace Turner, sets out to earn the respect from both the students and her fellow faculty members.  Along the way, she learns a series of lessons to apply to her own life. 

What many readers will be able to relate to is that post-college identity crisis when you are technically loosing the adult world, but a part of you doesn’t feel like you belong there yet.  (I think I was almost thirty before I felt like a full member of the adult club.)  There has been a literature gap for years in the new adult market—the reader market between young adult literature and adult literature.  This book, along with those like The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada help to fill this gap.  That Candace would have to earn respect of her students is understandable, but what I found fascinating was her interactions with the other teachers.  She relates more to the kids and often feels like a trespasser at work event.  I love the scene when the students guess her age at thirty and she is shocked to discover that they don’t see her as a peer, but as a full adult. 

I also enjoyed Candace’s misadventures in her personal life.  She almost succumbs to the charms of the Teachers’ Lounge Playboy and suffers from the unrequited love of one of her former college classmates.  Then, there is the relationship between her and her best-friend/roommate.  Both women are busy starting their new careers, but somehow, they have to find the time to be there for each other, too.  Together, they have to learn how to evolve their friendship from school girls to career women.

Overall, I give Little Miss Teacher

Plot – 3 bookmarks
Character development – 4 bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Kat Dennings (Candace), Charley (Penn Badgely), Jake (Paul Walker), Megan (Katie Cassidy)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Guest post: Self-publishing with eBooks by Cassandra O'Sullivan Suchar

Like many writers, I have a stack of rejection letters thicker than my actual novel.  You name the agent or publishing house, I’ve been rejected by it!  At least that’s what it feels like.  And rejection has changed over time; while most places will still send you a form letter (“Dear author, Thank you for your interest in… Unfortunately, your work is not right for us…”), they now e-mail it to you for your convenience.  At least I’m saving money on self-addressed stamped envelopes.  I’ve had a few close calls, places that were interested in the manuscript but ultimately passed, but I sit here still rejected.
But yet, if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve read my novel, or are at least thinking about it. 
 When Barnes and Noble launched PubIt last year, many writers like me finally got the chance to publish our work.  After spending all that time writing and revising, the rejection process can be a soul-crusher; in the past, if an agent or publisher didn’t want your work, you wouldn’t have a chance at sharing your book with the public.  All that has now changed with online publishing.  Even better, it’s completely free!  Having once been burned hiring an “agent” that turned out to be a scam, I was skeptical, but I have had truly positive experiences with PubIt, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, and Smashwords.  You upload your book, create a cover, write a synopsis, and you’re ready to go.  It couldn’t be easier.
 You can now read Little Miss Teacher on a Nook, Kindle, PC, Mac, or any number of other formats (thanks to Smashwords).  While not everyone is willing to switch to an eReader, more and more people I know are buying and using these, and it’s completely free for an author to publish his/her work this way.
 If you think you’ve written something that others might like to read, but you just haven’t gotten the big break you’ve been waiting for, publishing online might be the right option for you.  A word of advice, though:  Take the time to make your work professional.  Be careful and thorough with editing and revision, and design a cover image that looks will interest people in your book.  If you need help, there are growing numbers of services you can find online.  While these will not be free, think of the expense as an investment in your product.  It’s easy to spot the amateurs when browsing eBooks; remember, sometimes people do judge a book by its cover.
 Although I once shirked at the idea of self-publishing (referred to by some as “vanity” publishing), eBooks are here to stay.  Thanks to online publishing, I have finally gotten to share Little Miss Teacher with the world.  

A high school English teacher herself, Cassandra O'Sullivan Sachar lives in Delaware with her husband, daughter, two cats, and dog. She enjoys shopping, traveling, reading, running, baking, and watching movies. She is also the author of a middle grade mystery, The Hidden Diary.

Stop back tomorrow for my review of Little Miss Teacher!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: 'The Year of Secret Assignments' by Jaclyn Moriarty

The sophomore class pen pal project is designed to improve relations between the private school students at Ashbury and the public school students at Brookfield.  In a series of letters and journal entries written by the Ashbury girls and the Brooker boys, The Year of Secret Assignments is an incredibly fun read.  Each of the kids have distinct personalities and character growth which drive the novel.  Lydia and her pal Sebastian trade secret assignments or dares as a way to develop trust.  Emily helps to train Charlie in how to attract girls.  Cassie uses her letters are a form a therapy, much to the annoyance of her jerk of a pen pal, Matthew.  Underneath the fun and games, they have to deal with some heavy topics such as the death of a parent, first love and what it means to be loyal. 
Something that is mentioned at the start of this book, which stuck with me while reading it is that part of the purpose of this assignment was to promote the old fashioned way of letter writing, which has gone almost extinct since the creation of email.  There is something to be said for taking a pen to paper and hashing a letter out long-hand, something more intimate.  I found myself nostalgic in a way I never thought I would be.
Parents and teachers should be warned that there is some profanity in the book, and the kids like to break rules now and then, but overall, they are good kids who will turn out right in the end.  Because there is such a variety in characters and points of view, I think most kids would be able to identify with at least one of them.  (I was soooo Lydia in high school!)  I found nothing too objectionable that I wouldn’t let a teen read it, but there are some who might. 
Overall, I give The Year of Secret Assignments
Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character development – 5 bookmarks
Moral lessons – 4 bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Molly Quinn (Emily), Naomi Scott (Cassie), Kaya Scodelario (Lydia), Cameron Bright (Matthew/Paul), Taylor Boggan (Sebastian), Cole Heppell (Charlie)