August 2007

TJ is a fourteen-year-old girl who’s having some difficulties fitting in at her new school and adjusting to her new life in the city. TJ’s a farm girl, but financial difficulties forced her family to sell the farm and move to a suburb where all the houses are identical. TJ, however, discovers that her typical suburban house, however, is home to something not so typical: a family of Littles. Six-inch- high people who live in the walls. She thinks they’re mice at first–but then she meets Elizabeth, a girl a couple of years older than TJ who’s running away from her family. Elizabeth and TJ have a lot in common-but Elizabeth is small enough to worry about being hunted by TJ’s pet cat!….

Read the Rest 


KILLER SPIRIT, the second book in THE SQUAD series, is coming out the same day as the first, so, fortunately, there won’t be a wait for readers–and you’ll want to read both books as soon as they come out!

Like book one, KILLER SPIRIT is a book about secret agent cheerleaders, and, again, it kept me reading at every free moment (and a few moments that  my math teacher didn’t consider as free as I did) until I was done! In this book, unlikely cheerleader Toby Klein is on another Squad mission, as well as getting ready for homecoming–where she actually has a shot, much to her dismay, at being elected the first sophomore Homecoming queen ever.

Toby, being Toby, is more worried about that than the fact that her life is in danger almost daily due to a squad mission that’s even riskier than it seemed at first. Bombs and evil law firms, Toby can handle. Homecoming? Guys?  Inter-cheer-squad politics? Not so easy.

This second adventure in the series does not disappoint! In fact, I even liked it better than book one.  There are great characters, awesome action, cool spy gear (bulletproof push-up bras, anyone?), and, could it be, even a hint of romance in Toby’s life?

Sure to please readers, KILLER SPIRIT might just be my favorite of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ books, and I absolutely loved TATTOO, so that’s saying something! I can’t wait for book number three!

Four 1/2 Stars

I don’t know that I would have picked up THE SQUAD, a book about a cheerleading squad who are also secret agents, had I not already loved what I’ve read by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (TATTOO and GOLDEN). However, that said, I’m glad I did read this fun book!

Toby Klein is so not a cheerleading type of girl. Toby wears combat boots. Toby has a black belt and beats up football players. In her opinion, cheerleaders are a bunch of morons jumping around in short skirts.

So Toby’s as surprised as anyone when she’s picked to join the varsity cheer squad, aka the God Squad. Of course, then she finds out that she actually fits the profile a lot better than people think. Because Bayport’s cheerleaders aren’t just cheerleaders–they’re secret agent cheerleaders.

Yes, you read that right. Secret agent cheerleaders. Behind the glitter and the highlights, there is a crack team of undercover cheerleaders, working for the CIA. And Toby, being a black belt as well as an accomplished hacker, might actually be a pretty good secret agent. She’s not so sure about the cheerleading part, but Toby Klein has never been one to back down from a challenge, and she’s not about to start now.

THE SQUAD is a quick, very fun read that will leave readers waiting impatiently for the series’ next installment, THE SQUAD: KILLER SPIRIT (updated: coming out the same day as book one, so no impatient waiting!). Jennifer Lynn Barnes once again shows herself to be a talented author in this book, though I didn’t really love Toby at first. I was still quite engaged into the story, but it was more about the fast-paced, action-packed plot than Toby or any of the other characters. The characters grew more real as the book went on, but they didn’t seem very interesting (or likeable) at first.

THE SQUAD is a fun-filled, funny, light read perfect for relaxing after a stressful day at school (now that many of us are now back to the routine of sitting in classrooms all day). This is one that readers will love–even those of us who are, like Toby, so not cheerleader types.

Four Stars

Actual reviews & interviews coming soon. For now, though, check out these links! Also don’t forget to add upcoming books you’re excited about here. It only takes a minute and it helps people to find out about them easily!

According to Film Ick, the proposed Buffy spin-off Ripper (starring Giles) is finally happening! It’s not exactly book-related, but it is exciting, even if there are other characters I’d rather see more of.

Check out this conversation/interview between the two authors of Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List!

The Book Inscription Project is really awesome.

Also not book-related, but interesting: The 10 Most Buzzed About Shows For Fall.  And maybe kind of book-related, because Gossip Girl is one of them.

I have found a couple of similar things to this, but one is not frequently updated and the other is very basic (no links or information, just titles and dates for books). So I’ve decided to create a page for upcoming YA book releases, divided by genre so as to make shopping easier! Even better, it’s a wikispace–meaning anyone can edit it! I’ve made it public like this so that authors can add their books. You can find the page at It’s a work in progress–I’ll be adding books, but I hope you all will be, too! Hopefully you’ll find this helpful.

So I told you about Red already, but now I have some more excitement to share: blurbs. I think I may have actually squealed when I read these! Check it out:

“This book is amazing. Honest, hysterical, heartbreaking, uplifting-these essays come straight from the true teenage soul. Read this book!”
— Paul Feig, creator of the TV series FREAKS AND GEEKS

“It’s high time people stopped writing, talking, and worrying about teenage girls and just let those girls speak for themselves. This book, with its wonderfully free, captivating style, gives voice to many talented young essayists, who-either because of their suffering, their great wit, their sensitivity, their triumph, or some combination of all those things-richly deserve to be heard. My suspicion (my hope!) is to hear from them again and again, far into the future.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the New York Times bestseller EAT, PRAY, LOVE

“Each of these stories is a treasure, and readers will be grateful that these young women are willing to share them. I couldn’t say which is my favorite. It’s like comparing children: One stuns you with her wit and then another breaks your heart with her sensitivity.”
— Jeannette Walls, author of the New York Times bestseller THE GLASS CASTLE

Edited to add one more, from the absolutely brilliant Francine Prose (her book, AFTER, is one of my all-time favorites so this is especially exciting!):

“The honesty and beauty of the hilarious, heartbreaking, and often harrowing stories collected in RED are enough to give you hope for the young women who wrote these marvelous pieces, and for literature, and for us all.”
– Francine Prose, bestselling essayist, novelist, and author of READING LIKE A WRITER

Here are a couple of interesting links I’ve come across:

Jen Robinson talks about John Marsden’s Tomorrow Series as part of the One Shot World Tour: Best Read With Vegemite (second link goes to post roundup at the YA YA YAs). Lots of great posts there! Anyway, I adore that series, but posting about all of them is a big job, so I’m glad to be able to link to someone else who’s done it–thanks, Jen! Now, everyone else who hasn’t read the series, what are you waiting for??

These are some interesting…book sculptures, I guess you’d call them?  Well anyway lots of cool pictures. Link via Semicolon.

Also, Stardust. There is a book by Neil Gaiman and also a newly released movie. I saw the movie on Friday, and it was amazing. A new favorite of mine. So now I want to read the book, but I’m a little afraid to. I don’t know why, but once I read a book or see a movie, I don’t like to do the other thing because it may change my opinion of the first. Is that weird? Has anyone read STARDUST? Should I read it?

STARCROSSED is a really lovely book. It starts out with Christy Marlowe and Ben Penrose meet at a plastic surgeon’s office. They’re both their getting tattoos removed-of each other’s names. If that’s not fate, what is?

And to Christy, fate really is important. She’s got a huge obsession with astrology. Despite their mutual attraction, she refuses to go out with Ben until he gets his chart done by her astrologist, Svetlana, and Svetlana assesses their compatibility.

Ben, on the other hand, likes astronomy. He thinks astrology is ridiculous, but, for Christy, he’ll get Svetlana’s opinion of him and his possibilities of a relationship with Christy.

STARCROSSED is about fate, love, truth, and struggling with a painful past. It’s a wonderful novel, with real, flawed, three-dimensional characters. Ben and Christy aren’t perfect, but they are completely real. I didn’t notice exceptionally lifelike secondary characters, but this is a love story–of course other characters fade into the background sometimes. This is an amazing, well-written, absorbing novel about real people, their lives, and their relationships–and the stars.

Four 1/2 Stars

I was really excited to read this book because these two authors have written another really fantastic book together: NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST. NICK AND NORAH is a fantastic book that I really should review sometime. Both authors have also written amazing books separately–Rachel Cohn’s GINGERBREAD, in particular, is another huge favorite of mine.

So NAOMI AND ELY’S NO KISS LIST has a lot to live up to. It’s close, but I think NICK AND NORAH is better–but not by much, and that may well just be a matter of my personal preference, as both are brilliant.

Naomi and Ely are the best of friends, and they grew up that way, in the same apartment building in New York City (I love books set in NYC, too). Because Naomi is straight and Ely is gay, their taste in guys kind of overlaps sometimes. So, to keep their friendship free from any conflicts over boys, they’ve created the no kiss list.

Bruce The Second wasn’t on the no kiss list, but Naomi sort of thought it was understood–he was her boyfriend. Until Ely kissed him.

And now…Naomi and Ely aren’t as solid together as they thought. Will their fantastic friendship really be put in jeopardy by a boy? Or is it about more than that? And can they fix it?

Naomi, Ely, and all of the other characters populating this awesome book are so amazingly well written. So three-dimensional. And their relationships! The way that Cohn and Levithan understand the relationships between people is fantastic, and shows through so well in their writing.

Chapters switch points of view, mainly between Naomi and Ely, with other characters occasionally getting to have a say as well, and that is done so well. They all have their distinct voices, they are all fully developed characters, and I was never confused as to who was speaking. The head-hopping here was completely necessary and done brilliantly.

Both Cohn and Levithan are amazingly talented writers, and in working together they have once again managed to create something absolutely beautiful! I can’t gush about this one enough!

Five Stars

Hollywood is the setting for this wonderful novel, but it’s not exactly what you’d expect. It’s not about the glitz and glamour of being a star, or the hardship of being constantly in the spotlight. It’s about Egg (formerly Victoria)…

Read the rest 

Some of you may have seen me mention this or seen it on my top friends on myspace, but I am posting an official announcement now!

I am going to have an essay in the upcoming book Red: The Next Generation of American Writers–Teenage Girls–On What Fires Up Their Lives Today !!!!!!!!! Buy it, everyone! It’s going to be good. Here’s the description from the Amazon page:

A strikingly honest, vivid collection of personal essays by teenage girls, offering a glimpse into the lives of today’s MySpace generation

If you’re a teenage girl today, you live your life in words-tapped out into text and instant messages, onto blogs and MySpace pages (a quarter of the site’s sixty million American users are teen girls). It’s how you conduct your friendships and present yourself to the world. Every day, you’re creating a formidable body of personal written work.

This generation’s unprecedented comfort level with the written word has led to a fearless new American literature. These collected essays, at last, offer the key to understanding the inscrutable teenage girl-one of the most mislabeled and underestimated members of society, argues Amy Goldwasser, longtime editor at magazines including Seventeen, New York, and Vogue. And, while psychologists and other experts have tried to explain the teen girl in recent years, no book since the 1999 bestseller Ophelia Speaks has given her the opportunity to speak for herself-until now.

In this eye-opening collection, more than fifty teenage girls from across the country speak out, writing about everything from post-Katrina New Orleans to Johnny Depp; from the loneliness of losing a best friend to the loathing or pride they feel about their bodies. Revealing the complicated inner lives, hopes, struggles, thrills, and obsessions of this generation, RED ultimately provides today’s teen girl with much-needed community, perspective, and validation-and helps the rest of us to better understand her.

Okay, I don’t much like that description, either, but it’s going to be better than that! I’ll post more as we get closer to the release date (November 8). In unrelated news, 1500 views on the wordpress site since I moved it from blogger!

Sorry for the lack of content lately! My recreational reading time has been taken over with required reading (and the work that goes along with it): Guns, Germs, And Steel by Jared Diamond. I would much rather be reading YA fiction (or any fiction, for that matter), but first I’ve got to finish this (by Thursday). Anyway, to fill in the time before I can post some more reviews, here are some cool links:

Joelle Anthony’s 25 most overused things in MG & YA Fiction, via Finding Wonderland.

Miss Erin rounds up her favorite Harry Potter links.

Don’t forget to enter the monthly contests at YABC and Teens Read Too!

All these cool-sounding teen librarians & libraries are friending me on myspace! I want to know why my library is so un-cool. We have one small bookcase of YA books, and a couple of spinning things with paperbacks (but those are all old series like Sweet Valley High and such). And no teen librarian, just the normal librarian who is in charge of the whole library. I want to live somewhere with a cool library! Actually I want to move to Sweden, but I just wish that where I live now had such an awesome library.

So, ECLIPSE, Stephenie Meyer’s latest, is one of those books that I think is so popular it’s not really worth reviewing, is it? Chances are, nothing I write here will convince people to read it if they weren’t planning on doing so already. I mean, I read that the first printing is a million copies! Compared to everything but Harry Potter, that’s huge! But this book so totally deserves it. I loved TWILIGHT and NEW MOON, and this one’s even better. I can’t say more or I’ll be getting in to spoiler territory, but this is definitely one of my all-time favorite books! Check out the awesome website here.

This second book in the TEEN ALIEN HUNTRESS series, following RED HANDED, is not a direct continuation of that story. Familiar characters make an appearance, but really this is just another book taking place in that same well-created world of the first. That said, it’s well worth reading, too!

BLACKLISTED is about Camille, who is a pretty average teenage girl. With her best friend, Shanel, she sneaks into a nightclub, trying to catch the attention of her crush. Camille’s persistence, however, leads them into a situation that they were not anticipating when they came to the club…

Read the rest

Phoenix has been in more than a bit of trouble lately, thanks to Onadyn, a new drug that she used. She’s gone to rehab
and kicked it now, but her mother still doesn’t trust her. And when she’s at a party in the woods that turns into a fight with
aliens, her mother thinks it was more drugs.

That’s the last straw…

Read the rest

I’ve decided to add something new to my blog: author interviews!! Thanks so much to Robin Brande for agreeing to be my first interview. Don’t forget to buy her debut novel, EVOLUTION, ME, AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE, when it comes out August 28th. Here’s my review, and here’s a link to the book’s website, where you can win cool prizes, including an autographed copy of the book, some teen books from Random House, and even an American Express gift card!

And now, on to my first-ever author interview!

In your book, Kayla is a character who is outspoken and stands up for everything she believes in, and encourages everyone else to do the same. Are you anything like Kayla today? Were you in high school?

I wish I were like Kayla! She was the most fun character to write, because she is so completely not like me. She’s smarter, wittier, bolder–every time I wrote a scene with her, she made me laugh out loud. She and Ms. Shepherd are the kind of people I wish I could be sometimes. I really enjoyed writing them both.

How long did it take you to write EVOLUTION? How did your first draft differ from the final book?

I started out writing a very different book than what I ended up with. The original was going to be so much darker, and involved completely different characters. But while I was working on it, my sweet old Labrador died, and I just didn’t feel like working on a depressing book anymore. So instead I put it aside and did nothing but watch Lord of the Rings–all three movies, with appendices–for about two weeks straight. By then it was time to go on vacation, where we found a family with a litter of black Lab puppies. And it was that experience of picking out our new puppy that suddenly gave me the whole idea of the book I really wanted to write–including the character of Casey, who is based on the son of the family selling the puppies (his name is Casey, too). So the EVOLUTION you see now is the direct result of my old dog dying. Isn’t that weird?

What had you written before EVOLUTION?

EVOLUTION is my sixth novel. Before that I spent a long, long time working on one novel, trying to make it perfect. When you revise one novel hundreds of times (okay, an exaggeration–but sometimes it felt like that), you end up taking all the heat out of it–I just couldn’t make it work. But then I went to a writers’ seminar where the teachers talked about how fast writing is good writing, and that it’s much better to quickly get your whole story on paper, then go back and make it shine. These were authors who wrote multiple books a year, and I hadn’t even considered that that was possible. I came home from the seminar and wrote a novel in 5 weeks. And then another novel in 6 weeks. And within about two and a half years, I’d written five novels and gotten an agent. So once I broke through that cycle of endlessly torturing one novel, things happened pretty quickly.

What sort of environment do you write best in?

I have an office in my house, with windows that look out onto our garden. But the best thing about my office is that right in the next room is a couch where my black Lab sleeps all day. When it’s time for the evening walk he comes in and nudges my arm until I stop working and go play with him. I can’t imagine a happier work environment.

What inspired you to write this book?

I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home, and was taught never to question anything in the Bible. I was also taught a lot of prejudices that took me a long time to get over. As I’ve gotten older and had more experiences in the world, I’ve come to realize that I can keep my faith and also make room for new information, such as scientific discoveries that might not mirror exactly what was said in Genesis. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with some of the people I was taught we were supposed to condemn. I wrote EVOLUTION because it’s the kind of book I would have liked to have read when I was in high school, wrestling with a lot of the issues Mena is facing. That’s really why I write any of my books–because I’m curious how the characters will handle situations I’m interested in.

What are your favorite books/authors?

Okay, here’s my love list: At the very top are J.K. Rowling and Charles Dickens. I think they are the best at the game–both in terms of pure, exciting stories, and also as masterful craftsmen. Other authors I love to read are Meg Cabot, Stephenie Meyer, Philip Pullman, and my friend Barry Lyga. And my two favorite books so far this year–besides Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was simply the best book EVER–are Austenland by Shannon Hale and Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller. Both are simply wonderful in completely different ways. And I can’t wait to read Stephenie Meyer’s latest, Eclipse, which comes out next week!

What’s your favorite part of this whole experience in writing a book and getting it published been, so far (this might change after it comes out August 28th, I’m sure!)?

The absolute best part of it is getting to meet so many new people–from all the wildly smart and creative people I’ve gotten to work with at Random House, to all the fun and opinionated readers I’ve had the privilege of hanging out and chatting with. I went on a pre-publication tour in March, where I visited five cities in five days (very little sleep, let me tell you). In each of those cities I met with a teen book group or high school class, and they’d all read advance copies of the book, so we just had a blast sitting around and talking about all of the issues raised by the book. I had no idea when I wrote the book that it would end up introducing me to so many great new people!

How did you react when you found out EVOLUTION was going to be published?

I was so, so, SO excited and happy and crazed. I must have eaten five pounds of chocolate a day waiting to hear from my agent what was happening. It turned out three different publishers wanted the book, so in the end I got to choose which one to go with. And I’m definitely happy with my choice! (Although the other two publishers are wonderful, too, so it wasn’t such an easy decision.)

What are you writing now? If it’s not a sequel to EVOLUTION, is there going to be one?

I’ve got two more books in the works–both are YA, and one is a romantic comedy, the other more of a drama involving reincarnation. I’m not sure which one is going to be my second book–and I have to decide soon! I’ve also written a screenplay for EVOLUTION, so maybe some day . . .

Anything you wish I’d asked you? :-)

No, Jocelyn, like I said, those were really great questions! I hope you will do many more author interviews. Interviewing is hard, but you really do get it!

Thanks for featuring me. It’s an honor.

Thank you, Robin!

Next Page »