September 25, 2011

This did not cast a spell on me...

Title and author: The Juliet Spell by Douglas Rees
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Date: Sept. , 2011
ISBN: 9780373210398
Source: NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):
I wanted the role of Juliet more than anything. I studied hard. I gave a great reading for it—even with Bobby checking me out the whole time. I deserved the part.

I didn't get it. So I decided to level the playing field, though I actually might have leveled the whole play. You see, since there aren't any Success in Getting to Be Juliet in Your High School Play spells, I thought I'd cast the next best—a Fame spell. Good idea, right?

Yeah. Instead of bringing me a little fame, it brought me someone a little famous. Shakespeare. Well, Edmund Shakespeare. William's younger brother.

Good thing he's sweet and enthusiastic about helping me with the play...and—ahem—maybe a little bit hot. But he's from the past. Way past. Cars amaze him—cars! And cell phones? Ugh.

Still, there's something about him that's making my eyes go star-crossed.... 

My Thoughts:  
Rees has an interesting plot idea for the novel - what if the brother of Shakespeare came to modern time? For me as a reader, the novel was a miss.

This novel would have been more effective had it been written from Edmund's point of view. It is difficult for the reader to truly capture the essence of this novel through Miranda's eyes.   

What I liked: 

The overall idea for the novel was clever.
Interesting characters - Miranda and Drew were the best developed. 

What I did not like:   

Edmund's Elizabethan English was hard to muster in the novel. It was distracting more than enhancing, disrupting the flow of reading. Had Miranda been transported back to the Renaissance, the plot and the flow of the novel would have worked.

The relationship between Miranda and Edmund was not a high point. It should have been the focus; instead, it was not a well-developed plot point. I did not buy for a second that Miranda had feelings for Edmund.

I take issue with Miranda's mother being so accepting of a man who was brought from the past to the future being in her home. It is reminiscent of Bella's relationship with Charlie in the Twilight series. Again, a plot point that was not well-developed. 

Final Thoughts 
The idea for the novel is a clever one, and as a reader I was intrigued immediately to see where the author would take me. I have taught Shakespeare for twelve years, so I am always looking for interesting reads to share with my students to help make him more topical to their world. I had high hopes for this novel, but it fell flat. With that said, there is an audience for this book, but I do not believe that audience includes avid Shakespeare fans. 

Two great audios...

At 4:33 AM, London Lane's mind forgets the day. She must write everything from the day down; otherwise, those moments will be lost to her forever. She survives by waking each day and reading previously written notes. But can she trust herself to always be truthful in those notes?

While London may not be able to remember the past, she is able to see the future. This acts as a "safety blanket" for her. She knows that no matter what is currently happening, it will work out in the future, and this gives her comfort. At least until the disturbing dream starts.

The question is WHY? What happened to London to cause such a fate? Can she figure it out before she loses all that she finds dear to her - her best friend, her new love, herself?

With characters such as Jamie (her best friend) and Luke (her love), London is able to grow and come full circle by the novel's surprising end.

An intriguing idea, this novel is a must for those who love YA novels.

I did this novel as an audio, and I really enjoyed the reader. Some audiobooks fall short as a result of the reader, but I felt that this reader helped make the book. She did a great job interpreting the characters, thus enhancing my experience with the novel.

Imagine being the most popular boy in school. The one everyone wants to be. The one everyone loves. But not because of who you are on the inside but because you are rich and beautiful. This is life the life of Kyle Kingsbury. That is, that was his life. Kyle is placed under a curse by Kindra, a good witch with a good heart. Her goal - to teach Kyle that there is more to life and to love than outside appearance. 

While Kyle is perfect on the outside, inside he is a hideous beast. So, Kindra gives him a taste of the other side; however, because he does one act of kindness, he is given a chance to redeem himself. He has two years to do it - two years to find true love and to receive a kiss.

This is the old tale of Beauty and the Beast, just told from the Beast's point-of-view.

As a whole, I enjoyed this novel. There were elements that were a bit too hokey, but then again it is a fractured tale told from a unique view point. For this reason, I recommend this novel to all readers of YA, to all lovers of fractured fairy tales, and to teen boys. I believe with the tale from Beast's view, it helps make this a unisex novel.

As for the reader, I did enjoy his interpretation. I thought he did a great job presenting these characters in an honest way, which helped me enjoy the novel even more. I feel that if I read this novel instead of doing it as an audio, I would not have enjoyed the novel.

In My Mailbox (12)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  It is a way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.

This week it became clear that I should not be allowed near my son's book fair.

From Scholastic Book Fair 

School of Fear: Class is Not Dismissed by Gitty Daneshvari - I read the first one and thought it was okay, but I was not too sure about the sequel; however, when I saw it in paperback at the fair, I decided to give it a try. 

Guys Read Funny Business by Jon Scieszka - do I need to say more? 

Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger - I have been waiting for this book fair so I could pick this up in paperback. LOVED the first one.  

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel - Have not seen a lot about this book, but with the arrival of fall I am always in the mood for a creepy reads. This seemed to fit the bill. 

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma - I love books. My hubby loves books. Naturally, my son loves books. Hoping to read and enjoy this, making a connection to my own family's love of reading.

That's it for this week's mailbox - what's in yours? Have you read any of the above? Thoughts?

I'm always on the look out for great audios and great witchy reads. Let me know if you have suggestions.

Happy Reading!

September 18, 2011


I love a witchy tale - always have. When I found Once a Witch, I knew I was going to enjoy it. When I finally found the sequel on the shelf, I was ecstatic to continue the journey with these characters. Now that the journey is over, I feel satisfied.

Summary (from the cover):

Since the gripping conclusion of Once a Witch, Tamsin Greene has been haunted by her grandmother's prophecy that she will soon be forced to make a crucial decision--one so terrible that it could destroy her family forever. When she discovers that her enemy, Alistair Knight, went back in time to Victorian era New York in order to destroy her family, Tamsin is forced to follow him into the past. Stranded all alone in the nineteenth century, Tamsin soon finds herself disguised as a lady's maid in the terrifying mansion of the evil Knight family, avoiding the watchful eye of the vicious matron, La Spider, and fending off the advances of Liam Knight. As time runs out, both families square off in a thrilling display of magic. And to her horror, Tamsin finally understands the nature of her fateful choice.

My thoughts:

Tamsin is a delightful, selfless character. She wants to do what is right by her family, not by herself. As the novel opens readers are prepared to celebrate her sister's wedding, but quickly things take a turn, and Tamsin makes a fateful decision to step back in time to save her family.

This sequel was satisfying until the very end. There were many twists and turns; there were many cringe-worthy moments; there was a magical showdown. All three of these made me love this novel. At times I was not sure where MacCullough would take her plot, and that was refreshing.

While I did not feel Tamsin grew as a character, I felt that that was never the author's purpose. She is a storyteller, and thus she took two books to tell the story of Tamsin - a teen who comes from a family of talents; a teen who believes she has no talent; a teen who discovers she does have a talent; a teen who pays the ultimately price for that talent.

This is a great, witchy tale of wanting to belong, of first love, of family, of sacrifice.

Without giving too much away, I do want to make a final comment on the title of this novel - clever, very clever.


In My Mailbox (12)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  It is a way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.

I'm back - finally! After two whirlwind weeks, I've finally had a chance to do an IMM post.

This week I have a pretty big haul. Between attending the Decatur Book Festival and my trip to Barnes & Noble, my "to be read" pile has grown quite a bit. BUT, there's no such thing as too many books, right?

From Decatur Book Festival

Quite excited to add these three novels to my pile of books to read. The Unwanteds and Wildwood are signed.

From B&N

I love this time of year because I find the most interesting novels. Since I collect "witchy tales," I usually find great reads to add each year.

When I saw Glow, I knew I needed to add it to my pile of reads. There is quite a bit of buzz surrounding this book, so I hope it lives up to it for me.

I wish I would have bought Anna and the French Kiss at the festival since Perkins was there signing, but hearing her speak did encourage me to want to read it.

From the library

While looking for my next audio, I stumbled across Wonderland by Tommy Kovac, a graphic novel of the famous tale. The illustrations are amazing, so I cannot wait to dive into it.

I've never read Beastly but almost have meant to add it, so I grabbed it the moment I saw it as an audio. I hope I love it as much as many of my students have.

And that's it for this week's finds. Have you read any of these? Do you have witchy suggestions for me?

Happy reading!

September 11, 2011

YA Rockstars!

A Skippyjon Jones parade? Mad libs with Libba Bray? A reading from Ten, by Lauren Myracle? A witchy panel? A real panel with writer’s of realistic YA? 

All in a weekend at the Decatur Book Festival 2011!

I spent Labor Day weekend not grilling out and shopping the sales at my local mall. Instead, I chose to spend it hearing some of the hottest YA authors speak. I'm not going to blog about every last detail of the weekend, but I will fill you in on a few highlights.

Who I heard speak:

Judy Schachner, Lisa McMann, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Adam Gidwitz, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Beth Revis, and Stephanie Perkins

Who I heard speak and met:

Libba Bray, Lauren Myracle, Myra McEntire, Rachel Hawkins, Jackson Pearce, Victoria Schwab, Elizabeth Eulberg, and Jennifer Jabaley

Friday night adventure

First, let me just say that I am a bit on the stalkerish side when it comes to Victoria Schwab. Once I arrived in Decatur that Friday night, the fam and I went for a walk to check out the scene. I walked right past Schwab having dinner with her parents. I was so excited that I elbowed my favorite bookseller and just about knocked her into an umbrella. I immediately began tweeting my adventure, so excited to have spotted one of the author’s I was in Decatur to meet. 

Bring on the YA rockstars!


And so a great start to a great festival – I spent my Saturday with Judy Schachner, Myra McEntire, Beth Revis, Libba Bray, Lisa McMann, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Adam Gidwitz, and Lauren Myracle. Not too shabby, is it?

The 2011 DBF got a great kick off on Saturday with Judy Schachner’s Skippyjon Jones leading a parade to the children’s stage. After a lot of excited children calmed down, the audience was treated to Schachner reading from her latest installment of the famous cat – and she did an impromptu drawing as well. She even signed it and gave it to a young fellow in the audience that asked for it. What a generous heart (and an awesome souvenir).

The first panel was with Myra McEntire and Beth Revis. I read Hourglass the week it came out and fell in love with it, so I considered myself a McEntire groupie. She was as funny on stage as her tweets allude, and it is clear that she plans on staying in the world of writing (thank goodness). I have not read Revis' book, but let's just say she knows where she wants to take her writing…she wants to blow people up. A lot. McEntire wants more kissing, but Revis wants more explosions. Don't the two usually go together? Just a thought. 
Myra McEntire, Beth Revis
Ah, Libba Bray – one of the many reasons I came to Decatur, GA in the first place. She was AMAZING! Actually, that word does not even fit. But let’s just say that if you’ve ever read her books, she really is that awesome in person. No really, she is. She is so awesome that I could barely get a clear picture of her because she was all over the place. It was quite clear that she loves her job and she loves to meet those who read her work. She is a true inspiration. If you ever have a chance to hear her speak, you should.

Hard to capture on camera b/c she moved around so much!
While discussing her latest novel, Beauty Queens, she explained to us that she really does not like to summarize her books for others. Instead, she played Mad Libs with us. She asked for so many adjectives that I felt like the audience was nothing more than a thesaurus, but leave it up to Lauren Myracle to scream out “penis” when Bray needed a noun. Before anyone knew what hit them, we were greeted with a quite amazing summary of Bray's latest novel that included "maxi pad cupcakes." Hilarious! One of the best panels I’ve ever seen.

I was bummed because I really wanted to take my pic with Bray when she signed my book, but I heard the handlers saying she only had about twenty more minutes. Her line was a lot longer than twenty minutes, and I didn't want to take time from someone else getting a chance to meet her, so she was the only author I did not take my pic with :-( Meeting her was enough.

While I was in line waiting to meet Bray, I missed Lauren Myracle’s discussion on Shine, so I immediately trekked over to the children’s stage where she was going to discuss her Winnie series. I was treated to Adam Godwitz (author of A Tale Dark and Grimm, which I’ve read and loved), Lisa McMann and Margaret Peterson Haddix. It was interesting to watch the younger audience interact with the authors, especially since I just spent my morning at the YA arena (aka Decatur Library). Children ask fascinating questions – and the gleam of “rock stardom” in their eyes as they gaze on their favorite writers cannot be beat – hands down.
Margaret Peterson Haddix, Lisa McMann
 Lauren Myracle read to us from Ten, the prequel to her Winnie series. I discovered Winnie years ago and have always sworn that if I had a daughter, I was going to name her after this character. I absolutely love the creation Myracle has given us. Who am I kidding – I’ve read every single one of Myracle’s books and have loved every single one of them. THE Judy Blume of this generation, you bet.

And Myracle was awesome - I spoke to her about the importance of writers speaking on our youths behalf because too often their voices are silenced for a plethora of reasons. She has a gift with words and storytelling, and her YA novels take on tough issues with a heart and soul that I think many young readers can connect to.
I'm such a fangirl - but I heart Myracle!

Rachel Hawkins, Jackson Pearce, and Victoria Schwab were on stage together, and to say that there was more than a little hilarity would not do this panel justice. These aren’t your mama’s witchy writers – these ladies have spunk, a way with words, and a way with the audience. Of the three, Hawkins was by far the funniest. Of course, I taught with her for a few years. Can I tell you a secret? That is how she is all the time (in case you were wondering).

I loved hearing these three root for witches within writing. If you follow my blog then you know I LOVE a great witchy tale. I read Hawkins’ books the week they came out and I read Schwab’s novel as a galley; now I must make Pearce’s witchy tale a priority. I mean, October is coming up, right? That’s my excuse – sorry papers, I cannot grade you right now. I must read this witchy tale in order to prepare my heart and soul for the upcoming holiday.

In case you are wondering. These ladies were asked, “If your witches got into a fight, who would win?” They all agreed that Victoria Schwab’s witches would take the crown. Smart ladies. 

But really, I felt their panel was just as hilarious as Bray’s, which is a high compliment. Bray is such a fantastic speaker and really knows how to interact with her audience, but these ladies could give her a run for her money. I’ve got it – next year, let’s put Libba Bray and Rachel Hawkins on the stage together and see what happens! 
Rachel Hawkins, Jackson Pearce, Victoria Schwab

While awaiting for the final YA panel of the festival I was treated to Vicky Alvear Shecter. When I came into the room she was just finishing up discussing her inspiration for her novel, Cleopatra’s Moon. She then treated us to a reading from the book, and I realized that I must add this novel to my “to read” pile. I love historical fiction, and I am interested in Cleopatra.

The final panel of the festival – Elizabeth Eulberg, Stephanie Perkins, and Jennifer Jabaley! The moderator for this panel was Terra Elan McVoy, author of Pure, and it was a nice treat. These ladies had great chemistry; they had true camaraderie for one another as writers and as people. While it was clear that most of the audience was there for Perkins, who is adorable in person FYI, I was there for Eulberg.

At the end of the panel, Eulberg was the one I was there to meet. She loved my “I heart Jane Austen” shirt (which I promise I did not wear on purpose for when I met her, it just worked out that way) so much that she took a pic for her blog and gave me the “best shirt” award. (Squee!) The proof is here.

Elizabeth Eulberg, Stephanie Perkins, Jennifer Jabaley

Perkins signing - me with Elizabeth
My thoughts
This was a weekend full of YA awesomesauce! There, I said it. There is no other word. The author panels were interesting and fun, standing in line with fellow fans brought warmth to my heart, and getting to meet the authors was amazing.

From the authors I saw true camaraderie for one another. They attended each others panels, they hung out together, they showed true celebration in being a writer. None of them were arrogant or too good to be there. 


September 5, 2011

Gemma Doyle, meet Neil Gaiman

Like many of you, I am a cover shopper. If the cover sticks in my mind, I pick up the book and read the description to see if I'm interested. In the case of Heather Dixon's novel, the cover alone sold this novel to me. I knew looking at it that I would love it. After all, I love Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series, so how could I go wrong with this choice?

After sitting on my shelf for many weeks, I saw Entwined as an audio at my library. I decided that since I really wanted to read it but I have so much going on with teaching, I would give the audio a try.

Summary (from cover):

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her...beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with's taken away. All of it.

Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.

But there is a cost.

The Keeper likes to keep things. 

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.   

My thoughts:

Azalea is cast in the middle between doing what is right by her sisters and what is right by expectations. She is in charge of caring for the well-being of the eleven youngers, and Azalea takes this job quite seriously. But she also knows there are rules that must be followed, and she walks a fine line between following those rules and breaking them (but for the right reasons).

Dixon creates an interesting world for readers. We are privy to RB (royal business) within the palace, but we are also initiated into a magic that grows within the user. One that requires an oath, an oath that may cost some their lives. While the plot itself is fascinating and perfectly paced, the world created beyond the palace walls in the one that will capture readers, much like Keeper is trying to capture his freedom.

Dixon's "other world" brings a Gaimanesque quality to it, creating perfect juxtaposition between the intention of Azalea and her sisters and that of Keeper. Those who have read any of Gaiman's work will immediately pick up on the macabre creation of Dixon's within the magical world, a world that is meant to keep all twelve girls safe, not tear them apart.

But do not be fooled readers. While the girls do spend time in the magical world dancing, while the girls do find themselves in a precarious situation, this is not the focus. This is what enhances it. There is plenty of fainting, romance, fainting, romance, fainting, and romance to keep you turning the page as well. All of this fainting, romance, and magical world make this worth you reading.

Like Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, Entwined casts an enchantment over readers.

A final note about the title - let's just say that it is clever, and the reveal of the title's origin will be a clever surprise to readers.

September 2, 2011

This weekend...

This weekend I will be attending the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, GA. I made the trip last year for the sole purpose of meeting Cassandra Clare. This year my schedule is a bit more full with author bliss, particularly of the YA variety. Stay tuned this weekend as I post about my experience at the festival. 

Authors I plan to see and/or meet include (but are not limited to):
  • Judy Schachner, author of Skippyjon Jones
  • Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm (which I've reviewed on this blog)
  • Lauren Myracle, author of...well, do I really need to list them. VERY excited about her!!! (squee)
  • Myra McEntire, author of Hourglass (which I've reviewed on this blog) (squee)
  • Lisa McMann, author of WAKE trilogy (my students LOVE her books)
  • Libba Bray, author of amazing YA! (will keep my composure, will keep my composure)
  • Simone Elkeles, author of Perfect Chemistry (my students LOVE her books)
  • Jackson Pearce, author of Sweetly (haven't read yet, but excited to read)
  • Victoria Schwab, author of The Near Witch (which I've reviewed on this blog) (squee)
  • Rachel Hawkins, author of Hex Hall series (which I've reviewed on this blog) (HEART her!)
  • Elizabeth Eulberg, author of Prom & Prejudice and The Lonely Hearts Club (reviewed both of these) (heart her)
  • Tom Perrotta, author of Election, Little Children, Joe College, The Abstinence Teacher - heart him so bad!
I think that covers who all I'm hoping to hear speak and have the opportunity to meet - it should be an exciting weekend for of YA goodness. 

What I'm looking forward to:
  • Hearing Schachner read from her latest Skippyjon Jones book.
  • Keeping my composure as I hear and meet all these great YA authors, especially Libba Bray, Lauren Myracle, Elizabeth Eulberg, and Victoria Schwab. Okay, who am I kidding - I'm looking forward to each and every one of them! I've read their books, passed them along to either my students or co-workers, and am just excited all around!
  • Surrounding myself with other book lovers
  • Good food
  • Book shopping ;-)
I will be attending with the hubby, our little man, and my favorite book seller. Cannot wait to share my experience with all of you.

Happy reading time I will be in Decatur, GA!!!