Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interview: Jennifer Brown

I'd like to welcome Jennifer Brown. Jennifer is the author of two very popular teen fiction novels, Hate List and Bitter End (both of which I've reviewed on my blog). After reading both of these books, I thought it would be a great idea to interview Jennifer and see what she has planned for next.


Congratulations on your success! What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Thank you! My advice to aspiring authors is it's all about self-belief. Rejections hurt and can make you doubt yourself and feel like you'll never make it. And you will be rejected, no matter how awesome you are (because sometimes rejections truly aren't about how good or bad the work is). But you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you will eventually get published. And you have to keep trying. Don't ever give up. You'll get there.

Both of your books dealt with serious social issues that teens go through. In Hate List it was bullying and a school shooting and in Bitter End it was about abuse. What attracted you to these kinds topics and what makes it interesting to write about?

What makes those subjects interesting to me is that they're real. Teens are dealing with those issues (as well as many other tough social issues) every day, and I think it's important to get people thinking about, and talking about, them. In my mind, thinking and talking about tough social issues are the first steps to making changes, and that's what I'd really like to see--a day when school shootings no longer exist and relationship abuse no longer happens, and many other positive social changes. Teens are powerful--more powerful than they sometimes realize, I think--and are totally capable of bringing about positive changes in this world. I like writing books that reminds them of how powerful they really can be.

Hate List
Do you think you'll continue this trend with your writing?

I do imagine I'll continue to write about social issues, but I'm also eager to prove that I'm not a one-trick pony, and have some other ideas in the works as well. Ultimately, I'd like to have a nice balance of work in many different genres exploring many different thoughts.

Even though you write teen fiction, do you see yourself writing for other audiences in the future?

I do have an interest in writing for other audiences. Last year I wrote a middle grade fantasy novel that I'd like to see published someday and right now I'm working on an adult literary novel. I'm a big believer in writing the story that wants to be written, and have dabbled in mystery and women's fiction in the past (and am a former humor writer!), so I would never squash a project just because it wasn't YA, or any other genre.

What do you have planned for next?

Right now I'm finishing up copyedits on my third YA novel, which is called Perfect Escape. It's about a sister who runs away with her older brother to try to cure him of his OCD (and also to run away from her own problems, but she doesn't like to admit that). After that, I do have some stories up my sleeve, but those are still in the thinking stage.

Bitter EndIf Valerie and Alex met, what do you think would happen?

I'm hoping that they'd be understanding of each other's situation, given all they'd gone through. I'd even like to think they'd find a commonality and would be friends. But, let's face it, Valerie's going to be a tough nut to crack her whole life. It will take a lot to build a friendship with her, and I'm not sure Alex will have it in her to try hard enough, especially since she already has Bethany and Zack in her life.



For more information about Jennifer and her books, please visit her website: Jennifer Brown

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Misfit by Jon Skovron


Jael Thompson has never really fit in. She's changed schools too many times to count. The only family she's ever known is her father, a bitter ex-priest who never lets her date and insists she attend the strictest Catholic school in Seattle. And her mother--well, she was a five thousand year old demon. That doesn't exactly help.

But on her sixteenth birthday, her father gives her a present that brings about some unexpected changes. Some of the changes, like strange and wonderful powers and the cute skater boy with a knack for science, are awesome. But others, like the homicidal demon seeking revenge on her family? Not so much.

Steeped in mythology, this is an epic tale of a heroine who balances old world with new, science with magic, and the terrifying depths of the underworld with the ordinary halls of high school.

Pages: 384 pages (Hardcover)
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release: August 1st, 2011

Jael is half mortal and half demon. It's not something she's really worried about until her sixteenth birthday when her father reluctantly hands her a necklace. He doesn't want her to have it, but his dead wife made him promise her that he'd give it to Jael when she turns 16. The necklace opens up Jael's demon powers, but also makes her a target for a big demon who has been hunting her for many years. He hates half breeds and wants to kill her, just like he killed her mom.

This is a hard review for me to write. Every time I start to write something, I end up deleting it because it doesn't sound right. Nothing seems to sound right. I kind of what to delete what I wrote above too, but it's too late for that. The reason why I'm having a hard time with this novel is because I really disliked this book. Not just a little bit, but a lot. It might be my least favourite book of the year.

This book had a lot of things going for it. The premise and the mythology that was used made me want to like this, but I just couldn't. I think the biggest reason why I didn't get into this book was the writing style. It's not easy to write a present tense novel and make it appealing. It's hard for a lot of readers to get into. I don't mind it, but that's only if the novel is fast paced and a lot of things are happening. When it's like this, I think it works. When the novel is slow moving, then you shouldn't be using present tense.

But using present tense and third person, when the novel is slow moving (at least until the end) that just spells trouble. Because it's written this way, Jael never connected to me. She was just there. And she sounds incredibly annoying, selfish, and stupid. I understand that she's lived a very strict lifestyle, so learning more about being a demon is her way of rebelling to her dad. But why didn't she take the time to actually talk to him about it?

Jael's relationships with other people in the novel never rang true to me either. The other characters, other than her dad, are not fleshed out well and sound more like stereotypes; you have the cool and accepting uncle, the understanding teacher, the bad guy, who is a stupid bad guy, the skater boy, who is good at math and science and the best friend who is a hard core conservative, but fools around with a lot of guys.

There are a few chapters, told in third person past tense that tell us about Jael's parents life before and when they had her. This was slightly interesting, but I couldn't get into this due to my ill feelings caused by the rest of the book.

I found that the more I read, the more nitpicky I got. Brit, the best friend, using J all the time when she is talking to Jael annoyed me. Rob, the boyfriend, using Betty or Bets all the time when talking to Jael annoyed me. Dagon, the uncle, using kid all the time when talking to Jael annoyed me. Jael, the main character, using Uncle D when talking to her uncle annoyed me. Seeing 'says' a lot annoyed me.



The cover is beautiful, the content inside not so much. I had to force myself to finish this book, when I really didn't want to finish this book. This had a lot of potential and I can see this becoming a series, but sadly it wasn't executed properly and because of that I didn't enjoy this at all.

1 star

This book was provided by net galley

Review: Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson


"Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her."

Sixteen-year-old Alison wakes up in a mental institution. As she pieces her memory back together, she realizes she's confessed to murdering Tori Beaugrand, the most perfect girl at school. But the case is a mystery. Tori's body has not been found, and Alison can't explain what happened. One minute she was fighting with Tori. The next moment Tori disintegrated--into nothing.

But that's impossible. No one is capable of making someone vanish. Right? Alison must be losing her mind--like her mother always feared she would.

For years Alison has tried to keep her weird sensory abilities a secret. No one ever understood--until a mysterious visiting scientist takes an interest in Alison's case. Suddenly, Alison discovers that the world is wrong about her--and that she's capable of far more than anyone else would believe.

Pages: 306 pages (Hardcover)
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books; 1 edition
Release: September 1st 2011

Alison wakes up in white room with no memory of how she got there and is told that she'll be transferred to Pine Hills, a mental institution for teens. Sure she can taste sound and smell words, but she's kept that to herself. Other than that she's completely sane. The police, the staff at Pine Hills, and her mother and friend don't think so. It's probably because on the night that Tori disappeared, Alison came home covered in blood screaming that she killed Tori. When police tried to apprehend her, she attacked them and attacked herself as well.

The night Tori died is still a mystery to Alison. One minute they were fighting, the next minute Tori disintegrated and hasn't been found since. Even though the situation is completely unbelievable, Alison believes that she's the cause of Tori's disappearance. In fact, she believes she killed her with her mind.

As the novel goes on, we learn more about Alison's rare, but completely human ability (you can even find it on wikipedia). But sadly, that takes up the majority of the novel. I would have liked to hear more about Tori and the mystery surrounding her. We do find out, obviously, but it's rushed. More Tori would have been appreciated.



If you are expecting a supernatural fiction novel, which is what the synopsis kind of tells you, then you might feel disappointed. This isn't supernatural fiction, the beginning is regular teen fiction, but near the end it turns sci-fi. This didn't really bother me and I hope this doesn't deter others from reading this.

I felt like the time spent in Pine Hills did drag on quite a bit, considering that you're expecting to hear more about the mystery. It was interesting though. One of the things that I didn't like was Alison's love interest. As a standalone character, he was alright, but when he’s together with Alison and then they confess their love to each other that was a little off for me. I understood why Alison felt the way she felt, sure it didn’t scream love it was more of confused because you were nice to me when no one else was. But she’s a teen, so it’s normal for her to confuse this feeling with love. Him on the other hand, it never rang true with me.

Ultraviolet did take me a few days to finish, but every time I picked up my iPod to read this I did get hooked. There are a lot of good points in this novel and I could see this turning into a series, but also some things that I didn't quite like. Overall, this was a fun and very different read so I enjoyed it.

3.5 stars

This book was provided by net galley

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review: Secrets, Monsters, and Magic Mirrors by Donald B. Lemke


Five of the world's greatest fairy tales are retold in the popular and attractive graphic novel format. Beautiful, bold illustrations give these timeless tales a modern edge. The stories include Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, Princess and the Pea, Snow White, and Thumbelina.

Pages: 176 pages (Paperback)
Publisher: Capstone
Released: August 1, 2011

Because this is a collection of stories, I'll be providing a brief review for each story.

I've heard of this version of Rapunzel before, so this wasn't something new to me. I thought the artwork was fitting for this story. When we see the witch and her scenes, the art is very gray and dark. When we see Rapunzel and her prince, there is a lot more life and colour on the pages. Even when the witch and Rapunzel were together, the witch was gray and Rapunzel was full of life.

Even though this story is quite famous, I've never read it before. So this was my first time seeing Thumbelina. The art in this story is very colourful, which again fits the story. I quite enjoyed watching Thumbelina go from her home, to the frogs, to the mouse, and everywhere in between.

Snow White
In terms of artwork, I would say that Snow White has a very mature style. Once again, it works for the story, but it doesn't match the theme of this collection. All the other stories have some sort of cuteness to them. Snow White doesn't. It kind of reminded me of the Anita Blake graphic novel. The evil stepmother looked evil, but also slightly manish. I did like how the seven dwarfs looked though, they were very cute.

Beauty and the Beast
In terms of artwork, this was my second favourite story out of the 5. It reminded me of felt artwork and the backgrounds were beautifully done. Everything was simple, but the little details made it really stand out. The story was good too!

Princess and the Pea
This was my favourite story in the collection. The art was colourful and vibrant and the story was incredibly cute. I've read a Princess and the Pea many times as a kid, but it was never a story that I actively sought out. The idea of someone being so fragile that a pea would bother then didn't make sense to me. I wondered why she didn't just get off the bed and sleep on the floor? So I wasn't expecting much in terms of story from this, but I loved watching the prince search for a princess to wed. The characters he meets on his travels were unique, funny, and very weird.



I quite liked this collection. I love fairy tales, so I knew that I would be a fan of this right from the get go. One of the things I liked, other than the artwork, was how each story came with a brief history about it. Where the stories came from, how the stories changed throughout the years, when did the Brothers Grimm find it. Reading this was one of my favourite parts in this collection. Also, before each story would start, we'd be told the cast of characters.

The artwork was beautifully done as well, each had its own unique style but still shared some similarities to the other stories. For the most part, it's very kid friendly.

If you are looking for something original or a retelling of these classics, then this might not be the book that you're looking for. But if you're a fan of fairy tales, or want to introduce fairy tales to your kids, and want to see those stories told in graphic novel format, then this might be just for you.

3.5 stars

This book was provided by net galley.

Review: Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns . . .

Astrid Llewelyn has always scoffed at her eccentric mother's stories about killer unicorns. But when one attacks her boyfriend—ruining any chance of him taking her to prom—Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient Cloisters the hunters have used for centuries. However, all is not what it seems at the Cloisters. Outside, unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from bone-covered walls that vibrate with terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to her growing attraction to a handsome art student . . . an attraction that could jeopardize everything.

Pages: 416 pages (Hardcover)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Released: August 25, 2009


All her life, Astrid's mother has been telling her that unicorns are not the cute cuddly creatures we've come to know and love, they are actually dangerous man eating creatures. With fangs. The only protection that humans have against these ferocious creatures is getting unicorn hunters to deal with them. Unicorn Hunters are descendants of Alexander the Great and must remain virgins in order to fight unicorns. The moment you have sex, you lose your power.

Naturally, Astrid thinks her mother is crazy, I mean really, man eating unicorns? But when her boyfriend gets attacked by a unicorn and is saved by her mother, Astrid starts to see the world in a completely different light.

Astrid is sent to Rome to train with other girls to become unicorn hunters. All of the girls realize the dangers of fighting unicorns, but know that they are the only ones who can stop it. But because their magical unicorn powers stems from their virginity, they are also told to stay away from boys.

That doesn't stop Astrid and her cousin Phil to meet up with some boys. But as Astrid starts getting closer to Giovanni, she starts to question if this is really the life she wants to live.


Rampant has been on my radar for awhile now and I was ecstatic that I got the chance to finally read it. I've only heard good things about this so I knew that this would be great, and for the most part it is. Astrid is quite a strong female, in fact all of the girls in the unicorn hunting business are. It was nice reading about them and seeing their struggles and hardships.

I didn't like that the subject of Brandt wasn't really discussed. After they find out he runs away, I wondered why no one bothered to find him. He does show up in the sequel to Rampant, so that does make up for that.

Another thing that I didn't quite like was the relationship between Giovanni and Astrid. I could tell they liked each other, but they only met a couple of times, so I didn't find their relationship all that believable.

Other than those two things, I liked Rampant. It's a fun story with a very original premise great characters and of course, Killer unicorns.

4 stars