Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Interview with Alexandra Adornetto, author of Halo

I had the very great pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Adornetto on Monday morning. I was a bit nervous as this was the first telephone/in person interview that I've done. I was quickly reassured by her down to earth, friendly manner and the oh-so-adorable Australian accent. Talking to an "eighteen-year-old phenom", as touted  by her publicist, I wasn't sure what to expect really. Alexandra is a well, but soft-spoken, young lady.

I started by asking where the name of Venus Cove, the fictional town that's the setting of her latest novel, Halo, came from. I thought that she would say it was based on somewhere local to her in Australia, but Alexandra says that Venus Cove is an unidentifiable American town; this was done to reach a wider market which makes sense being her North American debut.

Halo has been distinguished from other teen novels as being a "clean" read. When I asked Alexandra about this she felt it was more a reflection of her upbringing in a Christian household and attending Christian schools than anything intentional on her part. On reading her work, the publisher liked the fresh outlook, again giving Halo a wider appeal. Along this vein, I asked Alexandra how difficult it was for her to write the part of Jake, the "bad-guy" of the story. She told me that with Jake's character, there's more creative license involved. He appears as a teenage boy, the same as Gabriel, but Jake has his underlying dark side. Alexandra said Jake's character, along with the others, will be further developed in the second book of this trilogy, Hades.

On the topic of Hades, Alexandra mentioned she is working on book 2 while touring for Halo. The third title in the series will be Heaven; you have to love the alliteration here! Talk about a trouper though; This young lady is not only dealing with a North American tour but also writing a novel! With Halo coming in at 496 pages, she's no lightweight writer either.

We got onto the subject of more general author questions. I asked her about her writing day. Alexandra insists on complete quiet to write; she used the word "fussy" to describe this aspect of herself. She understands that lots of author's can write in coffee shops, etc. but that's not for her. She offered me an anecdote about kicking her mom out of the study one time for breathing too loud! I questioned her use of a quote from Beyonce at the beginning of Halo and Alexandra says that she finds music can be inspiring for writing....obviously just not while she's writing.

Alexandra isn't a newbie in the world of writing, having her first novel published at the age of 14. In fact, it was a trilogy, also, that she released but they were only available in Australia. I asked, with her break into the world-wide market, if there were any talks of bringing that first trilogy out in North America. She feels that the potential is there, with having had people ask where they could purchase them, but her focus (and that of her publisher here) is on Halo, Hades, and Heaven.

We chatted about her reputed piles of books lying around. I asked if there were particular books which she re-read. Alexandra told me that for YA novels, she basically reads them once and puts them aside, but the re-reads are usually the classics: Pride & Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, etc.

My final question put to Alexandra was: Neighbours or Home and Away? She admitted to watching Neighbours occasionally, but I can imagine having four books published by the age of eighteen that not a lot of time was devoted to watching these long running Australian soaps.

Again, for me this was a great pleasure. Alexandra Adornetto appears to have a good head on her shoulders and the world now within her grasp. I wish her all the best success with Halo and her future endeavors.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean

ISBN: 9780061852053
ISBN10: 0061852058
Imprint: Avon
On Sale: 15/03/2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 432
Price $10.99
Ages: 18 and Up

A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen's club.

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she's vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she's been missing.

But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss—to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.

If she's not careful, she'll break the most important rule of all—the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love . . .

Of all the books I've read, the "historical romance" genre is usually not high on my list. There is a certain stigma attached to the idea, probably stemming from the number of times I mocked my mom for reading "mush". From this day on, I will mock no more! (Ok, I probably will a little though all in fun but I won't hesitate to delve into another ;-)

Nine Rules... has everything it needs to cook up romance: dashing men, innocent ladies (anxious to lose their innocence), conflict, heartache, and no lack of blush-worthy love scenes. It was a blast to explore Callie's list as she marked each item off.  The "Ride Astride" adventure for Callie was particularly fun to read :-o There was one scene that I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the author's explanation of the situation but I was sadly left hanging....though my own wicked imagination surely did a decent job of making up for it. There are a few activities on Callie's list that I wouldn't mind trying out myself, given the opportunity (firing a pistol, for one).

There were times when I had to laugh at the predictable cheesiness that popped up but overall I very much enjoyed this book. In fact, I devoured it! Several times I had to close the book and fan myself with it....especially as I sat at my desk, reading at work. Not the ideal place for such steamy reading. And now, like a drug-sick addict (though not quite as dire), I anxiously await the second book from Sarah MacLean due out next month, Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson

Product ISBN: 9781402243011
Price: $9.99
Publication Date: September 2010
Format: Paperback

After living in twelve places in eight years, Calle Smith finds herself in Andreas Bay, California, at the start of ninth grade. Another new home, another new school...Calle knows better than to put down roots. Her song journal keeps her moving to her own soundtrack, bouncing through a world best kept at a distance.

Yet before she knows it, friends creep in-as does an unlikely boy with a secret. Calle is torn over what may be her first chance at love. With all that she's hiding and all that she wants, can she find something lasting beyond music? And will she ever discover why she and her mother have been running in the first place?

I'm a big music fan with fairly eclectic taste, so when I read about this book it seemed something I would really enjoy. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting as far as the music references go, maybe more of the lyrics that were a part of Calle's journey being included/printed but it turned out a bit different from my expectations. It is a melancholy, bitter-sweet story of not one, but several, troubled teens. It may be overly idealistic in the sense that these kids find strength in each other, which I'm not sure would be an accurate portayal of reality but is a nice thought, if it were to happen, for real, struggling teens.

The images Culbertson invokes at times are beautiful, almost poetic: "He's wearing his grandfather's letterman jacket; the wool is old and soft. Light hangs around the edge of his profile, a force field." (page 55 of ARC) and "The empty house a silent animal curled around me..." (page 97 of ARC). I got a bit lost with some of the musical references which may have detracted from my reading. I've heard of Aimee Mann and Cowboy Junkies, among others, but was not familiar with the songs being mentioned. It took me more than half of the book to understand that the chapter titles are song titles because of those I don't know, even if the musicians named are ones I know and like. It does give me something to research now though.

Calle seems the type that is mature for her age because of her experiences yet still quite innocent, no thanks in part to the lack of communication from her mother's end. It's a tricky balance with kids of being honest with them while trying to protect them from the harsh realities out there. In this sense, Songs for a Teenage Nomad struck a very personal chord with me. I'm raising a daughter on my own and she's already full of questions; I'm dreading the teenage years. I thank Culbertson for showing this relationship with an authentic feel and with insights into both points of view.

In the end, I think this books shows us how parental issues affect our kids deeper than we sometimes realize but I walked away with a feeling of hope; that the past can be dealt with in postive ways. The biggest lesson is to actually deal with it all, not run from it. This is a truly moving story.

I got a note along with my ARC of Songs for a Teenage Nomad from Kim Culbertson giving instructions on how to keep a song journal....where certain songs remind you of times in your life. While I'm not going to share my life experiences here, I thought I would share the soundtrack of my life (to date and certainly not inclusive)
My "Life Soundtrack" includes:

Old Love - Eric Clapton
The Flame - Cheap Trick
Father and Son - Cat Stevens
Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying - Fallout Boy
Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off - Panic! At the Disco
The Weakness in Me - Joan Armatrading
Pornostartrek - Ubiquitous Synergy Seekers
Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
My Favourite Mistake - Sheryl Crow
Why'd You Lie - Colin James
Rootless Tree - Damien Rice
Life for Rent - Dido
Black - Pearl Jam
Epic - Faith No More
Heaven - Live

I'd love to hear what songs bring back memories for all of you out there too. Please feel free to share with me!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review: Death's Excellent Vacation

235 x 159mm
352 pages
ISBN 9780441018680
03 Aug 2010
Ace trade paper
18 - AND UP
The editors of Wolfsbane and Mistletoe and Many Bloody Returns deliver a new collection-including a never-before-published Sookie Stackhouse story.

New York Times bestselling authors Charlaine Harris, Katie MacAlister, Jeaniene Frost-plus Lilith Saintcrow, Jeff Abbott, and more-send postcards from the edge of the paranormal world to fans who devoured Wolfsbane and Mistletoe and Many Bloody Returns.

With an all-new Sookie Stackhouse story and twelve other original tales, editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner bring together a stellar collection of tour guides who offer vacations that are frightening, funny, and touching for the fanged, the furry, the demonic, and the grotesque. Learn why it really can be an endless summer-for immortals.

To date, I've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with short stories. Some are good, some not so much. That theory held true for me here. I was determined that I would leave the Sookie story in this collection till the end (you know, save the best for last?). But it was the first one up, so I read it and it was alright; just alright.

Once I got to the Jeaniene Frost story though, my mind was opened further to the rest of the book. There were some stories that were witty, some sexy, and some just plain funny....I mean a vampire "pirate" being ambushed and falling for a were-wolfling? (I really liked that one.) There was also one that left me unimpressed; a thinly veiled anti-smoking story that I could see coming a mile away. Who am I kidding? There's was no "thinly veiled" about it; it seemed to be going somewhere good but just ended up predictable and preachy.

I think Death's Excellent Vacation has been a turning point for me. I am more encouraged now to read these types of collections because you can come away a fan of someone new, perhaps an author you may not have heard of before. This is true for me with Jeaniene Frost and Katie MacAlister, for sure. My wish list has just increased by several series worth (and I really couldn't afford to add to it at the moment, but such is life.)

There is some great writing within the pages of Death's Excellent Vacation...and yes, some that you might not like...but for paranormal fans, this is a great book to have for those times when you just can't fit a whole novel in.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review: Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink

Punlisher: Little Brown for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Subformat: Young Adult
Edition: Book II in The Prophecy of the Sisters Trilogy
Publish Date:8/1/2010
US/Can Price:$17.99/$21.99
The ultimate battle between sisters is nearing, and its outcome could have catastrophic consequences. As sixteen year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for a way to end the prophecy, her twin sister Alice hones the skills she'll need to defeat Lia. Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister's role in the prophecy, and that's not the only thing she wants: There's also Lia's boyfriend James.

Lia and Alice always knew the Prophecy would turn those closest to them against them. But they didn't know what betrayal could lead them to do. In the end, only one sister will be left standing.

This is the second book in a series of three, the first being Prophecy of the Sisters, which published last year. Since reading it, I've been dying to get on with the series, but isn't that always the way?

I was dreading that this book would be told from Alice's side of the story, being that she is "The Guardian" in this tale, but happily it is still from Lia's point of view. While it would be interesting from Alice's POV, she is such a scary, complex character, I feel more affinity with Lia.

We pick up here not long after Prophecy ended, where Lia and Sonia have gone to England in a search for the third and fourth keys that are needed to fullfil the prophecy. The thing of it is, when there is a year between books and if you don't read the first book all over again, there are things that are forgotten. The prophecy in this seems a bit complicated at times, so I struggled with the implications of certain actions that happened. Don't get me wrong, I very much love this series still! What I'm getting at, though, is that it is definitely not a stand alone novel. (Also, the lack of remembrance may just be my personal issue :-p )

These books are classic Gothic inspired, complete with doppelgangers (the twins, Lia and Alice), that very much reflect the opposite personalities of each other, with a twist. (You have to read the books to discover the twist) For me, Guardian of the Gate was darker than the first book, which is fitting as we work towards the final battle between good and evil.

I was leery of the introduction of Dimitri in this book. I was a big fan of James in Prophecy and didn't want to like Dimitri at all, but now, like Lia, I'm completely torn! What I love about these books....or am anxious to get to in the the connection with the standing stones in Avebury. I'm a sucker for this aspect of British mythology. It will be interesting to see what Michelle Zink does with all of these elements.

I must now wait patiently for book three of this trilogy, The Beast, which will publish in 2011 to see Lia's choice and how this will all play out in the end....and let me tell you, patience is not one of my strong suits! One thing I know for sure is that I will be reading the entire series all over again once it has been completed.

(Note: You may have seen this review on BookloversInc.; this is indeed my review and has been duplicated here and on the other site as I am a contributor there plaigirism involved :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Sea by Heidi R. Kling

235 x 159mm
336 pages
ISBN 9780399251634
15 Jun 2010
Putnam Juvenile
12 - AND UP years

Still haunted by nightmares of her mother’s death, fifteen-year-old Sienna Jones reluctantly travels to Indonesia with her father’s relief team to help tsunami orphans with their post traumatic stress disorder—something Sienna knows a lot about. Since her mother’s plane went missing over the Indian Ocean three years before, Sienna doesn’t do anything if it involves the ocean or planes, so this trip is a big step forward.

But the last thing she expects is to fall for Deni, a brooding Indonesian boy who lives at the orphanage, and just so happens to be HOT. When Deni hears a rumor that his father may be alive, Sienna doesn’t think twice about running away with him to the epicenter of the disaster. Unfortunately, what they find there could break both their hearts.

A compelling summer romance, Sea marks the arrival of a stunning new voice in YA.
So, initially, I really liked this book. Then as Sienna is traipsing around Indonesia, completely disregarding her father and the local customs, I was irked. This comes from that nagging little voice in my head that belongs to the mom in me. What the heck is this girl thinking, when she's been warned numerous times that to be alone with a boy, even if they are only 15 and 17, means they are "betrothed"? Ok, I've vented on this subject, on to the rest of the book.

What I really enjoyed in Sea was the eye-opening look at the conditions in this area still, years after the tsunami devastated it. I knew there was so much loss at the time of the natural disaster but the struggles still being dealt with by the people and the world-wide efforts to help were something I hadn't thought much about. Kling gives us a peek at what's happening. She truly captures the heartbreaking realities, especially with regards to the orphaned children involved.

While I wanted to wring Sienna's neck a few times, I suppose ultimately she had her heart in the right place and we can all understand the well-meaning but reckless nature of teenagers. She had her own troubles to deal with, also. Though this book is 300 plus pages, I found the short chapters and larger print made it fairly quick to read. If you like stories with a bit of meat but still that feel of first love, then you will enjoy reading Sea.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Review: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (June 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031612558X
ISBN-13: 978-0316125581

Fans of The Twilight Saga will be enthralled by this riveting story of Bree Tanner, a character first introduced in Eclipse, and the darker side of the newborn vampire world she inhabits.

In another irresistible combination of danger, mystery, and romance, Stephenie Meyer tells the devastating story of Bree and the newborn army as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullens, following their encounter to its unforgettable conclusion.

Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst for blood... life before she became a vampire.

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has few certainties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don't draw attention to yourself and, above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn't know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.

Then Bree finds an unexpected friend in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree about their mysterious creator, whom they know only as "her". As they come to realize that the newborns are pawns in a game larger than anything they could have imagined, Bree and Diego must choose sides and decide whom to trust. But when everything you know about vampires is based on a lie, how do you find the truth?

I will admit right now that I had stopped reading for several years, while my daughter was young, and only got back into the swing of things with the Twilight series (which I devoured 3 times consecutively). I was curious with the release of Bree Tanner to see where Stephanie Meyer would take us. The "novella" format is one I was also interested in, with it being a joke in the Bridget Jones film as part of discussion with Salman Rushdie, et al. I assumed it was reserved for more proper literary works, but I went with the flow here.

Bree Tanner is a very small part of the Eclipse novel, but I remembered exactly who she was...and of course her ultimate outcome. Having said that, the title is totally fitting for her untimely demise.

Putting all of these elements together, I found that I was just starting to like Bree. If possible, her interaction with Diego was even more innocent than the entire Twilight series (which I thought would be hard to do!). But, despite this, I enjoyed reading it. Bree did not have the training needed to become a well rounded vampire like Bella Swan did, but, to me, her slow realizations of the "truth" were well portayed by Meyer. It was neat to see the character development aspect here. I would recommend this as a light read, and, of course, to any Twi-fan out there that hasn't already read it.
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