Blog Tour: Guest Post with Lisa Burstein

Hello, hello! I hope everyone is fine and dandy on this holiday weekend. What a great weekend - to celebrate and honor the sacrifices that have given us freedom, the very right to blog and read! I for one am eternally grateful to the men and women of this nation's military who have given it all. I am humbled by their dedication, and proud to call America home.

Today, I am delighted to play host for Lisa Burstein, whose novel Pretty Amy I reviewed recently. Lisa has written an interesting piece on the books that helped inspire Pretty Amy - and as a Literature major with a penchant for "story," I find this super cool. But I'll let you read it for yourself...

Pretty Amy started as my thesis for my Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction, so well, I had to read some books along with it to inspire and inform my writing. These could be chosen based on subject and also writing style. Below are the some of books that helped inspire Pretty Amy and a few of them are still some of my all time favorites. 
Cruddy by Lynda Barry: Roberta Rohbeson begins her book in 1971, in what starts out as a drug-fueled teenage rant that gradually fades into the story of two cross-country trips she made with her father five years earlier -- a story she has kept to herself since she was found wandering the desert covered with blood. 
Youth in Revolt by C.D Payne: The hilarious, take-no-prisoners novel about a cynical, sex-obsessed teenager's pining love for an intelligent girl. 
Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov: Nabokov's most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. 
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: Chronicles the nervous breakdown of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful, but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time. 
Portnoy's Complaint by Phillip Roth: Roth's masterpiece takes place on the couch of a psychoanalyst, an appropriate jumping-off place for an insanely comical novel about the Jewish American experience. 
The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll: The original classic story about growing up with drugs and sex and about learning to survive on the streets of New York. 
Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel: A harrowing story of breakdowns, suicide attempts, drug therapy, and an eventual journey back to living, this poignant and often hilarious book gives voice to the high incidence of depression among America's youth.
 You can see there is a the words hilarious, comical. cynical up there, but also books that deal with deep, tough issues. That is Pretty Amy and I hope I did these authors proud.

If you want to learn more about Lisa, and Pretty Amy, check out the links below:
twitter: http://twitter.com/#%21/LisaBurstein
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Burstein/127805670672217
goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13375237-pretty-amy


Faerie Tale Theatre: Sleeping Beauty (DVD)

Sleeping Beauty
Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, 1983
Starring: Christopher Reeve & Bernadette Peters

Okay, I first heard about this television series from the 80s from Jessica - you may remember she listed it as one of her Top 10 Fairy Tale Adaptations. When I saw that my library had added the volume containing the Sleeping Beauty episode - starring Clark Kent, er, Christopher Reeve - I snapped it up. I had no idea what to expect, but I laughed out loud through the whole episode. (Minus, perhaps, the moments when I was trying to fully digest the amazingness of Clark Kent as The Prince. I'm telling you, this is grounds for many discussions...)

We all know the basic premise of Sleeping Beauty - it's a classic tale, and Disney did a beautiful job of it back in the day. But you've never seen anything like this version - there's no doubt it was a product of the 80s. It's got all the weird colors/costumes, corny comedy, and just all around "weird 80s vibe" going for it. (I'm allowed to say that, I was born in the 80s). It's quirky. It's different. It's a little weird, and definitely irreverent at times. I loved Reeve's Prince - he's endearingly naive, and oh-so-enthusiastic. (Plus, let's be honest: It's Clark Kent in Medieval-ish costume. What's not to love?) The fairies are...different. And my favorite part of the whole show? The end scene, when the King and Queen are waking up - the Prince's greeting to them. I laughed so hard, my cat got scared and left the room. Definitely a fun viewing experience, and I'm now on the look-out for several other episodes - like Beauty and the Beast!

DVD provided by my local library.


Mini Reviews

Hiya! I'm back with another set of mini reviews...

Hope Rekindled
Tracie Peterson
Bethany House, 2011

While I liked the first two books in the "Striking a Match" trilogy (read my review of Book 2: Hearts Aglow), the final installment didn't keep my interest. In fact, I bailed on it. I felt like the storyline was going in too many circles, without moving forward enough. After going through so much with Deborah and the Vandermark family, I can't help but feel let down after such an ending. But maybe that's just me...

Book provided by my local library.

The Selection
Kiera Cass
HarperTeen, 2012

I really was not sure what to expect going into this reading, other than the cover is gorgeous. I've heard taglines like "The Hunger Games meets the Bachelor", but since I've neither read nor seen either, it didn't help me out any. What I got was a story with more depth than I expected. America is one of 35 girls selected "randomly" to compete for the hand (and heart) of Prince Maxon. It's the world's weirdest beauty pageant, if you will. But it's more than that - America, as a member of one of the lower castes, helps Maxon see what's really going on in the country he's to take over. They form an unexpected friendship, and in turn, Maxon shows America that not everything she assumed about him was correct either.

There's a lot going on in The Selection, and a lot of history and mysteries are only hinted at. It definitely sets readers up for the next novel in the series, and I for one will be picking it up to see what happens. America started out a little whiny and delusional (heh), but she started growing on me as she started engaging her brain. Prince Maxon I love. And Aspen...don't get me started. (Not a fan. However, I discovered that William Moseley is set to play Aspen in an upcoming television series based on The Selection, and if anyone could make me more sympathetic/reevaluate my decision, he could. Just sayin'.) Safe to say this was a pleasant surprise.

Book provided by my local library.


Blog Tour: Written in the Ashes

I am very happy to be a review stop on the Virtual Author Book Tours tour for Written in the Ashes. After you read my review, click on the button to the right and see the whole tour schedule (guest posts, interviews, giveaways, oh my!).

Written in the Ashes
K. Hollan Van Zandt
Balboa Press, 2011

Reading Written in the Ashes, I realized something: I thoroughly enjoy reading ancient historical fiction. It's a broad era that I have not studied in-depth, and as fiction, there is so much room for imagining and exploring the "what ifs" that could have been.

Hannah is a Jewish shepherdess, roaming the wilds of Sinai with her father, until her world is shattered by slave traders one night. Sold to a prestigious - and merciful - family in Alexandria, Hannah struggles to regain interest and enthusiasm for life, bearing scars on her body and her heart. As time begins to heal her wounds, Hannah finds her new life to be one of surprises. From private tutoring in the Library of Alexandria, to finding a strangely patched-together new 'family' in her master's house, Hannah slowly settles into her life. But these are uneasy times, and nothing is permanent. Nothing is safe - not even life. Relations between the Bishop in Alexandria, Cyril, and the "traditional" population are tense and volatile. The Library itself is threatened, and anyone deemed in cahoots with "the pagan enemy" is placed on a watch list, or "questioned" as a preemptive measure. This is Hannah's new reality, and she finds herself playing a surprising role in the bloody 'negotiations.'

The story is engrossing. It's rough and brutal - very blunt, a little gory. It's not a light read, and if you're particularly sensitive some scenes could be disturbingly harsh. I loved the characters - Hannah stole my heart from the very beginning, still out on the plains of Sinai, and as I met new characters, I forged new alliances, even as she did. It's a detailed story, rich in ideas and images. The Library at Alexandria has long captured my imagination, as a librarian and as a story-loving history geek, and to read about its struggle for survival, to get a glimpse into how things could have been - it's beautiful, even as it's heart-wrenching. I feel as though I've learned much about Alexandria, the crossroads of culture and religion, the struggle to orient in a changing world. Written in the Ashes is a sweeping story to enjoy, but also one to think about. To pause and consider, to look at this particular presentation of the "ancient world" - and see how it reflects humanity.

eBook provided by author for review.


Cover Reveal: Wander Dust 2!

Oh man, you guys! I am so excited about today's post! Remember, back in the fall, when I was a stop on the Wander Dust blog tour? If you missed it, check out my Q&A session with Michelle Warren here, and my review of Wander Dust here. Hopefully they've sparked your interest. If you need a little more convincing, check out the official book trailer:

If you haven't read Wander Dust yet, now's a great time to see what you've been missing. Michelle is running a special until the end of the month:

All of that is fun, right? But here's what I'm really excited about! Michelle has just released the cover and title of Book 2! YES! Sera's story is going to continue, and I am so ready. The teasers are coming soon, but until then, take a look at this cover, would you?

I swoon a little. It's beautiful, and a little mysterious. And I definitely want to know what's going to happen next!

To connect with  Michelle and get all the latest updates, check out:
The official website: http://wanderdusttrilogy.com/
The facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Michelle-Warren-YA-Author-of-Wander-Dust/124362290972713
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/MMichelleWarren


Pretty Amy

Pretty Amy
Lisa Burstein
Entangled, 2012

Isn't that cover amazing? Love the dress, and the juxtaposition of the obvious party/prom scene with rough cement-block walls. What's even more amazing is that the cover so aptly captures the essence of Pretty Amy.

Amy is a girl struggling to find herself, without knowing she's even fighting. Or rather, she knows she's fighting, she just doesn't know why or against what. High school started out rough, as her relationship with best friend (and neighbor) Joe gets strange, but when she finds Lila and Cassie, Amy starts to feel like she belongs somewhere. The three make it to their senior prom without major incident, and then their luck runs out: after being stood-up, the girls steal a huge bag of pot from Lila's date Brian's house, and things go downhill fast. High and reckless, they attempt to sneak into prom, then are arrested driving around town. That moment is both the end and the beginning.

As Amy begins the long process of trying to stay out of jail, she finds herself in battle after battle - with her parents (especially her mother), with her new therapist, with her coworker-slash-supervisor, with Joe, and most of all, with herself. Amy struggles to find the answers, the perfect solution to happiness - and oblivion. She's on a fast-track to self-destruction, even as she claims to be wanting better for her life. Once she hits the inevitable brick wall, she starts to see clearer - realizing she was the one making the choices all along, realizing she is the one who needs to come to terms with her actions and reactions. The fight's not over, but it suddenly gets a whole lot easier.

Pretty Amy is tough and gritty. There are some serious situations that arise, and Amy's reactions are not always what they could be - let alone should be. She's flawed, deeply, but she's human. She's real. I bet there are a lot of Amys out there in the world right now, fighting the same battles, trying to find the same answers. Though I wanted to shake her into waking up and looking at her world, I also found myself rooting for her - the journey is important, and Amy just made hers a little longer, learned a little more. As a reader, I took that journey too.

eBook provided by publicist for review.



RJ Larson
Bethany House, 2012

Oh man. This book was amazing. Like, really, really amazing. I stayed up until 3am reading, and wanted to finish it but my eyes gave out. When I did finish it, I didn't want the adventure to end. It's a beautiful story, with living breathing characters, and it swept me away entirely. The happy part: it's book one in a series, and if you visit Larson's site, you get a teaser and cover for the second book Judge. I'm already swooning. Back to the review...

Prophet is fantasy, but it's also what I consider "Biblical fiction". It reads like an Old Testament story, but with a light brush of fantasy, and set in another world. It's beautiful, it's sweeping, it's not overwhelmingly fantasy - nor overwhelmingly preachy. Ela, our prophet, is a spunky and very human young lady. She knows the Voice of her Creator - Infinite - and though she doesn't always understand, and even questions Him at times, she is faithful to her calling. Her choice. Along the path of her mission, she meets Kien Lan Tec, and things get complicated. As the two become unlikely friends, Ela struggles with her perceived duties as Prophet and her human heart. Other characters flesh out the story, each bringing their own flavor and touch. And the horses - I'm such a sucker for a good horse, and the destroyers provide comic relief while also assisting the story.

I'm trying to find the best words to describe Prophet, but really - I think it's something you have to read and experience yourself. Know that the story is well-plotted and well-paced. There are twists and turns you don't expect, but they work. The characters live and breathe, and you want to root for them. They're human, they're flawed, but they're trying. As I said before, the fantasy element is presented with a light hand - it strengthens Ela's story rather than distracting from it. And the relationship Ela has with Infinite - their conversations - oh, they made something in my heart tweak. Larson has done a beautiful job of showing the love that God - Infinite - has for His people, how very involved He is with even the smallest details of human life. Watching Kien and others slowly come to understand what Ela is saying is so much like watching humanity struggle to see - to know - why an all-powerful being would care about little ol' me. It's beautiful, simply breath-taking. Now, I really need to get my hands on Judge and find out what happens next.

ARC provided by publisher for review.


The One That I Want

The One That I Want
Jennifer Echols
Simon Pulse, 2012

Okay, I may have been late to discovering her, but I am totally a Jennifer Echols fangirl now. As in, I'm going to try and systematically catch up on titles I've missed, as well as keep tabs on all forthcoming offerings. That kind of fangirl. ((Plus, when she sends out a book for review, she signs it. I mean, seriously? How awesome is that!))

The One That I Want is one of Echols's romantic comedies, and I positively devoured it. Gemma is a fun character, and I loved watching her try to navigate the perils of high school drama, while also coming to terms with herself as a worth-while individual. (Such an important lesson for all of us to learn!) Gemma and Addison have been best friends for years, though not always happily. It's a strange friendship, but it "works" - mostly. And when Addison convinces Gemma to try out for majorette with her, and they both make the team, things seem to be getting good: Gemma has the incentive and inspiration to lose weight, and finally starts to feel good about herself. She even catches the eye of a hott football star at a summer majorette/football camp. Or does she? As soon as Gemma seems to be making positive strides, Addison swoops in for the kill and steals the hott (and wickedly smart) Max away from her, leaving Gemma with the handsome brooding quarterback. (Did I mention the boys are starters for the girls' school's rival team?) What follows is a complicated mix-up built on misunderstanding, misplaced trust, and just plain high school drama. In the best sense possible, of course. But the truth always comes out, and everything falls into its proper place, eventually.

The characters are fun, there's football talk (I admit, I'm a sucker for football, especially high school football), and the story is one that kept my attention and wouldn't let me go until I finished. It'd make a cute movie, I think. Definitely a fun "welcome to summer" read.

Book provided by author for review.


Blue Sky Days

Blue Sky Days
Marie Landry

Emma had her life planned out in meticulous fashion. She spent her entire high school career working hard and earning stellar grades, grades intended to land a spot in college that would lead to a successful career. But she decided to take a year off, to earn her way through college, and discovered she had lost herself along the way. Realizing she should do something about it, Emma decided to spend the summer in Riverview, with her aunt Daisy. That decision changed her life, forever.

It's hard to be nineteen, and even harder to discover yourself after years of striving to meet someone else's idea of perfection. But with the help of free-spirited Daisy, Emma starts to learn that life is about more than perfect grades and isolating yourself from the world. When she meets Nicholas, Emma realizes that so many of her ideas and perceptions of life were so wrong - but that changing them is so very easy. Nicholas introduces her to his friends - Vince and Maggie - and the three give Emma her first taste of what it means to be young and free. And loved. As summer winds down, Emma is faced with another decision: stay in Riverview, or go back to her old life. She stays, and digs her roots deeply into the foundation of love and support she's found. And she needs every bit of that loving support a short time later, when Nicholas is diagnosed with leukemia. The next months are a struggle, but Emma, Nicholas, and their "family" of Daisy and Sam (Nicholas's dad), Vince and Maggie, rely on each other and the fierce power of love to get through the valley and back into the sun.

Blue Sky Days is a beautiful story, but was a difficult read at times. The first half is fun, and I loved watching Emma grow. I remember being nineteen, and how hard it is to see who you really are in the world, trying to find your place. Emma and all the characters are drawn neatly, fleshed out with a life and spark that made me wish they were true. Once the fight for Nicholas's life began, it got harder for me to read - leukemia, and cancer in general, has ravaged so many near and dear to my heart. Landry does a wonderful job making it real, not glossing over the hell of it all, but emphasizing the importance of family - of togetherness - of Love. (And, thankfully, she doesn't totally break my reader's heart either!). A well-written, moving story about growing into yourself, and finding out first-hand the amazing power of love.

eBook provided by author for review.



Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends, 2012

We all know I'm a fairy tale nut, and when I saw this one showing up in the blogosphere a few months ago, I was intrigued. Not hunt-it-down-and-devour-it-curious, but intrigued enough that when my library purchased a copy, I put it on hold.

Marissa Meyer's first installment in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder, is the classic story of Cinderella with a sci-fi, dystopian twist...I must say, it's unlike anything I've read before. And quite honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I didn't hate it, but neither did I fall in love. Obviously, going into it, I knew that Cinder (a cyborg) was the Cinderella-figure, and that Prince Kai was supposed to fall in love with her, just like Prince Charming did "back in the day." The whole cyborg-thing was a little weird, in that my basic understanding of robots and etc. didn't identify cyborgs as being able to feel. But apparently, in the world of Cinder, cyborgs are humans who've been injured, or "damaged," somehow and have steel/robotic parts installed. (Sort of like high-tech prostheses, with a slightly creepy twist).

So basically, we have a Cinderella story set in a world with droids and cyborgs, and other crazy advanced technologies, that still has a major weakness: the inability to cure or even treat The Plague ravaging the country. Not to mention some crazy tension between Earth and the Lunars (a colony of people living on the moon. And I thought the cyborg bit was weird; these people are creepy-devious!). It's a complex little environment, and obviously deals with a lot more issues than "just Cinderella" - but Meyer does a good job of integrating Cinder's story into the bigger picture. Even though I figured out the twist of the story very, very early on in the book, it was an interesting read. I'm nowhere near fangirl-status, but I will pick up the next installment of this four-part series (random: I love the titles for the rest of the series!), and see what happens next.

Book provided by my local library.


New Books!

It's May Day! Which means I should be running around collecting flowers and bringing in the May...Instead I'm sharing the books that found their way to my shelves (and Kindle) in April. But hey, that's fun too! The Amazon bargain lists beckoned, and I answered this month...which you will see in just a moment. I also purchased the entire series of Lark Rise to Candleford on DVD. I am hooked, people! It's amazing. I plan to read the inspiring novels once I finish watching season four. Now, on to the books...



For Review:



Not too shabby. My ebook collection is growing by leaps and bounds - and I've discovered it's entirely too easy to stay up late reading books on the Kindle: there's no good way to gauge "just one more page!" Keep your eyes open for a Pretty Amy blog tour in May...and you never know what else I have up my sleeve.

Happy May, everyone!