Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blog Tour: Interview with Gillian Philip (The Opposite of Amber)

Today on the blog we get to visit with Gillian Philip, author of THE OPPOSITE OF AMBER. Gillian lives in the north-east highlands of Scotland, with one husband, two children, one labrador (Cluny), two psychotic cats (the Ghost and the Darkness), and four nervous fish. Her other novels include: BAD FAITH, CROSSING THE LINE, FIREBRAND, and more.


How did you come up with the interesting plot of The Opposite of Amber?

This was a story that crept up and surprised me. I remember the exact moment, too. I was actually working on another novel, which had ground to a halt; I just couldn’t think where to take it, and it was like beating my head off a fictional brick wall. So I decided to take the night off and watch television. There just happened to be a documentary on about a series of murders in England in 2006, and I was gripped. It didn’t have any interest in how the crimes were committed, or the police investigation, or the motives of the murderer – it focused on the women who were killed, and their families, and how their lives had brought them to these deaths, and the gaps those deaths had left in other people’s lives. That’s when the idea for The Opposite of Amber occurred to me, and Jinn and Ruby started forming in my head – two sisters who had taken very different and perhaps unexpected paths. The plot came later, as I was writing.

What was your road to your first publication like?

Long and winding! I almost gave up at one point – in fact I pretty much had given up. I’d wanted to be a writer for as long as I could remember, and I’d had some success with short stories, but I had a bit of a mental block about writing a novel. I thought I couldn’t think of a ‘plot’ – when in fact I’m simply one of those writers who plots only in the vaguest terms before starting to write. I wish I’d known earlier that this isn’t unusual, and that a lot of writers work this way. I thought ‘real’ writers were terribly organised and planned everything in minute detail!

I’d also heard so many horror stories about the difficulty of getting published that I had a pretty defeatist attitude – I thought success was just too unlikely. I’d tried to write a few romances, but hadn’t been successful in selling them, so I rather gave up.

Then a few things came together: I returned to Scotland with my family (we’d been living abroad) and I found that ideas were suddenly and magically all over the place. I also discovered young adult fiction, and loved it so much I realised it was what I wanted to write. And on the strength of my published short stories I’d joined the Society of Authors, and through them found out about manuscript advice services. That meant I had somewhere to turn for support and practical advice, and I also discovered just how much editing and rewriting is necessary – and how much practice. I’d written another four books before an agent took me on, but by then I’d realised I had to be persistent. In 2008 I sold a book called Bad Faith to Scottish publisher Strident, and only a few months later my agent sold Crossing The Line to Bloomsbury. Since then I’ve written constantly.

Which of your books are you most proud of?

That’s a tough question! I’m proud of all of them in different ways, because they were all very different writing experiences with their own problems and their own paths to development. Perhaps I’m proudest of Firebrand, a fantasy set in sixteenth century Scotland, simply because the Rebel Angels series (of which it’s Book 1) took me years of dogged rewriting, and I never gave up on the characters. And I’m proud of Crossing The Line because it was longlisted and shortlisted for quite a few prizes. But to be honest I’m never 100% proud of any of them, because it doesn’t matter how much I edit and rewrite, there’s always something I wish I’d changed, something I wish I’d done better. I think every writer feels that!

Who are some of your favorite authors? Have any of them influenced your writing?

My answer to this one changes all the time, because my favourite author is often the one I’m reading at the particular moment! But the constants I keep going back to are Malorie Blackman (for her Noughts & Crosses series), Cornelia Funke, Philip Reeve... Alan Garner was my favourite when I was young. I love Mary Renault, and I adore E.F. Benson’s Mapp & Lucia books, which I’ve read so often I’ve lost count. Bernard Cornwell is my favourite for historical novels, especially the Alfred series – I’m in love with his character Uhtred Ragnarsson. I love P.D James, Ruth Rendell and Nicci French for crime novels, and Armistead Maupin for his Tales of the City... you see? Hopelessly confused.

As for whether they’ve influenced me – I suppose, inevitably, they have. But I don’t consciously imitate any of them, and I hope my tastes are broad enough that I don’t do it unconsciously, either!

What are some things you enjoy doing outside of writing?

I don’t spend as much time on other activities as I’d like or (when it comes to fitness) as I should! I love horseriding and fencing (epee), but haven’t done much of either lately. I’m also an enthusiastic walker, which is useful because a long walk is great for resolving writing issues or sorting out plotlines – it really does work like magic.

And my favourite thing to do in the evening is cuddle up with my nine-year-old twins, some popcorn and wine (the wine’s just for me...), and watch a movie.

Are you working on any new projects?

All the time! I’ve started another contemporary crime story, which I hope will be for Bloomsbury. I’m rewriting the second book in the Rebel Angels series for Strident, called Bloodstone. And I’m about to start the fourth book in a series called Darke Academy, which I write under a pen name for Hothouse Fiction, a book packaging company.  Oh, and I’m hoping to write a long story, maybe a novella, that takes place in the Rebel Angels universe, and that could be available for download around the time of Bloodstone’s publication in August. I’m always curious about the backstories of those characters...

Follow Gillian:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday Weigh-In: Bloggerly Beginnings

I have a question for you:

Why did you start blogging?

I want to hear from YOU (if you're looking at this and you have a book blog, I'm talking to you) ...

Did you want to meet authors, get free books, share your opinion??

How long ago did you start blogging?

Do you find that your expectations of blogging have changed in some way??

If so, how is your blogging outlook different now from what it was when you first started?

My answer:

I started blogging thinking that it was going to be easy. I reasoned that I am a fast reader so I should be able to just read and read and read and have all the time in the world to post my thoughts and opinions on my blog. Simple, right?

And when I discovered that so many authors are gracious and would respond to interview questions, I was elated. My childhood self who died and went to heaven when Ann M. Martin sent her that typed up letter about how I should follow her dream of writing was like, "WHAT? It's that easy to contact an author?" I just had this notion that authors were these unapproachable rockstars, and it was great to find out that, while they ARE still rockstars, most of them are very approachable!!!

So I went about accepting review requests like a kid being offered free candy in a candy store and my pulse raced every time I came home from work to find a lovely new package of some sort on my doorstep. ARC tours and blog tours? Sure!! Why not?!?! Poor postman...

Anyway, eventually summer ended and the real life of teaching and work began, and I realized that what had started as a summer hobby really took up enough time to account for a part time job with a lot of hours. Still love it? Yes... But I have to be wiser about what I accept for review and think smart in terms of when to review books. I've learned how to request ARCS and review copies and all that, and I still have to use wisdom there and decide which kind of books I want to review and who I want to feature and what is worth doing and what is not.

It's overwhelming at times; just like anything else I have to try to balance it and not be too obsessive (still working on that one) But I love interacting with other bloggers and promoting awesome books. I feel that I am learning a lot about the publishing industry, which was one of my goals in the first place. I
So-- back to you!!! What has your experience been???

Saturday, March 26, 2011

ARC Review: Delirium (Delirium 1) by Lauren Oliver


Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love - the deliria - blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

  • Pub. Date: February 2011
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Children's 
The Elliott Review:

Having seen so many drastically different reviews of this book, I wasn't sure what to expect from Delirium. I was excited to read it because dystopia rocks my socks right now. It's written in interesting prose that makes up most of the text. Having so little freedom in her day to day interactions with others, Lena's inner life is where she experiences most of her emotions and where the most "action" happens. At first, this seemed to bog things down for me, but as I continued reading and became more accustomed to the texture of the narrative, I became engaged in Lena's story.

The way Lena's current actions are so affected by her mother and her suicide and life choices even though she hasn't been with her for years is moving. I like seeing that she is very much her mother's child, acting on what is in her heart even though she hasn't been taught that way and must hold it all inside. Her relationship with Alex becomes sort of breathtaking even though at times I didn't think there was enough development for him. They have this amazing connection that is so fresh and new because it's the first time that Lena is truly being herself and allowing her feelings to blossom.

The book is filled with little foreshadowing that, at first, just seems like randomly mentioned details but that later become important to the plot as a whole. I like how things twist at the end - like a blow to the head almost. The ending of the book is a chilling and lyrical cliffhanger that really leaves the interpretation up to the reader. I liked it even though I'm always one to want closure. I think this series will be one to follow for sure. It seems like it might end up being different from all the rest.

Source: Thanks to HarperCollins for sending an ARC for a fair review.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cover Reveal: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

The final book in the Inheritance Cycle has just been announced!

Inheritance is set to be released in November 2011!!

I usually don't do cover reveals because everyone beats me to the punch, but I am so excited about this news that I am posting anyway!! I will never forget reading through the first three books, thinking it was a trilogy, and about halfway through the last book I started wondering how all the loose ends were going to be tied up. Only to finish the book on a major cliffhanger to find ... there will be more!!!

Here is a link to the video of Christopher Paolini talking about how his trilogy evolved into a cycle. It wouldn't let me embed.

Here is the summary: (from Goodreads):

Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaƫsia? And if so, at what cost?

Follow Christopher Paolini:

Blog Tour & Review: The Opposite of Amber by Gillian Philip


Ruby and her older sister Jinn live together on their own, just about making ends meet. Jinn is beautiful, with glittering blonde hair, and makes it her business to look after Ruby. They are horrified by, but try to ignore, the local newspaper stories of prostitutes who are murdered, their bodies eventually discovered underwater. Then the no-good Nathan Baird turns up on the scene - again - and Jinn starts to change. First Nathan moves in with Jinn and Ruby, making Ruby feel an outsider, and then Jinn and Nathan move out, leaving Ruby alone. Jinn no longer has time to look after Ruby. And it seems to Ruby that Jinn herself needs looking after. Her beautiful glittering hair starts to lose its shine. And then Jinn disappears. A deeply moving, chilling, and incredibly powerful thriller that celebrates the love two sisters have for each other and mourns the events beyond their control that will conspire to drive them apart.


Published April 4th 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

The Elliott Review:

This book grabbed me right away with its sense of realism by using the every day events of life to convey the deep, dark themes and meanings the author wants to convey. The atmosphere is somewhat melancholy due to the relationship between the sisters and quite dark and brooding and sinister in the threat that lurks in the mysterious killer of women.

Gillian Philip's prose is stunning! I've been sitting here cycling through adjectives to try to convey how powerful it is... It's intensely beautiful in places, filled with meaningful quotes and passages that can be kept and savored later on. At the same time, it's also very realistic in terms of dialogue and Ruby's thoughts. Being an American, I loved reading the British colloquialisms in each scene. It added a little something extra for me as well.
The relationship between the Ruby and Jinn is very masterfully conveyed. As they become more and more removed from each other due to Jinn's relationship with Nathan Baird, Ruby's outlook on life becomes more dire. The complex emotions between the sisters are very spot-on realistic. The emotions of all the characters, in fact, are well-done. All of the characters in this book add something to it - even the minor ones. Each person is there for a purpose that makes the book stronger and more meaningful as a whole.

This is a solidly well-done, likable book filled with all the complexity that makes me love something!

Source: Thanks to The Teen {Book} Scene for organizing this tour. You can view the rest of the tour stops for this book here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Released Today: Scorpia Rising - An Alex Rider Mission by Anthony Horowitz

Today is the release day of the final installment in the Alex Rider series - Scorpia Rising. This series has been EPIC in terms of pulling boys (and girls, too!) into reading! My review of the book will be coming soon!

Scorpia has dogged Alex Rider for most of his life. They killed his parents, they did their best to con Alex into turning traitor, and they just keep coming back with more power. Now the world's most dangerous terrorist organization is playing with fire in the world's most combustible land: the Middle East. No one knows Scorpia like Alex. And no one knows how best to get to Alex like Scorpia. Until now.

The chases have never been more intense, the fights more treacherous, or the risks so perilous to mankind. And this time, Alex won't get away.

Thanks to Tracey and Karen of Media Masters, I am giving away 3 copies of Scorpia Rising HERE.

Blooming Books Giveaway - $100 Gift Card to Bookstore

Welcome to the Blooming Books Giveaway! A multi-blog giveaway hosted by Enna Isilee of Squeaky Books and me!

March 20th marked the first day of spring for those of us in the northnern hemisphere, and we want to celebrate. I, along with nine other blogs, have joined in to give you the chance to win $100 to Borders, Barnes and Noble, or!

Here's how it works, each of the participating blogs will hold a "Blooming Books Giveaway" post, and you can enter at each blog for a chance to win a nomination spot for the big kahuna prize. Some blogs may offer other prizes as well, and each blog will have its own requirements to win the finalist spot. Each blog will choose a 1st place nominee, and a 2nd place nominee. The ten 1st place nominees will be entered to win the $100 gift card, and the ten 2nd place nominees will be entered to win a $30 gift card. Make sense? And since this is just an e-mailed gift card, it is open internationally!

Here's how you can enter my giveaway, scroll down to see the list of other blogs and enter at their sites too! If you win more than one nomination, then you have an even GREATER chance of winning that $100!

  • Must be 13 years old or older
  • Open internationally
  • Must provide fill out the form and respond to notification within 24 hours. (Comments are loved and appreciated but will not count as an entry.)
  • If you choose, you can earn an extra entry by tweeting about the giveaway.
Fill out THIS FORM to enter.

Additional Details:
  • Giveaway runs March 22nd-April 1st (PST)
  • Nominees announced April 2nd
  • Winner announced April 4th on Squeaky Books
Check out all the participating blogs!

The Elliott Review

Squeaky Books

That Hapa Chick


Pensive Bookeaters

The Mod Podge Bookshelf

Lisa’s World of Books

Fade Into Fantasy

See Scoot Read

Awesomesauce Bookclub

Monday, March 21, 2011

ARC Review: Wither (Chemical Garden 1) by Lauren DeStefano


What if you knew exactly when you would die? 

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out. 

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home. 

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.


  • Pub. Date: March 2011
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
The Elliott Review:

Be prepared for a squee-ing fangirl review. For real. This book was so gripping, heart-wrenching, and thought-provoking. It gripped me from the start and never let go for one second. My emotions were simply all over the place along with the characters and situations they have been forced in to.

The futuristic world that Lauren DeStefano has set up is more advanced technologically than ours, but the society feels almost medieval with the human life span being so short - violence and prostitution are the only way to survive for some - that or to be used in the homes of the wealthy as a bride or a slave.

Rhine's voice and emotional make up are so poignant that I could not stand it! In the midst of unjust and surreal surroundings, she holds on to the will to escape to find her brother and to retain her essential identity. The way she navigates the strange situation of being forcibly married to a man she does not know along with two others is interesting. Her feelings for Gabriel, the servant, and how she must deal with them is - ooh - yummy!

I outright wanted to go ape over seeing the three brides be forced to marry Linden, and I was ready for any kind of weird situation to ensue. There is no way that I would ever tolerate having to share a man, but the brides are accepting of it in a way that reminds me of Biblical times. They even forge meaningful relationships with each other as sister-wives. To me that really had an impact because it says a lot about the human spirit being very adaptable to any situation.

This is one of the best books I've read in a long time, and I definitely recommend it to any and all!

Source: Thanks to Simon & Schuster  for sending an ARC for a fair review.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Author Interview + Giveaway: Anne Calcagno (Love Like a Dog)

Today on the blog we are fortunate to have Anne Calcagno in to answer a few questions. Anne teaches in the MFA in Writing program at the School of the Art Institute. She lives in Chicago, is married, and the mother of two tireless young people. She can be seen walking her Am Staff & her German Shepherd.

Her short story collection, PRAY FORYOURSELF, received the San Francisco Foundation Phelan Literary Award, an NEA Fellowship and two Illinois Arts Council Awards. LOVE LIKE A DOG is her first novel. 

What inspired you to write Love Like A Dog (LLAD)?

I wanted to write a love story.  My past writing explored the silencing of women, and struggles between siblings and in marriage.  I wanted to know if I could write about hope and love and responsibility and trust.  Then two things happened; first, my daughter wanted to volunteer at an animal shelter but, being a minor, she couldn’t unless I joined her.  We started volunteering at C.A.R.E. in Evanston, just north of Chicago.  Our first night, a fought pit bull was brought in.  Pit bulls?  My head began to swirl.   I began researching dog fighting.  Being a writer, I knew I had found a powerful story about the ends to which humans will go against, and for, this misunderstood 
breed, but it wasn’t a love story – yet.

My upset and curiosity led me to
 D.A.W.G's (Dog Advisory Work Group) a court advocacy program, where, for over a year, I followed a core of ardent volunteers who track animal abuse and dog fighting cases on different cases.  Subsequently, I interviewed police officers working Chicago's Animal Care & Control (then headed by Sgt. Steve
 Brownstein), following them on raids of suspected dog fighting rings.  It was striking to see the boredom and complacency in those communities where dog fights went down in next door in the basement or garage.  Dog fighting remains a successful underground economy.

Then a second thing happened; we got our first dog and all of her ninety pounds.  My son, Lucien, was a lively 6 years old.  He wanted a dog more than anything, and we did not realize that she was fear-aggressive toward children.  I had so much hubris I ignored the vet’s warnings and the private trainer’s.  Then she attacked Lucien, from behind, splitting his arm open down to the bone; I was there; he had done nothing to provoke her.  Lucien still has a large scar on his arm from her bite.  But, right away, that night, all bandaged up, Lucien began begging me, “She didn’t know. It’s not her fault, mommy.  Don’t get mad at her!”  (I never told him we had to put her down).  His love for her was greater than his fear or pain; that’s what dogs can bring out in us.  This became my love story.  Dirk’s love story.

How did you decide on Dirk’s characterization?

When I started writing LOVE LIKE A DOG, my son, Lucien, was only seven.   But he loved animals and he loved math.  His sister had been quite the spitfire, so I was very intrigued with Lucien’s very different inward gentleness, his tender heart.  Also, as these things do, I found that an urgent boy’s voice filled my head, wanting me to listen.  I had to record this voice.
How long did it take to write LOVE LIKE A DOG?

Over seven years.

Did you have to do any type of research?

I read anything I could get my hands on about pit bulls, from underground magazines devoted to dog-fighting logs, to histories of the bully breeds, to theories about training.  I interviewed former dog-fighters, police officers on the Animal Care and Control teams, and, as mentioned above, followed D.A.W.G.’s court advocates to animal abuse and dog-fighting trials.  One of the most amazing defenders of the bully breeds was the late Vicki Hearnes.  “Adam’s Task; Calling Animals By Name” is brilliant.  Of course, I have Qalilah, my own pittie girl, who is now eight years old.

What was your path to publication?

As my previous agent did not like the novel, I sought a new agent, Stuart Bernstein.  He began marketing the novel.  I had a fantastic experience with the senior editor, Judy Sternlight, at Random House, who almost bought the book.  After I had spent six months revising the novel with her, and the editorial board okayed the book, Judy found a publicist.  She and my agent were getting ready to negotiate my contract, when her boss declined my book. This was a few months before Random House cut its staff in half.  I had a second close call with Vicking.  When that fell through my agent & I had a long discussion.  He felt that the next tier of publishers paid such small advances in general that it would be better for me to self-publish.  Which I did, with much trepidation.  Right now, as my husband says, I am on the bleeding edge of this adventure, in the sense that no one quite knows what to make of the new digital age, and the new publication options.

Are you working on any current writing projects?

Yes, I am working on a novel, set in the Horn of Africa, about Italy’s failed colonization attempts.  It is about a family, caught in this territory and its historical turmoil.  The novel does include a monkey and some cats.

Follow Anne Calcagno:

 Win a copy of Love Like a Dog!

Check out my glowing review of this amazing book!

For US or Canadian addresses only. Ends March 25th.

Fill out THE FORM to enter.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Book Loving Dog

I don't really have anything amazing to post today, but I decided to show you a picture of me and my beloved dog, Rusty. Although he is definitely not the smartest dog in the world, he does like to hang out with me while I am reading. This picture was not in ANY way posed. I was reading, he jumped up near me, and my husband just happened to be standing by to take the picture of Rusty's craziness. This dog is so weird, but at least he has a clue that books are cool. He likes to sniff and/or lick tour books that come through...

What about you? Do you have any crazy book/pet pictures???

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Interview with Margaret Peot, author of The Inkblot Book (and a giveaway!)

Today we have Margaret Peot, author of The Inkblot Book, here at The Elliott Review. Margaret is a book artist, printmaker, and painter. Since 1989, she has been painting and dyeing costumes for Broadway (The Lion King, Wicked, Shrek the Musical and many others), dance productions, ice shows, circuses, television, and film. She has also created murals and textile designs.

What was your first experience creating an inkblot like?

When I told my mother that I was going to do an inkblot book, she gave me an inkblot book I had made in Kindergarten—ten blots, tempera, actually—on manila paper, and bound with a ribbon laced through two punched holes. When she handed it to me, I remembered how entranced I had been with the way the colors merged in the folding in a feathery way that I would never have been able to duplicate with a brush.

What is your favorite thing about inkblots?

Despite the random nature of the technique—drip, splat, fold—the inkblots that people create are somehow particular to them. In classes I have taught, the hairdresser’s inkblots all looked like figures with fantastic hair. The oncology nurse’s looked like MRIs, the quiet writer’s looked like forests reflected in still ponds.

Can you describe a time when an inkblot provided some necessary inspiration for you?

Several years ago I had rented a studio space on Warren Street in Manhattan. I moved all my stuff in, table and flat files, and arranged my supplies. My first day to work—it was perfect, gorgeous—and the light was pouring in through the two huge windows. I suddenly got overwhelmed by the space—having committed to paying every month for a space to do my artwork. I froze! Then I remembered inkblots. I sat on the floor with paper, ink and water, and happily made inkblots all afternoon. That was the day I figured out that it is possible to make perfectly round inkblots—like planets.

What has been a memorable inkblot experience (good, bad, ugly)?

A writer attended an all-day inkblot class I taught. She had been suffering from writer’s block for almost a year, and was attending classes of all sorts trying to find a way back in to her art.

After lunch the class started drawing into their inkblots—drawing around what they saw, and coloring them with colored pencils. One of her inkblots looked like an eccentric old woman in a bustle dress—facing another crazy old woman in a bustle dress. She started coloring the women, dutifully, as that is what everyone else was doing. Then—she started telling us about them—the one old woman was mean, didn’t suffer fools gladly—the other one, her sister, was milder, but stronger than her sister. She started writing their conversation down—and she was off. She wrote and wrote while we drew.

What do you think inkblots show us psychologically?

As I don’t have training in psychoanalysis, I can’t speak to what inkblots show us psychologically. But, I think it is interesting how inkblots seem to enable us to sidestep our logical brain—and perhaps our anxieties, too—to take us to new places.

Are you working on any projects currently?

I started making specimen cases for inkblot creatures, and that has captured my imagination. They are now quite large, and teeming with inkblot butterflies, or beetles, crabs and jellyfish—with plexiglas fronts. (see jpeg, Variegated Fritillary—filled with inkblot butterflies)


Follow Margaret Peot:

The Inkblot Book Available:
Amazon | The Book Depository (affiliate links)

Win a copy of The Inkblot Book!!

Open to US and Canada. Ends March 17th.

Fill out THE FORM to enter! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: Inkblot: Drip, Splat, and Squish Your Way to Creativity by Margaret Peot


Leonardo da Vinci saw landscapes and battles in the swirls of a marble wall. The novelist Victor Hugo splashed coffee and wine on paper and found castles and monsters in the spatters. Now Margaret Peot shows how anyone can use inkblots as keys to creativity.

For decades, the author has been using the inkblots she makes to spark her own creativity. Now she shares her insights and techniques in this beautiful treatment of the subject. From basic tips on paper and ink to advanced approaches for transforming splatters and ink blobs into works of art, she sets readers on a path to creating their own inkblots. Her enthusiastic text and step-by-step approach will encourage even the most reluctant artist, and her stunning artworks will inspire reader to create inkblots that are uniquely their own.

  • Pub. Date: March 2011
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
The Elliott Review:

I am really excited about this book because it is a great find for anyone who is creative. It helps you to develop your creativity in a unique way. The author guides the reader through the steps of using an inkblot to help ideas to germinate.  We learn how to make an inkblot as well as the different kinds that can be made. What I really love is the way one can draw pictures into inkblots. Rather than helping one to psychoanalyze herself through what she sees in an inkblot, this book helps you to change how you look at something - to see the picture hidden within. 

The idea of creativity as a discipline or habit is something that I think is really important to a lot of creative types, and this book explores that through the systematic use of inkblots. Using a sketchbook to regularly brainstorm is explored, and a glimpse into how inkblots have been useful to some famous individuals is also very telling.

I am not really artistic, but I definitely see how this could help me in my own goal of writing and teaching. This could be a great way for students to get more creative or another area for an art class to explore. This book is something unique and that really makes you think.

Source: Thanks to Diane of the Saima Agency for providing a copy of this book for a fair review.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Bit of Me(Me): Crazy Wacky Me!

We all leave our “footprint” on the world, in one way or another. We each, individually, do something or are someone that makes the world a little better just by being here. There's a Book created this weekly meme to get to know the blogging community she loves just a bit better. To know what makes them tick, outside of books, that is. Each week she will post a question to be answered in the following week’s “A Bit of Me(Me).” Check back on her site each Saturday to get the info for next week’s post and link up your post.

What is the craziest thing you've ever done? Anything.
One day during finals in my freshman year of college, a friend and I were extremely stressed out and not feeling like studying, so we decided to vent our frustrations in the best way we knew how. We went to Walmart and bought a bunch of cheap soda cans, traveled to the nearest library (which was kind of scary because it was in a somewhat in the ghetto and it was night), and we proceeded to throw these cans at the curb as hard as we could until they exploded. I don't have a clue as to how we came up with this, but I can tell you that it was a good cheap way to destroy things and get out some stress. Come to think of it, I should probably try this again sometime.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Review: Love Like a Dog by Anne Calcagno


This debut novel is a page-turning drama about familial devotion. Set in contemporary Chicago, it is the harrowing story of Dirk, a young motherless man desperate for his self-centered father's approval. A rescued pit bull alters their lives irrevocably, embroiling them in the terrible misuses to which the breed is prey.

As Dirk's father grows increasingly entangled in criminal activity, Dirk must quickly come to terms with a series of legal and moral crises and determine for himself what it truly means to be a man.


  • Pub. Date: June 2010
  • Publisher: CreateSpace
The Elliott Review:

This book knocked my socks off. It's a very realistic tale of a boy finding his place in the world. Melancholy and poignant, it rings true in so many ways. It is so perfectly paced and so real emotionally speaking that it feels almost like a memoir written by the main character after the fact. I'm always enthralled by stories dealing with dogs, but this goes far beyond a typical "dog" story in terms of development and theme and meaning.

The development of Dirk's character is superb. He deals with the issues of a child and then a teenager growing up without a mom and dealing with an emotionally distant dad. As Dirk deals with his relationship with his father, he feels distant from the world and closest to his dogs. When his father's behavior threatens them, he comes to realize the differences between his father and himself. He has to work out what he truly wants to do and be.

Another thing that just feels right are all the complex relationships. The way Dirk and his father interact is very realistic, moving but filled with underlying sorrow. Dirk's relationship to his dogs is his most profound influence. The desire to care for them trumps anything else in life. His father's ex-girlfriend sees a spark in him and refuses to stop helping/mentoring him even after she is no longer dating his father. The friend that doesn't quite understand where Dirk is coming from but accepts him unconditionally any way. The girl who loves him but is inaccessible.

The book also raises awareness about is the good traits of pit bulls instead of what they are better known for - the fighting. Dirk comes to see the dark underbelly of the dogfighting world and has to decide what his stance will be.

This is an amazing book that will appeal to dog lovers instantly, but I also recommend to anyone who loves a deep story between father and son and spotless characterization.

Source: A copy of book provided by publicist for a fair review.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

ARC Review: Enclave (Razorland 1) by Ann Aguirre


New York City has been decimated by war and plague, and most of civilization has migrated to underground enclaves, where life expectancy is no more than the early 20's. When Deuce turns 15, she takes on her role as a Huntress, and is paired with Fade, a teenage Hunter who lived Topside as a young boy. When she and Fade discover that the neighboring enclave has been decimated by the tunnel monsters—or Freaks—who seem to be growing more organized, the elders refuse to listen to warnings. And when Deuce and Fade are exiled from the enclave, the girl born in darkness must survive in daylight, in the ruins of a city whose population has dwindled to a few dangerous gangs. As the two are guided by Fade’s long-ago memories, they face dangers, and feelings, unlike any they’ve ever known.

  • Pub. Date: April 2011
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
The Elliott Review:

I really enjoyed this action-packed read. The post-apocalyptic world that Aguirre creates is chilling in that life is extremely difficult, and the cause of all the problems faced by the characters is mysterious, dangerous. The enclave has to live according to the bare minimum, making difficult choices that are haunting. Above ground, things aren't much better with much of the world in a state of anarchy and decay. This world is one that is great to get lost in.

The characters and their development are quite important here. Since their world has pared them down to nothing but the bare necessities, they have time to shine. Deuce is a tough heroine who has both physical and mental strength. She is all about living the disciplined life and fighting to protect those she committed herself to. She struggles with having emotions since they are slippery things that often go against everything she has been taught.

Fade is mysterious and physically powerful in a yummy way! Due to his background above ground, he understands many things that Deuce does not. The tension between these two is portrayed so well - it's understated nature makes it seem even more real in this world of survival.

Everything about this book is interesting, well-done, gripping. I can't wait to find out more about this world and all of the characters.

Source: Around the World ARC Tours

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Blog Tour & Review: Slippery Willie's Stupid, Ugly Shoes by Larry Peterson


Willie Wiggles hates his slippery feet. He just slips, slides and spins all over the place. But what he hates even more are the special shoes that have been made for him that will help him to walk just like all the other kids. Willie thinks that they are the "stupidest, ugliest shoes in the whole world."

Discover how sometimes we worry about things about ourselves when actually there is nothing to worry about in the first place.

  • Pub. Date: January 2011
  • Publisher: Tribute Books
The Elliott Review:

This picture bookabout self-acceptance is very cute and whimsical while containing a very important lesson for children. Because Willie believes that his shoes are awful and unacceptable, he puts a lot of pressure on himself - to the point of dreaming about all the horrible things that will happen if he wears his shoes. The idea of differences being okay is a very important one that children can definitely benefit from. 

This book can be used as a platform to discuss with children what makes people different from each other - be it race, disability, personality, background, etc. - and teach them the appropriate response to anyone that is different - themselves or others.

With vivid, interesting pictures, this book is definitely great conversation starter for parents, students, and teachers.

Source: Thanks to Tribute Books for providing a digital copy for a fair review.


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