Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blog Tour + Giveaway: C. Lee McKenzie's Top Ten Things About Being an Author

I am thrilled to have C. Lee McKenzie here on the blog with her top ten list. I read THE PRINCESS OF LAS PULGAS a while back (see my review here), and I placed it in my classroom library. Since then, I've seen students gravitate toward this book, and they've told me that they really enjoy it. In it, they have found a book that represents them. I'm really happy to see a book that reflects diversity in several different ways.

1. Being an author is about the most challenging job I've ever had, and I've had several that offered Mt. Everest-steep climbs.

2. This learning-to-write curve never stops. You learn to write, then you learn to write better. Just when you think you've nailed it, you find out there's a whole other level of good writing you need to master.

3. There's never enough time to write when you actually do want to have a personal life. I already say no to a lot of invitations from friends, then I have to explain it's not about them, it's about wanting to finish or rewrite a scene. Some get it. Some don't.

4. I have more work on promoting than I'd ever expected, so there's another learning curve. I'm not a business person and I've had to learn about the social media and some of the techi stuff.

5. I have fun every time I really get into a book. It's great to discover a new character and a new plot that works.

6. Reading is as much a part of what I do as an author as writing is. That's really nice because I sit and read and tell my family I'm researching. :-)

7. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, I can instantly go inside my head to a story I'm working on and lay out a scene or stash details about a conversation or physical characteristics I want to use later. This has caused a few "interesting" events in stores or at dinners with friends.

8. I get to write the stories I want to read. If I don't like that character, I get rid of him. If I love the other character, he wins the lottery. How much fun is that?

9. My first hug from a reader was a real high. She loved Sliding on the Edge and couldn't wait to read The Princess of Las Pulgas, so I guess getting hugs is one of the top ten things about being an author.

10. The connections I've made to other authors has been fabulous. They're usually supportive and help in so many ways to make being an author possible and enjoyable.

Follow Lee:

Win Sliding on the Edge by C. Lee McKenzie!

Open to US/Canada
Ends June 7.

Fill out THE FORM to enter!!

Good luck!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

National Geographic Kids Books FTW!

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2012


In the lively style of National Geographic Kids magazine, this colorful page-turner excites young people about their world and everything in it. The National Geographic Kids 2012 Almanac—also available in Canadian and International editions—is packed with fun-to-browse features, useful reference material, homework help developed by educators, and the kind of quirky facts that kids adore. Amazing animals, cool inventions, funny roadside attractions, outer space, green living, natural disasters, maps, puzzles—it's all here in one irresistible volume.

While competing almanacs offer about 10 percent new content each year, this book delivers at least 40 percent new content, including new articles, games, photos, and facts. A newly updated Your World section opens the almanac with timely information and unique National Geographic content. A 100% new game section features photo-puzzles, illustrated pen-and-pencil games, and other brainteasers. Every chapter is updated with exciting new content: photos of animals, adventure, and nature; maps of the continents, new this year; hundreds of facts and figures; and fascinating stories about incredible creatures, space, vacations, and more. Based in part on the award-winning National Geographic Kids magazine, the National Geographic Kids Almanac also boasts material created by National GeographicÕs contributing researchers and photographers in the field. With the 2010 and 2011 editions selling hundreds of thousands of copies, this bold new almanac is poised to make an even bigger splash.


Publication date: May 24th 2011 by National Geographic Children's Books

Weird But True! 3


Did you know that a lion's roar can be heard up to five miles away? That an astronaut's heartbeat slows down in space? That about $50 billion of Monopoly money is printed each year? Three hundred wacky facts pop from the colorful, compact pages of Weird but True! 3, an irresistible trove of facts and fun, based on the top-scoring feature in the country's premier children's magazine—National Geographic Kids. Brain-bending information entertains as it educates, covering topics such as science, animals, food, pop culture, weather, geography, and everything else under the sun. Plus, for the first time, this edition contains fun facts generated by readers! The original Weird but True book was an overnight success, selling tens of thousand of copies through bookstores in its first month on the market. The third edition is poised to follow, as it explodes with all-new facts, whimsical design, and even more eye-popping features that kids will love.


Publication date: June 14th 2011 by National Geographic Society

The Elliott Review for both:

I am reviewing these books together because they are both so amazing in my classroom. The articles are always about the latest and greatest with stunning or interesting pictures. Time and time again, these books are chosen by kids who typically state that they hate reading. They love looking through the articles because of the engaging pictures and facts, and in the process they are reading without realizing it. These same students will read these same books over and over, happily relating the things that they are reading. I truly believe that both books reach a group of students that are thirsty for knowledge and information but not necessarily the printed word per se. These books are also perfect for the classroom because they can easily be read in small segments after classwork is completed.

Source: Thanks to Tracey at Media Masters for providing copies of these books for a fair review.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

AMAZING New Layout

Some of you may have noticed that I've been changing my layout a lot here lately... Well, I finally have one that I I will stick with! Back in October, my mom had so graciously agreed to buy a blog design for her baby's 29th birthday. I was intending for a completely custom design at several different sites, but it never worked out. At last, I decided to get one at Designer Blogs since I've seen some of their work around, and I fell in love with one of the premade layouts designed by Lauren. The color scheme and clean lines were very close to what I would've wanted had I gone the custom route.

So... this layout has completely made my otherwise mostly crappy day!! Hooray!!!! Thank you, Lauren, for being so quick and awesome. I highly recommend this site for any design work you may want to have done!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Armchair BEA Day 2: Best of 2011 So Far

I have read so many amazing books, and here is the VERY top of my list... It was hard to narrow it down, but here you go:

Jessi's fave-2011-reads book montage

City of Fallen Angels
Shattered Souls
The Opposite of Amber
The Lost Hero
Angel Burn
The Babysitter Murders
A Need So Beautiful

Jessi's favorite books »


I hope they all show up correctly... I am looking forward to reading a lot more, too, but these are the ones I have managed to read so far.

So what were some of YOUR favorite reads this year or books you are really looking forward to?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Armchair BEA Day 1: Who I Am and How I Armchair

So.... it's time for Armchair BEA for those of us who couldn't go!!

Hey everyone! If you don't already know me, I am Jessi - a spastic book lover who obsessively tries to escape from the real world in a good book. I'm in the process of finishing my seventh year of teaching English to seventh graders here in the state of Texas. For the most part I really enjoy my job. Earlier on when I was at a not-so-great school, I decided to get my masters in library science so I could become a school librarian. I've finished my degree and still have that as a career goal, but the school financial situation in Texas is not what it should be and not many library jobs are open here. So... I will remain a seventh grade teacher until I can become a librarian or until I have kids I can stay home with. Either way, I get to share my love of reading and writing with kids!

I've almost completed my first year of blogging about books, and so far I've LOVED the experience. It's kind of turned into its own little full time job as I get to read tons of awesome books and discover authors and bloggers I would have never discovered before. I am still really into anything that is paranormal or has elements of fantasy, though I am trying to broaden my horizons into reading more contemporary stories. Does anyone have any awesome edgy, darkish contemporary to recommend?

My main goal is to become a writer, and I'm going to majorly focus on that this summer since I will be off from school. It's going to be a busy summer, so I am still going to have to focus and set aside that time... But I will do it! My idea is somewhat of a magic dystopia paranormal romance type thing. I guess a bit of all my faves thrown in there.

I am not sure how I will Armchair since I haven't done it before, but I am looking forward to seeing what happens! I know I am insanely jealous of everyone who gets to attend BEA for real! :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

ARC Review: Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe


Saturday will be the third state soccer championship in a row for Jake Martin. Three. A good number. Prime. With Jake on the field, Carson City High can’t lose, because Jake has the magic: a self-created protection generated by his obsession with prime numbers. It’s the magic that has every top soccer university recruiting Jake, the magic that keeps his family safe, and the magic that suppresses his anxiety attacks. But the magic is Jake’s prison, because getting it means his compulsions take over nearly every aspect of his life.

Jake’s convinced the magic will be permanent after Saturday, the perfect day, when every prime has converged. Once the game is over, he won’t have to rely on his sister, Kasey, to concoct excuses for his odd rituals. His dad will stop treating him like he is some freak. Maybe he’ll even make a friend other than Luc.

But what if it doesn’t work?

What if the numbers never go away?

Acclaimed author Heidi Ayarbe has created an honest and riveting portrait of a teen struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder in this courageous and breathtaking novel.


To be published May 1st 2011 by Balzer + Bray

The Elliott Review:

I wanted to read this book because the main character suffers from OCD, and I was curious to see how that would play out in terms of character development. Ayarbe really does a great job of depicting Jake and his obsession with numbers and counting as well as realistically portraying his compulsions. At first, his perspective was so alien to me that I was persplexed. I view numbers as another language like Greek or something, so I was like, "Stop counting already!" As I read, I felt the crippling sense of self-doubt and fear that plague him as well as the toll it takes on his life and how frustrating it is for people around him.

Jake's life is filled with secrecy. He knows that his counting is unrealistic, and he feels crazy. Like any OCDer, he has thoughts that disturb him, but he doesn't want to let people know about them because he knows that these thoughts aren't "right." Having an insiders view on his thoughts and his compulsions, I was surprised tht Jake was able to function at all - let alone be Magic Martin, the soccer star. The suspense really intensified as the control he has built around him starts to crumble.

The family situation that Jake has is really compelling and heart-breaking. His mother obviously suffers from her own brand of OCD, too, and his father's frustration with her keeps Jake from being open about himself, causing him to worry that he only has the option to go the way she has. I found myself just wanting to shake him and hug him and tell him what his deal was and how there is help for him!!!

Filled with compelling characters and strong emotion, this book is definitely a must-read, especially for those who have an interest in psychology or who have some kind of experience with OCD.

Source: Thanks to Kari at The Teen {Book} Scene for organizing this tour. You can view other stops on the tour here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

OCD Characters That Rock (And a Confession)

Let me make a confession... I have OCD! I received the diagnosis when I was almost out of college. After a lifetime of thinking I was going insane, it seriously came as a relief - something manageable rather than something that would make me have to go live under a bridge so I could hide from the mental institution. 

My doctor told me, in fact, that when a patient says they "feel insane," it is a strong indicator to her that they may have OCD because an OCD person knows that the thoughts they have are not rational and thus are very disturbed by them... That's why the compulsions exist - to relieve the anxiety that comes from these strange, obsessive thoughts (which are caused due to the person thinking too much and using up too much seratonin and having none left to help them move on to other thoughts; they get "stuck").

If you knew me casually in real life, you would not be able to tell this because when most people think of OCD, they think of handwashing or compulsive straightening/neatness. I've had various obsessions in the past, but my current (and perpetual) obsessions are more internal about whether or not I did the right thing and doubting facts that I know/believe to be true (in relationships and in religion). The compulsions are not as pronounced, mainly taking the form of asking people stupid questions I already know the answer to because I need that assurance OR confessing my thoughts/feelings even if it serves no purpose. Prior to my diagnosis and treatment, I was always massively depressed because of it all.

Anyway, all that to say that I LOVE that there have been some books floating around with OCD characters in them, lately. I eat these books up like they are candy because public ignorance about what OCD is (and about mental illness in general) gets to me. Also because I kind of want to represent... Anyway, here are some of my recent favorites:

Dani Solomon of The Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young

I knew this book dealt with OCD due to the summary even though it does not mention the disorder there. Dani's OCD manifests itself in violent images of her killing people she loves most or saying things to them that would hurt them deeply. Does she have a desire to do these things? Of course not, but they get stuck in her brain and greatly distress her, and she can't get them out. This becomes a big problem for her when she actually confesses to the mother of the child that she babysits and the media is informed. I was kind of shocked/appalled that the first psychologist Dani goes to doesn't realize what is wrong with her. A doctor in the 80's failed to diagnose me even though I was showing some telltale symptoms, but isn't this 2011, after all? However, I believe symptoms really still go unnoticed in some medical circles. The writing in this book amazed me. Even though I have never had obsessions exactly like Dani's, the way her thought process works throughout the book reminds me of the way I think. It was refreshing to see that played out in literature but kind of unnerving at the same time. I wanted to shove the book in front of my husband's face and say, "Here, honey. This is why I act the way I do."

Jake Martin of Compulsion by Heidi Ayarbe

It was hard for me to relate to Jake's counting obsessions because of the fact that they involve numbers. I hate numbers and math and all of the complex things that go on in his head in regard to them! However, what I really did appreciate was the way the book allowed me to experience how it felt to endure these specific compulsions and made me thankful that (for the most part) I am not as stunted in my daily life because of them. Jake has to have the numbers just magically right before he can proceed throughout his day, and if they are wrong, he has to "start over" so that everything can feel right in his head. Since he doesn't really tell anyone about this, his OCD is also undiagnosed. One point that I found very telling was this his mother also had a very severe case of OCD, showing the genetic link that is often present for many who have the disorder.

Kendall Fletcher of Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Out of these three characters, Kendall is the only one who initially knows that she has OCD, and I think that she is much better for it. She has certain rituals that she has to complete to feel that she and others are safe as well as a very distinct way of looking at the world. In the scope of this story, this gives her an edge that others don't have as they try to discover why the townspeople are missing. I love that her OCD isn't something debilitating but rather something empowering. The truth of the matter is that the same thing that make true OCDers miserable is also what makes them strong in a lot of cases. Kendall is, like, a butt-kicking poster child for the upside...

Anyway, this post might be way TMI for some, but I felt the need to share specifically because The Babysitter Murders got me thinking about how many people out there probably have OCD and think that there is no hope for them when, in fact, there really is.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Compulsion Giveaway Winners!

The winner of an ARC of Compulsion is:

Winner of Compulsion prize pack (including signed book plates and Tinkerbell keychain) is:

Winners chosen by Random.org and have 48 hours to claim.

Thanks to everyone who participated! :)