Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blog Tour & Review: Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley

Synopsis:

Corrinne Corcoran’s upscale Manhattan life is perfectly on track—until her father announces he’s been laid off and she’s shipped off to Broken Spoke, Texas, to live with her grandparents. All alone in a big public school and forced to take a job shoveling manure, Corrinne is determined to get back to the glamorous life she’s supposed to be living. But as she grudgingly adjusts—making new friends and finding romance along the way—this city girl begins to realize that life without credit cards and shopping sprees may not be as bad as it seems....

In this sparkling debut that flawlessly balances romance and humor, readers will grow to love sharp and sassy Corrinne as she goes on her totally reluctant but completely irresistible journey of self-discovery.

Details:
  • Pub. Date: February 2011
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
The Elliott Review:

This book is a fun read. The main reason for this is that the main character's personality is funny and very engaging. Corrinne is skillfully depicted as a stuck up, self-absorbed city girl gone country. Since I had to move to Texas during high school, some of her comments and/or thoughts cracked me up. Almost every line of this had something that made me smile. Most of the things that annoy her were things that annoyed me even though I moved from small town Maryland to big city Texas. Texas is just Texas.

The character development over the course of the book was well-done as well. Though the reader can predict that Corrinne will have a change of heart, this change of heart comes about in a natural way that makes sense. And the wiser, nicer Corrinne at the end of the book is not a completely different person - she still has her quirks and attitude, but she appreciates the simple things and people rather than the riches she had been accustomed to.

Throughout the story, Corrinne's voice stays real and keeps you reading. This is a must-read, especially for those who love or hate Texas (or anyone in between).

Source: Thanks to The Teen {Book} Scene for hosting this tour. View the rest of Where I Belong's tour stops here.

Trailer:




Thursday, January 20, 2011

Guest Post + Giveaway: Robert Feagan (Arctic Thunder)


I wrote my first novel, Napachee, because I wanted people to learn more about the amazing part of the world I was born and raised in. One aspect of writing young adult fiction that I didn’t anticipate was the adventure of participating in school visits and presentations. This spin-off of writing has proven to be the most rewarding component of what I do!

When I visit schools I take an extensive collection of artifacts including items such as walrus tusks, seal harpoons, beadwork and carvings. Some of the items are true museum pieces that have been treasured by my family for many years. There are stories associated with each artifact such as close encounters with polar bear and muskoxen, getting lost in -60 below weather, and growing up with a “honey bucket” instead of a toilet. Each group of students is different and I never get tired of telling my stories and enjoying the reaction of my audience.

I have been fortunate enough to present at schools across Canada and locations inthe United States. Some of my most rewarding presentations have been surprisingly close to home.

The first time I was asked to present at a school comprised predominantly of First Nations students I was somewhat intimidated. I kept saying to myself, “what can I tell these young people that they won’t already know?” I grew up in the Northwest Territories and assumed that the experience of First Nations students in Alberta would be much like my own. I was wrong!

The majority of Fist Nations students I spoke to knew very little of their own culture and history. They were more amazed and entertained than the non-First Nations students I spoke to. It was very emotional for me to see these young people hanging on my every word and proudly listening to stories about their own people. I frequently receive phone calls from teachers after I make these visits thanking me for instilling a new sense of pride in their students and a thirst to learn more of their heritage.

I recently presented in Chicago and will be travelling to Oregon later this month. Chicago was fantastic with over 300 students sitting in on my presentation! They had great questions and the reaction to my new novel, Arctic Thunder, was over the top! I am anticipating more fun when I visit Oregon!


ABOUT ROB

Robert Feagan is the author of two previous novels for young people: Napachee and Mystery at Shildii Rock, which was nominated for a Golden Eagle Book Award. He was born in Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, Canada, and often accompanied his RCMP father on patrols of the Mackenzie Delta by dog team. Feagan has lived in Yellowknife, Cambridge Bay, and Inuvik, but currently resides in St. Albert, Alberta.

You can connect with Rob in the following ways:


 Win a copy of Arctic Thunder!

Giveaway is open to US and Canada. 

The contest ends January 29.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Arctic Thunder by Robert Feagan

Synopsis:

Mike Watson's team has just won the Alberta Bantam Provincial box lacrosse championships. The euphoria of victory and plans for next season are short-lived when Mike's father, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is transferred to Inuvik, Northwest Territories.
The transition to life inside the Arctic Circle is a tough one. With temperatures of -30 Celsius, a hulking monster named Joseph Kiktorak threatening him at every turn, and not a lacrosse ball in site, Mike's resentment at moving north escalates.

As his friendships with local youth develop, Mike is introduced to the amazing spectacle and athleticism of traditional "Arctic Sports." When his father witnesses the natural talent of Mike's new friends, the idea of an Inuvik lacrosse team is born! With hearts full of desire, the motley group of athletes heads south to participate in the Baggataway Lacrosse Tournament, and to face Mike's former team, The Rams.

Details:
  • Pub. Date: October 2010
  • Publisher: Dundurn Press
The Elliott Review:

My favorite part of this book was the way the culture of the Arctic Circle was described and portrayed. I really enjoyed learning more about a region of the world that I didn't know much about. It was fascinating to read about the attitude and atmosphere that Mike encounters when he moves and how he learns to embrace a new culture as well as his own background.
Arctic Thunder contains many lessons that students (and adults, for that matter) can learn from. Mike has to keep an open mind and heart in order to accept his new home. He has to learn about the culture of those around them and give it the respect it deserves, learning more about himself in the process. He also learns to accept a few difficult individuals he meets as he learns more about their backgrounds. Ultimately, the inspirational message of the book is one of love and acceptance - about finding the good that lies in each person.

This book is extremely detail-oriented and action based. This was a little too much so for me personally, but I know that this will appeal greatly to young sports fans of all types, especially those who already love lacrosse. Because of the detail utilized in explaining lacrosse, I was able to understand how the game is played and to visualize the excitement of the sport. I can't wait to see how my students react to the story, particularly my reluctant boy readers.

Source: Thanks to Marta at Dundurn Press for providing a copy of this book for a fair review.





Trailer:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blog Tour: Character Interview with Waverly (from Where I Belong)


Today at The Elliott Review, we have Waverly from Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley as a guest.

Hey Waverly! What have you been up to lately?

Running for President of the Sophomore Class at Kent Boarding School. Studying for the PSATS.

What is your favorite memory with Corrinne?

Summer camp as kids.

What is your best quality as a person?

My dedication to excellence and perfection.

How do you deal with being fashionable AND smart?

Thinking the part is only half the battle. You need to look the part too. My whole life is strategic down to my charm bracelets.

Do you have any regrets at this point in life?

I wish I had been more open to learning about Corrinne's life in Broken Spoke.

What makes you get a crush on a guy?

I like power couples, so I look for someone who complements my future goals.

What was going through your mind when you first visited Corrinne in Texas?

Is this America? When's the next flight back?

What are your goals for the future?

Yale. First Female President. Then I am not sure what, I am still figuring out what I’ll do in my forties.


About Where I Belong:

Corrinne Corcoran’s upscale Manhattan life is perfectly on track—until her father announces he’s been laid off and she’s shipped off to Broken Spoke, Texas, to live with her grandparents. All alone in a big public school and forced to take a job shoveling manure, Corrinne is determined to get back to the glamorous life she’s supposed to be living. But as she grudgingly adjusts—making new friends and finding romance along the way—this city girl begins to realize that life without credit cards and shopping sprees may not be as bad as it seems....

In this sparkling debut that flawlessly balances romance and humor, readers will grow to love sharp and sassy Corrinne as she goes on her totally reluctant but completely irresistible journey of self-discovery.


Connect with Gwendolyn Heasley:


Thanks so much for the fine folks at The Teen {Book} Scene for organizing this. You can view other stops on the tour here. A little bit later, I will be posting my review for this book as part of the tour, as well. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Godspeed to you, AtU!


Happy Birthday, Across the Universe!

As you may have already seen, today is the official launch of Across the Universe by Beth Revis! I've read this book in ARC form, and it is seriously amazing. I can't wait to get my hands on that double-sided hard-cover goodness!

There are some things you can do to help celebrate the launch of this phenomenal book:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Giveaway Winners... Reading Resolutions and Zan-Gah




Inspiration Pack - Cathie [lovemybaby..]
Fiction Pack - misskallie2000 (claimed)

365 Thank Yous - Debbie (claimed)

You Know When the Men Are Gone
- Michelle [methirteen]

Zan-Gah Giveaway winner is:

Vivien P. (claimed)

Winners (who haven't already) have 48 hours to claim their prize before a winner is chosen. All winners chosen by random.org.


Thanks so much to everyone who participated in both these giveaways! You guys are awesome! :)

Blog Tour: Interview with Dori Jones Yang (and a giveaway!)

Dori Jones Yang, author of Daughter of Xanadu, is here on the blog today in anticipation of her book's release! She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!

What made you fall in love with Chinese culture?

You may not believe this, but it started with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In middle school, I was enchanted by this book and even learned to write in the Elvish script. I longed to go far away and learn new languages. After college, I got an amazing opportunity: to live in Singapore and study Mandarin Chinese. It took forever to learn Chinese, but once I did, I was hooked. I read everything I could about China and visited it in 1979, soon after China opened to Americans. Since then, I’ve been back more times than I can count and become enamored of Chinese geography, history, and culture. I even fell in love with a Chinese man! So I know something about cross-cultural romance.

Did you ever have a mishap based on the difference between Chinese culture and American culture?

When my daughter was two years old, someone sent her some darling barrettes with white bows, which looked sweet in her dark brown hair. As soon as my Chinese husband saw them, he was appalled! He made me take them out immediately. He told me that Chinese children wear white bows in their hair only if one parent has recently died.

What do you think makes Chinese culture stand out from others?

The Chinese written language is as different from English as any language could be. Each character has many pronunciations, different in each region of China, but has strong cultural connotations that all Chinese seem to understand. The turbulent history of China over the past 100 years also strongly affects how Chinese people value stability and harmony versus freedom and human rights.

Who was your favorite or most interesting historical figure to research during the writing of Daughter of Xanadu?

My favorite historical figure was Ai-Jaruk, daughter of Khaidu Khan. Marco Polo told her story in his book: how she was so good at wrestling that she defeated every suitor who came to ask her hand in marriage. As a result, she won the right to go to war with her father and live life on her own terms. This story – not that of Mulan! – inspired me to create the character of Emmajin.

Ways to connect with Dori:



Win a copy of
Daughter of Xanadu!!

Thanks to Dori Jones Yang and Delacorte Books for Young Readers, I have a copy of this book to give away! 

Contest open to US only. Ends January 24th!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

ARC Tour & Review: Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang

Synopsis:

Athletic and strong willed, Princess Emmajin's determined to do what no woman has done before: become a warrior in the army of her grandfather, the Great Khan Khubilai. In the Mongol world the only way to achieve respect is to show bravery and win glory on the battlefield. The last thing she wants is the distraction of the foreigner Marco Polo, who challenges her beliefs in the gardens of Xanadu. Marco has no skills in the "manly arts" of the Mongols: horse racing, archery, and wrestling. Still, he charms the Khan with his wit and story-telling. Emmajin sees a different Marco as they travel across 13th-century China, hunting 'dragons' and fighting elephant-back warriors. Now she faces a different battle as she struggles with her attraction towards Marco and her incredible goal of winning fame as a soldier.

Details:
  • Pub. Date: January 2011
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
The Elliott Review:

This novel stands apart from most others in the young adult genre. It carries an intellectual weight and a sense of timelessness that is a product both of refined, fluid prose and expert treatment of historical subjects.Yang has managed showcase Mongolian culture in as authentic a way as a modern-day author can while doing justice to themes that any teen today can relate to.

Princess Emmajin's voice stands out as unique and as representative of the Mongolian ideal of valuing glory on the battlefield. However, even in doing so she is highly relevant to the modern woman because to obtain her goals, she must go against everything is "proper" for a Mongolian woman. She navigates the waters of her first love with grace and maturity, all the time weighing her own feelings and desires against her responsibility to her society.

One thing I loved about this book is that the central focus was Emmajin's journey and development as a character. Although romance is an important and driving facet of the story, it is not the only thing we see. It's interesting to see how the ideas Marco brings from the West bring about changes in her mind and heart.

Source: Thanks to Holly at Good Golly Miss Holly ARC Tours for hosting this tour.





Trailer:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Author Interview: Beth Revis

Beth Revis was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. Her AWESOMELY AMAZING debut novel, Across the Universe, is coming from Razorbill/Penguin in Spring 2011. A former high-school English teacher, Beth can’t help but blog about writing, grammar, and publishing at Writing it Out. She is the founder of the new popular dystopian blog, the League of Extraordinary Writers and blows off steam by trying to come up with something witty in 140 characters or less, lusting after books on GoodReads, or wasting time on Facebook [Taken from Beth's website.]

How did you become interested in writing a work of science fiction?

That's what fit the story I had in mind! I didn't intend to write a science fiction--I intended to write a story where X and Y happened, and the sci fi setting was perfect for the story. In short: the story came first, then the space ship.

I’ve seen you describe your book as science fiction for people who don’t like science fiction. Did you do that intentionally?

Nope! One reason I don't read much adult sci fi is because it's bogged down (imo) with scientific details and facts. My setting serves my story--not the other way around. So while there IS science, I only incorporate as much as is necessary to the story.

Who are some of your favorite sci-fi authors? What books would you recommend to read for those just breaking into the genre?

Orson Scott Card is a perennial favorite; I also really loved THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness, THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary Pearson, and several others. I'd definitely start with their works if you're new to the genre!

Did your experiences as a teacher give you perspective as an author? In what way?

Being a teacher made me a better person--more empathetic, more aware of others' (especially teens') problems and triumphs, and more aware of how to keep someone's attention. In these ways, teaching made me a better writer.
 
Did you have any teachers that influenced you in your writing?

My tenth grade teacher, Ms. Washburn, was great because she didn't accept crap and wasn't afraid to push me to do better. Several elementary teachers, including Mrs. Pearson, Mrs. Oliver, and Mrs Yancy (5th, 4th, and 3rd grades) were awesome because they actually incorporated creative writing classes into their curriculum. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

ARC Review: Across the Universe (Across the Universe 1) by Beth Revis



Synopsis:

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.
 
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Details:

  • Pub. Date: January 2011
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) 
The Elliott Review:

Since I am not a big sci-fi fan, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this book or not. I am extremely glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone and gave it a try, though, because Across the Universe is one of the best books I've read in quite some time. It blends important elements of sci-fi with an element of fantasy and dystopia that combine to, as a friend likes to say, blow your mind socks. The action of this book is so emotionally charged and just left me completely breathless at times. I kept trying to guess what I thought was going on only to be thrown through a loop completely. The suspense just builds and builds.

I've always been intrigued by the idea of people being cryogenically frozen, and it was creepy/chilling to see Amy undergoing that procedure at the beginning of the book. When she awakes, she is now in the midst of a new world that has been formed during her 250 years of sleep. The passengers awake aboard the Godspeed have lived and reproduced over the generations, and at some point what is known as the Plague occurred and a Hitler-like leader that called himself Eldest stepped up to control the ship.

The current Eldest presides rules with an iron hand, lying to and manipulating the people aboard the ship. When Amy awakes and meets Elder, the teen who will be Eldest one day, she easily sees the craziness of the actions around her and tries to work with Elder to find out who seems to be systematically murdering some of the other frozen people on the ship. Elder has to decide if he wants to be a ruler like his mentor or if he can be something different.

I'd have to say that Elder and his thoughts about everything were my favorite to read. I love how he interacted with Amy, who challenges everything he has been raised to believe. Their relationship is one that I can't wait to see develop further in the other books in this trilogy.

Source: Good Golly Miss Holly (ARC) Tours

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review: Trail of Fate (Youngest Templar 2) by Michael P. Spradlin

Synopsis:

As a templar, young Tristan is entrusted to protect the Holy Grail. But it is the Grail that protects him as he escapes the Holy Land—and the evil Templar Sir Hugh—and washes up, alone, on a foreign shore. Before long, Tristan's adventures put him in danger, caught in the fighting between a heretical band of Cathars and the king of France, and still on the run from Sir Hugh. Tristan's only chance to save the Grail is to make his way to England. But when he falls for Celia, the beautiful leader of the Cathars, his loyalty to the Grail wavers. And when Celia becomes endangered, Tristan is torn, forced to make a choice—and the wrong one could have disastrous consequences.

Details:
  • Pub. Date: October 2010
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
The Elliott Review:

This book continues Tristan and company's quest to protect and safely deliver the Holy Grail. This installment is even more action-packed than the first, and it becomes more interesting as the characters develop and more vital characters are introduced.

Upon meeting Celia, Tristian becomes completely enamored. She is so sweet and noble and somewhat defenseless without him, that he swears an oath to protect her, which in some ways contradicts his quest with the Grail. Meanwhile, Robard and Maryam, despite their tendency to pick at one another, truly come to care deeply about each other. These feelings amongst all the characters lead to complications that threaten the safety of the quest. I love the way we get to see these characters in action.

Of course, Sir Hugh and his schemes are involved, and some major hints are given about Tristan's origins. The book ends on the questioning note, leaving the reader wanting to find out more - the Grail aside, just who is Tristan and what is going to become of him? What choices will he be forced to make in the future?

Source: Thanks to Tracey at Media Masters for providing a copy for a fair review.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Review: Keeper of the Grail (Youngest Templar 1) by Michael P. Spradlin

Synopsis:

Raised by monks, the orphan Tristan never dreamed that he might see the world or discover the truth about his past. But that changes the day that the Knights Templar ride through the abbey on their way to fight in the Holy Land for Richard the Lionheart’s Crusade. Overnight Tristan becomes a squire to Sir Thomas, one of the Templar’s most courageous knights. But he also finds himself entrusted with the most sacred relic in all of Christendom, the Holy Grail.

With the chaos of war surrounding him, Tristan teams up with a young archer from Sherwood Forest and a deadly Al Hashshashin warrior. But even with their help, can he safely bring the Holy Grail back to England and escape the evil men who follow in its wake?

Details:
  • Pub. Date: September 2009
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
The Elliott Review:

I really enjoyed reading this book. Spradlin deftly captures the essence of the adventure and danger of twelfth century for young readers. As Tristan leaves his safe home at the monastery and joins the Knights Templar as a squire, he engages in adventures that he would never before dream of. Sir Thomas offers him the opportunity of a lifetime by taking him to the Holy Land and giving him a strange audience with the King. Sir Hugh, obviously corrupt in some way, does what he can to tempt Tristan by alluding to the fact he knows about the boy's origins.

As a battle goes horribly awry, Sir Thomas entrusts Tristan with the Holy Grail, which he is to deliver safely back in England. Traveling with it, Tristan finds that it seems to have a protective sort of power in his darkest moments. Along the way he meets the fiery Robard Hode, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the character readers will recognize from the Robin Hood story, and the two of them unwittingly fall into the path of Maryam, who I have a feeling is not quite what she seems.

The most enjoyable part of the story to me is the mysterious aspects of Tristan's background. He seems to make King Richard feel uneasy, and Sir Hugh knows something about how Tristan was left at the monastery. His adventures in getting the Grail to safety are interesting enough, but I have a feeling that there is more in store for Tristan than that simple aspect of the story.

This is a well-written, engaging adventure that will appeal to readers young and old.

Source: Library