Tag Archive: books



Here, There Be Dragons (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, #1) by James A. Owen

Ages 12 & up

Here,_There_Be_Dragons,_James_A._Owen_-_CoverAn adventure was the last thing John expected when Professor Sigurdssen summoned him to Oxford, but that’s exactly what he gets. Upon his arrival, the police greet John with the news of the good professor’s murder and John finds his lot thrown in with three strangers: Jack, Charles, and the mysterious Bert. Pursued by strange, inhuman creatures the four new friends flee to the Indigo Dragon, a magical ship capable of crossing from our world to the Archipelago of Dreams. Now the principal caretaker of The Imaginarium Geographica, John, along with his new friends must defend the Archipelago from the Winter King—a formidable foe bent on turning the entire Archipelago into Shadowlands. All the King needs to complete his plan is the Geographica.

This book. Holy guacamole. THIS. BOOK.

I’ll just start by saying that if you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia, just stop reading this review and do yourself the favor of finding this book and reading it. Make your family read it. Make your friends read it. Make your neighbor’s mom read it. Yes, you’re going to be slightly confused at the beginning…but there’s a reason for that. It all makes sense in the end.

While we’re on the subject…the end is by far my FAVORITE part of this book. I’m still reeling over the big twist. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but suffice it to say that it was fan-TAS-tic .

I know the book says 12 & up, but really, I think (depending on the child) you could probably go even younger. A great book for the whole family. Yeah, it gets intense and maybe a little scary, but there are Disney movies scarier than this book. (If your kid can handle Frozen, your kid can handle this book.) It has all the whimsy of Narnia (talking animals, mystical lands with grand mythologies, a grand magical journey, life-altering betrayal) and all the cleverness too. Mythology provides all the building blocks for this story, which makes sense considering that the Archipelago is supposedly a world created by human imagination. Owens takes stories that we all know, sewing them into a seamless tapestry that adds color and life to his world.

This is the classic heroes’ quest, Owens doesn’t take any particular risks with this book, but he crafted his story so well I didn’t mind too much. Instead of making the book stale and trite, the familiar archetypes turn it into something comfortable. I loved the challenge of trying to figure each character out before their name was revealed. There are probably those that disagree with me, but I enjoyed the way familiar stories were taken and spun on their heads. And trust me, there’s a good reason you’re feeling those déjà vu vibes.

The only thing I found disappointing was the dearth of female characters. Owens did give us Aven, the captain of the Indigo Dragon, but I would have liked seeing more girls participating in the action. Circumstances dictated that the three main characters be male and I’m cool with that, but I’d like to see more than the token strong female character in the sequels (fingers crossed, I’ve got a bit of time before I start the next one).

All in all, I enjoyed this book so much that I’d love to add it to my shelf (also, the cover art is REALLY pretty). If you’re looking for a great book to read with your kids—or you just like books with dragons—then I’d definitely recommend this book.

This book is a good example of:

  • Multiple POV narrative
  • Third person
  • World building
  • Middle grade
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8508313605_d13cbe9fe8_zHappy New Year!

Yeah, I know. I’m a bit late, but I hope you finished 2015 with pizazz and kicked off 2016 brilliantly.

I devoted most of December (and January) to a much needed mental break. Happens every year. Somehow, I always forget how drained the three months of crazy known as September, October, and November leave me. And yes, I did manage to complete NaNoWriMo.

The final word count was (drum roll please)….

50,015 words!

Bringing WIP#2 to a whopping 66,311 words…So far.

But enough about last year, I want to talk about this year. After all, isn’t that what January is about? New starts. New challenges. Don’t worry, I’m not here to challenge you to eat better or exercise more or even write more. But I do have a few suggestions to spice up your reading life.

But Margaret, you say, I’m happy with my current reading list. Why spend my time on something I don’t know I’ll like?

For the same reason people try new exercise routines or new recipes. Yes, there is a chance that you might absolutely hate it (why not try your local library instead of purchasing the book), but you might also find something that you absolutely love. Trying new things is how I discovered that I absolutely love steampunk novels…and that despite being a card carrying member of the hopeless romantic club, I can barely stomach most romance novels (weird I know).

So, without further ado, here are some ways you can shake up your reading rut:

  • Read More Women- If you are a YA junkie like me, you probably read a lot of women. The YA shelves are rife with the likes of Maureen Johnson, Susan Collins, Sarah Dessen, Lauren Oliver, Maggie Stiefvater, Shannon Hale, and Ally Carter. We have some kickass female writers, but female writers still face a steeper uphill climb than many male writers, regardless of their protagonist’s gender. Especially in the big name genres like science fiction and fantasy. Male authors just tend to get more visibility. Think about it, you probably know who John Green is (you should, he’s amazing), but of the women listed above how many names did you recognize? That’s not to say there aren’t some seriously talented male authors, but there are just as many talented female authors. Give their books some love too.
  • Read More Authors of Color- While we’re on the subject of convincing publishers that the the idea of the “standard author model” (Think Nicholas Sparks: middle-aged, white, and male) is outdated, let’s talk about my personal reading challenge for 2016: to read more books by non-white authors. I’ve seen this particular reading challenge focus on the protagonists and that’s a valid challenge, but as a writer I want to focus on the writers themselves. Again, I’m not challenging the talent of white authors, but publishing is a business and businesses like to stick to “proven” models, which provides fewer opportunities for authors who don’t fit that mold.
  • Read Outside Your Normal Genre- Do you usually read Sci-Fi? Try something contemporary. Do you usually browse the adult sections? Maybe it’s time to take a chance on Percy Jackson or The Hunger Games (Don’t let the label fool you, YA isn’t just for teenagers). Do you usually read romance? Let me tell you, Mr. Darcy is not the only fantastic guy lurking on the bookstore shelves. (And no, I am NOT talking about Christian Grey, blech.) Try some poetry. Try some Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing is my personal fave). If you usually read fiction, try non-fiction. Pick up a new hobby this year. Learn about something cool, like the Vikings.
  • Read Something Foreign- You don’t even have to speak another language for this one. There are plenty of books that have been translated into English (or maybe you want to brush up on that high school Spanish/French/German/Romanian/whatever). Heck, there are plenty of foreign books published in English. The point is (really, the point of this whole list): Get a look at the world around you. Every society tells stories a little differently. Imagine if Sherlock Holmes were written by an American?

Those are only a few suggestions meant to inspire you to try some new books in 2016. This list is by no means comprehensive. If you’re really curious or want more inspiration, do an image search for 2016 Reading Challenges. There are tons of them; many of them made into colorful lists. If you want suggestions, you can drop a question in the comments how you’d like to expand your reading list. If I don’t have a something, I’m sure some of my readers will.

Question of the Week:

Have you ever taken a chance on a book and been pleasantly surprised?


Image: Read More by Starry Raston, CC BY-ND 2.0


I have a confession to make: My passion for my work-in-progress has kind of fizzled out.

I had some awesome momentum last year. Wrote twenty chapters in a month (thank you NaNoWriMo). I knew what was happening. There were great and exciting things running through my head.  I would sit down at my computer and typing was an adventure. And then, it all stopped.  Not like I hit a brick wall or anything and more like I ran onto a giant sheet of flypaper.

Today (actually, last Thursday), I stared at the screen for an hour and didn’t even make five hundred words. To put that in perspective, I was writing between 1000-1200 words an hour at the beginning of the year.

Thanks to my outline, I still know what’s going to happen next. I know how to get from point A to Z, I’ve just lost interest in getting there. There are so many other things I would rather do. Read City of Lost Souls or watch Psych or finally find out what this DC reboot is all about (I am suffering a relapse of Batman mania due to the sheer awesomeness of Dark Knight Rises, but more on that another time). Or write fan fiction, my mind is churning out all kinds of fan fiction ideas. And the sad part is, the fan fiction I’ve written lately is better that the three or four most recent chapters of Mind Games. I mean, Chapter 28 mostly reads like lines for a play, with a few notes about blocking and scene. Well, at least some of the dialogue holds water…maybe…once I polish it up. I have successfully reached the Half-way Blahs (which does not always occur at the actual halfway point).

If this was my first experience with the Blahs, I might be worried. And those of you who’ve just reached this point for the first or second time may be worried. But before you start throwing ashes over torn-out hair and hold a funeral for your muse, listen for a minute. I can tell you that this isn’t my first frustration struggle with the Blahs. And this won’t be your last (And if you haven’t met them yet, they’re coming). The Blahs will pass. The glue on the flypaper dries out eventually and you can build up to that run again. Better yet, you can use the flypaper as kindling to get your fire going again. The work you have to do to escape the Blahs is always worth it.

And as for me, I’ve been lounging about and feeding my inner artist for too long. Problem is, this diet of (phenomenal) reading with no writing has made my inner artist fat and lazy. She could run, but she had no desire to and obviously can’t last for very long. So it’s time to get back on the track. I’m going to make her work, even if she can only manage short bursts at the keyboard. Because even though it may take weeks or months, I will get back to the point when I can spend huge chunks of time writing. I’ll find the passion for this story again. But until then, I will push on (for more about writing even when you don’t want to, check out this blog). I’ll do so much research. I’ll drag out the playlist and listen to it incessantly. And I’ll keep stumbling through my story, because sometimes you have to fall a few times before you can run.


Note: This one has actually been sitting on my computer since November. Kind of got lost…but I found it and decided to post while it was still mostly relevant (And at least a little true).

I feel like talking about movies. Specifically movies that are based on books.

It can be a fan’s dream…or worst nightmare. I know that often I’ll be reading a book and think, “Hey, this would make a kick-butt movie.” Plus, I love to see my favorite stories leap off the page. At the same time, for every good/amazing movie version, there is an equal amount of bad movies. Some are horrendous. Some are merely blah. It seems like it is often hit-or-miss when a book is being turned into a movie. After all, a book can contain a LOT more information than a measly movie can. They’re having to fit a four-or-more-hour read into two and a half hours of screen time (sometimes). Things are going to get cut, things are going to get changed. You may find yourself at the Parthenon in Tennessee battling the hydra a book early.

Now before some people start griping about the all the book-movies gone wrong, which leads to “How could [insert author] have let this happen” let’s remember this: When a writer signs a publishing contract and becomes a published author, they typically sign away the movie rights during that process. And I don’t think that it takes author involvement to make a great book-movie (though it certainly may help). After all, J.R.R. Tolkien wasn’t around to see his Lord of the Rings trilogy get movie-fied, but it was an amazing set of movies.

I’ve come to realize it’s not about getting every scene and snatch of dialogue on the screen. When I think about some of my favorite movie adaptations, it’s about more than that. Think about:

  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • The Princess Bride
  • Holes
  • Pride and Predjudice (the Colin Firth version)
  • The Passion of the Christ (okay, maybe that one is based on four books)
  • The first two of the new Chronicles of Narnia

These are some of my favorite movies. I love them. I adore them. In the case of LOTR (and probably soon-to-be Hunger Games) I go stark-raving crazy over them. And it’s not because they are exact replicas of the original work. Heck, my favorite Princess Bride scene isn’t even in the book. They are amazing because they capture the spirit of the book. Ally Carter puts is beautifully when she talks about the possibility of aging up the characters in her book, Heist Society: “I for one would rather have an actress who has Kat’s same spirit than someone who only has Kat’s same age.” She makes the case that even if they age the characters into their early 20s for the movie, it can still be the same story and still have the same experience as the books and that is what she is most concerned with. For more about her thoughts on the possible Heist Society movie you can start here. (Can we get a “Heck, yes” to a Heist Society movie, by the way)

I’m not looking for every scene to be in the movie when I go see it. I’m not looking for a movie that follows the plot of the book exactly. Some books just don’t make good movies on their own. Take, for example, The Two Towers. Do I love LOTR? Yes. Once upon a time, did I read the trilogy every year? Yes. (Should I get back into that habit? Yes.) Which book was the hardest for me to get through? The Two Towers. I mean, as long as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli were in the picture I was riveted (can you guess who my favorite characters were?). And then you got to Frodo and Sam and I remembered that I knew how it ended and went all, “Eh. I’ll get to it.” LOTR fan fail, I know.

The Two Towers is mostly walking and a little bit of fighting and some great dialogue between the Elf and the Dwarf. Walking, dialogue and a tiny bit of fighting do not make an amazing movie. Had they followed the book as Tolkien wrote it the movie would have like the bargain brand paper towels on a Bounty commercial.  Instead, Peter Jackson took a little artistic liberty and gave the fans a teeny taste of the action to come at the end of the movie. Big gamble? Definitely. Did it pay off? yes. As did saving the Shelob scene for The Return of the King. After all, we’d just been through the climax of the movie at Helm’s Deep. To add the scene in Shelob’s lair would have taken away from everything we’d just been through. Plus, it created a serious sense of anticipation for those who knew what was coming (and I guess for those who didn’t). Don’t believe me? Look it up online, I’m sure people have written dozens of articles to this effect. What worked so well for Peter Jackson is that he was first and foremost a fan. And he recruited fans. And they were all concerned with creating a movie that would stay true to the big picture of the LOTR books, not just the tiny details. (Though they did great with those, too.)

You cann’t going to please everyone. There are going to be people whose favorite scene is an obscure one or not imperative to the over-arching plot. People like me who were disappointed that most of the Eowyn/Faramir scenes did not make it into the theatrical editions (that was, however, my only disappointment). But for the most part, I think that LOTR fans world-wide ended up with a movie that lived up to their expectations. For me, at least, LOTR was one of the very few movies that I feel the movie was a good as the book.

Have I had some serious disappointments when it came to movie adaptations? Yes. Eragon and the first two Twilight movies being among them. These are the kind of movies that make me worry when I hear another one of my favorites is being translated to the big screen. Now, usually I enjoy the movie, but still think the book is better. Occasionally, I’ll like the movie better than the book (that list includes all of two movies, I think).

But, no matter how awful I think the movie is going to suck, I still feel  that a true fan must see it at least once and form their own conclusions (even if you wait till it’s in DVD form). That’s why I went to see Eclipse and why I went to go see Ella Enchanted, despite the weirdness of the trailers. In both cases I was glad I had gone. Eclipse turned out to actually be a good interpretation of the book (IMO) and Ella Enchanted, while nothing like the book, was a fun movie and I do enjoy watching it every now and again. This is why I plan to go rent part two of the Deathly Hallows as soon as I can, despite what my HP fanatic friend says about how much it stinks. Even if he’s right (and we do have different opinions about how to accurately transform a book into a movie) and I end up feeling indifferent or hating it, I need to finish it just to be able to say that I have. (Anyone feel me there?)

So, does this mean that I am worried about what they’ll do with Hunger Games?

Nah.

They’re taking the time to cast the right people and I’ve found that when a director takes the time to make sure that the actors are right, then they’ll make sure the movie is right as well. Not that anything but time will tell, however, I’m hopeful and I’ve yet to see anything that worries me. A word of advice though, don’t reread Hunger Games right before the movie comes out. You will spend the whole movie thinking about how this detail is different and how they left out that line. I did this once, never again. I’m planning to reread a couple of months before so that it will be fresh, but not so fresh that every difference has neon lights pointing to it.

So what about you? What have been some of your favorite (or least favorite) movie adaptations. Why? What was it about the movie that made you (dis)like it?


New Years-1-002 by Ludie Cochrane

Happy New Year!

I know, I know. I sort of dropped off the face of the Earth for a while.

It all started with National Novel Writing Month in November. A great success if I may say so. No, I did not make it to 50,000 words by the end of the month. On Nov. 30 at 11:49 p.m., I looked at my word count and decided that 42,000 words was good enough for my first year. I mean, all things considered I am now 30,000 words and fourteen chapters closer to the end of Mind Games (which is plotted out at roughly 40 chapters, though that will most definitely change). It’s exciting being able to look at the word count for MG and see the number 42,000. My last “book” finished at 47,000 and I’m only halfway finished with this one. I think I have a pretty good chance of hitting that 80,000-100,000 word goal for this current project.

Can tell that I’m restraining myself from over-using my CAPS Lock?

And then there was the December-long reading binge where I endeavored to finish all of those books that I started in the last year, but for one reason or another put down (mostly for another book). That went relatively well also.

And that leads in to what this year holds for me.

Now, I’m not one to really make New Year’s resolutions per se. I believe that if you want to change there is no day like today. However, the last two months have brought me to some conclusions (not to mention drastically changed the plot of Mind Games):

  1. I need to read more.
  2. I need to write more.
  3. It’s time to get this book finished.
  4. I don’t want to write for money, I want to make money writing and there is a difference.

Which has led me to set some goals that could be considered New Year’s resolutions, if I made NYRs.

The easiest one is going to be reading more. My goal for 2012 is to read 48 books. Could I read a whole lot more? Yes. Would my house, school and life suffer? At this point, yes.  Most books take me 6-7 hours to read. So, finishing a book a week shouldn’t be too hard. That’s just an hour a day. To make it more challenging and improve my reading range, I have come up with a few guidelines. First, at least one of those books is to be a book on writing. Second, I cannot read two books of the same genre/age range back-to-back. With the exception of series (because that would be just cruel). So, should I want compare say YA paranormal fantasy and adult paranormal fantasy, I can. But I shall refrain from reading…oh let’s go with Fever by Lauren DeStefano and then Suzanne Collins Hunger Games trilogy (both YA dystopian novels). There has to be something different in between. This is to encourage me to read outside of my comfort zone. I read a lot of young adult, fantasy and science fiction. That leaves whole genres that I haven’t tapped. Crime, historical fiction, suspense (which, despite my mother’s protests, I love), romance, all those classics (which I also enjoy), “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera” as they say in The King and I.

All of this is just a step towards my becoming a better writer (my other goal).

Because by the end of February I’m planning to have a finished first draft. And then it will be time to edit. And then…it’s time to query (and start the next book). Eek! In fact, one of the gifts I asked for this Christmas was the 2012 Writer’s Market. If I want to be a writer…it’s time to BE a writer.

That’s my goal for 2012.

What’s yours? Have you thought about your goals as a writer? Have you written them down? Do it. It makes them easier to stick to. And then do your best!


The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Ages 16 and up

Mary’s world is simple. There is the fence that separates her village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth and the masses of unconsecrated (a.k.a. zombies). There is the Sisterhood that keeps order and protects the village. And there are her mother’s stories about the outside world and the ocean. The path her life will take is simple and uncomplicated and controlled. She will either marry and raise a family or join the Sisterhood. When her mother is infected and no one has spoken for her, the Sisterhood abruptly becomes her only choice. Inside the walls that shelter the sisters, Mary starts to discover that the Sisterhood hasn’t been entirely truthful. Mary’s world begins to turn end over end as she tries to discover what exactly these women have been up to and what dark secrets are hidden in the church walls. And she begins to wonder, what if her mother spoke the truth about the ocean?

It has taken me several months to get to where I can objectively talk about this book (I finished it in July). You would think that for my maiden voyage into the zombie genre I would choose something that was comical, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but no…I chose Forest of Hands and Teeth. I’m glad I did, but it took me a long time to get there. To put it simply: I love the writing but I didn’t like the book.

Now, disclaimer: My opinion of this story is subject to change. Okay, not really, let’s rephrase. My opinion of this series has changed. I put down Forest of Hands and Teeth and had to think long and hard about whether or not I was going to pick up the next book. I did eventually decide to continue on with the series, mostly because the recommendation that made me pick up the series in the first placecame from someone a trusted (two someones actually). And I will say I’m loving the second book. My main problem stemmed from the fact that this was only the first book in a series, and that means it ended in an unhappy place. And as many of you know by now, the ending factors a good deal into whether or not I like the book as a whole (Anyone remember the Specials debacle). But I still say you should read this book. And not just because you need it to set up the second book. I think that there are also several lessons that you can learn by reading this book.

First off, the writing was superb. She was great with the descriptions, I felt the world around me. Could sense the Forest crowding in at the edges of the fence. Ryan also did very well with grabbing my attention. She opens the book with her heroine facing two simple problems: zombies and boys. And then BAM! Her mom gets infected, her brother tosses her out and the boy that was going to speak for her (though she’s actually in love with his brother) goes silent. That coupled Ryan’s spin on the whole zombie thing hooks and drags you through the first half of the book (drags as in tied behind a runaway horse).

I liked the her spin. My limited experience with zombies (Abhorsen trilogy anyone?) uses magic in the creation of the undead (or weird forms of Kryptonite). This was the first time that I remember science used. The unconsecrated were created by scientists out of the desire to do good and help people. They weren’t planning on making a horde of flesh-eating animated corpses.

Unfortunately (and this would have helped my overall impression) I felt like there was a lack of a character arc for Mary in this book. She kind of starts in one place, has an adventure, and then ends in another place that is the same as the first place. A character needs to have growth, they need to be different in a marked way. Not just in that they have had new experiences, but in the fact that they have changed as a person. I don’t feel that Mary did this.

Another thing that I suggest you watch for (and you will learn a lot from this) is the way the story kind of lulls in the middle. The tension does pick up again at the end (oh boy, does it pick up), but it does go a little limp for a chapter or two. This is a good section to maybe analyze when you’ve finished the book. Figure out why it dies down like it does and determine how you can avoid doing that in your own book.

This book is worth the read. It will entertain you and it will teach you something about writing. I had to take a long, hard look at myself to figure out why it was exactly that I didn’t like it. That exercise has made it easier for me write about a book objectively when it comes time for me to review it.

I will put out the caution that these are teenagers we’re dealing with and because of that sex is very much on Mary’s mind (especially considering that they’re expected to wed and increase the population at the age of sixteen). There is nothing gratuitous and it is all very subtle. I didn’t feel the need to skip any chunks of text as I have with some books, but I would still steer younger teens away from these books.

This is a good example of:

  • Description
  • World-building
  • Starting tension

First off: Congratulations to last week’s winner, Mariajose. Who will be receiving her very own copy Heist Society by Ally Carter in the mail just as soon as she gets me her address.

And now, on to this week’s book: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. For those of you who’ve never heard of Percy Jackson, keep reading. If you’ve had your eye on this series for a while (or you already love the series) just skip the italic bits and get to the good stuff.

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology text book and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’ master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’ stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves. (Disney Hyperion)

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning…or really, for the last few months…you’re probably aware of some of the authors that I just adore: Scott Westerfeld, Lauren DeStefano, Suzanne Collins, Eoin Colfer, Cassandra Clare (oh, wait, I haven’t told you about her yet), Ally Carter. The list is rather long.

Rick Riordan is somewhere near the top. Like way high up there.

His Percy Jackson series is currently my most battered and beloved set of books. I’m addicted. I love Percy. I love Annabeth. I love Grover. I even love Clarisse on occasion.

I picked them up one January day, right before the movie came out (because, when possible, I prefer to read the book first).

And I could not put them down.

Seriously, I made a late night run to Barnes & Noble just to get The Last Olympian, because I could not stand just hanging where The Battle of the Labyrinth had left me. I was addicted. And I still am.

And thankfully, he didn’t stop with Last Olympian. Anything of Riordan’s that I can get my hands on, I devour. I’d probably show up to purchase his shopping list if he published it.

And it’s not just because his writing jives with my own sense of humor. Or that his characters are so memorable and fun. Or that his plots are not what I would expect from a borderline YA (actually, it’s more middle grade, but I don’t care). Nor is it the fact that I have loved Greek mythology since I was eight.

He has taken something that I love, something that I am utterly familiar with, and he has done more than retell the stories. He has reinvented them with the humor and the characters and the plot.

The Lightning Thief is the first book I bring up when I hear someone reads. It’s the first book that I recommend when someone is looking for something to read. It’s the book that I gave as birthday presents to my two best friends. I reread this series often, because I love it and because it just makes my day happier to dive into Percy’s world. I think, if I could live in any of the books that I have read, this is the one I would choose (unless, of course, I could be an elf in Middle-Earth).

You can bet that when Son of Neptune comes out, I will have scraped all of my pennies together and will be waiting on the sidewalk, for my Barnes & Noble to open so that I can take my copy home and read it. Or at least, I’ll go over right after work.

And this wonderful experience can be yours too. There is a copy of The Lightning Thief sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for someone to comment below and win it. Tell me about an author that you absolutely adore, or one that you’ve followed forever…but make sure you do it by 5 p.m. EST on September 22nd. And if you’d like extra entries into the contest, try one of the three ways below (all of which will get you entered into this week and next week’s drawings):

  1. Follow me on Twitter. Make sure you put your Twitter handle in your comment so that I know to give you the credit.
  2. Help spread the word. Comment on another of my blog posts and then post the link to Twitter (or facebook). Just make sure you give me the link (or tag me if you choose Twitter).
  3. Subscribe! This one will earn you not one, but two entries into the next two drawings!

First off, YEAH! My blog is one year old today!!!

And now, it’s time to get started with my next book giveaway, which will be:

Heist Society by Ally Carter

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned the con of her life—scamming her way into the best boarding school  in the country, determined to leave the family business behind.

Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, the gorgeous Hale, appears, pulling her back into the world she had only just escaped. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster’s priceless art collection has been stolen, and he wants it returned. Now. Only a master thief could have pulled off this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

Kat’s solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and, hopefully, just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s (very crooked) history. And, with any luck, she just might be able to steal her life back along the way.

This book surprised me.

And it wasn’t just because I didn’t think Ally Carter could write a series that I would love more than her Gallagher Girls series (which she did). Or that I didn’t think that it was possible to come up with a guy that was hotter that Zach Goode (which Hale is).

Now, I will admit that I was rather amazed when I put this book down and said, “You know, I think I might like this better that Gallagher Girls.” (I was not so amazed at how hard I fell for Hale—strictly in a fictional sense of course.) But, what really got me about this book was how different it was from her work that I had previously read.

I mean, it is still an Ally Carter book. Her style is all up and down the plot and the dialogue and that hilarious scene on page 283 (Yes, I’m still going on about that). But Kat is vastly different from Cammie and Hale is certainly not Zach. Heist Society takes place in world that is outside the law in the boldest sense (versus working for the government). Not only that, but it was an entirely different viewpoint than I was expecting. Carter isn’t one of those authors that changes characters and settings and still manages to write the same book anyways. You won’t find her accidentally repeating any dialogue.

This book is YA gold, and you can get your hands on a copy (if you haven’t already). If you’re curious you can read my review of Heist Society here.

Just leave me a comment between now and September 15th at noon (EST). Tell me about an author that surprised you. Was it the way they ended the book or a plot twist or something else that you didn’t see coming? Make sure that you leave me a way to contact you (email is preferable) should you be the lucky winner. You can also earn extra (note the “extra”, meaning please comment first) entries by completing the three options below. For each one that you do, you will get a certain number of entries into all four drawings, for a total of up to four extra entries per drawing. They are:

1. Follow me on Twitter (@TheGladElf). Please make sure that you put your Twitter username in your comment so I know to credit you.

2. Spread the word. Join the discussion on another one of my blog posts and then post the link through your Twitter feed (or in your comment). Make sure you tag me so that I know you’ve done it. One time use for new followers. Anyone following me before 10 a.m. Sept. 2nd can cash in twice on this option (two separate posts, obviously)

3. Subscribe! Sign up to receive my blog posts as they come out and you’ll get not one, but two extra entries into each drawing.

The only other rule for the extra entries is that if you already own any of the books, please let me know so that I can take out your entries for that particular entry.

Last Week’s Winner: Sadly, no one entered into the Crown Duel giveaway. I suppose I’ll just have to wrap it up and save it to use as a Christmas present…Kidding. At the end of the month, I will draw from any names that have been entered and give away any books that have not yet found a home.


As I mentioned earlier this week, this is the first in a series of weekly book giveaways. Throughout the month of September, I will give away four books that have influenced me as a writer (The list can be found here). This week the bo0k is:

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

It begins in a cold and shabby tower room, where young Countess Meliara swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king. That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, a war that threatens the homes and lives of the very people they are trying to protect. But war is simple compared to what follows, when the bloody fighting is done and a fragile peace is at hand. Although she wants to turn her back on politics and the crown, Meliara is summoned to the royal palace. There, she soon discovers, friends and enemies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms. If she has to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting–with wit and words and secret alliances. In war, at least, she knew whom she could trust. Now she can trust no one… (Firebird Fantasy)

Of the four books I’m giving away, this one is the only one that actually dates from my high school reading years. Which means that I first read this book (well, these books…but we’ll get to that) at least eight years ago. Wow, I just blew my own mind.

Every Friday after co-op (weekly gathering of homeschoolers for socializing, also, some teaching occurs as well), I would head across the parking lot to the public library behind the church we used. I can still close my eyes and picture Crown Duel sitting on the top shelf, a white spine mixed in with some many other darker colors—well, two white spines. Crown Duel was originally published in two volumes: Crown Duel and Court Duel. I personally, prefer the two separate titles because of the symbolism that the changing of one creates, but seeing as how I have no say in the matter… Anyways, I pulled down the books and there  she was, this girl with sword propped over her shoulder and a  nasty looking black eye. It looked exactly like my kind of book.

I believe that I mentioned in a previous post how Lord of the Rings was the book that got me writing (First person to correctly identify that post gets a double entry into this drawing). Crown Duel is the book that got me writing my own stuff. It is also the book that most heavily influenced the first drafts of the Cinderella retelling that’s sitting on my computer waiting for me to rewrite it (which will happen, just as soon as I finish with Mind Games and etc.). The only real story I had completed before then was my little LOTR-wannabe. While the idea for Shattered‘s premise was inspired by another book entirely, everything else was originally influenced by this book right here.

My copy has been read a couple of times, so it’s a little battered. It even spent a few years buried in my brother’s room because he’d been interested in it (I finally told to either find it or buy me a new one). This is one of the few books that I have been able to introduce into my circle of friend (come to think of it, all four books make that list) instead of the other way around. It has everything that I love in a book: adventure and misadventure, a smart sword-wielding heroine, mistaken identity, a dysfunctional romance (in a good way, not in a Cathy-and-Heathcliff way) and a whole lot of intrigue.

And you can get you hands on your own copy of this book (as long as I will be shipping to an address in the good ol’ U.S. of A).

How?

Just leave me a comment between now and September 8th at noon (EST). Tell me about a book that found you. One that you weren’t really looking for, but you ended up taking home anyways. Make sure that you leave me a way to contact you (email is prefereable) should you be the lucky winner. You can also earn extra entries by completing the three options below. For each one that you do, you will get a certain number of entries into all four drawings, for a total of up to four extra entries per drawing. They are:

1. Follow me on Twitter (@TheGladElf). This is good for one entry for anyone who follows me after10 a.m. today EST. Please make sure that you put your Twitter username in your comment so I know to credit you.

2. Spread the word. Join the discussion on another blog post and then post the link through your Twitter. Make sure you tag me so that I know you’ve done it. One time use for new followers. Anyone following me before 10 a.m. today can cash in twice on this option (two separate posts, obviously)

3. Subscribe! Sign up to receive my blog posts as they come out and you’ll get not one, but two extra entries into each drawing.

The only other rule for the extra entries is that if you already own any of the books, please let me know so that I can take out your entries for that particular entry.

And now it’s your turn!

(P.S.-Here’s the original cover for Court Duel as well. I absolutely adore this cover, another reason the one volume version makes me sad despite its purse-friendly size.) —>

EDIT: The deadline has been extended until 9:00 p.m. Sept 8th.

Free Book Fridays!


Exciting news people! And not just for me, for ya’ll too.

Coming up next week is the one year anniversary of this blog. Now granted, it was only a school blog at that point, but still…On September 9th, 2011 I will celebrate one year of blogging. And I have decided that to celebrate the close of my first year I am giving four books away.

YEAH! Free books!!!

(Sadly, it is Border’s GOB prices that have made this generosity possible. Please show them some love before it’s too late.)

Starting on Sept. 9th, I will be giving away one book to a lucky reader every Friday. All you have to do to win is simple: Talk to me! Starting with this Friday, I will be showcasing each one of the books I plan to give away. I’ll talk about how it has influenced me as a reader and as a writer. Then I’ll turn it over to you. Reply back to the post and you will get one entry in the drawing. One name will be pulled Thursday night and the winner for each book will be announced and contacted that weekend (Sorry, US only).

Exciting, right?

But wait, there’s more!

You can get extra entries in one of three ways. First, you can follow me on Twitter (@TheGladElf), this is good for one entry into each of the four drawings.  If you’re already a follower of mine, then take a look at option two. The second way is to comment another one of my blog posts and then retweet it (make sure you tag me so I know), you will get one entry into each drawing. For the most part, this is a one-time deal. While I would definitely appreciate the extra RTs, you will not be counted more than once unless you already follow me. If you follow me already, I will allow you to do this twice (making up for the fact that you can’t cash in on option one). The final option is to subscribe to my blog. If you click that little button on the right that says “Gimme More!” you will gain not one, but two entries into each drawing. Just make sure that you leave me your email address to cross reference with my subscription list. For those of you that already subscribe to my blog, don’t worry. You are eligible for option three as well. Just shoot an email to musingsofthegladelf@gmail(dot)com letting me know that you want your double entries too (make sure you use the email address that you used to subscribe).

Alright, now that that’s said, I guess the only thing left for me to do is let you know which books I will be giving away.

(Feel free to insert drumroll here)

Each of these books (or authors) has had an impact on my life as either as a reader or as a writer and I love to share them with anyone I can.

Don’t forget to check back starting on Friday for your chance to win!


I don’t know if it’s just because I’m weird or if it’s a common thing, but cliffhanger endings and the waiting aside, I love it whenever a series that I’ve been following comes out with a new book. Something about the suspense, the rush of seeing the promotional material, the bubbly feeling when you finally see it on the bookstore shelves and the joy of the clerk handing you your newly bought book (or the librarian) is just fun for me. My friends will tell you, I have been caught drooling of the Throne of Fire posters and I will probably be doing the rounds to find a friend that has finished it and will let me borrow it (little strapped for cash right now).

Here are some of the books that I am just counting down the days until I can hold them (and maybe take them home, we’ll see)

  • The Kane Chronicles #2: The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan: Comes out May 3rd (eeeek!). I think most of you will have figured out that I am a fan of all things related to RR. And he’s got two big ones coming out this year (more on that later). In the first book, he did for the Egyptian mythos all of the wonderful things that he did in the Percy Jackson books. Cannot wait for the TTF to come out!
  • Heist Society #2: Uncommon Criminals: Comes out June 21. Okay, so maybe the first book is still sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. But it’s by Ally Carter, so that means it’s pretty much literary gold from my point of view. And while I’d much rather be putting GG5 on this list, I suppose this will have to do. ;D
  • The Heroes of Olympus #2: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan: Comes out October 4 (Cover reveal May 25). I don’t care what anyone says about this series not being Percy Jackson books…People, these books are Percy Jackson books. Just read them and you’ll see. SON will have me parked outside the bookstore waiting for them to open the doors just so I can get my hands on a copy. I mean, I’ve only been looking forward to this for to come out since  I finished The Lost Hero.
  • Beka Cooper series #3: Mastiff: Comes out October 25. I just recently got into this series and I have to say, Tamora Pierce doesn’t disappoint…ever. I’ve been following her since I was seventeen. And I can’t wait to see how she concludes this one.
  • The Inheritance Cycle #4: Inheritance: Comes out November 8. I know, took him long enough. I remember when Eldest came out I was SO excited. Here we are three years later and I’m considerably less excited for the final book. I’m kinda ready for this to be over…but still, I do enjoy his books. They’re just not as urgent feeling anymore.
That’s it. That’s the list so far. If I hear of anything else exciting (that I’ve read) I’ll put it down.
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