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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky

TITLE: Juniper Berry                  AUTHOR: M.P. Kozlowsky
PUB: Walden Pond Press           PUB DATE: 4/26/11
FORMAT: pb, 227 pgs
SOURCE: from pub in exchange for honest review

Juniper's parents have not been themselves lately. In fact, they have been cold, disinterested and cruel. And lonely Juniper Berry, and her equally beset friend, Giles, are determined to figure out why. On a cold and rainy night Juniper follows her parents as they sneak out of the house and enter the woods. What she discovers is an underworld filled with contradictions: one that is terrifying and enticing, lorded over by a creature both sinister and seductive, who can sell you all the world's secrets in a simple red balloon. For the first time, Juniper and Giles have a choice to make. And it will be up to them to confront their own fears in order to save the ones who couldn't. M.P. Kozlowsky's debut novel is a modern-day fairy tale of terror, temptation, and ways in which it is our choices that make us who we are.

Watch the gorgeous trailer

THREE WORDS: Completely Enrapturing & Original

MY REVIEW: Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky blew me away with how unexpectantly awesome and enthralling it turned out to be. It has all the elements I love in middle grade fiction: a captivatingly original and exciting premise, a quirky, unforgettable heroine, a truly scary villain and a whimsical darkness.

Juniper Berry used to have a great life: a cozy home, friends, and two adoring parents. But when her struggling actor parents suddenly get all the fame and success they ever wanted, everything changes. Especially them. Juniper’s once loving parents barely remember she exist and when they do interact with her they’re hurtful and selfish. Juniper is forced to stay on their massive property, not allowed to venture outside the big golden gates; her only daily interaction is with her fangirl tutor and Kitty, Juniper’s beloved dog. But then she meets Giles, her closest neighbor, whose own parents have suddenly started to act not right. The two discover a magical tree that leads them to a sinister being that has made their parents a pricey deal they couldn’t refuse. It’s up to the intrepid Juniper to save her parents and herself.

Juniper Berry took me on a deliciously dark, delightfully eerie and surprising journey. I love when MG authors aren’t afraid to infuse their stories with a bit of genuine scariness and spine-tingling creepiness, and Kozlowsky does this with perfect doses of each. Reminiscent of Coraline and A Series of Unfortunate Events, this book has that fantastical mix of fanciful darkness, enchanting settings and excitement.

Highly imaginative and original, the story is addicting and hard to put down. Kozlowsky’s writing is quite beautiful and lyrical: feels timeless, yet refreshing at the same time. The author creates a tangible world that shimmers and shines right off the page and into the readers’ imagination. The story has a fairytale-esque quality to it that is equal parts stunning and startling.

Juniper is a compelling and layered heroine, with her quirkiness, resourcefulness, strength and courage. I love that she isn’t addicted to the internet, video games or tv like other tweens; instead she loves to write, read and explore the world around her. Giles makes for an endearing and likable sidekick, while Kitty is just as quirky as his owner. Skeksyl, the frightening and sinister villain, is truly fantastic! This is a villain that readers will be charmed and chilled by.

Skeksyl’s magical world is absolutely breathtaking! There’s a dreamlike outer space scene that is gorgeously written and crafted. As eerie and forbidding as Skeksyl’s world is, it also has an electric and captivating pull on both Juniper and readers.

The book’s conclusion offers readers the heartwarming happy ending that they will crave, without being cheesy or rushed. I must mention the drawings done by Erwin Madrid because they are fabulous and they perfectly capture Kozlowsky’s world! The one on page 202 is especially beautiful.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: This MG book has it all- magic, thrills, a scary villain, an irresistible heroine, and a whimsically dark world. An absolute MUST read!


Find the author: Website / Goodreads 
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Book Depository
M.P. Kozlowsky was a high school English teacher before becoming a writer. Juniper Berry is his first book. He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tatted Thursday (10)

Tatted Thursday... is a weekly meme hosted here at Word Spelunking that features literary inspired tattoos .You can easily  participate by grabbing the picture above (or making your own) and posting your tattoo finds.

Here are this week's literary inspired  tats...

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Path

Song (Howl) by Allen Ginsberg

by Shel Silverstein

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
Whaddya think of these literary tattoos?!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday (32): Evertaster

"Waiting On" Wednesday... is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm eagerly waiting on...

What if there were a taste so delicious that if you found it, you’d never want to eat anything else again?

When eleven year-old Guster Johnsonville rejects his mother's casserole for the umpteenth time, she takes him to the city of New Orleans to find him something to eat. There, in a dark, abandoned corner of the city, they meet a dying pastry maker who tells them of a legendary recipe called the Gastronomy of Peace -- a recipe created hundreds of years ago, shrouded in secrecy, and sought after by connoisseurs everywhere. 
So begins a perilous adventure that will take Guster, his clever sister Mariah, and the rest of the Johnsonvilles on an adventure to ancient ruins, faraway jungles and forgotten caves, where they discover that their search is more than just a quest to satisfy Guster’s cravings -- it is a quest that could change humanity forever.
Adam Glendon Sidwell
Future House Publishing

Y'all know how much I love MG fiction and I'm always on the lookout for new, fun and exciting MG reads...well when I found this book on Goodreads, I just knew I had to read it! I love the premise and that cover is fantastic! I really hope I get a chance to read and review it soon.

What are you waiting on this week?!
Leave links in the comments

Closed Hearts Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway

Welcome to my stop on the Closed Hearts Blog Tour! Today, Susan Kaye Quinn is stopping by for a guest post and giveaway. And be sure to check out my 5 Cupcakes review of Closed Hearts.

The Importance of Story
by Susan Kaye Quinn

I firmly believe that stories aren't just entertainment or distraction, but an essential part of our how brains operate. As Kenneth Burke says, Stories are equipment for living.

And now the scientists are proving this to be more true than we realize. A Scientific American article titled In the Minds of Others dives into the impact of stories on our brains, on how we relate to others, and how they help us become more empathetic, open and social creatures.

Bookworms around the world rejoice!

A couple of quotes that caught my eye:

"We do not actually experience the character’s emotions—after all, the character is an abstraction. Rather we feel our own emotions in response to the yearnings, actions and circumstances the writer describes. The trajectory of these emotions keeps us turning the pages or glued to the screen."
"As with all good literature, Chekhov’s story prompted people to think and feel in new ways, but the particular feelings and thoughts it evoked depended on the reader."
At last! A scientific explanation for how to hook readers! Seriously, this fascinates me, because it taps into the very real experience that readers have of being immersed in the story, while explaining how each person's experience of the story remains their own, flavored by the life-story that they bring to the pages.

This is the best reason I can think of to use SHOW and not TELL in a story. By showing the character's actions (and thoughts), by having them interact with your fictional world - push and pull, tug and release - the reader's brain literally experiences those same actions. 
When the character leaps off the train, if you've done your job as a writer, the reader feels the rush, the wind whistling in their ears and the heart stopping moment before you know what will happen next. Whether this thrills or terrifies them remains the piece of the puzzle that the reader brings to the story. 

In one way, many children of today are cloistered in closed environments. Risk averse schools remove hazardous playground equipment. Protective parents shuttle their children to school and back. Kids wear bike helmets and ride in car seats and don't have many opportunities to experience any real risks, much less heart-stopping adventure. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, being one of those over-protective parents myself. And despite all my over-protectiveness, my 8-year-old Mighty Mite recently managed to bash his head against a dumpster and bleed all over a friend's kitchen. I'm starting to wonder if the boy needs a helmet full-time. 

But in another way, children of today are immersed in stories even more than children of the past. I grew up with after-school TV shows, the occasional movie, and books, books, books. Kids today have all that, plus the internet, highly interactive games, and even newspaper and non-fiction reporting that are increasingly taking narrative form. They are awash in stories, often in ways that make them a star player as it unfolds.

I can't help but wonder what this is doing to their brains. According to the scientists, that virtual experience of narrative worlds - through reading or other storytelling - expands their horizons, makes them open to new experiences, and helps them empathize with people who are intrinsically different than themselves by stepping into their heads for the duration of the story.

Stories truly are equipment for living, and for children, they are an essential tool for growing up by letting them experience people, places and feelings outside the realm of their own experience.

I just hope Mighty Mite doesn't decide to jump off a train next.


Closed Hearts (Mindjack #2)
$2.99 at AmazonBarnes and Noble (ebook and print)
When you control minds,
only your heart can be used against you.
Eight months ago, Kira Moore revealed to the mindreading world that mindjackers like herself were hidden in their midst. Now she wonders if telling the truth was the right choice after all. As wild rumors spread, a powerful anti-jacker politician capitalizes on mindreaders’ fears and strips jackers of their rights. While some jackers flee to Jackertown—a slum rife with jackworkers who trade mind control favors for cash—Kira and her family hide from the readers who fear her and jackers who hate her. But when a jacker Clan member makes Kira’s boyfriend Raf collapse in her arms, Kira is forced to save the people she loves by facing the thing she fears most: FBI agent Kestrel and his experimental torture chamber for jackers.

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling YA novel Open Minds, Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy, which is available on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iTunes. The sequel Closed Hearts has just been released. Susan's business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist," but she mostly plays on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.
Mind GamesOpen MindsClosed HeartsIn His EyesLife, Liberty, and PursuitFull Speed Ahead

Win an ebook copy of Mind Games (Mindjack Trilogy short story) and Closed Hearts or Open Minds (winner's choice).
Susan is offering one winner an ebook copy of Mind Games and their choice of either Open Minds or Closed Hearts.
-There will be one winner
-The winner will receive an ebook copy of Mind Games and their choice of book 1 or 2
-Giveaway will run from 5/29 - 6/3 at 11:59 pm
-Winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Fill out Rafflecopter form below
-One main entry per person

Review: Closed Hearts (Mindtrack Trilogy #2)

Be sure to check out my Closed Hearts Blog Tour post, where Susan Kaye Quinn stops by for a guest post and giveaway!

TITLE: Closed Hearts                     SERIES: Mindjack Trilogy #2
AUTHOR: Susan Kaye Quinn      PUB DATE: 5/23/12
SOURCE: from author in exchange for honest review

When you control minds, only your heart can be used against you.                  Eight months ago, Kira Moore revealed to the mindreading world that mindjackers like herself were hidden in their midst. Now she wonders if telling the truth was the right choice after all. As wild rumors spread, a powerful anti-jacker politician capitalizes on mindreaders’ fears and strips jackers of their rights. While some jackers flee to Jackertown—a slum rife with jackworkers who trade mind control favors for cash—Kira and her family hide from the readers who fear her and jackers who hate her. But when a jacker Clan member makes Kira’s boyfriend Raf collapse in her arms, Kira is forced to save the people she loves by facing the thing she fears most: FBI agent Kestrel and his experimental torture chamber for jackers.

THREE FOUR WORDS: Electric. Relevant. Fantastic Characters

MY REVIEW: Open Minds (book one in the Mindjack Trilogy) was one of my favorite reads last year, so I was super excited to read Closed Hearts. Excited and a tiny bit nervous, worried that Susan Kaye Quinn would not be able to capture again the electrifying essence of the first book…I had nothing to be worried about! Not only does this second volume match the first in excitement, suspense, thought-provoking material and superb world-building, it goes beyond even the awesomeness of Open Minds.

It’s been eight months since Kira Moore revealed to the world the existence of mindjackers like herself. Her family has been forced to go into hiding as the mindreaders’ fears of mindjackers intensify. But Kira secretly continues to see her BFF and boyfriend Raf in secret. But when an old enemy shows up and Kira ends up in Jackertown among a group of mindjacking revolutionaries, Kira must go up against old and new foes to save the people she loves.

I had intended on reading Closed Hearts over the course of several days, but after muttering “Just one more chapter” after each chapter, I found that I had devoured the book in one sitting, simply unable to put it down. It’s THAT captivating and “I gotta know what happens next!” inducing.

In this volume, Quinn continues to expand and explore the frightening, yet completely intriguing world she has created. Kira finds herself in Jackertown, among mindjackers who have been run out of town by mindreaders and I loved this new setting. Quinn adds even more layers to her already intricate and well-developed world by introducing this setting and the complex social issues it brings to light.

And one of the things I find most compelling about this series is how relevant and fresh the social/cultural/political issues are. The world in this series is quite different than our world, but Quinn deftly explores hot topics that mirror many of the ones our society faces today; topics that are really quite relevant in any generation. The mindjackers, people who were born different than most others, are ostracized, feared and punished simply for the differences they have no control over and Quinn crafts a very palpable and realistic look at how this affects Kira’s society as a whole and how it affects people on a personal level.

The story itself continues to be very thought-provoking, but also immensely thrilling and suspenseful. I was completely enthralled by the difficult journey Kira must take in this book and all the unexpected places she ends up. There are quite a few exciting and well-written fight scenes and scenes of peril that had my heart racing.

Most of my favorite characters from the first book make an appearance in this one. Kira remains a very dimensional, engaging heroine  who is easy to like and connect with. But as much as I love her, I really liked getting to know all the new characters Quinn introduces, especially the mindjackers in Jackertown. With these new mindjackers comes new and powerful jacking abilities, and I’m in complete awe of Quinn’s imagination and innovative-ness.

My favorite new character is Julian and I’ll admit that he has me all swoony! I love Raf, but there’s just something so intensely captivating and endearing about Julian. I’ll admit that when he was first introduced I feared that Quinn was setting up a love triangle between Kira/Raf/Julian, but it never felt like that. The feelings Kira experiences for both these guys come across has very natural and believable. She’s simply a girl who is in love with her BFF and best friend Raf, but can’t deny that she has a strong connection to Julian. There’s an absolutely heart breaking event that happens and I’m excited to see what effect this has on Kira’s love life.

I really love where Kira ends up by the end of this book, both the physical and mental/emotional place and I am dying to find out how this trilogy ends!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Closed Hearts definitely does not suffer from any sequel slump or second book disappointment. Instead, it surpasses the awesomeness of the first book, making it and the Mindjack Trilogy MUST reads!


Find the author: Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook
Purchase: Amazon / B&N
Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling YA novel Open Minds, Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy, which is available on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iTunes. The sequel Closed Hearts has just been released. Susan's business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist," but she mostly plays on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest. 

Check out my stop on the Closed Hearts Blog tour

Monday, May 28, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays (37): Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Teaser Tuesdays... is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

And their doom comes swiftly.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.
But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.
Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off the from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

Gretchen McNeil
Balzer + Bray


That said, no freaking way in hell was she going to plop down at the kitchen table in the House of Many Dead People and start dissecting the diary of a killer while surrounded by his or her victims. Screw that.  ARC, pg 204


Review: Fairystruck by J.L. Bryan

Be sure to check out my review of Fairy Metal Thunder and Fairyblues

TITLE: Fairystruck                   SERIES: Songs of Magic #3
AUTHOR: J.L. Bryan              PUB DATE:  3/17/12
SOURCE: from author in exchange for honest review

The sequel to Fairy Metal Thunder and Fairy Blues.

With their first single shooting up the Billboard charts, the Zebras hit the road as the opening band for an epic stadium tour across America. The future looks bright for the band, if they can survive the rioting fans, Queen Mab of Faerie, the dullahan, and the evil teddy bears.

Aoide the Lutist and Liadan the banshee wolf cross into man-world on the trail of the stolen fairy instruments. Aoide is shocked at the strangeness of life among the humans, but she also learns about a thrilling new kind of music never heard in Faerie...rock and roll.

THREE WORDS: Rock. And. Roll…*throws up the double horns*

MY REVIEW: Sinister teddy bears. Evil dollhouses. Rabid fangirls…no, this isn’t a Justin Bieber music video (eww!!!). It’s the rockin’ fun in Fairystruck, the third book in the Songs of Magic series by J.L. Bryan.

Picking up where the second book leaves off, in Fairystruck we find Jason, Erin, Mitch and Dred- aka the Assorted Zebras, aka the Rioting Zebras- living the rock and roll dream as their #1 hit “The Sugar Dance” skyrockets them to fame. As the opening act on the Smoov-Moov tour, the Zebras find themselves touring across the US, traveling in a rickety old schoolbus with their new tour manager. Aoide the faerie and Liadan the banshee find themselves in man-world, on the hunt for the missing magical instruments. While Aoide and Liadan must navigate in a strange world, the Zebras must contend with enthusiastic fans, eccentric rappers, controlling music execs and sinister teddy bears…yep, teddy bears!

I always have so much fun when reading the Songs of Magic series and in Fairystruck the fun, laughs and music keep flowing! J.L. Bryan continues to expand his enchanting and rocking world, while further developing his engaging characters.

In this volume we find all our favorite characters in new and exciting places. The Assorted Zebras, who have been renamed the Rioting Zebras, are thrust into the spotlight, playing in front of huge crowds, and Bryan has depicted this experience with laugh out loud humor, while keeping the story fresh and hip. The teenage characters get to live out this bigger than life fantasy and I love feeling like I’m experiencing everything with them.

Bryan continues to explore Jason and Erin’s romantic feelings toward one another and I like that we actually get to see these feelings develop naturally, instead of simply having them thrust into our faces. And both Jason and Erin continue to be awesome characters. Mitch, however, is easy to cringe at as he becomes more and more of a greedy sell out. But, I’m glad Bryan has decided to take his character in this direction because it’s a really realistic depiction of how one might act when they’ve been handed the chance at fame and success. Dred just continues to be friggin awesome! I love that snarky drummer girl!

I was a little disappointed that we don’t spend too much time in Faerie with Aoide and her band, but I really loved experiencing our world (man-world) through her eyes. She’s such a cute, endearing character and so much fun to read about.

The path to musical fame and success is not so simple (thank goodness!) and the Zebras must go up against all the things evil Queen Mab sends their way, including gargoyles and teddy bears. Crazy, violent, sharp object wielding teddy bears! You’ll never look at Teddy Ruxpin or Paddington Bear the same way again (not that they weren’t totally creepy before). I love that these books don’t take themselves too seriously and are all about the good humored mockery of pop culture and fun, over the top situations.

In the end we find Jason and Erin in a very unexpected (but awesome!) place and I cannot wait to see what happens next!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: The Songs of Magic series is my go to series when I want a fun, entertaining read that is guaranteed to make me laugh and Fairystruck is no exception. This book and series are definite MUST reads!


Find the author: Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook
Purchase: Amazon / B&N / Smashwords / Apple
J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on English Renaissance and Romantic literature. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina, dogs Violet and Tiger Lily, and cats Shadow and Sue.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Goodie Basket (3): Weekly Haul and Recap

Goodie Basket... is a weekly feature hosted here at Word Spelunking that showcases all the goodies (books, bookish things, reviews, interviews/giveaways/guest posts, blog tours, etc) that popped up in the Goodie Basket that is Word Spelunking each week.

In my goodie basket this week...

From Harper Collins


Suzanne Harper

Francine Prose

ARC  Team Human  
Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan

Tera Lynn Childs

ARC  Ten
Gretchen McNeil 

Ned Vizzini

All books above sent for review from Harper Collins, who continues to rock my face and bake my cupcakes!

Other books


Jessica Spotswood
won from pub on Goodreads


Molly Snow
The author generously sent these to my little sister so she has something fun to read while she gets better.


Sean Beaudoin
Candlewick Press
sent from pub for review

ARC  Florence
Ciye Cho
sent from author for review

R.L. Stine
Scholastic Inc.
sent from pub for review via Netalley

Mark Steensland
Random House
sent from pub for review via Netgalley

I want to thank Harper Collins, Candlewick, Scholastic, Random House, Putnam, Molly Snow and Ciye Cho for all the book awesomeness!!!

Weekly Recap

This Coming Week
Blog Tour
  • Closed Hearts Blog Tour (Susan Kaye Quinn): review, guest post, giveaway
  • Fairystruck by J.L. Bryan
  • Closed Hearts by Susan Kaye Quinn
  • Onyx by Jennifer Armentrout