June 28, 2013

Review: Bad Monkey

Bad Monkey By Carl Hiaasen
Available now from Knopf (Random House)
Review copy

When I was about thirteen, I picked LUCKY YOU off the library shelves.  I liked the bright colors and kicky title, no other reason than that.  I've been a fan of Carl Hiaasen ever since.  I've even converted other fans, most notably my mother who wanted me to read my copy of BAD MONKEY faster so that she could read it.

BAD MONKEY takes Hiaasen slightly out of his wheelhouse without removing his most noticeable touches.  It takes place in South Florida, of course, but also moves to the Bahamas for a memorable storm.  None of his reoccurring characters make an appearance, but surely leading man Andrew Yancy will make another appearance.  Due to an angry attack on his mistress's husband, he's been busted from policeman to restaurant inspector.  He's becoming quite thin as a result.  But he thinks an arm hooked by a tourist could be the case to get him back on the force.

The appeal of Hiaasen to me is how he mixes the perverse and the moral, the high brow and the low brow, and other opposites to such great effect.  His protagonist have their flaws, but they're never anything on the villains.  And those greedy, violent schemers always get what's coming to them in the craziest ways.  The path to the comeuppance is labyrinthine, but easy to follow because the humor and subject matter lighten it up and keep the story moving.  Hiaasen makes me think of a Chuck Palahniuk who is less in love with his shock value and ever so slightly more optimistic about the human condition.

Getting back to the characters, I wasn't all that interested in the eponymous monkey at first.  His owner, I liked, but the monkey I wasn't so sure about.  But Hiaasen eventually changed my mind and I loved him by the end.  As for the women in the novel, I don't want to give too much away.  However, I loved that one of them did something I didn't expect at all.  It was a nice bit of redirection and sweet in a very illegal way.

If you're not already a Hiaasen fan, here's your chance to become one.  This is his first adult novel since STAR ISLAND in 2010, which was fun but not his best.  I think BAD MONKEY stands up with his best novels.  I'm not saying it's as good as SKIN TIGHT, but I think I'd put it in the top five.  So read what the cool kids will have on the beach this summer: BAD MONKEY.

June 27, 2013

Mini-Reviews: Middle Grade Mischief

Sorry for the six of you who saw this when I accidentally posted the draft!

Thrice Upon a Marigold Thrice Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris (Marigold, Book 3)
Available now from Harcourt Children's (Houghton Mifflin)
Review copy

I am a fan of Jean Ferris.  Her books are often both funny and poignant.  But THRICE UPON A MARIGOLD didn't quite work for me; the magic has gone out of the series.  Part of it is that Marigold, the former heroine, proved to be rather useless.  But this one just wasn't as funny as the first two books in the series.

It's a shame, because the heroine and hero are interesting people.  The daughter and son of the kingdom's most notorious criminals, they've grown up to be law abiding.  When they get wind of a plot to kidnap the princess, they instantly move to protect their future ruler.  But what should be a caper, like the title promises, is never that lively.  Fans of the series will want to finish it, but there's little in THRICE UPON A MARIGOLD for newcomers.

The Menagerie The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland (first in a series)
Available now from HarperCollins
Review copy

THE MENAGERIE was already on my TBR when it appeared in the discussion spurred by Varian Johnson's post "Where are all the black boys?"  Logan Wilde is the new boy in town and hasn't quite found where he fits in yet.  Then he discovers a griffin in his room, which leads him to the Menagerie, run by his classmate Zoe Kahn and her family, with help from his other classmate Blue.

I think THE MENAGERIE will appeal to young cryptzoology fans, but I found it a little disappointing.  (I'm still happy I moved it up in my TBR.) Zoe lives in fear of SNAPA, the regulatory body that keeps the animals a secret and could shut the Menagerie down.  That would be enough, but apparently SNAPA has moved to killing the animals that escape or belong to a shut-down shelter.  It's just pointless villainy.

THE MENAGERIE really is cute.  I loved all of the animals, especially the baby griffin Squorp.  I liked the burgeoning friendship between Logan, Zoe, and Blue.  But I wish there was a reason for SNAPA to be evil.

The Fellowship for Alien DetectionThe Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson
Available now from Balzer+Bray (HarperCollins)
Review copy

Haley is a highly motivated student who applied for an odd summer program because she stumbled upon a mystery perfect for a budding journalist.  Dodger applied to the same program, hoping to discover the truth behind a phenomenon that makes him even more awkward than he might be otherwise.  Thus, the two set out to find aliens on their summer vacations.

And Suza Raines, featured in interludes throughout the novel, keeps living the same day over and over.

I enjoyed THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION and I am always going to give props to standalone science fiction.  I do feel it ran a bit long, especially for the target age group.  Much of the sections before Haley and Dodger meet could have been streamlined.  I am happy that the book kept going back to Suza, because she was my favorite character.  Focusing on her would've gotten boring fast, but the amount given of her repeating life was the right amount of creepy.

However, the length does make THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION a good candidate for keeping a passenger occupied on a long car ride.  Given the multiple road trips featured within, I think THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION is a great choice for the sci-fi lover on the road this summer.

June 26, 2013

Review: Forevermore

Forevermore By Cindy Miles
Available now from Point (Scholastic)
Review copy

Honestly, it isn't that hard to get me to read a book.  FOREVERMORE had me hooked from the back blurb and cover promising a Scottish castle and a ghost.  Cindy Miles, an adult romance author making her YA debut, delivers everything one could hope from a Scottish castle-set ghost romance.  It's good, cheesy fun.

Violin prodigy Ivy Calhoun moves with her mother to Glenmorrag, the home of her stepfather Niall.  And Ivy isn't that opposed to Scotland (which, among other things, offers excellent music opportunities), but she doesn't really know Niall, his mother is a judgmental old lady, and a disembodied voice keeps telling her to leave.  It's all a bit of a hostile home environment.  As it turns out, the voice belongs to Logan Munro, who is just trying to save Ivy from a terrible fate.

One of the strengths of FOREVERMORE is Ivy and how she acts both sensibly and like a teenager trying to find her footing.  She knows she can't just leave the castle given that she's sixteen and in a country she barely knows, so she sets out to solve the mystery of Logan's death.  One of the main ways she does this is by talking to people.  Classmates, servants, people who have been around and might know something.  There's a real sense of Ivy becoming part of the community.  At the same time, she doesn't talk to her mother and stepfather despite the fact they could be a real help - and possibly in danger themselves.

FOREVERMORE ties into one of Miles' adult novels, HIGHLAND KNIGHT, which is out of print but available as an ebook.  I haven't read HIGHLAND KNIGHT, and it isn't necessary.  I think it could've been integrated more smoothly, but I thought it was an interesting idea.  I am down with a universe where time-traveling knights and cursed ghosts coexist.  And it's fun to think that one day a crazy paranormal romance might apply to your life.

The biggest weakness of FOREVERMORE is the ending.  Ivy gets one solution handed to her and stumbles across another and everything is solved with nary a trouble.  In a more plot-driven paranormal I might not forgive it, but FOREVERMORE is first and foremost a romance.  I enjoyed Ivy and Logan's relationship quite a bit.  There is some development before they start liking each other.  (Of course, Ivy instantly notices Logan is hot, but that's another animal.)  But they trust each other and work together to fight the evil haunting Glenmorrag, which is important in a relationship.

I must admit that I'm also happy the cover models actually bear a resemblance to the characters.  She has Ivy's blonde hair and pink streak!  Overall, the cover is a great encapsulation of the contents.  If you like romance, castles, ghosts, and music, I recommend picking up FOREVERMORE this summer.  It's a quick, sweet read with good atmosphere and an engaging lead couple.

June 25, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Super Pop!

Super Pop! Pop Culture Top Ten Lists to Help You Win at Trivia, Survive in the Wild, and Make It Through the Holidays
By Daniel Harmon
Available now from Zest Books
Review copy

I love pop culture lists. You can bet I read A.V. Club's Inventory every week (and own the hard copy book).  I knew I'd love SUPER POP! as soon as Daniel Harmon praised Inventory in the Introduction.  (Okay, it was even earlier, when the Acknowledgements noted the new canon of the Criterion Collection and NYRB Classics.)

SUPER POP! is divided into five sections: Be More Interesting, Get Smart(er), Stop Doing It Wrong, Find Happiness, and Survive the Holidays.  Despite the books subtitle, I think the only bit that will help you survive in the wild is the note that you can sort of learn how to build an igloo from Nanook of the North.  But that's okay.  You'll definitely win at trivia.  Harmon's writing about each item on the lists is detailed, interesting, and funny.

Best of all is what's on the lists.  I have so much I want to watch, read, listen to, consume.  Every time I disagreed with an entry, there were two more I agreed with completely - and more often than I expected - one I'd never heard of.  Harmon doesn't limit himself.  There are podcasts and twitter feeds and YouTube videos  and apps mingling with experimental films and classic literature and Stephen Hawking's A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME.  Also awesome, there's a real range of creators.  This isn't just pop culture of white dudes.

I don't recommend reading all of the lists at once.  It would be overwhelming.  But each list is a wonderful, intelligent introduction to a slice of pop culture.  Harmon makes unconventional choices, and the juxtaposition of the expected with the results is wonderful.  And my movie queue definitely hates Harmon because it was already pretty long.

I do recommend SUPER POP! to anyone even slightly interested in culture.  It's quick, engaging, and shows just how crazy and broad the world of art available to us is.  There's some good educational choices too, particularly in Get Smart(er).  I didn't realize I was missing out on fun linguistics and physics lectures. 

Thanks to Zest Books I have a prize pack to give away that includes SUPER POP!, a SUPER POP! button, and some Zest Books swag.  Just enter in the Rafflecopter below.  Be sure to check out the other tour stops and a few excerpts at the link.

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June 24, 2013

Movie Monday: Jack the Giant Slayer Giveaway

Jack the Giant Slayer I just love giving stuff away.  Am I giving too much away?  Are you overwhelmed?  Because I'm just looking to whelm you.  But basically, I love winning things; so, giving things away lets me let other people win things!  And it's double the good feelings.

Thanks to Warner Bros., I have a copy of the Jack the Giant Slayer Combo Pack to give away.  This includes the Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet copies of the movie.  I haven't seen this one yet, but I'm sure to now that it's out as of June 18th.  I love Nicholas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, and Stanley Tucci.  Plus, I'm a sucker for fairytale retellings.

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June 23, 2013

Essay: "Living On" by Judy Willman

The Boys in the Boat THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown has made the recommended summer reads list for the New York Times and Parade.  I'm too far behind in my own summer reading to consider reviewing, but today I have an essay from Judy Willman, daughter of  crew team member Joe Rantz and inspiration for the book, that I think ya'll will enjoy.  "Living On" is about carrying on our parents' tradition and I meant to post it on Father's Day.  I didn't, probably for the same reason I forgot to buy wrapping for my Father's Day gift.

by Judy Willman

We all, to some extent, carry on in our parents’ tradition. I think of myself as my own person—and yet there are times that stop me short and bring tears to my eyes. These are the times when something I learned from my dad or something I did with him is suddenly and sharply drawn back into my memory. And, abruptly, there I am with him again—learning how to back braid a snap onto a rope, when to cut the hay field, how to windrow and stack it, how to rebuild a carburetor, or how to hand split cedar shakes. Or I find myself working with him to haul cedar logs down out of the mountains.

The funny thing is that I never questioned how he knew all that stuff…that odd, broad assorted set of skills. I just accepted, as a child, that it was natural that one’s father knew about pretty much everything. It wasn’t until a lot later that I began to piece together where all that knowledge came from.

My dad came of age during the Great Depression. His family abandoned him—left him utterly alone—when he was 15, and he had to learn to fend for himself to survive. And so he learned skills, he struggled, and he persevered. But somewhere along the way he also learned to see the beauty in doing things that he first learned simply as survival skills.

There was the personal pride he took in doing something well. There was an appreciation of the intoxicating smell of curing hay and the delicate rustling as it was hand raked into windrows. There was the sense of peace in the solitude and majesty of the forest where he sought out the fragrant western red cedar wood he loved so well. There was the thrill of finding rejected pieces that previous loggers had left behind as useless. There was the satisfaction of creating new uses for them.

 But where had it all come from? The pride in craftsmanship he learned from George Pocock—the English shell builder at the University of Washington where he had rowed in his college years. He applied it—as Pocock had—to his love of working with cedar. His extensive knowledge of car repair came from his dad. His knowledge of haying and cedar shake making and rope splicing came from the farmers he worked for in high school. His knowledge of the way things worked in the world came from his university chemistry and engineering and geology classes. And his knowledge of how to treat other people—how to trust and value those around you, came from the life lessons he learned during those years in crew.

And so now, as I approach 70, I sometimes find myself sitting on the porch looking out at our barn, roofed in hand split cedar shakes that I made and applied myself. Sometimes, when I let the horses into the barn, I pass the hand scythe with which I used to cut hay, still hanging on the tack room wall. Sometimes, my eye falls on one of the ropes dad taught me how to back braid a snap into. And each time I miss him…

But in many ways he is with me still. He is with me in the skills he taught me. He is with me when our kids come to visit, and the first thing they do is flop down in front of the woodstove, which he so dearly loved. He is with me when my grandson sends me a Facebook page on a new way to split firewood. He is with me when my daughter takes her oars in hand and climbs into her racing shell. All of us who owe our existence to him have a love of the things that take us back to him. All of us have learned the lessons he learned and taken them to heart. They breathe in all of us. We all are my dad living on.

June 21, 2013

Interview with Tonya Hurley (and a prize pack giveaway!)

Photo by Kevin Mazur
Tonya Hurley is the author of PRECIOUS BLOOD, the first book in The Blessed series.  It was originally published as THE BLESSED in September 2012.  I called it, "a fever dream of a book, jumbling rock and roll, celebrity, and religious iconography together with abandon.  But I know I'll be back for the second book.  Hurley's created an intoxicating version of Brooklyn, one populated by saints and prophets, and I can't wait to see where she's taking this crazed thrill ride of faith and violence next."  She also wrote the ghostgirl series and writes and directs independent films.

The second book, PASSIONARIES, will be published January 7, 2014.

1.  On this tour, you've written about the main characters of The Blessed series as well as their Saint namesakes. I found the religious aspects of the novel intriguing, even though I'm not familiar with Catholicism. How much research did you have to do?

I’ve always been fascinated with Catholic iconography and art. I remember sitting in church as a little girl and literally staring at statues of the Blessed Mother stepping on the head of a serpent. It terrified me, it was the stuff of nightmares, but also, in a strange way, it comforted me. She was strong. Heroic. Fearless. Literally stamping out evil in one fell swoop.

Being raised Catholic, I was vaguely familiar with most of the saints but I was surprised at how little I knew about their legends. The thing about these stories that struck me the most, particularly about the female saints like Lucy, Cecilia and Agnes, was how young they were when they were executed and how bravely they faced their deaths. We tend to think of these figures as being very peaceful and passive but the more you read about them, the more their sense of defiance and empowerment comes through. And this sense of undying love they had. As I read, I realized that these were pretty much the first Young Adult superstars on record and the their influence on Western Civilization has been felt for nearly two thousand years since.

As a young adult writer, these sorts of characters and circumstances felt familiar to me. I thought it would make for an exciting and original series to reimagine these people and their legends in a modern context. I couldn’t wait to put all the gruesomeness and the glory onto paper.

2. PRECIOUS BLOOD is not very similar to the ghostgirl series, although both share a morbid sensibility and an interest in life after death. What themes do you feel you're most drawn to?

I think I’m both drawn to and frightened by the unknown, particularly death and the afterlife. Most people have a strong belief regarding what happens to us when we die, but no one really knows for sure. One thing that is for sure – none of us are getting out of here alive. Spoiler alert – we all die. So, it’s really fertile ground from a creative standpoint. I love exploring these themes in unconventional ways. For example, in ghostgirl I approached it as a “life sucks and then you die and then it sucks again,” kind of way. In The Blessed, it’s more of the idea of becoming infamous in death. You become more powerful, your love is stronger. It’s the whole “mythologizing” someone after they’re gone. You tend to remember the good stuff. In a more worldly vein, I like writing about characters who are trying to be accepted and fit in with the people and world around and the lengths they are willing to go to in that effort. Finally, I’d say fame fascinates me. It is a sort of immortality that plays a role in both the ghostgirl and The Blessed series.

3. The UK, US hardcover, and US paperback covers of THE BLESSED/PRECIOUS BLOOD are all very different. Which do you feel represents the story best and why?

The BlessedI love them both. The Blessed UK was actually an interpretation of art I had done for the original book proposal and it really brings out the gritty and street aspects of the book. The Blessed US hardcover sleeve with the image of the Lucy character by artist Natalie Shau was so evocative. The whole journey of the characters is summed up in that image of the crying girl with the praying hands. ‘Why is this girl crying’ sort of vibe. It is creepy, but the color palette is not dark but bright – gold, white and light blue. Which, I think, makes it even more eerie. Likewise, the paperback cover of PRECIOUS BLOOD with the Abbey Watkins art with all the iconography captures perfectly the kind obtuse, trippy mystery that I tried write into the narrative. This book is not a religious book – it is a gritty, dark thriller and I think Abbey conveyed that beautifully.

4. One of my favorite aspects of PRECIOUS BLOOD was that it didn't stick to one interpretation of events, but allowed each of the girls to perceive things in their own ways. As the author, do you have one true perspective? Is it challenging to switch between several points of view?

It is challenging but that was the whole point of the book. Each of these characters was experiencing events through their own filter, from their own point of view, particularly their individual relationships with Sebastian and the unbelievable message he has for them. I like that it is disorienting and it was meant to be that way. I understand that it’s unusual, but its what I felt the story called for. I want the reader to feel each girl’s struggle on a personal level. Feel the way they feel. Relate to each of them. See through their eyes, which is a recurring metaphor, particularly regarding Lucy.

5.  Can you share a little about what is coming next in the Blessed trilogy?  (Warning: some spoilers follow.)

PASSIONARIES is the second book in the trilogy. “Passionaries” were actually medieval saint stories collected by monks and other clerics throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The second novel pretty much follows Lucy, Cecilia and Agnes as they try to work out what they are meant to do with what has been revealed to them. It is much more action-packed and plot heavy, whereas the first book was mostly set up and origin story to use a standard comic book term -- which I felt was needed if you’re going to be willing to go on this particular journey. We see the girls trying to live their lives, trying to survive. Trying to find their way, to make it, and to find themselves. We see their saintly powers, how their lives are threatened, and how they are changing the world by their missions. Also, and most importantly, we see how their relationship with Sebastian grows stronger after his death.


Check out the other eight tour stops:

Meet Agnes the girl at Confessions of a Bookaholic and Agnes the Saint at Candace’s Book Blog.
Meet Cecilia the girl at Bewitched Bookworms and Cecilia the Saint at A Life Bound by Books.
Meet Lucy the girl at The Reading Date and Lucy the Saint at All Things Urban Fantasy.
Meet Sebastian the boy at Vampire Book Club and Sebastian the Saint at The Book Cellar.

And find out more about The Blessed through these links:

Learn more at http://theblessed.com
Like The Blessed on Facebook
Follow The Blessed and Tonya Hurley on Twitter and join the conversation using #PreciousBlood
Follow The Blessed on Pinterest 

One winner will receive a prize pack, courtesy of Simon & Schuster, containing earbuds, sunglasses, nail polish, PRECIOUS BLOOD, and an Agnes, Cecilia, or Lucy t-shirt.  More details on the rafflecopter below.
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June 20, 2013

Review: Remembrance of the Daleks

Remembrance of the Daleks Book Seven of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection
By Ben Aaronovitch
Available now from BBC Books
Review copy

For the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, the BBC commissioned a reprint of eleven novels to represent each of the Doctors.  I love that they chose to reprint beloved novels instead of publishing new ones, to show off the history of the character.  In fact, REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS is a novelization of Episode 152, also written by Ben Aaronovitch.  This was his first novel, something I didn't know despite casually enjoying his Peter Grant paranormal mysteries.

I'll admit to being unfamiliar with the Seventh Doctor.  But I know lots of people are fans of his companion Ace, and I knew Aaronovitch, so I decided to see if this book was a good introduction.  I think it was.  The Doctor is still the Doctor, with a plan he keeps to himself, but different from the Doctors I know better.  And I can see why Ace has a fanbase; after all, she likes to blow things up.  That's a good quality in someone being menaced by Daleks.

I liked the one-off characters too, particularly Professor Rachel Jensen.  She's a scientist who becomes embroiled in the goings on, and is pretty appalled.  It was a very realistic depiction of how a person might react to time travellers and aliens fighting each other and leaving a trail of casualties.  I think there is a tad too much head hopping, which is probably a result of following the beats of an episode where not all the same characters are onscreen at the same time.

REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS is rougher than ONLY HUMAN, the other anniversary collection novel I've read and reviewed.  Aaronovitch is clearly playing with style.  He's got a countdown, epigraphs, but little of it has enough purpose to really add to the story.  At the same time, I can see seeds of the writer Aaronovitch would become.  Perhaps most obviously in the passages dealing with race in England.  The action of the book takes place in the 1960's, which has its own problems in that regard.  But Aaronovitch definitely tackles that question as it relates to modern times in the Rivers of London series.

I wouldn't pick up REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS if I wasn't at least familiar enough with Doctor Who to know what a Dalek is, but you can read it if you aren't familiar with Seven specifically.  It's a straightforward adventure, with lots of action and short passages to keep the story moving quickly.  Plus, the retro cool cover of the special edition looks great on my shelf.

Thanks to BBC Books and TLC Book Tours, I have one book to giveaway internationally.  You can choose between ONLY HUMAN, REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS, or WHO-OLOGY: The Official Miscellany.  Giveaway ends June 30, 2013.
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June 19, 2013

Guest Post and Giveaway: Solstice: Myth Depicted

As I said in my review of SOLSTICE, today I'm repping Team Myth on P.J. Hoover's blog tour.  And that means a guest post for you guys with lots of pretty pictures!  Don't worry, Team Dystopia is getting some pretty pictures too.



Hi! P. J. Hoover here, author of the upcoming dystopian/mythology YA novel, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 18, 2013), and today I’m depicting the mythology side of SOLSTICE with pictures! I’ve opted for real-life inspirations that made it into the book. And for the blog tour, depictions are divided into two groups: Team Myth and Team Dystopia. Over here is Team Myth!


Five Images that Depict the Mythology World of SOLSTICE:

1) The Jar

Piper gets a mysterious present delivered to her house near the beginning of the story. When she opens it, everything around her begins to change.

2) Cerberus

My dog, Cissy, provided the inspiration for Cerberus, the fierce, three-headed dog who guards the Underworld.

3) The River Lethe

The River Lethe was inspired by the Red River, which separates Oklahoma from Texas.

4) Shayne’s gardens

Shayne has a garden he tends in the Underworld, and in the garden is a waterfall. Cascades Falls near Virginia Tech (where I went to college) inspired the scene.

5) Dual suns

The Underworld is much like our world, but it has two suns. There is no picture with two suns I love so much as this one from Star Wars.

Just for the record, every book could do with a good Star Trek or Star Wars nod.

Anyway, thank you for reading and for your support!

Piper's world is dying. Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles that threaten to destroy the earth. Amid this global heating crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom.

Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth.

P. J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book MYTHOLOGY by Edith Hamilton. After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing kung fu, solving Rubik's cubes, and watching Star Trek. Her first novel for teens, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 18, 2013), takes place in a global warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own. Her middle grade novel, TUT (Tor Children's, 2014), tells the story of a young immortal King Tut, who's been stuck in middle school for over 3,000 years and must defeat an ancient enemy with the help of a dorky kid from school, a mysterious Egyptian princess, and a one-eyed cat. For more information about P. J. (Tricia) Hoover, please visit her website www.pjhoover.com.
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Review and Giveaway: Solstice

SolsticeBy P.J. Hoover
Available now from Tor Teen
Review copy

I am part of the Mod Podge Blog Tour for SOLSTICE and I'm repping Team Myth today.  You can stop by Girls in the Stacks to read the Team Dystopia post.  Stop by here later today for a guest blog by P.J. Hoover on Solstice: Myth Depicted.  I'm excited to be taking part in this tour as well as reviewing SOLSTICE, because I used to live in Austin and Hoover is pretty well known around those parts.

Some of you might have already read SOLSTICE, since Hoover self published it first.  I haven't read that version, so I don't know if there have been changes or not.  But SOLSTICE doesn't read like it's behind on trends.  It's not so much a true dystopia as it is the tale of a society on the edge of apocalypse.  For the past eighteen years, it's been summer all the time, and even the the summer-hardened denizens of Austin can barely handle it.  And most of the countermeasures put in place by the government just further harm the environment.

Piper, who just turned eighteen, chafes under the close watch of her overprotective mother.  The only time she gets out is with her best friend, Chloe, her lifeline to normalcy.  Then Piper meets two strange, super hot guys: Shayne and Reese.  Things start getting strange and Piper starts to realize almost everyone in her life is lying to her.  But she knows one things for sure: Chloe is going to die.  All Piper wants is the truth, her best friend's life, and freedom from her mother's oppressive love.

Fans of Greek myth will cotton on to the story being retold as soon as they see the graphic finial at the beginning of each chapter.  But Hoover does not tell it straight.  She references a variety of myths and orchestrates a tour of the Underworld that put me more in a mind of Dante's Inferno than Hamilton's Mythology.  At the same time, Hoover doesn't bog herself down too much in allusions.  SOLSTICE is perfectly readable even if you've never heard any of the myths.

I liked that the stakes in SOLSTICE didn't come down to Piper's romantic inclinations.  She has her own part to play in the balance of the world, and it is up to her to decide where and how she'll live.  Much of the book is about Piper going out and getting answers, even though people don't want her to have them, and then using that information to make her choices.  I loved watching Piper learn that she had the power to make and assert her own decisions.

That being said, the love story ain't half bad.  In does read a little like instalove, although there is more too it than that.  I was turned off by the initial love triangle setup, but it isn't really a love triangle.  Piper isn't torn between two guys.  (And let me tell you, I was very happy when a certain someone got their comeuppance.  Myths are good about that.)

SOLSTICE is an inventive novel that really gets the pages flipping.  While I am Team Myth all the way, I enjoyed the future world Hoover created.  It was easy to image in the heat, killing the plants, causing humanity to retreat to domes, overwhelming and oppressive.  It feels like a realistic possibility, no matter than the explanation is fairly fantastic. I look forward to whatever Hoover writes next.
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June 18, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Paradox

Paradox By A.J. Paquette
Available June 25 from Random House BFYR
Review copy

Have I mentioned how much I love that the new YA trend is standalone science fiction?  It bears repeating.  And I doubly couldn't resist PARADOX when the Rockstar Book Tours sign-up showed up in my email, because Shai-Hulud is on the cover and you do not mess around with sandworms.

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PARADOX is lean and mean, clocking in at 240 pages.  There were times when I could've used more, especially in the latter parts of the novel.  But I liked that A. J. Paquette didn't add a lot of padding.  What's left is the essential parts of Ana's story.  Ana wakes up on Paradox with surgical retrograde amnesia and a note telling her to experience, discover, and survive.  It's a pretty confusing way to wake up.

Ana quickly discovers she's not alone on the planet.  There's another boy, Todd, who also has amnesia.  There's also a giant carnivorous worm.  One of these discoveries is more pleasant than the other.  Soon, it's a hostile race across the planet to the safety of the colony.  But nothing is as it first appears, as Ana is assaulted by strange memories and observes some rather odd happenings.

Despite having no memory, Ana manages to carry the story well with her character.  She's independent, tough, and clever.  She doesn't have great social skills, but that's not hurting her too much on a far-off planet.  It was fun to discover Paradox's secrets with Ana, no matter that some of them weren't hard to see coming.

I also liked the subtle but present diversity in PARADOX.  Ana has tan skin, and when she discovers her last name, it is pretty clear that she's Hispanic.  A character who shows up later is obviously Asian.  And I love that between Todd and Ana, Todd is the scientist and Ana is the warrior.  There's no explicit discussion of any of this, because it isn't important to the story.  It's just there.

PARADOX blends adventure and horror with its science fiction trappings.  I'm not entirely convinced that the plot hangs together, but I'm fascinated by the ideas it explores.  Memory and disease are linked in a way that reminds me of the original usage of meme.  I do think it would've worked better if Paquette played up the horror elements more, but she keeps PARADOX friendly to younger readers.  I do think PARADOX would be a good stepping stone into classic sci-fi like the Four Lords of the Diamond series by Jack Chalker.

Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

Meeting up with three other teens--one boy seems strangely familiar--Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth. They're working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana's mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can't remember anything?

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A.J. Paquette has been writing stories since early childhood. She and her sister would spend hours creating masterpieces of stapled paper and handwritten words, complete with pen-and-ink covers and boxed illustrations.

The road to publication was long and winding, peppered with many small successes including: a variety of national magazine publications, being a 2005 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award honoree, and receiving the 2008 SCBWI’s Susan Landers Glass Scholarship Award, for the book that would later become Nowhere Girl. Her first picture book, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies, was published in 2009. 

She now lives with her husband and two daughters in the Boston area, where she continues to write books for children and young adults. She is also an agent with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. 



Three lucky commentors will win an ARC of PARADOX.  Go to every stop for more chances to win!  Giveaway is US/Canada only and you must be 13 or older to win.

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