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Review of Regine's Book: A Teenage Girl's Last Words by Regine Stokke

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Regine's Book: A Teenage Girl's Last Words
by Regine Stokke

5 Stars: Incredible
Publication: October 23, 2012
Pages: 336
Publisher: Zest Books
Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Regine’s blog about living with Leukemia gained a huge following, and eventually became this book. She writes openly about emotional and physical aspects of her 15-month struggle to recover, and explains how her disease impacts her life. In the course of her illness, Regine has photography exhibits, goes to concerts, enjoys her friends & family, and advocates for registering as a blood and bone marrow donor. She was a typical teenager with an amazing will to live; and the lessons she learned have relevance for all of us.

Mini Review
I wish that I could put my thoughts about this book into words, but I'm hard pressed to put it in a way that fully convey what this story is about. There's nothing beautiful about cancer, and Regine lays it all out there for the world. The fear, anger, pain, and the way little day-to-day activities that we think nothing of--like walking up and down the stairs--become exercise routines for her. Regine's Book shares what Regine went through as a patient with a rare form of leukemia and how she chose to live the rest of the short time she had on Earth after her diagnosis.

It is a breathtaking, inspirational journey and one that I would share with friends and family. Below, I have for you the press release and a link to a giveaway for the book (among others) hosted by Zest Books. I hope that you'll take the time to learn more about cancer below, how to help cancer patient, and to check out this wonderful book.

More on the book

Regine Stokke began her blog after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in 2008. Her goal was to paint a realistic picture of what it’s like battling a life-threatening illness—and to share her experience with the world. During the 15 months that Regine was sick, and to her death, she transformed from an average teenage girl, upset that she didn’t have a private hospital room, to a grateful and humble young woman with a deep appreciation for the beauty all around her.

Regine’s Book: A Teen Girl’s Last Words is Regine’s personal story as it was written on her blog and features her own photography and artwork, as well as comments from blog readers and entries from those who loved her most. The book deals with every facet of living with cancer, from the good days to the bad and everything in between. At an age when Regine’s biggest concern should have been what dress she was going to wear to prom, she was worrying about whether or not the wig she wears looks natural and about all the things she may soon be leaving behind. “The fear of no longer existing never goes away,” Regine confesses only a few months before her death. “I’m afraid to leave the world and I don’t want to do it. I think about my family, and about my friends. I have to fight for them. I can’t leave them behind with that sorrow. I have to try everything I can, despite how bleak everything looks.”

Cancer affects millions of Americans every year.

According to the American Cancer Society:
  • Half of all men and one third of all women in the U.S. will develop cancer during their lifetimes
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children under 14 years of age
  • 1,638,910 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in the US in 2012
  • Nearly 50,000 new leukemia cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2012

Most teens likely know someone affected by cancer, but don’t know the details of what it’s like to live day to day with the disease. Regine’s Book tells the intimate story of one teen living with cancer—putting a face on this terrible epidemic and illuminating the importance of becoming a bone marrow donor.

Zest Books will make a donation to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training in Regine’s honor upon publication of the book.

To check out the society and other places to help cancer patients:

Regine's Blog
Regine Stokke was a lover of life—a poet, photographer, blogger, and leukemia patient, who blogged about her devastating struggle with the illness and shared her story with a world of strangers. Originally published in her homeland of Norway, Regine’s Book is being considered by the Norwegian Literature Abroad (NORLA) foundation for a translation grant. Regine was a very gifted photographer whose photos were exhibited at both the 2009 and 2010 Nordic Light photography festivals.

Read an excerpt from her blog at the Huffington Post.
Enter to win a copy of Regine's Book and other wonderful books published by Zest Books.

Short Hiatus

Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Finals are coming down on me, so I'll be taking a short hiatus to focus on my studies. So other than previously scheduled posts, you won't be seeing much (if any) of me. I'll be resuming posts around December 14th-17th.

Imaginary Chats: Rediscovering Tamora Pierce

Saturday, November 24, 2012
Yesterday, I was playing editor and looking over my brother's college app essays, so I didn't get to this till now. It's still hard to believe that he's all grown up and looking at places to go. It feels as though time passes faster and faster with each year. And now with finals coming up (in less than two weeks!), my brain's pooped from studying, so I'm going to keep this short.

I've been working on my final presentation for my fiction writing class where we're to present on a writer with the only criteria being that s/he has had to have published an anthology of short stories. I don't typically read short stories; if I do, it's an anthology compiling stories from various authors, so I was having trouble with this. Then I remembered that an old favorite of mine has a story collection and from a favorite world of mine. Yep, it's Tamora Pierce with Tortall and Other Lands.

Reading her blog, searching her website and interviews with all has renewed my love for Tortall and everything else by her. I still remember browsing my middle school library and discovering Alanna's world. After that, I checked out everything I could find by Tamora and have been an avid follower of her since.

My project is about why Tamora Pierce is important to readers and writers everywhere and how she inspires my own writing. I know why she is important to myself. Now, I'd like to ask those of you who also read her books - why is Tamora Pierce an important writer to you and how do you feel she impacts the book community? It'd be really helpful to me to get your feedback!

I'll return to answering reader questions December 14th, after my finals are over. In the meantime, feel free to ask a question through the form below, and I'll get to it ASAP!

Ask Me A Question

Have a question for me?
Click here to go to the contact form and ask your question today!

Author Interview: Miranda Kenneally

Thursday, November 22, 2012
As Part 2 of the Stealing Tissue tour stop at Imaginary Reads, I have for you an interview with Miranda Kenneally!

Stealing Parker (Hundred Oaks #2)
by Miranda Kenneally

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?
Buy it: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.
I've been writing since I was about 8 years old. I wrote these really crappy stories about girls who had like seven sets of twins as siblings and all she wanted to be was a twin herself. Now I am 30 and sometimes I still write really crappy stories. Both Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker about girls who play sports.

What inspired you to write about sporty girls?
I played sports growing up -- softball and soccer, but more importantly I wanted to show girls that they can do anything they want to do.

What life experiences did you draw upon to write these stories? What kind of research did you do for areas where you didn't have ask much experience?
I didn't have to do much research for Stealing Parker because I played softball growing up, but I didn't know much about football at all when I started writing Catching Jordan. I went to a bunch of football games (NFL, college, and high school) to do research and I asked my husband, brother, and dad lots of football questions!

What do you feel is the most important thing to writing YA contemporary?
Making sure that the story is realistic, but still shows lots of hope. YA is all about hope.

Hope is definitely something I like to see in YA. I love your way with words and how your characters express themselves. Using lines from Stealing Parker, would you tell us about one of your favorite characters in the book?
Thanks to all the years he’s spent baling hay on his dad’s farm, Corndog has gone from not to hot, from scrawny to sinewy, from geek to god, and now has to beat girls off with a stick. He makes my heart slam against my chest. I’ve never wanted to kiss someone this much in my life.

Nice choice. Corndog was one of my favorites as well! How do you come up with such relatable characters and crushworthy guys?
For the guys, I just imagine the kind of guys I would've wanted to date in high school, but I still try to keep them pretty realistic (perverted, inappropriate at times, silly).

For the girls, I try to use my own emotions and think of how I would've reacted in certain situations. I was a very emotional and crazy teenage girl. :P

I can relate to the crazy of teen years :) If you could spend a day with a character from the Hundred Oaks books, who would it be and what would you do?
Joe Carter! He is an excellent cook and I bet he'd make all sorts of yummy snacks. In my fourth book, Racing Savannah, he opens a new restaurant in the town of Franklin where the books take place.

Good food is always a plus! What are you working on right now?
I am editing my fourth book, Racing Savannah, which is about a girl horse jockey who's dealing with an on-again/off-again relationship with the horse farm owner's son. I'm also plotting my fifth book, which might be about a girl training to run a marathon in honor of her friend who died.

Thanks for interviewing, Miranda!

Miranda's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

Related Posts

Swell Tour: Review, Guest Post, & Giveaway

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
As part of the Swell tour stop at Imaginary Reads, I have my review of the book, a guest post from Julie, and a giveaway.

by Julie Rieman Duck

3 Stars: A Good Read
Publication: September 1, 2012
Paperback: 224 Pages
Buy it: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Smashwords

When Christian Rusch plucks Beck Ionesco from the freshman ranks for himself, she’s tempted with parties, popularity, and love. But as the free-flowing booze that soaks his world seeps into her own, Beck begins using liquid courage as a way to ignore Christian’s dark moods… and cover her anxiety about his flirtatious friend Hillman.

However, when Christian breaks up with Beck, and Hillman makes a dangerous move, no amount of alcohol can stop the pain or keep her out of trouble. And just when it seems like she’s lost everything, Beck is partnered with Jesse Leary for an art project. After spending time with him, Beck realizes it’s more than a study date… and Christian’s not happy about it. Then again, Beck’s not sure she’s happy with him, either.

But only after plowing through a bottle of wine, a wild fight, and one guardrail that becomes Christian’s last call, does Beck admit to her problem and ask for help from the one whose life secretly parallels her own.

My Thoughts:
Beck's life falls into chaos after she starts dating Christian and he introduces her to alcohol. Beck was a good girl with a true bestie and an artistic talent that promises to take her places. Her fatal flaw was lusting after Christian and seeking him out after he pays attention to her in a party. To lay it out there, she's the stupid, naive teenager that trusts the older, hot, lustful guy. Because she doesn't want to seem the innocent girl that she is, she tries to keep pace with his alcoholic, partying life and quickly grows addicted to it. One might say that she had it coming, the horrible thing that happens / almost happens to her. As she falls further into a downward spiral, she pushes away the people who really care about her and goes to the extremes to get her hands on alcohol.

Christian is popular and two years older than her, and they didn't hang out at all before the party. Even after they start dating, they spend most of their time drinking together. There isn't any explanation for why he would fall madly in love with her, as it seems he does, or why he'd do all the things he does to her. He's a closed person who seems to have little motivation for what he does and doesn't do. He seems only to live for the drink. Overall, Christian is a horrible person, and I'd love to call him a bunch of names if I only knew where to start. Jesse was by far my favorite character. He's funny, witty, and loves Beck for who she really is. My only problem is that he doesn't tell this important thing to her about himself that might have helped her relate to him better and faster. The way he doesn't talk about it makes it seem like he was hiding it from her, so I really didn't understand how chill he was about it at the end--or that we find out about it at the end in the first place.

There are a lot of holes in the structure of the story. The writing is good, but many of the threads don't connect. It feels as though the story jumps from scene to scene, and it takes a while to get into the story and understand what happens. It starts so abruptly and doesn't give you breathing space before continuing with the story. The context isn't well developed. I also believe that it could have spent a lot less time on cultivating Beck's downward spiral and focus on the period where she finally realizes what an alcohol addict she is and begins to recover. It feels as though the book is trying to tell two stories the way it is--the one where the good girl turns bad and the one where she pulls her life back together again.

I do like how alcoholism and Beck's downward spiral is portrayed. Okay, I did want to yell at Beck and pull out her hair for being the idiot that she is, driving away her true friends and worshipping alcohol as she does. That's also the strength of this story--the emotions that it evokes within the reader. I also appreciate how the story shows the repercussions of Beck's behavior and her struggles to pull herself together again. It isn't a story that I'd read again--it was so intense and disturbing--but it's the kind of story someone ought to read once.

Mature content warning - drinking, language, sex

A copy was provided by the author for review purposes.

Why We Shy Away From Tough Subjects
Guest Post by Julie Rieman Duck
Let’s face it, nobody likes to feel discomfort. It takes us away from what we know and are secure in, and puts us into the throes of stress, worry, concern, and angst. While some people like a little of this in their life (like extreme sports folks, insane roller-coaster junkies, and Ana Steele), others just plain avoid it. Although this is understandable when it comes to real here-and-now situations, why is it so hard when it comes to a book?

There is something about a good read that pulls you into the story. Perhaps it is the suspension of disbelief that occurs when the characters are real and endearing. You begin to feel that you know them, their quirks, their habits, and soon enough their vices and troubles. Like a good friend, you become concerned. So, when these character friends start heading down a bad path, you know it and not matter what you do, there is nothing you can do about it. Now that’s uncomfortable.

Reading a dark story, such as SWELL, brings you to that place of discomfort because it is not only shocking what main character Beck will do for a drink, it is that this type of situation is real and has happened before (and will happen again, unfortunately).

You may have known someone like Beck growing up. A friend who you personally saw go down the tubes and hopefully come out the other side. Maybe not. This imprinted upon you great discomfort and anytime you encounter something that reminds you of it (like reading a book), you tend to shy away from the experience. I do not blame you, because nobody really wants to touch a hot iron on purpose after they’ve done it by accident.

On the other hand, reliving an experience can be cathartic. A release of guilt, anger, sadness, and inner conflict can be relieved. It helps you to get it out and, hopefully, get on with it. I think it’s akin to waiting until you’re ready to read your first boyfriend’s love notes that have been tucked safely in a shoe box for 25 years. You want to do it because you know that it will resolve issues you may have had. But boy is it uncomfortable when you take the lid off that box! Point is, even though you want to feel-good and read feel-good stories, there are occasions where going down the dark path can help you leap toward healing. Take the lid off the box. I did.

Miranda's Website | Blog | Twitter
Born in Los Angeles and raised in San Clemente, California, Julie Rieman Duck wrote her way through school on an old-fashioned typewriter. It took a medical scare and the loss of her job — on the same day and within 30 minutes of each other — to finally allow her stories to free themselves and be put to paper.

Review: Persephone by Kaitlin Bevis

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
1.5 Stars: Not For Me
Series: Daughters of Zeus #1
Ebook: 237 Pages
Publication: July 6, 2012 by Musa Publishing

Website | GoodreadsAmazon
There are worse things than death, worse people too.

The “talk” was bad enough, but how many teens get told that they’re a goddess? When her mom tells her, Persephone is sure her mother has lost her mind. It isn’t until Boreas, the god of winter, tries to abduct her that she realizes her mother was telling the truth. Hades rescues her, and in order to safely bring Persephone to the Underworld he marks her as his bride. But Boreas will stop at nothing to get Persephone. Despite her growing feelings for Hades, Persephone wants to return to the living realm. Persephone must find a way to defeat Boreas and reclaim her life.

Persephone isn't an easily relatable narrator. I understand that being told she's a goddess must be shocking--I'd also think that my mom was crazy. However, it doesn't justify running away from everyone, especially when whacky things have been going on around her recently and her life is in danger. When she does finally accept that she's a goddess among other immortals and legends, she still tries to impose her narrow views on her mother and Hades,  trying to guilt trip her mother for hiding the truth from her for so long even if her mother believed it was for her own good. She doesn't seem to take everything seriously and constantly misjudges people. She also talks back at Hades even though he saved her life and is the only protection she has from Boreas. Any time her life gets in danger, it is because of her naivety, and some greater power saves her.

She's an extremely naive character. Honestly, I don't know why Hades calls her brave and everything. Mostly, she bull heads her way through things without thinking about the consequences. She's overly optimistic and wants to save the world; however, it feels mostly like a moral principle she learned from her time with humans. She hasn't attempted to try and see things from the point of view of the gods. Even then, he doesn't really know about human sufferings. Her mom has given her an overly sheltered life. And if she really cared about human suffering, why doesn't she think about having those sent to Tartarus drink from the Lethe to give them a blank slate?

Hades too is not relatable. He does have a grip on reality and accepts suffering as a part of life. As a ruler, he looks after his people as best as he can and honestly does a good job of it. It's his relationship with Persephone that I find lacking. He's alternately hot and cold towards Persephone, and I don't understand how he could have fallen in love with her at first sight. Personality-wise, they don't match up, and she's like a child compared to the years he has on him. My favorite character is Cassandra. She has quite the personality and is a bundle of sharp wit and joy.

Writing-wise, some things are overelaborated while others don't have enough context backing them up. The whole Persephone thing is overdone. Everything she owns is described as wildflower-patterened. It's quaint the first couple times, but afterwards it gets annoying. (Fortunately, this only happens in the beginning.) On the other hand, it takes a while for names of several characters to be introduced and I still don't know much about their relationship to Persephone. There are also an overwhelming number of characters named after Greek legends while others like Melissa are given ordinary names, but the characters don't think anything of them.

The plot is the typical heroine discovers her abilities and gets into trouble. I don't mind reading this kind of book as long as it's done well, but for this one, the characters weren't relatable and Persephone's abilities were too overdone. Maybe I would have liked this one if the context was better developed and Persephone not so whiny and self-righteous. As it is, this book wasn't for me.

A copy was provided by the publisher for review.

Review: Queen of the Dead by Ty Drago & Giveaway

Monday, November 19, 2012
Series: The Undertakers #2
Paperback: 421 Pages
Publication: October 1, 2012 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Author | Goodreads | Amazon | Kindle
Twelve -year old Will Ritter and his rag-tag army of teenage resistance fighters may have triumphed over the Zombies last time, but that's the thing about the dead: they keep coming back.

A new Corpse leader has crossed the rift and taken command of the invasion: The Queen of the Dead is even more brilliant and ruthless than her predecessor, and her ambitions are even deadlier. Will and the crew must somehow rescue his mother, prevent an assassination, and show FBI Agent Ramirez the truth about the Corpses-and the danger the world faces.

But how do a bunch of kids prove to a grown-up that monsters are real?

Will Ritter is a member of the Undertakers, an underground group of children who have the ability to see Corpses as they truly are. In this second installment of the series, the Undertakers realize that the Queen of the Dead has made her comeback and the Corpses have taken an FBI agent hostage. Now, the Undertakers plan to get him back, even if it means breaking into a state prison.

Lilith Cavanaugh, the Queen of the Dead, is brutal and scary. She likes fresh corpses. In fact, she'll have young women killed just so she can take over their body when her current corpse begins to decompose. She plans on taking over the world since Kenny Booth, the past leader of the Corpses, failed that mission when Will stopped him months ago.

The Queen doesn't have any idea just how big and frightful of an enemy she has in Will. In the past, Will's father was killed by the Corpses, who then took Will's mother and sister hostage. Will is bent on avenging his father's death and saving his mother and sister, and he will stop at nothing to achieve this goal. For all the tragedy that he's gone through, Will hasn't become a reckless avenger. His heart remains pure and strong, and he's very selfless when it comes to others. He is willing to put himself at risk to save others without a second thought for his own safety.

The action in this book is exciting and engaging and will captivate zombie fans from start to end.

A copy of this book was provided by Sourcebooks for review.

Imagine Weekly: Mailbox #38

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Books Reviewed This Past Week

Imagine My Mailbox
I didn't do an IMM the past couple of weeks because of exams, so this covers three or so weeks of books.

* Check out more book hauls at Tynga's Stacking the Shelves *

What did you get this week? Leave a link in the comments section, and I'll check out your week's haul!

Stealing Parker Tour: Review

Saturday, November 17, 2012
As part of the Stealing Tissue tour stop at Imaginary Reads, I have for you my review of the book!

Stealing Parker (Hundred Oaks #2)
by Miranda Kenneally

4 Stars: A Great Read
Paperback: 256 Pages
Publication: October 1, 2012 by Sourcebooks Fire

Amazon | Goodreads
Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

Stealing Parker is filled with kicks, giggles, and the bittersweet angst that comes with the teen years when we make those stupid mistakes that seem so right at the time but become so wrong when we really think about it. Parker is a good girl. She was in the running for valeditorian (and made it), had a talent for softball, and had a life. When her mom comes out as a lesbian and leaves her family, Parker's life comes crumbling down and she makes drastic changes in her life. Her decisions aren't all the right ones, but she rationalizes them so well in her mind. If it weren't were certain strings of events, she could have made it though high school without the slutty reputation and dirty rumors. Parker is a very real and down-to-earth character. Underneath her pretty exterior, there's a fiery spirit sheltering a vulnerable interior, one that questions everything that's happened to her.

I've heard about the hot, to-die-for realistic guys of Miranda's, and I'm not disappointed. Will is one of the sweetest guys you'll ever meet. He's hot, and he knows it, but it's not overstated. After the initial introduction, I had to remind myself that girls would kill to hook up with him because he's so down-to-earth like Parker. He's a smartypants (losing the number one spot in school by a narrow margin), he has the wittiest exchanges with Parker ever, and he's into chick flicks. How cool is that? After meeting him, you can't not want a Will of your own! I also love Drew. He's a good friend to Parker and sticks with her through the worst of it. There was just this one thing he does towards the end (and which Will also does) that I felt was a bad move as a friend, though I can see where he's coming from.

That sums up the main characters. The others weren't as well developed; mostly, it didn't really matter for the plot, and oftentimes conflicts remain unresolved, especially with people who aren't worth the time that it takes to resolve things with them. Oftentimes, these people are jealous, petty, and uninterested in coming to an resolution of sorts. Then there are people like Brian who are indecisive and, in wanting what they can't have, do whatever they want and then give up without seeing things through. He's a jerk and worse.

While romance is at the heart of this story, religion also plays a role in this book. After being betrayed by her church and others that she trusted, Parker loses faith in God. She still writes to him, but she's struggling to find him, to find faith in herself. Losing her mother and so many other important things to her shakes Parker's faith in God and in people in general. Her struggles are something that I feel are relatable to many of us who struggled with faith while attending a religious institution. Even if you aren't religious or of the same religion as Parker, however, this book is one that you can enjoy. This isn't a religious story at its core, though Parker's letters to God play a role in shaping her background and showing us her internal conflicts without bogging down the story.

Humor, rocking dialogue, and memorable characters. This book has it all! I haven't read Catching Jordan, but I seriously have to get on it now because I just loved the scenes where Sam and Jordan appeared. A guy who puts on sparkles to prom and a girl who can put up with him? I have a feeling that I'm going to love them even more after reading their story than I already do now. Hundred Oaks is an amazing place. May I please move there? Absolutely can't wait to read the next book in this series!

Mature content warning: There are some sexual scenes and substance abuse.

A copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher

Miranda's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

Two and Twenty Dark Tales Tour: Guest Post & Giveaway

Friday, November 16, 2012
Today, as part of the Two and Twenty Dark Tales tour stop at Imaginary Reads, I have for you a guest post from Pam van Hycklama Vlieg and a giveaway.

Two and Twenty Dark Tales
by various authors

Publication: October 9, 2012
Pages: 400
Publisher: Month9Books
Buy it: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Book Depository

In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.

This unique collaboration’s proceeds (from the first 5,000 copies sold) will be donated to, an organization that fosters the advancement, reading, writing and acceptance of young adult literature worldwide.

Plot Monkeys and Word Count
Guest Post by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg

Writing a short story isn’t as easy as it sounds. When you sit down to write a full novel you know you need around 80,000 words. That’s a pretty big number, and it is kind of daunting and intimidating.

Writing short fiction is kind of like doing laps in the hot tub. You have to get the plot, characterizations, and world all in a very small amount of words. In any book every word should count, every scene should advance the plot, but in short fiction it matters so much more.

Like that 350 word paragraph that explains exactly the color green le hot boi’s eyes are. You had to cut it to make room for actual plot. It was way more important for you to know le hot boi’s brother is a killer.

Jared Leto
Jared Leto
Photo by Umbrella Beach
Source: Flickr

I could talk about how hot Jared Leto is for like 100,000 words. Talking about his supreme sexiness in 5000 words is much harder.

In 100,000 words I can talk about how we view pretty in psychology. The inches that your eyes are spaced apart, the plumpness of the lips, the color of the eyes. In 5000 words I sound more like JARED LETO IS LYKE SO FREXING HAUTE!!11!!!!.

No one wants to sound like a fangirl on meth.

Basically, in my Two and Twenty Dark Tales story "A Pocket Full of Posy" I wanted to touch on the original Ring Around the Rosy rhyme and dispel the myth that the rhyme is about the black plague.

Lots of research went into this story. I had to first read several folklorists’ books as they waxed poetic on the subject of the rhyme and its origins. Then I had to read about fifteen versions of the rhyme several times to get some ideas.

At first I wrote a black plague story even though I know the rhyme is not based on that. I wanted to go with the flow and adhere to the common misconception. That didn’t work out for me.

Then I wrote a dystopian futuristic plague story set in DC. The city had been closed off in a ring and the people inside infected. That also didn’t work.

Finally I decided to use little pieces of the poem and the image of a boy waking up with blood on his hands came to me.

A Pocket Full of Posy has all kinds of hidden stuff inside. My kid’s names are in there. Two names from my favorite video game are inside, and the boy with blood on his hands is modeled after none other than Jared Leto. His name’s Jake.

I hope you like my story, and the rest of the book!

Pam van Hylckama Vlieg writes short stories for anthologies. She is also an associate agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco, a reviewer at Bookalicious for four years, and a professional writer for the San Francisco Book Review. She is married to a code monkey and has two monkey children. Pam loves animals and houses a Jack Russell with a Napoleon complex, an English Bulldog who thinks he's a pit bull, and a small Peruvian Guinea Pig who will do anything for an apple slice.

Visit other stops on the Two and Twenty Dark Tales tour stop.

Review: What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

Thursday, November 15, 2012
Surviving High School
by Colleen Clayton

Hardback: 320 Pages
Publication: October 9, 2012 by Poppy
Buy it: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Indie Bound

How can you talk about something you can’t remember?

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still...), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid—including a lock of her perfect red curls—and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and unable to relate to her old friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect... or so she thinks.

Witty and poignant, Colleen Clayton’s stunning debut is a story about moving on after the unthinkable happens.

Sid is a cheerleader, but she isn’t exactly popular. So when Dax, a college guy, takes an interest in her during a school ski trip, Sid sneaks out to meet him alone. Unfortunately, the only thing she remembers is talking with him in his kitchen before waking up alone on the bed. It’s clear to Sid that she got drugged and raped. But she can’t tell anyone, so she signs up for A/V, where she spends an entire period with only Corey Livingston, who slowly becomes Sid’s only true friend.

Sid paid dearly for the mistake of trusting the wrong person. She blames herself for being stupid and feels she deserves what happened. It does not matter how hard she tries, she just can’t actually talk about it with anyone, including her mom. Sid doesn't really know how to handle it, so she withdraws from her surroundings. Nevertheless, Sid is a survivor, and she does not give up. I love her courage.

Corey is thoughtful and caring. He is always there to support Sid, even though he has his own family troubles and problems. He knows Sid is broken, and he is there for her when she cannot rely on anyone else. Corey gives Sid hope.

What Happens Next captivates me from the beginning to end. The whole book is about learning how to trust again. It is good to see how Sid is able to eventually become happy with herself again after going through something so horrible. The author does a fantastic job conveying the emotion of what a victim goes through.

A copy was provided by the publisher for review.

Who I Kissed Tour: Review & Guest Post

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
As part of the Who I Kissed tour stop at Imaginary Reads, I have my review of the book and a guest post from Janet Gurtler.

Who I Kissed
by Janet Gurtler

5 Stars: Keeper
Paperback: 312 Pages
Publication: October 1, 2012 by Sourcebooks Fire

GoodreadsAmazon | Kindle
She never thought a kiss could kill…

Samantha didn’t mean to hurt anyone. She was just trying to fit in...and she wanted to make Zee a little jealous after he completely ditched her for a prettier girl. So she kissed Alex. And then he died—right in her arms.

Was she really the only person in the entire school who didn’t know about his peanut allergy? Or that eating a peanut butter sandwich and then kissing him would be deadly? Overnight Sam turns into the school pariah and a media sensation explodes. Consumed with guilt, abandoned by her friends, and in jeopardy of losing her swimming scholarship, she’ll have to find a way to forgive herself before anyone else will.

My Thoughts:
It all started with a kiss. When Sam kisses Alex to get back at Zee for making out with another girl after flirting with her, she never expected him to get an asthma attack--or die on the way to the hospital. But he does, and she has to live with the survivor's guilt. Sam has a hard time coping. She wishes that she was the one who died and thinks that she doesn't deserve happiness. To punish herself, she quits the swim team and begins withdrawing within herself.

Sam makes a lot of stupid choices. From kissing Alex though she loves Zee to quitting the swim team that she loves to believing that she's worthless, Sam falls into a viscious cycle of self harm without resorting to actual, deliberate physical harm. Though she's trying to make things right, she fails to respect herself or see that she's failing to do good in the world. Things culminate when she makes a really stupid mistake and finally realizes that nothing she's doing can fill the emptiness within her. Sam is an easily relatable character and one that I wanted to support. I understand her motives and hope that her experiences will continue to strengthen her and make her a better person in the future.

Not just Sam, but the other characters are all very real characters. There's Zee and his grief over his best friend's death. Alex's family and their loss. Sam's eccentric and loving aunt. Her supportive father who has dealt with his own loss and wants only the best for his daughter. All of these characters' personalities have their own charm and motives, and I like to think that I understand where they're coming from. They are so well developed and play their own important roles in the story. Even Alex, though his character serves mainly as a catalyst for the true heart of the plot--Sam's guilt and the way she copes with it.

Janet Gurtler has a talent for writing realistic stories about heart-moving characters and serious issues without getting preachy. I love her writing style and the way she can really bring out the emotions in a story and evoke them in the reader. Grief plays a large role in the story. While this story centers on Sam and the torrent of emotions that she feels over her perceived role in Alex's death, however, allergies and a mental disorder are brought up, as is sex and drugs. There is mature content in the form of a small sex scene and some language.

This is a story that I can see myself reading again. It's a keeper.

A copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher.

Teen Peer Pressure
Guest Post by Janet Gurtler

Since I write about teen relationships, I explore them a lot in my head. Sometimes I take from my still rather vivid memories of being a teen, but often I read up on teen dynamics or talk to today’s teens. I’ve also been known to stalk teens on Facebook and twitter (purely for research and not as creepy as it sounds, I promise) Things have changed with all the technology kids have. Today’s teen years are both isolated with technology and overcrowded with technology.

The teen years are the time when we’re most ruled by peer pressure. Let’s face it; high school is a society within itself. Adults may govern it, but the actual world is flourishing with teen rules and pressures. What to wear, how to speak. Choices to make. And there is judgment. Most teens try to find a way to fit in, in one group or another. Even by rebelling and rejecting the most popular expectations is a way of fitting in with a different group.

I believe that individual personality and self-esteem play an important role in how much peers influence a teen. Some people are by nature, more invested in what others think of them. They want to conform, fit in, be popular, so the right things and say the right things. Others are more apt to flow with their own river, and not be so caught up in what they should do to fit in.

I don’t think that being a teenager is an easy job. For the first time teens are dealing with grownup issues and decisions. At the same time, they’re naturally separating themselves from their parents. The huge influence parents had on decisions when they were younger is fading. And so they turn to the most natural reflection of who they are-- their peers.

Adults function in a much more polite society than teenagers do. We are still faced with popularity contests and pressures about how to look and what to wear, but it’s not as socially acceptable to be as cutting about it. Teen peer pressure is much more daunting to face and to defy.

The other thing I believe plays a huge role in teens lives is family. Not as directly, but family dynamics past and present play a role in how kids function at high school level. As young children, we get a lot of our moral value system from our families and it’s these values that carry over and hopefully shape the way teens deal with the pressures that are out there.

In the books I write, teens are learning to function as individuals and to make their own decisions and figure out WHO THEY ARE. Their peers are a natural part of that equation. To me though, part of maturity and growth is also figuring out how to make your own choices and to learn to be true to yourself. I think I explore the teen’s relationship with others, but ultimately focus mainly on the teen’s relationship with herself! Or himself.

In Who I Kissed, Samantha is a pretty independent teen, yet she still seeks approval from her peer group. She’s the type of teen who feels like she doesn’t quite fit in, but she still tries. A little. Even as she rejects the swimmers who have always been her crowd, she is still influenced by them.

Sam’s journey is internal, but she also relies on her peer group to get through her tragedy. And the peer group is not always supportive.

Janet's Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter 
Janet's road to author was a little windy. While in college, she worked as a DJ in a night club. After college she worked as an advertising copywriter for radio and then TV and eventually was lured over to sales and marketing. She missed writing though and, years later, she started her first book. She has been writing books ever since.

Related Posts
Review: If I Tell by Janet Gurtler
Author Interview: Janet Gurtler

Review: Velveteen by Daniel Marks

by Daniel Marks

3.5 Stars: A Good Read
Hardback: 464 Pages
Publication: October 9, 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Author | GoodreadsAmazon | KindleB&N | Indiebound
Velveteen Monroe is dead. At 16, she was kidnapped and murdered by a madman named Bonesaw. But that’s not the problem.

The problem is she landed in purgatory. And while it’s not a fiery inferno, it’s certainly no heaven. It’s gray, ashen, and crumbling more and more by the day, and everyone has a job to do. Which doesn’t leave Velveteen much time to do anything about what’s really on her mind.


Velveteen aches to deliver the bloody punishment her killer deserves. And she’s figured out just how to do it. She’ll haunt him for the rest of his days.

It’ll be brutal... and awesome.

But crossing the divide between the living and the dead has devastating consequences. Velveteen’s obsessive haunting cracks the foundations of purgatory and jeopardizes her very soul. A risk she’s willing to take—except fate has just given her reason to stick around: an unreasonably hot and completely off-limits coworker.

Velveteen can’t help herself when it comes to breaking rules... or getting revenge. And she just might be angry enough to take everyone down with her.

For someone who's dead set on terrorizing her killer, Velveteen doesn't actually spend most of her time haunting Bonesaw. This took me by surprise. As the synopsis suggested that Velveteen was crazy enough to seriously take down everyone around her in her schemes to take down her killer, I was expecting a dark, spooky ghost story. Far from it. If you're looking for a story filled with the macabre, horror, and whatnot, this isn't the book for you.

Rather, this book is more like a drama. Down in Purgatory, everything is gray and toned-down, but it's like high school all over again; at least, the way dramas and movies often portray it. There is the stuckup Queen Bee with her loyal minions, there are the 'outcasts' who love to make fun of the Queen Bee, and there are the adults playing favorites, among others. There is also the holy Council of Elders that has been keeping many, many secrets from the rest of Purgatory. I cannot begin to fathom what is going up there, only that there is a revolution going on. Whether they're being misled or not is up in the air. Plotwise, there are far too many angles being tackled within the span of one book, even if it is almost 500 pages long. Again, there isn't enough focus on Bonesaw for what the synopsis suggests, then there is the revolution, the mystery of Nick's death and capture (potentially related to the mess going on), and Velveteen's work both in Purgatory and above. Not to mention some romantic developments.

Velveteen is a kickass, goth girl with a domineering side. She's a bit of a bitch and could easily be misunderstood, but her team is filled with a bunch of misfits as well. Most of her time is spent down in Purgatory or on missions with her workteam from Purgatory. My favorite supporting character definitely had to be Logan, followed by his twin sister Luisa. These two kiddos (stuck at age twelve after a car accident one fateful Halloween) are poltergeists and specialize in wrecking havoc above while the rest of the team scavenges the lost soul they've been sent to claim. Think a mafia kid boss, and you've got Logan down. His sister is like a little kid mother; despite her equally bad mouth, she is forever looking after Logan. She is also Velveteen's closest friend and confidant. I love how she keeps Velveteen in line. Don't underestimate her because of appearances; she's far older than Velveteen and is overflowing with woman's intuition.

As for Nick, Velveteen's latest scavenge and romantic interest, he's a douche. For lack of a better word or phrase. He's hot and he knows it, but he also freaks out like a little kid upon realizing that he's dead and doesn't listen to his saviors when they try to calm him down and explain what's going on. He isn't really bright in the head for all that he turns out to be a pretty nice guy. When he's around Velveteen, I get the image of a labrador puppy stuck in my head. Though she's a bitch and he knows it, he's still attracted to her and wants to be involved with her, though she tries to avoid him, knowing that they'll both get into big trouble if they're caught (since they're coworkers and shouldn't be involved in the first place).

All in all, I had a lot of fun reading this book for all the drama overload. I loved every scene involving the twins, and it was amusing seeing Velveteen fail to avoid Nick and start thinking about him. She uses an overabundance of hot words to describe him, though it's all physical and I still fail to see the attractiveness of his mental processes. The two of them are pretty dissimilar. For all that Logan is stuck in a twelve-year-old body, it would have made more sense to me if he and Velveteen started to develop an attraction. That's saying something considering that Nick is in the right age bracket for her.

A copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher.