Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bookanista Review: A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie

This week, it's my pleasure to introduce a book by a fellow English teacher, Matt Blackstone!  I was excited to read A SCARY SCENE IN A SCARY MOVIE, first, because the premise is totally intriguing and different, and secondly because I love reading books written by teachers.  Writers are observers by nature.  Put a writer in a classroom, and that person will have characters and story ideas that ring uniquely true.  This is definitely the case with Blackstone's OCD main character, Rene. 

From Goodreads:

Rene, an obsessive-compulsive fourteen year old, smells his hands and wears a Batman cape when he’s nervous. If he picks up a face-down coin, moves a muscle when the time adds up to thirteen (7:42 is bad luck because 7 + 4 + 2 = 13), or washes his body parts in the wrong order, Rene or someone close to him will break a bone, contract a deadly virus, and/or die a slow and painful death like someone in a scary scene in scary movie. Rene’s new and only friend tutors him in the art of playing it cool, but that’s not as easy as Gio makes it sound.

My Thoughts:

Rene is one of those characters who grabs at your heart (and sense of humor) from the very beginning and doesn't let go.  Navigating high school is hard enough as it is, but add to it Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an absent father, and a very tired mother, and you've got a situation that would be more than a challenge for anyone.  And Rene handles it the best way he knows how.  By wearing his cape to school, washing his hands obsessively, eating the same bowl of Lucky Charms every day, and keeping to all of his other routines that make him feel safe.  He's not shy about it.  He knows the ins and outs of his disorder and has a wry sense of humor about it.

And then things change, in a good way.  Gio is everything Rene wishes he could be: cool, calm, well-liked, friends with Mr. Head, the English teacher Rene admires.  Gio is also the thing Rene needs most: a friend.  When Gio befriends Rene, he also gives him strength and confidence enough to face the scariest scenes Rene comes up against, and that is my most favorite part of this story.  As unlikely as it seems, the friendship between Rene and Gio is real and touching.

If you've read any of my reviews, you know that character is the most important thing to me in a story.  Blackstone's characters are well-drawn, quirky, and sympathetic.  Definitely a pleasure to read.  If you haven't had a chance yet, be sure to pick up A SCARY SCENE IN A SCARY MOVIE.

You can find it here:



Barnes and Noble

You can also check out Matt's website here:

And finally, go see what the other Bookanistas are up to this week!

Or on their blogs:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bookanista Review: Where Things Come Back

This week it is truly my pleasure to bring you a review of WHERE THINGS COME BACK, by John Corey Whaley. a book that humbled me as a reader and a writer.  And one I have a feeling we'll all be hearing more about come award time. Yep. That's what I said.  This book will win awards, and they will be well-deserved.

From Goodreads:

Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .

In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.
While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.

Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It's about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.

My Thoughts:

Several months ago, when the Simon & Schuster Summer catalog came out, I circled the title of this book and dog-eared its page because it intrigued me.  When I found out I would be on a YA Debut Author Panel at ALA with John Corey Whaley, I made sure to get a copy so I could read it before I met him in person.  I started it on my way to New Orleans, and during my three hour flight I didn’t speak to another person on the plane, didn’t get up to use the restroom, didn’t even eat the free snack they offered me, because from the first page, I was a goner for this story.
I have to emphasize the word story here because there are writers, and then there are storytellers.  It’s hard for me to pin just what the difference is, but I can tell you this: John Corey Whaley is a true and talented storyteller--the kind that pulls you in with quietly spoken questions and truths that echo long after his story is finished.   
Cullen Witter is the voice of this story, and his is an earnest one, so real I felt like I must’ve known him in high school.  He’s sarcastic, but not overly so.  Filled with hope, and doubt, and searching.  Most of all, Cullen is searching.  Not only for his brother, but for meaning and second chances—in his small town, in his relationship with his family,  in the affections of a girl who breaks his heart.  He’s a character full of questions, with a humble sense of reverence for the answers.    
The thing I admire most about this book, though, is the way in which the different narrative threads weave their way together by the end of the story to create an ending so full of grace and wisdom I couldn't think of picking up another book for a very long time because I wanted to hang onto the feeling that Whaley left me with.  His story resonates.  I can't do it justice here.
Where Things Come Back is a book I know I’ll come back to.  It’s one I will give my friends and family as a gift, and today, it’s one I cannot speak highly enough about. When you read it, you’ll see what I mean.   

You can visit John Corey Whaley at his website.

And you can find his book at:
 Don't forget to check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week:

Elana Johnson revels in Ruby Red
LiLa Roecker  is nuts for I’m Not Her
Christine Fonseca  interviews picture book author Michelle McLean – with giveaway
Beth Revis reveals her reading recommendations
Veronica Rossi  raves about Wildfire
Shannon Whitney Messenger swoons for Supernaturally – with giveaway
Shelli Johannes-Wells features “guestanisto” author Matt Blackstone
Carolina Valdez Miller is bedazzled by Between – with giveaway
Shana Silver wonders at The Near Witch
Stasia Ward Kehoe celebrates Selling Hope

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bookanista Thursday: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

It's summertime, which means long days spent on the beach.  And after hours of soaking up the sun, there's nothing better than retiring to the shade of the backyard and the pages of a delicious book.  This past week, that book was Myra McEntire's HOURGLASS.

From Goodreads:

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant.

Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.

My Thoughts:
A science fiction fan I am not. Paranormal? Not usually. But something about HOURGLASS intrigued me and I'm so glad it did, because in it, Myra McEntire delivers a a fast-paced, sexy read with a firecracker of a main character.  And characters are what matter to me the most.

Emerson Cole is an awesome one. She's smart, feisty, brave, and real.  I loved her from the start and totally enjoyed following her through the twisty-turny plot.  I was rooting for her wholeheartedly, and she did not disappoint.

Neither did the boys in this book

Clearly, McEntire knows a thing or two about chemistry and swoon-worthy boys.  Between Michael and Kaleb, she pretty much covers everything I could ever be attracted to.  And she does it with style and humor.  Watching Emerson's reactions to and interactions with each of them was priceless and perfect. 

And then the plot. I found myself sucked in immediately by Emerson's ability and the mysteries surrounding it, and the search for answers kept me turning the pages--at quite a pace, I must add.

All in all, HOURGLASS is a fantastic summer read, guaranteed to grab you and leave you wanting more--which there will be, in the sequel!

Wanna check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week? Go see!

Elana Johnson celebrates A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie
LiLa Roecker adores Torn
Christine Fonseca is crazy about Cryer’s Cross – with giveaway
Beth Revis interviews Goddess Test author Aimee Carter – with giveaway
Carolina Valdez Miller delights in Texas Gothic AND Bad Taste in Boys – with giveaways
Shana Silver fawns over Forever
Jen Hayley is hot for Wildfire
Matt Blackstone savors Something Like Hope
Stasia Ward Kehoe jumps for Bumped
Veronica Rossi  devours Bad Taste in Boys


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Inspiring Pictures

Every Wednesday morning I sit down with my cup of coffee and check out one of my most favorite blogs YA Highway for one of my favorite features, Road Trip Wednesday:

"Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic."

Every week, I think "Wow, what a great question. I should totally answer that on my blog."  And then every week I spend a whole lot of time checking out everyone else's answers and end up forgetting to write my own.

But this week's topic is perfect. I'm deep in revisions on my second novel, which means I've been going back to all of the things that inspired me, many of which are pictures.  So this will be YA Highway's 86th Road Trip Wednesday and my 1st!

This Week's Topic:

Share some images that inspire your WIP(s). We've done this topic before, but it's been quite a while, and pictures are always fun.

This is a '67 Chevy Impala, which is what Honor, the main character drives. She does not, however, take the trip with Sam and Dean from Supernatural. They're just nice to look at.

Honor's favorite boots.   

The Blue Hole, Santa Rosa New Mexico, known to scuba divers for its crystal clear water.

Desert monsoon

The gorgeous red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.

This is me trying to capture in words on hotel a notepad just how beautiful it is there.  Gotta love research!

Dance floor at the Museum Club in Flagstaff. Best country bar ever. Also a fun place to conduct research.

Perseids meteor shower.

Sunset Toro Nagashi ceremony.

So there it is. A little peek into the next book.  Can't wait to give you the rest!