Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hanging with Daisy Whitney, author of THE MOCKINGBIRDS

I’m currently on my way to Columbus for World Fantasy Convention, but I so did not want to miss posting this today, so, you know, I’m working my magic at the moment.

Thus, this post is brought to you by Carol’s Patronus.

lady-gaga_Carol_Patronus I know it looks surprisingly like Lady Gaga. But I assure you it’s not. It’s actually a jackalope. With sunglasses on. It’s sunny out.

But why was this post so important that I had to conjure a patronus to bring it to you? Why, because it’s all about Daisy Whitney, author of THE MOCKINGBIRDS. Indeed, Daisy is worth a hundred conjured patronuses (Patroni?), although I’m betting her patronus is probably something way cooler. Like an elk that looks like Daniel Craig.


by Daisy Whitney


Goodreads description:

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.



Now, I had a little chat with Daisy. Here’s how it all went down….

Welcome to my blog, Daisy! So good to have you. I’ve spruced up the place just for you. What do you make of my new sculpture?

I had no idea you could do that with yogurt!

Now that’s giggle-worthy. You’re teasing, right? Who would make a sculpture out of yogurt?? It’s butter…

Okay, let’s get down to business. First, let’s talk a bit about your new book The Mockingbirds. What motivated you to set the story in a private high school versus college? What made you decide to create a peer-court for the story instead of a more official justice system for Alex?

I wanted to show that teenagers could create something to police and protect themselves and show the challenges and victories in such a system.

I LOVE books that encourage and inspire. And having read THE MOCKINGBIRDS, I know just how inspirational your book is—but I know it was inspired by another super book. Please tell us a little bit about how you came up with the title of THE MOCKINGBIRDS.

The book is inspired by Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which is the canonical story of justice and doing the right thing and that's what the secret society of the Mockingbirds strives to do as well.

Man, that’s a great book. I love how you worked it into THE MOCKINGBIRDS.

Now, moving on to a more personal question: Do you like to sit in the back seat of your car and be driven around by your husband so that you can say he’s driving Miss Daisy?

Given that the front seat of his car is the dog's seat, it all works out!

Oh, you are a good doggie mama! I don’t give up the front seat for anything! Now, to completely change the subject: does anyone ever get confused and call you Daffodil?

No, but they often call me Whitney as my first name!

Ha! People are so silly. Nobody ever calls me Miller as my first name.

Your profile indicates that you are a new media producer. I’m guessing this involves produce in some capacity? But I could be a bit off. Perhaps you could explain for our viewers what new media production entails?

It means I make content. Ha, so much clearer right? For my day job, I produce conferences, news reports, podcasts and such on the media business.

Wow, that has nothing at all to do with produce…but it sounds like such a cutting edge job.

I know you believe in shoes, chocolate chip cookies and karma, none of which are like reincarnation. But let’s pretend like they’re the same. Who do you wish you could be in your next life?

A shoe tryer-on for Christian Louboutin.

*Drools* That is officially my new dream job. As long as I get to keep the shoes.

Now, you don’t have to answer, but I feel obligated to ask this next question. If you were to go back in time, and live your life all over again, would you have chosen…to be named Daffodil?

No. I would have chosen to be named Time Ninja.

What do you hope that readers will take away from your book—and from you?

That taking a stand for yourself or your friends is cool!

Such a great message, Daisy!

Rapid Fire Round

Bacon and eggs OR waffles? Waffles

Loud cell phone talker or loud gum chewer? Gum Chewer

Drive-in or Cinema? Cinema

Chicago or New York? New York

Favorite Vlog brother? Love them both!

Halloween Costume? rock star with purple hair!

The name of your hypothetical/ real band? Cult of the Neon Santas

It’s clear Daisy is awesome. But check out this trailer of THE MOCKINGBIRDS to see just how amazing this book is!

Thank you so much for coming by my blog, Daisy! Best wishes for a successful launch of THE MOCKINGBIRDS!

THE MOCKINGBIRDS is now available for preorder and will be released November 2, 2010.


Be sure to check out what some of the other Bookanistas have in store for you today!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Vlog: OMG I’m Totally Normal…and Other Happenings at WFC

I bet you think I’m weird.

Well. Okay.

I’m jetting off to the World Fantasy Convention tomorrow.

In COLUMBUS, OHIO!! Yeah!! AWEsome!! That’s a whole state closer to NEW YORK!!!!

And by jetting, I actually mean carring.

And, you know, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to conferences and conventions. Mostly about how freaky they are. So. Yeah.


So, what do you think?


P.S. Part of the long drawn out section of my vlog that got cut out for being fifteen minutes too long listed all the people I was going to meet and see (again) and all the ways in which they make my life complete. So sorry I had to make that chop. But I am looking forward to seeing all of you. Seriously. We will rock Columbus and show them how cool nerdy can be.

And for those of you not going…I will try to imagine you with heads anyway.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Looking through The Marbury Lens

OMG, I have to discuss this one book, which left me staring at the final page for probably forever, just sitting there, blinking like a moron. I was like, DANG.

And how often does a book make you do that?

So. Yeah. THE MARBURY LENS…hurry up and read it so we can talk about it.

THE MARBURY LENS by Andrew Smith


Goodreads description: Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.

There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them.
Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind.
Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay.
But it’s not.
Andrew Smith has written his most beautiful and personal novel yet, as he explores the nightmarish outer limits of what trauma can do to our bodies and our minds.

My Review

Seriously? THE MARBURY LENS is a MAJOR mind trip from the beginning to the final word. I wasn’t sure if I was in a fantasy world or inside the mind of a crazy person. But that’s what makes this book so freakishly cool. I flew through this, thinking: OMG OMG OMG OMG….

And you know what makes this possible? Brilliant writing. You see, Jack is an unreliable narrator, and what he’s experiencing isn’t exactly normal. And unlike typical works of urban fantasy or magical realism, you can’t assume that the fantasy element actually exists. Jack’s kidnapping not only impacts Jack and the course of the whole story (as Jack discovers and navigates the hidden world of Marbury), but also colors the way that the reader views the story as it unfolds. We can’t be certain that the kidnapping hasn’t caused Jack to snap OR if the kidnapping wasn’t connected to later events in another way. We just don’t know. What makes it even harder to figure out is that the events that occur in Marbury seem to have an impact on Jack in the real world. I’d love to see how a filmmaker interprets THE MARBURY LENS. It felt like every scene could be taken two different ways. Every time Jack asks, Is this real? I found myself thinking, “OMG, I don’t know!” It’s just so trippy.

THE MARBURY  LENS is a work of delicious literary genius. The concept alone will have your head spinning—a story within a story within a story, all of them interconnected.  The characters are so real, so genuine. I felt so connected to Jack and Conner and Nickie. The prose was dynamic and rich. The dialogue was pure gold. Smith captured the voices of real teens as if he’d merely flipped on a tape recorder and transcribed—never once did his creations break character. And the imagery—stunningly vivid and original. And yeah, gruesome at times. The realistic settings are sharp and well-defined (Smith did an amazing job capturing the essence of England), while Marbury is just…I don’t know, this unbelievable, horrible place where the evils of its world are not hidden like they can be in ours; they are exposed in all their gruesome terror for all to see. THE MARBURY LENS  is dark and gritty, a no holds barred sort of book that doesn’t pussyfoot around, making something major into less—it doesn’t, for example, make a kidnapping of a child or murder seem any less horrifying than it is. It pushes the boundaries of YA—sort of paralleling the way older teens will push the boundaries of adolescence.

But, while THE MARBURY LENS is blunt and intense, and yes, dark, it’s not overly graphic—but more importantly, it’s quite profound. Jack’s story is more than just a venture into another world. It’s a journey of friendship and love, hope and healing.

But is Jack’s story(ies) real? I’m not telling. You’ll just have to read and find out.

THE MARBURY LENS is available for preorder and will be released November 9, 2010.


Be sure to stop by and check out what books some of the other Bookanistas are celebrating today!


Elana Johnson Tells Us About TORMENT


Christine Fonseca Moons Over MATCHED

Shannon Messenger Fangirls THE FAMILIARS

Shelli Johannes-Wells Marvels over Middle Grade

Kirsten Hubbard Woos Us with WITHER

Myra McEntire Beholds the British Special Edition of the TWILIGHT SAGA


Megan Miranda Swoons Over STOLEN

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pop Goes the Weasel, the Hibernating Bear and the Preggo

So, I’m really sucking at this hibernation thing.

But, you know what?



NGS5587 1673 

So, rule #1. I can totally post if I want to. I shall call it popping in. Sort of like a weasel.

Rule #2. I can pop out if I want to and stay out as long as I like. Sort of like Anne Riley’s belly button.

Rule #3. I can pop up around the Internets if things are getting exciting. Sort of like…well….

I’m sure you can think of things that pop up. I for one am tapped.

It comes from all that hibernating, see. Brain cells go a bit fuzzzzzzy.

[Eleven hours later EDIT: I got one! A jack-in-the-box!]

Anyway, I’m popping in for a moment because this is totally worthy. My friend Alex has published a book, see. And I want to tell you about it. Check it out. STAR WARS fans, prepare to drool.

CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh


Publication Date: October 19, 2010 Science fiction/adventure/space opera
ISBN 9780981621067 Dancing Lemur Press LLC

Description: To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…
Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockpit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin, the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron's tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive, and Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

Not convinced yet? Check out the trailer:

 Alex’s blog is located HERE

You can find CASSASTAR here:


Also available in eBook format for Kindle, iPad, Nook, and others


Doesn’t this looks significantly AWEsome? Oh yeah.

Dude. It’s totally wantable.


P.S. Do not let the title fool you. If you did not catch it from Rule #2, I am not baking a baby. Anne is. And I wish her the very best in this last month of it : D

P.P.S. Sara McClung is having another ARC contest!! Huzzah!

P.P.P.S. I like circular posts. Thus, I end with the GREAT HANDINI who clearly makes his own rules.

Okay. I’m done. Now…popping out.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

November is Beast

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be on hiatus. But it’s Bookanistas Thursday. How could I resist a chance to talk about books? Plus, this isn’t a REAL post. So. Yeah. I thought I would make it easy on myself and highlight November releases.*

So, prepare to get excited. These babies look amazing. I know, your TBR piles are forcing you to have to reinforce the foundations of your homes…you’ll be reading 2010 books until 2110…your spouse has threatened to freeze your credit cards in Antarctica and insert parental controls on any bookselling sites…et cetera, et cetera.

But I’m just giving you what you want, yeah?

TBR pile? What pile?

(Instead of the To Be Read pile, just think of it as The Bathroom Reading pile. It’s all good.)


(Click on book covers to go to the books’ Goodreads descriptions.)


by Daisy Whitney

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: November 2, 2010

(I have something fabulous planned for this baby. You’ll see.)




by Robin McKinley

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Publication Date: November 2, 2010




Other side of dark


by Sarah Smith

Publisher: Atheneum

Publication date: November 2, 2010






by Joanna Philbin

Publisher: Poppy

Publication Date: November 2, 2010






by Andrew Smith

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication Date: November 9, 2010




sweetness of salt


by Cecilia Galante

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Publishing Date: November 9, 2010






by Antony John

Publisher: Dial

Publication Date: November 11, 2010



Night Star Night Star

by Alyson Noël

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Publication Date: November 16, 2010





Blank confession


by Pete Hautman

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Publication Date: November 16, 2010




by Ally Condie

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Publication Date: November 30, 2010




Holy mother of gloriousness, don’t these look fantastic? And those are just a few of the fab books releasing in November….

Before you go, check out these fantastic first chapters which have been posted online.


XVI by Julia Karr

Publisher: Speak

Publishing Date: January 6, 2011

Go HERE to see the first chapter.




Across the Universe


by Beth Revis

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication date: January 11, 2011

Go HERE to see the first chapter.

Oh. My. Freaking Word. If these chapters don’t make you say, “WTF, Carol, WHY did you have me read these chapters three months before I can actually buy the books? I’m going back to read a second time, you evil biatch!” then my middle name is not M**** *e* ****r.

(Yeah, it’s such an awesome name, I’m totally withholding it from you. Like Rumpelstiltskin.)

There now. All done. Be sure to wipe the drool from your chin before anyone sees you staring at your computer. They’ll think you’re looking at something naughty.


Be sure to check out what some of the other Bookanistas have going on today:


Elana Johnson is spreading the word about XVI.

Lisa and Laura Roecker are head over heels for Half Upon a Time.

Christine Fonseca is celebrating Cinders.

Shannon Messenger is inspired by Selling Hope.

Shelli Johannes-Wells and Myra McEntire can't get enough of The Near Witch cover.

Megan Miranda is excited about Monsters of Men


P.S. Beast = Good. I’m so up on teen speak.

*By “easy,” I apparently meant harder. This post took longer to put together than most of my other reviews. Like, combined. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book Baby Hibernation

Not long ago, I discovered this sweet little tool called Stat Counter. It tells me all sorts of great stuff about my blog, like how many people are coming by, how often they come by, where they come from. That sort of thing. And the last few locations where my blog was accessed?

Delhi, Salt Lake City, New York, Bangalore, Brisbane, Copenhagen, Plano, Manila, Leduc….

So. Yeah. That’s awesome. And recently? I sent off two different prize packages to India and others to the Philippines and Canada. How totally cool is that? Because I feel connected. Like maybe the world is not such a large place. If someone from Slovakia or Malaysia is able to read my silly little blog, then maybe, just maybe our voices carry much farther than we think. While this is scary and overwhelming, it’s also an amazing thought. I begin to understand that blogging is not such a small thing. And neither are we as human beings.

So I’m glad I do this. Only a year ago, I started taking this blogging thing more seriously. Before that point, my blog had been private, just a way to connect with family while living overseas. But even when I went public, I don’t think I was really scared, you know? I thought, who wants to read some random blog anyway? And then M. Gray started following me one day, and I was like WTF? Who’s this person? (Hey, Mary! <3)  And then more and more people just started coming by, following me and stuff, giving me these awards, like what?! Really?! I’m nobody.

And after a year I’m still sort of thinking, WTF I’m nobody. Except, now I’m a nobody that knows a ton more people. Blogging has led me to meet critique partners and betas (check out my blogging CPs and betas in my sidebar). I’ve held contests, learned how to vlog without breaking down into a vomiting fit, and even had the opportunity to connect with some well respected authors. I’ve joined the Bookanistas, which has forced me to set my writing aside and read and review on a regular basis, but just as importantly, it has allowed me to connect with yet more amazing people. Blogging has been a fantastic experience.


Guess what?

I have begun a new WIP. And it’s freaking awesome. Like, so delicious that I can’t stop eating it all up. It is all I think about. I’m still at the stage where I talk about it with my husband like, “OMG, what about if I make them…” But I know it won’t be long before my ramblings turn into, “Ha! You should see what John just did to Jane. It’s ridiculous. Insane, I tell you.” Obsessive? Oh yeah. But  it’s just so damn sweet, I. Can’t. Stop. In part because I LOVE this story, but it’s also just how I operate. New WIP=Freakish obsession. In fact, I’m working frantically on this post in the middle of the night after finally forcing myself to stop take a short break from writing. And to be honest? I really sort of want to stop doing this right now and go back to my story. It’s not that I don’t love you, my dear bloggie friends. It’s just that I’m writing-OCD. And I’m seriously zonked.

light-to-write(This isn’t actually me. )

I can’t keep this up—blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, AND writing-obsessing, not unless I stop sleeping altogether. If I keep trying, I will lose my hair. And I can’t go bald, people. I have an alien-shaped skull. For real. So, time for a hiatus. A sort of hiatus. Like one where if I’m not posting or tweeting or responding to messages or commenting on blogs, you know I’m likely writing. BUT. If I do post or tweet or respond to messages or comment on blogs, you know I’m probably taking a sugar/peanut butter break or had something really important to say or maybe I’m simply trying to create a WTF-Looks-like-Nobody’s-back! moment.

Come on then. Chin up. Surely you understand. I know you’ll try really hard to keep on without me. *Sniff* *Hands you a tissue* It’s just…I need to get some sleep. I’m tired, yo. And my book baby is calling.

Commencing Book Baby Hibernation in





Later gator.




Tell me I’m not the only one who needs this right now.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tiny Knives and Cute Little Tails…Hail, NIGHTSHADE CITY!

It’s Bookanistas Thursday again. But, first, I’d like to congratulate fellow Bookanista Lisa Roecker on the birth of her new baby!!


lady_congratulations If it weren’t 2 AM, I’d probably have come up with a way better congratulations picture, one that showed a crowd of a million cheering and stomping their feet while singing, Halleluiah, and perhaps playing the world’s biggest drum.* Childbirth is far harder than this picture suggests—I assure you. This is what you do when someone leaves you the last piece of cheesecake. So, ignore this lame picture and go to the next one.

its a boy g3040_423x600

Yay! Congratulations Lisa and family!!!

Check out Laura’s announcement HERE, where you can see a picture of the new little guy. He’s so freaking adorable.

And while you’re at it, check out what some of the other Bookanistas are up to today.


Kirsten Hubbard gives props to Between Shades of Gray 

Shannon Messenger brings us Cover Love and a Teaser for Desires of the Dead 

Elana Johnson is a fan of HER AND ME AND YOU 

Lisa and Laura Roecker love XVI 

Christine Fonseca is enthralled by GIRL, STOLEN 

Shelli Johannes-Wells gives us a Paranormal Preview

Myra McEntire shares some Trailer Love 

Michelle Hodkin gives props LIKE MANDARIN

Jamie Harrington is awed by ACROSS THE UNIVERSE


Now, on to my review.

I could kick myself for not getting this review out last week to go along with my giveaway. Because it was such a fabulous read, and I wanted to get everyone all psyched about this book just before its release, and I went and ruined everything by being a poor planner stupidhead. Excuse me while I go verbally flog myself.


NIGHTSHADE CITY by Hilary Wagner

Nightshade City

Goodreads Description:

Deep beneath a modern metropolis lies the Catacombs, a kingdom of remarkable rats of superior intellect. Following the Bloody Coup, the once peaceful democracy has become a dictatorship, ruled by decadent High Minister Killdeer and his vicious henchman Billycan, a former lab rat with a fondness for butchery. Three young orphan rats--brothers Vincent and Victor and a clever female named Clover--join forces with Billycan's archenemy, Juniper, and his maverick band of rebel rats as they plot to overthrow their oppressors and create a new city--Nightshade City. This impossible-to-put-down fantasy explores timeless themes of freedom, forgiveness, the bonds of family, and the power of love.

The coolest thing about this book was that while you never forget that the characters are rats, you actually sort of do. See, I have never liked rats. Something about the tail, I think. And maybe the plague. But while I was reading NIGHTSHADE CITY, I found myself wanting to hold one in my hand and pet its cute little tail, and maybe ask it over for dinner so I could give him a tiny plate with a tiny wedge of cheese and maybe a tiny tankard filled with a tiny amount of ale. It would be great fun to have an intelligent conversation with a rat that had a tiny little knife tucked into his tiny little belt.

See, this is how incredible Wagner’s rats are. They feel so real to me, so human. Just…smaller…and ratty. But I don’t lump them all together in my mind. Each of the rats has very distinct personalities and markings so that you quickly come to understand who each of the characters are without having to have them named—this in itself makes them seem more human and relatable. And so, too, does the story itself humanize the rats, as the story deals with some very common, but significant human themes and topics: good versus evil, love, friendship, family, honor, revenge, greed, suffering, and freedom.

And what a remarkable story, too. Fast paced and compelling. I was so caught up in it, flying through the pages, needing to know what was happening next. This is what I mean when I say that you sort of forget they’re just rats—because you think of them in sympathetic terms. You want the hero to triumph and the villain to get what’s coming to him. And when you read about some misfortune that has befallen one of them (such as a human rat trap), you feel so awful—and kind of guilty by association. You can’t help but invest your emotions in it, to root for the poor, downtrodden rats being sorely abused by the oppressive regime ruling their city. Your heart might even go out to the lowly earth worm, which is so mistreated.

All around, it’s just a  great tale filled with tense moments, touching scenes, and some heart-thumping action. And did I mention there were some gruesome events in this? Totally creeptastic and awesome—just  a few scenes where you sort of go, ewwww, but you lean in and read just a hair faster anyway (kind of like when Peter Pettigrew slices his own hand in HP?), but it’s not scary, just whoa. And that ending? Duuuuuuude! Wagner is so tricksy. Trust me, the kids will love this, but I think if you like a heartwarming, heroic tale, you’ll enjoy it as well.

NIGHTSHADE CITY is now available.


*This drum is at Purdue University. Just sayin'. Find a million people, and we’ll make it happen. I’m game.**

**Don’t listen to me. It’s now 3 AM. I say insane things at 3 AM. I don’t actually expect you to find a million people in order to congratulate Lisa. Don’t worry.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Karma Bites…and Sometimes It Gives You Books

RE: Will She Ever Stop Giving Away ARCs Giveaway

The prizes are:

Nightshade Pegasus Nightshade CityJane Austens Best Friend The witches kitchen
ARC of NIGHTSHADE by Andrea Cremer
ARC of PEGASUS by Robin McKinley
Hard Cover NIGHTSHADE CITY by Hilary Wagner
ARC of THE WITCHES’ KITCHEN by Allen Williams
And the winners are:
1. AMT
2. Shannon O’Donnell
3. Bookish in a Box
4. Hanna
5. Riv Re
Congratulations! Please email me a list with your prize preferences (with the book you want most at #1) and an address where I can ship your book! Big thank you to all who entered!! I appreciate every one of you. I will have another giveaway soon. Promise! I’ve got some really great prizes lined up.
I know I normally review books on Thursdays, and it’s only Wednesday. But you just never know when the next Thursday will roll around, so I want to point you in the direction of a book I read recently that I think you might enjoy.


by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

Karma Bites

Goodreads description: Life seems to have it in for Franny Flanders.

Her best friends aren’t speaking, her parents just divorced, and her hippie grandmother has moved in. The only karma Franny’s got is bad karma.

Then Franny gets her hands on a box of magic recipes that could fix all of her problems. It could even change the world! Finally, life is looking up.

But Franny is about to learn that magic and karma aren’t to be played with. When you mess with the universe, it can bite back in unexpected ways.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a middle grade book, but there was something about this premise that really got my attention (karma…magic recipes…hippie grandmother—love it).  And I’m so glad I read it. What a fun story. Franny is such an amazing character—freaking hilarious, for starters. She’s full of spunk and ridiculous energy, but she’s also insecure and freaks out like any good tween would do. This girl is the very definition of what it is to be twelve years old, and KARMA BITES defines middle school—the cliques, the unwritten rules, and the consequences of breaking them.

Oh my word, middle school sucks. And KARMA BITES illustrates just how badly, but in such a comical way. We see the hardships of middle school BFFery, the heartbreak of tween loooooove, the suck-arse nature of having to deal with crabby middle school teachers and the principal everybody loves to hate, and the horrors of cafeteria food. There are also the mean girls. Of course. Because it’s just not middle school without the mean girls whose heads you wish karma would just bite right off. And Franny? So adorable. I wanted to pinch her cheeks just to make her eyes roll. So. Pre. Teen.

Oh. And did I mention magic? Because there is plenty of it. At first, it’s like a freaking miracle for all the awesomeness it brings into her life . But it just would not be middle school if something as cool as magic didn’t go completely screwy. But this is really where the book makes you fly through it. Cracked me up, this girl, all her shenanigans (and believe me, I don’t use a word like shenanigans lightly). She’s like an updated, twelve-year old Lucille Ball, but if you have a heart AT ALL and a memory of being twelve, then you will cringe and probably get a little heartburn because OMG, I remember feeling EXACTLY as she feels in this. Oh the drama, the heartbreak, the SHUT-UP-THAT-DID-NOT-JUST-HAPPEN moments that make you want to dig a hole and crawl into it. I totally could’ve been Franny (if I’d had red hair, a little more spunk, and way more nerve).

KARMA BITES is such a funny read, but it has heart, too. And you will never see monks in the same way again. Seriously.

P.S. I know I aimed this review at adults, but it’s only because I don’t have a lot of ten-twelve year olds following my blog. BUT. I think tweens (and probably a few years younger/older) would enjoy KARMA BITES as well.

P.P.S. KARMA BITES is now available.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Urban Fantasy is Hot…But Why?

Heroes Found at

You know, I didn’t set out to write urban fantasy or paranormal romance. It’s just sort of what happens when I start writing. A story starts out all realistic and stuff, and then BAM! Magic.

God, I love that.  But have you stopped to wonder why urban fantasy and paranormals are so hot right now? I have my own theories, of course, but I was a bit uncertain. And then I went to a book signing for Susan Mallery (months ago). I’d never read one of her books before, but I recognized the name, and why not go, right? She’s well respected, and I knew I could learn from her. But a strange thing happened near the end when she opened up the floor to questions: somehow the entire conversation kept circling back to the popularity of urban fantasy and paranormal. Now, I should have prefaced this by telling you that Susan Mallery writes totally realistic romance, and according to her, she has no desire to write fantasy. So, WTF? Why did people keep asking her about it? Leave the woman alone, people.

Okay, it’s sort of my fault.

Because I asked if she thought it would be worthwhile to join RWA even though I wrote YA. She was very kind and asked me what kind of YA, and I responded: urban fantasy and paranormal romance. And then, holy crap, it’s like a freaking tornado blew in—people just couldn’t stop themselves from talking about UF and PR in this spasmodic firing of question and comments about how much they were drawn to it.

Susan was very gracious and handled it very well.  To appease her audience, she gave her thoughts on why UF was so hot right now. Her theory was that 9/11 changed everything. Nobody believes in real living, breathing heroes any more. Because real heroes, like firefighters and police officers are clearly just as vulnerable as the rest of us. Now I’m paraphrasing, hoping I didn’t just butcher her thoughtful answer, morphing it with mine. Because this is a conclusion similar to what I also came up with, though I think it’s not just about 9/11, but rather predates it. I think perhaps we just want the invincible hero. Think about it. Edward Cullen cannot die. He can run into a fiery, crumbling building and save you (before you ever realize the building’s on fire) and totally sparkle while doing it.

Is it true? Do we want invulnerable heroes? Angels that fall to Earth and fall in love with us and demons that can be changed for the love of us?

Many of us read to escape this world that really sucks sometimes. And what better way to escape than to read about a world—this world—in which magic really happens. Where abused little boys discover that they’re actually powerful wizards who are loved by people he’s never met. Imagine if Hagrid had showed up at Anne Frank’s door? Or if Heathcliff had actually lived for a hundred years, sparkling and vegging it out with deer blood before he met Cathy? Maybe he would’ve been a little less emo.


The thing is, we still want to believe in heroes. But I think we’re struggling to believe that they really exist among the average Joe Schmo. Because the average Joe Schmo just lost a home to the bank. The average Joe Schmo was just held up at gunpoint at the 7-Eleven or got fired after twenty years of service or got sent to Iraq and lost an arm in a land mine. But Joe Fantasy? Now there’s a guy who will never lose his house. In fact, he’d mind control the crap out of the banker who tried to take yours.

So, is UF and paranormal here to stay? I think to some degree, it’s always been here. The fairy tale goes way back.  And the Brother’s Grimm weren’t exactly the pioneers of the weird and magical either. Greek mythology? Oh yeah. Totally urban fantasy (or paranormal, depending on the story). Contemporary fiction is still quite popular, but I think as long as people want to believe in a magical way out of desperate situations, UF and paranormals will remain. Right now, things feel a little desperate. The economy is crap, homes have lost their value, people are losing jobs left and right, terrorism is real, gang violence multiplies, drugs, guns, knives, bigotry, suicide, politicians…where does the madness end?

I don’t know that it does.

So, no, I don’t think UF/paranormal (or Sci-fi/Fantasy) will ever go away. It might change and it might lessen some in popularity, but I think no matter what, we will never stop wanting to believe in magic.

But, no more sparkly vampires. Okay? And while we’re having this discussion, please don’t create werewolves that vomit rainbows.