Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gift by Andrea J. Buchanan - Not An Ordinary Ghost Story

I am so excited to be talking about Andrea J. Buchanan's GIFT, a special enhanced ebook (And be sure to scroll down for a fab interview with Andrea Buchanan)

Release Date: 3/27/2012

Basic Blurb: (from Amazon)

High school sophomore Daisy Jones is just trying to get by unnoticed. It doesn’t help that she’s the new girl at school, lives in a trailer park, and doesn’t even own a cell phone. But there’s a good reason for all that: Daisy has a secret, unpredictable power—one only her best friend, Danielle, knows about.
Despite her “gift” (or is it a curse?), Daisy’s doing a good job of fitting in—and a cute senior named Kevin even seems interested in her! But when Daisy tries to help Vivi, a mysterious classmate in a crisis, she soon discovers that her new friend has a secret of her own. Now Daisy and her friends must deal with chilling dreams and messages from the beyond. Can Daisy channel the power she’s always tried to hide—before it’s too late?
Extra features include:
•   A short graphic novel illustrated by Alexis Seabrook, telling Vivi’s story
•   Danielle’s journal, revealing her deepest thoughts
Why I liked it: 
I was excited to read this book from the minute I heard that it was an enhanced ebook. In fact, the enhancements intrigued me so much, that I bought the book after I read the arc, just to check it out and experience the book for myself. And man, that was the right choice. The story is fab without the enhancements, yes - but the extras really makes this something to EXPERIENCE. Just watch the trailer and image what it would be like to experience some of the hauntings as you read the story. EPIC, I'll tell you...
truly EPIC.

To find out more about GIFT and the Andrea J Buchanan - just check out her interview: 

About the Book:
  • Give me the blurb for the book in 140 characters or less: Four friends must work together to untangle a ghostly mystery. Can Daisy channel the power she’s always tried to hide—before it’s too late? 

  • Why an enhanced ebook?    Reading on an iPad brought to fruition my childhood dream to be able to read in bed, in the dark, without a flashlight -- but more than that, it brought the realization that I was reading books on a platform that was not just a book reader, but also a video player, a music maker, a gaming device. I was just beginning to work on a ghost story about a high school student and her friend who have the same dream when I thought: How cool would it be to read a spooky story on a tablet or e-reader capable of sounds and art and special effects like that?
  • What was the hardest part of doing the enhanced ebook?  Waiting for technology to catch up with my ideas! 
About the Author:
  • What inspires you?  Everyday life. But also: still moments, silent places.
  • What drew you to your story, "Gift"?    A very long time ago, a friend and I had the same dream. Although nothing more came of it (we didn't, for instance, have to battle an evil ghost or anything), I always thought it would be fun to explore the "what if"s of a premise like that in a story.
  • Who is your writing hero? Oh, that's a tough one! I have so many! I learn so much from each book I read, good or bad, that I feel like each and every one of them is a kind of teacher.
  • Randomness:
o   Sweet or salty? Salty!
o   Beach or mountains? Mountains (although I love a deserted beach on a cloudy day)
o   Online or in person? Online!
o   Ebook or print? BOTH!

 About the Future:
  • What’s next for you?   I have a lot of things in process at the moment, and right now I'm not sure exactly which one of them will become the thing I do next. But whatever it is, I'm really excited to explore the possibilities at the intersection of reading and technology.
  • One outrageous goal for the future?   This may sound boring, but I try not to look too far ahead -- there's so much that's amazing right here and now, all around us, and I don't want to miss a minute of it! .
 Isn't she great? I think so! Do yourself a favor and check out GIFT and the future of enhanced ebooks! Add it to your Goodreads TBR list today. Or better yet, buy it here on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

What have you read lately?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King

When we first meet Vera, she's lost her best friend, Charlie - twice. Once, to the tragic drama that is high school, and the sad politics of social status. Then, again, to death.

Vera's story jumps back and forth through time, sometimes including POVs that you would never expect, like her dad's, Charlie's, and even the wise old Pagoda that sits on the hill above the town where she lives.

It is a lonely, sad, but ultimately uplifting tale of one girl's struggle to find herself, and to stand up for truth in the face of grief. This is the last of A.S. King's books I read, and so far, my favorite.

Let me explain what I mean. I do not mean that it is somehow better than the others. If you read the un-reviews I wrote for Everybody Sees the Ants, and The Dust of 100 Dogs, you know I really loved those books, but this one, and Vera's tale, touched me in a way that only great books can. Having experienced loss in my life similar to Vera's, and also really being able to relate to Vera's father's situation, this book moved me deeply. It really was a unique reading experience for me, because normally in YA novels, parents and children are at odds, and Vera and her dad certainly have their disagreements, but being able to relate to, and sympathize with, them both, made for quite a powerful read.

Anyway, I could go on, but here is the blurb:

Michael L. Printz Honor Book 2011, A Junior Library Guild selection for Fall 2010, An Edgar Allen Poe Award nominee, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, Indie Next List Pick for Teens, Kirkus Reviews Best Books for Teens 2010, Cooperative Children's Book Center's CCBC Choices 2011. . .

Eighteen-year-old Vera's spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she's kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, or even the police. But will she emerge and clear his name? Does she even want to?

An edgy, gripping story, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.

So that's it. If you're like me, and you like extremely human characters whose lives are not perfect, you will really enjoy this book. I highly recommend you give it a shot.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Dust of 100 Dogs, by A.S. King

This book is so awesome! So much fun. There are some hard moments, but mostly it's very smart, very clever, and lots of fun to read.

The trouble is, it's almost impossible to describe, without giving everything away. Here's the blurb:

In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with "the dust of one hundred dogs," dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body-with her memories intact.

Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.

However, that really doesn't do it justice. Reincarnation, piracy, jewels, escape, defiance, canine psychology, true love, devotion, patois, roots, rock, reggae ... I could go on. There are a hundred amazing things that make this book great, but with the interwoven plot lines, and the vast stretch of history that is covered, it's difficult to talk about what happens, or why you should love it.

I suppose I can only say this: sometimes it's a bit tough to keep track of where our character, Emer/Saffron/100 Dogs is at, but never once does she leave you bored, or uninspired. She endures such harsh cruelty, and such apathy, that you can easily imagine her giving up countless times, but she has this determination, this knowledge of self, and the greatness of courage, that she simply cannot give up, and does whatever it takes, throughout the centuries, to achieve her goals. I rooted for our multifaceted protagonist every step of the way, even when she was being slightly, albeit gloriously, evil.

Monday, March 5, 2012

THE PRICKER BOY by Reade Scott Whinnem


He was human once, or so they say. The son of a fur trapper, he was taunted by his peers and tricked into one of his own father's traps. By the time anybody found it, the trap's vicious teeth were empty, pried open and overgrown. It was said the brambles themselves had reached out and taken pity on that boy; that his skin had hardened to bark as thorns grew over every inch of his body.

Maybe it's true and maybe it isn't. But anyone who knows anything stays out of the woods beyond the Widow's Stone.

That used to be enough. But this is the summer everything changes, as Stucks Cumberland and his friends find a mysterious package containing mementos of their childhood: baseball cards, a worn paperback, a locket. Offerings left in the woods years ago, meant to keep the Pricker Boy at bay. Offerings that have been rejected.


So basically, I am terrible, and I have a very long queue of books I need to review at Afterglow! But THE PRICKER BOY is the kind of book where you just have to climb to the rooftops and shout about how good it is. Oh. My. Goodness. Y'all. I can't even tell you how much I enjoyed this. I am an insatiable horror fan, and I have a particular interest in the rich tradition behind scary campfire stories, so as soon as I read the blurb, I pounced.

I grew up in New England, so I know this setting well: the protagonist, Stucks, lives in the Northeast, in a community that's the perfect vacation spot in the summer and a cold, unforgiving place in the winter. Most of his friends, except for his best friend Pete, are only there for the warm weather, and as the story begins, they are just old enough that they're beginning to outgrow the monsters in the woods. And the way those monsters draw them back in is deliciously creepy. There's something so psychologically terrifying about the dark forest, and Whinnem taps into those primal fears effortlessly. There were a few times when I had to look over my shoulder, just to make sure there was nothing lurking there!

But the character interplay was the reason the book exceeded my expectations. Like all the best horror stories, Whinnem juxtaposes the supernatural with horrors that are all too real: is the Pricker Boy stalking the group, or are the cracks in their friendship just beginning to take shape? Stucks is a wonderfully unreliable narrator, and the way the group dynamic develops packs a huge emotional punch. There's a revelation about three quarters of the way through that made me gasp.

All that, and it's incredibly well-written, too.

So what are you waiting for? Go read it! Read it noooow!