Tuesday, August 30, 2011

REVIEW: Saltwater Vampires by Kirsty Eagar + GIVEAWAY

Saltwater Vampires
by Kirsty Eagar (website)
Released on 08.30.2010
372 pages
Penguin Books Australia
Nominations: Shortlisted for the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards - Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature
Source: author, who did not require a review, but I liked it so I gave it one anyway :)

He looked to the sky, praying for rain, a downpour, some sign from the heavens that he should refuse the abomination contained in that flask. But all he saw was the bloated white face of the moon smiling down on him …

And the sky around it was cold and clear and black …

They made their circle of blood. And only the moon witnessed the slaughter that followed.

For Jamie Mackie, summer holidays in the coastal town of Rocky Head mean surfing, making money, and good times at the local music festival. But this year, vampires are on the festival’s line-up … fulfilling a pact made on the wreck of the Batavia, four hundred years ago. If their plans succeed, nobody in Rocky Head will survive to see out the new year.

Page-turning and suspenseful, Saltwater Vampires is a distinctly Australian vampire thriller.

REVIEW: If you look for your vamp lit with accessible supes, the kind who can be redeemed with luuurve and are actually misunderstood creatures, you got the wrong book here.  Kirsty Eagar's vamps are made of equal parts evil ambition and diabolical craftiness.  

That's not to say there isn't redemption.  But it's not where you think it would be in a paranormal tale, nor is it received with everything folded up neat and even.  No, this is a tale of choice and consequence, of truth and action, with an actual historical incident as its foundation and group of friends as its heart.  There are three plots to the story that are woven together:

  • four rouge vampires who made a pact 400 years ago are planning a new, evil event
  • a vampire apprentice from a society in Holland races against time to find the four, but for what reasons?
  • a once-upon-a-time group of friends, still connected but splintered and strained, comes together to save two of their own
The first two are marvelously intertwined - I had the same feeling reading it as I did The DaVinci Code with its historical emphasis blooming into modern mystery.  The supernatural factor, the demand for secrecy,  and the very nerve-wracking feeling that every person is most sincerely out for only personal gain added a true level of creepy suspense - when the synopsis says thriller, it means it.  That's not to say that we don't see evil portrayed in other YA; it's simply that in this book there is a level of detached sophistication in certain characters which makes their actions entirely believable and extremely cold-blooded.  I more than once thought that this is a book that adults, particularly ones who enjoy thrillers, would find intriguing, as well.

Which is why I was delighted to find the story of 15-year old Jamie and his friends to be not only seamlessly ingrained around the vampiric past and present, but also provided an emotional core not always present in thrillers.  Usually, we find the suspense in thrillers to mimic the emotion we would otherwise miss, but here we have a former group of friends whose ties have been skewered through various means, but must make their way around their own past to be a united front in the present.  And they are a wonderful, entirely believable group of friends - their affection for each other is authentic, as are the hurt feelings that keep them apart.  They each are wonderfully written characters, and we get to know them, their flaws, desires, bravery and fears in great detail.  The interaction between them is natural and tangible, whether it's filled with anger or affection.  They have a lot to deal with, particularly as a tragedy that really tour them from each other is recent and very much present.  And here is something I particularly love about Eagar's writing: she really lets her characters feel the full weight of actions rendered and choices made.  There is no easy peace here, no neatly tied up resolution; what's given are the decisions one can live with, and the consequences a person has to live through.  This just as easily could have been a book without the supernatural element and been about friends falling apart and coming together again.  The tying in of historical fact and mythical evil does not diminish this aspect of the book, but makes Saltwater Vampires a unique, noteworthy and very welcome addition to YA paranormal.

For more on the historical facts behind the wreck of the Batavia, go here.

Also be sure to check out Missie at The Unread Reader's review of Saltwater Vampires, also posted today!  She is also giving away a SIGNED copy (my giveaway is for an unsigned copy :)  Kirsty Eagar's books are only available for purchase in Australia, so don't miss your chance to enter any of the great giveaways this week!


"He broke into a slow smile, then laughed, thinking it was crazy and that's exactly why they should do it.  Don't die wondering, right?"
-page 187

"It was something they'd done a thousand times before.  If Jamie went surfing with a mate and paddled in first, he always took time for that final wave.  And there was something so familiar in the ritual that for a moment he felt like everything was right.

He felt forgiven."
-page 188

"Vampire Die Hard.  Yippee-ki-yay, bloodsucker!"
-page 215

"They stared at each other for a long time.  The rest of the world had gone somewhere else and everything that needed to be said was being said without talking.  And Jamie knew how much he'd lost."
-page 298


This is for an unsigned copy of Saltwater Vampires by Kirsty Eagar.  Open to U.S. & Canadian mailing addresses.

To enter fill out this form.

Points are as follows:

  • 1 point for entering
  • 2 points for leaving a comment
  • 3 points for tweeting (must leave direct link)
  • 4 points for posting a Kirsty Eagar Appreciation Week button (see below) -OR- placing 'The Case for Carly' button on your blog (see right side bar).
The deadline for entering is Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 at Noon, E.S.T.  Winner will be picked via random.org and announced on Thursday, September 8th, 2011.  Good luck!

For more reviews on Saltwater Vampires, please visit its GoodReads page.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

EPIC ANNOUNCEMENT: Kirsty Eagar Appreciation Week!

In case you haven't had the chance, do wonder over to the fantastic book blog IRRESISTIBLE READS, run by the amazing Nic!

Yes, that's right, we are gearing up for a fantastic week starting Monday, August 29, full of Kirsty Eagar goodness and Aussie YA Awesomeness in general.   There will be GIVEAWAYS of both Raw Blue and Saltwater Vampires, so please be sure to look at Nic's blog for details!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In My Mailbox (23)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme started by The Story Siren with inspiration from Pop Culture Junkie.

This is a great event where we share all the great books we've picked up to read for the week! Please join us in getting to know one another and sharing great reads!  Here's what I got this week . . .

by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Courtesy of Banned Booked Tours (thanks Jen!)

Willa is lucky: She has a loving blended family that gets along. Not all families are so fortunate. But when a bloody crime takes place hundreds of miles away, it has an explosive effect on Willa’s peaceful life. The estranged father she hardly remembers has murdered his new wife and children, and is headed east toward Willa and her mother.

Under police protection, Willa discovers that her mother has harbored secrets that are threatening to boil over. Has everything Willa believed about herself been a lie? As Willa sets out to untangle the mysteries of her past, she keeps her own secret—one that has the potential to tear her family apart (from GoodReads).

ALSO, I got these three lovelies in the mailbox this week!  Behold. . . . 

 Yes, indeedy, those ARE two brand spanking new copies of Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar and a copy of her other fabulous book, Saltwater Vampires.  You who know how much I adore Raw Blue may also know that I previously purchased copies from Australia to be sent out on tour.  One of these new books is courtesy of a tour participant who wanted to keep her copy.  I am contemplating sending it out on a second U.S. tour or on a U.K. one. 

Or I may just give it away :) 

The other books are for the very-soon-to-be-happening Kirsty Eagar Appreciation Week hosted by myself and the fabulous Nic at Irresistible Reads!  Yes, siree, they are for GIVEAWAYS!

Oh, did I mentioned that they are SIGNED?

HUGE thanks to Kirsty Eagar and Nic for going to the trouble to get theses beauties on U.S. soil!  Stay tuned for details on Kirsty Eagar Appreciation Week!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WINNER ANNOUNCED: Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mylnowski

Sorry I am a little late on this one!  I had to chase a few people down who looked like they gave answers but didn't leave emails, and I wanted to confirm if their entries.

ANYWHO, I had 13 entries total, and the lucky winner was entrant number 17!

And lucky number 7 is MISSIE from THE UNREAD READER!!!

Congrats, Missie!  I'll be contacting you shortly!  Thanks to everyone who entered - I LOVED reading the responses!  Here was Missie's:

"As for me, it's amazing I'm still alive with all the crap I used to do but probably shouldn't have. Like sneak off to party in Mexico when I was in high school."

Wow.  Damn, girl, I'll toast margaritas with you any old time ;)  Maybe we need to get a little blogger retreat together for the 21+ crowd, eh? 

If you still want a chance to win a copy of Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mylnowski, click the banner below.  The tour is still going on, and every stop should be hosting a giveaway!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

'This or That' with Kelly from "Clean" by Amy Reed

KELLY, one of the main characters in CLEAN by Amy Reed, is in rehab to her alcoholism and cocaine addiction. She’s  a party girl and used to getting attention from boys, but there’s a lot more under the surface that she never lets anyone see.

Beach or Mountains? Beach. Anything where I get to where a bikini and get a tan.

Rain or Snow? Neither! Believe me, I get enough rain living in Seattle. If I had to choose, I guess I’d say snow because at least it’s a little less depressing.

Brownie Sundae or Creme Brulee?
 Crème Brulee. It sounds fancier.

Creme Brulee is amazing, Kelly.  I'll buy you a plate once you complete rehab - promise.

Sunlight or Moonlight? 
Sunlight. I like day better than night. It seems safer somehow. I can see things more clearly.

Audrey or Marilyn? Marilyn. She was misunderstood, you know? Everyone thought she was just this slutty bimbo, but she was actually really smart and read a lot of books. Except no one wanted to see her that way so she just kept pretending she was dumb to make them happy. That’s what killed her. That’s why she was an addict. Because the real her was trapped behind all that beauty.

"The truth is I've never fooled anyone. I've let people fool themselves. They didn't bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me. I wouldn't argue with them. They were obviously loving somebody I wasn't. When they found this out, they would blame me for disillusioning them and fooling them."
-from On Being Blonde : Wit and Wisdom from the World's Most Infamous Blondes (2004) by Paula Munier

Pride and Prejudice: Hollywood or the BBC version? Neither. I hate all those old-fashioned stories with the uptight women who are always fainting and secretly lusting after some guy they can’t have. That’s one of those books, right?  ***me to Kelly*** No ma'am!  Eliza B. got her man!  And the respect - no fainting my girl in P&P!

Beatles or the Stones? Beatles. They had prettier songs.

Color or B&W? Color. The brighter, the better.

Fiction or Nonfiction? Fiction. I like to get lost when I read, get taken away to somewhere new. Why would I want to be reminded of reality?

Character or Plot? Character. If I don’t care about someone, what’s the point in reading about them?

Superhero Powers: the ability to turn back time or to see the future? Turn back time. No question about it. God, there are so many things I wish I could do over.

The Past: Regretful Mistakes or Lessons Learned? I would have said Regretful Mistakes if you asked me any time before. But now, I don’t know, I think I’m starting to think about things a little differently, maybe not beat myself up so much about things. So I’ll say I’d like to think about the past as Lessons Learned—maybe I’m not there just yet, but I hope to be someday.

Friday, August 5, 2011

REVIEW: Clean by Amy Reed

by Amy Reed (website)
Released: 07.19.2011
288 pages
Publisher: SimonPulse (website)
Awards & Acknowledgements: 2011 Junior Library Guild Selection
Source: S&S Galley Grab - part of book blog tour organized by the {Teen} Book Scene

You’re probably wondering how I ended up here. I’m still wondering the same thing.

Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have one thing in common: They're addicts. Addicts who have hit rock bottom and been stuck together in rehab to face their problems, face sobriety, and face themselves. None of them wants to be there. None of them wants to confront the truths about their pasts. And they certainly don’t want to share their darkest secrets and most desperate fears with a room of strangers. But they'll all have to deal with themselves and one another if they want to learn how to live.

Because when you get that high, there's nowhere to go but down, down, down.(from GoodReads).

REVIEW: Let's start with introductions, shall we?  After all, there are five stories to keep track of in this one, so one must keep sharp.  Behold:

Kelly: she's the "every girl" here. She's the one we're a hop, skip, and a blown line away from becoming.  If you think it's not possible to fall down the slippery slope of drug addiction, her story of unfortunate circumstances, naive curiosity, mean men and low self-esteem might get you thinking twice.

Jason: the classic, sarcastic teenage, male asshole.  The "I-don't-give-a-f%@$" guy who who is anything but.  He is a true product of his environment, but IMO (and to hell with being humble), a shot between the eyes is too good for his father.

Eva: oh, my darling girl, I love your soul.  You can't bear to face your own pain so badly that you have to make yourself a character in your own truth.  You are my modern-day Anne of Green Gables with your lyrical words, the 'what-if' Anne who would have buried the very best parts of herself had she not found the grace-filled love of Matthew and Marilla.

Christopher: I love your soul, too, kid.  Christopher wouldn't hurt a breath on this earth, but he doesn't know jack about protecting and loving himself.  Dare I say your mother's aversion to reality and her own addiction aided yours?  Seriously, dude, it gets better. Trust in it.

Olivia:  Straight up, honey.  Your mother traded her soul a long time ago.  Don't let her black hole existence suck yours down, too.  Olivia is the classic perfectionist who is wasting her life away in pursuit of it.

Here's the thing I really liked about Clean: none of the characters were overtly stereotypical.  Yes, in the beginning, it felt like maybe there would be some, but it's as if their common ground as addicts leveled the traditional differences.  There wasn't an obvious girly-girl or jock to me - these kids just were.  And just 'being' instead of making them be 'this or that' helped make them be very believable.  The five different stories are well-woven together, without suffocating each other for space.  Kelly and Christopher take the lead most of the time and offer up the main narratives and introspection, but you get plenty of first-hand accounts from all through rehab-assigned essays and group therapy sessions.  I actually think the the latter two were my favorite parts of the book as you learned more about all of them through these.

Here's the thing I didn't care for as much: with there being five characters, I got emotional at times, but I never fully became emotionally attached to any one character.  Well, maybe Olivia and Jason a little bit, but that's only because I want to bury their respective mother and father. Alive.  Let the bastards suffocate in their own evil, I say, but hey, that's just me.

I digress.  Forgive me.  Involuntary reaction towards negligent and abusive parents.  You understand, I'm sure.

Anyway, my point is that I would have liked the book to get a bit deeper.  I can't quite explain it, but since I was worried about everyone, I had difficulty allowing the book to really sink its hooks into me.  Some of the stores are truly harrowing, and you really do mourn for them given some of the homes they came from, but since the revelations came in quick paragraphs and then moved onto the next character, I never felt fully immersed in any one character's personal story.  You get involved in Clean, but you don't get owned.

In the end, Clean is a good book about the different stories behind and reasons that can lead to addiction.  It's so easy to find your path slipping down that slope, and this is a tale of not only clawing your way back to sobriety, but also of facing who the real you as someone worthy of love and life.

"But it's one missed step / One slip before you know it / And there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed"
-Sarah McLachlan, "Fallen" 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Five Questions with Sarah Mylnowski, Author of "Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have)" + GIVEAWAY!

Hehe, I L-O-V-E author interviews!  Especially with authors like Sarah MylnowskiI mean, my my, when you got a title like Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have), I kind of figure everything is on the table in terms of questions!  Hehe, c'mon, admit it!  Once you read the title, you start going down a mental list of your naughtiness, don't cha **nudgenudge - winkwink**?  Don't believe me?  Check out this synopsis:

by Sarah Mylnowski

2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have. 

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them. 

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn't-have-done at a time.

I am in major swoonage over the title, the cover and the description!  So, of course, I jumped at the chance to ask the author a few questions!  Without further ado, here's Ms. Mylnowski with the goods:

1) Tell me three things you did (and probably shouldn't have) back in the day? 
  1. Snuck out to a bar with my friends when I was fifteen. We drank too much, I got sick, and somehow my dad found out. Then he called all my accomplices' parents.
  2. Kissed Daniel when I was dating Rick.
  3. Cut my own bangs. **me to Sarah** I did that, too!  The night right before pictures!  So. Bad.

2) Ohhhh, that cover. ***melts*** What did you think the first time you saw it?  Does it capture the overall feel of the book?

Yay! I’m so glad you like it. I like it too! I’ve published thirteen books and this is the first time I’ve ever had a boy on the cover. Isn’t he adorable? And the models have such great chemistry. I love their expressions. I think it definitely captures the fun and flirty feel of the book.  **me to Sarah** Oh, hecks yeah it does!  A boy looked at me like that once when I was a freshman.  I stalked him for the rest of the year and ended up getting a 'C' in frosh English because of it.  True story. 

3) How did the idea for this book pop in your head?

I lived it. I grew up in Montreal, and when I was in tenth grade, my mom moved to Connecticut. When I was in twelfth grade, my dad moved to Toronto. I somehow convinced them to let me move into my friend Ronit’s basement instead of going with them. Her parents had moved away too. Hilarity ensued.

4) Current you and 17-year old you are having a conversation about hijinks, shenanigans and taking risks in general - what advice would current you give 17-year old you?

Go for it. Yeah, some of it won’t turn out the way you’re hoping, but it’s all great future book material. Also wear more bikinis.

5) What books were the most important and influential to you (both then and now)?

Ramona and Her FatherThe first chapter book I ever read on my own. I remember getting to page 100 and thinking there should be drawings of balloons and confetti to congratulate me. Wahoo! Page 100!

This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall:
The book was hilarious. Plus, the author, Gordon Korman came to talk to my class when I was in elementary school. I couldn’t believe that not only was he a Montrealer like me, but that he had written his first book when he was twelve. TWELVE! I was incredibly inspired and I decided that if he could be a writer, so could I.

Everything by Judy Blume: Her books made me realize how meaningful—and how much fun—writing about being a girl could be.  

The Handmaid's TaleI read this book in high school. And then I read it about ten more times. And then I decided to be an English lit major in college. Thank you, Margaret Atwood.  **me to Sarah** Yeah!!!!  Atwood is on my "You need to read this" list for Everyone!

Thanks so much for joining us, Sarah!  Good luck with Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have)!

Loved this interview - it was a quick one, but I love Sarah's answers, don't you?  So, maybe you're thinking I NEED TO READ THIS!

Well, I can hardly blame you - I can't wait to read this myself!  I have ONE copy of Sarah Mylnowski's Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have) to giveaway to one lucky reader!  So, here are the GIVEAWAY rules:
  • open to those with U.S. & Canadian addys
  • must leave comment below answering the following question: "What's something you've done/you did in high school (and probably shouldn't have)?"
  • also be sure to leave 1) your name; and 2) a valid email address
  • contest closes on Sunday, August 7, 2011 at Midnight E.S.T.
  • winner will be chosen using random.org and will be announced on Monday,August 8, 2011
 HUGE thanks to HARPER TEEN for the giveaway copy!

Winner Announced for 50 Cent Cover Contest!

Well, first off, a HUGE thanks to the lovely artists and readers who voted in the 50 Cent Cover Contest - you guys are WONDERFUL!  I (and the entrants, I'm sure) appreciate your participation so much!  Now, on with the main event. . . .

The WINNER is. . . . . .

KATIE COOPER with this cover:

Congrats, Katie!  I'll be contacting you shortly to discuss your GRAND PRIZE of a gift certificate of your choice to Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Borders (if one is still open near you - yikes!).  Also, check out her blog What Books Have Taught Me.

And a singular lovely lady has claimed both the second and third place prizes!  Congrats to Jasmine of the Reading Housewives of Indiana on these two covers!

Jasmine, I also will be contacting you today about your prizes!

Thank you both so much for your hard work!  They look spectacular!