Thursday, December 16, 2010

The LitChicks - Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Liesl actually wrote this several weeks ago, but because things have been so hectic, she was cool about letting me put it on the blog now (thanks Liesl!).

Her pick this week?

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

This book has been passed around to almost all the girls in my English class, and there is a VERY good reason. People were raving about it and I was like pass that over I got it started it and had to force myself to do homework and sleep. This novel was one of those “girls too good for guy but guy is given a bet he can't get the girl but guys can't resist challenge so he takes the bet and the rich girl and poor guy fall in love” books. That's the gist...but in detail...Alejandro (Alex) Fuentes and Brittany Ellis are assigned as lab partners for senior chemistry.

Brittney grew up in a challenged home. Her sister has a problem and doesn't talk or feed herself and it puts a lot of stress on her mother. Her dad works long hours and is gone a lot, so because her home life is FAR from perfect she wears nice clothes, drives a BMW, is captain of the cheer squad, and is the girl friend of the quarterback, she has what appears to be a perfect life.

Alex is in a gang called Latino Bloods, and lost his father when he was 6 years old. Alex and Brittany both secretly like each other but act as though they hate each other and they each think that the other one does hate them. After getting fed up with her football playing BF who is only interested in having sex, Brittany dumps him and her friendship with Alex blossoms and becomes romance. They are completely opposite but soon realize that they have a lot in common specifically complicated family life. Brittany knows that Alex is in a gang and really wants him to ditch the gang but if he does he risks his life. Since he isn't willing to do that for her, they break up but they both miss the other one and have difficulty getting over the break up. Alex realizes that the gang life isn't for him and he goes through the exit process. He then goes and finds Brittany. they end up meeting each other again and i won't give away the fabulous ending.
Definitely worth your time:) - enjoy!

On this date: In 1843 A Christmas Carol is published.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The LitChicks: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June

I'm back. Mostly. Been a crazy couple of weeks, but things are looking up with my friends, we've finished our move and I'm ready to get back to work.

First up, a LitChicks review from Portia that is sorely overdue:

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway

This is another Ms. Turner book. I think a lot of my review books are. I get so many of my reading books from Ms. Turner because of the advantages previously listed in my last review. She's so up to date with all the latest and greatest releases. :) This book came out last August I believe (that's what it says on the cover of the ARC I was reading, anyway.) I was intrigued by the concept of sisters (you know, 3 sisters that fight but love each other and are totally different - that's practically my life right there) because I have sisters and I like reading about them. I also liked the idea of having "super powers" in a normal world. So, if you were all wondering, write nice books about sisters. They are ah-may-zing. In my opinion. They also usually make me cry....maybe that's a personal problem.

Anyway, this book follows three sisters, April, May and June (wonderful names, huh? Named after the month they were born in. How's that for creative?) as they first discover their powers. (That's "powers.") Apparently, they all had them when they were little, but they faded away only to be re-awoken by their parents' divorce. When the three sisters move with their mom, one day in the car, April has a vision of the future......while May literally disappears............and June is screaming about something she heard.......that someone else was thinking. That's when they all realize...........(dunh dunh dunh dunhhhhh) that they are actually NOT normal. Hm. Well, that's okay, but their powers are starting to affect their daily lives. June desperately wants to be popular and to be friends with the mysterious Mariah.......and achieves that by reading her mind and responding to what Mariah thinks about life and herself. May is the sarcastic, angry middle child who falls in danger of literally disappearing in the middle of her European history tutoring session. April is plagued by a memory of her sister in an accident, and drawn to the intriguing Julian while receiving detailed visions of their future relationship which she has no intention of developing.

Will these darling sisters get their act together in time to save themselves, their mom, and the people they are beginning to hold most dear (cough cough Henry and Julian)??? :) We can only hope. A great story about sisters and the bond they share, the troubles they have, and their desirous for independence each in their own way while trying to stay true to themselves and each other. And not, you know, use their powers for evil.
Everybody knows, "with great power comes great responsibility".
Okay, that wasn't really in the book.

On this date: In 1979, the last AMC Pacer rolled off the assembly line (we had a black one with the license plate RFATCAT - I miss that car).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Where I've Been

The ten of you who check in regularly may have noticed I'm not posting much lately. A good friend of mine has been going through a rough time and I've been spending a lot of time trying to help in any way I can through this crisis. Her 13 year old son (my son's best friend) was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma last weekend. This is a very aggressive form of cancer and he is now in the ICU on a ventilator and heavily sedated. On top of everything, she is a single parent, a fifth grade teacher and gave birth to her beautiful daughter two days ago. We knew the baby would have a bilateral cleft lip, and it's amazing that what seemed like such a big deal just a few short weeks ago seems so minor today.

Talk about perspective. I love my career and I love my books, but everything has taken a back seat to helping my friend and her family. Hopefully, things will stabilize in the next week or two and I'll be able to get back to my characters and to my job as an author. They always say go to your strengths in a crisis, so I created a blog so that everyone can keep track of the happenings. It is called Friends of RJ on blogspot if you know Jessica and RJ or just want to follow along, come and pay us a visit.

I hope to be back to normal blogging soon, but in the meantime all of your good wishes are welcome.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The LitChicks - CATALYST by Laurie Halse Anderson

In Portia's defense, she actually emailed me her review yesterday morning - the delay in this week's LitChicks is my fault. So, better late than never, is her pick this week:

CATALYST by Laurie Halse Anderson

Alright, I am highly aware that this is late, and normally I wouldn't really have a great excuse, but today I do! The laptop I usually use to conduct such criminal activities such as sending in book reviews is being a bit strange and hibernating whenever I turn it on. No one ever told me batteries are capable of dying in 2 seconds, or that computers even need to hibernate (maybe it's a winter thing?), but I'm here a bit late!

I'm not sure how many of you know Ms. Turner who teaches English at Bancroft Middle School, but she has such easy access to books and always keeps on top of the latest releases and the popular series. In some ways, I think she's a bit better than the school library because you don't need a card, there's no due dates, no overdue fees, no limit to the number of books you can take, and she always has suggestions based on what you like and what she thinks you might want to try. So, all in all, I'm lucky! One of the books she lent me a couple weeks ago was CATALYST, by Laurie Halse Anderson (who also wrote SPEAK). I really liked SPEAK, and I really like deep books, so I thought I would try it, and it was amazing!

CATALYST follows the story of young Kate Malone--a preacher's daughter, secret night runner, straight-A student (especially in the science and math department), and motherless girl who takes over a mother's job doing laundry, cooking - the works in their slightly dysfunctional family. Kate is an organized person. She does her homework, takes care of her family, is on the cross country team, and operates on minimal sleep. However, there are quite a few things going wrong in Kate's life.

Mainly, she only applied to one college--MIT. And she didn't make early decision. And she's still waiting to get her acceptance........which wouldn't be super painful if she had back up colleges, but Kate only applied to one. Second, Kate's neighbors (who include school loser and Kate's enemy Teri Litch) move in with Kate after they're burned out of their own home. This if, of course, bad enough as it is, but it only gets worse when:

  • Kate is roped into building the Litch's new house--alongside Teri, of course.
  • Teri's little brother, Mikey, gets into a freak accident in the new house and the outcome isn't pretty.
  • She finally hears from MIT, and it's not really what she expected.......or wanted.
  • She has a fight with her dear boyfriend, Mitchell Pangborn (who's going to Harvard, by the way)

Can Kate keep it together? Can she ever be friends with Teri and support her in her hour of need? Can she herself recover from Mikey's accident? Can she make a decision about college and face the future?

These are all questions Kate finds herself facing as her orderly life falls to pieces. A beautiful read. I was sitting there thinking, "A bunkbed with my sister (who I happen to like) is not bad at all!" Kate's problems make you want to comfort her. I think the author did a beautiful job making Kate's life realistic and did a great job reflecting Kate's internal dilemmas and thoughts. I loved getting to know Kate and understanding her. This is a book I would recommend for everyone. I love first-person books, and I love getting to know characters so well and seeing how different people are on the outside and the inside and realizing how much people hide and what they're really going through.

On this date: In 1954, Ellis Island closed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

So What's It About?

Publication announcements are a little like Twitter - short and sweet. Many people have sent me emails and asked in person to expand on the description of DESTINED that appeared in Publisher's Weekly. After tweaking it to make it spoiler-free, here is the longer version of DESTINED's synopsis:


Book One of the Keepers Series

She’s always done what’s expected of her, but sixteen year old cello prodigy Cole Ryan often feels like her destiny is just a straightjacket. Having spent her entire life working toward something she’s no longer sure she wants, Cole starts questioning everything, especially the feelings of déjà vu that have gotten stronger and more frequent in recent months. She afraid she’s losing her mind as visions of other lifetimes in other places begin interrupting her days. A visit to the Tower of London brings on an overwhelmingly real vision of a beheading that took place on that very spot centuries before, leaving her weak and disoriented. A seemingly chance meeting with intriguing and slightly mysterious Griffon Hall begins to shed light on all she’s been experiencing.

Although she can’t bring herself to believe him at first, Griffon immediately senses that Cole is becoming like him —a Keeper. People who can remember all of their past lives. Keepers like Cole and Griffon hold onto their memories of past experiences in order to use them in this life. With kept memories come enhanced mental and physical abilities that must be put to use for the good of the world at large. Many Keepers work behind the scenes advising the leaders of major countries on everything from human rights to environmental issues.

But not all Keepers want to improve the world. Rogue Keepers like Cole’s cello student Veronique are out to avenge the wrongs that were done to them in the past, and Griffon knows that Cole isn’t safe with her. As Cole struggles to believe what Griffon says, their relationship deepens despite a nagging sense that he isn’t telling her the complete truth about their connection. As they become physically closer, defenses are lowered and Cole finally recognizes the essence in Griffon’s eyes – and he is not who she expected him to be.

In her panic and confusion, Cole’s sense of loyalty is shaken. Is it truly Veronique she should be afraid of, or has Griffon been hiding something even more dangerous? As she wrestles with the questions of who she should believe, her own enhanced abilities of connection are awakened. Despite her doubts, she must use these abilities to save both of them from mortal danger even as she struggles to find her true destiny in this ever-expanding world.

Some of my friends are reminding me that I swore that I'd never write paranormal romance. Yeah. Just goes to show that you should never say never. I'm not ashamed to say that I LOVE this book, the characters and the story. DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS was a bit heavy to write (to say the least) and while DESTINED does have some larger themes like the purpose of life and questions of destiny, there is a lot in it that made it a blast to write. At the same time, I'm also working on another contemporary YA about race and identity and another one lined up in the queue after that, so I haven't gone completely over to the dark side.

I'm a big believer in things in the universe falling into place as they will. As we were finalizing the deal for DESTINED, I took myself on a two-day writer's retreat (also known as the hubby is home for three weeks, so this is my opportunity to get the heck out of here). On the way out of town, I stopped at a coffee shop. As I was waiting, I perused the rack of sale stuff, and there, on the clearance shelf, I found this:

Spooky, no?

On this date: In 1960, John F. Kennedy is elected President.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wonderful Book News!

It's out in the trade papers today, so I can finally share the news that caused me to go into a complete Reeses coma a couple of weeks ago:

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS author C.J. Omololu's DESTINED, in which cello prodigy Cole begins to experience flashes of past lives just as the mysterious Griffon enters her world, bringing attraction, suspicion and an unsettling knowledge of reincarnation, as well as sequel FATED, in a pre-empt, in a very nice deal, to Mary Kate Castellani of Walker Children's, by Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency (World English). Bloomsbury UK Children's will publish simultaneously starting in summer 2012. (Translation rights: Rights People.)

Now I know what I'll be doing for the next two years! One of the best things about the deal is that it's going to come out simultaneously in the UK, which was a thrilling first for me. I'm so glad to be working with Walker and Mary Kate once again after the success of DLS! They've been totally behind this project from the very first word.

Readers of the blog will remember that I wanted to show how a book evolves from beginning to end, starting almost a year ago:

Last November (I always seem to start books in November - not NaNoWriMo, just accidentally) I wrote a post with the title What I'm Working On Now.
On the 18th, I gave a progress report in New Book, Day 2.
A few days later, I wrote about Changing Names of the characters when the originals just weren't working (the importance of the character names is another post altogether).
On December 7th, I wrote about the magic that happens when writing a book in Not Just Smoke and Mirrors.
On December 16th, I celebrated hitting 20k.
And then on January 6th, I hit 30k.
In the meantime, a book called DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS came out so I was a little busy until February 26th when I posted about Sequels and New Books.
And then on March 18th, I wrote about The End (which as we all know, isn't really the end).
On June 21st, I wrote about my title struggles in Titles Titles Everywhere (interestingly, none of these ended up as the final title).

It's been a great ride so far and I love love love this story. I'm so thankful to everyone who is helping to make it a reality.

Look for Cole and Griffon on store shelves on or about June, 2012.

On this date: In 1922, the entrance to King Tut's tomb was discovered.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The LitChicks: LA CANDY by Lauren Conrad

This week it's Liesl's turn to tell us about one of her favorite books. Her recommendation is:

LA CANDY by Lauren Conrad

Oh boy! High school is a lot crazier than Iexpected but...I'm back!!!!

I read this book when it first came out and was on the new book shelf at the library. I honestly wasn't expecting much from a celebrity author (sorry celebrities!) but was pleasantly surprised. This was my kinda book! I love girly fun books.

This book is about two girls named Jane and Scarlett. They move to LA together and are roommates. Jane has an internship with a prestigious event planer named Fiona Chen. Scarlett however, is in LA to attend U.S.C. They are spotted at a club and offered a part in a new reality T.V show L.A. Candy, but they realize along the way that being a T.V. star is not what it's cracked up to be and that they don’t necessarily like it.

This book was a mix of a lot of genres. It was girly, but was fun, it had a little romance (every book has to have a little(:) and it had drama... it's based on life in L.A. I really liked the character of Jane. She had high priorities and didn't - you know - find a random guy in the club and a hotel room and go at it. She had a good job and knew what she wanted to do with her life. She didn't let the other people influence her. She was cautious and I think that Jane and Scarlett were a good personality match. Scarlett was very outgoing whereas Jane was reserved and kind of shy. Scarlett was willing to try new things and Jane stuck to the tried and true. This was a good book. Congrats Lauren! Can't wait to read the second book.

On this date: In 1976, the movie version of Steven King's Carrie debuts.

Happy Book Birthday - THE MOCKINGBIRDS!

Today is the day that the world gets to read a great new book:

Promise not to tell Daisy, and I'll let you in on a secret. We'd met several times at different author events here in the Bay Area but we didn't really connect. She is fancy and well put-together and I am...not. As Taylor Swift says, she wears high heels, I wear sneakers. She's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers. Daisy knows everything about new media and marketing, is pretty, smart and vivacious and generally the kind of person I try to stay away from.

We were at an author event in San Francisco last spring, and she had an ARC of THE MOCKINGBIRDS in her bag that she let me see. I opened it casually and thumbed through the first few pages, and was riveted after the first chapter. It is one of the best opening scenes I've read in a novel in a long time. Heartfelt, poignant and just perfect - I had to read more. I looked up at Daisy with newfound respect and a little shame at how judgmental I'd been. Yes, she was still fancy, but damn the girl could write a book. By the end of the evening, I'd wheedled the ARC out of her hands and added her as one of my best friends.

The rest of the book is as good as the opening - you'll have to pick up your own copy to see what I mean. From the publisher:

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.

This is a book that is not just important for girls to read - boys will get a lot out of the story as well. Pick up your copy today, and congratulations to Daisy!

On this date: In 1947, Howard Hughes Spruce Goose took it's one and only flight.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Treats Only!

So The Big Hairy Dog and I were on our morning walk and wanted to share some of the most creative decorations in the neighborhood.

No sure which was scarier - this spider...

...or this one.

You see this lovely neighbor as you cross the bridge over the creek. Don't know that I'm coming this way in the dark.

These guys always do an amazing job - looks like an Egyptian theme this year..

Doctor Who?

These guys are insane! Can you see the size of this thing? Last year was a pirate ship and the year before was a castle. Always worth a look.

Okay, this is in my yard. But I really like 'em.


On this date: In 1929, the stock market crashed.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The LitChicks - EXTRAORDINARY by Nancy Werlin

The LitChicks are an every-Thursday feature with sisters Portia (age 13) and Liesl (age 14) taking turns recommending some of their favorite reads to the blog.

This week, Portia took pity on her high-schooler big sister and filled in with a recommendation I've been dying to get to because I've heard great things about it. Portia's pick this week:


A frantic phone call from my sister this morning made me aware that in the homework she was doing last night, she forgot to do her book review this week, and waking up at 5:30 this morning to get ready for school didn't do much for her distraction either, so I decided to answer her plea and a review this week. :)

EXTRAORDINARY is a recent novel; I think it came out in September! [September 7th to be exact.] The basic story line revolves around this girl named Phoebe. Phoebe is a Rothschild--her mom is extraordinary, and her family is wealthy. They are rich, and love Phoebe, and she loves her parents. But, Phoebe has a secret wish to be ordinary. She doesn't want people to look at her an only see a name. She is uncomfortable with herself, self-conscious, and in a group of friends she hardly likes when she meets Mallory. Mallory is different. She dresses weird and hardly talks to anyone. In a impulsive move, Phoebe decides to befriend her. Mallory and Phoebe eventually become as close as sisters--practically a part of each other’s families.

Then Phoebe meets Mallory's older brother, Ryland. Phoebe is automatically drawn to Ryland, and she has no idea why. She just feels so much better when she's around him, even if he does make comments about her weight and tell her to grow up. Ryland and Phoebe secretly meet up and talk until Mallory finds out. She is furious, yells horrible insults and Phoebe, and their lives separate. Phoebe feels so low, but at least she still has Ryland. Then her support system starts to disappear.....her mom goes into a coma, her dad never leaves her side, and Mallory...Mallory is gone. Phoebe turns to Ryland with no one else to go to, but he only cuts her down until she feels ordinary. One day she breaks down and says it.

Phoebe never realized how much strength she had, and what it meant to admit how she felt. She never knew the consequences, but she is sucked into a bigger problem than she ever realized involving her family tree and a whole other species.....of faeries.

An exciting read that makes you think of what it means to be extraordinary. :)

On this date: In 1965, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis is completed.