Saturday, July 31, 2010

Arty -- Dread Locks by Neal Shusterman

I have to admit it, I was skeptical when Persy gave me this book to read. It looked like some angsty teen romance with lots of violence and forbidden love. But that's why there's that adage - Don't judge a book by its cover.

Parker Baer is bored of his rich family and their constant un-delayed gratification. They get everything they want, whenever they want. Parker's parents even gave him a statue for his birthday - of himself.

Then Parker finds Tara.

After making herself at home to the Baer house and even trying out Parker's bed, golden-haired, sunglasses-wearing Tara makes herself at home at their whole school. Soon the charismatic stranger has half the school 'wrapped around her little finger.'

When some of the students start developing freakish habits and cravings, Parker knows Tara is to blame. But how? And when Tara starts affecting Parker himself, will even he be able to end her game?

The first book in Shusterman's Dark Fusion series, Dread Locks combines the myth of Medusa and the bedtime story of Goldilocks. Unlikely? Yes. Amazing? Oh yes.

At 176 pages, Dread Locks is short and very, very sweet. There are no subplots, no real character development except for Parker and Tara. You would think this would work against the book, but it doesn't. The continual tension between those two characters is more than enough. The story happens to the other characters; Parker and Tara happen to the story.

The writing is tight, with very few unneeded words and phrases. Dialogue is realistic. The plot is engaging. The ending blows you away with its unexpectedness. A subtle moral that you absorb more than read. There's really not much more to say for Dread Locks - except that any fan of mythology, fairytales, or fiction in general should read this book.

It is a dark, intense, at times horrifying book. You will probably not laugh while reading it. I know I didn't. Readers seeking more light-hearted takes on fairytales and mythology should check out the Sisters Grimm series (fairytale) or the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (mythology). But if you're not afraid of a good, dark book, then Dread Locks is a must-read.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Persy -- Author Interview Featuring Ann Mauren!

For this Wednesday Scrolls, we are lucky enough to have an author interview with Ann Mauren, author of the Mayne Attraction series (you can see my review of In The Spotlight here: Ann Mauren was born and raised in Kentucky, but she now lives in Ohio with her husband and two sons.

In The Spotlight, Mauren's first novel, is about Ellery Mayne, a girl who discovers that she's being watched and protected by a surveillance team. As she starts trying to figure out why, she ends up falling in love with one of her watchers, and hijinks ensue.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, an interview with the author *applause*:

1. When did you first start writing?
I do a very limited amount of ad writing in my day job as a Marketing Coordinater for a Foodservice company, but novel writing was always a velleity (a mere wish unaccompanied by action to obtain) for me. Things changed about this time last year (summer of 2009) after my second son was born. I spent a lot of time nursing and being up at night, feeling particularly unproductive and restles, so I decided to keep my laptop nearby and jot down these random ideas as they would come to me -- usually a one handed endeavor while holding an infant. Eventually bits of dialogue and disjointed story outlines slowly came together and Mayne Attraction: In The Spotlight was released in the Summer of 2010.

2. What inspired In The Spotlight?
My initial concept for 'Spotlight' was "What would it be like to have a Secret Service detail as a teenager? And how much fun would it be to mess with them, especially if you could pretend to be doing so innocently, as if unaware of their presence?" That was the core idea. Then the mystery and romance began to fill in as layers overtop.

3. Are any of the characters in 'Spotlight' based on real people?
Only Ellery is a direct adaptation. I borrowed a number of my own preferences, insecurities and pet peeves for her character. The more noble and heroic aspects of her personality are purely fictional.

4. When do you estimate the next book in the Mayne Attraction series being released?
I wrote most of books one and three (Spotlight and Shadow) simultaneously, because originally it was only the story of Ellery and Ash that was being told. But Gray's character turned into more than a simple antagonist, and I decided that it was only fair to present the situation from his point of view as well. I'm writing that now. I hope to release books two and three (Smoke and Shadow) by the end of 2010.

5. Who is your favorite character from Mayne Attraction?
I love Ash Ryan the way that I love Fitzwilliam Darcy and Edward Cullen. Need I say more?

6. What is your favorite scene from In The Spotlight?
I have two favorites. The first is Ellery and Ash's first date at Hidden Falls. It's incredibly romantic and sweet and I can hear the waterfall and feel the breeze and taste the sunshine when I read it. My other favorite is Ellery's moment of truth at Lake Oesa with Gray. There's something udneniably satisfying in being blind-sided with another person's declaration of long-standing intense affections for you.

7. In 'Spotlight', Ellery has a pretty impressive vocabulary. Would you say the same about yourself or were you using a dictionary to deepen Ellery's character?
For what it's worth I can say that within my family I am the reigning champion at the game of 'Balderdash' (a game of word definitions). I've always loved unusual words but there's been little opportunity to work them into day-to-day life and conversations. Instead of, "Is that odious stench emanating from your diaper? Please, love, don't prove yourself a hindrance as I abet your progression towards a more acceptable level of hygiene," you'll most likely hear me say, "Hey! Who's got a poo-poo butt? Okay, let Mama fix it!"

8. If you were offered a movie deal for Mayne Attraction, would you accept?
Of course I would love that. But I admit that I'll be kind of disappointed if Pee-Wee Herman and Morgan Fairchild play the main characters...

9. Do you currently have any ideas for other stories/novels?
Sure do. But if I tell you I'll have to kill you. It's all very hush-hush you know.

10. Do you have a special place where you like to write?
You bet! At the desk of my day job! JUST KIDDING! Though, the really good ideas always hit at the MOST inopportune times. I've done just about all the writing in the comfy glider of my baby's nursery with my laptop on a TV tray beside it. Sad, huh?

11. Who is your favorite author(s)?
By virtue of repetitive reading it would have to be Jane Austen. But I am in love with Bill Bryson's style and how educated I feel after I stop laughing whenever I read him. In all seriousness, I agree with those who have called him the finest living writer. It would be the ultimate thrill to meet and embarrass myself with him.

12. What about favorite book(s)?
Again, by virtue of repetitive reading it would have to be "Pride and Prejudice".
My favorite audio book is "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid."
And then there's that one series about a girl named Isabella...

13. And music?
I'm a lifelong fan of Alternative music, and especially of new wave bands. Depeche Mode, INXS, Men At Work, The Cure, and U2 were early favorites. These days I love anything with Ben Gibbard, Snow Patrol, and Franz Ferdinand, though the list is much, much longer. In fact, all the songs I really love are embedded in chapter excerpts on the website. I also enjoy the sounds of dulcimer and harp, but I haven't found that particular channel on XM just yet. In a side note, one of my hobbies is to make up fictitious band names and a few of these make an appearance in Mayne Attraction.

14. Movies/TV?
As you might expect, I've watched the A&E version of "Colin Firth is Adorable", ugh, I mean "Pride and Prejudice" more times than my self-respect will allow me to confess. Also I'm sorry to admit it, but I've viewed all the seasons of "Survivor" like a junkie. And I love "The Office" where Creed Bratton is a personal favorite, followed very closely by Dwight Schrute.

15. And the classic question, your favorite color?
Magenta. Yeah, 'Barbie Pink'. I'm sorry, but it's true. Please don't hate me. And please don't hate me for saying "Don't hate me".

16. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
According to one of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson, who has done extensive travel writing, I need to visit the island of Capri, in Itally, at some point. After that I'd love to visit and make the tour of Iceland. Rounding out the top three, I'd like to return and sit by the shores of Lake O'Hara in the Canadian Rockies -- unequivocally the most beautiful place on Earth, in my opinion.

17. What if you could go anywhere in history?
I'd like to see the Garden of Eden and take the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad" side tour out of curiousity.

18. What is your greatest fear?
I'd rather give a public speech than merge into highway traffic in a barrel infested construction zone -- though both give me the distinct sense that my death is imminent. Those two things or possibly erasing all my novel files by accident... yeah, that one especially.

19. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
1) Don't listen to the voice that tells you to give up, that you're not good enough, and that no one wants to read your work. The fact of the matter is if you truly enjoy what you are writing, there's a very good chance that others will too. You'll just have to be creative and diligent in the way you go about reaching them. 2) Ask for feedback and then use any criticism that comes your way to your advantage. 3) Read Ken Atchity's "How to Publish Your Novel". This is the best, most helpful guide I've found to assist me through the scary, murky maze of the publishing world. It's easy to understand and the advice it contains is specific and effective.

Once again, I'd like to give Ann Mauren a big thank you for the interview, and I hope to be reading more of her novels soon!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Persy -- Born of Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I know, I know, it's Arty's turn. But she's got a lot going on right now, so I'm doing this week's review. She'll be back next Saturday.

Born of Night is the first book in the League series by Sherrilyn Kenyon, a science-fiction series about assassins.

In the Ichidan universe, no one is really safe. So the League was formed, a group of ruthless assassins are formed to help create order. They're trained and tortured from a young age, making them more than a little psychotic, and very, very dangerous. None of the assassins can quit the League. They are only done when they die.

Many years ago, Nykyrian Quikiades turned his back on the League when he was given a mission he would not complete. He has been the only one to survive such a rebellion. He went and formed his own group which takes on its own assignments.

His newest assignment is protecting Princess Kiara Zamir, a dancer who suddenly everyone seems to be after. It may be one of Nykyrian's toughest mission, not only because of his troublesome attraction to the princess, but also because one of the original League is after Kiara, a man who is just as ruthless and dangerous as Nykyrian himself.

Science-Fiction assassins with an author who absolutely adores to give her characters awful and terrible pasts. Needless to say, I loved this book. It had space-battles, fist/sword/gun-fights, and that little bit of romance that ties just about every book together.

First of all, Nykyrian is probably my favorite character of the book. He's not terribly chatty and doesn't have a problem killing the bad guys. Kiara, on the other hand, didn't make a good first impression to me. She was a typical "strong" female character, often described as "fiercely independant", which is just a euphemism for "annoyingly stubborn and irritating". As the story continued, though, she gained a little more depth and didn't turn out to be too bad. I suppose her being a dancer also appealed to me, since I'm one as well.

And those are just the main characters. There's also Syn, Hauk, Jayne, and others who complete Nykyrian's team, all of whom are plenty interesting. You don't find out a lot about them (with the exception of Syn, and we still don't get all that many details on him), but you can tell they have pasts and are completely round characters.

The second book in the League series is called Born of Fire, and is about Syn and Shahara. I think it goes on at the same time as Born of Night, but I'm not positive. There's a bit of a complication about Born of Night: It was originally published in 1996, but was then later republished with edits and revisions. Sherrilyn Kenyon has a fantastic site ( which gives you the reading order of all her books, plus interesting character bios. This is awesome for people like me, who love to know little bits of trivia about the chars.

NOTE: This book is an adult novel and does contain adult content.

Another quick note concerning something quite different: from now on we'll also be posting on Wednesdays about new going on in the book-world. New books by authors, book-movies, the occasional author-interview when we can get them. This Wednesday will be featuring an interview with Ann Mauren, author of the Mayne Attraction series.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Persy -- In The Spotlight by Ann Mauren

Right after losing her beloved Grandpa, Ellery Mayne discovers she is being watched. There's a surveillance team following her around, always observing and, at times, recuing.

Ellery has no idea why she's being observed and protected, so she decides to experiment. She "forgets" objects all over the place, only to find them reappear in places she might've left them (but didn't actually). After she makes friends with goth queen Samantha (Sam), she let's herself get talked into being turned goth for a few minutes. When she comes out of the movie theater bathroom "gothified" she watches as a particularly handsome young man gets more and more anxious as the real Ellery doesn't appear.

After that, Ellery starts looking for the young man, and finds him often. But her biggest surprise comes when she finds he's living right next door in her grandpa's old house. It's not too long before the watched and the watcher are desperately in love, but they must keep it secret because Ellery's still not supposed to know she's under surveillance, and Ash could lose his job.

Then Gray Gregory, past crush of Ellery's, pops up out of the blue inviting Ellery on a trip to Canada where she'll be an intern for their geological survey team. Ellery is apprehensive to go on a trip with Gray, especially since she doesn't know what his intentions towards her are and she doesn't want things with Ash to get complicated. In the end she decides to go.

Soon she's got two men hopelessly in love in with her, and she with them. Throughout this entire time, she still hasn't been able to figure out why she's suddenly the "Mayne Attraction".

Aside from the rather slow prologue, this book starts great. Ellery is a very interesting teenager, with lots of big words to satisfy my vocabulary thirst. But after the first ten or so chapters, when she and Ash get together and start proclaiming their undying love for each other, it kind of lost its appeal for me. They were being gooey-eyed to each other and saying cheesy love lines, when they really hadn't known each other for more than a few weeks. You could argue that Ash knows Ellery inside out, since he's been watching her for months, but Ellery knows nothing about him. This bothered me, to say the least.

Then there's the fact that everyone bosses Ellery around, and she does nothing about. Her friends nearly drown her, and she doesn't even shout at them. I'd be hollering my head off in that situation.

Another thing that bugged me was how much Ellery loved Twilight, which is all good and fine, I'm not a huge Twilight-hater or anything, but I have to hear enough about that series in real life. Also, the story kind of reminded me of Twilight (so if you just LOVE Twilight, this is the book for you!). There's the main character, a girl who is nothing special to look at but the two fabulously handsome gentlemen think is gorgeous. Then there are the two said fabulously handsome gentlemen, one who is nothing but chivalrous towards her and is a bit emotionless, and the other who kisses and touches her whenever he gets the chance. The only thing they don't have in common is that everyone is disappointingly human in this story.

Another similarity is the guy I was rooting for. In Twilight, I really don't care about Edward or Jacob (though I think I'd prefer Edward over Jacob), but I love Carlisle. In In The Spotlight, I don't much like Ash or Gray (though I'd prefer Ash over Gray), but Trevor is awesome.

The fact that every character isbeautiful/handsome bothers me as well. Ellery is gorgeous, her mother is gorgeous, Sam is gorgeous, Trevor is handsome, Ash is handsome, Gray is handsome, just about every named character is either handsome or gorgeous, respectively. But it's not a gaping plothole, so it doesn't annoy me terribly so.

The story is told in a rather confusing way, with flashbacks in a few places. It's almost like the author got an idea for something that happened, but didn't go back to the proper place to put it in. It's a little tough to follow at first, but after a bit you get used to it.

BUT!! Before you go thinking I hated this book, let me get to the ending! The ending of this book was fab.u.lous. The main character listened to my advice and did the smart thing. I won't tell you what it was because I don't want to ruin it, but she saved the book with her actions. Despite the excessive love lines and gooey eyes, I love Ellery Mayne.

So even if you're not a fan of romance novels, if you can get through all the romance parts, then the ending makes up for it. Like I said, the beginning is great, and they say as long as you've got an engaging beginning and a grand finale, you're good (I personally believe a nice creamy filling is the icing on the cake, but you can get by with the foundation and candles, if you can understand this mixed metaphor). If you gag at love lines, then I'd suggest just taking a break about three quarters of the way through and reading something else (I chose Magic Pickle by Scott Morse for my halftime show).

Let me also make a note that this is probably the first actual romance novel I've ever read, so it might be a brilliant romance novel. I just don't have experience in that area, so I can't properly judge.

Unfortunately, this book is nearly impossible for one to get one's hands on. You can get it off of Amazon and a place called Createspace, and through the link on Ann Mauren's website (, but that's it. In an earlier post (, I posted the special code you can use to get the ebook version for free, but this deal is only available until the end of August. If you happen to wait until after the end of August and don't want to take a gamble on a book you've never read, you can read excerpts on Ann Mauren's site instead of just ordering the book.

Ann Mauren is currently working on the two sequels, In The Smoke and In The Shadow, but I don't know when they'll be released. I believe (I may be wrong about this) that each book is the same story, but told by a different character. In The Smoke is the story from Gray's point of view, and In The Shadow is from Ash's. This is great for a person like me, because I'm always curious as to what the other characters were thinking. Hopefully they'll be out soon, and maybe by then the books will be more easily accessable.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Arty -- The Prophecy by Dawn Miller

Forgotten memories and terrible childhoods. Angels and odd abilities. Supernatural enemies and... the St. Louis Arch?

Sam and Jonah, Jenna, J, and Carly are best friends. Then, some horrible accident tore them apart. The only thing is, they can't remember what that accident was. They can barely remember any of their childhoods.

Seven years later, Sam, now nineteen, is having strange dreams. He wakes up to find he's created paintings he couldn't have possibly painted. He can barely sleep for the nightmares. He sees his old friends in those dreams, so he calls them all - now living in various places across the country - and asks them to meet in St. Louis. What he can't know - but somehow does - is that they're having those dreams too.

Meanwhile, a secret society known as the Alliance is beginning to put its finishing touches on its plan to join their supernatural allies in strength. What's in their way? Sam and his friends, of course. Which is why another secret society, the Resistance, wants to find those five teens in a hurry.

I'll admit it - I mostly bought the book for the cover and the promise of angels. In that way I was disappointed. Angels only really come into play, except for short 'cutscenes,' at the very end. And it's still not a huge role.

What The Prophecy doesn't lack is conflict. Internal or external, there's always something going on. That's what kept me reading - the question of what in the world can this author do next?

And there were some amazing twists in the plot, mostly related to Jonah (by far the best character in the book, except for perhaps Sam and Mikey). The book is a complex one. However, this can sometimes work against it. Especially at the beginning, it's hard to understand exactly what's going on. Be prepared to read some pages three or four times before you kind of get the action.

Another confusing thing - Miller obviously knows her angel and demon characters very well. Much better than we know them. She drops names and statuses like Girgori, MazziKim, and Irinim without really telling us what they are. This isn't a bad thing, except when the context makes it difficult to decode the meaning. Most of the time, this is the case.

Another thing I should mention - the action in this first book in the Watchers Chronicles is mostly build-up. Until the end, the characters don't really know what's going on. This makes the book seem to move slowly.

An impatient reader would probably get tired of waiting for the action to pick up. (In which case, I would recommend the Dragons In Our Midst series by Bryan Davis, an excellent series with some similar aspects, beginning with Raising Dragons.) A more persistent one would reach the exciting climax of a book that could be the beginning of a great series.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Persy -- Special Book Deal

There's a special deal to get the free ebook version of Mayne Attraction: In The Spotlight by Ann Mauren. None of you have probably heard about this book, mostly because it's near impossible to find and the author is relatively new. It's a romance/suspense novel about a teenage girl named Ellery Mayne, who finds herself under surveillance of a security detail. As she tries to figure out why, she tests how far she can go without tipping the surveillance crew off that she knows they're there. It may not sound interesting, but I have pretty high hopes.

At Ann Mauren's website, you can read excerpts of the book and comment. You can also get five dollars off both the paperback version and the ebook.

But what's not on the website, or at least I have found it, is a code to get the ebook free. I'm not an ebook kind of person, I prefer to have a book in my hands, but if you don't mind reading on the computer, then it's a great deal. Ann Mauren herself gave me the code and authorized putting it on the blog. But the deal only lasts to the end of August!

Here's the code: MH47V. Just copy the code and enter it here at the checkout, and In The Spotlight, the ebook, is yours for free! Ann Mauren also recommends getting the free version of Kindle for PCs off of Amazon, but it's not required to read the ebook.

I ordered my own paperback version from Amazon, so be expecting a full review of it in the near future!


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Persy -- Werewolf Versus Dragon by The Beastly Boys

Possibly the cutest fantasy book I've read since Demonkeeper (by Royce Buckingham), Werewolf Versus Dragon is the first book in An Awfully Beastly Business. Their written by 'The Beastly Boys', also known as David Sinden, Matthew Morgan, and Guy Macdonald. They also feature wonderful illustrations by Jonny Duddle.

Ulf is a young werewolf (and by young, I mean about nine or ten), living at the RSPCB (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Beasts), which is a kind of reservation for endanged creatures. Also known as mythical beasts.

A young baby dragon has been murdered, and the mother has gone missing. An Inspector Black shows up at the RSPCB, claiming to be investigation the horrible event, but Ulf has his own suspicions. Along with his friends Tiana the fiary and Orson the giant, Ulf has to get to the bottom of things to save not only the mother dragon, but possibly the entire RSPCB reservation as well!

This children's book is a welcome break from normal urban fantasy books. It's rather typical in the sense that Ulf, essentially the 'child' of the RSPCB, is almost always right and always exceeds, but it's hard to hold that against him when he's so earnest and, let's face it, downright adorable. Even if there weren't such cute pictures, it'd be hard not to love Ulf.

There are currently four books in An Awfully Beastly Business, with a fifth coming out this month. I can definitely say that the second book, Sea Monsters And Other Delicacies, is just as good as the first. You might not like this book if you're a fan of urban fantasy, despite the protagonist being a werewolf, but if you like fantasy, cute characters, or just a fun escape from 'serious', complicated novels, this is the book for you! You don't have to be a fan of urban fantasy (in fact, you might be able to hate it and still like this book), you just have to like a fun little adventure.