Thursday, October 27, 2011

Guest Post: Tess Hilmo

photo credit: Jenni Howell Photography
A big thanks to Tess Hilmo for joining us today to talk about the inspiration for one of the characters in her middle-grade novel, With a Name Like Love.

One of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

What lies behind us and
What lies before us
Are tiny matters
When compared to
What lies within us.

I have this saying taped up on my office wall and it served as inspiration for one of the characters in With a Name Like Love, Jimmy Koppel.

Jimmy comes from an extremely difficult and abusive situation and yet he never allows himself to doubt his own self worth. Even when everyone seemingly turns away, he has this undercurrent of understanding and strength to guide him.

As I was writing this story, I had a sibling diagnosed with cancer. It was emotional and frightening for all of us but she seemed to be a steady beacon in the storm that surrounded her. It was as if this challenge in her life brought her back to center and distilled what was truly important: faith, family, forgiveness. I couldn’t help but also be inspired by her strength as I wrote about this boy who needed to rise above his circumstances and find peace in his world, however broken it may be at the time. Their challenges may have been different, but their response was very much the same.

The good news is that my sister braved her treatments with grace and is in full remission. What happened to Jimmy? Well, that can be found out by reading the novel … but both have helped remind me that we have inner strength far beyond what many of us may believe. Both have been a great source of hope and inspiration.

Enter to win a copy of Tess's novel, With a Name Like Love! Thanks to Blue Slip Media.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Death Cure by James Dashner: Review

The Death Cure
By: James Dashner

"The Death Cure," the action-packed conclusion to the New York Times' best-selling "Maze Runner" series, does not disappoint.

Picking up where "The Scorch Trials" left off, Thomas and his friends are being held in Wicked’s headquarters. The tests and trials are over. The Gladers now have the ability to retrieve their lost memories and assist Wicked in the final step of finding the cure for the Flare. But despite assurances that “Wicked is good,” Thomas believes that Wicked can’t be trusted. As the truth about Wicked surfaces, Thomas learns that there is a lot more at stake than he ever imagined.

James Dashner’s brand of dystopian fiction involves a great deal of action and suspense, and "The Death Cure" is no exception. Several plot twists keep the reader guessing and the book reads like an explosive action movie.

The book isn’t all bangs and explosions, and has a mysterious quality that leads the reader to discover with Thomas, exactly what Wicked is up to, and who Thomas can really trust. It is apparent that Dashner’s greatest strength is writing action sequences that will make your heart pound or stop completely at intervals.

Consistent with the themes in the rest of the series, "The Death Cure" shows the desperation and lengths to which a society will go to save itself. No one character in the story is truly good or evil, and through each action of Wicked, the reader will wonder what rules they would break in order to save humanity.

The ending of the series is one that is both conclusive and satisfying. With as dark a premise as the destruction of the world’s population, it is to be expected that there will be sadness and despair. However, with the mark of a true dystopian novel, there is a distinct glimmer of hope through the bleakness.

"The Death Cure" is slightly more violent than the other two books in the series, but is still suitable for teens 12 and older. With the exception of the futuristic swear words, there is no other questionable material.

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes and Noble

review was originally posted at

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reviews published this weekend.

I wrote a couple of reviews for The Deseret News this weekend. Rather than regurgitating them here, I'm going to direct you to them there.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Interview with James Dashner

I particularly hope you'll check out the interview with James Dashner. There's a lot of really great stuff in there about the Maze Runner Series, and a teeny tiny little bit about his new project.

Go ahead and leave a comment here or at The Deseret News if you'd like. Thanks so much for checking them out.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: Review

The Name of the Star
By: Maureen Johnson

I picked up this book at BEA quite on happenstance. Having never read one of Maureen Johnson's books (I know...), I really wasn't sure what to expect. Maureen was very kind in the signing line, and even did a short interview for me for Armchair BEA. She also sent me an email after the signing thanking me for coming by. Very classy.

Rory Deveaux arrives in London to attend boarding school on the day that a series of gruesome murders occur that mimic the historic "Jack the Ripper" killings. In the beginning, Rory only watches the seemingly interesting spectacle from afar, being busy with school, learning a new culture, and all. But, she is soon tossed right into the thick of things as being the only person to see the suspected killer.

Since picking up Name of the Star at BEA, I did read 13 Little Blue Envelopes since it had a brief free stint for e-book. And, I've decided that the thing I particularly enjoy about Maureen's writing is her descriptions of locations and cultures. The Name of the Star takes place at a London boarding school, and like another boarding school that I am so fond of (Hogwarts), I really wished that I could be there, taking double periods of potions French, and taking trips on the underground. Combine that with an eerie ghost story/murder mystery, and it's a delightfully chilling story that I enjoyed from beginning to end.

There is a tad bit of violence in the book that younger readers may find unsavory. There is also some underage drinking among the students. (Though it isn't underage in England, and everything they do is perfectly legal).

If you like Maureen Johnson's previous work, reading about foreign lands (if you don't live in England, of course), and ghost stories, definitely pick this one up.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Change is good

For over two years now I've been doing reviews pretty similar to the way that many other bloggers do them. I copy a synopsis from goodreads, link to author websites, twitter pages, and the like.

But, as I reflected on the way that I do my reviews, I decided that a lot of the things that I do BEFORE the actual review really detract from what you want read. Which is the review.

Which is why I'm introducing a brand new review format. It's a format that I think you're going to like. Basically, I will have a cover image and the review. With some links at the bottom of the review to relevant author information like websites, blogs, and twitter pages, places to purchase, and it's link on goodreads so you can read the synopsis and such.

I will briefly summarize the book. I used to hate to do this, but ever since I started contributing to The Deseret News, I've become a lot more comfortable doing it. It should give some background on what the story is about for those readers who don't know anything about the book, but won't be distracting for readers who are already familiar with the synopsis.

I am also going to change the way that I do author interviews. In the past, I have done interviews in a Q&A format. But, I realized that I don't like to read Q&A interviews. I vastly prefer a more narrative approach.  I understand that this is going to take more time for me to compile these interviews, but I think that you'll find that you like reading them more.

Giveaways are changing too. The last two giveaways that I've done have utilized Rafflecopter. While rafflecopter isn't perfect, I'm really happy with how it's worked so far. I liked the IDEA of extra entries, but I hate adding them up or requiring you to leave more than one comment. So, for each giveaway you will have the option for extra entries. However, no one entry will be mandatory. It won't be mandatory for you to follow, or leave a comment, or tweet. But, you have to do one of those things. Which, really isn't much of a change from how it is now.

With these changes, I'm really hoping to make this blog more friendly to both me and you. If you have any questions or comments about these changes, feel free to leave them in the comment section. And, watch for the new review format to be debuted tomorrow!

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Monthly Commenter Contest

It's October! My favorite month of the year! (Mostly because it's my birthday month, beginning of Fall feelings, and Halloween and such). September's comment contest winner is:

I Write In Books

Congratulations! (And a double congratulations since she just had a baby boy)

This month I've got a very exciting new release to give away. And, it is signed!

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Michelle Hodkin is coming to the Provo Library on October 11, so I'm going to get a copy of the book signed for one lucky commenter this month.

So, as a reminder, here are the rules:

Each month I will pick a random commenter from one of the posts within the last month to win a featured book. Each thoughtful comment you leave on a post during the month will count as a contest entry. However, the following types of comments will NOT be eligible:

* Great post! I'll definitely add it to my TBR pile.
* Hey! I'm your newest follower, would you check out my blog and follow me back?
* Love your site (although I do appreciate the sentiments)
* Generic, one or two word comments.

You don't need to write an essay, just make it evident to me that you've at least read the post, mmkay?

Only comments on posts from the current month will be eligible. Sorry, you can't comment on every post from the last 2 years. Well, actually, you can, but it won't be a contest entry.

All of these contests are open internationally unless I specify otherwise. So, comment away!

Please make sure that when you comment, that I have an email address or something that lets me identify who you are. Anonymous comments will not be eligible, obviously. But, if you have a blogger account linked or your website, make sure your contact information is either in your blogger profile or on your blog. If I can't get a hold of you, I'll pick another comment.