Thursday, August 29, 2013

Something Strange and Deadly: Book Club Discussion #4

It's hard to imagine that this is the final week of Susan Dennard's SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY book club.  It kinda makes me feel a little like this:


But now, it's on to this week's question, the final question:

 “‘Eleanor, you have a choice,’ [Jie] said softly. ‘You always have a choice’” (p. 166, Something Strange & Deadly)
How do you think this quote relates to the overall theme of Something Strange and Deadly? Do you think Eleanor behaves as if she has a choice at the start of the book? What about at the end of the book? And do other characters behave as if they have a choice or do some see themselves as victims of circumstance? 

"You always have a choice" could've been the subtitle to SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY.  Every character, from Eleanor to Daniel, and Clarence to Elijah, all had choices of how they would continue their lives.  Whether they wanted the end results, each made their own decisions and dealt with the consequences.

At the beginning of the book, Eleanor had very little choice in how she could live her life.  With no family other than her mother (and no sight of Elijah anywhere), Eleanor must've felt like nothing she would ever do would matter, that her mother and society would always govern her life.  She was absolutely a victim of the era of which she lived.  It was when she met the rag-tag band of the Spirit-Hunters that Eleanor's life did a complete 180.  For the first time in her life, she saw a group of people who made their own decisions, who decided how they would live their lives, who didn't care what society thought of them.  Their strong-will and determination lit a fire in Eleanor that had been stirring far within her, and allowed her to believe in herself and her own future.  Even though at the end of the book, she bid farewell to her new group of friends, she knew she would never be the same person, that she finally had a choice, a say, in how her life could be lead.

The Spirit-Hunters were unlike any other characters in the book.  Although Joseph, Jie and Daniel had widely different personalities and backgrounds, each had a common trait: choice of mind.  Joseph, the strong-minded leader, allowed nothing to stand in his way.  Jie,(my favorite character in the series!) the strong girl who never believed she couldn't do anything a man could do while remaining true to herself in the process.  And Daniel, the lone-wolf who finally found his pack and never looked back.  All three chose what they believed to be best for themselves and for the people of Philadelphia.  Sure, they could've easily packed up their inventions and headed to safer places, but they chose to stay and help, fighting the living dead, with no respect for their goodwill.  But none of them did what they did for accolades, instead they chose to follow their hearts and beliefs.  And that's what, I believe, changed Eleanor from a victim of circumstance to the leader of choices.

                                *Character cards courtesy of

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Something Strange and Deadly: Book Club Discussion #3

How did week #3 of the Something Strange and Deadly Book Club already get here? Then again, how is almost the end of August? (Though that part, I'm not complaining much about because it meant I got to go see THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES movie after work yesterday and all I can say is: MAGNUS BANE!!! *swoons*) Ahem...on to this week's question:


Eleanor finds herself more and more intrigued by (perhaps even attracted to) Daniel Sheridan, the inventor of the Spirit-Hunters. What is it about him that appeals to her? And vice versa, what do you think attracts Daniel to Eleanor?
Then there’s Clarence Wilcox, the seemingly perfect eligible bachelor. Why do you think Eleanor doesn’t like Clarence?

Sure, Clarence seems like the obvious best choice for Eleanor, but unlike many of the young ladies during her time, Eleanor wasn't interested in marrying up for the sake of money or social status, and she certainly wasn't keen on the idea of any type of arranged marriage.  She believed in love and that was something she didn't have for Clarence.  Yes, he was wealthy, handsome, and well-spoken, but none of that can buy chemistry, and if there was one solid thing these two didn't have, it was chemistry.  Without chemistry, you've got nothing.

Now Daniel, that's another story.  Eleanor and Daniel instantly had chemistry, even if neither knew it at first.  Like her, Daniel is an impulsive person, but underneath all that tough exterior lied the heart of an honest gentleman.  He would do anything to protect her, even if they argued about it later.  But any bickering or eye-rolling between the two only showed the undeniable chemistry between them.  I believe Eleanor was also extremely attracted to his inventor side, how he was always ready to experiment with things.  He was also fiercely protective of those he cared about, and it didn't take long before Eleanor became a part of his inner circle.  The ending of Something Strange and Deadly furthered proved their mutual adoration.  Even though he fought back the urge to reveal his true feelings, instead telling her he didn't love her, the moment they had as he left with the Spirit-Hunters, when he turned and bowed to one knee, Eleanor remarked that "he was declaring fealty to his empress."  And what more could two young loves hope for in their budding romance?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Something Strange and Deadly: Book Club Discussion #2

A bit behind, I'm barely getting this discussion in on time!  After a very busy week: the beginning of a new school year, a birthday that I'm now sharing with my wonderful best friend's adorable one-year old daughter, and the bumped up release of Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry (not to mention the fact that a book I've been dying to read, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by new author April Genevieve Tucholke, came out the day before my shared birthday), it's no wonder I nearly forgot to do this week's Something Strange and Deadly book club discussion!  So on to this week's question:

Question: Magic and ghostly elements frequent the Something Strange and Deadly series. Even though corpses do awaken from time to time and hauntings are hardly that uncommon, the people of Philadelphia seem determined to pretend the Dead are not a growing threat.
Do you think that’s part of human nature? To push on and ignore the danger at our door? Or do you think Philadelphia’s ignorance—or for that matter, any ignorance/false sense of safety in modern days as well—can be pinned on politicians? Can you think of any examples where something similar happened, but rather than the Dead, it was a natural disaster/growing crime rate/etc.?

From far and wide, it's completely normal and common for humans to turn a blind eye to danger that's staring them down.  There are so many examples that can be used to back this up, from the swine flu outbreak in 2009 that many ignored and refused vaccines until it became widespread (my then 8-year old nephew, in spite of having received a flu vaccine a week earlier, contracted this horrible disease, thanks to many sick people out and about in public.  Thankfully he healed in about a week!), to the wide-spread avian flu pandemics through Asia in 2007 and 2009, to terrorist attacks and the violence in the Middle East and particularly Egypt, and last but not least, sex scandals, such as the Sandusky admissions to various Catholic church officials, where abuse lasted for years, yet many who knew the facts simply swept the truths under guilty rugs.

The world's biggest woe is, by far, global warming.  Something that touches every part of the planet, global warming is something that's constantly in the news, yet many like to say things like, "Oh, it's not as bad as the news lets on," yet pictures and videos showing the devastating melting of the polar ice caps, to deforestation and the loss of countless species of animals, are proof that global warming is our biggest threat.  But look around and many, many people don't seem at all worried about the destruction we're causing our home world.  Global warming is probably the biggest danger at all our doors that people from all walks of life, from rich to poor, from race to race, that most of us choose to pretend is not really there and will not affect us in the long run.  And I don't think this is something that will ever change within human nature.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Something Strange and Deadly: Book Club Discussion #1

Like many others, I'm a big fan of SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY by the fabulous Susan Dennard.  Now, when Susan announced on her blog that she would be starting a book club, I was instantly on board.  I mean, who doesn't love book clubs?! So, here I am, ready to answer the first question in her new weekly series:

Question: Do you think, given the time period, Mrs. Fitt is justified in her demands of Eleanor? Why or why not?

My answer, in short; yes, she's entirely justified.  Do I like it? No, of course not.  But then again, I'm living in a world more than 150 years ahead of what Eleanor lived.  Now, I'm no history buff and I'm not going to pretend like I listened to every single subject in my history classes (my apologies to my high school history teachers!  They were great, I promise!)  What I do remember is the vast difference in classes.  The rich were always above everyone else and had to make a grand show of it.  Otherwise, what was the point in being wealthy if one could not show it off to everyone else? The poor were always well beneath the higher class, and their lacking of the finest of clothes, jewels, homes, etc., marked them as being lesser than.

Mrs. Fitt, in spite of her family's dwindling finances, wanted nothing more than for her daughter, Eleanor, to marry above her class.  With the loss of her husband and her only son missing, Mrs. Fitt was like any other woman, during that time period, and would do anything to stay in her social standing, even if it meant having Eleanor marry someone she could never love.  Forcing Eleanor into binding, much-too-expensive clothing and parading her in front of wealthy, eligible bachelors, was not only Mrs. Fitt's solution to their financial woes, but also a practice done by countless middle-class families.  For many, the only way for their family to increase their wealth was to marry their daughters off to a higher class.  Could women own their own land or businesses back then? No.  Could women obtain very high levels of education? Most could not.  Did women have control over their families finances? Of course not.  For a woman to have the best in life, unless she was born into it, she had to marry into it.  Mrs. Fitt was simply following what was socially acceptable during the late 19th century and to ensure she, herself, would be taken care of, financially, for the rest of her life.  She pushed what she wanted onto Eleanor: no decent young lady would ever have been caught in public without a beautiful pair of gloves, nor would she walk ahead of a gentleman, or wear a garish outfit that would call any particular attention to her less than desirable features.  With that, and Mrs. Fitt's desperate need to keep up with her wealthier counterparts at any cost, it's completely understandable why she would urge Eleanor into a lifestyle in which she had no desire to be a part of. 

Now, thankfully, our heroine Eleanor was one very smart cookie and was perfectly capable of taking care of herself.  Unlike so many other girls during her lifetime (hello, Virtue Sisters!), Eleanor was able to think for herself and didn't desire to only have the finer materials things in life.  Her mother was all-to-happy to drain most of their bank account in order to furnish their home and closets with the most expensive furnishings, silks and jewels, while Eleanor was able to see through the glitter and shine and find what truly mattered in life: love.

So, there's my 2-cents worth on the first question in the SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY book club.  While I haven't been able to read A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY yet (sorry, Sooz!), I do look forward to future discussions and questions.  Go HERE for more information on Sooz's new book club!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why YA2U should come to Lexington, KY!

Author events are always an amazing amount of fun for readers.  I've been lucky enough to attend several and have always had a great time at all of them.  Meeting the writers of books I've enjoyed reading is always interesting, always fun to see how funny and personable they can be in real life.  So, when I heard about this fabulous contest which would bring 5 unbelievably talented writers to one city, free of charge to the venue, I thought it was one of the most ingenious ideas I've ever heard of.  In my opinion, there would be no greater city in the U.S. for Marissa Meyer, Beth Revis, Marie Lu, Victoria Schwab, and Megan Shepherd to bring YA2U to than Lexington, Kentucky.  More specifically, these wonderfully talented authors would be treated to one of Lexington's treasures by having their event at the renowned indie bookstore, Joseph-Beth Booksellers.  Need some convincing? OK, here are some wonderful tidbits about Kentucky:

1.  Lexington is the "Horse Capital of the World."   Kentucky is also commonly referred to as "The Bluegrass State."  Fun Fact: When author Richelle Mead visited Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington last summer, she mentioned that she had used areas of Kentucky and Lexington within her best-selling book series because it had "the greenest grass" she'd ever seen.  Yep, even Mrs. Mead loves the beauty that is KY!  Not only is it home to the Kentucky Horse Park, the largest and most unique park/museum dedicated to horses in the world (and where many infamous race horses are buried and honored with beautiful monuments), but nowhere else will you find more lush, gorgeous horse farms anywhere else.  Multi-million dollar horse farms are heavily scattered across Lexington and it's surrounding areas.  Farms with the most expensive, sought-after Thoroughbreds are everywhere to be seen.  Many of the world's most famous race horses came from and are now buried near Lexington. And if you visit in May, you could hop on over to Louisville for the world's most famous horse race, on the world's most famous race track, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

2. Kentucky is full of delicious treats.  Two of our most famous and well-loved are the bottled ginger-ale based soda pop called "Ale-8" and a delicious, chocolately treat you'll not soon forget called "Blue Monday."  Ale-8's are unique to Kentucky.  Not only were they developed here, they're bottled and only sold within Kentucky.  I think you can possibly get some shipped outside the state, but there's nothing like walking up to an Ale-8 pop machine with your $.75 and buying an ice cold bottle of this Kentucky fave!

     Are you a chocolate lover? Then Blue Monday is just what you need!  Invented by the locally owned Ruth Hunt Candy, Blue Monday's are one of the most widely loved chocolates to Kentuckians.  Comprised of your choice of milk, dark or mint chocolate, each bar is filled with a sweet, soft filling of cream candy, all made completely fresh by the makers at Ruth Hunt Candy.  A staple all over the state, and especially at the world-famous Kentucky Derby, these little wonderous chocolate delights will make you re-think ever eating another bar of chocolate again.  (Oh, and if you like your chocolate with a bit of kick to it, you must try one of their other most famous treats, Bourbon Balls.  Chocolate + KY Bourbon.  Yep, you heard that right!

3. Nowhere, I mean nowhere, else in the U.S. will you find more die-hard college basketball fans than Lexington, KY.  Home to the most winning college basketball team in history, the University of Kentucky continually places only the nation's best players on their team every year.  And with one of the most widely recognized basketball coaches ever as their leader, coach John Calipari has lead the team, and their legions of dedicated fans, to many victories over their rivals.  If you ever want to experience an insanely intense basketball game, head over to Rupp Arena for one of the Wildcats home games, pick up a UK shirt emblazoned with their uniquely shade of blue, "Kentucky blue"...and good luck finding a seat and obtaining your hearing after the game!

4. A couple of fun facts about Lexington:
    *Forbes magazine named Lexington as one of the world's seventeen cleanest cities.
    *Esquire magazine named Kentucky the most stylish state in the country.
(You wouldn't be here long to figure out why those wonderful accolades were bestowed upon us.)

 5. As mentioned before, I sincerely wish for this event to take place at Kentucky's greatest bookstore, Joseph-Beth Booksellers.  Located in the heart of Lexington, Joseph-Beth is one of the truest treasures of the city and state.  I've been to many bookstores over the years, but I'm always in awe when I walk through the doors of this independently owned store.  Standing two-stories, this bookstore houses countless books, from YA, adult, graphic novel, children's, and everything between.  They're also very dedicated to showcasing local authors by promoting their books through beautiful displays and bringing the authors for events. 
     In just the past two years, I've attended some amazing author events at Joseph-Beth.  I was in great company with hundreds of other book-lovers at each event.  Everyone from Erin Morgenstern, Charlaine Harris, Carrie Vaughn, Molly Harper, Kristen Simmons, Amy Plum, Richelle Mead, and Cherie Priest have had events that I've attended.  That doesn't even come close to counting the events by other well-known authors who had events so huge that security had to be in attendance as well.  Sarah Palin came to Joseph-Beth while promoting her biography and people waited for hours to get their books signed.  George R.R. Martin sent hundreds and hundreds into a frenzy.  And very recently, Brandon Sanderson and Harriet McDougal had well over 700 fans piling into the bookstore!

                                                *photo courtesy of Shelf Awareness Daily News

6. Like many states, Kentucky is home to many talented authors.  I'm sure all of you are familiar with Kentucky's own: Julie Kagawa (The Iron Fey series and the Blood of Eden series), Bethany Griffin (Masque of the Red Death and coming soon, Dance of the Red Death), Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits and the upcoming Crossing the Lines), Molly Harper (the Jane Jameson series and the Naked Werewolf series), and Gwenda Bond (Blackwood).  Now, even though Kristen Simmons isn't a native Kentuckian, she did live in Louisville for several years.  It was while she lived there that she came up with the idea, and later wrote, Article 5, the book that finally got her published on her long road to publishing.  (Go check out her bio on her website.  She's very inspiring for all up-and-coming writers!)  For anyone who's read the book, you'll know that key areas of her story take place in Louisville and Lexington.  Showing some Kentucky love!

7. Also like all other states, Kentucky has been home to many famous people, from all walks of infamy.  From actors to musicians, from writers to musicians, Kentucky has an eclectic list of famous peeps.  Here is a very small list of some people you've probably heard of:

* Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States
* Ashley Judd
* Wynonna Jud
* Naomi Judd
* Dwight Yoakam
* Muhammad Ali
* Hunter S. Thompson
* John Carpenter
* Tom Cruise
* Florence Henderson
* Molly Simms
* Nick Lachey
* Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson (2 of the 5 Backstreet Boys)

   and for all you Hunger Games fans:
* Jennifer Lawrence (a.k.a. Katniss Everdeen)
* Josh Hutcherson  (a.k.a. Peeta Malarck)

Now, when Beth announced the YA2U author event contest on her blog, she did mention that she'd be willing to go to wherever Nathan Fillion could be promised to her.  Sorry, Beth, I cannot get Nathan Fillion for you (not that I wouldn't try, it's just that I have no connections to his peeps! ;-) )
I can promise you this:

That's right!  George Clooney AND Johnny Depp...

          ...are both from Kentucky!

Is there a chance of either of these handsome faces showing up at Joseph-Beth? Er...probably not...But hey, it's not like you can't daydream about them being in the audience...sitting right beside you...mischevious grins on their faces...those dimples...with those intensely beautiful eyes staring into your souls...Um, that's not only my fantasy, right?

So, there you go, my attempt to convince Marissa, Beth, Marie, Victoria and Megan to consider Joseph-Beth Booksellers and bring YA2U to Lexington, KY.  Do I think we'll get the most votes of any city? I doubt it.  I mean, Lexington can't compete with the kinds of numbers that much larger cities will garner, cities like NYC, Portland, Chicago or Dallas.  But, what we can make up with is charm.  And humbleness.  And warm Southern accents.  And warm summer days.  And beautiful nature.  And the country's greatest indie bookstore.  And the fantasies of George Clooney and Johnny Depp.  (Dreams really do come true.)

*All photos, except where noted, were courtesy of Wikipedia.  
*Because, you know, I haven't actually met George or Johnny.  Yet.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 in Review

What a year 2012 was for me!  I wrote a lot.  I read even more.  I accomplished goals that I never thought would be possible, and made even bigger goals for 2013.  I met many great authors at some great bookstores.  I read debut novels by extremely talented writers (Susan Dennard, Lia Habel, Kristen Simmons, Marissa Meyer, Julie Cross, Veronica Rossi, just to name a few!)  I read new books by established authors, all of which made my mind melt with awe (Marta Acosta, Brenna Yovanoff, Maggie Stiefvater, Andrew Smith, Lish McBride, and many, MANY more!)  All-in-all, it was a pretty great year!

Since my last post, I met a few more authors.  In September, the fabulous Libba Bray graced Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington.  If you have never attended one of her author signings, put it on your bucket list.  She was so funny, so personable, so witty.  Most authors will read a passage from their newest title.  Not Libba.  Nope.  Instead, she read a horrifically hilarious short story she had written as a child.  Most people would've been utterly embarrassed to read something from so many years ago, but that little bit is what sets Libba apart from most mere mortals.  I really think she has no shame, and for that, I wish I could be as brave as her. 

                                                       Me and the Queen of Cool, Libba Bray!

She was so talkative with everyone who came through the signing line.  I don't think I've ever laughed so much at any one event before, and I really hope I'll get the chance to meet Libba again someday.

A few days later, Marissa Meyer, Lish McBride, Ann Aguirre and Elizbeth Fama all rolled into Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati with the Fierce Reads tour.  I happily made the 2-hour trek to meet them all.  I'm such a huge fan of Marissa's and Lish's works, and I was not disappointed in their event at all.  All the ladies read, joked, and took wonderful questions from the audience.  I don't think there's anything that Lish can't turn into something funny. 

I really enjoyed meeting these ladies, and even though I wasn't familiar with Ann's and Elizabeth's books before, I certainly made it a point to read their works afterward.  Everyone was so kind and I truly enjoyed meeting them.

Marissa, Elizabeth and Ann laughing at something funny said by Lish (which was pretty much during the entire event!)

Back in October, Cherie Priest came into Lexington and I quickly made it a point to go to her signing.  She joked about her insane amount of jet lag and didn't hesitate to break out hilarious dog and cat stories (glad I'm not the only person who does that!)  She answered great questions about her writing process, in particular, how she researches for her BONESHAKER series.  I felt really bad for her obvious exhaustion, but her enthusiasm for her readers beat out the tiredness.  I really hope she enjoyed her trip here!

Those were the last events I attended in 2012.  Pretty awesome, huh? I feel really lucky to have met all the wonderful authors that I did last year, not only in person, but online as well.  So many authors I admire are very accessible to their readers online, via Twitter, Facebook and email.  I think this is such a great way to reach out to readers to not only promote their work, but to show they actually care about who reads their books.  And I know readers like me are very appreciate to authors for their hard work and dedication.  After all, if it weren't for author Susan Dennard, my first novel never, EVER would've been completed.  I'll never be able to thank her enough for her positive attitude and faith in me, when I'd lost all that in myself.  And a huge thanks to author Marta Acosta, for giving me great advice and always being very thoughtful.

So, 2013, what could lie ahead? There are so many possibilities.  So, here's to a year full of wishing for bigger things and working hard to make sure those dreams come true!