Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.  It's such a fantastic way to connect with other bloggers who are interested in what we all love, BOOKS, to share what we are reading, what we are currently reading, and what we plan on reading in the week ahead.  I love this meme as it keeps me more focused on what I have to read, rather than just picking up the latest book I get in the mail, exclaim with excitement each time, and start reading the new book, completely forgetting about the ever-growing TBR pile (or the book I am currently reading).  Most times it works, sometimes it doesn't.    If you are interested, head on over to Sheila's blog and sign on up.  Also, if you comment on more than 10 other blogs, your name will be entered in a draw to win a book of your choice from her famous box. 

What I Read Last Week:

The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted - This book was a quick, fun read, but I was a little disapointed in the character development and I thought it was somewhat predictable.  There was so much potential in this novel and I don't think it lived up to its expectations.  I would still recommend it to anyone who is interested in historical fiction and just because I like this author.

Private by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro - I was a little apprehensive of this one, especially after some of the Womens' Murder Club books, but this was a pleasant surprise.  Hopefully the sequels will live up to this debut series. 

Ghosts & Echoes by Lyn Benedict - This was the second book in the series and I loved it.

What I am Currently Reading:

A Wretched Man: A Novel of Paul the Apostle by R.W. Holmen - A very interesting and absorbing read so far.

Except the Dying (Detective Murdoch Series, Book 1) by Maureen Jennings - This is a period mystery set in Toronto, near where I am currently living.  I am fascinated by the history lessons I am learning about a place where I grew up.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan - Absorbing.

What I Plan on Reading:

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Ravished by a Highlander by Paula Quinn

There is a lot to read and an ever-growing pile of books to go through, but it's so fascinating to see what is being published.  Soon I will be on holidays and I can't wait.

How was everyone else's reading week?
Sunday, May 30, 2010

Review: The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Education of Bet
by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Release Date: July 12, 2010
2010 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group
Softcover Edition; 186 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-547-22308-7
Genre: Young Adult / Historical
Source: ARC from Houghton Mifflin Canada

3.5 / 5 Stars

When Will and Bet were four, tragic circumstances brought them tot he same house, to be raised as brother and sister.  Now sixteen, they enjoy the comforts that come from wealth.  But not all is well in their household.  Because she is a girl, Bet's world is contained within the wall of their grand home and the constaints of her limited education.  Will's world is much larger, as he is allowed - forced, in his case - to go to school.  Neither is happy.

So Bet comes up with a plan and persuades Will to give it a try:  They'll switch places.  She'll go to school as Will.  Will can live as he chooses.

But once Bet gets to school, she soon realizes living as a boy is going to be much more difficult than she imagined.  Boys act very differently when they think there are no girls in their midst.  In fact, they can be rather brutish.  But brutish Bet can deal with.  It's more the attraction she feels for her roommate that gets Bet into real trouble.  This is not the education she expected.

My Thoughts
This was an enjoyable, quick read about a girl who is unsatisfied with her lot in life and persuades her 'brother' that she can take his place at school in order for her to get the education she has always wanted.  While I enjoyed the novel, I couldn't help but feel there was something missing however, and I never truly felt engaged by the characters themselves.

First of all, I felt the author did a great job explaining some of the social norms held several hundred years ago, although I was never really sure exactly what time period I was reading about.   There were great glimpses into what was expected of girls and the level of education they were expected to achieve.   There is a great discussion between Bet, Dr. Hunter and Mrs. Hunter that talks about girls and their education and why girls are not permitted into schools during this era; and yet, you can tell that the idea of girls and education is heading in that direction, just not quite at that time.  There were some neat examples of how difficult it would be for someone to pull off trying to be the opposite sex for a long period of time, things I didn't think of, like getting your menstrual cycle and taking baths in a common room at school.  There were some great insights into what school was like in the past and some of the harrassment that some of the boys, especially those who were weaker or had less wealth, had to deal with and probably little was done to stop it.  As a teacher, I was definitely appalled at some of the things that occurred at the school and how they were dealt with.

I really enjoyed the characters themselves, but felt there was little in the way of character development.  James was an intriguing character, but we learn so little about him that I felt somewhat disappointed and cheated in a way because I wanted to understand him better.  While I liked the characters, I don't feel I really connected with them to a large extent and for me, this counts for a lot.

I also found the plot to be somewhat predictable and definitely rushed towards the end, which was too bad as there was a lot of potential in this novel.  That there are under two hundred pages in this novel may have had something to do with this as a longer novel might have given the author more time to develop some of the events and the characters.  The ending definitely felt rushed as if the author realized she was running out of pages and had to fill everything in right away. 

I did enjoy the novel and I would recommend it as an easy, quick read, especially to those who like historical fiction, but there were some things I found somewhat disappointing in this novel.  However, I have always enjoyed reading Ms. Baratz-Logsted's novels so I am sure this novel will appeal to many readers and I will continue to look forward to her novels in the future.

In My Mailbox

It's been a fairly quiet week for the mailman, but I'm okay with that as June is going to be an extremely busy month as it is.  I've already got a huge pile of books to review and I'm heading into exams with a load of ISUs to mark as well as other things to do at work.  I don't really mind if this month is slow.  That being said though, there are a number of books coming out this month that I can't wait to get my hands on. 

I want to thank Kristi @ The Story Siren for hosting this weekly meme, even this week when she's too busy at BEA (we're all jealous, of course) to participate herself. 

This week for review:

by Heidi R. Kling
Release Date: June 15, 2010
Genre: Young Adult

A moody tale of romance set in the turbulent aftermath of the tsunami.

Reign Check (Demon Princess, Book 2)
by Michelle Rowan
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Genre: Young Adult

Nikki Donovan, demon princess, is back - and stuck in a love triangle straight out of hell!

This week from the library:

Except the Dying (Detective Murdoch Series, Book 1)
by Maureen Jennings
Release Date: May 4, 2010
Genre: Mystery

A period mystery, set in 1895 Toronto.
Friday, May 28, 2010

It's Blog Hop Time!!!

It's time to go have fun and to HOP, HOP, HOP!!!

This weekly meme, hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books, is a great way to meet new book bloggers, visit their blogs, talk about books, and build up and share in a fantastic support system of community book bloggers.  All you have to do is visit Jenn's blog, sign up, and post about the HOP.  Then visit as many blogs as you like, letting people know you visited through the hop.   Just remember, your blog must have content relating to books and book reviews.

Go have fun and go HOP!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Review: Private by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Private (Jack Morgan, Book 1)
by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Release Date: June 28, 2010 (Hardcover)
2010 Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 978-0-316-09615-7
ARC Softcover Edition; 393 Pages
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Source: Review Copy from Little, Brown and Company

4 / 5 Stars

Former Marine helicopter pilor Jack Morgan runs Private, a renowned investigation company with branches around the globe.  It is where you go when you need maximum force and maximum discretion.  The secrets of the most influential men and women on the planet come to Jack daily - and his staff of investigators use the world's most advanced forensic tools to make and break their cases.

Jack is already deep into the investigation of a multimillion-dollar NFL gambling scandal and the unsolved slayings of thirteen schoolgirls when he learns of a horrific murder close to home: his best friend's wife.  Jack devotes all of Private's resources to tracking down her killer.

But Jack doesn't have to play by the rules.  As he closes in on the killer and chooses between revenge and justice, he also has to navigate a workplace love affair, his own.

My Thoughts
I never turn down the chance to read a James Patterson novel and I have always enjoyed them, and Private is no exception.  This was a fun and enjoyable read and I was engaged in the story right from the beginning.    The chapters were short, the reading was quick, character viewpoints were different in each chapter as they changed back and forth, and the events happened quickly.    While some readers may object to this style of writing and prefer a more convoluted form of writing, I actually enjoy this every once in a while as the story does not get bogged down in overly long descriptions and explanations:  the story is to the point, quick, telling it like it is.    This does not mean that the plot is simple; although it does at times tend to be prescribed and predictable, there were enought twists and turns to make it very enjoyable with some surprises that did catch me unawares. 

I always love learning about new characters in a new series and the ones we meet in this novel are quirky and fun.  Although we spend more time with Jack and Justine, the ending of the novel certainly indicates there will be future novels and I am hoping we will learn much more about such interesting characters as Sci and Mo,  Cruz and Del Rio and Nora in the future.  It's such a treat knowing there is so much more to explore about characters and their development and it gives me something to look forward to.  And one of the things I have always enjoyed about Patterson's books is the way he lets the reader feel like they are right there in the action, knowing and understanding the character at that moment.  I have never felt distanced from his characters emotionally and I usually connect with them.  I may not always like what they are doing, but I still have some understanding for them. 

I enjoyed this first novel in the new Jack Morgan series and am curious to see what he does with this series.  Patterson certainly set things up for some explosive action in future novels and I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

A great meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine, gives us a chance to take a look at what is coming out in the next few months and go WOW! 

Here are some of my picks for this week:

The Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine
by Alison Weir
Release Date: July 13, 2010

In this latest offering, Ms. Weir imagines the world of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the beautiful twelfth-century woman who was Queen of France until she abandoned her royal husband for the younger man who would become King of England.  In a relationship based on lust and a mutual desire for great power, Henry II and Eleanor took over the English throne in 1154, thus beginning one of the most influential reigns and tumultuous royal marriages in all of history.

I have been fascinated by this woman for many years and can't wait to read this book.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review: Ghosts & Echoes by Lyn Benedict

Ghosts & Echoes: A Shadows Enquiries Novel
by Lyn Benedict
2010 Penguin Group
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Trade Paperback; 362 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-441-01870-3
Genre: Urban Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Penguin Group Canada

4.5 / 5 Stars

Sylvie Lightner is no ordianary PI.  She specializes in cases involving the unusual and unbelievable, in a world where magic is real, wher hell is just around the corner - and where death isn't the worst thing that can happen to you...

Sylvie is trying to take is easy.  She's just saved the world but lost her lover in the process.  And putting those she cares about in danger has never been part of her job description.  Distracting herself from her grief, Sylvie investigates what appears to be a simple robbery only to uncover a complex case of roganized murder with a magical edge.

But she has an ever more pressing mystery to solve.  Chicago cop Adam Wright has picked up a spiritual hitchhiker: the ghost of a dead man who desperately wants to live again.  Wright believes Sylvie is the only one who can rid him of the spirit - a spirit she finds strangely familiar...

My Thoughts
Ghosts & Echoes is the second book in this series, following Sins & Shadows, and I thought it was a much better novel than the first one.  The first one left me with too many unanswered questions and a lot of "What is exactly going on here?" questions, questions that didn't really come up in this very entertaining, quick-paced, action-packed sequel.  And you don't have to read the first novel in order to enjoy this one, although it doesn't hurt just for background information.

After a very difficult and grievous affair in the first novel, Sylvie returns to her job and prefers to take on cases that do not involve witches, vampires, werewolves, or anything else that is magical, but somehow ends up right in the middle of a magical muddle by helping a neighbour deal with some local thefts.   Soon she is dealing with some serious black magic and her own flesh and blood is deeply involved.    Having to deal with necromancers, black magic witches, werewolves, and rebellious teenagers is soon causing Sylvie and her partners major trouble with a lot of people, including the local police force.   To make matters worse, Sylvie has another case, a Chicago cop who is causing her a lot of problems as well, especially as she begins to suspect very early on who the spiritual hitchhiker is inside of him. 

These two plot lines seem to run parallel to each other throughout the novel, but they actually entertwine quite nicely and fit together towards the end.  I did find that some of the 'talks' and 'discussions' about spiritual bodies and ghosts had a tendency to go on a tad too long and I was wishing they would get on with the storyline, but a lot of it was fairly interesting and I have to give credit to the author for her creativity.  'The Hands of Glory' were particularly gruesome and I certainly have no wish to sleep with those under my pillow or anywhere near my body, thank you very much.  (You'll have to read the story to find out more, no spoilers!!)  I also particularly liked how Sylvie dealt with the rebellious rich teenagers in this story.  It's sad to think what people will do for kicks just because they have too much money and are bored with their lives and never have to work for anything.  I had a lot of compassion for the teenagers because they dabbled in something they knew absolutely nothing about and got swindled by some sweet-talking people.   And they paid the price for it as well.

I particularly enjoyed Sylvie's dilemna with regards to the Chicago cop and his spiritual presence.  I don't want to say who it was, but it did pose a huge moral issue for Sylvie and I liked how the author dealt with the dilemna of what she would do with her conflict of interest.  Would she cross the line and suffer the consequences or would she be selfless and do the right thing?  It made for fascinating scenes and reading and I wasn't sure until the end as to what she would do.  It certainly made for some interesting character development with regards to Sylvie and I grew to like her tremendously.  She's tough, courageous, a killer, but at the same time, she's compassionate and cares deeply about others.  She will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Ghost and Echoes is a smartly written, engaging novel that will capture you right from the beginning.  It has a lot of action, a lot of supernatural activity, a lot of suspense, psychological thrills and chills, and can be somewhat creepy at times.  If you are interested in strong female characters and mysteries with a paranormal twist, then this may be the book for you.  For me, I'm definitely looking forward to the next book in this series.

Upcoming Releases - May 25 - May 30

There are so many good books coming out this week that I had difficulty keeping the list to only ten books.  It is shaping up to be such an exciting summer that I am having trouble focusing on what I have to currently read instead of thinking and hoping for those books yet to come.  Here are some of the books being released this week that I can't wait to read.

Infinity (Chronicles of Nick Series)
by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Release Date: May 25, 2010

At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him, until the night when his best friends try to kill him.  Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.  Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one. 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (Millenium Series, Book 3)
by Stieg Larsson
Release Date: May 25, 2010

Salander is plotting her revenge - against the man who tried to kill her, and against the government institutions that nearly destroyed her life.  After taking a bullet to the head, Salander is under close supervision in Intensive Care, and is set to face trial for three murders and one attempted murder on her release.  With the help of Mikael Blomkvist and his researchers at Millenium magazine, Salander must not only prove her innocence, but identify and denounce the corrupt politicians that have allowed the vulnerable to become victims of abuse and violence. 

Princess of Glass
Jessica Day George
Release Day: May 25, 2010

Hoping to escape the troubles of her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other's countries in the name of better political alliances - and potential marriages. 

Early to Death, Early to Rise (Madison Avery Series, Book 2)
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: May 25, 2010

Seventeen, dead, and in charge of heaven's dark angels - all itching to kill someone.

 Found (Magic Thief Series, Book 3)
by Sarah Prineas
Release Date: May 25, 2010

Sarah Prineas' incredible world explodes with adventure - a place where cities run on living magic and heroes come from the most surprising places.

I absolutely adore this series (and so does my son)!

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
by C.W. Gortner
Release Date: May 25, 2010

From the fairy-tale chateaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women to be queen.

She's so Dead to Us
by Kieran Scott
Release Date: May 25. 2010

When having money is all that matters, what happens when you lose it all?

Ally was hoping to have left all the drama in the past, but some things just can't be forgotten.  Isn't there more to life than money?

The Poet Prince (Magdalene Line Series, Book 3)
by Kathleen McGowan
Release Date: May 25, 2010

I have been looking forward to this one for quite a while.  Bring it on!!!

The Whole World
by Emily Winslow
Release Date: May 25, 2010

Set in the richly evoked pathways and environs of Cambridge, England, The Whole World unearths the desperate secrets kept by its complex characters - students, professors, detectives, husbands, mothers - secrets that lead to explosive consequences.

Dust to Dust (Steven Dunbar Series, Book 8)
by Ken McClure
Release Date: May 27, 2010

Dr. Steve Dunbar is sent to investigate a death, fearing that a new killer virus has been let loose.
Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I absolutely adore this meme, hosted by Sheila over at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.  It's such a great way to keep me on track as I have a tendency to get excited over every new book that comes my way that I sometimes get sidetracked and forget about those that are waiting in my 'to be reviewed' pile.  I have been known to start reading a book in the post office as soon as I open the package.  This meme focuses on what we read during the past week, what we are currently reading, and what we'd like to read in the upcoming week.    It's also a great way to check out what other bloggers are reading, reviewing, and gushing over.  Interested?  Head on over to Sheila's blog and sign up.

This is what I read this week:

Virginia by Susan Hughes - Interesting read, but can be controversial.  Read my review here.

Changes by Jim Butcher - I have yet to post this review.  Too many things going on this week and next.

Ghosts & Echoes by Lyn Benedict - Review should be up either tonight or tomorrow.

Currently Reading:

Fever Crumb by

Private by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro - This is pretty good so far.

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Intentions to Read:

Intentions to finish all of the above.

A Wretched Man: A Novel of Paul the Apostle by R.W. Holmen

Folly by Marthe Jocelyn - I've read a few pages already, and it's really interesting.

What did you read this week?  I did not succeed at what I intended to do, but I am heading into my second busiest time at work.  For the next several weeks time will be tight for reading as I will need to focus on work, but at least the end is in sight and holidays are almost here. 

Happy reading everyone!

In My Mailbox

What a fantastic weekend!  My husband, the kiddies and I went to our trailer this weekend and celebrated a wonderful long weekend (it's the Victoria Day weekend here in Canada) and we couldn't have asked for better weather.  Last year we had snowflakes, this year it is warm, sunny, and absolutely gorgeous.  It makes it really hard to come back to reality. 

This weekly meme is hosted by The Story Siren and is a great way for me to keep track of when I receive books either in the mail, through the bookstore, or from the library.  I am a notorious renewer at the library and just had to renew several books today because I forgot about them. Oops!!

This week I received the following for review:

Flirting with Forever
by Gwen Cready
Release Date:  March 30, 2010

Ravished By a Highlander (Children of the Mist Series, Book 1)
by Paula Quinn
Release Date: May 1, 2010

by Andrew Feder
Release Date: January 14, 2010

The Education of Bet
by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Release Date: July 12, 2010

Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus
by R.L. LaFevers
Release Date: April 12, 2010

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Release Date: August 23, 2010

I was so thrilled to get this one in the mail as a review copy as I absolutely love this author's work.  She is a Newberry Honor-winning author of Hitler Youth and Sibert Award-winning author of Black Potatoes

I received only 1 book from the library this week (but had to renew several overdue books as I forgot about them):

The Red Pyramid
by Rick Riordan

I have been waiting to read this, but it has come at a bad time as I have so many other things I need to read first.  And I don't think I'll be able to renew this one. 
And I don't even remember ordering this one either.

From the bookstore:

The Curse of Nefertiti
by Charline Ratcliff
Friday, May 21, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

It's that time again.  Do you want to meet people who are interested in what you are?  Do you want do connect with those who love to read, enjoy discussing books, are obsessed with characters and upcoming releases?  Then you have come to the right place.

It's time to do the HOP!!!!

If you are interested, head on over to Crazy for Books, hosted by Jennifer, and sign up.  All you have to have is a blog with content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.  It's such a great way to connect with people who are interested in the same thing you are, BOOKS.

Let's get hopping and have some fun.  And thank you to everyone who visits my blog; it's still amazing to think that people actually visit and read what I write.   

Have a wonderful weekend!  And to those of us in Canada, Happy Victoria Day Weekend!
Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: Virginia by Susan Hugues

by Susan Hughes
2010 Kids Can Press
Softcover Edition; 288 Pages
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review copy from Kids Can Press

4 / 5 Stars

Virginia Donato has always had an indefinable quality that sets her apart from anyone else Ivy Morrell has ever known.  But when this childhood friend and neighbor confides in her, confessing that she has been visited by an angel and asked to do something 'momentous', Ivy begins to think Virginia has lost her mind.  As Ivy struggles to make sense of her friend's bizarre claim, she notices other strange happenings in the Donato household.  Determined to find out more, Ivy discovers that Virginia's older brother Paul may have a shocking secret of his own, one that could have dangerous consequences.  Can it be connected to Virginia?  Should Ivy tell?  And is there anyone she can turn to before it's too late?

My Thoughts
I really did not know what to think when I first finished this novel.  That it was gripping and made me contemplate a lot of things was unquestionable, but I certainly had a lot of questions that needed answering and these were questions that could not be answered through the book.  Bear with me as I will explain what I mean.

First of all, I did enjoy this novel, but it was very different from what I normally read.  Ivy learns from Virginia that Virginia has been visited by the angel Gabriel and has been asked to carry a child from God, an Immaculate Conception.  Ivy does not know what to think about the idea, and is extremely sceptical right from the beginning.  I have to admit that a modern day Immaculate Conception is not something that I have ever really contemplated and as the story went on, I was forced to think about the idea and the impact such a concept would have on our modern world.  It was very unsettling to say the least. 

As a main character, Ivy was enjoyable to read about and follow her story.  She is determined, courageous, loyal, and brave.  Her life is completely different than Virginia's, but she was worried for her friend, so she continued to investigate the situation despite the danger she put herself in.  She was also willing to question, listen, and learn about new ideas and thoughts, especially concerning religion and philosophy, something that is not a really big part of her life as it is in Virginia's.   I also really liked Virginia's brother Joe, but felt he was an under-developed character.  I thought he was often just thrown into scenes as if the author did not quite know how to get him to the same places where Ivy was going to be.    He had a lot of potential as a character and I did not quite feel connected to him like I did to Ivy.

The plot certainly had some unexpected twists and turns, many of which happened because of the great use of different points of view.  The reader was able to 'hear' Virginia's thoughts at the end of each chapter and it gave us insight into what was happening in the Donato household as well as allowed some extra suspense and tension to seep into the novel.  I certainly enjoyed this dual aspect to the story and found it more interesting. 

The story line is certainly imbedded into the issues of religion and philosophy.  For me that was not an issue as I have a strong background in both of these areas, either personally or educationally, so I understood the nuances and hints that were given throughout the novel.  I'm not sure if everyone would however, if you had no background in religion.  This is one of the drawbacks to this novel.  On the other hand, I found myself stopping in the middle of the page or scene and reflecting on what I had read and thinking about my own religious beliefs and ideas quite often.  It was a very reflective and deep thinking read.

I thought this novel was gripping and full of religious and philosophical suspense.  It made me think about my own beliefs and truths and these are the questions that cannot be found in a novel, but are found within us.  I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in religion and philosophy and in the Bible.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Interview & Giveaway: Lesley Anne Cowan

Today I'm excited to welcome Lesley Anne Cowan.  Lesley is the author of the forthcoming Something Wicked, to be released June 1st, and also of As She Grows, and she has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for my readers.  I thoroughly enjoyed Something Wicked, and you can read my review here.

Sixteen-year old Melissa's most recent troubles stem from a secret: her twenty-eight year old boyfriend, Michael, has just broken up with her.  Even though the relationship is clearly over, Melissa clings to the past, riding a never-ending wave of hope and disappointment.  Meaningless sexual escapades, drunken nights, and drug-induced blackouts help her deal with heartbreak, but her pain goes much deeper than her failed relationship.  Along with her broken heart, Melissa has to cope with the memories of her younger brother's death; the non-existent parenting of her insecure, flighty mother; being juggled between social workers and psychologists; and getting kicked out of school and sent to a special program for at-risk youth.  So when the cracks in her life threaten to tear her apart, Melissa has to decide whether to keep fighting - or to let go.

Make sure to stick around to the end of the interview as we're giving away 1 copy of Something Wicked to one lucky commentator.


To start off, can you tell us something about yourself?

Sure.  I'm an author and secondary school teacher.  I have been instructing at-risk youth for over ten years now.  I am also an avid traveler, having spent about half of the last five years outside Canada.  I am currently splitting my time between Kenya and Toronto.

Can you tell us something about your new release, Something Wicked?

Something Wicked is my second novel.  My first novel, As She Grows, was published as adult literary fiction in 2003.  It was re-released as adolescent fiction in 2009.  I find that interesting as I never intended for teens to read that book (which is why they liked it so much).  Something Wicked however, was written specifically for teens.  I'm interested how the two will compare.  While writing Something Wicked, knowing a teenager was going to read it, I had to constantly fight that instinctual 'adult' voice that told me to make my protagonist 'do the right thing' or 'solve all her problems'.  I found it interesting how strong this sense of obligation to be a moral guide for my readers was.  I fought that 'sheltering' urge as much as possible while writing Something Wicked but I still think As She Grows was a more 'carefree' story while Something Wicked holds something back.

In Something Wicked, we are introduced to some very interesting and gritty characters.  Please tell us a little about Melissa, your main character.  Who was the most fun to write? Who was the most difficult to write?  Are any of your characters modelled off anyone you know?

Melissa is the main character.  She's a sixteen-year old girl who is dealing with a number of challenges in her life: an absent father, a questionable role model of a mother, a recent break-up, sibling loss, learning disability, ADD and possibly undiagnosed depression.  (That's all?)  To cope, she turns to drugs, alcohol, and meaningless sex.  Despite her struggles, she still has some good things going on in her life, like, a great job, a good counselor, and a love of reading.  I can't say she was 'fun' to write.  She disappointed me at times.  But don't most people who are living lives in turmoil?

Some of my characters are composites of people I know, but none of them are true replications.  Thing is, many of the young people struggling with difficulties have much in common but don't realize it.  I'm sure a few readers would think, "Hey!  That's me!" and yet I don't even know who they are.  In reality, I've met many, many young women like Melissa.  But it's essential for me to clarify that I never write about the events in my students' lives.  That's really important to me, since I'm balancing teaching and writing.  I need to respect my students' privacy and integrity.

As a teacher myself, I can see what a fine line that would be and how important and necessary that would be.  What was your inspiration for writing your novel? Did you find it difficult to separate your writing world from your daily world?  How much research was involved in the writing process?

My inspiration for my novel stems from my work.  As a writer, I tend to pontificate a lot (about everything).  I'm not someone who just goes home and forgets about my students.  I think a lot about them and it's natural for me to work out my thoughts on the page.  Understanding their motivations assists me in helping them learn.  The research is in my daily living and responding to what's put in front of me.  At the same time, it's easy for me to separate my teaching life from my writing life.  At school, I'm a teacher.  I never discuss my writing.

Do you have a favourite scene in your novel?

I have too many scenes to just pick one.  But I can tell you my least favourite.  That's the Giovanni scene (for obvious reasons).  Writing that scene really broke my heart.  

When you're not working, what do you like to read?  Is there an author who has inspired you over the years?

To be honest, I don't read a lot.  I wish I were one of those authors who boast they read Moby Dick when they were like six years old. And I'd like to say my excuse is that I don't have time, but I know similarly busy people and they seem to find time to read, so I feel I don't know what to say.  I teach full time, I have a good social life, I work out, I write - that all adds up to full days and when I put my head on my pillow, I fall asleep.  Having said all that, I'm currently (and slowly) reading Revolutionay Road.  And my earlier inspirations were Anne Michaels and Margaret Atwood.

How much do say do you have in the book publication process?  For example, do you have a say in choosing the book covers?

Penguin has been great in terms of involving me in the book publication process.  They give me sample book covers and ask me for my input.  I'm really pleased with that!

Can you share with us any projects that you are currently working on or any plans for the future?

Something Wicked and As She Grows are meant to be the first two novels in a series of adolescent fiction books that deal with at-risk youth subject matter.  Specifically, I want to write loosely linked novels about girls who don't necessarily know each other but who are part of the same system (i.e. social workers, counselors, probation officers, teachers, etc). There will be some overlap of characters but the protagonists won't know each other.

I also write adult literary fiction.  I have completed two manuscripts that I hope to publish soon.  One book is about the limitation of language and the freedom of silence.  It has two parallel stories:  One is about a woman who goes to a Thai meditation temple for 26 days of silence.  The other is about her grandfather who was a German prisoner of war in Ontario.  The second book I have written is about a couple who go to an island in Kenya, seeking life on the edge only to get pushed further than they thought imaginable.

What do you like to do when you are not writing or reading or working?

I travel.

Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

I'm hoping my adolescent readers will find I treat them with respect.  My stories aren't 'happy' but I think teens are ready for literature that has caught up with the rest of the media that 'tells it like it is'. And I want them to remember that my characters are only 16.  It's a long journey and in my mind, they all make it in the end. 


Thank you Lesley for visiting Curling Up By The Fire!  For more information about Lesley, please visit

Lesley Anne Cowan will be in Toronto, in conversation with Emily Pohl-Weary.

WHEN?  Saturday, June 5,  2 pm (Doors open 1:30 pm)   FREE!

WHERE?  Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario

To celebrate the launch of Something Wicked, Lesley Anne Cowan will discuss writing and working with at-risk youth with noted author Emily Pohl-Weary.  An extended Q&Q will follow the conversation.

A Small Print Toronto Event presented by Penguin Group Canada, Gladstone Hotel and

Media/Info Contact: Vimala Jeevanandam:  (416) 928-2419


Contest Time!!

Penguin Group Canada has graciously given one copy of Something Wicked to give away to one commentator and it's very easy to enter.    Just leave a comment, including your email address,  telling us why you would like to win this book.   The contest is only open to residents of Canada.

Additional entries:
+1 Become a follower
+1 Leave a meaningful comment on any other post on my blog and let me know which one.
+1 Post about this contest on your blog or anywhere else you wish.  Leave me the link in your post please. 

Contest ends June 5, 2010.

Good luck everyone!!!!

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that highlights upcoming new releases we are anxiously awaiting.  There are so many books I am waiting for it is difficult to really focus on only a few each week.

by Gillian Shields
Release Date: August 3, 2010

Dragongirl: A New Story of Pern
by Todd McCaffrey
Release Date: July 27, 2010

Young Fiona, rider of the gold dragon queen Talenth, has returned from spending three years in the past, where she helped sick and injured dragons and riders to heal in order to return to the present to fight Thread.  She is three years older and wiser, but all around her dragons are falling ill and dying, and she and the others are still no closer to uncovering a cure.  In this sequel to the bestselling Dragonheart, Fiona must learn to balance responsibility and ambition, help a friend discover her own place among the dragonriders, and solve the myster of the illness that threatens the very survival of Pern.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Upcoming Releases May 17-24

I always try to limit myself to ten books for this post or else I would be here writing forever.  This week was another hard week as there are so many interesting and intriguing book being published it was hard to decide what to include.  Here are some my family is looking forward to reading:

Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy Series, Book 8)
by Richelle Mead
Release Date: May 18, 2010

After a long and heartbreaking journey to Dmitri's birthplace in Siberia, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir's - and to her best friend, Lissa.  It is nearly graduation, and the girls can't wait for their real lives beyond the Academy's iron gates to begin. But Rose's heart still aches for Dmitri, and she knows he's out there, somewhere.

She failed to kill him when she had the chance.  And now her worst fears are about to come true - Dmitri has tasted her blood, and now he is hunting her.  Only this time, he won't rest until Rose joins him - forever.

Love Bites (Vampire Kisses, Book 7)
by Ellen Schreiber
Release Date: May 18, 2010

As a mortal girl dating a vampire, Raven knows that love isn't always easy.  Now that Alexander's parents have returned to Romania, Raven and her dreamy vampire boyfriend are happy to resume their cryptic romance.

But soon another visitor comes knocking: Sebastian, Alexander's best friend, arrives for a stay at the mansion. At first Raven is wary, then thrilled - this is the perfect chance to learn more about her darkly handsome boyfriend and his past.  Raven has been wondering whether Alexander will ever bite her and make their love immortal, and Sebastian could be her guide to the love habits of Alexander and his kind.  But when Sebastian falls for a particular Dullsvillian, will another mortal beat Raven to the bite?

The Kings of Clonmel (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 8)
by John Flanagan
Release Date: May 18, 2010

My son almost ripped my arm off when this came in the mail as a review copy, so this one is for him.

Will is at the annual Ranger Gathering but Halt is investigating mysterious happenings in the west.  When he does finally return, it's with bad news.  Hibernia is in turmoil.  A religious cult calling themselves the Outsiders are sowing confusion and sedition, and five of the six Hibernian kingdoms have been undermined.  Now the sixth, Clonmel, is in danger.  Halt, Will and Horace set out to restore order.  Can the secrets of Halt's past help them in their mission?

Blood Oath (Nathaniel Cade, Book 1)by Christopher Farnsworth
Release Date: May 18, 2010

Zach Barrows is an ambitious young White House staffer whose career takes an unexpected turn when he's partnered with Nathaniel Cade, a secret agent sworn to protect the President.  But Cade is no ordinary civil servant.  Bound by a special blood oath, he is a vampire.  Cade battles nightmares before they can break into the daylight world of the American dream, enemies far stranger - and far more dangerous - than civilians have ever imagined.

Claire de Lune
by Christine Johnson
Release Date: May 18, 2010

Claire is having the perfect sixteenth birthday.  Her pool party is a big success, and gorgeous Matthew keeps chatting and flirting with her as if she's the only girl there.  But that night, she discovers something that takes away all sense of normalcy; she's a werewolf.

As Claire is initiated into the female pack of werewolves, she must deal not only with her changing identity, but also with a rogue werewolf who is putting everyone she knows in danger.  Claire's new life threatens her blossoming romance with Matthew, whose father is leading the werewolf hunt.  Now burdened with a dark secret and pushing the boundaries of forbidden love, Claire is struggling to feel comfortable in either skin.  With her lupine loyalty at odds with her human heart, whe will make a choice that will changer her forever.

The Demon's Covenant (Demon's Lexicon Series, Book 2)
by Sarah Rees Brennan
Release Date: May 18, 2010

Wolves, Boys & Other Things That Might Kill Me
by Kristen Chandler
Release Date: May 18, 2010

KJ Carson lives an outdoor lover's dream.  The only daughter of a fishing and wildlife guide, KJ can hold her own on the water or in the mountains near her hometown outside Yellowstone National Park.  But when she meets the shaggy-haired, intensely appealing Virgil, KJ loses all self-possession.  And she's not sure if it's a good or a bad thing that they're assigned to work together on a school newspaper article about the famous wolves of Yellowstone.  As KJ spends time with Virgil, she also spends more time getting to know a part of her world that she always took for granted...and she begins to see herself and her town in a whole new light.

Frenzy (Dreamhouse Kings Series, Book 6)
by Robert Liparulo
Release Date: May 18, 2010

There were things that seemed odd when the Kings first moved into their house - but things got really strange when they realized the rooms upstairs were portals to other worlds.  Even though the rooms were dangerous, it still seemed fun until people started coming into their house and Mom was kidnapped.  They've been desperately searching for her, but they risk their lives every time they enter a world.

Xander has traveled back to visit Uncle Jesse as a boy, but that turns out to be the last place Xander wants to be.  Jesse tells him David died.  But Xander's not about to let that happen - even if it already did.  It doesn't matter how many worlds he has to go to or what it takes, he is going to find a way to change the future.

Restoring Harmony
by Joelle Anthony
Release Date: May 18, 2010

The year is 2040, and sixteen-year old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the U.S., Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse - one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.

Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they're financially ruined and practically starving.  What should've been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission.  And when Molly witness something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn't, Molly's only way home may be to beat them at their own game.  Luckily, there's a handsome stranger to help.

Firespell (Dark Elite, Book 1)
by Chloe Neill
Release Date: May 20, 2010

Lily's parents have sent her to a fancy boarding school in Chicago filled with the ultra-rich.  If that wasn't bad enough, she's hearing and seeing bizarre things on St. Sophie's creepy campus.  Her roommate, Scout, keeps her sane, but keeps disappearing at night.  When one day Lily finds Scout running from real-life monsters, she learns the hard way that Scout is involved in a splinter group of rebel teens.

They protect Chicago from demons, vamps, and dark magic users.  It's too bad Lily doesn't have powers of her own to help.  At least, none that she's discovered yet...
Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This fun weekly meme is hosted by Sheila @ One Person's Journey Through A World of Books.  It is a great way to take a look at what you read in the past week, what you are currently reading, and to organize that huge TBR pile and decide what to read in the week ahead.  It is also a great way to check out other blogs and see what other bloggers have read and what other readers are anticipating reading.  Maybe you'll find something so interesting you'll have to put down your current read and go pick up that book. 

If you're interested, click on Sheila's blog to find out all the particulars and join in on all the fun.  Maybe you'll even win a weekly prize if you comment on at least 10 of the participating blogs.  It's always great to win a new book.

This past week was a little rough as I spent most of it home sick.  I don't know what happened as over a week ago I was congratulating myself on how healthy I've been and then WHAM! I woke up with a fever, sore throat, ear problem, the works.  After a two hour wait at the clinic, strep throat and a viral infection, a trip to pick up antibiotics and a four-hour nap, I was finally feeling like I could think again.  So, what else do you do when you can't do anything else?   Nap and read, what else?

This is what I managed to accomplish this week:

Soulless by Gail Carriger - I finally finished this one and enjoyed it tremendously.  Here is my review.

The Golden Spiral (Book 2, The Hourglass Trilogy) by Lisa Mangum - I loved this book.  Read review here.

Vampire Theory by Lily Caracci - Do you see a trend happening here?  Read review here.

Virginia by Susan Hughes - This was an interesting read to say the least. 
                                          I still don't know what I think about it as there
                                          was a lot to take in, both religiously and
                                          Review is forthcoming.

Currently Reading:

Changes by Jim Butcher - Review should be posted this week as I am almost finished.

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

Ghosts and Echoes by Lyn Benedict

Intending to Read Next:

Private by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

A Wretched Man: A Novel by Paul the Apostle by R.W. Holmen
Sunday, May 16, 2010

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  It is a great way to keep track of those books you have received in the past week, whether by mail (either review copies or those you purchased), in the bookstore, or from the library.  It's also a great way to check out what everyone else in the blogging world is reading.  If you are interested, visit  blog, link up, post, and have fun.

This is what I received for review this week.  It's interesting, but things have been pretty slow for several weeks, then all of a sudden, in two days, I get these books in the mail.  I love getting unexpected books in the mail, it's such fun!!!!

The Kings of Clonmel (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 8)
by John Flanagan

My son was pretty excited about this one arriving in the mail.  I better read it soon, or it will probably disappear.

Restoring Harmony
by Joelle Anthony

This is a riveting, fast-paced dystopian tale complete with adventure and romance that readers will devour.

Private (Jack Morgan, Book 1)
by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Murder, glamour, glitz, and secrets.  What more could a reader want?

by Marthe Jocelyn

I mentioned this in my weekly feature This Week's Upcoming Releases and next thing I know, I receive it as a review copy.  I was thrilled.

A Wretched Man: A Novel of Paul the Apostle
by R.W. Holmen

This should be a very interesting read.  I am looking forward to it.

Books I won this week:

A Certain Wolfish Charm
by Lydia Dale
I love books about werewolves. 

I did not go to the bookstore or the library this past week.  I have too many books on my TBR pile and those places are dangerous places to be right now.  I will head back to these beloved places once I am set free for the summer and have ample time to read.