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January 24th, 2010

 

Poised at the Edge Book Review

FATHER KNOWS BEST

Lynda Sandoval

 

What could possibly be worse than your dad dating your boyfriend’s mother? That’s how the summer begins for Lila. Little does she know that this summer is going to be filled with a twisting series of surprises? At the onset she is so unhappy that her father is dating Dylan’s mother, Chloe. She can’t help but imagine worse case scenarios. What if her boyfriend ends up being her stepbrother? Ew, can you imagine?

Her ultimate summer goal is to break up the relationship, but nothing turns out the way she expected.   Chloe keeps being ,well….nice. To make matters worse Dylan thinks that Lila’s issue is that she doesn’t think his mother is good enough for her dad. But when she can’t find a job to help pay off her dream car Chloe gives her a job at her travel agency. Lila thinks she’s not going to like working for Chloe, but she ends up loving the job.

Things get even more unpredictable when Dylan’s ex-girlfriend, Lila’s arch nemesis, Jennifer Hellspawn Hamilton, announces she’s pregnant. Lila and her two best friends Meryl and Caressa can’t stand Jennifer. She has always been extremely superficial, and treated all of them like dirt. Still, when Jennifer’s fair-weather friends dump her as a result of her pregnancy Lila’s compassionate best friend Meryl takes her under her wing. At first Lila feels a little betrayed, but people can be surprising.

FATHER KNOWS BEST is warm-hearted, humorous romp, filled to the brim with girl-power and sincerity. The characters are likeable, believable, and often insightful and witty. It’s a story that blasts preconceived notions, and shows how life and fate have a mind of their own, no matter what plans you have. The message is positive and the story leaves the reader wanting more.

 


May 3rd, 2009

Book Review: EVERMORE

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Kaylee

Poised at the Edge Book Review

EVERMORE

Alyson Noel

 

            Ever Bloom’s life is changed is changed forever when her family gets in a serious car accident. Ever, the only survivor of the accident wakes up able to see people’s auras and hear their thoughts. Any accidental physical contact causes Ever to know any individual’s whole life story. In an attempt to avoid human contact (thus control her abilities) she shuts down. She’s been branded an outcast at her new high school, but she does have two fellow outsiders to spend time with.

            All this changes when she meets the mysterious new boy, Damen Auguste. The fact that he’s rich, gorgeous, and anything but typical is nothing compared to the fact being in his presence silences all of Ever’s intrusive new powers. But just like Ever, Damen is hiding dangerous secrets. 

Things get even worse when his old flame, Drina enters the picture. Cold, calculated, and preternaturally beautiful, Drina shares Damen’s lack of an aura.  The fact that Ever’s best friend Haven is fixatedly drawn to Drina is source of even more peril. Drina is a menace who makes no secret of her hate for Ever. But what begins as a game develops into something far deeper and dangerous.

EVERMORE marks veteran YA author Alyson Noel’s debut into the paranormal. Beautifully written and darkly seductive is one of the more exciting books of its genre. It is infectiously exciting to read! Look for the sequel BLUE MOON due out this summer.

 

March 2nd, 2009


Poised at the Edge Author Interview

A.S. King

THE DUST OF 100 DOGS is not your typical YA novel. With its mysticism and history, as well as unique and complex characters, it comes off as totally original and fresh. What inspired you to write this complex one of a kind novel?

I first got the idea while I was walking my dogs along a centuries-old road. I’d be lying if I said I aimed to be complex or original. I don’t really plan my books, and so, I work for a few months or years, and they come out looking like this. J But to answer your deeper question, these things inspired me: history, women in history, and dogs.

For the benefit of those who are yet to read THE DUST OF 100 DOGS will you please tell us a little about both Emer and Saffron, who they are, what motivates them, and what is their relationship with each other?

Emer Morrisey is a six year old Irish girl in 1650, when Oliver Cromwell’s army attacks her village and kills her family. She is brought up by her uncle and aunt who sell her to a man in Paris when she is fourteen. When she escapes him, and then escapes Paris , she ships herself to the Caribbean and eventually becomes a ruthless pirate.

Saffron Adams is a very clever teenager in the 1980s, trying to please everyone until she can finally escape her loser family and get to Jamaica , where she knows there is treasure buried, because she buried it 326 years before, when she was Emer Morrisey.

Location clearly is a key defining element of THE DUST OF 100 DOGS. From the green hills of Ireland , to the drizzly streets of Paris , to the balmy beaches Jamaica , the setting of the story has almost as much character as the characters themselves. Why did you choose the particular locations, and what did they have to do with the evolution of the story?

Because the story started with the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland , in a fictional location based on where I lived at the time, the backdrop of Ireland was a definite. I started writing that, and the American parts of the story, and wondered how the two would meet. A trip to Jamaica and a few pirate video games helped it land in the Caribbean . I love traveling, and I guess it shows in my work.

What kind of research did you do for the historical parts of your novel? What was it that drew you to Cromwell’s invasion? Would you say that the attack on Emer’s little village was a fairly realistic and accurate account of the invasion?

A small plaque in the nearby village (about a woman who defended her house against Cromwell’s army in February 1650) drew me to want to learn more about the Cromwellian invasion. Realizing that Cromwell’s army might have marched down the road I lived on (and learning about other injustices, in later years, on our own property) made me feel very close to it. The attack on Emer’s village is a fictional amalgam of many documented invasions, but not an actual historical event.

You’ve referred to your story as magical realism. Will you please explain the difference between magical realism and fantasy?

Fantasy is usually complete world building and involves fantastic characters and storylines. Magic realism is when magical or illogical events happen in a normal or everyday setting, to totally normal characters.

Why pirates, curses, and dogs?

The pirates and curses got the job done. The dogs helped along the way. Really, what can I say? I start writing a book, and it drags me where it wants to go, usually not the other way around. At the time, I was interacting with more dogs than humans, so that’s probably a factor.

Did you write from a carefully plotted outline? Did you know what was going to happen, and how the story would end? Were the characters carefully planned or did they evolve along with the story?

I didn’t write with an outline, though I did write a lot of notes, which I do for every book. Pages and pages of them—a kind of thinking out loud for me, where I bounce things around to see how they sound. I make a list of these ideas. I then try to use them to roll the snowball of a story into a bigger story. Some ideas die along the way because they don’t quite fit and get scratched out with black Sharpie marker. Some spring up right at the end and slot into place as if they grew there. But on a whole, my stories and characters evolve over time.

It is my understanding that you stumbled into YA literature unintentionally. Will you continue to write for the teen market in the future? Also, do you read any YA yourself? If so what are some books you enjoy?

It’s true. When I wrote this book, I was living in another country and had no idea about the US YA market for books. But I’ve always written teen-protagonist books, so landing here wasn’t so far off the mark. I do read a lot of great YA books. In the last year, I enjoyed WAKE and FADE by Lisa McMann, THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING by MT Anderson, CHAINS by Laurie Halse Anderson, EXIT HERE by Jason Meyers, GIRL, HERO by Carrie Jones and THE SHAPE OF WATER by Anne Spollen.

Thanks so much for having me over, Melissa!

February 25th, 2009

Poised at the Edge Author Interview

Justina Chen Headley

 

Congratulations on your third extraordinary YA novel NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL.  It’s a richly woven, theme-driven, thought provoking piece of work.  The story’s protagonist Terra Cooper can check a lot of the boxes in today’s oppressively rigid standards of “true beauty.”  She’s got the cascading flaxen hair, the long lean legs, the perfect six-pack abs; but that’s not what makes people stare.  People tend to gape unabashedly at her unfortunate birth mark.  Terra has a large port wine stain on her face.  What inspired you to write about this subject? 

For a long time—as a woman, a writer, and a mother—I’ve wanted to tackle our society’s super narrow definition of beauty, but I wasn’t sure what the entry point to a story would or should be.  It wasn’t until I was telling an acquaintance of mine what a great mothering job she was doing because her son is well-adjusted, popular, confident—and has a port wine stain on his cheek.  She stopped me in the middle of my accolades and said, “That’s because he’s a boy.”  With that one comment, my story was born and Terra sprang to life in my imagination like Athena from Zeus, fully-formed.

 

When you first began writing the story did you plan how Terra was going to handle her situation (or how her family, friends, boyfriends and peers would?)   Or did her character lead you as you began writing? 

Even before I began writing North of Beautiful, I knew precisely how the story was going to end down to the very last line.  But the murky middle?  That revealed itself as I wrote with Terra leading the way.   She kept making choices that made me uncomfortable—her relationship with her first boyfriend, her deception with her second—but it was Terra’s story.  And her decisions were real and made sense and, most important of all, they helped her grow.

 

NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL is a highly educational book on so many levels.  One subject of particular interest to me was geocaching.  Will please explain this pastime for the benefit of the uninitiated?

Think of geocaching as high tech treasure hunting.  Armed with a GPS device and specific coordinates for latitude and longitude, you search for caches filled with goodies.  There are literally thousands and thousands of caches around the world—even in Antarctica, on the Great Wall, probably in your neighborhood.  What can I say?  Embrace your inner geek.

 

 There are so many supporting characters that add richness (in both positive and negative ways) to Terra’s life.  Probably the most significant supporting character is Jacob, her unexpected love interest.  Even though at the beginning of the story Terra starts with a different boyfriend she ends up bonding with Jacob.  Jacob is truly empathetic toward Terra.  He’s also been the recipient of endless unsolicited stares, as an adopted Chinese boy, with a repaired cleft lip, and an uber-white family.   Where did the inspiration for this wise beyond his years character come from? 

I’ve been lucky to have incredible men in my life.  Two inspired Jacob:  one is a guy who was one of my best friends in college, and the other someone I met when I was researching a novel early in my writing career.

 

Terra’s fractured family members all have fascinating personalities and serious issues.  They all play a huge role in why Terra is the way she is.  Are any of these characters inspired by real people? Was it difficult to write a character like Terra’s father (I found myself seriously wishing he would drop dead?) 

Let’s just say that of all my books, North of Beautiful is probably the most autobiographical.  But I also want to get it out there:  people can change for the better.  And people do change to be their personal best.  Take heart because it does happen. I’ve seen it.

 

Unlike many other YA novels NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL has adult characters who are well defined and interesting.  Both Terra’s mom Lois and Jacob’s mom Norah are well-developed and have very interesting stories of their own.  Have you ever considered writing an adult novel?

Yes!  A number of my readers have asked me for a novel told from a woman’s POV.  While my main love is YA, I do have an idea for an adult novel.

 

Along with writing you like to do philanthropic work.  Can you please tell us what you (and the readrgirlz) have been up to on that front?

To celebrate North of Beautiful, I’m hosting the Find Beauty Challenge where I’m asking people to tell me what they find to be truly beautiful. For every uploaded video, I’m giving $10 to Global Medical Outreach, which sends surgeons to third worlds to help kids with cleft lips.  You can find all the info on www.youtube.com/northofbeautiful.

Then with readergirlz, we’re gearing up to host our second annual Operation TBD (Teen Book Drop), working with Guys Lit Wire, YALSA, and publishers to drop thousands of free YA novels into pediatric hospitals around the country.  Teen patients need the solace of story; we’re giving it to them! 

The video url: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qg3y2JXPjI

 

 

Are you willing to tell us a little about your next project?

I’m not working on two…one is a YA fantasy, the other is another YA contemporary.

 

 

February 18th, 2009

Book Review: NEED

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Poised at the Edge Book Review

NEED

Carrie Jones

 

            Zara White has a very peculiar obsession with phobias. She can tell you the name of everything from the fear of noises or voices (phonophobia) to the fear of eating (sitophobia.) But what she can’t tell you is how she can snap out of the depression that began when her beloved stepfather dropped dead of a heart attack.   In fact, her depression is so over the top that her mother is exiling her to frozen, remote, small town in Maine to live with her stepfather’s mother.

            Zara is convinced her mother is doing this simply because she just can’t handle her right now. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Maine couldn’t be more different from Zara’s home town of Charleston. The kids at her new high school are not entirely easy to get along with. The only two really nice kids begin spouting off about their belief in Pixies….not exactly normal. But the presence of a mysterious stalker who’s been seen both in Charleston and Bedford, Maine (leaving a mysterious powdery gold trail behind him) is making Zara’s new friends tales seem almost viable.

            Also the there’s Nick, a mysterious boy who seems disconnected, as if he’s got some serious secrets. He seems aloof, angry, yet protective over Zara. Protection is something she really needs when people begin going missing in Bedford, Maine.  Could Devyn and Issie’s stories about vicious pixie’s and blood sacrifice possibly true? How does Zara tie in to it?

            Carrie Jones writes colorful paranormal suspense with as much care and grace as her realistic teen fictions. Fans of Stephanie Meyer and Holly Black may rejoice at this well plotted, mystic creature filled extravaganza. The cover art is stunning, and the story, deliciously satisfying!

February 15th, 2009

Book Review: FADE

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Kaylee

Poised at the Edge Book Review

FADE

Lisa McMann

 

            Janie has an unusual gift (although some might consider it a curse.) She has the ability to enter people’s dreams. It happens when anyone falls asleep in the near vicinity of her. She learns to use her capability to help people solve problems. She also uses her dream catching to help undercover law enforcement. Now, with the help of her fellow undercover boyfriend Cabel, Janie is going to take down a very unsavory group of high school teachers who drug and molest their unsuspecting students.

            FADE is the sequel to WAKE, the story that introduces us to Janie, her abilities, and her circumstances.  We see Janie living with a thoroughly irresponsible, chronically alcoholic mother. Janie is forced to work just to keep food on the table and clothes on her back. She also has little or no basic supervision. What she really wants to do is go to college, but that seems like an almost impossible dream. 

            In WAKE Janie meets Cabel, a rough around the edges boy, who comes from equally unfortunate circumstances. He’s impressed with her abilities and introduces her to undercover law enforcement. But in FADE he has a hard time dealing with Janie having to put herself in jeopardy to bust a nefarious group of pedophiles. 

            The criminals are not the only source of danger for Janie. As she begins to master and control her abilities, she finds that they are taking a serious physical toll on her. Now she’s faced with a difficult choice. Should she follow her path in the name of the greater good, or should she isolate herself in an attempt to stay safe?

            FADE is written in a unique third person present style. It seems simplistic, yet it tells the story at an urgent, real time pace. It’s a fast fun read for teens and adults who enjoy suspense, drama, and strong characters. I’m looking forward to the third book in the series, because I’m still intrigued by Janie and her gifts. One aspect of FADE I enjoyed was the dream presence of Mrs. Stubin a now deceased, elderly dream catcher, who educates Janie about her abilities both in the dream realm and in a journal. As readers we learn about dream catching right along with Janie. 

February 13th, 2009

Book Review: ETERNAL

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Poised at the Edge Book Review

ETERNAL

Cynthia Leitich Smith

 

            In her mortal life Miranda was always pretty introverted and shy. Even though she was a wannabe theater geek, auditions were totally mortifying. What could possibly transform a retiring wallflower into the belle of the ball? How about a bite from undead royalty? When Miranda finds herself elevated and adopted by the King of the Mantle of Dracul she’s immersed into a decadent world of infinite wealth and luxury. But the dark gift comes with a heavy price.

            Who can possibly save her from eternal damnation? Salvation (or an attempt at it anyway) comes in the form of her super-hot, recently demoted, Guardian Angel. Zachary has had his wings clipped for revealing himself, in all of his glory, while trying to save Miranda from the grasp of the menacing Dracul. Now, clumsy in his new human form, he lands a job as Princess Miranda’s personal assistant (all the undead have human PAs. It’s status symbol in the Eternal world.) 

ETERNAL, which is written in alternating points of view (both Miranda and Zachary’s) reveals in exquisite detail the cutthroat antics of the self-indulgent Eternal aristocracy. Cynthia Leitich Smith borrows both from classic vampire lore, and her own unique darkly witty imagination, to create a dangerous love story that parallels Romeo and Juliet, Heathcliff and Catherine and all those other literary star-crossed lovers. Wholly original, and delightfully morbid, fans of TANTALIZE will eat this one up!

 

February 7th, 2009


Poised at the Edge Book Review

THE DUST OF 100 DOGS

A.S. King

 

            The story begins with Emer Morrisey a swash-buckling; take no prisoners,  pirate, dying on a Caribbean, with the love of her life only a few feet away. Before she breathes her last breath a mysterious pirate blows a dusty powder all over her, cursing her to the life of one hundred dogs. So she does. Over three hundred and sixty five years she lives the lives of a hundred dogs. With each of her lives she acquires all sorts of knowledge and memories. Including the memories of her pirate life, including the hidden treasure, which lies buried near where she and her beloved died.

            Now, done with her lives as many dogs, Emer is reborn as a modern girl named Saffron Adams. Saffron, who is considered a genius, because all of her past life knowledge, has only one thing on her mind She wants to escape the confines of her uneducated demanding parents, and go find the treasure she buried on that Caribbean beach all those years ago. Her parents are very greedy about Saffron’s perceived genius. They want her to go medical school and support them forever. 

            Emer, with her bold fury, lives inside of Saffron, pushing her toward independence and escape. DUST OF 100 DOGS is a fascinating, highly original action novel that weaves brilliantly written historical passages with more standard modern teen ones. Written non-linearly we see Emer as an innocent child living Ireland during the merciless attacks of Oliver Cromwell.    She sees her parents and brother murdered before being taken away by her sadistic uncle, who also hid during the attack. She so miserable living with her uncle’s family that she forgoes speaking for several years. Right after she meets her true love her uncle sells her to wealthy old man in Paris. Thus begins the hardships that end with Emer’s eventual transformation to pirate.

            This adventure story is both engrossing and totally unpredictable. While the structure is fairly experimental, it totally works. A.S. King’s stunning debut is part history lesson, part dog training manual, part modern coming of age story. It dazzles with its risky originality and its shameless girl-power. Emer/Saffron is powerful, intelligent, willful protagonist that the sisterhood just has to love! 

January 31st, 2009


Poised at the Edge Book Review

The ABC’s of Kissing Boys

Tina Ferraro

 

Parker Stanhope can’t wait to play varsity soccer now that she’s a junior. After all, she’s been playing soccer practically since she could walk. Her life has been working out just the way she wants it to. She’s made new friends who are a lot more popular than her middle school friends were, she’s paid her dues on the soccer field, and now she’s headed for varsity glory. But then her coach moves all of her best friends up, but leaves her behind with the JV losers!

This is social disaster of epic proportions. Now her crew of “best friends” is pretty much disowning her, using the excuse that she needs to bond with her own team mates. How could things possibly get worse? In an attempt to regain her “perfect life” back Parker, with the help of her studying to be lawyer big brother, cook up a ridiculous plan to be put on the varsity team.

Parker’s plan involves a prom king, a kissing booth, a desirable parking place, and lots of cash. Now all Parker has to do is pull of a realistic looking kiss. Here’s the problem: she’s never even really been kissed. Her solution: an unlikely kissing coach. How did her life ever come to this?

Now she’s having canoodling lessons from her (almost) hot freshmen neighbor! The plot thickens when her very popular ex-best friends find out about this strange relationship. Now it’s all over the school. Parker is in love with a freshmen (and she thought JV soccer was social suicide.)   To make matters even more complicated, his father and her father, have a feud of Hatfield and McCoy proportions.

Tina Ferraro always writes funny, complicated novels about high school politics.   The ABC’S OF KISSING is engaging story with laugh out loud moments, and memorable characters. Highly entertaining!

 

 

January 25th, 2009

Poised at the Edge Book Review

NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL

Justina Chen Headley    

 

            Terra Cooper thinks that if you saw her from behind you might be jealous of her. You might think she’s “perfect.” She’s tall, with a body that’s part dancer, part athlete. Her platinum hair always looks just right. As one might expect, people stare at Terra everywhere she goes. But when people are staring at her it’s usually not because of her aforementioned “beautiful” traits. Their unsolicited ogles are the result of Terra’s face. All the thick make-up and powder in the world can’t seem to cover the red-stained birthmark that stretches across her cheek. 

            Unfortunately Terra’s problems run much deeper than the mark on her face. Terra and her mother (and her two older brothers, before they escaped) are forced to walk on eggshells around their home for fear of being terrorized by her bitter and controlling father. Terra’s father suffered a professional humiliation, which cost him his credibility. Now he lives to humiliate and degrade the people around him, especially the members of his immediate family.  Terra’s mom, Lois, is his primary victim.

            Lois is always apologizing for everything. She’s one of those women who always put her needs and satisfaction last. She’s crumbled under the constant verbal abuse of her husband. She’s wracked with guilt about Terra’s birthmark (and is always trying to do ineffectual treatments for it.) Ever since Lois’s sister died in a travel accident a few years before Lois has buried herself in binge-eating and subsequent weight gain to try to insulate herself from the many painful truths of her life. Of course her eating and weight are continual fodder for her vicious husband’s tirades.

            Terra secretly plans to escape her family, her boyfriend (who people think she should be grateful for, even though she doesn’t love him) and her stifling small town. She’s rushing her way through high school so she can graduate a year early. Her plans are carefully mapped out. But of course, her father finds a way to ruin her plans. Just when things are looking hopeless, Terra meets a most unusual boy who really understands her. Suddenly she finds herself being pushed in an unexpected, scary, and exciting direction. 

            Jacob is a Chinese boy adopted into a (fractured) American family. He goes for a Goth style because (he tells Terra) people are always going to stare at him. They stare because he doesn’t necessarily fit in with the rest of his white, blonde, all American family. He’d rather wear black clothes and eye-liner, so that they’d be staring at him on his terms, not theirs. 

            An exciting benefit of Terra’s relationship with Jacob is that Jacob’s worldly confident mother forms a deep bond with Terra’s mother Lois. Norah helps Lois expand her horizons and live up to her best potential. Norah recognizes Lois’s many talents and encourages her to monetize them. The four of them travel to China together. 

            NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL is an astonishingly deep and powerful novel that   leaves a reader thinking about life and the real meaning of beauty. Justina Chen Headley is uniquely gifted at writing prose that is both light and witty, and remarkably serious and moving. NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL tells a tale of travel, discovery, true love and enlightenment. As always Ms. Chen Headley writes with an empowering feminist slant. NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL is highly educational and carefully researched. This book is a true gem. I would highly recommend it to women and girls of all ages.

           


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