Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2009 has come and (almost) gone. It had its ups and downs, but overall, it was a pretty amazing year. Here's hoping that 2010 will be even better!

Cheers :)


---
Also, as it turns out, I will be partaking in Project 365 after all for 2010 (it's basically the concept of a photo a day for 365 days). Pop on by Lucid 365 to come keep me company :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In My Mailbox [27]

Brought to you by Alea & Kristi, Lucid Conspiracy presents In My Mailbox #27...

So this week I got Impossible by Nancy Werlin and a bunch of really sweet Hirobot stickers (from T-U-G) which were purchased with a giftcard won from a contest over at LiyanaLand! Thanks, Liyana. Hope everyone's holidays are going well!

So there you have it, my mailbox. Your turn - what was in yours this week?

-
Also, don't forget to go enter the swag giveaway here~

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Dark Divine Review

The Dark Divine - Bree Despain
*December 22nd, 2009 EgmontUSA

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in his own blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.

The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry glint in his eyes.

The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boy's dark secret...and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it--her soul.

Bree Despain's debut The Dark Divine is, simply put, quite divine. Wholesome with a fulfilling plotline, there's something very satisfying about this book. "A prodigial son. A dangerous love. A deadly secret." (Synopsis) Mystery, drama, intrigue, danger, secrets, lies - The Dark Divine has a little bit of everything for everyone.

Grace Divine, leading lady extraordinaire, is conveyed beautifully through Despain's writing style. Simultaneously simplistic and unique, there's something very raw and earnest - and real - about [Grace]'s voice, making it very distinctive. Grace's innocent naivity and kindheartedness simply makes her the likeable girl-next-door who seems very relatable (albeit with a paranormal twist). The letters from the past could have had the periodic diction and voice tuned a bit further to seem more in time, though.

The best part of The Dark Divine is definitely the way Despain made it different. The major catch of the paranormal aspect - it's amazing that it's been kept under wraps so well. Which makes the adventure readers embark on trying to discover it all that much more exciting. Despain shows intricate foresight and planning with the little clues dropped through foreshadowing and red herrings throughout the course of the novel. From those, readers may or may not be able to figure it out before the characters themselves - and the race and potential for dramatic irony simply adds to the fun.

Daniel, Jude, the Divine parents, Pete, April - again, all very interesting characters. It's great to see Despain's little twists to make them truly her own. For a novel that chronicles a struggle of sorts between good and evil, so to speak, it's wonderful to see that the lines between the two sides have become blurred, which adds to the credibility. There were moments here and there that were sort of sappy and were close to bordering on corny. However, that does seem to be part of the draw of The Dark Divine - all in all, it's a very sweet, hope-inspiring read.

The way an ages-old myth was taken and incorporated in a modern way with a unique twist that's all Despain's own is what makes this novel stand out. The contents are as achingly raw and beautiful as the cover. With captivating writing and a unique plotline, Bree Despain's The Dark Divine is a very enjoyable read.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

100th Post Contest

Alas, I've been a little absent around the YA blogosphere lately - and I guess you could say that Lucid Conspiracy has been on an unofficial hiatus of sorts. But - it's the holidays now (yay!), so hopefully it's time to get caught up on things. (Apologies if you're still waiting on e-mail replies - will get to them asap :)

I know you guys were all very concerned ;) This also happens to be the 100th post, so what better way to doubly celebrate than by giving away some swag?



A bookmark pack consisting of the following are up for grabs:
^All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
^Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog
^Give up the Ghost by Megan Crewe
^Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Shroeder (autographed)
^Supernatural Rubber Chicken

Before we get to the good stuff on how to win, a linkage love is probably in order. Give up the Ghost was reviewed here, and author Megan Crewe was interviewed here. Fairy Tale's author Cyn Balog was interviewed here, and look for a review of All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab early in the new year. You can also pop by Lisa Shroeder's to say hi.

After all that, let's get to the good stuff. Contest open to US of A & Canada. Must be a follower. Please put each entry in a separate comment. If you don't feel comfortable leaving an e-mail, a distinctive name is fine as well. Contest ends December 30th. You get one entry for each of the following:
~Comment (1st one is a freebie entry)
~Twitter followers (@lucidconspiracy)
~Promotion (+1 for each place you link the contest)
~Signing up for SwagBucks through
here

Thanks, guys. Unfortunately, it's just a swag prize pack, but it'll help get the holiday spirit going, hopefully. Happy holidays, and enter away :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

LIGHTS


Today's musical feature is pretty special for a number of reasons. LIGHTS (also known as Valerie Poxleitner) is a Canadian synthpop artist. Her music has won a number of awards so far, most notably a Juno. She's been on tour around the States and Canada, and recently I was able to see her perform live in concert!

It was a pretty amazing show - Lights definitely has that extra little something, that charisma, that stage presence that makes for a wonderful performer. The little episodes of comic-esque extra-terrestrial plotline, the beautiful singing live, the vibrant energy... it all made for an amazing event.

There's an aspect of originality with how the little cartoons were intersperced, and the recurring theme of her music being "out of this world". I like it. Basically, she seems like a very fun and friendly person.

One of the other cool moments of the night was when one of the members of Jets Overhead (her opening band - also Canadian and amazing!) told my friend and I that we were "rocking our Lights t-shirts".

IAmLights / Lights MySpace / Lights Youtube / Lights Twitter

I'll share two of her music videos as a sampler. The first is Ice, and the second is February Air (which another friend of mine recently covered - you can check it out here). (The FA video is an old unofficial one - but this version is really cool)



Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hush, Hush Review

Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick
*October 13th 2009 - Simon & Schuster

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.


Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush is like a caressive whisper laced with dark allure, painting a deliciously paranormal picture. With an enchanting cover and a captivating synopsis, Hush, Hush ensnares the prospective reader and creates an atmosphere of temptation - which fits in with its contents of fallen angels.

The setting of Hush, Hush is definitely one of its fortes. Modern and immediate, there's a sort of credibility to it, like this could very well be scene-next-door. And then - shhh, shhh - the paranormal aspect kind of sneaks into it subtly, melding in believably. The places this book goes, the locations described - they all add an air of daring danger of the delicious variety. The atmosphere at times is dark, murky, but simultaneously seductive. Tossed in with the prickling sense that something is wrong is the desire to find out what happens next.

For the most part, characterization was interestingly done. The main protagonist Nora Grey is certainly different, but at times some of her reactions were a little odd and unreasonable. (Personally, I wonder if it would have been better to situate her as a junior, rather than a sophomore.) Her sudden turn of affections for Patch was a little sudden - found myself flipping back to see if I had somehow missed a chapter (nope), which seemed to steer more in the direction of lust than love. Patch has been receiving much attention as a bad boy of YA - and in that aspect, it is definitely conceivable why.

The interactions between Patch and Nora are one of Fitzpatrick's more impressive successes in Hush, Hush. The emotions, the tensions, the restraints - Fitzpatrick creates a lovely atmosphere by playing with these. It really comes alive off the page. Once these started occurring, the draw of the book becomes that much stronger. As the plot progresses, it becomes harder and harder to put down. The last paragraph of the synopsis, "ancient battle, etc. etc." sounds like a bit of a melodramatic overstatement in retrospect, but nevertheless, the way it plays out does not disappoint. It'll definitely be interesting to see how the sequel, Crescendo, plays out.

Like its stormy cover, Hush, Hush has "Grey" (Nora) and dark allure (Patch). (Hush, Hush, Crescendo - what brilliant titles!) With lush writing and an intriguing premise, Hush, Hush is a tempting read.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In My Mailbox [26]

Brought to you by Alea & Kristi, Lucid Conspiracy presents In My Mailbox #26...


So this week I got the following:

`Gone by Lisa McMann
`The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
`Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick
`The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer

And I must say, this week's haul was pretty exciting for a number of reasons. First off, I had no idea that these were coming, so it was definitely a little befuddling when the package showed up and lo' and behold, these gems were inside. And of course, the fact that it contained these books - all by such acclaimed authors with great feedback thus far - merely added icing to the cake.

Your turn now though - what was in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

MBLAQ

By the looks of it, music is turning into a bit of a regular fixture on Lucid Conspiracy - but it's all good. Today I want to hype a fairly new Korean band, MBLAQ. (The peak of my infatuation with them was probably about a month ago now, as people who know in person have heard about ceaselessly ;) Kind of wearing off now, but they're still awesome, so I figured I'd share regardless.)

MBLAQ stands for Music Boys Live in Absolute Quality - and you gotta admit, it's a pretty cool acronym. The members consist of (clockwise from top left) Thunder (who is 2NE1's Sandara Park's younger brother), Mir, G.O., Joon, and Seung Ho.

From the release of their mini album Just BLAQ and their already sky-rocketing fame and reality tv shows, these boys are going to be pretty huge. Plus, by the looks of live recordings on Youtube, they seem pretty decent live too, which is always crucial.

Their first song I was exposed to is Oh Yeah, which is really catchy. (And Lee Joon has one of the most adorable smiles ever in it!) It's weird, the whole translation factor takes on a whole new meaning. After listening/watching the video numerous times and finally seeing the translated lyrics a week later, it definitely wasn't what I would've expected.

From interviews and shows, etc. overall they just seem like a pretty fun group of people! And considering that they're under Rain's umbrella, it seems reasonable to expect great things from them in the upcoming days. I'll leave you guys off with videos of Oh Yeah and GOOD Luv. Thoughts?



Sunday, November 15, 2009

In My Mailbox [25]

Brought to you by Alea & Kristi, Lucid Conspiracy presents In My Mailbox #25...
Fourteen-year-old Tessa has never had a normal
life. Her mother, a frustrated hippie with awful taste in men, has seen to that.
But when her mom pulls her out of school to live at an ashram in the Catskills,
Tessa goes from being a freak among normal people to being an outcast among
freaks. Freaks who worship an orange robe-wearing guru. And while her mom is
buzzing with spiritual energy, and finding a little too much favor with the
guru, all Tessa feels are weird vibes.

Unless she's with Colin, the
gorgeous boy who fixes trucks for the ashram. The connection they share is the
most spiritual thing Tessa has ever felt. But he's older-like illegally
older-and Tessa's taking dangerous risks to spend time with him. Soon her life
is blooming into a psychedelic web of secrets and lies and it's clear that
something's about to give way. When it does, will she have anyone to hold on to?
Will she even know herself?

So only one book since the last IMM post (and one resultant of a mailing mix-up to boot), but still. On the plus side, it's always easier to make a dent in the TBR pile when it's not growing at the same time. ;) But your turn now - what was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Willow Review

Willow - Julia Hoban
*April 2nd, 2009 Dial

Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen year- old Willow’s parents died in a horrible car accident. Willow was driving. Now her older brother barely speaks to her, her new classmates know her as the killer orphan girl, and Willow is blocking the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when one boy—one sensitive, soulful boy—discovers Willow’s secret, it sparks an intense relationship that turns the “safe” world Willow has created for herself upside down.

Julia Hoban's Willow is an absolutely brilliant masterpiece. With an interesting perspective, haunting subject matter and controversial panache, Willow captures teen tragedy and conveys it in an achingly beautiful way.

On the surface, it may seem that Willow is a book about a girl who cuts. Which it is - but it's also so much more than that. This is an issue that I've had personal connections to, so on that basis as well it was really interesting to see it portrayed in literature, because it doesn't get that much coverage. Hoban went above and beyond expectations (which were relatively high to begin with, considering the amount of rave reviews it's received so far). [Cutting] isn't just straight-up judged here - it's surrounded by context, by reasoning, by motivations. And that changes everything. Controversial and thought-provoking, Willow brings a refreshing jolt of reality to the realm of YA.

The perspective of the book - third person present tense - may seem a little odd at first, considering that with that comes a slight level of removal. But as the story progresses, wouldn't have it any other way. Simultaneously offering insight into Willow's mind and giving a little space for neutral (or biased) thought, it works. Hoban's writing style and voice are really something as well. The descriptions, the actions, the narrative itself are all told in a very captivating manner - Willow is definitely exceedingly difficult to put down. Hoban has also managed to capture the teenage voice remarkably well. Every once in a while, there was a phrase here or there that seemed a little out-of-sync age-wise, but then again, even among teens there is a lot of variation in speech.

The characterization was a masterpiece in and of itself. The characters really come alive, fleshed out with complex motivations and insecurities and thought-processes. (And of course, Guy is a rather sweet, well, guy.) One scene his actions seemed to progress a little oddly, but beyond that character traits and actions were highly credible and realistic. Seeing Willow metamorphosize throughout the course of the story was very poignant and beautiful. The reader is carried along on this journey of self-realization along with Willow, which is super-cool.

Hoban attacked a pretty tough topic here, which is always bound to draw some controversy. In this case, it'll be good to shine some light on the issue of teenagers and cutting. Don't want to give away too much, but basically, Hoban's Willow pushes the envelope in a brilliant way. One of the best books of 2009, this review hardly does Willow justice.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interview: Carolyn MacCullough

We seem to be on a bit of a roll with authors of paranormal/magic these last few interviews, so let's keep the balling rolling with another one! After all, three is a pretty magical number. Presenting... Carolyn MacCullough!

Let's kick it off with a little fun - tell us about ONCE A WITCH in twenty words, and try to toss in as many alliterations as you can. Once upon a time there was a wicked warlock who wanted to win the heart of a winsome witch . . . er, okay, I've gotten away from the plot entirely. Twenty words? Tamsin Greene is a teen who comes from a long line of witches, yet she herself has no magical power...or so she thinks until one rainy August evening...

Ooh... The concept of witches has been around for a very long time, but each author puts a unique spin on them. What differentiates the ones in your book?
They're modern day witches (yes, it's been done before) who are still practicing their witchy ways in a world that's definitely unaware of them. This causes some conflict and tension for Tamsin, the protagonist--how does she function in the "normal" world and the "paranormal" world of her family.


Definitely quite the dilemna to be in. ONCE A WITCH - quite the title there. Care to share how that came about?
I don't know! I think I just love the phrase once a Witch, always a Witch--by the way, Always a Witch is the title of the sequel.

Phrased like that, the two titles connect beautifully! There's no denying that ONCE A WITCH is cauldron-ful of interesting characters. If you could chillax with one of them for a day, who would it be, and what would you guys do?
Ah, my pick would be Gabriel. I love him! And I have a soft spot for musicians, so since he is one, I'd definitely like to hang out in some funky jazz bar in the Village and have him explain jazz to me. (Since I'm woefully ignorant on it).


Haha, sounds like it would be tons of fun! Any literary crushes?
Neil Gaiman. For sure, Neil Gaiman.


Great pick. Are there any details about ALWAYS A WITCH that you're currently at liberty to share with us?
Of course! In Always a Witch, the adventures of Tamsin and Gabriel continue. Rowena is a complete bridezilla and luckily for Tamsin there's more time travel--a lot more this time--a huge chunk of the book is set in Victorian New York of the 1800's where we get to meet the evil Knight family.

Really looking forward to see how the story spins further in the sequel. Anything else to add?
Come visit me at http://www.onceawitch.com/ for quizzes, an excerpt of the book, and an awesome book trailer.


Thanks for dropping by, Carolyn - it was great fun having you!

My review for Once a Witch can be found
here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Orianthi

I don't know about you guys, but for me there's always a trill of excitement upon finding new music, new artists, whose work just clicks. Something about the sound, the charisma, the stage presence, the mannerisms - when it all just meshes, it's a beautiful thing.

Discovered a couple of artists recently who are pretty amazing, and figured I'd share with the findings with you guys over the upcoming weeks. First up is Orianthi, a 24-year-old Australian guitarist.

I find her admirable for a number of reasons. First off, rockin' female guitarist = respect in my book, any day of the week. The fact that she's probably on track to join a long line of guitarists on whole nother level set for the history books only augments the allure. (See her website and Wikipedia article for more information.)

"She's opened for her hero (Steve Vai), backed an Idol (Carrie Underwood), traded solos with a legend (Carlos Santana) and shared the stage with the King of Pop (Michael Jackson)."
-from her website bio

Now after all this great background information, I'm sure you guys can't wait to check out some of her music. The first (and so far, only, actually) song of hers that I was introduced to was According to You. It's got one of those catchy sort of beats, and the music video is pretty cool as well. Enjoy:


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Writing Contest

Now, I know there's a large portion of you among the YA blogosphere (and elsewhere) who are either aspiring writers or write as a hobby. In any case, if you fit either one of those criteria, your interest will definitely be piqued by the awesome writing contest fabulous writing duo Daniel & Dina Nayeri (Another Faust, 2009 - review can be found here) are hosting. You can find more information on this blog entry of their's, or see below for more details.

Dina and Daniel are happy to open the doors to their very first “retelling” contest!

Okay, so here’s how this works. First of all, we want EVERYONE to enter (assuming, of course, that you’re not a professional. Unpublished writers only). You don’t have to be a longtime writer, or even an aspiring writer, or a certain age or live in any particular country (this is an international contest). You DO have to write fluently in English (sorry! Though if you write in any of the languages we are trying to learn, we will read your story just for fun and practice)…

Here are the rules:

1) Write a 3000 word (max) retelling of the Faustian Bargain (”Another Another Faust”) set in any time, place, dimension, or world. Your story can be from any viewpoint, and you can get as creative as you’d like! Don’t exceed 3000 words, but don’t give us filler either. You can certainly tell an amazing story in just a few words.

2) Paste your story in the body of an email (attachments will not be opened). There should be no greeting or any other text besides the story in the body of the email. No need to explain the story background. The writing will say it all!

3) The subject line of the email should be in all-caps “WRITING CONTEST ENTRY - JOHN SMITH.” Replace John Smith with your name.

4) Send the story to dviergutz@gmail.com by January 31, 2010. If your entry doesn’t meet any of the above rules, it will not be read!

5) Five finalists will be selected by February 28, 2010. We will post all five finalists on our website for people to admire and comment. But in the end, D&D will choose the winner. The grand-prize winner will be announced in mid-March.

Now, here’s what you’re playing for:

A signed copy of Another Faust

A handwritten deleted scene

A featured article & interview on our website

An author’s galley of the sequel Another Pan

(And hey, impress us, you never know what can happen!)


Best of luck to everyone who participates, and have fun!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In My Mailbox [24]

Brought to you by Alea & Kristi, Lucid Conspiracy presents In My Mailbox #24...

Quality over quantity, for sure! This week I got Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush, which was really exciting. For one thing, this is a book that's generated a ton of buzz lately - a lot of it extravagant praise, some of it not-so-positive. So it'll be really interesting to formulate my own opinion and see where I stand on this one. The cover image is definitely gorgeous and very striking!

So now that you've seen the contents of mine, your turn. What was in your mailbox this week?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (6) (+ Contest News)

The Mark - Jen Nadol
*January 19th, 2010 Bloomsbury
Sixteen-year old Cassie Renfield has seen the mark since forever: a glow around certain people as if a candle were held behind their back.

The one time she pointed it out taught her she shouldn't do it again, so Cassie has kept quiet, considering its rare appearances odd, but insignificant. Until she watches a man die. Mining her memories, Cassie realizes she can see a person's imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today.

Cassie searches her past, her philosophy lessons, even her new boyfriend for answers, always careful to keep her secret. How does the mark work? Why her? Most importantly, if you know today is someone's last, should you tell?
So in addition to a really awesome cover, the premise of The Mark definitely sounds very intriguing! Something about the ethical and decision aspects of this sounds a little TOK-esque, and thought-provoking is always interesting in that it pushes the envelope.

By this point, I bet you guys have perked ears as well, and are eager to learn more. Speaking of wonderful timing, the awesome Jen Nadol just so happens to have a contest going on at the moment to win an ARC of The Mark, swag, or other great stuff. Pop by here to check it out and enter!

But now that you've seen my pick, what are you waiting on, this Wednesday?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Devoured Review

Devoured - Amanda Marrone
*September 22nd, 2009 SimonPulse

Megan’s twin sister Remy died in an accident nine years ago, and she’s been haunting her ever since. Knowing how crazy that sounds, Megan keeps this secret to herself and tries to lead a normal life. But when she takes a summer job at Land of Enchantment to keep an eye on her new boyfriend and his lovesick best friend, Samantha, she meets fellow employee Luke who can see Remy, too. Things get even twistier because Megan’s new friend Ari is sporting a massive crush on Luke, who seems to be developing a massive crush on Megan…making for a love triangle that’s positively possessed.

Megan wants to keep her distance from Luke, but when Remy’s visions get crazy violent; she knows she needs his help. Because someone’s definitely in danger...the only question is who?

With Devoured, Amanda has brought a whole new facet to the concept of the fractured fairytale - and is it ever refreshing! Disregarding the apple on the cover/spine, the lack of mention of fairytale roots otherwise might have one not even making that connection initially. And in this case, it seems to work best this way - for those who are fans of Snow White, it adds a little extra zing; for those who aren't, it still works great as a stand-alone YA paranormal/romance/mystery/and so much else.

I'll admit, the paranormal mysterious aspect of the premise is what intrigued me at first. But then, having read the book and going back to the synopsis on the back - it doesn't really do the story justice. From that description it sounds like a more contemporary type of tale, but it's really not as superficial as the middle section makes it out to be.

In the case of Devoured, I would say that incorporation was definitely one of Marrone's fortes. The way that threads of the Snow White were intertwined with the story, the way that contemporary elements were incorporated, the way that the paranormal elements were injected - it all made for a fun read. Remy's appearances and spooky prophetic warnings were definitely one of the strong points; they added suspense, spookiness, and intrigue. The only thing that could've been introduced a little more smoothly would've been one of the foreshadowing symbols, as it seems a little too sudden and hard-hitting.

Although there are tragic elements to it, overall as a novel, Devoured is a pretty fun read. And in keeping with that, most of the principal characters had interesting traits. Ari, Megan, Remy... they were all very interesting and well-portrayed. It might've been nice to get a little more insight into some of the minor characters as well though, but that's not a major factor. The pacing could have been a little smoother, but at the same time, as it is contemporary, things don't always happen on a linear, constant, timeline, so it could make sense that way. Once you get into it, the story moves along nicely though.

With an intriguing premise, beautiful incorporation of Snow White and chilling elements, Marrone's Devoured is a spooky fun read. And what great timing, especially with Halloween right around the corner?

Goodreads Amanda Marrone IndieBound

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In My Mailbox [23]

So firstly, huge apologies for being so absent lately! School, work, extra-curriculars... it just got all really hectic all of a sudden. Basically averaging around four to five hours of sleep a night recently. But - because of Thanksgiving and all, we get Monday off, so hopefully I'll be able to pre-schedule some posts then, get caught up on the backlog of e-mails, etc. (Really sorry if you're waiting on a response - will get on that soon!) Wish me luck ;)

Now, for our regularly scheduled programming - brought to you by Alea & Kristi, Lucid Conspiracy presents In My Mailbox #23...


Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl,
and
Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Super-duper excited about both of these, for a number of reasons. First off, I'd basically given up and didn't expect them to arrive at all anymore, so imagine what a pleasant surprise it was when they showed up on the doorstep! Secondly, there's been so much great feedback about both of these so far, so I'm really interested to see what I think of them as well. Furthermore, the authors of both are absolutely awesome, so all in all, it's an unbeatable combination.

Now, for some linkage for more information (because I know you're all eager to find out more):
`Beautiful Creatures
`Kami Garcia
`Margaret Stohl
`Jennifer Brown

So there's my week in a nutshell. Your turn now - what was in your mailbox this week?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

In My Mailbox [22]

Brought to you by Alea & Kristi, Lucid Conspiracy presents In My Mailbox #22... So, no books this week, but I did get a handful of Chasing Brooklyn bookmarks (all signed!) and a Far From You/I Heart You, You Haunt Me postcard (personalized & also autographed). They're all super glossy and really cool! Isn't the cover for Chasing Brooklyn just awesome? The summary sounds great as well. (It comes out January 2010 from Simon Pulse.) Thanks a bunch, Lisa and The Here, The Now, and The Books!

But now it's your turn. What was in your mailbox this week?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (5)

The Van Alen Legacy - Melissa de la Cruz
Hyperion - October 6th, 2009


With the stunning revelation surrounding Bliss's true identity comes the growing threat of the sinister Silver Bloods. Once left to live the glamorous life in New York City, the Blue Bloods now find themselves in an epic battle for survival. Not to worry, love is still in the air for the young vampires of the Upper East Side. Or is it? Jack and Schuyler are over. Oliver's brokenhearted. And only the cunning Mimi seems to be happily engaged. Young, fanged, and fabulous, Melissa de la Cruz's vampires unite in this highly anticipated fourth installment of the Blue Bloods series.

I'm pretty excited about this one, actually, for a number of reasons. First off, is that cover gorgeous or what? Totally adore the theme they've got going on for the Blue Bloods series, how all the cover images basically look like they're from the same mould, so to speak. Considering how the intensity and excitement has been building in the previous books, Blue Bloods, Masquerade, and Revelations, it'll definitely be great to see what de la Cruz has done in this fourth installment. That, and I fairly admire her work. The au pairs series, Angels on Sunset Boulevard ... all pretty awesome works.

Check out the artistic and striking trailer below, and here's an
interview with Melissa from Entertainment Weekly.



*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In My Mailbox [21]

Brought to you by Alea & Kristi, Lucid Conspiracy presents In My Mailbox #21...

So, I didn't get anything in my mailbox this week. But - there was a book that I'd forgotten to mention in last week's IMM compilation post of like, the previous five weeks or so.

I actually purchased Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins the weekend after it came out - so, Saturday September 5th, I believe it was. And of course, I devoured it that very weekend, pretty much. (You can see my review of The Hunger Games here.)

It was... definitely thought-provoking, in a different sort of way. I've had to let it sit for a while to collect my thoughts on it, and hopefully I'll crank out a review soon, after I clear the backlog queue of other reviews I've got to churn out.

Drats on homework and extra-curriculars and etc. so I haven't been around as much recently, but hopefully once everything settles down and I get back into the swing of things, it'll all ameliorate!


Your turn now though - what was in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Interview: Malinda Lo

Today, we have a very magical guest here at Lucid Conspiracy. As you may recall, awhile ago I posted a review for the very spellbinding Ash, which was released earlier this month on September 1st. If you haven't already, you should definitely check out Malinda's blog - great content and wonderful images of food; what more could you ask for? And now, presenting the fabulous... Malinda Lo!

In Ash's world, there's a multitude of amazing new fairy tales. Did you come up with these yourself? How?
Many of the fairy tales are based in Irish and British folklore, especially tales collected by Katharine Briggs, an English folklorist. It's amazing what's already out there!

Do you have a favourite among those?
The story of Kathleen, a girl who basically wastes away dreaming of fairy land, was one of my favorites. Yes, it's kind of depressing. :)

Ooh, I really liked that one as well, despite how sad it is. Now, there's no denying that Ash's world is a little different from our own. Do you visualize it as being more medieval in setting, or mostly modern, or somewhere in between?
I don't envision it as being medieval, exactly. There's certainly no modern technology, but it's also not nearly as messy as the Middle Ages really were. So, maybe if the Middle Ages were cleaned up and everybody had running water. :) It's a fantasy land!

Works for me! So the word around the grapevine is that you're working on a companion novel to ASH about the first huntress. Are there any details that you're at liberty to share with us about it?
Sure! It's an adventure. The main characters go on a quest, and they get to visit the land of the Sidhe (the fairies).


Sounds very amazing, definitely looking forward to it! If the apocalypse were to come tomorrow and you could only choose three books (in the entire world) to keep safe and bring into the "New World", which would you choose?
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
IN THE EYE OF THE TYPHOON by Ruth Earnshaw Lo (this is my grandmother's book!)
ASH by me — because I couldn't leave it behind!

I guess I wouldn't be doing much to "save literature"! LOL.

Good choices, nevertheless. Words of wisdom - what do you do when the muse has gone on vacation?
If I'm encountering a block, I usually try to just power through it at first by ignoring the block and just writing anything. Sometimes that works. If it doesn't and I find myself getting increasingly frustrated, I will actually physically leave my desk and change the location of where I'm writing. I'll go sit on the couch or go to a cafe or something. If that doesn't work, then I'll stop writing entirely, taking a break from it by going for a walk or reading a book for enjoyment. Anything to totally switch my mind off from writing. When I feel rested and refreshed, I'll go back to the project, and usually it's fine by then.

Something particularly striking about ASH is the almost lyrical quality of the writing. Do you listen to music or have any other writing rituals?
I do listen to music when writing; a playlist of songs that I listened to while writing ASH is
here.

Thanks for asking me to do the interview!


Thanks for stopping by, Malinda!

And here I'll leave you off with some links: Malinda's website, Twitter, Facebook, and at AfterEllen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Once a Witch Review

Once a Witch - Carolyn MacCullough
*September 14th, 2009 Clarion Books

Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him.

The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.


If Carolyn MacCullough were one of the witches of her own creation, she would definitely be Talented - in the art of writing, that is. With Once a Witch, MacCullough has crafted a captivating story about magic and witchcraft.

It's always super-exciting to see new spins on old concepts, but it's especially awesome to see one about witches, in light of the recent decade. MacCullough has definitely churned out some pretty original spins here. Tamsin's world is quite an enthralling place, and the fact that it's set right in our real world - and still remains, credible, provided the reader suspends skepticism - makes it that much more impressive.

A few lines of dialogue here and there aside, Tamsin's voice is definitely one of the highlights of the story. It's quirky, fun, vulnerable, strong, and dimensional, all at once. Which of course in turn speaks volumes about Tamsin as a character. Gabriel did feel a little meh or overdone here and there, but nevertheless interaction between the two was always a pleasure. Tamsin's [rather extended] family and "the stranger" were very well done as well, each with unique attributes that made them stand out and be memorable. Especially the antagonist - he was just overall very natural. Another really cool aspect of the characterization is that quite a few of the characters either change, grow, or develop over the course of the tale, and that's always amazing to see.

Once a Witch is a bit like a roller coaster. It starts off a little slow (in fact, personally, perhaps the Prologue could've been incorporated straight into the story and have it start with the first chapter instead), but then the story, the tension, the suspense, builds. And accelerates. And then it hurtles towards the climax. And let's just say the climax does not disappoint - all that build-up is well worth it. The "ending" sets itself up very nicely for a sequel, Always a Witch. Considering the interesting realm MacCullough's plotted and the concepts that (could) be dealt with in upcoming volume(s), it'll definitely be intriguing to see where this'll go.

With Once a Witch, MacCullough has crafted a spellbinding and enthralling tale.

Goodreads | Website | Carolyn MacCullough | Indiebound | Amazon

*For some really weird reason, until about a good ten or twenty pages in, I'd thought her name was Tasmin, instead of Tamsin. Oops.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In My Mailbox [20]

Brought to you by Alea & Kristi, Lucid Conspiracy presents In My Mailbox #20...

Oh. Wow. Has it really been five weeks or so since my last IMM post? I believe it has. See, first there was a two-week dry spell. Nada. And then I got some sweet stuff the following week :) And then there was another week of nothing. And then there was some awesome stuff this week as well! So let's go in reverse chronological order here:

September 14th-18th:

`Prophecy of the Sisters Twitter Launch Party Prize Pack - A fragrent reed diffuser, cotton candy, a book for interpreting dreams, and four finger lights. Thank you, Michelle Zink!

`The Dust of 100 Dogs by AS King + 2 bookmarks - won this from Diana Dang's blogoversary celebration over at Stop, Drop, Read! Plus it's personalized and signed, which is always a bonus! (See left for picture) Thanks, Diana and AS King!

`Devoured by Amanda Marrone


August 31st-September 4th
`Give up the Ghost bookmarks + buttons. You know what this means; bookstalking time soon! :) Thanks, Megan! (Speaking of Ghost, links for my review & interview)
`Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez + bookmarks. Thanks, Kimberly Pauley of YA Books Central!

So there we go, the last couple of weeks in an IMM nutshell. Your turn - what was in your mailbox this week?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Interview: Megan Crewe

Yesterday was a pretty special day. Why, you ask? Well, it was Give up the Ghost's release day! (My review can be found here.) In addition to having written this awesome book, the fabulous Megan Crewe is also Canadian and an all-around super sweet person. It's with great enthusiasm that Lucid Conspiracy presents the following interview, so give it up for Megan Crewe!

Let's start off with something fun - tell us about GIVE UP THE GHOST in twenty words, and try to toss as many alliterations in there as you can.
Ghost-seeing girl gives grief over classmates' crimes and indiscretions, until popular boy pushes past her prickles and asks for assistance. :)

Well done! The concept of ghosts has been around for ages, but every author puts a unique spin on them. What differentiates your's in particular?
I think the most important thing about my ghosts is that they're more human than most. They're still pretty aware of what's going on in the world around them, even if they have trouble remembering specific events for very long, and they're not stuck on the past or trying to find ways to move on.

Your leading lady, Cass, definitely marches to the beat of her own drum. How did her character traits come about?
Well, I had to figure out what sort of person would prefer hanging out with ghosts instead of living friends. What made the most sense was that the living friends she used to have did something so horrible she didn't feel she could trust anyone any more. But unlike the typical school outcast, Cass has power through her ghostly friends. And having been betrayed, it's naturally very important to her to try to expose her less-savory classmates before they hurt others the way she was once hurt. Of course, ghosts can't be everything a living friend can, so she's got a lot of loneliness she's hiding underneath, too.

For sure; and Cass's journey is pretty exciting to witness too! Tim is also very different from the typical Gary Stu; in fact, his flaws are quite refreshing. Did you set out with the damsel-in-distress-role-reversal in mind, or did it just happen?
Funny, I never thought of it as a damsel-in-distress reversal, but you're right, it is! I knew Cass was going to have to help someone who was tempting death in one way or another. It felt right for it to be a guy. Maybe because Cass was betrayed by female friends, so she'd be even more distrusting of a girl who tried to make friends with her? And I knew if Cass was going to consider risking coming out of her shell to help him, he'd have to be pretty messed up.

GIVE UP THE GHOST is an interesting title, for sure. Could you share a little about the origins of that?
The original title of the manuscript was IN MEMORY OF. My agent felt that was too vague, so I started brainstorming new titles before we sent it out. I read through a long list of euphemisms for death and "giving up the ghost" jumped out at me. I felt it worked both in a literal way (because Cass has to face giving up her reliance on her ghostly friends) and a metaphorical way (because the story's about death, and also about letting go of the past). So the book went out and sold as GIVING UP THE GHOST.

But there was another YA novel a couple years ago with that title, so my publisher felt we needed to change it. I thought and thought and couldn't come up with anything I liked half as much. Thankfully, my editor decided that it only needed to be a tiny change, and that GIVE UP THE GHOST was fine! I think I like it even better than GIVING; there's more urgency to it.

Although those other titles are nice too, I really like the current title! If the apocalypse were coming tomorrow and you could only choose three books (in the entire world) to keep safe and bring into the "New World", which ones would you choose?
Oh, hard question! Taking this very literally, I'd say the biggest and most accurate medical text book in existence, the biggest and most accurate survival book in existence, and the best encyclopedia I could find (that counts as one book, right? It's just different volumes :D ). Then, once we've managed to stay alive and have some idea of what's what in the world, we'll start writing our own fiction! As much as I love novels, I don't think they'd be the most useful thing to hold on to at the end of the world.

Very literal indeed - it does make a lot of sense though! Good answer. ;) Any literary crushes?
On literary characters? I have a very large soft spot for Eugenedies in Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia books, and also one for the Fool in Robin Hobb's Farseer books. I like them clever, devoted, and inscrutable. :)

Now, about the unexpected. What're the best and worst unforseen things that have come along with this whole process (e.g. the planning, outlining, writing, querying, submitting, publishing, etc.)?
The best unforeseen thing was how involved my publicist would be. I wasn't sure what to expect and knew I might have to plan most/all of my appearances on my own. So it was a wonderful surprise to end up having my first talk and signing nearly a month before the book was even out, and more to come, all arranged by her. I'm pretty shy, so it's wonderful having someone else connecting with important people and setting things up.

The worse unforeseen thing was losing my first editor. The editor who bought my book and worked on all my revisions with me was laid off during the cutbacks that hit many publishing houses last winter. The editor I've worked with since has been amazing, and I'm glad to have her, but it was scary when it happened and I didn't know what the consequences would be, and it's sad not to be able to share the excitement of the launch with the person who was so instrumental in making it happen.

Any other projects currently in the works that you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about?

Unfortunately I can't give any details, but I am continuing to work on YA novels, both paranormal and fantasy.

Thanks for the fun interview!

Aww, I guess we'll just have to wait and see what's next, but YA paranormal/fantasy sounds like it'll be great fun! Thanks for stopping by, Megan!

You can find out more information by visiting Megan's website.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Give Up The Ghost Review

Give up the Ghost - Megan Crewe
*September 15th, 2009 Henry Holt & Co

Cass McKenna much prefers the company of ghosts over "breathers." Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody... and Cass loves dirt. She's on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school.

But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass's whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.

As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim's life, she's surprised to realize he's not so bad--and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it's time to give the living another chance...

With Megan Crewe's brilliant debut Give up the Ghost, one has to give up one's preconceived notions about YA ghost stories of the modern age. Because this one? It blows them straight out of the water.

The overall vibe and connotation of Give up the Ghost is "[bright] like a Chinese lantern" (Crewe 2). The concept of ghosts isn't new, but Crewe sets them up in a way that's entirely her own, and it's always intriguing to see new spins on old ideas. The main thread that the story follows makes for a very interesting plot - in short, a page-turner that grips the audience and does not let go, charging them to walk the pages of the book like ghosts walk the places they once inhabited.

Give up the Ghost definitely has very interesting characterization. For one thing, Cass McKenna's "mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school" is a trait of someone who's not your average preppy teenage girl. She's gritty, she's raw, but most importantly, Cass is real. Crewe isn't afraid to show Cass's flaws, and that's what endears her the audience. It's also nice to see a strong protagonist, to see a role reversal on the whole damsel-in-distress motif.

And as for Tim? Tim's definitely a very interesting male lead, and for good reason too. Again, his flaws make him more credible. It's also very refreshing to get a YA lit boy who isn't described as perfect - physically or otherwise. Crewe has also done a brilliant job of using her characters and plot as conduits to explore the theme of appearances vs. reality. Although Give up the Ghost may seem like just a ghost story on the surface, it's so much more. It's got elements of paranormal, of contemporary, of edgy YA - and this is what breathes life into the story. For the most part, the minor characters as well were nicely done, whether they were ghosts or "breathers". Personally I found it a little hard to connect with her parents, but then again, as it is from Cass's POV and she doesn't have a great relationship with them, it's understandable.

What really impressed me was Crewe's portrayal of high school. Perhaps it's not entirely what my school is like, or what your school is like - but it doesn't matter. The evocative connotations Crewe brought to life, the aura she conjured - basically, it all added up to make the setting seem credible and real. A few quirks here and there, but for the most part, the dialogue and teen voice was relatively well done. The phrase "shoot the breeze" was new though; I hadn't heard that before. I guess you learn something new with every book.

A few things would've been nice to get a little more clarification on, in terms of background information, but it works as is too. It's a combination of characters, of writing, etc., but the plot is also part of what keeps the audience hurtling towards the ending, breathless and anticipating what's to come. Crewe definitely pushed the envelope with Give up the Ghost, and although it may be unexpected where the story goes, now it's hard to imagine it going any other way.

In short, Give up the Ghost is masterfully done. Megan Crewe has created an engrossing, illuminating, and captivating tale - a very welcome debut to the YA community.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sleepless Review

Sleepless - Thomas Fahy
*August 11th, 2009 Simon & Schuster

Emma Montgomery has been experiencing nightmares of gruesome murders. In fact, all of the students in Dr. Beecher's secret society have been having terrible dreams and sleepwalking. Now, as their classmates start turning up dead, Emma and her friends race against the clock to find out what's causing them to kill in their sleep.

The teenage years are trying times when it comes to sleeping. But what if you can't control your sleeping patterns anymore? What if you're plagued by nightmares and sleepwalking, but remember nothing when you wake up? What if you're doing terrible - murderous - things whilst asleep?

This is the concept that Thomas Fahy has explored and implemented in his chilling YA horror novel Sleepless. It's definitely a welcome addition to the 2009 collection of YA; especially since there aren't that many offerings in this genre at the moment. Fahy's diction choice and writing style is fairly fluid; the story is definitely easy to get into the swing of, even for reluctant readers.

Size-wise, at 224 pages, Sleepless isn't very thick. For the most part, this works well with the story; it's face-paced, it's got action, it moves along nicely. The suspense strings along the mystery, the two themes harmonizing well. Unexpected twists and seemingly irrelevant details tie in nicely and add a little extra ka-bam. With that being said though, the story could potentially have been lengthened in exchange for a little more character development, a little more depth.

As it is though, although not quite as much intimacy is established, the characters are still relatively interesting. Perhaps Fahy intended it this way - a sort of distance from the characters to keep the audience guessing, to wonder at their next steps, to highlight the idea of how even if you think you know someone, you could be wrong. Deadly wrong.

The alternating perspectives is actually something that Fahy pulls off very well in Sleepless. It enhances the mystery while providing more insight, which is always an impressive feat. Speaking of which, there seems to be a nice balance between horror and mystery as well. It's not actually hardcore scary, so if that's what you're concerned about, it's not something too major to worry about. The twist at the end was very well implemented, nicely executed. So to speak.

With Sleepless, Fahy has crafted a fast-paced, suspenseful thriller. And that is one gorgeously chilling cover.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (4)

Lady Macbeth's Daughter - Lisa Klein
BloomsburyUSA - October 13th, 2009

Albia has grown up never knowing her father, the powerful Macbeth, or her mother, the grief-wracked Lady Macbeth. Instead she knows the dark lure of the woods and the moors, where she’s been raised by three strange sisters. When the ambitious Macbeth seeks out the sisters to foretell his fate, Albia’s life becomes tangled with that of the man who leaves in his wake nothing but bloodshed. She even falls in love with Fleance, Macbeth’s rival for the throne. When Albia learns that she has second sight, she must decide whether to ignore the terrible future she foresees—or to change it. Will she be able to save the man she loves from her murderous father? And can she forgive her parents their wrongs, or must she destroy them to save Scotland from tyranny?

In this highly anticipated follow-up to Ophelia, Lisa Klein delivers a powerful reimagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, featuring a young woman so seamlessly drawn it seems impossible she was not part of the Bard’s original play.

[Shakespeare's] Macbeth is on the reading list of most high school curriculums. And hey - I have to admit, I actually quite liked it, in spite of all that. So this - a fresh spin, a different perspective - definitely looks like it'll be pretty interesting. (And it's doing pretty well in terms of ratings so far on Goodreads, so that always helps.)

But now that you've seen my pick. What are you waiting on, this Wednesday?

*WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine
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