Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade: Book 1

The blurb:
Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from Mountain School, she’ll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side,  ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers.  But when she violates her masters’ laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike,  Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known.  By following her heart, she might lose everything -- including her own life.  Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?
I loved Nightshade partly because of the characters and the unusual world that they inhabit.  Andrea Cremer constructed a world with a supernatural beings, special powers, a clear hierarchy/hegemony where the high schoolers are exceptionally literate, driven, and aware.
Calla and Ren are young Alphas from separate packs. They’ve been raised as Guardians and have been specially chosen to create a new pack - through their “union.”  The union seems to be both a marriage of sorts and alliance of the young members of their packs.  Calla is an interesting leader - as a woman paired off with Ren, her behavior is strictly regulated and circumscribed.  She is willing to follow the rules and live by the pack’s expectations when it comes to her own future but she’s deeply protective of the young members of her pack.  
At first look, Ren appears less complicated.  As the Alpha male, he’s been encouraged  to test boundaries and to explore.  Ren is the ultimate athlete and a natural leader.  He is quick to shoot down anyone who comes to close to his partner-to-be Calla.  But as Nightshade unfolds, we learn that Ren has accepted the responsibilities and expectations that come with leadership.  Like Calla, Ren is fiercely protective of those in his pack.  Unfortunately, Ren and those in his pack have learned to adjust to the whims and desires of their leaders.   As Ren struggles to obey the norms and hierarchy of his pack and protect those that he cares about, Calla finds herself increasingly drawn to Shay, the new human in their midst.
As Calla, Ren, Shay and their friends face competing demands of loyalty, duty and love, we enter a complex and fascinating world. Nightshade is engrossing and impossible to put down - and I can’t wait until the next book (Wolfsbane) in the series comes out on July 26, 2011!

ISBN-10: 039925482X - Hardcover $17
Publisher: Philomel; 1 edition (October 19, 2010), 528 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
About the Author:
Andrea Cremer grew up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and now lives in Minneapolis, where she’s a professor of history at Macalester College.  She’s written about violence, sex, religion, and power in history, and has used that research to create the world of Nightshade.  Learn more about her at


Friday, March 11, 2011

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing by Kathy Cano-Murillo

The blurb:
Sometimes to find your life's true path, you have to stray outside the lines . . .

Scarlet Santana is never happier than when creating fabulous fashions for women of all shapes and sizes. Now, after years of hard work, she finally has the chance to live her dream and study under the hottest designer in New York. To raise money for her move, Scarlet opens an after-hours sewing school in a local record shop, teaching a type-A working mom whose rigid parenting style is causing her family to unravel and an enigmatic seamstress with a mysterious past.

But as stitches give way to secrets and classmates become friends, the women realize an important truth: There is no single pattern for a good life. Happiness is always a custom fit.

Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing (Crafty Chica)
In Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing, Kathy Cano-Murillo gives us another engaging and delightful story that combines a love for craft (sewing), creativity, and entrepreneurship with an understanding of Latino culture and a healthy dose of romance and family drama.   Kathy Cano-Murillo gives us characters to care about and cheer for as they face tough odds. In short, Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing is a funny, heartwarming and satisfying read.  It's a book to be shared with friends and family, just as much as it should be savored on a rainy day.

About the Author:
With a life motto of “Crafts! Drama! Glitter!” Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo is a creative force of nature. A former syndicated columnist for The Arizona Republic, she is the founder of the award-winning Web site, and the author of seven nonfiction craft books and a Web series on Kathy has a Crafty Chica line of art supplies that are sold nationwide. She also has been featured in numerous media outlets such as The New York Times Magazine, NPR’s Weekend Edition, USA Today, Bust, and Latina magazine. She has shared her crafty ideas on local television, as well as on Sí TV, HGTV, and DIY network. She has been writing stories longer than she has been crafting. Inspired by Judy Blume and Erma Bombeck, she caught the literary bug in grade school, where she used to draw a picture and then write a colorful story to go with it. It’s a creativity exercise she still practices to this day! Kathy lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband, two kids, and five Chihuahuas. This is her second novel.

Head here for the Reading Group Guide for Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing.

To enter, please tell us about an accessory or a piece of clothing that you particularly enjoy wearing/love and how it reflects your sense of fashion.  

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
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3. One entry per person and only one winner per household.

The contest is limited to US and Canada. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on April 10, 2011.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

The Distant Hours: A Novel

The Distant Hours: A Novel by Kate Morton was a wonderful escape! The hardcover came out on Nov. 9, 2010 and the paperback edition will be released in July 2011.

The blurb:
A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old estate, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted fifty years before as a thirteen-year-old girl during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.
Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past.  But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected.  The truth of what happened in “the distant hours” of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.
Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring characters beset by circumstance and haunted by memory.  The Distant Hours is an homage to the great classics of gothic literature and to the power of storytelling.

In her third and latest novel, The Distant Hours, Kate Morton delivers an unforgettable tale that takes us to a great home in England around the time of World War II.  
It opens with the delivery of a long lost letter which drives young Edie Burchill to investigate Milderhurst Castle, a once grand estate in England, where her mother had once been billeted as a thirteen-year-old girl during World War II. Edie is drawn to Milderhurst and its owners, the three Blythe sisters.  The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives protecting their youngest sister Juniper who hasn’t been the same since a fateful night in 1941.  As Edie unravels the mystery of her mother’s stay at Milderhurst, she uncovers the truth behind the mysterious tragedies that have haunted the Blythe family for decades.
The Distant Hours is an engrossing read full of family secrets and betrayal- equal parts mystery and historical fiction.

ISBN-10: 1439152799 - Paperback
Publisher: Washington Square Press (July 12, 2011), 576 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher
About the Author:
Kate Morton, a native Australian, holds degrees in dramatic art and English literature, and is the author of The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden.  She lives with her family in Brisbane, Australia.  Learn more about her at

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

The Janus Stone (Ruth Galloway)
When the excavation for luxury condominiums unearths artifacts from the Roman times, the discovery of the skeletal remains of a young child raise all sorts of questions.  The archeologists call upon Ruth Galloway, a forensic archeologist who has developed a working relationship and credibility with the police investigators.
While the artifacts date hundreds of years, the body is relatively recent.  Galloway and the police uncover details of children that had gone missing on the site.  The first mystery leads to another.  While the discovery of deaths lead to further questions - and to a gripping forensic mystery.
Elly Griffith’s second novel with forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway, The Janus Stone delivers complex characters, an unpredictable plot, and a satisfying escape.  Fans of forensic detective novels and British mysteries will surely enjoy this new series with the strong and sympathetic Ruth Galloway

ISBN-10: 0547237448 - Hardcover
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (January 21, 2011), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley.

The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

The Inner Circle
The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

The blurb:
Secrets. Lies. Power. Betrayal. Murder.
There are stories no one knows.  Hidden stories.  I love those stories.  And since I work in the National Archives, I find those stories for a living.
So says Beecher White, a young archivist who spends his days working with the most important documents of the U.S. government.  When Clementine Kaye, his first childhood crush, shows up at the Archives asking for his help tracking down her long-lost father, Beecher tries to impress her by showing her the secret vault where the president of the United States privately reviews classified documents.  It is also where Beecher and Clementine accidentally happen upon a priceless artifact -- a two-hundred-year-old dictionary that once belonged to George Washington -- hidden underneath a desk chair.  Eager to discover why the president is hiding this important national treasure, the two soon find themselves entangled in a web of deception, conspiracy, and murder that will reveal the best kept secret of the U.S. presidency.

I’m a bit of a history buff (read: nerd), so when I read about the latest Brad Meltzer novel where the lead character, Beecher White, is an archivist in the National Archives with access to all sorts of privileged and secret information, I couldn’t wait to read it. 
Beecher is one of the youngest archivists and his recent breakup with his fiancee has left him particularly vulnerable. When his childhood crush comes into his life asking for help, Beecher uses his skills and the Archive’s vast resources.  But the unauthorized access gets them into deep trouble. As Beecher and his friends try to navigate the murky waters, they find themselves facing a powerful secret society. As the stakes go up, Brad Meltzer’s The Inner Circle becomes a mystery wrapped in historical fiction -- a fun escape!

ISBN-10: 0446577898 - Hardcover 
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (January 11, 2011), 464 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Junoninonia by Kevin Henkes


Junonia by Kevin Henkes

The blurb:

Returning to the beach cottage—a cottage named Scallop—where she has always celebrated her birthday is a special occasion for Alice Rice.

Who will see the first dolphin this time? The first pelican? What will have changed? Stayed the same? And will this be the year she finally finds a junonia shell?

Alice's friends are all returning, too. And she's certain her parents have the best party planned for her. Alice can't wait. If Alice is lucky, everything will be absolutely perfect. Will Alice be lucky?

Junonia introduces us to nine-year-old Alice Rice at the very start of her Florida vacation with her parents Tom and Pam.  Alice is an only child and she longs for a larger family.  Her parents were both only children and all her four grandparents are dead.  Alice considers the neighbors that she spends summers with to be her extended family – the artist Helen Blair, her mother’s college friend Kate, the “ancient Mr. Barden,” the Wishmeiers and their three grandchildren.

The summer brings Alice some disappointments – the Wishmeier grandchildren have started high school and are too busy to travel to Florida, Helen Blair is caught in a snowstorm and instead gives up her cottage.  The “replacement neighbors” are Kate’s new boyfriend Ted and his daughter Mallory.  Alice had been looking forward to spending alone time with Kate – so six-year-old Mallory is a letdown.

Mallory is even less fun in person. She’s shy, irritating, and emotional – she misses her mother deeply.  As Alice goes beyond the initial irritation and befriends Mallory, the book has magic moments. 

Overall, Junonia is a heartwarming and encouraging story for young readers. I've always loved Kevin Henkes's illustrated books for children because of his mix of humor and warmth.  The early books encourage both personality and kindness in children and Junonia continues this underlying sensibility. A chapter book with many enjoyable sections: searching for sea shells, walks on the beach, special late night meals, and an unforgettable tenth birthday party.  Junonia is also a story that celebrates patience, friendship, and kindness – something to be enjoyed and shared. 

ISBN-10: 0061964174 - Hardcover $15.99
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (May 24, 2011), 192 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley.

About the Author:

Kevin Henkes is the author of Sun & SpoonBird Lake Moon, and the Newbery Honor Book Olive's Ocean. He also writes and illustrates picture books, and among his many titles are the national bestsellers My GardenOld BearA Good Day, and Kitten's First Full Moon, for which he was awarded the Caldecott Medal. Mr. Henkes is also the creator of a series of books starring mouse characters, includingLilly's Purple Plastic PurseLilly's Big DayWemberly WorriedChrysanthemum, and Owen, for which he was awarded a Caldecott Honor.

Kevin Henkes lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about his and his writing at

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning)
The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning) by John Stephens

The blurb:
A snowy winter's night. Three small children are chased from their home by the forces of a merciless darkness.  Ten years later, Kate, Michael, and Emma are no closer to the truth about what separated their family.

The answer lies with an enchanted atlas.

Brimming with action, humor, and emotion. The Emerald Atlas is the first stage of a journey that will take Kate, Michael and Emma to strange, dangerous lands and deep within themselves. It is the story of three children who set out to save their family, and end up having to save the world.

In The Emerald Atlas, the first book in his Books of Beginning trilogy, John Stephens introduces us to three young children, Kate, Michael and Emma.  They were mysteriously separated from their parents at a young age -- so young that only Kate has strong memories of what their parents were like.

The characters and atmosphere of The Emerald Atlas reminded me of older British children's novels, by E. Nesbit and C.S. Lewis's Narnia series.  Shunted from orphanage to orphanage until they find themselves taken in by Dr. Pym in a large house in a rural Cambridge Falls.  As they explore the home, fed all sorts of delicious food by a grumpy housekeeper, the children settle in quite well.  They discover a book gifted with magic of some sort.  As they decipher the book's powers and the strange mysteries of Cambridge Falls, they realize that they're in a world where magic exists and thrives.

The children find that in this place, Cambridge Falls, witches, dwarves, and all sorts of magical creatures exist.  And that through this magic book, they have the power to travel through time.  As the children discover the dark side of their magical world,  each  of them struggle to fight cruelty and evil and to help restore balance in their world.

The youngest child, Emma, is strong, brave, and spirited.  Her older brother Michael is bookish and protective in his own way, although he often seems like the weakest link.   For the eldest child, Kate,  the promise she made to her mother years ago is always strong in her mind and she is willing to accept great personal sacrifice to keep her family together.

The Emerald Atlas  is a captivating and magical novel, certain to appeal to children and adults of all ages. 

ISBN-10: 0375868704 - Hardcover $17.00
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (April 5, 2011), 342 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
John Stevens spent ten years working in television and was executive producer of Gossip Girl and a writer of Gilmore Girls and The O.C.   He holds an MFA from the University of Virginia.

John and his wife have a dog named Bug and sometimes live in Los Angeles.  Visit to find out more about The Emerald Atlas, the Books of Beginning, and John.