Friday, March 19, 2010

Hex Hall

Hex Hall
Rachel Hawkins

It was that my worst fear seemed to be coming true.  It's one things to be different around people who you're really, well, different from.  It's a whole other problem to be an outcast in a group of outcasts.
~ Sophie

Earlier this month, I won a contest that C.J. Redwine had on her blog, The Last Word. (on my day o' winning as it's come to be known) C.J. is really funny and her husband's cupcakes are brillant.  Plus, she has awesome interviews.  I won a book from an interview with her agent Holly Root.  Holly emailed me a huge list of books and said I could choose 2!! So generous!  HEX HALL and RISE OF RENEGADE X arrived in no time.  Woowhoo!

I was so excited to get HEX HALL.  It was released on March 3rd but before that Twitter was, well, all a twitter with it's awesomeness. 

Sophia, a witch, (or Soh-fee-yuh as pronounced by headmistress Mrs. Casnoff ) is sent/sentenced to Hecate Hall after a prom night incident which is as funny as it is tragic.  Hecate Hall is a reform school of sorts on an island off the coast of Georgia for wayward magical teenagers - witches, faeries, shapeshifters, etc. Sophie tries to settle into life at Hex Hall but there's always something.  Seriously...vampire roommate; finding out she's a 'dark witch'; 3 beautiful witches alternately trying to befriend and make her miserable (the ultimate 'frienemies'); cute boy; info about her MIA dad.

And, of course, there's the mystery.  I'm not going to tell you about the mystery.  You'll have to read it to find out. I don't want to give away too much of the book but I will tell you that after chapter 28, my heart was broken.  Then the last sentence of the whole book - was. not. expecting. that.  {I actually said "no way" out loud while getting my pedicure.  The pedicure lady looked at me like I was nuts.  I might be.}

HEX HALL is - well, I can't find the right words to describe it - I keep coming back to awesome but that doesn't seem to be enough.  Double awesome with a side order of diet coke?  Triple awesome with spinach pizza and diet coke? That gets close.  Let's go with that.  HEX HALL is triple awesome with spinach pizza and diet coke. 

I really connected with Sophie.  I felt her discomfort leaving her mother, her struggle to make friends.  I admire her loyality.  And what girl hasn't tried to talk herself out of a crush?  Plus, she's wicked funny.  What else can you call someone who refers to her gym clothes as 'fugly'?

HEX HALL is excellent.  I highly recommend it.  I also highly recommend following Rachel Hawkins on Twitter.  I've been following her about a week.  She's also wicked funny.  I was very excited to learn that there will be a HEX HALL 2. You can read more about Rachel on her blog, Reading Writing Rachel

Recommendation: girls in 8th grade and up
Length: 323 pages
Rating: All Time! I am reading a lot of good books lately so I've had a lot of well deserved All Times

Thursday, March 11, 2010

City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
By Cassandra Clare

This book was recommended to me by my twitter peep @MyraMcEntire, and seconded by @MundieMoms, when I was thinking of changing my book from 1st person to 3rd person.  {Side note: I did rewrite said book in 3rd person.  Hated it.  Went back to 1st and got creative.  Go Aimee, Go Aimee!}

OK, back to City of Bones.  It is soooo good.   I can't even stand how good it is.  Well, yes I can stand it.  Anyway, I'm not so good with the focusing today.

Clary is your average 15 year old living in New York.  Which, I must say, is not like your average 15 year old living in Dallas, Texas.  But, again, I digress.  Anyway, Clary is wicked cool and an average kind of way.  Cute boy turns her head.  The boy next door is ready and waiting but she just sees him as a BFF.   Good times.

Then, Clary witnesses something a club she wasn't supposed to see and that no one else can see.  Weird.  Next, she fights with her mom.  Usual.  Then her mom disappears and her apartment is trashed.  Neither weird nor usual.  Scary.

So Clary and cute boy (Jace) endeavor to solve the mystery.  But not in the Scooby Doo kinda way.  In a totally kick butt kinda way.

The last two chapters ripped my heart out.  But they were supposed to and I'm not going to tell you why.  That's too spoilerish.  Go read it yourself!  The ending is completely open and gets you ready for book two:  City of Ashes.  I'm head to the library to get that one right now.  Well, after I finish this but you get the point.

Recommendation: boys and girls 8th grade and up, really any human who enjoys a good book over the age of 13.
Length: 485 pages
Rating: All Time! (I've had a lot of those lately.  Lucky me)

You can learn more about The Mortal Instrument Series here
And if your a grown up momma who loves the series check out Mundie Moms here. {Side note, I didn't get their name at first but when I started reading the book and figured it out, it made me smile. a lot.}

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lisa Schroeder

Last week I posted my review of  Lisa's first middle grade book, IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. 
Lisa is gracious enough to answer some questions for us.  I'm so excited because this is my first author interview.  Enjoy!

IT"S RAINING CUPCAKES is so different that your first 3 books, what made you decide to change your style?
I have always loved middle grade fiction, and actually have a couple of drawer novels that I wrote that just weren't quite good enough. When I wrote my first YA, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, that was actually the change in style. It was something new and different I hadn't done before, but the story wanted to be told that way. I think the verse created an atmosphere for the story I couldn't have achieved with regular prose. And so I continued to write YA books in that manner because it found a fan base.

But I was ready to do something different after I had finished writing another YA novel in verse. I was driving home from work one day, thinking about what I could write about that would be fun. I really wanted to do a FUN book. And cupcakes popped into my head. And I thought, what about a MG novel with a cupcake shop as the setting? And that's how it started.

It was such a fun book to write. In verse, I have to be careful about too much dialogue, but with this book, I let the characters talk and talk - it was great!

How is writing a middle grade novel different from writing for young adults?

I think in middle grade fiction, you can get away with quirkier characters than you can in YA. I also think MG fiction tends to focus more on family issues. And the big difference - no romance. All of my YA books have romance at the center, and middle grade readers just aren't ready to go there.

You and Isabel are both native Oregoians. Any other similarities?

Ahhh, great question! Well, like Isabel, I would love to travel! Although I have been out of the state of Oregon, I haven't been many places. I've never been out of the United States, and even within the US I've only been to a handful of places. I haven't even been to New York City! So as I wrote about NYC, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to get there. Hopefully someday!

Isabel also has some challenges with her mother, and I think there's a little of me in there with that as well. The mother/daughter relationship can be hard at times.

I love that each chapter title is different type of cupcake. Did you bake all those variety of cupcakes?

Ha - a reader actually e-mailed me and asked if I had all of the recipes. Um, no. I used lots of cupcake shops with menus on-line as ideas for the chapter headings. And then I tried to tie in the little saying that goes with each one into what happens in that chapter. It was challenging at times, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

I actually did very little baking as I wrote this book. I did have to experiment and play around to come up with the two recipes included in the back!

What is your favorite cupcake?

This is just an impossible question. I like so many kinds!!! Just last week I went to this shop in town called Bliss Bake Shop that does all kinds of cupcakes, because I'm going to buy some for my book signing event in a couple of weeks. They had a banana one with a hint of chocolate in it and it was SO good. I also love applesauce and lemon. I sort-of go for the fruity ones, I guess!

Anything else you'd like our readers to know about you and IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES?

A little something special about the book - My grandpa passed away a few months ago. His name was Stan. Stan the barber, who is a character in the book, is named after him. Although my grandpa wasn't a barber and didn't look a thing like Stan, they are both good, kind people, who want to help. And I'm glad I have Stan the barber to sort of memorialize my grandpa.

Thanks so much for having me here! And now everyone should go eat a cupcake!
Thank you Lisa!  And now, what you've all been waiting for, the winner of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES.

randomly chosen....

Shannon O'Donnell, who's favorite type of cupcake is funfetti with cream cheese frosting!  Yummo!  Funfetti, that's so fun.  I like typing that funfetti funfetti funfetti

Opps, sorry lost focus.  Back to Shannon, Shannon email me your address (aimeebartis(at)gmail(dot)com) and I'll get the book in the mail to you!

IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES hits stores today!  You getcha one!  I'm gonna go get myself one.

Happy Book Day, Lisa!

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Raining Cupcakes

It's Raining Cupcakes
Lisa Schroeder

A fire escape is really not
an escape at all.
Traveling to New York, 
now that would be an escape.

Isabel lives in Willow, Oregon.  She hates that she's never been outside of Oregon.  And she has a plan to change that!  She's entering a baking contest for kids and the finalists get to travel to New York City.

Isabel's family is opening a cupcake shop in Willow called It's Raining Cupcakes.  So, naturally she'll enter a cupcake recipe, right?  Right?  Maybe.  She can't decide. It's complicated.  A lot of things are complicated for Isabel this summer.

Besides the contest, her relationships are complicated.  She's jealous and a tad annoyed with her BFF Sophie.  Isabel wants her mother to be happy.  That seems impossible.  Isabel wants to be happy too.  Can they both be happy at once?

It's Raining Cupcakes is a great book.  Isabel is real and you want to root for her.  You feel her struggle to make herself and everyone else happy.  You feel her love for her mother.  You understand her relationship with Sophie.  Isabel makes you love her.   And want to bake cupcakes.  At least I wanted to bake after I was finished reading It's Raining Cupcakes.

Recommendation: I recommend this book for 5th-8th grade girls.  Especially those struggling with their moms.  I'd also recommend for moms of 5th-8th grade girls who are struggling with their daughters.  
Length: 193 pages (including two yummy recipes)
Rating: All Time!

It's Raining Cupcakes is available on March 9.  Click here to order from Barnes & Noble
You can learn more about Lisa Schroeder on her website

I love It's Raining Cupcakes so much that I'm going to give my copy away (you know the old saying, if you love something set it free).  One entry for each of the following:
1. follow the blog (Click on follow in the right hand column)
2. leave a comment telling me your favorite cupcake flavor
3. tweet about the contest (@aimeebartis)

I'll have an interview with Lisa on the blog next Tuesday, March 9 to celebrate It's Raining Cupcake's release!