Halloween Food! The Grin-est Holiday EVAR.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Jack's Lament by Danny Elfman [Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack].

So, yesterday I decided I wanted to have a Halloween party. Thankfully this brilliant idea decided to come with at least two days notice to you know, prep.

For those last minute deciders or for anyone who wants a little something fun for their holiday, here are some treat ideas to think of cooking up (all-age friendly).

Three variations of deviled eggs: eyeball, pumpkin, cracked and spider variety.





What is this? Creme brulee inside a pumpkin? WHY DID I NEVER THINK OF THIS BEFORE? I'm not going the pumpkin flavoring route since at least one member of my family detests pumpkin (the horror, right? It's like hating egg nog!). PERFECT excuse to buy a culinary blow torch, right? :)

Another tradition of Halloween that goes back as far as I can remember is hot dog octopi, or Octidogs, if you'd like. :) That IS Halloween for me. Simply cut your hot dog in half and then split each halfway up lengthwise and boil. I guarantee your kids (or kids at heart) will fall be in awe. You can even see them unfurl before your eyes.

And here is a geektastically cool website breaking down exactly the different kinds and methods of cooking these little octopi. I'd honestly never thought of deep frying them before, but the curl on those legs is fantastic.

Now outside of the octopi of my childhood, I'm not too fond of hot dogs. But I saw this idea for mummies that I just have to try.

There was also supposed to be pictures of my famous severed finger pizza, but alas, three SD cards later, it has disappeared. Boo!

Halloween... It's in the Air. Breathe in DEEP.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): I Started Something by Bow Wow Wow.

Ah, you guys, I cannot tell you how much I love this time of year. Not only is it a holiday-fest from here until New Year's, not to mention the gallons of hot chocolate I will be chugging to keep me warm until mid-April/May when the snows start to recede (you think I'm kidding? How quaint). But it is just the atmosphere and sheer fun of it, gosh dangit. Halloween ROCKS. And I have to tell you, I have the BEST. COSTUME. EVER this year. Not biased. At all. But seriously, it's awesome. I wonder... can you guess it?

Hmm, let's see...

A hint that won't give it away...

Okay. My younger sister (who is in high school) has no frame of reference with this character at all. I discovered this last night, actually. And I promptly put on my most *aghast* face. But I remember watching it (loving it), and I still have the theme song stuck in my head. Actually, I'm singing it right now. ^_^

It is not "literary" related, per se, but for some reason I always associate it with literary stuff anyway. Don't ask me why.

And she is one of the coolest bad guys you just love to root for. :)

Any guesses? I'll even answer one question you put up to me (not "who is it?" That's silly. And cheating). If you get close, I will strut my stuff for you.

Monday's Muse, 64th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen + The Muppets.

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:
Time Travel (Romance)

EDIT: Thank you for a recommendation I forgot - Juliet Immortal! Comments only makes these lists better!

Waterfall (River of Time series) by Lisa Bergren.

Gabriella has never spent a summer in Italy like this one.
Remaining means giving up all she’s known and loved … and leaving means forfeiting what she’s come to know—and love itself.
Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Bentarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives with their parents, famed Etruscan scholars, among the romantic hills. In Book One of the River of Time series, Gabi and Lia are stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural Tuscany on yet another hot, boring, and dusty archeological site … until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.
And thus she comes to be rescued by the knight-prince Marcello Falassi, who takes her back to his father’s castle—a castle Gabi has seen in ruins in another life. Suddenly Gabi’s summer in Italy is much, much more interesting. But what do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world?

Fallen (Fallen series) by Lauren Kate.
Beautiful Lucinda (Luce) Price is banished from everything she knows after a mysterious fire leaves her friend Trevor dead and Luce shouldering the blame. She is forced to board at a decrepit reform school where students are under the constant watch of cameras and must go without cellphones or Internet access. Grief-stricken by Trevor's death and horrified by her new surroundings, Luce is also plagued by sinister, terrifying shadows that appear wherever she goes. The remote gothic setting provides the standard backdrop for the crux of the story, first in a planned series—the romantic feelings Luce develops for the elusive, unpredictable, and rather unlikable Daniel. Aside from the evil shadows, the plot can be summed up with a single word: pining. Luce longs for Daniel in various ways—dreaming of him, digging up information, trying to talk to him, experiencing rejection, then trying again. Some readers will pine right alongside Luce, but others may feel that Kate spends too much time on unrequited love and too little on forward movement in Luce's relationship with Daniel and the mystery of what, exactly, Daniel is.--Publisher's Weekly.

The Hourglass Door (Hourglass Door trilogy) by Lisa Mangum.

Dante, a prisoner sent from fifteenth-century Italy into the present time as punishment, meets and falls in love with Abby, a high school senior who may be the only one who can save him.

Ruby Red (Ruby Red trilogy) by Kerstin Gier.
Along with everyone else in her extended London household, 16-year-old Gwyneth believed that her cousin Charlotte was destined to be the family's next time-traveler. Unlike Charlotte, Gwyneth has no training in how to behave in other time periods, nor any background in the secret society of Guardians that protects the travelers—all vexingly inconvenient when Gwyneth starts popping back in time. What she does have is a mystery about why her mother lied about her birth date and a rocky partnership with fellow time-traveler Gideon. Gwyneth and Gideon are to fulfill the great quest of the Guardians and unlock a mysterious power, but the journeys prove perilous as they jaunt through 300 years of family secrets. First published in Germany, Gier's trilogy (Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green will follow) has met with success in Europe, though for a book set (at least partly) in the era of Google and cellphones, it has a quaint, old-fashioned feel. While some of the foreshadowing lacks subtlety, Gier's characters and plotting are first-rate, creating an adventure that should leave readers eager for the rest of the trilogy.--Publisher's Weekly (March 7, 2011).

Old Magic by Marianna Curley.

When Jarrod Thornton walks into the classroom, Kate Warren instantly senses that he is as different as she is. In anger, he unknowingly unleashes a storm in the science lab and Kate realizes that he has exceptional paranormal abilities that exceed her own. As an uneasy friendship forms, she helps Jarrod confront and internalize his talents. With her grandmother's help, the teens journey back to the Middle Ages and break the curse that has controlled the Thornton family for generations. On one level, this is a story about paranormal abilities, curses, and time travel. Deeper, it's an account of feeling different, friendship, and acceptance. The story is much like a train ride. The plot is fast and smooth and the characters' developing friendship is akin to the train's slowing and coming to a station stop. However, the language derails it until readers become used to the "Aussie-isms" throughout the text. (There is a glossary at the back of the book, but it is not all-inclusive.) It is obvious that Curley researched the architecture, peoples, and customs of the Middle Ages, and she skillfully integrates this information into the story. The characters are believable and are the strength of this first novel. While the message that it's all right to be different and to accept yourself for who you are is evident throughout, it's not overly dominant. Curley is definitely an author to watch.--Molly S. Kinney, School Library Journal, vol 48, issue 5, p148 (May 1, 2002).

Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors.

Mimi Wallingford's famous theater family includes a renowned Shakespearean actress. The teen herself has performed since the age of three, and is constantly reminded by her mother that the family's reputation (and the financial stability of the Wallingford Theater) rests upon her shoulders. Mimi, however, would rather major in pre-med at UCLA than study acting. When she is cast as Juliet opposite teen-idol Troy's Romeo, the two are transported to medieval Verona via a magical Shakespeare charm where they meet the real Juliet, an unpretentious, freckle-faced girl of 13. As Mimi begins to see the parallels between the situation with her mother and Juliet's being pressured by Lady Capulet to marry Paris and save the family's fortunes, she resolves to help Juliet escape. Troy and Mimi get involved in a series of misadventures as she attempts to give Romeo and Juliet a happy ending and return to Manhattan. The book's premise has considerable potential, but it is not entirely realized in the uneasy mix of chick-lit humor and Shakespeare's story. Mimi's present-day situation is not believable, and her controlling mother is too exaggerated a character. However, the humor and the attractive cover might win this title some fans, so this would be worth purchasing where Shakespearean adaptations such as Tui T. Sutherland's This Must Be Love (HarperCollins, 2004) have been popular.--Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ, School Library Journal, vol 54, issue 3, p210 (March 1, 2008).

Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle.
A romantic time travel story that's ideal for fans of novels by Meg Cabot and Donna Jo Napoli—and, of course, Shakespeare.

Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood: she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school's staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide.
Fellow cast member, Stephen Langford, has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks if she'd like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he's a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to 16th century England—the world Stephen's really from. He wants Miranda to use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world will loose its greatest playwright.

Miranda isn't convinced she's the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Reluctantly, she agrees to help, knowing that it's her only chance of getting back to the present and her "real" life. What Miranda doesn't bargain for is finding true love . . . with no acting required.

Falling for Henry by Beverley Brenna.

A 15-year old girl, lonely after the sudden death of her father, finds herself transported back to the days of Henry VIII's teenage years where she inhabits the body of Katherine of Aragon and has to deal with the increasingly fervent attentions of the young prince.


Inuyasha (series) by Rumiko Takahashi.

From One of Japan's most beloved creators Kagome is a modern Japanese high school girl. Never the type to believe in myths and legends, her world view dramatically changes when she's pulled out of herown time and into another. There, in Japan's ancient past, Kagome discovers more than a few of those dusty old legends are true and that her destiny is linked to one legendary creature in particular—the dog like half-demon called Inuyasha. That same trick of fate also ties them both to the Shikon Jewel, the "Jewel of Four Souls". But demons are everywhere... the smallest shard of the Shikon Jewel can give the user unimaginable power.

Twilight (Mediator series, book 6) by Meg Cabot.

What is a girl to do when she has the choice of having the one she loves by her side or realizing that he is simply the ghost of someone who was killed in the nineteenth century and needs to be let go? Suze Simon, a mediator, has the powers to communicate with the dead and she has fallen in love with Jesse, a handsome ghost. In the final installment of "The Mediator" series, Suze has to make the final decision about what becomes of Jesse. Suze has discovered that Paul Slater, another mediator who has been a foe with questionable intentions, knows history can be altered. Paul tries to prevent the murder of Jesse in the nineteenth century, so Suze would never have met him in the first place. Readers will be captivated by the storyline and will want to know what happens to Jesse. Will Paul be successful in wiping out the existence of Jesse's ghost? Will Suze follow her heart and keep Jesse's ghost by her side? It is a fast read and readers and fans of the series will finally get their answer.--Children's Literature.

Steel by Carrie Vaughn.

In a thoroughly enjoyable take on the historical time-travel tale, Jill Archer, vacationing in the Bahamas with her family and depressed at having just missed qualifying for the Junior World Fencing Championships, uncovers the rusty tip of an old sword in the sand. With it, she's transported back 300 years onto the pirate ship Diana, captained by Margery Cooper. Recognizing the sword, Cooper claims it for her own, knowing it will lead her and her mostly loyal crew to its owner and Cooper's enemy, pirate Edmund Blane. Stuck in the past, Jill signs onto the crew, which operates as a loose democracy. Learning the ropes, setting sail and standing watch, Jill grows fond of her shipmates, but as Cooper closes in on Blane, Jill senses that he represents her only way home. As her attractive shipmate Henry teaches her to fight with a real sword, onboard and on land, Jill acquires a new, deeper understanding of her sport. The same bad move that in competition would only lose her points, in battle very likely could end her life. Through her assertive, appealing protagonist and a satisfying plot that sheds light on lesser-known aspects of pirate life, Vaughn introduces readers to an intriguing sport with an ancient pedigree.--Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011).

 Timeless by Alexander Monir.

When her mother dies in a car accident in California, Michele Windsor is sent to New York City to live with her high-society grandparents whom she has never met. Via her Great-Great-Aunt Clara's diary, she is suddenly propelled back in time to 1910, where she not only meets and interacts with her Windsor ancestors but also with the young man whom she has been dreaming of her entire life, Philip Walker. The two fall in love. Trying to live between her two worlds, Michele discovers that only by giving up her "timeless" love for him can she allow Philip to attain happiness and reach his true potential. While much of the explanatory prose and dialogue tend toward trite, there are enough twists and turns to make the story interesting, if rather hokey. Philip's promise to find a way back to her will entice readers to seek out the sequel. While the protagonist is generally well-developed, the secondary characters are fairly stereotypical: e.g., the ever-faithful boyfriend, willing to sacrifice his societal position for love, who finds solace in his music. Youngsters intrigued by time travel will revel in Michele's adventures into the past, enjoying the historically accurate details, while her amorous trysts with Philip, accented by the difference in mores between his time and hers, will appeal to romance fans. An additional purchase for collections trying to attract reluctant, romance-prone readers.--Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, School Library Journal, vol 57, issue 5, pg. 118 (Reviewed May 1, 2011).

Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison.

Although this follows directly from ThePrincess and the Hound (2007), both stories are complete in themselves and can be read independently. This beautifully understated tale is of magic and "unmagic," human and animal, forest and town. A bear and a hound circle each other, warily. He was once a king; she was once a princess. The bear does not know his magic yet; the hound is uneasy with hers. When they see unmagic (think antimatter) sucking the life out of their world, they both return to the past, to King Richon's devastated kingdom, to save it. Richon the bear and Chala the hound move between animal and human existence; the relationships between animal and human, and the magic in being both, are exquisitely delineated, and the love story between the two strong protagonists is all the more powerful for being intensely restrained. There's a fair amount of bloodshed and violence, but that, too, is understated. Not for every reader, but an absorbing tale for the right one. --Kirkus (April 1, 2009).

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay.

Here is a Shakespeare retelling with a difference: What if Romeo actually murdered Juliet as part of a bargain with evil powers called Mercenaries in order to become immortal? The dying Juliet is recruited by the Ambassadors, opponents of the Mercenaries, as a protector of lovers and soul mates, and, for the next 700 years, she fights Romeo, who seeks to convince others to sacrifice their true loves as he himself did. He and Juliet take up temporary residence in new bodies every time they battle each other. Juliet's latest host is a troubled girl whose self-centered best friend, Gemma, appears to be one of the soul mates Juliet has been sent to protect. However, Juliet finds herself falling in forbidden love with good guy Ben, who seems to be Gemma's soul mate, and she also has to resist Romeo, who claims to have found a way to release both of them from their immortal bondage, if only she can love him again. Will Juliet find a true love after centuries of tragedy and loss? The paranormal romance elements work surprisingly well in combination with the play, although the backstory of the Ambassadors and Mercenaries is not always clear. Jay includes some interesting critiques of popular notions of romantic love associated with the story of Romeo and Juliet, which would make for a lively book discussion with teens who have read the play. Readers who enjoyed Amy Plum's Die for Me (HarperTeen, 2011) and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Eternal (Candlewick, 2009) will also enjoy this one.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ --Kathleen E. Gruver, School Library Journal (November 1, 2011. Vol 57, issue 11, pg. 127).

Feature Fun Friday - A Brave Little LEGO

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): A Window to the Past by John Williams [Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban soundtrack].

Something seems to have gone wrong with my scheduler, so I'm bumping each of my posts by one day. And hey, maybe a video on Monday instead of Friday is just the ticket to get you through the start of a new week. I'm reaching a little here for "literary connection" in this video, but it is telling a story, and I love anything that is creative or stretches any medium. Plus, it is just cool. Yeah, that is probably the main reason. :) Here for your viewing pleasure is the record setting strato jump - in LEGO. Enjoy! (and happy Monday!) :D

The Official "Head's Up" Post

Current Theme Song (aka  what's playing on my ipod right now): Not Broken by Goo Goo Dolls.

Just so you know, I am on the official first round panelists for the Cybils again. And this year it is for GRAPHIC NOVELS *puts in awesome cassette mix* (why yes, I did just say cassette). My inner geek just geeked itself out to oblivion when I found out. Already I am hitting it fast and hard, and the publisher nominations are still coming in.

I seriously love it, but I will not lie to you. It is brutal work. As in "I-have-no-social-life-and-what-is-this-thing-called-'food'?" kind of work. I am going to try my hardest to make it so you don't even notice a difference in my posting schedule at all. But if I happen to disappear for short spats, you'll know why. In these instances, please pity me. Poke me with a stick and/or send brownies. One will revive me if not the other. Probably. And at the end of this I am going to have some AWESOME book recommendations for you (you guys make the best recommendations ever). And probably a contest. Because, you know, I like any reason to celebrate. ^_^ So there you go. Now you are in the know. Because you all are awesome like that. *fist bump*

Look! It's shiny and official! :D

Literary T-Shirt Love Lives On!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): No Better by Melange.

Are you ready? Because the inner geek is about to be released. Yes, again.

Here is another batch of literary t-shirts that are just too cool not to share. A previous incarnation can be found here. Ah internet, how much time I wouldn't waste if I didn't have you. *snuggles*

The Original Hunger Games (on etsy)

The Green Door (on shirt.woot)

Lose Yourself (on shirt.woot)

Always (on etsy)

Judge a Man... (on zazzle)

Shirtspeare (this place has a lot more quotes. It's awesome)

The Fault in Our Stars Forever (on skreened)

Velociholmes (on snorgtees)

The Classic Blunders (on snorgtees)

Winter is Coming (on snorgtees)

Aaaannnnnnnnd just because I can...

Nothing is Unpossible (on snorgtees)

Feature Fun Friday - Stories in Sand

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Star of the Sea Mediaeval Baebes.

I'm sharing with you something deeply personal today. A secret, if you will, that I've held close to my heart for a long time. This is an art form I cannot remember where I saw it first, but one I have loved since I was a child. I don't want explain much, if anything at all, because it was the majesty of this art form that first enchanted me. The title explains it all. I only wish I could show you the one I saw first. These may make reappearances on here from time to time. I hope you enjoy it.

Monday's Muse, 63rd edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Njosnavelin by Sigur Ros.

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to one of several places, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.

A clever, scary, little-bit-sexy beginning to a series that takes Louisiana teen Rory to London.Rory's parents are teaching for a year at the University of Bristol, so she gets to spend senior year at Wexford, a London boarding school. She recounts her story, from mining her colorful relatives for stories to wow her English classmates, coming to grips with heavier course loads and making a couple of fairly adorable friends. But London is soon caught up in fear, as a copycat killer has begun recreating Jack the Ripper's bloody murders in gruesome detail. Johnson fearlessly takes readers from what seems like a cool innocent-abroad-with-iPod story to supernatural thriller, when Rory sees a man no one else does on campus the night of one of those murders. Enter a trio of young folks who are ghost hunters of a very specific sort. The tension ramps up exquisitely among cups of tea, library visits and the London Underground. The explosive ending is genuinely terrifying but never loses the wit, verve and humor that Rory carries with her throughout. While this tale does conclude, it does so with a complicated revelation that will have readers madly eager for the next installment.Nice touches about friendship, kissing, research and the way a boy's curls might touch his collar fully integrate with a clear-eyed look at a pitiless killer. Kirkus (August 15, 2011).

Death Note (series) by Tsugumi Oba.

Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects - and he's bored out of his mind. But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective L to track down the killer. With L hot on his heels, will Light lose sight of his noble goal...or his life?

Light tests the boundaries of the Death Note's powers as L and the police begin to close in. Luckily Light's father is the head of the Japanese National Police Agency and leaves vital information about the case lying around the house. With access to his father's files, Light can keep one step ahead of the authorities. But who is the strange man following him, and how can Light guard against enemies whose names he doesn't know?

(Note: I've read part of this series, and Light is freaking creepy).

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd.

This haunting, suspenseful novel follows the parallel stories of Fergus, facing the final high-school exams that will decide his future, and a murdered Iron Age "bogchild" he names Mel after he discovers her well-preserved body in a peat marsh. Living in Northern Ireland in 1981, Fergus is deeply involved in the Troubles between warring factions, as his imprisoned Republican older brother Joe joins a hunger strike. Fergus reluctantly becomes a smuggler of possible explosives in an attempt to protect both Joe and a Welsh border guard he's befriended. At the same time he begins a relationship with Cora, the conflicted daughter of the archaeologist researching Mel's death. Mel haunts Fergus's dreams, relating her own tragic but brave end; her story provides additional resonance to a tale that ends with a glimmer of hope for a better future. A sense of doom, perfectly captured, and images of sacrifice hang over the well-developed characters, making this a painful and moving read. Pitch-perfect in capturing the often futile struggles for the many victims of Irish independence over the millennia. Kirkus (July 15, 2008).

The Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin.

In this utterly terrifying psychodrama, a teenager already laboring under a crushing load of guilt finds himself cleverly, relentlessly stalked by his 11-year-old cousin. David killed his lover. The fact that it was accidental and that he's been acquitted of her murder, matters to him not at all. To finish high school and perhaps find a way to live with himself, he moves away from home to stay with Massachusetts relatives, where, in an attic apartment that may be haunted, he lives above a family driven seriously dysfunctional by a daughter's apparent suicide four years before. His hosts' remaining daughter, Lily, greets him coldly and starts a campaign of surreptitious harassment designed to enrage him beyond control. Why? Powerless to stop her and unable to make her parents believe that she needs help, David hangs on grimly, meanwhile trying to fit in at a new school and finding there an unexpected friend. Positioning her characters in an intricate, shadowy web of secrets, deception, bad choices, family feuds, and ghostly warnings, Werlin winds the tension to an excruciating point, then releases it in a fiery climax: realizing in the nick of time that he's not the only killer in the family, David races into a burning house to save Lily from suicide, then promises her that she won't be alone with her anguish any longer. With this tautly plotted thriller, rich in complex, finely drawn characters, Werlin more than fulfills the promise of her first novel, Are You Alone on Purpose? --John Peters, Booklist. (September 1, 1998).

The Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks.

Ruben Ford, 14, feels things. When his sister is murdered on the English moors, he knows she's dead even though he's home in London. He and his brother, Cole, 17, are freakishly linked by Ruben's power to feel what Cole feels. The teens travel to Dartmoor to find Rachel's killer and bring her body home. They're received by a Dickensian assortment of sadistic thugs, greasy criminals, and corrupt cops, all hiding something. Brooks's feel for mood and setting is as masterful here as in his taut, noir Martyn Pig (Scholastic, 2002). A haunting, tense drama builds from the first line and only lets up for scenes of brutal, vivid violence that bring readers back down to earth. The murder is all but solved by the second half ofthe book, and the pace falters a bit as the resolution becomes obvious. However, Brooks sustains a mythical aura throughout, and rapid-fire action should keep teens engrossed. Ruben is vintage Brooks: sensitive, strange, and wholly three-dimensional. The dialogue between the brothers is crisp and natural, and often funny and touching at once. Cole is perfectly drawn as Ruben's tough, detached counterbalance. Brooks shows that the real magic between the brothers is their ferocious love for one another, and he does so brilliantly.–Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library --Johanna Lewis, School Library Journal (vol 52, issue 4, pg. 134. April 1, 2006).

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman.

In this polished thriller, Nora, an emotionally scarred teenager, interns with an eccentric college professor who has dedicated his life to decoding the Voynich manuscript, a mysterious (real-life) 15th-century document written in an unknown language. One night, Nora stumbles upon the gruesome murder of her close friend Chris, with his girlfriend, Adriane, crouched catatonic in his blood. Nora’s boyfriend, Max, has disappeared, and the police think he’s the murderer. Nora, investigating on her own, comes to believe that the crime was committed by the Hledaci, an ancient Czech cult dedicated to finding the Lumen Dei, an alchemical machine. With the cult possibly coming for Nora next, she and Adriane head for Prague—the heart of the deadly mystery—to find answers and save Max. Wasserman (the Cold Awakening trilogy) has written an intricate and tense tale that combines code breaking, a well-realized and genuinely creepy Czech background, and plenty of believable action and tragic turns. Readers who enjoy fast-paced, bloody, historically inflected thrillers in the vein of Dan Brown will be riveted. Publisher's Weekly.

The Killer's Tears by Anne-Laure Bondoux.

This poignant, lyrical story tells of an adult's discovery of love more than of a child's growth. Paolo is an unloved child on a desolate farm in southern Chile, whose life unexpectedly takes a turn for the better when Angel Allegria, a ruthless murderer, kills Paolo's parents merely to steal their home. Angel is unwilling to kill a child, and Paolo's grave silences touch his rarely used emotions. An unlikely friendship grows between the two, with Angel determined to win Paolo's love. Other potential father figures—the traveler who teaches Paolo to read, the poetic and literary old lumberjack—compete for Paolo's affections. Though Angel is redeemed and reborn through his relationship with Paolo, he can't outrun his past crimes. This spare but emotionally charged story is stylistically adult; the child protagonist acts primarily as an innocent prop to allow Angel's redemption. Once he enters his own adulthood, Paolo emerges as a fully formed character, a product of the men he met in his youth. A lovely story for the right audience. Kirkus (Reviews, February 1, 2006).

The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredricks.

When Wendy Geller's body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,"Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled." But shy Rain, once Wendy's best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just "party girl." As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder. Written in a voice at once immediate, riveting, and utterly convincing, Mariah Frederick's mystery brilliantly exposes the cracks in this exclusive New York City world and the teenagers that move within it.

Ripper by Stephan Petrucha.

Adopted by famous Pinkerton Agency Detective Hawking in 1895 New York, fourteen-year-old Carver Young hopes to find his birth father, but when he becomes involved in the pursuit of notorious killer Jack the Ripper Carver discovers that finding the truth can be worse than ignorance.

Banned Book Week

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Arrival To Earth by Steven Jablonsky [Transformers soundtrack].

Here in America, once a year, we celebrate the freedom to share ideas and information as a basic human right. It's called Banned Book Week and is usually celebrated in the last week of September into the first week of October. If you in any part of the world have something like this, I am so happy for you. Sharing ideas is one of the best ways to fight against ignorance. It is why I love books so much, because of the possibility they contain in them. They can change lives.

 Because of that, Banned Book Week holds a special place in my heart. Books that are considered "dangerous" are highlighted, which is the kind of ironic humor I take great pleasure in. Do I like all of the books that have been challenged (assuming I've read all of them)? No, I don't. There are some books I really don't like, probably for the very reason they are being challenged/banned. BUT. Just because I did not like a book for whatever reason, does not give me the right to dictate what you are anyone else can read. This ability, this freedom is huge, and I am in awe to possess it. So--go Banned Book Week! Read something daring. Be a rebel. :)

HERE is a list of books that have been challenged and/or banned in the last six years. Six years. That's nothing. I hope I copied the link right. It should pop up with a PDF for you (thanks to NCTE for compiling this).

Here is a list of some banned/challenged books you can read in less than a day (some in under ten minutes):

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richards and Peter Parnell.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.

And these are some books that I am still just scratching my head as to why on earth they've been challenged (within the last six years, mind you).

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien - Dragons are scary? It is going to convert you to Satanism?

Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly by Gail Carson Levine - This is a non-fiction book on writing, people. By the same author as Ella Enchanted. My eyebrows are still raised on this one.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - umm?... (Ghosts are evil???)

So go forth! Celebrate your freedom to read! Flaunt it, baby!


Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): As the World Falls Down by David Bowie [Labyrinth soundtrack].

Is that title a pun? Because it is totally going down right now! And I am giving away THREE ARCs, just because of how fun and creative and enthusiastic you guys were. Enthusiasm definitely gets you brownie points. Or bookie points. But speaking of treats, you guys really latched onto that bacon cupcake comment, didn't you? You made reading your entries a treat every single time I opened my email.

And look. THEY ACTUALLY EXIST. I was astounded.

And apparently they also prove God exists as well.

from zazzle

But onto the winners! You know the rules (or are about to): I will email you - if you left an email - and if I don't hear back from you in two days, I pick a new winner. Got to spread the love if you don't want it. There you go. Simple as that! :D

Drumroll please....

(I won't make you wait long, I promise. I've been so cruel before. But oh it was hilarious).

First Choice: Jessy!

Second Choice: Ephrielle!

Third Choice: Lizzy!

Jessy will get first pick, but go ahead and email me your choices. If there is any overlap of ARC picks, I'll let you know (and the faster you pick, the sooner I can mail them out to you). And hello everyone else! You are cool. We are now buds. *fist bump*