Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tithe by Holly Black

Tithe by Holly Black
Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry
Publish Date:  March 23, 2004
ISBN: 978-0689867040
Pages:  336
Cover Illustration and Design:  Sammy Yuen Jr. 

At first I had a bit of trouble getting into this story.  I just didn't feel any connection with Kaye at all.  I put the book down for a couple of days and when I came back and started to read, it unfolded for me.  For me, the backdrop was something like The Crow movie. I immediately fell in love with it. 

Kaye Fierch is a 16 year old girl, she is part Asian and blonde.  She dropped out of high school to work and support her alcoholic rock-n-roll mom.  When the story opens, her mom's boyfriend is flipping out and trying to kill Kaye.  Kaye and her mom ditch out and go to live at Gram's for awhile.  Gram does not appreciate the fact that her granddaughter is a dropout, or a smoker, or wanders about all night.

Kaye leaves a party after a mishap with her friends boyfriend and a broken carousel horse.  She, quite by accident, finds the Black Knight Roiben and assists him.  Her journey with the Fey begins there.  The more time she spends with the Fey (the ones she thought she daydreamed as a little girl and Roiben), the more she realizes who she is and what she can do.  She is caught in the middle of a quiet war between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts - possibly as the human tithe to keep the underlings free for the next 7 years.

I read Ms. Black's newer books first, this one is just as beautifully written although completely different.  The characters are amazing: formed in your mind by a phrase here, a line there - it's an amazing skill to have.  If you haven't read TITHE, you should go back and pick it up.  It's a delightful story - if you liked Brenna Yovanoff's Mackie, you'll love Kaye!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lori Devoti, author of Demon High Interview

Lori Devoti, author of DEMON HIGH has joined us today for an interview!  Here's Lori - she has such a great smile!!

Can you tell us a little bit about DEMON HIGH and the main character, Lucinda?

Demon High is the story of Lucinda Dent who lost her mother to her mother's addiction to demon calling.  Now 16 Lucinda discovers the home she shares with her grandmother is at risk of being repossessed and decides to do some demon calling of her own.  She thinks she has everything worked out to keep her safe, but of course, things don't work out quite as she planned.
When and how did you decide to write a YA novel?  I've looked at some of your other work and it's a bit and sexy.

I started reading YA a few years ago and really enjoyed it.  That's what prompted me to write one of my own.  And while Demon High is different from my other books in some ways, it also has a lot in common with those books.  Most of my books have character-driven dark paranormals.

Will there be a sequel to Demon High?

Yes, I'm hoping to write it this fall.
I love that one of the demons has sort of an apathy that he gives off to everyone, how did you decide on that?

You know, I'm not sure!  It was just one of the things that came out as I was writing.

As a writer, are you totally organised with lists and binders or do you toss it all in a corner and dig through when you need something?

For my urban fantasy series (Amazon Ink and Amazon Queen) I did an actual world-building binder.  There was a lot to keep track of for that world.   For my romance based on Norse mythology (Unbound series for Harlequin Nocturne) I was able to actually use existing myth as my reference.  This kept me from having to build something of my own.

You've written a lot of books, which hero/heroine and which villian are your favorites?

Favorite hero is probably Kol from Guardian's Keep (Harlequin Nocturne).  He's a bit of a smart ass.  Favorite heroine...Mel from Amazon Ink or Zery from Amazon Queen.  Both were strong and trying to do the right thing.  Villian...I do love Nellie from Demon High.  She isn't the major villian, but she definitely fills an antagonist role in the book.  Lusse from Unbound (Harlequin Nocturne) is the villian who has received the most fan mail though.
You new book AMAZON QUEEN looks amazing, is it suitable for our YA audience?

If you are asking about sex scenes, neither Amazon Ink or Amazon Queen have any.  I get more fan mail from teens for my romances though...Oh and I have a couple of short stories for sale that have the dark romantic elements sans full blown sex scene.  Those are Lost/Found and When Gargoyles Fly.
Where can your fans meet you next?

I am on Facebook!/LoriDevotiAuthor and Twitter, if not hourly.  I also have a blog at
Thanks again, Lori, for stopping by!  
Here's another look at the cover of Demon High - isn't it great?!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly

Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly
Publisher: Candlewick
Publish Date:  May 24, 2011
ISBN:  978-0763656522
Pages:  464
Jacket Photography: ILina S/Getty Images

So I'm not huge on angel books, but I so loved the cover on this one and the blurb sounded interesting, so I gave it a try.  I'm glad I did!

16 year old Willow attends high school and tinkers with old cars...and she's psychic.  She's seen as a weirdo by her schoolmates, but that doesn't stop them from asking for readings from her.  That's how she first finds out about Angels.  She reads for a classmate and sees her with a man, a terrifying man that is feeding off of her.  The classmate thinks that the Angel is helping her and she feels so wonderful when she's with him, she wants to quit school and join the Church of Angels.  Willow decides to do whatever she can to stop her.

Alex is a teenage Assassin.  He was trained by his father and friends when he was a young boy.  Eventually the CIA took over Project Angel and separated all the Assassins.  Now they don't see each other or work with each other, they receive anonymous texts telling them where to go to kill the next Angel.

Now, all the talk of killing Angels - what awfulness, right?!  Nope.  See, Angels aren't heavenly messengers from God, they are parastic energy fiends from another dimension. Awesome take on Angels, Ms. Weatherly!  Kudos!

Alex is eventually sent to kill Willow, but he realizes that she isn't aware of some of her powers, so he takes her with him and they try to figure out how to save everyone from the Angels destroying mankind and their planet.

I like that Alex and Willow are fleshed out characters, they each get a chance to talk and let you know how they feel.  They aren't super good people, just people with some training or powers that are trying to do the right thing...but they don't always succeed.  I like that there isn't a love triangle - just one girl & one boy.  The dialogue is well written between them and others, it flows nicely.  The romance could have been a little more spread out, I dislike that in a lot of YA books, the characters are in love before they even know each other.  Maybe that's because I've forgotten that part of being a teen?  I don't remember being like that with boys.  I might like them or daydream about them...but instantly be in love with them?  Nah.

I was a little disappointed in the section where Alex and Willow ditch out in the cabin and just don't do anything.  I felt like maybe the author didn't know what to do with them and had to kill some time until she needed them.

Overall I did like this book, I can get over the small things that annoyed me.  I'm definitely going to read the next one.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Books Out This Week: July 25 - 31, 2011

Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer, a Nightshade Novel
Release Date:  July 26, 2011

From Amazon:  This thrilling sequel to the much-talked-about Nightshade begins just where it ended-Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemy, and she's certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer-one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack-and the man-she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.

 Wildfire by Karsten Knight
Release  Date:  July 26, 2011

From Amazon:  Every flame begins with a spark.
Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.

 Alex Van Helson: Voice of the Undead by Jason Hendersen
Release Date: July 26, 2011

From Amazon:  Now that Alex is in the know about the deadly vampires that live--and hunt--clustered around his boarding school, everything is different. Putting his talents to use, Alex is training with the Polidorium to become a vampire hunter, just like his Van Helsing ancestors. Sure, he's only fourteen, but c'mon, this runs in his blood.Meanwhile, Alex's arch-nemesis Elle, a vampire whose youthful appearance and blond hair disguise a vengeful rage, is out to get him before a powerful leader called "Ultravox" arrives on the scene. Ultravox specializes in assassinations, but who is he targeting? Dodging Elle's attacks, Alex is on a mission to uncover Ultravox's deadly plan before his friends and his school become collateral damage. There's no time to report back; innocent lives hang in the balance, and it's up to Alex to act now--or else.

Addie on the Inside by James Howe
Release Date:  July 26, 2011

From Amazon:  The Gang of Five is back in this third story from Paintbrush Falls. Addie Carle, the only girl in the group of friends is outspoken, opinionated, and sometimes…just a bit obnoxious. But as seventh grade progresses, Addie’s not so sure anymore about who she is. It seems her tough exterior is just a little too tough and that doesn’t help her deal with the turmoil she feels on the inside as she faces the pains of growing up.
Told in elegant, accessible verse, ADDIE ON THE INSIDE gives readers a look at a strong, smart, and sensitive girl struggling with the box society wants to put her in. Addie confronts experiences many readers will relate to: the loss of a beloved pet, first heartbreak, teasing…but also, friendship, love, and a growing confidence in one’s self.

 Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright
Release Date:  July 26, 2011

From Amazon:  Carlos Duarte knows that he's fabulous. He's got a better sense of style than half the fashionistas in New York City, and he can definitely apply makeup like nobody's business. He may only be in high school, but when he lands the job of his dreams--makeup artist at the FeatureFace counter in Macy's--he's sure that he's finally on his way to great things.
But the makeup artist world is competitive and cutthroat, and for Carlos to reach his dreams, he'll have to believe in himself more than ever.

 The Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young
Release Date:  July 26, 2011

From Amazon:  Everyone has weird thoughts sometimes. But for seventeen-year-old Dani Solomon, strange thoughts have taken over her life. She loves Alex, the little boy she babysits, more than anything. But one day, she has a vision of murdering him that's so gruesome, she can't get it out of her mind. In fact, Dani's convinced that she really will kill Alex. She confesses the thoughts to keep him safe, setting off a media frenzy that makes "Dani Death" the target of an extremist vigilante group.
Through the help of a brave therapist, Dani begins to heal her broken mind. But will it be too late? The people of her community want justice . . . and Dani's learning that some thoughts are better left unsaid.

 And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky
Release Date:  July 26, 2011

From Amazon:  Keek’s life was totally perfect.

Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever, her best friend heinously betrayed her, her parents are divorcing, and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically-barren house until further notice. Not quite the summer vacation Keek had in mind.
With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze—she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can put them right.

 Killing Kate by Julie Kramer
Release Date:  July 26, 2011

From Amazon:  Not all angels are divine…
As TV reporter Riley Spartz discovers a serial killer drawing chalk outlines shaped like angels around the bodies of his victims, she unearths an eerie legend dating back nearly a century. Tracking clues to an Iowa cemetery, Riley finds an infamous Black Angel monument that may be connected to the string of homicides throughout the Midwest. Now she is up against a delusional young man who believes the statue is urging him to kill.  The local police are convinced the killer has left their territory and Riley's boss is convinced viewers are tired of hearing about so much crime, but a personal connection with the latest victim, Kate Warner, makes Riley determined to solve the case.
Riley also gets the scoop on a dog left locked in a hot car. Her pet-loving news director is crazy about this story, but the dog owner goes crazy, too. Is he now stalking Riley? Or has the angel-killer put Channel 3's top investigator on his hit list? Yearning for love and ratings, it's unsure whether Riley will find either before the killer finds her.  When she meets a mysterious stranger, Riley must decide whether he is her guardian angel or an angel of death. The answer doesn't come until a graveyard confrontation where the dead are the only witnesses.

 Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eyre Ward
Release Date:  July 26, 2011

From Amazon:  With the deft hand of an assured storyteller, Amanda Eyre Ward has concocted a dark yet tender tale about two grown siblings struggling to forge normal lives in the wake of an unimaginably shattering crisis: the conviction of their father for the murder of their mother. It is a tale of twists, turns, secrets, and surprises—all the more engaging for its finely drawn characters. Ward understands just how our flaws betray us and how redemption always comes at a price—yet her deep empathy makes this, ultimately, a story about the power of trust in the people we love.”—Julia Glass, author of The Widower’s Tale

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Hereafter by Tara Hudson
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Publish Date:  June 7, 2011
ISBN:  978-0062026774   
Pages:  416
Jacket Art:  Rachael Kornfeld
Jacket Design:  Erin Fitzsimmons

I'll be completely honest - I was drawn to this book by the gorgeous cover and the blurb.  I love paranormal stories and if you throw in a love story, well, that's ok with me.  I'm not huge on love stories, but I can get behind it.  I want to love this book, but I just can't.  I love the premise of the story: girl saves boy, they fall in love, overcome obstacles, there's evil afoot, etc.  However, so much didn't make sense to me.  But you know what, it doesn't have to, it's not my story!

What I liked:
    It's well written and flows nicely.  The first chapter grabbed me and it was amazing, Amelia's terror was obvious and I wanted to see where we went from there.  The relationship between Joshua and Amelia almost makes you forget that she's a ghost and he's a 'real boy'.  Eli is an interesting character.  I love that Amelia's been 'lost' for so long and has no idea of what's going on.

What I didn't like:
     The romance stands out more than the mystery.  I felt like the mystery of Amelia's death and what Eli was doing was second to the romance and wasn't as important.  I got bored with it, honestly.  Joshua is entirely too accepting of a ghost girl.  He's like "oh, you're a ghost, ok, you're beautiful, let's make out.'  Eil misses obvious chances to really stir things up and gives Amelia too much explanation showing his evilness, he had chances to woo her over to his side before she got too involved with Joshua.

I see that this will be a series of books, so perhaps these things will be worked out in the next book.  I liked it enough to read the second one just to see where it goes. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Author Interview: Victorine Lieske

I had the pleasure of chatting with Victorine Lieske, author of the New York Times Bestseller NOT WHAT SHE SEEMS and her newest novel THE OVERTAKING.  She's really friendly and sweet and speaks like she writes - I really enjoyed that!  Since I know y'all always want to see what authors look like, here she is, cute as a button!

Ms. Lieske has offered up a signed ARC to be given out!  Make sure you sign in and comment for your chance to win either on the blog or the AFW facebook page!  The contest will run through Sunday, July 30, 2011 at midnight.  The winner will be posted on the blog and Facebook on Monday morning, August 5, 2011.  Good luck!!!!!!!

Can you tell us a little bit about your new novel THE OVERTAKING?
I'd love to.  the idea of the book came from wondering what would happen if a group of people were kidnapped and put into an Earth-like environment, with no memory of their real life.  This is what happens to Shayne and his people.  He finds out he's not from Earth when he starts to hear the thoughts of the people around him.  And he just so happens to be hanging around the people who kidnapped him, or more specifically, Danielle, the girl who has fallen in love with him.

I would love to see a book trailer for THE OVERTAKING!  Do you have any plans for one?
Yes, I have been playing around with an idea for a trailer.  The hardest thing for me is finding the right photos to use.  But I have a few ideas, so I hope to have one done soon.

I read that you have a degree in Art, do you design your own covers?
Yes, I do, actually.  I love graphic design, so being able to create my own covers has been a true delight for me.

You did fabulously well with your first novel NOT WHAT SHE SEEMS.  Some Indie authors seem to have a rough go of it - do you have any tips for them?
My biggest tip is to get the book into the best shape you can before publishing.  That means joining a critique group, reading all you can about the craft of novel writing, and being willing to listen to others.  After you have a quality product, the most important thing is to package it professionally.  Hire an editor, if you can't design your own cover hire that as well.  It might cost a bit to start up, but you'll be glad in the end.

Can you tell us about your writing process?  Do you need blaring music and m&m's...
Definitely M&M's!  I'm a chocoholic.  I have tried writing with music in the background, but it distracts me too much so I usually write with silence.  I also write quite well in the car, which sounds funny.  But we live in a small town and often we drive to the larger city to shop or do stuff.  I bring my laptop and write while my husband drives.

Who are your favorite authors?
I read a lot.  I enjoy many different authors and books, but I would have to say my favorite traditional author would be Mary Higgins Clark.  I enjoy her suspense.  I also read a lot of Indie authors, and some of my favorites are Imogen Rose, Vicki Tyley, Annette Lyon, and Holly Hook.  I'm definitely keeping an eye on Craig Hansen and Cidney Swanson.

Do you design all the stamps for Victorine Originals Rubber Stamps? (that IS you, right?)
Rubber stamping is definitely my other love.  Victorine Originals started out with just my drawings, but then we began purchasing art from other artists, and we bought out a couple rubber stamp companies and added their designs in, so now it's a mix of many different designs.

Victorine is an unusual name - is it a family name?
Yes, I was named after an ancestor of mine.  It is a very unique name, but as I was beginning to research the name to see if any other authors had used it, I found there were two different published books titled Victorine.  Neither one looked like my kind of book, though, so sadly I haven't read either one.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today, Victorine!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Overtaking by Victorine Lieske

Publisher:  CreateSpace
Publish Date:  May 14, 2011
ISBN:  978-1461189459  
Pages:  288
Cover Art:  Victorine E. Lieske

Watch for the Author Interview and ARC Giveaway tomorrow!!!!


I received this ARC from the author and was very pleased.  I couldn't put it down and finished it in two days.  Ms. Lieske had told me that it was a love story, I was taking a chance because I'm not really a reader of love stories.  However, I don't think I would label it a love story...I would say that it's Sci/Fi that happens to have a sweet little love story in it.

My favorite quote:  Shayne Bartlet has been kidnapped, his powers disabled and his memory altered.  He's not having a good day.  And he doesn't even know it yet.

That quote told me that I would love this.  I mean, imagine if your memory was altered.  You would just go one believing you were whomever you were programmed to be and wouldn't know you hated mushrooms and loved olives!  Ok, so that's a little silly, but you wouldn't even know your family and friends!

There's a wide variety of characters, both good and evil.  I would have liked to see the characters other than the main two (Shayne and Danielle) fleshed out a little more, but I'm hoping that will happen in Book 2.  Shayne is from a planet where the people have psychic powers and are peaceful.  Danielle is from a planet that was all but destroyed and they have no powers.  It's boy meets girl with a twist.  Shayne doesn't know Danielle is part of the population that has altered his memory and she can't tell him.  She really likes him and keeps trying to protect him, but is finally punished by her people for helping him - by having her memories altered.

The one thing that really stood out about this story was the lack of sexual situations.  I was very happy to see that.  The more YA I read, the more I think that there's entirely too much sex in them.  Ms. Lieske brought it back to where it should be...the excitement of just holding hands or a simple kiss.  Honestly, the majority of teens I know don't act like some of the teens in the books I've read.  These teens come across as natural and honest.

I felt that the writing overall was smooth and you jump right into the story on Page 1.  I know some people like a little background before they really get going, but I love to jump right in and figure it out as I go.  That will hold my interest a lot better, right away.  I liked all the scientific tools and am dying to find out what they were doing to all the Maslonians (Shayne's people) in that lab! 

I love the ending!  It was conclusive enough that you can read it as a stand alone story, but it definitely leaves an opening for the second book to pick up.  I'm very excited to read the next book and see where the rebel force (that's what I'm calling them) goes and what they do to save their people.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Books Out This Week: July 18 - 24, 2011

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
Release Date:  July 19, 2011

From Amazon:  Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver's license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church's annual haunted house of sin, Lacey's junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn't know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion.

 Love Story by Jennifer Echols
Release Date:  July 19, 2011

From Amazon: 
For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions—it’s her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family’s racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin’s college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a local coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter . . . so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?  Then, on the day she’s sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He’s joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin’s heart with longing. Now she’s not just imagining what might have been. She’s writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter . . . except this story could come true.

 The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
Release Date:  July 19, 2011

From Amazon: 
It's the Fall of 1942 and Iris's world is rapidly changing. Her Pop is back from the war with a missing leg, limiting his ability to do the physically grueling part of his detective work. Iris is dying to help, especially when she discovers that one of Pop's cases involves a boy at her school. Now, instead of sitting at home watching Deanna Durbin movies, Iris is sneaking out of the house, double crossing her friends, and dancing at the Savoy till all hours of the night. There's certainly never a dull moment in the private eye business. 
 The Return to Daemon Hall: Evil Roots by Andrew Nance
Release Date:  July 19, 2011

From Amazon:  A year has passed since that fateful night in Daemon Hall’s house of horrors. Bestselling macabre author Ian Tremblin decides to hold another writer’s contest but this time in the safety of his own home. Tremblin is excited to share with contestants a very old book he has recently acquired that once belonged to Rudolph Daemon, the millionaire builder of Daemon Hall who later went mad and killed his family. But the book, like the mansion, is powerfully evil and soon transports the group to the burned out shell of the haunted mansion. Flesh eaters, voodoo, a proficient sociopath, and the root of the house’s malevolence are all part of the mix. Who will get out alive?
 Pearl by Jo Knowles
Release Date:  July 19, 2011

From Amazon: 
Bean (née Pearl) and Henry, misfits and best friends, have the strangest mothers in town. Henry's mom Sally never leaves the house. Bean's mom Lexie, if she is home, is likely nursing a hangover or venting to her friend Claire about Bean's beloved grandfather Gus, the third member of their sunny household.
Gus's death unleashes a host of family secrets that brings them all together. And they threaten to change everything--including Bean's relationship with Henry, her first friend, and who also might turn out to be her first love.

 Clean by Amy Reed
Release Date:  July 19, 2011

From Amazon:  Olivia, Kelly, Christopher, Jason, and Eva have one thing in common: They're addicts. Addicts who have hit rock bottom and been stuck together in rehab to face their problems, face sobriety, and face themselves. None of them wants to be there. None of them wants to confront the truths about their pasts. And they certainly don’t want to share their darkest secrets and most desperate fears with a room of strangers. But they'll all have to deal with themselves and one another if they want to learn how to live. Because when you get that high, there's nowhere to go but down, down, down.

 Ripple by Mandy Hubbard
Release Date:  July 21, 2011

From Amazon:  Lexi is cursed with a dark secret. Each day she goes to school like a normal teenager, and each night she must swim, or the pain will be unbearable. She is a siren - a deadly mermaid destined to lure men to their watery deaths. After a terrible tragedy, Lexi shut herself off from the world, vowing to protect the ones she loves. But she soon finds herself caught between a new boy at school who may have the power to melt her icy exterior, and a handsome water spirit who says he can break Lexi's curse if she gives up everything else. Lexi is faced with the hardest decision she's ever had to make: the life she's always longed for - or the love she can't live without?

 The Robot by Paul Watson
Release Date:  July 19, 2011

From Amazon:  Science-loving Gabe and girl-crazy Dover are best friends. In fact, they're practically each other's only friends. So when Gabe's parents leave town for the weekend, he lets Dover convince him to break into his father's basement laboratory-even though he knows it's off-limits under penalty of lifelong grounding. Once inside, the boys make a shocking discovery, one that will turn a boring weekend into a hilarious madcap adventure: a smoking hot robot!

While Gabe and Dover argue over "Trina," the robot flees the lab. The chase is on! Before the day is over, she'll expose a traitorous plot, catapult two geeky freshmen to high school fame, and try to assassinate Dr. Phil!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Screaming Stone by J.P. Osterman

The Screaming Stone by J.P. Osterman
Publisher: Infinity Publishing
Pages:  316

Sent to me by the author.

As always: SPOILERS!!!!!
Summary:  Meet mischievous Marcie, part of a family with large secrets.  Trying to make sense of her mother's crazed actions, Marcie looks to her strange cousin Robbie and the adults around her for direction.  After dead Uncle Charlie's funeral, they embark on a quest to find answers to questions that have puzzled their family since the Civil War.  Sifting through lies, secrets and Irish folk tales, Marcie believes "The Screaming Stone" contains the magic to uncover the truth and lead them to the hidden treasure.

Ok, so I have come to the conclusion that this is definitely a middle-grade book.  The writing seems, to me, to be like most middle-grade books and I don't think that most older YA readers would enjoy it; but the puzzling thing was the subject matter.  The subject matter seemed to be a bit more adult.  I know that it would have raised questions from my daughter at the middle-grade age.  Some of the topics tackled are teen (we assume) pregnancy, mental illness, child abuse and accidental murder.  That's a whole lot going on in one book!
For some reason it really bothered me that I couldn't figure out what time period this was supposed to be in.  From the cover, I thought 60's or 70's - it seemed a bit retro.  Then at one point the kids use a card catalogue in the library and they also watch "The Red Skeleton Hour" - that made me believe it was in the late 1960's.  The language was older too, at times the conversation didn't flow so much as be 'chunky'.  The slang and everyday phrases were different.  I think that for middle-grade readers, they might be confused.  Especially as the one character uses a tape recorder a lot - they might have to ask what that is!

It felt like there were too many stories all going at once, trying to be tied together by Irish folk lore.  The folk lore was the best part of the book - beautiful stories!  So we have:
         The family might lose their farmland, including dead Uncle Charlie's farm because there's not enough money.  So Marcie's mom goes to stay at her Aunt & Uncles empty house; while Marcie, her younger brother, cousin Robbie and the Grandparents stay at Uncle Charlie's house.  I didn't really get why they had to stay there and who was taking care of Grandpa's business while he was gone.  Also, Marcie's mom is married now with stepchildren - the husband and his children don't come out to stay - what's up with that?!

           Then there's the weird tunnel under Uncle Charlie's barn and all the stuff in it.  The kids accidentally find a key while desecrating a tombstone and then go scouting around until they find this door in the barn floor, which leads to a huge series of caverns.  Someone is living down there, but they believe that the Irish spirits are watching over them and go ahead.

         Marcie's mom acts crazy and is abusive, hitting the children.  Later there's a story about a teen (we assume) pregnancy and mental illness to go with this.  Uncle Finn is the black sheep of the family - his sister thinks he killed her boyfriend and won't 'fess up.  He stays away from the family.  It turns out that the mom is schizophrenic and she and her parents refused treatment for years.  She got worse when her boyfriend died and then she had the baby and gave it up.  I knew after a couple of chapters that the baby was Robbie - she was very calm and different with him, it was really obvious.  I spent most of the book trying to decide what Robbie's issue was...I want to say Aspburger's, but I'm not completely sure and it never says.  Uncle Finn never left home, he lives in the series of tunnels under Uncle Charlie's farm.  

For me, the book didn't flow and it was more of a chore to read it than an enjoyment.  I was befuddled by the time period, the language, and all the stories being crammed into one book.  But that's just my opinion.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Daniel Kraus Interview - author of ROTTERS

Today we're welcoming Mr. Daniel Kraus, author of the fantastic ROTTERS!

Can you tell us a little bit about ROTTERS?

ROTTERS is a story I wrote about a teenage boy who becomes a pariah at his new high school and turns to his father, who just happens to be part of a secret underground network of grave robbers.

After reading ROTTERS, I went to your blog and thought - gosh, he looks like such a nice man, where did that story come from?!  But then I thought 'that's what people always say when they find out their neighbor is a serial killer.'haha  So how did you come to write ROTTERS?

Well, first I dug up a few bodies. I kid.  Really, I'd been interested in doing something about grave robbers for nearly a decade. It is something that by its nature needs to be done at night, and so lends itself to secret societies. I played around with the concept a little over the years but could never find the right inroad. Finally I had the idea of intersecting a high school storyline. It's sort of like in CARRIE, where there's two plots going on -- one about a ostracized girl, and one about a girl developing telekinesis -- that intersect in a shocking way.
You're quite accomplished with directing films and writing books, can you tell us a little bit about the films you've directed?

My films have maybe a bigger following than my books. The thing is, there is almost no overlap in audience. My films are nothing like my books; they are mostly cinema verite documentaries. I've found it's a losing battle trying to get my film fans to read my books and vice versa. If you're interested, though, the Documentary Channel, which you can find on Direct TV and Dish Network, is playing four of my documentaries in September: SHERIFF, MUSICIAN, PROFESSOR, and PREACHER. 
I have to say that when I was reading ROTTERS, I was at times disgusted and yet enthralled, I couldn't stop reading it.  Did you think that it would go that way or were you worried that people would be too disgusted?

No, I didn't worry about that. I was sort of exploding with ideas for this book. I assumed the intensity of it all, including the moments where it gets a little disgusting, would put off sensitive readers. But anyone looking for a book with ambition, that really shot for the fences, would get a kick out of it. This thing is pretty full-throttle.
Did you set out to specifically do a YA book or do you think that teens have simply picked it up and owned it?

Writing a YA book wasn't specifically my intent. But there's an echelon of YA books that are indistinguishable from adult books -- it's just a matter of marketing, really. That's where ROTTERS fits and I'm happy to have it there. Adults are going to assume the book is for them, but teen fans are the best fans to have: they're passionate and when they love something, they tell everybody they know.

The situation of the main character, Joey, is rather bizarre.  I was completely baffled by the fact that his mother would want him sent to his father when she knew what the life was like.  What was the motivation there?  I wondered if she thought it would help 'make him a man' or if she thought that their child would make Ken a better man.

Both of those are good theories!

How does your family feel about your topic choice?

I think they were all a little wary of it. None of them are big readers and I'm sure they've never voluntarily picked up anything like this. But their reaction has been the same as the general public -- once they got into it, they were compelled to know what crazy thing was going to happen next.
If you could go anywhere (real or imagined) where would you go?

I've always wanted to go to Easter Island. I suppose I will one of these days.
What are your top 5 favorites things of all time?

Favorite "things"? Are you kidding me? Where would I start? Could you narrow this down a bit? Like, how can I put "sunlight" on the same list as the album "Tonics & Twisted Chasers" by Guided by Voices? This is an impossible task.
Will we be seeing more dark, dismal and dank novels from you soon?

I'm not entirely comfortable with "dismal." Dark and dank, though, definitely.
Where can your fans find you next?

I can be found on Twitter and Facebook:!/DanielDKraus

You can also visit the author's website: Daniel Kraus

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Publisher:  Delacourte Books for Young Readers
Publish Date:  April 5, 2011
ISBN:  978-0385738576  
Pages:  464

As always, SPOILERS!!!!!!

Keep an eye out tomorrow for the 
author interview with Daniel Kraus!

Joey Crouch is a nondescript teenage boy that likes to play in the school band.  He does have a habit of doing what his mother calls “specifying”.  When he is stressed or bored, he will memorize details of things.  He also is always worried about his mom dying while she’s gone.  Ok, so he’s kind of a weird kid, but basically normal.
Then his mom actually does die.  She’s hit by a bus and Joey is informed that he’ll be sent to live with his father.  He’s told that his father lives in another state and is a garbage man.  Nervous, but hopeful, Joey travels to meet him.  Things start off on the wrong foot when no one is there to meet him and he has to walk across town to find the house.  He’s sure there’s a mistake – this can’t be his father’s house – it reeks and is filthy and there’s no food and no bedroom for him.  Then he meets his father.  The situation is not better. 
When he begins school it only gets worse.  Everyone knows who his dad is…he’s not really a garbage man at all, just called that because of his stench.  They start calling him “Crotch” and he has trouble left and right – not just with the students, but with the faculty and staff as well. 
Joey’s father is always leaving at night and is sometimes gone for several days at a time.  One night Joey hides out in the back of his truck to see where he goes.  That’s when he learns the awful truth, his father is a grave robber.  He demands to be allowed to accompany him on his work, Joey feels he has nowhere else to turn and may as well embrace his heritage.
Joey’s travel from nondescript teenage boy to grave robber to adult is a long, strange trip.  Daniel Kraus makes it all worth while.  There is never a dull moment and the details are what make the story.  I was horrified, appalled and yet eager to see what happened next.  While grave robbing isn’t your usual YA subject, I’m thrilled that Mr. Kraus chose it.  There’s a long interesting history behind it and you get a lot of that in the story.  I mean, who’s to say that it doesn’t go on still…in our own areas…Ken and Joey seemed to have a pretty good deal going on.  I will say that I wasn’t truly grossed out until Baby entered the picture.  Even though I knew all about Ken and Joey’s dealings, Baby took it way over the edge for me.  Yet at the same time I understood why Joey needed to know about his way of doing things.  Overall, this is an excellent book and I can’t wait to read the next novel by Daniel Kraus!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Books Out This Week: July 11 - 17, 2011

My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert Jeschonek
Release Date:  July 11, 2011

From Amazon:  Sixteen-year-old genius Idea Deity believes that he exists only in the pages of a novel written by a malevolent, omnipotent author . . . and that he will die in chapter 64. Meanwhile, an older teen named Reacher Mirage sings lead vocals for the undercover rock band Youforia . . . a band that exists in Idea’s world only as an Internet hoax that Idea himself perpetuated. Then there’s beautiful and mysterious Eunice Truant, who links their destinies. When Idea and Reacher plunge into the reality of Fireskull’s Revenant, the twisted epic fantasy novel they’ve both been reading, chapter 64 bears down on them like a speeding freight train on an unstoppable collision course. Being trapped in a bad book can be a nightmare. Just ask Idea Deity.

 Wildcat Fireflies by Amber Kizer
Release Date:  July 12, 2011

From Amazon:  Meridian Sozu is a Fenestra—the half-human, half-angel link between the living and the dead. She has the dark responsibility of helping souls transition safely into the afterlife. If people die without the help of a Fenestra, their souls are left vulnerable to be stolen by the Aternocti, a dark band of forces who disrupt the balance of good and evil in the world and cause chaos.
Having recently lost her beloved Auntie—the woman who showed her what it meant to be a Fenestra—Meridian has hit the road with Tens, her love and sworn protector, in hopes of finding another Fenestra. Their search leads them to Indiana, where Juliet, a responsible and loving teenager, works tirelessly in the nursing home where she and several other foster kids are housed. Surrounded by death, Juliet struggles to make a loving home for the younger kids, and to protect them from the violent whims of their foster mother. But she is struggling against forces she can't understand . . . and even as she feels a pull toward the dying, their sickness seems to infect her, weighing her down. . . .Will Meri and Tens find Juliet in time to save her from a life of misery and illness? And will Meri and Tens' own romance weather the storms of new discoveries?

 Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris
Release Date:  July 12, 2011

From Amazon:  Someone's been a very bad zombie.
Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steriods are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe--not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate! She's got to find an antidote--before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town  . . . and stay hormonally human.

 Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Release Date:  July 12, 2011

From Amazon:  Amy Goodnight's family is far from normal. She comes from a line of witches, but tries her best to stay far outside the family business. Her summer gig? Ranch-sitting for her aunt with her wacky but beautiful sister. Only the Goodnight Ranch is even less normal than it normally is. Bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.

 Forever: Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 3 by Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date:  July 12, 2011

From Amazon:  This time, the stakes are higher than ever: while Isabel’s father plots to wipe out the wolves once and for all, Sam and Isabel search for ways to save the pack, and Cole races to find a cure for Grace. But the real centerpiece of the series is the romance--between Sam and Grace, of course, and between Cole and Isabel.

 Sometimes it happens by Lauren Barnholdt
Release Date:  July 12, 2011

From Amazon:  On the last day of her junior year, Hannah's boyfriend Ryan dumped her. Facing a summer of loneliness, Hannah turns to her best friend Ava for comfort. Ava does what BFFs do: she stays by Hannah's side...until it's time for Ava to head up to Maine for the summer. Also left behind is Ava's boyfriend, Noah, who's such a great guy he gets Hannah a job at the diner he waits tables at. Slowly, Hannah comes out of her funk thanks to Noah's good conversation and their fun times at the diner. But things get complicated when their friendship turns into attraction--and one night, into a passionate kiss. The novel opens on the first day of senior year; the day Hannah is going to see Ava, Ryan, and Noah all in one place. Over the course of the day secrets and betrayals are revealed, and alliances are broken and reformed. In the end, everyone is paired up once again, but not the way you might think...

 Starstruck by Cyn Balog
Release Date:  July 12, 2011

From Amazon:  Gwendolyn "Dough" X doesn't think she has much going for her—she carries a few extra pounds, her family struggles with their small bakery in a town full of millionaires, and the other kids at her New Jersey high school don't seem to know that she exists. Thank the stars for her longtime boyfriend, Philip P. Wishman—or "Wish." He moved away to California three years ago, when they were 13, but then professed his love for her via e-mail, and he's been her long-distance BF ever since.
At the beginning of her junior year, though, Wish e-mails that he's moving back to Jersey. Great, right? Well, except that Dough has gained about 70 pounds since the last time Wish saw her, while Wish—according to his Facebook photos—has morphed into a blonde god. Convinced that she'll be headed for Dumpsville the minute Wish lays eyes on her, Dough delays their meeting as long as she possibly can.
But when she sees Wish at school, something amazing happens. He looks at Dough like she's just as gorgeous as he is. But Wish is acting a little weird, obsessed with the sun and freaked out by rain. And the creepy new guy working at the bakery, Christian, is convinced that there's more to Wish's good looks than just healthy eating and lots of sun. He tells Dough that a mark on Wish's neck marks him as a member of the Luminati—an ancient cult of astrologers who can manipulate the stars to improve their lives. Is Wish and Dough's love meant to be—or are they star-crossed?

 Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler
Release Date:  July 12, 2011

From Amazon:  For Daphne, the glass is always half full, a situation is better managed with a dab of lip gloss, and the boy of her dreams—the one she's read about in all of her novels—is waiting for her just around the corner.
For Gabby, nothing ever works out positively; wearing any form of makeup is a waste of study time, and boys will only leave you heartbroken. Her best friend, Mule, is the only one who has been there for her every step of the way.
But when the richest boy in town befriends Gabby, and Daphne starts to hang out more and more with her best and only friend, Mule, Gabby is forced to confront the emotional barriers she has put up to stop the hurting. And for once, her sassiness may fall prey to her definition of stupidity.

 Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia
Release Date:  July 12, 2011

From Amazon:  Brought together each summer at a boarding school in Switzerland, three girls learn a lot more than just French and European culture. Shirin, an Iranian princess; Ingrid, a German-Canadian eccentric; and Vivien, a Cuban-Jewish New Yorker culinary phenom, are thrown into eachother's lives when they become roommates. This is a story of 3 paths slowly beginning to cross and merge as they spend the year apart, but the summers together. Through navigating the social-cultural shoals of the school, developing their adolescence, and learning the confusing and conflicting legacies of their families' past, Shirin, Ingrid, and Vivien form an unbreakable bond.

 Undercurrent: A Siren's Novel by Tricia Rathburn
Release Date:  July 12, 2011

From Amazon:  The sirens are back, but Vanessa may be the biggest threat of all. . . .

Nothing has been normal since Vanessa Sands learned that her sister was murdered by sirens—femme fatales of the watery depths—and that everything she believed about her family was a lie.

Her boyfriend Simon’s been the only person Vanessa feels she can really trust. But now there are some secrets she can’t tell even him. And when Vanessa finds herself in the sights of Parker, Hawthorne Prep’s resident charmer, she needs someone to confide in more than ever. Doubting her relationship with Simon, unsure of Parker’s intentions—and of her own—and terrified by what she’s learned about herself, Vanessa has never felt so alone.

But personal problems must be put aside, because the Winter Harbor sirens are back for revenge. Now, Vanessa must face her past and accept that she is just like her enemies—every bit as alluring, every bit as dangerous.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Books Out This Week - July 4 - 8, 2011

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
Release Date:  July 4, 2011

From Amazon:  Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid. A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce possesses an extraordinary singing talent, which makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

 Overbite by Meg Cabot
Release Date:  July 5, 2011

From Amazon: 
Meena Harper has a special gift, but it’s only now that anyone’s ever appreciated it. The Palatine Guard—a powerful secret demon-hunting unit of the Vatican—has hired her to work at their new branch in Lower Manhattan. With Meena’s ability to predict how everyone she meets will die, the Palatine finally has a chance against the undead.
Sure, her ex-boyfriend was Lucien Anton­escu, son of Dracula, the prince of darkness. But that was before he (and their relationship) went up in flames. Now Meena’s sworn off vampires for good . . . at least until she can prove her theory that just because they’ve lost their souls doesn’t mean demons have lost the ability to love. Meena knows convincing her co-workers—including her partner, Über-demon-hunter Alaric Wulf—that vampires can be redeemed won’t be easy . . . especially when a deadly new threat seems to be endangering not just lives of the Palatine, but Meena’s friends and family as well. But Meena isn’t the Palatine’s only hope. Father Henrique—aka Padre Caliente—New York City’s youngest, most charming priest, has also been assigned to the case.  So why doesn’t Meena—or Alaric—trust him?
As she begins unraveling the truth, Meena finds her loyalties tested, her true feelings laid bare . . . and temptations she never even imagined existed impossible to resist.  This time, Meena may finally have bitten off more than she can chew.

 Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray
Release Date:  July 5, 2011

From Amazon:  Meet Ophelia: a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated not only by her boyfriend's fame and his overbearing family, but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go. As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course.

 Twisted by Sara Shepard (A Pretty Little Liars book)
Release Date:  July 5, 2011

From Amazon: 
It’s been a year since the torturous notes from A stopped and the mystery of Alison DiLaurentis’s disappearance was finally put to rest. Now seniors in high school, Aria, Spencer, Hanna, and Emily are older, but they’re not any wiser. The pretty little liars have more secrets than ever—twisted secrets that could destroy the perfect lives they’ve worked so hard to rebuild.
Aria’s jealous of her boyfriend’s new exchange student. Spencer’s getting a little too cozy with her soon-to-be-stepbrother. Hanna’s one scandalous photo away from ruining her dad’s Senate campaign. And Emily will do anything to get a swim scholarship.
Worst of all: Last spring break in Jamaica, they did something unforgivable. The girls are desperate to forget that fateful night, but they should know better than anyone that all secrets wash ashore . . . eventually.

 A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie by Matt Blackstone
Release Date:  July 5, 2011

From Amazon:  Rene, an obsessive-compulsive fourteen year old, smells his hands and wears a Batman cape when he's nervous. If he picks up a face-down coin, moves a muscle when the time adds up to thirteen (7:42 is bad luck because 7 + 4 + 2 = 13), or washes his body parts in the wrong order, Rene or someone close to him will break a bone, contract a deadly virus, and/or die a slow and painful death like someone in a scary scene in scary movie. Rene's new and only friend tutors him in the art of playing it cool, but that's not as easy as Gio makes it sound.

 Paradise by Jill Alexander
Release Date:  July 5, 2011\

From Amazon:  Paisley Tillery is the drummer for a country rock band. If they can make it to the stage at the Texapalooza music fest, then Paisley will be closer to her dream of a career in music and a ticket out of her small Texas town.
Drumming and music are what Paisley has always wanted. Until the band gets a new lead singer, the boy from Paradise, Texas. With Paradise in her life, what Paisley wants, and what she needs, complicate her dreams coming true.

 White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick
Release Date:  July 5, 2011

From Amazon: 
Some secrets are better left buried; some secrets are so frightening they might make angels weep and the devil crow. Thought provoking as well as intensely scary, White Crow unfolds in three voices. There's Rebecca, who has come to a small, seaside village to spend the summer, and there's Ferelith, who offers to show Rebecca the secrets of the town...but at a price. Finally, there's a priest whose descent into darkness illuminates the girls' frightening story.

Now is the Time for Running by Michael Willaims
Release Date:  July 5, 2011
From Amazon:  Just down the road from their families, Deo and his friends play soccer in the dusty fields of Zimbabwe, cheered on by Deo's older brother, Innocent. It is a day like any other . . . until the soldiers arrive and Deo and Innocent are forced to run for their lives, fleeing the wreckage of their village for the distant promise of safe haven. Along the way, they face the prejudice and poverty that await refugees everywhere, and must rely on the kindness of people they meet to make it through. But when tragedy strikes, Deo's love of soccer is all he has left. Can he use that gift to find hope once more?
 Sirensong by Jenna Black (a Fairiewalker novel)
Release Date:  July 5, 2011

From Amazon: 
When Dana is invited to Faerie to be officially presented at the Seelie Court, it’s no easy decision. After all, everyone knows Titania, the Seelie Queen, wants her dead. But Titania claims not to be the one behind the death threats; and her son, Prince Henry, makes the decision a whole lot easier when he suggests Dana might be arrested for (supposedly) conspiring with her aunt Grace to usurp the Seelie throne. So she and her father better do as they're told…
The journey through Faerie is long – and treacherous. Dana thought it would be a good idea to have friends along, but her sort-of-boyfriend, Ethan, and her bodyguard’s son, Keane, just can’t seem to get along, and Kimber’s crush on Keane isn’t making things any easier. When a violent attack separates Dana from their caravan, the sexy Erlking saves her just in the nick of time… and makes it clear that he hasn’t given up on making her his own.
Arriving at Titania’s beautiful palace should be a relief. But Dana is soon implicated in an assassination attempt against Titania’s granddaughter, and is suddenly a fugitive, forced to leave her father behind as she and her friends flee for their lives. Will she be able to prove her innocence before the forces of the Seelie Court – or, worse, the Erlking – catch up with her? And will she save her father before he pays the ultimate price in her stead?

 Stealing Bases by Keri Mikulski
Release Date:  July 7, 2011

From Amazon:  Reformed mean girl Kylie Collins desperately wants to put the craziness of basketball season behind her. (And with it, her cheater ex, Zachary Murphy.) Maybe she'll finally be able to silence her snarky streak and concentrate on her lifelong dream - being recruited for Division One softball.  But when Kylie arrives at her first softball practice of the season, she comes face-to-face with her worst nightmare: Amber McDonald, the best pitcher in the state.  Now, Kylie's forced to warm the bench as Amber wows crowds again and again. With all the drama happening out on the softball diamond, Kylie finds herself drawn back to bad habits-sabotaging people and hanging out with a certain Zachary Murphy. . .

 Bestest. Ramadan. Ever by Medeia Sharif
Release Date:  July 8, 2011

From Amazon: 
No pizza. No boyfriend. (No life.)
Okay, so during Ramadan, we're not allowed to eat from sunrise to sunset. For one whole month. My family does this every year, even though I've been to a mosque exactly twice in my life. And it's true, I could stand to lose a few pounds. (Sadly, my mom's hotness skipped a generation.) But is starvation really an acceptable method? I think not.

Even worse, my oppressive parents forbid me to date. This is just cruel and wrong. Especially since Peter, a cute and crushable artist, might be my soul mate. Figures my bestest friend Lisa likes him, too. To top it off, there's a new Muslim girl in school who struts around in super-short skirts, commanding every boy's attention-including Peter's. How can I get him to notice me? And will I ever figure out how to be Muslim and American?