Tag Archive | guest post

Criminal, by Terra Elan McVoy (book review by guest blogger Alison Law) – bold and brutal exploration of bad decisions and their consequences

It’s guest blogger day on Blogathon 2013, so let’s welcome “Southern Spines” blogger Alison Law to BooksYALove!

She’s bringing us a quick peek into Terra Elan McVoy’s newest book, Criminal  (which is soooo good). I’ve previously recommended Terra’s novel-in-verse After the Kiss  and her rock-music-themed Being Friends With Boys  (click link for my no-spoilers book talk in a new window).

As Terra and Alison ask – how far would you go for love?


headshot of author Terra Elan McVoy

author Terra Elan McVoy

Inspired by a news story about a young man accused of murdering his girlfriend’s parent with another girl as his accomplice, Terra Elan McVoy asks the reader, “How far would you go for love?” She searches for the answer to that question from the perspective of her main character, Nikki, who has unknowingly become an accessory to murder.

Read an excerpt from the book here.

Book info: Criminal / Terra Elan McVoy. Simon Pulse, 2013. [author site] [publisher site] [video author interview]

book cover of Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy published by Simon PulseAlison’s book talk: As the title foretells, Criminal  is a dark departure from McVoy’s first four YA novels. Protagonist Nikki lives with her friend Bird, a young single mom, in a tough neighborhood in Atlanta. Nikki fled her family home because her mom is a drug addict who often brings home questionable characters. With no family support, Nikki clings to love where she can find it, even if it’s Dee, her on-again/off-again boyfriend who often mistreats her.

McVoy makes an interesting choice to begin the book the morning after the crime has taken place; the details of what happened are revealed in subsequent chapters in a plot-thickening, satisfying way. Readers discover along with Nikki just how deeply entangled she is in Dee’s deceptions and witness Nikki’s troubles multiply as she lies to protect the man she loves.

No one reading the book can deny that Nikki is a criminal — the facts are very plain. Yet, anyone who has survived young adulthood and a relationship with a “bad boy” or “bad girl” will relate to Nikki’s predicament. Readers see what Nikki cannot, but grieve right along with her when she realizes that the person she trusted, loved and sacrificed for has betrayed her.

In their starred review of Criminal, Publishers Weekly said that what McVoy “gets so powerfully right in this novel is the way that love can descend like a fog, impairing one’s judgment and obscuring the truth.”

headshot photo of Alison Law of SouthernSpines.comGuest Blogger Bio: Alison Law is a professional writer and marketing and social media consultant based in Atlanta, Georgia. As owner of Alison Law Communications, she has worked with a variety of clients, including published authors and book publicity firms, public relations and advertising agencies, attorneys, accountants, veterinarians and other professional service providers.

Her career began twenty years ago in a newsroom in her hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. She spent almost seven years in various editorial and management positions at television stations in Chattanooga, Lexington, Kentucky and Baltimore, Maryland.

In 2012, Alison combined her editorial, online marketing and social media skills to launch SouthernSpines.com, an online community dedicated to celebrating and promoting southern writers, songwriters and poets, and “Books with Backbone.” Alison is a member of the She Reads Book Blogger network.

Alison is a part-time graduate student at Georgia State University where she is pursuing a master’s degree in English with a concentration in literary studies. She’s also “football widow” and fan club president to husband Zach Law, a successful fantasy and pro football writer. When not reading or writing…or reading some more…Alison is catching up on her neglected DVR queue with her two cats, Sting and Chewie.

Book cover image and review copy courtesy of the publisher. Terra’s photo and Alison’s photo appear courtesy of SouthernSpines.com.

Silverhorse, by Lene Kaaberbøl (fiction) – guest post recommendation by Rachel Ward

book cover of Silverhorse by Lene Kaaberbol published by Macmillan UKWild hellhorses,
A headstrong young girl,
Women lead society, men travel as they can.

Guest reviewer Rachel Ward brings us an exciting book about a chilling future on Blogathon2012’s Guest Post Day.

Silverhorse is the first book in the Katriona series, one of several written by Danish author Kaaberbøl, whose four-volume Shamer Chronicles fantasy series is published by Henry Holt Books  in the USA.

Check WorldCat to find a library near you to check out Silverhorse or check your favorite bookseller for a copy of this London-published novel. Its sequel, Midnight, has also been translated into English, but book 3 remains in Danish only. Perhaps reader demand will interest a US publisher in getting the entire Katriona series back in print.

Book info: Silverhorse / Lene Kaaberbøl. Macmillan (London), 2007.   [author’s website in Danish]  [author’s biography from Gale Biographies of Children’s Authors]  

Rachel’s Recommendation *:
Silverhorse by  Lene Kaaberbøl is set in a post-apocalyptic world where nobody is allowed to own the land, but it is passed down from mother to daughter. Women are the rulers with a duty to care for the land, and men lead an itinerant life. The main character is 12-year-old Kat, daughter of Tess, the maestra of Crowfoot Inn. Kat has a fiery temper and fights constantly with her stepfather. 

In the end, Tess has no choice but to send Kat away, despite it being very unusual for a girl to travel in this society. After a disastrous apprenticeship to a dyer, she ends up at the academy for Bredinari, who ride the strange and dangerous hellhorses – wild nightmares crossed with sturdy mountain horses – and serve justice and law in the land of Breda. Here, Kat has to learn to control her temper so she can master the weapons and horses she will need to handle. Events come to a head when she gets caught up in power politics beyond her control or understanding, and finds herself fighting for survival.

The plot rattles along at a good pace and Kat is an engaging and sympathetic, if flawed, character. Her struggles with both authority figures and bullies her own age are all too recognisable and the book also tackles the reverse-sexism of her world, snobbery, loyalty, betrayal and true friendship.

Kaaberbøl’s writing is truly fantastic, in every sense of the word. This is an excellent and compelling fantasy story, translated from the Danish by the author herself – being able to write as well in another language as she can in her own is a skill of which I am frankly in awe!

Highly recommended  (Cover image courtesy of the publisher.)

*This review was originally posted on A Discount Ticket to Everywhere on Saturday 12th May, 2012.


photograph of guest blogger Rachel Ward
Rachel Ward – guest blogger

Since gaining her MA in Literary Translation in 2002, Rachel Ward has been working in Norwich, United Kingdom, as a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. She specialises in children’s and young adult literature as well as crime novels, fantasy and other contemporary fiction. 

She blogs on reading and translation at http://adiscounttickettoeverywhere.blogspot.com/and is on Twitter as @FwdTranslations. Her most recent translations, the Nea Fox books by Amelia Ellis, are available as e-books from Amazon and www.neafox.com.

Giveaway Over! Cat Girl’s Day Off – feline interview, too

If you’ve read my recommendation of Cat Girl’s Day Off, by Kimberly Pauley, then you know that Rufus Brutus the Third is a feline force to be reckoned with – even if he has been dyed pink for Breast Cancer Awareness.

My cat Max (pictured at right) chatted with Rufus (see him on the book cover below). They decided to give one lucky BooksYALove reader an Advance Reader’s Copy of the book, so follow their instructions to enter the giveaway!

Max: You went through a lot in Chicago to find your person. Was it worth it?
Rufus: My person and I are an inseparable team – I inspire her writing, you know.
Max: Yeah, I help my person write by staying nearby, just in case she needs to pet me. And there’s a dog in your life, right?
Rufus: Oh, Fergie! I’ve had hairballs bigger than his wee little brain, but if he makes Easton happy, I’ll put up with him. The imposter [snarl!] was terribly mean to Fergie, but took out most of her anger against me.
Max: Chasing you with hairspray and perfume? What an awful person!
Rufus: And the things she did to other humans, like my Easton… [snarrrrlll] don’t get me started!
Max: Did you enjoy getting to meet other cats, despite the circumstances?
Rufus: It’s enlightening to travel, my person always says, and she’s right. If we’d stayed in Hollywood, how would I ever have run into Meep or PD or Queenie or Nat, the cat-fluent person? Maybe she’ll be able to convince my Easton to stop calling me Tiddlywinks and use my real name!
Max: Would you ever visit a school again, I mean, after all that craziness with the movie people?
Rufus: Certainly not! Their facilities for felines are definitely sub-par!

Max: So here’s how readers can enter to win an Advance Reader’s Copy of Cat Girl’s Day Off.
Rufus: But they have to give us their word of honor that they won’t try to sell it!
ARCs may NOT be sold!
Max: Exactly, but the winner can share the ARC with other readers.
Rufus: The giveaway is open to readers 13 years and older, with a US mailing address, since Tu Books will ship the ARC directly to the winner.
Max: And only 1 entry per human, to make it fair.
Rufus: To avoid those awful, awful spammers, write your e-mail address in the comments like this: RufusBrutusTheThird AT EastonWest DOT com.
Max: We’ll take entries through 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday, April 9th.
I’ll be up then. Will you be up, Rufus?
Rufus: Undoubtedly! Hollywood was made for late-night cats like me.
Max: Then all the entries will go in the Randomizer to choose 1 winner. My person will e-mail the winner who must reply to her with their US mailing address by Monday, April 16, 2012.
Rufus: You DO want to get your paws on my heroic tale of bravery as soon as possible, don’t you??
Max: Just for fun, add the color of your favorite cat, too.
Rufus: So my person would put “pink” – seems a funny name for such a boring color.*
Max: Good luck, everyone, and remember that your cat knows a lot more than he or she is telling you!
*Cats can’t distinguish reds from greens and browns because they don’t have cones in their retinas.

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card (book review) – Guest Post by Maggie Fanning

Welcoming guest blogger Maggie who highlights a ‘forgotten gem’ of YA fiction – in this case, classic science fiction that may turn out to be closer to reality than we’d like to believe.

Book info: Ender’s Game / by Orson Scott Card. Tor-Forge Books (Macmillan), 1994. [author’s website] [publisher site] First book in the Ender Quartet. [book trailer by a fan]

Maggie’s Recommendation: An oldie but a goodie, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (published in various story forms since 1977) takes place in a post-Cold War dystopia in which parents are discouraged from having more than two children. Disgracefully, Ender is a Third, but, although he should be the spare – the expendable one – he is selected by the powers that be to be trained on a space station orbiting Earth. He is put through rigorous, even abusive, combat training which alienates him from the other recruits on board the station. His final “training exercise” requires him to command a fleet of space ships launched in an offensive against an alien home world – such a realistic videogame.

Card did not first intend to write a young adult novel, but his themes reach out to a much wider audience than he ever intended to address. In his acceptance speech for the Margaret A. Edwards Award, he admits, “Ender’s Game was written with no concessions to young readers. My protagonists were children, but the book was definitely not aimed at kids” (Card, “Margaret” 15). Nevertheless, he writes, “Young readers… are… deeply inside Ender’s character. They still live in a world largely (or, with younger readers, entirely) shaped by the adults around them. Ender’s attitude is revelatory to them” (Card, “Margaret” 17).

Although some see Ender’s Game as dated by its post-Cold War binaries of East and West – and subsequently Human and Alien – this novel, like many by Card, has a long lasting appeal to readers of all ages.

Works Mentioned
Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game. New York: Tor, 1991.
—. “Margaret A. Edwards Award Acceptance Speech.” Young Adult Library Services (Fall 2008): 14-18.

Guest Blogger Bio: L. Maggie Fanning, M.A. English professor, creative writer, and professional editor. Respond to my reflections at http://thehappybibliophile.blogspot.com or at fanning.editor@gmail.com.

Dark Is Rising Sequence, by Susan Cooper (book review) – Guest post on classic fantasy series

Today I’ve invited fellow Blogathonner Stephanie Suesan Smith to talk up her favorite YA books for WordCount Blogathon Challenge 2011 guest post day. She’s selected a great fantasy series which has withstood the test of time – Enjoy!
Recommendation: There are many books that were published well before Harry Potter that contain magic, quests, and the fight between good and evil. One such series that was published starting in 1965 is as vibrant today as when it was written. Although the settings contain no computers or cell phones, The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper takes us to a world within our world just the same.

Written for preteens, the stories are so ageless that I still re-read them when I need to remind myself that it is up to each of us to do our part in order that the end result comes out all right. The stories are set in Britain and are an arc of Arthurian quests without that being the overwhelming feature of the books.

Over Sea, Under Stone
is the first book and is more of a prequel than a part of the series. Start with it, but know that even better things are coming. Three children go to Cornwall with their parents to vacation with a distant relative. While rambling in the home, the children find a map to a treasure. With the dark trying to obtain the map on one hand, and the light trying to help the children, it is a race to see who reaches the object first.

The Dark Is Rising is one of my favorite books to read on a bad day when the rain is coming down and the shadows won’t go away. The British celebrate Christmas differently than Americans, and perhaps that is part of the magic of this book. It is set to the tempo of the twelve days of Christmas as a young boy, Will, becomes an adult in the world of beings who fight for or against the Dark. He is the last of his order to complete this task, and failure means the fight is lost.

Greenwitch is a book dealing with a pre-Christian ritual and belief about the sea and powerful spirits leaving there. It is well known fishermen are superstitious and believe in things others do not. The children from the first book are joined by the one from the second to recover a lost object held by one of these spirits. No force can compel this spirit to part with the needed talisman. Can friendship?

The Grey King
is the gathering. The Grey King is a powerful evil spirit working to keep the Light from winning. Will goes to Wales to stay with relatives after an illness. He must overcome the evil and help the light as the last gathering of forces begins. The final battle looms as time grows short.

Silver on the Tree
is the last book in the series. Will and all his kind go on a final quest to rid the earth of the Dark and leave it safe for mankind. Each child, Will, his three friends from the first book, and a fourth from the fourth book, is tested by the Dark and the powerful earth magic that governs how the quest must be followed. Will they succeed? Will it be enough?

People who like the Harry Potter series will like these books. The violence is much less obvious in this series. The books can be read again and again as more is discovered in each reading.

Book info: The Dark Is Rising boxed set, by Susan Cooper. Paperback: 1088 pages
Publisher: McElderry (August 21, 2007) [author’s official website] [publisher site]

Guest blogger bio: Stephanie Suesan Smith mainly uses her Ph.D. in clinical psychology to train her dogs. She is also a master gardener, member of the Garden Writer’s Association, and woodworker. Stephanie writes on almost any nonfiction topic and has had some unusual experiences that contribute to that ability. Getting pooped on by a rattlesnake probably ranks tops there, but things just seem to happen to her. View more of them at www.stephaniesuesansmith.com. View her photos at photos.stephaniesuesansmith.com. View her woodworking at wood.stephaniesuesansmith.com.