And the winner is…


Lora Wiedenheft! Congrats and you will receive your copies of Poison Ink and Tattoo soon!

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway! I wish I could send all of you books. Keep checking back here for more reviews of great books and upcoming giveaways!


Young Adult Fantasy Book Giveaway!


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This month I’m giving away two young adult fantasy novels. Up for grabs are Poison Ink by Christopher Golden and Tattoo by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, which were both previously reviewed here.

Both of these books feature tattoos with a supernatural twist. In Poison Ink it’s a decidedly evil one. Sammi’s friends get matching tattoos, but fall under the thrall of the magician who inks them. It’s up to Sammi to save her friends from his influence.

The skin art in Tattoo is more positive. When Bailey and her friends try on some temporary tattoos, they are gifted with extraordinary powers. The powers only last as long as the tattoos do, so the girls have to hurry if they’re going to save the world from an ancient evil.

These two books would make a cool Halloween read, so enter the contest!

To enter:

Link back to this post on your blog or twitter. Then leave a comment here and let me know why you want to read these books, with a link to where you’ve mentioned the contest and an email address. You don’t have to follow this blog to win and duplicate entries don’t count. This contest is open from now until 6 PM on Oct. 11th. Sorry, but this giveaway is open to US residents only. The winner will be chosen at random and will receive a new softcover copy of both Poison Ink and Tattoo. Please be sure to check your email after the 11th, because if I don’t hear back from you by noon on Friday the 14th, another winner will be chosen.

Good luck and good reading!

Review: Tattoo by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


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Bailey Morgan isn’t the type of girl who shows a lot of skin, but somehow, she ends up in a dressing room at the mall with her friend Delia applying a strange temporary tattoo to the center of her back. Never one to suffer fashion doubt, trendsetter Delia knows exactly where she wants her own tattoo: on her stomach, right where her shirt ends. Annabelle, the quiet one, chooses the back of her neck, and tomboy Zo plasters hers on the top of her foot. The tattoos will last for three days, and Delia’s sure that with them, the four friends will absolutely kill at the school dance.

Unfortunately, killing is just what someone has in mind, and Bailey and her friends are in for the battle of their lives. Along with her tattoo, each girl receives a gift – a supernatural power to help them in their fight. As Bailey’s increasingly frightening dreams reveal the nature of their enemy, it becomes clear to the girls that it’s up to them to save the world. And if they can get Delia to stop using her newfound power to turn a gum wrapper into Prada pumps, they might actually stand a chance.

This is a nice young adult adventure that even readers who aren’t that into fantasy will enjoy. There aren’t many scary parts so younger readers would like this as well. The girls’ seemingly normal afternoon at the mall turns supernatural when Bailey selects the temporary tattoos from a mysterious woman’s booth. As soon as she puts hers on, she gets chills and hears voices chanting.  Later she realizes she can conjure fire. Her friends develop powers as well, each one attuned to the girl’s personality.

The chanting voices in Bailey’s dreams warn her that something evil is coming. She and her friends must use their new powers to restore balance, but the power only lasts as long as the tattoos do.

There’s a slight touch of fairy lore here, which is intertwined into the plot but not overdone. The characters are likable and there are enough surprises to keep you reading. It’s also fun to imagine what you would turn your gum wrappers into, if you had Delia’s powers.

All in all, this is a light, fun fantasy adventure.

4 out of 5 stars – fun read

Review: Poison Ink by Christopher Golden


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Sammi, TQ, Caryn, Letty, and Katsuko are floaters. They don’t fit in with any of the groups at Covington High School – just with each other. One night, to cement their bond, the girls decide to get matching tattoos. But when Sammi backs out at the last minute – worried about her parents’ reaction and unnerved by the creepy place they’re forced to go because they don’t have IDs – everything changes.

Faster than you can say “airbrush,” Sammi is an outcast and her friends are behaving like total strangers. They smoke, skip school, fight, taunt, and are the subjects of some of the juiciest rumors Covington High has ever heard. When they attack Sammi for trying to break up a brawl, Sammi swears she spies something horrible on her friend’s back: the original tattoo has grown tendrils, snaking over the girl’s entire body. What has that creepy tattoo artist done to her friends? And what, if anything, can Sammi do to get them back?

Poison Ink is an excellent YA paranormal thriller. It adds just the right touch of creepiness to a realistic portrayal of the high school social scene. The characters were well developed and they all had their own unique personalities, which makes them easy to relate to.

When Sammi’s friends go through a strange transformation, it would have been easy for her to move on and let the friendship go. Instead she takes risks to discover what exactly happened the night they got the strange symbols inked, because she has faith in her friends. She soon learns the truth, and it’s totally twisted. The fast-paced suspense leads up to her final showdown with the artist/magician Dante, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Poison Ink was a lot of fun. Definitely check it out for a great Halloween read!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars – creepy fun

Review: Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave by Leonard Todd


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He is known today, as he was then, only as Dave. His jugs and storage jars were everyday items, but because of their beauty and sometimes massive size they are now highly sought after by collectors. Born about 1801, Dave was taught to turn pots in Edgefield, South Carolina, the center of alkaline-glazed pottery production. He also learned to read and write, in spite of South Carolina’s long-standing fear of slave literacy. Even when the state made it a crime to teach a slave to write, Dave signed his pots and inscribed many of them with poems. Though his verses spoke of his daily experience, they were nevertheless powerful statements. He countered the slavery system not by writing word of protest but by daring to write at all.

When Leonard Todd discovered that his family had owned Dave, he moved from Manhattan to Edgefield, where his ancestors had established the first potteries in the area. Todd studied each of Dave’s poems for biographical clues, which he pieced together with local records and family letters to create this chronicle of Dave’s life – a story of creative triumph in the midst of oppression. Many of Dave’s jars are now found in America’s finest museums, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

This book is a very well-written and researched look into the life of David Drake. Todd uses documented facts written by the participants themselves, and never presents “fill in the blanks” narratives as fact. You can feel his personal connection to Dave as the story unfolds.

Dave was born into slavery and freed after the Civil War. His poetry is often astoundingly beautiful. These inscriptions are timeless messages from the past. This was a man who kept his dignity under the most horrible of conditions.

“Dave belongs to Mr. Miles/

wher the oven bakes & the pot biles”

“I wonder where is all my relation/

friendship to all–and every nation”

“Lm says this handle will crack” – this one refers to his owner, who may have doubted Dave’s ability, although his skill as a potter was certainly recognized during his lifetime. Over 150 years later, the handle still hasn’t cracked.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in American history, the American south, or art pottery. It’s a valuable addition to any work written about David Drake, and a moving look into his life.

5 out of 5 stars – must read

Review: Would You by Marthe Jocelyn


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Would you rather know what’s going to happen? Or not know?

This is the question that starts Natalie’s story.

The summer before her junior year, Natalie spends time with her friends sneaking into neighbor’s pools at night and hanging out at the diner, where they play the Would You Rather game – asking each other very funny, hypothetical and often gross questions posed as moral dilemmas. Natalie is looking forward to a lazy, fun summer, but her sister Claire is leaving for college soon and Natalie dreads it. She has always shared a room, clothes, and everything else with Claire.

Claire is excited about her future. She tells Natalie “I have this roar in my head…of anticipation. That it’s all just starting.”

One night biking home after a swimming pool raid, Natalie passes police cars and ambulances. She thinks nothing of it, but when she arrives home she finds out that Claire has been struck by a car and suffered severe brain trauma.

With Claire in a coma, Natalie’s life changes dramatically. The words “Would you?” take on a whole new meaning.

Would You is not a light read. It’s an extremely honest look at the painful feelings, thoughts, and choices you have to make during a tragedy. It strikes a good emotional balance; it is never sentimental or overly angst-ridden. Natalie’s reactions are realistic. She goes through guilt and anger, lashing out at people and feeling repulsed at how unrecognizable her sister is in the hospital bed. She has the support and understanding of her family and friends to help her face these real life dilemmas, and finds solace while talking to the unresponsive Claire in the hospital. This is a tough, heartbreaking novel, but Natalie manages to find peace and strength by the end.

5 out of 5 stars – couldn’t put it down



Review: As The City Sleeps by Stephen T. Johnson


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Imagine that you are all alone in the sleeping city. It is very late at night.

As you walk along the streets in darkness, the most familiar objects and places seem different – mysterious, eerie, even frightening. Half-remembered stories, urban legends about inexplicable happenings come to mind.

Award – winning painter Stephen T. Johnson takes readers on a nocturnal adventure, a journey to the place where reality and illusion intersect.

I love, love, love this book. It is recommended for all ages, and the the artwork is stunningly beautiful. The text is spare – one or two sentences each page. The captions bring a new angle to each haunting picture – “A Peculiar Painting – The frame could not contain its inhabitants”, “The Fog – As it lingered by the ancient cathedral, singing began”, “The Leaves – There was no wind”. The colors are mostly muted blues and greens, which give an alien-like feel to the work. The subject matter springs from mankind’s ages old fear with and fascination of the dark.

From the cover illustration of a pterodactyl swooping over a glowing city skyline to the last page featuring a reptilian beast slithering into a manhole, this book is a shivery treat for the eyes. Anyone who likes off-kilter art that blends reality with the unknown will enjoy this.

5 out of 5 stars – brilliant



Review: How to Keep Dinosaurs by Robert Mash


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Hollywood and the popular press would have us believe that all dinosaurs are gigantic, hostile and untameable. In fact, there are many species that make charming and even useful companions. From the city apartment dweller looking for a pet to the country estate owner looking to tighten up on security, this book proves there is a dinosaur for everyone.

How to Keep Dinosaurs is packed with the sort of information keen dinosaur-keepers crave – from feeding and housing to curing common ailments, breeding and showing your animal. It will even tell you where you can purchase your new pet. We begin with a delightful selection of dinosaurs for the beginner before moving on to more challenging animals should you decide that size matters.

This satirical look at dinosaurs disguised as a non-fiction guide is recommended for ages 9 to 12, but older kids and adults will love its irreverent humor. The illustrations are a mix of photography and art and include pages full of pictures of dinosaurs in domestic situations – a group of Microraptors getting into cereal boxes and playing tug-of-war with someone’s underwear, a Composognathus in a litter box, and a Stegoceras on a golf course, for example. The text tells you everything from how to tack up an Orinthomimus for a ride to how Velociraptors are well-suited for the police force that needs to get its man. The dinosaurs’ physical descriptions give scientific facts, and the artwork represents them accurately – except for, you know, the litter boxes and whatnot.

Anyone who loves dinosaurs would love this wonderfully illustrated and funny book. And doesn’t wish they could have a pet dinosaur?

5 out of 5 stars – highly recommended



Review: Murcheston: The Wolf’s Tale by David Holland


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Darnley, a young aristocrat, travels to the mountains of Carpathia where he is attacked by a large wolf. He survives, and a month after he returns to England he learns that he has been cursed with lycanthropy. During his first transformation into a wolf, he feels a sense of true freedom. Darnley searches desperately for answers and others like himself. Finding none, he begins keeping a journal outlining his often gleeful descent into hell.

A great deal of the book is told through the Byronic voice of Lord Darnley’s journal, where he begins to rationalize his murders. He withdraws altogether from society, sneering at traditional values and norms. He often makes a good case; however, it is overshadowed by his increasing madness and self-absorption. Darnley becomes less human, and not entirely because of his frequent transformations into a wolf.

Ultimately, Darnley grows lonely on his isolated estate and wanders into Victorian London seeking to confide in his old friend Charles Meredith, and Meredith’s wife Elizabeth. Darnley has been in love with Elizabeth most of his life, but his condition and grandiose plans horrify her.

This is truly a gothic novel with many dark, foggy nights and wolves howling. The attention to detail gives it an authentic flavor. It doesn’t stand up to classics like Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but it’s both a great werewolf story and a study in psychology.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars – worth a read on a foggy night

Review: The Owl Service by Alan Garner


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An air of dread hangs over the remote valley in Wales where step-siblings Alison and Roger are spending the summer. Something is scratching around in the attic above Alison’s room – but when she and Roger, along with the caretaker’s son, Gwyn, go to investigate, they find only a grimy stack of old plates decorated with intricate flowery patterns. Compelled to trace the patterns onto paper, Alison discovers that they can be fitted together to create owls…owls that disappear when no one is watching.

With each vanished owl, events in the valley get stranger and stranger. As the teens uncover the mystery behind the owl service, they become trapped within a terrifying local legend. Dark forces from the past are reignited, forcing them to reenact a tragic love story – a story that has repeated itself for generations and has always ended in disaster.

This is a haunting tale based on an obscure Welsh legend. It’s a suspenseful fantasy, and the teens have to deal with otherworldly magic as well as the real-world issues of class divide and their own adolescent angst. There are some eerie moments, such as the owls sliding in and out of rooms and Roger looking back at his photos. The overall atmosphere is dark and foreboding. You get the sense that something sinister is going to happen, and soon.

Not a word is wasted in the storytelling, which builds into an unexpected but symbolic conclusion. Younger readers today may find the language a bit dated, but it’s worth investing the time to get caught up in the story. The events more than speak for themselves. The Owl Service is an unforgettable classic.

4 out of 5 stars – excellent