To leave a comment, click on the header. You have to be "in" the post for the comments to appear. THANKS!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thankful for Thursday

My thankfulness meme for the day?  Well, I already wracked my brain to come up with vanilla (see Oasis post).  Sometimes it's hard to think so TINY!

Something that's NOT tiny is how thankful I am that you all persevere through my quirky and fickle comments (the ones that mysteriously appear or not apparently depending on how the internet feels).  When I get a little notice in my e-mail that I've gotten a comment, I feel like I've connected with a friend.  That you've reached out and said, "yeah, Jessie, right on!"

And that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.  So THANK YOU!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins

Wow - this book was amazing.  Let's start with that.  Finally, I found another series that keeps me up late flipping the pages and dying to know what happens next.  I'd been looking, hoping... and now, I found it.

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father - an elusive European warlock - only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.


* Sophie's voice.  Every aspiring writer should read this book to understand what agents and editors are looking for when they say they want a fresh voice.  This was my favorite line:

"But this room looked like it had been decorated by the unholy love child of Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake."

* That this first in the series easily stands alone.  Sure, there are some questions left unanswered, but not to the point where you HAVE to have the sequel or this book is basically useless.  Love this!

*  The characters are so real, you almost feel like you can befriend them yourself.  Everyone from Sophie's homosexual, vampire roommate who loves pink to the Elodie, the stereotypical beautiful bully who just might have a little more sensitivity than we first expected.

*  The plot was fast paced, had a smidge of romance, lots of great scenes, and many laugh-out-loud moments. Just when you think you've hit the climax and are thinking, "That's it?" -- BAM -- the real climax hits. Then Hawkins wraps it all up quickly in the classic roller coaster stop.


* I can't think of anything.  I wish I'd written this book!

And for that, I give Hex Hall FIVE Greek coins - a HFAC rating.  Oh yeah, it was that good.

I'll post my review of DEMONGLASS soon!  If you've read the book, did you love it as much as I did??

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Debut Author Book Birthday!

It's that time of week again!  Time to wish these debut authors a fantabulously happy book birthday:

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.

The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.

But there is a cost.

The Keeper likes to keep things.

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter (Shadow Falls #1)
One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever.  Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.”  Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.

Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either.  Or does she?  They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason.  As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas.  Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past.  Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart. 

Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear—Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs…

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thankful for Thursday

Thankful for Thursday is a meme hosted by Oasis for YA.  The idea is that giving thanks for the good things in your life -- big or small -- is the surest way to make sure more good things continue to come your way.  To join in, blog about what you're thankful for this week, grab the meme logo and leave a comment on the Oasis for YA Thursday post.  Then be sure to check out what some of the other YA lovers out there in the blog-o-sphere are celebrating today.

Today -- I am thankful for SPRING and everything that means in my home!!

Thankful that this little tree in our cottage garden, which looked barren and probably dead from the frigid winter, has sprouted juicy green leaves.
Thankful that our garden is bursting with pinks, yellows, purples and whites.

Thankful to be going on spring break with my family.

So what about you?  What makes you feel particularly thankful this week?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Debut YA Birthday!

Some exciting YA books by debut novelists are hitting the shelves today.  Let's wish a Happy Book Birthday to (all links will take you to the synopsis on Goodreads):
Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Review: WARPED

Warped by Maurissa Guibord is one of those debut novels that hasn't scored a ton of attention yet this year.  But from the minute I read the synopsis, I knew I had to have it in my TBR pile.
Tessa doesn't believe in magic. Or Fate. But there's something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry she discovers in a box of old books. She finds the creature woven within it compelling and frightening. After the tapestry comes into her possession, Tessa experiences dreams of the past and scenes from a brutal hunt that she herself participated in. When she accidentally pulls a thread from the tapestry, Tessa releases a terrible centuries old secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, an irresistible 16th-century nobleman. His fate is as inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa's own. Together, they must correct the wrongs of the past. But then the Fates step in, making a tangled mess of Tessa's life. Now everyone she loves will be destroyed unless Tessa does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy.

 Very creative premise. And the way Guibord "weaves" this story is quite remarkable.  The characters literally journey inside the tapestry, as if it were a place all its own.  I loved the detailed imagery and how I felt like this totally unbelievable journey was almost possible.

Tessa was a solid MC.  Her mom was dead (see last week's rant for my opinion on that), but she had a good relationship with her dad.  And they lived above their bookstore -- how cool is that?  Her BFF, Opal, annoyed me at times, since she seemed to have too many faults to make her compatible with someone like Tessa (this is another thing that bothers me about many books, not just this one. The supporting characters can be cool too. They don't have to be incompetent or catty. But I digress.) Bottom line, you should like Tessa. She's braver than she wants to be, which seemed pretty realistic under the circumstances.

William de Chaucy -- decadent name; delicious character.  When I was reading the story though, I kept having Katy Perry's "Hot 'N Cold" running through my head. He liked her, he hated her. He drew her near, he pushed her away. Uh, yeah, there was plenty of tension as a result, but I'd have been pretty pissed by that point if I were Tessa (which, thankfully, I'm not, 'cause she has quite the series of tasks and riddles to solve in front of her).

The main thing I wasn't crazy about was the writing itself. Parts felt clunky. But then again, I read in uber critical editor mode these days, so it could just be me.
The ending was satisfying.  There was one twist in particular that I didn't see coming and happy that the book wrapped up as it did.  Overall, I give the book THREE Greek coins, a URA* rating. Hopefully this debut author will have more tales to "spin" in the future.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Agent Pitch Contest

The fabulous ladies over at YAtopia (clever name, huh?) are having their first-ever agent pitch contest, judged by the wonderful Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Lit Agency.  You won't want to miss this one, so swing by their blog, become a follower, and leave your 2-sentence pitch and the first line of your manuscript.  Good luck!

About Ammi-Joan: She represents all forms of children's and young adult literature, but is most excited by a strong lyrical voice, tight plotting, and stories told with heart and humor.

Flashback Friday & Rant: Why are All the YA Parents Dying?

 **Snatched from Hazzard7 on**

Okay, YA lovers. It's been awhile since I've done a Flashback Friday. I'm afraid this one is going to also include some elements of a rant too though, because I'm really *dying* to know why authors are killing off the parents in YA novels left and right.

But let's start with the flashback -- the absolute most terrifying moment of my high school career: my father's heart attack. I was fifteen, on the cusp of a band banquet and my boyfriend's senior prom, when I learned that my father was hooked to machines in a hospital hours away. By all accounts, he was expected to pull through, but incredibly lucky to be alive. Until that moment, the closest I'd come to experiencing death in the family was losing some grandparents and great grandparents.  Knowing that my father on the brink of being torn away from this life was one of the most numbing and horrific feelings I've ever known.

But pretty much, I was alone in that feeling.  I didn't know a SINGLE person who'd lost a parent when I was in high school.  Not one.  We lost a high school principal to cancer, and some girls nearly killed themselves in a car accident, but that was pretty much it. At least when I was growing up, the death of a parent was not a typical part of the high school experience.

Which makes me wonder why so many YA books I pick up+ (and excerpts on YALitChat) have a dead parent or parents? Yes, it's horrific and makes the MC's life suck. Yes, it ads instant sympathy. Yes, Disney did it to us in every movie we watched growing up.  But seriously... this trend makes me want to scream or pull out my hair or something.

To me, it feels like a crutch. Something a lazy author uses to prop up a forced change in location or feeling of being lost for the MC. It's also lazy because having TWO incompetent parents in the picture is a lot harder than one or none. And, as Kethleen Duey said at an SCBWI conference, if the parents are competent, nothing good can happen. But come on, divorce is all over the place.  Just split the two parents up if you must.

Is there more to this trend that I'm missing?  Like, did some publishing genie swoop down and declare that dead parents are a prereq to getting a book deal? I don't get it, I don't like it anymore, and I'm sick of it.  Rant over. 

What's your two cents on the issue?

+ See, for example: Timeless (missing dad, dead mom), Warped (dead mom), Firelight (dead dad), Wicked Lovely series (dead mom, unknown dad), Darkness Becomes Her (dead mom), 13 to Life (dead mom), Paranormalcy (no known parents) -- I'm not saying any of these books are bad by the way.  In fact, some have been my absolute favorites. But it's been done already!  Let's think of something new.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lucky Me

Around St. Patty's Day a few years ago, I made a scrapbook layout entitled "Lucky Me," celebrating all the things I feel lucky to have in my life.  I wanted to remind myself to stop focusing on the little day-to-day "wrong" things that drive me nuts (like the seemingly endless fighting between my children), and focus on all the things that are oh-so "right." The core hasn't changed:
an amazing husband
two beautiful & healthy daughters
a job that makes other moms jealous
financial security & a cozy house that I love

You'd think that'd be enough to be thankful for... but it's not.  I have new blessings that make me extra lucky this St. Patty's Day:
my kids are getting a great education
their school is right across the street from where I work
Nikki Katz co-authored a book with me
the ladies at Oasis for YA are super-awesome to blog with

If you're feeling particularly lucky today, be sure to share your thankfulness with the Oasis for YA Thankful for Thursday meme. (Details here.)  There's no time like the present!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Contest Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered my 200+ follower contest.  Using, I picked two winners:
1st place and the $20 Book Depository Gift Card: Natasha Hanova
2nd place and the $10 iTunes Gift Card: Kelsey O.
Winners will be contacted by e-mail.  Congrats to you!  (And don't mind my tongue-in-cheek picture - there are no losers on this blog.  Only those-who-didn't-win.)

Just a reminder for tomorrow -- I know, it's St. Patty's Day and your minds will probably be consumed by all things green, Irish and Leprechauny.  But it's also Thankful for Thursday.  Hope you'll participate. I'm sure you can find a creative way to combine the two!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Celebrations!

We have only one debut YA title celebrating its book birthday today - Subway Girl by P. J. Converse.

His is shy. Unassuming. Inexperienced.
She is Subway Girl. Cool. Unattainable.
From the moment he sees her on a Hong Kong subway, Simon is intrigued by Amy, but he doesn't have the nerve to talk to her. When he finally works up the courage, he realizes he can't. Because Amy doesn't speak Chinese, and Simon is failing English.
But somehow, Amy and Simon connect, and they find that they understand each other. Enough for Simon to admit that he is dropping out of school. Enough for Amy to confess that she is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend's baby. Amy and Simon feel lost in a world so much bigger than they are, and yet they still have each other.
In this brilliant debut by P. J. Converse, two unlikely teenagers discover that love has a language all its own.

While they're not debut YA authors, look for these YA titles from established authors, also releasing today:

Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

Shimmer (Riley Bloom, Book 2) by Alyson Noel

And don't forget the 200+ celebration going on here -- you have until midnight tonight to enter to win.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

200+ Follower Contest

Y'all are SO AWESOME!  I put out the call to help push me to 200 tribe members and I was there within a day.  **THANK YOU**  I feel like you've wrapped me in a great big cyber hug.  And to the new folks -- WELCOME!  I can't wait to hear from you and read/respond to your comments.

But now the important part -- the as-promised contest!  Enter between now and March 15th for a chance to win:
1st place - $20 Book Depository Gift Card
2nd place - $10 iTunes Gift Card

You just have to be a member of this blog to enter, but can get extra points by spreading the word and being an Oasis Seeker over at Oasis for YA.  Simple?  Okay - here's your form.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Hello all you wonderful friends and fellow YA junkies!  I opened blogger today and noticed that I'm only 5 followers away from 200. I can't believe how much this place has grown in just the past few months. I want you all to know that I really value the comments that you leave and I hope, in return, I'm providing you with useful and/or fun information.

So to thank you all, here's what I'm going to do: if The Daily Harrell hits the 200 follower mark by THE IDES OF MARCH, I'll hold a contest.  One winner will get a $20 Book Depository gift card and a second place winner will get a $10 iTunes gift card.  All you have to do is help me spread the word about my blog in the next week, and I'll host a contest.  Deal?

Oh, and you can leave me a comment too, if you like.  They make me smile. <3 to you all!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Vespertine - a Book Birthday Review

I had the pleasure of reading a galley of The Vespertine courtesy of the publisher and  (My review was in no way influenced by the free copy I received, however.)  In much the same vein of Prophecy of the Sisters, The Vespertine takes a unique paranormal idea and grounds firmly in historical fiction.  The result is a beautiful blend of traditions and intrigue.
I'm exceptionally excited to be posting this review today, since it's also The Vespertine's BOOK BIRTHDAY!  If you're in the mood for a celebration this Monday, you might consider indulging yourself with delightful read.

Here's the summary:

It's the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia's world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she's not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

And here's what I thought:

Amelia, and her cousin Zora, are wonderful characters.  I love their personalities and their weaknesses.  I love their love interests as well, but Nathaniel is clearly the more intriguing of the two.  While Zora is busy pursuing the doctor's son, Amelia finds herself smitten by a poor artist, who'd never be consider respectable enough to wed.  But love doesn't always follow the rules, and Amelia and Nathaniel are drawn to each other like magnets.  The only down side in their love is "the times," such that you don't see the typical flaming desire we've come to expect from a traditional paranormal romance.  This romance is more about the slow boil, leaving the reader wanting more encounters between the two and more than just a handful of stolen kisses.

The paranormal aspect of this story was fresh.  Amelia's sunset visions gradually come faster and faster.  While the adults indulge her "parlor tricks," all the girls know the truth -- Amelia's visions WILL come true.  But can any good come of seeing the future with such terrible clarity?  You'll just have to read and find out.

There are plenty of plot twists that you'll never see coming.  While I do normally enjoy the adventure and danger of more typical paranormal romance, this book was a welcome diversion.  I thoroughly enjoyed being caught up in another time and hope you will as well.

Bottom Line: This book deserves a 4.5 Greek coins rating -- an OMG!+  You'll have to let me know if you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday - This Kid

As many of you saw on Tuesday, my "baby" turned 5 this week.  She has an amazing little spirit, totally independent and fun, and today I'm thankful for her... my "surprise" baby.  The one who decided she'd start making her way toward life when her older sister was a mere 4 months old.  (Yes, my two girls are only 13 months apart.)

This picture is from her sister's princess birthday party.  My baby doesn't like dresses, and she certainly didn't want to be a princess.  While I almost got her to compromise with a Princess Jasmine costume (since it has pants, and all), I knew I was doomed when she found this king costume in a toy catalog.  A few clicks on Amazon later, and my little independent drummer got to masquerade as the only male royalty at the party.

And the other day, we were working on coming up with words that start with the letter Q.  After we'd turned in her project, that night on the car ride home, she told me, "Mommy, you forgot cucumber."  How cute is that?  And he's right, cucumber totally should start with a Q.

It's for these quirks and expressions -- and a million others -- that I love her and am so thankful for her. Who are you most thankful for this week?

Don't forget to stop by Oasis for YA to participate in the weekly meme and share your gratitude.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An early Book Birthday

Ok - I screwed up my first post.  For some inexplicable reason, I thought this book was coming into the world today.  It is not.  You have to wait until next Tuesday the 8th  Sorry!  I'm human.  But in the meantime, you can consider this a Waiting on Wednesday post or some other sort of temptation to make you wish next Tuesday was here already...
I want to be beautiful like you, I thought, as if Mandarin were listening.

I want apricot skin and Pocahontas hair and eyes the color of tea. I want to be confident and detached and effortlessly sensual, and if promiscuity is part of the package, I will gladly follow your lead. All I know is I'm so tired of being inside my body.

I would give anything to be like Mandarin.

It's hard to find beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming. Fourteen-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances and pickup trucks adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild girl Mandarin Ramey: seventeen, shameless and utterly carefree.

Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.

When the misfits are united for a project, they embark on an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and constantly searching for someplace magic. Grace even plays along when Mandarin suggests they make a pact to run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds that plague their badlands town.

But all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, even the best friendships can't withstand betrayal.

Like Mandarin will be published by Random House/Delacorte in March 2011.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Another Happy Book Birthday

Happy 1st of March.  Today my youngest turns five.  (That's hard for me to believe, even as I write it.)  Happy Birthday, Sami!

And just like last week, a whole slew of debut YA/MG novels are being born today as well.  Of the seven making their official debuts, some you will have undoubtedly heard of and some will have never crossed your radar before.  But wow! What an electric group.  Please, click on the titles (in alphabetical order) to read the Goodreads descriptions.  And then start adding to your TBR pile!
The Bloomswell Diaries by Louis Buitendag
Clarity by Kim Harrington
Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker
I am J by Cris Beam (about a transexual, bi-racial teen growing up in NYC)
I Lost My Mobile at the Mall by Wendy Harmer
Unlocked by Ryan G. Van Cleave