Cassandra Clare and Holly Black re-cap

It was a sunny Friday afternoon when this lovely blogger and her #entourage signing friends (Gail, Nikki, the other Danielle and Jen) hopped in the car for a two-ish hour ride to South Hadley, MA. This cutesy little bookstore called The Odyssey hosted a signing for two big-time authors, Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.

It was my Cassandra Clare signing—and I’m a huge Cassie Clare fangirl, so I was pretty excited. I’m still excited. I was also excited for Holly! I’m knee deep in White Cat and loving it. If you’ve never been to a Cassie Clare/ Holly Black signing—it looks a little something like this. Well, that's the line. It was packed out! ---->

And if you didn’t know this, Cassie is super hilarious and Holly is probably the sweetest lady I’ve ever met in my life. So they are both winners—and you can tell they’re friends because they bounce comments back and forth like it’s second nature. I love it. It made for a thrilling event.

Cassie and Holly both did readings. Cassie from Clockwork Prince (WOW!) and Holly from Red Glove.  I got a small snippet from Cassie before my camera freaked out.

Cassie reading:

They also did q&a from the audience. Here are some recaps from that!

What’s harder about a series: the first book or the last?

Holly: The first book because you have to do so much world building.
Cassie: The last book because you have to pay-off everything you’ve set up.
Holly: The last can be difficult if you didn’t figure out something you thought you would by then.

Where did the idea for Shadowhunters come from? Which side has more in the uprising? Which book was your favorite to write?

Cassie: Shadowhunter idea came after visiting with a friend and seeing tattoo designs and then playing the “what-if” game. That friend still does the drawings for all the runes in the books; The Clave because they had warning and enough time to gain help from the Downworlders; City of Glass because of the pay-off.

Do you like writing Jace or Will more?

Cassie: “That’s hard. Jace is comfortable. I’ve known Jace longer and better; he's very easy and familiar. Will is crazy!”
Holly: “Crazy as a bedbug!”
Cassie: “He’s very fun because you don't know where he will go and there's pleasure in that.”

Do you feel bad for killing off characters and have you ever not killed a character?

Holly: Cassie doesn't feel bad ever! I've never planned to kill someone and not killed them but I have given more scenes because I liked them.

Cassie: I've put off killing them (like the character that dies in the third book) because I thought it would be more upsetting to the readers if he was around longer. I enjoy slaying. And if they didn't die it'd remove the conflict from the story and happy people are boring.

Favorite character from each other’s books?

Cass: Rioban in Tithe; Jarrod, Ian and Cassel’s grandpa in White Cat.

Holly: Luke and Will. I love Luke. She’ll tell me about something and I’ll always ask “Well, what about Luke?” or “How does that affect Luke?” And Will but not in a shipping way. I love Will because he’s crazy. There’s a scene in the new one where he chases a demon in a circle at a party. There are guest and everything and he’s chasing the demon around and yelling.

Cassie: It’s a small circle

Holly: That’s worse!

Why do you change POVS in the book? (Someone also asked specifically about “more Alec in CoLS” and “why Holly switched between Tithe/White Cat”)

Cassie: You get the most interesting things that way from all the characters with the back and forth. Otherwise, you’d be watching people sleep and eat pizza. And yes, there will be more Alec in book five because he follows up on an offer made in CoFA.

Holly: Book two (of Tithe series) was supposed to be new book about kids who live in subway and deal with addiction with the twist of a modern tale about a girl who wants to be a knight. Then, as I wrote it I ended up putting in the same world as Tithe.

With Curse Workers, I wanted to try something new so I did first person and present tense. But hard things are hard—and you can try them but they are still hard. Now, I have to keep going on it but I may not do it again.

Where did Magnus come from?

Cassie: I was clubbing with my friend John in NYC and he was encrusted with glitter. We went Sbarro’s to some Coke to drink and the lady behind the counter says, "Never in my life have I seen such a shiny man!" And there was Magnus. John, like Magnus, is very intelligent, rounded, wise, fun and sparkly. Initially Magnus was only supposed to appear at the party but I liked him and he got more screentime.

*Possible spoiler for CoB-CoG* How did you get the idea to have Jace and Clary believe they were brother and sister?

It was a real-life story that she saw in a hotel in England. A boy and girl were married and both were adopted. So, they did genetic screening to see if they carried any factors that could affect their children. The results came back that they were brother and sister. The country made them get divorced but the idea that you loved someone that you absolutely couldn’t was really appealing.

What advice do you have for writers?

Holly: We have a list for this. I handle advice and Cassie handles writers block.

1. Read everything and read outside comfort zone to learn new ways to do things. 2. Write a lot and figure out your style, plot and characters. 3. Get a crit partner at the same level you are how can tell honestly how it is and ask you hard questions. The accountability is important so they can ask, "Why didn't you do this?"

Some other tidbits of information:
  • Would Holly and Cassie ever co-write a book? Yes! They have written shorts together and would be interested if schedules worked out.
  • In the overall series of Infernal Devices you will find out where/what Tessa's parents are any why/how she was in City of Glass with Magnus.
  • In original draft of City of Glass, Alec and Jace kissed but she took it out because it didn’t work. It’s online somewhere though if you are curious.
  • Cassie has no tattoos of her own, but she’s really honored that people get them because of her books. “You’re always obsessed with things you don’t have yourself.”
  • Weirdest fan encounters: someone threw water on Holly but no one knows why. Cassie met a couple who were naming their baby Jace. When she asked the father if he was okay with it he said “That’s a badass name!” And thought it was cool that Jace has a flying motorcycle and kills demons. 
  • Holly said: “I knew I wanted to write b/c I looked around one day and everyone else had grown up and stopped but I hadn’t.
It was a great event! They did the signing after and we spent two hours waiting in line for Cassie, but it was fantastic. I got to chat with Holly some while we waited; we talked about make-up, writing and I even convinced her to read CLARITY. The time passed quickly.  Plus, since we were the last ones up to see Cassie and they ran out of chapter samplers and TMI postcards, Cassie gave each of us some Shadowhunter goodies! The other Danielle and I now each half a friendship rune necklace--so that's all sorts of awesome. The other perk? We got to get a group shot!



May is almost here. With it comes the realization that I am so far behind. So far behind. With BEA on the cusp, I don't want to be far behind because when I come back I'll be that much more gone. On top of a stack of old book reviews to write, new books to read and netgalley requests, I have the biggest issue: my WIP which sits unfinished at less than 20K.

Fear not friends, I have a plan to fix this. And that plan is May.

May is writing month. I'll have 22 days to finish my WIP. I really want to come back from BEA able to edit and read all the wonderful books that await me. I won't be able to read much this month (despite the stack) as I'm only reading on the T going to/from work. This was a hard decision but I NEED to finish this WIP. It's a need that runs deep and I will not be defeated.

What does that mean for the blog?

It will be filled with more writing/life type posts. Or if I have time to write past reviews/new reviews I will do that. Maybe some quest posts. Maybe some more quiet than I usually like. I'm not really sure what will happen. I do have two EPIC things planned. Tomorrow it's the Cassie Clare/Holly Black event re-cap AND giveaway. May 2: The Sekrit Project reveal.

But for the most part, it will be random. There may even be more random contests like before! Just bare with me. I will be back in June with love, books, reviews, a follower contest and a blogoversary! (WOW!)

In the meantime, enjoy these parting videos.

Hilarious video:

For fans of Doctor Who:

For fans of Harry Potter:



Got these books?

Grad school starts in a month and I need books/scenes from books/help! Does anyone have any of these that  you'd be willing to send me? If so just leave a comment and I'll send you my address/talk with you about shipping and such. Thanks friends! I have one more class that hasn't posted materials yet. :)

Open Secrets by Alice Munro (need: "A Wilderness Station" )

Later the Same Day by Grace Paley (need: "In This Country, But in Another Language, My Aunt Refuses to
Marry the Men Everyone Wants Her To")

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (first chapter only)

Zen in the Art of Writing by Bradbury

Stop-Time by Frank Conroy (need: pages 110-117)

The Craft of Writing by William Sloane (need chapter on SCENE)

The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield

The Lemonade War by Jacklyn Davies

Children's picture books:

Whistle for Wilie
The Carrot Seed
Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel
Owl Moon
Kitten's First Full Moon
The Night is Singing
Goodnight Moon


Writing in the Fire Swamp

Sometimes, you get stuck. And I'm talking "sinking in the mud in the middle of the woods and there's no one to help you out" stuck. This has been me lately--in my current novel and in many aspects of my life. I feel like I'm in a transition period (I utterly hate transitions, yet I seem to always be in one.) With this book, I've been tottering on the edge of quitting and the edge of determination. I've been stuck in the middle.

And for some reason, it made me want to watch The Princess Bride. So I did--and I realized something pretty awesome: writing a book is just like treading through the Fire Swamp. (If you're not a writer, I also think this applies to life.)

The Fire Swamp is filled with three terrors, which Buttercup and Westley must face in order to make it to safety of Westley's ship. What are the three terrors? Flame spurts, lightning quicksand (also called Snow Sand) and the Rodents of Unusual Size. All three of these are something you will face in life and/or in writing.

Flame Spurts: Unexpected Pain

At first, you don’t know what to expect when you hear the popping sound. Then fire spurts up from the ground. And bam—Buttercup's dress is on fire and she and Westley are trying to put it out. The first thing Westley asks Buttercup in this scene is if she’s hurt. She’s not. But now there’s the realization that this place they fled to for safety has the potential to be very painful.

Sometimes things hurt when you’re writing. Scenes are tough and emotional. You have to kill a character. Your MC makes a dumb decision. You have to cut the scene you really, really love because it doesn’t work. The fire spurt in writing can be anything; whatever that thing is for you, it is hard for a reason. Writing has the potential to be very painful.

A quote from the movie (my favorite ever) is from Westley before all this happens. He says "Life is pain. Anyone who says different is selling something."

Things will happen that you don't expect. You'll be burnt by someone or something at some point. You'll be tired and scared, but I think that's good. The heroines know when they see the flames, that this is not going to be as easy as they believed, that they have to be on guard. And the potential for pain, the prospect of being hurt, “keeps you on your toes” as Westley says in that scene.

The fire spurts are necessary so you can prepare yourself for those things that will hurt. Because writing is hard. Living is hard. You need to know that going in so you can be ready. It will not be an easy journey.

Lightning Sand: Unexpected Sinkholes

Great! Westley and Buttercup survived the pain. Awesome. He told her all about where he's been and life’s all good—that is until Buttercup is sucked under into some hole that she didn’t see.

This is the Lightning Sand. Sometimes in writing you get stuck—and you don’t see it coming. In fact, you NEVER see it coming or you would fix it before it happened. You get to this place in a story where you realize it's not moving. The things that were happening aren't anymore. The direction is confused; motivations are off; there's this whole scene you didn't think of and now there's a hole. And "Crap, how do I fix this?"

When Buttercup falls into the sand, Westley fixes the problem immediately. He grabs on to a vine and jumps in. He saves Buttercup and pulls her out. But there’s this moment in the movie right after he jumps in, when you’re waiting and it’s silent. You’re waiting to see what will happen—and when you’re feeling the pressure Westley and Buttercup return to view! They are out of breath but safe!

In writing—there are two options: jump in and move things around so you make it good again OR wait. I can’t tell you what you should do, but I know what I do: I wait. Waiting sucks. I am completely impatient; I hate silence, problems that linger, and no ideas. Those things make me nervous. I've learned is that it’s better if you take a moment to connect with your story, to talk about it with someone else, to see what happens if…and maybe you’ll find a way out of the hole. The worst part about that is waiting, but sometimes YOU HAVE TO WAIT. Especially when it's for a good thing.

There are other kinds of sinkholes. Ah-ha! Thought you escaped that one because you're not stuck in your story? Well, sorry. Let's say it's something else. What about querying? Submissions? Revisions? You have to wait for those things too. There's always something that will put you in a position where you have to wait. At the very least, it's a red light or the next train--and the same rules apply. Waiting will always, most undoubtedly suck. But you have to be brave and believe.

My favorite thing about this scene with the lightning sand is the very next moment.

Buttercup: We’ll never succeed. We may as well die here.

Westley: No. We have already succeeded. What are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp? One: the flame spurts—but we know there’s popping sound before each one comes. Two: The lightning sand—and you just discovered what it looks like so we can avoid it next time.

Buttercup: What about the ROUSes?

Westley: Rodents of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.

Rodents of Unusual Size: Unexpected Struggles

Westley doesn't think they exist--and that's when one attacks him. Now, he has to fight it. It's survival. Westley or the ROUS.

This is the clincher. This is the part you never see coming. It’s the struggle, the stuff that comes AFTER you’ve fought all these other terrors. You get attacked from the outside. And you have to fight.

What do I mean by this? What are the ROUSes of writing? Everything.

Life is full of distractions. It's busy and you have to carve out time to write. You have to stay focused when there are thirteen things you need to do in the next hour. Distractions are a ROUS. But there are other things. A friend gets an opportunity that you don't. There's nothing happening in your inbox. You can't beat this scene. Someone else just signed a book exactly like yours. You have Shiny New ideas clawing away at your head.

All of these things are ROUSes. The ROUSes don’t want you to succeed; they want to consume. You must never let them. They are fighting for you. You can't stop fighting or you will lose. It's you or the ROUS. The hardest part of dealing with the ROUSes? Keeping up strength. Having hope. Staying sharp. Being patient. Believing. Believe in what Westley says—you’ve already succeeded if you’re this far because you’ve made it past all the other things.

Say you defeat the ROUS. Woo-hoo. Awesome. But don’t be fooled. There are many, many, many more things that you have to face. Just because the three terrors are past you doesn’t mean there aren’t more in front of you. Look at the movie. There are still kidnappers, an evil prince, a six-fingered man, torture, paralysis and a dual. It’s a constant battle. You can’t let your guard down for a second.

BUT in the end of the movie there’s happily ever after.

And when you're finished writing there's a book.

There's always something to show for all the pain, sinkholes and battle against ROUSes.

In fact, I saw this behind the scenes commentary piece about the Fire Swamp and someone said, “When you go in you don’t come out the same person.”

When you’re writing a book, it is going to change you. It will make you braver, make you stronger, give you hope, teach you more than you could ever imagine. Life will do the same thing.

The Princess Bride would be pretty boring without all the challenges, and if the characters didn’t have to fight for what they wanted. But they did. And so will you. In writing AND in life. Because this applies to both.

Be on guard. 
Be brave. 
Don't be afraid of the Fire Swamp.


Open Call for BEA roommates!

Once upon a time there was a girl named Danielle who only wanted (for a whole year) to go to BEA. The girl named Danielle decided she would go--then she realized how poor she was and that she could, in fact, not go. She was sad. So she withdrew from her hotel and tried to deal. Then she got a new job that paid her a lot more money and the pain and disappointment of not being able to go to BEA became so overwhelming that she cried. A lot. Then, late one evening she decided "I am going. Even if I have to eat Ramen for a month." So she is.

Wasn't that a great story? I've decided to take the plunge and shell out for BEA this year. Coming along with me is Nikki from Wicked Awesome Books. It's the first time for both of us and we are super excited.

The only problem: we have no place to stay. Actually, we have an apartment on hold right now in Brooklyn (only 20 minutes from Jatvis), but we'd love some more roommates to split the cost with. We're looking to spend $200-300 each (but would love to keep the number low!), so if you're interested in rooming with us, please email me at
OR Nikki at

If you already have a place for BEA, but you're looking for two more roommates, we'd love to work something out. You can email us at the either email address above. Or find us on Twitter: @daniellebunner @nikkayme The apartment we have on hold is only ours until Tuesday, then it goes back up for grabs. 

So if you are looking for roommates, please, please, please email me!


Book Talk: DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

This is my first-ever Vlog Review!

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date:  May 3, 2011
Series or Standalone: First in series
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. Learn More on Goodreads
Pre-order it: Amazon     Book Depository     Indie Bound
Here's my review! 

In summary: I loved it & you should read it.



The contest of Random

Yall really, really provided with the random things. I'll have to do that more often!! It was fun. :) Thanks for sharing your fun stuff. I'll be sure to do this again!

I put 14 numbers into Random.org and the number was 5. 

So, the lucky winner is: 

Everything was awesome. Here are some of the things everyone linked!

2) This too funny video from facebook.


4) This music maker! (I loved this!!!)


6) A great writing prompt called One Word.


8) And....a really, really, really hilarious (and TRUE) comic called How To Pet A Kitty.

Thanks again! Embrace the random. Enjoy. :)


Gimme the Random

I'm off today, which is awesome. You have no idea. And my WIP found itself last week in the midst of a huge hole. After talking through the hole with a couple friends, I've finally got a few ideas about how to make it out of the hole. I'm going to work on that all afternoon while I recover from birthday cake coma.

Plus, I like games. Games are cool. And I need some random to keep me going.

In the comments below, send me a link. It can be a video, a song, a post that you loved from someone else--pretty much whatever you want. (and no, it doesn't have to be funny.) Include your email address! The contest will *end* at midnight on Tuesday. And Wednesday morning I'll use random.org to pick a winner---and you'll win a book!

Also, if you tweet this contest then leave a separate comment with that link. That way when I'm putting in the numbers into random.org, I can just see that I have 15 comments and commenter 7 is the winner. Make sense? It's super easy!

Here are the choices:

Die For Me (arc)
Thirteen Reasons Why
Gemini Bites
The Girl's Guide to Homelessness (arc)
Angel Burn (arc)
Girl Wonder (arc)
My choice: A secret book not on this list.

 *Waits for comments*


You know you want this: Hourglass

My lovely friend over at Blogger Hearts Books put together a sekrit project! Why? 

In TWO MONTHS this freaking brilliant book will be out in the wild. I have the most fabulous vlog review that you will someday be able to to watch. It's complete with surprisingly coherent thoughts and only minor use of the words "so good." You'll have to come back in six weeks to get my full review...but here are a few reasons why Hourglass is so amazing. 

  • Black belts
  • Snark
  • Emerson (She's the MC...with the black belt and the snark!)
  • Humor 
  • Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff 
  • Romance
    • No wait...like really. 
    • Like...so good. 
    • Like "Call me gravy and sop me up with a biscuit" good. It sticks to you and leaves you wanting more. Yes, please!
  • Kick-butt MC, packed with so much goodness, strength and many surprises.
  • A unique story told with class, humor and all things that scream delicious-ness.
  • Every character in this book serves a purpose---minor, major, mentioned in passing. I love it.
  • Doctor Who references (Because, yes: that matters.)
  • It will have a glitter-y shimmer cover! Sparkly things are always fun.
  • Twists that you don't see coming.
  • Michael Weaver!! 
    • He's the bomb. 
    • He's gorgeous.
    • He's lovely.
    • He's swoon-worthy times a thousand.
    • He's friendly, caring, and really, really, fantastic.
    • He's the sugar in the sweet tea!
  • Hourglass is simply LOVELY LOVELY LOVELINESS 
Seriously. What else do you need to know?

Fine. A few more reasons to pre-order Hourglass: Myra McEntire is awesome. I support her and love her....and her writing will blow you away.

HOURGLASS is a brilliant debut. You'll finish it and want to read it again. And then again, just because you need to. It will haunt you, in that good way that only books can do. Books, and really, really, really good meals. In fact, if I could literally eat a book--I'd eat Hourglass. It's that good.

Don't believe me? Julie agrees. And the other Danielle. And Harmony will tell you all about it tomorrow.

How about these two little blurbs...

"Pulls your heart in every direction. A brand new twist on time travel with an explosively delicious romance."
              ~ Beth Revis, New York Times Bestselling Author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

"The most original book I've read this year, with a mind blowing plot that had me flipping pages way past my bedtime. I wish I could go back in time and read it again." 
           ~ Rachel Hawkins, New York Times Bestselling Author of the HEX HALL Series

Sounds like a winner? Because it is. You don't want to miss it!

In fact, Myra's hosting her own celebration by doing a Past, Present & Future giveaway. You can also ALWAYS pre-order Hourglass at Amazon. Whatever you do--don't miss this debut! Two months away!


Book Talk: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Date: April 26, 2011
Series or Standalone: First in series
ISBN:  9780373210268
Format: Paperback, 304 pages

Check it out:  
Goodreads    IndieBound   Book Depository   Amazon

First line: "How did it happen this time?"


Compelling Characters

I recently had a conversation with another blogger about a book she was reading. She was saying she didn't really like the book, the plot or the writing but "the characters are so enthralling I can't stop reading." Now, my instinct is to yell, "STOP!" How can you read a book full of mediocre writing and a bad plot, and keep reading? O.O???

But she did. And she finished the book. It got me thinking about compelling characters...

So I did the only thing I could do: I made a list. (I like lists. Lists are cool.) I watch a lot of TV--and it's an excellent resource for finding grantastic characters. These are just a few on that list.

Chandler Bing.  I love Matthew Perry in everything he does because he has this way of making characters completely jump off the screen. Chandler is my favorite character from Friends because he's funny, snarky, insecure, loyal and completely honest.

Lorelai Gilmore. My friend Ashley pointed out Lorelai and I smacked myself. Lorelai (as well as Lauren Graham in general!) is an amazing character. She's flawed and she knows it. She continuously puts herself in these situations and has to figure a way around herself to get out of them. She's also fun, loving, strong and independent.

 Buffy Summers. This is a cast picture because while the show is about Buffy---who's all sorts of strong and kick-butt--she wouldn't be as great without her friends. Each of the characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer get developed and taken to new and deeper grounds, and each bring something different to the show.

 Captain Jack Sparrow. No one can deny that 2005 brought one of the best movies--Pirates of the Caribbean. And with movie four approaching, the undeniable force behind the movies is Captain Jack Sparrow. As far as characters go he's the tops. You don't really know his story--but you know he's smart, he's funny, he's manipulative even though it tends to work out in the favor of the good side. He cares about his friends a lot and he'll go out of his way to help, but it's usually in his own way. Plus, he's awesome.

LOST. I was trying to pick one character but it was hard. And as far as characters--this show is awesome. Ben Linus. Richard. Jack. John Locke. Jacob. So many! I mean, they're all so amazingly developed.

But if I have to pick one...Charlie was always my favorite.  He was flawed too (I guess I like that) but went from being a selfish druggy to the guy who died for everyone. I mean, have three more important words ever existed in television?

Sylar. Heroes did a lot of things wrong--but in the beginning (and in the end) they did a lot of things right. One of them was Sylar. He was evil, vicious, horrid. But there was something about him that made him...well...relateable. Especially when you got to know him as Gabriel Grey--the lonely son of a watchmaker who wanted only to be special and, in that pursuit, became evil incarnate. But that's not fair either, because he was so much more. He was always surprising. The show was great with characters too. It's probably the only show I watched for characters and NOT for plot. Ever.

The Doctor. I don't even know what to say here. He's The Doctor. He's the guy in the TARDIS who goes around the universe stopping evils and saving lives. He faces loss and challenges and minutes until ultimate destruction--then he figures out the answer. Sometimes, it takes a while but he always so selflessly gives and it hurts him. He's brilliant and instills hope in everyone around him. No matter what his face looks like, he's always the same.

And then there's his companions. Rose. Martha. Donna. Amy. (Even, Rory.) They are all well-developed characters, much more than a sidekick. They have their own lives, problems, trials and decisions. Everyone The Doctor meets is changed by him in some way. I mostly think of Mickey Smith, who gave up things and switched universes to save everyone--and he was a minor player in the show.

OK. So...we have all these great characters. I took the things I said about the said about the characters and made another list. Apparently, when I'm thinking about compelling characters I like a character that overcomes something to be better. I like flaws, humor, strength, loving, snark. I like when you can't really figure them out and when they are more than what they seem. I like overcoming obstacles, instilling hope, and when they are very real. Characters that help other characters grow and change--all the while doing the same thing.

These traits also cross over to books. When I think about my favorites, I can see these characteristics there. Every single thing isn't always present, but at least a couple are. Even with a compelling character, if I don't like a story or the writing--it's really hard for me to keep reading. I don't think you can separate a great character from a great story. Without one, the other doesn't matter--at least in my opinion. What would LOST be without the character development? What would Jace be like if he was removed from MI and tossed into Gilmore Girls? My guess is--probably not as effective.

So tell me--what makes characters compelling to you? What makes you keep reading (or watching) when the story is only so-so but the characters are great? What do you look for? What turns you off to a character? What makes them stick out in your memory forever? Do you settle for great characters over a great story--or does it matter?


Book Talk: Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Book Talk is similar to a review. It's a place where I share my thoughts on a book I read and hopefully, you share yours as well. Tell me if you liked it or if you want to read it and any thoughts you have at all! I'd love for this to be more a book talk forum.

Publisher: Random House
Date: April 22, 2011
Series or Standalone: First in series
ISBN: 978-0375867330
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Check it out:  
Goodreads    IndieBound   Book Depository   Amazon

First line: My name is Josephine Darly and I intend to live forever.

Blood Magic has a lot to offer. First, there’s magic. Second, there’s blood. Third, there’s a hot boy named Nicholas. Fourth, there’s Silla—who’s all kick butt and doesn’t play. (That’s a pun. She's an actress.) Fifth-Ninth, there’s a mystery, a secret, a book, a bunch of crows, and a brother. Tenth, Tessa Gratton wrote it. And it rocked.

The story follows three people. It opens with a journal from a mysterious character named Josephine Darly. Silla and Nicholas are the main characters. Both bring extremely different voices to the story. The other two characters are Silla—who’s just lost her parents—and Nicholas—who’s just moved to town & spotted Silla. At first, it seems that these three characters have nothing in common, but the truth is that they have everything in common.

That’s what I loved most about this story. Tessa Gratton weaved together this story with precision and detail. It was like pulling a thread and seeing the whole thing unravel perfectly—it’s all that connected.  It takes a certain kind of grace and skill to make a story have this much life.

Silla’s story opens in the graveyard, where she holds a mysterious book and sits at her parents grave. She’s just learned about magic and she jumps right in. Those first two pages tell so much about her character. When you read the book, go back and double check. It will change the way you read. Silla is an actress, which is important. She spends her life pretending. When her parents die, she wears mask after mask and no one really notices—until she meets Nicholas and he sees through it all. He gets her in ways no one else has, in ways that even she doesn’t understand and she grows because of that. I would say that more of this book is supposed to be Silla’s story—but I found myself leaning toward Nicholas.

Nicholas was a surprise to me. From the first page of his story, I love him. He’s snarky and fun and for me, I found myself believing his character most, wanting to read the next line from him throughout the whole book. I’m sure that will read differently to everyone, but I liked Nicholas a lot. He seemed more...relatable, even thought I’m a girl. His part of the story opens at dinner with his dad and stepmother, where tensions are high. When he ventures out into the graveyard, he sees Silla doing blood magic and everything changes for him.

Again, I want to say that Blood Magic unfolds like no other story I’ve read. I keep thinking about how flawlessly each detail was put together and came out—subtly sometimes, loudly other times—but always in perfect time. I especially loved the aspect of Josephine Darly’s journal and all the things therein.

Blood Magic is a lot of things and I can’t think of a single word to describe it. There’s everything from steamy make-out scenes (many!) to bloody magic (sometimes detailed. You don’t miss it for sure!) to action and mystery and drama. It covers all the basics. There are even some sad parts in it. If you’re a queasy person, you may want to be prepared. The title is called Blood Magic because (here’s a spoiler): This story involves blood.

Ultimately, I like what it teaches you: that who you are matters. The things that have happened to you, the things you know and experience and learn all make you who you are. And you have to know yourself to truly live. The beauty of life is finding someone who can see through the mask, help you look in the mirror and then start to heal. And that power lies within, as much as it does in someone else.

I don’t know if everyone got that message, but I did. I think Silla and Nick learn that you can separate out parts of yourself, or wear masks to hide away from the past or the truth. Even if you want to face those things, it doesn’t mean they go away; they remain until you are ready to see. Eventually, you’ll have to deal with them—or they’ll deal with you.

 Talk about in the comments! Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you want to read it?


Life Lessons from Geometry and Cookies (or Square Peg Syndrome)

I'm sitting here failing to write a book review. I have many I need to write, but the words just keep failing me. My brain is trapped in one mode: shapes.

Things are "simple" with shapes. Square. Triangle. Circle. Rectangle. Pentagon....What you see is what you get. Count the sides and there's no room for question. A square is a square is a square is a square...no matter the size or color or location.

But when you think about it--really think about it--it does matter. 

If you flip a rectangle over a few degrees, you get a diamond. If you make that loop in the circle a little too long, you get an oval. There are other types of triangles: obtuse, acute, right. I think math-people would say all those are very different things, even if they are essentially the same.

That's the whole point of this post: everyone is different. Every blog, every book, every writer is different. Even if they are essentially the same.

Why am I talking about this? A few reasons. (stick with me)

1) A friend and I were talking about contemporary books all having a similar rhythm and way with words. She said it was a formula that even paranormal books have. I keep trying to agree with that, and can't. Because the words and rhythm of Author A should be different than Author B, even if the stories are similar. Because they are different.

2) I stumbled in a conversation that someone only needed to read one blog--because they were all the same anyway. This, of course, is complete crap. (Sorry, person.) But every blog is different. Sure, they may share meme's and review the same books, but the opinions, ideas and voices of each person are so incredibly different.

3) My real-life community is in a transition (my whole life is it seems); we're going from a dream, a hope, a plan to a reality. And with that there are things that need to happen, roles that need to be filled, a place where everyone needs to fit. It's exciting! I love that it's all happening and I want to dive in and help. But the things they need help aren't things that I enjoy doing or really even want to do whole-heartedly. So, that makes me feel displaced, like a square peg that's trying to fit in a round hole.

I was thinking about ALL that. About how we put ourselves in these boxes. About how we make life this checklist and force all the things around us to fit into it. And it doesn't fit. But we shove anyway. We twist. We pull. We push. We trim. We shape. We want it to fit. And then we wonder why, in the end, we're tired and broken.
Here's why:  a square cannot be a circle.

Well, &%^#! What now? What do we do when we can't be the fill the kind of need that exists? When we can't be the type of blogger who brings in 15 bazillion unique visits in a day? When we aren't the kind of writer that makes words flow and dance and hearts stop beating and tears fall because the lines are so good?

You're right. We quit. We don't try to find a place to fit. We don't create something new. We stop existing and disappear.

I bet that's what Augustine Rodin did he got the idea for The Thinker...laughed and threw away the design because it was too different.

I bet that's what Oatmeal Raisin cookies did when they couldn't be Chocolate Chip--just stopped existing because they weren't good enough.

And when JK Rowling had an idea about a little magical boy named Harry with black hair, a scar and glasses, she completely scrapped that idea because it was too hard and too scary.

Oh wait...they didn't? You mean, The Thinker is one of the most famous sculptures of all time? And people actually eat Oatmeal Raisin cookies? And--what??--JK Rowling is like the twelfth richest woman and one of the most influential women in Britain?

Fine. But what does all this have to do with shapes and blogging and writing--I'm so confused?!

It has to do with this: BE YOURSELF.

We're taught that in elementary school, but somewhere along the way we forget. We become so obsessed with fitting into the mold, we forget that we are supposed to be different! We are different. Every person has something about them that's unlike anyone else, even if sometimes it seems essentially the same. No two people are alike. And you know that saying, "Opinions are like noses. Everyone has one." And they are all uniquely different.

So what if I can't find a place to serve and help that's exactly what I want to do. I can find something else! I can say hello to people and celebrate that a dream is becoming a reality. I can watch and wait and find a way to serve that fits me when it comes up. Me. A job no one else may see as a need until later. I matter there. 

So what if your blog only has 200 followers--that's awesome! Remember when it was you and your best friend and some random kid who entered a contest? You've come far! And no one comments on your reviews? Oh well. The four people that are reading them are listening to you. And that post you wrote last week, yea...that really affected someone. Remember that email? Don't doubt your blog because it's your voice. Yours.

SO WHAT if the words in your novel don't make you want to cry at every line. Who wants to cry at every line? Just write the book! Just tell the story. Let it suck...and then fix it. And take criticism. And then fix it. And fix it some more. And make the words flow. EVEN IF it doesn't sound like author A & B. I'd say that's good! I don't want all my books to sound the same. I don't all my characters to have a dead mother or a dead sister or a crazy boyfriend. I want different. That crazy aunt who talks to the flowers in her closet--I'd read that. Write it. Find your voice---YOURS. Not JK Rowling's. Not Cassie Clare's. Not Rachel Hawkins' or James Patterson's or your crit partner's. YOURS.

No one else can tell your story or fill your role. Only you. And if you don't do it--if you don't step up and be yourself and take a chance--then no one else will do it for you.

Not me because I can barely do it for myself.

Not that girl who doesn't know there's an entire world of blogs out there and she's missing out.

Not that agent who's waiting for a story just like yours.

Only you.

Everything has a place it belongs. And eventually, even the square finds a place to fit.


Shades Of Atlantis Blog Tour

Today I join some great blogger friends to host a stop on the SHADES OF ATLANTIS blog tour. Before I get to my portion of the tour, here's all the tour info and book info.

Win some lovely things! There are four giveaways going on:  1) Signed copy of Shades of Atlantis, a lined spiral notebook with SoA cover, bookmark, keyring, SoA 2011 calendar, and SoA mug. 2) Signed copy of Shades of Atlantis, a lined spiral notebook with SoA cover, bookmark, keyring, SoA 2011 calendar 3) TWO e-book copy of SoA

All you have to do to win: Leave a comment on each blog stop. The winners WILL be checked and chosen by Random.org  from the final blog April 19. You do not need to be a follower of ANY blog. Open internationally.

Blog Tour Stops:

April 1: Mundie Moms
April 2:
Once Upon A Twilight 

Since the death of their parents, Triona Pryor and her brother, Ben, have lived with their aunt and uncle in Camden, Maine. Now in her senior year of high school, Triona loves her family and friends, but she has always felt that she didn't quite fit in...in Camden, or anywhere else.

Enter Caleb Wallace, the devilishly handsome man who has recently moved to Triona's small town. While their attraction to each other is instantaneous, it also proves to be dangerous...and deadly.

When tragedy strikes, Triona flees to London for solace and to start her life anew. It's there she discovers from an unlikely source that her family has been keeping secrets from her - secrets about not only her birthright, but her ultimate destiny as well. Armed with this knowledge, Triona finds herself thrown into a whole new world and into a battle to save the lives of everyone she loves.

I have for you today a character interview. It was a hard decision because the book is full of great characters. But I picked my two favorite characters: Ben and Amanda. Ben is Triona's little brother and Amanda is her best friend. They were awesome characters, especially Ben. I found him very, very lovable. Enjoy the interview!


What are you feelings toward Caleb?
Complicated. I still feel Caleb was spineless back when he and Triona got together, but Triona loves him so I make an effort. At least he admitted that he messed up. Triona thinks everything is cool between us now, but I think it’s safe to say Caleb and I have some unresolved issues.

How did you feel when you found out about not being human?
My first reaction was excitement. I wasn’t shocked about the physical change. It came kind of natural to me. It’s difficult to explain. You know when someone asks a question and the answer is on the tip of your tongue? Well, it was like remembering the answer. It was something there all along. It took a few weeks to get my head around the birth right stuff.

When did you fall in love with Amanda?
Aww, you had to go there. Haha. I think I should probably put a disclaimer here — Guardians recognize their soul-mate by scent. It’s love at first sight for all of us.

I was five and Amanda was six when we met. I used to tease her just so I could see her cheeks burn and she always had a smile for me. Then when we got older… this is going to sound creepy, there were nights I would lie awake knowing she was in the next room with Triona having a sleepover. I could hear them giggling through the walls. It was just like awakening as a Guardian, I just knew Amanda was the missing piece of me right from the start.

What's your biggest fear?
Loosing Amanda or Triona. I’m pretty strong these days but that’s my Achilles’ heel.

What is something you want us to know about you?
I’m a big softy, but you really don’t want to get on my bad side. I don’t forgive easily.
Since you're pretty much immortal, what are some things you would like do with that?

What are some things you want to do with your longer life?
I’m not immortal and I don’t have a death wish, so I tend not to act as if I am. We live a lot longer than humans and are hard to kill but not impossible. Put it this way, you won’t find me jumping out of airplanes without a parachute anytime soon.

Our future is still a little unsettled. Caleb and Samuel began unraveling our history almost straight away but there is still a lot about who we are and what we are meant to do that we don’t know.  Eventually I would like to travel. I would really like to do something with all this money we have now. We can’t spend it all. Right now I’m not thinking further than being with Amanda.

What's the best memory you have with Triona? The worst?
The best is probably going to sound like the worst but it really isn’t. After our parents died and we moved in with Carmel and Lewis, I went through a phase where I couldn’t fall asleep alone in a room without waking up screaming. For six months Triona sat by my bed and held my hand until I dozed off.

The worst was the day she convinced me to take the boat out after the fire. I should never have agreed to it. She thought she had me fooled but she didn’t. I knew she wasn’t okay.

Some would call you a sidekick, what would you say to that?
Sidekick? Ha! Who are these people? Kick ass maybe but not a sidekick. Of course coming from Triona’s point of view it might look that way. When I tell my story you will see a whole other side to me.

Anything else you want us to know?
Yeah, I haven’t forgotten what Zeal did.


What did you think when Triona and Caleb got together?
I was really happy for Triona when they finally got together. It was great to see Triona so happy with him and it was obvious Caleb adored her. I felt bad for telling Ben everything that happened with Caleb when he first got to town. I think it colored his opinion of Caleb negatively. I wanted it all to work out for Triona so badly. I guess Ben is a better judge of character than I am. Do not tell him I said that.
What is something you want us to know about you?
I make the best cookies. I’m a lot more ambitious than people give me credit for and the idea of living for 400 years is scary. On one hands I’m excited to see how the world changes, on the other hand I can’t envisage the future at all. I’m still trying to get used to the idea.
When did you fall in love with Ben?
It’s hard to know. We were friends for a long time and I fought him all the way on taking it further. I couldn’t make sense of my feeling for him. I hated being away from him and it was weird because Triona is my best friend. Ben was her little brother. I used to get so angry when all the pretty girls at school followed him around like love sick puppies.

One night, when I was sixteen, I went out with this guy, Jack, from school. Ben was hiding behind the hedge outside my house. He wasn’t exactly stealth about it. The date only proved I had no interest in Jack or anyone else for that matter. When I got home Ben was still waiting. I went right up to him and kissed him for the first time. I think I loved him all along. He really didn’t need the Guardian stuff to win me over. He’s thoughtful, funny, smart, incredibly loyal and he loves his family. I know I doubted him a few times over the years but Ben has proved he will never let me down.

How was living it in London?
I loved living in London but I hated being away from Ben. At home, I’m the baby of the family. I have two older sisters. My mom cooked and cleaned. My parents paid the utilities. I think I found my independence in London. I got a job, I loved the classes I went to, and I made some friends. Triona paid for the apartment but I paid toward food and bills.

It was rough being away from Ben especially during the time we didn’t speak and seeing Triona spend so much time with John. John is a great guy.

I don’t have any bad memories of London, but after everything that happened I wanted to go home. My only regret about London is that I didn’t see more of it. We’ve been back since and I still didn’t get to do the tourist thing. Maybe next time.

What's the best memory you have with Triona? The worst?
The best memories with Triona are with Jennifer too. We used to have sleepovers and sit around in our PJs laughing and eating junk all night. We actually had one recently to cheer Jen up. She’s been having a tough time lately.

After the fire, that was bad.

What are you most looking forward to in life?
I’m looking forward to building a life, no more secrets. There are a lot of possibilities now.

What's your role as Triona's best friend?
I’m not sure I have a role, I’m mean it’s not like I’m playing a part. I’ve never thought about it like that. I guess I will keep doing what I’ve always done. Point out when she messes up with my passive aggressive behavior, haha, and be there for the good stuff, and the bad stuff. It’s a big relief knowing everything is out in the open between us now.

Anything else you want us to know?
I meant it when I said Caleb will have to deal with me if he messes up again.

Now you want to the read the book, right? Good thing we're doing some giveaways!  Good luck with the entries and have fun visiting all the blogs!


Fragment Friday (8): Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

It's time for another Fragment Friday! FF is a meme started by James of Book Chic. Basically the goal of Fragment Friday is to share a little snippet of what you're reading.

I recorded this last week in WV IN a SPECIAL location, with a few special guests. Enjoy!

About BLOOD MAGIC by Tessa Gratton