December 23, 2011

Wrapping Up Read-a-Thon

So glad I heard about this one.  I wanted to do a read-a-thon over break and this is the perfect one. 

It's being hosted by Remarkable Reads! Check it out.  

My list of books I'm picking from are shown in the picture.  I hope to get through at least half of them! :)

December 13, 2011

Author Interview: Alison Croggon

Today I'm very excited to welcome Alison Croggon to The O.W.L. Alison is the author a popular YA fantasy quartet, The Books of Pellinor, which is published by Candlewick and Walker Books. But that's not why she's here today.  She's here to help you get to know a book she self published on Amazon Kindle - Jimmy Wonderspoon

Sam Gorey knew that she had an odd family, because other people said so. She lived with her mother Elena in a little house by the sea, and her uncle Jimmy Wonderspoon, who most people thought was even stranger than Elena, lived around the corner. Her father, David Gorey, had disappeared two years before. It wasn’t that unusual not to have a Dad, but it was unusual to have a father who had literally vanished in a puff of blue smoke at the supermarket while he was buying toothpaste. Just after her tenth birthday, Sam discovered her father was not only a wizard, but a spy, and not only a spy, but had been thrown into prison in another world peopled by cats and rats. And that was only the beginning of her accidental quest to rescue her missing father from the evil Ingkor of Wat. 

Alison has agreed to answer a few question for us!  Welcome Alison!

For Jimmy Wonderspoon - what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
When I write stories, maybe the most important aspect for me is to get the relationships in them real. I suppose I want the readers to feel that these characters are as real to them as they are to me, and that what they feel is genuine, however absurd or fantastic their situations might be. I like Sam, my main character, quite a lot: she is feisty and fun, and she’s quite brave, although she does get herself into trouble because she is so impulsive. And her relationship to her mother feels very real to me.

Although it’s a nonsensical comic plot, I wrote the book in part to talk about difficult things, like what it’s like to miss someone you love, or what it’s like when you quarrel with people close to you, or what it’s like when your family is a bit different from other people. In this case, Sam’s family is a bit ramshackle: her father is a wizard spy and her mother is a poet.

I also had a lot of fun making up the world of Wat, and all the animal characters. Wat is where Sam ends up with her eccentric uncle, Jimmy Wonderspoon, trying to rescue her father, who has been kidnapped and imprisoned there.

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write Jimmy Wonderspoon from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can!
I generally write quite fast, although with long gaps in which the book is “cooking” in my subconscious. I wrote Jimmy Wonderspoon about ten years ago to amuse my daughter Zoe, and I think it took about a month. She was then about 11 and I read her each chapter as I wrote it. It was a very enjoyable way to write. Then I ran it past my two sons too, who both gave me the thumbs up.

The story actually emerged from a very vivid and strange dream, in which I was flying through clouds in a giant shoe, looking over a weird purple landscape. I woke up and thought, I have to write that story! Although, of course, I had no idea until I started writing it what it was about. Mainly, I just had fun making things up: I felt very free writing this story.

As for editing – I think I’m quite unusual among writers, because generally that’s my favourite part of writing. I’m working on the edits of my next book, a young adult novel Black Spring, right now (out in 2012/2013 with Candlewick) and I’m enjoying the process. Most writers I know hate it. I like the problem solving aspect of it – there’s nothing better than making a cut that solves a problem you’ve been fiddling with for days. It’s very satisfying when you feel that you’ve got something right. I also really enjoy collaborating with other people.

I edited Jimmy Wonderspoon myself: it’s been sitting in a drawer for ten years, which is why I’ve self-published it. I figured that maybe there are people out there who might like it as much as my children did.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
It is – I used all sorts of things. The section set in the “real” world describes a place very like the Melbourne suburb in which we lived at the time, and Sam’s home is based on my sister’s house, which was just around the corner from us. Most of its animal characters are based on various pets we knew. Certainly all the cats are: we knew a lot of cats, and I based all the cats on real animals and their peculiarities.

Sam is rather like my daughter, although not quite the same – she’s a fictional character, after all. (I should say that Zoe never poured green paint over her school enemy, and certainly never broke anybody’s nose.) She always tells me off for saying so, but at the time I wrote the story, she had a shocking temper. That stopped when she became a teenager, which is probably the wrong way around, but our family has often been the wrong way round.

When you were in middle school kind of student were you? Did you write then?
I was rather shy and awkward. Like a lot of people who end up being writers, I think! I was bright, but socially rather backwards. I have always written things, for as long as I can remember. According to my mother (I don’t remember) I wrote a verse on my first day at school. I attempted my first novel when I was about 10. That eventually, about 30 years later, ended up becoming my first fantasy series, The Books of Pellinor.

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing?

Oh gosh. That is a hard one, because there are so many. Narrowing the focus to writers for young readers, I suppose
Antoine St Expury’s The Little Prince is right near the top of my list of best children’s books ever: I totally admire the simplicity and beauty of his prose, and how he tells with such charm – and yet with not a trace of false sentiment - a fable that explores some profound truths. I’m afraid I cry every time I read it. I’d also put all Maurice Sendak’s books pretty near the top. Other favourites include the English writer David Almond, who is a brilliant writer by any standard. I’ve always admired CS Lewis’s style in the Narnia books, even if as I got older I became less enamoured of some of his messages (I always thought he was very unfair to Susan). He knows exactly how to write for young people.

The Fun Questions! (based on what 7th graders do!)

Do you chew gum? Yes or No If yes favorite kind?
No, but I do eat a lot of chocolate. Milk chocolate, by preference, but I’ll eat whatever I can get.

Did you pass notes in school? Ever get caught?
I was caught drawing a cartoon of my science teacher once. I hated him – I think it was mutual – and I drew him covered with spots. I was caught by my very ironical maths teacher, who was actually quite nice. Looking back, I think he was trying not to laugh, but he told me off anyway.

Do you text?
Yes, but I am the worst texter in the world. Autocorrect means that some of my friends have received messages from me that they simply do not understand.

Was school lunch just as yucky then as it is now?!
In Australia, we don’t have school lunches. We had to bring our own, or buy meat pies and salad rolls at the school canteen. I much preferred buying my lunch. My mother made our own bread, which meant we had to take sandwiches like crumbly bricks to school. I’m sure they were nice, but I wanted to have white bread like everyone else.

Thank you Alison for visiting The O.W.L. today! I never knew Australia doesn't have school lunches!  
I also love the reason for writing the book - to keep your daughter entertained! What a sweet way to write a book.

December 9, 2011

Guest Post: David Farland +Giveaway

Today I'm so very excited to welcome David Farland to The O.W.L. David Farland is a New York Times bestselling author.  His new book, an enhanced novel titled Nightingale, pushes the limits of reading. You aren't just reading - you're experiences the book!
 You must check out the trailer to see exactly what I mean!
(and pssst - It'll help with the giveaway later)

Here's the summary of the book:

Bron Jones was abandoned at birth, forced into foster care, and passed from home to home.  At age 16, he’s alone and friendless, a complete outsider—until he gets one last chance.  He's sent to live with a wondrous teacher, Olivia, who recognizes him for what he is: a "Nightingale," a creature not quite human.

Now, epic forces combine to pull Bron apart, stripping him from the only real parents, friends, and girlfriend he's ever known. 

Bron must risk everything to answer the mysteries:  "Where did I come from?  What am I?  Who am I?”

Today David Farland is sharing his thoughts on reading in the future.  
Welcome David Farland!!!

Reading in the Future

     Imagine that you put on your “reading glasses.” The glasses are dark, fitted with lasers and high-quality stereo earbuds, so that as you put them on, your entire field of vision is captured. A laser inside the glasses flashes a novel title on the interior surface of your eye.

     Of course, the book you see is my book (why not, it's my fantasy). The letters start small, off in the distance and they quickly draw closer to you, but they don't stop, they wash right over you and just when it seems they're all around you, they explode in a burst of light, “Nightingale, by David Farland.” You can hardly imagine what life was like before 3D. As soon as you read the last word, a laser with a computer link that tracks your eye movement cues the background music, and images begin to flash in your eye—a holographic video-clip of the character of Bron, as an infant, being abandoned outside the door of a cheap hotel in the Utah desert. The camera pans up to the face of his mother, Sommer, bitter and broken, with tears in her eyes. We flash to the prologue, where Sommer runs through a forest at night, her breathing deep, while dogs snarl and bark as they give pursuit. Fireflies rise up around her.

     Words to the novel appear on screen, as background music continues, and you begin to read. As Sommer twists her foot and falls, the lasers pace your reading and insert a sound-effect—the thud of a body falling, the hiss of breath knocked from Sommer’s throat. The dogs bay more excitedly. A man’s heavy footsteps can be heard tromping through the brush behind the reader, and a startled mewling cry escapes Sommer’s throat. . . .

     Welcome to the future of reading, where text, images, sounds and music forge a collage. That’s the vision I have that led me to become a co-founder of East India Press.

     The technology to do this already exists. The use of heads-up displays in fighter jets was pioneered in the 1960s, and that technology has now gone public. Though readers now are using the iPad2 and the Kindle Fire, I’m looking forward to the devices we’ll have five years from now, or ten years.

     How can reading technology be better than with current books?

     We don’t want to replace reading. We don’t want to make movies. Reading often engages the audience’s imagination in ways that movies fail to. We want to keep it that way. We want the reader to be a partner with us in bringing a tale to life. At the same time, we hope to ‘enhance,’ the story, help readers become more fully involved with it, yet keep budgets reasonable. With film clips, animations, illustrations, background music, and sound effects, we can create something that fuses a lot of storytelling tools.

     Creating e-books has become cheap and easy. This year, it is estimated that three million people will be putting their own e-books up for sale. That’s a staggering number. If you spend twelve hours a day just examining those titles, and spend only ten seconds studying each e-book put up this year, you wouldn’t be able to glance at even 1/100th of all the books that will be published—much less read one!

     Readers are being deluged, often with books that aren’t any good. Most of those books, unfortunately, wouldn’t have made it past an editor. The author just wasn’t ready. Sure, there will be a few diamonds among all of that coal, but no editor will have time to sort through it.

     I've had my share of sorting through manuscripts. For nearly a decade I was the first judge for one of the world’s largest writing contests. A funny story, once an editor of a major publisher asked me to help pick a book to give the “big publicity push to” for the next year. I read through thirty books and selected a book that the marketers thought was “too-long” for its intended audience. I pointed out that the book was also written several grade levels too high for its intended audience. But it was a great book, so I urged them to push it despite the book’s apparent problems. It was called Harry Potter.

     Even though authors can publish their own works, we’re going to need editors in the future who understand how to green-light a novel, who can recognize what will please an audience. But once a work is selected, the editor will take the role of a producer—assembling a creative team of composers, musicians, illustrators, animators, directors, sound-effects engineers, and so on.”

     Distributing enhanced books won’t be expensive. After all, it will be done electronically. There are no copies to print, ship, or store. But creating them will be expensive and time-consuming.

     Still, it will be a lot less expensive than making a movie. To create a really great movie with a lot of special effects can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and it will only give the viewer an hour or two of entertainment. But by meshing technologies, we can create a similar experience with novels, spending perhaps only a hundred thousand or two—and it will give a reading experience that might last for twenty or thirty hours or more! Novels have a unique ability to let us achieve deep penetration into the minds and emotions of a character, much more so than with a film. I’m excited about the possibilities.

     In fact, I am so excited about the possibilities that I went indie with this next novel. I didn't have to by any means. I'm an award-winning New York Times bestseller. Instead, I decided to start my own publishing company for enhanced novels. I see potential. Nightingale is the first young adult novel I’ve written, outside of a little work with Star Wars and the Mummy. I knew it could be a hit, but I wanted to do something . . . unique with it. I've trained dozens of other #1 international bestsellers, people like Brandon Sanderson and Stephenie Meyer, and I've learned to spot “good,” whether it's someone else's work or my own. Nightingale has it.

     Now that it’s done, this is a first step toward creating a more-engaging form of novel, the kind that kids who are reluctant readers might devour. I’m looking forward to see what we can do in ten or twenty years. But Nightingale is a step toward that future.

     Nightingale is the story of a young man, abandoned at birth, rejected from foster home after foster home. People see that he’s brilliant and talented, but also “strange.” He’s the ultimate loner until he meets Olivia, a marvelously gifted teacher, who recognizes that Bron is something special, something that her people call a “Nightingale,” a creature not quite human.

     I was excited to see how it would be received. I was even more excited when the first reviewer said, “I devoured the novel. It was absolutely incredible! . . . I struggled to explain just how much I enjoyed it in my review. . . . After reading Nightingale, I don't think I will even be able to go back to reading regular e-books again. Like it says in my review, reading the enhanced Nightingale felt like an ‘experience.’ It didn't feel quite like a book or a movie. It initiated all of my senses. . . . enhanced ebooks are actually a real deal.” That's what we were hoping people would see in it. The future of books is beginning now.

     Best of all, East India Press has created a new web simulation technology that mimics how the book appears on the iPad, so you can see and hear it for yourself for free at

If you're interested in Nightingale and would like to enter to win a ebook copy, fill out THIS FORM to enter.

YOU MUST WATCH THE TRAILER TO ENTER - this is so you know what is special about Nightingale!

Must be 13
Internationally because it's an ebook
Ends Dec 16th

December 8, 2011

Book Review: Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

Title: Water Wars
Author: Cameron Stracher 
Publisher:  Sourcebooks

Welcome to a future where water is more precious than gold or oil-and worth killing for.

Vera and her brother Will live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him-pursued by pirates, a paramilitary proup, and greedy corporation.

My Thoughts

I really like the concept for this book - that our world has lost much of it's supply of water.  To me it sometimes seems like a very real possibility.  As I read the book I thought a lot about having barely any water would be like.  Long hot showers would be a think of the past! My kids running through the sprinkler in the summer would not happen.  So many things would be affected.

Water Wars did a very good job in creating a world that without water that was easy to buy into.  The things they did were very believable.  What I really liked was that Stracher referenced much of the United States that I know now when showing how different the world was.  It make it so much easy for me to relate to the world of the book.  For example they are next to a huge country that included what use to be Minnesota. I live in Minnesota now, so it was very interesting to see how it was described in the book void of its 10,000 lakes! It just made it that much more real.

So the world creating was amazing, but I was less excited about the story.  The core of the story itself was good especially once Vera and Will go in search of Kai.  To see how big business and the more common man reacted to the lack of water was great.  It was almost scary to think about the fact that what Vera and Will see could be reality.  I also liked the action in this part of the book.  Once Will and Vera start after Kai the action is nonstop and it held my interest. 

But where I had problems was in the details of the story.  There were times I felt like I must have missed a page or two because Vera would be talking about something, and I'd have no clue how she got to that.  It seemed like details were left out, but then show up later.  The first time Kai and Vera meet she thinks that night that she should invite him to dinner.  But I was thinking "how she doesn't know anything about how to find him".  Well it turns out he gave her his number, but that wasn't mentioned.  Things that happened several times and it through me off a bit.  It wasn't a huge deal, but for me it interrupted the flow of the story because I stopped to think about it.  Once the action really started this happened less, so that was good.

Final Thought: Over-all an interesting story but the world building really captured my thoughts and "what-ifs".
Best stick-with-you image:  A barren Minnesota
Best for readers: Who are wondering what might happen if we ran out of water
Best for ages: 12+

For the Guys? I think so.  Even though Vera tells the story Kai and Will are strong male characters they could relate too.

December 7, 2011

Book Review: Liesl & Po

Title: Liesl & Po
Author: Lauren Oliver
Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.
That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.
Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.
My Thoughts
What a completely sweet and amazing book.  My daughter read this book and loved it, so I knew it was time to just set everything aside and read it. I'm so glad I did.  What a sweet story of love and friendship and hope in the face of circumstances that scream to forget all about that kind of stuff.  Poor Liesl has been trapped in her attic room for over a year yet she is still kind and caring.  Will has had a life of nothing but hardship.  He's been told over and over that he is "useless".  Yet he sees Liesl and is fill with happiness.  Two children that are not pushed down by the life they find themselves in. Instead they fight for what they need to do. 
I love Liesl.  She was a character so full of love for her father and it flowed out onto the people, and ghosts, around her.  But beyond that she was a tough little girl.  When she realizes what is happening her little spine straightens up and she starts to fight the best she can.  I so admired her!
Now Po.  I think Its (we don't know if Po is a boy or girl) story is the one that affected me the most.  So many times I wanted to just hug It.  Especially as Po began to remember bits and pieces about what it was like what It was alive.  Po seemed so lost even though It would never ever admit that! And then to help Liesl.  I just loved Its story! (and yes referring to Po as It did take some getting use to!)
Then there's Mo! Big sweet Gosh I liked his character.  Who else would be compelled to do go after Will because of one simple reason.  I heart like that just can't be beat!
Final Thought: A book that left me with hope and filled with awe of the magic around us
Best Stick-with-you Image: The Otherside
Best for Readers who: Need an uplifting story
Best for ages: 9+

For the Guys? Yes The story of Will would allow the boys to relate to the book

December 5, 2011

Help Followers! I Think I Need a Break

Hey everyone.  I'm posting this because unfortunately I'm the type of person that needs permission to do things, and it's your permission I need.

Lately I've been feeling a clear lack of excitement for writing my blog and reading the books needed for it.  It has been weighing heavily on me.  Because of this I feel like I'm not giving the blog the effort YOU ALL deserve.  It feels half done on my part.  I'm thinking about taking the months of December and January off from blogging.

During the time off I want to try to get back to the heart of what this blog should be - my love of reading. When I come back I want this blog to get back to just sharing my love of reading and the MG/YA genres. I also want to come back knowing for MYSELF that giveaways and interviews and getting the "cool" books are awesome and fun UNTIL it all stresses me out.  And that this blog can be fantastic without all that as long as my passion for books stays at the core.

 Here's where you all come in.  Sadly I need "permission" to do that - take the time off! And yes I realize how sad sounding that makes me.  But I need you to remind me that when I come back any followers I lost will be replaced by ones just as great (well actually I hear that Google is getting rid of GFC so that may not matter!). I just kinda need a little gentle push that say it's ok - go do what you need.

I love you all now - I'll love you more if you can give me that :)

And all that are reading this - I really do love you all.  The fact that I somehow do something ok enough to bring you here amazes me and I am thankful for each and every one of you!  I<3!!!!

AMENDED!!! For those I've promised reviews/interviews/guest posts to!! These, of course would still happen but I would get them done in the next two weeks.  I guess that means that I'd take mid-December to Valentine's Day off!

December 2, 2011