Thursday, October 29, 2009

Author Interview: Carolyn Meyer

I'm going to try and make an author post once a month, and so today I am super happy to announce Carolyn Meyer as my guest! She has been one of my favorite authors for just about as long as I can read. Her book are what made me love historical fiction, especially the Young Royals Series. So here's my interview with Carolyn with my questions in bold:

A lot of the books that you write are historical fiction. What kind of research do you do for your projects?

I start with a quick google to get an idea of dates and major events. Next I check the library for biographies, using the on-line catalogue, and then I trot down for a quick look, check out two or three that seem likely and later buy the ones that seem the most useful. Then I begin looking for the peripheral material--what they wore, what they ate, where they went to the bathroom--and that's when the fun really begins for me. Charles Darwin was easy--all of his correspondence, including letters from his sisters and the lovely Fanny, are in an enormous database. It gets even better: in the name of research, I went to England and visited Darwin's hometown, actually visited the house where Fanny lived, saw the school where he was so miserable, the house where he grew up, the universities where he studied. For the book about Mozart's sister, there was a trip to Vienna and Salzburg. My current project, Cleopatra, is much MUCH harder. Actual details of her daily life are scant, historians disagree about most of the basic facts, and I can't seem to get the image of Elizabeth Taylor out of my mind.

Do you have a favorite spot that you’ve travelled to?

I'll back to Paris in a heartbeat. The Nile in Egypt was certainly the most exotic.

That does sound exotic. Do you have one character or time period that you enjoyed writing more than the rest?

No. They range from Cleopatra to Charley Darwin with a number of interesting characters like Shakespeare and Mozart and members of royalty in between. I must say, though, that I was getting tired of the Tudors.

Are you allowed to give us a sneak peek of any of your new projects?

How's this?
(click to enlarge and to read excerpt and description on the jacket)
The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie Antoinette is scheduled for pub in spring 2010.

Wow! That cover is absolutely amazing! What is the one question no one ever asks you but you wish they would? And the answer too!

I don't think anyone has asked me if I've ever considered another career. I've been writing full time for 46 years. During the years when I was not making any money at all, I often wondered what else I could do. It's a little late to change now, but in my next life, I will be an architect. (But first I'll have to get really good at math and learn to draw.) I've always been interested in creating interesting living spaces.

Thanks so much for stopping by! It's been an honor to have you. :)

Carolyn Meyer is the author of over 20 different books including many historical fiction novels that cover topics from Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, Charles Darwin and Mozart. For more information on her and her books, check out her website or follow her on twitter:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: 10.28.09

Today's WOW post is a 2010 addition to one of my favorite series:

Violet Eyes by Debbie Viguie

About the Book: "Seventeen-year-old Violet is amazed when a storm brings the dashing Prince Richard to her impoverished family’s farm. The two fall in love at first sight, but although Richard has given his heart to Violet, his parents will only let him marry a princess of their choosing, a lady of the highest nobility and sensitivity. Now on a quest to be reunited with her true love, Violet must rely on her wits — and a little help from an unexpected source — to compete with princesses, pass the king and queen’s tests, and prove herself worthy of being Richard’s bride."

Do I really need to say anything about this? I LOVE the Once Upon a Time Series, so that alone makes me want to read it. Plus I'm excited to read a retelling of the princess and the pea. That's definately one that has not been overdone in the fairy tale retelling genre. I do like the cover, but I really miss Kinuko Craft's old covers too.

Violet Eyes will be relased on February 23, 2010 and you can currently pre-order it from

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: Magic Trixie

Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson

Poor Magic Trixie! Her little sister Abby Cadabera is ruining her life. Her sister steals her parents’ attention, her chance for cloudberry pancakes, and even her lunch. Now she has to figure out what to bring to school for show and tell that will outshine her classmates. But her family won’t let her near any real big magic. What’s a little witch supposed to do?

This is a book I went into with low expectations and came out pleasantly surprised. Magic Trixie is a book that is Halloween-y only in its setting. Trixie is, as you may guess from her name, is a witch and goes to school with vampires, werewolves, mummies, etc. But the problems she faces are those of a normal girl her age. (Especially the sibling jealousy. I struggled with that myself quite a bit when I was younger.) In the end Trixie is just a normal kid with missing front teeth… and color-changing hair. But you still get the idea.

This would be a great way to introduce younger readers to the graphic novel format. The book isn’t that long, so it would be a great read for those who are working on short chapter books. As a graphic novel it’s more graphics than text, and the graphics are full of all the zany, gross, and quirky touches that are so popular with kids. The back cover says 8-12, but I think 12 years old is pushing it a little bit. They can still enjoy it, certainly, but Trixie’s character seems like it would be a little immature to a `12-year-old (think annoying little sister).

I can see myself loving this book if I had read it when I was younger. I think there are currently three books out in this series, and I will probably pick up the other two. More for curiosity’s sake, since it wasn’t to die for good, but still a cute book.

Shady Glade Rating 7/10

Did you watch?

Okay, so I know from a previous post that there are a few Castle fans out there who read this blog. So did you watch last night? If you didn't, you absolutely can't miss this episode. You can see it again (or for the first time) at ABC's website. And if you haven't seen it before, then this is a good chance to get addicted to the show. :)

My fever spiked right around 9:00, but I dragged myself downstairs to lounge on the couch to watch anyway. And I wasn't disappointed. I won't give anything away, but this episode was absolutely perfect for Halloween. Those of you who are a fan of Nathan Fillion (the guy who plays Castle) from his Firefly days, pay close attention to the first few minutes of the episode.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Before you roll your eyes after reading that title, let me say that I hardly ever, ever, ever get sick. But this is the third time this year! My darling brother passed on his cold, and although it's probably not as bad as say swine flu, I feel totally miserable.

So things might be slowing down around here for a few days. Just to let you know...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What's in a Review?

So I've been thinking at bit as I've been working through my towering "to be reviewed" pile. I definitely have my own style when it comes to reviews, but what do you (my readers) think? Obviously I write reviews for my own benefit as well as yours, but I'm curious what everyone else thinks too.

So what do YOU look for in a review? Here's a few things that I've been tossing around in my head lately to get you thinking:

Summary from Amazon, or originally written summary?

Longer or shorter reviews?

Only positive or both good and bad things? (I don't do purely negative reviews. If I hate something it won't end up here.)

Ratings or no ratings?

Quotes or no quotes?

Links to other reviews or no links?

So I'm not going to mention my opinion on any of these since I want to know what you think. So leave me a comment and let me know. Even if you're one of those readers who just hangs in the background, please comment and share your opinion on this. I really want to get a wide response from my readers, and I promise I won't bite!

LOL of the week: Halloween edition

So since today is the last Sunday before Halloween, I thought I'd devote today to a selection of Basement Cat LOLs. For those of you who don't know, Basement Cat = devil while Celing Cat = God in LOLspeak. Okay, so now everyone's on the same page, here's some of my favorite Basement Cat LOLs:

If you'd like to learn more about LOLcats, you can check out the website, or read my review of the book.

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

RW Wrap Up: Ghost Stories

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed my first Recommendation Week on ghost books. For those of you who missed them, here's all the reviews that I featured this week:

Ghost Files: The Haunting Truth by The Ghost Society
Haunted Mansion by Various
The House Next Door by Richie Tankersley Cusick
A Coming Evil by Vivian Vande Velde
Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge: A Ghost Story by Kathryn Reiss

Here's a few more ghostly stories from me:

The Seer of Shadows by Avi - This was one of the Cybils finalists last year, and the first one I read. It's about a photographer and his assistant, who in taking a photograph of a high society women find a ghostly face appearing there. This one has got plenty of creeps and chills, and if you can pick it up soon, this one is perfect for Halloween.

The Ghost Wore Gray by Bruce Coville - This is a great ghost story for younger kids. Apparently it's part of a series, but this one is the only one I was ever able to find when I was growing up. Two best friends are investigating why a Civil War ghost is haunting the hotel where they are staying. What is his unfinished business? This is more mystery than horror, which makes it great for readers who are usually too creeped out by the ghost thing. This one's a little hard to find since it's out of print, but check your local library for a copy.

The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot (first book is Shadowland). - If you haven't heard of these yet, you really, really should pick them up. All six books reside around Suze, a who is a mediator, aka someone who can see and feel ghosts. Suze's mission is to get the dearly departed to move on, even if she has to kick thier butt into the afterlife herself. This series has got everything: a butt-kicking heroine, plenty of humor, teenage antics, and of course ghosts. Said case of ghosts especially includes Jesse, the hottest dead guy ever (in my opinion, anyway).

And here's some recommendation from readers:
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
Ruined: A Novel by Paula Morris
Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe
ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley
Ghost Huntress: The Awakening by Marley Gibson
Tryst by Elswyth Thane

A big thank you to everyone who submitted suggestions! I hope the rest of you have found some new reads to try. So that concludes it for this time. If you have suggestions for future Recommendation Weeks, please let me know!

Winner of Comment Contest: A Practical Guide to Vampires

As promised, here is the winner of October's comment contest for a copy of A Practical Guide to Vampires. Any comments made today will get rolled over to next month's contest.There were 153 eligible entries so far this month and the random number generator has picked lucky number 59 as the winner. That means

A Bookshelf Monstrosity

is our winner with the winning comment on this contest roundup post. Congrats! You have one week to email me with your mailing address and claim your prize.

For those who are interested, Kate had the top comment spot this month, earning her five extra entries into the contest. The other top ten commenters with one extra entry each were Alexa, Jenny N., Melanie, celi.a, elnice, Wrighty, Jennifer, katie, and RKCharron.

Congrats to those who made the top ten. Keep up the good work! For those of you who didn't win, there will be another comment contest coming up soon, so keep your eye on the blog in the next week so. And keep those comments coming!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Contest Reminder!

Don't forget! Today (the 23rd) is the last day to comment to win A Practical Guide to Vampires in October's comment contest. Comments made after today will be rolled over into November's contest.

Winner announced tomorrow!

Review: Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge

Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge: A Ghost Story by Kathryn Reiss

12-year-old Zibby can’t understand what came over her when she bought the antique dollhouse. She spent every penny of the money she was saving for new skates and now all she has is this rundown dollhouse. And she’s too old for dolls anyway.

But the dollhouse turns out to be haunted. And whatever haunts the dollhouse starts causing accidents to happen around Zibby and her family. The ghost turns out to be Miss Honeywell, the governess of Primrose, the original dollhouse owner in 1919. Miss Honeywell has been waiting years for someone to come in possession of the dollhouse. She wants revenge, and she’s not about to let anything stand in her way. And that includes her own death.

Sometimes when I’m at the library I find books that I refer to as “hidden gems.” These are those books that are a little older, don’t have a great following or are otherwise somewhat neglected on the shelf. You know, those books you stumble across and find just by pure accident. This is one of those books. It combines the suspense of a ghost story along with the theme of adjusting to a new stepfamily, and I think the blend works in the end, though it does seem a little forced at times.

Although this is a ghost story, it certainly doesn’t feel that way the entire time. The book involves ghosts certainly, but I really don’t consider it a ghost story until I feel totally creeped out by the ghostly occurrences. The ghostly suspense lags in the middle, but not enough to make me give up. It wasn’t long before I was completely wrapped up in this story of a mean spirited woman who won’t let anything get in her way of revenge. The character of Miss Honeywell was completely terrifying.

This cover, by the way, was the one that was on the book when I read it. And although it is interesting, I don’t think it really conveys the feeling of the book like the current one does. Just looking at Miss Honeywell on the cover of the new one sends a little shiver down my spine.

Shady Glade Rating: 8/10

This post brought to you courtesy of Recommendation Week: Ghost Stories. Today is your last day to nominate your favorite ghost stories!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Review: A Coming Evil

A Coming Evil by Vivian Vande Velde

Lisette is expecting her upcoming 13th birthday to be the best year of her life. Unfortunately, the day she turns 13 her parents send her to live with her Aunt Josephine. Because the year is 1940, and the Nazis are moving on Lisette’s home in Paris. Upon reaching Josephine’s house in southern France, Lisette immediately hates it, not only because she misses her home, but because she hates her bratty cousin Cecile and the motley group of children Aunt Josephine has taken under her wing.

Lisette escapes to the woods for refuge from the hated house, but the woods hold a secret of their own. There’s a ghost there, a young man named Gerard who lived during the fall of the Knights Templar (knights as in the Middle Ages). Although scared at first, Lisette eventually finds her growing friendship with Gerard comforting. And she’s going to need that comfort. The Nazis are closing in, and the secret that’s still hiding in Aunt Josephine’s house may cost all of them their freedom.

Although Vivian Vande Velde is known for her fantasy, this book would fall more into the category of historical fiction. The ghost element is the only fantastical thing here, and it is presented in a way that makes it more believable. I loved the way the author juxtaposed Gerard’s life in the Crusades with the life that Lisette herself was experiencing. The ending had plenty of action and although it was wrapped up a little too neatly, I did enjoy it while I was reading. I wish the author had given a little more reason why there was a connection between Lisette and Gerard, but that’s my own lasting complaint.

One of the best merits of the book is that it has a little bit of everything. There is plenty of historical detail, and Lisette definitely matures by the end of the story for readers who are into character over plot. The ghost element adds a nice suspense at the beginning, and then later morphs into just a hint of romance. Really, I can’t think of anything else to ask for in a book of this type. It could have benefitted from maybe just a few more chapters in length, but on the other hand if you’re wanting a quick and interesting read, this is the book for you.

Shady Glade Rating: 8/10

This post brought to you courtesy of Recommendation Week: Ghost Stories. Don't forget to nominate your own favorite ghost books by Friday!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: The House Next Door

The House Next Door by Richie Tankersley Cusick

When Emma’s best friend Val needs a date for the big dance, Emma turns to her twin brother Charlie for help. He reluctantly agrees to take her friend, as long as Emma agrees to a dare. That dare turns out to be spending a night in the very creepy, abandoned mansion next to the twin’s house. Though Emma is terrified of the house, she agrees to the dare.

What Emma discovers in the house is way more than she bargained for. There’s a ghost that still lives in the mansion, and he’s been waiting for Emma. It isn’t long before Emma, Charlie and Val are all trying to unravel the secrets of the house and its history. A history which includes a secret love affair and a mysterious fire that ruined the mansion. As Emma digs deeper she realizes that they need to solve the mystery fast. History is about to repeat itself, and last time it didn’t have a happy ending.

If you’re looking for suspense, you’ve definitely found the right book. There’s something strangely alluring about the thought of love from beyond the grave. Although it’s fairly apparent what’s going on to the reader early on, the author still manages to pace the book just right to its conclusion. Once you hit the climax the tale is resolved fairly quickly, and I certainly didn’t see the ending coming. I thought the characters of the neighbors were a little unnecessary, but they don’t really slow the plot down at all. Not the best ghost story I’ve ever read, but it’s definitely worth picking up.

Shady Glade Rating: 8/10

This post brought to you courtesy of Recommendation Week: Ghost Stories. Don't forget to nominate your favorite ghostly books by Friday!

Waiting on Wednesday: 10.21.09

So today's book was actually officially released yesterday, but I'm still really looking forward to reading it, so I thought I'd still include it. So here we go:

Dragonfly by Julia Golding

About the Book (from "Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil of Gerfal in order to unite their lands. And he's not too pleased, either. They hate each other on sight. So, when Tashi and Ramil are kidnapped, they fear there's no escape - from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing, and imprisonment? And will the people they meet on their adventure help them or betray them to the enemy?"

Princesses, arranged marriages and kidnapping? I am SO reading that. Plus there is something really tantalizing about this cover. I'd love to know how the title ties into that plot too.

Dragonfly was released officially yesterday (October 20th) and is available for order on

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: The Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion by Various

Haunted Mansion collects together the first four (or five?) previously released volumes of the Haunted Mansion comics put out by Disney and SLG. Rather than being one long story, the book is filled with several very short stories somehow connected to the mansion and its 999 happy haunts. Each story has a different writer/artist, so you’ll find a wide range of styles and stories in this short book.

First of all, I have to say that if you aren’t an avid fan of the Haunted Mansion at the Disney parks, this is probably not the book for you. Not that you won’t enjoy it, but you may not pick up on some of the nuances provided by these stories.

On the other hand, if you are a fan of the Haunted Mansion, you should definitely pick this one up! The diversity of artistic styles and stories means you are sure to find at least one that you enjoy. Plus, this is a collection of comics, so if you don’t find one you like then you didn’t waste a lot of time reading it.

I fall into this second category, so I loved this book. It was interesting to see all the stories that the writers came up with about the same set of characters. Like how that ghost in the coffin (it’s in the hallway) came to be there and why he wants out. There’s a story about how one of the people shown in the portrait gallery came to be a resident, and why the groundskeeper braves the mansion even though he’s terrified of ghosts. My favorite stories though had to be the two about Fifi, the dearly departed dog from the pet cemetery who’s stuck in a tutu for eternity because that’s what she was dressed in before she died. You’ll find a whole host of other characters here too including the Bride, Madame Leota, and the Headless Knight.

My only complaint is that the book was way too short! I wish it had been a complete compilation of the comics, instead of just the first few volumes. This collection is also missing the serialized story that tells the background of the mansion itself. Other than that, it was wonderful, and I’ve reread it several times. Incidentally, if you’re a fan of the Haunted Mansion (which I assume you are if you’ve made it this far down the review) you should also check out The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies by Jason Surrell. It’s a great book to learn about the planning, construction, back story and mechanics of the ride.

Shady Glade Rating: 9/10

This post brought to you courtesy of Recommendation Week: Ghost Stories. Don't forget to nominate your own favorite ghost books by Friday!

Teaser Tuesday: 10.20.09

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  1. Grab your current read
  2. Open to a random page
  3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  5. Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
I've been slacking on these lately, but I actually have time today. Gasp! Shock! And other exclamations of surprise!

Anyway, here's my teaser for this week from Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters:

"I am persuaded that Mrs. Smith suspects his regard for Marianne, disapproves of it, and on that account is eager to get him away. Or, alternatively, he has in his quest for treasure disturbed the burial site of a pirate captain, and incurred the wrath of the pirate captain's ghost, who has thusly cursed him to wander the seven seas until fate should claim him. It's one of those two."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review: The Ghost Files

Ghost Files: The Haunting Truth by The Ghost Society

The summary for this one is pretty much summed up on the title page. It reads: "Ghost Files: The Haunting Truth. For those who are very practical about identifying, documenting, and classifying Apparitions, Ghosts, and Spirits from early men to our time. Or, how to see a ghost when you much prefer to look away and if you're very good, how to make contact."

So that pretty much sums it up. This covers the different types ghosts, ghost history, different ghosts from different cultures, and how to make contact with ghosts. Now before you get worried about the book, I do want to say that it's written for kids. In fact, it technically qualifies as a picture book (being all of 36 pages long. So really, it's not written to be scary at all.

The thing that makes Ghost Files such a fun book is all the little extras. It's got pull out letters, hidden text, pull tabs, moving parts, even a Ouija board (though that's not what they call it). Unfortunately, this is a book that you really need to see in person to appreciate it's complexity. The fun little extras make it great for kids, but I had a blast flipping through it too. Seasoned ghost experts won't read anything they don't already know, but if you're a ghost newbie, or just want to learn some interesting facts about ghosts, this is a good way to go.

Shady Glade Rating: 8/10

This post brought to you courtesy of Recommendation Week: Ghost Stories.

Recommendation Week: Ghost Stories

So this is an idea I mentioned way back in June, but I'm going to do the first one now. I actually am working on a bit of surprise for these in the future, but since Halloween is fast approaching, I thought I'd go ahead and do one now. You'll just have to wait for another time for the surprise (probably after the Cybils...)

You can find all the details at the original post, but the idea is this. For each theme I'll choose some books to feature throughout the week. Meanwhile, you (the reader) have until Friday to give me your own recommendations for that theme. Then on Saturday I'll have a wrap up post that will include a master list of recommendations (mine and others). Sound good? Then here we go.

The theme for this week is ghost stories. Ooh, scary. Heh, I thought it fit in with Halloween. These can be books that are about ghosts, ghostly occurrences, or feature ghost characters. On a side note, don't you just love this ghost picture? He's so cute, and I love that you can see his shadow through him. Anyway, back on topic. Here's some books I'll be featuring this week:

A Coming Evil by Vivian Vande Velde
Ghost Files: The Haunting Truth by The Ghost Society
Haunted Mansion by Various
The House Next Door by Richie Tankersley Cusick
Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge: A Ghost Story by Kathryn Reiss

There's a preview of what's coming up for me. Now it's your turn. Submit all your ghostly book suggestions here (either comment below or send me an email) by this Friday. We're going to keep this one strictly to books. I know there's plenty of good ghost movies out there, but that's for another post.