Wednesday, October 29, 2014

REVIEW: ONE CHILD by Torey L. Hayden




Title: One Child
Author: Torey L. Hayden
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: July 30, 2002
Genre: Non-fiction
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

Note to my readers:
This is the first time I come across a book that is listed on Goodreads without any description or proper additional info (but I'm aware that there are many such books on Goodreads). I’ve tried my best to summarize and describe the book in my review below. Though I’ve added the Goodreads link, you can read more about this amazing book on Wikipedia by clicking here.

~Angie~




REVIEW

The first thing I want to tell you is how much this book made me cry. Buckets full. Maybe even enough to fill an ocean. Ugly cry, even. Unashamed, let-it-all-out, bawling. That’s how much. I’m not even exaggerating. This is significant, because tearjerker movies get me to cry often, but in contrast, only a handful of books have managed to dissolve me into tears. With One Child, I cried often, and I cried long and hard. It’s not only Sheila’s circumstances that made me cry, but also because I was so grateful that there is a teacher who cared enough to save this little girl whom everyone had given up on.

Let me share a little about Sheila. She is a six-year-old girl who committed a terrible crime. It wasn’t her first crime, but it was probably her worst. At the age of six she had already had run ins with the police three times, and after her last crime the courts had decided that she should be placed in a state institution for mentally disturbed patients. Unfortunately for the state, but fortunately for Sheila, there wasn’t space available to accommodate her in the local state institution, and she was placed in a classroom for handicapped, abused, and mentally disturbed children. The teacher for that classroom at the time was Miss Torey (the author of this book). According to state regulations, Torey could only accommodate eight children in her classroom due to the severity of their conditions. Yet, she had no choice but to accept problem-child Sheila into her classroom.

When I say Sheila is a problem-child, I don’t mean it lightly. The things she does is incredibly shocking, but here I also want to mention that she is no ordinary child. She has an IQ of over 170. Obviously, until Sheila has landed in Torey’s classroom, no-one has figured it out yet because Sheila is such a difficult child who goes out of her way to make herself unlovable. She lives in poverty with her alcoholic, ex-convict father, in a one-room shack in a migrant camp. You might wonder where Sheila’s mother is, and I can only tell you that that is another heartbreaking part of Sheila’s life. No acceptable excuse can be made for what Sheila’s mother did to her. It’s just too appalling. 

Anyway, the entire story centers around Miss Torey and Sheila forming an unbreakable bond and how they changed each others’ lives, and also how it changed Sheila. This little girl who never cries and who only knows rejection, abuse, and abandonment, has to learn to love, be accepted, deal with her anger, and adjust to normal society - what is socially acceptable, and what is not. Often I found myself smiling about how Sheila perceives the world and her surroundings, and how she tries to make sense of her life. The other kids in the same classroom also crept into my heart. So many times did I go “aaawwwhhh” because of something or other that Sheila, Torey or any of the other kids did or say, and then the tears would start all over again.

I’ve read many abuse stories, whether it’s written in books or news articles, but never have I been as shocked as when I read what Sheila’s uncle did to her. You think you’ve heard it all with regard to the extent of human depravity, and then you read something like that...

The story has a good ending, but not, in my opinion, a satisfying one. I desperately wanted a different ending for Sheila at home. I didn’t agree with the welfare system’s opinion of Sheila’s home life. I appreciated every single effort Torey made to improve Sheila’s life and I am grateful that there are teachers who really care about their students. One Child is a book worth reading, albeit not an easy one because it plays havoc with your emotions. Whether this really happened or not, it is a reminder that the world is filled with people who have no limits to the cruelties they bestow on defenseless little children (and animals, for that matter). At the same time it also showcases that, once in a while, a gem such as Torey comes along who dedicates her time and all of herself to protecting, loving, and making a difference in the lives of little ones who can’t fend for themselves.

As much as I want to recommend this book to everyone, I also have to issue a warning that it contains content of a disturbing nature. Sheila’s story needed to be told and I’m grateful to Ms Hayden for sharing it with us. However, read it at own risk (such as crying buckets of tears and having your heart break into tiny little pieces over and over again).    




  

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ABOUT the AUTHOR


Victoria Lynn Hayden, known as Torey L. Hayden (born May 21, 1951 in Livingston, Montana) is a child psychologist, special education teacher, university lecturer and writer of non-fiction books based on her real-life experiences with teaching and counselling children with special needs.

Subjects covered in her books include autism, Tourette syndrome, sexual abuse, fetal alcohol syndrome, and elective mutism (now called selective mutism), her specialty.

Hayden attended high school in Billings, Montana and graduated in 1969. She then attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.

A little time after having written her most famous book, One Child, Hayden moved to Wales in 1980 and got married to a Scot called Ken two years later. In 1985, she gave birth to her daughter, Sheena. Hayden is now divorced.

She has also written three books of fiction in addition to her non-fiction books.



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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: EVERNEATH by Brodi Ashton




Title: Everneath
Series: Everneath, #1
Author: Brodi Ashton
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 24, 2012
Genres: YA, Mythology, Paranormal
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 3/5

SUMMARY

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she’s returned—to her old life, her family, her boyfriend—before she’s banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can’t find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance—and the one person she loves more than anything. But there’s just one problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he’ll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.

As Nikki’s time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole’s queen.




REVIEW

Everneath is a comfortably paced, relaxing, but not very stimulating, read. Having just returned from a six months, 100 year Everneath-time, stint in the Everneath, Nikki Beckett has six months to reunite with her family and reconnect with her ex-boyfriend, Jack. Not that any of this would help, as she is leaving again - for good this time.

Although I generally love books about gods and the underworld, this story didn't really draw me in until right at the end. In fact, in the beginning I was lost trying to understand the whole concept of the time Nikki, usually called Becks, spent in the Everneath, how she got there, and what she did there. Once the back-story came together, however, it turned out to be a cleverly designed and imaginative plot.

The characters, though very realistically crafted, were difficult to identify with. Nikki landed herself in the Everneath because she was in a snit over her boyfriend, Jack, cheating on her at football camp. That bit of impulsive teenage behavior places Nikki firmly within her age group. Jack, devastated after Nikki's disappearance, initially comes across as a slightly weak character. However, once he becomes involved in Nikki's fate, he actually is more of an outstanding character than Nikki and Cole combined.

Although Everneath isn't an adrenalin-inducing read all the way, towards the end you might find yourself on the edge of your seat several times. The unexpected twist at the end fortunately made the whole read worthwhile. I can recommend Everneath as a clean, fairly serious, but relaxing read.







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ABOUT the AUTHOR


I write Young Adult novels. I eat cinnamon bears. I love me some Diet Coke.

My debut book EVERNEATH (the first in a trilogy) came out Winter 2012 with Balzer and Bray (Harper Collins).

I'm represented by Michael Bourret at Dystel and Goderich Literary Management.



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Monday, October 27, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: THE MURDER COMPLEX by Lindsay Cummings




Title: The Murder Complex
Series: The Murder Complex, #1
Author: Lindsay Cummings
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Genres: YA, Dystopian, Thriller
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 4/5

SUMMARY

An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?





REVIEW

Filled with unexpected plot twists, The Murder Complex is a fast-paced, thrilling read. Set in a cordoned-off Florida, in a dystopian future, this book tells the violent, almost romantic tale, of Meadow Woodson and Zephyr James. It’s amazing that any kind of relationship can even hope to exist in a world where half the population is fighting for survival and the other half is programmed to kill.

This is a quick, action packed and, as stated in the summary, blood soaked, read. In fact, I had a bit of a problem with the amount of murder committed in this book. Despite this being The Murder Complex, hence all about murder and killing, I felt that murder was used out of context as a solution to every single problem.

Although the characters are realistic, they could have been a bit more fleshed out. Meadow Woodson is the kind of female lead I like. She is tough, street wise and self-sufficient, but she does have a heart and will do anything to keep her family safe.

As Zephyr is mind controlled by the Murder Complex from time to time, it is difficult to get a grip on his character. When he isn't in the throws of blood lust, he is depressed and wants to kill himself. The bit of untroubled Zephyr that appears in between, however, seems to be kind and loyal.

What I really loved was the unexpected plot twists and baffling revelations that lurk in the pages of this book. Predictability makes for tedious reading and The Murder Complex is most certainly not boring. At one point I thought that this book was headed in the 'girl in dystopian world incites rebellion' direction. Fortunately, for this book at least, it looks as though that cliché was avoided.

For a quick, thrilling, extremely violent and sometimes touching read, I recommend The Murder Complex.



  


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ABOUT the AUTHOR


Lindsay Cummings is the 20-year-old author of THE MURDER COMPLEX, as well as its sequel, coming 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, and the MG trilogy THE BALANCE KEEPERS, coming Fall 2014 from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.

Lindsay deals with chronic fatigue, can’t get enough of her two pesky German Shepherds, wolf cub, and two horses. She's still waiting on her letter from Hogwarts--it was probably just lost in the mail. 



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Thursday, October 23, 2014

REVIEW: CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein




Title: Code Name Verity
Series: Code Name Verity, #1
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Egmont Press
Publication Date: February 6, 2012
Genres: YA, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 2/5

SUMMARY

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy? 




REVIEW

I am definitely in the minority here with my low star rating. I can’t say exactly what it is why I didn’t enjoy this book. All I know is that it didn’t captivate or engage me at all. Most of the time I was lost and confused and didn’t have an inkling of what was going on. Moreover, I was just plain and simply bored out of my mind. What seemed, from the book summary, to be an exciting and unique read, turned out to be something I couldn’t wait to finish.

For some reason, probably too often being confused, I couldn’t connect with the characters. I didn’t care about their stories, and much less the parts about flying and all the different aircraft. I couldn’t understand why Maggie was supposed to be the main focus. The only bits I did enjoy were the interrogation of the narrator, and her interactions with her captors.

In all fairness, I have to say that Code Name Verity isn’t a badly-written book. Quite the opposite. I just think it wasn’t my cup of tea. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this book, and might read it again someday to see if I feel differently about it. The author clearly did a whole lot of research for this book, and overall I think the YA genre can do with more such unique reads that don’t focus so much on romance and the paranormal. Even though this novel wasn’t exactly for me, I would still recommend it, and I would like to read more of Wein’s books.

  


  


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ABOUT the AUTHOR


Elizabeth Wein has lived in Scotland for over ten years and wrote nearly all her novels there.  Her first five books for young adults are set in Arthurian Britain and sixth century Ethiopia.  The most recent of these form the sequence The Mark of Solomon, published in two parts as The Lion Hunter (2007) and The Empty Kingdom (2008).  The Lion Hunter was short-listed for the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2008.  Elizabeth also writes short stories.



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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST by Rick Yancey




Title: The Monstrumologist
Series: The Monstrumologist, #1
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 22, 2009
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Horror
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for more than forty years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.

So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.

A gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does man become the very thing he hunts?




REVIEW

Gothic horror at its purest, The Monstrumologist captivated and often horrified me. When an old grave robber discovers a dead monster with a half eaten girl, it marks the beginning of some truly nasty deaths in and around the town of New Jerusalem. Warthrop, the monstrumologist, and his twelve-year-old assistant, Will Henry, must unravel the origins of the nightmarish Anthropophagi in North America. Were these beasts meant to become a weapon or a science experiment?

Using monsters written about by historians and writers like Herodotus, Pliny the Elder, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Shakespeare, brings an enormous amount of credibility to this story. The accounts of twelve-year-old Will Henry, of the gruesome events in the town of New Jerusalem in 1888, is written down in a believable, gorily descriptive and thoroughly scary manner. 

I absolutely loved that the author wrote the whole book in the kind of prose that would have been used in the late nineteenth century. The main character, Will Henry, is well rounded and very realistic for a boy of twelve. Still mourning his dead parents, he does his best to please his guardian, or perhaps employer, dr. Warthrop. Whether Warthrop truly cares for the boy is only revealed much later in the book.

Although Warthrop gives the impression of being the typical crazy scientist, he shows remarkable clarity of mind and thought when lives are threatened. He is, however, not averse to sacrificing lives when there are no other choices.

The other brilliantly crafted major character, John Kearns, with his warped sense of humor, many names, and disgustingly cruel ways, is hinted to being a well-known historical villain.

Apart from the nonstop action in this book, the account of Anthropophagi destroying the crew of a slave ship had me biting my nails. Although none of the characters have extensive backstories, the bit given here is sufficient to make even the more dubious characters come to life.

A page turner in the true sense of the word, The Monstrumologist is an absolute must read for anybody who likes horror combined with an excellent, often profound, supporting storyline.







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ABOUT the AUTHOR


Rick is a native Floridian and a graduate of Roosevelt University in Chicago. He earned a B.A. in English which he put to use as a field officer for the Internal Revenue Service. Inspired and encouraged by his wife, he decided his degree might also be useful in writing books and in 2004 he began writing full-time.

Since then he has launched two critically acclaimed series: The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, for young readers, and The Highly Effective Detective, for adults. Both books are set in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Rick lived for ten years before returning to Florida.



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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

REVIEW: THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater




Title: The Raven Boys
Series: The Raven Cycle, #1
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Genre: YA, Mystery, Paranormal
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 5/5

SUMMARY

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.




REVIEW

For a long, long time I’ve heard many great things about this book, so of course, once I started reading it, I had high expectations. Still, no matter how high the expectations I had, in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined just how hard and fast I was going to fall in love with this story, the characters, the writing, and the world-building. I was, to put it mildly, blown away by it all.

Yes, I know. I’m going to spit out the usual stuff about characters and world-building and such, and I might even bore you to tears with all of it. But allow me to have my say while trying to get my haphazard thoughts in order. One of the most magical elements of this book is the eloquent, enormously imaginative writing. It’s so beautiful, I read entire passages over and over in wonder of the picture the author paints with a few, well put-together, simple words.

The next thing that stood out for me were the unusual, uncomplicated, characters firmly ensnared in complex relationships.  They were each a delightful discovery that made me want to be part of their tight circle. Blue’s family of psychics might seem a little overwhelming at first, but they grow on you. However, the raven boys, for me, were the real stars that made this such an incredibly compelling read.

This is the first book I’ve read where the focus is not so much on the leading lady, but more on these three boys who share a brotherly bond unlike any other. This story is not only about how Blue came to be part of their lives, but rather how they allowed her to become part of their inner circle. There’s a good amount of angst between these boys with their rather dysfunctional lives, but instead of it becoming emotionally-draining drama, it fits in with the characters’ background stories, and gives their friendship meaning and purpose.  

Three boys and a girl – there should be romance, right? Maybe a love-triangle even? To be honest, there are hints about romance to come in the next books, but the little “romance” there is in this book, takes a massive backseat to the main storyline – exactly the way I like it! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from The Raven Boys, it’s that the author likes to surprise the reader. Then when you think about it, you realize the clues were there all along, but still the writer manages to catch you unawares.

Stiefvater took a simple concept and turned it into something plausible, possible, and magical. The idea of waking a ley line got me interested enough to Google it and discover more about this paranormal phenomenon. All in all, I loved everything about this story. The setting the author created was done magnificently, and is simultaneously breathtaking and terrifying. The pacing slowly builds up to an open ending that doesn’t really leave you hanging, but rather promises bigger things to come in the sequel. What I’ve heard from several sources so far is that the second book is even better than this one! 

If you’re in two minds about reading The Raven Boys, throw your doubts out the window, plunge with reckless abandon into this story, and be amazed and awed by the splendor of this one-of-a-kind novel! 


  



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ABOUT the AUTHOR


All of Maggie Stiefvater's life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you're a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she's tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She's made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.



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Monday, October 20, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson




Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Series: Fire and Thorns, #1
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow
Publication Date: September 20, 2011
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Adventure
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 4/5

SUMMARY

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will. 

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.




REVIEW

Having recently read several books in which beauty is given as the key to popularity and, ultimately, success, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, with its rather imperfect female lead, was a welcome and refreshing read. Obese and unfit princess Elisa is chosen as bearer of the Godstone; something that happens only once every century. After her politically arranged marriage to king Alejandro of Joya d'Arena, she finds herself involved in far more than just being the queen of a country on the brink of war.

Set in a fantasy world full of magic and prophecy, this book is a compelling, comfortably-paced story. Although it is full of adventure, lots of action and suspense, and some heartrending tragedy, the true magic of this book is in the characters and their interactions.

The main character, Elisa, is ordinary enough for most young girls to identify with. She is overweight, loves her food and comforts, and she is extremely unfit. Her intelligence and studious nature, however, are her main redeeming qualities. Besides her cleverness, she is loyal, brave, adaptable, and will do whatever it takes to save her people.

Other well fleshed out characters include Cosmé with her complex personality and ability to play multiple roles, as well as Rosario, the crown prince of Joya d'Arena. The clever yet always heartwarming way in which Elisa interacts with everybody who crosses her path, brings a profoundly humane element to this book. Although there is a lot of potential for romance, it is kept in the background of the actual story.

Despite the black magic, barbarism, human sacrifice and tragedy in this book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a clean, relaxing read with a lot of wisdom about having faith in oneself.








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ABOUT the AUTHOR


I write books about teens who must do brave things. I'm originally from California, but I moved to Ohio to marry my husband, who is the smartest and therefore sexiest man I know. We live in Columbus with my teenaged stepsons, who are awesome. My books tend to contain lots of adventure, a little magic and romance, and smart girls who make (mostly) smart choices. I especially love to write about questions I don't know the answers to.

  
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