Saturday, December 31, 2011

Clockwork Prince

I love The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare, and I'm sure you do, too. So it's no shock that the prequel books to the popular series, The Infernal Devices, was a big hit in my reading nook. The first book, Clockwork Angel, chronicles the adventures of a shape-shifting girl, Tessa, and her submergence into the world of Shadowhunters, Warlocks and Downworlders. In other words, a lot like The Mortal Instruments, but set in the early 20th century - and in London.

Clockwork Prince begins with a visit to a cemetery. Poor Tessa has been spurned by the love of her life, Will Herondale, and her relationship with compassionate and nearly angelic Jem Carstairs begins to blossom. But that's not the real issue - Mortmain, the man who would see Tessa as his wife to capitalize on her shape-shifting powers, is still alive. And he's building a clockwork army. One made entirely out of the bits and pieces of metal and machinery in London. Why? He wants to destroy the Shadowhunters, of course. 

The book is nice and thick, and by this point everybody knows that Cassandra Clare's writing is akin to listening to a melody play softly on the radio. It's rhythmic and smooth - and it serves up plenty of romance. Whether you're on Team Will or Team Jem, Clare has once again created a beautiful story world that I'm a bit jealous of!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year Giveaway!

Hello!!  Just a reminder that the December Book Giveaway is still in full swing. Like I said before, for every 100 followers I gain on Twitter (or BlogSpot), you fabulous readers, writers or all-around lucky people will get their hands on some fun YA reads! With that goal approaching extremely quickly, I thought I'd remind you what literary swag you can win. Pick one from the following titles, all of which I have personally found to be quite delicious:


                                        To enter, simply do two easy things: 

  1. Follow me here on Twitter or BlogSpot - I'll know if you did or not! 
  2. Leave a comment below with the name of the book you wish to win, or you can let me know through Twitter or Direct Messaging on BlogSpot.         
                                              Good luck, and Happy Reading!!! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Am Number Four


I Am Number Four begins with the third murder in a string of killings. Why? Well, apparently there are eight Lorien aliens roaming the earth. Aliens running for their lives from beings who seek to exterminate them. But don't worry. Loriens look like humans. They even go to school and get crushes on cute girls like us, too. But for John Smith, (yes, that's really his alias) he is number Four. And since a special charm keeps the Lorien kids from getting killed out of order, he is slated to be next on the killers' list.
So much for normalcy.
John spends all of his life running from city to city with his adoptive father, Henry, in order to throw the Magadarians (the enemy aliens) off his trail. Things get complicated when he falls in love with the local photographer and decides to settle down for a bit. The problem? The Magadarians have finally found him.

I Am Number Four was made into a feature film that starred Alex Pettyfer and Diana Agron. I saw the movie before I read the book. The book is actually far superior to the movie, which came across as corny to me in some places. Pittacus Lore, an author that cloaks himself in Lemony Snicket-like anonymity, presents a thrilling piece of YA literature. Adventure, romance and science-fiction elements come together to make I Am Number Four a must-read.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Half-Blood Overview

For Alexandria, being a Half-Blood is tough.  After witnessing the murder of her mother by Daimons - what one might compare to a blood-sucking vampire - she is touted back to a prestigious school known as The Covenant. As the child of a mortal and a Greek Pure-Blood, she must work hard to catch up with the other students at the school. A school that trains its kids to fight, and kill, Daimons. When Alexandria begins one-on-one training with swoon-worthy Aiden, a Pure-Blood, it becomes apparent that kicking Daimon butt is no picnic. That, plus the threat of Daimon attacks and startling revelations about Alexandria's destiny, serves up a satisfying literary slice of hot romance, delightful drama and awesome adventure.

I originally bought this book over Christmas to read on my Kindle. (You can purchase it on both Kindle and Nook, by the way) It was a really fun book to read, and there is a prequel available, Daimon. If you enjoyed The Vampire Academy Series, by Rachelle Mead, you will definitely love Half-Blood, by the very talented Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cheer

 I caved once again to a little holiday humor. Enjoy your Christmas Eve, your sparkling trees and your eggnog (if you like it)! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Favorite YA Reads of 2011


All things considered, 2011 was a pretty good year.  I started a million new projects and I'm getting ready to release my first Young Adult novel. Of course, writing YA fiction wouldn't be possible without being able to read, admire and learn from other writers working in the same genre. Here are five of my favorite YA novels that I read this year!

1. The Tiger's Curse Series by Colleen Houck. 18 years old? Check. Orphan? Check. In need of a good job? Double check. Kelsey Hayes takes a job at a traveling circus to earn some pocket change for her college education in the great state of Oregon. What she gets instead is an Indian prince hiding a terrible curse, a trip to India, boatloads of romance and a lot of magic. This book was originally self-published by Colleen Houck as an e-book until she was picked up by Splinter. The series consists of three books thus far, with two more on the way. The first book has also been optioned by Paramount Pictures.

2. Vampire Diaries Series by L.J. Smith. Yes, it came out in the 90s, and yes, it's a romantic teen drama on the CW. But L.J. Smith's best-selling bloodsucking romantic saga is one of the freshest, frightening and entertaining series I've read in a long time. The series follows beautiful Elena Gilbert throughout her adventures in the small town of Fell's Church - and did I mention the love triangle with the two very handsome and equally deadly vampires, Stefan and Damon? No? Well, once you sink your teeth into this series, you'll never forget them.

3. Iron King Series by Julie Kagawa. The primary series, outside of the companion novellas and sequels, encompass three books,  Iron King, Iron Daughter, and Iron Queen. It chronicles the adventures and romances of Megan Chase as she enters the world of deadly faeries. Soon after she discovers that she's half-faery (and a faery princess, to boot), it becomes her fate to save the world of faeries from the ever-creeping Iron Kingdom that would destroy them - and everyone she loves. Check out Julie Kagawa's witty, romantic and adventurous fantasy. It's definitely worth your time.

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth. I can't say enough about this book. It had me captivated from the first chapter. It all begins with a girl, Tris, in a dystopian environment, forced to choose which category of society she will belong to. After choosing Dauntless - the reckless, wild and dangerous dwellers in society - Tris embarks upon rigorous physical training which consists of knife-throwing, gun-toting and hand-to-hand combat. Her Instructor, Four, is not only lethal, but incredibly crush-worthy. Between the excellent writing and amazing storyline, all I can say is this: read the book! It's amazing.

5. City of Fallen Angels, by Cassandra Clare. Clare once again takes us into the mesmerizing world of Shadowhunters. Dark secrets are revealed and everything is not what you think it is in this fourth installment of The Mortal Instruments Series. The fifth book is in the works - but there are, of course, the prequels - The Infernal Devices Series - to tide you over in the meantime.

So there you have it. My five favorite Young Adult novels of the year. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Memories (And Reindeer)

It's true. I am a nostalgia junkie. I tend to look for music, food and images that remind me of the "good old days," when I was five years old, sitting in the hallway of my house and listening for Santa Claus at midnight. Back when Christmas revolved around hanging stockings and hiding my homemade Popsicle stick ornaments for Christmas Eve presents.

White Christmas was always a film my family watched every year. It's such a beautiful movie with equally beautiful music. The little video I posted today is a song that I have periodically run across through the years. It is an entertaining spin on such a famed song. You may have noticed it from The Santa Clause movie (the part where Tim Allen uses the fire extinguisher on the turkey? That's the clip!). So take a minute or two to enjoy this spiffy take on a Christmas classic, and enjoy the holidays!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Merry Christmas (Almost)!

I couldn't resist. 
Merry Christmas Season, friends! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Win a Free Copy of 'New Moon' and 'Faithful"

Help me reach 1200 followers on Twitter!!! 
I will be giving away a free copy of 'New Moon," Stephenie Meyer's 2nd installment in her fabulous bloodsucking romantic saga. In addition, I have an assortment of other books to choose from, should you win:
  • What Hearts by Bruce Brooks
  • The Clique by Lisa Harrison
  • Point Blank by A. Horowitz 
  • Faithful by Janet Fox
  • The Sight by David Clement-Davies 

To enter to win, you only have to complete two ridiculously easy tasks! 
1. Follow me on Twitter or BlogSpot
2. Send me a Direct Message through Twitter or BlogSpot with your name. If you win, I'll let you know, and you can have your pick of one of the books! 

I will pick one winner for every 100 followers I gain on Twitter!

So spread the word and help me get new followers so you can sink your fangs, er, teeth, into 'New Moon,' and other awesome YA novels! 

I am not responsible for any lost, stolen or damaged items after they have been processed by the United States Postal Service. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Farewell to the Light Bulb

Light bulbs.  They are the normal, everyday fixtures of any room. They provide light for reading, working and eating. They create daytime in the middle of nighttime, and they allow us to stay up later and get up earlier. What once was a society that was entirely dependent on the sun for dictation of daily activities is now one that functions with the aid of electricity and artificial lighting.

The light bulb primarily came about when Thomas Edison popularized the invention - and simplified it. Although there were about 22 reports of incandescent lighting inventions before he came along, his has been the model that has been used for well over a hundred years. It was a marvelous invention.

Today it provides us with the power to light movie sets - the power to turn night into day. It has been giving earth a soft yellow glow for over a century, and on January 1st, 2012, the light bulb will cease to illuminate the world. Why, you may ask? As of the above date, it will be illegal to manufacture incandescent light bulbs in the United States. Instead, store shelves will be stocked with LED and CFL bulbs. The purpose, of course, is to decrease wattage use and be more green.

To be honest, it upsets me that the light bulb will no longer be manufactured. I personally prefer the easy yellow lighting and the soft pop you hear when the bulb burns out. I don't like the harsh glow of the LED or CFL - have you ever noticed how LED lights have an invisible pulsing effect? But that's just me.

On January 1st, the incandescent light bulb will light the world no more.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Indian Fan (That Would Be Me)

I heard once that you should keep your blog posts short but sweet. In light of that piece of advice, I'll slim this one down a few sizes. The picture below is something I posted because I have a new fascination with Indian culture - one that can be easily explained if you taste Indian food or glance at Indian architecture. And no, I'm not talking about Cherokee Indians (of which I am a descendant) or Native Americans. I'm talking about India. You know. The place Christopher Columbus mistook America for? That's the one!

Since I'm on the subject, a book that everybody should read is Tiger's Curse, by Colleen Houck. It's the perfect example of how a self-published author found her own way to a publishing house - and eventually a deal that will span five books. Not bad. And it's all about India, which perfectly suits my tastes at the moment.

Happy Week to everyone!

P.S. I am bipartisan when it comes to teams Ren and Kishan, by the way, for fans of the series.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Bench (A Short Story)

            If ever there was a dustbowl in the states, this was it.
Reverend Tucker would have told you that the little city of Foster was empty enough to be a ghost town. But being the bible believing man that he was he wouldn’t mention the word ghost unless you were a close friend.
            Foster was a tiny city. A small dirt road stretched through the center of Main Street, past the barber shop and candy store. It ended many miles from here, but most of the people of Foster had never gotten around to venturing very far away from home.
            Each building on the main drag was wooden, squat, and laden with a thick layer of dust. The grocery store had newspapers stuffed in the corners of the wavy glassed windows to keep dirt out. At the end of the little road, right next to the saloon, was Reverend Tucker’s church.
            The church was a whitewashed, prim little edifice. A stiff cross jutted out of the spire, marking the place of worship. Reverend Tucker was home today, watching a tumbleweed glide down Main Street on a breath of wind. He rubbed his dark, young face and put his glasses back on.
            Out the window of his office---which, it might be added, always smelled like shoe polish---he could see three people sitting on small wooden bench outside the Studebaker building. He smiled. He knew them by sight.
            A robust, rosy cheeked woman in a checkered dress was sitting on one end of the bench. She was smiling. Her hands were clasped in her lap, as if she was thinking about something wonderful. On the other end of the bench was a man in overalls and a torn blue shirt. His skin was very dark, his hat dirty and worn. His legs were crossed, the paper rested on his knees, and he too wore a contented smile.
Between the two was a little girl, grinning from ear to ear. Her checkered shirt and tan pants looked like hand-me-downs, but she didn’t seem to mind.
            These people, Reverend Tucker knew, were poor. Very poor. They’d lived in Foster, Oklahoma all their lives. The woman’s name was Sadie. Her husband, Dewey, was currently sharing the bench with her. And their daughter, Christina. This he had learned from members of his congregation, but he didn’t know anything more about them.
            Christina jumped up as the tumbleweed blew down the street. She clapped her hands together, made a motion to her mother that it was the fifth one she’d seen so far, and sat back down.
            Sadie kept smiling, Dewey continued reading the paper, and Christina kept her eyes glued on the street. A hot current of air rustled the girl’s frizzy brown hair and a dirt devil kicked up in the middle of the road. She gazed at it seriously as Sadie looked on and hummed a little tune. Reverend Tucker shook his head and continued writing out his sermon for next Sunday.

            The next day, Sadie, Dewey, and Christina were sitting on the same bench again. Christina counted the tumbleweeds, Sadie smiled, and Dewey read the paper. Everyday it was the same. Reverend Tucker would look out and watch them do the same thing at the same time.
            He would often stop and observe them, wondering how they managed to look so peaceful and content. He would then glance around at his office strewn with paper, clothes, and books and rest his head in his hands. How was it that his life seemed so busy, and theirs so peaceful?
            One day he took a step outside his little church. His black shoes dusted up as soon as he placed a foot on the dirt street. He looked up and down Main Street, studied the small cluster of buildings, and observed the long stretch of open land on either end of the avenue.
            He saw Sadie, Dewey, and Christina smile and wave at him. Reverend Tucker waved back and an idea occurred to him. He went into his room and dug through his desk for his camera. It was a big lug of a thing, but it had a little film left in it. He returned outside and crossed the street.
            As soon as he walked up to the three people he was greeted with a smile, and a polite “good afternoon.” They held a brief conversation about the weather---which wasn’t saying much. It was always hot and dusty.
             “Would you mind if I took your picture?” Reverend Tucker asked.
Dewey shrugged and a wide grin spread across his face. Sadie pretended not to notice the camera and kept on smiling, her eyes looking to the left. But when Reverend Tucker got ready to snap the picture, Christina put on her biggest, toothiest grin.
            Reverend Tucker took the photo and thanked them for their time. They responded was a smile. He went back into his church and continued his work. The wooden floors creaked under his feet. He walked into his office and opened the window. The heat was stagnating. Enduring the heat, he decided, for the Lord’s work was a noble thing, so he tried very hard to keep writing his next sermon.
He had the film developed in his camera shortly after that. He taped the photograph of the smiling threesome across the way to his wall. He would look at it when he needed a bit of encouragement. It made him want to smile, too.

            The years went by, and Reverend Tucker continued to give sermons and preach to the tiny congregation of Foster. His smiling friends got older. Christina was nearing young adulthood, her childish face growing thinner and more defined. Her hair was no longer frizzy, but slicked to the back in a French braid. Sadie and Dewey had long since gone gray.
            Reverend Tucker remembered the day well when Dewey and Christina seated themselves on the bench in front of Studebaker’s, but Sadie didn’t come. He thought it grossly irregular to see one empty spot on the bench. Christina and Dewey remained seated and talked, pointing to the church, to the barber shop, to the empty street. They seemed sad, although they still smiled.
            When weeks passed and Sadie wasn’t seen sitting on the bench anymore, Reverend Tucker heard the news from a member of his congregation. She had died. From then on he kept an even keener eye on the window. Dewey and Christina continued to come, sit, and leave, smiling all the while.
                        Then came the terrible day when Christina walked slowly up the steps to the Studebaker building and sat down. Alone. Still, she smiled on, as though everything were normal.
            But when Reverend Tucker heard that dear Mr. Dewey was passed on as well, he felt a deep sorrow rise inside him. Although he had no personal connection with these people, he felt as if he’d known them. Always happy. Always smiling. Never once had he seen them frown.
            What a great inspiration, he decided. What a wonderful example of enjoying the simple pleasures of life. He set it in his mind to talk to Christina the next day. It was time he found out more about her family….what was left of it.
            The next day came. Morning rolled by, and afternoon set in. Reverend Tucker sat at his window and waited for Christina to come. Hours passed. She never arrived at the bench. The next day was the same. And so was the day after that. Sunday came and Reverend Tucker discovered the she had moved away. Far away to New York.
            Crestfallen, he looked across the street at the empty bench and sighed heavily. His smiling friends had left him. All he had left of them was a picture. It seemed like they had been nothing more than a dream. He struggled on despite their absence, but it wasn’t the same.

            A few more years went by, and the Studebaker building was torn down. Every building except for the church was demolished to make way for new houses and shopping centers. As the demolition team was getting ready to raze the Studebaker building to the ground, Reverend Tucker was struck with woe at seeing it destroyed.
            On impulse, he ran across the street and snatched a single item off the front porch. Bulldozers rumbled across the old street and loud construction workers hustled to get their job done. Reverend Tucker coughed amidst all the dust and gravel and walked back into his church. After he had closed the doors he gingerly sat the one thing he had managed to save on the floor: the bench. Their bench.
            Long after the town of Foster had turned into a hectic flurry of urban activity, the little white church was sandwiched snugly between two big apartment buildings. The small dirt street had been replaced with a busy boulevard. The Studebaker building was gone. In its place was a gas station.
            Reverend Tucker sat in front of the church on an old wooden bench, his hair snow white and his skin creased with wrinkles. Happily humming a little hymn, he took an aged black and white photograph out of his jacket. Often he’d wondered why those three people had managed to be so content with sitting on this bench, doing nothing but watching tumbleweeds bounce past. Now he knew. He put the photograph back in his pocket. 
            And he smiled. 
Copyright 2011 Summer Lane All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Zoo Visit (Jurassic Park)

I recently took a visit to the San Diego Zoo. The zoo is massive, and the landscaping is absolutely stunning. If you ever visit, you should definitely bring along some tennis shoes - you will have to walk quite a bit throughout the day. I was personally struck by how much the Lost Forest portion of the zoo resembled Jurassic Park - complete with giant cages. 
I can dream. 
Have a happy week! 

P.S. Can you find the snake in the bottom picture? 

You Can Do Anything

A friend of mine once told me that there are two keys to being a successful writer.
First, follow up on everything you engage in.
Second, be sure you marry somebody with lots of energy.
I suspect that he is absolutely right. After all, what is more important than owning up to your own responsibilities and watching the people you surround yourself with?
Writing is a wonderful career. It is a difficult career. You will search for the right words for hours before you find then, but when you do, the satisfaction is greater than anything you can possibly imagine. Writing is also a lonely career, in some cases. You may spend months locked away in an office surrounded by sheaves of notes and stacks of books before you finish your novel.
Yet when you do - the sense of accomplishment is wonderful!

Don't ever give up on writing. And don't let it give up on you.