Notice for Review Requests

I receive review requests weekly. However, my personal schedule is hectic and I no longer review actively. (I also manage another blog called The Toronto Cafe and Food Blog). I do read every request sent but I apologize in advance that I do not reply to them all.

If I do take on a request, I will forewarn that it may take some time before I can review it. I am now looking to review adult fiction and self-help books instead of young adult fiction because I have grown out of it. If you are to request a review for either adult fiction or self-help, I will more likely to give it a shot.

In the meantime, Stop, Drop, and Read! serves as an archive book review blog. When I have the time, I may post a review. Thank you for understanding.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Author Interview: E. Van Lowe + Contest

E. Van Lowe, who debuted with his first and laugh out loud YA novel, Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, is here with us today for an interview! He has written for popular comedy shows such as The Cosby Show and Even Stevens too!

There is a contest to win a cute t-shirt of Never Slow Dance With A Zombie and some signed bookmarks! Scroll down below for details!

If you want to learn more about E., please visit: If you subscribe to his site, you will be able to read his new novel, I Want You Back!, for free! He will start releasing chapters around Christmas!

What inspired you to write Never Slow Dance With A Zombie?

I had been writing for TV for quite a few years and knew that I wanted to write a YA novel. I love both vampires and zombies, and since there were so many vampire novels, I chose zombies. Who knew (three years ago) that there would a literary zombie uprising?

Why is it that you decided to write in a girl's perspective opposing to a male's? Do you consider it harder or easier to write the opposite gender? Why?

I had been reading a lot of YA when I decided to write a novel. Everything I was reading at the time was from a girl's POV. So, I knew I was going to write as a girl. I don't know how it happened, but even in my scripts I write from a female POV most of the time. It feels natural to me. Back in college I wrote for romance and confession magazines--all female POVs. So, I guess it started back then. I don't consider it easier or harder. I do find women more interesting. The emotions in my characters are emotions I feel intimately: wanting love, feeling betrayed, etc. The emotional makeup of my characters is neither male nor female.

What do you find is the easiest part of writing? And the hardest?

The easiest part is coming up with fun, funny, adventurous situations to put my characters in. I can entertain myself all day doing this. The hardest part is everything else. But I LOVE it all. I wouldn't trade what I do for anything.

What other genres are you thinking about expanding your writing to, asides comedy and zombies?

I've just completed my third novel, and I am currently writing a novella, I Want You Back! Everything is about teen girls with elements of the paranormal and some comedy. The later books have romance in them. The novel I just completed, Hollyweird, has a very strong romantic element, too, and it's darker. It features all the elements found in the first, I think it's just more grown up. Hopefully, I am getting better as a novelist.

What is your favourite zombie movie and zombie novel?

My favorite zombie movie is 28 Days Later & Shaun of The Dead. I know, I chose two. I love them both. Hmm, zombie novel. I haven't yet read a bunch that have come out this year like: Breathers and Zombie Queen of Newbury High. So, I need to get back to you on that one. I read Patient Zero this past spring. It was pretty good.

What is your number one survival tip on living through a zombie apocalypse?

When you see a zombie coming--run!

Lastly, please give us an interesting fact about yourself that many do not know of!

I like to dance. I don't know if that's interesting, but it's definitely something I don't tell my buddies. LOL. I look at So You Think You Can Dance? and think "I think I can dance, but not like them!" LOL.


Now that you had the chance to learn a little bit more about E., it is time for the contest!

One winner will get a large t-shirt of Never Slow Dance With A Zombie and some signed bookmarks! Yes, the size is only large at the moment but it'll be a comfy t-shirt to sleep in!

Answer the following to be entered. NO ANSWER, NO ENTRY!

+1 What is your favourite zombie movie or book?

Extra Entries:

+1 New follower
+2 Already a follower
+1 For every site you link to. Give me direct links! No links, no entries! 5 max!

This contest is open to international readers and it will be closed on December 19, 2009!

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

In My Mailbox - XLIX

To do your own In My Mailbox, please check out how to at The Story Siren!

The Borrowed


The Bought


The Received

Explorer X - Alpha by LM Preston + Goodies
What I Wore to Save the World by Maryrose Wood
The Book Buddy Pillow

Sorry the picture is a bit messy. ><

Thank you so much Jennifer Lawrence aka my Secret Santa for a fantastic gift! It is so awesome and I can not wait to use it! Those who are curious about the pillow's use:

"The Book Buddy™ holds both hardcover and softcover books in place with adjustable ribbons for hands-free reading. The special filling in the pillow makes any book feel practically weightless."

If you want to check it out, go to!

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Go Go Heaven!! by Keiko Yamada

Title: Go Go Heaven!!
Mangaka: Keiko Yamada
Age Group: Teens
Series is: Completed with 13 volumes
Volume(s) Reviewing: 1-2
My Rating: 2.5/5

Innocent Shirayuki's life has been cut short when an incoming truck accidentally kills her. Instead of dying, she is revived by the Prince of Hell! She will be able to live for 49 days before dying once more so she can resolve any unfinished business. The only catch is that the Prince of Hell will be beside her 24/7!

Go Go Heaven!! is a comedy manga that went a little too extreme for my taste, in terms of attempting to make everything funny.

When it comes to love at first sight, which is the reason why Prince revived Shirayuki, is something that can easily be a flop in some stories. I couldn't understand why Prince took such a great liking to Shirayuki, even though he pretty much know every single detail of her life because he has the power to do so. I was glad when Shirayuki brought this up in the third chapter of the first volume when they were caught up in a tight situation and she was frustrated at the Prince for his stupidity.

I disliked how over the top the mangaka went with her story. All the things the characters did were unbelievable and dumb. For example, right after Shirayuki was brought back to life, the Prince managed to get the Director position at her school. What made this strange was that fact that he was in kid form and he had his vampire cape getup on the whole time. In what way could this be taken seriously in real life? Most of the chapters were like that, with a lot of out-of-control humour attempts.

The Prince is in his kid form most of the time and has a very impulsive personality. He does change into his older form a little later within the second volume and that was the only thing I looked forward to in the series. The way the second volume ended, I expected the series to have wrapped up. Apparently this was not the case, seeing that the series is 13 volumes long. As a reader, I wonder what the mangaka could possibly come up with for the following volumes with the way everything is going for the first two volumes.

The art is very old-school manga but would be considered one of the better series of its time. What really distracted me was sometimes a page would be completely cluttered and I couldn't tell what was going on in a certain panel. The transitions would be messy once in awhile and just annoying to follow.

Go Go Heaven!! is a series that may be a little hard to grasp but if one has nothing else better to do, it could be read.

Review copies provided by

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Medina Hill Winner Redrawn!

For my contest Medina Hill, one of the winners, RKCharron, had already won another copy from another blog. So I drew out another winner!

oO Mariana Oo

Please email me your address ASAP to faked_sugartone at hotmail! I have received the rest of the winners' addresses so I will send that off once Mariana contacts me. Congrats!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Age Group: Older Teens
# of Pages: 278
My Rating: 5/5

Size zero. No fat. No food.

With Lia refusing to take in any calories and her ex-best friend Cassie throwing up whatever she consumes, the are determined to be the skinniest girls. Then, Cassie dies alone in a motel room.

Every single day is a battle to lose more pounds for Lia. She pretends to gain weight by cheating the scale and makes sure to burn whatever she has in her stomach through exercise. She lives life like there is nothing wrong, that being anorexic is okay and that her old friend's death does not bother her. Except nothing is okay in her life at all.

Wintergirls definitely lived up to the hype that all YA reviewers rate it as. Written in a unique and mesmerizing style, Laurie Halse Anderson will keep the readers hooked through Lia's determined and obsessed behaviour as she tries to become skinnier and skinnier.

From the beginning, my attention was instantly grabbed by the author's distinguishing writing style. I like how Lia's guilt is shown through her being haunted by Cassie's ghost. It really brings out the emotions and fears of Lia through the novel. Not only that, but how she is so consumed by anorexia that it is scary but at the same time, addicting. I find her to be a pitiful character, but also so engaging because I am not used to that kind of person.

I thought there might have been a chance for romance because a male character by the name of Elijah appears midway of the story. He is quite a character, with piercings and tattoos and a laid-back but witty personality. Though unfortunately, he plays more of a friend role in this novel. If the author is to write a separate book about Elijah, with an overlap of the experience he had with Lia, I would definitely read it because he is definitely a one-of-a-kind male protagonist.

Anorexia is a rising issue among teen girls in the recent years, with the fact that the media is portraying thin and photoshopped women as beautiful. Anderson tackled the mindset of an anorexic and habitual cutter very well on how they think in such a warped way. Combined with her talented storytelling and memorable characters, Wintergirls is a riveting read I recommend 100%!

Review copy provided by Penguin Group (Canada).

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trailer Tuesday: The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

Title: The Hunchback Assignments
Author: Arthur Slade
Description: A gripping new series combines Steampunk, spying, and a fantastic Victorian London.

The mysterious Mr. Socrates rescues Modo, a child in a traveling freak show. Modo is a hunchback with an amazing ability to transform his appearance, and Mr. Socrates raises him in isolation as an agent for the Permanent Association, a spy agency behind Brittania’s efforts to rule the empire. At 14, Modo is left on the streets of London to fend for himself. When he encounters Octavia Milkweed, another Association agent, the two uncover a plot by the Clockword Guild behind the murders of important men. Furthermore, a mad scientist is turning orphan children into automatons to further the goals of the Guild. Modo and Octavia journey deep into the tunnels under London and discover a terrifying plot against the British government. It’s up to them to save their country.

I think this series target a slightly younger audience than the general YA fiction audience but it still sounds amazing! Like, steampunk? Not seen very often!

I have seen piles of The Hunchback Assignments at Costco last month and I was like, "Homg, the author added me on Twitter not too long ago!" Haha!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Medina Hill Winners

The winners of Medina Hill have been drawn! If you are a winner, please contact me with your address at faked_sugartone at hotmail, thanks and congrats!

Golly Golly Miss Holly

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

In My Mailbox - XLVIII

To do your own In My Mailbox, please check out how to at The Story Siren!

The Borrowed


The Bought


The Received

The Otherworldlies by Jennifer Ann Kogler
The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
The Girl with the Mermaid Hair by Delia Ephron

Thank you Jessica Secret for The Otherworldlies!

I have already drawn the winners for the 5 copies of Medina Hill but the results are on my other computer. I am having a pretty crappy day and I don't want to go through the hassle to turn on my PC. Please bear with me, I'll have the winners up sometime this week.

I have received an email from Lowell Dempsey who would like me to spread a word to you guys about Motionbox. I know that some YA book bloggers like to upload videos for memes such as IMM or for their own personal thing. If you are one, you might like to check out Motionbox.

"Motionbox makes it easy for individuals and families to upload, edit, store, and share their personal video memories, including those that have been captured in High Definition. In addition to free membership options, Motionbox a subscription-based Premium service featuring HD playback and sharing, unlimited storage, and download capabilities, and a Professional video hosting solution for small businesses and organizations."

Anyone who signs up within November may be one of the three lucky winners to get a free Roku player!

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

Title: Akira
Mangaka: Katsuhiro Otomo
Age Group: Older Teens
Series is: Completed with 6 volumes
Volume(s) Reviewing: 1
My Rating: 3/5

After World War III, Tokyo was rebuilt upon what was left of an unknown blast that left the city in ruins.

Two rebellious best friends never thought they would turn on each other. One day, they are biking down the streets with their gang. Until Tetsuo gets into an accident, trying to avoid running over a passerby. With him taken away to be cared for, Kaneda does not know that their friendship will never be the same again. Paranormal activities suddenly arise, secret organizations come out into play, and there is a mysterious and absolutely powerful force that exists to destroy the entire planet.

For all anime and manga fans out there, Akira was known to be one of the biggest series back in the 80s. I could definitely see why it was extremely popular but unfortunately, I am not a fan of it.

With over 350 pages, the first volume of Akira follows a fast-paced action story that revolves mainly around Kaneda as he get dragged into this underground world, trying to understand what had happened to Tetsuo. It is the kind of manga where you would have to read it slowly and take in everything to understand it clearly. I thought the setup was way too shonen for my liking. Kaneda's and Tetsuo's friends were all delinquents along with themselves and they go to a school where no one cares as students disrespect their teachers and so on. Unlike the characters you see today in mangas with colourful hairs and distinctive looks, in Akira all of the characters were portrayed after real people. It got me mixed up who was who because everyone looked somewhat similar.

I noticed that Akira, as an earlier manga, panels were quite American. As in, they do not overlap each other and leads you cleanly to the next picture. I did, however, liked the attention Otomo put into the backgrounds. The time and dedication was really shown in his artwork if you observe the characters' expressions and giant buildings.

I suggest Akira for fans of sci-fi mangas that still work around realism. It is very lengthy and the reader must have patience to read through it to fully enjoy.

Review copy provided by
Del Rey.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Little Black Lies by Tish Cohen

Title: Little Black Lies
Author: Tish Cohen
Age Group: Teens
# of Pages: 320
My Rating: 4/5

Going into Anton High is like going to Harvard, except it is a public high school that does not accept you if you do not get in the first year. Unless you are Sara Black, who's father received a janitor position within this prestigious school.

When she first arrives, she has no plan on lying about where she is from. She is from Lundon, but of Massachusetts, not England. At that point on, little white lies start slipping out and she has a hard time stopping herself. Especially when she is in the presence of Carling, one of the popular girls around. Before she knows it, almost everything everyone within Anton knows of her is not true.

It's not that bad, right? As long as no one finds out?

I found Little Black Lies to be quite a refreshing read. The protagonist's home life is not at all grand and dandy. Her father has OCD and her mother left them for Sara's science teacher. She unfortunately is the product of her parents' quick fun time in high school. So with a semi-messed up life like that, she couldn't help but fib... and fib some more.

In the beginning of the novel, I wasn't into it yet since it was not that eventful. Once I was about midway into the story, it started to pique my interest. Sara understood what she was doing was wrong but the web of lies spun out of control because they built upon each other. There were times where I pitied her and other times where I looked down upon what she did. I personally would never befriend her because of her past actions, making me doubt if I could trust her. Though I would not hate her for what she did because as a person, there is always a second chance to fix past mistakes and move on.

I was surprised that the romantic content was not as focused on as much as I thought it would be. Most of the time in realistic novels, there would be quite a bit about the main girl and her crush or whatnot. I found it fresh how the author wanted to focus upon Sara and how she learns more about herself with every action she executes.

I recommend Little Black Lies to those who like the concept of the protagonist trying to adapt by lying her way into a crowd and with interesting ending results.

Review copy provided by EgmontUSA.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Author Interview: Stephanie Kuehnert

Known for her emotional and raw stories, Stephanie Kuehnert, author of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and Ballads of Suburbia, have stopped by for a quick interview!

She is extremely talented and I definitely recommend that you pick up one of her books to read! If you would like, feel free to visit her site to learn more about her at:

Music plays a huge role in your life and you incorporate it into all of your novels. Do you have any bands or singers that had a huge impact on you at any point in your life?

I have quite a few. Kurt Cobain/Nirvana being the first. I discovered his music when I was a misfit 12 year old and it gave me a voice. It inspired me to write, to find my own voice because if Kurt could be heard by the masses maybe someday so could I. Courtney Love/Hole was really empowering to me as a teenage girl. Rancid and Social Distortion were also huge for me as a teenager. I strayed away from punk for awhile and the band that brought me back was The Distillers so they had a huge influence. Currently Civet, Rise Against, and Gaslight Anthem are having the biggest influence on me and my writing.

Is there a chance where one of your future novels will not include music?

I suppose anything is possible, but right now every idea I have involves music in some way. I can't imagine life without music, so I guess I have a hard time imagining fictional stories without it.

Have you thought about possibly expanding your writing genre from contemporary realism to lets say, paranormal?

Yes, in fact I'm working on something right now that has paranormal elements, more of an urban fantasy feel, based in mythology. I've always loved mythology so it's fun to explore that. However, I will always write contemporary realistic fiction too. I'd like to do both. Paranormal is a new challenge, but I love contemporary realistic. I probably read 50/50 between contemporary and genre fiction so why not write that way too!

Do you have any authors that you were influenced by?

Tons. My earliest influence was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I also love John Steinbeck, Irvine Welsh, Joe Meno, and my biggest YA influence is probably Francesca Lia Block (see why I need to write with some magical element!)

What is the most difficult aspect in writing for you? And the easiest?

That's hard because it varies from book to book. Usually the hardest part is nailing down the first draft, hammering out the structure and the plot. Outlining. I hate outlining but I need to do it. Revising is usually easier for me. I get into a good groove. The groundwork is laid and I'm ready to flesh things out. But sometimes, like with Ballads, revising is hard too.

Do you have any novels you are working on at the moment or will be releasing soon? If so, can you please give us a brief summary about them?

I'm working on a couple things. They are both in such early stages that I don't want to jinx them or really feel comfortable saying much because who knows what direction they'll take. I have one book under consideration by my editor now that is about a girl whose bartender/alcoholic mom dragged her around the country for most of her life and at 17, the girl finally puts her foot down and says she wants to stay where they are. It's about them trying to figure out how to make a functional life for themselves and the other quirky characters in the book and trying to grow up because the mom is emotionally still a teenager herself.

The second is the mythology-based story that I mentioned above. Keeping that tightly under wraps for now.

Lastly, give us an interesting fact about yourself that not many know of!

These questions are always hard for me because I feel like I'm an over-sharer and tell everyone everything about myself. Hmm okay, well I talk about my tattoos quite a bit, but not my piercings. I have 10 holes in my left ear and 3 in my right, adding up to my lucky 13 (my wedding date was also 10/3 to add up to my lucky 13). I've always wanted to get a lip ring or maybe an eyebrow ring, but haven't. Is 30 too old for a lip ring?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trailer Tuesday: Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser

Title: Wish You Were Dead
Author: Todd Strasser
Description: The day after an anonymous blogger wishes the popular girl would die, Lucy vanishes. The students of Soundview High are scared and worried. Especially frightened and wracked with guilt is Madison Archer, Lucys friend and the last person to see her the night she disappeared.

It sounds like a great novel! I love the whole suspense and thriller theme within teen novels.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Catwalk: Strike a Pose by Deborah Gregory

Title: Catwalk: Strike a Pose
Author: Deborah Gregory
Age Group: Teens
# of Pages: 293
My Rating: 2.5/5

Creator of the Cheetah Girls, Deborah Gregory gives you the second instalment of her teen series Catwalk. In Catwalk: Strike a Pose, Pashmina Purrstein is a teen who goes to Fashion International High School at The Big Apple. Aspiring model and future entrepreneur, she is in the Catwalk Competition where her house must compete other houses using their fashion knowledge and turn them into reality. The prize? The winning team will receive a sum of money to start their own label and is going travel overseas to stage their show in Italy among with other goodies! Not to mention, all contestants are filmed for a fashion reality network that follows their every move.

During the competition, Pashmina receives a computer virus that totalled her computer; which means someone is out there trying to take her down so she wouldn't win the competition! Wary about who to trust, Pashmina won't let anything get to her as she strive to win!

I actually have never read the first novel in the series, giving me a disadvantage when it came to reviewing it. I think the cover is pretty awesome but that is as far as my interest for this novel is. The biggest barrier for me to enjoy this novel is the language used. Most of the characters used words that were related or incorporated cats in almost every other sentence, such as "meowverlous" or "purr-worthy". People talking like that constantly made it a little unbelievable for me. There were a lot of metaphors making sentences related to fashion or what have you. I got lost the moment I started reading because it made me feel I was reading Shakespeare all over again, except with more sassiness. You could understand it but if you want to understand it fully, you have to literally sit there and decipher the words slowly or else flying by will just get you confused! Unfortunately, there was so much dialogue that all I would see is the catvocab! It would have been much better if there was more action and less talking.

I do like the idea of the story and how the author tries to bring out more diversity within fashion by bringing out names of black designers and such. It is nice to see a little more ethnicity within YA novels and Gregory definitely makes sure to have a lot of it in her book.

I recommend Catwalk: Strike a Pose to those who are really into fashion and would like to see some diversity in YA fiction. Though I recommend reading Catwalk first. If you however think the language would trip you up like it did to me, then you might not enjoy it so much.

Review copy provided by
Book Divas.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

In My Mailbox - XLVII

To do your own In My Mailbox, please check out how to at The Story Siren!

The Borrowed


The Bought


The Received

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Call Me Mimi by Francis Chalifour
Yokaiden vol. 2 by Nina Matsumoto
Cindy Pon's bookplate & bookmark (Thanks Cindy!)

Quick thanks to Dahlia from Dahlia's Eclectic Mind for the Proximade Award, Kreativ Blogger, and The Zombie Chicken Award and Chioma from Black and Blue Ink for the Honest Scrap award. I'm don't have time to give out 10 honest facts about myself, maybe later.

This commercial was made for the 2009 LG Mobile Fame Us! Contest and got first place! The film maker is totally genius and you should check out more videos here!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin

Title: Cycler
Author: Lauren McLaughlin
Age Group: Older Teens
# of Pages: 256
My Rating: 4/5

Having a period can be a pain for girls but for Jill, it is much worse. Once every month, she will become a male and stay as is for the duration of her menstrual period. With this unusual phenomenon that no scientist could figure out, Jill always stay home for those four days when she becomes "Jack". Jill just wants a normal life and go to prom but something as simple as that is impossible for her.

Jack is frustrated. Ever since Jill came of age, he had been cooped up in Jill's room with no contact with the outside world. When he finally decides to break free of this ridiculous routine, his parents take the matter into their own hands and lock him up!

Not exactly a girl, not exactly a boy, Jack and Jill try their best to cope. Except, life is full of surprises when they both get tangled up in hilarious and complicated problems!

This definitely one of most original and strangest plot in terms of the realistic genre within YA fiction out there. At the same time, it is quite entertaining to read about a character who is made up of both genders.

Jill dominates her life for the most part. Every time she has to change into Jack, she pretends that she needs blood transfusions and stays indoors. She meditates right after she becomes female again to erase Jack's existence from her reality. I found it amusing and desperate when she attempted to woo Tommy Knutson, a guy she likes at school, so they could go to prom together. She did things like, becoming "unattainable" by being stuck-up and cold. I couldn't help but roll my eyes at her antics in attempting to ensnare Tommy but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Jack would have to be my favourite character. He is totally guy. It was hilarious when he talked about porn and how he needed more. I was glad that the author didn't censor things like that because in all truth, guys think and are dirty once they hit their teen years. The things he did once he got out of the house, pretty epic I have to say.

I do keep wondering about their condition though. Is it more of two different people within one body? Or more of one person with two different minds? It's quite debatable and I'm not sure which side I would land on.

Cycler takes Freaky Friday to a whole new level and gives the audience great fun! I recommend it to those who want a bit of comedy in their reading!

Copy provided by Random Buzz.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

R.I.P. Catherine Tran (12/11/09)

Friday the 13th. We all say that is the day of bad luck but nothing ever happens. That is, until today.

I arrived to my high school, Woodbridge College, at my usual time around 8:30 AM. I was a little nervous about the chemistry quiz I would have last period and needed to find my friend to tell her that I could pick her up tomorrow morning to go to a business competition. Except none of it matters the moment I stepped into the school building.

With a heavy and sad atmosphere, students still with their jackets on were crowding in the lobby. Not a single giggle or happy chatter could be heard. Everyone was exchanging low murmurs. I could feel the weight of the air around me, draining out my energy.

I was confused when I saw a man from CTV News holding a camera, filming a table that held a candle upon it. I saw two of my friends, silently talking to each other. I approached them and asked what was going on.

“Didn’t you hear?”

I gave my friend of over five years a blank look and shook my head.

“A girl got killed yesterday by a bus.”

When I passed by the table, I took a quick glance to see who the girl was, since she was not in my grade. I recognized the picture that was displayed in memory of her. I had always seen her around the school. Except now, I’d never see her again.


In first period class, my math teacher decided the lesson of the day was best to be taught on Monday. He gave us questions to work on and handed us back our report cards. I saw the ugly average that slapped me across the face and immediately tucked it away. From what I heard later on, the girl was a great academic student who excelled in all of her classes.

As I tried to understand how angles and radians worked, I could hear sobs of a female from outside the door. I guessed it was the girl’s cousin, whose locker was nearby. I felt bad for her loss and then tried to immerse myself into the world of logic and numbers.


When Canadian and World Issues rolled by, it was announced that Monday’s test was moved to Wednesday. For the rest of the period, the class watched Beyond the Borders starring Angelina Jolie. The movie was about a woman in the 80s, trying to help those in need within Africa. Images of bones and skins that belonged to children were too disturbing to watch. The reality of people dying across the globe because of something as simple as starvation was too much to bear. The idea of unexpectedly losing your life was much too sad. I pulled out my math from last class and used it as a distraction from all the problems in the world.


When lunch finally came, half of the school was already gone. No one dared to smile. No one dared to laugh.

Whispers trailed through the hallways. So young. Poor girl. Poor friends and family.

I was in the computer room, where a Yearbook meeting was supposed to take place. Barely any of the members showed up since all announcements were cancelled earlier. It was only my group of friends and three other classmates who occupied the room.

During the time, I checked my blog as it was a habit for me to do so every time there was a computer with internet connection in sight. I realized something as simple as going on the web, she would never do again.

A classmate called the whole gang over, saying that the accident made it to the news. We huddled into a semi-circle, watching a two minute clip on the computer as it reported this gut-wrenching story.

She was run over and pinned down by the transit bus. She was still alive. She felt intense pain as she cried for help. Witnesses couldn’t do anything because there was no way to remove her until emergency help arrived. I imagined what that was like to be in that position and it only made the knot inside my stomach worse as tears threatened to fall.


During the time I relaxed in the library for my spare, I learned that four teachers cried for her. Not only was she a smart young woman, but she was active in sport teams and had a great group of friends. She was loved by all who knew her.

Only at fifteen, her life was instantly gone in a flash. She only lived a decade and a half. There were so many more years ahead of her. So many more things she had yet to do.

I envied her. I pitied her. But deep down, I was glad I was not her.


When school finally ended with an invisible cloud hanging above it, I watched the houses and streets passed by as my father drove me home. It was a gorgeous day, but a day she never lived to see.

I was still breathing. I was still living. Everyone I love was still alive. I mentally thanked whatever ultimate force was up there for sparing my life and my loved ones.


When I ran for my daily exercise on the treadmill, I wondered: How did her parents find out? Were her last days happy ones? Would she have lived if she didn’t cross the street at that exact moment?

Questions filled my mind but it was too depressing to explore the idea of death any further. I pushed it to the back of my brain and moved my legs as fast as I could.


Let this be a lesson for us all: Don’t take life for granted. Create happy memories. Let go of grudges. Live every day like it is your last.

R.I.P. Catherine Tran (12/11/09)

To see the full report and watch the news, go to:

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Jack Frost by JinHo Ko

Title: Jack Frost
Mangaka: JinHo Ko
Age Group: Older Teens
Series is: Ongoing with 3 volumes
Volume(s) Reviewing: 1
My Rating: 3/5

First day at a new school, Noh-A Joo loses her head --- literally. Except, she is not dead.

At Amityville Private High School, the students there are not what they seem. Demons and other dangerous paranormal beings fight against each other from different districts for power. Noh-A realizes that she is trapped amongst this chaos and is stuck with one of the most terrifying being possible, Jack Frost!

I remembered reading a couple of chapters of Jack Frost when the Yen Press magazine was first published. It is definitely a somewhat confusing series.

Apparently, Noh-A is dead and being at Amityville is where those who are rejected from complete death go to, along with other supernatural creatures. The story with Noh-A is a still a little unclear within the first volume. Like, why did she die? Is her world normal or is more of an alternate universe? What is the purpose of her landing at Amityville? Such questions were not covered but there were a couple of pages that hinted on Noh-A's past.

Jack is also a peculiar character but since he is a demon, I wasn't too curious about him since he is in the right environment where he belongs rather than Noh-A. The character Helmina, who is almost like the boss of Jack, reminded me of Integra from Hellsing in terms of looks. Except the difference between her and Integra is that she likes to show off more skin and has an evil aura to her.

There is a lot of action, most of which involves Jack fighting against other beings with plenty of severed body parts. A few comedic scenes with Noh-A in perverted situations do make the manga a lighter read. I find the manga to be a bit all over the place though. I think I would need to read a couple of more volumes, in hope that some of my questions would be cleared up.

The art is definitely shonen-ish. A lot of inking was used to generate the dark atmosphere and make the scenes more intense. The females are drawn with voluptuous figures (asides Noh-A) which would appeal to the male audience while the guys are along the cool and creepy. Although Jack Frost is a Korean manhwa, the art actually got me to keep thinking it was Japanese instead.

I recommend Jack Frost to shonen fans who are into series such as Samurai Deeper Kyo or Hellsing.

Won copy from
Tiamat's Manga Reviews.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flawless by Sara Shepard

Title: Flawless
Author: Sara Shepard
Age Group: Older Teens
# of Pages: 330
My Rating: 5/5

After the suspenseful cliffhanger in Pretty Little Liars, the four lovely ladies of Rosewood, Pennsylvania are now more freaked out than ever. Discovering that Alison is truly dead after recovering her remains from underneath her old home, Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna are questioning about the secret that killed their manipulative best friend back in seventh grade.

A is still out there, watching their every move. Spencer is now secretly meeting her perfect sister's ex-boyfriend. Emily is still trying to understand her feelings toward her female friend, Maya. Aria is devastated from what had happened between her and her English teacher and is now trying to figure out what to do after she discovered her father is still meeting one of his students behind his family's backs. Hanna is tired of trying to keep up to role with her popularity and life at home is simply gut-wrenching. As things get more complicated in each of their personal lives, A is threatening to ruin them for sure.

Who the hell is A? Is A the creepy Toby that they all used to be scared of who is now somewhat normal? What had happened in the past for these girls to be tormented by? With this intense sequel, you will be left dying to get your hands on the next volume!

Oh my God, I feel so bad for these characters. So bad. The shit (pardon my language but word must be used) that they go through is enough to kill any teenage girl. I know that I would definitely be suicidal if I was in either Hanna's or Aria's shoes (and possibly Spencer's). The problems these three girls go through are based on family and trust. It literally broke my heart because these kind of things get to me. I know they all did something stupid at one point but for them to receive what they did in Flawless made me want to reach into the book and give them a great bear hug. The person that got off the lightest amongst the four was Emily, since her problem could be easily cleared up if she let it.

Now that is off my chest, Flawless finally reveals what Alison did when they were younger, which is a secret they all kept. It is something that anyone would keep their mouth shut about if they did it. There is quite a bit of morals involved within this novel. It makes you wonder as a reader what you would do if you were in any of the characters' situations.

I really am looking forward to Perfect, the third volume for this series. I have a feeling that things will get even more twisted because Flawless left a new mystery that needs to be solved. The only thing I hope for is that when I reach the end of the series that it would be worth it. But for sure, check out the Pretty Little Liars if you haven't yet! What Sara Shepard does best is that she keeps you enthralled as you wondered like mad what will happen to all of her characters at the end!

You can have a sneak peek of the novel here!

Review copy provided by HarperCollins.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Official xxxHolic Guide by CLAMP

Title: The Official xxxHolic Guide
Mangaka: CLAMP
Age Group: Teens
Series is: Completed with 1 volume
Volume(s) Reviewing: 1
My Rating: 4/5

Over 200 pages of xxxHolic goodness, fans can immersed themselves into the mysterious and paranormal world of this popular manga series further through the official guide.

In the first few pages, readers get to admire full-coloured pages starring Yuko, Watanuki, and Domeki. CLAMP gives striking and bold colours to their characters along with gorgeous designs with a European and Oriental feel.

After, you get sections such as the characters' profile and a tour around the different settings where the stories in the manga took place at. One of the main sections was where the different phenomenons that occurred within about the first ten volumes are dissected and observed. You will also find some fun stuff such as a quick quiz to see which magical treasure you are compatible with and some earlier character sketches!

My favourite sections of this guide would have to be Yuko's Wardrobe and Yuko's Best Quotes. I am a very visual person so to see all of the gorgeous outfits Yuko wore throughout the series collected into one is very pleasing; her clothes are to die for! Her quotes are always so insightful; they make you pause and think about them. For example, "Quitting something and doing something both have the same meaning. They are accomplishments." Now isn't that food for thought?

For those who adore xxxHolic, I definitely recommend The Official xxxHolic Guide. However, you should at least cover the first ten volumes (I am estimating since I do not own the series myself) before reading the guide. That way there wouldn't be any new content that would appear in which you have not covered yet in the manga series.

Review copy provided by
Del Rey.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trailer Tuesday: Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

Title: Girl in the Arena
Author: Lise Haines
Description: During the week, Lyn lives in a big house in Cambridge, and hangs out with friends in Harvard Square. But over the weekends she cheers her father on when he gears up for neo-gladiator competition—a high-profile televised blood sport that rivals the NFL. Lyn’s father is the top player in the league, and the paparazzi that have always swarmed him have started to dog Lyn’s every move. All this fame comes with an even higher price. Lyn’s family lives with the constant presence of violence, uncertainty, and a strict cultural code set by the Gladiator Sports Association. When a skilled young fighter slays Lyn’s father, the GSA imposes an unthinkable sentence—Lyn must marry her father’s murderer. Though her mother has made a career out of marrying into Glad culture, Lyn is prepared to do whatever it takes to claim her independence. Even if it means going into the arena herself….

This is such a creative way of making a book trailer! Haha, I love how in the beginning New Moon was tossed aside! (No offence to Twilight fans or anything). I have read mixed reviews about this novel though. What are your thoughts on it if you have read it?

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Monday, November 9, 2009

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce

Title: As You Wish
Author: Jackson Pearce
Age Group: Teens
# of Pages: 298
My Rating: 4/5

Viola just wants to be accepted and loved. No, she is not a loner and she have friends but she just feels that there is something missing inside of her. Ever since her boyfriend/best friend broke up with her because of his sexuality, she yearns for a chance to belong.

With a powerful wish inside of her, she somehow summons up a jinn. Like a genie, he will grant her three wishes. But fearing that she will wish for something that will not make her happy, she holds back on making any wishes.

Jinn on the other hand is desperate for her to quickly make her wishes. That way, he can return home to Caliban where he can not age, unlike here on Earth where he will continue to grow old like a normal human.

As the two spend more and more time together with each other, their feelings grow stronger and stronger. Except if Viola is to make her three wishes, Jinn will disappear altogether. Can their love possibly last?

With so many 5/5 ratings for this novel, I had very high expectations for As You Wish. In the end, I didn't end up giving my 5/5 as I hoped, though As You Wish is an adorable read nonetheless.

In this story, you will get two perspectives, one from Viola's and the other from Jinn's. I was most surprised when I first read Jinn's side of things. Being so used to the typical, mysterious male in most YA novels, I thought Jinn would have that sexy and dark tone of voice or something along those lines. Instead, he sounded more normal than anything! No offence to Jinn but sometimes his thoughts were like a girl's. I did however find myself liking him as a character because his emotions towards Viola were sweet and caring.

When it came to Viola though, I couldn't find myself caring for her so much as the protagonist. She is alright; I didn't outright dislike her or anything. She's more like, meh. If she was a side character, she would definitely blend into the background. All of her actions and thoughts were very lulling and non-exciting. I can relate to her though and I think many other teens could also. I'm sure many people out there had that want for belonging at one point in their lives so I understood her and her thoughts quite well throughout the story.

I really liked the idea of Jinn's home world, Caliban. It sounded very perfect but at the same time, somewhat of a curse if you put things into perspective. The idea of never aging and being practically immortal could definitely have been put to good use in the novel. A lot of great ideas could have been pulled out of this imaginary world of Caliban and get incorporated into the story but unfortunately did not. Pearce wanted to focus more on the romance between Viola and Jinn rather than adding in heavy context.

What the novel lacked in my opinion was the "wow" factor that made the reader desperate to continue on reading non-stop. It was not intensely amazing as I hoped it was but I still enjoyed it. As You Wish is a fluffy and lovable read with its own charms. I definitely recommend it. If you want to have a glimpse of it, check out here.

Review copy provided by HarperCollins.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

In My Mailbox - XLVI

To do your own In My Mailbox, please check out how to at The Story Siren!

The Borrowed

Nightschool: The Weirn Books vol. 1 by Svetlana Chmakova

The Bought


The Received

Moyasimon vol. 1 by Masayuki Ishikawa
Night Head Genesis vol. 1 by George Iida and You Higuri
Kitchen Princess: Search for the Angel Cake by Miyuki Kobayashi and Natsumi Ando
I Hate You More Than Anyone! vol. 1 by Banri Hidaka
The Recipe for Gertrude vol. 2, 4 by Nari Kusakawa
Go Go Heaven!! vol. 1-2 by Keiko Yamada
Variante vol. 1, 4 by Iqura Sugimoto
Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Eon Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman
Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

Homg, this is one of the best IMM weeks I had in quite awhile! I want to do a quick thank you to Cindy from Princess Bookie for hosting a great and huge giveaway! I received Give Up the Ghost from Megan because I won one of Cindy's contests. So thanks guys! And look forward to the reviews of the novels and mangas above folks!

Can someone let me know if I need to read Graceling by Kristin Cashore before going into Fire? In case I'll get lost if I jump right into Fire.

Also, I want to let you guys know there is a cool event you can join called the Holiday Swap! It's like Secret Santa! You guys should really check it out! Not only will you make someone else happy, byt you'll get your own little cool gift too! Click here or the image below to get more info! Who knows, I might be your Secret Santa. ;)

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani

Title: Viola in Reel Life
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Age Group: Teens
# of Pages: 288
My Rating: 3/5

The idea of being at a boarding school away from home is different for many people. Viola, a young girl who is passionate about filming, doesn't want to be alone in a new environment when she has no choice but to go to an all-girls boarding school as her parents work abroad.

Rooming with three other girls, Viola eventually learns to adapt to her new life and begins to understand the meaning of friendship.

I think Viola's personality works as a ninth grader. Sometimes you can't help but think that she could be smarter than she already is. Then again, she is still new to the concept of being by herself and learning to live on her own. There were times where I found her to be a little spoiled and whiny, but she was okay for the most part; there could have been more to her as a character though. I do however like how dedicated she is with her favourite hobby, filming.

There was only this one part that bothered me the most in the story and it was Viola's relationship with Jared, a boy from an all-boys boarding school nearby. They met at a party for the first time when their schools came together. Then right after, they kissed within an hour or so and were "dating". Quick relationships like that bothers me a lot in any novel. Without proper interaction that would lead up to a relationship, I don't consider it much as a relationship. I do however think Viola learned a lesson near the end with the little "romance" of hers.

I was somewhat bored for the majority of the time during the novel. It had a difficult time grabbing my attention because I couldn't find myself looking forward to anything in it. This is where a plot in a realistic novel can get tricky. With no paranormal activity or some hero's quest, the author would have to find some sort of realistic problem that the audience would be interested in. This is where Viola in Reel Life lacked, therefore making it a less enjoyable read for me since everything was so bland.

Viola in Reel Life is not a bad read, easy to breeze by. It is a read for those who wants to follow the lives of the protagonist in a simple real life situation rather than have a thick, complicated plot. If you would like a little preview of the novel, click here.

Review ARC copy provided by HarperCollins.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Reiko the Zombie Shop by Rei Mikamoto

Title: Reiko the Zombie Shop
Mangaka: Rei Mikamoto
Age Group: Older Teens
Series is: Completed with 11 volumes
Volume(s) Reviewing: 1
My Rating: 4.5/5

You can't bring the dead back to life, unless you are Reiko. This young and beautiful high school student could easily have anyone who is deceased walking and talking again. Of course, only if you pay her well. But no worries, she'll charge depending on how much you make.

Popular with her services, Reiko encounters many dangerous cases. Known as Reiko the Zombie Shop, she'll always get the job done. Of course, it doesn't mean that the safety of her customers would be definite. After all, you are messing with the undead!

With my desperation for anything zombie-related, I scoured long and hard for any manga that contained some. Unfortunate, there isn't much. I lucked out though, discovering this title through Deb Aoki from the popular Manga

When I first saw the art, I was like "Hmm". Sometimes I found Reiko's head to be awkward compared to the rest of her body, but if you were to just see only her on the page, you wouldn't expect that there would be so much gore following after. While reading, the art sometimes went to the extreme, with guts everywhere. It wasn't creepy until I actually thought about the artwork and story once I was done reading.

A few of the situations that Reiko ended up in went by a little too quickly. What bothered me was the question on how did Reiko obtained the power to bring the dead back? Was it because she fiddled with dark magic? Through bloodline? The first volume never covered the background story of Reiko and I really wanted to learn more about her.

Despite all that, I enjoyed the manga. It gave great doses of creepiness, blood and zombies with interesting background stories to it. Reiko the Zombie Shop is a great read for horror fans but not to those who are not into mangas with quick, short stories.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Tour: Medina Hill by Trilby Kent + Author Interview + Contest

Welcome to Stop, Drop, and Read! from Carrie's YA Bookshelf! Please enjoy your stay at my stop for Trilby Kent's Medina Hill book tour!

Title: Medina Hill
Author: Trilby Kent
Age Group: Tweens
# of Pages: 172
My Rating: 4/5

Set in a time period during the Great Depression in London, Dominic Walker is a young boy who can not speak. He can to his family, but whenever he is in contact with anyone else, he is unable to produce sound.

Life at home is dreary with his mother weakening with illness and his father without work. And with war on top of it all, no wonder the boy has nothing to say.

When his Uncle Roo unexpectedly came by, Dominic and his younger sister Marlo was taken to spend the summer with him at a boarding house. There, the two siblings encounter unusual but loving people. Dominic befriends a one-legged Gypsy girl but the people in the village discriminate against her people. With the power of friendship and a novel of Incredible Adventures for Boys: Colonel Lawrence and the Revolt in the Desert in hand, the boy who lost his voice learns about true heroism.

I generally don't pick up novels that are for middle school children but the synopsis sounded interesting that I decided to go for it.

The characters were defined and had a pleasantness about them when you read them. I thought Dominic was a strong boy but did not realize it until the end. He was attached to the book that his Uncle Roo had bought him and looked up to his personal hero, Colonel Lawrence. Like most kids, he dreamed about grand things. I found him to be a charming protagonist and his friendship with tomboy Sancha was sweet.

I really love Kent's writing within this novel because it is descriptive without using big words. But in my opinion, I think the novel will have a hard time garnering the attention of middle schoolers. Although aimed at tweens, Medina Hill would be better appreciated by someone older because of the theme and language. The story line isn't fast moving nor exciting to those with a younger mindset so it would be more difficult for a child of ten years to sit through rather than one who is sixteen years old. But of course, I am sure there would be a adolescent out there who would like this novel.

Medina Hill is definitely a great debut by Trilby Kent, although it will appeal to someone more mature rather than the targeted audience.


Now that you know a bit about Medina Hill, why not get to know the author some more? I have interviewed Trilby with some questions below! Scroll down some more for a chance to win a copy of Medina Hill also!

First, what inspired you to write Medina Hill?

A trip to Cornwall provided the crucial ‘spark’, although I’d been interested in writing a book about Lawrence of Arabia for quite some time before that.

What do you find is the easiest part in writing? And the hardest?

Starting is easy; ending is much harder.

Are you currently working on any new novels? If so, can you please give a quick summary about them?

I’ve recently completed a second children’s novel set during the Anglo-Boer War. The main character is a twelve year-old girl who embarks on a grueling trek with her mother and brothers across the battled-scarred Transvaal. A friendship with a Canadian soldier, the loss of an African friend and the tragic consequences of the British concentration camp system all play their part in her coming of age.

I also have a novel for adults doing the submission rounds at the moment. Ranging between Flanders and Ceylon in the late 1930s, it tells the story of a correspondence that grows out of a case of mistaken identity between a young Englishwoman and a 13 year-old Flemish boy. I’m quite proud of it and am hopeful that it will find a home soon.

The latest project is a novel I’m writing as part of my PhD. Most of the action takes place in an experimental boarding school in 1950s Guernsey, although I’m playing with the possibility of a time-slip into sixteenth-century southern Africa…

Did you always wanted to be an author? If not, what led you to become one today?

I’ve always loved writing, but until relatively recently I didn’t really believe that I’d be able to make a full-time career out of it. For me, the turning point came when I decided to quit the 9 to 5 and start working as a freelance journalist. Around the same time, my partner was offered a job in Brussels, so I was able to start with a fresh slate in a new city. I was very lucky: within a few weeks I’d landed a gig as a regular contributor to the Continent’s largest English-language newsmagazine, writing book, film and exhibition reviews and the odd feature article. The combination of flexible working hours and a stimulating day job made it possible for me to spend several days a week developing my writing. That was four years ago now, and I haven’t looked back since!

Like Dominic, do you have your own hero that you look up to now or when you were younger?

What a great question. The South African journalist and anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods was probably my first proper hero. I saw Cry Freedom when I was in middle school, and it blew my mind.

If you could jump into any book, which book would it be?

Atonement (those gorgeous first few pages, anyway - before things start to go hideously wrong). Or Other Voices, Other Rooms, because I’m a sucker for Southern Gothic. Mint juleps and pecan pie all round!

If you could travel back to any era or year, which era or year would it be?

The 1930s, without a doubt. I find the interwar years absolutely fascinating – it’s easy to forget, what with all the razzmatazz of the Roaring Twenties, that people were still coming to terms with the Great War years later. The 1930s was a decade of massive social change, considerable hardship, and a lot of pent-up energy resulting from the dawning realisation that another global conflict was just around the corner. For a writer, it’s a period bursting with creative potential.

Lastly, please give us an interesting fact about yourself that many do not know of!

Backpacking in India, a friend and I found ourselves on a train travelling in completely the wrong direction: we were supposed to be going to Jaipur, and instead found ourselves heading for Bihar, which at that point was in the grip of an outbreak of deadly riots. A fellow passenger told us about another train that would soon be passing ours, travelling in the opposite direction, which always slowed down in order to let both trains navigate a narrow bend. When it appeared, we took our chances, jumping from our train and racing to catch the other before it picked up speed again. This all happened at 3 o’clock in the morning, in the pitch dark, somewhere in the Uttar Pradesh countryside. A couple of men who saw us trailing their carriage flung a door open and hauled us on board just in time. It was terrifying and exhilarating. Suffice to say, I didn’t tell my parents about the escapade until I was safely home in England!


Now that you have read the review and know more about Trilby, it is time to get onto the contest! Yes, you can win 1 of 5 copies of Medina Hill!

To get entries:
+1: Comment with your email address
+1: Become a new follower
+2: Already is a follower
+1: For every place you link this contest to

Open worldwide and closing date on November 20, 2009. I am the last stop for today but be sure to continue the tour tomorrow at Write for a Reader!