Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Winner of Sass and Serendipity!!!


A name has been drawn out of a hat and. . .

Congratulations ROBYN!  

You are the winner of Sass and Serendipity. Please email me with your mailing address and I will get the book in the mail to you as soon as possible!

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Peek at the Creative Space of JJ Johnson

It's my pleasure to welcome author JJ Johnson to Creative Spaces today. JJ's debut novel, This Girl is Different, was published this spring by Peachtree Publishers. It was recently named as a 2011 Parents' Choice Silver Honor winner. Here is a brief synopsis:

Senior year is about to start, and Evie is starting at a mainstream high school for the first time. Until now, Evie has been homeschooled by her counter-culture mother, which gives her a view of the world unlike you average teenager.
High school is a social minefield, and Evie finds herself confronting new problems at every turn, failing to follow or even understand the rules. Mainly, she is disturbed to encounter teachers who abuse their power and discriminate against their own students. That's when Evie, her best friend Jacinda, and boyfriend Rajas start an anonymous blog to give the students a voice.

Eventually, the three lose control of the blog and a number of students and teachers are attacked through increasingly abusive and anonymous posts. Suddenly, Evie has accidentally gone from providing a forum for free speech to creating a place for online bullying--which is the last thing she wanted to do.

Kirkus Reviews said, "Outspoken Evie, with a voice so endearing and provocative that it will make readers pause often to think, quickly discovers in this witty debut that high school is full of biased rules, abuses of power and a lack of civil liberties. . . . Readers will never look at high school--or life--the same.”

To learn more about JJ Johnson visit her website.


Describe your workspace.

My workspace is my MacBook Air and an imaginary bubble surrounding me. As much as I’d love a home office with an antique desk, bookshelves, art, and dappled sunlight filtering through the windows, that is so not my reality. My house is too tiny for an office, and my daily obligations wouldn’t allow me to spend time there anyway. So I take my work—and my bubble—with me. I write in coffee shops, at my child’s school, the public library, the dining room table while kids light-saber duel around me.

Describe a typical workday.

Honestly, there’s no such thing. I grab time whenever and wherever I can. That said, I usually spend an hour or two on publicity stuff—website updates, interviews, Facebook, e-mails, etc—and when that’s done, I write for a couple of hours. That’s a good day. When I’m up against a hard deadline, though, all bets are off, and the house goes to pot, because I just have to get it done.


List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

1. I have a sticker on my computer. It’s a stained-glass-ish painting of a kangaroo bounding in front of Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Australia. My family lived down under in 2009-2010, and the country there occupies a huge part of my heart. It’s a beautiful reminder that it’s a big world, and that I want to experience as much of it as I can.


2. A postcard of art by Shepard Fairey (2005) that says ‘Make Art Not War.’ It reminds me why I do what I do—because I want to live in a world where people create more than they consume, where art and human kindness are valued over profits and violence.


3. Taped inside my notebook is the Marge Piercy poem “For the young who want to”. The whole poem is great, but the last few lines really speak to me:
The real writer is one / who really writes. Talent / is an invention like phlogiston / after the fact of fire. / Work is its own cure. You have to / like it more than being loved.
To me, it means that your reasons for writing, your motivation, your validation, everything has come from within. By all means, accept critique from trusted friends and editors, but the rest of it you must block out. You can’t get distracted by rejections, bad reviews, or any of the other machinations of the publishing industry. “Work is its own cure.” If that’s true for you—if you can’t not write, then you write.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

I make or buy a yummy drink and I clear off whatever table/couch/bench/rock where I’m sitting. I usually start with editing, so I’m not confronted immediately with the dreaded blank screen of a new chapter.

What do you listen to while you work?

I’ve never been able to listen to music when I work. I listen to the brown noise option from the sanity-saving SimplyNoise.com

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Each of my novels has its own drink. This Girl is Different was iced coffee. Random was chai. The novel I’m currently writing is unsweetened iced tea. The drink becomes part of the ritual of focusing: make the drink, clear off the table, pop in the earbuds, take a sip, start writing. It becomes Pavlovian.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

The white/brown noise helps. But it’s not an all-or-nothing venture; when I need a little break, I check Facebook or email, or I get up and walk around. I’m not a machine or anything. Really it just comes down to one basic question: Do you want to be an author, or don’t you? A writer is someone who writes. It’s that simple.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

I generally start off a novel by writing notes longhand, although I dread doing so and kick and scream all the way. Then I put it in the computer—I use Scrivener, which is the best novel-writing software known to humans—and off I go.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

The writer Robert Olen Butler says everything you experience goes into a compost heap—everything you think and do and see and feel gets thrown in there, and breaks down into rich, fertile soil. That’s what you grow your novels in.

I’ve learned to respect the time it takes to think up a novel. A few months of busy daydreaming—repainting the house, teaching myself to reupholster furniture—that’s when stories coalesce. My house is filled with things I’ve made while "baking" my novels.

This painting of trees--eucalypts on the right, blending toward north american deciduous on the left, (24 x 36” acrylic)--is a product of my busy daydreaming while "baking" a novel.


When I’m ready, I start scribbling notes in my notebook. Then I take to the computer and get to page 50 or 100, and THEN I realize I probably should have made an outline. So I go back and write each scene on a sticky note and plot out a huge mind-map, which gets taped to the dining room wall for a while.


The map of my current novel. It’s approximately 3x5 feet of newsprint, and the stickies are color-coded. Chartreuse = scenes & plot points (it’s an escalating plot, you can tell by the shape of the line), Blue = "bad guys", Purple = surprises & plot twists, Pink = details to remember and character traits.  Bottom right corner is a list of major themes.  I’ve fuzzed the writing out because my editor would kill me if I gave away secrets!



If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I’m constantly forced to share my workspace, and I can tell you who I LEAST like sharing it with: ice cube rattlers, cell-phone talkers, compulsive pen-clickers, and heavy sighers. Anyone else I can pretty much deal with.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

A fellow author once told me, “Your words are medicine for someone out there.” On bad days, that keeps me going. Find what keeps you going. And may the Force be with you.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guest Post with Jennifer Ziegler (and a giveaway!)

Here's some Friday fun for you: A guest post from author Jennifer Ziegler! Jennifer is the author of Alpha Dog, How Not to Be Popular, and her latest is Sass and Serendipity, out in stores now.  Sass and Serendipity is a tribute to both Jennifer's sister and Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year.

And to kick the fun meter up a notch, we're giving away a copy of Sass and Serendipity! Comment on this post to enter yourself to win. Tweet, Facebook, or blog this post link for additional entries. (Let me know in the comments which you do.) You have until next Tuesday to enter, and I'll announce the randomly drawn winner on Wednesday.

In keeping with my Creative Spaces theme, Jennifer Ziegler shares some thoughts on writing in the wild (away from home).



SPACING OUT--WHEN THE WORLD IS YOUR OFFICE 

I write in many places.  I have to.  With the demands of motherhood, jobs, home ownership and assorted life stresses, my schedule changes as much as a Central Texas weather forecast.  Throw in a major house reorganization, and writing time becomes as hard to come by as, well, rain in Central Texas. 

Whether the problem is noise, interruptions, or being constantly on the go, I’ve had to get creative with my creative spaces.  Here is a quick tour of my home offices away from home office:


My favorite coffeehouses or branch libraries. Both are good options for when I want to escape the distractions of my desk phone, needy family members, or dirty dishes and other ignored tasks.  The upside to libraries is that they contain research material and librarians.  However, sometimes I find them too quiet.  The upside to coffeehouses is that they contain caffeinated products and snacks.  However sometimes I find them too noisy.  Being out in public can also inhibit me. I often pantomime scenes to make sure I get the movements just right, but I’m never sure how a roomful of people would react to seeing me make out with an invisible guy.


Outdoors. Sometimes the best way for me to break out of writer’s block is to break out of the four walls of my home.  Occasionally I will spread out a quilt beneath our pecan tree and write with a notebook balanced on top of my knees – just like I used to do when I was eleven years old.  Perhaps replicating my youth helps the creativity flow.  Perhaps substituting the chirps and buzzes of electronics with those of birds and cicadas is what does it.  The advantages: sunshine, fresh air, no internet.  Disadvantages: mosquitoes, extreme temperatures, no internet.


My Toyota. I discovered this option when my children would fall asleep in the car and I didn’t want to risk moving them to their beds. My kids don’t nap anymore, but I still sometimes use the “auto office” while waiting outside their school or theater camp.  This is what I do: I raise the seat and push it back as far as it can go.  Then I stack books and/or magazines on my lap to create a desk.  (I do know that there are such things as lap desks, but I’ve never bought one. I always have things handy that work just as well – which will tell you just how messy my car is.)  After that, I open the windows for a cross breeze, set the radio to a classical station, and I’m ready to work!  It’s amazing how productive I can be.  There’s something about being in a confined space that allows me to really focus.

Other people’s houses. I should start a non-profit.  I should create flyers that read “Will house sit for free!”  Instead of money, people could just give me a key and the code to their modem.  I’ll even water their plants and feed their pets.  I wrote sections of each of my three books in the homes of vacationing pals, and I have to say this could be the best alternate workspace of all.  Privacy and the comforts of home without the distractions.  Plus, I don’t feel too much at ease – not to the point where I convince myself that instead of revising Chapter Six, I should open a bag of Sun Chips and watch Ellen.




Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! You can catch more with Jennifer Ziegler tomorrow (Saturday, July 16) at Mundie Moms.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Peek at the Creative Space of Elizabeth Schoonmaker

Joining us today is author and illustrator Elizabeth Schoonmaker. She is sharing not one but two creative spaces with us. Her indoor space where she creates her illustrations and her outdoor space where she creates. . . well, you'll just have to scroll to the end of the interview to see. 

 Square Cat, her picture book debut, is in bookstores now:
"Eula is the only square cat in town. Everything that normal cats do is hard for her--she can't get her square paw into mouseholes, she can't wear her favorite circle skirt, and all of her friends are round! Eula is sad until her two best friends show her how well a square cat can fit into this round world."
Elizabeth got the idea for Eula one day after she finished a sketch of her cat Stanleigh, who is a round cat:


Soon after, Eula the Square Cat was born:


You can learn more about Elizabeth Schoonmaker here, and you can learn more about Eula the Square Cat on her website and blog.


Describe your workspace.

My workspace is on the second floor of my home, perched on a hillside in rural upstate New York. I work at an old oval table placed perfectly for natural light and continuous looking out of the window.


Describe a typical workday.

I like to draw and paint in the morning. I work from eight to eleven followed by a three-mile walk. I love my walks. They energize my mind and my body, and reward me with ideas and directions. After lunch I write, keeping in mind the images of the day. Then it is supper, a bit of relaxation, music, books, movies, and sleep. My work is always with me.



What media do you use and which is your favorite?

I work in pencil, oil, watercolors, graphite, pen and ink, gouache, and luma ink on a variety of surfaces. I love materials. Hand to utensil to medium to paper is a lovely experience.



List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

(1) My Table (covered with my cut marks, paint, and memories); (2) My plate of watercolors, which have become little castles nestled together on a plate like a faraway island; and (3) My many magnifiers. (They really help me see better!)


Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

Keeping with my Dutch last name Schoonmaker, which means cleaner in Dutch, I do like a clean and organized work area. I always clean before I work.

What do you listen to while you work?

The hum of my refrigerator.

One of Elizabeth's oil paintings.


What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Green tea with honey from the bees my family keeps.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

The pure excitement and joy of experiencing all of the basic elements of paintings and drawing coming to life.


What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging and why?

For me, making the dummy book is the easiest aspect of developing a picture book, but I find it very challenging to keep the spontaneity of the dummy book in the finished book.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?


I write longhand notes and compose on a computer.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I develop most all of my story lines on my walks.  I then sketch first and add the words later. 

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I would eagerly invite George and Martha, magnificently created by the late James Marshall, to my studio. I am one of their lifelong fans.

What is the best piece of writing/illustrating advice you’ve heard or received?

“Write and illustrate what you know.”  Wise words of wisdom well received from my two darling daughters.



P.S. This is my outside creative space where I use nature’s finest willows and wild grapevines to make magical roadside attractions for all to enjoy.






Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Change to the Roundup. . .

Well, book-loving friends, I'm finding it a bit difficult to keep up the pace with posting both a weekly interview and a weekly book roundup, and it's only going to get more difficult for me in the near future as I have a writing retreat and a family vacation coming up. But I do want to continue the roundups so I've decided to change it to a monthly feature. Please keep your recommendations coming and I will include them in the August roundup.

But while we're on this topic, my friend Katherine alerted me to an NPR discussion that took place today between Megan Cox Gurdon (who wrote the original article that prompted my response in the form of the Light and Round Project) and YA author Lauren Myracle.  There was also an additional discussion today with the original article writer and YA author Maureen Johnson. Both definitely worth listening to.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Peek at the Creative Space of Michelle Ray

Joining us today for Creative Spaces is author Michelle Ray. Her debut YA novel, Falling for Hamlet, was recently published. Falling for Hamlet is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's play told from Ophelia's point of view:
Meet Ophelia, high school senior, daughter of the Danish king’s most trusted adviser, and longtime girlfriend of Prince Hamlet. She lives a glamorous life, has a royal social circle, and her beautiful face is splashed across magazines and TV. But it comes with a price -- her life is dominated not only by Hamlet’s fame and his overbearing royal family but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go.
After the sudden and suspicious death of his father, the king, Hamlet spirals dangerously toward madness, and  Ophelia finds herself torn between loyalty to her boyfriend, her father, her country, and her true self.
Michelle is a contributor to Emu's Debuts where she's written about the creation of her book cover and the conundrum of planning a themed launch party for a book that centers on revenge, madness, and murder. To learn more about Michelle you can find her on Facebook as "Michelle Ray writer" or visit her website. And if you live in the southern California area, you can learn more about Michelle in person on July 18 when she'll be at Book Soup in West Hollywood at 7pm.


The butt imprint in the couch (covered by my laptop in the picture) proves that I put in the hours, but I don’t have a classic writer’s area.



Describe your workspace.

My workspace is a couch nestled between the kitchen and Barbie’s Funhouse. Sigh. Some writers I know have lovely rooms devoted to their work with natural light and inspiring art around them. My workspace is the hub of our house--the sitting room that seconds as a playroom. It has French doors that I sometimes close to block out the dulcet tones of Arthur and High School Musical. But everyone walks in while I’m working. Everyone. Constant interruption. My husband has gotten used to my scowls as he walks in to ask a question, but as he rightly says, “It’s hard to know when you’re working and when you’re just on Facebook.” Fair enough. But often I AM working, and because I’m in the middle of the house, the interruptions are frequent.

Writing wasn’t a regular part of my life when we moved in five years ago, so we didn’t set aside a space for it. Even if I had a separate place, I doubt I would be able to hide away and concentrate because I would still have to get someone a juice box or to change Barbie’s outfit. At least this way, the walk is that much shorter.

 
Describe a typical workday.

My typical workday begins at 5:45 a.m. when I get ready for my day job as a teacher. After classes and meetings and grading, I come home and have an hour or two before I pick up my kids from their aftercare program. In that time, I sometimes write, but usually I try to take care of other business (cooking dinner, checking email, writing a blog entry, napping, if I’m lucky). Family dinner is followed by homework, bath time, books, etc. My girls go to bed between 8 and 8:30, but they keep getting up! This is when my writing time begins, so if the trips out of bed are many, I get mighty peeved. Once I get writing, I might go until midnight (though I pay dearly the next day when I try to teach), or eleven o’clock, or even ten if my husband calls out that a new episode of Top Chef or How I Met Your Mother is on. It’s hard to balance all that I need and want to accomplish in a day, but I wouldn’t give up any of the things I do.

When I’m really into a project, it can be physically painful for me to have to wait so many hours to write. I’ve occasionally used a free period at school to write, but I have to make up that time later. I write in my mind during hall duty, when I’m driving, while cooking. Proctoring standardized tests is a terrific time to daydream about plot. But the number of hours I have to actually get my ideas on paper are few. I tend to be very efficient as a writer because of this. It shocks people how fast I can churn out pages.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

My workspace, as I said, isn’t devoted to my work. It’s just a sitting room. However, I’ll tell you three things in it that I love.

1) We have a chair that’s supposed to be a pinto print, but everyone calls it “The Cow Chair.” It's comfortable and funny, and people fight to sit in it. Our old apartment was decorated with all kinds of foolish things, like retro Hawaiian ads, and was painted in crazy colors. When we bought our house, we decorated like grownups. Except for The Cow Chair. We let ourselves have one silly object.


2) A CD spinning rack that holds photos of four generations of family weddings. Great-grandma in a corset. Grandma in a flapper-ish gown. Mom in her Jackie O coat dress. My outdoor wedding.


3) A bookcase we’ve dragged cross-country twice. It holds photos, my husband’s history books (including the one he wrote), and my first novel, Falling for Hamlet.


Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

Yelling at my kids to be quiet and just let Mommy work!

What do you listen to while you work?

Against my will: the TV across the house blaring some kids’ show or sports, someone playing with Barbie not five feet away (because she wants to be close, and I can’t refuse that!), and various other household noises.

By choice: Usually nothing. Though for my new project, I’ve been listening to Joshua Radin. Very mellow and romantic. It helps me tune out noise and focus on my characters.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Nothing. I’m always afraid I’m going to spill on my laptop, and when I write, I get so focused that I don’t stop for much of anything.

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

Knowing that I don’t have a lot of time.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

My first manuscript was handwritten and I thought it was grand. But four notebooks later, I realized I was going to have to transfer them. I panicked, but faced it one page at a time. The next manuscript I wrote on the computer, and I’ll never go back. Now I even prefer editing on computer. My agent, editor, and I all use markup on the computer to get it done. It saves paper and space (I hate to throw printed drafts away), and is quicker.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I’m working with an outline right now for the first time and it’s strange. I’ve never planned out a whole manuscript ahead of time. I usually have an idea for the climax or some big moment in the middle, then work my way from the beginning to that point and finish the rest. Falling for Hamlet had its own template, since it was Hamlet, but I left the script so often that it didn’t act as a perfect outline. The muse leads me here and there, though I do have big moments in mind from the beginning.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

My best friend, Lauren, would be great because she reads all my drafts anyway, she pushes me to write more to entertain her, and she gives killer foot rubs.

The better question is if I didn’t share my workspace with the family would I be more productive? Maybe not. When I have a lot of time alone, I tend to check email, Facebook, and search for snacks.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird spoke to my early fears of how to keep going when I didn’t think I had enough to make a whole book, and then when the ideas were coming faster than I could write them down. She tells the story of her brother having to do a report on a variety of the birds. He was in a panic, so his mother told him he’d get it done “bird by bird.” It’s a great lesson on chipping away at a project and not letting oneself get overwhelmed.

The second is more about dealing with rejection and criticism. A couple of years ago, I was telling my friend Jimmy that I had been rejected by too many agents, and I was giving up on writing. He’s a successful composer/musician for television, and he pulled out his Blackberry and showed me criticism he’d gotten that day for some music he’d created. He said, “As the saying goes, opinions are like a**holes. Everyone has one.” That was when I decided to buck up and try again. And I did find an agent who sold my book at auction. I’m glad I didn’t give up.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Roundup #3! (Light and Round Project)

Welcome to the weekly roundup of the Light and Round Project! If this is your first time hearing about it and you want to know more, visit this post for a full explanation or click on "Light and Round Project" under my header.

If you would like to recommend books for teenagers that you think the average person would consider not too violent, dark, or edgy, please email me at fromthemixedupfiles(at)gmail(dot)com with your suggestions and links to reviews if you have them.

Here is this week's list of recommendations:



Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine, recommended by Tammy Flanders of Apples With Many Seeds. “Rowan is handed a negative that she supposedly dropped, by a stranger.  She knows it’s not hers but takes it anyways. The negative is of her brother who died two years prior.  How can this be?  The grief from her brother's death has unravelled her family. She's coping and juggling the pieces of her life while bit-by-bit the mystery of her brother comes to light. Though Jenny Valentine touches on death, grief, and teen issues none of it comes across as heavy. Great dialogue, humor, and a touch of mystery keep it real without melodrama.”

 
The Cardturner by Louis Sachar. (My recommendation.) I never thought I’d be recommending a book about playing bridge to teens, but I absolutely loved this book and think many young readers would too. It’s funny, poignant, has a dash of romance, lots of family intrigue and drama. The game of bridge comes alive as the highly strategic, competitive game that it is. For teens interested in playing poker or other card games, I think this novel will perk some interest in bridge too.


Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, recommended by Rebecca of The Reading List. “My entire experience with Dealing with Dragons can be summed up with that word: fun. The plot was suitably thick, the wit was quick, new and unexpected characters were delightful, and I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of the series.”


Fairy Bad Day by Amanda Ashby, reviewed by Kelsey of The Book Scout. “This was my second novel by Amanda Ashby (the first was Zombie Queen of Newbury High) and I can't wait to see what's next for her. Her novels are always full of fun action, sweet romance, and unique paranormal creatures. Fairy Bad Day did not disappoint in that regard and I had a hard time putting it down.”


Finding Violet Parks by Jenny Valentine, recommended by Tammy Flanders of Apples With Many Seeds. “Lucas comes across a funerary urn for a woman named Violet Parks in the office of a taxi cab company in London.  He feels an immediate connection and can’t stop thinking about who Violet was and why no one has claimed her ashes. Lucas decides to investigate her story and along the way we step inside his life with a missing father, preoccupied mother, rebellious sister, ailing grandfather and perhaps, guidance from Violet herself. Great build up and resolution. This British import was reissued in the U.S. as Me, the Missing and the Dead.” 


Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs, reviewed by Kelsey of The Book Scout. “Forgive My Fins was a sweet and enjoyable read, that definitely left me wanting to read more of Tera Lynn Child's novels.”


The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, recommended by Rebecca of The Reading List. “Kady Cross vividly describes the London of her imagination. With automatons performing household tasks and tiny portable telegraph machines that are basically the Victorian version of texting (clever!), as well as potent descriptions of odors and atmospheres, it was easy to fall into the story.”


The Lucky Kind by Alyssa B. Scheinmel, reviewed by Liz of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy. “And here is one of the reasons I adore this book, and Sheinmel’s writing and choices. This is not 'and then the disillusioned teen drugged, drank, and violently acted out in all sorts of gritty ways.' No! This is much more true to life, much more real.”


Mistress of the Storm by M. L. Welsh, reviewed by Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library. “An immensely satisfying adventure, of the sort that has tons of appeal both for the young reader and for those of us adults who still turn to children's books for our own reading pleasure!”


Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Levitt, recommended by Katherine. “When Payton needs to focus on something other than her father's life-changing diagnosis of M.S. she tries to focus on. . . Sean Griswold's head. And then she finds that focusing on Sean helps her focus on a lot of other things too, like bike riding, family, and maybe even love.”


Starcrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce. (My recommendation.) A high-fantasy adventure about Digger, a female thief on the run who escapes by joining a group of young nobility sailing out of her town. She takes on the role of ladies’ maid, thinking it will temporarily serve her fugitive purposes, only to find herself trapped in a snowbound castle and blackmailed into spywork and thievery against the people she is reluctantly beginning to consider friends. Digger's world is ruled by an intolerant monarchy that is persecuting people for differing religious beliefs, so there is some violence and serious themes are addressed. But it's not what I would personally consider a dark or edgy novel. Everything was handled in a way that upped the tension, fleshed out the world in a realistic way, and made it the action-packed, suspenseful read that it is.


Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter, reviewed by  Emily of Emily’s Reading Room. “This book has just the right amounts of so many things that I love in fiction: travel, suspense, witty dialogue, interesting characters, and romance. The whole plot just blends together so nicely, and suddenly you are sucked into this world that you so much wish could be real. Because, how much fun would it be to re-steal some of the world's most valuable art?”