Thursday, July 30, 2009

Enchanting Review: Jinx

Paranormal YA
ISBN# 0060837640
262 Pages
Hardcover—Available Now

Rating: 4 Enchantments

Jean aka ‘JINX’ has been forced to move to NYC and stay with her well-off aunt and uncle to finish out the school year after something has gone horribly wrong at home. Jinx doesn’t like to talk about it, but her cousin Tory decides to out some of it during the first time they see each other again. Jinx is about to discover NYC is a whole new world, she has her own room, her own bathroom and apparently her built-in nemesis in her cousin Tory, or ‘Torrance’ as she prefers to be called. Torrance thinks she inherited the family’s witch powers and when Jinx saves Zach, Tory’s crush, she’s sure that Jinx is a witch too. But when Jinx tells her she wants nothing to do with magic or witchcraft, Tory takes it personally, and goes out full blast to destroy Jinx when she realizes that Jinx is truly the more powerful of the two.

I liked JINX. There were a few points that kind of bugged me, like how she didn’t realize that Zach liked her and kept playing off his nearness as his attempt to visit Petra, the au pair. I would have thought she’d have realized it sooner as it got a little grating as she kept doing it over and over again. But her cousin Tory is one truly devious character. I thought the one part where she ended up in the hospital was bad and an attention seeking move, but what she ended up doing to Jinx near the end of the book had my jaw dropping in awe.

Any fan of lighter paranormal and Meg Cabot will definitely enjoy JINX.

Ms. Cabot is the popular author of many books for young adults. Visit her online at her website

Enchanting Reviews
June 2009

Enchanting Review: Crash Into Me

Contemporary YA
Simon Pulse
ISBN# 978-4-4169-8208-1
272 pages
Hardcover – Available now

Rating: 3.5 Enchantments

Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae are practically strangers. They only have one thing in common: a desire to die. It’s how they all met online in the first place, to start a suicide club. All their previous attempts have failed, but this time, they won’t.

These four teens have formed a pact and made a plan. Together they will escape from home and embark on a cross-country road trip. They will visit the graves or sites of famous celebrity suicides, and at the end of their journey in Death Valley, they will each end their lives. At least that’s that plan. But as the teens spend more hours together, becoming closer with each secret they reveal, things start to get sidetracked, and several of the new friends start to doubt they can follow through with the promise they made—loyalty to the pact. And each must figure out for themselves if suicide is really the only option.

CRASH INTO ME is an extremely fascinating read from a psychological perspective. Told from soft-spoken Owen’s point-of-view, this story dives into the many various causes for teen depression and suicide, not limited to but including homosexuality and the feeling of inadequacy. It delves into the deepest, darkest thoughts of people who feel they have nothing left to live for in such a realistic manner, which is both interesting and scary. However, while this aspect of the book was believable, I was somewhat disappointed in the rest of the story. Precious little is given about each teen’s background; although what the reader does learn is probably what counts, I still would’ve liked to know each main character better. I was not able to really connect with any of the characters because of this, and subsequently, I couldn’t get into the story as much as I wanted to. I also didn’t think the story was as deep as it could’ve been; in fact, the ending to the story was pretty predictable in a feel-good sort of way, which ruined an opportunity for a more in depth discussion of life and death. Overall, CRASH INTO ME was a solid debut novel, but one that could’ve been much better.

CRASH INTO ME is Albert Borris’s first novel. He lives in New Jersey and can be visited online at

Rachael Stein
Enchanting Reviews
July 2009

Enchanting Review: Prism

YA fantasy
Harper Collins
ISBN # 978-0-06-16872-1
264 pages
Hardback—Available now

Rating: 4 Enchantments

Kaida Hutchenson isn’t excited about going on a class trip to Carlsbad Caverns. She’s especially not happy that she’s stuck with jock Zeke Anderson and loner Joy Tallon on one of the school buses. Then the trip takes a turn for the worse and they find themselves in a cave. Everything goes black and then Kaida finds herself in her bed back in California. Things seem normal. But are they?

Strange things happen around Kaida. For one thing the whole absence of medicines and dark looks she gets when she mentions 9-1-1. A mysterious boy appears, offering to help her. Should she trust him? All she knows is she must band together with both Zeke and Joy and try to get back to their own reality. And survive doing it.

At first all the dialogue of Kaida and her friend Maria right before the fateful trip to Carlsbad held me back. Then once Kaida gets on that bus, the suspense begins and grows until I couldn’t put the book down. Imagine a world where all medicines are illegal and Social Darwinism, the idea that the strongest survive, wasn’t just a theory but the norm. Kaida’s horror at seeing how the new reality deals with accidents and illnesses compels her to ask questions that are quickly frowned on. I liked the whole twist of the parallel world and know this book will have people questioning the idea that the solution to illnesses is worse than the diseases. Kaida struggles to make sense of this world and her conflicts of who to trust were real. I especially liked how these teens were able to put their differences aside and work at trying to get back home. A very compelling fantasy that is sure to be discussed long after it’s finished.

Faye Kellerman is the author of twenty-five novels. This is the first time writing with Aliza Kellerman, her daughter. Aliza has been writing for years, inspired by her family. A junior in high school, Aliza enjoys drawing, cartooning, singing, and playing her harp. This is her first book. Faye and Aliza live in Los Angeles, Ca.

July 2009

Enchanting Review: You Are Here

Contemporary YA
Simon Pulse
ISBN# 978-1-4169-6799-6
256 pages
Hardcover – Available now

Rating: 4 Enchantments

Emma Healy has resigned herself to the fact that she’s the only normal person among her family of extraordinary scholars. She’s had years of experience being the odd one out, of feeling like she doesn’t totally belong. And she doesn’t know why, but she’s always felt like a part of her is somehow missing.

Her shy but intelligent neighbor Peter Finnigan feels more at home with Emma’s family of academics than he ever has is his own house. As much as he’d like to, Peter can’t spend every minute of the day in the Healy’s house, but with little other friends, he spends most of his time alone with his books and maps, dreaming of escape.

Opportunity presents itself when Emma finds the birth certificate of her unknown twin brother—and a death certificate dated two days later. Now that she knows which part of her has been missing, Emma feels the need to visit her dead brother’s grave to greet the twin she never knew. Chance and impulse invites Peter, desperate to see the world, along for the ride. And so these two loners make their way from upstate New York to Emma’s birthplace in North Carolina in an old and technically stolen vehicle, picking up a stray three-legged dog and trying to figure out what exactly they’re looking for. Along the way, they’ll learn about themselves and each other, and maybe even figure out how to make themselves whole again.

YOU ARE HERE is a story that covers multitudes of topics from family to friendship to forgiveness. This is all possible due to Smith’s very descriptive, almost lyrical writing style, which covers nearly every aspect of the two teens’ lives and allows great insight into their most intimate thoughts and desires. Although the lengthy descriptions are almost overbearing at times, they do help create vivid and believable characters in Emma and Peter. The character growth during this cross-country trip is predictable and none too original, but it doesn’t make it any less sweet or moving. I felt a real connection to both characters as many readers will; their thoughts and fears and dreams make them easy to relate to. This connection, in turn, made me all the more open to this story’s multiple messages, among which is that family will always be there, even if they don’t always know how to express it. This story is not high action or particularly romantic; it is for readers who want to think and learn from Emma’s and Peter’s journey and anyone in search of their own niche.

YOU ARE HERE is Jennifer E. Smith’s second novel. Her first is THE COMEBACK SEASON. She can be visited online at

Rachael Stein
Enchanting Reviews
July 2009

Enchanting Review: Ghosts of War (The True Story of a 19 yr old GI)

YA Biography/non-fiction
ISBN #978-0-06-166468-7
310 pages
Hardcover--Available now

Rating: 5 enchantments

Ryan Smithson is a hero. Not the kind of hero that you read about in the news, but the kind of hero that matters. He was sixteen when the planes hit the Twin Towers. Although he didn’t realize it at the time, the events of September 11, 2001 would have a profound and life changing effect on him. He decided to serve in the Army Reserves after graduation. This book is the story of his year of service in Iraq.

The reader follows Ryan as he starts his training as an eager teenager. During basic training he describes being broken down by his sergeants, and then built back up as a soldier. This transformation is juxtaposed with stories from his year of service.

The author notes indicate that the book actually grew out of a writing assignment for a college class that Ryan took upon his return. The instructor asked the class to write about something that they have seen destroyed. The resulting vignette was one of the most moving passages I have ever read. Titled “The House that Achmed Built,” it starts with a dangerous mission. Ryan and his team must deliver supplies into a town that is plagued by insurgents. During the mission, the convoy is ambushed. Ryan talks about how his training takes over, and because of it, he and his team survive. Throughout the chapter, Ryan juxtaposes his version of a children’s nursery rhyme. I couldn’t help but think how appropriate a nursery rhyme was, since so many of the soldiers were still so young themselves, not to mention the ages of the insurgents.

I had the privilege of reading this book over the 4th of July. I realized that even though I have always appreciated the sacrifices made by those who serve, I can never truly understand it the way Ryan Smithson does. This book should be read by any teen who is considering service, and by anyone who has a loved one in the armed forces. The stories he tells are funny, scary, thrilling, sad and exciting. The reader never knows which emotion Mr. Smithson is going to play on next. This was a deeply moving book, and I look forward to reading more from Mr. Smithson in the future.

Mr. Smithson currently lives in upstate New York with his wife.

Lisa Runion
Enchanting Reviews
July 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Enchanting Review: Coffeehouse Angel

ISBN# 978-0-80279-9812-11
288 Pages
Hardcover--Available August 2009

Rating: 5 Enchantments

COFFEEHOUSE ANGEL is one of my favorite books of the year. When Katrina finds a guy asleep in the alley behind her grandmother’s coffee shop, she first thinks he’s homeless. So when she does a good deed, leaving him coffee and a pastry, she has to admit she’s relieved to see both the food and him gone the next time she looks out the window. But she could never imagine what’s about to follow, for the boy in the alley is not what he seems and he’s determined to reward Katrina for her good deed.

There is so much I loved about this book. Katrina is a wonderful character, sarcastic, not to mention mortified at the sudden appearance of the kilt-wearing teenage boy who seems to be not only hounding her, but seems to be a wee bit of crazy, for he keeps swearing he needs to reward her good deed. So when he magically empowers a chocolate covered coffee bean with fame (what else does everyone want?) and it inadvertently ends up in the stomach of her best guy friend she couldn’t imagine the chaos its about to cause. And that’s when the fun really begins. There are so many great scenes in COFFEEHOUSE ANGEL but one of the best is when Malcolm crashes the school assembly the day Katrina leaves him the coffee and pastry and wants to reward her for her good deed, only to be kicked out by the principal. I loved the relationships Katrina has between her two best friends, including her long time best guy friend who suddenly thanks to the results of the fame magic bean seems to be falling for Katrina’s bitter rival, and not to mention the daughter of the man trying to run her grandmother’s coffee shop out of business which adds even more complications to her already chaotic life.

Readers looking for a really enjoyable and entertaining YA read won’t go wrong picking up COFFEEHOUSE ANGEL.

COFFEEHOUSE ANGEL is Ms. Selfors second young adult novel. You can learn more about her and her writing at her website:

Enchanting Reviews
March 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Enchanting Review: Access Denied (And Other Eighth Grade Error Messages)

ACCESS DENIED (and other eighth grade error messages)
Contemporary YA
Little, Brown, and Company
ISBN# 978-0-316-03448-7
288 pages
Hardcover—Available July 2009

Rating: 5 Enchantments

Erin P Swift is a 13 year old, who survived her seventh grade year of embarrassing events and is now starting eighth grade. She is into sports like basketball and hockey, IM, building websites in computer club, and blogging. She wants a little more freedom from the restrictions her mother has had in place since she was a ‘little’ kid.
Erin’s friend, Mark, whom Erin had a crush on last year, is also into basketball and they play together even though Kara, Mark’s new girlfriend is suspicious of their friendship.

Erin is trying to get through school successfully, be a good friend to Mark, Jilly, and Rosie, and lead a team for the I-club website. She is also searching for a BF (boyfriend.) Saddled by her teacher Ms. Moreno, with a goal to be a ‘good influence’ on Serena and Reede, Erin tries in spite of her misgivings. She also relies on advice and a friendly ear in Mr. F, the school janitor.

An enjoyable read, this book is filled with the anxieties of middle school along with the thrills of new experiences. I like that the book has some realistic choices and dilemmas in it and still manages to stay appropriate in content for teen readers. Erin combats her ‘good’ image by hanging out with Reede at the mall to pick up boys and going to a party while her parents think she is spending the night at Jilly’s house. While she doesn’t immediately get caught by her parents, she ends up making some regrettable choices and having to come to terms with herself, the choices she made and some grief-making results. Her ups and downs with friendships are very true to life.

Erin is a very likable teen and I enjoyed reading about her adventures and misadventures with both her friends, boys, and not-quite friends.

Denise Vega has written computer books for adults. She has ‘always’ wanted to be a writer and has written several other books for tweens and teens which you can find
more information about at her website at

Kathy Johnson
July 2009

Enchanting Review: The Siren Song

MG fantasy
ISBN# 978-4169-0590-5
435 pages
Paperback-Available now

Rating: 4 Enchantments

Life hasn’t gone back to normal for both Charlotte Mielswetzki and her cousin Zee. Both are heroes who’ve battled against the Greek Gods and won. But who could they tell? No one would believe them.

Now Zee’s acting strange and Charlotte’s parents want her to go with them on an educational cruise. Just when things couldn’t get any stranger, Philonecron, an angry demigod reappears. One thing you don’t do is get the Gods angry as they don’t forget. Philonecron wants revenge but this time he’ll strike not just the world but those closest to Charlotte. Can she find the strength to win this time around?

This is the sequel to The Shadow Thieves. I loved the first book and couldn’t wait to read the sequel. This Lemony Snicket meets The Lightning Thief tale takes place right after Charlotte and Zee help save the world. At times the back story weighed this story down. Also the parents come across at times as one dimensional. But once Charlotte is on the cruise, the story picks up. The egotistical Poseidon and his cruise ship with an assortment of Greek Gods and demigods bring life to this tale. I love the antics of these Gods and know I wouldn’t be brave enough to face up to them. I especially liked the spunk of thirteen-year-old Charlotte. She faces down a Greek God which is no small feat. Fans of other Greek fantasies will also enjoy this tale with one spunky heroine.

This is the second book in the Cronus Chronicles Trilogy. Anne Ursu has also written for Glamour magazine and She lives with her husband, son, and their cats in Cleveland, Ohio. Check out more on the Cronus Chronicles at

Kim Rapier
July 2009

Enchanting Review: Angry Management

YA Contemporary
Greenwillow Books
ISBN# 978-0-06-050247
256 pages
Hardcover--Available 6/30/2009

Rating: 5 Enchantments

Mr. Nak ties three novellas together. Mr. Nak is a counselor who has been hired by Global Community Health to help put a prevention program in place for three school districts. His students will include some who aren’t in the `direst of straits’ but have run into some tough luck or are emotionally fragile. He calls his group Angry Management in remembrance of Hudge, a former student, who called it that and gave in to suicide after his dad killed Hudge’s dog.

When Mr. Nak holds his first meeting with students, he meets Trey Chase, Montana West, Angus Bethune, Matt Miller, and Marcus James. After explaining what the group is about, Mr. Nak lets the group out early.

All of the stories deal with bigotry, prejudices, tolerance and freedom. In story one, 18 year old Sarah Byrnes, who was permanently disfigured by her abusive father, and Angus Bethune, another 18 year-old, with his unique family consisting of two homosexual couples try to find Sarah’s mother. In story two, Montana West, age 17, and Trey Chase, age 17, meet because of an article that Montana West has reluctantly agreed to do about the football team. They both learn that prejudices can be overcome and that some things are worth fighting for. In the third story Matt Miller, age 17, and Marcus James, age 17, cross paths because some bigoted students have hung a pink noose on Marcus’s locker. Marcus is both African American and homosexual. In standing up for Marcus right to be un-harassed at school in a bigoted town, the teens place themselves in danger.

First let me say that this was a page turner and I couldn’t put it down till I found out what happened to each character. It is difficult to do this complex book justice in a short review. The author has created a well written set of novellas that are suspenseful and challenge the reader to look at prejudices both internally and in the community. My favorite story was about Montana West because I like happy endings. That said, I value the other stories in this collection because they are thought provoking and make important comments on social prejudices while drawing the reader in to care deeply about what these teens are going through. I especially appreciated the information on ‘sundown towns’ since it allowed me to take a frank look at the town I live in and find that sadly it fits this profile. I would be proud to place a copy of this book on our local library shelf and give our local teens a chance to look at their world through other teens eyes. This book does contain some explicit language which is appropriate to the characters described.

Chris Crutcher is well known as an author, educator and family therapist. For more information or to contact Chris Crutcher check out his website at

Kathy Johnson
July 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Guest Blogger: Stephanie Morrill

Is it Good Enough Yet?

As a beginning writer, when you show professionals (agents, editors, etc.) your manuscripts, for a long time all you hear is, “It’s not good enough yet.” They sometimes say it nicer than that, but that’s the gist. When you get your first yes, it’s stunning. I remember clearly when my now-agent called me and gushed about Me, Just Different, I turned to my husband with a wide open mouth. I didn’t even know how to respond. I’d gotten a lot of practice responding to, “It’s not good enough yet,” but had zero practice with someone loving it.

Christine Marciniak blogged a couple weeks ago about revising the story, not the dream, and I couldn’t agree more. I fussed with Me, Just Different for nearly four years before it got the attention of my agent. I kept getting responses that Skylar, my main character, wasn’t likeable. Privately, I’d rant, “If you’d just give her a little time, she becomes likeable!” But when I received the same feedback from a contest and a couple agents, I knew I needed to dig in and do some more work.

The only change I could think of was a brand new storyline that would open the book, and then weave throughout the entire thing. Not. Fun. But the hard work paid off. My agent, who hated Skylar during her first read, now loves her. We sold the manuscript within a couple of months. In some ways it happened really fast, but a lot of work went into receiving those yeses.

Writing, for me, has been about trial and error. While Me, Just Different took four confusing, rejection-filled years, the next two books in the series were written within months, and my editor liked them even better than the first. So if you’re trying your hand at this writing thing, don’t worry if there’s been a few years of rejection. Learn how to graciously accept criticism (even really stupid criticism, and there will be plenty of that), and apply what you learn to your manuscript. Then practice saying, “Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it,” because if you keep revising and growing as a writer, eventually someone will call and say they love it.