Sunday, March 9, 2008

Virtual Book Tour | CROWN OF ZEUS by Christine Norris

The virtual book tour makes its debut at Ronni's Reviews with Christine Norris's CROWN OF ZEUS. Check out the following excerpt for your reading pleasure


“Can I help you?”

“Ah, yes.” Megan squared her shoulders and tried to stand up straight. “I’m Megan Montgomery. I’m a new student and this is my first day. They said I had to report to you.”

The woman shuffled through the papers on her desk and pulled out a manila folder. “Yes, of course. The girl from America. Well, come in child, don’t lurk in the doorway. Please sit down.”

A thick burgundy rug muffled Megan’s footsteps as she walked to one of a pair of high-backed chairs in front of the desk. She tried to look graceful as she sat down.

“Welcome to St. Agatha’s.” The woman gave a smile that reminded Megan of a cat who has just found a juicy mouse. She folded her hands on the desk, sat up straight, and looked Megan in the eye. “I am Miss Spencer, the headmistress.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Miss Spencer nodded. “Since you are from America, you are probably not familiar with our British education system. You are thirteen, correct?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Megan had never really called anyone ‘ma’am’ before, but Miss Spencer looked like someone who she should. “I’m in the eighth grade.”

Miss Spencer’s smile widened a bit, but it was still a smile that looked put-on for company. “It’s ‘yes, Headmistress’. And we don’t have ‘grades’ here. You are in third year.” The headmistress picked up the file and walked around to Megan’s side of the desk. “I’ve looked over your transcripts, and everything appears to be in order. But I must warn you, Miss Montgomery. Here things are going to be much tougher than they were at your old school. This institution is a tradition among many families from all over the world.”

“The world?” Megan asked. “Do their families all move here so they can go to school?”

Miss Spencer laughed like a parent whose small child just did or said something cute and silly. “No, no, of course not, dear. Some, like you, are day students, while others live in our dormitories. We pride ourselves on turning out the finest young ladies. To that end, you will be taking more subjects than you are used to, including Latin.”

“Latin?” Who speaks Latin?

“Yes. As well as Music, Math, World History, Science, Literature, Philosophy, Geography and Art. You will also be in a House.” She flipped open the file. “I’ve placed you in Whitmore. Your House contains about twenty girls from each year. Your Head is Professor Livingston, she teaches History. If you have problems in school, academic or personal, go to her. Each house also meets twice a week for tutoring and study.”

“I see.” Megan’s stomach felt as if it would drop out of her feet at any moment. All those classes, plus forced study? Megan had held her own at her old school, but she wasn’t exactly a straight-A student. I’m in trouble.

“I notice you played hockey at your old school as well,” Miss Spencer continued, oblivious to Megan’s nervousness. “You might try out for the House team. It’s one of the best in the county. If you enjoy horses, we also have an exceptional equestrian team.”

I’ll run right out and sign up for that. Not.

She handed Megan a piece of paper. “Here’s your schedule. I suggest you get to class. The late bell is about to ring.”

Megan took the paper and looked it over. “Thank you, Headmistress.” She slung her bag over her shoulder and walked to the door. She wondered what would happen if she just kept running, right out the front door.

Megan’s first class was Literature. She found the classroom and opened the door. A stern-looking man with slicked back dark hair turned and stared at her with small black eyes.

“May I help you?” he drawled. His pasty face wore a look of utter distaste, as if wondering who dared interrupt his class.

“Uh, yes sir. My name is Megan Montgomery. I’m new.” She handed him her schedule.

He glanced, sniffed, and handed it back to her. “Ah, yes. Very well, take a seat. And do not be tardy to my class again.”

Megan felt her cheeks get hot, and thought about telling him that it wasn’t her fault she was late, but decided against it. She found a desk at the back of the room and took out her textbook. From one of the desks to her right she heard a snicker.

“Miss Montgomery?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Do not expect special treatment because you are new. Or because you are from America. I expect you to keep up with your classmates.”

“Yes, sir.” She slumped down into her seat and tried to make herself as small as possible.

The rest of Megan’s first day was much the same. The classes here were certainly different than at her old school. For one thing, students were expected to stand when they gave the answer to a question. Her teachers were not “Mrs. or Mr.” but “Professor.” Most of them were very strict, and demanded much more than her old teachers.

Her schedule was packed. The first day alone she had World History, Intermediate Math, Latin, and Philosophy in addition to Literature. Most the teachers referred to her as “The American Girl” several times before remembering her name.

They all piled on the homework.

At lunch, she sat alone, because of course she didn’t know anyone and no one offered to sit with her. And she saw the pointing and whispering that went on; most didn’t even try to hide it.

Megan tried to hold it together, but it was hard to ignore the fact that she was on display like some kind of freak show. She picked at her lunch, unable to eat, and sympathizing with every new kid she had ever seen at her old school.

I want to go home. She meant to New York.

After school, Megan stood on the front steps of St. Agatha’s, waiting for her ride home, wondering how much a one-way ticket from Heathrow to JFK cost. She was miserable and had a ton of homework; her backpack felt like it was going to rip her shoulder off.

She shifted her bag to the other shoulder and watched a group of six girls clustered nearby. She had seen a couple of them in her classes, and was pretty sure they were in her year, but didn’t know any of their names.

She watched out of the corner of her eye as they whispered intently between themselves and took furtive glances in her direction. Megan couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but she sure knew who. Just like at lunch. Don’t they have anything better to do?

She allowed this to go on for a few minutes, appearing oblivious to their whisperings. Finally she had enough. She whipped her head around and marched over to them.

“Excuse me.” She walked right up to the tallest girl. “Is there a problem?”

Three of the girls turned bright red, took a few steps back, and slunk away, their heads down, leaving their three co-conspirators behind.

Proper English girls don’t gossip, do they? Megan gave a wide smile that dripped with sugar.

“There’s no problem, is there, girls?” the tall one said in a flat tone, still toe-to-toe with Megan.

“Well, I think there is.” Megan’s smile was gone. “You’ve all been giggling and talking about me behind my back. Care to share?”

The girl licked her lips. “We were just wondering…”

“About what? My accent, my shoes, or my hair maybe?”

The girl pushed a lock of her straight black hair behind her ear, unfazed. “Ah, no, actually. We were wondering about your house.”

It was Megan’s turn to step back. “My House? Oh, I’m in, uh, Whitmore, I think?”

The girls giggled. Megan felt like she had missed the punchline of a joke, and her cheeks burned.

It was the girl with short brown hair and glasses who replied. “No, not your academic House, your house. You know, where you live?”

Megan lifted her eyebrows, confused. “You want to know about…my…house?”

The third girl, a pretty blonde with loose, shoulder-length curls, pulled her Burberry purse up higher on her shoulder. “You do live in the big manor house on Knapford Road, right? The Paragon?”

“The Parthenon,” Megan corrected. “What about it?” It wasn’t the conversation she expected, but she was kind of happy they were actually talking to her.

The dark-haired girl pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes, also seeming to choose her words carefully. “We wanted to know, you see, er, whether or not you’ve seen anything…anything strange since you’ve been there?”

“What do you mean, strange? Like African artifacts strange? Or like bad decorating strange?”

“Oh, no, nothing like that,” the second girl said. She pushed her thick glasses up her long nose. She gave a furtive look. “Like ghosts. Unhappy spirits roaming about the halls at night.


I don't know about you, but I am definitely intrigued.

Christine Norris is the author of several works for children and adults. She spends her time divided between her writing, substitute teaching, and caring for her family of one husband-creature, a son-animal, a large dog whose greatest achievement is sleeping in one position for an entire day, and a small feline who is very adept in his position as Guardian of the Bathtub. She also works at English Adaptations of novels translated from other languages.

To learn more about Christine Norris, please visit Send an email to Christine at or through her MySpace page, at

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Leven Thumps and the Eyes of the Want || Obert Skye

So far the best book out of the Leven Thumps series, this book had me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it.

This book gives new meaning to the phrase "the plot thickens," as things within Foo and Reality become more and more complicated. It's hard to find someone to root for, as the lines between good and evil start to blur. I found myself feeling sorry for those who had been villains in prior books, and I found my jaw dropping more than once at things characters I thought were good ended up doing.

The characters' growth in this book is something to note, too. Leven, as well as his sidekicks, are thrown into some crazy situations which makes them grow up, and quickly. This is even shown many times as Leven marvels about tall he's gotten, and how much he's changed in the very short time he's been in Foo.

As usual, Skye brings us into Foo with his wonderful and unique descriptions. This is my favorite of the book so far, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next two.

Buy it here: Leven Thumps and the Eyes of the Want (Leven Thumps)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blood Brothers || S.A. Harazin

Even though that author is a friend of mine, I was hesitant about reading this book because I’d been reading loads of books with male protagonists for work, and I wanted a break. But then I saw all the wonderful reviews and all the nice things people had to say, so I decided to go ahead and give it a shot. I could deal with one more boy book.
I’m glad I did. The tension in the book is perfect, even though things don’t always work out that way for the characters, including Clay, our protagonist. Clay has just finished high school and works as a Med Tech 1 (fancy name for an orderly) in a hospital. He stumbles home to visit his best friend after a long shift, and finds himself entangled in a tragic mystery.
There is loss and pain, but also forgiveness. My favorite part was the behind-the-scenes look at all of the procedures that go on in hospitals—the author’s medical background really shines through. I found it all fascinating.
I also found Clay’s—the main character—struggle to be heartbreaking at times, but in a way that one would root for him to get through. The amount of stress he was under—if it had been me, I’d have lost it. Harazin does a great job of conveying his strength.

Buy it here: Blood Brothers

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Two-Way Street || Lauren Barnholdt

It's a tricky game when you review books written by friends, and I've known the author for almost two years now. But ever since I'd read the blurb, I had a feeling that Two-Way Street, by the snarky Lauren Barnholdt was going to blow me out of the water. And it did.

Told in the same back-and-forth time jump of her debut novel Reality Chick, Lauren added another level and threw in alternating viewpoints! My brain hurts just thinking about working on something like that! But Lauren pulled it off well.

Courtney is forced to drive across the country with her ex-boyfriend Jordan because well, they'd planned the trip before they broke up, and it was too late to make alternative arrangements. At least, that's the word out on the street. The other word is that Jordan dumped Courtney for a chick he met on MySpace. And now she has to ride across the country with him. The guy who dumped her for a MySpace skank who Courtney has named Mercedes in her mind.


Poor Courtney.

The story jumps back and forth between the past, highlighting the development of their relationship, and the present—the three days on the road. You will be pleasantly surprised at the twists that pop up in this book, and you'll be rooting for both of them at the end.

My only complaint isn't even Lauren's fault. It's the cover artist's/photographer's fault. Jordan drives an SUV in the story, and there is a CONVERTIBLE on the cover. *grumble*

Oh well. The book's good.

Get it here: Two-Way Street

Monday, June 11, 2007

Boy Toy || Barry Lyga

Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.
And fortunately for us readers, Barry Lyga doesn't make us wait too long to learn Josh's secret either...and once it's revealed, there is no turning back.
Five years ago, Josh's whole world was shattered. Some tense moments during a harmless game of "spin-the-bottle", a frantic slip of the tongue, and everything was different. In a bad way. Although his name was kept from the papers, everyone knew. Many lives changed as a result.
Now, Josh has a lot on his plate—college decisions, issues in his parents' marriage, a tendency to lash out violently, the girl he avoided ever since a fateful night during Spin-the-Bottle, a baseball coach who's on a perpetual power trip, and above all, the guilt he feels for seducing his social studies teacher. Affected with what he calls "flickers," Josh flashes back to those moments in his past in a most vivid way, never once blaming his teacher anything that happened.
This book is intense and riveting. Lyga captures the dialogue and thoughts of a teenage boy rather well. Not that I've ever been a teenage boy or anything, but I'm guessing they'd think a lot like Josh, even with his past weighing on him.
The book is realistic without being over-the-top; the tension builds at a perfect pace. I could have done without quite so much baseball jargon, but it's a part of Josh, and part of what makes him come alive. The book has a lot of language and many sexual innuendos. Never a problem for me, but there are probably some parents and librarians who'd want to take heed. This is definitely for an older YA audience. That audience will love the book though. It held my attention until the very last word, even with all the baseball stuff. ;)

Preorder it here (pub date September 2007): Boy Toy

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Edification of Sonya Crane || JDGuilford

Kimani TRU is a newish line of books for African American (okay, so I really prefer to say "black" only because I've NEVER been able to call myself African American without feeling like some kind of idiot, but whatever...) teens, but the plot of this one really intrigued me. As a light-skinned black person, I sometimes struggle with fitting in. Is it with the white people, with whom I tend to have more in common, as I listen to Death Cab for Cutie rather than Jay-Z? Or the black people, because that's who I *should* be with? Sometimes I forget the world is not accepting of me no matter what shade my skin is, because all they see is "black." I've never read a book where a middle-class white girl emulates the "ghetto" life of the black girls, but that's exactly what Sonya Crane does. That intrigued me enough to grab the book when I saw it on the library shelf. I loved the irony that the girl Sonya wanted most to be like ended up being what *some* may consider an "oreo"—black on the outside, white on the inside. Tandy Herman loves "white bands," she's brilliant in school, and yet she covers it all up so she can appear "down." Being a nerd is simply not cool, and having a 4.0 GPA is just... wrong. I learned that lesson the hard way during junior high/intermediate school. (It wasn't called middle school yet back then).
Sonya and Tandy become fast friends, but under false pretenses. Everyone thinks that Sonya is "mixed," and the stakes grow more and more as Sonya gets more involved in rallies and movements designed to promote black pride. The relationship grows in tension because both girls have big secrets that could destroy their social lives. Throw in typical girl vs. girl crime, and you have crazy, thick tension.

I would like to note the interesting use of covers. The cover to the up top is the original cover, but the cover to the right is the cover that amazon uses—a girl who is more visibly white. But part of the reason Sonya was able to "pass" was because of her more "ethnic" features, like curlier hair and a wider nose. And at the Kimani TRU Web site, the original cover is the one being promoted. What prompted the publisher to release a different version of the cover? Or is this something amazon did on its own?
The premise of this story was great. It is very interesting to read about someone having identity issues because of race, as I live with that every day. However, Sonya's life was far from charmed, and instead is strongly tainted with drug addiction, violence, and sexual abuse. The language in this book is strong, and the situations are very intense. It got to be a bit much for me at times. I wouldn't recommend this for the faint of heart.

Buy it here: The Edification of Sonya Crane

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Kissing Kate || Lauren Myracle

When I saw this book at the book store, I'd thought for sure that Lauren Myracle had come out with yet another new novel fast on the heels of l8r, g8r. I must admit, I am not a fan of that particular series of books. I tried to read ttyl when it first came out and it drove me BANANAS. I guess I'm just too old to appreciate an entire story written in IMs, or maybe I think they just belong on the computer. What I hadn't realized, though, is that in the before those books blew up the NYT Bestseller list, I'd already bought and read Rhymes with Witches. I mean, what an awesome title, right? But the point is that I hadn't realized I liked her writing in spite of the IM craziness of her best-selling Internet Girls series.

So anyway, I picked up Kissing Kate at the library after spotting it at a bookstore, and was immediately intrigued by the blurb on the back. Best friends, sharing a kiss, and dealing with the fallout. I was thrilled to find out it was a first novel, because it is done so well. The style reminded me a lot of Sarah Dessen, who is my 2nd favorite author of all time (Adam Selzer is #1), and that automatically drew me in. She nicely weaves in multiple story lines, expertly sprinkles in the backstory in a way that made me crazy to know what happened, but not frustrated because she delievered just when the suspense got to be too much.

This book does a great job of taking a sensitive topic and exploring it in a realistic and clear way. Lauren's first novel is definitely something an aspiring author like me strives for.

And my favorite part? In the back of her book, she says this about her first novel: "It came neither quickly nor easily. When I pick up books at the bookstore, they always seem so glossy and enticing, so polished, and sometimes, I have the despairing thought that words leapt cleanly from the author's mind to the page—snap, just like that. This was certainly not the case for me. I mention this because some of you are writers, too. Keep plugging away, and keep the faith!"

I know just how she feels. Believe me.

Thank you, Lauren. I'm plugging and keeping. :) ♥

Buy it here: Kissing Kate