Flashback Friday: Cirque Du Freak series by Darren Shan

flashback-friday-featuredHappy Friday!! Today is the first official Flashback Friday 🙂 What’s Flashback Friday?? Well, the full story can be read here (& you should read it), but it’s a weekly meme meant to highlight books published at least 2 years ago that are on your to-reads (that you never got to) or that you read years ago and loved! It’s hosted by Swoony Boys Podcast & Fiction Fare.

cirque du freakA LIVING NIGHTMARE (Cirque Du Freak #1)

by Darren Shan
Hardcover, 266 pages
Published August 1st 2008 by Little, Brown Young Readers (first published 2000)

Book Blurb

Darren Shan is just an ordinary schoolboy – until he gets an invitation to visit the Cirque du Freak…until he meets Madam Octa…until he comes face to face with a creature of the night.

Soon, Darren and his friend Steve are caught in a deadly trap. Darren must make a bargain with the one person who can save Steve. But that person is not human and only deals in blood…

Add to Goodreads to-reads (hopefully you get to it!)

My Thoughts/Review

I won’t do thoughts/this long of a post every time, but this is one of my all time favorite books so…

For my first Flashback Friday post I decided to choose the entire Cirque Du Freak series by Darren Shan, more specifically A Living Nightmare (Cirque Du Freak/The Saga of Daren Shan #1).

Now, I’m a huge vampire fan (?–not sure if that’s the right word). I love vampire lore. It all started with Anne Rice, as it should, and my most recent addition to the vamp book lineup was The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black which was amazing (in her acknowledgments she thanked vamp lore writers like Anne Rice, it brought tears to my eyes).

Alas, I digress. I picked this series/this book because it was one of those series I wasn’t sure I would love. I mean, I love vampires but this is like if Stephen King wrote a vampire book (has he?). Major horror. I don’t know how I slept at night. But, it’s Upper MG/low YA. I vividly remember being in my school library and picking it up for the first time. Love at first read.

It’s a beautiful story about a boy who gets mixed up with vampires, but there’s so much more than that. It spun the genre well, it added in marvelous creatures, a very interesting friend/enemy-ship(…I mean the relationship between Darren and Steve, boy now that’s good), had all these underlying messages about your destiny and rewriting your own path (hehe, Mr. Des Tiny<–took me forever to get that, he’s a character in the book). And the ending, wow. They made a movie and while it’s okay there’s no need to waste your time…there’s a reason there’s only one movie out of the 12 books published (it stars a young Josh Hutchinson). 

I whole heartedly recommend it (My rating: 1 million owls, LOL). I think it’ll surprise you. It sure did me.

Oh, and J.K. Rowling blurbed it so, yeah…it’s freaking awesome 🙂

What was a book you remember reading when younger that surprised you and became one of your all time favorites?

Whimsically Yours,



DIRT DIARY Blog Tour: Author Anna Staniszewski on the inspiration behind the story!

Happy Saturday! –Boy am I glad to be home, TEXAS!!! *clears throat* Today the wonderful Anna Staniszewski, author of the hilarious My Very UnFairy Tale Life series (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2011-2013), is here to talk about the inspiration behind The Dirt Diary, her newest book (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, January 2014).

dirt diary

Title: The Dirt Diary

Paperback: 256 pages
Publication Date: January 7th 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Book Blurb: 

Eighth grade never smelled so bad.

Rachel Lee didn’t think anything could be worse than her parents splitting up. She was wrong. Working for her mom’s new house-cleaning business puts Rachel in the dirty bathrooms of the most popular kids in the eighth grade. Which does not help her already loser-ish reputation. But her new job has surprising perks: enough dirt on the in-crowd to fill up her (until recently) boring diary. She never intended to reveal her secrets, but when the hottest guy in school pays her to spy on his girlfriend Rachel decides to get her hands dirty.

Add THE DIRT DIARY to your Goodreads shelf!

Buy (pre-order) Links

Indiebound | Amazon | B&N | Powell’s | The Book Depository

The “Dirt” on THE DIRT DIARY

by Anna Staniszewski

I don’t know about you, but when I was in eighth grade, I pretty much existed in a state of constant embarrassment. No matter how hard I tried, everything I said, did, wore, and even ate was wrong wrong wrong.

Many, many years after I (thankfully) left the land of eighth grade behind, I was listening to a story on NPR about teen mortification. The program mentioned a girl working for her mom’s cleaning business and having to clean the houses of some of her popular classmates. When I heard that, a thought popped into my head:

The natural embarrassment of eighth grade + The total nightmare of scrubbing toilets = Story Magic

As I sat down to play with the idea, Rachel’s voice jumped off the page. Not only did she crack me up with her weird sayings (“Oh my goldfish!”) but she started telling me about the other problems going on in her life (her parents getting divorced, the guy she liked dating her nemesis, etc). It turned out cleaning houses was the least of her worries.

Rachel certainly had a lot of woes, but she also told me about the things she loved to do like bake pastries and act goofy with her best friend Marisol. I’m usually a plot-based writer when I start a project, but when it came to writing The Dirt Diary, Rachel’s character was really the thing that kept me going.

Now, you might wonder why I would make a character endure even worse torture than I did in eighth grade. Isn’t that just cruel? Maybe. But I think the fact that I could empathize with Rachel’s plight made her story that much more important for me to write. After all, as a recovering eighth-grader, I know that when your life is in a perpetual state of wrongness, it helps to know you’re not alone.

Such a great post, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve put a mental block on most of my eighth grade memories. I wish I had this book when I was actually living them (review to come)!

About the Author

Anna StaniszewskiBorn in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Look for the first book in Anna’s next tween series, The Dirt Diary, in January 2014, and visit her at www.annastan.com.

Connect with Anna

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Newsletter

Thanks for stopping by, Anna!

Readers: Do you have any embarrassing eight grade stories to tell 😉

Whimsically Yours,


What’s Up Wednesday!

WUW Winter Holly 1(So pretty!)

It’s What’s Up Wednesday time!  What’s What’s Up Wednesday?  Well… It’s this super cool awesome weekly meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk.  If you want to participate you should link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog so that we can all stop by and say, “Hi!”

What I’m Reading

13517455I’m finishing up REBOOT by Amy Tintera. This book is everything I hoped it would be (The Republic of Texas…hehe, I love it! *proud Texan*). I’ll have a review up sometime this week but the budding romance feels real, Wren is hilarious yet stoic (she’s my girl), and the world is unfortunately believable. Kudos to Tintera, she rocked this one. I’m not even done with the book and I can confidentially say it’s one of my favorite read of the year, of course, I’m sure by the time I’m done I’ll be crying or something.

I think I’m going to read PIVOT POINT by Kasie West next. Cybils has been just the push I needed to read all these wonderful 2013 reads, here’s hoping my to-read list will decrease!!

What I’m Writing

Today, I’ll be working on my MG, THE ARTIFACT COLLECTOR about two children who inherit a shop with magical artifacts from around the world and are forced to go into the “Otherworld” to find their lost aunt. Here’s a scene from it (I finished this the other day and am pleasantly surprised by how much I like it.):

Kaia is 9, her brother Aaron, is 12, they’re in their aunt’s antique shop…

Kaia stopped when she saw the scene below. Swords fought swords, books did somersaults through the air, vials were pouring out their contents. A sea of madness flowed before them, and Aunt Edith was nowhere.

One lone sword noticed the two siblings and left its post by the front door to charge at them. “Run,” yelled Aaron pushing Kaia up the stairs. She ran, only to have her leg slip through the floorboards. “Aaron,” she called.

Aaron ducked to avoid the sword, causing it to wedge itself into the wall. It wiggled around like a fish caught in a fisherman’s net, trying to set itself free.

Aaron rushed to Kaia and grabbed hold of her hand. He’d almost pulled her out when the sword fell to the ground, flipping and flopping, before charging once more at the two siblings.

Aaron let go of his sister’s hand in order to dodge the sword. He looked around, trying to find something to defend himself. Seconds before the sword attacked, he noticed a loose part of thee stair rail. He yanked at the post and raised it in front of him, just in time. The sword pressed against his wooden stick, he pushed back, swiftly moving it to the left. After this, he was taking up fencing.

The sword swiped again but this time, Aaron wasn’t fast enough and it produced a tiny cut on his cheek. He winced, and the sword knocked the wooden staff from his hand. The sword reared back then charged once more, aiming right for Kaia.

“Stop,” yelled Aaron, throwing his body over her. His body heaved, matching her heavy breaths. He closed his eyes yet nothing happened. Pushing off Kaia, he peeked. The sword had fallen to ground, lying still as if it had never attacked them in the first place. All around them, everything had stopped. Books lay strewn across the floor, one on top of the other. Some with pages ripped, others sliced in half thanks to the lifeless swords lying beside them. Shards of glass blanketed the ground and pieces of jewelry hung from the bookshelves and cabinets like fruit on a tree.

It seemed Aaron had found the magic word. Now if only they could find Aunt Edith. What would they tell her? Would she believe they hadn’t made this mess?

What Else I’ve Been Doing

My friends and I have been getting ready for our Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow! I’m really excited (& nervous) as this is my first time away from home for Turkey Day but I am looking forward to spending it with friends. I’m still recovering from a cold, I really don’t know what’s wrong with my body, but as per usual, I’m blaming it on this weather. The more and more I think I want to live & work in publishing in NYC, the less that becomes a reality as I don’t think my body is suited for this kind of weather. Three weeks until home 🙂

Oh, I’ve also been watching lots of TV. I picked up Arrow. I have a MAJOR problem with the way women are portrayed in some of these shows (e.g. wearing a low buttoned shirt to work…not realistic) But, I think it’s officially time I stop acting like I don’t like the CW’s teen shows. Everyone’s just so pretty (which is a problem in and of itself as personally, I look back on my high school days and cringe). However, I’m about to watch the latest episode of The Originals right after I finish this post 🙂

What Inspires Me Right Now

With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I’m inspired by friends and family. As well as by my inner strength. As though as I am with myself, I’m very proud of me. I have no doubt that whatever I chose to do, will turn out right in the end.

I’m also inspired by other writers, their stories (of perseverance and struggle and success) and their books. We’re a pretty boss group of people. It’s wonderful to know that.

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you find ways to inspire yourself and be inspired!! What’s going on with you?

A Visit from Literary Agent Erin Murphy

Last Thursday my Writing For Children class had the honor of being visited by Literary Agent Extraordinare–who’s also the agent of the course professor, Susan Meyer–Erin Murphy!!!

YES. It was phenomenal. (Also she was wearing yellow & blue, #classcolors)

To give a bit of background information, Erin Murphy is one of the top children’s literary agents, and she’s based out of Flagstaff, Arizona (how cool is that?!).

Erin Murphy is one of my dream agents which is something I rarely reveal but having her visit our class was like meeting a celebrity. Seriously, I’m not even sure anyone could’ve topped this. Well, maybe meeting Octavia Butler (when she was alive), she’s my idol.

Other than giving up this amazing handout, which is priceless, Ms. Murphy left us with some amazing nuggets about being an agent, getting published, and much more.  I think one of the best things that happened during this visit was that I realized what kind of agent I want to have. I’ve always had an idea of the type of agent I wanted, someone who would put the time into editing my MS if needed, someone who cared about me as a writer and not just one a one book basis but after her visit, I’m able to articulate that clearly and concisely.

And now, so that all of you can share in this wonderfulness, here are her words of wisdom*:

On Publishing

Ms. Murphy talked a lot about how all agencies are different, and I think that’s something that’s key to remember. Some, like hers, are only open to submission by referral or by hearing them speak at a conference (tears, I know). Because of that she really emphasized SCBWI conferences as a great way to get your MS read. In addition, they’re a great way to make connections in the industry and get a feel for the type of material various editors and agents like.

For her, she’s looking for a connection. Editors depend on agents to find projects they like because of that agents know very well what editors represent what types of books.  Sometimes she sends things out to many editors and sometimes to only a handful, it depends on the project. A lot of it is taste. This is a very subjective industry, and that’s something important to remember. I’ve turned down manuscripts she knew were going to sell but weren’t for her. It’s all about the connection. A book has to set her on fire or she’ not going to do a good job selling it.

Everything in publishing seems like attention is thrown where attention is (e.g. if an author gets another offer of rep, that author is going to go to the top of her reading list since she has limited time to respond). That’s just how things are.

MFAs are a mixed bag. She represents a handful of authors from Vermont’s MFA program however sometimes MFA seems teach gorgeous writing but not things that are publishable or they focus too much on writing a certain way and can, if writer isn’t careful, erase individual style. She doesn’t think they’re necessary but if you think it’ll help you, go for it.

–On Writing

Everyone thinks they can write a children’s book, it’s harder than it seems.

She agrees with this quote: “Start on the day things change.” – Judy Blume

This process is such a long journey. Yes, we’ve heard this all before but seriously, don’t compare yourself to other writers, everyone, more specifically every book, is different.

On Trends

Middle grade is really booming. Partially because of increase in children of that age and decrease of teenage children.

Historical [YA] seems to often cross with other genres, ex. Steampunk, as a way of reaching more readers. However it all comes down to good writing.

-For a long time PBs weren’t selling, now they are. If you’re a PB author, it’s important to have multiple PBs. She likes to see the breath of author’s work.

And my personal favorites: What are your thoughts about how dark YA has become? & What do you think about retellings?

Literature is a safe place to explore beyond your own experience. What safer place to feel sad/scared than in books. Books play out feelings teens experience in an external way.

I love retellings. They’re a set, ever renewing market. If someone likes Cinderella retellings, they’re most likely going to check out a new one that was just published.

*I wrote this while listening to her & absorbing everything so it’s highly possibly that these are not exactly how she stated things but rather the basic gist. Also, don’t take these as an end all be all, publishing is subjective aka what works for one, might turn off another. 🙂

What’s Up Wednesday!!!


It’s What’s Up Wednesday time!  What’s What’s Up Wednesday?  Well… It’s this super cool awesome weekly meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk.  If you want to participate you should link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog so that we can all stop by and say, “Hi!”

What I’m Reading

THIS: Haha, not really.

books my room

I need to read faster as I’m running out of space in my room!

#bookpeopleproblems #Cybils (…The whole purpose of the Kindle my dad got me before I left for college was so I could stop buying physical copies (because they take up space), so much for that.)

photo 1Currently, I’m reading SORROW’S KNOT by Erin Bow. I’ve heard some amazing things about this book and its author. It’s wonderful, beautiful, and rich. Also, take this for a first sentence, “The girl who remade the world was born in winter.” Who wouldn’t keep reading after an opening like that?!

I think I’m going to start doing a weekly roundup of YA books from 2013 I’m reading/have read. Maybe with some giveaways or five? Haha, I love books but I need to get rid of some of these…I am a college student after all. (LOL, I would love to see my parents faces if I shipped home a box of books…they’d probably tell me I need to start renting storage for all my books. My dad would “joke” about giving them away and my mom would ask what’s the point in having all of them.)

What I’m Writing

This should be renamed What I’m Revising (-__-).

Okay, it’s not that bad, I actually love revisions, yeah, I’m one of those writers…

photo 31. I’m revising ALEX DE VEGA. It hurts to say this, especially since I did get a request from the query (that’s still out on consideration!!! (I’m *trying* not to think about it)), but I think I might have jumped into querying too soon. I mean, it did go through revisions and reads but it was hands down my fastest write/read/revision cycle for a MS. That being said, I don’t think a lot needs to be changed, mainly the beginning which, when you’re querying, is everything…

2. I’ve been MS hoping a lot. I started writing this MG Fantasy/Adventure then a YA High Fantasy then a YA Sci-Fi Snow White Retelling (oh, yeah, it’s as good as it sounds…no biases here of course ;)). But then, thanks to Meg Cabot I was able to get back on track. You see, there’s this thing I do, that Meg knows about all too well…cheating. I have a tendancy to start one MS, preach about how I’m sososo in love with it then start another, “better” one, then another. Eventually I’m “working” on two to three projects and I say “working” because in reality, I’m not making any real progress with any of them. So, I’m back to the MG, it’s tentatively titles THE ARTIFACT COLLECTOR. I’m in love with it, I’ve received some amazing feedback from my Writing For Children class (more on this later), and though the story at time is hard the characters came so easily, as with Alex, because I have two siblings who are just like Kaia & Aaron.

The Blurb

After the disappearance of his batty yet kind aunt, Aaron Claremont and his sister Kaia inherit an antique shop holding artifacts from myths and fairy tales.  Now, in order to save her, they must journey to the Otherworld, a place where creatures/gods of myth and magic live, to defeat an evil sorcerer who wishes to take over the shop and thus the two worlds.

See the inspirational/companion Pinterest board! Also, if you want to check out my other WIPs, visit my writer website!

What Else I’ve Been Doing

It’s almost finals time, yay!!! Haha, no but really, I’m thrilled because that means it’s almost time for me to go home, finally *whew*. Notice, I didn’t say anything about Thanksgiving…well, that’s because my Thanksgiving break shall consist of me sitting in my room, writing papers with the occasional break to watch TV (i.e. catch up on Scandal & The Originals). Yep, that’s my life. If I have any followers in High School, cherish these moments. 

OKay, I honestly don’t know who I’m kidding. I “liked” HS (& middle & elementary) but college is great. I never would’ve realized my penchant for writing novels in 1-3 months had I not been in a place where that was as much time I could afford to devote to them, and that’s a stretch. Also, I’ve met some amazing people. Including…the people in my Writing For Children class. It’s amazing. I’ve been wanting to take this course since my first year and I finally managed to snag a seat. It’s a small class (<15 students), and we’re all such amazing writers. I can’t wait until we’re all published and I can say I remember that book when it was yay high. (not that I ever say things like that)

This has spurred me to consider, in addition to my honors thesis for PoliSci, an independent study with my professor of this class, who has already volunteered. Looks like I’ll I’ll be doing Senior year is writing. I think that’ll be the real test of my writing abilities. Well, thank goodness for Junior Spring since it doesn’t look like I’ll have much time to celebrate Senior Spring.

What Inspires Me Right Now

As some of you may know, I’m a bit obsessed with inspirational quotes. I currently have an amazing Muhammad Ali poster (with one of his quotes about the will needed to be a champion) beside my work desk and I plan on getting a Bruce Lee one (w/ a quote about doing instead of just thinking about accomplishing something) to compliment it.

Here’s one for thought:

confucius man mountain

Also, since I’m in Middle Grade Madness/Heaven right now, I’m inspired by the people I began writing these books for, my siblings. I write my YA for my younger self but my MG is all for them. I suspect that’s why dialogue comes so easy, I’m just remembering all the crazy things they say. Love y’all (see you soon!).

How have you been?  What’s inspiring you or rather, how do you inspire yourself?

Whimsically Yours,


P.S. If you’re in the Boston area, mark your calendars for this event (it’s THIS Sunday!)

time traveling YA