Thursday, July 31, 2008

News On The Steph Front

Standardized testing sucks. Including eight subjects, all very hard and very detailed and very time-consuming to study for, in one exam sucks. Getting an education does NOT suck, though - I wouldn't have made such an effort to understand every little thing in my textbook if I wasn't going to get tested on it.

...I'll probably have forgotten by tomorrow, but, ya know, for the time being? I'm down with knowledge.

Anyhow!

Now I have time to dive headfirst into Miss Melissa Walker's trilogy (yes, I got the three books!).

Miss Walker, if you're with us, I'd just like to say I hope your books don't disappoint ;)

Happy browsing, everyone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

When Are You Going To Get To My Book?!

This post was inspired by C. Leigh Purtill’s comment on the Is Asking For Books Offensive? post. Behold, the comment:

I guess part of what I'm asking is, if I send a reviewer a book and I don't hear anything after a couple of months, should I assume the reviewer didn't like the book?

(read full comment here)

So, since we’ve got this awesome community unveiling the barrier between authors and reviewers here, I thought I’d turn it into an official post. Let’s talk about it!

Reviewers, how long does it take for you to get to a book?

Are you ever bothered by authors following up with you (in a polite manner)?

How do you decide what book you’ll read next from your pile?

What’s the longest you’ve ever taken to review a book?

Authors, if a reviewer has stated they have a lot of books on their pile and any new material won’t be reviewed for a while, would you still send the book to them? What about reviewers who don’t guarantee a review?

How long before you start getting annoyed and want to email the review?

What’s the longest a reviewer has taken to get to your book?

** as always, anonymous entries = fine :D **

Take Me There by Susane Colasanti


Summary
In one short week . . . three lives change.

Rhiannon is devastated after the breakup with her boyfriend and wants him back. Nicole’s ex is still in the picture, but she can’t help having a new crush. James and Rhiannon are just friends, though he may try to take it to the next level. Will their desire to take a mean girl down a notch bring these three friends what they want . . . and more?

Set during one life-altering week and told in three realistic perspectives, this engaging, witty novel by the author of When It Happens shows the ups and downs of love, friendship—and karma.

Grade: C //

Thanks to JL for the book!

Memorable Quotes/Lines:
I really liked all of Rhiannon's "Question:" bits. Examples:

Question: If you were happy with your boyfriend but he wasn't happy with you, was that happiness real? (ARC page 18)

Review:

Okay, I just have no idea how I feel about this book. Its positives are overlapping with its negatives big time.

Question: How do you review a book about which you have mixed feelings?

Hmm, I guess I’ll begin with the characters, who were the most *sigh*-worthy bunch I’ve seen in a while. Rhiannon wasn’t compelling; reading Nicole’s point of view was visually (and intellectually) painful; James was...an improvement. My favorite of the three, assuredly, if only because he wasn’t as self-centered as both girls.

Know what, I’m gonna tell each what my problem with them myself.

Narrative

Rhiannon: I’ve been heartbroken before. It’s not a good feeling, far from it. But unless you’re at that place in your life where you can relate, reading an in-depth, blow-by-blow account of someone else’s road to recovery is emotionally exhausting. You just can’t pay me enough to go through the whole dumped routine. I have (and will have) plenty of opportunities to peruse the discarded-girl neediness myself and unless it’s me or a good friend who needs comforting, I just don’t go there. Being clingy and bringing your nostalgia to sight every other sentence is not okay. Take a break before beginning a narration.

Nicole: You wouldn’t have been so bad to read about if your point of view weren’t rigged with question marks and conjunctions. For the record: It’s okay not to begin a sentence with "and" or "but". And this? Grates my nerves. Breaking sentences? Is not cute. At first, I loved how natural your voice was, true to most teenagers, myself included. But then I realized that, if we are to utilize our day-to-day vernacular when speaking, we shouldn’t go on for too long. It is DAMN ANNOYING.

Example (from ARC page 108, checked against Khyrinthia's final copy):

He’s like, "Hot?"

And I’m like, "Huh?" And I’m all freaked out because two seconds ago I was thinking how I’m totally sweating and I must look disgusting and I can feel the sweat pooling on my upper lip and how attractive is that? Not very. And I was thinking how I should go to the bathroom and make sure I look okay, but I so don’t want to leave this room, and then all of a sudden he asked if I was hot like he could totally read my mind. Which just proves how connected we are.

So he says, "Are you hot?" And I’m starting to suspect that maybe he doesn’t just think about math all day.

I go, "I guess I am. A little."

And he goes to turn on the fan and I laugh at the absurdity of it all, and he's like, "What's so funny?"

And I’m like, "Nothing."


It really should come as no surprise that I only read the last page of your second narrative.

James: I have nothing bad to say about your voice. It was normal. Thank you.

Actions

Rhiannon: Chalk scene. No no. Not witty—just plain creepy. No. But good on you for finally getting over that jerk by the end. He wasn’t even all that from what I could tell.

Nicole: HOW COULD YOU LET RHIANNON WRITE THE CHALK MESSAGE TO STEVE?!?! IN FRONT OF THE SCHOOL FOR EVERYONE TO SEE?! OH MY GOD, this is wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to start. First, you’d already told her he was with Gloria. Yes, there were the flowers found in Rhiannon’s locker she thought were from him. But still, you’d heard about him at that party on Saturday, long before the damn flowers materialized. So that little speech Rhiannon gave about the kiss you witnessed between Steve and Gloria meaning nothing was crap and you knew it. You didn’t need to justify the revenge you’re all gonna seek out from Gloria later on, as Gloria had ALREADY STOLEN STEVE. This was, seriously, the most unfounded plot twist EVER.

James: Again, nothing bad to say. Thank you.

Execution

Nothing character-specific now. I liked the premise of three POVs, but going back over everything three times was very slow moving. I only read Rhiannon’s account of the second half, skimmed over Nicole’s, and glanced at the last page of James’s. Oh, I also read the epilogue. But that’s it, no more.



As this is a C-level review, there are obviously things I liked about the books. First and foremost is the character Danny, Nicole’s ex-boyfriend. He straddles the line between primary and secondary character, though I think this novel would’ve greatly benefitted from spotlighting him some more. He’s got this incredibly vivacious streak and he was a teddy bear of a boyfriend: super sweet, caring, and attentive; in short, everything a girl would look for in a guy. I heart him.

I also grew very fond of the dialogue. You can’t deny Susane Colasanti knows what makes teens tick, and even if I thought her way of displaying it was sometimes overbearing, her dialogue was great.

I’m granting this book a C because it was, all things considered, just okay. Danny played a large part in its saving grace. I’ve heard great things about Susane Colasanti and her debut When It Happens, so I’ll be checking that one out. For this one, however, I would advise you to either wait for the paperback or get it from the library.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Breaking Dawn Spoiler

** If you're looking for post-release spoilers, like what's up with that Renesme kid, or the likes, click here. **

Well, seeing as the blogs I usually read haven't posted about this yet, I thought I'd do the honors. Before anyone gets high and mighty and decides to email Little, Brown and Co. about copyright violations, please know that this is an authorized spoiler from Stephenie Meyer herself. Read about it here on Entertainment Weekly. If you don't want a (in my opinion, mild) spoiler about Breaking Dawn, avert your eyes.






It seems like Team Jacob loses! Bella and Edward have a real, not-dream-sequenced wedding scene in the fourth book!

YEAH, baby. Edward's character has gotten iffy for me in the past two books, but the thought of Bella marrying Jacob just doesn't sit well with me. Plus, he could imprint on someone else later, so...

Of course, I think something else is brewing. If Meyer intended on writing a page-turner, there will be more to this story. Some stakes or whatever. But whatever, until the book is released and all is clear, TEAM EDWARD IS IN THE LEAD!

Thanks to Ambeen for the link!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

UNDONE contest winner...

Bunny B!

Emailed you, please reply within ... hmm... 32 hours, until midnight on Tuesday my time.

Thanks to all who entered!

Steph

Got A Copy of TAKE ME THERE?

Heya, beautiful people. How's everyone this fine, lazy Sunday? Me, I'm great. :)

Anyhow, I'm wondering if anyone's got a final (that is, not an advance) copy of Take Me There by Susane Colasanti? Yes, if I must quote something from a book and all I haven is an ARC, I usually just disregard the "all quotations must be checked against the final copy" warning on the back/front/whatever and quote the ARC anyway. But that's just for random lines I thought were memorable or what not.

With this book, I'm going to be quoting some paragraphs and I would love to make sure they're exactly like the ones found in the final version. (Plus, I don't know how much publishers actually care about this ARC situation, especially in relation to teen blogs such as mine ... I'll have to talk about that with my publicity contact. Until then, better safe than sorry.)

So anyway, if anyone's got a final at hand, mind either commenting here or shooting me an email at reviewerx AT gmail.com? I'd love to check against your copy for any changes, etc.

ETA: Someone already emailed me. THANKS!

Thanks, and that's all!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Temptress Four by Gaby Triana + Book QnA

Summary

Four best friends, one graduation cruise, a week of partying.

Eight days of strife and storms . . .

It's supposed to be the best eight days of their lives.

Bonds will be broken...

But when a fortune-teller predicts trouble the night before their trip,

One of you will not come home...

Fiona, Killian, Alma, and Yoli are left on edge, wondering what it could all mean.

Gaby Triana gets right to the heart of that thrilling, nerve-wracking, exhilarating, terrifying, amazing time that comes right after graduation, when the big question is: Where do we go from here?


Grade: B+

Thanks to Gaby and Elyse for this book!

Reviewwww!

I’ve mentioned before on the blog that I adore books with Latina protagonists. A review on GoodReads asserted The Temptress Four was a good book if only because of its four strong main characters. Now, it must be said that I have also always fantasized about going on a cruise, so that’s yet another thing to admire from afar here.

First, though, let’s talk about these characters. One thing to keep in mind about this book is that it deals with the summer after high school and before college, for some people the last time they really get to be with their hometown friends. So the girls here are all trying to enjoy their time together while also harboring the notion this may be it for them. I thought all of them came through really well and well-rounded, and all had relatable qualities.

But, in seeing the development of the other three girls through Fiona’s eyes, it left a minuscule amount of room for her to grow throughout the book, too. She did evolve, she did change, she did mature her idea of her long-time (seemingly dead-end) relationship with her boyfriend at home, and she did eventually find herself in this trip. However, at the end, she had to do something to prove all these things took root in her mind—and then her final decision (I won’t tell you what here) came out of left field. It felt forced, I suppose you could say, and it wasn’t exactly the most mature or savvy decision she could’ve made.

Pushing that aside, I found every facet of this book likable, be it the humor (very nice), the characters (as mentioned above, very nice) or Gaby Triana’s writing (very, very nice). The Temptress Four has a lot of things going for it, a lot of layers to shape its world, to classify it as a memorable read. If you’re looking for an entertaining, top-tier beach read, light but still endearing book, I’d recommend this one for you.

What’s a shame, is that you can’t find this book without searching for it on HarperTeen’s site. That probably limits the people who know or will know about it by a lot. Personally, I think this book deserves more than that.

Recommended by me. You can be sure this won’t be my last Gaby Triana book—or the last time Gaby’s name pops up here.




Book QnA (with Gaby!)

How did you get the idea for The Temptress Four?
I wanted to write about a group of high school graduates the summer before splitting up for different colleges. I wanted them to have a great time somewhere on vacation and see what kind of trouble I could get them into. It turned out to be about Fiona’s life mostly and how her three friends’ lives influence her decisions.

Have you ever been on a cruise? If so, where did you go and how did you like it?

Yeah, I’ve been on a few, mostly in the Caribbean. But my favorite was in the Mediterranean. It started out in Greece and went to Rhodes, Egypt, Israel, and Turkey. It was beautiful and the sun was way hotter than any tropical Caribbean cruise you could ever imagine. I had 2nd-degree blisters on my skin (no sunscreen) by the 2nd day because I thought I was a tanning pro. Luckily, I got over and was able to enjoy the rest of the cruise.

Do you believe in fortune-telling? Have you ever had any formidable experiences with fortune tellers, like the girls in The Temptress Four did?

I’m fascinated by it, but I’m not sure. I totally think it depends on who is doing the fortune telling. I don’t think tarot cards alone say anything. It’s the tarot card reader and their ability to perceive things and tap into their intuition that means everything. No, I never had any “wow” kind of fortune telling experiences, but one recently told me I would get good news this summer. Let’s see if she’s right…

Which character did you have the most fun writing about?

Alma was a challenge. She’s says so little, but I wanted her to be like some people I knew that, when they actually spoke, they floored you with what they had to say. So it was hard making sure readers would remember she’s there when she’s so quiet. Killian was fun to write about too. She’s a free spirit. She’s the girl I wish (and Fiona too) I could be sometimes, the girl who doesn’t care what anybody thinks of her and just loves life.

Did you have a group of such close friends like when you were in high school?

I did, but we’re not the tight-knit group we used to be. I still keep in touch with them, though. This is inevitable, so be ready. People change. You will change. But new friends will come into your life, and the old ones will still have a place in your heart, though you almost always will outgrow them.

What message, if any, do you hope readers take with them when they finish your novel?

The one above, but also that letting go of your fears and trying something totally spontaneous sometimes leads to the biggest and most important self-discoveries in life.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Being Emo To Be Made ILLEGAL?!

This has absolutely nothing to do with books, the industry, authors, etc. but I just had to post it.

In Russia, they are trying to pass a legislation that will basically cutting out any sort of "dangerous teen trend", emo involved. Read all about it here. Definition of emo? "These rebels have pierced lips, ridiculous haircuts and too much eyeshadow. They're barbarians in bowler hats, leather jackets and torn-up tights."

I'm torn between sad or amused. This is by far the most ludicrous generalization I've seen in a while. In the same note, it's not like these people are kidding around -- they are actually trying to pass this as a law.

/random post

Win The Temptress Four by Gaby Triana

Heya people! So, ANOTHER giveaway :)


Rules:
1) One entry per person.

2) Anonymous comments need some sort of an email address where the person can be reached.

Extra Points:
+ 1 :: Post on your blog's sidebar about it. OR. Post a bulletin about it.

+ 1 :: If a friend is referred here by you and says so in their comments. (I know this is helping someone else, but I'm hoping we YA blogosphere people are not such cannibals that we purposely omit saying someone who indicated us here just so the person doesn't get an extra entry. If you want extra entries, there are tons of things you can do.)

+ 2 :: Posting a blog entry about it WITH a picture of the book if it's a compilation of other links as well. If it is a compilation and you blurb me sans picture, it's + 1. If it's not a compilation, then just posting about this contest is fine for the two points.

Yes, I know, I suck doing two giveaways back-to-back for those who post about it. Sorry! I'll find a way to make up for it...

Deadline:
Next Friday, the 1st of August.

Have fun, people!

I've Been Meaning To Post This For A While Now...

Aislinn Ai and Avery Trelaine of 3 Evil Cousins moved to another book blog? You can now find them at nineseveneight book reviews posting under their real names, Eli (Aislinn) and Rae (Avery).

I found out about 3 Evil Cousins when Libba Bray linked to her interview on there. I kept returning at least once a week ever since, even on the months before my book blog was up. Now, I can't be sure, but if I had to take a guess, I would say it was their site that planted the idea of running a book blog on my mind. And then when my two best friends started their own (without telling me about it!) and I found out about it, well, that was the birth of Reviewer X.

So, I really like these reviewers. If you're looking for some place to get started, read Eli's review of Poseur by Rachel Maude.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Author Interview: Gaby Triana

Heya, everyone! Here's an interview with Gaby Triana, author, cake decorator, among other things. You can win one of her books, Backstage Pass, by clicking here. Tomorrow there will be ANOTHER giveaway for one of her books, as well as a review, so check back for that!

Let's get started, shall we?


About:
Gaby Triana is the author of critically acclaimed Backstage Pass and Cubanita. She lives in Miami, Florida, with her husband and their four children. Visit her online at http://www.gabytriana.com/.




Could you describe your road to publication?

Faster than most. I spent two years shopping a story called Freddie and the Biltmore Ghost, but when that didn’t sell, I started writing something new, a little story called Backstage Pass. BP got sold two months after I finished it and became part of a 2-book deal, which included Cubanita. So I’ve been very lucky!

What inspired you to write for teens?

I love that teens are the real heroes sometimes. More so than adults. I love that they can still straddle the line between childhood and adulthood, gleaning the best of both worlds. I think, in many ways, I’m still like one.


What is the best part of being a published author? The worst?

The best part of being a published author is getting emails from readers telling me they loved my books, identified with my characters, or recommended it to friends because they really connected with it somehow. The worst is that authors are often the unsung heroes of the entertainment industry and get paid as such. But that’s the story of my life…I always fall into the role of unsung hero somehow.


What is your ultimate career aspiration?

To have my name in everyone’s vocabulary. J Kidding…(but not really). Um, I don’t really have one. I really just want to continue what I’m doing for as long as possible, although screenwriting for a major network show would be cool too.

What is your biggest piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t aspire. Just write. The rest will come if you love what you’re writing.

Are you a music fanatic? If so, what bands do you want to give a shout out to here on the blog?

I love U2, Nickelback, The Fray, Coldplay, Barenaked Ladies, Rihanna, John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, Saliva, Dixie Chicks, Elliott Yamin, AFI, Daughtry, Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, John Denver (yeah, John Denver…there a problem??), Billie Holiday, Michael Bublé, and The Wiggles (they keep my twins quiet), just to name a few…

What TV shows and movies do you tune in to?

I don’t have time for TV. I wish I did though. Some shows I sometimes get around to watching are Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters, and Scare Tactics. I love movies, though, and I’m not picky. I love just about any well-written movies out there: There Will Be Blood, Boys Don’t Cry, Dirty Dancing (yeah, Dirty Dancing…there a problem??), The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ratatouille, Enchanted, Moulin Rouge, and anything with Hugh Jackman in it.

What is your most prized possession?

My family. Everything else can burn in a fire for all I care.

It says on your acknowledgments that you have a dog! I’m a big dog person, so I was wondering if you had any funny/interesting anecdotes to share about Chewy?

My dog, Chewy, was the best dog in the universe. One time, he chased the neighbor’s pit bull (who he was usually friends with) right out of our yard because it was bullying our cats. I’ve never seen him so fiercely protective of his feline brother and sister. Another time, I caught him on top of the wooden fence, back arched like a cat (he must have been trying to copy what the cats do). He didn’t know how to get down and looked really worried. I had to help him. LOL, god, that was hilarious, now that I think back on it…

Who are your favorite authors? What about your favorite books?

I love Stephen King, Anne Rice, Mark Twain, Washington Irving, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, the more supernatural/ghostly, the better…


If given the choice, what food would you ban from the face of the earth?

Saccharin, if you can call it a food. It will eventually wipe out the human race if we don’t stop using it.

You also work as a cake decorator. How did you get into that? Does this mean you’re the favorite person on the block, because you always have yummy food at hand?

My neighbors know, when they look through their windows to see my son knocking, that they’re getting free dessert. I’m always experimenting on new cake flavors, and they get to be the guinea pigs. I got into it when I picked up a Wilton catalog when I was 15 and made my first decorated cake that involved talent, not just tub frosting and sprinkles. It just snowballed from there, and every new idea I got became a challenge for me that I had to fulfill. You can see some of my cakes here: www.theloveofcake.com

What books currently sit on your nightstand? How are you liking them?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox (very nice) by Mary Pearson, Impulse (very nice) by Ellen Hopkins, Fancy White Trash (very nice) by Marjetta Geerling, and Frankenstein (rereading for research…old, but also very nice) by Mary Shelley.

Name the most random fact you can think of about yourself.


I was the dance soloist and captain for my high school color guard. Most people don’t know that I can toss a rifle and sabre 5 times and catch it in a backbend.


I see you have a book coming out next year! Could you tell us a little about it? Also, are you working on anything else at the moment?

Riding the Universe was originally called Motor Girl. It’s about 17-year-old Chloé who inherits the motorcycle she and her uncle built together from the ground up before he died of leukemia. She then spends the next year of her life trying not to fail chemistry, wasting hours watching the night sky, and wondering whether or not she should go against everything she ever believed in and pursue looking for her birth parents. Oh, and she’s in love with two boys.

I’m working on a supernatural thriller called Wake the Hollow, a modern version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It’s not a straight retelling. It has a brand new plot with a subplot that mirrors the classic.

Most important question ever: Does writing YA rock or what?

Yes, writing YA does indeed rock, dude. Some people (adults) have had the nerve to ask if I’ll ever get around to writing a “real” book, you know, like for adults, and I usually just smile at them and blink a lot. They have no clue anyway, so there’s nothing to say. If I have to explain it, they just don’t get it.

Win Backstage Pass by Gaby Triana

Síííííííííííííííííí!

Gaby Triana (whose interview with Yours Truly will be posted later today) has donated a copy of her book, Backstage Pass, for a contest on the blog!

Rules:
1) One entry per person.

2) Anonymous comments need some sort of an email address where the person can be reached.

Extra Points:
+ 1 :: Post on your blog's sidebar about it. OR. Post a bulletin about it.

+ 1 :: If a friend is referred here by you and says so in their comments. (I know this is helping someone else, but I'm hoping we YA blogosphere people are not such cannibals that we purposely omit saying someone who indicated us here just so the person doesn't get an extra entry. If you want extra entries, there are tons of things you can do.)

+ 2 :: Posting a blog entry about it WITH a picture of the book if it's a compilation of other links as well. If it is a compilation and you blurb me sans picture, it's + 1. If it's not a compilation, then just posting about this contest is fine for the two points.

Deadline:
Next Friday, the 1st of August.

Have fun, people!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Shiny, Awesome People

Literali nominated me for a blog award earlier today. It makes me so excited to see my little blog noticed by other people! Thank you!

Alea also nominated me just a few minutes ago! Again: thank you, you guys! You're a star, Alea. The kind words made my day.

Aaaaaaaaaaand I just found out about an awesome YA-blogosphere review-and-interview compilation database blog (wow that's a mouthful) fabulously named YA Fabulous. My past few reviews have been mentioned on there and, again, I couldn't be happier.

Thank you to all of you who mention me on your blog! :) If there's any more I don't know about, drop me a line and I'll be sure to get your Reviewer X Gratitude Basket (that is, a bunch of squealing and !!!!!!!s emails) out to you!

What About Negative Reviews?

Yesterday's post, Is Asking For Books Offensive?, got a good turnout in responses. I suggest reviewers (and authors) go check it out -- there are some great perspectives from both sides over there!

Anyway, on yesterday's thread, Melissa Walker posted this:

The one thing I wonder is: If I send the book to a reviewer, do they feel like they HAVE to give it a positive review?

(read full comment here)

Which got me thinking about making another post for reviewers and authors to discuss.

Reviewers
: Does receiving a book from an author (or publicist) make you feel an obligation to review it favorably? What's your experience been like?

Authors: If you (or your publicist) send a reviewer your book, do you expect to receive a positive review? What's your experience been like?

Again, feel free to post anonymously if you would like to conceal your identity.

I Truly Am Stupid (Re: UNDONE Contest)

I put on there the deadline was "Friday, July 27th". Friday's not July 27th and July 27th is not Friday.

The deadline is July 27th. Sunday. Yes.

Sorry about that. Like I said, I'm stupid.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is Asking For Books Offensive?

Is the act of a reviewer asking an author for their book offensive, insulting or annoying?

Everyone seems to have different opinions about this: some reviewers have absolutely no inhibitions about emailing authors, some have a No-Freakin’-Way policy, and some, like me, stand a middle ground—they only when they really, really want a book.

So, what is everyone’s personal take on it? What’s your experience with it been like? Feel free to leave anonymous comments if you would like to conceal your identity, but please specify if you're an author or a reviewer.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Invisible Touch by Kelly Parra

Summary
Do you believe in fate?

Kara Martinez has been trying to be "normal" ever since the accident that took her father’s life when she was eleven years old. She’s buried the caliente side of her Mexican heritage with her father and tried to be the girl her rigid mother wants her to be—compliant and dressed in pink, and certainly not acting out like her older brother Jason. Not even Danielle, her best friend at Valdez High, has seen the real Kara; only those who read her anonymous blog know the deepest secrets of the sign seer.

Because Kara has a gift—one that often feels like a curse. She sees signs, visions that are clues to a person's fate, if she can put together the pieces of the puzzle in time. So far, she's been able to solve the clues and avert disaster for those she's been warned about—until she sees the flash of a gun on a fellow classmate, and the stakes are raised higher than ever before. Kara does her best to follow the signs, but it's her heart that wanders into new territory when she falls for a mysterious guy from the wrong side of town who has secrets of his own, taking her closer to answers she may not be able to handle. Will her forbidden romance help her solve the deadly puzzle before it's too late...or lead her even further into danger?

Grade: B- ...

ARC -- Available on September 16th, 2008.

Memorable/Note-Worthy ARC Tidbit:*
This has absolutely nothing to do with the ARC itself, but dude, I just love how small the MTV Books/Pocket novels are. Anectode: I went to the movie last week with some friends and had Invisible Touch stored inside my purse. The film ended up boring me, so I excused myself to go to the bathroom, locked myself in a stall, and read. (Yes. Really. No. They didn't notice. Thank god.) ;)

Anyway, the memorable tidbit of this ARC is the legal disclaimer. Usually they just say "you must check all quotations against the final copy", but this one had a whole paragraph explaining how this ARC was a loan for promotional reasons. Ha, I liked it -- it was different.

* Since I can't quote ARCs, I might as well do something else, no?

Reviewwwwww!
If you’ll take a second look at the summary, you’ll see I bolded the mysterious guy part. Let’s talk about how these two lovebirds meet:

His name is Anthony, and up until the moment he rescues her from inside a town hotspot where a gang fight broke out, they’d never met. They have a little exchange after his heroic act, she thanks him, and that’s it. Well, no. He shows up at the pizzeria where she works the very next day, having known nothing about her. It should’ve struck her as stalkerish, but she’d sensed they’d cross paths again, so she was merely surprised at how quick it’d happened. Not wary whatsoever of his sudden appearance, she also accepts a ride home with him. By this point, I wondered if Kara had some sort of a death wish. Luckily for her, Anthony didn’t turn out to be an ax murderer.

The events that unfolded afterwards in their courtship were hard for me to swallow, as I don’t take too kindly to blatant coincidences. Kelly Parra must’ve known the reader would be wondering because there was a logical explanation at the end. In retrospect, I can pick out the subtle hints within the narrative building up to it. The setup was actually quite clever on Ms. Parra’s behalf, and I really liked it, but the characterization was iffy. I’m still confused as to why Kara—a self-professed disbeliever of coincidences—didn’t ever question Anthony’s involvement in her life.

Moving on.

Kara keeps a blog basically to let it all out, the loneliness she feels, her psychic experiences, and the emotions she keeps bottled up. I liked the idea of this, and as a blogger myself, I could relate to some of her blogging routines—namely, drafting posts in class. ;) But certain things, like how so many people seemed to comment even though she never advertised her blog, rang untrue. Moreover, I was expecting the blog to play a bigger part in the novel—for most of the part, it was sort of extraneous, like a simple diary would’ve sufficed. (Notice how I said "for the most part"—there is actually one part in the end where it comes into play, but for anything else, I didn’t understand its purpose.)

Now for the final component in my trinity of criticism for this novel: Danielle, the best friend. She keeps a secret, a very big one, from Kara because their friendship doesn’t go beyond the surface. We do learn what her secret is, and I gotta hand it to Kelly Parra, that was one bold move. I loved the buildup to it—realistic and subtle—but I didn’t like how, after the bomb’s dropped, poof....everything deflates and there is only ten pages left in the story, which aren’t used to cover the aftermath of Danielle’s Big Revelation.

For all its flaws, though, Invisible Touch did have a number of strong points. Except for a few instances like:

"Why are you making Kara go to that shrink again?" His voice was edged with criticism. (ARC page 77.)

...and:

"No. Just because he’s from the West Side doesn’t mean he’s in a gang." Even I knew my voice sounded defensive. (ARC page 134.)

—where I thought certain parts were overwritten and repetitive (because, in the first example, of course it’s an accusation, and in the second example, of course the voice is defensive if you’re defending someone), Kelly Parra’s writing is atmospheric. Something I thought she did particularly well was the dialogue; it flowed and it was natural.

This novel’s selling quality, I think, is the emotional level it achieves. Kara is still hung up about her father’s death, having never fully recuperated from it. On the same note, it’s still straining the family. In what I hope is her signature technique, Kelly Parra shows, not tells, all of this, and the reader is left without a doubt about the desperation Kara feels and how hopelessness the situation gets to be. Further, there’s a lot of heartbreak the family goes through, together and apart, I thought was depicted in a poignant—not too light, not too dark—manner which allowed for high levels of realism to shine through.

Ultimately, I don’t know how to grade this novel. I was hard on it because I believe in its potential, and even with its shortcomings, I still do. However, given the number of things that bothered me, I can’t give it an exceptional grade, like a high B or A. I’m settling in it being a solid B-, because the emotional content—which goes hand in hand with character development, the number one way to make me swoon—was good.

GUESS WHO'S BACK??

Miss Chelsea of the Page Flipper fame is! I couldn't be more excited about her return, because she is, and always will be, one of my very favorites (and very, very nice!) reviewer friends.

Go check her out at http://www.thepageflipper.com/!



So glad to see you onboard once again, Chelsea, m'dear.



- Steph

Re: UNDONE Contest

Just wanted to make a note somewhere that the contest IS open worldwide. Brooke's cool that way. I've been getting some international hits on it and thought it would be nice to let those people know that hey, you don't have to be in the US!

Anyway, that is all. I shall be posting a review later today, the moment I figure out how not to sound stupid in it. Not coming along well.

Carry on.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Reviewer Profile: Presenting Lenore

Name: Lenore
Alias: Don’t have one
Headquarters: http://presentinglenore.blogspot.com/
Mission: I am an evangelist for YA fiction – I think everyone should read it (above a certain age of course). I think a lot of adults just dismiss it as being simplified fiction with paint-by-numbers plot, but YA is really experiencing a renaissance right now and there are so many awesomely talented and creative people working in the genre.
Genres: I review a mix of YA and literary fiction, with the occasional sci-fi, chick-lit, thriller and non-fiction thrown in. That’s what I read, and I tend to review everything I read.
(personal questions below)

What's your occupation by day?
I am a freelance advertising copywriter. It’s a really perfect job for me because I love to write and learn new things. Plus I pretty much set my own schedule and have lots of time for reading books and working on my personal writing projects.

What made you decide to tackle this whole blog reviewer biz?
I like to let a book’s themes stew around in my head for a bit after I finish a book and it’s great to have an outlet for those thoughts. Having a reviewer blog keeps me reading and I love being able to promote books that I loved.

What are your blog's strong points?
People seem to respond really positively to the reviews themselves.

How are you in terms of negative reviews? Are you afraid of posting them? How do you handle them?
I do like to accentuate the positive but I don’t shy away from being critical either. If I don’t like a book, I don’t bash, I just point out my reasons. I may think that whole chapter detailing a cricket match in “Murder Must Advertise” is a snooze, but there are plenty of readers who are fascinated by it.

What are the best aspects of being a reviewer?
I can’t deny it’s cool to get to read books before everyone else, and to have a steady stream of reading material just magically appear in my mailbox. But most of all I enjoy being part of the reviewer/author online community – there are so many who inspire me.

In your opinion, where lies the heart of a good book?
The exploration of the “big ideas” of what it means to be human. And I love a good narrative hook.

What books have blown your mind? Which authors?
My mind is being blown by books all the time. Standouts are books that are original, have great writing and affect me deeply on an emotional level. Books like “The Book Thief” by Marcus Zusak and “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. I am so impressed by Scott Westerfeld and David Mitchell. Recent reads that have excited me are Joy of Spooking by PJ Bracegirdle, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart and Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman.

Now for a sneaky question: Which currently-released/forthcoming books are you dying to read? (Question originally by Ambeen)
As a fan of dystopian fiction, I can’t wait to read Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (October 2008) and The Other Side of Island by Allegra Goodman (September 2008). I am also very interested in Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (September 2008), Everything Beautiful in the World by Lisa Levchuk (October 2008), and Lauren Oliver’s If I Should Fall (2010) about a girl who has to relive the day of her death 7 times until she ultimately figures out the life she has to save is not her own. Just such a great concept.

What are some of your other passions and interests?
I love to travel (especially to places with great cultural sites), go out dancing at latin clubs (Merengue is a fave), go on long (leisurely) bike rides, and hanging out with my new cat.

Can you roll your tongue or do other nifty stuff?
I can’t roll my tongue but I can block off my nasal cavity at will. This is a really useful skill because I can keep myself from being tortured by bad smells and I am very good at pretending to be sick.

What music are you constantly tuning in to?
I listen to Tori Amos about 50% of the time. I just never get tired of her music. I also really like Regina Spektor, Youth Group, A Fine Frenzy, and just checking out new music.

What are your favorite movies and TV shows?
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my very favorite movies – but the movie I’ve seen the most times is Last of the Mohicans. I had an abridged, illustrated classic of that as a kid and it was my favorite book. I am drawn to literary adaptations, but I try to read the book before seeing the movie. I don’t watch a lot of broadcast TV (except Jeopardy when I can), but I do like to watch DVDs of series like 24, LOST, Prison Break, House, Arrested Development, Flight of the Conchordes, The Simpsons, and quite a few others.

Young Adult or death?
I’ve always puzzled over this question. I mean it is WAY too easy (YA of course!) Shouldn’t the question be no young adult or death? That would much harder to answer. (Steph says: ooo, I like the way she thinks...)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Anti-Twilight People, Have I Got The Link For You.

http://kadath.livejournal.com/692700.html

Hahaha, good times.

For the record, I am neither anti-Twilight or Twilight-obsessed. If the Twilight analysis thing wasn't as overdone as it is now, with a zillion 1-star Amazon reviews, copious amounts of blog posts, and even NaNoWriMo Group Forum topics congregating self-proclaimed haters of the series (yes), I'd probably post my own take on it. By now, though, it'd just be overkill. I just hope Breaking Dawn gives the reader some satisfaction.

Anyway, that link is supremely funny and very insightful. Enjoy!

Pretty Damn Cool UNDONE Giveaway

*** CONTEST = OPEN WORLDWIDE. ***

Know who just donated a signed, HARDCOVER copy of this book? I'm sure you all know whom. The bigger question is, whom shall it go to? Do we have any takers?

Rules:

- Anonymous commenters will be considered IF THEY LEAVE THEIR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS ON LE COMMENT.

- Please leave your email somewhere visible -- if you have a blogger account with a public email address, that's cool -- so I don't have to hunt it down?

- One entry per person.

The Extra Entries:

+ 1 ::
Link here from your blog's"Contest!" sidebar

+ 2 ::
Make a blog post*/post a bulletin/wear a sandwhich board linking to it it or, in case of the sandwhich board, advertising it
* If you're doing a whole big post filled with links from various other blogs and you add a little picture of Undone's cover next to the link to this contest, you get an extra entry.

+ 2
:: Refer a friend here and have them SAY SO IN THEIR COMMENT ENTRY.

Deadline:

Next Friday. July 27th. 2008. At whatever time I close the comments section.

Good luck!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Author Interview: Brooke Taylor

Hey, everyone! Been a while since I did an author interview, huh? I'm so glad to be doing this one because Brooke wrote what I think is one of the very best books this year. So it goes without saying (but actually saying) it's an honor to have her as a guest!

About Brooke: Brooke’s first "real" job was as a Wrangler for a dude ranch in Colorado. Since then she has worked extensively in the travel industry for both ski resorts and cruise lines. Her many overseas adventures include sky diving in New Zealand, scuba diving with sharks, sailing through hurricanes, and having her tent attacked by wild animals in the Mara game reserve in Africa. Due to parental concerns and current health insurance rates, Brooke has agreed to let her characters do most of the risk-taking from now on. Brooke's first novel, Undone, is forthcoming from Walker/Bloomsbury USA on July 22nd. Visit her online at http://www.brooketaylorbooks.com/.


Could you describe your road to publication?

I’d say it was pretty traditional—I wrote Undone then queried several agents, took their advice on rewrites and really worked hard on those and when it was polished I started the whole process over again and signed with one of my top choices. We made some tucks and tweaks and then sent it out to publishers. The thing that was hardest for me was the timing—everything in publishing takes forever. Seriously, years. There is no overnight anything in publishing.

What inspired you to write for teens?

I don’t think anything inspired me; it is just where my interest has always been. The high school years are forever burned in my memory. Writing about them is just a way to attempt to relive them, and hopefully this time get the guys!

What’s it like being a pre-published writer? Is the anticipation of your launch getting to you?

It’s funny, the advanced readers copies started coming out back in January and since I’ve already been receiving fan mail and reviews, it kind of feels like the book is already out there in the big wide world. The part that gets me nervous is wondering if I’m doing everything I’m supposed to—like getting book marks and little “signed by author” stickers. It would be nice if they had one of those “Book Launching for Dummies” books.

What has surprised you most about the publishing industry? As in, what is something in it that you were not expecting?

I really thought I’d be able to design my own cover art and name my book. I was shocked to find out that the publisher could name your book anything they wanted to. Luckily my publisher decided to keep my title for Undone, but I was sweating for a few weeks while they discussed alternative ideas. And thank goodness they didn’t go with my cover ideas, because I totally love the cover they went with. It’s perfect and mine would’ve been horridly boring in comparison.

What is your biggest piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Write what you want to read. It’s really as simple as that.

You’re stranded in the middle of a desert island—what person, food, book, drink, and electronic
device would you bring along with you?

Oh gosh, just one person? That’s tough—I imagine Edward Cullen is too imaginary, I guess my dog—he’s a people in fur. Food would be cupcakes, book would be my WIP (work in progress) so I can actually finish it, drink would be Diet Coke, and electronic device would be my laptop.

Are you a music fanatic? If so, what bands do you enjoy most and want to give a shout out to here on the blog?

I love music, but I’m not fanatical about any one band or type of music. If I had to pick one to give a shout out to, it would be 30 seconds to Mars or Foo Fighters.

What’s the most fun you’ve had to date?

It’s hard to compare one moment against another, but the most I have is when I’m with good friends, doesn’t matter where.

What makes you laugh?

Everything. Seriously, I laugh at horrible things, not because I think they are funny, but maybe
that they are outrageous or ironic. I laugh at the audacity of people a lot.

Who are your favorite authors? What about your favorite books?

I love just about any book from Judy Blume, Elmore Leonard, or Elizabeth Berg. My favorite book of the moment is Twilight, and my first favorite book was Dracula (coincidence?).

What books currently sit on your nightstand? How are you liking them?

I have a lot of dog training books on my nightstand right now. They’re good—my puppy, Roxy, is doing awesome.

Name the most random fact you can think of about yourself.

Yeesh, um I love polar fleece? If that’s not random, I don’t know what is!

Are you working on any forthcoming novels? If so, could you tell us a little about that?

I am, but can’t tell you much about it yet. It will take place at a boarding school and there will be some thrillz and chillz. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Biggest question of the hour: Does writing YA rock or what?

YA rocks big time! I can’t imagine writing anything else.

Now it’s time to see your creative side! Make yourself a question and answer it.

Q: If you were stuck on a desserted island what would you bring?
A: A fork and spoon!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Undone by Brooke Taylor + Book QnA

Summary (from the publisher)
When Kori Kitlzer, the “dark angel” of the 8th grade, tells Serena Moore that they are more alike than she thinks, Serena is instantly intrigued. As their friendship solidifies and their lives entwine, Serena tries to become more like the fearless, outspoken, and ambitious Kori. Soon Serena doesn’t know where she begins and Kori ends. But when a twist of fate yanks Kori away from Serena, she will need to find a way to complete her best friend’s life left undone.

Undone is a striking debut novel about friendship, family, and the secrets we keep from the people to whom we are closest.

Grade: A // Wow.

(Thank you to the lovely Brooke Taylor for sending me this ARC!)

Memorable Quotes/Lines:
Can't quote - ARC. But it's got a ton of funny quotes which you should check out!

Reviewwww!

How I came across this ARC was a complete surprise. I emailed Brooke Taylor on the beginning days of my blog just to tell her I was looking forward to her release in July, and Brooke emailed me back offering me her book. See? Quick and unexpected. If that doesn’t give you a positive predisposition to like a book, nothing does.

Undone wastes no time meandering along the surface. The very first page, containing the prologue, depicts the first acquaintance between destined-to-be-best-friends Kori and Serena. Serena runs into Kori in the bathroom and Kori, lighting a cigarette and taking a drag, tells Serena that, for some ungodly reason, they’re more alike than she thinks. This statement, because of its elusiveness, still haunts Serena two years since the bathroom encounter that inaugurated her and Kori’s close-knit friendship. Striking, this is; it’s not until later the reader figures out this very scene is where the heart, the core, the key to the story lie.

As previously mentioned, two years have passed, and the girls—having grown so very close in the meantime—are now sophomores. They’re given an assignment to list the five things they want to happen in the next six months—their five ways to tempt fate. Of course, Serena scoffs at it. But then something tragic happens to Kori, and Kori’s list of five things becomes an important artifact—not only to figuring out the mystery of her tragedy, but also to following through with Kori’s desire not to leave anything undone.

So, anyway, Serena is left estranged to the world and life itself without her best friend. What’s more, while she’s always been very mindful of her and Kori’s blatant differences, the deeper she digs in making sense of what happened, the less she sees the Kori she thought she knew. This is devastating in itself because, not knowing what the entity that is Kori stands for anymore, Serena, in turn, doesn’t know herself any longer, either.

However, life still goes on. At home, Serena’s mother is still the same: Not trying to understand Serena or the pain she’s going through. Instead, she’s focused on maintaining the same flawless front she’s always kept to avoid rumors from the small-town community she reckons still condemns her for getting pregnant with Serena as a teenager. Oh, and of course, she still won’t let Serena on to who her father is.

At school, teachers allow a grace period for Serena to readjust, but grace periods don’t last forever and Serena’s not ready to go back to routine yet. There are also her two other friends, Lexi and Cole, who try to divert her attention, but to no avail. And then there’s Anthony, and their "relationship", which she can’t make sense of.

Serena lets it all float away while she tries to figure out Kori’s secrets, and, in so, figure out herself.

To say this is a novel about finding yourself is to simultaneously hit the mark and to sell it short, because while that is precisely what it is, when I finished reading it, I felt it accomplished much more than the "finding yourself" bit. Thing is, it’s hard to define Undone, if only because it fits so many categories and themes of self-discovery: mothers and daughters, best friends, first loves, first temptations, missing fathers, so on, so forth. The truth of the matter is, it touches on many topics worthy of exploration, such as parental abandonment, confusing relationships, friendships you feel are extraneous until you find out they’re not, drunken hookups, and many more I won’t go into detail here because it would ruin your reading experience.

Added to all of this, is ultimately what makes a sane person keep turning pages the most—a mystery. The plot is very clever (and, admittedly, sneaky) this way, filled with intricacies, and with hints right there in front of you all throughout, but that you don’t take notice until the very, very end.

But all of what I have said so far doesn’t even touch what struck me most about this novel, and that is its accessibility. Sure, it’s crammed with lessons, messages, and morals which the reader can’t help but at least consider while reading. However, the tone of Brooke Taylor’s writing never wavers from that of a witty, realistic teen, one who taps into your emotions, making you laugh, cry (yes, I did, literally), and feel what she’s feeling, in the purest, most pristine manner.

This book spoke very personally to me, and I’m sure it also will to many other girls (or boys, if they may be so bold as to read it) out there. I’d recommend it to anyone, but especially to reluctant readers, who are not going to be disappointed with Brooke Taylor’s voice.

Stellar debut, Brooke. Rest assured you left nothing, absolutely nothing, undone with this one.



Book QnA (with Brooke!)

Where did you get the idea for this book?

I saw a license plate that read “CCCCCF8” (Seize fate) and I started thinking about fate, and then about F8, which had this very modern gaming feel to it. My main character Serena, an introverted gaming girl, came to life and her best friend Kori jumped right in and took things over, as she’s apt to do.

Are you a computer “sourceress” like Serena?

I’ve been in the computer industry for many years, but from the networking side of things. I think it would be cool to be able to program games. If I could do that, I would definitely be a “sourceress.”

Did Undone change a lot from its first to final drafts?

In some ways yes. Like the plot had various changes to it. But really the characters Serena and Kori and their friendship never changed. And to me they are the heart of the story.

Which character did you have the most fun writing?

The “Cat Collector” was my favorite. Well, and Poor Josh. Kori was lots of fun, too.

Why did Kori keep things from Serena, specifically about their friendship?

Kori had her reasons, originally they were selfish but the more she got to know Serena, the more Kori’s reasons became about looking out for her.

What was your biggest challenge in writing this novel?

Keeping it short. I tend to write a lot more than is needed, so there are lots of scenes and snibbits on the cutting room floor!

What, if anything, do you hope the reader will take with them after finishing Undone?

So far the things people have taken from the book have varied and I think that is awesome. I think if I’d written Undone with a particular message in mind, it would’ve been hypocritical since Serena’s journey is one of finding yourself in your own way.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Better Than Chocolate,

...are these made-0f-awesome (yes, this is a John Green quote) promotional ideas I've run across in the previous few days.

Absolutely cannot wait until the release of In Too Deep by Jennifer Banash? Well, the characters of The Elite have spared a few minutes of their precious time to keep you posted via their Twitter profiles until they make their 2009 novelized reappearance. Make sure to check out these pages:

Madison Macallister
Casey McCloy
Drew Van Allen




Also, if you feel like doing some reading while browsing, Penguin has an eBook up on their site. Up until July 20th, anyone and everyone will be able to read Savvy by Ingrid Law either by clicking here or by straining their eyes, through my sidebar. (Embedding rules all.)








And hey, if you check out both and need moremoremore ideas for what to do with your time, consider these alternatives:

- Licking your elbow
- Playing on FreeRice
- Typing in the word "Failure" on Google and clicking "I'm Feeling Lucky".

This should keep all similarly bored blog readers occupied while the summer wastes away into yet another school year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Books That Make Me Horny

For the record: I mean horny in the most literary way possible. As in, I don't want to conceive from any of these books.

Mind out of the gutter, please.

Moving swiftly on...

Category #1:
I love books featuring Latin American (or latina) main characters. This is not only because I like to see mainstream portrayals of all the diversity the world has to offer, but also because these types of books have an unmatched ability to resonate with me. Spotlighting:












I've only read The Temptress Four by Gaby Triana, but the other titles (and covers) have caught my eye.

I don't even need to comment on Kelly Parra, right? It's sinful I haven't read her work yet, but I'm getting around to it.

As for Caridad Ferrer, not only has she gotten some bona fide reviews (including this A- one from Smart Bitches, whom I absolutely love), but she's also represented by agent Caren Johnson, who, incidentally, represents Jennifer Echols (author of Major Crush and The Boys Next Door) and Stephanie Kuehnert (author of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone), two authors whose works I enjoy immensely. That, coupled with the latina-girl aspect, is enough to win me over. Need to check her work out, too.

And, lastly (but not leastly (not even a word, but hell, I like it)) Diana Rodriguez Wallach. Her books aren't even published yet and I'm excited for them. They look to be very promising. And the covers? Kensington did a job well done.

Category #2:
Books with covers so good, they force me to pull out my credit card without even looking at the synop on the back.













I've never read any Alyson Noël novel, not because I never wanted to but because I had just never run across her books anywhere. Now I really want to. And dude, worst part? Evermore isn't even published yet.

Christina Meldrum's cover is amazing. I loved Madapple itself, as you can see in my review of it, so the cover is just icing. Still. Gorgeous cover.

A.S. King's book, The Dust of 100 Dogs, will only be published in February 2009, but I'm already salivating to read it. Its cover is perhaps the best one Flux has done as of yet.

Maryrose Wood has got a kicking cover. I'm not the biggest fan of the title, but I would totally buy that book for the cover alone. (And I checked -- the concept is pretty good, too!!)

Patron Saint of Butterflies won my heart over when I first saw it on TeensReadToo.com. Cecilia Galante sounds like she wrote a great story, and the cover could not be better.

On The Jellicoe Road. It's written by Melina Marchetta, which frankly is all the indication I need before buying a book. However, the Australian cover is beautiful. Not the biggest fan of the upcoming US one, but at least the Aussie one is nice.

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway Fantastic book, with an equally amazing cover. If that doesn't catch your eye, what will? Very good usage of vibrant colors!

Fairy Lust
by Cyn Balog is yet another pre-published book. I usually love Delacorte's cover art, and this book just proved it to me one more time -- Random House has a killer arts department.

Category #3:
A great concept. I'm so sick of crap books being published every single day. Novels that have some sort of intellectual value make my heart sing <3












Carrie Ryan's debut, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, coming out next year, looks very promising. I've never felt any desire to read a zombie book before this one.

Libba Bray. Gemma Doyle. A Great and Terrible Beauty. No comment.
I've only heard great things about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, so I cannot wait until this one gets here. The feeling seems to be mutual with E. Lockhart, who said this is the book she feels most proud of having written.

Newes From the Dead by Mary Hooper. Just read the book description and you'll see what I mean.

I also wanted to add The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson in here, but I couldn't find a decently sized cover. That one also sounds amazing.

--

So anyway: What books make YOU horny? (Innocuous use of the word, remember that!!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Summary
“Ruby, where is your mother?”

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future—it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

Grade: A -

(Thanks once again to JL for the book!)

Memorable Quotes/Lines:
"And the rest is history," I said.
"Nah." He shook his head. "The rest is now."

Reviewwww!

Major hesitation struck me when it was time to pick up this book. I’ve been reading online reviews. Some of them are not pretty. Most say the book was okay, but not Sarah Dessen’s best effort. A lot say the characters are underdeveloped. A handful more comment on the book’s sluggish pace.

Let me just say, as much as I am a fan of Sarah Dessen’s works, I’ve always thought she was a bit overrated. Sure, her stories were enjoyable and quite authentic, but, This Lullaby aside, none of her books struck me as just omglikewhoa. I’d never understood the hype surrounding her work.

Well...

That was then.

After reading Lock and Key, this is now:

You know those stories that you just get lost in, immersing yourself through them because you care so much about the protagonist? You know those stories that make you care about the protagonist because you can identify yourself in them? You know those stories that make you identify with the characters because they’re so well written and developed, they jump off the page and speak to you?

Did you know that this was my experience when reading Lock and Key?

Sarah Dessen is notorious for creating tough main characters, but the depth I found in Ruby Cooper is unmatched. Perhaps it’s because of the mother-daughter complex explored in the story. Perhaps it’s because Ruby had to move around a lot and I can relate to that. Perhaps it’s just because Ruby is one of those characters who inexplicably resonates with the reader, even if the two share nothing in common.

After much searching, I’m finally seeing what the fuss is about with Sarah Dessen. I didn’t think she’d create a character more perfect than Dexter from This Lullaby. Well, what she did here was even better. I still love Dexter to bits; he’s still—and always will be—my favorite Dessen character. But the supporting cast here was my favorite of any book of hers, if only because I felt she developed them all to their fullest potential, each and every one of them, through and through. Jamie, in particular, reminded me a bit of Dexter, and that’s never a bad thing. More than anything, though, was the chemistry between the characters. Flawless.

With this novel, Sarah Dessen has cemented her absolute stellar image in my mind.

Lock and Key? Sheer amazing. Highly recommended. One of my favorite books this year, and definitely one of my favorite Sarah Dessen books.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Reviewer Profile: In Bed With Books

Name: My name is a bit of an open secret among a number of people, but I still prefer not to give it out.
Alias: Livi or Liviania
Headquarters: http://inbedwithbooks.blogspot.com/
Mission: To save the world, one cookie at a time. . . . er, I mean to read. And read. And maybe do some stuff like eat and sleep that people tell me is "necessary" to survive. Pish-posh.
Genres: Anything I can get my hands on, except historical fiction. I dislike all but the best historical fiction. This does not include Romancelandia historicals (Scottish highlands, Regency, Edwardian, etc.).

What's your occupation by day?
I'm an honors college student. I'm trying to get a job at either the local Borders or Half-Price for the summer.

What made you decide to tackle this whole blog reviewer biz?
In ninth grade I started reviewing galleys for my librarian, whose something of a big-shot for the ALA. In 2006, thanks to her, I got to speak at the Best Books for Young Adults 2005 panel - this batch of nominees included TWILIGHT. I slowly became involved with programs like HarperTeen's First Look and Henry Holt's The In Group. Eventually I decided, why not start my own blog? I've been lurk-reading several blogs for a couple of years and it feels nice to come out of the woodwork.

What are your blog's strong points?
I'm a teen reviewer, but I don't just focus on YA. I read adult books as well and reflect on how well they would appeal to younger teens as well as older teens.What are the best aspects of being a reviewer? The community - the authors, the publishers, the readers . . . everyone is fantastic. I like the interaction. And the free books.

In your opinion, where lies the heart of a good book?
It beats in the chest of the reader. A book can be beautifully written, filled with vibrant characters, but if it does nothing for the reader it's just so many words on a page. My good book isn't your good book. In the end, a book is only as good as the reader thinks it is - not to say prose, characterization, and plot mean nothing.

What books rocked your world? Which authors?
WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams - I read this in third grade after my teacher dared me. It shook me out of the world of chapter books and headlong into YA and adult fiction. (I'm sure the librarians wondered about me, all checking out Nancy Drew, Animorphs, Tamora Pierce, and Robert Heinlein.) I still love this book. It's a wonderful fantasy and I adore Hazel-rah and Bigwig. If they weren't rabbits I probably would've developed bookcrushes on them.

Nathaniel Hawthorne - If he were still alive, I would go to his house and proposition him. His prose. Dead sexy. I kind of blink at people who don't love THE SCARLET LETTER. I cannot read Hawthorne without falling in love all over again.There are many others, but those are two of my biggies.

What are some of your other passions and interests?
I like movies, anime, manga, music, and ballet. I'm passionate about dessert. Other foods I'll talk about somewhat lasciviously, but dessert . . .

Can you roll your tongue or do other nifty stuff?
I can roll my tongue and I have hitchhiker's thumb. I remember odd bits of trivia which enhance any conversation. (At least, if you don't mind that your conversation will make you sound certifiably insane to random passerby.)

What music puts the rock to your roll? Any movies you can watch over and over again and not get bored? TV shows?
I like most any music except for country. Some of my favorite artists are Regina Spektor, the Dropkick Murphys, Lacuna Coil, In Extremo, and CAKE. I can watch any of my favorite movies over and over again - The Lion King, Zoolander, The Matrix, My Cousin Vinny, Clueless, VERSUS, etc. I don't watch much TV anymore.

Young Adult or death?
Young adult please. -WELL we're out of Young Adult. We only had three books and we didn't expect such a rush.

The Elite Contest Winners

The winners are...

*******drumroll*******

WRITER'S BLOCK REVIEWS
AND
KISSTOBETRAY!

WBR -- don't have your email address, so could you please email me? You've got until tomorrow before I choose a different winner.

KTB -- emailed ya.

Thanks to all who entered!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fancy White Trash by Marjetta Geerling


Summary
Finding love is simple with the One True Love Plan.

“If only life were as easy as your sisters.” Abby’s heard that one before. And it’s true —Shelby and Kait aren’t exactly prim and proper. Abby is determined not to follow in their footsteps, so she has created the One True Love Plan. The most important part of the plan is Rule #1: Find Someone New. This means finding a guy who hasn’t already dated Shelby or Kait. But when Abby starts falling for the possible father of Kait’s baby, she has to figure out if some rules are meant to be broken.

Grade: D+ //

Memorable Quotes/Lines:
ARC -- cannot, will not quote :P

Reviewwwwwww!

This book in a word: Incredible. And not in a good way.

Overview:

The base of the spotlighted family is the mother, Mona (an erratic and irresponsible parental figure), and three sisters, Shelby (21), Kait (18), and Abby (15). Shelby has a three-year-old kid, Hannah, and Kait is pregnant for a portion of the book and then gives birth to premature baby named Stephanie. Abby’s father and Mona have been married twice—they’re divorced at the beginning of the novel. Mona is also pregnant (three months only, so no baby pops in the middle of the narrative, as it doesn’t have a very wide time line), her baby’s father being Steve, who is her at-the-time husband and Kait’s ex-boyfriend and allegedly Stephanie’s father. However, Stephanie could also be the daughter of next-door neighbor Jackson, who is also in love with Abby. Abby wants nothing to do with him because of this. Oh, and Steve is also sleeping around with Kait to boot.

Does this constitute enough showing (not telling) as to how farfetched the entire novel is? The sad thing is, this ensemble could’ve worked under any other plot. The slutty family theme begs for exploration, but this was taken so far past the line, it came together as comical and lacking. The characters, the situation, and the resolution—all extremely over-the-top. Some major toning down should’ve been applied as needed.

What’s funny is, the main character loves soap operas, so I guess the point in all this craziness was to create a connection between real life and soaps. And it didn’t work at all, what with all the commotion created by my handy WTF siren.

One redemptive aspect I found in this clutter of trailer park snafus was the Marjetta Geerling’s voice. Very realistic and quite funny, so I’ll keep look out for her next novel. This one missed the mark, but hopefully her next one will be a testament to her potential (or perceived potential, anyway).

No recommendation on this one, I’m afraid. Although, it might be good for amusement...

Young Adult Weekly Hiatus

YA Weekly = something I love, but right now, it's just not a good time. So it's on hiatus indefinitely, until further notice.

Steph

Friday, July 11, 2008

Paper Towns by John Green

Summary
Quentin Jacobsent has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life--dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge--he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues--and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

Grade: A+ // Would you expect any less??

ARC: this book will be released on October 2008. Thanks to JL for sending it to me!
Memorable Quotes/Lines:
Hahahaha, no way am I ruining this brilliant piece of literature for people before the release date. (Besides, I can't quote ARCs, now can I?)

Reviewwwwwww!

I’ve read the negative reviews this book has received, and they all seem to say the same thing: Why does John Green always write about a sweet-but-awkward boy who is in love with an idolized, larger-than-life, unattainable girl? Now, I haven’t read An Abundance of Katherines yet, but this is true for both Looking for Alaska and, now, also for Paper Towns. However, I honestly don’t know how people can’t see past the repeated love-based-on-projection theme: each book presents a whole different set of explorations, messages and progression. (Besides which, I don’t really mind a recycled aspect to a book, so long as it presents its own unique ideas, which this one, suffice it to say, did.)

Admittedly, I found a lot of Alaska in Margo during the first portion of the book. Even though they’re physically different (starting with the fact Margo is described as curvy whereas Alaska was petite), there was that same "event unto herself" tenor in Margo that Alaska also had. Moving on you realize they are actually not alike at all, which I think is one of this book’s strong point: The characters are not really who they appear to be at first.

Speaking of characters, I just have to say: uncanny, how John Green captures the essence of a teenager. It’s truly not enough to say that his books contain a certain depth unusual to the YA age-range. In this novel, Green truly outdid himself with the development and revelations each character went through. Q, in particular, grew exponentially since the beginning of the book. No longer a lovesick sweetie by the last page, it feels like the entire experience in looking for Margo hardened him and made him realize the error in his ways. I loved going through this odyssey with him.

Dude, and you know what? I love John Green’s sense of humor. Especially since he presents it in a sophisticated manner, with a lot of context, forgoing the typical style of slapstick/downright sarcastic one-liners that, while amusing, are hardly original.

This book, I’m sure, will appeal to John Green regulars, as well as those who’ve never read a book by him. I liked it more than I liked Looking for Alaska, and god knows I put a lot of weight in that affirmation.