Friday, October 31, 2008

SWEET FREEDOM

Exams are OVER.

My last midterms as a sophomore are DONE WITH. Only next year, when I am a JUNIOR will I have more of this crap.

YAYYYYYY.

Since it's Halloween, and since I'm happy, I wanna do another Amaze Me post. I've got a greeeaaat selection to showcase in theme with Halloween but I'm worried if it'd be overkill to post another so soon. (Would it?)

At any rate, I'll be napping & reading for the next couple of hours - I'm so exhausted/deprived of fun. Gah.

So if I do another Amaze Me, it'll be in a few hours.

More later,
Steph

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Inside Outside InsideOutside InOut -- Argh

Random thought as I study the most boring book on the planet: Are most people as stupid as they seem to be?

At school, I probably seem like your average breezy-brained, going-nowhere girl. I'm loud, I don't pay attention in class, and I'm quite obnoxious at times. All my professors hate me (save for the English one, who adores all the books I bring ...), and I'm not just saying that.

Even here on the blog I sometimes feel very out-of-character internally while totally in character with my outer persona. And as much as I'm conscious of my flaws, I can't seem to make any effort to change them. It's a bit of laziness figured in with the "I'll change someday" complex. 

I also can't help but wonder that, if you're mindful of how you act and how you come across to people, if that's unnatural or if it's just normal self-awareness.

The best of me - not to say that part of me is the parameter for all that is holy in the world, but it's the best I've got to offer right now - is hidden away somewhere, criticizing everything else I do. Sometimes I wonder if when I grow up (something I should start doing soon, actually) she'll come out.

Or maybe that's the entire point in life - correlating your true self with the person you put out there. Is there even a way to do that?

Or, back to the beginning, are people really as stupid as they seem? What you see is what you get, and all that.

* Random, random. Studying for Geography does this to me.

Grammar For Us Grasshoppers

Just found an excellent grammar columnist via Colleen Lindsay's blog. I'm making my way through her archives between study rounds because I am so unapologetically nerdy when it comes to grammar and orthography and language in general. So I find it unambiguously cool that there's someone who talks about this on a weekly basis! Ah! (*Cringes* at two adverbs in two consecutive sentences. See? Nerd = me.)

Here's one to get started, if you are so inclined: Why Isn't Gruntled A Word? This should be recognizable to readers of E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks :) 

More later, as always,
Steph

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Allow Me To Be Pseudointellectual

I just got my first piece of hate mail. Behold:

i loved this book i dont know at you guys are smoking but i read it in a day and i loved it and it was deff. not stupid...u guys are the dumb idiotss..wow....and dont post a blog if u didnt even finish reading it u dipshit
=]


From the Jump The Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser review. (Click here to view the comment.) 

Firstly, HAHAHAHAHA. 

Okay, so now that I have gotten that out of my system, on to the subject of THAT comment...

I’d just like to say that I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. I pretty much make it my business to disagree with almost everyone anyway. So, if it makes you happy, disagree with me. Please. And TALK to me about it. I won’t bite, that I can assure you. It all goes with the Golden Rule principle—I like to talk, so I also like to listen. It’s not either/or with me, and I wouldn’t want anyone thinking otherwise.

Now. In my reviews, I try not to attack the author. I don’t call them names and I don’t address anything to them unless it’s a rhetoric positive (example: Wow, Ms YAY, you really know how to WHATEVER this). That doesn’t mean I won’t screw a book seven ways past Sunday, because I will. But I (at least try) never to cross the line and start yelling at the author. If I ever do that, please call me out on it because that’s downright unethical.

So, don’t attack me either, please.

Also, before anyone points out the obvious, I won’t be posting about every person who disagrees with me. Only when, you know, said person comes, calls me a dipshit, insults my readership, and manages to do it all with such colorful grammar and orthography that it really ensures I’ll be taking the comment seriously at all.

Come on, y’all: You can’t ask Snark-o’-Steph to ignore the opportunity to laugh publicly at THAT.

Waiting on Wednesday (4)

Yay, scheduled posts! I'm probably studying Physics now, midterm on Thursday. Crap.

Waiting on Wednesday is a feature I adopted that originated over at blogger Jill's Breaking the Spine. It's freaking awesome because, well, it just is, and also Lenore and Alea do it, too. (Hehe.) Anyway, so my pick for this week isisis...

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
All Meg wants is to escape her excruciatingly small town after graduation. In the meantime, her above-the-law boyfriend and her wild class trip to Florida coming up over Spring Break are the only things keeping her from imploding. But before she leaves on her trip, one of her boyfriend’s pranks goes too far and turns Southern Gothic nightmare. She finds herself in jail. The only way to avoid prosecution is to spend Spring Break on night patrol with the by-the-book cop who arrested her.

Fine. She did the crime, she’ll do the time. If the cop gets hot under the collar cruising the night with a punky blue-haired girl-felon, that’s his problem, not hers. But her own personal boy in blue is younger, less experienced, and so much sexier than she imagined at first. As she falls for him, she explores why he’s as determined to stay in this town as she is to leave. She pushes him to the edge by questioning every rule in his police academy manual. And when he hits back, demanding to know why she can’t stand this straight-laced Alabama town, he will push her to the edge, and over...


I really like Jennifer Echols. Actually, one of my favorite things about her is that not a lot of my friends know about her (except when they're complaining about their lack of good teen romance novels and I squeal, "HELLO, BOYS NEXT DOOR!") and, come to think of it, not many people I know in general are familiar with her work, so when I come across someone who HAS read her two books it's an immediate bond. I like to think you have to be pretty active in the genre to come across the Ro-Coms because they aren't largely publicized, and finding another kindred spirit is beyond awesome.

Going Too Far will be published on March 17th from MTV Books. (And no, before anyone asks, I haven't read it. But I trust Jennifer will turn on the awesome once again for us loyal fans.)

And, yeah, I'm looking forward to this one. Go badger Jenn or something, now!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Word Verification Pain in the Ass

...is gone. I have no idea why I kept it for so long and now people began telling me they had to try multiple times to get it to go through and you know what? If the spam bots come upon my blog I shall treat them with a very delectable spamicide (hehe).

Amaze Me, Faze Me, Daze Me: The First

That was possibly the worst title ever. *shudder*

Anyway, so I was sprawled in bed thinking about history. Read the word "Tudor" and "dynasty" in my course book and my mind went, CLICK! I had something on this subject somewhere in my review pile, didn't I? I was pretty sure I did. It hardly takes a big force to make me get near and grope my book pile, so there I went to find what I was searching for.

AH HA. Thought so. One of the '09 ARCs I'd received. And so decided I'd make a "let's see what exciting stuff comes out in 09!" because history was boring me. I'm thinking of doing a series of posts scattered throughout the next few weeks? Hmm.

Exciting! Things! Out! In! '09!
(I have yet to read any of these - yet. This is not endorsement - yet.)

So, first up is the book I was thinking of as I was "studying" --

The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby.

Description: Life in the court of King Henry VIII is a complex game. When fifteen-year-old Catherine Howard catches the king’s eye, she quickly transforms from pawn to queen. But even luxury beyond imagination loses its luster as young Catherine finds her life—and her heart—threatened by the needs of an aging king and a family hungry for power. Will their agendas deliver Catherine to the same fate as her infamous cousin, Anne Boleyn—sacrificed at the altar of family ambition?

Steph: Let's take a moment to be tacky: DAYUM, that cover. (I am never doing THAT <- again.) History is not my favorite subject by a long shot, but I *LOVE* historical fiction. Andandand it's a Dutton book, which is in the Trifecta of YAY! from Penguin: Dutton, Viking and Dial. Definitely going to the top of the pile. (Also, I wanna know who's the editor....)

Speaking of Penguin...

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Description:
Fifteen-year-old Callie buys a pair of real Prada pumps to impress the cool crowd on a school trip to London . Goodbye, Callie the clumsy geek-girl, hello popularity! But before she knows what’s hit her, Callie wobbles, trips, conks her head… and wakes up in the year 1815!

She stumbles about until she meets the kind-hearted Emily, who takes Callie in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. Sparks soon fly between Callie and Emily’s cousin, Alex, the maddeningly handsome—though totally arrogant—Duke of Harksbury. Too bad he seems to have something sinister up his ruffled sleeve…

From face-planting off velvet piano benches and hiding behind claw-foot couches to streaking through the estate halls wearing nothing but an itchy blanket, Callie’s curiosity about Alex creates all kinds of trouble.

But the grandfather clock is ticking on her 19th Century shenanigans. Can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, win a kiss from Alex, and prove to herself that she’s more than just a loud-mouth klutz before her time there is up?

Steph: I'll admit it, I'm not the biggest fan of the cover. That said, I adore the premise and expect this will be one of the fabulous, fun reads with a historical edge that you drive a lazy afternoon away with, so I am excited about it. Also it helps that Mandy, the author, is a very nice person.


Speaking of historical edge...


The Season by Sarah MacLean
(Thanks to Alea for bringing this to my attention!)

Description: Seventeen year old Lady Alexandra Stafford doesn’t fit into the world of Regency London — she’s strong-willed, sharp-tongued, and she absolutely loathes dress fittings. Unfortunately, her mother has been waiting for years for Alex to be old enough to take part in the social whirlwind of a London Season so she can be married off to someone safe, respectable, wealthy, and almost certainly boring. Alex is much more interested in adventure than romance.

Between sumptuous balls, lavish dinner parties and country weekends, Alex, along with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi, manages to find herself in her biggest scrape yet. When the Earl of Blackmoor is killed in a puzzling accident, Alex decides to help his son, the brooding and devilishly handsome Gavin, uncover the truth. It’s a mystery brimming with espionage, murder, and suspicion. As she and Gavin grow closer, will Alex’s heart be stolen in the process?

Steph: I'm interested in this scandalous society type of historical fiction. Haven't read The Luxe (or even La Petite Four), so it's still novelty to me. At any rate, the cover is gorgeous.

Back to straight historical...

The Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Unofficial Description: After finding an ancient tome entitled the Librum Maleficii et Disordinae, or the Book of Chaos, in her dead father's library, sixteen-year-old Lia Milthorpe discovers she's the key to a legendary biblical prophecy. With the help of her hunky boyfriend, James, and her two friends, Lia sets out to decode the primordial riddle that may bring an end to the prophecy forever. The good part is that they get to have a big, scary adventure in really cool clothes (it's 1890) and Lia and James manage to get frisky by the river, on the porch, and pretty much anywhere else they can steal a moment alone. The downside? Lia is faced with life-threatening, soul-stealing danger from the one person she should trust most - her twin sister, Alice.

Steph: Carrie Ryan knows, from my incessant IMing, how excited I am about this one. Anything surrounding this book is very elusive right now, but here's what I'm aware of: It's the title Little, Brown will be pushing next year. LB is very consistent with their authors and they have an amazing amount of bestsellers to their name (*in one breath* StephenieMeyerJamesPattersonAliceSeboldCecilyvonZiegesar), so I know they know what they're doing. There are no official details yet, but I am DEFINITELY looking forward to reading this one.

And speaking of Carrie Ryan...

That's for next post!

I know I'm probably missing other historical or historical like fiction coming up next year. I'll continue browsing for those and will probably do an add-on post whenever I have enough. Or something. Suggestions, etc, can be posted on the comments section or sent to me via email. Whatever's easiest for ya.

Monday, October 27, 2008

INFLUENCE?!

*ahem*


Taking a break from studying. People who've been following my Twitter know exactly how consistent I am in study sessions. (Five minutes of studying and thirty of web browsing. I'm so gonna need my insomnia to kick in tonight...) 

ANYHOW. 

This question just popped up - which influences you more, a negative review or a positive? I know I've picked up countless books because the negative review made me curious. Like, could a book BE as bad as this person is depicting?! 

Positive reviews don't singlehandedly get me to buy any books. (Or request, for that matter.) I've heard of something called the rule of 3, in which if you see something three times in three different places, it becomes fixated on your brain. Or something like that. I like to think that's what it takes to get me officially interested in a book - either I am naturally, or if I see three positives from book bloggers I trust. 

Or something.

And I guess I wondered this because of the comments in my Bliss review and saw how many people were saying they'd give Lauren Myracle another chance. I always wondered how much my blog influences anyone. (I totally think it's somewhere in the vicinity of zero, but you never know.)


Okay back to studying!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bliss by Lauren Myracle


Summary

When Bliss’s hippie parents leave the commune and dump her at the home of her aloof grandmother in a tony Atlanta neighborhood, it’s like being set down on an alien planet. The only guide naive Bliss has to her new environment is what she’s seen on The Andy Griffith Show. But Mayberry is poor preparation for Crestview Academy, an elite school where the tensions of the present and the dark secrets of the past threaten to simmer into violence. Openhearted Bliss desperately wants new friends, making her the perfect prey of a troubled girl whose obsession with a long-ago death puts Bliss, and anyone she’s kind to, in mortal danger.


Grade: B (I KNOW!)

Thank you to LM and James.

Review:
It must be said I’ve never been much of a Lauren Myracle fan. The Internet Girls series (trilogy?) may be revolutionary to some, but it bugs me on a conceptual level. I did try to read the first book and couldn’t get past the first page. Then I tried one of her full length novels, Rhymes With Witches, and while the premise intrigued me, the novel felt like a countdown to self-implode by the last page. Which, I mean, it did. The resolution left me pretty devoid of emotion.

(Trust me, there’s a point to all my negativity.)

Given as this is the prequel to Rhymes With Witches, I didn’t think I’d request it. So why did I? Well, I’d read some encouraging reviews that piqued my interest. Moreover, my friend Book Chic assured me this is Lauren’s best work. It sounded like a new direction for her, too, so why not?

Blah, blah, blah, bottom line, did I like it?

Yup, this worked for me. It worked and then some. I loved the fluidity of the writing, the suspense, and the swift but lingering pace. The way Ms Myracle incorporated the plot within real-life events of ’69 (oo la la, nice number*), I thought, was very convincing. All the pop culture and political references of that time period, like the Charles Manson Family murders, didn’t alienate me and in fact set the scene very competently.

Oh, and I was a big Bliss (title character) fan. She was likable from the get-go and had a very sympathetic voice. I also marveled at the “bad guy” character’s—Sandy’s—development. That sinister work-up was awesome.

Now, to state the obvious: This book is creepy! It’s the exact thing I’d recommend as “horror for people who don’t like/are too scared of category horror novels”. Now, I wouldn’t say it’s horror in the literal sense of the word—genre fanatics might be disappointed—but it’s definitely chilling and gripping. Each chapter is prefaced with a two-page black spread with a quote from a popular show at the time, a Charles Manson Family trial quote, or a Richard Nixon quote—very well packaged and kept the novel moving on and on and on.

Me likey.

For a dose of reality... I wasn’t a big fan of the ending. It was too abrupt, too open ended, and felt like a weak conclusion to such a powerful book. I still have many questions (Did Sarah Lynn have some sort of power? Was the fact she had the same initials as Sandy supposed to make the reader draw conclusions about the two?), and I suppose that’s what the sequel Rhymes With Witches is for, but having read that almost three years ago, I can’t recall much. It would’ve been nice if this could’ve stood alone.

Some of the other reviews complain that there is too much going on here, racism, occultism, murder, etc, etc, etc, and to be honest I didn’t even notice it until someone pointed it out. Frankly, this is something that would usually bother me, but in this novel, the only logical response I can muster up for this assessment is, “Who the fuck cares?! Weren’t you caught up in the suspense anyway??”

So, yeah, I’d recommend this one. I was not expecting this at all when I began this book, and this book alone ensures Lauren Myracle is, for the time being, on my radar. I hope she chooses to continue in this path because I for one think it’s a worthwhile one to pursue. It’s definitely one I can work with and get excited about.

While I haven’t read all of Lauren’s work to date, I don’t think Book Chic was exaggerating when he said this is her at her best. Well done, Ms Myracle. Well done.

* I never said I wasn’t perverted.

Okay, So How Negative ARE These?

Ever since I began reviewing, I’ve been looking at trends not only in my lukewarm/negative reviews, but also in others. Such as resorting to the word “okay” when the book isn’t good/great/amazing/spectacular/orgasmic:

“This book was okay.”

“All in all, this book was an okay read.”

Same with “all right”:

“This book was all right.”

“All in all, this book was an all right read.”

But when I think about it, the line between positive and negative blurs. Because I have used both expressions in describing something I had more than stale opinions about. Like, “You know what, I think he’s okay.” (Or replace with “all right”...)

Same goes with the word “readable”. If a book is “readable”, that’s supposed to be a GOOD thing, right? Not when I see it used. Usually indicated the reviewer has nothing better to say about the book, so she calls it readable. Then again, you can say something is “highly readable for [demographics]”, which becomes a positive.

Which gets me thinking: How negative ARE those terms? Or, how positive? Any others you can think of that carry the double meaning in reviews?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I was interviewed!

Bookluver Carol interviewed me! Click here to check it out!

Steph

Which Begs The Question ...



Was just chatting with Alea and realized I wasn't the only one who thought this...

So, you should all know the cover above by now. Next Dessen book, out in June '09. Nifty huh? I think so. I can hardly wait!

Now, for the commentary on said cover.... It's a definite step up from Lock & Key. That one was rather monotone and boring (but I loved the book). HOWEVER, this book is screaming RETRO to me. The bike. The dress.

I don't know.

So, the cover, to me, begs the question, Just when exactly is this book set?? Hmm.

YA Connection, October 19th-25th

YA Connection
(Week of October 19th - 25th)

The YA Connection is a collaborative column collected by Kristi (The Story Siren) and Steph (Reviewer X). In it can be found links from around the YA blogosphere, including, but not limited to, contests links, author blog links, review links, and miscellaneous news pertaining to the age group. Also, Kristi and Steph hold weekly contests accompanying the column, as well as a book and author spotlight.

If you're a blogger, author or publicist looking to have your links added, please email Kristi at thestorysiren (at) hotmail.com or Steph at reviewerx (at) gmail.com. Any book donations for giveaways are also greatly appreciated. Please note that the spotlights are not up to suggestion, but rather decided by both Kristi and Steph.

The winner of last week's contest for La Petite Four was Teresa W. Emailed ya. Thanks to all who participated!

This week, we're giving away a copy of Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund (hey, D, I totally just spelled that without looking! :)). Same as usual - email yaconnection@reviewerx.com with your ADDRESS. Extra entries may be earned by going on Kristi's site to fetch the secret word (+ 1) or mentioning and linking to our contest somewhere (+ 1 for each mention - email us with each of the links).

ANYWAY...

Contest Inventory
(Compiled by Kristi)

Dominique of The Book Vault is offering five signed copies of Top 8 by Katie Finn.

Lisa McMann (Wake) is having a huge freaking fantabulous contest! For more information head over to her newly established website! http://lisamcmann.com

Chelsea of The Page Flipper has a monthly prize pack up for grabs!

Liv of Liv's Book Reviews is giving away a copy of In Your Room by Jordanna Fraiberg.

Carol of Bookluver Carol's Reviews is giving away Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Growing Up or Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Relationships.

Brooke Taylor (Undone) is continuing her Monster Month of Giveaways with Faerie week!

Bookworm Readers has a copy of Popular Vote for one lucky winner!

The Book Muncher has two copies of Moonstone by Marliee Brothers up for grabs!

Kesley of Reading Keeps You Sane is celebrating her b-day and Halloween with a contest.

Author Musings
(Compiled by Kristi)

Author2Author is a compilation blog of five YA authors in various stages of the writing process. This week: Lisa Schroeder (I Heart You, You Haunt Me) blogged about useful networking websites for authors. Kristina Springer shared her creative side! Deena Lipomi suggested dropping of your novel at a waiting room for waiting readers. Emily Marshall shared the joys of the 10 year Class reunion. And finally Kate Fall addressed good vs. evil in YA lit.

The Ladies over at Books, Boys, Buzz posted some embarassing endearing photos of their high school years. You don't want to miss this one people! Books, Boys and Buzz is hosted by the following YA authors: Donna Sarkar-Mishra (How To Salsa in a Sari), Heather Davis (Never Cry Werewolf), Marley Gibson (Sorority 101), Simone Elkeles (Leaving Paradise), Stephanie Hale (Twisted Sisters), Tina Ferraro (How To Hook a Hottie) and Tera Lynn Childs (Oh. My. Gods.).

This week on the 2k8 blog, we were introduced to author Courtney Sheinmel (My So Called Family).

Claudia Gray (Evernight) posted some pictures from her South American Vacation!

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast (Untamed: A House of Night Novel) shared the cover for Hunted.

Erin Dionne (Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies) is celebrating!! Her novel will be featured in the Scholastic Book Fair!! I know I always blew my allowance at it every year!

Libba Bray (The Sweet Far Thing) shares some of her adventures on her European Book Tour.

Maureen Johnson (Suite Scarlett) shares "A Typical Day In the Life of a Fabulous Author."

Sarah Dessen (Lock and Key) has been rubbing elbows with celebrities, but what's even more impressive is the cover for her new novel, Along for the Ride.

Diana Peterfreund (Rites of Spring Break) would like to know about your reading pet peeves!! She also blogs about two of my favorite things, besides reading, food and cute puppies.

Justine Larbalestier (How to Ditch Your Fairy) explains how money is not often a perk of being a writer.

Laurie Halse Anderson (Chains) is going on tour!

C. Leigh Purtill (All About Vee) knows the importance of wearing a bra to work, no matter where your office is. I have to say I couldn't agree more.

Author of the Week
Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine has been writing and publishing novels and short stories since 1991. She is a former professional musician who has the distinction of having played with such musical legends as Henry Mancini, Peter Nero and John Williams ... she's also an avid movie buff, a TV-holic, and prefers a good stout Guinness to wimpy American beers.

Rachel recently (finally) gave up her day job as a Director of Corporate Communications for a large multinational corporation, and is now happily writing full time.

Find out more about Rachel by reading Steph's interview with her and visiting her website at http://rachelcaine.com/.

Blogger Blurbs
(Compiled by Steph)

Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page reviewed The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King: "The Dust of 100 Dogs is complex and dark (though with flashes of humor). But it's also unique and rewarding, written with a distinct voice, and featuring two very strong-willed female characters. Try this one out on fans of pirate stories, historical fiction, and even YA problem novels. It is not to be missed."

The Chick Manifesto Girls:

Amee
talks about those next up on the girls' ongoing Favorite Male Characters list, the FRIENDS's men.

Taren reviewed The Truth: I'm a Girl, I'm Smart, and I Know Everything by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein: "The truth: I’m a woman, I’ll be twenty three in a week, and this book royally pissed me off. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t like to be mean or say mean things. To avoid hurting someone’s feelings I’ll generally find any sort of positive I can and accentuate it. However, with this book, I unfortunately couldn’t find any positives."

Reader Rabbit reviewed Savvy Girl by Lynn Messina: "There's not much to critique for this book...what you expect is what you get. Messina's writing style delivers this story easily. [...] All in all though, Savvy Girl is a quick and fun read!"

Lenore of Presenting Lenore reviewed Chalice by Robin McKinley: "Although Chalice takes place in a fantasy world, the political maneuverings of those in power are very much reminiscent of our own world.It’s a quiet and contemplative sort of novel (in addition to all the politics there is a lot of talk about honey), but the patient reader will be charmed by this story of the power of love to heal."

Alea of Pop Culture Junkie posted new Lookalikes posts! Here's the one for At Face Value by Emily Franklin and Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph. And here's the one for The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King and a 60s pop CD.

Leila Roy of bookshelves of doom reviewed Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman: "The major difficulty I had was that it seemed like most of the dialogue in the first fifty or so pages was expository."

Steph's note: I am in the process of reading this one myself, and when I read that I thought, YES, EXACTLY. Maybe it improves? Hmm.

Khyrinthia of Frenetic Reader reviewed Lush by Natasha Friend: "It just so honest. There's a lot of truth packed in it's 180ish pages; the truth about idiotic 8th grade boys ("Here is the problem with eighth grade boys, though: They don't need encouragement. They just keep going on, anyway." This quote? Much too true. I am so glad I am no longer in 8th grade. Not like the guys I went to school with in 8th grade are any better now that they're in 9th grade.), the truth about how sometimes you can't tell your best friends everything, the truth about how your mom can be so in denial, and the truth about how a fight with your (ex) best friend feels. I think all the truth was why it was so easy for me to really get into the book- and I mean really getting into it."

Becky of Becky's Book Reviews reviewed Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr: "This book was also way more complex than I was bargaining for. The characters had so much baggage, so much depth, so much I don't quite what the right word is. The characters were complicated which made them feel real to me as opposed to feeling that they were flat and lifeless or stereotypical or boring or whatever."

Chelsea of The Page Flipper reviewed Shift by Charlotte Agell: "The first half of this book was excellent. It threw me into the plot and action extremely fast, and I was hooked. [...] But, towards the end, it lost some of its charm for me. Not all of it, but some of it. I just...expected the ending to hold more."

Trisha of The YA YA YAs reviewed Ellen Emerson White's The President's Daughter books: "If Meg were a real person, I’d probably be intimidated by her smarts and strength. But as the main character in a fiction series, she is absolutely, completely compelling. White uses a limited third-person point of view that is more intimate than some books written in first-person, fleshing out Meg’s character and giving her depth, complexity, and a sense of humor."

Kelsey of Reading Keeps You Sane reviewed my all time favorite book, Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld: "Throughout Lee's time at Ault, she grew. She grew so much, it was crazy. Every time a new chapter started, which was not a lot of times considering there were eight chapters and 400 pages in the book, Lee had grown up immensely. And I loved to see Lee grow up, actually I loved to see any character grow up, like through a long period time, in any book. Which is probably why I love the Jessica Darling Series so much."

Vanessa of What Vanessa Reads reviewed Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn: "The plot isn’t really all that special, but Cyd Charisse definitely is. I loved Cyd and her spontaneity towards anything and everything. She just really does what goes through her mind and sometimes I wish I could do that."

Harmony of Harmony Book Reviews reviewed Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell: "Books written in verse are a hesitant choice for me. Those about history are even more so. But upon hearing about this retelling of the tale of King Arthur, I became intrigued. Then, after seeing so many glowing reviews from reviewers I respected, I knew that I need this book."

Book Chic reviewed The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher: "Alice's voice is absolutely realistic and compelling to read. Despite this basically being all about a love triangle, it's difficult to put this book down. The romance between Simon and Alice is very sweet and their conversations are a joy to read- they really get along and it shows."

Gabbi of All Five Stars reviewed At Face Value by Emily Franklin: "Although entirely predictable - from Chapter One, even, it's easy to figure out the ending - Franklin's novel is saccharine sweet and a good weekend read. It's not exactly the next modern classic, but the prose is often elegant and the wording is lovely."

Em of Em's Bookshelf reviewed Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin: "I think that the concept of this book was so far in left field that I just couldn't get into it. I mean, a girl that turns into a guy when she's premenstrual? Gross me out. For the first fifty pages, the book didn't move anywhere and I was a little put off by the detailed accounts of Jack's affinity for dirty magazines. Neither of the characters really spoke to me. Jill was in denial and Jack was just a perv."

Steph's note: I was laughing by the "gross me out", hehe.

Jocelyn of Teen Book Review reviewed Size 12 Is Not Fat by Meg Cabot: "Seriously addictive. It’s typically Meg Cabot in the most awesome ways–witty and smart and sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious–as well as being a wonderful mystery. Meg Cabot is an amazing YA author, and even though this is an adult mystery, it will definitely appeal to her teen fans."

Amy of My Friend Amy reviewed Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: "I think it was pretty engrossing, I feel as though I need to devour the rest of the books and I keep thinking about Edward and Bella. Sigh. Definitely romantic, whether or not the romance is actually all that healthy remains to be seen. ;) (I wholeheartedly approve of the guy playing Edward by the way...he totally looks like my type. ;)"

Steph's note: I was anti-Rob when he was initially cast but now I LOVE him.

Hope of Hope's Bookshelf reviewed Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky: "I liked this book a lot. Daria wasn't afraid of what people were going to say about her book - she wrote anyway."

Carol of Book-Luver Carol reviewed Paper Towns by John Green (swoon!): "John Green's writing makes me you feel a range of emotions in just a few pages. He doesn't dumb anything down, like a lot of YA books do. "

Book of the Week
The Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine
For Claire Danvers, high school was hell, but college may be murder.

Bad enough she got on the wrong side of Monica, the meanest of the her new school's mean girls ... but now she's got three new roommates, all with secrets of their own. And the biggest secret of all isn't really a secret, except from Claire: Morganville is run by vampires.

It's a good thing Claire's friends have her back, and Claire herself is the smartest 16-year-old advanced placement student the town's ever seen. She's going to need all the advantages she can get to survive Morganville ... much less manage a degree.

Our Reviews
Kristi: Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky.

Steph: When It Happens by Susane Colasanti. And I also interviewed Lisa McMann, author of Wake and Rachel Caine, author of the Weather Warden series and the Morganville Vampires series.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Come and Set Me Free

I'll be the first to say I'm immensely happy with how the blog is doing. Really, truly, magnificently. It's grown more in seven months than I expected in less than, say, two years (I suppose I had a vision?). I've had amazing opportunities to interview great authors, read excellent books months before they were published, and I've chatted with some awesome industry folks and fellow bloggers. I never expected to make it past the 10 book offers line in this first year, I never expected to have more than maybe 20 subscribers, and I sure as hell didn't expect more than 30 daily views.

However, I miss the beginning days of this blog. I guess I'm just feeling nostalgic about my baby stepping my way to where I am now :) Ah, poor ol' bloggie, you're about to turn 7 months old, can you believe it?! I certainly can't. Wow.

Most of all, though, I wonder what, given my current knowledge of how this book blogging process works, I would've done differently. Would I have held back a little more? Let loose? Be more carefree?

Does anyone ever wonder that? Or miss their beginner days?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Beautiful Love

Received a bunch of new books today which begs the question: Of the ARCs of upcoming books you currently own, which is the one you're MOST looking forward to reading. You can only pick one, lest the ARC fairy come, confiscate all your advance material and never send you anything else until John Green stops being awesome which we all should agree will be somewhere in the vicinity of don't-hold-thy-breath.  

Author Interview: Rachel Caine (!!!)

I heart Morganville Vampires. Lovelovelove. A more comprehensive review coming when I'm comprehensible myself. Until now, read a little in Rachel's own words (to which the books can serve as "further reading")...

About the Author: Rachel Caine has been writing and publishing novels and short stories since 1991. She is a former professional musician who has the distinction of having played with such musical legends as Henry Mancini, Peter Nero and John Williams ... she's also an avid movie buff, a TV-holic, and prefers a good stout Guinness to wimpy American beers.

Rachel recently (finally) gave up her day job as a Director of Corporate Communications for a large multinational corporation, and is now happily writing full time.

Visit her online at http://www.rachelcaine.com/. (She designed her own website, too!)

Could you describe your road to publication for us?

It’s a funny road, actually. I wrote for many years just for myself; a friend of mine got fed up with me writing and sticking stories in drawers, so he bought me a ticket to a writer’s conference where I met an editor who hired me for my first book! (It was a “work for hire” – a game tie-in novel.) After that, I started writing original novels.

You write for the adult market as well as for the YA one. What are the biggest differences between the two? Which do you prefer? (You know which one you should pick. :P)

You know, I really don’t find all that much difference at all! I think storytelling is storytelling. The only thing that differs for me, realistically, is the age of the characters. And because of the age of the characters, I’m more sensitive about where I take them, and how ... and more aware of the possible consequences for the characters.

I love both markets, but I think I might love YA just a *little* bit more. :)

[Steph: Damn straight.]

So, us fans are in the dark here—exactly how many Morganville Vampires books can we expect in all? Will they all be as awesome as their predecessors?

Right now, I’m going to tie up the storyline I have going in Book 6, CARPE CORPUS. That doesn’t mean it’ll be the last book, just the last one for this storyline – I will probably do shorter story arcs for the future, maybe 2 or 3 books instead of a whole 6!

As to the awesomeness, I will have to leave that to the opinions of my very kind readers. But I have a pretty awesome time writing them!

Can we expect a little oo-lala between Claire and Shane? The anticipation is killing us. (Remember you should never be elusive in an interview :))

Yes.

... see? Not elusive at all!

[Steph: *grumbles*.]

Eve and Michael’s relationship is quite complicated, with her aversion to vampires and his vampire nature. Even though they’re working it out now, one wonders—do you think Eve will ever get over her issues with vampires? On the same note, will Shane?

Eve is going to struggle a LOT. Shane – well, I don’t know that Shane will ever feel good about the whole vampire issue, but he’ll learn to control himself a little bit better. :)

Now, about those cliffhangers... WHY, Rachel, WHY?

The first one (in the Weather Warden series) was really an accident. Then it became sort of fun. I honestly didn’t intend to have cliffhangers in Morganville, but by then I was sort of known for it.

Sorry.

[Steph: Apology not accepted. *sniffs* Well, unless Claire and Shane do it in Lord of Misrule.]

How long does it take you to write each book?

Depends on the book. Generally, about two months ... or four, if it’s really fighting back.

Just for fun: If you had the chance to meet each of your four main characters (Claire, Shane, Eve and Michael) face-to-face, what would you tell them?

Hmmmmm.

Claire: Stop being so responsible all the time! You can’t solve everything. Have a little fun, girl.

Shane: Just say no to your dad. NO. Practice it, learn it, love it. And stop throwing yourself in front of trouble to prove you’re tough. We know you’re tough, dude.

Eve: That Michael’s a keeper. But you really need to work out the bloodsucking thing. Also, try to bury the hatchet with Oliver. He’s learning.

Michael: Stay cool. You’re going to need all your Zen!

What will come after vampires for you? Unicorns? Werewolves? Fairies? Demons? Bunny rabbits?

I’m terrified of the bunny rabbits, so no.

Killer ducks, maybe.

Actually, I have three proposals that I’m finishing up. And there are no unicorns, werewolves, demons, fairies, or bunnies involved. :) But right now, I can’t tell you too much, because I haven’t actually sold anything!

What are you working on right this second?

This interview.

Oh, you mean STORIES.

[Steph: hardee-har-har. :)]

Well, I’ve written three short stories in the past few weeks, plus, I’m working on CARPE CORPUS (Morganville) and rewrites on CAPE STORM (Weather Warden).

A little Amazon search tells me you have a new series coming out in February. What can you tell us about that?

Absolutely! OUTCAST SEASON is a new series that is a spinoff of the Weather Warden world. It’s a limited four-book series about a Djinn named Cassiel who makes a terrible choice and ends up trapped in human form, and has to learn how to survive – and help the Wardens fight a new, powerful enemy.

And finally: Does writing YA rock or what?

YA fans are the BEST. And it’s such a pleasure to be part of this – I love writing the stories, and it’s just a delight to meet and talk with such fantastic fellow authors and YA readers.

So ... yes. IT ROCKS.

And so do you, for letting me use up your pixel space. :) Thank you so much!

[Steph: ! *dies a fangirl-happy death*.]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

OUI!!

I am now the proud owner of a Nintendo Wii! My dad just got back from a two week long business trip to the US with IT in toll as a surprise! 


MarioKart, you rule my SOUL. 

Waiting on Wednesday (3)

Waiting on Wednesday = feature started by Jill at Breaking the Spine to celebrate forthcoming books. IT PRETTY MUCH ROCKS.

It is midnight.* I am posting this LIVE at the crack of DAWN. YAY. (And I'm exhausted as well, but I had a very nice chat Eli (whose existence defies AWESOME) and we're, like, planning stuff. Stuff that shall rock. I think I've said too much.)

ANYWAY, my weekly pick of lust is....

Black Mountain Road by Jennifer R Hubbard
Seventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They've never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia's boyfriend.

When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal she left behind. But he is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he's kept.

Note that the above picture is taken from Jennifer's LiveJournal. It's an original photograph as far as I gather so do respect that when you think of borrowing it for whatever.

I first heard about this when Jennifer guest blogged over at her agent Nathan Bransford's blog** sometime late last year/early this year - I can't recall - and it's been on my mind ever since. I'm extremely happy about the fact it'll be published by Viking because 1) it's Penguin, and I love Penguin, 2) Viking's an excellent imprint, and 3) the boat (or something like it) colophon they use is pretty adorable. (Ahem...)

Anyhow, I can't find a direct source for a release date though I'm gonna guess late '09. Which is still far away if you think about it from a linear perspective, but I'm sure it's worth the wait! Plus I fully intend on snagging (and shagging?) an ARC, SO...

Heh :)

Anyone else concur?

*I'll probably regret posting this at midnight when I barely had any sleep the night before, but for now, enjoy my semi-lucidity. :)
** One of my favorite agent blogs out there. Many reviewers are also aspiring writers and if that's your case, go on over to Nathan's. He's a stand-up guy and his blog is very informative and great for beginners (or anyone else, really) like us!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blog Addiction

Some people suffer the insufferable "bling (*gag* at that word) addiction". Me, I suffer from the incurable blog addiction. 


I should be studying now.

I can't seem to stop checking my email. Even though I'm getting, like, NO mail today. 

I think I have a problem. 

Anyone else similarly inflicted? HOW DO I CURE THIS? 

Author Interview: Lisa McMann

Hey, people! I'm excited to announce Lisa McMann as a guest here on the blog. As you probably already know know, she's the debut writer of New York Times bestselling Wake. Lisa's interview has been for a long time coming (my fault, not hers) so I'm happy to FINALLY get to air this. Enjoy!

About the Author: Lisa McMann was born and raised in Michigan and has been a blueberry picker, bindery worker, bookseller, and Realtor. In 2004, Lisa and her family moved to the Phoenix area and now she writes from a green chair overlooking the Superstition Mountains.

Sometimes she wears a cowboy hat.
She’s not really a cowboy.
She just likes hats.

Many of Lisa’s short stories are published online and in print, like the one about homelessness. It won a cool Templeton award.

Now why not go friend Lisa over at MySpace or at Facebook?

Lisa's second novel, Fade, hits shelves in February 2009.

Could you describe your road to publication for us?

WAKE was the third manuscript I wrote. It was the novel that got me my awesome agent, Michael Bourret, within a week of starting to query it (fall 2006). After sixty-eight rejections on an earlier novel, it was really a wondrous event. A few months later, I had two offers from publishers for a 2-book deal, and I had to choose between publishers. That was really difficult, but in the end I went with Simon & Schuster (Pulse). WAKE came out in March 2008, and I’m very happy with how things have turned out. I love my editor. And I’m so excited for FADE (Feb 2009) and also for GONE (spring 2010).

I hear you did a lot of online promotion before Wake was release! Could you outline what you did, and the results you had? (Aside, you know, from becoming a bestseller. :P)

I was a bookseller and a Realtor in previous lives, so I know a little bit about sales and marketing and books. So as soon as I got the book deal, my focus was on getting the word out. I love to be online and talking about books, so MySpace, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter...all of these are fun venues to me. Gradually I built friendships with some very cool people. I did contests once I had bling and arcs for WAKE, and my publisher was very supportive of my efforts.

And my awesome invisible friends, many of whom are your readers, really came through for me. They bought the book or got it from the library. They posted countdown clocks and told their friends and classmates and teachers and librarians about it and bought it as gifts. They rock, and I hope they know it, because I know it. Every author knows that ultimately it’s YOU GUYS, the readers, not anybody else, who let the world know what books are going to make it.

Things have grown from there. I value the online friends I’ve made along the way—a few of them may be surprised to see their names in the acknowledgments for FADE. But yes, it started simply as a little grassroots movement for a book about a 17-year-old girl who gets sucked into dreams. I can only thank all these online friends for what they did to help spread the word through their blogs and reviews.

In fact, I’ll soon be doing a contest on my website, http://lisamcmann.com, as a way of thanking readers for their efforts, so I hope folks will come check it out. Keep an eye out for it – not sure when I’ll post it but it’ll be soonish.

Your debut, Wake, reached the coveted New York Times Bestseller status within weeks of its release! What was that like? How did you react when you found out?

I pretty much freaked out. My editor hooked up my agent and me on a conference call to let us know the great news. I said “shut up!” about fifty times and not much else except for some screaming. And then I wandered around the house aimlessly and in shock all alone for a few minutes, savoring it, before I called my husband Matt to let him know. Later I went out for dinner with Matt and the kids to celebrate. It was the best day of my life.

Would it be safe to say the idea for Wake came to you through a dream? If not, how did it?

Yes, that’s exactly how it came to me. I dreamed that I was in my husband’s dream, watching what he was dreaming about.

Are you a vivid dreamer? Do you believe dreams have any significant meaning?

I’d say yes, my dreams are vivid. And after doing dream research for the series, I tried some of the techniques that Janie uses for lucid dreaming. I’ve had fun with it – it’s how I work out plot problems now. I think dreams are an important means to working out daily stresses. I’m not so sure any of my dreams have had hugely significant meaning, but I wouldn’t scorn someone who thought their dreams did.

PG-13 question—tweenies, avert thy eyes!

Say you were Janie and you hadn’t yet gained the ability of exiting dreams by will. Now, suppose you got trapped in a particularly...err...lustful dream sequence. What would you do?

Janie doesn’t particularly enjoy the lustful stuff – she’s really tired of it. I mean, it’s one thing to see something nice and sexy in a movie between people you don’t know personally. But it’s entirely another thing to see the guy with the stinky feet who threw up barfaritos on the bus in fifth grade trying to be all sexy in a dream with the girl you hate because she told everybody that you got your period so the whole school knows your menstrual cycle...yanno?

If I were Janie, I’d do everything possible to get out of range of that dream. Crawl away, close a door. Or wake the person up by whatever means necessary and explain later. Because ew, ew, ew.

[Steph: Ditto.]

Is there anything - anything you can tell us at all - about Fade that we didn’t know already?

No.

[Steph: Boo.]

Okay, okay, fine.

[Steph: THERE we go.]

In FADE, we find out a little bit more about how Cabel is programmed and how he handles stress. And we also find out some horrible junk about Janie’s ability. And some sexy things happen. There – that’s more than anybody else in the world knows.

FADE comes out Feb 10, 2009.

What other projects do you have up your sleeve? Anything you can share?

After FADE comes GONE (spring 2010), the third book in the series, and that’s probably it for Janie and the WAKE series. I have a bunch of other things in mind, and a few manuscripts in the works that I’d like to see published someday. The process is slow and steady. I can’t really say more at this point, but as long as there are readers enjoying my work, I hope to be around with a new book once a year or so for quite a while.

Now, for some creativity: Make yourself a question and answer it.

A: Okay...how many fingers am I holding up?

Six.

And for our grande finale: Does writing YA rock or what?

It’s unbef*ckinglievably awesome. A dream come true.

[Steph: That, my friends, is how you express enthusiasm for YA. !]

--
Okay, TELL me that didn't rock.

Photo Credit(s):
Author picture: From
author bio.
Book covers:
Simon & Schuster [Wake; Fade.]
Dream catcher:
DigitizersWorld [Google fetch link.]

Monday, October 20, 2008

When It Happens by Susane Colasanti

Summary

Sara and Tobey couldn’t be more different. She is focused on getting into her first-choice college; he wants to win Battle of the Bands. Sara’s other goal is to find true love, so when Dave, a popular jock, asks her out, she’s thrilled. But then there’s Tobey. His amazing blue eyes and quirky wit always creep into her thoughts. It just so happens that one of Tobey’s goals is also to make Sara fall in love with him. Told in alternating points of view, Sara and Tobey’s real connection will have everyone rooting for them from the minute they meet!

Grade: B

Review:
God, I needed this. (A girl has much to grain from a pinch of romance amidst the midterm hustle.) I have no idea what worked here to make this novel as, I don’t know, endearing? Whatever it was, kudos to Ms Colasanti—a mi me gusta.

Okay, so the theme of this novel is already stamped on the title—what happens when it happens. “It” being “something real”. (I’m gonna do an adjunct summary to the one above because I’m having fun describing this story. Bear with me.) Voila:

See, the (very likeable) heroine, Sara, gets caught up in this relationship with one of those projected Everything Boys—popular, good-looking, charismatic, *barfs out every Gary Stu quality under the sun* (etc.). She’s thrilled—wouldn’t you be? Except that Dave (that’s the Ken doll) doesn’t make her feel very special; in fact, he’s only in it to, you know, “get down tonight” and she’s just not ready for that. Being with him is labor in and of itself cos the dude is, when you get down to it, a son of a bitch.

Meanwhile, over in Reality, there’s Tobey, a seemingly confident (not so much on the inside, as seen through his first person narration) musician who wants to be with Sara. While she’s undergoing her will-she-or-won’t-she in regards to breaking up with Ken Doll, Tobey keeps devising ways to get her to get it over with already because he thinks she’s his “something real” and vice versa. (! Too cute.)

This isn’t really a spoiler because any half-wit can probably happens: They get together. (!! Too cute.) And unlike with Dave, Sara feels this incredible connection to Tobey. He does too, with her. It’s instant—it’s a click—it’s love.

It is TOO CUTE. Just thinking about them as a couple makes me squeal, so I know other romance lovers out there (especially those who like for the girl to go for the dark-haired, brooding, creative type) will devour this one. It’s not only for the fluff-munchers either—there’s a certain aspect of their relationship (this is a spoiler I won't share) that inspires some tension between the two. (Tension = sweet torment for us readers. :D) So all is not perfect in paradise, making the realist within me very happy. 

SQUEAL.

Make no mistake however, this isn’t perfection epitomized. (Can perfection be epitomized?) While I loved the focus on Sara and Tobey’s squeal-ness, Sara’s best friend and even Sara herself had some tough home situations which were only dealt with in peripheral. If these element had to be in the story, I think they deserved to become more prominent (and, conversely, to be given a more complete resolution). Also, there were a couple of characters, like Cynthia and the art teacher, who felt more like props than real people and were only utilized when jealousy needed to be stirred or there was something to be figured out. In that sense, this novel came short. 

ETA: Oh and I meant to add in here somewhere that sometimes I got sick of Tobey objectifying Sara (many a sexual scenario ongoing in his imagination). I mean, I know you’ve got the hots for her, but it got to the saturation level. Andandand, I sometimes found his narrative cheesy. Because this = two first person accounts, Sara and Tobey’s. Most of the dual narrative novels I’ve read encounter this problem when the author tackles the opposite sex, so it’s not exclusive to this book. Or maybe guys really are like they’re portrayed and I just have issues when it comes to figuring that out. 

Howeverrrrrrrrr, I (perhaps highly) recommend this one. It goes by very quickly and, to me at least, it was of the very feel-good variety.

That said, I still disliked the second Colasanti book, Take Me There. Hard to believe it followed When It Happens, but there you have it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

If Books Could Talk...

...I bet they would say, "Ewww, don't touch me there!"


Brought to you by Senseless Steph Sundays.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fashion Show Photos (This Is What Steph Looks Like!)

Let it be known that I do not think these pictures are good. Enough people have emailed me about these that I decided to just post and get it over with :) I wanted to get screenshots of the video but I can't get it to play on the computer. *sigh* These are the only pictures not motion-marred (meaning, blurry). Enjoy!

















This one is when I was going down the runway at the end of our show (there were several, one for each store). I couldn't get any decent shots of my individual catwalk strut, argh. I was the leading person, looking like a golden pineapple, I know, and I actually look heavier here than I am in real life. Damn lighting :P

























I actually like this one! It's when I'm right at the end of the runway, looking at the cameras, trying to hide my nervousness. Also, this is more accurate in terms of my real-life proportions :)

And nope, no clear shots of my face. Let's save that for a later, less crappy photo-documented event.

So, Violet Greenfield, who owns the runway NOW?

YA Connection Giveaway

Hey guys-

This week's contest is for LA PETITE FOUR by Regina Scott. As always, it's open worldwide. Email yaconnection@reviewerx.com with your MAILING ADDRESS TO ENTER. Entries WITHOUT THIS will not be counted. I won't share your personal info; it's just so the book can go out to the winner ASAP. Extra entries as follows:


+1 for the secret word on Kristi's blog
+1 for posting about this contest anywhere (and linking to your mention on your entry email) (+1 for each time you do this - so if you do it, like, 3 times, you get 3 extra entries)

Remember: MAILING ADDRESS.

Friday, October 17, 2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY READER RABBIT!

She's one of my best friends - it's only natural. Love you. :)

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Summary

It all starts when Nick asks Norah to be his girlfriend for five minutes. He only needs five minutes to avoid his ex-girlfriend, who’s just walked in to his band’s show. With a new guy. And then, with one kiss, Nick and Norah are off on an adventure set against the backdrop of New York City—and smack in the middle of all the joy, anxiety, confusion, and excitement of a first date.

This he said/she said romance told by YA stars Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is a sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night, with two teenagers, both recovering from broken hearts, who are just trying to figure out who they want to be—and where the next great band is playing.

Told in alternating chapters, teeming with music references, humor, angst, and endearing side characters, this is a love story you’ll wish were your very own. Working together for the first time, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have combined forces to create a book that is sure to grab readers of all ages and never let them go.

Grade: Barely a C-. BARELY. I keep going back and forth on this grade - it's somewhere between a D and a C.

Review:
Fuck, my thoughts on this book are so fucking confusing. See, if I’d read it right when it came out, when there were no plans for a fucking movie, I’d have said, “This novel would make a fucking great movie.” Alas, I can’t call dibs on that statement now. But I suppose I can explain my train of thought...?

There’s nothing more fucking cinematically perfect than two strangers who cross paths and—!—fall the fuck in love. Mix in a few guitar strums, kissing by the lamppost light, city gazing, and “taxi driver wisdom”, and you get this awe-worthy fucking ideal people secretly dream off: falling in love while you’re out exploring the fuck out of the (assumedly—never been) greatest city in the world.

Rah, rah, you tapped into some deep-as-fuck desires. So whatcha gonna do now?

You will fucking set up for something interesting in the first few chapters and then you’ll ramble and ramble once they go see the fucking lesbian nuns (long story)(ambiguity not intended—take the clean version, and that’s what I fucking mean).

Then you’ll make Flannel Girl (Norah—another long story) totally heat things up in her usually-frigid wake and drag Quirky Cute (Nick) along for the ride, so to speak, in a closet at the lesbian nuns’ fucking club.

Then you’ll make them both fuck it up—her for her naïveté, him for...something—and then you’ll spend another good three chapters bomb dropping the word fuck every other fucking word not unlike what I’m fucking doing here, no kidding, and making Flannel have a heart to heart with Whore from Hell (Nick’s ex) who for some fucking inexplicable reason is bipolar and alternates between being object of hate and randomly showing up to teach Flannel how to kiss using the frenulum method (totally gonna look that up, though). Literally, hands-fucking-on lesson on how to kiss. The girl’s fucking ex.

If that makes no fucking sense, it’s sure as fuck not my problem.

My main fucking problem is that the wavelength for this novel is something like:

Brilliant Observations, Banter, What-have-you
Ramble
Ramble
Ramble
Ramble
Ramble
Ramble

(Repeat for 183 incredibly long pages.)

David Levithan’s writing started off way better than Rachel Cohn’s, and then she caught on, and then his chapters became a whole fucking lot shorter and hers more all over the fucking place, to the point that when I got to page fucking like 125 or something, I fucking had to force myself to move on.

Then the fucking raunchiness (literally) began, which was well done, and then they realized some Big Important Lesson and the book ended on a okay-to-good note.

Interspersed throughout the narrative is some very cute-making ideas (loved their discussion of her Jewish beliefs, for example), and Quirky Cute is adorable every now and then, but fuck me, did this get the fuck unbearable every now and then. High concept is not a must for me, and this is the farthest thing from it, which I usually have no fucking problem with, except that it RAMBLED. ON AND ON AND ON around the middle—about kibbutz, Brown, Tal-lawl, having sex with Whore From Hell, etc—making the relatively short nature of the novel so long. Not that it wasn’t well written—it was. But fucking oh my GOD, get ON with the indiscernible plot fucking now!

I see the appeal; however, I think this one was better left for the screen. Shall be watching the movie version, obv, because I love the premise. The dawdling here, however, didn’t cater to my needs, so I don’t recommend it unless you’re sure I’m full of shit. I know people will become, like, fucking flesh-eating fiends at the sight of this fucking review, but James told me to review it, so all complaints can be forwarded to him.

(I did intentionally leave out a part of this novel that annoyed me. Did anyone get my anything-but-subliminal message? Check the comments for further explanation.)

ETA: I was also disappointed with the fact that, for all the colorful language, there are NO NEOLOGISMS INTRODUCED WITH THE WORD "FUCK".

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What Book Must You HAVE?

Finishing Nick & Norah's - possible review later. 

Are you going to the chat with C Leigh Purtill tonight over at The Page Flipper? You should.

Now for more of my infamous space filler posts: Anyone got their eye on an upcoming book in a way that's practically rabid? I WANT THE SECOND HUNGER GAMES BOOK, NOW.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What Could You Live Without?

I keep meaning to write a review but then end up browsing instead. Bad, BAD Steph. :)

Anyhow, for today's interactive post: Reviewers, what is your least favorite part of reviewing? You pet peeves? Basically, like the title says, what all could you live without?

National Book Award Finalists (YA)

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (S&S)
Very nice. Only read one Anderson book so far (Speak) and was blown away. Have yet to read this, but I'm sure it's fabulous.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Disney Hyperion)
Agreed.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (Knopf)
WANT.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum)

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Scholastic)

Muy excited about E. Lockhart's nomination.

Waiting on Wednesday (2)

Waiting on Wednesday = feature started by Jill at Breaking the Spine to celebrate forthcoming books. Cool, no? 

This week, my voice will be a little...different. I'm taking an abstract approach to the "waiting", because this book isn't even contracted for publication yet. I'm holding out though - it sounds fantabulous (first time I've used that word, ever).

Unwritten by Jackson Pearce (That's Jackson to the right, by the by.)
Welcome to the Library of Unwritten Books! Here you’ll find all the books that have yet to be penned—until we ship them to their authors, of course. Check out the Bestseller Room—books destined for greatness. Of course, there’s also the Busy Room—books whose authors are “too busy” to write them, and the No Longer Room—books whose authors are, sadly, no longer with us.

There’s just one rule here: Don’t read the merchandise. There’s a careful balance of creativity in the world, and if an Unwritten Book got out…well. Let’s not think about that.

For fourteen-year-old Emmy Faber, the Library is just a summer job that’ll pay for the sunroom roof she destroyed in a reputation-scarring accident. She’s especially qualified to work at the Library, since she hates reading. And hey, it’s infinitely better than flipping burgers.

When a book from the Bestseller room falls open and Emmy catches a few phrases, she unexpectedly finds herself interested. Hidden behind the shelves of the Not Quite Room (books that aren’t quite good enough to be published), Emmy reads the book cover to cover. And then reads another book. And another.

Emmy hides her reading-secret well, until she loans one of the Unwritten Books out to her friend-- and sorta ex-boyfriend-- Ash, who promptly loses it. When Emmy confesses to the Head Librarian, he halts the Library’s shipping department and informs Emmy that unless the book is found and returned in one week, the library will be forced to stop shipments for good.

While the rest of the world is abuzz with authors retiring and literature at a standstill, the Unwritten Book emerges as a bestseller. Emmy and Ash race against the Head Librarian's deadline, further destroying their reputations and struggling to rekindle their dying friendship, all in an attempt to steal the book from its fake-author and restore the creative balance before new literature becomes a thing of the past.

Further info here.

The first thing that caught my attention was the title. I am a fan of the song by Natasha Bedingfield that was way overplayed two years ago (it was even *shudder* The Hills's theme). Most people are like, "Natasha who?" now, but I still remember her (and her debut) vividly.

Second, the fact it's set in a library. I'd recently finished "Magic for Beginners" (short story, not collection) by Kelly Link, which was a befuddling story in and of itself, but the library aspect to it truly captivated me.

And then there's the premise. You can't tell me it's not fucking awesome because it is.

Never talked to Jackson. She'll prolly find me creepy for singling this out rather than her debut, AS YOU WISH (HarperCollins, Fall 2009), but...yeah. Me? I'm just looking forward to when it's bought and ARCs are ready that I can jack politely ask for from the publisher. I reckon it'll happen sometime or another. :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Argh. I Can't Grade ANYTHING.

Giving books ratings or grades or whatever is hard. Because in a way, it's like you're branding them with something that'll be the first thing people look at - a C sometimes looks too bad, an A sometimes looks too good. An F? Let's not even go there. (I only went there once in all these six months, too. Quite the feat, considering how persnickety I am when it comes to books. Or people. Or anything really.) 

I don't know how to explain letter grades. A C might be a mean one, or it might be a nice one. Some Cs are worth reading, but when you get critical about it, they're worth that indifferent grade. Sometimes I like the A- book better than the A or A+ one. The difference is so subtle, so subliminal, and so befuddling that it sometimes makes you wonder if you should do ratings at all. 

But here's why I do: it's a nice onset for the rest of the reviews. As some people have pointed out, many read hundreds of blogs on the RSS feed. To expect that they would read my entire rambling review would be a little rich of me, no?

Then there's the question of mood. Any given day I might think I was too harsh with the rating; others, too forgiving.

And that's where the problem lies: I feel like I need a preface to my commentaries, thus the ratings. By the same token, those prefaces are sometimes not adequate at all. 

So, the point of this post is: When you can, try to at least read part of a review with a rating. It'll probably give you a better feel of the novel and the reviewer's opinion than an insignificant star value or ornamental letter. Just saying.

And now, I shall nap. Because my head is exploding. I fear this post made no sense whatsoever, but ya know what? I think I'll risk it.   

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Summary

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.



Grade: A. Plus a +. No doubt about it.

Thank you to BA for the book :)

Review:
I heard from millions of sources—Amazon, Good Reads, fellow reviewers, my friends—that this book was amazing. Hell, even Steven King went on Entertainment Weekly and proclaimed how perfect The Hunger Games is. (And then he left things very ambiguous on his views of YA lit, which makes me frown at him. But that’s something else entirely.) And yet I still waited a while to read it. Maybe to save what was supposed to be very good just a while longer before I ate it alive? I don’t know.

All I know is: If you haven’t read this book yet, you really should.

Oh, and I also know this is gonna be another fangirly review. Last Monday I posted one; today, another. *sigh*

Now, to launch on to the actual review:

One of the biggest reasons I loved this book isn’t because every chapter literally ended with a sentence that made you want to keep reading or because of the romance (which is usually what wins me over, I must say). Rather, it’s how deep of a level it reaches. I just finished it, so naturally there hasn’t been enough time for reflection, but in these few moments, my stream of thought is going spastic. The book jacket wasn’t lying—there’s mystery, adventure, romance, suspense, all of that in here. And yet the substance of the novel surpasses just these box-office-hit qualities (which is all I can compare those four adjectives to).

The world building was fantastic. While it’s quite a different land than current North America, Panem had some disturbing parallels relating to the society, especially of its higher class (the lower-number districts and the Capitol). The fixation with the sappy romance, the fact the games were more like a deadlier reality show of nowadays than anything else, the frivolousness... It was quite unnerving. So clever. Only adds another layer to this story.

Not many books have kept me on the edge of my seat. This plot is brilliant. Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of thrillers and am fine with books that employ the “girl-next-door” dynamics to its plot—quiet, but charming and accessible. Well, needless to say, this book is anything but quiet. But it is bewitching.

You know what? I’ll stop. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said. Plus I could stay here all night. I wasn’t kidding when I said my mind is going spastic with all the directions this book gives it to think things out.

Not recommending it to everyone though. Some really hate violence. Some really hate dystopia. I’d still give it a shot if you’re one of those people, but I wouldn’t specifically recommend it to you. Everyone else? Knock yourselves out. This is one of the ultimate must-reads right in front of you.

But in short: this book is AWESOME.