Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Review/Discussion: Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Genesis just came out recently in the US, and since it is being marketed as dystopian fiction, I thought it might be fun to have a discussion about it with other bloggers who had varying levels of confrontration with the genre. And thus, today's discussion between me, Alea of Pop Culture Junkie and Sharon of Sharon Loves Books and Cats was born. We've spread the discussion over our three blogs, so after you finish here, please stop over to their blogs to check out the rest of the (spoiler-free) discussion!

For those not familiar with Genesis here's the information off the back of the ARC:

It's the year 2075. A remote island Republic has emerged from an apocalyptic, plague- ridden past. Its citizens are safe but not free. They live in complete isolation from the outside world. Approaching planes are gunned down, refugees shot on sight. Until one man rescues a girl from the sea... Outstanding and original, Bernard Beckett's dramatic narratives comes to a stunning close that will leave you reeling. This perfect combination of thrilling page-turner and provocative novel of ideas demands to be read again and again.

And let's jump into the discussion.
Lenore: Alea, you knew this was labeled dystopia when you started reading. Was the novel what you expected? In addition to this, you've also read The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Are you intrigued by the genre? Or would you say it's not for you?

Alea: I guess I wasn't really sure what to expect when reading Genesis. I would definitely say there was far more philosophy than I was expecting. I would say I was hoping for a bit more information on the background of the story and the world that the author has created (but I think I always expect that, I love the details). I would definitely say that Genesis sparked my interest in this genre, definitely more so than The Forest of Hands and Teeth. While the Forest of Hands and Teeth left me sort of bored and not surprised, Genesis shocked me several times over and gave me the chills. I loved it! And I definitely hope to read more in this genre.

Lenore: Sharon, how was Genesis like dystopias you've read before? What was different? How would you rank it compared to other dystopian stories?

Sharon: The format of Genesis was unlike other dystopian novels that I’ve read in the past. I’m actually very surprised that Genesis was labeled as a young adult book. The format was quite different from other young adult dystopian novels that I’ve read. One example that comes to mind is Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Both Uglies and Genesis are dystopian novels written from the point of view of a teenager girl. Uglies follows the traditional format of most dystopian books that I’ve read. It is suspenseful and fast paced. Genesis on the other hand, followed a much slower pace and wasn’t really suspenseful. Another thing that made Genesis different for me was the ending. Young adult dystopias tend to have happy endings and don’t leave you with a lot of unanswered questions. Genesis on the other hand, left me with a ton of unanswered questions and certainly did not have a happy ending.

Despite that fact the Genesis didn’t follow the traditional format of young adult dystopias, I still really enjoyed it. The story was extremely thought provoking and the ending absolutely shocked me. I love being surprised and Genesis was a huge surprise for me. I was really expecting a typical dystopian story but, I got so much more!

Alea: What did you think about the structure of Genesis? Do you think the story could have been told in a more traditional way?

Lenore: I agree with Sharon that the structure of the novel slowed it down, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing in this case. The narrative is divided into three examination hours with two breaks in between. The examination is question and answer format and Anax is expected to show that she knows about her subject. The result is that the novel is almost entirely exposition. However, this breaking of the “show, don’t tell” rule works well here – quickly bringing us up to speed on the events that led to the breakdown of society as we know it, the dystopian society led by Plato that came after, and the current situation. Very important parts of the story are told through hologram presentations so that we can see the interaction at the core of the novel - that between the human Adam Forde and the robot Art. I think if the story had been told more traditionally, it would have been very difficult to make it as thought-provoking and shocking as it is now. I’m pretty convinced that its unusual structure is the basis for its success as a story. Unlike Sharon, I actually found it to be quite suspenseful. And I didn’t mind too much that a lot of the questions were left unanswered – I just let my imagination run wild with speculation.

If you're intrigued, continue reading the discussion and enter the contest to win a copy of Genesis at Pop Culture Junkie and read another part of our discussion at Sharon's.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Body Image Week Challenge Results & Contest

I just now got back from my wonderful 5 day trip to Rhodes and am catching up on all the great Body Image week posts. Lots of great discussions. Many of you accepted the challenge that was issued last week and now it's time to report back. Just comment on this post at MyFavoriteAuthor. One (or more) winners will be chosen tomorrow from all the comments made today!

Body Image Week: Author Erin Dionne Guests

Today, as part of Body Image Week, I am thrilled to welcome Author Erin Dionne. I reviewed her book, Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies, back in February when it was released and thought it was a ton of fun. Enjoy Erin's guest post!

In MODELS DON’T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES, my main character, Celeste, decides to diet herself out of the Miss HuskyPeach pageant to avoid the humiliation of being crowned a “chubby teen queen.” Putting Operation Skinny Celeste in to action is harder than she thinks, however, and a week in to the scheme she ends up frustrated and discouraged. Enter her two friends, Millie and Katy. With their encouragement, Celeste adds a light exercise regime to her plan—a walk around the school track with the girls. The time they spend together brings them closer, sure, but it also gives Celeste an added bit on incentive to stick to her program—she’s accountable to not only herself, but to her friends.

When writing the book, this plot point unfolded naturally—Millie and Katy were supportive friends to begin with, and it was clear to me that their purpose was to help Celeste stay motivated. They also act in contrast to Sandra, Celeste’s “best friend,” and Aunt Doreen, both of whom make disparaging comments about Celeste’s shape and size. In my fictional world, Millie and Katy’s help is enough to tip the scales in Celeste’s favor.

But what about in real life? Turn the TV on for 30 minutes and you’ll see nearly a dozen weight loss advertisements—usually featuring a star touting the celebrity diet of the month. We see puffy “before” pictures, the insides of sparkling kitchens, and a fabulous “after” reveal complete with bikini, interviews, and a magazine cover. Viewers are supposed to see the celeb’s success and think they can emulate it—have that killer bod if you just follow this plan! We are also supposed to think that if we’re still struggling with our weight it’s because we’re not on the right diet yet.

Well, as of the February 26th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine , there is no right diet. The author of the study compared different diet programs and found—surprise!—there’s no one method for successfully keeping those extra pounds at bay. All you have to do is cut calories and you’ll lose weight. Keep your caloric intake down and it stays off.

Simple, right?

Not so much. It’s difficult to lose and maintain weight, which the study also acknowledges: Participants regained a portion of lost weight after two years.

So what does this have to do with Millie and Katy and Celeste and that track?

Well, in that same issue of the New England Journal, there’s an editorial by a Dr. Martijn Katan. Dr. Katan writes that, “Like cholera, obesity may be a problem that cannot be solved by individual persons but that requires community action.” He talks about a village in France that has taken a community-wide approach to the childhood obesity epidemic. The town attacked obesity by building playgrounds, encouraging sports and healthy family cooking, and offering counseling. Imagine: a place that encourages sports and healthy eating?! Where everyone from the mayor to shopkeepers want to get kids outside?!

As the French say, c’est incroyable!

The results?

In five years, the town’s obesity rate fell to 8.8%--while the national average was more than twice that!

Finally, scientific proof! Losing weight requires a major lifestyle change for most people—removing temptation, developing new habits, and changing routine. And doing it alone makes it much, much harder. You have to surround yourself with the right people in order to shake those pounds for good. And when it comes to kids and obesity, more and more it’s looking like the “right” people comprise an entire community.

But you have to start somewhere. Instead of reaching for an Oreo, Celeste grabs an apple. Instead of scarfing a sundae, she meets her friends for a walk. They are her cheerleaders and her coaches, encouraging her to stick with her program even though she might not always feel like it. They help her turn the tide.

Before the science backed it up, we also knew how important it is to find an encouraging community: that skinny starlet has trainers and chefs, the celebrity spokesperson discusses her weight loss “counselor,” and just about every major diet plan offers some sort of connection opportunity.

However, support through the weight loss industry alone isn’t enough. As Dr. Katan said, “[W]e may need a new approach to preventing and to treating obesity and that it must be a total-environment approach that involves and activates entire neighborhoods and communities.”

I’d add: one friend at a time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

LibraryThing Tuesday (51) + Picture of Emmy

Today's questions from Wendi is about the covers view on LT: Do you have any missing covers (they show as a plain gray book)? Did you have a favorite view (title, author, date entered)? Do you have any favorite covers? If so, is there anything they have in common?

I do have a couple of covers missing. I need to go back sometime and fix that, as well as add the correct covers for a lot of books. I like bold, graphic covers best. Or covers with stacks of old books on them.


Since I know you all need your Emmy fix even when I am away, here's Emmy testing out our new frying pan.

Body Image Week: Page Turner Guests with a Review of My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter

I hope everyone is enjoying Body Week so far! I know I am. Today I have PageTurner from My Favorite Author with a guest book review.

My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter
Paperback, 352 pages
Released April 1st 2009

At A Glance
Hardback, Paperback, or Library: Paperback
The Next Person I'm Giving This To: My Sister
To Re-Read or Not To Re-Read: Re-Read!

It's the end of junior year, and summer is about to begin. The Summer of Passion, to be exact, when Jory Michaels plans to explore all the possibilities of the future--and, with any luck, score a boyfriend in the process. But Jory has a problem. A big problem. A curvy, honking, bumpy, problem in the form of her Super Schnozz, the one thing standing between Jory and happiness. And now, with the Summer of Passion stretched before her like an open road, she's determined for Super Schnozz to disappear. Jory takes a job delivering wedding cakes to save up for a nose job at the end of the summer; she even keeps a book filled with magazine cutouts of perfect noses to show the doctor. But nothing is ever easy for accident-prone Jory--and before she knows it, her Summer of Passion falls apart faster than the delivery van she crashes. In her hilarious and heartbreaking debut novel, Sydney Salter delivers a story about broadening your horizons, accepting yourself, and finding love right under your nose. **From Goodreads

I really enjoyed this book in a lot of ways. I enjoyed how funny it was, but also how serious it was. I thought the humor made this book a more approachable way to talk about some serious issues teens are faced with everyday.

Sometimes I can't really relate to teen story lines, but I could relate to Jory's voice in a lot of ways. I don't have an issue with my nose, but I do have a bigger nose, my Father is 1/2 Lebanese and I inherited his and my Grandfathers big Lebanese Nose, and I heard about it a lot, maybe not always in a negative tone, but enough that I thought about it and noticed it. I also had a mother who tried every diet out there and had a tummy tuck, and so weight problems in the future weighed on my mind a lot. Now I am a mother of two daughters and I am trying my hardest to be healthy, and teach them to be healthy without using the words "fat" and "skinny" and "diet". It is a hard thing to do, but it is very important that negative attention is not drawn towards our flaws. I loved how this book really showed how powerful our words can be to our children and how easy our children can be influenced by others actions and opinions. I really loved that even though there were family problems in this book, you could see both sides of why Jory was the way she was, why Mom was the way she was, and why they had a hard time understanding one another.

This is a great book for both teens and moms and I hope all of you out there pick it up, read it, and use it as a tool to help you be prepared for what kind of trials our kids go up against in this world we live in. It scared me, to know that my daughter could be in similar situations in a few years from now, and I hope I can prepare her and help her before she is faced with some hard decisions, and I want her to be happy with who she is and to be able to stand up and be proud, even in a tough situation.

There were a lot of various relationships throughout the book, but the story really shows that when it comes down to who your real friends are, it is important to surround yourself with family and friends that care about who you are inside and out. This book will also help you realize how important it is to compliment those around you, and also accept compliments, because if someone is taking the time to tell you that you look beautiful, or cute, then you need to believe it and say thank you, and remember how that one small act of kindness made you feel, and pass it along. Tell your husband he looks handsome, tell your daughter she looks fabulous, tell your son he looks like a stud, tell your friend you like it when she has her hair down, look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are beautiful. We will all become happier and healthier people if we start accepting everything about ourselves, even our flaws, they make us unique!

This book has great romance, is very funny and sassy and I enjoyed all of Jory's lists. It is just a wonderful book and I think everyone out there should get their hands on a copy and turn some great pages!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rhodes Update

If you've been wondering where I've been the past couple of days...I'm on the Greek Island of Rhodes with two friends. We are enjoying beautiful weather, culture, nature and food! Since it isn't high season, we have the place practically to ourselves too. So far, we've had amazing fresh fish (I had the best swordfish I've ever eaten) and Greek traditional dishes. We've been to some lovely beaches (although the water is too cold for me to want to swim in it), and visited some ruins. Our hotel is modern and comfortable in a tranquil setting. We have a nice loungy area next to an infinity pool that looks over the ocean. The best part is the in-room window whirlpool bathtubs where you can see and be seen. We've seen several exhibitionist bathing in their window baths. It is Europe after all! Internet access is highway robbery though, so I won't be online much until Wednesday. See you then!

Books I'm reading here:

Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman (All about Persephone and the Greek myth)
Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley (Set in ancient Rhodes!)
The Lonely Planet's Greek Islands guide

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Body Image Week: Author Megan Frazer Guests

Today I'm thrilled to host Megan Frazer, debut author of Secrets of Truth & Beauty - a book I'm very excited about that is coming out in July. So welcome Megan!

I'm a little bit ashamed to admit it, but I saw the first Scary Movie in the theater. I'm not sure exactly how my friend and I wound up there – it was almost ten years ago, now. What I do remember is our reactions. I was annoyed that the movie was essentially line for line the same as Scream, a lazy way to do satire in my opinion. My friend was annoyed at the scene in the garage where the overweight girl gets stuck in the elevator, unable to escape from the killer because she is too fat. The scene is drawn out so that the audience can laugh all the longer at the plight of this overweight girl.

I've had body image issues for as long as I remembered, but it took this moment, and my friend's explanation of her anger, for me to realize not only the prejudice against overweight people, but also that it's one of the last socially acceptable form of prejudice.

It was this same friend, who, when I explained the initial premise for Secrets of Truth & Beauty, and my difficulties in figuring out how to balance issues of self-esteem with the very real problems of teen obesity, said “Don't make her fat, and don't make her thin; make her something different.”

And it was that experience in the movie theater that inspired the scene in which Dara's friend Owen explains to her that people treating her badly because she's overweight is no different than people treating him badly because he's gay.

Unfortunately, this bias is not limited to bad jokes in movies. Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity has investigated the issue of weight bias and has several videos available about the issue on their website. A study they funded by Rebecca M. Puhl and Chelsea Heuer found that weight discrimination has increased 66% in the last decade and can be felt in all areas of life: jobs, healthcare, and school. Effectively, overweight and obese people are passed over for jobs, get lesser quality healthcare, and are attend colleges at lower rates – even when they are equally qualified.

Some people may argue that overweight people are getting what they deserve, that they did this to themselves. It's an imperfect metaphor, but people are less likely to make that charge against a cancer victim – or an alcoholic for that matter, so I cry foul on that argument.

The best way to combat this prejudice is with awareness. Start with those videos from the Rudd Center. I think we can also take a cue from multiculturalism in literature. The best multicultural books, in my opinion, have characters whose culture is of course a part of their identity, but it is not the whole story. Indeed this is another point made by Owen, an inspiring filmmaker, who wants to make movies with gay characters, “but not necessarily gay movies.”

There are a number of great books that feature overweight characters, but aren't just about the weight. They are real teens having real problems that may or may not have anything to do with their size.

An Incomplete Book List – I'd love to hear your suggestions

Paula Danziger – The Cat Ate My Gym Suit (I haven't actually read this since I was a teen, but I loved it then.)
Erin Dionne – Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies
K.L. Going – Fat Kid Rules the World
Carolyn Mackler – The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
Susan Vaught – Big Fat Manifesto

Lenore here: Thanks Megan! It's true that overweight people face a lot of open prejudice, and it still just shocks me. Can anyone think of books that raise awareness of this issue in a sensitive way to add to Megan's list?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Body Image Week: The Story Siren Guests

I'm guest posting about my own body image issues over at In Bed With Books today. So check that out (or not...just kidding!). I also have a very special guest - Kristi from The Story Siren. *applause*

Self-Esteem, Self-Confidence, Self-Doubt and Myself
To understand my story, I think I should explain or rather clarify what exactly these three terms mean to me.

Self-esteem: Webster defines it as a confidence or satisfaction in ones self, but I think there a deeper meaning there. I think self esteem is more of how we identify with ourselves personally. How in control we let other’s be of our life, is in direct correlation of the levels of self esteem. Feelings and emotions, fall in this category as well.

Self-confidence: Webster defines is as confidence in ones self and in one’s powers and abilities. This I think is an accurate description.

Self-doubt, which is, I believe, the lack of self confidence.

And then of course there is me. I remember when my self esteem faltered. It’s ridiculous to think upon it now, and perhaps the fact that I can even recall the event is slightly disturbing and most likely unhealthy. But it inevitably started a down-ward spiral, that continued. And unfortunately still makes an appearance to this day.

I had a guest post with an author, Mari Mancusi, and it is one that really sticks out in my mind. She was taunted as a child, bullied out of an activity she liked, because someone else thought it was uncool. I suppose that one stuck out so much to me, because I didn’t need a physical bully telling myself, I wasn’t good enough. I had an internal bully that was there every day, telling me that I would never measure up.

Middle school was hell. And then came high school, which was even worse, but now, lets talk about middle school. I moved to a new school in middle school. Which was hard enough, being a very shy person, not to mention my internal bully. I’ve heard girls talk about developing early and the awkward stages of having a newly developed body. Personally I never had to deal with that end of the spectrum. What I saw, was all the other girls with their curvy developing bodies, full of confidence and demanding attention from all the boys ogling their newly developed breasts. While as I, flat as a board and straight as a board, prayed every night that God would grant me with a pair of breasts. (I’m still waiting God.) Waking up extra every morning to expend abnormal amounts of time in front of the mirror, wishing I could change the image looking back at me. If only I was her, if only I was smart, funny, athletic. I tried to be that Me, I wanted others to see.

God must of heard my prayers because the summer before I started high school, he granted me those curves. Well some of them anyway. And do you think I was happy? Of course I wasn’t, those curves made me look fat and not only did I sprout curves, but I also sprouted a bad case of acne. Of course I blamed it on God and his sadistic sense of humor. Luckily I never developed an eating disorder, although I won’t say that my eating habits during this time were at all healthy.

Still trying to project that Me, I wanted others to see. When you don’t think very highly of yourself, you can’t expect other people too either. Which is probably how I ended up dating a loser, who not only made me feel worse about myself than I already did, but also used that knowledge to control me. During this time I became the Me, someone else made me. My self-esteem was at an all time zero. And it wasn’t only my loser boyfriend making me someone else, it was my friends and my family too. And I often wonder in that time, if I cheated myself. If I settled for a college close to home because I thought I had no other choice. If I neglected a dream because I doubted my abilities. Don’t let your lack of confidence stop you.

What finally brought me out of my stupor, I’ll never know. I think it was probably a combination of things. And honestly it was probably something stupid, maybe a book I read, a movie I watched, a positive comment, whatever it was, something happened. I dumped my loser bf, cut off all my hair, got my braces off. And there I was, that ME, I wanted to be! Sure, I was still that timid shy girl, that hardly spoke up, but at least I found my voice. No amount of personal growth comes without pain. I still look in the mirror and find my faults. I still have more acne that my adolescent patients, God still owes me a set of curves! It only I could lose those forsaken love handles!

But honestly, I’ve learned to accept what faults I think I have. I’ve mastered my makeup technique and can almost make even the wickedest zit disappear, or at least appear smaller. I’ve accepted that my boobs will probably never get any bigger, but that is okay because Victoria Secret makes a push-up bra. I’ve learned to love myself in the simplest way, and have been rewarded with the love of others.

Knowledge is the first step in the purging process. And even with that knowledge, I falter. I had so many comments after my posts of my author signing that I was pretty. And do you think I believed them, do you think I could accept a compliment, without a grimace! It was hard, but I made myself. And I’ll continue to make myself, because ultimately the choice is mine! I’m beautiful!

The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else. ~E. E. Cummings

(Lenore's note: I am also thankful for the push-up bra!)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Well Worth Watching Blogger Profile (4) Underage Reading

I first discovered Underage Reading through my reciprical comment challenge. Elizabeth left a comment on my blog, I checked out her blog (which she runs with Emily), and I was hooked. I love reading their book commentaries because they are intelligent, insightful AND fun. So please do yourself a favor and check them out if you haven't already.

If someone were to blurb your blog in 25 word or less, what would he or she say?
Elizabeth and Emily review, discuss, debate, mock, and enthuse about kids’/teen books... with forays into classic teen television and whatever else occurs to them.

What kinds of books do you read and review on your blog?
All kinds, from board books through teens -- and from new releases to old favorites (in an inclusive sense that makes room for the trash we read as kids). We do some proper reviews, but mostly we tend to have Thoughts to Share. We pretty much operate on the principle that we should post about whatever we feel like as long as its at least somewhat, tangentially related to kid/teen lit.

What were a couple of your favorite books recently and which ones are you most looking forward to reading soon?
Emily: I tend to re-read books I already love, because hey, its a sure thing. But a recent discovery that I absolutely loved was The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stuart. I've been recommending it to everyone and their mother. And my mother (no really - my mom loved it!). I'm trying to find this new picture book about urban planning, Where Things Are From Near To Far, by Tim Halbur, Chris Steins, and David Ryan, which I heard about maybe a month ago but have had trouble finding (wouldn't you think you'd be able to find a book like that pretty easily in New York City?)

Elizabeth: Octavian Nothing rocked my world; The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was another recent favorite. I'm very much looking forward to reading some Maureen Johnson -- not necessarily new books, but new to me.

What are some of your favorite posts or reviews in your blog archive and why?
Emily: My favorite post of Elizabeth's is "Book vs. Book: Battle of the kids battling racist humiliation and not quite winning." I just think its a really insightful comparison, and gave me some new ideas about Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which I've read a million times. I think my favorite post that I wrote is "I do not like it, Emily I am." It was fun and exceptionally satisfying to write, and I think its quite Emilyish.

Elizabeth: My favorite of Emily's is "Teach Your Children Well" (about Frog and Toad), because it makes me laugh and laugh. And I love her new series "Books I felt I ought to have liked, but really didn't."

My own favorites tend to be clustered in the "Flawed Does Not Preclude Interesting" category, like my reviews of An Abundance of Katherines and A Great and Terrible Beauty. I suppose because the books I feel the most deeply ambivalent about make me think the hardest.

I'm also ridiculously proud of our "Shades of My So-Called Life" series, which began with "When your crush seems somehow more important than the Holocaust."

Emily: Yeah, that "Shades of My So-Called Life" series was a stroke of genius on Elizabeth's part, like the kind of genius where afterwards you see it was so obvious and perfect and pretty much inevitable that it had to happen. I say that because probably the two biggest features of our friendship back in high school were reading kids' books and watching My So-Called Life.

Ooh! You picked out ones I loved as well! What are some posts or reviews on other blogs that have caught your attention as being well worth reading?
Emily: I enjoy all of Sadako's posts on Dibbly Fresh, but I found her review of Whatever Happened to Janie particularly snarkily delightful.

Elizabeth: Yes. I also loved your post, Lenore, on Frankie Landau-Banks -- the review and the poem you included. And I love the "Unfortunate Covers" series at 100 Scope Notes -- especially this one.

Thanks! And I love Sadako's posts too. Complete this sentence: "If I didn't have my blog..."
Emily: I would have to find some other way to amuse myself at work. And I'd watch even more bad tv than I already do (which is a lot).

Elizabeth: I'd discover far fewer great books, and wouldn't have nearly so much fun!

The Well Worth Watching Award was created and designed by Joanne of The Book Zombie. I'm just passing it along to other bloggers!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Book Review: Death by Denim by Linda Gerber

In this third (and final?) installment of the Death by... series, Aphra is once again in danger, only this time, she gets to jetset around France and Italy. Not that she can really enjoy it when she is being used as a pawn in a life-threatening game...

I enjoyed both previous books in this series (read my Death by Bikini review and my Death by Latte review), so I was very much looking forward to joining Aphra on her latest high-stakes adventure.

The action has really been pumped up this time around. In fact, the pace is so breakneck that the book is over before you know it. There are some very memorable Seth/Aphra scenes that kind of reminded me of George Clooney/Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight. I mean how hot is making out on a dirty factory floor with your hands cuffed behind your back while evil goons plan your doom in the next room?

So yeah, I like the way the series wrapped up, and I'm happy that the epilogue left the door open for the possibility of more Aphra-centered thrillers in the future.

Death by Denim will be released on May 14th - so you still have time to get the first two and get caught up before diving into this one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Join us for Body Image Week!

MyFavoriteAuthor is kicking off Body Image Week today! I am really honored that they asked me to be a part of it along with Kristi of The Story Siren, Liviania of In Bed With Books and authors Deborah Lytton, Sarah Darer Littman, Sara Zarr, Megan Frazer, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sydney Salter, and Erin Dionne!

So what's it all about? The issue of body image and loving the skin that you're in is something that affects everyone in different ways and in different degrees. And there are a lot of books recently or soon-to-be released that address various aspects of the issue. SpeedReader of MyFavoriteAuthor has organized this theme week that will include book reviews, author interviews/guest posts/videos, a couple of challenges and a great book giveaway at the end. So check them out today to see the full schedule of the week's events and where the various posts will be showing up around the blogosphere. (Quick overview is posted in my sidebar for easy reference). My guest post about the issue will be up at In Bed With Books on Saturday, so be sure to check that out.

And don't forget to accept the Body Image Challenge! Everyone who accepts the challenge and reports back at the end of the week will be entered in the giveaway to win:

WINTERGIRLS (signed) by Laurie Halse Anderson

I think it's going to be a great week and I look forward to the discussion I hope it will generate. Stay tuned....

Waiting On Wednesday (29) Lips Touch by Laini Taylor

I wish I could go to BEA! Not only is the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire going to the see the public light for the first time, but there is also quite a nice lineup of 6 books that will be presented during the BEA Young Adult Editors’ Buzz panel - and Lips Touch is one of them.

Here's the summary from amazon:

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:

Goblin Fruit: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses: A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Hatchling: Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?

Each of the three tales -- which are about kissing -- begin with a short introduction that you can read on Laini Taylor's blog. She also talks about her inspiration and writing process on the post I've linked to. Sounds fun! I'm especially interested in Goblin Fruit. How about you? Too bad we'll have to wait until October 1...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (50) + picture of Emmy

This week's question from host Wendi: Did you know about Helper Badges? Do you have any badges? If so, what is your highest medal/number? What is your lowest? Do the badges give you any incentive to help add to the areas of LT that they cover (Common Knowledge, Venues, etc)?

I found out about helper badges a few months ago on while looking at someone's profile and noticing they had them. I have two badges - Helper and Common Knowledge - both with 22 contributions. I do help out when I enter a new book, but I'm not actively pursuing badges.


Emmy gave us a scare the other day because we had left the bathroom window slightly open and we could not find her anywhere. We thought she might have crawled out the window and fallen 3 stories. Well, eventually she came out of her hiding place - wherever it was! One of her favorite known hideouts is inside Daniel's desk drawers (she crawls in through an opening in the back). We have to pull out the top drawer to get her out.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review, Author Interview and Giveaway: Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

When Ai Ling’s father doesn’t return after a visit to the Emperor’s palace, she sets out on a quest to rescue him. Along the way she meets Chen Yong, a young man on a quest of his own. Together they face demons and beings they thought only existed in myth, and Ai Ling must make the most of her burgeoning powers to keep them both alive.

I’ll be honest – I’m never that excited about fantasy novels where the characters set out on a quest. I just usually find the journey so tedious and get impatient for the protagonists to finally arrive at their destination and engage in the final battle or whatever. For me to enjoy a fantasy quest, not only do the stations of the journey have to be exciting, I also have to be able to connect with the characters, and really care about their ultimate fate.

So I’m happy to report that SILVER PHOENIX fulfilled my strict requirements. For one, Ai Ling’s journey is infused with so much inventiveness that the scenes feel fresh and the mythical beings really come alive. Also, not only is Ai Ling a great character – not perfect by any means, but smart, loyal and totally kick-butt – but she also develops a complex and realistic relationship with the mysterious Chen Yong. The villains were worthy adversaries and the threat of death and failure felt very real.

Best of all? SILVER PHOENIX will be out in a little over a week on April 28th. Oh and I have a great interview with Author Cindy Pon and a fun giveaway. Read on!

Your novel is set in the fantasy kingdom of Xia which has a lot ofsimilarities with ancient China. Are your fantasy creatures, such as the three-breasted Life Seeker who stays young by "bedding a mortal ona daily basis", based on Chinese myth or are they purely your own creation?
as with many fantasy novels, i used actual folklore AND my own imagination when writing SILVER PHOENIX. in this case, the three-breasted concubine was something of my own creation. but the idea of being seduced by the otherworldly (usually the human man by the female "creature") is quite a common theme in chinese folkore.

If you could actually do anything that happens in your novel (riding a dragon, visiting the garden of the immortals, reading people's minds, etc.), what would it be?
hmm. wow. good question. it would have to be riding on a dragon. =)

How did you choose character names? Do all the names mean something in Chinese?
i speak mandarin. at a conversational level only. the names were very very difficult. they needed to be fairly pronounceable to non-chinese speakers but at the same time still make some sense in mandarin. (at least, in my mind.) ai ling (which is based on the characters "love" and "forest"--sounding a lot like "eileen") was originally named xiao yu (little jade). but xiao is difficult to pronounce (think "she-yow"spoke quickly) and jade is fairly common and overused. so i changed her name after a few drafts!

Your characters always seem to be enjoying sumptuous meals. Do you like to cook? Have you actually eaten "beef tongue"?
i'm an awful cook. my mom is a fantastic chinese cook, but i just never was interested enough to learn. i love to eat tho, and this is translated into the story. also, eating and meals mean bonding, family celebration as well as friendship in the chinese culture. it made sense for me to include food in the novel. and actually, tho some of the dishes are made up in the book, beef tongue is a common cold cut. and i do like it a lot. pig ears on the other hand...

Ai Ling practices Chinese calligraphy and so do you. In fact, you have a children's picture book coming out at incorporates brush stroke art. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
yes, my editor from greenwillow books also offered a children's picture book contract! it will feature my chinese brush paintings and i'm so excited to learn about the process. i didn't know much about writing a novel but i've been writing fiction since i was a teenager. but i really went into the picture book creation process with a clean slate. the mind set is very different. i knew a little about it from reading books to my bubs, but not much beyond that. i believe the picture book will be released by greenwillow in 2011.

Thanks Cindy! Cindy wants to offer 5 of her handmade lotus painting bookmarks (pictured) to readers of my blog. The first 5 people to leave a comment saying they want one will win!

Visit Cindy's website at

Also check out the contest at Reviewer X to win an ARC of SILVER PHOENIX. But hurry - it is only open until this Wednesday the 22nd!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What I bought 11 year old girl

In response to the discussion generated by my Authors Requesting Reviews post recently, I've decided to spotlight books I buy, whether they are for me, or as gifts. I want you to know what great books I'm spending my money on! This will be a semi-regular feature, showing up whenever I have something new to report. Feel free to do the same on your blog.

First up, books I bought for Eleanor for her 11th birthday this month. Eleanor did a guest review of PJ Hoover's The Emerald Tablet for me and she is a big fantasy fan.

Fortune's Folly by Deva Fagan

This just came out this month and though I haven't read it yet, I think it sounds like a lot of fun!

Here's the summary:

Ever since her mother died and her father lost his shoemaking skills, Fortunata has survived by telling fake fortunes. But when she’s tricked into telling a grand fortune for a prince, she is faced with the impossible task of fulfilling her wild prophecy—or her father will be put to death. Now Fortunata has to help Prince Leonato secure a magic sword, vanquish a wicked witch, discover a long-lost golden shoe, and rescue the princess who fits it. If only she hadn’t fallen in love with the prince herself!

I also bought her:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book Review: The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater

As a connoisseur of all things literary and daughter of a rare book salesman, Daphna already knows that words can be very powerful. But she doesn’t realize just how powerful until her father uncovers a book full of nonsense words on a scouting trip to Turkey and tries to sell it to the creepy old man who runs the new Antiquarian bookstore in town. When her father begins behaving strangely after this encounter, she and her estranged twin brother Dexter must work together to learn the truth about the ancient book and prevent disaster.

The Book of Nonsense pulsates with action, intrigue and magic, but also offers quieter scenes that give insight into the twins’ characters and motivations. Here’s a passage from the first chapter that I really enjoyed:

Daphna took in a series of long, deep breaths, savoring the familiar nose-tingling scent of old books. It was a complicated smell: worn leather and threadbare cloth; crinkled pages stained by countless fingers and the innumerable foods and drinks they smeared. It was the smell of flights of fancy and of people’s very lives. It was the smell of time, Daphna thought, and it was a smell she’d know all her life. It made her feel alive.

But of course it wasn’t the smells that made Daphna love books. No it was the words themselves. It was mind-blowing to think that you could learn absolutely anything in the world if you just had the right words in the right order.
(page 8, ARC, text may vary slightly from final published version).

Both the titular book’s back story and novel’s plotline are clever, if a bit predictable (I saw several of the twists coming way before the characters did). Unfortunately, the villains didn’t come off as very menacing (though this may be more bothersome for adult readers than the younger tween/teen target group). They suffered from that particular brand of "bumbling bad guy syndrome" so often found in books with precocious protagonists.

The Book of Nonsense is available in hardcover now, and it is a promising start to the Sacred Books series. 3 sequels are planned: The Book of Knowledge (Oct 2009), The Book of the Map (Oct 2010), and The Book of All Things (Oct 2011). Though I feel no urgent need to continue the series, I can imagine young fantasy fans really getting excited about it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Fabulous! (9)

I haven't done this for a few weeks, so I have a lot to catch up on!

1. First up - awards. I do love to hear that you love to read my blog and I appreciate all the awards. Jen of 50 for Jen gave me my first Super Commenter award, and I am very excited about this one, because one of my blog goals for the year was to comment more. In fact, for the first 3 months of this year, I recipricated EVERY comment that was left on my blog. Sadly, I've fallen behind in April and have decided that I can no longer be so strict in my reciprocity. But I WILL keep commenting as much as I can!

I was also excited to get various awards from purplg8R of So Many Books, So Little Time, Tiqa Khari of Good Girls Read Books, Anna of Diary of an Eccentric, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, Shalonda, Mishel, The Book Resort, H of About Books, Sadako of Dibbly Fresh, and SunShine.

2. I also won a few contests recently! I won The Crimes of Paris A True Story of Murder, Theft & Detection by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler from Mo at Unmainstream Mom Reads. I won a signed copy of Lament by Maggie Stiefvater from Liviania at In Bed With Books (yay! a Flux book!), Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelley from Julie P. at Booking Mama (my stepmother grabbed this to read it first), and Buffalo Lockjaw by Greg Ames from Gayle at Everyday I Read the Book Blog. Can't wait to read all these.

3. Not too many books in my mailbox lately, but I did get Milestones by Samira Armin Hodges (from the author for review) and The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris (for a June blog tour).

4. All of the review requests I've received since I posted a discussion post about authors requesting reviews last Saturday have been great - personalized and with complete info. The pitches were so great in fact that I am now schelduling reviews for October already - eeek! I need to learn to say 'no' more often...

5. The weather here during our Easter holiday was gorgeous! Sunny, warm, and slightly breezy - perfect weather for a few long bike rides along the river. It's raining and chilly again today, but I'm thankful for any nice days we get!

6. I found an online shop that sells Felidae cat food here and that makes me very happy. Emmy really loves it and it's good for her. Sure it is more expensive than other brands, but I want her to have the benefit of all natural cat food with no fillers or animal by-products (read: animal feces - yes, it is found in a lot of cat food!). I got the Cat and Kitten formula so both Emmy and new kitty can eat the same food.

Whew - that took forever...What are you excited about this week?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Attention YA book bloggers: Let your voice be heard!

Natasha of Maw Books Blog is one of six bloggers invited to be on a book blogging panel at this year's BEA to discuss the book blogging phenomenon and how we can better work together with publishers, authors, and booksellers - and she wants our input on what we'd like to see covered.

Jennifer Hart, organizer and moderator of the panel, had this to say:

Book blogs are the new generators of word of mouth, advocates for publishers’ books and authors out in the world. As the world goes ever more digital (and as review pages and book sections in newspapers dwindle and disappear), you are the new tastemakers, and consumers are looking to you to tell them what books to buy and read. In addition, you’re providing new venues for our authors to present themselves, with Q&As and guest posts, etc. Publishers need to be working with you, as do booksellers, to sell more books and to find out what books people want to read.

This is your chance to help shape the conversation! Head over to Maw Books Blog BEA brainstorming post and leave her a comment with your ideas and YA specific concerns (should you have any).

Book Review: Shelter Me by Alex McAulay

In the midst of WWII and after surviving a bomb raid that puts her beloved aunt in a coma, Maggie is sent away from London and ends up at a remote, religious school in Wales. Maggie soon discovers that no part of the country is untouched by the evil and danger that war brings in its wake.

Shelter Me has a lot going for it: A clever, twisty, and unpredictable plot that held my interest throughout, a foreboding atmosphere and a cast of memorably bizarre characters.

Normally it would bother me more that Maggie does not actively shape her destiny - the entire novel is basically Maggie getting caught up in a series of events beyond her control and relying on miracles to save her. But since this does reflect the experience of wartime pretty authentically, I can forgive it here.

The pacing sometimes seemed a bit rushed to me. For example, I wouldn’t have minded lingering a bit longer in the incredibly creepy school and seeing more of what the crazy nuns were up to.

If you like fast paced thrillers filled with twists and characters who are not what they seem, then pick up Shelter Me. It’s now available in paperback.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (28) Hot September 2009 YA Books

This week, I want to discuss (in some detail) four September 2009 titles that I am especially excited about: Liar by Justine Larbalestier, The Everafter by Amy Huntley, Candor by Pam Bachorz and The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner.

We already know that September is going to rock - HARD. There's Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games follow-up on the 1st (my most coveted book of the year, but then you know that), The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson also on the 1st, Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted on the 7th, The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement Moore on the 8th, Give up the Ghost by Megan Crewe on the 15th, The Long Wait for Tomorrow by Joaquin Dorfman on the 22nd and Going Bovine by Libba Bray also on the 22nd. And so many more.

And there are even more to be excited about! Read on...

The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner. Penguin. September 17, 2009.

Why I want to read it: This is the follow-up to The Red Necklace which I really enjoyed. (Read my Red Necklace review).

Summary from amazon:

A mysterious boy is the focus of a novel that takes us from the September Massacres of 1792 to the death of Robespierre four years later. After rescuing Sido, the young daughter of an aristocrat, Yann flees to England, making secret journeys back to France to smuggle out refugees. He and Sido fall in love - but then she is kidnapped, and he needs all his courage and skill to rescue her a second time. Even then the young lovers are not safe, for our hero learns who he really is, and how can Sido marry him?

Candor by Pam Bachorz. EgmontUSA. September 22, 2009.

Why I want to read it: Just the kind of high concept I love. First caught my attention at this post on Shooting Stars Mag.


Oscar Banks has everything under control. In a town where his father brainwashes everyone, he's found a way to secretly fight the subliminal Messages. He's got them all fooled: Oscar's the top student and the best-behaved teen in town. Nobody knows he's made his own Messages to deprogram his brain. Oscar has even found a way to get rich. For a hefty price, he helps new kids escape Candor, Florida before they're transformed into cookie-cutter teens. But then Nia Silva moves to Candor, and Oscar's carefully-controlled world crumbles.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier. BloomsburyUSA. September 29, 2009.

Why I want to read it: Sounds like a very cool spin on the unreliable narrator technique. And it has an awesome cover.

Couldn't find a summary anywhere except for this little tease from Jenn H.'s early review at Oops... Wrong Cookie:

Micah is different. She has always been a loner and freely admits to being a liar, but when her secret boyfriend dies mysteriously, her whole life comes under scrutiny. Now she plans to tell you the truth, the whole truth......or so she says.

The Everafter by Amy Huntley. HarperTeen. September 29, 2009.

Why I want to read it: I am always fascinated by novels set in the afterlife. Though this one looks something straight out of my nightmares. First caught my attention at Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf.


Madison Stanton doesn't know where she is or how she got there. But she does know this--she is dead. And alone, in a vast, dark space. The only company she has in this place are luminescent objects that turn out to be all the things Maddy lost while she was alive. And soon she discovers that with these artifacts, she can re-experience--and sometimes even change--moments from her life: Her first kiss. A trip to Disney World. Her sister's wedding. A disastrous sleepover.In reliving these moments, Maddy learns illuminating and sometimes frightening truths about her life--and death.

So - do you agree that September is going to be awesome? Which book are you MOST excited about? Did I miss anything?

As always, Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (49) + picture of Emmy

This week's question from Wendi: Have you explored the different styles? Have you customized any of the styles? If so, what are your favorite customized items (isbn, Dewey Decimal, Reviews, Book-Swap, etc)?

I have explored the different styles. I prefer a slightly customized style B because I like looking at covers. So I have covers, author's name, book title, rating, tags, and the shared column. I have the list view as default, but I like browse through the covers view and update covers every now and then. I still have more work to do there, adding covers for some books with no default images and changing the default cover in some cases to the cover I actually have.


When I look at this picture of Emmy I'm speechless. She stayed in that position for quite awhile. Gotta love that expression on her face!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Daniel!

Daniel doesn't have a lot of time to celebrate today because he is furiously working on final artwork for his Summer 2010 HarperCollins trade picture book release. It is due in 10 days! So he'd really love it if you'd go by and leave him a comment on his Daniel's daily drawings blog. Thanks!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Book Review: Turning Japanese by Cathy Yardley + 13 of my own Japan memories

29 year old Lisa lives a comfortable life. She has a decent, if boring job, supportive friends and family, and a boyfriend she plans to marry. But Lisa’s life is turned upside down when she wins a contest to be an intern at a Japanese Manga publishing house for a year – in Tokyo. Does she dare to dream of a more fulfilled life doing something she is passionate about?

I am very impressed with how well Turning Japanese works as a character study. At the start of the novel, it is clear that Lisa is stuck in a rut. She’s letting others dictate her life choices, even to the point that she goes to Japan because her boyfriend wants her out of his hair so he can study for his MBA in peace. She’s never been adventurous, doesn’t like to travel, and mopes around Tokyo for weeks once she gets there.

But a funny thing happens once she is forced to make her own decisions – she discovers she actually likes having a say in her life. This frustrates not only her Japanese colleagues who value following orders to the letter but also her old friends and her boyfriend who aren’t used to an independent Lisa. I really enjoyed seeing her blossom and grow a backbone.

The setting is also highly entertaining, especially for someone like me who has lived in Japan and knows something about the peculiarities of the Japanese culture. So despite a slow start and an initial exasperation with Lisa’s passive and whiny personality, I found myself cheering for her in her quest to make the most of her internship and fulfill her dreams against all odds, cultural and personal. And I turned the last page with a very satisfied smile.

Turning Japanese will be released in paperback on Tuesday, April 14th.

Since I know you all love them, here are a few of my own Japanese memories:

1. Slept on a futon for the whole nine months I was in Japan on a University exchange program in Fukuoka. I had to roll it up every day and put it in the closet because it took up my whole little tatami mat room.

2. Had a teacher who said at the end of term, “I give you all As. We part as friends.” That kind of summed up how easy Japanese University classes are.

3. Bought Asahi beer from vending machines on the street. It is still my favorite brand of beer.

4. Wore a real kimono for my “graduation” from the international program. Even with professional help, it took over an hour for me to get dressed.

5. Started learning Nihon-buyo (Japanese traditional dance) but discovered quickly I didn’t have the necessary patience. I always wanted to break out into Latin dance moves.

6. Which I did get the chance to do because a friend was a translator for the Blue Note, a jazz club in Fukuoka. When a Cuban acapella band performed, we went out dancing with them afterwards until after dawn. They were amazing dancers!

7. Gave private English lessons to several clients, including a 13 year old girl who only responded to yes or no questions. We became pen pals after I left and she wrote me the cutest letters ever. Her parents always gave me “gift melons” called so because they cost $30 apiece, way too much for one to justify buying it for oneself.

8. Went bowling about once a week. Once got 6 strikes in a row and had the whole alley full of Japanese cheering for me. Ended up with my highest score ever – 198.

9. Visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Nagasaki and several smaller towns on Kyushu Island. I would have loved to have done more sightseeing, but travelling within Japan was prohibitively expensive.

10. Performed A LOT of karaoke. Mostly in smaller, private rooms in groups of Japanese friends who insisted I sing The Spice Girls. Once on a yacht where we were served shabu shabu.

11. Sat next to a sumo wrestler on a train.

12. Once dropped a large bill on the ground and had a Japanese man run after me to give it back. I felt so safe there, even walking down dark alleys in the middle of the night.

13. Was woken up every morning at 3 am by the bosozoku driving by and revving their motorcycles. The police followed behind blaring orders to cease and desist through a microphone.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Discussion topic: Authors requesting reviews

I don’t know if I should consider it a fluke, or a sign of my growing popularity, but in the past several weeks I have seen an upsurge in authors contacting me about reviewing their books. Some are very sophisticated in their pitches – personal yet professional, and others…not so much. And guess which authors have a better chance of my saying yes?

It is simply a fact of life that I cannot review every book offered to me. I don’t have the time. The books I know I’m not interested in are the easy ones to turn down. The books I know for sure I’d like are easy to accept. It’s the books in the middle that are fighting for my limited reading time. (I am already scheduling reviews for September, that’s how bad my TBR has gotten.) And that’s why a good pitch is so important.

So what do I consider a good pitch? First of all, I have to get the feeling that the author has done their research. They know what genres I review. They know what books I’ve read and liked in the past, and can tell me why I might be interested in reviewing their book. They know my name and use it.

And yes, I can be swayed by a personal appeal. Recently a well known author of paranormal romance asked me to a review her upcoming book, and I was initially skeptical because I’m unfamiliar with the genre. But she pointed out that I liked both The Forest of Hands of Teeth by Carrie Ryan and Rampant by Diana Peterfreund and that she felt her book had a lot of similarities to these titles. And now, I’m quite excited about reading a book that I would have otherwise dismissed out of hand.

Bad pitches? Well, the worst is when I get copy and paste form letters where the author didn’t even bother to find out my name (which isn’t so hard since it is in the title of my blog!). I’ve also had authors who waste their time and mine by ignoring the fact that I don’t review eBooks, self-published works or certain genres. And sometimes, an author doesn’t even include a book summary or a link to a summary. That’s just poor marketing all around.

Now, I don't want to discourage anyone from contacting me. I'm always thrilled to be contacted by authors who show that know my blog and my audience and who have written a book that just might capture my imagination. Just don't be one of those that gets an automatic delete. (Note: Anyone who actually uses my name will get a reply from me - it's the polite thing to do. But if you don't use my name, I just don't feel the need to reply.)

Any reviewers or authors want to chime in?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Who wants to see kitty pictures?

We drove a total of 6 hours today to visit our new kitten and we just got back. His official name is Dain von Dusterwald and he is Emmy's half brother (they share the same mother). So here he is at exactly 4 weeks old:

We get to pick him up on June 11th!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Book Review: Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

Alexis’ life has always been pretty dysfunctional. She has no real friends, gets in trouble at school, keeps her parents at arm’s reach, and has a younger sister with a very unhealthy doll obsession. When strange things start happening at home, it doesn’t take long for Alexis to suspect that her house is haunted and her sister is possessed.

I have to give this novel serious props for pulling off a tone that is hilariously snarky and yet still so tantalizingly creepy. I didn’t have to turn my nightlight on to sleep or anything, but I did have goose bumps on several occasions.

Alexis starts out as just another of these tough, sarcastic, independent minded teens that have pervaded pop culture in recent years, but she develops so much through the narrative that I really had no idea what she would do next. It’s the same with most of the supporting characters – they are introduced as stereotypes and then defy all expectations.

This is such a fun, wild ride that I was able to forgive the slightly cheesy ending. Anyone see Skeleton Key with Kate Hudson? Now there’s an awesome ending to a possession story (though I did have my nightlight on for weeks after seeing that one - so beware).

Bad Girls Don’t Die comes out in hardcover on April 21st.

Penguin Prize Pack winner!

Lots of entries for this one - over 300 including all the extra entries. But sadly there can only be one winner of the 11+ YA books from Penguin and she has been confirmed. Congrats go out to Love Jessica Marie! Can't wait to see what you think of If I Stay and all the other great books.

For every one else, stay tuned, because I have an EVEN bigger Penguin contest coming up very soon!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (27) The Long Wait for Tomorrow by Joaquin Dorfman

I'm a sucker for these time travel stories, especially ones where characters go back to set things right that once went wrong (a la Quantum Leap). The summary for this one hooked me instantly (though the cover leaves a lot to be desired).

From the Random House catalog:

Joaquin Dorfman is back with another smart novel that pushes the envelope of literary fiction, examining identity, high school roles, and even the high-blown concept of destiny through a cool science-fiction lens. What if, in a Freaky Friday moment, a wise and humble 40-year-old man woke one morning to find himself transported back in time, into his body more than 20 years before, when he was the popular, entitled, and arrogant quarterback of the school football team? Could the man do anything to stop a tragedy initiated by the cruel actions of the boy, or is fate too strong a force? It’s the small-town football worship of Friday Night Lights with a dark and unsettling Donnie Darko twist.

And so, here begins "The Long Wait for" September 22nd when this will be released. (Sorry - I know that was dorky, but I had to do it.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (48) + picture of Emmy

This week's question from Wendi: Do you have a LT widget on your blog? If so, what is your favorite thing about it? Have you had a chance to go see the all new widget building page, and if so, have you built a new widget? If so, what do you like about it?

I have the old LT widget on my blog and I enjoy looking at the all pretty covers. I don't have a lot of time right now to mess with the new, improved widget, but I have to admit that it looks pretty cool. The animation is too quick for my taste on the examples I've seen, but maybe it can be slowed down? Must investigate.


We made Emmy a paper cape so she could feel like a superhero, but then she refused to pose. So here is Emmy, the reluctant superkitty.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Book Review: Pure by Terra Elan McVoy

Tabitha and her group of friends all wear purity rings that symbolize their pledge to remain virgins until they are married. When one of the girls, Cara, admits to having sex with her boyfriend, loyalties are tested and Tabitha must reexamine her friendships.

So, I really like that the subject of purity rings (and faith in general) is dealt with earnestly and in a balanced way that I can see resonating with many teens. It’s something that has the potential to generate a healthy discussion about values, being true to yourself, and respecting your body. But as provocative as it is sometimes (such as a scene where Tabitha discovers that Jesus never specifically forbids premarital sex - or how about that cover?), it can also be pretty bland.

Maybe part of my indifference to the “drama” of the plot is due to the fact that I’m married and the days of purity rings are far behind me. Had I read it at 17 it would have been more relevant. Church youth group was a big part of my high school social life, so the ”True Love Waits” campaign is nothing new to me. In fact, one year, everyone was "strongly encouraged" to fill out purity pledges and lay them at the altar during the church service. We all did. Not necessarily because everyone really meant it. It was just that no one dared to disappoint parents and be branded a whore by judgmental old ladies.

It was this kind of “positive” peer pressure that permeated PURE. The five friends all have different motivations for wearing the rings. Morgan seems to be the most convicted that it is God’s will for her life, but she also enjoys the attention it brings her. Naeomi states at one point that she wears it mainly as a promise to herself, not so much for God’s sake. Tabitha got one because Morgan got one. And they all found it easy to pledge chastity before boys were in the picture.

Since the book is written in first person from Tabitha’s POV, we see just how conflicted she is about the Cara/sex situation. While the other girls are quick to judge and dump Cara, Tabitha wants to be a true friend. It’s noble, and even believable. But while reading, Tabitha’s perfection started to irk me a bit. She’s sensible and kind through it all, and even her small slip-ups are quickly forgiven because she deals with them so well. I would have expected a book about “betrayals, confessions and revenge” to be a bit … messier.

PURE will be released in hardcover tomorrow.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Book Review: The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb

Calder has been a Fetch, a death escort, since his own death at 19 hundreds of years ago. Struck by the beauty of a woman present at a couple death scenes he is sent to, Calder implusively steps from Heaven back to Earth. Doing so strands him in the chaos of the Russian Revolution and tears a wound in the ghost realm where lost spirits begin a revolution of their own.

The Fetch is billed as a supernatural romance, but I would hardly describe it as such. Calder is much too restrained and detached to be a romantic hero, and though he and Ana do seem to care about each other, they never generate any real heat.

It does succeed on many other levels however. The earthly setting is a world ripped apart by World War I and Whitcomb makes Rasputin and the deposed Romanov family major characters in an globe-spanning adventure that blends fact with inventive speculation. History buffs have a lot to chew on here.

Whitcomb’s vision of the afterlife is never completely revealed since these scenes are all through Calder’s eyes and he seems to have missed the official employee memo about a lot of the specifics, such as what exactly hell is, but what we do see is certainly thought provoking.

The end verdict? I enjoyed it and admired it. But I could have used a tad more emotional investment to be truly passionate about it.

The Fetch is available in hardcover now.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

13 more of my own European memories

Last weekend I shared 13 of my European memories in my review of Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes. It was so popular, I decided to share 13 more:

1. Relaxed on a deserted black sand beach in Iceland and watched puffins play in the surf.

2. Went to a nude beach in Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands. Because of my delicate skin, I covered up after about 15 minutes. It was disconcerting to see whole families hanging around nude together.

3. Backed our rental car up and got stuck on a ledge in Ireland. Fortunately, some friendly Irish folk stopped and helped us break free. We were frightened the rest of the trip that we’d have to pay a big fee to the rental car company, but they didn’t even bat an eye when they saw it.

4. Visited a church decorated entirely with human skulls in Poland.

5. Got on the wrong train to Brasov in Romania. The train we boarded was the slow, old train that didn’t have any internal lighting. When we went through the various tunnels, the train car was pitch black!

6. Heard that the USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier was on a port visit in Benidorm, Spain. I was with a group of girls from Texas that flirted their way into a tour from a pilot. He showed us around and even invited us to lunch in the officer’s mess hall.

7. Got a private tour of a luxury cruise ship in Stockholm, Sweden from a friend who worked on one for a summer job.

8. Was invited by a Finnish family in Tampere, Finland to hang out in their sauna and drink wine. I’ve never seen so much wine consumed in my life!

9. Got my wallet stolen on the Greek island of Samos on my first evening there. Didn’t let it ruin my week though. We just went hiking a lot and only spent money on (incredibly delicious) evening meals.

10. Ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while enjoying the scenery of Lysefjord from Preikestolen, Norway. We camped out in tents and played Euchre under the stars.

11. Went to a cave monastery in Moldova that was filled with churchgoers that looked straight out of the middle ages.

12. Experienced the communist mentality first hand at a post office in Riga, Latvia. None of the four employees were with customers or otherwise busy, but they wouldn’t acknowledge me until I got a number.

13. Took advantage of the free bicycles in Copenhagen to ride around town and visit The Little Mermaid statue. The cobblestones ensure that you hobble around afterwards though!

Friday, April 3, 2009

March Reading in Review

This month my reading goal was again to clear some review books from the ole TBR. 10 of the 12 books I read were sent for review - not bad. I wish I could read double that amount though.


Read and reviewed 9 YA novels

Undercover by Beth Kephart
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Willow by Julia Hoban + Interview
In Too Deep by Jennifer Banash + Interview
The Elite by Jennifer Banash
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

And 3 adult novels

First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Search Terms

Didn't have any remarkable ones this month, but I did get about 10 e-mails asking for my help with book reports! I've heard of other bloggers getting these, but this was a first for me, and when it rains, it pours.


I had 8,000 visits in March - I'm on an upward trend!

Not counting my three contests, my most commented post was my book review of 13 Little Blue Envelopes where I recounted 13 of my own European adventures. Thinking about doing a part 2.

How was your March for reading?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Book Reviews: The Midnight Twins and Look Both Ways by Jacquelyn Mitchard

It's a bit ironic that we talked about our least favorite books this week for Tuesday Thingers, because I found a new book to add to that category...

Book 1 The Midnight Twins

Meredith (aka Merry) and Mallory (aka Mally) are identical, telepathic twins born on either side of midnight on New Year’s Eve. They are also mirror opposites – Merry is a cheerful cheerleader and Mally is a grumpy soccer star. When a house fire nearly kills them on their 13th birthday, the twins discover they have inherited the Brynn family “gift” – terrifying visions that could destroy them and everything they hold dear….

In a nutshell: Promising premise, terrible execution.

The whole time I read this I swear I felt like I was on a Tilt-A-Whirl. The writing was so choppy and full of non-sequiturs that I had to read many passages twice to make heads or tails of them. Incidents and characters flew by in a dizzying blur. And when I finally (mercifully) was let off this chaotic mess, I felt nauseous.

Much was made of the twins supposed differences – but I never got the feeling that they were anything more than superficially different. Ok, one had lots of gossipy, giggly friends, and one was more of a sourpuss loner, but deep down both ticked the same. They also complained a bunch that their “gift” was a big burden, but it really only came up a few times and it helped them to track down a killer so obvious and so cardboard as to be yawn inducing.

So why did I read the sequel? In the last chapter, Grandma, who was strangely tight-lipped the rest of the time, swoops in and spends a whole chapter talking about how cool the twins’ powers actually are. So I thought…ok maybe the sequel will actually be worthy of the premise?

Book 2 Look Both Ways

After the events of book 1 (explained in a succinct yet thorough summary near the start, rendering book 1 pretty much superfluous) Merry and Mally are settling back into their normal lives and concentrating on cheerleading tryouts and soccer practice. Then they start having visions of a beautiful and familiar mountain lion. What’s up with that anyway?

In a nutshell: If you must read this series, skip book 1 and start here.

While still far from perfect, the writing and character development are both much improved in this installment. Ok, the family is still one dimensional, but Merry’s cheerleading friends/rivals Kim and Neely are given authentic arcs and Mally’s friend Eden’s shaman/shapeshifter subplot is intriguing and touching. Which I guess is a good thing, since this subplot actually hijacks the novel. That’s right, the second Midnight Twins novel is mainly about Eden, meaning the tantalizing promise of the trilogy’s premise is still not fulfilled in book 2. Is the author holding out on us until book 3?

The Midnight Twins is available now in paperback and Look Both Ways comes out today in hardcover. Book 3 has no set release date yet. Find out more about the series at the author's website.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (26) Wonderwall by Elizabeth Hand

Remember the song Wonderwall by Oasis? The chorus is "Because maybe you're gonna be the one to save me. And after all, you're my wonderwall." And it sounds like a wonderwall is doing some saving in this upcoming novel as well.

Summary rom the Fall 2009 Penguin catalog:
Seventeen-year-old Meredith lives for her art—but after her girlfriend Lindsey commits suicide, even that can’t save her. Desperate, Mer abandons art school and makes her way home to Washington, D.C., intending to kill herself. A chance street encounter leads her to a lockhouse by the river, which leads her to craft something remarkable—a wall painting that is a doorway through art and time. Through it comes the young Arthur Rimbaud, the “child poet,” who is equally desperate. The two artists—one visual, one verbal—change each other’s lives. The brilliant Elizabeth Hand, author of Generation Loss, Waking the Moon, and the World Fantasy Award–winning Illyria, has crafted a story that will burn itself into readers’ minds.

I am very excited about the combination of art and time travel and I can't wait to see how it plays out. Release date is set for October 15.