Friday, July 31, 2009

First Chapter Challenge (2)

My first chapter challenge is a personal challenge this summer to whittle down my review pile. I read the first chapter of 5 books that have been sitting on my shelf a long time to determine if I'll keep them on my shelf or give them away. For this round of the challenge I chose books which came out last summer. In fact, at least 4 of the 5 are coming out in paperback very soon!

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release date: Hardcover May 2008, coming in paperback Sept 2009
One sentence summary: Eli and his family are stuck in an underground Compound after a nuclear incident.
First sentences: T.S. Eliot was wrong. My world ended with a bang the minute we entered the Compound and that silver door closed behind us.
First chapter review: I read both the prologue, which details the night Eli's family entered the luxury Compound leaving behind his twin brother and grandmother, and the first chapter, where the action picks up six years later. Eli is pretty unlikeable in these passages, and except for his sister saying she hates their overbearing, controlling father, I don't really feel set up for the story. I read a bit further into chapter two where we get a big clue that life won't continue to be so rosy when Eli's mother discovers that the flour is rotting...
Verdict: Just on the basis of what I've read, I wouldn't want to keep reading. However, many reviewers have said it picks up midway and gets really exciting. So I'll keep it around for now, but I'm in no rush.

The White Mary by Kira Salak
Publisher: Henry Holt
Release date: Hardcover August 2008, Paperback Sept 2009
One sentence summary: Marika travels to Papua New Guinea to track down the truth about a war correspondent, Robert Lewis, who supposedly committed suicide.
First sentences: The black waters of Elobi Creek show no sign of current. It is another dead waterway, Marika tells herself, one that will breed only mosquitos and crocodiles. Another waterway that somehow reflects - in the darkness of the water, in its stillness - all of her failings.
First chapter review: Marika is presented as a very ususual sort of woman - one who found fame in war zones, doing the one thing she felt competent at, namely facing the unpleasant. And in Papua New Guinea she endures much discomfort on her months long search for Robert. Finally Tobo, a medicine man in a remote village, claims to know where Robert is. As the chapter ends, Marika is left behind by her guide but is still determined to continue her quest. The setting is exotic and Marika is so far interesting enough to want to keep following.
Verdict: Keep in TBR. I'm intrigued and want to know if Marika ends up finding what she's looking for.

The Day I Killed James by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Publisher: Random House
Release date: May 2008
One sentence summary: Theresa feels guilty about the suicide of James, a boy who had a crush on her, and writes in a diary for her therapist.
First sentences: People die of love. I'm one of the few who'll admit it. That doesn't mean it isn't true.
First chapter review: There are three short diary entries before the start of chapter 1 which introduce Theresa's fragile mental state and her not-so-nice therapist. Chapter 1 flashes back to before James' death and shows how Theresa took advantage of his crush on her. It's fine, but not particularly exciting. I'm assuming now that James kills himself because Theresa teases him too much, but I'm not hooked. Sorry.
Verdict: Unless someone can convince me that the story gets compelling fast, I'm going to ditch this one.

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Publisher: Random House
Release date: Hardcover August 2008, Paperback August 2009
One sentence summary: One handed orphan Ren is picked up at the orphanage by someone claiming to be his long-lost brother who then takes him on a series of adventures that may hold the key to discovering his parentage.
First sentence: The man arrived after morning prayers.
First chapter review: I liked the scene presented here - a man coming to the orphanage to pick out a child, avoiding those too small to work and those too old to be pliable. At first, he picks Ren, until the priests reveal Ren's missing hand. It makes you yearn for Ren to be picked up quickly by the "brother" mentioned in the summary.
Verdict: I'm hooked! Looking forward to making some time to finish this one.

Jet Set by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: Hardcover August 2008, Paperback Aug 2009
One sentence summary: To avoid having to move during her high school years, military kid Lucy decides to attend super-exclusive Van Pelt boarding school in Switzerland.
First sentence: Imagine a school with endless gilded hallways that rival Versailles.
First chapter review: I actually read 3 chapters (and could have read more - they are very, very short). The first chapter sets up why Lucy is attending such a fancy school. The second introduces her to the resident snobs (two of the three are princesses). The third has Lucy afraid her super-rich classmates will find out she's there on scholarship. It's kind of mindless, trashy fun. And it reminds me of my summer project between 8th and 9th grade. I wrote an outline about students at a fancy Swiss boarding school. I got out my baby name book and a stack of Seventeen magazines and created about 50 character profiles. I wonder if I still have it somewhere?
Verdict: I'd give this one a few more chapters at least. Keep for now.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: An Off Year by Claire Zulkey

Arriving at her dorm for her freshmen year of college, Cecily decides she’s just not ready, turns around, and goes home. What follows is a year off, bumming around at home and wondering if she’s a freak because she didn’t do what was expected of her like everyone else did.

I was attracted to this novel because I did a gap year between high school and college, going on a year exchange program to Ecuador. Gap years are a great way to get to know yourself better and give yourself a break between the pressures of high school and the pressures of college. You can travel, volunteer, get a job to save up money for college, or take up any number of interesting activities.

Cecily did nothing. NOTHING. That’s why I’m surprised I was not bored out of my skull reading about her year off. You see, even though Cecily lacks drive, she can banter with the best of them and the writing sparkles with subtle, sly humor. She banters with her father (resigned to Cecily’s inertia), her siblings (envious that she can get away with doing nothing as the baby of the family), her shrink, her career councilor, her best friend (increasing distant and slutty as her year at college progresses) and best of all with sort of crush but not really Mike (who should’ve had more scenes).

The novel touches a lot on the expectations and motivations associated with the college years, and Mike’s story added another unconventional choice to the mix. Here’s a charming, well-liked young man who impresses everyone by being accepted to Harvard and then “throws it all away” by transferring to the University of Kansas mid-year to be with his girlfriend. Even though Mike mistakenly calls KU by the initials UK, I was still pleased to see KU’s battle cry “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” in a YA novel. Never thought I’d see the day.

AN OFF YEAR comes out September 3rd in hardcover. Visit the author’s website. Even though I couldn't find anything about this upcoming release, the writing on the site is very funny and gives you a good idea of the kind of humor you get in the novel.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (37) Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

A dystopia from the new Harlequin Teen line? I'm mega intrigued!

Here's the summary from the back cover:

I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? Not like it's all that dangerous - the only neck I risk is my own. Until I accidently start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution. I should have just said no...

INSIDE OUT is set for April 2010. I haven't read any of Maria V. Snyder's books yet, but I always hear great things about them, so I really can't wait!

WoW is hosted by Jill - head over there to see what other bloggers are looking forward to this week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (64) + Picture of Emmy

Today's question from Wendi: When you click on the Local tab, do you see any information? Do you find the information you see useful? Have you added any information? If you don't already use the Local tab, is it something you would use more often if there were more events listed?

Whenever I click on the local events tab, I get Boston events, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me since I've never even been to Boston (except for the airport on a layover). It always makes me want to visit though, since Boston seems to get a lot of great bookish events.

Just now, I finally changed my location to Frankfurt and I see there are two events coming up where German authors read German books. Not events I'm likely to attend. Just for fun, I checked Wichita, KS as well, but no events are listed. I'd definitely use the feature more often if it were kept up-to-date and informative.


And now....time for naughty kittehs! Finn is in the habit of annoying Emmy about 90% of his waking hours. Emmy is in the habit of trying out new spots to hang out in an attempt to avoid him. Here, Emmy decided to make herself comfortable on Daniel's computer keyboard. Notice her annoyed expression. It's because Finn is behind the monitor swiping at her swishing tail. They were removed from this spot shortly after this picture was taken and transferred back to their kitty palace where they are allowed to act out their destructive tendencies!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Book Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Ever since a yellow-eyed wolf saved her from an attack by other wolves, Grace has felt drawn to “her wolf” and looks out for him. Sam is that wolf – allowed to be the human he was born as for a few months each summer – but who must change back when the cold weather comes. A twist of fate brings them together finally, and Sam must fight to retain his humanity and to be able to stay with Grace.

Recently a few authors and bloggers were making lists of their favorite YA couples. Since I’m not too big on reading romance, I didn’t make my own list because I couldn’t even come up with five favorites. But after having read SHIVER, an engrossing novel with an amazingly unsappy romance at its’ core, I have to say Sam and Grace would easily make my list. The scene in the candy store could have been totally cheesy, but it was pitch perfect. *sigh*

Sam is attracted to Grace because she brings out the humanity in him even when he’s a wolf, and Grace is attracted to Sam for his gentle yet protective personality. Grace feels neglected by her largely absent parents and yearns for the closeness Sam shares with the “wolf pack”. This pack and the mythology surrounding them was one of the best parts of the novel after Grace and Sam’s relationship. Beck’s story was especially heartbreaking. Although we only really experience the pack’s summer escapades as humans through Sam’s remembrances of them, these scenes were some of the most vivid, making me prefer them over the scenes featuring Grace and her fully human friends.

The ending definitely brought tears to my eyes, and I 100% look forward to LINGER, the sequel/companion novel coming out Fall 2010.

SHIVER comes out this week in hardcover. Find out more about it, watch two different trailers and listen to Maggie read the first two chapters at Maggie's website.

Where my last 20 reviewed books came from

Marie of The Boston Bibliophile just posted a follow-up to her Bloggers and Commercialism post where she lists the sources of her last 20 reviewed books. She did this to analyze the possible effect not accepting review copies might have on her blog. I found it very interesting for another reason too - it's what Julia Keller calls the "extra story" (how a book found its way to your hands) in her article in the Chicago Tribune yesterday.

So, to both follow in Marie's "full-disclosure" footsteps and to provide you with some "extra stories", here is how I got the last 20 books I reviewed on Presenting Lenore.

Last Last Chance by Fiona Maazel - Won from LibraryThing's ER program
Ash by Malinda Lo - Provided for free during my Hachette tour
Feathered by Laura Kasischke - Bought after seeing it at a Story Siren giveaway
Life Sentences by Laura Lippman - Requested from Shelf Awareness
Dull Boy by Sarah Cross - Provided by publisher by request (first seen on 2009 Debs blog)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson - Bought after seeing reviews on various blogs last year
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - Flew all the way to NYC from Germany to attend BEA. Stood in line at 5:30 am to get a ticket to signing. Stood in signing line to get book signed.
The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson - Provided by publisher by request (first seen in catalog)
The Heights by Brian James - Provided by publisher by request (first seen in catalog)
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev - Won in contest sponsored by author
Milestones by Samira Armin Hodges - Provided by publisher after I accepted author query
Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart - Offered by author after I featured it in a WoW post
Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog - Picked up at Frankfurt Book Fair 2008
Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before by David Yoo - Provided by publisher by request (first seen in catalog)
Alive and Well in Prague, New York by Daphne Grab - Won in author sponsored contest
Geektastic by various authors - Picked up at BEA
Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard - Provided by publisher by request, though author and I e-mailed about title first
The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris - Provided by author as part of a TLC book tour
Darling Jim by Christian Moerk - Won from LibraryThing's ER program
The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos - Borrowed from library for book club

I would say this is a pretty typical breakdown, except that normally I'd have more books offered to me via query than books I requested personally. If I stopped accepting "freebies", I probably wouldn't feel the pressure to read as much as therefore I'd be more likely to post one review per week as opposed to three or four as I do now. The types of books I reviewed wouldn't change, since I only request or accept books I'd actually spend money on or check out from the library.

Where did your last 20 reviewed books come from? Do you buy most of your books? Get them from the library? Or if you review mostly free copies, how would your blog change if you stopped accepting them?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Guest Book Review: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

My guest reviewer Jen is back! I'm really excited to read this one too, especially because it was shortlisted for the 2008 Booker Prize and since I enjoyed Ghosh's THE GLASS PALACE so much.

Here's Jen:

The first in a trilogy of novels, SEA OF POPPIES is an epic tale that revolves around a ship, the Ibis, which makes an unforgettable journey from India to the Mauritius Islands. The historical adventures touch upon colonial upheaval, the Opium Wars and a slave-free America. After all, which other span of time could allow a bankrupt Raja, widowed village woman, mulatto American freeman and a European orphan to all cross paths?

Rarely have I read a book where I could relate to so many characters. I continue to ask myself how Amitav Ghosh made this kaleidoscope of individuals so sympathetic in such a despicable time (in terms of humanitarian relevance), such as the mid-nineteenth century. It’s a history lesson that reaches around the world, yet eerily parallels social issues of today. It is also a story which makes me grateful to be a woman today instead of back then. Sea of Poppies is destined for the silver screen, but I pity the day in which a single paragraph would be scrapped. (Subtitles would bring some clarity to the extremely difficult sailor lingo though.) The storytelling is masterful, allowing me to actually feel the rise and fall of the waves, feel the warmth of fires and blood and see the brilliant colours of life.

SEA OF POPPIES is available in hardcover now, but comes out in paperback in the US on September 29th. I anxiously await the next saga of the trilogy.
Find out more about the book at

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Fabulous! (14) + The Miles Between Winners

Things to get excited about this week:

1. helped me select the five winners of ARCs of THE MILES BETWEEN by Mary E. Pearson. They are MJ (instant winner), Trish, Zibilee, Amee, and Maya Ganesan. Congrats! Please send me an e-mail at lenoreva at hotmail dot com with your mailing address and I'll pass them on to the publisher.

2. So far three awesome authors have promised to send me bookmarks to distribute to my giveaway winners. Hopefully I'll hear from some more of you soon!

3. Daniel got his color proofs for IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? and they are looking amazing. I am so excited for this book, even if it is still a YEAR away from the pub date. I can't wait until I can finally show off the cover!

4. I don't normally do a write-up on awards I'm given anymore, but the ever-amusing Sadako made her own - The Evil Pink Unicorn Award - and it is remarkable enough to rival The Zombie Chicken Award, so I just had to express my thanks publicly.

Here's what it's for: The Evil Pink Unicorn sees all, knows all, and spears all annoying teddy bears who get too close to her essential pinkness. She also commends good bloggers for being hilarious, bizarre, and just plain fun.

All together now: Awww!

5. Is it a good thing that I apparently spent enough money at Sephora this year to acheive their super-exclusive VIB (Very Important Beauty Insider) status? Hmmm....

6. Going to a wedding this weekend in Brussels so you won't see me on Twitter until Sunday evening. Don't have too much fun without me ;)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Book Review: Last Last Chance by Fiona Maazel

Lucy Clark is 29, drug addled, and the daughter of a scientist responsible for developing a lethal strain of plague that threatens to destroy the human race. But who has time to worry about the plague when you’re dating a chicken executioner looking for a womb to host his dead wife’s frozen eggs, are still pining for your lost love who married your best friend, and have to take care of your 12 year old death-obsessed half sister, crack-addicted CEO mother, and Norwegian grandmother who charmingly spends her time charting people’s past lives?

I requested this tragicomedy from the LibraryThing ER program because it promised to be bizarre and apocalyptic – an irresistible combination. Lucy narrates in first person, and most of the crazy comes from seeing the world through her unfocused eyes, though most of the other characters know how to bring it too.

It’s a dense novel – reading it is akin to picking your way through the underbrush of a wild, virgin forest – and after having spent most of my literary escapades lately careening through vast expanses of open meadows complete with prancing ponies – it took quite a bit of patience to get through. But if you can summon up the patience, it is richly rewarding. Even with a zany, preposterous (one hopes at least) plot, at the sentence level the writing is breathtaking. And Debut Author Fiona Maazel juggles the trippy narrative arcs of the characters with ease, even giving past lives a chance to tell their own stories.

Hard to choose a favorite scene, but I loved when Lucy talks about the books 12 year old Hannah is reading/defacing:

Home is me watching her rip pages from When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. I have begun canvassing moms at the plant to see what their kids are reading, just to keep Hannah on par. Kathleen, who works in legal, said her thirteen year old went nuts for The Face on the Milk Carton, which is about a lactose intolerant girl, who in the thrall of dairy addiction, reaches for the very carton bearing her likeness, which suggests, in all probability that she was kidnapped as a toddler. I imagine the degree of wish fulfillment advanced in this novel has girls all over America going wonky. Certainly Hannah would love to think she’s been kidnapped – that her real family is living in a hot-air balloon traversing the skies of Malaysia. Yesterday I found her editing with black marker a page from the YA novel Rat Boys: A Dating Experience. The premise? Girls needing prom dates abracadabra rats into prom dates, only Hannah does not like the word date, so she’s swapped it out for the considerably more topical death. Girls needing prom death turn rats into prom death. (p. 138)

And the end? Well, it’s not wrapped neatly in a bow, but it does fit the title. Because what is a last last chance anyway? Infinite chances really. Which is the perfect theme to tie all the disparate threads of this novel together – the addict trying to get clean, reincarnation, and even a slate-wiping mega disaster like a plague or the flood that killed everyone but Noah’s family on the ark.

Last Last Chance is out in paperback now. Find out more about it at

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (36) Adland by James P. Othmer

I've never featured a non-fiction book for WoW, but there's a first for everything. I saw this on Shelf Awareness yesterday (yes, I'm still reading it...but I don't request much anything anymore) and as an advertising copywriter with many crazy work stories of my own, I am really in the mood to read something like this. Othmer is a copywriter turned novelist ( the dream) and the book not only chronicles his personal experiences but also gives us an inside look at what's going on in advertising right now.

Excerpt of summary from Doubleday's website:

Liar's Poker meets The Tipping Point meets Mad Men-a hilarious, personal, and sneakily profound chronicle of the past, present, and future of the advertising business. Adland is a book about advertising. Which is to say, it's a book about every issue and aspect of life on our morally conflicted, culturally challenged, ubiquitously branded planet.

Adland releases on September 15th in hardcover.

Oh, and P.S. - I'm very much looking forward to Mad Men's 3rd season, set to air starting early next month on AMC.
WoW is hosted by Jill - head over there to see what other bloggers are looking forward to this week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (63) + Video of Emmy (Finn smackdown!)

Today's question from Wendi concerns the new Early Reviewer "won" books page on LibraryThing: Have you checked out your ER list? Is it accurate? Did you need to mark any books as not received?

My list is accurate. I've won 11 books so far and reviewed 9 of them. 2 are quite recent, and I am reading one of them right now. I love this new feature - very helpful!


Ok - smackdown time. The following video is pretty representive of the typical smackdown except that usually Finn strikes first. Enjoy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Review: Ash by Malinda Lo

After her mother’s death, Aisling (aka Ash) is devastated. And she’s inconsolable when her remarried father dies, leaving the family with debts that Aisling’s new stepmother forces her to pay off with servitude – so much so that she prays the fairies will take her from the human world. That is until she meets Kaisa, the King’s huntress. Because Kaisa teaches her to hunt and ride - and most importantly to value life and love again.

As my regular readers know by now, I am a huge fan of fairy tale retellings, especially when they follow the recognized formula but bring some sort of new twist to the story. In case you couldn’t tell, ASH is a retelling of Cinderella – with more dangerous fairies and a less over-the-top evil stepfamily than the Disney version.

The tale Debut Author Malinda Lo spins is haunting and powerful enough on its own, but she also weaves in various fascinating dark faerie tales that characters tell each other. Much will probably be made of the fact that Aisling falls for a woman instead of the prince, but in the world of ASH’s narrative, it feels like the most natural thing in the world and no one even bats an eye.

ASH comes out in hardcover on September 1st. Find out more at Malinda Lo’s website.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

eReaders: Pros and Cons

Before BEA, I was not tempted in the least to get an eReader. One of my favorite things about reading is the physical comfort of curling up with a book, looking at its’ cover and turning the pages. And I love the conversations that arise from perusing bookshelves – both mine and others’. I could acknowledge that eReaders were probably a lot more convenient for traveling, but other than that, I didn’t think about them – at all.

Then at BEA, two developments made me actually seriously consider getting an eReader. The first is the new NetGalley service, a way for book reviewers to download galleys (ARCs) in PDF form. The second is the eARC pilot program HarperCollins is trying out for their Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 titles (some of which I am DYING to read).

Now, I still can’t really justify BUYING books for an eReader, but it seems like it could be a great format to read ARCs on.

No or low shipping costs
Worldwide availability (in theory)
Environmentally friendly – less forests felled
No mountains of ARCs to get rid of after reading

High cost of eReader – a $300 investment is a lot
Low current selection – not a lot of publishers are on board
Can’t pass on ARCs in contests or to other reviewers

Based on my Internet research, it seems the amazon Kindle might be the better choice for people who buy eBooks, at least in the US. But for reading ARCs and other PDFs, the Sony eReader seems to have an advantage.

What do you all think? Will we soon be seeing a shift to eARCs? And if you have an eReader preference or experience, please share!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Review: Feathered by Laura Kasischke

Two best friends fly down to Cancun for spring break with a third girl from their high school, hoping for a few days of fun in the sun, far away from the sleet, sameness and rules of Illinois. But a couple of bad decisions later, they are facing down their worst nightmare.

I can imagine the genesis of this novel thusly: Author goes to Mexico’s Yucatan to visit the Mayan ruins and is annoyed by crass commercialization and mindless, drunken hordes of sun-seeking partygoers. She then decides to write a novel that will highlight the importance of respecting local culture and the dangers of a) spring break and b) trusting strangers.

(I’ve not been to Mexico, but I have been to the Guatemalan Yucatan to visit Tikal. I can’t imagine why anyone would chose empty partying over experiencing the beauty of “rediscovering” lost cultures. But obviously they do.)

And the novel does work well on that level. There’s a definite sense of foreboding that grows stronger as you read. And the scenes at the Mayan temple are riveting, informative and poetic.

The structure is odd. Chapters alternate between Anne’s very plain character telling us in first person, past tense, unadorned prose what went down on the fateful trip and chapters about Michelle’s experiences told in third person omniscient, present tense in hazy, magical realism infused passages. All this leads to one of the most bizarre endings I’ve read in awhile.

If you’re looking for something different, this is a quick yet memorable read that will have you thinking twice before you accept a ride from a stranger in the middle of nowhere.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Fabulous! (13)

Friday Fabulous is back - and I have a lot to talk about today, so let's jump right in!

1. Book Blogger Appreciation Week is back for its' second year. Last year, Presenting Lenore was a finalist for Best YA Blog! Want to make sure your favorite book blogs make the list? Just head over to the official BBAW site and submit your nominations in dozens of fun categories.

2. I'm kind of surprised by this since I don't post that many reviews there anymore, but amazon invited me to be a part of their Vine program! I haven't gotten offered any free video cameras yet, but I should be getting LABOR DAY by Joyce Maynard and SWIMMING by Nicola Keegan (hey if Judy Blume said it was good...) soon.

3. You know, these days, most airline travel news is BAD - free baggage allowances are being cut, you increasingly have to pay for on-board food, and Ryanair even talked about charging to use the toilets - so I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Delta had given me 10,000 free miles (that qualify for medallion status) as part of a campaign to increase loyalty among their elite status customers. With all the traveling I'm doing this year, I might even earn Gold status this year. Thanks Delta!

4. Speaking of Delta, I was able to upgrade the Atlanta-Frankfurt leg of my August/Sept trip to the states to business class using miles. That's always the worst leg for me, so I'm thrilled!

5. And speaking of my trip to the states, I'll be having a bunch of book contests in August since I'll be able to send them out cheaply once I arrive. Which is a perfect opportunity for all you authors out there! I can send your bookmarks and promotional swag out with my prize books, and if you take advantage of this window, you'll be able to send to my stateside address - YAY! (I'll be back to the states again at Christmas if you need more time). Just contact me at lenoreva at hotmail dot com to get my address.

6. And finally, one of Daniel's good friends, Rafael Esquer, who I finally got to meet while we were in NYC this May, has designed a line of awesome graphic t-shirts depicting the seven deadly sins in hand-drawn dragon form. There is Lujuria (lust), Gula (gluttony), Avaricia (greed), Pereza (sloth - which is what Daniel says I should get), Ira (wrath - which is what Daniel got...hehe), Envidia (envy - perfect for everyone with book envy) and Soberbia (pride). You can see the different designs and colors at the online store ( and if you want to order one, you can use the special discount code Rafael gave me for 20% off. The coupon code is: Lenore. (I've always hoped my name would one day be used as a coupon code, woohoo!)

So tell me, what are YOU excited about this week?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book Review: Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

Cassandra Fallows has written two popular memoirs and a less well-received novel. Her new editor has asked for another memoir, but Cassandra feels she doesn’t have any more memories to exploit. Until a news story reminds her of a former classmate, Calliope Jenkins, who remained silent about the death of her newborn son and served seven years. Cassandra knows there is a story there, and returns to Baltimore in hopes of finding the classmate and interviewing other classmates and those familiar with the case. However, they all have a reason to remain silent too…

What I like so much about Lippman’s novels is that while there is a mystery/thriller element, Lippman always seems more interested in exploring character and more specifically the ripple effect a crime has on all the people it touches. I found this aspect fascinating and tragic – as many of the characters felt like they were serving “life sentences” in some way for being involved in the Calliope case. I was especially touched by the story of the ambitious female cop who was broken by Calliope’s stonewalling.

Cassandra’s own journey is interesting to follow as well. She’s made her reputation on writing her version of past events only to be confronted with the truth of how subjective memories can be. The present day story, written in third person, is interspersed with “excerpts” from her first memoir, written in first person. It’s a structure that takes a bit of getting used to, but that ultimately serves the story well.

LIFE SENTENCES is available in hardcover now. For more information about the author and her novels, visit her website:

Oh...interesting tidbit - Cassandra's mother's name is Lenore! Cassandra's father starts calling her Lennie when he "falls out of love with her". Lennie is a more gender neutral nickname, so it shows her he doesn't appreciate her as a "sensual" woman anymore. Guess I should be glad that Daniel never calls me Lennie :) And be worried if he ever does...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (35) Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato

Most of my WoW picks come from me being really exited about a premise, but this one caught my eye because the character of Mathilda sounds so interesting. I've read a couple of early reviews that claim she has a very memorable voice and makes a ton of keen observations. Will she enter my favorite character hall of fame?

Summary from FSG/Macmillan

Fear doesn’t come naturally to Mathilda Savitch. She prefers to look right at the things nobody else can bring themselves to mention: for example, the fact that her beloved older sister is dead, pushed in front of a train by a man still on the loose. Her grief-stricken parents have basically been sleepwalking ever since, and it is Mathilda’s sworn mission to shock them back to life. Her strategy? Being bad.

Mathilda decides she’s going to figure out what lies behind the catastrophe. She starts sleuthing through her sister’s most secret possessions—e-mails, clothes, notebooks, whatever her determination and craftiness can ferret out. More troubling, she begins to apply some of her older sister’s magical charisma and powers of seduction to the unraveling situations around her. In a storyline that thrums with hints of ancient myth, Mathilda has to risk a great deal—in fact, has to leave behind everything she loves—in order to discover the truth.

Mathilda Savitch bursts with unforgettably imagined details: impossible crushes, devastating humiliations, the way you can hate and love your family at the same moment, the times when you and your best friend are so weak with laughter that you can’t breathe. Startling, funny, touching, odd, truthful, page-turning, and, in the end, heartbreaking, Mathilda Savitch is an extraordinary debut. Once you make the acquaintance of Mathilda Savitch, you will never forget her.

This one comes out on September 15th from FSG.

And I leave you with a question: what are your favorite character driven novels?
WoW is hosted by Jill - head over there to see what other bloggers are looking forward to this week.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (62) + picture of Emmy

Today Wendi asks about tagging: Do you tag? If so, do you tag for your own purposes (make lists, sort, clouds, etc)? Do you tag to help classify a book (historical fiction, self-help, sci-fi, mystery, etc)? What is the most helpful thing for you about tagging?

I tag my books on LibraryThing. First, I tag by genre. Then I add other applicable tags such as ARC, signed, favorite, or TBR. I also tagged all the 1001 Books to Read before you Die that I have read. I do think that the tagging has helped me snag my 11 Early Reviewer books, but who knows?

I've also started to add labels to my blog posts. I am labelling book reviews by publisher. I also note whether the book fulfills any challenge requirements (i.e. ARC Challenge, LT Author Challenge, etc). I've recently added a Debut category and am thinking of adding a year published label.

Lest you think Emmy and Finn get along all the time, I've been trying to capture one of Emmy's twice daily Finn smackdowns on film. It's difficult, so forgive the lackluster results. In the morning, the smackdown usually occurs on this rug:

And in the evening, Emmy likes to hang out in this Longaberger magazine basket (a gift from my Aunt Linda) and Finn likes to attack her. She'll take it for a few minutes, and launch out of the basket and pin him down. Hilar!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: Dull Boy by Sarah Cross

Avery may appear normal on the surface, but he’s hiding a big secret – he is super-strong and he can fly. That’d be cool if he could actually use his powers openly, but he’s afraid of what that might mean (vivisection anyone?). When he meets other teens like himself and a mysterious woman who offers him the chance to take his powers to the next level, Avery has to figure out just who has his best interests at heart.

Although the overarching plot was pretty standard comic book origins/heroes vs villains fare, I had a constant smile on my face thanks to Avery’s good-natured sarcasm and all the hilarious situations he gets into with his new super friends. I especially adored the characterizations of Darla, a mad robotics genius and Catherine, a grumpy, tough-as-claws catwoman and their scenes at the coffee shop, in their reform school and on their (self-given) missions to take down a mugger and save missing boy scouts.

It was such a joy to read, I even took it to the beach with me on my Barcelona trip and read until it grew too dark to see. The ending is left open for a sequel, and although I was expecting a stand-alone book, I’d be thrilled to hang out with Avery and company if their adventures continue to be so inventive and fun. Find out more about the novel, which is available now in hardcover, at Sarah's website.

PS - I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at BEA and even got a picture with her, which I promised to keep under wraps. But hey, at least you get the beach scene right?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Book Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Jenna has just awoken from a coma and is suffering from amnesia. Her 17 years on Earth have been well documented though, and her parents have her watch videos of herself to help her remember. As Jenna recovers, she starts asking questions. Why does her grandmother seem to dislike her? Why did they move away from their former home? Why can’t she attend regular high school? What exactly happened in the car accident that put her in the coma?

This is one of those novels where the reader and the main character are on the same page – we discover things as Jenna discovers them – and it's a very thought provoking journey. Set in the non-too-distant future, the novel raises some interesting questions about ethics, the limits of technology, and the nature of identity. I was thoroughly impressed with the storyline, the characterizations, and the writing. I even marked quite a few quotes to possibly use in my review, but then I was so excited about it, I loaned it out before I had the chance to write this.

Anyway, after this one, and THE MILES BETWEEN, Mary E. Pearson is certainly on my shortlist of go-to authors.

There is still time to enter my contest for one of five copies of THE MILES BETWEEN. Don’t miss your chance!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Barcelona Recap and Nothing but Ghosts Excerpt

Last weekend I was in Barcelona for a wedding. We had a delicious dinner of Paella one evening down in Barceloneta, the former fishing part of town, and the next night we danced under the stars at the beach. Despite the heat, I made the rounds of the tourist attractions - La Rambla to check out the colorful mimes, 3 of Gaudi's masterpieces (La Sagrada Familia - looking no more finished than when I saw it 13 years ago, La Pedrera, and Casa Batllo), and the Barcelona History Museum where you can see the ruins of the Roman city of Barcino.

That last one I would have never known about if it hadn't been for reading Beth Kephart's NOTHING BUT GHOSTS a week prior. I e-mailed Beth asking if the ruins she described really existed, and she confirmed they did. Then it was just a matter of tracking them down. I loved visiting this site. You go underground where is the air is cool and the light is really an orange/yellow as Beth describes. You see remnants of Roman industry - a laundry (where Romans used urine as a detergent - ew!), a dye factory (urine also used), a fish sauce factory (urine not used, thankfully), and a winery (also no urine, hopefully) - as well as a residence and a church.

You aren't supposed to take pictures, but I HAD to sneak one of the wine vats:

And to accompany the following excerpt from NOTHING BUT GHOSTS (used by permission), I have a picture of the make-up jars Beth describes.

“You want to hear the weird thing about Barcelona?” I ask him.

“What’s that?”

“It keeps its ghosts underground.”

Danny laughs. “You know for a fact?”

“I do,” I say. “I saw them.”

Now Danny pushes back against the tree, fits his arms across his chest, and waits for me to explain about the ghosts, which is one of the things that I appreciate about Danny. He’s not the kind who’s always looking for ways to push himself into the talk, not all look at me, not my story’s better than yours. He has patience, and I like that about him, and maybe it’s okay right now, because it’s just the two of us, and because he asked, to tell him something about the day my mom and I climbed down beneath the streets of Barcelona, to find the other Barcelona, the one the Romans built 2000 years ago, and the Iberians before that. The one I wrote about.

That Barcelona is under glass, inside the thickest walls I’ve ever seen, and cool when up above it’s broiling hot. Everything down there in the ghost world is lit up orange and yellow with big glow lights that make it seem like day is fighting with night. Fine lines. They have fourth century B.C. goddess heads down there. Iron swords. Sewing needles made out of bone. Beds and candles, oil lamps, hinges and locks and keys, and places in the walls where little god statues stood, beckoning to the souls of the dead. What my mother loved, what she couldn’t stop staring at, were the rooms they called the cubicula, tiny private rooms—a bed and a chest and a chair, and the most beautiful, most delicate containers for make-up—mortars for mashing colors and spatulas for mixing and carved combs and flasks made out of glass.

“Can’t you see them?” my mother said, and I said, “Who?”
“These women,” she answered.

“The Romans?”

She nodded. “Yes.” Her eyes were so wide and her face was so pale and right then she was just as much a ghost as they were. If my mother could have walked through glass, she’d have walked straight through to the other side, to one of those little rooms, and sat right down on one of those little chairs and I would have seen, I swear to God, the Roman women talking to my mother, beauty to beauty, infinitely beautiful, forever. She stood staring at the cubicula for such a long, long time. After that she found a bench.

“You okay?” I asked her, and that’s the thing: She didn’t answer and she was honest, and why didn’t I notice, why did I say, right after that: “Dad’s probably packing; we should go.”

“Honey,” she said, “remember this. Remember how alive we are now.” I do remember, and that’s what I mean: In Barcelona there are ghosts.

Isn't that beautiful? And actually getting to visit myself gave the whole passage so much more meaning.

Ok, now a couple more views of Barcelona.

Here's a photo of a fire baton twirler on the beach (I used a slow shutter speed and no flash).

A photo of a very colorful chimney from Gaudi's Casa Batllo - well worth the 16.50 Euro entrance fee.

Lastly, an ad for THE STRAIN that I saw all over in the subway - looks like it is getting a big push in Spain.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

July reading started out with a HUGE bang. I read my most anticipated book of the year – and it managed to live up to my unrealistic expectations (I did fly all the way from Germany to attend BEA just so I could stand in line at 5:30 am for a ticket to a signing that didn't guarantee I'd get the book – so if it sucked, I would have been mega bitter).

Haven’t read HUNGER GAMES yet? Go and do that and then come back and read the rest of this review.

At the end of the HUNGER GAMES, I was ready to dig through Suzanne Collins’ trash just to get a peek at what might happen. I mean I figured we were going to get some unrest in Panem (after all, Katniss’ little trick was a major act of defiance that everyone saw), a nice Gale-Peeta-Katniss love triangle, maybe Katniss doing some more butt-kicking. But how was Collins going to top the actual Hunger Games? What else could have that kind of emotional immediacy and tension?

The beginning chapters build slowly, reintroducing all our favorite survivors from book 1 and increasingly throwing new challenges at them which causes them to develop in sometimes surprising ways. Midway through the novel, we get something jaw-droppingly shocking and pretty much pure genius. And then, before you catch your breath, it ends - on another cliffhanger that ensures book 3 will be on everyone’s most coveted list, just like CATCHING FIRE is/was.

So yeah, if you’re a HUNGER GAMES fan, do what you have to do to get your hands on this novel. Even if it means waiting until the actual September 1st release date (the hardest thing you'll ever do, I know).

Oh… Reviewer X is giving another copy away. Go get it!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Contest Winners and Blogger Trading Cards

You all took great delight in raiding my bookshelf and caressing all my ARCs. I asked which book you were most looking forward surprise that CATCHING FIRE won by a landslide. But that was NOT one of the books I was offering. My copy is signed, and I'm keeping it! ASH, HUSH HUSH, and BEAUTIFUL CREATURES proved to be the most popular, garnering at least 25 votes each, but every book on my list of 21 was mentioned at least once.

But you want a winner. So according to the winner is...Tarie of Into the Wardrobe! She said she wants me to read ASH by Malinda Lo and AN OFF YEAR by Claire Zulkey. So...I'm going to read these by the end of the month and then send them off to you Tarie. Assuming you send me your mailing address to lenoreva at hotmail dot com.

I had another contest for my copy of Geektastic. The winner there is...Nymeth of things mean a lot! Her brilliant caption? "Hey look, it's the girl with three fingers growing out of her neck again! Cthulicious." Funny and geeky! I did crop that picture of David Levithan stalking me rather strangly, I'll admit.

And going WAY back to the very end of May, I promised some readers I'd send them my blogger trading card from BEA. Envelopes are already addressed to Liyana, Thao, Celia, Melissa, and Beth Kephart but have not yet gone out because I have been too busy to make it to the post office. I still need addresses for the following: PJ Hoover, polo.pony, Heather Zundel, Jenna, Melanie, Red Lady Bonnie and dissectingperfection. Please forgive me if you already sent it. My inbox is a mess and I can no longer find it.

Speaking of blogger trading cards, these are the ones I was able to collect:

Aren't they snazzy? In case you can't read the names, that's Alea (Pop Culture Junkie), My Friend Amy, Molly (My Cozy Book Nook), Natasha (Maw Books), Candance (Beth Fish Reads), Jenn's Bookshelf, Bethanne (Book Maven), Dawn (She's Too Fond of Books), Julie (Booking Mama), and Gayle (Every Day I Write the Book).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

WoW topic: How about those Tenners?! My wishlist for 2010.

I love debut novels – in fact at least a third of the books I’ve read so far this year are by first time novelists. So looking ahead to 2010, I am excited about quite a few new YA and MG novels that I discovered on the Tenners website.

I've also been hearing a lot of chatter about how awesome the Tenner authors are - attending chats with book bloggers (which are unfortunately scheduled for when I am sound asleep), coming up with awesome contests and marketing ideas, and just generally being available and cool.

So here are my top 13 titles broken down by publisher and pub date:

PALACE BEAUTIFUL by Sarah DeFord Williams. Feb 2010. This is about a modern day girl who finds a diary of a girl living during the 1918 Influenza epidemic which has always fascinated me.
THE LINE by Teri Hall. March 2010. All I had to hear to put this on my wishlist were two little words - dystopian fiction.
TOTALLY SWEET NINJA DEATH SQUAD by Emily Horner. Fall 2010. C’mon – who can resist that totally sweet title?

Random House
THE RED UMBRELLA by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. May 12, 2010. This has to do with Operation Pedro Pan - the largest exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere (from Cuba to the US). Read summary.
MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY by Trish Doller. Sometime 2010. I love cross country adventures. Oh and Trish is on Team Llama and wrote a whole blog post about tapirs, so her book MUST be cool. Right?

THE SNOWBALL EFFECT by Holly Nicole Hoxter. March 1, 2010. This looks like a fresh spin on the whole dealing with death genre.
THE BODY FINDER by Kimberly Derting. March 16, 2010. This was pushed back so I’ve been lusting after it forever it seems. I’m so in the mood for a paranormal mystery!
WHISPER by Phoebe Kitanidis. April 14, 2010. Great premise: A girl has the power to read thoughts and must save her sister.

BRIGHTLY WOVEN by Alexandra Bracken. March 23, 2010. A girl is given as a reward to a wizard for ending the drought in her town. Read summary.
THE RISE OF RENEGADE X by Chelsea Campbell. May 11, 2010. Another super cool premise: Teen supervillain finds out his father is really a superhero. Read summary.

Simon Pulse
LOSING FAITH by Denise Jaden. Oct 2010. There’s a cult involved. Oh yeah.

THE MARK by Jen Nadol. January 2010. Girl is able to see when people are about to die. Should she tell them?

Roaring Brook Press
THE BABY CODE by Caragh O’Brien. Sometime 2010. Another dystopia!

How about you? Which ones of these intrigue you? Or did other Tenners catch your eye? Do you like to read debut authors? Or do you prefer to stick to the tried and true?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (61) + picture of Emmy

Today's question from Wendi: How do you feel about social networking sites? Do you have any you like more than others? Are there any you don't like? Do you have any that you don't associate with your blogs and/or book reviewing? If you could only belong to one of these sites, which one would it be and why?

I generally like the idea of social networking sites. The first one I ever joined (with the exception of music related message boards way back when) was which is a site for travel junkies to post their travel tips and photos. I met a ton of friends through the site and ended up discovering a lot of travel destinations that I wouldn't have considered otherwise. I am not so active there anymore, but all my tips and photos from my active days are still up.

The next one I joined was OpenBC, now called It is a business networking site and I've gotten quite a few jobs over this platform. No talk of books here.

At some point I joined Facebook which has been a lot of fun. I usually don't do status updates there (or do much of anything really) but it has been an amazing way to get back in contact with friends I thought were lost forever.

Then I found the book community sites - LibraryThing, Shelfari, and GoodReads. I don't use Shelfari at all, but I do keep up my LT bookshelf current and spend a fair amount of time on GoodReads (which I use pretty much exclusively for YA titles).

I do have a MySpace page, but I really don't like the layout or interface, so I don't spend much time there.

And of course, there's twitter. I check twitter every couple of hours if I am online and sometimes I get sucked into fun bookish conversations. I often feel like I miss out on a lot by not being on twitter 24/7, but I have to draw a line somewhere or I'd never get any reading done at all! Want to follow me? My handle is @lenoreva


I know this is an overdose of Emmy/Finn cuddling cuteness, but Daniel sent me this picture while I was in Barcelona this weekend and I CANNOT STOP LOOKING AT IT!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Book Review, Author Interview and Giveaway: The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson

It is October 19th and Destiny Faraday embarks on an unauthorized road trip with three boarding school classmates. Destiny feels like life has dealt her a bad hand and she wishes more than anything that she could experience just one fair day – a day where the good guy wins and everything adds up to something just and right.

THE MILES BETWEEN is difficult to summarize and review without giving too much away – and trust me, this is the type of novel you want to go into unspoiled. I can tell you that I loved it. Not only does it explore deep topics such as the nature of fate and the role of coincidence in our lives but it is also full of zany fun, gives us memorable characters (as well as a pet lamb), and has a plot twist that blew me away (seriously – my mouth was hanging open).

I read THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX shortly after, and I have to say, Mary E. Pearson knows how to deliver an intelligent, satisfying YA novel with mega crossover appeal. THE MILES BETWEEN should be a big hit when it comes out in September. It will definitely be on my year end best list.

For a bit more of what you can expect (but still, no spoilers), here's an interview with Mary:

I have kind of an obsession with coincidences which is what initially drew me to THE MILES BETWEEN. Do you have any crazy coincidences in your own life that you’d like to share?
I think I have the usual variety that most people have, the kind that make you pause for a moment and say, “wow, what are the chances?” Most, I have forgotten, but a few still remain with me, like the time I was invited to a party to meet my daughter’s future in-laws, and I discovered I already knew the mom! We had worked together years before our children were born. And then when we started comparing notes we found a dozen ways our lives kept intersecting over the years in near misses, even to the point of finding that we had their daughter on videotape for a dance recital both of our girls had been in when they were toddlers. My daughter was shocked to say the least.

Or there was the time when we first moved into our house which was in the middle of nowhere and I found out that my next-door neighbor went to the same high school I did and which was eighty miles and two counties away. Or one of the strangest, when both of my daughters were diagnosed with same serious illnesses on the exact same date, six years apart. You do have to scratch your head, and say, huh? And of course, I remember back in high school whenever my friends and I said the same thing at the same time we would shout “you owe me a Coke!” like there was some weird cosmic magic in it all.

Many people say if an author concocts a plot with a lot of coincidences, it’s lazy writing. What would be your response to that?
I would have to agree with them completely! If a coincidence isn’t earned, that is, it is a “deus ex machina” plot device that a writer uses when they get stuck and don’t know what else to do, that is at least clumsy, if not lazy. But this story was about coincidence and I think from the very beginning the reader is on that journey with me, picking up on some of the clues that hint that there is more to this than meets the eye, so the coincidences don’t come completely out of left field. I also think that coincidence can very much be in the eye of the beholder–one person may pay attention to every unexpected detail in life and attribute great meaning to it, while another person shrugs it off as completely explainable. I tried to play with those two viewpoints in the story so we are never really sure where fantasy and reality meet. Ha! Much like real life, right?

I had a really hard time placing the story - it could have been in any English speaking country. Did you do that on purpose?
Yes! As much as possible I wanted to create a surreal setting so you’re not sure if you’re standing on terra firma or not, or at the very least you are not sure what world or time you have stepped into. I think the definition of slipstream literature, the “fiction of strangeness” certainly fits this story. Slipstream literature creates a certain cognitive dissonance, so I tried to make the setting echo that feeling.

Road trip time! A big pink Cadillac is left running in front of your house. Who are you going to take with you, and where are you going to go?
Oh, you are too kind! Yay! Grab the hubby and kids and head for Palm Springs (this is a convertible, right?) First stop, strawberry ice cream–a drive-through if we can find one–because we don’t want to get out of this fabulous car. Next leg, a drive along the California coast. Big Sur! Malibu! Oh! Pismo Beach where we can drive the car on the sand! And last but not least, a cruise down Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, because a car like that must have a chance to strut!

What is your take on the current state of YA novels? Do you agree that we experiencing a young adult renaissance? Would books that came out 15-20 years ago survive in the market if they were released now?
Yes! If you mean that the world is discovering by leaps and bounds the joy of YA literature. I think there is an ever-widening circle of YA readers. It seemed not that long ago, that the majority of YA was read by middle-schoolers, and perhaps by a few avid high school readers who sought it out on their own via their high school librarians. But I think more and more high school teachers are making time for YA literature in their classrooms, and of course there is now a proliferation of teen reading sites online which helps spread the word about teen books. And it is certainly not just for teens anymore. This past year I visited with several adult book clubs who were reading my book, so many adults outside of the industry are discovering YA literature too.

I think many of the books from 15-20 years ago ARE surviving and are still much beloved, The Outsiders, My Brother Sam is Dead, The Chocolate War, The Pigman, Weetzie Bat, just to name a few. Of course, many of the books from twenty years ago published in today's market might not make it, but that doesn't discount at all the contribution they made to literature or the foundation they laid. They broke ground that may now be well tread, but they did it first. Without them we would not have the books we are enjoying today.

Thank you Mary! Visit Mary online at

And now, because I am sure after reading my review and interview you simply cannot wait until September to get your hands on this novel, I am pleased to announce that Henry Holt is generously donating advanced reader copies to 5 lucky winners. All you have to do to enter is tell me about a coincidence that happened in your own life (or, if you'd rather, you can tell me about your dream road trip). The first person to respond is an INSTANT WINNER of one copy (previous instant winners may NOT claim a second instant win - let's spread the wealth).
As always, earn 1 extra entry by linking to this contest from your blog (sidebar is fine) or social media site (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.) and leaving an extra comment telling me you did so.
This contest is open to those with shipping addresses in the US and Canada and ends on July 21st at 11:59 CST. Good luck!

P.S. And yes, that is a new cover - different from the one on the ARCs.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Book Review: The Heights by Brian James

Henry and Catherine have been inseperable ever since the day Mr. Earnshaw brought him to live with them at age 5. When Mr. Earnshaw dies suddenly, Catherine's brother Hindley, always jealous of Henry growining up, inherits and makes Henry's life hell. As Hindley works to sever Henry's relationship with Catherine, the violent rage Henry has harbored since childhood begins to bubble to the surface...

It should surprise no one familiar with WUTHERING HEIGHTS that this is a heavy novel about obsessive love and revenge or that it ends in tragedy. Even though I never agreed with Henry or Catherine's point of view (the story is told in alternating voice between the two), enough insight was given into their characters that I could completely see where they were coming from. Less clear in their motivations were Hindley (who is portrayed as a vindictive, racist beast without a single redeeming quality) and most of the rest of the characters especially Edgar and Isabelle Linton, neighbors and classmates who pursue Catherine and Henry romantically (why?!).

The atmosphere and foreboding is well done, and I liked modern San Francisco as a stand in for the windswept moors - especially this passage:

"Everyone always says San Francisco is so romantic...they only say that because they don't hear the song this city really sings. It's the sound of something beautiful dying...the last breath of an angel before the ocean swallows her...before an earthquake breaks it off from the rest of the world and drowns it. The romance is there but it isn't what they think. Really it's the romance of saying good-bye forever." (p 197-198 ARC version, may not reflect final text).

THE HEIGHTS is available in hardcover now.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Well Worth Watching Blogger Profile (6) Linus's Blanket

Happy July 4th! To celebrate, I bring you another installment of the Well Watching Blog Award Profile, this month with a fabulous blogger you need to be reading: Nicole of Linus's Blanket. Now, I'd been to Nicole's blog before BEA and enjoyed it, but after meeting Nicole and getting to hang out with her (though not enough, never enough), I became a rabid fan of her, her taste in restaurants and her blog.

If someone were to blurb your blog in 25 word or less, what would he or she say?
Expect the unexpected. Eclectic book reviews and disorganized thoughts.

What kinds of books do you read and review on your blog?
My blog is becoming pretty varied as far as reviews go. I think it's pretty common among book bloggers that we started blogging for one reason and then happen to mention a book and it takes on a life of it's own. I think since I didn't start it for bookish reasons or to write about a book topics that it's pretty eclectic, as is my reading. I love to read non-fiction and literary fiction and as I have been going along I have found that I read a lot of historical fiction as well. But I also love to go back and explore the roots of my reading and the books that I loved growing up. I finally had to make sections for my fiction and non-fiction, to keep it organized and help people find what they might specifically be looking for; and I'm about to add a section on YA/Children as well.

What were a couple of your favorite books recently and which ones are you most looking forward to reading soon?
I've recently read Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, which I really enjoyed and then I just finished reading the sequel, Catching Fire (thanks to a special someone I was able to snag a copy!), this morning. I have to say that the cliffhangers on those books just get better and better. I'm glad I was able to read the first two virtually back-to-back. And now I have to wait with everyone else for the last one. :- (

I read Sweethearts by Sara Zarr, and that one stayed with me for a few days. It was a good book. I know quite a few people have been fooled by the cover, but I've been trying to warn that it's not a light read. Neither is Hate List, by Jennifer Brown. But I guess the title makes that pretty obvious. I just finished reading it and I was impressed.

The Turnaround, by George Pelecanos and Either You're in or You're in The Way, by Logan and Noah Miller were a few others that I enjoyed last month.

As for what's coming up, I am looking forward to Impossible by Nancy Werlin. I have no clear idea about what it's about- some kind of fantasy suspense- but I'm kind of glad about that. I'm looking forward to being totally surprised and having the book unfold. I had been looking forward to reading The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Syrie James. It's out this month and I just started on it and I love it. It has such authentic voice and I am loving getting to see how the Bronte sisters interacted with each other and the secret romances in Charlotte's life.

What are some of your favorite posts or reviews in your blog archive and why?
I was skimming through a book called Spent and it inspired me to write a post on Book Addiction, which I think is very real, and it was a lot of fun to compare book weaknesses with other readers. I love asking questions; recently we had a conversation about disclaimers- and if bloggers should/do put them in their reviews and my latest giveaway I am asking people to list 3 things they hated about high school. It's fun to see the answers and to now I wasn't the only one who didn't like gym class and waking up early.

As far as reviews go, it's the children's books I 've read that have really gotten me excited because they were so much fin to read when I was a child and equally fun as an adult. The Wednesday Witch and The Boxcar Children are two of my favorite books of all time. Let's not think about what that says about me, ok?

What are some posts or reviews on other blogs that have caught your attention as being well worth reading?
That's such a tough question because I am constantly reading great stuff. I feel like I need to take notes on my blog reading. Jackie from Farm Lane Books just in general has a blog that I really enjoy reading. I love the questions that she asks in her posts. Last month she asked the people who don't blog to give their book suggestions. You know I was all over that. Like I need any more book recommendations.

J.T. over at Bibliofreak has a great review up of The Book Thief. I had no idea that it started off as an adult book in Australia and was marketed as a YA Book here. That's one I still have to read.

Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot review a book called Virgin: The Untouched History and she had a lot of interesting information and commentary based on other research she did and books that she had read. Like I said, so much good stuff out there.

Complete this sentence: “If I didn't have my blog...”
Ironically, I'd probably read more!
The Well Worth Watching Award was created and designed by Joanne of The Book Zombie. I'm just passing it along to other bloggers!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Second Quarter Reading in Review

Here's what went on this April, May and June.


I read 22 YA Novels:

Milestones by Samira Armin Hodges
Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart
Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog
Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before by David Yoo
Alive and Well in Prague, New York by Daphne Grab
Geektastic by various authors
Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Swoon by Nina Malkin
Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters
Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin
Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman
Genesis by Bernard Beckett
Death by Denim by Linda Gerber
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Shelter Me by Alex McAuley
Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
Pure by Terra Elan McVoy
The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb
Look Both Ways by Jacquelyn Mitchard
The Midnight Twins by Jacquelyn Mitchard

7 Adult Fiction
The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris
Darling Jim by Christian Moerk
The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos
Atticus by Ron Hansen
Turning Japanese by Cathy Yardley
Red by Jordan Summers
Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley

1 Non-fiction The Deep by Claire Nouvian
1 Picture Book Down Down Down by Steve Jenkins
1 Middle Grade The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater

Interviews/Guest Posts

Cindy Pon (Silver Phoenix)

Megan Frazer - for Body Image Week (The Secrets of Truth and Beauty)

Erin Dionne - for Body Image Week (Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies)

Susane Colasanti (Waiting for You)

Lauren McLaughlin (Cycler)

Paul Harris (The Secret Keeper)

Cyn Balog - in character as Morgan (Fairy Tale)

Beth Kephart (Nothing But Ghosts)

Samira Armin Hodges - in character as Faye (Milestones)

Other Posts of Interest

Tour of Hachette Book Group

Dystopian Fiction Part 2

OFFF Design Conference in Lisbon

And my most commented post (outside of contests): Authors Requesting Reviews


I passed the 100,000 page views milestone as well as 500 posts overall this quarter. 2 of my contests had nearly 400 entries each. I also blogged nearly every day, only missing a couple of Saturdays during that whole period.

As always, thanks for visiting! It is you all who keep me going :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Book Review and Author Interview: Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith has lived for as long as she can remember in the Theatre Illuminata – a magical place where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. She is not a player herself, and when management thinks she’s starting to upset the balance of the theatre, she’s tasked with making an invaluable contribution or leaving. So Beatrice decides to do what she knows best – stage a play. But it’s not going to be easy, and there are forces at work against her…

EYES LIKE STARS sparkles with life and chaotic energy. It’s not just the considerable pluck of Beatrice (Bertie), or the manic hilarity of the four fairies from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, or the dangerous swagger of possible love interest Ariel (from The Tempest) – every player, no matter how small makes their mark on this ambitious production.

However, it is this same whirlwind of characters and set changes that has the tendency to overwhelm the main narrative thread. It was because of this hubbub that I had trouble finding an emotional anchor, which is something I really missed. All in all, it's not enough to propel me into a standing ovation, but it does earn a round of appreciative applause nonetheless.

I will give a standing ovation to Author Lisa Mantchev who stopped by to answer some of my questions today. Welcome Lisa!

Bertie is a fun character. Which characters from other YA novels do you think she’d be friends with? Have a crush on? Why?
She'd probably best get along with wild-and-imaginative characters like Flora Segunda (from the novels by Ysabeau Wilce) and Peter Pan, and the Wonderland creatures. I'm pretty sure she'd think Dodge (Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars) would be hawtsauce, because he's utterly fearless and good to have on your side in a fight.

Have you read your entire Complete Works of Shakespeare? What is your favorite comedy? Tragedy? History? Sonnet?
I have GLARING holes in my Shakespearean knowledge... I studied a lot of his plays in college, others I read only once and don't remember very well. Lots--especially the histories--that I didn't have to read at all, so I never did.
Favorite comedy: Tie between A Midsummer Night's Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.
Favorite tragedy: For all the mocking I did in Eyes Like Stars, I really do love Hamlet.
Sonnet: Have to go for #18... Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day.

What minor Shakespeare character do you think should get his or her own spin-off play (a la Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead)? What might the plotline be?
Other than the four fairies from Midsummer? *G* I think the Nurse character from Romeo & Juliet could rip out a fabulous story of all the behind-the-scenes dirt, a la The Nanny Diaries.

Before you sold The Théâtre Illuminata series, you published a lot of short stories (in speculative fiction – one of my favorite genres). Where can we find them? Who are a few of your all-time favorite short story writers?
I have a listing of all my short fiction (some of which is available online) at my authorly website.
For short stories, I love Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint... really, all the same authors whose novels I love! And Margaret Atwood has an utterly fabulous short piece told from Gertrude from Hamlet's point of view.

What are the last three books you read and how did you discover each?
I'm in the middle of an ARC of Beautiful Creatures, by fellow Word Ninjas authors Kami Garcia and Margie Stohl. I just finished Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars, which I believe I tripped over on Goodreads. Before that, I'm pretty sure it was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which I received from his publicist, because I covered his tour event in Seattle for Weird Tales magazine.

Thanks Lisa!

This has been a part of Lisa Mantchev's Traveling to Teens tour. To check out other stops, see the Eyes Like Stars tour page.

Also be sure to check out for more about the series.