Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: Everything Sucks by Hannah Friedman

Hannah Friedman’s life has been stranger than fiction. Raised by a struggling musician and a monkey trainer and with an actual monkey as an older “sister”, Hannah felt she was destined to be a freak. Instead of embracing the unconventional though, Hannah enrolls in one of the most prestigious high schools in the US and tries her best to fit in, falling in with the popular crowd, running for class president, and setting her sights on Yale. But fitting in comes at a price: a drug habit, an eating disorder, and an attitude that alienates her from her family.

The best thing about this teen memoir is Hannah’s fresh, funny, and brutally honest voice. Whether she’s writing about a mother-daughter confrontation she witnesses worthy of an episode of “My Super Sweet 16”, her romance with a rich boy, or her struggles with binging and purging, Hannah manages to find just the right tone.

I have to admit though, that I found her highly unique family stories way more interesting than her rather clich├ęd life at boarding school. Thanks to Gossip Girl and the like, teens aren’t really shocked anymore by the excesses of the rich and snobby. It is no major revelation to read that teens pop prescription drugs to study for tests, drop hundreds of dollars on a pair of glasses on a whim, or even overdose and die far before their time.

Hannah repeatedly bemoans being upstaged by the monkey, but the monkey is also her biggest hook. I feel a little bad for saying this, but give us more monkey Hannah!

EVERYTHING SUCKS is out in paperback now. Find out more about the book at the author’s website. Or watch the trailer I’ve embedded below. You can also check out other reviews that were part of this TLC book tour.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Book Stack: 8 Months Worth of Books

I arrived in Wichita last night and was met with a beautiful sight: 5 big boxes of books that have been stacking up since early January. (These aren't all the books that have been sent to me over the past 8 months since my dad sends me boxes with the most urgent books from time to time.)

Here's a quick video view. Enjoy!


Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

After bragging that he could steal anything from anyone, master thief Gen is sprung from prison to assist the king’s advisor in bringing back a treasure hidden away by the gods themselves. As their party of five travels into enemy territory, tensions mount and surprising alliances are discovered.

This 1997 Newberry Honor Book gets off to slow start perhaps, but its second half, with its various twists and turns more than makes up for it. Gen may not be the most likeable of characters – he’s a braggart, a thief and he *gasp* chews with his mouth open – but he’s not to be underestimated and his plucky nature grows on you. I also appreciated the complex interpersonal relationships between the characters and how Author Turner drops little clues throughout the narrative that things may not be all that they seem.

THE THIEF is the first in a trilogy, and although I am definitely interested in reading the rest of the series, I am thankful that it didn’t end on a cliffhanger and can also be read as a standalone. Find out more about it at the author's website.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Review: The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

After her divorce, Leonora Manin’s life in England is in tatters. She decides to move to Venice to follow in the footsteps of her famous ancestor Corradino Manin and be a glassblower on the island of Murano. Back in the 17th century, where the secrets of the glass are jealously guarded by the ruthless Council of Ten, Corradino must make difficult decisions to ensure the safety of his daughter.

Of the two threads of the story, the historical is the more engaging and exciting. The political intrigues of the day fascinate as do the detailed descriptions of glassblowing. The modern day thread tends to drag and Author Fiorato never succeeded in making me care too much about Leonora. While I could feel her passion for Venice and its arts, the characters came off as strangely cold and lifeless. Still, the two threads come together in a satisfying way in the end, and I closed the novel with a smile on my face.

THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO is available now in paperback. Find out more about this international bestseller at the author’s website.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Prophecy of the Sisters Winners

Today I was at a big Barnes and Noble in Columbus, OH (Easton Mall) and saw a stack of gorgeous, shiny PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS hardcovers (they look REALLY amazing), and I couldn't resist adding one to my little POTS giveaway. Then, Michelle Zink herself told me she wanted to donate a SIGNED copy as well...so that means I have three winners!

Random.org picked:
Erica (Book Cellar)
Susie Sharp Librarian
Jeremy Kelly

So...whichever one of you contacts me first at lenoreva at hotmail dot com gets their preference of signed copy, hardcover, or ARC. Second to contact me gets second choice, and third...well you get it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (68) + Picture of Emmy

Today's question from Wendi: Were you aware that you could edit the book details from the cover images under Your Library? Do you have a quick way you like to update books that are already in your library?

Usually, I edit books from the cover image on my home page since my homepage shows the last books I added and these are the ones I am usually editing (adding reviews and ratings). I don't often go back and edit the older books in my library, but next time I do, I'll be thankful for this tip.

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Last week, we saw how Finn is making life hard for Emmy. Well now Emmy found a book she thinks might help her fight back...one that might make her an evil genius....


Monday, August 24, 2009

Book Review: The Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

For the past 5 years, modern London teen Billi SanGreal has been training to fight with the Knights Templar against an ancient and supernatural force. Barely has she passed her Ordeal to join as the order’s first female knight when the Knights most powerful enemy resurfaces and threatens to unleash the 10th plague on the world.

Last week I mentioned that PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS reminded me of the movie Constintine, and this novel reminded me of it even more – but in a different way. This one runs with the idea that the Devil, once God’s most favored angel before he rebelled, and his fellow fallen angels, including the Angel of Death, fell because they were so envious of God’s love for mankind and have been trying to wreck havoc on the earth ever since. Back in biblical times, Solomon in all his wisdom was able to bind most of these ruthless beings into the spirit world, but now the Angel of Death wants to bring them all back to help him kill off the firstborn of every family.

It’s definitely an intriguing idea, but it is so wide in scope, that the narrative can only really scratch the surface. The action scenes are plenty and done really well, but I missed scenes that would make me really care about the characters and value their self-sacrifice. I did appreciate that although this is the first in a series, the ending feels like that of a stand-alone novel and can certainly be read as such.

THE DEVIL’s KISS comes out in hardcover on September 1st. Find out more about it and watch the trailer at the author’s website.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Author Interview: Diana Peterfreund discusses Rampant

I was lucky enough to get to read RAMPANT way back in March (read my rave review) and to celebrate the fact that it is finally coming out next week, I have a special interview with Author Diana Peterfreund.

Let's get started, shall we?

Astrid and her cousin Philippa belong to the Llewelyn line of unicorn hunters, which is known for producing the best hunters. The other girls are from other lines with different talents. Which family line would you be most likely to be a part of and why?
I guess that's the real question, isn't it? Are they the best hunters, and if so, is it because of their heritage as Llewelyns? Is there any truth to that old idea, or is it like saying that just because your last name is Smith, you should be particularly good at metalworking? These theories were formed in a time when birth and blood were supposed to be all-important. You were a noble because your father was a noble, not because you had any particular gift for politics or leadership. How many of the old ideas are accurate is a central question in the novel. So, given that, I don't know if it matters which family line I was part of. However, I have always had kind of freaky good aim. ;-)

So, I have been wondering, is the little unicorn Bonegrinder a virgin too? Or is she a hypocrite, attacking non-virgins even though she’s not pure either?
She doesn't attack non-virgins, she attacks non-unicorn hunters, which is a group composed of all men, all non-virgin females from a unicorn hunting family, and all other people in the entire world, regardless of sexual status. Bonegrinder did not make the rules that bind her magic. She's as trapped by them as the hunters are.

Virginity is a concept defined by humans for humans, and it's one that changes depending on a given human society's definition. Depending on the prevailing rules of various societies of people, virginity can be defined by marriage (i.e., virgins are unmarried women, period), by physiological changes in a body (i.e., existence of the hymen), by various types of sexual experience (the old "does XYZ sexual act count as sex?" question), or by a magical substance in the body that only virgins possess. (Seriously, in my research I came across various cultures that believe that you can tell a virgin through all kinds of wacky magical tricks, like the existence of flowering "grapes" inside a virgin, and no, I'm not making that up!)

Some cultures might equate virginity with "purity" (as you did above, and as a lot of people in our culture might), others might not have that concept or care about it (like the culture of medieval Japan), or might even confer higher status on women who have been proven fertile (which makes a lot of sense if you think about it!). It's an utterly artificial construct; virginity means what your culture decides it means, and I have yet to read about a culture that cares one iota for the virginity of an animal.

Having said that, however, Bonegrinder is a juvenile unicorn who has been isolated from others of her species since she was a baby. I don't think she's even seen another zhi outside her parents.

Thanks for clearing that up! If you could go back in time and have a chat with Alexander the Great, what would you discuss?
Probably the value of creating an empire with depth, and not just width. Oh, and settling down and taking better care of his horse, Bucephalus. Also, libraries. Way cool.

On your website, you say you volunteer at the National Zoo. What animals do you like to visit the most?
This actually changes depending on why and when I visit. I live really near the zoo, and it's free, so sometimes I'll just stop by for a few minutes, see an exhibit or two, then leave.

The animal exhibit I work with is the Golden Lion Tamarins, which are small, squirrel-sized Brazilian monkeys, so I often see them. If it's early in the morning, I like to hike up the steep hill to the bird sanctuary, which is far removed from the rest of the zoo, very quiet and (perhaps because it's not filled with hordes of people) has a lot of potential for seeing something very interesting. I'll drop by at panda feeding time, of course.

And when I'm trying to write a particular scene I like to see the antelopes or zebras or Przewalski's horses, which are a type of true wild horse from Mongolia (not domesticated horse breeds that have become feral, like Mustangs). The oryx, with its unicorn-like horns, is a special favorite.

I also like to visit the predators: tigers, hyenas, lions, snakes, and lots of invertebrates, especially if they have poisons or strange body makeups -- spiders, octopus, jellyfish. Observing them, even in captivity, really helps me get in the mood to write about wild and dangerous creatures.

Is there anything you can tell us already about the sequel to Rampant?
Sure! It's a direct sequel, picking up pretty much where Rampant left off, and following Astrid as she settles into her role as a full-fledged unicorn hunter. What does that mean for her, for her life, and for the lives of those around her? There's going to be a new type of unicorn in this one that we haven't seen before, and some really cool new locations as well (hint: Astrid travels to France).

Thanks Diana!

Find out more about RAMPANT at Diana's website as well as at http://www.killerunicorns.org/ and read the first 83 pages online at HarperTeen. And of course, don't forget to pick it up on August 25th!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Valerie may be the most hated person in town after her boyfriend Nick kills a teacher and several students at their high school. Even though she didn’t shoot and was in fact shot herself while shielding a fellow classmate (student council president Jessica), she did help Nick create the ‘hate list’ that he used to pick his targets. After a summer in therapy, Valerie is back for her senior year, hoping to put the past behind her.

The focus of HATE LIST is survivor’s guilt and how all of those affected by the tragedy must work through their heartache, confusion and hate. By revolving around Valerie, an unwitting accessory to the crime, and by including a moving subplot where the formerly snotty Jessica attempts to befriend Valerie, the narrative is able to really dig deep into the themes of forgiveness and redemption. And Valerie is a complex creation – frustrating in her stubbornness and obliviousness but ultimately sympathetic enough to root for.

Though some chapter headings begin with news articles about the victims and there are flashbacks to the day of the shooting as well as to scenes of Valerie and Nick’s seemingly happy relationship, the structure is mostly linear. It’s a solid approach, though not as flashy or shocking as fellow school shooting novels such as Jodi Piccoult’s NINETEEN MINUTES or Lionel Shriver’s WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (my review).

HATE LIST comes out September 1st in hardcover. Find out more about it on the author's website.

PS: The tear on the cover is very fitting since I did have to shed a few tears at the end of this powerful novel.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (38) The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault

Hey, fellow word nerds! This looks like something for us.

Summary from amazon:

The dusty files of a venerable dictionary publisher . . . a hidden cache of coded clues . . . a story written by a phantom author . . . an unsolved murder in a gritty urban park–all collide memorably in Emily Arsenault’s magnificent debut, at once a teasing literary puzzle, an ingenious suspense novel, and an exploration of definitions: of words, of who we are, and of the stories we choose to define us.

Charged with wit and intelligence, set against a sweetly cautious love story, The Broken Teaglass is a tale that will delight lovers of words, lovers of mysteries, and fans of smart, funny, brilliantly inventive fiction.

It's coming out on September 29th and will definitely be on my Christmas wishlist. I first saw this over at Bibliophile by the Sea, so thanks for the great tip Diane!

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (67) + Picture of Emmy

This week's LT question from Wendi: Have you recently browsed any of the groups? Are you actively participating in any groups? Do you have any favorites?
I like the Read YA group, the Early Reviewer group and the ARC Junkie group. Although I'm not a very active contributer anymore, I still like to check in from time to time.

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Since Finn's arrival, whenever Emmy wanted some peace and quiet, she'd curl up on the shelving above the fridge where Finn couldn't reach her. Well...not only has he now reached the cereal shelf....


...he's also claimed it for himself and deposed poor Emmy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review and Giveaway: Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

After her father dies under mysterious circumstances, Lia discovers that she and her twin sister are part of an ancient prophesy that pits them against one another. Lia must stay one step ahead of her sister to prevent the apocalypse.

This hauntingly lovely novel has a lot going for it: a vividly realized historical setting (1890s New York), confident writing and a premise that makes you want to dig deeper. And that’s good, because it has to overcome the fact that it is basically a set-up for a trilogy. There are no big showdowns here, but a series of mysterious occurrences and coincidences as well as several smaller showdowns that serve well to build atmosphere and explain mythology but are sorely lacking in the action department.

Some of the specifics of the prophesy itself reminded me of the movie Constantine, which was considerably darker than what I expected. And I have to admit that although I like the idea of astral projection and dream travel, I found these passages unsettling (and nightmare inducing) and had to skim over them.

THE PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author’s website. I have an extra ARC that I can send out to one of my readers next week, so let me know in the comments by August 24th if you'd like it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book Review: The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns by Elizabeth Leiknes

Lucy Burns works as a facilitator, leading unredeemable sinners to hell. And the working conditions aren’t the greatest. Sure she gets a wish fulfilled every birthday and can eat all the chocolate she wants without gaining weight, but she can’t see her family, have a boyfriend, or live any kind of normal life. She’d love to quit, but she doesn’t know how - until a fellow facilitator tells her about a little-known loophole…

This is a really clever, quirky read with a well thought-out mythology and an appealing protagonist. While it does feel a bit on the short side – I would’ve liked to see her “at work” a bit more and seen more interaction with her sister Ellen (the heart of the story) – it covers all the important points to make the story resonate on both a purely enjoyable level as well as a deeper, more thought-provoking level.

My only minor quibble: I didn’t really think it was necessary to make Lucy’s love interest blind. I kept asking myself for example how as a creative writing professor he was able to read his students’ writing and write his own novel (included excerpts of which also seemed superfluous in such a short novella).

THE SINFUL LIFE OF LUCY BURNS is out in hardcover now. Find out more about the book and download the first chapter at the publisher's website.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bloomsbury YA Prize Pack - Win 8 Books!

Bloomsbury is offering 1 lucky winner a pack of 6 shiny new hardcovers and 2 paperbacks. Here's what you could soon be reading:

The Waking: Dreams of the Dead by Thomas Randall September 29, 2009

I'm very excited about this one! It was one of my WoW picks a while back.

Sixteen-year-old Kara Foster is an outsider in Japan, but is doing her best to fit at the private school where her father is teaching English for the year. Fortunately she’s befriended by Sakura, a fellow outsider struggling to make sense of her sister’s unsolved murder some months ago. No one seems to care about the beautiful girl who was so brutally murdered, and the other students go on as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, the calm doesn’t last for long. Kara begins to have nightmares, and soon other students in the school turn up dead, viciously attacked by someone . . . or something. Is Sakura getting back at those she thinks are responsible for her sister’s death? Or has her dead sister come back to take revenge for herself?

Find out more at: http://thewakingbooks.com/

Forest Born by Shannon Hale September 15, 2009

Rin is sure that something is wrong with her…something really bad. Something that is keeping her from feeling at home in the Forest homestead where she’s lived all her life. Something that is keeping her from trusting herself with anyone at all. When her brother Razo returns from the city for a visit, she accompanies him to the palace, hoping that she can find peace away from home. But war has come to Bayern again, and Rin is compelled to join the queen and her closest allies—magical girls Rin thinks of as the Fire Sisters—as they venture into the Forest toward Kel, the land where someone seems to want them all dead. Many beloved Bayern characters reappear in this story, but it is Rin’s own journey of discovering how to balance the good and the bad in herself that drives this compelling adventure.
Read an early review at Becky's Book Reviews.

Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors August 21, 2009

A romantic comedy that is good to the last drop. When Katrina spots a homeless guy sleeping in the alley behind her grandmother’s coffee shop, she decides to leave him a cup of coffee, a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans, and some pastries to tide him over. Little does she know that this random act of kindness is about to turn her life upside down. Because this adorable vagrant, Malcolm, is really a guardian angel on a break between missions. And he won’t leave until he can reward Katrina’s selflessness by fulfilling her deepest desire. Now if only she could decide what that might be.

GirlForce by Nikki Goldstein May 2009

Welcome to GirlForce, an exciting new lifestyle brand for tween and teen girls that is simply irresistible. At its core, Girl Force is based on an ancient science called Ayurveda that says our bodies are made of three elemental energies: Fire, Air, and Earth. And with just two quick quizzes about body and mind you can determine your Body Type. Air girls are outgoing and creative; Fire girls are born leaders and highly passionate; and Earth girls are easygoing and make loyal friends.

Guided by these principles, and using lush, high-end photography and gorgeously designed pages, GirlForce imparts the best food, exercise, makeup, yoga, stress relievers and more for your body type. But don't just read about your type...reading your friends' types can help you figure them out too!
Find out more at: http://www.mygirlforce.com/


Sprout by Dale Peck April 2009

How many secrets can you hide in plain sight? Sprout Bradford has a secret. It’s not what you think—he’ll tell you he’s gay. He’ll tell you about his dad’s drinking and his mother’s death. The green fingerprints everywhere tell you when he last dyed his hair. But neither the reader nor Sprout are prepared for what happens when Sprout suddenly finds he’s had a more profound effect on the lives around him than he ever thought possible. Sprout is both hilarious and gripping; a story of one boy at odds with the expected.

Read a review at Wondrous Reads.

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison January 2009

This was one of my favorite reads this year - read my review.
Finding your one true love can be a Grimm experience! After her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister, sophomore Savannah Delano wishes she could find a true prince to take her to the prom. Enter Chrissy (Chrysanthemum) Everstar: Savannah's gum-chewing, cell phone carrying, high heel-wearing Fair Godmother. Showing why she's only Fair because she's not a very good fairy student, Chrissy mistakenly sends Savannah back in time to the Middle Ages, first as Cinderella, then as Snow White. Finally she sends Tristan, a boy in Savannah's class, back instead to turn him into her prom-worthy prince. When Savannah returns to the Middle Ages to save Tristan, they must team up to defeat a troll, a dragon, and the mysterious and undeniably sexy Black Knight. Laughs abound in this clever fairy tale twist from a master of romantic comedy.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale March 2009 (paperback publication)

When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years for Saren's refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment. As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. But the arrival outside the tower of Saren's two suitors—one welcome, and the other decidedly less so—brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows. With Shannon Hale's lyrical language, this forgotten but classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier September 29, 2009 (paperback publication)
Everyone in New Avalon has a fairy. Though invisible, a personal fairy is vital to success. It might determine whether you pass a math class or find the perfect outfit. But all fourteen-year-old Charlie can do is find parking spaces—and she doesn’t even drive. At first, teaming up with Fiorenza (who has an all-the-boys-like-you fairy) seems like a great idea. But when Charlie unexpectedly gets her heart’s desire, she’ll have to resort to extraordinary measures to ditch her fairy.


To enter to win, just leave a comment telling me what book published in 2009 is your favorite read so far.

As always, +1 if you link to this contest from your blog (sidebar is fine) or social media site (including Twitter) and leave me a separate comment saying so.
+1 for being a follower. Just leave me another separate comment for it to count.
This contest is open to US addresses only and ends on August 31st at 11:59 pm CST. The winner will have 48 hours to provide a shipping address or I will have to pick a new winner.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Review: Exclusively Chloe by J.A. Yang

Chloe-Grace is the adopted 16 year old daughter of major celebrities and thus a celebrity herself. When her parents announce their intention to divorce and the glare of fame becomes too much for her, Chloe decides to go undercover at a regular high school and try out an anonymous life.

There are so many books out there about normal teens finding themselves suddenly famous (fantasy wish fulfillment for many in our culture today), but this is one for the Suris and Maddoxs of the world who must yearn to know what it is like to slum it in J Crew and a dented Honda.

The novel is broken in two halves – the first gives us a rather standard look at Chloe’s paparazzi-filled life while the second, detailing Chloe’s life as “Lilly”, is far more clever and interesting. I didn’t feel like the first part warranted being so long since it really didn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before in the way of the celebrity lifestyle – just lots of flashbulbs, pampering, high fashion, entourages and impulse jewelry purchases. Part two is where the meat is, and some elements, such as the Jack romance and the reunion with her Chinese birth family, are given short-shrift IMHO.

Chloe is an appealing main character, and while some of her supporting characters, such as friends Vickie and Jana, brother Henry, and stylist/fake father Luther, pull their weight, most of the rest simply fade into the background as easily forgettable stereotypes. Still, this is a fun look at celebrity with nothing objectionable in it – a perfect vehicle to show younger starstruck teens that fame is not all it’s cracked up to be.

EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE is out now in paperback. Find out more about it at the author’s blog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What I bought for...myself!

I just made a series of orders from amazon since I'll be back in the states soon.

Books:

The Hollow by Jessica Verday. Jessica pitched this to me and I told her I'd buy it since I knew I wouldn't be able to get to it before it came out anyway.

Terrier (The Legend of Beka Cooper, Book 1) by Tamora Pierce. Tirzah of The Compulsive Reader gave me the complete rundown (via e-mail) on Tamora Pierce's novels and convinced me I needed to get this.

Egg Drop by Mini Grey. Amanda's fault: I saw this very quirky picture book over at A Patchwork of Books.

Obernewtyn: The Obernewtyn Chronicles 1 by Isobelle Carmody. Rhiannon's fault. Her review of this dystopian "classic" on her blog made me drool!

How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan. After reading his short story in Geektastic, I must have more! I am not sure how I found this collection. Probably browsing on amazon.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. A POC dystopia recommended to me by Susan of Color Online. Here's her list of other great POC YA titles.

Sacred Scars (A Resurrection of Magic, Book 2) by Kathleen Duey. I bought book 1 after meeting Kathleen at SCBWI Bologna 2008. And I need book 2 so I can start book 1 which I hear has a big cliffhanger.

The Art of Up (Pixar Animation) by Tim Hauser. I have a ton of these Art of...Pixar books. I haven't seen the movie yet (still not out in Germany), but the book looks gorgeous.

How It Ends by Laura Weiss. I read an interview with the author on the Simon and Schuster website and WoWed the novel.

Among the Hidden (Shadow Children #1) Margaret Peterson Haddix. Another dystopia I haven't read yet. This one's the fault of a review I read on Bart's Bookshelf.

Half-Minute Horrors. I first saw this story collection on Shelf Awareness and WoWed it.


Non-books


Dexter: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. My brother's fault.

Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Second Season [DVD]. My friend Jeremy's fault.

True Blood: The Complete First Season (HBO Series) [DVD]. Alea's fault via twitter!

Dollhouse: Season One [DVD]. My Friend Amy's fault!

Far Regina Spektor [Audio CD]. Author Courtney Summers convinced via twitter that I needed the whole CD when at first I planned to get just a couple of songs on iTunes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (66) + Picture of Emmy

Today's question from Wendi: Did you use the Help button? Did you get some good information on the page you were on? Did you use the edit feature to add/edit any of the information on the page?

I'm afraid I'm not much help. I did tell my Aunt Linda how to add books, but that's about it.

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Doesn't this look like a kitty bunk bed? I love how Finn has his front leg hanging over the side so it looks like an arm.

UPDATE: Liviania has a picture up of Emmy and Finn that she took this weekend while she was visiting me. Check it out!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Review: Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

“Crazy” Lucius and beautiful Aurora meet the first day they both attend a new school. Aurora is drawn to the mysterious boy with hooks for hands and Lucius to the friendly girl surrounded by an air of sadness. But while Aurora is swept into the popular crowd, Lucius is met with scorn and ridicule. Can Beauty and the Beast overcome these odds and get together?

I have to admit, I was expecting something much different than what this novel turned out to be. The cover promises a dark, passionate love story…but what we actually get is a winningly sweet high school tale about an outcast and his dream girl.

I could buy into the fact that Aurora was this amazingly gorgeous and yet completely down-to-earth person thanks to the background on her relationship with her recently deceased mother. But I did not believe for a minute that Lucius was a brooding, evil character that needed to be reformed by falling in love and having someone fall for him in return. We are told he did something bad, but it fails to compute because he’s just written as such a nice guy (with the exception of one strategically placed volleyball spike). I mean, he lets his sister Misty beat him at pool, is unfailingly polite to his elders, and even takes the time to help out a former football hero/current security guard realize his dreams. I bet he bakes cookies for the homeless and rescues cats from trees too.

I devoured the novel in one sitting and enjoyed the various authentically drawn relationships (especially Lucius and Misty and Aurora and her librarian father). I never needed Lucius to be bad, so I wasn’t disappointed that he wasn’t. And even though the big showdown at the end felt rushed/forced, I thought the story ended on a nice, satisfying note.

CRAZY BEAUTIFUL comes out September 29th in hardcover. For more information about the book, visit the author’s website.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Where I've Been (European Edition)

Last week, I listed all the US states I've visited and several of you expressed an interest in my doing the same for European countries. While lists vary as to which countries actually belong to Europe, I have taken the list with 50 countries that belong to Europe politically and sort of geographically.

Albania – never been
Andorra – never been
Armenia – at least an overnight
Azerbaijan – never been
Austria – at least an overnight

Belarus – never been
Belgium – at least an overnight
Bosnia and Herzegovina – never been
Bulgaria – never been
Croatia – never been

Cyprus – never been
Czech Republic – at least an overnight
Denmark – at least a week
Estonia – never been
Finland – at least an overnight

France – at least a week
Georgia – at least a week
Germany – lived here
Greece – lived here
Hungary – at least a week

Iceland – at least an overnight
Ireland – at least a week
Italy – at least a week
Kazakhstan – never been
Latvia – at least an overnight

Lithuania – never been
Luxembourg – day trip
Liechtenstein – day trip
Macedonia – never been
Malta – at least an overnight

Moldova – at least an overnight
Monaco – day trip
Montenegro – never been
The Netherlands – at least a week
Norway – at least an overnight

Poland – at least an overnight
Portugal – at least a week
Romania – at least a week
Russia – never been
San Marino – never been

Serbia – never been
Slovakia – never been
Slovenia – never been
Spain – lived here
Sweden – at least a week

Switzerland – at least a week
Turkey – day trip
Ukraine – never been
United Kingdom – at least a week
Vatican City – day trip

3 countries lived in
12 countries visited for at least a week (may not be consecutive days)
11 countries with at least an overnight (but less than a full week)
5 countries on day trip (where I specifically went to an event or attraction in the country)

+

0 countries only driven through
0 countries where I was in the airport only
19 countries I’ve never set foot in

31 down, 19 to go! How about you?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Well Worth Watching Blogger Profile (7) Rhiannon Hart

Rhiannon's blog focuses on YA fantasy, dystopia and paranormal and she's been reviewing some old school dystopian fiction that I must get my hands on soon (makes up most of my upcoming amazon order). I love reading her insightful reviews and entertaining posts. Today's she here - answering my burning questions...

If someone were to blurb your blog in 25 word or less, what would he or she say?
On her eponymous blog, Rhiannon Hart discusses YA fantasy, dystopian and paranormal books (mostly) from a writer's/reader's POV, and tracks her efforts to get published.

What kinds of books do you read and review on your blog?
Books that I loved, and that I think I have something to say about. I usually don't finish books I'm not enjoying, and if I can't think of something exciting/quirky/new to say about a book, I won't post about it. Because most of my books come from the library I'm not on the cutting edge of reviewing, but there are too many wonderful books published in the last 200 years to just ignore them. And that's not even counting Shakespeare or Homer. Often the books I love have a strong female protagonist, so you'll see a gender bias amongst my reviews! And Lud save us from insipid heroines.

What were a couple of your favorite books recently and which ones are you most looking forward to reading soon?
Recently I loved Life as We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer, The Death of Grass, John Christopher, Obernewtyn, Isobelle Carmody (reread). I'm looking forward to The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness, Graceling, Kristen Cashore and Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder. They're all sitting in a pile on my floor, with a dozen or so more books that I can't wait to get to.

What are some of your favorite posts or reviews in your blog archive and why?
The Dystopia Challenge post. It outlines the books I will try to read for my current challenge, and all sorts of people have dropped by to add to my list or tell me their thoughts (including Lenore!)

My review of Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. This isn't his best book but its an interesting read as far as gender roles in the event of an apocalypse are concerned, much like The Death of Grass by John Christopher.

Finally, Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody. I compare/contrast this book with The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. Obernewtyn is one of the most perfect books I have ever read. <Lenore's note: I am buying this one for sure!>

What are some posts or reviews on other blogs that have caught your attention as being well worth reading?
Sadako's Baby Sitters Club reviews on Dibbly Fresh. She's just so snarky and has a lethal quantity of pop-culture references up her sleeve! I particularly enjoyed her recap of Dawn and the Older Boy. <Lenore's note: Yep - that was an awesome recap!>

Anything at Underage Reading. Emily and Elizabeth don't just post reviews, but also whimsical analyses of books, like their Books I felt I ought to have liked but really didn’t: The Phantom Tollbooth post.

Anything at Angieville. Angie reviews lots and lots of fantasy books, especially ones she feels are under-appreciated by the fantasy community. I especially enjoyed the post which put Megan Whalen Turner on my To Read list (and lots of other people's lists too).

Complete this sentence: “If I didn't have my blog...”
...I'd be boring my friends to death talking about the fantastic books they should read!

Thanks Rhiannon!

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, August 7, 2009

Book Review: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

13 year old Kyra lives in an isolated polygamist community where the word of the megalomaniacal Prophet is law. And when the Prophet announces that God told him Kyra is to marry her 60 year old uncle in mere weeks, Kyra knows she has to get away. Because Kyra has secrets – not only has she secretly been reading HARRY POTTER and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA from the bookmobile, she’s also in love with a boy her own age from the compound.

I picked this up last night before going to bed, planning only to read a chapter or so, but I didn’t stop reading until I was done (and I am very tired today as a result). It’s just that gripping. It’s not really what happens so much – thanks to the media, we all are well aware of the plight of young girls in polygamist sects – but more the how. Kyra’s voice is so raw and immediate that she feels very real and your heart goes out to her.

And it’s not just Kyra who suffers, but the rest of the family as well. Kyra’s father is rather low on the totem pole, allotted only worn-out trailer homes for his measly 3 wives and 20 children, because he is a decent man who doesn’t believe in making his family cower before him as is the way of the higher-ups. The Prophet makes it obvious that if Kyra doesn’t follow his orders, her family will be punished, which makes her decision all the more tortured. The nuanced exploration of the various interpersonal relationships on the compound is especially fascinating. So much can be said in a downcast gaze, in rigidly set lips or a full plate of food in front of a leader when the followers make do with scraps.

It’s an unsettling novel with an ending left ambiguously open, but it’s highly worth a couple of hours of lost sleep.

THE CHOSEN ONE is out now in hardcover. Find out more about it at the publisher's website.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Book Review: Starfinder by John Marco

13 year old Moth has heard many stories of the land beyond the Reach, where humans are forbidden to go by the mysterious Skylords. When Moth inherits a strange instrument called a Starfinder and a magical Kestrel named Esme, he sets out into the reach with his best friend Fiona to escape Fiona’s grandfather Rendor, a powerful governor bent on getting the Starfinder for himself.

Given my usual distaste for high fantasy (just looking at the cover makes me break out in hives), I found STARFINDER unexpectedly riveting. The human city of Calio feels vaguely steampunk – with its mix of airships and Victorian sensibility, and the Reach and its creatures are reminiscent of various well-loved fantasy worlds and myths, at once familiar and yet given a fresh spin.

I was especially fascinated by the Redeemers, former humans turned into slaves of the Skylords with special powers, and I liked how we really got to know and sympathize with one. In fact, all of the characters and beings are written with a depth that makes it difficult to know just what they might do next. No one here is completely evil or saintly, and even the dictatorial Skylords have their good side.

While many of the ideas and themes of the book seem like they belong in an adult fantasy, the dialogue is decidedly middle grade and filled with too much exposition for my taste. This is a quick, intelligent read that will resonate with more than only high fantasy fans. Just give it a chance.

STARFINDER is available in hardcover now. Find out more about the novel, the first in a planned trilogy, at the author’s website.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book Review: Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley

After her parents die in a plane crash, Emily has to move in with her aunt Jolie, a make-up artist to the stars in NYC. In addition to navigating a new life without her mother and father, she also has to figure out what her mother meant by “Please Forgive Me Emily” which she wrote in lipstick on her tray table before the plane went down.

The mystery aspect of the novel was what made me want to read this one – that a seemingly perfect mom would have a secret so pressing, she felt the need to absolve herself before she died. And the secret does turn out to be rather shocking (perhaps a bit mundane) although the way Emily goes about her sleuthing is…uneven.

In fact, uneven is how I would describe a lot of things here – from the tone (part hipster Gossip Girl, part histrionics & grieving) and the story (very creative but at times disorganized), to the pacing (some scenes, such as the Statue of Liberty visit, seem oddly truncated) and the use of characters (would have liked more of the fabulous Jolie, hairstylist Trent, and baker boy Anthony, less of….everyone else).

Even with all the unevenness, there are plenty of gems to be found, and that’s what kept me reading. One scene I especially liked was when Anthony takes Emily to Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker Street in the village and then they eat their cupcakes in the little park across the street. Why? Because I did the exact same thing, and it brought back fond memories of my birthday cupcake.

LIPSTICK APOLOGY comes out tomorrow in hardcover. Find out more about the book at the author’s website.

Here's me and Heather about to get in line for cupcakes at Magnolia's.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (65) + Picture of Emmy

Today's question from Wendi is not about LT: Have you had an opportunity to check out the new Amazon Vine program? Have you signed up? Is this program something that interests you? How do you feel about the reviews posted on Amazon in general (not counting the ones that have made the news)?

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I did recently get an invite to join Amazon's Vine program. They must really be expanding the program since I am barely in the top 10,000 reviewers. I did sign up and picked 4 books so far, all of which I am excited about. They seem to have quite a nice selection. Of course, these have the drawback of requiring an immediate review if you want to keep getting stuff, so we'll have to see how much I end up taking advantage of it, considering my review pile has reached epic proportions.

I used to read a lot of Amazon reviews to make purchase decisions, but now I always go to GoodReads and/or LT first. I don't make a habit of posting my reviews on Amazon, but if the author or publisher asks me to, I certainly will.

**************************************

I love this Emmy chicken legs pose!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Guest Post about YA Fantasy at the Book Smugglers

I'm guesting today at the Book Smugglers blog for YA Appreciation Month. They've been featuring reviews of YA books new and old as well as interviews/guest posts from authors, YA bloggers and others involved in YA such as editors and librarians. It's been fun and fascinating!

My guest post is all about YA fantasy and how I apparently like it and read it a lot more than I thought I did.

You'll find out:

- Why I think YA fantasy/paranormal is so popular right now
- What I like and dislike in my fantasy books
- My favorite fantasy reads so far this year

So head on over to read it and add your observations, likes and dislikes, and favorites in the comments. I can't wait to hear what everyone has to say.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Book Club Report: Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

I met with my new book club for the third time this past week to discuss Midwives, a book from 1998 set in the early 1980s (and an Oprah Book Club pick).

Short summary:
Sibyl, a Vermont based midwife, is accused of manslaughter and practicing medicine without a license after a woman in her care dies giving birth. Sibyl insists she was not at fault, but her journal entries may tell a different story. The trial sets up a showdown between midwives and those in the medical community who believe babies should be born exclusively in hospitals.

The group* verdict:
The novel was generally well-liked although some found it lacking real tension and somewhat repetitive.

The actual book discussion didn’t last very long and devolved into topics both related (childbirth) and unrelated (the impact of social media).

My favorite parts were the court scenes, especially jury selection, and I thought the conversations Sibyl had with her lawyer were quite illuminating.

Up next:
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I’ll miss the meeting though since I’ll be out of town.

*Since it has come to my attention that not all members of my book club feel comfortable about my posting of the group’s opinions, I am including only the opinions of those members who gave me permission to do so.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Where I've Been (US edition)

Saw this over at Florinda's and since I've been to almost every US state, I thought it would be fun to examine how much I've been where. My dad has at least touched a toe in all 50 states, but the rules of the meme going around say airports don't count, and states driven through, or states where you stopped at the visitors' center or a restaurant while driving through, don't count either. So I wonder how many states he'd have then?

You're supposed to mark all the states (and DC) you've been in with an X, and you can mark the ones where you've lived with an O. But I'm going to annotate. Because I'm rad like that.

Alabama - at least a week
Alaska - never been
Arizona - at least an overnight
Arkansas - driven through
California - lived here
Colorado - lived here
Connecticut - day trip
Delaware - day trip
Florida - at least a week
Georgia - at least an overnight
Hawaii - never been
Idaho - at least an overnight
Illinois - at least an overnight
Indiana - at least a week
Iowa - at least an overnight
Kansas - lived here
Kentucky -at least a week
Louisiana - never been
Maine - at least an overnight
Maryland - at least a week
Massachusetts - day trip
Michigan - at least a week
Minnesota - never been
Mississippi - day trip
Missouri - at least a week
Montana - at least a week
Nebraska - day trip
Nevada - at least a week
New Hampshire - day trip
New Jersey - driven through
New Mexico - at least an overnight
New York - at least a week
North Carolina - driven through
North Dakota - lived here
Ohio - lived here
Oklahoma - lived here
Oregon - at least a week
Pennsylvania - at least an overnight
Rhode Island - at least an overnight
South Carolina - at least a week
South Dakota - at least a week
Tennessee - at least an overnight
Texas - at least a week
Utah - lived here
Vermont - day trip
Virginia - at least a week
Washington - at least an overnight
West Virginia - driven through
Wisconsin - airport only
Wyoming - at least an overnight

Washington DC - at least a week

So for you stat lovers out there, that's:
7 states lived in
16 states visited for at least a week (may not be consecutive days)
12 states with at least an overnight (but less than a full week)
7 states on a day trip (where I specifically went to an event or attraction in the state)

+

4 states only driven through
1 state where I was in the airport only
4 states I've never set foot in at all

So according to this, that's 42 down, 9 to go! What about you?