Sunday, January 31, 2010

Book Review: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

“Trouser girl” Namira is hired by a Mr Hollin Parry to sing together with a piano-playing automaton. When she discovers the automaton is actually a fairy gentleman trapped by a spell cast over 30 years before, she does everything in her power to try and set him free.

Namira’s world is deeply rooted in the fantasy tradition, with an enchanting blend of sorcerers (good, bad and in-between), fairies, sirens and the like. However, as most of the action takes place within Mr. Parry’s house, the world and its myriad of alliances and intrigues is more hinted at than anything. Since it is a story with such an intimate scope, I would have expected to come to care for the characters and their plight more than I did. No question Namira is sympathetic and brave and Mr Parry is certainly more complicated than he seems at first, but I felt they kept me at arm’s length. It’s ironic that the automaton ends up being the most animated and endearing of the bunch.

Though apparently there is no sequel in the works at this time, it really feels like there should be – the ending is quite abrupt and had me wondering at first if my ARC was missing some pages.

MAGIC UNDER GLASS was released this month in hardcover. It will soon be getting a new cover to reflect the skin color of the main character Namira more accurately. (That is why you are getting this delightful picture of my cats checking out my ARC.) Find out more about the book at the author’s website.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Friday Fabulous! (19) - On a Saturday...

What I am excited about this week:

1. I am the featured book blogger in TWENTY BOY SUMMER Author Sarah Ockler's fun fLiP iT fRiDaY series this week. (Don't think I was ignoring Finn - I just submitted my answers before Finn was part of the family.)

2. I've joined in the diversity project going on at the new blog Diversify Your Reading. As Teresa explains: "Diversify Your Reading is meant to be a clearinghouse of blog reviews of books by authors underrepresented in English-language publishing today." Go on over and add your own book review links or browse the authors and books and find something that will diversify your own reading.

3. Going to Book Expo America for the first time this year and have tons of questions? Well, there's a blog tour starting Monday just for you! The full scheldule is up at the official Book Blogger Convention website and my stop on the tour will be Friday, Feb. 5th.

4. LOST is coming back this week for it's 6th and final season!!! Naturally, everyone's talking about it. Like The Book Smugglers. I hear Boone may be back. Oh please let it be true (and not as a zombie)!

5. Cynsations has a very useful series of interviews with publishing industry professionals for those of us going to SCBWI Bologna: an agent interview with Laura Rennert and a publisher interview with Tessa Strickland of Barefoot Books - with more on the way. Who else is going?

6. Monday I will be kicking off my February of Dystopian Fiction. I have lots of fun planned including reviews, interviews, guest posts and of course prizes! If you like speculative fiction, then Presenting Lenore is the place to be in February. If you don't, well, see you again in March (or on Tuesdays of course - where I will dress the kittehs as hobos to mesh with my theme month).

What are YOU excited about this week?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Author Interview and Giveaway: Lauren Mechling discusses Dream Girl and Dream Life

I reviewed Lauren's books Dream Girl and Dream Life not long ago, and was so impressed with them, I had to get to know the writer behind the books a little better. Thus, the following interview.

In DREAM LIFE, Claire’s friend Becca gets invited to join the Blue Moons who beautify New York City. Let’s say a secret society invites YOU to become a member. What are they called and what is their undercover mission?
This is a question I've already asked myself and given much thought to, as it happens. The secret society I've been dreaming of being tapped to join is the Royal Academy of Stuff and Butternut. The mission is to secretly reward and humiliate those who are deemed deserving of our attention. Light on our feet, nearly invisible to the eye, we will scurry about like rats and make sure that the teenage girl who's being punished by her high school principal for keeping a clever blog keeps finding chocolates in her schoolbag or that the pretentious professor who makes withering remarks to his students accidentally sits in a bowl of butternut squash soup.

Butternut squash soup sounds pretty good about now. I was fascinated by the locations you chose for your books. How much of the NYC we read about in DREAM GIRL and DREAM LIFE really exists?
It's all there--the professor housing complex by the Angelika movie theater, the Green-Wood Cemetery, the Upper East Side shop with deadly-good hot chocolate, the little mews with tiny houses fit for elves or goblins. I didn't make anything up.It's just a matter of waking up and smelling the possibility. And, yes, walking away from your computer.

You know, I’ve been compiling a list of recommendations of things to do in NYC by YA authors. What are your hot tips for a first or second timer in the city?
I'd recommend going for lunch at the Angelika Kitchen, a healthy restaurant that specializes in hilariously glamorous hippies eating piles of veggies and seaweed, on 12th St and 2nd Ave. Then you can go right across the street to Momofuku Milk bar and load up on the most disgusting and delicious desserts known to mankind. I especially recommend their compost cookie. How they get that much butter and sugar into a cookie is a mystery worth a Claire book.

Okay, then I'd go uptown to the Neue Gallerie, a museum in an old mansion that specializes in early 20th c Austrian art. It's a wildly beautiful and stately place--every time I'm there, I feel like a ball is about to break out.

Then I'd call me and ask me to take you to Brooklyn to look at the crazy little mews with the goblin houses described above. You'll feel like you're in some 19th century Gothic novel, until one of the residents stomps out of his house to take out the trash and he'll be wearing shorts and a bathrobe.

I am definitely calling you up! So, I see you were a fellow Tiger Beat subscriber. What posters from that esteemed magazine made it on your wall?
The sad thing is, much as I wanted to be, I wasn't that into boys, so I was entirely undiscriminating. I'd pull out ALL the pictures: Fred Savage, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Kirk Cameron, 9-year-old Leo DiCaprio, anyone, and I'll stick them up. My mom thought it was horrifying and came into my room and added some shots of Al Sharpton and Rodney Dangerfield. I didn't notice for a whole week.

That is hilarious! Any more books about Claire in the pipeline? I hope so.
Oh, a girl can dream!

Thanks Lauren!



So now for the giveaway. You can choose either a copy of DREAM GIRL or a copy of DREAM LIFE if you already have DREAM GIRL. Just tell me in the comments what pictures adorned your wall as a tween and you are entered. (As you might have guessed, my walls were covered with cat posters. Sad, but true.) As always, 1 extra entry will be given to those who spread the word either via linking to the contest from your blog (sidebar is fine) or tweeting with @lenoreva (make sure you indicate this in an extra comment for it to count). This contest is US and Canada only and will close at 11:59 PM CST on February 10th.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book Review: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

Tim Farnsworth is a successful lawyer with a seemingly happy life – an adoring wife, Jane, with whom he travels around the world, a teen daughter, Becka, and a lovely large house. But Tim hides a secret – he is sometimes afflicted with the compulsion to walk and stay walking until he passes out from exhaustion. During his previous episodes, he tried all manner of treatments, but no doctor knows what to do to help him. And now, it’s back.

Stylistically, the writing here matches the tone of the story – it flows so well yet is brutal and unsympathetic as it sweeps you along with its strong current. “This is real life,” it seems to say. “Real life is messy, it’s unfair, and it doesn’t wait around for you to pull yourself together.” If Ferris is hard on Tim – making him lose his career, his comforts, his fingers to frostbite, and eventually his mind – he’s just as hard on Jane and Becka, though he doesn’t give them near enough face time. Jane is portrayed as the kind of woman to stand by her man even when he doesn’t want her to, and frankly doesn’t deserve it. But she’s not a saint – she’s an alcoholic. Becka is grumpy and no amount of exercise or dieting can rid her of her considerable girth.

As if to really drive home his themes of hopelessness and pointlessness of life (I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 1:2-3), Ferris introduces a subplot concerning an innocent man accused of murder and lest the rest of world think it’s off the hook, bees seem to be dying in large swarms.

This is far from Ferris’ highly praised first novel THEN WE CAME TO AN END (which I reviewed here), so if nothing else, it shows he has range.

THE UNNAMED came out this month in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book Reviews and Giveaway: My Soul to Take and My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent

Kaylee Cavenaugh sometimes has the irresistible urge to scream like a banshee accompanied by a feeling of absolute certainly that someone near her is going to die. Is she crazy like her aunt , uncle and cousin seem to think? Or is there more to it?

So….confession time. I was not so sure I wanted to read this series after Rhiannon Hart’s review last fall in which she called MY SOUL TO TAKE “an AUTOMATIC FAIL … badly in need of a gender overhaul”. But I picked it up anyway, prepared to be full of righteous indignation and maybe even to skim through it if the going got tough. But then something happened I was completely unprepared for: Rachel Vincent sucked me into Kaylee’s world so completely, I didn’t come up for air until I was finished with the second book.

These books are plot driven packages of literary crack, with well-thought out world building, mythology and afterlife concepts that are just plain fun. In that context, it’s hard for me to summon too much outrage that women are portrayed as hysterical harpies that can only be calmed by men (although I would certainly make this a talking point when discussing Kaylee’s romantic relationship with impressionable younger teens).

Book 1 is your typical girl finds out she’s not really human like she always thought she was and that she has a special talent which will help her save others. We find out the truth of her origins as Kaylee does and get to know other paranormal beings along the way, all while solving a mystery of otherworldly proportions.

By book 2, MY SOUL TO SAVE, most of the back story is established, so Kaylee gets involved in a mission to uncover a plot engineered by entertainment moguls to provide demons with fresh, young souls. There are thinly veiled references to Disney and its tween/teen stars like Britney Spears (Whitney Lance) and Lindsay Lohan (Lindy Cohen), and the whole set-up gives us a chance to explore a richly imagined netherworld filled with dangerous plants and strange creatures.

BUT…the ending of book 2 made me very angry. It’s what I like to call the ole switcharoo. You are invested in a certain outcome, the characters are invested in that same outcome and then somewhere in the third act, the rules are changed and everyone’s supposed to be satisfied with some hollow victory?! Ummm… nope…NOT SATISFIED!

That doesn’t mean however that I am any less excited about reading book 3 in the series, MY SOUL TO KEEP, (due out June 1st) or the prequel short story MY SOUL TO LOSE (available for free download at the official SOUL SCREAMERS website).

For all of you who want to give this series a try, I have a two pack including MY SOUL TO TAKE and MY SOUL TO SAVE for one lucky commenter on this post. Just tell me what book(s) you consider literary crack (yes, I am looking for more!) and you are entered to win. As always, 1 extra entry will be given to those who spread the word either via linking to the contest from your blog (sidebar is fine) or tweeting with @lenoreva (make sure you indicate this in an extra comment for it to count). This contest is US only and will close at 11:59 PM CST on February 10th.

I also have one copy of MY SOUL TO SAVE to give away to someone who already has MY SOUL TO TAKE and who lives in the US. If this describes you, be the first one to claim it in the comments, and it is yours. (ETA: Claimed by thruthehaze)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday (90) = Picture of Emmy

Does the world really need another picture of Emmy and Finn?



Now that LibraryThing Tuesday seems to be officially gone, I am thinking about scaling this feature back to once a month, and I'd like your input. Too much cat on Presenting Lenore? Or just enough?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Book Review: Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Half Finn, half African-American and full-on crazy (she’s a diagnosed manic-depressive and is prone to hallucinations), Hanna has never really fit in anywhere. But when she comes to Portero, Texas after her father’s death to reunite with the mother that gave her up as a baby, she finds a town as crazy as she is. Has Hanna finally found a place she belongs?

You know a book is weird when one of the scenes involves a mother and daughter luring a naked boy out of a lake and then cutting him up (which ultimately leads to his death) and you barely bat an eye...because that’s not even the weirdest thing that’s gone down.

Although I’ve been to fictional towns as monster-filled as Portero before, I never have come across someone quite as fearless and well, odd, in her thinking as Hanna. Soon after she meets monster hunter (and love interest) Wyatt, she begs him to take her hunting so she can impress her mother. And then she wears a fancy dress to fight in, explaining, “It’s easier to be careful in dresses. You have to be or you end up flashing your underclothes or destroying beautiful fabric. Dresses force you to be on guard.” (p 185-186 ARC edition, may not be the same as final published version).

But as bizarre as the setting, the plot, and the characters are, Debut Author Reeves uses them to really explore some serious issues such as racial identity, mental illness and abandonment, giving the book a depth beyond your usual YA urban fantasy fare. I know this one won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re open to the experimental, you might just find yourself enjoying the undeniably rich, strange flavor of BLEEDING VIOLET.

BLEEDING VIOLET came out this month in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Club Report: Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min

This was our book club's 4th pick.

Short summary: Madame Mao, dubbed the "white-boned demon", is one of the most reviled women in recent history as many blame her for the excesses of China's cultural revolution. In this work of historical fiction, Min offers a more sympathetic portrait of a woman driven by ambition and a futile attempt to keep Chairman Mao's love.

The group's verdict: Only half the group (me included) was even able to finish this one. Madame Mao is definitely a fascinating personality but Min didn't do her any favors by choosing a strange writing style that shifts between first person present and third person present every other paragraph. This set-up seems especially senseless since both POVs are too close to Madame Mao's emotions - a lost opportunity for a more distanced assessment of her often reprehensible actions. Recommended only for those with a moderate to high interest in China and its history.

Up next: The Invention of Curried Sausage by Uwe Timm. I'll be reading this one in its original German.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Review: Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe

Cass prefers to be friends with ghosts. They give her dirt on the “breathers” so that she’s untouchable at school. But when one of the popular guys, Tim, finds out her secret and asks her for help in contacting his recently deceased mother, Cass is drawn out of her protective shell and starts to become more sociable.

I really liked this portrait of an anti-social teen and how she slowly lets down her defenses and learns to care about living people again. Her “friendship” with Tim isn’t instant, it’s earned – which is all too rare in teen fiction.

The paranormal element adds a nice twist to the story, but didn’t fully satisfy me. We don’t find out until pretty far in when Cass developed the ability to see and communicate with ghosts and the how remains a mystery. There is also very little exploration into why some people die and stick around (such as Cass’ sister Paige), some stick around for a bit and leave, and some are simply gone. It seems to me that at least the ghosts would be pondering this.

Despite those questions, I raced through this one thanks to the perfect pacing, smooth writing, and engaging characters.

GIVE UP THE GHOST is available now in hardcover. Find out more at the author's website.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Fabulous! (18)

Wow - I haven't done one of these since the end of October.

Here's what I am excited about this week:

1. Daniel's book IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? isn't due until June, but it already got its' first review over at Laura's Review Bookshelf! YAY!

2. So if you read my post yesterday, you know I took part in yesterday's big Unsung YA blitz along with over 40 other bloggers. I hit all the blogs that posted their link at YAnnabe and added the following books to my wishlist:

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
Downsiders by Neal Shusterman
Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
Swan Sister: Fairy Tales Retold
Mistik Lake by Martha Brooks
Schooled by Gordon Korman
Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb

By the way, if you haven't posted a list yet, there is still time! Kelly is taking noms through the weekend before she announces her master list!

3. After the success of her 100 Top Picture Books poll, Elizabeth Bird at Fuse 8 is now taking our nominations for 100 Top Chapter Books (a.k.a. middle grade). Send in your top 10 by January 31st. I am still perfecting my list and will send it in shortly.

4. Sheri at Novel Menagerie is having her 2nd annual My Beautiful Baby Contest where we can all showcase our adorable pets. Still looking for the cutest picture of Emmy and Finn to submit. Submit a picture of your pet(s) by January 31st. There are prizes!

5. Last Friday, Beth Kephart revealed the cover of Dangerous Neighbors coming in August from Egmont. Gotta have it!

6. I registered for BEA this week! Still need to buy a plane ticket to NYC and all that jazz, but I am getting super excited for the end of May. Will also attend Book Blogger Con on the 28th (Trish promised I could sit next to her!) and the 2nd Annual Teen Author Carnival on the 24th (Authors can register to present at the event here).

So, how about you?!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Unsung YA: My Picks

Today over 40 book bloggers around the blogosphere are celebrating unsung YA – books that we love and think deserve more attention. The basic idea was to look at our LibraryThing accounts and feature those books which we rated 5 stars in the order of their obscurity. Keep in mind that I’ve only been reading and blogging YA books for the past 2 years, so all of my picks are recent.


NOTE: My top pick by obscurity is BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver, but it’s only obscure because it hasn’t been released yet, and once it IS released, I have a feeling it’s going to be super popular, so it’s not really right for this list.

So here we go…

Title: THIS BOOK ISN’T FAT, IT’S FABULOUS
Author: Nina Beck
Release date: Sept. 2008 (now in paperback)
Publisher: Point (Scholastic)
Genre: Chick-lit/Teen romance
One line summary: Manhattan rich kid Riley Swain, known for overusing the word fabulous (especially when describing herself), is sent to fat camp during Spring Break by her distant father and evil stepmother.
What I said then: “Before you dismiss this as yet another novel preaching the old mantra of loving yourself the way you are – too thin, too fat, too whatever – consider that Riley is one of the coolest characters I’ve come across in YA lit AND she has a romance at camp (with the headmistress’ son Eric no less) that is so authentically sweet it made me positively giddy (and trust me, that doesn’t happen often).” Full review.
What I loved the most: Riley’s character and voice, romance that didn’t make me barf, writing filled with humor and charm.

Title: EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IN THE WORLD
Author: Lisa Levchuk
Release date: Oct. 2008
Publisher: FSG
Genre: Realistic fiction
One line summary: Edna’s mother has cancer which she is so unable to deal with that she is lured into an affair with her teacher.
What I said then: “I was blown away by this book, pure and simple. Debut Author Lisa Levchuk manages to capture perfectly the feeling of being a teen that has a mother with cancer (and I should know). Edna’s voice is so raw and honest while still managing to be witty and endearing. You want to give her a hug at the same time you want to shake her and make her come to her senses.” Full review + interview with author.
What I loved the most: Edna’s voice

Title: THE STOLEN ONE
Author: Suzanne Crowley
Release date: June 2009
Publisher: Greenwillow (HarperCollins)
Genre: Historical fiction
One line summary: Orphaned Kat goes to court and becomes a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I.
What I said then: “To say I was enthralled is an understatement. In fact, I wish it could have been even longer than its’ 416 pages because Kat was such an appealing character to hang out with – curious, bright, passionate, and unpredictable. I loved the vividly realized historical details of the court and fashions of the time.” Full review. Cover interview.
What I loved the most: Kat’s character, setting, supporting characters

Title: MY FAIR GODMOTHER
Author: Janette Rallison
Release date: Jan. 2009 (now in paperback)
Publisher: Walker Books (Bloomsbury)
Genre: Fantasy/Fairytale retellings
One line summary: A mediocre fairy godmother student gets assigned modern teen Savannah as an extra credit project and “accidently” sends her to the middle ages.
What I said then: “I loved Savannah’s character arc and her development from terminally clueless to pretty damn resourceful. Her wry observations on everything from wetsuits vs bikinis to hygiene in the middle ages had my face aching from smiling so much.” Full review.

What I loved the most: Savannah’s voice and character arc, humorous writing, inventive plot, fun supporting characters

Title: DUST OF 100 DOGS
Author: AS King
Release date: Feb. 2009
Publisher: Flux
Genre: Genre bending mix of historical fiction, realistic fiction, and fantasy
One line summary: Famous pirate Emer was cursed to live 100 dog lives before being born in the 20th century as Saffron who's life's goal is to get to Jamaica to dig up her long buried treasure.
What I said then: "... it delivered on its high concept, innovative premise (just absolutely not in the way I expected it to) with a rich story spanning four centuries and several continents and featuring two very well developed heroines (who ARE separate entities though they are mystically linked). In stories that alternate every few chapters, we follow Emer’s tumultuous childhood in Ireland and her evolution into a famed Caribbean pirate as well as Saffron’s own struggles in a downtrodden modern American family who has pinned all their hopes of a better life on her. It somehow manages to be epic and intimate at the same time." Full review and interview with character Saffron.
What I loved the most: innovative premise, writing, Emer's character

So these are my top 5 unsung YA from the past 2 years. To see other's lists, check out the master list at YAnnabe. And tell me, what YA books would you'd like to see get some lovin'?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Tamsin comes from a long line of witches with special talents. In her family, some can see the future, some can find lost things, and some have the power of persuasion. Tamsin feels like an outcast though because it seems her talent never materialized. When a stranger mistakes her for her powerful sister Rowena, Tamsin goes along with the ruse because she wants to feel like she belongs. But is helping the stranger in his mission a terrible mistake?

There are quite a few aspects I really liked about this one. First, I found it refreshing to read a YA book where I didn’t have to attend a high school class. Tamsin mentions her school, but fortunately, none of the action happens there. Instead we get a couple of really fun backdrops including a creepy old NYC townhouse in several different time periods. Yep, the main character gets to time travel – and I always love that. In fact, I wish she would have done more of it (or that the author had written the modern scenes to be as evocative as those set in the past).

This was a very quick read for me, and it was entertaining enough. I just never developed a strong emotional connection to any of the characters (with the possible exception of Tamsin’s grandmother, who was stellar in her short yet pivotal scenes). I mean I liked Tamsin (and tolerated Rowena), but I never really feared for her or anything. Perhaps part of that is the fault of the rather anemic antagonist (seriously, the McDonald’s Hamburglar is more menacing). I also found it jarring that Tamsin smoked cigarettes, so despite the low scare factor, I’d be reluctant to recommend this to very young teens.

Still, I thought the mythology and world building were intriguing enough that I’d be willing to check out a sequel. (NOTE: I have no confirmation for this, but I’ve heard there is one due this year called ALWAYS A WITCH.)

ONCE A WITCH is now available in hardcover. Find out more about it at www.onceawitch.com

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday (89) = Picture of Emmy


I know there was a picture of Emmy and Finn playing on the kitchen shelves last week, but I really liked the perspective of this one. How Emmy is really happy to be above Finn and out of reach. How Finn is distracted by his own fluffy tail.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Grace Divine is both disturbed and fascinated when her former neighbor - and one time foster brother - Daniel moves back to town. Her brother Jude makes her promise to stay away from him, but this is one promise Grace is finding hard to keep…

When I heard this story was loosely based on the prodigal son parable from the Bible, it piqued my interest since you don’t see many religious themes in mainstream YA. Debut Author Despain has built her intriguing plot around a seemingly normal family – Pastor dad, mom, Grace, Jude, younger sister and baby brother. They are endlessly charitable and morally upstanding without being holier than thou or preachy in the least bit (how refreshing!). And yet…they reject Daniel. Why?

I found Grace very relatable, both as a character and with how she goes about trying to figure out the dark mystery that surrounds Daniel. And yes folks, this one too veers into paranormal territory, but in a way that was so well set-up and integrated that it felt natural and even plausible. And it also veers into romance territory, but given Grace and Daniel’s shared history, this also progressed believably and satisfactorily. It all leads up to a breathtaking climax and a resolution that feels finished, but still leaves you praying for a sequel.

THE DARK DIVINE is available in hardcover now – and with such a gorgeous cover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The International Book Blogger Mentor Program 2010 FAQ

Breaking news: IBBMP is now open for applications from mentors and sponsoring authors!

I’m overwhelmed by the response I’ve gotten to this idea. In just a week, I’ve already received over 30 applications from international book bloggers - thanks to everyone who spread the word! If you do the math, just this group of applicants would keep me busy for nearly 3 years. That’s why I’ve decided to open the program to additional mentors and sponsoring authors as well (since I’ve also had interest on that end).

Hopefully, this FAQ will answer all your questions (if not, e-mail me and I’ll expand it).

MENTEES

Who can apply to be a mentee?
Any book blogger who blogs in English about books and lives outside the US and Canada can apply. You must have an active blog with at least 10 book reviews posted at the time of your application.

How can I apply to be a mentee?
Just write an e-mail to lenoreva at hotmail dot com with the subject line IBBMP 2010 telling me your future plans for your blog and why you’d like to be a part of the mentor program. You can also mention what new and forthcoming books are on the top of your wish list and I will try to match you up with at least one.

What are the benefits of being part of the program?
I (or another experienced book blogger) will send you a list of currently available review books and allow you to choose 2-3. I (or another experienced book blogger) will also look over the reviews you write for the books and suggest improvements (you may of course choose to ignore the advice if you wish). I (or another experienced book blogger) will also be open to answering whatever blog related questions you might have. Once you post your first review, I will feature you and your blog during my monthly IBBMP feature post.

When will I find out if I have been selected?
At the end of each month, I will make my selection and matchups (if applicable). If you are the lucky mentee, I will write you an e-mail asking for your mailing address and giving you a list of books to choose from. If you do not receive an e-mail from me, it means that you will be considered for later months. Your application is good for all of 2010, meaning you do not have to reapply during this timeframe.

Why must my blog and blog reviews be in English?
The IBBMP is intended to build up the English speaking book blogging community. If your blog is in another language, I applaud you for wanting to take an active in your own language’s book blogging community. However, you are unlikely to fully benefit from this program as (i.e.) most mentors (including myself) are unfortunately not fluent in your language.

I live in the US or Canada and would like to me a mentee. Is there a program for me?
Why yes! Kate and Kristen have set one up that you might like to check out. See Bookworming in the 21st Century for more information on their program.

MENTORS

How can I apply to be a mentor?
Just send an e-mail with the subject line IBBMP 2010 MENTOR to lenoreva at hotmail dot com and tell me why you’d like to be a mentor. You must have an active blog that has existed as a book blog for a minimum of one year. You agree to send 2-3 books that were published with a traditional publisher in 2009 or 2010 to an overseas address (if you yourself are located overseas, you may elect to be matched up with someone from your own country, if available). Additionally you agree to look over the recipients reviews of the books and give them advice.

What are the benefits of being a mentor?
Not only to you get the eternal gratitude of your IBBMP mentee (and mine), you also get to share your book review writing expertise and have a nice place to donate your used ARCs. I will link to both your blog and your mentee’s blog in my monthly IBBMP feature post which means additional publicity.

When will I find out if I have been selected?
I will send you a personal e-mail after I receive your application. Please allow a few days for me to process it.

AUTHORS

How can I apply to be a sponsoring author?

Just send an e-mail with the subject line IBBMP 2010 AUTHOR to lenoreva at hotmail dot com and tell me why you’d like to be a sponsoring author. Your book must be published with a traditional publisher in 2009 or 2010. You agree to send your book to an overseas address (if you yourself are located overseas, you may elect to be matched up with someone from your own country, if available). In addition, you agree to send a second book. This can be a book from your own backlist (where pre 2009 would be fine) or a book from a fellow author published by a traditional publisher in 2009 or 2010.

What are the benefits of being a sponsoring author?
Fame and fortune of course! You find a review placement for your book with an eager, engaged, and pre-screened international blogger. An experienced book blogger/reviewer (most likely me) will read over the review before publication. I will link to the review and your blog/website in my monthly IBBMP feature post which means additional publicity. You get the eternal gratitude of the IBBMP mentee and renown within the book blogging community. Everybody wins!

When will I find out if I have been selected?
I will send you a personal e-mail after I receive your application. Please allow a few days for me to process it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Book Reviews and Guest Post: Dream Girl and Dream Life by Lauren Mechling

With the help of her dreams and a cameo given to her by her fabulous grandmother Kiki, Claire Voyante is a regular girl detective, solving mysteries and saving friends while living a seemingly normal high school girl existence.
In book one, DREAM GIRL, Claire falls into her first “case” which involves her new best friend Becca, heiress to a ketchup empire, and Becca’s family’s sworn enemies. Book two, DREAM LIFE, finds Claire being invited to join a secret do-gooder society founded by NYC’s richest women.

First off, let me just say that I adore Claire. Her wry narration had me in stitches throughout both books. One of my favorite instances being in book one when she’s trying to figure out how to tell Becca that she can’t ski while headed out to the slopes in Aspen: “If I didn’t speak up fast, I’d end up communicating it via my full body cast.” (p 175)

Both Claire and her friend Becca are so refreshingly non-stereotypical, you just want to hug them – and then move to this fictional NYC and hang out with them (and borrow their clothes!). The supporting characters, from Claire’s Francophile parents who throw regular salons in their West Village apartment to aspiring comic book artist/wheelie-bag toting Ian and other Henry Hudson High classmates, are all well drawn and add pleasing layers to the light, engaging narratives.

Of the mysteries, book two’s is the harder to figure out, but both end on satisfying notes. I’d definitely be up for more books in this series.

DREAM GIRL is now available in paperback and DREAM LIFE was released this week in hardcover. Find out more about both at the author’s website.

Oh and….I have a special message from Claire herself. Read on….
Greetings and salutations, book lovers! I’m Claire Voyante, the main character of Dream Life, Lauren Mechling’s rip-roaring detective novel (and no, it is not immodest to say that about a book you didn’t write but in which you star—I checked in one of my grandmother Kiki’s etiquette books).

Dream Life is all about what happened after I found out my best friend Becca had just joined a super-exclusive, centuries-old secret society called the Blue Moons. I figured out how to wiggle my way into the club, and, of course, much drama ensued. I warmly invite you to check Dream Life out—it’s available at a bookstore or Internet site near you.

When Dream Girl, the first book in the series, came out, my creator Lauren fielded questions from bloggers and journalists. Lauren is currently underground working on a secret project so I offered to step in and relief pitch. I’m taking a page from Ann Landers's book and writing an advice column. The questions came from fans of the series. The answers came from the heart.

(Warning: I don't have a degree in psychotherapy--use at your own risk!)

Dear Claire,

I love your books but all the characters seem to be wearing new fabulous shoes in every scene. This makes me feel bad about my own footwear supply—or lack thereof. What’s up with that (not my feeling bad, but your inaccurate depiction of 15 year old girls’ infinite shoe collections)?

Sincerely,
Rachel Who’s Worn The Same Pair of Treetorns Since September, San Diego


Dear RWWTSPOTSS,

First of all, I’d like to compliment you on your choice in sneaker brand. That you wear a Treetorn says a lot about you: it’s a simple yet slightly unexpected choice. You are obviously comfortable with who you are—otherwise you’d be tramping around school with those stiletto-y ankle boots that scream “look at me! I’m sooooo mature!”

As for your footwear anxiety, relax. I get most of my things as pass-me-downs from my grandmother—it’s not like I have extra cash to burn. And it’s true Becca’s shoe collection rivals the top floor at Saks Fifth Avenue, but here’s a secret: her feet smell like overripe bananas. So, like everything else in life, it’s a tradeoff. And I’d say you and your (sweet-smelling, I'm guessing) Treetorns come out at least one step ahead.

L’amour toujours!

Claire

Thanks Claire! So, when can we get together and hang? How about May...around BEA? I'd love to be invited to one of Kiki's parties at the Waldorf-Astoria :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Book Review: All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab

One year after the murder of Carly, her ex-boyfriend Neily and cousin Audrey are still reeling. Even though Audrey’s father has been convicted of Carly’s murder, Audrey doesn’t believe it, and she sets out to find Carly’s real killer, enlisting Neily’s help.

There really aren’t that many YA novels that fall into the realistic mystery/thriller category, so finding one like this that’s so well-written and expertly set-up is a rare treat.

The story unfolds via alternating narrators, Neily and Audrey, and you need both points of view to truly understand Carly, the key to whole novel. It took me awhile to warm up to Neily. At first he seemed standoffish and whiny, and his frequent navel gazing and smarter-than-thou attitude was irritating. But you gotta love a guy who risks life and limb to bring his ex’s killer to justice even after she broke his heart as viciously as Carly did.

As a character, Audrey was a bit blander than what you’d expect from someone with such a tumultuous upbringing, but really, Carly is the star here anyway. Her slow descent into despair and self-destructive behavior after the loss of her mother was very touching and felt authentic. Her involvement in the Brighton Day School’s bad crowd and their criminal menace also rang true, culminating in a twist I never saw coming.

ALL UNQUIET THINGS was released this week in hardcover. Find out more about it and uncover hidden content on the author’s website.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Loving Tribute to Evelyn Joyce Yakel Dugan

Evelyn Dugan, my maternal grandmother, is being laid to rest today. I wasn’t able to attend the funeral, but I am able to write about how much she meant to me.

The first characteristic that comes to mind when I think of Grandma Evelyn is generosity. She was the one who surprised me with the My Little Pony castle for my 9th Christmas, who bought me three pairs of Guess jeans for high school, who encouraged good grades with a $100 check for straight As and my love of reading with boxes upon boxes of Harlequin historicals (yes, I used to read romances!), who sent me 8 boxes of Great Grains Crunchy Pecan cereal when I was living in Japan ... and so much more.


My mom and grandma before I was born


But it wasn’t just material things. She was generous with her time – calling me often, writing letters at least once a week, frying me up the most delicious hamburgers and garden-grown okra when I came to stay with her, visiting our family in all the various places we lived over the years, and performing selfless acts like organizing a truck to bring all my stuff to her house when I moved to Germany.

And I was not the only one who benefited from her generosity. She bought groceries and other necessities for our family and for charities like DoorStep constantly. She organized a lot of activities at her church and made baby blankets and quilts all the time. She also stayed with my mother nearly the whole time she was in the home hospice program.

My brothers and me with Grandpa Dale and Grandma Evelyn in front of our house in Sunset, Utah


But what I always admired the most about Grandma Evelyn was her perseverance and fighting spirit. Despite the many trials she went through in her life – moving around constantly as a child, the early deaths of her parents, having to take care of a sister who was mentally handicapped, losing a fiancĂ©e in World War II, and having two adult children and her husband precede her in death among them – Grandma Evelyn never played the victim. Both she and my mother were strong role models for me, and though they never quite managed to interest me in gardening, cooking, and sewing, they taught me much which I carry within my heart today.

Not that Grandma Evelyn wasn’t without her endearing eccentricies. When she liked something, she bought A LOT of it – whether it was the Precious Moments figurines which filled various china cabinets through her house, the antique steamer trunks stacked up in her basement, a literal wall of Slim Fast she got for my brother Nick when he decided to go on a diet, the “brass” Christmas (where Uncle Kent instituted the “brass tax”), or the 3 limited edition Beanie Baby pigs she gave Daniel one year (and the 3 concrete pigs she gave him the next).

Grandma Evelyn and Grandpa Dale with me after my HS graduation


Because of her fight with Alzheimer’s the past few years, she wasn’t able to attend my wedding and the last time she recognized me was nearly three years ago. But even in her worsening condition, her sweet spirit and wit shined through.

I will miss you Grandma, and so will so many others. You may be gone, but your legacy lives on.


Read Grandma Evelyn’s obituary.

Where my last 20 reviewed books came from (4)

I'm a bit late with this - these are all books read last year.

Generation A by Douglas Coupland - Amazon Vine
When She Flew by Jennie Shortridge - Provided by author as part of TLC blog tour
The Naughty List by Suzanne Young - Picked up at Frankfurt Book Fair
The Natural Beauty Book by Anne Akers Johnson - Sent by publisher (unsolicited) for review
Dork Diaries by Rachel R. Russell - Provided by author after I accepted author query
Candor by Pam Bachorz - Won at the Teen Author Carnival at the NYC public library in May
Gone by Lisa McMann - Picked up at Frankfurt Book Fair
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti - Requested via Shelf Awareness
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan - Won via Library Thing Early Reviewer Program
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky - Own, used to be my mother's
Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton - Provided by author after I accepted author query
Boyology by Sarah Burningham - Provided by author after I accepted author query
The Help by Kathryn Stockett - Requested via Shelf Awareness
A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve - Sent to me by the fabulous Nicole (thanks again!)
The Mark by Jen Nadol - Traded with Ka-Yam
Notes from My Travels by Angelina Jolie - Borrowed from the "hotel" library in Lamu, Kenya
Fodor's The Complete African Safari Planner - Requested via Shelf Awareness
Footprint's Kenya Handbook - Picked up at Frankfurt Book Fair
Lonely Planet's Watching Wildlife East Africa - Picked up at Frankfurt Book Fair
How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson - Provided by publisher after I accepted publicist query

So quite the variety this review period, though most were still review copies. I'm hoping to get a better balance between review copies and bought/owned/library books as I read more deliberately in 2010. I'm sure review copies will still dominate at least the first half of the year though as I whittle down the pile.

I am officially giving myself permission to abandon books that I am just not into, and I will begin to list those in these FTC Disclosure posts as well as a separate list. There is only so much reading time, and I want to start spending mine reading worthwhile books. I went through my list of books read in 2009 and realized that if I hadn't been such a stickler for reading books to the bitter end last year, there are at least 20 (!) I would have abandoned after a few chapters. That's about 2 months of just so-so reading. But I do want to stress that just because a book isn't for me, doesn't mean YOU won't enjoy it, so take my future DNFs with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday (88) = Picture of Emmy

Let's check in with Emmy and Finn...

...looks like they are playing on the shelves again!

Latest Contest Winners

Here are the winners of all contests from Nov/Dec/Jan:

The winner of a signed copy of Lauren Bjorkman's MY INVENTED LIFE is Donna G. of The First Novels Club.

The two winners of my 700 follower contest are Dani of YA All the Way who chose the 5 books + 1 extra I threw in for good measure (they've already arrived) and Karinlibrarian who got the giftcard.

Kaila won the 3 books in my YA Vampire Series Contest.

Laura of Laura's Review Bookshelf won the advanced copy of IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? - Daniel's first children's picture being published in June 2010.

The winners of My 2009 Favorite Reads contest are Anna of Diary of an Eccentric who chose THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett and Natalie of Mindful Musings who chose LIPS TOUCH by Laini Taylor.

The winner of a signed copy of Jennie Shortridge's WHEN SHE FLEW is Amanda of A Bookshelf Monstrosity (who has a very lovely color-coded bookshelf I see).

And finally, the winner of Beatles Rock Band for Wii is Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit.

Congrats to all! If you haven't received an e-mail from me yet, please send your mailing address to lenoreva at hotmail dot com.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Review and Giveaway: The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer

Michael Palmer’s THE FIFTH VIAL is one of the most exciting and memorable thrillers I’ve ever read. Even though it’s been at least 3 years since I finished, I still have the plot and characters burned into my brain. Why? Palmer excels at creating scarily plausible medical nightmare premises that are part conspiracy theory, part engaging human drama. And he’s done it again with his latest, THE LAST SURGEON.

The drama here revolves around war hero Dr. Nick Garrity who suffers from severe PTSD. As he tries to figure out what happened to an old war buddy, his path crosses that of psych nurse Jillian Coates who is investigating her sister’s murder (an apparent suicide). At the same time, we meet diabolical hitman Franz Koller, the self-proclaimed master of the “non-kill”, who is hired by a mysterious client to stage suicides and accidents.

Both Nick and Jillian are appealing characters to follow as they get closer to uncovering a secret that someone is determined to keep buried. The scenes which feature Franz are some of the most chilling I’ve ever read (and not for the squeamish).

If you're a fan of Michael Palmer, you'll no doubt enjoy this one too. If you're new to him, I might suggest trying THE FIFTH VIAL first as that is still my favorite of his. Or if you prefer this premise, you can read the prologue to see if it really is your type of novel. If it turns out you really like his style, he has a slew of other novels you can pick up. My next one will be THE FIRST PATIENT.

THE LAST SURGEON comes out on February 16th. Until then, check out the interactive content on the author's Facebook page and on his website. I also have a signed copy of the book to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment telling me which Michael Palmer thriller premise appeals to you the most (see the list of book summaries). Since it is sponsored by the author, this contest is US and Canada only. I'll keep it open for 2 weeks - until January 25th at 11:59 pm CST.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Introducing the International Book Blogger Mentor Program 2010

It can be tough to keep up with the book blogging community when you don’t live in the US or Canada. Publishers won’t send you books, most contests aren’t for you, and it can be next to impossible to find certain titles in your home country.

Over the past two years of book blogging, I’ve been very lucky about the amount of books I’ve received and I’ve passed a fair number of my books on to other bloggers in countries such as Vietnam, Pakistan, Scotland, Spain and of course Germany.

I would like to continue supporting international book bloggers and have decided to start the International Book Blogger Mentor Program. Any book blogger who blogs in English about books and lives outside the US and Canada can apply. Each month I will pick one blogger to send 2-3 of my most recent review copies to. Upon request, I will also look over the reviews you write for the books and suggest improvements. Once you post your first review, I will feature you and your blog on Presenting Lenore.

To apply:

You must have an active blog with at least 10 book reviews posted to date. Just write an e-mail to lenoreva at hotmail dot com with the subject line IBBMP 2010 telling me your future plans for your blog and why you’d like to be a part of the mentor program. You can also mention what new and forthcoming books are on the top of your wish list and I will try to match you up with at least one. If you are selected, I will write you an e-mail and give you a list of books to select from.

Hope to hear from you International Book Bloggers soon! And please spread the word.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Book Review: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Regina Afton was part of the Fearsome Fivesome until one of them told a lie that got her frozen out. Now she is on the receiving end of bullying she used to dish out. With no one left to turn to, Regina finds an unlikely ally in Michael Hayden, a misfit she helped to break.

It’s credit to Author Courtney Summers immense talent that we are actually able to sympathize with Regina’s plight despite her being extremely unlikeable and for the most part unrepentant for the damage she caused (and continues to cause) her own victims. This is a compelling character study of a girl everybody loves to hate who actually deserves it, and Summers holds nothing back. What Anna and Kara do to her is atrocious, but what she does back to them is no less so and the cycle of violence continues. It actually made me think about what goes on between Israelis and Palestinians, with Hutus and Tutsis and with other groups of sworn enemies day after day. How hard it is to forgive. And how hard it is to be the wronged party but to look for a peaceful solution instead of taking an eye for an eye.

At the heart of the novel though is Regina’s complicated relationship with Michael and the lengths she will go to in order to protect him once she gets to know him. He’s her path to redemption, but he’s not going to make it easy for her, and neither are her former friends.

No one is going to tell you this is a “fun” way to spend your reading hours, but it is a rewarding way: the novel is involving, moving and yes, gut-wrenching. And Summers has trimmed any trace of fat, resulting in a tight narrative that clips along at a pace that keeps you glued to the page despite the unpleasantness. I read it one sitting.

SOME GIRLS ARE is available in paperback now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My episode on That's How I Blog is available now!

Nicole interviewed me on Tuesday night and a bunch of us discussed LIAR by Justine Larbalestier on the latest episode of That's How I Blog which is now available for streaming: Presenting Lenore on That's How I Blog.

I discuss everything from why I started book blogging to why I moved to Germany to books I am looking forward this year.

Here are some links to topics I mention during my interview:

My new book blogger FAQ
Adele at Persnickety Snark on why she's Team Gale
The LIAR spoiler thread on Justine Larbalestier's website

And here is a list of books that also have unreliable narrators:

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday (87) = Picture of Emmy

While perusing the 50% off items after Christmas, we came upon an elf outfit for cats. Well, you know we just couldn't resist....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Blog Tour and Beatles Rock Band for Nintendo Wii Giveaway: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

A warm welcome to Author Elizabeth Eulberg, here to tell us about her favorite Beatles song (or make that songs...). Read my review of The Lonely Hearts Club in a separate post.

I had this coming to me. How could I not? When one writes a book influenced by The Beatles and their songs, it only makes sense that I’d be asked about my favorite Beatles song. But the problem is I don’t have a favorite Beatles song. I have many…

Where to begin… Since I always recommend Beatles novices to start with the superb Beatles 1 album that features their numerous #1 hits, I will start with songs on that album. Several of my favorite songs are on this compilation: “Ticket to Ride,” “We Can Work it Out,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Something.” The Beatles have so many songs that can take me on an emotional journey (very much like my character Penny in The Lonely Hearts Club).

The first line of “Ticket to Ride” pulls at my heart every time: “I think I’m going to be sad, I think it’s today…” Very simple, very beautiful. I recently learned to play this on the guitar and when I first played the opening guitar line, I said, “Awww…. So sad.” I thought I was going to cry. My poor, poor guitar teacher.

“We Can Work it Out” is a song that makes me want to sing along and dance. The lyrics about well…working things out have a great message, especially the line “life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting my friend.” There was an entire scene in an early draft of The Lonely Hearts Club that was inspired by this song.

While the Beatles were best known in the beginning of their career for their guitar riffs, “Eleanor Rigby” took them in a different direction. Strings replaced the guitar and the gorgeous melody of this song is one of my favorites. The line “I look at all the lonely people…” was originally the opening line of The Lonely Hearts Club, but I decided that might seem a little too depressing.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon wrote the majority of the Beatles’ songs, but George Harrison wrote two of my favorites: “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun.” “Something” is one of the purest love songs in the world. When George sings, “You’re asking me if my love will grow? I don’t know, oh I don’t know…” The force and emotion he puts into “I don’t know” gives me chills.

There are so many more songs that I could talk about, especially in relation to my book, but there is one song that I will always think of The Lonely Hearts Club when I hear. And oddly enough it isn’t “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (although I do love that song). Whenever I finished a draft of my manuscript, I would turn on the electric version of “Revolution” and dance around my apartment like a lunatic to celebrate. I smile anytime I hear that song and think about how excited I was when I would play that.

I have no doubt that I’ll be playing that song, and many more Beatles song, for years to come.

Thanks Elizabeth!

Giveaway details:

Not content to just listen to the Beatles? If you want to sing and play along, then the Beatles Rock Band game (Special value edition) for Nintendo Wii is for you. I have (1) game to give away. You must have a mailing address in the US and you must leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite Beatles song is to enter.

+1 entry for posting a link to this contest on your blog (sidebar is fine) and leaving a separate comment telling me you did so

+1 entry for tweeting about the contest (include @lenoreva in your tweet) and leaving a separate comment telling me you did so

The contest will remain open until Monday Jan 11th at 11:59 CST. I will annouce the winner (and the winners of all my other open contests) the next day.

Here is some product information:

The Fab Four take center stage once more in this exclusive Rock Band spin-off. More than a compilation of songs from the Beatles, the game re-creates the band's historic concerts, signature instruments, and changing appearances over the span of a 12-album career. Digital versions of John, Paul, George, and Ringo will not only perform at authentic venues, but also within dreamlike environments inspired by some of the band's more colorful songs.

As with previous entries in the Rock Band franchise, the game involves playing songs by following onscreen cues with one of four peripherals: a microphone, lead guitar, bass guitar, and drums. Vocals now offer three playable parts, a first for the series, including one lead and two harmonies. A built-in vocal trainer will help you get accustomed to singing each melody, as you are able to freely switch between all three parts with a press of a button. Three microphones are required to harmonize with your friends.

Featured on the disc are 45 tracks, including "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "Here Comes the Sun," "I Feel Fine," "Taxman," "Octopus' Garden," "Get Back," "Day Tripper," "I Saw Her Standing There," "I Am the Walrus," and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Downloadable content is also supported to expand the initial track list, with 1969's Abbey Road the first album scheduled for online distribution.

Hope you enjoyed this installment of The Lonely Hearts Club tour. Check in at Green Bean Teen Queen on Wedesday for the next stop where Elizabeth talks about her favorite road trips. And for all the tour dates as well as more information about the book, visit the author's website.

Book Review: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

Penny has been in love with the son of close family friends since early childhood, so she’s devastated when the jerk betrays her after a perfect summer. Disillusioned with romance and fed up with boys, Penny resolves to quit dating until she graduates high school, setting off a movement among the girls in her town.

I loved the positivity of this novel. Penny’s been done wrong, but instead of wallowing in self-pity and playing the victim, she channels her energy into something constructive – a club that’s all about girl bonding. The rules for membership start out strict – no dating guys AT ALL until you graduate – but as Penny realizes that not all guys are scum (just most) and that one of them might actually be right for her, she realizes that maybe the rules need to evolve.

The narrative starts out strongly (adored the first two chapters especially), and though the pacing is just right, I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more character development overall. Penny’s background and motivations are well explored, but many of the supporting characters are very simply woven, either annoyingly “villainous” (I’m looking at you Principal Braddock) or peppy and supportive (the majority of the members of the club). Conflicted cheerleader Diane, Diane’s ex Ryan, and brooding musician Tyson (YUM!) were the only ones I found satisfyingly complex.

But no matter, this is feel good fluff at its best and most heartwarming. And it might just have you breaking out your Beatles collection and putting together a playlist to light up these dreary winter days.

The Lonely Hearts Club is out in hardcover now! Read a guest post by the author.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Presenting Lenore on That's How I Blog!

I will be chatting with Nicole on her radio show That's How I Blog on Tuesday the 5th (two days from now). The show will start at 10 pm EST (7 pm Pacific) which means since I am in Germany, it will be 4 am for me, so let's pray I'll be coherent!

I hope at least some of you can be there for the show live. I hear there is a fun chat room running parallel to the show where you all can gossip about me (how can you resist now?). You can also send Nicole questions in advance to ask me. Just send an e-mail to nicole [at] linussblanket [dot] com with Presenting Lenore in the subject line.

We'll spend the second half of the show discussing Justine Larbalestier's LIAR, and we'll probably get into spoilers but not until later, and not until we've warned you to stop listening.

For those of you with other plans, the show will be archived so you can listen later.

See you there!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009 in Review: Highlights Month by Month

2009 was a great year in many ways. Here are some of the highlights.

January

AS King delivered probably my favorite author interview of the year in the guise of DUST OF 100 DOGS character Saffron.

Adele of Persnickety Snark launched the Young Adult Read Carpet Podcast, which unfortunately only lasted two episodes. Read transcripts of my contributions: Dystopias Part 1 and Dystopias Part 2.

February

For Valentine's Day, I posted a love letter to my collection of signed books. I should do this again in 2010 with all the signed books I've acquired since then.

I was one of the first bloggers featured on Cathy's awesome feature Scene of the Blog at Kittling Books.

Steph of Reviewer X and I got together to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson including a post where four awesome authors speak up about SPEAK.

March

Alea of Pop Culture Junkie and I invented the Zombie Chicken Award (button by Daniel) and gave it to each other, sparking a viral phenom that spans the blogosphere. Google it today and find over 1 million hits!

April

Daniel and I met new kitteh Finn for the first time. See first kitten pictures of Finn.

I went to the Greek island of Rhodes for 5 days with friends Heather and Tracy. (Rhodes update)

May

I traveled to Lisbon, Portugal for a week to attend a design conference (OFFF 2009). (Lisbon recap)

My first time in NYC and at BEA where I met a ton of authors, publicists, and fellow bloggers. And of course, got a signed copy of Catching Fire. (BEA recap 1) (BEA recap 2)

June

We picked up Finn and brought him home. Emmy was none too pleased!

I participated in the Nerds Heart YA Tournament - the brain child of Renay at YA Fabulous -with a bunch of other cool bloggers and made a tough decision in my first round berth. The eventual winner was MY MOST FABULOUS YEAR by Steve Kluger.

July

I traveled to Barcelona for a wedding which gave me the perfect opportunity to take a NOTHING BUT GHOSTS field trip!

Went to Brussels for Florian W.'s wedding. Congrats!

August

I visited my best friend Sommer in Ohio and then went to Kansas for the first time in 2009 where I picked up 8 months worth of books that had been sent to me.

September

Presenting Lenore is shortlisted for Most Eclectic Taste during Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Thanks to everyone who nominated me and voted!

I attended 3 Tori Amos shows (Basel, Zurich and Luxembourg), and was in the FRONT ROW for two of them! (Tori shows recap)

October

I confessed that LIAR Author Justine Larbalestier and I are best friends in my review of LIAR.

I attended 3 more Tori Amos shows (Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, and Berlin), was in the FRONT ROW again for one show, met Tori for the second time, and finally heard Northern Lad live.

Rocked the Frankfurt Book Fair. (Recap day 1) (Recap days 2-5) (Shaun Tan book signing recap)

I participated in Dewey's 24 hr Read-a-Thon as a cheerleader and left 500 comments!

November

My new (non-paranoid) book club had a phone chat with THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER Author Kathleen Kent.

Daniel and I traveled to Kenya and Tanzania for nearly three weeks. (Africa recap 1) (Africa recap 2) (Africa recap 3)

December

The blog got its 700th follower, 1000th subscriber, and 108,000th visitor. Thank you everyone for reading!

Daniel and I visited DC, LA and Wichita. (Partial DC and LA recap)

Have a great 2010 everyone!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 in Review: Books and Blog Stats!

So you know I love stats right? The following are the ones I chose to keep track of this year.

BOOK STATS

Total books read: 134 not including picture books (+1 which I will review in 2010, so I will count it then to make it easier)

First I will break down my reading by intended age-group (for marketing purposes):

YA: 83 (more than last year)
Adult: 41 (less than last year)
Middle grade: 10 (less than last year)

Secondly by genre: (note - a few books were very hard to classify, so I placed them where my gut feeling told me too!)

Contemporary/realistic fiction: 39
Paranormal/urban fantasy: 19
Sci-fi/dystopia/horror: 16
Chick lit/romance: 14 (surprisingly high!)
Historical fiction: 12
Traditional fantasy: 11
Thriller: 10
Non-fiction: 9
Classics: 2


Thirdly by gender of author:


102 by women
29 by men
3 by both


And then by how I aquired the book:


Sent for review/book tour: 82 (more than last year)
Book fair: 18 (not counted last year)
Bought/own: 12 (less than last year)
Amazon Vine/LT ER or other ARC program: 10 (same as last year)
Borrowed/library: 6 (less than last year)
Won in contest/gift (or trade) from blogger: 6 (same as last year)


BLOG STATS


Number of posts: 365 (average of one per day - YAY!)
Most popular contest: 700 Followers Contest with 415+ entries
Most commented book reviews: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (42 comments) and 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (46 comments)
Most commented non-review post: Authors requesting reviews (110 comments)
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2009 Challenges Wrap-up + Challenges for 2010

I didn't join a lot of challenges in 2009, because frankly, I am not good at finishing challenges. But this year, I joined challenges that I thought would be pretty easy, so I managed to far exceed my goals in three of the challenges, and barely miss my goal in the last.

For the LT Author Challenge, we were supposed to read at least 5 books from authors who list their libraries at LibraryThing. I read 12:
Wake, Fade, and Gone by Lisa McMann
How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson
The Miles Between and The Adoration of Jenna Fox by mary e. pearson
Milestones by Samira Armin Hodges
Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender
Where am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman
Secret Son by Laila Lalami
Dust of 100 Dogs by AS King
This One is Mine by Maria Semple

For the Chunkster Challenge, I signed on to read 3 adult books over 450 pages. However, I only managed 2:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoesvsky

For the ARC Challenge, we were supposed to read at least 12 ARCS. I read 60.

For the YA Challenge, we were also supposed to read at least 12 YA books. I read 81, including 40 by debut authors (thrilled to support you, debut authors!)


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As for 2010, so far I have only decided to join two challenges officially. Mostly, I have a few personal challenges for myself.

The Story Siren


As I just mentioned, in 2009, I read 40 books by debut authors including 3 that are to be released in 2010 (BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver, THE MARK by Jen Nadol and THE NAUGHTY LIST by Suzanne Young). To meet the 2010 Debut Author Challenge, I'll have to read at least 12 2010 YA or MG debuts in 2010. My list so far definitely includes:

1. The Line by Teri Hall
2. The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
3. The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
4. The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter
5. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
6. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
7. All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab

...but I am sure I will read many, many more!

Since February is so dark and dreary in Frankfurt, I am going to call it dystopian lit month, and will try to read and review the following dystopian titles (both old, new and forthcoming):

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody (1987)
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (1993)
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (1998)
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (UK 2007/US 2010)
Furnace: The Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith (2009)
The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (2009)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner (2009)
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist (2009)
The Things that Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley (Jan 2010)
The Line by Teri Hall (March 2010)
Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder (April 2010)
Dark Life by Kat Falls (May 2010)


And since I am planning on reading so many, I decided to join Book Chick City's Speculative Fiction challenge on the OBSESSED level which is 24 books for the year (because otherwise it wouldn't be much of a challenge). I will list them here with links to the reviews as I go.
1. The Dark Divine by Bree Despain (Urban Fantasy)
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I also aim to read at least 4 Classics this year (in 2009 I only read 2):

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
(4th to be determined)

And I want to read at least 3 books in German this year (to be determined) since my 10th anniversary of living in Germany is at the end of February this year (can you believe it?!).

In honor of Daniel's first children's picture book coming out (IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?), he and I will also review picture books (new and old) on Presenting Lenore starting in March.

And lastly, before I start participating in Waiting on Wednesday again, I want to finish up reading all my remaining WoW picks that I've aquired. These include:

The Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs (2008)
The Rapture by Liz Jensen (2009)
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (2009)
The Plague by Joanne Dahme (2009)
Far North by Marcel Theroux (2009)
The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement Moore (2009)
How It Ends by Laura Wiess (2009)
Pastword by Ian Black (2009)
Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato (2009)
The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault (2009)

2009 in Review: Movies and TV

Even though I don't usually blog about movies or tv, I do like my year end list summaries.

Key:
Green = Favorites of the year
Blue = Guilty pleasures
Red = Why did I watch this?!

Movies I saw in 2009 that were released in 2009
(in order of box office gross)

Up
The Hangover (plane)
Avatar
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The Proposal (plane)
Taken (plane)
Terminator Salvation (DVD)
Inglorious Basterds
Watchmen (DVD)
Public Enemies
I Love You, Man (plane)
17 Again (plane)
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Bruno
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (plane)
Funny People (plane)
My Sister’s Keeper (plane)
State of Play (plane)
500 Days of Summer
The International
Gamer
The Road
Adam
The Brothers Bloom (on demand)

Total of 24 (one more than last year)

Notable movies I saw in 2009 that were made before 2009

Battle Royale (DVD)
Slumdog Millionaire (DVD)
The Reader
Revolutionary Road (DVD)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Spielzeugland (Short Film Oscar Winner 2009) (TV)

2009 movies I’d still like to see

An Education
Bright Star
Whip it!

TV series I watched in 2009 (Most on DVD)

24 – Season 7
Battlestar Galactica – Complete Series (4 Seasons)
Dexter – Seasons 2 + 3
Dollhouse – Season 1
Germany’s Next Top Model – Season 4
Lost – Season 5
Mad Men – Seasons 1 + 2
Planet Earth – Complete Series
Pushing Daisies – Season 1
True Blood – Season 1

How was YOUR year in movies and TV?

Books Read in 2009

YA fiction

The Naughty List by Suzanne Young
Candor by Pam Bachorz
Gone by Lisa McMann
The Mark by Jen Nadol
Lips Touch by Laini Taylor
My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman
Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman
The Everafter by Amy Huntley
The Waking: Dreams of the Dead by Thomas Randall
Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Crashed by Robin Wasserman
Skinned by Robin Wasserman
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
Wanderlust by Lucy Silag
The Stolen One by Suzanne Crowley
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
The Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda
Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
Exclusively Chloe by J.A. Yang
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Starfinder by John Marco
Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley
An Off Year by Claire Zulkey
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Ash by Malinda Lo
Feathered by Laura Kasischke

Dull Boy by Sarah Cross
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson
The Heights by Brian James
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev
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
Undercover by Beth Kephart
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Willow by Julia Hoban
In Too Deep by Jennifer Banash
The Elite by Jennifer Banash
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
The Poison Apples by Lily Archer

Fade by Lisa McMann
Wake by Lisa McMann
The Rule of Won by Stefan Petrucha
Triple Shot Bettys in Love by Jody Gehrman
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison
wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
Dust of 100 Dogs by AS King
Hot Mess by Julie Kraut & Shallon Lester

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

YA non-fiction

Boyology by Sarah Burningham
Everything Sucks by Hannah Friedman

Middle grade fiction

Dork Diaries by Rachel R. Russell
Half Minute Horrors by various
The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson
Things Are Gonna Get Ugly by Hillary Homzie
The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater
Tell Me Who by Jessica Wollman
Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies by Erin Dionne
I, Lorelei by Yeardley Smith

Middle grade non-fiction

The Natural Beauty Book by Anne Akers Johnson
Down Down Down by Steve Jenkins

Adult fiction

Generation A by Douglas Coupland
When She Flew by Jennie Shortridge
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson
No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

Sometimes We're Always Real Same Same by Mattox Roesch
Amberville by Tim Davys
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Secret Son by Laila Lalami
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Swimming by Nicola Keegan
Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch
The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato
The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns by Elizabeth Leiknes

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
Last Last Chance by Fiona Maazel
Life Sentences by Laura Lippman
The Secret Keeper by Paul Harris
Darling Jim by Christian Moerk
The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos
Red by Jordan Summers
Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley
Atticus by Ron Hansen
Turning Japanese by Cathy Yardley

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall
This One is Mine by Maria Semple
Eclipse by Richard North Patterson
After the Fires by Ursula Pflug

Adult non-fiction

Notes from My Travels by Angelina Jolie
The Deep by Claire Nouvian
Where am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman
The Customer is Always Wrong ed. by Jeff Martin
Click by Bill Tancer