Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (15)

Lu proves he can sleep comfortably in ANY position!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review: Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer

Kathryn and Brooke are both amazing singers and are motivated to win an annual music competition that offers scholarship money. Though they used to be friends, they are now bitter rivals. Told from both the point of alto Brooke and soprano Kathryn, the novel makes us root for both. But only one can win. Who will it be?

RIVAL is an engaging look at the reasons friends become enemies and how bad blood sours other aspects of their lives. Though I initially had more sympathy for Kathryn, Brooke grew on me. Her characterization as the queen bee who doesn’t care about the popularity game felt unique and fresh, even if her daddy issues were fairly standard YA material. Kathryn can also be pretty clueless, especially when it comes to her one friend. The poor guy let her totally treat him like a doormat. Do unto others, Kathryn, do unto others…

Debut Author Sara Bennett Wealer keeps the tension and stakes high, resulting in a quick, satisfying read and a nail-biter of a final showdown.

RIVAL comes out in hardcover on February 15, 2011. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Fun fact:  Sara is a fellow Kansan - and she went to KU.  Go Jayhawks!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Contest to support Author L.K. Madigan

As some of may have already heard, YA Author L.K. Madigan (FLASH BURNOUT, THE MERMAID'S MIRROR) shared some hard news on her blog last week.  Briana of The Book Pixie has put together a contest to show her support featuring a bunch of donated prizes - including a hardcover copy of DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver (donated by me).  Check out the rules and prizes at Briana's blog.

I just ordered 2 copies of THE MERMAID'S MIRROR today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Will Work For Prom Dress

So there's this fun site I discovered today:  http://willworkforpromdress.com/

Author Aimee Ferris is posting mystery prom photos from our favorite YA authors and kidlit people to promote her new book WILL WORK FOR PROM DRESS coming Feb. 8, 2011.

Interestingly enough, I am going to see my prom date this weekend (because he lives in Austin, TX now and we will be there for Daniel's IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? reading/signing at BookPeople - 11:30 am Saturday Jan 22nd) and he just posted our prom picture on Facebook.  So perfect opportunity to share it on the blog in all its cheesy glory.  Enjoy!


No, I don't know what's up with the horse in the background either.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (14)

Today I have some shots of the kittens in action.

Lu with his prey (my - his tail is getting fluffy!).

Kaia gets caught licking Emmy (Do you see that sweet little tongue?).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Meridian by Amber Kizer

Meridian’s 16th birthday doesn’t go as planned. Instead of celebrating with her family, she’s forced to flee them and set off for her great aunt’s home across the country. All because she’s a special kind of human-angel hybrid that’s being hunted to extinction.

There’s a very entertaining story in these pages, but it is sometimes muddled by uneven pacing, a few choppy transitions and a come-out-of-nowhere romance. I really enjoyed the mythology Author Kizer set up here. We learn little by little about the Fenestra (windows that dying souls use to access the afterlife) and their opponents the Aternochti. Meridian’s great aunt Merry is a spunky character who helps Meridian realize her potential and shares her history as well as the history of the Fenestra that came before.

Mr “big bad” is a reverend with movie-star looks who is taking over Merry’s town, blaming tragedies on Merry and taking credit for successes. The scenes where Merry and Meridian go to a pizza parlor and attend a church service are chilling, but overall, he doesn’t come off as that smart.

The book starts off in a whirlwind – we barely get time to meet Meridian’s family before she’s forced on the run. Then we a get a mix of “danger” scenes, at times frustratingly vague conversations, and a brooding “protector” love interest called Tens who is rude to Meridian nearly the whole book.

Despite not loving this 100%, I am still looking forward to the sequel, WILDCAT FIREFLIES that comes out this summer. Find out more about the novel at the author’s website.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Centuries before our story opens, Colonel Pyncheon set his sights on land that was already occupied by another man, Matthew Maule. In order to get rid of his rival, he accused him of witchcraft.  During Maule's execution, Maule is said to have cursed Pyncheon and his line.  Pyncheon builds the house of seven gables on Maule's former property, employing the son of the rival as head carpenter.  As the years pass, the Pyncheon line is struck by many tradegies, until only an old spinster, Hepzibah, and three other relations still live.  A teen girl, Phoebe, is one these relations, and her sunny presence in the old, foreboding house seems to promise that the family curse will finally be lifted...

This is a twisted tale of greed and its consequences. Though the basic plot is engaging enough, Hawthorne is exceedingly loquacious, and even pauses at times to apologize for his tangents.  For example, after a pages long description of the activities of chickens in the seven gables garden, Hawthorne writes: "The author needs great faith in the reader's sympathy, else he must hesitate to give details so minute, and incidents apparently so trifling, as are essential to make up the idea of this garden life."  Indeed!

Hawthorne's prose is also very ornate.  I often would read a line or two aloud to Daniel, and then "translate" it into plain English.  Here's a line describing a boy eating a gingerbread whale, after having eaten quite a few other gingerbread animals in the days before: "The great fish, reversing his experience with the prophet of Nineveh, immediately began his progress down the same red pathway of fate whither so varied a caravan had preceded him."

While the journey was often arduous, and the ending wrapped events up rather predictibly (though I am still not 100% sure what happened to cousin Judge Pyncheon), I am glad I read it.  Not only because it is the first completed novel of my Classics Monthly Challenge, but also because my mother tried to get me to read it for years (even to the point that she sent it to me to Ecuador to read). 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book Club Report: Lamb by Christopher Moore

The member who picked our book this month wanted something funny after all the dark, heavy reads we've had.  She just couldn't resist the subtitle The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.

Short Summary: Biff is brought back from the dead 2000 years after the death of Christ to tell his version of Jesus' life.  After all, the gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John only cover his birth, one incident at 12, his short ministry and his death.  What the happened the rest of the time?  Biff is here to tell us.

The Group's Verdict: This novel was a chunkster, so guess who was the only member of the book club to read it all the way to the end?  Yep, that would be me. Soo...our discussion was mainly me talking about what happened in the book and the rest of the group members explaining why they only got 10/40/250/400 pages in or didn't start it at all.

Moore writes in his afterward (in my version anyway) that he thinks the people who would "get" the references the best (because they know the Bible) are the very people who would refuse to read it because it is sacreligious.  None of my book club members were this type of person, however.  Most of them are simply new moms with little time.

I am a Christian (a Baptist even) and I had no problems reading this.  I know it's fiction.  Moore is not trying to sell these events as "gospel truth".  I know a lot of people that would have problems reading this though. I just thought it was a clever story, written in an engaging manner (I didn't skip over anything - yay).  The first half was more detailed while the second half was more rushed, almost as if Moore suddenly got tired of the story and just wanted to get it over with.  But I liked it.  And I think it would be a good book to discuss with a book club.  You know, if they all actually read the book.

Up Next: THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein - which is a book I would NEVER in a zillion years choose for myself.  (Race car driving? Dog narrator? Saintly husband with a wife dying of cancer? Ummm..no thanks.) So, we'll see how this goes!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (13)

What's in the box?  Doesn't look like headphones to me!

Aha! It's Kaia.  Silly kitty.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Review: Book Crush by Nancy Pearl

I started reading modern YA (post 2000 let's say) about the same time I started reviewing YA in 2008 (with some exceptions, including THE BOOK THIEF, Lemony Snicket, and Artemis Fowl), so while I'm very knowledgeable about super current YA and YA from the 1980s and 90s, my backlist reading is woefully inadequate.

That's why when I saw BOOK CRUSH at my library and saw that it was published in 2007, I thought it would be perfect for getting some backlist reading ideas.  A "celebrated librarian" Pearl offers up over 1000 titles organized into 118 lists.  The titles cover the entire spectrum of children's books - from board books to YA - and even include some adult titles of interest to teens.  That meant that I had actually read more recommended titles than I would have thought - including of course, those teen classics I read as a teen such as HERO AND THE CROWN and JACOB I HAVE LOVED.

Let's take a look at a list especially close to my heart: "Utopia - Not!"  Pearl recommends one YA series (Scott Westerfeld's Uglies - the first books I ever reviewed on my blog), 4 YA stand-alones (FEED by MT Anderson and HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff which I've read and SHADE'S CHILDREN by Garth Nix and VIRTUAL WAR by Gloria Skurzynski's VIRTUAL WAR which I have not, 2 classics (BRAVE NEW WORLD and FAHRENHEIT 451 which I've read) and two adult novels (JENNIFER GOVERNMENT by Max Berry and PATTERN RECOGNITION by William Gibson which I've read, the latter never have seen classified as a dystopian). 12 books and I've read 10 of them, with the other 2 already on my wishlist.

On the other YA lists, which range from "Cry me a river" to "Girls kick butt", I also had heard of probably 80% of the titles already, due to my prodigious book blog appetite.  I did, however, add some titles to my wishlist:

WHERE I WANT TO BE by Adele Griffen (narrated by two sisters, one of them dead)

THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer (MC is a clone of a drug lord) (and yes, I have seen this around before, but never read the summary, so I didn't know it had such an awesome premise)

DEAD GIRLS DON'T WRITE LETTERS by Gail Giles (MC knows girl is pretending to be her dead sister, but why?)

So, overall a good resource to check out from the library, but maybe not to buy - unless you are pretty unfamiliar with children't lit as a whole.  Find out more about the book at the author's website.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Time for Dinner by Pilar Guzman

I'm not sure anymore where I first saw this cookbook, but it promised easy, fast, and yummy meals so I ordered it.  The rest of the book's title is: Strategies, Inspiration, and Recipes for Family Meals Every Night of the Week.  It was put together by the editors of Cookie Magazine and has a very clean magazine design look and feel. I love it!

Now even though the target group for this cookbook is busy mothers with children, I found it practically perfect for me, a busy professional cooking for two (no children).  First off, it starts with the strategies, which includes having a pantry, fridge and freezer stocked with some basics (and these basics are used over and over in the following recipes).  It also recommends a variety of tools and kitchen items that will make your life easier, especially if you have young children that want "to help" you cook.

After that the book is divided into sections:
  • Weekly meal plans
  • Hard to screw up meals
  • Family dinners where everyone eats the same thing (even if our plates look different)
  • Sandwiches
  • Use what you already have
  • Playdate/Party menus
This weekend, I made two dishes from the hard to screw up meals section.

The first was avgolemono, a very simple and delicious Greek soup.

You need:
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup uncooked orzo (you can substitute rice)
salt and pepper
3 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Bring broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook for 7 minutes (20 min if using rice). Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. Let simmer.

In medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth.

Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg and lemon mixture, whisking to combine.

Add mixture back into the simmering saucepan. Stir 1-2 minutes until the soup becomes opaque.  Serve.

You can also add shredded chicken if you wish.

I followed the recipe except for adding double the orzo (and Daniel said he still wanted more orzo, so I might do 3/4 of a cup next time).  I loved the tang of the lemon in this filling soup.  I gave it an A and Daniel gave it a B.

Next I made rigatoni casserole with tofu, spinich and mozzarella.  This made a HUGE casserole which is lighter than our typical casseroles because of the lack of meat.  Daniel found it a bit bland, but hot sauce did the trick.  We both give it a B.  I am sure we will be eating on it for days!

I'm really excited about trying out tons of other recipes in this cookbook, and that doesn't happen often.  I especially like the section "Use what you already have" which gives different staples (like potatoes, canned tomatoes, lentils, eggs, tofu, rotisserie chicken and many others) and then three ways to make it depending on what other ingredients you have on hand.

I highly recommend this one!

Weekend Cooking is a feature at Beth Fish Reads that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

This is my second time participating - but not my last!  Daniel and I have vowed to cook more at home, so you should be seeing more cookbook reviews from me in the coming year.

Friday, January 7, 2011

2010 in Review: Books and Blog Stats!

Ok, I'm a bit late, but here are the stats I kept track of this year!


Total books read: 161 (not including picture books).  What? You saw I only reviewed 160 books on this post here?  Yep, that's because 1 book I finished was so royally bad, I thought no good could come from me reviewing it.

Moving on...

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

YA: 105 (22 more than last year)
Adult: 40 (1 less than last year)
Middle grade: 15 (5 more 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/literary fiction: 49 (10 more than last year)
Paranormal/urban fantasy: 26 (7 more than last year)
Sci-fi/dystopia/horror: 47 (21 more than last year)
Chick lit/romance: 2 (12 less than last year)
Historical fiction: 7 (5 less than last year)
Traditional fantasy: 6 (5 less than last year)
Thriller: 14 (4 more than last year)
Non-fiction: 8 (1 less than last year)
Classics: 2 (same as last year)

Thirdly by gender of author:

116 by women
41 by men
3 by both
1 by unknown

And then by how I aquired the book:

Sent for review/book tour: 72 (ten less than last year)
Book fair: 36 (18 more than last year)
Bought/own: 28 (16 more than last year)
Amazon Vine/LT ER or other ARC program: 12 (2 more than last year)
Borrowed/library: 9 (3 more than last year)
Won in contest/gift (or trade) from blogger: 4 (less than last year)

Authors read more than once: 10
Adriana Trigiani 4
Meg Cabot 4 (including short story)
Margaret Peterson Haddix 3
Courtney Summers 2
Alexander Gorden Smith 2
Patrick Ness 2
Catherine Fisher 2
Rachel Vincent 2
Lauren Mechling 2
Laura Brodie 2


Number of posts: 332 (less than last year)
Most popular contest: Mockingjay iPod Touch with 2500+ entries and 6000+ page views
Most commented book review (excluding contests): Linger by Maggie Stiefvater 39 comments
Most commented non-review post: Book Bloggers Behaving Badly: Are You on an Author's "Hate List"? 155 comments

Months with over 9,000 unique visitors: April, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov. 
Highest visitor month: August with 14,000

And there you have it!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book Review: Choker by Elizabeth Woods

What if your best friend turned out to be dangerous? 

16 year old Cara feels like an outsider at her high school.  She has no real friends and tries to ignore the taunts of the popular girls who call her choker.  So she's excited when her best friend from her old town shows up.  Zoe is bold and independent and gives Cara confidence.  But when Cara's enemies start turning up dead, Cara has to wonder if Zoe has something to do with it.

Soooo....this is one of those novels that messes with your head.  You know, one of those that you start reading and initially dismiss as predictible and then WHOA!

Debut Author Woods builds a frighteningly effective atmosphere that's a mix of bullying, desire, low self-esteem, and mental instability.  It's an explosive combo.  Cara is a total train wreck, crush Ethan (the head mean girl's boyfriend) is hiding an atypical dark secret and Zoe is campy fun...that is until she engages in some PETA unfriendly behavior.  NOOO!

I should note that this is the first full length novel I read on my new NOOK.  I am noticing a bit of a disconnect with the material I am reading on it, which is worrying.  Hopefully I'll take to reading on an eReader soon.

CHOKER was released yesterday in hardcover. Find out more about it (and read an excerpt) on the publisher's website.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Return of Cat Tuesday (12)

Emmy, Kaia and Lu wish you a happy 2011!

May you drink life to the fullest this year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 in Review: Highlights Month by Month

I loved doing this post last year, so I brought it back.  Here are some blog (and life) highlights from 2010.


I started the International Book Blogger Mentor Program. Over the year, 14 international bloggers were chosen to receive review books and mentoring and 12 were featured on the blog after successfully posting their reviews.  Also, the IBBMP sponsored the Deep Creek Middle School in rural Bahamas which resulted in ton of book donations for the students.

The year's first tragedy strikes with my grandmother's passing.  I wrote a tribute post to her.

Nicole interviewed me for That's How I Blog.

I joined over 40 other book bloggers in posting my picks for the best unsung YA books.  I was so thrilled when Steph Su read one of my picks (THIS BOOK ISN'T FAT, IT'S FABULOUS by Nina Beck) and it made her best lists this year!

My friend Rachelle came over to Germany to visit me and we went together to Strassbourg, France and the Chocolate Museum in Duesseldorf.


I kicked-off my first ever Dystopian theme month! I read and reviewed 19 dystopian novels, interviewed four awesome authors, had a ton of contests and guest bloggers.

I was a stop on The Book Blogger Con Prepare for BEA tour.


I meant to do more theme weeks, but only managed one: Military in YA. (Intro post, all posts)

I got to go the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy where I met Lauren Oliver, Ellen Hopkins, Richard Peck and Kristin Cashore.


At the behest of several YA authors, I wrote a post about Book Bloggers Behaving Badly.  It was the years' most commented post (155 comments).

I participated in the 24 Hour Readathon and read 8 books.

I had readers choose a romance novel for me to read.  I reviewed my pick, LORD OF SCOUNDRELS in June.


I went with my friend Ann to Pompeii for a weekend.  I made sure to bring my passport this time.

I went to BEA and Book Blogger Con! (recap 1, 2, 3)  This was a week of bookish goodness including dinner parties, publisher tours, a LOST finale viewing party, author signings, the Young Adult author carnival, hanging with bloggers and much more!!  Afterwards, I headed to Ohio for a week with my friend Sommer.


Daniel's debut picture book as an illustrator, IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? came out!  He shared his favorite picture books as did Author Audrey Vernick.


The second tragedy of the year: our dear kitty Finn passed away at 14 months old.

I got to go to several Tori Amos shows, in Zurich (6th row), Dublin (3rd row, standing), and Paris (4th row).  Paris was right after Finn's death and it was a very emotional show, especially since she played Gold Dust.


Dystopian August! I reviewed 24 novels, interviewed 5 amazing authors, invited bloggers to chime in on dystopian topics and much more.

I represented District 10 in the Mockingjay tour and presented a Hunger Games playlist broken down by character.  Thanks in part to the iPodTouch giveaway, this post got over 6,000 page views, the highest of the year.


I went with Daniel on a 4 city tour to promote IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?  Thanks to everyone who attended for their support!

Daniel and I saw Sea Wolf (solo) in concert in Baltimore.

I got to attend the Brooklyn Book Festival. (photo curtesy of Jaime)

I participated in BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week) and won Best YA Blog and Best Author Interviews.  Wow!

I was a final round judge for Nerds Heart YA and picked LAST NIGHT I SANG TO THE MONSTER by Benjamin Alire Saenz over SAY THE WORD by Jeannine Garsee - though both were impressive novels and highly worth reading.


I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair.  Highlights were meeting Maggie Steifvater for the second time and getting a couple of highly coveted books.

I went to Tori Amos' first ever show with a full orchestra! 3rd row seats for this breathtaking show, my 20th Tori show overall.

We bring home the first of our two new kittens, Kaia.  Cat Tuesday returns after a long absence.


We bring home the second of our two new kittens, Lu. Cat Tuesday fans rejoice.

I get to spend Thanksgiving with my family in the US, and well as a weekend with TrishPam arranges for several bloggers to tour Chronicle Books.  And some DC bloggers meet for a pizza evening at Michelle's.


Daniel and I attend our second Sea Wolf show of the year, this time close to home in Frankfurt.

Celebrated a quiet Christmas in Germany.

Happy 2011 everyone!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Challenges Wrap-Up & Challenges for 2011

In 2010, I only joined two challenges officially, the YA Debut Author Challenge and The Speculative Fiction Challenge.

I ended up reading 33 YA debuts in 2010 (down from 40 in 2009), but only 27 counted towards the challenge. (See results here). I have joined this challenge again for 2011.

I didn’t keep track of my Speculative Fiction reading on the hosting blog (Book Chick City), but I had well over 50 titles read, so that was a success! That was mainly due to my Dystopian theme months in February and August which I plan to do again this year.

My other 2010 goals were:

1. To read more classics. FAIL. I only read 1 (Persuasion by Jane Austen, for my book club). However, I do plan to read a classic a month in 2011 (See list here).

2. To read more books in German. FAIL. I only read 1 book in German and it was for my book club. I will read at least 1 again this year because it is on my classics list.

3. Review picture books. Well, I did review a few on Halloween… Look for more of these this year.

4. Read my Waiting on Wednesday picks from 2009. FAIL. I only ended up reading two of these, which means I haven’t started up WoW picks again, and probably won’t in the foreseeable future.

I am going to keep my 2011 reading goals simple. At least 12 classics, at least 12 YA debuts, and at least 30 dystopian novels (15 per theme month). I also want to read some backlist and bought books that have been collecting dust while I read review copies. I haven’t been accepting review books for nearly a year now (with some exceptions of course) so I am getting caught up with those. I haven’t requested anything from Shelf Awareness in ages either. It feels good!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 In Review: Movies and TV

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

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

2010 Movies I saw this year
Alice in Wonderland
The Other Guys (plane)
Salt (plane)
Date Night (plane)
The Book of Eli (on demand)
The Town
The A-Team (plane)
Knight & Day
Wall Street 2
Scott Pilgrim vs the World (on demand)
Going the Distance (plane)
Monsters (on demand)
Temple Grandin (plane)
Black Swan
Winter’s Bone (on demand)
Easy A (on demand)
Eat Pray Love (plane)
The Joneses (plane)

Total of 21 (3 less than last year)

Notable movies I saw in 2010 that were released before 2010

Rachel Getting Married (DVD)
A Serious Man
Whip it! (on demand)
Precious (plane)
Sherlock Holmes (DVD)
The Young Victoria (plane)
Crazy Heart (plane)
The Messenger

2010 movies I’d still like to see

127 Hours
Toy Story 3
The Social Network
True Grit
Resident Evil: Afterlife
The Kids Are All Right
Blue Valentine
The Fighter
Rabbit Hole

TV series I watched in 2010

Dexter – Season 4 & 5
Dollhouse – Season 2
Germany’s Next Top Model – Season 5
Lost – Season 6
Mad Men - Season 3 & 4
True Blood - Season 2

How was your year in movies?