Saturday, January 31, 2009

Book Review: Eclipse by Richard North Patterson

The geopolitics of oil are very complex, and even though I regularly read The Economist, I didn’t realize just how complex they are until I read Eclipse. I’ve seen firsthand the environmental damage that oil can cause on a visit to the jungle in Ecuador where I got an eye infection from swimming in a polluted lake. But if South America is bad in terms of corruption and environmental neglect, well Africa is off the charts.

I’ve heard it said that the discovery of oil in Africa was a death sentence to its people and at first I couldn’t understand why. Shouldn’t something so valuable actually raise the standard of living for the impoverished? Apparently not. Through this fictional story and its fictional tribal leader Bobby Okari, Author Richard North Patterson explains:

Oil blackens everything it touches. It fouls the hands of the ruling class that misappropriates its profits. It stains the ambitions of the young, who in their desperation will pick up a gun, sabotage a pipeline, kidnap a foreigner to grab their pitiful share of the riches. It elevates the powerful and drowns the weak.” (p. 6)

And that’s not all. As we journey through the made-up country of Luandia (standing in for Nigeria) with lawyer Damon Pierce who is there to defend Bobby Okari from trumped up charges in a kangaroo court set up by the country’s dictator “Savior” Karama, we learn about the players in the global oil trade and how things like oil futures, oil bunkering, and arms trading muck up the picture even more. The narrative culminates in a trial so patently ludicrous in its total lack of regard for human rights and international law that it would be funny if it weren’t so galling.

In case you think all of this sounds kind of boring, it’s not. Even though there is a fair amount of necessary exposition, Patterson succeeds in making us care for his characters, lending the novel a thrilling urgency. It reminded me in some ways of John le Carre’s The Constant Gardener so if you liked that or other international geopolitical thrillers, then you should definitely check this one out.

Eclipse is out in hardcover now.

Presenting The Read Carpet Podcast!

It's here (a bit earlier than I expected)! The Read Carpet is a podcast made by an assortment of bloggers to talk about our favorite subject - YA literature. It was put together by Adele and has a rotating roster of contributers including myself and some of the most awesome bloggers around. We are planning to have two episodes a month and you'll hear from me every other episode if all goes well. This time, I discuss dystopian fiction and I even managed to record a take without Emmy meowing in the background!

Please excuse the sound on my segment (which begins at 14 min 20 seconds in). I will invest in a better microphone for next time. In case you can't or don't want to listen to audio, I will post a transcript of my segment here on my blog one week after the airdate .

Go to the official Read Carpet site where you can find the show notes and find links to all the contributing bloggers or listen to the podcast right here. It should also be available at iTunes starting tomorrow. And remember, we'd LOVE to hear your feedback. Thanks!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Fabulous! (3) + Custom Designed Header Contest

Exciting things I love this week:

1. First off I want to say how thrilled I am that my new header has gotten such a great response. Daniel has agreed to design a custom header for one lucky winner! Just mention in the comments that you’d like to be entered. Check out another header he designed for our friend Steve this week (and no, I don't think that is really his baby) and his daily drawings for an idea of his style. I’ll announce a winner Feb. 9th.

2. I am very excited for next week’s launch of a new YA podcast called The Read Carpet put together by the fabulous Adele. More details soon but I can tell you that it’s going to be really cool and that I contributed a segment for the first installment where I discuss dystopian fiction.

3. I have found a fellow book enthusiast in my own neighborhood who has agreed to be a guest reviewer for Presenting Lenore. Jen is a fellow American in Frankfurt and she’s going to be perusing my TBR stacks and then contributing book reviews every once in a while. Her special area of interest is international fiction.

4. New books this week: Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher and The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb. Thanks to my Aunt Linda for the lovely belated Christmas gift!

5. Got a few more awards from fellow bloggers this week! I’m Tink Approved! I’m a frequent visitor to Ladytink’s Movieholic & Bibliophile Blog and I love this cute graphic. Thanks! I also got the Kreativ Blogger award from fellow SCBWI member Angela. I am supposed to mention 7 things I love. And guess what? This post contains 7 this week just for that reason. Thanks for thinking of me Angela! Thao of the new book blog Serene Hours also tagged me with the Happy Tag, so this counts for that too.

6. And speaking of new book blogs, I posted some advice for new book bloggers in FAQ form this week in case you missed it. Taylor of For the Love of Books is a brand new blogger that is worth checking out and she's even having her first ever contest where she's giving away 3 copies of the must read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (see my review here and enter her contest here).

And speaking of contests, you might also like to enter Susan's contest in honor of Black History Month or Carrie's contest to win a signed copy of Saundra Mitchell's Shadowed Summer.

Oh, and here's your personal invitation to AS King's lauch party for Dust of 100 Dogs (read my review) this weekend:

Event: D100D Weekend Online Launch Party! "Games! Prizes! Fun! "
What: Night of Mayhem
Host: The Dust of 100 Dogs
Start Time: Saturday, January 31 at 12:00pm
End Time: Sunday, February 1 at 11:00pm

You know I'll be there!

7. I was scratched rather deeply on my finger by a cat yesterday (that's not the part I love). You see I tend to forget that not all cats are as gentle and loving as Emmy. Emmy is so sweet that even when she plays, she knows not to bite hard and to retract her claws so she won't hurt us. And I love that.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Guest Blog: Author Jessica Burkhart

Today I have debut author Jessica Burkhart guest blogging which I am very excited about because:

1. Her new tween series is about an elite horseriding boarding school called Canterwood Crest Academy and when I was a tween I dreamed about both riding horses and going to boarding school (I did sometimes get to go riding on my uncle's fat lazy horses. I did not go to boarding school unless you count the dorms at college).

2. Today is Jessica's (22nd) birthday! Go on over and wish her a happy one.

I'm sorry to say I have not yet read book one, Take the Reins (which came out just two days ago), and though I usually never host guest blogs without having read the book, I made an exception for Jessica.

I will give you the official product description though which I think sounds really fun:

When Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm, arrive on the campus of the elite Canterwood Crest Academy, Sasha knows that she's in trouble. She's not exactly welcomed with open arms. One group of girls in particular is used to being the best, the brightest, and the prettiest on the team, and when Sasha shows her skills in the arena, the girls' claws come out.

Sasha is determined to prove that she belongs at Canterwood. Will she rise to the occasion and make the advanced riding team by the end of her first semester? Or will the pressure send Sasha packing?

Also, book two, Chasing Blue, comes out on March 24, so be on the lookout for that too.

And now, please welcome Jessica! (applause)

Lenore offered to let me guest blog for today, so yay!

I thought I’d do something different and, so I wrote a top ten list of things I’ve learned about the writing biz in a David Letterman style list. Keep in mind that this is just my experience! :)

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing

10. Do let people who say “Dude, you’ll never make it!” get in your head. Yes, use their comments to fuel your drive. Think of the lovely reward of being able to say, “Told you so!” when you’re published.

9. You’ll still be super insecure by book five. Does it ever go away? I don’t know. Doubt it. I’d miss it, anyway.

8. Don’t make every blog post about your book. The constant posts of “Buy me! Buy me!” are a turn off.

7. Find an agent and editor who back you every step of the way. Without their support, the whole process would be sooo much less fun.

6. Thank everyone who has worked on your book. Multiple times. They’re underworked, underpaid and not appreciated enough. They make your book happen, so acknowledge them!

5. Embrace caffeine. It is your friend.

4. Work your a** off. Enough said.

3. It’s not all about talent. Hard work probably makes up 95% of it.

2. Promote yourself! You’re the biggest advocate for YOUR book. Get out there! Your publisher/editor/agent will notice. Really, they will.

1. When your book comes out, now matter how much you vow you won’t, you spend every free minute stalking your book on Amazon and calling Ingram. If you can’t get to your computer, you add Amazon as a favorite and keep checking. Go with it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (18) Far North by Marcel Theroux

My love of dystopian fiction is well known by now and I'm always eager to hear about new novels coming out that fall into this category. This is one I picked up at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October (see my post about it here), so technically I don't have to wait for it even though it doesn't come out until March 5th in the UK (Faber + Faber) and June 9th in the US (FSG). It's one I'm very excited about though, so I wanted to profile it.

I've read the first couple of pages and it's hard to put down (have to though, because I have a reading scheldule to keep). It's got a "The Road" vibe going on so if you were a fan of that Cormac McCarthy masterpiece, you might like this one too.

Here's the product description from amazon:

Makepeace calls himself sheriff of his hardscrabble town, but he is also its only resident—the last of a group of settlers who have fled the poisoned cities of the West. The miraculous appearance of a refugee from the vast emptiness of the forest awakens this loner to a longing for life among others, but when he takes to the road, Makepeace finds a world unraveling: deserted cities with trees shooting up through the asphalt; stockaded villages enforcing a rough and uncertain justice; mysterious slave camps laboring to harness the little-understood technologies of an expired civilization. On his side, Makepeace has resilience, a sense of humor that comes to life at the diciest moments, and a well-concealed core of humanity: a resource that will be his salvation.

Far North leads the reader on a quest through an unforgettable arctic landscape. Suffused with an ecstatic awareness of the fragility of the world, and its sometimes unexpected ability to recover from our worst trespasses, Far North is a muscular, visionary novel of retribution and forgiveness.

As always, check out what other bloggers are lusting after at host Jill's WoW post today at her blog Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Book Blogger FAQ

****Last updated on Feb 10, 2012****

Have you recently started a book review blog? Are you thinking of starting one? Then this New Book Blogger FAQ is for you. Included is advice gleaned from over three years of my own book blogging, plus many links to more fab advice from other book bloggers and professionals.

Let’s start with the question asked most often to get it out of the way:

Where can I get ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies)?
My answer is to link to my recently updated post on the topic, Where to get free books and ARCs. This post covers websites designed to get books out to early reviewers, ARC programs run by publishers, places to find contests where you can enter to win books, and possibilities to get free books by joining blog tours. By reading this post, you can see that there are actually a lot of good opportunities for beginning bloggers to snag ARCs.  There are also opportunities to get eGalleys if you have an eReader.

But to be a good book blogger you by no means have to review ARCs or accept review copies. If you want to blog about new books, buy them or look for them at book swapping sites like bookmooch. You don't even have to blog about new books (though it helps if the books are at least still in print). Blog about the books you already own or the ones you borrow from the library (if you are lucky to have one in your area with a decent selection).

IMPORTANT: Only accept or request books that you intend to actually review! I cannot stress enough that book blogging is NOT about getting free books.

For more information and advice about how to deal with ARCs, please read The Story Siren's article Advance Reader Copies: What You Need to Know.

And now on to the rest of the questions I've been asked at one time or another.

What kind of content should I have on my book blog?First you should decide on a focus for your blog, and this is often determined by the types of books you read. If you mainly read Young Adult literature, then make your focus YA. If you have eclectic taste, a general book blog is of course fine too. On a book blog, your main content is most likely going to be book reviews. A lot of bloggers supplement their reviews with book news, author interviews, and a wide variety of other features. Take a look around at other book blogs for inspiration, but be careful not to outright "steal" content and ideas. If you like a feature another blogger is doing, it is most polite to ask if you can do it too. And a link back to them is always greatly appreciated.

See also the article 20 types of blog posts at Problogger for ways to add variety to your posting.

What blogging service/template/design should I use?
The Story Siren has a great post on the nuts and bolts of getting started right here.

What should I include in my book reviews?There is no standard format that everyone must follow – book reviews are as varied as the bloggers who write them. My main advice is to be honest in your assessment of a book, don’t feel compelled to gloss over a bad book to spare an author’s feelings but don’t trash an author either. Usually when I don't like a book, it's not because it is a vile piece of trash that should have never been published, but because it just has some aspect that doesn't appeal to me as a reader. But that doesn't mean that aspect won't appeal to other readers. For example, I am usually going to find high fantasy tropes (invented creatures, quests, etc.) boring because it's just not my thing. But I know that many readers LOVE that stuff, and I write my review accordingly.

My post titles are always in the format Book Review: Title of Book by Name of Author so they can be found more easily by search engines.

In addition to giving your opinion you could also include a short summary, a picture of the cover, a short quote or two from the book for flavor (unless you have an ARC which states not to quote the book without checking against finished copy), publisher information, publication date, buying information, links to the author’s website or some other book related information. Try to think about what your audience might want to know.

Another great thing that some bloggers do is to link to other blog reviews. This is especially helpful if you've written a negative review and you want to balance it with other bloggers' more positive opinions. Plus, it's very likely that the bloggers you link to will become aware of your link (via Technorati blog reactions or Google Alerts) and become aware of your blog.

What are weekly memes and should I do them too?You’ve seen Mailbox Mondays, Top Ten Tuesdays, Waiting on Wednesday, Booking through Thursday, Friday Fill-Ins, Saturday Review of Books and The Sunday Salon (and many, many more) on a lot of blogs and you haven’t got a clue what they are and how they started. Well, someone had a brilliant idea to host such a meme inviting bloggers to join in. If you want to participate, the usual MO is to write your post on the appointed day and leave a link to it at the host's site. That way you can check out what other people had to say. It's a great way to add interesting content to your site and to get others to drop by your blog. Don’t do them all - a lot of readers are turned off by blogs that only publish memes - but pick a couple that seem interesting and fun to you and stick with them for a while.

How can I get people to visit my blog and keep coming back?The best way to get subscribers and followers (on blogger) and to get people to add you to their favorites or blogrolls is to write engaging content and to update regularly. Also, make it easy for people to subscribe or "follow" by adding the appropriate widgets to your template. But how will people find your blog in the first place? That may take a bit of work. I suggest regularly leaving intelligent comments at the blogs you read, becoming a public follower of blogs you like, and joining a weekly meme. There are tons of other ways to generate traffic: host contests on your blog, join a book challenge (there are many), contribute to a forum at a book site and include your URL, tweet at twitter, etc.

The Story Siren has some great tips on this subject here.
Farmlane Books also wrote an article about how to join the book blog community with some very helpful advice.
Find out more about blogrolls and their usefulness at Blogging 101.
Alyce at At Home With Books gives some tips on hosting a successful blog giveaway.

How do I get authors or publishers to contribute books to my contests?Until you start generating decent traffic, you’re probably going to have to donate your own books to your contests (and don’t forget to factor in the cost of postage). Authors and publishers are generally excited about opportunities to promote their books on blogs through contests, but they’re usually looking to maximize exposure so they are going to want to know about your audience. In order to have something to tell them when they ask, sign up for Sitemeter and/or Google analytics so you can track your number of visitors.

What do publishers/authors consider 'decent traffic'?
It's hard to give any fixed numbers, because honestly, it varies. A POD (self published author) may be happy for any exposure at all while some publishers set their own minimum requirements. Most are going to click on your URL and take a quick look around. Are your reviews well-written? Do you update regularly? Do your posts attract comments? Do you have followers? Publicists also notice when they start seeing your blog linked to from a lot of other bloggers so make friends and do link exchanges.

Peachtree Publishers tell bloggers exactly what they are looking for.

How do I contact authors?
Authors with a web presence usually have some sort of contact form or e-mail address on their website or blog. Authors without a web presence or really famous authors can usually only be contacted through their publicist at the publisher. Interacting with authors is one of my favorite perks of book blogging. I am always amazed when I ask questions and they answer them!

But the general rule here is - think LONG and HARD before contacting an author and asking for an ARC. Here is a post from YA author Saundra Mitchell explaining why. Basically, you will almost always have better chances of getting an ARC by contacting the publicity department at the publishing house. And YA author Alexandra Bracken has some thoughts on that too.

What sorts of questions (and how many) should I ask authors when I interview them?How about not the same questions everyone asks? Before interviewing an author, do your research. First google their previous interviews. Questions they've already answered are not questions you want to ask, but maybe their answers will give you inspiration for further questions of your own. Secondly, research their readily available online content - blogs, websites, twitter, etc to get to know them better and find questions that are personalized to them. A good interview takes a lot of time and every question should count. I limit my questions to 5 so that neither the author or my readership has to invest a ton of time into the interview. And of course, I ask questions I really want to know the answers to, so that even if no one else ever reads it, at least I will have enjoyed the experience.

YA Author Justine Larbalestier has some pointers on interviewing too.
More tips on interviewing with concrete examples.

How do I contact publishers?The usual method when you are starting out is to visit the different publishing house websites and look for their contact addresses. These will usually have 'publicity' in the address somewhere. For example, look at this link:
When you scroll down you’ll see the e-mail address for publicity queries for adult titles and for children's titles.

Writer Linda Formichelli also put together this amazing Review Copy Helper where you can find a ton of contact addresses for publisher publicity departments.

It may be tempting to ask established bloggers for their publicist contacts, but please don’t. In many cases we’ve been asked to keep these confidential, and as much as we’d love to pass them on, we just can’t.

See also this useful article at Problogger.

What should I say in my e-mail when I request a book from a publisher or author? In my e-mails, I introduce myself and my blog, tell them what book(s) I’d like to review (from their current or upcoming season), a little bit about my audience (with supporting stats) and why they should want to promote their books on my blog. I also include my mailing address when contacting publicists since some prefer to simply send out books and not have to write back. Some publicists also want you to include ISBN numbers.

For more information about what publicists are looking for in a blog, read this interview I did with Courtney, a publicist with Penguin. For information on how many titles you should request and publicist expectations, check out this interview with Jillian, a former publicist with Penguin (and the most awesome publicist ever), at Steph's (Reviewer X) blog.

Ok, so I received some books for review. When is the best time to review them?
If you receive a pre-publication book from an author, ask them if they have a preference regarding the time frame of your review and agree on something that works for your scheldule too. If the book is already out, then ASAP is probably the best answer.

If you get books from a publisher or publicist, the answer varies. Fortunately, the wonderful Steph (Reviewer X) put together this handy post that lists the preferences of various publishing houses.

It's also polite to send an e-mail to the source of your review book with a link to your review. It might even get you on a preferred reviewer list, garnering you more books for review.

What should I do with my review copies when I am done with them?
If you have finished copies, think about donating them to libraries (Steph Su has a great primer on book donations). ARCs are a much trickier topic. Liz B explains why you should not sell or donate ARCs to libraries here. Think about passing them on to other bloggers as gifts or in contests.

Should I have Word Verification in my comment form?
NO! It's annoying and it discourages people from leaving comments. I don't have it and I've only gotten two spam messages in (nearly) 2 years of blogging. Please get rid of it. If you do get a bit of spam, just delete it. Easy. (OK, so no one really asked this, but I wanted to address it because it is a pet peeve of mine). If you are targeted by a spammer, consider setting comment moderation for posts older than 7 days or so.

Can you help me with some technical stuff on my blog?
Sorry, I can't even help myself! I've been wanting to change to three columns forever and even found a site that walked me through it step by step and I still couldn't manage.

You have a cool header. Can your husband design one for me?
Thanks! My published children's book illustrator husband Daniel designed it. Right now he is quite busy, but we may have another header contest in the future. Readingjunky won the last one and she loves her header too.

What are some other blogging tips I can check out?
Adele put together a great guide to YA blogging for newbies.

There is a whole ning group with tons of tips here:

12 tips for new bloggers from Semicolon

Some things to avoid in Stomping on Yeti's 10 Things I Hate About You(r Blog)

Remember, the book blogging community is all about building relationships and that takes time and a lot of effort. But if you love reading and sharing that love of reading with others, it can be a very rewarding experience. Just don't expect blogging to be a fast and easy way to get free books. It's not.

If you have any questions I haven't addressed here, feel free to write me at lenoreva at hotmail dot com or leave a comment. I'd also love to hear YOUR advice for new book bloggers, so write away!

Library Thing Tuesday (38) + Emmy plays wii!

Today's question: Prior to today, were you aware of Open Shelves Classification? Have you helped to classify any books yet? Is this something you are interested in? Did you know that if you classify any books, it will also show you who else has classified the book? (Go to host Wendi's post here for background info about Open Shelves Classification)
My Answer: Yes, I noticed it while entering my latest book reviews. Since the last books I read were all fiction, I put them all in the fiction category. It only takes an extra second to do so I don't mind helping out, but I wouldn't say I find the project that interesting.


We have a Nintendo wii and of course we had to make a mii for Emmy. Since they don't have a template for cats, I did the best I could. So here's Emmy's mii and how she actually plays wii. Enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review: The Rule of Won by Stefan Petrucha

I’ll confess. I love sleeping even more than I love reading. It’s true. And it’s why I very rarely stay up late to finish a book. But I did stay up last night until 3:30 am to finish The Rule of Won.

Ok, so The Rule of Won doesn’t have a cover that screams “MUST READ” and the concept – slacker Caleb first gets swept up in a cult-like school club based on a controversial book (inspired by the ideas behind runaway bestseller The Secret) and then becomes horrified by their fascist ways – is intriguing but let’s face it, it’s not as “OMG WANT” as say... killer unicorns. But get past that. Open the book and read the prologue. In it, a young girl draws pictures of things she wishes would happen. The electricity being turned back on. Her teddy bear being found. And then these things happen. Is it coincidence or is it something else? This is the question you’ll ask yourself again and again as the novel progresses.

The leader of the club is charismatic Ethan, the brother of the little girl from the prologue. He convinces students that if they want something badly enough – new funding for the school, better cafeteria food, their sad sack basketball team to finally win a game – they just have to "imanifest" and chant their desires into existence. And since Screech Neck is a poor town, they have a lot of desires. When all the chanting seems to start paying off, the club gains popularity. Soon, it’s hard to walk down the halls without seeing students wearing “1” buttons (hmm…shades of the swastika?) and the club’s message board, dubbed ‘The Crave”, is buzzing.

Caleb is a skeptic at first, attending a club meeting only at his (soon to be ex) girlfriend’s insistence. As a slacker, and one of the most reviled kids at school (due to an unfortunate school vandalism incident), Caleb has a lot to gain from the club. And things are great – at first. But when people start getting hurt, Caleb can’t stand idly by. The way Author Stefan Petrucha handled Caleb was my favorite aspect of the book – I loved his whole character arc, his honest search for the truth, and his truly funny sarcastic voice.

The plot reminded me in many ways of THE WAVE by Morton Rhue (aka Todd Strasser), a book that is extremely popular in Germany and was recently made into a movie. They both explore group fanaticism and how “nice” people can get caught up in violent and oppressive movements. But if that sounds too “serious” for you, don’t worry. Petrucha infuses the narrative with both humor and charm. The postings on “The Crave” were brilliant. Not only did they give minor characters distinct personalities, they also illustrated the types of people who are duped by cults (the outcasts, the power hungry, the crazy, hedonists, etc.) The book is worth reading for these alone.

So there you have it. Other than my lost hours of sleep, I don’t have any complaints. THE RULE OF WON is a gripping, timely, and sarcastic novel with a touch of the supernatural. What more could you ask for? It is available in hardcover now. Find out more at the author's website.

Well Worth Watching Blogger Profile (1) The Book Zombie

What better way to honor the creator of the Well Worth Watching Blog Award than with my first Well Worth Watching blogger profile?

I first met Joanne of The Book Zombie through LibraryThing and the Tuesday Thingers meme. Usually after I comment on someone's Tuesday Thinger, I also check to see what else is new on their blog. I noticed Joanne read a lot of quirky/interesting books (including YA) and had great reviews so I started coming back regularly. She is also hilarious and makes me proud to be on TEAM ZOMBIE! Check her out if you haven't yet. And enjoy the interview.

If someone were to blurb your blog in 25 word or less, what would he or she say?
Holy crap, way to start off with an easy question there Lenore ;) Okay here goes: The Book Zombie Blog is a collection of personal thoughts about everything book-related, including informative and honest opinions on a wide range of reading genres. (Hah! 25 words exactly!)

What kinds of books do you read and review on your blog?
I've reviewed books from just about every genre. My reading taste has always been all-over the place so there's not really much I won't read. Although I do tend to shy away from romances in the Harlequin style and mushy chick-lit. Horror/fantasy has always been my guilty pleasure, along with indies. I'm also very fond of contemporary family dramas, anything with quirky characters and books that make you think about or re-consider your normal way of thinking.

Graphic novels and Young Adult are like candy coated cocaine for me - extremely addictive. Non-fiction is something I find myself reading alot of, especially if a certain subject interests me, then I try to read every book I can find about it. Oh and memoirs - love them - all kinds, personal, celebrity and themed (lately I've been reading a bunch of humorous memoirs written by librarians. Okay, I guess I could sum it up by saying, you're likely to never know what will be on my blog next :)

What were a couple of your favorite books recently and which ones are you most looking forward to reading soon?
Well my favorite read of 2008 was Andrew Davidson's first novel The Gargoyle - wow it completely blew me away. Superb writing, fascinating characters, and it was written in such a way that there were numerous stories within the main story - which I think takes immense talent to pull off well.

So far in 2009 my most enjoyable read was Cracked Up To Be a Young Adult novel by Courtney Summers. Normally I enjoy YA because they are quick, easy and fun reading. However Summers novel pulled me in and didn't let go, even now the story is still with me. I really cared about the main character, to the point that I was left wondering okay what's next. It's not that the book ended in a unsatisfactory way, it's more that I didn't want to say good-bye.

What I'm most looking forward to reading next is Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree and doing a re-read of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Both of these are books I added to my TBRpile because of other bloggers (Nymeth and Chris) One of the biggest dangers I've discovered since starting my blog is that your TBR pile becomes exponentially larger. Since you (Lenore) are being awesome enough to interview me I will not mention the books (tons) that you've inspired me to read. :P

What are some of your favorite posts or reviews in your blog archive and why?
The Weekly Geeks posts where we teamed up with other geeks to interview one another about books we'd read. I interviewed Maree about Space and she interviewed me about The Gargoyle. These were so much fun to do and I loved that I got to know Maree better.Posting reviews about Fables Volumes Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 was great because I found a whole group of bloggers who were also reading the Fables series. It was interesting to see everyone's opinions on this series since we were all reading the same things at about the same time (even though I fell pathetically behind).

And lastly, I've been doing some coverage on the Canada Reads 2009 event. The first was an introduction to the event and the second was a spotlight on the first of 5 books featured during the upcoming debate. I really enjoyed doing these posts because it involved not only reading a book, but also researching the event and trying to present lots of interesting information to my readers.

What are some posts or reviews on other blogs that have caught your attention as being well worth reading?
Something I've been seeing alot of lately is bloggers doing video posts and one I really enjoyed was from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin' where Trish and Jessica discussed the Twilight series. Another blog I always look forward to is the Estella's Revenge Book Zine - no particular post, I love them all. For my own selfish book-lusting reasons I adore Chris's Mailbox Monday/Bad Blogger posts. Three terrific posts I came across after signing up for the VC Andrews challenge are Taren's VC Andrews Primers - Part 1: The Pattern, Part 2: The Female Characters and Part 3: The Male Characters

Complete this sentence: "If I didn't have my blog..."
If I didn't have my blog I would have lots more time to read and likely my house would be more tidy, but I would terribly miss all the wonderful people that make the book blogging community the amazing thing that it is.

Thanks for playing along, Joanne!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Book Review: Triple Shot Bettys in Love by Jody Gehrman

Back in June, I had the pleasure of reading Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty and it ended up being one of my favorite novels of last year (read my review). So it would be an understatement to say I was excited about reading this sequel and exploring how man-hating, feisty Geena would fare in her first romantic relationship.

In this second Betty adventure, the action revolves around Amber’s crush on the hot new English sub, the Jack Kerouac loving Mr. Sands. In a plot reminiscent of Cyrano de Bergerac, Amber enlists the decidedly more book smart Geena in her campaign to win over Mr. Sands, getting her help in making over her MySpace page and sending him literate, witty messages. Meanwhile, Geena has problems of her own: Sophie, a super-sophisticated girl from boyfriend Ben’s past moves back to Sonoma and makes it clear she wants to steal him away from her. The third Betty, Hero, is still presumably in love with Claudio, but both are largely MIA here (sadly).

It’s definitely written with the assumption that the readers have read the first book. Since it’s been 7 months since I read it though, I’ll admit, I was a little hazy on the details. It bothered me that the character of PJ was mentioned multiple times without explanation of who he was, and I racked my brain trying to remember (without success). It was also probably due to this time lapse that I struggled through the first 50 pages or so until Mr. Sands and the main plotline was introduced. I loved this portion of the novel: Author Gehrman really excels at writing humor and literary criticism. Her assessments of Kerouac’s On the Road (through Geena) mirror my own:

I wanted to be totally into it, but the truth is, I had to make myself keep reading. I kept looking for the radiant, electrifying prose Mr. Sands always goes on about, but to me it just felt like one, queasy car ride with no particular destination.” (p 61)

And then there’s the Geena/Ben/Sophie plotline. What really I liked about this was the authentic feeling of awkwardness between Geena and Ben – both in terms of how far they should go physically and the spats they had due to Geena’s fear of not being a good girlfriend and her general tendency towards avoidance. What I didn’t like so much was the way Geena let Sophie bully her. Where was feisty Geena from the first book who never let anyone get in her way? To me, it just seemed too much out of character.

Overall, this makes a very nice companion novel to the Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty. Just make sure you read that one first.

Triple Shot Bettys in Love came out this week in hardcover.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday Fabulous! (2)

Exciting stuff that happened this past week:

1. Daniel finally designed a new header for my blog. What do you think about it? I also updated the color scheme, changed the font and added quick links so you can get to the good stuff faster. All in the name of blog improvement.

2. On Sunday, a professional ice skater Daniel met at yoga got us free tickets to Holiday on Ice. It was gloriously cheesy fun (the poor male skaters had to wear overalls decorated with white chicken feathers at one point). Afterwards, we took Mitch to a traditional appelwoi kneipe (Frankurt restaurant/bar) and drank a bembel. Very amusing!

3. I actually got a couple of books in my mailbox: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley and Starfinder by John Marco.

4. LOST is back! And a new episode of BSG is on tonight.

5. The weather warmed up enough that we are able to venture outside again.

6. We've been invited to a wedding in Morocco. One of the guys in Daniel's stick fighting club is tying the knot in July. Apparently it will be a three day affair of feasting and dancing.

What's new with you?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award & The Exciting "7 Things" Meme

S. Krishna from S. Krishna Books gave me the Kreativ Blogger Award which means I have to do to the meme that comes with it. Thanks so much!

7 Things I Did Before:

1. Walked a neighbor girl to the school bus for $5 a week.
2. Took the foreign service exam.
3. Picked up hitchhikers once. (They told us we shouldn't have)
4. Ran hurdles for my high school track team.
5. Sang in the youth choir at church.
6. Eurailed.
7. Was in Girl Scouts.

7 Things I Do Now:

1. Read (Obviously)
2. Blog (Obviously)
3. Watch TV on DVD. Currently watching Mad Men season 1 and Chuck season 1. I’m also following the current seasons of Battlestar Galactica and Lost via Slingbox.
4. Play hide and seek with my cat Emmy. She loves looking for us, it is so cute!
5. Take long walks and bike rides in the park.
6. Eat a lot of sushi at the “crack sushi” restaurant. We are also trying out new restaurants that are featured in a two for one coupon book we bought.
7. Travel to exotic locales.

7 Things I Want to Do:

1. Pilates. I need to go to the sports club around the corner and sign up.
2. Find a conversational Spanish class to brush up on my Spanish. It used to be perfect, but since I’ve hardly spoken it in years, it’s getting rusty.
3. Attend BEA. Not going to happen, but I can dream!
4. Cook at home more.
5. Rework my picture book manuscript.
6. Outline the amazing YA novel idea I have floating in my head.
7. Travel to even more exotic locales.

7 Things I Say Most Often:

1. Meowy Kittykin (This is our favorite nickname for Emmy – she sure likes to meow!)
2. Shall I make some tea? (We drink a lot of Celestial Seasonings Hazelnut Vanilla tea – yum!)
3. Daniel! (Trying to get Daniel’s attention)
4. Bad kitty! (Self explanatory…)
5. It is so cold. (Our apartment is freezing in the winter)
6. I don't know (Wisest is she who knows she does not know)
7. My last name (That is how you are supposed to answer the phone in Germany)

Feel free to do the meme too! And if you do, let me know. I'd love to read your answers.

Book Reviewer Profile: Presenting Lenore

Review Policy: (as of April 1, 2016)

I'm back and I'm ready to talk-up my favorite books!

My favorite genres:
Literary fiction
Sci-fi/fantasy (prefer dystopias, time travel, fairy tale retellings, afterlife settings)
Historical fiction
Picture books

Genres I do not read:
High epic fantasy
Cozy mysteries
Political rants
Most anything with vampires or fairies

Contact: lenore DOT appelhans AT gmail DOT com

I only reply to pitches I choose to accept.

From 2008-2010 I reviewed nearly every book that I finished. In a policy change for 2011 and beyond, I will no longer review every book I read for a variety of reasons.  I may, however, still feature the book and say at least a few words about it.

Generally, I cross post to GoodReads. Please do not hesitate to ask me to post a review that appears on my blog on amazon. I will be glad to do so.

Presenting Lenore stats:
Average # of unique visitors per day: 400+
Subscribers: 2600+
Technorati authority: 952 (High was #1 in Books, Top 100 in Entertainment, ranking fluctuates)
Google Page Rank: 5

Klout score: 64
I do not sell ARCs though I may pass them on to other reviewers or offer them in a contest.

I also blog at:

The League of Extraordinary Writers - Group blog for Sci-fi Debuts

For more information, please read the following interviews I participated in:

My forthcoming YA novel LEVEL 2 with Simon & Schuster BFYR (due Jan 15, 2013)
Author Interview: Lenore Appelhans at Foodie Booklover in Wanderlust (September 12, 2012)
Level 2 interview at The Young Adult Connection (August 29, 2012)
8 Questions with Level 2 Author Lenore Appelhans at Ali Smith Photography (June 12, 2012)
How Lenore Appelhans took it to the next level at Forever Young Adult (June 1, 2012)
Dystopian August preview of Level 2 at Presenting Lenore (August 31, 2011)
Introducing LEVEL 2 by Lenore Appelhans at The League of Extraordinary Writers (April 11, 2011)
Dystopian Divas Dish ... with Lenore Appelhans at Dystopian Divas (August 13, 2011)

BBAW Interview Swap 2012 with The Busy Bibliophile (September 11, 2012)
Blogger of Awesome at Mindy McGinnis' blog (June 28, 2012)
Reading Roots at Reading Through Life (August 23, 2011)
Book Blogger Q&A: Presenting Lenore at The Book Base (July 24, 2011)
Presenting Lenore BBAW 2010 interview at My Library Card Wore Out (September 14, 2010)
Lenore Answers 20 Questions at Lost in Books (April 29, 2010)
Blogging Around the World: Frankfurt, Germany at The Book on the Hill (April 11, 2010)
All About Dystopian February at Po(sey) Sessions (Feb 17, 2010)
FLiP it FRiDaY:Presenting Lenore at Author Sarah Ockler's blog (Jan 29, 2010)
Meet Presenting Lenore at The Book Bloggers (Dec. 2, 2008)
Presenting Lenore BBAW 08 interview at Literary Escapism (Sept. 18, 2008) (no longer online)
Presenting Lenore Reviewer Profile at Reviewer X (July 20, 2008)
In the reviewer hot seat (June 25, 2008)

Guest posts by me on other blogs:

My Favorite YA Reads of 2009 as part of Smugglivus at The Book Smugglers (Dec. 27, 2009)
YA in Germany as part of International YA Blogger Celebration at Persnickety Snark (Sept. 23, 2009)
On Fantasy and Romance in YA at The Book Smugglers (Aug. 3, 2009)
How I got started blogging at The Secret Adventures of WriterGirl. (June 9, 2009)
Skin problems in YA as part of Body Image Week at In Bed With Books (April 25, 2009)

Other appearances:
Scene of the Blog at Kittling Books (Feb. 25, 2009)

Honors and shout-outs:

Presenting Lenore wins Best Author Interviews during BBAW (Sept 13, 2011)

Presenting Lenore is declared a blog to stalk at Figment (Dec 21, 2010)

Presenting Lenore is awarded Best YA Blog and Best Author Interviews during BBAW (Sept 2010)
Presenting Lenore is The Kool-Aid Flavor of the Week at In the Shadow of Mt. TBR (Jan 18, 2010)
Presenting Lenore is named to the BBAW shortlist for Most Eclectic Taste (Sept 2009)
Presenting Lenore is named to the BBAW shortlist for Best YA Blog (Sept 2008)

Reactions to and blurbs from my reviews on author's sites (not a complete list):
Rachel Vincent on the Soul Screamers series
Mary E. Pearson for The Miles Between
Katie Alender for Bad Girls Don't Die
Megan McCafferty for Bumped and Thumped

Books that I've blurbed officially:
Starglass by Phoebe North (Simon & Schuster BFYR)
Burn Out by Kristi Helvig (Egmont)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hunger Games Sequel Info Released! Catching Fire it is!

The plot is TOP secret but we have a cover and a title!

From Publisher's Weekly:

David Levithan, executive editorial director at Scholastic, says that the manuscript for Catching Fire is available in-house on a “need to read” basis only. “It’s the most secrecy I’ve had about any project I’ve ever worked on. It’s pretty remarkable what [Collins] has done and where she’s going. There are lots of twists and turns, and part of the fun is the surprise of it."

Read the rest of the article here.

YAY! Funny that I was just speculating about this yesterday...

Book Review: I, Lorelei by Yeardley Smith

11 year old Lorelei knows she’ll be famous one day so she begins a diary to her dearly departed cat Mud to help her future biographers get the details right. Most of Lorelei’s experiences are pretty typical for a preteen – she’s anxious about the school play, she fights with her best friend and she falls for the class heartthrob – but she also has to learn to be strong enough to deal with the break-up of her parents’ marriage.

I, Lorelei was written by Yeardley Smith, best known as the voice of Lisa from The Simpsons. She gives Lorelei an endearing, unique and authentic preteen voice with shades of Lisa’s intelligence and independent thought. Supporting characters are anything but stereotypical – I especially liked that the class heartthrob was kind and thoughtful, that the class reject/slob turned out to have the voice of an angel and that the class bully had a heart of gold despite his gruff exterior.

I, Lorelei will be released next Tuesday, January 27th in hardcover. I already enthusiastically passed my copy on to my favorite tween for her to enjoy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (17) Hot YA Book Sequels of 2009

What is the one sequel I am looking forward to more than any other this year? That would be the Hunger Games sequel which we currently know nothing about beyond its September release date. Rumors are floating around that it will be called Catching Fire or Chasing Fire, but Scholastic isn’t talking at this time. So we’ll just have to wait patiently and focus on other sequels for the time being.

Book 2 in Phillip Ness’ Chaos Walking series is set for May. I liked everything about book 1 The Knife of Never Letting Go except the brutal letdown of the cliffhanger ending (read my review), so I am eagerly awaiting The Ask and the Answer.

This is the cover for Australia and New Zealand (the only one online right now). Here's a short teaser:

Tense, shocking and deeply moving, "The Ask and the Answer" is a terrifying novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure.

The second book in PJ Bracegirdle’s Joy of Spooking trilogy is also due this summer. According to the official website, book 2 will have us

discovering the sinister history hidden behind the spiked-lined walls of the mental asylum and descending into the dark underworld below Spooking's streets.”

No cover art yet – but I wonder if Nicoletta Ceccoli is doing it again. (Here's my review of Book 1).

Goodess Boot Camp, the sequel to Oh.My.Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs is due in June. It’s described as

another fast-paced myth-inspired heroine’s quest that’s sure to bring out the goddess in anyone.”

I liked Oh.My.Gods. (here's my review) and hopefully this sequel will improve on it.

And then there are the series where I own book 1 and have been waiting for book 2 so I can read them together:

Wake by Lisa McMann. Fade* comes out in February.
Evernight by Claudia Gray. Stargazer comes out in March.
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong. The Awakening comes out in April.
Generation Dead by Daniel Waters. Kiss of Life* comes out in May.
Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey. Sacred Scars comes out in August.
Skinned by Robin Wasserman. Crashed comes out in September.
*Technically shouldn't be on this list because I actually have them already, but whatever...

What sequels (YA or otherwise) coming out this year are you most excited about?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Book Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

If you are familiar with the Grimm fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, then you already know the main plot points of this retelling. Author Jessica Day George adds depth to the story of the young solider charged with finding out why the kingdom’s 12 princesses wear out their dancing shoes every night by setting it in a place with magic even darker than the original.

Galen makes a fine hero, he’s a noble orphan who knits and is kind to old ladies (traits which serve him well as the story progresses). He’s taken in by his uncle, the King’s gardener, and that’s how he meets the cursed Rose and her sisters. Galen and Rose are the only characters that we ever really get to know beyond one defining characteristic – the other 11 sisters run together in a haze of flower names and are treated more as a group than individuals. The romantic elements of the story were also a bit thin, even for someone like me who isn’t necessarily a fan of romance.

Despite knowing the fairy tale, I found this retelling adequately suspenseful and read eagerly, rooting for Galen to break the curse and usher in a happily ever after.

Princess of the Midnight Ball comes out in hardcover today.

Library Thing Tuesday (37) + pic of Emmy!

Today's question: Have you ever used the Swap This Book function which can be found on the main page of any book? If so, what do you think about it? If not, are there any other swap sites you utilize to exchange books once you are done? What do you do with your books if you no longer want them anymore?

My answer: I have never clicked on that link before, but I am so glad I did because I made an exciting discovery - there is an English book swapping site in Germany called which means I could actually be active in a book swapping site. I joined YA Book Swap on ning but I can only ship when a friend takes a trip to the states (or I do). Most of the swaps I've done have been arranged privately with other book bloggers and friends.

So what do I do with books I don't need to keep around anymore? It depends on the book format. Trade paperbacks I can take to the used bookstore in Wichita and trade in. Mass Market paperbacks I can donate to Oxfam. Adult hardcovers I can donate to the library here in Frankfurt (they need them!). I have not yet been able to part with a YA hardcover, but should I need to at some point, I could donate them to the Frankfurt International School. ARCs I try to pass on to fellow reviewers.


As you can see, we had some help putting away our guest pillows and blankets this weekend. This steamer trunk was refinished by my grandmother as a gift to my mother and I inherited it. It sat in storage for many years until I was finally able to ship it over to myself this summer using the service Luggage Free. Our guest pillows are also very special. They are filled with goose feathers that my grandmother's grandmother plucked herself!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Review: My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

The only sub-genre I look forward to as much as dystopia is fairy-tale retellings. And the premise for this one got me so excited, it ended up as my WoW pick number 7. I really wanted something lighthearted and fun after the heavier books I’ve been reading lately and this charming and hilarious novel proved to be exactly what I needed.

It all begins when mediocre fairy godmother student Chrissy Everstar has to do an extra credit project and is put on the case of 15 year old Savannah who is inconsolable after sister Jane steals her hot prom date Hunter. When Chrissy shows up in a dazzle of bright lights and asks her to name her heart’s desire, Savannah can’t help wishing her life was like a fairytale with a handsome prince at the end. Unfortunately, when your fairy godmother is just a “fair” student, such a vague wish can only mean trouble and Savannah soon finds herself trapped in the Middle Ages, doomed to live out the early, dreary chapters of first Cinderella’s and then Snow White’s story. Her third wish sends classmate Tristan back to the middle ages until he can become a prince, and Savannah is determined to find a way to help him, even if it means going back to eating peas porridge in the pot, nine days old.

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.

I also couldn’t help falling for Tristan. He certainly took his being sent to the Middle Ages in stride. I think it was the following passage that solidified it for me:

“I only kept from starving to death by becoming a jongleur.” He must have seen the blank expression on my face because he added, “That’s a storyteller. I had plenty of stories.” Here he gave me a crooked smile. “And mom always told me that watching TV was a waste of time. I tell you what, the people here are big Battlestar Galactica fans.” (p. 125)

Savannah and Tristan have some exciting adventures involving ogres, a variety of enchantments and scheming royals and Savannah learns that magic and wishes are nothing to be taken lightly. As Chrissy tells her:

“Did you think wishes were like kittens, that all they were going to do was purr and cuddle with you?” She shook her head benevolently. “Those type of wishes have no power. The only wishes that will ever change you are the kind that may, at any moment, eat you whole. But in the end, they are the only wishes that matter.” (p. 234)

Author Janette Rallison’s effortless style and creativity really impressed me and I’m looking forward to reading her other books including the upcoming Just One Wish (March 2009).

This one has earned a place on my keeper shelf. My Fair Godmother is available in hardcover now.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Book Giveaway: Penguin Prize Pack 8+ YA Books!

Remember my big Penguin book giveaway back in November? Well, I've got another one, only this time, 5 of the books are guaranteed 2009 titles with 3 (or more) coming from Penguin's backlist (the winner may make their preferences known, but no guarantees since it is publicist's choice.)
Here is some information on the 5 ARC books you'll win:

Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (Coming in Jan. 2009) Twelve-year-old Lonnie is finally feeling at home with his foster family. But because he’s living apart from his little sister, Lili, he decides it’s his job to be the “rememberer”—and write down everything that happens while they’re growing up. Lonnie’s musings are bittersweet; he’s happy that he and Lili have new families, but though his new family brings him joy, it also brings new worries. With a foster brother in the army, concepts like Peace have new meaning for Lonnie.

Told through letters from Lonnie to Lili, this thought provoking book tackles important issues in captivating, lyrical language. Lonnie’s refl ections on family, loss, love and peace will strike a note with readers of all ages.

Read a review at The Book Bag.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Coming in March 2009) Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

Read my review here.

Read an excerpt at

Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas (Coming in April 2009) Anke’s father is abusive. But not to her. He attacks her brother and sister, but she’s just an invisible witness in a house of horrors, on the brink of disappearing altogether. Until she makes the volleyball team at school. At first just being exhausted after practice feels good, but as Anke becomes part of the team, her confidence builds. When she learns to yell “Mine!” to call a ball, she finds a voice she didn’t know existed. For the first time, Anke is seen and heard. Soon, she’s imagining a day that her voice will be loud enough to rescue everyone at home—including herself.

Read a review at Teen Book Review.

Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect by Michael Reisman (Coming in June 2009) In Simon Bloom, The Gravity Keeper, Simon Bloom and his friends used the Book of Physics to narrowly defeat villainess Sirabetta. Now Simon’s nemesis, stuck as a helpless thirteen-year-old, wants revenge.
In this exciting sequel, Simon and company must enter the mysterious undersea realm of the Order of Biology to fi nd Sirabetta before she can restore her powers. Aided by old allies and some new ones, the kids struggle with fierce beasts, dangerous enemies, and their own evolving abilities.
Blending humor, suspense, and science—and throwing new octopus powers into the mix—Michael Reisman brings us another outstandingly original adventure.

Lipstick Apology by Jennifer Jabaley (Coming in Aug. 2009) When Emily Carson’s parents die in a plane crash, she’s left with nothing but her mother’s last words scrawled in lipstick on a tray table: “Emily, please forgive me.”

Now it’s fall and Emily moves to New York City— where she attracts the attention of two very different boys: the cute, popular Owen, and her quirky chemistry partner, Anthony. With the help of some surprising new friends, Emily must choose between the boy who helps her forget and the one who encourages her to remember, and ultimately heal.

Debut author Jennifer Jabaley has written a wonderful, feel-good romantic comedy with real emotional depth. Full of lovably wacky characters, Lipstick Apology is a heartwarming story about the true meaning of forgiveness.

Author Mandy Hubbard has a copy. Read her thoughts about it here.

So what do you have to do to enter?

For 1 entry, tell me in the comments what site(s) or blog(s) you visit online to find out about upcoming book releases. I always love to hear about what books are coming out in the future, both for my Waiting on Wednesday posts and my wishlist!

For 1 extra entry, post a link to this contest on your blog or social networking page (sidebar is fine) and leave a separate comment* to tell me you've done so.

For 1 extra entry, become a Presenting Lenore follower and leave a separate comment* telling me you've done so (or that you are one already).

(*the separate comments make it easier for me to pick a winner!)

Deadline for entry is Sunday, Feb 8th at 9 pm CST. Open to US and Canadian residents only (sorry international readers, but those are the publisher's rules. I'll be having a contest open internationally soon!)

Enter yourself and tell your friends! If response is good, I'll be able to host even more of these in the future.

Book Reviews for Mini Book Expo

I got both the following books from Mini Book Expo for bloggers (a great place to get review copies and ARCs especially for Canadian bloggers) and for a variety of reasons, the reviews are way overdue…eek!

After the Fires by Ursula Pflug

Book summary: The stories in After the Fires light the dark places where reality burns away to reveal something fantastical. In these stories Ursula Pflug’s worlds unfold like waking dreams where what was forgotten is remembered. Her narrators accept these shadow worlds as their truth and the reader is seduced into following along to see what has been refashioned and lies waiting to be discovered among the ashes that remain after the fires.

My reaction: These stories are bizarre and experimental – something I like quite a lot usually. And I did like these stories – the apocalyptic “Memory Lapse at the Waterfront” with its unreliable narrator and epistolary format and the dream-like horror of “A Dog’s Life” were standouts – but they were easier to digest spaced out over the course of a month. Not for conservative readers who prefer their stories to have an actual storyline, but definitely worth a read for those willing to stretch their literary boundaries.

For more thoughts on this title, please see the publisher's website: tightrope books.

Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters by Bill Tancer

Book summary: What time of year do teenage girls search for prom dresses online? How does the quick adoption of technology affect business success (and how is that related to corn farmers in Iowa)? How do time and money affect the gender of visitors to online dating sites? And how is the Internet itself affecting the way we experience the world? In Click, Bill Tancer takes us behind the scenes into the massive database of online intelligence to reveal the naked truth about how we use the Web, navigate to sites, and search for information--and what all of that says about who we are.

My reaction: I was intrigued by the premise of this book and reading about Tancer’s findings held my interest for the most part. I just wish that the tonality hadn’t been so “hard sell” – the book comes off as a big advertisement for his company, constantly reminding us how great it is and how useful his online data analysis is for businesses (which it no doubt is, but still…).

Some interesting facts:

- Tancer discovered that with Web 2.0 sites (including blogs) 90% of traffic is made up of lurkers. Only 1% is active participants. (Delurk yourself lurker!)

- The rule of “150” says that most people have a limit of 150 meaningful social contacts. Tila Tequila has over 1.5 million if her number of MySpace friends is any indication.

- People have many “how to” and “why” questions that they try to answer through search engines. Number 1? “How to tie a tie”.

Tancer also talks about how the results of surveys of people’s fears are very different than what they type into search engines. And he says “As I wade through the sixteen hundred different “fear of” queries, I’m struck by just how individual our fears are.” No kidding. Someone actually got to my blog with the search keywords “fear of potato eyes.” I had no idea I shared this phobia with others. But apparently I do.

For more info about the book and fun with online stats, please see Bill Tancer's website: Click.

Both books are available now.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Review: wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Lia is dying to be thin – literally. She’s already been in treatment clinics for anorexia twice, but it hasn’t helped much. She still counts calories obsessively and cuts open her body “to let the fat drip out”. When her former best friend dies alone in a hotel room after calling Lia 33 times, Lia’s demons within begin to torment her even more. And Lia has to decide: does she want to win the thin competition at any cost – even if it means her own death?

I have to admit that if I had first read a summary of this, I would not have read it. I’ve never been a fan of books about eating disorders, never obsessively weighed myself or counted calories, never understood the compulsion to do so. But I was drawn in by the pretty cover and the pretty title, and by the time I realized what I was reading, the pretty (and at times brutal) prose had already closed its tentacles around me and forced me to swallow the novel (278) whole.

Celebrated Author Laurie Halse Anderson (whose breakthrough novel Speak came out 10 years ago) excels at exploring and deconstructing the minds and motivations of troubled teens and gives the narrative an undeniable immediacy and urgency. Lia’s relationships with everyone around her – mother, father, stepmother, sister, therapist, guy she meets at hotel where Cassie died – take the back burner to her inner drama. Their appeals to her to eat, to save herself, fall on ears that can only hear those taunting inner voices that tell her that anything above 0 pounds is too fat. It’s not an easy novel, but it is one that demands to be read.

Wintergirls will be released in hardcover on March 19, 2009.
Enter to win a copy of Wintergirls and 7+ other Penguin books here.