Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (47) + Picture of Emmy

This week's question from Wendi: What is your least-favorite book(s)? Is your least-favorite book listed in your LT library? If it is listed, do you have anything special in the tags or comments section? How have others rated your least-favorite book?

There are two books which have earned only 1 star from me on LT, Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs and The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis. Both have an average rating of 3.6 stars. Amazingly, despite my intense dislike of both, I finished these. I know a lot of people think they are genius, but they just weren't for me. I'm not a big fan of novels that are written to mirror the experience of being on drugs (Naked Lunch) or ones which are only about sex and partying (Rules).


On Friday I linked to a post with a bunch of cats getting baths, so today, I present you with Emmy's zen reaction to being bathed:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Book Review: Undercover by Beth Kephart

Elisa feels like an undercover agent. She’s not pretty like her mother and sister and her usual confidant, her father, is away for long stretches on business. She goes pretty much unnoticed at school, only getting brief attention from her “clients” – high school boys that buy metaphors from her in order to win over girls. But through her talent for writing and her newfound love of ice skating, Elisa slowly begins coming into her own.

Beth was afraid I wouldn’t like her style, what with my usual focus on high-concept, plot driven novels. But she needn’t have worried. I also enjoy quiet, literary novels, especially when they are as well written, captivating and inspiring as this one.

Elisa is a character I think many of us “bookish” types can relate to. I wasn’t as invisible or friendless in high school as Elisa, but I recognize that feeling of not quite belonging to the high school social scene. What I found refreshing was that Elisa didn’t take the typical teen journey towards acceptance which so often involves sucking up to the popular kids, acting out, or getting a radical makeover. She doesn’t look for external justification for her existence, but instead looks inwardly for it.

There is one scene that stands out especially in my mind for its insightful beauty; one in which Elisa’s emotions are especially fragile because her father is again far away and sort-of-love-interest Theo’s actions are confusing her. She races to an ice covered pond, a place which has become her refuge, a place she feels she belongs. And she thinks about West Side Story and about the song “Somewhere” which is about peace and quiet and open air:

“There’s a place for us,” it starts, the first word becoming the next word, slowly. “There’s a time for us.” Each note as pure as promise.

And she skates under the moon:

That was me, the girl above the pond. Me with my arms thrown out and the night behind me, the night holding me up, for that’s how it’s done. I was the beginning and the end, the poem I had yet to write, transcendent, which is not the same thing, not the same thing in the least, as being invisible. I was what the moon was shining its spotlight on.

“Somewhere” is a song. It is a pond, at night.

I first heard the song “Somewhere” in 8th grade, and I too clung to it, believing the promise that someday I too would find my place. And you know what? I did.

If I could go back in time and give this novel to my 8th grade self, I would. My adult self is certainly in love with it.

Undercover is now available in hardcover and will be released in paperback at the end of May.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Book Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson + 13 of my own European memories

In a reader’s poll last month, I asked all of you which book with travel as a main element I should read next. 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES was the clear winner.

What's it about? Well, Ginny’s aunt sends her 13 envelopes that she has to open one by one, following the directions in each before she can move on to the next one. The first one tells her to fly to London. What surprises will the others hold?

I thought the novel captured the rather arbitrary nature of travel well – how mood, weather, and people you encounter end up shaping your itinerary and experiences. At first I was kind of frustrated with Ginny, how she followed her aunt’s instructions to a T, even if it meant leaving a place before she even saw much of anything. But then I just kind of went with the flow. Ginny’s aunt wouldn’t let her bring guidebooks with her so I guess she didn’t know what tourist haunts she was missing out on anyway (other than the obvious ones, of course, like the Eiffel Tower). She also wasn’t allowed to have a camera – an instruction that helped Ginny really live in the moment instead of worrying about capturing every little thing for posterity. Ultimately, most of Ginny’s journey felt quite authentic, despite a few things that seemed a bit implausible. It was an entertaining read and reminded me a lot of my own first trip to Europe.

The summer I turned 21, I went to Europe with my dad and brothers for 3 weeks, followed by a month of Eurailing with my best friend, Margaret. In honor of the 13 little blue envelopes, here are 13 of my European experiences from that trip:

1. While looking for the metro in Prague (is there a metro? I’m still not sure), we tapped some guys on the shoulder to ask directions. They turned around and were the palest, most vampire-looking guys I’ve ever seen. One guy leaned over and kissed Margaret and then both walked away. When I asked why she let him kiss her, she said “I thought he wanted to smell me”.

2. Also in Prague…we didn’t know how to get to the castle so we decided to follow a tour group. It turned out to be a youth choir from Basque Spain. They noticed us and invited us into their group so that not only did we get in all the sights free, we also got to hear them sing in a variety of locations.

3. In Salzburg, Margaret made me go on the Sound of Music tour even though I’d never seen the movie. We saw fields (“The fields where they danced!”), a tree lined avenue (“That’s where they played in the trees!”), and a gazebo (“That’s where the Nazi guy kissed the 16 going on 17 girl!”).

4. Also in Salzburg, we bought Apple Strudel and then watched as birds descended on our table and carried it away.

5. In Vienna, we arrived at midnight, without a place to stay because all the hostels were full. We decided we’d stay up all night in a bar. We quickly discovered that Vienna has no nightlife. So we thought we’d spend the night outside…until a rollerblading local asked us why we weren’t scared of getting raped. We immediately checked into a hotel, blowing our budget, and ensuring we’d be eating only bread for the next week.

6. Except that the next day, as a joke, we took a picture of a group of Asian men in front of a statue of Johann Strauss. They turned out to be high ranking officials in the Thai government and they treated us to a five star dinner.

7. In Paris, we ran up all the stairs of the Eiffel Tower and back down. Twice. Then we went to Disneyland and later slept on the floor of a church.

8. In Arhus, Denmark we stayed at the Arhus City Sleep-in (even the hostels were out of our price range) and met a host of colorful characters including a drunk who often fell off his bunk, a Russian guy who drank all our bottled water without asking, and a Danish girl who took us out on midsummer’s night eve. At some point, we ran into her ex-boyfriend, who pulled a knife on her, so we ran through the cobbled streets until we lost them.

9. In Amsterdam, we stayed with a friend and spent most of our stay bicycling around and bar hopping like locals. One evening our friend had to work, so we went to her favorite bar and were telling some guys how we didn’t feel like we were tourists. At that moment, the barkeep came over and told us there was a phone call for me. It was like a scene from a movie – and the guys were duly impressed.

10. In Rome, we met a guy at the Colesseum who told us he was a psychic and he knew we wanted to see the remains of St. Peter (which we did!). So he led us there and then mysteriously disappeared. He was like a travel angel.

11. Also in Rome, drank out of the fountain in front of the Spanish Steps. And didn’t die.

12. We joined up with a church group and became counselors for a camp in Switzerland. The hot water in the showers only worked for about 5 minutes at 5 am every morning.

13. Had my baseball cap fly off while atop the William Wallace (Braveheart) monument in Scotland. Which is just as well, since baseball caps, tennis shoes and t-shirts with slogans on them scream “Tourist!”

How about you? Any adventures you want to share?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Fabulous! (8)

So here's what I am excited about this week:

1. Latest awards. Ok, I am going to feel like one of those Oscar winners who drones on and on with all their thank yous until they get played off stage...but here goes (and I hope I don't miss anyone): I got the Proximade Award from Zibilee of Raging Bibliomania and Jo of Ink and Paper, the Sisterhood Award from Donna of Bites, Ravenous Reader, Jen of 50 for Jen, Shalonda, karinlibrarian, Sheri of A Novel Menagerie, Kelly of A Novel Bookworm, and Amy of Addicted to Books, the Premio Dardos Award from Mo of Unmainstream Mom Reads, and the best award ever, the Zombie Chicken Award from Stephanie of Juiciliciousss Reviews and Mishel of Mis(h)takes. I'm overwhelmed by your enthusiam for my blog - thank you!

2. Latest books in my mailbox: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahamme-Smith, Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce, Turning Japanese by Cathy Yeardley, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, and Rubies in the Orchard by Lynda Resnick (all for review).

3. KU, winners of last year's NCAA men's basketball tourney have made the sweet sixteen again this year and are playing today for a place in the elite eight. Go Jayhawks!

4. Our new kitten has been born - in a litter of 5 kittens! He is two weeks old now and lilac point. We are going down to meet him on April 9th, so first pictures then.

5. OK - so how crazy was that BSG series finale last week? Honestly I'm still trying to digest it. No spoliers (for the peeps who haven't watched it yet) but that thing with Starbuck was just...wierd.

6. This post on bestweekever.tv - Cats getting baths are always funny!

What are you excited about?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

15 Weeks of Bees Tour: Guest Post by Laurie R. King and Review of The Beekeeper's Apprentice

Today, I am thrilled to welcome Author Laurie R. King as she stops by my blog on her 15 Weeks of Bees blog tour with a guest post.

I’ll admit I’d never heard of her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books until I was approached about doing the tour, and though I’ve only ever read bits and pieces of Sherlock Holmes' stories, I found the premise that Holmes would take a 15 year old girl on as an apprentice something far too delicious to pass up. I just finished reading book 1, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and I am incredibly impressed and eager to read more of the series.

King has fashioned a very appealing teen protagonist in Mary. She’s extremely intelligent, witty and resourceful, and yet still quite down to earth and approachable. The first 50 pages of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice deal with the early years of her acquaintance with Holmes and are almost contemplative in tone, but once they start collaborating on cases, the pace picks up and the novel is almost impossible to put down. In this installment, they collaborate on two minor cases, both very clever and fun, and two major cases which are more dangerous and exciting. What I really liked though was how the cases and the mystery never overshadowed the focus on the characters - the nuanced relationship been the unlikely pair and their obvious deep regard for each other.

I’m glad I have 8 more books to look forward to including the newest, The Language of Bees, which comes out on April 28th.

I asked King if she would talk a bit about the book’s appeal to teen readers, and here’s what she had to say:

I was a kid who read a lot. A lot. Books were often more real, and certainly more important, than people—no doubt because my family moved so often, I just couldn’t be bothered. Why go to the work of building a new set of friendships when you’d be moving away during the summer, anyway?

Instead, I lived in libraries and made friends in the pages of books.

This worked fine until I had boyfriends who did not read fiction (And eventually married a man who never read fiction. Oh well.) and the continuous burial of my nose in a book set the noses of others out of joint. It became a habit, slightly shameful, that I did not indulge around others. Until I became a writer. Writers have to be readers, don’t they? Would you trust the author of a book who said in an interview that she doesn’t like to read? Of course not. I have to read, now.

Much of what I write is aimed at that girl who hung out in front of the shelves of libraries, hoping for That Book.

When I started writing about Mary Russell, I wanted her to be fifteen years old. These days, we would find her a rather young and innocent fifteen—after all, her time is the early twentieth century, which was an age of relative innocence compared to a hundred years later. More than that, however, she comes from a protected, well-to-do background, with parents who loved and respected her.

Until the autumn of her fourteenth year, when her family died, she was injured, the relative she was sent to resented her, and worst of all, she knows that it was all her fault.

Intellectually, Russell is more mature than the majority of adults, in her world or ours. The machine that is her mind is a powerful one. She can certainly out-think her author. (One of the advantages of writing is that one has a chance to dig around for, reshape, and then polish clever dialogue and biting remarks in a way one can never, ever do in real live.) She is on her way to becoming a cold and rather bitter adult…until she encounters a distinctly cold and bitter adult and becomes his apprentice.

I wanted to introduce Mary Russell to Sherlock Holmes at a time when she had an adult’s ability to shape ideas, yet when she was still malleable. As she says in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, had he been a cat-burglar or forger when they met, she might well have grown up learning to walk parapets and brew inks. Instead, she has the great good fortune to meet a man of high moral and ethical stature, and her mind and abilities are turned for the good.

However, I didn’t want the teaching to be one-sided. I wanted to permit the man Holmes to grow as a person, to show how her unexpected presence in his life re-shaped him, from a person who has turned his back on his fellow man into someone capable of acknowledging, and embracing, his own humanity.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is a “coming of age” novel in two senses: Russell grows into her adult form, and Holmes moves into the modern era that has been forming around him.

That they both have a great deal of fun doing so is an extra bonus, certainly for their writer.

Laurie R. King is the bestselling, award-winning author of nineteen novels published around the world, which include The Beekeeper's Apprentice, A Grave Talent, and the upcoming The Language of Bees. She is a third generation Californian with a background in theology, house construction, and child-rearing, and keeps a blog, runs a virtual book club, and helps Mary Russell do Myspace and Twitter, all of them through her web site at http://www.laurierking.com/

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (25) How It Ends by Laura Wiess

I haven't yet read any Laura Wiess yet, but when I read her answer to why she wrote HOW IT ENDS (coming August 2009) on the Simon and Schuster website, I knew I must read this ASAP because I've thought these exact same thoughts! It's like she wrote this book just for me. Here's what she said:

How It Ends grew out of some haunting, unanswered questions and two completely separate, very disturbing images I've had tucked away in the back of my mind for years. The unanswered questions were born as a result of several people who were dear to me passing away and me realizing -- after it was too late, of course -- that there were so many things I'd never asked them, stories only they knew that I should have taken the time to listen to and mostly, odd fragments of info discovered after their deaths that couldn't be resolved and will now always remain mysteries.

I started wondering about life stories, how each one of us has one that isn't apparent at first glance, what we tell the world about ourselves and what we deliberately tuck away and never reveal. And of how we never really know someone, no matter how much we want to believe that we do. I also wanted to explore how love begins, and how it ends, and what comes of each experience. I think everything that happens to us both teaches us something about ourselves -- what we accept, what we reject, what we're willing to trade and what we're not -- and shapes us for what comes next. The imprints -- both good and bad -- that we leave on each other -- often without meaning to -- and how we go on to translate them fascinates me no end.

WOW. Just wow.

Kelsey of Reading Keeps You Sane spotlighted this 6 weeks ago and said that the cover had a leaf on it, so I think this must be the UK cover. If Laura's words intrigued you, read the very exciting plot summary on Kelsey's blog.

As always, check out what other books bloggers are pining for over at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (46) + Sorry Emmy!

Wendi has a ton of questions today: What is your favorite book (yes - this may be a hard one!!)? Is your favorite book listed in your LT library? If it is listed, do you have anything special in the tags or comments section? Have you looked to see if you can add any information to the Common Knowledge? AND a little off topic, do you find that your 5-starred books are consistent with your favorites, and is your favorite a 5-star rated book in your library? How have others rated your favorite book?

Let's see...out of the 519 books I currently have listed in my LibraryThing account (certainly a small number of the total books I've read in my lifetime) I have rated 131 of them with 5 stars and tagged 30 of them as favorites (which isn't entirely accurate as I tag on a whim - for example, the classics are poorly represented, but I would consider many of them to be favorites, just never got around to tagging them). All my tagged favorites are 5 star books.

17 by men

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Holes by Louis Sachar
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead
Under the Skin by Michel Faber
Are You Experienced? by William Suttcliffe
Trap For Cinderella by Sebastien Japrisot
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Charlie Kaufman (Script)

13 by women

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
Beauty by Sheri Tepper
The Tiger Rising by Kate Dicamillo
The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart
The Likeness by Tana French
No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Dust of 100 Dogs by AS King
If I Stay by Gayle Forman

But the women are catching up! All 5 of the books I've added to my all time favorites since I've been blogging are by women.

As for how others have rated my favorites, let me pick two obscure ones...

This is what I said about The Myth of You and Me (which has an average rating of only 3.7 by 159 users):
Explores the passion of female friendships that develop in the teenage years with a great narrative hook, a believable romance and well-rounded and very human characters. After I read this, I had to share it with my two best friends.

And this is what I said about Trap for Cinderella (which has an average rating of 4 by 9 users):
I have read this probably more times than any other book I own - that is how much I love this noir thriller about an amnesiac's search for identity. Really top notch.


Emmy contemplates her next move while playing the boardgame Sorry! We were inspired to play this game after seeing Em's cat play Scrabble. Check out the cuteness at Em's Bookshelf. (And check out her reviews while you are there - they are always a joy to read.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Book Review and Author Interview: Willow by Julia Hoban

When I heard Willow was a novel about a girl who cuts herself, I expected a very gritty, painful read about a messed up girl with the odds stacked against her. I was wrong. I mean, sure, Willow obviously has destructive tendencies and does cut herself, and those scenes are certainly difficult to read, but Willow herself is a pretty normal suburban girl, surrounded by sympathetic (if somewhat distant) people, who just happens to be visited by tragedy. In fact, I would venture to say that Willow reads like a modern fairy tale about coming to terms with grief.

What Willow must overcome is the misplaced guilt she feels for being the one who was driving in the car wreck that killed her parents. It is this guilt that makes her feel unworthy of grieving in a “normal” way and when the emotional turmoil becomes too much, she numbs it by inflicting physical pain upon herself. Her cutting becomes a silent cry for help which is answered by her own personal Prince Charming, a guy (named Guy) who is so perfect, he seems like someone Willow willed into being. (He’s in high school, yet he’s well read, well traveled, well built, incredibly mature, understanding, and even an advocate of safe sex.)

I had the feeling while reading that Author Julia Hoban knew what it was like to lose a parent. I’ve lost one – my mother – and I can vouch for the authenticity of Willow’s grief. I can totally understand that she felt like a freak around teens that had not yet experienced such a loss, and I think this would be an excellent novel to give to young adults that have recently lost a loved one. The third person narration might be guilty of too much telling, not enough showing, but it does give us a unique insight into Willow’s psyche, and I think that is integral to the story and to understanding why someone would resort to cutting.

Willow doesn’t come out until April 2nd, but I do have an interview with Julia to tide you over until then.

Hi Julia! Thanks for stopping by. I am very curious – what inspired you to write WILLOW? And was it always meant to be a love story?
I wanted to write a book for all of us with self destructive urges, a book that would take a character from a place of self harm to a place of healing, and in doing so possibly make people question their own damaging behaviors. I chose to make WILLOW a cutter because it is a very dramatic and obvious form of self injury, but it could just as easily have been a book about overeating or doing drugs, or even something as innocent as watching too much television. And as far as it being a love story, yes, that was in my mind from the very beginning. Love is, after all, a tremendous healing force.

Yes it is! Can you tell us a bit about your path to publication?
It was very difficult. I’ve done a fair amount of writing one way or another, including quite a few romances under a pseudonym, so when the time came for me to go out and get an agent for WILLOW I had a reasonably significant resume, and I confidently expected to be greeted by the publishing world with open arms!

I am very happy to report that it only took three years, a destroyed manuscript, a smashed computer and a husband who threatened to leave if he so much heard the name Willow again, before I got an agent to read my book. My heart really goes out to other writers who are facing the same kind of rejection. It’s not easy and it’s not fun, but STICK WITH IT!!

Are there certain issues that you feel are underrepresented that you’d like to see covered in a novel?
I think there’s a tremendous amount of room for more Gay and Lesbian literature, especially in the YA genre. One of the wonderful things about YA lit is that it can provide a voice for those who are too often unheard. There are many teens who are struggling with the issue of sexual identity, who are not in a situation where they can safely discuss their feelings, books on this topic might well be the only ally that they have.

By the way, I noticed that you asked your readers this question recently, and I was interested to see that several of them brought up the issue of looks, of physical beauty, and how unrealistically some characters are described. I wonder if you noticed that I never describe any of the characters in my book? There were many, many reasons for this, but one of them was that I didn’t want Willow’s ability to attract love to be predicated on her looks in any way.

I did notice that, though you did describe Guy's strong arms, so I always had it in my mind that he was hot (or at least not a lazy slob). I really enjoyed Willow and Guy's conversations about mythology and anthropology in your novel. What is your favorite Greek myth? Why? And if you were an anthropologist, what country would you want to go to?
I couldn’t name a favorite myth! There are too many that I love! But I will say that I chose to focus on Persephone in the book, because it does have particular resonance for me. Persephone deals with redemption, yes, but the story is also tempered with a great deal of sadness, Persephone’s life is forever changed, and some of those changes are not for the best. WILLOW itself is like that. Willow finds salvation through her relationship with Guy, but her life is still far from perfect, and she must learn to live with that --- without resorting to cutting.

As for what country I would like to visit --- who could resist Turkey? Could you imagine seeing the ruins of Troy? Not only that but Turkey is also home to Catal Huyuk, the birthplace of the first mirrors which Guy and Willow discuss.

I went on a day trip to Ephesus in Turkey - and that was amazing! Changing gears... We’ve discussed The Houdini Girl by Martyn Bedford – you loved it, I thought it was OK. Why should I give it a second chance? And what novels did you read years ago that you might like better now?
Not every book speaks to every person. But sometimes we don’t respond to books because of where we are emotionally when we read them, and of course that is something that is fluid and flexible. I know that part of your problem with THE HOUDINI GIRL was that you found it hard to believe the main character’s transformation. How could this tremendously flawed man morph from magician to super detective after losing the woman that he loved? You certainly make a point, but isn’t it also true that his transformation is a wonderful testament to the ways in which relationships can change us? I wonder if you went back to it now if you might view the protagonist a little differently.

As for myself, I can tell you that one of my favorite books, GAUDY NIGHT, was one that I hated at first! I originally read it when I was fifteen, and I simply couldn’t relate to the struggles that the main character was going through. I couldn’t understand why this character had such resistance to marrying a perfectly wonderful man. But I read it again in college, and I could see how a strong independent woman, particularly a woman in the nineteen thirties could view marriage as an impediment, as a renunciation of dreams rather than the ultimate fulfillment. It’s a marvelous book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I’ve never been to NYC, but I’m going this August. Jennifer Banash recently gave me some awesome tips, can you top hers?
I can’t top hers! In fact I’m indebted to Jennifer, it never occurred to me that you could go to the top of the Chrysler building, and I intend to do so immediately. I can say I hope that you have an absolutely wonderful time, that the weather isn’t too hot, and that when you visit the Strand you recognize it as the bookstore in WILLOW! And finally, you must also visit Partners and Crime, the independent bookstore where I first found THE HOUDINI GIRL, and GAUDY NIGHT. It is a must for any visitor to New York, and especially for a lover of books like yourself.

Thanks Julia!

By the way, I am participating in Lauren's contest in support of Willow. Just by buying the book and sending in the receipt, you are entered to win a huge prize pack donated by various bloggers which includes 14 books, $65 in bookstore gift cards and other goodies. And if you don't win, you'll still have a great book to read. Interested? Get all the details here. (Deadline is April 30, 2009)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Giveaway: Penguin Prize Pack 11+ YA Books!

The Penguin prize packs just keep getting BIGGER! In November, there were 6+ books, in January there were 8+, and now in March there are 11+ books to be won. Read on to see which books you can win. In addition to these 9, the publicist will throw in a few favorites from years past.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (Coming April 2, 2009) In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year- old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

Read my review here. (Short version - I LOVED it.)

Visit the official site for the book at http://www.ifistay.com/.

Check out Gayle Forman week at Persnickety Snark starting with a reader's snapshot.

The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson (coming April 20, 2009)
Being an heiress in 1920s Austria with nothing but a broken-down castle to your name and nary a penny in your purse could be frustrating for anyone but the Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein. “Tessa,” however, is thrilled with her situation, as it allows her to concentrate on her love of the arts—and no one in the Viennese opera company need know that their delightful and charming under-wardrobe mistress is really a princess.

But when the dashing self-made millionaire Guy Farne arrives at the opera in search of suitable entertainment for his high society guests, Tessa realizes that there may be more to life—and love—than just music. But while the attraction between them in undeniable, Guy’s insufferable snob of a fiancĂ©e only solidifies Tessa’s determination to keep her true identity a secret. Yet, after a chance meeting with the handsome Englishman, Tessa’s reserve begins to melt, and she starts to wonder if it’s not too late for a fairytale ending…

Peace Love & Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle (coming May 14, 2009)
Growing up in a world of wealth and pastel-tinted entitlement, fifteen-year-old Carly has always relied on the constancy—and authenticity—of her sister, Anna. But when fourteen-year-old Anna turns plastic-perfect-pretty over the course of a single summer, everything starts to change. And there are boys involved, complicating things as boys always do. With warmth, insight, and an unparalleled gift for finding humor even in stormy situations, beloved author Lauren Myracle dives into the tumultuous waters of sisterhood and shows that even very different sisters can learn to help each other stay afloat.

Read a review by The Compulsive Reader here.

Chasing the Bear by Robert Parker (coming May 14, 2009)
For almost forty years, Robert Parker’s inimitable private investigator Spenser has been solving cases and selling millions of books worldwide. Now, for the first time, see how it all began as the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master sheds light on Spenser’s formative years spent with his father and two uncles out West.

This is an event book for every fan of Spenser, and a revelation for teens about to discover an American icon.

Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard (coming June 11, 2009)
To impress the popular girls on a high school trip to London, klutzy Callie buys real Prada heels. But trying them on, she trips…conks her head…and wakes up in the year 1815!

There Callie meets Emily, who takes her in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. As she spends time with Emily’s family, Callie warms to them—particularly to Emily’s cousin Alex, a hottie and a duke, if a tad arrogant. But can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, and win Alex’s heart, before her time in the past is up?

Prada and Prejudice is a high-concept romantic comedy about finding friendship and love in the past in order to have happiness in the present.

Read a review by Green Bean Teen Queen here.

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes (coming June 25, 2009)
Wednesday, September 5, 1973: The first day of Karl Shoemaker’s senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl’s been part of what he calls “the Madman Underground”—a group of kids forced (for no apparent reason) to attend group therapy during school hours. Karl has decided that senior year is going to be different. He is going to get out of the Madman Underground for good. He is going to act—and be—Normal.

But Normal, of course, is relative. Karl has five after-school jobs, one dead father, one seriously unhinged drunk mother . . . and a huge attitude. Welcome to a gritty, uncensored rollercoaster ride, narrated by the singular Karl Shoemaker.

Plus by Veronica Chambers (coming soon)
Beatrice Wilson's life changes overnight when she’s discovered by a scout for the oldest, most prestigious modeling agency in America—for their plus-sized division.

Now she must find the confidence to vanquish skinny rivals, fend off sleazy photographers, and banish scheming frenemies in her rise to superstardom, all while trying to get her ex-boyfriend back. But Bea learns that to win prince charming, you first have to find a way to love yourself.

Three Cups of Tea Young Readers Edition by Greg Mortenson (out now)
In 1993, while climbing one of the world's most difficult peaks, Mortenson became lost and ill, and eventually found aid in the tiny Pakistani village of Korphe. He vowed to repay his generous hosts by building a school; his efforts have grown into the Central Asia Institute, which has since provided education for 25,000 children.

Retold for middle readers, the story remains inspirational and compelling.

Read a review by The Happy Nappy Bookseller here.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman (out now)
Eon has been studying the ancient art of Dragon Magic for four years, hoping he’ll be able to apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But he also has a dark secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been living a dangerous lie for the chance to become a Dragoneye, the human link to an energy dragon’s power. It is forbidden for females to practice the Dragon Magic and, if discovered, Eon faces a terrible death.

After a dazzling sword ceremony, Eon’s affinity with the twelve dragons catapults him into the treacherous world of the Imperial court where he makes a powerful enemy, Lord Ido. As tension builds and Eon’s desperate lie comes to light, readers won’t be able to stop turning the pages …

Read a review by Alyce of At Home With Books here.

So what do you have to do to enter?

For 1 entry, tell me in the comments the approximate number of novels you read per month and how many of those are books you bought as opposed to sources like friends, the library, review books, etc. I just thought this might be interesting since a prize pack with 11+ books in it would be nearly a whole month's reading for me.

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. No separate comment, no extra entry.

For 1 extra entry, read one of my author interviews and leave a comment at the interview post.

Deadline for entry is Sunday, April 5th at 11:59 pm CST. Open to US and Canadian residents only (sorry international readers, but those are the publisher's rules.)

Zombie Chickens of the World Unite and Take Over

I received the Zombie Chicken Award from Alea.

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...

As you know, normally I do not follow the rules, but I am this time because I don't want my eyes pecked out by zombie chickens (would make it difficult to read and I'm not a big fan of audio books).

I follow hundreds of bloggers, but I am limiting myself to 10 today because I need to get back to reading.

Khy of Frenetic Reader because she is unapologetically team zombie and hiliariously sarcastic.

Cathy of Kittling Books because I love her Scene of the Blog feature (and because she featured me).

My Friend Amy because her recap is the first place I go after I watch an episode of LOST, she has great discussion posts and a fun link round-up.

Reviewer X because I think I've read every post she's ever written and she is awesome.

Speed Reader and Aubrey of My Favorite Author because I love their theme months - especially January when they featured post-apocalyptic lit.

Taren of The Chick Manifesto because her VC Andrews obsession is fascinating.

Kristi of The Story Siren because I adore her Books to Pine For posts, among others, and though she has every award under the sun, she doesn't have the Zombie Chicken award yet.

Sadako of Dibbly Fresh because she's made me laugh so many times with her snarky commentary on vintage YA and children's lit.

Kathy of Bermudaonion because she's the queen of comments and she started up the Wondrous Words Wednesday meme.

Beth Kephart because her thoughtful and thought provoking posts always ring true.

Better pass it on.... ;)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wintergirls winners!

We have our winners of Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls. The book just came out on Thursday, so if you didn't win, you can always get it at the store.

Anna Claire was the instant winner for being the first to post a comment.

Random.org also selected:

Bermudaonion (Lucky duck!)
Donna of Bites

Congrats! If you are a winner, please send your mailing address to lenoreva AT hotmail DOT com.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Book Reviews and Author Interview: The Elite and In Too Deep by Jennifer Banash

Today I am featuring The Elite series by Jennifer Banash with a review of the first 2 books in the series, a preview of book 3 and a very cool interview with Jennifer (seriously -it's worth reading even if you aren't interested in the series).

Before we get started, I just wanted to say that these are not the type of books I typically read. I have never read even a single sentence of Gossip Girl, The A-List, The Clique, or any other teen books about the fabulous lives of the rich and snobby. But hey, I like to expand my reading horizons and read something out of my comfort zone every once in a while. These novels had a lot more depth than I expected, and though they certainly don’t offer up a cure for cancer, they are good at what they set out to do.

Book 1 – The Elite
Casey McCloy is not in Normal, IL anymore. She’s moved in with her grandmother who lives in the most exclusive luxury apartment building in New York’s Upper East Side. And when she meets the three resident teen beauties, clad head to toe in designer duds, she realizes her Old Navy wardrobe isn’t going to cut it. She’s going to need a complete makeover – something new frenemy and reigning elite princess of Manhattan Madison Macallister seems happy to give – but will it come at a price?

Although this book is a bit slow at the start while it sets up, once it gets in gear, the drama, which mostly focuses on Madison and Casey competing for the attentions of Madison’s ex boyfriend Drew, flows fast and furiously. I liked that Madison’s minions, Sophie and Phoebe, weren’t stereotypical airheads but had minds and plotlines of their own.

One thing I found extremely odd and disconcerting was the fact that Casey knew her high-end cosmetics so well that she could identify the specific brand of bronzing oil/lip gloss/nail polish someone was wearing with a single glance and sniff. Can people really do this? I kept thinking she would be very valuable in the marketing department of a cosmetics company!

The book closes with some startling revelations and we’re all set for…

Book 2 – In Too Deep
Casey is finally starting to fit in, but she’s not sure New York Casey is someone she even likes. Madison is sure she doesn’t like Casey – after all, Casey got her corn-fed claws into Drew – a big no-no since everyone knows he belongs to Madison. Drew knows he’s fed up with the perfect veneer of Manhattan’s elite, and he doesn’t like that it seems Casey is headed in the same direction…

In Too Deep is even more over-the-top than The Elite – Madison is scouted by a modeling agency, Phoebe has secret trysts with Sophie’s brother, Sophie throws a fabulous sweet sixteen bash with a reality show camera crew in tow and a very famous special guest, and Casey…. Um…Casey tries to figure out why Drew sometimes showers her with attention and sometimes ignores her. (Oh, and she seems to have lost her super high-end cosmetics radar – how about that?). Yeah, I did feel like Casey sort of got short shrift in this installment, but that should be remedied in…

Book 3 – Simply Irresistible
Madison has been asked to star in her own reality TV show – with her rival Casey. Madison’s none too pleased that Casey could end up just as popular as she is…

This comes out in July, and I’m looking forward to picking it up and really seeing the fur fly.


And now, please welcome Jennifer Banash, here to answer a few of my questions!

You wrote the series for teens, but many adults are reading YA these days thanks to the success of Harry Potter and Twilight. Do you think your books appeal to that crossover audience? Have you heard from any adult fans?

I think that YA is crossing over more and more these days, but I really don't know if my series in particular possesses that appeal. I haven't heard from any adult readers who aren't my friends!

The clique led by queen bee Madison is made up of three girls until Casey comes along. Why is it that popular girls in books and movies always run around in groups of three? I’ve noticed too that when a fourth girl comes along, it usually leads to the group’s undoing (see Heathers, Jawbreaker, Mean Girls, The Craft, etc.). Care to comment on this phenomenon?

Never thought about it before, but you're absolutely right! Three is a number that is said to theoretically posses magical properties--spells are chanted three times, and in fairy tales such as Cinderella, there is always a series of events that come in threes (Cinderella goes to the ball three times). I think that the practical reason for groups of girls that come in groups of three in YA novels is that the "leader" is always kind of a lone wolf in many ways, and her flunkies need each other for company!

Honestly, my head was spinning from all the product placement in The Elite. Why did you focus so much on labels? And did you spend a lot of time at Barney’s and Sephora in the name of research?

That's something I toned WAY down in IN TOO DEEP. I didn't have to do any research at all--I'm completely obsessed with fashion and read Vogue magazine like it's my own personal bible. I'd take out the trash in stilettos, a ball gown, and a tiara is I thought I could get away with it .. . .

I’m a total Sephora addict! Are the characters favorite brands your favorites too? Tell us what’s in your make-up bag.

Yes! I love writing from Sophie's POV because she's slightly funkier in style than the rest of the Bram Clan. I definitely share her fascination with Too Faced, and MAC! I'm also obsessed with Trucco lip glosses, and the eyeshadow palettes from Coastal Scents--they're really cheap, and the colors and pigmentation are fabulous. It's like MAC for pennies :)

You’ve mentioned BITTEN, a book you wrote about twins who move from NYC to Dracula’s castle in Romania, in a few interviews and I am intrigued. Any updates on a publication timeline you can give us?

I've actually shelved BITTEN for the time being. With the whole TWILIGHT phenomena, no one's buying vampire books right now--the market is completely saturated.

I’ve never been to NYC, but I’m going this August. What do I absolutely have to check out in order to get the insider experience? I’m definitely hitting up the Strand bookstore – but what else is can’t miss for a first timer?

Yes! Definitely go to the Strand--it's my fave bookstore and you can find a lot of ARCs there as well. If you're over 21 check out a bar called Milk and Honey--they make pre-prohibition drinks from completely fresh ingredients by hand. It's also a really cool place because you have to text the bar's number to get in--then they text you back and tell you to come over! So, it's very hush-hush, secret fabulousness! You should also go shopping--Fifth and Madison Avenues are great, but there are lots of little designer boutiques downtown in the West Village, and in Brooklyn that are unique and fantastic. Williamsburg has some amazing boutiques, and it's only a few subway stops from downtown Manhattan. Go to my favorite ice-cream parlor, Serendipity 3 and have a frozen hot chocolate--they're world-famous, and amazing. Go to Central Park and have a picnic if the weather's nice. And do go to the top of the Chrysler Building for the awesome view--it's less touristy than the Empire State, and personally I think the actual artichetecture of the building is much more beautiful.

Thank you Jennifer!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

17 year old Mia agonizes about whether she should go to Julliard to pursue her dream of playing cello professionally even if it means possibly losing her boyfriend Adam and leaving her family and friends behind. But one snowy February morning, when Mia takes a drive with her family, one tragic instant leaves Mia with a choice more agonizing than any she’s faced before.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel about death that was so life affirming and ultimately uplifting as this one. As I write this, my cheeks are tearstained and my heart feels like it will burst. As soon as I finish, I plan to call my father and tell him I love him.

It was refreshing to read about a family that was so close, not perfect, but who experienced so many moments of happiness together. Each of the characters, the parents, the little brother, the grandparents, the aunt and uncle, the best friend and the boyfriend, has their own defining moment(s) that makes them seem achingly real.

99% of this novel was pitch perfect - moving but not manipulative. Gayle Forman is a formidable writer who is as comfortable writing humorous scenes as she is the tearjerkers. There was just one scene that I really could have done without – a cringe-worthy flashback with Mia and Adam that reminded me too much of that cheesy animal cookie scene between Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck in the movie Armageddon.

If I Stay will be released April 2nd in hardcover and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Stay tuned – it *might* just turn up in a giveaway here in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (Music Extra) Bat for Lashes - Two Suns

I am really hooked on Bat for Lashes' first CD Fur and Gold. Well, the faster paced songs like Horse and I, Trophy, Prescilla, and What's a Girl to Do anyway. So when I saw that her new CD Two Suns drops on April 6th, I was quite excited and felt the need to share.

Popnography writer Noah has heard the CD and describes it as "epic, nostalgic, dreamy, and current all at once." Can't wait!

What upcoming albums are you excited about?

Waiting On Wednesday (24) The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson

The author of The Adoration of Jenna Fox has a new book coming out in September 2009 and I want to read it right now!

Mary E. Pearson herself provides this summary of it in a January interview with The Best Book I Have Not Read:

The Miles Between is about four teens who embark on an “unauthorized” road trip in search of one fair day. The main character has an obsession with coincidences and also a secret she is keeping from the rest of her road trip renegades, and as the story unfolds, she discovers they have secrets of their own. It is an outrageous, larger-than-life story where fantasy bleeds into reality and you are never sure where one ends and the other begins. I had a lot of fun writing it.

This sounds perfect for me because a) I love road trips and b) I am obsessed with coincidences. In fact, I made a Listmania List on amazon a while back called "dealing with the subject of coincidences" and these are the items that made my list:

2. Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
3. Signs (Vista Series) DVD ~ Mel Gibson
5. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

And now I will be able to add The Miles Between! Anyone have any other suggestions of books that deal with coincidences? I'd love to hear them!
As always, check out Jill's post to find out what books other bloggers are lusting after this week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (45) + picture of Emmy

Question from Wendi: Do you visit the memes section often? Have you visited recently? Have you discovered anything that surprises you when you visit the memes for your library?

I don't visit often but I visited today. I even assigned to gender to about half of the authors who were "not set". Before I started reading so much YA, I used to read more male authors, but now my overall reading is pretty evenly spread between the sexes (although my reading for the current year is overwhelmingly female). 75% of my authors are still alive.

Today I have the mugshot of two of the most notorious criminals since Bonnie and Clyde, Emmy and Daniel. Emmy has been arrested for the crimes of shredding toilet paper, climbing on my laptop, pulling books and cereal off the shelves and scratching my mattress in the morning. Daniel has been arrested for getting the wrong brand of noodles for the noodle salad.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reading Life Phases: Childhood Favorites

Looking back at my reading patterns, I noticed that my reading really goes through phases, so I thought I'd do a mini series on reading phases in my life. Today I discuss childhood favorites (through the 8th grade).

Anyone remember the Moby Books series of illustrated classics specially adapted for young readers? We got pretty much the whole series at a used book store when I was a child and they were my first favorite books (that I recall). I used to read them aloud to my parents and whenever I came across an unfamiliar word, I would try to skip it. "Sound it out," my father or mother would say. I think they probably used that phrase a lot! I am sure it was through this series that I got my love for the classics. (Read more about the series and see more covers at Books are People, Too.)

I also very clearly remember loving Beverly Cleary's Ramona books, Charlotte's Web by EB White, The Time Quartet by Madeleine L'Engle, Anne of Green Gables, The Narnia books and the Neverending Story by Michael Ende.

Then I went through my fairy tale phase where I read all the classic fairytales compilations I could get my hands on.

At some point, I started reading series books with a vengence - Nancy Drew, Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley Twins, the Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard, and others.

Then came my teen romance phase where I read a lot of the Sweet Dreams series as well as any others my library had available. I remember going to a library book sale with my father and getting around 200 teen romances. I was in heaven. Well, until I discovered Harlequin historicals at grandma's house at age 12.

Next came my "scary" book phase: Lois Duncan, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Christopher Pike, VC Andrews and any books with a paranormal premise (no vampires but more special powers like astral projection and telekinesis).

In 8th grade, I started to get more serious. I read Newberry books like Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Katherine Paterson's Jacob I Have Loved and Bridge to Terebithia, Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and Hero and the Crown and books by Lois Lowry and Norma Fox Mazer.

Next time: High school and exchange year in Ecuador...

What were some of your favorite childhood books?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Mini Interview with Moi (3)

Ok, so it's been awhile (sorry - I've been busy!), but I'm finally answering a few reader questions from my last mini interview here. I also answered a lot of questions directly in the comments so be sure to read those too.

Kelsey asks: What's a book you remember reading and loving a ton when you were in high school?
I pretty much stuck to the classics in high school. I was on the academic bowl team and was considered the literature expert, so I was expected to know the plots and characters of many a serious tome. To supplement my knowledge, I read short summaries of major books by important authors. But I remember finding Love Story by Erich Segal on my mother's shelf and really falling in love with all the melodrama. I made my best friends Andi and Eun Hee read it too and we discussed it ad nauseam. I'd probably roll my eyes if I read it now, but it was probably the defining book of my senior year of high school.

Carolina asks: What is the biggest difference between Germany and Kansas?
There are lots of differences. In Germany it is perfectly acceptable to drink beer in McDonald's or even in front of a church, public nudity is no big deal, and customer service consists of vicious stares and angry grunts. Not so in Kansas. I know I've said this before, but what I love about living in Frankfurt is that I can walk or take public transport everywhere and hardly ever need to drive. In Wichita, if you don't have a car, you might as well sign up for your official hermit card.

H asks: What's your favorite book cover of all time?
I really, really can't answer this question! There are many, many covers I love and I can't choose just one. But any books which feature books on them, such as The Thirteeth Tale by Diane Setterfield, are sure to grab my attention.

Kelsey asks: If there were a movie made about your life, who would play you?
Did you ever see Nightmare on Elm Street? Heather Langenkamp, who plays Nancy, looks remarkably like me in some scenes. But she's too old now, so I'd have to say Zooey Deschanel. She's about the same age as I am and she's suitably quirky. Not sure who would actually WANT to see a movie about my life though!

Carolina asks: What is your fave TV show?
How about TV shows? Because I can't choose just one. Current shows I am really into include LOST, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men, Dexter, 24, and Flight of the Conchordes. My guilty pleasure is Germany's Next Top Model with Heidi Klum. Shows that I enjoy catching an episode of every now and then: House, Cold Case, and 30 Rock. I also really loved the first season of Prison Break and Heroes. Past shows I adored and never missed an episode of include X-Files (I was seriously obsessed), Arrested Development, and Friends. I also loved Quantum Leap, the first season of Sliders, Voltron, and My So Called Life.

Any more questions out there? Or anyone want to answer the same questions themselves? That's what the comments are for.

Contest Winners: Speak and Rampant

Steph seems to be MIA, but with the help of Random.org, I picked 10 of the winners of the 10th anniversary edition of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Congrats to:

Melissa (shh..I'm reading)
Mo from Unmainstream Mom Reads
The Epic Rat
Emily Ruth
Katie of Katie's Book Blog
Teddy Rose

If you didn't win, be sure to check back at Reviewer X because you could be one of her 10 winners! Also be sure to check out http://speakupaboutspeak.blogspot.com/ for latest news and features about Speak and Wintergirls.

I also held a contest for Diana Peterfreund's killer unicorn book Rampant and the response was so overwhelming (200 entries!) that Diana donated a book as well.

So the winner of the signed copy of Rampant (coming from Diana) is: Brooke Reviews
And the winner of my ARC is: Silvia Pi

Congrats to all the winners! Please send an e-mail with your shipping address to lenoreva AT hotmail DOT com and we'll get your books out ASAP. You've got until Saturday March 21st to claim your prize and if I don't hear from you until then, I'll choose a new winner.

Don't forget to enter my contest for one of 5 copies of Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Review: First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader

When President-elect Edward Carson’s daughter Alli is kidnapped, Carson puts his old friend and ATF agent Jack McClure on the case – a case where political alliances are murky, the criminals operate off the grid, and specters from Jack’s past reappear.

If you like the TV series 24, then First Daughter should appeal to you. Jack McClure has quite a bit in common with Jack Bauer. Both are government agents, both neglect a wife and daughter and lose them – one to death and one to estrangement, and both follow their own logic to track down the bad guys. But since the format of this novel is less restrictive than 24 – the action takes place over a whole month instead of one day and there are flashbacks to Jack’s past – we get a deeper sense of what makes Jack McClure tick.

I did enjoy this novel for the most part. The first scene of the book takes place on inauguration day and has serious hooks. (I defy you to put the book down after reading it.) Then we rewind a month to follow the events that led up to this mind-blowing scenario.

The framework of the plot concerns two opposing sides. One is led by a delusional lame duck president who believes he has a direct mandate from God and will do anything to remain in power behind the scenes even after the new president has been sworn in. The other is a shadowy extremist faction of the missionary separatist movement who believes in total separation of church and state and use violence to further their aims. The idea is interesting, but the execution left me confused, wondering exactly what message Author Lustbader was going for. Also, the over abundance of soapy soapbox speeches from both sides tend to slow the pace, not something you strive for in a thriller.

Getting to know Jack’s past and learning how he transformed his dyslexia from a disability to his greatest strength were much more satisfying elements of the story. Also great: The villain was suitably evil, the twists and turns in the search for Alli abundant. And I never saw that end coming.

First Daughter is available in hardcover now.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Giveaway: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (5 copies)

To celebrate the release of Wintergirls next week, I am giving away 5 copies! Read my review and watch the following the trailer (if you haven't already) to get in the mood...

This contest is US only and will run until Friday, March 20th at midnight CST. For one entry, please tell me your one or more of your favorite "issue" novels or tell me an issue you'd like to see covered in a novel (i.e. euthanasia, shoplifting, whatever...). For a second entry, link back to this contest from your blog and tell me in a separate comment.

The first person to comment wins one copy instantly!

PS - If you are for some reason having trouble seeing the comment form, send me an e-mail at lenoreva AT hotmail DOT com with your answer to the question and I'll enter you!

Friday Fabulous! (7)

Here's what I am excited about this week:

1. More awards - can you believe it? Not only did I mention a few in this post about my obsessions on Sunday, but I also got a few more. Thanks to Thao for the Your Blog is Fabulous Award, to Alyce for The Butterfly Award, to Sharon, Melissa and Kaye for the Proximidade Award and to Carrie for the I Love Your Blog Award. I'm so flattered you all thought of my blog!

2. More books in the mail too - though I am trying to hold back. I got The Agency by Ally O'Brien which I won, Zombie Blondes by Brian James from a YA Book Swap with Carolina, Darling Jim by Christian Moerk from the LT ER program (that came fast!) and Sonata for Miriam by Linda Olsson for review.

3. No contest wins this week but I did get the news that The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire has been pushed up 1 week to September 1st, and that puts me one week closer to reading it. You can read the whole story here at PW and see a slideshow of some foreign covers of The Hunger Games. The Swedish one looks deliciously creepy.

4. My friend Heather is flying over for a visit in April and we are going with another friend on a girls trip to the Greek island of Rhodes! I've only ever been to Mykonos, Tinos and Samos so it will be fun to explore an island so rich with history.

5. Daniel's first picture book is progressing well. Nearly all the illustration spreads have been approved and now he has to work hard and finish final artwork by the end of April. Wish him luck!

6. No LOST this week which was sad, but tonight is one of the last episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Here's hoping it goes out on a high note! You might also recall that I complained about not being able to watch tv shows on hulu because I'm "out of area". Well, a fellow expat told me at work the other day that there is a program you can download to mask your IP address. Anyone ever hear of Anchorfree or used it?

So what are you excited about this week?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Book Review: The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall

I used to play the clarinet. I started in 7th grade, years after most kids started, so I spent my 4 years in band playing third clarinet, the easy parts. My mother and her mother before her also played the clarinet in high school, and wanting to encourage me, my grandmother bought me a wood clarinet which I was forced to drag out around during the holidays to butcher carols. Perhaps mercifully, my brother pawned my instrument while I was in college for drug money. I do sometimes miss it though, and while I was never the most musically gifted myself, I certainly appreciate those who are.

In The Music Teacher, Pearl has given up on ever being a truly great musician herself. She started the violin too late and her parents could never afford proper lessons. But she can recognize talent, and when she gets a new student at the music store she works at who shows amazing promise, she can’t help investing in her future. One terrible mistake with Hallie forces her to reevaluate and come to terms with what her life has become.

Pearl charmed me from the first page with her honest, down-to-earth realism and her self-depreciating humor. Her voice is a strong thread that pulls the reader through this very philosophical justification of a musician’s life.

Author Barbara Hall, an award winning writer of quite a few hit television series, knows how to pace her writing to keep it flowing well. The mystery concerning the mistake she made with Hallie is a successful narrative device that kept me extremely engaged in Pearl’s story and the deep introspection that allows her to realize some core truths about herself.

Through Pearl and her coworkers at the music store, Hall ruminates on music and how music relates to life and relationships. You can open this novel to almost any page and find a quotable passage. Don’t believe me? Wait a second. I’ll open to a page at random… Ok… page 84 (ARC version, so this may be different in the final print):

Music is like communion or something. You don’t do it because you’re perfect. You do it because you glimpse perfection. You realize it can take you a step closer. You move toward it because you are hoping it can make you better.

Here’s another passage that I found remarkable where Pearl thinks about how isolated she is from society and what the reason for that is:

I’ve always been isolated. It was a condition I was born with. Some children get to arrive on earth with one simple assurance: You were invited, and you are welcome. Those of us who imposed our existence on a couple of angry and resistant participants spend most of our lives feeling sorry that we came. (p. 210, ARC)

I’ve seen reviewers say this has too much talk and not enough action – and the talk does outweigh the action by far – but this novel just worked for me. I enjoyed reading it immensely.

The Music Teacher is available in hardcover now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (Music Extra) Tori Amos - Abnormally Attracted to Sin

Tori Amos is coming out with her 10th studio album and it drops on May 19th! How excited am I? Very!

Here's the confirmed track listing:
1. 'Give'
2. 'Welcome to England'
3. 'Strong Black Vine'
4. 'Flavor'
5. 'Not Dying Today'
6. 'Maybe California'
7. 'Curtain Call'
8. 'Fire to Your Plain'
9. 'Police Me'
10. 'That Guy'
11. 'Abnormally Attracted to Sin'
12. '500 Miles'
13. 'Mary Jane'
14. 'Starling'
15. 'Fast Horse'
16. 'Ophelia'
17. 'Lady in Blue'

She's playing a show at SXSW on March 19th with a sneak peek at some of these songs and then we'll know if this is a more girl and her piano album like her debut Little Earthquakes and Scarlett's Walk, a more rock album like From the Choirgirl Hotel or her last one American Doll Posse, or something totally different. I really hope she'll announce another tour too!

Waiting On Wednesday (23) The Waking: Dreams of the Dead by Thomas Randall

I saw over on Little Willow's Books to Read (Forthcoming Releases) list that she has read and highly recommends this November 2009 release. That in itself is reason to read it, but the cover seals the deal for me - gorgeous.

Here's the summary from amazon:

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

Sounds creepy! I am always drawn to stories about foreigners in Japan (since I was one for 9 months) and I hear this one has a very special cat in it too...

As always, check out Jill's post to see what books other bloggers can't wait to read.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Library Thing Tuesday (44) + picture of Emmy

Question this week from Wendi: Were you aware of the Member Giveaways Program? Have you posted any books in the giveaway? If so, what are your thoughts on the program? Have you requested any books, and if so, did you win any?

I've looked through the books and though a few have caught my eye as something I might want to read someday, none were "must reads" so I'm letting others have a chance! It does look like a good way to send books on to new homes as every single book has been requested at least once. Maybe I'll offer a few of mine up here in Germany. I'll probably check back every once in a while, but this is nowhere as exciting to me as the ER program is.

Emmy is in love with this paper bag. She'll just lay in there for hours. Silly kitty.