Friday, April 30, 2010

Author Interview and Giveaway: Rachelle Rogers Knight discusses Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens

I'm today's stop on Rachelle Rogers Knight's Traveling to Teens tour for her new reading journal, READ, REMEMBER, RECOMMEND FOR TEENS. I shared my impressions of the journal earlier today, and now I welcome Rachelle for an interview.

Your reading journal places a lot of focus on award winners. Do award lists help you yourself select what to read?
I am very picky about what I read, and because I have limited time to devote to reading I feel strongly about reading really 'good stuff'. I love the awards lists - because the highest literary critics and academics in the land have spent countless hours pouring over the latest books to find the "best". This saves the rest of us readers from having to pour over the same books - we get to go right to the cream of the crop and read the best.

Not only do I like the award lists, but I think the finalist lists for those same awards are equally if not more important as a source of reading recommendations. It is hard to conceive of just one 'best' and the finalist lists offer more of a great thing. When I go back over my reading, I have read more of the finalists than the actual winners in some cases.

What resources (other than awards lists) do you use to find book recommendations? Are book blogs important to you? What do you look for in a book blog?
I get recommendations from a myriad of sources including newspaper reviews, online reviews, magazine articles and book blogs. When choosing blogs for my own personal reading, I look for blogs with similar tastes to mine with quality reviews that don't give away too much of the story.

Now that you've been getting user feedback on the journal, is there anything you'd do differently in an updated edition?
I think we may try and increase the number of pages in some of the sections. This is more of a publishing concern, but it is something I will definitely chat with Sourcebooks (my publisher) about. It is a hard balance to include the lists I wanted to include as well as all of the other sections - but not make it too large.

You seem like a very organized person. Is there an any area of your life is chaotic at all?
I wish I could be as organized in every other part of my life as with my books.
My reading life is very important to me - my means of escape at the end of each day. I think it's the one area I feel I have complete control. When I created the fiction journal, it was just for me - I needed some way of keeping this very important pastime organizing, because I didn't want to waste a single, precious minute of my few hours of reading searching for a list or a good recommendation.

Thanks Rachelle! Rachelle has a giveaway of one copy of her journal especially for Presenting Lenore readers. Please follow this link to enter! I'm not sure if this is for international readers as well, but go ahead and enter. Giveaway closes on May 21, 2010.

Find out more about the book at

Book Review: Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens by Rachelle Rogers Knight

For my review today I am going to give you a reenactment of my reactions to this book journal for teens as I went through it.

At first glance, I was excited. The design is attractive and inviting enough for a $15.99 price point. The spine/spiral binding makes it look a bit like a cookbook, but the inside pages are sturdy and it’s easy to flip through. I’d be willing to pay more for a hardcover and a three-ring binder format so I could add/take out pages

Now, of course, being a book blogger, my first stop was the Young Adult Literature Blog section I had been hearing so much about. I already suspected I wasn’t on the list (and no I am not), and although she definitely got some things right, I was frankly surprised by some of the odd inclusions and flagrant omissions. First off, I know the publishing process is a long one, but, come on – The Book Bopper hasn’t blogged since June of 2008, and the last time All Five Stars blogged regularly was January 2009!! Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast is a wonderful book blog that I adore, but its' focus is picture books, hardly ever posting anything young adult. And then…no Steph Su Reads? No Jen Robinson? No Bookshelves of Doom? No Bildungsroman? No Chasing Ray? No Angieville? Those are like the bread and butter of YA book blogs!

So my next act was to attempt to find out who the author was and what made her an “expert” on YA lit. I was starting to doubt her credentials, and I needed some reassurance. I looked everywhere, the introduction, the table of contents, the back…not one personal word about the author. Strange – and unsettling. (ETA: an enterprising reader might notice the ad on the last page of the journal that suggests visiting "for all the newest award winners and news." Even here, however, it doesn't state that this is the personal blog of the author. If you visit the bibilobabe website about page, you will see that Rachelle calls herself a passionate reader, a book lover and a bibliophile. Credentials enough? Debate among yourselves.)

Ok, then I grabbed a pen and started going through the Awards & Notables list, a section that takes up nearly 200 pages or about 2/3 of the book. It starts with the National Book Award and has checkboxes to mark if you own, recommend, have in your tbr, or want each of the books. I marked “want” for Judy Blundell’s 2008 award winner WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED. Then I went down the list and marked “own” and “recommend” for Louis Sachar’s 1998 award winner HOLES. I went through another 23 pages, dutifully checking off books before I got bored … and a bit frustrated. What should I do if I own the book but haven’t read it? Check “own” and “to read”? Ok, no problem. But what if I’ve read a book, but don’t own it and don’t recommend it? What should I do then? There is enough room in the margin for me to make my own category, “read, not owned”, so I did that.

Then I flipped through the To Read section and the Journal Pages. All seem pretty useful, but I need more! With all the blogs that I read, I could fill the To Read section within a week! And with all the books I read, the Journal Pages would fill up fast too. This is why I’d love the option of a three ring binder with extra pages.

The Recommendations section is one I probably wouldn’t use, since if I want to recommend a book, I just recommend it. I don’t need to write that info down in a journal. The Loaner Lists is something I do already, but I really like the format here. It’s way more organized than mine!

And then I am back at the Resources section. In addition to the lacking bloggers section, there are some author sites to check out (also missing many of my personal favorites) and some other helpful listings. There’s also a bit about literary terms (not written by the author) and then an extensive index.

Verdict – in its current state, this journal is not really that useful to me, or any voracious reader really, except perhaps for one who wants to read and keep track of many, many award winners. I’d love a more premium version with a 3 ring binder and the ability to buy extra pages separately. Of course I realize that most of the world’s population doesn’t read as much as I do, so for the teen who reads 2-3 books a month, this compact journal might be ideal.

Coming up later today, I have an interview with the author and a chance to win a copy of the journal for yourself.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

International Book Blogger Mentor Program Featured Bloggers (2)

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

That's why I decided to start the International Book Blogger Mentor Program to support book bloggers outside the US and Canada. Each month during 2010, I match up international bloggers with mentors (either me or other experienced book bloggers). Mentees get 3 review copies, blog advice, and are featured here on Presenting Lenore. Check out the FAQ on how to apply or to sponsor!

And now for the program's latest mentees:

First up we have Milka from Read. Read. Read. who lives in Finland. Milka chose 3 books from my pile including The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin Benway which she quite enjoyed, saying:

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June will charm the fans of Audrey, Wait! with its wit, funny characters and magic. (Read her whole review)

She also chose Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers and loved it, saying:

Now after reading it I can say that it was all I expected and even more. I feel I want to read it again right now! I haven't felt like this about a book since I read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Andersen. (Read her whole review)

Milka is a fairly new book blogger and is super sweet - so please check out her blog and reviews when you have a chance. You might even learn some Finnish words!


Now on to my blogger sponsor on the month - Kristi of The Story Siren! I was so thrilled that THE powerhouse YA book blogger came on the team - and so was Shweta, her mentee from India. Shweta blogs at Shweta's Book Journal and is also always up for a chat on Twitter. Kristi sent her several books including Ice by Sarah Beth Durst. Here's an excerpt of Shweta's review:

Another great thing about the book was the mixture of science with fantasy. Cassie being a believer of science at heart uses her knowledge in helping the Polar Bear King in his fulfilling his duty. Let me tell you that part of the plot definitely didn't look out of place or forced. Goes to prove magic and science can co exist. If the author so wishes. (Read her whole review)

Shweta has been book blogging since Dec. 2009 and always has a lot of fun reviews and bookish stuff on her blog. Check her out!


My author sponsor for March was the amazing Beth Kephart! I loved Undercover and Nothing but Ghosts and can't wait to start The Heart is Not a Size (which I just bought) and her upcoming Dangerous Neighbors (you bet I'll be first in her autograph line at BEA). Beth sent three of her novels to Patty of Yay! Reads who lives in Puerto Rico (technically part of the US, but with extra shipping fees so counts as international). Patty has already read and reviewed the 3 books Beth sent, and liked Undercover best of all saying:

Again, Beth Kephart excels with beautiful writing and a real story. I loved how unique the plot was. I mean, ghost writer for love notes? That's freaking awesome. I loved how we can see how Elisa changed through the book. She became a very strong and brave character in the end. (Read her whole review)

You can also check out Patty's review of The Heart is Not a Size and her review of House of Dance.

Not only does Patty read & review 2-3 books a week, she is also an aspiring author! Why not stop by and say hello?


This month I am pleased to introduce Megan Kelly who not only blogs about YA books at Devour Books but who also teaches at a middle school in rural Bahamas. Here's what she has to say about the school:

Deep Creek Middle School was founded in 2001 when a need was recognized for a strong school for adolescent students. It is the only middle school in The Bahamas and is currently in the process to receive the Caribbean’s first Eco Schools Green Flag award. We are located in southern Eleuthera, a rural island in The Bahamas. Our mission is to provide a nurturing community with an experiential education bent. We believe this will create academic growth and responsible citizenship in our future leaders of The Bahamas.

Our school library is the only one within an hour's drive and is a resource for everyone in the community. Because of their access to a wide variety of books, our students (many of whom enter the 7th grade at a 3rd grade reading level) all graduate reading at or above grade level.

The school would love any donations you could make to their library - picture books, middle grade, and YA. And the best part is - they even have a US based address so you could media mail for just a few dollars! I'm sending over a flat-rate book full of books just as soon as I can fill one up. Here's the address:

Cape Eleuthera Island School-RSD
Twin Air
3406 S.W. 9th Avenue
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33315

Make sure to include a note with your name/e-mail/blog address (if applicable) and that Presenting Lenore sent you! And yes, there IS something in it for you! Megan will gather up all those notes that she receives by June 15th and pick one at random to win a BEA swag pack from me which will include a ton of signed bookmarks, at least 2 hot ARCs/books, a very cool bag and whatever else strikes my fancy. Of course international people can send books too to get an entry to the drawing and win a prize.

To be eligible for the prize, you must send at least 2 books in good condition (no ARCs please). I'll annouce the winner in the June issue of IBBMP.

Thank you!

IBBMP Featured Bloggers (2) was originally published by Lenore for Presenting Lenore. It cannot be republished without express written permisson. If you are reading this elsewhere, it has been stolen.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Make me read a romance novel!

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I'm not a fan of romance novels or even really of romance in novels (unless it's done so well, I can really believe it). But a combination of factors have led to this post, wherein I ask you to pick a romance novel for me to read.

There was My Friend Amy posting back in February about challenging yourself to read outside your genre comfort zone. Then there is the radical change in reading tastes that Alea of Pop Culture Junkie went through this year - she went from never reading romance to swimming like a (nice) Scrooge McDuck through piles upon piles of romance novels - and she wrote a guest post back in March over at Sarah MacLean's blog giving 9 rules to beginning romance readers. And then most recently, Nicole of Linus' Blanket hosted a bookworms carnival called Outside the Zone, where 8 readers shared reviews of books they loved that they wouldn't normally read - which made me breathe deep and think...I can do this!

Romance is still the genre which is most out of my comfort zone (I've done pretty well in the fantasy department lately, though I still struggle with epic fantasy) so I've decide to tackle it head on!

Admittedly, it wasn't always this way. Between the ages of 13-16, I dipped into my grandmother's collection of Harlequin Historicals rather frequenty. My favorites were the ones where the heroine would dress up like a man, such as TO TOUCH THE SUN by Barbara Leigh (Don't ask me how I remember the title of this now out of print book all these years later!).

Check out this summary:

To be a knight, chivalrous in deed and courageous in battle, was all that Drue had ever wished for. Dubbed Sir Drue, she had sworn to serve her king and seek revenge against her enemy, Connaught. She had vowed to slay the treacherous knight, yet one look into the depths of his fire-blue eyes and she knew she could never kill him.

Though she had captured him fairly on the field of battle, it was Drue who was completely in his power, and she shuddered to think what the proud Connaught would do when he discovered that the "lad" who had defeated him was nothing more than a woman.

Oh yeah.

But then, I discovered the classics and high-brow literary fiction and abandoned romance novels. My grandmother would still fill my car trunk up with bags of Harlequins when I headed back to my college dorm, but I'd just pass them on to friends.

****Short tangent...there was this one novel, ROARKE'S FOLLY by Claire Delocroix, that kept my roommate up all night reading...and because she was so tired, she slept through her alarm and missed a test. We started to referring to the incident as "Lua's Folly".****

So basically, I haven't gone anywhere near a genre romance novel (with one exception) since the late 90s and YOU have the power to change that right now!

How? Please recommend a genre romance novel (you know - the ones that usually have covers depicting a charming, dangerous, possibly-shirtless man) that you have read and loved in the comments. Let's stick with contemporary and historical romances for now (I am not up for any eye-ball scalding werewolf sex at the moment).

I will pick the one that appeals most to me and then BUY it, read the entire thing, and post a review here.

Go, go, go!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday (103) = Picture of Emmy

I'm glad to see this kitty bed we bought is finally getting some use:

Finn likes it better than Emmy when it's inside, but they both love it when it's outside.

In a related note, Emmy's ears got sunburned so we have to be careful to limit access to the balcony during the hottest parts of the day. The vet said there are no specific cat sunscreens in Germany (probably because we so rarely get sun), and human sunscreens have too many perfumes and chemicals that will irritate the lining of a cat's stomach and make them barf. Who knew?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Bloggers Behaving Badly (3): The Unforgivable Book Blogging Sin

Let me start out by asking a question: Is there a sin that book bloggers commit that you simply cannot forgive? Something that makes you unsubscribe from a blog, vent to your friends, or just generally avoid that blogger forevermore? I’ve noticed an increasing amount of chatter on blogs and on Twitter about “blacklisting” certain bloggers for their online behavior. But what if that blogger apologizes for their bad behavior, either publicly or privately to you? Could you give them a second chance, or are you more a once bitten, twice shy type?

I’m generally not someone who holds a grudge – especially if someone apologizes and is sincere about it. Am I going to recommend the blog of a plagiarist (even one who apologized) to an author or a publicist or add them to my blog roll? No, probably not. At least not anytime in the near future. But in most cases, my online memory is short, so even if I am hopping mad at someone one day, I may be happily commenting on their blog the next.

I asked bloggers for their input on what they considered blogging sins/pet-peeves/turn-offs and got a pretty extensive list. Not all of these things bother everyone – for example – I actually don’t mind people leaving links to their blog in my comments (not that I encourage it exactly), but some people HATE it.

And of course there are some areas where bloggers collide over personal preferences. Some people hate it when a blogger only writes positive reviews for example. But here’s the thing – if you clearly state what your blog is focused on – whether it’s reviewing only books you loved, making fun of Sweet Valley High books, or just participating in memes – then as a visitor, I have the choice to read your content, or not. It’s when you state that you stand for honest reviews, and then turn around and give everything 5 stars that you start to look suspicious – and start annoying people.

Anyway, here are some blogging sins – some of which are deadly and some of which are merely irritating.

On your blog - reviews:
- Plagiarizing someone else’s review (see Book Bloggers Behaving Badly: Plagiarism Edition)
- Writing a review for a book you have not read
- Trashing a book or author (see Book Bloggers Behaving Badly: Are You on an Author's Hate List?)
- Recapping a book but not providing any of your own opinions
- Using the publisher summary in your reviews but not linking to your source (Liz B explains why you should not do this)
- Not providing a clear spoiler warning in a review where there are spoilers

On your blog – content:
- Bragging about books you receive for review, but never reviewing any books
- Turning someone else’s feature into a meme (to learn the difference between a feature and meme, see the Meme vs Feature post at The Story Siren)
- Participating in a meme without linking back to the person who started it
- Copying the name and idea of someone else’s feature/program without asking them permission (yes, even if you give them credit)
- Copying another blogger’s post format
- Copying another blogger’s interview questions or format
- Publishing an “us vs. them” type of discussion post just to stir up drama
- Piggy-backing on another bloggers successful discussion post with an inflammatory post meant to keep the drama rolling
- Publishing author contact info on your blog (other than blog/website address)
- Publishing publicist contact info on your blog
- Posting private correspondence such as e-mails, especially from authors, on your blog
- Abridging your RSS feed AND on your blog
- Posting a ton of widgets on your blog so it takes forever to load

On others’ blogs:
- Leaving inflammatory anonymous comments
- Leaving links to your own blog in on other blogs comment section, unless requested
- Lurking and never commenting on anyone else's blog ever [ETA: This isn't really seen as a sin, but more a reason why someone might stop commenting on your blog if you never commented back or replied to them in any way]
- Asking in the comments why someone hasn't been by to visit your blog lately

Via e-mail or other platforms:
- Spamming people with links to your contests via e-mail, GoodReads or another platform where your message will land in e-mail in-boxes (if you want to promote your contests, try a contest-specific site such as West of Mars – Win a Book)
- E-mailing other bloggers with pleas to promote you and your contests or to follow you or to add your blog to their blog roll
- Asking other bloggers if you can borrow their books (unless of course they offer, or you know them well)
- Asking other bloggers to be your affiliate unless blogger specifically requested applications
- Sending hate mail
- Sucking up to authors on Twitter for no other purpose than to get books or swag
- Complaining on Twitter that an author wouldn’t send you a book or swag
- Using Twitter to vent about your hatred for another blogger
- Tweeting links to your contests or posts multiple times in a short period

Community faux pas:
- Joining a community-wide book swap…and then sending a crappy, used ARC or even worse, nothing at all
- Volunteering for a community event and then not following through or not meeting deadlines

At a conference, book fair or book signing:
- Taking books without asking, unless it is clear that the book is there for the taking
- Taking multiple copies of a book so you can do a giveaway on your blog (when it denies paid attendees that book)
- Saving a place in an autograph line for a big group of people, especially when copies are limited
- Latching on to someone and following them everywhere, inviting yourself to all of their planned activities

So go ahead – squeeze all your negativity out on the topic in the comments. Let us know what really makes you want to throw things. Then once you've gotten it out of your system and you’re cleansed and refreshed, stop over and join the blog thanksgiving over at Persnickety Snark’s, and let us know what you love about book bloggers! (It's targeted at the YA blog community, but I'm sure Adele wouldn't mind if you posted about the book blogging community at large).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Book Review: Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Although this is the second book in a series, it is not strictly necessary to read book one first, though it would give you a good background of the characters. This review will contain some spoilers for book one.

Like its predecessor VERY VALENTINE (read my review), this installment of Valentine’s family saga starts off with a wedding – only this time, it’s Gram to her secret love in Italy. After the wedding, Gram drops a bombshell – she wants Valentine and her semi-estranged brother Alfred to run the shoe company together as they try and expand their business, developing the mass-market shoe Valentine designed in book one.

I’ve got to hand it to Trigiani: she makes even the most mundane activities – such as securing a small business loan – seem fascinating. And that’s important in a novel like this which is built on small, everyday dramas rather than huge, life altering events.

This time around, Valentine has discovered that her great grandfather who founded the business had a brother. The brother moved to Argentina and his descendants run a factory that makes upscale men’s shoes. The book jacket promises some sort of major scandal at the heart of this, but even though one character makes a big deal out of it, it’s really not. So that takes the wind of this novel’s sails a bit for me.

And then there’s Valentine’s love life. Inexplicably, she has this thing for Gram’s new husband’s son, Gianluca, who is 20 years her senior and runs a tanning business in Italy. Now, first of all, Gianluca is not even the tiniest bit interesting (except for his creepiness factor, which is quite high). And then there’s the fact he lives on another continent. The major reason Valentine’s last relationship failed was because they both worked all the time and that guy was in NYC! So how is this long distance relationship between two work-a-holics supposed to work exactly? Going for Gianluca seems like an act of desperation that is beneath this character I’ve come to admire. I did not believe this romance for a second.

What I did believe was the relationship dynamic between Valentine and her gay best friend Gabriel (love that he took a starring role here), between Valentine and her ex-boyfriend Bret, and Valentine and her brother Alfred. These connections, as well as the ones between family members, formed the backbone of the narrative. Good thing too, since the main romance was so dissatisfying.

BRAVA, VALENTINE is out now in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fuse 8's Top 100 Chapter Books Poll & My Top 10

Now that I have a free moment, I can finally reveal my top ten picks for the best children's chapter books (see top 100 at Fuse 8)

1. Holes by Louis Sachar (placed #6 on poll)
I am so in love with this book, it's not even funny. Daniel loves it too (and if he had voted, he would have placed it at the top of his list too). I loan it out all the time, and most everyone buys their own copy afterwards.
2. Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee (did not place)
This is one I've read recently and reviewed on my blog. The voice of Millicent Min is so strong, Yee had me convinced she exists somewhere for real. At least 2 other people had it in their top 10.
3. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (placed #71 on poll)
This is a wicked fun series, and I have this installment on my list because it was the most likely to place. I'm not actually sure which one of the 13 books is my favorite - I love them all!
4. The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo (did not place)
Just the perfect little book about overcoming grief. Also got 2 other votes besides mine.
5. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babitt (placed #20 on poll)
I read this about five years ago, and just really connected with it.
6. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis (placed #4 on poll)
I've read the entire series at least once, but this is the book I come back to again and again.
7. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (placed #83 on poll)
I also read and reviewed this fairly recently. My best friend's daughter had a copy, and I just started reading it and couldn't put it down.
8. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (placed #19 on poll)
Madcap adventures from the master of wacky.
9. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (placed #52 on poll)
A stunning blend of illustration and story for something that feels completely fresh.
10. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume (placed #36 on poll)
It's dated, but holds such universal tween truths. I can still remember reading this one as a preteen and being both horrified and fascinated.

Books in the top 100 I could have also put on my list:
#2 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
I remember reading this in 8th grade and really loving it, but I can't remember anything about it! I recently bought a copy to reread, so I hope to fall in love all over again.
#7 The Giver by Lois Lowry
Dystopian lit! How could I forget you?!
#9 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I think my love for this though has more to do with the miniseries than the actual book.
#40 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
How can a Kansas girl leave this off her list?
#100 The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatly Snyder
Ms Snyder came to my elementary school for a presentation and signing and thus began my love affair with her books. The Egypt Game was one of my favorites of hers.

Did you vote too? Do we have any overlap in our top 10? And if you didn't vote, what would you have voted for?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Review: Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay

Local newspaper reporter David Harwood has a lot on his plate. Not only is he investigating a private prison company suspected of buying off city council members in their bid to build a prison in his town, but he’s also dealing with a depressed wife, Jan, who has hinted at being suicidal. When David goes with Jan and their four year old son Ethan to an amusement park, Ethan goes missing, and by the time he is safely found, Jan has vanished without a trace. Unfortunately, David soon becomes a suspect in her disappearance and must track down a myriad of confusing clues to clear his name and hopefully find his wife.

This is my second Linwood Barclay thriller after NO TIME FOR GOODBYE (read my review), and I thought this one was more layered than that effort without losing any of the intriguing mystery that makes you keep reading compulsively. I really liked the parts about the newspaper falling on hard times and how staff was dealing with it, as well as the subplot with the private prison and its diabolical leader. Some parts of the mystery were pretty easy to figure out, while others came as complete shocks, and aside from a very unbelievable coincidence at the end, I was satisfactorily entertained yet again.

NEVER LOOK AWAY is out in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: Runaway by Meg Cabot

Previously on Presenting Lenore: AIRHEAD review and BEING NIKKI review. Still, despite this being my review for the third book, you won’t find any spoilers here. So read on!

RUNAWAY surprised me. Usually, you have a real feeling for where a trilogy is going by the third book, and AIRHEAD and BEING NIKKI, though they definitely had their serious moments, struck me more as bubbly and frivolous. So I wasn’t prepared by just how deep RUNAWAY was and by how well it works as a social commentary (and warning?). And it's timely too, considering Facebook's annoucement today. I was like...ok..maybe I should quit Facebook right now?! What are they doing with my personal data? Would they use it like Stark corp does?! I spent a couple hours discussing the ethics issues it brings up with Daniel (and yes, you do wish you could have been a fly on the wall for those conversations…they were fab!)

I really liked how Cabot resolved all the various plot lines and character arcs – and the story feels liked it reached a very natural conclusion. I can’t say I have any complaints with this last installment (though as always, I COULD have had more Lulu – love her!).

But here’s the thing…I kind of wish this series could have been edited down to just one book. Honestly, there was quite a bit of filler I could’ve done without in the first two books. And ok, my imaginary one book story might have clocked in at 550 pages or so, but it would have packed so. much. more. punch.

Still, the first two books are fun enough that it’s no major sacrifice to wade through them to get to this awesome conclusion.

RUNAWAY has just been released in hardcover, so if you had been waiting to start the series, your wait is over.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Book Review: Being Nikki by Meg Cabot

Haven’t read AIRHEAD yet? Read my review of that one first because this is the sequel.

BEING NIKKI opens up with Em being Nikki in an exotic photo shoot in the Caribbean. This installment mostly focuses on the downside of being a famous face with Em facing one problem after another. There are fake (and real) relatives, the fact that her best friend/crush Christopher still doesn’t know the truth, and of course, the growing realization that Stark Industries is up to something evil.

There’s a lot going on in terms of plot, and there are quite a few exciting scenes and reveals. I would’ve liked MORE Lulu since she’s still my favorite character, but Stephen (Nikki’s tough military brother) and Felix (Christopher’s hilariously nerdy cousin) are great additions to the cast. Of course I had to start RUNAWAY right after I finished, so the two are kind of running together in my mind now. I will say that RUNAWAY was my favorite book of the three, and you’ll find out why tomorrow!

Find out more about the AIRHEAD series at Meg Cabot’s website.

Oh and in case you haven’t heard yet, tomorrow is also the big twitter celebration for the release of RUNAWAY.

Since it starts at 2:30 a.m. for me in Germany, I probably won't be there, but I'm sure you'll still have fun without me...especially if you win one of the fab prizes!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday (102) = Picture of Emmy

And today we have what I like to call conjoined kittehs:

Just when you think you've seen it all...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Author Interview and Giveaway: Susane Colasanti discusses Something Like Fate

Today I have Author Susane Colasanti with a guest post and mini-interview to kick of her blog tour (click on the icon below for all the tour stops) for her new novel SOMETHING LIKE FATE which I reviewed earlier today (check out my SOMETHING LIKE FATE review). And's Susane!

Welcome to the Something Like Fate blog tour! If you’re like me, you sometimes wonder about how much influence fate has over our lives. I believe that we’re the architects of our own destiny. But how much power does the force of fate have over the parts of our lives we can’t control? Lani and Erin are searching for answers in Something Like Fate. They’re even determined to become fate experts. At the beginning of junior year, they make a list of ten concepts that explore some things about this world we can’t fully explain. During my two-week blog tour, I’ll be discussing a little about each of the concepts on their list. Let’s get this party started!

Topic 1: Astrology

Before becoming a full-time author, I was a science teacher. My educational background mainly focused on astronomy and physics. So it’s unusual that I think there’s some validity to astrology. The thing is, I’ve encountered enough evidence to believe that our Zodiac signs typically define our characteristics. For example, I am such a Taurus. Taurus is an Earth sign, which makes sense since I’m all about green living. I’m also stubborn, sensitive, opinionated, caring, and grounded, all classic characteristics of a Taurus. Pretty much everyone I’ve asked agrees that their Zodiac sign also reflects who they are. Conclusion: There’s definitely something going on.

Lenore: I agree with Lani that bottled waters have a distinctive taste. My favorite is Volvic – what’s yours? Do you share her belief that each brand has a color/shape aura or how did that detail come about?

Susane: Yes, I definitely agree with Lani about the color/shape thing! I associate colors and shapes with other stuff, too, like days of the week (Tuesday is yellow) and numbers (three is blue). At first I thought I was really weird for doing this (not that I still don’t think I’m weird for doing this), but when I told some of my friends about it they totally knew what I meant. This one time in college, my friend Laila and I were comparing our color/shape perceptions. We were getting all hyper about the ones we perceived differently. I was like, “How could Tuesday be purple? That’s outrageous!” I’m not sure when the water classifications first occurred to me. All I know is that my beliefs are unflinchingly rigid. Poland Spring has this full, smooth taste that just feels like a red circle to me. Evian is a sky-blue triangle due to its sharper, crisp taste. I primarily drink Poland Spring because it’s not outrageously expensive. However, I prefer the tastes of Fiji and Smartwater.

Lenore: When I was 10, my grandmother had my chart done for me. Apparently I have a grand trine in air signs which was supposed to mean I would become a writer. I did. Have you ever gotten your chart done by a professional astrologer? If so, did it set you down a particular path?

Susane: You know, I vaguely remember getting my chart done a long time ago, but I can’t remember what it said. It’s easier to remember what my palm reading said because I can refer to palmistry charts if I forget anything. There’s a scene in Something Like Fate where Lani gets her palm read. Some of those interpretations are based on my actual palm lines. For example, I have the same star under my middle finger, which represents finding success after ten years of hard work. My palm reading hasn’t consciously pushed me down any particular path, but it has made me less worried about my future. According to my reading, I’ll live a long, healthy life.

Lenore: What is the craziest “coincidental” connection you’ve had with someone?

Susane: Wow, there are so many to choose from! One of them happened last year. I was out to dinner with my boyfriend, talking about my experience from earlier that morning at a certain computer repair place. It was my first time going to this place. My laptop needed a repair and I was previously told that I’d get it back in two or three days. But then they told me it would take almost a week! I was not in a happy space. Now, I usually try to keep the volume down when I’m ranting in public. I really don’t know how the guy sitting two tables away heard me. The next thing I knew, he was standing by our table giving me a business card. He was the owner of the computer place! He said I should call him in the morning and he’d make sure I got my laptop back right away. Dude. The owner.

In Something Like Fate, I used a quote by David Life that says, “If you believe in coincidence, then you aren’t paying attention.” He means that everything happens for a reason and that everything is connected. So when one of these unbelievable non-coincidences happens, it’s actually quite believable after all.

Lenore: I love that quote! Thanks for stopping by.

I have one signed hardcover of SOMETHING LIKE FATE up for grabs! All you have to do is tell me in the comments one of your craziest "coicidental connections" with someone (along with your e-mail address if it's not readily available in your blog profile). Because this one is sponsored by the publisher, US and Canada addresses only please. I'll keep this one open until 11:59 PM CST on April 30th. May fate smile upon you!

Book Review: Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti

Lani owes her best friend Erin her life (literally) so when Lani starts falling for Erin’s new boyfriend Jason, she tries her hardest to deny her feelings. But the connection between Lani and Jason is so strong, Lani feels like it is fate bringing them together – and you can’t deny fate can you?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here – I am always intrigued by a book which tackles the topic of fate vs coincidence.

Part one of the novel opens with a quote from David Life: “If you believe in coincidence, then you aren’t paying attention.” It is an apt choice of quote for this section where Lani and Jason start to notice that they have a bunch of really odd stuff in common (and though these “coincidental connections” are often really over the top, I thought they were hilarious). But of course Lani is paying attention, so she knows the universe wants her and Jason together…but what to do about Erin?

Part two of the novel opens with a quote from Jean de La Fontaine: “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” Yep – I bet you can see now where part two is going! The romantic tension between Lani and Jason is done really well. Erin is such a self-absorbed, clueless character, you are definitely rooting for a Lani-Jason hook-up.

Part three of the novel opens with one of my favorite Lemony Snicket quotes: “Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.” Unfortunately, this is the point where the novel started to lose a bit of its charm for me – mainly because many of the character reactions just didn’t ring true based on what we’ve come to expect from them. The tone darkens pretty dramatically, and although I’m all for facing the consequences of your actions, it suddenly seemed like I had strayed over to another novel entirely (SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers?).

Still, I quite enjoyed this one overall. I have an interview and guest post coming up with the author later today - with a chance to win a signed hardcover - so be on the lookout for that!

SOMETHING LIKE FATE comes out in hardcover on May 4th. For more information about the book, visit the author's website or blog.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend Cooking: The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without by Mollie Katzen

I'm not a vegetarian, but I love cooking with vegetables. When I saw this cookbook featured in Hyperion's newsletter, I decided I needed to experiment a bit more in the kitchen and I ordered it.

Mollie Katzen is famous for her vegetarian recipes, and of the 90 or so recipes in this book, most sound delicious albeit rather time-intensive. So far, I have made 4 of the recipes - with another 10 under serious consideration.

Let's look at what I've cooked:

Oven-"Fried" Sweet Potatoes. Mollie has you cut sweet potatoes into thin 1/4 inch slices and then 1/4 inch batons. This is the labor intentive part. Once you have them cut up, you just drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil and bake them in single layers for about 20 minutes (turning them over with tongs at the halfway point) at 375 degrees. Daniel and I both gave these an A. Great taste and texture.

Sesame-Braised Cabbage with Leeks. This is also a fairly simple recipe involving chopped leeks and cabbage cooked on the stovetop. Mollie has you fry the leeks for 10 minutes over medium heat in butter and then add the cabbage and some water to cook over low heat (covered) for another 20 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and dark sesame oil and enjoy. I'm usually not a big fan of cabbage but this was very tasty. Daniel would have liked a bit more spice, so he rated this a B.

Best Ever Green Beans Amandine. This was the most complicated recipe I attempted, but it was worth the effort and the dirty pans. I couldn't find any pre-chopped/slivered almonds, so I had to chop my own. Mollie has you frying a 3/4 cup of almonds in olive oil and butter for 5-8 minutes over low heat, and then adding 1 teaspoon of minced garlic to the mix during the last few minutes. Stir in green beans that have been simmered for 5 minutes in boiling water until well coated and then serve. This had a wonderful aroma and taste. Grade A.

Leek Chips. Mollie advises topping the Green Beans Amandine with these oven-crispened leek rings, so we did. This was also pretty easy. All you have to do is slice leeks into rings, drizzle them with olive oil and bake them at 250 degrees for 30-60 minutes (until golden brown and crisp). Grade A.

Other recipes I plan to try soon:
Artichoke Heart and Spinich Gratin
Asparagus Crepes with Mushroom Sauce
Broccoli with Garlic, Dried Tomatoes and Lemon
Feta-Walnut-Stuffed Cucumbers
Bright Greens on a Bed of Creamy Polenta
Mushroom-Stuffed Mushrooms with Wild Rice and Goat Cheese
Creamed Spinach with Mushrooms

Find out more about Mollie Katzen and all her cookbooks at her website. She has a ton of recipes there so check them out if you like cooking with veggies.

Weekend Cooking is a feature at Beth Fish Reads that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. This was my first time partcipating, but it won't be my last. I'm so grateful that this feature has inspired me to cook more!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Bloggers Behaving Badly (2): Plagiarism Is So Not Cool

What is the number 1 repulsive behavior that someone who identifies themselves as a book blogger can engage in on their own blogs (short of using their blog to spew hate of course)?

Last week, I might have said “accepting review copies but never writing reviews.”

But this week, I say emphatically “cobbling together a book review by stealing parts of others’ reviews.”

Adele at Persnickety Snark had it happen to her and blogged about it. So did The Compulsive Reader, and she’s not going to stand for it either. And so did Steph Su – who even goes into the possible legal ramifications of plagiarism. It may not have happened to Kristi at The Story Siren (at least not that anyone suspects at this point) but she also wrote a post calling out bloggers that would resort to this despicable behavior. Liz from My Favourite Books is also a part of the book bloggers against plagiarism drive and talks about plagiarism today on her blog.

All of those posts are well-worth reading, and I hope the right people are reading and getting the message that plagiarism is so not cool.


Plagiarism is not just copying someone’s work word for word, although we know that happens too. Plagiarism is also using someone else’s work as a basis for your own. The plagiarist book blogger in question used several other bloggers’ reviews as templates – taking their arguments and even sentence structure but changing wording here and there to cover her tracks.


Let this be a warning to you. You may not be found out today, tomorrow or even next week, but we’re on the lookout now, and we’re not afraid to call you on it.

I’d suggest you go ahead and take down your tainted reviews right now from your blog and wherever else you might have posted them. Start from scratch and rewrite your reviews in your own words.

Perhaps a public apology is too much to ask for, but a pledge to blog with integrity going forward is not.


When the current plagiarism case was brought to my attention, I wanted to believe that it was an isolated incident that happened because the blogger had subconsciously incorporated a review she’d obviously read and admired into her own review. Though that turned out not to be the case in this particular incident, it can happen. So what can you do to make sure you don’t do it?

Don’t read others reviews of the same book right before you write your review. We want to know your opinion of the book, not an opinion that is influenced, however lightly, by others’ opinions.

Be aware of your influences. Obviously you are not going to be able to avoid reading others’ reviews of the books you review – in fact, it may have been someone’s rave review that made you pick up the book in question in the first place. It makes sense then, to reread these reviews AFTER you write your review to make sure you didn’t accidently steal.

And like Steph Su advises in her post, consider linking to a review that particularly resonated with you. It certainly can happen too that a reviewer formulates a review that expresses so perfectly how you felt, you feel it cannot be topped by your own effort. This happened to me once with Jen Robinson’s review of Cory Doctorow’s LITTLE BROTHER. In that case, I just didn’t review the book. But I've also seen bloggers link basically direct their readers to the review that influenced them and admit they have little to add to their genius, which is also a valid response.

Jot down notes while you are reading. (The Compulsive Reader suggests using an index card as a bookmark.) You can go back to these notes when you are writing your review to help you articulate your own views. Maybe your reviews won’t be as sophisticated or analytical or splashy as others’ reviews, but they will be your own.

Find your voice. This is The Story Siren's "one piece of advice for new bloggers" and I completely agree. Develop a style and tone that you are comfortable with that differentiates your reviews from others’. Are you concise or wordy? Humorous or serious? Interested in exploring themes or more concerned with the mechanics of storytelling and characterization? Certainly, your style might vary slightly depending on the type of book you are reviewing, but you should still aim to be recognizably you.


Gather your evidence. Compare reviews line by line and highlight glaring similarities.

Keep a cool head. Before you make accusations, ask a couple of trusted friends to look over your evidence.

Take action. Contact the perpetrator privately with your evidence and ask them to remove or rewrite their review. If the perpetrator refuses, consider legal action.

ETA: Adele just put up a new post which includes a reaction from a publisher. Erin from Penguin Australia recommends notifying your publicist contacts when your reviews have been plagiarized.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Let's hear them in the comments!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Club Report: The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer

I just got back from my latest book club meeting.

Short summary: Milo used to work for the CIA as a black ops "tourist" until he married and settled down with his new wife and daughter. But when a criminal known as the "tiger" tracks him down, Milo is drawn back into the spy game in order to clear his name and uncover an international conspiracy.

The group's verdict: This one is what it is - an entertaining thriller that falls short of its literary aspirations (it's no Graham Greene) but is still a cut above most novels in the genre. The majority of the group enjoyed reading it - we just didn't have all that much to discuss, besides that George Clooney is developing the book as a starring vehicle. In any case, my favorite scene was the one set in Frankfurt. It's always cool to read about places you know well.

Up next: THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. I've read it already (here's my rave review) but I'm excited to get to discuss it with a group.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Book Review: The Clearing by Heather Davis

Moving to her Aunt Mae’s farm after escaping an abusive relationship, Amy finds herself attracted to a clearing surrounded by a deep fog where she meets Henry. It soon becomes apparent that Henry is stuck in the past – 1944 to be exact – reliving the same summer over and over. Amy and Henry form a bond that puts them both on the path to accepting life as it comes.

I’m a sucker for a good time travel story, and this one – with its simple yet believable logic and undeniably clever storyline – really delivered on its premise. I’m also a sucker for impossible, bittersweet love affairs – the ones that sneak up on me and make me sigh when closing the last page.

The atmosphere Davis creates in THE CLEARING is pitch perfect. It strikes me as a cross between TUCK EVERLASTING and THE OTHERS (the movie starring Nicole Kidman) – though the story itself is quite different. I might have liked to have seen the scenes between Amy and Henry fleshed out a bit more. I do like the restrained nature of the writing – it just that, though their relationship is tender and heartfelt, it never has the chance to soar to the lofty heights you might expect from a book that declares “True Love is Timeless” on the cover.

THE CLEARING just came out this week in paperback original. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday (101) = Picture of Emmy + Happy Birthday Daniel!

Emmy and Finn are frolicking on the balcony unattended now that we put up the cat netting. It was a complicated job, but Daniel triumphed in the end. It will be really nice in summer for us, because we can leave the balcony door open all day!

Today is Daniel's birthday, and of course I got him books.

He got:

DRAWN TO LIFE: 20 YEARS OF DISNEY MASTER CLASSES by Walt Stanchfield, both volumes 1 & 2

BIG WOLF & LITTLE WOLF by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Oliver Tallec

ADVENTURES IN CARTOONING written and illustrated by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, and Andrew Arnold

If you want to wish him a happy birthday, stop by his drawing blog!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Interview about International Blogging at The Book on the Hill

It's my week over at The Book on the Hill's Book Blogging Around the World feature. Head on over to see how many countries I've visited, what the best part of blogging in Germany is, and my favorite German band. Check it out and leave a comment: BBATW: Franfurt, Germany.

If you want to know even more about my international book blogging adventures, see the interview I did with Persnickity Snark during her International YA Blogger Celebration back in September.

Where My Last 20 Books Came From (7)

It's that time again! Here's how the last 20 books I reviewed made their way to my review shelf (links lead to my reviews):

Beware, Princess Elizabeth by Carolyn Meyer - Requested review copy

Funny Business by Leonard S. Marcus - Picked up at BEA

The Blonde of the Joke by Bennett Madison - HarperCollins First Reads Program

The Vampire Is Just Not That Into You by Vlad Mezrich - Picked up at Frankfurt Book Fair

Stolen by Lucy Christopher - Bought

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia - Bought

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano - Requested via Book Bloggers Ning

Tethered by Amy MacKinnon - Requested via Shelf Awareness

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa - Accepted publicist query

The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter - Requested review copy

The Eternal Kiss (Anthology) - Picked up at BEA

Airhead by Meg Cabot - Contest win

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins - Bought

Soldier X by Don Wulffson - Bought

Back Home by Julia Keller - Accepted publicist query

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick - Bought

Out of the Blue by SL Rottman - Requested review copy

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon - Bought

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani - Requested via TLC book tours

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting - Requested review copy

Quite a good mix this time around I think! How about you?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Read-a-thon End of Event Meme

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Must have been the hour I feel asleep - hour 11?
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Most of the ones I read would fit the bill.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope! Great fun!
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? The support was really helpful. A lot of the mini-challenges looked fun, though I preferred the ones you could do in the comments. I felt like I was posting too many updates already.
5. How many books did you read? 8 books, 1829 pages
6. What were the names of the books you read? (links to reviews)

Funny Business by Leonard S. Marcus

The Blonde of the Joke by Bennett Madison

The Vampire Is Just Not That Into You by Vlad Mezrich

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

Tethered by Amy MacKinnon

7. Which book did you enjoy most? Hard to say - they were so different. I thought The Girl She Used to Be was the best choice for the readathon, and probably The Blonde of the Joke surprised me most in terms of how much I enjoyed it.
8. Which did you enjoy least? I liked all of them, but Stolen was probably the least ideal for a readathon because it did drag in the middle.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? Wasn't one this year, though I did leave some comments, especially in the beginning.
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Let's see what's going on when the next one comes along. I felt like I accomplished a lot of reading this time around, and all were books I wouldn't have gotten around to for a long time otherwise - back burner books if you will.

Read-a-thon Book Review: Beware, Princess Elizabeth by Carolyn Meyer

Elizabeth and her sister Mary have never been close, but Elizabeth never imagines that her very life will be threatened by her.

This historical retelling unfolds from Elizabeth's perspective from the time her father, King Henry VIII dies when she is 13 up until the day she becomes queen. It's familiar territory, at least for me, but Meyer manages to imbue the story with urgency and intrigue. The Tudors are endlessly fascinating, and it's always fun to revisit them from a new angle.

BEWARE, PRINCESS ELIZABETH is availbable in paperback.

Read-a-thon Book Review: Funny Business by Leonard S. Marcus

Children’s book expert Leonard S. Marcus interviews authors of comedic books including Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket), Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Louis Sachar, Norman Juster, Sharon Creech, Carl Hiaasen and others.

I enjoyed the interviews about these author’s early lives, what inspired them to become writers, and how they came up with some of their famous characters and scenes. Marcus also includes pictures and portions of manuscripts or e-mail excerpts between author and editors. Fascinating stuff!

Did you know for example that:

The first time Judy Blume saw a book of hers in the store, it was her debut ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET and it was shelved with the bibles?

Carl Hiassen never felt he had to go to NYC to make it as a writer because “you can’t beat Florida for raw material. It’s a freak show.”

Louis Sachar had no plan for writing the perfectly constructed HOLES. He just made stuff up as he went along and made everything make sense during revisions.

The famous scene in Beverly Cleary’s RAMONA QUIMBY, AGE 8 where a stranger complements the family, telling them they look like a happy family, which makes them feel like a happy family even though they hadn’t before, is semi-autobiographical.

Daniel Handler is hilarious (obvs!) – I loved every word of his interview.


Read-a-thon Book Review: The Blonde of the Joke by Bennett Madison

Val, a brunette, has always blended in, never stood out. That is until she meets Francie, a seemingly invincible blonde who takes Val under her wing and shows her that life is for the taking.

For a novel about shoplifting, it’s interesting that shoplifting really isn’t the point. Francie teaches Val how to steal, but in the end, it’s not about stealing the insignificant items that they do from the mall – it’s about finding that Holy Grail of theft – stealing an aura.

As Val blossoms (or some might say, self-destructs), Francie starts to fade. It’s a novel about the slipperiness of identity and about betrayal on so many levels. A lot of the details are vague. There’s something wrong with Francie’s mom, Val’s older brother is dying, and a teacher disappears without explanation. But it all fits the mood which is decidedly wistful and melancholic.

A complex, fascinating novel which doesn’t go where you think it will and doesn’t bother tying up loose ends. Perhaps not the best read-a-thon read, especially nearing the final hours, but it definitely makes you think and would make for a great discussion.

THE BLONDE OF THE JOKE is out in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Read-a-thon Hour Update: Hour 19

My plan was to update my progress at hour 13, halfway through but then two cuddly kittehs, a slumbering husband, and darkness conspired against me, and I feel asleep 30 pages into my 6th book: The Blonde of the Joke by Bennett Madison.

But I am back now!

Total books completed and reviewed so far: 5
Running total of pages read: 1173
Time spent reading so far: Approximately 10 hrs
Mini-challeges done: I think 3?
Blogs visited: At least 25


Read-a-thon Book Review: The Vampire Is Just Not That Into You by Vlad Mezrich

Vampire Vlad Mezrich gives mortal girls tips to attracting, dating and breaking up with the undead.

Clearly this humorous faux dating guide is aimed at the legions of Twilight fans (there are numerous references to Edward, werewolves, a vampire’s attraction to the new girl, and a vampire’s tendency to watch girls while they sleep). It is quite funny, and made me laugh a lot, though it’s probably more fun to dip into bit by bit over a longer period of time rather than reading straight through as I did.

Some things I learned:

My blood type (A-) has a full-bodied, woody flavor with notes of cinnamon, meaning I attract active, clean cut vampires who enjoy hiking (on cloudy days – or at night)

The famous phrase, I want to suck your blood, has a different meaning depending on what word your vampire crush puts his emphasis on. (Hint, best case scenario is that he emphasizes YOUR rather than BLOOD.)

Tori Amos made “The Infinite Vampire Playlist” with her song Blood Roses.

If your vampire boyfriend treated you badly, you might want to next date a slayer.

THE VAMPIRE IS JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU is available in paperback now.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Read-a-thon Book Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Gemma is going on holiday with her parents and is changing planes in the Bangkok airport when she kidnapped by a delusional young man who takes her to live in the Australian outback.

STOLEN is a written as a letter from Gemma to her captor Ty. He expects her to fall in love with him, but how can she when he has taken her against her will away from everything she’s ever known? It’s a compelling story of how Stockholm Syndrome develops, and as the reader, you are both repelled by and yet also strangely attracted to Ty, just as Gemma is. Quite an achievement really.

The novel begins and ends with a bang, though the narrative drags a bit in the middle, which is not so ideal for a readathon pick. It really did put me through the emotional wringer – especially the scenes with the camel.

STOLEN is available in paperback in the UK and is being released in hardcover in the US on May 1st. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Read-a-thon Book Review: Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

One morning before school starts, Leticia sees Dominique tell her girls she’s going to jump Trina after school for disrespecting her space. Leticia’s friend Bea tells her she has the responsibility to warn Trina, but did Leticia see it all from the wrong angle? Why would she want to get involved anyway?

This slim novel is told in the alternating, authentic voices of the three girls. Dom is all frustration and restlessness, angry that one teacher won’t improve her grade by just a few points so she can play basketball. Trina is all cluelessness and bounce, imagining that everyone loves her and wants to be her. Leticia is all gossipy yet detached, wrapped up in herself and her own problems. All make choices, and those choices, however insignificant they may seem, all come together one fateful day with explosive results.

A stunning novel, and great for the readathon since it’s short and hard to put down.

JUMPED is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author's website.

Read-a-thon Book Review: The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

As a 6 year old, Melody and her parents witnessed a murder in Little Italy that put them in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Melody has been on the run for 20 years when one day, Jonathan, the son of the criminal her parents testified against catches up with her – and against all odds, they fall in love.

Talk about impossible romance! Melody has never felt safe since that fateful day when her life changed forever, and as someone protected by the government who has to be ready to start all over again at the drop of a hat, she has never been able to form close attachments to anyone. Jonathan wants to do the right thing, but the pressures of being in a mafia family are overwhelming. Melody and Jonathan have an amazing chemistry together though, and you really wish things could somehow work out for them.

Fast paced and with tight writing and plotting, this was a perfect readathon read.

THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE just came out in paperback. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Read-a-thon Book Review: Tethered by Amy MacKinnon

An undertaker who has cut herself off from life due to childhood abuse learns to live again via a case concerning an abused young girl.

TETHERED was a remarkably layered read and unlike anything I’ve read for quite some time. While the plot is driven forward by a murder mystery, it is mainly a character study of Clara the undertaker and why she feels more comfortable dealing with the dead than with the living. Clara’s story in deeply infused with sadness and the narrative had me alternatively outraged, depressed, and surprised by its complexity.

As a readathon read, it served me well, but probably only because I read it first with fresh eyes. It does get off to a bit of a slow start, with a rather off-putting scene of Clara preparing a body for a wake, but once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. And then, once I finished, I had to go back and look for the clues that were dropped that I had missed. Very clever indeed.

TETHERED is out in paperback now. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

24 Hour Readathon is a go!

I've just brewed a pot of tea and pulled out my stack of books, so I'm ready to read! I'm going to be ambitious and review the books I read immediately (though they'll likely be shorter than normal) so look for those posts as the day goes on. I'll also probably participate in some mini-challenges and I'll do update posts every so often - but not too many as I don't want to spam anyone's reader.

My first book is Tethered by Amy MacKinnon and we'll see what I'm in the mood for after that!
ETA: Ooh! Looks like the first mini-challenge is up and I can't resist!

Where are you reading from today? Frankfurt, Germany

3 facts about me today:

I am wearing a sweatshirt from the University of North Dakota that was my father's back when he went there. It's so vintage!

I may read some outside on our balcony which was just made safe for our cats. They are loving it!

Our friend is here for a visit and she cooks very well! So I am sure I will be well fed with little effort.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? 10, but any number of others I can pull off the shelf if I am not feeling them.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? Not really. Just have fun and read what I can.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time? Read short books!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

16 year old Meghan Chase has never quite fit in, and she finds out why when she discovers that she’s the daughter of a mythical faery king. Driven by her desire to rescue her younger brother from the land of faery, Meghan begins a dangerous quest that will have her making costly bargains with a faery cat and a young faery prince with a heart of ice named Ash.

THE IRON KING grabbed me from page one with its strong voice and characterization. I loved Meghan and became quickly invested in her wellbeing – even though she too quickly ditched the real world for a quest through the faery world. Now those of you who regularly read my reviews know I’m not one for fantasy worlds and quests because frankly, they bore me. And yes, there were a few parts of Meghan’s quest, especially in the middle of the novel, that made my eyes glaze over (iron fay controlling humans into New Orleans, I'm looking at you). Fortunately, I was also propelled to keep reading not just because I liked Meghan, but also because I was totally in love with one of Meghan’s companions…the cat Grimalkin! Oh and Ash was pretty swoon-worthy too.

I really liked the whole concept that the warring faery winter court and summer court had a new enemy: the iron court and progress as a whole. It reminded me a lot of the way The Nothing in THE NEVERENDING STORY was destroying Fantastica because no one dreamed anymore. I am definitely very excited to see where the story takes us next in THE IRON DAUGHTER. I’m hoping for lots of Grimalkin and Ash!

THE IRON KING is available in paperback now. Find out more about this great new series at the author's website.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book Bloggers Behaving Badly: Are YOU on an Author’s “Hate List”?

Despite the provocative title of this post, the authors who contributed the following want to stress that they LOVE most book bloggers and greatly appreciate us spreading the word about their books. The internet has really facilitated and fostered the relationship between book lovers and authors which can be amazing and rewarding for both sides. But this unprecedented access also has its dark side, and some book bloggers are taking advantage of their position and harassing authors. And this needs to stop.

A few authors frustrated with the current state of things e-mailed me in response to my recent April Fools Day post and shared stories that shocked me and that I think need to be heard. (NOTE: Nearly all authors who contributed to this post are authors of YA books, so I think the following issues may be more of a problem in the YA blogosphere.)

Since book blogging is relatively new, and anyone can start a book blog, all of us are pretty much winging it. We may see something that worked for another blogger...say a follower contest...and we may think that's the best way to grow our readership, when in fact it might not be right for us at all. It can become a perceived competition to see who can get the most followers, the most review copies, etc. And sometimes authors become pawns in our quests for blogosphere domination.

Our book blogs are our brands and everything we post on our blogs or social media sites, everything we write in e-mails, and every interaction we have with publishing professionals has an effect – positive or negative - on our brand. If you think your bad behavior (however infrequent it might be) goes unnoticed, well…I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t.

So what is considered bad behavior? Mainly, it’s an attitude of entitlement that bugs authors. Saying please and thank you may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at just how many bloggers don’t.

THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER ASK AN AUTHOR (all taken from actual situations):

To do an interview with you when you haven’t read their book or did not like their book. Interviews take time, both for you and the author. If you end up not liking the book, you may not use the interview which just wasted the author’s time. If you dislike the book, why do you want to interview the author anyway? Says one author (sarcastically): I get a lot of really weird requests from book bloggers who seem to think I have nothing better to do. I love the ones that say, "Hi. I haven't read your book, and I probably won't, but can you answer these 4567 questions for me? I think you'll drive some traffic to my blog." Or better yet, “Being on my blog will give you exposure!” Sure it will. I'm also a big fan of, "I hated your book and want to interview you at my blog so you can defend yourself." Uh yeah. I did that once, It was called high school. Thanks.

For a copy of their book to give as a prize after you’ve given their book a bad review. Says one author: Of course we want to get our books out there. Of course appreciate people who blog about our books. But you know what? You review our books and are all honest and sometimes you even say some mean things, and you expect us to take it, and we do. We smile and take it. But please understand that when you give my book a bad review, I am completely shocked when you write to me and ask me for things. If you don't like my book, why on EARTH would you want to offer it as a prize? And why would you think I want to bring attention to your blog and your bad review of my book? You know what that makes me think? It makes me think you are just using me. And I don't like that feeling.

To share a hotel room with you.

To pay for your plane ticket to their book signing in another state.

To do your homework for you.

To come to a reading you’ve set up for them with you and your one friend.


Lie or try to trick an author into doing something. Says one author: Probably the thing that bugs me the most is when bloggers lie and say "Here are the questions for the interview!" even though I've never agreed to do an interview with them. It's sneaky and underhanded and just a bad idea to try and trick an author into doing an interview, banking on the possibility that the author might not remember saying no (or not saying yes). I have had this happen a lot.

Send your links of bad reviews to authors or @ reply them on twitter. Of course you have the right the write an honest review – but why do you want to throw a less than stellar critique in an author’s face? Says one author (sarcastically): I love when book bloggers are really rude about my books on their blog, and then tweet their reviews with my twitter name attached, so it shows up for me. And then other people RT it, because they have no idea it’s a bad review…because who would do that?

Get greedy and request all the books from an author’s backlist (especially if the backlist is extensive). Of course it’s understandable if an author pitches you a series book for review that you request the previous books in the series. But in most cases, you do not need an author’s entire backlist to give your opinion on their current book. And if for some reason you do, get them from the library or buy them. Says one author: I’ve had bloggers send review requests for all my books, even the ones that aren’t in print anymore. That just smacks of greed to me, and tells me they don’t understand the actual business of publishing.

Trash an author’s book to punish them for not giving into your demands – whether on your blog, in the comments of a GoodReads review, on twitter, or anywhere public. Says one author: [Some bloggers] feel like they deserve things, and are completely entitled. Then they power trip on that as if their bad review of your book will actually mean you’ll feel sorry you didn’t say yes.

E-mail an author excessively “just to chat”. Says one author: I have a policy that I try to reply to every e-mail I get, but some bloggers take it to the extreme and e-mail me constantly. It’s definitely fun to interact with fans and book bloggers, but if I spend all my time chatting, I won’t have time to write my next book. I’ve had times where I tried to distance myself from especially exuberant bloggers and they have become stalkerish. It’s scary sometimes.


Request an ARC from an author for review. Authors get very limited ARCs (if any) and in most cases, their ARCs are already promised to others. If you want to review a forthcoming book, please contact an author’s publicist (if you can’t find that information on an author’s website, you may write to ask the author for that info, politely.) Or sign-up for one of the many traveling ARC programs currently running (BookMac has a comprehensive list!) Says one author: I wish someone would let bloggers know that we don't have a never-ending supply of free books to give out.

Request an ARC or a finished copy of an author’s book to use in a contest that has nothing to do with their book - unless of course you know the author (that is, you’ve had meaningful contact with them before) and are a fan of the book. Says one author: Having a one-year anniversary of your blog, or having a birthday, or having your wisdom teeth removed or whatever --- those are all very important to celebrate, but no, I don't want to donate a book in honor of it and mail it out to your winner. And I especially don't want to do it when you act all flip about it, as if it's no big deal for me to send stuff your way. It is a big deal. A trip to the post office is an hour minimum out of my day and basically $15 for the book and postage.


You’ve read their book, loved it (or at least really liked it) and:

1) Want to tell them that you loved it and/or send a link to your positive review.
2) Want to do an interview with them. In this case keep your questions to a minimum and give them plenty of time to answer.
3) Want to do a giveaway of their book to coincide with your interview or review (if they are unable to provide you with one, they may refer you to their publicist). In this case, make sure to ask for then respect an author’s geographical shipping restrictions if they agree to provide a copy. Do not choose a winner from Indonesia when they have specified US only.

You are responding to their open offer of swag, review copies, a place on their street team, etc on twitter or on their blogs/websites. Always include a link to your blog and your mailing address if applicable.

You are giving away a copy of their book on your blog (provided by you or publisher) and you want to let them know. Oftentimes, they would LOVE to help by tweeting or blogging about it, to get more people to your blog.

You are trying to raise money or awareness for your library, your reading group, your book club or a reading-related cause and need donations, promotional material, information or support. Make sure to provide all pertinent information in your first e-mail.

You just want to connect and say hi. Says one author: I think most authors are open to a general hello from bloggers. We are a friendly group of people, and we really do appreciate what many book bloggers do for us and for our books. I recently got a "How you doing? Can't wait for your next book" email from a blogger who I did an interview with for my last book. We wrote back and forth for a day or two. It was awesome. Growing relationships is totally possible and it happens all the time between authors and bloggers. I really adore my blogger friends.

You are interested in knowing more about their work. Do your research first, but if there’s something you want to know and you can’t the find the answer anywhere, feel free to send a polite e-mail. One author said: I love hearing from bloggers who haven't read my work, and are excited about it because they only just heard about me. That's so great!


I hope no one takes this post the wrong way. Like I said at the beginning, authors LOVE most bloggers. They are just concerned about the few bad apples who purposely take advantage of their position and the growing number of uneducated bloggers who do not realize that they are stirring up ill will. Also keep in mind that the above guidelines may vary from author to author, but one thing never goes out of style: treating authors with the respect you hope to be afforded yourself.

One author wrote: You know, book bloggers were the number one champions of my books. I feel like I owe them a lot, and I try to give back as much as I can. Lately, I've been getting emails from bloggers who act like I owe them a lot, but they never read my books and they don't know who I am. The more of these emails I get, the more I feel bad for the great bloggers who would never do this. I feel like these people are going to give all book bloggers a bad name, and I think that would be a shame for all the great bloggers out there.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Let's hear them in the comments.