Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Return of Cat Tuesday (7)

Since I am in the US right now, I am missing my kittehs, but Daniel sent this amazing shot for us all to enjoy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review: Rosebush by Michele Jaffe

A fun, edgy mystery about a popular girl whose friends are not what they seem - in fact, one of them is trying to kill her.

When Jane wakes up in the hospital, she finds out she was hit by a car and left for dead in a rosebush. Jane can only remember fragments of that night, but if she doesn't piece everything together soon, her life could be in danger again.

Jane is not your typical mean girl popular type. She's into photography, and as her friend Scott tells her, tends to live her life in autofocus. She aims to please and to be loved by all, but for some, that's a reason to hate her.

There are some deliciously warped supporting characters here, and a ton of red herrings about who the killer might be - though when you find out whodunnit, it doesn't come out of left-field either, which is the mark of a good mystery in my book.

Compulsively readable!

ROSEBUSH comes out in hardcover in a little over a week on December 7th. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge + Results from 2010

Woo-hoo! The YA/MG Debut Author Challenge (hosted by The Story Siren) is one of few challenges I actually rock.  The goal is to read 12 in one year.  In 2010, I've so far read 33 (although 6 didn't count b/c I read them in the wrong year).

My list of completed reads for 2010: (browse through my debut reviews)

1. The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
2. All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
3. The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
4. Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
5. Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
6. The Line by Teri Hall
7. Dark Life by Kat Falls
8. Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien
9. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
10. Back Home by Julia Keller (YA debut)
11. The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter
12. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
13. Forget-her-Nots by Amy Brecount White
14. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
15. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
16. Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready (YA debut)
17. Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus
18. Nomansland by Lesley Hauge
19. Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
20. The Unidentified by Rae Mariz
21. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
22. Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
23. Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales
24. Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
25. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
26. Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner
27. The Space between Trees by Katie Williams (added Dec 2010)

Read in 2009 (don’t count towards challenge)

1. The Naughty List by Suzanne Young
2. The Mark by Jen Nadol
3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

2011 books read in 2010 (don’t count towards the challenge)

1. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
2. The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher (YA debut)
3. Enclave by Ann Aguirre (YA debut)

Strange fact: All debut books I read in 2010 (save 1 - The Water Wars) were written by women!

And here's a list of the books I am planning on reading in 2011 (bolded if I own book already)
1. Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

2. XVI by Julia Karr
3. Rival by Sara Bennett-Wealer
4. Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison
5. The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
6. Possum Summer by Jen K Blom
7. Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach
8. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
9. End of the Line by Angela Cerrito
10. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (YA Debut)
11. Momento Nora by Angie Smibert
12. How I Stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain
13. Divergent by Veronica Roth
14. Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
15. Dark Parties by Sara Grant
16. Legend by Marie Lu
17. Dead Rules by Randy Russell
18. Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
19. Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
20. Choker by Elizabeth Woods

I'm sure I'll add more as 2011 goes on. Are there any YOU know of that I am missing from my list that I MUST read?  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Return of Cat Tuesday (6)

We've discovered that Lu likes to sleep a lot - in the cutest positions!

Here he is by himself.

With Kaia.

And with Emmy.

Happy Cat Tuesday everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review: Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner

The Catacombs is a dreary place, ruled by Killdeer and his chief assassin Billycan. Some of the older rats who live there can remember back to the glory days when Trilok was in power and was a fair leader – the days before the bloody coup and the flood that killed many. But Billycan’s nemesis Juniper is back with a promise of a new city the weary rats can escape to…

Ok, I’ll admit this isn’t my usual type of read at all – despite my fondness for The Secret of Nimh (the first movie I can remember seeing in the movie theater). Real rats are icky. But these aren’t ordinary rats - they’re more like humans with rat bodies (think Ratatouille).

I was quickly drawn into the story, which involves some noble rats – Juniper, his niece Clover, the orphaned Nightshade brothers, and the awesomesauce Mother Gallo – plotting to overthrow the decadent Killdeer, sadistic Billycan, and the Kill Army they’ve amassed. There are daring rescues, nighttime escapades, long-lost loves and more. None of it is too explicit (this is middle grade after all), but it is fun. I especially liked how Wagner integrated the humans and the earthworms into the story.

I think I might have enjoyed Billycan’s character the most – he’s evil, but he owns it. And he can blame it on his terrible past as a lab rat. OK – so I wasn’t pleased about his cat-killing ways, but he is mutant rat after all, so as long as he stays away from my kitties, I’ll try not to hold a grudge.

The only thing that took me out of the story somewhat was the constant description of each and every rat’s fur and markings. I have no problem getting the 411 on the main characters’ appearances, but do I really need to know that some random rat is a gorgeous shade of licorice? (No, I don’t).

NIGHTSHADE CITY is available now in hardcover. And lucky for me, I hear there’s a sequel in the works all about Billycan! For more information about the book, visit the author’s blog.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Review and Author Interview: Don't Sing at the Table by Adriana Trigiani

In her latest book, Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from my Grandmothers, Bestselling Author Adriana Trigiani has us pull up a comfy chair as she tells us in her personable and affable style all about the useful pieces of advice passed down from her grandmothers.

Trigiani strikes a balance between introducing us to Viola and Lucia and their history and relating personal anecdotes about her time together with them. There are some tears, some laughs, and most of all, the desire to share the book with the incredible women dear to your heart.  This would make a great gift for the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and friends in your life - maybe even with a nice hand written letter about how much the giftee means to you.

As part of her blog tour, I had the amazing opportunity to interview Adriana about the book. Here's how it went down:

DON’T SING AT THE TABLE is a lovely tribute to your two grandmothers. If your future grandchildren would write a book about you, what might the content be?Oh my future grandchildren- what a thought! With an 8 year old girl at home- I almost can't imagine it- but will try!

I would hope that some of the lessons I learned from my grandmothers would be passed along to them. These are timeless lessons that withstand all trials and tribulations- so I would hope that the thread that was passed to me would make it safely into their hands.

It’s clear you get a lot of details for your fiction from your family. Is it just stuff that slips in or do you purposely try to find a place for such things?
I rely on technique and education (which is ongoing) to attempt to grow and hopefully perfect the craft of writing. I try to use the best tools, and do indepth and intensive research- then I throw it out the window and trust my imagination. It has never let me down. I don't deliberately use real life, but it is the context for all my fiction.

So, do you still have your polka dot dress (mentioned in the book)? And if so, what condition is it in?
It's around here somewhere! Keep in mind: I've been looking for a velvet bolero festooned with satin roses for 20 years- I know it's here- I just can't find it!

What are your favorite heirlooms from your grandmothers?
The intangibles are what I carry with me each day- ambition, determination, a sense of humor in the face of adversity, an abiding peace- and in terms of earthly things, I come from a big family, so when my grandmothers died, their effects were disbursed; but before they died, I was given gifts from them that I cherish. From Viola: a small iron bank (for dimes) that belonged to her mother, her wedding band (which I was married in), her wedding cake topper (under a dome in my living room) from 1932, and, from Lucia, a religious relic from her family (which my mother gave to me) that was passed down for many, many generations, and a gold ring with 3 knots that was returned to me upon her death, which I had bought for her with my first paycheck as an office temp.

While these things give me comfort, it's really the memory bank of time we spent, and things we talked about. These are the gifts that keep on giving.

Thank you so much Adriana!  DON'T SING AT THE TABLE is available in hardcover now. 

Read an excerpt of the book at HarperCollins' website.
Check out Adriana's website
Become a Fan on Facebook
See pictures of my tea with Adriana back in May
Follow the tour to the next stop:  November 19th at My Friend Amy 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Author Interview: Ally Condie discusses Matched

Today I welcome Ally Condie as part of her blog tour for MATCHED.  I reviewed MATCHED back during Dystopian August, and think it's a great book for discussion.  Let's get straight to my questions, shall we?

So Ally, if Cassia had access to all the poets available to us, which ones do you think she’d gravitate towards?

Great question! I think she’d gravitate towards different poets as the book progresses, since she changes so much. So, at the end of the book, I’ll say she would love Edna St. Vincent Millay, e.e. cummings, Rita Dove, Leslie Norris--and, of course, she’d still love Dylan Thomas.

If you lived within the society in MATCHED, what kind of job would you likely have?
I would definitely not be a data sorter—I have no intuitive feeling for numbers or patterns. I think I would probably be a teacher or instructor, since that’s what I’ve done in my real life and those careers still exist within the Society.

You’ve been promoted to head of the matching committee and your job is to match a character from one book with a character from another book. Who do you match and why?
Oooh, excellent. I would match Atticus Finch with Glory Boughton from Home (by Marilynne Robinson). Both gentle, good people from small towns with the ability to do hard things with grace.

The literature committee has found a treasure trove of children’s picture books and decides to let you choose which 10 will be available to the public. Which ones do you choose?
Assuming the committee wouldn’t find my picks too subversive, I would choose:
-Goodnight Moon By Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd
-Be Glad Your Nose Is on Your Face by Jack Prelutsky and Brandon Dorman
-The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
-Max’s Chocolate Chicken by Rosemary Wells

-Thanking the Moon by Grace Lin
-All the Places to Love by Patricia McLachlan and Michael Wimmer
-Aesop’s Fables, Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
-Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
-A Good Day by Kevin Henkes
-Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham

Do you have big plans for the release date of MATCHED?
As far as the actual release date, I don’t have big plans. My husband has to work late that night so I will be hanging out with my three little boys. Maybe we will get takeout for dinner and go to a bookstore to see if we can find MATCHED on some shelves.

Thanks Ally, hope you have a great time!  MATCHED comes out on November 30th.
Until then, check out these links:
Website: http://www.matched-book.com/

Matched Facebook app: http://www.matched-book.com/matched.html
Ally’s website: http://www.allysoncondie.com/
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaeNWL8rlBI

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Return of Cat Tuesday (5)

Finally, my dreams have come true.  Kitty piles!

Aren't they glorious?!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why I Love Delta Airlines - Loyalty Counts

I’m often asked how I get all my review books back to Germany from my US address in Kansas – and the answer is that I pack them in my suitcases.

But aren’t all those books heavy? Doesn’t it cost a fortune to take all those books now that the airlines have made their luggage policies a lot stricter?

Well, yes the books are heavy, but I don’t have to pay a fortune. Want to know my secret?

I’m a member of the Delta Airlines SkyMiles program. And because I travel internationally at least a couple of times a year and always fly Delta, I have achieved Gold Medallion status. Having Medallion status makes traveling about a million times better. First of all, even in economy class, I am allowed to check in two bags of up to 70 lbs each for free. That’s a lot of books, my friends.

But that’s not all. Not by a long shot. I have priority check-in, priority screening, priority boarding, and automatic upgrade requests which often result in my being upgraded (and I don't have to tell you how cool that is!). I also earn double miles which I can redeem for upgrades, free flights, free hotel stays, free car rentals and more.

Now when I tell friends about how much I love traveling with Delta, I often get to hear their Delta horror stories about lost luggage, delays, high luggage fees, etc. And how they’ve never been upgraded. Not once. And I always ask if they are a member of SkyMiles. The answer is usually no. They never fly the same airline, they book their tickets based on who offers the cheapest price, etc.

That used to be me. When I first started flying a lot, price of ticket was the ONLY thing I looked at. As a poor college student, every dollar counted. I knew about frequent flyer programs, but never bothered to apply. Then, once I moved to Europe, I decided to join the frequent flyer programs of both United Airlines and Delta Airlines since those were the two airlines that could get me between Wichita, KS and Frankfurt, Germany the easiest. I would price check between the two and then fly on whichever was cheaper.

But then I stumbled upon something miraculous. One year, I flew Delta exclusively (because that year, they always had the best fares – and to be honest, I was tired of getting stuck in Chicago - United's hub - on my layover due to weather related delays and cancellations) and I received a packet notifying me of my Silver Medallion status and all the accompanying benefits. I was blown away. Suddenly, when I travelled, I was getting upgrades and improved service.

Not that I still didn’t encounter some problems. One holiday season a baggage cart ran over my checked luggage and rendered it useless. It was a hassle, but Delta had a brand new suitcase to me the very next day.

Also, I seem to have a problem making it on time to JFK airport which requires that you check in luggage at least 60 minutes before your flight. Twice it has happened that I’ve arrived two minutes too late. Both times, the check-in agent made the extraordinary effort of contacting a supervisor to override the system so I could get on my scheduled flight.

Now when I book plane tickets, fare is not my biggest concern. Sure, I don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars more, but even if it is more expensive upfront to buy a ticket on Delta or one of its partners, it ends up being worth it in the end because of all the benefits I have from being a loyal customer.

And that’s what I tell my friends, and that’s what I am telling you now. Loyalty counts. If you’re loyal to Delta, they are going to be loyal to you. Realistically, a company can only do so much. If they have the ability to please everyone who flies with them, they will. Good customer service is an essential business practice. But if it comes down to a choice between allocating finite resources to satisfy a loyal customer or to satisfy a customer who just bought the cheapest ticket? Well, naturally they are going to chose the former, and that’s how it should be.

And as long as Delta values my loyalty, I am going to value theirs.  Hopefully, that will be a long, long time.  Because I don't plan to quit reading or reviewing books anytime soon.  And that means I need all the weight allowance I can get.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Classic Monthly 2011

Inspired by Amanda at The Zen Leaf who plans to read a classic weekly, I decided to put together a list of classics I want to read next year - one a month - at least.  I have also come up with a list of alternates in case I can't bear to finish one of my choices or I feel like reading even more classics.


The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
What it is about: The powerful gothic novel of a house blighted by a terrible curse.
Why I chose it: My mother tried to get me to read this, one of her favorites, for years. She even sent it to me in a package to Ecuador when I was an exchange student. I still have the same copy, so in honor of my mother’s birth month, I am finally going to read it. Then we can discuss it in the afterlife.

Utopia by Sir Thomas More
What it is about: Utopias!
Why I chose it: For Dystopian February, I thought it would be fun to read this popular treatise on what makes a Utopia.

Les Miserables Victor Hugo
What it is about: The story of a man trying to redeem himself set against the backdrop of the French Revolution.
Why I chose it: I LOVE the musical version of Les Miz and was obsessed with it all through high school. I saw it live for my 18th birthday. I’ve started this before, but never finished. High time!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
What it is about: You mean you don’t know?!
Why I chose it: It’s a bit incomprehensible to me that I’ve never read this one. I loved Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair.

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
What it is about: A married couple from New York travels to Algeria.
Why I chose it: I’ve long had an interest in the European/American experience in North Africa, and this one is set in the Algerian desert, which Daniel visited years ago.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
What it is about: Looks at the lives of the poor in Monterey, CA during the Great Depression
Why I chose it: I’ve not read much of Steinbeck – The Pearl, Of Mice and Men and the first few chapters of East of Eden. A friend left this at my apartment years ago, and I’ve been eyeing it ever since.

Death in Venice Thomas Mann
What it is about: An older man develops an obsession with a beautiful teen boy.
Why I chose it: Mann is pretty much my literary nemesis. He’s the one author I could never really get into on my high school required reading list. It’s a short novella, and my father-in-law’s favorite book, so I want to give it a chance.

We Yevgeny Zamyatin
What it is about: D-503 lives in the One State, an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which allows the secret police/spies to inform on and supervise the public more easily.
Why I chose it: It’s a well-regarded dystopian classic – perfect for Dystopian August!

The Judge and His Hangman by Friedrich Duerrenmatt
What it is about: A policeman must solve the murder of his colleague.
Why I chose it: It’s a (Swiss) German classic that Daniel gave me as a gift. I’m going to read it in the original German.

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
What it is about: A married couple’s family life is strained with the arrival of their fifth child.
Why I chose it: I’m interested in reading more by Lessing after the superb short story collection To Room Nineteen, and since it’s spooky, it’s perfect for October. Plus it comes highly recommended by a friend.

Silas Marner by George Eliot
What it is about: A tale of a reclusive weaver.
Why I chose it: I asked for recommendations on twitter, and I liked this suggestion. Middlemarch was such a great read, I’ve been meaning to try more George Eliot.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
What it is about: The multi-generational story of the Buendía Family in a fictional town in Colombia.
Why I chose it: I have enjoyed many of GGM’s works but have never made it past page 50 in this one. I need to remedy that.

The Ambassadors by Henry James
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Dead Souls Nikolai Gogol
The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway
The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

What classics do you think I should add to my alternates list? Which classics would you choose if you were to do the challenge?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hot Topic: Does a YA novel have to be accessible?

Not long ago, I reviewed JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta. I had an unpleasant reading experience the first time around because of a problem I personally had with the structure, although I enjoyed my second reading much more. I mused in my review:
"I think a book is fundamentally flawed if you have to read it twice before you can really get into it. I’d have been more impressed if Marchetta had found a way into the story that retained some of the cryptic, tragic character, but in way that made me care from the beginning."
Adele of Persnickety Snark wrote a reaction piece to my review on her blog When You Find Yourself Stumped, sad and perplexed that I didn’t love the novel as much as she did.

Her post brought up some thought provoking points about how we react to negative reviews of books we loved and it is well worth checking out. But what prompted me to write this post today is a comment that the author, Melina Marchetta, left on Adele’s post about my review:

"Although I disagree passionately with Lenore when she states that a book is fundamentally flawed if it has to be read twice, I will own up to the fact that Taylor is difficult and, at times, a very unlikeable protagonist."
Now I don’t at all consider this a case of an author arguing with a review, especially as she states:

"I think an important thing for us writers is that there is intelligent dialogue about our work, regardless of whether a blogger likes our books or not. The reviews written by yourself and Lenore are intelligent, if not sometimes harsh. But I like the world of harsh intelligent reviews better than a world of no reviews at all."
But it did get me thinking about my statement. Because OF COURSE there are books that we have to read twice (or more) to really get into. I don’t think many people start reading ULYSSES by James Joyce thinking that they are going to understand everything the first time around. And the same goes for a great many books (the so-called “classics” especially), which become richer and deeper to us the more we spend time with them.

I realize now that my statement above stems from my expectations of what a YA novel in particular should be. One of the reasons I enjoy reading YA so much, and read so much of it, is because of how accessible it is. In general, writers for children and teens spend a lot of time crafting novels with an immediate hook to capture reluctant readers, tight pacing to keep them interested, and a clear structure to keep them from getting confused.

JELLICOE ROAD is not so accessible. But does its’ lack of accessibility mean it is flawed? Can’t YA aspire to something more? Something, that like a classic, benefits from multiple readings? Obviously the Printz committee thought so when they named JELLICOE ROAD the best book of 2009.

Indeed, I think it's about time to adjust my own expectations. Obviously, less accessible YA is not going to work for everyone (especially reluctant readers), but I'll certainly be reading YA with a more open mind in the future.  Even if I have to read a book twice.

What do you think?

Book Review: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

2008. Nya spends all day every day walking to the pond to carry water home to her family. 1985. Salva is fleeing a war and soldiers that threaten to conscript him in to the army. In a dual narrative, we see the hardships people in Sudan face through the eyes of two children.

At 115 pages, this is a slim novel, but the story of survival against the odds is so heartfelt and moving, the emotional takeaway is massive. Salva’s story is based largely on the childhood memories of Salva Dut, one of the “lost children of Sudan” who was later relocated to the US from a refugee camp. While some of his experiences were horrifying (imagine being shot at and forced to cross a river full of hungry crocodiles), the novel never sensationalizes. The detached “reporter” tone takes the edge off, making the story more suitable for young readers.

It is ultimately a story of hope and the triumph of the human spirit and is well worth the read.

A LONG WALK TO WATER will be released next Monday November 15th in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

FUN FACT: I won an ARC of this book in a contest on the author’s website (thanks to Cynsations for the link). Included with the book was a sticky note in the back with Salva’s phone number! I am sure that it was an accident, but it served as a gut-wrenching reminder that a real person went through what I had just read. Very sobering indeed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book Review: Suspect by Kristin Wolden Nitz

Jen is asked to spend the summer helping out at her grandmother Kay's bed and breakfast, and finds out Kay suspects Jen’s mother didn’t disappear but was murdered. Kay uses her annual mystery dinner theatre weekend to try to get to the bottom of the case.

This is a short, satisfying teen mystery that would definitely be classified in the cozy genre.  Although the focus is possible murder of the main character’s mother, there is nothing disturbing or overly emotional about the novel.  The tone is light for the most part as the various characters converge at the bed and breakfast – all of them ready for a fun weekend of play-acting, most not realizing there could be a killer in their midst.

Though my favorite part was probably the setting, I also really enjoyed the relationship between Jen and her “uncousin” Mark.  Ok, so it might have been because it got me thinking about George Michael and Maeby’s “forbidden cousin love” on Arrested Development (one of my favorite series ever!) and I couldn’t help suspecting it might the author paying homage.

This line was always going through my head whenever I read the word “uncousin”:

"It was a love between two cousins that the world thought was wrong, but it was the world that was wrong..." (from the fictitious movie Les Cousins Dangereux (a.k.a Dangerous Cousins) that George Michael sneaks into with Maeby on an episode of Arrested Development)

If you’re looking for breezy mystery with an engaging setting and characters, then SUSPECT might just do the trick.

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Return of Cat Tuesday (4)

Last Wednesday, we picked up kitteh #3. His name is Lu and he's a creme-point sacred birman.  Here he is in the car on the way home.

It didn't take him long to adjust.

Ooh let's get a close-up!

He was fast friends with Kaia.  I suspect they still remember each other from the breeder. Lu is 3 weeks younger than Kaia, but he's already just a bit bigger. They have the same father, different mothers.

It took awhile, but last night, Emmy finally let him snuggle up to her.

Not a kitty pile yet, but close!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Alex wakes up naked in a stranger’s bed after drinking too much the night before. The boy, Carter, claims they had sex. Twice. And Alex is horrified because she can’t remember anything, and she thinks she should remember her first time. When she confesses to her roommate, her roommate insists that she’s been date-raped and that they need to go to their boarding school’s secret society, The Mockingbirds, in order get justice.

Good things first. I am thrilled that this novel brings up the subject of date-rape in a sensitive, discussion worthy way. There is no victim blaming and the idea of YES means YES vs NO means NO brilliantly brings across that if you don’t specifically agree to having sex, then you are being taken advantage of and are a victim of a crime.

Author Whitney, a date-rape victim herself, also deftly shows how Alex’s trauma effects her relationships and her day to day life and sets up a tender romance with a fellow student, Martin, to underscore the difference of consensual “hooking-up” and non-consensual date-rape.

However, I was extremely frustrated with Alex for taking action against her alleged rapist based solely on circumstantial evidence. She can’t remember if she had sex or not (question: especially as a virgin, wouldn’t she feel some physical effects of forced entry?), so simply takes Carter’s word for it (a boy who is known to make false claims) and sees two empty condom wrappers as proof that something MUST have happened.

Now I can see why she wouldn’t necessarily think of doing a rape-kit and why she wouldn’t want to go to the police, but why not see a doctor for some tangible evidence before making a very serious claim against someone that could severely damage their reputation?

SPOILER (invisio text! highlight with your curser to read): I realize this becomes a moot point once Alex regains her memories – still it really bothered me through most of the novel.
I also wasn’t thrilled with the idea of The Mockingbirds’ brand of justice. It’s clever, sure, but it also smacks of the very bullying it is trying to combat.

It is for those reasons that I recommend this novel, but with some reservations.

THE MOCKINGBIRDS is available now in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Where My Last 20 Books Came From (10)

And once again, here's where I've been getting my books lately (links lead to my reviews):

140. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Bought
139. Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan - Got at BEA
138. Either You're In or You're In the Way by Logan and Noah Miller - Accepted pitch from authors (signed)
137. Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins - Got at BEA (signed)
136. Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler - Received as part of a Traveling to Teens blog tour
135. Freak Magnet by Andrew Auseon - Unsolicited review copy
134. Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales - Gift from the author (signed)
133. Take Ivy by T. Hayashida - Gift from a friend
132. Losing Faith by Denise Jaden - Accepted pitch from author
131. Joy of Spooking Unearthly Asylum by PJ Bracegirdle - Accepted pitch from author
130. I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman - Amazon Vine
129. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters - Borrowed from a friend
128. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick - Accepted as part of a blog tour
127. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King - Got at BEA
126. Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz - Bought for Nerds Heart YA
125. Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee - Bought for Nerds Heart YA
124. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver - Got at Frankfurt Book Fair
123. The Whole World by Emily Winslow - Accepted pitch from author
122. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh - Accepted pitch from author
121. Razorland by Ann Aguirre - Sent by publisher for Dystopian August (Now titled Enclave + new cover)

How about you?  Notice any trends?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sign up for the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap!

It's that time of year again!! Sign-ups are now open for the Book Blogger Holiday Swap.  If you want to make a fellow blogger very happy this holiday season by being their bookish secret santa, see how it all works and sign-up by November 14th!  You can also get all your questions answered on the Frequently Asked Questions page.

But please, ONLY sign up if you really intend to follow through and send your gift by the shipping deadline. 

Do you plan to join in the fun this year?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Review: Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

Quinn has just gotten engaged – on a whirlwind trip to Paris no less – to her boyfriend Sage. She has a big diamond ring on her finger – so why isn’t she giddy? Does her lack of enthusiasm mean she shouldn’t get married? Is she allowed to have doubts about a happily ever after?

I don’t read a lot of “chick lit” but when I read a review of this at S Krishna Reads and she called it “quite literary” and recommended it, I commented that I would put it on my wishlist. And not 24 hours later, I had a review copy offer (which I accepted).

Quinn is a high powered career girl, a typical type for chick-lit, but she avoids the clichés of the genre – no discernable shoe fetish at least – and feels like a real person. It doesn’t take the typical plot path of the genre either – it definitely kept me guessing to whether Quinn and Sage would end up staying together or not.

The novel deals with weightier themes too – such as dealing with loss, taking responsibility, and finding true happiness – and does so with a light touch. There were a lot of relationship truths that made me smile. Such as “The one who holds the tickets is the caretaker, the protector, the adult.” (Guess who holds the tickets when Daniel and I travel?) And hey, you gotta love a book that quotes Charlotte’s Web!

LIFE AFTER YES is available in paperback now. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

AS King's Pizza Delivery Blog Tour for Please Don't Ignore Vera Dietz (+ signed book giveaway!)

Ding dong. Pizza delivery. I’ve got one mushroom, black olive and extra cheese here for the awesome Lenore...

Last month my book Please Ignore Vera Dietz came out. It’s a pretty exciting time, but more exciting when you can traipse around to cool blogs and deliver some [imaginary] pizza and answer some questions. Lenore, this delivery is on me, as you've been one of the strongest champions for my first novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs. And now you really dug VERA too! That made me so happy! So, I am paying for these imaginary pizzas because you as an author, there is nothing like knowing people who get what you're writing. (And no--you are not obliged to like book #3 next year. Fair and square--you know me.)

LENORE: So...I have kissing on the brain today...What is your favorite kissing scene in a novel and why?

ASK: I'm a hopeless romantic in my own life. I found my true love and soul mate while still a teenager, so you'd think I'd love kissing scenes. But truth be told, I look away when there's a particularly long kissing scene on TV or in a movie and I have trouble writing them. (I do. I blush.) So, I cannot, for the life of me, think of a specific kissing scene. (I know! Lame!) BUT I CAN tell you my favorite love story book of all time which has plenty of kissing (and more intimate scenes) in it. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. Here's why I love that book so much. It's about two lovers who pursue immortality in order to stay together forever.

LENORE: Please share an embarrassing picture with explanation. [Readers, this is the question that mushrooms generated for the month of November. Stay tuned for more. Apparently a lot of people eat mushrooms on their pizza.]

ASK: Okay Lenore. I admit that you probably lucked out here. This is really the most embarrassing picture I think I’ve shared during the whole tour. There was one other (several others, actually) on the page in my photo album that were even more embarrassing from the same night, but I just couldn’t bear to share them. So—why so many embarrassing pictures from the same night?

First: This picture is me pretending to be a nun with the help of hotel towels. It was really late—I think we stayed up most of the night. We had good reason. We were all in shock.

It was my senior class trip. We went to Williamsburg, Virginia. And one of the nights, for dinner, we were to go on a dance party ferry trip around the Chesapeake Bay. Sounds good, right? And it was…until the storm came in. And it was a doozy. A real doozy. Like-a pass-out-the-freaking-life-vests and talk about how not to drown doozy. Teachers and students got sick overboard, the place started to smell like vomit. I know there was a definite feeling that we might really have to get rescued. Or—you know—that we might die.

After we made it back to shore, we loaded ourselves on our buses and we were completely silent on the drive back to the hotel. Completely hear-a-pin-drop silent. But when we got back to our hotel rooms? All of that emotion and crazy shock came out and though there were no intoxicating substances imbibed that night, the memories are a little like those of a drunken night out. I believe this was the night my friend Maria finally asked us to pierce her ear in the bathroom, and it was also the night she freaked out about the ear-piercing procedure and ripped the toilet cistern off the wall. I have photos of me dancing in a sweatshirt and my underwear with an ice bucket on my head which I just could not bring myself to share. But I have this…the nun shot.

I didn’t make a word of that up, either. You can ask the EHS class of 1988.

LENORE: That's a marvelous picture! Now back to kissing... Tell me about an unpublished kissing scene you've written, one that you'd prefer not to see the light of day.

ASK: Any kissing or sex scene I've ever written probably qualifies. But there was this one, in my fourth novel, where Henry Hawkins, an abducted 99-year-old Earthing who kisses the Queen of the planet H-125 who is not only gray and twice his height, but she also has a head that is flat and round, like a lollipop. There's a particularly awkward moment where Henry, after years of being in love with his strangely-shaped captor, has embraced her and is going to kiss her but he realizes that her anatomy might differ, and wonders if the type of kissing he was used to on Earth would suffice here on H-125. Anyway, I can't even remember what happens after that, but it is something I really never want to see the light of day. Though I have used the planet H-125 in stories of mine, the creatures from it are no longer shaped like lollipops. And nobody kisses.

LENORE: For my bonus question: What male character from one novel would you like to introduce to a female character from another? What might happen between them?
And how would Vera get along with Saffron? Very curious!

ASK: What a great question! But so hard to answer because I have so many unpublished (or about-to-be-published) characters! Okay, Sticking with just these two books. I guess I'd like Jenny Flick to meet Junior so that she can get her whole bad-boy thing out of the way with him and then Charlie and Vera could actually have a future. I'd assume Jenny and Junior would spiral into a life of drug use and other negative things, so that would be a bummer, but maybe they'd find a way out. Either way, Charlie probably wouldn't die. So that would be good.

I think Vera and Saffron would get along really well, actually. They both want out of their similar small town life and are looking to do bigger things. Plus, they both have a sensible head on their shoulders. I think Saffron might frown upon Vera's little vodka habit, and there is no doubt Vera would be frustrated as hell with Saffron's secretive trip to Jamaica. But I think Vera is wise enough for Saffron to handle without her wanting to pluck out her eyeballs.

Your topping combination means we'll have a giveaway signed copy of 
All entrants have to do is leave a comment here on your blog to say they're entering.
We'd love if you'd spread the word, too!
Giveaway ends Nov 8th 11:59pm ET

Thank you so much for having me around to the blog today, Lenore, and for your awesome questions.
And thank you again for being such a great supporter of my work. You rock.

Oh! I should really tell your readers something about Please Ignore Vera Dietz before I leave, shouldn't I?

vera cover
is a Junior Library Guild selection for Fall 2010

Starred in Kirkus, PW and Booklist Reviews 

18-year-old Vera's spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie. And over the years she's kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone. Will she emerge and clear his name? Does she even want to? 

"Brilliant. Funny. Really special." --Ellen Hopkins, author of NYT bestselling Crank, Glass and Tricks 

“The book is deeply suspenseful and profoundly human”--Publishers Weekly 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Across the World Book Tour for Across the Universe

Across the Universe is a sci fi coming out from Penguin/Razorbill on January 11, 2011. Author Beth Revis describes it as "a murder mystery set in space," but it also has romance, adventure, and dystopian elements. In the book, a girl boards an interstellar spaceship in a journey across the universe to find a new planet.

I have read this already, and it rocked!  You won't get my full review until Dystopian February (probably), but be assured that I was on the edge of my seat the whole book and was very impressed by the world building.  I can't wait to see what happens in book 2!

In any case, in order to celebrate the book's upcoming release, Beth's gathered together writers and readers from across the blogosphere to share their stories of adventures they've had across the world. Check out her site the first two weeks of November to read about adventures from the Wild West to Indonesia, from Europe to Africa.  My personal adventure is going up on Beth's site today - and it's about my near-death experience jumping off a waterfall during the rainy season in Ecuador.  I've had a lot of crazy travel experiences - from walking with lions in Zimbabwe to being cursed by a local god in Guatemala to being filmed by Thai TV as I was wined and dined by a group of Thai governers in Austria - but that waterfall jump is the only time I saw my life flash before my eyes.

And as you're going across the world with all these adventures, be sure to pick up the clues. On Beth's webpage is a secret link--LOOK for it, and you'll SEE it. But it's password protected! To find the password, you'll need to go on the adventures with us, pick up the letters, and re-arrange them into the secret phrase.

What do you get for playing? On the password protected page there's tons of secret information about the book--hidden Easter Eggs, the surprising origins of one of the characters, and the unexpected inspiration behind the space ship. But, more than that--there's also a chance for prizes! Only accessible from the password protected page is a form to enter a drawing--the winner will get a signed and doodled ARC of Across the Universe, pin-buttons featuring the book, star-related swag--and a secret something else!

All you have to do is follow us across the blogosphere, pick up the letters, and unscramble the password! Your clue for today is...


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Return of Cat Tuesday (3)

We had quite a bit of excitement on Halloween morning.  Emmy somehow managed to bite and squeeze her way through the cat netting on our 4th floor balcony and was hanging out on the ledge, about to jump after a bird to her (possible) demise.  We were able to get to her in time, but now we need to reinforce the netting before she is allowed to hang out on the balcony again.  This has caused a problem because she LOVES hanging out there and doesn't understand why she can't.

Just look at how happy she is:

That was taken before her great escape.

Next week: We introduce you to cat #3 - coming home tomorrow!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Book Club Report: The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

Our October book pick was donated by the lovely publicists at Hachette.  I wasn't aware that THE SECRET SPEECH was the 2nd in a trilogy (that begins with CHILD 44) until I read the author interview at the end of the book.

Short Summary: Stalin is dead and the new government issues a secret speech that condemns the brutality of his regime and those who worked for it, including our protagonist Leo. At the same time, one of the victims of Stalin's secret police starts hunting down former agents in revenge and ends up kidnapping Leo's adopted daughter in a plot to make him suffer as much as she did.

The Group's Verdict: We were divided - some thought the novel was just too violent for their tastes and didn't finish while others were quite impressed by the plot and character development of this historical thriller.  I personally had a hard time putting this one down and am looking forward to picking up the other books in this series (including the upcoming A NEW WORLD, due in February 2011).

Up Next: The book has not yet been chosen for the November meeting, but since I'll be in the US, I won't be able to attend anyway.  I should mention that my choice for our September meeting was THE HUNGER GAMES.  Everyone enjoyed it immensely and immediately wanted to start CATCHING FIRE.  Reactions to CATCHING FIRE were mixed though, with several members abandoning it after just a few chapters.