Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I saw the movie version of Speak tonight.

For class. (Can we just state for the record that Education classes at Swarthmore are, like, gifts from God, and the Ed professors are Gods' angels, and what we talk about are holy words? Thank you.) Now, Speak was one of my favorite books back in late middle school/early high school when I first read it. Laurie Halse Anderson's darkly humorous yet lyrical way of describing the emotional impacts of rape on a young girl enthralled and terrified me. I didn't even know there was a movie made of the story until the big news about Kristen Stewart being cast as Bella Swan, etc etc etc, and then I was like, Huh. Guess I'll try to watch that movie eventually.

I'm always nervous about book-turned-movies, especially if it's a YA book that the movie is based on. YA just seems to me like a literary genre that gets most of its strength from emotional, mental, and psychological aspects. In other words, "off-screen" moments, thoughts, and descriptions that don't translate too well onto the screen; it mostly ends up consisting of the actors and actresses standing around, slouching sullenly, their faces pulled into long expressions of loneliness, frustration, angst, etc various-minute-alterations-to-facial-expressions-and-body-language-that-are-difficult-to-detect.

Kristen Stewart's performance as Melinda Sordino in Speak was certainly no different. Lots of standing around, lots of loaded silences and stares that intend to portray that which was not said in dialogue. This is the unfortunate side effect of translating a book that occurs mostly in the protagonist's head onto the silver screen, I'm realizing.

HOWEVER (and that's a big however), I am by no means saying that this movie wasn't good. In fact, it was pretty darn good. It was a little weird seeing faces that I recognized from other movies playing out these characters (um, hello? Will Stronghold from Sky HighBella Swan?), but maybe I just have trouble distinguishing typical awkwardness as seen from the eyes of an adolescent versus the awkwardness of unintentionally stilted acting. Aiyah.

What really got me, though, was Kristen's portrayal of the rape scene. Not that I have very movie rape scenes to compare this one to (I think Last Tango in Paris had a sort of-ish one, but I didn't like that movie so it shouldn't count), but... it was just so... heartwrenching. Ack! I wanted to throw a hammer at the guy, provided I had a hammer on hand and provided that I then had the thousand or so dollars it would've cost to fix the screen. Kristen was also amazing at showing Melinda's growth over the school year, from a frightened and reticent "freshmeat" to a more assertive girl.

I can't lie and say that I really liked the movie, because the book will always have a special place in my heart, but if you're looking for a decent adaptation of a YA book, you should check Speak out.

Orrr if you have, what did you think of it? I'd love to know! :)


Holy crap I just checked on IMDB and apparently Kristen Stewart and one of her costars from Speak (Michael Angarano, Dave Petrakis in this movie) are, um, going out? Hehe. Cute. Michael's one of those cute sort-of awkward types that I will crush incessantly and futilely on. Cute.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Review: No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull

Tags: YA, historical fiction, persecution, religion

England, 1662, at the beginning of the Quaker prosecution. 15-year-old Susanna Thorn decides she’s old enough to get a job in town in order to support her Quaker family. 17-year-old William has just returned from Oxford, and his rags-to-riches father is encouraging him to be apprenticed to a good connection in London. Their paths cross accidentally one day in the middle of the road, and their lives are changed forever.

William finds himself inexplicably drawn to Susanna and her Quaker tradition. He begins to attend these illegal Quaker gatherings with the full knowledge that if his father finds out he will have a heart attack and probably disown his only son. Meanwhile, the persecution of the Quakers is hitting Susanna hard, hurting those she loves, and she fears for her beloved William’s life.

William and Susanna’s relationship is a love that by all means should not occur, and yet with true love, they just might be able to make it out alright. Their story is sweet, if a little typical of a teen romance, and full of the tense detail of excellent historical fiction. Ann Turnbull paints a good picture of the trouble that comes with persecution and misunderstandings, but leaves us with hope, that love will conquer all. Anyone who likes historical fiction and a good love story should read this book.

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - She's a pretty girl, but what does that have to do with the story? I do like the title treatment though, the use of the calligraphic font on a parchment-like background.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekly Giveaway Roundup + Birthday Shoutout!

Hey all! Here are the new contests I ran across this week that I think you'll be interested in. Check my sidebar for other ongoing contests if you haven't already; there are a TON of contests going on!

The Unknowns by Benedict Carey (The Shady Glade), March 29

Willow by Julia Hoban (Kristi), April 2

Stargazer by Claudia Gray (Jess), April 3

Kitty Norville Series by Carrie Vaughn (Unmainstream Mom Reads), April 4

Oolong Dead by Laura Childs (Kaye), April 4

11-Book Penguin Pack (Lenore), April 5

Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley (Bookworm), April 6

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson (Katie), April 19

Sweet Sixteen Contest (Amy), April 29

The highly efficient and amazing Shooting Stars Mag, the one who organized the giant Willow giveaway to celebrate the April 2 release of Julia Hoban's book, is holding more Willow-related contests on the blog Getting to Know Willow! Trust me, you don't want to miss out on this. In addition to guest posts by various bloggers etc., you can also enter to win a pack of Penguin books! (USA only, unfortunately.) Check it out!

Last but certainly not least... It's Thao's birthday!!!! This amazing Vietnam-based blogger was one of the first people I befriended when I started blogging, and she continues to astound me every day with her kindness and friendliness. Go to her blog and wish her a happy birthday, alright? If anyone deserves a happy birthday shoutout, it's her. :)

In My Mailbox (8)

The In My Mailbox meme is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren! Head over to her blog to see what other bloggers got in terms of awesomeness (i.e. books) this week.

My book-swapping websites were kind to me this week and brought in a whole bunch of books that I am excited to read (after I, uh, clean up my review book pile a bit, though...).

Rowan of the Wood by Christine Rose and Ethan Rose

Rowan of the Wood is the story of Cullen, a 12-year old outcast who lives with an unbearable foster family in California. He travels through the redwood forest every day on his way to school, losing himself in books and the fantasy world of elves, fairies, and wizards. Cullen's life changes incredibly one day when he uncovers an ancient magic wand that is inhabited by a powerful wizard, Rowan. Inadvertently, Cullen releases Rowan from the wand and finds himself possessed by the wizard in times of crisis. Rowan and Cullen try to understand what has happened to them, only to discover they share a deeper problem.

Fourteen centuries ago, Rowan and his bride Fiana were separated on their wedding day. While Rowan was trapped in time, Fiana used dark magic to stay alive and search for her missing husband. Over the centuries, Fiana descended deeper into darkness becoming something evil. Imaginative and poignant, the story of the deep, evolving relationship between Rowan and Cullen enchants the reader and keeps us spellbound throughout the entire adventure.

I received this from the author herself in preparation for a blog tour. Thanks, Christine! It looks very interesting.

Socrates in Love by Kyoichi Katayama

The novel adaptation of the all-time best selling manga in Japan! Affectionately known as "Sekachu" in Japan, Socrates in Love became a national sensation bringing innocent love and romance to the forefront of Japan's ultra-hip mass market.

A sweet high school romance between an average guy and a beautiful girl has just gotten underway. But tragedy ensues when the girl falls ill with leukemia. A bittersweet tale of young love, enduring devotion, and heartbreaking loss, Socrates in Love is a story to cherish and nurture.

It sounds like something far sappier than I would normally read, but I've been intrigued ever since I saw this at Barnes & Noble, like, last year. Now I finally have a copy to read. Has anyone read this yet?

Vexing the Viscount by Emily Bryan

Lucian Beaumont, Viscount Rutland, had to be the most stubborn man in England. Even though Daisy Drake has both the funds and the expertise he needs to find a long-lost Roman treasure, the infuriating man refuses to accept her help. But when Daisy attends a masquerade disguised as notorious courtesan Blanche La Tour, she discovers Blanche is the one woman Lucian can’t resist. So “Blanche” offers Lucian the money he needs if he will accept her “partner” as part of his excavation team. What Lucian doesn’t know but we do is who this new partner is. A refreshingly unconventional hero and heroine, an intriguingly different historical setting, and a surfeit of sizzling sexual chemistry all fall neatly into place in Bryan’s latest splendidly sexy romance.

Yes, yes, it's a romance novel--complete with gaggingly sultry cover and everything--but I saw reviews for this on the blogosphere a couple months ago (there must have been a blog tour or something) and I was interested. So it's my foray into the world of adult mass-market paperback romance!

All About Vee by C. Leigh Purtill

Veronica May ("Big Vee") is a bubbly, gorgeous, confident, eighteen-year-old theater actress from Chester, Arizona. She is also two hundred pounds. She puts off college, her life, and her questions about her mother's death twelve years earlier to care for her widowed father. Then Daddy announces that he's going to remarry and Veronica feels replaced. She decides, then and there, it's time for Big Vee to shine! She escapes Arizona and follows in the footsteps of her mother, who was an aspiring actress, to Hollywood. Between shifts with a cute co-worker at the local coffee bar, Vee auditions, falls in love, dumps a toxic friend, learns to deal with love and loss, and finally, finds her place in the spotlight.

Have had C. Leigh Purtill on my wishlist for forever! Plus I'm a fan of that model's brightly colored soft-and-swishy sundress. I am a fan of soft-and-swishy sundresses. They are my clothes-shopping weakness--year-round.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safron Foer
The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield

Yes, I know I used JSF as an example in my "Bias Against YA Lit" entry, but like I said, that doesn't mean the classics aren't good or shouldn't be read. I've heard amazing things about these books.

From BookMooch:

Cycler by Lauren Mclaughlin

AS FAR AS anyone at her high school knows, Jill McTeague is an average smart girl trying to get her dream date to ask her to the prom. What no one knows, except for Jill’s mom and dad, is that for the four days Jill is out of school each month, she is not Jill at all. She is Jack, a genuine boy—complete with all the parts. Jack lives his four days per month in the solitude of Jill’s room. But his personality has been building since the cycling began. He is less and less content with his confinement and his cycles are becoming more frequent. Now Jill’s question about the prom isn’t who she'll go with, but who she'll be when the big night arrives.

Read a review of Cycler on Jenny's blog (uh, if my Alzheimic mind remembers correctly) back when I just started blogging. So I'm looking forward to reading this one.

I Am the Wallpaper by Mark Peter Hughes

Thirteen-year-old Floey Packer feels like she’s always blended into the background. After all, she’s the frumpy younger sister of the Fabulous Lillian, a girl so popular and spontaneous that their house is always packed with a gaggle of admirers. But when Lillian suddenly gets married and heads off on a month-long honeymoon, Floey decides it’s her time to shine. Armed with her trusty diary, some books on Zen philosophy, and a jar of Deep Wild Violet hair dye, Floey embarks on a self-improvement mission—with excellent results. People are finally noticing her, especially the boy who really counts. But then disaster strikes.

Are people noticing Floey because she’s so fabulous—or because her evil cousins posted her diary on the Internet? And how will Floey ever repair the damage?

From elsewhere:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

One of my roommates bought this for me for my birthday. She said it's "like what I like to read, except for grown-ups." Haha. Gotta love book-giving friends.

Seventh Tower: The Fall by Garth Nix
Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising, Book 1) by Susan Cooper
Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Lush by Natasha Friend

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century”: What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z?

I won this during Book Carnival Week! It looks exciting.

Starfinder: Book One of the Skylords by John Marco
(Publication Date: May 5, 2009)

Steam trains and electricity are rapidly changing the world. Moth of Calio is obsessed with the airships developed by his friend Fiona's grandfather Rendor, and dreams of taking to the air one day like his heroes, the Skyknights.

But not everyone is happy to see humans reach the skies. For thousands of years, the mysterious and powerful race known as the Skylords have jealously guarded their heavenly domain. But Moth and Fiona are about to breach the magical boundary between the world of humans and the world of the Skylords.

Got this from Trish of TLC Book Tours for an upcoming blog tour.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
(Publication Date: April 30, 2009)

I couldn't really find a good synopsis of this, but it's a ghost story set in the 1940s. Got it from Goodreads.

Madapple by Christina Meldrum

THE SECRETS OF the past meet the shocks of the present. Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language—but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be.

When Aslaug’s mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mother’s death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaug’s birth. About what she should do next. About whether divine miracles have truly happened. And whether, when all other explanations are impossible, they might still happen this very day.

I'm so excited to get this! Thanks, Bookworm! :)

From the library:

Ransom My Heart by Mia Thermopolis and Meg Cabot

He's a tall, handsome knight with a secret. She's an adventurous beauty with more than a few secrets of her own. Finnula needs money for her sister's dowry, and fast. Hugo Fitzstephen, returning home to England from the Crusades with saddlebags of jewels, has money, and lots of it. What could be simpler than to kidnap him and hold him for ransom?

Well, for starters, Finnula could make the terrible mistake of falling in love with her hostage.

How can you miss this sort of convoluted, outrageous, historical magic realism book by Meg Cabot? I had to read it.

Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee

Dredging up the past can knock the present right off balance.The world expects perfection from seventeen-year-old Shawna Gallagher, and for the most part, that’s what they get. She dates the right boys, gets good grades, and follows her father’s every rule. But when her estranged lesbian mother dies, it’s more than perfect Shawna can take. Suddenly, anger from being abandoned ten years ago is resurfacing along with Shawna’s embarrassment over her mother’s other family. As she confronts family secrets and questions from the past, Shawna realizes there’s a difference between doing the perfect thing and doing the right thing.

Borrowed it for an upcoming blog tour. And it's so good so far! And yes, the model on the cover is for certain the same one who is on the covers of North of Beautiful and Evermore...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Review: Girl v. Boy by Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout

Tags: YA, battle of the sexes, high school journalism


Luisa Perez and her best friends have mastered the art of not participating in their high school, Dunfield aka "Dumpfield’s" extracurricular activities. That is, until sophomore year brings a literacy challenge to the city, girls against boys. The prize for which group raises the most money for literacy awareness? Extra weeks of winter break.

Lu is snagged to write an anonymous column about the fundraising effort, exchanging words with a male counterpart. The debate between “Scoop” and “Newshound” becomes heated and turns into a battle of the sexes, and their column gains more popularity as a result.

However, heated exchanges occur in other aspects of Lu’s life, too. Her family life is not the best, what with her overbearing older sister constantly talking her down, and having to fend off the raucous male factory workers at the diner where she works. But there are plenty of opportunities for possible romance—sometimes in the most unexpected of places…unless the effects of the literacy column destroy any chance that Lu has at love.


GIRL V. BOY was a pleasant, if predictable, read. I have trouble describing how I felt about it, and yet when I was reading it I couldn’t put it down. Lu and her friends and classmates are fun to read about. The conversations that Luisa has with all of her "suitors" is snappy and witty, which made me smile and hang on to the story where otherwise I thought it got a little unbelievable and unexplained. I mean, to have four different boys going after you at the same time? Family issues that seem serious but are never elaborated or resolved, making them feel as if they were just placed in the story to give it a little bit more conflict than a straightforward soap opera-ish plot? I got frustrated at some points, wanting to understand Luisa's life more than what she gives us in this book.

The ending was predictable, yes, but the beginning and middle were not so much, thus sparing me from reading something painfully boring. GIRL V. BOY was definitely an enjoyable read that will appeal to high school girls looking for a hearty dose of rapid-fire battle-of-the-sexes dialogue and a solid romance.

Similar Authors
Robin Benway (Audrey, Wait!)
Gayle Forman (If I Stay)

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover Discussion: 3 out of 5 - Hurrah for a cover that actually shows faces... but what in the world?? For a story set in Chicago, at a high school where there are nine other girls named Luisa Perezes, the models are not as I imagined them to look like. Furthermore, what's with the heavy gender stereotyping? The pink fluffy pen? Ack.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cara Lockwood Interview and GIVEAWAY!

A couple of days ago I reviewed Cara's upcoming paranormal chick lit book, Every Demon Has His Day (review here). YA book lovers might know her better as the incredible mastermind between the Bard Academy novels, about a boarding school that's haunted by the ghosts of famous writers. Whoa!

Haven't read them yet? Sound like something you're interested in? Or do you just want to get to know the incredibly kind Cara a little more? You're in luck, because Cara graciously allowed me to review her book, interview her, AND host a giveaway for her books on my blog! Please give a round of applause to welcome...

1. What sources of inspiration did you draw on to write Every Demon Has His Day?

I'm sad to admit this, but I'm addicted to the History channel. I watch WAY too many specials about Armageddon and possible end-of-the-world scenarios. As I was watching one of these shows, I started thinking about what would it be like if demons were like middle managers and disgruntled employees. This is how I think. I'm always trying to find the humor in something - even the end of the world. I'm an oddball that way. Anyway, that's sort of the starting point of Every Demon Has His Day.

2. Are any characters in "Every Demon" based on people you know? Who can you relate to in the novel?

All the characters I write are in some way influenced by people in real life. No character is typically a carbon-copy of any one in particular, but I take traits and quirks from real life and put them into different characters. I like to think that all the characters are in some way relatable. I think Constance is probably the most approachable for me. She's a real person who's thrown into this crazy world of demons and talking dogs. I would hope I could be as level-headed. But the most entertaining characters for me are the demons - Yaman and Shadow. I find them the funniest.

3. Your YA Bard Academy series is about a boarding school where students encounter the ghosts of famous dead writers. How much research did you have to do in order to write the books?

Well, I reread many of the classics and I did a little research into the biographies of many writers. I was a "lit nerd" in high school, and to some extent, still am, so I hate to even call it research. It was more like recreational reading.

4. I'm interested in your writing process. Do you have a particular time or place where you do your writing? Plan ahead or just let the words come as they will?

I used to try to keep to a certain time and place when writing, but since having kids (two little girls, one age 2, and one seven months), I write when they take naps! If that means lugging my laptop with me in the minivan, so be it.

5. How often do your own life experiences make it into your novels?

Like all writers, my own life experiences color my work. I don't usually put exact scenes from my life in a book (honestly, no one wants to read about scenes from my life right now - they involve lots of diaper changing), but I do use general experience, like what it's like to face certain kinds of challenges. I may never have gone to a haunted boarding school, but I certainly know what it feels like to be a misunderstood teenager.

6. What are your thoughts on the covers for your books? Do you have ANY input, or do they kind of just pull the blinds over you?

I have a little bit of input, usually at the beginning, when my editor will ask me to pitch ideas. I've been really lucky with having great cover art, so I've never had to be a Diva and try to demand something be scrapped.

7. A recent debate on the YA blogosphere has been about online marketing. Do you feel online marketing is a useful and successful marketing strategy for authors? How much online stuff do you participate in to promote yourself and your books?

I do feel it's helpful. I read somewhere that most of us spend the majority of our working time in front of our computer screens now, so it makes sense to try to reach people. I'm a member of MySpace and Facebook (come friend me anytime!), and I do email newsletters (if you want to join, email join@caralockwood.com). And, of course, I've got my own web pages: www.caralockwood.com and www.bardacademy.com. I occasionally blog (www.caralockwood.blogspot.com).

8. Can you give us a slice of Cara-wisdom for aspiring writers? :)

My best advice is just read every book you can get your hands on. I think it was Faulkner who said that you can learn something from every book you read - even bad ones. And that's true. Learning about the fundamentals of plot and character development start with reading.

9. And finally, a sequel to "Every Demon," called Can't Teach an Old Demon New Tricks, is coming out in Fall 2009. (I can't wait to read it, by the way!) After that, what's next for you? Any upcoming books that we should watch out for? Are you planning on writing any more YA in the future?

I would love to write more YA, and more books, period, but I'm currently between contracts at the moment, so we'll see what happens. Hopefully, "Every Demon" will take off and I'll be writing book number three in that series next year!


We hope your latest series attracts a legion of fans as well, Cara! To celebrate the April 6 release of Every Demon Has His Day (which you should all buy, it's paperback and fifteen dollars and a trillion dollars' worth of fun), Cara and I are hosting a GIVEAWAY for Wuthering High and The Scarlet Letterman, the first two novels in her Bard Academy series!

There will be TWO (2) winners:

1st prize gets SIGNED copies of both Wuthering High and The Scarlet Letterman, and

2nd prize gets a SIGNED copy of Wuthering High and, oh heck, I'm gonna throw in my copy of The Scarlet Letterman for you as well!

To enter, simply leave a comment below with a way to contact you if you win.

For extra entries:
+1 if you're following me or have already been following me, and let me know
+1 if you post about this somewhere else on the Internet (sidebars are fine), and leave me the link
+1 if you comment on my review of Every Demon Has His Day here
+10 (TEN!) if you buy a copy of Every Demon Has His Day when it comes out on April 6 and email me at stephxsu at gmail dot com with a picture of your receipt!

No need for extra comments; I'll calculate your extra entries myself. This contest is open WORLDWIDE and will end on Monday, April 13 (so that gives you a week to go buy Cara's latest book, if you so choose!). Happy entering, folks! :)

Friday Featured Blogger (5): Vania from Reverie Media

So Vania's kind of crazy. (Just update your Twitter status. Within seconds, she'll pop up and stalk you with responses.) Just kidding! She's actually the keeper of a new but exciting blog, Reverie Media, in which she gushes about a lot of things, most notably the Mortal Instruments trilogy in the past week. Her excitement is contagious, which is why I want to share it with you all in the following interview!

Welcome! Can you please tell us about yourself in a few short sentences?

Ok. Gosh. I hate talking about myself. For starters, I am a 21 year old college student, studying fine art photography. I YA books and photography are my hobbies and my loves in life.

Tell us about your blog. When did you start it and why? What interesting things can visitors expect?

I started mid February. I started because my friend and I wanted a way to connect with other people, learn about new books coming out and just have fun talking about the books we like. I have a few fun things I do during the week: one’s my Discussion Thursday, where I and fellow blogger(s) discuss a book. So if anyone’s interested, it’s really fun!!! Also, I love interviews, and fun one’s at that, so I have a few fun interviews with others coming up, including Alyson Noel. Now, that was a great interview!! Other than that, I just have fun and I hope the readers see that and enjoy my posts.

Your love of fun is definitely contagious, hehe. So everyone has different ways of choosing which books to read next. What influences you to pick up a book and read it?

I automatically gravitate towards YA paranormal. I love being able to escape into a COMPLETELY different world. Some of the new paranormal authors are just so great, and I cannot wait to get to some of those books. I also, love browsing the blogs and reading the reviews. If a few people say a certain book’s not worth it I am that much more likely not to read it.

Quick! Name 3 favorite books and why you think everyone should read them.

Yes, it is hard to pick just one; three’s easier but not that easy. Ok….Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is an amazing story of survival and love amidst some peril. Graceling is one of my top faves; story about survival and how love itself can survive anything. And last but not least, The Mortal Instruments Trilogy just because they have to be read as one and they are awesome. (I know I cheated!)


That's okay; a series counts as a favorite. (Although on second thought maybe it shouldn't count so that you won't think I'm a softie, giving you these leeways!) What's a book that made you cry?

The last book I cried in was “Fade” by Lisa McMann and before that was “Shadowkiss” by Richelle Mead.

Favorite authors?

Lisa McMann, Kristin Cashore, Suzanne Collins, Cassandra Clare, the list goes on and on. Recent fave is a new author, whose book isn’t out yet, Michelle Zink!!!

Prophecy of the Sisters DOES look great; I can't wait until I get to read it. So enlighten us: what do you do when you're in a reading slump?

I write or do photography. Though at the moment I doubt I’ll be I a reading slump. If I’m in a reading slump it’s because I can’t read because I am so busy!

Who would play you in a movie?

Honesly? I wouldn’t even be in a movie to begin with. I was never the kind of person to be center of attention. In HS I did technical theatre (basically all behind the scenes).

Tech people are cool! (I was one too, back in high school. Sort of.) Now what are some things you just LOVE to receive for presents? :)

Books of course, and anything photo related. Heck I don’t know even bookmarks make me happy.

Haha, oh bookmarks. And finally, tell us 2 things about yourself that can spark conversation. 

1. I am from Bulgaria.
2. I am an art major? Hahah I don’t know!


You may not know, but you're sure friendly and fun to talk to, Vania! I hope you all head over to her blog and drop a line (tell her I say hi, or poke her for me, or something), and don't forget to check out her mind-blowingly awesome City of Glass/Mortal Instruments trilogy celebration this week. (Check it: the possibility of winning great free stuff. Enough said.) Thanks, Vania! :)

(By the way, don't the Mortal Instruments covers look amazing side by side? I can't wait to get City of Glass--this weekend, perhaps??--so they can look fab together and get all cozy with one another on my bookshelf. Hehe.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Win Ballads of Suburbia and Do Something for Charity

Stephanie Kuehnert, author of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, is holding a giveaway for an ARC of her upcoming July release, Ballads of Suburbia. All you have to do is go here and vote for Tipping Point to receive the grant. Then go to Stephanie's blog and let her know you voted. Extra points for blogging about the giveaway, and please let her know that you heard about it from me. :) The giveaway ends on March 31, so don't lose time. Thanks!

Review: Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

Publication Date: April 14, 2009


It’s been three years since Jessica refused Marcus’ marriage proposal, and both of them have moved on with their lives. Jessica now works for the Do Better High School Storytellers Project, traveling across the country to work for ten weeks with groups of girls on finding a voice through writing. She has even found a mini-me in the dregs of Pineville, a cynical teenager with the unfortunate name of Sunny Dae, who gives Jessica meaning to her work. Meanwhile, Marcus has embraced college life, immersing himself in academia and humanitarian projects—and even an affair with an older woman—while elevating his campus reputation as the Sexy Enigmatic Older Man (for lack of a better term) to a sky-high level.

But have they really, truly moved on from each other? A literal collision at the airport as Jessica is latelatelate for a flight to a Caribbean wedding (guess whose!), and Jessica has run Marcus over, barreled straight back into his life as though she never left it. As IF she ever left his life, mind, or heart.

Now, stuck in one another’s company at the airport, Marcus and Jessica are forced to come face to face with their past and everything that they have been imperfect in for the last ten years of their lives. Now comes a resolution to a spellbinding series that is “perfect in its imperfection.”


It’s unlikely that ardent Jessica Darling fans will be disappointed in this last book in the series, not after they have gone with Jessica through her periods of mistakes, growth, regressions, and maturing. PERFECT FIFTHS may start out a little slow, but through a clever and definitely spellbinding use of not-so-very-usual narrative tactics, we readers are taken through an ever deeper discussion and reflection on Marcus’ and Jessica’s bumpy decade-long relationship. We get to relive our favorite moments from the series. Barry Manilow gets extensive “play.” All of the characters that we have grown to love in their complex imperfection (even the truly wince-worthy ones, such as Sara) come back, in one form or another, like this is the fantastical finale to a colorful and dramatic musical.

But it is, of course, the characters of Marcus and Jessica that steal the show. Here is where we cut away all the adolescent and young adult B.S. they’ve been working through in the previous four books. Here is where they—and we readers—discover their true, eternal natures, the ones that their previous behaviors and thoughts were leading up to. This is why the phrase “perfect in their imperfection” is, well, perfect in this situation: what we learn of Marcus and Jessica in PERFECT FIFTHS complements yet improves our previous knowledge of them, and if you didn’t love them before, you’ll loooove them now. I’ve never been one to fangirl on male characters, but if you don’t fall in loooove with the Marcus Flutie that he becomes in this book, then there is no hope for you at all.

It’s always difficult to introduce new characters into a well-established group of characters, but—I don’t want to make assumptions here, because I know nothing, but it just seems this way—there seems to be the possibility of Sunny reappearing in Megan’s future books. Just saying. That’s what it seems like, a little. Just a random (hopeful?) hypothesis.

Also, some readers may be uncomfortable with some extended descriptions of sex and related body parts. While it did not bother me and I actually felt it lent itself wonderfully to the purpose of the book, I can understand why you might not want to let, say, your younger sister or daughter read it. Just wanted to let that be known; it shouldn’t bother most readers, nor should it detract from the reading experience.

Long story short (and without giving too much away; we can discuss the details of our reactions to the book at a later date), PERFECT FIFTHS is un-miss-able, a wonderfully cohesive montage of the previous books in the series, a brilliant ending to a towering achievement. I look forward impatiently to reading Megan’s future works outside of this series, as I think you all will too.

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - I've always been a fan of the Jessica Darling series' colors--their bright bold blocks of color, the vibrancy of the photos--even though they are slightly cliche for YA and chick lit. You know, the whole let's-lop-off-the-model's-head thing. But I like how it's (supposedly) Central Park that the model is standing on (although Central Park has never looked that green to me when I've gone there), and the high-rise buildings in the background. The relevance of this cover to the story is much more correlated than other covers-and-their-stories... but you will only find out after you read it. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (8)

The Stolen One by Suzanne Crowley

Kat's true identity is a secret, even from her. All she has ever known are Grace and Anna and their small village. Kat wants more - more than hours spent embroidering finery for wealthy ladies and more than Christian, the gentle young farmer courting her.

But there are wolves outside, Grace warns. Waiting, with their eyes glowing in the dark... and Grace has given Kat safety and a home when no one else would.

Then a stranger appears in their cottage, bringing the mystery of Kat's birth with her. In one night, Kat's destiny finds her: She will leave. She will journey to London, and her skill with the needle will attract the notice of the magnificant Queen Elizabeth - and of the wolves of the court. She will discover what Grace would never tell her.

Everything will unravel.

After reading the excerpt that is on Suzanne Crowley's website, the book The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn came to mind. Same lilting folksy speech, same mysterious and slightly sinister setting... and it's set in an Elizabethan world! Seems like it can be as good as Julie Hearn or Shannon Hale. I approve and I await.

The Stolen One will be released by Greenwillow Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, on July 6, 2009.

Aaaand I'm also waiting to get my own copy of City of Glass for my hardcover collection of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments trilogy. It came out yesterday, March 24th. I can't wait. Vania from ReverieMedia has been raving about it on Twitter, like, ALL day yesterday and now I'm dying, especially after her drool-worthy City of Glass teaser that she posted. (Seriously, go check it out and hyperventilate yourself!) (And the other thing that's shocking about that statement is that, yes, I've joined Twitter in a fit of procrastination yesterday. Oh dear...) Anyway, who knows? Maybe it'll happen today. I do have several Borders coupons, after all...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review: Every Demon Has His Day by Cara Lockwood

Publication Date: April 7, 2009

Tags: paranormal, chick lit, comedy, Southern, murder, demons


It all started when Constance’s clumsy husband Jimmy was killed with a screwdriver to the back on the day when she was going to get him to sign the divorce papers. So of course no one in the town of Dogwood believes Constance’s story: that a demon who calls himself Yaman and dressed in refined clothing did it.

Constance knows that her story sounds like make-believe, but just when she begins to doubt her eyes herself, her life gets even weirder. With the help of an angel disguised as a French bulldog who speaks English with a British accent, Constance realizes that she is actually a prophet, one whom Satan and his minions are keen on because she supposedly will have a vision of who will be the mother of the Antichrist. With Yaman and his partner Shadow intent on beating her into submission, Constance definitely needs help.

Unfortunately, help comes in the form of some odd characters. Like her mother, Abigail, an eccentric psychic of the tie-dye crystal-ball sort. Or Father Daniels, who has a penchant for violence. And last but not least, she has Nathan Garrett, Dogwood’s new sheriff and the notorious young ladies’ man who took her virginity and left without a word all those years ago. Unfortunately he’s still looking as good as ever, and there’s no denying the attraction they still have. With this ragtag group of supporters, will Constance be able to stop the destruction of the world?


This paranormal chick lit book is one heck of a fun read! Every Demon Has His Day has a great blend of the supernatural, the ridiculous, and Southern, and the sexy. The conversations that the demons have amongst themselves border on slapstick comedy; in fact, all of the supporting characters are hilarious.

What makes this book really stand out from similar books, though, is how readers immediately come to care for the two main characters, Constance and Nathan. From the moment they are introduced to us, they are three-dimensional, with the passions and fears and disappointments of, say, an intriguing new neighbor whom you’d want to get to know. The attraction between them is sizzling! My only complaint is that we don’t get to see enough interactions between them. But that may only be because I have a slight crush on Nathan, the reformed ladies’ man with the anguished secret but sincere attraction to Constance, now…

Overall, Every Demon Has His Day is a delight to read. Its energetic pace and likable characters will keep your eyes glued to the page. This book is 100 percent fun.

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover Discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - Okay, when I first got this book from Cara, I really didn't like the cover. Hardly seemed like the kind that would attract my attention at the store. But after reading the book, it's really quite appropriate (see: talking French bulldog in a pink sweater). So it's kind of like the cover is an inside joke for only those who get it, i.e. only those who've read the book. So it's cute, in the end. :)

Special thank you to Cara for sending me her book to review!


Sound like something you'd want to read? Stay tuned for Cara Lockwood-related stuff coming real soon!

The Bias Against YA "Literature"

There's a stigma against young adult, or teen, lit. It's "not literary," it's escapism, it's total mush designed to corrupt your child's soul and innocence, it paints an unrealistic portrait of adolescence... I'm sure we all have heard it all. Critics of teen novels group them with the likes of beach reading, chick lit, and generally other fiction genres that professional book critics and academic scholars turn up their noses at.

It's a shame, too, because there really is so much good YA lit out there. Sure, there are the trashy, drama-ridden teen series that generate so much media (and money) and paint the inaccurate portrait that teen novels are a waste of paper. But there's also so much more than that. Young adult literature is a genre where confused adolescents, struggling to come into their own identity away from their parents' or even their friends' expectations, can find solace and even kinship.

I mean, the teen years ain't easy, friend. I remember numerous nights where all I could do was pour my heart through shaky fingers into my journal and then cry myself to sleep at night, screaming into my pillow the words that I wished I could tell someone, someone who'd listen and understand what I was going through. But of course, there was no such person.

But through books, I found friends. I found similarities, the knowledge that I'm not alone, that these feelings I'm experiencing? This sense of loneliness, of isolation that I can never seem to shake? The hair-ripping awkwardness that consumes me around anybody I actually want to be friends with? It's all natural. I am not the only one with this problem, these feelings. And the feeling of relief that I encounter when I can see myself as the main character, or see myself being a character's friend, is profound and deep.

Nowadays I am lucky enough to not have to find my only source of companionship and empathy in black and white. However, I still read YA lit, and not just because I intend to work with adolescents when I graduate, and so never want to forget the emotions associated with being in the teen years. So why, then? 

I bring this up not because I want to write a "Why I Read YA Lit" essay (although that would be fun), but because I'm struggling to retain my faith in the genres that I love to read without succumbing to the general consensus around me that YA lit is trite and uninformed. I'm currently taking a librarianship internship/class this semester. I'm incredibly lucky, I know, I know. Pretty much the biggest thing I'm learning from it is that I'm not a good for academic librarianship, not at all, lol.

Anyway, each of the students in the class create a final project. My classmates are doing things such as archiving in the Friends Historical Collection (the Quaker documents library on my school's campus), giving a reading of T. S. Eliot and showing books related to him that can be found in our Rare Books Room, and so on and so forth. Me? I want to do my project on the type of books I love the most. You got it. I want to do a project on young adult literature.

I've had my fair share of doubts as to how well it's gonna work. For one thing, my school's library has NO teen books at all. For another, my school is full of high-fallutin', four-syllable-word-spewing, liberalemo potential social activists. These are the type of kids who think that literature is reading David Foster Wallace or Jonathan Safran Froer with a cigarette and/or beer in the other hand.

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with Wallace's or Froer's works. The problem here is that very few of my classmates even consider teen books a legitimate form of literature. Needless to say, I'm kind of scared shitless to do my project. What if I'm met with a bunch of blank stares that are secretly hiding jeers and cries of "low-minded"?

I considered taking the easy way out: scouring the Rare Books Room for some pretty books to put on display, or whatever. But after two months of being part of the YA blogosphere, I've decided to stick with my initial decision of working with YA literature. Ultimately I want more people to realize that books written for teens does not equal "bad lit." It doesn't matter how lacking my school is in the volumes of information that I'd need for a project like this (which is probably going to relate to my thesis as well).

But I'm going to do it. I want to help promote quality YA literature and help it reach a larger audience. I want to expand the reading horizons of as many readers as possible. I want to reach a point where I no longer feel like a creep or misplaced being if I stand in front of the YA shelves at the local bookstore or library. Literature is all about influencing people and possibly helping them constantly revise their views of the world, right? Who says that that job isn't limited to the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, or Toni Morrison? Who says that YA authors and supporters can't have the same effect?

Besides, I know you've all got my back. When my project is done, I'm celebrating it with y'all. :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Review: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Tags: YA, paranormal, vampires, romance, war


Debut author Beth Fantaskey explodes onto the heavily populated YA vampire lit world with her amazing book, JESSICA’S GUIDE TO DATING ON THE DARK SIDE, which is sure to convert Twilight fans into having a new favorite vampire and vampire-novel heroine. Or if it doesn’t do that, then at least it will leave you smiling, biting your nails, and reading far into the night.

In rural Pennsylvania, math nerd Jessica Packwood is about to enter her senior year of high school, determined to have a good time, potentially date Jake Zinn, a nice and handsome boy in her grade, and win some more math competitions. But her carefully imagined plan goes down the drain with the arrival of Lucius Vladescu, a hot but arrogant student from Romania who is under the unfortunate delusion that he is a vampire prince destined to marry Jessica, who is apparently a vampire princess from a rival vampire family. Their marriage would end a centuries-long war between the two families and ensure peace for all their vampire relatives.

Jessica, who loves scientific facts, is understandably confused, scared of her reluctant attraction to Lucius and unable to believe the “parlor tricks” that he performs: a flash of fangs here, a miraculous recovery from a serious injury there. But just as she begins to finally believe—in Lucius, in herself—Lucius suddenly begins to court Faith Crosse, the evil-souled reigning cheerleader-slash-prom-queen of Woodrow Wilson High, and Jessica finds herself struggling to win him back, and not just for the sake of her own heart. For if she doesn’t, both vampire families, not to mention Lucius, could end up being destroyed.


Wow! It is almost unfortunate that this book has such an unwieldy and frothy, though eye-catching, title, because I did not realize the extent of what I was in for when I started reading. Jessica and Lucius are two of the best main characters that I have read about in a long time: they are fully three-dimensional and undergo incredible growth through the 350-some pages. Lucius’ intensity and arrogance makes me simultaneously laugh and be attracted to him at the same time, and some of my favorite chapters were those that consisted of Lucius’ letters to his uncle back in Romania. The relationship that develops between Jessica and Lucius seems totally natural, the growing love not forced.

The plot goes beyond a typical Twilight spinoff (which all current YA vampire novels are inevitably being compared to), and reaches its awe-inspiring conclusion wonderfully. My one complaint is minor, and that is that I felt like most of the minor characters were not developed enough. However, the complexity of Jessica and Lucius’ characters—not to mention their wonderful interactions—more than made up for it, and I am happy to overlook the fact that I don’t get to know Jessica’s friends well in return for feeling immersed in Jessica’s life.

Action, love, mortal danger, family, humor—JESSICA’S GUIDE TO DATING ON THE DARK SIDE has everything. I am wholeheartedly a fan, and you will be too.

Similar Authors
Stephenie Meyer (Twilight)
Kelley Armstrong (The Summoning)

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

In My Mailbox (7), Giveaways Roundup

First of all, a big THANK YOU goes out to all who left me quotes in my woe-is-me-my-life-sucks-cheer-me-up-please last post. I'll let you guys know that I savored each and every one of them, and some of the quotes are going to be entered into my quotes book, they're just THAT damn good. So thank you so much. I will reward ye with throngs of giveaways soon. :)

And now for the In My Mailbox. Head over to Kristi's blog to see what others got in their mailboxes this week! Checking my mail every day and finding something inside always makes me happy.

Swim the Fly by Don Calame
(Publication Date: April 14, 2009)

Fifteen-year-old Matt Gratton and his two best friends, Coop and Sean, always set themselves a summertime goal. This year's? To see a real-live naked girl for the first time — quite a challenge, given that none of the guys has the nerve to even ask a girl out on a date. But catching a girl in the buff starts to look easy compared to Matt's other summertime aspiration: to swim the 100-yard butterfly (the hardest stroke known to God or man) as a way to impress Kelly West, the sizzling new star of the swim team. In the spirit of Hollywood’s blockbuster comedies, screenwriter-turned-YA-novelist Don Calame unleashes a true ode to the adolescent male: characters who are side-splittingly funny, sometimes crude, yet always full of heart.

I've been wanting to read Swim the Fly ever since I found it and featured it on one of my Waiting for Wednesday posts. Then I was lucky enough to win an ARC on KC Dyer's blog. I'm really looking forward to this one and sharing with you guys plenty of good things related to Swim the Fly... Thanks, Don and KC!

Every Demon Has His Day by Cara Lockwood
(Publication Date: April 7, 2009)

In her wildest dreams, Constance Plyd never thought she'd see dead people. Then again, she never thought she'd be hit on by her ex-husband at his own funeral...or be the prime suspect in his murder. Fortunately for Constance, irresistibly sexy sheriff Nathan Garrett wants to believe her explanation — that a card-carrying demon in a black suit killed Jimmy in the garage — or maybe he wants something more. Either way, all signs are leading to a showdown of hellish proportions, with Constance at the heart of the battle, when the Devil and would-be mother of the Antichrist (a pop princess wannabe) descends on Crockett County. Sure, she'd rather be cooking up a storm for the next state fair, but if she's going to be the Chosen One, at least Constance can give a few demons a Texas-style butt kicking....

I read Wuthering High by Cara a couple of years ago and thought it was such an original idea. Publishers Weekly calls Every Demon Has His Day "paranormal chick lit;" doesn't that sound like it could be lots of fun? Cara was sweet enough to send me a finished copy for review (!), as well as... well, you guys will surely find out soon enough... ;)


Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon
Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson
Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater

Wow! A wonderful three books from the ever-resourceful Sharon, whose proximity to The Strand in NYC makes her subject to many a blogger's book envy. Thanks for the books, Sharon!

Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott

Kate Brown's life has gone downhill fast. Her father has quit his job to sell vitamins at the mall, and Kate is forced to work with him. Her best friend has become popular, and now she acts like Kate's invisible.

And then there's Will. Gorgeous, unattainable Will, whom Kate acts like she can't stand even though she can't stop thinking about him. When Will starts acting interested, Kate hates herself for wanting him when she's sure she's just his latest conquest.

Kate figures that the only way things will ever stop hurting so much is if she keeps to herself and stops caring about anyone or anything. What she doesn't realize is that while life may not always be perfect, good things can happen — but only if she lets them....

From PaperBackSwap. This will be my second Elizabeth Scott. (I know. I'm so behind. But I'm excited.)

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell
(Publication date: April 15, 2009)

Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. With stunning lyricism, Sandell weaves a tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.

From BookMooch!

The Neck Pain Handbook by Grant Cooper, Alex Visco
(Publication date: April 1, 2009)

This came from LibraryThing's Members Giveaway for review. Now I'll finally be able to figure out why my neck makes that crunching sound whenever I turn it! :)

The Otherworldlies by Jennifer Anne Kogler

Fern communicates with her dog, blisters from just moments in the sun, and has correctly predicted the daily weather for more than two years. Even so, she's always seemed to be a normal twelve-year-old girl . . . until one day when Fern closes her eyes in class and opens them seconds later on a sandy beach miles away from school. When Fern disappears again, this time to a place far more dangerous, she begins to realize exactly how different she is.

With the help of her twin brother, Sam, Fern struggles to gain control of her supernatural powers. The arrival of a sinister vampire in town—who seems to have an alarming interest in Fern's powers—causes Fern to question her true identity. Who is she? More importantly, who can she count on? Soon Fern finds herself in the middle of a centuries-old battle—one that could destroy Fern and endanger everyone she loves.

From PaperBackSwap! I saw this in Barnes & Noble right when it came out and I'm so happy I finally got a copy through PBS!

From the library:

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn… Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

So many good books, so little time! What do you guys think I should read first?


And for the sake of condensing the number of posts (oh, not like I've been running over the brim with posts this week...), here is the weekly giveaways roundup of all the new contests I've learned about this week:

Kitty the Werewolf Series by Carrie Vaughn (The Novel Bookworm), March 26

A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian (Lauren), March 27

3 signed copies of Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee (Jeannine), March 28

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott (Cheryl & Amber), March 30

Hunted by P.C. Cast (Reverie), April 1

Spring Break Giveaway (Bookluver-Carol), April 1

This Is What I Want to Tell You by Heather Duffy Stone (Lauren), April 3

Wicked Giveaway (The Epic Rat), April 17

In addition, author Cyn Balog is giving away a signed copy of her upcoming book, Fairy Tale, along with some really cute fortune cookie necklaces! Go to her LiveJournal to enter by April 13th.

Daily giveaways at Elizabeth Scott's blog (for her upcoming release of Something, Maybe) and KC Dyer's blog (for her March release of A Walk Through a Window) are still going on. Don't miss out on these cuz there are opportunities up the wall to win awesome stuff!


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