Monday, August 31, 2009

Hush, Hush Giveaway WINNER!

I know most of you have been dying to find out who the winner of the ARC of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick is. Let me just say that counting up nearly 600 entries--SIX HUNDRED!!!--is exhausting. I'm pooped. There has to be easier ways of doing it from now on, lol. We'll see.

Without further ado, the winner as picked by is:

#101 Angiegirl!

Congrats, Angiegirl! You got something that a lot of people were dying for, lol. I've already emailed you, so email me back ASAP with your info.

The rest of you, don't despair! There are plenty of Hush, Hush ARC contests going around the blogosphere, and October is not even that far off. Keep sticking around for more chances to win things on my blog really soon! :)

Review: Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani

Tags: MG, YA, boarding school, friendship, filmmaking

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Aspiring filmmaker 14-year-old Viola has been the only child of devoted documentary filmmakers her whole life, but her parents’ overseas assignment brings her to Prefect Academy, a boarding school for girls. Viola is sure that she’ll hate PA, but surprisingly she befriends her three roommates Marisol, Romy and Suzanne, and begins to learn that, with the help of loving friends and family, she, too, can flourish in a new environment.


VIOLA IN REEL LIFE is a straightforwardly charming book about learning to survive on your own. Adriana Trigiani’s YA debut is irresistible and chaste, perfect for readers of all ages.

Viola has a certain amount of spark and wit that I admire. She is always ready with a snarky comment—courtesy of her New York upbringing, says she—but she remains an adorably vulnerable girl, on her own for the first time in her life.

There are some aspects of this book that require some suspension of disbelief. For example, it’s pretty remarkable that a 14-year-old already knows what she wants to do with her life. Furthermore, her dealings with boys, particularly the easy way that Jared comes so smoothly into her life, are aspects that take away from the believability of this book. Through awkward plot points—or lack thereof—however, Viola’s dealings with her roommates, family, old friends, and potential love interests are realistic, and thus endearing.

I really enjoyed being with Viola for her freshman year at Prefect Academy. Despite the lack of interesting plot, Viola herself is appealing, and readers will enjoy following her through this period of growth. The ending suggests the possibility of a sequel, which I wouldn’t mind at all. VIOLA IN REEL LIFE is an agreeable addition to the world of MG and YA realistic fiction.

Similar Authors
Ann Brashares (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants)
Jill Alexander (The Sweetheart of Prosper County)

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 2/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - The yellow shoes are perfect for this character (but you'll have to read the book to find out why...). Also, I have a feeling that this cover is unlike many YA covers, in that it--along with the author's name--are sure to attract adult readers, which is great!

HarperTeen / Sept. 1, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In My Mailbox (16)

In My Mailbox is inspired by Alea and memefied by Kristi. Check out Kristi's post to see more people's IMM posts for this week!

The Life of Glass by Jillian Cantor
(HarperTeen / ARC / Feb. 2010)

Before he died, Melissa’s father told her about stars. He told her that the brightest stars weren’t always the most beautiful—that if people took the time to look at the smaller stars, if they looked with a telescope at the true essence of the star, they would find real beauty. But even though Melissa knows that beauty isn’t only skin deep, the people around her don’t seem to feel that way. There’s her gorgeous sister Ashley who will barely acknowledge Melissa at school, there's her best friend Ryan, who may be falling in love with the sophisticated Courtney, and there’s Melissa’s mother who’s dating someone new, someone who Melissa knows will never be able to replace her father.

To make sure she doesn’t lose her father completely, Melissa spends her time trying to piece together the last of his secrets and completing a journal her father began—one about love and relationships and the remarkable ways people find one another. But when tragedy strikes, Melissa has to start living and loving in the present, as she realizes that being beautiful on the outside doesn't mean you can't be beautiful on the inside.

Sarah from Blue Slip Media has been raving about this ever since she first contacted me, and so I'm ecstatic to have received an ARC--and this early before publication, too!

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji
(NAL Trade / PB / May 5, 2009)

In a middle-class neighborhood of Iran's sprawling capital city, 17-year-old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend Ahmed, joking around one minute and asking burning questions about life the next. He also hides a secret love for his beautiful neighbor Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. But the bliss of Pasha and Zari's stolen time together is shattered when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah's secret police. The violent consequences awaken him to the reality of living under a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice...

I've heard nothing but good things about this book since it came out in May, so I'm honored to have the opportunity to review it. Thank you!

Ripley's Believe It or Not: Seeing is Believing!
(Ripley Publishing / HB / Aug. 4, 2009)

Following hot on the heels of last year's best-selling edition, "Ripley's Believe it or Not 2009" offers a whole new feast of bizarre facts, fiends and freaks -all guaranteed to fascinate, surprise and amaze. Stare in wonder at the man who swallowed a solid steel sword underwater; gasp at the pelican who ate a pigeon; and, marvel at the man who swam down the Amazon, dodging piranhas, pirates and whirlpools. Illustrated throughout with extraordinary colour photographs, this fascinating book is a must-have for anyone intrigued by the stranger aspects of our planet and its inhabitants.

Yeah, yeah, I don't read much nonfiction, but strange-but-true facts are one of my weaknesses, hehe. Plus, my boyfriend will probably be very happy to help me review this. :) Thanks, Carolina!

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
(Little, Brown / ARC / Sept. 1, 2009)

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Came for a Traveling to Teens tour. Yay!!! I've wanted to read this for so long.

Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 1: The Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy
(HarperCollins / PB / reprint May 2009)
Skulduggery Pleasant, Book 3: The Faceless Ones by Derek Landy
(HarperCollins / HB / Sept. 1, 2009)

Summary for Book 1: Stephanie led a pretty quiet existence until her uncle died. Not only did he leave her his mansion, he left her a new best friend—Skulduggery Pleasant, a skeleton detective (sorry, a supernatural skeleton detective)—who waltzes into her life for keeps. Now she's acquiring magical powers, endangering her life to fight evil, and trading snappy comebacks with something without a body.

So much for her quiet existence.

Stephanie's big job is to find the Scepter of the Ancients—a weapon capable of destroying anyone and anything—before the evil Faceless Ones steal it for themselves. She just has to defeat a bunch of ghouls, kick the butts of a clan of vampires, and hide her powers from the entire world (oh, and her parents).

No worries. She's got a bunch of bones on her side.

I've been curious about this series ever since I first heard about it several months ago. Aren't the reprints gorgeous? Thank you, John Michael and HarperCollins!

The Sky Always Hears Me, and the Hills Don't Mind by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
(Flux / PB / Sept. 1, 2009)

Sixteen-year-old Morgan lives in a hick town in the middle of Nebraska. College is two years away. Her mom was killed in a car accident when she was three, her dad drinks, and her stepmom is a non-entity. Her boyfriend Derek is boring and her coworker Rob has a very cute butt that she can't stop staring at. Then there's the kiss she shared with her classmate Tessa...

But when Morgan discovers that the one person in the world she trusted most has kept a devastating secret from her, Morgan must redefine her life and herself.

I've been wanting to read this ever since I found it and featured it as one of my Waiting on Wednesday picks. I'm reading it right now and it is awesome. Thank you, Kirstin and Courtney at Flux!

Awakening Consciousness: A Girl's Guide! by Robin Marvel
(Loving Healing Press / PB / Nov. 2008)

Awakening Consciousness is a workbook designed to encourage spiritual growth on a path of self awareness. The fun hands-on exercises in this motivating, easy to use workbook are for girls of all ages and will encourage great exploration into universal Awareness. In this book you will:
  • Exercise your seven chakras
  • Learn about crystals
  • Discover how to keep a healthy aura
  • Explore your inner self
  • Practice learning the pendulum
  • Create your own future
  • Try aromatherapy with easy to do, fun crafts

  • Like I said earlier, I don't read much nonfiction, but I accepted this for review because this is exactly the type of book I would've read when I was in middle school, lol.

    Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti
    (EgmontUSA / ARC / Sept. 22, 2009)

    Meet the Bellweather family: Spider, a 14-year-old boy who surrounds himself and his family with dangerous--very dangerous--endangered animals; Ninda, a 13-year-old self-righteous do-gooder whose good deeds somehow always end in disaster; the 9-year-old triplets Spike, Brick, and Sassy, who speak to one another in Loud and Strong Voices; their hapless parents who only contribute to the chaos; and their wonderful, buttoned-up, and organized butler, Tristan Benway, who tells the tale of his attempted escape from the endangered alligators, scientific experiments run amok, smuggled-in circus performers, and general mayhem of the Bellweather family.

    I'm rediscovering my love for all things middle grade, and this seems like it will be a ton of fun. Thanks, Beth!

    Bought this week:

    None (need money for college books *cries*)

    From swaps:

    A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
    Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
    Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
    How to Steal a Car by Pete Hautman

    From the library:

    After by Amy Efaw
    Hollywood is Like High School With Money by Zoey Dean
    When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

    So all in all, I had an extremely happy week book-wise, hehe. What about you?

    Friday, August 28, 2009

    Review: Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

    Tags: YA, war, psychology, guilt

    Rating: 4 out of 5


    18-year-old Matt Duffy wakes up in an American-run hospital in Iraq with a bad headache, a limp, a Purple Heart, and no recollection of how he had gotten there. As he struggles to recover, both physically and mentally, Matt begins to see flashes of what happened the night before his hospitalization, images that don’t seem to match up with the accounts his friend Justin gives him.

    When Matt returns to his friends, he must deal with his confusing feelings of guilt, and the realization that nothing is ever black and white in tragedy…


    No one is better at tackling tough topics than perhaps Patricia McCormick, and PURPLE HEART joins the ranks of SOLD and CUT as strikingly sad, impossible to put down. If it doesn’t leave you crying, PURPLE HEART will at least make you ache for the difficult positions these soldiers are placed in.

    Young soldiers have rarely played a major role in modern YA lit, and so Matt Duffy is a refreshing character who lives up to his groundbreaking role in literature remarkably well. Matt and his comrades display all the vulnerabilities that we never even realized soldiers will have: gun-shyness after a traumatic event, the inability to make quick and easy decisions, and bravado that masks the very real fear of dying.

    McCormick’s language is alternately simple and lyrical, causing us to feel as if we are floating in another, fantastical world while simultaneously grounding us in harsh reality. Through Matt’s eyes we can notice the smallest details and see how they would affect a young soldier. In the end, what stands out to me about this novel are the little things: the warbling singing voice of a woman on the radio, the rhythmic up-and-down of a yo-yo, Halo video games. The beauty of McCormick’s writing is that, now, these simple images, these sensory details, will forever remind me of the horrors of war.

    PURPL HEART is a short read—hardly 200 pages—but it is by no means an easy read for anyone. And yet hardly has a book been needed to be read more. With war still such a big part of our society, we have needed a book like this for a long time. PURPLE HEART should be a must-read to open one’s eyes towards the complexities of war.

    Similar Authors
    Nancy Werlin (The Rules of Survival)
    E. R. Frank (America)
    David Levithan

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

    Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

    Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - I like it. I like the font used for the title, as well as the muted, earthy colors and the silhouettes of people running around. It gives a hopeful yet sad image at the same time.

    HarperTeen / Sept. 1, 2009

    Thanks, Alyssa, for sending me this copy!

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    Bancroft Press Promotion You Don't Want to Miss!

    Intrigued by my rave review for Back Creek by Leslie Goetsch? Was your interest piqued even more by my interview with the fascinating Leslie?

    Now's a great chance to pick up a Bancroft Press book you've been interested in, with a freebie attached! (Ordering info for Back Creek can be found here, by the way.) Check out this special, limited time only press release from Bancroft Press:

    Free Copy of Bill O’Reilly’s First Book Only Available Here

    Free, limited first-edition hardcover copies of Bill O’Reilly’s first book (Those Who Trespass), a $24.00 retail value, if you buy one or more of Bancroft’s other hardcovers at full price (choose from nearly 50 other titles ). Only 397 copies of Those Who Trespass available. All in mint-condition. Limit one per customer. Get free shipping, too. Use the code TWT when paying for your website purchase (

    Man, I'm sorely tempted to do this, especially looking at the amazing books that Bancroft Press is offering. Should I buy The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns by Elizabeth Leikness? That one's gotten great reviews from a variety of bloggers whose opinions I trust. But wait! What about The Case Against My Brother by Libby Sternberg? That's one I've heard about for a while and have always been curious to read. Oh, this is just too hard. Hurry and check out for a list of fantastic books, and don't miss out on this deal!

    Winners of And Then Everything Unraveled!

    Whoops! Sorry about belatedly posting this, guys. I know many of you have been dying to find out who the winner is. Without further ado...

    The first-place winner, who will receive his/her copy of And Then Everything Unraveled from Jennifer herself, is:

    #178 Ninja Fanpire!

    The second-place winner, who will receive a copy of And Then Everything Unraveled from me, is:

    #323 Noelle!

    Congrats to the winners! I've emailed you both, so get back to me as soon as you can with the requested info. If you didn't win this giveaway, you still have time to enter to win an ARC of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick - just click HERE to go there! But hurry: this giveaway ends tomorrow night!

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Waiting on Wednesday (27)

    Flash Burnout by L. K. Madigan

    Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him; the other one needs him.

    When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa’s long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake’s participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend. His experiences range from the comic (surviving his dad’s birth control talk) to the tragic (a harrowing after-hours visit to the morgue).

    In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself.

    This book first came to my attention when I saw it on one of Thao's Waiting on Wednesday posts, and I've been waiting for it ever since. The cover is attractive, in an intense, unforgettable way, and the synopsis promises that the book will be interesting, funny, AND poignant. Plus, some respected author acquaintances of mine, like Cindy Pon, have raved about it on Goodreads, making me want it all the more. With the potential and good words as that, what more can you ask for?

    Flash Burnout will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 19, 2009.

    Review (T2T): This Is What I Want to Tell You by Heather Duffy Stone

    Tags: YA, dark, friendship, siblings, sex

    Rating: 2.5 out of 5


    Twins Noelle and Nadio and Noelle’s best friend Keeley have been inseparable ever since they were children. But the summer before their junior year of high school, Keeley goes off to England, Noelle starts working at the ice cream parlor with new friend Jessica, and Nadio starts running at night. When Keeley returns, nothing is the same. Class issues arise, and Noelle withdraws from their trio and throws herself into her relationship with the older, more intense, and more experienced Parker.

    Unbeknownst to Noelle, Nadio and Keeley form a deep, romantic bond—but something’s still off. Keeley is holding something back. All these secrets that the three former friends are keeping from one another build and build until it all threatens to explode and ruin them forever.


    THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU was a so-so attempt at expressing the significance of a particular period in life for three friends. What it fails to do in terms of catching one’s attention, it makes up for in the blunt and often brutal writing style.

    The most striking part of this book is the style in which it was written. It’s rather simple and blunt, and therefore evokes pain, secrets, and other appropriately dark qualities. The way it was written reminded me of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, with both of their abilities to convey difficult, gut-wrenching yet quietly overpowering feelings of adolescent loneliness.

    That being said, the writing style was also what I liked least. It just seemed like too much at too many points in the story. From the very beginning of Nadio and Noelle’s narrations we get the sense that something monumental, something life-changing, has occurred to the three main characters—and yet the book never follows through on this potential. Instead, it wallows in the same feelings of teen-angst direness for most of the novel. These characters never get a break from their misery, and thus we readers don’t either, which can be immensely overwhelming and unsatisfying.

    THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU is a difficult but potentially rewarding read. If you like your teen angst novels dark and mired in shoals of hopelessness, this could be for you.

    Similar Authors
    Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak)
    Courtney Summers (Cracked Up to Be)
    Julia Hoban (Willow)

    Writing: 3/5
    Characters: 2/5
    Plot: 2/5

    Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5

    Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - I'm not really sure what it has to do with the book, but I don't think the cover is half bad. I like the placement and font of the title.

    Llewellyn / March 2009

    This tour is brought to you by Traveling to Teens - check out the Weebly for more info and tour dates!

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Review: The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander

    Publication date: Sept. 1, 2009 (Feiwel & Friends)

    Tags: MG, YA, South, small town, bullies, friendship

    Rating: 4.5 out of 5


    15-year-old Austin Gray is tired of being a nobody, of always being made fun of by her classmate, Dean Ottmer. She decides that the only way for her to be elevated above the taunts is to become a “sweetheart” in their Texas town’s annual Christmas parade, actually taking part and being looked up to.

    With the help of some new and old friends, Austin sets about obtaining the qualities she needs to be sweetheart material: she raises a rooster named Charles Dickens, tries her hand at hunting, and befriends junior members of the Future Farmers of America, who include the former FFA sweetheart and a sweet, cute budding cowboy. Part of Austin’s journey to become sweetheart, however, means convincing her overprotective mother, who is still mourning the death of Austin’s dad many years ago, to let her grow a little.


    I’m always on the lookout for books featuring farm, rural, small-town, or Southern fresh-faced girls, but THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY blows the competition right out of the water. The people of this quirky small town in Prosper County are funny, charming, and absolutely unforgettable.

    The characters steal the show for this super sweet book. Austin is a relatable protagonist, with her desires to not be made fun of, to step out of the crowd and be a winner for once. Her actions may cause us to cringe, remembering the bad decisions we made as an uncertain teen, but ultimately Austin pulls through and becomes a character to fall in love with.

    The plot is equal parts gut-achingly funny and poignant, the plot of THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY is sure to satisfy. Along with a group of interesting and well-developed friends, Austin navigates the slightly absurd process of achieving a sweetheart nomination. The result is a fun, fast-paced story that loses none of its sweetness or credibility.

    All in all, I adored THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY. Austin makes a fantastically believable and lovable protagonist, and the plot and supporting characters live up to the main character’s strength as well. This is a fantastic pick if you love funny, small-town Southern charm reminiscent of Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen series. Check it out!

    Similar Authors
    Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Dairy Queen)
    Jenny Han (Shug)
    Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)
    Meg Cabot

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

    Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

    Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - It's hit-or-miss at first sight--it would be a miss for me at first--but after reading and loving the book, the cover cracks me up! It's completely adorable and fitting for this quirky story. I'll never be able to look at a rooster again without thinking, "Charles Dickens!"

    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Review: Girl Stays in the Picture by Melissa de la Cruz

    Girl, Book 1

    Tags: YA, scandal, deception, fame, acting, guilty pleasure, St. Tropez, summer

    Rating: 3 out of 5


    Devon is the biggest teen star around, but ever since her stint in rehab, she needs the success of her starring role in a promising movie to make sure her career doesn’t tank. Devon’s friend and the producer’s daughter Livia underwent surgery to lose almost 200 pounds, and she’s finally beautiful and desired by boys. And fresh-faced Alabama beauty Casey follows her friend and star, Summer, to Saint Tropez, where she’s co-starring in what just happens to be the same movie that Devon’s in and Livia’s father is producing.

    But no sooner has everyone gathered in the beautiful south of France than do things begin to deteriorate. Devon finds that her role in the movie has been made less and less important, while more lines and screen time are given to Summer, whose acting is mediocre but whose nastiness is sure not. And she’s having trouble staying out of, well, trouble, especially when her ex and a Greek shipping heir enter the picture. Meanwhile, Livia’s dealing with a bland boyfriend she’s supposed to want to die for, while juggling emotions with a local male friend. And Casey, in between realizing that she has feelings for the movie’s sensitive male lead, sees her role become more “slave” rather than “personal assistant/friend.”

    Summer in St. Tropez—will anyone make it out unscathed?


    Melissa de la Cruz sure knows how to delight readers looking for a guilty-pleasure read, despite the predictable plot and formulaic characters. GIRL STAYS IN THE PICTURE has everything we could want out of this type of book: sympathetic yet glamorous characters, hot boys, scandals and deception, romance, and exotic locale and costumes.

    The changing POV allows readers to embrace Devon, Livia, and Casey as our own friends—friends to which glam and dramatic things happen, of course. We’re meant to cheer for and cry with our beautiful, yet vulnerable, protagonists as they maneuver the dangerous waters of fame and fortune.

    However, Melissa’s novels are beginning to blend together in my head. “Tried and true” does not necessarily work best in the book world. Devon’s insecurities clashing with her reputation, Livia’s body image issues, and Casey’s innocent beauty—are things reminding you of THE AU PAIRS yet? The climax of the story involves lots of broken hearts, breakdowns, and revelations of secrets…only to all be resolved in an ending that would’ve been completely saccharine had it not been for the cliffhanger ending (which works kind of well in this case).

    Similarly, the boys in GIRL are not as well developed as they can be; they seem to be vague incarnations of every girl’s dream boy, with no true personalities of their own. I would’ve loved more backstory and development of the romantic relationships. I was also rather put off that everything came together so neatly in the end for everyone. Much as we know that these three girls’ stories are not even close to reality, except the pretend one that’s in our head, would it hurt to leave just a little bittersweetness in the story?

    That being said, I enjoyed GIRL STAYS IN THE PICTURE for its fast and furious peak into the lives of the rich and famous. Melissa de la Cruz remains my go-to author for guilty-pleasure reads, and this series starter will not disappoint those looking for exactly that.

    Similar Authors
    Zoey Dean
    Cecily von Ziegesar

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

    Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    In My Mailbox (15)

    In My Mailbox is inspired by Alea and hosted by Kristi. Check out Kristi's post for links to others' IMMs!

    The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander
    (Feiwel and Friends / Sept. 1, 2009)

    Almost-15-year-old Austin Gray is tired of standing at the curb and watching the parade pass her by. Literally. She decides this is the year she’ll ride on the hood of a shiny pickup truck in the annual parade, waving to the crowd and finally showing the town bully that she’s got what it takes to be the Sweetheart of Prosper County.

    But far from simply being a beauty contest, becoming Sweetheart involves participation in the Future Farmers of America (FFA), raising an animal, and hunting or fishing. Austin will do almost anything to become Sweetheart, and has the support of her oldest friend, Maribel, her new FFA friends (including the reigning Sweetheart, and a quiet, cute cowboy), an evangelical Elvis impersonator, a mysterious Cajun outcast, and a rooster named Charles Dickens. If only her momma would stop overprotecting her, and start letting Austin live her own life. But Austin can’t move on until Momma moves on, too—and lets the grief of losing Austin’s daddy several years before out into the open.

    This book was ADORABLE. I can't wait to share my review with you all.

    How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
    (Scholastic Press / Oct. 1, 2009)

    New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn't made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It's not romance, exactly - but it's definitely love. Still, Bea can't quite dispel Jonah's gloom and doom - and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?

    This book was a surprise, and I was delighted. Originally I was put off by its obscenely pink cover and unwieldy title, but after reading Maggie Stiefvater's glowing review of it on Goodreads I've been wanting to check it out.

    Once a Witch by Carolyn McCullough
    (Clarion Books / Sept. 14, 2009)

    Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.

    The incredibly nice Jenny from Clarion offered to send me an ARC of this book after seeing it on my August wish list. Thank you so much!

    Thanksgiving at the Inn by Tim Whitney
    (Bancroft Press / Oct. 1, 2009)

    Ever since his mother left, life has't been easy for Heath Wellington III. Between his father's (Junior's) bouts with alcoholism and literary rejection, and Heath's own wrongful suspension from school, there hasn't been all that much to be thankful for.

    But following the tragic death of estranged grandfather Senior, father and son alike stand to inherit a life-changing fortune . . . with one catch.

    Heath and Junior must spend the next three months managing Senior's bed and breakfast, located in the same Massachusetts home Junior has spent the last eight years trying to escape. As Heath adjusts to his new world, what he needs most is to start anew with his father, to understand that Junior, too, is dealing with loss, and to realize that, even in the most tragic of times, there's a lot in life to be thankful for.

    I've had good experiences with Bancroft Press (they sent me Back Creek by Leslie Goetsch for review, which I loved), so I'm curious to see how I will like this one.

    Secrets of a Christmas Box by Steven Hornby
    (Ecky Thump Books, Inc. / Sept. 1, 2009)

    Enter the magical, festive world of the Christmas 'Tree-Dwellers', as Larry, a Christmas snowman, and his pet companion Tinsel, wake up after the long sleep in the Christmas box, to find his brother is missing. Unable to accept his loss, Larry, along with Tinsel, his girlfriend Debbie, and a newcomer Splint, break the laws of the 'Tree-Elders' and escape down the tree and away into the house, to look for clues to his brother's disappearance. Away from the safety of the tree, and desperate to piece back their families in time for Christmas, the small Tree-Dwellers stumble upon a dark and sinister secret, that threatens their whole way of life. However, they soon realize it's not just time that's against them, as they begin to unravel the 'Secrets of a Christmas Box'.

    It sounds like it could be interesting!

    Really, though, what's with all the holiday stuff? I haven't yet started my fall semester, and we're in the middle of a heat wave--I haven't even thought about the start of school, let alone the holiday season! :)

    I also bought like a ton of books and received books from swaps but keeping track and describing every single book that I obtain would be a nightmare, so my IMM posts usually feature just books sent to me by publishers or authors.

    What did you get this week??

    Saturday, August 22, 2009

    Lots of Bookish Memes

    So after delving through my blog archives and taking hours and hours to finally decide on the posts I'm submitting for my BBAW nominations, I need a brain-break. When I was younger I took surveys whenever I needed something fun and easy. I'd post them on my Xanga, MySpace, Facebook... whatever the space-of-the-moment is. It's because I really love lists of all kinds: to-do lists, wish lists, Christmas present lists, lists of favorites--it never ends!

    I've been seeing a ton of fun book-related memes that I've been wanting to do for a while. This is as good as any time to do them! Yay for lists and surveys!

    This one I found over at Carrie's blog:

    Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?
    I've become quite a bit of a hardcover lover over these past few months. I take great care of my books, and it's a lot harder to keep them pristine when they're paperbacks and are more likely to be bent or otherwise damaged in transport. With hardbacks it's a lot easier to take off the dust jackets and carry the sturdy book around!

    Barnes & Noble or Borders?
    It used to be Barnes & Noble because that was the closest one to my house, but at school I have a Borders down the street, and now wherever I am I go to Borders (at home in New Jersey, I'm willing to go the extra ten minutes to Borders) because of their fantastic and FREE Borders Rewards Program. Their weekly coupons are addictinggg.

    Bookmark or dog-ear?
    NEVER DOG-EAR. NEVER EVER EVER. Bookmarks are something I've only begun to use lately. I used to just la-la-la flip through the pages until I find where I had left off.

    Amazon or brick-and-mortar?
    I like going to the actual store to see and feel the physical books. Talk about a sensory delight for book lovers! However, I do like to save money when buying books, so I'll either wait for a coupon, try to swap for it, or buy it on Amazon. The case is different for indies, though: I never mind paying full price there!

    Alphabetize by author, or alphabetize by title, or random?
    Eventually in my future dream library I will have my books organized by age genres--juvenile fiction, middle grade, young adult, adult, classics, nonfiction (yes, I know this off the top of my head)--and then alphabetically within each genre. Now, however, I've got my books organized by size, then alphabetically, so that I can save room and pile books on top of each other. I like orderliness. ^_^

    Keep, throw away, or sell?
    I rarely sell my books. I have a habit of buying more books than I can read, but I end up only keeping the ones I really enjoy, am impressed by/can learn from, and/or will reread. The others I either give away or swap. Throwing books away is blasphemy!

    Keep dust jacket or toss it?
    UGH. Keep, all the way. I won't keep a book in my permanent collection if it doesn't have its dust jacket.

    Read with dust jacket or remove it?
    Yeah, I answered this in the first question, but I remove it to keep it pretty. :)

    Short story or novel?
    I'm a novels girl. I've been a novels girl my whole life, except for the occasional exception such as short stories by Roald Dahl or, uh... yeah, the exceptions are rare. There is just something more satisfying about novels, either reading or writing them.

    Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
    Definitely Harry Potter. Quality writing, dozens of unforgettable characters, and a plot so intricate I have no idea how J. K. Rowling keeps track of everything. I only read/listened to the first couple Lemony Snicket books, but they got old pretty quickly, unfortunately. Although the other day I was tempted to buy a brand-new complete set of The Series of Unfortunate Events for the bargain price of $25...

    Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
    I stop when I'm tired. Sometimes stopping in the middle of a chapter or even a paragraph works better for me than trying to stop at chapter breaks, especially when the writer likes to write cliffhanger-y, wait-what-happens-next?! chapter endings a la Maria Snyder. For the most part I think of chapter breaks the same way I think of those double-spaced breaks in between chunks of writing, both of which tempt me to read on. It's thus better if I just stop in the middle of something.

    “It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
    "Once upon a time." I'm a fairy tale lover, and a hopeless romantic at heart. For the most part, "Once upon a time" promises a "happily ever after."

    Buy or borrow?
    lol I used to be so much better at just borrowing from the library! Unfortunately I've gotten into a really bad habit of wanting to covet the books over the past few years, which has led to awful buying sprees. I'd say that of the hundreds of books I've bought, I've read only about a third; the other two-thirds remain to be read, only more books keep on coming in! Ahhh!

    Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse?
    Ooh, this is a hard one for me. I think word-of-mouth (or, er, -hand, in this blogging, twittering world) influences me the most. I enjoy reading reviews but when a blogger I respect raves about a particular book in his or her Goodreads or Twitter statuses (statii? hee) I snap to attention and take great notice. I haven't bought from browsing in a long while, but I sometimes do that when I'm at the library.

    Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
    Like, ending-of-the-book ending or chapter ending? With chapter endings I'm a sucker for cliffhangers; it's what's caused me to finish The Da Vinci Code and Poison Study and The Hunger Games in one straight stretch of reading. I like tidy final endings, though, even if the book is part of a series; series are strongest when each book can technically stand alone. (See: Harry Potter.)

    Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
    I often read at night, when I find myself unable to immediately fall asleep--and I do give up pretty quickly. Since this summer I've grown to enjoy reading while commuting to work. Hopefully I'll be able to get a job with a commute, so that I can do the bulk of my reading then and during lunch breaks. ^_^

    Stand-alone or series?
    Stand-alones are great. Series can be tricky buggers to accomplish well, but if they're done well--whoo boy, I absolutely love them. What I'm not really a fan of is companion stand-alone novels where important characters from previous books pop up. I'm really not a fan of Sarah Dessen's characters all being linked through less than the average seven degrees of separation. Egads.

    Favorite series?
    Oh man, this is soooo hardddd... Let me think. I'd have to say that Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series is my all-time favorite. I never get sick of that series, no matter how many times I reread those books.

    Favorite children’s book?
    Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine literally elevated me from serial juvenile fiction to quality middle grade fiction and a greater love of reading in general. Seriously. I discovered that book and my whole outlook on reading and writing changed. That was the book that made me want to WRITE.

    But for the record, honorable mentions are The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensburger. Oh, and Anne of Green Gables, of course, though that was more in my middle school years.

    Favorite YA book?
    These questions are why I like that the info on my Facebook page is so thorough... It's impossible to pick just one so I'll go with several that will forever be my favorites: Stargirl, Saving Francesca, The Hero and the Crown, Tithe, The Goose Girl, This Lullaby, The Hunger Games, Poison Study.

    Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
    *pulls up handy-dandy Word document of--you guessed it!--my favorite books of all time* I don't know if there's anything THAT obscure, but I absolutely loved Good Girls by Laura Ruby.

    Favorite books read last year?
    2008, eh? I wish I had kept better track that year. Let me pretend I know exactly when I read these books: Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, Sula by Toni Morrison, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

    Favorite books of all time?
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
    The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins
    The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
    This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
    the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty
    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    Poison Study by Maria Snyder

    I would say that those books complete my life.

    What are you reading right now?
    Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

    What are you reading next?
    Probably Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani, for review. Finishing up a reread of Graceling by Kristin Cashore since Beth and I have been having an awesome conversation about it lately.

    Favorite book to recommend to an 11-year-old?
    Oh boy, let's see. When I was 11... Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine for a girl, the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix for a boy.

    Favorite book to re-read?
    I read The Hunger Games twice in a row when I first read it, and I don't think I can ever get sick of it. Ever.

    Do you ever smell books?
    Um, yeah. I love the new books smell. It makes me giddy.

    Do you ever read primary source documents like letters or diaries?
    I wish I had a greater attention span, because I do love reading diaries. I'd like to finish reading all of L. M. Montgomery's journals one day.


    Now for a not-so-bookish meme, taken from Steph Bowe of Hey! Teenager of the Year:

    Available or single? I readjusted the question so it made sense, idiots. I'm taken.

    Best Friend? I would say my...boyfriend, probably. Although he fills a number of important roles in my life.

    Cake or Pie? Depends on what kind of pie. Seriously. Cherry pie? I'm all yours. Anything else, I'll take the cake.

    Drink of choice? I am an absolute sucker for Nestea sweetened iced tea.

    Essential item for every day use? Unfortunately lately it's been my laptop. It used to be my pen and journal. Let's revert to the olden days.

    Favorite color? A lovely, rich shade of emerald green.

    Google? Um...yes? I don't get this question.

    Hometown? I was born in New York City, but I moved to a nice lil' suburb in northern Jersey when I was a month old. And yet my friends still like to joke that I'm a New Yorker at heart. Maybe I am.

    Indulgences? Food. Lots and lots of it.

    January or February? I would say January if not for the grueling ten-day swimming training trip I have to take. So it's February because of tapering and championships (all related to swimming). Ask me again in a few years and it might change. :)

    Kids and their names? I've always been partial to Evan and Luke for boys, Lea for a girl, and I'm sure there were more (I have a list somewhere; I AM the listmaster, after all) but I can't remember anything else off the top of my head.

    Life is incomplete without...? Reading.

    Marriage date? Mid-October, when the leaves are brilliant.

    Number of siblings? Two younger brothers. I love them to pieces, even if they won't acknowledge our relation sometimes.

    Oranges or apples? Clementines or fuji apples. Or those light green ones that have a twinge of sour and tang to them.

    Phobias and fears? Suffocation. Breaking a bone or otherwise causing my body some sort of serious injury.

    Quote for the day? "Hope is the thing with feathers" - Emily Dickinson. I saw it on someone's tag line in Paperbackswap and had to immediately look the poem up. I love Emily.

    Reason to smile? Because I'm living and breathing and experiencing and passionate.

    Season? Autumn. The colors, the temperature... perfect.

    Tag 3 people? Well, if you really want to... and only if you want to! Beth Revis, Yan, and Khy

    Unknown fact about me? I love playing the piano. I specialize in showtunes and film scores.

    Vegetable you hate? Celery. The fuzzy pea ones...edamame?

    Worst habit? I bite the skin around my fingernails.

    Xrays you've had? My head... MRIs are awful.

    Your fave food? I would probably die without my mom's curry chicken with rice. Particularly the rice part. As a swimmer, I'd be dead without my carbs. I love my carbs.

    Zodiac sign? Pisces.


    Actually, the next few may all be from Steph... she went through a period where she did a bunch of these... now it's my turn...

    Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
    Only positive reviews dont' turn me away from books, although I do have to admit that I didn't enjoy Shiver quite as much as everyone else seems to have.

    If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
    I can't answer this question, because in groups of more than two people, my conversational abilities shut down. Seriously. I'm absolutely awful in groups, but engage me in a one-on-one conversation and I'll seem like the most interesting and intelligent and funniest person you've ever met. (Er, sort of.) Anyway, I'd meet Jessica Darling (from Megan McCafferty's books) in some place where the wait/subpar service/idiotic company would make us form an unbreakable lifetime bond, and she'd go home and wax eloquent about me in her journal.

    (Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
    Moby Dick. If the book is anything like that old movie rendition I saw, then I'd be dead before page 30.

    Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?
    There are three big ones that I can think of. Moby Dick by Herman Melville, which was the book I got randomly selected to do a ridiculous project on in high school English. The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens in 9th grade English: I just cannot stomach his writing. And Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner for a college course: it was my third Faulkner book of the semester and by far the worst. I already had enough of Faulkner, so I just stopped reading after the first chapter and Sparknoted it.

    As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?
    Um, Romeo and Juliet? We failed to get to it in 9th grade English, and instead only spent, like, two days on it right before the final. Talk about disrespecting the Bard! (Although the story in question is cheesy, anyway...)

    You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalize the VIP.)
    The Hunger Games, because it's a book that will appeal to any gender, any race (I think/hope), and any age.

    A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?
    Japanese; do you know how hard it would be for a non-native speaker to master otherwise?

    A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?
    Um, I have no problem with this fairy, although I think she should go do something better with her time. I think I'll pick any of Kristin Cashore's books; they're always good for questions about gender equality, feminism, and the constructs of fantasy.

    That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead—let your imagination run free.
    Easy question. I'd love as much hardcover as possible, and for all the covers to match within series. A bright, spacious, and well-lit room with plenty of comfy sofas to read in. Maybe even a super-cool fireplace at night. Floor-to-ceiling light-colored shelves. No annoying rollable ladder, please.


    What author do you own the most books by?
    I'd say either Sarah Dessen or Margaret Peterson Haddix--but the latter only because she's so prolific.

    What book do you own the most copies of?
    I don't really know... I suppose I've owned at some point several copies and variations of Anne of Green Gables.

    What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
    Char from Ella Enchanted. More recently Valek from Poison Study, but Char has got my back for the past ten years.

    What book have you read more than any other?
    Excluding the books that I read over and over again as a child because they were the only books in my house... probably The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.

    What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
    The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensburger.

    What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
    I've read some god-awful self-published books for review.

    What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
    Impossible to pick. Top honors go to The Hunger Games, Poison Study, and Ash.

    What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
    Anything by Faulkner. Hah! Take that, you dead old white Southern man!

    Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
    Oh noooo. The French had Dumas, with The Count of Monte Cristo (absolutely brilliant book, you must read it for high-class entertainment), but I love Crime and Punishment and The Cherry Orchard. I may have to go with the crazy Russians for now... at least until I've read more Dumas and finally attempt Les Miserables.

    Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
    Difficult. Maybe Chaucer, because The Canterbury Tales is kind of like a collection of short stories, which is the length I like my Old English classics to be.

    Austen or Eliot?
    Austen. Even though I haven't read any Eliot. But I'm pretty sure my decision would not change even if I had.

    What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
    Probably modern adult classics like Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Jonathan Safran Foer, Joseph Heller... and on and on. Luckily I have all of their books on my TBR shelf!

    What is your favorite novel?
    If I had to go with just one, it'd be Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She wrote it two centuries ago and it's still my favorite. That's a crazy accomplishment for a classic.

    What is your favorite play?
    Difficult. I enjoy a lot of them. The existentialists were bizarre. But probably Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. In 12th grade English I did an assignment where we had to write one more scene to the ending. I loved doing that, and finding out all the symbolism.

    What is your favorite poem?
    Lots of short ones, but a longer one would probably be Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott," if only because Megan Follows performs it so brilliantly as Anne Shirley in the movie.

    What is your favorite essay?
    I mean, I haven't really read much, but probably "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift. Come on, when a man writes intelligently satirizing eating babies as the solution to world overpopulation, you can't but love it.

    What is your favorite short story?
    I really like "The Wonderful Tale of Henry Sugar" by Roald Dahl, even though the anthology it was in scared me when I was younger. That man is crazy!

    What is your favorite non-fiction?
    The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins. A heartbreaking, eye-opening, and shocking look into what high schoolers will do to get into the "elite" colleges.

    What is your favorite graphic novel?
    I don't really read graphic novels... I read manga sometimes? For manga I like Marmalade Boy and Absolute Boyfriend. I'm absolutely girly when it comes to my manga.

    What is your favorite science fiction?
    Depends on what you label as science fiction. I'll just go with Ender's Game, to be fair and to avoid too much head-hurting.

    I read one called Gift Hands by Ben Carson that I really enjoyed. First They Killed My Father is an account of a Cambodian childhood. And Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah should be a must-read for every middle schooler.

    Favorite History/Historical Novel?
    When I was younger I read Ann Rinaldi's The Second Bend in the River over and over again. Tecum-theh! Tecum-theh! And Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years in Laura Ingalls Wilder's series are my favorites.

    Favorite mystery or noir?
    Mmm... I don't read much in that genre... uh, Dan... Brown? His Robert Langdon books are good for one-time reads.

    Favourite romance?
    I don't read much romance, but I'm recently getting into Gena Showalter's paranormal romances. They're pretty awesome.

    Favourite teen book?
    *in Cockney accent* Difficult to say, me friend. Er, maybe The Hunger Games. But then again, it might be because that's the one that's been on my mind the most throughout this whole post...

    Who is your favourite writer?
    I admire Sarah Dessen, Robin McKinley, Megan McCafferty, and Beth Kephart, among many others.

    Who is the most over rated writer alive today?
    Well, Faulkner's dead, so... is Salinger still alive? Cuz I hated The Catcher in the Rye. What a whiny, useless, foul-mouthed protagonist.

    What are you reading right now?
    Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

    What book do you wish someone wrote so you could read it?
    I want a Jessica Darling-like character who's Asian. I think we need a kick-ass Asian protagonist with the wit and snark of Jessica. Actually, I just think we need some more Asian main characters in YA lit in general, who are not going through an identity crisis of the racial bent.

    Friday, August 21, 2009

    Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

    Tags: YA, summer, beach, love triangle

    Rating: 4.5 out of 5


    For 15-year-old Belly, summer has always meant the beach house with her mother, her older brother, Steven, and family friends Susannah and her sons Conrad and Jeremiah. Although Belly is only younger by a couple of years, the boys have always made her feel left out in a way. This summer, though, Belly’s suddenly grown into her body, and she’s eager to believe that she might finally be accepted as an equal. Perhaps Conrad, the brooding brother whom she’s loved for almost half her life, will finally see her as more than a younger sister type.

    What Belly doesn’t realize is that the summer just might be more than about the boys. It could be about family, friendship, growing up… and love.


    The synopsis may make Belly seem shallow and the story flighty, but it is not. At all. With her sophomore novel, Jenny Han has done it again, writing a character-driven story that’s so poignant, you’ll wonder if she got her inspiration from either real events or a Lifetime movie.

    Jenny Han makes writing seem effortless. She has a natural yet phenomenal way of making characters come to life through subtle but effective exchanges, musings, and flashbacks. Her talent for writing three-dimensional characters makes sure that the story does not fall into a predictable rut. Belly is a darling protagonist: full of spunk, bite, and an appropriate level of girliness and immaturity. All of the guys in Belly’s life are legitimately likeable, and the ending is both bittersweet and doubly touching as a result. There are no character clichés here.

    Belly’s narration switches constantly from flashbacks to present-day, which at times can get confusing, but is more useful in helping us understand the characters. With this format, we are given a slow-paced and thoughtful story—which could've gotten boring, but never was, thanks to the wonderful characters. I even found myself tearing up at the end, so deeply I had been unknowingly drawn into Belly’s enchanting summer world.

    THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY is an underrated book, and Jenny Han is an author who is all too often overlooked. But she has me convinced in her second book; I am now in awe of her character-writing abilities, and cannot wait to read more of her writing.

    Similar Authors
    Aimee Friedman
    Gayle Forman
    Sarah Ockler
    Sarah Dessen

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

    Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

    Simon & Schuster / May 2009

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Book Blogger Appreciation Week Nominations!

    I... I'm... I... I don't really know what to say. I'm kind of shaking. Also, my brain is a mess and has been because I swear this disgustingly hot and humid weather messes with my vibezzz. But seriously, guys: five BBAW nominations? FIVE???!!!??? [Edit 8/21: six now. SIX! *faints*] I'm absolutely bowled over. You've stolen my words. I can't thank those who nominated me enough. This is a great honor, both for me and my writing, and I can only hope that I don't disappoint you in the selections process, and that maybe--hopefully--I will make it into the shortlist for at least one of these categories.

    I was nominated for the following two niche categories:

    Best General Review Blog
    Best YA Blog

    Each nominated blog can only be shortlisted in one niche category, and since my focus is really on YA, I'm flabbergasted at the General Review nod and will try to dig up from the mound of archives any non-YA reviews I've done for that category (lol).

    I was also nominated for the following categories:

    Most Humorous/Funniest
    Best Reviews
    Best New Blog

    Best Reviews?!?!? ZZZZZINNGGGGGG!!! (That's the sound of me electrifying myself out of the seat of my chair.) Wow! I'm not quite sure I understand the Funniest nomination; I figure the funny part is probably the part where I was nominated for that...? :) Just kidding. Anyway, THANK YOU THANK YOU. This is absolutely incredible.

    [edit: 8/21] Just got a last minute email saying I was nominated for Best Writing! Ahhhhhhh!

    I have to select 5 posts to send in for the judges' consideration for each category. The posts may overlap. I'm going to spend most of my free time today and tomorrow going through my posts and trying to find ones I think are most representative of me and my blog, but if you guys have any particular favorites that you think I should send in, LET ME KNOW, PLEASE! (Particularly for the Funniest one. I have a feeling that's going to require me unearthing my narcissistic side and rereading every single one of my posts, to find that elusive "funny."

    Anyway, if you're interested, I'll probably be updating this space numerous times between today and tomorrow as I gather my posts, so feel free to chime in with your suggestions anytime!

    And here is the BBAW meme, which reads like a brainstorming of a thank-you speech at certain points. Whoops. What can I say? I love every opportunity I get to give thanks to you guys.

    1) What has been one of the highlights of blogging for you?

    Easy question: meeting authors, other bloggers, readers... just being able to meet all these YA lovers! I've been reading YA since my middle school days, but this is the first year I've actually been able to find people with whom I can have a conversation about Sarah Dessen, or talk about how super nice Michelle Zink is, or how we all have a fangirly crush on John Green... and they know what I'm talking about!! Being part of the YA blogging community has made me continue to read and write YA in the face of scarily academic and "classic" college readings. It's like I was homeless and I didn't even know it... until I came into this community and found people who share my love of YA. It's utterly incredible.

    2) What blogger has helped you out with your blog by answering questions, linking to you, or inspiring you?

    Lenore has been there since the very beginning, commenting even when I was a wee little blogger just starting up. I don't know how she does it, how she manages to keep up her fantastic blog while simultaneously making friends and commenting and encouraging EVERYWHERE, but I thank her for doing it. Jenny and Thao were two of the first bloggers I befriended, and I still love them to death for being so sweet and talented. If the world suddenly shrank one day, I'd love to be able to find them in the melee that would follow. (Hehhhhh.)

    I've also made a bunch of blogger friends whom I'd love to get to meet in person one day: Brooke, Beth, Aerin, Alyssa, Lizzie, Donna, Khy, to name just a few. The list of authors whom I've gotten to talk to is perhaps even longer, and they simply make my day. Thank you all!

    3) What one question do you have about BBAW that someone who participated last year could answer?

    I'm not sure what to ask because I feel like this year's BBAW is already so different than last year's in terms of volume and attendance! I guess I'm curious about what new blogs you discovered as a result of last year's BBAW. I'm primarily YA, and am curious to see what other book review blogs are out there.

    For more information about Book Blogger Appreciation Week, check out their website/blog HERE!

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    Waiting on Wednesday (26)

    Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

    From Goodreads:

    What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

    Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

    Holy cow. Oh holy, holy, holy... It has a certain Mitch Albom (The Five People You Meet in Heaven)- and Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones)-like feel to it, doesn't it? Plus, you should read what power-YA authors such as Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher have to say about Before I Fall on its Amazon page. Can it get any better than that? I mean, without gushing: seriously?? I have a feel that Lauren Oliver's debut book will be the next big thing in YA lit, and now I'm all the more excited for when I get to read it.

    P.S. You should all check out Lauren's blog here. And no, I'm not making some sort of paid service announcement; it's because Lauren is about 45 kinds of wonderful and her writing is really that interesting to read. So step on it!

    Before I Fall will be published by HarperCollins on March 2, 2010, and oh my goodness, I just realized that is more than half a year away. Darn.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Review: Intertwined by Gena Showalter

    Publication date: September 1, 2009 (Harper TEEN)

    Tags: YA, paranormal, romance, evil

    Rating: 2 out of 5


    Aden Stone has four souls living within him. One time travels, one predicts the future, one raises the dead, and one can possess other bodies. These four voices clamor nonstop in Aden’s head, giving him no peace…until one day, when he stumbles across an unassuming girl, and the souls are suddenly, startlingly, and wonderfully silent.

    Mary Ann Gray has no idea that she is about to become entangled in a world filled with mythical creatures. When Aden enrolls at her high school, she feels an insistent platonic attraction to him, despite his scary reputation and gorgeous looks. Meanwhile, Mary Ann befriends a werewolf with dark intentions, and Aden cannot resist the attraction of a vampire princess who comes into his life.

    In this world of darkness, however, love and friendship comes at a price…


    It’s unfortunate that the premise is so appealing, because, for me, INTERTWINED was an overwritten, confusing, and crowded paranormal mess. Too much was implied and told directly to readers, the characters were unappealing, and the whole thing was just way too long to hold my attention.

    Showalter has the unfortunate penchant of telling, not showing, and making her characters take agonizingly slow paragraphs to undergo a simple thinking process. Any story that relies heavily on the main characters’ romantic appeal must work on showing us readers the attraction and potential, instead of telling us over and over again, “X couldn’t resist Y. Z was scared to show her feelings” etc.

    As a staunch fan of Showalter’s adult Harlequin romances, I was disappointed that she seemed to feel the need to “dumb down” her writing for the young adult crowd. Please. It’s the R-rated sexual thoughts and scenes that need to go, not intelligent character development. Teenagers can tell the difference between an author who knows the teen voice and an author who typically writes for adults and is just trying to make his or her way into the YA genre.

    It goes without saying, then, that I couldn’t make myself care for the characters. They were self-absorbed, overbearingly introverted when it came to pondering, and didn’t do anything really worth mentioning. So Aden attacks a werewolf, gets bullied, and wants to lavish the vampire princess. So Mary Ann has a few conversations with her friend and boyfriend, and continues to hang out with the werewolf even though his monstrous presence supposedly frightens her because she never knows what’s going on.

    By this point, a discerning reader will simply ask the important question: so what? Where are all of these disconnected and emotionally distant events leading up to? In the end it didn’t matter, because I was already tired of being narrated to like I have an IQ of 50 by a bunch of unlikable characters. I put the book down.

    I have to give Gena and Harlequin TEEN this, though: they certainly have the right idea of what story elements will appeal to today’s Twilight audience. Readers looking for equally emotionally tortured paranormal romances will no doubt find their way to this new line. I have not read Showalter’s other YA books, but unfortunately I just cannot tolerate stories that insult my intelligence—and nor should I have to. Next time, Gena. Next time, Harlequin TEEN.

    Similar Authors
    P. C. Cast
    Cara Lockwood
    Stephenie Meyer

    Writing: 2/5
    Characters: 2/5
    Plot: 2/5

    Overall Rating: 2 out of 5

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Review (T2T): As You Wish by Jackson Pearce

    Publication date: Aug. 25, 2009 (HarperTeen)

    Tags: YA, magic, genies, art, love

    Rating: 4.5 out of 5


    After her best friend and boyfriend, Lawrence, breaks out with her by coming out, Viola has desperately wished to feel as if she belonged to something meaningful and passionate again. Her strong desire summons Jinn out of his genie world to grant her three wishes.

    Jinn just wants to get the wishes over with so that he can return home to the safe and predictable loveliness of Caliban. Viola holds off on wishing, however, unsure of what it is she wants, exactly, and Jinn is forced to remain in the mortal world with her. As the days pass, Jinn comes to care for her more than he has ever cared about anyone before, and Viola finds that she can’t live without him.

    But when Viola makes her third and final wish, Jinn will be forced to leave her life forever.


    Sounds like the synopsis for the next Disney movie, right? Maybe—but it’s one that would appeal to both the children AND the parents. AS YOU WISH took me by surprise with its sincere charm, lighthearted humor, and the best kind of romance.

    The development of Viola and Jinn’s relationship from master-genie to romantic love was extraordinarily well done. It was subtle and likable, like a romantic comedy movie unfolding before your eyes, except in words. It seemed completely natural for them to start off wary of one another and then to develop into friends, and finally something more. It is rare nowadays to find a romance that doesn’t start off from insta-connection and physical attraction, so Viola and Jinn’s relationship stands out to me in the best way.

    Likewise, supporting characters are also realistic. With the exception of maybe Aaron, I could believe in the genuineness of the characters’ interactions with one another. Lawrence in particular is a standout secondary character, one whose fate post-story we can actually feel ourselves caring about.

    Perhaps the greatest thing about AS YOU WISH, however, is Jackson Pearce’s effortless narration. How many authors can truly tell a charming story out of a concept that rides the fence on being sweet and too saccharine? AS YOU WISH didn’t read like a forced novel to me, but more like me experiencing a good friend’s story, or living out my favorite romantic comedy. I found myself crying through the ending, so involved was I in Jinn, Viola, and Lawrence’s story.

    Don’t be fooled by its childlike cover and fairy tale premise. AS YOU WISH makes you believe in wish-granters and the fact that love can triumph all. This is magical realism at its best, completely worth the list price, and one of the best love stories I’ve read all year.

    Similar Authors
    Meg Cabot
    E. Lockhart

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

    Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

    Cover discussion: 1 out of 5 - Um... NO!!! You don't have an idiotic looking girl on the cover of ANY book, much less a good one. The model looks like she just had her wisdom teeth pulled and is plotting a way to get back at her dentist. I hope they realize they need to change this in the paperback version.

    This review is brought to you by Traveling to Teens, created and run (mostly) by Yan.

    Thank you, Khy, for lending me your copy for review!

    Saturday, August 15, 2009

    Discussion: Is the New LIAR Cover Not Enough?

    As most of you know by now, last week's big news was publishing giant Bloomsbury's announcement that they were changing the original cover of Justine Larbalestier's YA psychological thriller, LIAR, into something more representative of Justine's intentions for Micah, the protagonist. The original cover featured a white-looking girl with long, smooth tresses--when Micah is described as being racially mixed, with nappy black hair. The new cover, unveiled last week, looks like this:

    A vast improvement over the original, right? The model's race is now consistent with the main character's. When Justine posted the picture on her blog, people went wild with praise. Many are in love with this beautiful cover.

    It's beautiful, yes, there's no doubt about it. The girl has the kind of inhuman beauty that makes us hate yet worship supermodels at the same time. And oh yes, it's quite wonderful that the model's race now matches the race that Justine intended Micah to be.

    But when my first reaction upon seeing this cover was, "Oh. Ah... well... ah... okay, I guess."

    Shocked? Horrified? Incensed at my less-than-passionate response to the new cover? Let me try to explain why I feel this way.

    I feel like many readers read books with one of two goals in mind: they want to escape into another, fully realized world, or else they want to find a story that resonates with them, that they can relate to. Either way, one of the most important things is our ability to believe in the MC as a real person, complete with complexities, contradictions, passions, and vulnerabilities. Books like the Gossip Girl or A-List series may be great guilty-pleasure reads, but I doubt that many people read these books and go, wow, I can really relate to / want to be / can see myself in [insert bitchy, beautiful, and tormented character name here]!

    In the same way, a book's cover influences the way we perceive the story and characters, whether that is the author and publisher's intentions or not. A cover should aim to reflect the overall mood of the book, if not to provide us with a minutely accurate photograph of what the MC looks like (because every person's preception of the book's MC is slightly different).

    When Bloomsbury exchanged the original white model for a black one, they addressed part of the issue, but with an impassioned solution. The new LIAR cover is not enough because this model is absurdly status-quo beautiful. This model has a face that you'd be more likely to see in a Cosmo ad for makeup than in real life. Even more upsetting is that this is the superior--white--race's definition of beauty: the mainstream population is taught that this sort of beauty--symmetry, flawless complexion, soulful eyes--is the sort of look we should all strive for in order to be considered beautiful. Never mind that the model's skin is dark; she has the type of beauty that would be accepted in any social or ethnic stratosphere she journeys to.

    When Bloomsbury replaced the white face that once stood on the cover, they replaced it with an image of beauty that the white, mainstream population considers acceptably beautiful. It's the tactless equivalent of darkening a mainstream model's skin using PhotoShop: there is still something "truthful" missing from this cover. We are still using the "white" standards of beauty for the cover.

    The issue of having minority models on book covers is far from having a quick fix. Bloomsbury did a fairly respectable job switching covers in such a short amount of time. However, this cover is a shallow surface fix that has still not succeeded in addressing the fact that white standards dominate almost every aspect of society. Like Neesha Meminger said brilliantly in her guest post on Justine's blog, this is an issue that the dominant race--the white race--needs to address with passionate, prolonged, and never-ending fervor.

    This is not a one-time battle, nor is it a one-step solution. The problem lies deeper within our society, the product of hundreds of years of intellectual and biological evolution. Says Zetta Elliott in her insightful comment on Justine's blog entry about the new cover:
    As Justine correctly points out, Hollywood and Madison Ave. have long shown a preference for women of color who approximate white standards of beauty; you may not know, however, that this “preference” extends much farther back to the time of slavery.... White abolitionists, committed to ending slavery, could still only sympathize with enslaved women who looked “almost” white (this also operated in literature–Uncle Tom’s Cabin being a glaring example)....

    So please don’t dismiss the significance of colorism in today’s society; light-skin privilege (of which I am a beneficiary) is an extension of white supremacy. We need to call it out whenever we see it, and insist upon the human/humane depiction of dark-skinned people in visual culture. Bloomsbury pulled a fast one on us, and I’m about as grateful to them as I am to those white abolitionists who only bought the freedom of pretty, light-skinned slaves.
    We have been brought up to believe that the dominant race's standards for pretty much everything is the definition of perfection. Go to college. Raise a family. Have smooth and shiny hair. The cover satisfies the superior race's definitions of beauty and acceptance. But is it a good representation of our society? Says homasse in the comments section:
    They went with as light a Black woman as they could find who would still instantly code as “Black.” Black enough to be Black and exotic, but not TOO Black or Black enough to be threatening.... But I guess we have to take what victories we can get. At least now there is a Black woman on the cover, and that’s, well, something.
    Is this cover a satisfying solution to the dilemma of an overbearingly white dominance in numerous aspects of publishing and marketing? Must I look at this cover and still think that my looks are inadequate, because I will never have clear skin, a symmetrical face?

    Bloggers, readers, authors, and other members of the reading world clamored for a black face on the cover. Well, we got a black face... but one that is still one that conforms to the status quo. It's a step in the right direction, but in the end, it's not enough. It may even be a cop-out.

    So, no, I am not satisfied with this LIAR cover. There's a black model on the cover, sure, but she's beautiful by the standards of this world's superior race, and thus fails to address the fact that "white" values are still the only acceptable standards we must all strive towards. I hope that people don't see this changed cover and think that our battle has been won. This is not a win by any stretch; there's a long way to go yet before the representations of humanity that grace the covers of books, magazines, and movies will accurately reflect the diversity of our looks and beliefs. There's a long way to go before the word "beautiful" does not instantly bring one particular image to mind.

    What do you think about this issue?


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