Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fun Book Meme to Fill Out!

The extremely lovely Susan had this up on her blog, and I am very unoriginally stealing it - but really because it just looks like so much fun! I hope you read it, enjoy it, comment on it, and then pass it on to your own blogs!

One book you’re currently reading: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

One book that changed your life: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

One book you’d want on a deserted island: a Jane Austen anthology--or a book that tells you how to get off a deserted island

One book you’ve read more than once: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

One book you’ve never been able to finish: Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte

One book that made you laugh: Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

One book that made you cry: oh goodness, this is very embarrassing but definitely The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

One book you keep rereading: I love rereading books. Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty

One book you’ve been meaning to read: anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Or a lot of "adult" classics, actually.

One book you believe everyone should read: The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids by Alexandra Robbins (nonfiction about overstressed honors students in high school, but reads like a novel)

Finally, grab the nearest book. Open it to page 56. Find the fifth sentence:

"I thought, he's frightened."

from Sunshine, by Robin McKinley (wow, that was a boring 5th sentence. Also pretty unrepresentative of the book)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Unfinished: Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Ever hear amazing things about a book, acquire it, and then simply are unable to get through it because, well, it's just not your thing?


I always feel bad when I do that. Because authors, editors, publishers, marketers, reviewers, librarisn, teachers, readers like ourselves--all put so much time and effort to make a book. And yet, occasionally, there are just some that don't appeal to you, and so many others that do, and really, the best thing might just be to pass it on and see if anyone else might like it a little bit more than you.

So introducing the first "Unfinished" book on my blog...

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Janet Carter, an English major, starts college at Blackstone, a liberal arts enclave in the Midwest. She and her friends fall in with a group of beautiful and talented male Classics majors (and they all quote from heavy literature 24/7—why??). It’s a retelling of the Scottish ballad of the same name, where Janet must battle a faerie queen (Professor Medeos?) for the possession of Tam Lin’s (Thomas Lane’s) heart and soul.

I feel like this is one of those books that you either lovelovelove or hatehatehate. Those who love it do so because of Pamela Dean's skillful descriptions of life at a liberal arts college in the mid-70s. Those who hate it complain about the fake, pretentious characters, the slow pace, and the too-detailed descriptions and dialogue.

Me, I guess I'm in the second camp. I heard such good things about this book and so ordered it with high hopes. However, I found the characters annoying and unrealistic. I'm attending a liberal arts college now, but no one I know speaks in such a high-fallutin', quote-filled manner. I found myself irritated at the overexuberant descriptions of the campus; must NOTHING be left for me to imagine? Must I know the location of every building, bridge, rock, and tree on Blackstone's campus?

TAM LIN is more a detailed sketch of college life rather than a retelling of a fairy tale. I was disappointed that there was not more fantasy in it--guess I was expecting some. I have a feeling that those who love this book are those who can relate to the liberal arts college student life back in the 70s. It's the 21st century, college is so much different, and I just couldn't get into this book.


It's such a cool cover, too. Lime green, one of my favorites! Alas. Time to pass it on into the Wonderful World of Book-Swapping..

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Review: Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler

Brrr! The weather's been treacherous lately. An all-day icy rain turned the snow on the ground into slush. And then, of course, come nighttime, all the footprints in the snow iced over into miniature skating rinks, each and every one of them. Black ice all over the roads, so bad that my school even cancelled the shuttles for the night! It's made walking around treacherous. I feel like I'm having an adventure every time I step outside and try not to die on ice.

In order to "celebrate" the snow and ice, I've chosen a review for a very snowy and wintry book... =)

Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler

Tags: YA, mystery, thriller, supernatural

Dusty doesn't know anything about the boy who mysteriously calls her one night as he attempts to commit suicide, then startles her with all the personal things he knows about her and her life--like the disappearance of her brother, Josh. All she knows is that there is something terribly alluring yet dangerous about him at the same time. Her curiosity drags her into an out-of-this-world intriguing mystery that wins her enemies and drives her to her tomboyish limits.

For there really ARE a lot of things strange about the boy. Like how he knows all of these intimate details about people, even people he has never met before. Or how he disappears without a trace. And then there are the stories that the angry mob from other towns tell, of the boy having a particular hold over girls and then raping them, of him disarming or killing living beings with just one wave of his hand.

Dusty doesn't know how to feel about this boy. Her family, the cops, her friends, the mob--all are telling her to stay away from him, she is only going to implicate herself if she continues to mess things up so that it looks like she's helping him. But all Dusty is certain of is that the mysterious boy is the key to finding out what happened to Josh all those many years ago.

And for that, she can't stop getting involved, until her very life is in danger.

Frozen Fire is unusual and interesting. A lot happens at once and remains unexplained for many pages, which may confuse some readers (like me!), but it ends satisfactorily, although there are still questions left unanswered. For a mystery thriller that's out of the ordinary, pick up Frozen Fire.

You'll like this if you also like...
Neil Gaiman
Gail Giles (What Happened to Cass McBride?)

Rating: 2.5/5


Name some snowy, wintry reads that you've enjoyed!

Review: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

After her stepfather Joe returns home from serving in the Second World War, 15-year-old Evie Spooner believes that things can now return to normal. No more rationing, no more faking, no more worrying with her beautiful mother Bev if he will be in a particular battle on a particular day.

However, things from Joe’s war past seem to come back to haunt him, and he spontaneously moves his family down to a hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. There they befriend the Graysons, a wealthy-looking couple, and Peter Coleridge, a handsome young man who knew Joe from the war. Joe doesn’t seem to like Peter, and Evie can’t figure out why. She certainly likes him very much, as they go out to town together with Bev and occasionally have romantic encounters.

But something is seriously wrong with this group. Lies, betrayals, and hatred arise, culminating in a devastating event that forces Evie to choose whether to be loyal to her parents or be just. Bev can’t hide Evie behind a makeup-less face and childish dresses anymore; it’s time for Evie to grow up and face the complex adult world.

Judy Blundell packs so much into this small but giant book. Issues regarding anti-Semitism, family loyalty, love, growing up, and lying all come up, among others. While I thought Evie seemed over-the-top naive sometimes with relationship tensions that are obvious to readers, Blundell does a fantastic job of making her grow up through the book. What I Saw and How I Lied is by no means perfect, but it’s a good read if you’re looking for a historical suspense coming-of-age story.

Tags: YA, historical, mystery, WWII, lies, betrayal, family loyalty, coming of age

You'll like this if you also like...
Ann Rinaldi
Judy Blume

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review: A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

13-year-old Mia has always been able to see colors and shapes for sounds. For her, letters and numbers have their own colors. Her cat, Mango, whom she found on the day of her grandfather's funeral, is actually named after the orange that his sounds produce. Mia has hidden her strange condition from her friends and family for years, but being an eighth grader and failing pre-algebra takes a toll on her, and she finally tells her parents what's going on.

After visiting numerous doctors, Mia learns that she has synesthesia, where different senses "cross paths" in the brain. This knowledge opens her up to a whole new world of people who understand her, people who are just like her. At first, she is so fascinated by these new experiences that she almost loses touch with the real world around her. It takes a devastating loss for her to understand that she must incorporate her newfound knowledge with the relationships she has with the beloved people around her.

This is a sweet and interesting book about an unusual and little-known condition. Mia's world is realistic and sympathetic; her conflicts and relationships, typical of teenagers her age, gains a further depth with the synesthesia. Readers, especially those in middle school and early high school, will be able to connect with Mia's growing up.

You'll like this if you also like...
Terry Spencer Hesser (Kissing Doorknobs)
Carolyn Mackler

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

In honor of Jellicoe Road winning the Printz Award (I haven't read it yet but you can be sure I definitely will; if anyone has written a review about it please do link me to it so that I can peruse!), I am putting up a review of a related, beloved book...

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta


Francesca Spinelli's proactive mother has forced her to attend St. Sebastian's School for Boys, recently made co-ed by giving the girls a toilet. Francesca would rather go to St. Pius with her friends, instead of being stuck at Sebastian's with an unusual group of people, including Siobhan, her ex-best friend and infamous slut; Tara Finke, feminist and activist extraordinaire; Justine, an accordian player; Thomas Mackee, whose specialty is farting and teasing girls; Jimmy, an over-friendly upperclassman who terrifies young kids simply by asking them questions and who seems determined to make himself a fifth member of Francesca's family; and Will Trombal, their surly prefer who Francesca can't stop thinking about.

She thinks that's bad, but it gets worse when her mother succumbs to depression and lies in bed for months at a time. Almost too late, Francesca realizes that she is more like her mother than she realized, and that the family needs her energy to feel complete.

Australian author Melina Marchetta's second book is jam-packed with wit and poignancy. It will make you laugh over and over, as well as tug at your heartstrings. Francesca is a resilient protagonist with endearing conflicts to face, and Will kind of reminds me of Viktor Krum from Harry Potter--unless he's suddenly waxing eloquent, of course, and then it's just swooooon! Anyway, Saving Francesca is a nearly perfect novel; now it just needs a large fan base.

Rating: 5/5


Personally I'm a fan of the hardcover image, but I own the paperback. I dunno, there's just something about those eyes on the hardcover...

So the participatory question is: what other Aussie writers do you enjoy and recommend? I'd like to read them!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Black History Month Writers' Contest

Susan, whom I had the privilege to meet through PaperbackSwap (great site; if you don't know about it yet I'll expound on it in much greater detail later), is hosting a contest for Black History Month. So that's throughout the month of February, if you weren't clear about it. I'm reposting this with her permission because I think it's an incredible contest that, in addition to raising important issues, will also be fun and relevant to what we bloggers do - which is review books! Please take a look and then spread the word.

In honor of Black History Month, Color Online is proud to honest a contest celebrating the contributions of black women writers. Submit a book review or biography sketch of a black woman writer you admire. We're looking for YA writers, adult fiction and nonfiction writers alike. Writers may be contemporary or historical figures.

Submissions must be a minimum of 300 words not to exceed 750. Send your work in the body of your email to Subject line should read: Black History Month Writers' Contest. Include your full name, and contact information above your review. Deadline for submissions is February 25th. Winners will be announced February 28th. If we choose to publish your entry, you will be contacted prior to publication. You can view our blog at

Selected submissions will be published throughout the month of February. Readers are encouraged to leave comments throughout the month. A panel of judges will select the final winners. First prize- $15 Amazon gift certificate and a free book from Color Online, Second prize- $10 gift card and book and third prize- book from Color Online.

To encourage participation and to give contributors an idea of those writers we enjoy, we are providing the following list of writers. You are not required to use the list. It is a recommended list only.

Jacqueline Woodson
Sharon Draper
Lori Aurelius Williams
Rita Williams-Garcia
Sharon G. Flake
Angela Johnson

Adult Fiction and Poetry
Audre Lorde
Sonia Sanchez
Gwendolyn Brooks
Camille Dungy
Tracy K. Smith
Jessica Care Moore
Elizabeth Alexander
Black Artemis
Toni Cade Bambara
Gloria Naylor
Octavia E. Butler

Bell Hooks
June Jordan
Pearl Cleage
Nancy Amanda Redd

I, for one, will definitely be entering this contest. I'd also suggest, as a YA author to look for, Dana Davidson (Jason & Kyra, Played). Her books, while they don't deal with "heavy" issues such as racial discrimination, feature sympathetic characters and their love stories, things that any reader, regardless of race or ethnicity. (Hmm. Maybe I'll post a review up sometime soon; after all, February is coming up, eh?)

Another author whose writing I enjoyed is Harriet Jacobs. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was written over 100 years ago, but her writing is easy, normal, not preachy, and I found myself getting caught up in the immediacy and danger of her predicaments. (The book was also excerpted in a GEPA prep book when I tutored, so that's pretty cool as well!)

What black woman writers do you like, respect, and recommend?

Review: Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Liz Craft and Sarah Fain

Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Liz Craft and Sarah Fain

Often described as Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants for older readers, Bass Ackwards and Belly Up is a sweet debut novel that tracks an unexpected season in four friends' lives. Sophie, Kate, Becca, and Harper are all supposed to go to college... but at the last minute Harper tells them that she's staying home to go for her dream: writing the next Great American Novel. In actuality she's been rejected from the only school she applied to, but she conveniently doesn't tell her friends that.

Harper's announcement starts a rebellion shocking in the girls' comfortable suburban neighborhood: Kate and Sophie decide not to go to college either. Sophie's going to LA to pursue her dream of being an actor, and Kate decides to travel around Europe in search of something she can be passionate about, something different from her life full of plans. Becca's the only one of the four still going to college at Middlebury, so her friends give her an assignment in addition to being a skiing star: she has to fall in love.

In LA, Sophie has an up-and-down something going on with Sam, pool boy for the family she's staying with. She also gets together with a famous actor. Kate travels around Europe trying to accomplish the list of 100 things her friends have given her to do. Harper procrastinates on writing her novel and feels an attraction between her and Mr. Finelli, her hot and young former AP English teacher. And Becca deals with an unfair Middlebury coach and her disgust for football star Stuart Pendergrass... who happens to like her. A lot.

How will their romantic relationships turn out? Will their dreams come true? Bass Ackwards and Belly Up starts out slow, but it's well worth the first 50 pages of non-action. Don't miss the sequel, Footfree and Fancyloose!

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Contest and a Review: Paper Towns by John Green

I'm off to my friends' birthday party soon, which should keep me busy up till the wee hours of the morning, but I wanted to leave you with a review, and a contest. I'm in the midst of reading Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, and it's slow going so far, what with trying to squeeze my dry Adolescence readings in between funfun fantasy, but it's getting there!

I chose this review because I've heard so many people criticize this book, and it's one of the best books I've read in 2008. And also because I, like every other literate female teenage reader out there, has a crush on the author.

Yup, you guessed it.

Paper Towns by John Green

The brilliant John Green's third novel starts off quietly, then builds to a roaring finish that sets a new bar for all young adult literature.

After years of running in different social spheres, towards the end of senior year, Quentin Jacobsen's childhood friend, next-door neighbor, and unrequited love, the beautiful and eccentric Margo Roth Spiegelman, enlists him to help her in what becomes the wildest night of his life. However, just when he thinks he and Margo are on track to being friends--and maybe something more--again, she disappears, leaving some clues behind for him to wonder about.

Quentin is convinced that following and figuring out the clues will lead him and his friends to Margo. What happens next, then, is an epic, unforgettable journey of self-discovery, humanity, adolescence, friendship, and love.

What could be a typical detective plot is brought alive at the hands of the witty and talented John Green, but this book is so much more than a simple mystery: you'll want to read it again and again to discover all the philosophy, themes, and lessons Green has packed into this novel, as well as to laugh again and again at the many hilarious moments. I thought that Looking for Alaska couldn't be topped, but I am proved wrong. With Paper Towns, John Green establishes himself as the premier young adult author, one to which every other author will be compared.


Also, run along and go check out Keri's blog for a chance to win 3 cool books! Have a good evening, all!

Steph's (Reviewer X's) Contest Giveaway this week...

... is If I Stay by Gayle Forman, to be released in April. Now, we all know lots and lots of people who love getting ARCs, especially if they are YA ARCs, so don't miss your opportunity to do so! Enter here.

As a second note, Steph's site is where I also happened to win Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. This deserves a completely undignified reaction of WHEEEEEEE YAYYYYYYYYYY because A) it's an ARC, B) it's by Laurie Halse Anderson, and C) who doesn't like winning contests? I'll be sure to read it and post my review here for you to read! :)

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

In Katsa's world, those who possess a Grace, an unusually powerful skill, recognized by their different-colored eyes, are often shunned and avoided by the ordinary people. Katsa has it worse than most Graced, for her Grace is the Grace of killing, a Grace that her uncle, King Randa, uses to keep his subjects in line.

But Katsa is sick of always obeying her uncle's orders, being forced to perform these tasks she hates and having to hide her good side. Still, she sees no way out of her miserable, savage life...until she meets Po, a prince from a faraway island kingdom, whose secret business coincides with hers. Po is Graced with the art of combat, and they are well matched in fighting.

A friendship develops between Katsa and Po, and they are thrown together even more as they set off to defend their world from the clutches of a powerful and dangerous king. Katsa must contend with her wild nature if she is to get to know Po, if she is to learn about the truth about their Graces and characters. Together, they may just be able to save their world and make it a better place.

The characterizations of Katsa and Po in Graceling are incredible; it's impossible to not like them and feel for them as they struggle with their internal conflicts and emotions for one another. On the other hand, I felt like much of the plot-conflict in this novel was thrown in almost helter-skelter; conflicts were suddenly introduced and resolved in a matter of pages. I would have liked more back-story, so that I could've better understand Katsa and Po's world. That being said, Graceling is still an incredible debut fantasy novel, sure to appeal to all fantasy lovers who also like a good romance.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, January 23, 2009

Review: Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott

Currently Reading: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Next Read: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

Just got a copy of Burton Raffel's new unabridged translation of Canterbury Tales from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer site in the mail! I am really excited. Last night at a class meeting an Old English professor quoted from Canterbury Tales, and then this gift arrives. The book looks very solid; it would function as an adequate doorstop. Luckily I'm not that abusive with my books. I'll give it a skim eventually and let you guys know how I find this new translation.

In the meantime...

Stealing Heaven
by Elizabeth Scott

18-year-old Danielle lives with her mother and they are professional thieves. They move quickly from affluent town to affluent town, staying only long enough to find out the information they need and steal what they target, and then they move on. Dani has learned to keep invisible and not form any connections. It may not be the life she wants deep down inside, but it's all she has, all she's ever known.

At the beach town of Heaven, however, things begin to be different. Dani meets several people she thinks she can actually be friends with--if not more. Unfortunately, her and her mother's lifestyles demand that she not make friends, not feel like she wants to settle down.

This puts stress on her budding relationship with two people: Allison, a talkative but genuine girl who lives in the mansion that her mother is targeting next; and Greg, a young and funny local cop who seems intent on making her smile... but he's a cop!

How can Dani not lose her mother's love and respect, while learning to go for what she wants?

Elizabeth Scott's books remind me very much of Sarah Dessen's in that the characters are well developed, believable, and lovable. Greg in particular is charming and will make every girl wish he was real. This is a fun and moving read for all teenage girls.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More Contests!

I just can't resist the opportunity to get these exciting-sounding books, and so one of the best ways to get them is to spread the word!

Presenting Lenore's awesome-looking Penguin Prize Pack. You can get over 5 2009-release books! Enter here!

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I loved Speak and this one seems equally intriguing. Enter at Reviewer X's site (hers is a great blog for reading ideas, btw).

Alright, I really should go to sleep. More later, and thanks for reading, if you are reading!

Review: Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe

Okay, so in my previous post I mentioned the hilarious YA detective novel Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe. It only seems fitting that I include my review for it as well.

Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe

Enter a new talent into the YA world: Michele Jaffe, queen of comedy! If Bad Kitty doesn't make you laugh until your sides split, then I don't know what will.

Six-foot-tall Jasmine Callihan is obsessed with superpowers. Her best friends all have one. Heck, even people she doesn't like have them. But what's her superpower? Only the unfortunately troubling one of attracting cats. Which is exactly what happens to her on her family vacation in Las Vegas.

The cat that jumps on her in Vegas belongs to Fred, the young son of the famous Fiona Bristol, who is currently embroiled in a murderous love triangle between her lover and her ex-husband, Red Early. With her eager but amateur detective skills, Jas detects a sinister plot designed to hurt Fiona and Fred...a plot that involves the underhanded involvement of a gorgeous (and tall!) Jack, whom Jas wishes desperately is her soulmate--you know, except for the he's-trying-t-kill-her part.

But things are not always what they seem. Sometimes, the truth is not what you want it to be--it is much, much more dangerous.

Bad Kitty is completely hilarious. I honestly haven't read a book this funny in a long time. Jaffe's characters are quirky but well-developed, and I absolutely adored her constant play on the format of the novel (hint: footnotes). Pick this up if you're a fan of Meg Cabot, and you won't regret it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fun-Looking YA Contest

YA mystery? Whoa, talk about conjuring up images of Nancy Drew running around with her omnipresent best friends and latest fling-of-the-novel! But now there's something slightly more modern. Death by Bikini and Death by Latte by Linda Gerber. Hahaha, the titles make me smile. Perhaps they'll be as exciting and fun to read as Michele Jaffe's Bad Kitty series is? We'll see!

For now, you can enter to win Gerber's books here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Contests Contests! (aka Freebies!)

So I might as well get into the spirit of things by shamelessly plugging for other avid readers' blogs, reviews, contest giveaways, etc etc. Here are just a few to start you off with. (By the way, thanks, guys, for having these contests! I love chances to get new books, hehe.)

For Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson (which, side note, is a book I'm dying to read), there are two blogs with contests:

Okayyyy, that's all I could find for now since I guess it's late in January and lots of contests have ended already. But seriously, I'm hoping I get to read this book. Reviews later!


Hello and welcome all! After years and years of reading, writing, and reviewing, I have decided that it might be fun to put them all together on a blog of my reviews and going-ons regarding what books I'm reading, what to read, etc. I'll try to get all of my reviews organized (I have HUNDREDS, literally) as a method of procrastination over this semester--I'm a college sophomore at Swarthmore College, which means I really shouldn't have time to do this but really want to anyway... oh well. More later!


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