Thursday, April 30, 2009

Review: The Season by Sarah MacLean

Tags: YA, historical, Regency England, murder, mystery

Rating: 3 out of 5


Seventeen-year-old Alexandra Stafford, along with her friends Vivi and Ella, are about to enter their first season amidst the “ton”—the most eligible of the eligible, the best and the brightest of London. Only Alex and her friends are not your average pretty-girl gigglies. They’d rather stay out of the whole flirting and courting business, away from men who prefer women with vacant minds…women unlike them.

With high-status parents, however, Alex is unable to stay completely out of society. Instead, her circle consists mostly of her three older brothers and their best friend, Gavin Sewell, the new Earl of Blackmoor, whose father died in a mysterious accident that’s beginning to not look like an accident at all. Alex expected many things out of the season—boring balls, an overabundance of uninteresting suitors—but she never expected to feel for Gavin things that she has never felt before. Someone’s out for Gavin’s blood, however, to make sure that he doesn’t discover the truth about his father’s death, and it may be up to Alex to save the life of her beloved.


I have mixed feelings about THE SEASON. On the one hand, it’s gotten rave reviews from nearly everyone I know. Parts of those praises I feel are justified: Alex’s world is addicting, and even during the moments when I wanted to sigh and put the book down in frustration, I felt compelled by unseen forces to continue, hoping, hoping, wanting more from her world…

…And that’s where I think my problem with the book lies. On one level, Alex’s world seems great: the glamour, the scintillating company, the witty banter between siblings and friends. But that’s just it; all of these things only occur on one level. I couldn’t help but feel like the characters were merely putting on a role, saying lines dictated to them without really meaning it. (And with the acting cues to go with it. There were only so many times I could read phrases like “she felt her voice rise in defensive ire” and “he rolled his eyes at his mother’s brazen words,” or things along those lines. We readers can figure out how the characters are feeling at that moment—or at least we should be able to, through the language they use. No need to state the obvious over and over again.)

With so many characters packed into this book, it was hard for me to keep track of who is who, what their personalities were like. I was constantly mixing up Alex’s brothers, Nick, Will, and Kit, because they are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Similarly, I disliked how Vivi and Ella were shallowly portrayed mostly as Alex’s “ladies-in-waiting,” always just reacting to Alex’s crises and never, seemingly, having desires or even opinions of their own. I would’ve loved to see all the secondary characters change more through the book. THE SEASON centers around Alex and Gavin’s relationship, yes, but for a book that depends so much on the characters’ interactions with one another, shouldn’t equal care be put into developing the others’ personalities as well?

Another thing that led to me being unable to get into this book was the pacing. For some reason, I had thought that the mystery behind the earl’s death, and the impending danger on Gavin and Alex, would have been given more time and explanation. It was certainly something I wanted to know more about. However, the murder mystery ended up feeling like one great big plot device: like, oh, there’s this group of chatty girls in pretty dresses and their ho-ho-ho-hear-me-I’m-so-witty-and-yet-I-disdain-societal-expectations male friends/brothers and now we just HAVE to make something happen in the story so it doesn’t digress into a meaningless pile of dialogue.

Nothing really happened until more than halfway into the book, which was where the relationship between Gavin and Alex intensified, and things started to pick up with the murder mystery. But if it takes a book half its length to get the ball rolling, I’m not sure if I’d be willing to stick it out until then. Unless it gets really, really good at the end. Which it doesn’t. Anyone can spot the hasty, picture-perfect ending from a mile off. It’s sad if I feel like I don’t need to read most of the book in order to understand what’s going on.

I understand the appeal of a Regency-era girl who doesn’t conform to the social norms of her time of wanting the rich husband, the best status, etc. I have no doubt that those who enjoy Anna Godbersen’s LUXE series—frothy, light guilty pleasures—will enjoy THE SEASON. While it lacked enough substance for my taste, I will still read Sarah MacLean’s future works, because I do believe she has the talent to create three-dimensional characters that we’ll end up liking and caring about.

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

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (12)

I'm sure most of you have heard about this week's pick, but bear with me, there's exciting news at the bottom:

Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

An ancient prophecy divides two sisters.
One good…
One evil…
Who will prevail?

Twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, the girls find themselves entangled in a mystery that involves a tattoo-like mark, their parents’ deaths, a boy, a book, and a lifetime of secrets.

Lia and Alice don’t know whom they can trust.

They just know they can’t trust each other.

I just have the vibes that this gothic fantasy by a 2009 debut author will be fantastic, and after reading Steph's pub story with Michelle Zink, I'm even more convinced of its impending awesomeness.

The reason I picked this as this week's WoW is because I have stumbled upon SEVERAL chances for you to win an ARC of this exciting book! Steph is giving away a copy here, and upcoming author Malinda Lo (whose debut book, Ash, a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, I featured last Wednesday) is also giving away a copy here. Figured you guys might want to know about these opportunities. :) Go enter now!

Prophecy of the Sisters will be released in hardcover by Little, Brown on August 1, 2009.

Blog and Contest News

Three matters of business to discuss. The first is the winner of a signed copy of Swim the Fly by Don Calame. Ya know, that contest that I held a long long time ago and ended around about the time all my end-of-semester work picked up. Heh. Buuuut in a fit of procrastination the other night I counted up the entries and picked the winner, via, who is:



***The second order of business is the People's choice YA Book Blog Awards that are being held by Steph at Hey Teenager of the Year. Categories like Best Reviewer, Best Interviewer, Best Newcomer, and the Golden Book Blog Award. What a great way to show support for all the fantastic bloggers out there; keep up the great work! You should go over there and vote!

I'm also absolutely flabbergasted that I was nominated for Best Newcomer. Ummmmmm???!!!??? When I saw that, my mouth seriously dropped open. Wow! Thank you to whoever nominated me, and for all of you who read my blog and make me feel as if I'm not writing to thin air. I really, really, REALLY appreciate all your support, friendship, and comments, and hope that you find I reciprocate those feelings as well. The best part of blogging for me is finding a TON of people who share my reading tastes; this is something that has never happened to me before, even a few years ago when I could legitimately be called a teenager. (I've now passed on into the third decade of my life.... eeeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuurrrrrrgggghhhhh!) Again, THANK YOU so much, and I'm seriously excited about the blogging future, for me and for everyone!

***The third order of business relates to my Support Teen Lit Giveaway. (For those of you who have, unfortunately, not been on the bandwagon yet, check it out here and enter for a chance to win a great many books.) Two more opportunities for you to get entries for the giveaway:

1. Comment on my review of Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender here.
2. Comment on my review of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson here.

Stay tuned in case there are more opportunities for entries in the near future. Go go go!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Review: Inferno by Robin Stevenson

Publication date: April 28, 2009 (today)

Tags: YA, rebellion, dissatisfaction, parental misunderstanding, therapy, homosexuality, friendships, arson

Rating: 2 out of 5


Ever since her only friend, Beth, moved away, Dante has hated her new high school, Glen Ridge Secondary School. Hours of sitting in pointless classes, being bullied by mean teachers, forced to follow the school rules without complaint…Her parents aren’t making it better for her either. Her mother doesn’t want Dante to become a social outcast, and yet insist on keeping her tightly reined, as if that will help her daughter.

Then one day, a strange girl thrusts a flyer that says “Woof, woof. You are not a dog. Why are you going to obedience school?” into Dante’s hands, and Dante thinks she has found a soulmate. The girl, Parker, introduces Dante to two other guys who have similar thoughts about established institutions such as schools and jails, and they do things to protest the mundanity of it all. For once, Dante is elated, and she continues to be inexplicably drawn to Parker and unable—or unwilling—to explain her feelings.

But when her friends plan something that can really be out of control, and Parker needs her help, what is Dante to do? How much is too much, and what done in the name of protest is actually useless, unhelpful, and dangerous?


INFERNO deals with an overwhelming number of issues in a way that leaves us unsatisfied. In the span of a little over 200 pages, Stevenson tries to deal with rebellion, parental misunderstanding, homosexuality, arson, unhealthy vs. healthy friendships…Whoa! There are probably more that I missed. Just one of these topics is something that deserves a book to itself. Cramming all of these into one book results in me feeling dissatisfied and cheated out of a better, more complete and fulfilling story.

Dante is a mediocre protagonist who makes bad decisions I often can’t relate to; as a result, she hardly garners my respect and empathy. Similarly, Parker, while a compelling IDEA of a character, falls flat in practice. Her personality ranges from enigmatic, strong, and intelligent to scared and indecisive, to flirtatious and manipulative. While it is totally possible that all of these traits exist in one character, in Parker they felt disjointed, as if she were three different characters trying—and failing—to masquerade as one. As a result, I was unable to sympathize with her character, even though I admit that her problems are plenty and definitely deserve attention and maybe even therapy.

Similarly, other supporting characters are either one-dimensional or else so caricature-esque that I couldn’t get into them. Jamie, Parker’s boyfriend, is unrelentingly the angry disenfranchised youth with the unexplained past. Leo, their other friend, has a backstory, but it seems totally separate from the person he is now. Dante’s mother was infuriating, but that was probably for personal reasons. I only wish that Dante’s parents were more complex characters, so I could actually believe their shifts in emotions and the mother-daughter bonding moments. Because right now I don’t believe them.

All hope is NOT lost, however. The plot, while predictable, still managed to capture my attention and keep me reading. This book is really a plot-driven one. INFERNO is a beginners’ introduction to a variety of complex issues that need to be explored at a greater depth. I’m not sure who to recommend this to because there are much better books that discuss these topics out there.

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 1/5
Plot: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5

Monday, April 27, 2009

Review: Faery Rebels Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson

Publication date: April 28, 2009

Tags: YA, middle grade, fantasy, faeries, friendship

Rating: 5 out of 5


After a horrifying yet mysterious event known as the Sundering, the faeries who live in the Oakenwyld possess very little magic, and something seems to be killing them off, even as their queen, Amaryllis, forbids them to go outside the Oak, for fear that predators—such as crows and the terrifying humans—will destroy them even faster.

However, the Queen’s Hunter, Knife, will not be satisfied with staying away from the humans. She ends up befriending Paul, a crippled human boy living in the nearby House. The more Knife learns about the humans, the more she thinks there is something fishy about her faery community’s mistrust of humans. With Paul and her faery friends’ help, Knife may be able to discover what is ailing Oakenwyld—but only at the cost of heavy sacrifices. What is Knife willing to do for love, even if the love is impossible?


The world of FAERY REBELS is instantly engaging, a space filled with danger, betrayal, creativity, and hope. Knife is a fantastic character, a young faery willing to follow her instincts and take risks; she reminds me a lot of Katniss from The Hunger Games, which was GREAT! I have no doubt that she will easily win the hearts of readers of all ages.

R. J. Anderson spins a convincing world with strong supporting characters and an elaborate plotline, filled with interesting backstories. At times I got frustrated when the characters felt the need to talk aloud every step of their thought process to reach revelations that I, as the reader, would’ve liked to figure out myself, instead of being smashed in the face with it. But I can see why younger readers—those in middle school—wouldn’t be bothered by that, so I suppose it was just a minor complaint on my part.

Overall, FAERY REBELS is a must-read 2009 debut novel. You will reluctantly put the book down at the end, sad because you crave so much more of Knife and Paul’s world. Seriously, treat yourself to this marvelous fantasy novel, and then you, like me, will be eagerly awaiting what R. J. Anderson has for us next.

Similar Authors
Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games)
Holly Black (Tithe)

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

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - I'm slightly disturbed by the faery appearance of the model: you know, skinniness, white hair. But it is fairly representative of what the faeries in this book look like, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate non-stock photo covers!


I promise there will be a non-review post coming up soon (maybe later tonight), but in the meantime, comment on this review of Faery Rebels and get an extra entry for my Support Teen Lit Giant Giveaway!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: The Boys Next Door by Jennifer Echols

Tags: YA, romance, summertime

Rating: 4 out of 5


Lori has always tried to be one of the guys with her older brother, McGillicuddy, and her next door neighbors Cameron, Sean, and Adam. Sweet and very ADD Adam has always been her best friend, but then again, Lori’s had a crush on the middle brother, Sean, the one that all the girls drool over. And this summer, the summer that she turns sixteen, she is determined to make Sean finally notice her. Begone, one-piece suits and cutoff boy shorts handed down from Adam—enter bikinis and revealing tank tops.

When Sean hooks up with Adam’s then-girlfriend, Rachel, Adam and Lori decide to put their plan in motion. They are going to pretend to be boyfriend and girlfriend in order to make their respective crushes jealous. But the longer they are “together,” the less it seems like just pretend. For the first time Lori is realizing how hot Adam really is, and how good his kisses are. But she’s just going along with this to win Sean…right?


The more I read Jennifer Echols, the more I’m convinced she can do no wrong in terms of fun and fast romantic comedy reads. All of the characters in this book are realistic yet quirky, endearing and fun. Adam, in particular, is my favorite, because he is not simply the perfect crush, the perfect boyfriend. Instead, he is wonderfully three-dimensional, ADD and a little spastic and a daredevil to the point of physical harm. In short, he is a giant, sweet nerd inside a hot body. Who can resist that?

Lori’s narration brings everything together; she is not merely a tomboy trying desperately to win her crush, but also a witty and cool one, despite her absolute cluelessness when it comes to the romantic feelings of those around her. The last several dozen or so pages felt the tiniest bit rushed: a million things needed to be resolved, but they were resolved in ways that involved the introduction of more plot twists and events.

All in all, however, THE BOYS NEXT DOOR was a delightful book that never pretends to be more than it is: a quick but lighthearted read about romance in the summertime.

Similar Authors
Aimee Friedman (A Novel Idea)
Meg Cabot
Rachel Cohn (Gingerbread)

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

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review: Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Publication date: April 28, 2009

Tags: YA, middle grade, fantasy, demons, evil

Rating: 3 out of 5


Ai Ling has always led a straightforward life, but that all changes when first her betrothal is broken off because she’s “unacceptable” and then her father does not return from a trip to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams. Determined not to stay at home and worry like a good female, Ai Ling sets off to the Palace to find out what happened to her father.

Along the way she meets Chen Yong, a half-foreign young man who is also on the way to the Palace. Not all the company Ai Ling happens upon are as good as him, though; in fact, Ai Ling and Chen Yong find themselves repeatedly engaged in battles with fierce demons that neither of them had ever believed existed. It seems as if Ai Ling is not the ordinary girl she thinks she is, and that something is definitely trying to prevent her from achieving her goal. Armed with her friends, the Immortals’ help, and the power of her legacy, however, Ai Ling just might be able to overthrow the dark forces at work and succeed.


SILVER PHOENIX is first and foremost a nonstop tale of fantastical adventure. Demons and mythical places pop out of the pages nonstop, and so there is an almost constant stream of butt-kicking, done by an extremely appealing heroine. Ai Ling is an enviable protagonist, with her neverending arsenal of abilities. Even with all the unwanted problems that destiny has placed upon her shoulders, she forges on, not relying on others to do what she needs to get done.

The heavy reliance on evil creatures to move the plot along, however, is also what disappointed me about the story. The strength of the book lies in the imagined details, but not in the overarching story line. Characters fall flat in the face of such physical adversaries; almost all of the challenges that Ai Ling and Chen Yong face can be overcome with physical actions, leaving very little psychology and mental study in the story.

Despite the distance I felt from the characters, however, I know that SILVER PHOENIX will appeal to the tomboy who wants a different heroine and setting than the norm.

Similar Authors
Kristin Cashore (Graceling)
Tamora Pierce

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

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4.5 out of 5 - Can we say WOW. I have to admit that I was first attracted by the cover, and then the premise. Points for having gorgeous colors, a variety of textures, and an Asian model. Points OFF for making this, uh, slightly disturbing in an Asian fetish-y kind of way. This was definitely not how I pictured Ai Ling as I read the book, and I'm glad.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (11)

Ash by Malinda Lo

Pushed into indentured servitude for her stepmother in the City to pay off her father’s debts, Ash is consumed with grief. She misses her family and her happy life at the edge of the Wood where old magic used to linger in the air like fairy breath. Her only joy comes from the brief, stolen walks in the woods with the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean. Ash’s single, unspoken hope is that someday he might steal her away, as fairies are said to do.

But on the day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, from Kaisa she learns the art of the hunt, how to ride and track. Their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, but it grows and changes, and with it, Ash reawakens her capacity for love—and her desire to live.

Entrancing and romantic,
Ash is an empowering retelling of Cinderella about choosing life and love over solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

I first saw the cover of this book on Michelle Zink's blog and was immediately attracted. Ash is a lesbian retelling of the classic Cinderella story by an Asian American female author. And right in that sentence are a TON of reasons why I look forward to reading this book. It's familiar yet strange at the same time, with the simultaneous comfort of new romance and the daring and not-enough-publicized GLBTQ perspective. (And oh dear, looking at that last sentence you'd think that I had already read the book and was in charge of writing the blurb for the back of the book. But I haven't read it, and I'm not that person, I swear! I'm not that lucky, haha.) Oh, and it's written by an Asian American woman. Strike one more for the growing AA writing community! :)

Malinda is also an established columnist for AfterEllen, and if you're interested (during your wait for Ash) you might want to check out her article about bisexuality. It's well-written and poignant.

Ash will be published by Little, Brown on September 1, 2009.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review: Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

Publication date: April 28, 2009

Tags: YA, middle grade, fantasy, Greek mythology, retelling, independence

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5


Teenage goddess Persephone lives in the loveliest vale created especially for her by her mother, Demeter, to protect her from the influences of men. But Persephone is not happy in her own little heaven. Demeter is belittling and babying, never allowing Persephone to attend any functions of mortal worship, always buying her toys that Persephone had loved as a child but now find childish.

One day, a dark and alluring stranger appears in the vale with his chariot. Persephone is imperceptibly drawn to this stranger, and even when he turns out to be Hades, powerful and feared king of the Underworld, she barely hesitates at his offer to be queen by his side for eternity. In Hades’ Underworld Persephone assumes her queenly duties but also finds delight in her garden and observing the mortals. Her husband is not perfect, but she is happy.

But all is not right in the world. Demeter, grief-stricken and determined to get her daughter back in her “safety,” ravages the world until Persephone cannot deny the fact that her mother is destroying the earth to get her back. Persephone must make a choice: will she remain in the Underworld where she is successful and happy, or will she right the wrongs that her leaving has created by returning to her mother?


RADIANT DARKNESS is like a lot of Greek myths and fairy tales: fascinating although perhaps not brilliantly written. (Who said the Grimm brothers were actually skilled with words, not just ideas?) The world where Persephone and her fellow gods, goddesses, and shades reside is alluring and inviting: descriptions of lush valley life and the hustle and bustle of a busy Underworld will make you, like me, long for somewhere on earth that’s just as beautiful.

Persephone is a surprisingly versatile character, really just a teenage girl who’s trying to gain independence from her overbearing mother. Her conflict with Demeter, one that comes naturally with the territory of adolescence, is something we can all relate to.

However, I found RADIANT DARKNESS lacking in almost everything else. Besides for Persephone, none of the other characters—who were all fascinating characters that I would have loved to know more about—were solidly defined for me. Hades’ and Persephone’s relationship developed swiftly and excitingly, and then fell flat on its face once, you know, they were actually married. And you wonder why people always say it’s all downhill from the wedding. No excitement. No change.

It’s not a particularly brilliant written story—will probably appeal more to middle school mythology fans—but RADIANT DARKNESS still has its charm and its strength in its protagonist.

Similar Authors
Aimee Friedman
Beth Mayall (Mermaid Park)
Eva Ibbotson

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

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover Discussion: 4.5 out of 5 - I just love this cover. The gorgeous color saturation, the exotic looks of the model, the plant/fruit (is that a pomegranate? if so, that would make sense with the story) that stands out so strikingly against the model's coffee-colored skin and the green landscape behind her. Very representative of Persephone's world!

Monday, April 20, 2009


It's the last few weeks before the end of the school year for me, and that means essays, projects, exams... and little time for anything else, including Blogger. So I'll still post up reviews and other assorted memes (if I feel like it) and important stuff like contest winners, because I have a backlog of those waiting to go up. However, bear with me while I'm unable to comment as often as I used to. You know I LOVE commenting on people's blogs--that's the best part of blogging, really, the community and friendships that one builds--but I won't be able to do that as often for the next few weeks. Sorry, but I'll talk to you on the other side of Hell Weeks. :(

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Review: Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

Publication date: April 21, 2009

Tags: YA, ghosts, horror, suspense, evil

Rating: 4 out of 5


Photography-lover Alexis Warren lives in an enormous, rambling, slightly creepy house with her dysfunctional parents and younger sister, Kasey. Alexis may dye her hair pink and disdain most of the people at school, but her Kasey seems to be REALLY crazy: she has an unhealthy doll-collecting obsession, and has recently been acting weird, alternately crying tearfully and acting unlike herself. Almost as if she were…possessed.

Alex is further convinced that something’s not right with Kasey when strange things start occurring in the house: doors open and close on their own, appliances turn on all by themselves. With the help of unlikely new friends—Megan Wiley, the head cheerleader at Surrey High, and Carter Blume, the popular new kid whom Alexis might like more than she should—Alexis is going to find out what the evil spirit that seems to be haunting Kasey and inflicting harm wants.

If she can manage to do this without be killed.


Be forewarned: don’t read BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE at night, or you will feel the goosebumps on the back of your neck long after you reluctantly put the book down! Katie Alender’s debut YA novel is deliciously creepy; imagine the movie The Sixth Sense in novel form, and you can get an idea of what this book was like.

Alexis kicked butt as a protagonist; if Jessica Darling had a young sister who turns the popular crowd upside-down and unfortunately finds herself in a ghost story, you’d get Alexis. The majority of the story centers around the evil ghost’s mystery, which occasionally leaves the characters slightly incomplete, at least in my opinion. I would have no problem reading a hundred extra pages in order to better understand important characters such as Carter, Megan, Kasey, Alexis’ parents, and the ghost’s history and motivation.

Despite the sometimes overwhelmingly fast pace of the novel, however, BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE is truly a remarkable read, destined to send shivers down your spine.

Similar Authors
Megan McCafferty
Laura Whitcomb (A Certain Slant of Light)
Laurie Faria Stolarz (Blue Is For Nightmares)

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

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Featured Blogger (7): Sophie from Mrs. Magoo Reads

Today's Friday Featured Blogger is special because she is not a new blogger. In fact, she is well established, and thus very knowledgeable in all aspects of blogging and blog promotion and the like. Please welcome Sophie from Mrs. Magoo Reads and listen to what she has to say!

Hey! Tell us about yourself in a few short sentences.

Hi! I'm Sophie, alias Mrs. Magoo, and I'm currently 13 years old, living in California (and sadly don't have any pets). Other than reading and blogging, I also like making jewelry and playing soccer.

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

I started blogging in August 2007 because I thought it would be cool just to have a blog. The name stemmed from the cartoon character "Mr. Magoo" (changing the Mr. to Mrs. because I'm a girl). Visitors can expect book reviews, movie reviews, author interviews, review videos, contests, and all around awesomeness!

What strategies have you used to promote your blog?

To be honest, I'm not fabulous at promoting my blog. I depend strongly on content. But I have a Twitter account and also use link exchanges to drive traffic.

Favorite authors?

JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Scott Westerfeld, Libba Bray...

How consistently do you follow other blogs and/or comment on them?

I try to follow most YA book blogs. If I visit a new blog, I almost always follow it (as long as there's a "follow" button. Sometimes I'm too lazy to copy and paste the URL). To be completely honest, I'm horrible at commenting. I try. I recently started making posts on Twitter, asking people to reply and I would then comment on their blogs. But I need to come up with a good system. Any suggestions?

Commenting back on commenters' comments (wow, say that 5 times fast) is always a start. Personally I just try to read every post that pops up in my Dashboard. You can imagine how tiring that gets after a while! So I'd say it's a tough balance.
Here's something easier: name 3 of your favorite books of all time and why you think everyone should read them.

Harry Potter series - I think this is kind of like the initiation into human culture.
Twilight - The initiation into teen culture. It's kind of embarrassing if you have to stand around while all of your friends scream about Edward Cullen.
Uglies - Not only is the plot fantastic, the novel is thought-provoking and inspiring.

What are some things you just LOVE to receive for presents? :)

Books, or course (or rather, gift cards to bookstores)! I also like to receive music related things, such as an iPod or an iTunes gift card.

What advice can you give bloggers who wish to promote their blogs?

Link exchanges work. Before I started doing link exchanges, NOBODY knew about me, but afterwards, people were visiting! Plus when you email somebody asking for an exchange, it can often lead to a series of emails that may end up helping you.


Thanks for answering my questions, Sophie! Be sure to check out her blog and say hello. She ALWAYS has sweet contests going on. :)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Support Teen Literature GIANT GIVEAWAY!

Today is April 16th, or Support Teen Literature Day; do you know where YOUR books are? Hehe I'm just kidding. In honor of this very important and enlightening day (Amazon be damned), I am holding a big giveaway.

Oh, sorry, maybe the message didn't come through clear enough:


Get excited! As per your recommendations when I asked what you'd like to be given away on my blog, I am giving away bundles of both old AND new books that I really enjoyed.

The Old (aka the Tried and True)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen (review)
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (review)
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty (Perfect Fifths review)
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (review)
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The New (aka the Stuff You Should Be Checking Out)
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (review)
If I Stay by Gayle Forman (review)
Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender (review)
Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson (review)

(Note: the "new" books may or may not be ARCs.)

There will be THREE (3) random winners.
1st winner gets their choice of TWO (2) of the "new" books and THREE (3) of the "old."
2nd winner gets their choice of ONE (1) of the remaining "new" books" and TWO (2) of the remaining "old."
3rd winner gets the remaining "new" book and one out of the remaining "old."


Ready to support teen lit? (As if you didn't already.) Here's how to enter--and it would do you well to read everything carefully before entering:

Leave a comment describing how you have been and/or plan on supporting teen literature in the present and future.

You don't have to be creative or put too much thought into your answer. However, it should be more than a phrase long. And you MUST answer the prompt above or you will be automatically disqualified from the giveaway. (I'd also rather not see answers like, "duh, I read" or "I have my blog." How else besides in those two ways do you support teen lit?)

+++Also there is a SPECIAL PRIZE for the most well written answer to the prompt, of THREE (3) 2009 RELEASE BOOKS (hardback or paperback; can include paperback reprints) OF HIS OR HER CHOICE. The special prize winner will also be featured as a Friday Featured Blogger and will basically get heaps and heaps of fame and praise piled upon him/her.+++

Oh, and I may or may not be adding more books to the giveaway pile, but I'll keep you updated on that...

*****And if any kindly author likes the idea of what this giveaway is about and would like to help a funding-handicapped college student out via donations of books or swag, please do not hesitate to contact me at stephxsu at gmail dot com. I promise you I will do all I can to promote you and your books as a thank you for your kindness and dedication to the cause. :)*****

For extra entries:
+1 if you follow me/already follow me (and let me know here!!! a Reader is okay)
+1 if you link to this contest somewhere and leave me the link (1 entry for every place you link this to--Facebook, MySpace, etc.; sidebars are okay)
+1 if you add me to your blogroll and let me know
+1 if you let me know from whom or where you heard about this giveaway
+1 for every person who lists you as his/her referrer to this giveaway
+1 for each giveaway book review that you comment on. (Links to the reviews are above next to the titles for your convenience; I will be posting more reviews of giveaway books up in the future, so watch out for those.) Let me know here that you've commented on the review(s).
+1 for something that's to be determined later...?

No need to post separate comments for your extra entries (though if you do so, you won't get penalized). This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE and ends Wednesday, May 6, 2009. (And that is so that I can mail your books out before the postage increase!)

All in all there will be FOUR (4) winners for this Support Teen Lit Giveaway, so start writing, commenting, and entering!!!

Interview with Jeannine Garsee!

Today I am excited to have Jeannine Garsee, author of two books--Before, After, and Somebody In Between and the recently released Say the Word--here as part of a blog tour! Jeannine was kind enough to answer my somewhat different set of interview questions, so I hope you enjoy and I hope that your interest in her books are pricked by this!

7 Songs/Artists Everyone Should Listen To
  1. Elvis
  2. J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos (all of them!)
  3. Pavarotti
  4. Soundtrack to ‘Chicago’
  5. Jimmy Mo Mhile Stor by the Rankins (for those of you who totally love Celtic music)
  6. Elgar’s cello concerto in e minor
  7. Chopin’s Piano Concerto #1

6 Things/People to Bring to a Tropical Resort
  1. Sunscreen
  2. Laptop
  3. Cell phone
  4. Books
  5. Money
  6. Money for more books (for the beach, of course)

5 Best YA Books You've Ever Read
  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  2. The Member of the Wedding
  3. Speak
  4. The Witch of Blackbird Pond
  5. Between Mom and Jo

4 Interesting/Fun Things You'll Find in "Say the Word"
  1. A character named Mr. Dickerhoof. I stole this name from one of my patients. 
  2. Shawna lives in the same Cleveland suburb as the main character from my first novel. I don’t think they’ve run into each other yet.
  3. Shawna’s eating habits are the precise opposite of mine. I thrive on coffee and junk.
  4. LeeLee is the nickname of my niece, Leah; LeeLee later changes her name to ‘Lia.’

3 People Who Influenced Your Life
  1. My parents
  2. My seventh grade music teacher
  3. My tenth grade drama teacher

2 Places You Want to Visit
  1. Los Angeles
  2. New York City

One Career You'd Love to Have If You Were Not a Writer
  1. I wouldn’t mind starring in a Broadway musical. If I could act, that is. And sing, etc. 

Thanks for filling this out, Jeannine! Be sure to check out her books, both out now, and to stop by later for a GREAT giveaway in honor of Support Teen Literature Day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cara Lockwood Giveaway WINNERS!

It's that time of, er, month! Before I announce the winners, let me just remind you that the Swim the Fly giveaway is still going on for another few days (ends April 17), so be sure to enter that one! Oh, and I have another GIGANTIC giveaway coming up really, really soon, so you'll want to stick around for that. I say gigantic because, uh, it is. I've been taking your votes on the poll in my right sidebar into consideration and will be offering lots of appealing things.

Without further ado, the winner of the TWO signed copies of Bard Academy novels by Cara Lockwood is, picked by

Out of 124 total entries

#27 - The Epic Rat!

The winner of the SIGNED copy of Wuthering High and my own copy of The Scarlet Letterman is:

#106 - Taylor!

Congrats to the winners! For the rest of you, don't fear, because more will be on the way!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Am I scaring you off?

Yes, I know I am a scary, scary person (I mean, just look at that picture!), but how could you be frightened by the next picture below?

That's right, it's Don Calame and Winnie the Pooh! If that doesn't convince you to enter my giveaway for a copy of his book, Swim the Fly (released today), then perhaps this will: just comment on the interview post that I did with him, and I will automatically enter you! Trust me, you won't want to miss this book--it's one of my favorite reads so far this year. (And I'm sure he'll sign the book and everything...I've seen your votes on my poll in the right sidebar, I know how much you guys want signed books) Don't forget to enter HERE by this Friday!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely series, Book Three

Publication date: April 21, 2009

Tags: YA, fantasy, fairies, love triangle


You would think that once the malevolent Winter Queen Beira’s reign was destroyed and the Summer King, Keenan, was restored to full power when he found his Summer Queen, Aislinn, that the this alternative faerie world, located in Philadelphia, would be peaceful again. But it’s not. The monarchs of all three faery courts have changed hands, and former friendships (Niall, Keenan’s former advisor, now the king of the Dark Court) and flames (Donia, the new Winter Queen) will become enemies to be wary of.

Meanwhile, in between adjusting to being a faery and learning her duties as Summer Queen, Aislinn struggles to find balance between Keenan—her king, her partner, her friend, to whom she experiences an undeniable attraction—and Seth, her wonderful mortal boyfriend. Seth is frustrated that his mortality hinders his ability to protect Aislinn from faery threats. With a hint from Bananach, the dangerously insane faery of Chaos and War, Seth goes to Sorcha, the faery queen of Reason, in order to be changed into a faery, so that he and Aislinn may stay together forever and equally.

What none of them except Bananach know, however, is that every one of their actions takes them all a step closer to a war that could destroy everything they knew…


If you thought the world of faerie couldn’t get more dangerously sexy and alluring than Melissa Marr’s first book, Wicked Lovely, well, you’re wrong. Fragile Eternity focuses mostly on the characters’ relationships with one another. And what brilliantly hot and tension-filled ones they are! Lengthy conversations between Keenan and Aislinn, Keenan and Donia—okay, Keenan and anyone—should come with a “sexual tension!” warning/preview. Melissa Marr definitely writes wonderfully complex characters who are stuck in situations that have no easy solutions.

The writing of Fragile Eternity is fantastic: lyrical, magical, completely befitting the ideas it wants to express. This is poetry in motion, beauty in black and white. (And this is not mentioning the gorgeous cover that this book is graced with.)

When I read Wicked Lovely I thought it was a decently written urban fantasy novel but nothing special. That’s why I was so surprised at how much better I thought Fragile Eternity was. Parts of the story are still frustrating to me—despite how well drawn the characters are and how good the writing is, I still can’t seem to fully connect with them—but I have no doubt that fans of Wicked Lovely will run out to buy this one. The ending, while rather anticlimactic after so much buildup over 300+ pages, promises a possibly even more exciting and tension-filled sequel. This may not be a hands-down favorite fantasy series of mine, but the love triangle and Melissa’s beautiful writing are enough to keep me reading, and far less picky fantasy lovers will passionately declare their ardour for Marr’s faerie world.

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

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 5 out of 5 - Yes! Yes! THIS is how a cover should look like! I'm absolutely enamored by the balance of warm and cool colors. Love how only the butterfly is strikingly in focus, while the rest of the cover blurs into the background. It may not be entirely relevant to the story, but I'm nevertheless tempted to buy this book, if just so I can gaze adoringly at the cover. Oh dear, I'm making a fool of myself. Moving on.

Need your input!

I'd be grateful if you could take 30 seconds to answer the poll on my right sidebar about what you'd like to see being given away here on Steph Su Reads. Your input will help determine the contents of my future giveaways, so it's important that you participate. And if you have any suggestions that the poll doesn't answer, feel free to leave comments here. As always, I love to hear whatever you have to say. Thanks! :)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Weekly Giveaway Roundup, or "Blogging is more fun than schoolwork"

I'm constantly updating my Contests/Giveaways sidebar, but here are the new ones I've discovered this week. Some are ending soon, so be sure to check them out quickly! A lot of these look great. :)

Individual books to be won:

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams (The Shady Glade), April 13

Ultimatum by Matthew Glass (The Novel Bookworm), April 15

Undone by Brooke Taylor (Starry Night), April 17

Take Me There by Susane Colasanti (Taylor), April 18

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols (MssJos), April 25

I Know It's Over by C. K. Kelly Martin (Reader Rabbit), April 29

Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell and more (Shalonda), April 30

Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph (Shooting Stars Mag), April 30

TMI by Sarah Quigley (Carol), May 15

Bundles of books:

3 Simon Romantic Comedy books (Rebecca), April 23 
Animal Attraction by Jami Ponti
30 Guys in 30 Days by Micol Ostow
Scary Beautiful by Nikki Burnham

Rebecca is a new YA book blogger, and Simon Romantic Comedies are the best choices you can make for quick, light, and fun reads. What more could you ask for? Check her blog out!

Birthday Contest (Korianne), April 25
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Dramarama by E. Lockhart
Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

Grand prize winner will get an iPod shuffle and a book! And there will be 5 other winners as well! And this is an obscene number of exclamation points but count me in!

Spring Cleaning Giveaway (Alyce), April 29
Bedlam South by Mark Grisham & David Donaldson (ARC)
Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald (ARC)
The Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs
The Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash (ARC)

First in Series Giveaway (Carrie), April 30
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

The Mortal Instruments series is fantastic, of course, and I'd love my own copy of The Summoning. :)

Additionally, Carol over at Bookluver-Carol is currently celebrating her one-year blogoversary with a TON of author guest posts, interviews, and prizes. I think you'll not want to miss it, so be sure to stop by there every couple of hours!

Also, the aforementioned Carol and similarly insane Yan are having their ridiculous April Fool's, er, Month's worth of author interviews and giveaways. These require a bit more creativity and preparation to answer, so check them out, write them up, edit them, and then post to up your chances.


Whew! That took a while to write up. If you have anything you want me to add to my weekly giveaway roundup posts just let me know. Happy contest-entering!

In My Mailbox (10)

In My Mailbox is memefied over at Kristi's blog. Check out what others got in terms of books this week!

This week was absolutely ridiculous. Lots of great trades, and PaperbackSwap and BookMooch were kind to me, AND I really really really need to stop buying discount books. Sheesh.

From a trade with Stephanie: :)
The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry
Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin van Draanen
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Beige by Cecil Castellucci

Exiled from Canada to Los Angeles, Katy can't believe she is spending the summer with her father—punk name: the Rat—a recovered addict and drummer for the band Suck. Even though Katy feels abandoned by her mom, even though the Rat's place is a mess and he's not like anything she'd call a father, Kathy won't make a fuss. After all, she is a girl who is quiet and polite, a girl who smiles, a girl who is, well, beige. Or is she? From the author of BOY PROOF and THE QUEEN OF COOL comes an edgy L.A. novel full of humor, heart, and music.

I won this signed book from Free Book Friday for Teens. I think I have some sort of connection with Cecil Castellucci, for this is the third signed book of hers that I have won in my lifetime. Strange, no?

Kitty Raises Hell by Carrie Vaughn

I won this from a giveaway over on The Novel Bookworm's website. I haven't read the series but I've heard good things about it. Perhaps I should start? This is like the sixth book in the series, lol, so it might take me a while until I get to this one!

From BookMooch:

The Plague by Joanne Dahme
Need by Carrie Jones
Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

These are actually from Kristi via BookMooch, so merci beaucoup. I look forward to reading them. :)

Numbers by Rachel Ward

Since her mother's death, fifteen-year-old Jem has kept a secret. When her eyes meet someone else's, a number pops into her head - the date on which they will die. Knowing that nothing lasts forever, Jem avoids relationships, but when she meets a boy called Spider, and they plan a day out together, her life takes a new twist and turn. Waiting for the London Eye, she sees everyone in the queue has the same number - something terrible is going to happen.

Daughter of the Flames by Zoe Marriott

Inside an ancient temple in the mountains, fifteen-year-old Zira trains in the martial arts to become a warrior priestess who can defend the faith of the Ruan people. Bearing a scar on her face from the fire that killed her parents, the orphaned Zira is taught to distrust the occupying Sedornes. Terror strikes when the forces of the tyrannical Sedorne king destroy the only home she knows. To survive, Zira must unravel the secrets of her identity, decide her people’s fate — and accept her growing feelings for a man who should be her enemy.

From PaperbackSwap:
Scribbler of Dreams by Mary E. Pearson
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger (childhood favorite - happy I got my own copy now!)
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn
How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle
The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer (not pictured)
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner (not pictured)


Before I Die by Jenny Downham
I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert
Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Tamsin by Peter Beagle (not pictured)
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Generation Dead by Daniel Waters (not pictured, but my own copy now!)

From the library:

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
I Know It's Over by C. K. Kelly Martin
Bones of Faerie by Jannie Lee Simner

Okay, back to NOT reading all these wonderful looking books as I do schoolwork... *sigh*


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