Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

Tags: YA, feminism, cheerleading, secret societies

Rating: 3 out of 5


Jess Parker is used to being the new girl at school. However, she always has her love of cheerleading to fall back on, even when her new teammates at Mt. Sterling High shun her because of a rumor that her archnemesis, Lexy Steele, spreads. Jess has always skirted the outskirts of popularity and inclusion…until she receives a mysterious invitation at the end of her sophomore year, initiating her into a secret society.

The Cindys consist of girls and women around the world who band together to fight the Wickeds and their negative influences. Recent Wickeds activity has been spiking, and in between her regular Cindy training, trying to work past her feelings of self-doubt, and boy intrigue, Jess is selected to undertake a journey that she doesn’t know if she’s capable of doing. Her overwhelming number of responsibilities make Jess wonder, is she really destined to be a Cindy, or has there been a horrible mistake?


Wow. Move over, Barbie, Bratz, and other unrealistic portrayals of females. THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY is an unself-conscious call for girl power, shamelessly girlie and endlessly original.

The message of female empowerment prevails throughout the entire novel, and you don’t need to simply read this as a fun story. As Jess and her Big Sis work their way through the Cindy training, readers will be happy to pick up the empowering tips as well—for example, it’s finding the best style for you that’s important, or that self-confidence and attitude can make or break even the best-looking girl. By pitching this important but often overlooked concept in a secret society novel, THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY will bring together all types of female readers, from the seemingly perfect Queens of high school to the lonely misfit. Feminism ties all the excessively girlie components of this story together to make it enjoyable for everyone.

The protagonist, Jess, can be infuriatingly and unjustifiably lacking in self-confidence (because in the grand scheme of things, she is SO much better off than most high school girls), but in the end still becomes a character whose story we’re interested in, and who we can cheer for. Her worries about being the new kid at the beginning of the story are relatable even to those who have not moved nine times in 16 years. However, her reactions of unworthiness once she enters the Society and her sickening preoccupation with her physical makeover were a little disturbing and left a bad taste in my mouth.

Similarly, I found the romance between Jess and her object of interest, the—you guessed it!—star quarterback and Your Royal Sexiness, Ryan Steele, to be saccharinely clichéd. I’ve never fully understood why characters must more often than not be obsessed with their school’s physically perfect quarterback. Ryan’s character does delve into a bit of depth and family tragedy as the story goes along, but not enough to justify the predictability of their interactions, and Jess’ feelings for him.

The plot started out great, but digressed into lessons and chapters of explanation towards the second half of the novel, which was disconcerting for me. The uneven distribution of exciting scenes tempted me to put down the novel in various places, and it was only my intrigue with the way rival, fairy tale-like factions of good vs. evil were portrayed as Cindys vs. Wickeds that kept me going.

Despite rather serious flaws in character and story construction, I still give a thumbs-up to THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY for addressing female empowerment in a way that is easily accessible to those who need it most: teen girls. This story just might become your best friend, regardless of what kind of girl you are, and for teen girls who usually flock to Gossip Girl and Twilight, this series will be a different but great addition your shelves. Look out as Kay Cassidy takes the female readership world by storm!

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 2/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - Rather pinkish and excessively girly for my tastes, which could turn off some potential readers, but it should attract those who just might need its message the best: middle school girls. Go, girl power!

EgmontUSA / April 13, 2010 / Hardcover / $16.99

This review is brought to you by One Arc Tours!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In My Mailbox (20)

It's been a while since I've done an IMM post, and the books have really *gulp* piled up. So for everyone's sake and mine, I'm only going to report the ones I've received for review. Really looking forward to reading these all!

The Silent Gift by Michael Landon, Jr. and Cindy Kelley
(Baker Publishing Group / Oct. 2009)

The 1930s were a decade of enormous uncertainty--for the world, for America, and in particular for one lonely, struggling mother and her disabled son. Their story is one of love and enormous sacrifices in the face of circumstances horrendous beyond belief. When her husband leaves her for someone whose time isn't wrapped up in a silent, handicapped kid, Mary and little Luke are out on their own in a world that has no room for the poor and disabled. Especially not at a time when most Americans are simply trying to survive their economic woes and job losses. But then arrives The Gift...where has it come from, and why? How can a young boy who can neither hear nor speak provide comfort, direction, and sometimes challenges to seekers who learn of the special ability? Whatever the source, its presence brings a single shaft of light and hope to Mary and her beloved Luke. Will it be enough?

This book sounds like it could be similar to a Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult book, which I enjoy in moderation. I read the first chapter on Amazon and was intrigued. Thanks, Elliott!

Three Wishes by Isabelle Merlin
(Random House Australia / Nov. 2009)

When Rose creates a blog for an English assignment, she doesn't realize it will change her life forever. An elegant stranger arrives to announce that Rose has an aristocratic French grandfather who would like to meet her. Upon arriving at her grandfather’s magnificent castle, Rose becomes enchanted with her new life, and particularly with Charlie, a charming boy who is equally besotted with Rose. But as Rose begins to delve deeper into her family's past, her fairytale turns into a nightmare as it becomes clear that someone wants her dead!

Thanks, Isabelle!

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey
(Harcourt / May 3, 2010)

Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents’ rules – especially the one about never opening the mysterious, old box in her father’s office. But when her dad is murdered, and her college savings disappear, she's tempted to peek inside, as the contents might be key to a lucrative chemistry scholarship.

To better her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize, but to save Tristen’s sanity. Maybe his life. But Jill’s accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and compels her to risk everything – even Tristen’s love – just for the thrill of being… bad.

I was a huge fan of Beth's debut novel, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, and have been eagerly awaiting her sophomore novel since I heard its title. I know I'll be diving into this one as soon as the semester's over. Thanks, Beth!

Soul Catcher by Leigh Bridger
(BelleBooks, Inc. / Oct. 1, 2009)

From the gothic eccentricity of Asheville, North Carolina to the terrifying recesses of the Appalachian wilderness, from modern demonology to ancient Cherokee mythology, SOUL CATCHER follows the tormented journey of folk artist Livia Belane, who has been stalked through many lives by a sadistic and vengeful demon.

Livia and her loved ones, including her frontier-era soulmate and husband, Ian, a Soul Hunter, have never beaten the demon before. Now, in this life, he s found them again.

Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French
(Abrams / May 2009)

Clandestine e-mail exchanges, secret trips, fake press releases, and a tree-house standoff are among the clever stunts and pranks the kid heroes pull off in this exciting ecological adventure. "Sibley Carter is a moron and a world-class jerk!" When Julian Carter-Li intercepts an angry e-mail message meant for his high-powered uncle, it sets him on the course to stop an environmental crime! His uncle's company plans to cut down some of the oldest and last California redwood trees, and its up to Julian, and a ragtag group of friends, to figure out a way to stop them. This action-packed debut novel shows the power of determined individuals, no matter what their age, to stand up to environmental wrongdoing.

Woohoo, a middle-grade novel with a POC protagonist and an ecoadventurist plot! Thanks for offering this to me for review, S.!

The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein by Libby Schmais
(Random House / Dec. 8, 2009)

Lotus Lowenstein's life is merde. She dreams of moving to Paris and becoming an existentialist. Yet here she is trapped in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a New-Agey mom, an out-of-work dad, and a chess champion brother who dreams of being a rock star. Merci à Dieu for Lotus’s best friend, Joni, who loves French culture enough to cofound their high school’s first French Club with Lotus. At the first meeting, the cutest boy in the world walks in. His name is Sean, and he too loves French culture and worships Jean-Paul Sartre.

At first, Lotus thinks Sean is the best thing to happen to her in years. He’s smart, cultured, and adorable. Unfortunately, though, Joni feels the same way. And having an existentialist view of love, Sean sees nothing wrong with enjoying both girls’ affections. Things come to a head when all three depart for Montreal with their teacher, Ms. G, on the French Club’s first official field trip. Will Sean choose Joni over Lotus? And will Lotus and Joni’s friendship ever recover?

I received this from Sarah for a blog tour. It's been on my radar for a while, and it's really cute! Look for my review and an interview with the author coming soon...

Numbers by Rachel Ward
(Scholastic / Feb. 1, 2010)

Ever since she was child, Jem has kept a secret: Whenever she meets someone new, no matter who, as soon as she looks into their eyes, a number pops into her head. That number is a date: the date they will die. Burdened with such awful awareness, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. The two plan a trip to the city. But while waiting to ride the Eye ferris wheel, Jem is terrified to see that all the other tourists in line flash the same number. Today's number. Today's date. Terrorists are going to attack London. Jem's world is about to explode!

Ooooh, a total but HIGHLY welcome surprise from Scholastic!

Fall to Pieces by Mary Forsberg Weiland
(HarperCollins / Nov. 2009)

On the surface, Mary Weiland had a fairy-tale life. She was a highly paid fashion model married to successful rock star Scott Weiland, the notorious frontman for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver. Then came the rampage in a Burbank hotel room and the resulting media frenzy that revealed to the world her bipolar disorder and drug abuse. In Fall to Pieces, Weiland describes the extreme highs and lows of her life, the volatility of which long hinted at mental illness. Working with acclaimed journalist Larkin Warren, Weiland tells her story with refreshing candour, unflinching detail, and more than a little humor. Reminiscent of celebrity memoirs by Tatum O'Neill, Brooke Shields, and Valerie Bertinelli, Weiland's story offers a window into the world of modelling and rock 'n' roll celebrity while providing deep insights into a serious and misunderstood psychological disorder.

A random book sent to me for review. It's hardly my usual type of book, but I'll give it a try, see what it's like...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate

Tags: YA, paranormal, fallen angels, love triangle, boarding school


When 17-year-old Luce Price enters Sword & Cross reform boarding school in Savannah, Georgia, she is immediately attracted to the aloof, gorgeous, and strangely achingly familiar Daniel Grigori. Luce could swear she feels a connection with him, but Daniel rebuffs all her attempts to get to know him better, and even though another hot guy named Cam is paying her a lot of attention, Luce still can’t Daniel out of her mind.

Little does Luce know that Daniel is trying to stay away from her for both of their sakes. For they are irrevocably connected by a cruel curse—one that will kill Luce if she gets too close to Daniel…


If FALLEN is the future of YA supernatural fiction, then I fear for this genre. FALLEN is painfully dull and slow, with very little besides the concept of fallen angels and the suggestion of an impossible romance to recommend it to readers.

If the plot of FALLEN were to race a glacier, the glacier would win. From the moment Luce arrives at Sword & Cross, the plot feels like it’s always tripping over its own feet in order to explain itself, and to no avail. I don’t mind a gradually building plot if it contains atmosphere and sets up the exposition well, but the setting of Sword & Cross was never fully realized for me, and the events in Luce’s past that landed her at reform school never attained credibility. Luce floats through boarding school life in a series of disconnected and awkwardly written encounters with her schoolmates, none of which helped me understand Luce or any of the other characters. All of the action and scenes required to get the gist of the story occurred within the last 60 pages, and what happened was not worth plodding through 400 pages of irrelevance to get to that point.

All of the characters in FALLEN were static and artificial, something that less discerning Twilight-fangirling tweens won’t mind but that more well-read readers will definitely take issue with. Luce is about as passive as a bowl of rice pudding. You think Bella didn’t do anything for three-and-a-half 400-plus-page-long books? Luce just might make Bella look like head of the school spirit squad. She flits from scene to scene, never being fully integrated into the immediacy of the story and never coalescing into a comprehensive character. The thing I most remember about her was that she had short hair from when it got burnt off in a fire. If the way I describe a character is by the length of her hair and not any, I dunno, actual personality traits, you better believe that is a serious problem.

Along those same lines, Cam and Daniel were similarly bland male love interests whose only identifiable characteristic was their inexplicable—and inevitable, in this sort of book—attraction to Luce. I constantly got the two mixed up and couldn’t pick them out from a handful of YA male love interests if I had to. I am hardly questioning the appeal of stalker-y, unequal-power-dynamics love—there is a reason why so many of us love bad boys so much—but to have Cam and Daniel be so one-dimensional and predictable, while the story practically insists that we’re supposed to find them heart-stoppingly attractive…sorry, but I really don’t need that.

We’ve all heard the quiet rumblings that fallen angels might be the Next Big Thing in YA lit, but only if they’re done right. FALLEN read like a boarding school story with smatterings of the supernatural dashed throughout, the angels-and-demons element only manifesting itself in the final few chapters. It was a discomforting read because it was so detached from those elements of humanity that make even the most fantastical novel relatable: the Southern setting was never fully realized, and the characters were difficult to empathize with.

That being said, FALLEN gets two stars from me because I can totally see its appeal to middle school girls who have devoured the entire Twilight series and now desperately need something to read in between the next House of Night book and the Eclipse movie coming out in Summer 2010. It contains all the elements of a trendy YA bestseller: a paranormal element, a love triangle, two powerful love interests who compete for the same girl. Unfortunately, the great idea was poorly executed, and I won’t be following the rest of this series. However, consider asking your thirteen-year-old sister or cousin for her opinion on FALLEN, and you might get a totally different point of view, one that justifies why Random House believes that FALLEN will be huge in YA.

Similar Authors
Stephenie Meyer (Twilight)
P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast (House of Night series)

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

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - It', I guess? Definitely discombobulated and rather unrelated to the story--kind of like many scenes in the story itself, I suppose.

Delacorte / Dec. 8, 2009 / Hardcover / $17.99

ARC sent by publisher for review.

Comment on this review for an extra entry into my Lauren Kate giveaway.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Guest Blog: Greg of

I hope everyone had a splendid Thanksgiving (or Thursday, if Thanksgiving doesn't apply to you) and have by now slept off the aftereffects of stuffing yourselves silly. I know I slept for a loooong time today, but now I'm all set to do some work and then to see New Moon with my friends--finally! I feel like a bad YA blogger, not having seen New Moon for purely observational reasons yet. Ah well, as one of my friends who's going with me says, "I think an Edward [or Jake, if you are on that team] would be lovely on the big screen."

Today's guest blog comes from George Palmer, founder of the cool site, which is perfect for people like me who are obsessed with "Best of" lists. I mentioned 5ftshelf as an interesting site to check out in a post a couple of weeks ago, but here is George, explanation his inspiration and the process of creating the site himself. Welcome, George!


Dr Eliot, head of Harvard University in 1900, often claimed in speeches that a liberal eduction could be achieved by reading a collection of books totalling no more than 3ft in width. When a local publisher challenged him to name the books and he sat down to work out the items to include, he found that he actually needed 5ft of space. The collection of books that he listed became know as Dr Eliot's 5ft shelf--later the Harvard Classics. It contains some of the most important and influential works of our time--Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Darwin's The Origin of Species, and Shakespeare's Hamlet, to name just a few.

When I first heard of the Harvard Classics over 2 years ago, the idea fascinated me, and not long after I started to wonder what a modern equivalent would look like. Disappointed that my research as to
whether such a list existed failed to materialise any matches, I started to wonder whether I could create a website to do just that--find a modern version of the Harvard Classics.

It took another 18 months before I could start on the project, but after much hard work I finally had an initial version I could release to the world (which happened just two weeks ago). I decided to name the website 5ft Shelf after the original name for the collection. I also decided to slightly change the criteria for selection--the original list was composed of solely books and I decided that two new quintessential forms for modern living had emerged in music albums and movies. Whilst books were the one of the major forms of entertainment 100 years ago, I decided music and film had really come through as mediums in the last 100 years and they should be represented as well.

The concept of the website is that people register to create their own personal 5ft Shelf which they can then share with others. Whilst there's no social network right now, we plan to release one in the coming weeks, as we think it'll be interesting to watch your friends add and remove items over time. Of course, the real point is to find a modern version of the Harvard Classics and we call this shelf (which we find by combining all users' shelves and finding the most popular items) the Ultimate Shelf. By using all the users' shelves to find the modern shelf we're also creating a "people's version" of the shelf (rather than the original which was created by one definitive source--Dr Eliot and an assistant). Early results are encouraging, and a lot of the books, albums, and films that have emerged on the Ultimate Shelf are considered modern classics.

There are also a few other nice features that early users have reviewed positively. The first is mini-shelves. These are shelves of items belonging to just your chosen category. So whether it's DIY, murder mystery's, or children's books that you're passionate about, then you can see the most popular items that fall into just that category on a shelf. The other feature people have really enjoyed is recommendations. Based on the items you add to your shelf, we search for other people with similar items and see what they have on their shelves that you don't. We then recommend these to you as ideas for items you might like to think about in the future (plus we've provided a link straight through to Amazon if you want to buy the recommendation).


Thanks, George, for the informative post, and I hope you readers check out for hours of procrastinatory usefulness and enjoyment! :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (40)

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

When Aura's boyfriend dies a most untimely death, she is forced to reconsider her relationship with the living and the dead alike. [from Jeri's website]

WICKED GAME and Aspect of Crow trilogy author Jeri Smith-Ready's first teen fiction GENERATION GHOST, following a 16 year-old girl on a quest to uncover why everyone her age and younger can see ghosts — and her struggle to cope with her boyfriend's passing when he haunts her regularly, to Annette Pollert at Simon Pulse, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown (World English). [from the Publishers Weekly Dec. 2008 deal announcement]

I provided these two snippets because I think the two of them together provide a better idea of what Shade is going to be about. I have heard nothing but good things about Jeri's adult series, which starts with Wicked Game (which I have on my TBR mountain), so I'm really excited about her debut YA novel! Occasionally you just need a good old-fashioned paranormal ghost story with a twist of doomed romance...

Oh, check out the full jacket wrap image:

What do you guys think? I'm not sure how crazy I am about the way it divides into the front cover, spine, and back cover. I mean, the front cover image looks a little...bland, with hardly any of the model appearing on it. Oh well. I'm in it for the story, anyway!

Shade will be published by Simon Pulse in hardcover on May 18, 2010.

What are you guys waiting on, on this day so close to Thanksgiving??

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lauren Kate GIVEAWAY!

By now you've probably heard of Fallen by Lauren Kate, coming out from Random House on Dec. 8, which will most likely be really popular with lots of readers--even though *whispers* I personally didn't enjoy it that much. What you might not know, however, is that on Nov. 12, Lauren Kate came out with another book from Razorbill, called The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove, which is a mixture of Cruel Intentions and Macbeth that will appeal to fans of Kate Brian's Private series, for example, for its similarly delicious writing style and characters you love to hate.

That being said, I'm giving you the chance now to win these two ARCs! There will be ONE winner, who will receive both ARCs. Then you can see for yourself what you think about these books.

To enter, simply leave your email address.

For extra entries:
+1 if you follow me or start following me
+1 for each place you link to this giveaway (blog posts, sidebars, Twitter, etc.). On Twitter, please mention @stephxsu in order to get your extra entry
+1 if you comment on my review of The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove (+2 if you commented on it before today, 11/23/09)
+1 if you... ? Stay tuned.... :)

This contest is INTERNATIONAL and will end on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009. Good luck!

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Awesome Time at NCTE

NCTE stands for the National Council of Teachers of English. This past weekend, they held their annual convention at the Philadelphia Convention Center, and through talking with my incredible professor/advisor/to-be (hopefully) thesis advisor, I found out that I would be able to go, and that my school would fund me for it! (Thank you, Swarthmore. Thank you thankyouthankyou.)

I'm really bad at taking pictures, but... first off, the location was amazing. Soaring ceilings (metal structures exposed, but that only lent to the cool convention-ness feel of it!), people walking everywhere, huge meeting rooms for all the gazillions of sessions that took place during each time slot. Friday morning, I first went to a session on mentor texts. The session title had Harry Potter in it, but it turned out it was less on HP than on... well, mentor texts, which are like "base" texts that the students then base their writing and/or character/story studies off of. It was okay. I got to write a really bad poem that hopefully won't see the light of day every again.

The next Friday morning session was called "Defending Intellectual Freedom" in which three YA lit superstars--Lauren Myracle, Jay Asher, and David Levithan--talked about censorship and why it's important to give students the right to read anything. Lauren was hilarious as usual. Her books (e.g. TTYL, Kissing Kate, Eleven, Luv Ya Bunches) are constantly encountering angry parents who feel that, and I quote Lauren here, "middle school students shouldn't know about: thong underwear, French kissing, tampons, and erections." Um, excuse me, but if I recall, I learned about all those things in middle school (thankfully, or I'd probably be a socially awkward mess right now) and I learned about them in books. Lauren read several hilariously excruciating negative reviews and letters from parents who blasted her as basically being Satan reincarnate. Seriously. She said that on a website called something along the lines of Virtue Alert, there was the post, "Parents beware! Satan is on the prowl, and its name is Lauren Myracle."

Hysterically painful reviews and letters aside, Lauren made the great point that controversial books just might play an important role in some lives, and that any adult who cares about what kids are reading isn't the enemy. She commends these parents for wanting to know what their kids are reading, but feels that people shouldn't make judgments based on just a few pages or passages from a book.

Then, Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) took the podium and talked about why it was necessary for him to write uncomfortable scenes in order to talk about a taboo subject such as suicide: the crucial scene (it involves a hot tub, though it's been a while since I've read it, and so I don't remember exactly) must be uncomfortable for readers to get it. He said that because people don't talk about suicide, that's a huge reason why there are people still doing it. Those who need help don't know that it's out there for them, and whenever people challenge his book, he always shows them emails he's received from teens who've told him, "Your book saved my life." Jay made the important point that YA books shouldn't be seen from an adult perspective, because, after all, they are not written for adults.

David Levithan's speech was shorter, but utterly powerful. He challenges educators, librarians, and publishing professionals who are afraid of stirring up controversy by supporting a controversial book: What's the use of keeping your job if you're not doing it? The educator's job is to represent every kid in school: kids should know that libraries and classrooms are there for them to seek information, understanding, and solace in. The author's job is to try to tell the truth with as much honesty, frankness, and directness as possible. Authors are not really there to provide them with advice to how to get better, but rather to guide them to professional help. Any adult working with kids must constantly engage with the kids and grow with them, trying to understand their needs instead of imposing their own values on kids.

The talk was amazing, and afterwards, I checked out the exhibits for an hour or two. What madness! Thousands of English teachers running around, crowding around exhibits; publishers handing out ARCs, selling books at extremely low prices for author was absolutely crazy in a nerdy, bookish sort of way, and thus, it was sort of like heaven. I got some great ARCs, a lot of which have been on my high-priority wish list for months. I also hunt out at the EgmontUSA booth for a bit, and got to talk to Regina and Allison (sorry if I spelled your name wrong!), who were both super-cool, laid-back, and totally friendly.

The highlight of that hour has to be meeting Malinda Lo though. She was signing copies of Ash at the Little, Brown booth, and I was super happy to see so many people buy her book and get it signed by her.  Malinda took a picture of us, in which I'm sure I look terrified, nervous, and star-struck, but it was seriously great to finally meet in person one of my favorite authors whom I've talked to for so long.

Afterwards I attended two more sessions. One was a presentation of 28 recently or soon-to-be published MG/YA books that the panelists believed could be a great addition to classrooms or school libraries. I was happy to see so many great authors on it: Lisa McMann, Suzanne Collins, Kristin Cashore, Don Calame, Fran Cannon Slayton, Sarah Ockler... Of course, lists like those are always subjective and can vary greatly between people. I would've added a lot more great books I feel deserve to be made available to students, and, er, taken a few off. But to each his or her own!

Then, I went to a session about Pairing Fiction with Nonfiction in the classroom. Kate Messner, Loree Burns, Jenny Moss, and Tanya Lee Stone presented. It was a sweet and straightforward presentation that I hope the English teachers there will immediately apply to their own classrooms.

In the last hour before I had to leave, I returned to the exhibit hall and got in the SUPERMEGALONG line for Becca Fitzpatrick. S&S was giving out free copies of Hush, Hush, and Becca was signing them. The line was consistently HUGE, to which I say, Yay, Becca for all your success and the support you've gotten! She had been signing for almost 90 minutes by the time it was my turn (and no, I didn't wait 90 minutes; I waited about 15), and I was afraid she was going to be completely, like, comatose from signing so many books and talking to so many people. But when I introduced myself, it was totally a squee moment: Becca jumped up and gave me a great big hug, and I talked to her and her editor, the wonderful Emily Meehan, for a couple minutes. Again, it was great to meet another author friend at NCTE.

On Saturday, I was only able to go in the morning due to a swim meet, but I still had a great time. I attended a session on how to promote literacy in content classrooms of all kinds: math, science, social studies... and apparently, at this middle school, it works wonderfully! They basically make reading into a game, and you can score points or win prizes depending on how many pages/books you read. The lady who talked about the success of her book club really made me want to start one of my own.

Among the people I saw at the exhibit hall that morning: Maggie Stiefvater (busy signing copies of Shiver and the just-printed ARCs of Linger), Kate Messner (taking pictures of friends' books at the EgmontUSA booth), and Malinda Lo (as we were both walking out of the exhibit hall). I also got a couple more books, which you will see...oh, now!...

But first, a shot of what Maggie wrote in my copy of Shiver. :)

Ash by Malinda Lo (signed)
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (signed)
Epitaph Road by David Patneaude
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards
The Clone Codes by Patricia McKissack
Tangled by Carolyn Mackler
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan (signed)
Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler
The River by Mary Jane Beauford

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (signed)
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (signed)
Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson (signed)
The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams
Half World by Hiromi Goto
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How Blogging Has Helped My Writing

Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers is all about his theory that success more influenced by environment and experience than innate talent. Sometimes, the "successful" ( put "successful" in quotes because I firmly believe there are many types of success, but Gladwell is talking mostly about fame and a little bit of fortune here) people are the lucky ones who were simply born in the right time period, into a financially secure family, in a community that is poised to unknowingly cater to all their interests, whims, and developmental needs. (See: Bill Gates.) 70-80% of the most successful Canadian ice hockey players are born in the first three months of the year. Coincidence? Not quite. In their school-age junior league, the cutoff for admittance into the league is January 1. There is a HUGE amount of mental and physical difference between, say, a six-year-old born in late January and a six-year-old born in October. Thus, the January six-year-old gets picked over the October six-year-old and goes on to get special intensive training with the best coaches and best equipment, so, naturally, they advance to higher and higher levels...while the original October six-year-old, who at the beginning could've been just as talented as the January six-year-old, gets shunted to one side and, by, say, age 18 or so, is actually perceivably less talented than the January kid who got all the cool stuff... and all because of that arbitrary age cut-off date.

The moral of this story? Canadian parents, if you want your kid to be a hockey superstar, time his conception wisely.

Okay, I'm just kidding for that. NO, WAIT, DON'T GO, I'M SORRY, IT GETS BETTER. It's pretty intense stuff to think about, that so much of our success may be out of our control. However, Gladwell also describes the "10,000-hour" rule: basically, that masters and experts in ANY and ALL fields have only accomplished their success after 10,000 hours of practice. Do you know how much time 10,000 hours is? A heck of a lot of time. Bill Gates skipped gym classes and stayed up all night fiddling with computers for years to achieve 10,000 hours of computer practice by the time he dropped out of Harvard to become a multibillionaire.


(Okay, kidding. Kidding. Toooootallyyyy kidding. Pretend I didn't say that, or else my professors will think they're wasting their time on me, and my family will think they're wasting their money. Teehee. I luff you!)

The gist of it is, 10,000 hours is about the unconsciously universal threshold for mastery in anything. Gladwell's findings indicate that there is a marked difference in the success of violinists who've practiced 10,000 hours and violinists who've practiced only 8,000, or 6,000. Constant and dedicated immersion in one's passion or interest is a crucial factor to success.

Which brings me to blogging and writing. This year has been a year of almost explosive growth in my reading and writing habits. A few days ago I crossed the 200-book mark in number of books I've read in 2009. I've taken two writing workshop classes at school, started and finished writing a novel, and started another one. I don't even want to know how many hours I've spent on book-related websites such as Twitter, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and blogs, because that will just make me feel kind of sad at how much time I could've spent reading or writing.

All of this is PRACTICE for my dreams of becoming a published author. Reading all those books? That's research. I've gotten a better sense of what writing styles I like to read, and what works for others, and what I can write, and what I'd like to write. I've read enough this year and in past years to develop a sense of plotlines and story ideas that I feel have been overused to the point where I either want to stay away from them for my life's sake or am determined to rework them and reach the core of what they used to be about. (Read: vampires. And a slight explanation for what I'm doing with my NaNo...)

I know now that I want to never ever ever write a predictable teen romance: "plain girl falls for Abercrombie-model-hot totally-good/too-bad-to-be-true boy on first sight," or "plain girl's long-time unattainable Abercrombie-model-hot totally-good/too-bad-to-be-true crush suddenly notices her when she gets a makeover, or, you know, zombies attack their hometown." Ack. And I know that I want to keep readers alert; to immerse them in a gradual yet heart-wrenchingly unforgettable romance; to push the limits of YA lit conventions. I want to write minority characters and make them accessible to all kinds of readers, like Justine Larbalestier. I promote discourse and perhaps court controversy with sadly taboo real-life subjects, like what Lauren Myracle and Lois Lowry do. I want to reject mediocrity and conventionality.

Composing blog posts, commenting on others' blogs, and even thinking of ways to say things in less than 140 characters--that's me developing my conversational and narrative writing skills. How does one incorporate tone, irony, or subtext in 140 characters? I'd like to think I attempted to figure that out. My fiction writing has changed over this year, too. Earlier this year I wrote some pretty awful, plotless, character-montage short stories for my workshop last spring. Now, I'm aware of the importance of having a story in your story. Before this summer, I was terrified of writing shitty first drafts, and thus rarely finished writing something if I felt it got too bad or boring. Now, I know that Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) was right: 99% of the time, first drafts are AWFUL. Probably more than half of my first drafts won't make it into my revised second drafts, and now I know that and look forward to tearing apart my first drafts and rewriting large sections.

I've also learned the zillions of things that I want to work on in the years to come. I'm atrocious at writing families. Research kills the spirit in me. Writing three-dimensional siblings? Fugghedaboudit. I let my characters tell us what they're thinking too often, instead of letting them show their thought process in actions. And, oh yeah, I still need to figure out how to write that "THAT'S IT" first sentence in query letters, instead of writing summaries that sound suspiciously like book proposals or book jacket descriptions. I keep lists of the questions I have for my stories, myself, and my writing, and I look forward to when I'll be able to answer them. Through practice. Always through practice.

So yes, I have been clocking some serious practice hours for writing this year. And the best part? It's all been so enjoyable, so effortless. I love all the new friends I've made through blogging and Twitter. I love going to bookish events and actually be able to connect to people there. And, yes, I even very secretly and guiltily like being the children's and YA lit "semi-expert" in my Children's Lit class at Penn. (And if you, Phil, are reading this, I hope you don't take it in a bad way!) I like striking up conversations with the bookstore employees who ring up my purchases for me, and recommending that they read such-and-such a book if they like this-and-that.

Fellow aspiring authors (and book lovers who don't want to be authors, or writers who are already published), I hope you don't lose heart, especially if you're doing NaNo. Consider the blogging community experience as research and practice towards whatever dreams you have. I know you're all passionate about books: you wouldn't be flittering through the blogosphere or reading this now absurdly long blog post if you aren't. Whatever you read and write counts towards your 10,000 hours. Think of it that way, and it'll be a lot easier to reach mastery in whatever you desire. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate

Tags: YA, popularity, murder, drinking

Rating: 3 out of 5


High school senior Natalie Hargrove has worked hard to get from trailer trash to a ruling member of Palmetto High School. The culmination of her work should be the much coveted Palmetto Princess crown, alongside her longtime boyfriend, Mike, who should be a shoo-in for Prince. However, one person may stand in her way of couples glory and domination: her least favorite person, Justin Balmer, who is a reminder of all that Natalie has tried to get away from.

After a wild party, Natalie and Mike devise a prank to give Justin a little of what he deserves…except that the prank turns out horribly wrong. Now, Natalie must scramble to cover up their tracks and lay the blame on someone else as everyone she trusts begins slipping away from her. Can Natalie use her considerable scheming prowess to save her reputation and future, or has she crossed the line this time?


THE BETRAYAL OF NATALIE HARGROVE is an unapologetically guilty-pleasure read that will make your insides squirm with half-pleasure, half-horror. With a wonderful voice, tantalizing characters, and a steady plot, this book seems tailor-made for teen girls looking for a fast and furious read.

Natalie reminds me of many bitchy and manipulative queens of high school society. Her voice is spot-on and full of judgment against those who cross her path as well as the constant fear that she will be exposed as a fraud. She is the girl you love to hate, and yet can’t read enough about. Though definitely callous at times, Natalie is also simultaneously the desperate, lost girl struggling to gain footing on a suspicious land. Her actions may be despicable, but she is also wonderfully justified in doing what she did, which is a remarkable achievement on Lauren Kate’s part.

Indeed, I found almost all of the characters fascinating with their complicatedly bad sides. Here, there are no perfect characters, and it’s almost like watching a CW drama, the way you can’t look away from these train wrecks of characters. (On a side note, I believe I also have a bit of a bad-boy crush on Justin.) Nobody really changes much throughout the story, but they are interesting enough that you just might overlook that and focus on the drama itself.

The story slowly unfurls Natalie’s past, as well as what happened between her and Justin. It can be an infuriating process, the way hints are dropped sporadically, unhelpfully. However—and it may be my slightly masochistic side saying this—I found the ending satisfying, in all its shock and, yes, even unexpected sweetness.

THE BETRAYAL OF NATALIE HARGROVE may not be for everyone, but if you’re willing to overlook the fact that all of these characters and the entire situation itself are far from admirable, you’re in for an enjoyable ride.

Similar Authors
Courtney Summers (Cracked Up to Be)
Kate Brian (Private series)
Cecily von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl series)

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

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Razorbill / Nov. 12, 2009 / Paperback / $9.99

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday (39)

The Shadow Project by Herbie Brennan

Danny Lipman is a thief . . . until one night he robs the wrong house. He inadvertently breaks into the headquarters of the Shadow Project, a secret government organization where teenage spies are trained to leave their bodies, using astral projection to travel around the world on deadly missions.

Danny is captured, but the Project leaders quickly realize he has a special gift. And when a key operative—the director's daughter, Opal—goes missing, he is offered a choice: join the Shadow Project or go to jail.

Danny joins and is quickly sent to investigate the Project's current target: a worldwide terrorist organization known as the Sword of Wrath. But as he gets deeper in, he discovers both the Project and the Sword of Wrath are far more than they seem. Danny and his fellow operatives are caught up in an ancient supernatural conflict and will have to learn how to survive in a world without boundaries of space or time, where the wrong choice could be their last. [summary from Amazon]

Okay, so I really enjoyed Herbie Brennan's previous series, The Faerie Wars. It was actually the series that inspired me to write the story I was working on before my NaNo project. This sounds like it'll be a great blend of sci-fi and paranormal/supernatural elements, all combined with the natural thrill that Brennan always puts into his writing. Eeeee!

The Shadow Project will be published in hardcover by Balzar + Bray on December 29, 2009.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good Reads ARC and Swag GIVEAWAY!

It's been a while since I've done a giveaway, and so I thought: you know what, Steph? You really need to host a giveaway soon! So, in the spirit of sharing the the love of reading and the opportunity to read, what with the upcoming holiday season and all, I'm giving away ARCs of the following SIX books that I've reviewed and enjoyed:



Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff
Little Black Lies by Tish Cohen
The Waking: Dreams of the Dead by Thomas Randall
My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman

There will be TWO winners. The first-place winner will receive three books of their choice, plus a limited edition Hush, Hush poster (thanks, Simon & Schuster!), plus a cool signed bookmark from my generous Tenner friend, Anastasia Hopcus, whose debut book, Shadow Hills, will be coming out from EgmontUSA in Summer 2010 (thanks so much, Anastasia!). Second-place winner will receive the remaining three books plus a Shadow Hills bookmark.

For ONE entry, leave a comment here with which of the above books you're really looking forward to reading!

For extra entries:
+1 if you follow me or start following me
+1 if you link to this giveaway in a sidebar, tweet, or blog post
+1 for each review of the above books you comment on:
(No need to comment here that you've commented there; I will count up the entries at each review. +2 if you commented on those reviews before today, 11/17/09.)

Please put all entries into one blog comment, thanks!

This giveaway is open to those with US or Canada mailing addresses only (sorry, but it will be out of my budget to send oddly shaped packages overseas), and ends on Thursday, December 3. Good luck, and stay tuned for more giveaways coming your way soon!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Tags: YA, romance, mystery, magic, South

Rating: 4 out of 5


Ethan Wate can’t wait to get out of Gatlin, South Carolina, where his family has lived for many generations. Nothing new ever happens in Gatlin, and everyone knows everyone else’s business…until the mysterious and beautiful Lena Duchannes arrives in town. Immediately, people dislike Lena, and rumors fly: she’s the niece of the town recluse, Macon Ravenwood, and strange things seem to happen wherever she goes.

However, Ethan feels a powerful connection to Lena, for she has appeared in his dreams for months, as a girl he never manages to save. No matter how much the town shuns him for trying to get to know her, and no matter how much she resists him, Ethan is determined to get to know Lena and to find out what his dream means…secrets, dangers, and all.


BEAUTIFUL CREATURES seems poised to be the next big thing in YA literature. It’s got all the right elements: eclectic characters, villains, magic, and true love. It’s almost 600 pages long, but you’ll be unable to put it down, even during the slower and more confusing moments.

The story of Ethan and Lena is primarily a romance, one that will appeal to YA romance buffs who appreciate Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight and Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver. This means that at times their romance can feel a little unbelievable in its intensity and all-encompassing-ness. However, that the story is told from Ethan’s point of view makes it wonderfully sweet, a romance to swoon over. Ethan is an accessible protagonist whose complex feelings of alienation, desire for hometown escape, and doomed love for an unaccepted girl makes him heartachingly real and desirable in readers’ eyes. Ethan Wate will make all bad YA boys ashamed of their rebelliousness, and that’s saying something.

I very much enjoyed the way in which the paranormal element was treated in BEAUTIFUL CREATURES. I had no idea that that was what BC was going to be about, and so in the interest of not spoiling your reading experience, I’m just going to say that. I loved its slow but satisfying buildup.

One might mistakenly expect that a 600-page YA book would be tedious and slow-moving, but BEAUTIFUL CREATURES just might prove that long YA books are the best kind. The story moves along at a delicious and deliberate pace, slowly building atmosphere and making you beg to have your growing list of questions answered. Occasionally some scenes and conversations between characters may seem a bit too drawn out or unnecessary, but overall the book is as easy to devour as a cool glass of iced tea on a hot summer day.

Overall, you won’t regret reading BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, no matter what kind of reader you are. From the paranormal aspect, to the romance, to the rich Southern atmosphere, this book will be sure to draw you in. Don’t miss out on the book that is worthy of all the hype it’s getting!

Similar Authors
Stephenie Meyer (Twilight)
Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver)

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

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - Mysterious and romantic... just like the story itself!

Little, Brown / Dec. 2009 (but available now!) / Hardcover / $17.99

Thank you, Margie, Kami, and Little, Brown for giving me the opportunity to review this book!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaNoWriMo Week 2 Wrap-Up + An Excerpt...

I've had an erratic second week. Due to the craziness of my school schedule, I was only able to write every other day--but oh man! I literally wrote about 3,000 words every time I could sit down to write. Now that my other main character's in the picture, some of the scenes seen to come a lot more easily, which I suppose is a good thing. I'm having a blast working on the dialogue between the two MCs. I really like the two of them. Still don't like my MC's family (darn stupid trying to write three-dimensional parents and siblings! gahh!) but whatever, I'm not going to worry TOO much about that at the moment.

I'm surprised that, at 24,000 words into the story, the plot still hasn't even picked up. I intended for this story to be a middle-grade novel...but that's looking unlikely right now. I might have to rethink a few key characteristics about the characters in the revision (like, uh, their AGE). This week I'm hoping that I'll manage to get them to have their key, plot-turning conversation, and make my MC start school, where she'll face.... well, that's another post for another day.

Now, I usually dislike showing my first-draft work to anyone, but as many people seem to be making exceptions for NaNo, and because I know you're all so ridiculously curious to see how my fiction writing is compared to my blog-post writing *scoffs*, here is a short scene, the second conversation that my two MCs, 12-year-old Darcy and 14-year-old Danny, have together.

And yes, I'm aware that I probably haven't really told you what the synopsis of my WIP is. That's because I'm really bad at writing short, scintillating summaries, and I am definitely not going to post my 10-page synopsis, because, uh, that would defeat the purpose, if you guys know what's going to happen before the book even gets revised and maybe goes on into the great big (and scary) world of publishing! *blinks innocently*

Alright, enough procrastinating, Steph. Here goes nothing... my really rough draft of one scene...:

The next morning, I finally clean up the last of the junk that’s on the floor of my room, and after lunch, I tell Mom that I’m heading out. Only I’m not going too far. I do a couple laps around the neighborhood, just so that my muscles won’t fall into disuse, and I end up in front of the Windchime House—Danny’s house. Thanks to some heavy clouds, it’s cooler than usual, and a mild breeze blows through my hair. My palms tingle as I nervously walk up to their front porch.

I don’t hear a sound from within. Guess Danny doesn’t practice at the same time every day. Is he still somewhere inside his house, though? He told me yesterday that he didn’t go out, but I find that hard to believe. Since when can kids be cooped up 24/7 like that? I leap off the porch and walk around the house, whistling softly.

The living room window that was open yesterday is closed. Disappointment stabs my heart. I was looking forward to talking to someone friendly so much, and now what happens? I slump onto the grass and fight back a pout. This just shows me that I shouldn’t want something too bad: when they don’t come true, it sucks more than usual.

“So you’re squatting on my land now?”

I bounce up so quickly that a passing observer would think I just got electrocuted. I jerk my head around, trying to see where the voice is coming from.

A soft laugh from above me makes me look up. A window on the second floor is open, and a pale-skinned, dark-haired boy is leaning out of it, looking down at me.

It’s Danny. I’m seeing him in natural light. My jaw drops.

“Don’t you—can’t you—get back inside!” I shout.

“What?” For a second he looks confused. His shoulders tense, but then he relaxes and smiles.

“Don’t get so wound up, Darcy,” he says. “Do you see the sun anywhere?”

Actually, now that he mentions it, I don’t. I tilt my head way, way back and stare up into a silver sky.

“It’s only the sun that’s irritating on my skin,” Danny explains. “I like cloudy days.”

“I don’t,” I mutter. Cloudy and rainy days make me listless. I just want to stay in bed all day and not move—very unusual for me.

“Why’s that?” Danny says, and I jump. How did he hear me from twenty feet up? Must be those musician ears.

“They’re boring. No sun. No excitement. No reason for going outside and moving,” I say. “Oh, shoot. Was that insensitive of me?”

“You don’t have to shout. I can hear you perfectly fine.”

I frown. I only raised my voice a little. “Fine,” I say. “Is this better?”

Danny nods; his wild dark hair moves in all different directions.

“Perfect,” he says, grinning. “And now please talk some more.”

“Well, what do you want me to talk about? I already feel stupid about bringing up the sun thing. You must miss it a lot, and here I am blabbing on and on about how I hate cloudy days.”

“I don’t even remember what the sun feels like anymore.”

“That’s terrible. No one should have to feel that way.”

I’m a little doubtful of the fact that he wants me to pretend like I’m having a conversation with him right next to me, when he’s really two stories up in the air. This is going to take some getting used to.

I can see Danny shrug. I shake my shoulders out a little too; they’re beginning to hurt from me craning my neck back to look at him.

“Do we have to continue talking like this?” I ask.

“Sorry,” Danny says. “One, I don’t think we’ve ever had a guest over in our house before, and so the house is a literal pig-sty. And two, I don’t know if my parents even allow guests over.”

“That’s so weird.” I have to look down to stretch out my neck, and I continue to talk while I pace in circles below Danny’s window. “Are your parents really controlling? Some people say that mine are, but they’re pretty laid back for Asian parents, I think. At least, that’s the impression I get from my friends back home. I used to live in Philly, you know. Sorry—Philadelphia for you Southerners. I just moved here ten days ago.”

If anyone walks into Danny’s backyard just now, or if someone looks through the kitchen window in my house, they will see a crazy Asian girl seemingly talking to herself. How embarrassing.

“Nah, they’re not really controlling,” Danny says. “I think they’re just not really sure how to deal with someone like me.”

“What, someone with a sun allergy?”

“That’s part of it.”

“Why would that be hard?” I say as I continue pacing. “Just stay out of the sun, but still be able to invite friends over. Or maybe you can carry an umbrella with you when you go out! Will that work?”

Danny laughs. “I’ve never tried it,” he admits, “but maybe one day I will. Tell me about Philadelphia—or, er, Philly, I guess, as you crazy Northerners call it.”

So I do. I tell him about the narrow, crowded streets of West Philly, the way the townhouses all looked the same as you looked down one street, then another. I tell him about playing pickup soccer and basketball and roller hockey in the empty lots and alleys of my old neighborhood. I tell him about public transportation, about how you can get on a trolley that brings you over the Schuylkill River and into the real city of Philadelphia itself, and how you can get off at various parts of the city and feel like you’re in a different world each time. You can get off at Rittenhouse Square and windowshop at the posh luxury stores along Walnut, pass an afternoon away in the three-story Barnes & Noble. Or you can ride the line into the eastern part of the city, among Independence Hall and old buildings that have been around since the yellow fever epidemic of 1793.

I tell him about the quaint art shops in Old City, buying full meals at silver carts lined up on every block, making fun of the khaki-wearing officers who patrol Independence Hall, holding our breaths as the stinky carriage-ride horses for tourists drive by, waving at silly people from Minnesota or Oregon or Arizona who ride the Duck Tour and quack at us with their free yellow quackers. I remember the country flags flapping in strong breezes down Franklin Parkway.

Talking about my old home makes me a little homesick, but I wave the feeling away, telling myself that I am telling Danny these things because he might never have the chance to see them for himself, and that is a real pity. I talk until my voice is hoarse and I realize with a start that the cloudy-day shadows in Danny’s backyard have changed. I shiver, stutter, cough, and my monologue comes to a halt. I look up.

Danny is leaning on the windowsill with his elbows, his hand propping his head up. He has a faraway look in his eyes, and even though my throat is burning, I don’t want to make a sound, not wanting to disturb the peaceful and wistful expression on his face.

“Thank you, Darcy,” he says, so quietly I can hardly hear him. “I really loved hearing about Philadel—Philly. I hope I can go there one day.” And then his eyes seem to return to the present, and he looks down at me and smiles. Warmth rushes through my limbs as I smile back. Danny slides his window closed, and I go back to my house and drink about two gallons of water straight from the tap while my mom looks on bemusedly.

“Busy day?” she says. “Or did you suddenly realize that when the doctors say 64 floral ounces of day, they actually mean it?”

I roll my eyes and refill my glass. “I talked a lot with a new friend today,” I say.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Featured Blogger (18): Natalie of Book, Line, and Sinker!

Nat of Book, Line, and Sinker and I totally bonded over our mutual love and respect for Megan McCafferty many, many months ago. Since then, both of our blogs have undergone major layout changes, but one thing remains steady about her blog: the excellence of her content! She reads a variety of books, from children's to YA to adult, and blogs about other stuff like her job and cooking. Read on to learn more about this amazing lady!

1. Welcome! Tell us about yourself in a few short sentences.

Hello! I'm Natalie Mancino, blogger from Book, Line, and Sinker. By day, I work in a private high school in New Jersey. By night, I'm an avid reader, blogger, and skee-ball player. I've been with my husband since we met as college freshmen waaay back in 1992. It's a blissful life!

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

I started blogging in 2007 but didn't start book blogging until March 2009. I blog about books because surely there's an entire demographic of people dying to read my unsolicited opinion about books and reading! :)

3. As my blog focuses mostly on YA, and my blog readers read mostly YA as well, we want to know: how has young adult literature impacted your life?

I grew up in the mid-80s reading Judy Blume, Lois Duncan, and other authors who paved the way for today's YA market. I still love YA fiction--good writing transcends genres.

4. It certainly does! Name 3 favorite books and why you think everyone should read them.

Well, my list is in constant flux...but today it's:
  1. The Harry Potter series (everyone needs a little magic!)
  2. Anything by non-fiction/travel writer Bill Bryson (he can make me laugh until I cry!)
  3. Pride and Prejudice [by Jane Austen] (Mr. Darcy, be mine!)

5. What would a perfect weekend for you consist of?

A sunny day at the beach, a bag of books, some good Italian food, my husband and crazy, extended family in tow. (I love chaos.)

6. What do you do when you're having an unproductive reading phase, when nothing appeals to you? Are there any particular authors you always turn to for comfort?

Megan McCafferty makes me laugh with her spot-on take of life in Jersey, Jen Lancaster's snark never fails to amuse, and Nancy Drew or The Sweet Valley High (or the lesser-know Girls of Canby Hall) books always bring back good feelings from my childhood.

7. Favorite foods?

If my mom is cooking, then it's my favorite! Otherwise, I'll have some Kraft Mac and Cheese.

8. What are some of the best book- and reading-related things that have happened to you since you started your blog?

All of the feedback from and contact with bloggers, authors, and publishers!

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

Are books too obvious? :) The best gift I received recently (for my anniversary) was a necklace my husband had made for me. It has two small, hammered gold discs on it. One disc has my name engraved on it, and the other has his name.

10. And finally, what are 2 things about yourself that can spark conversation?

Ummm...I'm grasping to come up with one thing! I have a birthmark in my left eye that causes my blue iris to stretch into the black pupil--giving the pupil a less-than-round appearance and making me a huge hit with my eye doctor. (Apparently it's a rare thing...)


Thanks so much for answering my questions, Nat! If you're looking for thought-provoking blog posts that just beg for you to comment on, be sure to check out her brilliantly named blog, Book Line, and Sinker.


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