Thursday, September 30, 2010

Long Overdue Giveaway Winners

Ughhh, school has gotten me into this cycle of exhaustion and lack of motivation. These are way overdue, and many of these winners have already received their prizes, but I'll announce them anyway.

The winner of The Actor and the Housewife is:

#49 Dawn M.!

The two winners of an ARC of Deception are:

#5 Morgan
#16 Pam Keener

The winner of an ARC of Nightshade City is:

#27 msdarcy!

The winner of an ARC of Clockwork Angel is:

#154 looksie lovitz!

The winner of a signed ARC of Dangerous Neighbors is:

#60 Penny Hull!

The winner of some Mockingjay-related swag is:

#13 Holdenj!

The winner of the signed WVMP Radio series books is:

#99 Blodeuedd!

And because she has kindly mentioned to me that she already has the first book, she has allowed me to draw another winner for Book 1, Wicked Game, which is:

#154 Spav!

The 2 winners of the Guardian of Ga'Hoole giveaway are:

#2 Bethany M.!
#49 Breanne!

Whew. Congrats to the winners, you have all been contacted. *goes to collapse in an exhausted blogger heap*

Review: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

Tags: middle grade, YA, friendship, nerds


Jessie’s sophomore year of high school is not going so well. Her two best friends have turned into wannabe punks, and her beloved older brother is leaving for college soon. Lost and in need of new friends, Jessie stumbles across the Dungeons & Dragons-playing crowd—truly the nerdiest of the nerdy, even by her standards. But as she gets to know the people in the group—and maybe even finds a cute guy to crush on—Jessie realizes that nerds can make really good friends…


INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER is a cute and heartfelt look into the treacherous waters that is high school friendships. While it didn’t make me fall in love with it as it did with many others, INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER was still a charming read with excellent characters.

Jessie is a likable protagonist, with her sewing tendencies, warm-hearted worries, and self-proclaimed nerdiness. She’s nerdy, but not in a way that will put off readers/potential friends. She has such a healthy relationship with her family—her relationship with her brother is particularly touching—that the focus of the book can be off the stereotypical teen family angst and more about worries regarding friendships.

While the characters (and, indeed, the whole storyline) are not exceptionally deep or memorable, everything has the pleasant feel-good entertainment value of, say, a Disney Channel original movie: the “villains” are not irredeemably bad, the problems inconvenient but not devastating. The plot moved along at a leisurely pace so that the second half of the book, in which Jessie finds new friends, feels a bit rushed.

However, these are not failings but simply characteristics of the genre that INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER falls into: an easy and light read with characters who make us smile and a moral that makes us nod in recognition. If this is the type of read you’re reading for, look no further than this one.

Similar Authors
Carolyn Mackler

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

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - I like how the dress hints at one of the later scenes in the book, as well as Jessie's sewing passion. The cartoonish feel adds to the lightheartedness of the book. I just wish it weren't so PINK!

Feiwel & Friends / Sept. 29, 2009 / Hardcover / 256pp. / $16.99

Review copy sent by publisher upon request. Sorry for the delay!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lauren Strasnick Giveaway!

Now that you've had the chance to read my review of Nothing Like You and my interview with Lauren Strasnick, I wanted to spread the love and give you the opportunity to win her books! So one winner will receive a paperback copy of Nothing Like You, along with a hardcover copy of Her and Me and You, which comes out next week. To enter, all you have to do is fill out the form below. This giveaway is open to US addresses only and ends Friday, October 15, 2010. Happy entering!

Waiting on Wednesday (84)

Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick

First love, broken friendships, and heartache all play a part in this evocative, voice-driven novel about Alex, a girl whose world is ripped apart when her father’s affair splits her family in two.
Alex moves with her mess of a mother to a new town, where she is befriended by hot, enigmatic Fred—and alternately flirted with and cold-shouldered by Fred’s twin sister, Adina. Others warn Alex to steer clear of the twins, whose sibling relationship is considered abnormal at best, but there’s just something about Fred—and something about Adina—that draws Alex to them and makes her want to be part of their crazy world…no matter the consequences. [summary from Goodreads]

Since it's, y'know, Lauren Strasnick Week on my blog or something. Obviously. lol. I wanted to spotlight her upcoming sophomore novel, which I have high hopes for. I mean, there is a love triangle with twins. This puts me in the mindset of Cruel Intentions or something. Anyway. I can't wait!

Her and Me and You will be released in hardcover from Simon Pulse on October 5, 2010.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Author Interview with Lauren Strasnick!

Yesterday I shared with you my review of NOTHING LIKE YOU, a debut novel that I loved for its succinct writing and heartwrenching characterization. Today I am so happy to share with you an interview with NLY's author, the super cool Lauren Strasnick! Read on to find out her thoughts about NLY, rare tidbits about her upcoming novel, and discover her sense of humor.

1. In an interview at Teens Read Too last year you mentioned that the initial spark of inspiration for NOTHING LIKE YOU came from Billy Joel's song "Vienna." I love that song to pieces, so I wanted to ask: could you elaborate on how that song inspired NLY?

I love that you love that song! It’s an absolute favorite of mine, and right around the time I started gathering bits and pieces of ideas for NOTHING LIKE YOU, I was in my car listening to “Vienna”, and Holly’s character just sort of solidified in my head. It’s the lyrics: “Slow down, you crazy child/You’re so ambitious for a juvenile/But then if you’re so smart, tell me/Why are you still so afraid?” And: “Slow down, you’re doing fine/You can’t be everything you want to be/Before your time.” I just had this vision of an itchy teen – someone seriously impatient for adult experiences. Holly has death hovering over her head – her mom’s just died and it’s the first time she’s ever really faced her own mortality. She’s eager to feel everything she can possibly feel because who knows if she’ll wake up tomorrow? Misguided thinking that leads her down the path of Paul Bennett…

2. What parts of Holly's personality are similar to yours?

I totally identify with her massive fear of death. That yearning to experience anything and everything right now, because what if what if what if? Holly, though, is way more willing to fail – and way more destructive than I could ever be. Which, weirdly, I sort of admire. I’m interested in characters that are brave enough to make major mistakes. Also, Holly’s a boy’s girl: Nils, Paul, Jeff. Even the dog is a dude. I’m kind of a girl’s girl.

3. I admire Holly for the same reason too. Now, both of your books so far have unconventional "love triangles." What motivates you to write about teen romance situations that many people would consider difficult or even controversial?

Oh gosh, you know, I’m really interested in messiness. I like to write about the grey stuff – pieces of relationships that don’t fit into categories or neat little boxes. That’s the stuff that excites me. I like thinking about why people choose who they choose -- why a character might end up in a precarious situation – what got them there, what keeps them there, etc. Also, not that the stable/happy/normal union doesn’t exist – but I think in real life (unless you’re totally skimming the surface with your friends and significant others) most relationships have their odd moments.

4. What is the most unusual job you've ever had? What job helped you most as a writer?

I’ve worked a billion different jobs over the years (I’ve temped, worked in restaurants, worked retail, worked in casting… I spent 8 years in TV as an assistant to writers and writing producers...) no matter the job, it was always the people that inspired me most. The crazies AND the lovelies. ☺ It’s the one thing I miss now, working from home. Where are all my awesome/evil co-workers?

5. How did you react when you found out NLY had been nominated for a RITA award?

Well, I was an oblivious idiot and was like, “Yay! What’s the RITA award?!” My initial reaction being a mix of shock, delight, and confusion! Of course, I got a crash course in all things Romance this summer at the RWA conference in Orlando. I met so many incredible writers that week! RWA really is a fantastic organization.

6. Tell us some things that we can expect in HER AND ME AND YOU that are not mentioned in the official synopsis.

The twins, Fred & Adina, entertain in their drained, indoor pool! They have two kittens named Egg Roll & Banana. Fred wears corduroy. Adina’s favorite movie is The Diary of Anne Frank (the old version starring Millie Perkins).

7. Okay, haha, I'm so glad I asked that question, because I knew we would get some fun facts from it. :) Now for something more serious: most invaluable childhood treasure?

Books & photos.

8. Will you be doing anything special to celebrate the upcoming release of HER AND ME AND YOU?

Skylight Books in Los Angeles in hosting a little signing/reading for the launch of HER AND ME AND YOU (official launch: October 5th! But the party is Saturday, the 9th). Everyone is welcome!

9. What are some of your favorite YA contemporary books?

HOW I LIVE NOW (Meg Rosoff), JELLICOE ROAD (Melina Marchetta), TEACH ME (R.A. Nelson), LOOKING FOR ALASKA (John Green), SLOPPY FIRSTS (Megan McCafferty), & THE HANGED MAN (Francesca Lia Block).

10. We are practically book twins; great choices! Finally, you recently sold another book to Simon Pulse, to be published in 2012. Can you tell us a little more about that one?

Yes! DAKOTA WEBB IS MISSING. About LA rock goddess Dakota Webb, who disappears. Ex-BFF Adrienne goes a little nutty trying to piece together what’s happened to her. It’s a mystery, for sure, but more than that, it’s a book about identity, obsession, and yes (!), messy, messy relationships. ☺


Well, as is shown in NOTHING LIKE YOU, if anyone can write messy relationships "well," it's Lauren. :) Thank you so much for answering my questions! Readers, stay tuned for more awesome related stuff, coming reeeeal soon.......

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick

Tags: YA, grief, sex


Torn apart by her mother’s recent death, Holly loses her virginity to Paul, one of the most popular guys in school. Holly assumes that once it’s over, she’ll go back to hanging out with her only friend, Nils, the boy-next-door turned “man-slut,” and Paul will go back to his long-term on-and-off girlfriend, Saskia. But suddenly Paul keeps chasing her, and Holly’s actually becoming friends with Saskia, who turns out to be a great girl who doesn’t deserve all this, and suddenly Holly’s in way over her head, dreading the moment when everything will come to a head and fall apart around her.


NOTHING LIKE YOU, Lauren Strasnick’s debut novel, is relatively short, but packs one heck of a punch between its covers. It is a powerful read that will wreck your nerves, put them back together, and wreck them all over again.

Lauren Strasnick’s succinctness with words is still a relatively rare gift in YA lit. Sometimes, less is more, and it certainly is so in Holly’s words: little time is spent dallying over inner monologues, and instead we are thrown right into Holly’s words and have to quickly learn our way around her friends, family history, and romantic problems, otherwise we’ll unhappily sink and miss the point of the book. I like how Lauren’s writing style doesn’t undervalue the reader’s intelligence: we are all capable of figuring out what’s going on, and it is this agency on our part that will make us invest more in Holly’s story. Who says it’s the author who needs to do ALL of the work?

This may be personal preference, but I adore Holly’s character. In particular, I love how relatively upfront she is about her emotional concerns. This is a girl who’s not afraid to express to others how she’s feeling, instead of bottling it all up inside her, so that her problems are constantly evolving and moving forward. It’s a trait that I envy, and so it’s refreshing to read about such a girl in YA lit.

Holly and Nils’ friendship was well done, specifically in that you can practically feel the chemistry crackling between them. In contrast, Paul feels a little underdeveloped. He is definitely a douchebag but I wanted to know why he feels like he needs to behave that way. NOTHING LIKE YOU further defies our expectations of contemporary literature with its unusual ending, which, like every other part of the book, garners its power from its absence of flair for the sake of grabbing attention.

True, Holly’s mother died, and a lot of her behavior is in reaction to her grief, but this is not explicitly a story about dealing with grief, for which I am grateful. Instead, it’s simply an honest and refreshing tale of contemporary emotions. Lauren Strasnick has embedded herself into my heart with her unassuming debut novel, and I have no doubt that she will do the same to others.

Similar Authors
Amy Reed
Courtney Summers

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

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - I am a sucker for pretty covers, and this is no exception, even though it doesn't really have much to do with the story as far as I'm concerned. But still... pretty! The hardcover (picture left), is very different, but struck me especially because of the textured background. Either one of these covers, along with the synopsis, would've made me pick it up.

Simon Pulse / August 10 / Paperback (reprint) / 209pp. / $8.99

Copy sent for review by author. Thanks, Lauren!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Powerful Guest Post Against Book Banning

When I created the Banned Books Reading Challenge earlier this month, I sent out an informal open invitation to anyone who would like to write a guest post on the subject of book-banning and censorship. Alison of the blog Alison Can Read responded with a personal experience. Her story is moving and eloquent in its frankness, and it certainly has motivated me to never stop fighting against censorship. I encourage you to give Alison your time and read her story below.


I'm Alison of Alison Can Read. I've been blogging for a little over three months. My blog features young adult and middle grade books. When Steph posted about the Banned Books Challenge, I immediately hopped on board. I've always had the privilege to read whatever I chose and cannot imagine flatly denying other people the opportunity to do the same.

Any discussion about banned books always brings a particular book to my mind. I fell in love with Judy Blume's Fudge series in fourth grade. Naturally, when I finished those, I moved on to her other books. In fourth and fifth grade, I read Forever; Tiger Eyes; Just As Long As We're Together; Blubber; Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; and Deenie. Most of these books faded from my mind quickly after I read them (even the salacious Forever), but Deenie stayed with me.

Deenie is a 13 year old girl defined by her pretty face. As her mother likes to say to complete strangers: "Deenie's the beauty. Helen's [her sister] the brain." While Deenie senses that her mother's statement is wrong, or at least embarrassing, she still buys into the importance of her own looks. Her mother's plans to turn Deenie into a model are thwarted when Deenie is diagnosed with a severe case of scoliosis. She must wear a back brace for at least four years to prevent permanent deformity. Suddenly, Deenie is more of a freak than a beauty. Deenie shows how adversity can transform a shallow, selfish beauty first into an emotional wreck but ultimately into a more complex, sensitive, and thoughtful young woman.

Deenie came at the perfect time for me. I was diagnosed with scoliosis shortly before reading the book. Fortunately, the only inconveniences I experienced from the condition was an annual doctor's visit four hours away and an admonition not to run marathons or go horseback riding. But with my penchant for hypochondria, I was certain that my back was going to twist into a new and extreme shape at any moment. Reading about a character with scoliosis was therapeutic. Unlike Deenie, I thought the idea of a back brace sounded interesting, or at least dramatic (I imagine I would have felt differently had I actually been required to wear one). I also loved reading about Deenie's typical adolescent issues, particularly any and all references to her period. Few things were more exciting in my pre-pubescent mind than menstruation. It was certainly a lot more interesting than boys.

I read and re-read my elementary school library's tattered copy of Deenie and encouraged my friends to do the same. I was shocked when my friend's grandmother called the school and demanded that the book be removed from the library. Why would anyone want to keep such a wonderful book out of the hands of kids? I didn't see anything wrong with it. This was my first experience with banning books. The idea that one person could keep me from reading a book, any book, that I might care about seemed horribly unfair. Who were they to decide what I or anyone else was entitled to read? My school declined to remove Deenie from its library, and I was glad.

I picked up Deenie last week. It's been almost twenty years since I last read the book. I knew Deenie was frequently on banned book lists, along with many of Judy Blume's books, but still didn't understand why. All I remembered of the book was Deenie's scoliosis, her shrew of a mother, and references to menstruation. I re-read Deenie in a few hours. To be honest, I was disappointed. I didn't remember Deenie being such a shallow brat before developing scoliosis; she would have tormented a plain-looking, quiet girl like me. I also thought the characters were flat and the writing was too simplistic (which explains why I was able to read it easily at 9 years old). It felt reminiscent of the cookie-cutter after-school movies.

Now, I definitely understand why Deenie makes banned book lists. There are several references to masturbation. A few are very subtle, but there is also a clear definition of what it is and a discussion of its morality. It was just thrown in there, like a public service announcement. I almost laughed out loud when reading it. My 9-year-old brain completely skipped over this. It was so blatant that I can't believe I missed it, especially given how many times I read the book, but it clearly was too far above my maturity level to be absorbed. I imagine Blume included it in there, because few books of the time (or even now) discussed masturbation at all, and she thought teens should have a safe place to learn about it. It certainly didn't further the plot.

Does Deenie deserve to be on the shelf of a school library? Yes. I don't believe that any book should be flatly banned from shelves. That being said, if I had a 9- or 10-year-old daughter, I would probably not let her read Deenie. It really is more appropriate for a 12- or 13-year-old girl. But I think it should be up to a parent to decide for his or her own child. You may just have a young girl with scoliosis desperate to read everything she can about the condition who also happens to be so naive that she skips over any material inappropriate for her age. Individuals differ. What is inappropriate for one person may be just what another person needs to read. Banning books unfairly assumes that what is right for one is right for all.


Have something about censorship and book banning that you'd like to share? Email me at stephxsu at gmail dot com. Thanks to all who are supporting the freedom to read and speaking out against censorship during these weeks. You are the ones who will define the future, and I am glad for it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Happy News Comes in Threes

Well this is probably old news by now but I couldn't just let it go unspoken:

Steph Su Reads has won the Best Written Book Blog award for BBAW 2010!

I can't even express how crazy this is. All I can say is: thank you. Also: I'm sorry I wasn't able to participate in BBAW-related posts, memes, and events. (SCHOOLWORK!!!!!!!!). But... thank you. I'm honored. I'm humbled. I have no idea how the heck I can live up to such an award. I guess all I can do is keep on writing.

Next, I'm excited to announce that I am to be a Round II judge in the YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy Panel for the 2010 Cybils. (Check out the complete list of all the cool and talented judges here.) I've never participated in Cybils before, so I am a little nervous about how it will go, but also definitely positively anticipating the experience. I look forward to reading the shortlisted books come January, so don't forget to nominate books for the award starting in a few weeks!

And finally (and this is so cool, at least for me), one of my reviews has been blurbed and will be published! My review of The Iron King by Julie Kagawa is being blurbed for a full-page color ad that Harlequin TEEN is running in October's BookPage newsletter. If you don't know, BookPage is the free monthly newsletter that you can find in many public libraries. They feature a lot of different genres but I always enjoy browsing it and being intrigued by books out of my normal reading zone that I would never have known about had it not been for the newsletter. The ad is going to look something like this:

(You can click to enlarge, I think. My quote is in the bottom left corner.)

Doesn't that look so cool?!? To the best of my knowledge, I have never had my reviews blurbed and published before in actual print, so this is really squee-worthy for me. I'm definitely going to be picking up my copy of the October BookPage now!

Cover Lust (19)

Check out these covers that I've discovered recently:

Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith
(Candlewick / Feb. 8, 2011)

I love how delicately beautiful this cover is. The mix of textures--the velvet silkiness of the rose petals on the crispness of the dress train, dragging across the ground--mmmm.

Possession by Elana Johnson
(Simon & Schuster / June 2011)

White covers can often be so powerful in their simplicity. This cover is practically perfect in my opinion: there's nothing to distract you from the creepy beauty of the butterfly half trapped in the ice cube, its "iciness" so sharp you can practically feel its harsh coldness just by looking at it. The font types and colors are beautifully balanced with the image. Talk about rendering one speechless.

Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin
(Harlequin / Oct. 1, 2010)

Huzzah, a proud and beautiful Asian woman on a book cover! It's a historical romance set in Asia; can the cover be any more perfect?

Divergent by Veronica Roth
(Katherine Tegen Books / April 2011)

Hi-tech dystopian-esque cover FTW. I love the Big Brother vibe that the fiery eyelike symbol gives off, and love how it contrasts so strongly with the Chicago skyline. I NEED to see this cover in person, I'm telling you.

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
(Random House / April 26, 2011)

I find this eerie, in the best way. It gives off a sort of noir, graphic-novel-adaptation-to-film (e.g. a la Sin City) vibe, which is totally up my alley in terms of noir stuff. The cover's mostly flat, but the forced depth to this image is just so totally gruesome, IMO. Add to that the bright red of the bird silhouettes... wow.

Fins Are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs
(Katherine Tegen Books / 2011)

I thought the cover for the first book, Forgive My Fins, was just okay, but this one is way cool in my book. The girl on the cover finally looks like an actual person (or more like an actual person than the girl on the first cover), and there the really cool infusion of glitter and nautical color tones. Mmmmm.

Saltwater Vampires by Kirsty Eagar
(Penguin Australia / Aug. 30, 2010)

It does typical American YA paranormal covers one step better, I think. Forget faux-emotional teen-angsty moodiness: this one seeps cool and disconcerting danger. I LOVE the pale blue eyes; I think this is the first time I've actually seen a pair of blue eyes standing out in a cover that I actually believe could be real. And I like how the text is no-nonsense, because everything else about the cover is already evocative enough. Too bad it's available only in Australia. *sigh*

What do you guys think of these covers? Which of these books would you want to read?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Featured Blogger (24): Meg from Write Meg!

Meg of write meg! and I have been online friends for a while, ever since we both discovered we are both head-over-heels platonically in love with Jessica Darling from Megan McCafferty's books. Since then, Meg has been a solid delight in the blogosphere, with lovely reviews and a blog bursting with friendliness and gorgeous photos. I can't believe it took me so long to ask her for an interview, but I figure since she was recently shortlisted for several BBAW Awards, now is as good a time as any! Welcome, Meg, to Steph Su Reads!

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

I’m Meg from Maryland, a small but spirited state in the U.S., and I’m a 25-year-old editor and columnist for three newspapers in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. When I’m not subjecting the public to my thoughts on Starbucks beverages, growing up and trying to be a better person, my nose is stuck in a book! I never leave home without a novel, usually of the chick lit or young adult variety, and I’m notorious for the book hoarding habits that have taken over my life -- and office.

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

write meg! began as a way for me to communicate with other book lovers after I quit my part-time job at a corporate bookstore. While I didn’t exactly miss working retail, I did miss the opportunities to talk literature with customers and coworkers. I was an English major in college, too, and lost that outlet after graduation.

I’ll be frank with you, Steph -- my blog name was created randomly. When I was registering with WordPress and trying to choose a username, every variation of “Meg Writes,” “Meg The Writer,” “Megan Writes,” etc., was taken -- but “writemeg” was free. Throw an explanation point in there and we’re good to go! (Exclamation points: I have a fondness for them.)

Popping over to my blog, you can expect to find plenty of book reviews focusing on women’s fiction, YA and literature along with posts on photography (I don’t leave home without a camera, either), travel, dating, family, love and cupcakes. Lots of cupcakes.

3. What is important to you when writing a review?

Isolating and explaining what I really “got” from a book -- whether that’s positive or negative. I’m always looking for what’s at the heart of the matter, if you’ll allow the cliché, and I try really hard to capture that in my book reviews. There’s always a lesson to be learned from the experience of reading, even if it’s “Wow, I never want to waste my time on a book like this again!” I try to share what my experience was as a reader when I’m writing about a book later.

4. Name three favorite books and why you think everyone should read them.

Definitely The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, which remains one of my favorite books of all time. It’s so heart-wrenching and lyrical, and it taught me so much about identity, family and love. It also has the distinction of being the only book to make me sob my eyes out at 3 a.m.! Sometimes I can’t think about it without my heart flipping over and threatening to fall straight out of my chest.

Next up would be The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice, which is such a whimsical and entertaining story. As someone obsessed with England, I loved that the book was set in 1950s London -- and the motley crew of characters here were awesome! And I always like books a little more when I fall in love with the male lead myself, which worked well here: I was enamored with Harry, even with his two-tone eyes. I didn’t want the book to end.

Finally, don’t miss out on The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. I ripped through this story of young Callie and her scientific pursuits in a day or so, barely pausing to take a breath. Though it’s set in 1899, it holds plenty of universal truths that still relate to growing up today -- and that’s what I really loved about it. A quiet, moving story.

5. Do you have a character soulmate, someone whom you feel like you've known your whole life and is eerily similar to you?

Jessica Darling from Megan McCafferty’s series of the same name is my hero. As much as I loved her in Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, I could really relate to her as she aged in Fourth Comings and Perfect Fifths. At the heart of the books is her love story with Marcus Flutie, a guy I would happily leap into a novel to marry, and the drama, pain and excitement surrounding the back-and-forth years of their romance mirrors my own experiences with first love. The books have a very special place in my heart for that reason!

For as much as I love Jessica, though, we’re pretty different people! I love her outspoken nature, but I’m a little more reserved and cautious about what I say. We’re both writers, though, and have both caused some controversy as members of a high school newspaper staff! I’ll leave it at that.

6. You already know I consider her my soulmate too. :) So what's the bookwormiest/nerdiest thing you've done?

When I was 11 or 12, I was completely obsessed with “Star Wars.” My dad got a VHS box set of all three original movies, watched them with me and I was hooked. Coming from a bookish family, it wasn’t long before I found myself in a Super Crown’s science fiction section and realized that people had written whole books based on the “Star Wars” franchise! I sunk my teeth into every novel I could get my hands on, with a special soft spot for Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye.

Well, simply reading about my beloved Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia wasn’t enough for me. I’ve been writing books since I was about 8 years old, and I decided I would go ahead and rewrite many of my favorite plotlines. Over the course of a summer, I wrote an action-packed love story featuring all of my favorite characters that topped out at about 300 pages. Single-spaced.

I probably still have that somewhere -- on several floppy disks! (Remember those? God, I feel old.)

7. Yes! Wow, that is CRAZY. Now, three places you want to go before you die?

I’m dying, dying, dying to get back to England -- I’m a major Anglophile and can’t get enough of the Brits! I’ve visited London twice but never ventured outside the city. On my next trip over, I want to really hit the countryside. I’d also love to visit Poland, my “motherland,” and see Greece.

8. What is the most romantic thing someone has done for you?

I’ve had some sweet boyfriends who’ve made grand gestures -- and I appreciated them! But I think the most romantic things are the small, day-to-day moments you share with someone that really prove how much they care for you. When I had dental surgery a few weeks ago, my boyfriend Spencer showed up with a gift basket he’d made up with all the essentials I’d need for recovery: ibuprofen, soup, ginger ale, ice-cream. He’d had a long day and wasn’t planning on making a drive over to my house but, without having to ask, still made the effort -- and wasn’t all smug about it! That meant so much to me.

But there is the story of the time a close friend took me out on the dance floor at his brother’s wedding, asked the DJ to play my favorite song (“Look After You” by The Fray) and asked me -- in front of friends, family and God himself -- to be his girlfriend. In my memories, I’m not sure if I chalk this one up more as “romantic” or “terrifying and unexpected.” But maybe we’ll just go with romantic.

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

I guess the obvious answer here is books! But beyond a stack of novels, I love to get clothes, cooking/baking equipment (especially cupcake-related!), jewelry and new electronics to play with. I’m saving up for a DSLR camera, unless someone wants to buy me one of those for Christmas! I’ll let that hang there as a not-so-subtle hint.

10. And finally, tell us two interesting things about yourself that can spark conversation.

I have a very expressive face -- I’m always curling up my upper lip, frowning, crinkling my forehead or chewing my lips. My most off-putting trait, though, is that I can raise an individual eyebrow at a time -- something I do often when confused or annoyed. When people first realize I can do it, it becomes a bit of a parlor trick!

Conversation tends to spark around my hair, too. It’s long, wavy and a little unkempt -- and I usually like it that way. I don’t know how “interesting” it is, but it’s always hanging at the forefront of my conversations! And because I push it out of my eyes so much, someone always seems to comment on it. Thankfully, they’re usually kind!


Thank you so much for your answers, Meg! The more I know about this girl, the more I like her. :) I hope you check out her blog, write meg!, for good conversations about a variety of different books!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Suzanne Collins signing

Yesterday I went to one of Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay tour stops, at Children's Book World in Haverford. I kind of had to go because, uh, at the midnight release party they threw last month, I nonchalantly threw my name into the raffle they were having, first prize being first place in line to meet Suzanne Collins at her signing. The next day at lunch, I get a phone call along the lines of this:

CBW: Hi, is this Stephanie?
Me: Yes, speaking.
CBW: Hi, this is Children's Book World in Haverford, calling to say... you won the raffle!
Me: Wahhh?!? Ohhh whoaaaa!
CBW: You get to be first in line to meet Suzanne Collins on September 22!
Me: Bluhbluhbluh how cool! Oh man, oh goodness, oh whoa!!!

So yesterday, I and my friend whom I had gotten hooked on the trilogy a week before Mockingjay's release date and who came with me to the midnight release party got into my car and drove the half hour or so to Children's Book World. We turned onto the street where the store was located, only to see a sleek black car parked in front, and a familiar wavy blond head getting out of the car and into the store. Suzanne Collins has arrived!

We got there half an hour early, and there was already a dozen or so people in line. So I felt kind of bad mentioning to the store worker that I was the one who won the raffle, and them exclaiming and telling me to stand in front of two middle school boys who looked a little like they had camped out there for days. (Well, okay, not days. Just maybe hours on a hot, humid afternoon.) My friend promptly sat down to do work--such is the life of a Swattie--and I chatted a bit with a grandmother who had been passing by. She was intrigued by the crowd, and after my exuberant praises of the book, called up her granddaughter to see if she had heard of the series and if she'd be interested in getting a signed copy. Turns out that her granddaughter not only read the books already, but she had actually met Suzanne Collins earlier on her tour! I kind of wanted to speak to this 13-year-old girl and be like, YES! YOU ROCK!

A little before 6, they announced that Suzanne Collins was going to read for us! This was unplanned and so I was super excited. We gathered round the little stage inside the store, which was backed by shelves and shelves of Mockingjay:

Suzanne then appeared and read from two places: the part in Catching Fire where Katniss talks to Caesar Flickerman in Cinna's dress, and the first chapter of Mockingjay. She read in the voice she hears Katniss speaking to her in, which she describes as a kind of futuristic Appalachian accent. She is a marvelous reader, and I felt almost hypnotized into Katniss' world, and when she spoke in President Snow's words (think high and deceptively soft, like Voldemort) goosebumps burst out all over my arms, it was that eerie.

She's super photogenic because she is the embodiment of kindness.

Afterwards we all went back outside the store again and lined up in order. The signing/stamping part went pretty fast, since, well, my friend and I were first. I found I had nothing to say, of course *moron*, but just watched her as she carefully stamped my book and then told the photographer that she'd be able to pose for pictures. So I got pictures!

Isn't she wonderful? Sighhhhhh. In the end, I was really happy I went. It was totally worth it to listen to her read.

Clockwork Angel Giveaway!

Simon & Schuster is wonderful and has sent me some lovely treats to give away to you!

Up for grabs are:

  • 2 finished copies of Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
  • 2 signed Clockwork Angel posters
  • 1 Clockwork Angel journal
  • some rune tattoos

One winner will receive a copy of Clockwork Angel, a poster, the journal, and some tattoos, while another winner will receive the same things, minus the journal. So there will be two winners total! Interested? Fill out the form here. The giveaway is open to US mailing addresses only (sorry, these things are really heavy) and ends Friday, October 15, 2010. Good luck!

Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Tags: young adult, paranormal, changelings, evil


Mackie Doyle has always felt out of placement in the town of Gentry—and it’s not just because of typical teenage unrest. Mackie is a changeling left in the place of the real Malcolm Doyle 14 years ago. He has only survived this long because of love, but now he is slowly dying, poisoned by the iron that surrounds him.

When his classmate Tate’s “baby sister” dies, Mackie is drawn into her questions about how the town has always turned a blind eye to the stealing of human babies. Mackie is drawn into the world beneath Gentry, a world that is supposed to be his and claim his loyalty.


THE REPLACEMENT is an unusual debut novel that delivers on the lyrical creepiness that its cover promises. Despite some issues with plot development, it is a worthy read that will appeal to many different readers on many different levels.

Brenna Yovanoff’s writing absolutely blows my mind. The first chapter is so well written in its mixture of character, setting, conflict, and mood development that you can easily fall under its spell and not be bothered by the few issues in storytelling. You might find yourself stopping every few sentences, eyes lingering on a particular phrase that takes your breath away. Mackie’s world is is a creepy yet magical one, and Brenna’s writing reflects that juxtaposition: you know you are reading about really creepy stuff, but the way in which the creepy stuff is written about is just so delightful.

As the story progressed I felt that there were a few things I would’ve wanted more. I couldn’t get a firm grasp on the politics of the creatures living under Gentry. Why, exactly, are there factions among the world? The humans and creatures of Gentry share a tense but oddly efficient relationship, and I wanted more of a tangible “wrongness” about the deal, more immediacy of the wrongness. In a way, reading THE REPLACEMENT was like experiencing a dream: you know that the world you are seeing or feeling is weird—fantastical, even—and yet there is still a certain veil between you and that world, as if you know it’s a dream and can’t entirely affect you.

Still, both main and supporting characters are strong and likable, and the uniqueness of the story propelled me forward through my few qualms. THE REPLACEMENT is a great choice for an unusual read this fall, and I’m pretty sure I will be going back to this to reread my favorite parts.

Similar Authors
Maggie Stiefvater
Holly Black
Kirsten Miller (The Eternal Ones)

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

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - At first it didn't attract me, being quite unusual for a YA book, but then it won me over when I actually picked the book up and read it.

Razorbill / Sept. 21, 2010 / Hardcover / 352pp. / $17.99

Sent by the publisher for review.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SPEAKing Loudly

As always, I am a little late to talking about this. On Sunday, fab YA author Laurie Halse Anderson brought to the world's attention an op-ed article written by a certain Christian parent and professor named Wesley Scroggins, who talks about the anti-Christian-ness of the inclusion of Anderson's Speak, Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, and Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer on his school district's required and recommended reading lists. Scroggins calls Speak "soft pornography", Slaughterhouse Five a raucous indulgence of curse words, and Twenty Boy Summer a celebration of drunken teen parties and hookups.

I'm not sure how much more there is to say that other people haven't said already, or that I haven't already said in posts past. So let me talk about some slightly different things in this post, things that I wonder why people like Wesley Scroggins never realize when they voice their opinions in support of censorship.

1. Out of dissent, heartbreak, and attacks against basic human rights is born community.

When LHA blogged about the Speak issue, hundreds of blog posts from supporters poured forth. I feel like I've been reading such posts nonstop since Sunday, and have teared up more times than I can count. For there is no good way to describe the sheer number of people who shared things about their past that, in most other situations, they would've rather not had to think about. Stories of sexual/physical/mental abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, mental illness, and more poured forth, which not only makes the message of Speak loud and clear, but has completely backfired against Scroggins' design: these so-called taboo subjects are experienced by all, and (sadly) for many people who've experienced these things in their lives, the YA lit community has been the most open, the most loving, supportive, and healing. I think Scroggins would do well to consider the fact that, from the looks of things, thousands of teens and adults who still remember being teens take comfort in the written words of people they may never have met before, rather than from their own local community.

2. Adult lit contains "smut" too.

Oh, no no no. Excessive smuttiness:
bared shoulders. Must. Ban!
Young adult literature frequently comes under fire for containing controversial material: teen sex, teen pregnancy, drinking, cursing. Let's have a look at some of the other books I read for school, shall we?
  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Teen virgin gets raped by sleazy older guy.
  • The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. Rape, and lots of it. And the girl is, like, 10.
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Murder!! And guy steals from lady he murders!!
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Kids going crazy and killing other kids.
  • Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Incest and patricide.
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Murder of a mentally disabled person.
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Double suicide at approximately 14 years old in the name of love.
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus. MURDER! And not feeling bad about it.

(Please note that I DO like most of the books I just listed above.)

What's the difference between these classics and the YA books that are so often being challenged? One cannot even argue "different audiences," for a large number of teens will read one or more of the books listed above for school. And, Scroggins (I refuse to address you with the prefix because you are attempting to deprive others of basic human rights of education and knowledge, which is, as far as I'm concerned, ungentlemanly behavior), don't even think of accusing me of approaching these book descriptions "narrow-mindedly" if you're going to describe Speak as porn on account of a rape scene.

Not to mention the utterly bewildering fact that references to sex, whether consensual or nonconsensual, in YA lit is a no-no, but it is totally okay to teach dozens of books containing homicide, suicide, fratricide, patricide, matricide, prejudice, sexism, etc. in the approved secondary school English curriculum. Killing someone is okay; having sex for the first time with your long-term partner isn't. By Scroggins' definition, we've been reading lots and lots of porn in high school, and generations' worth of teachers, librarians, and academic scholars have been praising this pornographic reading list. Ole!

3. Therapy plz?

Well, that helps.
Scroggins (haha, now this is making me laugh; I feel like I'm in Harry Potter's world. Which is--gasp!--another book you'd label as un-Christian on account of its portrayal of witchcraft and sorcery), I'm a little concerned that you'd consider rape pornography. Exactly what kind of porn are you availing yourself of there?

I'll be less snarky. Let's draw some attention to the fact that you now claim you never called the books you are challenging "soft pornography," despite the, uh, obvious fact that, er, it says so right in your original article. So now we have a case of someone with questionable sexual thoughts, who's denying responsibility for something for which evidence is being shoved right in his face that he is responsible for doing. Sounds like the faltering defense of someone who is badly losing his case in court. See you in therapy, Scroggins. It sure would be embarrassing to be related to you right about now.

Okay, that ended with copious amounts of snark. Whatever: I'm getting tired of dealing with the same type of people each time this issue comes up in the same way. Let others be the mature ones in this argument. I'm going for ridicule this time.

Waiting on Wednesday (83)

Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer

What if your worst enemy turned out to be the best friend you ever had?
Meet Brooke: Popular, powerful and hating every minute of it, she’s the “It” girl at Douglas High in Lake Champion, Minnesota. Her real ambition? Using her operatic mezzo as a ticket back to NYC, where her family lived before her dad ran off with an up and coming male movie star.
Now meet Kathryn: An overachieving soprano with an underachieving savings account, she’s been a leper ever since Brooke punched her at a party junior year. For Kath, music is the key to a much-needed college scholarship.
The stage is set for a high-stakes duet between the two seniors as they prepare for the prestigious Blackmore competition. Brooke and Kathryn work toward the Blackmore with eyes not just on first prize but on one another, each still stinging from a past that started with friendship and ended in betrayal. With competition day nearing, Brooke dreams of escaping the in-crowd for life as a professional singer, but her scheming BFF Chloe has other plans. And when Kathryn gets an unlikely invitation to Homecoming, she suspects Brooke of trying to sabotage her with one last public humiliation.
As pressures mount, Brooke starts to sense that the person she hates most might just be the best friend she ever had. But Kathryn has a decision to make. Can she forgive? Or are some rivalries for life? [summary from Goodreads]

I'm always up for well-written, engrossing contemporary fiction, and this one looks delicious. Music? Check. Catty girl rivalries? Check. Characters with sordid histories? Check. Potential for backstabbings and biting dialogue? Check. Beautiful cover? Check!

Rival comes out in hardcover from HarperTeen on February 15, 2011.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Banned Books Reading Challenge: Week 3 Links

 Come all, rise up and against the ignorant words of Wesley Scroggins and read, write, and speak for the rights for EVERYONE to read books that are powerful and will change lives!

(By which I mean: post your Banned Books Reading Challenge-related reviews/posts (yes, this includes anything you have to say in the SPEAK LOUDLY campaign) here!)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Tags: YA, paranormal, urban fantasy, shapeshifters


16-year-old Evie, the only known human who can see through paranormals’ glamours, works for the IPCA, capturing and tagging stray paranormals in an effort to keep track of them and keep them under control. This is normal life for her, until the day a shapeshifter boy like nothing she has ever seen breaks into headquarters and is captured. Against her boss’ wishes, Evie befriends the shapeshifter, named Lend, who forces her to question her role in the IPCA. Does she really have free will, or is she as trapped as the paranormals she captures?

On top of that, however, it appears that there is something out there that is threatening the existence of all paranormals…and Evie might be in the center of it, if the fairy Reth’s extra attention towards her is any indication.


PARANORMALCY is a fun, fast, and furious new read, a wonderfully fresh addition to the YA paranormal genre.

Kiersten White’s debut novel contains elements that will appeal to both the girly and the tomboyish. For instance, Evie has an incredibly female-power role of policing paranormals, getting to kick butt and show off her combat skills. But at the same time, she also LOVES her fair share of girly stuff, from the color pink, to fashion, to flirting with cute boys, to naming her belongings. Evie’s snarky but assuredly feminine narration had me grinning like an idiot from cover to cover. I typically don’t even like girly-girls all that much, but Evie’s personality balanced the book’s darker, more sinister plot.

PARANORMALCY is not your typical YA paranormal read: indeed, it has more in common with an elaborately written adult urban fantasy series. While the book doesn’t dive too deeply into the potentially interesting topics such as what the world outside of IPCA headquarters looks like, I appreciated how it brought up thoughtful questions about the distinction between employer vs. prisoner, true free will vs. imposed (though still broad) boundaries, and more. Kiersten White has created a marvelously complex paranormal world that I’d be excited to read more about in sequels.

Bringing the feminine to the gritty urban fantasy genre or complexity to an already female-oriented paranormal genre—whatever way you like to spin it, PARANORMALCY is one heck of a great read. Evie’s story reads smoothly, a breath of fresh air. I can’t wait for more!

Similar Authors
Julie Kagawa
Jeri Smith-Ready

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

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4.5 out of 5 - Wow. Talk about gorgeous. The girl's a little fiercer-looking than I imagine Evie to be, but I love how the darkness of this cover accentuates that part of the story, while, y'know, in the story, Evie's girlishness holds her own. Chyeah.

HarperCollins / Aug. 31, 2010 / Hardcover / 335pp. / $16.99

ARC received from Around the World Tours.

In My Mailbox (46)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme inspired by Alea and hosted by Kristi. Check out Kristi's post to see what others got in terms of books this week!

What a totally fantastic week full of lovely surprises.


For review:
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Blast from the Past by Meg Cabot
StarCrossed by Elizabeth Bunce
Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
The Limit by Kristen Landon
Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin
Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden

For giveaway:
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (2 copies)

Evil? by Timothy Carter
Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci

I pretty much screamed in happiness when I got Anna and StarCrossed. Extraordinary is GORGEOUS, and Nevermore came with goodies such as a CD, lip ring, eyeliner, and handwritten note! Whoa! Hope everyone else had a good book week too!


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