Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Fey, Book 2 (The Iron King review)

Tags: YA, fantasy, faeries, war, love triangle


Half-faery, half-human Meghan Chase made a bargain with the Unseelie prince, Ash: he helps her rescue her brother from the clutches of the evil Iron Fey, and she would go willingly to the Unseelie court. Now, Meghan is trapped in a world of ice and cold; she cannot access her magic powers; Ash has seemingly deserted her; and no one believes her about the Iron Fey.

A fatal attack in the Winter Court has Meghan and Ash running, and Summer and Winter Courts preparing for war. Meghan thought that they had defeated the Iron King—but a new threat arises that may prove to be even more dangerous than she had ever thought.


Personally, THE IRON DAUGHTER didn’t capture my heart the way the first book, The Iron King, did. However, I am fairly certain that those who loved the first book will find just as much magic, romance, and adventure in this second installment of this faerie series that deserves all its good hype.

Romance fans rejoice, as THE IRON DAUGHTER revolves much around Meghan’s romantic troubles. One minute, Ash is acting as cold as his courtly title; the next, he is doing something that makes Meghan—and us—swoon. In fact, romance takes center court in this sequel, so much so that it definitely had me rolling my eyes and smacking my palm against my forehead a few times. Meghan’s narration definitely takes a turn towards the “Bella Swan melodramatic” in this book—not a big deal if you’re caught up in Ash and the story as Meghan is, but definitely a bit irritating if you notice the Bella syndromes.

What makes this book worth reading despite any of your qualms about romantic melodrama, however, is the excellent writing and worldbuilding. Julie Kagawa writes with the heart of a cinematographer: sweeping faerie scenes are described down to the icicles sparkling at the ends of tree branches, so that you feel like you’re in Meghan’s faery world with all of your senses. Reading Julie’s books is an incredible sensory experience that adds an extra level to the popular appeal of the love triangle, faery setting, and rollicking adventure pacing.

THE IRON DAUGHTER will leave fans of the series happy, and even if I wasn’t completely enamored with the book, I am still looking forward to what adventures these beloved characters will have to face in the showdown that is to come in the next Iron Fey book.

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

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - I know there's little movement and it's all so very posed and heavily edited... but it's just so pretty... I can't stop staring at it... and petting it...

Harlequin TEEN / Aug. 1, 2010 / Paperback / 304pp. / $9.99

Copy... bought? Sent by a publicist? I forget. Gah. Sorry. Silly brain.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Tags: YA, paranormal, suspense, serial killer


Her whole life, Violet has been able to see what she calls “echoes”: psychic residues imprinted on dead creatures and their killers. Normally she only stumbles across dead animals, but then she is drawn to the bodies of dead girls, and she realizes that there is a serial killer among their community. Teenage girls are disappearing and dying at a horrifying rate, and only Violet, also juggling strange new feelings for her best friend Jay, has the ability to find the killer…even if it means putting herself in great danger.


THE BODY FINDER is a frightening and disturbing debut YA novel—and I use those adjectives in the best sense. The plot is fresh, the romance butterflies-inducing, and—despite its flaws—it’ll be hard to get this book out of your head.

THE BODY FINDER’s unique and suspenseful plot is the driving force behind this book. In between third-person narration that follows Violet around, we get flashes into the killer’s mind, which will make the hair on your arms stand on end—until you realize that the watcher (Violet) has also become the watched, and then you’ll be clutching your blanket in raw fright. The paranormal element is unobtrusive enough to still keep the setting firmly planted in our world, which only adds to the suspense.

Violet and Jay are a delightful pair of main characters. Individually they’re unfortunately not especially stellar: the narration felt curiously distant from Violet, despite her being the protagonist, and she seems like a real wallflower character (not just in her world, but also in the YA genre), not really doing much until external circumstances force her to change. Together, however, their connection is strong, well developed, and believable. It’s rather sad that a YA romance that does not involve insta-lust or a perfect boy chasing after the girl is rare enough to make me sit up and nod my head vigorously in approval, but that’s the truth of the matter. Violet and Jay have definite chemistry going on, and it was a delight to read about them discovering their growing feelings for one another.

So Violet is a little too passive, and secondary characters unfortunately too flat and unbelievable, for me to lose my heart to this book. But if, for whatever reason, you want a book that will raise goosebumps on your skin, check out THE BODY FINDER. It’s a taut thriller with a great romantic sideplot.

Similar Authors
Annette Curtis Klause
Anne Spollen
Vivian Vande Velde

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

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2 out of 5 - Ehh, I'm not that impressed, unfortunately. They aren't how I pictured the echoes, and if they aren't that, then they just look like moody imitations of the Twilight-esque dark paranormal cover to me.

HarperTeen / March 16, 2010 / Hardcover / 329pp. / $16.99

Out in paperback in February 2011!

Copy borrowed from library.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (97): The Sequel Edition

There are so many sequels I'm anticipating that I think it's better off if I just put them all here, in one WoW post!

All summaries from Goodreads. And, uh, I suppose you might not want to read them if you haven't read the first books yet:

We'll Always Have Summer (Summer, Book 3) by Jenny Han

It's been two years since Conrad told Belly to go with Jeremiah. She and Jeremiah have been inseparable ever since, even attending the same college-- only, their relationship hasn't exactly been the happily ever after Belly had hoped it would be. And when Jeremiah makes the worst mistake a boy can make, Belly is forced to question what she thought was true love. Does she really have a future with Jeremiah? Has she ever gotten over Conrad? It's time for Belly to decide, once and for all, who has her heart forever.

The love triangle between Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah is to die for. Seriously. It is incredibly well written and I have no idea how it'll all turn out, since I love both boys. Can a happy ending exist for all three beloved characters? We'll find out soon enough!

We'll Always Have Summer will be published in hardcover by Simon & Schuster on April 26, 2011.

Eona: The Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman

Eon has been revealed as Eona, the first female Dragoneye in hundreds of years. Along with fellow rebels Ryko and Lady Dela, she is on the run from High Lord Sethon's army. The renegades are on a quest for the black folio, stolen by the drug-riddled Dillon; they must also find Kygo, the young Pearl Emperor, who needs Eona's power and the black folio if he is to wrest back his throne from the selfstyled "Emperor" Sethon. Through it all, Eona must come to terms with her new Dragoneye identity and power--and learn to bear the anguish of the ten dragons whose Dragoneyes were murdered. As they focus their power through her, she becomes a dangerous conduit for their plans. . . .
Eona, with its pulse-pounding drama and romance, its unforgettable fight scenes, and its surprises, is the conclusion to an epic only Alison Goodman could create.

The first book, Eon, bowled me over, first with how incredible a world Alison Goodman had built, and then by how much it reminds me of timeless fantasy classics written by greats such as Robin McKinley, Gail Carson Levine, Tamora Pierce, and Sherwood Smith. If any of those authors appealed to you, then get thee a copy of the first book immediately!

Eona will be published in hardcover from Viking Juvenile on April 19, 2011.

Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready

Aura’s life is anything but easy. Her boyfriend, Logan, died, and his slides between ghost and shade have left her reeling. Aura knows he needs her now more than ever. She loves Logan, but she can’t deny her connection with the totally supportive, totally gorgeous Zachary. And she’s not sure that she wants to.
Logan and Zachary will fight to be the one by her side, but Aura needs them both to uncover the mystery of her past—the mystery of the Shift.
As Aura’s search uncovers new truths, she must decide whom to trust with her secrets…and her heart.

Well, that synopsis made the series sound like another ditzy little ditty in the paranormal romance department... but Shift is so much more than that. Beautifully strong characterization and world-building--how does Jeri do it?--will lead you an ardent fan of her writing. Maybe the publishing gods will be kind and gift me with an ARC somehow, somewhere...?

Shift will be published in hardcover from Simon Pulse on May 3, 2011.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: Castration Celebration by Jake Wizner

Tags: YA, summer camp, musicals, humor, sex


After catching her father cheating on her mother, Olivia has sworn off the male population. She intends to write a musical at Yale’s summer arts camp titled Castration Celebration. Too bad Max comes along, and he’s a ladies’ man who knows exactly what to say, which buttons to press…and he wants Olivia. Can this unlikely twosome, with the help of their mutual friends, make it?


I am still giggling and shaking my head weeks after reading this book. CASTRATION CELEBRATION is bawdy and offensive if it’s not your kind of book. Luckily, I enjoyed every minute of it.

In CASTRATION CELEBRATION, witty sexual innuendo is the name of the game. The characters’ repartee is so fast that if you don’t watch out, it might give you whiplash. Flirtatious teasing and suggestive comments fly back and forth, almost without stop. Even when Olivia and Max weren’t flirting, the characters’ dialogue was just so entertaining. They speak the way I always wanted to but was never brave or clever enough to do back in high school.

Some of the supporting characters are admittedly stereotypical “supportive friend” types, and sometimes I can even see that Olivia and Max are not all that well-rounded. However, they were just so successful at being entertaining that I didn’t even mind. I think that their role isn’t necessarily to be understood, but rather to entertain without resorting to tasteless, over-the-top antics, and they succeed.

CASTRATION CELEBRATION is not for everyone, but if you enjoy the occasional dollop of teenage boy humor, then this will make for an uproarious read.

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

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - This cover is ridiculous. It very obviously plays on the over-the-top peppy nature of successes such as High School Musical... and then there's CASTRATION written in huge letters. lol.

Random House / May 25, 2010 / Paperback (reprint) / 304pp. / $8.99

Personal copy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

10 Things Bloggers Should NOT Do: A Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge

So I'm not doing Bloggiesta because holy cow, how in the world do I have a whole entire weekend to dedicate to blogging when I've barely scrapped together two hours this whole week to blog. But I came across this post at my friend's blog Alise On Life, which was directed from Word Lily's Bloggiest mini-challenge, which references the post "10 Things Bloggers Should NOT Do" on Daily Blog Tips. *starts singing "It's a Small World" after that...* Anyway, I thought it'd be interesting to take this mini-challenge and to see how I've done according to this following list for bloggers.

1. You must not expect results overnight.

3/5. This is probably mostly irrelevant by now, since I'm coming up on or have missed (darn it! again!) my second blogoversary, but I do remember being impatient when I first started out, and wanting people to read my blog IMMEDIATELY. So yeah, I probably could've done better with patience starting out, but, again, it's mostly irrelevant now.

2. You must not ignore your readers.

3/5. I think I could do better, sigh. I wish I were more judicious in returning people's comments on my blog. I wish I had a faster turnaround in writing my discussion posts, particularly if they arise from someone's comments, or a conversation I have with people.

But then I thought about the fact that this blog is for ME primarily, and that when I try to tailor my writing style and content to this theoretical audience's interests, I'm not as happy. So, while I'm not saying you should ignore your readers, I also think it's more important to stick to your own style, to blog when and about what YOU want to above all.

3. You must not scrape another blogger's content.

5/5. Just don't do it. Plagiarization is not just a lifting of direct quotes from an uncredited source, it's also using someone else's ideas and not giving them credit for it. There have been a number of times when I was interested in starting a particular feature on my blog (mostly involving covers), but once I found out that other bloggers already had very similar ideas, I let it go.

And if you think I've taken content from your blogs before, I apologize for the misperception, but I honestly don't plagiarize; it was most likely a case of you and me getting similar ideas at the same time and writing about them utterly unaware of the fact that someone else thinks the same way about those things.

4. You must not expect success without promoting.

3/5. Tell me, how does one "promote" one's blog without being aggravating or coming off as a witless sycophant? I hate self-promotion. I'm terrible at it. If you asked me to tell you why you should read my blog I'd sound so illiterate you'd probably think I scammed my way into my notoriety. (Speaking of illiteracy, you should read this article, titled "You Should Date an Illiterate Girl", which I discovered via Angie's blog. It sounds like it might be offensive on the first page, but the second page especially is quite beautiful and romantic. And, bizarrely enough, a few minutes ago I just found out that one of my roommates knows the guy who wrote it. Whoa!)

Anyway. Self-promotion. I I believe in a meritocracy so much it probably hurts me. I'll admit: I used to use giveaways to try to get my blog name out there. Then I realized that the kind of blog-reader I usually attract to my blog is not really the kind of blogger who follows blogs just for the sake of their giveaways--which is a good thing, to me. So now, uh, thank you, everyone who talks about me and my blog positively? Hehe. You're my main source of "promotion."

5. You must not be another blogger.

4.5/5. I like the name I have established for myself in the blogosphere. Occasionally I will get spasms of envy for another blogger, particularly when I adore his or her blogging voice and wish I could sound more like that (most of the time it's their humor I'm envious of), but for the most part, I am happy with my self-made blogger identity.

6. You must not fail to update your blog regularly.

3.5/5. It comes and it goes. I used to be incredibly good about it--almost in a crazy-person kind of way. Reviews nearly every day, and memes or discussion posts in between those. In the past few months I've gone a week or two straight where I just didn't post at all, and I think that might happen this semester as well. But things will be okay; I've decided to take those blogging slumps in stride.

7. You must not ignore SEO.

1/5. Well, uh, obviously I fail this, because I didn't even know what SEO stands for until an hour ago. (It's "search engine optimization," I believe.) I have this vague notion that this is related to the "promotion" thing, and since I suck at promotion, it's no wonder I suck at optimizing my blog's searchability on search sites or whatever.

8. You must not ignore networking.

2.5/5. How does one network for book blogging? This is yet another one that's related to my promotion issue. Unlike other bloggers, I am inadept at talking myself up to publishers and authors. I'll say I fail at this one as well.

9. You must not have an unreadable/unnavigable site.

4.5/5. This is one thing I'm fairly certain I did alright in. I like my layout--well, okay, I'm getting tired of the pink, but that is a different story--because I think it is pretty straightforward to navigate.

10. You must not throw mud around.

4/5. I'm not going to pretend I am an angel. I try to be diplomatic when expressing my frustrations, but I'm human, too, and sometimes I encounter that angers me so much I just need to talk about it on my blog. I by no means make personal attacks, but yes, I do believe that people or organizations that are doing wrong deserve to be called out on it.


So, ratings-wise, it doesn't look like I did that well for this mini-challenge, lol. But what the heck. It's okay. I'm happy with what this blog is, and besides, I have to get a few things in my "real life" done first before I can relax and play with my blog all day (i.e. write my thesis, pass my honors exams, graduate, get a job). If you're interested, why not do this mini-challenge for yourself and see where you stand with this list?

In My Mailbox (54)

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!

A lighter week for me, thankfully.

Apologies for the extremely messy desk surroundings.
For review:
Bitter Melon by Cara Chow
The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

Thank you Goodman Media, EgmontUSA, Flux, and Simon & Schuster!

From Around the World Tours:
Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changelings, Book 1) by Nalini Singh
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
Inda by Sherwood Smith
Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner

So I had the fortune of reading Kat, Incorrigible back when it was still called A Most Improper Magick (in the US) and it is AMAZING so I'm so excited that I have the chance to give away an ARC for one of my favorite books. Out of all these, I think I'm most excited about reading Inda. I read Crown Duel on training trip and loved it, and my friend told me that the Inda series was good as well. Also very much looking forward to Spanking Shakespeare. I read the author's second book, Castration Celebration, over break, and it had me in hysterics.

Well, that's it for now! What book did you get this week that you're most excited for?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dark Days Interview with Courtney Allison Moulton!

Hey! Have you heard about HarperTeen's Dark Days of Supernatural tour? In which five spectacular paranormal authors will be traveling the US and the blogosphere, promoting their books? I have been specially partnered with Courtney Allison Moulton, debut author of Angelfire, for this tour, and I am thrilled to present to you an exclusive interview, courtesy of HarperCollins Publishing!


1. Why did you choose to write about angels?

Virtually every religion that has ever existed has had a concept of good versus evil. When I came up with the idea for Angelfire, I wanted to write about the ultimate battle between good and evil: Heaven against Hell. What fascinates me most about the creatures of Hell, the Fallen, is that they used to be on the side of good. They were angels once. In Angelfire, I wanted to explore what would make someone become evil, what would make an angel fall. It goes with the old saying, "evil begets evil." To become evil, we must perpetuate evil. It grows and consumes us until it's too thick to see through, and that’s what I wanted to write about.

2. Did you draw any inspiration from your own life for this story?

I think every writer takes pieces here and there from people we've come across and things we've experienced. I did draw upon some of my own high school and college experiences to create Ellie’s social life. Ellie’s family situation is more troubled than mine was, but she has some of the same boy problems that I had, minus the really hot Guardian part. Sadly, I have to admit that I’ve never battled a soul-stealing monster with a sword before. I made up all that.

3. If you could be any sort of supernatural being, what would you be?

I would be an angelic reaper. They aren’t evil like the demonic reapers and they each have their own unique abilities. Some can fly, create swords out of thin air, possess psychic abilities, and some can even change their entire bodies to look like someone else. They are all super strong and live really exciting lives. Not to mention, never aging would be pretty awesome. But they also have some very serious responsibilities, like fighting in a never-ending war against Hell, protecting powerful magical artifacts from falling into the wrong hands, and as cool as it sounds, I don’t think I’d want to fight monsters every night. Maybe I’m happy just being human.

4. Which city are you most excited to visit on your tour?

I've never been to Minneapolis, but I might be most excited about visiting Chicago since I'm from Michigan and this city is close to home. But then again, it'll be very nice to visit Miami during the winter, even if for a short time!

5. What gets you through a dark day?

When I'm having a difficult, stressful day, I take a moment to breathe and remember that it's just one day. Things will always get better. Reading an addictive book or watching a good movie helps to distract me from real-life stress, but my number one dark day remedy is riding my horse. I'll drop everything to drive out there to spend time with her and my riding friends, who are my best friends and always know how to cheer me up.

And just for fun...

Will's Top 10 List: The Top 10 things Ellie does that drive me crazy
1. Dresses me for themed parties.
2. Makes fun of my weakness for root beer floats.
3. Calls me the names of pop culture references I don't get.
4. Would rather watch teen comedies from the 1980's with Kate instead of patrolling for reapers.
5. Marshmallow. I don't understand this.
6. Asks a lot of questions.
7. Drags me to Cold Stone too frequently.
8. Sometimes doesn't quite believe she's the strong girl that I know she is.
9. Smiles at me.
10. Plays with the curls in the ends of her hair and I can't look away.

Thanks, Courtney! Check out the Dark Days of Supernatural tour stops below, and see if you're lucky enough to be living near any of these stops:

March 17 @ 7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
2100 North Snelling Avenue
Roseville, MN
*w/ Claudia Gray (AFTERLIFE), Courtney Allison Moulton (ANGELFIRE) and Kimberly Derting (DESIRES OF THE DEAD)

March 18 @ 7:00 PM
123 West Jefferson Avenue
Naperville, IL
* w/ Claudia Gray (AFTERLIFE), Courtney Allison Moulton (ANGELFIRE), Kimberly Derting (DESIRES OF THE DEAD) and Ellen Schreiber (ONCE IN A FULL MOON)

March 19 @ 7:00 PM
Books & Books
265 Aragon Avenue
Miami, FL
*w/ Claudia Gray (AFTERLIFE), Courtney Allison Moulton (ANGELFIRE) and Kimberly Derting (DESIRES OF THE DEAD)

Each author on the tour will be interviewed every Friday on a different blog; check the Facebook page for updates on the next interview. If you're interested, please check out the fan kit that HarperTeen has prepared for this tour, their Facebook page, the trailer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Author Interview + Giveaway with Dori Jones Yang!

Today I have on my blog Dori Jones Yang, the author of the splendid Daughter of Xanadu, which tells the tale of a female Mongolian soldier, and which I reviewed last week. Today she tells us a bit more about her book, her interest in Asian culture, and more. Welcome, Dori, to Steph Su Reads!

1. You have come in both professional and personal contact with Asian culture. Can you tell us briefly about your experience with Asian culture?

In college, I majored in European history, so I knew little about Asia. After graduation, I lived in Singapore for two years, teaching English and studying Mandarin, and that’s when I fell in love with Asia. I’ve travelled to at least 15 Asian countries and lived in Hong Kong for eight years, working as a foreign correspondent. My husband is Chinese, and our daughter was born in Hong Kong.

2. What inspired you to write Emmajin's story?

The white, European outlook on history is well known, but the perspectives of women – and especially of Mongols – have been largely overlooked. The real Marco Polo wrote about what he saw in China, but what did Asians think of him? That’s the unusual viewpoint I wanted to imagine and convey.

3. What sort of personal and research sources did you drawn from to create your version of Marco Polo?

My copy of Marco Polo’s book has lots of sticky notes in it, from my many readings of it. But I went beyond that. Marco says the Khan asked him to tell stories (he was that era’s version of a novelist!), and I wondered: What kinds of stories might Marco have known? Medieval Europe’s tales were of knights and ladies – the origin of our Western ideals of romance. To Asians, especially Mongols, they must have sounded startling. How might an impressionable young woman have reacted to such tales? That set my mind on fire!

4. What is your favorite scene from Daughter of Xanadu?

It’s ironic! I’m anti-war, but my favorite scene was that of the Battle of Vochan, in chapters 28 and 29, with elephants and archers and ‘fire medicine’ explosions. I really got carried away!

5. What's the most interesting food that you've tried?
Every time I visited a traditional Mongolian nomad’s home, or ger, I was served not only fermented mare’s milk (airag), but also some weird little hard and soft cubes, often described as “Mongolian cheese.” But these are nothing like American cheese cubes. Not terribly tasty, but they must have been high-protein food easy for the Mongols to carry on long trips by horseback.

6. Tell us something you'd like to do this year that you've never done before.

Play the hand bells! I’d also really like to learn to play the Mongolian horsehead fiddle, if I can find a teacher.

7. What are some interesting facts you came across in doing research for Daughter of Xanadu that didn't end up making it into the book?

I did a lot of research about gunpowder, which was invented in ancient China but for centuries mainly used to make noise at happy celebrations. It seems gunpowder was first used in warfare in China against the Mongols in the early 13th century. By the early 14th century, Europe and the Middle East both were using gunpowder in cannons during battles. So Marco Polo’s era was the exact moment in history when gunpowder spread from East to West and changed the nature of warfare forever. There is no evidence that Marco Polo brought gunpowder to Europe, but someone did at that time.

8. Can you share with us anything about any of your future writing projects?

Hmmm. I’d love to write a sequel to Daughter of Xanadu – if enough readers are interested. What do you think?


Thanks, Dori! Check out the book trailer below if you're interested:

And visit Dori's author website.

Now, I have a finished copy of Daughter of Xanadu, and I'd like to give it away to a lucky reader! To enter, please fill out the form here, being sure to answer the entry question relevantly. This giveaway is open to US mailing addresses only, and ends Friday, February 4, 2011. Good luck!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Tags: YA, sci-fi, dystopian, mystery, murder, secrets


Amy wasn’t planning on being nearly killed when she, her parents, and 97 other people are cryogenically frozen for a 300-year journey aboard a massive spaceship. But someone unfreezes her 50 years early, and she finds herself aboard a ship run by a tyrannical leader named Eldest. As Amy spends time with Eldest’s successor, a teenage boy named Elder, she discovers that the ship contains many secrets. What is Eldest hiding? Why is someone still killing the cryogenically frozen passengers? What’s wrong with the zombielike behavior of the ship’s residents?


ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is a heartpounding sci-fi/mystery by debut author Beth Revis. Whether or not you are a fan of science fiction, you’ll be pulled into the mysteries that the Godspeed contains, and this future world that Beth has so stunningly created for us readers.

Perhaps most impressive about this book is the development of the ship, Godspeed, and its inner workings and secrets. From reproduction to crop control to emotional stasis, the people who run this ship have created an eerily controlled dystopian environment. No concept is too complicated for a non-science person to understand. It creeps you out yet keeps you glued to the pages.

Amy and Elder are enjoyably well-rounded. Amy is headstrong but not annoyingly so, as many female protagonists have a tendency to be when faced with dramatic situations. Elder, likewise, is a sweetheart, with both his vulnerabilities and leadership. Other characters occasionally fall a bit unbelievably flat, such as Eldest’s unconvincingly one-dimensional villainy. Still, the pacing moves the story along nicely. Beth Revis makes use of the actual space on the page and crafts her sentences to appropriately reflect the amount of tension in the situations, adding to the mood.

The conclusion of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is explosive yet satisfyingly so, leaving you wanting the sequel. This book just might convince many readers to be interested in science fiction. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to Amy, Elder, and Godspeed next!

Similar Authors
Orson Scott Card

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

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - The opposing heads kind of freak me out a little, but that sky is GORGEOUS. The astrophysics nerd within me swoons into a puddle of my own drool.

Razorbill / Jan. 11, 2011 / Hardcover / 400pp. / $17.99

ARC requested from author/publisher.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Tags: middle grade, YA, contemporary, retelling, boarding school, romance, music, socioeconomic class


The prestigious all-girls Longbourn Academy takes two things very seriously: money, and prom. For scholarship student Lizzie Bennett, who has no interest in taking one of the stuck-up boys of Pemberley Academy to the prom, this means social suicide. Luckily she has her best friend Jane, a rich girl whose family has fallen on hard times.

Jane’s budding romance with the nice Pemberley boy Charles Bingley makes Lizzie happy, she his friend Will Darcy’s superior moneyed attitude has her seething. To make matters worse, Wick, a townie whom Lizzie meets at her local barista job, relates the story of how Darcy brought about Wick’s expulsion from Pemberley. Lizzie is ready to hate Will Darcy forever…until he overthrows all her impressions of him.


PROM AND PREJUDICE is a quick chick-litty read that will most likely raise eyebrows among loyal fans of the classic but be enjoyed by younger readers, or readers who have not experienced the wonderful nuances of Austen’s masterpiece.

Elizabeth Eulberg’s retelling reads easily and quickly, making it a good choice for a light read in between deeper books. Lizzie, with her musical talent and determination to not get caught up in her classmates’ pretentious games, is a likable protagonist. Even 200 years after Mr. Darcy was first imagined, there is still nothing like his type in terms of romantic heroes. Will Darcy obviously doesn’t hold a candle to Fitzwilliam, of course, but loyalty to Lizzie and how he tries to show that he really cares about her is adorable nevertheless.

PROM closely follows the events of the original story, translating every event into its 21st-century counterpart. Unfortunately, the thing that makes Pride and Prejudice so endearing to millions of readers—Austen’s searing social satire—doesn’t make the two-century leap. Things seem to be “flattened”: the book becomes simply a contemporary YA romance, with the difference in socioeconomic class between Lizzie and Will noted but never really used beyond it being a shallow way to make them willfully misunderstand each other.

The ridiculous characters that we enjoy so much in the original fail to fully make an appearance here: I was dying for more from Jane’s crazy family and the equivalent of Mr. Collins. And sadly, I struggled to find Will Darcy’s appeal. I suppose I was supposed to find his stiff “overtures” to Lizzie attractive, but I couldn’t help but think that the characters’ speech felt unnaturally proper, completely unlike how modern teenagers talk.

Overall, PROM AND PREJUDICE makes for a light chick lit read, but I wonder if the book’s painstaking adherence to the original, from events down to the names, doesn’t end up hurting its good intentions for some readers. I know that I was disappointed that the book seemed to lack the social satire that I enjoy most about Pride and Prejudice.

Similar Authors
Eileen Cook

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

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2.5 out of 5 - W...T...F? The pink, the pink, it blinds me! You would think that a retelling of one of the greatest love stories of all time would call for some attractive people on the cover, instead of this overemphasis on the ridiculous prom. *sigh*

Scholastic Point / Jan. 1, 2011 / Hardcover / 231pp. / $17.99

Read in bookstore.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (53)

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!

...But before I get to the books, let me just quickly tell you about how my training trip went!

10 days of waking up at 5:30am, swimming for a total of 4 hours per day, plus dryland before our afternoon practices. It wasn't as bad as I had feared, and I'm in pretty good shape now. On one of our afternoons off we went to the tiny island of Culebra, off Puerto Rico proper, and went to one of the most incredible beaches I've ever seen in my life. It looked like this:

And the beach at the hotel/residential community we stayed in wasn't so bad either:

Of course there were the usual stresses and amusements of living with 47-ish other people for 10 days, 24 hours a day, and how tough it was to swim 4 hours a day on a lack of sleep and overworked muscles and joints, but I love my teammates, so that made it bearable.

Here I am with the rest of the senior girls on the team:

I love us.

Now, onto the books! I haven't done an IMM in more than a month. This explains the epic explosion of books in this post. Nothing, however, explains how lucky I feel to be able to review some of these incredible books.

For review:
A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux
The Inheritance Almanac by Michael Macauley
Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
The Beginner's Guide to Living by Lia Hills
Choker by Elizabeth Woods
Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Loser/Queen by Jodi Lynn Anderson
The Girl Who Was On Fire by Various Authors
Rosebush by Michele Jaffe
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver
Teenie by Christopher Grant
The Princess of Las Pulgas by C. Lee McKenzie
Wishful Thinking by Alexandra Bullen
Trackers, Book 2: Santorian by Patrick Carman
Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan
Clarity by Kim Harrington
Num8ers, Book 2: The Chaos by Rachel Ward
Pod by Stephen Wallenfels
Chasing AllieCat by Rebecca Fjelland Davis
Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Book 2: Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler
The Girl Who Became a Beatle by Greg Taylor
The Running Dream by Wendelin van Draanen
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Timeless by Alexandra Monir
Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang
Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart
Badd by Tim Tharp
Tutored by Allison Whittenberg
Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
All Just Glass by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Warped by Maurissa Guibord

From Around the World Tours:
The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick

Feed by Mira Grant
Heist Society by Ally Carter
The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah Maclean
Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl
Must Love Hellhounds by Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, and Meljean Brook
Geist: A Book of the Order by Philippa Ballantine
The Reawakened by Jeri Smith-Ready
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby
The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
The 10p.m. Question by Kate De Goldi

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves

Tags: YA, paranormal, sisters, murder, horror


Kit and Fancy Cordelle are more than simply sisters: they’re practically the same person. The daughters of an infamous killer, the girls keep to themselves, yet are always aware that their father’s tendencies may manifest in them as well. So when they begin to kill—only those who deserve it, of course—the sisters are not all that surprised.

What shocks Fancy, however, is when Kit begins to want to branch out beyond their close relationship. The more Fancy kills, the more she tries to hold on to the way things were, the more things change. Turns out there are some things more horrifying than killing, and that may be acknowledging the real world.


Dia Reeves is like a bucket of cold water on YA lit’s face…and I mean that in the best way. Her debut novel, Bleeding Violet, turned paranormal inside out and made it fascinating, in a sexy and gruesome sort of way. Her sophomore novel, SLICE OF CHERRY, is like a twisted childhood fantasy come true. Which is to say that I LOVED it.

As she did in Bleeding Violet, Dia kind of simply throws readers to the wolves and makes you fight to understand and be sympathetic to what’s going on in the story. In a world where some YA writers seem to “baby” their readers, this is a refreshing challenge. Things are not outright explained to us, but rather allowed to unfold gradually over the course of the book’s many pages. SLICE OF CHERRY focuses greatly on the horrors of the human psyche. I mean, Portero is weird enough on its own, but Kit and Fancy’s sociopathic behavior could technically happen in any normal American town, which is the truly creepy part of this novel.

The characters in SLICE OF CHERRY are fantastically messed up, definitely out there in a caricature-like but still completely understandable way. Little time is wasted on backstory, on explanations of what made the girls the way they are. Instead, they—especially Fancy—believe so thoroughly in their oddness that they leave us no room to question how they came to be that way…and that was totally fine with me. We don’t need complicated psychiatric explanations because they are so fully realized, their bizarreness so beyond our comprehension of typical human behavior that they successfully straddle the line between the real and the macabre.

SLICE OF CHERRY is in a genre all its own. If Bleeding Violet didn’t convince me that Dia is a genius, then this book most definitely did. This book will appeal to anyone who has even a pinch of darkness to them, who ever felt like they were weird and enjoyed things that no one else seems to.

Similar Authors
Cecil Castellucci

Cover discussion: It's not what I'd expected. I had wanted something darker, something that perhaps shared elements similar to the cover of Bleeding Violet. But that doesn't mean I dislike it. It may be a bit misleading for anyone who's heard nothing about this book, but I like its unusual creepiness.

Simon Pulse / Jan. 4, 2011 / Hardcover / 512pp. / $16.99

Review copy sent by Simon & Schuster on behalf of the author. Thank you!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (96)

The Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young

Everyone has weird thoughts sometimes. But for seventeen-year-old Dani Solomon, strange thoughts have taken over her life. She loves Alex, the little boy she babysits, more than anything. But one day, she has a vision of murdering him that's so gruesome, she can't get it out of her mind. In fact, Dani's convinced that she really will kill Alex. She confesses the thoughts to keep him safe, setting off a media frenzy that makes "Dani Death" the target of an extremist vigilante group. Through the help of an uncoventional psychiatrist, Dani begins to heal her broken mind. But will it be too late? The people of her community want justice . . . and Dani's learning that some thoughts are better left unsaid. [summary from Goodreads]

Whoa. Sounds absolutely intense, in a psychological thriller kind of way. I'm looking forward to seeing if this is as good as its synopsis makes it sound!

The Babysitter Murders will be published in hardcover from Atheneum on May 3, 2011.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang

Tags: YA, historical fiction, Mongolian Empire, war


Emmajin is the granddaughter of Kubilai Khan, the fearsome and accomplished leader of the widespread Mongolian Empire. All she has ever dreamed of is to be able to join the Mongolian army, but her destiny as a princess is to be trapped in a political marriage. Emmajin is determined to do all she can to convince the Khan that she will serve him well in battle.

With the arrival of foreign merchants to their lands, however, Emmajin is told to gather information from one Marco Polo. This is the last thing Emmajin wants to do, but as she gets to know Marco, so unlike the Mongolian men she knows, she finds that there is something special about his talented storytelling, his peace-loving beliefs. But how can she juggle her growing feelings towards this foreigner and her determination to become a legend in the Mongolian army?


If you’ve never read anything about the Mongolian empire, then pick DAUGHTER OF XANADU up. Writing in a style easily accessible to modern readers, Dori Jones Yang tells the surprisingly deep story of a girl caught between warring desires, who learns that dreams may change and that things are hardly ever what they seem.

Emmajin undergoes an incredible journey of self-growth, from a girl with a single-minded determination to be a soldier to a young woman with far more complicated feelings and desires. To tell the story of Emmajin’s self-discovery, Dori Jones Yang gives us a world full of marvelously fascinating details, first among the artificial glamour of court life, and then among the gruesome reality of mortality on the battlefield. This transition of her soldier aspirations from dream to reality truly affects Emmajin in ways that we who live many centuries after her time can still empathize with. I was in tears for the last few chapters of the book, so wrapped up in Emmajin’s development I was.

DAUGHTER OF XANADU is a great book if you’re looking for a story featuring a strong female character set in a fascinating “other world.” Expand the range of POC books you read with this one, and be swept away.

Similar Authors
Donna Jo Napoli

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

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - There is a beautiful, strong Mongolian girl on the cover!

Delacorte / Jan. 11, 2011 / Hardcover / 352pp. / $17.99

ARC received from Around the World Tours.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cover Lust (23): Eon and Eona

A separate Cover Lust post in its entirety for the breathtakingness that is all of Alison Goodman's international covers for her book Eon: Dragoneye Reborn and its sequel, Eona: The Last Dragoneye (at least, those are its American titles. They are varied slightly throughout the world.) I don't speak enough about this series because I truly believe that Alison Goodman has written a fantasy series as great as anything by the legendary Tamora Pierce. (The fact that Pierce likes Goodman's books should be a good sign.)

Here is the cover I first saw for it, the US hardcover:

Amazing already, no? It's shiny in person, too.

It was already published as The Two Pearls of Wisdom in Australia and the UK:

Not my favorite color scheme, and the eyes are a little much, but still lovely. And you can kind of tell that Eon/Eona is Asian.

Here are some other editions of the first book:

UK paperback // US paperback // Spanish hardcover

Polish edition // French edition

Here is the US hardcover for Eona:

I like how it matches the US paperback of Eon. Doesn't hurt that it's so utterly badass. Although it's questionably, potentially whitewashed (is it? I can't really tell; my eyes are kind of tired at the moment, sorry). Here are some more covers for Eona or its international equivalents:

Australian hardcover // German edition

I love them both; the German edition kind of reminds me of the video cover for Mulan. But my favorite cover of all is the UK edition, titled The Necklace of the Gods:

zomgzomgzomgzomg that is almost exactly what I think Eona should look like! So badass.

I know there's been some flack regarding these books in the blogosphere in the past, about them taking exceptional liberties with the Asian inspirations of this fantasy, but my stance on this matter is that these books are Asian-inspired. They are not meant to follow a strict set of rules or be representative of the entire Asian mythological culture. I do believe that Alison Goodman has created a world thorough enough to exist on its own, in its own little universe somewhere we don't know about. Perhaps you will be intrigued enough to give this series a try? :) I know I am definitely waiting impatiently for the sequel to finally, finally come out in April.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Giant House of Night Sweepstakes Opportunity

To celebrate today's new book trailer and the release of AWAKENED, P.C and Kristin Cast's latest novel in the House of Night series, St. Martin's Press is offering a fantastic once in a lifetime chance for a fan and their guest to fly to Tulsa to tour the sites from the books and have lunch with the authors!

The lucky winner will receive a 3-day, 2-night trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma for two people which includes airfare, hotel accommodations, a tour of Tulsa and lunch on Saturday, April 30th, 2011 at the Chalkboard Restaurant with the authors. In order to enter the promo, they must answer three questions about the series. You can access the quiz here.

Official contest rules are here:

Also, St. Martin's is also holding a contest via the House of Night Facebook fan page. Fans can enter for a chance to win 1 of 30 complete sets of House of Night books! So if you're a fan, you don't want to miss this!

Trailer for AWAKENED:

Thanks, Tara at Zeitghost Media, for informing me of this opportunity!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst

Tags: YA, magical realism, college


Lily Carter, Princeton legacy, visits the campus with her grandfather and sick mother and falls in love with it. A secret society that her grandfather belongs to offers her guaranteed acceptance—but only if she passes the test and finds the Key. What’s the Key? Accompanied by a cute guy named Tye, who may know more than he’s letting on to, Lily traverses the campus on her quest…and makes some shocking revelations about Princeton as well as her heritage.

For there are actually two Princetons, and the university’s famous main gate is the doorway between the Princeton we all know and the other, magical Princeton. And Lily’s family is somehow involved in the heart of a conflict between the inhabitants of the two worlds, and they might stop at nothing to possess her.


What an amazing idea for a story! Who doesn’t love tales about alternate worlds? I know I do. However, ENCHANTED IVY cut some storytelling corners that unfortunately made it hard for me to invest in the story as fully as I wanted to.

As far as the premise goes, it’s extensive, but Sarah Beth Durst does an admirable job of condensing it to a magnitude appropriate for a YA novel. She creatively reimagines Princeton’s campus as one containing magical secrets in the most obvious of places. For anyone who’s acquainted with the university’s campus, as I am, or anyone who has felt the awe-inspiring austerity of an old and regal college campus, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine the gargoyles as “hibernating” magical professors and gateways existing everywhere.

Oh, how I wish this book had gone on for another 200 or so pages! And not exactly because I didn’t want it to end, but because I think that had the book been longer, elements of the story could have been explored more thoroughly, and the book wouldn’t have given me a harried, rushed feeling as I read it. There is just so much packed into 320 pages that I don’t think many elements were allowed breathing room to grow into fully realized beings. Many of the characters seemed like flat projections of people, from the villain of the story to the boys who help Lily on her quest. In particular, when Tye proclaims to Lily within hours of them meeting each other that, due to their similarities, which I won’t divulge here because of spoilers, they are obviously soulmates, I wanted to howl, “Noooooo! How could you resort to such a paranormal romance cliché?!?!” At that point, I still felt so lost with the story that I couldn’t fully invest in Tye as a love interest yet. Likewise with the “purposes” of many other characters.

That was the danger of having the pacing of this book be all snap-snap-snap, one dramatic event/revelation after the other after the other. No sooner was one crucial key to the plot revealed, and I was still digesting it, when another piled on top, and so on. The rushed pacing unfortunately made this book read almost like a parody of its intent: I knew this book could’ve been extremely awe-inducing and breath-stealing in the best way, but I couldn’t help but feel like it attempted to do too much in too little space—oh, here’s a big bad villain! Here’s a love triangle! Here’s a heretofore unknown magical heritage! And then here’s the big bad villain’s deserved horrible ending!—that little was allowed to reach its potential.

Still, ENCHANTED IVY had the power to surprise and delight me with its twists, turns, and revelations. I particularly loved Lily’s bittersweet relationship with her fragile mother, a woman whose sanity is questionable but all the more endearing as a result of her tremulous hold on reality. If you’re the kind of reader who is often ensnared by an incredible premise, action, and a magical gothic-like setting, do give this book a try.

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

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - Whoa! I find it wonderfully unique and alluring. The model's pose is a little awkward, but I do love the stone gargoyle she's posing with.

Margaret K. McElderry / Oct. 12, 2010 / Hardcover / 310pp. / $16.99

Accepted review pitch from author, review copy sent by publisher.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Featured Blogger (29): Aaron Vincent of Guy Gone Geek!

I stumbled upon Guy Gone Geek totally by accident, on one of those rare days where I actually had free time and so checked up on new blogs. I'm so glad I did, because I'm very impressed by Aaron Vincent! He writes the most thorough reviews, and it's always a pleasure to to find a male blogger. Welcome, Aaron, to Steph Su Reads!

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

Hello, my name is Aaron Vincent. If you direct translate my full name, including my middle name, it will read as, Brother of Moses to Conquer Thorns of the Saint. Sounds like an odd news headline, right? My parents are both cool and cruel for giving a long name. Just imagine my agony during kindergarten! I am 10 years old in Mars years (go figure!) and a system developer/programmer. I'm from the Philippines where it's sunny everyday...except for the monsoons. I don't drink, I don't smoke and I don't do sadness.

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?

Guy Gone Geek is a two-month old book blog and as the name implies, maintained by a guy geek. Guy Gone Geek is actually the second name; the original was The Boy Who Reads. There's a huge problem with that original title because if you put it in a url, it will be theboywhoreads. Misreading this url will make you think that I maintain a porn site instead of a book blog and I sure don't want that. I let the Boy grow a little so now he's a Guy and he is Geeking over YA books, and there you have it: Guy Gone Geek.

I created this blog for two main reasons. First, to celebrate my first year of being a hardcore booklover. I've been reading books since I was a child but it's only last year that I got infected by the Can't Survive A Day Without Reading virus. Second, I thought that there's not enough male voices in the YA blogosphere. That's what you expect from my blog; a male voice expressing his passion for fiction. What you can expect on my blog, to put it simple, is me fanboying over YA awesomeness.

3. Can you tell us about what the state of YA lit is like in the Philippines?

I do think that YA lit is pretty big here in the Philippines. We have this Filipino Book Bloggers community where the majority of the registered members blogs about YA novels. I think this is quite a feat considering the fact that we don’t have public libraries here that endorse this kind of book – we buy everything we read. It is a country that loves to have fun and YA fiction, in general, is fun to read so it’s not a wonder why YA is such a big hit here.

4. Do you have any role models?

I recently categorized my book blogs feeds subscription on my Google Reader into 4 categories. Let me discuss categories 1-3 first. These are the book blogs I enjoy reading but they have some drawbacks. I call the first one Brains. These are the blogs with flawless writing and perfect grammar, but sometimes the person writing it feels distant and there's almost no connection between the writer and the reader. Then there is the Hearts. These are the bloggers that are extremely passionate it makes me feel privy to their lives. They have the tendency to become self-indulgent. The third are the Mouths. You'll read them just for the sarcasm and the laugh.

And then there's the fourth category which I call - for the lack of better term - Ones. These are the bloggers that has the perfect combination of brain, heart and humor. They know how to express their love for books and you can see it on their post. I’ll mention a few of them: Darren (Bart's Bookshelf), Adele (Persnickety Snark) - and for local bloggers: Tina (One More Page), Patrick (The Bookish Pinoy), etc. These people are those who I consider as my book blogging role models.

5. Name 3 favorite books and why you think everyone should read them.

Tough one but I’m up for it:

The Hunger Games: I will never get tired of saying this: I owe my love for YA fiction to this series.

Fablehaven: This is my favorite MG novel. It delighted the 8-year old kid in me and if that kid is happy, this big guy here is also happy. Make the kid in you happy, too, and read this fantastic book.

Paper Towns: I read this novel 2 months ago and until now, it still got a hold in me. It changed the way I see people and I think if everyone will just read it, it would be easier for us to understand and accept one another despite all of our imperfections.

I’m really sorry Chaos Walking, Unwind, Ender’s Game, and Harry Potter. You guys know I love you and I think everyone should read you too, but you see, Steph is being evil and only asked for three.

6. HAH HAH. Way to sneak the rest in there. :P So you're about to spend 6 months living on a desert island with no access to the outside world. You can bring one person to hang out with, one electronic device, and a neverending supply of one type of food. Go!

Definitely John Green. His sense of humor is truly impeccable and I’m sure I will learn a lot from him. For reasons I think is pretty obvious, the gadget has to be an e-reader. It will really be nice if he and I will have discussions about his and my favorite books. And as for food, I’ll pick yogurt if it’s only me, but since I’m with a John Green might as well have his favorite food which is Pizza. Or we can compromise and have a Yogurt-Flavored Pizza instead. Yeah, Yogurt-Flavored Pizza, that will do. Yum! Now my question is: just 6 months, can’t we extend? ☺

7. What are some recent elements in YA lit that you've been enjoying? What are some elements that you'd like to see more of in YA in the future?

MPDG or Manic Pixie Dream Girl characters. The term was originally used for film characters and I don’t know if it’s the right term for book characters but it’s pretty close. They are these fun, quirky and mysterious girls that’s always the key for our lovelorn male characters to break out of their shells. Unlike their movie counterparts who are often shallow and static, MDPGs in books have depth and they are very exciting to read – for me at least. They are fascinating and really unpredictable. I’m certainly looking forward to read more books about them.

8. What does your dream house look like?

As long as my room is the size of football stadium, any house will do. Kidding. Isn’t it every booklover's dream to have a library of his/her own? No matter how grand the house is, it will not be my dream house if it doesn’t have a library. It also must have a cozy veranda facing a beautiful landscape where I can just sit and read a book the whole day.

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

BOOKS!! Well, that’s obvious. Apart from books, I also love receiving CD playlist. I really like those playlists with themes and tells a story. Take me to a journey with all the tracks you put on the playlist and you’ve got me. Basically, I love receiving gifts that is made by the giver not bought, so letters or baked goods will also do. But If you find this things too simple, an Alfa Romeo will be just fine. ☺

10. Finally, tell us 2 interesting things about yourself that can spark conversation.

I hope you find these interesting:

- I didn’t know my left and right not until that Beyonce “to the left” song came out. I always got confused with what’s left and what’s right. I don’t know the reason for this but I’m guessing that it’s some sort of brain damage or something. Thankfully, that song starts playing on the radio and a friend taught me this simple step that whenever I hear “to the” I’ll point down, and then if I hear “left”, I’ll point to the left. Until now, I still find myself singing that phrase on my head and doing that move from time to time.

- I can speak 3 languages, Filipino, English and Japanese. A lot of people tell me that it’s easy to get me mistaken for being Japanese when I’m speaking that language. I’m young, thus playful, you see, so I use this to pull prank on random strangers. Sometimes I pick a stranger in a shopping mall or wherever then ask him/her in straight Japanese where the comfort room is. I do hand signals for additional effect. When they already got what I’m asking and told me where the comfort is located, I will say thank you to them using our local language. You should see their reactions, it’s priceless!


Thanks, Aaron! Be sure to stop by Guy Gone Geek if you're interested in reading incredibly insightful reviews.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Tags: YA, contemporary, Asperger's, law


Scientists don’t know exactly what 17-year-old Marcelo Sandoval has, but they believe it’s a form of Asperger’s Syndrome in which Marcelo can “hear” music that no one else can. For his part, Marcelo is perfectly content to spend the summer before his senior year of high school working as a stablehand at his alternative school, but his father has other plans. Arturo believes there’s nothing wrong with Marcelo, and wants him to work at his big-time law firm for the summer.

In the law firm’s mailroom, Marcelo befriends the beautiful and striking Jasmine, and struggles to work out his relationship with Wendell, his father’s partner’s sleazy law student son. At first Marcelo just wants to succeed at his job so that he can go back to Paterson for his senior year. But the discovery of the discarded picture of a disfigured girl leads Marcelo along a journey to discover his place in the world, the decisions in his hands, and what he can do to help.


MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD is an unassuming winner that’s deserving of all the praise it’s received. Sensitive, touching, and hopeful, this remarkable book will make you rethink your position in life, and the influences you can have on it.

Marcelo is an incredibly genuine protagonist. Reading his narration feels in a way like a novelization of the character of Forrest Gump: that charming, yet heartbreaking, guilelessness, the literal way with which he looks at the world, the difficult lessons he can only learn through experience. The completeness with which Francisco Stork seems to know his protagonist is astonishing, and convincingly touching as a result.

In a sense, MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD is a celebration of characters, both good and bad. A law firm is an interesting but quite genius place to set such a story, as it allows Marcelo—and readers—to come in contact with people who lie and manipulate, and yet have people they love, and dreams they aspire to. Marcelo’s changing relationship with his father is particularly well done, as it shows us the all-too-real complexities of loving people with good and bad parts.

Sometimes the plot feels slow (it took a few chapters before I got into the story), and sometimes the scenes are disjointed, but overall MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD is an amazing accomplishment. I highly recommend that everyone read this book: it might encourage you to approach the world around you differently, with a more open mind and heart.

Similar Authors
Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

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

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4.5 out of 5 - I think it's amazing. The simple flattening of the image makes it so striking, like it's part of this world, yet not quite...kind of like Marcelo.

Scholastic / March 9, 2009 / Hardcover / 320pp. / $17.99

Out in paperback in February 2011!

Copy received in trade.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (95)

My Not-So-Still Life by Liz Gallagher

Vanessa is wise beyond her years. She's never really fit in at school, where all the kids act and dress the same. She's an artist who expresses her talent in the wacky colors she dyes her hair, her makeup and clothes. She's working on her biggest art project, and counting the days until she's grown up and can really start living. That adult world seems closer when Vanessa gets her dream job at the art supply store, Palette, where she worships the couple who runs it, Oscar and Maye. And she's drawn to a mysterious guy named James, who leads her into new, sometimes risky situations. Is she ready for this world, or not? [summary from Goodreads]

A few years ago I stumbled across a slim YA gem called The Opposite of Invisible. (Also, that was back in the day when I wrote 4-paragraph summaries and one-paragraph reviews, so please excuse the review's youthful unhelpfulness.) Ever since, I have constantly kept one eye out for Liz Gallagher's further writing, so I'm excited for her next book to come out! She has a way of writing quirky, relatable, and utterly sympathetic characters. Her books may never be that long, but "less is more" definitely applies to Liz Gallagher's writings!

My Not-So-Still Life will be published in hardcover from Wendy Lamb Books on May 10, 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gone Swimming!

Yep, it's that time of the year again, for me and 50-ish other swimmers to head off to the warm, warm lands of Puerto Rico to swim for 4 hours a day, for 10 days straight. It's nice having sunshine and beach weather in the middle of January, but I don't think I will miss the whole waking-up-at-5am, muscle-soreness-upon-muscle-soreness part of training trip!

As always, training trip is the time when I essentially "disconnect" from the world and just enjoy reading and writing when I am not either eating, sleeping, or swimming. I'm taking 6 books with me for the trip:

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Such delicious variety! Guardian of the Dead and Rot & Ruin are Cybils reading (I am a Round 2 judge for the YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre!), and the rest have been in my TBR pile for far too long. Needless to say, I am very happy and think I will have a great reading time over training trip!

And don't worry: I have such a huge backlist of reviews to post that it will feel like I'm not even gone. Have a great 10 days, everyone, and see you when I get back on the 14th!

Monday, January 3, 2011

January Giveaway!

The winner of my December giveaway is... #181 Jessica! Congratulations! I've emailed you, heard back from you, and your prize pack is on its way.

For this month's giveaway, one (1) lucky winner will receive the following books:


Vixen by Jillian Larkin
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
The Iron Queen by Julia Kagawa (ARC)
Vampire Crush by J. M. Robinson (ARC)
The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver (ARC) a healthy dose of swag, as per usual! To enter, please fill out the form below, making sure to answer the question relevantly. This giveaway is open internationally and ends Friday, January 28, 2011. Good luck!


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