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Monday, May 31, 2010

Yeah, let's go ahead and double down on that...(Mockingjay Giveaway Winner + ANOTHER Contest)

Hello, my lovelies.  Hope you're all ready for Jane in June.  It's going to be all Jane, all the time from here on out.  But first, I thought you would like to know which of you darling followers won the pre-ordered copy of Mockingjay, the 3rd book in the Hunger Games series....
.......anticipation builder......
............just me being annoying.......


You won, darlin'!  It will be on its way to you as soon as it is released.  Hope you enjoy it!

Now, I know the rest of you are crushed.
 But I have some good news.  My buddy Kristen is going to be having a little blogoversary in June, and I offered to host a contest for it.  Since I am going to be Jane Austened out the ears for the next month, I thought I would go ahead and put it up now for you darlings.  I was wondering, what should I give away for such an auspicious occasion?  Weeeel, since this little Mockingjay giveaway was such a smash, I figured, why not just run with it?  But this time, since I know some of you haven't started the series yet (WHY?), I am going to offer winner's choice of the three books.

All you have to do is fill out this little form and go wish Kristen a Happy Blogoversary!
Good luck!

Ends June 30th
Winner announced July 1st.

And make sure to check back through out the month for lots and lots of giveaways!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

IMM: May

I don't have time to do an IMM vlog because I am in the midst of (sort of, maybe) organizing for the Jane in June shenanigans, but I do want to tell you about the greatfantabulous books I got this month.  If I have a sane moment in the coming weeks, I may pop back in and do a vlog, but for now, here's the list...
[also, I know I keep saying I am going to buy fewer books every month, and so far that hasn't happened -- and I'm NOT going to say that for June, I'm not even going to THINK it, because that would be a lie -- I'm going to ALA, and I damn well better come home well-laden with books.  So look for another big IMM at the end of June, and THEN I am going to ease up.  Really...]

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
What I Was by Meg Rosoff
Exodus by Julie Bertagna
The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose by Mary Hooper
The Grand Tour: Being a Revelation of Matters of High Confidentiality and Greatest Importance, Including Extracts from the Intimate Diary of a Noblewoman and the Sworn Testimony of a Lady of Quality by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Jinx by Meg Cabot
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
Angels on Sunset Boulevard by Melissa De La Cruz
East by Edith Pattou
The Wish List by Eoin Colfer
Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
Squire by Tamora Pierce
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

GIFT BOX from my buddy BILL (thanks Bill!)
The Devouring by Simon Holt
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
Savvy by Ingrid Law (!!! I love this!)
The Tale of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler
Breathe: a Ghost Story by Cliff McNish
Angels by Cliff McNish 
Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap (from Kate of the Neverending Shelf.  Thanks, Kate!)
The Spellman's Strike Again by Lisa Lutz (from Elizabeth of Strange and Random Happenstance.  Thanks, Miss Eliza!)
(I won some other stuff as well, but it hasn't come yet, so I will wait to share it with you)

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb for my bookclub
and a whole mess of Jane Austen related lit for Jane in June!

A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley (thanks, Random House/Alfred A. Knopf and Casey!) -- check out my review here!
The Darcy Cousins by Monica Fairview (thanks, Monica and Danielle from Sourcebooks!)
Intimations of Austen by Jane Greensmith (Thanks, Jane!)
Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd (Thanks, Lynn and Beautiful Books!)
Miss Bennet and Mr Bingley by Fenella J Miller (Thanks, Fenella!)
My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking (Thanks, Amanda!)
Android Karenina by Ben Winters and Leo Tolstoy (thanks, Quirk Books and Tiffany!)

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley

A Little Wanting Song
by Cath Crowley

from Goodreads:

CHARLIE DUSKIN loves music, and she knows she's good at it. But she only sings when she's alone, on the moonlit porch or in the back room at Old Gus's Secondhand Record and CD Store. Charlie's mom and grandmother have both died, and this summer she's visiting her grandpa in the country, surrounded by ghosts and grieving family, and serving burgers to the local kids at the milk bar. She's got her iPod, her guitar, and all her recording equipment, but she wants more: A friend. A dad who notices her. The chance to show Dave Robbie that she's not entirely unspectacular.
ROSE BUTLER lives next door to Charlie's grandfather and spends her days watching cars pass on the freeway and hanging out with her troublemaker boyfriend. She loves Luke but can't wait to leave their small country town. And she's figured out a way: she's won a scholarship to a science school in the city, and now she has to convince her parents to let her go. This is where Charlie comes in. Charlie, who lives in the city, and whom Rose has ignored for years. Charlie, who just might be Rose's ticket out.
Told in alternating voices and filled with music, friendship, and romance, Charlie and Rose's "little wanting song" is about the kind of longing that begins as a heavy ache but ultimately makes us feel hopeful and wonderfully alive.  

Release Date: June 8, 2010

I generally don't read a lot of contemporary, for whatever reason.  I think I'm always afraid that it's going to be very soapy and melodramatic and whiny -- something, I don't know, just a little too much and not really my thing.  But like every genre, there's the good and the bad, and I need to realize that I can't be afraid of sampling it from time to time in order to find the good.  Because when it's good, it's good.  This is good.

In A Little Wanting Song, Cath Crowley was able to really capture not just being a teen, but being a human.  Charlie was one of the most real characters I have had the pleasure of reading in some time.  She's shy and sort of timid, a bit of a wallflower type, but because this is told in alternating first-person accounts, the reader gets to enjoy the really rich internal voice that Charlie has.  She's smart and funny and artistic, and she's also nervous and lonely and a million other things that work together to make her a fully-realized character.  She almost ceases to be a "character" at all, and becomes someone you can really connect to.  And Rose isn't far behind on the Full Character Scale.

Just as much as the characters, I enjoyed Crowley's writing.  Her prose was simply beautiful: it was smooth and flowed well in that way that makes it hard to put a book down -- you know you should because it's 2:00am and you have to work in the morning, and as soon as you find a good stopping point, you will put it down, but first, how about one more chapter to see how Charlie reacts to what Rose just did; oh, that's how?  Well, we better see how Rose reacts now...Hmm...maybe one more...  It's that kind of writing.  It just seems effortless, which means there was probably a good deal of effort behind it.  There's a lot of relatable humor in both Charlie's and Rose's narration.  And even if the voices overlap sometimes, they still remain their own distinct characters; it's almost in the way that good friends sound a little alike, but you can tell them apart -- it's probably part of the reason they are good friends.

This is a coming of age story, and a friendship story at its finest.  Even when it's completely predictable -- and it can be -- it still works.  It's thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing, and it's got me rethinking my stance on contemporary fiction.  Or at least considering widening my stance on CF.  The only real downsides for me -- and really, I was able to set them aside -- were: the bit of predictableness I mentioned ^^.  There is a formula to coming of age stories, and this one does use it a bit; also, there is a spot in the middle of the book that, though I don't dislike it, I wonder if all of what happened needed to happen.  It seemed not quite forced, but almost.  Like action and craziness was needed as a catalyst.  As I said, I liked it, but it was a tiny bit jarring to have a ton of stuff suddenly happening in a rush.  But these were minor and the rest of the book more than made up for it.

One last thing I want to mention: Charlie writes songs, and some of them are included in the book as a sort of poetry, and at first I was very dubious.  I don't always trust great prose writers to write great poetry -- because often, they don't.  So I have to give Cath Crowley a bit of a pat on the back, because some of her poetic interludes were really very nice.  They stayed in Charlie's tone, they were expressive and lyrical without being too much, and some of them were really affecting.

I would recommend you pick this up, it would make a great beach read.  Or a great winter, cuddled up with cocoa read. :)

[disclosure: This book was sent to me by Knopf books for review at my request, yo!]


Here's my Teaser Tuesday from A Little Wanting Song; it's from the beginning of the book, and it sets the tone and draws the reader in beautifully.  Very funny.


"Who's this?" Dad asks when a catchy tune comes on my CD.  We pass the skeleton tree that never has leaves, no matter what time of year.  Bare gray branches wave us on.  "No one you know, Dad," I say.
It's me.
~ ~ ~
The [Christmas] tree flicks me the finger on my way throught the living room.  I flick one back.  Solidarity.  Christmas isn't always what you'd hoped for.
 ~ ~ ~
I thank [Dave] for my hat and close the door.  Sure, I want to open it straight back up and yell his name but I don't.  I draw a line between me and uncool and I don't cross it.
Instead I put on a Fiona Apple CD and turn her up loud.
[...]  I dance loud to my music.  Oh yeah, I'm sassy.  I'm hard to get, that's what I am.  Hard. To. Get.  Cool.  I slide to the fridge and grab a Coke.  I slide back.  "What are you up to?" Grandpa asks, walking into the kitchen.
"I'm being sassy.  Playing hard to get.  Cool.  Not desperate."
"Dave Robbie's riding his bike around our front yard.  Any idea why?"
In case of fire, it's good to know we can all get out of the house in less than five seconds.  I take a breath and open the door.  "Hi.  Did you forget something?"
He shakes his head.  "I just didn't want to go home."
Fuck cool.  Cool is overrated.

"Do whatever you like, Luke."
"I will," he said.
"Dickhead, I shot back."  Things are bad with your boyfriend when every conversation ends with "Do whatever you like. I will. Dickhead."
 ~ ~ ~
 Sure, friendship is all about believing in someone so hard they believe it, too.  Sure, it's about trust.  But if anyone hurts her tonight, it's about ripping them apart with my bare hands and really enjoying it.

Note: A Little Wanting Song, originally published in Australia, where it was shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year , was originally titled Chasing Charlie Duskin.  I don't know if anything of import was changed along with the title.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wild Things YA Challenge Update

Well, folks, I figured since it's almost time for Jane in June, I'm probably not going to make much more progress on the Wild Things Challenge I am running/participating in on Goodreads.

But I have made some changes to my list, and worked through more than I was anticipating, so I thought I'd do a little update.

The list:

(crossed off are completed!)

OFFICIAL SECTION, with a twist (broadening, out of the box, better readers mash-up) (1):
1.5: Read a selection from our group Top Ya Novels [book:A Northern Light|64481] by Jennifer Donnelly
1.10: Read a book that someone in the group (or on Goodreads) has been "pushing" you to read, [book:The Iron King|6644117] by Julie Kagawa (pushed by many GR and blogger friends)
1.15: Read a book from any thread in a folder that you never go into: [book:Parable of the Sower|52397] by Octavia Butler (on the DCPL Teen Faith and Spirituality list)
1.20: Read a 4- or 5-star book from a WT member you've never conversed with, and then discuss it with them: [book:Princess Ben|2153427] by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch  (on JOSIE's shelves)
1.25: Read 2 books from a series (or 2 books from 1 author) from a different culture, or in a genre you don't read: 1.25 [book:Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure|6044486] & [book:Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country|7647725] (series by author I don't know + in genre I don't read)
Buddy Bonus +5: Buddy gets to pick 1 book for you to read that fits any of the above.  This is in addition to what you read for each task. still tbd

2.5: Read any book that is NOT in your native language (ie translated into your language), or that was originally published in another country:  (debating [book:Brave Story|123557] or[book:Eidi: The Children of Crow Cove|6800743], though I likely won't get to this task.
2.10: Spin the globe (or point on an atlas) and read any ya book written by someone from that geographic area, or set in that area:  [book:Across the Nightingale Floor|77160] by Lian Hearn (set in JAPAN)
2.15: Read 2 award winners from 2 different countries other than your own: [book:The Beguilers|1001894] (IRELAND'S BISTO AWARD) + [book:A Little Wanting Song|7124053] (AUSTRALIA'S CBC AWARD)
2.20: Read 2 books, 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction, about a real event: [book:Fever 1793|781110] by Laurie Halse Anderson + [book:An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793|46727] by Jim Murphy
2.25: Read 2 books from 2 cultures/countries that revolve around the same topic or theme (or similar): [book:How I Live Now|161426] by Meg Rosoff (set in ENGLAND) + [book:The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm|633270] BY Nancy Farmer (set in ZIMBABWEI) [I chose world dystopias as my theme)
Buddy Bonus +5: You and buddy choose together 1 fairy tale (preferably from another country to read, and 1 retelling based on that fairy tale: [book:Wildwood Dancing|13929] by Juliet Marillier + the tale of The 12 Dancing Princesses

3.5: Look on GR for "Best of" lists in a genre you don't read, and read something from one of the lists that interests you OR read a book for the monthly pick (April, May or June) for Linda Grace’s Ongoing Challenge:Linda Grace challenge pick: June [book:Summerland|16705] by Michael Chabon
3.10:  Read a book and listen to the audiobook version OR watch a movie adaptation: [book:Thirteen Reasons Why|1217100] by Jay Asher (book and audio) <-- will likely listen on the way to ALA
3.15: Genre Roulette or Misty Pick!   genre #17: LGBT - [book:The Bermudez Triangle|270363]
3.20: Read any two books from our most neglected folders, LGBT, Multicultural, Non-fiction, or Religion and contribute to discussion:[book:The Last Exit to Normal|2114838] by Michael Harmon (LGBT) + [book:All Over But the Shoutin'|470495] by Rick Bragg (NONFICTION)
3.25: Read three books in 3 different non-traditional forms: drama (does not have to be 100 pages), poetry, short story anthology, epistolary/diary, audiobook: 3.25 [book:I Heart You, You Haunt Me|1832749] by Lisa Schroeder (POETRY) + [book:Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic|38990] by Alison Bechdel (MEMOIR/GRAPHIC NOVEL/LGBT) + [book:Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot|64207] (EPISTOLARY)
Buddy Bonus +5: Buddy looks through your GR shelves and picks 1 book in a genre or style that seems neglected.: [book:Gather Together in My Name|130200] by Maya Angelou

4.5: Read any book and write a detailed review that examines what you read, what you thought and felt, and whether you would recommend it: [book:Magic Under Glass|6461779] by Jaclyn Dolamore
4.10: Read a ya book and discuss it with or recommend it to a young adult in your life.  OR have a young adult in your life recommend a book to you and discuss with them why they like it:[book:Demons of the Ocean|723801] (Vampirates - series recommended to me quite enthusiastically by friend's son)
4.15: Ask a YA librarian to recommend their "little known gems" in a variety of genres, read 1, discuss it with the librarian if possible: [book:If I Stay|4374400] by Gayle Foreman
4.20: Read YA any book (preferably dealing with a controversial issue, or a topic that is out of your comfort zone or usual genre), and create and post discussion questions for it: [book:Before I Fall|6482837] by Lauren Oliver
4.25: Read any YA book and do 2 of the following:
 -- written response to the book
 -- drawing or other art form inspired by the book
 -- character interview
 -- poem
 -- make a photo collage or slideshow that represents the book to you
 -- make a book trailer
 -- make a music playlist inspired by the book
 -- Or pitch your own idea!
[book:Eyes Like Stars|3817859] by Lisa Mantchev
-- still need to do tasks
Buddy Bonus: Buddy Bonus +5: Read your buddy's book from 4.20 and answer the questions.  book:Foxfire|156222] by Joyce Carol Oates (Lydia's task 4.20 pick.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Zan Gah + Zan Gah and the Beautiful Country by Allan Richard Shickman

from Goodreads (slightly altered):
In Zan Gah, the hero, Zan-Gah seeks his lost twin in a savage prehistoric world, encountering suffering, captivity, conflict, love, and triumph. In three years, Zan-Gah passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a position of leadership among his people.

In The Beautiful Country, Zan s troubled twin brother, Dael, having suffered greatly during his earlier captivity, receives a ruinous new shock when his wife suddenly dies. Disturbed and traumatized, all of his manic energies explode into acts of hostility and bloodshed. His obsession is the destruction of the wasp men, his first captors, who dwell in the Beautiful Country. When he, Zan-Gah, and a band of adventurers trek to their bountiful home, they find that all of the wasp people have died in war or of disease. The Beautiful Country is empty for the taking, and Zan s people, the Ba-Coro, decide to migrate and resettle there. But the Noi, Dael s cruelest enemies and former tormentors, make the same migration from their desert home, and the possibility develops of contention and war over this rich and lovely new land.

[Note: I am going to treat the review of both books as one in most instances, since my likes and dislikes were the same in both books.  When I am speaking of one in particular, I will make a note of it.]

 I said awhile back that this is the summer of expanding my reading tastes and reading outside of my comfort zone (as seen in the Wild Things Challenge, which I really need to do an update on).  Sometimes, that can seriously backfire.  But sometimes it works.

When I agreed to review the Zan Gahs, it was with mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I have always liked history, but I was really dubious of a pre-history story.  I wanted to try something new and different, but what if "new and different" turned out to be old and grunt-ugh-ugh?  The deciding factor was that I have a friend with a smarty-pants son, and I thought they sounded like books he might like, which led me to the further conclusion that these might be good boy books, which are in short supply, so why not give it a try and find out?  There were some drawbacks for sure, but I'm glad I did.

I was worried when I first started reading Zan Gah.  The writing was very simple and almost dispassionate, like a text-book come slightly to life.  And things were laid out very explicitly, with little asides to the reader, which can cross over into pet-peevish territory very quickly for me (condescending, redundant, tangential, etc).  But though the simplistic style remained, the rest did sort of resolve itself and I found myself interested in Zan's life and trials.  I was even able to feel a bit connected to him, which was a bit of a worry, since we are so removed from that time.

I think this is the key to their success as stories (for young teens and adults as well): Shickman wrote very human characters and a very human story.  For example, Zan's brother, Dael, is a very emotionally and mentally wounded person.  This is evident in the first book, but in The Beautiful Country, things really do get quite dark.  Shickman writes a very honest account (which some parents might not approve of) of the hardships of prehistoric life, but he blends this distant topic with very universal and current psychological understandings to make it seem real and less distant.  The reader watches as Zan struggles not only to bring his brother back home, but just to bring him back, and it is at times painful and frustrating and rawly honest.  Shickman doesn't sugarcoat the past or the realities of life.  I was really impressed with how full his characters were, even when the writing at times lacked finesse.  I am always impressed and appreciative when an author who is writing for a younger audience respects that audience and doesn't treat them as if they won't understand or can't handle the less savory parts of life.  This became more and more evident as the story went on (especially into book 2) when Shickman writes of death and war and some of the more powerful and negative things people want to keep their children from -- but he deals with these things in a very good way, I think, and says some very powerful things:
"What devil is it that makes men prefer war to peace?" [Hurnoa] inquired, more of herself than her audience.  "Maybe life was too easy.  Men who do not have to struggle in order to eat, men with idle time and over-abundant energy, turn their minds to war and conquest.  I do not know why.  And yet we, the attackers, needed nothing that your people had.  And you were far away!  Why should we seek you?  Our minds were sick before our bodies were."
and then later:
"...healing and regeneration were still possible, because there is a secret place in every soul that has never yet been wounded."
This is more mature and philosophical than one generally comes across in books for this age group, and I think that's a good thing.  Shickman does his reader credit by giving them a full story, good and bad and everything in between, making it seem more real and authentic than I was expecting.

Something else that fascinated me was how much of an effort Shickman made to include all types of people, all different ways of living and different personalities and beliefs and stages of development.  He gives the reader man at the brink of some major inventions, and at an interesting cusp between superstitious belief and logical analysis.  He gives great variety: not all men and women act the same way, or think the same things, or love who they should and act as they are taught; not all tribes believe the same things or look and dress the same; not all bad guys are bad, and not all good guys are good -- Shickman didn't just make copies of stock characters and place them through out.  It seemed like he tried really hard to put across that people are people and always have been.  There are flaws there, and there are good bits, and the more things change, the more they stay the same, right?  Zan's story is a very human one, and I appreciated that.

But there are drawbacks, of course.  As I said, the writing is often very simplistic in style (though the language can be very advanced).  At times I felt like it read like one of my anthropology texts, which though not always a bad thing, wasn't always a good thing either.  I also think it's going to have a very specific audience, and most people solidly in their teens will shun it for seeming young (stylistically) or "nerdy."  But I think it will easily find an audience with precocious kids, young teens and adults who are into this kind of thing (in fact, there were times when I wished it was an adult book, so that the simple style could be ditched and the philosophical and darker elements could be explored to their extent; I think it could have been very powerful and compelling as an adult book, though, ironically, I probably wouldn't have wanted to read it...).    Sometimes the structure was a bit weird, too, but possibly my biggest pet peeve was the exclamation points.  I! Hate! Exclamation! Points! (at least when they keep popping up.  They really should be used very sparingly.  I understand that things are a little more lax in kids books in this regard, but still.)

But all in all, I'd say this was a good stepping-out-of-the-box experience, and if you like this kind of book or are feeling adventurous and want to try something new, you might want to give this one a shot.  If you can adjust to the style, I think you'll enjoy yourself.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Changeless by Gail Carriger

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate, #2)
by Gail Carriger

from Goodreads:
(I generally write my own summaries, but I love the ones written for this series...)

Alexia Tarabotti, now Lady Maccon, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears -- leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her into the backwaters of ugly waistcoats, Scotland, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only a soulless can.

She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

This book was one of my most eagerly awaited books of 2010, and with good reason.  When I read Soulless, Alexia Tarabotti quickly climbed pretty damn near the top of the heap of my favorite characters.  I was in love, a smitten kitten.  But Gail Carriger didn't stop there, because she gave me Lord Akeldama and Lord Maccon, Professor Lyall and Ivy Hisselpenny.  And Biffy!  Spiffy Biffy, I adore you, too.  Could it get any better?
Yes, it could, because she added to the bunch Madame Lefoux, yet another character after my heart.  Carriger excels at writing not only exceptional characters, but exceptionally, deliciously eccentric ones, and you know I love me some eccentric.  For all of their forward, anachronistic tendencies, they still seem somehow at home in Carriger's Victorian steampunk world, and I appreciate that.  I also appreciate that she had a character named Featherstonehaugh, which is very fun to say in my head.  (Festenhew, if you were wondering.  No joke.)

But I really didn't mean to start this review on a tangent.

In Changeless, Alexia Tarabotti is a Tarabotti no more; she has married Lord Maccon and stepped into her role as Lady Maccon and the Queen's muhjah , and seems to have everything under control.  But when something goes wrong with her husband's former pack in Scotland, and Alexia, with an impressive -- if univited -- entourage in tow follows him to Scotland where she finds herself perhaps a little more out of her depths than she's used to.

It was fun to see Alexia sleuthing again, and making the most of her scientific mind (with a plethora of new toys at her disposal AND another forward-thinking though slightly suspect woman as her companion).  The mystery was fun, but more fun, as always, was the interactions between the characters.  Even though Ivy started getting on my nerves a little bit (gasp), she had some of the best lines, ever.  Take:
(Upon seeing men in kilts)
Miss Hisselpenny did not seem to know where to look.  Finally she settled on staring up at the candelabra in abject terror.  "Alexia," she hissed to her friend, "there are knees positively everywhere!  What do I do?"
"Oh dear.  Has something untoward ensued?  Everyone is gesticulating."
 She's just the perfect foil for any seriousness or...how to say this?  intelligent conversation that may go on from time to time.  She's the fanning upper-class version of slapstick.  I can't stay mad at her, even when she is annoying.  And she's on the bottom of the totem of favorite characters, so it just gets better from there.  These are the types of "people" you want to invite into your brain [readthisreadthisreadthis] and keep there [loveitloveitloveit].  If you haven't picked up the first book in the Parasol Protectorate, kick yourself and then go get it.

I feel, though, like I need to address the end of the book, and I'm really not sure how to do that, so I'm going to tiptoe and talk in circles here a bit.  Excuse me.  There's a part of me that is so damn frustrated with the way this book ended (I wanted to reach through the pages and shake a certain character.  Hard.  Teeth-rattlingly hard), but at the same time, I don't think it could have ended any other way, and I would have felt like it was a cop out not to have ended the way it did.  So as much as I want to be frustrated and angry with Carriger, I can't, because I think she wrote the ending that was supposed to be there.  I respect that; not enough authors do that.
But it also means that I am tearing at my skin like a mental patient with the anxious need to get my hands on book three.  Like you have no idea.  I keep looking at Changeless like it's going to morph into the [stunning] cover of Blameless.  I neeeed it.  It's like I'm turning into Gollum: I just want to hold it and stroke it and call it my preciousss.  But first I want to read it.
I need to read it.
I don't think there's any better endorsement.


 Here's my Teaser Tuesday reading for Changeless, where I read from one of my favorite parts of the book.

Here's my review of Soulless, and a really cool trailer that WORD for Teens made for the book.

Here is one of my favorite posts I've read in recent times; it comes from Gail's blog and it's called "Queering-Up Genre One Akeldama at a Time." I think you should read it.  It ends with the best picture my eyes have ever seen.  It still makes them happy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Face Off (18)

Did someone say "stock photo"?  Yeah, I thought so.  This is actually a pretty popular one; I've seen it on a number of books, but these two both make use of the back of the neck to add a tattoo, and have a landscape scene at the bottom, so...
Which one does it better?

The Dragon Seer published June 2009
The Keeper's Tattoo published May 2010

Last Week on FFO: The Silver Kiss and Shiver were black, white and re(a)d all over (hee hee); the votes literally went back and forth for some time, but in the end, Klause's vampire book gave Steifvater's werewolf book the Kiss off...
I amuse myself, if no one else.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Something Neato

A few weeks ago,someone awesome in my Wild Things YA Goodreads Group I keep telling you about had the idea of doing a bookmark swap which sort of evolved into a handmade awesomeness extravaganza.  Because what everyone made was so lovely, I thought I'd share them with you and encourage you to make a bookmark of your favorite book as a gift for someone.  I guarantee it will brighten their day!

Where the picture boxes touch, the front and back images are shown.
I would suggest clicking on the collage to get a better view of the loveliness.
  1. The Last Unicorn á la Paula
  2. The Lightning Thief á la Becky
  3. White Cat á la Robyn
  4. Graceling á la Diana
  5. I Capture the Castle á la Fiona
  6. The Diary of Anne Frank á la Caroline
  7. Daddy Longlegs á la Kandice
  8. The Lightning Thief á la Donna
  9. Fallen á la Amy
  10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (left) + Alice in Wonderland (right) to Becky á la me [also pictured: another Alice bookmark (middle), which is going to Velvet!  She doesn't know yet!  Well, now...]
  11.  The Hunger Games á la Leslie
  12. The Knife of Never Letting Go á la Angela (she was the someone awesome who had this idea!  This one is also my favorite!)
There's one more that didn't make it into the collage -- and that's the one Felina sent to me!  But there's a reason.  It has its own story.
So, almost 2 weeks ago, I told you about the BWB Children's Book Week sale, where books where 5/$10.  I got a whole mess of books, and one of them was a book I had seen a few times but really had no idea whether I would like.  It was called Flipped, and had a cute little cover of an upside-down chick.
Didn't know if it was any good, but I bought it anyway...Pure impulse buy.
And here is the bookmark Felina sent me, from one of her favorite books:

Is that not the freakiest coincidence?  Weird...

Anywho, aren't they all fab?  Thanks for this idea, Angela!
If you want to get in on future rounds of the Bookmark Swap, go to Goodreads and join the Wild Things group, and let the crafty fun begin!

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    The Mark by Jen Nadol

    The Mark
    by Jen Nadol

    from Goodreads:

    Cassandra Renfield has always seen the mark—a glow around certain people reminiscent of candlelight. But the one time she mentioned it, it was dismissed as a trick of the light. Until the day she watches a man awash in the mark die. After searching her memories, Cassie realizes she can see a person’s imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today.

    Armed with a vague understanding of the light, Cassie begins to explore her “gift,” seeking those marked for death and probing the line between decision and destiny. Though she’s careful to hide her secret—even from her new philosophy-obsessed boyfriend—with each impending death comes the temptation to test fate. But so many questions remain. How does the mark work? Why is she the only one who sees it? And finally, the most important of all: If you know today is someone’s last, should you tell them?

    I had been hearing a lot of good stuff about The Mark, a debut by Jen Nadol, and I was intrigued by the premise which, though gaining in popularity and starting to crop up everywhere, was a bit fresher at the time.  I have to say, overall I enjoyed it, but I do have some reservations.

    It took me awhile to get into the story the way I wanted to.  It was never that I disliked it, because I didn't, but it took me quite awhile to feel invested in Cassie and her story.  It just felt a little soft to me.  I don't know if that will make sense to you, but it's a book about death, essentially, and everything was just a bit too rose-colored for me.  There was a disconnect, and as I was reading, I felt like, okay, that's nice...but forgettable, essentially, and it took me about 1/2 of the book to feel invested and start caring.

    I think what brought me around was that at one point, the book becomes very philosophical (the result of Cassie taking a summer philosophy course and beginning to question her ability and its implications).  I read one review where the reader didn't like that the book sort of rotated on this, and became more a coming of age book, all about self-discovery rather than the paranormal romance she thought she was going to be reading.  I get that, but for me, it was the questions that made it.  Nadol was able to depict that endless cycling of ifs and buts that would come from trying to work your way through this type of ability.  Cassie came alive for me in this, because I thought her reactions and thought processes felt very authentic.  She was realistic and hesitant and very, very cautious, which played well off of Lucas' self-righteousness and easy morality.  This finally allowed me to connect to Cassie, and changed my opinion of the book enough so that I felt it actually was a pretty successful book in the end.  Except --

    Except for the end.  Well, not the very end, but near to.  Without giving anything away, up until that point, Cassie's ability and its origins was fairly ambiguous, and I enjoyed that.  I'm all for willing suspension of disbelief, and I don't feel everything has to be explained or clear so long as it works.  If Cassie doesn't know, we don't know, and that makes sense.  But then right at the end, there was something thrown in that sort of changed the whole thing for me, and I am not sure how I feel about it.  I don't know if this is going to be a stand-alone book (I would respect it more, honestly, if it was), but because of the element introduced at the end and a few loose ends, I have a feeling there is more coming.  If said element was to lay groundwork for a series, it felt a little sloppy to me, and a little silly, if I'm being honest.  After all of the well-thought philosophy, it really disappointed me because it felt like a ploy.  Maybe I'm just being cynical, but it is what it is, and it knocked back my opinion of the book again.  Not enough to outweigh that I did enjoy it.  But between the beginning where I didn't care, and the end where I felt a bit cheated and irritated, I feel like I only got about 1/3 of a solid story that I care about.  It was a good 1/3, and I would recommend this*, but it bears mentioning.

    So, all in all, a solid debut with some downsides, but still likely to win over teens and not-so-teens.

    *I know, I know.  You're thinking, why did you have to tell me all of these negatives just to say, But you should still read it...  Why do I do this?  Because I can.


    Just real quick, this isn't a bonus so much as a -- well, warning?  I dunno.   Basically I just wanted to let you know that there is an absentee adult thing going on in this book, as in many YAs, and I feel a rant-like discussion coming on sometime in the future.  I warn because this isn't the first future-rant I've mentioned of late, so...

    Here is my Teaser Tuesday reading for The Mark.  Or you can watch author Jen Nadol read the entire first chapter, surrounded by neat purple-flamed candles, here.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Teaser Tuesday: The Mark by Jen Nadol

    It's that time again, folks.
    This week's book comes to us from Other Shelf Tours.

    From The Mark
    by Jen Nadol 

    Catch my review this week (I promise!)

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

    Eyes Like Stars (Théâtre Illuminata, #1)
    by Lisa Mantchev

    Beatrice "Bertie" Shakespeare Smith has lived in the Théâtre for as long as she can remember.  She loves the crazy cast of characters who populate her life and she loves getting up to crazy antics with them.  She loves the stories and the Stage and everything about it.  (Well, maybe she doesn't love the Stage Manager...)  But when Bertie's antics go too far, the Theater Manager asks her to prove herself to be a valuable member of the Théâtre -- or leave.  Desperate not to be exiled from her favorite place in the world, the only home she's ever known, Bertie sets out to find her place in this zany world -- and she may find more than that.

    I had been foaming at the mouth wanting to get my hands on this book ever since the cover was released.  When my bookclub decided it was going to be one of the books we read this year, I agreed to be a good girl and wait to read it.  And hey!  I actually kept my word and was a good girl!  Go figure.
    So after all that anticipation -- which is sure to kill anything -- that month's bookclub meeting was one of the most disappointing for me, ever.  [frowny face]

    But here's the thing -- I loved the book.  It's just that I was the only one, and after the cursory "ehhs" from all around, everyone moved on to what else they've been reading.  This disappointed me, because though I love that portion of our meetings, I actually did want to talk about this book, but I wasn't going to keep dragging the conversation back to a book no one liked and listen to them bash it.

    So my warning is, if you're a smart woman well into adulthood, you may hate this book.  That seemed to be the consensus.
    But I loved it, and I'm about to tell you why...

    I dig literary allusions.  I accept that I am a nerd and embrace it.  I was a bit worried about the allusions in this going in, though, not because I didn't think I'd like them, but because it is a YA book, and I wondered if it would even be accessible to the YA audience.  Since I'm not a teen, I can't speak to this other than to say that a)I was the kind of annoying, precocious/pretentious teen that thought herself very literary, and I would have eaten them up, and probably looked into the ones I didn't get and expanded my drama base; and b) I've read a few reviews of the book that were written by teens, and they all seemed to love it, literary allusions included.  Oddly enough, it was among adults that there seemed to be a problem.  Except those of my friends actively involved in theater, the adults did not like the allusions; they appreciated them, but they admitted that 1/2 the time, they didn't get them.  So I'm thinking that maybe I underestimated teens (and overestimated adults), and that really, Mantchev didn't take as big a risk here as I thought, because teens are still in school, after all, and the references are more current for them than they would be for an adult who doesn't read or watch dramas.  Personally, I loved the allusions.  There are a few in the quotes section below that tickled me to no end; they become these little inside jokes for those who do know about -- or enough about -- theater to get them, but I think you can still enjoy this without knowing all of them.

    Another big draw for me was the world and the style in which Mantchev presented it.  I loved the Théâtre and the Players and the world Mantchev created.  It was really fun to become immersed in, and it was very visual and interesting.  She took something well-known (the world's most famous stories and characters) and made them her own while still staying true to the original, and it came off very nicely.  I could picture everyone, I could see them in my head -- her dramatic almost-play style was very effective and made me feel like I was, indeed, a part of the audience.  The whole thing came off as very fresh and creative and unique, and I love that.  There's just not enough of that.

    But perhaps the biggest draw for me was Bertie.  I never thought I'd like a character named "Bertie," I'm not going to lie, but like her I did.  Berite is funny and feisty and creative and I adored her.  There's a quote below that demonstrates her feistiness quite nicely, so I won't waste your time going into all that other than to say that she will win you over.  She just will.

    So that's why I liked it.  But to be balanced, I am going to give you a few of the drawbacks that my bookclub found, and that you may not like, either:
    • The tone does come off a bit young.  Not unbearably so, and I think it's really just a part of the lightness, the breeziness of it, but it does read younger than I expected, and than my bookclub was willing to stomach.
    • The allusions, again, may not be everyone's bag.
    • The love triangle(ish).  This is actually a drawback of mine.  It's not that I didn't like the 3 characters involved, or the tensions between them, because I did.  [side note: Ariel is one of my fave lit characters, so I loved his role in this.  And nothing to do with the triangle, but Ophelia is another fave, and I loved her role, too.]  But I am so sick of the Team _________ shit, really I am, that I just kind of cringe when I see someone using that formula.  You will never hear me say that I am Team anybody.  It irks me.  Someday there will be a rant on this, but I'm not going to take up this review to do it.  But seriously.  Enough with the Teams and the triangles.
    • There is a certain predictability that may bother people, but I don't think it's overwhelming or detracts all that much from the story.  Just a fair warning.


    Some of my favorite scenes and quotes:
    "What are you doing here?"
    "I heard the water running."  Ophelia lifted her arms up and smiled into the ghostly, aquamarine lighting.  "I thought I'd come and drown myself.  I won't be in the way, will I?"
    ~ ~ ~
    A sudden, trumpeted fanfare sent them leaping apart, the blast of noise precefing the messenfer from Act Four of Richard the Third.  He entered Stage Right, unrolled a parchment scroll, and cleared his throat.  In a strong, sonorous voice, honed to cut through the bedlam at court or merely backstage, he proclaimed, "And now, the bane of your existence, the killer of all joys, the Stage Manager --"
    He was interrupted when the murderers from the same production leapt from the flies and stabbed him repeatedly with big rubber knives.  The messenged pulled crimson scraves from holes in his tunic and did a lot of unnecessary groaning before his assassins dragged him offstage by the ankles.
    "What was that all about?"  Nate demanded.
    "Early detection system," Bertie said.  "I get advance warning that the Stage Manager is coming, and the messenger gets extra stage time."
    ~ ~ ~
    Something darkly tempting and longing-filled bloomed under the sun-warmed grass and damp earth.  She opened her eyes, wanting to ask a question she didn't yet know, but before she could find the words, Ariel turned away.
    ~ ~ ~
    "I think they'll make excellent mummies, as they've already had their brains removed."
    ~ ~ ~
    Mrs. Edith had told her once that the costume made the character, but only now did Bertie understand what she'd meant.  The corset was dainty, demure, pin-striped, and it wanted her to slap Ariel across the face.
    But Bertie was more than the sum of her clothing, so she cocked her arm and punched him as hard as she could in the stomach.
    ~ ~ ~
    Gertrude pointed at Macbeth, who was holding up a cruller and muttering, "Is this a doughnut I see before me?"  Then he noticed the raspberry jam on everything and started to shriek.
    ~ ~ ~
    The Brigands charged in with weapons drawn.
    "Who are you?"  Young Bertie asked.
    "We're the bad guys!" their leader announced.
    "What are you going to do?"
    "Plunder and pillage!" one of them yelled.
    The others immediately shoved him  "Not in front of the kid.  Ralph!  Fer cryin' out loud..."
    "Oh, yeah.  Sorry!  We're here to take your candy!"

    Here's by Teaser Tuesday reading from the book.

    Visit the  Théâtre Illuminata website for some neato stuff, including the first chapter and excerpts from the audio version.

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Kids Corner: Bailey's Day

    Hiya.  Welcome to my first Kids Corner, which I promised you quite awhile ago.  I've decided to do it as a vlog so that I can show you some of the illustrations and whatnot.  This is pretty rough; stick with me, I promise I'll get better...
    If you have any books you'd particularly like to see on Kids Corner, let me know in the comments!

    Friday Face Off (17)

    Alright, these may not be exact twins, but they definitely have a similar feel. So which does it better for you?

    This version of Shiver published 2009
    This version of The Silver Kiss published 2009!

    Last Week on FFO: Before I Fall went lying-on-its-side head to cut-off-down-the-middle head in both a Debut Book Battle and a cover battle.  Before I Fall may have been the clear winner in the Book Battle portion, but The Iron King beat it by a hair in the cover portion...

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Character Connection: The Chaos Walking series

    Earlier today I was having a conversation with some friends about the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, and it really brought some things to light for me.  The 3rd and final book came in the mail for me the other day, and though it is eating at me that I can't read it yet, I am just so happy to have it in my possession -- I am slightly obsessed with this series, for a number of reasons.  But my friend-chat really made me realize one of the big reasons why.
    Briefly, if you're not familiar with the series, the characters live on a planet where the thoughts of all creatures (save human females) can be heard by everyone else.  It's called Noise, and it's a constant in their lives, and makes a very interesting aspect of the book.
    Through much of the books, we are in Todd Hewitt's head.  Todd is a good kid in the midst of some really bad things that are going on.  His inability to cave and be a bad guy, and his utter devotion to Viola make him so endearing and fascinating, and I have loved reading the books and being in his head.
    But during the friend-chat I was telling you about, we started discussing some of the minor characters, the non-human ones, and what it's like being in their heads, and I realized that they are actually a big part of my love for these books.  And though I love Todd and he would make for a great Character Connection, it's these little gems of characters that are found throughout the series that I want to share with you.

    Angharrad.  There are two horses in the series who play important parts.  One is Morpeth, the horse of the domineering war-monger Mayor Prentiss.  Morpeth is a fit horse for his master, constantly sending the word "Submit.  Submit.  Submit." at those around him.  But the other is Angharrad, Todd's horse.  Angharrad is submissive and gentle, and worries about her "boy colt" Todd.  Angharrad stole my ♥.  I mean, it's just a horse, right?  But she's so endearing, and I've become completely attached to the damn thing and am terrified that something's going to happen to her and she's going to leave her boy colt all alone, or more likely, sacrifice herself for him.  And I'm warning you now, Mr Ness...I'm warning you.

    Manchee.  But before Angharrad stole my heart, Todd's dog Manchee had it firmly in-paw.  Ness really captured Manchee's "dog voice" and it worked.  If you've ever had a dog, Manchee will make so much sense to you.  He reads dog and you find yourself feeling like he's your own dog.  There's the same loyalty and playfulness and curiosity all captured and thought loudly to the rest of the world.  It's funny and sweet and a great introduction to the Noise.

    The Spackle teen.  Okay, this is where it gets weird. (I know, you're thinking, this is where it gets weird?).  The Spackle are an alien race [well, I suppose technically the humans are the alien race, since the Spackle are actually the planet's inhabitants], and their Noise is not in English, or any language at all.  In fact, for the most part, their Noise has been inhibited by humans, and they communicate through body language and a series of clicking noises.  Hard to connect with a character like that, right?  You would think.  But one of my favorite characters not only of the series but of recent books I've read is the angsty, petulant Spackle teen.  He can't say a thing, but there is never any doubting what he would say if he could.  I think he more than any other really demonstrates a talent for characterization on Ness' part -- he has a limited role in the books, doesn't say a damn thing, and is just angry all the time, but you understand him and sort of root for him, and really connect to this alien teen angster.  It's kind of incredible.

    So.  Long story short(ish): Read these books for Todd and Viola and the interesting story that unfolds, of course.  But know too that you're going to get so much more than that, and pay attention to these weird little side characters, because they're going to steal your heart if you're not looking...

    Reason #456 that you LOVE me...

    So... I had this brilliant idea the other day that came, oh, months and months too late.
    I was thinking, wouldn't it have been cool to have a 1-2-3 contest when I reached 123 followers way back when?  Yes, I answered myself.  It would have been.   Just a fun random number, and I could have done something fun and random with it.
    If only.

    But then I thought, who's to say I can't do one for 4-5-6?  No one, that's who.  No one's going to say a damn thing.

    But I still didn't know what I would give away.  Or how I would work in the 4, 5, 6 aspect...

    So screw it.

    To thank you lovelies for following me by the bunches and bunches, I'm just going to give away something really cool, on everyone's wishlist...


    Yeppers.  1 lucky lovely gets a pre-ordered copy of the final book in the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay.

    So if you want in, just fill out this form.

    And since this is to thank my followers, you must be one!
    Winner will be announced May 31st, so contest ends that day!
    Book will be ordered then, but shipped when released.
    Good luck! :)

    [ps.  I would recommend leaving a comment so that you know you have entered...]

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

    How I Live Now
    by Meg Rosoff

    Fifteen year old Daisy is a troubled New Yorker sent to England to stay with relatives she doesn't really know -- her aunt Penn and her children, Edmond, Isaac, Osbert and Piper.  Though Daisy recognizes it for the exile it is, she's grateful to escape her stepmother and immerse herself in the lives of her eccentric and intriguing cousins, drawn especially to the uncanny Edmond.  When war breaks out and Aunt Penn is stuck in Oslo, Daisy and her cousins live an idyllic life in the coutryside, aware there's a war on, but peacefully removed from it.
    But of course this cannot last, and when it finds them, it comes with a vengeance.  Daisy and her cousins must struggle to survive against all odds, but will they ever be able to find their way back to each other and the blissful life they've lost?

    [God, sometimes the summaries I write are so effing corny I make myself a little sick.]

    Anywho, this Printz Award winning novel from Rosoff is a stunner.  It's rare in that I think it would appeal to teens and adults just about equally, and here's why:

    The style. Its stream-of-consciousness style, which is going to be challenging for some (though make others, especially perhaps those who don't read as much, feel right at home), is a brilliant choice.   Though I like S-O-C, I am always a bit hesitant to read it.  It's tricky to pull off, as it can seem confusing or indulgent, and the voice has to be just so, but for this, it works perfectly.  Daisy's voice is fantastic, and there are all of these little gems, things that she says that you have to read over again and write down so that you can refer back to them. Her thoughts are funny and unusual and thought-provoking, and I enjoyed being in her head.
    The S-O-C style also worked well in another way: Daisy has issues -- big ones -- which are hinted at and slowly revealed through out the book, and she is in a pretty bad place when she arrives in England.  Being immersed in her head and just plunged into the swirly craziness is captivating, but what makes it more so is that, as the world falls apart into chaos around her, Daisy's narration becomes more and more simple and sane.  There's this great subtle contrast that you don't realize is happening until it hits you; it builds slowly and with a great deal of restraint, and it works.

    The relationships.  The relationships in this book are very interesting.  As we learn of Daisy's issues, we also learn of the abilities of her cousins, each of whom seem a bit something, prescient, telepathic, a little something that is never really named, but treated as a given.  Since we are in Daisy's mind, and they are a part of her mind, we get these great interactions between them, especially with Edmond and Piper, both of which are fabulous relationships to read.  I may make people angry for that opinion, though...Daisy and Edmond develop a relationship that is a bit more than familial, which is going to be controversial for some people, since they are cousins and underage.  But I have to say, don't let it put you off reading this book.  It just works for the story, and I don't know how else to convince you than to say, by the end, you won't give a damn that they're related.  Really.  I was dubious at first, but very quickly on, I was in love with them both.  Though Isaac and Osbert are throwaway characters, both Edmond and Piper are great for what they do for Daisy and for their own sakes, and you grow to care about them.

    The topics.  There's a lot to digest in this slim little powerhouse of a book.  The war, which we don't know all that much about, is like a character itself, making brutal appearances in our characters lives.  There are a lot of war books that take a lot of time and page-space to make us feel the desolation of war and the horrible dehumanizing effects.  In How I Live Now, this is sort of always on the periphery, and you kind of forget about it until suddenly you realize just how quickly things can get really, really bad.  Rosoff doesn't need 500 pages of brutality to make you understand just how bad war can be.  The dystopic, post-apocalyptic elements and some of the harsh realities are going to make for very thought-provoking and captivating reading for those who are interested, but it's not so overwhelmingly a part of the story that those who avoid serious books for being "downers" will be put off.  Also, again the relationship between Daisy and Edmond is another topic that's really going to stick with people and make for great discussion, teen and adult alike.

    My 1 drawback?  Of course there is one, you should know me well enough by now...I was a little let down by the ending.  Not completely, because I did actually like the way the story ended (though I think it will piss some people off); my gripe is more with the way the ending was written.  There's so much power packed into the rest of the story that the end seemed a little underdone to me.  It lacked that oomph.  It wasn't quite a brush-off, but it was enough to keep me from being 100% satisfied with the book as a whole.  I almost wish that there was no 3rd part at all, even though it would mean I'd always wonder...  But it's such a slim book that it's not like Rosoff needed to limit her word-count; she could have done the characters a little more justice by just oomphing up the end.  Just a bit.

    Still though.  It's more challenging than the general YA, which will appeal to adults, but it's got a great relatable voice for teens; there are things going on that are going to keep people thinking about it, that are going to worm their way into reader's brains in the best way.  Pick it up, and when you're done, give it to your mother and/or your daughter, and then discuss it when you're all done.  It could be a really rewarding experience.


    How I Live Now won the Michael L. Printz Award, the  Guardian Award and the Branford Boase Award, and was listed in the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year Booktrust Teenage Prize and the Carnegie Medal.  Not too shabby.

    Cool factiod: In 2007, BBC Radio 4 adapted the novel for Women's Hour Drama.  I find this a brilliant idea.  Why aren't more great current books adapted for radio?  I mean, and audio book is one thing, but the idea of everyone tuning in at the same time to listen to a good story is really lovely to me.

    Lastly, here's my Teaser Tuesday for the book.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    5 kids books for $10 (yet another reason I love BWB)

    Children's Book Special Discount

    Alright. I know you're sick of hearing me profess my love for Better World Books, but SERIOUSLY -- in honor of Children's Book Week, they have 5 children's books for $10!  Yeah.  Plus free shipping in the US.
    Their pitch:
    "That means for just $10, you could get:
    • 5 books for 1 kid, or
    • 1 book each for 5 kids, or
    • 2 books for 1 kid, and 3 books for another kid that you like better.  Oh, the possibilities!"
    But what's even awesomer?
    For every children's book bought on BWB, ANOTHER CHILDREN'S BOOK WILL BE DONATED TO A CHILD IN NEED!
    But hurry, it's only this week!

    So what are you waiting for?

    Oh, you're waiting to see what I got?  Okay! 
    Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
    What I Was by Meg Rosoff 
    Jinx by Meg Cabot
    The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
    The Wish List by Eoin Colfer
    Angels on Sunset Boulevard by Melissa de la Cruz
    Exodus by Julie Bertagna
    East by Edith Pattou
    The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose by Mary Hooper
    Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
    Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
    Lizze Bright and the Buckmister Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

    (okay, so I went a little over 5 books.  But 2 bucks each?  Come on!) 

    Teaser Tuesday: Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

    pages 101-103 

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    Book Battle Round 1, Bracket 11: WE HAVE A WINNER!

    As you know, Alyssa of The Shady Glade is hosting a YA Debut Book Battle, and my buddy Natalie and I are the judges for bracket 11 of Round 1: Before I Fall v. The Iron King.

    After days of slaving away, discussing and debating and pulling our hair out (not really, it was an easy choice), Natalie and I have decided on a winner for you.

    The fabulous, stunning, promising debut from a talented YA author is...



    So why did Before I Fall win this round?

    Natalie said:
    "It's a book that I think will stay with me for a long time. It's a story of love, of friendship, of tragedy and redemption. Sam, the main character, is one of the most alive characters I've ever read. She's realistic and has qualities and flaws that I think many teenagers (and even adults) can recognize in themselves. There are so many things that I loved about this book--the writing style, the characters, the plot, the way I felt while I was reading it--I could go on and on."

    I said:
    "...this book is a gem.... it will make you think, and it will make you uncomfortable in the best way, and it will leave it's mark for awhile to come, and that is the sign of a talent and a classic....There's good and bad and freak coincidence all mingled together in a believable way.  It's compulsively readable contemporary fiction with an interesting sci-fi slant that will draw in readers who don't generally read contemporary fiction."

    So Before I Fall will be moving on to Round 2 to take on another great debut YA book.  I hope it comes out on top again, and think it very well could.  Stay tuned here or to The Shady Glade to find out which book takes the title of the best debut YA book!

    Saturday, May 8, 2010

    The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

    The Iron King (Iron Fey, #1)
    by Julie Kagawa

    Meghan Chase is an outsider.  She lives in the middle of nowhere, barely has any friends, and her own family sometimes seems to forget she even exists.  And all of that is bad enough, when Meghan's 4-year-old half-brother is kidnapped, replaced with a violent faery changeling, and Meghan learns that her best friend is really a faery, and hey, so is she -- the daughter of the Summer King, Oberon.  And so Meghan must descend into the Nevernever to rescue her brother and reconcile the life she's always known with the life she must now lead.

    I liked it, I didn't like it, I liked it I didn't like it IlikeditIdidn'tlikeit...
    I'm torn.
    On the one hand, The Iron King can be a really fun read, and I think a lot of people are going to fall in love with it because it's going to give them what they wanted going in: a little faery lore, a little magic, a little otherworldliness and a little lovelust.  If you can just read it on that level, it's not bad, a bit of fun fluff.

    But at the same time, there are some real drawbacks for me.  So here's what I'm going to do: the following is a bulleted list of my pros and cons in the book, and you can decide for yourself whether it's a good or bad review.  As I said, I can't decide how much I like this one.


    • Kagawa is pretty successful visually.  There was enough description to help me see the Nevernever, but it was never really overkill.
    • I really liked the idea of the iron fey.  I don't want to give away too much, but it makes sense, it makes faeries current, and it adds another layer of BigBad to the already scary and dangerous fey world.
    • I think Kagawa gave herself room to grow in the series, and even though there are things you can see coming a mile away, she was able to wrap this book up fairly nicely while planting a hook for the next.  I have friends who hate a hook, so let me be clear that it is not a cliffhanger type of hook; if you want to stop after The Iron King, you can and I don't think you'll feel like you didn't get a complete story, but if you want to continue on, there is something there to pull you back in.
    • The Pack Rats.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Pack Rats, and elements like this made me see this as a potential movie, because I think they'd be pretty neat and visual.

    • The beginning was very slow for me, and thoroughly predictable (truthfully, predictability is a problem throughout, though at some point, I guess I just accepted it).  The writing and plot seemed a little write-by-numbers, and other works (Shakespeare, Alice in Wonderland, The Labyrinth, Peter Pan, Spiderman, etc) were alluded to or mirrored throughout, and it left me with an impression of unoriginality for a good portion of the book.  
    • I felt Kagawa was rash with the love aspect; in the beginning Ash is aloof and, as we learn, wounded and closed off, and had there been a slow build up over the entire 3-book series, beginning with a grudging trust and some crushing, then some lovelust, I would have bought it more, but as is, it felt again like write-by-numbers: "I need a love interest, so this is going to happen, then she'll do this and he'll say that, and presto, aren't they just devoted?"  It didn't work.  Also, there's a whole lot of Puck v. Ash love triangle going around the blogosphere, and I just don't get it.  I feel it's hinted at but not developed or even necessary in the book, and it's become so gimmicky anyway...
    • Weird continuity errors.  This got on my nerves a bit.  It was just stupid things, like Ash saying Meghan's name, then a couple of pages of stuff happening, and then Ash saying her name again and Meghan getting all fluttery that it's the first time Ash has ever called her Meghan -- when it's not.  The first time was about five minutes ago, when he said "Meghan, blahblahblah"...  Or, when Meghan is leaning propped against Ash's chest, so there's no way she can see his eyes, and he's telling his sob story (which someone noticed was like a scene from The King's General) and Meghan narrates "Ash fell silent, his eyes dark and haunted."  Except you can't see them, so you don't know that.  Grr.
    • Oy, with the deals already!  Anyone who is familar with faery lore at all, or has read any fey book knows no saying "thank you" and NO making deals.  Even if Meghan was lacking in faery lore before entering the Nevernever, she is told not to say thanks or make deals, and still, it's like practically every single badguy faery she meets, she walks up and plays Lets Make a Deal.  She's smart about it once, but the rest of the time, she basically offers herself up on a platter.  She'll be thinking, "I hope they don't want my firstborn child," or something along those lines, but she'll say "I'll do anything."  What?  Think, Meghan.  Stop getting yourself into situations where you become the dumb damsel in distress and just THINK.
    • And speaking of the damsel thing, we're told that Meghan has loads and loads of untapped power, which I am always leery of (but more on that in a minute), but she gets herself into these situations and then stands there waiting to be saved.  If you're so powerful, or will be so powerful, show some damn spunk.
    [A sidenote on all-powerful protagonists:  Just don't.  If you're writing a book, just don't.  Have the gumption to have an MC who isn't some deep font of powerpowerpower.  It's too tempting a crutch to write your characters into an impossible situation and then have them finally "discover" the confidence and ability they've been shying away from using, and BAM, sticky situation solved.  Just don't.  Think how much more interesting it is, how much more tension there is, and edge-of-your-seatness, when the MC has some ability, some brains, and some pluck, and have to really work to get themselves through.  It is so much more rootforable, so much more believable, and so much more relatable.  I know it makes your job as a writer a little harder if you can't go all Deus Ex... but really, just don't.]

    So.  That's the list.  As I said, if you can go into it willing to set some things aside and just enjoy it, it flows well and is a nice bit of funfluff.  But I'm still torn, and am hoping for growth in book 2, which I have a review copy of, so that the Pro list will begin to outweigh the Con.  But I guess only time will tell. 

    [Sidenote 2: I'm going to ignore the fact that Meghan says on pg 17 that she's killed rats on the farm.  I know Kagawa meant know harm, as she has had pet rats, and she introduced the Pack Rats, which I enjoyed.  But you're on notice, Julie.  I'll train mine to attack, and Mama's got some bite in her...]

    <--- don't forget, this book is part of the Debut YA Book Battle.  Make sure to stop back by tomorrow to find out which Natalie and I chose as the winner, Before I Fall or The Iron King.


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