Friday, December 31, 2010

Favorites of 2010


Note: These are my favorite reads of 2010, not all were released in 2010.

What were your favorites?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Black Bottle Man


Black Bottle Man
Craig Russell
Great Plains Publications, April 2010

Realistic/Historical Fiction/Fantastical Elements

If you read my IMM (2), you know that Craig Russell contacted me about his book, Black Bottle Man. The concept is like nothing else I've read. There are a lot teen books out now featuring fallen angels and other religious elements, but none quite like this one. So I was quite intrigued by this new and unique voice.

Forced to move every twelve days, what would happen to your life?
It’s 1927. Rembrandt is the only child in the tiny community of Three Farms and his two aunts grow desperate for babies of their own. Hope and Hell arrive in a mysterious black bottle, and on a moonless night a dark spell is cast. Soon after, a man wearing black top-coat, and a ‘glad-ta-meet-ya’ smile comes to visit. The devil seeks payment, and a dangerous wager is made. Until they can defeat him, Rembrandt, Pa, and Uncle Thompson must embark on the journey of their lives, for if they stay in one place for more than twelve days terrible things happen. But where and when will they find a champion capable of defeating the Black Bottle Man?
Time ticks.
Lives change.
Every twelve days.
From Great Plains Publications' website
The story is told mainly through Rembrandt's eyes, but we do get a few chapters from other characters' points of view. The shifting viewpoints could get confusing, but the characters' voices are so different that it isn't an issue and everything comes together in the end in a way that simply wouldn't be possible without the varying viewpoints.

Besides varying viewpoints, the novel is not told in linear time. It jumps from present day (2007) back to the 1920s and 30s. This is structure is what really got me into the novel. We see Rembrandt as an old man from the beginning and we slowly learn how he ended up as this person. The changes in time and in turn plot, help move the story along rapidly. I must say the beginning was a bit slow for me, but it picked up and I read the last 70-80 pages in one sitting.

The story itself is strange and unique: two brothers and a boy set out to find someone who can fight the devil to save their souls and the boy's two aunts. It isn't all strange other worldly demons and whatnot, like you might expect, it's very realistic. The men travel from place to place during the Great Depression and learn "hobo signs" which give them magical powers. But the signs are the only totally other worldly element -- the story and its characters are firmly rooted in reality, which so unexpected for a story like this.

My only issue with the whole thing is that I'm not sure if it's really a "teen" book, but then again what really makes a "teen" book a "teen" book. I think the book would appeal to older teens, not just because part of the story is told from the point of view of an older man, but because the action's a bit slow in the beginning and there's a lot to take in story wise.


Add to your to-read pile

Thursday, December 23, 2010

FIVE Great Series

Day Three of Adele's FIVE Challenge: Great Series. Join in the fun here.

1. The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater


Best werewolf story ever! Can't not wait for Forever to come out July 2011.
 
2. The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl


I haven't gotten a chance to read Beautiful Darkness yet, but I did read Beautiful Creatures earlier this year and it was amazing. I'm really excited to see where this series goes.


3. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


How could I not put Hunger Games on my list? Katniss is one of my all-time favorite characters and the whole series is just wonderfully good.

4. Paranormalcy by Kirsten White


I loved this book and am so excited to find out what happens next. Supernaturally is due out in 2011 (no cover yet).

5. Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink


I haven't got a chance to read these two yet, but I've been dying to read them. They just sound so good.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FIVE Great Covers

Day Two of Adele's FIVE Challenge: Great Covers. Join in the fun here. Picking only five was really difficult for me; I think we should call 2010 The Year of Great Covers.

1. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen 

"The font, the girl, the outfit, the pose -- it's all so 20s flappers and so gorgeous. I don't always like covers with the main character on the front, but I think this one really works." Full Beautiful Covers post here.

2. The Body Finder by Kimberley Derting

"The layout -- everything works perfectly together: the colors, the fonts, the images, it all comes together to create a strange beautiful image" Full Beautiful Covers post here.

3. Paranormalcy by Kirsten White

"This is one of best covers I've seen in while. The whole mood created fits the book perfectly and it's mysterious, dark, and pretty all at the same time (just like the main character). Everything about it just works; can't wait to see the covers on the next books in the series."

4. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

I love the Wolves of Mercy Falls covers; they are just so amazingly beautiful. I don't even know what to say about Linger it's just perfect. And the colored interior text just adds to how beautiful this book is.

5. Torment by Lauren Kate

I really love the Fallen Series covers; the dark mood, the beautiful dresses, the font. Everything about this cover is dark and beautiful, which fits the book perfectly. Really excited to read this one too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FIVE Great Debuts

I was planning on taking a bit of a blogging break from today until January 2nd, but then I came across Adele's FIVE Challenge and well there went my plans of a break. It sounds pretty interesting to look back on the year and look forward to 2011, so I couldn't resist joining in. Join in the fun here.

From December 21st to 31st Adele has picked different elements of YA to post about:
December 21 - 5 Great Debuts
December 22 - 5 Great Covers
December 23 - 5 Great Series
December 24 - 5 Great Re-Reads (books you've LOVED so much you went back for more)
December 25 - 5 Most Anticipated (2011 titles)
December 26 - 5 Hopes for YA in 2011
December 27 - 5 Great YA Movie Deals
December 28 - 5 Great Author (in the flesh) Moments
December 29 - 5 Great YA Bloggers
December 30 - 5 Great Miracles that Occurred to Get Me Reading More ______ (choose your genre)
December 31 - 5 Best Titles for 2010 (which I double because 5 was too hard)

I'm going to try to participate in most of these, but I know with the craziness of the holidays I likely only do a few.

Great Debuts:

1. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

"Alex's voice is so realistic. I really liked her -- she struggles to deal what has happened to her while trying to allow herself to continue living her life. Her friends are also wonderful characters; they all want to help her speak out and move on. Their voices are all just as realistic as Alex's. There isn't a single fake or preachy character in the book." Full review
2. The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

"I have to start with the voice of this novel; I absolutely loved Kody's voice from the first page. It just felt like an honest teenager, not preachy or trying to hip and edgy. It was incredibly refreshing to read something so realistic. Kody didn't shy away from anything here or gloss over the difficult situations teens face. And she managed to be funny and clever throughout the whole thing. Plus Kody is only 19 and wrote the book when she was only 17! Can you believe it!?! She is an absolutely amazing writer and I can't wait to read her next book and see how her wonderful voice grows and changes." Full review


3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

"Although the entire book is just one day over and over again, Oliver has repeated just enough to get you into Sam's mindset as she struggles to figure out what's happening to her and how to stop it. She doesn't repeat the unnecessary or let the novel get bogged down in the middle around the fourth time she relives her day. Being able to do this makes Lauren Oliver a brilliant writer - at least in my humble opinion." Full review
4. Paranormalcy by Kirsten White 

"Let's just start with characters: Evie is awesome. Although she works for a secret government agency chasing down paranormals, she is still just like any other teen girl -- she worries about boys, loves to shop, feels out of place, struggles to figure out who she is and what she wants. And through everything she's pretty clever and runs around with a pink sparkly taser. Kiersten White proves that you can be girlie and love pink and still be a strong, smart, independent girl. As for the rest of the characters, they are all interesting and play their rolls in the overall story well. Lend, the romantic interest is an interesting opposite of Evie in many ways adding to her character as well as his. I love these sort of character dynamics." Full review

5. Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony

"Unlike many of the other dystopias I've read recently this one is extremely plausible and realistic. Only being about thirty years in the future rather than hundreds helps with realism and believability, but the events leading up to the current situation are highly plausible and even likely. There's no crazy natural disasters or bizarre epidemics -- the world runs out of oil, pollution is at an all time high, and the world economies collapse. All of which are completely possible. Plus all of this background information is introduced and discussed easily and naturally throughout the story. There's no confusion about why the world is as it is; everything is explained and accounted for." Full review

Monday, December 20, 2010

Catcher, Caught

Catcher, Caught
Sarah Collins Honenberger
AmazonEncore, December 2010
Realistic Fiction

I am not much of a fan of Catcher in the Rye, but Sarah Collins Honenberger's book sounded like a lot more than just a book about a boy who relates to Holden and uses him to find courage. Beyond that, I was also especially interested in the alternative medicine side of the book.
Catcher, Caught tells the story of Daniel Solstice Landon, a 15-year-old high school student diagnosed with leukemia, as he struggles to find his place in the world while staring down his own mortality in the wake of a recent leukemia diagnosis. A reading of Catcher in the Rye, causes Daniel to question the intentions and authority of those around him. Tired of his cramped surroundings and hippie parents’ alternative approaches to his treatment, he follows the footsteps of Holden Caulfield to New York City in search of the same eternal truths, only to discover the importance of home when death looms. -- From Catcher, Caught promotional material
First off, I have to say I really loved Daniel's voice and the way the story is told. The novel is set up like Catcher in the Rye, in that Daniel is going to simply tell you his story, his side of things. And it works wonderfully; Daniel is interesting and thoughtful and a great storyteller. His story is about far more than just his struggle with leukemia. He struggles with being a teenage boy, falling in love, fighting with his parents, trying to figure out who he really is and what he wants.

The story unfolds very naturally -- the novel's all just moments in Daniel's life. There are difficult, serious moments as he struggles with his illness, funny moments with his friends, sweet moments with his girlfriend (and some very real and well written love scenes, I must say), and exciting moments as Daniel tries to break away from what's expected of him.

I found the alternative medicine and minors having a say in their treatment choices plot very interesting and very well written for such a serious and controversial subject. Since Daniel is just stuck in the middle with his parents and the Social Services fighting over what is best for him, you get a less biased view of both sides. Daniel just wants a say in what happens to him, so there's no judging tone about conventional or alternative medicine, which I really enjoyed.

Overall Catcher, Caught is a thoughtful, well written coming-of-age novel about a boy who's fighting cancer.

Add to your to-read pile

Friday, December 17, 2010

Beautiful Covers (3): A Change

I've only done a couple posts about "Beautiful Covers" and my original intention was to just talk briefly about a few covers (usually 5) once a week, but I have a lot more to say about the covers than just a few lines. So Beautiful Covers will now feature just one cover and be every other Friday. 


Anna's first series, The Luxe, all have pretty amazing covers, but I like this one a lot more. This one just screams 1920s, while the other series covers were beautiful I don't think they said as much about the time period like this one does. The font, the girl, the outfit, the pose -- it's all so 20s flappers and so gorgeous. I don't always like covers with the main character on the front, but I think this one really works. The girl's posture and her look really set a mood for the cover that would be difficult to do without having a person on the cover. Plus her pose and appearance don't tell you too much about the story; it just works to make you want to pick it up. Beyond the girl and image itself, I really love the fonts. They really work to enforce and enhance the 20s theme and the placement is really nice. Just big letters right over the image. Simple with the more complex image in the background.

I can't wait to see what the next covers in the series will look like.


Thoughts on Bright Young Things?



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Across the Universe Contest

I am super super excited about Beth Revis's 2011 debut Across the Universe. It sounds so good and the cover is just beautiful (see more of my thoughts on the cover here).

Summary from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone--one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship--tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
Beth is currently doing an amazing contest on her blog in anticipation of the upcoming book release. There are 100 prizes, yes that's correct 100. So head over to bethrevis.blogspot now and sign up!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Debut Author Challenge 2011

I really enjoyed participating in The Story Siren's 2010 Debut Author Challenge, so I'm participating again next year.

The Challenge: Read 12 (or more) 2011 YA or MG books by debut authors.

Anyone can join, with or without a blog. There are monthly prizes and other sorts of goodies, as well. Check out The Story Siren for more info and to join in the fun.

My Challenge List:
  1. The Water Wars  by Cameron Stracher (1/1)
  2. Entangled by Cat Clarke (1/6)
  3. Across the Universe  by Beth Revis (1/11)
  4. So Shelly by Ty Roth (2/8)
  5. Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney (2/8)
  6. Like Mandarin by Kristen Hubbard (3/8)
  7. Wither by Lauren DeStefano (3/22)
  8. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (3/22)
  9. Awaken by Katie Kacvinksy (3/23)
  10. Entwined by Heather Dixon (3/29)
  11. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (4/26)
  12. Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton (4/26)
Check my Challenges page for my progress and to find reviews.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In My Mailbox (4)

"In My Mailbox" is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to showcase what books bloggers have received in their mailbox, from the library, or bought. If you want to participate check out her site here.



Wither (The Chemical Garden #1) by Lauren DeStefano

That's for In My Mailbox for 2010, see you in 2011!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Mockingbirds


The Mockingbirds
Daisy Whitney
Little, Brown Young Readers, November 2010
Realistic Fiction

I've really been looking forward to this book for months. It was well worth the wait. Daisy Whitney is an amazing writer and I hope her words help inspire others to speak out.

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it. -- Goodreads site

Everyone should read this book along with Speak, the two girls' voices are so different and they deal with their rapes in very different ways, but in the end both girls find the courage to speak up for themselves. It's wonderful that Daisy (and Laurie) had the courage to write a book like this one, to hit on all the difficult issues of rape and how the victim deals with what has happened. She has managed to write an very important book that I know will give girls the courage to speak out.

Alex's voice is so realistic. I really liked her -- she struggles to deal what has happened to her while trying to allow herself to continue living her life. Her friends are also wonderful characters; they all want to help her speak out and move on. Their voices are all just as realistic as Alex's. There isn't a single fake or preachy character in the book.

I really can't say enough good things about The Mockingbirds -- it's beautifully written. Daisy managed to add many funny, clever moments throughout the novel without taking away from the seriousness of Alex's rape.

A few comments on the cover: I really love this cover. It's just gorgeous and perfect for the book.

Get this book immediately and begin reading! (I really mean it, go now)

Chapter 16

I was recently contacted by a member of Chapter 16, an online journal about books and writers. The organization is sponsored by Humanities Tennessee. The organization mainly focuses on Tennessee authors and books set in the state. They have a section on their site dedicated to Children's and YA lit. The articles are interesting, well-written, and thought-provoking. So even if you don't live in Tennessee or read a lot of novels that take place there, you should still check out the site and read up on what they have to say. 

Check out the main site at http://www.chapter16.org/ and the YA specific page at http://www.chapter16.org/category/genres/children-ya

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fallen


Fallen
Lauren Kate
Delacourt (Random House), December 2009
Paranormal

I've been wanting to read this one since it came out, but just hadn't gotten to it yet. So I was really excited when I won a copy of the new paperback edition in a Random House Twitter contest. I'd only read one fallen angels book (Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick) before Fallen and wanted more.

There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce–and goes out of his way to make that very clear–she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her. -- From Goodreads

Let's start with the characters. Every character is interesting and has more going on then meets the surface. I loved Luce right from the beginning; she's lost and struggling to figure out what's happening to her and who she really is. Although she's caught between two boys and is rather obsessed with them, Fallen isn't just another paranormal romance where the girl simply cannot live without her love interest.

Lauren Kate's writing style really makes the book. Her voice is interesting, smart, and different. I can't wait to read Torment and whatever comes next for Kate and Luce.

I have to say a bit about this cover -- it's just gorgeous (and so it the Torment cover). It's dark and mysterious and absolutely fits the content and feel of the book. The image, the blue and black, and the font -- it all just works so well.

Add to the top of your to-read pile

Thursday, December 9, 2010

City of Bones



City of Bones
Cassandra Claire
Simon & Schuster, April 2007
Paranormal

Not sure how I managed to go long without reading The Mortal Instruments, but here we are almost four years after the release and I'm just now starting the series.
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder - much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing - not even a smear of blood - to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy? 

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know.... -- Goodreads site
This one totally lived up to all the hype I've been hearing; it was really amazing and I'm dying to read the next book. I've been reading a lot of paranormal lately and this one's definitely one of the best. The world-building is pretty excellent. Everything makes sense and connects up; there's no weird loose ends about the world and what is and is possible.

Beyond the world-building the characters are awesome. Clary is interesting and you can't help but be on her side. And the Shadowhunters (Jace, Isabelle, and Alec) -- oh they are all excellent. Each of them has their own minor storyline that adds to the story without taking over or being boring. I really can't wait to see what happens to them in the rest of the trilogy (well, I guess there are several more books coming out, so it's not really a trilogy anymore).

I'm not going to give anything away, but the plot twists are everywhere and so, so good. I just have to know what happens next!

Add to the top of your to-read pile

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Historical Fiction Challenge


YA Bliss is hosting a YA Historical Fiction Challenge (more info and sign up here). I don't usually read historical fiction, but have recently come across a few that sound really amazing, so I thought I'd join in the challenge. The challenge runs from January to December 2011.

Three different levels to choose from:

Level 1: 5 YA HF books in 2011
Level 2: 10 YA HF books in 2011
Level 3: 15 YA HF books in 2011

I'm going to start out at Level 1, but may end up Level 2.

Tentative list:
  1. Bright Young Things  by Anna Godbersen
  2. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly 
  3. The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
  4. Vixen (Flappers #1) by Jillian Larkin
  5. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In My Mailbox (3)

"In My Mailbox" is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to showcase what books bloggers have received in their mailbox, from the library, or bought. If you want to participate check out her site here.


(sorry about the video and sound quality -- my web cam is having issues)

Catcher, Caught by Sarah Collins Honenberger
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
In Search of WondLa by Toni DiTerlizzi

What did you get?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In My Mailbox (2)

"In My Mailbox" is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to showcase what books bloggers have received in their mailbox, from the library, or bought.

Due to some technical issues, there will be no video this week.
Here's what I've got:






So what did you get this week?
For more info on IMM or to join in check out  The Story Siren's post on IMM.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Re-packaging the Classics

I think it's really important for teens to have an appreciation for the Classics; we all have to read many of the Classic works in high school, but I think most teens really could care less. When my Sophomore English class read The Great Gatsby I think a large majority of the class didn't really like the novel and never picked up another Fitzgerald book. I absolutely loved it; and it along with John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday got me interested in and loving the Classics.

Maybe we (adults, teachers, librarians) need to give kids more of an opportunity to choose which Classic novels they want to read, rather than limiting their exposure to a handful of novels that "everyone" reads. But beyond just finding the right text for the right kid, we have to be able to make the Classics appealing. And cover design, packaging, and marketing are what's really going to get a teen to pick up Notes from the Underground on their own, which is what's really important.

I recently noticed that several Classics have been re-packaged to appeal to teens, especially Twilight fans, which got me thinking about teens' encounters with Classic literature and what gets one teen really interested in how teens end up loving the Classics.

I don't think it's all about marketing, but I do think many teens aren't lured in those cheaply produced Dover Editions versions of the Classics or other editions with dull covers. The covers are what really draw people into books (that's just the way it is). I know I should read Jane Austen because "everybody says so," but that doesn't mean that when I go to the bookstore I'm going to get excited about a book with a cheesy line drawing on the cover. The first step to get teens picking up the Classics on their own is to make them appealing and great teen orientated covers is a great place to start.

 As much as I am not a fan of the Twilight craziness, I do think the black covers are so beautiful. And re-packaging three of the Classic love stories mentioned in the series with Twilight-sque covers is totally brilliant. I've read so many blog posts by teens that they only picked up Pride and Prejudice because Bella and Edward talk about it and it has a "Twilight cover." If a black cover with red flowers and vampire-y font gets teens excited about Austen, Bronte, and Shakespeare than woo hoo!

Most of the Classics are Public Domain titles (meaning they are no longer under copyright and any publisher can create their own version of the original text), which means any YA publisher could jump on this trend and create a series of Classics with awesome, updated, teen-appealing covers. Maybe some publishers besides HarperTeen (Twilight-sque covers) have already begun doing this and I just have come across them yet. (If you have please comment and let me know, I'm really interested).

I think there's a bigger issue here than just getting teens interested in the Classics. Most adults (at least my parents and their friends and many other adults I've talked to about books) aren't all that interested in the Classics. They read them in high school and that was that. How are teens going to get interested in the Classics if most of the adults around them aren't interested in them either? I think once again a large part of this comes down to marketing. Like I said before I as a twenty-something am really not going to get excited about dreadfully boring pastel-colored covered Classic. But publisher know this (well at least one publisher really knows this) and is creating beautiful, beautiful Classics.

Aren't they beautiful?! Coralie Bickford-Smith is the designer (check out her site here). She's done several different sets of Classics for Penguin, all over which are wonderfully done and all of which I want. The covers just pull you right in. You want to pick them up, you want them, and you want to read them.

Hopefully we will continue to see publishers and designers re-packaging and designing the Classics to lure the next generation of readers into picking up these wonderful books.

What are you thoughts on re-packaging the Classics and what are/were your experiences with the Classics?









Monday, October 25, 2010

I Won an Award!

OCD about Books recently gave me an award! Thank you so much and I'm excited to pass along the award to other bloggers I've recently discovered.



What to do:

1.Thank and link back to the person that gave this award.
2.Answer the 10 survey questions.
3.Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic. (I'm only passing it on to 2 bloggers because I have been terrible lately about checking out other blogs, sorry)
4.Contact the bloggers you’ve picked to let them know about the award.

Questions:
  1. If you blog anonymously are you happy doing it that way; if you are not anonymous do you wish you had started out anonymously so you could be anonymous now? I have never blogged anonymously; it never even crossed my mind do so. It's important to me to have my readers know who I am.
  2. Describe one incident that shows your inner stubborn side: I am obsessed with figuring out a new way to arrange the furniture in my living room, but there's just not another way to arrange things that makes sense. I keeping trying though, about once a month I rearrange all the furniture and then put it back after I realize I can't open the door or there's no plug for the light.
  3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?  hhhmmmm, I have looked about the same since I was thirteen, so I still see teenage me, but feel nothing like teenage me. It's odd.
  4. What is your favorite summer cold drink?  iced sun tea
  5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do? Read and drink a glass of wine in a bubble bath
  6. Is there something you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it? I have tons of things I still want to do; I'm only in my early twenties, so I have all kinds of time yet. But my big goal is to open my own publishing house.
  7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever , the shy person, or always ditching?  The shy, artsy, overachiever.
  8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment of your life what would you see? I know it kind of lame and overly romantic, but I think of dancing with my hubby at our wedding.
  9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?  I think it's pretty easy for me to just be myself in my blog. I've always felt I was better at expressing my thoughts in written form.
  10. If you had the choice to sit down and read or talk on the phone, which would you do and why? Of course I'd pick reading

I am passing this on to: 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Revolution

Revolution
Jennifer Donnelly
Delacorte for Young Readers, October 2010
Realistic/Historical Fiction

If you watched my IMM post two weeks ago you saw that I received my very first ARC! I was so very excited when I opened the package, not only because I got an ARC, but because I was really intrigued by the summary I read of Revolution.

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present. 
From Goodreads site
Jennifer Donnelly's writing is super smart, witty, and interesting. I absolutely love her style; it's just amazing.  Everything flows so well together; although there are two plot lines running throughout the novel, everything remains connected. Each plot line enhances the other. Andi in the present day struggles with her brother's death and what she could have done to prevent it, while Alex in the past struggles to understand her changing world and what she could have done to help the young prince. Their struggles are similar, but not so similar that you feel as though you're reading the same story twice just in different time periods.

Donnelly slips in historical, musical, cultural references throughout the book that are just wonderful. Each one works perfectly and grounds Andi's world in the present day. I often worry that these sort of references don't really work and will only make the novel less accessible to teens in ten or fifteen years, but here that is definitely not the case. They are well chosen and work to really bring out Andi's voice and character. And her voice is what really grabbed me from the very beginning and keep me enthralled in the novel until the very last pages.

Andi's voice is so realistic; Donnelly doesn't shy away from difficult and violent issues. Andi struggles with depression and contemplates suicide, while Alex's world is filled with the violence of the revolution. None of these elements is glossed over or depicted in an over-the-top way. The violence is discussed realistically--terrible things happened during the French Revolution and Donnelly doesn't shy away from them just because she's writing YA. Finding this balance is extremely important and what really makes the book amazing.

I loved this one so much that I went out and bought A Northern Light (one of her earlier books) and am really looking forward to reading that as well. Revolution is a really beautifully done book about so much more than the French Revolution.

Get this book immediately and begin reading (well as soon as it's available October 12)

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Brief Blogging Break

The in-laws are coming to visit (cue shrieking and whatnot), so I will taking a bit of break from the blog while they are in town. The in-laws are staying with us, so I've been extra stressed. Plus this is the first time they have visited the hubby and me since we moved across the country and since we've been married. Must resume cleaning and stressing about their rapidly approaching arrival.

See you all in about a week and half.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Flash Fiction Contest

I have a thing for Flash Fiction; I just love the crazy, weird, wacky prompts and the range of stories that can come from a one-line prompt. So for those of you who share my sentiments Holly Schindler, author of 2010 debut A Blue So Dark, is currently doing a super awesome Halloween-themed Flash Fiction contest over on her blog, hollyschindler.blogspot.com

Here are the details from Holly herself: 
 
"I’m currently running a Flash Fiction Challenge at my blog: you write the prompts, and I write the fiction.  She (or he) who sends in the “best” prompt (I’m leaving it to the bloggers to decide) will get a prize in time for the holidays.

For October, I’m looking for a creepy, horrible, deliciously awful prompt!  Get twisted, and send me your most terrifying ideas to writehollyschindler (at) yahoo (dot) com by October 2…

Check out the complete lowdown on the challenge, the details for October, and the piece I wrote in September based on a blogger-generated prompt!"
Get thinking creepy thoughts and send your prompt ideas over to Holly. I will be trying to come up with something ghoulish to send her way this weekend.

A bit about Holly:
"I received my master’s degree in 2001, and decided to devote full-time effort to my writing.  After (literally) wearing out half a dozen computer keyboards, I’m THRILLED to have released my debut YA novel, A BLUE SO DARK (Flux), last May.  I blog about the writing life, and about BLUE and my forthcoming novel, PLAYING HURT, at hollyschindler.blogspot.com."
 Be on the look out for a review of A Blue so Dark and more from Holly as the release of Playing Hurt  approaches.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Banned Books Week

This Saturday (9/25) begins Banned Books Week, a week of bringing awareness to the numerous books that are challenged every year and attempts of literary censorship.
"The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings.  Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections.  Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society." - ALA website
Celebrate the freedom to read what you want this coming week!

Read a frequently challenged book. Get the word out about Banned Books Week. Learn about literary censorship and what you can do to prevent it.

I will be re-reading Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower (for the six or seven time, I believe) next week, one of my all-time favorite books, which has appeared several times on the Top 10 Most Challenged Books list compiled by the ALA since it's first publication in 1999. I feel supporting Banned Books Week is doubly important for those of us who love YA and Middle Grade and understand the importance of well-written teen books for teens. Many of the books on the challenged list are there because someone (parent, teacher, adult of some kind) has decided that it is not appropriate for the target age group. Teens need the freedom to read what they want. It is extremely important that teens have access to books about sex, drugs, suicide, and other "difficult issues" -- for many teens these books serve as a way to better understand themselves and the world around them. They need these sort of books to find someone to relate to, someone who is like them. We must do what we can to prevent the censorship of what types of books are available for teens to read. Thankfully very few challenged books are actually banned.  

Resources to check out:
BannedBooksWeek.org
ALA's Frequently Challenged Books Site
ALA's Freedom to Read Foundation
Paste Magazine's 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books Everyone Should Read
Carnegie Library of Pittsburg's Banned Books Page

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In My Mailbox (1)

This is my first "In My Mailbox" post, a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to showcase what books bloggers have received in their mailbox, from the library, or bought. I've decided to test out doing videos for this meme (been wanting to add a video feature to the blog and really like Kristi's video posts), so let me know if you like the video thing or if you'd just prefer I ramble in text as usual.



Books:
Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
City of Bones by Cassandra Claire
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Kiss Me Deadly by Various Authors
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (ARC)

So what did you get this week?
For more info on IMM or to join in check out  The Story Siren's post on IMM.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The DUFF

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend
Kody Keplinger
Little Brown/Poppy, September 2010
Realistic Fiction

So I first heard about this book because it's a 2010 Debut, but became more interested in it after visiting thecontemps.com and learning a bit more about the book. I was incredibly excited to find in on the shelves at my local indie a few days before it's September release date! So of course I snagged a copy.
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.
From Goodreads site
I have to start with the voice of this novel; I absolutely loved Kody's voice from the first page. It just felt like an honest teenager, not preachy or trying to hip and edgy. It was incredibly refreshing to read something so realistic. Kody didn't shy away from anything here or gloss over the difficult situations teens face. And she managed to be funny and clever throughout the whole thing. Plus Kody is only 19 and wrote the book when she was only 17! Can you believe it!?! She is an absolutely amazing writer and I can't wait to read her next book and see how her wonderful voice grows and changes.

Bianca is one of my new favorite characters. I loved her right away because she's so sarcastic and a bit caustic at times, which is exactly how I was in High School (maybe still am a bit), so I related to her immediately. She's so honest about how she feels and what she's thinking, even when she's trying to run from her feelings her voice is still honest and realistic. You can't help but feel like you're right there with her. Beyond Bianca's character, the concept of the book really draws you in. Who honestly hasn't felt like the DUFF? To have such an honest voice about dealing with that feeling and realizing that you're not the DUFF that everyone feels that way sometimes, is just so wonderful. I really wish this book had come out when I was in high school.

So I have to say just a bit about the sex scenes. My biggest issue with a lot of YA realistic fiction is that the sex scenes or sexually situations are too racy and unrealistic or more often that they are glossed over in a way that is just ridiculous. Kody has written some really great sex scenes, I must say. It's not that there's a ton of detail or the book's super sexual, they're just real (and totally hot). There's nothing fake or over done about them; this is the way to write sex scenes for teens today (or even girls in their 20s).

I talked Friday about how much I love this cover, in Beautiful Covers (2), so we'll gloss over the details and just say it's totally awesome. I can only say good things about this book; already told a few friends that they had to read it now and stop reading whatever else they are currently reading.

Get this book immediately and begin reading

Friday, September 17, 2010

Beautiful Covers (2)

"Beautiful Covers" posts contain covers (about 5) that I absolutely love. The books will likely not be ones I have read; I won't talk much, if at all, about the content of books; they may be new, old, or upcoming titles. The point is just to present beautifully created covers and talk about why I like them. Please join in and tell me if you agree or if you think any of the covers are just awful. For more about Beautiful Covers check out my first post here.



So creepy; I love it!
Why I love it:
The creepiness -- the image itself isn't necessarily creepy or scary, but when you combine it with those blues and greens and the font, oh it's creepy alright
The font -- I just love this font, all lowercase, the weird detailing, especially on the "l"s, it just works so well
The layout -- the very linear image really works here, it completes the uneasy mood




From far away this cover is so hard to figure out and once you get up close it's still hard to really figure out. It's just so interesting
Why I love it:
The lack of color -- I really the lack of intense color here; there's pink and purple, but they are so subdued; this is what really makes the image so hard to read
The negative space -- the white space is just as interesting as the actual image; this is why I really love this cover!
The imagery -- for some reason I just love the dark butterfly images coming out of the flowers; I don't know what it is, but I'm really drawn to it





The darkness combined with the gold patterning just really draws you in, especially since you can't see the girl's face.
Why I love it:
The image -- I love that you can't see her face and her position is so odd, plus that tattoo, oh it's just gorgeous
The colors -- black covers are very popular right now, but this one seems different to me, probably because of all the delicate golden patterning, it makes the cover so pretty and a bit frightening and foreboding at the same time
Everything just comes together so well in this cover; I think I have to read it. 




Another beautiful black cover. This whole series is just so beautiful, check out the next book here!
Why I love it:
The layout -- everything works perfectly together: the colors, the fonts, the images, it all comes together to create a strange beautiful image
The colors -- that blue against the black, oohhh so pretty; how could you not pick up this book?!
The image -- the blue flower right in the center just draws you right in; it's so beautiful and strange and alluring all at the same time!





Let's end on a fun one. I have been so excited about this book for the past several months; I didn't know too much about it, but I loved the cover. It is amazing read too, review to come very soon!
Why I love it:
The layout --  the giant letters across the cover in bright yellow are just so strange and funky, and the half-face and bubble-gum just add to that vibe
The title treatment -- this book as such an odd title,which could easily create a boring or too clutter cover, but by creating huge letters with the words inside them these potential issues are all resolved into a beautiful and interesting package
The bubble-gum -- I know it's weird to talk about how I love the gum, but I do; the girl just looks so bored and gum just adds to that "I'm bored and possibly highly sarcastic" look, which fits so perfectly with the main character's personality

Friday, September 10, 2010

Beautiful Covers (1)

I will be starting a reoccurring post about beautiful covers. My goal is for these posts to occur every Friday.  These posts will contain covers (about 5) that I absolutely love. The books will likely not be ones I have read; I won't talk much, if at all, about the content of books; they may be new, old, or upcoming titles. The point is just to present beautifully created covers and talk about why I like them. Please join in and tell me if you agree or if you think any of the covers are just awful.

So let's get started:

I just came across this book and not only is the cover super eye-catching, the book sounds super interesting and original. I will definitely be picking this one up when it comes out next year.
Why I love it: 
Half covered face, staring right at you -- totally draws you in
The orange-y-red -- also very eye-catching and well spread throughout the image, so your eye travels around it
The abstract graphic element in the right corner -- interesting added little element of orange-y-red that works perfectly with the title and the image of the girl
The title font -- love all lowercase when it's used well, and here it's definitely used well



So freaking gorgeous! The colors, the image, the graphic elements, oooo just so pretty. I think this might be my new favorite cover.
Why I love it:
The odd graphic elements -- the lines and circles all lead your eyes around the image, highlighting the girl's face, her hands, and the bird, with only the "W" of Wither in a square (ooohhh, so perfect)
The girl -- her pose, her crazy hair, her dress: it's all beautiful and interesting and mysterious at the same time
The colors -- the dark blues, yellowish-greens, and the pink type and graphics play so well together; each element stands out without over-shadowing any other
I just can't say enough good things about this cover -- it's amazingly freaking gorgeous! 


 
This is one of my all-time favorite covers.
Why I Love It:
The layout -- author's name medium sized along the top with the title just above the girl's head (ooohh amazing) and the girl just staring straight at you; it's perfect
The title font and color -- it's just like a "sold" stamp, so fitting and creepy and sad; the red just adds to this and plays so well with the yellow background and the sepia toned portrait
The girl -- her partially covered face, the sepia tone, her eyes just staring right at you totally and completely draw you in to the book; there's no way you're going to walk past this without looking twice.
Everything about this cover works with the content inside and to draw you in



This cover is just so different from anything else I've seen lately.
Why I love it:
The layout -- although there are other silhouette/profile images on covers this one really feels different; the angle and the boy coming from the top of the cover is just so interesting
The starry space image -- the whole star where the "i" is image could look really lame, but here it seems to work; it's the only bright spot on the bottom half, drawing you into the title; plus the starry image blends so well with the girl's
The white space -- I love the white space around the two faces; it creates such interesting shapes





I know almost nothing about this book, but I came across the cover and became very intrigued. 
Why I Love it:
The simplicity -- the clean single image really focuses your attention to the title and the snowflake; will stand out against many of the other busier YA covers
The colors -- black covers are really popular right now (thanks to Twilight), but I don't really love a lot of them, but this one is so well done; the gold elements stand out perfectly
The fonts -- since the imagery is so simple the fonts and text placements really have to carry more visual interest, which they do; the use of two different fonts helps with this as well; I really love the title font

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Paranormalcy

Paranormalcy
Kiersten White
HarperTeen, September 2010
Paranormal

I already talked a bit about my initial excitement in an earlier post here, but I will briefly reiterate that I was/am excited about this particular paranormal novel because of the strong female lead character. 
Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie's always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
From Goodreads site
Let's just start with characters: Evie is awesome. Although she works for a secret government agency chasing down paranormals, she is still just like any other teen girl -- she worries about boys, loves to shop, feels out of place, struggles to figure out who she is and what she wants. And through everything she's pretty clever and runs around with a pink sparkly taser. Kiersten White proves that you can be girlie and love pink and still be a strong, smart, independent girl. As for the rest of the characters, they are all interesting and play their rolls in the overall story well. Lend, the romantic interest is an interesting opposite of Evie in many ways adding to her character as well as his. I love these sort of character dynamics.

This novel has more going on than you would expect after reading the summary, even after reading the first 100 pages. It's more than just a girl hunting down a killer of paranormals, or a girl falling for a paranormal, or a girl struggling to figure out who she is -- it's all of those things plus several twists and turns. I honestly had trouble stopping myself from pulling it out at dinner with friends when the conversation began to bore me because all I could think about was what was happening to Evie!

Just have to make a few comments on the cover. It  is one of best I've seen in while. The whole mood created fits the book perfectly and it's mysterious, dark, and pretty all at the same time (just like the main character). Everything about it just works; can't wait to see the covers on the next books in the series.

White has created an excellent YA paranormal novel that keeps all the elements teens (and adults) love about the genre while adding something new and different, especially through her excellent characters.

 Move to the top of your to-read pile

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dark Life

Dark Life
Kate Falls
Scholastic, May 2010
Dystopia

Apocalyptic future, societies living on the ocean floor, crazy out-laws, oh doesn't that sound excellent. The whole idea of society living on the ocean floor seems new and original for YA, and it's all wrapped up into a dysoptia, how perfect.
Set in an apocalyptic future where rising oceans have swallowed up entire regions and people live packed like sardines on the dry land left, DARK LIFE is the harrowing tale of underwater pioneers who have carved out a life for themselves in the harsh deep-sea environment, farming the seafloor in exchange for the land deed.

The story follows Ty, who has lived his whole life on his family's homestead and has dreams of claiming his own stake when he turns eighteen. But when outlaws' attacks on government supply ships and settlements threaten to destroy the underwater territory, Ty finds himself in a fight to stop the outlaws and save the only home he has ever known.

Joined by a girl from the Topside who has come subsea to look for her prospector brother, Ty ventures into the frontier's rough underworld and begins to discover some dark secrets to Dark Life.
From Goodreads site
Let's get the bad out of the way first: I had a hard time getting in the story. I really liked the premise and the characters especially Gemma, but for some reason I wasn't dying to find out what would happen to them. There was a lot suspense and the "villain" character was awesome, so I'm not sure what prevented me from absolutely loving this book. The main issue, I think was I came into the novel thinking YA, older characters, and the characters are fairly young and the story felt very very Middle Grade, which I really didn't expect. Maybe that's really the only basis for my issues with the book.

On to the good: have I said how much I love the idea of society on the ocean floor?! The underwater world Falls has created was amazing; I especially loved all the detail given about how the homes function, how the people "farm" and raise animals. It all seemed perfectly logical, nothing too far-fetched. I could easily picture every part of Ty's world.

And Ty himself is an excellent middle grade boy character; he's adventurous, brave, nervous around girls, a little awkward, devoted to his family. Young boys will totally relate to him especially since he always feels so different. And Gemma, his female sidekick is funny, smart, stubborn, brave; girls and boys will like her and relate to her struggle to find her brother and a sense of family. The rest of the cast is excellent created as well, especially the various "villains;" all of whom are more than just bad-guys out to destroy society.

Excellent Middle Grade dystopia adventure story. I think I would have really loved it if I hadn't been so stuck on assuming it was older YA.

Add to your to-read pile