Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Birthday to me & Excerpt of Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere

So haven't heard from me in awhile. As most of you know, I was in New York City for a week for Book Expo America last week (which was excellent...I will be recapping as soon as I can steal pictures from my book blogger pals). This week I am visiting dear friends in Ohio. And today's my birthday.

I didn't get my review copy of THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE before I left for the US, so I haven't read it yet, but I've heard wonderful things. Today I have an excerpt of it for all of you who haven't read it yet either. You can read the previous excerpt at Teenage Fiction for All Ages and the next one at Bookalicious Ramblings.

I say softly, “I feel so guilty,” almost hoping the night will suck my words
away before Toby hears.
“I do too,” he whispers back.
“But about
something else too, Toby…”
With all the darkness around me, with
my hand in Toby’s, I feel like I can say it. “I feel guilty that I’m still
“Don’t. Please, Len.”
“But she was always so much … more—”
“No.” He doesn’t let me finish. “She’d hate for you to feel that way.”
“I know.”
And then I blurt out what I’ve forbidden myself to think, let
alone say: “She’s in a coffin, Toby.” I say it so loud, practically shriek it –
the words make me dizzy, claustrophobic, like I need to leap out of my body.
I hear him suck in air. When he speaks, his voice is so weak I barely hear
it over our footsteps. “No, she isn’t.”
I know this too. I know both things
at once.
Toby tightens his grip around my hand.
Once at Flying Man’s,
the sky floods through the opening in the canopy. We sit on a flat rock and the
full moon shines so brightly on the river, the water looks like pure rushing
“How can the world continue to shimmer like this?” I say as I lie
down under a sky drunk with stars.
Toby doesn’t answer, just shakes his head
and lies down next to me, close enough for him to put his arm around me, close
enough for me to put my head on his chest if he did so. But he doesn’t, and I
He starts talking then, his soft words dissipating into the night
like smoke. He talks about how Bailey wanted to have the wedding ceremony here
at Flying Man’s so they could jump into the pool after saying their vows. I lean
up on my elbows and can see it as clearly in the moonlight as if I were watching
a movie, can see Bailey in a drenched bright orange wedding dress laughing and
leading the party down the path back to the house, her careless beauty so huge
it had to walk a few paces ahead of her, announcing itself. I see in the movie
of Toby’s words how happy she would have been, and suddenly, I just don’t know
where all that happiness, her happiness, and ours, will go now, and I start to
cry, and then Toby’s face is above mine and his tears are falling onto my cheeks
until I don’t know whose are whose, just know that all that happiness is gone,
and that we are kissing again.

And a poem:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday (107) = Picture of Emmy

An early morning face-off as Emmy defends her place in the laundry hamper:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Annie O’Sullivan was a successful realtor until the day a man abducted her and kept her captive in a remote mountain cabin for a year. Now Annie’s so traumatized, she sleeps in her closet and can’t work. In 26 sessions with her therapist, the whole twisted story comes out.

Through most of this novel, I wasn’t sure I liked it. It’s riveting reading, yes, but it is also extremely disturbing and not for the faint of heart (or young teens). But then, once the big twist was revealed, I was blown away by how well the whole story was crafted.

Annie’s nickname for her abductor is The Freak, and it is apt. He is a terrifying guy with deep psychological issues and very strict rules. Crossing him by say, using the bathroom at a non-scheduled time, can lead to bizarre punishments such as having to drink from the toilet. What puzzles her is just how much he seems to know about her and her family, leading her to think that his crime was not random and that even if she escapes him, there may be someone else out to get her…

Annie’s experience changes her a lot – so much so that I almost couldn’t recognize the broken woman swearing at her shrink and shrinking away from her friends and family as the same independent woman we see in her “flashbacks”. Not only is this a fascinating character study, it is also a very satisfying thriller with a shock ending. Highly recommended!

STILL MISSING is coming out in hardcover 0n July 6, 2010. My copy was courtesy of the Amazon Vine program. Find out more about the book at the author's website.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday (43) Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins + My Burma Photos

Long time no WoW pick, but this one's worth breaking my ban! I went to Burma with Daniel back in 2001, and it was an eye-opening trip. We had the chance to talk to citizens and hear their stories - even though they were scared, they wanted to be heard so badly. And that's why I am sure this is an important novel.

Here's the summary from Charlesbridge:

A refugee and a child soldier challenge the rules of war.

Narrated by two teenaged boys on opposing sides of the conflict between the Burmese government and the Karenni, one of Burma's many ethnic minorities, this coming-of-age novel takes place against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma.

Chiko isn't a fighter by nature. He's a book-loving Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. Tu Reh, on the other hand, wants to fight for freedom after watching Burmese soldiers destroy his Karenni family's home and bamboo fields. Timidity becomes courage and anger becomes compassion when the boys' stories intersect.

Also check out

If you are going to BEA, Mitali will be signing copies of the book on Wednesday from 12:30 - 1 pm at the Charlesbridge booth (#2859). I'll be there!

I also wanted to share a few pictures with you from my trip:

The government wants its people to play nice with visitors. They need the foreign cash that tourism brings.

A child we met on a tour of a village near Kalaw. She spent all day picking and drying tea leaves.

A couple from the North we met in Bagan. We were the first foreigners they had ever seen. We assume this picture has a special place on their mantel.

And, an article I wrote shortly after my trip for a travel website:


There is quite a debate these days whether one should visit Burma or not. Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's democratically elected leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has asked tourists NOT to come. Many guidebooks, including The Rough Guide series have asked tourists to respect her request and do not publish a guide to Burma. However, there are also well known democratic leaders in Burma who want tourists to come. Lonely Planet's Burma guide has a good essay outlining this position.

Now, obviously, I must be with the second group, since I went to Burma, right? Well, actually, I think people should decide for themselves how they feel, after they look at both points of view.

First of all, where does your money go when you visit Burma? If you go with a tour group, it is pretty hard to avoid stuffing government coffers. You don't have much control over where most of your money goes, and you won't have much contact with the average person who can benefit from your tourist dollars. As an independent traveller, however, you have a lot more control over who gets your money. If you stay in privately owned logding, hire independent guides, and use non-government owned transportation, you are helping ordinary Burmese citizens to earn an honest living. Less independent tourists means less opportunity to earn money and more temptation to simply beg to surivive. Those kids in the Bagan temples always trying to sell you something can be annoying, but it is much better than if they would be reduced to begging.

Those in favor of "boycotting" the boycott use free exchange of information as a major support for their view. Contact with tourists gives many Burmese the only form of free exchange of information that they can participate in (in a country where merely owning a modem will get you 10 years in prison!). We brought many current news magazines with us and they were very grateful. Before we went, we had heard that most people were reluctant to complain about the government, but they have apparently become bolder as a result of having contact with travellers. All of our guides were eager to discuss the political system with us and to offer their numerous criticisms. They are encouraged by the fact that people from other countries are taking an interest in their situation.

What about the human rights abuses allegations? The government's travel restrictions to certain "safe" areas virtually assures that outsiders will not witness any human rights abuses firsthand. One of our guides told us that slave labour is being used to build the railroad between Loikaw and Taungyi in Shan State. How it works: government officials decree that one member of each family must work 1 day a week. In the case of our guide's family, he was the chosen one. However, he was able to pay someone else to serve for him. Some argue that tourism in Burma directly contributes to Human Rights abuses, because the government forces people to build roads, etc to attract tourists. However, it is my impression that the government only conducts such forced labour activities in areas that tourists cannot enter (often due, at least in part, to safety issues such as rebellious tribes). How can these projects possibly be related to attracting tourists if tourists are banned from these areas?

Now I don't pretend to be an expert on this issue, and the things I have brought up here are only the tip of the iceberg, and my personal opinion as someone who has visited recently, so please do check out some other sources before you make your decision. However, I can encourage you to go as an independent tourist, if you do decide to go.

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme started by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This article was originally published by Lenore for Presenting Lenore. It cannot be republished without express written permisson. If you are reading this elsewhere, it has been stolen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday (106) = Picture of Emmy

Emmy and Finn enjoying the morning on the balcony.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review and Giveaway: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (+ Lenore's Road Trip Playlist)

After her father's death in a car accident, Amy is no longer driving. So when her mother needs Amy to transport her car from California to their new home in Connecticut, she enlists the son of a family friend, Roger, to drive with Amy across country. But instead of following her mother's carefully planned itinerary, Amy and Roger embark on a series of detours and work through their respective issues along the way.

I love road trips, so I was really excited to read this one - and it didn't disappoint. The narrative arc ended up just as a I predicted it would, but the journey there continually surprised and delighted me.

Of course it helped that Amy and Roger travelled some of the same roads I have - it was fun for me to reminisce about my own road trip experiences. But it wasn't just that. Both Amy and Roger were characters imbued with an amazing presence and I enjoyed watching them make their own discoveries. They also had a great rapport and dialogue that cracked me up.

I loved the people they met along the way. Bronwyn and her clothes obsession! Derek and Drew - the Kansas boys who loved Kansas. Lucien and his topiary.

And I can't end the review without mentioning Roger's epic playlists. From the songs I know, I have a feeling Roger and I have very similar music taste, so I can't wait to listen to a bunch of these songs and hopefully discover new favorite tunes.

AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR is now available in hardcover. You can find out more about it at the publisher's website.

I have a signed copy of the book up for grabs to my readers in the US. Just leave me a comment and tell me a favorite song of yours that you like to blast in the car. I'll leave the contest open until 11:59 pm CST on June 7th. Contest is sponsored by a publicity company.

And for a bit of inspiration, here's my own 20 song road trip playlist!

"Daniel" by Bat for Lashes

(sample lyric: And in the golden blue car you took me to the darkest place you knew and you set fire to my heart)

"Rewind" by Better than Ezra

(sample lyric: In my car we are superstars. Run your lipstick down your chin while up ahead we saw such a crash. Right there a song became a soundtrack for this space in time.)

"Drive" by Bic Runga

(sample lyric: No boy, don't speak now, you just drive. Take me through, make me feel alive.)

"Hunter" by Bjork

(sample lyric: If travel is searching and home what's been found, I'm not stopping. I'm going hunting.)

"Behind the Wheel" by Depeche Mode

(sample lyric: Oh little girl, there are times when I feel, I'd rather not be the one behind the wheel.)

"Tonight We Fly" by The Divine Comedy

(sample lyric: Tonight we fly over the chimney tops skylights and slates. Looking into all your lives and wondering why happiness is so hard to find.)

"Retread" by Embrace

(sample lyric: My girl is just a retread, I lost her when I hit the brake. Our love hit science fiction levels, now I'm bending cause I made a mistake.)

"Sink to the Bottom" by Fountains of Wayne

(sample lyric: Cars on the highway, planes in the air. Everyone else is going somewhere.)

"We Could be Kings" by Gene

(sample lyric: We could be kings, the planet is ours. With love on our side, and the keys to my car. Storm through the city - oh let's drive - hold tight!)

"Pace is the Trick" by Interpol

(sample lyric: I've seen love, and I followed the speeding of starswept night.)

"Eet" by Regina Spektor

(sample lyric: You spend half of your life, trying to fall behind. You're using your headphones to drown out your mind.)

"Leaving New York" by REM

(sample lyric: It's easier to leave than to be left behind.)

"The Cold, the Dark, and the Silence" by Sea Wolf

(sample lyric: So we're lost, we're lost out here on the plains, my love. It's only wind and ice and trees that wave from above.)

"1979" by Smashing Pumpkins

(sample lyric: With the headlights pointed at the dawn, we were sure we'd never see an end to it all.)

"There is a Light that Never Goes Out" by The Smiths

(sample lyric: Driving in your car, I never, never want to go home.)

"Your Ex-Lover is Dead" by Stars

(sample lyric: Captured a taxi despite all the rain. We drove in silence across Pont Champlain. And all of the time you thought I was sad, I was trying to remember your name.)

"Tyler" by the Toadies

(sample lyric: We can drive to anyplace, day and night to cross this state.)

"Hotel" by Tori Amos

(sample lyric: King's Solomon's Mines. Exit 75. I'm still alive.)

"Highwayman" by Willie Nelson

(sample lyric: I was a highwayman. Along the coach roads I did ride.)

"See-Saw" by Youth Group

(sample lyric: Planes go across the sky of Petersham. One day I will see all the hope that's stored in them.)

I'd love to hear yours, even if you don't enter the contest!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review: Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani

So now that the official announcement is out there, I can finally shed some light on the mystery of where I’ll be on Wednesday afternoon of BEA (the reason I have to skip some majorly cool signings and the reason why Daniel will be my stand-in signing slave). I won tea with Author Adriana Trigiani!! I will be joining 4 other bloggers to meet Adriana at Alice’s Teacup in NYC. As part of my prep, I dug VIOLA IN REEL LIFE out of the middle of my massive TBR.

Because her documentary filmmaker parents are on a shoot in Afghanistan, 14 year old Viola has to leave her friends in Brooklyn, New York and spend a year at a boarding school in South Bend, Indiana. It’s quite an adjustment at first, but supportive roommates, a first romance, and a student documentary contest go a long way to making Viola feel at home.

You know, it was so refreshing to read a YA novel about a normal teen living a normal life. This is a novel for everyone who complains that they are tired of mean girls, all-encompassing romances, disinterested parents, and enfeebled heroines with no hobbies.

I’ll admit I wasn’t that engaged at the beginning of the novel, because it wasn’t all that clear to me where the whole thing was going. Though I was instantly pulled in by Viola’s voice (a bit whiny, but independent and snarky), I wanted more plot to sink my teeth into.

But once Viola discovers the mysterious “lady in red” and decides to make her the subject of her film, I really started to enjoy the novel. Her interactions with her friends and her actress grandmother (who comes to help her out) feel really natural and everything just flows well.

I finished the last page and immediately wished I could pick up book two in the series - VIOLA IN THE SPOTLIGHT – but sadly, it’s not due to drop until this August.

Head over to the HarperCollins site for some cool VIOLA content, including character profiles, a deleted scene and a quiz.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book Club Report: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I read this last November (read my review), but it was still very fresh in my mind as we discussed it last night.

Short summary: It's 1962 Mississippi and three women - aspiring writer Skeeter, professional nanny/maid Aibileen and sassy maid Minny -come together for a project that puts them all at risk.

The group's verdict: Everyone LOVED this one unreservedly. No one even had a single word of criticism in fact. We just gushed about how real the characters seemed (favorites were Minnie and Miss Celia) and how much the narrative pulled us in. We discussed how a decent man was hard to find in the novel, who might be cast in the movie version, southern cooking, and the meaning of Skeeter (one of the members of our group is German, and couldn't find Skeeter in a German-English dictionary).

Up next: Persuasion by Jane Austen. Which I am quite excited about. Especially since Diana Peterfreund has a post-apocalyptic retelling of Persuasion called For Darkness Shows the Stars due in 2011!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

So I read THE THIEF (read my review) last year and enjoyed it so much, I immediately went out and bought its’ sequels. But even still, it took a bunch of prodding from Angieville for me to finally dig out THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA from the middle of my TBR.

Gen, our Thief from book 1, once again finds himself in a tight spot after being caught by the queen of Attolia. What transpires between Gen and the queen sets off a war between their countries. Meanwhile, neighboring countries plot and plan, trying to gain advantage. Gen must now somehow find a way to steal the biggest treasure yet – lasting peace between the nations.

Turner excels at literary sleight-of-hand – focusing your attention on something else entirely while she sets up major twists right under your nose. After a dramatic opening, the plot builds slowly as the kings, queens and advisors move their pieces around the playing field. Everyone underestimates Gen because of the tragedy that befalls him early on, but as we learned in book 1, Gen is not to be underestimated.

What I most enjoyed about the story though was Gen’s character growth. In book 1, he was clever, certainly, but also borderline unlikable for most of the book. Here he actually begins to grow into a swoonworthy romantic lead, and the transformation is stunning.

Thanks Angie – we certainly have a lot to talk about at BEA now. I can’t wait!

THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA is available in paperback. Find out more about the series at the author’s website.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday (105) = Picture of Emmy

Lately, the kittehs have been enjoying kitteh pile-ups - like this recent one on my lap while I'm working:

(that's Finn on the left and Emmy on the right)

What always happens is that Emmy will come cuddle with me and then Finn will lay on top of her. She allows it until he starts biting her, and then she snaps at him and runs away.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Review: Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White

Laurel’s mother was always really into flowers, but she’s recently died, leaving Laurel with tons of questions about her mysterious new “flower power”. At her new school, her bouquets have caused teachers to fall in love and helped her friends ace their tests – but Laurel doesn’t really know what she’s doing and the wrong flowers used at the wrong time could cause chaos…

Both my mother and grandmother were avid gardeners and tried to interest me in botany. It never took. After reading this novel, I’m breathing in the scent of raspberries (for regret), because I’ll never have the chance to discuss their love of flowers with them.

I guess I never realized how fascinating the whole language of flowers is. For example, in Victorian times, people used flowers to communicate their feelings for each other or to send other messages. It’s such a fun, fresh idea to take this language of flowers and create a heroine who can actually use flowers like magic.

It takes Laurel a while to figure out what’s behind her power. While I enjoyed the air of mystery, the narrative reasons why the “elders” in her life couldn’t fill her in sooner seemed too a bit forced. A teacher gives her cryptic clues but doesn’t tell her because “it’s not her place”. The grandmother is unreachable. Other characters may or may not know anything about it. I understand the need for Laurel to “blossom” on her own, and some of her early bumbling experiments have humorous outcomes, but more impatient readers might be frustrated by the slow build of the first half.

Patient readers, though, will be rewarded by an action-packed and magical second half. There are definitely some melancholic scenes throughout (after all, Laurel’s mother did die), but the narrative is so infused with love that the novel felt like a real affirmation of joy and life.

FORGET-HER-NOTS is available now in hardcover. Find out more about it on the author’s website.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book Review: Love in a Time of Homeschooling by Laura Brodie

I am neither a teacher, nor do I have children, so a memoir about a mother homeschooling a child for a year might seem like a weird reading choice for me. However, one of my best friends homeschooled her daughter for a year when schools in her area proved inadequate and another is currently homeschooling her two kids because it fits her lifestyle and educational ideals better. I’ve heard their reasons and experiences and am quite intrigued by the whole subject.

When I was in school, homeschooled kids were considered freaks, and even though my mother was two credits away from a teaching degree and was quite religious, I don’t think homeschooling ever crossed her mind as a viable option. As Brodie says in her book, in the past, most homeschoolers were either ultra-religious and didn’t want their children exposed to secular teachings and temptations or they were anti-establishment hippie types living off the grid. However, these days, more and more people are realizing that traditional education might not serve the learning needs of their children – for whatever reason – and are deciding to homeschool indefinitely or for a short time.

In Brodie’s case, the reason was that her oldest daughter, Julia, just didn’t thrive in an overly structured school environment. Brodie uses the first few chapters of her book to introduce us to Julia and her particular learning challenges. She’s a bright child, but often lost in her own world, and very adverse to change. By the fourth grade, Julia was of the mind that school exists only to torture children and take all the joy out of their lives. Brodie’s evenings were full of tears and frustration as she attempted to force Julia to do her piles of homework, and she realized something needed to change. Brodie thought a year “sabbatical” from traditional schooling in which Julia could learn at her own pace might renew her soul.

To this end, Brodie did a bunch of research into homeschooling by reading a lot of popular books on the subject – and she started noticing that what was missing in the literature on the subject, by and large, were tales of the daily struggles that arise when a parent and child are alone all the time together.

“Among the millions of homeschoolers in America, there must be plenty who have stormy encounters with their children, and who sometimes doubt the efficacy of their teaching. Those people, however, don’t seem to write books. In the homeschooling volumes I encountered, expressions of serious frustration seemed taboo.” p 67.

Brodie definitely fills this void with her very open and honest account of her missteps and frustrations during her homeschooling experiment. And these chapters – both the ones during Brodie’s excited and hopeful pre-homeschooling research and planning and the ones that delve into the specific examples of what worked with Julia and what didn’t - are insightful and surprisingly fascinating.

I was especially struck by the fact that in many US states, the only requirement for homeschooling your children is a high school diploma. The whole exercise is remarkably easy to set-up, which is something that amazes me when I think of Germany’s severe anti-homeschooling stance.

Germany is a society that is considerably more liberal in many ways than the US (naked public sunbathing anyone?) and yet they outlaw homeschooling, levying fines and even prison time on parents who want control over their children’s education. In fact, in legal terms, homeschooling is considered a form of child abuse in Germany. I’m interested in finding out more about why this is.

After reading Brodie’s account, I e-mailed my friend who is currently homeschooling and asked her why she’s doing it. She offered many of the same reasons as Brodie:

- Child can learn at his own pace to avoid boredom at going too slow or frustration at going too fast
- Child can have more "hands-on" learning about various parts of life - going to the zoo, the store, botanica, planting and taking care of a garden daily, etc.
- Parent is able to pick the best curriculum for the child so that child is not exposed to only those subjects that the state mandates.
- Parent is able to teach to child's learning style - tactile, visual, etc. to optimize their learning and pick a curriculum that fits that style (this is something that Brodie only realized in retrospect)

And some that are unique to her own situation:
- Parent is better able to teach them a foreign language by speaking it to them at home (my friend is fluent in French)
- Family can go on vacation / take vacation when we want - when parents need it or the kids need it (Brodie couldn’t do this with two other children in regular school)
- More family time

So there you have it. It’s an interesting subject and Brodie gives a very balanced view of the pros and cons in a style that reads like an engrossing novel. Oh, and it's also the perfect choice for Mother's Day.

LOVE IN A TIME OF HOMESCHOOLING is available in hardcover now. Find out more about it at the author’s website.

What do you think of homeschooling? Would you ever consider it - either for yourself (if you are still in school) or for your kids?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Latest Contest Winners (3) + Dystopian February Survey Results

Time again to announce winners.

The winner of the Penguin Dystopian Prize Pack which included the novels Restoring Harmony, The Line, Incarceron and The Other Side of the Island is Jenn S.

The winner of the two dystopian books of choice from The Book Depository is Ann P.

The winner of the dysoptian sampler pack including Shades of Grey, Genesis and Exodus is Maria F.

The winner of signed copies of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and Tricks by Ellen Hopkins is Rhiannon R.

The winner of Airhead and Being Nikki by Meg Cabot is Bethie M.

The winner of the signed copy of Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti is Stephanie D.

Congrats all! Winners have been notified and their prizes are on the way or delivered already.


At the end of Dystopian February, I posted a my first ever survey. I had 330 individual responses - wow!

Here are the results:

Top 3 favorite features of Dystopian February were book reviews, previews of upcoming dystopian titles, and contests.

About 70% of respondents said review length should depend on whatever serves the material best.

60% of respondents enjoyed the Zombie Chicken ratings and said they wished I gave ratings all the time. This kind of surprised me! Maybe I do need to start giving ratings...

45% of respondents said they were likely or very likely to purchase one of the featured titles.

70% of respondents said they were subscribers or followers of my blog.

Many of you told me the book you most want to see reviewed during Dystopian August is Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (big surprise!), but also mentioned more than 5 times were:
The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan (in my TBR)
This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pffefer (in my TBR)
Matched by Ally Condie (in my TBR)
Z is for Zachriah by Robert O'Brien (must purchase)
and classics like 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 (have read them all, so will work on a feature)

I also got a lot of great input on what features readers want to see in August, and I am hard at work already on Dystopian August is shaping up to be twice as cool as Dystopian February!

At least one feature I will be doing requires audience participation, so let me know if you are interested in reading a dystopian book and then watching its movie adaptation and comparing the two. There are a ton of titles to choose from. Just contact me at lenoreva at hotmail dot com

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Review: My Double Life by Janette Rallison

Alexia Garcia is a doppelganger for pop sensation Kari Kingsley, so when a rival at her West Virginia high school posts a picture mocking her online, Kari’s manager calls her with a job offer: move to California and work as Kari’s double.

With MY FAIR GODMOTHER (read my review) Rallison won me over with her witty dialogue and inventive scene-building - on a fantasy stage no less. This time, Rallison lends her unique voice to a well-tread modern fairy-tale to spin a light, engaging confection with just the right amount of sweetness.

Alexia has her fair share of family drama. Her mother works long hours as a maid to afford their run-down house and their thrift-store wardrobes. She’s never revealed who Alexia’s father is, but when Alexia finds out from another source, it spurs her to accept the job offer as Kari’s double.

Once she’s in Hollywood, Alexia has to work hard to be a convincing double, studying both Kari’s life and her concert performance techniques. It’s her job to make people believe she is Kari, and she’s so successful, she even attracts the attention of rock star Grant Delray. But can Grant ever like Alexia for who she really is? Or is he only attracted to the famous “Kari” image?

Alexia is a very down-to-earth character who not only manages to stay true to herself, but also brings out the best in others. It might not be the most plausible of stories, but it’s the type of modern wish fulfillment that pop culture loving teens will savor to the last page.

MY DOUBLE LIFE hits stores next week in hardcover. Find out more about it at the author’s blog.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sorry, I'm just not that into you...(2)

The last time I did a post like this, where I talk about books I started but could not finish, was February 2009 (Sorry, I'm just not that into you...The Anatomy of Wings and The Believers). There were a lot of other books I probably should have put down last year, but I hate giving up! That said, here are two novels I really wanted to like, but had to finally admit that they just weren't for me.

First up is Laini Taylor's DREAMDARK: BLACKBRINGER. I adored her LIPS TOUCH 3 TIMES (read my review) so I put aside my distaste for fairies and fantasy and gave it a try. The writing is lovely, and thumb-sized heroine Magpie Windwitch has just the right amount of spunk, but I could not get past her "faithful clan of crows". I kind of hate it when a main character is surrounded by sidekicks who flit around and talk a lot using colorful language. These wanted to put on plays...ugh. Even though the plot was heating up and starting to get interesting, I just couldn't bring myself to read another word of the crows' dialogue and gave up at page 104.

But if you don't have my particular "sidekick group" hate, you might love it like the following reviewers did:
Jen Robinson
Charlotte's Library

Next is LOYALTY'S WEB by Joyce DiPastena. My Favorite Author loved it and convinced me I should give it a chance, even though it's not the usual type of book I read. I wanted to really love it, but I could already tell in the first few pages that this novel wasn't for me. Still, I gave it 50 pages to try and prove otherwise.

I struggled with the language (the phrase "shapely bosom" was used) and I struggled with orientation (where was I and what was going on?). There were also way too many character introductions in the first few chapters, many of them random Dukes of wherever who kept talking about a plot to overthrow the French king (I think). Because I felt like I would scratch my eyes out if I had to read another description of a minor Duke (and his stately mustache), this one will remain unfinished.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday (104) = Picture of Emmy

The return of the two-headed kitteh!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review: Linger By Maggie Stiefvater

When I finished SHIVER (read my review), I remember thinking I could be happy if the story were to end there. As a standalone, it works (with a couple of plot threads hanging, but no biggie). And then when I started hearing that at the start of LINGER, Grace feels her long-dormant wolf nature calling, I was flat out terrified – how cruel would it be to tear Sam and Grace apart now that they’ve finally found a way to be together?

Well, I put my reservations aside and gulped down this second installment in a few hours after I got it at the Bologna Children's Book Fair over a month ago. I was going to wait to review this until closer to its July 20th release date, but I’ve been hearing more and more chatter from readers with fears similar to my own and I just wanted to assure everyone that with LINGER, you are in very good hands. Maggie deepens the story and creates a new sense of urgency for the characters that will carry into the third novel FOREVER. I won’t lie and say it’s not painful, but it makes sense, and now that I’ve read it, I couldn’t see it ending any other way.

LINGER adds two new POVs – that of icy, totally human Isabel and former rock star/newly turned wolf Cole. I liked the way the POVs sometimes changed right in the middle of a scene so that we could literally “see both sides”. And I also liked the way the characters played off each other – the grudging attraction Isabel feels for self-absorbed Cole, the conflict between Sam who never wanted to be a wolf and Cole who chose to be a wolf, and the three-way truce between Isabel, Grace and Sam as they try to keep their dangerous secret.

What I didn’t like so much was the interference of Grace’s good-for-nothing parents. After their years of neglect, their sudden interest in Grace’s welfare seemed very much like an artificial author way of creating a dramatic obstacle between Grace and Sam.

In any case, I can’t wait to be wowed by FOREVER next year. I totally trust you Maggie! Find out more about the series at the author’s website.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book Review: Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson

So my friend Ann is head over heels in love with the Moomins and wants me to go with her to visit their theme park in Finland. Obviously, I needed to at least read one of the books in the series as to avoid something like the Sound of Music Tour incident (in which I paid $30 to go on a tour of the shooting locations for a movie I had not seen yet and hear 70 screaming fans shout "That's the field that she danced in!!"). Ann suggested I start with this one.

Basically, Moomin, a fantasy creature, finds out a comet is on its way to Moominvalley and he sets out on a journey to The Lonely Mountains to ask the scientists at the observatory when it's coming and what he can do about it. On the way he has a bunch of fun adventures escaping dangers such as whirlpools, hungry eagles, bushes, and crocs (apparently you merely have to throw a pair of woolly trousers to fend off a herd of crocs). Oh and he gets a crush on the Snork maiden (that's her pinning a star on Moomin on the cover).

This is really quite an absurd story told in a very matter-of-fact manner. It's silly in the best possible way - a juxtaposition of inventive situations and bizzare characters that never fails to get you giggling and shaking your head. My favorite character might have been the philosopher Muskrat who comes to live with the Moomins because their bridge-building activities destroyed his house - but maybe that's just because I love the drawing of him getting drenched in the rain.

In any case, my reading of this book is excellent timing because the series was just rereleased this past week by FSG and Square Fish! You can read a bunch of posts celebrating Moomin week over at too.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Friday Fabulous! (23) - On a Saturday...

I have a few happy odds and ends as well as some fun links to share, and Friday got away from me!

1. I was featured on Rebecca of Lost in Books fab 20 Questions feature this week. Head on over to find out my must-have reading accessory, fave authors and more.

2. Want to go to the Book Blogger Con on May 28th but can't really afford it? Well, the organizers are doing another registration fee giveaway and I added $50 to the pot for travel expenses! The organizers have also started the BBC scholarship fund in case you are so inclined to donate $$ as well so that as many bloggers as possible can make this fun, educational event.

3. Kristi of The Story Siren wanted to see my swag drawer, so I posted a pic on twitter. But since not everyone is on twitter all of the time, I will repost it here.

This is where I go when it's time to send out prize books or books for the International Book Blogger Mentor Program - everyone gets a handful of signed bookmarks and other swag. Fun!

4. A Novel Romance blog posted this link to a game which tests your knowledge of geography and it is safe to say I am an addict now! There are 12 levels, and it took me about 10 tries before I could get past level 11 to level 12. Ok, I'll admit I ended up studying a map of Russia and the South Pacific - because my knowledge of those areas is a little fuzzy. Try it out!

5. YA Highway brings us the official YASAT practice test. For anyone who reads YA, this is sure to have you giggling!

6. I've been engaged in my own personal fitness challenge to work out at least 7 hours a week and I'm still going strong after 2 weeks. Have to build up my stamina for BEA! Speaking of which, a lot of bloggers have forms you can fill out to tell them when and where you might like to meet up. I don't have a form for you, but if you want to meet up with me at some point, drop me an e-mail at lenoreva at hotmail dot com or just comment here and let me know! I'll be in town from Friday, May 21 to the Saturday a week later. My calendar is already pretty full, but I'm sure I have room for YOU. :)

What's going on in your corner of the world/blogosphere?