Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Stalker Girl by Rosemary Graham

Stalker Girl by Rosemary Graham
"Carly never meant to become a stalker. She just wanted to find out who Brian started dating after he dumped her. But a little harmless online research turns into a quick glance, and that turns into an afternoon of watching. Soon Carly is putting all of her energy into following Brian’s new girlfriend—all of the sadness she feels about her mom’s recent breakup, all of the anger she feels over being pushed aside by her dad while he prepares for his new wife’s new baby. When Carly’s stalking is discovered in the worst possible way by the worst possible person, she is forced to acknowledge her problem and the underlying issues that led to it."- summary from Amazon

I don't think I've ever read any book about a stalker, but I kinda want to read more after this one. I really enjoyed this look into stalking and really felt for Carly. The book is told in three parts: the first dealing with the beginning of the stalking, the second (and longest) deals with how she got to that point, and the third is Carly dealing with the crimes lodged against her. Showing the whole story like that was a great way of getting the reader to sympathize a bit with Carly instead of being disgusted by her actions.

I liked how she wasn't stalking her ex, but rather his new girlfriend. It was a nice twist, but one that makes sense. If you get dumped and then see your ex with a new person, you begin to wonder: what is it about him/her that you don't have (this is provided you weren't dumped because your bf/gf was gay, in which case, correct anatomy would be the problem)? what makes him/her so special? You want to know all about them, or at least a little bit to satisfy your curiosity and then you're on your way, moving on to single life and then the next relationship.

Carly, however, just can't let it go and it was interesting to read how she went about stalking the new girlfriend and the situations she found herself in. What gave Carly depth, I think, was that she knew what she was doing was wrong; she wasn't just completely out of it and unrelatable and thought she was doing the right thing. Therefore, at least for me, the third part was tough to read because I was all about Carly's side, but I'm happy with the ending that happened because it could have been much worse.

Overall, a really interesting, unique book.

FTC: Received ARC from Around the World tours. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; all profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ask Book Chic (1)

So at the end of March, I posted up a request for questions for my newly resurrected Ask Book Chic feature. I hope to do at least two a month, but it all depends on how many questions I get and all that. So if you'd like this to continue, please leave a comment on this entry with your questions or email me. I will answer pretty much anything, so it can be personal, blog-related, review-related, whatever. Can't wait to see what questions you all have!

Liz asks "I don't know if you ever posted this, but what would say your top 5 or 10 all time favorite books are?"

I probably have posted this, but if I did, it was on the Myspace blog and it's hard to find things there. Now, my critera for this is re-readability. I love A LOT of books, as you've all seen from my reviews, so if I am willing to take time out of my busy schedule to re-read something, it's an all-time favorite. Here's my meager list, lol:

1) Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot
2) Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
3) Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe
4) Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
5) In Your Room by Jordanna Fraiberg
6) Burned by Ellen Hopkins

All of them are fantastic books. If you haven't already, check them out sometime!

Rose asks "Oh I know what I wanted to ask you and I keep forgetting! Do you have a GoodReads account? I'd love to be your friend on there :). Also, who is your favorite character from a book?"

Unfortunately, I don't have a GoodReads account, but maybe I should get one? It would probably be a lot easier to keep track of books. What do you all think?

As for my favorite character, I have several. I've loved Jonathan from The Straight Road to Kylie by Nico Medina and pretty much wanted him as my boyfriend. Can anyone work on making that possible? If it could also be the guy who's on the cover of that book, that'd be great too. And I know that you can only see his backside on the cover, but it's a NICE backside. So presumably, the front is even better.

I also really liked Tiny Cooper from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. He's such a sweet guy and it sucks that he hasn't found his true love yet. He's another gay character I'd love to date, though maybe he found his perfect ending at the end of WGWG, though I don't know SINCE IT ENDED ABRUPTLY WITH NO RESOLUTION!!

Me? Bitter? At the ending? Psh, never.

Anyway, now someone who's not gay or that I want to date, Heather Wells from Meg Cabot's Heather Wells series. I love pop stars, and coupled with Meg's trademark wit, Heather is a character I'd love to hang out with, though I would not help her with her crime solving because I am a wimp. She reminds me a bit of Kirstie Alley, who's another person I'd love to spend some time with.

That's really all I can think of right now, though I love a lot of characters (especially male romantic leads, lol) and enjoy reading about their lives and spending time with them throughout the course of their story.

Melissa asks "I'll play! What's your biggest YA pet peeve? Also, do you write or just review books?"

You know, a lot of people talk about their pet peeves while reading but I don't really have any. I go with the flow whenever reading something, which perhaps causes my positive reviews of books. Nothing really peeves me in any way. Maybe plot threads being left open in a standalone book? (WGx2, I'm looking at you!) But that doesn't happen too often. I usually don't get upset or anything when I notice something like unbelievable dialogue or love at first sight or whatever; it bothers me for a few pages but then I let it go and continue with the story, if I'm engaged enough with it.

I do actually write, or at least used to when I was in college and had time to write, lol. Or, well, I was really forced to write because I was an English major and took writing classes. That forced me to write and it's something I need to start doing again. Someone needs to force me to write, lol. It's hard to juggle writing with reading, reviewing, relaxation time, work, hanging out with friends. But my ultimate goal is to become a published author so I really need to get started on that, finish the stories I've begun, and really push myself to get to that goal I want. I do have someone looking at a couple chapters of something I wrote, so I hope to hear back from them soon with some critique.

Since I do mainly review YA, my stories are in the same genre, though I have started an adult story (and I don't mean THAT kind of adult, though I have dabbled in that too, lol) that I need to rework and restart. I didn't get too far, so it's not a huge deal, but it's something I'm excited about.

Alright, so that concludes this first entry into the Ask Book Chic feature. Please leave any feedback you have in the comments, or email me what you think. Keep those questions coming in!

Also, BIG NEWS! I mentioned this on the weekend, but here it is again. I will be at Lisa McMann's event in Pittsburgh, PA tonight. You can find out all about the event here, so if you're in the area, please come out and support Lisa!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
"One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical."- summary from Amazon

I have been anticipating this book for a long time and was so excited to get an early look at it. I love David Levithan's work and while I've only read one thing from John Green (his story in Let It Snow), I love his vlogs and sense of humor, so the two of them together was like Awesomeness squared. The novel did not disappoint or, well, at least not much.

What I thought was funny was that I switched which Will Grayson I wanted to read most a little ways in. The chapters alternate between each one, and they have their own distinct style and voice. WG1 is (I think) John Green's, and WG2 is (I think) David Levithan's; the two are easily distinguished by the fact that WG2 does not use caps (not even at beginning of sentences), except for like one or two instances, and the story for him is written almost like a screenplay. I originally wanted to read WG2 most as he was gay and I'm naturally drawn to that (being a gay man myself), but he was too emo for my tastes and I was really put off by him after the first chapter so I went with WG1. But then I switched back around halfway through.

I loved the character of Tiny and kinda wish there was a book written from his perspective. He's such a larger-than-life character and is the one character that is present in both stories after the two Wills meet. The concept of them meeting is interesting and I was wanting to see how it would all play out. The story has got a lot of humor, heart, and revelations that make you think about your own life and how you live it.

I was not a big fan of the ending because it felt abrupt to me. If the acknowledgements had not been right on the next page, I would've thought they had failed to print the rest of the story since there were several blank pages after that. There were a lot of threads left undone (and one that started on the second-to-last page- WHO DOES THAT?!), but not enough for a full novel (I don't think). I feel like several characters were just left hanging and I'm left wondering what's going to happen to them. So someone please tell me there will be a sequel or something in the future.

So, after hearing some comments about my review and all that, I understand that it ends that way on purpose because life is not tied up like a bow. And I understand the reasons for doing that, however I don't have to like it. I want my bow!

Overall though, it is a very good book and a compelling read that's hard to put down. Also, the musical mentioned in the summary is FABULOUS and the lyrics to some of the songs are just hilarious. Those are worth the price alone!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Amazon link is an Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In My Mailbox- Week of April 19 + Retrospective

No vlog this week, just another picture. I got a lot of wonderful books this week and I can't wait to read them all. Check it out:

Books Shown

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
Mistwood by Leah Cypess
Stranded by J.T. Dutton
Forget You by Jennifer Echols
Insatiable by Meg Cabot
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

Also, a week or so ago, I went into Barnes and Noble and saw a hardcover of Zen and Xander Undone. Remember how in a previous IMM, I said I was on the back of the ARC and was hoping I'd be on/in the hardcover? Well, I was not, and this made me very sad. But, on the bright side, I seem to be getting one step closer to being on a final copy. I read Vibes in manuscript form and got on the press release for that, then Amy's next book Zen and Xander Undone, I'm on the ARC, so hopefully by the time her next book comes out, I'll be on the final copy in bookstores everywhere!


Anyway, here's the retrospective for this week, where I did Fresh New Voice of YA:

Monday- I reviewed The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy, which is out in stores now.

Tuesday- I posted an excerpt vlog where I read a bit from Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey.

Wednesday- I interviewed Kay Cassidy, author of The Cinderella Society, in stores now.

Thursday- I reviewed Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, which is in stores now.

Friday- I posted an excerpt vlog where I read a bit from The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

Saturday- I interviewed Karen Healey, author of Guardian of the Dead.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Interview with Karen Healey

1) How did you get the idea for Guardian of the Dead?

I was sitting in my fabulous seaside mansion, idly sculpting a unicorn from pink-veined marble, when my fairy godfather appeared in a burst of purple glitter.

"Hi, Fred," I said. "Mimosa?"

"Don't you have any beer?" he asked. Fred is opposed to orange juice, and indeed to all fruit-related substances.

"The panther drank the last of it," I explained.

"Oh, never mind," he said. "I'm here to give you an idea for a YA novel. Young woman discovers self, forges friendships, fights magical crime. Set in New Zealand; that's your sort of thing, isn't it?"

He handed the idea over. It came in a little velvet box, and was surprisingly light in my palm.

"Thank you," I said. "It's very pretty. Would you like to hang around? I could play the harp for you in a rippling waterfall of beautiful sound."

"Nah, I'm off to the rugby," he said, and vanished.

And that's how I got the idea for GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD.

2) What are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it?

My next-to-be-published book is currently titled SUMMERTON. It's a paranormal YA set in a fictional small town in New Zealand's West Coast, where everything is beautiful and perfect, and it never rains from Christmas to New Year's Day and three teenagers are investigating the real cause behind their older brothers' apparent suicides.

3) What's your favorite snack to have while writing?

Diet Coke is my dark master.

4) What was The Call like? Tell us all about it!

I had just arrived from Australia to visit my best friend in the USA, and for the purpose of the stay she had got me a tiny pink cellphone. My agent had the number, and he called me to say that Little, Brown had acquired the book, and then he very prudently held the phone away while I started screaming. Smart guy, my agent.

The best part was definitely having my friend right there to hug and jump up and down with - usually I'd have to do it via videochat!

5) You're part of the Tenners. How did you get involved with that? Has it helped you prepare for your debut?

My friend Stephanie Burgis, who has the same agent, told me about the Tenners, and I joined straight away. Having a number of other people around all going through the same thing is enormously helpful. Especially when they can reassure you that your fears and hopes are normal, not symptoms of your incredible crazy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- The Cinderella Society Excerpt Vlog

Here's the excerpt vlog for The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy:

Hope you all enjoyed it! Be sure to check out all the other posts this week and comment on them please!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
"Seventeen-year-old Ellie Spencer is just like any other teenager at her boarding school. She hangs out with her best friend Kevin, she obsesses over Mark, a cute and mysterious bad boy, and her biggest worry is her paper deadline.

But then everything changes. The news headlines are all abuzz about a local string of serial killings that all share the same morbid trademark: the victims were discovered with their eyes missing. Then a beautiful yet eerie woman enters Ellie's circle of friends and develops an unhealthy fascination with Kevin, and a crazed old man grabs Ellie in a public square and shoves a tattered Bible into her hands, exclaiming, "You need it. It will save your soul." Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies, Maori mythology, romance, betrayal, and an epic battle for immortality."- summary from Amazon

This is quite possibly one of the best debuts I've read in a while. It was original, fast-paced, humorous at times, and very compelling. I enjoyed the aspect of Maori mythology and the New Zealand setting, as this is the first book I've read that incorporates those elements. Ellie is a fun, brave heroine and I enjoyed reading all about her adventures.

One thing I really enjoyed was the friendship between Ellie and Kevin. It's not often that you see male/female friendships in YA that don't evolve into relationships. It was refreshing to see it in this story and it was just a nice, normal friendship (well, at least until the paranormal stuff started happening). And I liked the inclusion of Kevin being asexual and having to deal with that, though it'd have been nice to have him be heterosexual and still friends with Ellie. I feel like, with his being asexual, it just closed off the romance path. It would be nice to see two heterosexual opposite gender friends stay that way. Does that make sense at all? I feel like it doesn't, but maybe I'm just overthinking this.

Another plus was the whole Theatre aspect and the staging of Midsummer Night's Dream. I am a theatre fanatic so I always get way excited when some theatre stuff is happening in a book.

Overall, a fantastic debut and one that should be read by everyone. Go out and get a copy now! I can't wait to see what Karen Healey comes up with next.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Interview with Kay Cassidy

1) The Cinderella Society idea started because you saw that a high school had a sorority and went with that. Were you ever involved in a sorority, and if so, did any of your experiences go into the story? If you weren’t involved in a sorority, did you do any research to properly portray a sorority?

I was in a college sorority which was why the idea of a high school sorority intrigued me. I couldn't figure out how the college version would translate to the high school setting because so much of the experience—at least for me—was about figuring out who you wanted to become separate from your family. The Cinderella Society isn't based on my sorority or any other, but it's definitely a nod to the female empowerment aspects of Sisterhood that was my experience in college.

2) What are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it?

Right now I'm working on the sequel to The Cinderella Society, titled Cindy on a Mission. It follows the further adventures of Jess and the Sisters as the Wickeds launch an offensive that threatens everything the Cindys hold dear. Cindy on a Mission will be on shelves in Spring 2011.

3) What's your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?

Gosh, I haven't had Jelly Bellies in years! But I was always partial to the watermelon ones. Mmm.

4) What book(s) have you been reading, or are about to read?

I'm rereading Graceling right now which is a really big deal for me. I almost never reread books, even the ones on my keeper shelf. (Which begs the question, "Then why do you keep them, Kay?" This is because seeing them makes me happy. It just does.) :-) After that, I'm going to read Fire which I keep putting off because the length seems daunting to me. But I want to revisit the world Kristin so vividly created.

5) What was The Call like? Tell us all about it!!

For me, The Call came the day after an editor I had always hoped to work with passed on the book. She had been championing The Cinderella Society for two months in-house but it was finally passed over during acquisitions. I was so disappointed and, since that left only two houses who had it, I was certain it was never going to sell. If she couldn't buy it after trying for two months, what were the odds anyone would be able to? The very next morning, I got The Call from one of the two remaining houses. Three days later, the last remaining house offered as well. It was completely mind-boggling to me (in the most wonderful way)! :-)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Guardian of the Dead Excerpt Vlog

Hey! I completely forgot to upload this! It's on Youtube now and hopefully my friend Susan will be sending me the embed link so that I can put it up here. If you can't wait, go to my Youtube page: http://www.youtube.com/user/boothy0304 and watch it there.

ETA: Susan has sent me the embedding code. Woo!!

Hope you enjoy it! Also, be sure to go check out my review of The Cinderella Society that I posted yesterday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

"Sixteen-year-old Jess Parker survives by staying invisible. After nine schools in ten years, she's come to terms with life as a perpetual new girl, neither popular nor outcast. At Mt. Sterling High, Jess gets the chance of a lifetime: an invitation to join The Cinderella Society, a secret club of the most popular girls in school, where makeovers are the first order of official business. But there's more to being a Cindy than just reinventing yourself from the outside, a concept lost on Jess as she dives tiara-first into creating a hot new look.

With a date with her popular crush and a chance to finally fit in, Jess's life seems to be a perfect fairy tale. That is until the Wickeds--led by Jess's archenemy--begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers her new sisterhood is about much more than who rules Mt. Sterling High School. It's a centuries-old battle of good vs. evil, and the Cindys need Jess on special assignment. But when the mission threatens to destroy her new dream life, Jess is forced to choose between this dream realized and honoring the Sisterhood. What's a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn't want to wear it anymore?"

Cassidy's debut is amazing; though it's a lengthy book (around 300 pages), it just zips on by. Everything works in this book- the pacing, the characters, the plot, the writing style. It's a fabulous book that takes the good vs. evil battle from the sci-fi/fantasy world and puts it in a regular setting. The battle is just as intense and huge, but it doesn't involve angels or demons or an evil warlord. Regular humans (with some fun gadgets and technological advances) are at the center of this and neither side is completely that way. These characters all have plusses and minuses, which makes the book more realistic than it could have been. The romance is very sweet but also very real; what happens between Jess and Ryan is not your typical YA romance and, for me, that makes the ending that much more satisfying. What I loved about this book was how much enthusiasm sprang out of it; my spirits were instantly lifted just from opening and reading this book (though obviously not when something bad happened), especially during scenes between Ryan and Jess where you could tell just how enamored they were with each other.

This is also an uplifting book; aside from the aforementioned enthusiasm emanating from the book and its prose, it's very girl power-oriented and will be great for girls (or anyone really) to relate to and grow from after reading it. Jess is a wonderful character- she makes some mistakes, but ultimately she knows what she needs to do to help out the underdogs and is such a caring person. I'm excited to see where this series goes next, though I'm sad that I have to wait another year for the sequel to be out!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

In My Mailbox- Week of April 12 + Retrospective

So no vlog this week, just a picture. But this week, you'll have two vlogs from me where I read from Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey and The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy for my Fresh New Voice of YA week. Anyway, here's my picture:

Books Shown:

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins
I So Don't Do Makeup by Barrie Summy
The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood
Thief Eyes by Janni Lee Simner
Kiss in the Dark by Lauren Henderson
Gimme A Call by Sarah Mlynowski
The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen
Stalker Girl by Rosemary Graham (not pictured)

The last two were for Around the World Tours; Stalker Girl was sent out earlier today, which is why it's not pictured. I also got Shadowed Summer swag from Saundra Mitchell, like bookmarks and stickers as well as a letter. It was a wonderful surprise and I was so excited to get it.

Here's my retrospective. Please comment on these entries:

Monday- I reviewed Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw as part of Around the World Tours.

Wednesday- I interviewed Ally Carter, author of the Gallagher Girls series and Heist Society.

Friday- I reviewed Flirting with Disaster by Rhonda Stapleton, the second in the Cupid trilogy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Flirting with Disaster by Rhonda Stapleton

Flirting with Disaster by Rhonda Stapleton
"Felicity is a total romantic. That's why she follows her heart—not the rules—in her job as a cupid. But when Felicity turns her matchmaking magic on her best friend, Andy, it's Andy who breaks their golden rule: friends always come first. Andy is so wrapped up in her new guy that she's ditching everyone else. How can Felicity stop her BFF from letting a BF come between them?

Meanwhile, Felicity decides to get over her crush on Derek by setting him up with someone else—but in her impulsive haste, she accidentally matches him with the whole school, and now everyone is in love with him. The entire student body is headed toward heartbreak, just weeks before prom. Does Felicity have what it takes to make everyone's heart happy?including her own?"

In this sequel to Stupid Cupid, we get more misadventures from Felicity, a newly christened Cupid. I really enjoyed this novel and thought it was a fun, quick and easy read. Stapleton writes with hilarity, which propelled me along as a reader. Wondering how Felicity would get out of her current fiascos also helped as well. I thought it was a very funny idea to have everyone fall in love with her crush Derek, and it was interesting how it actually brought the two of them together. I thought that was a nice little twist. Aside from that, I'm not sure what else to say about this novel. It's a nice break from all the serious or action-packed novels I've been reading and perfect for the upcoming summer (or even for reading during this spring). I can't wait for the final book, Pucker Up, out in May!

FTC: Received paperback from publisher. Amazon link is an Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Author Interview- Ally Carter

1) Your two series feature espionage of some kind. What kind of research do you do to make the books as authentic as possible? Are you really a spy or thief posing as a writer so as to innocent and unnoticed?

I do a small bit of research—basically, just trying to understand the real-world aspects of these incredibly unusual professions. For Heist Society, I focused my research not just on high-stakes heists and the world of international art crime, but also on art history. I knew very little about the old masters going in, and I wanted to make sure I had the right artists in the right eras—things like that. I wish I could say that I know all this because I’m really living a fabulous double-life, but unfortunately, my fantasy life just has to suffice.

2) The fourth Gallagher Girls book is coming out early this summer. Is there anything you can tell us about it? How many more books do you plan on writing about Cammie and her spy friends?

Almost from the beginning I’ve seen the Gallagher Girls as a six book series—that would take Cammie and her friends through their last semester at the Gallagher Academy and that seems like a fitting place to say goodbye. There’s not really much I can say about ONLY THE GOOD SPY YOUNG without spoiling something, so I’ll just say that this book sees much higher stakes than we’ve ever seen before. More drama. More heartache. More. Just in general…more.

3) The first book of your new series, Heist Society, recently came out. How do you feel about it being out in the world after spending so much time with it and talking about it for a while? Do you have an estimate of how long this series will be?

It’s always exciting—and terrifying—having a new book come out. When it’s the start of a whole new series you can multiply the nerves by about ten. But more than anything I’m just excited to finally be able to talk about Heist Society with people who have read it. You spend months or even years trying to guess people’s reactions and finally being able to see those reactions is a blessing. Unlike the Gallagher Girls, I don’t have a finite ending point in mind for the Heist books. Maybe I’ll stop at one or two. Or maybe we’ll still be talking about them in 20 years. Right now, I’m open to just about anything.

4) For the third GG book and Heist Society, you've gone on a national book tour. What's it like to go on tour, and what are your favorite parts of being on tour?

There’s an old joke that goes “The only person who complains more than an author on tour is an author not on tour” and that sums it up pretty nicely. Touring is fun, exciting, frantic, and awesome. It’s also terrifying, exhausting, lonely, and expensive. The best parts are always the fans—meeting them, talking to them, answering their questions. But in between those parts there are a lot of long days, early mornings, and airport security lines. I love it, don’t get me wrong. But I’m also usually very ready to come home once it’s over.

5) A follow-up to the tour question. I'm sure you've got quite a lot of wonderful memories of being on tour, but is there any one moment that sticks out to you more than the others?

Tour is always full of highs and lows. One of the highs that leaps to mind (maybe because it’s the most recent) was my stop at the Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston last February. It’s an adorable and cozy little store, but the night of my signing for some reason it was packed. I’ll never forget the owner turning to me and saying “let’s hope the fire marshal doesn’t show up”. The fire marshal—I was having an event where they were worried about the fire marshall. That was a surreal—and wonderful—moment.

6) I know you went to Ireland to be part of Team Castle last summer with a bunch of other YA writers. What was that experience like? How did you get involved with it?

It was a wonderful experience that came about after Sarah Rees Brennan, Jennifer Lynn Barnes and I got acquainted at a conference. Sarah is from Ireland and told me “you should come to Ireland—we’ll rent a castle.” I, of course, thought she was joking. Turns out…she wasn’t. Castle rental is really quite affordable, she told me, and that night I started looking up properties, astounded how cheap they really were. After that, Jen and Sarah both mentioned it to people who mentioned it to people and before you know it we were there!

7) You worked for several years in the agricultural business. What was that like? What did you do?

I was sort of a consultant for farmers and ranchers, helping them with the business aspects of farming and ranching. It was very rewarding work.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw

Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw
"'Evangeline,' he repeated, calling at a whisper. “Evangeline.” He was not calling that she may hear, he was calling that somehow her soul might know that he was devoted entirely to her, only to her. “Evangeline, I will find you.”

Eva and Gabe explore the golden forest of their seaside Maine town, unknowingly tracing the footsteps of two teens, Evangeline and Gabriel, who once lived in the idyllic wooded village of Acadia more than one hundred years ago. On the day that Evangeline and Gabriel were be wed, their village was attacked and the two were separated. And now in the present, Gabe has mysteriously disappeared from Eva.

A dreamlike, loose retelling of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous love poem “Evangeline,” Anxious Hearts tells an epic tale of unrequited love and the hope that true love can be reunited."- summary from Amazon

This was just an ok book- a case of amazing, beautiful cover tries to make up for an average story. There were some good things and some bad things about this book. What I did like about it was the atmospheric feel of the story. The writing was really good and did pull me in, causing me to go through the book quickly.

What I didn't like was the dual narrators. Normally, I do like multiple narrators but it got confusing due to the different times- Eva in the present and Gabriel in the 1800s. The chapters are short, which I do usually like, but unfortunately, it made it hard to really connect with the characters and get too involved in the story. It jarred me a bit too often.

The romance in the book was very interesting and sweet, though at least with the 1800s events, it was difficult to really understand the love Evangeline and Gabriel had for each other since we hardly saw them together and they didn't have much back story. It was hard to sympathize with their plight. I definitely preferred the modern romance between Eva and Gabe because there was much more to go on.

Overall, my grade (which I don't usually do) would probably be a C+, maybe more of a library book. If you liked this book, I'd also suggest Reincarnation by Suzanne Weyn because I was reminded so much of it while reading this book.

FTC: Received book as part of Around the World tours. Amazon link is an Associate one; all profits go toward funding contests.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In My Mailbox- Week of April 5 + Retrospective

No vlog this week, sorry. I got quite a few books but really only care about a couple, so I'll be showing those off rather than all books received. Here we go:

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
While other teenage girls daydream about boys, Calla Tor imagines ripping out her enemies’ throats. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Calla was born a warrior and on her eighteenth-birthday she’ll become the alpha female of the next generation of Guardian wolves. But Calla’s predestined path veers off course the moment she saves the life of a wayward hiker, a boy her own age. This human boy’s secret will turn the young pack's world upside down and forever alter the outcome of the centuries-old Witches' War that surrounds them all.

The Love Shack by Lila Castle
Pete and Annabelle live for their summers together on Gingerbread Beach. They've always believed they were a perfect pair… until junior year, when Annabelle becomes obsessed with astrology. Now they can hardly stand each other. Pete thinks that Annabelle (a Leo) has become a total flake; Annabelle thinks Pete (a Scorpio) has become an uptight jerk.

When Annabelle dares Pete to open a summer business on the Boardwalk generating personalized horoscopes, their fast-paced, hilarious bickering soon rises to a fever pitch. The he-said/she-said advice of the Star Shack is wildly popular and seems able to fix any relationship problem… except their own.

But when one of Annabelle's star charts helps catch a thief, Pete might have to admit that the stars could really hold the key to the future… and to his own heart.

-- Got this from Lila herself (signed and everything) and it was the FIRST thing (aside from a bill- sigh) I got at my new townhouse! How exciting is that?!

I think that's about it for the exciting books this week. I should hopefully be getting some awesome stuff next week too at my new place. :) Which reminds me that I never told everyone about this. I have moved to a new place- this really wonderful townhouse- with my roommate/best friend; it happened earlier this month and it's awesome. Once I get everything unpacked and all, pictures will be taken and I'll put them up on the blog. Or maybe do a video tour sometime? So don't be alarmed when you see a completely new place in my vlogs, lol.

Anyway, retrospective time!:

Monday- I reviewed Swoon at Your Own Risk by Sydney Salter.

Wednesday- I wrote up my recap of the VA Festival of the Book with pictures!

Friday- I interviewed the lovely and awesome Justina Chen Headley, author of Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies), Girl Overboard, and North of Beautiful.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Author Interview- Justina Chen Headley

1) Your books feature heroines who spend a lot of time being looked at and judged for how they look or what they have. Is there any particular reason you write that kind of conflict into your books?

Having people make snap judgments about us has got to be a universal experience: how we look, what we have, where we live, who we hang out with, what we wear. The horrific part is accepting that we all do this unintentionally!! Growing up, I was one of a handful of Asian-Americans in my neighborhood and my high school. So feeling different—looking different—certainly has played a part in why I wrote what I have. And the response that I’ve been getting for all my books has proven to me that others share this experience.

2) Your first three books were all contemporary realistic books. I hear you're working on a fantasy book. Is there anything you can tell us about it?

I’ve been so enraptured in my new contemporary realistic manuscript that I’ve put my fantasy trilogy on hold for a bit. Even so, the character from my fantasy novels keeps calling to me, spinning out her story. It’s a fairy tale…

3) In North of Beautiful, Terra has a port-wine stain on her cheek and acquires an interest in geocaching. How much research did you have to do on those? Have you gone geocaching yourself?

I do an intense amount of research for all of my novels, and North of Beautiful is no different! My research into portwine stains led me to a wonderful dermatologist who used a laser on the back of my hand so that I could feel what Terra does—from entering the office to lying down on the table to enduring the laser blast. And you have to know, I am hooked on geocaching—treasure hunting via a GPS—a very pleasant aftereffect of writing North of Beautiful. Geocaching appeals to me on so many different levels: it’s geeky, it’s treasure-hunting, it’s exploration of unexpected places I’d never discover on my own.

4) You're one of the readergirlz divas. Tell us a little bit about readergirlz (though everyone should know about you by now!) as well as what you all have planned for this year.

Readergirlz is the world’s leading online book community for teen girls—run completely by volunteers! The divas are all YA authors—Lorie Ann Grover, Dia Calhoun, Holly Cupala, Melissa Walker, Liz Gallagher, Elizabeth Scott, and myself. On one hand, we are a literacy group and have been recognized for our different programs that encourage teens to read. But we are also about building exceptional girls! Getting teens to gain their own power through reading books that feature strong girls.

On April 15, we kick off our third annual Operation Teen Book Drop.

5) What book(s) have you been reading lately, or are about to start?

I’ve been immersed in research, this time reading all about the Southwest. I have a couple of cookbooks that I’ve picked up and need to start using, just to infuse myself in the flavors of that region.

As for pleasure reading, I just finished Megan Whalen Turner’s new A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, which—as expected—is masterful. I am already yearning for the next book and am putting in an official request to see more of Gen. Must have more Eugenides, please! I also devoured Matthew Quick’s forthcoming SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR, which people will love, love, love.

6) You've been on tour for your books. What's it like to go on tour and what are your favorite parts of being on tour?

Book tours are wonderful—adrenaline filled days and nights meeting readers, librarians, booksellers. You can’t imagine what it’s like to meet people who have connected with your words, your stories! I’ve been in a parade on Main Street, conducted this crazy satellite TV / radio tour starting at 3:30 in the morning (!), and signed books in a shopping mall…

7) A follow-up to the tour question. I'm sure you've got quite a lot of wonderful memories of being on tour, but is there any one moment that sticks out to you more than the others?

How can I ever forget—or appropriately thank—the librarians at TLA, those who hosted a special dinner for the participating authors and those who came to a dinner that my publisher hosted for Sarah Ockler, Malinda Lo, and myself. Those librarians made me feel so cherished when I was experiencing a really hard patch in my personal life. Plus, who could not fall in love with their enthusiasm for words and stories?

And then, the Chicago Public Library will always have a special place in my heart. The YA librarians rallied behind me with my first book and I believe that they are the ones who really launched my career. They sent me all over the city—particularly the inner city… And this experience is really why readergirlz exists: to answer the needs of teens who need the solace of story the most.

8) You lived in Sydney, Australia as well as Japan (or was it China? or neither?) for a bit. What prompted those moves? What were the best and worst parts of each place?

Both my moves to Sydney and Shanghai exposed me to deeper insights about myself and a much broader perspective about the world. The hardest part of living in a foreign country for a short amount of time (Sydney for a year, Shanghai for a few months) was, frankly, feeling so new. It takes time to find your way around, to make a community for yourself, to figure out your favorite haunts…to find the best bookstores and libraries! J I love traveling and I love meeting new people, trying new food, experiencing new cultures. Who knows where I’ll live next. Maybe Siena. Or Paris. Or Big Sky.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Justina!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Picture Post- VA Festival of the Book

Here is my recap with pictures of my trip to Charlottesville for the VA Festival of the Book on March 20. It started off with an amazing hot breakfast of hotcakes and sausage at McDonald's, which I haven't had in YEARS. After that, I actually made it to a book signing early (how can that be?!) which was good because they had bracelets to give out which contained a number on it so that the signing was organized and all that. I was meeting Susan of Waste Paper Prose there but she was still on the road, so I just stood around and read a bit of She's So Dead To Us by Kieran Scott, waiting for Susan and also for Kim Harrison, the author we were seeing.

I had my copy of Once Dead, Twice Shy that I had just finished reading like the day before, and I waited in line to get it signed. Susan showed up and I told my idea about picture taking; I asked if she would mind taking a picture of me and Kim with my camera, and I would take a picture of her and Kim with her camera since we were far apart, number-wise. It all worked out very well and I managed not to break Susan's huge paparazzi camera (which she has used to capture Maggie Stiefvater in embarrassing moments).

After the signing, Susan and I chatted a bit before heading off in search of the Omni Hotel. She had a GPS and I just followed her; we went around in circles a bit, but managed to find a parking lot somewhat near where we needed to be. We had to pay for parking, and I found out that I'm stupid and can't read instructions, no matter how simple they are. After a few minutes, we got everything straightened out and Susan and I wandered off to find the Omni Hotel, wherein we promptly got lost. Eventually, Susan asked an employee in a nearby shop about it and they pointed us in the right direction. Then, once we got to the hotel, we had trouble finding the room that the panel was in that Susan wanted to go to. Luckily, it was the same one that held the other two events in the afternoon that we wanted to go to. Toward the end of the panel (which was called Pub Day: Getting Published- Picture Books to Young Adults), we saw Amy Brecount White leave. Now, we were supposed to be meeting Amy before the panel, which didn't happen as we were 15 minutes late. So we got up and went in search of her. During this time, I learned that Amy's text messages are very vague and never reveal any pertinent information whatsoever.

While in search of Amy, we bumped into another author, Jennifer Hubbard, who was coming off the elevator. We walked her to lunch, then went in search of sustenance for ourselves. We tried doing something local called The Nook, but the wait was half an hour and we did not have time for that. So we ended up at a fast food chain, Five Guys, where we enjoyed burgers and I showed off the shiny Will Grayson Will Grayson cover and we chatted about authors and books and blogs and everything literary. It was quite awesome.

We were late to the 2pm panel, which was called Pub Day: Land Ho! Creating New Worlds in Any Genre, which featured P.J. Hoover and Barrie Summy along with 3 other awesome authors. Midway through the panel, Amy joined us as well and we chatted a bit after the panel was over. Amy is so sweet, funny and just all around awesome. We then all split up to do our own things before the 4pm panel. I went to go talk to Barrie and P.J. and they were easy to find, both sitting next to each other at a table. Let me tell you something, those two are absolutely hilarious together. Even though they live far apart, it seems like they're really comfortable with each other and like they see each other all the time. I didn't say too much because they were cracking me up every second. They both signed my books of theirs and we got pictures and everything.

Susan came and found me right at the exact moment that I was telling them about what "we" had been doing all day. I had failed to mention how the other half of "we" was before starting the story; I also failed to properly introduce everybody to each other. But that's ok because after Susan introduced herself, Barrie had a fangirl moment (she even squealed, which I know she'll deny but there were witnesses!) over Susan and her blog (which is very awesome and I suggest you all check it out after this recap). The two of them hugged and we all chatted some more until about 4pm when we went to the panel called Pub Day!: Hot Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction, which featured readings from Amy Brecount White, Jennifer Hubbard, David MacInnis Gill, and Paula Chase as well as a QnA afterwards. It was an interesting panel.

After that, I got Amy and Jennifer to sign my copies of their books, and we all took a picture together with my camera. We all chatted for a bit, but things were starting to wind down and things were getting packed up, people were leaving, etc. It was a wonderful day and I'm so excited I got to do it and also meet and hang out with some great bloggers and friends.

By the way, at some point during the day, we ran into Susan's friends Melissa and Andrea, who are also bloggers and who I now follow. You should all do the same as well. :D

Picture comments:
1) Me with Kim Harrison. I really should have taken off my coat.
2) Me with P.J. Hoover.
3) Me with Barrie Summy. Note the book switch that happens between Pics 2 and 3.
4) Me (front, middle) with (left to right) Jennifer Hubbard, Susan of Waste Paper Prose, David MacInnis Gill, and Amy Brecount White.

Also, P.J. shot video of me explaining the "Book Chic" name. She has posted it on Facebook and her blog. Click here to watch me and learn all about P.J.'s spring break.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Swoon at Your Own Risk by Sydney Salter

Swoon at Your Own Risk by Sydney Salter
"You’d think Polly Martin would have all the answers when it comes to love—after all, her grandmother is the famous syndicated advice columnist Miss Swoon. But after a junior year full of dating disasters, Polly has sworn off boys. This summer, she’s going to focus on herself for once. So Polly is happy when she finds out Grandma is moving in—think of all the great advice she’ll get.

But Miss Swoon turns out to be a man-crazy sexagenarian! How can Polly stop herself from falling for Xander Cooper, the suddenly-hot skateboarder who keeps showing up while she’s working at Wild Waves water park, when Grandma is picking up guys at the bookstore and flirting with the dishwasher repairman?

No advice column can prepare Polly for what happens when she goes on a group camping trip with three too many ex-boyfriends and the tempting Xander. Polly is forced to face her feelings and figure out if she can be in love—and still be herself."- summary from Amazon

Salter is back from the MG world with a light, summery YA read that should get anyone in the mood for pools and fun in the sun. I loved her debut, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters, and enjoyed the balance of humor and seriousness. She does the same here, but the story (for me at least) was more complex and provided more depth for many of the characters. Salter's wonderful wit is still present, peppering each page with lots of laughs. Polly is a great, relatable character and one that has visible flaws, which some characters seem more than eager to point out to her. I loved the inclusion of the advice columns and snippets from Xander's journal at the end of each chapter- they provided some humor and, in the case of Xander's snippets, insights into his character. Overall, a really wonderful read and one I would definitely recommend.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong

The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
"The nail-biting climax to Kelley Armstrong's bestselling YA series. Chloe Saunders is fifteen and would love to be normal. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen. First of all, she happens to be a genetically engineered necromancer who can raise the dead without even trying. She and her equally gifted (or should that be 'cursed'?) friends are on the run from the evil corporation who created them. To top it all, Chloe is struggling with her feelings for Simon, a sweet-tempered sorcerer, and his brother Derek, a not so sweet-tempered werewolf. And she has a horrible feeling she's leaning towards the werewolf. Definitely not normal..."- summary from Kelley Armstrong's forum

So, if you read my preview post from a few weeks back, you'll know that I thought The Reckoning started out kinda slow. It took some time to get into the book and back in the storyline and even then, I was fine waiting two weeks to finish it whereas with the previous two, I found it hard to put the books down. The majority of the book seems to be all set-up for the final climax, which is one hell of a doozy. It's an action-packed scene and it had me re-reading sentences and paragraphs to make sure I was understanding everything that was going on.

The love triangle is resolved in this book and I was happy with it, but then again, I never really had a preference. Well, ok, I may have had one for myself, but I never had one picked for Chloe. Lots of other things are resolved in this book, but there's some new threads left open for the possibility of more books, though I do think the overall arc for the trilogy has been closed and so I've been satisfied as a reader. I'm not opposed to more though; I'd love to revisit these characters and read more of their adventures and hopefully there will come a time when they won't have to be so paranoid.

FTC: ARC received from publisher. Amazon link is an Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.