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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ask Book Chic (5)

Travis asks "Is there a certain genre that you don't particularly like?

What book has been the biggest surprise for you (i.e. one that didn't sound like something you'd enjoy, but you ended up loving)?"

1) I'm pretty open to everything and will read all different genres. If it's YA and sounds interesting, I'll probably read and enjoy it.

2) There was a book that I wasn't expecting to like as much as I did, but I can't remember it right now. I know that I put off reading Sarah Dessen for a while because all I'd heard of her was that she wrote sad books. At the time, I was all about the comedy and happy books. But finally, I was persuaded to read one of her books, so I picked up Just Listen, breezed through it and absolutely loved it. Now I'm a huge Sarah Dessen fan.

Mariah asks "What is your favorite part about blogging?"

I won't lie, getting the ARCs is a HUGE perk and one that I'm grateful for. But honestly, it's mainly the community that keeps me happy. I love all the friends I've made online, whether they be a fellow blogger, an author, or a reader of my blog. I love sharing my thoughts on various books and getting comments that extend the discussion and also get my readers thinking more about whatever book I'm reviewing. It makes me happy to see comments where someone says "Your review has made me put the book on hold at the library/move it up on my TBR pile/go buy it." It's an amazing feeling and I so hope it never fades.

Another aspect of that includes meeting up with others for book events. Like Susan wrote last week for my blogoversary, being in central VA does not lend itself to too many book bloggers nearby. But through her, I've found a few more (Meaghan and Monica- looking at you!) and it's so much fun to hang out with them at events like BEA and ALA and just regular book signings.

Rebecca asks "What would you like to see more of in YA fiction? What trend are you sick of and you wish it would go away?"

I'd love to see more mainstream GLBT fiction. I go to Lee Wind's blog every so often and notice that a lot of books mentioned there are from smaller presses or even self-pubbed. It's heartening to see GLBT characters more and more in YA books as supporting characters, but I want to see them take the spotlight more. Maybe I'm just not looking as hard or something but it seems like GLBT main characters are fading away. Gay YA authors like Brent Hartinger, Alex Sanchez, and David Levithan haven't published much in the way of GLBT literature in the past few years (aside from Levithan's collaboration with John Green on Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which was amazing and I was happy to see it made the NYTimes Bestsellers list, apparently a first for a gay YA book). I was happy to see in the Little, Brown YA bag a book called I Am J by Cris Beam, which features a transgender protagonist and looks really interesting.

I recently started on my own gay YA story (what I dub my "Funny Gay Paranormal") and am loving writing it. My goal, of course, is to get it published, but I also hope to write gay romances published by a mainstream publisher. I'd love to write Simon Pulse Rom-Coms; recently, they published the first African American rom-com in that series of books, and I'd love to be the author of the first gay rom-com for them. But I'd be happy anywhere. What I just want to do is give hope to GLBT teens that they can find love just like everyone else. It's hard to realize that with little representation.

OK, I think I've rambled enough. I didn't think it would be this huge, lol. As for the second question, I honestly don't mind any trends going on, so I'm not like "WHY WON'T VAMPIRES GO AWAY?!" or whatever. I read such a variety of books that it doesn't seem like that many books following a particular trend.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
"It’s Jessie’s sophomore year of high school. A self-professed “mathelete,” she isn’t sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks and one of them is going after her longtime crush. Her beloved older brother will soon leave for college (and in the meantime has shaved his mohawk and started dating . . . the prom princess!) . . .

Things are changing fast. Jessie needs new friends. And her quest is a hilarious tour through high-school clique-dom, with a surprising stop along the way—the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, who out-nerd everyone. Will hanging out with them make her a nerd, too? And could she really be crushing on a guy with too-short pants and too-white gym shoes?

If you go into the wild nerd yonder, can you ever come back?"- summary from Amazon

This was the PERFECT novel to take me out of the paranormal/serious book roll I'd been on. It was hilarious, realistic, and had a wonderful protagonist that was dealing with regular teen issues. Figuring out where you fit in at your school as well as the social hierarchy is a huge part of the teenage life, and realizing that labels aren't all they're cracked up to be is something that can be hard to do.

The laughs happened on every page, and dialogue is certainly not a problem for Halpern. Interactions between the characters felt real and never forced, helping to breeze the reader through the novel. The main romance is a part of that; we see the relationship develop through dialogue and their interactions with each other, either 1-on-1 or in a group. It's never rushed and just completely works because you can see the attraction between them and it's not just based on looks. It's very sweet.

I also enjoyed Halpern's inclusion of Jessie's audiobooks, being as they were usually YA books, such as Life As We Knew It, where Jessie and I have the exact same thoughts. That book made me SO HUNGRY and since we both listened to it on audio, I think that's where it came from; you get so involved in the storyline that you step into the character's shoes and become ecstatic at any food that's put in front of you. Unfortunately, since it's just an audio book and you're not ACTUALLY the character (which is a very good thing), you aren't eating any of the food mentioned and so it just makes you hungry. Another book that has a mention is the first Georgia Nicolson book by Louise Rennison, which is awesome.

While reading the novel, it almost felt like a stream-of-consciousness story. Jessie tends to hilariously ramble about things and it just feels like a friend telling you a story. It's very comfortable and makes the story easy to slip into.

But aside from the humor of the story, there's a fantastic look at the perceptions we have of others and being able to admit that we may have been initially wrong about those people. There's a definite change in Jessie over the course of the novel, and watching her slowly become comfortable with who she is and standing up to her bitchy best friend made me root for her so much.

So I've essentially written a dissertation on this novel. Long story short (too late), this is a fantastically written novel and one that should be checked out for those wanting a break from all the paranormal novels out there.

However be warned: You may never look at a Krispy Kreme donut the same again. Unless you're like me and have a bad memory and will just end up happily eating one next week.

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

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Line by Teri Hall

The Line by Teri Hall
"An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It’s said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel’s dad died in the last war. It’s a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?"- summary from Amazon

It took me a little while to get into this book. The beginning, with the world building, was a bit too infodump-y for me and I started to get bored. But the book did eventually pick up and it got more suspenseful, and I loved when a new secret was revealed.

Rachel is a wonderful character that is strong, but has doubts and reservations about what she's doing, and the character is written really well. When the ending comes, she knows what she has to do and realizes what it will entail. She's led a sheltered life and is now having to branch out on her own. It's a great scene at the end as she has to shed her kid self who's codependent toward her mother and step into her adult life and into the unknown.

So despite the shaky start, this is a really good novel that brings up a lot of issues, which dystopian novels tend to do, of the way our world could be going. I'm excited for the sequel which will be out next year.

FTC: Received book from Around the World Tours. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In My Mailbox- Week of June 21 + Retrospective

So I'm in DC for ALA so no vlog this week. Here's what I got in the mail this past week:

Ghost Huntress: The Reason by Marley Gibson
What's Your Status by Katie Finn
The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur (repeat ARC)
Girl Parts by John Cusick(Around the World tours)
Knight Angels: Book of Love by Abra Ebner(Around the World tours- rec'd from Monica at ALA)
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (too lazy to link- it's not one I wanted anyway).

And here's this week's retrospective, when I celebrated my three-year blogoversary. All the contests are still going on, and will be doing so until June 30th at 11:59pm, so get your comments in by then! I'm giving away something on each post, so check them all out.

Monday- I interviewed Daphne Grab, author of Alive and Well in Prague, New York and The Star Shack (as Lila Castle) (Contest- The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff)

Lisa Schroeder, author of three YA verse novels and a MG prose novel, wrote a wonderful guest post about my first review for her. (Contest- Virals by Kathy Reichs)

Tuesday- Courtney Summers, author of Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are, answered a few questions for me. (Contest- signed copy of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver)

Suzanne Young, author of The Naughty List trilogy, wrote a very sweet guest blog about how I first contacted her. (Contest- signed set of the first two Naughty List books)

Wednesday- Cyn Balog, author of Fairy Tale and Sleepless, answered some questions for me. (Contest- Siren by Tricia Rayburn)

Susan of Wastepaper Prose wrote a guest post about our first meeting and how I saved her BEA trip. (Contest- Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin)

Thursday- I interviewed Lisa Mantchev, author of Eyes Like Stars and Perchance to Dream (Contest- A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner)

Amy Brecount White, author of Forget-Her-Nots, wrote a sweet guest blog about our various online and in-person encounters. (Contest- signed copy of Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White)

Friday- Jordanna Fraiberg, author of In Your Room, took the time to answer some questions for me. (Contest- Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart)

Fellow blogger Kristi from The Story Siren wrote an amazingly sweet guest post for me. (Contest- signed copy of Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

BEA Recap- Wednesday, May 26

Here's my recap of the first day of BEA. Hope you all enjoy it- it's a long one!

Susan and I went to Javits on the shuttle and met up with Maria V Snyder on the bus, and once there, immediately started wandering around at booths and grabbed some glorious ARCs. Susan went to Beth Fantaskey's signing and so I stood around and chatted with Meaghan until Susan came back.

Meaghan and I had the best time together standing next to some random chair in the middle of the autographing area. Diana Peterfreund and Jennifer Lynn Barnes came up and said hello; it was really funny because I didn't recognize Diana right away so while we were hugging, I was like "Who is this strange woman hugging me?" but then it dawned on me. Apparently, I was not the only one doing this because Diana had grown out her hair and became virtually unrecognizable. We talked for a few minutes, then they went off to do whatever it is they needed to do. A little while later, Susan came back to us after getting her signed book.

We then wandered around to other booths and grabbed ARCs. We stopped by James Dashner's booth to get signed copies of The Scorch Trials sampler where there was surprisingly no people around. I'd have thought the place would be mobbed. He accidentally called me Book Chick, but recovered a second later, and yelled (in a joking manner) at his publicist to keep him from making a fool of himself. He's a very funny guy and I'm glad we stopped by.

After that, we wandered around and stopped by the Egmont booth and there was a guy dressed up as a superhero there signing his books, but upon closer inspection (i.e. me being right next to him asking an Egmont rep for a Dangerous Neighbors ARC and him telling me who he was), it turned out to be none other than Nico Medina, fabulous author of Straight Road to Kylie and Fat Hoochie Prom Queen. He and I chatted for a quick few minutes and he signed an ARC for me.

We met Bree Despain there and she walked over with us to get into the Matched ARC line; Matched is very sparkly and I am SO HAPPY I have it! After that, I had to go off to the Crossing Over panel which had Melissa Marr, Stephanie Kuehnert, and Michele Jaffe (as well as two other authors whose names I can't remember). I listened to the last 20 minutes or so of their panel, then went up to introduce myself to Michele and wound up being introduced to her agent and new editor. Then Michele and I followed her editor to the Penguin booth where we almost met the head of Penguin (I'm pretty sure that's who it was; it was someone VERY important), but he was not around. Michele also made sure to harass her editor into sending me an ARC of Rosebush, which I did get shortly after BEA, which is awesome!

So Michele and I broke off and walked over to the Harlequin booth, where she waited in line with me so I could get a copy of Rachel Vincent's My Soul to Keep. While waiting in the LONG line, we chatted with this girl named Allison, who was very funny and awesome, and runs a blog but I can't remember her blog name now!! I think Michele got a business card from her, so I'll have to ask her. I want to follow this Allison's blog if I'm not already. Although I think she reads my blog because she remembers my awesome header, so Allison, if you're out there (btw, I really hope that's her name... I'm doubting myself left and right!), leave a comment!

I also got a photo with Michele, which was great. After that, Michele left to continue doing some edits on her new novel and I went off to find Susan and Meaghan (Bookworm's Haven), who I eventually found. We rested our feet and I moved books from the big tote to my backpack. I also bought a bottle of apple juice, which cost $4. I must say that I am glad to not be in New York anymore, as it is the place of price gauging. Then we went right back in for our afternoon of signings, though we first stopped at some booths to pick up more books.

I ended up breaking up from them because we all had different signings to go to. The first signing I went to was for Daphne Kalotay. She's an adult writer and I actually took a class from her at my college. She was the fiction writer-in-residence (fiction is one semester, poetry the other semester) my senior year of college and I loved her class. She did remember who I was, which was great. She asked me how my writing was going and I said "pretty well" even though I hadn't been writing for a looong time. But now I've started up again, so that's good. She did also ask what I was doing there, but then answered her own question because my dad had told her about my review site when they had met once when he came to pick me up for a school break. So that was cool that she even still remembered I did that.

After that signing, I went over to Heather Brewer's line where I met up with Devyn and some other bloggers while waiting for the signing to start. The time flew by, either because I was at the front of the line or because I was having too much fun (I honestly can't remember- my notes don't mention anything). I think Heather vaguely remembered my blog; it really sucked not having business cards. I will definitely be doing that for next year. It could also be awkward trying to see if they remembered my blog from when I reviewed a book of theirs or interviewed them from way back when.

I got into Lauren Oliver's REALLY long line. No joke, it snaked around and there were a ton of people there. Apparently, they'd started lining up like an hour beforehand. While waiting in line, I had a fruit snack package but I don't think I did much else. I probably just took that time to relax and unload. The good thing about long lines is that you can put your stuff down, lol. When I got to Lauren, I was SO happy they still had ARCs of Delirium. Lauren was signing both of her books. My Harper publicity contact Elyse was helping Lauren with her signing and asked if I was Book Chic once she heard my name was James. I said yes and she was like "OMG!" and hugged me. Yes, hugged me- how sweet is that?! She introduced me to Lauren and I told her my blog name. Now I think that Lauren said she had seen my blog and loved it, but I could be very wrong. Either way, it was a lovely experience and it was fun chatting with both of them for a few minutes.

Once that was over, I went to a plethora of signings very quickly. By the end of the day, people were just leaving and there wasn't as many people around. I went to Jenny Davidson's line and hung out with some bloggers at the front of the line. We were all excited for Jenny's newest because we all loved her debut, The Explosionist; she probably was not expecting to be bumrushed by a bunch of YA book bloggers, but that's what happened.

After that, I went to Inara Scott (Delcroix Academy: The Candidates) and Lauren Kunze's (The Ivy) signing, then went to Daniel Nayeri who was signing ARCs of Another Pan, which I was very excited about. I felt bad for him because there was like no one in line and occasionally a person would trickle through and get a copy. But it was probably at least a bit more fun for him because he got a lot of excitable, passionate bloggers. Like James Dashner earlier in the day, Daniel called me Book Chick but also caught himself. He recognized me almost right away, which was very cool. I wish his sister Dina had been there too- that would have been awesome to see the two of them together, but ah well.

My final planned signing was Wendy Mass. I was so excited that she was signing because I LOVE her books and think everyone should read them. I introduced myself but don't think she remembered me or my blog, which was a bit sad. Also, while I was waiting in line, I saw Courtney Sheinmel toward the front so I was like "OK, this is my chance to say hi to her. Do not be shy!" and I had willed myself to say hi once she passed me in the line. Well, she kinda disappeared. It may have happened when I was talking to Melissa Walker for a few, but I thought I'd been paying such good attention to the people walking by. Apparently not. Once I got my book signed, I ran into Stephanie Kuehnert who was waiting in the line next to Wendy's and we talked for a quick minute.

Then I stopped by HarperCollins' booth to get Ascendant because Diana's signing ended before everyone in line got a copy so I assumed that they would've been taken back to the HC booth. I thought wrong, and ended up just getting an E-Galley of it. Le sigh. I will take what I can get though. Then, I walked over to Penguin where Ally Condie was literally just finishing her signing (it was over at 4:30 and I got there at 4:29) and she signed my copy of Matched. They had run out of galleys which was why Ally was just chillaxing when I got there, but I already had one. It was actually kinda funny watching me realize what was going on because I'd only come over to ask about Grace. I wish I had gotten a picture with her, but I kinda didn't think about it; tried to get Grace by Elizabeth Scott, but they had run out.

After all that, I wandered back to the entrance to wait for Susan and attempted to massage my aching shoulders. It is no joke carrying around tons of ARCs; I felt like such an old person walking out of Javits that day, hobbling around and groaning every time I had to sit down or stand up. We went back to the hotel for a bit, changed rooms due to AC problems, then crashed Harper Blogger Reception (well, I did cuz I wasn't invited), stayed there and chatted for a bit, then went to this diner next door to eat. Tons of fun happened there, like this video below, then went back to hotel and went to bed. Oh, glorious bed!

Armchair BEA Episode 3 - Impressions from Marco van Hylckama Vlieg on Vimeo.

1) A picture of the huge autographing area
2) The Crossing Over panel
3) Me and Michele Jaffe- she is very fashionable. I only wish I could've gotten the whole outfit
4) I took a picture of Diana Peterfreund signing ARCs when I was in another line... I wander if she saw me taking it because it looks like she's looking right at me. How weird is that?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Three Year Blogoversary- Kristi from The Story Siren Guest Blog

Closing out the festivities this week is an awesome fellow blogger and friend, Kristi from The Story Siren! Yes, THE Kristi- I did have to bribe a few people just to get to her, and then had to sell my soul to get her to write the guest post (she has a lot of bodyguards; I guess fame has its costs...), but it was all worth it! Read on for some scandalous information...

THREE YEARS! That is so amazing! Is congrats even enough? WOW.

James and I have been ‘talking’ online since I first started my own blog, he was actually one of the few people who commented on my blog back in the stone ages..... he is really sweet like that. So I’ve always had a soft spot for James, even from the beginning.

I actually helped James celebrate his two year blogiversary, and I have to say, going back and looking at my post now..... it was ridiculously lame, but James was still nice enough to post it, lol. (James, what were you thinking! Did you even read that thing.... geez, embarrassing....)

But since helping James celebrate his two year blogiversary, I’ve had the chance to meet the real deal. As in, James in the flesh! And when I say flesh, I mean flesh, because I totally saw him half naked in his hotel room! No seriously! I did. Although it is much more innocent then it sounds, because you see it was really late and I crashed his hotel room when he was in bed asleep and then he happened to wake up and he just didn’t have a shirt covering his upper half.... see innocent. But still funny! But now I can say that I saw James half naked, and I like that.

I never realized how very shy James is in real life. I mean I am a shy person, but darlin’ you have me beat! But he was so very adorable! I just wanted to squeeze you, I really did. But I had to resort to hitting you and slapping your arm..... it’s a lot like how you would have the urge to kick a cute puppy..... er, that doesn’t look right. I apologize for hitting you. lol. I think that it must have been my inner ‘child-on-the-playground’ and I felt I had to hit the sweet boy because that was the only way I to tell him I liked him.

I will say that now that I’ve met James in real life, I like him even more.

So in closing, my dearest James. I wish you many more years of blogging ahead! Thank you for your constant support of your fellow bloggers and YA literature. Thank you for not being afraid to say what you feel and being the person you are. I’m so very blessed to call you a friend. (Saying that with the hopes that you still want to be my friend after you met me at BEA and I hit you multiple times..... although you did invite me to write a post for your blogiversary so that must mean something right.... ?)

I <3 U!

Isn't Kristi so sweet and awesome? Well, you all probably know that from reading her fantabulous blog. We are definitely still friends, especially since no bruises surfaced after the beatings she gave me, lol. Anyway, on to the contest, I've got a signed copy of Ballads of Suburbia (ARC) by Stephanie Kuehnert! To enter, leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on what Kristi said about me or what's got you excited for Ballads of Suburbia. The contest will be open until June 30th at 11:59 PM and is for North American residents only.

Three Year Blogoversary- Jordanna Fraiberg Interview

On the final day of this blogoversary week, here's Jordanna Fraiberg, author of the fabulous book In Your Room, answering a few questions for me!

1) How do you handle bad reviews?

I try not to let bad reviews get to me. I personally think it's a bit arrogant to expect that *everyone* will love your book (although, let's face it, wouldn't it be nice?) and that there can be something to learn from a critical review, especially if the comments are thoughtful.

2) What are your criteria for finding bloggers to send review copies to?

I'm open to all bloggers and try to send review copies to as many that request one, as long as I have enough. I think it's great that there are so many book bloggers out there with such an avid interest not only in reading YA fiction, but in sharing their thoughts. Sending bloggers review copies so that their voices can be heard helps the industry as a whole since a YA novel's success is very much driven by its viral word-of-mouth. I'm so grateful for bloggers like you so I like to support them by sending them books. And hey, it's especially rewarding if they end up liking my work!

3) How did you find my blog, as well as any others you frequent?

Actually, you found me! I was so new to the industry when you contacted me for a review copy and it made my day -- especially since you were the very first to find me! I was even more excited after I checked out your blog and saw how thoughtful and well-written your reviews were. So, I really owe so much to you. You were my entree into this amazing world of bloggers. I have found other book blogs I like through sites like yours, by clicking on the comments or the followers' profiles, which has helped me discover more fabulous blogs. It's kind of like following a trail of bread crumbs and seeing where it leads you...

4) Do you have any advice for bloggers writing reviews?

My only advice is to try and make the reviews as thoughtful as possible. As an author, I definitely want to know what you liked (or didn't) about a book, but I'm even more interested in the "why" of it all. Why you felt something worked or didn't work, why you found a character relatable or not, why certain themes might have resonated or others didn't, why you liked or didn't like the plot, etc., etc. Not only do these kinds of comments give insight into the blogger and what appeals to him/her, but it's also really helpful for the author.

5) Have you had a particularly memorable/meaningful review sent your way? What was it, and how did it make you feel?

I have gotten many memorable reviews and emails from readers, all of which I'm extremely grateful for. But if I had to pick just one, it would be yours, and not just because it's your blogiversary! As I mentioned above, you were the first blogger to contact me and I was so excited (and nervous!) when your review came in. But when I read it I was blown away, not just by how positive your review was, but also by how encouraging and supportive it was of me as a debut author. It made me realize that my book was actually out in the world -- and that it had the ability to impact people. It was a defining moment for me in making the transition to becoming a published author and I will never forget it!

Jordanna is one of the sweetest authors out there and I love chatting with her. It's been great fun getting to know each other these past two years. Anyway, today's contest is for an advance copy of Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart! To enter, leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on Jordanna's answers or what's got you excited for Dangerous Neighbors. The contest will be open until June 30th at 11:59 PM and is for North American residents only.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Three Year Blogoversary- Amy Brecount White Guest Blog

Amy Brecount White is the author of Forget-Her-Nots, which came out earlier this year. We've had the pleasure of meeting a few times in person and chatting a lot online! Read on to see what Amy had to say about our encounters!

Congrats on your three-year blogoversary, James! Woo hoo! I'm so impressed by your commitment to YA books and authors. You have a great appreciation for good writing and originality. I always enjoy reading your reviews, because you have your own thoughts and you're honest.

We first met when James invited me to be the featured "Fresh New Voice of YA." I love that name -- great job, James!! -- because voice is so very important in YA novels. I felt honored to be asked to participate in this way cool feature. I had lots of fun answering the questions. (My favorite part was mentioning the Muse of gardening. I don't think there is one, but I should make one up. Maybe in a follow- up to Forget-Her-Nots ... hmmm.)

I've had the good luck to meet James in person several times. He and S. Robertson (aka WastePaperProse) came to the wonderful Virginia Festival of the Book last March. It was pretty funny, because I had an old "stupid" phone that wasn't working that well, and we were all trying to meet up. It was a comedy of texting and timing errors and missed cues for awhile, and then we finally saw each other. James is very sweet in person and lots of fun to hang out with, and I was thrilled to see him and several other bloggers in the audience for my reading and panel discussion. (Also on the panel were Jenn Hubbard, David McGinnis Gill, and Paula Chase Hyman.) It was the first warm weekend of the year after Snowpocalypse, so it was incredibly fun to hang out on the Charlottesville mall area and bask in the sunshine.

I also recently ran into James several times at BEA in NYC. Personally, I think it was very cool that so many bloggers went to BEA, and I loved meeting up with some for lunch and seeing them as we were all stalking the latest, greatest ARCS or signed books. (My triumph was an ARC of Plain Kate by Erin Bow and a signed audio version of The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan.) However, I know that James snagged way more books than me, because he is one dedicated blogger, and I saw him almost everywhere I went. :-)

So congrats, James! I can't think of many bloggers who can boast a three-year longevity. Here's to decades ahead!! *raising a glass of Proseco*

Hugs, Amy (Brecount White)

Isn't Amy wonderful?! You're way too sweet and awesome, and I was so glad to see you so much during BEA! Now, on to the contest, I've got a signed copy of Amy's book Forget-Her-Nots! To enter, leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on what Amy said about me or what's got you excited for Forget-Her-Nots. The contest will be open until June 30th at 11:59 PM and is for North American residents only.

Three Year Blogoversary- Lisa Mantchev Interview

I'd like to welcome Lisa Mantchev, author of Eyes Like Stars and Perchance to Dream, both of which are part of the Theatre Illuminata trilogy. She stopped by to answer some questions for me!

1) How do you handle bad reviews?

I've gotten to the point where I try really hard not to read them. I've turned off Google Alerts (which I studied religiously when Eyes Like Stars came out!) and try not to go hunting for them on places like Amazon or Goodreads.

Still, the occasional one grabs me by the eyeballs, and my mantra is twofold:

"This person was not my target audience" immediately followed by a lot of internal name calling and nose-thumbing. *G*

2) What are your criteria for finding bloggers to send review copies to?

With Eyes Like Stars, I didn't so much as find bloggers as I put out the word that I was open to ARC requests and then filtered through those who responded. Mostly what I want to see is that the blogger has an established blog or website with at least a month or two of regular updates, writes thoughtful reviews in a timely fashion, that they are professional and courteous in their dealings with me and with others, and that they read YA fantasy.

3) How did you find my blog, as well as any others you frequent?

I almost always find new bloggers through other authors and bloggers... those Roll Calls in the sidebars of most sites come in very handy! Other times, I am approached via Facebook or Twitter or my website by people hoping to review the novels.

4) Do you have any advice for bloggers writing reviews?

All opinions are welcome as long as they are grounded. Nothing tweaks my nose more than a review that says "Meh, I don't know why I didn't like this." In my mind, it's part of the reviewer's job to be analytical, to take the time to really think about why something worked or didn't work or why they couldn't connect with a given book. Similarly, squee-reviews (squeeviews? *might have coined a new phrase there) do nothing for me either, unless you can justify the squee.

5) Have you had a particularly memorable/meaningful review sent your way? What was it, and how did it make you feel?

I think I still cling to my Kirkus review for Eyes Like Stars... it was a starred one, and came in fairly early, so it was like a security blanket every time someone didn't care for the book. I could just sit in the corner, rocking, thumb in my piehole, clutching my review-blankey thinking, "Well, KIRKUS liked it, and Kirkus doesn't like anyone!" *G*

I'm wondering if every author has a review-blankey... they should hand them out at conferences! Also, I've done WAY too many squeeviews (I really like that word, Lisa!) in my reviewing history. Anyway, on to the contest, I've got a copy of A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. To enter, leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on Lisa's answers or what's got you excited for A Conspiracy of Kings. The contest will be open until June 30th at 11:59 PM and is for North American residents only.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Three Year Blogoversary- Susan from Wastepaper Prose Guest Blog

Today, I'd like to welcome blogger friend and fellow Virginia resident Susan of Wastepaper Prose to my blogoversary! Susan and I have gotten to know each other and hang out a lot since we first met not so long ago (only like half a year so far!) and it's been a blast. Here she is with her thoughts on our friendship:

When you’re a blogger in central Virginia you don’t tend to run into a lot of other bloggers. There just aren’t a lot of us here. And I’d like to say that when James and I met that we had a field of daisies moment – that our connection was effortless and instantaneous – but that would be a lie.

Honestly, I think James was scared of me.

I can’t blame him. I do tend to come on a little strong. Come to think of it. The first time he met me, I was sitting in Fountain Bookstore having a rather loud discussion about critique groups, mermaid sex, and epicly bad epic fantasy. Trust me when I say it was enough to send anyone running, and James and I hadn’t even been introduced yet!

It wasn’t until earlier this year, when I came to grips with the fact that Twitter wasn’t going away, that James and I reconnected. I forget how we ran across each other or who found who, but it happened and it allowed us to build a relationship that I don’t think we’d have otherwise. (In case you didn’t know, James is a bit shy.)

It gave us a buddy system to rely on. We could plan for events together, chat and get lost together. As Book Expo America drew near and I found myself in a jam, James was there and ready to save me.

Girl bloggers were flaking on me left and right. I had three roommates plan the trip out with me then fall through just over a month before. That was when I ran into James at a signing and we got to talking about it.

“Are you going to BEA?” he asked.

“Yes. But I’m homeless!” I said.

“Well, I have a room to myself and we can get a rollaway or something.”

Translation: We’ll make it work. James single-handedly rescued my BEA trip by offering to let me share his hotel room. But that’s just the kind of guy he is. He’ll bend over backwards for a friend.

Isn't that so sweet? Although Susan was the one to single-handedly upgrade our room at no extra cost to us, so kudos to her! Thanks for dropping by, Susan! Now, on to the contest, I've got a copy of Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin. To enter, leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on what Susan said about me or what's got you excited for Low Red Moon. The contest will be open until June 30th at 11:59 PM and is for North American residents only.

Three Year Blogoversary- Cyn Balog Interview

Cyn Balog, author of Fairy Tale and the forthcoming Sleepless, has agreed to answer a few questions! Let's see what she has to say!

1) How do you handle bad reviews?

Not very well at first. I had to learn not to take them personally and to just let them go. My process is to ignore them for as long as possible. Before, I used to go to Goodreads and read my one-star reviews and cry into my keyboard. Now, I've been learning to laugh at them because even the most amazing books get bad reviews. Nobody is immune. And they really mean very little in the grand scheme of things. So says the author through gritted teeth.

2) What are your criteria for finding bloggers to send review copies to?

I don't want to turn anyone down, because I understand the difficulties of both sides. Publishers will only send to established blogs because they have a limited number of review copies and need to determine the best use of those, but then how does a blogger become established unless they have copies to review? Well, I check blogs to make sure that they've been around awhile and at least have been posting regularly, maybe if not on pre-releases, but at least on books that are already out there. That anyone can do, and it shows a commitment to blogging. Then I will send the name to my publicist as I don't send anything myself. If she can't send a book for review I try to send bookmarks, at least.

3) How did you find my blog, as well as any others you frequent?

All of my favorite blogs, I have on a reader I visit every day. Of course yours is one of them, obviously. It is like air and water and the TV show GLEE to me. I think that whenever I see someone make a good comment on another blog or maybe their tweet is retweeted, then I'll add them. I've gradually grown and added favorites over the years, so I have a lot of them.

4) Do you have any advice for bloggers writing reviews?

Always write nice ones for my books. Har. Well, my thought is not to have a star-rating system. Why? Because when you have one of those, a lot of people will just say, "Oh, she gave that 3 stars, she just thinks it's okay" and then not read the rest of what you have to say. I personally, NEVER do that, but some people are in a hurry. I am sure the reason people write reviews in the first place is because they want people to read them, yes?

5) Have you had a particularly memorable/meaningful review sent your way? What was it, and how did it make you feel?

I just got a review for SLEEPLESS from Kirkus, which was glowing. After the bitch-slapping they gave me for FAIRY TALE, I'd been living in fear of them. I half-expected Kirkus to start picketing outside my window any day, holding up a YOU SUCK sign. So to not have that happen was great.

No one will ever hold up a "You Suck" sign in front of your house because you and your books are awesome! Look for my review of Sleepless coming in early July. Now, on to the contest, I've got an ARC of Siren by Tricia Rayburn. To enter, leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on any of Cyn's answers or what's got you excited for Siren. The contest will be open until June 30th at 11:59 PM and is for North American residents only.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Three Year Blogoversary- Suzanne Young Guest Blog

Today, we're welcoming Suzanne Young to the party! She is the author of The Naughty List, So Many Boys, and the forthcoming A Good Boy is Hard to Find, all part of the same series. She's also got two books coming out in 2011: A Need So Beautiful (Summer) and Delinquents (Fall), which both sound absolutely amazing. You can find out more about her at her blog!


I love you. There. I said it. Being a debut author is a scary experience. It’s like the first day of middle school only the school is populated with all the people you admire in the world. And nobody knows who you are.

But see, that’s when I met James. THE NAUGHTY LIST wasn’t even out in ARC form yet, but James had gotten a copy from my editor and then of all things… he emailed to tell me he loved it. To say I cried is an understatement. I CALLED MY MOM! It was the first time a real person (because my agent, editor and friends don’t count for unbiased opinions) had read my book. And James is now forever part of my life-changing publishing experience.

Now he’s more than that. He’s a friend, an advocate, a voice in YA review that I trust. I know that I can send him something and get his honest thoughts, even if it’s just me freaking out about a new idea. I also love his blog, the way he does a thorough job with his posts (including videos) and the way he reaches out to authors—debut or not.

James, I appreciate you. Thank you for sharing the journey with me.


Suzanne Young

Thanks so much for stopping by, Suzanne! That was really sweet of you!! As a bonus, Suzanne is giving away a signed set of The Naughty List and So Many Boys! So leave a comment on this post by 11:59pm EST on June 30 if you want to be entered. US Only though! Good luck to all!

Three Year Blogoversary- Courtney Summers Interview

I'd like to welcome Courtney Summers, author of the sparkly made-of-awesome books Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are, to my three year blogoversary! She's here to answer a few questions.

1) How do you handle bad reviews?

As long as I'm writing and being published, there will be people out there who hate my stuff. That's just the way it goes. It's important to remember a bad review is not a personal attack. When I see a bad review of my work, I remind myself that fiction is incredibly subjective and that bad reviews are usually strongly felt reviews. It's always a good thing to inspire a strong response from readers, in my opinion. It's the indifferent reviews that worry me!

2) What are your criteria for finding bloggers to send review copies to?

That the blogger--whether they're just starting out or have been long established--takes books seriously. That they're passionate about YA lit. In my experience, those types of book bloggers are definitely the majority, so that's lucky. But it makes it a bit painful to choose who to send books to when I have a very limited amount of ARCs. :)

3) How did you find my blog, as well as any others you frequent?

When I realized I wanted to write YA, I lurked about the YA book blogosphere. I was shy! Little Willow and Bookshelves of Doom were my very first book blogs and I read--and still read them--faithfully. When Cracked Up to Be was acquired by St. Martin's Press, more and more book blogs came on my radar. Sometimes I found them, sometimes they found me--which was the coolest thing. I discovered your blog in the later months of 2008, if memory serves me correctly, before Cracked Up to Be came out. I was also familiar with the He Said/She Said feature you do with Little Willow. I loved reading those! You guys dissect books in very fun and interesting ways and that quality extends into how you run your solo blog as well, which I also find fun and interesting to read. Your enthusiasm for YA definitely defines your blog. Also, this seems like a good time to say: happy anniversary! Here's to many more! It just wouldn't be the same without Book Chic!

4) Do you have any advice for bloggers writing reviews?

Oh, gosh. Not really. Every book blogger has their own approach and their own voice, and these are the things that keep me reading their blogs time after time. Just keep doing what you're all doing and thanks for doing it!

5) Have you had a particularly memorable/meaningful review sent your way? What was it, and how did it make you feel?

Hmm. I have to be honest with you: every review that gets sent my way means a lot to me. As an author, it's very gratifying when people take the time to not only read your work, but to blog about it as well. I've been fortunate that many of the reviews I've gotten for both Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are have been so thoughtful and careful and constructive. It's really hard to describe how it feels to have a book you've written being on the receiving end of that kind of thing. It's amazing and not something I'll soon forget.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Courtney!! I'm glad you enjoyed those He Said, She Said posts; LW and I need to work on doing more of those! Now, on to the contest, I've got a signed copy of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. To enter, leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on any of Courtney's answers or what's got you excited for Before I Fall. The contest will be open until June 30th at 11:59 PM and is for North American residents only.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Three Year Blogoversary- Lisa Schroeder Guest Blog

Lisa Schroeder, author of the verse novels I Heart You, You Haunt Me, Far From You, and Chasing Brooklyn as well as the middle-grade novel It's Raining Cupcakes, has decided to drop in for my blogiversary! She's got an awesome guest blog on how we first met and her thoughts on my reviewing. Without further ado, here's Lisa:

I met James way back when he had first started blogging, on myspace. Wow, those were the days, huh, when lots of people still hung out on myspace and it was easy to friend people without knowing much about them. I'd friend people who enjoyed YA literature, and it was a great way to make connections.

I remember reading some of James' first reviews, and what I loved was how positive he was in them. Even if he didn't like something, he put a positive bent on it somehow. I also love what I think must be his favorite thing to say - "This book was simply amazing."

When my first novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME came out, I really hoped James would review it because his reviews didn't scare me. I knew that no matter what he thought of the book, his review would be kind and thoughtful. And he would find good things to share even if there were things he didn't care for. It's scary having your first novel come out! Of course authors know not everyone is going to like it, but still, we don't want to be raked over the coals in a review. It can hurt!

Anyway, I scrolled through many, MANY reviews on myspace and found the one James did for I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME. Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Here's what he wrote, way back on January 18, 2008.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
Ava's boyfriend Jackson has died, and she's at the funeral, with the knowledge that he has died. But when she returns back to her house, she begins to smell his signature scent- sandalwood, feels a shiver down her spine when she walks into various rooms, and hears and sees messages from what she supposes is Jackson. But he's dead, so he can't still be around… can he?

In this brilliant, haunting debut, Lisa Schroeder gives the reader a very well-executed balance of creepiness and sentiment. Written entirely in verse, this story follows Ava's life for a while after Jackson's funeral, and shows the emotion of losing a loved one extremely well. Quite honestly, it's a book with a premise I don't think I've found in any other YA book, and it's written with such passion. This is one amazing book from an extremely talented debut writer, and I'm sure you'll be seeing much more from her in the coming years.

Ahhh, see, I still read it and go - James, I LOVE YOU!!!

Three years is an amazingly long time to be blogging and doing book reviews. James, let me take this opportunity to tell you how much I've enjoyed reading your blog over the years, but even more, I've enjoyed getting to know you. You are just the sweetest person, and your love of YA literature shines through in everything you do on your blog. I'm so blessed to know you!!

Happy blogiversary - and many more!!!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Lisa!! I loved reading that and it brought a smile to my face. I've enjoyed getting to know you too and am so glad I've had the chance to read your wonderful books. Not only that, but I was right that we'd be seeing more of you- four books in three years! Also, I am now wondering just how many times I've called a book "simply amazing"; I should go research that...

Anyway, today's contest is for an advance copy of Virals by Kathy Reichs! To enter, leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on what Lisa wrote or what's got you excited for Virals. The contest will be open until June 30th at 11:59 PM and is for North American residents only.

Three Year Blogoversary- Daphne Grab Interview

I'm pleased to welcome Daphne Grab, author of Alive and Well in Prague, New York and The Star Shack (as Lila Castle), to the start of my three-year blogiversary!

1) How do you handle bad reviews?

Before I read any review I remind myself that it is just one person’s opinion, that there are other reviews out there that are positive, that every book gets at least a couple of bad reviews and that that is part of the process. Then I steel myself and read. If it’s positive I’m elated. If it’s mediocre, I try to focus on the good parts but then generally end up obsessing about the not so good parts. And if it’s straight up bad, I feel crummy, no two ways about it. I let myself sulk a bit, eat some chocolate, reread a good review and then force myself to move on.

2) What are your criteria for finding bloggers to send review copies to?

If I have copies of a book I will send to any reviewer that asks me. I also have a list of blogs I particularly like and I let those bloggers know about a book early, then am sure to send them ARCs. Book Chic would be pretty top of that list!

3) How did you find my blog, as well as any others you frequent?

I feel like we were newbies together- I was getting ready for my first book release and you had just started your awesome blog. I first found you on MySpace but then we also connected on Facebook. I wrote to ask if you would review the book and you agreed. With a lot of bloggers it would stop there but we hit it off and became cyber friends. We connected beyond books which was just a really cool thing. I’ve been so pleased to see your blog flourish and you were one of the first people I told about my new book!

4) Do you have any advice for bloggers writing reviews?

Well, this will come around to bite me at some point but I think it’s important to be honest in your reviews. It’s tough if you’ve kind of connected to an author and I’m never a fan of a review that shreds a book and I also think you can always find something nice to say about a book. But if a weakness is there, you owe it to your readers to put it out there. I review books for Publishers Weekly and I try to be upfront about flaws while also always finding something positive to say.

5) Have you had a particularly memorable/meaningful review sent your way? What was it, and how did it make you feel?

So far my reviews for The Star Shack have been positive (it will not stay this way and I am dreading that first harsh review!). One I particularly like is from Kirkus because they say the characters are smart and articulate and that the book is a starry beach read. Somehow I just really like the starry beach read part. I am going to get reviewed by a newspaper in Charlotte and I am very excited about that- I’ve never been reviewed in a paper before. But honestly it is the blog reviews that I will keep with me the longest- people who’ve read the book and then put out their thoughts, fresh and unfiltered- when those are positive it is the most amazing feeling!

Let me close by saying how much I adore you, Book Chic- I am happily waiting for your review of this book, I look forward to your thoughts on my future books, and I am very thankful our paths have crossed and we have become friends!

Thanks so much for stopping by, Daphne!! You are too sweet! Now, on to the contest, I've got an advance copy of The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. To enter, leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on any of Daphne's answers or what's got you excited for The Replacement. The contest will be open until June 30th at 11:59 PM and is for North American residents only.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In My Mailbox- Week of June 14 + Retrospective

So I did a vlog this week. Hope you all enjoy! Also, I now realize that you cannot see any of the clutter I mention at the beginning, lol. But believe me, it was a HUGE mess. More books than I know what to do with!!

Books Shown:
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
Sea Change by Aimee Friedman
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Virals by Kathy Reichs
Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielsen
The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little
Heart to Heart by Lurlene McDaniel
Dust City by Robert Paul Weston
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflections by Carol Burnett
Sapphique by Catherine Fisher (That's the one I forgot!!)

This has nothing to do with my mailbox or my blog (aside from the fact that I'm gay and love LGBT lit), but I absolutely loved this post by a gay teen blogger and wanted to share it with you all. Alexa from Not Enough Bookshelves put a link to it on her blog and that's where I originally came across it. It's a great post and I'm glad Alexa posted the link.

I also happened upon another new blog with a wonderful post on it. It's about a guy reading romance and it's really similar to stuff I had to do with GLBT novels when I started reading them (and still kinda do).


Monday- Kicking off Fresh New Voice of YA for the month of June was my review of Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala, out in stores June 22!

Tuesday- I posted an excerpt vlog featuring Vania reading a few pages from Sea by Heidi R Kling.

Wednesday- I interviewed Holly Cupala and ran a contest (it's over now) for 2-chapter samplers and swag!

Thursday- I posted a review of Sea by Heidi R. Kling, which is out in stores now.

Friday- I put up an excerpt vlog where Holly Cupala reads the first couple pages from her book Tell Me A Secret.

Saturday- Ending out the festivities is an interview with Heidi R. Kling, author of Sea.

Next week is my three year blogoversary celebration! Be sure to check back twice a day (12AM and 12PM, both EST) for guest blogs and interviews with author and blogger friends of mine, as well as contests with each post, including some wonderful ARCs!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Heidi R. Kling Interview

1) How did you get the idea for SEA?

Sea was inspired by my husband's true life volunteer efforts in Indonesia after the tsunami--the long version is on my website http://heidirkling.com

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

Incredibly exciting! It all happened really fast. I had an interested editor and agent about the same time--so it was all a whirlwind. When I got the agent offer I screamed from my balcony to my friend down on the playground, "I got an agent!!" Pretty crazy.

3) What book(s) are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about

I'm working on a fantasy which is a proposed trilogy about estranged witches and warlocks set in a modern day beach town--it's like Romeo and Juliet with magic. :-)
I'm also a contributer to the Mystic Falls Vampire Diaries anthology coming out with Smart Pop in October. #TeamDamon

4) Have you always been a fan of YA, or are you still new to it all?

I've always loved YA. When I was a teen we had Judy Blume and Sweet Valley High but that was about it. I'm thrilled to be publishing during the Golden Age of teen literature. It's such a dream come true to land in the right place at the right time like this.

5) What book(s) are you reading now?

I'm finishing Will Grayson and just started THe Demon's Covenant and If I Stay. (I like to juggle several books at once.)

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

I'm partial to the tan ones with the spots. What is that one? Coconut cream pie or something?

7) You owned your own children's theatre where you wrote and directed
plays along with your boyfriend-now-husband before moving to New York. What was
that experience like? Did you enjoy writing for the stage? Did playwriting
help mold the way you write your prose now?

I loved writing and directing for children's theatre, the kids I worked with inspired me so much. They were so talented and enthusiastic--the fact that I'm writing novels for that age group makes me so happy. I've never worked with more eager people in my life than teens and young adults. The teen bloggers remind me a lot of my theatre kids--everything is so fresh and new for them. I'd love to do more with my original play at some point. We'll see. :-)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Tell Me A Secret Excerpt Vlog

It's time for an excerpt of Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala to be read, but not by me. My earlier post mentioned that I have no batteries, so I couldn't record any vlogs for this week. But I'm so thrilled that others were eager to help me out. Thanks again to Vania for doing a reading of Sea, and today, we've actually got Holly herself reading the first few pages from her book!

If you want more of Holly and Tell Me A Secret, Mitali from Alley of Books has another exclusive vlog! And of course, you should all enter the contest that's going on to win one of four 2-chapter samplers of Tell Me A Secret!

Tell Me A Secret is out in stores June 22, so go pre-order a copy!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Sea by Heidi R. Kling

Sea by Heidi R. Kling
"Still haunted by nightmares of her mother’s death, fifteen-year-old Sienna Jones reluctantly travels to Indonesia with her father’s relief team to help tsunami orphans with their post traumatic stress disorder—something Sienna knows a lot about. Since her mother’s plane went missing over the Indian Ocean three years before, Sienna doesn’t do anything if it involves the ocean or planes, so this trip is a big step forward.

But the last thing she expects is to fall for Deni, a brooding Indonesian boy who lives at the orphanage, and just so happens to be HOT. When Deni hears a rumor that his father may be alive, Sienna doesn’t think twice about running away with him to the epicenter of the disaster. Unfortunately, what they find there could break both their hearts."- summary from Amazon

I must say that I absolutely loved this book. It's beautifully written, very funny, and very steamy. Kling's prose mixed with Sienna's strong voice make the book hard to put down. I read the book very quickly, finishing it in just two days. The ending is heartbreaking and while I didn't cry, I'm sure I would have if my tear ducts worked better. However, the story did end how it was supposed to and it definitely made sense.

The romance, like I said before, is VERY steamy. I told Heidi on Twitter that she needed to find me a Deni of my own, but unfortunately, she doesn't have clones of him. Le sigh. Deni is a wonderful leading man- he's very broody, but is funny, sweet and romantic. It's a good thing I was always sitting down while reading because I'd be swooning all over the place if I weren't and then the book would never get finished.

But aside from all that, there's the main reason for going to Indonesia: to help with the reconstruction in the aftermath of the 2004 floods. It was really eye-opening to read those scenes because once initial coverage is over, you just think it's all taken care of and everything's back to normal. But it takes YEARS to put something back together after a catastrophe like that. I loved reading about all the effort that Sienna, her dad, and her dad's team put into helping all these orphans, and reading about their interactions just warmed my heart.

Overall, a remarkable debut, and definitely a book to check out. It's out in stores now; go buy it!!

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Holly Cupala Interview + Contest

1) How did you get the idea for Tell Me A Secret?
The idea kind of just fell out of the sky—it was after a very difficult year personally, and I almost gave up writing. But then our friend Justina Chen (who had just come out with her first novel) asked me if I was thinking of writing about it, and that opened a door. We were at a writing conference, and then we went to hear Libba Bray speak…and suddenly the whole thing flashed through my mind like a movie trailer—a story about this girl whose bad-girl older sister had died mysteriously, and she’d been holding the family together as the good daughter, and there were all kinds of secrets and a romance with a super-hot sci-fi guy—and a pregnancy to blow everything apart. So I wrote it down as fast as I could.

2) What was The Call like? Tell us all about it!
Wow, that was one of the most amazing days of my life. I was actually walking out the door to hop a flight to LA for the SCBWI writing conference when my agent called me. This was only a couple of weeks after he’d started shopping it, so I wasn’t expecting anything. But then he said there was multiple interest, and one editor had put in a pre-empt offer. My dream editor! The one who edited one of my favorite books, The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean. I was floored because I didn’t even dare hope—she’s an award-winning, amazing editor. So as I was getting on the plane, I called just about everybody I know and was floating that whole time at the conference. My husband is awesome—he sent me this gigantic bouquet of red roses, maybe 50 of them, to celebrate. What a weekend!

3) Have you always been a fan of YA, or are you still new to it all?

Well, I will confess to you that TELL ME A SECRET isn’t my first YA novel—I wrote two teen romances in eighth grade, before I actually experienced teen romance. Confession #2: when I was a teen, I consumed the gamut of YA: Catcher in the Rye to Sweet Valley High…and I’ve loved to read it ever since! My faves are Speak, Gingerbread, Fat Kid Rules the World, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, and Ellen Hopkins’ novels.

4) What is your writing process like? Do you have any special rituals or items that you need to have in order to write (aside from laptop or pen and paper)?

Strawberry licorice. Tea, Earl Grey, Hot. A huge dose of procrastination, my favorite sketch/notebook, and my MacBook Air. I love music, but I can’t listen while I write so I fill my head and house with it when I’m not.

5) What book(s) are you reading now, or are about to start?

Right now I think I have about five going: A BLUE SO DARK, by Holly Schindler; FOR THE WIN, Cory Doctorow; ADIOS, NIRVANA (out in October) by Conrad Wesselhoeft; INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER by Julie Halpern. Plus an unpubbed one from my writing group.

6) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?

I love that Jelly Belly sour mix. Anything sour just calls my name and I can’t resist!

7) What book(s) are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it?

The second novel has just been released from the classified vault: tentatively titled STREET CREED, it comes out Fall 2011. It’s about a suburban girl who runs away from home—she has secret reasons for running away and there’s a lot at stake, and she ends up with this group of homeless kids on the streets of Seattle. It’s dark and romantic, another book that’s full of suspense and secrets—and what it means to love.

Thank you, James, for inviting me to visit Book Chic and featuring TMAS this week!

And thanks so much to you too, Holly, for stopping by and answering a few questions!

Contest time! I have four Tell Me A Secret two-chapter sample booklets to give away (plus a ton of swag) so if you want a copy, leave a comment on this post by June 19 at 11:59pm EST and you'll be entered. I'll pick winners randomly and you'll be notified shortly after. Please leave your email address in your comment if it's not on your blogger profile so that I have a way to contact you. Good luck to all!

Also, be sure to check out tomorrow's tour stop on the Tell Me A Secret Virtual Tour, which is at Through the Tollbooth! And there's also tons of giveaways happening on Holly's site throughout the tour, so go check it out here!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Sea Excerpt Vlog

Hey everyone! This week will be something different. Since I am too broke to buy AA batteries until the 18th, I've enlisted the help of a fellow blogger to help me with today's reading. Today, Vania from Reverie Books (and VLC Media) is reading a bit from Sea by Heidi R. Kling. Hope you all enjoy!

Sea is out in stores now, so grab a copy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fresh New Voice of YA- Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala

Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala
"It's tough living in the shadow of a dead girl. . . .

In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda's death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister's world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.

When two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears, Miranda is stripped of her former life. She must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister's demons and her own."- summary from Amazon

This book was hard to put down, though I totally took on Deb Caletti's dare. She said in the blurb "I dare you to set it down during its last hundred pages." AND I DID. Not because the last hundred pages are bad or anything, but mainly because I'd finished with lunch and had to walk back to the Javits. But that's beside the point. I still did it!

Anyway, the blurbs on this novel are spot-on; it's a wonderful coming of age story and is very raw and emotional. Cupala's prose flows well, and keeps the pages turning. I loved Rand's voice and it was just so honest and pure. Reading about what she was going through was heartbreaking and sometimes I had to put the book down just to let the words sink in.

But be warned, some stuff will (hopefully) cause you to become angry. Rand's mother was that character that just got me so pissed off. There were many times I just wanted to punch her, or have Rand punch her, or have the dad punch her; in other words, she needed a good punching. It's a bit rare that I get so worked up over a character, which is a good thing because it shows how well this book is written that it can affect a reader that way.

The relationships within the novel are handled so well, are written so deftly, and are so complex that it's hard to see this as a debut. I can't say enough good things about this book; it's really that good. Definitely one to check out.

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

Small Bloggiesta update- Only got through #s 1,3, 6,9, and 10. #2 is being done by other people as my batteries died and I don't have enough money to buy more at the moment. So tomorrow, the lovely Vania will be reading from Sea by Heidi R. Kling. Thanks Vania!! But yeah, I didn't really work on it as much as I should have; it was a bit of a busy weekend.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In My Mailbox- Week of June 7 + Retrospective

Here's the picture of my books this week.

Books Shown:
Rosebush by Michele Jaffe
Crash Test Love by Ted Michael
A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley
The Lighter Side of Life and Death by C.K. Kelly Martin
The Necromancer by Michael Scott
God is in the Pancakes by Robin Epstein
Sunshine by Robin McKinley

And here's the retrospective:

Monday- I posted my recap of Lisa McMann's Pittsburgh event, complete with a hilarious story at the end.

Tuesday- I reviewed Numbers by Rachel Ward, which I got through Around the World tours.

Wednesday- I reviewed Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, which I also got through Around the World tours.

Thursday- I posted a review of The Iron King by Julie Kagawa and am giving away a signed copy! Contest ends June 24.

Friday- I reviewed The Star Shack by Lila Castle, which is out now!

Saturday- I'm participating in Bloggiesta, so go check out what I plan to do this weekend, and check back Monday morning for what I got accomplished.

Bloggiesta 2010!

So I saw that Natasha at Maw Books (who I've met!) is running Bloggiesta again this year and I'm going to be taking part in it like I did last year. I'm doing much better this year than I was last year in terms of content as I've got stuff scheduled for almost every day the rest of this month. I've also got my review schedule up for July, so I'm working on reading all those books. Be prepared for a TON of reviews in July, only to be broken up by more editions of Ask Book Chic (thanks for all the questions, everyone! Keep them coming!) and the weekly In My Mailbox, along with the Fresh New Voice of YA feature (Shadow Hills and hopefully Siren!) right in the middle of July.

Which reminds me, I just completed my first week of posting something every day (aside from the monthly FNVs). Did you all like it? I always worry that it's just too much to be posting every day, but I know of many bloggers who do it and they still get more comments than I do, so I guess it can't be that overwhelming for the blog reader. Let me know what you all thought!

But anyway, I do still have some things to do that are pretty important:

1) Put together and schedule all the Fresh New Voice of YA posts for next week.
2) Record the excerpt vlogs for Fresh New Voice of YA.
3) Update my review and interview/guest blog lists.
4) Maybe do a Review Policy? Thoughts on that?
5) Write up review for The Line by Teri Hall and Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus.
6) Make a list of all my contests going on now and those that will be happening.
7) Continue to organize my mess of an inbox. I got it halfway cleaned out during a trip to my parents' place a month or so ago.
8) Post my reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
9) Update my 2010 Debut Challenge list and put in review links.
10) Nothing to do with the blog, but still something that needs to get done. Write at least 3000 words over the next two days in my new story.

So there's my list for this year's Bloggiesta! Let's see how I do. I'll keep you all posted on my twitter (link in sidebar) and will mention how it all went in Monday's post. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Star Shack by Lila Castle

The Star Shack by Lila Castle
"Pete and Annabelle always believed they were a perfect pair-until junior year, when Annabelle became obsessed with astrology. Now they can hardly stand each other. Pete thinks Annabelle has become a total flake; she thinks he's an uptight jerk. To prove her point, Annabelle dares Pete to open a summer business on the boardwalk giving advice based on the stars.

"You and me and an astrology booth. I dare you."

Annabelle knows Pete can never say no to a dare. Together they'll run the Star Shack and read visitors' charts for romance and see what happens. Will a simple dare lead to a summer to remember or to something even more?"- summary from Amazon

Castle's debut is a fun, humorous romance that I really enjoyed; it was a very fast read for me. I liked the whole astrology aspect of it and it's the first book I've read where it's played such a big role in it so it was really cool to learn all about it. I enjoyed reading the horoscopes that preceded each chapter; they were a nice touch. I will say though that Pete really got on my nerves in the first few chapters, which was probably the point, but I just wanted to smack him for a bit there. If anyone has read Jinx by Meg Cabot, it's how Zach acts toward witchcraft. The story alternates between the boy and the girl, so we do get to see Pete's side (that's essentially the part that made me mad, at least in the beginning) and Castle makes the voices unique and realistic.

Overall, a fun, quick, beachy read for the summer ahead!

FTC: Received book from author. Link above is Amazon Associate link; any profit received goes toward funding contests.