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

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols

The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols
"Brace yourself for the battle of the exes....

Hayden and Nick used to be a hot item, but their brief affair ended with a highly publicized breakup. Now the two are "just friends," excluding the occasional flirtation.

When Hayden wins the girls' division of a local snowboarding competition, Nick is unimpressed, claiming that Hayden wouldn't have a chance against a guy. Hayden calls Nick's bluff and challenges him to a head-to-head boarding contest. Their mutual friends quickly take sides, the girls on Hayden's and the boys on Nick's, making for an all-out battle of the sexes. This friendly competition is bound to get heated -- and they might end up igniting some old flames."- summary from Amazon

Echols has written yet another amazing book, which is really no surprise seeing as how amazing her previous books were, particularly Going Too Far. What I love about her RoCom books is that they're always much more than just strictly RoComs. The stories and characters have depth and there is always some big drama happening (not of the petty kind though). In this book, Echols takes on gender roles in sports and does an amazing job with talking about the issue without becoming preachy or hitting you over the head with it. Hayden is a great, multi-faceted character and I loved reading about her life. Her friends are hysterical and I loved reading their interactions.

The romance is, of course, absolutely amazing; lots of books have love/hate relationships between the MC and his/her love interest, but she manages to take it to the next level and I felt like this romance was even more sizzling than others similar to it. Nick is way hot, and I want him to be mine (and also be real, lol). At one point, I even shook my fist at the book because several times throughout the book, it looks like they'll get together and then something goes wrong and it all blows up and then they hate each other again. I got so invested in these characters and hated to see the romance be ruined for a little bit by a little incident. The ending though was really great and I absolutely loved it. This is a perfect book to be reading while sitting next to the fire as the days start getting colder.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bookcase Review- CSN Furniture's Spine Tower

Here's the box the bookcase came in. In the picture though, it is empty because I forgot to take a picture of it when all the pieces were still inside... so yeah. Probably not as impressive. But anyway, the box with all the pieces in it was 32 pounds. I was able to lift it fairly easily, which made me excited and amazed at my own upper body strength. Anyway, so I dumped out all the pieces out and got everything organized while watching The Cleveland Show. By the time I finished with all that, I had to put something else on, so I watched Gossip Girl (the one where Chuck Bass kissed a guy!!! That was a hot moment.) while putting the bookcase together.

This is the empty bookcase in our living room. It took me a bit of time to finish the bookcase because I didn't realize a wrench had been included to help put on the screws, which definitely helped since my fingers can't put the screws in tight enough. Once I discovered the wrench, the work went a LOT faster and smoother. Everything was really easy to put together and I built the whole thing myself with no help, and also with 6 cats running around. Not an easy task.

Once I finished the bookcase, I carried it into my room and immediately started putting books on it. I made it my official ARCs-to-read bookcase and I love it so much. It takes up very little space but, as you can see, packs a TON of books on it, which definitely helps since I have a little room with very little space. So if you're looking for a simple, easy-to-assemble bookcase that doesn't take up much space, definitely go for this one. You can order one by going here to CSN Furniture's website.

Full disclosure: I recieved this bookcase for free in exchange for reviewing it. But it really is an amazing bookcase; I smile just looking at it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fresh New Voice of YA- Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
"For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely loved this book; it's full of everything I want in a story- a hot guy, suspense, mystery, adventure, romance. One of the things that can be a bit frustrating is that Nora spends about three-fourths of the book in the dark about what Patch is whereas we as the reader know that he is a fallen angel. But for me though, I didn't even notice it because I was so engrossed in the story. Nora is a great, strong protagonist and it was very intriguing reading her story and her thoughts about everything going on. Patch is simply amazing; he is just such a bad boy (but with a good heart) and it just made the romance between him and Nora all the more fun. I loved their banter throughout the book and it's my favorite part of the whole novel. I actually really loved Vee and thought she was hilarious; she did get a bit annoying toward the latter half of the novel, but I kinda chalk that up to what was happening to her behind the scenes. This is a truly edge-of-your-seat novel and was such a pleasure to read. I can't wait for the sequel!

PS Isn't the cover AWESOME?!?! I recently got another poster/jacket flap of it and will prolly give it away at some point.

Friday, October 23, 2009

FNV Excerpt Vlog- Secret Society by Tom Dolby

I apologize for posting this so late but it's been a busy day. So here it is- my excerpt reading of Secret Society by Tom Dolby. Be sure to read and comment on my interview with Tom as well as my review of Secret Society, both posted earlier this week.

Check back tomorrow for my review of Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick!! :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fresh New Voice of YA- Becca Fitzpatrick interview

1) How did you get the idea for Hush Hush?

The very first inspiration for the story came from an experience in my own tenth- grade biology class. We must have been studying human reproduction, because my teacher asked me, in front of the whole class, to name characteristics I would be attracted to in a mate (uncomfortable? Yes!) I sat next to a really cute boy, and the thought of naming characteristics I might look for in a mate was a humiliation I was not about to subject myself to. But the experience always stuck with me, and when I sat down to write Hush, Hush, that little piece of my history evolved into an
early scene in the book.

2) What was The Call like? Where and when did it happen?

I got the call on September 24, 2008, and I missed it, because I was cleaning all the bathrooms in my house. When I finally got the message and called my agent back, I only had twenty minutes to make a decision about which house/editor I wanted to work with. My agent had promised the editors a decision by 5:00 p.m. EST, and there I was, finally returning her call at twenty before five. But my life is one big fat whirling ball of chaos, so the rush felt pretty natural, and in a way, it was nice not to have to angst over the decision forever. And you know what? That day was seriously one of the best in my life. I've had this dream forever, and I will always remember September 24, 2008 as the day I realized my dream would come true. That's priceless.

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

I'm working on Crescendo, the sequel to Hush, Hush. In Crescendo, readers will find out what really happened the night Nora's dad was murdered, and how much Patch was involved.

4) What brought you to the YA genre? Have you always been a fan or are you still pretty new to it all?

I've been a fan since I read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson in, let's see, I think that was 2003. I guess that makes me a 6-year fan :). After reading Speak, I had to write YA. (Oddly enough, Hush, Hush is nothing like Speak.)

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


6) What book(s) are you reading now, or are about to start?
Fade by Lisa McMann; Destined for an Early Grave by Jeaniene Frost (I thought this was the first book in the series, but it seems it's not, so I need to stop and go back to Book One – but it's so good I almost don't care if I read the series out of order); Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.

7) In your bio, you say that you love to watch crime dramas. Which ones are your favorites, and why?

Law & Order, hands down! Especially SVU. Oh, and I miss the old days when Angie Harmon and Sam Waterston were on together. Sigh.

8) The cover of Hush Hush is extremely stunning and is being talked about by everyone (especially me, as you know!). Was that the first cover they came up with, or were there some previous ones? What were your initial thoughts on seeing the final (and previous, if any) cover? Were you present at the photo shoot for it?

I went out to NYC in March 2009, when my publishing team was just starting to brainstorm ideas for the cover. I remember the original rough draft had a Maine foresty-like backdrop with fog and twisted trees, and then in the foreground was a red feather. I thought the cover was very pretty, but in the end, it didn't last very long. Shortly after I returned home from NYC, I heard there was going to be a photo shoot, and that the photographer, James Porto, had just finished doing a shoot with angels. That got me excited, because right away I knew they were putting Patch on the cover. I missed the actual photo shoot, but my editor was kind enough to email a few teaser pictures of her jumping on the giant trampoline they used to get that angel-falling-from-heaven shot. My initial reaction when I saw the final cover? I screamed! It was so awesome! I think every author feels a special attachment to their cover, but I was in love with mine. It was perfect. I still get the chills when I look at it.

9) In both your book and in Tom Dolby's book Secret Society, the name Patch is used for a main character. I found this intriguing since I didn't know that both books had the same unusual name before selecting them. How did you come up with the name Patch and what made you use it for that character?

How funny that we both used the name Patch! We must have been on the same brain-wavelength thingy while writing.

I don't remember how I originally came up with the name Patch, but his name started out as Patch in the very first draft I wrote of Hush, Hush (way back in 2003) and it stayed that way clear up until the book went to print. Somewhere along the way, I decided his real name wasn't Patch. Patch was a nickname his friend Rixon gave him, because he was always needing to be patched up after fights. Patch's real name will be revealed most likely in Crescendo, the sequel.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fresh New Voice of YA- Secret Society by Tom Dolby

Secret Society by Tom Dolby
"Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone. . . .

An eccentric new girl. A brooding socialite. The scion of one of New York's wealthiest families. A promising filmmaker. As students at the exclusive Chadwick School, Phoebe, Lauren, Nick, and Patch already live in a world most teenagers only dream about.

They didn't ask to be Society members. But when three of them receive a mysterious text message promising success and fame beyond belief, they say yes to everything—even to the harrowing initiation ceremony in a gritty warehouse downtown and to the ankh-shaped tattoo they're forced to get on the nape of their necks. Once they're part of the Society, things begin falling into place for them. Week after week, their ambitions are fulfilled. It's all perfect—until a body is found in Central Park with no distinguishing marks except for an ankh-shaped tattoo."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed The Secret Society; the mystique and intrigue in the story kept me turning pages. It is a bit slow for most of the book but the ending more than makes up for it with its creepiness. It left me craving the sequel, which unfortunately won't be out until next year, I think. I loved reading about the four main characters- Patch, Lauren, Nick, and Phoebe. They all had such different backgrounds and passions and it was fun reading about each one, as well as how their paths intertwined throughout the book. I love the idea of a secret society and it was so much fun reading this book. Definitely check it out!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FNV Excerpt Vlog- Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Watch me read a small excerpt from one of the most coveted books of the fall season- Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick! Also, don't forget to read and comment on yesterday's interview with Tom Dolby.

Hope you all like it!! :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fresh New Voice of YA- Interview with Tom Dolby

1) How did you get the idea for Secret Society?

I've always loved stories about secret societies, and the idea of one that recruited teenagers was particularly appealing. Who wouldn't want to be part of a secret society?

2) What was The Call like for Secret Society? Where and when did it happen? Tell us all the details!

I was in California and I had a cold, as I had just finished my book tour for my last novel, THE SIXTH FORM, and was totally exhausted. My agent called me and said HarperCollins wanted to buy the first two books in the series. It was incredibly thrilling.

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

I am working on the sequel to SECRET SOCIETY, which contains some surprising twists, as well as a novel for adults.

4) What brought you to the YA genre? Have you always been a fan or are you still pretty new to it all?

I am a fan, though I don't get to read as much as I would like.

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


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

I'm enjoying the TALENTED MR. RIPLEY series. Most people don't know that there are four other books after the one that was made into the movie starring Matt Damon. They're fun because they're all about imposters and fakes -- a theme that runs through SECRET SOCIETY as well.

7) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Just keep working at your craft, and never give up. Persistence is the key.

8) You co-edited an anthology with Melissa de la Cruz called Girls Who Love Boys Who Love Boys. How did the idea for the anthology come about, and how did you get involved with it? Was it fun to do?

It was a lot of fun, as well as a lot of work. Melissa had the idea after we had spent a long weekend together in California. It was amazing working with so many talented writers.

9) In both your book and in Becca Fitzpatrick's book Hush Hush, the name Patch is used for a main character. I found this intriguing since I didn't know that both books had the same unusual name before selecting them. How did you come up with the name Patch and what made you use it for that character?

I actually had the name Patch in mind for a character in another novel, and there was a whole backstory about how he had injured his eye in a bunsen burner accident, and wore an eyepatch (though the real story was that he was just wearing it to gain attention). Bizarre, I know. And so while that backstory didn't come along with this version of Patch, the name stuck -- I liked it because it was sort of scrappy and rebellious, which fits his character.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In My Mailbox- Week of October 12 + Retrospective

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler
Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen are all at Paradise—the resort in the Caribbean, that is—for different reasons, but in Paradise their lives become tangled together in ways none of them can predict. Over the course of four months, through four voices and four stories, what happened in Paradise will change them all.

In this extraordinary novel, the Printz Honor–winning author brings us her most accomplished work yet. Tangled is a story of the secrets we keep, the risks we take, and the things we do for love.

Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch
After five months of sheer absolute craziness I was going back to being plain old background D.J. In photographs of course I'm always in the background...

But it turns out other folks have big plans for D.J. Like her coach. College scouts. All the town hoops fans. A certain Red Bend High School junior who's keen for romance and karaoke. Not to mention Brian Nelson, who she should not be thinking about! Who she is done with, thank you very much. But who keeps showing up anyway...

(Also, Amazon.com has an exclusive letter from Catherine about this final book in the Dairy Queen series.)

Tuesday- Traveling to Teens review of Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Thursday- Preview of my upcoming bookcase review (the bookcase was recently shipped out! YAY!)

Friday- My recap of Maggie Stiefvater's launch party for Ballad

Friday, October 16, 2009

Picture Post- Maggie Stiefvater Launch Party

I left early from work on Thursday, October 8 so I could go to Maggie's Launch Party for her new book Ballad in Richmond, VA. I picked up my roomie at her workplace and we were on our way. The ride went by very quickly and we met up with her boyfriend at Chipotle and then they had dinner while I went to the signing.

Now, I ended up committing a small crime on my way to the bookstore where it was taking place- The Fountain Bookstore. So I had written out directions to the bookstore and made sure there were NO TOLL ROADS that I had to go through because there are a couple toll roads around (btw, such a stupid thing) the area. Well, turns out Mapquest lied and the exit I took off of I-64 (or whatever road I was on) was actually a toll road where I needed exact change (30 cents) and I had four 20s in my pocket. Not good. So I searched around my car but found no change, and I had to make a decision because there was someone waiting behind me.

So what I ended up doing was just driving forward anyway. The only thing that seemed to be keeping me there was a red light that would turn green once you put/threw your change into the funnel-like thing. I am now a criminal. YAY! But quite honestly, I do not care.

Anyway, I found the bookstore easily and also found parking easily too just down the street from the bookstore. I walked into the bookstore and found this:

Inside the donut boxes were Halloween-decorated donuts. I grabbed a regular glazed with chocolate icing and black and orange sprinkles. It was quite good. I then went to the signing area and Maggie was there talking to two friends of hers. I sat down and listened to the conversation, which was extremely hilarious.

Throughout the night, many special topics were brought up to discussion. Here is just a small sampling of what was brought up: merman sex, Spongebob fanfiction, odd Twilight paraphernalia (sp?) like a certain fake piece of male anatomy that you could put into the freezer before usage for the full effect (can I just say EWWWW?), crazy fans, Maggie's many and various expressions (which unfortunately does not include my favorite of her expressions but hopefully she'll do a vlog of those later which will be reminiscent of the Far Side cartoon talking about the facial expressions of a dog depending on their mood and it's all the same expression), the phrase "ugly shade of dangerous" which was used to refer to the shade of color hair turns into when it's been shaved off a guy's beard, I believe, and was actually used in a novel (unpublished, though I feel that goes without saying), and many more.

Maggie was lovely, expressive, and hilarious. She read a bit from Ballad, a part that mentioned the main character James' roommate. What is funny about that is that James' roommate is named Paul. My roomie calls me Paul because she thinks I look more like a Paul than a James. So I have both my names in Maggie's book; it made me giggle. She also rambled a bit and answered a few questions from the audience which mainly consisted of people she knew except for one couple who came to the signing cuz they love Maggie's books. After that, she signed books and chatted with everyone and it was fantastic. I also got a frame from her Ballad trailer that she made. I'll have to take a picture of it or show it off in a vlog at some point soon. I also got a picture with her.

The bookstore employees were so nice and let us hang out and chat well past their closing time, which was 8pm. You could tell they both loved their job and loved books and they were so funny and sweet- great people who run a great bookstore. We did eventually migrate over to the parking lot and I kinda wandered off from the crowd to go to my car. Maggie caught me though before I could get away and gave me a hug and we said goodbye to each other. I went back to my car and before I got in, all her friends yelled out "BYE JAMES!" and then Maggie immediately turns around and says "I swear I didn't make them do that."

Feeling this newfound love, I came over and ended up hanging out and laughing with Maggie and her friends until about 9:30 and I still had to go get dinner and make the two hour drive back. I stopped by McDonald's and got a McNugget meal, which was AMAZING, and after that, got some gas for my car and headed on home. It was a wonderful evening and I'm so happy I got to go. My next signing is gonna be another Maggie one in December (unless I find one to go to before then) in Charlottesville, VA which I'm excited about since it's on a Saturday and in the afternoon so Maggie and I can hang out before and after the signing. YAY!

And now, I'm finally caught up on all my signing recaps. w00t!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Coming Up- Bookcase Review

So last month or so (I know, I am WAYYYYY behind on this!), I got an email from CSN asking me if I'd like to review one of their products. Of course, I said yes immediately (and by "immediately", I mean "several weeks later") to a bookcase, not just because of the free product, but because if you've seen my room like in my vlogs or something, you know it is a mess because of all the books and DVDs and crap I have, so having another bookcase would be extremely helpful. I am very excited about this one that I'm getting (pic is below) and can't wait for it to arrive.

CSN does a ton of furniture pieces from bookcases to office chairs to pretty much anything, it seems. Here's the bookcase I'm getting, and I feel like this'll be the best one for my room and my needs:

So once I get this bookcase and get it all set up, my review will go up along with fun pictures and maybe even a vlog! We shall see what the future holds. Hopefully the review will be up by the end of the month. All of next week is taken up by Fresh New Voice of YA featuring Becca Fitzpatrick (author of Hush Hush) and Tom Dolby (author of Secret Society), so be sure to check that out and comment. Also, please read and comment on my review of Ice by Sarah Beth Durst and look for my recap of Maggie Stiefvater's Ballad launch party tomorrow afternoon. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Traveling to Teens Tour- Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
"When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth. Now that Cassie is older, she knows the story was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, is determined to become a scientist, and has no time for make-believe. Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face-to-face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned at the ends of the earth. And he can bring her back -- if Cassie will agree to be his bride.

That is the beginning of Cassie's own real-life fairy tale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knows will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her -- until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice."-summary from Amazon

Durst's latest fairy tale offering is very different from her previous two books. This retelling is more atmospheric and darker in tone than the Wild stories, and it's a fantastic and compelling read. The prose is so descriptive, but never overly so or too flowery or boring; every bit of it is necessary and helps to create this wonderful world for Cassie's adventure. While I've never heard of the original tale, that doesn't really matter here and I still really enjoyed the novel. Cassie is a strong, capable, and witty heroine and one that readers can look up to and root for; the emotions she goes through before and during her journey are realistic and really pulled me into the story and into her shoes.

The ending though is a bit rushed and abrupt, and of course, being a fairy tale retelling, predictable as well. But the predictability doesn't take away from the reading at all because throughout the novel, there's always the HOW that needs to be answered and it's a doozy. It's definitely not something I expected to happen and it was just amazing to follow along on Cassie's adventures. I do wish more time had been spent on the ending and giving the reader a bit more time to come out of this world after the climax. It seems like the climax happens and then boom! the story's over and I'm not fully prepared for it.

This is also a book I could totally see as a movie and I so hope it gets optioned. It's a wonderful, breath-taking novel and with a blurb from YA fantasy queen Tamora Pierce, how can you go wrong?

PS This is my 200th post here! YAY!! :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In My Mailbox- Week of October 5 + Retrospective

No vlog this week because, no joke, I only got ONE book this week and it's one I probably won't end up reading:

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper
“There’s a fine line between gossip and history, when one is talking about kings.”

Sophie Fitzosborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray with her eccentric and impoverished royal family. When she receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday, Sophie decides to chronicle day-to-day life on the island. But this is 1936, and the news that trickles in from the mainland reveals a world on the brink of war. The politics of Europe seem far away from their remote island—until two German officers land a boat on Montmaray. And then suddenly politics become very personal indeed.

A Brief History of Montmaray is a heart-stopping tale of loyalty, love, and loss, and of fighting to hold on to home when the world is exploding all around you.

This is an Aussie novel, in case anyone was wondering.

So since this IMM is so short, I'm gonna post my Retrospective here too-

Tuesday- Blog tour featuring an interview with Thomas Randall and a review of his book The Waking: Dreams of the Dead

Wednesday- Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle review and interview

Friday- A picture post featuring a book signing I went to for Kathryn Williams.

Saturday- A review of Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson

Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson
"Using the skills you've learned so far in Introduction to Psychology, please write a brief self-assessment describing how things are going in your freshman year. Presenting Concerns: The Patient, Leigh Nolan (that would be me), has just started her first year at Stiles College. She has decided to major in psychology (even though her parents would rather she study Tarot cards, not Rorschach blots).
Patient has always been very good at helping her friends with their problems, but when it comes to solving her own...not so much.

Patient has a tendency to overanalyze things, particularly when the opposite sex is involved. Like why doesn't Andrew, her boyfriend of over a year, ever invite her to spend the night? Or why can't she commit to taking the next step in their relationship? And why does his roommate Nathan dislike her so much? More importantly, why did Nathan have a starring role in a much-more-than-friendly dream?

Aggravating factors include hyper-competitive fellow psych majors, a professor who's badly in need of her own psychoanalysis, and mentoring a middle-school-aged girl who thinks Patient is, in a word, naive. Diagnosis: Psych Major Syndrome"- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed this book; it's not very often I get to read a book about a college-age protagonist. I love reading books from that perspective and there never seems to really be any around. Thompson's writing was really funny but also had its moments to let the characters' depth shine through. I loved reading about the mentoring program that Leigh gets involved in, and also the trials and tribulations of her romantic life. I went through this book pretty quickly because the writing just flowed so well and was really compelling. Definitely an author to keep an eye on in the future!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Picture Post- Kathryn Williams signing

Yes, I went to another signing, this time in Richmond, VA, just actually a few days after the Diana Peterfreund signing. It was for Kathryn Williams, who wrote The Debutante and The Lost Summer, and who I've been chatting with since The Debutante ARCs came out way back in late 2007. Kathryn emailed me the day before the signing and told me all about it; she understood if I couldn't make it, but would really love to have me there. Of course, I totally made it there. I did think about finances and all that first but then pretty much just said "Screw it" and went.

My roomie traveled along with me as she tends to do whenever I go to a Richmond signing. We stopped by her boyfriend's apartment and then drove over to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner in separate cars, so I could go straight to the signing afterward. We had a wonderful meal (their fries are to die for!) and it was just a fun time; we ate at their tables outside cuz it was such a gorgeous day, so that made the meal even more pleasant.

I ended up leaving kinda late from dinner and made it to the signing about 15 minutes late, which my roomie later said seemed to be becoming my signature move- arriving fashionably late. Kathryn had a HUGE crowd and I was so happy to see that many people at the store to see her. She was reading from The Lost Summer when I got there, so while she finished up, I browsed the YA section nearby. When she started the QnA part, I came back over to listen. She was very funny and answered a few questions before getting ready to sign.

When she started signing, I held off and figured I could finish browsing the YA section before getting in line, so I did that. After I was done browsing, I got in line and waited for my turn to come up. Kathryn was so sweet and chatted with every person in line. She recognized me right as she was finishing up with the two women in front of me and introduced me to them as a blogger who is awesome and how I featured her on my blog. They were quite impressed and were so dazzled by my celebrity (*snort*) that they took a picture of me and Kathryn together with my camera. Kathryn signed my books and was so nice.

After that, I wandered off and looked in the fiction section for Ballads of Suburbia (3 copies-woo!) and just browsed around. When the crowd had died down, I came back into the signing area and Kathryn chatted with me for a couple minutes before leaving since she hadn't had dinner yet and was heading out with friends. I left shortly after but got sidetracked by a very hilarious book entitled The Quotable Douchebag, which made me giggle incessantly while in the Humor section reading it. I'm sure I scared some people browsing nearby.

And that was really it. I went home shortly after that. Twas a fun time.

Next Friday- a recap of Maggie Stiefvater's launch party for Ballad (which happened just a few hours before this posting). Let's hope that I get more than 1 or 2 pictures taken! And also that I am not shy again and become too afraid to ask for a picture with Maggie. This is my third (kinda fourth, but I barely saw her at the Scott/Gray signing plus she was flanked by kids so I'm not sure if that counts) time seeing her and still no picture, so I had better man up and get it this time. Wish me luck! I'll probably talk about it a bit in my IMM vlog if I do one this week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle

Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
Growing up in a world of wealth and pastel-tinted entitlement, fifteen-year-old Carly has always relied on the constancy—and authenticity—of her sister, Anna. But when fourteen-year-old Anna turns plastic-perfect-pretty over the course of a single summer, everything starts to change. And there are boys involved, complicating things as boys always do.

I'm a huge fan of Myracle's work and this book was no different. Vastly different from her previous release Bliss, pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum, it's back to the usual fare for Myracle- fun stories dealing with some big issues. This book is really character-driven, I think, and focuses on the relationship between sisters Anna and Carly and all the things that come with it- inferiority, insecurity, body growth, boys, etc. It's a wonderfully compelling book that explores these issues with depth and wit.

Yes, this book is also hilarious and had me laughing throughout it. There are sad moments too sprinkled throughout and I feel like I may have teared up a bit reading a certain part. Toward the end of the novel, during a party scene at Anna and Carly's house when their parents are out of town, the emotions Carly went through that whole night leapt off the page for me while I read it. I felt these emotions and it was seriously like I was actually there right beside Carly as it all went down.

There were a couple things that irked me though. I felt like both sisters had occasional bouts of not being able to take a joke and seemed to take the remark way too personally. Now, there are parts where I was like "OK, that was mean." but for others, it just made no sense. I also had a problem with the part of the ending where Carly and her father have a heart-to-heart. It seemed abrupt to me and a bit rushed and not completely believable.

But these are just tiny problems and are nothing major to be concerned about. Overall, this was a really fun read and Myracle did some great exploring of sister dynamics, which isn't always something I see in YA novels. Definitely recommended.

Interview with Lauren Myracle
Now this is an interesting interview. I asked Lauren a couple questions and she responded back with her answers. However, there was a slight problem with them- since she had no wireless on her tour, she had to answer via her phone so her answers are short, sweet and have interesting spelling. I am putting her answers in as is because it's fun, lol. But she was so sweet to even answer even while on tour- how awesome is that?!

1) How did you get the idea for Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks?
wanted to write a book about the fabulous bizareness of the south

2) Was any of it based on your own relationship with your sister??
Lord, yes. love my sis sooooo much and wanted to honor our rlntshp (relationship)...while also, erm, working out deep-seated issues... ;)

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blog Tour- The Waking: Dreams of the Dead by Thomas Randall

The Waking: Dreams of the Dead by Thomas Randall
Kara’s afraid to go to sleep—until the nightmares come when she’s awake . . . .

Sixteen-year-old Kara Foster is an outsider in Japan, but is doing her best to fit at the private school where her father is teaching English for the year. Fortunately she’s befriended by Sakura, a fellow outsider struggling to make sense of her sister’s unsolved murder some months ago. No one seems to care about the beautiful girl who was so brutally murdered, and the other students go on as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, the calm doesn’t last for long. Kara begins to have nightmares, and soon other students in the school turn up dead, viciously attacked by someone . . . or something. Is Sakura getting back at those she thinks are responsible for her sister’s death? Or has her dead sister come back to take revenge for herself?

This is a really suspenseful read; it's really more suspense than horror, but still pretty scary. I could not read this book at night and had to read most of it during the day, like at work. I really enjoyed the setting of Japan, which you don't often see in YA novels; it's fun to go abroad through reading. The myths used were a really fresh and original take on a tired subject (vampires) and really utilized the setting and history of Japan to that advantage. I loved reading about the friendships Kara made during her time there and just how similar Japan's students can be to our own. The climax of the story seemed rushed and abrupt, though the ending gives us a breather and a bit of time to come out of the climax and story, which was nice. Overall, a really scary read and definitely one to be considered if you're wanting a book for Halloween and want a fresh take on an oft-used subject in horror.

Interview with Thomas Randall
1) How did you get the idea for Dreams of the Dead and the overall trilogy?

I've always been intrigued by the fact that Japan doesn't have what I think of as a "traditional" vampire legend. There are vampiric creatures--all sorts, actually--but no vampire in the vein (no pun intended) of Dracula. A lot of countries have variations on that sort of European core, and that has become the source of most of what modern readers think of as vampire legend. I wanted to do a story that would be able to explore all of these very different vampire myths as a kind of counterpoint to the versions we see so much of--either the sexy predator or the angsty immortal. These vampires have taken the fear out of vampirism, taken the monstrousness away, but these stories retain the fear. As for Kara and her friends, I'm not sure where all of that came from, but I loved the idea of this girl starting over, a stranger in a strange land, and how much courage it would take for her to plunge into a foreign land pretty much on her own and be able to stand tall, especially at her age.

2) You're using a psuedonym for this series. Why is that?

A lot of reasons, actually, some of them contractual. At the time I made the deal with Bloomsbury I was under option for my YA work with another publisher, but working under a pseudonym was an exception to that option. That provided me an opportunity to attempt the pseudonym thing, which was something I've always wanted to do. Multiple times during my career I've suggested to publishers that one thing or another be published under a pseudonym. Unfortunately, in the past, publishers have always insisted that they'd rather go with the known (a familiar name) than the unknown (a brand new one). THE WAKING is different from my other work. Not that I haven't done creepy before, or courageous teen girl faces the darkness. But the tone of this feels different to me, and obviously the atmosphere is very different. Hopefully people who've enjoyed my other work will discover this, too. And hopefully a new crop of readers will find it as well.

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

Hmm. I broke character for only the second time on this blog tour, so I might as well continue. YA-wise, the whole WAKING trilogy (DREAMS OF THE DEAD, SPIRITS OF THE NOH, A WINTER OF GHOSTS) is done. Right now I'm doing a YA dark fantasy for MTV Books called WHEN ROSE WAKES, which is coming out very cool, I think.

4) You write a lot of horror novels. What brought you to that particular genre, and what about it interests you and keeps you writing it?

I don't honestly know what brought me to horror in the first place. It always intrigued me. I always liked being scared. From my perspective, very little of what I've written can really be classified as Horror, but I'm always proud to be counted amongst the roster of horror writers. And there's no question that THE WAKING is horror, though you could call them supernatural thrillers, too. As for what interests me about it now...I think we all love being scared. There's catharsis in there. Like a good laugh, you feel better after a good scare. More alive. More engaged. More relaxed. (Not relaxed WHILE being scared, of course.) But for me part of the appeal of the supernatural is spiritual. If you can believe for even one instant that demons and ghosts exist, than for that same instant you have to accept that there is life after death. Where there is evil, there is good. Where there are demons there are angels. Horror helps us believe that there is more to our existence than just flesh and bone.

5) Now, the burning question on everyone's minds- what's your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?

It's a toss-up between Tangerine and Crushed Pineapple. :)

For more info on the tour and its stops, go here to see Little Willow's post about it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Retrospective (1)

So I've finally decided to do one! :) I figured that it's a great way to let people know what I've been up to this week and I'll give a little preview to what's coming up in the next week. Here we go:

Saturday- My weekly In My Mailbox post Unfortunately, not a vlog, though there may be one this week! :)

Monday- Going Bovine blog tour featuring a review of the book and an interview with Libba Bray

Tuesday- Discussion post on my reviews. Thanks for all the comments, everyone! Keep them coming. Also, if you left a comment, check back later today cuz I'll be replying to everyone. :)

Thursday- Duplikate by Cherry Cheva review and interview, where she talks a bit about Family Guy's season premiere next fall and I reveal the premiere date for the episode she wrote this season.

Friday- Picture Post of Diana Peterfreund's VA launch party back in September, wherein I talk about my afternoon of hanging out with Diana.

Coming up this week- Another blog tour, this time for The Waking: Dreams of the Dead by Thomas Randall, a review of Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle, and my recap of Kathryn Williams' Richmond, VA signing a couple weeks ago.

Also I'm going to Maggie Steifvater's Ballad launch in Richmond, VA this Thursday. Is anyone else going? I'm so excited to be there!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Picture Post- Diana Peterfreund signing

Warning: There are a TON of parenthetical asides here. You have been warned.

So I originally wasn't going to be able to go to this signing because of my lack of funds. But then my roomie ended up needing to go up to DC on the exact same day as the signing, so we just worked out a plan of action. We got up early and I drove up to Tysons Corner where the signing was being held. My roomie and her bf went to Chipotle for lunch, and then I took them to the metro so they could go to their thing in DC for the afternoon. I had to explain the whole system to them and everything which took a bit of time and then having to find a parking space back at Tysons proved difficult. I ended up being 15 minutes late to the signing, but Diana was so sweet and had had her mother (I think?) asking tons of questions so that the signing could be prolonged until I showed up since she knew I'd be coming by.

The cool thing was that as soon as I entered B&N (on the ground floor, the signing was on the second floor), they were playing this really fast instrumental piece and it so fit my "Must find Diana!" mindset and frantic nature. It was the most amazing two minutes of my life. So anyway, I grabbed a seat and Diana answered a few more questions and then the signing began. I got in line toward the end and waited around to get to Diana. The woman in front of me had her baby with her and Diana introduced us to each other since we're both bloggers. I had never heard of Alexa, who runs the Not Enough Bookshelves blog, but the next day, I found her blog and started following her. Which was good since I hadn't spelled out my blog name and she was using a different spelling. I love finding new blogs! :)

After Alexa went off, I had my little chat with Diana while she signed my book (which was actually Karin's copy since my copy had gotten lost in the mail when she tried to send it back- isn't Karin so sweet?) and a mother who was sitting in the front row with her daughter asked if I wanted a picture with Diana, which I did. So I gave her my camera and showed her how to use it, and we got the picture you see below! Thanks mysterious Diana fan!

Diana and I chatted with Emily (I think that's her name?) who put together the event (and also the Elizabeth Scott/Claudia Gray event) while she signed many copies of Rampant. It was quite fun, though Emily now knows the title of the Rampant sequel, which Diana refused to tell me since I am on the internetz and would tell everyone, lol (btw, Diana also knows the title of the 4th Gallagher Girls book, which she deems is the best one yet). Once Diana finished, we walked off together and I assumed we'd part ways since I figured she had to get home since it was her husband's birthday. But she suggested that we grab some lunch, so we went to the food court and got some McDonald's. Now, Diana was EXTREMELY sweet and actually bought my meal for me (she says it's the Italian in her, who wants to make sure everyone's fed) since she knew I was poor (though my dad had just put money in my account so I was all ready to pay for my own meal) and also thought I wasn't eating (one of the first things out of her mouth once the signing was over was "Are you eating?") even though I was. My roomie would never let me starve.

The McDonald's ordering process became an ordeal because Diana was just getting an order of fries and a drink, whereas I was getting a full meal, so the Hispanic lady was a bit confused when Diana was ordering since she thought we were asking for just the meal (10-piece McNuggets, btw- mmmmm). Finally, we got everything straightened out and then the lady sneezed into her hand and wandered off. Diana and I looked at each other and were like "Great. She sneezed and is now getting our food. We are going to contract swine flu now." But as it turned out, she was going over to the sink to wash her hands with soap. Yay sanitation!

We got our food and Diana had some trouble with the ketchup machine (because it was squirting out BBQ sauce or something that wasn't ketchup). THEN we sat down and my straw was all effed up. It was slightly warped and one end was like closed up. I tried to fix it, and Diana saw my efforts and was so sweet and got up to get me a new straw. After all that, we started eating and it was glorious (though the fries could've been a bit better). We chatted about a lot of different things, but it all tied in to our lives. Diana told me about growing up in Florida, living in NYC, being at Yale, moving to DC. She told me a little about her parents and how they like to overdo things, such as how they were planning a party for the release of Rampant. Diana had been talking to them and just said "I think it'd be great if we just got some pizzas and (insert something Roman here since I can't remember what she said). That's all we need." And her parents ended up making a bunch of Italian food, gelato, and like a ton of Roman items, and basically making it like Little Italy in your house.

Anyway, it was a ton of fun having a quick bite with Diana. She is so funny, kind and nice and I was quite surprised that she wanted to have lunch with me so we'd have a chance to sit and chat for a little while. It was a fantastic afternoon and one I'll never forget (I might forget details though because I am prone to that).

Picture- Me with Diana. Note her made-of-awesome shirt.