Thursday, December 29, 2011

YA Scavenger Hunt Again!

Follow the hunt every day during the month of December! Answer the daily trivia questions from MG and YA books published during 2011 to be entered into the YA book giveaway.

Today's question is from Forever by Maggie Stiefvater.
Question #58: Who gives Sam permission to let the wolves stay on his property?

Remember to fill out your answer in the form at Most Important Letter here!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We hope you got all of the books you wanted this Christmas!  

Monster sure did!  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Makes A Great Book? [You're The Expert]

Recently I was reading an article over at the Guardian that ponders "What's the definition of a great book?" It basically sums itself up saying that there is no way to define a great book.  "I cannot give you rules for how to do this, or criteria, or objective guidelines, and even if I could, I wouldn't. I know how much harm that can do."  And everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

So true.  There is no definition of great writing.  No way to measure a novel's engagement, evocation, or the pleasure it brings to its reader.  Because we're all different.  We are.  And thank goodness.  So, in advance of my 2011 Top 5 declaration, here's this odd bird's criteria to judge a book:
  1. How many times did I stumble over sentence structure and word choice?  When I look at a book critically, I look at the technical parts of the writing as well as the emotional parts.  Was there an easier, more effective way to say what the author said?  Does the way they chose to write it have more literary or poetic value to me than the hitch in my reading rhythm detracted?  Still subjective to even my mood at the time, but isn't that one of the great things about literature? Even tense selection has a bearing on my perception of this.  Example:  Ashfall by Mike Mullin.  I didn't like that it was told in past tense.  It bugged me enough that I stopped reading it.  Yet, it's been named on several lists' top ten, but to me, it's not worth finishing.  
  2. How connected was I to the characters?  I'm not a teenager.  I'm not a boy.  But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't be able to get inside the head of the main character and understand his or her perspective and paradigm.  I should care about him or her.  I should want to know what happens next in his story if it's a serial.  I should be able to determine if he/she and I could be friends or not. These things are paramount to me being able to understand and connect.   Example: The Rivers of Time Series by Lisa Bergren.  I'm still, months later, wondering what will happen next to all of these people.  DYING to be caught up in another adventure.
  3. Did the story make sense?  One of the biggest problem spots with literature for me is this piece of the puzzle.  When an author builds a world, does he or she violate the rules of that world with actions of the characters?  All too often I find either convenience loopholes in the world building or blatant violations of rules that have been given.  This violates my trust as a reader and doesn't allow me to fully enjoy the story before me because my critical side kicks in and then I'm on the prowl for more mistakes.  Example:  Sweetly by Jackson Pearce.  There were so many inconsistencies that I would not have finished it save it was a book group selection.  And when I got to the end, I did indeed throw it.
  4. Was the story predictable?  While this doesn't hold as much weight as the first three questions, it does hold weight.  If I have a book figured out because of obvious foreshadowing and a key-to-the-puzzle prologue, I'm not going to like it as much as if I get hit with unexpected plot twists.  I'm more adept than the people around me in real life at seeing these plot twists coming, (that's not me bragging, that's just me saying it's something I have a talent for) so if I'm surprised, it's a favorable thing for the book.  Example:  Matched by Allie Condie.  I didn't see these coming.  I didn't have the plot figured out from the time I started the book and learned the rules of its world.  Do I see where things are trending?  Absolutely.  But do I know what the characters are going to do about them?  Nope. Result?  The very first dystopian novel I've actually enjoyed.  
  5. Did I think about the story when I wasn't reading the book?  Another one that doesn't apply to all books, because I sometimes read chapters all day long with pauses every ten minutes, and sometimes I sit and read them all in one sitting.  But after I'm done, am I pondering the ramifications of the last chapter?  Or did I throw the book across the room and into the wall because I thought it was a waste of my time?  Example:  The Need series by Carrie Jones.  WHEN WILL ENDURE BE ON MY DOORSTEP?  I check its release date frequently, hoping it was moved up.
I hope this share enlightens you as to a bit of the way I judge and critique books.  Our Top 5 of 2011 will be out before the end of the year.  Merry Christmas!  ♥  May your presents be filled with awesome reads, yo.  ♥

If you want to share what you think is important in a book, or what defines a great book to you, leave a comment, or write your own post and leave us a link, we'd adore it!  We're super interested interested in what you have to say on the subject.

For those of you not familiar with You're The Expert here at I Heart Monster, it's a type of post where we share some information with you, then ask you what you think about that information.  We encourage you to leave your opinion or answers in the comments section, and even write your own post as an answer if you are so inclined.  See, we're all different, and we all have different experiences, and that's part of what makes the blogosphere such a fun place - we're all experts about what we think and how we feel and our particular view on the world.  This is just a forum for you to share those with the rest of us.  A safe place where your opinion is respected.  Attacking or hostile comments will be removed.  If you do write a post, we'd love it if you share the link with us.

Monday, December 19, 2011

7 DIY Bookish Tutorials [Gift Ideas]

Oh my goodness, Christmas is Sunday.  For those of you who haven't yet shopped for that bookish person on your list, here are some bookishly fun DIY gift tutorials that you still have time to complete if you're low on cash or low on ideas.

Dollar Store Plastic Animal Book Ends Tutorial by Mad In Crafts.  I saw these animals in the dollar bins at Target and had I seen this tutorial before I saw those animals I totally would have tried it.  All you need is some spray paint, some plastic picture frames and some glue.  So fun.

This Teeny Tiny Leather Spell Book Tutorial from Ruby Murray looks really fun.  Harry Potter isn't the only spell book in literature, so this could be perfect for your fantasy loving girl.

Make someone food from their favorite fiction series. has recipes from A Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.

Something like this framed from a thrifted book of poems or shorts, or novel could really be a lasting and meaningful gift for a loved one.

This DIY Antiqued Embroidered Book Cover Tutorial from Urban Threads is GORGEOUS.  It might be a little out of my capability range, but who am I to deny it to you guys who have mad embroidery skills?

These bookmarks and journal wraps via Craft Snob are fun, easy, and super great for traveling.  I've made them before, and the recipients used and loved them.  It takes about fifteen minutes total.

Make an origami pendant out of an old dictionary or book you salvage from the trash.  I'm not suggesting you go dumpster diving behind your local bookstore... or am I?  I kid.  Pendant picture is from Ume Origami.  Tutorial is via Paper Unlimited.  This could be an ornament too.

Hope you enjoy these tutorials!  You'll find all of them on my Pinterest board, Bookish.  Have a great week!  and good luck with those projects.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Don't Support Your Local Bookseller? [You're The Expert]

I was perusing some of my usual web sections this morning and stumbled upon an article at Slate called "Don't Support Your Local Bookseller: Buying books at Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you by Farhad Manjoo."  I thought for sure the dude who wrote it was being sardonic.

Much to my surprise, after reading a few paragraphs into the article, I found that he was dead serious.  And since this topic of Amazon vs. Indie Booksellers is one I struggle with, I thought I'd share this article with you and see what you think.

The author of the article starts by admitting that Amazon is douchey.  My word, not his.  Then he goes on to address some issues that I had never considered.  And most issues that I could write an entire post about on their own.  Remember, these are his points, not mine:

  1. Indie bookstores recommend books their employees like, not ones that you might like based on your purchase and reading history.
  2. Indie booksellers do not promote a local product, they promote a product from one of the major publishers in Manhattan.  They are no more local than your local superstore.  
  3. Indie booksellers run on inefficient business models, and "benefit at the expense of someone else in the economy."  That money you save by purchasing your book at Amazon could go to a truly local endeavor like the theatre company, museum, artist, or farmers market.
  4. Indie booksellers pricing prevents people from buying more books.  After all there is a finite amount of disposable income, so if people pay double at an Indie, they will only consume one book instead of the potential two for the same money.  And isn't consumption of more literature the point of the whole industry?
  5. Amazon's Kindle users buy e-books at twice the rate that they used to buy print books.  But they keep buying print books too.  
So here's where I am on the topics:
  1. I've found that Indie booksellers are just as adept at recommending books to me as Amazon's recommendation algorithm.  Being a blogger, I have to believe that getting a recommendation from a human is better than from a computer.  And even if I wasn't a blogger, I'd think the same thing.  Humans have reasons they like books, not merely genre similarities.  I don't know how many times Amazon has tried to get me to buy The House of Night books and I hate them.
  2. Food for thought.  While they push the local authors, do they really benefit the local authors any more than Amazon does?  I'd really like to see numbers on how many books authors sell in their native markets.  That might have some clout in this argument.  Sure it's a local job, but so is the job at the local Amazon warehouse that's thirty miles from here.
  3. That's part of the reason I buy at Amazon.  Money I save buying books from Amazon does go into local arts and entertainment ventures.,. one of which is Changing Hands, where I purchase any books I want to get signed, even when I know they're going to cost me more because a book signing is entertainment, and I'm willing to pay a premium to support the store and the author at an event.  
  4. With the amount of literature that I consume, this is a concern of mine.  I get a fair amount of books from publishers, but I BUY BOOKS.  Just ask Monster.  He'll vouch.  And I can purchase more if I buy them from Amazon.  But I still go to Changing Hands at least once a month to support them, because I think that a local literary community is important.  See what I mean about struggling with this debate?
  5. Does not apply to this girl.  I'm not an e-reader.
Now it's time for you to tell me what you think.  Sock it to me, baby...

For those of you not familiar with You're The Expert here at I Heart Monster, it's a type of post where we share some information with you, then ask you what you think about that information.  We encourage you to leave your opinion or answers in the comments section, and even write your own post as an answer if you are so inclined.  See, we're all different, and we all have different experiences, and that's part of what makes the blogosphere such a fun place - we're all experts about what we think and how we feel and our particular view on the world.  This is just a forum for you to share those with the rest of us.  A safe place where your opinion is respected.  Attacking or hostile comments will be removed.  If you do write a post, we'd love it if you share the link with us.

Monday, December 12, 2011

YA Scavenger Hunt Stop!

I'm today's hunt stop for the 2011 YA Story Scavenger Hunt!

Follow the hunt every day during the month of December! Answer the daily trivia questions from MG and YA books published during 2011 to be entered into the YA book giveaway.

Today's question (#23) is from Hourglass by Myra McEntire:
What is the first apparition Emerson sees in the novel?

Remember to fill out your answer in the form at Most Important Letter here!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Smackdown: Pangrelor vs. Middle Earth by Robert Louis Smith [Guest Post]

Robert Louis Smith is the author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans.  He joins us today with a guest post!  Welcome, Robert!

In 1954, J.R.R. Tolkien published the first of a breathtaking series of books that would go on to become some of the most influential novels of the 20th century. As anyone who has ever read The Lord of the Rings knows, Tolkien's books are so imaginative and unexpectedly powerful that his fantastic tale still captures our imaginations more than a half century after its original publication. These stories gave birth to the modern fantasy genre, and it is perhaps inevitable that so many contemporary fantasy books replicate aspects of Tolkien's writings. So pervasive is Tolkien's influence that the Oxford English Dictionary offers a word for it: Tolkienesque. Perhaps this is why we see so many fantasy tales that feature elves, dwarves, wizards, magic rings, and magic swords. The presence of these features is, in many ways, what we have come to expect from a modern fantasy novel.
But over the course of 57 years, these constructs of classical Northern European (or Tolkienesque) fantasy fiction have been imitated to the point of monotony. In tome after tome, we see elves and dwarves wielding magical swords or speaking in Northern European conlangs (fictional languages) as they follow some particular heroic quest. And let's be honest. Although there are many wonderful and imaginative novels that feature these elements, no one has done it as well as Mr. Tolkien.

When I sat down to write Antiquitas Lost, I promised myself there would be no magic rings, magic swords, elves or dwarves. A major goal was to create a fantasy novel where the creatures and setting were fresh. Pangrelor, the fantasy world described in Antiquitas Lost, is envisioned as a pre-industrial, medieval society with beautiful artistic accomplishments set in a savage and magical natural environment -- the Renaissance meets the Pleistocene, with magical beings and crypto-zoological creatures. Devoid of elves and dwarves, Pangrelor is inhabited largely by creatures that we are familiar with, but different from the usual fantasy fare -- gargoyles, Bigfoot creatures, Neanderthal types, Atlanteans and dinosaurs, to name a few. These differences give Pangrelor a much different feel       from Middle Earth and the countless, adherent worlds that have followed. Hopefully the reader will find this refreshing. Over time, I have come to think of Antiquitas Lost as more of a "North American" tale, with many references to new world mythologies, as well as a hint of Native American influence.

Although Antiquitas Lost is not immune to Mr. Tolkien's sweeping influence, it is unique in many ways. When you take your first journey to Pangrelor, it is my sincere hope that you will experience a hint of the joy that accompanied your maiden voyage to Middle Earth, and that you will connect in a meaningful way with this unprecedented new cast of characters as you explore an altogether unique fantasy destination.

The Darfoyle, Escar
Again we see the character Hooks, though in this chapter he has been captured by the forces at Harwelden and is slated for a grisly execution the following day. Though he has spent many years involved in a life of petty crime, Hooks has never before landed in such dire straits, and the sad expression on his face perfectly fits his inner dialogue as he contemplates how he finds himself at such a sorry pass. In this scene, the guard is asking him to choose his final meal. On a technical note, the depth in this picture is amazing, and really showcases Geof’s artistic skill. As with the earlier Hooks illustration, we see a hint of Bernie Wrightson’s influence.

This is breathtaking. Depicted here is the Darfoyle, Ecsar, commander of the serpan legion that is preparing to storm the gimlet enclave of Scopulus. Darfoyles share remote biological origins with another species in Pangrelor, the grayfarers. Both are loosely based on gargoyles. As you might have gleaned from this illustration, these are some of Antiquitas Lost’s many bad guys. In the novel, the darfoyles are described as larger than grayfarers and darker in color. Unlike the grayfarers, darfoyles have tails. When Geof asked me to give him a feel for how I thought darfoyles might look on paper, I told him I thought they looked something like demons. Geof prepared for this drawing by creating a number of anatomic sketches focused on the musculature that would be needed to power the massive wings.
© 2011 Robert Louis Smith, author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans

Author Bio
Robert Louis Smith, author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans, has numerous degrees, including psychology (B.A.), applied microbiology (B.S.), anaerobic microbiology (M.Sc.), and a Medical Doctorate (M.D.). He serves as an interventional cardiologist at the Oklahoma Heart Institute. He is married and the father of two young children. He began writing Antiquitas Lost in 2003 while studying at Tulane University in New Orleans.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren [Review] [YA]

Plot Sketch:  Gabriella and Evangelia (how cool is that name, btw?) Bettarini, or Gabi and Lia as they call each other, are daughters of archaeologists.  Losing their father just six months ago has left a raw spot, but their mother presses on in search of Etruscan sites in Italy during their summer vacation nonetheless, needing a find to support her family.  Mom finds it.  She finds an ancient Etruscan burial site in Toscana (I'm thinking Tuscany to us American-folk) and when Italian officials show up to close the dig citing a lack of proper paperwork, the girls decide to break the rules and enter a tomb.  They find some super fun handprints, place their hands on them, and get catapaulted back to 14th century (1332 I believe) Italy amidst the Florence (or Firenza)/Siena tensions.  Literally.  Gabi arrives in 1332 minus Lia, but gaining a whole lotta knights fighting right outside her tomb, and she's in skinny jeans!  The Forellis save her, and take her to their castle, where she begins her journey to find Lia, encountering total Italian hotties, ancient Italian politics, jealous girlfriends, and too-short dresses along the way.

Verdict:  Dude. I loved this book!  Had a really hard time putting it down!  It was engaging, both emotionally and intellectually.  Though, I couldn't really figure out why it was titled Waterfall since there wasn't a waterfall in the book or any mention or reference to one.  I loved that the main character was a TALL girl who was smart, beautiful, and capable.  YA lit seems to trend toward the short girl, leaving all of us tall girls wondering why.  Part adventure, part romance, part amazing, part girl power, Waterfall is sure to make you laugh, squee, and grit your teeth.  Plus, it's clean.  Squeaky clean.  Only one mention of intestines spilling out - but lots of dead knights, and no shortage of blood.  But it's not graphic.  And there's plenty of kissing ;o)

And I swear when I picked it up I had no idea it was from a Christian publisher, until I googled 'David C. Cook' and found their website. There are mentions of God in Waterfall, and Gabi's complete lack of faith and doubt in God, but it's not preachy at all.  I applaud the weaving of a basic teen struggle such as one's belief in a higher power throughout this story, without making it overbearing. As a religious person myself, I often find it hard to read Christian lit.  Its contents are so often sold as fact instead of belief and I often don't agree with the tenets of religions similar to mine.  This is nothing like that, no selling, no conversions.  So don't fret it if your belief in God and eternity and whatnot isn't the same as the masses, and don't let a fear of Christian lit keep you from feasting on this abundance of awesome.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa [Blog Tour] [Giveaway]

The hut was old and wooden, creaking faintly though
there was no wind. The most unusual thing, however, wasn’t
the house itself, but what held it up. It stood on a pair of massive
bird legs, gnarled and yellow, blunt talons digging into
the mud. The legs were crouched low, as if sleeping, but every
so often they shifted restlessly, causing the whole house
to shudder and groan.

The conclusion to the Iron Fey series was not, I repeat, not disappointing.  I'm not gonna lie.  I had The Iron King and The Iron Daughter in my library for oh, since they came out.  So, when I was presented with the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour, I accepted, thinking that it would give me motivation to pick up and read these books that have been physically in my TBR pile, but had been surpassed by more pressing book club books and other books with deadlines.  I've read the entire series in the last two days.  I've been pushed and pulled in so many directions!  Some little book gremlin was trying to make me miss out on this book tour.

But I have triumphed!  I have finished the series!  And I have to say that I am over-freakin'-joyed that Julie Kagawa wrote The Iron Knight.  I hated The Iron Queen.  Loathed the "Ultimate Noble Sacrifice" ending.  Wouldn't have read the fourth book either if it wasn't for this blog tour...  and I'm so glad I did.

I entered the book skeptical that Kagawa could write an entire book successfully from Ash's point of view.  After the first five pages, I sighed out loud, growled, and said, "No.  You can't write Ash the same as Meghan."  It's true.  Five cats as my witness, but then after page ten, I was like "There we go!  Now we're cookin'."  And it just got better from there.  I enjoyed the banter and tension between Puck and Ash, but most of all, of this series packed with epic quests, I loved Ash's final one the best.

Of all of the journeys throughout this series, The Iron Knight details the most emotionally charged, the most riveting, and the most human.  I both squealed with elation and cried tears of sorrow while joining Ash on his mission.  I was more emotionally attached after the first chapter of The Iron Knight than I was after reading the entirety of The Iron Queen.  As the pages and words flew past me, this world was created around me and I was tossed and tumbled through all of it - the relationships, the feelings, the conflicts.  A really, really good read.  In fact, the more I reflect on it, the better it gets.  I love those kind of books.  And I adored the ending.  The only thing that I didn't adore was the amount of impertinent detail throughout the series.  Though it gave me as a reader a great sense of place, I felt like it impeded the flow of the story in many a place.  But that's a personal preference thing.  Monster would probably adore these books; they're right up his alley.

There's one last little issue I must address.  And that's the blurb on the cover that calls this series the next Twilight.  In fact, I think the only thing that these two series have in common is that there are four books in them, and a girl who has a choice between two love interests.  But the length and conflict of the love interests is not nearly the same.  And neither are the sacrifices and motivations.  There are actually reasons for those in this series.  I think it would be better compared to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.  All of the epic adventure and danger at every turn is more similar to his work than anything else I can recall reading.  The Iron Fey is more of an epic urban fantasy, heavy emphasis on the fantasy.  The plot, characters, and writing are 400% stronger than those of Meyer's Twilight, and it's an insult to Kagawa to insinuate that they are even on the same plane.

Back to the fun part... At the end of the book, there are three supplements.  The first, Survival Guide To The Nevernever.  The second, a very enlightening interview with Julie (and Ash and Puck).  The third, a set of discussion questions for reading groups.  Being a book group coordinator, I wish that these were in each of the four books, but alas, I'll take what I can get.

The last of those questions asks this, "One of the premises behind Julie Kagawa's fairy world is that faeries exist and become more powerful when humans remember them, tell stories about them, and dream of them. What kind of power do dreams and the imagination have on humankind?  How are they important in our lives?

Answer that in the comment section below to be entered to win your own copy of The Iron Knight.  One entry per person.  Ends 11/24/11 at 11:59PM.  A black friday gift for the winner!  Open internationally.

Also, check out another take on The Iron Knight at Harmony Radiant Reads.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Book Tattoo? [You're The Expert]

As with almost everything I discover lately, I found this tattoo on Pinterest and it got me thinking.  I'm not a tattoo kind of gal.  I don't get them personally.  It's probably because I'm totally fickle, and can't dream up something I'd put permanently on my body.   I'm not considering this tattoo at all...
...but it's kind of fun to look at it and wonder if I did get a similar tattoo, what books would I put on it?  This one has six.  Would I have six books that would for sure be on my favorites list forever?  Am I old enough, have I had enough experiences in life to be sure that those six would never change?  Probably not.  And I'm closing in on thirty.  These books have to have had a significant impact on my life so as to shift my entire paradigm...

So here goes. Fountainhead?  Uh. No.

  1. 1984. Orwell. 
  2. Willow.  Hoban.
  3. Dracula.  Stoker.
What would yours be?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Justin Cline, Author of Master of Voodoo & Vampirium [Interview]

Next up in our interviews with Actionopolis authors... Justin Cline!  He's a Cancer from Overland Park, KS (which I totally drove through once) and loves chocolate and peanut butter icecream... or just chocolate and peanut butter without the icecream too.  Here we go.

IHM:  In Ten Words or less, tell us about your most recent book.

Justin Cline:  Small-town kid travels through shadows, attempts to save town.  (Vampirium - Millennium of Shadows)

IHM:  Why are you a writer instead of a car salesman or a shrink or a teacher or any other profession?

JC:  I've always enjoyed telling stories.  My dad was talking to me recently and saying that he had no idea where I got that drive from, and I had to point out that it was most likely from him.  He's always had  a natural ability for telling jokes or just entertaining people with tales of the things that have happened to him.  The only difference between the two of us is that I started writing my stories down.

IHM:  Who is your most interesting character never published in the series (yet)?

JC: There's a villain coming up in the Master of Voodoo series who's pretty entertaining to me.  Although I'm not at liberty to disclose the nature or identity of the character, suffice it to say that he/she really turns Gibson's world upside-down.

IHM:  Who is your hero?

JC: I don't know that I have one particular hero to single out, but I think that anyone who has ever said "I have a story to tell" and then actually told that story is a hero in my book.  I'm a big proponent of put up or shut up.

IHM:  What is the message you want readers to gain from your work?

JC:  If there's a central message that runs through all my work--Actionopolis titles or otherwise--, it's the notion that identity is something that's constantly changing.  How an individual is perceived by others or by him or herself is not a static thing.  Black and white can be interesting, but gray is what makes a character fascinating.

Justin is the author of Master of Voodoo - Rise of the Dead!  and Vampirium - Millennium of Shadows, both available on Kindle for $2.99, pick one up today from Amazon!  You have a question for Justin?  Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey

Plot Sketch: Girl is born and mother dies.  Father heads back to court, never seeing new daughter.  New daughter to be raised in country by nursemaid.  Father comes back and drops off baby boy saying he is supposed to never leave the father's lands.  Nursemaid raises them together as equals.  Father remarries, brings new wife and her daughters to live at the stone house by the sea, fulfilling daughters wish, and you probably can guess the rest of the story... except that the steps are not mean to the girl...

Verdict:  At times, I found the prose slow-moving and less melodious than the author thought it was.  When it finally started moving, half-way through the book, it was interesting, but I still stumbled over the plot holes and even biffed it a couple of times, feeling lost wondering where elements of the story came from.  They seemed to arise out of convenience rather than preparation, and that is never a good thing to me, especially with a retelling.  I liked the twisty take on Cinderella, but think that it would be more suited if it had been in another time period or perhaps some other country, to make the retelling more complete.  It still felt like while reading Cendrillon's story, I was reading Cinderella's story and I didn't like that.  Plus, I thought it needed four more chapters to resolve all of the conflict that it started and didn't finish.  We know there's no sequel, so it would have been nice to have resolution.  Like I said, I liked the concept, but would have liked to have seen it better played out.  The writing was adequate, and for some, would be considered wonderful, but for a 190-ish pager, I thought it dillydallied around too much.  The End.  Wah.

Location: I think... rural France mostly in a stone house near the sea.
Favorite Character: Raoul.  He was the only one that actually made sense to me, even though I saw his plot line from the moment he was mentioned.
Would Change: organization of the story mostly.  and lack of resolution.
Favorite Line: I don't have one.
Good for Monster? Perhaps. He does enjoy a bit of fantasy and intrigue, and the writing style is definitely up his alley.
People Who Will Like: Love At First Sight junkies, the wistful girl over yonder who yearns to be a princess, the woman cooped up with her cats all day (oh wait, that's me, nevermind), and Cinderella herself, I'd assume.
People Who Won't Like: picky readers like me, Robert E. Lee, Charlamagne, and most definitely Napoleon.
Chapters: 19
Author's Website: does not appear to be one, but here's the very lean publisher's profile:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Grimm [Bookish TV]

So, my Hulu queue was suddenly studded with a Pilot of Grimm this weekend.  I don't remember favoriting it, I don't remember ever even hearing about it, but I guess I could just be getting old.

I watched it, even though I have three *blush* yes, three, episodes of Castle waiting in my queue.  But guess what?  I was not disappointed.  Nope, I was scared, intrigued, and hooked from exactly the 1:00 mark where I screamed... yes, screamed.  Lame, I know.  TV on your laptop shouldn't make you scream.

Each episode is supposed to revolve around one of the stories from Grimm's Fairytales.  Let's face it.  There're enough of 'em to sustain an entire series for sure.  The first focused on Blutbaden and Little Red Riding Hood.  But like all great television shows (and yes, I consider Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a product of this same writers, great tv) it has a twist on it's original take.  A modern application that had me never ever ever wanting to hear the Eurythmics version of Sweet Dreams ever again.

Catch up on Hulu or  Then watch this Friday at 9/8C on NBC. It's spooky and disturbing and totally worth your time away from that book.  Peace out, friends... and Happy Halloween! 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Folding Chair Designs' Worldly Words Headband [Giveaway]

You guys.  I'm so excited!  Amy of Folding Chair Designs has created this beautiful Worldly Words headband exclusively for one lucky I Heart Monster reader.

I'm thrilled to team up with her because, *gasp*, I actually know her.  And I've seen her work in person and been witness to some truly amazing creativity pouring out of her head.  So I'm stoked that you guys get a stab at having some FCD in your closet!

Folding Chair Designs has some fan. tastic. stuff.  If you want to enter to win the Worldly Words Headband, check out the FCD Etsy page and tell us your favorite item.  The winner will receive the Worldly Words Headband and his/her choice of three hydrangea pins made from felted wool with a beaded center.  

Retail value of giveaway is $28.  Christmas is just around the corner!  So enter to win today.  Giveaway is open internationally, and ends at 11:59PM Arizona Time on Monday, October 31st.  One form entry per person.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Jake Black, Author of Winged Victory [Interview]

I'm thrilled to bring you guys a series of interviews with Actionopolis authors!  Back in May, you may recall one of my posts about Phoenix Comicon, and a panel where we learned all sorts of fun stuff about Actionopolis and Agents of D.A.N.G.E.R including the fact that their books are un-dumbed-down books aimed at reaching readers who want an action-packed plot.

Our first interview is with Jake Black, who is a Cancer whose favorite icecream flavor is cookies & cream and hails from Eagle Mountain, Utah, United States.  He's the author of Winged Victory.  Read on to find out more.

IHM:  In Ten Words or less, tell us about your most recent book.

JB: Boy with wings joins the battle between good and evil.

IHM: Why are you a writer instead of a car salesman or a shrink or a teacher or any other profession?

JB: Because I suck at everything else. Seriously. I wouldn't buy anything from me!

IHM: Who is your most interesting character never published in the series (yet)?

JB: Hmmm...not sure, yet!

IHM: Who is your hero?

JB: Brad Meltzer. Also, my parents.

IHM: What is the message you want readers to gain from your work?

JB: There's always hope.

What a fantastic message to send out to readers!  You can purchase Winged Victory for your Kindle for a smokin' deal of $2.99!  Thanks, Jake for being with us here today!

Stay tuned to IHM for more Actionopolis interviews coming soon!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Raven [Movies] [You're The Expert]

Coming in 2012, John Cusack stars in The Raven.  Something for us Poe fans to look forward to for sure.  Tell us what you think... something you'll see?   IMDB


Friday, October 7, 2011

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce [Book Inspection] [YA]

Plot Sketch: Ansel and Gretchen and Gretchen's twin sister go into the woods to look for the witch.  They find it.  And it eats Gretchen's twin.  Now, years later, Ansel and Gretchen have lost both their sister and their parents and their stepmother kicks them out.  They take off to the ocean from Washington State to South Carolina.  They break down and Ansel finds work, and eventually love at a chocolatier, while Gretchen figures out what really happened to their sister, and tries to save the town of Live Oak from her fate.

Verdict: Hated.  I haven't read a book in a really long time that I threw as many times as I threw Sweetly.  The plot is full of ginormous holes, and the dialog sucked - the characters all talk like androgynous robots. The middle half or so of the book lacks conflict causing the reader (in this case me) to cringe and whine and plead for it to end.  And that's sad.  Because I wanted to love the story; it had potential.  But a retelling of Hansel & Gretel without a real witch, but werewolves instead, and a main character that flounders around all over the spectrum of manic depression, growing and regressing, growing and regressing, ugh... does not a happy IHM make.  I wouldn't have finished reading it if it wasn't our book group pick for October.

(paragraph removed for my blood pressure's sake)

There were some good parts of the story.  Like the part where Samuel admits that he still loves Layla but is ready to move on.  I thought that part was realistic and believable.  But the way their relationship developed was not.  Hey, I'm trying to look for the positive.  Really, I am.  And I think that's the extent of it.  Help me out in the comments section if you've read it, kay?

Location: Live Oak, SC, USA
Favorite Character: Ansel as he was the only one that was remotely consistent.  Plus, I liked how protective and sweet he was to the women in his life.
Would Change: plot, characters, premise... add a real witch to the story please.  Hansel and Gretel need a witch.
Favorite Line: "My sister's name is Abigail."  pg. 187, hardcover.  It was an action that the character couldn't have come to earlier, and while I disagree with whom she shared this moment with, I totally agree that it was time for her to speak this line.
Good for Monster? Not for anyone.  And Monster read most of it in little bursts when I would put it down or throw it, and he has the same feelings as I do about the plot and characters.
Chapters: 32
Author's Website:
Background Downloads
Book Groups:
Sweetly was my IRL book group pick for October... we had M&Ms with the yellows picked out and left in a trail (which you would understand if you have read the prologue), skittles, chocolate dipped oreos, gold wrapped chocolate bars, and of course, Coca Cola (but laughably, we all drank water).  It is my contention that you will not need book discussion questions for this book as you will all sit around and find even more holes in the story than you did when you first read it.  The best book groups are the ones where someone really doesn't like the book.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Library Challenges Across The Nation [fREADom!] [You're The Expert]

I thought this was mighty interesting - seeing a visual representation of documented challenges to library content across the country.  It makes me cringe.  But at the same time, reading that "Nicholas Allan's Where Willy Went was challenged at the Chandler[Arizona] Public Library... Parents requested that the book be moved to a restricted area because Willy is a sperm and the book is about sex." doesn't really surprise me, or make me angry. And I doubt it'll surprise many of you.  How and when one's child learns about sex is just as important of a parenting freedom as making sure that views of the few don't impact the access to information of many, and requesting that it be moved to a restricted section is not the same as asking it to be removed from the library entirely... or is it?  You tell me.

"This map is drawn from cases documented by ALA and the Kids' Right to Read Project, a collaboration of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression."

View Book Bans and Challenges, 2007-2011 in a larger map

[via Shelf Awareness]

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Banned Spotlight: 1984 by George Orwell [fREADom!]

I think even though we're 27 years out from 1984, its social commentary is still extremely relevant.  Probably more so than ever.  And it's a cautionary tale that we as citizens of the world must pay heed to if we want to retain the freedoms we've fought for.  And it beautifully illustrates the anathema of censorship.

"Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death." --Chapter 2, Part I

"Sanity is not statistical." --Chapter 9, Part I

"The object of waging a war is always to be in a better position in which to wage another war." --Chapter 9, Part II

"The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction. It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order. It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden. The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already." --Chapter 9, Part II

"To die hating them, that was freedom." --Chapter 4, Part III

If you haven't read 1984, no matter your age, give it a chance.  You can read it online if you want to.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

fREADom! Welcome To Banned Books Week

Well, I had planned to vlog.  But my voice?  It's raspy and coughy, and I can't get out a single sentence that you can understand.   So instead, until I get a clear voice again, I'll be highlighting a banned book Sunday through Thursday of Banned Books Week.   Vlogs are TBD.

Banned Books Week is a celebration of rebellion against censorship.  Why is censorship bad?  Because someone else decides what is okay for you and what is not okay for you to put into your brain.  It's the worst kind of control.  Thought control.  Thought Police.  And guess what?  1984?  Yeah, Orwell's classic is on most banned books lists.

Which is why it's the first book I'll highlight.  Tomorrow.  Today, just take a look at this video put together by Thomas University highlighting the most challenged books thusfar in 2011.  You'll probably be surprised by some of the bestselling titles on the list.

Banned Books Week runs from 9/24 to 10/1.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ode To A Bookstore Death [You're The Expert]

There were a lot of awesome comments over on the original place I saw this posted, GalleyCat.  But the one that I connected with the most was the one that said, "Possibly why bookstores went out of fashion. Amazon, for all its faults, doesn't sneer at you for the choices you make."  They've gone kinda nuts since I first saw this post.

My own experience at checkout on the night before Borders closed here in Mesa was not a positive one.  The associate went on and on about all of the benefits he had lost since he had first started working there, all of the pay cuts he had taken, and all of the increased rules, procedures, and penalties he'd assumed.  It didn't sound like a great place to work for the last 18 months.  Borders employees were bitter, to say the least.

But since I couldn't stop thinking about this post, I had to get your take.  I mean, personally?  When I walk into a bookstore and tell them I'm looking for a book, I am looking.  Asking for help is merely a tool to help me on that mission.  Just 'cause I ask for help doesn't mean I haven't scoured the shelves of four other bookstores, yo.  Sorry to have made you do your job!  But, Nicholas "There are no authors in my genre" Sparks?  I say ditto.  Facts are facts.

So what I want to know, is what you think about the points that this associate obviously thought brought down the store and its employees.  Do you think that people using SAT books then returning them is wrong?  Ethical?  Does it matter if you do your summer reading three days before the end of summer or forty-five days before the end of summer?  How do you define looking for a book?  What's your take on good ol' Nicky Sparks?

For those of you not familiar with You're The Expert here at I Heart Monster, it's a type of post where we share some information with you, then ask you what you think about that information.  We encourage you to leave your opinion or answers in the comments section, and even write your own post as an answer if you are so inclined.  See, we're all different, and we all have different experiences, and that's part of what makes the blogosphere such a fun place - we're all experts about what we think and how we feel and our particular view on the world.  This is just a forum for you to share those with the rest of us.  If you do write a post, we'd love it if you share the link with us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Calling All Phoenix-Area Zombies [Local]

Have you always wanted to dress up like a zombie and be part of a movie? I know you have. And if you're in the Phoenix area (or want to drive from further away) this Saturday, you'll get your chance. Jim Politano and Pete Ghandour are looking for your help. They need a zombie hoard! They're filming a movie on the Gila River Reservation and will be meeting at Albertsons on Riggs & Gilbert.

 You should be dressed and ready to leave at 10:30am sharp. If you participate, you'll be invited to attend a screening at the Phoenix Art Museum as part of the zombie mob. How cool is that?

 If you're interested, more details are below. And for some added fun, I've included footage from this year's Zombie Walk at Phoenix Comicon.

 Arrrhah *gurgle* aahhharehahh *gurgle* Start practicing!

Zombie Movie Filming 

Where: Meeting @ Albertsons Riggs and Gibert Rd in Chandler (dressed and ready) Filming @ Gila River Reservation (15 minutes south of Albertsons) Group will be escorted and supervised by a Gila River Representative (We will carpool / caravan).

 When: We will LEAVE Albertsons at 10:30am (sharp) on Saturday September 24th. (We will be done by Noon)

Note: Participants will be unpaid volunteers at their own risk. Zombies must be able and willing to simulate being shot and collapsing on rugged desert terrain. Some zombies (based on appearance) will be offered the opportunity to shoot some closeup / green screen shots.

Film Info: The movie will be screened at the Phoenix Art Museum upon completion. Participating Zombies will receive an email with screening time and date. We will be attending the screening as a zombie mob. Music& food are provided at the screening. Drinks will be available for purchase. The Film will also be shown at a number of Regional Film Festivals. Come help us out and see yourself on the big screen!

Please contact film maker Jim Politano ( to confirm or with questions.


Everlasting by Angie Frazier [Book Inspection] [YA]

Plot Sketch: Camille is a sailor's daughter. Her father has always been in the shipping business and she has always accompanied him on his voyages. He protected her from sea tales and superstitions and kept her in comfort when they were on land. She never wanted for fashionable shoes or anything she wanted at all, really. And then, her father arranged a marriage for her to Randall Jackson. She wanted to love the handsome, rich, and intelligent man, she really did. But she never felt that fire. Unless Oscar Kildare, the first mate on her dad's ship was the one close to her. But that was improper and scandalous. She couldn't even consider it. So, setting out on one last voyage before she marries Randall, she ends up on an adventure, to find Umandu, a mother she thought she had lost when she was born, and true love.

Verdict: I loved the story. I thought it was fun and flirty and held a lot of suspense without being scary. BUT, I also found a lot of the happenings extremely convenient. Like how she runs into Samuel, and how they just so happen to find shelter any time they need it. But, that's nothing when you have a hard time not thinking about the story while you're away from the book, right? The writing was good. The characters were well-researched and well-plotted. The plot was swift, which we all know keeps me happy. The cover though. The cover does not accurately portray the story. Not one bit. So, please please please, don't judge it by its cover.

Location: San Francisco and Australia
Favorite Character: Oscar. Oh. My. Gosh. Oscar. Hands down. What's not to love about a sexy first mate who saves lives left and right? *swoon*
Would Change: some of the more convenient and contrived plot points as referenced in the Verdict.
Favorite Line: "This time, I must have needed to row to you." pg. 321, hardcover
Good for Monster? Nope. Too romancey for his tastes.
People Who Will Like This: pirates and their wenches, tomboys, hikers, and people who appreciate a strong female lead
People Who Won't Like This: straight up adventure fans who don't like their girls to think too much, girly girls who sit in townhouses and attend balls, Navy Wives.
Chapters: 24
Author's Website:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Please Read (if at all possible): The Girl Project by Kate Engelbrecht [Nonfiction Inspection]

Title: Please Read (if at all possible)
Author: Kate Engelbrecht
Topic: Girl Power
Format: Softcover

Precis: One hundred and sixty-four teenaged girls are credited as contributing to this book.  They took pictures of their lives with disposable cameras and filled out a thirteen-question survey about what it's like to be them.  The pictures and surveys are reproduced here in this anthology, literally illustrating what it's like to be a teenaged girl in 2011.  (The surveys were due January 31st)  You'll find pictures of girls, of flowers, of stuffed animals, and of boys.  You'll find copies of their answers to those thirteen questions, a poem, and entire surveys reproduced so that you can see the girls.  You never see a name with a picture or a name with a survey.

Verdict:  As someone who spends at least ten hours a week mentoring teenage girls, I found this empowering.  This was important work.  Not only does it prove that teens know more than society gives them credit for, but it proves that they do not enter adulthood jaded with broken spirits.  We do that to them. 

It highlights their strengths, their insecurities, their fears and the things they're proud of.  It made me cry.  There is one particular set of photos in the book, one on the left where a girl is pinching her stomach, showing her extra skin.  On the right, there is a girl, the same size as the girl on the left, who is showing the same amount of stomach, who has written "I Love My Body," on it.  It was the most powerful part of the whole experience for me.
This book is important for teens and adults alike.  Adults, so you can see where teens stand, and teens, so that you can know that you are not alone.  No matter what you're experiencing, as a parent, as a teenager, you are not alone.  There is someone else out there that sees the world similarly to you and you will find strength in knowing that there are dreams, fears, and goals the same as yours.  No matter your age. This is a book to be turned and flipped.  It's changing orientations done on purpose to illustrate a shift in point of view and paradigm.  This is poignant.  This is powerful.  This is girl power at its apex.  Put it on your to-acquire list.  I promise you won't be sorry.

Pub Date: August 30, 2011
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Universe
ISBN: 978-0-7893-2260-9

Order It:
Book Depo
Changing Hands

Saturday, September 17, 2011

This Might Pinterest You - Spetember 16, '11 [Pinteresting]

My favorites from my Bookish board at Pinterest for the work week ending 9/16/11:

Instructions on how to make your own Pallet Bookshelves.  Holy upcycle, batman!

I'm positively in love with these bookends.  If anyone knows where I can buy them, please let me know.  I'm bordering desperate.

Dr. Seuss bookish treats.  Great for a kid party.,. or an adult one too!  

Loving this necklace.  Added it to my Xmas list.  And the etsy seller has a whole inventory of fun bookish necklaces.  Check it out!

And to finish up, here's a fun recipe for Harry Potter Butterbeer!  

As always, if you want to link up a Pinteresting post of your own, please feel free to do so!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead [Just Not For Me]

Title:  Bloodlines
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Total Pages: 432
Pages Read: 50

Why I stopped:  Here's the thing.  If you read the Vampire Academy novels, you'll probably like this one.  I just felt so behind the whole time I was reading.  I don't know the setting well enough to just dive right in.  I understand that the author couldn't cram a whole series of knowledge into the first fifty pages of a book, but I needed to be less bombarded with details of the world, and needed to understand the characters better.   Bloodlines is definitely a spin-off of Vampire Academy - on the Alchemist vein.   I just read fifty pages and had no idea what an Alchemist really did.  I had no idea why Sydney Sage wanted to keep her sister away from the life, only that she wanted to desperately.  And I couldn't help but feel that if I had read the Vampire Academy books, I wouldn't feel like I was struggling to keep up.  There was too much history for me to just dive right in.  I kept using Monster as a reference tool, asking him to explain stuff, and that got annoying.

What I did like:  It was an interesting and intriguing concept. The characters and their relationships seemed really complex and well-developed.  I liked the conflict that arose from Sydney not being able to say goodbye to her mother.  I liked that she was so protective of her sister, and eager to redeem herself for past actions (which I didn't read far enough to understand what she did).  I liked the prose, and the concise language.

Would I reccommend?  Only if you've read Vampire Academy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Farewell Borders [Letter]

Dear Borders,

Farewell, friend.  I much preferred you to Barnes & Noble.  You were a great bookish friend.  I pre-ordered Harry Potters from you and spent hours, check that, probably the equivalent of weeks of my life, browsing your shelves.  I stood in line for great books, found fantastic deals, bought birthday cards and countless birthday and Christmas gifts from you dating back to the first Christmas I actually made my own money to buy gifts for those I love.

I have been saddened to see you liquidate your shelves.  The bareness of the store today brought to light a harsh reality about the business of tangible books. 

But honestly?  I was less saddened when I heard from the employees at checkout about how you've treated them and cheated them of late.  Regardless, we've had great times together, and your presence will be missed.  Mostly because I was foolish and invested in Rewards Plus in January and now don't get to reap the rewards for my entire year.  Isn't that a breach of contract or something?  I mean, I paid in advance for twelve months.  I wonder if I can dispute that purchase.

I meant for this to be a farewell letter, a pleasant one, really.  But the more I think about it, and the longer I write, the more I see you not only cheated your employees (I mean who takes away 401ks?),  you cheated me.  Harumph.  

To that epiphany, I must admit, I kinda don't feel bad about the $171 worth of books I got for $29.09.  I feel like my investment was a little returned.  Oh.  No.  Wait.  I would have gotten that deal with or without Rewards Plus.  Lame.

Farewell, Borders.  

I Heart Monster

Borders closes tomorrow. For good. Go take some books or furnishings off of their hands, and help them pay back at least some percentage of what they owe the publishers.

Friday, September 9, 2011

This Might Pinterest You - Spetember 9, '11 [Pinteresting]

My favorites from my Bookish board at Pinterest for the work week ending 9/9/11:

The holidays are coming!  Make a fun, leafy fallish wreath out of an unloved, rescued, or battered book.

I loved this bookish ring, by Jeanine Payer, with the Whitman verse,  "I am the poet of the body, And I am the poet of the soul."

You know, I'm already married to Monster and all, and I'm not wanting a second wedding, ever, but how fun would it be to do a Pride & Prejudice themed weddding?  While Pinteresting, I found this post over at Style Me Pretty that I fell in love with.  Make sure you click the "full gallery of gorgeous".  My head is already churning with fun ideas for a P&P tea party.

... a new kind of British Invasion, for sure.  Sad, but too often true!

And, the quotes of the week:

Find anything fun yourself?  Link up here: