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.  Fictionalfood.net 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 http://www.antiquitaslost.com/ and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.