Monday, December 31, 2012

2012's Top 3 YA Titles

The first two?  Cliche picks, I understand.  They're on every top 10 list and every Top of 2012 list you've seen.  But deservedly so.  I've got three books that I consider the top of the 2012 release-date field  They are:

1. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  Haven't read it yet?  WHY NOT? It's unexpected, heart wrenching, and uplifting all in its own right.  It's the best book I've read in a really really long time.

2. Every Day by David Levithan.  It's an important piece for our times about understanding and acceptance. And you know what?  Understanding and acceptance are in too short a supply in both the teen world and the adult one and this could serve as an eye opener for a lot of, shall we say, less-than-open-minded people.

3. Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter.  Wait, hold on, huh?  It's original.  It's engaging.  AND it's well-written.  It's a rare combo, especially when we're talking zombie books here.  Loved it.  You will too.

Those are the stand-outs for me for 2012.  What will 2013 bring?  A plethora of new and exciting books I'm sure!  Happy New Years Eve!  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Soulless by Gail Carriger [Review]

Plot Sketch: Alexia Tarabotti is a preternatural.  What the heck is a preternatural? Someone who has no soul, and thus can neutralize any paranormal being.  She has no formal connection to BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry) but is formally registered as a preternatural with the agency.  Lord Maccon, Alpha of the Woolsey pack, has been working (with) Alexia for years, and when she kills an unsanctioned, unregistered vamp at a social gathering, the two begin to work together to solve the mystery of the unsanctioned vamp.  They run into scientists, dirigibles, automatons, and more along the way.

Verdict:  Well.  I enjoyed the book.  I did.  But I took issue with a lot of the elements.  Plot, characters, and setting were sufficient for me to be engaged, but just enough.  Tense and point of view were often confusing as they shifted without so much as an extra space's warning (at least on the Kindle version).  The novel has both steampunk and paranormal elements, and I've been told for a long time that though it's technically not YA, it will still have a large appeal to the YA audience.  Which is true.  But, make no mistake.  This is an adult novel with inappropriate sexual content not suited to the younger set that reads YA.  I mean, I enjoyed it, but I'm a thirty-year-old married woman.

Additionally, the world building is a little lacking as it is set in the past, but the rules have shifted and sometimes it's hard to keep track what is shifted and what is true to history.  I understand that this argument could be made for many a sci-fi or steampunk novel (and yes, steampunk this most certainly is) but the building in this case was not sufficient for me to understand all of the rules and keep up with the happenings.  There were several "huh?" moments where backing up and rereading did not clarify what was going on.

If you're in the mood for a historical paranormal romance with sci-fi/steampunk elements, then dude, this is your series.  But you'd better be in a mood for all three of those genres to enjoy it without focusing on its flaws.


Friday, November 2, 2012

November 2012 Events [Local]

Monday, November 5th, 7pm, Changing Hands: The Get Real Tour: Four teen authors present three hot new novels in one night! Miranda Kenneally presents Stealing Parker; Janet Gurtler visits with Who I Kissed; and sisters Lisa and Laura Roecker share The Lies that Bind, the second book in their Liar Society series.

Friday, November 9th 7pm Changing Hands: Laini Taylor!  Daugher of Smoke and Bone author visits with Days of Blood & Starlight... an IHM 5 pick this November.

Tuesday, November 13th, 7pm, Changing Hands: Margo Lanagan: The Brides of Rollrock Island.

Monday, November 19th, 6pm, Changing Hands: Christopher Pike: Witch World

Thursday, November 22nd, all day, American Thanksgiving.




Thursday, November 1, 2012

The IHM 5: November 2012 [Reading List]

November.  My birthday month.  Yeah yeah yeah, there's that pesky Thanksgiving holiday too, you know, the one that coincides with my birthday every few years and must be canceled.  You know, the one I'm not thankful for.  *gasp* I know.  Regardless, here are the books we're reading for thankful's sake or birthday's sake this month:

1. Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor.  Yes, this comes out on Tuesday!  November 6th.  I've been waiting waiting waiting for this follow-up to Daughter of Smoke & Bone for what seems like EVER.  So, thanks for the early birthday pressie, Little, Brown!

2. Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George.  Yeah, so I read Princess of the Midnight Ball like forever ago and immediately bought Princess of Glass.  Do you think I've read it yet?  Um, no.  Course not.  Thankfully, a book group is giving me the chance this month.

3. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.  I know, I know.  This one should have been read a long time ago, but you know, I just never ever got to it, which is why it's on the list for this month!

4. Crewel by Gennifer Albin.  There's nothing like a good someone-else-is-determining-your-life dystopian to make you thankful for what you have and the freedoms you enjoy.  Which is why it's on the November list.  

5. Touched by Cyn Balog.  It seems like an interesting concept that could get psycho-thriller in a second or two, but could also get you on the whole concept of "Thank goodness I don't have to deal with that!"  There's nothing like messing with the future to get your brain in overdrive and get you to considering all the things that could go wrong but haven't.

Notable releases and preorders I'll be grabbing this November include:

  • Reached by Ally Condie.  We loved Matched, but haven't gotten through Crossed yet, hence it not being on the list.  But you should know, the trilogy is complete as of November 16th.  There's also a trilogy boxed set if you haven't started reading/acquiring these yet, or have listened to these on Audible like me.
  • Princess of the Silver Woods the next book in Jessica Day George's series comes out next month.  Might be worth a preorder, yo.  I did.
  • Perfect Scoundrels, the third in Ally Carter's Heist Society series and the follow-up to Uncommon Criminals (which I tackled in Africa on a rainy afternoon).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Alice In Zombieland by Gena Showalter [Review]

Plot Sketch:  No one in Alice's family is allowed to leave the house after dark.  No, there are monsters out there and there's no way Alice's dad will let her, her younger sister Emma, or her mom go out there and lead them back to their house.  It hasn't been allowed the girls' entire lives.  Until.  Alice begs to let Emma perform in her ballet recital as a birthday present and for the whole family to attend.  Her parents succumb to her guilt trap and they leave.  And all goes well until the family is on their way home and have to drive by the cemetery, and the family is involved in an accident that will change them forever and open Alice's eyes to a whole new way of living... she thought she had it bad before.

Verdict:  Couldn't. Stop. Reading.  It was fantastic!  Engaging, solid, and fun.  Just enough allusions to literature's original Alice, I was enamored with the plot.  Did it have holes?  Sure.  Of course.  But they weren't big gaping holes (comment if you care to discuss these).  I'm hoping the next book (Through The Zombie Glass) will address what I perceive as gaps in the worldbuilding.  The characters were interesting but archetypal, but, I couldn't get enough of them.  This is definitely a good read for October (or Halloween itself) as it is just spooky enough to get your blood pumping but not too spooky to keep you up all night.  Obviously you know from the title that there are zombies, but Showalter's zombies are not the typical undead so frequently seen in pop culture these days.  Not everyone can even see them.  I'm a big fan of Cole (a boy Alice meets).  If you're Team Damon, you'll LOVE Cole.

Here's the book trailer for you:



Parents:  There is a little language, a fair share of violence (but only directed at zombies), and a little bit of a steam factor, but for the most part, it's pretty clean.  As always, you decide for your teen... or preteen... or self... whoever :o)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tomorrow: Fantastical Worlds with Hartman, Bachmann & Paolini [Online Events]


It's poised to be something like a book signing, but online and open to you!  Rachel Hartman, author of the critically acclaimed, instant New York Times bestseller SERAPHINA; Stefan Bachmann, author of THE PECULIAR (Harper Collins), and Christopher Paolini, author of the international bestselling series the Inheritance cycle and, most recently, the INHERITANCE  Deluxe Edition will be discussing what inspires them & their characters and take viewer questions.  Sounds like a great opportunity if you're a fan of even one of these authors!  Visit the link below to connect!

FANTASTICAL WORLDS:

In Conversation with Rachel Hartman,

Stefan Bachmann, and Christopher Paolini

10/28/12 2PM - 3PM 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama [Review]

Plot: There are two story lines in this book which alternate chapters in the beginning and then converge. The first: Hester in the modern day who works in Plymouth at one of those historical reenactment places.  She's grown up sighting whales with tourists and experiencing weird happenings that pretty much tell us her town is totally haunted... well at least the church.  The second: Syrenka and Ezra who are a mermaid and a naturalist, respectively, and their (love) story set back in the 1800s.  The two stories converge to display one holy horror of a book.

Verdict:  Impeccably written. Seriously.  Attention to details, specifics, setting, characters.  All very wonderfully developed and awesome.  The words are vivid and jump off the page at you.  I usually find alternating stories a little hard to follow because I usually favor one plot line over the other.  This was not the case with Monstrous Beauty.  I was enamored by Syrenka and Ezra just as much as I was by Hester and Peter.

There was one drawback for me, though.  And that was the pacing.  I know, I know, you can't have vivid imagery made of perfection and move swiftly through the plot.  You can't.  I get it.  But I'm one who prefers a swifter plot over masses of details.  I don't care what color someone's eyes are because I don't care what color your eyes are.  It's not something I pay attention to in life, and so it's not something I care to know about my characters... or the wallpaper.

But, if you're a person who loves to read fantasy, you're going to love Monstrous Beauty.  It's not a mermaid book.  It's a horror book.  And I would heartily recommend it to anyone who can appreciate a good piece of literature.  You know, the award-winning kind?  'Cause this should totally win literary awards, yo.

(also, I love that the book is bound with a white cover.  it's a stark contrast to the dark inside the pages.  i love it when publishers go metaphorical like that, on purpose or not.)

(oh, and also, if you didn't catch the Fierce Reads recap post?  check out some of the awesome i say.  awesome.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Walking Dead Official Magazine [Review]

Okay, you know I have a Season Pass on Amazon to watch The Walking Dead as it airs on AMC (you do too, right?).  And oh, oh so badly how I want to grab a subscription to the 6-issue/year Official Walking Dead Magazine?  Oh.  Love it.  It's pretty amazing.  Not only does it have exclusive content that you can't retrieve anywhere else, it totally prolongs The Walking Dead experience and allows you to encircle yourself in that world for a little longer each week.

Since receiving a copy of the first issue, I've delved into it several times.  I really enjoyed the exclusive short that was included written by Jay Bonansinga, "Just Another Day At The Office."  You can't read it anywhere else, just the magazine!  Plus exclusive, insightful interviews with the show's creator, showrunner, and the actress that plays Michonne, Danai Gurira.  Great stuff, I tell you!

And think, it's also like the perfect holiday pressie for your loved one who loves The Walking Dead. I don't know about you, but my entire family is obsessed.  Subscriptions are available from Titan Magazines for $46.99 and for a limited time include a free t-shirt that you can't get anywhere else!  Digital subscriptions are also available, though platforms are limited right now.

For a tv-based mag, you're getting a great deal, so head over and get your subscription.  The Walking Dead Official Magazine hit news stands yesterday!  So go and pick up a copy and see for yourself if you're not convinced by my praises!  Also, for updates, make sure you follow the mag's twitter stream, @WalkingDeadMag.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch: Evie (short for Evelyn) is a teenaged, kick-butt, pink-Taser-toting, agent for IPCA.  What's IPCA?  International Paranormal Containment Agency.  She "bags and tags" paranormals with ankle trackers that neuter, I mean neutralize, them and make them safe for humankind.  She's an orphan who was raised by the foster system then basically adopted by IPCA because of her special powers, she can see through glamours.  She can see the dead, the beauty, the reality underneath making her an almost-deadly weapon.  She desperately wants to go to a real high school and experience everything she sees on her favorite TV series, Easton Heights.  When paranormals start dying en masse and a stranger enters the IPCA compound, and Evie can't tell what he is, Evie's world gets flipped upside down and doesn't know where she belongs.

Verdict: Paranormalcy is a fun read, especially for October with all of its paranormal activitiy between the pages.  It's got werewolves and vampires and faeries, elementals and some hybrids you've never even heard of.  It's completely original.  But the weird thing is that even though it's a unique story, it seems really juvenile, like it might have made a better MG book.  It's solid writing, but nothing I'd go on about for days.  I love the characters, love the premise, and recommend you read it.  I'll definitely be reading the next two in the series, shortly after I finish the October IHM 5.  It's an entertaining mix of pink and humor and darkness, and you're sure to enjoy it if you give it a chance.

Check out the book trailer:


Parents:  This one's squeaky clean.  Like just-brushed teeth squeaky.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Egar Allan Poe Lunchbox [Giveaway]


The Valley Of Unrest
by Edgar Allan Poe
Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley's restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless --
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye --
Over the lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave: -- from out their fragrant tops
Eternal dews come down in drops.
They weep: -- from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.


I am no doubt a huge Poe fan.  Are you?  Leave a comment telling us what your favorite Poe character is to be able to win your very own Poe lunchbox.  (C'mon.  It's stellar.)  Open to US only.  Ends 10.26.12 at 11:59pm MST (arizona).  

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin [Review]

Description: Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.

She’s wrong.

Verdict:  Hype turns me off.  Way off.  I don't want to read something that everyone says is the most awesomest thing since Twilight or The Hunger Games.  Which is why I put off reading it.  Until I was finishing up a book, looking for another and stumbled upon this twitter conversation.  And while I'll agree that it isn't that scary, I did sleep with the light on last night, but not consciously on purpose, I think... but definitely a great Halloween-month read. (and the second book comes out on Tuesday)

Anyway, the thing that most impressed me about this story was not it's plot, though that was weird and twisty and slightly off, but its characters.  Mara, her brothers Daniel & (especially) Joseph, Noah, Anna... they were nothing new.  But they were.  They had personalities.  They also had typical teenaged reactions to situations.  It's an odd thing to notice I suppose, but I didn't just notice, I appreciated.  Noah wasn't your typical bad boy gone good.  Mara wasn't your typical troubled new girl.  Joseph?  Definitely not your typical little bro.  But they were.  They were typical people reacting in real ways to situations, not fighting against who they were on the page to reach a point in the plot.  And that is a hard thing to achieve: to make the characters jump off of the page and make them, for risk of sounding hype-ish, come alive, with uniqueness and individuality (to the point where a lot of the time no dialogue tags were needed), but still go where you need to in the plot.  Rare.  Beautiful.

I usually write my own plot sketch for a review.  I didn't for this one because it's what made the experience powerful for me.  Not knowing any more than that ^ right up there.  So I won't ruin it for you.  But I will recommend it to you.  Don't listen to me or the hype you've heard about this book.  Pick it up and make up your own mind!


Parents:  There are strong themes in this one: murder, accountability, responsibility, rape, kidnapping.  Strong language.  Mention and patronage of Santeria, though brief and not repeated.  Intense sensual moments but no sex.  As always, you discern what's appropriate for your loved one. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

5 Teen Zombie Books For Your Consumption [Reading List]

With The Walking Dead's premiere this last weekend, I've got zombies on my brain. No.  I did not just say I have a zombie brain.  But I can't stop thinking about them.  I even perused the CDC's zombie preparedness site.  Again.  So I thought hey, what better than to make a list of older (as in not pubbed this year) young adult zombie titles we've read and share them with you guys:

1.  My So-Called Death by Stacey Jay.  I seriously love this hilarious zombie high school book.  Any time someone asks me for a rec for a zombie book that's not just blood and gore, undead used-to-be cheerleader Karen Vera is my go-to girl.  She's funny, has high school problems you probably wouldn't even consider and can solve a mystery like no one's business.  Plus, I like the punny title.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker for punny horror mashed up into one story.

2. The Walking Dead: Book 1.  Every time I'm in public and I hear someone talking about the walking dead comic book, I cringe.  I know they didn't read it.  I know they are just showing off that they know TWD isn't an original made-for-tv series.  But it irks me.  That's why this makes the list.  Warning:  blood, gore and utter grossness inside.  But it's soooo worth it!  Especially if you're a fan of the series.  You always like to read the book before you see the movie, so pick up the graphic novels before you see the rest of the tv series.  It's fun and it's dangerously addicting.

3. Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay.  Wait, another Stacey Jay book?  Yeah.  Juliet Immortal is totally zombies.  Totally.  Just not your typical undead rising up and eating your brains kind.  It's sort of a beautiful dichotomy and totally not a Valentine's Day book like I originally thought it might be.  Romeo Redeemed, the sequel, just came out last week, and I can't wait to read it.  It was a unique concept, and a unique way to apply the zombie-principal to some of literature's most beloved teenaged characters of. all. TIME!

4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.  I pretty much trashed the audiobook version of this book.  And yes, there are good big gaping holes in the actions of the characters.  But I don't think I can recall a better book for getting your blood to curdle in the zombie atmosphere.  Even with its problems (many of which disappear when reading it vs. listening, I might add) it's a great zombie title that you will probably enjoy.  One of my friends even mentioned that she didn't get that they were zombies until the end and thinking about it.  Sorry if I ruined that part for you.

5. Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier.  Such a great compendium of shorts.  Team Zombie gets angsty toward Team Unicorn and I had a superbly great time devouring the stories and reading them aloud to teens and adults alike. There are many interpretations of zombie and unicorn for that matter, but I think you'll appreciate them all.  My favorite?  Scott Westerfeld's zombie short, "Inoculata."  Super fun, super unexpected and it took me a good while to figure out what was really going on.  Loved it.  (my fav unicorn story was "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" by Diana Peterfreund.  I read it aloud to Monster during a painting project and we both love love loved it.

Side note:  The links in bold link to our reviews, none of which are stellar.  We're totally snobby about our lit sometimes and I think it comes through as even stronger bias and snobbery when zombies are involved.  Probably because of the hours and hours and hours Shesten has spent with her family discussing and preparing for the zombie apocalypse.  No joke.  <---hence the CDC zombie site familiarity!

That's it for the "classics" (though I don't think I'd actually call them that) list, but I do want to share that I just ordered Alice in Zombieland and am kind of excited about it.

What zombie books that weren't published in 2012 would you put on the list?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter [Review]

Plot Sketch: You know Kat, always trying to get herself into trouble.  In this follow-up to Heist Society, she's back at it again, this time, in a pickle finding herself stuck between family members, those who would do her harm, and the Cleopatra Emerald.  You remember, right? The twin to the Mark Antony Emerald that hasn't been seen in thirty years?  See if she can pull off the con without getting caught.

Verdict:  While I thought Heist Society was pretty pedestrian, I did say that I wanted to read Uncommon Criminals solely for the fact that I couldn't stop thinking about Hale. *swoon*  I finally got around to this one on a rainy afternoon in Africa.  You know, I flew through this and while it is no masterpiece, I'd say it should rate at least a full star higher than Heist Society.  Why?  The plot was more coherent, flowed better, and the characters stayed true to themselves throughout the book.  They weren't predictable, I didn't figure it out before the end of the book, and quite frankly, it was super enjoyable.

Also, I really appreciate that Ally's books are clean.  They still have the romantic tension that all of us adult YA readers want, but they don't go into excruciating details that make us feel dirty.  The language is fairly neutral and I wouldn't hesitate reccing this to someone at church.  As I sit here at home in my family room (listening to the neighbors sing karaoke in Spanish) just the thought of Kat and her adventures helps me to escape my current situation and makes me happy.

For an escapist contemporary piece, Uncommon Criminals was surprisingly quotable, including the graphic I made, there were two others that stood out to me:

"Civilization is not made out of sand - it's out of blood."

"Asking a good thief to stop thinking would be like asking a shark to stop swimming."

Have you read this one yet?  Do you love it?  Did you hate it?  Who is YOUR favorite?  Dish.  I'd like to hear.

Also, a side note, I went to see Ally in Wichita last March.  The bookstore was packed.  PACKED!  I don't think I've ever seen a single YA author bring a bigger crowd.  Standing room only.  And the signing line seemed to go on forever.  Even though I was at the rear of the line, when I got to the front (after listening to hilarious stories about Ally's last tour with Rachel Hawkins), she was delightful and funny and kind.  Don't get me wrong.  Most YA authors are usually kind.  But Ally superseded all the other experiences I've had at signings (which are numerous) with her patience and just plain awesome.  If you get the chance to see her in person, do it.  It was a delightfully fun treat.

And with that disgustingly gooshy paragraph (I guess you could call me an Ally Carter fangirl after that, right?  gross.), here's the trailer for Uncommon Criminals:

Monday, October 15, 2012

October by Robert Frost [This Month's Poem]

OCTOBER
Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

I know I surprised you by not posting a Poe poem this month.  But honestly?  Frost captures October in rhyme a lot better than Poe.  My favorite line?  "O hushed October morning mild, Begin the hours of this day slow."  Reason it's my fav?  Because 'round here in Mesa, October is when it starts cooling down.  It starts getting nicer and bearable to wake up in the morning and take a walk.  Light isn't bursting through my window and waking me up so stinking early! And it's one of my favorite months of the year.  Halloween, nicer temperatures, no sweaters needed... and I think Frost's depiction is perfect (even if leaves don't fall until December here).

What do you think about Frost's OCTOBER? 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day Break Mini-Challenge [Readathon]

Yeah, I've posted about this Readathon thing a few times (<---yes that was sarcastic), and I have the privilege of hosting a mini-challenge for its participants today!  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, skip to the bottom where there are answers to the questions you're asking)

Readathon participants:  *drumroll please* (yes, you! make a drumroll sound on your lap, desk, or arm of your chair!)  I present to you, the Day Break Mini-Challenge.

Here is your challenge, should you choose to accept it and the hazards that accompany it...  Put down that laptop.  Put down that book.  Get up off of your booty, and take a break.  See some sunlight (or moonlight depending on where you are in the world), and take a book/technology/being-indoors break.

Get out for a five minute walk!  Water the grass.  Smell the roses.  Do some cartwheels in the park across the street.  Chase a car.  Dance in the rain.  Get out your skateboard and do a trick.  Ride your bike to the corner and back.  I don't really care what you choose to do with this break as long as you get outside, and get your blood moving again!

Then, and this is the hard part, the REALLY REALLY hard part, you come back here and you post a comment telling us what you did.  We wanna hear about your booty shaking while the neighbors watched, your failed attempt at that cartwheel, or narrowly missed being taken out by a tornado or hurricane.  (hopefully not, but hey, I said there'd be hazards).  And if you want to post a picture on the Dewey's or IHM Facebook page?  All the better! Let us laugh with you!  Tweet the photo (mention @iheartmonster and #readathon) for even more visibility.  Have fun with it!

And if you do leave a comment telling us you went for a walk, did jumping jacks, or whatever it was that you did?  You're entered into a drawing for a $15 gift card to the online bookseller of your choice.  Provided I can purchase the credit online and email it to you, it's yours, worldwide.  You want Amazon UK?  You got it (the equivalent of fifteen USD).  Sound fair?  I think I'd do it just for the chance at fifteen bucks, but hey, that's just me.

Oh, and this message?  It is so not self-destructing until the beginning of Hour 11 when it will officially be closed and a winner will be chosen.  Oh, and maybe a little inspirational music?  Yeah?  If this doesn't make you want to move I don't know what will!


Don't have Spotify? Why not?  It's free for your computerIf you don't mind the 14 second ad here's the YouTube vid...


Non-Readathon Participants:

What the heck is a Mini-Challenge?  It's a break for people who are reading for 24-hours straight where they get to use a different part of their brain other than the language-processing ones.  You know, keep them fresh, interested, and most of all, HAPPY!

Why would people do that?  Because it's a challenge and because it's fun and because there are prizes to be won.  Oh, and because their TBR (to-be-read) piles are huge.  OH, and because they love reading!

Why do you think I care?  Because I think you're a decent human being that doesn't mind a straggly blog post that doesn't exactly apply to you.  Oh, and because maybe you'll want to do the next Readathon in April.

That's not fair!  I want to win a $15 giftcard!  Well, sign-up for the next 'thon.  Get updates by subscribing to us here (we always announce it) and Dewey's official 'thon blog.  We're usually sponsoring a mini-challenge or some sort of prize for this thing, even if this is our last time before handing off the Hosting duties to the awesome ladies at The Estella Society.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Every Day by David Levithan [Audiobook]

Plot Sketch: A wakes up in a different body every day.  Bodies of teenaged people his own age, sometimes female, sometimes male.  Sometimes gay, sometimes straight.  Sometimes fat, sometimes depressed, sometimes a jock, sometimes a nerd.  Because A has no body, A has no family.  This is the story of a couple of month's of A's journey and how love can drive humanity to things and people, even without the most basic of human possession's: one's own body.

Verdict: In listening to this novel, I pictured A in my head as a boy.  After all, I'm straight, and A had a crush on a girl, Rhiannon.  So naturally, when it dawned on me that A had no gender identity, it threw me for a minute.  Also throwing me, was how to describe A with a pronoun.  "Him" doesn't seem to fit, nor does "Her." "It," seems too inhuman a pronoun to assign when this character has done nothing but experience humanity through every single facet available while bouncing through life, one body to the next.  But, in describing this story to Monster, that's exactly what I ended up using.

While this book had no shortage of effect on me, making me angry, making me relate, making me cry (yes, me. cry.), I couldn't help but notice the slow plot.  I kept having to remind myself that plot was not used in the traditional way.  This is more of an experience with social commentary than it was a traditional coming-of-age, high-drama, high-conflict plot.  Coming-of-age?  Sort of.  A is wise beyond (its) years.  High-drama?  Certainly.  High-conflict?  Meh. Lots of internal conflict and time spent in A's consciousness.  But honestly, Levithan couldn't have told it any other way.

Ultimately, when you combine the excellent writing, the wakening themes and the unique characters, you get one heck of a book.  Absolutely worth the time to listen or read.  You get something that make you think, which to me has value, especially under the Young Adult umbrella which is too often too fluffy.  But this book isn't for all teens.  I wish I could say it was.  This book isn't for all adults.  I really really wish it was.  I wish that we all had open enough minds that we could all experience this story together and have a conversation about it and reflect on how we could learn from it and improve ourselves.  But in reality, humanity has a LONG way to go to catch up with A.  If you're not ready to open your mind and appreciate courage in many forms without judgement, then you're not ready for this book.

Narration:  Alex McKenna was the perfect narrator for this story.  My inability to assign a gender without looking at the box says it all, right?  Only note I'd have is that it moved rather slowly on audio, which always moves slower than print I realize, but this felt especially slow.  Not an audiobook for the gym or chores, but definitely one for the road.

Note:  David Levithan will be appearing at Changing Hands in Tempe, AZ (near me!) on October 19th, that's a Friday,  at 7pm.  So, if you're in AZ, see you there?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The IHM 5: October 2012 [Reading List]

The October is the fav of all of the months.  Why?  Halloween, naturally.  I've put together a reading list for myself for this month full of spooky, creepy, horrific titles and lucky you, I'm sharing.  Check out these five titles and why they're on our list:

1. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.  Thankfully, one of my book groups is reading this for its November book, so I finally get to read this during October!  I've started it probably thirty times and been pulled away by a pressing review or deadline.  I must say, after finishing two chapters of Evie (the MC), I've ordered up the rest of the series, Supernaturally and Endlessly.

2. Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama.  Like I indicated in my Fierce Reads recap post, I was enamored with the concept of this book, and therefore purchased it and put it on my to-read shelf (which we all know is a pile of books by my bed).  I'm excited for the horror between that lies between the beautiful front and back covers!

3. Ripley's Believe It Or Not: Download The Weird.  I'm always intrigued by these titles from Ripley's and always get sucked in.  I've been working through this one for a while and am excited to share some of it with you this month.  It's full of the weird (duh! it's the namesake), obscure, and just plain macabre.

4. Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh.  This follow-up to Nevermore (our top book of 2010), is full of Poe, Nocs, and dark, twisted stuffs.  I'm excited to find out what happens to Varen and Isobel.

5. Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl.  Of course the conclusion to the Casters quartet is going to be on our to-read list as soon as it launches on October 23rd!  Monster has been asking me when this comes out for months, and I preordered it before it had a cover.  If you've not read the first in the series, Beautiful Creatures, get yourself a copy, stat.  The dark, gothic beauty that is this series is totally appropriate for October's creepfest.

Additionally, I want to make you aware of the following books that you may or may not know about so that you can get your preorder on if you are so-inclined:

  • Vlad Tod the Graphic Novel.  Eighth Grade Bites is now a graphic novel launching in January 2013. 
  • How To Tell If You're Cat Is Plotting To Kill You from The Oatmeal comes out Tuesday and is bound to be creepy-hilarious.
  • The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky premieres this month in movie format.  So if you haven't read it yet, or if you have read it but want a refresher, this might be a good time to do that.  Plus, Chbosky wrote the screenplay so it should rock, right?  (Lucky me got a copy AND movie tickets in my PopSugar Must Have box this month!)
  • Beta by Rachel Cohn is one I'll be picking up at her visit to Changing Hands with David Levithan on October 19th. It launches October 16th.

That concludes the IHM 5 for October.  Check back in early November for the next edition of the IHM 5.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October Bookish Events [Local]

Sunday, October 7th, 3pm, Changing Hands, Tempe.  Cat Valente and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland.

Wednesday, October 10th, 7pm, Changing Hands, Tempe.  Benjamin Martin and Samurai Awakening, his debut YA novel.

Thursday, October 11th, 6pm, Dobson High School Auditorium, Mesa (brought by Changing Hands), Lois Lowry with Son, 4th book in Giver Quartet.

Saturday, October 13th, all day long, 24hourreadathon.com, Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon.

Monday, October 15th, 7pm, Queen Creek Library, Queek Creek, Skype Author Visit from Kimberly Derting & Book Discussion of The Body Finder for any teens interested!

Thursday, October 18th, 7pm, Bookmans Mesa Cafe, Young at Heart: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh.  All 17+ are welcome!

Friday, October 19th, 7pm, Changing Hands, David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, with their books, Every Day and Beta, respectively.

Wednesday, October 24th, 7pm, Changing Hands, Love Has No Finale Tour featuring authors Becca Fitzpatrick, Elizabeth Miles, Kresley Cole, Tonya Hurley, And Heather Brewer!

Friday, October 26th, 7pm, Changing Hands, 7pm, Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) with How To Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You.




Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Kids with cancer conquer the world.  The end.  Oh, and there's a support group.  And if that were the half-of it, it would still be an amazing story.

Verdict: I've gone back and forth on this review for a while.  To post or not to post, that has been the question.  You've all read a million five-star reviews for this book, but I think mine might be a tad different, so I am going to post it anyway.

I struggle to understand how someone who has not gone through the ups and downs and challenges of cancer on a personal level can not only understand them but convey them so accurately. And by personal, I don't mean a friend or family member.  I mean one's self.

'm a thyroid cancer survivor.  I dated a dude with cancer for a long while (years) while I was a teen.  He didn't win his fight.  I feel like I've got a good grip on what teens going through terminal illness experience emotionally, having been one and all, but John Green's got this uncanny ability to not only construct these characters and their motivations accurately, he's got the conflicts to back them up.  Plausible ones.  Believable ones.  Conflicts that made me cry because I've been through such similar circumstances, but left me uplifted because the results inspired such great hope.

John's writing is superb, as always, and I can't recommend THE FAULT IN OUR STARS to you enough.  This is a fulfilling read, a lovely read, and a read that you will come away feeling stronger for having shared this experience with these characters.  I'm grateful John Green wrote this story and shared it with the world.  It needed to be told.  You need to hear it if you haven't already.  There's a reason it's been on the NYT bestseller's list for so long.  It's amazing.  Buy it now.  And keep the tissues close.  You'll need them.

Check out the first chapter read by John Green himself:


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  It's the future and we've totally ruined the planet.  Disease-resistant Toxo is running rampant and Freya is forcibly evacuated from her home to a safe place.  The past.  She is implanted with new memories, and can't remember anything from the future.  Until she does... and that presents problems for her and the boy that helps her out.  Together, they navigate Ontario to escape those who would erase their memories permanently.

Verdict:  Part-dystopian, a little paranormal, and part-historical, this stand-alone dystopian was an interesting read.  I liked the fact that it isn't the first in a series and that I didn't have a cliff hanger ending waiting for me and prickling at my brain for a year.  I also liked that it was a new story.  I don't feel like I've heard it before.  I don't feel like I could google a conspiracy blog and find this story in a post, like I do with some time-travel themed dystopians. I can't complain about the structure or the word choice.  And I can't point out any gaping holes in the world that Martin built.

But.  Yes, that annoying "but."  And maybe this is just because dystopian isn't really my cup of tea.  But, I didn't find the story or the characters to be particularly memorable.  It was put-downable.  It isn't going to make my top- anything list for the year.  But I can't put my finger on why I feel that way.

Critique short, I just feel like I needed to be more engaged in the story and connect better with its characters for it to warrant a rave.  YOU may feel differently about it than I do.  YOU may really enjoy it, especially since there's not much wrong with it in the technical department.  So, if the premise seems to pull you, pick it up, give it a try.  If not, you'll likely feel the same way I do, meh.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon [Online Events]

For the last couple of years I've been helping out over at Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes crazy that happens with these large-scale online events.  I can't pretend like I'm not happy to pass the torch to the wonderful ladies over at The Estella Society.  I am.  It's a lot of hard work and I'm excited to see ladies who actually remember Dewey take on this 'thon in her memory.

The 24-hour Read-A-Thon is the first online book event I ever participated in... waaaay back in 2009.  I thought, Hey, why not... reading for 24-hours has got to be fun and a piece of cake, right?  I got the fun part right.  I still remember trying to keep my eyes open during John Green's Looking For Alaska during the last hour of the 'thon, Britney Spears Toxic on repeat, dancing at the foot of my bed book-in-hand, determined to make it all of the way.  And then of course I fell asleep with ten minutes to go.

I remember cohosting the last twelve hours of one 'thon because two of my cohosts dropped out last minute and I didn't have anyone but me to take their place.  I remember scheduling the last three posts and praying that I didn't fall asleep before I could do the recap, but falling asleep nonetheless.

Sleep and I are friends, you see.  And maybe they are for you too.  But let me tell you.  It's fun.  It's like an online party with door prizes and people to cheer you on, to keep your spirits high.  It's amazing.  And if you're a hard core reader?  It's the perfect place for you.  So, sign-up and mark your calendar for October 13th, and show up at the right time.  Set your alarm.  Get your snacks ready and read.  Read all day long and have so much fun doing it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Foretold: 14 Stories of Prophecy and Prediction edited by Carrie Ryan

Foretold is a collection of short stories from fourteen different authors focusing on, like the subtitle says, prophecy and prediction.  Each author has his or her own take on the word, and incarnations ranging from the cult to the occult.  There is fantasy, contemporary, and paranormal in these pages.  Seriously, it's quite the collection.

The Stories and Their Authors:
  • Gentlemen Send Phantoms by Laini Taylor
  • Burned Bright by Diana Peterfreund
  • The Angriest Man by Lisa McMann
  • Out of the Blue by Meg Cabot
  • One True Love by Malinda Lo
  • This Is a Mortal Wound by Michael Grant
  • Misery by Heather Brewer
  • The Mind Is a Powerful Thing by Matt de la Peña
  • The Chosen One by Saundra Mitchell
  • Improbably Futures by Kami Garcia
  • Death for the Deathless by Margaret Stohl
  • Fate by Simone Elkeles
  • The Killing Garden by Carrie Ryan
  • Homecoming by Richelle Mead
Star-studded?  Yes.  For sure.  The ones I bolded were the ones that touched me the most, and therefore, the ones I'll talk to you about, to give you a hint of what the stories are about.  I promise, no spoilers.  

"Burned Bright" is about Bright, daughter of the prophet.  "Tonight, the lodge will be shaken off its foundation by the power of our prayers.  Tonight, it will glow with our devotion and burn with the strength of our love."  Those are the first two lines of the story, giving you an inkling as to what Bright's mindset is.  Sam is another member of the group who are waiting to be swept up and away into heaven because Bright's father has predicted it.  And Burned Bright is the story of what happens when things don't turn out exactly as people predict they will.  This story had the most impact on me, more than the others combined.  I'd recommend the collection just so you could get your hands on this one.

"Misery" is about Alek, who has lived in Misery for three years.  He can't remember before, just that it had a lot of colors.  Misery is black and white and gray.  "Misery was a strange name for a town, and Alek wasn't at all certain that it was fitting."  That is the first line of this interesting, powerful story.  Another line to give you a hint about the story is "It was never a good morning in Misery.  Just morning.  Then afternoon.  Then evening.  Nothing was good.  Or bad, really."  It's twisty and thought-provoking and definitely worth your time.  

Some of the stories, like Malinda Lo's "One True Love" were predictable and pedestrian.  I did not enjoy Malinda's piece not because it was about lesbians, but because it was by Malinda Lo and I knew just from the by-line it was going to be about lesbians.  It is as if some of these authors have pigeon-holed themselves into the same old thing time and time again.  I want to be surprised by an author, not be able to tell you the ending after the first page because of who wrote it.  I felt the same about Matt de la Peña's story, "The Mind Is A Powerful Thing", though not nearly as strongly.  While I realize that authors have a specialty and a place in literature where they feel most comfortable, the thing that will make them great authors is pushing and breaking the boundaries they set on themselves.  And that is when I, the reader, am swept off of my feet and taken breathless by their work.  Not when they settle into the rut they've found comfortable.

The rest of the stories were mostly above-par for shorts in the Young Adult medium.  You would no doubt have a different take on them than I would, and you would definitely have different favorites than I.  Lisa McMann packs an entire story into eight pages, not surprising, but definitely a feat.  

The short on these shorts?  Worth a read.  The cover makes them look way spookier than they are.  This is not a Halloween-specific collection.  In fact, I don't get a Halloween vibe from it at all.  

Have you read these?  Do you want to?  Tell us your take in the comments below.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beautiful Creatures Movie Trailer [Movies]

Congrats to Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl on such a fantastic portrayal of Lena and Ethan in the Beautiful Creatures movie trailer!  We selected BC as one of our top books of 2009 and are thrilled to see it on the big screen.  Mark your calendars for Wednesday the 13th of February, 2013.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fierce Reads at Changing Hands [Event Recap] [Giveaway]

So.  What is a fierce read?  When asked to cover this event, I was like, Oh, Fiewel & Friends... Fie.. Fierce.. Macmillan imprint.  Done.  And then I realized I was spelling Feiwel wrong.  And that theory went out the window.  I'm admitting right now that sitting there reading the jacket copies, I wasn't overwhelmed with the fierce.

And then I show up at Changing Hands tonight and watch as these authors walk in together with their publicist, Kate.  It's amazing how perceptions based on jacket photos and blurbs can change as soon as someone walks into the room.  Lish McBride walked in with bright red hair and a smirk... a fierce smirk though.  She was closely followed by Ann Aguirre (and I quickly learned that you pronouce Ann's last name in Spanish, no gwire sounds in sight), not scared to stand up for the correct pronunciation of her name or the fact that romance writing is not porn.  Elizabeth Fama was fierce in different ways, she's interested in the people around her (and asked me to sign HER notebook) and she rocked tennies with a floral dress.  And then Marissa Meyer comes through the door in this bright and happy, girly dress.  It was like, one of these things doesn't belong.  Don't get me wrong, even Christian Siriano would have called her dress fierce.

There wasn't very much room in the back room at Changing Hands where we were doing the meet and greet.  There were supposed to be 25 students from Tempe Union High School attending this session.  And man, I think about twelve showed.  To the other dozen who signed up, but didn't come: YOU. MISSED. OUT.  But since I'm sure other readers want to know what happened, and these things will help explain the aforementioned fierce, here goes:

  • Most of the authors (with the exception of Ann who has her writing process down to an exact, precise science) do at least 8-10 different rough drafts before their work is ready to be submitted.  That doesn't count copyedits and any revisions their editors ask them to make.
  • They use beta readers for feedback.
  • Your writing style is up to you. So is your setting and whether or not it's real or fake.  But if it's real, make sure you're really good at internet research or it's some place you've been before, because if you've never been to Prague (which, btw, high schoolers, is in the Czech Republic... that's Eastern Europe), your Prague-dwelling readers (because let's be optomistic, you're going to sell those Czech rights first) will call you out on it in a heartbeat.
  • It's great to have people in your life that know what's going on with your draft that you can bounce ideas off of and get good direction.  You know, like in Elizabeth Fama's case, her teenaged children who dared her to write her paranormal book.
  • You have some control over the title of your book.  (EF sent a list of 127 titles to her publisher when they didn't like the one she originally had, and they picked one off that list)  But, cover art?  Nope.  Not so much.  They might take your feedback, but ultimately, it's the pub's decision.
  • And if you're looking for the list of book recommendations that they handed out in the back room, no luck.  Sorry.  I couldn't write fast enough.  
And that was just the practical stuff.  Not the funny stuff like how:
  • Lish McBride actually had some random dude show up at one of her parties growing up that said his name was Mint Chocolate.  She later used him in a short story.
  • When asked "Do you like Twilight?" all four authors stayed silent.  It was an awkward silence.  Until Ann said that we respect what Stephenie accomplished.  Translation?  Nope.  Not so much.  But hey, Twilight was like seven years ago, yo.
  • If you want to be a writer, Ann suggests you find a wealthy spouse who will indulge your writing aspirations.
  • Lish McBride doesn't eat meat.  So she came up with a vegetarian character who has to kill things, just not things he'll eat.  
  • Elizabeth Fama troubleshot her entire book with her teenaged kids while jogging.  (um, dual talented? I suspect so.  I can't do anything while jogging, let alone think)

All that stuff up there?  That was just from the meet and greet.  Yeah, the one that the public wasn't invited to, but half of the teenagers that were invited ditched out on.  So here are my favorite moments from the author event for the public (many of which I live tweeted with hashtag #FierceReads):
  • "You can write about zombies and get a degree." --Lish McBride wrote her first book to,graduate college.
  • "I wrote this book on a dare from my kids." --Elizabeth Fama. And they don't undeestand that it won't make them rich.
  • "Mom! When are you going to write something we can read?" --Ann Aguirre's kids. Why she entered the YA market. (Ann previously wrote for the adult market)
  • "Man I love this crowd!" -Marissa Meyer in response to thd MANY hands who knew who Sailor Moon was in the crowd. #ArizonaRockedTheSailorMoonCasbah
  • "It's a little inappropriate for me to love [Fade] as much as I do. In my mind he's 18." --Ann Aguirre in response to a question about who their favorite characters were to write.  And the others' were: Iko for Marissa Meyer, the elderly Scottish pastor for Elizabeth Fama, and Ashley & James for Lish McBride.
  • "I have crushes on all of my men." --Marissa Meyer who was referring to her male characters, thankyouverymuch.
  • Q: Your necromancer isn't evil? Lish McBride: Neither was Odysseus or The Ghost Whisperer.  And plus, people have shown her instances of necromancy in the Bible.
  • "You can't write a fluffy bunmy dystopian" --Ann Aguirre "Or can you?" --Lish McBride who once bounced the idea of weregiraffes off of a group of readers and was rebuffed for such an absurd idea.
  • "If it has a zombie in it I will watch it.  I've actually considered watching Zombie Strippers." --Ann Aguirre
  • The Italian and Spanish covers of Cinder are different, but most of the international versions kept the red shoe.
  • "I've been impressed by the cover gods so far." --Marissa Meyer in response to whether or not she liked her covers.
  • "I really like my French cover although I have no idea what's going on in it." --Lish McBride
  • "Just because a guy likes you and you have no interest in him - is that a triangle? No. It's more of a diagonal."  And later, "It's a love diagonal." in answer to a question about the love triangle in her books.  
  • "You cannot make eye contact with someone while eating a banana."  --Someone on the panel.  There was too much laughter and I was trying to tweet, so I didn't catch who said it.
So after hearing the authors describe their processes, their characters, their stories, and seeing the passion that sparks in every one of their eyes when they do, I walked away feeling fierce myself.  It's like their fierceness rubbed off on me a little bit.  And like there was some serious girl power (sorry dudes in the audience, really, it's girl power, Spice-style even) not only demonstrated, but shared.  Fierce?  Indeed.  My first impressions of these women and their books from the jackets?  Foiled.  That's what Fierce Reads is all about.
Didn't get to go to Changing Hands?  Fall Fierce Reads not coming to a stop near you?  Leave a comment to be entered to win the six book set signed by the authors: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer; Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride, Enclave; Outpost by Ann Aguirre, Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama, and Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  Plus, some sweet swag to boot.  Since you're leaving a comment, why not tell us Yea or Nay to Fifty Shades of Sailor Moon?  
L-R: Lish McBride, Marissa Meyer, Ann Aguirre, Elizabeth Fama (Teen section, Changing Hands)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Upcoming Bookish Events [Local]

Suzanne Lazear, Saturday, September 15th, Changing Hands Bookstore, 6pm. Presents her debut steampunk teen novel, Innocent Darkness.

Fierce Reads, Tuesday, September 18th, Changing Hands Bookstore, 7pm.  I'm going to be live tweeting this event featuring Macmillan authors Lish McBride, Marissa Meyer, Ann Aguirre, and Elizabeth Fama.  If you're not in Arizona, follow my tweets that night with the tag #fiercereads to see what these authors have to say.  Join the Facebook event.


Young At ♥, Thursday, September 20th, Bookman's Mesa, 7pm.  We're discussing Lisa McMann's Cryer's Cross.  We're still a relatively small group, so we'd love to see you there!  We meet at the cafe.  Join the Facebook event!
The Hobbit Trivia Night, Friday, September 21st, Bookman's Mesa, 7pm.  The not-so-elusive Lightning Octopus will be hosting Hobbit Trivia.  It's like a no-brainer, sure-to-be-entertaining event, guys.

Erin Jade Lange, Saturday, September 22nd, Changing Hands Bookstore, 5pm. Local Phoenix author debuting her teen novel Butter.

Dewey's Read-A-Thon, October 13th, 24hourreadathon.com, All Day Long.  Sign-up and gather details at 24hourreadathon.com.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Happy Frankenstein Day!

Did you know today was Frankenstein Day?

It's to honor Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley who was born on August 30, 1797.  Considered by many to be well ahead of her time, she wrote Frankenstein aka The Modern Prometheus in 1818.

Short bio? Mary fell in love with one of her father's political followers, Percy Bysse Shelley.  He was married.  She took a trip to France with him and a friend, Claire Clairemont, and when they returned back to England, she was preggers with Percy's baby.  Baby is born prematurely, dies.  Percy and Mary get hitched when Percy's first wife, Harriet commits suicide.  They travel across Europe, even spending a summer with Lord Byron.  Their second and third children die in infancy.  Then the fourth one, Percy Florence lives.  But Percy Sr. doesn't.  He drowns.  Mary takes P. Flo back to England where she focuses on being a mom and her career as an author.  She dies of a brain tumor at age 53.

Read Frankenstein for free at Project Gutenberg

Friday, August 24, 2012

Grahamstown, South Africa Book Scene

You'll have to forgive me.  I haven't posted in a while because I was on a three-week vacay and my pictures went to work with my Monster on accident.  But to make up for it *fingers crossed* I am featuring some photos from Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa and their book scene.  Yes.  My time away was in South Africa.  And in Colorado, but we'll save the US for another day.

Grahamstown (renamed Makana by the new South African government, but no one calls it that) is what we would call a college town in the US.  College as in University because college and university are not interchangeable there like they are here.  College there is like high school here.  So weird.  Anyway.  Rhodes University makes its home in Grahamstown. We stepped on campus for like a millisecond to take this picture.

The first bookstore I came across was a college bookstore called Fables.  Seeing the sign from down the street, I was excited, but then when I got to the storefront and saw the chalk sign that asked for Organic Chem books, I decided to skip going inside.
But when we came up on Van Schaik Bookstore, with all of its pretty colors and circles, I had to go in.  Mostly, Van Schaik is a college bookstore too.  But it did have a semi-healthy YA section.  Observe:

Yes, there are definitely books there that don't show up in an American YA section, but hey. They've got Paolini, Kate, Anderson, Armstrong, and of course Meyer... so I guess that's the bare bones, right?  Right behind this shelf on the wall is the used section.  I found one YA book there.  Bumped by Megan McCafferty.  I thought that was a kind of odd book to be there, but hey.  Props to HarperTeen, yo.

After we exited (nothing purchased as there were not any books there that I hadn't seen or didn't own), we headed down the other side of the street where we saw the Library for the Blind.  Um.  It's my first time seeing a braille library.  And I think it's super cool.  I didn't go in because it was closed, but I think the sign in braille tells us enough. (That's my niece feeling the braille down there)

So anyway.  That's the book scene in downtown Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa.  And if you're curious... here are some other pictures of the city...
Clockwise from top left: Standard South African Bank, R.E.T Butler's Pharmacy, Fort Selwyn canon, Downtown Grahamstown storefronts, Space Invaders is everywhere, Wimpy (convenience store), inside Cafe Delizzia, Albany Museum, Cathedral of St Michael and St George (Anglican)

The End.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Size 12 And Ready To Rock by Meg Cabot

Plot Sketch: Heather Wells is back at it again in Size 12 And Ready To Rock, putting her fallen pop star street smarts to good use solving crime after crime.  This time, it's all about her former rival, boyfriend-stealing, future sister-in-law and a stalkery scary murderish dude.  The usual characters are all there to help find the guy during a rock-n-roll camp for teens hosted at none other than Heather's own Death Dorm.

Verdict:  I love me some Heather Wells.  I really do.  These are adult books that are suitable for older teens.  They do have some references to sex and drugs in them, whatever you would find in a college dorm really since Heather is the residence hall assistant manager person.  And there's blood and murder because well, they're mysteries.  Meg's writing style in this installment is on-par with her other adult work in this one, which since there was an almost five-year gap between Big Boned and this one, I was happy to see.

I love the characters, and I love that the major characters grew and overcame personal obstacles they had faced in earlier books.  When a series comes together over a wider arc, I think it makes us all happy, right? 

Something I didn't like though was the amount of extraneous characters.  I felt like there were way too many names in the book for characters that didn't actually have to make an appearance.  I kept thinking who is this guy?  And why does she know this girl again?  I would have liked to have seen the character list shortened to ones that were pertinent to the story with a few extras sprinkled here and there.  But it felt just the opposite.

The pacing and plot - though predictable - both served for light entertainment.  And as always, I loved the songs at the beginning of the chapters.  I gobbled it up, and if you haven't had the chance to check out Heather Wells yet, you should definitely start at the beginning with Size 12 Is Not Fat.  Size 12 And Ready To Rock is #4 in the series.