Monday, March 26, 2012

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon [Events]

Mark your calendars for April 21st!  It's the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon!

Why?  'Cause, you're not going to miss this, yo.  I mean, 24 solid hours of reading with people from around the globe?  How does it get better than that?

Oh, and did I mention there are prizes?

And if you don't want to read, you can cheer for those who are reading.  All you do is sign-up and get put on a cheer team and get a set of blogs to leave comments on, telling them that they are awesome and that they can stay up reading for 24 hours.

It's like this whole bookish community just comes together and READS!

Find out more about reading, cheering, or volunteering today!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Purity by Jackson Pearce [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Before Shelby's mom died, she made her promise her three things: to listen and love her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint.  Up until now, she's done a really good job of living without restraint, and obeying her mostly-uninvolved father.  But now Shelby's got a conundrum on her hands impending Princess Ball, where she has to pledge her purity to her father.  And her father won't let her out of it.  This is the story of how Shelby tries to reconcile the Promises in her life, trying to find a loophole that allows her to keep both Promise One and Promise Three.

Verdict:  This is one of those books I won't be able to reconcile for a while I'm afraid.  And I can't explain to you why because it will spoil the book.  But here's what I can tell you.  The writing is on-par with Pearce's other work; while not sublime, it's solid.  There are no giant gaping holes in the plot leaving me to second-guess Shelby's decisions or the journey she takes to get to the end.  The characters are relatable and realistic.  They're not an idealized version of today's teen or a grieving husband turned single parent.

I also like the structure of the book.  Its chapters are titled in relationship to a big event at the end... one that if I tell you, will betray some of the suspense in the book because you don't know which event the countdown refers to.  Which was pretty awesome.

That said, I'm still emotionally upended with this book.  After I finished it last night, I laid in bed, wondering about how Shelby could have taken a different path.  I came to the realization that she couldn't have.  But that just made me so much more disappointed.  This morning, after sleeping on it, I find that I'm not even disappointed in any of the characters, I'm disappointed in the situation.  But the situation is one that probably thousands of teens in the world face each year, and it's real, and it just makes me sad that they have to go through something similar to what Shelby did.  It sorta broke my heart.

PURITY is more complex than its surface suggests.  Yes, there are major themes of *gasp* purity and virginity and respect in the book, but there are also deeper themes I wasn't expecting to encounter like God, religion, parenthood, and love - true love.  Shelby's struggle with religion is so different than the normal struggles with God we see depicted in YA.  It's a struggle that illustrates, and illustrates very vividly, that teens have a better grasp of logic and experience than they get credit for.

Personally, I think that this book will benefit parents of teens more than it will teens.  And that's a good thing.  The psychology of the teen mind is dead on, the reaction to conflict is exactly what I saw happen with a teen last week, and the lessons I learned as an adult have to be just as important - if not more - than the lessons that are inside for teens to learn.  But of course I'd say that.  I'm an adult.

Parents: There is sex in this book.  The plot revolves around Shelby's plan to lose her virginity to satisfy both her parents. And *SPOILER* she does lose her virginity and not in a good way or one that even ends up mattering in the end *END SPOILER* There is usage of the f-word, I remember I think three instances, and it is used by the main character in a moment of anger in a true-to-form verb.

I want to give you a fantastic reference to compare it to and say that elements of this are similar to another great thing that I love, but honestly?  I can't think of a pop culture reference that even closely parallels these themes or experiences.  And that, my friends, is a first.

PURITY releases April 24, 2012 from Little, Brown.  Preorder from Amazon.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

Scavenger Hunt Tour Stop!

Saurent barked out orders to his team of workers, and after a brief struggle, the young men lifted the stone lid. Nestled inside was a wide wooden coffin painted with still more scenes of the two people represented in the murals. This cover they were able to pry off without much difficulty.

Inside was an oversize mummy, oddly shaped—the right length but too wide by half—blackened with asphalt from the Dead Sea. Instead of only one, it wore two elaborate gold masks. Both were crowned with headdresses of turquoise and lapis and wore carnelian, gold and amethyst breastplates. The only difference between them was that the one on the right was male and the one on the left, female.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Abu uttered in hushed astonishment. 

Next stop:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Scary School by Derek The Ghost [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch: Derek the Ghost, author of Scary School, navigates us through the halls of the only school in the whole entire world where kid monsters and kid humans learn side by side from Monster teachers. There's a dragon for a teacher, a zombie student, and the principal is a scary chick with hands like one of the Fantastic Four. You spend an entire school year getting to know students and teachers and watching them prep for the 561st annual Ghoul Games where every student competes with students from other schools that educate monsters (none of those admit humans though). Scary School gets to host the Ghoul Games this year, but there's a catch... the winners of all of the games get to eat the losers, and they win a golden Elephant and a trip to meet the Monster King in Albania!

Verdict: This is reluctant reader paradise. Each chapter reads like a short story which makes it perfect for parent/child reading together, and makes it less intimidating for readers starting out on their own. But not only is the format fantastic, the prose is hilarious and imaginative and made me laugh out loud uncontrollably in many inappropriate places including a rather stuffy doctor's waiting room where everyone stared at me. But I kept reading despite the judgement because the characters were amazing and the concept is completely fun.

This volume is mostly an introductory volume so that you can meet characters like Charles Nukid (who really is the new kid, and doesn't understand why everyone calls him by his last name), the three Rachels: Raychel, Raechel, and Frank (pronounced Rachel). It's a road map for the rest of the stories, introducing you to this world and what it has in store with a little bit of plot along the way. Don't get me wrong, it's not completely lacking plot. It's just very character heavy. Which I'm confident is going to work out well for this series, and makes this a very good starting place for the reluctant reader because it's easy to piece the story together over multiple sittings. You don't get lost in the intricacies of the plot.

This series is also unique in that it will equally appeal to boys and girls. You could sit your small family down and read it together and everyone would pay attention. Especially since there are pictures. I'm not gonna lie... the pictures are my favorite part because they are timely and only add to the story. I particularly liked it when the zombie kid's tongue fell out and he dusts it off and puts it back in his mouth and there's a small drawing of a tongue jutting into the paragraph.

Perhaps the real best part though is the web integration and the secret chapter. At the end of the book you're instructed to go to for the secret chapter. But, when you get to, you have to pass a quiz to get to the chapter. A couple of the questions I thought were tricksy enough to trip up a kid, (the dodo one and the uniform one if anyone is keeping track), but they didn't fool me. Or is that just me thinking I'm smarter than your average kid? Maybe I should get knocked down a few notches.

I'm not usually a fan of Middle Grade fic, but I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for Scary School #2: Monsters on the March which is due out at the end of June 2012.  Fans of Teen Wolf (M.J. Fox version) will adore this.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Bria's friends don't think that traveling with her after graduation is such a good idea because she's still processing her break-up with Toby.  So, they bail on her, thinking it will force her to stay and confront what's going on in her emotions.  And what does she do?  She heads down to Guatemala with Global Vagabonds, a tour group that she thinks will be filled with fabulous people.  But to her horror, the people are anything but fab.  Seeing the backpacking people her same age, she is immediately envious of their travel choices and wishes she could be as carefree.  But she's stuck on the tour with no one her age.  That is, until she meets Rowan and he invites her to their hostel, and gives her a little taste of what backpacking through South America is like, exposing her to a way that will challenge her, enlighten her, and ultimately change her in ways she never imagined.

Verdict: Wanderlove is a nice change of pace for YA lovers.  It's a contemporary teen coming-of-age tale, with an eighteen-year-old protagonist, allowing Bria a journey with more options than your typical coming-of-age path simply because she's legally an adult.  We need more YA like this!  We need more YA that has advanced themes of self-discovery and consequence.  And not just for the adults who read YA.  This has so many poignant teaching moments that I wish I would have seen somewhere as a teen:

  • Don't change your future because of a boy.
  • Don't betray your plan because it's not easy.
  • Don't underestimate your parents.
  • Live in the moment.
  • Love in the moment.
  • Live life with meaning.
  • Forgive.
  • Make the most of what you have.
  • It's okay to change your mind.

I totally want to backpack through Central America now thanks to the amazing details and settings that made the characters and plot just come alive.  As Bria's character develops, the format of the book changes to reflect her growth.  The more she grows, the more we are treated to her pencil sketches in one of her sketchbooks.  I thought that evolution was done very nicely.

I also thought that the characters were deep.  They were complex and evolving and made for a very good read because they weren't super predictable,even though the story arc seemed like it should be.  Writing this story in the present tense was absolutely the right choice because it helps teach the reader a great lesson about living in the moment and making adjustments to your philosophy on the fly, and it kept us guessing as to what was really going to happen next.

I feel lighter having read Wanderlove, happier.  I haven't been able to say that about a book that I've enjoyed in a while.  It toyed with my emotions, but left me on a high note.  It is sure to enthrall you and suck you in to the Central American landscape just as it did me.  Now, someone find me a tamale from a street cart... I'm feeling adventurous... itching for a backpacking trip to Guatemala or Belize or heck, anywhere, please.  (Who am I kidding?  I love pillows.)

Parents:  There is strong language in the book.  It's not excessive, but it is present.  There is no sex, but there is a mention of how Bria lost her virginity and how she regrets it.  And the impact of that decision and the self-hate she displays for it manifests throughout the entire book.  There is mention of drugs.  There are no scenes with main characters doing drugs, but one of the main characters alludes to having a past in selling and distribution.  No violence.  I'm thinking it should be okay for fourteen and up... depending on your stance on the language.

If you liked ABC's Off The Map, or if you like to travel, or read about exotic places, this is your story.  Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard releases tomorrow!

More Info: Kirsten Hubbard’s new book, Wanderlove, is set in Central America. But not just in one location -- in over a dozen! Wanderlove settings range from bustling capital cities to dense rainforest to tiny Mayan villages to idyllic Caribbean islands, and each is special in its own way.

Most exist in real life; all are based on real life. We’re very excited to share these amazing places with you in the novel -- and on the brand new Wanderlove-themed Tumblr site.
The site is all about favorite places: in Wanderlove and beyond, Kirsten’s places and YOUR places. That's right. We want you to participate!

Kirsten is hosting a HUGE giveaway starting tomorrow, March 13th, at and YA Highway -- with prizes including Wanderlove art prints, bookmarks, and bracelets just like Rowan's.

Kirsten will also be featuring all the destinations in Wanderlove, with photos she took herself over the years. She’ll cross-post her personal Wanderlove posts here as well as Tumblr, so you can follow along on Bria's journey in either spot.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Albatros: An IndieGoGo Project

Every once in a while I see a kickstarter or Indiegogo project that makes me smile.  But once in a blue moon, I see one that makes me want to contribute.  Folks, the moon is blue.  The Albatros bookmark is stinkin' genius. And you better bet I ordered some:

 My only concern was whether or not they would come out of the book once I was done reading it.  From the website:
Made out of polyester and with repositionable adhesive, the bookmark can last forever and without damaging any pages.
 If you contribute to the IndieGoGo, you'll get a bit of a price break, and shipping break too from the looks of it for folks in the US.  This is a France-based project and the preorders stop Friday March 23rd. What are your thoughts?  Concerns? You like? Think it's stupid?  I'm curious, so dish.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Aaron Rosenberg: ACTIONOPOLIS Interviewee

Hey gang!  Aaron Rosenberg is a Libra from New York City who likes jamocha almond fudge icecream.  Oh, and he also writes books and stuffs.  And he came to have a quick chat with us today, so help me welcome him to I Heart Monster!

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

AR: KnightStar is about a father and daughter who gain cosmic power.

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

AR: Because I can't help myself. I don't just love to write, I need to--I actually get something similar to withdrawal symptoms when I go too long without writing fiction.

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

AR: Hm. That would probably have to be a villain we have YET to reveal...

IHM: Who is your hero?

AR: I'd have to say Mark Twain. The man was astounding--a brilliant storyteller, a visionary, a hard worker, an independent thinker, he did it all.

IHM: It doesn't get more American pie than Mark Twain!  What is the message you want readers to gain from your work?

AR: Honestly, I don't often try to impart messages in my writing. I just want my readers to have fun and enjoy the experience, and come away having been thrilled or chilled or amused, as appropriate.

IHM: How refreshing is that?  Awesomely, if you ask me.  Thanks for hanging out with us for a little bit today!

You can buy KnightStar in paperback from Amazon for $6.99!

Some of Aaron's other works include: The Birth of the Dread Remora, "Crossed Paths," "OCLT: Brought to Light," Incursion, Indefinite Renewal, Eureka: Substitution Method, Eureka: Road Less Traveled, Tides of Darkness, Beyond the Dark Portal, Stargate Atlantis: Hunt and Run, Queen of Blades, The Carnelian Flame, SCE: The Riddled Post, SCE: Creative Couplings, SCE: Collective Hindsight, Pete and Penny's Pizza Puzzles, Chaotic: The Khilaian Sphere, iGo to Japan, Bumblebee vs. Meltdown, Attack of the Dinobots

Don't forget to check out other ACTIONOPOLIS titles!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe [Book Inspection]

Plot Sketch:  Kaelyn is busy navigating the ins and outs of moving back and forth between big-city minded Toronto and the small-town minded island she grew up on.  She's just seen her ex-best friend leave for school on the ferry and decides to keep a journal as if she were telling him how she feels about what's going on until she can tell him face to face when he comes back for Thanksgiving.  But then, the journal becomes a chronicle of an outbreak, the early symptoms, early measures of prevention by the government, (Kaelyn's father is a microbiologist and has inside information sometimes) and the progression of the disease.  We see the World Health Organization (WHO) through her eyes.  We see the best of humanity and the worst of humanity as she tells her old friend what's going on in their community.  We see life and we see death, all through the pen of a sixteen-year-old girl.

Verdict:  If you're looking for dystopia, this is not your book.  This is not a book about a dysfunctional messed up government in the future with some whacked out crazy totalitarian alien war mutant gladators. It's set now, in the present, in rural Canada. If you're looking for doomsday, suspense, with a little mystery and romance though, this is a sure bet.  This is not a paranormal romance.  This is not a paranormal anything.  It's contemporary.  And it's scary.

The epistolary format of this novel allows the reader to connect with the narrator in a more powerful way than traditional prose would.  You are able to see the world in a way an outsider could not. I read the entire book in one sitting, even though I wanted to put it down and sleep, I couldn't.  And I had a fever.  Not only was it powerful, it was haunting, and I'm still thinking about what decisions I would have made had I been in Kaelyn's shoes even today.  The book is both technically sound and emotionally engaging.  There were only a few plot progression points that I found questionable, but they were easily rationalized and explained away.

The ending will feel rushed if you think that the book is a stand alone.  But if you know this is a series going in, you'll be left at the end with a whole passel of questions, and they'll just keep coming.

There was a point in the book where I became so numb to all of the death that my brain kicked in and told me I should be more upset about this one particular death.  It was important. It had more impact, power, than the rest of the deaths to that point.  Or at least it should have.  But, it was like I was linked with Kaelyn and couldn't bring myself to feel any more than she did, which I found to be quite brilliant, even though it left me disappointed in my own humanity.  For an author to be able to evoke an intellectual response to my lack of emotional response sort of blew my mind.  Good job, Megan Crewe.  Good. Job.

We read this for book group and had a blessedly awesome discussion from it.  I would highly recommend this for book groups. For parents:  I counted 2 instances of the f word.  Another woman in our book group counted 5.  I thought that they were used in good places for emphasis and were true to the characters who used them, not just tossed in for effect. I was not offended by their presence, but you should know that they're there.  Also, I applaud the author for having a gay character whose sexual preference is not a major source of conflict in the story. *claps hands* Oh, and if you are sick, be forewarned, this book might frighten you a little bit more than if you are healthy.  And if you're healthy, you still might want some hand sanitizer close by.

This book will be enjoyed by people who like Stephen King's The Stand, Survivors (the British tv series), and pretty much anyone who likes to think about the zombie apocalypse.  Oh, and if you're interested in the discussion questions, download them from Megan's site!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! [You're The Expert]

It is my firm belief that Dr. Seuss is the reason I like reading today.  Today is his birthday.  I thought I'd celebrate by sharing a clip from my favorite Seuss tale, The Lorax, and ask you which one is your fav?