Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman + Contest!

First published in 2009.

When Miranda Merchant, sixteen and levelheaded, escapes her lonely, hot summer in New York City, little does she know what awaits her. She steps off the ferry onto an island rife with legend, lore, and a past her logical mind can't make sense of. She isn't expecting to feel a connection to this unusual place, so filled with languorous charm and strange history.

And when she meets Leo, a mysterious local boy, she finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew about boys, friendships, reality . . . and love.

Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something she never could have imagined?
(book flap blurb)

I got this book from Aimee at her signing at BEA last year mainly because Steph from Reviewer X dragged me into her signing line to get it. Otherwise I wouldn't have picked this one up. From the blurb, it doesn't really seem to be my thing, especially since it leans more towards romance. But since it was in my pile I wanted to give it a chance because I'm willing to step outside my safety zone and try new things.

Am I glad I did. I started reading and pretty much swallowed the book whole, to my surprise. I loved Miranda. Just like the blurb says, she's levelheaded and logical, but almost to a fault. It's very hard for her to see beyond logic and science and that's something I can definitely relate to. It takes her a lot to step out of her tunnel vision but, eventually, she does.

This book was about change but I think it went further beyond the fantastical part. It was about Miranda coming out of her shell and realizing who she is, in so many different ways. She's not just this hard-nosed scientific type. As much as she isn't willing to admit it, she's someone that could just maybe, quite possibly, almost believe in the fantastical.

The fantasy aspect in this book was subtle and more implied than in your face. Miranda got her information from a book of lore she found in her grandmother's house. She sees things out of the corners of her eyes that she can't really explain and which we never can an explanation for. I'm pretty sure that was the point. Not everything needs an explanation. Something it helps to just believe.

I liked the romance aspect because it wasn't overwhelming and it was much more realistic than what I've read in a lot of YA lately. I'm a firm believer in summer romances (because I can relate!) and it makes sense for Miranda making the connection that she does. Read the book and you'll find out what I'm talking about! The ending was especially great. It was hopeful without being sappy. It wasn't wholly a happy ending but a satisfying one.

The part I wasn't fond of was the whole rich kids versus townies triangle that was going on. I get that the richies from the mainland summered on the island but I felt that the 'suitable rich boy as a potential boyfriend who only turns out to be raised a prick' is a little tired. Surely not every single kid born into privilege isn't capable of seeing beyond their situation and is willing to break the mould. Needless to say, who Miranda chooses end is pretty obvious but that didn't keep me from silently cheering for her sticking it to the guy that didn't see her for her.

Overall, an excellent read and totally surprising for me. I love it when I decide to take a risk on something by stepping off my safety net and it pays off. I'm glad Steph dragged me into that line and I ended up with this book. It was a great read and now I'm going to seek out more of Aimee's work because her take on the teenage voice and situations were just awesome. Not all books have to be chock full of drama and overly obnoxious to be "fitting" to the YA market. Sea Changes is one of those examples and I'm so happy for its reasonableness.

PS - Did I mention that the cover is gorgeous too? I don't normally talk about covers because they're pretty irrelevant to how I feel about the book but this one just blows me away. It's absolutely beautiful!

Contest Time!!!

Fill out the form below for your chance to win my copy of Sea Changes by Aimee Friedman!

Things I've Learned from Books + 43

If a guy is a douche to you most of the time and only cuddly and cute a small amount of the time, and only in private, he is, without a doubt, a bonafide douche. Toss his ass. He's not worth the smallest amount of effort.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

80s Awesomeness! ~ 52

I mentioned this in my 80s Awesomeness! post last week (or maybe in the comments, either way, it was on that post) so I figured I'd give Pocket Rockers their own post! These were the kid version of the ghetto blaster; little tape players that you could carry around anywhere. The tapes themselves were only about an inch or so big and you could actually wear them as fashion accessories. Hey, it was the 80s. I got mine not too long after it came out. It was the pink one above and I had tapes for Bon Jovi, The Bangles, Madonna and Tiffany. I was so cool.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Freaky Friday :|: 52

Title: Escape, The Secret Diaries #3
Author: Janice Harrell
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Published: July 1994
Pages: 304
Swearing secrecy to the group that is covering up the facts about Laurie and Casey's "accidental" deaths, Joanna and her boyfriend, Penn, are horrified to discover that her diary has been stolen by a killer who is out of control.
Is this an omnibus? Because I have a hard time believing that each of these books is 304 pages long. And I'm not too sure about a serial killer stealing a girl's diary and all hell breaking loose. Kind of far-fetched to me . . .

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dystopian is the New Vampire

Do you think it is? There's certainly been a swell in dystopian literature in the YA market as of late. I think The Hunger Games paved the way for that to happen in some way, at least. Not that that's a bad thing. It's always good when good books spurn a trend. In my mind's eye, the other books that follow will have to live up to that expectation, hence spurning more good books. So far, I haven't heard much bad about dystopian novels that are coming out now. Unfortunately the same can't be said for other books with rather fangless glittering things that spawned neutered unevil creatures but that's besides the point.

Publisher's Weekly has a great article about some of the whys of dystopian literature in YA, mainly why kids are so drawn to it. Basically it boils down to the what ifs. What if this did happen? Why, it's happening now. Can it really happen? Is that where we're headed?

Sure, they don't offer the sunniest of outlooks on life but many dystopian YA out there is a good examination of what's going on in society today. Every single one of them mirrors at least some aspect of our society that's going wrong as a whole. Kids (and anyone, really) read these books and ask themselves what would they do in that situation. I know I've questioned the notion of how I would fare in a nuclear winter. Would I survive? Would I lead? Would I follow? Would I go it alone? What's the easiest way to make a spear from a rock and a stick?

What's funny, though, is that a few of these horrors have already been lived through in some way. The end of the world. I'm sure many people living through the Black Death in Europe thought the end of the world was upon them as millions of people died of a disease they couldn't fight. 1/3 of the population of Europe at the time was decimated. Paris had so many dead it ran out of space to put people so it started burying corpses under the streets. Google Paris catacombs and you'll see what I'm talking about. When you have 75,000 people die in a 30 mile radius in a week, what the hell do you do with them all?

Then there was the Inquisition where people were hunted for being different. Back them it was witchcraft. Today it's homosexuality, being pro-choice, Democrat, liberal, whatever. Maybe they shouldn't so much as be what ifs but when ifs.

There are YA dystopian books coming out about the planet running out of oil. What if? Oh no. When if. It's already proven that oil is in short supply and we'd be lucky to last another 100 years on what the earth is spitting out. What will happen then? These stories aren't so far reaching but so long as they're in the pages of fiction, they can stay imagined and anyone reading them can read from the comfort of their home surrounded by loved ones. They make you appreciate what you have and they tend to change your ideas about what's a right and what's a luxury.

Ever watch the series Life Without People on The History Channel? If you want a real life dose of what could happen in a dystopian world, watch that show. Nevermind the huge changes. The little things like the disappearance of bananas would shock you. Who would think that without people to cultivate the kind of bananas that we eat, they'd disappear entirely? Extinct. Ants would also die out. And raccoons. Anything that's become dependent on humans for survival would die with us.

So what gets you reading dystopian? Personally I think it's much richer than a lot of the fluff that seems to be floating around on shelves right now. Plus I love the social commentary it offers, thinly veiled behind an insane plot. While I tend to avoid such bleak things altogether (the apocalyptic marathons The History Channel tends to have is depression-inducing), some of these books are too damn good to resist. If you're looking for some other dystopian YA titles, Publisher's Weekly has a lengthy list of upcoming releases.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Book Wars (12)

Graceling for the win last week by a pretty big margin. This week is filled with 'what ifs' and pandemonium. FIGHT!

Girl in the Arena


The Maze Runner

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Goosebumps: Welcome to Camp Nightmare by RL Stine

First published in 1993.

The food isn't great. The counselors are a little strange. And the camp director, Uncle Al, seems sort of demented.

Okay, so Billy can handle all that.

But then his fellow campers start to disappear.

What's going on? Wh
y won't his parents answer his letters? What's lurking out there after dark?

Camp Nightmoon is turning into Camp Nightmare!

And Billy might be next . . .
(book back blurb)

The last time I read any of these books I was actually of target age to read them. So yeah, it's been a while. And while I couldn't get totally engrossed in it like I used to, it still kicked major ass. I really don't think RL Stine can do much by the way of wrong.

The writing is very simple and I think reflects the era of middle grade it was written in. If you compare it against MG of today, I don't even think it'd really qualify for that shelf space (although it still does). But even apart from the simplicity, it's still masterful at telling the story. Heavy emphasis on telling. But really, I didn't mind it. I could still visualize everything. I didn't feel like I was being talked at. I felt like I was being told a story by a twelve-year-old boy, which I'm pretty sure was the point. The language isn't disingenuous to the age at all (as I feel a lot of MG and YA can be) and it just sticks to telling the story how a twelve-year-old would tell it without fluffing it up.

I can't remember how quickly I caught on to the catch when I was in that age bracket (if I did at all) but I felt it was pretty obvious right from the outset. What I didn't see coming, and it was something I'd completely forgotten, was the very end. The story had a twist plus a triple axle. Totally awesome.

It had all the creepy elements required of telling a good spooky story but not so much that you'd end up shrieking like a banshee at the drop of a pin. Although it might make you freak out about the woods a little. For me, though, I don't need much help with that. Stine keeps the horror hidden and hinted at. We never get a really good look at these supposed creatures and the inaction of the counselors is far scarier than some true-to-form demon thing.

I'm so glad Goosebumps has transcended time like it has. This book is closing in on twenty years old! OMFG! I have to stop dating myself! But really, they're timeless. There's nothing in the story that dates it to a certain time. I don't think Stine felt a need to name drop like a lot of authors do today so his stories fared better. All the more power to them. It just means that more and more generations will grow up loving Goosebumps! Always a plus.

Monday, February 22, 2010

No ARCs for Mockingjay!

To those of you looking forward to a potential ARC of the final book in the Hunger Games series at BEA, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you won't find them. Scholastic will not be releasing ARCs for Mockingjay.

There was some buzz about this at last year's BEA. I guess it happened with Twilight. I know Breaking Dawn didn't get an ARC but I can't remember if the third one did (what's it's name? Eclipse?) The more popular a series gets, the less inclined the publishers are to release ARCs in order to prevent leaks of what actually happens. Book stores won't even be getting copies early (or at least as early as they normally get them) in order to keep the plot as silent as possible.

While I'm, like, twitching to find out what happens, I kind of like that everyone's starting on the same plane for this one. It's not like it needs advanced reviews or anything. Enough people are foaming at the mouth to get their hands on it so making them suffer is a win-win for for the publishers!

So get your advanced orders in and bug the hell out of your local book store to get them to have a midnight release party because no one's getting these babies before midnight on August 24th! And that's a worldwide release date, by the way! Single drop!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

So Long Slurry!

In an attempt to streamline things in my life so I have more time to write and set myself on that path properly, I've decided to stop posting my Sunday Contest Slurry (obviously this is part of a much bigger time-eating elimination overhaul). What it boils down to is it's redundant information that I re-post every week. Everything in the Slurry could always be found in my Chomper Contest listing. Even as bare bones as it is, it could still take me up to an hour to list everything new just for the past week. So this must go.

The Chomper Contest post will still be available and will be updated daily at the very least. I'll still reset the asterisks I use there as well every Sunday just so you all know what's fresh that week. But the redundancy had to go. I hope you all understand!

Added to the Pile + 27

A big thanks to Heather at Sourcebooks for this ARC! Sorry for the small image. It was all I could find.

From Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Elise Paschen and Dominique Raccah, creators of the now-classic New York Times bestsellers Poetry Speaks and Poetry Speaks to Children, comes this ambitious anthology of poems for middle graders in a dynamic book-plus-CD format, featuring many of the world's best-known poets reading their own work.

Poetry Speaks Who I Am is an energetic visceral collection of poems for that point in life that is at the same time angst-ridden and incredibly exciting. Filled with more than 100 remarkable selections from a wide variety of contemporary and classic poets, this journey of discovery at last brings the vital connection between poetry and the early teen years to full fruition. (book back blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 42

Watch out for local boys. The temptation to make shoes from their scales may be a little too high. But at least they have more personality than the summering rich kids.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Soulstealer War: The First Mother's Fire by WL Hoffman

First published in 2007.

Unemployed after graduation, Kenneth McNary seeks inspiration on the Appalachian Trail. He never suspected that it would find him first. Ken is transported to a fairytale world by a god-like sentience and is tasked with uniting the world's denizens for a coming war - a war with eternal consequences for every soul consumed by the Enemy.

While grappling with metaphysics and the dangers of his strange surroundings, Ken learns that the few humans inhabiting the realm are meek slaves to near-immortal beings who have lost their magic. Complicating this situation is a mysterious new race of magic wielders and the reappearance of subterranean, flesh-eating creatures long thought extinct.

To survive the perils and embrace his destiny in a land hostile to humanity, Ken must discover the Fire within. But he faces two problems: he is a novice pitted against masters, and the magic may kill him before the masters do!
(book back blurb)

Sounds interesting, right? I was talking to the author at BEA last year and he was explaining the premise to me and it just sounded so neat. Scientific fantasy. Stuff that might be explainable. It was different from a lot of the fantasy I'd read so I snagged a copy. It sat in my reading pile since then simply because it got buried and I just didn't get around to reading it until last week.

Or attempting to read it is more like it.

It was like wading through sludge up to your neck. This is pure masturbatory work if I've ever read any. If you're unfamiliar with the term, when I say a work is masturbatory, I'm meaning that it's nothing more than the author exerting their stash of fifty cent SAT words and patting themselves on the back for it. Or grabbing for the lotion, as it were.

This book is so bogged down in overwrought nonsense that I consistently found myself pondering the mystery of shirt fuzz to bring some excitement into my reading. It was a process just to get about 50 pages in and then I just couldn't handle it anymore. There were way too many "he thought about it" followed by large blocks of italicized text of the MC talking through explanations. Nothing is shown. Everything is told. I was lectured at the entire time I was reading.

There is a potentially good story and great world buried until all the pretentious crap flooding the pages but the ground was too frozen for me to keep digging. I just had to stop. Yeah, I know I was getting into science but I wasn't expecting this:
. . . Although Ken rarely spoke about his sixth sense, as it wouldn't mesh with the propriety necessary for a corporate legal career, it wasn't long before he had elicited Barb's opinion during one of the crew's midnight sessions. In her classic psych way, between a cigarette puff and a sip of gin, she had summed it up as fleeting microcapsules when his subconscious tapped a high awareness state, collated information strands from the surroundings into bundled inference, and then manifested the resulting cues to his conscious self as a motor response. It was a comfortingly mundane explanation for something that for so long had seemed so baffling.
Isn't that just so clear? Like reading a physics textbook when you're failing the class. Everything I read was like this, either from a legal or scientific standpoint. I wasn't expecting this level of technicality when I picked up a work of fiction. If I wanted something like this, I'd actually grab a textbook.

I just felt the author didn't want to so much tell a story as he wanted to showcase his vocabulary and scientific knowledge. Thanks, but I'll pass. If you can wade through something like this, more power to you. Tell me how it pans out. But I just couldn't bring myself to slog through it. I didn't find it worth my time. Any book that can't keep my attention I'm not about to force myself to read. I'm not in school anymore hence I don't have any grades pending on my knowledge of the material.

Because I couldn't finish it, I'm not rating it although I doubt it'd rate very high even if I got to the end. The language and writing style didn't seem to be letting up any time soon.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 51

Bon Jovi!!!

You know you're hot for those ultra-tight pants and damn! That hair! I don't think there wasn't a girl that swooned over this good guy hair metal band in the 80s. Unfortunately for the ladies, John Bon Jovi was unabashedly addicted to his high school sweetheart. As far as I know, he still is. Bon Jovi is still around today cranking out similar-sounding tunes and, thank the gods, wearing better clothes and hair. But they'll forever be known for Slippery When Wet.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Freaky Friday :|: 51

Title: Betrayal, The Secret Diaries #2
Author: Janice Harrell
Published: June 1994
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Pages: 304
After discovering, to her horror, that her boyfriend and his friends are responsible for a girl's death, Joanna agrees to cover up the truth, until one of the group turns to blackmail. (from
Kind of sounds like I Know What You Did Last Summer with a slight twist of the plot. Still, I might be able to read it if it took a more unusual approach. I hate it when I start reading a book that I like and reads so different only to have it end up on Overdone Way.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ARCs On Their Way Out?

Agent Kristen (of Nelson Literary Agency, Ally Carter's agent, for example) made a rather surprising post late last week regarding one of her clients (unnamed) and a publisher (also unnamed).

The unnamed title of this unnamed author was not getting issued ARCs by the unnamed publisher. Well, she's getting electronic copies, you'd say, right? Nope. Not even those. Only finished, bound manuscripts and only upon request.

Said publisher claims that ARCs are too costly to keep generating. I'm not going to argue with that one. They are very costly (another issue to drill into the brains of new book bloggers). Electronic copies? While straining on the eyes and definitely not a favored method of reading for many book bloggers, it would still provide an opportunity for the book to get read and reviewed. And honestly, how much could it possibly cost to format a type-set ARC into a pdf? I want to guess substantially less than binding an ARC. But to not even offer that? How would you feel as an author? Unsupported, maybe? Like a jock strap losing its elasticity?

Will other publishers follow? Dear god, I hope not. I mean, look what our collective voices can do for a book. Yes, ARCs cost money, but the publicity they generate when put in the right hands should recoup that cost, shouldn't it? It's hard enough for an author to get the word out about their book with advanced copies. Why not just slap on some cement shoes and toss them in the river if you're not going to offer any kind of advance copy, tangible or digital.

I know I will gladly take a digital copy of a book if it meant saving ARC distribution altogether. Of course I favor a nice solid paper copy in my hands but if it means letting us get the word out about awesome books, hand over that pdf. I'll take it. And the Kindle that goes with it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Book Wars (11)

Looks like The Luxe took home the prize last week. Up this week, faerie versus faerie, fighter versus fighter. Who will win? FIGHT!



The Warrior Heir

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sneak Peek of Lies

A fellow writer and blogger had the pleasure of meeting Michael Grant at SCBWI in Miami last month. He was even luckier in that Michael gave this blogger permission to post the first six chapters of the upcoming third book in the Gone series, Lies. Go check it out if you can't wait until May to read it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

First published in 2009.

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.

“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.

I am that girl.

I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.

I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia’s mother is busy saving other people’s lives. Her father is away on business. Her stepmother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia’s head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way – thin, thinner, thinnest – maybe she’ll disappear altogether. (

My jaw was on the floor by page 14. Literally. I have a big mouth.

This book was so stunningly good that I'm almost at a loss for words. Almost.

The language is so amazingly realistic that it just sucks you right into the story. It wraps around you like a blanket and keeps you warm through the chill of this wintergirl. It's probably the most realistic teen voice I've ever read. It's not overwrought to the point of ridiculous and it's not dumbed down emo to the point of hurling it across the room. It's a delicate balance of words that expertly captures what this girl is going through. Absolutely stunning.

It's loquacious without being melodramatic. It's precise without spelling everything out. You can feel the chill in her bones, feel the snow in her boots, feel the wind whistling through her skin. It's disgusting and captivating and you can't look away. It's impossible. So you keep reading and reading and reading and swallow it whole like Lia so desperately wants to swallow a muffin.

This is real. This is something that so many teens suffer through, and not just girls. And it's not just about being skinny; it's about power and the need to control your own life. The only thing that Lia can control in her world of absentee parents is what she eats. She is strong but so very weak.

I am absolutely amazed reading this book because I find it so hard to relate to someone like this yet I'm so captivated by the story. I don't think there's a teenage girl out there that doesn't have weight issues. While I was never even close to anorexia or bulimia, I was a pretty big exercise nut. I often took double gym classes (which sometimes meant twice in one day on block scheduling, 84 minutes each class) plus sports plus exercising when I got home. But I was never an unhealthy weight. 119 was my thinnest during those years and that lasted for about 10 minutes. 122 was my standard, a far cry from Lia's 85 goal. Christ. I'm a heifer when those two numbers are compared, especially since I weigh about 15 pounds more now.

But I remember, especially when I was heavy into sports, forcing myself to eat something substantial for lunch because food was energy and I wouldn't be able to perform if I didn't eat. Was I sick for how much I exercised? No, not really. I could have gone a lot harder. Instead of a weightman (and a shitty weightman I was), I could have sprinted and been really damn good at it. But I didn't because the sprinting coach was an asshole and I didn't want to run for him. When the winter coaches found out my speed I made them promise not to tell the spring coach. And they kept their word.

Am I stronger because I never succumbed to an eating disorder? I'd like to think so but not everyone's like me. Not everyone's that strong although, like in the book, they feel they are. That anorexic support group website where they constantly told each other how strong they were was absolutely disgusting. And I know it's true. That's not the first time I've heard of something like that. Do they know any better? They think they're okay. Nevermind they're constantly cold, dizzy, physically weak. They're skinny. Double zeros.

I know a girl about a year older than me who weighs 85 pounds out of no effort of her own. She eats like a horse at a trough and cannot, for the life of her, gain the weight. And she gets shit from everyone, including doctors, about how "anorexic" she is. They don't believe her when she says she eats. I knew another girl, my freshman year of high school, who was confined to a wheel chair because she'd just come out of a center like the one in the book for girls with eating disorders. She was exceptionally thin and she was forced to gain back all the weight that she lost. I found out fairly recently that one of my good friends was anorexic. Her home life was absolute shit so along with the drugs and the drinking, there was that. Thankfully she's perfectly fine now, absolutely healthy (aside from the cigarettes) with a beautiful bobble-headed boy (if you saw this kid, you'd cringe for how big his head is) and a loving husband that saw her through all of that shit (yes, they've been together since high school).

I really liked the ending of this book because sometimes it takes exceptionally drastic measures for people to realize what they're doing to themselves. It's not all sunshine and lollipops to get out of something like this and even with the knowledge of how her friend died, Lia still didn't stop. Cassie was a bad influence even in death and didn't stop until the end, and beyond.

I think this book dealt with the issue excellently. There was no sugar-coating anything. Death by ruptured esophagus is an atrocious way to die and so highly plausible that it should scare people straight. The internal struggle portrayed felt like it was going on in my own head. When I was reading, there wasn't anything going on around me. I was in the story, in Lia's head, watching everything unfold. I felt her want and need to eat and I was just as sad as she was when she didn't give in to it.

This book is eye-opening and I'm sure way too many teens can relate to what's between the covers. But maybe it can help them too. There is light at the end of the tunnel but you have to be strong enough to reach for it. The people there aren't trying to hold you down, they're trying to lift you up. Take the lead out of your pockets and let them because I know you don't want to die. No one really does, not when they end up so close to actually doing it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Contest Slurry

Ends 2/14 (I apologize in advance if this posts after midnight)

The Life of Glass series by Jillian Cantor set, single books and swag, two winners - Carol at Book-lover Carol's Reviews

Signed copy of Heist Society by Ally Carter - Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag

V-Day Giveaway with 5 books, 1 winner - Reverie Book Reviews

Ends 2/16

Wishlist Giveaway with 1 winner, choice from 3 books - The Sexy Lover at Book Lovers, Inc.

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott - Ari at Reading in Color

Ends 2/17

5 sets of Blood Promise and Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead - Jenny at Wondrous Reads

Ends 2/18

3 autographed Need by Carrie Jones gift sets - Free Book Friday Teens

Ends 2/22

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham - Nadine at Starry Night

Signed copy of The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz - Darcy at Library Lounge Lizard

Ends 2/23

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod by Heather Brewer and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead swag - Liviania at In Bed with Books

Ends 2/25

Incarceron by Katherine Fisher - Faye at Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm

Signed copy of Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap - Rebecca at Rebecca's Book Blog

Ends 2/26

Crowned by Julie Linker - Meghan at Meghan's Book Blog

2 copies of Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey - Tina at Fantastic Book Review

Ends 2/28

White Cat by Holly Black plus a $250 Holey Donuts card - Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo with the potential for more books - Lydia at The Lost Entwife

5 copies of Demigods and Monsters by Rick Riordan - Teen Libris

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder - Lauren at I was a Teenage Book Geek

Ends 3/1

The Maze Runner by James Dashner - Nikki at Ramblings of a Bibliophile

The Beautiful Dead by Eden McGuire - Kate at The Neverending Shelf

Ends 3/2

Jodi Piccoult Giveaway with 6 books - Kari at A Good Addiction

Ends 3/4

Darklight by Lesley Livingston - Kelsey at The Book Scout

Ends 3/10

Birthday Bash Contest with 10 books, 1 winner - Reggie at The Undercover Book Lover (Not Really)

Ends 3/12

$25 gift certificate - J Kaye at J Kaye's Book Blog

Ends 3/14

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver purchase contest with 2 winners - Sharon at Sharon Loves Books and Cats

Ends 3/15

2 set of Wake and Fade by Lisa McMann - Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag

Ends 3/19

49 Followers Contest with 13 books, 2 winners, potential for more of both - Wings at Story Wings

Ends 4/16

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder - Cherry at Cherry Mischievous

Things I've Learned from Books + 41

If all the reviews you find on a book are bad and it has a 37% approval rating on Visual Bookshelf on Facebook, chances are it's not going to be book. You might as well not waste your time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

And the winners are . . .

The bitch face contest entrant that was entering like 12 times per contest heeded my warning and knocked it down . . . to three entries under different names and two different email addresses. Really? This is your last chance. I disqualified your entries and I haven't named you. Yet. You almost redeemed yourself. Don't fuck it up.

Anyway, the winners of my Unseasonably Spooky Contest are . . .

First Place - Jennifer!!!

Second Place - Indigo!!!

Third Place - Lindsay!!!

Congratulations, guys! I'll be emailing you starting with Jennifer shortly. Once I have her two book choices, then I'll send a note to Indigo and so on. A big thanks to everyone that entered!

80s Awesomeness! ~ 50

This Sucks!!!

Believe it or not, this wonderful term was another hell spawn of the 80s. Where would we be without the ability to describe something so loquaciously in the negative? Pretty sucky, don't you think?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Freaky Friday :|: 50

Title: Temptation: The Secret Diaries #1
Author: Janice Harrell
Published: May 1994
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Pages: 304
Consumed by her desire to be the one that Penn loves, Joanna nevertheless has some reservations that she records in her diary, a book that becomes a shocking chronicle of monstrous evil and puts her life in danger.
Well that's interesting. And this is a mighty long YA book, especially for the time. 304 pages? That a door stopper compared to the rest. Still, sounds pretty interesting. I'm game!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Never After by Dan Elconin

First published in October, 2009.

Leaving everything behind for the Island was Ricky's dream come true. When his happily ever after is not quite what it seems, he discovers that running away means running toward bigger problems.

Trapped on the Island, Ricky must join together with the only people he can trust to help him face his fears and return home. But the only way off the Island is to confront the person who trapped Ricky and his friends in the first place. With countless enemies and true peril staring them down, Ricky's mission to leave this co-called paradise will become a battle for their very lives. (book back blurb)

When Dan first contacted me about reviewing his book, I had to do a little research because I'd never heard of it. A re-telling of Peter Pan, you say? With penis jokes? Since apparently I'm a fourteen-year-old boy on the inside, I couldn't resist. Dan started writing this book when he was fourteen and got it published when he was 19. It's his debut.

First I want to say that it's an excellent and imaginative re-telling. It just totally bastardizes the whole fantasy of Peter Pan to something that's much more horrific than what Disney is willing to tell you. Paradise is equivalent to a lobotomy and the Lost Boys (and Girls) are nowhere near as friendly as they were originally. There's still a giant crocodile (alligator?) that's after Hooke but Hooke isn't a gnarly old man with a vendetta against a teenage boy. He's only a few years younger than I am (although he looks rather worn) but he's still got that vendetta. And for good reason.

The story, from a panoramic view, is pretty damn good. Dan took a familiar story and turned it on its head to appeal to a broader audience that may not like the sappy drama of the original Peter Pan and his Lost Boys. "Wendy"'s a rancid bitch, but for good reason and the "brothers" fight like a married couple. Total update and totally good. And the jokes had be snickering. Not sure what that says about me but there you go. There were snorts.

The issue that I had with it, though, was the writing. I just don't think it's quite "there" yet. Obviously someone felt it was good enough to get published but I'm more inclined to say it was geared towards the story more than the style itself. Personally, none of the writing flaws are fatal and all that I saw are things that can easily be worked out of the writing the more Dan writes.

Basically, many of the flaws I found were more novice flaws. Big of me to say since I don't have a book published (yet) but, in my more seasoned eye (read: as someone that's already wrote my way through college and freelance editing and so on) this is much more juvenile writing with more juvenile mistakes.

The insistence of time was a MAJOR issue for me. Either Ricky had an insane reference for time or he's OCD and counted constantly. It almost felt like Dan didn't know how else to move time forward than to tell how many seconds or minutes or hours passed from one event to the next. It really rubbed me raw right at the beginning when they were crawling through a pitch black cave and Ricky still had a sense of time. Marines in sensory deprivation lose their sense of time but I guess Ricky pwns them.

Another major issue was the insistence of space. Ricky always seemed to know how far away something was, how high a ceiling was. Lateral space was his game. Tape measures for eyeballs, I tell you. There wasn't much imagination in the use of either space or time. Instead of running until his muscles lit on fire, Ricky ran for 12 minutes and about 3 miles. Like I said, the kid either had an insane sense of time and space or was severely OCD.

Another issue was Ricky "seemed" a lot. Everything seemed to be this way or that. The thing with "seemed" is that if used too much, it weakens the writing. I don't want to know what something seemed like. Tell me how it was. You're living it. It was like rubbing sand in your eyes instead of it seemed painful to look at. Removing "seemed" or any of its variations gives the reader a much more immediate reaction and feeling to the writing and makes the characters stronger. Ricky won't seem like an indecisive schmo if he was more definitive in his assertions.

There was also much more telling than there was showing and Dan didn't leave much to the reader's imagination when explaining a lot of things. Everything was always so precise that it felt like I was getting information dictated to me instead of being allowed to imagine what it was all like. That's a mistake a lot of young writers (and many older ones, for that matter) make because they have such specific ideas for their works and they want to make sure the reader gets it exactly right. Thing is, allowing the reader the freedom to picture what their reading makes for a more enjoyable read. Otherwise it's like reading directions from Mapquest.

Voice was another thing. Dan has an excellent knack for writing a teenage boy (if he didn't, we'd have issues) and he has a wonderful way with words that many writers would be jealous of. Unfortunately, from what I saw, he tried to balance the two so in dialogue we have some great teenage boy voice but in first person POV exposition, it's a much more intelligent, highfalutin voice that doesn't match the character. I can understand why he'd want to demonstrate the two (shit, if I wrote like that, I'd want to too) but it made reading a little difficult, as if Ricky was a little schizophrenic. When writing in the voice of a character, it needs to stay in character, in or out of voice. I had the same issue with Maggie Stiefvater's work. I felt the exposition of the inner dialogue didn't match what was coming out of the characters' mouths. Same issue here (but much less masturbatory and much more natural). It's hard to do. It's an issue I struggle with. As much as I want to write in my "default" voice, if it doesn't match the character, I can't. With time I think Dan will be able to balance this out much better.

Now that the critique is over, I can say the story was definitely good and I can see from Dan's writing that he has absolutely amazing potential. He's young and he has some kinks to work out of his writing. None of the issues I named are fatal and all can be easily removed with more writing, more editing, more critique groups. I wish I had the talent at 19 than Dan does. If he keeps working at it, keeps writing, he'll hone his craft to such a fine-tuned violin that people will be drooling over his work. I feel confident that he'll only get better from here.

But in the meantime, I'd recommend this one simply for the plot. It's a great re-telling, very imaginative and has zombies. Peter Pan and zombies. Bet you never thought of that one, did you?

Contest Reminder!

Just a reminder to everyone that my Unseasonably Spooky Contest ends tonight at midnight, EST! Be sure to get your entries in by then!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Wars (10)

You Are So Undead to Me, with the Buffy cover rip-off, took home the title last week. This week, it's all about corsets, bustles and high society. FIGHT!

The Luxe


The Season

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Author Bites - Adam Selzer on Spooks

Adam Selzer sees dead people. Sort of. Okay, maybe not. For the most part. I was introduced to the spooktacular side of Adam's work through Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps but some of you might know him for his zombies in I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It. Sound a little familiar? Being one of the founders of Weird Chicago Tours, it's not a surprise he pens books on the creepy. Here I give him some room to talk about what he knows best - ghosts. Or not. I guess. Thanks for coming by, Adam!

"If Ya Wanna Be a Shadow Person, Ya Gotta Steal a Hat"
by Adam Selzer

When people ask me straight up if I believe in ghosts, I sort of hem and haw. Frankly, the answer is “nah, not really.” For a ghost hunter to go around saying this just isn’t good business; I guarantee you that if I were on one of those ghost hunting TV shows, they’d edit out anything I said that seemed vaguely skeptical. Ghost fans tend hate skeptics’ guts on general principle.

But having spent an awful lot of time tromping around in buildings and spaces that are supposed to be haunted, I’ve sort of come to think that if ghosts are real, sentient beings who can communicate with us and interact with us, they sure as hell don’t want anybody to know about it.

And yet I’ve met plenty of people – usually with a glassy look in their eyes – who claim to have ghosts all figured out. These people go on ghost hunt not to look for ghosts, but to prove their point. These are the people who are always saying that you’re supposed to tell ghosts to “go into the light” (as if some ghost had been floating around thinking ‘well, this is weird. I’m floating through walls and everyone who sees me screams and I keep reliving my own gruesome death. And you’re saying I’m supposed to go INTO the brilliant light radiating with God’s love? I thought I was supposed to steer clear of that.”).

Plenty of people who have come on one of my ghost tours or written me letters not only expect me to act like this, they also seem like they plan to BELIEVE whatever I tell them. If I were a little bit meaner, I could have a lot of fun with this. “Yes,” I could say to people who show me their “orb” pictures, “that sounds like you have a ghost in your house. And an evil one, too. The only thing you can do is drink a big bucket of dog pee, then dance around in your underwear reciting lines from King Lear. I can’t do it for you, you’ll have to do itself, or it won’t work. I’ll just be over hear on the folding chair.” I honestly thing I could pull this off.

But all that said, there HAVE been times when I’ve seen and heard stuff I can’t explain. Usually even in these cases, I can convince myself that it’s probably a hoax or a mistake. There’s only one thing I’ve seen often that I no longer even try to explain.

These are the shadowy forms that my team calls “soft shapes.” Shadowy black figures that are seen zipping through an old theatre we investigate (towards the spaces where the exits were back when the OLD theatre on the same spot burned down during a show in the early 20th century).

On TV, they’d probably call these things “Shadow People,” but I really hate that term. It’s cartoonish, and implies that these things have some sort of malevolent personality. That’s the impression most of the ghost hunting TV shows tend to give about it – and people certainly buy it. When I look at the tracking information on my blog, I can see that a lot of people go searching for things like “are shadow people ghosts evil?” and “What do shadow people ghosts want?” As though these things all belonged to the same club or something!

Even more interesting to me was something I just heard last week. While I was being interviewed by George Noory on Coast to Coast, he mentioned that he’d been hearing a lot about Shadow People wearing some kind of special hat. Hats! Like they not only belong to the same club, but get a standard issue uniform (probably from the same ghostly bureaucracy that issues ghostly women their flowing white robes and ghostly children their ball to chase – boy, do I hear about those a lot!). Maybe stealing a hat is part of the initiation if you want to be a shadow person - like stealing someone's sneakers to join a gang.

But I’ve seen the shadows.

We’ve run our tests, trying to figure out if they could be shadows OF something, and the tests aren’t showing us anything.

The best supernatural explanation is that these are “residual” ghosts (a term coined by one of my partners, Troy Taylor). Not thinking beings, but more like a video recording that gets replayed over and over when conditions are right (or, for all we know, when some cosmic Youtube surfer hits “play.”). Little jolts of unkown energy left behind by the theatre goers who got up and rushed from their seats after a backdraft caught on the flames onstage and turned them into a “balloon of fire” that shot into the auditorium, little realizing that they would have been safer staying in their seats (more were killed by being crushded trying to get out of the locked doors than by the fire). These “ghosts” aren’t re-living those last moments, they’re just sort of the echo, no more aware that they exist than the sound waves that echo through the auditorium at night.

They’re not “people.” They don’t even seem to be shadows of anything, and, though they seem vaguely humanesque, they move to quickly for us to tell exactly whether they’re human-shaped or not. That’s part of why we prefer to call them “Soft shapes.”

But if I ever want to get on television, I’d better start calling them “shadow people.”

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Aftermath

For the most part, the results of my little poll thing were pretty positive. Granted I lost two followers in just as many days this weekend but I'm sure I won't lose sleep at night. Still doesn't keep me from thinking I might smell or something. But I'm just going to kind of wing this, gathering a sampling from each question and highlighting comments that stand out to me.

How long have you been coming to Bites?

The consensus of people that took the survey have been visiting my blog for a few months, ranging from about 4 to 6. Not bad at all. It gives me a better idea of where the comments are coming from.

How did you hear about me?

For the most part people either couldn't remember (I really can't comment on that since my brain's a sieve) or they were referred by another blog. That's usually how this community works! Networking is an awesome thing.

What's your favorite part of my blog?

I was shocked to see that a lot of people really liked my Things I've Learned from Books meme considering I probably get the fewest comments on those posts when I do post them. I have to say, that's probably my favorite weekly feature so I'm glad the majority likes it!

A lot of people also said my reviews, my honesty and my rants. They kind of all bleed into each other, don't they? I'm just glad my reviews are doing some good and people are reading them. If I can get even one person to pick up a book because I gave it a favorable review, I've succeeded. Or if I can make even one person laugh because I snarked the hell out of the book, I've done good.

80s Awesomeness was also up there with Things and, of course, contests! 80s Awesomeness is fun for me just because the 80s rock hard core. As for the contests, those certainly aren't going anywhere! I'm not going to BEA this year so I'm not going to have the same kind of stock pile of fresh books but I've worked my way into a good contest operandi that I think has done some good so far so I'll just continue on that route.

What's your least favorite part of my blog?

You know, the comments in this part made me think that people were afraid I was going to actually bite if they were too critical! Most people said there wasn't anything they didn't like. Those that said they didn't like something leaned towards the colors of my blog but they all said it wasn't a huge deal.

As you can tell, I took that one to heart a little so I switched things up. I lightened up the background because some felt it was too dark. I shrank the header because some felt it was a little too big. I made my navigation bar buttons readable because even I had issues reading those and I knew what they said. I gapped out the columns a little more and made them more discernible and separate. Hopefully that eases the cramping issue one person mentioned.

As for the overall color scheme, I'm going to keep it dark. Personally, darker websites make for easier reading. Glaring white hurts my eyes faster. I've always tried to balance out the dark by making the font not stark white against black but a more subtle gray so it's not so blaring. But really, no matter what site you're looking at, things'll blur if you stare too long so I'll just go for the happy medium and hope enough people are okay with it.

How do you think I could improve my book blogging skills?
ummm.. readig other blogs can give you a good sense of what you need to improve on and how to do so..
This is slightly elusive because how do you gauge which blogs are better and which are worse? I definitely could be more involved in upcoming books, like Waiting in Wednesday type of stuff or Kristi's Books to Pine for. But other than that, how am I supposed to tell what works and what doesn't? Gauging a blog by it's followers, for me, is disingenuous since a lot of blogs get those followers by having a slew of contests that reward for following. So should I look at blogs with high comment numbers? That's usually a good sign of a blog with a solid, genuine following.
I'm not too sure. I think your blog is great, and I consider you something like a pro at what you are doing. You seem to be like one of the older book bloggers even though I just found out you're only a year old!
Why thank you! I just wanted to post that because it was such a great comment. But for the most part, this is what the majority of the comments in this column read like. I was already doing a good job, no room for improvement. Nothing to improve on. Again, made me wonder if people were scared to be truthful! It's a wonderful ego boost but there's gotta be something!

Anything else?

Okay, guys, really? My head's not going to fit through the door with some of your comments!
love you
I really wish the best & hope that you can continue this for many, many, many more years! =)
I absolutely love your blog! Happy blogsversary!
You're awesome. 'Nuff said.
Oh, you're really funny. In a good way of course :)

Love your blog and reviews :)
We love your blog, or we wouldn't come daily. Good job, and best wishes always.
Your hard work shows in everything you post. I hope you stay with it for a very long time! Happy Blogoversary!
I do read your blog almost daily and enjoy your reviews and comments,.
I can't tell you guys how awesome this makes me feel! In all honesty, considering how those blogger trolls love anonymity, I totally expected some kind of Karmic retribution from at least one person for my biting honesty that I have a tendency of doling out. But I got none of that. See? I set up these blogger trolls perfectly and they don't even take the bait. I'm a bad hunter.

Only one person commented that I should get a button. You know? I've tossed around this idea for a little while now but I keep coming back to how I would reciprocate posting other people's buttons. I feel putting them all in my sidebar could cause too much clutter. Maybe I could make a post, like my Chomper Contests running post, for affiliates. I need to think on it some more and then should I do it, actually create a button. I'm still thinking on that, though.

And someone else recommended I get more art work. Not sure what that pertained to. More pictures in my posts or just around the blog in general? I'm just afraid of making it too busy. I have a blind eye for coordinating designs and colors so there isn't too much medium for me other than a little sparse or chachki overload.

But I thank everyone so much for taking he time to fill out my little survey and give me an idea of how I'm doing. It's definitely better than what I originally thought! You guys have boosted my self esteem for sure!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Contest Slurry

Ends ???

3 copies of My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent - Krista at Up the Tower of Books

Ends 2/10

ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley chocolate Valentine prize pack - Devyn at The Faerie Drink Review

Ends 2/12

My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent - J Kaye at J Kaye's Book Blog

Ends 2/14

Valentine's Day Treat Contest with books and goodies - Pixie at Page Turners

3 copies of My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent - Nicole at WORD for Teens

V-Day Prize Pack with 5 books, 1 winner - Kristi at The Story Siren

Vampire Vacation by CJ Ellisson - Brunde at Book Junkie

3 Book Prize Pack with 1 winner - Steph at Hey! Teenager of the Year

Ends 2/15

3 copies of My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent - Liviania at In Bed With Books

3 copies of My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent - Lisette at TV and Book Addict

3 copies of My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent - Darcy at Library Lounge Lizard

Ends 2/16

3 copies of My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent - Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag

Ends 2/18

Sea Clearwater by Selene Cardenas - Faye at Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm

Dream Life by Lauren Mechling - Alea at Pop Culture Junkie

Ends 2/19

A Match Made in High School by Kristin Waker prize pack - Tina at Fantastic Book Review

A Most Improper Magick by Kat Stephenson - Kristi at The Story Siren

Signed copy of In A Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth - Darcy at Library Lounge Lizard

Ends 2/20

Signed copy of Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison or signed bookmarks - Lizzie at The Book Obsession

Ends 2/21

4 copies of Dark Life by Kat Falls - Jenny at Wondrous Reads

Donut Days by Lara Zielin - Emma at Booking Through 365

Signed copy of In A Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth - Lauren at Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf

Ends 2/26

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting - Sherry at Flipping Pages for All Ages

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - Sab at YA Bliss

Ends 2/28

February Prize Pack with 5 books, 1 winner - Chelsea at The Page Flipper

February Valentine Contest with a suggestion box of prizes - Cherry at Cherry Mischievous

Ends 3/7

Wish by Alexandra Bullen - Ursina at The Farmer's Daughter's Bookshelf

Original Sin by Allison Brennan - Wendy at The Book Lush
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