Thursday, September 29, 2011

Feature & Follow Friday #65

Current Giveaway on Alison Can Read 


Welcome to Feature & Follow Friday (err Thursday) on Parajunkee.com



If you are new to the #FF fun, Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that expands your blog following by a joint effort between bloggers. Feature & Follow Friday is now hosted by TWO hosts, Rachel of Parajunkee and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

*Thanks so much to Rachel for allowing me to be part of the Follow Friday fun. Parajunkee is one of the best blogs out there and FF is a highlight of the blogging community. The FF has been one of my favorite parts of my week for over a year and I'm so excited to help my fellow book bloggers get to know each other better.

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you! Now to make this #FF interesting we do a FEATURE blogger.

If you are interested in becoming a Feature click on the link here for Follow Friday Feature or go to Parajunkee and click the drop down link above FEATURES > Feature & Follow Friday and get on the waiting list!

It is also required, that if you participate you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) and the two Feature blogs.



Our Feature - Starcrossed




Photobucket


I started blogging years ago, but just for personal use. My days as a book blogger started just last month. I've always been a huge reader (and writer). I started getting into book blogs mainly because of all the giveaways. Then I started thinking about all the books I read. I read them, then put them back on the shelf. If the book effected me strongly, all I could do was tell a couple friends or coworkers about it and recommend it to them. But it seemed like such a waste for the books. I felt like...if a book was THAT good, then why not share with as many people as possible and help it get a following?


Q. What book that hasn't been turned into a movie (yet) would you most like to see make it to the big screen, and who would you like cast as your favorite character?



Finally a question that I can't use either Twilight or Harry Potter as answers!

Part of me doesn't want to see any of my favorite books made into movies. Because with rare exceptions, the movie screws up the essence of the book. But there is always something enticing about seeing something you live portrayed visually.

Books I'd love to see made in movies:

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (Plus Where She Went): Don't know who I'd cast. Originally, this book was tied to Catherine Hardwick, the director of the first book. It's what initially led me to read the book.

Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith: I'd love to see the Vampire Empire series made into films. They're dark and romantic. Could be an incredible movie. Or a really bad one.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead: I think this would make as good a TV show as it would a movie.

If I think of more, I'll edit this post and add them.




Now for the Follow Fun!














RULES To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:



  1. (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
  2. (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - We Fancy Books & The Little Book Blog
  3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
  5. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
  7. If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!




Happy Follow Friday! Follow it up with your twitter address if you want to get that one out!


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Book Trailers: Yay or Nay?

Current Giveaway on Alison Can Read 


Book Trailers: Yay or Nay?

It seems like every major YA book coming out lately is prefaced with a trailer. These trailers are typically 1 to 2 minute Youtube videos teasing a soon-to-be-released novel. Some look professional, many look as though they were made very cheaply (understandably - no one has a budget for a book trailer). Some are more abstract previews, some give a good idea of what the book is about.

I am a nay on book trailers. I think they're a great idea in theory. Every movie and TV show is previewed by a trailer. Why shouldn't books get the same treatment? Given the reality of multimedia life on the Internet, it's smart to use video to promote your book. Plus, it's a great way to expose potential readers who don't routinely troll Goodreads or their local bookstore reading book synopses to books they would otherwise miss.

My issue with book trailers is that I don't have time to watch them. Sure, they're only 2 minutes, but it only takes me 10-20 seconds to read a book synopsis. I would rather spend my free time reading or writing than watching videos on Youtube. A lot of people connect very well with video. I have trouble focusing on movies, TV shows, or even brief videos. It is much easier for me to decide whether I want to read a book by look at the synopsis.

Plus, many book trailers are quite abstract. I love Maggie Stiefvater's beautiful trailers for her Wolves of Mercy Falls series. But if I wasn't already a fan of the books, I don't know that I would glean enough from the trailer to decide whether the book was worth reading.

Do you like book trailers? Do they influence the books you read?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nightspell by Leah Cypess

Current Giveaway on Alison Can Read 


Nightspell by Leah Cypess
May 31, 2011; HarperCollins


Summary

A stand-alone companion novel to the much-acclaimed Mistwood. When Darri rides into Ghostland, a country where the living walk with the dead, she has only one goal: to rescue her younger sister Callie, who was sent to Ghostland as a hostage four years ago. But Callie has changed in those four years, and now has secrets of her own. In her quest to save her sister from herself, Darri will be forced to outmaneuver a handsome ghost prince, an ancient sorcerer, and a manipulative tribal warrior (who happens to be her brother). When Darri discovers the source of the spell that has kept the dead in Ghostland chained to this earth, she faces a decision that will force her to reexamine beliefs she has never before questioned - and lead her into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens the very balance of power between the living and the dead. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

The young adult genre is full of fast, easy reads. And that is fine with me. I like being entertained without having to think too much. Sometimes though, having to do a little work to read a book is worthwhile. Leah Cypess' novels are not easy. You aren't flipping through the pages in great suspense; instead, you carefully read each page, because the little things are important. You don't spend half the novel sighing over the handsome hero; instead you savor complex, not always likable characters. Add to that a completely foreign world, where the only features familiar to us are political intrigue and human frailties and you have a lot to learn in one novel.

Leah Cypess is one of the new great high fantasy authors. She writes novels geared to teens, but mature enough to be enjoyed by adults. While high fantasy is still a relatively new genre for me, she is one of the best I've read at world-building. Nightspell is set in Ghostland, a kingdom where ghosts and the living reside together. Most of the novel takes place in a single castle and its surrounding grounds. With a limited setting, the reader becomes intimately familiar with the castle rather than be confused by an entire town's worth of houses, shops, etc. The castle feels medieval - I picture richly colored clothing and tapestries but a pervasive sense of darkness. It keeps the characters - and the reader - constantly on guard.

The idea of the ghosts is also fully explored. We learn what the ghosts are, how they came to be, and the difficulties of living/dead interactions. The ghosts are delightfully spine-chilling. At various times in the book, I hated, feared, cared for, and pitied the ghostly characters.

Ultimately, Nightspell is a character driven novel. It's slow and meandering. The plot flows smoothly, but takes its time to make sure the reader understands the good and bad of all the main characters. In addition to focusing on the individuals, Nightspell is a tale of family - of the bonds between siblings and how they can be broken and strengthened. The story alternates between the points of view of three siblings: Darri, Callie, and Varis. It takes a few chapters to get used to the switch, but I soon recognized each character's inner voice as soon as the viewpoint changed.

Darri is a fierce, hardened fighter. She is determined to save her little sister from a life in Ghostland, even if it means sacrificing Darri's future. Varis is the oldest brother, groomed to rule their land. He knows the ins and outs of the local politics of his kingdom and appears to place that ahead of his sisters. Callie is no longer the scared little girl who came to Ghostland four years before. She appears as refined and haughty as the Ghostland natives. To Darri's surprise, Callie doesn't welcome her siblings with open arms and isn't looking to go home. Callie was my favorite character. I loved understanding the mixture of anger, love, and resentment she had for her siblings. I enjoyed seeing how she adapted to Ghostland life, knowing the intricacies of the culture but always being an outsider. Overall, I loved how the relationship between the siblings broke down and healed over the course of the book.

While the characters are the most interesting part of Nightspell, there is a plot. Or more appropriately, plots, for there are multiple. Darri is trying to rescue Callie. Prince Kestin of Ghostland is trying to secure his place in the kingdom, which is not the sure thing it once was. The ghosts and the living are grasping over power. The stories are mysterious. It's not particularly suspenseful, but is consistently interesting. There was one specific point about halfway through where I gasped at the end of a chapter when the story took a turn that I never expected.

My only disappointment with Nightspell was Clarisse. I loved her enigmatic personality in Mistwood, her intelligence, her mixed motives. I was thrilled to see her in Nightspell, but I didn't think she lived up to Mistwood. She isn't a one-dimensional character here, but she doesn't have the depth that she did in Mistwood. Perhaps it's because she's not as central a character.

Nightspell is a wonderfully intelligent story. It's not the easiest book, but if you put a little into it, it will give ten times back. If you like character-driven novels, family relationships, fabulous world-building, and nearly romance-less book, you'll love Nightspell.

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

Current Giveaway on Alison Can Read 


Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
March 8, 2011; Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers


Summary

It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their Badlands town. Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

Have you ever had a crush on a girl? I'm not talking about a romantic crush, but rather pure idolization and adoration. You want to be her. She lights up the world around her. Her clothes are unbearably hip. Her attitude, intelligence, and humor are so much cooler than yours. She's confident and doesn't let the world get her down. That's the basic premise of Like Mandarin.

Mardarin is so much cooler than plain-Jane Grace. Even her name is exotic. To the rest of Grace's rural Wyoming town, Mandarin is the bad girl. The local slut who the teenage girls sneer at, the teenage boys dream about, and the mothers steer their children away from. In Grace's mind, though, Mandarin is a symbol of escape. A path away from her pageant-obsessed mother and her narrow-minded neighbors and classmates. Grace wants to be like Mandarin.

When Mandarin graces Grace with her presence, Grace's life completely changes. She basks in Mandarin's light. For awhile. But Mandarin's light is heavily shaded with darkness. Grace slowly begins to understand that Mandarin may be night more than she is day.

Like Mandarin was a frustrating novel. On the up side, it was beautifully written. Hubbard's prose is full of detail. She does an especially wonderful job of describing the beauty and barrenness of rural Wyoming, as well as the stifling nature of a small town with its narrow-mindedness and endless gossip. The plot flows smoothly, easily mixing Grace and Mandarin's adventures with Grace's inner turmoil and her family drama. I also loved how well I came to understand the characters, Grace and Mandarin in particular. There was never a moment where I was hit over the head with a description of their personalities. Instead, Grace's thoughts and both girls' actions illuminated their characters.

The down side isn't a bad thing, per se. You could argue it's a good thing. I quickly liked, sympathized with, and pitied Grace. It was difficult to watch a girl that I cared for hang out with Mandarin. The reader could see past Grace's infatuation of Mandarin's coolness almost immediately. It was clear that Mandarin, while not a bad person, was a very troubled young woman. And she was leading Grace away from a steady path of success toward disaster.

It was hard to read Grace continue to make bad decisions to be more like Mandarin. I had to ration the pages I read, because I got so depressed. I didn't trust that she would see the light of day, because Grace was almost as messed up as Mandarin. The product of a young, single mother who cared only about pageants, Grace was raised with subtle hints that she was unlovable and worthless ever since she purposely screwed up her last pageant at age six. Not surprisingly, she had zero self-esteem and quickly lost sight of herself in the hopes of being like Mandarin. I spent much of the book vacillating between wanting to give Grace a hug and wanting to slap her upside the head.

Like Mandarin is a beautiful, but difficult book to read. The characters came to life to the extent that I felt personally invested in their choices. In the end, the plot arc is relatively predictable, but the journey there is an up and down roller coaster ride.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Monday, September 26, 2011

Birthday Giveaway: $30 Amazon Gift Card

On September 24, I turned 30 years old. Geez, that feels old. Ugh. Suffice it to say, I'm not overly thrilled about leaving the decade of the twenties (although it certainly is better than the alternative).

Thankfully, I had a lovely birthday. The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith arrived for me at the library. I spent much of the day at the mall where I found a fabulous dress on sale at Anthropologie. My husband and I went out for a delicious dinner. But still...30 sounds so different than 29. I keep looking at the mirror to see if any wrinkles or gray hair magically appeared over night. None, luckily.

Fear not my quibbles about turning 30. My heightened age is going to benefit you. I am giving away a $30 Amazon gift card!!

(The giveaway is open only to Americans. However, if any of you know of a way for me to easily e-mail gift cards to Canadians or beyond, please let me know and I'll look into changing the rules)

Manga Mondays (69): Sand Chronicles vol. 8 - Hinaki Asihara

Sand Chronicles vol. 8 - Hinaki Asihara


Summary

Twelve-year-old Ann and her divorced mother move from big city Tokyo to her mother's rural hometown. How will Ann survive her exile from civilization? Then, when her mother commits suicide, Ann has to grow up fast. As the years pass, Ann learns to trust and depend on her new friends--Daigo and aristocratic siblings Fuji and Shika. But when Ann moves back to Tokyo to be with her father, will she be able to maintain a long-distance relationship with Daigo? And do Fuji and Shika harbor romantic feelings of their own that might rip their childhood friendships apart...?

Can the sands of time heal all wounds? Can the sands of time bury the pains of the past? Revisiting scenes and people from earlier days drives Ann to an impulsive act of desperation. Who will stand by her now? And will she ever make peace with her past...and herself? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

*Warning: Potential spoilers. My manga reviews tend to be more of a summary than a review. I find it hard to review manga in the same way I do regular books.

This is the last volume of the story Sand Chronicles. Volumes 9 and 10 are bonus volumes. Volume 7 ends and Volume 8 begins with Ann in a bad place. She just broke off her engagement with Sakura. She doesn't seem upset about this in particular, but it rekindled all the pain and insecurity that she's been hiding from for years. She's on a train traveling to Nima to see the giant hourglass she visited with her mother so many years ago. On the way she stops in Okayama, the city where Daigo teaches. She goes to the playground of his school on a whim and hears from a student that Daigo is getting married soon.

When Ann gets to Nima, she discovers that the hourglass museum is closed! Poor Ann...nothing goes right for her. She goes to a nearby beach, devastated that she can't visit the museum but mostly devastated about life in general. She finds some broken glass and slits her wrist. When she nearly passes out from the blood loss, she realizes that she doesn't want to die and cause everyone so much pain...but it's too late.

Ann wakes up in the hospital. She was saved at the last moment. As awful as it was, the suicide attempt is good for Ann. It's the impetus she needs to find her internal strength. She returns to life, determined to get back to normal and be strong. And she does much better.

But Daigo's always there. They meet again when Ann travels back to Shimane. Ann is different with him. She congratulates him on his upcoming marriage. She's happy for him. Able to move on. Daigo says there's not going to be a marriage. It was just a rumor. Instead, Daigo wants to get back with Ann. Now it's Ann who says it'll never work. Daigo tells her it can and all Ann needs to do is make Daigo happy. The shoe is on the other foot now...it's Daigo who will rely on Ann. Daigo says that just by being there, Ann makes him happy. And they live happily ever after. I'm doing a horrible job of summarizing this scene. I'll just say that it's incredibly touching and beautiful. It made me teary even on a second read.

I'm sad to see the formal story of Sand Chronicles end. Even though it's overdramatic, it's a fabulous realistic fiction story. The characters are well-developed and the love story is timeless. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In My Mailbox (50)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

I'm Alison (on the off chance you couldn't guess that from the name of my blog). I review Young Adult novels with a few Middle Grade books and a weekly manga feature.

Upcoming Giveaway

This weekend is a special one for me. On September 24, I turned 30 years old! In celebration, stay tuned for a big giveaway announcement on Monday


For Review


Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon
*Thanks to Big Honcho Media

Won


The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
*Thanks to Al from Magnet 4 Books!

Library Stash


The Rift Walker (Vampire Empire #2) by Clay and Susan Griffith
*Doing a happy dance that this arrived!


Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
*Already finished. Incredible.


Pegasus by Robin McKinley
*Been meaning to read this for a long time


A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
*I loved Revolution. Hope this is as good.

CD Stash


A Creature I Don't Know by Laura Marling

*Laura Marling is a British singer/songwriter. This is her third album. I've been a huge fan from the very beginning. I was lucky enough to attend her concert in San Francisco last weekend (I happened to walk by the club and noticed she was playing that night). What a great show. Laura has a folky/jazzy/country sound. There are similarities to Mumford & Sons - she dated Marcus Mumford until recently.

Check out one of my favorite songs: Sophia - Starts out slow and then completely changes into a catchy ditty at 2:56 min.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Feature & Follow Friday #64

Welcome to Feature & Follow Friday (err Thursday) on Parajunkee.com



If you are new to the #FF fun, Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that expands your blog following by a joint effort between bloggers. Feature & Follow Friday is now hosted by TWO hosts, Rachel of Parajunkee and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

*Thanks so much to Rachel for allowing me to be part of the Follow Friday fun. Parajunkee is one of the best blogs out there and FF is a highlight of the blogging community. The FF has been one of my favorite parts of my week for over a year and I'm so excited to help my fellow book bloggers get to know each other better.

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you! Now to make this #FF interesting we do a FEATURE blogger.

If you are interested in becoming a Feature click on the link here for Follow Friday Feature or go to Parajunkee and click the drop down link above FEATURES > Feature & Follow Friday and get on the waiting list!

It is also required, that if you participate you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) and the two Feature blogs.



Our Feature - The World of the Spork Master






My name is Liz, and I blog over at The World of the Spork Master. I’m a high school Senior, and a huge nerd. I LOVE books, movies, and art. I share a little bit of everything on my blog, but it seems it all ties back to books!

I have two dogs - Blaze and Jasper - and a lot of cats. They consume a lot of my time. Other than reading, I love writing, photography, tea, Italian food, music (both playing and listening), biking, and creating adventures with friends.

I started blogging at the beginning of 2011 as part of my New Years Resolutions. I wanted to create a blog and update it consistently. I had no idea what it would turn into, I just went with it. I've never had success before, but no matter what happens, I'm determined to have a blog. Book wise, I mainly read YA books with themes of Fantasy, Paranormal, Sci-fi, and what have you. Mainly whatever I can get my hands on. I want to someday have my own library in my home, consisting of books beyond YA. I'm just absolutely crazy about books!


Q. Do you have a favorite series that you read over and over again? Tell us a bit about it and why you keep on revisiting it?



It's funny how every #FF question seems to lead to Twilight for me. I don't plan it that way. But Twilight definitely is a series I keep coming back to. If I'm having a bad day, Twilight are the books I turn to. Losing myself in that series is the only way to stop my heart from pounding and my stomach from aching. It's amazingly cathartic.

Another series I turn to again and again is also a frequent #FF answer: Harry Potter. I re-read the series every year. I will probably start them in the next few weeks. It's amazing that I discover new things each time I read these books and fall in love with them even more.

Now that we've gotten our frequent answers over with, I'll list a few others. I adore the Betsy-Tacy
series by Maud Hart Lovelace. These books are set in Minnesota during the early 1900s. They are semi-autobiographical. The books tell the story of Betsy and her best friends Tacy and Tib from the age of 5 until their marriages. I didn't read them until I moved to Minnesota in my early twenties, but I absolutely adore them and can read them over and over.

Another forever love series is Anne of Green Gables. These are one of the few books where the movies are as good as the books (except for that last one...ick). I read Anne of Green Gables when I was about 8 and liked it. I didn't read the entire series until I was in college. Then I fell in love with the books. Anne of the Island is probably my favorite.




A modern series that I adore is the Caster Chronicles series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I really enjoyed Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness when I first read them (although the second book was hard to get into). I re-read them recently and became totally obsessed. Sometimes it's easier to absorb books the second time around. I can't wait for the release of Beautiful Chaos.


Now for the Follow Fun!












RULES To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:



  1. (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
  2. (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - We Fancy Books & The Little Book Blog
  3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
  5. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
  7. If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!




Happy Follow Friday! Follow it up with your twitter address if you want to get that one out!


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The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

November 2, 2010; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

A beautiful, powerful book. The Mockingbirds takes Alex Patrick on a journey from one of the lowest, most terrifying, humiliating points imaginable to a slow, gradual recovery and a possibility of empowerment. Alex wakes up one morning naked in a strange bed with Carter, a boy she barely knows, with no memory of what happened the night before. When Carter boastfully tells her they had sex twice, she's confused, scared, and embarrassed. She stumbles back to her dorm, unsure of what to do. As snippets of memories come back to her, she realizes she was raped. But she does nothing. She doesn't tell the police or her parents. Only her best friends and her sister. They convince her to take the case to The Mockingbirds, the underground student disciplinary system. If convicted, the entire school will recognize Carter for the monster he is and bring some redemption to Alex.

The Mockingbirds will inevitably be compared to Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. In fact, I'm mentally comparing the books as I write this review. The Mockingirds is an emotional, hard-hitting book, but in a different way than Speak. It doesn't have Speak's bare-boned prose which created that book's raw feeling. Instead, The Mockingbirds is awash in description. Alex's flashbacks are sensory experiences. The reader lives through Alex's terrible ordeal not only through the rape itself, but also by being immersed in what Alex saw, what she smelled, what she tasted, what she heard. Nothing is left unaffected.

Alex is a likeable character. She makes several bad choices throughout the book, but nothing out of the realm of normal teenage decision-making. We experience the aftermath of her rape - how her life becomes ruled by fear and guilt. At the same time (and different than Speak), there are happier moments in this book. Alex has a great set of friends in T.S., Maia, Amy and a protective sister Casey. I especially loved Martin. There aren't enough nerdy, sweet guys in YA lit. Alex's friends strengthen her and their different personalities add depth and occasional moments of levity to the novel. Alex is a dedicated musician and while the rape even manages to sink its teeth into her beloved music, it doesn't wrest it completely away from her. It's nice to see Alex have something else in her life.

Many reviews criticize The Mockingbirds for not involving the police or the school in the "prosecution" of Carter. I agree that this should have been done, but I think it reflects the fact that rape is so rarely reported to authorities in real life. I also disliked the fact that Alex's school was so laissez faire about its students and discipline. I found it very hard to believe. Regardless, it makes for a great plot component. The adults luckily weren't all bad in this novel.

I loved the idea of The Mockingbirds, even if it was a tad unrealistic. I loved the guerilla tactics the group used to ensure compliance with its system of judgment. I loved how the leaders supported and protected Alex, forming a cocoon around her until she had the strength to grow her wings, so to speak, and stand up to Carter.

The Mockingbirds had a few first-book mistakes. There were some plot elements - particularly Alex's senior project - that were built-up and then practically forgotten. I also thought the functionality of The Mockingbirds could have been developed a little more, although the reader learns enough for the story to make sense.

***Spoiler: Highlight text to view***

The biggest emotional moments of this book were both toward the end. I was horrified when Alex "realized" she hadn't been raped after all and had been a willing participant. I was so relieved that she was told and came to truly feel that "no" is no and nothing after that matters.


And I was overwhelmed by the ending. What a sense of empowerment to be named the leader of The Mockingbirds. Alex went from the bottom to the top. I cried tears of happiness on Alex's behalf. The conclusion was incredibly satisfying.

***End Spoiler***

The Mockingbirds is an unforgettable book of pain, love, hate, friendship, mistakes, and redemption. Through Daisy Whitney's beautiful, skillful prose, words fly off the page and the reader lives, breathes, and feels Alex's ordeal. I can't wait to read Daisy's next book.

Rating: 4 / 5

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall

May 10, 2011; Knopf Books for Young Readers

Summary

When summer comes around, it's off to the beach for Rosalind . . . and off to Maine with Aunt Claire for the rest of the Penderwick girls, as well as their old friend, Jeffrey.

That leaves Skye as OAP (oldest available Penderwick)—a terrifying notion for all, but for Skye especially. Things look good as they settle into their cozy cottage, with a rocky shore, enthusiastic seagulls, a just-right corner store, and a charming next-door neighbor. But can Skye hold it together long enough to figure out Rosalind's directions about not letting Batty explode? Will Jane's Love Survey come to a tragic conclusion after she meets the alluring Dominic? Is Batty—contrary to all accepted wisdom—the only Penderwick capable of carrying a tune? And will Jeffrey be able to keep peace between the girls . . . these girls who are his second, and most heartfelt, family?

It's a rollicking ride as the Penderwicks continue their unforgettable adventures in a story filled with laughs and joyful tears! (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette is the third book in the Penderwick series. These books are destined to be classics. They will be as relevant and fun in fifty years as they are today.

If you're not familiar with The Penderwicks series, here's a run-down. The books follow the four Penderwick sisters, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty. They live with their widowed father (who gets married in book #2) in New England. The sisters range in age from 5 to 13 (give a take a year for each book). Rosalind is the oldest. She's mature for her age, functioning as a quasi-mother to her younger siblings. Skye is tomboy. Jane is full of melodrama and is an aspiring writer. Batty is the youngest - a cute little girl who loves animals. The sisters are extremely close and have turned themselves into a team - even with official meetings.

In this third installment of The Penderwicks, their father and stepmother are in England for a conference, Rosalind is spending a few weeks with a friend, and Skye, Jane, and Batty are staying with their aunt on the beach in Maine. Skye is the designated OAP (oldest available Penderwick) and is terrified of the responsibility. Dreamy Jane is obsessed with the idea of love - for a story arc. And little Batty becomes obsessed with music. They're lucky to have their bosom friend Jeffrey staying with them for most of the trip.

While the story has a definite plot, that's not why you should read The Penderwicks. You should read it because you will travel back in time. To an era where children were innocent, kind, and all about having adventures. Life was simpler. The Penderwicks books are set in present day, but they feel classic. If you read them fifty years from now, it won't feel at all dated. There is nary a mention of technology. Not that it's not there, but it doesn't play a role in the characters' day to day lives. The Penderwicks will remind you of Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Betsy-Tacy...every classical children's book. You'll smile at almost every page.

These books are definitely innocent, but that doesn't mean they're unrealistic. Birdsall has done a wonderful job of capturing children's emotions. Things that seem laughably minor to us, like the responsibility of being the oldest sister for a few weeks, may be a huge deal to a kid and Birdsall describes it as such. Similarly, there is one more serious storyline toward the end of the book. I loved how Birdsall captured the mixture of anger, fear, hope, resentment, and happiness that any child in this character's situation would feel. The children's emotions and personalities are layered and complex.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, like all the Penderwicks novels, has a whimsical feel. The book is slow and there's nothing that will keep you glued to the page. Instead, you will meander along with a group of characters you'll grow to love and be happy that the book doesn't speed by.

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

August 2, 2011; Hyperion Books

Summary

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.
These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.

Review

The Near Witch is many different stories. It is a high fantasy set long ago. It is in the style of a traditional folk tale. It is a story of a girl rebelling against the idea that she should be "ladylike." It is a tale of the love between a father and daughter, a mother and daughter, and between sisters. It is a burgeoning romance. It is a quintessential small-town book that showcases the nosiness, gossipyness, and superstitions of people who know each other too well and are closed off from the world.

You know the saying "correlation does not equal causation?" The Near villagers in this novel forgot that, as most of us do from time to time. When an unknown boy arrives in the town of Near, tongues start wagging. A new person is a cause for fear not celebration in this narrow minded, easily frightened community. These fears seem well-founded when local children begin disappearing in the night soon after the boy arrives.

Lexi does not succumb to fear. She seems to think and do the opposite of what everyone expects her to do, most of all her strict uncle. She senses that the stranger is not the demon people fear. Lexi strides off on her own to find the boy and discover the actual cause behind the children's disappearance. I loved Lexi. She is persistent and brave. She sticks to what she feels is right regardless of societal consequences. She has an innate sense of who to trust - even if those people are the town outcasts. She is caring and protective of her little sister.

Lexi's curiosity leads her to Cole. Curiosity soon turns into a partnership then friendship and then something more. Their romance was subtle yet sweet. I liked Cole very much. He always remains something of a mystery, but I enjoyed seeing his character slowly revealed to Lexi and to the reader. It's hard to put into words exactly what I liked about him. It was more of a feeling than anything else. I suppose one could argue that his character wasn't developed well enough. That may be true, but it wasn't crucial to the story. Cole was sufficiently developed and Lexi was extremely well developed. The quality of the plot, prose, and setting were more important than character development.

The prose in The Near Witch was stellar. It was beautiful, lyrical - literary quality. Through Schwab's words, I was transported to the dark, mysterious small town of Near. It read like the fairytales of old. I think it would make a great read-aloud. Even better, the prose never overshadowed the story. This often happens with books where the author clearly puts a lot of effort into "pretty writing." The story was slow, but consistently held my attention.

I'd definitely recommend The Near Witch for a classic folk tale.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, September 19, 2011

Manga Mondays (68): Sand Chronicles vol. 7 - Hinaki Asihara

Sand Chronicles vol. 7 - Hinaki Asihara


*I'm sorry I've been so absent the past week, both with posts and comments. It turns out that moving in and unpacking is even busier than moving away. Things are sort of calming down now (well, not really, but I hope they will in a few days) and I want to get my posting and commenting back to normal.

Summary

Twelve-year-old Ann and her divorced mother move from big city Tokyo to her mother's rural hometown. How will Ann survive her exile from civilization? Then, when her mother commits suicide, Ann has to grow up fast. As the years pass, Ann learns to trust and depend on her new friends--Daigo and aristocratic siblings Fuji and Shika. But when Ann moves back to Tokyo to be with her father, will she be able to maintain a long-distance relationship with Daigo? And do Fuji and Shika harbor romantic feelings of their own that might rip their childhood friendships apart...?

Can the sands of time bury the pain of the past? R to L (Japanese Style). Ann's junior high school reunion is coming up, and she hasn't seen Daigo in two years. How will their reunion go? Then, finally, the story behind Ann's engagement. Who is her fiancé...? (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

*Warning: Potential spoilers. My manga reviews tend to be more of a summary than a review. I find it hard to review manga in the same way I do regular books.

Sand Chronicles is unique among the shojo manga I've read in that it takes the characters past high school. I've read a few series with epilogues featuring the characters as adults, but the last 4 volumes of Sand Chronicles feature them in their 20s and 30s.

Ann and her friends are 20 now. Ann is living the life of a college student, going to singles' parties, studying, and caring for her baby sister. She hasn't gone back to Shimane in years, but now has an invitation to her junior high reunion (I wonder if they actually have those in Japan. I can't imagine having one in the US. High school, yes, but not junior high). She musters up the courage to go to her old town and see Daigo for the first time since they broke up.

On an interesting side note, Ann meets up with Fuji briefly at the beginning of this volume. Fuji is dating his cousin Mariko and seems quite happy. It's clear that he's moved past Ann. He still cares for her, but he can let go of his past. Ann can't get past Daigo. And Daigo can't get past Ann. Their love is too strong.

Daigo and Ann spend time together in Shimane. I'm glad sparks aren't rekindled here. They definitely are still attracted to each other, but they're not good for each other right now. Ann is too damaged and still wants to escape through Daigo. Daigo realizes this now. He argues forcefully that Ann needs to be strong and learn to find happiness within herself, not within other people. It's amazing how caring and insightful he is.

The volume ends when Ann is 26 years old. She's forced herself to become hardened. Work, work, work...never show any emotion. She meets a young man on a train and they hit it off. He's an arrogant jerk. He hates everybody, but especially women who cry or argue. He wants a strong woman who is also completely subservient. The reader is screaming at Ann to drop this jerk and run away as fast as possible. But no, their romance is quick and they're soon engaged! Fortunately, Ann is saved when she has the gumption to challenge Sakura. He takes offense and immediately breaks the engagement. Yay!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Feature & Follow Friday #63

Welcome to Feature & Follow Friday (err Thursday) on Parajunkee.com



If you are new to the #FF fun, Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that expands your blog following by a joint effort between bloggers. Feature & Follow Friday is now hosted by TWO hosts, Rachel of Parajunkee and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

*Thanks so much to Rachel for allowing me to be part of the Follow Friday fun. Parajunkee is one of the best blogs out there and FF is a highlight of the blogging community. The FF has been one of my favorite parts of my week for over a year and I'm so excited to help my fellow book bloggers get to know each other better.

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you! Now to make this #FF interesting we do a FEATURE blogger.

If you are interested in becoming a Feature click on the link here for Follow Friday Feature or go to Parajunkee and click the drop down link above FEATURES > Feature & Follow Friday and get on the waiting list!

It is also required, that if you participate you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) and the two Feature blogs.



Our Feature - Alaskan Book Cafe




Photobucket


I am living in Alaska with my grandson who is 4 and on the autism spectrum. We both love reading and taking hikes. I also enjoy cooking, ( I collect cook books), crafts, collecting faeries and meeting new people. My favorite books change all the time. There are so many I would be listing forever. I am still trying to get caught up on GR and Shelfari. I will read just about anything, even t-shirts, (especially on hot guys).

I'm kind of snarky but in a fun way. I'm on FB where somehow I got married and then a 10 year old kid showed up. I guess that 's ok since he can work. I'm trying to learn Twitter so I guess that makes me a twit. My sister set my hair on fire during a double date but I still allow her to be my best friend. Loyal like Lassie.


Q. It's that pesky magic book fairy again! She has another wish: What imaginary book world would you like to make a reality?



The problem with most imaginary book worlds is that they're usually scary. There's a lot of them that I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of. But there are still some that are so magical, I just can't help wanting them to be real, despite the scare factor.

Take Harry Potter. An obvious answer, but it's hard not to want to visit Diagon Alley or go to Hogwarts. I'd also love the world of the Revenants in Amy Plum's Die For Me to be real, since they are paranormal creatures who do good. Finally, although it's not a fantasy book, I'd love for the Babysitter's Club to be real. I wish I could have been part of the Club (or even just babysat by the members). I would have been best friends with Mary Anne. Stacy would be cooler, but Mary Anne and I are more alike.


Now for the Follow Fun!









RULES To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:



  1. (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
  2. (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - We Fancy Books & The Little Book Blog
  3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
  5. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
  7. If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!




Happy Follow Friday! Follow it up with your twitter address if you want to get that one out!


*********





Monday, September 12, 2011

BBAW: Day 1/2 - Community/Fellow Bloggers

I was going to skip the first few days of BBAW, because I've had a nightmare day of moving. First, the Sacramento police says I can park the ABF trailer on my street. So I have them drop it off. Then the police call me back an hour later and say, "Oh, you can't park it there. You're going to have to move it." It's not something I can move back and forth on a whim. ABF is the one who moves it. Plus, I had issues getting my router for work. And the directions for setting up all my work computer equipment is somewhere in the recesses of the truck. Seeing that I need them now, that's a problem. So fast forward six hours, numerous hysterical sobbing breakdowns, and horrible stress induced nausea (note to self: eating two plums and a cookie for lunch and then doing intense yoga in between crying jags = bad idea) later, and you have one unhappy Alison.

But then I checked my Google Reader and saw all the great BBAW posts and couldn't help but be cheered up. I didn't schedule a blogger interview, so I'm highlighting my fellow bloggers through my community post :-)

After all, there's nothing better than the blogging community. I've met so many wonderful people and fallen in love with so many blogs on my blogging sojourn.

(I'm sorry...I was going to write detailed descriptions of each blog, but I realized that the chairs my husband spent a year refinishing and recovering were torn and scratched in the move and that set off another sobfest. Then, my husband dragged me away from my tear-stained pillow to a restaurant for dinner. So I no longer have the time or energy to type much.)

Here are a few of my favorite blogs. I'm sure I'm missing some and I apologize for that.












The Unread Reader


Manga Mondays (67): Sand Chronicles vol. 6 - Hinaki Asihara

Sand Chronicles vol. 6 - Hinaki Asihara


Summary

Twelve-year-old Ann and her divorced mother move from big city Tokyo to her mother's rural hometown. How will Ann survive her exile from civilization? Then, when her mother commits suicide, Ann has to grow up fast. As the years pass, Ann learns to trust and depend on her new friends--Daigo and aristocratic siblings Fuji and Shika. But when Ann moves back to Tokyo to be with her father, will she be able to maintain a long-distance relationship with Daigo? And do Fuji and Shika harbor romantic feelings of their own that might rip their childhood friendships apart...?

Ann and Daigo begin dating other people. But can anyone take the place of her first love in Ann's heart? Then, Ann learns a surprising secret about her father's romantic life! (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

*Warning: Potential spoilers. My manga reviews tend to be more of a summary than a review. I find it hard to review manga in the same way I do regular books.

Ann and Daigo are both trying to move on in this volume, with varying degrees of success. Actually, it's more like varying degrees of failure.

Ann and Fuji are formally dating now. They're so cute together but it doesn't feel right. Perhaps because they're each haunted in their own way. You'd think Fuji would be happier now that he knows that he isn't a product of his mother's affair - that Shika is instead - but he doesn't seem much happier. He's such a serious person that he can't ever seem truly happy. Or may be his underlying melancholy has more to do with the fact that he knows that Ann still loves Daigo and he can't change that. Fuji and Ann finally give up trying to be together when they both realize that Daigo will always stand between them - that he will always be more important to Ann.

Meanwhile, Daigo and Ayumu, the mean girl who stole Ann's hourglass in volume 1, are spending loads of time together. Ayumu is helping Daigo study for his university entrance exams. I like Ayumu. I like that's she's serious and straight-forward. I also like that she's the only one who takes Daigo seriously when he says he wants to go to college. Everyone else thinks Daigo's too much of a goofball and too stupid to get into university. As nice as a romance between them would be, it never quite gets there.

Meanwhile there are two big subplots. Shika can't stand living with her family, with the knowledge of her past and her mistakes, and wants a fresh start. She moves to Canada to study abroad. And it does get her past her past. She apologizes to Ann for her attempts to steal Daigo and overall seems much happier.

On a more successful romantic front, Ann's father and his longtime friend Kaede are secretly dating. When Kaede gets pregnant, she ironically wants to end things and live on her own with the baby. Ann finds out and insists that they get married. Soon, Ann's family of two becomes a family of four.

To further show the coolness of the glossary in Sand Chronicles, on pg. 129, Kaede says "'Cause I never told you." Ann's father seems shocked that Kaede uses the word "'Cause." This makes no sense to the English speaker. We use words like "'cause" all the time. The glossary explains that in the original Japanese, Kaede ended "her sentence with 'mon,' a childish sounding ending that is meaningless but adds a querulous tone to her speech...Ann's father is surprised that she is talking so childishly and vulnerably, which is out of character for her." It's so great to understand the context of words that would normally be lost in translation.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Moving Success! My journey from Minnesota to California

Greetings! I am writing this from my house in sunny Sacramento. I made it here Saturday afternoon after 3.5 days in the car.

Forgive me for a gratuitous non-book post.

In case you're curious, here are a few things I learned on my trip:


1. Wyoming is quite possibly the most boring state in the country. Flat except for the occasionally rock formation and small mountains. Yellow and tree-less. And entirely too wide.

2. Mt. Rushmore is much smaller than you'd expect. And you can't get close to it. But the Corn Palace is pretty cool.

3. If the dog throws up in the car, you may not realize it until hours later. Ick.

4. Audiobooks are a fabulous way to pass the time on a long drive. But Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything which expounds upon the creation of the universe, quarks, molecular biology, etc requires more thought than I want to devote while in the car.

5. After you've driven for five hours, every muscle in your body will be crying in agony. Hell, you'll be groaning in pain after two hours. But if you're sitting in the passenger seat watching someone else drive, it's pretty nice.

6. Paying professionals to load your moving trailer is worth every penny. It wasn't even that many pennies. Next time, I'll get them to pack for me too. I'm all about delegation.

7. Internet connections on mobile phones is basically non-existent for large swaths of rural America. I was even roaming in Elko, Nevada. Yay for free hotel Wi-Fi.

8. There's nothing to do at night in the hotel other than read or watch TV. You'll make big plans to get through tons of books since you haven't done anything other than sit in the car all day. But you'll lie down on the bed with a book, read a page, and crash into a dreamless sleep. With the dog at your side (on the white comforter), of course.

9. The Sierra Nevadas near Lake Tahoe, CA is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Followed closely behind the mountains near Salt Lake City. The Black Hills of South Dakota are pretty nice too.

10. "Best" part about the move: I get to do it again in 11 months! To a location as yet undetermined. Especially sad because I've only been here 24 hours, and I already love Sacramento.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Feature & Follow Friday #62

Welcome to Feature & Follow Friday (err Thursday) on Parajunkee.com


If you are new to the #FF fun, Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that expands your blog following by a joint effort between bloggers. Feature & Follow Friday is now hosted by TWO hosts, Rachel of Parajunkee and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

*Thanks so much to Rachel for allowing me to be part of the Follow Friday fun. Parajunkee is one of the best blogs out there and FF is a highlight of the blogging community. The FF has been one of my favorite parts of my week for over a year and I'm so excited to help my fellow book bloggers get to know each other better.

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you! Now to make this #FF interesting we do a FEATURE blogger.

If you are interested in becoming a Feature click on the link here for Follow Friday Feature or go to Parajunkee and click the drop down link above FEATURES > Feature & Follow Friday and get on the waiting list!

It is also required, that if you participate you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) and the two Feature blogs.



Our Feature - Drying Ink






"I'm a bookworm from the UK (where the rain's so incessant that it's a choice between reading and gibbering insanity...) - I love all things SFF, and though I go in for more traditional fantasies as well, I'm enjoying all of the original or unique things coming out of the genre at the moment. For example, Mark Charan Newton's Legends of the Red Sun series. As for what I'm reading now? I'm rereading Geist by Philippa Ballantine, which is a great fantasy with a touch of steampunk - and refreshingly short as well!

Other than fantasy, I spend my time on a number of other hobbies (excluding insane mumblings over ASoIaF) - pyrography, kayaking, and writing, to name a few. I started blogging because I wanted to talk about my latest finds, and write about cross-genre trends and features that we don't normally see in reviews: for example, my series on surpassing conventions."


Q. Have you ever wanted a villain to win at the end of a story? If so, which one?



Hmmm...There have been a few times, but I can't think of specific instances. In general, I think the reader should root for the hero. If they don't, that indicates a flaw in the story. This occurs most often when the hero isn't developed well-enough. If I don't know that much about the hero's personality, his/her hopes and dreams, etc, I'm not going to care that much if the hero wins or loses.

On the other hand, rooting for the villain could be a tribute to an author's skill if the author meant for that to happen. I love when villains are really well described. When they aren't pure evil. I like knowing why the villain acts as he or she does and seeing a good side to the villain. It's more realistic if the person is layered.


Now for the Follow Fun!















RULES To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:



  1. (Required) Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts {Parajunkee & Alison Can Read}
  2. (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers - We Fancy Books & The Little Book Blog
  3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say "hi" in your comments and that they are now following you.
  5. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "HI"
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
  7. If you're new to the follow friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!




Happy Follow Friday! Follow it up with your twitter address if you want to get that one out!


*********





There's No Place Like Home (Secrets of My Hollywood Life #6) by Jen Calonita

There's No Place Like Home (Secrets of My Hollywood Life #6) by Jen Calonita

March 1, 2011; Poppy

Summary

After her brilliant run on Broadway and surviving the harsh concrete jungle of New York City, seventeen-year-old Hollywood "It Girl" Kaitlin Burke is back in L.A. starting a sitcom with her former-nemesis-now-BFF, Sky. The show is a huge success! In fact, maybe a little too huge, Kaitlin realizes, after a bad run-in with aggressive paparazzi puts her boyfriend Austin in danger. She wishes, once again, that she could have a normal life.

But what Kaitlin doesn't realize is that her Hollywood life has had a positive influence on just about everyone she loves, and it takes a minor car accident and a nasty concussion to truly grasp how lucky she is. In Jen Calonita's sixth and final Secrets of My Hollywood Life novel, Kaitlin learns at last about the price of fame, the unending upside of friendship, and that there really is no place like home-even if it's Tinseltown. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

*Depending on how careful you are about spoilers, I do give a barebones synopsis of the entire book. But with this type of novel, you know how it's going to end. It's only the journey that matters. So I don't think the spoilers are objectionable.


The final installment of Secrets of My Hollywood Life, one of my favorite light, chick lit series. I'm sad to see the books come to an end, although I'm excited to see what Jen Calonita has in store for us next.

That being said, There's No Place Like Home was not my favorite book in the series. I didn't dislike it, but it wasn't what I wanted out of the final book either.

The book starts out like all the others. Kaitlin has tons of things on her plate. Her pushy mom only makes things worse, encouraging Kaitlin to do too much and making her seem like she's attention-hungry. Kaitlin's friends (which now includes her former rival Sky) want her to put her foot down and set some limits. But Kaitlin can't say no. Especially not to her mom.

Enter Stage Right...a head-on collision and an It's A Wonderful Life alternate universe. Kaitlin is now from a poor family, in a fancy school, and hated by everyone except her star-crazy friend Liz.

I admire Jen for doing something different with this book - for taking chances. It would be easy to coast along with what you already knew was successful. And there was nothing wrong with the alternate universe. In fact it was a great plot device. It showed Kaitlin what was wrong with her life and what was right with it. It convinced her to grow a backbone and start standing up for what she wants. But...I just didn't enjoy it. I love reading about Kaitlin's crazy family and star-studded life. Even though there are still celeb moments in Kaitlin's alternate life, it wasn't the same. Thankfully, the alternate universe doesn't last forever and I was very happy with the ending.

There's No Place Like Home was an enjoyable read even though it wasn't what I wanted. I love Kaitlin for all her foibles and cowardliness. I love that she is a normal girl in a crazy world. I love that she is endlessly loyal to her friends and somehow knows to do the right thing even if she stumbles a bit on the way. While this was probably my least favorite book in the series, I still think everyone who enjoys these books should read the last one and would still recommend people to pick up all six books.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Green Eyed Monster: Blogging and Jealousy

The Green Eyed Monster: Blogging and Jealousy




The blogging community is a wonderful thing. Who wouldn't love having a group of people as obsessed as you are about books and wanting nothing more than to chat about them? But what about when your best bloggy friend gets that ARC you've been dying to read? Or when someone comes up with an incredible feature or meme that gets them loads of visitors and accolades? You're happy for them, of course, but is delight your only emotion? Do you ever feel a twinge of envy, a pinprick of jealousy?

I freely admit to being jealous of my fellow bloggers. Jealousy is not a positive emotion, but it is a natural one. I'm going to posit that every one of you book bloggers have been jealous about something blog or book related at some point. I think it's impossible not to be if you're really invested in blogging and reading, as most of us are.

If you don't think that you've ever been jealous, I'd guess you are (a) a saint; (b) delusional; or (c) lying. I'm not delusional, I'm not lying (at the moment), and I am definitely not a saint.



The Benefits of Jealousy

Despite being petty, I don't think jealousy is inherently bad. It depends on how you react to it.

Bad: Leaving nasty comments on someone's blog in a fit of jealous rage. Allowing envy to stop you from blogging.

Good: Using jealousy to inspire. If you don't want more, you're not going to work for more. Transform your envy into energy. Figure out what bugs you and fix it.

(thanks to Black Nailed Reviews and About To Read for helping me with this point)

Here are a few things that bring out my inner green-eyed monsters...and I'm guessing I'm not alone...and a few ideas of how to move past jealousy.

1) ARCs: This is one of the most obvious ones. Am I the only person whose stomach twists and eyes burn when I see a dozen bloggers get a review copy of a book I want during the weekly IMM posts? In my more immature moments, I'll grumble that a person has less followers than I do and still got a review copy. It's not like I don't have enough books to read. Every week, I'm overflowing with new books that I picked up at the library or the bookstore. But the idea of ARCs is so alluring! The ironic thing is that I love In My Mailbox. With the exception of Follow Friday, it is my favorite meme. I love seeing what books people got and am honestly happy for them.

Here's the thing about ARCs...Consider it a twist on the Field of Dreams saying: "If you don't ask, they won't come." And I don't ask, hardly at all. Partly because of my perceived notions that my blog isn't big enough yet or simply because I'm too lazy to type up e-mails to publishers. People do get unsolicited review copies. But unless you're a mega-blogger who has been doing this for years, unsolicited copies are probably few and far between.

If you're jealous about not getting ARCs, do something about it! E-mail publishers to introduce yourself and ask for a review copy. Go to conferences like BEA or ALA and get your name out. Work on growing your blog, so you'll be more likely to garner attention. And if you still don't receive ARCS...oh well...at least you did what you could.

*Numbers 2 and 3 are similar, but distinct enough that I'm giving them separate categories

2) I'm Not The Story Siren: Kristi is one of my favorite bloggers. She's nice, funny, smart, and obviously well-read. It's hard to argue that she is the queen of YA book blogging. Oh how I wish I was her! I wish I had started blogging three and a half years ago, that I had thought up In My Mailbox and the Debut Author Challenge, that I had established relationships with authors and publishers, that I had loads of followers and made even a little money off blogging, and all the other things that makes Kristi fantastic.

Yeah, that one's kinda petty. But instead of envying Kristi, I try to use her as inspiration. She reminds me that the longer you blog, the more respected you're likely to be. Same with the value of making contacts with authors and publishers. And of course, having consistently good content.

*On another note...I really wish I could be 11 in 2011 and be as fabulous as Melina at Reading Vacation. I wish I'd read as much and written as well as she does when I was her age. That's not jealousy...that's admiration.

3) Blank's Blog is Better Than Mine: Ah yes...let's bring up my inherent insecurities. I read a lot of blogs. Some are better than others. Many, I think, are better than mine. I love reading the posts, but I often chide myself for not being as good as the respective blogger. For example, I love the thorough and well-written reviews at Supernatural Snark and the hilarious Cover Critiques. I love Small Review's ingenious Review Comparison and her Blogging Tips and Tricks. I think the frequency and consistency of Books With Bite's reviews are highly admirable. Why can't I be that good?

Let's take a step back here...If you ever think like me, do two things. First, think of the positives about your blog. I've been blogging for over a year, have a respectable number of followers, and make a lot of efforts to reach out to the blogging community. I write consistently and my reviews are reasonably well-written (if perhaps a tad bit wordy - as this parenthetical is). Ah, I'm feeling a little better now. Once you've picked yourself out of the mud, use the blogs you admire to better your blog. If you want to improve your writing, check out some books on writing and style. Or read other people's reviews to find a style you want to emulate (not copy!). If you want better features, look around the blogging community. What element of books or blogging is missing? What things are you passionate about? Think outside the box for a bit and come up with something that others haven't yet done.

4) Book Blogger Appreciation Week: This is actually what inspired this post and it is the hardest, most shameful part of this post for me to write. Book Blogger Appreciation Week is one of the most enjoyable blogging events of the year. It's one time where we can all sit back and celebrate the joy of blogging. Where we can step away from the detailed reviews and enjoy our community.

But...there's the awards. Do you sit in school/work awards ceremonies with anticipation? Hoping that when they announce the Best Math Student award or the Top Sales award, your name will be called, even though you suck at math or completely missed the quarterly sales goals? I do. I want to be the one running up to the stage in my fancy ball gown, tears running down my cheeks, and joking about how heavy the Oscar statue is. And while I know it is petty and childish, the fact that I didn't make the awards list dampens my Book Blogger Appreciation Week spirit. I hate that it does. I don't honestly think I deserve any of the awards. Well, maybe I do a little bit, but I am completely honest when I say that the blogs nominated are as good as and likely better than mine (especially the ones I nominated).

My best advice about dealing with not being nominated? Grow up and get over it. I'm being particularly harsh about this one, because it's the advice I most need to hear right now. Look at the blogs that were nominated. What can you learn from them? Maybe even approach them and ask them for advice to improve your blog. But if you've done all you can do, don't worry about it too much. A celebration of the excellence of someone else's blog doesn't mean that yours is bad. Be grateful for the opportunity to blog. Don't let your hurt feelings keep you from participating in Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I was stupid enough to make that mistake last year and want to be a big girl this year. I may not be able to participate as much as I'd like because I'll have just moved to California, but I definitely want to participate in some fashion.

5) Blank's Blog Has More Followers/More Comments Than Mine: Do you feel like you spend loads of time on your blog, but no one's reading it? Does it seem like everyone in the blogging community has their established group of friends and you can't break in? It's hard to start blogging when there are so many other blogs that have been doing this for years. And it's also hard to watch other blogs grow and grow while yours stays stagnate. We all know that the number of followers does not inherently correlate to the quality of the blog or even the loyalty of those followers. Still, you're a lot more likely to have 1000 loyal readers and frequent commenters, if you have 1000 followers than if you have 100. And while the numbers game isn't that important, it's a lot more fun to blog if you are part of the community rather than knocking at the door trying to get in. Besides, who doesn't love seeing those little numbers climb in the GFC widget?

I've written quite a bit about how to gain followers. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my advice of How To Gain Followers. Like most things, there's a strategy to gaining followers. How? The answers never vary that much. (1) Good, consistent content: Duh. Have decently written reviews. I've written a post on How to Write a Review. It's pretty flexible. As long as you put some effort into it, I'm sure it'll be good. And make sure you post relatively frequently. At least a few times a week. (2) Network: Regardless of the quality of your reviews, if no one knows about your blog, no one is going to read it. Participate in the weekly blog hops: Friday Follow and Crazy for Books’ Hops and in In My Mailbox. And perhaps another popular meme. Connect with bloggers through Twitter. Participate in author blog tours through Teen Book Scene. (3) Time: Few blogs gain followers rapidly. Getting and keeping followers is a lot of work. It took me about a year to hit 1000 followers, and I devoted hours every weekend to networking. If you want a large blog, prepare to spend lots of time. I average 15 to 20 hours per week on blogging. Granted, that's because I think it's fun and don't have anything better to do. But you're not going to have a big blog without a lot of work.

As for comments...If you give, ye shall receive. The blogs who get the most comments are the ones who comment on other blogs the most. The number of comments is not inherently tied to the number of followers. Some blogs with only a few hundred followers get tons of comments, because those bloggers are so dedicated to commenting on other blogs. In contrast, some of the blogs with 2000+ followers don't get that many comments, because the blogger doesn't comment often. We all have limited time and commenting on other people's blogs is really hard. I know I don't do it nearly enough, but if you want lots of comments on your blog, make commenting on other blogs a priority. And, surprise, surprise, I also have a post about How to Comment. The comments to the post are a lot more interesting than what I wrote, so be sure to read them.

There you have the basic elements of my form of blogger jealousy. And now that you've seen a bit of my not-so-great side, it's your turn.

Have you been a jealous blogger? What have you done about it?
 
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