Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Winner of The Pack


The winner of The Pack by LM Preston prize pack is Kah Woei! Congratulations!! I hope you enjoy The Pack and all the swag. Check your inbox!

Thank you all so much for entering and spreading the word. You guys are all awesome! :-)

Review of The Truth About Forever

Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She's stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she'll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father's recent unexpected death. But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother's open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about, the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it.
[from Goodreads]
 
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Teens, clean romance readers
High point: The romance and Macy
Low point: Macy's boyfriend
Reader maturity: 13+

The Truth About Forever is the first book I've read by Sarah Dessen, and I was completely blown away. I don't consider myself much of a fan for contemporary non-paranormal YA, especially romance, but I was wrong (at least in this case). As soon as I finished, I jumped online to see how I could get my hands on another of Ms. Dessen's novels ASAP.

Nothing really out of the ordinary happens in The Truth About Forever. It's a book about everyday occurrences and believable coincidences that transform Macy from who she was before and with Jason to who she was without and after Jason. I ached for her as her mother shut her out and demanded perfection. Feeling inadequate is something most readers, young and old, can relate to. Perceived inadequacy does not distinguish between age or origin.

All of the characters in The Truth About Forever are so real, like they were ready to reach out of the pages and draw me in for some fun. Wes and Macy have a firmly rooted relationship, initiated mostly by the game of Truth that they play. Everyone around them can see what's going on, but they can't--and it's completely understandable from Macy's perspective.

The supporting cast--the crew of Wish--are wonderful, weaving an intricate background of support and love for Macy when she desperately needs them the most. Macy grows throughout the novel and leaves a lasting impact on those she knows;  she, in turn, learns from them as well.

The Truth About Forever is beautiful, a long book that seems like a short read. It's funny; it's poignant; it's honest.

Title:  The Truth About Forever
Author:  Sarah Dessen
Genre:  Teen Fiction - Romance & Friendship
Year:   2006
Book Source:  Purchased

Monday, June 28, 2010

To New Bloggers

Someone asked me this a few weeks ago: 
Do you have any advice for a new blogger - I see your blog is only 6 months old but it already looks very developed, both through content and followers. 
First off, thanks! I appreciate it. I try hard  to make the blog look nice and have it be a restful place to come visit.

Second, I struggled with whether or not to reply. I still consider myself quite new, and though 200+ followers is nothing to sneeze at, other 6 month old blogs have many, many more. That being said, I was pretty intimidated by the "big blogs" when I started out, so I decided to go ahead and try to give some advice. Maybe this will help someone out.

  1. Find your niche. This is going to take a while. Don't worry about it. I started out thinking my niche was YA and classics and then it rotated more towards YA and YA paranormal with a sprinkling of classics and historicals when I have the time. That's okay. You don't have to have everything perfect up front. Do try to find your niche though because it's easier to follow a blog that has an ongoing literary theme. It's easier for followers to identify with your taste in books if they see a trend.
  2. Make it pretty. It doesn't have to be professional, and it doesn't have to be perfect. However, your blog should look like you put a little effort into it, at least customizing the preset Blogger themes instead of leaving them as the default. Personally, I tried to have my header reflect how I feel when I read (characters mingling around, popping in and out of time) and then matched the rest of the blog to that. I wanted a restful place on the web as part of my niche, as well. I absolutely love the trendy, semi-professionally designed blogs out there, but I think my self-made template makes my blog stand out (hopefully in a good way!). You can find some great backgrounds at The Cutest Blog on the Block and Shabby Blogs.
  3. Post regularly. Set up a schedule. You don't have to stick to it 100%, but a general schedule will help you build your review archive quickly. Participate in memes if you like, but try to keep the meme to review ratio 1:1 or less. (For example, if you post reviews twice a week, you can have up to 2 memes.)
  4. Be polite. Book bloggers are some of the nicest people on the web; let's keep that reputation! Don't start flame wars; don't accuse people of stuff; don't steal or plagiarize, etc.
  5. Be patient.  I haven't reached a point where I feel comfortable requesting review copies. I promised myself I'd start when I reached 50 followers...and then it was 100...and here I am, 200+, and still too chicken to ask. (I'm notoriously cautious.) The reason is that when I finally do ask, I want to make sure that I'm ready and that I've established myself as a good review blogger. I don't want to jump the gun and give publishers the impression that I'm only in this for the books or that I'm greedy. If you feel comfortable asking earlier, then go for it, but keep in mind that you're forming a reputation. Also, don't have giveaways too early on. I'd say, rule of thumb, if you have one before 50 followers, it can look like you're begging for followers, even if you're not. So unless a publisher offers to do a review for your followers, don't hold them until you've established yourself as a reliable blogger.
  6. Be positive. By all means, write negative reviews! It gives your readers an idea of what books you don't like as well as those that you do, and that helps identify your taste in books. Do, however, be polite in your reviews and make sure that when you critique the book, you're critiquing, not criticizing. Focus on the novel, not the author. That's somebody's precious baby out there for the whole world to see, so be nice.
  7. Stay on topic. This is part of creating your niche. Even if you read books outside of your niche, wait until you've got a small archive of reviews before branching out. Try to establish your base first.
  8. Be professional. Edit! Everyone's going to make some typos here and there, but try to keep them from peppering every post.
  9. Get your name out there. I got my first followers because I won a giveaway where the host posted my name and blog link. Then I found The Saturday Network and then The Book Blogger Hop. These are all great places to get the word out, just make sure you follow the rules and visit other blogs as well. Also, comment, comment, comment. Let the blogosphere know you exist!
So bloggers, what do you think? Do you have any suggestions for new bloggers? Is there anything you wish someone had told you when you started out?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wannabe Writers #22

Wannabe Writers is a meme created by Sarah of Confessions of the Un-published!

One of my goals right now is to move my literary ambitions out of the box and onto the shelf, by which I mean that I no longer want to ignore  how   much I enjoy writing. I love the idea of this meme, and I'll quote from Sarah's post here:

I often find myself searching the web for information during my struggles as a new writer.   So I wanted to start a place where us future young-adult authors can come together to  ask those questions, share our stories, and get feedback.


Where I am in the writing process:  Icing on the cake! I got to edit and then add 1000 new words to Novel #2. That doesn't sound like much, but it was something. I thank my cousin/sorta-kinda-writing-buddy for my moment of inspiration. At the risk of sounding full of myself, can I just say that I like my 2nd novel? It had been so long that I worked on it that I was reading through it to figure out where I was, and...it was pretty good. I don't think I've made any of the same mistakes as I did with my freshman attempt either. Novel #2 might actually be worth some post-completion publishing efforts.


Oh! I got my first rejection last week, and I was oddly excited about it. I completely understand the reasons why my MS was rejected, but I appreciated the agent's compliments about the strength of my writing. (Basically, even though the story was horrible, the writing was good.) I feel somehow validated, even though I "failed." That's the end of that MS anyway, since I hadn't really intended to query it at all. It's going in a drawer, never to see the light of day again. Ever. (Unless I need a groan and a laugh.)

My current problems:  None. I'm good. :-)

Question(s) this week:  When writing how do you structure out your novel?  Do you use the classic method of intro, rising tension, mini crisis, rising tension, mini crisis, rising tension, climax, resolution?  Or some kind of alternative structure?

Ugh, I have probably the worst method ever. Don't anyone follow my lead! Since I don't outline, I just...write. In the first novel, it was written in order so I kind of felt my way through the build-up, but the one I'm working on now, I've realized the need for background so it's a bit more piecemeal. Looking at the classic method, though ("intro, rising tension, mini crisis, rising tension, mini crisis, rising tension, climax, resolution"), I've actually followed it pretty well for just making it up as I go.

Ok, backing up for a second, Novel #1 had a mini flashback climax several chapters before the realtime climax. Other than that, I'm a traditionalist. That's what I'm used to reading, so that's how I write.

This is a really cool question. I hadn't thought about this before, and I'm glad to know that I'm following some sort of acceptable structure, even though I didn't realize it. I'm outlining the next novel, though, so I'll have all this figured out at the beginning.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Ask and the Answer

"We were in the square, in the square where I'd run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her - But there weren't no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men..."
Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor's new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode...
The Ask and the Answer is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the "Chaos Walking" trilogy.
[from Goodreads]
 
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Light sci-fi and fantasy fans
High point:  Viola, the mistresses, Todd, the Mayor...
Low point:  The ex-mayor
Reader maturity:  13+

I wasn't very impressed with The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first in this series, but Patrick Ness remedied everything that lost my interest in the first one and added in a very literal BANG. I don't believe I've ever gone from feeling so "meh" about a first novel to waiting in agony to get my hands on the third. Bravo!

In the first novel, there were a lot of teasers that I found frustrating and the exposition was slow. The pacing of The Ask and the Answer is similar, in that Todd and Viola really don't move that far from where they started, but the growth they show and the mistakes they make are extremely interesting reading, holding my attention the whole time. Another digression from the first book is that this part of the saga is told from the alternating points of view of Todd and Viola. While I enjoyed Todd as the narrator, something about the inclusion of Viola strengthened their relationship and the whole fabric of the tale. She was occasionally hard to sympathize with in the first book, but seeing her side of the story, her internal conflicts and motivations, gave the novel new depth.

The Ask and the Answer has lies and deceit, diversions and cover-ups, love and heartbreak, questions and answers. I was captivated, soaring through page after page, and looking up at the last minute to find my lunch break already over. If you enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go, you have to pick up The Ask and the Answer. If you didn't enjoy the first in the Chaos Walking series, The Ask and the Answer is worth a second chance.

Title:  The Ask and the Answer
Author:  Patrick Ness
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Science Fiction
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Won from Presenting Lenore

Friday, June 25, 2010

Guess Who!

In case anyone missed it, I was featured over at Elizabeth Mueller's blog in one of her Guess Who? drawings. Be sure and check out the other bloggers she's featured; the drawings are fantastic.

And now you know what I would look like as a faerie. :-)

Book Blogger Hop 6/25

**Don't forget to check out the giveaway of The Pack by LM Preston that's going on here in the Box! Happy hopping!

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Crazy for Books so that readers and bloggers can get to know each other a little better.
In Jennifer's words:
This is a weekly event where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read.  It's a great way to network with other bloggers and make new friends!  Every day I seem to find another book blog that I start following. In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blogger Hop to give us all bookies a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!
So head over to the Blog Hop and have some fun! Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review of A Northern Light

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown asks her to burn a bundle of secret letters. But when Grace's drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers the letters reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against a backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, this astonishing novel weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, real, and wholly original.

[from Goodreads]



Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Anyone hankering for a real-life novel, historical fiction fans
High point: Mattie's strength and determination
Low point: Choppy sentences
Reader maturity: 13+

A Northern Light skillfully captures the pains of young adulthood through the eyes of Mattie Gokey, a sixteen-year-old burgeoning writer trying to find her voice in the crowd. Though encouraged by her teacher, she soon falls victim to circumstance and puts her writing and hopes for college aside to care for her family and prepare to marry the handsome Royal. In the end, she must decide if some promises were made to be broken and discover if she is strong enough to follow her dreams.

A Northern Light was a breath of fresh air amidst all the romantic YA drama and paranormal goings-on of many of today's novels. Mattie, sometimes self-assured, sometimes shy, spends a great deal of time agonizing over the broken promises and broken people but never in a way that depresses the reader. Her choices may seem baffling to a reader today but are likely representative of life in 1906. Mattie is a strong character, even considering her flaws, and when the time comes, she always finds the strength to do what her heart tells her is right, even when her head says otherwise

Based on true events, the letters read by Mattie throughout the novel loosely parallel her own story, adding fullness to the pleasant simplicity of the novel. Her obsession with learning new words is also a reflection of the plot and oftentimes entertaining. The writing style of A Northern Light will appeal to younger YA readers, but the story is rich enough to attract and hold the attention of older ages as well.

Title:  A Northern Light
Author:  Jennifer Donnelly
Genre:  Teen Historical Fiction
Year:  2004
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: Revolution

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
[from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wannabe Writers #21

Wannabe Writers is a meme created by Sarah of Confessions of the Un-published!

One of my goals right now is to move my literary ambitions out of the box and onto the shelf, by which I mean that I no longer want to ignore  how   much I enjoy writing. I love the idea of this meme, and I'll quote from Sarah's post here:

I often find myself searching the web for information during my struggles as a new writer.   So I wanted to start a place where us future young-adult authors can come together to  ask those questions, share our stories, and get feedback.


Where I am in the writing process:  Let's be honest here:  I haven't written in weeks, and I've finally decided to take the summer off. Any writing I get done between now and September is icing on the cake.

My current problems:  None. I'm good. :-)

Question(s) this week:  Do you carry a writing journal around? Do you believe jotting down the ideas as they come is the best way? I mean if I don't get it all out now will it be lost forever?

I prefer not to write down newly formed ideas. It makes them too concrete and inflexible. I let them simmer in the background for a while as other airy pieces float by. Some stick; some don't. A new plot forms...

I usually write scenes in my head as well. True, they don't always act themselves out on paper like they did in my head, but that's usually a good thing. Usually. I'll admit that I've lost a few zingers that way.

I read somewhere (I think it was a Wannabe Writer) that if the idea disappears, it wasn't worth anything anyway. Good ideas stick around. The original author said it much better than I can, but that's the gist.

Review of The Agency: A Spy in the House

Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment.

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past.

[from Goodreads]

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Former Nancy Drew kid detectives
High point:  Mary Quinn
Low point:  Some of the supporting cast
Reader maturity: 13+

The AgencyA Spy in the House was a fun romp through Victorian London with a headstrong female detective and her equally headstrong (and incredibly attractive) male partner. Mary Quinn is who you'd get if you threw a modern-day Nancy Drew into a Charles Dickens' story. A Spy in the House is light-hearted enough for younger teens, deep enough to be satisfying and romantic enough for the more-grown-up in the audience, not to mention that it's all (YA) ages appropriate.

Mary Quinn, the main character and reformed pickpocket, hides in plain sight as a lady's companion, constantly seeking trouble and accidentally stumbling into wardrobes with strange men. She's smart, resourceful and the kind of woman that Victorian women ought to have been, if they'd been given the chance. She's modern enough to appeal to today's readers, but enough of the setting and mannerisms in A Spy in the House are distinctly Victorian so that the reader experiences the historical flair without drowning in anything too textbook-like.

The romantic lead is perfect (if a bit too forward to be Victorian); he's stubborn, hard-to-get, and he might be harboring some secrets of his own...but he's not controlling, chauvinistic or too perfect, making him even more perfect for Mary.

Some of the supporting cast were a little two-dimensional, especially in contrast with Mary, James and Angelica, but overall the novel was well-written, well-paced and well-thought out. Every detail was accounted for, and the novel never seemed to drag or wade through unnecessary scenes. The ending was a disappointment only because it means I have to wait for the sequel.

Title:  The Agency:  A Spy in the House
Author:  Y. S. Lee
Genre:  Teen Fiction - Mysteries & Thrillers
Year:  2010
Book Source:  Won from Book Love:  Teen

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Uninvited

When rejection comes back to bite you...

Jordan's life sucks. Her boyfriend, Michael, dumped her, slept his way through half the student body, and then killed himself. But now, somehow, he appears at her window every night, begging her to let him in.


Jordan can't understand why he wants her, but she feels her resistance wearing down. After all, her life -- once a broken record of boring parties, meaningless hookups, and friends she couldn't relate to -- now consists of her drinking alone in her room as she waits for the sun to go down.


Michael needs to be invited in before he can enter. All Jordan has to do is say the words....

[from Goodreads]
 
Rating:   2 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Riders on the vampire bandwagon
High point:  The best friends
Low point:  Jordan's mother
Reader maturity:  15+

I'm a sucker (pardon the pun) for vampire novels, so when I found Uninvited, I thought I was in a for a new vampire twist. That much is true, but I was pretty disappointed. While not a waste of time by any means, this is definitely a novel to borrow from the library.

Uninvited follows the life of Jordan as she deals with what to do with Michael, who begs at her window every night for her to let him in...and not much else. I didn't see much character development until the very end, and some of the relationships felt forced and/or choppy. Everything else was inoffensive but mediocre.

The concept is interesting--dead boyfriend comes back to haunt living girl--but I think Uninvited would have benefited from some heavy editing and then insertion into a larger novel, chronicling the "before" of Michael and Jordan's relationship and the "during" of Jordan's fall from grace.

Uninvited isn't the best vampire novel out there, but if you're looking for something vampiric and new, it's worth borrowing for a light weeknight read.

Title:  Uninvited
Author:  Amanda Marrone
Genre:  Teen Fiction -- Horror & Suspense
Year:   2007
Book Source:  Purchased

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Blogger Hop 6/18

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Crazy for Books so that readers and bloggers can get to know each other a little better.
In Jennifer's words:
This is a weekly event where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read.  It's a great way to network with other bloggers and make new friends!  Every day I seem to find another book blog that I start following. In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blogger Hop to give us all bookies a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!
So head over to the Blog Hop and have some fun! Thanks for stopping by!

**Don't forget to check out the giveaway of The Pack by LM Preston that's going on here in the Box! Happy hopping!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review of A Company of Swans

For nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton, life in 1912 Cambridge is as dry and dull as a biscuit. Her stuffy father and her opressive aunt Louisa allow her only one outlet: ballet. When a Russian ballet master comes to class searching for dancers to fill the corps of his ballet company before their South American tour, Harriet’s world changes. Defying her father’s wishes and narrowly escaping the clutches of the man who wishes to marry her, Harriet sneaks off to join the ballet on their journey to the Amazon. There, in the wild, lush jungle, they perform Swan Lake in grand opera houses for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons, and Harriet meets Rom Verney, the handsome and mysterious British exile who owns the most ornate opera house. Utterly enchanted by both the exotic surroundings and by Rom’s affections, Harriet is swept away by her new life, completely unaware that her father and would-be fiancé have begun to track her down. . . .
[from Goodreads]
 
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Teens, clean romance readers
High point:  The fairytale
Low point:  The would-be fiancé
Reader maturity: 13+

A Company of Swans is another historical YA romance written in the typical Eva Ibbotson style and, like her other novels, it does not disappoint.

In A Company of Swans, we travel with Harriet Morton, a runaway ballerina, as she crosses the Atlantic to tour with a company in the Amazon. There she finds ties to her homeland and something unexpected--love. There's the usual dreamy setting and floaty descriptions and quirky-but-lovable main character...but something here is different. This time, someone's trying to separate the lovebirds, a twist that I liked as a change of pace.

I was fascinated by the setting of the Amazon--the descriptions are amazing;  I felt like I was really in the jungle or a magic garden. The other setting is England, which I have always been enthralled by, so overall, as far as my literary passport is concerned, A Company of Swans gets 2 great big thumbs up.

The love interest for Harriet is a little different than the usual perfect (albeit often slightly older) man. He's a self-professed...rogue, I guess you could say. He's good-hearted but searched for love in a lot of places.

Harriet's best friend, Marie-Claude, steals the show. Whereas Harriet is oppressed and frightened (but still likable), Marie-Claude is a friendly, open soul, infusing life into both Harriet and the novel. She's the bustling mother figure in ballerina form.

As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed Eva Ibbotson's work and highly recommend it.

Title:  A Company of Swans
Author:  Eva Ibbotson
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Romance & Friendship
Year:   1985
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: Whisper

I’d love a cup of coffee. I wish she knew how pretty she was. I wish I could drop this kid in the dryer sometimes. I just want her to be happy. I hope she didn’t find out what Ben said about her. I wish I knew how many calories were in a bite of muffin…

Joy is used to hearing Whispers. She’s used to walking down the street and instantly knowing people’s deepest, darkest desires. She uses this talent for good, to make people happy and give them what they want. But for her older sister, Jessica, the family gift is a curse, and she uses it to make people’s lives—especially Joy’s—miserable. Still, when Joy Hears a frightening whisper from Jessica's own mind, she knows she has to save her sister, even if it means deserting her friends, stealing a car and running away with a boy she barely knows—a boy who may have a dark secret of his own.

[from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pay It Forward Giveaway Winners!

Do you want to know who won some of these:
and some of these?

Of course! The Pay It Forward giveaway came to a[n extremely] successful end last night. You guys really rocked getting the word out!

Out of 62 entrants and a total of 189 entries, here are the 3 winners.
  1. Madeleine Rex, whose top picks were Hush, Hush and Rules of Attraction
  2. Lulilut, who gets Fever Crumb and Truly, Madly:  A Novel
  3. AND E.J. Stevens, who gets Day of The Assassins and A Match Made in High School
Congratulations, guys! I've emailed you, and you have 48 hours to respond.

If you didn't win any ARCs (or, actually, even if you did...), don't forget about the giveaway of The Pack that's currently going on here in the Box. It's international!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Giveaway of The Pack by LM Preston [CLOSED]

You read the review and you pored over the author post...are you ready to to get your hands on a copy of The Pack?


That's what I thought. :-)

Phenomenal One Press is offering up a prize pack with a copy of The Pack and a poster and a magnet AND an ARC of Bandits, which doesn't come out until 2011. How cool is that?! I wish I could enter myself...

Keeping up with these giveaways (Pay It Forward ends tonight!) is making me go a little crazy, and I think I *might* even be persuaded to give up my own copy to a 2nd lucky winner if we hit, say, 225 followers.

What? I'm not above bribery...

Rules in a Box:

  1. You do NOT have to be a follower, but I'd love to have you around, of course! :-)
  2. You must be 13 or older to enter.
  3. UPDATED:  The prize pack is international!!! The 2nd book will be US only since I'll be handling shipping.
  4. Ends at 11:59 pm CDT June 27th, 2010.
  5. Winners will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond.
  6. Entries will only be accepted using the FORM, and you MUST include your email address so I can contact you. No email = no books.
  7. Winner will be chosen using a spreadsheet random number generator. 
I reserve the right to amend the rules as needed. (Hopefully this won't happen, but just in case...)

Extra points in a Box:

  1. +1 for being a follower
  2. +1 for tweeting/facebooking/blogging/linking anywhere else. Leave a link or it doesn't count. (You only get points for one link, but you're free to do more!)
If you can't see the form below, you can find it here.

Guest Post by LM Preston: Girl vs. Boy

I was lucky enough to get a chance to review The Pack by LM Preston, and she graciously offered to guest post here at Bookish in a Box! AND since so many of my readers are writers, she's giving us the scoop on how she writes such engaging characters. (Don't forget to check back later today for a giveaway of The Pack!)

GIRL VS BOY: WHAT’s EASIER TO WRITE

Well, if you didn’t know it, I’m a female writer of young adult novels. My debut novel, Explorer X – Alpha’s main character was a male. A boy named Aadi that was fourteen years old is a stretch from a grown female writer that created him. For me though, writing a male was much more exciting than writing a female. My up coming book The Pack has a female, blind vigilante as the main character. Shamira was a lot harder for me to write than Aadi, simply because I take being female for granted.

Many authors I’ve met write female main characters, because they feel as though their understanding of the male psyche is vague. Also, they think that girls are the larger reading audience and that it’s a lot easier to sale a book written with females in mind than males. I personally disagree. As a girl, I liked reading books from a boy’s point of view. I felt that it allowed me to delve further into boy’s thoughts, and enjoyed reading about both sexes.

As a writer, writing something totally different than I am everyday is like living out an adventure of my own making. Picture a writer as an actor, playing a part out in their head as they write. In order to feel comfortable writing a character – you have to study people that fit that character’s profile.

CHALLENGES WHEN WRITING A MALE

Although my initial inclination is to write as a male, I still have tons of challenges trying to portray male characters correctly. Since my career as an engineer is a male dominated profession, it’s been a great source of subject matter to use when writing.

Male character’s experience emotion, they just show it in different ways than females. Not to mention their dialogue is different from most females. Those subtle differences a writer has to take the time to notice. Society has certain expectations and rules for males and writing as a male should fit those boundaries – otherwise, the reader will notice.

Aadi was easy for me to write, because I have a son that’s the same age as my main character. My kid somewhat fits Aadi’s character profile because he’s a jock and a good student. Most writers pull their character profiles from someone they know, researched, or imagined.

When I write in boy, it’s like I’m acting out that character’s adventure and it becomes my own. Writing Aadi was exciting to for so many reasons. I was able to shed my daily makeup as a girl, and for the months it took me to write him – I was able to be young again, strong, and powerful. Not just young, but be a boy.

CHALLENGES WITH WRITING A GIRL

Writing a female main character allows me to express deeper emotions, to be what I am everyday – a girl. You know what? For me, it’s difficult, because writing as a boy I get to imagine a totally different persona. I’m a girl, and being a girl in my writing isn’t quite so exciting. So I cheat, I make her into a tough girl.

My main character in The Pack, Shamira, was especially challenging to write. I had to make it fun, because if my characters aren’t interesting, it’s hard for me to write them. So, I gave her it all - cool girly clothes, a motorcycle named Pearl, and a to die for hottie on her tracks. She’s a girl – but she kicks major booty and is somewhat cocky. I gave her outer appearance a feminine softness. However, she’s a trained fighter that carries herself with the sureness of a male that can protect himself.

PULLING IT TOGETHER

All of my books are composed of a strong array of male and female characters. I love to write with multiple lead characters. Why? Because when I was a kid, I loved to have friends around. Also, it allows me to write characters that are both male and female yet bonded together in friendship.

By: LM Preston, author of Explorer X – Alpha and The Pack 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wannabe Writers #20

Wannabe Writers is a meme created by Sarah of Confessions of the Un-published!

One of my goals right now is to move my literary ambitions out of the box and onto the shelf, by which I mean that I no longer want to ignore  how   much I enjoy writing. I love the idea of this meme, and I'll quote from Sarah's post here:

I often find myself searching the web for information during my struggles as a new writer.   So I wanted to start a place where us future young-adult authors can come together to  ask those questions, share our stories, and get feedback.

I'm going to be out for the day, but I will read your lovely comments and get back to y'all on your blogs ASAP Monday. :-)

Where I am in the writing process:  I'm in the middle of Novel #2, trying to figure out where it wants to go. It's more of a creative issue than actual writer's block.

My current problems:  None. I'm good. :-)

Question(s) this week:  This week's question was given to me by my blogger-friend Swimmer.  She asked about writer jealousy.  Anybody else currently experiencing it?  (I know I am.)  How do you deal with it?

My level-headed answer is that I use that jealousy to drive me to perfect my own work and use someone else's success as an example that, yes, people like me can be published authors!

On a more emotional level, I'm just...wistful. Jealousy isn't really my thing, but in my wistfulness, I would be tempted to just give up. I allow myself to wallow in self-pity for a minute or two and then stand up, dust myself off and focus on being the best I can.

Sci-Fi Sunday: Review of The Pack

Check in tomorrow for an author guest post by LM Preston and a giveaway of The Pack!

Shamira is considered an outcast by most, but little do they know that Shamira is on a mission. Kids on Mars are disappearing, but Shamira decides to use the criminals most unlikely weapons against them, the very kids of which they have captured. In order to succeed, she is forced to trust another, something she is afraid to do. However, Valens her connection to the underworld of her enemy, proves to be a useful ally. Time is slipping, and so is her control on the power that resides within her. Yet, in order to save her brother's life she is willing to risk it all.
[from Goodreads]
 



Rating:   3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Younger teens, Martian maniacs
High point:  Shamira
Low point:  The writing style
Reader maturity:  10+

In The Pack, Earthling expat Shamira faces down her worst nightmares without the support of her family. She meets Valens, a teenage warrior like herself, who convinces her to let down her guard and help him lead a motley crew to find the missing children of Mars.

Honestly, The Pack by L. M. Preston wasn't exactly what I expected...but it was pretty awesome. It's geared toward an older MG or younger YA crowd with a simplistic and realistically repetitive writing style. (Repetitive usually means boring, but this type of repetition is more representative of how people really think--they don't usually pull 3 different words out of the air that mean "creep." They just say "creep" 3 times.)

Shamira was a great main character--strong, admirable and hardcore. I was disappointed that she regained her sight so early in the novel, but I loved that she wouldn't let the doctors change her eye color. She was 100% comfortable with herself. On a day to day basis, she struggled to maintain that attitude, but she never gave in to whining or complaining. She used her "disability" as an asset, even after she regained her sight.

The Pack had a great cast of characters. Valens, Mitch and Manny all caught my attention time and again. Usually, in a serious, action-flick type novel, there's no room for fun and games, but Ms. Preston caught the essence of youth with certain scenes where the talented teens let loose and have a little fun. Oftentimes in books, teens step up to the plate and act like completely mature adults, but I don't think that's how teenagers would really act in such a situation. The game time was a refreshing addition and showed how the characters became friends so quickly without the situation feeling forced.

It took me a while to get used to the repetitive writing style. At first, I thought it was an error, but it actually set the futuristic life on Mars apart from "real life," both with the descriptions and the dialogue. I also wasn't expecting this to be aimed for a slightly younger audience, but once I realized that, it wasn't an issue. There is some swearing (not too frequent, mostly at the end of the book and comprised of less offensive words) so I would recommend this to its target audience with a light warning. The Pack would be great for male or female readers, especially those that are a little old for MG but maybe aren't ready for YA just yet. It's a great sci-fi adventure with a great lesson, exhibited in a fun and understandable way.

Title:  The Pack
Author:  LM Preston
Genre:  Teen Fiction -- Romance & Friendship
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Received from publisher for review

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Supernatural Saturday: Review of A Certain Slant of Light

After benignly haunting a series of people for 130 years, Helen meets a teenage boy who can see her and together they unlock the mysteries of their pasts.
[from Goodreads]
 














Rating:   2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Ghost (story) hunters
High point:  The Quick
Low point:  Helen as a modern teen
Reader maturity:  15+

A Certain Slant of Light really surprised me. I was expecting something along the lines of Wait Till Helen Comes or Time For Andrew, except in YA form. What I got was...well, not what I expected.

I enjoyed the novel but didn't connect with it on any level other than entertainment. Helen, the main character and a ghost, is of unknown age (but very old), living the life of a teenager. So many things about her life as the teenager didn't jive with her speech and the purported morality of her ancient self. Helen's devotion to the human (males) she attached herself to also made me squirm a little at her single-minded intensity. The love interest, on the other hand, was a believable portrayal of a long-dead ghost in a new body;  he made a lot of mistakes but didn't exhibit the stilted behavior of Helen.

The idea behind A Certain Slant of Light is brilliant--the interaction between the Quick (the ghosts) and the Living was, pardon the pun, otherworldly, but I was more interested in discovering the secrets of the Quick (especially Helen's secret--which she doesn't know herself) than finding a way for Helen and her fellow ghost to be together. Though only mildly impressed by A Certain Slant of Light, Laura Whitcomb has a strong writing style and a great hand for painting pictures with words. I look forward to reading more from her.

Title:  A Certain Slant of Light
Author:  Laura Whitcomb
Genre:  Teen Fiction -- Romance & Friendship
Year:   2005
Book Source:  Purchased

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Blogger Hop 6/11

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Crazy for Books so that readers and bloggers can get to know each other a little better.
In Jennifer's words:
This is a weekly event where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read.  It's a great way to network with other bloggers and make new friends!  Every day I seem to find another book blog that I start following. In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blogger Hop to give us all bookies a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!
So head over to the Blog Hop and have some fun! Thanks for stopping by!

**Don't forget to check out the Pay It Forward giveaway that's going on here in the Box! Happy hopping!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review of A Countess Below Stairs

After the Russian revolution turns her world topsy-turvy, Anna, a young Russian countess, has no choice but to flee to England. Penniless, Anna hides her aristocratic background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination. Desperate to keep her past a secret, Anna is nearly overwhelmed by her new duties—not to mention her instant attraction to Rupert, the handsome Earl of Westerholme. To make matters worse, Rupert appears to be falling for her as well. As their attraction grows stronger, Anna finds it more and more difficult to keep her most dearly held secrets from unraveling. And then there’s the small matter of Rupert’s beautiful and nasty fiancée...
[from Goodreads]
 
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Teens, clean romance readers
High point: The fairytale
Low point: Rupert
Reader maturity: 13+

A Countess Below Stairs is a dreamy love story about a deposed Russian countess who takes a job as a maid in the household of an English aristocrat. He, of course, falls for her, but there are many obstacles and misunderstandings to be had on the journey.

Love stories like this are predictable;  they've been told before, many times, but when a certain author gets hold of one and manages to package it as something fresh and delightful, it can be a lot of fun. That's what Eva Ibbotson did with A Countess Below Stairs. I knew, of course, how things would turn out, but I found myself reading as fast as possible or skipping ahead a few pages, just to make sure I was right.

Like Ibbotson's other works, A Countess Below Stairs has a fairytale quality, from the storyline to the eternally good main character, but it's never sappy or overdone. It's like spending time in a good dream.

Anna, the Russian countess, made me laugh with her intent on curtsying to everyone and her eagerness to please. Rupert, the Earl of Westerholme, was a bit of a nobody until 2/3 of the way through the novel when I discovered he was, in fact, born with a backbone. And, as expected, Rupert's fiancee is an absolute (and comedic) nightmare. To add to the circus, there are a lot of stunned servants and one crazy fake doctor to keep things interesting.

If you enjoy historical novels but prefer them with a contemporary twist (the main character is fairly progressive in terms of her employment and rank), then I highly recommend A Countess Below Stairs. It was a lot of fun to read, and I immediately went on to the next Eva Ibbotson book I own.

Title:  A Countess Below Stairs
Author:  Eva Ibbotson
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Romance & Friendship
Year:   1981
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: Seers of Light

Lillian Hunt has never truly lived. Always sensing more to the world than is easily perceived, she fears that her instincts are stubborn flights of fancy, or worse, mental instability. But some things—disappearing strangers, tangible dreams, and visits from malevolent creatures—cannot be ignored. Before it's too late, Lillian is ripped from the only existence she’s ever known and thrust into a reality that she always suspected, but could scarcely believe. She must learn the truth about who she is, the powerful beings that wish to destroy her, and the two men who would die to protect her.
[from Goodreads]



This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review of Rules of Attraction

When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn’t want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado . Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn’t talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now.
[from Goodreads]
 



Rating:   3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Older teens, YA-romance-reading adults
High point:  Carlos
Low point:  The swearing, the adult content
Reader maturity:  18+

Several readers have mentioned that Rules of Attraction pales in comparison to Perfect Chemistry. As I've never read Perfect Chemistry, I don't have that to compare it too. I can say for sure that Rules of Attraction stood well on its own;  everything I needed to know about Alex and Brittany in order to follow Carlos' and Kiara's story was explained.

Carlos' bad attitude bleeds through the pages, immersing me into a world of gangs and turf wars--not so much that it was scary but enough that it took me out of my reading comfort zone. He appears to the reader as a true tool, the same impression he gives Kiara, but as she comes to understand that he's not the jerk he appears to be, the reader does too. Kiara is also enjoyable as a main character. She has "ugly duckling" syndrome, which usually drives me crazy, but her choices to change--or stick up for herself--are always validated.

Though I enjoyed the opposites-attract romance in Rules of Attraction, it felt a little rushed, like the book needed a few more chapters for Kiara and Carlos to get to know each other. The quick pace makes the romance seem based more on physical attraction than emotional attraction, even though both characters have a lot to offer each other. In that vein, the book contains quite a bit of swearing in its venture for realism and also some intense scenes that are pretty explicit for a YA novel. 

Rules of Attraction is one of those books I'm sort of torn on. I liked it--the writing was good and the characterization was great--but the questionable content was so great in quantity and frequency that I don't feel comfortable recommending it.

Title:  Rules of Attraction
Author:  Simone Elkeles
Genre:  Teen Fiction -- Romance & Friendship
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Won from Pure Imagination

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Wannabe Writers #19

Wannabe Writers is a meme created by Sarah of Confessions of the Un-published!

One of my goals right now is to move my literary ambitions out of the box and onto the shelf, by which I mean that I no longer want to ignore  how   much I enjoy writing. I love the idea of this meme, and I'll quote from Sarah's post here:

I often find myself searching the web for information during my struggles as a new writer.   So I wanted to start a place where us future young-adult authors can come together to  ask those questions, share our stories, and get feedback.

I should be back on track as far as commenting is concerned this week. See y'all around!

Where I am in the writing process:  I didn't get to write as much last week as I wanted because I'm still moving in (which begs the question, how, in fiction, do the characters move into new houses in a matter of days?). BUT I wrote two paragraphs that completely changed the outcome of Novel #2. It isn't where I wanted (or, truthfully, want) to go, but I can't argue with the muse. 

Really, though, I should be grateful because part of the reason I was having trouble writing was that I didn't know where I was going with the novel, even though I thought I did. (I didn't realize this; I thought it was all a time/energy issue.) It turns out that I was on the right track, but I needed to change one thing and now everything's falling into place.

My current problems:  None, really, now that I've got this plotting thing figured out and my schedule is falling into place. 

Question(s) this week:  Critique partners?  Anyone have a story on where they found a good one?  And ways to keep the relationship going?

I don't have any critique partners (but I do have a beta reader). That's something I'm really going to need, but I'm so scared to show my WIPs to someone that I don't know REALLY well. It takes a long time for me to build enough trust to show someone my writing. It's so personal. I need one though. Doing this by myself may be possible, but critique partners would make me feel so much more confident when/if I query. Feedback during the writing process (and not just after) would also be welcome.

As far as beta readers go, I have the best. :-) She's a great editor as far as technical issues are concerned, and she's also got eagle eyes for picking out inconsistencies and clarity issues. Her criticism is always constructive, and even when it's something serious, she's great about phrasing it so that it's never a personal attack and always leaves the ball in my court as far as further editing is concerned. My skin's not too thick, and she knows how to be helpful without being hurtful. Thanks, Joan!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday Afternoon Awards

I'm busy catching up on things here in the box, and while I was digging through my bookmark archive, I found these little gems. :-)

I received the prolific blogger award from Alexandra at Friends & Crocodiles.

Prolific Blogger Award


DetweilerMom at A Room Without Books is Empty passed on the Bodacious Blogging Book Reviewers Award. Cute!

Bodacious Reviewer Award

For this award, I must list the last five books that I have read.

The last five books I read are:

Firespell by Chloe Neill
The Agency by Y. S. Lee
Moonlight by Rachel Hawthorne
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
AND
Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles






 And last, but certainly not least, Wendy at The Minding Spot gave me the Versatile Blogger Award.

Versatile Blogger Award

When you receive this award, you must share seven things about yourself. (I'm going to rely heavily on Wendy for inspiration, here.)

1.  I LOVE chocolate milk. And diet Dr Pepper. But not together. (And notice, there is no "." after the "Dr" in Dr Pepper.)
 
2. I can wink with both eyes! That would be separately, for you smart alecks;  otherwise it'd be blinking! :-)
 
3. I love the smell of machine shops, body shops and workshops. Mmm...there's just something comforting to me about the smell of grease and metal. Is that weird?
 
4. My favorite [current] TV show is...Bones, followed closely by Supernatural. I also like(d) Lost and Chuck and consider myself lightly addicted to home design shows. (What?! It's research for settings in my novels. *cough*)
 
5. I have never bought ice cream from an ice cream truck. Actually, I can count the number of times on one hand that I've actually seen an ice cream truck. They're sorta rare around these parts, and I was always warned growing up that the ice cream man would try to kidnap me.
 
6.  I tan like crazy! I spent a year getting all nice and pale and finally got rid of (most of) my tan lines. It's not my best look (sort of vampiric with the dark hair and eyes), but at least I was (mostly) one color. Then I drove back and forth from my hometown to my new town twice (about an hour each way) and now I have a deep farmer's tan again, which means, of course, I must spend an afternoon (one! just one really!)baking the rest of the pale away and trying not to think about the sun damage, wrinkles and skin cancer I'm causing.
 
7. (Wendy:  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I'm in love with Dean Winchester of Supernatural) <--Well, I wouldn't go quite that far 'cause he's fictional, but Dean...is very nice to look upon. And he's definitely my favorite Winchester boy.
 
Thanks for thinking of me, y'all!

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Knife of Never Letting Go

Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he's going to have to run...

[from Goodreads]
 
Rating:   3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Light sci-fi and fantasy fans
High point:  The premise
Low point:  The teasers
Reader maturity:  13+

The Knife of Never Letting Go is unique, both in plot and execution. The mode of storytelling takes some getting used to. It's in first person, but since all the residents of Prentisstown give off Noise, the protagonist and reader hear a lot of what's going on around them.

The narrator's voice took some getting used to. Todd is a bit of a country bumpkin, and his slang comes through in the descriptions, not just the dialogue. The Knife of Never Letting Go took off slowly, dragging out the exposition and giving out frustrating hints along the way, but the end result was worth it. I wish there had been a few more specific teasers in the opening chapters because instead of being intrigued, I was confused. However, The Knife of Never Letting Go is still a very good read.

I'm usually not a fan of male protagonists, but Todd is engaging and interesting to listen in on. He's very self-aware, but he also comes to realize that he's not as in control of himself as he thinks. His new-found partner, Viola, was by far my favorite though. She's smart, resourceful and not afraid to put Todd in his place if need be. The two teens find a way to make their unlikely friendship work, teaching each other the skills they've been missing.

This is a great book for teen guys and girls alike. It has appeal to both genders and different age groups. There's some swearing sprinkled throughout the book, not enough to make it a turn-off but enough that younger readers should be wary.

Title:  The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author:  Patrick Ness
Genre:  Teen Fiction - Science Fiction
Year:   2008
Book Source:  Won from Presenting Lenore

Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Blogger Hop 6/4

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Crazy for Books so that readers and bloggers can get to know each other a little better.
In Jennifer's words:
This is a weekly event where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read.  It's a great way to network with other bloggers and make new friends!  Every day I seem to find another book blog that I start following. In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blogger Hop to give us all bookies a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!
So head over to the Blog Hop and have some fun! Thanks for stopping by!

**Don't forget to check out the Pay It Forward giveaway that's going on here in the Box! Happy hopping!

Review of Gathering Blue

In her strongest work to date, Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever.

As she did in The Giver, Lowry challenges readers to imagine what our world could become, how people could evolve, and what will be considered valuable. Every reader will be taken by Kira's plight and will long ponder her haunting world and the hope for the future.

[from Goodreads]
 
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  MG readers, fans of The Giver
High point:  The subtle descriptions
Low point:  Not as deep as its predecessor
Reader maturity:  8+

Gathering Blue is the companion novel to Lois Lowry's award-winning novel The Giver. Kyra's story occurs several years after Jonas' journey and, though it takes place in the same world, their experiences are vastly different.

Where Jonas' society is high tech and and theoretically progressive, Kyra's is backwards and cruel. Jonas' world purported to be technologically and more socially advanced than other cities, but both Jonas' and Kyra's towns lack ethics and compassion. Kyra is little more than a slave to her government, as Jonas was to his. As in The Giver, Ms. Lowry shows only bits and pieces of Kyra's world, allowing the reader to create a personal interpretation.

Lois Lowry explores societal evils through the eyes and mind of a young girl, alone in the world except for two misfit friends. Like The Giver, the answers to the problems are never announced; readers are left to mull over the details and motivations and decide for themselves.

Gathering Blue isn't as intricate or descriptive as The Giver, but it has its own place in MG literature. It's a great read for making people think about their actions and their place in the world.

Title:  Gathering Blue
Author:  Lois Lowry
Genre:  Teen Fiction
Year:  2000
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he's going to have to run...

[from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wannabe Writers #18

Wannabe Writers is a meme created by Sarah of Confessions of the Un-published!

One of my goals right now is to move my literary ambitions out of the box and onto the shelf, by which I mean that I no longer want to ignore  how   much I enjoy writing. I love the idea of this meme, and I'll quote from Sarah's post here:

I often find myself searching the web for information during my struggles as a new writer.   So I wanted to start a place where us future young-adult authors can come together to  ask those questions, share our stories, and get feedback.


Where I am in the writing process:  Woo! I actually wrote three sentences last week! It was weird; the first one took a loooong time to get down on virtual paper.

My current problems:  Energy. By the time I get everything else done for the day and have a clear head, I'm really, really tired. 

Also, all of my novels seem to turn paranormal or sci-fi. It's absolutely impossible for me to write contemporary, realistic fiction. I don't know what the deal is! It's okay, I guess, since I love my paranormal, but I thought it was really strange when a ghost popped into Novel #3 (completely uninvited).

Question(s) this week:  I don't have a question this week, but I still wanted to keep the Wannabe Writer's going. Does anyone have a question that we could use this week?

No questions, except...how do you guys do it? Finding time to write was hard enough before, but now that I'm working full time (plus some), I just don't seem to have enough left in me at the end of the day to put my ideas into concrete words. What's your secret?

Review of Hush, Hush

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her...until Patch comes along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

[from Goodreads]
 
Rating:   4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Teen girls, 20-somethings, YA paranormal romance readers
High point:  Nora (finally, a smart heroine!)
Low point:  The bad guy
Reader maturity:  13+

I absolutely loved this novel.

The writing was great, Nora is a very realistic teenager (and amazingly free of angst, considering her circumstances). Her best friend is "large" (i.e. still normal-sized) but isn't loud or depressing or any of the other stereotypical descriptions that plus-size sidekicks tend to be handed.

And Patch? I liked Patch. I knew guys like Patch. They were mean and prickly, and every once in a while, I'd catch a glimpse of their vulnerability, just like the reader does with him. He has a softer side underneath his bravado, and it makes for great tension between Nora and Patch. His motivations are revealed throughout the novel, and try as I might, I wasn't able to make myself mad at him, just as Nora wasn't.

There are a lot of mysteries for the reader to piece together throughout Hush, Hush. Though there's a tendency for this technique to backfire, Becca Fitzpatrick does a terrific job of using this device to pull the reader closer to the characters and the plot.

My reading copy is an ARC that included the new ending. Personally, I like the old one best, leaving the closing more mysterious and open to the imagination. However, a few extra paragraphs aren't reason to discount the novel, especially after such a good emotional ride. Hush, Hush is a compelling story that will draw you in and leave you wondering what happens next. 

[SPOILERS and OPINIONS] I read a post somewhere (sorry, I can't remember who wrote it) about how Hush, Hush is a perfect example of the things that are wrong with YA today--in this case, sexual harassment--but I beg to differ. The blogger argued that no one listened to Nora when she came to them with a serious claim about how uncomfortable Patch made her feel, and she was ignored when she brought up stalking accusations.

Before I begin, let me just say:  Nora's coach should have listened to her. If she was feeling uncomfortable, it is his job to protect her. His dismissals are inexcusable.

That being said, in my opinion, Nora's reason for talking to the coach (and wanting to change seats) was motivated by her desire to be partners with her best friend, not because of Patch's advances. She was more bothered by the fact that he was being difficult (by not doing his share of the work) than anything else. Also, she never took her claims to anyone other than the coach, like another teacher, her counselor or her mom. She also purposefully sought Patch out several times away from school. That says to me that, in her eyes, Patch wasn't truly harassing her. I believe that if she really felt uncomfortable or in danger, her character would've gone elsewhere for help; she wasn't the type to be cowed. (Just as a side note:  if someone ever makes you feel uncomfortable, seek help! They're not going to turn out to be your soulmate.)

As for Vee's non-reaction to Nora's suggestion of stalking, it wasn't that she thought Nora was exaggerating;  she thought she was being silly and dramatic. Again, Nora didn't go to anyone else with these theories. Nora never--not once--told her mom or the housekeeper that she thought something was wrong. While some of the characters should have had a completely different reaction to Nora's statements, it's unfair to say that the novel promotes a poor attitude against women.
[END SPOILER]

Title:  Hush, Hush
Author:  Becca Fitzpatrick
Genre:  Teen Fiction--Horror & Suspense
Year:   2009
Book Source:  Won from My Ever Expanding Library