Bout of Books 2.0

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's here! Bout of Books 2.0 is going on all week over at On a Book Bender and I'm going to try to actually follow through this time. I completed a short read-a-thon over the weekend that ended in an epic fail when I spent Sunday buying things and then having to update all of my technology through lengthy upgrade downloads, but that's a story for another time.

I'll be updating all week on this post. Here are my goals for the week:

1) Read at least three books start to finish.
2) Read at least one review request book.
3) Read at least one library book.

I hope to get more than that, but we'll start conservatively since my weekend is mostly taken with Halloween activities.

I'm copying Amanda's format for updates, but I'm changing it to tracking page count and not book count since I won't be reading that many whole books.

Number of pages I’ve read today:
Total number of pages I’ve read: 299
Today #insixwords: First one down, two to go.
Books: When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen; The Devil Colony by James Rollins

Number of pages I’ve read today:
19% on Kindle; roughly 60 pages
Total number of pages I’ve read: 359 or so; more to come
Today #insixwords: I'm not sure about this book.
Books: Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

Number of pages I’ve read today:
40% on Kindle, roughly 128 pages; 20 or so pages from library book
Total number of pages I’ve read: 508 pages
Today #insixwords: Had to DNF a boring book.
Books: Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett; The Devil Colony by James Rollins

Number of pages I’ve read today:
On Kindle, roughly 100 pages
Total number of pages I’ve read: 600 pages or so
Today #insixwords: My love of steampunk reinforced.
Books: The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong; Soulless by Gail Carriger

Number of pages I’ve read today:
90 pages
Total number of pages I’ve read: 700 pages or so
Today #insixwords: Why is this book taking forever?
Books: The Devil Colony by James Rollins

Number of pages I’ve read today:
Total number of pages I’ve read: 700 pages or so
Today #insixwords: Too many plans, none for books.
Books: N/A

Number of pages I’ve read today:

Total number of pages I’ve read:
Today #insixwords:

In My Mailbox (14)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme devoted to sharing the new books we've received, borrowed, or bought. For more information, visit IMM's fantastic host, The Story Siren. You can visit other blogs that are participating in this week’s IMM here.

I got an awesome haul of books through the library, gifted, or on sale this week. This is the frugal edition of IMM!

The Iron Duke (Iron Seas #1) by Meljean Brook
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
Deception (Haunting Emma #1) by Lee Nichols
First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel by Karen S. Wiesner

Received for ARC tour:
When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen from Around the World Tours

I make a habit of checking Amazon's Bargain Books every few weeks to see if anything good pops up, and this week I jumped on sale prices for The Iron Duke, Prophecy of the Sisters, and Deception. I've wanted to read all of them for a long time, so I'm glad I got them on the cheap. :) Dearly, Departed was a pre-order that arrived on Tuesday (happy release day to Lia Habel!), and the two writing books are for outline help pre-NaNoWriMo. I had a coupon for Writer's Digest Shop, so hooray for discounts!

Borrowed from the library:
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa M. Klein
The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon and Hoang Nguyen
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Graphic novels borrowed from the library:
Criminal Vol. 1: Coward, Vol. 2: Lawless, and Vol. 3: The Dead and the Dying by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Fables: Legends in Exile (Vol. 1) and Fables: Animal Farm (Vol. 2) by Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, Mark Buckingham
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned and Vol. 2: Cycles by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, José Marzán Jr.

I'm trying to make better use of my library, considering it is so close to my house. They have a well-stocked young adult section for a small branch, and this week I stumbled upon an excellent stash of graphic novels that included some titles I've been DYING to read but wasn't sure I wanted to buy. I've been getting a bit crazycakes with buying comics, so I'm happy that I can get a lot of great titles from my local library instead of spending money on them.

Fall Book Exchange:
Grave Witch (Alex Craft #1) by Kalayna Price
Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville #1) by Carrie Vaughn

I participated in the Fall Book Exchange hosted by Ruby's Reads and I received these two ebooks gifted through Amazon from my Santa: Mickey at imabookshark! I told her to surprise me from my wish list and I was so happy to receive these titles as I've been meaning to read them both for a reeeeeeally long time. And just in time for next week's Bout of Books Read-a-thon!

A huge, mega, universe-sized thank you to Mickey for these books and to Ruby for hosting the exchange!

That's it for now. What books did you get recently?

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: November 15, 2011
Source: ARC received from Around the World Tours
Series: Shatter Me #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war - and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel — with a paranormal twist — that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

First impressions: Juliette is a beautiful character. From the beginning, we are alone in her thoughts, as she whiles away her time in isolation. Her touch kills people, and for the last 264 days she has been alone in a wreck of a psychiatric hospital/jail with only a window and a notebook to pass the time. I fell in love with this sweet girl who dreamed of birds in flight and wished for a taste of fresh air.

Lasting impressions: Never has a title of a book been more appropriate. The writing and the characters and the world all made me want to shatter into pieces. Though the ending of the story went a different direction than I anticipated, it was not unwelcome. I'm excited to see where the next chapter in Juliette's life takes us.

Conflicting impressions: At times the stylistic prose pulled me out of the story. How many ways can Juliette describe falling to pieces? A lot. I also wish that we'd gotten more of the history of her world in order to understand Warner's motives as the villain. He kidnaps Juliette for his own purposes, but we don't really know what those are because Juliette is so in the dark about the world outside her cell. I felt like I was flying blind a lot of the time.

Overall impressions: Despite the aforementioned flaws, and a perhaps tired plot that feels like a re-tread of the X-Men, I still absolutely loved this book. Tahereh Mafi fills her plot with such incredible characters that I couldn't help but be captivated by all of them.

Juliette is one of the most sympathetic characters I can remember reading recently. She has been neglected by her parents and forced to avoid human contact for her entire life. My God! I would die! Yet she has remained kind, thoughtful, and perhaps most surprising, sane. She never gives up, and I admired that about her.

Adam is a bit of an enigma. He starts off almost cruel toward Juliette, but later reveals himself as a Peeta-like admirer from afar. Working for the enemy, it takes a while for Juliette to fully trust him, but he is so pure of heart and full of love that he ultimately wins her, and the reader, over.

Warner is a great antagonist. We may not be sure of his motives, but we know he wants to have Juliette as a pawn in his war against The Reestablishment's enemies. He will do anything to achieve this goal, and forces her to do some pretty awful things along the way. For such a smart and sadistic guy, however, he seemed awfully gullible when it came to Juliette's feelings.

This is an interesting paranormal crossed with a dystopian setting that never failed to keep my interest. Powerful characters are all seeking to find their destiny, and the new direction Juliette's life takes at the end of the novel will have profound consequences for the next book. I'll definitely be looking forward to the sequel as one of my most anticipated books of 2012.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Top Ten Tuesday (2)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I love lists, so I'm excited to dip my toes in the listy fun that is Top Ten Tuesday. This meme is run by The Broke and the Bookish and each week they post a new list for us to complete and share.

Just post your own list, link back to The Broke and the Bookish, and add your link to the linky tool to participate!

Top Ten Books Whose Titles Or Covers Made Me Buy It:

For me, it's all about covers. I rely on covers to communicate the tone, theme, or genre of a novel. If it grabs my eye and tells me it's exactly what I'm looking for at that moment, then I'm going to read it. Bonus points if it's purty. These are 10 books that got me interested because their covers promised a story or tone I was going to love.

1. Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel.

2. Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon.

3. Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan.

4. The Espressologist by Kristina Springer.

5. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.

6. Huntress by Malinda Lo.

7. The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell.

8. The Dark Divine by Bree Despain.

9. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.

10. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.

What books have you read based on covers or titles?

Comic Book Review: American Vampire Volumes 1 & 2

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book: American Vampire Volume 1
Author: Story by Scott Snyder and Stephen King
Publisher: Vertigo
Release date: October 5, 2010
Source: Bought from Graham Crackers Comics

Summary: (from Goodreads) From writers Scott Snyder and Stephen King, AMERICAN VAMPIRE introduces a new strain of vampire – a more vicious species – and traces the creatures' bloodline through decades of American history.

This first hardcover volume of the critically acclaimed series collects issues #1-5 and follows two stories: one written by Snyder and one written by King, both with art by future superstar Rafael Albuquerque. Snyder's tale follows Pearl, a young woman living in 1920s Los Angeles, who is brutally turned into a vampire and sets out on a path of righteous revenge against the European monsters who tortured and abused her. And in King's story set in the days of America's Wild West, readers learn the origin of Skinner Sweet, the original American vampire – a stronger, faster creature than any vampire ever seen before.

Don't miss out as Snyder and King set fire to the horror genre with this visionary, all-original take on one of the most popular monster stories!
This beautiful collection features a new introduction by Stephen King and bonus art including character sketches, variant covers and more!

Book: American Vampire Volume 2
Author: Story by Scott Snyder
Publisher: Vertigo
Release date: May 31, 2011
Source: Bought from Graham Crackers Comics

Summary: (from Goodreads) While trafficking in a bestselling sub-genre, AMERICAN VAMPIRE introduces a new strain of vampire — a more muscular and vicious species, born of the American West.

It’s Las Vegas circa 1935, and Skinner Sweet and our gal Pearl are about to learn the hard way that the bloodsuckers in Hollywood were nothing compared to what awaits them in Sin City.

In just a few short years, young police Chief Cash McCogan has watched his native city of Las Vegas go from cow-town to wild, glittering boomtown. And when the bodies of prominent businessmen start showing up drained of blood, Chief McCogan finds himself facing a threat much darker and deadlier than anything he could have imagined . . . and the only sure bet in town is that Skinner and Pearl are right in the thick of it.

Features issues 6-11.

First impressions: Scott Snyder and Stephen King did not set out to make a sparkly vampire tale. This is dark, scary, disturbing, and violent. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down.

Lasting impressions: This has become my most anticipated monthly comic. Skinner Sweet is deliciously evil, and reading his progress from being turned in the Old West, to taking over a Vegas brothel in the '30s, to battling vampire genocide in WWII is terrifying and compelling.

Conflicting impressions: Multiple readings make this one a bit easier to follow. The history of vampires is somewhat re-created here, and the large amount of information and competing story lines can get confusing.

Overall impressions: American Vampire is a monthly comic, currently on issue 19, supplemented by a 5 issue miniseries, American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest. It follows Skinner Sweet, the first American vampire, and the vampire he creates, Pearl.

Stephen King jumped on board with this comic to tell Skinner's backstory. Through the first 5 issues, he trades panels with series creator Scott Snyder, interspersing Skinner's origin as a new strain of vampire born in the Wild West with his present saving/turning young actress Pearl in the 1920s. The back-and-forth in time works well for the most part, as I enjoyed seeing how Skinner became a vampire, but it also seemed to read like two different stories that didn't need to be told simultaneously.

Pearl is an interesting character who goes through the most significant changes across the arcs of these volumes. Though Skinner saves her from a gruesome death by turning her, he does little to help her navigate her new life as a vampire. Determined to not turn out as sadistic as Skinner, she allows herself to fall in love with jazz singer Henry, though they are often on the run from the Vassals of the Morning Star (VMS), a group determined to kill vampires.

Volume 2 fast forwards through time to the 1930s, where we meet Cash McCogan, Las Vegas police chief, investigating a string of murders that make him cross paths with the VMS and vampires. Cash and the VMS are the subject of the spin-off miniseries, which puts them in contact with Nazi vampires out to purify the vampire race.

This series is beautifully illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, who manages to deliver creepy and grotesque content without the images themselves becoming overly graphic. The vampires are drawn to achieve the effect the writers wanted - scary, not seductive. These vampires are more monsters than they are humans, and the cruelty of Skinner Sweet is a constant reminder that these vampires are not exactly woeful about the loss of their humanity. Although Pearl is more human than the rest of them, she can still attack with little regard for the pain she causes, particularly when she or Henry is threatened.

The unique history of vampires and the setting in varied important periods in American history make this a joy to read. This is pure horror at its best, with twists and turns full of scary things ready to jump out and spoil the party. Skinner Sweet is one of my favorite fictional characters right now, because despite his nasty and cruel ways, he is still lashing out at a monster he never wanted to become. Sure, he's a bad guy, and was long before he even became a vampire, but he's unpredictable and clearly has a soft spot for Pearl. I can't wait to see where his story takes us next.

I highly recommend this series to all horror, vampire, and Stephen King fans.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

TGIF at GReads! (15) & Weekly Recap

Friday, October 14, 2011

This Friday blog hop is run by Ginger at GReads! (who also created this beautiful button). Each week she posts a new question for us to ponder. Click the button to join in!

This week's question is:

Show & Tell: Where do you grab a book and get lost in it? Show us your favorite spot you like to read at.

Photo credit: Carolyn Surh/MEDILL

As weird as it may seem, I actually love reading on the train. My commute is one of the few times during my day that I can spend time alone and uninterrupted. I find it much harder to concentrate on my reading when I'm at home with the husband and the dog. Plus, the train noise and rocking is kind of soothing.

My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out. Also, have I mentioned how much I love Cool Text? They're the folks that allow me to make these cool (and simple) text buttons - for FREE!

If you're a first time visitor, or just didn't get the chance to stop by this week, here's what you missed:

LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins
4/5 stars

13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES by Maureen Johnson
3/5 stars
Vacation Reading Challenge

Trailer Tuesday - Anonymous
Writing Wednesday - The Struggle to Revise

Enjoy your weekend everybody!

Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release date: August 23, 2005
Source: Free ebook purchased from Amazon

Summary: (from Goodreads) When Ginny receives thirteen little blue envelopes and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London, she knows something exciting is going to happen. What Ginny doesn't know is that she will have the adventure of her life and it will change her in more ways than one. Life and love are waiting for her across the Atlantic, and the thirteen little blue envelopes are the key to finding them in this funny, romantic, heartbreaking novel.

First impressions: I love a book that wastes no time jumping into the action, and this one definitely falls into that category. It opens with the first letter to Ginny from her Aunt Peg, explaining the journey that's going to take up the bulk of the rest of the book.

Lasting impressions: The travel aspects were a lot of fun to read, but I found it kind of unbelievable at times.

Conflicting impressions: For a high school student practically alone on her trek across Europe, Ginny seemed remarkably at ease. I kept waiting for her to experience some crippling self-doubt or break down and rip open the rest of the envelopes like any normal person would do, but instead she kind of wandered aimlessly at times and never seemed to get overwhelmed by this immense task.

Overall impressions: Every book requires some suspension of disbelief, but this one seemed to require it in massive doses. First, as other reviewers have mentioned before me, I find it hard to believe that Ginny is allowed to up and go to Europe. She has very few resources and is instructed (through her dead aunt's letters) to bring no helpful guidebooks or other sources of money.

Now I get that her kooky, free-spirited aunt wanted her to go on a journey of self-discovery, and that her parents probably felt she'd be fine because said kooky aunt probably wouldn't do anything to get her injured/maimed/killed, but...REALLY? There is no way my parents would have allowed that.

Maybe because I am an awful person, or maybe because I am sane, I also find it hard to believe that Ginny wouldn't have opened all the letters, or even just the first few. The temptation would be so hard to resist! Sure, she wants to experience this journey of Aunt Peg's but I certainly would not have had that kind of trust in my aunt.

But this is Ginny's story, not mine. It doesn't matter what I would do, because it's about what Ginny would do, and Ginny chose to follow her aunt's instructions on a wild goose chase around Europe. As she accomplishes tasks similar to those her aunt completed while spending her last few months alive, Ginny meets some interesting new friends and relatives, gets herself into some pretty ridiculous scenarios, and learns quite a bit about her aunt and herself along the way.

It's a charming idea that Johnson developed well, and it was fun to get little glimpses of various European towns as Ginny makes her way to and from them. Still, some of the action dragged a bit at times, and the breakneck pace meant we were often flying off to someplace new before we'd had much of a chance to breathe and get to know where we had just been. I think 13 was a lot of envelopes to try and get through, and perhaps focusing on a smaller number would have allowed us to get to know Ginny a bit more and have her accomplish some tasks more in-depth.

This is a fun travel tale that I think younger teens would gobble up, but for the rest of us world-weary and cynical types it was sometimes too much to swallow.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Writing Wednesday - The Struggle to Revise

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Writing Wednesday 2 

As mid-October rapidly approaches, I am starting to get inundated with reminders about the upcoming National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Message boards are lighting up with new posts, my writing studio is advertising prep classes to generate ideas, and Twitter is full of folks practicing their daily word counts.

I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time last year and made it - barely. I finished with a pitiful draft of a half-cocked idea and perhaps only a handful of scenes that would actually work. When I faced the prospect of trying to revise this messy, disorganized pile of words, I got so overwhelmed that I simply turned my back on it and started to write something else.

Once again, I got stuck with nowhere to take my plot and only a vague concept of where I wanted this story to go. But never fear! To the rescue is the month of November, swooping in to occupy my mind on a new story, new characters, and no fear of revisions!

It's an escape tactic, you see. I always struggle with revisions. Despite an entire shelf of helpful writing books and tools, many pages of helpful critique notes, and a laptop loaded with the handy Scrivener program to help me sift through the story without getting lost, I can't ever manage to get over my fear of revising.

What if I start making changes and the entire thing shifts into something new? What if I start making changes and I hate the whole project? What if I lose the essence of the characters?

The issue is staring me directly in the face. I need to focus on the heart of my story and not drown myself in self-doubt. I often think of the arts as an exercise in false confidence. When I was a theater student, sometimes to get over your fears you had to "fake it 'til you make it" so to speak. If I allowed my doubts to get the best of me, I'd never succeed, and sometimes I just had to take a leap of faith and trust that I had the goods to get it done.

In the fall of my senior year in college, I took on the role of Puck in our production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. As most people know, Puck closes the show with a monologue delivered to the audience. It's a beautiful speech, and an endearing moment between the audience and the character. It's also a very important and powerful moment, which was not lost on me.

Despite months of rehearsals, weeks of performances, and thousands of recitations, every night I turned to my castmate, Zack, and asked him how the speech started. It didn't matter how many times I'd done the speech myself. I knew Zack knew the speech, and as we huddled in the dark backstage, waiting to go out for the final scene, I could never think of the first few words. "If we shadows have offended," he'd whisper, and I'd nod and start mumbling under my breath, "if we shadows have offended if we shadows have offended," right up to the moment I took a step onstage.

It wasn't that I didn't know the speech. I did. Backwards and forwards. But as the exhaustion of the production started to set in, and I waited in the wings for my entrance, the weight of the delivery of that speech started to bear down on me. I would get so worked up about the magnitude of the task that I forgot that I actually had the skills to bring it home. Until the moment I stepped on stage and had no choice but to get through it, the speech became greater than me and not the other way around.

This is how I feel when I write. As I'm entrenched in the task of getting the story down on the page, I'm ecstatic. It's when I have to step back and examine what I'm doing that I go from "let me get this cool idea down on paper" to "OHMIGOD I'm writing A WHOLE BOOK!" In order to try and combat this, I've tried just focusing on scenes, but that also doesn't seem to help. My next step is to try putting together an outline to keep me aware that this is just many small parts that add up to one greater idea, and that it doesn't all have to be tackled at once.

Anyone else have this kind of revisers' block? How do you prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed?

Trailer Tuesday

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

There are very few things I geek out over more than Shakespeare, so imagine my barely containable glee when I saw this trailer for the first time this week:

I am rabidly chomping at my metaphorical bit to see this movie. Historical intrigue! Political bribery! And thousands of moments that are just begging for a good "You can't handle the truth!" to be blurted out. As if Elizabethan England and a plot revolving around Shakespeare weren't enough, I love that they're playing the plagiarism/ghost writer angle.

Did Shakespeare actually write his entire canon? I'm certain that a Hollywood production will not provide definitive answers, but it looks to be darn good entertainment at the very least.

Had you seen this trailer yet? What are your thoughts on the movie?

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Monday, October 10, 2011

Book: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release date: September 29, 2011
Source: ARC received for review from Around the World Tours
Series: Companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss
Summary: (from Goodreads) Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit - more sparkly, more fun, more wild - the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket - a gifted inventor - steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

First impressions: Lola is such a refreshingly unique character! Stephanie Perkins nails the teen voice yet again.

Lasting impressions: Though I didn't connect with this story as much as Perkins' first novel, Anna and the French Kiss, there were elements I liked much better in this tale.

Conflicting impressions: At times Lola was written so convincingly teenaged that she became unbearably frustrating.

Overall impressions: Lola is a girl with a love of costume. She chooses to express herself in vastly different ways every day through a variety of interesting fashion pieces and wigs. It's a chance to be someone new. I loved this quirk of hers - I suppose you could call it a personal philosophy - and it gave us an instant sense of who she is.

Lola has typical teenager problems. She's dating a boy her parents think is too old for her, leading to insufferable weekly brunches where they grill him about his life goals. He's in a band, has tattoos, and they are in love. Or at least they think they are.

Lola is the daughter of two gay parents, a nice touch that introduces a new dynamic in YA literature as far as relating to parents goes. Perkins does a lovely job of reinforcing the fact that gay parents are just like anyone else's parents - at times too restrictive, sometimes embarrassing, and always loving. The wrench in this relationship is that Lola's birth mother appears from time to time, always one step away from being homeless and never owning up to her poor choices due to drinking and drug abuse. While I loved the role of Lola's parents, I never felt the relationship with her mother was fully developed and I didn't get how it served the story.

Of course you're probably wondering who is this mysterious boy next door, right? Cricket, and his twin sister, Calliope, are Lola's next door neighbors who come and go due to Calliope's competitive figure skating. There is some history between Lola and the Bell twins, and Perkins slowly unfurls that complicated history as Lola tries to deal with it.

For those of you who have read Anna and the French Kiss, Lola's love triangle between her boyfriend and the boy next door felt like Etienne St. Clair trying to decide between his girlfriend and Anna. In fact, at one point Lola even has a conversation with Etienne about this very topic. As much as I wish we didn't have a re-hash of the "I already have a boyfriend and I love him but I also kind of love you tooooo!" arc, I recognize that this is fairly typical for teenagers. When you're young, relationships seem both eternal and frivolous at once. You think you've found The One, and it's hard to let go, even if you recognize that you like this other person, too.

I was disappointed at how much Lola strung along poor Cricket, though. He was a saint for hanging in as long as he did, sort of like Anna did with Etienne, and I never fully understood what was holding Lola back. There never seemed to be too much of a conflict in ditching the boyfriend who seemed to be moving on without her, yet she still clung to him. Sure, he was her first love, but Cricket seemed like the obvious choice and that she enjoyed spending time with him far more than she did with band boy.

This is a cute romance with fresh characters, a hip San Francisco setting, and lots of teen indecision. It's a great read if you're looking for some light refreshment in a market flooded with dark, brooding paranormal fare.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Click the stars for a description of my rating system

New blog design!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Welcome to the new look here at Logan E. Turner! What do you guys think?

This gorgeous design was created by Lori at Imagination Designs. You may also know her from her book blog, Pure Imagination. She worked really hard on this, and put up with a lot of changes I threw her way, but I am beyond pleased with the end result.

I still have a few little fixes to make. I need to figure out how to get my signature above the LinkWithin gadget. I need to decide whether I want to change all of my labels to a hearts rating system and not stars. Overall, though, the transition has been very smooth.

Lori is a fantastic designer who is so easy to work with. Her prices are unbeatable, but they're going up soon so get on the waiting list now if you're interested! I got the complete works package which included the full blog overhaul, as well as a new Twitter background and a template for business cards. I cannot recommend Lori highly enough!

If you're having trouble navigating, find broken links, or see something that's difficult to read, please let me know! I'm open to any and all feedback!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Changes are a-comin' folks!

Things may start looking a little wonky around here as I prepare for installation of my new blog design (see: menu bar). Bear with me. I promise it is going to look ah-maze-ing when all is said and done. I don't know yet the exact day everything's getting installed, but it is coming up soon.

I spent all last night working on the new pages and things I needed to set up for the new layout, so I didn't get a chance to put my comic book review post together. I will get to it soon, however, because I'm now caught up on the American Vampire series and it only gets better. I can't wait to introduce you to it.

Stay tuned!

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release date: September 20, 2011
Source: ARC received for review from NetGalley
Series: Fire and Thorns #1
Summary: (from Goodreads) Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king — a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who needs her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

First impressions: I had a hard time getting into this book. The opening third is slow paced, not very interesting, and Elisa is really down in the dumps. Despite this, however, I wanted to keep reading.

Lasting impressions: It may have started off slow, but by the end I could hardly turn the pages fast enough. I will remember this book for its ability to completely shock me.

Conflicting impressions: Some of the concepts didn't really work for me (a magical stone in her bellybutton? Really?) and I felt the religious aspects drew too much focus.

Overall impressions: One of the first things we learn about our heroine, Elisa, is that she is fat. She is trying to squeeze herself into her wedding gown, and it ends up ripping. She consoles herself with pastries and hopes that her husband-to-be is ugly and old so she doesn't have to feel inferior. It's a refreshing change of pace from most books where the hero/heroine is devastatingly attractive.

What I thought would be a questing fantasy tale about Elisa fulfilling her fate turned out to be more of a book about Elisa finding herself. Throughout the course of the book she discovers that she is more than capable of being a leader - and an inspiring one at that. She becomes a completely different woman by the end of the book with changed attitudes about the world, politics, war, and even love. It's a fascinating journey.

Though the first third of the book is a lot of Elisa moping and worrying about her destiny as the bearer of a Godstone, the story picks up after she is kidnapped. She is stolen away from her new husband's home and dragged across the desert by residents of a war-torn area of the kingdom that is getting little help from Elisa's husband, the king, and as the bearer of the Godstone they are convinced she is the only one who can help them.

The Godstone is a jewel placed by God in Elisa's belly as an infant - a sign that she is the chosen one who will fulfill a Service to God. Elisa is fairly ignorant of all this entails, and as a result, so are we. We don't know what kind of Service this means. We don't know much about past Godstone bearers. All we know is that it responds to prayer and senses enemies. As a result, a LOT of time is spent in prayer, and at times the religious aspects seemed a bit heavy-handed.

Religion is an important player in this story, though. Elisa witnesses many different groups of people use God's will as their reasoning behind opposing actions. She is frustrated that they are hiding behind this in order to justify their actions, but as a religious woman and a bearer, she also struggles to figure out God's will and how it should influence her own actions. This really doesn't get explored beyond the superficial, and I wondered why it wasn't delved into more deeply. I wanted to know how she felt about religion impacting differing groups feeling "right" about their actions and not have her just sort of passively observe it.

Once Elisa gets fully immersed in war and comes into her own, the narrative really picks up. Though we still don't know what she will do to save the day, we suspect that she will, and as more pieces of the puzzle fall into place it's fun to try and anticipate what it will be. Maybe because I was so focused on the end game is why one particular event floored me. There is a SHOCKING scene that I absolutely did not see coming. It was a pleasant surprise in that I always like books that can do things differently but I was saddened by this event because I'm not sure how it served the story. It's the kind of thing that should have rocked Elisa's world a bit more, and when it didn't seem to impact her trajectory or have any more influence on her choices than any other event, it cheapened what happened and made it seem unnecessary and purely for shock value. I'm curious to know what others thought, but try not to spoil it in the comments.

This was an interesting book with lots of unique elements. Rae Carson has an engaging writing style that pulls you along through slow parts and keeps you riveted through fast ones. I think this would be a great book for people interested in personal journeys of self-discovery. This is purely Elisa's story, that happens to take place in a fantasy setting, and this is by no means a book only for fantasy lovers. If you haven't given much fantasy a try, I suggest you start with this one.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Banned Books Hop Giveaway Winner!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & I Read Banned Books is officially over. Thank you to everyone who participated, and welcome new followers!

There were 206 entries in my givewaway for The Hunger Games and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from The Book Depository, and after running them through, the winner is...

Carly Waid!

Congratulations Carly! Be sure to check your email so I can get your books off to you as soon as possible. Enjoy!
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