Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

Book: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release date: December 2, 2010
Source: For What It's Worth Book Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

First impressions: Anna has a really strong voice that captures your attention immediately. She reads like an authentic teenager without bombarding you with emoticons or a crazy amount of slang. She's immediately likable in a real way. I want her to be my new best friend.

Lasting impressions: I. Love. Etienne St. Clair. So if Anna was my new best friend, we'd be having some words. Or be engaging in some light fisticuffs. Because Etienne? Is perfect.

Conflicting impressions: Despite the hype and general ga-ga fest over this book, I did have a few issues with it. There were times everything felt a bit too easy for Anna. She moves in, and becomes insta-best-friends with her next door neighbor, who just happens to be the first person she meets. Talk about lucky!

The nasty mean girl character, Amanda, is a bit over the top for my tastes. I don't mind having a girl who is nasty, but Amanda has no reason to be nasty, and in a school of only 100 people, I don't think a girl could afford to be that unpleasant. Girls are bratty and cliquish and snobby, yes, but I don't think they can get away with highway robbery while in the close confines of an incredibly small boarding school. I could be wrong, but in my experiences Amanda seemed not that realistic.

Overall impressions: From start to finish, this is a very solid book. Anna is funny, unique, smart, if not a bit dependent. Her flaws make her more honest to the reader, so I forgave her for being occasionally obtuse and ignorant. I mean, she wants to be a film critic and is obsessed with movies, but doesn't know that Paris is like film Mecca? Really?

Etienne St. Clair, Anna's love interest (and pretty much everyone else's in the book, too - he's the Mary Sue for dudes), also can be a bit aggravating. He's in love with Anna from the minute he sees her, yet draaaaaaags out his relationship with Ellie. In the end, we're not given much of an explanation for why he holds on to Ellie for so long, other than that we needed more obstacles for Anna.

Similarly, Anna runs into some sub-plots that really didn't do much for me. She overreacts to an incident involving Bridgette, her best friend back home, only to have it resolved in the end with a Big Reveal that ties to every other problem she and Etienne have been struggling with. Oy. She also dates a guy who turns out to be a Big Fat Jerk and spreads vicious rumors about her around school. It was very Skeet Ulrich from The Craft movie, and induced some major eye rolling from me.

What was amazing, however, was how nicely things all came together in the end. Anna really grows as a person from spending time in France, despite her major hesitancy at the beginning. She starts out as a terrified little girl, and grows into a mature young woman. She learns to trust herself as a capable adult who can go out in the world and make things happen, and she also learns to trust her feelings. She has to navigate the difficult world of teen boy, trying to decipher the truth from her imagination.

Seriously, haven't we all been there? There's nothing more anxiety-riddled than figuring out if the boy you like does indeed love you back. It's a hundred times worse when you're friends, because you don't know how to reveal yourself without losing him forever if he doesn't feel the same way. Stephanie Perkins captures that back-and-forth flirting with such ease that I never wanted to stop reading.

Bottom line? This book is an adorable love story between two kids just trying to figure themselves out. It's funny, sweet, and refreshing. The characters are interesting, the setting is perfect, and it was a blast to read. I think everyone would love this book, and you should RUN to go get a copy.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out the other reviews from the For What It's Worth book tour.

In My Mailbox (8) and Vacation Announcement

Monday, March 21, 2011

First things first. The next two weeks I am on vacation, and from Wednesday through Sunday this week I'll be out of town, attending the wedding of my husband's best friend. Why am I telling you this? Well, because it means I won't be around. I'm not scheduling any posts after tomorrow until April 1st. I'm coming back with a giveaway, though, so I hope you'll hang with me. I'll likely be commenting, and next week if I'm bored enough (or going through withdrawals) I may post an impromptu post or two. Our regularly scheduled programming won't be back until April, though.

Sunny Florida here I come!

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.

Received from Missie at The Unread Reader:

Summary: (from Goodreads) There’s an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on—and off—the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy—including the most innocent bystanders.

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school’s salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.

Missie wrote a really terrific review for this book that got under my skin. I think she could tell I was chomping at the bit to read this one, so she offered to send me her ARC, and of course I gladly accepted. Free book! Whee! This one looks like nothing I've ever read before, and I'm looking forward to seeing if this book challenges me the way I think it will.

Received from Karen for the For What It's Worth Book Tour:

Summary: (from Goodreads) Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

The hype on this book has been unreal, so when I saw this tour pop up, it seemed like the ideal way to give this book a try. I'm not a huge contemporary YA fan, but I do love all things Paris. I finished this book over the weekend and loved it. My review goes up tomorrow if you're interested.

Bought from Cheryl Klein:

Summary: (from Goodreads) Whether you dream of writing a book for children or young adults, or you want to take a finished manuscript to the next level, it always helps to get a fresh point of view. Try a little Second Sight.
In this collection of talks, a professional editor offers insights from the other side of the publishing desk on a wide range of writerly topics:

* Terrific first lines and how they got that way
* What makes a strong picture book manuscript
* Why the Harry Potter series was such a tremendous success
* Finding the emotional heart of your story
* Worksheets and checklists for building characters and bolstering plot
* The Annotated Query Letter from Hell
* And an Annotated Query Letter That Does It Right

With its wit, intelligence, and practical tools for analyzing and revising your work, Second Sight will be a first resource for writers of children's and young adult fiction.

Cheryl Klein is a well known editor who put this book together based on lectures she has done in the past. I saw a tweet about it, and it looked like it had lots of good information for me, so I decided to add it to my personal library.

That's it for today! See you next week!

Silly Sunday - Sleepiest Cat Ever

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This week was full-on crazy town. I was up well after midnight every night, either doing homework, or going out with friends. Finals are over, I have a week off to relax a little and gear up for my last quarter, and I am so happy to have two full weeks off from work.

That said, this weekend I was the sleep monster. Yesterday I could have stayed in bed all day and been fine, but hubs made me get up at noon. LAME. Today he actually made me get up at 8:00 a.m. to go to a SPINNING CLASS. I was literally dragging my feet around the house while preparing for that little gem. Afterwards I rewarded myself with a giant fatty omelet that had bacon AND ham in it. Goooo cholesterol!

This cat video pretty much sums up how I went to sleep every night. I'm going, I'm going, I'm going...crash.

Ugh. I'm still sleepy.

Follow Friday/Book Blogger Hop & Weekly Recap

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's Follow Friday! Hosted by the always amazing Parajunkee's View, this is a chance to meet new blogger friends and grow our networks.

This week's question is "How did you come up with the name of your blog?"


Do I really need to answer that?

The short answer is that I wanted to stick with my name for simplicity and to build myself as a brand, not just the blog itself. Ta da!

Be sure to check out this week's featured blogger (and one of my personal favorites) Gone with the Words and the rest of the participants.

Book Blogger Hop

Hosted by Crazy For Books, this blog hop is all about connecting with our fellow bloggers. Each week we discuss a book-related question and hop around to other blogs to see their answers.

This week's question is "Do you read only one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?"

I usually read more than one book at a time. I'm almost always reading one or two on my Kindle, and then I have a paperback that sits by my bed. Right now, for instance, I'm breaking up the formal Jane Eyre with the creepy Wicked Lovely on my Kindle, and I'm reading 13 to Life in bed at night. I go through spurts where I'll focus on one book at a time, but usually I'm too fickle and need to go back and forth between them. The downside is that if I read books that are too similar to one another while I do this, I can confuse the story lines.

What about you?

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.

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

Features and Memes
Silly Sunday - Bronte Sisters Power Dolls
Watch a funny fake advertisement for some killer literary dolls.

In My Mailbox
A return to the vlog.

Waiting on Wednesday - Crossed by Ally Condie
The much anticipated sequel to Matched.


The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald
4/5 stars
I Read Banned Books ARC Tour

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
5/5 stars
Get Steampunked! Challenge

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

Book: Leviathan
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: October 6, 2009
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: Leviathan #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

First impressions: The opening scenes are quite intense, especially since we know the fate of the archduke, Alek's father. Still, I found this one slow to get into, just because I had to wrap my head around the world and its rules. The payoff of this extra upfront effort was fully realized by the end.

Lasting impressions: My goodness. I would follow these characters in this world to the end of the universe and back. Strange? Yes. Disarming? Oh, yes. But fantastically amazing as well.

Conflicting impressions: I found Deryn to be the much stronger character. We could have dropped Alek's perspective entirely and I wouldn't have cared.

Overall impressions: Once I got comfortable in this strange Clanker vs. Darwinist world, it didn't matter what the story was or where it was going. I can't remember the last time a fantasy setting so fully transported me as this book did. The Clankers favor steam-powered machines and the Darwinists favor engineered beasts. Both sides use their preferred methods to create huge fighting vessels which they start to use more frequently as World War I breaks out around them.

Deryn Sharp is a Darwinist in Britain who desperately wants to be an airman. The trouble is she's a girl. Off go the locks and on goes the restrictive and baggy clothes, and voila, a boy is created. She winds up on an air beast called the Leviathan, which is like a large zeppelin...if zeppelins were made out of living things. In this case, it's a whale.

The Darwinists' ecosystem machines were a bit hard for me to swallow. It wasn't that I couldn't fathom a world where scientists cobble together various life forms to create a new animal that serves their purposes (because really, are we that far off?). No, for me it was the incredulous idea that a large animal could be mutated into some kind of non-sentient creature that wouldn't mind its body used as an airship. The thought of traipsing around inside of a whale was really bothersome to me. Every time Deryn said "Poor beastie" I thought that if she really felt sorry for the blasted thing she'd stop stomping through its innards. But I realize the point of steampunk is not to break down every detail. I decided to go with it, accepted the beasties as a part of this world, and moved on.

On the Clanker side of things, we follow the Austro-Hungarian heir, Alek, as he escapes his home country and flees to Switzerland in a giant metal walker. His team of mentors accompany him, and there is not much love lost between them. Alek is a haughty, naive, and self-entitled prince, but he is also respectful of duty to country. He is perhaps more complex than Deryn, which meant we didn't get to know him quite as fully, and the coldness he has with his team didn't improve his warmth with the reader.

Once Alek and Deryn meet, however, things really start to get interesting. They race to get off a glacier where the Leviathan has crash landed near Alek's hideout, and by the end of the story these natural enemies are forced to form a somewhat shaky truce. It will be interesting to see how these two accomplish their individual goals while staying loyal to their respective causes.

This trilogy definitely needs to be read together, as this book ends just on the cusp of a new adventure for Deryn and Alek. It felt very "To be continued..." while still wrapping up nicely. That said, I won't die if I never get around to reading Behemoth. The motivating factor isn't the plot, here. What ultimately sets this book apart is its incredibly well developed setting, and the glorious dialogue Westerfeld built. My new favorite curse word/adjective is "barking."

I highly recommend this book to fantasy fans who have an interest in steampunk, particularly if you enjoy YA. I should also point out that the book is beautifully illustrated by Keith Thompson, which enhanced my enjoyment of the story.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this review by Books Turn Brains.

Waiting on Wednesday - Crossed by Ally Condie

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we discuss the books we're anxiously awaiting for release.

I am too swamped for finals week to write anything coherent, so this week I'm skipping my usual Writing Wednesday to gush about the cover and synopsis reveal for Ally Condie's second book in the Matched Trilogy, Crossed.

Summary from Goodreads: In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky — taken by the Society to his certain death — only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia’s quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander — who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia’s heart — change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

I was such a huge fan of Matched and so I was UNBELIEVABLY EXCITED to see this cover and synopsis reveal last week. I'm not super psyched about the idea that most of the book will keep Cassia separate from Ky, but I am curious about seeing Xander again. I mean, Xander as key to the uprising? Ky to his certain death? An unexpected betrayal? I cannot wait for this book!

I also think that cover is gorgeous. I love that it is a progression from the last cover, with Cassia breaking through the globe that kept her so beautifully contained on the cover of Matched. Ally Condie also confirmed that the green and blue color themes have to do with the pills, so I assume the third (still untitled) book will feature red. Love the simplicity, love the images, and love that they relate back to the books. Gorgeous!

What do you think of the cover? Are you as excited about this book as I am?

The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

Book: The Anti-Prom
Author: Abby McDonald
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: April 12, 2011
Source: I Read Banned Books ARC Tour

Summary: (from Goodreads) Three unlikely allies team up for a night of rebellion, romance, and revenge in a high-stakes dramedy from acclaimed young author Abby McDonald.

They’ve spent years at the same high school without speaking a word to one another, but that’s all about to change. Popular Bliss was having the perfect prom until she found her BFF and boyfriend making out in the back of a limo. Bad girl Jolene wouldn’t be caught dead at the prom, yet here she is, trussed up in pink ruffles, risking her reputation for some guy - some guy who is forty minutes late. And shy, studious, über-planner Meg never counted on her date’s standing her up and leaving her idling in the parking lot outside the prom. Get ready for The Anti-Prom, Abby McDonald’s hilarious, heart-tugging tale about three girls and one unforgettable prom night.

First impressions: I loved that this book didn't waste any time jumping into prom night. We start smack dab in the middle, actually. No dinner, no limo rides, no photo sessions at the parents' houses. And the opening scene sure is a doozie, too. Bliss catches her boyfriend cheating on her. Ouch.

Lasting impressions: Like The Breakfast Club and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants had a baby. So much fun!

Conflicting impressions: I didn't always buy the actions/reactions of the characters. At times it felt overly confrontational and other times it felt too easy for them.

Overall impressions: This story throws three girls together for one crazy evening - prom night. In my experience, prom is always eventful, and this one is no exception. Bliss wants to get revenge on her best friend and boyfriend, who she catches getting hot and heavy together in a limo during the dance, so she seeks out bad girl Jolene for help. When Jolene finally agrees to be a part of Bliss's scheme, they flee to the parking lot, only to get nearly run over by Meg, who has just been stood up.

Once the three girls agree to help each other over the course of the evening (Bliss with the cheaters, Jolene with her deadbeat dad, and getting shy, uptight Meg to loosen up), the action flies. The girls bounce back and forth from location to location, pulling crazy stunt after reckless escapade, and along the way they start to connect. The moments where the girls learn important life lessons can be a bit over the top, but for the most part their relationships seem genuine.

McDonald captures the high school girl especially well. I thought the dialogue was realistic with all of that angsty stressed out drama that colors it as a teenager. It makes the girls believable despite very little backstory. What could have very easily been pure fluff, however, is tempered with some pretty heavy issues, particularly revolving around Jolene and Meg.

Jolene has been destroying her life in an effort to lash out at her dad and the world she feels does nothing for her. Meg has given up on social life altogether, disappearing into the walls and rendering herself more and more invisible as time goes by. When things start to get really ugly, the girls have to rely on each other, and because of their differences they're able to speak the truth. Instead of stock phrases and blind support that usually comes with teen girl friendship, these acquaintances don't hold back, really cutting at the heart of the problem as each new snag arises throughout the night.

This is great fun, while also touching on some deeper issues. I highly recommend to contemporary YA fans, as well as anyone wanting to re-live some crazy prom experiences. :)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want another perspective? Be sure to check out Jen's review today at I Read Banned Books. Click the button below! She's also featuring an interview with Abby McDonald and a giveaway!

In My Mailbox (7)

Monday, March 14, 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.

Another vlog! Finally. I even fancied it up for you guys and put on LIP GLOSS. I may have actually brushed my hair as well. You're welcome.

What I didn't do was check my facts before speaking. I couldn't figure out how to add text to the frames that weren't titles, otherwise I would have supplemented my video with snarky comments. Like when I start blabbing about how The Luxe takes place in a private school (it doesn't), or when I lamely giggle at myself. Hardy freaking har, loser.


Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren | Goodreads | Amazon | My Review
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell | Goodreads | Amazon | My Review
The Luxe by Anna Godbersen | Goodreads | Amazon
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins | Goodreads | Amazon
The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima | Goodreads | Amazon
Graceling by Kristin Cashore | Goodreads | Amazon

ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster UK and Book Chick City:

The Survivor by Sean Slater | Goodreads | Amazon

Bought for Kindle (not on video):

Dark Lover by J. R. Ward | Goodreads | Amazon
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead | Goodreads | Amazon
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin | Goodreads | Amazon
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr | Goodreads | Amazon
($0.99 with Bonus Material)
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting | Goodreads | Amazon
($1.99 with Bonus Material)

Silly Sunday - Bronte Sisters Power Dolls

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I'm hard at work on a couple of papers this week, so I'm keeping things simple today. I started reading Jane Eyre on Friday, so I can try to finish it before I see the movie. In honor of Charlotte Bronte and all of the other 19th century female writers who did what they loved despite a culture that did everything to keep them from it, I give you the Bronte Sisters Power Dolls.

Take that, boys' club! We women are here to stay!

While you're here, I've got a poll on my left sidebar about commenting. I'd like to know if you would prefer I email you with my responses to your comments. The poll will be up until the end of the week. I would love it if you'd weigh in with your opinion. Thanks guys!

One Lovely Blog Award and Weekly Recap

Friday, March 11, 2011

I've been given the One Lovely Blog award by my friend Tabitha! It means a lot coming from her. She's a superwoman who runs THREE blogs, including the incredible book and writing resource Writer Musings, plus she's a mom to two kids and an agented writer working on several manuscripts and...I could go on and on. But seriously. Super. Woman.

Thank you Tabitha!

Here are the rules for this award:

  • Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and their blog link.

  • Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered.

  • Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

  • In honor of Follow Friday and the Book Blogger Hop, here are some of my favorite blogs, and I hope you'll check them out:

    bibliophile brouhaha
    Books Devoured
    The Lovely Getaway
    Ruby's Reads
    Small Review
    The Unread Reader
    My Precious
    Gone with the Words
    Paranormal Indulgence
    girl loves books
    Truly Bookish
    aleeza reads and writes
    My Bookish Ways
    Preternatural Primer
    Recovering Potter Addict

    Bloggers, no pressure to pass on the award. I just wanted to spread some love!

    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.

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

    Features and Memes
    Silly Sunday - Medieval Times
    I love dinner theater. And Paints.

    Writing Wednesday - The language of Teen Text
    I discussed my aversion to teen text shorthand.

    I joined five more challenges. Because I am insane.
    Also, I announced a winner of my giveaway.

    Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz
    4/5 stars
    YA Series Challenge

    Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
    Review and Interview with Angie Smibert
    4/5 stars
    I Read Banned Books ARC Tour
    2011 Debut Author Challenge

    Memento Nora by Angie Smibert and Interview

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

    Book: Memento Nora
    Author: Angie Smibert
    Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
    Release date: April 1, 2011
    Source: I Read Banned Books ARC Tour

    Summary: (from Nora, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s near-future world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened. However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting. Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories. The memory of the bombing as well as her mother’s secret and her budding awareness of the world outside her little clique make it increasingly difficult for Nora to cope. She turns to two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, and together they share their experiences with their classmates through an underground comic. They soon learn, though, they can’t get away with remembering.

    First impressions: This book is under 200 pages, so it doesn't waste any time getting moving. The opening scene is quite haunting and really sets the stage for the events to come.

    Lasting impressions: I'm having a really hard time deciding exactly how I feel about this book. I think the length kept me from truly connecting with the material, if only because it was such a quick read.

    Conflicting impressions: To me, this was really Nora, her mother, and Micah's story. I would have enjoyed seeing the third perspective of this book told through Nora's mom and not Winter, to whom I felt significantly less connected.

    Overall impressions: I really loved the idea of this world, with a society of people who have been trained to forget. How many of us would like to cut our bad experiences from our memories? I think some more backstory could have helped me fully understand how things got to this point, but I still bought into it quite easily.

    The pacing really keeps things moving. Smibert is direct while still being mysterious, and it serves the dystopian theme well. Though Nora no longer takes pills to forget what is happening around her, she can only watch in horror as others around her experience painful things only to never remember they happened at all. It's a terrifying notion, and on this point Smibert really delivers.

    There is a love story between Nora and Micah, but I felt the exploration of Nora's relationships with her parents was much more touching. Smibert beautifully captures those moments when you start to see your parents from an adult perspective. Watching how Nora handles those moments is truly compelling.

    A great dystopian read, and I'm looking forward to the sequel!

    Rating: 4/5 stars

    Click the stars for a description of my rating system

    But wait! There's more! Angie Smibert was kind enough to do a short, fun This or That interview for me.

    This or That with Angie Smibert

    Who would win in a fight:

    Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte? Austen.
    Stephen King or Dean Koontz? King.
    Dan Brown or Robert Ludlow?Brown.
    J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer? Rowling.
    Lauren Conrad or Snookie? Snookie.

    Which would you rather read:
    Newsweek or Time? Time.
    Genre or literary fiction? Genre.
    The New York Times or The Guardian? NYT.
    Poem or sonnet?  Poem.
    Ebook or paper?  Paper.
    Do you prefer to eat/drink:

    Cupcakes or cake?  Cupcakes.
    Bacon or sausage?  Bacon.
    Coffee or tea? Tea.
    Sweet or salty?  Both.
    Beer or wine? Wine.
    When you write, do you prefer:
    Quiet or noisy? Quiet, but with noise way in the background.
    Computer or pen and paper?  Both. First pen and paper, then computer.
    Outlines or notecards?  Outlines.
    At home or in public? Home, but sometimes I go to a coffeeshop.
    Pronto or procrastination?  Pronto. Most of the time.
    When you read, do you prefer:
    Savoring or speeding through? Savoring.   
    Chair or bed? Comfy Chair.
    Dog-ear or bookmark?  Bookmark--but it's usually just a scrap of paper.
    Long or short?  Either as long as it's good.
    Hardcover or paperback?  Hardcover, but depends on the book.
    Love is:
    A battlefield or a many splendored thing? A many splendored battlefield.
    Dreamy or complicated?  Complicated.
    Slow and steady or fast and fleeting?  Slow.
    Calm or turbulent? I prefer calm but doesn't always work that way.
    Uplifting or frustrating? Frustrating.
    Which is cuter:
    Pandas or koalas? Both.
    Babies in costumes or dogs in costumes?  Babies.
    Puppies or kittens? Both, but since I have a kitten in my lap as I type, I'll say kittens.
    Gizmo or E.T.? E.T.
    Stitch (from Lilo & Stitch) or Toothless (from How to Train Your Dragon)? Neither.
    Which team do you support (for whichever of these books you’ve read):
    Team Stefan or Team Damon? (Vampire Diaries) Damon.
    Team Edward or Team Jacob? (Twilight) Jacob.
    Team Peeta or Team Gale? (Hunger Games) Gale.
    Team Bill or Team Eric? (Sookie Stackhouse) Eric.

    Thank you for being with us today Angie and congratulations on the upcoming release of Memento Nora!

    Writing Wednesday - The language of Teen Text

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Writing Wednesday 2

    Grab the button and join in:

    Welcome to Writing Wednesday, my weekly feature where I discuss my works in progress, project ideas, editing struggles, or anything else related to the world of writing. Feel free to grab my button and post your own thoughts on writing! Leave a link to your post in the comments and I'll stop by.

    Today we're going to pretend that I am most certainly not freaking out about my final papers due next week. We're also going to pretend that I did not ask for an extension in my writing class because I *cough* haven't written anything *cough* to turn in just yet because I *cough* also haven't done any editing *cough*. Ahem. I must be coming down with something.

    So instead I'm going to talk about this condition I have. It's somewhat serious. It's not life-changing, but it can impact my life negatively. It has been known to cause comparatively sluggish text responses. It often results in excessive use of the backspace key. It also can impair my enjoyment of Twitter.

    What I mean to say is, I absolutely, positively cannot speak what I will affectionately term "Teen Text."

    Call it text shorthand, call it simply slang. Call it whatever you want, but don't ask me to write it. Hell, half the time I can't even read it. This coming from a girl at the ripe young age of 29.

    Every time I get a text from a friend with "u" where I should read "you," I cringe. I cast no judgment, because I get that it is infinitely easier to communicate in the finite limits of texts and tweets with abbreviated forms. I simply lack the ability to use it.

    I've tried to adopt this shorthand for myself from time to time, but each new venture ends in hurried backspacing and glances over my shoulder to make sure the Grammar Police didn't catch me. It just looks so wrong, and after spending nearly two decades practicing correct typing, grammar, and spelling, I just can't bring myself to use Teen Text.

    Is it really that much harder to type in sentences? To me, this small act of rebellion is my way of refusing to acknowledge this trend as some kind of game-changer for language. Language will always evolve in ways both strange and economical, but by refusing to make Teen Text a part of my every day life, I like to think I can keep English from making the perilous leap from "you" to "u."

    Because I am the great and powerful Oz. My influence knows no bounds.

    This is not to suggest that I can't throw around a good "lol" every now and again. (Never "LOL" since, as my sister pointed out, What, are you shout laughing?) And I canz lolspeak with the best of them. So why my irritation with Teen Text? I guess it must be this (perhaps) misguided fear that language could take a turn for the worst if we all adopt this manner of communicating. I am the lone holdout, burying my head in the sand as the world evolves around me.

    Or perhaps Teen Text is just the Riggs to my Murtough, and I'm just getting too old for this $*@!.

    Do you speak Teen Text? Lolspeak? Have any hangups about using either? Talk to me, Goose.

    Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

    Book: Blue Bloods
    Author: Melissa de la Cruz
    Publisher: Hyperion
    Release date: May 1, 2006
    Source: Borrowed from local library
    Series: Blue Bloods #1

    Summary: (from Goodreads) When the Mayflower set sail in 1620, it carried on board the men and women who would shape America: Miles Standish; John Alden; Constance Hopkins. But some among the Pilgrims were not pure of heart; they were not escaping religious persecution. Indeed, they were not even human. They were vampires.The vampires assimilated quickly into the New World. Rising to levels of enormous power, wealth, and influence, they were the celebrated blue bloods of American society.

    The Blue Bloods vowed that their immortal status would remain a closely guarded secret. And they kept that secret for centuries. But now, in New York City, the secret is seeping out. Schuyler Van Alen is a sophomore at a prestigious private school. She prefers baggy, vintage clothes instead of the Prada and pearls worn by her classmates, and she lives with her reclusive grandmother in a dilapated mansion. Schuyler is a loner...and happy that way. Suddenly, when she turns fifteen, there is a visible mosaic of blue veins on her arm. She starts to crave raw food and she is having flashbacks to ancient times. Then a popular girl from her school is found dead... drained of all her blood. Schuyler doesn't know what to think, but she wants to find out the secrets the Blue Bloods are keeping. But is she herself in danger?

    First impressions: I'm generally a fan of the alternating time perspective, and it worked really well here. Letters from a woman who came to America on the Mayflower are interspersed throughout the book, giving us clues about the mystery as the story progresses. Loved it! It felt spooky and different and gave the book a touch of old world classiness that mirrored the high society lives of the present time.

    Lasting impressions: I thought the book was a giant success and am really glad I decided to try out this series. It was a great cross of paranormal with a contemporary feel. I must say, this whole boarding school theme is growing on me.

    Conflicting impressions: I figured out the mystery just a little too easily, and this coming from a girl who NEVER figures out the mystery.

    Overall impressions: I breezed through this book in just a day or two, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Prissy, preppy New York girls are not usually my go-to characters, but here I felt they were all fleshed out well, with real personalities that didn't seem ultra thin. I especially liked Schuyler Van Alen (and what a name!), who both fit in, yet didn't. She marches to her own beat, yet can hang at a fashion shoot no problem. Sure, I'll model these designer jeans for you. Sure, I can get us into this club. Yet just when you thought she'd veer off into Mary Sue territory, she'd bring it right back to reality.

    The world and setup here is quite interesting. Vampires are some of the most powerful members of New York society, called Blue Bloods because, well, they have blue blood. As teenagers, when they start to turn (because it's hereditary...kind of...but really reincarnative...sort of?) they are at their most vulnerable, and this knowledge is being exploited by something out there killing off the vamp kids, one by one. The narrative follows a handful of these young kids, some are vampires, some aren't, as they sort through these events.

    The story builds nicely, and as the kids stumble through discovery after discovery, they eventually start to piece together what's happening. The book does at times feel like one big, long prelude to a larger story arc that will build in subsequent novels, but as a stand alone it is also completely satisfying. I loved de la Cruz's incorporation of the Mayflower history into the story, and I hope that we get to learn more about the vampire culture and how it is exactly that they regenerate. This is a quick, fun read, especially for fans of the vampire genre.

    Rating: 4/5 stars

    Click the stars for a description of my rating system

    Want a different perspective? Check out this review by In the Good Books.

    Giveaway Winner and MORE Challenges!

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Thank you to everyone who participated in my Huntress/Hunted by the Others/Waterfall giveaway! has revealed the winner as:

    Rebecca Mallary!

    Congratulations Rebecca! I have emailed you at the address provided, and your books will be ordered for you by the end of the week. Enjoy!

    I didn't get any new books to report this week for In My Mailbox, so in my boredom I decided to just sign up for more challenges! Okay, boredom isn't totally correct since I'm crazy busy with school at the moment, but I did spot some good ones for books I wanted to read anyway, so here goes!

    First up is Bookaholic Does Blogging's Black Dagger Brotherhood challenge. Starting April 1st, we'll be reading all 9 of the BDB series books and discussing them. Ashley has set up a nice format where we can comment either at her blog or on a Goodreads group she set up, and I'm really looking forward to this interactive format. You can participate in the challenge, the book club, or both! I'm going to try to participate in both, although I have a tendency to not follow through well in Goodreads groups. Hopefully this one will break that curse!

    Okay, this one looks quite challenging, but also like a really fun way to get some new reads. It's Life with Books' Take a Chance Challenge 3. The point is to find new books to read in different ways. There are ten categories to try and complete. Crossovers are accepted and books can be read in any format. Challenge runs January 1-December 31, 2011.

    1: Staff  Member’s Choice: Go to a bookstore or library that has a “Staff Picks” section. Read one of the picks from that section.

    2: Loved One’s Choice: Ask a loved one to pick a book for you to read. (If you can convince them to buy it for you, that is even better!)

    3: Blogger’s Choice: Find a “Best Books Read” post from a favorite blogger. Read a book from their list.

    4: Critic’s Choice: Find a “Best of the Year” list from a magazine, newspaper or professional critic. Read a book from their Top 10 list.

    5: Blurb Book: Find a book that has a blurb on it from another author. Read a book by the author that wrote the blurb.

    6: Book Seer Pick: Go to The Book Seer and follow the instructions there. Read a book from the list it generates for you.

    7: What Should I Read Next Pick : Go to What Should I Read Next and follow the instructions there. Read a book from the list it generates for you.

    8: Which Book Pick: Go to Which Book and use the software to generate a list of books. Read a book from that list.

    9: LibraryThing Pick: Go to LibraryThing’s Zeitgeist page. Look at the lists for 25 Most Reviewed Books or Top Books and pick a book you’ve never read. Read the book. (Yes … you can click on MORE if you have to.)

    10: Pick A Method: Pick a method for finding a book from the choices listed below (used in previous versions of the challenge).

  • Random Book Selection. Go to the library. Position yourself in a section such as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Mystery, Children (whatever section you want). Then write down random directions for yourself (for example, third row, second shelf, fifth book from right). Follow your directions and see what book you find. Check that book out of the library, read it and then write about it. (If you prefer, you can do the same at a bookstore and buy the book!)

  • Public Spying. Find someone who is reading a book in public. Find out what book they are reading and then read the same book. Write about it.

  • Random Bestseller. Go to and, using the True Random Number Generator, enter the number 1950 for the min. and 2010 for the max. and then hit generate. Then go to this site and find the year that generated for you and click on it. Then find the bestseller list for the week that would contain your birthday for that year. Choose one of the bestsellers from the list that comes up, read it and write about it.

  • Sounds hard, right? Well, if you finish them all, you enter a drawing to win a book of your choice, so all of that tough reading can pay off.

    I'm trying to broaden my horizons and read more fantasy books. Darlyn and Books is running this challenge. I am going to enter the Fascinated level and try to read 6 fantasy novels this year.

    I kept meaning to sign up for this one and never got around to it. I can't think of many Gothic books I've this will be a good opportunity for me to explore some fiction I don't usually read. I think I'm going to like it, though, since it's lots of mystery, spooky castles and paranormal stuff. Count me in! I'm going to participate at The Darkness Within level and read 5 Gothic books this year.

    Reading Challenge Addict

    Also, since I am a CRAZY PERSON and signed up for all of these challenges, I felt obligated to sign up for the Reading Challenge Addict challenge as well. With entry into the Reading Challenge Addict challenge, it becomes my 16th challenge, putting me at the Out of this World level (16+ challenges). Yikes.

    Visit my Challenge Index page to keep track of all this craziness and leave me suggestions if you have titles to recommend!

    Silly Sunday - Medieval Times

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Yesterday was a glorious, majestic day. Due to a 2-for-1 special, we booked tickets to that apex of classiness, the Medieval Dinner theater? I'm not sure how to classify it. I guess their website refers to it as "Dinner and Tournament."

    So, yeah. It's dinner theater. For the SCA and Renaissance Fair crowds. And children. What I can tell you is that it is most definitely not geared toward a thirtyish childless couple. Still, we were in the mood for some cheesy entertainment, and for a total of $70, came out about the same or cheaper than dinner and a movie.

    My husband is not particularly a fan of the Medieval Times commercial enterprise. He also doesn't enjoy RenFaires. I am often openly mocked for my love of both. What can I say? I dig the pageantry. I love horses. I love swords. I enjoy giggling at men who have hair longer than I could ever hope to grow my own coarse, curly frizznest. It's just plain fun.

    In anticipation of the silliness we were about to take part in, I decided to spend some of yesterday afternoon putting together some illustrations for you all. You see, Missie over at The Unread Reader posted a hilarious diagram in her Flap Off post about elevator etiquette, and rekindled my love for crude Paint pictures. They are the BEST. I love Paints! I feel like they even the playing field for illustration capabilities. There's only so much you can do with a Paint program.

    So, without further ado...

    If you don't know much about Medieval Times, here's the gist: Dudes with long hair on horses are knights who fight each other in elaborate staged sequences. There are also some dressage displays and hand to hand combat, but the most exciting bit is always the joust.

    In the joust section, the knights take turns pretending to knock each other off their horses. They are very good at taking dives. They violently fling their shields and gracefully swoop their legs over the horse's back and leap into a beautiful tuck-and-roll. Ooooh. Ahhhh. The horses always looked a bit freaked, though.

    The meal is part of what justifies the high price of admission. You aren't allowed silverware, but you do get quite the haul: soup, garlic bread, half a roasted chicken, a spare rib, half a roasted potato, dessert, and two glasses of Pepsi (it's "Medieval" Pepsi, as our server jokingly pointed out). You can also get a cup of coffee at the end. Let me tell you, that food is good. They bring it around in courses as the show progresses.

    We were so hungry by the time that chicken came around that we gobbled it all. And though they don't actually serve your beverage in goblets, they were much easier to draw, and my husband thinks I'm weird because I prefer to drink out of, and use the word, "goblet." Sometimes a girl just likes to feel fancy, okay?

    We ended up having a lot of fun. We cheered for our knight while wearing our stupid paper crowns. We booed the other knights when they beat our knight. We admired the horses and ate good food and let ourselves be kids again. Or as they might say at Medieval Times, "A most glorious time was had by all."

    Don't forget to enter my Huntress/Hunted by the Others/Waterfall giveaway! Open internationally and ends tonight!

    Giveaway and Weekly Recap

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    This week I shared some books with you guys that I think are truly amazing, so today I want to spread that love around. I'm going to gift copies of all three books I reviewed this week: Huntress by Malinda Lo, Hunted by the Others by Jess Haines, and Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren. They couldn't be more different, which is why there's something in here for everyone!

    I will use The Book Depository to ship the books to the winner, so this giveaway is open internationally. One copy each of Hunted by the Others and Waterfall will ship immediately, and Huntress will be pre-ordered, to ship on April 5th when the book is released. Since these aren't already in my possession, I will allow substitutions of equal or lesser value (total value must not exceed 31.49 USD) if you already own copies or genuinely aren't interested in these titles. There's no point in giving away a book if it never gets read!

    This giveaway is open until Sunday, March 6th at 11:59pm CST. One entry per person. You must be at least 13 years old. To enter, fill out THIS FORM. GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED. I will announce the winner on Monday, March 7th. Good luck!

    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.

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

    Features and Memes
    Silly Sunday - Psych
    I shared some clips and info about one of my favorite shows.

    Writing Wednesday - Blogging Personality
    I discussed the difficult task of sharing part of myself through a book blog.

    Huntress by Malinda Lo
    5/5 stars
    I Read Banned Books ARC Tour

    Hunted by the Others by Jess Haines
    4/5 stars
    Show Me the Free Challenge
    Morbid Romantica Challenge

    Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren
    5/5 stars
    Debut Author Challenge
    YA Historical Fiction Challenge

    Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

    Book: Waterfall
    Author: Lisa T. Bergren
    Publisher: David C. Cook
    Release date: February 1, 2011
    Source: Borrowed from Writer Musings
    Series: River of Time #1

    Summary: (from Goodreads) In Waterfall, American teenager Gabi Betarrini accidently finds herself in sixteenth-century Italy . . . Knights. Swords. Horses. Armor. And Italian hotties. Most American teens want an Italian vacation, but the Betarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives there with their archaeologist parents. Stuck on yet another hot, dusty dig, they are bored out of their minds... until they place their hands atop handprints in an ancient tomb and find themselves catapulted into the sixteenth-century—and in the middle of a fierce battle between knights bent on killing one another.

    First impressions: I actually read the first chapter, put the book down, and thought about not picking it up again. But if I have any advice it is this: KEEP READING! It doesn't take long for the story to zoom off, whether or not you're buckled in for the ride. Once I picked it up again, you practically had to pry this book from my clenched fingers.

    Lasting impressions: Disgustingly good. Lisa Bergren is a diabolical plot genius who will keep you fully immersed in this world, despite bedtimes, homework, jobs, or significant others.

    Conflicting impressions: For me, the opening chapters with the girls in the present time weren't as engaging as the rest of the novel. For some reason, I just didn't connect with that material as well, and felt I got more backstory than I really needed.

    Overall impressions: If you're not already loading this one into your online shopping carts, you haven't been paying attention. This story has it all: adventure, suspense, romance, and mystery. It will keep you guessing, and keep your heart in your throat.

    Gabi is a wonderful protagonist. She is thrust back through the centuries, uncertain if her sister is there with her, and winds up smack in the middle of an ongoing Italian turf war. Despite political, physical, and emotional hurdles, she uses her brain to make the best of her unexpected situation. Even though she doesn't know who she can trust, she outmaneuvers everyone to put together a daring plan to rescue her sister.

    I am a sucker for time travel books, mostly because it is a personal fantasy of mine. In the hands of an excellent researcher, that wish nearly comes true. I can always tell when a historical novelist really knows their stuff, and Bergren does not disappoint. Everything about the world rings true, which only sucked me deeper into the story. I melted into Gabi's castle life with ease, and every room, road and character was brought vividly to life.

    And oh, the characters! A flirtatious sidekick, a mothering cook, a sickly heir, a mean girl. It would be so easy to write the caricature and be done with it, but Bergren doesn't do easy. She writes complicated, deep characters that read like actual humans faced with difficult circumstances. Each of these types becomes so much more, surprising our expectations and threatening our snap judgments.

    Above all, this story has heart. Gabi will stop at nothing to find and save her sister, yet just when she thinks she is ready to leave, the beautiful Marcello gives her pause. It is a testament to Bergren's gift that we can simultaneously want Gabi to leave and to stay. Her choice is difficult because we see the good Gabi can bring, and the love that can be her reward. Yet she struggles to cement her own fate one way or the other. It is the ultimate impasse, and completely riveting.

    To me this book was like Outlander for teens. No lust. No sex. But a courageous, stubborn, time-traveling heroine who discovers more about herself in the past than in the present? Oh yes. That, and so much more.

    Rating: 5/5 stars

    Click the stars for a description of my rating system

    Not enough gushing for you? Want to see even more high praise for this amazing book? Check out Small Review's take and see if you can resist this book after that!

    Need it now? Check out this interview with Lisa Bergren and win a copy of Waterfall at I Am A Reader Not A Writer. Be sure to check back here tomorrow, where I'll be hosting a giveaway of my own!

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