All Male Review Challenge Wrap-Up

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The end is here! I know Missie and I have had a lot of fun hosting this event and hope you had fun participating. We are already looking for ways to improve the All Male Review Challenge in the future, so please leave us comments if you have suggestions or just want to let us know what you thought of the event!

Today is the last day to link up those reviews, so get them in before the end of the day for the maximum number of entries in our Mega AWESOME Prize Packs of books! We have three Mega Awesome Prize Packs: a paranormal prize pack, a contemporary prize pack, and an international prize pack.

Paranormal Prize Pack

Thirst No. 1: The Last Vampire, Black Blood, Red Dice by Christopher Pike
Thirst No. 2: Phantom, Evil Thirst, Creatures of Forever by Christopher Pike
The Fallen: Volume 1 by Thomas E. Sniegoski
The Fallen: Volume 2 by Thomas E. Sniegoski
Peeps (Peeps #1) by Scott Westerfeld
Foundling (Monster Blood Tattoo, Book 1) by D.M. Cornish
Lamplighter (Monster Blood Tattoo, Book 2) by D.M. Cornish
If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Contemporary Prize Pack

Swim the Fly (Swim the Fly, #1) by Don Calame (Thanks to Candlewick Press)
Beat the Band (Swim the Fly, #2) by Don Calame (Thanks to Candlewick Press)
Jerk, California by Jonathan Friesen
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Runner by Carl Deuker
Friend Is Not a Verb by Daniel Ehrenhaft
Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt
The Boxer and the Spy by Robert B. Parker

International Prize Pack

Life, Liberty & Pursuit by Susan Quinn (e-book. Thanks to Omnific Publishing)
Shades of Atlantis by Carol Oates (e-book. Thanks to Omnific Publishing)
Breaking Point by Jess Bowen (e-book. Thanks to Omnific Publishing)
Ethereal Messenger by Scott Nicholson (e-book. Thanks to Scott Nicholson)
plus $15 Gift Certificate from The Book Depository

Winners will be selected after the contest closes and announced within the week, so keep your eyes peeled!

How I Met Your Mother "Challenge Accepted" t-shirt will go to the person who linked up the most reviews for the challenge!

Good luck!

Review and Giveaway: Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Monday, May 30, 2011

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

Book: Sapphique
Author: Catherine Fisher
Publisher: Dial
Release date: December 28, 2010
Source: ARC received from Tabitha at Writer Musings
Series: Sequel to Incarceron

**NOTE - Spoilers are hidden**

Summary: (from Goodreads) The only one who escaped . . . And the one who could destroy them all.

Incarceron, the living prison, has lost one of its inmates to the outside world: Finn’s escaped, only to find that Outside is not at all what he expected. Used to the technologically advanced, if violently harsh, conditions of the prison, Finn is now forced to obey the rules of Protocol, which require all people to live without technology. To Finn, Outside is just a prison of another kind, especially when Claudia, the daughter of the prison’s warden, declares Finn the lost heir to the throne. When another claimant emerges, both Finn’s and Claudia’s very lives hang on Finn convincing the Court of something that even he doesn’t fully believe.

Meanwhile, Finn’s oathbrother Keiro and his friend Attia are still trapped inside Incarceron.
They are searching for a magical glove, which legend says Sapphique used to escape. To find it, they must battle the prison itself, because Incarceron wants the glove too.

First impressions: I just adore how well Catherine Fisher creates the worlds of Incarceron and Outside. She definitely pulls you in, and the opening chapter here does not disappoint. We follow one of our main characters from inside the prison, attending a magic show that quickly evolves into something more. The dark, oily world of Incarceron is absolutely compelling.

Lasting impressions: This book lost me at a couple of points, where the action slowed and I wasn't sure where the story was going so I almost gave up. It's sad because the characters and world here are so incredible that it's truly a shame that the plot wasn't equally as brilliant.

Conflicting impressions: Like the first book, this one left a few too many gaps for my taste. I felt like Fisher didn't explain things as fully as she could have in order to ease our understanding of what was going on.

Overall impressions: It's hard to say much about this book without giving away the ending of the previous book, Incarceron. The important thing to know is that Incarceron is a living prison, and some of the prisoners inside are still trying to get out. They have to battle the prison for control of a glove believed to reveal the way out. Meanwhile, Outside, the Warden of Incarceron's daughter, Claudia, is trying to lead a revolt against the Queen and free the prisoners of Incarceron.

Catherine Fisher writes dark, complex, complicated novels, so I had a very hard time deciding what kind of rating to give this book, or even processing how I really felt about it. The world Outside the prison, and the prison Incarceron itself, are not good places to be. As such, there are no easy answers about where one would prefer to exist, or whose life is truly better. Because of this, I had a hard time deciding who to root for.

Do I root for the death of Incarceron, and with it the millions of prisoners still trapped inside? Or do I root for the prison to open, freeing the prisoners but unleashing them on a dying society?

I couldn't really answer those questions, which I think explained my confusion and uncertainty with the book. This was equally balanced, however, with beautiful prose and colorful characters. I loved the people, and while all the main characters are back from the first book, we got some interesting new ones as well.

One of the best things about these books is the simple fact that Fisher writes so beautifully. It took me longer than usual to read this book because I wanted to savor every word and phrase. Even though I got a little frustrated at times that I didn't quite know what the overarching goal of the story was, I really enjoyed the journey because of Fisher's gift with words.

Despite the lack of details that I like, and the seeming lack of a fully realized direction for the story, I did enjoy this book a lot. The fantasy steampunk world of Outside coupled with the dystopian prison is fascinating and unlike anything else I've read. Fisher wins major bonus points for originality and writing style. I recommend both books if you're looking for something different, challenging, and thought-provoking to read.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want to read my take on the first book? Click to read my review of Incarceron. Fun fact: it was also my very first review!

As part of the All Male Review Challenge, I am giving away my ARC of this book to one lucky winner!

This contest is open to ages 13 and up with a U.S. mailing address. To enter, leave a comment on this post, along with an email address where I can contact you. The contest will close on June 3, 2011 and the winner will be announced on the 4th. Good luck!

Leverage Giveaway Winner!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thanks to everyone who entered my All Male Review Challenge giveaway of Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen. The results have been tabulated, and with a little help from, the winner is...

Congratulations Library Lady! Be sure to check your email so I can get your book out to you as soon as possible. Happy reading!

Friday Five (5) and Weekly Recap

Friday, May 27, 2011

Welcome to Friday Five! This meme is run by the writers at Paper Hangover. Each week they give us a blogging prompt where we make a list about five things related to books and/or writing.

This week's topic is "What are FIVE of your most distracting (procrastination-worthy) things (habits, websites, etc.) on the internet?"

1. Ugliest Tattoos. I usually insist on reading this until I cry from laughter, which doesn't take long.

2. MSN Wonderwall. It's like an online gossip magazine that doesn't make me feel like I'm reading trash.

3. Text Twist. I get a wee bit obsessed when playing this word puzzle game.

4. Wikipedia. If I need to know something, I'm wiki-ing it.

5. Yelp. I rarely try new things anymore without first scouring the reviews on Yelp.

What sites do you frequent? I need new ones!

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:

Armchair BEA - Nurturing Relationships
See the debut of my new blog signature!

Armchair BEA - My Top 2011 Books
See which books I'm most regretting not getting at BEA this year.

The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask - Bryan Sabol
The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask - aobibliophile™

AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky
4/5 stars
2011 Debut Author Challenge


It's nearly the end of the All Male Review Challenge! If you haven't signed up yet, you can do so here. Then be sure to link up your reviews to increase your chances of winning our prize packs!

Enjoy your weekend everybody!

Armchair BEA - Nurturing Relationships

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots

Today the good folks at Armchair BEA have started a discussion about nurturing relationships through book blogging. I hadn't planned on posting today, mostly because I'm avoiding writing a review for Starcrossed, but also because I am lazy. This topic really got me thinking, though.

For me, blogging is all about the relationships. Every day I get excited about scrolling through my Google Reader feed for the latest updates from my bloggy friends. I'm a few weeks away from hitting that 6 month mark, and already I can count a bunch of you faithful readers among my friends.

It's kind of amazing when you write a review and an author personally thanks you. It's super cool to send out a tweet and have people respond. It's even better when popular, established, and admired bloggers take you under their wing and pump you full of confidence. If I didn't have these relationships, and the promise of more of them, I wouldn't come back here to write everyday.

Relationships take work. They need to be cultivated. I'm really looking forward to the end of school so I can devote more time to getting to know my followers and all of the stupendous folks I follow. I realize that currently I am a big fat slacker when it comes to commenting, and I promise it will get better.

When you do make those connections, though, people can really surprise you. They lend you books they think you'd like, leave you comments that make your entire week, send you emails of support, thank you for your review, and sometimes even give you free stuff! Which means, of course, that you should do things like that in return. Relationships are a two-way street, and if you're not giving, you're not getting, or at least not for long.

I got a big "get" recently that I want to point out. Small Review did a post last week about how to add a signature to your blog, and because I love all things awkwardly Paint created, I squeed a bit over her example signature.

So you know what she did? SHE MADE ME ONE. And linked to it in her comment back to me.
Logan, It’s totally understandable that you’d covet it. :) But fear not, I’ve made you one now HERE. That blob on the left is a hat (with a feather) and the blob on the right is a magical wand. The dots are magical sparkles. Get ready for skyrocketing follower numbers and droves of onlookers.

(and, no, I don’t actually expect you to use it!)

Of course, not using it was so NOT an option. This is what comes from good relationship cultivation. People make you awesome things. So without further ado, I now debut the magical Small Review created signature just for me. It's okay. You can be jealous.

The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask - Bryan Sabol

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

As part of The All Male Review Challenge, I'm featuring some of our male book blogger friends in this new interview feature: The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask. Each blogger answered the same 7 questions so that we can all get to know them a bit better. The men of the book blogging community are interesting, charming, funny, witty, and some of the best all around bloggers! If you like what you read here, be sure to check out their blogs - you won't be disappointed.

My guest today is Bryan Sabol from Time Guardian Blog. This interview is a bit different from previous installments, as Bryan runs a blog devoted to encouraging reading among boys and young men, and I asked him to delve into this topic as well as share about his own writing.

1) Tell us a little about your blog - when you started, what your focus is, why you do it, etc.

I started my blog about 2 years ago, shortly after completing a draft of the first novel in my Time Guardian Saga series. At that point, my drive to start blogging was mostly about getting my feet wet in the creative writing world. Like so many aspiring authors out there, I had a completed manuscript but no clue what the next step was. Creating a blog was my way to engage in the online writing community.

Of course, the biggest challenge with launching any blog is to produce meaningful content, to write articles that benefit others by sparking new ideas or directing people to good information. Most of my early posts were essentially in the style of an online journal, discussing my efforts as I developed my writing skills, joining blogfests, and so on. I wanted my blog to go beyond "I wrote x pages today," which frankly doesn’t really grab a reader. I knew I ultimately wanted to morph my blog into a place where other aspiring writers could come to read and share their knowledge of the craft and the business of writing. Problem was, how? To make my blog more relevant, it needed to go beyond my personal efforts, but I wasn’t sure what the next stage would be.

As I became more involved in learning what was "out there," I realized that the MG/YA male voice was rare - both for writers and for protagonists. As a guy who was writing MG works with male main characters, it was a natural extension to use my blog to help spread the word about books for boys. I now blog about up-and-coming releases, and I also add each new entry to my permanent "New Books for Boys" page.

Part of the challenge for me is hearing about all the good books that are coming out. I’m always grateful for folks who point me to something new, so if anyone out there knows of new books for boys that are just about to be released, I’d love to hear about them and I’ll add it to the list.

2) Book blogging seems pretty heavy on the females. Do you think being a male blogger and writer has any advantages or disadvantages?

Hmm, I think I have to approach this from a couple of angles:
  • From the writer’s perspective, yes, clearly there is a significant majority of women writers in the YA/MG genres (and most other genres, to boot). Same goes for blogs: I see many more women than men actively blogging about YA/MG. But I don’t think whether you’re a man or woman author/blogger is important. It’s all about what you produce, how your writing captures your audience. In other words, you attract readers because you have something interesting to say, not because you’re a "Mr." or a "Ms."
  • I do think there’s one area where male versus female can make an important difference, especially in YA books, and that’s the sex of the protagonist. I’ve read that the market for YA books with a male protagonist is very small. Mary Kole, blogger and agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency wrote an article about this issue a while ago. Many publishing houses only publish one or two boy-centric YA books per season, so if that’s your manuscript, you’re swimming against a very strong current. I should emphasize that this male protagonist issue is much more pronounced in YA than in MG (which is good news for me indeed), but it does bear some thought for those who are trying to maximize their chances at publication.

3) Do you read a lot of books with male protagonists? Why or why not?

Absolutely! I’m a big believer in reading in your genre, so I spend a lot of time looking for male-oriented MG books to see how their story arcs are structured, how the characters develop. Of course, the really good novels make this a huge struggle, as I constantly lose myself in the story. And while that’s a real pleasure, it’s not helping me learn specific writing techniques. I can go for pages at a time before the analytical part of my brain kicks in and I remember I need to focus on how things are being written.

That said, I have eclectic tastes, so in addition to books for boys, I’ll pick up anything that peaks my interest. And why not? You never know what you’ll learn - or experience - in your next story, regardless of its genre.

4) Give us three books you consider "must reads."

Three great recent MG books are:
  • Windblowne by Stephen Messer
  • Clockwork Dark trilogy by John Claude Bemis
  • Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull

5) Do you write primarily for a male audience? Tell us about your projects.

So far my focus has been on male protagonists, but I want to stress that having a boy main character shouldn’t preclude a story from being enjoyed by girls. My intent is to write novels that attract boys and girls alike. And adults, for that matter.

My first novel was Timekey. This is the story of a 14-year-old boy whose mother, a famous archaeologist, vanishes from her Anasazi dig site. The only clue she left behind is a recently uncovered artifact — an iridescent metallic orb with the power to travel through time. The protagonist crosses into the time of the Anasazi and lands smack in the middle of a clandestine struggle for control of the orb. He has to stay one step ahead of the conspirators who covet it, rescue his mother, and return the orb to its rightful owner before his civilization is erased from history. But when you're traveling through time and between cultures, how do you tell the good guys from the bad?

Timekey is finished and I’m currently shopping it around, hoping to land the right agent. I’ve worked out a detailed plot arc for additional books in this series, but until I can get an agent interested in book 1, the remaining stories in the Time Guardian Saga are on hold.

My latest project is an urban fantasy/steampunk work based in the far north. It focuses on a 12-year-old boy who is a "half breed," struggling to find his place between his father’s traditionalist hunter/gatherer clan who lives on the ice, and his mother’s urban world that is dependent on technology. Although I really enjoy the steampunk aspect and am traditionally a plot-driven writer, I’m trying to focus more on the character’s internal struggles and family conflict. I think this should result in a more immersive world when woven into the external plot.

6) Promoting books for boys is a central feature of your blog. Why is this important to you?

Promoting books for boys should be important to everyone. Until recently, I only heard anecdotal comments about how on average, boys in our society have a much lower level of interest in reading than girls. I decided to do some fact-finding, so I spent some time looking up the latest independent studies on children’s reading habits. I posted a summary of my research in an article on my blog. The results are truly alarming: world-wide, we’re at risk of losing an entire generation of male readers.

Some key points to consider:
  • Boys don’t read as much or as well as girls. The discrepancy in boys' and girls' respective levels of interest and skill in reading spans multiple countries and cultures. A Progress in International Reading Literacy Study assessment conducted in 2001 revealed that grade 4 girls performed better than boys in all thirty-four countries where the assessment was administered. Moreover, boys increasingly describe themselves as non-readers as they get older. Few of them have this attitude early in their schooling, but, according to some experts, nearly 50% describe themselves as non-readers by the time they enter secondary school.
  • Boys frequently view reading as a feminine activity and this can reduce their motivation to read. Seeing reading as a girls’ pastime can diminish motivation for boys, who share social affiliation with one another by rejecting reading.
  • Boys tend to prefer stories with male protagonists. Stories with male protagonists can help boy reluctant readers to relate more viscerally. By reflecting themselves as the male protagonist, we might be able to change their view of reading as a feminine activity.

What this all boils down to is pretty simple. We need to get boys engaged in reading early on and keep them at it. If you have a boy who’s a reluctant reader, a good starting place is to find a story that speaks to his interests: boy main character, action-oriented plot, sports, animals, and a combination of drama and humor are good bets.

Finally, when I saw the paucity of information on the Web concerning books for boys, it made me even more determined to help spread the word. We need to make it easier for kids, parents, teachers, and librarians to find the types of stories that can help bridge this reading gap. I figured, what better way to do that than to use my blog to highlight new books that are likely to be enjoyed by these reluctant readers?

7) When you're not reading, writing or blogging, what are you most likely doing?

What, there’s something else to life? :)

My day job takes a huge amount of time - but at least I’m a technical writer, so I can keep my fingers on the keyboard and the writing part of my brain engaged. Aside from that, being daddy to my two young daughters is top priority. Anything left over after that is the rare kayak paddle on Puget Sound.

Thanks for sharing with us! You can follow Bryan at Time Guardian Blog and find out more about his books at the Time Guardian Saga website.

Armchair BEA - My Top 2011 Books

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots

Unless you've been living under a rock, you are probably aware that Book Expo America is happening this week. As much as I really, really wanted to go, between focusing on graduation and my relative newness as a book blogger, I decided to skip it this year and aim for next year. I was thrilled, however, to discover Armchair BEA, which brings the awesome book excitement straight to your armchair/home/sobbing-corner-of-Left-Outsville.

Today many of the participants are hosting giveaways, but for those of us who were late to the party (and perhaps a bit strapped from our own giveaways *ahem*), we're discussing the books we're excited about in 2011.

When I found out Ally Condie was going to be signing Crossed at BEA, I almost cried. I'm still depressed about missing this one. I want my grubby hands on this one so bad I could throw up from the anxious wanting and needing.

Mindy Kaling is my goddess. She is the funniest person alive. When I found out she was hosting a breakfast, I squealed. I love her, and I am very sad that I don't get to see her in person.

Though both of these books are threatening to buckle under the hype pressure, I still am anxious to read them. I am already super jealous of the peeps coming home with these in their luggage.

For those of you also not attending BEA, what books are you sad you're missing out on?

Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

Monday, May 23, 2011

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

Book: Awaken
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Release date: May 23, 2011 - TODAY!
Source: NetGalley ARC

Summary: (from Goodreads) Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

First impressions: BANG! Did you hear that? That was me racing through the front half of this book. Cannot. Put. Down. Even. To. Eat. Feeding myself was far less of a concern than finding out what was going to happen next.

Lasting impressions: I am in love with Justin. He is my official book boyfriend until further notice. The love story here is so sweet and real and satisfying. Even if I did sometimes want to punch Justin in the face.

Conflicting impressions: Seriously Justin? You put work over personal happiness? Your seemingly well-meaning chivalrous attempts to protect Maddie don't make any sense. You either want her on your side or you don't.

Overall impressions: Okay, so maybe Justin and I are in a time-out. He can be so irritating!

See, Maddie is not the innocent I first assumed her to be. This is part of what I loved about this book. She's a bit of a rebel, and is on probation for hacking into her uber-powerful dad's computer and helping the resistance movement try to take down Digital School. After a rash of violent incidents years ago, Maddie's dad developed an online educational system that has quickly spread to almost all facets of life. It's like the internet on steroids, where people rarely leave their homes because everything can be done online.

Kind of cool. Kind of scary.

Justin is one of the folks that thinks this is more scary than cool. He wants to bring people out of their homes, offline, and back into open society. He reaches out to Maddie, and she soon realizes that he's trying to recruit her. She's not sure whether or not to tread back into Bad Girl territory, but Justin is quite the temptation. Her unraveling relationship with her super strict dad only pushes her harder into Justin's arms.

This is mostly a love story, after all, despite the dystopian (ish) setting. Digital School had its drawbacks, but it wasn't all terrible. In fact, it was kind of mostly awesome, especially for people like me who prefer to avoid awkward social interactions. Sure it's also a cautionary tale about the internet taking over our lives/world, but at heart this is really about Maddie coming to terms with her own views on society's direction, and how her feelings for Justin influence that viewpoint.

So why is Justin so irritating? Well, he has this hang-up about his little underground rebellion. He works to recruit people to his cause, and this takes him on the road for long periods of time with little to no reliable means of communication. Despite Maddie's strengths and abilities, he continually insists that she's too valuable to be out in the field, so OBVIOUSLY they can't be together.


I'm so sick of the "we must protect the fragile female" perspective! For once I'd like to see the dude go "SICK! You're beautiful and smart and capable of man-handling the organization we're fighting with one hand tied behind your back - and you WANT to help? Let's go take them down and be super happy love partners in crime together!"

But no. That never happens. Instead they just whine about how much they want to be with the girl, but do The Right Thing and protect them by quarantining them somewhere away from the action until the manly men types save the world for them. BARF.

I forgave Justin, though, because he's so darn cute. And even though Maddie didn't step up as much or as often as I would have liked, she reminded me so much of myself that I forgave her too. They're just too awesome! Maddie is brilliant, funny, shy, and a bit of an adventure-seeker. I so related to her willingness to go with the flow and get caught up in the wild capers that start to come her way, not wanting to turn down the opportunity to just live a little and maybe meet some cool people. You never know when you'll meet that person who changes your life, in either a good or bad way, and sometimes you just have to walk on the edge of good and bad until your choice reaches its consequence.

Bottom line? Loved, loved, loved this book, but the end and the Justin-isms were enough to knock it down a star. If you're in the mood for a great love story in a futuristic setting, definitely pick this one up. Immediately.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask - aobibliophile™

Sunday, May 22, 2011

As part of The All Male Review Challenge, I'm featuring some of our male book blogger friends in this new interview feature: The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask. Each blogger answered the same 7 questions so that we can all get to know them a bit better. The men of the book blogging community are interesting, charming, funny, witty, and some of the best all around bloggers! If you like what you read here, be sure to check out their blogs - you won't be disappointed.

My guest today is aobibliophile™ from aobibliosphere™!

1) Tell us a little about your blog - when you started, what your focus is, why you do it, etc.

i started last November 2010. it's a cool coincidence to be part of the All Male Review Challenge since my blog just turned 6 on the 17th of this month.

aobibliosphere™ is about books - my life-long romance with them and my journey of discovery and learning. it is also a tribute to all authors, readers, fellow book bloggers and to all the books yet to be read and written.

2) Book blogging seems pretty heavy on the females. Do you think being a male blogger has any advantages or disadvantages?

i did notice that majority of book bloggers are females but this does not make me uncomfortable in any way. it never even crossed my mind that there are pros and cons to being a male blogger. i'm having fun and i'm just grateful to be surrounded by people who are as passionate about reading as i am.

3) Do you read a lot of books with male protagonists? Why or why not?

i read almost anything that interests me so i don't really keep track. enjoying the book and feeling good about it is more important to me regardless of the protagonist's gender.

4) Give us three books you consider "must reads."

that's a tough one to answer as we all have different tastes and wants. one man's treasure is another man's junk but i recommend the following:
  • The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King - a brilliant septology by a master wordsmith
  • Havah by Tosca Lee - a story about Eve, the first woman and mother of us all
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, père - a timeless classic i never get tired of reading every now and then

5) If you could be any literary character, who would you be and why?

i go for Harry Potter. having been orphaned myself, i feel for this boy-wizard and what he had to go through. i also love the series and i have the US and UK editions of all seven books. hopefully, i could add the French, German and Spanish translations to my collection soon.

6) When you're not reading or blogging, what are you most likely doing?

writing in my journal, painting landscapes in watercolor, cooking and taking care of my 8 year-old nephew. i rarely watch TV now so one or a couple of these keep me occupied when i'm not in front of my laptop.

7) Share an interesting/weird/random/funny fact about yourself with us.

  • most of my readers/followers assume that i'm a female book blogger. lol! i assure everyone though that i'm not offended. not at all. c",) i guess my blog's design and button has to do with the assumption plus the fact that i blog anonymously. the blog's layout is really a tribute to my late Mom who was born on St. Patrick's Day. she loved to read as well and had influenced my passion for the written word. green is and has always been my favorite color. finding a St. Pattie's theme for aobibliosphere™ was just perfect!
  • a couple of months or so after i started blogging, i had strange lucid dreams where i found myself drafting a review. the thing is, the scene kept repeating itself over and over. i always woke up feeling groggy and my fingers ached. i thought it was funny and horrible at the same time! to date, i don't have these dreams anymore thank goodness! lol!

Thanks for sharing with us! You can follow aobibliophile™ at aobibliosphere™ and on Twitter @aobibliophile.

James Kennedy Giveaway Winner!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thanks to everyone who entered my All Male Review Challenge giveaway of The Order of Odd-Fish by James Kennedy. The results have been tabulated, and with a little help from just kidding - there was only one entrant, so by default the winner is...

Congratulations Aimee! Be sure to check your email so I can get your book out to you as soon as possible. Happy reading!

Weekly Recap 5/13-5/20

Friday, May 20, 2011

I'm in a reading slump. I don't know if it's school stress or the pressure of the self-pub requests flooding in, but somewhere in the last week I decided that every book I'm reading is not very satisfying. I keep trying new ones, and each one is as disappointing as the last. Blerg.

I need recommendations. What are you reading right now? What have you read recently that knocked your socks off?

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:

Author Interview with James Kennedy
Author James Kennedy came by to discuss his wacky exploits, and I giveaway a copy of his book.

The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask
I interviewed Jamie from writers write, right?.

4/5 stars
Black Dagger Brotherhood Challenge
All Male Review Challenge
+ Book Club +

2/5 stars
All Male Review Challenge

LEVERAGE by Joshua C. Cohen
4/5 stars
All Male Review Challenge
+ Giveaway +


It's All Male Review Challenge month! If you haven't signed up yet, you can do so here. Then be sure to link up your reviews to increase your chances of winning our prize packs!

I have TWO giveaways still up for grabs, so be sure to enter if you'd like a signed copy of James Kennedy's The Order of Odd-Fish or Joshua C. Cohen's Leverage.

Enjoy your weekend everybody!

Review and Giveaway: Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

Book: Leverage
Author: Joshua C. Cohen
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release date: February 17, 2011
Source: ARC received from 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.

First impressions: Danny and Kurt are terrific narrators. Danny is sure of himself without being overly cocky. He's small and a gymnast, and his bravado seems to cover a bit of insecurity about his stature. Kurt is lumbering and quiet, caught behind a painful stutter. He's had a hard life, but is quick to see the good in others and is at heart a sweet kid with a terrible past. I just loved these two.

Lasting impressions: A powerful book that will challenge the way you think about bullying.

Conflicting impressions: I felt like the antagonists in this book were one-note villains juiced up on steroids and terrorizing the school with no consequences. This seemed a bit unrealistic to me, and thought the story would have been even more powerful if their brutality was a bit more subtle.

Overall impressions: Every once in a while, a book will come along and punch you in the gut. When I first read Missie's review I knew I had to read this book. I was bracing for the inevitable throughout the entire thing, which meant a lot of clenched jaws and fists as I battled through the pages.

Joshua Cohen does not hold back here. From the first few scenes, we know that the football jocks are playing for keeps. They are mean, terrifying, and disgusting. They rule the school as well as the gym. Their coach does nothing to keep them in check. In fact, the adults in this book are pretty much nonexistent. The boys in this story know they have to fend for themselves, and sometimes at the expense of their fellow classmates. It's a dog-eat-dog world, for sure.

Too often I think adults turn a blind eye to the concerns of kids. What can seem overdramatic or inconsequential to us can often seem truly frightening and devastating to kids. Granted, in this scenario I think anyone would have been fearful, but Cohen captures that fear in a very honest way. I understood why Danny was so on edge. My heart pounded every time he had to report for practice and step a foot into that locker room. Cohen brilliantly nailed that adolescent mix of isolation and disappointment that threatens to swallow you whole when the adults in your life ignore your fears, or worse, don't even realize the threat to your safety exists. It just broke my heart.

Although this book has a dark stain on it from the jocks' bullying, the true heart of the novel comes from how Kurt and Danny deal with it. Kurt, a new and gifted member of the football team, struggles with how to fit in, keep a low profile, but stand up for what is right. He was a victim of horrible child abuse growing up, and can't stand the thought of others being hurt. He forms a friendship with Danny after seeing a spectacular performance by Danny at a gymnastics meet, and Danny welcomes Kurt as a potential shield from the rest of the football team's bullying. Together they are able to find redemption after an intensely brutal attack by the football jocks on one of Danny's teammates.

That attack is the defining moment for our protagonists. They are completely changed by what they witness, and they realize that how they choose to proceed after the attack will stay with them the rest of their lives. In the face of even more tragedy, and the deep shame that beckons for them to cover up their emotional wounds and just move on, our heroes must make a decision. It's a decision none of us would ever hope to have to make, but it hangs there nonetheless. My stomach felt like a rock as I sped through the final chapters, desperate to find out whether Kurt and Danny would meet the challenge or hide from it.

This book is an important reminder that bullying exists, sometimes further under the surface than we like to admit. I highly recommend this book to everyone, and hope its poignant tale of courage and redemption speaks to your hearts as powerfully as it spoke to mine.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Are you looking for something to read for the All Male Review Challenge? This is a book with both a male protagonist and a male author! Score!

I think this is such an important book to read, so I am giving away a finished copy to one lucky winner!

This contest is open to ages 13 and up with a U.S. mailing address. To enter, leave a comment on this post, along with an email address where I can contact you. The contest will close on May 27, 2011 and the winner will be announced on the 28th. Good luck!


Missie was nice enough to send me her ARC of Leverage because I was so enamored with her review. If you are a reviewer interested in posting your own review of this book, I'd be happy to spread the love and pass along the ARC I received. Email me if you want it. *Update* Sorry folks! The ARC has been claimed!

The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask - writers write, right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

As part of The All Male Review Challenge, I'm featuring some of our male book blogger friends in this new interview feature: The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask. Each blogger answered the same 7 questions so that we can all get to know them a bit better. The men of the book blogging community are interesting, charming, funny, witty, and some of the best all around bloggers! If you like what you read here, be sure to check out their blogs - you won't be disappointed.

My guest today is Jamie from writers write, right?

1) Tell us a little about your blog - when you started, what your focus is, why you do it, etc.

I started my blog almost a year ago, probably much like the way most people began...on a whim. I was feeling bored and creatively stifled when I came across Blogger and thought, "Hmm, this looks like fun." So it began. I know that most bloggers focus on one thing or another (writing tips, book reviews, etc), but I really am just using this forum as a way to interact with other writers/book lovers. Whatever way that happens is fine with me!

2) Book blogging seems pretty heavy on the females. Do you think being a male blogger has any advantages or disadvantages?

I don't think it has advantages or disadvantages, really. I've had lengthy conversations about books/authors with both male and female bloggers and those conversations mirror each other--you can't tell who I'm talking to in either one! I do think that since the majority of bloggers are female (especially for YA, which is what I write), most people assume I am female, too, so if there was a disadvantage that would be it. Of course having the name Jamie doesn't help!

3) Do you read a lot of books with male protagonists? Why or why not?

I've only read a few books with male protagonists, and honestly I have no preference either way. I do, however, tend to gravitate more toward female YA protagonists only because that is what I write so I like to read what's happening in that area. But a great book is a great book, protag's gender aside!

4) Give us three books you consider "must reads."

Ooh, tough one. I think everyone should read Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird for its sheer brilliance; Delirium by Lauren Oliver for its wonderful beauty; and Stephen King's IT to have the crap scared out of them.

5) If you could be any literary character, who would you be and why?

Wow, another tough one! Okay, I think I would have to say Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. She's tough as hell, loves her family and friends completely, and proves that good triumphs evil in the end.

6) When you're not reading or blogging, what are you most likely doing?

My two favorite things: Writing and watching TV--often times simultaneously.

7) Share an interesting/weird/random/funny fact about yourself with us.

I think I may be the most accident-prone person on the planet. I've been knocked unconscious by a trash dumpster, dragged across a highway by an out-of-control automobile, fallen through a roof...well, you get the idea!

Thanks for sharing with us! You can follow Jamie at writers write, right? and on Twitter @jmanni32.

Review: Happy Birthday to Me by Brian Rowe

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

Book: Happy Birthday to Me
Author: Brian Rowe
Publisher: CreateSpace/Self-published
Release date: April 5, 2011
Source: Free ebook from author for review
Series: Birthday Trilogy #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Seventeen-year-old Cameron Martin has a huge problem: he’s aging a whole year of his life with each passing day!

High school is hard enough; imagine rapidly aging from seventeen to seventy in a matter of weeks, with no logical explanation, and with prom, graduation, and the state championship basketball game all on the horizon. That’s what happens to Cameron, a popular pretty boy who's never had to face a day looking anything but perfect.

All Cameron wants to do is go back to normal, but no one, not even the best doctors, can diagnose his condition. When he finds love with a mysterious young woman, however, he realizes his only hope for survival might be with the one person who started his condition in the first place.

First impressions: Cameron is really engaging with a powerful voice. I felt like I knew him right away. The book opens with Cameron on death's door, rapidly aging on the outside despite being only 17 on the inside. I just had to know more!

Lasting impressions: Not enough conflict for my tastes and the supporting characters seemed not to serve much purpose. But I loved Cameron's voice and I thought the prose was well written.

Conflicting impressions: I wanted there to be some kind of external conflict. This book was all about Cameron's struggle with this aging process, and for too long we don't have any idea how he can overcome it. I ended up just assuming he couldn't, so there wasn't a whole lot driving me through the pages. We don't find out what's going on until the very end of the book, which ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied.

Overall impressions: The beginning and end of this book really pulled me in. Cameron is a cocky athlete with a pretty girlfriend who doesn't seem to care about him all that much. His best friend, Wesley, is a wannabe film auteur - he reminded me of a hippie grunge Dawson, but in a good way. Cameron is a basketball star, and the son of a successful plastic surgeon. He's got pretty much everything going for him.

Then Cameron starts to age rapidly, and the stage is set for this ticking time bomb of a deadline. Cameron is aging one whole year per day, and soon his time will be up. As he gets older, his friends and family go through various stages of shock, and life gets pretty lonely. His mom is weepy, his dad is horrified and distant, his sister keeps bugging him to come to her music recital, and his friend Wesley wants to make a film about him. His girlfriend flakes, the weird girl from the pizza parlor keeps showing up, and the librarian incessantly harasses him. Oh, and the basketball team wants him to quit pretending his aging body can keep up.

Somewhere in the jumble of all of these extraneous characters, the story got lost for me. I didn't know what Cameron was supposed to be learning. Cameron has no idea what's happening, there's no medical explanation, and so ultimately he just keeps living his life, one miserable day after another. I was dying for him to figure out who was holding all of the secrets, and wished that had happened way before it did. My focus was too scattered between the relationship with his dad, the upcoming state basketball championship, the film Wesley is directing, the girlfriend who leaves him, and the librarian who ends up in the most bizarre scenario with him that really left me confused.

I think the main reason I didn't enjoy this as much as I could have is that the motivations of the characters seemed off somehow, and the story didn't seem to go anywhere for long chunks of time. Still, I have to say again that Cameron has a really great voice and it's fun to be in his head. The story is unique and interesting, and I think Brian Rowe is a gifted writer. I found this book to be a breath of fresh air in a market flooded with paranormal romances; I just wish it had kept my interest a little better.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Are you looking for something to read for the All Male Review Challenge? This is a book with both a male protagonist and a male author! Score!

The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask - Palm Books Journal

Sunday, May 15, 2011

As part of The All Male Review Challenge, I'm featuring some of our male book blogger friends in this new interview feature: The Man Behind the (Blog) Mask. Each blogger answered the same 7 questions so that we can all get to know them a bit better. The men of the book blogging community are interesting, charming, funny, witty, and some of the best all around bloggers! If you like what you read here, be sure to check out their blogs - you won't be disappointed.

My guest today is Marrion from Palm Books Journal!

1) Tell us a little about your blog - when you started, what your focus is, why you do it, etc.

My blog, Palm Books Journal, just started this January 12. It's only been 3 months but a lot of things happen. If you're wondering where did the name came from, my first answer would be, "I really don't know"-- It actually just pops on my head. However, each week I realized what does it mean--It means that, it is a journal of someone who starts reading a book from his/her palm, holding it starts the adventure from an never-ending possibilities. It's the person way of handling the book, caressing it right through you own palms. [Does that make any sense? lol!]

Anyway, my blog mostly focuses on YA books though sometimes I also get out of that comfort zone and giving a shot for some middle grade and adult books. I am adventurous type of guy when it comes to books. I don't want to focus in only one field, It embraces the boredom-ness. So I mostly take things in extraordinary level.

There are two reasons why I started book blogging. First, I am a fan of books. I love to read. [Thanks for Harry Potter] My love for books increases ten folds. Secondly, a close friend suggested why not share your thoughts on the books your read from the others who has the same feel for books. Why not? So I tried it and up until now, I am very hooked to it! :]

2) Book blogging seems pretty heavy on the females. Do you think being a male blogger has any advantages or disadvantages?

Yeah! The vast majority are females! That's not very new to me though. I already know before I started book blogging, this field-of-love are outnumbered by girls. Well... I don't mind. :]

I think there is one thing a guy has it advantage. I guess, girls are curious if what does a guy think of this book, am I right? Do guys like that book or not? A guys perspective/opinion really adds something new and interesting. In it disadvantages, I haven't really experience something degrading from a guy who does book blogging. If there is someone, well... I don't really care. I'm good at it, they're just jealous, I think? lol! :]

3) Do you read a lot of books with male protagonists? Why or why not?

I have read more female protagonist but I have read some male ones. Who wouldn't forget the Harry Potter Series? Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code? And Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series? I have read them and I all enjoyed it! It is a great thing that not all male protagonist appears just only on video games but also in books! :]

4) Give us three books you consider "must reads."

Which one? Male or Female protagonist? In general, probably, Angel Burn by LA Weatherly; Falling Under by Gwen Hayes and The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

5) If you could be any literary character, who would you be and why?

Just to be fair, I'll choose one male and one female literary character:
  • For the guy, I like to be more of Peeta Mellark of The Hunger Games. He is very artistic. He paints and draws which I do love as well aside from books. And he loves Katniss despite on how she treated him. His undying love for someone who is important is very inspiring and courageous. I idolize him for being like that. :]
  • For the girl, Willow from the awesome and my dearly loved-so-much book, Angel Burn by LA Weatherly. Aside from the ability to became an angel [will this spoil it?] is wicked awesome! it was her ability to turn her weaknesses and fears to became her motivation to fight and face the problem ahead. In which of course, very inspirational and cool.

6) When you're not reading or blogging, what are you most likely doing?

I like to walk at night to clear my head from everything and I do love to watch movies. I do love to eat a lot. Which I am proud to be very good at. lol! I love to play on my PSP. Sometimes, I just sit and stare. :]

7) Share an interesting/weird/random/funny fact about yourself with us.

It is the 7th and last question, I'll be giving 7 facts about me. Here goes:
  • I usually sniff the new scent of a new bought book.
  • I'm afraid of heights and my most feared ride on a Theme Park is "The Ferris Wheel"--I instantly gone crying. lol!
  • There are times I just dance without a reason.
  • I can eat 4 cups of rice per meal and I can eat any sorts of food served on the table. You can invite me to eat on an eat-all-you-can restaurant.
  • Chocolate is my kryptonite [especially Butterfingers]
  • I do sing! :]
  • I am a neat-freak sometimes, I make everything is in order and well-organized.

Thanks for sharing with us! You can follow Marrion at Palm Books Journal and on Twitter @pbooksjournal.

Review and Book Club: Lover Eternal by J. R. Ward

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Today I'm participating in Bookaholic Does Blogging's Black Dagger Brotherhood Book Club for her BDB Challenge. Every month, in addition to reading one of the series' books, I'll be participating in her book club posts, so we can all gab about BDB and their muscley awesomeness. I missed the boat on the first book last month, but here are my responses for book 2 - Lover Eternal!

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

Book: Lover Eternal
Author: J. R. Ward
Publisher: Signet
Release date: March 7, 2006
Source: Bought for Kindle
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #2

Summary: (from Goodreads) Within the brotherhood, Rhage is the vampire with the strongest appetites. He's the best fighter, the quickest to act on his impulses, and the most voracious lover-for inside him burns ferocious curse cast by the Scribe Virgin. Owned by this dark side, Rhage fears the time when his inner dragon is unleashed, making him a danger to everyone around him.

Mary Luce, a survivor of many hardships is unwittingly thrown into the vampire world and reliant to Rhage's protection. With a life-threatening curse of her own, Mary is not looking for love. She lost her faith in miracles years ago. But when Rhage's intense animal attraction turns into something more emotional, he knows that he must make Mary his alone. And while their enemies close in, Mary fights desperately to gain life eternal with the one she loves.

1. On a scale from 1-5, what would you rate this book? Briefly tell us why.

I gave it 4 stars. Rhage was a more interesting protagonist for me than last book's Wrath, and for the first half of the book I was loving every second of it. The back half was a little anticlimactic, however, and so I ended up not enjoying the ending. I wanted a bit more action and a bit more resolution, but my overall enjoyment was still worth 4 out of 5 stars. These books do not pretend to be anything other than what they are - guilty pleasure romance reads about outlandishly beautiful men whose actions may or may not be realistic. They wear minimal clothing, are very selfless lovers, and only refer to their footwear as "shitkickers." Do you really need any more information than that?

2. Did you have an preconceived notions about this book given that we knew it would be from the point of view of a different brother?

I wasn't sure about the idea of having each brother get his own book. I liked Wrath a lot in the first book, and I didn't think Rhage could compete for my affection in the same way. Boy was I wrong! It appears that each book will tell a unique story that allows us to get to know the individual warrior better, as well as the Brotherhood as a whole. With the way this one ended, I am very excited about the next book focused on Zsadist. In fact, when I finished this one, I immediately bought the next one. I'm ready for June now!

3. What did you think of Rhage's transformations?

I think the whole literal inner demon curse is super cool. A warrior who must temper his impulses or turn into a snarly bloodthirsty lizard beast? Swoon. Okay, maybe not swoon, but I am madly in love with the concept. I will say that I was disturbed at Mary's reaction to the beast and felt that the two scenes where she interacts with it didn't quite work for me. They didn't seem to fit the character of the rest of the book or with what we were led to believe about the beast itself. Disappointing.

4. What did you think of Rhage and Mary's first encounter at the Brother's house? Did you foresee a relationship forming after this meeting?

Like Ashley, I also thought Rhage was kind of a pushy ass in that scene. There were a number of times in this book where I felt like one or more of the brothers was really coming on too strong for what is generally acceptable to women, drop-dead gorgeous or not. If anyone invaded my space like that, looking as impaired and grouchy as Rhage did, I'd have kneed him in the groin and not looked back as I ran. We like them strong and silent and all, but YEESH.

5. Ward seems to like forcing her characters to make some hard choices. What did you think of Rhage's choice to save Mary at the end of the book? Would you do the same for someone you loved?

I like the hard choices theme that has pervaded both books so far. If a character doesn't face difficult choices or circumstances, I get bored. I need high stakes. This book had lots of those, between Mary's returning leukemia and Rhage's erupting beast. We know early on that Mary is dying, and I kept flying through the pages hoping that something would save her in the end. I'd like to think I'd act the same as Rhage when push comes to shove. My own happiness pales in comparison knowing the people around me are suffering.

6. Do you think John will become a brother after his transformation?

I hope so. He seemed like a good kid, and Ward certainly dropped enough hints to suggest that he will. I think having a new brother would pump some life into the books and show us how they function with change and new members. They've been with each other for so long that I want to know how they got to that point, so having John around could feed us some backstory as they reflect on their own journeys to the Brotherhood.

7. Do you think Bella will become Zsadist's shellan? What, if anything, do you think this will do to Phury and Zsadist's relationship as a result given that Phury showed mild interest in Bella as well?

I'm still confused as to why Phury is insisting on staying celibate. I know he feels guilt over Zsadist's past, but it seems odd that in the face of everything he is already giving up to help Zsadist, he avoids women too. Part of my interest in reading the next book so quickly is the cliffhanger around Bella and Zsadist. I want to know what happens to her and if we see her again, or if Zsadist will have to face a fresh round of pain and loss if she doesn't make it. I'm biting my nails over here!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Author Interview and Giveaway: James Kennedy

Friday, May 13, 2011

As part of the All Male Review Challenge, today I have a special guest - male author extraordinaire James Kennedy. James wrote the fantastical and funny book The Order of Odd-Fish, and I have had the distinct pleasure to hear him read from it. I can guarantee that you will never hear a better reading than one from the exuberant James Kennedy! If you don't believe me, read on to hear about his wacky exploits starting mock fights with Neil Gaiman, encouraging children to battle-dance in a "Dome of Doom," and creating a film contest where Newbery winners are presented in 90 seconds or less.

1) Since this is a male-centric event, let's just cut to the chase: What's your beef with Neil Gaiman?

No beef! I admire Neil Gaiman and I love his books. My "feud" with Neil Gaiman is purely fictional.

It started in 2009, when I wrote a blog post about the American Library Association Midwinter conference. It was a surreal short story in which I characterized the ALA as a bloodthirsty cult of illiterate troglodytes. (Well, naturally. They had neglected to give me the Newbery award for my novel The Order of Odd-Fish). In a throwaway aside, I claimed that Neil Gaiman was only two millimeters tall, and that all his books were written by bees. (You can read the story here.)

Neil Gaiman found out about the post. He thought it was funny. So he linked to it. This was very gracious and sporting of him. It sent a ton of his readers my way. So when I was invited to speak at the ALA conference that summer, I decided to take the joke a step further.

I was supposed to speak at the ALA conference about the genre of fantasy. Instead, I showed up soaking wet, missing a tooth, barefoot, in a poofy pirate shirt and unspeakable blazer, and went on to castigate the hundred-or-so librarians there for giving the Newbery medal to Neil Gaiman, and not to me.

Midway through the speech, a friend dressed as "Neil Gaiman" sprang up, holding the Newbery. I tackled him and wrestled the award away. Another friend came in dressed as the head of the ALA, and she put “Neil” and me through a series of mental and physical contests to see who really deserved it (thumb war, fifty-yard dash, fencing, handsomest face, tag-team wrestling . . . )

I lost every contest. Thus, by the ancient rules of the ALA, I was sacrificed on an altar using a knife “forged in the flames of the burning of the library of Alexandria.” But then “Neil Gaiman” wept over my corpse, announced that I deserved the Newbery after all, and led one hundred librarians in chanting “Give Kennedy the Newbery! Give Kennedy the Newbery!”

You can find a transcript of the speech and complete video here. Here’s the part where I challenge and fight “Neil":

Again, Neil Gaiman kindly linked to that, too. (Like I said, he's a good sport.) And with that, I decided to stop my career of Gaiman-baiting.

But I got dragged back in! This spring, Neil Gaiman's great Neverwhere was selected for the Chicago Public Library's "One Book, One Chicago" program. I live in Chicago, and the librarians running the program remembered my ALA antics, so they asked me to do a 10-minute introduction of Neil Gaiman when he came to speak in person at the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago.

This was a chance of a lifetime! To meet the man himself? (And indeed, when we were hanging out backstage beforehand, although Neil was very friendly he seemed slightly wary—or perhaps embarrassed on my behalf that I was about to make an ass of myself.)

I am proud to report I did not make an ass of myself (I think). This final video is of when I confronted the real Neil Gaiman in person. In it, I bring the "feud" to a close, revealing the true origin of Neil Gaiman (spoiler: we grew up together in Saginaw, Michigan), the real reason I have a beef with him (it has to do with his luxurious hair), and our emotional reconciliation—culminating in me serenading him with Katy Perry's "Firework." I think you will agree I have a beautiful singing voice, but here's the complete transcript if you don't want to watch the video.

For those of you who love my beautiful voice, here's the video of me confronting Neil Gaiman in person:

After the introduction, Neil kindly said, "I've been introduced many times. That was the best."

And I think any Gaiman-feudery after that would be way too much. As my wife said, "If you keep doing this, you'll become the Rupert Pupkin of children's literature." That stings!

2) As one of the lucky people privileged enough to have seen you do a reading, I can say that you have quite the frenetic energy. Where does all of that passion come from?

Thanks! I think The Order of Odd-Fish is a book that naturally lends itself to being read aloud. (Indeed, Jessica Almasy does a great job with the audiobook.) When I was writing it, I would act out the parts myself to see if they would perform well—I've found that if something reads well out loud, it works well on paper too, but not necessarily the other way around. So I think the passion and energy come from the book itself—it's an ebullient, raucous, ranting romp of a novel, and it deserves to be read in that way.

3) Your book has really connected with an army of young fans. Tell us a little bit about your art events and how they developed.

Not long after The Order of Odd-Fish came out, I learned that artists all over the country were spontaneously doing fantastic fan art based on the book. I started to get in touch with them, encouraging their work. Soon the trickle became a deluge!

Here's a few examples—for instance, a grotesque cake depicting the scene where a giant fish vomits out the Odd-Fish lodge:

Or a home-brewed beer based on the book's villain, the Belgian Prankster:

And more! A homemade gun, Japanese-style dolls, a stained glass window . . . Max Pitchkites, a high school student from around Indianapolis, even did a stunning series of 28 mixed-media illustrations, one for each chapter:


I was already featuring Odd-Fish fan art in a special gallery on my blog. I had an idea: why not put on a real gallery show of Odd-Fish fan art, right here in Chicago? But not only an art show: a real spectacle, an all-night costumed dance party. And thus the idea of The Dome of Doom was born.

I worked together with the Chicago theater group Collaboraction to pull it off. I put a "Call for Submissions" post on my blog, giving a deadline and a date for the Odd-Fish art party.

But I didn't just wait for people to find out about it. I made a profile at and searched for those artists who listed The Order of Odd-Fish as one of their favorite books. I got in contact with those artists and invited them to submit. I also put the word out on the network of children's literature blogs.

Not only teens, but also adults got into the act. Here's a picture by Teddy Bihun, of when the main character, Jo, fights a monster called the nang-nang:

And this one, by Dawn Heath—an illustration of the scene when Jo and her new friend Ian ride an elephant into Eldritch City (this one was featured on the cover of VOYA, a trade journal for young-adult librarians whose cover story in December 2010 was about the show):

And much, much more! The gallery show ended up having over 100 pieces of Odd-Fish fan art. Many of the young adult artists attended, some from many states away. But it was more than just a gallery show. It was also a spectacle that recreated a pivotal scene of the book, the "Dome of Doom."

Party guests were encouraged to come in costume as a fighter of some sort—lion, gladiator, computer virus, etc. We seeded them in tournament brackets and then pitted them against each other in the "Dome of Doom" (a dome we built out of PVC pipes). Contestants had to battle-dance against each other (no touching) in the ring while the audience hooted, made their bets, and went nuts.

Three god-judges (I was one of them) decided who won each fight and proceeded to the next round. After the final fight, we put the ultimate champion on an altar, tore out her heart, and fed her to a giant snake-monster. It was a raucous, unforgettable night. Circus marching bands! Ritualistic parades! Unhinged dancing!

This recap on my blog, with its pictures and video, might make it all clearer. But if you just want to see two people in costume battle in a dome, I can give you that too:

The "Dome of Doom" event went so well that I've worked with Collaboraction to do versions of it in Chicago parks. Check out this video where we lead a costumed parade, complete with marching band, through Logan Square, and pull children out of the crowd, stick them in costume, and encourage them to battle-dance in the ring:

This Odd-Fish fan art show thing might become an annual event. On April 2 of this year (2011) we put on the art show again, but this time at a creepy, eccentric old mansion in rural Illinois—an experience every bit as satisfying as doing an all-night dance party.

4) Self-promotion is an area where a lot of authors falter. What inspires you to keep going?

My bottomless sense of entitlement. The fact that there is even one person in the world who hasn't read The Order of Odd-Fish fills me with cold fury.

Seriously, though, I think it's because of this grass-roots fan love Odd-Fish has received that keeps me going. I am so thankful and appreciative to them for all the hard work they've done in co-creating the world of Odd-Fish with me.

5) Tell us about your plans for the future. Any new books coming down the pipeline?

Yes! I have finished and I'm in the middle of editing my second novel, a sci-fi comedy called The Magnificent Moots. It's about an Interplanetary Olympics. It's like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy meets A Wrinkle in Time meets Ender's Game meets The Royal Tenenbaums meets "Battle of the Network Stars."

I also have another project that I'm very excited about called the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. It's a video contest I'm curating with kidlit superblogger Betsy Bird, children's librarian at the New York Public Library.

Participants (of any age) are challenged to make videos that tell the story of a Newbery Medal (or Honor) winning book in 90 seconds or less. (No book trailers! The idea is to ridiculously compress the entire story into a very small amount of time.)

We're showcasing the best entries at a star-studded 90-Second Newbery film festival at the New York Public Library on November 5. Former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jon Scieszka will co-host it with me!

To get an idea of what we're going for, here's the inaugural entry—A Wrinkle in Time IN JUST 90 SECONDS:

Already this video has gone semi-viral—it's been viewed over 80,000 times, and Madeleine L'Engle's granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis even contacted me, asking how she could help! (Actually, I had feared it would be a cease-and-desist notice!) To bring everything full circle, good old reliable Neil Gaiman even tweeted about it . . .

Anyway, this is a great opportunity to get people reading, thinking and discussing Newbery award-winning books. Figuring out how to communicate important plot and character points in 90 seconds is a real challenge and should spark some heated debates among readers. You can find out more about the contest, including rules, due dates, and other stuff, at the official 90-Second Newbery site.

6) Finally, do you think male authors or protagonists are underrepresented in YA fiction? Why is that?

Wait a second—Neil Gaiman, M.T. Anderson, John Green, Philip Pullman, Rick Riordan, Philip Reeve, Louis Sachar, Darren Shan, Neal Shusterman, Lemony Snicket, Jonathan Stroud, Scott Westerfeld, Markus Zusak—

What was the question again?

Thank you, James, for visiting the blog today! It would be a travesty to expose you dear readers to this infectious wit without giving you the opportunity to indulge in it, so I am giving away a signed copy of James' book, The Order of Odd-Fish, to one lucky winner!

This contest is open to ages 13 and up with a U.S. mailing address. To enter, leave a comment about your favorite James Kennedy antic detailed above, along with an email address where I can contact you. The contest will close on May 20, 2011 and the winner will be announced on the 21st. Good luck!
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