Thursday, December 30, 2010

All 2010 Reading Challenges Completed!

And I'm winded over here! I almost didn't think I'd make the YA Reading Challenge in time and if I didn't, I would have missed it by a single book. That would have rendered some serious self-ass-kicking. But I did it. I only participated in three this year, the Fantasy Reading Challenge, the Young Adult Reading Challenge and the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. Just click on the respective images below to go check out my lists.

In 2011 I'm doing quite a few more but I have an epic shitload of books to read and since I can overlap all of the challenges, it's going to work out in the end and I won't be scrambling around on December 30th trying to wolf down books. I'll post those lists posts probably this weekend. I was going to do it tonight but it's already after 10 and I'm tired.

I hope everyone else's reading challenges went smoothly and you all have some good ones picked out for the coming year. Read on!

Skin by Rick Jasper (Night Fall series)

Published August, 2010.

It looks like a pizza exploded on Nick Barry's face. But bad skin is the least of his problems. His bones feel like living ice. A strange rash - like scratches - seems to be some sort of ancient code. And then there's the anger . . .

Something evil is living under Nick's skin. Where did it come from? What does it want? With the help of a dead kid's diary, a nun, and a local professor, Nick slowly finds out what's wrong with him. But there's still one question that Nick must face alone: how do you destroy an evil that's inside you? (book back blurb)

Another creeptastic installment in the Night Fall series from Darby Creek. If the cover doesn't skeeve you out, then the contents surely will. And it'll have you looking at your own emerging zits in a whole new, and terrifying, light.

If you didn't know, the Night Fall series is a YA series written specifically for the reluctant or slower reader that might not be able (or willing) to take on the bigger, heavier (not necessarily physically) tomes otherwise seen in YA. While the read is quick, it's effective. The writing's simple yet it portrays the horror the story is trying to get across. While it may be lacking in detail, the simplicity that it does provide is enough to make you question leaving the light on at night, proving that effective horror doesn't have to be a labyrinthine door stopper.

But just like the last Night Fall book I reviewed, Unthinkable, I wanted more from the story. As someone that certainly is not a reluctant reader, I wanted more depth than the story offered. The reasoning in this story is insane and oh so freakishly demented. God, I wanted more. I was craving details that I couldn't get. I wanted to feel more for Nick although I felt plenty for him already. I wanted a little more sense of his invisibleness although it was pretty evident considering those that helped him out were not his peers but adults.

Really, the only bad thing about this book was that there wasn't enough. I wanted more! More history! More Nick! More freaky ass skin issues! What was there had me freaked right the hell out. I can only imagine how creepy it would be if there was more fat to the story. I'm guessing I'd rightly lose sleep if there were any more to it because it had me cringing as it were. And it has me yearning for even more horror to come to the surface in the YA market.

If you know someone that's a reluctant reader and want to break them into the awesome that is books, the Night Fall series is a really good place to start, especially if they enjoy getting freaked out. Skin was just as good, if not better, than Unthinkable. I actually think I was a little more scared this time around. And I loved it.

The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff + Contest!

Published September 1, 2010.

Lily: "For three years, I'd been trying to hold on to Simon and pull him up against me. He was a bar of soap in the shower, though: slippery as hell, and one false move - squeeze a little too tight - and he's gone. And picking up a wet bar of soap in the shower is pretty difficult."

Noah: "Lily has these big brown eyes. It sounds corny, but they totally get me. They make my stomach and heart flip five times a piece. So I looked away quickly, because I have a tendency to kind of stare at her if I don't catch myself. It's been like that forever."

Simon: "I never thought much would change with Lily being my girlfriend. I mean, she and Noah were the only people I hung out with much anyway, so now I'd be kissing her and fondling her and she'd be kissing me and fondling me. Not much of a difference, really." (book flap blurb)

Don't let those blurbs fool you. The only one that's the most relevant is Lily's. The others all look like they're wrapped up in some weird love triangle of angst but it's so much more than that. Except for Lily. That's really all it is about since she had such tunnel vision for Simon.

Again, Carolrhoda Lab has not let me down with one of their books. Brezenoff's writing digs so deep, gets down underneath the emo and the angst and the teenagery to something so much more powerful. Lily and Noah are chasing pipe dreams, from a pipe. Just not each others. And Simon, he's the absolute value. He's not a positive or a negative. He's the normal, the end result of walking through the absolute and coming out the other side alive.

The story is told in three very distinct points of view: Lily's, Noah's and Simon's and they all cover relatively the same timeline but you get to see the world from different eyes and it makes all the difference in the story.

Lily's story is rose-colored but running, like red ink splattered with water. She has her eyes set on Simon and she's so blinded by that want she doesn't see the forest for the trees. There is no forest, no trees. Just Simon. Noah's world is a baked out Scooby van with douchier friends. Like Lily, he's so blinded by the path he's made out for himself that he can't see the change. Or doesn't want to. So he envelopes himself in a protective seal in order to save himself. He likes what he has. It saves him from what he walks away from every day and it's worked. Why change something that works so well? It could ruin everything.

And Simon. Simon's the be-all end-all of the storyline, in so many ways. His piece of the puzzle is the most powerful, the most poignant. When he cries, you can feel his tears hitting your hand. You can feel the pain he feels when he starts learning hard truths. And through his eyes we see just how absolutely far away from Lily and Noah he really is. From their eyes, he's the quiet dude that keeps to himself but smokes a lot of bud. No one digs any deeper and if they tried, he really wouldn't let them in. But he's not. He's coping. He's normal. Sort of.

There really wasn't anything about this book not to love. I could have been reading the stories of three real kids for how authentic all three voices sounded. The only issue I had with any part of the story was Suzanne. I'm not sure of her relevance nor if she was even necessary for the story. As Simon's sister she was definitely a crutch for him and at times I found their relationship uncomfortable for how close they were. I saw the path it was headed on really early on but I don't know why the story went there, especially since it happened so late in the plot (like the last few pages) and the aftermath wasn't delved into at all except they kept their distance from each other at the grieving. I honestly don't know if it was another wrench in the spokes of life or if there's a bigger picture I'm missing. I just didn't find that particular part necessary. I think it was too underdeveloped for what it became.

Other than that, this could be a life study of teenagers in the wild. This is what it's like to be a fly on the inside of their craniums. You see how they act and you're privy to what they think and it's so much deeper than the cigarettes and beer and weed and cutting class and slang and whatever. There's pain and torment and sorrow and loss and longing and love going on underneath it all and Brezenoff captured it all fantastically. Reading from one cover to the other was as effortless as walking from one side of the room to the other. At the end I wanted more, especially of Simon. There was so much left hanging there that I didn't want it to end. But it did. And it was oh so good while it lasted.

Contest time!!!

Want my copy? Then fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends January 20th at midnight, EST.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft

Published October 25, 2010.

When you piss off a bridge into a snowstorm, it feels like you're connecting with eternal things. Paying homage to something or someone. But who? The Druids? Walt Whitman? No, I pay homage to one person only, my brother, my twin.

In life. In death.

Since the death of his brother, Jonathan's been losing his grip on reality. Last year's Best Young Poet and gifted guitarist is now Taft High School's resident tortured artist, when he bothers to show up. He's on track to repeat eleventh grade, but his English teacher, his principal, and his crew of Thicks (who refuse to be seniors without him) won't sit back and let him fail. (from

Sad to say, this was another Did Not Finish. By the halfway point I just felt the plot was sluggish and I really couldn't stand the voice. Not to mention it went far too into guitar detail for my liking. I mean, I get it. The kid's a guitar player. But with all of the chord talk and types of guitars, I found myself zoning out. I like a good guitar as much as the next guy but I'm not at that level. I just couldn't appreciate the knowledge.

The voice of the story was the biggest issue for me. It was angsty to the Curt Cobain degree. Like the kid stepped out of 1992 dripping in unwashed plaid and Doc Martins. Not only did I feel the voice was misplaced for the setting (it's a current setting but seeped in 20-year-old music, surely not every teenager in Seattle is gaga for the ancient grunge scene still), it was just trying too hard to be all "I don't give a shit" pissy and I just found it really annoying. Yeah, I get it. The kid's brother died (whom I couldn't get over the fact that anyone would name their kid Telemachus) and he's coping but I'm not a fan of anyone wallowing in their own self-pity, let alone a kid set to his own devices in a contrived situation where no one really gives a crap.

I could blame it on his mother but I just felt her really cliche. Some deadbeat pseudo-whore that leeches off of her son, forcing him to make a better life for her instead of being the mother she actually is. Yeah, it's a shitty situation but I just felt it was tired so I couldn't really empathize with anything.

So between Jonathan's pissing and moaning and constant guitar-playing and "LOOK AT ME" pseudo-suicide attempts, the mismatched and misplaced voice and a stumbling-along plot, I just couldn't make it to the end. Maybe if the voice were different. Maybe if it didn't try so hard to be a byproduct of Curt Cobain's pre-emo emoism and Mitch Albom's latent inner-teen's nightmare. Maybe if it was just truer to itself, I would have liked it more. Maybe someone with a little more patience than me could make it through to the end but I just didn't care enough about the MC, or his story, to do it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler + Contest!

Published May 8th, 2010.

Mom knew that the mermaids - hand-carved from driftwood by the owner of a souvenir shop - were all I wanted to take home from Florida. As she bought them, she looked down at me, her eyes not just glittering but snapping with fire like two Fourth of July sparklers. She ran her fingers down the length of my nose, almost like you'd stroke a favorite pet, and said to the salesman, "We're just alike, me and Aura."

And you know, back then, the idea of that didn't scare the absolute hell out of me. (book back blurb)

For once, a book about teenagers with real problems. That's not really to undermine the issues that teenagers have. At that age, when you don't have any other worries, what your reputation is, who you're dating, who you're friends with, etc. is everything. But this is real. This is the real that makes all of that other stuff trivial shoe dirt. On the one hand you have a girl that's been saddled with being the sole caregiver to a schizophrenic mother and on the other, you have her friend that could go on the Teen Mom show, complete with deadbeat dad and the 'I know it all and my parents know nothing' attitude.

I was sucked into the story immediately. Aura just has a great voice; so much more mature than a lot of the other stories I read and for good reason. If you had to take care of a mentally ill parent all by yourself, you'd age really quickly too. But while I believed the voice as a whole, I didn't necessarily believe all of the references she made. Like equating her grandmother to Imelda Marcos. I'd like to meet a fifteen-year-old that even knows who Imelda Marcos is let alone how to use her person correctly in a reference joke. But those little things aside, Aura held her own throughout. You see just how strong and solid of a character she is by how she handles everything going on around her. I'm sure a lot of others would have ceased to even function in her situation but Aura carried on strong. She did what she could to protect her mother, who was number one to her even above herself.

But with that being said, it's also a horribly sad situation. You have the deadbeat dad that's perfectly content with stepping out of the situation and saving himself, leaving his teenage daughter to handle the problem that's no longer his because he signed on the dotted line making you empathize with Aura even more. Unfortunately, that really is an all too common situation, sad as it is to say. And the school not stepping in to help out? Unless you have outstanding teachers that actually want to help out their students (or super important students), the public school system is not there to function in that manner. Again, another sad thing to say, but it is true. When your bottom line is to have the kids functioning at a high enough level to bring in government funding, if one slips through the cracks, well, it probably would have been one that brought down the curve anyway. And if there aren't parents there to rally for that child, they're going to fade away. So while I think these elements help to isolate Aura even more and force her to function more independently (thus making them look a little contrived), they're not really out of the ordinary situations and they just made the situation all the more real.

I could have lived without Aura's love interest. I just felt like he was a jerk from the beginning. "Paint my board." No please, not even asking. Just do it. Why haven't you done it yet? Where's my board? I just wanted her to say, "dude, I burned it in the pit in the backyard." Granted he didn't know Aura's situation but even mutually exclusive from that, I thought he was a jerk and not worth the notice Aura was giving him.

I even really liked Janny for the basketcase that she was. New moms in desirable situations have a hard time adjusting and here you have a new mom that's barely 16, just emancipated from her parents and without the sperm donor helping out. As much as I wanted to slap her from backing away from Aura when she needed her (and as much as I didn't think Aura leaning on Janny earlier in life was touched upon like it should have been), I didn't hate her for it. She had enough issues on her plate and she couldn't fit Aura's on there anymore either. I get that. Still, I would have liked to have seen Janny be the lean-to earlier in life (as opposed to just a stronger personality) for Aura in order for the situation to be a little more balanced. While I did understand Janny's situation, without that weight behind it, it looked like she was just plugging her ears, demanding that Aura understand her situation but not offering the same understanding in return. It could have been the way I read it and just missed it. But it looked unbalanced to me.

This book is as real as real can get. It's the effects of a mental illness not on the sick individual but on the family around them. When one spoke is broken, it gets harder and harder for the rest to pick up the slack and that's seen here with Aura and her mom. There is only one path to crazy for Aura and it's through creativity so she tries to stifle it as much as she can, in herself and her mom when she gets too bad. Stamp out the crazy and you can stamp out the sickness, keep it from coming back to haunt. At times it's painful to read but it's something that should be read. I'm sure there are more kids going through something like this than the numbers care to admit and like Aura, they're suffering with it. They're beating themselves up over their decisions when they shouldn't even be making decisions like that in the first place. It's sad but Aura's strength is revitalizing. Throughout the entire story it's a beacon of hope. You can see she knows what the right thing to do is. The real right thing to do. It just takes her a while to actually get there.

This is one of those stand-out books in the pile that is YA. There's nothing paranormal about it. There's no love triangle. Actually there's barely any love at all and what love is there is shredded, stressed to its breaking point. But there's perseverance and strength and you won't be able to help but root for Aura from beginning to end. You want everything to work out okay for her. You're desperate for it. It just has to. And that'll keep you turning the pages until the end.

Contest Time!!!

Want my copy? Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends January 17th at midnight, EST.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Calling Mallory!!!

With the numbers 432 in your email address! I've sent you an email about being a winner in my Holiday Book Grab Giveaway but I've yet to hear back from you. You have 24 hours from now to return my email and claim or prize or I will have to choose another winner. Don't lose your slot!

And to the rest of the winners, I wasn't able to get to the post office in time on Friday. Fingers crossed that the weather lightens up tomorrow and I can get to the post office in the afternoon to send everything off. But it's all in the car waiting!

Added to the Pile + 60

Thanks to the holidays, my pile is toppling. Not that I'm really complaining, but I am about six seconds from having a book-induced panic attack.

From BookMooch -

And while I need more books like I need my arm ripped off, Barnes and Noble gift certificates are a book lover's best friends -

Afterlight by Elle Jasper (this one ended up on my list totally by accident, I plugged in the wrong, yet similar, title to a book and this one came up, it sounded interesting so I added it)

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith (because I heard it was demented and awesome)

Dracula In Love by Karen Essex (another piece of awesome that was recommended to me)

Handling The Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist (the author of Let The Right One In, while I haven't read it, I heard it's freaking sweet so why wouldn't this one be guilty by association?)

Things I've Learned from Books + 81

Being creative is probably the only time it will be socially acceptable to listen to and converse with the voices in your head. But if people start telling you that you're diving a little too deeply into the pile of bat shitty, you might want to listen to them. It's for your own good.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 90

While I don't know much about Mr. Mister, I do know a couple of my most favorite 80s songs came from them: Broken Wings and Kyrie. But they most certainly are epic 80s, aren't they? God save mega shoulder pads and mullets.

Freaky Friday :|: 90

Title: Sudden Death
Author: Nicholas Adams
Published: 1991
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 160
Lara Crandall is determined to write a major news story about steroid use among student athletes for her high school newspaper. But her snooping stirs up trouble when the athletes she has interviewed start to die. (from
Um, okay. Sounds relatively unrelated or she's slipping them something like tainted juice or something. You know, even despite these mediocre horror novels from the days of yore, I still prefer the horror trend than the whole paranormal romance wave that's riding now. I'll take this less-than-stellar plot line over evermore simpering and whining and pining and soul-matey true lovey any day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan

Published April 12th, 2010.

It's 1962, a year after the death of Sam's father—he was a war hero—and Sam and her mother must move, along with their very liberal views, to Jackson, Mississippi, her father's conservative hometown. Needless to say, they don't quite fit in.

People like the McLemores fear that Sam, her mother, and her mother's artist friend, Perry, are in the South to "agitate" and to shake up the dividing lines between black and white and blur it all to grey. As racial injustices ensue—sit-ins and run-ins with secret white supremacists—Sam learns to focus with her camera lens to bring forth the social injustice out of the darkness and into the light.

This one almost ended up being a DNF but, literally, right at the middle page of the book, a plot element caught my eye that made me want to keep pushing through. Now, I can't remember what that element was. I can say it was a piece of action in an otherwise rather inactive story. It was a catalyst enough to keep me turning the pages.

But unfortunately I didn't have any kind of "OMG I'm so glad I kept reading!" revelations. The story was okay and I liked the writing enough but I don't think it popped. There wasn't too much that stood out, that struck me as being really powerful. I think it's because I felt the story was rather run-of-the-mill. It's the story of a Yankee white girl moving down to Jackson, Mississippi where outcasts are just as unwanted as anyone with a hint of color in their skin. Unfortunately I just didn't feel it was original enough.

There was a major historical element in the book, the sit-in at the drug store counter, that the MC was placed into but I just didn't feel it. I didn't feel the hum of the air or the hatred in the waitress's eyes or the fear at being caught "on the wrong side" of the fight. It was a girl hidden behind a camera documenting an event that others wanted to happen but they didn't want proof of.

On the other side I liked the growth of Sam throughout the story. You get a real sense of just how immature she is for her age at the beginning of the book and how self-conscious she was about her differences from everyone else. You wanted Stone to not be the Kreeper that kept on being insinuated because Sam liked him so much. But at the same time you wanted to slap her upside the head because of the way she kept convincing herself that he wasn't bad. By the end you could see her as an adult. By staying hidden behind that lens, she developed the backbone she needed to embrace her differences, to take a stand against the popular opinion, to work for what's right. You can actually see her cracking her way out of the shell wrapped around her and I loved her character for it.

But ultimately I just couldn't get myself involved in the story. It's not that I wasn't interested in the events going on, or the turmoil going on in Sam's life. It didn't matter how much I wanted to get engrossed; I just couldn't. I don't really think there's a legitimate reason for me not too. The writing was pretty good and as I said, I loved Sam. But I just wasn't feeling it. I think I felt it lacked passion for what was going on outside of Sam. Sam was a pure focus with everything else taking second chair. Maybe there was too much focus put on Sam and not enough on what was going on around her. Maybe reading it I couldn't get myself far enough out of her head to really feel what was going on. I'm not sure. I do think a lot of people would really like this book but it wasn't for me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Contest Reminder!

Just a reminder to everyone that my Holiday Book Grab Giveaway ends tonight at midnight, EST! Be sure to get your entries in by then and good luck!

Added to the Pile + 59

One book this week from Blog Reach Solutions -

. . . hard-boiled seventeen-year-old Dalton Rev transfers to the mean hallways of Salt River High to take on the toughest case of his life. The question isn't whether Dalton's going to get paid. He always gets paid. Or whether he's gonna get the girl. He always sometimes gets the girl. The real question is whether Dalton Rev can outwit crooked cops and power-hungry cliques in time to solve the mystery of "The Body" before it solves him. (book back blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 80

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Sometimes they're 1,000 too many.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 89

80s Dresses!!!

Ever so distinct, the 80s dress is forever seared into our brains. No matter how hard we try to forget, those ruffles just won't let us. If you were unfortunate enough to be of dress age in the 80s (and don't think you had to be a teen and up for these styles, parents totally wedged their young girls into like-minded fashion), then you should have the visual proof locked up in some musty attic somewhere. Don't try to deny it. The lie is evident in the fear in your eyes.

Freaky Friday :|: 89

Title: Hard Rock
Author: Nicholas Adams
Published: 1991
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 160
When Larry Heart dumps his girifriend Cathy for another girl, Cathy vows revenge. But what was meant as a prank ignites a chilling spiral of events that neither of them can control. (from
Wow. How vague. I'm sure it's meant to be elusive and creepy but there really isn't enough here to pull me in. Aside from the chick that may be going all Basic Instinct on her ex, meh. I'm not sure how that guitar plays into it all, either. Is Larry in a band?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And the winner is . . .

The winner of my ARC of This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas is . . .


Congratulations! Your book should be going out soon. And a big thanks to everyone who entered!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Girl Parts by John M. Cusick + Contest!

Published August, 2010.

David and Charlie are opposites. David has a million friends, online and off. Charlie is a soulful outsider, off the grid completely. But neither feels close to anybody. When David's parents present him with a hot Companion bot designed to encourage healthy bonds and treat "dissociative disorder," he can't get enough of luscious, redheaded Rose - and he can't get it soon. Companions come with strict intimacy protocols, and whenever he tries anything, David gets an electric shock. Parted from the boy she was built to love, Rose turns to Charlie, who finds he can open up to her, knowing that she isn't real. With Charlie's help, the ideal "companion" is about to become her own best friend. (book back blurb)

Personally I don't think that blurb does the book much justice because it's so much more than what it's letting on. What this book really is is a satire of internet life. A finger poke to the eye of the digital generation that's more comfortable interacting with inhuman machines than with each other. Instead of attacking this supposed dissociative disorder with genuine human interaction and parenting, the parents are removed and human interaction is replaced by, of course, another computer that looks like a human.

David's a dick. His parents are dicks. And they all stay that way throughout the entire book. But they're compelling. And that's not to say David doesn't go through any kind of change. He certainly does. But it's the result of being a dick. So does it count that he de-dicks to an extent but it's only after he turns into a mega-dick? I'm torn on that one. But while he's a dick, he's human. He's multidimensional. He's not just some popular rich jerk. Towards the end, Rose really does her job in helping David come out of himself and act more human. So despite what they say, I don't think she failed at all.

Charlie I was kind of impartial on. He's your typical outcast but he's still a sweet guy. I really didn't find anything about him that stood out as miraculous to me. Not that I'm saying he had to be a dick like David, but I think Charlie acted in a way that you might expect a character like him to act. So for me Charlie was my least favorite character. I saw him as the least dynamic. Don't get me wrong. He, too, developed as a character but I didn't feel like it was as profound as David's development. Still, Rose did her job with Charlie too. Go Rose.

Rose is awesome. Cusick did an awesome job of bringing this bot to life and making me feel for her. I absolutely had to keep reminding myself that she wasn't human. But I guess that was the point. The more humans this Companion interacted with, the more human she became. She emoted just like anyone else. She felt fear, pain, despair, happiness. She was more human than Charlie and David. This humanoid bot was the one that made the humans feel human. Think on that one for a second. I was upset with the way her story ended, though. It is rather depressing and it's both inconclusive and conclusive at the same time. You're left with enough hanging around that you can safely insinuate just what happened to her but it's sad and you will feel bad for her. If you don't, then you need to re-read the book and take some lessons from her.

As amazing of a story this book is, I loved it even more for it's social commentary. Unlike other books I've read, I didn't feel like I was getting preached to or talked at. I didn't feel like I was having a point hammered down my throat. The message was subtle and expertly woven into the plot itself. The story was first. The message was a few steps down but even down there, I got it and I loved it. If you want a story that puts this digital age into perspective a little while at the same time reading an amazing story about amazing characters, pick up Girl Parts. I can't say enough good things about this one.

Contest Time!!!

Want my ARC? All you have to do is fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends January 4th at midnight, EST.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Added to the Pile + 58

Three books this week, all from Egmont. I can't wait to read them!

Things I've Learned from Books + 79

Parenting is so passe. The only way to get through to your kid now is via a realistic robot chick that may or may not include a working vagina. Sorry, ladies. If you're in the need, the technology isn't there for robot dudes yet.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 88


Yes. Thanks to the 80s, the glorious slang term, kicks, as in shoes, was birthed. One of the more benign pieces of 80s slang, the term 'kicks' is still around in some parts of the world and used rather regularly. Good for you, slang dude.

Freaky Friday :|: 88

Title: New Kid on the Block
Author: Nicholas Adams
Published: 1991
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 160
Cresswell High has a new exchange student. But Amanda is not who she claims to be. When a boy is found dead in the woods, Elizabeth Henley puts the clues together to conclude that Amanda is a dangerous impostor. (from
Dun, dun, dun. Meh again. It could be good. But it's really not enough to pique my interest.

Holiday Book Grab Giveaway!

That there is my Christmas tree. Nice and fake (I'm not a fan of the pine smell nor pulling needles out of my dog's ass) and the lights are ghetto-rigged (it's pre-lit and a couple of layers are out; because cannibalizing the lights to find the busted one sucks, I have single strands wrapped around the blank spots to compensate). But it's my tree and I love it.

Underneath it you will notice that I have some wrapped gifts. Those, my friends, are for you. There are seven books there for seven lucky winners this Christmas. The books up for grabs are as follows, in no particular order -
  • Merlin's Harp by Anne Eliot Crompton (ARC)
  • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (ARC)
  • The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow by Tim Kehoe (ARC)
  • We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni (ARC)
  • Tricks by Ellen Hopkins (ARC)
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (ARC)
  • The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (ARC)
Seven people will be drawn and asked to choose a number from 1 to 7. Then they'll get a surprise book in the mail! You won't be able to choose which book you want and no, I'm not showing a close-up of the wrapped books! That'd be cheating because you just might be able to narrow them down that way. No dice!

No fancy hoops to jump through. Just fill out the form below to enter. This festive shebang will end December 19th at midnight, EST. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why Length Matters

Stop it, perverts. That's girth. This is about book reviews.

Reading through my feed reader lately I've been noticing a lot of "book reviews" that are shorter than the blurbs copied from the back of the book/Goodreads/wherever else you happen to get it. This is not a review. It's a half-hearted mention that isn't worth the postage the publisher used to send you the book. I'm not saying you have to go all book report on your site but you're not doing the promotion justice if the number of sentences in your review leaves a few fingers hanging. Not to mention you run the risk of pushing the publisher away with such insubstantial reviews. And let's not forget your readers. I know I personally will not take you too seriously as a reviewer if you can't even round off a paragraph for a review.

We're not professiinal reviewers and thus should not be held up to those standards. But I think we have more than enough mental capacity to substantiate our reviews a little more. No one's asking for a thesis on every book you review but I know I'm not the only one that would prefer to see one or two substantial reviews a week as opposed to 15 half-assed couple of sentences each.

If you're feeling overwhelmed with review copies and feel the need to bang them out, 1) stop taking on so many and 2) slow down. I'm pretty sure the publisher would much rather see a fleshed out review than a dribble fired from the hip.

We are first and foremost book reviewers. That's where our effort should be. Not memes, not giveaways, not rambling posts about nothing. If you don't have solid reviews then you're just someone that likes to talk about books, not a book reviewer. I'm not saying don't have anything else on your blog but just remember where the focus should be: reviewing books and promoting them. Don't bow to some invisible pressure that you need to post 47 times a week. You don't. I don't know about anyone else but when I go into my feed reader and see blogs with 10 posts in 24 hours, I'm less inclined to read them. Go at your own pace, not everyone else's and less substantiate those reviews, shall we? Say WHY you like the book or WHY you didn't. If your review is shorter than the book blurb, it's not long enough. Take a look around at your fellow reviewers and take note on what they focus on in reviews. It won't hurt. Just don't copy them. That'll suck.

How do you feel about super short reviews? What do you think is a good review length? What do you think constitutes a "good" review?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Added to the Pile + 57

Just the one book this week from Paperback Swap. It's hard for me to resist a good horror anthology.

You don't really want to read this . . . do you? The masters of horror are waiting to take you on a terrifying ride, and there are 13 stops.

Meet the new guy in town, very handsome, very sexy, and very deadly.

Dine on sweet and wonderfully inviting confections - they're good to the last breath.

Learn that some spells can never be broken . . .

Inside you'll find the works of 13 masters of horror. Let Christopher Pike, RL Stine, and the rest of our macabre crew show you the beauty in your worst nightmares - and the terror in your most exquisite dreams . . . (book back blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 78

Mermaids and sirens are interchangeable creatures. Despite the fact one's half fish and the other's half bird. Scales, feathers, who's paying attention?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Mermaid's Mirror by LK Madigan

Published October 4, 2010.

There's something drawing Lena to the water. It's making Lena sleepwalk to the beach. It's compelling her to surf even if it means putting herself in grave danger and going against her father's wishes.

A woman emerges from the waves—a woman with a silvery tail.

She has a message.

She has a key.

When Lena finds a brown leather sea chest and uses the key to unlock it, she has no choice but to look into the watery depths of her secret past through the mysterious mermaid's mirror . . . Lena's life will never be the same.

I wouldn't say I had high hopes for this one but I was expecting a little more than what I got. Unfortunately, this ended up being a Did Not Finish. I let myself get to the halfway point before shutting the pages (or turning off the eReader, as it were) on it for good. When it becomes a chore to read, it's time to move on. At least with this one I wasn't trading reading for bathroom scrubbing.

I found the writing to be, at times, mechanical, like there was no heart in it. You'd think it'd be a little more whimsical, being a mermaid story and all but I didn't get that. In fact I felt that a lot of the telling (because that's what it was) was robotic, like I was watching the characters jerk around on the page, moving from one action to another without much thought other than what exactly they were doing. One character told the other character this. They surfed. They walked on the beach. They went to school. They got a ride home. I just didn't feel involved. I felt it all rather emotionless.

The story itself was drawn on what I thought was unnecessarily long. At the mid-point I was just getting to be more involved with the mermaid. And I don't mean me personally. I meant the story. She pops up (literally) a couple of times until that point but it's more as an aside than a direct involvement. She doesn't actually engage with the main character until about halfway through the book and by then I was already struggling.

And then there are the insinuations hinted at to Lena's mother. And the mermaid. Really they're blatantly obvious. Because I didn't read to the end I can't tell you if what's so blatant is actually true but it wouldn't surprise me since that was the road it was headed down when I left. And it just made the reading that much more tired. I think because it was made so obvious more than it being the storyline itself. I wasn't thrilled with it but at the same time it wasn't really written with finesse either so that didn't help.

I think the book overall needed a serious plotline shift. Move the mermaid stuff up further and stop hovering over Lena's social life for so long unless it actually played a vital role later on in the story (again, I can't answer if it did or not because I stopped reading but at the pace it was going, I doubt it). But because of such a slow pace and the uninteresting writing, I just couldn't get involved in the story. So much time was spent on Lena and her friends and her boyfriend that the mermaid part was stuffed to the side that it just wasn't interesting for me. I didn't have the patience to wait and see the mermaid aspect rise to the surface like it should have in the beginning.

If you have the patience, I'm sure you'd like the story. It seemed like it was going in an interesting direction. I know I've seen some good reviews of this one out there. But it wasn't for me. I didn't have the patience enough to wait and see.

80s Awesomness! ~ 87

Those of you 90s children might remember its We Are The World equivalent. A multi-national satellite-linked concert viewed by literally billions of people all over the world, Live Aid was a means to bring attention to the plight in Africa. An epic collaboration of amazing musicians (David Bowie and Queen among them), it was the biggest concert of its kind to date (I do believe others have been tried since in the same vein).

And who could forget Band Aid? Live Aid's collaborative mama? Let's hear it for the Christmas cheer! Can you spot the classic 80s recording move?

Freaky Friday :|: 87

Title: Hearthbreaker
Author: Nicholas Adams
Published: 1990
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 160
Wayne Kasden is a very popular guy. He's dating five girls at once. But when one of them is killed--and then another--his popularity is replaced by accusations of murder. Wayne is either a clever killer, or the next victim on a murderer's list. (from
Holy god, talk about an unsympathetic MC. I want to kick the dude in the nuts already and I haven't even cracked the spin. I think I'd skip this one based on MC douchebaggery to begin with.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

CSN Product Review: Slate Plant Tables

So when CSN contacted me to review something of their's again, I jumped on it. I did just move into my own place, after all, and I have some space to fill. This time around I needed some accent tables to fill a gap in a rather empty dining room. I chose the 4D Concepts 3 Piece Slate Square Plant Stands with Slate Tops.

See, I have an unintentional slate theme going on in my house. My dining table has a faux slate top. My coffee and end tables in my living room are hand-laid slate tiles. I go for the earthy neutrals. They're easier to match. So when I saw this set I just had to get them.

And let me tell you, they actually match my living room pretty damn closely. Even better, they're not shipped flat! They're small enough so that they fit in the box as you see them in the photo. You just have to pull them out and place them wherever you want to put them. Nice and easy. And let me tell you, I needed that after my move.

They fill a corner nicely and they're just big enough for a phone, plants or some little knick knacks you have hanging around. It's hard for me to test their stability because my floors are so uneven but they seem pretty stable. I like them, especially for how well they match my living room. I was very excited about that. Another win from CSN Stores!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Added to the Pile + 56

Just one book this week, from the author. Because us Lost Boys fans have to stick together -

After their parents' shocking revelation about their fairy heritage and an attack on their lives, the McDonald twins find themselves on the run - forced to hide out at Riverdale Academy, a boarding school for vampire slayers, deep in the Swiss Alps. With no cell phones, no Internet, and no way to contact their vampire boyfriends - the twins are on their own.

Being a vampire stuck in a school full of slayers isn't easy. Especially with no blood substitute stocked on campus. Soon Rayne find herself succumbing to her bloodlust and losing control - especially around the arrogant but devastatingly handsome Corbin Billingsworth the Third - who isn't sure whether he wants to kiss her . . . or kill her.

But when Sunny starts acting strange, Rayne realizes Riverdale Academy may be hiding some deadly secrets of its own - leading to a showdown in fairyland that may cost the twins and their loved ones their lives . . . (book back blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 77

Surfing puts you on the path to mermaids. I'm thinking it has something to do with the water. Don't hold me to that, though.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Arson by Estevan Vega

Published 2009.

Arson Gable feels like a freak. He can create fire. He never asked for it. He never wanted it. But he can't shut it off.

Before now, three things were true: he both loved and despised his grandmother; his life was going nowhere; and he was alone. But when a strange girl - who feels more normal behind a mask than inside her own skin - moves in next door, Arson hopes to find something he's never had: purpose. Using what he fears most about himself, Arson must face his consuming past and confront the nightmare that is his present as he walks the fine line between boy and monster. (book back blurb)

I just have to say that the mask on the cover of the book truly freaks me out. It's like something out of a horror movie that'll be waiting to stab you in the dark. Out of context, anyway. Well, even in context I wouldn't want that thing sneaking up on me in the night but still. It's freaky.

I loved the story between Arson and Emery. It was both painful and heartbreaking and I was rooting for them to end up together. Vega did a good job portraying the dichotomy between the two "freaks," if you will. Both are social outcasts through no fault of their own and they both find each other in the dark, whether they want to be found or not. They see past each others' freak show for the person underneath, something that no one else could to. Of course, that plays into my niggling that not one person could see past "the freak" in either of these characters; that only other "freaks" could manage that because they knew the pain such social outcasting caused. While I liked the heart-wrenching, I wish that cliche was used less.

Like Arson, I both loved and hated his grandmother but I couldn't help but wonder about her purpose in the story. By the end it looked like she was hiding something from Arson about his past, or maybe his father but even as the story was ending, that reveal is never made. The connections are just insinuated, not confirmed. That nagged at me because, for the most part, Grandma just played the role of Mommy Dearest to Arson for no apparent reason other than she was a bit bat shitty.

Ultimately, up until the last few pages of the book, I felt that the whole fire starter premise could have been removed entirely and replaced with something completely mundane and it would have had zero effect on the overall plot. I just really couldn't help but think that for nearly the length of the book. Why did Arson have to have this magical element to him? It's not affecting the plot at all. He could have been just match happy and it wouldn't have made a difference. So remove the fire starter and you still have a really good plot but that underlying irrelevance would be gone.

And then at the end, with the man in black it just threw everything for a loop, and not necessarily in a good way. Because the reveal of Arson's fire-starting relevance was dragged on for the majority of the book, by the time some semblance of explanation comes in, it's a little late. Not to mention it's lacking an actual explanation. It's 'we're men in black, you're different and we're taking you. End.' I'm not a big fan of books that so blatantly set up for a sequel like that, especially when the problem at hand in the greater length of the current book is never actually resolved. Yeah, people were burnt to shit Carrie-style (again, cliche popular kids totally taking advantage of the freaks and freaks freak out) but it's the first time Arson's abilities come into play and it's the penultimate chapter. Live by that old saying if you have a gun in the first act, it better go off by the third. Well, I saw the gun, I saw it cocked but it appears to have jammed.

Like I said, I really liked the premise between Arson and Emery. It's a great story that I think Vega wrote really well. He had an excellent dynamic between the two. But there were just too many niggling nuances that bugged me. If you're going to read it, I'd say read it for Arson and Emery's story because that's really where the love is for me. I just really couldn't care less about the whole fire starter thing because it was pretty irrelevant for about 98% of the story.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 86

Let's forget about the level of suck the franchise became for this movie and just focus on the original, shall we? While the movie is pretty drastically different from the short story of the same name, it's still a creep factory what with that redhead with the gigantor mouth and that little short dude with the creepy voice that may have just been 53 and not a teenager. And then there's the corn. Miles and miles of corn. I can guarantee that after watching this movie, you will never look at corn fields nor their maze-like counterparts the same way again. Freak show. And people wonder why I am not kid tested nor am I mother-approved.

Freaky Friday :|: 86

Title: Resolved: You're Dead
Author: Nicholas Adams
Published: 1990
Publisher: HarperCollins
Accidentally causing the death of Lisa Enright's boyfriend, the members of the debating team decide to keep their secret when no one suspects them, but when Lisa realizes the truth, the group decides to get rid of her. (from
Looks like another copy and paste plot to me. I doubt I'd give this one a second look if it were put in front of my face. It's have to be pretty remarkable for me to read through to the end.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice by Ann Finnin

Published 2010.

Condemned to death by the Holy Office for sorcery, fifteen-year-old Michael de Lorraine is rescued from the flames by Abbot Francis and granted refuge at Sainte Felice, a Benedictine monastery in fifteenth-century France. Michael learns that this strange and wonderful place, famous for its magical healing wine, harbors renegade monk-sorcerers, enchanted gargoyles, and a closely guarded secret that could spell violent death for the Abbot.

As the church intensifies its cruel pursuit of Michael, Abbot Francis and the wizard monks find themselves in grave danger. Michael will do anything to protect his mentor, but are his own magical powers great enough to save the monastery from the merciless, bloodthirsty Inquisition? (book back blurb)

I gave this book until its halfway point before I decided to put it down. I figured if nothing nominally interesting had happened by that point, chances are not much else was going to happen after it and if it did, I probably wouldn't care.

The beginning started off strong enough. It intros right into Michael being lit on fire on a stake and then gets rescued by the Abbot. I zoomed through the chapter, holding my breath, wondering if he'd make it out okay (obviously it's the first chapter and he'd make it out but in what condition?). And that's where the action and anticipation ended for me. It just fizzled out once Michael got to the monastery and the most engrossing aspect was how to make the magic wine.

I think what helped play into the lackluster plot was the voice. It's not a current voice, and it shouldn't be since the main character is living in the 1400s. But it's also a very droll, very proper voice that really doesn't lend itself to action. I was supposed to be frightened when the search party came to the door but I just couldn't feel the fear or anticipation. I was just going through the motions of reading the words and turning the pages.

Michael's a likable enough character, if not a little boring considering what he'd just escaped from. But ultimately I felt a little gypped from what the blurb on the back of the book offered. It made the story seem more intense, more mystical than what it actually was. Instead we get Michael making wine and a former sorcerer puttering around as an abbot. Yeah, they're a motley crew of people from a bunch of unsavory backgrounds but that's about where the excitement ends for them.

Maybe I missed a big crazy climax where the powers come out in order to defend the monastery against the Inquisition. But at the halfway mark, I was pretty bored and looking for things to do around my house so I didn't have to pick this book back up. When I'd rather scrub my bathtub than read my current book, all signs point to a Did Not Finish roundup.

Maybe someone else with a much greater appreciation for that time in history would be able to overlook the language and lack of expectancy and read through until the end. Maybe someone else would be able to actually draw urgency from the words on the page. But it wasn't for me. I had to stop because, by the halfway point, it became a chore to read. I don't like being bored by my books. Nor do I like going in expecting one thing and getting another. Like I said, maybe if the voice were different it would have better portrayed the action in the book but as it was, I don't think it worked.

Things I've Learned from Books + 76

Be lucky we all aren't living in the 1400s because we would have been kabobbed in the village square by now for all of this magic and dark arts book learning we do. Of course we wouldn't be roasted by the pious. Oh no. Right old hypocrites they'd be. You shouldn't expect any less.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

80s Awesomeness! ~ 85

I would love to meet the chick that had even close to the entire My Little Pony collection. This franchise is massive in epic proportions. The body/hair color combinations were endless. The storylines, infinite. The playhouses expensive. But if you were a chick, you had to have them. And maybe you watched the TV show too. I'm pretty sure I had a few. In fact, I think one of the ponies I owned had this heat-sensitive decal thing on its butt that if you rubbed would appear like a tattoo. Kind of demented in hindsight.

And I chose this particular My Little Pony commercial for dear old Edward Cullen. May you unbury yourself from fangirls eventually. You know he has a collection somewhere.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Freaky Friday :|: 85

Title: Mr. Popularity
Author: Nicholas Adams
Published: July 1994
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 160
Dreaming of dating the most popular boy in school, Cassie is never suspects that Brad is a merciless killer despite his adorable face, wealth, and fancy sports car, and when Brad begins paying attention to Cassie, she is unaware of his true desires. (from
Seems a little . . . Lifetime channel-esque. Kind of blah. Probably wouldn't pick this one up based on blurb alone. It's been done before, you know?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas + Contest

Published June 2010.

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Peters is over the moon when her literary idol, the celebrated novelist and much-adored local priest Mark D. Brendan, agrees to act as her personal mentor. But when Father Mark's enthusiasm for Olivia's writing develops into something more, Olivia's emotions quickly shift from wonder to confusion to despair. Exactly what game is Father Mark playing, and how on earth can Olivia get out of it? (book back blurb)

It starts off innocent enough. Kind words. Little notes. But then it morphs. You don't see the shift at first because it's subtle. And really, it's not too much different than it was before. But then the hand comes down and you're left with a ruffled brow and a question mark over your head. The next thing you know, you're desperate to get out of the situation but you're in so deep, you don't know how.

As someone that's been in a very similar situation to Olivia, I could automatically sympathize with her. Even if I hadn't been, Olivia is a very commanding character. She's very likable, very honest. Really, it's hard not to like her. If you're a writer, you can share in her enthusiasm when she wins a coveted writing prize plus a chance to learn from a literary master. Who wouldn't love that? But it's when that power figure starts to abuse his power that things start to get ugly.

Olivia was such a pretty girl but the things Father Mark did to her (he never touched her inappropriately, in a sexual manner, mind) caused her to spiral. Her worry and her distress at the situation she was in started to show on her face. When a person you love starts to downward spiral like that, it's hard not to notice. I could actually see her at the end of the book; her face sallow, her hair lackluster, her eyes red and puffy from crying. I wanted to tell her I understood, that everything would turn out okay.

Freitas' writing just sucked me right in (obviously). She got it right. The reactions of the power player, the reactions of Olivia, they all hit home. They all rang true. I felt every twinge, every bit of happiness, every threat of fear. I could feel it in my bones. Trust me, it's a shitty feeling. But I almost wish Freitas would have done the power play with a younger man just so we could have another Albatross, another rejection of the stalker = love notion that's so dominant in YA right now. But it was amazing as is.

Father Mark had something of Olivia's that he knew he could manipulate to make his own. She's young, naive, afraid of losing it all. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to shout at the book, "drop him! Your writing life won't end! He's lying!" But she had to see it on her own. It still didn't suck any less to watch someone, even someone fictional, go through something like that. But at least she had the support structure around her to help her through it, once she brought them in, anyway.

Making Father Mark the community pillar didn't help Olivia either. It made her wanting to turn him in even harder. Who would believe her? He, a nationally recognized novelist and priest, over some pretty little blonde kid? The ending wasn't a perfect wrap-up either. A switch wasn't flicked that made everything all better. It was a slow process that we just start to see unfold as the final pages pass by. And I liked that. In a situation like this, it's not all cookie cutter. It's hard and it's painful and it's going to take a long time to heal. I'm glad Freitas didn't gloss over that fact.

You will not want to put this book down once you pick it up. You will want to soak in every single word, cheer with Olivia, cry with Olivia, scream at her, help her. So go ahead. Do it. You won't regret it. It's a hard topic but one that needs to be discussed and Freitas does an excellent job of that.

Contest Time!!!

Want my ARC? Just fill out the form below for your chance to win. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email address. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends December 9th at midnight, EST.

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