Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer Blast Giveaway #2 + Winners!

Before I get into what's next in my Summer Blast, I have a couple winners to announce! First the winner of my signed copy of Choker #1 is . . .

sRy_!!!

And the winner of the first round of Summer Blast, for an ARC of The Exiled Queen, is . . .

Jessica (TheLovelyReader)!!!

Congratulations to you both! I'll be emailing you guys shortly. And a big thanks to everyone who entered! Now on to round two!


Now what do we have here?

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her "witch-blade" - a dangerous nickname in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate's father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he'll give Kate the means to escape the town that seems set to burn her, and what's more, he'll grant her heart's wish. It's a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes that she can't live shadowless forever - and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.
(book cover blurb)

This is a SIGNED ARC of Plain Kate by Erin Bow! Want it? Just fill out the form below to enter. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Ends August 6th at midnight, EST.


80s Awesomeness! ~ 74

Jellies!!!


Oh yeah. What could be cooler in the summertime than plastic shoes? Nothing says hip like sweaty foot stank. Yet you weren't cool unless you had a pair of jellies. The more you had, and the more colors they were, the cooler you were. I'll admit it. I had a lone, clear pair. Obviously low on the cool scale but on there nonetheless.

Freaky Friday :|: 74

On Saturday. Oops. Shit happens. This week's Summer Blast Giveaway is also finished. I'll post the next one later on today, and probably the winners of Choker and The Exiled Queen. It depends on how ambitious I'm feeling.


Title: The Possessed, Dark Visions #2
Author: LJ Smith
Published: December 1994
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pages: 224
Summary:
They’re gifted – and damned, linked by psychic powers, pursued by an evil genius determined to own them, body and soul. Kaitlyn Fairchild and her four friends have no choice: They must follow the dream that drives them onward to a lonely white house on a distant cliff. Kait fears the unknown. But the greatest threat is in their midst. Dark, hypnotic Gabriel feeds on her life energy to sustain his own. Newcomer Lydia says she’s one of them. But is she? Someone is trying to divide and conquer, to make them psychic slaves before they reach their journey’s end…
Eh . . . not sure how I feel about this one. It could be good. I guess it all depends on the execution.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Contest Reminder!




Just a reminder to everyone that my contest for a signed issue of Choker #1 by Bens Templesmith and McCool ends tonight at midnight! Be sure to get your entries in by then!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Wars ( 31)

Fanboy and Goth Girl took the big prize last week. This week, all you need is love. And I've upped the stakes! FIGHT!

Nicola always gets what she wants.

Nicola Sparks, sixteen and an orphan, is ready to dive headlong into her first glittering London society season. She's also ready to dive headlong into the arms of handsome and debonair Lord Sebastian Bartholomew. Nicola's dream is a proposal from the viscount—a dream she's about to realize at last! So naturally, Nathaniel Sheridan's insinuations about her fiancé's flawed character annoy her mightily.

But when Nicola's natural curiosity gets the best of her, she begins to piece together a few things for herself. To her great surprise, Nicola realizes she's had the wrong viscount all along . . . but is it too late to make things right? (from librarything.com)

vs.



Top ten things Samantha Madison isn't ready for:

10. Spending Thanksgiving at Camp David

9. With her boyfriend, the president's son

8. Who appears to want to take their relationship to the Next Level

7. Which Sam inadvertently and shockingly announces live on MTV

6. While appearing to support the president's dubious policies on families, morals, and yes, sex

5. Juggling her new after-school job at Potomac Video

4. Even though she already has a job as teen ambassador to the UN (that she doesn't get paid for)

3. Riding the Metro and getting accosted because she's "the redheaded girl who saved the president's life," in spite of her new, semipermanent Midnight Ebony tresses

2. Experiencing total role reversal with her popular sister Lucy, who for once can't get the guy she wants and the number-one thing Sam isn't ready for?

1. Finding out the hard way that in art class, "life drawing" means "naked people." (from librarything.com)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Medallion to Publish YA YA Titles

I'm all for encouraging people with the urge to write to write. Writing is awesome. It's cathartic. It allows your brain to escape to a world of your own creation. It allows you to play.

What Medallion Press is doing is starting an imprint that's going to publish nothing but YA novels written by young adults. Awesome. It really is. I think having this outlet for teens to get published is an excellent way to have them break out of their shell and be a little less apprehensive about querying into a publishing world overrun by adults that may or may not snub their nose at them.

With that being said, I'm really not sure what to expect in terms of quality. That's not to say teens can't write publish-worthy books. Hannah Moskowitz, anyone? Kody Keplinger much? But suffice it to say, writing is like wine. You start off with grape juice and finish up with a finely aged merlot. I'm not saying that YA written by teens is fit only for the sugary grape-juice drinking kids. I'm personally not a wine drinker and would gladly take a glass of grape juice any day (white grape, I was Dymatapped to death when I was younger). What I'm saying is, the longer you hone your craft and really study it and really work at it, the better you'll get at it. Experience fuels writing and it's undeniable that someone who's 30 has more life experience, not to mention more objective distance from their teen years, than someone who's 16.

The teens that are publishing today I would consider somewhat of prodigies. They are writing of a caliber at 16 and 17 that adults strive to write for when they're 40. Imagine what another 10 years will do to their writing. Can you grasp how good it will be if they continue to work towards a goal of improving (as every author should, regardless of age)?

I don't think every teen deserves the voice and the means to be published. I don't think every adult deserves the voice and the means to be published. That's why we have a vetting process in the publishing world and it's not a free for all like Lulu. There's a reason why not all books are accepted for publication. They're just not good enough.

I think this whole thing could go one of two ways. It could open the gates for even more amazing teen authors to finally have the ability to get published. They'll have the courage to submit to a publishing house that caters just to them and we'll get inundated with even more amazing teen authors. Or we're going to get books of a less than stellar caliber that are going to undermine the amazing work of other teen authors that decided to brave the more adult world of publishing. It all hinges on what Medallion starts accepting.

I really hope it's the former. I think teens writing for teens would be amazing. I think there's a lot of untapped talent in the teen arena. I just hope it lives up to the standards of the teen writing that is already out there. I don't think that's too much to ask for.

I good book is a good book and it deserves to be published regardless of who wrote it or what their age is. The younger the author is, all the more amazing the book is to me because talent like that is astounding.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Need to Fill an Apartment?

If you're like me, then you're about to tap dance your way into your own place. The thing is, living at home (shut it), you've got pretty much nothing except the bed you're sleeping on. You're going to need living room furniture, a kitchen set, at least two dinnerware sets (one for everyday use and one for company, I know I'm not the only one that grew up like this . . .), maybe a new bedroom set so you don't have to take that white wicker one you've had since you were three. You get where I'm going.

If you're also like me, then you're not going to want to spend an arm, a leg and half your soul trying to furnish your new place to live. And while Ikea is okay, some of us will want to graduate beyond particle board. That's where CSN Stores comes in. I've reviewed a bookcase for them and while it's not highly polished teak wood and I put the damn legs on backwards, the final product is a pretty damn good quality for the money.

So if you need anything from an armoire to a waterbed, one of CSN's 200 stores will most likely have it. And soon enough, one of my lucky readers will get the chance to go on a mini-splurge at any CSN store they'd like. Patience, my pretties. Your chance will come soon enough. In the meantime, go ahead and oggle this kick ass wall clock. Isn't it purdy?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

And the winner is . . .

The winner (finally) of my copy of Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare is . . .


Cherry Mischievous!!!

Congratulations! I've already sent you over an email. And a big thanks to everyone who entered! And an even bigger thank you to those who were patient with me while I tallied everything up. Never again will I make such stringent requirements for such a sought-after book! Way too much unnecessary work for myself.

Draw the Dark Love

Remember back in May when I reviewed this little indie book called Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick? Remember how much I loved it? Well now you can love it even more. As it turns out Amazon is shipping the book out already despite the fact that the title doesn't release until October. So if you want to order it from them, you'll get it nice and quickly!

Lerner Publishing is also expanding their horizons and releasing their books through NetGalley, including Draw the Dark! It's available for review now so be sure you request it. A couple of other Carolrhoda Lab titles are available too so you might as well request those while you're at it.

If you're not familiar with NetGalley, or you haven't registered for it yet and you're a book blogger, what are you waiting for? You get near-instant access to a slew of titles from a bunch of publishers including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Harlequin. And now Lerner and Carolrhoda Lab! The review copies are digital but you can request a tangible ARC if the publisher allows it. Personally, especially now that I have my Sony eReader Touch, I just take the digital copies. So much easier. It's where I received my copy of Wildthorn by Jane Eagland and The Ghosts of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn.

So go check out Draw the Dark if you haven't already. It's one title you certainly don't want to miss.

Added to the Pile + 45

Just two books this week. Really, I think I might cry if I have to hold any more. The pile is overwhelming. Granted I have no one to blame but myself but still, I can complain. Thanks to Sourcebooks I received a copy of Emma and the Vampires by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson. And thanks to HarperCollins I got a copy of Paranormalcy by Kiersten White.


The Regency-era comedy of manners finds Jane Austen's beloved title character, Emma Woodhouse, attempting to arrange the affairs of the young ladies and gentleman vampires, including Mr. Knightley, in her social circle with delightfully disastrous results. (press release blurb)


Evie's always thought of herself as a normal teenager, despite the fact that she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours.

But Evie's about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.
(book back blurb)

Things I've Learned from Books + 64


Crap friends deserve to be punched in the face. Not pandered to, not humored. Considering they screw you over all the time, it's only fair you screw them back. Hard.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer Blast Giveaway #1


So I have a few BEA doubles that I need to unload before I go on vacation. In fact I have enough to let me give away one book a week until I head on over to a different time zone. So welcome to my Summer Blast Giveaway! I'll post a new book to be given away each Saturday and the contest will run until the following Friday at midnight Eastern Time. Each giveaway will have its own entry requirements so be sure to check out each post before entering.

The first book up for grabs is -

Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden's Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn't mean danger isn't far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery - but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa
ana'Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now the safest place for Raisa is Wien House, the military academy at Oden's Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wien House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.

Everything changes when Han's and Raisa's paths cross, in this epic tale of uncertain friendships, cutthroat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.
(book back blurb)

Just fill out the form below to enter. Open to US residents 13 years of age and older only. One entry per person per email. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Contest ends July 30th at midnight, EST.

The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams + Contest!


Published 2010.

In this haunting tale, quirky loner Evie is in the wrong place at the wrong time when her sometime friend and local crush, Jonah, discovers a body in the woods - a body that turns out to be that of her childhood playmate. At the funeral, a fateful lie leads Evie into a complicated relationship with the dead girl's father and best friend. Before she realizes what is happening, Evie is on the hunt for a killer, spinning more lies along the way and putting herself in serious danger. (book back blurb)

In all honesty, I like where this book started much more than where it ended. In the beginning, Evie was such an awkward character. Like awkward to the point of me actually cringing at some of the things she did. And the thing is, everyone knows at least one person just like this. They're alone. They crave contact, any contact, with someone and sometimes they act like they're 6 to get it. Not to mention they're oblivious to the obvious body language they're being projected from their target. It's uncomfortable to watch and just as uncomfortable to read about. That's what really drew me in.

Evie stayed her awkward self until the body was found and she started hanging out with Hadley, the dead girl's current friend (as opposed to Evie herself, being the dead girl's former friend). Her personality, from what I saw, visibly shifted. I still read about Evie as she normally was in her head. The awkwardness was still there. But outwardly that seemed to have gone away and, I think, rather abruptly. I just had a hard time trying to figure out why she was still awkward on the inside and not anymore on the outside. Did she get better at hiding it because of Hadley? I'm not sure.

Hadley was actually my favorite character, though. I wanted to help her so bad. She was so utterly wrecked after her best friend was killed and the sad thing was, no one was really there to help her. Her parents basically stuck her on drugs and left her to her own devises. Personally I think that's an excellent portrayal of parenting today. Drugs cure all, right? The thing is, Hadley isn't the type of character that would actually let you help her. She's one of those people with the tough exterior that's constantly putting on a front and constantly on the offensive. But those moments of weakness, when the hurt and the pain broke through, rounded her character out so thoroughly I could see her standing up from the page and telling the story herself.

The ending turned into a bit of a Lifetime movie for me. I wish there were more consequences to Evie's lies and the things Hadley did aside from merely growing as characters. There didn't seem to be any of that. I kept getting a real Wonder Years monologue going at the very end where all the loose ends were being tied up and wrapped in a pretty box. I'm not a fan of these types of endings. I like them messier. Here, though, everyone seemed to turn out okay and they all moved on with their lives. Pretty boring, if I had to be honest. And I usually do.

So while the plot is relatively stagnant, the characters carry the story in The Space Between Trees. I don't think you'll be reading it to figure out who Zabet's killer is because even within the story itself, it's not the main focus. You'll read it for the characters who are compelling and awkward and nasty and broken. I would change the ending if I could, but I can't. But some people like the kind of neat closure this story will offer and that's fine. I'm sure if it were told from Hadley's point of view, I would have gotten an ending as sloppy as her house.

Check out the first chapter of The Space Between Trees. This is the one that completely sucked me in if only for Evie's heinous awkwardness.


Contest Time!!!

Thanks to the wonderful people at Chronicle, I have a signed copy of The Space Between Trees to offer up to one lucky winner. Interested? 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 August 14th at midnight, EST.


80s Awesomeness! ~ 73

Narc!!!

Yup. You can thank the 80s for giving us this gem that we love to throw around. Dude, don't narc on me! Dude, don't be such a narc. Of course, being a narc usually equates to you getting your ass kicked eleven ways from Sunday, and to one degree or another. Whether you end up with a measly black eye or a new pair of cement shoes, getting called a narc is always derogatory and getting the reputation of a narc will win you no friends.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Freaky Friday :|: 73


Title: The Strange Power, Dark Visions #1
Author: LJ Smith
Published: December 1994
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pages: 230
Summary:
Eyes that saw what was not meant to be seen. Kaitlyn Fairchild was frightened by her uncanny talent, by the prophetic drawings that isolated her at school. Until she was invited to California, to attend the Zetes Institute with four other psychically gifted students, in return for a college scholarship. It was a chance to begin again, to belong; a great adventure, with the promise of romance…with Rob, irresistible, yet strangely innocent…with dark, enigmatic, Gabriel. Until they learn the truth about an experiment that threatens their sanity, and their lives. All they have is each other, and perilous psychic link that can save – or destroy – them all… (from bn.com)
Hmmm. This sounds interesting. I wouldn't mind picking it up just to see where it goes.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Middleworld: The Jaguar Stones Book 1 by J & P Voelkel + Contest!

Published 2010.

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy, video-gamer extraordinaire, is furious when his archaeologist parents cancel the family vacation to go on a dig in Central America. But things go from bad to worse when Max is summoned to join them, only to discover that his parents have vanished. With the help of Lola, a fast-talking, quick-thinking Maya girl, Max embarks on a quest to find out just what's going on. Soon Max and Lola are running for their lives in the perilous rainforest, as they unlock ancient secrets, meet mysterious strangers, and begin to understand that, in San Xavier, nothing is ever as it seems.

Fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to Max Murphy. But can a teen whose biggest talent is for video games rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save himself from the villainous Lords of Death?
(book back blurb)

For a middle grade book, this is certainly a long one! 400 pages plus a glossary of terms! Not that is wasn't compelling to read through but that's mighty long for YA let alone MG.

I found Max to be a rather unlikeable character for about 2/3rds of the book. He was whiny, bratty and self-centered and it was rather disturbing to watch him insult entire tribes with his tantrums. As with all good coming-of-age books, he does realize the err of his ways and starts doing things for the greater good as opposed for just himself but it's right on the cusp of too little too late for me. Once his character turned, he didn't show any signs of reverting but still, he was a right pain in the ass for a good chunk of the book.

Lola is such an awesome character. She puts Max in his place when he's acting like a spoiled brat (which is every other page), she can survive on her own, not to mention she's strong of character. Really I wish there were more characters like her in YA. In terms of this particular book, she added that female touch to the story that could draw girls into reading it (although girls will more readily read a book with a male protagonist than boys will read a book with a female protagonist). I really had no complaints about Lola at all. I could relate to her on so many levels and I really wished she was a more prominent part of the story. I'm hoping to see more of her in the sequel.

The story had some camp to it, like kind of stupid humor, and I'm not sure if that's sort of normal in MG books. I found it a little grating and sort of undermining but it wasn't really too prominent so it was easier to look over.

To me the best part of the book was the history. All of the Mayan stuff dripping throughout. And I swear I did not plan to read two Maya books back to back! It just worked out that way. Instead of being background information to fuel the story, all of the Mayan information in Middleworld was front and center. It was the story. It removed itself from history and became the present, combining the two in an action-packed river ride into a parallel world.

Middleworld certainly isn't short on action. There's never a dull moment as you turn the pages. I think the success of the book to the person hinges on how much the reader can tolerate Max. If you can make it through his rough patch where he's finding himself, you'll surely enjoy the ride after that. If you can't make it, I have to say you'll be missing some interesting twists. The liberties the Voelkels took with Mayan history were totally within believable parameters and had they not said anything, I would have believed The Jaguar Stones were real.

The glossary at the back of the book provides some great rounding information that puts some of the more foreign pieces of the story into a better context. Worth reading as well so don't skip it!


Contest Time!!!

Want my copy of Middleworld? Then fill out the form below for your chance to win! Open to US residents 13 years old and older only. One entry per person per email. Duplicate entries will be deleted. Ends August 12th at midnight, EST.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Wars (30)

King Dork put up a good, scrawny fight but ultimately, How to be Popular was, well, more popular. This week, it's about us versus them. FIGHT!


Fanboy has never had it good, but lately his sophomore year is turning out to be its own special hell. The bullies have made him their favorite target, his best (and only) friend seems headed for the dark side (sports and popularity), and his pregnant mother and the step-fascist are eagerly awaiting the birth of the alien life form known as Fanboy’s new little brother or sister.

Fanboy, though, has a secret: a graphic novel he’s been working on without telling anyone, a graphic novel that he is convinced will lead to publication, fame, and–most important of all–a way out of the crappy little town he lives in and away from all the people who make it hell for him. When Fanboy meets Kyra, a.k.a. Goth Girl, he finds an outrageous, cynical girl who shares his love of comics as well as his hatred for jocks and bullies.

But Kyra has secrets, too. And they could lead Fanboy to his dreams . . . or down a path into his own darkness. (from librarything.com)

vs.


The Ashbury-Brookfield pen pal program was designed to bring together the "lowlife Brooker kids" (as they're known to the Ashburyites) and the "rich Ashbury snobs" (as they're called by the Brookfielders) in a spirit of harmony and the Joy of the Envelope. But things don't go quite as planned. Lydia and Sebastian trade challenges, like setting off the fire alarm at Brookfield. Emily tutors Charlie in How to Go On a Date with a Girl. But it's Cassie and Matthew who both reveal and conceal the most about themselves -- and it's their secrets and lies that set off a war between the two schools. (from librarything.com)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Prophecy of Days, The Daykeeper's Grimoire Book 1 by Christy Raedeke + Contest!

Published 2010.

When her safe-cracker mom and code-breaker dad inherit a dreary Scottish castle, sixteen-year-old Caity Mac Fireland is not happy. Ripped from her cushy life and friends in San Francisco, Caity's secret fantasy of being discovered by a Hollywood agent, talent scout, or even just a pageant coach seems more unlikely than ever.

But when Caity stumbles across a hidden room in the castle, its walls covered in strange symbols, her life takes a bizarre turn. She find herself center stage in an international conspiracy involving warring secret societies, assassins, the suppressed revelations of the Mayan Calendar and the year 2012, plus the fate of humanity.

With the help of her friend Justine back home, and Alex, a gorgeous and mysterious Scottish boy, Caity must race to decipher the code and reveal its message to the world before time runs out.
(book back blurb)

This was a very weird book for me, not in regards to content but how I felt about it overall. The writing I felt was both kind of dull and yet compelling. I had a hard time connecting to the plot yet I couldn't stop turning the pages. It's an odd juxtaposition and it kind of made the reading slow but at times I could plow through chapters. I don't get it myself.

Caity's your typical teenager: kind of bratty, kind of spoiled and kind of hard to like at the beginning. Although I did like the beginning. Why? Because it makes fun of itself. Yeah, it's one of those books about the family inheriting the castle and the fate of the world lies on the daughter's shoulders. And it's Caity poking fun at herself which is pretty cool. That's why I was able to tolerate Caity's character a little more; because I knew she would come around. If I didn't have that prologue, I don't know if I would have had the patience.

The "action" in the castle itself with the inspector seemed kind of forced and out of left field. It just happened out of nowhere and then it was gone. It kind of made my head spin. I'm not sure if that was the point but I wasn't really scared at all for Caity like Caity was for herself. I was just thrown off balance by it all. This wasn't the only action moment that had me feeling like this.

How everyone fell into place for Caity was both convenient and compelling. Yeah, it all happened really easily but the underlying message (really, it's not all that underlying, actually, the weird Mayan dude pretty much just comes out and says it) of the story itself is creating a harmony. Once you strike one fork, the rest will follow in tune, as the book says. One fork was struck in Caity's life and each subsequent fork played right along. So it was both self-serving to the story and fueled the story even more. See what I'm talking about with these juxtapositions?

I just wish I could have connected with Caity a little more. She's a pretty great character but even going through what she went through, I didn't feel for her. I was compelled to keep turning the pages to find out what happened to her, but I didn't feel it, you know?

It's all very strange. But the Maya were an interesting people. I even downloaded a 3D Mayan calendar app onto my iPod and I check it every day now. It really is amazing just how accurate these "primitive" people were and maybe, just maybe, we are missing something they already knew.

So while I was pretty much all over the place with this story, I do know I want to read the next one. I can totally sympathize with the fact that the planet is nine different levels of fucked up and something needs to be done to fix it. Soon. I also want to see how Raedeke ties all of the Mayan stuff to Caity and hopefully more of her family's past will come into play. It's only kind of alluded to in the greater picture but I know there's a lot more story there.

A good, and much more entertaining, edition to all of the End of Days stuff coming out now.


Contest Time!!!

Want my copy? You know you do! Just fill out the form below to enter. 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 August 10th at midnight, EST.


Monday, July 19, 2010

A Note on Announcing Contest Winners

I configure winners for my contests at my own leisure. Whether it's the day after the contest ends or a month, I always post the winners for my contests so people know that it's officially over and the winner has been decided upon. If you don't like the way I do this, then you have two choices: deal with it or fuck off.

What I don't appreciate is people bugging the fuck out of me to choose a winner for my Clockwork Angel contest. Let me give you some stats here - I had over 200 individual entries into this contest alone. Aside from tabulating the extra entries, I have to verify every single blog entered to make sure it's even eligible to be entered. Now, usually I can tabulate the entries at work but seeing as how most bloggers work off of Blogger, and Blogger is blocked on my work server, I can only count those entries in one place - home. And it's not like I'm sitting around with my thumb up my ass all summer. So forgive me for not feeling like staring at a computer screen for an additional 6 hours on top of my 9 hours at work because those pains in the ass so fucking demand a winner that I am somehow obligated to just stop my life and serve them.

Fuck. A. Duck.

So chill the fuck out and cut it the fuck out with the rude fucking comments. I don't give a fuck how fast anyone else gets those winner announcements out. Good for fucking them. I don't have mine out yet. If you don't see a post announcing the winner, then you've answered your own question without even having to ask it. So stop asking. Any more rude fucking comments and your name is getting yanked from the master list. Keep it the fuck up and I'll pull the contest entirely and pass the book onto someone of my own biased choosing.

Remind me next time I go to BEA to not waste my fucking time getting something people want because they're obviously not fucking grateful for even having the chance to win it. Or at least if I do, pass it on to someone whom I know will actually appreciate the effort instead of feeling like I owe them something. As if I should be grateful to get the opportunity serve them.

You caught me at a real bad fucking time, people. Work's got me wound so fucking tight my asshole's sucking up rocks and it's been almost two years since my last fucking vacation. So go ahead. Make my fucking day.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Added to the Pile + 44

Another nominally big haul for me this week so it'll be short and sweet.

From Harper Teens -

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, sampler
I Am Number Four by Pittacus lore
The Unidentified by Rae Mariz

From Sourcebooks -

Songs for a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson

From Titan Books -

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Seance for a Vampire by Fred Saberhagen

Bought -

The Hunter, The Forbidden Game #1 by LJ Smith
Jim Henson's Return to Labyrinth #1 by Jake T. Forbes

From PaperBackSwap -

The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein

Things I've Learned from Books + 63


It's best not to piss off the Mayan gods. They can lay the smack down like no dude in a flowy white robe and beard ever could.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Constructive Criticism and You, #dearblogger

A few nights go there appeared to be some uproar about the #dearblogger conversation channel that popped up on Twitter. After April explained to this Twitter noob what that hash thing even was, I, and many other people, contributed stuff to the conversation. The following day, posts started popping up about the "vindictive" and "catty" nature of a lot of the "advice" made by fellow bloggers. The tweets being referenced as being in some way offensive really had be shocked. To me, they looked more like constructive criticism than anything even remotely catty.

So I decided to dig a little deeper. I spent some time sifting through the #dearblogger channel to see if I was missing anything. Yeah, there was some snark in there (including a few of my own, are you surprised?) but in the greater scheme of Twitterness, it was really minimal overall. So I kept looking and I kept seeing the "stop bullying" and "stop hating" tweets but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what these defensive tweets were responding to in the posts preceding them. Some of the advice statements were really hit home with multiple retweets but still, I couldn't see what the issue was.

The thing with Twitter, a lot can be lost in that 140 character maximum. What's being posted as honest and concise is being interpreted as terse, curt and rude because there's no room for further explanation. As someone that has a tendency to overwrite, I can certainly see the problem there.

I think the other major issue here was the constructive criticism itself. If you're not open and receptive to it, it's going to feel like a personal affront. The backlash I saw at the advice being given I equated to people reviewing on fanfiction.net. You have reviewers that genuinely like what they're reading say so and because they want to help, they might point out a few mistakes they might have caught so the author can avoid it in the future. Instead of a thank you, the reviewer gets pounced on as if they've just set a baby on fire. There was no harm meant in what was said but because the receiver wasn't open to the critique, they took it was a personal attack as opposed to a means of improving their writing.

If you're a writer, you're more attuned to constructive criticism. You'll see it for what it is - a means to improve - not a personal attack. You will know that you'll have no hope of improving without embracing constructive criticism. This is true in all aspects of life - even blogging. Of course there is a difference between constructive and destructive criticism and some of the advice could have been given without the snarky edge but, in my eyes, that was minimal.

In the book blogging world, we are not governed by any entity. We don't answer to anyone except ourselves and there are no hard and fast rules. But there do appear to be some unspoken guidelines that have developed over time (not actually put in place) that the majority tend to stick to. So when we point out something that goes against what most of us practice, we're not necessarily saying, "cut it the fuck out." What we're saying is, "really, do whatever the hell you want. We can't stop you, but this other way seems to work a lot better for many more people."

Remember: the people doling out the advice have been around for a while and do have successful blogs. To completely ignore them because you don't like what they're saying is only a disservice to yourself. It might be beneficial to you to at least take a moment to listen to what they have to say while keeping your emotions on hold. Like with all constructive criticism, you take away only what you feel pertains to you and ignore the rest. You don't have to change if you don't want to, but when multiple people are pointing out the same exact issue, it's worth at least considering your options.

So take what you will out of this next bit but a good chunk of the advice on #dearblogger is worth repeating and being elaborated on.

Blog Design

It seemed that whenever someone mentioned an undesirable aspect of a blog design, they were pounced on with demands to leave design out of it since it was irrelevant.

But is it?

When a reader first visits your blog, the very first thing they see isn't your contest but the overall design itself. If the blog looks like it was put together by a half-blind, color-blind, lobotomized chimp, guess where that reader is going? Away.

By all means do what you want with your blog design but if your plan is to grow, you're going to have to be a little flexible here.

One repeated piece of advice regarding design was if the design hurt your eyes then read it in Google Reader. The design issue is the reader's problem, not the blogger's.

Is it?

If the blog design is so hard to read from the get go, are you, as a reader, honestly going to take the time to go into the Reader and read the posts to see if it's worth following? Or will you skip on to the next blog? Be honest. Remember, if multiple people have the same issue with your blog, it's a point to consider changing.

Some good points to remember are watch your colors and font sizes. While a bunch of funky colors may look cool, it doesn't mean it's easy to read. As someone that's built and designed my fair share of websites, there are a few design "standards" that everyone should really look into -
  • Contrast is key - either dark text on a light background or light text on a dark background. People will have their preferences as to which they prefer but you can't have both so just choose one. Also, avoid prominent background designs in text areas. They tend to make the text harder to read. And avoid low contrast colors. Plum and navy are nice but as font color and background color, they tend to blend and strain the eyes.
  • Speaking of straining eyes, microscopic font tends to do that too. I wouldn't recommend anything lower than ten or eleven-point font but twelve to fourteen is standard online.
  • Automatically playing music is also kind of a no-no in general website design. For most people, it's annoying. You may like the music but your readers might not have the same tastes. If you insist on music that plays automatically, make the player really easy to find. If it takes someone more than three seconds (literally) to find the thing to turn it off, chances are they'll go at it the easy way and X right out of the window. You're much better off just having the player on there and giving the reader the option whether to listen or not instead of forcing it on them. Sure, it's your blog and you'll do what you want, but if you want an audience, you might want to give a little.
  • Widgets and general blog graphics are the same thing. Have what you want on your site but the longer it takes to load, the less likely the reader is to stick around and wait for the thing to finally pop up. So you might want to cut those widgets down to books you really, really want instead of everything that's popular. It'll attest more to your personal tastes if you only have stuff up that you're really looking forward to.
You don't have to be an HTML wizard or spend loads of money to make your blog look pretty in order for it to be "acceptable." Even the simplest HTML knowledge can do loads for a blogger template and now that they have their own editor, it's much easier to make your blog more you. One of my favorite HTML help sites is Lissa Explains. Yeah, it's a kids' site but it's basic HTML told in a very simple manner. No eye-crossing trying to read it. 90% of what I know about coding came from this site. And anyone that says they don't trust your content because you use a standard blogger layout is being ridiculous and snotty. Sometimes simpler is better than an HTML regurgitation.

Content

Just like everything else in blogging, it's totally subjective. Probably even moreso than the rest of the parts combined. What you post on your blog is up to you and you alone. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take a few things into consideration.

Memes

Memes are great. They bring the book blogging community together for a topic a week or however many you decide to post. The thing is, you'd be well advised not to overdo it.

If a reader goes to your site and sees nothing but memes, they might start to question whether you're even capable of creating original content. Why else would you rely so heavily on pre-fabricated posts?

So participate in them but be sure to strike a good balance with your other content. An even better approach to make yourself stand out (I can't be the only person that heaves an emo sigh when the blog roll is saturated in Waiting on Wednesday posts or whathaveyou) is to create your own. That doesn't mean just changing the title of an already established meme but doing something completely new. Chances are it'll end up being a feature (unlike a meme, a feature is unique to your blog and isn't viral) but it could be picked up into a meme later on down the line if people like it enough. It'll make you that much more unique and special in the greater blogging world.

Contests

Who doesn't love a good contest? I know I do. There are a few facets to this.
  • Like memes, you'll want balance with contests. If you have more contests than book reviews or anything else, you'll end up looking more like that guy at Costco handing out samples than a book blogger genuinely enthusiastic about a book enough to give it away. You basically become a shilling billboard and while you may get a lot of hits because people love free stuff, you'll start to lose the respect of your fellow bloggers because you're not doing any real work to earn the attention you're getting. Plus those numbers will drop off as soon as the contests stop because there's nothing else to back it up. It's disingenuous.
  • Extra entries and requirements are sticky issues. Have as many extra entries as you want but if people see too many, they may be more inclined to walk away from the contest altogether. A simple solution to both sides: post all the extra entries you want and when entering, only do those you feel like. Sure, your chances of winning decrease dramatically because you're not doing the forty-seven things that could get you 107 extra entries. But at least you have a chance.
  • Requirements are a little more difficult. Requiring people to follow your blog in order to enter is your choice, but know it looks a little tacky. It's exceptionally transparent that you're just trying to boost your follower numbers by doing this (which, in the greater picture, don't mean as much as people would like them to) and it's really not a well-respected practice. Good boost to your ego to see that follower number go up but that's about it.
  • Requiring people follow other blogs to enter is even tackier. I'm all for promoting other book bloggers but there are certainly better ways to do it than forcing people if they want a shot at winning something. Let people follow those blogs because they want to, which means they'll keep going back, instead of making them and nearly assuring it's nothing more than a superficial visit.
Reviews

The heart and soul of a book blog, everyone has different review styles and ratings systems but there are a few nuances that reviewers should be aware of when reviewing.

When your "review" is more summary than review, it's a bit of an issue. The publisher spent budgeted money preparing and sending you that ARC to review and the most you can give them is a post that's taken up mostly by the copy and pasted cover blurb and the cover image with three sentences on what you thought? Is that really a fair trade-off? Put yourself in the publisher's shoes. Wouldn't you have liked to have seen a little more? Be honest. Substantiate your claims, good or bad. You don't have to write a novel but remember what went into getting that ARC to you and return the favor accordingly.

I was shocked to see that a piece of advice in the likes of, "find something positive in everything you read, there's a market for every book" was pointed out as being nasty. What's nasty about that? It's true.

While it's not the reviewer's job to actually find that market, it is their job to remember that someone, somewhere, found something viable in the novel they're holding. It wouldn't have been acquired otherwise. So while you might have absolutely hated it, there's probably someone out there that'll love it. And chances are you saw at least something nominally redeeming in the story, even if it was fleeting. Point that out and be a little empathetic. Point out that you can see how readers of this or that would like the book but it definitely wasn't for you. It doesn't do anyone any good to start a crusade against a book to make sure no one reads it.

And the adverse is true too. Saying absolutely everyone will love it is fallacious because they won't. This is where substantiating those claims will come in handy. It'll give your readers a better definition of your personal good and bad.

At the end of the day, do what you want to do. No one's going to stop you. We're not the Gestapo. Just remember that the people giving the advice are doing it for a reason - it works. it wouldn't hurt to listen every once in a while to the constructive criticism. It'll help you learn and grow as a book blogger.

We're working in a community now where a lot of the kinks of book blogging have been worked out. Those blogs that're older have ironed out the bumps of the unknown and so blogging as a result should be a little easier. Most of the answers are already there for you. All you have to do is look or ask.

It's the people that can't be bothered that frustrate us. That start book blogs for the free books and not the love of reading. That make it a point to brag about what they get outside of an In My Mailbox post. That function as if they're sticking it to the rest of us schlubs that actually worked to get where we are. No one's saying don't try something new but do it with class and dignity and respect for everyone else around you. The only way you're going to get respect is if you give it. It's not handed out freely. It's earned and that requires work. Book blogging is a job. It takes commitment. If you're going to do it, know what you're getting into. Read other blogs. Research. Ask questions. Have fun. Just because someone's giving you advice doesn't mean they're raining on your parade.

Unless your goal is to review in a relatively hitless bubble, then by all means ignore this post, and all the rest of the advice out there, to your heart's content. It's no sweat off my back. And remember: you don't have to love the people you work with. Shit, you don't even have to like them. Tolerance is key. Say what you want, do what you want and be yourself. That's the sure way to be successful. In theory.

80s Awesomeness! ~ 72


How cute and peppy their music was! Beachy and totally on par with the likes of Bananarama. And they were as squeaky clean as their music, right? Riiiiiiiiiiiiight. These coke-snorting, alcohol-guzzling party girls could have given Motley Crue a run for their money. You'd never know it by their music, though.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Freaky Friday :|: 72


Title: The Kill, The Forbidden Game #3
Author: LJ Smith
Published: July 1994
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pages: 240
Summary:
To rescue her boyfriend Tom and her cousin Zach from the evil Julian, Jenny Thornton and her friends--Audrey, Michael, and Dee--venture into the Shadow World, armed only with a set of runes that hold the key to the doors of hell. (from amazon.com)
I received the first in the series the other day. Look for that for my Added to the Pile post on Sunday. But this looks like a great series. And I'm loving the epic cheese factor of these covers. Awesome.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bodacious Award!


Thanks to Nicole at WORD for Teens, I was bestowed with the Bodacious Blogging Book Reviewers Award! Thank you!
If you are given this award you must first accept it by leaving a comment on the post you were nominated on. Then copy and paste the post and add it to your own blog. Make a list of the last 5 books you read and pass the award on to 5 other bloggers (no backsies!). Please also identify the blog from which you got the award and don’t forget to tell your picks that they have a blog award!

The last five I read? I don't remember the last five I read! How about I choose 5 at random and we call it even?

Between Library Shelves
A Fanatic's Book Blog
The Ninja Librarian
The Unread Reader
Books By Their Cover

Congrats!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Wars (29)

Never, Never got twice as many votes as that other guy. And now for something completely different. FIGHT!


Do you want to be popular?

Everyone wants to be popular—or at least, Stephanie Landry does. Steph's been the least popular girl in her class since a certain cherry Super Big Gulp catastrophe five years earlier.

Does being popular matter?

It matters very much—to Steph. That's why this year, she has a plan to get in with the It Crowd in no time flat. She's got a secret weapon: an old book called—what else?—How to Be Popular.

What does it take to be popular?

All Steph has to do is follow the instructions in The Book, and soon she'll be partying with the It Crowd (including school quarterback Mark Finley) instead of sitting on The Hill Saturday nights, stargazing with her nerdy best pal Becca, and even nerdier Jason (now kind of hot, but still), whose passion for astronomy Steph once shared.

Who needs red dwarves when you're invited to the hottest parties in town?

But don't forget the most important thing about popularity!

It's easy to become popular. What isn't so easy? Staying that way. (from librarything.com)

vs.

Tom Henderson (a.k.a. King Dork, Chi-mo, Hender-fag, and Sheepie) is a typical American high school loser until he discovers the book, The Catcher in the Rye, that will change the world as he knows it. When Tom discovers his deceased father’s copy of the Salinger classic, he finds himself in the middle of several interlocking conspiracies and at least half a dozen mysteries involving dead people, naked people, fake people, ESP, blood, a secret code, guitars, monks, witchcraft, the Bible, girls, the Crusades, a devil head, and rock and roll. And it all looks like it’s just the tip of a very odd iceberg of clues that may very well unravel the puzzle of his father’s death and–oddly–reveal the secret to attracting semihot girls.

Being in a band could possibly be the secret to the girl thing–but good luck finding a drummer who can count to four. (from librarything.com)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Anyone else sick of the assholes?


It seems to me that the trend for chicks falling in lust with pricks is ever-growing in YA lit. Why? I mean, sure. Chicks go for the bad boys all the time but not too many wait around to get to that heart of gold that's supposedly on the inside. Why would they? Why would a girl stick with a guy that treats her like shit? Without broaching the abuse conversation that could spurn from this, I'm just talking about what we see in YA lit. The chicks aren't getting the shit beaten out of them but apparently they're turned on by being stalked, verbally abused, pushed away and pretty much spit on. God, how appealing.

The most recent prick I ran into was what's his name? Will? From Clockwork Angel. What a douche he was. Ice Man to a T. Chastised the hell out of Tessa. Cold-shouldered her for no reason. Spoke to her like a lesser. And yet here she was getting googly-eyed for him. Why? Because something happened to him in his past that made him like that?

Horseshit. Everyone has skeletons. It's not an excuse to treat people like shit stuck to the bottom of your shoe. So you have daddy issues or mommy issues. Deal with it and move on. Don't take it out on the people around you because man, will you be one lonely jerk at the end of the day. But of course, the people in stories like these actually tolerate the way these characters act. The characters in Clockwork Angel just accept his dour demeanor as part of his personality. Awesome. You can find better personality dredged from the bottom of the East River. I'm sure there's an epic reason why Will is allowed to stick around (as is Clare's ability to pull these kinds of transparent things) but in reality, who would bother without smacking the kid around to knock the craptastic attitude out of him?

And it's not just limited to boys. Of course we couldn't talk about assholes without the bitchy popular girl that all the girls want to be like and all the boys want to date/fuck. I'm sure better holes could be plugged by carving out a watermelon. Why? So she may or may not be hot. Her male counterpart is the same way. Usually the BETTER a person's personality is, the better looking they are to someone. The shittier the personality, the shittier the looks of the person. That's usually how it works.

Then again I never really understood the whole alpha thing when it came to cliques. You have this one person, be it boy or girl, ordering people around as if they're his or her minions and people follow. Why? One simple about face by the group and the alpha is dead. Why give that one person the power? Especially if he or she is a shit?

So I ask, is it possible to have a guy or girl attracted to someone that isn't a worthless prick? Because really, just how attractive are they?

New Swag Grab Winner!

Due to the fact that the third place winner of my BEA Swag Grab contest never got back to me, I had to choose another winner. And that winner is -

Jenny Davies!!!

Congratulations! I'll email you shortly.

Monday, July 12, 2010

She Thief by Daniel Finn + Contest!

Published April 2010.

Baz and Demi are master pickpockets, the scourge of the street. They weave through rich neighborhoods, past armed guards and luxurious shops, to slip bags off shoulders and wallets out of pockets before disappearing into the crowd. Their loot goes to Fay, who runs a gang of child thieves from her den in the Barrio. This sweltering slum is what passes for home to Baz, and Fay is what passes for family.

That all changes the day Demi steals a magnificent blue ring. Soon, the police chief and the Barrio's crime boss close in on Fay, and she begins to break under their pressure.

Baz has never doubted Fay before. She's never been apart from Demi, either. But soon, Baz is left alone to find her way through a world more corrupt than she's ever realized. Here, the lives of children are thrown away without a moment's hesitation. Here, the rich and powerful are just thieves on a larger scale. And somewhere in this wreck of a city, Baz must find the scraps of hope, the small acts of kindness, and the steely strength that will take her back to Demi and wash them both out of the Barrio for good.
(book back blurb)

While this book took me a little while to get through, and while it was pretty slow to get started, it had its moments that left me not wanting to put it down. There were moments where the fate of the kids was literally hanging in the balance and I wanted to find out what happened to them. There were also times where I wanted to say 'get the hell on with it.'

I think one of the reasons I found it so hard to really connect with any of the characters and the plot was the dialect the story is written in. I can handle dialect in short stories but an entire novel? It made for a slow read because my brain had a hard time getting around the choppy, clunky arrangement of words. The narration also flipped back and forth between "normal" and dialect and it kind of threw me off. It made it hard to determine whose head I was in, if anyone's. It was like the author couldn't decide whether to keep the point of view omniscient or limited and settled on the little bit of both.

The way those kids lived and were treated was terrible. And no matter what Fay's situation ended up being, she deserved everything she got. She never gave a damn about Demi or Baz beyond what they could provide for her. I guess she felt she deserved the position she was in. She worked her way for a while and then she got to settle and get others to do it for her. But the way she handed over kids basically to their deaths was atrocious. There were moments where I could half understand her situation and why she existed the way she did but most of the time I just didn't care. I couldn't stand her.

Baz and Demi had great ying and yang personalities. They complimented each other nicely and they really looked out for each other. The lengths they went to to protect and help each other was truly touching. Especially as the chapters wound down, I found myself rooting for them and plowing through the chapters faster than before because I wanted to see just what happened to them.

While the plot was very slow moving (the moment with the ring doesn't come until quite a few chapters in) and hard to get involved with because of the dialect barrier, Finn had an excellent way of projecting the dirt of the Barrio onto the reader. The grime and mange was both subtle and prominent in the story. It was every day lives for Baz and Demi and really had no effect on them. Washing in water that'll give you the shits? Not a problem so long as they didn't drink it. Traipsing around in mud and sewage? Whatever. They could wash it off. The image of the Barrio was so clear in my mind. The smells and the feel of the ward was right there and it was unnerving. That was probably the best part of the novel; just how engulfing the Barrio was, like you're actually standing in the middle of it.

Overall the story was a little slow but really compelling towards the end, Baz and Demi are pretty irresistible and Fay's a bitch. By the end of it you'll want to shower to get the Barrio grime off of your skin and you'll thank the gods you don't live in one.


Contest Time!!!

Want to win my ARC of She Thief? Then just fill out the form below for your chance to win!


Contest Reminder!

Just a reminder to everyone that my contest for Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare ends tonight at midnight, EST! Be sure to get your entries in by then!

And just a side note, this contest is for book bloggers ONLY. I'm getting entries putting in no, n/a and none in the blog url section. Really? Guess what? Deleted. So how about we read those directions before entering the contest, shall we? Thanks a bunch.
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