Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick + Contest!

Pub date September, 2011.

An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human . . .

Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom - a young army veteran - and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse.

This improvised family will have to use every ou
nce of courage they have just to survive. (book back blurb)

When I first saw Ilsa's new book in a Publisher's Weekly article highlighting look-out YA books at BEA this year, I emailed her immediately and started hunting for her publicist's information to get a copy. I loved, loved, LOVED Draw the Dark so much that Ilsa could have written PUDDING!!! in blue crayon for 180 pages and I still would have wanted to read it. Guys, I don't love books like this very often but DRAW? OMFG love. So I saw a chance to jump at ASHES and I took it.

After some back and forth I ended up with a copy and my ultimate goal was to read it before BEA and then gush about it here and send my attending readers over to her signings to get copies. Obviously I'm just reviewing it now but gush I did already. And I hadn't even finished it at that point. Now that I've finished it, I want to consume it piece by piece, perhaps marinated in a nice remoulade sauce, so I an absorb her talent for my own.

Srsly, ASHES is an apocalyptic/dystopian novel that all other YA apocalyptic/dystopian novels should aspire to. None of those lazy worldbuilding, OMG lurve triangle piles of horse poop. Well, there's a little bit of a love triangle but it's more like two disjointed lines that haven't connected yet that are on like 25% opacity in Photoshop. It's all about the world and the characters surviving in it. Everything is so expertly figured out that it's hard, if not impossible, to find loopholes in the logic. The shit that should happen does. Nothing is conveniently explained away. There are no fades to black and then POOF everything is better. Logic rules. Science rules. This all makes the story pwn.

Alex is one hell of a strong, resilient character that almost wasn't. To keep this review spoiler-free, I won't say why but I will say when this girl needs to keep pushing forward, there isn't much that'll be able to stand in her way. And just when you think she gives up, she slaps you upside the head and proves you wrong. Ellie is the type of character you want to slap. Yeah she's young and scared but Alex is a better person than I probably would be if our roles were switched. Would I leave Ellie behind? No. Would I slap the snot right out of her when she gets petulant? Probably. At the very least be screaming my head off. My patience with children is pretty low under normal circumstances. And Tom. Dear Tom. What a saving grace he was. A perfect compliment, filling in the gaps in Alex's survival knowledge. And I loved how Ilsa balanced that relationship that, for the most part, wasn't there like it is in many other similar books.

One of the reasons why I liked ASHES so much. Romance isn't the focus. It's hardly even a blip on the radar. The book is about the world, the destruction of it and these characters' subsequent survival. Romance is tertiary at best and that's how I like it. There's just enough in there to spark something but she has you so sucked into the world that it doesn't really matter.

Ilsa's writing is detailed almost to a fault. There were a couple of places where it went on a little too long and gave a few too many details that probably wouldn't have hurt the story if they were removed but ultimately I didn't mind. All that detail played well when it mattered. Again, no spoilers but I will recommend not reading this book while eating anything. There were many times I found myself a little nauseous reading some of the things that happened. In a good way, if that's possible.

I alluded to it before but I'll say it straight out: Ilsa is merciless with her characters. She shows them no mercy. Anything that can happen to them will. They don't get reprieves, they don't get spared, they don't amazingly escape dangerous situations without some damage done at least. Logic holds strong to these characters and just because Alex is the MC doesn't mean she's boo-boo free. Holy hell no. If anything she gets it the worst. Ilsa does everything with her characters that I hope to do with mine. It takes true bravery to submit your babies to this kind of torture and I commend her for it. Not many authors do this and it makes her work all the stronger for it.

And last but not least, there are zombies. Sort of. They're not the already-dead-and-then-alive type of zombies. They're Changed. And evolving. Oh man they evolve and that makes them all the more terrifying.

Seriously, this book is terrifying. It will have you looking up at the sky and wondering what if. Because it could happen. It makes sense. So why wouldn't it? Truly frightening that at any second ZAP! Gone. And what then? ASHES is the type of apocalyptic/dystopian novel that gives other like-minded novels complexes. It puts them to shame in terms of worldbuilding and character development. And the ending? GAHHHHHHHHHHHH! If you don't want to read more after that ending, then go to a hospital and have them check your pulse because I think you might be dead.

Read ASHES. Now. Or when it comes out. You will not regret it.

Contest time!!!

You want an ARC of ASHES? You know you do. Because you want to bask in its awesomeness. So just fill out the form below for your chance to win a copy. 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 June 14th at midnight, EST.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Even My Dog Loves BEA Swag

My dog pulled my 'Anhk if you're horny' horn from the Ellora's Cave booth out of one of the bags and started trying to kill it. Sometimes I question his intelligence.

The Obligatory BEA Post

Because everyone that went to BEA must have one. At least. Those that were there the whole week will have multiples. But me? Just the one. I was at BEA on its final day, Thursday, May 26th. I didn't realize until the day before that the floor was only open until three. Initially I was a little disappointed but then I got over it. Why? Less temptation. I had to fit everything into an Army ruck that had to be carried on my back. Not good policy if I couldn't do that.

But being there on the last day of BEA definitely had its advantages. After last year's clusterfuck of only two days of exhibition, going back to the three day convention was a reprieve. There were noticeably fewer people, far less of a rush and just the general atmosphere was a lot calmer than my previous experiences. On top of all of that, because it's the last day, publishers were trying to unload their stash. Even if they were from New York, they didn't want to lug their stuff back to the office. So not only did I get a massive amount of swag, I was able to grab extra copies of books.

I was more about the swag this year mainly because I had to be able to carry my bag. But because the pubs wanted to unload, I was able to cash in on some extra book copies as well. So before people start getting all snot-nosed that I have duplicate copies of books (as some are wont to do), I asked for every single one of them and had others shoved upon me willingly, without my asking. Like I said, being there on the last day had its advantages. Wandering around the floor an hour before it closed even more so. So don't shoot me for being in the right place at the right time. I get duplicate copies to pass them along. I never go to BEA without my readers in mind.

Now let's get on with the visuals, shall we? I apologize for the load time for this post. I have a few pictures. I resolved to actually take them this year since I didn't really last year and I don't think I did at all the year before.

This year there was more order to the signing lines. Since they didn't have to cram so many authors into such a short amount of time, they were able to space them out, along with their lines. Instead of them extending back and curling around and you end up wandering them trying to figure out which line was for what, they looped in the signing aisles themselves. I ended up right at a corner (not the actual front of the line) for Ellen Hopkins' signing so I snagged a picture as she was just sitting down.

And again as she was signing my copy of Perfect. Squee! She poses well.

On my way over to Melissa Marr's signing I inadvertently came across Tony Hawk signing his new middle grade series! I didn't realize he was there again this year. And I have no idea who that is posing with him but it was a good shot so I took it.

And again when he was actually signing. I thought about hopping in his line but it was huge and the wait in Melissa Marr's was really long so I ended up missing it. I'm just glad I got a couple more shots. :)

In Melissa Marr's signing line I met up with the Mad Scientist of Steampunkery & Book Reviews, who's a great big bucket of awesome. She's more elusive than I am! Even getting books signed she had them signed to Mad Scientist instead of her true name. Ask her nicely and she might just tell you. No promises though.

While in line I snapped a couple of shots of Disney Book Group's booth.

And some token Riordan fare. Solider boy had me watch Percy Jackson this weekend and dammit all, I need to read the books now. That movie was fantastic. Kevin McKidd really helped.

Me with Melissa Marr who's fantastic and super sweet. I haven't actually read the Wicked Lovely books yet but I'm thinking I have to. I really wanted Enthralled which I got as well (she was signing both) and I'm anxious to read it. She also stuck a Graveminder bookmark into the book as well.

The HarperCollins booth, which was huge. The bigger pubs tended to have much larger booths.

Some Iron Fey love in banner form.

Have I mentioned that this was pretty much the one book I really wanted from BEA? Not only did I get a copy but I got an extra one too. :) I'll be giving that one away soon.

My day wouldn't have been complete if I didn't meet Nicole from WORD for Teens. We've been in touch since pretty much our beginnings and we finally had a chance to meet! Quite possibly one of the sweetest chicks I know. I wish I got to hang out with her more! I also ran into fellow blogger Katherine from The Lady Critic's Library. Seriously a total sweetheart.

The super Kody Keplinger as she's signing my copy of Shut Out in the autographing area.

The Ashes display at the Egmont Booth. I came back to it later in the day so I didn't get a shot of it with all of the ARCs out. I'm just happy I got something! I did get an extra copy so look for the giveaway when I post the review in the next day or so.

The Random House sign. Another big booth publisher.

The Hachette area, specifically Little, Brown which is one of my favorite publishers. They're so nice!

Bloomsbury. More awesome.

I love how they do up these stairs every year. Last year it was Heather Brewer's Vlad Tod series. This year, Dork Diaries.

The first publisher I started working with as a book blogger, Llewellyn.

And their YA counterpart, Flux. They come out with some awesome books.

A blurry picture of Jane Fonda at one of the stages. I couldn't get close enough for anything more decent, unfortunately.

And the aftermath. This is what I carried from the Javits Center to Penn Station to get the subway to 42nd Street. From there I lugged it through the subway tunnels from hell (including up and down ramps and stairs) to get to the Grand Central shuttle. To Grand Central where I was arriving nearly as the train was pulling out. I then RAN, yes ran, to catch the train and then hauled this maybe 3 cars forward before I about died in an empty seat.

Without the dog-like comparison.

What was stuffed into the ruck (excluding the blue bag at the top, I could have fit it but I didn't want to crush the posters).

And all spread out, part one. I didn't realize the lighting was this bad until I'd cleared the table. By then I wasn't about to lay it all out again.

And spread out part two. I told you I got a lot of swag. Swag packs galore!

So that was my day. If you went, how was yours?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Added to the BEA-ful Pile + 79

This is not to be confused with my actual BEA post, which will be going up either later today or tomorrow. This is just on the books that I got. Some of these are expressly for giveaways, others I have duplicates of that will, yes, be given away. But other than BEA, I didn't get any other books this week.

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

Things I've Learned from Books + 103

Unless you want to get butt raped by your iPhone in the coming apocalypse, it's best to ween yourself off of technology now. You don't want to be one of the millions in the mass txtlss suicide. That is if they can figure out something as primitive as a knife by then. If not then it'll just be a mass group of people bumbling, "can't sleep clowns'll eat me" from tech withdrawl.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

CSN Stores Product Review

A loooooooooong time coming. We're talking months. Sorry about that. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to review and then I had some shipping issues. When I originally got the product, one of the pieces was broken so I ordered a replacement part. CSN was super fast and efficient on getting that replacement part all ordered and shipped out. Unfortunately FedEx decided that that week they were going to lobotomize themselves.

The replacement piece was originally delivered about a week after I ordered it. And for some reason the driver decided to rescind the delivery and pick it back up. A week later I get a postcard from FedEx in the mail telling me they couldn't find my house. Figure that one out. By that time I've figured the piece is lost so I ordered another replacement piece for the original replacement piece days before. Then I get this notice from FedEx and I call the number and try to explain to them where I am. Mind you I'm in the suburbs, about 100 feet off of a main road. There is nothing stick-like or backwoods or in-the-middle-of-nowhere about where I live.

I had the woman on the phone and she said she plugged my address into Google Maps and couldn't find the house. I put it in there and poof! Came right up. Spelled it out for her. Literally. Her response, 'I don't know which one it is.' How about the one with three storeys, not two, and the one with 31 on the house. For the life of her she couldn't figure it out.

THIS IS A SHIPPING COMPANY. And they can't figure out Google Maps or a GPS? So they're like come pick it up and I go no. You jerkwads are a shipping company that can't find my house and you want me to go out of my way, during the most inconvenient hours possible, to pick up a package that you already delivered and then took back because you can't read street signs or house numbers? No.

Thankfully the replacement piece to the replacement piece was shipped via UPS who found my house without a problem. All of this of no fault to CSN at all. It's all FedEx's fault.

Now onto the review, which will be exponentially shorter than my FedEx rant.

So this time around I decided to get Houdini Burgundy Style Red Wine Glasses. Originally I was going to get a kitchen cart (which I still need but can stave off) but we really felt like alcoholics drinking wine out of glass cups so I had a more urgent gap to fill.

These things are ginormous. Like I could fit my fist inside of them big. Now they're only meant for red wine because the shape of the glass allows for the scent to waft. Well, I'm not a red wine drinker. Just white. I just got these glasses because I liked their shape, not because they were big enough to stick my big guido nose in them.

They're a little big for my hand but I can manage. At least for two proper glasses of wine. Nevermind one of these can hold nearly an entire bottle. Not that that's how you're supposed to drink it or anything.

I like them. Very light and kind of fragile. I wouldn't recommend putting them in the dishwasher and I'd handle them gently. But they work like they're supposed to and they're classy looking.

After the two boxes of those I ordered I still had some fundage left on the credit so I decided to get myself a new set of knives. I'd bought myself a knife set when I first moved here but right from the beginning they didn't feel right. The weight of them was off and for stainless steel, they sure as hell rusted pretty quickly. So I did some searching and ultimately settled on the Ginsu Bakelite Five Piece Prep Cutlery Set. Ginsu's a good product (I have some of their steak knives already) so I figured I couldn't go too wrong with these.

I've been using them for about a month now (while I was waiting for that replacement wine glass, grrr) and I have zero complaints. They're super sharp (validated by the rate it sliced through my finger the first time I used them) and cut through veggies and whatnot with ease.

They feel good in my hands and I'd recommend them to someone looking for an inexpensive but good knife set.

The only downside is the big knives aren't long. There are other sets to get that have more knives; I just wish there was a bread knife in this one. Cutting through a loaf with the one above is a little hard since it it doesn't reach from one side to the other. But really, no complaints. I love them.

Armchair BEA Wrap-Up

This was a week that definitely zoomed on by. Is it really Saturday already?

I think because I split my time between Armchair BEA and BEA itself (and the lead-up
preparation to it), I didn't get to fully utilize all that is Armchair BEA, read: blog hopping. I posted with the best of them. I love me some discussion posts that unite the community but I'm afraid I don't think I fully utilized that due to time constraints.

I tried. I really did. There were a few blogs I reached out to and I tried to respond to all of the comments left on mine but I don't think I held up my end of the networking bargain like I should have. Because of that I think I failed a little. Not all the way. Just a little. It's something for me to work on, networking in general, and just getting myself out there to more blogs.

But I did meet new people and came across some great new blogs and for that I'm grateful. The ABEA organizers did a great job of bringing everything together and I hope it's even more fantabulous next year!

80s Awesomeness! ~ 112

That's right. That's Sun-In. If you know what I'm talking about, you're cringing away from the computer right now. Probably because you had your hair go orange with this stuff. Unless you're already a blonde, it's recommended not to use Sun-In. Unless you want to look like Carrot Top.

Don't know what Sun-In is? A spray-on photo-sensitive lightening agent for your hair. Kind of like dunking your hair in peroxide or lemon juice and sitting in the sun. Same concept. Same horrible results.

Freaky Friday :|: 112

Title: Nightmare Hall: The Wish
Author: Diane Hoh
Published: October 1993
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Pages: 176

After Alex's friends make wishes in the mysterious-looking booth at the back of the campus pizza place, one by one they die mysterious deaths, and only Alex can find out why. (fantasticfiction.co.uk)

Haha! I can't help but laugh at the premise. A "mysterious-looking booth" in a pizza joint? DUN DUN DUN! But you know I'd so read it. Just to see if anyone gets sucked in with the crumbs.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Armchair BEA and Blogging About Blogging

I'm of the mindset that blogging is a casual thing and unless you're actively making money from it (meaning you're getting paid by someone else for) it shouldn't be taken all that seriously. For some people blogging is somewhat of a job because of the amount of time they put into it. But that's personal. What you do with your blog, how much you do with it, is entirely up to you so if you have someone telling you to do more, or take it more seriously, I say tell them to stick it. Because at the end of the day, it's a blog. You're doing it because you want to do it. You love books and you want to share that love with others. You're not getting paid for it (although the FTC says otherwise) and in many cases, far more money is going into the blog than coming out of it.

So I just have a couple of pointers to keep from losing your mind, and losing perspective, with your blog -

Keep yourself one step removed from the insanity.

Chances are you started blogging because you loved books and wanted to share that love with other book people. Pretty soon you started getting review offers from authors or publicists and started receiving books in the mail. Before you knew it you were buried under your own TBR pile and felt like you can't keep up with other blogs that were posting eleventy billion times a day or getting more books or hit counts or whatever.

Keep it all in perspective. What do YOU want for YOUR blog? Do you actually care that you're not getting 500 unique hits a day? Do you care that you're not getting 10 new followers a day? Do you genuinely feel guilty if you decide to spend more time in your real life than in your blogging one? It's not a foot race. It's not about keeping up. Just do your thing. Trust me: people will love your site for just that. The rest that bow down into the crazy hype and do everything that everyone else is doing do nothing but blend in with the fray. You want to stand out. So do it.

If you don't know anything about SEO, who cares?

And it's not just about SEO (of which I have no idea what that is and this is me rushing out to find out what it is and how to use it). It's about networking in general. Do you have an obligation to get your book blog out there into the world? Technically no but if you started your book blog with the hopes of connecting to other book lovers, you're doing yourself a disservice by not at least somewhat getting involved in networking. But you don't have to belong to 400 networking sites to do it. Who the hell can keep track of all of that?

Being interactive on other blogs does wonders for traffic to yours alone. Twitter is another great marketing tool (one that I was really against until about a year ago when I finally caved and got one). Believe it or not, Twitter can make you human to your readers. That is if you post more than just links to your blog posts on it (which I find annoying, why use Twitter if that's all you're going to do?). I've found Facebook to be pretty ineffective when it comes to marketing but I don't pay to advertising. I just have an image on my blog linking to its Facebook site and that's it. Goodreads is another great place not just for you but for the books you promote as well. Double-posting your reviews here gets you, and the author, noticed more. Same goes for Random Buzzers.

But do what YOU want to do. It takes extra time to cross post shit all over the place. If you want to do that, go for it. If not, don't bow to the pressure. Try a few out and then look in your Blogger stats (you don't even need to go all fancy with Google Analytics, just the standard stats thing that your blog comes with) and see where you're getting your hits from and narrow it down. I get a lot of my hits from Twitter so I'm sticking with it. No sense in spreading yourself that thin if it's not benefiting you. It's about what YOU can do. Just posting a review itself is more exposure for the book. Beyond that is the extra mile.

Don't listen to anyone.

Which negates this very post. Do what YOU want on YOUR blog. Do what YOU feel comfortable doing. Don't bow to the pressure of others. Don't feel the need to keep up. Just go at YOUR own pace and things will work out. Figure out what you want for your blog and go from there.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Armchair BEA and Nurturing Relationships

Today's post is all about highlighting relationships that I've made as a blogger and giving tips on how to nurture those relationships. We are one big community of bloggers and it's important that we foster these relationships. Ironic coming from someone that's an introvert but there you go. I do what I can.

I've gleaned a few solid relationships with people from all spectrums of what I'm doing here in this book blogosphere. I've connected with bloggers like Laura over at Life After Jane, my pseudo twin. You might notice the poles start to shift if we don't agree on the like level of a book. But when we do, it's perfect peace and harmony. I'm pretty sure the diversion of the Rapture this past Saturday was our union of book souls over the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa.

We have similar senses of humor and we tit-for-tat on each others' blogs really well. We mesh, if you will. And next year we shall drink as we indulge in all that is BEA.

I've also connected with authors. Cinda Williams Chima is one of them. After I featured The Exiled Queen
last year in my anticipation post for books at BEA, she contacted me to review the series. After I gobbled them up like Cookie Monster on a bender (a love that Sab over at YA Bliss shares with me, and with which we gush on Twitter every time it comes up), we started emailing. With the release of The Gray Wolf Throne in August, we're still going back and forth. Just recently she gave me some suggestions for my visit to Arizona this coming August (yes, feel free to call me an idiot, but the package was cheap).

Another author I've awesomely connected with is Ilsa J. Bick. After randomly clicking on a Carolrhoda Lab add from Publisher's Weekly last year, I found her debut, Draw the Dark, and requested a copy. Oh it was a spiral of love and devotion as soon as I was done with it. She credits me (and you can ask her, I swear I'm not making this up, I have a hard time believing it myself) for single-handedly jumpstarting promotions for her book. Ever since we've just gone back and forth, all developed from a love for her work. And we both agree it is a miscarriage of timing that we'll just be missing each other this year at BEA.

The common theme here that's bringing us all together? Books. Our love of books. We finally have other people with which we can share that love with and who reciprocate. And it's not hard to maintain. This coming from the loner that functions in her own bubble.

Nurturing relationships is easy. All you need is contact. Don't wait for people to come to you. It doesn't work like that anywhere. Go to people. Comment on their blogs. Send them friendly emails. Recommend a book. Join up on Goodreads. Reciprocate conversation.

It's not easy for me to go up to people and start talking to them. I'm not a big blog post commenter and I suck at returning emails. But I give myself a good slap and I just do it. I suck it up and do it. You need to get over that shyness because there isn't anyone else that's just going to up and do it for you.

The most important thing is to be yourself. Unless you're a douche. Then don't be yourself. People will pick up on your lies or if you're being disingenuous. Just be. You want people to like you for who you are, not who they think you are. Be courteous. Say please and thank you. Gush about your love of a book. Indulge in comment conversation. Just plain ol' get involved.

And keep it up. This isn't a one-time deal where you comment and you're friends for life. Just like any other friendship, it requires work. Especially in the big world of the internet where you can too easily just disappear, you need to remind people that you're there. Haven't spoken to someone in a while? Go say hi. Give them a poke on Facebook. Whatever. But keep the contact going. It's all about the contact. Just don't be a stalker. That's creepy.

Now if I could just apply some of my own tips to myself!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Armchair BEA and Networking It Up!

It's all about the interviews today! I got the pleasure of interviewing Aryelle over at Reading with the Fishes. She's a pretty new blogger but she had some great answers to my questions so be sure to read on! Thanks for stopping by, Aryelle!

So you're pretty new to blogging. What made you make the jump from plain reader to fantastic book blogger?

Although I am pretty new at book blogging, I had been following the blogosphere for about a year before I actually started up my own blog. I've always loved books, and I read probably more than the librarians in my town, so I figured why not give the whole 'blogging' thing a try. Besides, when I would finish a book, I would always tell everyone what I thought about it, and I just wanted to maybe send that message out to a few more people than I would have otherwise.

Were you at all nervous or apprehensive about starting up your blog?

Definitely! I actually had thought about blogging a few times before, but I always let some fear stop me. When my blog first went up, all I could think about was, "Are people even going to read it?" or "Should I tweak this gadget or add that one?" After awhile though, I have learned to relax and not worry about it so much.

If you could give one piece of advise to an aspiring book blogger now, what would it be?

Don't think about it too much, and just do what you want. There are always going to be people who don't like you or what you are doing, but there will always be MORE that do, so don't let that stop you.

Where do you hope to see your blog in six months? In a year?

Appearance wise, I hope it to be a little more professional looking, maybe even an actual background. Other than that though, it really doesn't matter if I get any more followers, because I love what I am doing now and wouldn't really want anything to change.

What is your genre of choice and why?

I'm actually kind of all over the place. I read almost anything, but I tend to prefer paranormal or dystopian Young Adult. I feel that Young Adult books are the most uplifting and have the greatest overall messages. Plus, I can relate to most of the characters since I am a teenager myself.

A fascist regime has totally taken over and they're going house to house and confiscating books! You can only save one from your collection. Which one is it?

I hate this question because I think of all my books like my children, so it's pretty much asking me which child would I save? Lol. I would have to say that I would keep my signed copy of Delirium by Lauren Oliver, which is an amazing book, by the way!!

Book boyfriend. Do you have one?

ONE? I have like twenty, but if I had to choose one, I would have to say it would be Peeta from The Hunger Games.

When you're not reading, you're . . .

Watching TV, probably. Or sleeping, or at school, or at Borders trying to figure out what I'm going to read next. My life really isn't all that interesting when I think about it.

Cats or dogs?

I have and love both, but I prefer kitties.

Surf or turf?

Lol. Both, in that order. :)

If you could vacation anywhere, where would you go?

Anywhere, huh? Well, I guess I would either go to Thailand or Greece. I have a weird fascination with both of those places and would love to actually see them in person.

Thanks again, Aryelle! And be sure to check out my interview over at Lisa's World of Books! Then head on over to the ABEA website and read the rest of the interviews!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Armchair BEA: 2011 Book Loves

I'm not directly hosting a giveaway for ABEA but I am one of their sponsors. If you're a participant in this year's ABEA, you'll have a chance to win a slew of awesome prizes, with my offerings thrown in the midst. I'm putting up some of last year's BEA titles so get those posts up!

So since I'm not hosting a giveaway, for today's post I'm going to talk about some of my favorite/anticipated books for this year that are being featured at BEA.

I can't have a post like this and not mention Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick -

I've already read it. It's freaking awesome and everyone should read it. It'll scare the crap out of you. The first in a trilogy, Ashes comes out in September from Egmont.

The third book in the Seven Realms series, it's currently sitting in my NetGalley queue waiting for review in August. It's such a fantastic fantasy series that has me aspiring to write. Its original release date was September but due to popularity it's been bumped up to August.

Some of the other books I'm looking forward to (and hoping to grab the day I'm there) -

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

Those are mine. What are yours? Be sure to check out other bloggers' best loved books for the year here!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury

Pub Date: May 24, 2011.

Agnes Wilkins is standing in front of an Egyptian mummy, about to make the first cut into the wrappings, about to unlock ancient (and not-so-ancient) history.

Maybe you think this girl is wearing a pith helmet with antique dust swirling around her.

Maybe you think she is a young Egyptologist who has arrived in Cairo on camelback.

Maybe she would like to think that too. AgnesWilkins dreams of adventures that reach beyond the garden walls, but reality for a seventeen-year-old debutante in 1815 London does not allow for camels—or dust, even. No, Agnes can only see a mummy when she is wearing a new silk gown and standing on the verdant lawns of Lord Showalter’s estate, with chaperones fussing about and strolling sitar players straining to create an exotic “atmosphere” for the first party of the season. An unwrapping.

This is the start of it all, Agnes’s debut season, the pretty girl parade that offers only ever-shrinking options: home, husband, and high society. It’s also the start of something else, because the mummy Agnes unwraps isn’t just a mummy. It’s a host for a secret that could unravel a new destiny—unleashing mystery, an international intrigue, and possibly a curse in the bargain.

With a somewhat slow start, Wrapped launched into an intriguing and on-the-edge plot that kept me hopping from one page to the next, eager to see what happens.

The beginning was filled with high talk and poofy dresses. It takes a minute to get used to the language but once you settle in, you're ready for the action to start. That doesn't happen for another couple of chapters though. First we have to flesh Agnes out, show that she's not your typical society women concerned with debuts and marrying "right." Agnes wants adventure. She wants to travel. She wants to think about something other than fabric colors.

Enter the mummy, and her noticing a boy below her station, and that's when all of her troubles begin. Agnes adopts a secret that's more than just a novelty or a dream of a far away place. It shoves her right into the middle of something that she doesn't know if she's capable of handling or not. The easiest thing for Agnes to do would be to give up.

But she doesn't. She sticks through the problems right until the end. Even when things get dangerous, even when her well-being is at stake, Agnes stands hard and tall to get the job done. And that's what I loved about her. She didn't need to be saved. She thought for herself and did her own saving. In fact, she stepped in and saved other people of the male variety. Something mighty fantastic of a girl of the time.

I will admit, though, I had a hard time swallowing the end. Just based on what I know of the era, it doesn't seem to fit. But according to the author, things like this did happen. Of course we wouldn't know about it because, well, covers would be blown, wouldn't they? I had to suspend my disbelief a little bit for that part but it was worth it.

Wrapped is exceptionally well-written and captures the voice of the time perfectly (sometimes a little too perfectly at some points that it dragged). Agnes is all the YA heroine that we could ask for and then some. Even in her floofy dresses she blows a lot of these current YA chicks straight out of the water.

I really don't have much to say about Wrapped other than if you love Egypt and Victorian-era London, you'll want to dive right into this book. It's a history lesson and a fun adventure all rolled into one. You'll be biting your nails in suspense as the plot carries on and by the end, you'll be clapping for all that happened. I thought it was great.

My Name is Donna and This is How I Armchair

Hello all! If you're here for the first time, it's probably the fault of Armchair BEA and they're ability to smush us all together to party for BEA week.

This is my first year participating in Armchair BEA and originally I wasn't going to go to BEA at all this year. I had other plans but those ended up falling through, I'd already committed to ABEA but what the hell, I'll go to BEA for a day too. See I'm right outside the city so I can just hop a train and mosey my ass on in there. Ticket in hand, of course.

I first went to BEA in 2009 and was so freaking lost I didn't know my ass from my elbow half the time. It took me nearly half the day to figure Javits out (that was went the exhibitors were split over two floors). Last year I was much more organized but just as grabby with books and nearly broke myself carrying my bag. This year I'll be there for just a day again but with a ruck so I have to watch what I grab. I'm going to have issues if I can't put the ruck on my back.

So what's about me all bloglike? I review predominantly YA books of varying genres although I tend to stick more closely to fantasy of some type or horror. I like non-normal elements in my stories. Nice and escapist. But I do enjoy contemporaries. In fact some of my favorite books are contemporaries with nothing fantastical about them (except the writing).

I'm not a trend follower so if you came here hoping that I was on the pulse of all that is YA in the publishing world, you're in the wrong place. I have my hand on the pulse alright; I'm just not reporting on every tidbit all the time. I'm attracted to books that are found a little off the beaten path or don't get all that much publicity although I've been known to wade into the hype every once in a while. I'm just not always pleased with what I step in.

I'd have to say I'm known for my honesty. I don't hold back in my reviews, good or bad. Some people have problems with that. This is my caring face -

I function based on me. I don't promote books I haven't read and can't recommend to others. I don't have authors guest post unless I've already read their work and liked it. I just don't see a point in doing so otherwise. When I gush about something or put in the extra effort to get an author here, I want people to know that THIS is an author whose books you should be reading. That tends to leave me out of a lot of book promotions but I'm okay with that. And I've been okay with that for two and a half years now. I learned very early on that I can't, in good conscience, promote a book I wouldn't recommend someone read. And I've held to that. Plus it's really awkward to go all in to a book promotion and end up not liking the book.

I'm excited for ABEA overall. While I tend to function within my own little bubble, it's nice to get out every once in a while and co-mingle with my fellow bloggers. I look forward to reading everyone's posts, seeing what they're giving away and hopping around some interviews. I'll be at BEA Thursday so I'm hoping to contribute some BEA-ness to the ABEA extravaganza on Twitter. And, of course, I'll be sharing the love when I get back. It's all about the books and I hope that even though some people can't make it at all, they still feel like they're there. Bloggers are good for many things; one of them sharing. They know they're privileged to be going to BEA and they want to extend that as far as possible in any way possible. ABEA helps us do that.

I look forward to making many more blogging buddies and adding a shitload of new blogs to my reader! There's always room for more!

Check out the other ABEAers here!
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