Friday, September 30, 2011

Event Recap: Pen Fatale Tour

On Wednesday, I attended a stop of the Pen Fatale tour in my town.
It may or may not have been the best book signing I've attended.

I expected huge crowds, so my friend and I got to the B&N two hours early. We ended up getting seats in the front row! We weren't the only crazy people to show up so early, and talked with a very nice person named Brandy who also loves YA. (I recommended NetGalley to her!)

Here's what it looked like before anyone came:

Only about 30 people showed up to the signing, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. You know how during a huge signing like Smart Chicks Kick It, there are so many people that you can only ask one question, if any at all? It wasn't like that here. We got to talk to the authors on a more personal level, which I loved.
(But just to be clear, I had a blast at Smart Chicks Kick It last year too!)

More pictures:

Mary E. Pearson with The Fox Inheritance

Gabrielle Zevin with All These Things I've Done

Jessica Brody with My Life Undecided

I didn't get any good pictures of Alyson Noel, but she was there too.

And the best part? Gabrielle remembered me from when I interviewed her back in May! It was so amazing to finally meet her. I loved talking to Mary about Jenna Fox as well!

Finally, here is my haul of goodies.
(I already had the ARC, but now it's signed+personalized!)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: Looking for Alaska

This review is going to contain spoilers. I always try to write spoiler-free reviews, but this time I couldn't. The spoilers will be marked, but read at your own risk.

Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Release Date: March 3, 2005
Publisher: Dutton
Cover Designer:
Age Audience: YA
Genre: Contemporary
Tagline: First friend. First girl. Last words.
Summary: Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

My Review:
Mr. John Green, once again you have impressed me.
Well, it's not really "again" because this was his debut, but it is for me because this is his second novel I've read.

Culver Creek was nothing like I expected, and I mean that in a good way. When I think of a boarding school, I usually picture a grand old mansion in the northeast with a regal history and vintage furniture in every room. Instead, Culver Creek was in Birmingham, Alabama, and everything about it was southern. It was a very unique take.

I felt that the "before" section of the book dragged a little. There were many scenes showing Miles hanging out with Alaska and the Colonel and getting to know them. I just wanted to get on with the story.
But when the story did move on, I wasn't ready for it at all.

*spoilers* I already knew that Alaska was going to die because the summary on the publication page mentioned a "fatal car accident", but when it did happen I was not prepared. I actually cried for the first twenty pages of the "after" section, because I could really feel Miles' pain and grief as he tried to adjust to life without Alaska. *spoilers*

There were a few parts of the book that weren't huge aspects, but I couldn't stop thinking about them. For example, Alaska's theory that imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. I never would have thought of it, but now I realize how true it is. And if that wasn't enough:
"If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane."
That, ladies and gentlemen, is perfection. One of the best sentences I've ever read.

I also have something very important to point out. I've seen more than a few reviews on Goodreads stating "all of John Green's novels are basically the same story told over and over again". This is not true.
I have read Paper Towns, and it was uniquely different from Looking for Alaska. The plots of the two books contrasted, as did the characters. Yes, Miles and Quentin have some similar personality traits, but not enough to dub them "the same character". Alaska and Margo are like that as well: they have things in common, but are two different characters. I actually liked Alaska more than I liked Margo.

Even though there were one or two things I didn't like about this book, the things I did were so good that it's more than worthy of 4.5 stars. Looking for Alaska, you deserved every bit of your Printz Award.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cover vs. Cover [12] — Double Feature!

Cover vs. Cover is a weekly feature, hosted here, where I compare different covers of the same book. For more information, visit the Weekly Features page.

Because there are two US and two UK covers (and because I loved this book), I will be comparing FOUR covers instead of two!
Here they are:

        The First US Cover                               The First UK Cover

The candle on the US cover is mysterious, and I really like the billowing smoke, but the UK cover foreshadows the book better with the lonely heart floating in the water. Though I don't understand why the "for" in the title is italicized on the UK.

    The Second US Cover                      The Second UK Cover

Again, the UK cover is the winner. There's nothing wrong with the girl, but the daisy with specifically twelve petals is symbolic and I like both the title and author text. Notice how on the first US cover there's the sticker for the Printz Award, but not on the second.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Follow Friday [23]

This Week's Question:  Do you have a favorite series that you read over and over again? Tell us a bit about it and why you keep on revisiting it?

My Answer:
I don't re-read books often, but I used to. One series I've read through about seven or eight times is the Chronicles of Narnia. I don't think I have to tell you about it, because if you don't know, where have you been?

I really love this series, but my favorite part is the world. The world-building of Narnia and its surrounding countries is just so intricate and intriguing. That's also probably why The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite book in the series.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Elsewhere

Title: Elsewhere
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Release Date: August 10, 2005
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Cover Designer:
 Nancy Goldenberg
Age Audience: YA
Genre: Magical realism
Tagline: Is it possible to grow up while getting younger?
Summary: Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.
Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well.
How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?

My Review:
Reading this book was a little like talking to a close friend. You know them very well and you don’t do anything amazing, but you could talk forever and will never grow tired of their company.

I loved the concept. Just the idea of living your life backwards until you’re a baby again felt so exotic and intriguing. The world building was excellently done as well. Elsewhere was similar to Earth. People lived in houses and drove cars and had friends and family. Yet at the same time, it was too different to be mistaken for Earth. I’ll admit that I had misgivings when a new gallery of Picasso paintings is mentioned near the beginning of the book. I thought that Picasso would have already been born on Earth again! But after some research, I realized that Picasso still would have been in Elsewhere at the time of Liz’s death, and I praise Gabrielle Zevin for putting the effort into making every little detail accurate.

Elsewhere is written in third-person present tense. It was very different to read from the perspective in Gabrielle Zevin’s other novel I’ve read (All These Things I’ve Done was in first-person past tense), but I really liked it. A few times the point of view jumped from one character to another, but instead of being confusing it gave us better insight on what was going on.

I’m not a fan of talking animals stories, and I’m not much of a dog person. But I didn’t mind the fact that dogs could talk in this book. I especially liked the one chapter told from the point of view of Lucy, Liz’s pug on Earth. It was interesting to see the story interpreted by a dog, and it only took me a couple pages to realize that a human wasn’t the narrator.

If I could only use one sentence to describe Elsewhere, it would be this: It was such a good book. To me, just that simple statement sums it up. Even though you can tell how the book will end just by reading the synopsis, it was a fresh and pleasant story without any of that over-the-top romance I despise.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In My Mailbox [18]

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren, where we share books that we've received.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cover vs. Cover [12]

Cover vs. Cover is a weekly feature, hosted here, where I compare different covers of the same book. For more information, visit the Weekly Features page.

This week's competing covers are:

           The US Cover                                    The UK Cover

To be 100% honest, I don't like either of these covers. Yes, the bursting stars are pretty, but I think the almost-kissing couple doesn't portray the book very well, because romance was not the main element of the story. I really dislike the big white space on the UK cover, so out of these two I pick the US.

But the cover for the US paperback is my favorite. It's way more science fiction-y, and it depicts what the book is actually about better than the other covers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: Unearthly

Title: Unearthly
Series: Unearthly, #1
Author: Cynthia Hand
Release Date: January 4, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen
Cover Designer:
Sasha Illingworth
Age Audience: YA
Genre: Paranormal
Tagline: In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees....
Summary: Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

My Review:
After the double disappointment of Hush, Hush and Halo, I came to the conclusion that there are no good YA angel books out there. After hearing about Unearthly, I wanted it to prove me wrong.
I’m so, so glad to say that it did.

Clara was such a good protagonist. She was a little selfish, but she knew it, so it didn’t make her unlikable at all. I liked how she already knew she was part angel, so there wasn’t a big part of the book dedicated to Clara finding out about her true identity. I liked all the side characters too. Clara’s mother was over a hundred years (though she didn’t look older than forty), and I was really glad to see that she was wise like someone who had been around for a long time and seen a lot, but didn’t act too old.

The angel lore was simple and clearly explained, which was a good thing! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you do not need to come up with a great big complicated magic system to have a good paranormal romance. Clara and her little brother were quarter angels, called Quartarius, and their mother was a half angel, Dimidius. All the part angels have a “purpose”, which is the task for which they were born to complete. They are also smarter, stronger and faster than humans, but that part is obvious.

As for the romance...I loved how it had so much buildup! Months pass, MONTHS, before Clara as much as kisses anyone. (I won’t say who!) It also meant that the story moved along a little slowly, but I would much rather have that than insta-love. Clara even says that she's "not going to become one of those girls whose boyfriend treats her like crap and she still fawns over him."
Dear Clara, how I wish every female protagonist in paranormal YA could say that.
Another thing I want to point out is that even though the summary makes it sound like there’s a love triangle, I wouldn’t really say that. I can’t explain why without giving away spoilers, but while there were two boys involved, I didn’t think of it as a love triangle.

Especially if you’ve also been disappointed by previous YA angel books, don’t hesitate to read Unearthly. It’s given me hope for future books of its sub-genre. I just wish I didn't have to wait until 2012 for Hallowed!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cover Real for Obsidian!

I'm about to help reveal the cover and blurb of Jennifer L. Armentrout's most recent book, Obsidian! It will be released on December 6, 2011, by Entangled Publishing.

And here it is!

Starting over sucks. 
When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, outhouses, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring. Until I spotted my hot neighbor with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up. 
And then he opened his mouth. 
Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something…unexpected happens. 
The hot alien living next door marked me. 
You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and the mark he left on me has me lit up like Las Vegas strip to the bad guys. The only way I'm getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades. If I don't kill him first, that is. 
And then things got really bad…

Here's the complete cover (click on it to see it larger:

Oh, and did I mention that the protagonist is a book blogger?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10th Anniversary

This little post has absolutely nothing to do with books.
But I feel that it's my obligation as a human.

I don't have a long story to share. I just want to say that if you, or someone in your family, or a dear friend was affected by what happened ten years ago, my thoughts go out to you all on this day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

In My Mailbox [17]

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren, where we share books that we've received.

Cover vs. Cover [11]

Cover vs. Cover is a weekly feature, hosted here, where I compare different covers of the same book. For more information, visit the Weekly Features page.

This week's competing covers are:

           The US Cover                                    The UK Cover

I really don't like the US cover, I think it's too generic (then again, I thought the book was too). I didn't see the UK cover up close until just now, and didn't even notice the seaweed curling around the title text, which I like. I also like the sun shining through the ocean, so the UK cover wins this time.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Follow Friday [22]

This Week's Question: Have you ever wanted a villain to win at the end of a story? If so, which one?

My Answer:
Anne Boleyn from Carolyn Meyer's Doomed Queen Anne.

Okay, she wasn't really a villain, but she was very selfish and would stop at nothing to become queen. Even so, I couldn't help but root for her throughout the book.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: The Death Catchers

This is the review of an uncorrected advance copy. Changes may have been made in the final book. 

Title: The Death Catchers
Author: Jennifer Anne Kogler
Release Date: August 16, 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Cover Designer: 
Age Audience: YA
Genre: Paranormal 
Summary: On her fourteenth Halloween, Lizzy Mortimer sees her first death-specter. 
Confused at first, Lizzy soon learns from her grandmother Bizzy that as Death Catchers, they must prevent fate from taking its course when an unjust death is planned-a mission that has been passed down from their ancestor, Morgan le Fay. Only, Lizzy doesn't expect one of her first cases to land her in the middle of a feud older than time between Morgan le Fay and her sister Vivienne le Mort. Vivienne hopes to hasten the end of the world by preventing Lizzy from saving King Arthur's last descendant-humanity's greatest hope for survival. It's up to Lizzy, as Morgan's earthly advocate, to outwit fate before it's too late.

My Review:
The first good thing I have to say about this book concerns the setting. Small towns are nearly a cliche in paranormal YA, but I think Crabapple stood out. Sitting on the edge of the gloomy Pacific, it was an eeire and quaint little town, almost a little European in some ways.

Even though Lizzy, the protagonist, admits that she's "not reading's biggest fan", there's a literary building block discussed at the beginning of each chapter, since the book is a letter Lizzy wrote to her English teacher explaining why she didn't turn in her paper. As a writer myself, I enjoyed this aspect of the book.

But, there were weaknesses too. The one that bothered me the most was in the mythology. It strayed so far from the Arthurian lore everyone knows. You could argue that there's no such thing as THE version of King Arthur's story because there has never been one accurate source, but I still felt like the author just used a few concepts to make up her own mythology that was only loosely based on Arthurian lore.

Another weak point was the lack of physical description. When it came to describing the town and other characters, it was good for the most part. But not in Lizzy's case. What color was her hair? Her eyes? Was she tall or short? Did she wear glasses? We never find out what she even looked like. I also thought it was unusual how close Lizzy was to her seventy-something grandmother. Of course it's normal for someone to talk to and spend time with their grandmother, but being with her more often than you did with your best friend? I didn't buy it. I have another criticism, but it's spoilery so I'll leave it out.

The romance was an upside—it was very realistic. Of course there was tension and kissing and things like that, but it was all more of a side element. Even after Lizzy starts "officially dating", she tells her best friend that "We're not in love." They were just two people trying to see if a romantic relationship would work for them.

To me, The Death Catchers had an equal amount of good and bad, but others who wouldn't be bothered by the things I mentioned might like it better. In any case, it gets bonus points for being a stand-alone and for not having the face of an angsty-looking teenage girl on the cover.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In My Mailbox [16]

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren, where we share books that we've received.