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Monday, May 31, 2010

Spammers and How to Maintain Some Order

NOTE: Everything I say are just mere suggestions. It's not a rule or law in the community that has to be obeyed. Also I'm not sure if another blogger has done a post similar to this already.

There has an increasing amount of spammers for some reason on blogs. It has gotten so bad that I was forced to remove my chatbox because of it. I love having a chatbox especially when someone leaves a message or just a hello. I don't love it, however, when someone leaves links to "Cheap good IPhone accessories". It wasn't just one link but several links on a daily occurrence. Somehow they even manged to code the words so they flash and move around, drawing the eyes there.
Even before all this happened I have had spam comments on my blog posts. If you look at my review for Dead Until Dark review you'll notice that I have 86 comments on that review; 9 of those comments were legit--sort of. The rest of them linked to some Asian p0rn site (but mostly Japanese). I thought it would be fun to see how many spam comments it'll culminate, but it started to spread like wildfire attacking my other posts. I was not going to tolerate that. So instead I activated Comment Moderation (which I believe I learned the trick from twitter). It's another option than to use word verification.

To moderate your comments in case of spammers go to Settings. Under Settings go to Comments:

Continue to scroll down until you hit Comment Moderation. I have mine set to 1 week (7 days) when I start to moderate comments, but you're more than welcome to set it to anytime earlier or later than that.


To post or reject your comments just log into blogger.com how you normally will. There should be a link if there are comments that need to be judged.

Some other settings I have are comment notification email. I get an email whenever someone leaves a comment on my blog and if they have an email in their blogger profile, I will also automatically get that as well. It's handy when someone leaves a question on a post so you can easily reply back via email (making sure that they get your reply).

You'll also see I do not use word verification. Word verifications are annoying in my opinion. Even more so when it's an embedded comment box WITH word verification. I've accidentally close internet windows thinking that my comment went through only to discover that I had to type in a word verification in the end. Um opps? Too late, the window/tab closed. So if you really really want word verification for some reason or another, use either pop-up window or full page. Another reason to use pop-up windows or full pages is because some operating systems (Apple computers I've heard from some) have trouble with embedded forms.

Again these are just suggestions.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Love in the Time of Cholera (Rant)

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Gracia Maquez

Source: School

Grade: N/A (but I did give it 1 star on GoodReads)

And welcome to the second round of mandatory school books I had to read: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I am always reluctant on school readings because every page required an analysis for a character, a mantra, a symbol or even the choice of color. Reading novels for school suck away any sense of enjoyment and the ones I’ve actually come to like are readings assigned by teachers who just chuck the book at you and tell you to have a blast: no quiz, no written assignment, no homework, just a due date to finish it by and a formal test. For Love in the Time of Cholera I had every one of those homework, quizzes, and written papers.

While delivering a message to her father, Florentino Ariza spots the barely pubescent Fermina Daza and immediately falls in love. What follows is the story of a passion that extends over 50 years, as Fermina is courted solely by letter, decisively rejects her suitor when he first speaks, and then joins the urbane Dr. Juvenal Urbino, much above her station, in a marriage initially loveless but ultimately remarkable in its strength. Florentino remains faithful in his fashion; paralleling the tale of the marriage is that of his numerous liaisons, all ultimately without the depth of love he again declares at Urbino's death.
--from Amazon

One of my biggest peeves is how historically inaccurate the novel is and yet it seems to be praised for it! Why does one book get condemned for having anachronisms and another gets a set of bravo!

As for the symbolism I am constantly weary of them. Here’s a short little anecdote: Our teacher announced that a published poet will be stopping by the following week. She then passed out 5 sheets of paper of his work and asked us to analyze them…in depth. We spent a large portion of class time that week combing through each line and thought the theme of one poem was about social stratification. When the poet finally arrived we complimented him about the symbolism of the poem to which he replied he had no idea what we were talking about, it was just a dream. Teacher sputtered and laughed; all I could say was WTF. In my opinion how can we pass judgment of a novel or poem when we really are not sure if the author has a significant meaning behind each word? So maybe Garcia Marquez just really liked parrots; let’s not over-analyze anything!

Pass the literary merit one may accompany Love in the Time of Cholera with lays this huge disdain for the characters. Not one character has a positive attribute grand enough to outcast the negatives: they are all disgusting loathsome beings. I apologize; the majority of the characters just live in this delusional world where primitive feelings are acute—particularly the sexual kind. Fermina, the main female lead, is just the only disgusting loathsome being. She’s want you might call today a gold-digger. And a whore. She marries Urbino because of his good reputation and good fortune completely ignoring Florentino even after 3 years of courting and love letter writing. And once Urbino tragically dies she ‘falls in love’ with Florentino again who remains a freaking virgin for her even after 622 affairs! Ha. Ha. Ha! But seriously Urbino and Florentino fell in love with her why? Because she's pretty. Gracia Marquez mentions that plenty enough.

What did I get from the story? Have an affair—everyone’s doing it! Sailors, captains, doctors, photographers, grandmothers, mothers, wives, CEOs—everyfreakingone.

I wanted to quit every chapter of the way, but alas I was not allowed to. Grrr.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Awards, Rotten Tomatoes, and Prom!? Yes? No?

(picture used with permission from Tiger Press)

I was recently sent an email regarding the Tiger Press Young Writers Awards 2010. Here's what it's all about:

The Little Tiger Press Young Writer and Illustrator Awards are designed to encourage reading and creativity in children from an early age. It is an annual competition aimed at schools, charities and organizations in the UK.

It aims to promote a life-long love of books and to give children a sense of enjoyment and confidence in reading, writing and illustrating.

For more information, tips and tricks from the authors and illustrators at Little Tiger Press please visit: www.childrens-books-award.co.uk

With enough support this campaign can happen again next year! So spread the word :)

If you want the button I have on my sidebar use this code save the image and link it. The code is being very uncooperative with me right now, I apologize.

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And then several weeks ago I learned about YA Books Buzz. It's a website dedicated to YA Books, which one can infer from the title, but what makes this site great is because it selects reviews from the YA Book Blogging Community and calculates the "average" grade. Let's just say that I'm one of the few book reviews that seems to take the grades down a notch...or two (really I did not mean to do that!). In their release email they call themselves "the Rottentomatoes of Books. It allows the readers who hesitate to buy one book or another to make his/her choice. " They also have a "TOPS" section, which sorts books that has done the "best" according to the community and a "SOON" section in regards to about-to-release YA novels.

Overall I think it's a great website and possibly one that I'll be stopping by quite frequently. Now if only they have an RSS feed somewhere....

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Finally let's talk about my reviews or lack of therefore. I'm at the homestretch of school right now. Everyone, especially the teachers are in panic mode, and I'm juggling many things at once at this point. I will probably use the rest of May to catch up on reviews and June will be much more livelier on this blog--hopefully. Definitely expect at least 8 reviews from me during June all for tours (yikes I signed up for one too many)!

But I brought up school for a reason: would you care for some prom pictures on the blog? I brought up the idea of me attending prom to Ka-Yam and she asked for some pictures during the event so I thought 'why not post them on the blog as well?' The 'well' may be an issue because I wanted to maintain this strict 'be a professional' persona for my blog recently. But then I realize that I can't. Blogging has become an addiction for me and it is hard to constantly maintain that stoic attitude I had envisioned. Yet I'm still on the fence for this question: To post or not to post, that is the question.

I'll leave it up to you readers if you want to see "me" at prom because really. I have an actual face if anyone wants to know ;) Curious? You can comment at the end of the post for your answer, and I will also leave a poll on the right-hand sidebar for you to cast your vote.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Vinyl Princess

The Vinyl Princess by Yvnonne Prinz

Source: Personal Bookshelf

Grade: 3 stars out of 5

The Vinyl Princess—I just can’t help but roll that title in my mouth. The Vinyl Princess stars Allie, a sixteen year old vinyl, LP, obsessed freak. She has a typical routine going, but this summer spells not one, but two guys and a close-up with a gun, her mother’s boss roaming her house in underwear, and freshly printed copies of her own zines.

The Vinyl Princess I expected more from. I think this is partly my fault; I am not a music fan. I like music and will listen to it whenever I can turn the radio on, but I never go out of my way. This novel is all about music—shopping lists full of them. I ended up skipping an entire page because it was just one long list of bands and titles—ones that I particularly never heard of. It’s great if the reader is willing to explore all those bands, but I can honestly care less.

The romance I thought would be so much stronger. It’s not. It’s touch and go and even then it wasn’t a touch, more so a poke. But I blame Allie at times. I seem to love all the characters, but Allie is the only one whom I can’t place a finger on. The side characters, the background people, heck even the bad guys I felt more intuned with than Allie. She has a lackluster narration that is only spiced up by the people she knows. And spiced up they did.

But The Vinyl Princess’s best quality is the discussion of the ever declining importance of indie shops. Nowadays everything has gone mainstream; why carry hundreds of LPs or CDs when it can all be compacted into an mp3 player? Why buy and carry hundreds of books when all you need is an e-book reader?

Overall The Vinyl Princess is slightly predictable and bland. The deeming factors include the (not so) hidden mantra and Allie’s mother and her new boyfriend. If you adore music then this is an automatic book for you. If you’re like me who prefers convenience when it comes to music you might be on the fence for this book.

Cover B+

Monday, May 24, 2010

PROMO: Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Sherrilyn Kenyon's first YA novel is releasing I believe tomorrow! She's been on the NY Times Bestseller's list numerous times for her paranormal series.

Here's a trailer for the new series with the first titled INFINITY:

You can download the songs: here and read some excerpts of the novel here.

At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him"

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else


I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahn

Source: Surprise ARC from Scholastic

Grade: 3 stars out of 5

I recall dying to read this when I first read the synopsis; it sounded like something right up my alley! Now less than a month since I have finished the book I have a hard time recalling just what I read. I can recall everything from the summary, but the in-betweens are a blur. I can recall that the beginning of the tale and the ending of the tale are very similar which made me smile because it reminded me a story-telling technique my 8th grade English teacher loved to read/use. Ah wait, now everything’s coming back, but first the synopsis from Goodreads (it’s very in-depth):

Seventeen-year-old Bronwen Oliver doesn't just want a family. She has one of those, and there's nothing terribly wrong with them apart from bickering grandparents, an image-obsessed mother and a brother she describes simply as Jesus. But there's no natural sense of connection between Bronwen and her family, leaving her with the belief -- and the hope -- that she was switched at birth, that she was never supposed to be Bronwen Oliver but someone else entirely.

When she begins dating college senior Jared Sondervan, she finds herself thoroughly embraced by the loving family she has always wanted and does not hesitate to say yes when Jared proposes on her 18th birhday. Plans for the Perfect Beach Wedding before her junior year of college become plans for the Perfect Beach Wedding before her freshman year of college. And a wedding so soon isn't exactly what Bronwen wants. But Jared is. And his family is. Or so she thinks.

Before Bronwen can determine what she truly wants, she must first determine who she truly is, and the answer, she discovers, is only partially what she thought it was. She wasn't switched at birth, but she's also not Bronwen Oliver and hasn't been for a very long time.

Jared and Browen relationship was at a pace that I was uncomfortable reading; just too fast, too impulsive, too young for me to fully swoon over. There were bouts of swooning of course and the creditable factor is there as well with the relationships starting a much younger age nowadays. Jared and Browen’s relationship is sweet, tender, and humorous that left me a little dizzy, but again, no full on swoon.

Falling back into the young and impulsive actions Browen is indeed very young to begin considering marriage. Yet the novel seems to focus more on identity. Browen’s identity is beyond the realm of fantasy and is the case of a dead father and a family that just never seemed to talk about it or anything at all. Browen’s now the only brunette amidst a crowd of blonds in her family that just screams how different she is. So what does she do? She dyes her hair blonde. By doing this she seems to shroud herself from what she wants and follows what everyone else wants—fitting into the “status-quo” of her mother, her peers, and ultimately a “world” she believes herself to live in. The novel follows the growth period of Browen—self-identity being the main issue—and beginning of recommunicating.

Just to finalize this review I would like to mention I disliked the brother and the mother, but found them and the rest of the characters differentiable. And as much as I would like to know what they were thinking, it’ll be slightly impossible because of the first person point of view narrative—limited of course. Though the mother’s nonchalant manner still irks me even after understanding this.

Cover B+

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Rise of Renegade X

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell

Source: ARC from Egmont (but it's already released!)

Grade: 4 stars out of 5 (but my brother who happened to have also read the book might give it 4.8 stars)

The Rise of Renegade X is a novel of wicked humor that gives its own unique spin of heroes vs. villains through an unexpected crass narrative. This ain’t your average Marvel Comics kids.

Damien Locke has been waiting his entire life for the appearance of the mighty V on his thumb to signify that he is a true supervillian. Yet on his sixteenth birthday he discovers that he is not in fact a supervillian, he’s…actually he’s not sure what he is because on this thumb it lays an X. Not a V for villain nor even an H for hero, but an X! It turns out his mother, a supervillian, made error of judgment in her younger years and now sixteen years later Damien discovers that he’s the birthchild of a supervillian and a superhero. Now that Damien knows he’s determine to find out who his father was, but maybe he wished he hadn’t.

Damien finds himself stuck with a six-week crash course on how to be a superhero when his mother and his ‘father’ agreed to expose Damien to the life of a superhero. This change from his daily life is because any time from 1 year to up to 5 years Damien’s X will turn into a V or even an H depending on his choices and actions. But Damien is sure that he’s meant to be a supervillian and will do everything he can to turn that X into a V!

But what does having your half-sister’s lace sock in your pants, being pushed off extremely tall buildings (when he’s deathly afraid of heights), being the experiment of the school’s ‘freak’ and a Mr. Wiggles have to do with any of that!? Apparently a lot it seems.

The Rise of Renegade X will leave its reader snorting with laughter sometimes garnering looks from peers and strangers. But it’s fine because you’ll be too busy laughing your butt off and enjoying this sarcastic wit and humor and rollercoaster scream fest to care.

Chelsea Campbell’s character Damien Locke is your typical and atypical teenage boy with his own troubles of hormones and an ex-girlfriend before dealing with the whole family issue. He has frenemies, a mom that’s currently dating the president of a school that he’s dying to attend, and a dad who saves kittens from trees as a career—what’s not to love about his life? (Well maybe we can love it all because it spells en entertaining read, but for Damien not so much.)

Damien’s life is the perfect scenario of a modern-day single home family; even more so with only his mother in his life for the first sixteen years. Campbell weaves current issues such as that, weight (overall appearance) and the pursuit of higher level of education stress into the novel while mixing in ‘comic-book’ sense of flair that impacts a much greater deal than one might assume.

Readers may find The Rise of Renegade X fulfilling yet unfulfilling. There are certain details of the book I wished I could have more clarification on, but as a whole this laugh-out-loud induced novel will please both genders and leave them continually checking to see if there will be a sequel.

Cover A
Nice butt ;)

P.S. Shoving the book under people's noses and screaming "Read it! It's amazing and funny and so so good! And oh my God, read it!" does not result in the way you may want it to be. For one thing they give you this pitying 'you're so crazy' look. I am completely sane pft.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Tension of Opposites

The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride

Source: ARC from Egmont

Grade: 4 stars out of 5

It’s been 2 years since Noelle has been kidnapped and since then Tessa has cut herself from what she deemed the normal life: a social life. But now Noelle’s back and wants to be called Elle. Has anything else changed aside from her name? And now Tessa wonders where her best friend has gone and whatever happened to her while dealing with this constant beating of her heart whenever Max, the new kid in school that happens to be in her life photography class, is around.

I really did enjoy this novel don’t get me wrong, but I think it missed the mark when dealing with emotional trauma of Noelle’s kidnapping. I expected something gritty, chaotic, and painful but it felt more of a self-identity novel.

Looking at it from a different angle, Kristina McBride did create something different. She created this confinement for Noelle after her kidnapping. A scenario where even after she finally escaped she’s still trapped in this invisible cage where everyone just watches her: fragile, Stockholm Syndrome, drug-addict, victim?—words that constantly float around her. And Elle wants out. She may not be the most likeable character but she’s fire and passion and you just cannot help but look and stare. Every so often McBride lets the reader peek into the emotional chaos that I was looking for in Elle in the journal she keeps. I found that voice addicting, raw, and real that I needed more. Preferred more actually.

But the majority of the growth is through Tessa. Tessa is so used to constantly thinking about Noelle that once Elle comes back, it’s been hard to live her own life again. Her fire is smaller than Elle’s but just as intense when it comes to Max and it comes through the writing. The relationship the two share is endearing and heartwarming and feels like stomach with butterflies. It’s tender without becoming too sweet and cheesy; it creates an involuntary grin on the reader’s face.

Through photography, Tessa begins to let herself go. She begins to open herself. And maybe the friendship she had with Noelle has ended, but there is a new friendship between her and Elle that can bloom. Kristina McBride does a splendid job with this reader paying closer attention to her than ever.

And okay, this is my first time watching the book trailer for The Tension of Opposites, but it is kick-butt! That synopsis tramps my synopsis to the ground. The book releases next week and don't wait until later to get it!


I would recommend this novel for people who liked:
It is not the same thing but there are similar (good) elements.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Moon Called (Rant)

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Source: Personal Bookshelf

Grade: 2.5 stars out of 5

I have noticed when I rant I tend to let things slip...so SPOILERS (perhaps) you guys!

“Mercy Thompson's life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she's fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn't exactly normal herself.”—Amazon

I’m going to add a bit to that. Mercy’s full name is Mercedes and she fixes Volkswagens—haha…ha? I personally did not think that was funny, but I think it was supposed to be. Then again I never did understand car humor. Her next-door neighbor is Adam; he’s the alpha where she lives. But one day there’s an attack, Adam’s daughter gets kidnapped, and he gets shot (almost killed). Mercy takes Adam up north and runs into an ex-lover from her younger years. Oh and her ex-lover is the son of another alpha. Blah drone blah blah blah drone. Facing the facts Moon Called was so boring. So freaking boring that I stopped reading. 5 times. I am a sucker for punishment because I kept coming back though.

So Mercy and the gang are trying to figure out who kidnapped Jessie, Adam’s daughter, and why. Every so often Adam and the ex-lover are puffing their chests out because Mercy is theirs. I don’t know why (seriously why!?), but everyone freaking loves her. I believe in one line Adam said he likes her because of her spunky attitude…oh-kay. And there’s the blah blah blah drone drone bore bore bored part again.

Then oh freaking gosh. The last third of the novel picks up to a pace where I’m not half-asleep and in actuality excited about! And oohh mystery and reasoning! I like it when authors provide concrete, believable reasons for why a situation occurs. The novel ends strongly with enough presence that I decided to pick up the second in the series. Despite my long rant of why I disliked the majority of the novel I am going to read the second.

Cover C

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Immortal Beloved

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

Source: ARC from HipScouts (Little, Brown)

Grade: 3.5 stars out of 5

IMMORTAL BELOVED releases on SEPTEMBER. This review is extremely early, but I had to review it for HipScouts and the urge to just spill my guts on the blog was strong. I will most likely repost this review near the release date.

After witnessing her best friend, Innocencio, breaking the back of a cab driver for no significant reason, Nastasya quickly realizes that she needs to leave. She no longer feels comfortable and has the strong urge to hide herself from her once close friends. Recalling back a time when River, a stranger at that time, offered her ‘help’ (help that she thought she didn’t need at that time) located in a small town in Massachusetts, she finally takes that offer just a few centuries later. Well here she is now picking beets, grooming horses, and star-gazing. Wait, why? Apparently it is a rehabilitation process that also apparently works! Nastasya is feeling and looking better for the longest time after decades of partying, but someone seems to not like her new sense of contentment and wants her gone. But Natasya’s tough, she’s been through a lot, and may have more power than she first thought…. And did I mention that she’s immortal with magical powers? Really? Because almost all the characters in the novel are immortal: good and bad. We just need to find out who the good ones are and who the bad ones are, but here is to hoping that tall sexy Viking god Reyn will be good.

In a very detailed first installment (yes this is trilogy), Cate Tiernan tells of a haunting dark past with a distinct narration. A style of writing that really ticked me off plenty of times if I dare say. I find the excessive commas, self-answering questions, and just the aloof disregard to time very, very angering. The constant flashbacks were abrupt, random, and forced half the time. The other half of the time I felt it was well placed with enough emotional angst and gory imagery that left me wanting to continue in Nastaya’s past life.

After finishing the last sentence I closed the book, looked up then back down and thought to myself: What the heck did I just read that took 400 pages to explain? Oh no, there were some excellent points brought up, effortless gut-wrenching scenes, and the occasional symbolic nature of life, but a chunk of the novel discussed the past of immortals—how they came to be, the aging process, how they were hunted and whatnot. It was wonderful how Tiernan explained everything, scrutinizing even to the smallest details of the stars, but could it keep the reader enraptured long enough to finish the book (and possibly read the next two installments)?

It required about 150 pages into the novel for me to become interested enough to continue reading the next 250 pages. Yes despite this I still crave more detail abut Reyn, about River and how she came to form the rehabilitation farm, about Nell and about the other residents in the farm. (I still also have trouble comprehending the deep connection/attraction between Natasya and Reyn aside from their past unless it becomes this emotional handicap that they develop and whatever did happen to Innocencio since he is hardly ever mentioned yet plays a large role in the novel?) Curse you first person limited view point for wrecking havoc on my mind as it tends to wander and consider possible scenarios.

About midway through the novel, somewhere between the pages of 180 to 200, the action began to really pick up that left me slightly breathless and disorientated. And that, my friend, is a good thing. The garbled information finally began to make sense in my mind (yet my math does not seem to match the book’s math when it concerns the age appearance of some of the characters), the various ties to other characters start to root and grow, and there is discussion of magic! Sprinkle every so often are humorous scenes, hot and heavy scenes that will appease the romantics at heart, and a scene that left a body skinless and hairless for those few gore fans; Immortal Beloved does cover almost everything that will leave readers happy at least with one chapter.

As for the ending, it leaves plenty to be desired, but then again it is a trilogy.

Cover C-
I didn't realize that it was girl until I saw the online cover. In real life (in my opinion) it's very hazy and blurry so it was just a slew on tints and values of red.

Read an excerpt of Immortal Beloved at Cate Tiernan's website: here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bargain Books (1)

I was browsing though Amazon's bargain page in hopes to find some great deals before finalizing my list to buy and I came across this: CLICK ME :D

Recall just a few days ago I was spewing words at you talking about how Jellicoe Road affected me, well now's your chance to own a copy at a great price to see what all the hoopla is about. I go through the bargain pages on Amazon almost trimonthly so I normally don't post about my finds (well sometimes I do on twitter) because it is quite a hefty list, but excited couldn't express how I felt when I saw Jellicoe Road on the page (just ask my pointing finger as I jabbed at the screen). Two hours later I somehow managed to compile a list of doom: books that I may end up buying or just books that I might recommend friends to buy.


some of the great finds! just realize that I did not post all the teen bargain book titles because I wasn't excited enough for some of them. there are definitely so much more there! I have reviewed 4 out of 8 of these novels so you can find them somewhere on the blog.

 


have you read the books below (they're also bargain books)? if so would you recommend them? I'm still on the fence for many of the books and I just want to hear your opinions before making my decision.


I also just wanted to direct your attention to the Traveling to Teens Tour weebly page where Steph just gave it a face-lift! It looks so much more organized now xD

Traveling to Teens

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Winners and Nancy Drew Giveaway!

In celebration of Nancy Drew's 80th Anniversary, Simon and Schuster has kindly offered one of Books by Their Cover readers a Nancy Drew Prize Pack! What to know what's in it? Well it's something pretty awesome if I do say so myself.



The prize pack includes:

Contest will end slightly before the end of May so hurry! tweet, post, do whatever you can to win this prize! (Remember to answer the mandatory question!)

Winners of The Light contest are (according to Random.org):
Dani claimed
Sarah (Limerick) already won a copy
Bianca claimed
Aik claimed
Mrs. DeRaps claimed
Virgina claimed

If you can, kindly email me your addresses (US only remember!) and I'll forward them so you can get your prize :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Saving Francesca

Saving Francesca by Melina Merchetta

Source: Personal Bookshelf (I own the Australian version hence the Australian cover)

Grade: 4 stars out of 5

Saving Francesca follows a girl whose mother has become depressed and whose friends she’s having trouble finding. Once free-spirited Francesca was considered a freak and immediately picked up by a group of girls who thought they were doing the right now. But now Francesca is forced to attend a new school and a recently co-ed school at school losing connection to those girls. Surrounded by boys at every corner with only 13 other girls in the school, Francesca is just trying to survive and ultimately needs to depend on them.

Shortly after my inhalation of Jellicoe Road I ferociously grabbed my copy of Saving Francesca off the shelves (I like to prepare myself and get at least 2 novels of an author before reading them). Saving Francesca is wholly more saddening, dispirited, and gloomy than Jellicoe Road. I needed to take a breather once in a while to up my cheer and not burst into random fits of crying to my friends (which I suspect they’ll look at like I’m crazy). My feelings never fluctuated as it did in Jellicoe Road; I was constantly sad and at times I felt the urge to stop reading because I was too sad. This constant emotion can be a set back almost “boring” as I am a roller coaster type of girl; I enjoy those crazy high stake emotions running amok.

Melina Merchetta does wonders with self-identity, self-discovery, and self-confinement. She is also a freaking genius with the rest of her characters—meek, outgoing, desperate, political, torn, calming. As for the ending, it is not what you considered the general happily ever after, but it is realistic just as the romance. Depression does not disappear like that and Merchetta takes that into account; it is more of the growth from it than the ending of it.

You just cannot help but understand why she has won so many awards for her novels. They are, pointblank, brilliant.

P.S. I sometimes have trouble Australian connotations. Whenever I see the word "bush" I think of a...bush, not a bush. Just something I was amused by. This is more relevant in Jellicoe Road, but I forgot to mention it.

(my "bush" vs. what I should be thinking "bush")

P.P.S. I need to read another book by Merchetta soon.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jellicoe Road (Ranting Rave)

[On the] Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Source: Contest from eons ago that I forget who I won it from

Grade: 4.5 stars out of 5

I can form no words to describe what happened in Jellioce Road so GoodReads has to suffice for this:

‘"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.

In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.”

I had Jellicoe Road for months to years, but I just never had the urge to pick it up. On April 3rd (according to GoodReads) I began the book with Ka-Yam as an agreed upon scientific purpose because we realized some time ago we rated almost the same books identically. I read the first few chapters and screamed hell. I was so utterly lost, so inexplicably confused, so demented to struggle through this that I didn’t care if I was snarking on someone because of my attitude I had with the book.

I am not a memorizer. I am a logistical person (I am logical in my own mind) so shoving name after name after name down my throat will only result in something bad. And with its decision to juxtapose two different storylines at the same time, it creates an even bigger mess in my mind. I just could not deal with the book and I was not going to. Instead I put Jellicoe Road down and purposely drowned it underneath my other books to diminish my guilt for not reading it. I read three to four other books between the interval on when I stopped and when I decided to unearth the book again. And Oh.My.God. I should have never stopped.

Jellicoe Road was painstakingly detailed to the point where I had the urge to create the family tree and draw red swirly things and hearts all around it. I fell in love with the characters and felt a deep connection as if they were my own family. I grieved, I cried, I rejoiced, and I loved (—every freaking minute of it even the first few chapters that I had trouble with).

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all doing direct the other way."

—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Fire Opal

The Fire Opal by Regina McBride

Source: Random House

Grade: 3.5 stars out of 5

When Maeve was a young child she found a large metal stick-like object embellished with a face with it a large jewel. The rod was engraved with word: THE ANSWERER. With the rain storm coming in and her fear that Maeve’s older twin brothers will damage it, she buried it. But that night Maeve came down with a high-fever and when the fever broke, she suffered a slight amnesia and had forgotten about the rod she buried.

Seven years later her mother begins to show signs of madness of hearing swans after the death of Maeve’s younger sister Ishleen the previous year. She announces to the family that she is pregnant again and Ishleen has come back.

One day Maeve and her old brothers caught Tom, a menace of a child who was graced with good looks, shooting at birds with his slingshot and knocking hatchling off ledges. In a faraway remorse Maeve didn’t notice the lady with down falling from her sleeves until she tapped her on the shoulder. She offers Maeve two bottles that appears to enclose fire sealed with the 3 twisted spirals: one for Maeve and the other for her Mam as a protection. Just minutes later Tom pops up from no where and knocks the bottle for Mam out of Maeve’s hand. Maeve then gives Mam her bottle instead.

With the “reincarnation” of Ishleen, the fire bottle is transferred to her yet on the same day Mam loses her soul leaving her body vacant. Forced to take care of the newborn and Mam at the age of 15 (or 16?) Maeve struggles to retain her sense of sanity from the viewpoint of the other villagers. But the English are coming. And then the Spaniards are coming to defend Ireland.

Yet hope begins to fade when Maeve’s brothers and Da joins the rebellion and Ishleen’s soul has been taken away. Tom, however, is in the background having come back to their home, Ard Macha, with wealth after being sent away years ago. Maeve goes on her own odyssey to find their souls while escaping Tom’s obsession. The goddess Danu and the swan-shifting woman who gave Maeve the bottles will guide her on her journey.

In this almost cross between a myth and folklore, Regina McBridge will incorporate magic realism and bend time. Flashbacks and premonitions, shapeshifters of all kinds (vultures, chimeras, swans, mermaids, etc.), a battle with a valkyrie, and blue fire when breathed in can create hallucinations of a lush forest seems to weave endless until the reader begins to be unsure of what is real and what is not anymore, just as what Maeve feels in her journey of self-identity and savior. I felt like an invader on this novel, there was just something so intimate that created this free-falling floating sensation.

Yet time is also an opponent for the reader. The first half was heavy, sluggish, dragging and in comparison made the second half seem too fast. I read the last two parts (out of four) with ease, with a calm swiftness that I did not mind the ticking of the clock because it seemed worthwhile. The first half seem as though I made no progress with what I had hoped to be the real focal point.

Despite this I would actually recommend this book. To me I believe that this book would be great for reading to a younger group of children. It is action packed with a moral lesson, filled with imagery and wild creatures delightful to the creative mind. While it may or may not be the perfect bedtime read, it would be great for a teacher (librarian or assistant) to read (in a circle) to a small group of 10 year old children (and maybe try to work in some motifs and symbolism). And hey, The Fire Opal is great at history too.

The ending, to me, is unsatisfactory. I am someone who demands the whole ending especially with epilogues. Did the brothers and father ever return (though it may appear so) and whatever happen to Francisco, the Spaniard soldier that Maeve recurred? In a chilling voice, one might say that she may never know, but will the heart will continue to live on.

The Fire Opal is a combination of history, folklore, fantasy, and adventure (with a speckle of romance) that will resonant better with a younger audience, but that does not mean young adults and adults will not find contentment with this novel.

Cover B

Try The Fire Opal if you enjoyed:
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Sun and Moon, Ice and Stars by Jessica Day George
or just magic realism

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's Not All About The Toilets

By this time you've probably seen a couple CSN links on blogs. I think that's a sign to click on some of them, just saying. Anyway I'm back again to talk about some little product *whistle* (wait, crap, I can't whistle). JustVanites (I would love this title for a blog!) or in this case, bathroom vanities, can make or break a room. (A vanity is a low table with mirror or mirrors where one sits while dressing or applying makeup.) My bathroom doesn't allow for a huge vanity so try to think modern in design.

And you may never know, your mother might want one. I kid you not. I asked my mother what she wanted for Mother's Day and she said a toilet. So I think a vanity is step-up from a toilet.

Hex Hall

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Source: Personal Bookshelf

Grade: 3.5 stars out of 5

When Sophie’s love spell gets out of hand, that’s the third strike and she’s forced to attend Hecate—a reform school for witches/warlocks, faes, shapeshifters/werewolves, and just recently a vampire. The professors at Hecate aka Hex Hall work for The Council (the name is self-explanatory) that just happens to be run by Sophie’s father—a father that she’s never met because her mother, a human, didn’t know that he was warlock when they first met and left when she did. Now Sophie’s trapped in Hex Hall until she’s eighteen, but she might not leave that long. (Mwhahaha.)

So what can you say about a book that you found pleasant, but nothing extraordinary? Nothing. Except for the most cliché statements of all times: It’s not you, it’s me.

Hex Hall was simple, sweet and predictable. The protagonist is the new witch in town, but she’s the most powerful witch in the longest time. She gets roomed with Jenna, the deemed freak because she’s a vampire. She gets corned by a group of meanies who are gorgeous and freaking powerful and wants Sophie to join their coven. Then she gets teamed up with Archer in “PE” who just happens to be tall, dark, and handsome. Oh and Archer is dating the Queen Bee, Elodie, who is the head of the group of meanies. And it’s high school all over again :D

There’s a lot of classification going on and droning from me, but I think it be the result of my lack of excitement for this book. There are witches in every chapter and yet I’m hardly getting a spark from this book. There are instances of hot pink glitter, but nothing where I’m jumping from joy (or any other emotions really). So you can’t expect me to rave (in a good or bad way) about a book if I didn’t feel much about. If you’re looking for something easy and fun to read then try Hex Hall; it isn’t bad despite my page long blah.

Cover C+
There was no cat in this book. And I kinda wish that instead of the plain green dress it was that blue prom dress with peacock feathers, but then again it could just be me.

P.S. Hex Hall needed another final comb through because I spotted some spelling mistakes.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Leaving Paradise

Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Source: Personal Bookshelf

Grade: 2.8 stars out of 5

The novel begins with Caleb being released from juvenile jail, but with a weary eye from the authorities. Now Caleb has to figure out how to live in society once again by having to serve community service, but his options are limited in the small town. School isn’t the worst part though even when his friends would always his bring up his criminal status time after time, but it’s his family. It's the father who lets himself to be pushed around by his wife, the mother who likes to pretend that nothing’s wrong, and the sister who is now dressed from head to toe in black. But Caleb is willing to deal with it all…really…until he runs into Maggie that is.

Maggie was his sister’s best friend, that is before Caleb hit Maggie while drunk driving on night that sent him to jail. The accident that left Maggie with scars after countless surgeries, missing a year of school, and feeling like the freak that looks on everyone’s face seem to say. Determined to leave town of Paradise (haha irony) and travel abroad to Spain, Maggie needs a way to pay for the trip when the scholarship she earned gets taken away.

It just so happens that her mother’s boss’s grandmother needs a caretaker and it just so happens that she also needed a volunteer to help construct that gazebo. So will this become the next WWIII or the Battle of the Titans? Or will this pair become the next Cleopatra and Caeser?

In what I believe to be Simone Elkeles’s writing style, she alternates between male and female POV retelling scenes through their different perspectives. This does well at making an emotional attachment to the reader and brings forth the heated tension. However Elkeles seems to write stronger through the male POV in comparison to the female’s. The male voice is much more dynamic, though I have read it seemed force, but it was much more preferable to this love-sick whiny tone I am constantly getting from Maggie.

Leaving Paradise is an unsatisfying novel in my eyes. The ending steals the light I felt with the ending in its extreme abruptness—‘where’s the next page?’ abrupt—and I was left frustrated. It was only recently that there was news of a sequel and I could only think that it really needed one badly. If I had read this 3 years ago when it was first released I would have been much more brutal than I am now. I do love the twist at the end, but I do not love the fact that a friendship was so easily mended.

Cover C
I liked it when I first saw it. Then I read the book and realized Caleb never had a tattoo so why does that guy have a freaking tattoo? Of course if I’m wrong then I’ll just stick my foot in my mouth.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Party

Party by Tom Leveen

Source: Random House

Grade: 3 stars out of 5

It’s the biggest party happening in Santa Barbara and everyone’s coming. For some this party can mean something different. Told in eleven different point of views, Tom Leveen covers all the bases when it comes to personality.

The novel begins with Beckett the girl who was once so bubbly and fun had the life drained out of her when her mom got cancer. She promised to never tell anyone—not her father who left and not her best friend, Ashley, who she’s slowly distancing herself from—even when the cancer finally won. But what little money her mother’s bank account had is slowly dwindling and Beckett must choose between an education and work. In one last effort to see who just might notice this shy, inverted girl in the small corner, Beckett decides to go to the party.

Then the point of view switches to Morrigan’s. Morrigan is a wild child who will do anything to piss her parents off. Why? Because they just don’t care. After breaking up with her boyfriend, Josh, of six months because he wasn’t willing to have sex Morrigan is ready to mix and mingle at the party.

Azize is from Turkey whose family moved to Santa Barbara after an incident in Arizona that was less pleasing. Azize is a friend of Beckett who also shares his love for comic books, but he’s looking to have more than one friend. At the party he befriends Max, who is friends with Brent, who also just happened to like Beckett. Sensing an opportunity to help out both friends Azize promises to get Beckett to talk to Max.

Anthony is the star football player and had the perfect season…that is until his brother came back home. He left to fight in the war in the Middle East, but he came back with a body that proves it. Anthony, after drinking an entire Jack bottle himself, is less than happy to see Azize at the party and things become dangerous.

Max has always noticed Beckett from afar, but was too shy to approach her. Hoping to grow a pair, Max is positive that he’ll talk to her at the party because the number 13 is lucky isn’t it?

Ashley is a great friend. Cool, calm, and collected. Best friend to Morrigan, Ashley’s there to pick up the mess, but at this party Ashley’s hoping to wipe the distance between her and Beckett.

Tom Leveen should have stopped at Beckett. I liked about 3-4 (3.5?) of the characters and found only about half of them memorable. Some of the POVs I find to be really useless. (I didn't include Ryan, Daniel, Tommy, Brent, and Josh in the summary).There was also one character, Morrigan, who I really just hated throughout all 11 POVs.

To me, The Party is like a classic novel. You know you should really like it because it covers themes and real life situations so emotionally and vividly, but you’re just struggling to make it through. I’m on the middle when it comes to this book; I know I should like, I kind of do like it, but then again I really did not like some of it. But I guess that's the beauty of it. Even 2 days after the novel I can't get it out of my head--it's traumatizing (in a good way).

Cover D

P.S. I like to think of this book as the after-party to David Levithan's Love is the Higher Law.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shade


Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Source: ARC from Simon Pulse

Grade: 3 stars out of 5

On the night where Aura and Logan planned to spend their special night together something tragic happens. Hoping to wake himself up after drinking alcohol during the after-party of his band’s gig that night, Logan created a deadly combination. A mistake that left him only visible to those who can see ghosts, those who were born after the Shift.

No one can explain why the Shift happened, but everyone who was born after it could see ghosts and the people who weren’t couldn’t. And it was after Logan’s death that Zachery came to Aura’s school. Zach, the quirky guy with the Scottish accent, was born before the Shift. He and Aura were born just one minute apart, yet that one minute created a huge different between the two.

Logan, however, is still in the picture just as a ghost and Aura just can’t seem to let him go. But his sweet personality seems to be only in front of Aura. Logan appears to becoming more and more like a Shade—a type of ghost that’s not so friendly to people. Aura needs to act fast and Zach just might be able to help (but why oh why does he have to look so good doing that?).

In a quest to find more of about the Shift, the reader follows Aura on a journey of rediscovery and acceptance. Yet I feel as though Jeri Smith-Ready leaves unfilled holes throughout the novel, the one that concerned the most for me being the aunt: “‘You know that before the Shift, I was able to see ghosts. But what you don’t know is that I was once in love with a man who…died and became a ghost”’ (page 234 of the ARC). She could see ghosts before and now she can’t—why? She pops up throughout the book, but I personally feel like I do not know much of her.

Then there are times while trying to slug through the book as it drags on at times, I come across some humorous passages: “Apparently, the testosterone-fueled obsession with weapons wasn’t just for American guys”’ (page 71 of the ARC).

Shade is a haunting (no pun intended) read because it discusses the afterlife. What would you be willing to do for one more day with a loved one? Would you be willing to live a life where he can no longer touch you or feel anything? Would you be willing to plea for him to stay even though it’s forcing him to become something he doesn’t want to? Just how far are you willing to go?

The ending as well leaves an impression. It’s this shocking one-word finale that left me gasping. It’s an uncanny one word so general that I had no idea what it meant! So yes I felt that the ending was too abrupt, yet I love the various interpretations I can make from it.

Cover B+
What? I like the wisp.

Shade was just released today.

Monday, May 3, 2010

In Celebration for

In light of the upcoming months I thought I would mention briefly of gifts for mothers as well as fathers. Just between you and me, I have something planned for Mother's Day, but Father's Day is always the worst for me.

What can you get for your father aside from that stupid tie and that awkward 'coupon for a free massage from yours truly!'? One thing I've been noticing is that dads tend to crash in front of the TV after work, at least mine does especially when ANTM or Gossip Girl of Glee comes on (grrr). So we decided to upgrade our television set to a flat-screen (because apparently it's much better for the eye so says the mother) and then after buying a new TV (because everyone 'claims' that I broke it--pfft) we need a new stand. So why not take dad's interest in consideration and get that corner TV stand with enough room for a stereo and DVDs.

And hey maybe you can get one for yourself when you move for college! You can always use for storage of other things like textbooks and keep the (small cramp ;)) room tidy. Just a little suggestion.

(I like the design of this one)

P.S. It's totally on sale!

Monday Mystery: Barbara Dee

Barbara Dee's latest novel, This Is Me From Now On ("It's a comedy about a pair of middle school girls who play matchmaker between their teachers...badly."), just released recently. You can find Barbara at her website.

Just a short quick (but fun!) interview with Barbara.

1. Have you decided to play cupid at some point?

Once in college I set up a close friend with a guy I knew from high school. To this day I think they would have been a perfect match, because they were both incredibly passionate about movies. But on their date they ended up having a screaming match at a Wendy’s about some movie which he liked and she really, really hated. So she stormed out, immediately called me--and let’s just say she never took my dating advice again!

2. Did you have an "eccentric" neighbor at one point in your lifetime?

Yes! When I was a teenager our apartment was next door to a woman who wore flowered silk robes and WAY too much eyeliner. Sometimes when I’d be waiting at the elevator, she’d run down the hall, grab my arm and ask, “How old do you think I am?” I always answered, “Twenty-five,” because that was what she wanted to hear. She was nuts, obviously, but she always accepted UPS packages for us, so I guess she was a pretty good neighbor. [I like your neighbor! My neighbor just likes to leave open trash outside for days, but hey a couple police offices came up to me one day and asked if this lady *points to picture* this next door].

3. What is the most evilest dare you can think of?

I think it would be really evil to dare someone to speak the truth for an entire year. Can you imagine? No white lies, no “Of course you don’t look fat in those jeans,” no “I’d love to, but I’m washing my hair that night.” (No “You look twenty-five” either, come to think of it!) I’m pathetically incompetent at lying--I blush much too easily--but I’d never accept this dare myself!

4. Do you also think that the skirt on the cover is gravity-defying? I find it cute, just saying lol

Haha! Yes, that skirt is gravity-defying, but really adorable, don’t you think? If I had a skirt that behaved like that, I’d install a trampoline in my living room!

(Amazon has this great zoom feature for the cover, which I like to abuse sometimes)

Thanks Barbara! Does anyone else want to own this gravity-defying skirt?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Deadly Sister

The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer

Source: ARC from Scholastic

Grade: 4 stars out of 5

My oh my oh my. Give me a second while I pick my jaw from the floor.

Abby Goodwin is deemed the responsible older sister who constantly takes care of Maya even when the late night escapades started become more dangerous. But this sisterhood could only last so long and eventually the distance between them grew and at age 15 Maya has more piercings than Abby would care to know.

On a morning run, Abby accidently finds a dead body near the creek. The body turns out to be Jefferson Andrews (who I still think should have his name reversed)—valedictorian and the boy who is always invited to the parties first, but also the drug-dealer and user. When Abby finds Maya’s cellphone near the crime scene, she starts to get really worried. She knows that something was going on between the two during their tutoring sessions. After connecting one of Maya’s friends to figure out where she is as Maya runs away more frequently than Abby likes, Abby convinces Maya that she needs to hide, to run, and to stay hidden because she is the main suspect.

While Abby tries to pick up the pieces and protect Maya like an older sister the odds are stacked against her. And when she meets Brian, Jefferson’s younger brother, she finds a scapegoat. But nothing is going right; Abby is starting to lose the battle. Or is she?

In this deadly cat chasing mouse trap Eliot Schrefer draws the reader and makes them forget that it’s 8 in the morning and they’re still in their pajamas and reading a murder novel. Schefer knows how to write and does it well in this fast-paced novel. He pulled rabbits from hats that I had no clue existed; he managed to make me feel empathic to a character that I did not like; he provided clues and enough mind-twisting abilities to make me think that I thought that his book was predictable. (I’ll get you next time Schefer).

However, the characters are less than dynamic and there have been instances where I felt the hints of foreshadowing did not fit well in scenes and only serve to make the sentence awkward and unbelievable. I also wonder why fingerprints were never brought up and the scenario of hitting the same place 9 times makes me wonder if that is possible. But the shock value makes up for this and despite the negative aspects of the novel this I enjoyed myself. A lot.

The School for Dangerous Girls was good, but The Deadly Sister topped that; kudos to Schefer for not caving under pressure and growing as a writer.

P.S. I’m still picking my jaw from the floor.

Cover C+

P.P.S. Yes I am going back to my grades. Trying to write my own summary still though—trying.