Thursday, 30 September 2010

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard


You Wish
by Mandy Hubbard

Summary: 1 Wish
2 Girls in love with the same boy
14 Days to stop the madness!

Kayla McHenry's sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla's secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin' do.

Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year's supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla's wishes-past appear, they take her on a wild ride . . . but they MUST STOP.

Because when she was fifteen? She wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her.

And Ben is her best friend's boyfriend.

Confession: when I first started reading this book, I was annoyed. I was so annoyed by the character - I thought she was whiny and judgemental and the pop culture references irritated me beyond belief… it’s a pet peeve I didn’t even know I had because it makes it seem like the author is trying to hard to be “cool” and modern. I thought I was going to be annoyed by the book and have to force myself to read it.

I am so insanely glad that I was proven wrong. I love being proven wrong like this.

I’m not sure when I got hooked on the story, but it was within the first handful of chapters definitely and I could not put the book down - seriously, I left my dinner in the microwave to heat up later so I could finish the book… I literally growled at my sister for disturbing me while I was reading.

I warmed up to the main character pretty fast. She was far from perfect and I realised quickly that the things that irritated me about her initially were the things that made her real and there was way more to her than just those things.

Now - the plot, I thought it was going to be cliché and predictable… and while some aspects were, I was surprised by the twists more often than not. And while I was reading, there was a lot of actual laugh out loud moments and I love it when a book can make me really laugh -- I’m easily amused, so you’d think that would be an easy thing to do, but surprisingly not a lot of books manage it.

Ann, Ken and the pony were my favourite characters/part of the book (yes, I consider the pony a character) - they cracked me up so much and were so sweet and I wished that I could have them in my life in all of their wonderful weirdness. There’s not much else I can say about them without spoiling the book.

The romance in the book... well, that was one of the reasons I read the book in the first place. I have a weakness for romantic comedy stories and this one was no exception (Ben was really lovely without turning into one of those guys that you know can't possibly exist outside of fiction, I've known guys like him and he's not perfect, he's just awesome).

It surprised me that the romance wasn't my favourite aspect of the book, I loved how realistically it was done though -- I could really relate to the situation that Kayla was in and so can a lot of other people probably (where you like someone first and then your friend dates them but you never admitted to liking them first so you can't really say anything -- happened to me a few times when I was younger, not fun at all).

Basically, the book was hilarious and cute and even though it’s very chick-lit, there was actually more depth to the story than you would think -- with books like this, I generally go into reading them expecting to be entertained and not much else, but this book was just… more. I really adored it and it’s one that I’ll happily reread when I need something to make me smile so much that my face hurts.

Later.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Discussion: Trends in YA - Yay or Nay?

[feel free to ignore my rambling and scroll right down to the questions]

I want to talk about trends. In YA, that is… not just in general. (Why did I feel the need to clarify that?)

Trends in YA have been starting to bother me recently. It didn’t used to bother me at all - I thought it was awesome because it meant if I liked something and it became a trend then there would be plenty more books that I could read with more of the same.

But recently…. Recently… this:





Yes. Simon Cowell facepalm. That’s how trends are making me feel recently.

Specifically: supernatural/fantasy trends. For some reason it doesn’t bother me with contemporary fiction… maybe because even if the concepts have been written to death, there is still a lot of originality to be found in the execution of the story. With fantasy/supernatural, somehow that originality is harder to achieve (although there are the rare gems that manage to do it).

I used to love vampires. Ever since reading Dracula when I was a mini-Lanna (probably too young to really be reading books like Dracula, but hey, I didn’t turn out so bad -- aside from my hoping for Peter Pan to show up at my window to take me away to Never land morphing into mini-me wishing a vampire would show up at my window and bite me. That’s normal… right?). I even had a few vampire stories of my own outlined/started/one half finished.

But then… Twilight happened. The dreaded T word… with all of the sparkly C-words (just realised how wrong that could sound. Cullen’s. I meant Cullen’s!). And after that, there was such a flood of vamp-lit in the YA section, it’s insane. And it’s still happening.

And people seem to be trying to recreate the Twilight-effect substituting vampires for other mythical creatures. Or at least, that’s how publishers are making it seem when they advertise nearly every supernatural romance as “the next Twilight” or making comments like “if you love Twilight, wait till you read [insert title here]”

I wonder if trends have always been as obnoxious as they are now or if I was just oblivious to it before -- in my head it all goes back to Twilight. Sure, trends were around before and that’s to be expected but Twilight seemed to make them so much worse... or perhaps I just wasn't aware of it in literature before. I expected it with clothes and movies and music and TV shows and toys -- books, people who read books, I guess they were always shoved into a different catagory of my brain (smarter, not the type to follow trends).

It’s like there was vampires. And then more vampires. And then more vampires… and then the vampires were substituted with werewolves and then we got more of those and then faeries and angels seem to be the new thing now too.

The Hunger Games seems to have triggered some sort of dystopian YA lit tsunami that will be hitting early this year-2011... Although, I’m excited for that because most of the books sound so fantastic and, like with contemporary fiction, dystopians have so much more opportunities for originality.

This has been such a ramble-y post, sorry for that.

But basically, to sum up: trends are starting to annoy me. And the fact that they’re starting to annoy me, well… annoys me.

I don’t want to miss out on reading a fantastic book just because I’ve read the summary and Simon-Cowell-facepalmed at the fact it’s about an overused mythical creature or an overused plot (the supernatural love triangle/the human girl and the mysterious supernatural boy/the human girl who turns out to be a special and unique little snowflake… and then the mysterious boy shows up to fall in love with her and introduce her to a world of myth and magic -- they’ve all been used to death).

It annoys me even more because I write. I don’t write well. I don’t intend to try and get published -- but it’s still annoying when I’ve outlined/started a story and then a few months later it becomes a trend or the concept of it pops up in another book and then it shows up in more books and then I feel like such an epic failure for lacking in originality… even though I thought up the story before the dreaded trend happened.

I don’t blame authors for trends really, for the reason I mentioned above -- just because they’re writing about something that has become popular does not mean they wrote about that something BECAUSE it was popular… I blame publishers, but at the same time I understand where they’re coming from -- a great book happens and they want more of the same so it’ll sell, when there’s a demand for something of course they’re going to publish it. But I kind of wish that they would publish more original stuff to dilute the trends and clichés on the YA shelves.

Trends I wouldn’t mind happening right now: more books like Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma (a book banners dream), which tackles the taboo subject of consensual incest. Books like that are so moving and powerful and if there were more books like that out there, maybe it’d make society rethink where they stand on certain issues. Well, I wouldn't want it to be a "trend" but I'd like to see more books tackling the issue. Books that can challenge or even change your beliefs or make you rethink a situation or the way you see the world. Books that can make a person more open minded.

As well as that, I’d like to see way more lit that would get the panties of book banners all in a twist because really, most of the books that those ignorant idiots try to get banned are the ones worth reading -- the most moving, most powerful books. Books that are honest about the world and humanity.

Books about gays/lesbians/bisexuals… and not just ones about the struggle with their sexuality, can’t there be more books about them where they’re out of the closet and not ashamed? Can’t they be more than just the minor characters for a change? Why can’t there be an awesome openly gay/lesbian character who is like… a mermaid and he/she has to save the world from killer squid (okay, maybe not that plot exactly, but do you see my point?).

Books that don’t shy away from sex… and I don’t mean erotic fiction - because that just glorifies it and makes it unrealistic. YA lit recently is getting way, way, way better with the issue of sex so they’re heading in the right direction. And book banners hate that, which makes me a very happy Lanna (lets face it, we're never going to get rid of the people who try to ban books -- so I'll happily settle for irritating them with the success of the books they're so against).

I want a supernatural book where the love interest isn’t this super hot, super cool, super mysterious and witty and sarcastic guy -- why can’t the angel/vampire/pixie/faerie/werewolf/[insert latest trend here] be dorky? Why can’t he be awkward and shy? Why can’t the romance in the story be based on something other than some love at first sight/instant attraction/shallower than a kiddie pool draw? Can’t the main character get to know the guy first -- get to like him, then love him and then the butterflies in her stomach start misbehaving at the thought of him because of that and not just because he’s your typical pretty/bad boy who makes all the girls swoon?

Fairytale retellings... with a twist. I want subverted fairytales -- ones that take a well loved story and update it and twist it and change it until we get something awesome and original but still managing to maintain what made the original fairytale so awesome (I think maybe Jackson Pearce did this with Sisters Red, I haven't read it yet but I own it, we'll see).

I’m doing the rambling thing again… sorry.


What are your thoughts on trends? Yay or nay? Are they annoying or awesome? Can you get too much of a good thing when it comes to trends in YA?


What things would you like to see in YA books right now?

Later.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

An Interview with Swati Avasthi







Today on the blog, we have Swati Avasthi, the debut author that brought us SPLIT. It's an amazing, powerful book and I wrote my review on it some time ago. And afterward, she was kind enough to answer some questions!

How would you define love? My co-blogger and I ask every author this because we get such different answers.

Wow, you start with doozy, eh? For me, romantic love is respect plus passion.

What are five books that you love and would recommend?

Only 5? I'll go with:

To Kill a Mockingbird (my fav of all time)
Wuthering Heights
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

What is one book you wish you wrote?

My next one. Or, any of the five books listed above.
Split is about a very heavy, very real subject matter. How did it feel to write about something like that?

Therapeutic. Split was the result of coordinating a domestic violence legal clinic and listening to thousands of stories of abuse. Because I needed to go into work everyday, I could usually put some professional distance between myself and how disturbing their experiences were. But I think listening worked its way under my skin and into my subconscious and came back out onto the page years later, transformed. I just want to add that none of the incidents of violence in Split are taken from any of the clients' stories.

You have an incredible trailer for Split. How would you feel it it was made into a full length movie?

Thanks! I can't take any credit for it, though. My one and only idea was to flood the screen with questions. Everything else -- from the writing, to the choice of music to the movement between the pictures -- was done by my brilliant and supportive husband.

As to how I'd feel if Split were made into a movie: Richer.

Split, the audio book, was narrated by actor Joshua Swanson. I approached listening to that with a little nervousness and a good deal of hope.. As it turns out, I am so impressed by what he and the director/producers at Listening Library did! It's a great interpretation of the book. So, I'd have hope that the director and actors could bring a strong interpretation of it to the screen.

On the page for your next novel, Bidden, you mention that it will be part prose and part graphic novel. What made you decide to do that?

Like most of my decisions, this one was fueled from a few different places: partly the story itself cries out for a different mode of storytelling, partly because when I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I was intrigued by the inherent difference in prose versus visual narration, and partly because using the graphic novel format allows me to provide a specific type of window into my protagonist's consciousness, making what is fantastic seem both alluring and more vividly real to her.

Besides Bidden, any other future projects you can tell us about?

I have a few ideas, but nothing is set yet. I will say that I'm kind of eager to return to a boy's voice. Surprisingly, I've found channeling girls' voices harder than boys'. I cannot explain that, not one iota.




 Thanks so much for stopping buy, Swati! Some awesome answers!

--Julie

Monday, 27 September 2010

Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

Prom
Laurie Halse Anderson

High school senior Ashley Hannigan doesn't care about prom, but she's the exception. It's pretty much the only good thing at her urban Philadelphia high school, and everyone plans to make the most of it—especially Ash's best friend, Natalia, who's the head of the committee. Then the faculty advisor is busted for taking the prom money, and Ash suddenly finds herself roped into putting together a gala dance out of absolutely nada. But she has help—from her large and loving (if exasperating!) family, from Nat's eccentric grandmother, from her fellow classmates. And in putting the prom together, Ash learns that she has choices about her life after high school.

Prom has everything that award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for-humor, poignancy, teen readers' tough issues dealt with head-on, and a voice teen readers will recognize as their own.

Prom  was a take-it-or-leave-it kind of book. Not what I expected after the powerful simplicity in Speak. Unlike Speak, I finished Prom last night and already have problems remembering parts from the book.

Ashley was, quiet honestly, annoying. She whined about everything when most of it was her fault. She was the one so anti-prom, the one driving her friends crazy with it, upsetting her mom, getting all of those detentions and library fines. And her boyfriend? Oh Dear God her boyfriend.

T.J. was the most lazy, ridiculous, asshatish boyfriend I've ever read. He out does Jace and Will and Patch and any other character you can think of. Any mention of him made me want to scream. I mean, your girlfriend is stranded at an airport and you call her and say you'll come get her, WHILE YOU'RE HIGH, and then you can split the DOPE you have? Hell. Effing. No.

 I felt bad for Ashley's friend, Nat. She was so sweet. And her grandma? Epic Grandma. Ashley's parents were awesome too, even though she acted like they were horrible. I loved her Mom. 

I think I could've liked this more if it wasn't for Ashley and T.J. I loved most of the other characters but they just pissed me off. The idea behind the novel was really cool too. I could have absolutely LOVED this if those two characters were the slightest bit enjoyable.

This is a book to try. Maybe as a library book or, like me, a $1.99 Bargain from Barnes and Noble. Maybe you'll enjoy it more than I did.

--Julie

Sunday, 26 September 2010

In My Mailbox (39)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie.

 This week wasn't *as* epic, but still epic. I still had money on a Barnes and Noble gift card and was able to pick up a bunch of bargain books! Yay bargains!



For Review:

Bought:
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitch Smith
Confessions of a Teenage Nanny: Rich Girls by Victoria Ashton


I'm actually going to Heather Brewer's signing next weekend, so I'm really happy I was able to pick up another one of the books. And if anyone else is going to her signing October 3, let me know. I'd love to make this my first author signing AND first interwebs meeting!

--Julie

[Clears throat] Hello, my name is Alanna and I am a... bookaholic?

No, but really, I bought a bunch of books this week and I really shouldn't have - Mount TBR is beyond insane. I think I'll build a Mount TBR fort and take a picture of it at some point. Anyway, onto the books:


For review:









(Note: these are the UK covers)



Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly - I'm half way through this one already and it's fantastic.


Out for Blood by Alyxandra Harvey - I can't wait to read this, I adored the first book so much and while the second book wasn't quite as awesome, I still really liked it a lot.


Mercy by Rebecca Lim - I didn't expect to get this one so early and I was so happy when it arrived.



Bought:


I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - On tumblr, someone posted the last line of this book and it made me want to read it... and then I saw the cover and had to have it and then I saw Cat Clarke, author of Entangled (review and contest here), mention it and it wormed its way to the top of my To Buy list. I also bought the DVD.


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - I don't know why I've never read this before... I'm buying more classics recently, so I can finally get round to seeing what the big deal is about the ones I've not read (I loved the movie of the book).


The Duff by Kody Keplinger - I've wanted this one for so long, I was going to wait a while to get it (because new book + hardcover + not released in the UK = more expensive to buy here in the UK), but patience is a virtue that I'm lacking.


Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - I meant to buy this one ages ago, just now getting round to it.


Personal Demons by Stacia Kane - I wanted the new Personal Demons by Lisa Desrocher but I couldn't find it on the UK amazon, it says the release date is in October, so I stumbled across this one and got it instead.


Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough - This is the reason why I bought this one, I love the cover art:




What did you get this week?

Later.


Friday, 24 September 2010

Entangled by Cat Clarke: Review & Contest [CLOSED]

Entangled
by Cat Clarke

Release date (UK): 6th of January 2011


Summary: The same questions whirl round and round in my head: What does he want from me? How could I have let this happen? AM I GOING TO DIE?

17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with table, pens and paper – and no clue how she got there. As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There’s falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there’s something missing.

As hard as she’s trying to remember, is there something she just can’t see? Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here? A story of dangerous secrets, intense friendships and electrifying attraction.


This book was beyond fantastic. Fantastic, but also painful.

About a third of the way through I had to stop reading with the realisation that this book was going to break my heart. It was going to be one of those ones that left me feeling like my emotions had been thrown into a blender and left me torn to shreds. I wasn't wrong and while a part of me did want to go hide in my bed listening to happy music to escape the pain of the story, I just had to finish it.

I figured out what the plot twists were going to be early on (all except for one), but I hoped I was wrong and I was turning the pages with dread because I didn't want to be bawling my eyes out when one of the things finally happened - I felt like Grace.

It was really intense - and it felt sort of masochistic reading it, because it literally hurt. Grace's pain felt so real to me and when I was finished reading the book, I walked around in a mute Entangled induced daze for a few hours and the first thing I said was, "Stupid book, tearing me to pieces!" to my best friend because that's how it felt. Ten days later and the book is still getting to me.

Now, a book having that effect on me is a sign of how its brilliance, there aren't many that get under my skin like that but this one did and I wanted to email Cat and say, "Why? WHY would you do that to me? To Grace? I demand a sequel filled with rainbows and butterflies to make up for it!"... of course, I didn’t because it was the hurt that made the book so great, it was like -- the art was in the agony.

Books are often an escape, but for me this one wasn't - it was raw and intense and real and I absolutely love it for that... and I hate it for that too. I don't think I'll ever be able to reread it - and that is a compliment to the author, really. Some books worm their way into your heart and under your skin and you just know they're going to stick with you. This is one of them... but reading it hurt and rereading it would be too painful but it has definitely earned it’s place on my all time favourite books shelf.

It was like reading about everything about life that hurts and I dunno, sometimes I just need that in a book. If this book isn’t on your wish list, then add it, seriously.

CONTEST CLOSED!

Now, Quercus have awesomely said I can give away a copy of the ARC so to win a copy of Entangled just fill in this form (I think it's UK only so nearer the release date, I'll have a contest to give away a finished copy for you international people):






Later.

Fins Are Forever Cover Reveal!

We don't usually do cover reveals around here, but since I'm on the Splash Team and I saw the cover months ago, I really wanted to show this to you guys. I LOVED Forgive My Fins and can't wait to read this, though it IS sad we have to wait until next spring!


I LOVE the colors on this! 

What do you guys think?

--Julie

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Red Queen's Daughter by Jacqueline Kolosov

The Red Queen's Daughter
Jacqueline Kolosov

Orphaned as a young girl because of the imprudent marriage of her mother, Queen Katherine Parr, Mary Seymour vows never to fall in love-and under no circumstances will she marry. Lady Strange, her mysterious guardian, offers the young woman an extraordinary alternative to marriage: Mary is to become a white magician who will join Queen Elizabeth's court and ensure the success of the Virgin Queen's reign.

Accompanied by her magical hound, Perseus, Mary sets out to learn the properties of different stones and the art and precision of natural spells. Soon after her sixteenth birthday, she joins Elizabeth's court as a lady-in-waiting. Upon her arrival, Mary realizes that Elizabeth's court is rife with men and women who are vying for power. The most dangerous of all is Edmund Seymour, Mary's disturbingly handsome cousin. From the moment she meets Edmund, Mary has to fight her growing attraction, especially once she discovers that he is a black magician, the dark mirror of her own self. But, despite the threat Edmund poses to Mary, he seems to be the only one who truly understands her. When Edmund becomes involved in a plot against the Queen, Mary finds her beliefs tested in ways she never could have imagined. 

This book haunted me for YEARS. It's pretty redhead, gorgeous dress, and Tudor family connections intrigued me. But I never read it. Until I find it on Barnes and Noble for two dollars. What honest book lover can pass up a two dollar book?

Oh how I loved it.

I loved Mary as a character, I loved how Elizabeth was portrayed, I loved the magic, I loved Lady Strange and how fitting her name is, and I loved how wholly evil the villian was.

The romance was somewhat unrealistic. This huge Elizabethan-player and evil magician suddenly in loved and devoted to a pure, young, white magician? Huh?  But I also think it was part of the magic in the book. It wasn't a fully pure historical fiction. The magic added to the book and changed how I looked at some things. The book was also fairly short for the amount of time it covered, making it SEEM like very little time passed.

My only real problem was the open ending. It's a happy...ish ending, but it's also so amazingly open it seems like there should be a sequel. But the author has already put out one new book and there's no way to tell if she's working on a sequel or something totally difference because her site and blog aren't updated really well...as in I think it's been over a year. So sad.

I can't really explain why I loved this book. Maybe it's just because it IS a well written book on the Tudors for teens, which IS a very, very, very, very hard find (just ask twitter), but goodness I loved this book. And I'll be eagerly waiting for Kolosov's book, even though I DO keep trying to call her Kostov. I may actually email her for information, I'm that desperate.

--Julie

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines

Girl in the Arena
Lise Haines

It’s a fight to the death—on live TV—when a gladiator’s daughter steps into the arena

Lyn is a neo-gladiator’s daughter, through and through.  Her mother has made a career out of marrying into the high-profile world of televised blood sport, and the rules of the Gladiator Sports Association are second nature to their family.   

Always lend ineffable confidence to the gladiator.  

Remind him constantly of his victories.

And most importantly: Never leave the stadium when your father is dying.

The rules help the family survive, but rules—and the GSA—can also turn against you. When a gifted young fighter kills Lyn’s seventh father, he also captures Lyn’s dowry bracelet, which means she must marry him...

For fans of The Hunger Games and Fight Club, Lise Haines’ debut novel is a mesmerizing look at a world addicted to violence—a modern world that’s disturbingly easy to imagine.

I went in this expecting something like The Hunger Games. It's suggested in the summary, but just the whole feel of the book screamed it. So, I went for it. But I was let down.

The first half of the book is just Lyn struggling to understand losing her father and the fact that now they'll lose everything. She helps take care of Thad and keeps her mother stable. She makes everyone believe she's really considering marriage. She even develops feelings for Uber (yes, the gladiator's name is UBER). The idea of her fighting doesn't really come in until the second half of the book. She doesn't step INTO the arena until the last 20 or so pages. Kind of defeats the purpose of the book.

The world itself wasn't explained much though. The whole idea of gladiator's wives and the very proper way they had to live came through VERY well. But the history and the other rules and the actual fighting itself were very breezed over. I found myself pretty confused as to whether we were in modern times or the future or if it was a dystopian...I'm still not 100% sure.

I did like the characters though. Lyn was very strong and her protectiveness of Thad made me think of my own little brother. Thad was adorable and Uber was adorKable. Lyn's friend Mark was pretty awesome too. Her mom was kind of flighty, but I didn't dislike her either.

I will also give Lise the credit for some awesome plot twists. There were two big ones that kicked in the last third of the book that totally threw me. One I didn't call until about a page before it happened, the other I had NO clue about.

This was another case of a wrongly advertised book. The title and the plot give it a TOTALLY different feel and if it'd been given ones more appropriate to the book, I probably wouldn't have picked it up at all. But it was somewhat enjoyable, especially towards the end.

--Julie

Monday, 20 September 2010

And Then There Were 518

Eight grade English class references FOR THE WIN.

Before getting to the actual reason for this post, I just want to say a big THANK YOU to those that commented on Lanna and I's Speak Loudly posts. Your comments made me cry, but I also have this weight lifted from my after admitting it, finally. Thank you for your support.

Now, the reason I'm posting.

Last weekends, this blog broke 500 followers. Pretty astounding considering that we only had 200 in the middle of January. And I want to thank ALL of our loyal followers, especially those that comment often. I know I never reply (it feels awkward unless I can actually hit a reply button ON your comment...which I can't) but I GREATLY appreciate every comment and I'm sure Lanna does too.

Sometimes it still feels like our little blog only has 200 followers. We're such a tiny corner of the blogosphere, it seems odd that so many should care about what we say, or that so many authors and other bloggers are so insanely supportive. And when I get an email from a blog reader or other blogger or an AUTHOR? Cue the fangirl squeeing and dancing. I love emails from real people. <3

Lanna and I DO have plans to thank you all for following, like real plans where you might get something out of it. But we didn't think we'd reach 500 THIS quickly, so the plans are going to be delayed a bit. Lanna and I are both kinda poor, but our birthdays are coming up in the next couple months and we all know that with birthdays comes money. I also have to wait for a good day to ship stuff out. Our next day off from school is October 11 and I'll be spending my day in an airplane.

But we WILL do something for you guys. Promise! It just might end up being more like a 530 or 550 or 543 blog follower thing than a 500 follower thing.

So thank you all again for your support! The blogging community always makes my day better and I'm glad to be involved!

--Julie

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Rant: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson & the Idiot Who Called It Porn

Before reading this post, you should go read Laurie Halse Andersons journal and this article.

Now, Julie and I both were really pissed off when we read about this so we're both doing posts on the subject.

Just to clarify a few things first:

Rape – noun

1. the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
2. any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.

Pornography - noun

1. the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement
2. material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement
3. the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction


Now, a quote from the article that that guy wrote (just to refresh your memory/if you haven't read it yet):

"In high school English classes, children are required to read and view material that should be classified as soft pornography.

One such book is called "Speak.""


He then goes prattling on about all of these oh-so-awful things that are addressed in the book... like rape, or dysfunctional families or the fact that there are teenagers that, shockhorror!, attend parties or drink or maybe even have sex.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is a well written, powerful and incredibly moving book about a girl who struggles to deal with the aftermath of her rape as well as dealing with starting high school, friend problems and family issues.

The story is heartbreaking and what makes it even more heartbreaking is that it's realistic. Things that happen in the book, things that Melinda feels and goes through - there are so many people out there that can relate to it (myself being one of them)... and this book, it has the power to help those people and to open the eyes of the people who haven't experienced anything like that. The reason some schools study it, is because it is an educational book and people can learn a lot from it.

And I don't know about you, but I think if that moron is claiming that Speak is in any way "pornographic" - then I think that says a lot more about him than it ever could about the book.

The rape scene in the book isn't graphic, we don't get all the gory and horrifying details of what the character went through shoved down our throats - it happened, that's all we need to know and that's all we're told about it. The focus is on Melinda's emotions, not the act.

Seriously... he thinks rape, a brutal crime, is pornographic? He thinks that is in any way supposed to be erotic? Dude, he has issues. Major issues.

Rape happens. The stuff that happen in the book happen every day to regular teenagers. Like I said, it's a realistic story, sadly... and thing's like that, they shouldn't be swept under the rug as if they don't exist in the world, because they do.

There are gay people in the world.
There are teenagers who get pregnant or get STD's.
There are plenty of dysfuctional families in the world.
There are people dealing with self harm and drug addiction.
There are teenagers who swear and go to parties...

What does this guy want? For us to pretend that none of that stuff happens? To force kids to just read books about ponies and rainbows and butterflies? Or perhaps he just wants them reading the bible? But from what I've heard, there's a lot of brutal stuff mentioned in the bible too (I wouldn't know, I'm Agnostic, so I've never felt the desire to read it cover to cover).

If he thinks that Speak is in some way inappropriate (or "soft porn" as he put it - seriously, the guy has issues), then fair enough... that is his opinion. Opinions are subjective but he has no right whatsoever to try and dictate what other peoples children should or should not get to read or have included in their education - his own kids (if he has any), that's fair enough, but not other peoples. And he shouldn't be using religion to justify his messed up views.

I wonder if he has even read the books he's bitching about - from the sounds of it, it doesn't seem like he has. I truly hope that he hasn't because if he had read Speak and still called it porn, then that disturbs me beyond belief.

I've just been focussing on what he said about Speak, specifically in this post... but the guy also complains about Slaughterhouse Five (because "The "f word" is plastered on almost every other page." among other things - well FUCK that... sorry, couldn't resist. I am sorry if that bad, bad word offended anyone, maybe corrupted someones innocence or made them suddenly start cussing like the devil).

As well as those two books, he talks about Twenty Boy Summer too, which I haven't read yet but I'm pretty sure my co-blogger has and this may come as a shock to that guy, but she didn't start going to parties and drinking or having mass orgies or anything after reading it... she has a brain, I'm sure that would surprise article guy (perhaps I should've remembered his name?) because he seems to be deluding himself to thinking that all teenagers are stupid and so easily impressionable that they'll do whatever they read in a book (for the record, Twenty Boy Summer isn't about sex/orgies/parties/drinking).

Another quote from his *lovely* article:

"I confronted the school board with these issues at the June school board meeting. As far as I know, nothing has been done to address these issues to date. This is unacceptable, considering that most of the school board members and administrators claim to be Christian. How can Christian men and women expose children to such immorality? Parents, it is time you get involved!"


And it's time for him to mind his own damn business. If he has a problem with how his own children are being educated then he could find another school he thinks is more suitable.

Again, he has absolutely no right to complain about how other people choose to have their children educated and that preachy asshole (oh dear, I swore again - oops?) has no right at all to question other peoples faith in their religion (to be honest, isn't God the only one that has the right to judge people? Like I said, I'm Agnostic, but if I was Christian then I wouldn't be using that as an excuse to judge and criticize people).

Maybe he didn't consider the fact that some people would rather have their kids educated about what the world is REALLY like than have them living in ignorance and then paying for it later (e.g. forcing the kids to have abstinence only education and then getting pregnant or an STD somewhere down the line because they weren't taught about how to prevent it) - books don't encourage people to go out and do what is on the pages... especially the kinds of books he's bitching about, if anything they show why you shouldn't do stuff like that.

I wish people like him would give kids a bit more credit. They don't go around living their lives with a "monkey see, monkey do" mentality where whenever they see or hear or read something they feel they should imitate it - they're smarter than that.

Done ranting now. Here is a video of Laurie reading out a fantastic poem she wrote about the reader response she's recieved for Speak over the years:



If you haven't read Speak, then you should. It really is an amazing book.

Later.

P.s. sorry if I offended anyone with my... colourful language. When I'm angry, I tend to swear more than normal, I held back on that in the post but... yeah. I don't understand why he's making such a fuss about that though - it's not like kids won't hear it anyway in real life.

In My Mailbox (38)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren and inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie.

First, sorry for the blog quiet-ness. AP American history owns my soul during the week with about an hour of homework per night, plus my other classes. So by time I finish reading, reviewing is so not on my mind! I have a couple all ready to go for next week so we'll see how fast I can read.

And then last week I got NO books! A tragedy! But this week more than made up for it.



Bought:

Review:

Won:

Not a lot, but totally epic! The only sad part is that I've already read three of them. xD

How about you guys?
--Julie

Lanna jumping in. I didn't buy any books this week, they're all for review (and sorry for not linking them back to goodreads or anything, I'm going to sleep in like 5 minutes so this is rushed):


Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (finished copy, I already reviewed the ARC a while ago and the book is awesome)

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly (already owned, so I'm doing a contest to giveaway my extra copy)

The Dead of Winter (finished copy) and Tales of Terror from the Tunnels Mouth by Chris Priestly

Later.

Cover remake: Anna & The French Kiss

Okay, so it's a bit obvious now that I'm addicted to these contests (and it literally is just for fun - cause the majority of them are US only... and I'm in Scotland, so even if I won, I wouldn't win anything - although the author commenting on the cover is pretty awesome. I won the Losing Faith cover contest btw, so Julie got Losing Faith - awesome part about having a US co-blogger is I get to enter US only contests like this and have someone to give the prize to if I win). =P

Oh and the contest is over on Princess Bookies blog. Go enter, it's fun.

Original cover:


My attempt (& my migraine is still there - the army of metaphorical tap dancing people on my brain now seem to be doing a conga... or the Time Warp or something - so yeah, my creativity right now is pretty failsome) click/open in a new tab for full size:



I couldn't find decent stock photos, so I went with TV show stills... o.O I hate doing that almost as much as I hate the idea of using other peoples art work in a cover (like, I don't mean stock photos because that's what they're for - I mean, I've seen people take other peoples art without permission and just shove a title on it without even editing it... which isn't against the rules, I guess, but being a member of Deviantart has made me aware of how pissed off and protective of their art people get & rightly so, so I don't do that). I prefer to stick to stock photos.

Wow, I ramble when my head hurts. More than normal. Sorry. =/

Later.

P.s. I totally almost forgot to include the cover. You know you're tired when...

Saturday, 18 September 2010

At First Sight by Catherine Hapka

At First Sight
by Catherine Hapka

Summary: In At First Sight, when Lauren meets the perfect guy at the planetarium, she feels like the stars have finally aligned in her favor. The only problem is she met him in the dark and they never got a good look at each other… or got each other’s names. Now, Lauren must take matters into her own hands and find the mystery guy before she loses him forever.

Okay, don't let the covers of the rom com books fool you - the cartoon covers really don't do the books justice at all, they make them look like immature chick lit. Are they chick lit-ish? Definitely. But they're much better and more enjoyable than the covers make them seem. I really, really wish the romcom covers would get redesigned getting rid of the cartoons (not that the artwork is bad - it's just... not good at representing the books. Jennifer Echols new cover for The Boys Next Door sequel, Endless Summer, is perfect for these kinds of books).

...And I guess I should get to the review part of this - review. I just wanted to mention the cover thing, because the covers really put me off buying these books in the beginning (and even though we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, admit it, a pretty cover goes a long way to making you want to read a book).

Anyway, I really liked this book. It was cute and at times I wanted to bash the main character and love interests heads together for being so daft, but overall, it was a good book.

The plot could be predictable at times, but I was okay with that for this story, I wasn't looking for anything mind blowingly original or anything - this was a feel good book that left me smiling.

The text talk in the facebook messages irritated me beyond belief (seriously - making a smart character type like that is one easy way to make them go from sounding smart to seeming like an idiot in a matter of seconds. Not every young person types using awful text talk, but not a lot of authors seem to show that though, instead they tend to go with the typical teen text talk cliche) and that was the only thing in the book that was a definite negative for me, but there wasn't so much of it that it became a big problem.

Lauren was a likeable main character and it was easy to relate to her, even though sometimes I just wanted to scream at her to do or say something differently. And Riley, he was pretty much made of adorable... but he could be so annoyingly oblivious that, once again, I wanted to scream at him (well, if they weren't fictional - I think screaming at a book may make it seem like I've lost my marbles).

I just finished reading a book yesterday that was really intense and emotionally draining and this book was exactly what I needed to read next: something light, fast paced and fun, perfect to recharge my emotions.

Anyway, I recommend the book and if you haven't tried any of the Simon Pulse rom coms then you should check some of them out.

Later.

P.s. sorry this review is so scattered and awful, I'm half asleep and my migrain is making it feel like I have an army of little people tap dancing on my brain right now.

P.p.s. What do you think of the cartoon covers? Yay or nay? Agree with what I said or do you think the covers fit the books just fine?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

On Our Wishlist

I'm now gonna sort mine by publisher because it's just SO MUCH EASIER. Picking a publisher is 10x easier than picking 8-10 different books.

This week, I'm going books by Harper Collins. Mostly the imprints, Harper Teen and Greenwillow. And all of them are 2011 releases. And there will be more than 10 because I have an addiction to Harper books.


Yvonne Printz
January 1, 2011
HarperTeen

I kind of just REALLY love the cover. And the idea sounds pretty cool.





Lauren Oliver
February 1, 2011
HarperTeen
It's a dystopian with love involved. Win/Win.




Alex Flinn
February 8, 2011
Harper

I LOVED Alex's last two books and this one sounds epic!




Courtney Allison Moulton
February 15, 2011
Katherine Tegen Books

This book has been on my wish list so long, I barely remember what it's about. All I know is that I WANT IT.




P.J. Converse
March 1, 2011
HarperTeen

I just adore the idea of this! I have ever since I saw it in the catalog!


Heather Dixon
March 29, 2011
Greenwillow

This cover is magnificent and I love retellings of fairy tales, especially the Twelve Dancing Princesses.




Tera Lynn Childs
Summer 2011
Katherine Tegen Books

I LOVED Forgive My Fins and I'm a member of the Splash Team, so this is a MUST read!

Jocelyn Davies
2011
HarperTeen

This summary is pretty epic. Kind of reminds me of Personal Demons. I can't WAIT for an official release date and a cover!

Claudia Gray
2011
HarperTeen

I really enjoyed Claudia's first two books and I love the Titanic. I'm even willing to overlook my dislike of werewolves for this.

Josephine Angelini
2011
HarperTeen

Doesn't this sound amazing and creepy and twisted and OMG love?

Rae Carson
2011
Greenwillow

I feel like I'll giggle a lot while reading this book. I love books I can giggle at.

What are YOU all waiting on?

--Julie

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

The Eternal Ones
Kirsten Miller

Haven Moore can’t control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy. In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau. Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother’s house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee. Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.

In New York, Haven meets Iain Morrow and is swept into an epic love affair that feels both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Iain is suspected of murdering a rock star and Haven wonders, could he have murdered her in a past life? She visits the Ouroboros Society and discovers a murky world of reincarnation that stretches across millennia. Haven must discover the secrets hidden in her past lives, and loves, before all is lost and the cycle begins again.

Reincarnation is one of the things I've played with in the past. I quite honestly sat and meditated and attempted to learn about possible past lives. Any "success" I had was most likely my own imagination. But no matter what, it's a fascinating idea.

The beginning of this was slow. I was kinda bored, abandoning it every 20 pages or so. But maybe that was more of the fact I felt bad about not doing all of my school work. After the first 100 pages, pretty much shortly before Haven gets to New York, the novel becomes MUCH more interesting and such a page turner. I finished the book the same day I read the scene where Haven leaves for New York.


Iain threw me for several loops. Sometimes, I wanted to smack Haven for not getting what he was saying and why, but a lot of times he just seemed like an ass. He seemed ruder than Will and Jace in Cassandra Clare's books. And he lacked the justification for it. Yet other times, he made ME swoon with Haven for how romantic he was. If he just wasn't such a...


Haven was semi-bi-polar. Drove me CRAZY how often she changed her mind! She let the slightest thing change her opinion and went back and forth enough to hurt my head.


My favorite character was probably Beau. He has an epic name and gay characters are always more fun. Just absolutely adored him!


Truly, though, I ended up loving this book. I can't tell you WHY, but oh I do. It was romantic and full of adventure and while the main characters drove me batty, I'm REALLY excited for the sequel. So, so, SO excited. 


I think this is a book everyone should try. I might suggest getting it from the library or a friend instead of buying it because this does seem like a love it/hate it kind of book. And I think if anyone does hate it, it will be because of Haven and Iain. They are characters hard to really love, but something about being in high school with people 5000 times worse than they are makes it easy enough for me.


But try it. I loved it and it will sit happily on my favorites shelf and I will pet it's awesome. 


--Julie

Monday, 13 September 2010

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare


Clockwork Angel
by Cassandra Clare

Summary: Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa.

As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.


I'm not really sure how to review this one - I loved it... but not quite in the same way or as much as I loved The Mortal Instruments series.

There were a lot of similarities between the two series (or at least it felt that way), some of which were the things that made me love City of Bones so much (like the whole Jace being the good-but-bad boy with the sarcastic humour and confidense - Will was just like that too), but in Clockwork Angel for some reason it just wasn't executed as well.

With the Mortal Instruments series, I was hooked from the first page and couldn't put it down - but with Clockwork Angel, while I did adore the story, I would find myself just reading a chapter or two at a time and sometimes going a few days without reading it... which isn't a good sign, because it means I wasn't desperate to find out what happens, it was only the last five or so chapters that had me hooked.

I found myself skimming over some of the descriptions nearer the end too, because it was like - okay, this is an action/tense scene, I don't really care much about what the room looks like. It was just distracting and annoying getting through that stuff to get to the good bits a lot of the time. Don't get me wrong, Cassandra is a great writer and her descriptions are good - but the book is really big, and a large part of that is because it's bursting with description of London or the interior of houses or the Institute... and a lot of it felt unneccessary (but that's just a personal preferrence, I like description, but not too much).

Will... perhaps he is the reason I wasn't as fond of this book - he just irritated me. While the attitude worked on Jace in TMI, on Will it was just plain annoying and if he were real, I would have kicked him in the crotch for being an asshat. He did have his redeeming moments, but they just weren't enough to make him a likeable character, his bad qualities outweigh the good.

But, there is a lot of mystery surrounding him and his past so maybe once that's unravelled in the next books he won't be so bad, I'm willing to keep an open mind about him. It's just awful that I'll need to wait like a year to find out if he really is the awful excuse for a character as he seems to be.

I didn't have much of an opinion on the other characters, not even Tessa - I didn't love her, I didn't hate her... she was just the eyes for most of the story and that's it. Now Jem on the other hand, he was my favourite character, he was lovely and I felt so bad for him and if there are "teams" for this book then I'm most definitely Team Jem (kind of funny, because I usually root for the bad boy).

The ending - I didn't like it. Now, I'm okay with cliff hangers if they're done well but this was just annoying because there were so many loose ends left untied and then BAM! We're left with a huge cliff hanger too? Lanna's head, meet Desk. Lanna's face, meet Palm. (This may seem like a negative point, but I guess it's a good sign that I actually care enough, if the book wasn't awesome then the cliff hanger wouldn't bother me because I wouldn't care what happened next - but the wait is going to be so frustrating.)

This review is seeming kind of bipolar - I said I loved it but I've mostly talked about the negative things. I honestly did love it, it had all the charm of The Mortal Instruments series... it's just not as easy to pin point or explain what I loved about it and I didn't like it as much as with TMI and I didn't connect to the characters or their relationships as well and some aspects of the book were just like "well, this isn't new, we've seen it all before in TMI so the novelty has worn off."

...And apparently I'm back to the bipolar reviewing again. Summing up positively, take two: I love the book, I really do recommend it (especially if you liked TMI) and if I had to rate it, it'd probably get 4 stars out of 5.

After some reflection, I've realised that a lot of the thing's lowering my opinion of the book weren't so much about Clockwork Angel itself... but because I loved TMI series so much, so it set expectations and I couldn't help but compare the two (it'd be like if J K Rowling wrote another book series, it'd be difficult to live up to the standard of Harry Potter). Just thought I'd mention that because it explains why my review seemed negative when my opinion overall was that I loved the book.

Later.

So, here's our first ever DOUBLE review.  I finished the book a few days before Lanna, but I fail at doing my reviews in a timely matter.

I'm kind of a mixed opinion on Clockwork Angel. I didn't have many problems with the book, but I didn't love it. I was wow-ed by all of the twists I didn't see and the action that was in the book, but there was just something missing from it.

Personally, I loved Will. Call me crazy, but he didn't seem truly bad to me. I'm all of the into psychology and such, so when I see someone like Will, I instinctively want to know why. There was a definite reason for the way he was and I just want to know why.

I loved a lot of the smaller characters, honestly. They added so much life to the book. I liked Jem and Will and Tessa as characters, but the side characters were the ones that were unique and different. I wanted to know more about the other Shadowhunters and their "helpers". Tess and Jem and Will were just like the typical characters in any love triangle to me.

I DID like Tessa a lot though. She was strong and independent. A better sister than I could ever be. Sometimes it did seem like she was just the eyes for the story, like Lanna mentioned, but a lot of the time she did seem to be a good character.


I was pretty drawn into the story, but it got really bad for me during the second half of the book. I sat in my bathroom (which IS my main reading place, actually) for three and a half hours to finish the book. It was 2 am and quite thankfully, I had no school the next day or I would've died! And then the ending was killer. I wanted to slam something into the wall. Possibly one of the character's faces...


I either adored this book or felt pretty meh about it. I think I'm somewhere in between...if I decide I absolutely hate it and none of you should touch it, I'll let you know. ;)


--Julie

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