Sunday, February 27, 2011

In My Mailbox [6]

In My Mailbox is hosted by the Story Siren.

So this past week was AWESOME! More awesome than usual.
Three reasons
1. My reading slump is over! I just finished Saving Francesca, the first book I'd read in a month
2. I reached my personal writing goal for the week, in addition to school, work, and reading. Usually it's been an either-or between reading or writing, so it's cool that I was able to keep up with both.
3. The newest Clare Dunkle book, By These Ten Bones, just came out. SUPER LOVE. Her other book, The Hollow Kingdom, is one of my favorites ever, and I'd been waiting for this book to come out for months!

Received for Review
Angelfire - Courtney Allison Moulton
^^already en route to you, Natalie!
Sean Griswold's Head - Lindsey Leavitt
^ a little birdie told me this book is *full* of "Seinfeld" references. The awesome chart can't even begin to record the awesomeness.

Special thanks to Harper Teen and Bloomsbury USA

By These Ten Bones - Clare Dunkle

What did you guys get this week?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review - DEADLY

Deadly - Julie Chibbaro
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atheneum, Simon & Schuster

A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York.

Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?

If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.

With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease. But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?

At any one point in time, I have an appetite for chocolate truffles, pears, Feta cheese, and YA historical fiction novels. I never get enough historical fiction!
And Deadly certainly didn't disappoint. The setting (NY in the early 20th century) was brought to life by Julie's highly descriptive and thoroughly researched writing style. It seemed as though old New York was a character in itself. I pulled up pictures taken by Jacob Riis and others just to get a visual on the world of Prudence and her family and friends. Even the subject was unique and highly original. I cannot for the life of me think of another historical fiction book I've read that deals with stopping an epidemic. The historical context of Deadly centers around Prudence's work with the Department of Sanitation and their attempt to solve the mystery surrounding an outbreak of typhoid. This was certainly a highly researched, highly entertaining look into a chapter in American history often skipped over or missed altogether. My copy even included medical sketches and other information recorded by the character, which really added to the richness and authenticity of the story.
Even the most interesting historical fiction books often run the risk of sounding like fanciful textbooks. Each of the characters were real and sympathetic, and Julie especially does justice to the representation of 'Typhoid' Mary, a historical figure I'd always read about to be vindictive and harmful. She definitely created a complex, highly engaging story that had me reevaluating the history context and what I'd always assumed to be 'true.' And I guess that was the most memorable part of Deadly - what I got out of it. It's a book that literally came to life through its ability to transport me back in time. I definitely felt for Prudence, a girl who was, at the very least, ahead of her time, and it was fun to watch her grow in confidence and determination. You'll not want to miss Deadly, if you're even a modest fan of historical fiction. If you enjoy medical mysteries, or just like reading about strong, resolute girls who overcome obstacles, give this a try too!

Final Rating:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Darkness Becomes Her (Gods & Monsters, #1) - Kelly Keaton
Genre: YA Paranormal
# 0f pages:
Publisher: Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster
Releases TODAY!

Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.

Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued. She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her. Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

Remember in the good ol' 90s, how there were all those mythology inspired movies and TV shows? "Xena," "Hercules, "Young Hercules," the Disney movie Hercules, the "Odyssey" miniseries... now it seems like we're picking up on that trend. There was that new Clash of the Titans from last year, and there are at least two myth/gods-inspired movies that will come out soon... 2005's The Lightning Thief seemed to start the mythology trend in YA fiction and the rest of the Percy Jackson books followed close behind. Other books dealing with mythology have been published (off the top of my head, I can't think of any other Greek ones, lol)
And now...Darkness Becomes Her, the first book in the Gods and Monsters series from Kelly Keaton. There was so much action and butt-kicking in this book, I had to read it with a heating pad on my tush. You know how it's been mentioned that some books are a little "same song, second verse?" or even "same song, same chorus"? Well, if the mythology trend continues, you might feel that way about some myth book in the future. Chances are you will find Darkness Becomes Her a highly original and exciting thrill ride. I sure did.
The story world of this novel is so incredibly fascinating and richly detailed. Set in the near future, the city of New Orleans as we know it no longer exists: instead, it has been turned into New 2, a privately-controlled location with a reputation as a safe haven for paranormals. Keaton excels at bringing the world of New 2 to life in all its old-world, ethereal and dangerous glory.
I have to say, the rich descriptions and highly engaging writing style is what *made* the book for me.
Ari was an interesting main character to follow. For one, she's tough as nails and pretty mature for her age. When your newest foster parents are bail bondsmen, I'd think you'd have to have a strong personality. Sometimes, though, she had a tendency to really overreact. Like, she's the kind of character who goes from like 0 to 60 in the snap of a finger. Halfway into the book I just wanted to reach into the novel and hand her some Lithium or something, like "calm down, girl!" But she goes through a heckuvalot over the course of the story, and I admired that she wasn't a wussy character. And it was nice to read a book and *not* be able to guess what was about to happen next.
The only thing I didn't like about the book was the extreme and repetitious profanity. HOWEVER, I read an ARC copy and I have been told that a lot of it had been edited out for the final product. So I don't know how much or how little ended up in the final book, but just be advised, if that's something that is meaningful to you.
Ultimately, Darkness Becomes Her was a very entertaining and high-action novel that I would recommend to fantasy/paranormal lovers and YA fans in general. I'm interested to see where the story will go from here :)

Final Grade

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Great Unknown

If we could board a train into our favorite character's future, would we like what we see?

Do you ever wonder what happens to characters when the final page ends?
Especially characters that you've come to care about. Characters that are among your favorites.
Do you ever spend, like, a lot of time wondering what happens to them?
Because I do, and it kind of unnerves me that I do.
I wonder if couples that I watched grow to love each other over the course of a story are still together. I wonder if they're happy. I wonder if, because they're characters and ultimately *not real*, they get to have what it seems a lot of people don't get: that happily ever after.
No, I don't mean in a riding off into the sunset with singing animals and sunrays from heaven...
I just mean peace. I mean togetherness and loyalty and all the stuff that really, truly matters.
I wonder if characters stay friends, or if they drift apart.
Who's to say?
The author's to say.
But what if the author doesn't give you any clues? What if there is no sequel. What if the author doesn't think that there's such a thing as real, exclusive love?
I used to have this policy where I assigned my own ending to the characters after the 'official' ending. But I'm a simpleton who likes love stories to stay happy and cultivated. Then I started thinking, 'What would the author actually do? Remember, she broke up So-and-So in the companion book. She turned Whosit into a drug addict and Whatsit into a pleasure-seeker...'

See, this is what happens when I ingest too much drama, too much heavy-fiction. I start expecting tragedy and sadness at every turn, for every character. It's like a fiction-themed Worse Case Scenario (and if you're thinking, "what the #@!$&* is she talking about?", I'm thinking specifically about Melina Marchetta's books, particularly Saving Francesca, The Piper's Son, and Jellicoe Road. I love JR, and am currently reading SF, but I think I may have OD'd a little on Marchetta fiction, because I'm too the point now where I expect tragedy and heartache for everyone, around every corner). you think about what happens to your favorite characters? Does the uncertainty ever bother you?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In My Mailbox [5]

In My Mailbox is hosted by the Story Siren
For Review
Fairy Bad Day ~ Amanda Ashby
Dark Mirror ~ M.J. Putney
Father of Lies ~ Ann Turner
Special thanks to Penguin, Amanda Ashby, St. Martin's Griffin, M.J. Putney, and Harper Teen

I was so excited when Fairy and Dark Mirror showed up - I'd been excited for them ever since
I first saw them featured on La Femme's Tantalizing Releases :)

Saving Francesca ~ Melina Marchetta
I'd seen a lot of really great reviews for this, and as Jellicoe Road is my new favorite book *ever*,
I figured I should read this one too!

Really, really excited to get reading! Because seriously, I have had a major reading slump since the end of January. I just can't seem to really get into anything, and this is the looooongest I've gone without reading in over a year. Has that ever happened to any of you? But I think the wintery slump is over now!
What did you guys get this week?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Review - MAD LOVE

Mad Love - Suzanne Selfors
Genre: YA Fantasyish/Paranormal
# of pages: 336
Recommended for: HS & Beyond
Publisher: Bloomsbury Walker
I received a copy of MAD LOVE in exchange for an honest review from the publishers

When you're the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life should be pretty good. But 16-year-old Alice Amorous has been living a lie ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness. After putting on a brave front for months, time is running out. The next book is overdue, and the Queen can't write it. Alice needs a story for her mother—and she needs one fast. That's when she meets Errol, a strange boy who claims to be Cupid, who insists that Alice write about the greatest love story in history: his tragic relationship with Psyche. As Alice begins to hear Errol's voice in her head and see things she can't explain, she must face the truth—that she's either inherited her mother's madness, or Errol is for real.
The cool thing about this book is that I read it in one sitting. No matter what happened over the course of the story, it definitely kept my interest.
Mad Love's main character is Alice Amorous, and I thought she made a fine heroine. She was a good combination of sass and sweetness, and I thought she held her own very well against all the crazies around her. She's a character that really does seem to have it all together: when she makes a mistake or shows a lapse in good judgment, it's more because of her circumstances than who she is as a person. There was something very cheer-worthy about her, and I had a pretty easy time relating to her. Unfortunately, her story didn't seem all that realistic to me. I just had a hard time believing that any young adult other than, say, Christopher Paolini could write a book and have it be passed off as the product of a prolific bestselling author. My "Yeah Right" radar was buzzing all over the place. I guess the story elements were a little too "out there" for me. Like, nearly everybody is sick, or dying, or has something wrong with them (eating disorder, bipolar disorder, cancer, etc). In my opinion, very few books can get away with that much "drama" and it just seemed like with Mad Love, there were too many things going on.
As for the love story (Errol's story, that is)...I think I'm just getting tired of love stories that have to be so hard. So depressing. Not that I like the other extreme - where everything's butterflies, rainbows, and boy band songs - but...Errol's character and his story didn't work for me. He reminded me too much of this other guy in YA fiction that I kind of have an issue with (name rhymes with Mace Fayland). When it comes to love interests, I have two tolerable types: the genuinely good-natured, loyal, respectful/respectable, slightly-innocent guy, or the hardened-exterior, attitude-that-masks vulnerability brooder-with-a-heart-of-gold.
And Errol wasn't either of those. Plus he really gave off a creepy vibe that I never really got over...
Above all, the premise of Mad Love is built around the idea that the traditional myth of Cupid and Psyche is wrong/not the whole story. See, I kind of loooove the myth of C&P, it's actually my favorite of the Greco-Roman myths, most of which, if you haven't noticed, are just bummer sad.
I think that's why I loved the C&P myth so much - it's one of the very few that has a happy ending (and also became the basis for the fairytale Beauty and the Beast - another *love*!). But this story, that's kinda messed with. The story of Mad Love was definitely creative and interesting, but I guess I'm just too much a fan of the original myth. And in all honesty, that's probably why the story just didn't make a fan out of me.
The good news is, though, that most of you probably don't feel the same way I do. In that case, there's nothing keeping you from potentially loving this book. I must say, I highly admire Suzanne Selfor's writing style: she's one of those who knows the precise combination of show-and-tell in writing, and I think she has tremendous storytelling skills :)

Final Grade:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guest Post! Chatting about YA heroines

Tonight I am so pleased to have my good friend Isis here to talk about - what else? - Young Adult literature, specifically trends we see a lot regarding the main character/storyteller. Isis is not a blogger: there's no conflict of interest, no reason for anything but an honest look into some of the hottest books on the shelf.
Take it away, Isis!

In the past couple of years, I’ve been noticing a trend concerning the representation of girls in YA paranormal and dystopian books lately. There are, essentially, two types of girl characters that have really caught my eye: the uberbitch strong girl, and the badly developed doormat. I think this is a problem, because I don’t think either of these character types are especially relatable to, or representative of, teens today.
As a warning: I’m the sort of person who names names. But my use of a book as an example in this post doesn’t mean, necessarily, I didn’t like it. My intention isn’t to “bash” the writing of these authors, or to be hard on their characters. This is something I’ve observed, simple as that.

I’ll start with the uberbitch. My favorite uberbitch (favorite to pick on, I mean) is Katsa from Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING. Katsa is the definition of strong-in-a-very-cliched-way. She’s physically capable, resourceful, and emotionally distant. The first two I don’t take issue with (though her physical prowess is a gift of magic, any athlete is physically capable, whether male or female, and many teenagers are extraordinarily resourceful and intelligent). But her emotional distance, and her extreme and harshly expressed distaste and hatred for marriage and kids makes her a difficult character to like. That by itself also wouldn’t be enough to make me condemn her as a character (it’s a viewpoint some people, though admittedly NOT many, carry) but it’s the combination of all of these things. Everything about her is hard. Katsa lacks softness, emotions, that most teenage girls have. Even when she realizes she falls in love with Po, it’s a painful thing to read because she thinks the emotions weaken her. They do, in a sense, because she doesn’t know how to deal with them—but it’s more than that. She doesn’t even want them in the first place, because they get in her way. It’s almost as though to be strong physically, she also has to be “strong” (in an archaic caveman sort of way) emotionally as well.

I’m assuming we’ve all read THE HUNGER GAMES—if not the entire trilogy, then at least some part of the first book. I had very similar issues with Katniss. She was extremely unrelatable as a character because of her emotional distance and her lack of understanding about what I would consider the some of the most basic emotions. Katniss demonstrated herself as a very smart individual: she survives the hunger games (twice) just as much by using her brain as by using her hunting skills. Yet how can she be so dense when it comes to Peeta? I felt like Katniss’ emotional issues went far beyond the normal anxiety that goes along with a first love. I had a hard time believing someone so smart honestly couldn’t put together the most basic thought process about another person she cares about. In MOCKINGJAY, she treats everyone so horribly, because she is such a hard person. Like Katsa of GRACELING, Katniss is almost impenetrable—and there’s at least a part of her that thinks keeping herself emotionally distant makes her stronger, which is not a totally irrational thought-process. But after certain characters proved themselves over and over to be worthy of Katniss’ trust, she still didn’t trust them. That’s irrational.

But on the other side, there’s what I call the badly developed doormat. In a name: Bella Swan. Bella is written as being apparently intelligent, good at school, and self-sufficient. Before she meets Edward, when she shows up in Forks, she’s presented to us readers as someone who can take care of herself. But that all goes flying out the window when Edward shows up. Bella completely loses herself in her romantic relationship, and all that intelligence, self-sufficiency, and general fortitude totally disappear. Having a whirlwind first love is one thing. Becoming nothing more than an extension of your lover, completely losing what little personality you once had, is a different thing. My problem with Bella is that I don’t see undying love. All I see is a dangerous obsession. Bella has no identity without Edward. That’s not representative of teenage girls, either. Yes, they get sucked up into their boyfriends, but when it’s this much of a stalker-stalkee relationship, it’s not usually a positive experience. And while teenage girls don’t always know who they are, they most certainly do have unique identities and personalities that are hard to eclipse. Plus, what kind of message is that for girls? Lose yourself, totally and completely, in your boyfriend. Give up your entire life for him. Be defined by how he sees you. That’s not romantic.

HALO by Alexandra Adornetto exhibited many of the same problems, but in a way it was worse because the protagonist Bethany was the angel (the supernatural being with supposed powers) and the guy was just a human. Being a supernatural being could have meant that Bethany could have had advantages of strength or magic of some kind. But she didn’t. Being very human in personality could have balanced out her supernatural strength well, in that it could still have given her the capability to love and be a dynamic character, making a nice contrast with her abilities. But she has no abilities. At all. And instead of loving, she becomes a shallow, vain, horrible example of a girl with an obsessive crush. Indeed, the supernatural powers are almost forgotten as Bethany lets herself be eaten up by a relationship with a boy who treats her like she’s tissue paper in a rainstorm.

At this point you’re probably wondering, “Well gee, Isis, is there any YA book you actually DO LIKE?” In fact there are a lot. For my purposes, I’ll be talking about WONDROUS STRANGE by Lesley Livingston, but rest assured, there are many other YA books I think have great teen girl protagonists. Kelley Winslow, the protagonist, is a really great balance between being resourceful and intelligent (strong), but also having realistic emotions and reacting to them in what I’d consider a very realistic way (rather than becoming an obsession zombie, or becoming a hard shell of a person who pushes everyone away). Kelley knows what she wants, and she goes after it. She’s self-sufficient enough to live without parental supervision in New York City, but she’s not so grown up that she’s hard to relate to. Her involvement in the faerie world comes with struggles, but Kelley finds her way through things without managing to screw up horribly because she’s too dependent on some boy to do anything by herself—but, realistically, she still makes mistakes. Just not mistakes so stupid (like going to confront a vampire you know is going to KILL YOU and not telling anyone about it) that she can’t think her way out of them. But speaking of romance, the relationship with Sonny is written in such a charming way. There was the real shyness of first love, the tension of two people thrown together and not quite sure they can trust each other, and the blossoming of emotions that were raw and deep. Of all the characters I’ve talked about so far, Kelley is by far the most well-rounded, dynamic, and developed. (WONDROUS STRANGE, in my opinion, also has the best plot and the best writing, but that is another story.)

Thank you so much, Amelia, for inviting me to guest post on your blog! Writing this post was really a lot of fun for me.

Isis is a twenty-something (like you!) who loves to read books of all kinds, but especially YA, and who probably wastes too many hours of her life on Goodreads.
Thank you, Isis, for stopping by tonight!
If any of you would be interested in guest posting at Imagination in Focus (writing on any topic you'd like, saying whatever you like!) leave a comment with your email and I'll be sure to get in touch ;)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quick Announcement!

Tomorrow I'm going to be welcoming a Goodreads friend of mine to the blog.
My friend Isis will be guest-posting about (what else?) YA lit.
I'm really excited to have her here with us. Just wanted to give everybody a heads up.
She has been kind enough to write a really interesting and thought-provoking post, and I hope you all get a chance to check it out!
Isis is an avid reader but as of yet, she is not a blogger, so I hope she has a good experience here tomorrow. I think her voice and thoughts will be a really cool, refreshing addition.
So I hope you all will stay tuned!

Monday, February 14, 2011

HAVEN winners!

Happy belated Valentine's Day!

The HAVEN contest has come to a close, and author Kristi Cook has picked her winners!
Without further ado, this is what she said about our

2nd place winner
: Lisa!"Because she looks a lot like I picture Violet looking, and I like the creepy aspect - the whole, "there's more to her than people can see" element."

And this is what Kristi had to say about our

1st place winner: JL!"This person *definitely* needs to get a job NOW in a publisher's art department! Because this is freaking *amazing*!!! It's...perfect! The girl, the colors, the art on the back cover (whoa, that looks just like Winterhaven does in my head!)."

Okay, Lisa & JL...congratulations! Please email me at and I will get your prizes out to you!

To everyone who entered, thank you so much! I'd love to do more cover contests in the future, so stay tuned!

Friday, February 11, 2011

All I can say

You may not have noticed, but the crickets have really been chirping over here at Imagination in Focus. And I do apologize for that.
After the snow melted away and the weather cleared, I realized that, for the past week, I have been in a major reading slump. I've tried to begin the two books I have on my nightstand:

and funny thing is, they seem really interesting. But...I don't know. It's like someone who drinks a lot of Red Bull, then goes off Red Bull like *that*, then tries to go back to drinking it.

The only good news is, I've been writing way more. Yay. My writing blog has seen a lot more action :)

And there's another reason why I've been kind of a bad blogger lately. I've come to that really scary place, over a year, where I'm just not really sure what to say. I can't really figure out how to make anything seem interesting. I've already said that I won't go back to the meme days, yet every thing seems to have been done before. I'll get an idea for a post, but then I'll realize, someone else has already done that. And it looks like copying :S

Plus, a few weeks ago this whole blogging community seemed to explode. I realized that people can be affected by stuff even if they didn't actively take part in it. Honestly, that whole fiasco has me a little nervous about everything. How I write my reviews, what I say, how I write regular, non-review posts...everything. I still plan on keeping this site, but I do want to be upfront and at least offer an explanation for the lack of posts.
Sorry, guys. I'll get better.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance - Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin
Genre: YA Contemporary
# of pages: 240
Publisher: Bloomsbury Walker
Recommended for: HS & Beyond

Fans of romance don't need to look any further than the fauxmance brewing between teen idols Charlie Tracker and Fielding Withers—known on their hit TV show as Jenna and Jonah, next-door neighbors flush with the excitement of first love. But it's their off-screen relationship that has helped cement their fame, as passionate fans follow their every PDA. They grace the covers of magazines week after week. Their fan club has chapters all over the country. The only problem is their off-screen romance is one big publicity stunt, and Charlie and Fielding can't stand to be in the same room. Still, it's a great gig, so even when the cameras stop rolling, the show must go on, and on, and on. . . . Until the pesky paparazzi blow their cover, and Charlie and Fielding must disappear to weather the media storm. It's not until they're far off the grid of the Hollywood circuit that they realize that there's more to each of them than shiny hair and a winning smile.

I was pretty much hooked just by the premise of this book. In fact, the first time I even heard the synopsis my mind flashed images of all these Disney Channel stars. Especially those two old teenyboppers from that series that made a little money from a couple years ago, remember? The one where they were apparently a couple in real life too? I wonder if they were faking too!
Okay, so here's the thing: I loved the premise of the story, but the actual story fell a little flat for me.
I actually think the book tried to be more complicated than it needed to be. Very early in the story (before pg 50), the main characters' ruse is exposed and they immediately have to go into problem-solving mode. I think it would have been a better idea to give readers a chance to see the two characters' lives, not only as a fake couple but also as young, on-their-own stars, before pulling the rug out from under their world. I just thought that were was too much action before development. I will say, though, that I liked the way Charlie and Fielding's secret was "outed":
I was expecting the authors to take the cliched easy road, and they actually gave me something I wasn't expecting. So I enjoyed that.
My favorite part of the novel was way too brief for my liking. Here's the thing: so much of the story revolves around Charlie & Fielding's relationship and how they perceive each other to be, verses how they actually are, in real life. When your whole relationship with someone (anyone) is based on assumptions and easy judgments, there's a whole lot that's taken for granted. I was so hoping that the time they spent together, in a secluded beach-house (so California!) would have been a time for raw conversations and deep character exploration. The story could have been simpler and more meaningful, I think, but instead, those scenes accounted for very little of the overall story. In fact, the second half of the book has Charlie and Fielding doing a regional theater production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and somehow realizing (through conversations with other people, not each other) that they're in love after all. I guess the book just didn't really seem like it flowed together well. There was too much plot for such a short book, and the result is that I didn't really feel any connection to the characters.
I always like books told in dual perspectives, because I love being able to see things from multiple viewpoints. In this case, though, I felt like there wasn't enough of a contrast between Fielding and Charlie. They're both intelligent. They both are reasonably responsible for their age. They both are good cooks. They both sing well. They both are in (of course) perfect physical condition. And they both are extremely rude and crass to each other. If the chapter titles didn't say "Charlie" or "Fielding/Aaron" (the character's real name) at the top, I wouldn't know which voice belong to which character...
And now...the romance. Guys, this is a cute, quick read that will be perfect for Valentine's Day. It's lighthearted, it's humorous, it's's really recommendable. But is it romantic?
For me, the answer is 'no.' From what I've read in other reviews, the number one thing that most people seem to like was actually kind of off-putting for me, and that was the snappy, bantering and downright mean dialogue between the main characters. If you like snappy, sassy banter, you'll love the exchanges here. For me (who kind of likes sweet, genuine dialogue), reading the things these two said to each other made me cringe. I just can't imagine being able to fall in love with someone who talked to me the way these characters talked to each other. I know I sound like your moms, probably, so I'll leave it at that.
Like I said, Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance is a light, fun read that will definitely appeal to teens, and the amount of pop culture references were clever and well-placed. Just because the romance didn't work for me doesn't mean it won't be your cup of tea, so give it a try if you'd like :)

Final Grade:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

HAVEN Cover Contest deadline extended!

Hey! So because of the crazy weather and everything, I'm pushing back the deadline for the contest from today to SATURDAY, February 12th. That's just a few more days, but who knows, maybe we'll get one or two more in.
We've got some fabulous designs for author Kristi Cook to choose from already, but there's still time for one or two more entries!


To those who have already entered, thank you so much for supporting this contest! I am blown away by the reception this has gotten, and I thank you for helping spread the word!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Thank You, Mr. Jacques

This weekend, one of the most brilliant and beloved childrens/fantasy authors passed away.
Brian Jacques, creator of the Redwall universe, died Saturday at age 71.
I don't know if many of you have had the opportunity to read any of the 22 books in the Redwall series, but if not, I definitely suggest you give at least one a try, in the future.

For me, Brian Jacques was the author who really got me seriously interested in the craft of writing.
I'd written stories off and on as a kid, but it wasn't until I read a few books in the Redwall series that I thought of writing as a serious future possibility. His storytelling style is still hard to put into words: it was didactic and entertaining at the same time, not as lofty as C.S. Lewis, but still sophisticated.
What I learned from Mr. Jacques' storytelling:
1. the heroes journey - the lowly, least-of-these characters who makes a journey of self-discovery and becomes a hero will always be an endearing story for young readers, children and teens alike, mainly because kids know how it feels to be overlooked because of age or lack of ability. Every time one of his characters grew and matured, whether Matthias, Mariel, Martin, Tammo, or any other - I was right there with them.
2. A little something about love. You know what I learned from Brian Jacques' books? Good storytelling does not have to include some dopey designated romance. As a young reader, love stories didn't interest me. I wanted action, and I learned that epic-proportion storytelling was good enough.
3. A little something about death. At ages 10-11, I was reading stories in which characters, sometimes really important ones, died. Being a 'good guy' didn't always guarantee a happy ending, in other words. I know that doesn't sound like much now, but back in the '90s when I was a kid, it was kind of a big deal.
4. Fight scenes. Before I soldiered through the Lord of the Rings series and battled orcs at Helm's Deep and Minas Tirinth, I battled evil rats, weasels, and foxes in the Redwall world.
I wish I could bottle up the energy I felt then and pull it out now that I'm older.

Brian Jacques will always be one of my biggest literary influences. He shaped my reading as well as my writing style. I'm writing this post while in class right now, so I know I don't sound very coherent, but I just wanted to say what a talented, original individual this guy was. I mean, seriously! How many authors do you know who have created a high fantasy world populated by butt-kicking, tough-as-nails anthropomorphic animals? Brian Jacques' work can still be found in both Childrens Fiction sections and High Fantasy sections at bookstores. To have that big of an age span for fans, encompassing both kids and grown-ups (and all of this pre-Harry Potter) speaks to his talent as a storyteller. Since the first Redwall book was published in 1986 until now, loyal fans and newcomers alike have journeyed to an unforgettable world.
We will miss you, Mr. Jacques. Thank you for sharing your imagination with us.Okay so technically that's Reepicheep. But it could just as easily be Matthias or Martin!

"I love book-signings. Kids waiting in line for you to scribble on their new books, haha!"
- Brian Jacques

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In My Mailbox [4]

In My Mailbox is sponsored by The Story Siren

Most of our mail/deliveries got interrupted by the massive storm that hit this week, but I did get some goodies:
For Review
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Fairy Bad Day by Amanda Ashby

Special thanks to Macmillan USA & Penguin!

Vampire Crush by A.M. Robinson

Did you survive the monster storm?

Did you get hit by the monster storm across the US this past week?
I live in Texas, so snow of any kind is pretty out of the ordinary, and not only did we get snow, we also got rain and hail right before, plus 3 days of single-digit temperatures. Funny thing is, since we don't get much of a hard winter here, I'd been wishing for some of that cold weather that's been bothering the East Coast to come our way...ta da! We got 4 days of below-freezing real winter weather.

School was canceled, work was canceled, and I had a bunch of time to do a few things I don't have a lot of time to do:
- Bake
- Play in the snow
- Read in the daytime, watching the snow.

It was a wee bit scary, because we were literally stuck in the house from Monday night to Saturday morning, with iced-over streets and eight inches of snow. I put the two books I was reading on hold to re-read my new favorite book in the galaxy, Jellicoe Road. And you know what? Second time around, in the middle of snow and sub-zero temperatures and ice and rolling blackouts and learning (just a few days ago) that the Super Bowl will be held only 2 hours away from was still just as amazing and memorable.

We made an old family favorite, Toffee House Pie (it doesn't really have toffee in it, but the caramelized cover tastes like toffee) the other day: sprinkle nuts (or not) and chocolate chips on a pie crust, then top it with a combined mix (4 eggs + 2 cups sugar + 1 stick of melted butter + 1 cup corn syrup) for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees (but don't tell Mimi that I told you, or she'd kill me)

And now the the slurp-and-splash of the melting snow is signaling the beginning of the end. It's funny how sad I am to see the last evidence of our highly irregular week drip away. It was a fun week, but I'm glad we're back above freezing again.

How did you survive the "monster storm"?

Friday, February 4, 2011


The Cinderella Society - Kay Cassidy
Genre: YA Contemporary
# of pages: 322 (hb)
Publisher: Egmont

Sixteen year old outsider, Jess Parker, gets the chance of a lifetime: an invitation to join a secret society of popular girls dedicated to defeating the mean girls of the world. The Cinderella Society guides all new recruits through its top secret ultimate life makeover. It’s all part of preparing them to face down the Wickeds and win. Determined not to let the Cindys down, Jess dives in with a passion. Finally, a chance to belong and show the world what she’s made of.
… be careful what you wish for.
Jess’s transformation wins her the heart of her dream crush and a shot at uber-popularity. Until the Wickeds–led by Jess’s arch enemy–begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers the real force behind her exclusive society. It’s a high stakes battle of good vs. evil, and the Cindys in power need Jess on special assignment. When the mission threatens to destroy her dream life come true, Jess is forced to choose between living a fairy tale and honoring the Sisterhood… a
nd herself.

Okay, this is what happens when you make notes about a book, then lose the notes. On top of that, it's been about two weeks since I read The Cinderella Society, and I had been reading three books at the same time. So the bottom line is: I really liked this book, but it kinda bums me out that I forgot some of the specific things I'd written down to talk about.
First things first, The Cinderella Society was a book that I could appreciate. I love books with themes, messages, points...anything useful the reader can take away and perhaps apply to their life. This is a book that is just good for your self-esteem. For one, author Kay Cassidy created a protagonist that most girls will be able to relate to and easily sympathize with. Jess Parker is a smart girl, good head on her shoulders, easily likable and cheer-worthy. But (and there's always a but), she's not without her issues. See, she moves around a lot. And when you're in high school, that's not really a good thing, image-wise. She also has very real insecurities about herself, from her personality to her looks. No matter what your situation or body type is, I think we can all relate to (sometimes, at least) feeling uncomfortable in our skin. As the story progresses, of course, Jess steadily grows in confidence and self-awareness, and it was rather pleasant to watch a character grow, but not grow out of herself.
Even though this is a Young Adult contemporary novel, it kind of had a fantasy feel to it. With the Cinderella Society and their archenemies, the Wickeds, I kept expecting for magic or something to come into the picture. It's a story that's almost a modern-day allegory, especially since it takes so much inspiration from the story of Cinderella. You know how you're supposed to 'suspend disbelief' when you read a work of fiction, especially fantasy/paranormal? Well, as much as I liked this book, I had to keep reminding myself that this was a story, and to just go with the flow. I had a hard time believing that all the girls in the Cinderella Society were so good, and nice, and unpretentious, while the Wickeds were so bad. It's like a good-evil battle, except with semi-good characters on one side and bad, but not 'evil' characters on the other.
For me, even though the concept seemed a little incredulous (even for a story) at times, I can appreciate it for the story's larger messages about self-confidence and so forth.
There was only one thing, story wise, that I still don't know how to process. If you're looking for a book that says that it's only what's on the inside that counts, that materialistic stuff doesn't matter, and neither do looks...this book may disappoint. Because the Cinderella Society is made up of kind, generous, accepting, but also pretty girls. And they still place a big emphasis on fashion, makeup, and things that many may consider 'materialistic.' Some girls may be put off by that. I wasn't, but I will admit to being a little bored by the main character's lengthy fashion and makeover descriptions. But many girls will be able to relate, and again, the message is about promoting what you have and drawing attention away from other parts of reminded me a lot of "What Not to Wear," which is a great show, by the way :)
I will admit to the plot sometimes being a little non-engaging for me, but I read this at the same time as one of my teen friends (16), and she breezed through it. Darn you, dissertations! You've *ruined* my ability to concentrate! Characters were all really strong, and many were downright inspiring. I didn't really like the 'villain' character, but that's the point, isn't it? The only character that really bugged me was the love interest. I don't even recall his name, but he just seemed really fake, and kind of jerky. The protagonist was such a sweet, endearing character, I wished she had better taste in boys! It's one of those YA relationships we're all familiar with: attraction only (and the attraction nearly always starts out one-sided, with a head-over-heals girl and an apathetic jerk/boy) and you're wondering what exactly she sees in him.
Overall, it was a fun, lighthearted read that will definitely speak to teen girls. I'd definitely recommend this book to my younger friends, just with the advisory: "I hope you have better taste in boys than Jess does!"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

bookish thoughts for a snowy day

A quiet, snowy day like today brings absolute, perfect reading conditions. So I'm spending the day drinking coffee and reading. Here are some book quotes I'd like to share. :)
Have you read any of these?

"What are you?" I whispered.
He shrugged again.
"Something," he said. "Something like you, something like a beast, something like a bird, something like an angel." He laughed again. "Something like that."
- Michael and The Creature, Skellig (David Almand)

"If a man has to say 'Trust me' it's a sure sign you cannot. Trust him, that is. Trust is a thing you do without words."
- Gogu the Frog, Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Marillier)

"Here's what I think," I say, and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my nose like whispers of truth. "I think maybe everyone falls," I say.
"I think maybe we all do. And I don't think that's the asking."
I pull on her arms gently to make sure she's listening.
"I think the asking is whether we get back up again."
- Todd, The Knife of Never Letting Go (Patrick Ness)

"That's the worst of girls," Edmund said to Peter and the Dwarf. "They never can carry a map in their heads."
"That's because our heads have something inside them," said Lucy.
- Edmund and Lucy, Prince Caspian (C.S. Lewis)

"What a diva!"
"Stupid, men can't be divas."
"Divo, then."
"That just sounds weird. Call him a jerk and be done with it."
- the fairies, in Eyes Like Stars (Lisa Mantchev)

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"
- Dumbledore, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling)

"I tell you to think black thoughts and you come up with that?!" the lieutenant had screamed.
"Is a guinea pig bad? Do you consider a guinea pig the representation of all that is evil?"
"Maybe...if it's an evil guinea pig."
- The Looking Glass Wars (Frank Beddor)

If you're in part of the country that got hit with the massive snow storm, I hope you're staying warm and everything!

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