Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Really exciting trailer!

Hey guys!
Sorry for the absence - I had a really cool thing happen last week work-related (way to get some really cool job experience!), so that's why I wasn't able to upload anything new!

But anyway -
I'm really excited because, in addition to having no less than 6 weeks of school until my undergrad career is OVER, a book that I'm really looking forward to releases next week!

Carole Estby Dagg's The Year We Were Famous is about to make its bookstore debut, and I wanted to share the awesome trailer with you all. Check it out! Add it to your TBR list!
Maybe even PREORDER IT!

My review will be up this weekend, and on Friday, the author (Carole Estby Dagg) will be stopping by Imagination in Focus to answer some questions about her writing journey.
I hope you guys will be here!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Inspirational images: Ode to Color

because sometimes life just needs a little bit of color...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book "reviews" that are a little different...

In the entire time I've had this site, I've done only a handful of reviews that weren't either MG or YA. I've all but completely stopped reading adult fiction, though I've posted a few reviews of those books up here.
Quick memory-lane trip: I first started reading YA regularly in fall 2008, with the Twilight series (and I am one of the rare breed of lit lovers that actually doesn't have anything bad to say about that series, except that Bella was annoying and Jacob could fall in a hole for all I cared) and I've read mostly MG-YA ever since. But before that, I went through about two years of nonfiction history period, and it's been this last reading slump that has rekindled my love of well-written historical nonfiction.

History is, pretty much, utterly fascinating to me, but I've always had a soft spot for Early Modern to Nineteenth Century European history (and American history, of course) and in particular, I've loved royal history. Some of the kookiest, craziest, funniest, grossest characters in the history of man weren't actually *characters* at all - they were entirely real!
And I've always loved reading about them, especially after I got into "The Tudors."
(Note: what I learned from studying Tudor court-England is that they were not all skinny and fact, most of them were fat and poxy!)
In particular, there are three books that I want to review/recommend to you. I know that a lot of history books are written like textbooks or WORSE - dissertations, agghh! - but these three are written in such witty, engaging and engrossing detail, it's as if you're reading short stories about crazy-entertaining characters:

Royal Babylon - Karl Shaw

Do you want to know which queen has the unique distinction of being the only known royal kleptomaniac? Or which empress kept her dirty underwear under lock and key? Or which czar, upon discovering his wife's infidelity, had her lover decapitated and the head, pickled in a jar, placed at her bedside?

Royally dishing on hundreds of years of dubious behavior, Royal Babylon chronicles the manifold appalling antics of Europe's famous families, behavior that rivals the characters in an Aaron Spelling television series. Here, then, are the insane kings of Spain, one of whom liked to wear sixteen pairs of gloves at one time; the psychopathic Prussian soverigns who included Frederick William and his 102-inch waist; sex-fixated French rulers such as Philip Duke D'Oreleans cavorting with more than a hundred mistresses; and, of course, the delightfully drunken and debauched Russian czars - Czar Paul, for example, who to make his soldiers goose-step without bending their legs had steel plates strapped to their knees. But whether Romanov or Windsor, Habsburg or Hanover, these extravagant lifestyles, financed as they were by the royals' badgered subjects, bred the most wonderfully offbeat and disturbingly unbelievable tales - and Karl Shaw has collected them all in this hysterically funny and compulsively readable book.

I would have to say that this is my favorite of the three. My copy is so worn, you can see white edges all across the spine and cover edges, but it gives probably the most extensive history of European monarchy. If you have in interest in the British royal family, in particular (or British history, for that matter), you'll want to take a look at this!

Royalty's Strangest Characters - Geoff Tibballs
Just as the monarchy has been hereditary in many countries, so insanity has been hereditary in many monarchs. Here are 2,000 years of crazy kings and potty potentates, including such infamous characters as Caligula and Vlad the Impaler.

I remember staying up all night to read this one - it's a fast but substantial read. This one focuses more on non-European royal history, covering Chinese and Middle Eastern dynasties and African tribal leaders as well. My favorite chapter, though, is the "Foot-in-Mouth Disease" chapter on Britain's Prince Philip :P

A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of
History's Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes and Emperors - Michael Farquhar.
From Nero's nagging mother (whom he found especially annoying after taking her as his lover) to Catherine's stable of studs (not of the equine variety), here is a wickedly delightful look at the most scandalous royal doings you never learned about in history class.

Gleeful, naughty, sometimes perverted-like so many of the crowned heads themselves-A Treasury of Royal Scandals presents the best (the worst?) of royal misbehavior through the ages. From ancient Rome to Edwardian England, from the lavish rooms of Versailles to the dankest corners of the Bastille, the great royals of Europe have excelled at savage parenting, deadly rivalry, pathological lust, and meeting death with the utmost indignity-or just very bad luck.

If there was one book that I could recommend to you all, it's this one. I absolutely love Farquhar's writing style and think it is absolutely amazing that he can make history (even ancient history) so interesting and fun. I think my favorite expression of his is "macabre comedy of errors." What makes this book different from the others is its inclusion of Roman history and Papal history (yes, those, my!)

These are three of my favorite history books that deserved some notice on my little book blog :)
I don't know if history is your thing, but I think everyone might find a fascinating tidbit or two in these books - whether you're a history major like me, or a quantum physicist!

I'm Only (Partly) Kidding!

It's funny to me the lengths some folks will go to in order to explain a love triangle.
I just read the longest, and the funniest, "In Defense" article in over 1 year of reading-and-blogging.
There are just some things in life I know I'll never understand, and love triangles is one of them - one of those literary foibles - along with "books that use a deus ex machina to solve their plots" and "not knowing that the hot new guy at school who's quiet and likes to read poetry is some paranormal dude" and the literary math equation "if the main character and the love interest get together in book one, and the series is a trilogy, how long will they be together before the 'trouble in paradise' cliche begins?"
Oh love triangles, please go away! You only make an impressionable protagonist look like a hoe.
Au revoir!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Sean Griswold's Head - Lindsey Leavitt
Genre: YA Contemporary
# of pages:
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Sean Griswold's Head @ Parental Book Reviews
(Imagination-inspected 'Clean Read')

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object—an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas—it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him. The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking—er, focusing on—Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

Okay everybody: short and sweet and to the point, I loved this book! I was so glad to have the chance to read and review it, and I think it's one that you all will not want to miss!

I've noticed that with contemporary fiction novels, there seem to be two storytelling avenues: one being light, fluffy, and kind of over-the-top humor-bordering-on-silliness, and the other being dead-serious, "issue-driven" and full of hardcore characters. I was relieved to find out that Sean Griswold's Head didn't fit in either of these ends of the spectrum: it was funny, sweet and endearing. Sure, there were times when it seemed like the story was driven by the "issue" (the main character's dad suffers from a specific illness and the family has to come to terms with it), mainly because there were frequent parts in the book where paragraph-long information about the illness were written into the book, making it sound like a health pamphlet and (for me) throwing off the rhythm of the story.

Concerning characters: Payton is the kind of narrator that I think is such a winner. She has a sense of humor, but she's not flippant; she's practical and has a good head on her shoulders, but she still has vulnerable side...She was written very well. And I liked Sean's character too - as one reviewer said, he fit well into Payton's life, but he had an identity of his own, which meant that his entire existence didn't revolve around validating the main character. According to the synopsis, though, Sean is supposed to have "secrets of his own," and I will say that the revelations about Sean's character weren't as consequential as I expected them to be. Kind of like, "Ohh, that's how he got his scar? Okay..." And now a word on the designated best friend character: she was the only part of the book that I didn't like. I know that YA protagonists are supposed to have friends - we certainly don't want any desperate loners here - but a lot of "friend" characters are, I think, a little too "out there." Jac's personality was very overwhelming and just annoying. To be honest, I kind of liked it when she and Payton got in a fight :P. Anyway, Jac's also your stereotypical fashion-and-boy-centric high school girl, and I've always had a thing about characters like that.

Overall, Sean Griswold's Head was a funny, clever, well-written novel that I pretty much devoured. The "Seinfeld" references were such a win, and I liked how athletic the characters were. Random, I know, but I love athlete characters! So goal-oriented... So definitely check out Sean Griswold's Head. I have a feeling you all will like it very much!

Final Rating:

Sean Griswold's Head @ Amazon

Friday, March 11, 2011

Top 10 Covers to Look For!

The Forgotten Locket
Hourglass 3/Lisa Mangum/Shadow Mountain
May 30, 2011
Thoughts: I think, if I had to choose a favorite covers series, it would be this one - the Hourglass series. The Hourglass Door, The Golden Spiral and now The Forgotten Locket are so consistent and match so well! Can't wait till I get my hands on this one!

Once Every Never
Lesley Livingston/Harper
July 1, 2011*
Thoughts: This cover reminds me of a movie poster for some reason: really cool/ethereal looking, with the blue, the darker colors, and the bright pink. I like it! Looking at the cover, it doesn't seem to preview much of what's written in the synopsis, but it's a cover that's inviting and fun to look at, nonetheless, so I bet it'll attract lots of attention.

The Power of Six
Lorien Legacies 2/Pittacus Lore/Harper Teen
August 23, 2011
Thoughts: I thought I Am Number Four had a really cool cover design, and I'm not going to lie, I was kind of disappointed to see this one. It's simplicity belies its identity as the follow-up to a highly successful debut. I was expecting the cover to be a bit flashier, I guess.

Paranormalcy 2/Kiersten White/Harper Teen
August 30, 2011
Thoughts: I was so glad to see that they used the same model from Paranormalcy again! Loving the consistency. And the brown-red-burn orange hues are visually stimulating - off the top of my head I can't think of any other cover that uses similar colors.

Firelight 2/Sophie Jordan/Harper Teen
September 6, 2011
Thoughts: It looks like they used the same model for this sequel story, too. If that's the case, then I kind of like her better blonde! :D

So Silver Bright
Theatre Iluminata 3/Lisa Mantchev/Fiewel & Friends
September 13, 2011
Thoughts: The Theatre Iluminata covers have been consistently eye-appealing, and I absolutely love the dress Bertie's wearing, and the inclusion of the fairies! I think, though, that Perchance to Dream is my favorite of the series covers, mainly because it has Ariel on it! :)

Leviathan 3/Scott Westerfeld/Simon Pulse
September 20, 2011
Thoughts: Cool premise, and the covers definitely attract attention. And this is in half-jest, but the new cover designs for this series have left me a little baffled, cause I still can't figure out - on any of them - who's a boy and who's a girl. Lol. This one's easier to tell, though.

In the Forests of the Night
Goblin Wars 2/Kersten Hamilton/Clarion, Harcourt
October 3, 2011
Thoughts: Tyger had such a pretty green appeal, so the majority-blue cover here looks cool. Have to admit, though, the yellow eyes at the bottom are a little creepy!

Matched 2/Ally Condie/Penguin
November 1, 2011
Thoughts: One of the shards from the shattered bubble is humorously close to the model's fist, so it kind of looks like she's giving readers the finger. Heehee.

The Space Between
Brenna Yovanoff/Razorbill, Penguin
No release date
Thoughts: It's hard to top the eerily beautiful artistry of The Replacement, Yovanoff's other book, but this one looks cool, too! The cover makes the book look very inviting. I'm definitely interested :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

ARC Giveaway: ENCLAVE by Ann Aguirre

Hey guys!
I have an extra ARC copy of Enclave (Razorland #1) by Ann Aguirre that I'd love to pass on to one of you to review.
I wanted to go ahead and put this giveaway up now, so the winner will have plenty of time to read the book and post a review (the book comes out April 12).

To Be Entered:
1. Leave your email address - gotta be able to contact you :P
2. US residents only (due to shipping - sorry!)
3. You must have either a BLOG, a GOODREADS, or an AMAZON account
(If you have multiple accounts, that's cool - but the purpose is to help promote the book by reviewing it)

Extra Entry
4. Tweet the giveaway (@alwaysamelia)

The giveaway will run until MARCH 18, 2011.

Enclave Summary
In Deuce's world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed 'brat' has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms.
Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember. As a Huntress, her purpose is clear--to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She's worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing's going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade.
When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce's troubles are just beginning. Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn't like following orders. At first she thinks he's crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don't always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth.
Her partner confuses her; she's never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as to using his knives with feral grace. As Deuce's perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy... but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she's ever known.

Enclave on Goodreads

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Word to my "Sponsors"

...or readers, or friends, or folks who stumble upon this URL...
Basically, I haven't been the best blogger, and I think I lost a lot of ground and stamina, going from posting at least once a day to...hardly at all.
I wasn't sure whether or not I wanted to keep blogging or what the future of this site would be, and I let that kind of freak me out. The bottom line is, I turned into a bit of a drama queen with all the uncertainties and insecurities and ETC ETC.
But reading and having literary discussions with you guys has been one of the big highlights of the past year, and I'd be insane to give that up. Sure, it kinda sucks to write a post that you think is super cool, that ends up not getting a lot of feedback. But I can't do anything about that. All I can do is comment on other blogs and do my share, and love this site.
And I do.
We're all here because we're passionate about literature, and we love talking books. There are some sites I visit every day because it's become part of my routine, like, "ohh, I need to check so-and-so's site--I wonder what they've read recently."

So thanks for keeping this site afloat, and thanks for sticking around!
I love you all - now have a cookie on me! Oh, and if you've read Saving Francesca or Jellicoe Road recently, have a cookie AND a brownie!

And starring books as themselves

Just a collection of inspirational pictures, with a "book" theme

Monday, March 7, 2011


Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta
Genre: YA Fiction by Melina Marchetta*
*Yes, Melina Marchetta's books are such cuts above the rest, they get their own GENRE on my site!
# of pages: 243 (US pb)
Publisher: Knopf, Random House
Recommended for: HS & Beyond

Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys' school that's pretends it's coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can't seem to stop thinking about.
Then there's Francesca's mother, who always thinks she knows what's best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself

Saving Francesca is my third Melina Marchetta novel, and even though I'm glad I read Jellicoe Road first - mainly because of all the subtle in-text similarities between the two - I can't help but wonder if I'd have liked Francesca better if I'd read it first.
First off, I think this book proves that Melina Marchetta is perhaps the *best* (if not certainly one of the best) young adult writers out there. Not only is she a master storyteller and character creator, she's a mighty fine technical writer. Her writing style is lyrical and descriptive but to the point; in other words, very hard to explain in a way that does it any justice, and hard to compare to anyone else.
Marchetta also knows how to create characters. I'm less likely to jump on the "I HEART Flawed Characters!" bandwagon, mainly because I know what I like and what I don't like, personality-wise, in characters. However, Marchetta's characters are undeniably human in that they're flawed, but they also have a soul. They have this aura of hope around them that distinguishes them from a lot of the vapid, melodramatic, TSTL characters that occupy YA fiction. I loved Francesca's narrative: she had this very insightful but precise tone that really resonated with me. I felt for her struggles, too - much of the book deals with unresolved issues with her well-meaning but domineering mother, and what happens when her mother has a depressive episode and pretty much stops functioning. The scenario sounds simple, but as SF shows, there's way more underneath the surface that needs exploring.
I can honestly say that I was engaged with the story from beginning to end.

The pacing isn't quite as fast/action-oriented as in Jellicoe, and to be honest, there were times where it didn't seem like much was happening. I did like that the story devoted more attention to the main character's emotions and relationships with those around her. This didn't really seem to be the case in Jellicoe.
Secondary characters always play a major part in Marchetta books, and the ensemble cast was full of personality and quirkiness that, in my opinion, only Marchetta can bring. However, the characters here seemed less mature than in JR, and that's something that I couldn't help but notice. I kind of crave mature teen characters and kind of rage against the immature ones.
I guess it's the love-aggravate portion in my adventures in YA Lit...
I also couldn't help but think that Frankie & Will's relationship was a bit more complicated than it needed to be...and I'm sorry to say that Will came off as a bit shallow (based on certain decisions he made throughout the book, especially close to the end). The girls, though - especially Tara and Justine - were among my favorite characters here, just bubbling with personality and uniqueness. I loved how important friendship was to the overall story, and there were many times where I got the warm and fuzzys!
Plus...the geography. I loved how much detail Marchetta put into her characters' surroundings, and how informative she was of certain story locations. I'm not from Australia, so it was like a fun geography lesson :P I had the google maps going every time she mentioned a city or suburb!

So all in all...another fine book by a writer who I think is the greatest in the genre. If you haven't read Saving Francesca yet, my suggestion is to make it a priority. If you haven't read SF or Jellicoe Road, my suggestion would be to read Jellicoe first. But I humbly recommend that you read both.

Final Grade:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's March! March Releases to Look For!

Already March has kicked off to a great start!
I'm really looking forward to seeing these books grace the shelves of my nearest bookstore!

Dark Mirror - M.J. Putney
St. Martin's Griffin
March 1 - In stores now!

Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status. Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted…by magic. When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.

Sean Griswold's Head - Lindsey Leavitt
March 1 - In stores now!

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object—an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas—it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him. The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking—er, focusing on—Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

Chime - Franny Billingsley
March 17

Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment. Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.

Those That Wake - Jesse Karp
March 21

New York City’s spirit has been crushed. People walk the streets with their heads down, withdrawing from one another and into the cold comfort of technology. Teenagers Mal and Laura have grown up in this reality. They’ve never met. Seemingly, they never will. But on the same day Mal learns his brother has disappeared, Laura discovers her parents have forgotten her. Both begin a search for their families that leads them to the same truth: someone or something has wiped the teens from the memories of every person they have ever known. Thrown together, Mal and Laura must find common ground as they attempt to reclaim their pasts.

City of Fallen Angels - Cassandra Clare
Simon & Schuster
March 31

I can't believe it's already COFA time already! It seemed like such a long way off when I finished City of Glass. Still deciding if I want to read Chime, but if there's one thing I never get tired of, it's magic and witches! Woohoo!
What are you looking forward to this month?

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