June 30, 2009

20 Things in 20 Days: Clue #20

To celebrate the launch of Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, I'm blogging clue #20 for the 20 Things in 20 Days Scavenger Hunt. Answer clues and challenges to earn points toward the 20 Things grand prize, including 6 signed books from 2009 debut authors! Get a clue... June 11th-30th at 20 Things in 20 Days!

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Today's clue:

In Twenty Boy Summer, Frankie often carries her video camera for capturing spontaneous and silly interviews. For 20 Things clue #20, our final clue, film a video interview of yourself or someone else about books, boys, summer, or some clever combination! Post your video on YouTube or other video sharing site and link to it here in the comments. 6 points. 1 to 2 extra points for super creativity, hilarity, or tomfoolery.

Wait... today's a bonus clue day!

For a chance to earn more points, check out today's bonus clue at Reading Rocks.

June 29, 2009

The Elite Series (and more) Winner!

Book Spot, you are the winner! Please e-mail your address to inbedwithbooks AT yahoo DOT com. Thanks to everyone who entered and shared the link. I hope ya'll enjoyed the trailer and plan to give Jennifer Banash a chance.

THE ELITE and IN TOO DEEP are available now; SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE releases July 7.

June 27, 2009

YA Book Carnival: Along for the Ride

The YA Book Carnival is hosted by Lauren of Shooting Stars Mag. It is a series of YA giveaways, by anyone, ending today, June 27. I should also tell people that I have another giveaway that ends tomorrow, June 28. It is for six books, including the entire Elite series by Jennifer Banash.

The winner of the Jonas Brothers giveaway is Kristi of Books and Needlepoint, who plans to give the book to her daughter.

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Now, some of ya'll may have read my review of ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen, which came out June 16th. Guess what? It debuted as #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

In celebration, there's a contest for two copies over at Sarah-Land. But here at IBWB, I've got an ARC up for grabs.

Want it? Tell me your favorite energy food. What would you eat before a long bike ride? Me, I like a BBQ baked potato with cheese, butter, and pulled pork. I get dessert afterwards.

I'm also offering a lot of chances for bonus entries. Follow me, link to this contest, tell me your favorite Sarah Dessen (and why), and/or post the ALONG FOR THE RIDE widget.

Get the along for the ride widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox!

Contest ends July 4.

June 26, 2009

Review: Naamah's Kiss

I sometimes stop by the blogs of authors whose books I like and/or think look interesting. Sarah Rees Brennan has started a new promotion, where she offers a new bit of fiction every Friday and a contest entry to anyone who spreads the link. Today's offering is the first half of a non-spoilery story set in the same world as her debut novel THE DEMON'S LEXICON.

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By Jacqueline Carey

In my review of SANTA OLIVIA, I mentioned Carey's ability to change voice and style. After the self-contained SANTA OLIVIA, I had forgotten how globe-trotting the Kushiel books are. They're doorstops for a reason: the protagonist does quite a bit, cycling through several plots. Moirin's time in each of the three countries NAAMAH'S KISS takes place in could all form their own story. While Carey maintains the lush, slightly purple style that marks the other Kushiel books, she once more creates an original voice for the protagonist so you never feel you're reading Phedre or Imriel redux. (Phedre and Imriel being the universe's previous point of view characters. And as a bonus for those who don't like angst, Moirin is much less moody than Imriel.)

Moirin is more naive. She gives herself freely and doesn't know when to put her foot down so that people don't get hurt. This is partially because she was raised in almost isolation with her mother. Her culture is that of the Maghuin Dhonn, the bear witches, who previously played a part in KUSHIEL'S MERCY. (Between the different culture and several generations later aspect, those who haven't read the previous two trilogies can easily start with Moirin's story.) A boy, Cillian, is the first other person she spends any significant time with. She gradually becomes interested in book learning through their relationship, which partially affects her decision to leave Alba. Moirin is very aware that she's only Maghuin Dhonn through her mother, and she wonders about her place in the world.

I must admit, my favorite part is when Morin travels to Ch'in. (All the places and cultures in the Kushiel books are analogues of the real world. The dividing point is in the fictional world Jesus had a son who remained on Earth along with some angels who thought he had the right idea.) Along with her mentor and his other apprentice, Moirin comes to the aid of a princess in trouble. Anyone who's slightly familiar with Chinese folktales will recognize the story Moirin steps into. I enjoyed Carey's twist on it.

I suppose I should warn about the strong sexual component. Moirin is half d'Angelline, a culture that's very free about sex. That means there are heterosexual and homosexual scenes, many of which occur outside of marriage. If that's not your thing, this isn't the fantasy series for you. If you don't mind, I do recommend reading Carey.

I admit that when I picked up NAAMAH'S KISS I was already a Carey fangirl. But there's a reason I love her. Her writing has flow and wit, and her plots are clever. She tells exciting, epic stories while maintaining a tight focus on character. Then there's her focus on worldbuilding. The various cultures and how they interact is well-defined. Carey did her research in order to make a fantasy world with realistic politics and sociology. The only fantasy writer I trust more than Carey is Robin Hobb.

June 25, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Weeks Twenty-Four and Twenty-Five)

I wanted to let ya'll know that next week marks half a year, so I'll try to do a summary of my reading thus far.

Week Twenty-Four

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One More Bite (Jaz Parks, Book Five) by Jennifer Rardin (Review copy)

Queene of Light (Lightworld/Darkworld, Book One) by Jennifer Armintrout (Review copy, ARC)

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ghostgirl: homecoming (ghostgirl, Book Two) by Tonay Hurley (Review copy, hardcover)

Curse the Dawn (Cassandra Palmer, Book Four) by Karen Chance (Bought, reread)

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Midnight's Daughter (Dorina Basarab, Book One) by Karen Chance (Bought, reread)

My Bonny Light Horseman: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, in Love and War (Bloody Jack, Book Six) by L. A. Meyer (Library)

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Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci (Library)

Week Twenty-Five

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Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon (Review copy, ARC)

Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford (Review copy, ARC)

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Surf Mules by G. Neri (Review copy, ARC)

Death's Shadow (Demonata, Book Seven) by Darren Shan (Library)

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Magic in the Blood (Allie Beckstrom, Book Two) by Devon Monk (Bought)

Simply Irresistible (The Elite, Book Three) by Jennifer Banash (Review copy)

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Thorn Queen (Dark Swan, Book Two) by Richelle Mead (Review copy, ARC)

Persistence of Memory (No series, but same universe as her other books) by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (Library)

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Mine Till Midnight (The Hathaways, Book One) by Lisa Kleypas (Bought)

Wicked Lovely (Faerie Chronicles, Book One) by Melissa Marr (Library)

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No Such Thing as the Real World: by An Na, M.T. Anderson, Beth Kephart, K.L Going, Chris Lynch, Jacqueline Woodson (Library)

Persuasion by Jane Austen, ed. Linda Bree (Bought, textbook)

June 24, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday (10)

I like this promotion Penguin is doing, called Darken Your Summer Days. I've got nothing against beach reads, but I do like a good dark fantasy so I like being able to go to a site and see the line-up at a glance.

And yeah, most of them are already out, but TENTH GRADE BLEEDS by Heather Brewer doesn't come out until tomorrow. (So it barely counts as pre-publication, so what?) I enjoyed the first two books of this series and plan to pick this one up whenever it hits the library shelves. (I don't buy hardcover if I can help it.)

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Amazon Description:
It’s another sucky year at Bathory High for Vladimir Tod. The evil vampire D’Ablo is hunting for the ritual that could steal Vlad’s powers. His best friend Henry doesn’t want to be his drudge anymore. And as if all that weren’t enough, it’s getting harder for Vlad to resist feeding on the people around him. When months go by with no word from Uncle Otis and D’Ablo shows up demanding Vlad’s father’s journal, Vlad realizes that having a normal high school year is the least of his concerns. Vlad needs to act fast, and even his status as the Pravus won’t save him this time . . .

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a meme started by Jill of Breaking the Spine.

June 23, 2009

Review: Ms. Taken Identity

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By Dan Begley

I sometimes feel embarrassed when I go to write a review and the first thing in my mind is, "Don't forget to mention that odd quibble you had with fact X!" I sometimes have a compulsive need to correct people, which my friends fortunately find adorable. (There have been people who have had problems with it. I try to keep it in, honest.) But I'm going to call Dan Begley on this since he is part of the Department of English at the University of Missouri. Protagonist Mitch is a Phd candidate in medieval literature. Throughout the book he mostly makes allusions to more familiar eighteenth, nineteenth century works. Then someone asks him why Scheherazade was telling those stories in the Arabian Nights - and he doesn't know. That's a basic fact about one of the most popular pieces of medieval literature. I found it hard to suspend disbelief that Mitch wouldn't know the answer.

Okay, odd quibble over. MS. TAKEN IDENTITY is a very funny and very cute story with an often frustrating narrator. It begins with Mitch frustrated from a series of setbacks, especially the rejection of his novel HENLEY FARM by a former student who works at a small press, who had been his last resort. I do love the way Begley describes it, so that you know it's terrible and pretentious even if the narrator doesn't:

It's a sweeping saga about America that spans several generations of the Henley family and their relationship to the land: think The Grapes of Wrath meets The Good Earth, with bits of King Lear and A Thousand Acres sprinkled in. Seven years and seven hundred pages to get it just the way I want it, and I won't lie to you: it hasn't been an easy ride.

Then he's really tipped over the edge when he sees Katharine Longwell on tour for her newest novel, which he reads and finds facile. Then he meets her in a coffee shop and pretends to have a cousin writing a romance novel. The fact that he thinks he's pulling a really funny fast one past her baffles me, but it does get the plot moving.

Soon enough, Mitch is writing an actual chick lit novel. He's being a real prat about it to, planning to use it to showcase his contempt for the genre since the readers are too dumb to get it. (My prediction? The reviewers would crucify him.) Luckily, the women he meets in the ballroom class he takes for research help him realize there's a lot more to the fairer sex.

And he just keeps lying. Yeah, you can back yourself into a hole with lies. But at the point you're ready to propose to someone, you need to reveal the truth because at some point you're going to need to procure a marriage license. I sympathize with Marie's actions, since the extent of Mitch's lying does not deserve instant forgiveness.

I really enjoyed the novel and watching Mitch mature. I felt a subplot with one of his students didn't really go anywhere, but at the same time I kind of wanted to see more of his class. They seemed pretty sharp. But at points I wanted to crawl into the book and slap him, especially at the beginning. Begley was in control, since that's the reaction he was trying to illicit, but I don't want my pleasure reading to raise my blood pressure. Also, I wished I could read Mitch's novel CATWALK MAMA. It sounds sassy.

June 21, 2009

YA Book Carnival: Jonas Brothers: Inside Their World

The YA Book Carnival is hosted by Lauren of Shooting Stars Mag. It is a series of YA giveaways, by anyone, and it will last from June 21-27. I should also tell people that I have another giveaway running right now, that will last until June 28. It is for six books, including the entire Elite series by Jennifer Banash. And you may want to stop back by because I just might be planning more that one YA Book Carnival giveaway.

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Every once in awhile book reviewers receive books they didn't request. Sometimes these books turn out to be surprise jewels, other times they just aren't the reviewers cup of tea. I am very much not in the Jonas Brothers demographic, so this one doesn't do me much good. However, I know there are a bunch of people out there who love them, so I know I can find this book a good home.

JONAS BROTHERS: INSIDE THEIR WORLD is an unofficial scrapbook by Brittany Kent. It's well-made, with thick paper and such.

Amazon Description:
An unauthorized exclusive Jonafied backstage pass to everything Jonas Brothers!

Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas have stepped into the spotlight and taken the world by storm with their hit songs and adorable charm. Following them from their earliest beginnings to their sold out shows nationwide and beyond, this book is bursting with essential fan info. Written by a true fan, it’s a rare glimpse of them on tour, on the sets of Camp Rock and their 3D movie, and a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like keeping up with the Jonases. These guys are seriously all over the scene and having an awesome time doing it—and now fans can share in the fun.

Loaded with over 100 color photos, quizzes, gossip and behind-the-scenes scoop, it’s the only book that truly gets inside the Jonas Brothers’ world.

This giveaway will last until June 27th, no shipping restrictions. All you have to do to enter is tell me why you like the Jonas Brothers or a time when you gave a book a chance even though it didn't seem like your thing. Extra entries for linking to the contest, following my blog, or commenting on a June review.

June 20, 2009

Beginning, Middle, or End?

Which is the most important part of the book? For me, it's the end. If the end is terrible, I tend to forget how much I enjoyed everything that came before it.

How much the beginning matters depends on why I picked up the book. If it's just something that looked cool on the bookstore or library shelves, I may return without reading if I can't get into it. But usually I read stuff that someone recommended - be it a friend, family, or a fellow blogger. Therefore I'll give the book's slow beginning the benefit of a doubt. (One I never got into? An ARC missing the first 29 pages. I couldn't figure out what was going on and decided it wasn't worth trying even though it sounded awesome.)

As for the middle, it's only important if I didn't like the beginning. I have too much to read to waste time on books I don't care about. If I'm not grabbed by page 100 or so, I'll give up.

I try to pay attention to the whole, but I can't say one kind of pacing is best. A story needs to be paced the best way to tell the story. Some parts are necessarily slower, or less exciting, or more expository, and so forth. But when I finish a book and deem it a good or bad read, the end colors my perception completely. It's freshest in my mind - especially if I've been let down.

What about ya'll?

June 18, 2009

Review: Along for the Ride

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By Sarah Dessen
Read my review of LOCK AND KEY

Sarah Dessen is one of the grand dames of YA literature for a reason. While I don't think this title is as good as my favorite Dessens, it is well worth picking up. (If I weren't doing a full review of it it would be the sixth book on my Books of Summer list.) One of the things that made me instantly empathize with Auden is simply how much she was like me. My parents divorce was far less dramatic and I'm far less socially awkward, but there are similarities. As I love reading books as escapes, it's nice to see something that seems like my life through a fun house mirror.

("But can you ride a bike?" you ask. The answer is kinda. I recently tried to ride for the first time in ten years and . . . let's not talk about it.)

After discovering her mother has a lover, Auden decides she's going to shake things up and live with her father, his new life, and their infant this summer. Upon getting there, she discovers that Heidi is about to snap and her father is just as bad at parenting as her mother always claimed. Surprisingly, she begins to enjoy live in Colby as she carves out a niche for herself. It helps that she's made a connection with Eli, a fellow insomniac, as the roam about the town at night.

I liked the balance between the romance and the other aspects of the book. Auden's family issues are interesting, though I often felt sorry for Thisbe, who can't really control anything going on when a lot of it is going to affect the way she is raised. It's not a happy plotline, but Auden's associations with the local girls give it balance. That is a happy plotline, as Auden discovers how to recognize and navigate social currents. Likewise, her relationship with Eli balances between the light and dark due to his baggage.

And, while it is done in an exceedingly unsubtle manner, I love the message that girls can be into makeup and clothes as well as being incredibly smart. Being feminine - even hyper-feminine - has nothing to do with intelligence. Not to mention that liking to be girly doesn't mean the patriarchy wins. It just means you like to be girly. Nothing wrong with that.

If you haven't read a Sarah Dessen book, this one would be a fine place to start. If you have read one, you know what to expect. She does have a formula, but I don't mind as long as she keeps writing books that are sweet, entertaining, and not dumbed-down. ALONG FOR THE RIDE has romance, drama, and a positive, hopeful message. I can go along with that.

June 15, 2009

Hottie: Third Time's a Charm?

I told you it was coming, and it showed up in my e-mail inbox today.

I love the expression on the model's face. (Off course, I've always had a thing for photos that look more like a candid than posed smiley.) Her pose causes her neck to be a little lost, but I can live with that. I love that the dress is classier than on the previous cover. I think it would look even better with the background flipped, so that she's highlighted by all that yellow and the part that is unobscured is the interesting pink and orange striation. (I do love the colors - bright, eye-catching, not too girly.) But as we know from experience, it could be worse.

For comparison, here are the ARC and original paperback covers:

Which do you like best? What do you see as the pros and cons of the new cover? Do you believe it will attract teens and bookstore buyers more than the previous two attempts? Or do you think this one is a step *back*? Don't forget to read my interview with Jonathan Bernstein, where he explains his feelings on the original cover change. Or to read my review of the novel, in which I deliver a point-by-point explanation of why I hated the second cover.

June 14, 2009

Simply Irresistible: Trailer Premiere and Contest

The book isn't available until July 7th, but the trailer for SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE, the third book in Jennifer Banash's Elite series, is hot off the presses.

Did you enjoy it? If you did, here's your chance to win a huge prize pack. One winner will receive:

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-the complete Elite series, including THE ELITE, IN TOO DEEP, and SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE
-the eleventh Gossip Girl novel DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME by Cecily von Ziegesar
-the third Luxe novel ENVY by Anna Godbersen
-BONUS! JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen (Nice girls represent!)

It's a mean girl bonanza, and all you have to comment with a reason why your life would make a good reality TV show*. Bonus entries will be given to those who repost the trailer (2), make a widget for SI (2), link to the contest (1), subscribe/follow to IBWB (1) or Jennifer's blog (1), and those who say something in reaction to the trailer in their comment (1).

Contest ends in two weeks, on June 28th.

*And it doesn't even have to be something really cool, like your town has been taken over by colorful zombies and you're trying to stay alive by painting yourself to blend in.

For more information about the series, check out my reviews of THE ELITE and IN TOO DEEP, as well as Jennifer's two guest posts and my interview with her.

June 11, 2009

Books Read in 2009 (Weeks Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three)

Don't take this as a perfect list; I'll edit it when I check my various piles.

Week Twenty-Two

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Cathy's Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233 (Cathy Trilogy, Book One) by Sean Stewart, Jordan Weisman (Review copy)

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Cathy's Key: If Found Call 650-266-8202 (Cathy Trilogy, Book Two) by Sean Stewart, Jordan Weisman(Review copy)

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The Story of Ryan (Blood Legacy, Book One) by Kerri Hawkins (Bought)

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Deathwish (Leandros Brothers, Book Four) by Rob Thurman (Bought, reread)

Week Twenty-Three

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Namaah's Kiss (Moirin Trilogy, Book One) by Jacqueline Carey (Review copy, ARC)

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Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (Review copy, ARC)

Pershop of Horrors, vol. 3 by Matsuri Akino (Bought, reread)

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Ranma 1/2, vols. 19-20 by Rumiko Takahashi (Bought)

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Skin Trade (Anita Blake, Book Seventeen) by Laurell K. Hamilton (Review Copy)

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Ms. Taken Identity by Dan Begley (Review copy, ARC)

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ghostgirl (Ghostgirl, Book One) by Tonya Hurley (Review copy, hardcover)

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Between the Sheets by Robin Wells (Bought, eBook)

June 10, 2009

Review: Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover

First: I was supposed to be the T2T tours blog stop for TWENTY BOY SUMMER today, but that could not happen for various reasons. If you look to the right, at the sidebar, you will notice a graphic that will link you to the "20 Things in 20 Days" scavenger hunt. IBWB will be part of that activity, so I hope you enjoy it!

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By Ally Carter

I enjoyed the first Gallagher Girls book, but did feel there were certain problems with the premise, as explained in my review of I'D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU. CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY was likewise enjoyable but not as awesome as I hoped. But I definitely enjoyed DON'T JUDGE A GIRL BY HER COVER, as I can tell the girls are growing up. (Although Bex and Liz need to get some of their own experiences in with boys or they'll never grow up to be true femme fatales.)

Josh, once more, just gets a cameo. That's fine; he was a first relationship. But Zach's role is increasing (or at least remains steady), and experience with boys could certainly help Cammie figure out what her possible love interest is up to. And she does want to know since he has a tendency to show up in tandem with trouble. It doesn't help that trouble hasn't been far at hand since Macey and Cammie were attacked during Macey's father's campaign. These weren't amateurs either. These were professionals, prepared for them to be Gallagher girls rather than normal teens.

I enjoy the spirit of Cammie, Macey, Bex, and Liz. They clearly enjoy spying and ferreting out secrets. It does seem like Gallagher Academy needs to teach its exceptional young women when to abort a mission. Their tendency, especially Cammie's, to get involved in dangerous situations often crosses over from clever and brave into foolhardy. I do like that Macey got more attention in this one as the "damsel in distress," since the other two focused more on Cammie and her love life. It helped bring out the ensemble, and their chemistry and wit are a greater part of what makes the series fun rather than the almost disposable boys.

That said, I really loved the twist at the end. I didn't expect it, but it makes sense, and it puts things into a very exciting place for the fourth Gallagher Girls novel. Ally Carter ups the ante and I can't wait to see where she goes with the girls' spring semester. Oddly, that reminds me, that Macey – who experienced regular life before she came to the Academy – does get the chance to begin developing her own life. Just as the tough girl would not want, it's really cute. While we don't see much of her guy, none of what we do see in DON'T JUDGE A GIRL BY HER COVER makes him look a jerk. He even sees past her cover and isn't bothered to be with a girl more capable, in certain situations, than him.

While I found the first two slightly disappointing, there's more reason to why Carter's series is popular than the awesome titles. She's got a nice sense of humor and it is fun to read about girls who support each other rather than tear each other down. It doesn't hurt that there's spy hijinks afoot either. Since I'm currently annoyed by the weak-willed protagonist of the book I'm reading as I write this review, I'll also say that it's good to read about teen girls who strive to be as mentally and physically capable as possible. And yes, things really are more exciting now that enemy spies are coming into play.

June 6, 2009

High School: The Non-Fictional Version

Since young adult literature often features young adults as protagonists, it's not really surprising that a number of the stories are set in high school. But what draws people to read about this setting? I know I've read a number of posts/interviews where bloggers and authors alike reveal that they hated high school.

I've got a secret: I loved it.

And yeah, I like college better, but I had no problems with high school. Academically, I was a total geek and something of a teacher's pet. I did various UIL Academic events, specializing in Number Sense and Mathematics. (For those who don't live in Texas, the UIL sets the rules for interschool competition, for everything from athletics to band to academics. Also, Number Sense is a ten minute, eighty question mental math test - no scratch paper, no crossing out or erasing. It's more fun than it sounds, promise.) Heck, I went to State in it. And most everyone in my class knew that I was going to be valedictorian because my GPA was too high to overcome.

I was also quasi-popular.

Really, I don't know if I would've been so socially accepted at another high school. (Example: My class's prom queen was also a drum major.) Cliques were pretty diffuse, with people belonging to a number of groups. I can, off the top of my head, name at least six different social circles that I was a central member of, and I can think of many more in which I was welcome. I don't recall there being a king or queen of the high school, nor someone everyone knew was unpopular. Generally, people had at least a couple of friends. And someone was once thrown through a window during a fight, but there wasn't a bullying problem despite the rising gang activity.

I played an acorn with a bizarre voice in my friends' skit in the Senior Show. It was an adaptation a children's story the guy playing the onion wrote, which we wrote an epilogue to in order to turn it into an allegory for the plight of the indepented male entreprenuer. The other characters were a baked good and the narrator. One of two "sets" consisted of a poster reading: The Dark Forest (You can't see it because it's dark.). We got a standing ovation.

Despite the fact I was social with a number of people, I never went to a "teen party" during high school. (I did go to some sleepovers and such, but the wildest things we drank were Pixy Stix in Sprite Remix.) From talking to my other friends, none of them did either. I was sort-of friends with a cheerleader, who I learned did drink for the first time the day before graduation while she was doing my make-up and hair for graduation.

So I think I like a lot of fictional high schools because they're nothing like my own, which wasn't a great catalyst for drama. There were some dramas, like when one of my groups of friends split because the two leaders got into an argument - it was awkward for a couple of months for the four or so of us that remained friends with both sides.

What were ya'll's high school (or equivalent) experiences like? Did it resemble anything in a book or movie, or was it completely different? Did you love it or hate it? How disjointed was my ramble?

June 5, 2009

Review: Carpe Corpus

No books read yesterday because I've been traveling like crazy and have no clue what I managed to read last week. I'll compile it next one. And boy, did I buy a ton of books today. (Okay, only twelve. Not bad for $38.)

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By Rachel Caine
Read my review of Book Five, LORD OF MISRULE

I can't wait to review the next book, FADE OUT, since it begins a new arc in the series. It's difficult to review a book that finishes out an arc in order to bring new readers to the fold without giving away too much. (Anything given away on the back cover is fair game, so take warning.) I also look forward to it because the title of this one bothers me. (Seize the body?) Luckily, the contents bother me far less.

(Also, while I've been going all over Texas this past week, I am so happy I didn't end up anywhere similar to Morganville. If there are vampires in Texas, as Jaye Wells doubts, I hope they continue to stay away from my parts. The Morganville series shows how bad the good vampires could make it for humans, and CARPE CORPUS shows us the beginning of the bad guys running the asylum.)

Claire, Michael, Shane, and Eve are caught in the war between Amelie and Bishop. They'd prefer Amelie, since she cares about a sustainable community rather than destruction, but both Claire and Michael are compelled to work for Bishop. And while Eve's doing as well as she can under the circumstances, Shane needs help none of them are in a position to give. Happy seventeenth birthday, Claire.

I must say, I love that Myrnin's role keeps increasing. There's something about his insanity, and I believe there's an odd sexual tension between him and Claire, which doesn't bother me though it should. CARPE CORPUS reveals the kind of computer only Myrnin could build, and I like to believe Rachel Caine chose the computer's name as a tribute to Ada Lovelace. (If they didn't make you learn about her in junior high, now's your chance!)

Caine writes a great ensemble, believable human and inhuman emotion, and scary action scenes. She can overcome the "main characters survive" mentality to make you fear for the once and future residents of the Glass House. And it is affecting since I like all four of them. (Other characters, of various likeability, were put on a bus. We can only hope those less likeable ones don't return.)

I did feel the end, while clearing up a plot hole, didn't entirely fit with the rest of the book. It might have been better saved for FADE OUT, so that it could be better integrated into the overall storyline. But I was very satisfied with the end of the first storyline, even if it broke my heart a little, and I look forward to what happens next in Morganville, Texas, where the vampires are threatening and the humans need a spine to survive.

June 3, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday (9)

I love Rob Thurman's Cal Leandros books, so of course I'm excited about her new series beginning this fall (1 September 2009) with Trick of the Light. I'll get my fix twice a year instead of once!

Summary from DEATHWISH back matter:
There are demons in the world. Monsters. Creatures that would steal your soul. You might hide under your covers at night and pretend all's right with the world, but you know. Even if you don't want to admit it . . .

Las Vegas bar owner Trixa Iktomi deals in information. And in a city where unholy creatures roam the neon night, information can mean life or death. Not that she has anything personal against demons. They can be sexy as hell, and they're great for getting the latest gossip. But they also steal human souls and thrive on chaos. So occasionally Trixa and her friends have to teach them some manners.

When Trixa learns of a powerful artifact known as the Light of Life, she knows she's hit the jackpot. Both sides -- angel and demon -- would give anything for it. But first she has to find it. And as Heaven and Hell ready for an apocalyptic throwdown, Trixa must decide where her true loyalty lies -- and what she's ready to fight for.

Because in her world, if you line up on the wrong side you pay with more than your life . . .

It's set in the same universe and in one of my favorite real world cities. And maybe the female heroine will boost Rob's popularity. (The Leandros brothers series is my favorite, honest. Just read my review of DEATHWISH.)

June 2, 2009

Review: The Lost Hours

Book Cover

By Karen White
Read my review of THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET.
Read my interview.

Piper's grandmother has Alzheimer's and has been in a home for awhile. But her grandfather just died, leaving her a charm and some other cryptic pieces to the puzzle that is her grandmother's past. But before she can even try to find out more from her grandmother, she dies as well. Her only key is to search out one of Abigail's closest friends, Lillian. Lillian is ashamed of the past and Piper must work to even meet with her. And there's a complication in her fairly recently widowed grandson, who is learning how to live with his guilt and his daughters.

This doesn't even get into the equestrian issues. There's a lot going on in this book, and it takes awhile to get going. My mother and I both agreed that the grandmother's death was very abrupt, as there is a timeskip in the book but it isn't clearly presented. My mom also helped me realize something else that bothered me about the death. The grandfather's death starts the book and is elaborated upon, but the grandmother's is barely mentioned in the action of the book. Yet THE LOST HOURS is all about Abigail's life and how Piper finds out about it. It seems odd that her death is so ignominious. (One of the other problems with the read wasn't a fault of the text. This was one of those ARCs with lots of typos, but that should be fixed in the final, though I haven't been able to flip through a final to confirm this assertion.)

Once THE LOST HOURS gets going, it is a very interesting read. Okay, it does take too long to read the scrapbook, but the revelations are interesting. Karen White brings the segregated South to life through the eyes of two different young women who aren't prepared for how people will react to their actions. Lillian in particular is a fascinating character. I want to read THE LOST HOURS again to pick more of her apart. Piper's a fine protagonist, but Lillian's more interesting because she's peculiar and enigmatic.

Helen, Lillian's granddaughter, is less intriguing but still a fun character. I liked that she was very functional and competent - moreso than many of the other characters - even though she was blind. (Though I am not the one to ask about how accurate the portrayal of blindness was.) Tucker, her brother and Piper's love interest, felt a little flatter. He served his purpose, but I didn't really connect to him beyond that.

Those looking for a classic whodunit mystery might be disappointed, but I thought the atmosphere and was well-done and the answers to the past satisfying. The beginning of THE LOST HOURS could use work, but it finishes strong. This novel is available now, and the sequel to THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET, currently title THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET, should be available in November. White is also the author of many other novels.

June 1, 2009

Books of Summer 5/7

Yes, I will finish this list, but there were other things I wanted to post first. (Did you enjoy a full week of reviews? There weren't very many comments, so I doubt I'll be repeating the experiment.)

Book Cover

HIGHWAY TO HELL by Rosemary Clement-Moore

So this one is a little less affordable and a little less wieldly than my previous choices, as it's only available in hardcover. I do know a lot of libraries carry the Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil series, and a library copy is a good way to tide yourself over until the paperback becomes available. (Or maybe you're a little weird and like hardcovers better.) This one is also about Spring Break rather than summer, but we'll give it a close enough.

For those who haven't read the first two books in the series, don't worry. The only overarching plot so far is the main characters getting better at using their abilities and furthering their relationships. The books standalone quite well. Protagonist Maggie Quinn is snarky and capable, as is her best friend Lisa. (And Lisa is quite ready to call any guy out if he tries to be their white knight.) They're stranded in small town Dulcina, Texas when all they wanted to do is hang out on South Padre Island. Once more, Maggie has stumbled upon something that goes bump in the night.

What really struck me about this entry in the series is Rosemary Clement-Moore's addition of two new characters: a Catholic bruja and a seminary student. She does an excellent job of representing and respecting the theology without making it right or wrong. She applies the same weight to Lisa's New Age and science based ideas of how good should fight evil. It would be silly for a series about good and evil, set mostly in the real world, to ignore real theology. But it's also not the place of a YA novel to tell people what to believe. So I like that Clement-Moore handles the subject carefully and always puts telling the story first.

Funny, fresh, and fierce, HIGHWAY TO HELL will distract you from the boring parts of your own road trip. (And make you happy that the exciting parts don't include demons.)


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