Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Put This in Your Beach Bag (Top 10 Tuesday)

The Broke and The Bookish's topic this week is:


Books That Should Be In Your Beach Bag


The Ruby Oliver books: The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, The Treasure Map of Boys, and Real Live Boyfriends by e. lockhart
The books are funny, the type of boy you like is bound to be in the series somewhere, and there's nothing that will make you do anything embarrassing in public (like cry).

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
I'm posting my review of this tomorrow, so all I'll say is that I love a book that doesn't take itself too seriously. And there's a pink taser.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
If you want a little more meat with your summer fluff, this is a great book. There's still plenty of fluff, but have your sunglasses handy because this one will make you cry. (And just a content FYI - watch out for the sexual content. One scene in particular is more descriptive than I cared for)

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
It's set during the summer, there's deliciousness, and its' a cute story. But it's also a cryer.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
This is what will be playing while I road trip this summer. I've got to get ready for the movie, after all.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Armchair BEA: Blogging About Blogging

One of the suggested topics today was:

Create a "rule list" of things you should and shouldn't be doing on a book blog.
I'm still a newby to book blogging, so I wanted to highlight some fellow bloggers who exemplify things that make their sites easy to love.

First, make it easy to find your posts.
A search widget or an easily accessible list of reviews will do the trick.

Second, make it easy to see your posts.
Some things are just hard to see on a computer. Certain typefaces, light text on a dark background, or a small font are the big ones for me. A post could be the best thing I've never read because I literally can't read it.

Look at these beautiful, easy to see blogs: Truly Bookish; Jenni Elyse 

Third, make it easy to read your posts.
You know how little kids' books are easy to read because they have lots of pictures and not so many words? I think that formula works for posts, too. I'm so guilty of making a long story longer, but. . . it's one of my goals to make my posts more appetizers than five-course meals.

These guys rock the easy to read review: Forever Young Adult; The Story Siren

How about you? What do you like to see in a blog?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Utah Author Spotlight: Shannon Hale

In the middle of all the Armchair BEA goodness I almost forgot about my Utah Authors Month posts!

I can't let the month go by without mentioning one of the best-known middle grade authors from Utah: Shannon Hale. She's written about a dozen books, and has been around for awhile. But I hadn't read anything of hers until last year when I picked up Princess Academy.

Don't let the name fool you. It's not a silly book about dress up and tea parties. There are mean girls and a Snape-like teacher and drama and suspense and everything else. (also a prince) It blew me away with how good it was. If you only read one thing of hers, make it Princess Academy.

I also recently finished Book of A Thousand Days. It's a retelling of a fairy tale that you probably don't know.  And there's a stinker girl, and some bad guys, and mistaken identity, and adventure. (also a prince)

The thing I like best about Hale's books is that the girl characters are awesome! They're in situations where they could give up, or be really weak. Instead they save the day. Also, they're incredibly literate. I love that being able to read and write is so important for the characters.

And I hate to throw this in, but I know some people only know Shannon Hale's writing from her adult novel, The Actor and the Housewife. Not to be a jerk, but don't judge her by that. It's not a good representation of her abilities. I think middle grade is really her niche.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Can't Come to Utah, Either? Armchair BEA Comes to You

Today's Armchair BEA topic is best books you've read in 2011. But I already posted about that and will again in about a month. So, I'm taking yesterday's topic, which was: introduce yourself.

So this is me!

I grew up in Chicago and moved to Utah for college, which has been home for the last 10 years.
    My grandma, her three kids, me
    & my two siblings, and our kids
I have an older sister and a younger brother. We all live in different time zones now, but not because we don't get along. None of us live in Chicago anymore.
Also, I come from a family of giants (and people with bad vision). I'm nearly 5'8" and am by far the shortest.
    I met my husband in a country dance class. I took it in the hopes I would win DanceSport. He took it to fill a graduation requirement. The rest is history. :)

    My husband Rusty and our little guy
    Some day I would love to teach college. Before I decided to stay home with my kiddo I had a job where I got to co-teach a college class. It was a lot of fun. For now I get all my experience as a Sunday School teacher every other week. It's pretty intimidating, but I like it.
      I wasn't always a reader. Then having a small baby left me with a lot of limited mobility time, so I read. It wasn't until I picked up a series with a smart girl, a magical boy, and another guy who was just kind of there that I became converted. (No, not Harry Potter. Hunger Games. And, yeah, I was team Peeta)

      I read mostly YA, and my favorite genres are dystopian and contemporary.

        Monday, May 23, 2011

        Can't Go to BEA? Come to Utah

        I'm all kinds of jealous of everyone that will be at BEA this week. I'll be right here, blogging away like normal. But don't be sad if you're home like me! Just come out to Utah next Saturday, June 4, for the Utah Festival of Books.

        There won't be ARC's, or free books, or swag. But there will be authors and illustrators and plays and dance groups and book binding and The Princess Bride. I'm not kidding; I can't make that random assortment up. Also, it's being hosted at BYU, which was my Hogwarts for the six years I was a student there. (don't worry - I got two degrees).

        Oh yeah, and it's free.

        In case you need a visual, here is where to find Utah. That red splotch is close to the BYU/Provo area.

        All joking aside, I think the Book Festival will be a lot of fun. I wish I could go (it's 10 minutes from my house!) but I have something that day. So stop over there and say hi to Kiersten White or Ally Condie or James Dashner for me.

        Friday, May 20, 2011

        Read This: Delirium

        by Lauren Oliver

        The Short Story 
        Lena lives in a world where love is a disease. When her mother was infected and met a horrible end, Lena was left to be raised by her aunt. She's waited her whole life to turn 18 and receive the "cure," a surgery that will keep her from the disease. With only a couple of months before her birthday, Lena meets Alex. Suddenly love doesn't seem like such a bad thing, after all.

        Come for the...
        love. I loved this book. I loved watching Lena fall in love. Oliver does a great job of describing what it's like in the beginning of a relationship when your brain turns to mush and you go around in a giddy haze. One of my favorite scenes was when Alex visited Lena at work on the sly. It reminded me so much of when I was dating my husband and wanted to spend as much time as possible with him. Not that I don't still feel that way, just that that level of mania calms down after a while. But who doesn't want to relive those feelings?

        Is Delirium very similar to Matched, Uglies, and The Giver? Indubitably. But I was ok with that because I liked the characters and could feel what they were feeling. You probably won't be surprised by much of the book, but I don't think that's necessary to enjoy it. Like Matched, the real "bad guy" of the story seems to be people themselves. I don't think it's hard to imagine individuals being hurt so badly in relationships that they would choose to feel nothing instead. Just like the description of first love, the reminder of risk and hurt felt very true to life.
        Stay for the
        supporting characters, like Hana and Grace; the motorcycle; the sequel, Pandemonium, out in early 2012.

        Don't think about this too hard
        • I can buy that individual people would want to be "cured" so that they never felt love or pain again, but the idea does fall apart a bit in trying to imagine an entire government would enforce it. Also, the government seemed to punish displays of romantic love but not any of the other types. I'm not sure why.
        • I've seen the writing described as beautiful and descriptive, but it felt wordy in places. Some of the quotes at the beginning of each chapter were like that, too. They stopped the flow of the story for me.

        The Big Three
        Language: Some swearing, including a couple of f-words
        Sex and Stuff: a lot of fairly descriptive kissing/making out and toplessness
        Violence: a couple of violent scenes but nothing is described or gory

        Friday Blog Hop

        Book Blogger Hop

        If you were given the chance to spend one day in a fictional world (from a book), which book would it be from and what would that place be?

        Maybe because it's been prom season around here, I'd pick any of the big fancy dances from Pride and Prejudice. I love to dance, and it's fun to dress up. The clothes back then were probably completely uncomfortable, but I'd be willing to try it out!

        Wednesday, May 18, 2011

        WWW Wednesday

        WWW Wednesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.
        To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
        • What are you currently reading?
        • What did you recently finish reading?
        • What do you think you’ll read next?


        My current read is The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.
        I just heard it was supposed to be good, but didn't know anything about it other than the blurb. It took me a couple of chapters to get used to Lennie's voice, but now I love, love, love it.

        I just finished Delirium by Lauren Oliver & Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart
        Because apparently I am all about love stories lately.
        Delirium was great. I'll post my review on Friday.
        Real Live Boyfriends was hilarious. Ruby is possibly one of my most favorite YA characters. (I still can't tell if the girl on the cover is missing a finger, though, and this perplexes me more than it should)

        Up next, I'm trying to decide what to read. These are the options.

        Book of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale 

        After being imprisoned in a tower, a princess and her serving maid at last escape to find a changed world and danger at every turn.
        This would work for Utah Authors Month

        Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi 

        Since her father’s death four years ago, Donna has gone through the motions of living: her friendships are empty, she’s clueless about what to do after high school graduation, and her grief keeps her isolated, cut off even from the one parent she has left. That is until she’s standing in front of the dead body of a classmate at Brighton Brothers’ Funeral Home. At that moment, Donna realizes what might just give her life purpose is comforting others in death. That maybe who she really wants to be is a mortician. 

        This discovery sets in motion a life Donna never imagined was possible. She befriends a charismatic new student, Liz, notices a boy, Charlie, and realizes that maybe he's been noticing her, too, and finds herself trying things she hadn’t dreamed of trying before. By taking risks, Donna comes into her own, diving into her mortuary studies with a passion and skill she didn’t know she had in her. And she finally understands that moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting someone you love.

        The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

        Ever since the gods of Ancient Egypt were unleashed in the modern world, Carter Kane and his sister Sadie have been in trouble. As descendants of the House of Life, the Kanes have some powers at their command, but the devious gods haven't given them much time to master their skills at Brooklyn House, which has become a training ground for young magicians.

        And now their most threatening enemy yet - the chaos snake Apophis - is rising. If they don't prevent him from breaking free in a few days' time, the world will come to an end. In other words, it's a typical week for the Kane family.

        To have any chance of battling the Forces of Chaos, the Kanes must revive the sun god Ra. But that would be a feat more powerful than any magician has ever accomplished.

        Which would you pick?

        Monday, May 16, 2011

        Mixed Review: The Dark Divine

        The Dark Divine
        by Bree Despain

        The Short Story 
        Grace is a pastor's daughter who tries to live up to her name and family reputation. As a kid she harbored a crush for her brother Jude's friend, Daniel. Then one day Daniel disappeared and Jude came home covered in blood. Years later no one will tell Grace what happened that night. When Daniel shows back up Grace goes looking for answers. An interesting start that ultimately clunked with its anvil-sized hints and cliches.  

        Come for the...
        mysterious loner dude (as they say at Forever Young Adult). I don't really get the appeal of bad boys as love interests, but I do think they make for interesting characters. Daniel steals the show in a book where everyone else feels a little flat and stereotypical. Unfortunately he doesn't keep it up for the whole story, but I enjoyed his character quite a bit for the first half of the book.

        The Dark Divine is a quick read that kept me up much later than I was planning on. Even when I figured out the mystery I was interested to see where Despain would go with it. If you liked Twilight/Shiver/etc. I expect this will be a fun read for you.

        Stay for the
        cover; the completely appropriate title; the name Jude, which I've always liked; the sequel, The Lost Saint

        Why this wasn't a "Read This"
        • A lot of the story centers around the mystery of what happened with Daniel, and I thought it was too easy to figure out. I'm always frustrated when I figure out the big reveal about half-way through the book. I won't say more for fear of being spoilery, but I didn't think the writing was subtle enough to give the effect the author seemed to be going for.
        • I had a hard time relating to Grace. I know she wanted to do the kind, charitable thing and give people the benefit of the doubt, but... Some of her actions were pretty dangerous and not smart. I couldn't understand why she wouldn't push people for answers, either.
        • I felt like I had read this before, and more in a "book twins" than a book brothers kind of way. It was very Twilight/Shiver/character with paranormal problem to me. And that may be because I've only read the first book. Maybe the sequel starts to go its own way?

        The Big Three
        Language: a couple of swear words
        Sex and Stuff: some kissing
        Violence: fighting and a couple of stabbings, but nothing graphic

        Want a second opinion? Check out Jennie Elyse's 5 star review of The Dark Divine.

        Friday, May 13, 2011

        Stop Me If You've Heard This One...

        Yay! Blogger is working again.

        The past couple of weeks I was pretty sick, so I read a bunch of books. And I noticed something that kind of surprised me. I felt like I was reading the same book over and over!

        Well, not exactly. I just read four books (nearly in a row) that started out with very similar plots. Of course, they weren't exactly the same. More like book brothers than book twins. But check out the descriptions and try to guess which book I'm describing.

        Here's a hint: the answer is both.

        The Goddess Test and Wicked Lovely

        Not exactly human guy has problem that can only be solved with mortal girl.
        Bad things will happen to the guy/the world if the problem isn't solved.
        All previous mortal girls have met bad ends.
        Main girl has to decide if she'll help, pass a test, and not get killed by the people out to get her.

        If you can only read one: Wicked Lovely

        Sweethearts and How to Say Goodbye in Robot 

        Characters who feel like they don't fit in with their peers
        Serious family problems
        Intense platonic relationship
        Cool pink cover
        All the sads

        If you can only read one: Sweethearts
        But read them both, just not back to back.

        The Eragon series and The Wheel of Time series 

        Old school fantasy
        Heroes and dragons and swords  (oh my!)
        Long, long, long
        Evil, dementor-like creatures

        My husband brought this one to my attention (I struggle with fantasy) but he says he's enjoyed The Wheel of Time books more.

        So, there you have it. Has anyone else noticed that some of their books start to sound alike after a while? What's an original book you've read recently?

        Wednesday, May 11, 2011

        Read This: The Maze Runner

        The Maze Runner
        by James Dashner

        The Short Story 
        Thomas wakes up in a maze with several other teenage boys. No one knows who they are, how they got there, or what they're supposed to be doing. But once he shows up life in the maze begins to change. The group must find answers before it's too late. Like the movie Inception, I had no idea what was going on in the beginning. Except I still wasn't sure at the end, either. So it's kind of exactly like Inception.

        Come for the...
        action, suspense, and mystery. This is a story about bizarre things happening in a very bizarre setting. I was frustrated with the beginning because I didn't understand what was going on, and no one who knew more would fill Thomas (and the reader) in. But not knowing just increased the feeling of mystery and confusion. Once I accepted that I wasn't going to get answers I started to enjoy what was happening.

        And a lot happens. The maze is dangerous, the grievers are dangerous, and the boys themselves are dangerous. There's a scene where a boy is punished for breaking the rules, and it nearly made my heart stop. Somehow the book managed to have a really intense moment, a break, and then an even more intense moment than before. 
        Stay for the
        names (my favorite was the cook, Frypan); Minho, the story's Joseph Gordon-Levitt; the sequels The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure

        Don't think about this too hard
        • The story is more plot driven than character driven, and I had a hard time getting a feel for some of them. Even though Thomas was the main character, I felt like I didn't really know much about him (possibly because he didn't know himself). I even had a hard time trying to visualize the grievers. Were they cow shaped? Blobs? Circular saws? It's hard to be scared of something that you can't wrap your mind around.
        • I expected that more of the story would be about running around the maze, but it's actually a very small part. I guess "The Maze Runner" makes for a cooler title than "The Confused Boy."

        The Big Three
        Language: A lot of slanguage words like shuck and slint
        Sex and Stuff: not an issue
        Violence: attacking, murderous creatures; fighting; and violent deaths

        Monday, May 9, 2011

        Children's Book Festival

        We have a pretty library.
        Over the weekend I had a chance to take my son to the Children's Book Festival at our library. They hosted children's author/illustrator Yuyi Morales and a bunch of Utah authors and illustrators.

        So, in honor of the fun we had at the book fest, and Mother's Day, these are a couple of children's books I really like.

        Fanny's Dream, written and illustrated by wife and husband duo Caralyn and Mark Buehner. It's a cute take on Cinderella, her prince, and her fairy godmother. The Buehners are also Utah authors/illustrators.

        Mrs. McBloom, Clean Up Your Classroom, written by Kelly Dipucchio and illustrated by Guy Francis. I love the pictures in this one.
        Guy Francis is also a local. He and my husband Rusty were the only male illustrators at a children's book fest last year, so we're fans.

        The Boss Baby, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. The story is so cute, but the pictures are really the star. The boss baby wears a cute little power suit onesie.

        Hope everyone had a good Mother's Day. What are some of your favorite children's books?

        Friday, May 6, 2011

        Follow Friday & Blog Hop - Creepster Edition

        Does anyone (else) feel like they'll sound like a creepy stalker with this week's questions?

        Book Blogger Hop

        "Which book blogger would you most like to meet in real life?"

        Hmm... maybe Amy from My Friend Amy? She brings up a lot of interesting things on her blog and it seems like we have similar tastes in books. Or, Lisa from Read. Breathe. Relax. and Ladybug from Escape In A Book both seem really nice, and I like their reviews.

        But I promise I'm not a weirdo stalker or anything!

        Q. Circle time! Time to share. What character in a book would you most like to be, what character in a book would you most like to date?

        Usually the characters that I relate to go through things I would never want to! So I don't know that there's anyone I would want to be (or date - I've been married for nearly 5 years and definitely prefer my real husband over fake teenage boys) But that's a lame answer.

        So if I had to pick, I'd be Hermione from Harry Potter. She's smart and brave and has great friends. For book boys, I'd pick Nathan Steed (my tween book crush! by a Utah author!) or Peeta Mellark. Because who didn't love Peeta Mellark?

        Wednesday, May 4, 2011

        Read This: Sweethearts

        by Sara Zarr

        The Short Story 
        As a child, Jennifer had the kind of life no one would want - bullies, shoplifting, binge-eating, and feeling alone in the world . . . if not for her best friend Cameron. Then one day he disappears without saying goodbye. Years later Jennifer has reinvented herself as Jenna, a skinny, popular, "normal" 17 year old. She thinks she's done a good job of hiding who she used to be, until Cameron walks back into her life. Heart-breaking, difficult, but ultimately worthwhile read.

        Come for the...
        feeling. I'd read several books that were entertaining, or fun reads, but I hadn't found anything that really stuck with me since I'd finished Jellicoe Road. Then I read Sweethearts, and all the feeling was almost overwhelming. In some ways that makes it a hard book to read, but Zarr is so good at what she does here. I wanted to cry and puke and give Jenna a hug and tell her to give other people a chance and confide in them all at once. And get Cameron's dad put in jail. And get Jenna and Cameron in therapy.

        I think anyone who has ever wanted to reinvent themselves can relate to Jenna in at least a small way. I liked that she wasn't magically ok with herself once she lost weight and got a boyfriend. And I appreciated that she came to recognize a couple of good qualities in her old self. Jennifer experienced more than many people face. This book made me think of The Hunger Games series in that it seemed there was almost no limit to what the characters would be put through. That makes for a scary read, but I think the growth at the end makes it worthwhile.
        Stay for the
        cover, the little Utah quirks (the crummy neighborhood that Jenna grows up in is in West Valley; when there's an unexpected knock at the door they wonder if it's the missionaries, etc)

        Don't think about this too hard
        • I didn't know where else to put this in the review, so it's going here. Throughout the book Jenna flashes back to a very disturbing event with Cameron's abusive dad. It's very disturbing, especially because it takes a while to figure out how far things are taken. I don't know how to talk about it without being spoilery, so I'll just say that this is not a book for young teens.
        • A lot of people don't like the book's ending. I can't help but compare it to Mockingjay. If you didn't like how that ended you'll probably feel similarly about this one. But I still recommend both books.

        The Big Three
        Language: A couple of mild profanities
        Sex and Stuff: an adult intends to abuse children (spoilers: but is thwarted), some kissing, Katniss/Peeta sleepover
        Violence: heavily implied child abuse, bullying

        Monday, May 2, 2011

        It's Utah Authors Month!

        It's Delicate Arch!
        Since I came in a little late for national poetry month in April, I'd better make up for it this time. May is Utah Authors Month! Maw books will be the hub of posts for the month, but I wanted to play along. Mostly because I love living in Utah. I didn't grow up here, but I've lived here long enough now that it's home.

        So this month I will be featuring books, reviews, and maybe an interview or two with Utah authors (and illustrators). I'll probably even do a giveaway! Please vote in the poll and let me know what books you'd like to see. Or leave a comment.

        And now, a couple of questions you probably don't might have:
        Does this mean you'll be reviewing a bunch of Jack Wayland/Gerald Lund/Stephenie Meyer books?
        No. None of them. There are a lot of Utah authors. As far as I know Stephenie Meyer isn't one of them.

        Are there going to be a bunch of religious, or full of Utah/Mormon culture books?
        Also no. There are some great "this makes more sense if you live in Utah/are Mormon" books by Utah authors but I'll be going with more well-known ones.

        Are all the Utah authors you're featuring Mormons?
        No again. In fact my first review will be Sweethearts by Sara Zarr, who isn't. Many of them are, and some I'm not sure about. Like being Catholic in Chicago, or Jewish in New York, you don't have to be Mormon to live in Utah. (But, yes, I am a Mormon.)