Tuesday, May 28, 2013

BEA is Coming!

BEA is tomorrow... TOMORROW!  I still cannot believe that time moved so quickly, and now BEA is actually here.  I am so psyched for these next few days!  It's my first time at BEA, so part of me feels really nervous and a little overwhelmed, but a bigger part of me is just super-happy.

What I'm Psyched for at BEA 2013

  • Meeting my fellow book bloggers
    • I cannot wait to meet all of you out there in the book-blogging world.  It will be so much fun to actually talk face-to-face, and not just in comments.
  • Meeting some authors
    • I have no idea which ones I'll actually get to meet (I didn't know you had to buy tickets for certain "celebrity" authors), but even if I just get to meet one, I'll be doing a happy dance inside for months.
  • Friday's Author Breakfast
    • When I decided to get a ticket for the breakfast, the only author I knew for sure was going to be there was Veronica Roth.  I was on her blog, and her calendar said she'd be there.  So I went to the website to sign up, and OMG!  Rick Riordan's going to be there too!  I love everything he's written and I'm SO psyched to see him.
  • Meeting publishers
    • Has anyone else been contacted by a bunch of publishers/bookish people?  I was really surprised to hear from anyone, but I've scheduled at least one meet with a publishing group.  And I'm excited to meet some of the others because... I'm hoping to promote myself.  Please, PLEASE hire me!
  • FREE Books!
    • I honestly had no idea people got free books at BEA, until I was reading someone else's blog about BEA 2012, and she said she went home with bags of free books.  I was definitely not prepared for that.  I mean, I was already pumped to go, but this is just the icing on the cake!

In case any of you read this before tomorrow, I'm including a more recent photo of me.  It's from March so my hair is different now (much shorter) and I'm ten pounds lighter than I was then, but it'll still give you a good idea of what I look like.  That's me on the right in black, hanging out with my two best friends for their birthdays.  So if you see me there, feel free to say hello!  :) 

Top Ten Tuesday #25

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  It's a freebie week, so I decided to tell you about some of my reading/book quirks.  Everyone has them, whether it's needing a specific type of lighting or only reading a certain size font.  Here's a few of mine.

My Top Ten Reading/Book Quirks

  • "Speed" reading
    • So I can't do that thing you see in the infomercials where people finish a book in minutes, but I do tend to read quickly.  I can finish up to three 300-400 page books in a day, if no one interrupts me.
  • I watch TV while reading...
    • Usually I can read a book and watch a show/movie at the same time, and not miss anything in either.  Of course, if it's a really intense book or show, then I have a harder time.  But if they're "just okay," then it's not really a problem.
  • ...But I can't listen to music.
    • With a TV show, I can always lower the volume/change the channel if it does get too distracting, but with music, I feel like I can't escape it.  And if the tempo doesn't match the book's pace, it throws me off.
  • Temperature is an issue...
    • Ever since college, when I roomed with someone who wasn't comfortable unless it was 80+ degrees, temperature is a big issue for me.  And if I feel too cold (it's almost never too hot), I can't focus on a book.  I'm just thinking about how to get warm.
  • ...But hunger apparently isn't.
    • If a book is really absorbing, I can forget to eat a meal.  I'll just be so far away in another place, that I won't even notice my stomach growling.  It's not until after I've finished the book that I suddenly notice how hungry I am.
  • Matching book covers
    • I am so OCD (anal) about my book covers matching.  I hate when they change the cover style of a series partway through (like Artemis Fowl).  I will go out of my way to make sure my covers match.  For example, I have Divergent in paperback, so now I won't buy Insurgent or Allegiant until they're also offered in paperback.
  • Bothersome book jackets
    • Book jackets annoy me so much.  They're constantly ripping or slipping off.  I usually just remove them when I'm reading a book because they bug me so much.
  • Paperbacks preferred
    • There's just something about the way paperbacks feel, their weight and flexibility, that I prefer over hardcovers.  And maybe I just love paperbacks so much more simply because of how much I dislike book jackets.
  • Print only please!
    • I am so passionately against e-readers.  I already think the world is too dependent on technology as it is, and we're all destroying our eyes with these screens (yes, I realize the irony that I'm saying this on a blog).  The only time I have ever used an e-reader was because Kaitlin Bevis' Persephone isn't available in print form.  And as much as I love the book, I hate the format.  I love paper and ink, and I dread the day when it's no longer available.
  • Blank journal collection
    • I'm not sure how it got started, but I have a blank journal collection.  I go to bookstores and find these beautiful journals and notebooks, and I imagine the awesome things I will write in them... and then I never use them.  So they have now become a collection that I am continually adding to, and maybe will someday actually use.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Ups & Downs of Recommendations: Part 1

Recommending books is a scary thing.

I mean, what if you recommend a book to someone, and they absolutely hate it?  What if it changes their opinion of you, like "OMG how could you even finish this book, let alone like it? There is something wrong with you."  Of course, if they love it, you can give yourself a big pat on the back and take all the credit, but there's a 50/50 chance that won't happen.

If you couldn't tell, I tend to not recommend books unless I am 98% sure that it's going to be a success.  And I'm even less likely to recommend something to someone I know isn't a big reader or who's disliked a past recommendation.  I've mentioned in the past that my younger sister isn't into reading like me.  It's not that she doesn't like reading at all; she only likes books that grab and hold her attention, that don't lag or get bogged down in details.  I've made a couple of good suggestions in the past (Beastly and Austenland), but then I recently advised her to read Altered by Jennifer Rush, and she wasn't a fan.  So I usually try to avoid pushing books on her.

So I was really happy but SUPER nervous when she told me she wanted to read some books over the summer and asked for some recommendations.  Instead of just handing her a pile of books I love, I thought about her past likes & dislikes, her personality, and her preferences before lending her anything.  And I'm fairly confident that she will like... at least half of them.  I'm looking forward to seeing which ones they are, and finding out the reasons why she likes or loathes each book.

My sister's summer reading list
  • Because she likes murder mysteries and Austenland...
    • Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • Because she likes the miniseries Alice...
    • Splintered by A.G. Howard
  • Because the covers intrigue her...
    • Abandon by Meg Cabot
    • Amber House by Kelly Moore, Larkin Reed, & Tucker Reed
  • Because she likes fast-paced, action-packed stories...
    • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • Because she loves Edgar Allen Poe and Frankenstein...
    • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
    • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
    • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  • Because she sometimes likes things that are different/weird...
    • The Selected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick
    • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Library Haul - May 23rd

I ran to the library for the first time in a month and picked up a couple of books.  At least one of them will be discussed at BEA, so I need to read them before next Wednesday.  Which means I'll be taking them with me on the retreat this weekend, along with Under the Never Sky (unless I finish that tonight).

This week's Library Haul:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #24

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.  This week, it's all about book covers.  I honestly wasn't going to do TTT today, not because I didn't like the topic, but simply because I've got so much stuff to do.  But obviously I changed my mind.  These are my favorite book covers from the past few years.

Top Ten Favorite Covers Of Books I've Read (Recently)



Monday, May 20, 2013

Updates & Upcoming

Just got back from a lovely week-long vacation in Disney, and with a whole week off, you'd think I'd get some reading done.  I certainly thought so, because I brought a pile of books with me to Florida.  And how much did I read?  A couple of chapters of Under the Never Sky... and nothing else.  I really enjoyed those first chapters too, but Disney World is just too distracting to focus on reading.

Now I'm back in NJ, and I severely need to get up-to-date with my reading/blogging before BEA.  (It's so close!)  So here's the stuff I want to handle in the next week:

  • Finish and review Under the Never Sky.
  • Read City of a Thousand Dolls and Dualed.
  • Return books to the library and see if I can find:
    • Insurgent by Veronica Roth
    • The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
    • Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald
  • Post the usual features like TTT, as well as some fun finds from Disney.
  • Discuss what I'm most psyched for at BEA.
  • Share the book recommendations I gave my sister and keep updating on whether I was successful or not.
That's all the updates/upcoming ideas I can think of right now, but I'm sure I will think of more later.  And I just remembered that I'm going away this weekend (retreat with my besties!) so I'll have even less time to get it all done.  Will not panic.... maybe.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Book Review: Amber House by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, Larkin Reed

Title:  Amber House
Authors:  Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, Larkin Reed
Series:  The Amber House Trilogy #1
Genre:  YA fantasy/paranormal/Gothic
Pages:  368

Rating:  A

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  Sarah Parsons has never seen Amber House, the grand Maryland estate that's been in her family for three centuries. She's never walked its hedge maze nor found its secret chambers; she's never glimpsed the shades that haunt it, nor hunted for lost diamonds in its walls.

But all of that is about to change. After her grandmother passes away, Sarah and her friend Jackson decide to search for the diamonds--and the house comes alive. She discovers that she can see visions of the house's past, like the eighteenth-century sea captain who hid the jewels, or the glamorous great-grandmother driven mad by grief. She grows closer to both Jackson and a young man named Richard Hathaway, whose family histories are each deeply entwined with her own. But when the visions start to threaten the person she holds most dear, Sarah must do everything she can to get to the bottom of the house's secrets, and stop the course of history before it is cemented forever.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Opening line:  "I was sixteen the first time my grandmother died."

When I saw this book on goodreads, I didn't really give it much thought, especially when I saw it was listed as paranormal.  I don't tend to read a lot of paranormal or ghost stories, but the cover intrigued me.  So when I was at my library, looking for something non-Dystopian, and saw it there on the shelf, I impulse grabbed it.  And I wasn't disappointed.

Amber House is amazing.  It's got plenty of drama and romance and spookiness.  The way they portray the paranormal happenings in the house is interesting.  The focus is more on suspense and history rather than trying to scare you.  I also loved the very Gothic feel of the story with its old Southern plantation mansion and hedge maze.  

The characters have great emotional depth, and even the secondary characters seem real and relatable.  My only complaint (and it's a small one) is that in the beginning of the book, it seems like the authors struggled with the one character's voice.  Sarah's brother Sam is supposed to be five years old, but sometimes he sounds five, sometimes twelve, sometimes three.  They eventually figure out how he should sound, but it threw me off a little in the beginning.  But that's a teeny issue and easy to get past.

I'm so excited to read the next book.  Amber House could easily have been a stand-alone book, especially with that awesome ending.  It blew my mind!  But it also works really well as an epic start to a trilogy.  I hope the next two books are as great as this one.  A

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #23

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is the top ten books you read when you need something light and fun.  I cheated a little.  I'm doing books and authors because there are some authors I love who have multiple books that fit in this category, and I couldn't pick just one.

Top Ten Books & Authors When You Need Something Light & Fun

  • Shannon Hale  -  I love Jane Austen, so Hale's Austenland series is the perfect amount of fluff and romance for me.  The first is just a perfectly cute romance, while the second is a hilarious mystery.
  • Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones  -  Jones is one of my favorite authors, but Howl is my favorite of her works.  It's a cute adventure, and I love how it pokes fun at fairy-tale cliches.
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman  -  Both the movie and the book are light and fun, but I especially love the book for all its author commentary and humorous parenthetical statements.

  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede  -  Wrede is another one of my favorite fantasy authors.  I discovered her books in high school and re-read them all the time when I need a pick-me-up.  This series is probably her best, simply because it has a no-nonsense heroine, lots of humor, and dragons!

  • The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill  -  This book makes me laugh so much.  It chronicles the "true story" of the war between the pushcarts and truck drivers in NYC.
  • Robin McKinley  -  McKinley's fairytale retellings are amazing and unique.  They've got magic, romance, adventure, and humor.  My two favorites are Beauty (a retelling of Beauty & the Beast) and Spindle's End (a retelling of Sleeping Beauty).
  • Sushi For Beginners by Marian Keyes  -  I don't usually read chick-lit, but I love this book.  And not just because my favorite character has the same crazy name as me.  It's just a fun read with plenty of fluff and a brooding love interest, and bonus - it takes place in Ireland (I've always wanted to go there).

  • Louisa May Alcott  -  Alcott will always hold a very special place in my heart, because it was her books that started my love of reading.  I love them because they're sweet and romantic and wholesome.  The books pictured are only a few of her many books that I've read.

  • Rick Riordan  -  I don't think Riordan's written anything yet that I didn't like.  His series are exciting with great characters and plenty of adventure.

  • Georgette Heyer  -  I constantly re-read Heyer's books, especially when in a slump, because they're witty and funny with amazing dialogue, dashing gentlemen, and fun adventures.  I always know that I can rely on Heyer's books to make me laugh and give me the pick-me-up I need.

So what do you think?  Do you agree with any of these?  What are your favorite books when you need something light and fun to give you a boost?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Title:  Seraphina
Author:  Rachel Hartman
Series:  Seraphina #1
Genre:  YA Fantasy
Pages:  451

Rating:  A-

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I got this book from the library for no other reason than the dragon on the cover.  Plus, I also heard some good things from other bloggers, but honestly, it was mostly due to the dragon.  I love all things dragon-related, whether they're books, stuffed animals, figurines, jewelry, etc.

Seraphina is an interesting novel with lots of elements of fantasy, romance, music, and drama.  It actually reminded me a little of The Girl of Fire & Thorns because of its setting and time-period.  Both stories have men in doublets, a religion similar to Catholicism, and heroines who are headstrong but still somewhat unsure of themselves.  I really enjoyed the different take the story has on dragons as well.  Overall, it's a great start to a fantasy series, developing the characters, providing extensive world-building, and setting up what promises to be an epic adventure in the next book.

But that's also the one thing I disliked about the book.  The author spends so much time building her world and characters that it takes a while for the plot to become apparent and for the story to get any momentum to it.  I almost gave up on the book in the beginning because it was taking too long to actually go anywhere.  I'm really glad I didn't though, because once the book finally starts to pick up its pace, it's exciting and nerve-wracking and heartbreaking.

I'm really excited for the next book in Hartman's series.  I only hope that now that she's spent sufficient time setting up her world in Seraphina, her next book will be fast-paced and action-packed.  A-

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Title:  The Eyre Affair
Author:  Jasper Fforde
Series:  Thursday Next #1
Genre:  Fantasy/Mystery
Pages:  374

Rating:  B+

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Eyre Affair is a fun adventure written specifically for book-lovers.  With tons of names, events, and personalities straight out of literature, this book had so many little things that were enjoyable and surprising.

What I loved
  • Thursday Next  -  The main character is sarcastic and sassy; she makes mistakes, but she owns up to them.  She's resourceful and smart.  But she never comes across as too perfect or as a Mary-Sue.  Thursday has her flaws, but they shape her character and give her good emotional depth.
  • Literary references  -  So many good pokes at other books!  I had so much fun finding and recognizing all of the different elements that were pulled from other works of literature.  And the debate over who actually wrote Shakespeare's plays was an interesting story arc.
  • World building  -  This very surreal world that Fforde has built was so cool to explore.  A world where characters can come to life or you can go into a book to observe.  Where the Crimean War has been continuing for over 100 years.  Where people like Winston Churchill never existed, and huge corporations run the world.  Where you can keep a cloned dodo as a pet.  It's a world I definitely would like to check out, but wouldn't want to actually live in.
  • Secondary characters  -  Many of the secondary characters get great character development and depth.  I particularly liked Bowden Cable and Victor Analogy.  And the villain is creepy and evil and the perfect fit for a world that's so obsessed with literature.
What I disliked
  • One chapter of F-words  -  So it wasn't actually a whole chapter, just a portion of one, but I don't understand why people think it's necessary to include the word at all.  I could handle the other profanities, but then I got to this one chapter and it felt like every other word for a couple of paragraphs was the F-word, and that just made me uncomfortable.
  • The romance  -  Most boring and pointless romance ever.  I didn't like Thursday's love interest at all.  Their story seemed unnecessary and just thrown in there for the sake of having a romance in the book. Also I really liked a different guy better, so it was disappointing when Thursday didn't end up with him.  Honestly, it was the most frustrating part of the whole book for me.

Despite that one chapter and the fact that the romance was dissatisfying, I enjoyed The Eyre Affair, and I'll definitely pick up the next book in the series to see what happens to Thursday next (sorry, couldn't help myself).  B+