Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Summer wouldn't be summer without a last-minute giveaway (for me, that is)

Oh, hey! You should know: I do love my giveaways. I always end up writing a blog post about them--but that's probably because they get me extra entries too, and you know how much of a greedy little slimeball I can be with these kinds of things.

Plus, I can't wait to share them with you anyway. Here goes!

Book Crazy's Firelight giveaway is open only to US/Canada and ends on September 12th. WOAH. That's a whole lotta time to procrastinate (but if I were you, I would definitely not procrastinate on this one).

I am telling you, this cover is made of pure win.

And wow, I thought the excerpt was pretty nice. I'd tap that. :D

Plus, there's more! The amazing Lisa Desrochers is holding a September Debut Author Contest on her blog to celebrate not only her book Personal Demon's debut, but also fellow debut author Kody Keplinger's The DUFF's introduction to society!

Heck yeah, that's a good thing!

Hey! You know, stop staring at me and just enter already.

Because you are definitely going to miss out if you forget.

It ends on September the 24th, which is a long ways away. But trust me, you don't want to miss the chance!

So don't delay, enter today! You know you want to.

Top Ten Tuesday - My Favourite Female Heroines!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list complete with one of our bloggers' answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND sign Mister Linky at the original post to share with us and all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Don't worry if you can't come up with ten every time..just post what you can!

Yes, it's Wednesday. And yes, I'm late for another weekly meme. (Is that ever a surprise anymore?) But I just couldn't resist! Forgive me? I'll even tell you a story.

Tuesday was just around the corner, and I told her, "Good gosh, woman, slow down! You've got me huffin' and puffin', I swear, next time I just might--"

"Blow your house down, I know, I know." She rolled her eyes, just as I was wondering whether the days of the week actually had any body parts. "What do you want now?" Tuesday sighed and bent down to tap my nose, her eyebrow cocked. "You're late for a weekly meme again?"

I sputtered. "No, no, of course not! Since when have I ever been late?"

And that's when she told me to reclaim her day.

Really, I'm just doing my duty, is all. Now to the good stuff!

My Top Ten Female Heroines In No Particular Order, Lest Anyone Think I Have Favourites, Because These Lovely Ladies Are Certainly Strong Enough To Take Me On

1. Katniss Everdeen, from the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Good gosh, is there any list complete without your presence, Ms. Everdeen? She is honestly one of the best female protagonists out there--street-smart, practical, courageous, independent... With such a killer arsenal right there, it's amazing she doesn't get a big head. Yes, her naivete when it comes to her appeal and Peeta's obvious infatuation was a bit irritating. But she made up for it by being such a strong character.

2. Hermione Granger, from the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
This one was a no-brainer. No, I'm definitely not talking about you, Hermione! I mean, I am but--ah, whatever. Hermione's definitely one of my favourites; I mean, I haven't read many books that feature bookish heroines who are still undoubtedly part of the action. She can keep up with Harry and Ron, and even though she sometimes annoys them to their respective boiling points, it's always clear that they need her as much as she needs them. Equals 'til the end!

3. Sarah Agnes Prine, from the Sarah Series by Nancy E. Turner
What can I say, I do love my feisty heroines. Ms. Prine is just one of those stubborn, determined and strong women and I have to say, I love that we get to see her journey from an illiterate 17-year old in 1880s, to a fierce young woman who's far more than just a decent shot, to a married woman with a family and a loving husband. I've only read the first book, These is My Words, but I love Sarah's sharp character so I'm looking forward to reading the rest of her journey.

4. Cassie, from Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Cassie has one of those minds rooted firmly into reality--so when the Polar Bear King comes to visit during a snowstorm, just like the stories that her Grandma told her when she was little, she thinks it's all a hallucination. Big mistake!

Oh, Cassie was such an amazing character to read about. She's definitely her own person; she has doubts, she second-guesses about giving up her dreams to pursue true love and finds a way to make it all work. And when the consequences catch up to her, she uses her courage and her intelligence to solve what may be an impossible quest. Just wow.

5. Jessica Packwood, from Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Like Cassie, Jessica is logical. To sum it all up, her favourite subject is Math. So when Lucius Vladescu visits her home and tells her that she's a Romanian vampire princess and that he has to marry her to prevent a full-scale vampire war, she thinks he's two nuts short of the loony bin.

And, as you can tell with Cassie, I just love this sort of reaction. It's so realistic! How would you react if it happened to you? There's no question of her intelligence--not too mention, she's also a competitive horseback rider! She definitely has a good head on her shoulders, this one.

6. Frederica, from the eponymous novel by Georgette Heyer
There's something about Heyer that I just love--her Regency romances are the wittiest little packages you'll ever read and the romance is well-developed too. Frederica is my favourite Heyer--no doubt about it!

Frederica is a spinster, who has her hands full what with her excitable little brothers, a beautiful sister who needs help with her come-out, and quite possibly the most delightful dog in the history of the world (ever!). She's genuinely selfless, patient, and sensible--definitely not a silly chit nor a dull bore. Plus, she has the most wicked wit, which is made apparent in her exchanges with her cousin, the handsome Marquis of Alverstoke. Such a delight!

7. Jena, from Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Whenever I think of the words "Favourite book" I think of Wildwood Dancing immediately. It's not only because the plot is just amazing, the writing style poetic, and the premise just marvelous. (A retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses! In Transylvania!) It's actually because of the quiet well of intelligence and strength that is Jena.

She's the practical one out of all five sisters of Piscul Dracului in Transylvania, and she views herself as the plain sister. But she doesn't wallow in self-pity--she helps her father run his business as merchant, and once disaster strikes, she's the one who stands up and takes responsibility. Admirable, I'll have to say. And seriously, her pet frog Gogu? I love his role in all of this.

8. Ella, from Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Ella was such a joy to read--a spunky, stubborn heroine who endures a whole lot of bad (due to her 'gift' of obedience) but not without putting up a fight! The thing I love most about her is how, instead of turning her into a dull mindless vegetable (not that I have anything against vegetables), her curse actually intensified her stubbornness. And I found it heartening to have such a strong female character who isn't afraid to love, and knows the true meaning of love.

9. Antonia Lucia Labella, from The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas
What can I say? I absolutely loved Antonia's voice. She was so hilarious, what with her flirting techniques, the letters she sends to the Pope as she hopes to become the first living saint, and the snippets of her family life that you see through her narrative.

She's witty, and has a very warm and genuine belief in her religion. She doesn't come across as preachy at all--actually, I forgot I was reading something religious! She's probably the most ordinary out of this lot, but I just admire her for the strength of her convictions. Even though she's probably not going to get that Living Saint title, she doesn't lose hope. And I just loved that.

10. Katsa, from Graceling by Kristin Cashore
She's like Katniss, except she's in a fantasy instead of a dystopian. Look, even their names are similar! Okay, I'm not suggesting that plagiarism has occurred; I mean, two amazing, strong, talented and smart heroines are not necessarily a bad thing.

But here's the thing: though they do have similarities, Katsa definitely shines on her own. The true nature of her Grace was a bit too much for me; but her humanity and her vulnerability, evident even when she was trying her best to appear untouchable (perhaps heightened because of it), is enough to guarantee her a spot on this rambling list.

Check out the original post @ The Broke and The Bookish for other lists, the chance to join in, and Kimberly's original Top Ten!

Twilight Got Banned?

I'd never given much thought to how I would die-- though I"d had reason enough in the last few months-- but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this...

So begins the book that started it all--fangirls, fanboys, movies, merchandise, a whole slew of 'Unofficial Guides', the recent surge in paranormal romances in the YA section, some Bella Swannabes anxiously sighing and waiting for their own Edward Cullens...and the revival, if I may hazard to say, of the young adult genre.

And by revival, I'm not saying that Stephenie Meyer is the Queen of YA and that we must all bow down to Her Graciousness. No, what I mean is that a whole slew of reluctant readers, a new generation of teens, have suddenly discovered a whole genre catering to their wants, needs and desires. They're buying books, reading books, sighing over books, recommending books, reading books, squealing over books and well, they're reading books.

And I'm totally loving that.

At one point, I was a hardcore Twi-nut. Seriously. I had chapter headings, exact word-for-word quotes, descriptions, and scenes memorized. I fantasized about Edward, felt how it was to be awkward, clumsy, plain Bella Swan, swooned at the Meadow scene, started guarding my thoughts (just in case someone was listening), scoured the Internet for fanfiction, and even chose my vampire superpower once I was turned. (It was lightning speed reading skills, by the way).

And it came at pretty good time in my life too--I was this awkward, insecure, perpetually bored newly teenaged girl, waiting for some excitement in my life. Okay, let's face it. I still am awkward, insecure, teenaged girl, but back then, I was nursing an insane crush and was letting my thoughts roam all over the place. I was desperate for some romance in my life and I sure as heck wasn't going to embarrass myself to get it.

Then I read a book review on Twilight in the local youth paper, and I thought, "Ooh, vampires. That sounds like it might freak out my mom." Then I noticed the word 'romance'. And I knew that I just had to get it.

-insert Edward Cullen obsession here-

Needless to say, I found it perfect. I reread the book 6 times before I branched out to fanfiction. And after that got a bit repetitive, I started looking for novels with the same bite (pun intended) that would propel me into the heady swooning-sighing-reading rush that I got from Twilight.

Four years later, I can't read the book without having to skim, thinking of creepers and getting furious over Bella's passivity. But one thing hasn't changed: I haven't stopped reading.

The reader in me (missing since childhood) returned the day I read that book review. And I have to thank Stephenie Meyer for that. If it wasn't for Twilight, I probably wouldn't be as voracious a reader of the YA genre, nor would I have been compelled to find quality literature.

And I swear, books have taught me way more than those four walls I'll be confined in starting next week.

They showed me injustice, evil, intolerance, hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness, along with the consequences and the best way to conquer them. They showed me courage. (I'm looking at you, Atticus Finch.) They showed me love.

But they also showed me that there will always be a little piece of evil in the world, and sometimes it will be overwhelming. Yet, instead of being cowed, we should stand up and stare it right in the eye.

And well, censorship is one of those evils. The fact that such a squeaky clean book like Twilight has been dubbed "sexually explicit" with "offensive language" and then subsequently banned just strikes me.

Because now I'm thinking about those other teenagers, teenagers like me who might have been bitten by the reading bug earlier on but have pretty much forgotten the allure of the written word. Teenagers who could benefit so much more from reading a good book. Reluctant readers who might not discover the power of literature because of this ban, which is just shameful.

Because I just know how good that reading rush feels.

On a side note: I am perfectly aware that Twilight is not exactly quality literature, seeing as it promotes abusive relationships, unhealthy co-dependence and just about the weakest female protagonist I have ever read about.

But the way I see it, Twilight is just the appetizer in a full-course literary extravaganza--it makes you eager to devour other similar books, and with the help of a good librarian (or maybe those fanfiction profiles), finding better books (with a much more active heroine, please) won't be such a daunting task.

Plus, some good news! After four days, the school lifted the ban on Twilight. I'm by no means an advocate for the series, but teens should be able to answer the famous "To read or not to read?" query for themselves.

Waiting on Wednesday: The DUFF

For a second there, I was considering titling this post Waiting on Wednesday: School but I just couldn't bear to torture myself like that. It's true; I really don't want to go back just yet. It feels like summer's just started!

But I digress.
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine. It's where yet-to-be-released books are given the spotlight--so other readers can salivate over gorgeous covers and begging to be read summaries. Plus, anything that involves an enticing new discovery is always a good thing in my books (har har).

My pick for this week is The DUFF by Kody Keplinger.

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Ah, I can just imagine the whip-smart dialogue, dramatic scenes and a chunky hunk of substance (no pun intended). I've been on the prowl for some edgy contemporary YA, so finding out about this one had me practically farting rainbows.

Except I wasn't nearly as impressive as this guy.

And the best part? The DUFF is releasing on September 7th, 2010! Which is NEXT WEEK. This means we all have a legitimate excuse to ditch school--I mean, have a nice pick-me-up after the requisite Welcome-Back lectures.

Okay, so maybe you don't go to school, or school has already started, or you're done school (LUCKY YOU)--then call in sick, take advantage of post-summer confusion and pretend you thought it was still summer, or just skip the deceit and spread the word!

So what were your picks this week?

Banned Books Reading Challenge and Ban This! 2010

You know, I've never really understood how people could immediately dislike something without fully getting to know it, letting it sink in and understanding exactly what it stood for. I mean, even mundane things like Justin Bieber, or that nasty-looking seaweed salad, or perhaps even that sweater Lola lovingly made for you.

But I'm not here to talk about that, interesting as those topics may be. I'm talking about -shudder- school novel study units.

On one hand, I really despise being unable to choose my own book. For the past few years, I've always thought picking my own would lead to greater enthusiasm for the actual work. I mean, I have a TBR pile that'd probably be able to go around the world twice. Why can't I choose my novel from there?

And these are only my library books.
(Sorry for the low quality; I'm only using my laptop's shoddy webcam)

On the other hand, I'm intrigued by the idea of trying out something new--something that could easily become a favourite of mine (or the ultimate dud), something that otherwise I might not have checked out on my own.

Definitely not a dud.

I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird in my Grade 9 English class vividly--and I'm sure my English teacher does too. I'm one of those non-concise students who just loves to ramble on, and on, and on (as you could probably tell)--and it shows in my writing. You could just imagine the look on his face when I handed in an 11-page response journal!

But that's just the thing--I loved having the opportunity to analyze TKAM from every angle, just musing about the courageous, admirable and just plain human characters and their struggles through racism, injustice and hypocrisy.

Gosh, I loved precocious Scout, and her too awesome for words father, Atticus Finch. Seriously. (For my next response journal, my English teacher nervously told me to shorten it a bit. Was 8 pages short enough, Mr. Rossi?)

He should have invested in one of these.

And I can't imagine not having that opportunity. When I read about the high school that banned TKAM in 2009, I was shocked. And very angry. Seriously? At this day and age, when freedom of speech is considered a right and not a privilege? And all because one parent complained about foul language!

That Grade 10 English class missed out on a rich, tragic but hopeful American classic. I sure hope they all bought themselves a copy anyway, just because it would've been a sin to miss.

I firmly believe that everyone has the right to read and write whatever they want--whether it be a picture book about gay penguins, the hauntingly beautiful coming-of-age tale of a Jewish girl during the Holocaust, or self-mutilation.

Seriously, who would have the heart to ban such a lovely picture book?

It isn't right to limit the choices of a large group of people just because a few found it "inappropriate for the age group". Hey, to each his own, right? Censorship is that dictator breathing heavily over your shoulder--the combined breaths of hissing, controlling snakes--but we shouldn't let ourselves be cowed. That dictator can be conquered! (Now I sound like an infomercial. Hmm.)

Keepin' 'em innocent and pure!

And that's why initiatives like the Banned Books Reading Challenge, Banned Books Week, and Ban This! are important. Never underestimate the impact of a good awareness campaign, as a leader of my school's Gender Justice club put it. After all, isn't knowledge power? It is imperative that we educate ourselves on issues that threaten our freedom. Nothing's better than an open mind, I'd say.

One book's banning is another voice crushed, stifled and left in the dark. Why should we stand aside and let that happen?

September 25th to October 2nd is Banned Books Week but Donna @ Bites is starting up the whole shindig early and starting her campaign on September 1st. And hey, Steph @ Steph Su Reads is holding the Banned Books Reading Challenge 2010 from September 1st to October 15th.

That said, I love the idea behind the BBRC 2010. Thanks to Steph @ Steph Su Reads for hosting it and Donna at Bites her amazing month-long campaign (not to mention that powerful post)! You guys should definitely check them out.

At least in the blog sense. But I digress.

My goal for this 1 month and 15 day challenge is 12 books! They're going to be predominantly YA and one of them is a collection of teen writing! Saying I'm tremendously excited is a severe understatement. I'm so lucky that my library isn't the banning kind.

My Picks:

1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
4. Heartbreak and Roses: Real Life Stories of Troubled Love by Janet Bode and Stan Mack
5. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
6. One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
7. Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Writers from WritersCorps
8. Looking for Alaska by John Green
9. The Boy Book: a Study of Habits and Behaviours, plus Techniques for Taming Them by E. Lockhart
10. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
11. Shattering Glass by Gail Giles
12. Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

To get into the swing of things, I'll also be posting reviews of some banned books I had previously read. Soon, very soon.

1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
3. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
4. Carrie by Stephen King

Here's the post where I talk about being a former Twi-hard, the insane fact that Twilight got banned in Orange County, and mention freaking out my mom.

Here's to hoping you all have amazing reading (and learning) experiences throughout the challenge's duration!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teaser Tuesday(s)!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Miz B at Should be Reading. It's a fun little initiative--and anyone can play along! Just grab your current read, let the pages magically fall onto a spoiler-free page and pick 2 teaser sentences to share with other book bloggers. Don't forget to share the author and title, so other people can put the book on their TBR pile if they absolutely love your tantalizing excerpt.

So anyway, this is my first one and I am drastically late. Not a very good first impression, if I must say.

This week's read is These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901, Arizona Territories - A Novel by Nancy E. Turner.

It is simply beautiful; historical fiction done right and I just love it! I'm almost finished and I'm dreading getting to the end because I love the characters too much.

Enough of my rambling; I'll save it for the review. I'll let the book speak for itself.

"I never did hear what happened down there, but Tucson is a rough old cob of a town, and people that live there just have to be ready to duck or draw. In my deep pocket, my kitchen pistol was banging against my leg, and I thought, I am a hard woman, for sure, not genteel like Savannah, not as I wanted to become at all. Maybe when times simmer down I will be able to walk around without a sidearm in my pocket and a rifle under my wagon seat like an outlaw." p.143

So my excerpt's longer than two sentences. Tsk, tsk, how shameful--late for my first post and already breaking the rules. But I hope you all forgive me because this one is actually a very good impression of how the novel is like--and what a great, great novel it is!

See you next Tuesday!

HUGE Back-To-School ARC Giveaway right here!

What better way to get into the swing of things than with an awesome back-to-school giveaway filled to the brim with ARCs (some signed!) of books I'm sure everyone's been dying to read about?
Something wicked this way comes

Well, those awesome people over at Reading Teen is doing exactly that (and making the transition back to school a whole lot easier for me)! You have 'til September 24 to enter and you can even be eligible for more entries if you tweet a whole lot 'til then.

Seriously, what have you got to lose? I know I'm eyeing The DUFF in that pile (though it certainly is hard to pick just one!).

So come on, go enter! You know you want to.

Cool Hunger Games Promotion at Hot Topic!

Hot Topic is hosting a cute Hunger Games promotion through a Facebook app. All you have to do is answer 4 Hunger Games trivia questions correctly. The catch is, you're only given 5 seconds per question to answer so it gets pretty hectic!

If you win, you get a coupon for a free poster you can redeem at any Hot Topic location near you.

Ariel @ Must Love Books has tried it so she can vouch for its veracity. (She's the one who linked me!) I'm going later to claim it because I really want a cool poster for my room.

The only poster I have right now is a CH-124 SEA KING Maritime Helicopter from the Canadian Air Force and it's feeling lonely.

There's something to be said for the combination of grim determined pilots and a pink background.

So anyway, if you think you got the smarts, check it out! Hot Topic mainly serves US, with two stores in Canada, and a few stores in Puerto Rico so this isn't exactly international. But it's still a fun app to try, so try regardless!

And I thought NaNoWriMo was insane!

I was reading the Life section of the Epoch times a couple of days ago and this article jumped out at me.

Basically, it's about this 3 day novel writing extravaganza (!) started in Canada (but open internationally) where you're supposed to write a full novel in, that's right, three days.

I'm not too sure how long a submission should be to be considered a novel for this contest (possibly the same as NaNoWriMo?), but all the same, I think that entering that contest would just be insane.

Which is why I'm going to put this on my Bucket List. No, seriously.

The youngest entrant in this contest is a very daring 9 year old and the oldest is an amazing 83 year old. If they can do it, then I sure can!

Though I'm going to try for NaNoWriMo first. Let's see what 50,000 words in one month will do to my sanity this November! (As an experiment, of course.)

What do you think? Would you enter? Or would you run screaming in the opposite direction?

Logged in, checked my Dash, scroll, scroll, OMG

So yesterday I was counting down the minutes to Paranormalcy's release (just like everyone else was, I'm sure) with my friend on MSN.



And yes, my friend and I like to abuse Caps Lock like there's no tomorrow.

After that I had to tell her that it was going to be the awesomest book EVER but I wouldn't be able to read it 'til Christmas (that is, if I was able to convince my parents to buy me a shiny copy at all). And that I was so psyched but at the same time disappointed that I couldn't immediately go out and read it at the library.

And then I logged in this morning and saw the most amazing sight ever.

My first giveaway win! YAY!

Thanks so much for the contest Jade!

You rock (and not just because you gave a salivating girl the object of her desire)!

At First Sight by Catherine Hapka (Simon Romantic Comedies)

Description from Goodreads:

In At First Sight, when Lauren meets the perfect guy at the planetarium, she feels like the stars have finally aligned in her favor. The only problem is she met him in the dark and they never got a good look at each other… or got each other’s names.

Now, Lauren must take matters into her own hands and find the mystery guy before she loses him forever.

I was in the mood for one of those lighthearted, delightful little books with a cutesy premise and a swoon-worthy romance. Suffice to say, I didn't get exactly what I wanted.

At First Sight definitely has the cutesy premise down to pat. There's Lauren, the girl who constantly plays it safe, the one who perpetually lives in her effervescent best friend Britt's flirtatious shadow.

Then there's the mysterious cuter-than-cute guy wearing a Maybe There is a Beast shirt she spies across from her during the planetarium trip. During said trip, they have an insane connection and both of them know that this is the promise of something really special.

But oh my good gosh, they don't know each other's names! How will they find each other in that sea of fish? Simple! Facebook. Duh.

This came across as fresh at first. It came with some realistic teen dialogue, though some of the slang used got me a bit confused since I'm not exactly 'hip with the cool kids'. There were a couple of awkward bits but that's just a minor complaint.

The thing is, it got a bit tedious because of Lauren's internal conflict with the constant "No, I need to play it safe. Oh, but at the same time, I just want to break loose!" going on. Don't get me wrong, I'm cautious too, but I just thought this went on for far too long, the constant back and forth.

And what was the deal with Riley? I mean, I liked him, but I didn't really feel this supposed special connection. I was told about it, but it didn't make me feel it. And that twist at the end seemed very out of character--and very thickheaded of him too. By the end, I wasn't convinced; it was just too little, too late.

This book did have some redeeming qualities to it: I loved Lauren's parents, and I wish they could have been fleshed out a bit more. Britt, while typically boy-crazy, was a pretty nice character. And some of Riley's friends stood out because of their personalities.

Overall, I suppose it was a cute read at first that quickly turned tedious. Not exactly my type of romantic comedy, but there you go.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Monday, August 30, 2010

Make It Up Monday Issue #2 Submission

So I found this awesome blog through the Blogs of Note feature on my Dashboard--and, at risk of sounding redundant, I think it's pretty awesome. 52 Weeks of Wordage, maintained by Stef, is a blog essentially about writing--chronicling its highs, lows and the curve balls along the way. There are also awesome slice-of-life posts, which are often charming and warmly humourous.

Aside from going through a list of writing exercises, Stef also hosts a weekly contest called 'Make it Up Monday' where the rules are simple. Every Monday, she'll be posting a lovely picture and the goal is to cook up something creative, write it down, don't make it too long and submit it in the comments section. More details here.

Well, I thought this was a snazzy idea and said to myself, "Hey, why not join?" I needed the writing exercise anyway.

This week's picture this lovely little thing down here:

Courtesy of Getty Images

And this here's my entry:

It's not so much as the inconvenience of having to wait for the car to get fixed, it's just the things you can't quite fix yourself.

Things that aren't physically incapacitating but still leave your heart gaping, a hole that mercifully you've become numbed to. But it still doesn't change the fact that there's still an emptiness inside you yearning to be filled.

"Car's ready," he says, a shaky smile appearing reluctantly on his face.

He wipes a bead of sweat from his forehead and looks at you with guarded eyes, cautious eyes--and as much as you want to return that smile, you can't.

Because whatever this little road trip was supposed to do, no matter how much "bonding" the two of you share in these next few days, you know that nothing can mend these hollow memories, these neglected years.

Because how do you fix something that wasn't there in the first place?

You should definitely check this blog (and weekly contest) out! You can submit entries until Thursday at 5 PM, so there's plenty of time.

Anywho, cheers!

Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph

High school senior Teresa Adams is so painfully shy that she dreads speaking to anyone in the hallways or getting called on in class. But in the privacy of her bedroom with her iPod in hand, she rocks out doing mock broadcasts for Miami's hottest FM radio station, which happens to be owned by her stepfather.

When a slot opens up at The SLAM, Tere surprises herself by blossoming behind the mike into confident, sexy Sweet T to everyone's shock, she's a hit! Even Gavin, the only guy in school who she dares to talk to, raves about the mysterious DJ's awesome taste in music. But when The SLAM announces a songwriting contest, and a prom date with Sweet T is the grand prize, Sweet T's dream could turn into Tere's worst nightmare. . . .

Shrinking Violet was a pretty darn cute book--and very nicely written, considering that it was Danielle Joseph's debut novel.

Really, it was quite lovely, especially the ending (which I just swooned over) and a realistic and poignant plot. Yet in hindsight, I'd have to give it a 3.5. Let me explain.

For starters, the tantalizing summary at the back got me thinking that this was going to be a fast-paced book; on the contrary, it takes a while for Tere to muster up enough confidence to talk (with more than one-word answers) to becoming a DJ for The SLAM. At the time, I really wanted a light book with a fast plot, so I suppose all it takes for that kink to straighten itself out is the proper mood.

Being a shy person myself, I was able to relate to Tere on a number of levels--and her character got me flipping the pages to see how the author was going cure her extreme shyness. While I thought her development was a little choppy and could've used a bit more smoothing out, it was fun to watch Tere (or Sweet T) finally gain some confidence. She was such an underdog that I really wanted to see her speak her rather self-deprecatingly humourous, intelligent mind.

That said, the supporting characters and antagonists fell a little flat for me. I had problems particularly Tere's mother (whom I definitely could not sympathize with) and Stacy, mean girl extraordinaire. Though the reason for her mother's callous treatment is given, I didn't think there was enough build-up in the book to actually make the sentiment stick. And personally, I just didn't get why popular girl Stacy would want to pick on shy Tere.

I really wish that Audrey, Tere's best friend, got more screen time. She was a character who had potential and could've made the reading experience richer. And I definitely wanted more Gavin, who was Tere's utterly sweet, cute love interest! Theirs was a very cutely done romance and I wanted more interaction between them.

Joseph's writing style was solid laced with some poetic imagery and shots of humour. And the themes of image, identity and confidence are explored adequately in this novel, so I'd recommend giving it a try.

Overall, I would say that Shrinking Violet is a pretty good debut novel; it just needed a little bit of tweaking with the characters, is all.. I'd totally give Danielle Joseph another try--Indigo Blues sounds awesome!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (added .5 for the predictable but sweet, sweet ending!)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Blogger Hop: Aug 27-30th

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer over at Crazy-for-Books and it's a fun way to connect with other book bloggers, make new friends, and just get into the whole community aspect of the blogosphere. It lasts from Friday-to-Monday because the best BOOK PARTIES are the ones that last for a whole weekend. :D

This is my first time with the Hop and I know I'm ever-so-late for this week. The thing is, I couldn't wait until next week's Hop so I'll just have to settle for two raucous days of partying. Woo hoo!

This week's question:

Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?

Well, actually I do! I use the usual 1-5 scale of rating books (though that may change in the future into rubber duckies or toilets, depending on my mood) and sometimes, I'll throw in the occasional .5 just to mix things up a little bit.

This is just because it's easier for me to gauge how much I liked something versus would I really recommend it to some random person off the street. My cut-off rating is a 3; this basically means that aforementioned random guy from the street will not be getting a glowing recommendation from me for the book. Higher than that and you have yourself a screaming fangirl.

Anyway, all this talk about rating systems has got me in the mood for writing reviews. Toodles for now, that is until next week! Thanks for stopping by!

Yay Or, I found another giveaway!

Woopdeedoo, so I'm guessing you were either intrigued by my title, or you just really want some new books, or both. Whatever, you found your way here. Enough with the dilly-dallying; here's the latest giveaway I happened to stumble upon.

Yep, that's right. These two beauties are being given away at Jade Hears Voices until August 30th internationally. Isn't that just wonderful?

And oh my gosh, check THIS one out for size!

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. A sweet-looking hardcover of Mockingjay is being given away at P. J. Hoover's blog ROOTS IN MYTH until September 3, 2010 (which is the last Friday of summer, boo hoo!). Internationally too, I'd like to add.

So go ahead and enter both of these awesome giveaways--you know you want to!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Warrior Princess by Frewin Jones

It takes just a moment for fifteen-year-old Branwen's life to change forever. In the blink of an eye the Saxons attack and her brother is killed. Almost as quickly, she is sent away from her home to a neighboring stronghold where she'll be safe from harm. Now Branwen lives as a princess should—surrounded by exquisite things and lavish quarters. But deep down remains the soul of a warrior.

Just when Branwen is sure she has been pushed to her limits, a chance encounter with a mystical woman in white forces her to question everything—and everyone—around her. With no time to lose, Branwen must make a choice: continue in the path her parents intended for her . . . or step into the role of true Warrior Princess.

Beautiful. That was the first word I thought of as soon as I finished this book. I'm serious. Warrior Princess is one of those finely-crafted fantasy novels where nothing feels forced and everything just flows.

Jones has an impeccable writing style--descriptive and quite delicious. It simply involves you into the story; it gets your imagination going, your heart racing and your mind hurrying to catch up.

This was the book that set me onto my brief I-am-going-to-read-everything-about-historical-Europe phase. It's just that good.

I mean, sure, the pace sometimes bogs down a bit. There was quite a bit of description at times; I can only take so much exposition, you know? There were also some times when I got irritated with the main character, Branwen, but maybe that was just me. But the way her character developed was done so smoothly that it soothed all those flare-ups of frustration like a balm. Pardon the purple prose.

And the plot? Ah, but it was magical; literally. Here's hoping I don't sound too redundant: ancient magic, prophecies, a dash of romance, heart-pounding action--need I say more? Add in some rousing ballads, strong characters whom you genuinely want to get to know (and can definitely relate to), and a fascinating, detailed look into historical Europe and you've got yourself a winner.

The cover's a nice bonus too. It's what drew me into picking up the book in the first place.

I am so looking forward to picking up the next in the series, Destiny's Path. Now if I can just get through all 50 of these books before their due dates...

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends -- her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over.

Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.

This is Alice's story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.

Wow. Just wow. Reading this novel was truly a heart-wrenching experience. If you need more convincing on that point, how's about I tell you that it took me three weeks to read this book?

And this isn't because it was mind-numbingly boring, nor were there any slips in the writing (more on this later). It was simply because the story tore into me so much that, at one point, even though I was only 50 pages away from the end I just had to stop.

I didn't pick up the book until two weeks later, when I thought I would be able to handle it.

This was an uncharacteristic move on my part. Living Dead Girl, at that point, couldn't have me flipping the pages fast enough. The writing is stark in that it simply cuts through you kind of way, and the way Elizabeth Scott paints pictures and scenes without resorting to overly descriptive or gruesome language is remarkable.

Again, it just slices through you. The emotions are presented to you right there with no pretense. The narrative flows with brutal elegance. And with the way it was written, it could easily have been a novel in verse; it was broken poetry, pieced together in a fragile, sharp fashion.

Our protagonist, Alice, was human. She evolved. She made you feel. Her character was painted so frankly, with skill; she didn't ask you to like her, she had her faults. Just read it; you'll know what I mean.

And the antagonist, Ray, was a terror. He gave me the chills, he was that horrifying.

I just thought that maybe the other characters should have been a bit more developed. But really, that's just a minor quibble compared to how much I liked the book.

Reading Living Dead Girl was one of those dark, visceral experiences that I'll never forget. Even after two weeks of staying away from the story, I couldn't let go. Every scene had been branded into my mind and no matter how hard I tried to distract myself, there it stayed at the back of my head. It's shocking, it's harrowing and it's important. It must be read.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Note: Due to some graphic content, I'd recommend this book for the older end of the YA spectrum: ages 15 and up.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Four Month Reading Challenge Part Four -- woot, last minute joining in. :D

So I've heard of these so-called reading challenges--and hey, I'll be the first to admit, I'd always been intrigued. Now that I do have a blog, I'm pretty happy that I can try one out and track my progress on it (and all in the name of good fun too)!

It's being hosted @ She Read a Book and it's supposed to stretch for four months, from July 1st to October 31st (I'm dreadfully late, aren't I?). I'm going to count the books I've read prior to joining in on the challenge, so the situation isn't so dire as that.

So here goes my first challenge ever. Woo hoo! Here's to hoping I get a respectable number of points.

Points so far: 125 out of 250 points

5 Point Challenges

Read a chick lit book

Jet Set by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman

Read a name with a proper name in the title

Pick: Venetia Kelly's Travelling Show by Frank Delaney

Read a historical fiction book

Pick: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Read a book with a one word title

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Read a book made into a movie

Pick: Push: a novel by Sapphire

10 Point Challenges

Read a book with a Civil War theme (any country)

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (hey, it did have some Civil War themes!)

Read a Biblical fiction book

Pick: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Read a hardcover book

Pick: These is my Words: the diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 by Nancy E. Turner

Read a book about a king or queen

The Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison (a fictional king, for me!)

Read a book set in France

Pick: The French Mistress: a Novel of the Duchess of Portsmouth and King Charles II

15 Point Challenges

Read a book by an author you’ve never read before

The Glass Slipper by Eleanor Farjeon

Read a biography or autobiography

Charles and Emma: the Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Read a book with a number in the title

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

Read any book and then post a review

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Read any book but read it outside

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

20 Point Challenges

Read a book in a series AND the one after it

Princess of the Midnight Ball and Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Read a book that was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Pick: Ironweed by William Kennedy

Read a book considered Christian fiction

Pick: The Measure of a Lady by Deeanne Gist (light, historical romantic Christian fiction, that's for sure)

Read a book from The Modern Library Top 100

Pick: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Read a book by an author born in July, August, September or October

Pick: The Great Gatsby/Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is going to be a lot of fun, I can tell. :D

Booking Through Thursday: Meme of Reading Questions

btt button

I got this from Lorette‘s blog and couldn’t resist adopting it for all of you.

Ooh, how delightful! One of those long questionnaire things. I haven't done one of these in a while, so this will prove quite a challenge to complete.

1. Favorite childhood book?
Hmm... I'd have to go with my much-loved copy of Maria Elena Paterno's The Girl who Fell From the Sky and Other Classic Philippine Legends. I was always a lover of fairy tales and dramatic legends with vengeful gods and some rather dim-witted (as I liked to observe back then) people. I loved Albert Gamos's illustrations; it was impossible to tire of inspecting every nook and cranny of his drawings. I miss it; I have no idea where it went.

2. What are you reading right now?
Uh, technically Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott but right now, I'm in the mood for some lighthearted fiction (preferably of the romantic variety). My shelf currently contains a lot of heavy reads (a.k.a. eating disorders, disfigurement, date rape). The lightest I have is The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare and it's gotten great reviews, so I've started that. Sure, it deals with accusations of witchcraft but apparently there's a sprinkling of romance, so I'm clinging to that. :D

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
I have lots of books on request; 14 of them in fact. Lemme go check my account. -is back- This is going to take a while. Aurelie: a fairy tale by Heather Tomlinson, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Changeover: a supernatural romance by Margaret Mahy, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCollough, The Season by Sarah Maclean, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, Soulless by Gail Carriger (which I've just recently finished, the precise reason why I'm in an amorous mood), The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne (put on hold long before reading Soulless), Stolen by Lucy Christopher (particularly eager for this one), Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn (been longing to read one of her books, specifically because of the numerous accolades she's received).

In short, mainly YA, mainly romantic, some fantasy, some adult. But boy, do I love them books.

4. Bad book habit?
Hmm... I'm particularly iffy (a.k.a. scrupulously careful) when it comes to books. I make sure to scream at my sister whenever she mishandles any one of them. I do have a bad library habit of borrowing more than I know I can read. I treat libraries like they're bookstores, seriously.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Ahaha, and now I can demonstrate my bad library habit. I currently have 49 books out, 1 short of maxing out my card. I don't think anyone wants to know the whole lot of them but rest assured that almost all of them are YA, most of them heavy, spanning a whole lot of genres (sub genres?). I have a few adult books as I was feeling a bit naughty at the time (hmm) AND I quite enjoy reading them.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
Sadly, no. Unless Adobe Reader counts?

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I actually prefer to read one book at a time, as my memory muddles terribly and I confuse plotlines, storylines, and even character names. I prefer not to get too irritated at myself. Ah, but Living Dead Girl is so ingrained in my mind that I can hardly forget it, so it is merely the exception to the rule.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
I've actually only been blogging for just about a month now so it's hard to tell if there's been a significant change. I suppose you could say I try harder now to read as many newly released books as I can find in my local library.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Hard to say... I always find something good in every book I read but I really disliked the message Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick was sending, along with Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. Biggest. Letdown. Ever. I didn't like Uninvited by Amanda Marrone all that much either.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Huh. That is equally hard to say. Probably Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (made me feel those this-is-why-I-read tingles), Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev (absolutely hilarious, unpredictable, and just delicious) and Goblin Fruit from Laini Taylor's Lips Touch: Three Times (oh, wanting beautiful boys, teenage turmoil, just one taste!). All were summer reads (since I can't remember what I read before that).

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
I suppose not very frequently. I usually like to play it safe with YA fantasies; very rarely do I venture into adult territory (the page count! Especially that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell book -shudder- and Stephen King's Under the Dome. Holy mama). I'm trying to branch out though; I do have some adult books on my shelf. One at a time, one at a time.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
YA, fantasy, romance, humour. Give me an urban fantasy tossed with hints of faerie a la Holly Black and I'm in heaven. I try the occasional vampire/werewolf book, but only if reviews are highly enthusiastic. I enjoy realistic YA too, but I insist on humour; even if the outlook is bleak, a hardy seed will grow with the teensiest bit of sun, you know?

13. Can you read on the bus?
Oh, yeah, definitely! I've yet to miss my stop and I'm looking for a book that will do just that.

14. Favorite place to read?
My bedroom, when it's quiet and I have a blanket to curl up under. It helps if I have some saltwater taffy on hand.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Give it back to me in the same condition as it was when I lent it to you. I get quite irritated when a nice book has been reduced to the state of kindling.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Good heavens, no! Dear God, are you mad?

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Absolutely not! That is the very highest blasphemy I have heard (or read) from anyone.

18. Not even with text books?
Only when I am extremely bored (and that is nearly every single school day). I do erase it though. Sometimes.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English. Sadly, it takes me quite a bit of time to plow through Tagalog and French (though both languages take me approximately the same time to read).

20. What makes you love a book?
Humour, strong characterization, delightful dialogue, a most wonderful plot, and if you want to throw the kitchen sink into the mix, a sense of the absurd.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
If it makes me sigh at the end, frantically flipping the pages to reread my favourite passages, sigh over beautifully sketched scenes, then I would highly recommend a book. If it addresses an important issue and the execution is brilliant, then even better. If the language is just delectable, then you're a shoo-in.

22. Favorite genre?
Fantasy, hands down. Romance comes in second.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Hmm... I suppose you could say suspense/horror? Or the classics, because I'm saving those for when I'm ripe and wise.

Favorite biography?
Ahem, only biography I've ever read--Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman. Charles Darwin is, surprisingly, a fascinating man. And his relationship with his wife along with his family dynamics make for interesting reading.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Er, how would you define a self-help book? Hmm.. I read a book on dating once (even though the possibility of going on one is obviously another one of my fantasies). It was hilarious and made me want to go on a date just to test it out.

26. Favorite cookbook?
I remember enjoying a children's cookbook once; could not, for the life of me, remember the title, only that it described chocolate chip cookies and fried doughnuts to exquisite, marvelous and photographed detail.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Mostly Happy by Pam Bustin. Had to read it for my school book club and her journey is pretty impressive. Actually, the most inspirational book I've read this year was the last book I held in my hands--The Glass Slipper, by Eleanor Farjeon. I just admired the way Cinderella stuck to her optimism and did not let anything bring her down. She just found happiness, something to be happy about in even the most dire of situations.

28. Favorite reading snack?

Ah, I would have to say cheese puffs (though the stains they leave are remarkably vibrant) and saltwater taffy (though it does get pretty messy--yet deliciously so).

So incredibly long that responses after this note are 10 days late. Woops.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Hum, well, it wasn't hype as much as my own expectations--and well, I suppose the hype surrounding the Simon Romantic Comedies line. I've been thoroughly satisfied with them in the past but my most recent read from the line was a bit lacklustre. But I guess that's just me, so I won't directly mention it.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Surprisingly frequently--especially with things like pacing and the lack of satisfaction. Of course, by critics, I mean Amazon reviewers. :D

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Very reluctant; I really don't feel comfortable bashing a book but I'm working on it. Well, not the bashing, more like the reluctance. I'm generally a positive person, so my reviews reflect that but again, I'm working on it.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Ancient Greek or Latin. Yes, definitely. I want to read the works of Homer in the original language. Along with the other classics.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Hum, I haven't really been reading any intimidating books that I know of, but perhaps How to Write and Speak English Better, which was some sort of subscription gift from Reader's Digest (must clarify with grandparents) when I was 6 or 7ish. That tome was heavy--though it helped that it had comics! Didn't really finish (more like skimmed).

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Anything Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Thackeray. And Mitchell--Gone With The Wind is just huge. And well, I don't know if my analytical skills are developed enough for me to begin those books anyway, so...

35. Favorite Poet?
I really like Ellen Hopkins' novels in verse. I consider her a poet (and a skillful one at that). So I suppose she is currently my favourite poet.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
This will sound ridiculous but I usually have it maxed out. As soon as I return a batch, I have to get a new one to replenish the stock. My account just feels so empty without the full 50 materials checked out.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Too often--not enough time and usually too much homework. I shouldn't have an excuse this summer, but really, this has been the busiest family wise so I'm usually tired. Why am I making excuses for myself again?

38. Favorite fictional character?
I love spunky Ella from Ella Enchanted, and Cassie from Ice. Right now, I'm loving Sarah Agnes Prine from These is my Words. Oh, and let's not forget the eponymous Frederica of Georgette Heyer fame!

39. Favorite fictional villain?
The one that comes to mind is Lord Henry Wotton from The Picture of Dorian Gray. He's not treated as a formal villain but the way he seduces Dorian is hypnotic and quite subversive that I just think of him as one anyway. Or am I out of my depth here?

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Ella Enchanted, the latest fairytale retelling (hey, I don't discriminate!) and most likely a book with some sort of romance in it. The books I bring on vacation are usually library books, so they vary according to my current addiction/phase. We'll see.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
Probably four months--back in the Philippines, where my only sources of books were bookstores (which I treated like reference libraries).

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Alas! I am going to get stabbed but Emma by Jane Austen was something I just could not finish. I got to about page 70; I know I should've kept on going but my goodness, Emma was shaping up to be a huge pain in the you-know-what with her haughty attitude and, from what I recall, her selfishness and I just couldn't take it anymore. I was probably not in the right mood, as Austen's writing sparkled as usual; it's just Emma got on my nerves constantly. I'm definitely going to reread it in the future.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Music, because then I just have to get up and dance (like a lunatic) to it. I'm serious.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
Hum, film adaptation? Well, I adored the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, which was filmed (albeit shown on television, which is probably not what you meant by that question, eh?).

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
The most recent one is Twilight. I mean, Bella completely lacked personality (which, upon perusal of the original novel, is not too far from the truth), Edward was...not as smoldering as he was in the books and Jasper looked constipated all of the time. I read the books back when I was an impressionable seventh grader and I just loved them. But once I viewed the film adaptation, the sparkle (pun unintended) was gone.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
I think it was 25$ for the hardcover of Breaking Dawn (bought on the release date, because I was hardcore like that).

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Just a quick look at the summary, a little riffling of the pages, a furtive glance at some words here and there and then I'm all set to read it. And that's for every book.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
An annoying protagonist, not very realistic decisions/chain of events, the slowest pacing in the universe and the prospect of overdue fines. *shudder*

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yessiree! Got them all lined up in a row according to due date on my bookshelf (at least the last time I checked).

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Keep books! Unless I feel the need to spread the word to a reluctant reader. Otherwise, I'm a packrat.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Classics. I haven't been in a classics sort of mood lately. And The Handmaid's Tale, which is going to make up my Novel Studies units in the upcoming year. Urgh, school.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph (what I'm currently reading) because of the MC's mom. Seriously, what a self-centred mother. I just can't stand it.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
The Landing by John Ibbitson. I just--There was something about it that I thought was well-done. Plenty of layers of themes and it just gets to you like bam. So glad I was part of the White Pine Book Club at my school.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
At First Sight by Catherine Hapka. I was expecting something light, romantic and gorgeously fluffy but I didn't quite get what I wished for.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Fairytale retellings. Seriously, anything with fairytale elements in it, throw it at me. I will love you for it.

The Glass Slipper by Eleanor Farjeon

A retelling of the classic tale of Cinderella brings to vivid life the trials and tribulations of young Ella, mistreated by her nasty stepmother and unattractive stepsisters, who dreams of going to the Prince's ball.

(I couldn't find any images of the cover I got on the Internet--so I took it upon myself [in other words, coerced my sister] to take a picture of it. I apologize for the shockingly low quality but eh, you do what you can. )

Oh, it makes me so dizzy (am I in a tizzy)? I'm really quite fizzy. Why, do you ask? It's alarming, this charming, disarming book I've been reading--the lovely, potent concoction (it proved quite the distraction) by wordsmith Eleanor Farjeon, The Glass Slipper! (No surprise there, seeing as it's the title and all. Really, it's quite hard keeping you all enthralled.)

Bad rhyming/syntax/flow aside, what I'm really trying to say is this book is a veritable delight. Farjeon has a knack for words and in her hands, this Cinderella retelling is far from plain. While I kept comparing the story to the 1950 Disney film (inevitable, I suppose, seeing as this was originally published in 1955), there is enough spunk in the plot, characters and setting to give this retelling unique. There are little surprises here--everyone knows the story of Cinderella--and Farjeon stays faithful to the French folktale, right to its very trappings (wicked stepmother, stepsisters, sweet Cinderella, and, ahem, the glass slipper).

What really sets this apart is the lyricism of the narrative. Farjeon has a delicious talent for arranging words, peppering them and making them leap off your tongue. It is for this reason that I wholeheartedly recommend this book to be read aloud to children; there is so much magic in the tongue twisters, songs, rhymes, flow and description that you simply can't help but recite them out loud.

Apart from this, the characters are perfectly endearing. You can't help but root for the optimistic (at times, unbelievably so) Cinderella, she of the sunny disposition and captivating innocence. The stepmother and stepsisters were suitably horrifying--particularly the stepmother, who darkened what was otherwise a lighthearted story with her abusive (though not graphically) ways. I didn't thoroughly warm up to the Prince, but his love for Cinderella was enough to redeem him in my eyes. My personal favourite though was the sputtering, really quite pompous Herald, whose lines I found the most amusing. He came across as hilariously, snarkily real, and I could practically see him spit out his speeches. Take this gem, for instance:

In vain, his hands to his ears, he pointed out to them that silence is golden, that the amorous are never clamourous, that to be loquacious is ungracious, and to be tacit is an asset--in ever-rising excitement they persisted in crying out to him that they had come for the slipper! To try on the slipper! Where was the slipper, the slipper, the slipper?--until, losing his temper once and for all, he shouted, "Stop that noise!"

The ladies stopped instantly; and this, oddly enough, offended him to the extreme. His courtesy had been wasted on them. They had obliged him to resort to Bad Manners. Where, he asked himself, had these ladies been brought up?
(pp. 195-196)

There are gems of wisdom to be learned here, and the romance between Cinderella and the Prince actually got me feeling a bit giddy. Such bubbliness! Such earnestness! Such eagerness! Very, very cute; though I thought both seemed to act significantly younger than their ages. Regardless, Farjeon's take on Cinderella is a delightful, magical romp, perfect for children who love their rhymes and adults who are a bit nostalgic for a simpler time. Read it if you want to taste the words in your mouth and have a bit of a dance in joy.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Note: I got this from the library (which explains the barcode slapped on the top of the book). However, the last time I checked, the book is available on if you want to own it (though the price for a new copy is quite high--around 112 American bucks). Tracking this book down is worth it though, especially if you have children/younger siblings whom you want to acquire funds from in the future. Seriously.

Monday, August 16, 2010



But that ain't what this blog post is about--actually, you know what, check out some more of his awesome portraits that I stumbled upon right here.

Anyway, so right now, I'm at the library. And, well, what I like to do in the library is read (usually). But the thing is, I brought my laptop and so what I'm doing instead is catching up on some blogs I haven't seen or read before.

I do this mostly through following sidebar giveaway links (yes, I like my free books slash swag. Even if I don't usually win). And today, I have stumbled upon one of the coolest giveaways ever (and I stumble upon a lot of awesome giveaways--check out my sidebar if you want a helpful finger to point your way).

It is called, very appropriately, "A Very Humongous Blogoversary Contest". And my, it is very humongous indeed. As in, 25 books humongous. As in, international humongous. As in, here's a list of the books up for grabs humongous:

1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
2. The Duff by Kody Keplinger (ARC)
3. You by Charles Benoit
3. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
4. Linger by Maggie Steivafater
5. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
6. Candor by Pam Bachorz
7. Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon
8. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
9. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
10. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
11. Hold Still be Nina De LaCour
12. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
13. Sea by Heidi R. Kling
14. Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan
15. Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick
16. Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce
17. You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
18. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
19. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
20. Paper Towns by John Green
21. Need by Carrie Jones
22. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
23. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
24. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
25. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Yes, this is very humongous. And it's hosted @ In Which a Girl Reads. 'Til September 19th (that's my grandfather's birthday so you better remember the date).

And yes, oh yes, I found another giveaway @ The Library Lurker. Sweet and enticing, this giveaway is offering up 2 delicious ARCS (one's Nightshade by Andrea Cremer, the other's Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel) for grabs! How can you not want to join in on the fun?

I may not have required reading to do, but hot dang, I would love a taste of those books (and I'm assuming a lot of other people do to).

So don't delay. Let the books do the talking; go on, you know you want to!

Charles and Emma: the Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, his revolutionary tract on evolution and the fundamental ideas involved, in 1859. Nearly 150 years later, the theory of evolution continues to create tension between the scientific and religious communities. Challenges about teaching the theory of evolution in schools occur annually all over the country. This same debate raged within Darwin himself, and played an important part in his marriage: his wife, Emma, was quite religious, and her faith gave Charles a lot to think about as he worked on a theory that continues to spark intense debates.

Deborah Heligman's new biography of Charles Darwin is a thought-provoking account of the man behind evolutionary theory: how his personal life affected his work and vice versa. The end result is an engaging exploration of history, science, and religion for young readers.

Written with wit that’ll have you occasionally chuckling, and prose that brings the setting alive, Charles and Emma is a biography that reads as easy as a novel—no dull or boring tome in sight! This is due to Heiligman’s skill as much as the Darwins’ engaging personalities. This biography paints them (delightfully) as real people; to be honest, given Charles Darwin’s reputation as a revolutionary thinker and scientist, I was expecting a dry old man with very little personality. Through Heiligman’s pen he is transformed into someone lively, in constant high spirits with an insatiable curiosity, one who was also a devoted father and husband.

I was also prejudiced against Emma Darwin (or Wedgwood, as she was before her marriage)--given the literal portrait that was drawn of her in the summary, I was expecting someone overly zealous about religion, someone who forced it upon others. But once again, I was pleasantly surprised. Emma Darwin is a lovely woman; strong, she didn’t want to be a mere decoration (unlike the practically mute wife of a colleague of Charles, Mrs. Lyell) and wanted to participate in Charles’s life, whether his ideas terrified her or not, whether it went against her religious beliefs or not. Their relationship was natural, with its ups and downs, tragedies and comedies—but through it all, you can definitely see the genuine love shine through.

This is a gem of a biography, which includes pictures of interest (namely the family, their humble abodes, and Charles’ quirky marriage list). There are also snippets of Charles’s own observations sprinkled throughout the text, which pretty much had me wanting to reserve a copy of On the Origin of Species! Heiligman also mentions novels and interests of the day, which I thought was an effective way to involve readers. She also compares Charles and Emma to well-known works such as Pride and Prejudice (had me clamouring to get the book!) and nicely enough, Emma. This biography is a great way to introduce children and young adults to the life of an exceptional man—and to an exceptional love that transcends their beliefs.

Charles and Emma: the Darwins’ Leap of Faith is a delightful read, warm with the author’s energy. I think this was the first biography I ever read; and if all biographies are truly written in this style, then it most certainly won’t be the last. For this, I reward this book a rating of 4.5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Hoping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other's countries in the name of better political alliances—and potential marriages. It's got the makings of a fairy tale—until a hapless servant named Ellen is tricked by a vengeful fairy godmother into competing with Poppy for the eligible prince. Ballgowns, cinders, and enchanted glass slippers fly in this romantic and action-packed happily-ever-after quest from an author with a flair for embroidering tales in her own delightful way.

I picked up Princess of Glass purely because I am a) a seriously obsessed lover of fairytales b) I loved Poppy in Princess of the Midnight Ball and c) I was looking for a light read injected with substance, lovable characters, and some delicious fluttery buttery romance. Jessica Day George seemed like the author to deliver, and the blurb was sweet and spunky so I thought to myself, Hey, why not give it a spin?

And well, I suppose you could say I got exactly what I wanted. Partially.

Princess of Glass is an inventive, imaginative spin on the Cinderella story featuring a sinister fairy godmother (slash witch), a hapless, clumsy Ella, a strong, quick-witted princess and the requisite handsome prince. Needless to say, I love the angle that George retold the story from: in a land embellished with European flavour, where magic shimmers just beneath the surface, where fairytales can be lived out—but so can wars and battles. That’s where the story picks up: after the Westfalian-Analousian war, an uneasy, almost fragile peace looms. King Rupert takes advantage of this peace by arranging an international diplomacy exchange program, where the princesses and princes of each nation travel to each kingdom to get a feel of the culture and strengthens ties. But it’s actually a little more complicated than that: one of the (so-called) secret goals of this program is the potential of inter-kingdom marriage, and from there you can practically see the romance unfold. Prince Christian of Danelaw has been sent to Breton, and there he meets Princess Poppy of Westfalin. The classic boy-meets-girl, both are confused about their feelings for each other (but of course, it’s love) and then Cinderella, ahem, Lady Ella arrives to throw a monkey wrench into everything.

Honestly, with that much potential, it could have been a rollicking, awesome read. And for a while, that’s what I was reading: Poppy was fully-realized (still fresh, definitely), the rest of the characters were nicely developed, the prose was alright, splashes of humour brightened the place, and well, it was all fine and dandy. The thing is, though, I wasn’t buying Prince Christian—he seemed a bit dim and a little too one-dimensional for my taste—and when I don’t think the hero is worth the heroine, then I don’t quite buy the romance. And when that romance is put squarely in the centre of the book, I wouldn’t really say I was satisfied. I actually thought another character was more suitable for Poppy and I was rooting for the two of them to get together instead—alas, it couldn’t be. Another character, Lady Ella rang a bit flat as well. So when the revelations hit, I wasn’t particularly interested, or affected by any of them. I wasn’t convinced or sold by any of her actions.

There’s also the whole problem of the big climax. It got a bit too convoluted for my taste, and I was very, very confused. I’m still not entirely sure how the Big Bad Guy was defeated nor did I think the heroes laboured and sacrificed enough for it. I am by no means a bloodthirsty person, nor do I want buckets of violence in my fairytale retellings, but the end just seemed to ring a bit flat to me. I was really looking forward to this book and I was really liking it but that lacklustre ending was enough to leave me with a blank expression on my face and a “What? What?” clamouring to be answered. I did love enough of the book so I’m going to rate this a 3.

Rating: 3 out of 5