Sunday, July 31, 2011

In My Mailbox (24)

In My Mailbox is a meme started by Kristi at The Story Siren with some inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie where we get to post about the books we receive each week through publishers/authors, our own purchases, contests won, and libraries.

This mailbox is for the past two weeks. 

For Review

The Iron Knight (The Iron Fey #4) by Julie Kagawa

I had zero interest in this book for the longest time. I was Team Puck all the way and I couldn't care less about Ash's stupid story. At least, that was until I read The Iron Queen and I became a total Team Ash fan (complete with cheerleading and shoulder-padded pink shirt of love. Um, check out my The Iron Queen review for clarification on that). Now I can't wait! It's going to be so much more than Ash's story.

If only the cover were different! Bleh, that's so NOT my Ash.

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Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan

I've read some meh reviews and some glowing reviews, but most types said the same thing: If you've read Across the Universe then you'll probably be more "meh" than not. Luckily, I haven't read Across the Universe (and I actually have very little interest in reading it), so I can enter Glow without any comparisons in mind. 

Wish I had the other cover with the pretty sparkly stars. This one makes me think she's hanging over a toilet bowl and getting ready to barf. But at least she's doing it with pretty glowey lights beaming around her head, so that's a plus.

My Sparkling Misfortune by Laura Lond

This one arrived on Friday and I started reading as soon as I opened the envelope. It's short, so I finished it that day and I loved it! Highly recommended (and you can get it for super cheap on Amazon as an e-book and it's totally worth it). I'll post a full review soon.

Thank you HarlequinTeen, NetGalley, St. Martin's Griffin, and Laura Lond!


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Eragon by Christopher Paolini

I've already read this and I'm not sure if I like this book or even want it, but it was fifty cents at a tag sale and it's a hardcover in near-perfect condition. How could I say no? I'm sure there's some kind of 12-step program I can enroll in for people who compulsively buy every book they've ever read and maybe might sort of like, but whatever. Can the character Murtagh be an acceptable excuse for ownership?

*swoon* Who needs Eragon?

Green Rider (Green Rider #1) by Kristen Britain
First Rider's Call (Green Rider #2) by Kristen Britain 

I've had this series on my TBR for forever so I grabbed these two at the sale also. Maybe now I'll get to reading it sometime this decade! Or, you know, let it sit on my shelves unread making me feel guilty while I pass over it for shiny new books. No, no, I'll be good. I WILL read it soon! Probably.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Fate has intervened! A few weeks ago I wrote a Spotlight List post about Fantasy Authors I Should Have Read where I confessed a list of fantasy authors who are paragons of the genre but I somehow managed to have missed out on reading (I know. Embarrassing). Juliet Marillier was one of those authors and many wonderful and much more well-read commenters gushed about this very book. Well, when I saw it at the sale (for fifty cents!) I snatched that sucker up! Who knows when I'll get around to reading it, but I'm one step closer now. And at least now I'll look well-read with this baby sitting on my shelf.

Won and other awesomeness

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I won this from Tessa @ From the Bookshelf of T.B.! Not only did I get this super cool book from her, but she bought a hardcover edition!! How awesome is she? Full of win. Thank you Tessa! This means it matches the hardcovers I had already bought of books 2 and 3! Yay! I can now line them all up on my shelf and they'll look pretty and matching and maybe, maybe, maybe someday soon I'll actually read them! I know, I know. Look, first I was waiting for all the books to be published and then some no good rotten butt head took the copy we have in my library and we haven't gotten it back in months, so really, it wasn't my fault that I haven't read the series yet. But now I have no more excuses. Feel free to make me feel ashamed until I read them.

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Swag of Awesome

A little while ago I sent Asher @ Paranormal Indulgence a few bookmarks, and I guess what they say about karma is true. That, or Asher is made of love and win (which is what I'm betting on)! Look at what she sent me! Totally out of the blue as a joyful mailbox surprise. I've already used the Luminous bookmark for two books and it is purple and beautiful! Plus, do you see that bookmark for The Faerie Ring? Signed! Thank you Asher!

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More Awesome Swag

The super sweet Jennifer Estep (who wrote the awesome-you-should-totally-read-it book Touch of Frost) sent me some swag to spread around. I've already been spreading the love at my library, but I'm more than happy to share the love with you too. If you want one, just email me with your mailing address (US only please! I'm sorry!) and I'll send some out to the first five people who email me.

What did you get this week? Has anyone read any of these books yet? Did you like them? 
Feel free to comment with links to your mailboxes or your reviews of these books!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Recap 7/23 to 7/29

In case you missed anything, here's a recap of what was posted Saturday, July 23rd through Friday, July 29th. 


Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

(Click on the links to go to my reviews)



Discussion: Making Money on Your Blog
How do you feel about the different ways bloggers can make money?

Guest Posting at The Book Base

Spotlight List: Dystopian Classics

What's Your Status?

A meme created by Zakiya from Butterfly Feet Walking on Life where we recap our reading week. Feel free to visit her site and link up your own What's Your Status Posts. Here's how my week went:


(Click on the link to go to Goodreads)

Reviews to come.

 Post Captain is another solid book in the series. Lots of improvements from the first book in terms of my "What the heck is going on here?!" reaction with all the nautical stuff. The writing and some of the events/characters reminded me a lot of Jane Austen. I swear O'Brian's Mrs. Williams and Austen's Mrs. Bennett are related. 

The Princess Curse is AMAZING! Think Special Shelf kind of amazing. If you like fairy tale retellings (especially highly original retellings with spunky MCs), then make sure you get yourself a copy of this one. It's MG, but think on the level of Jessica Day George (meaning totally enjoyable for older readers).

Currently Reading

Vanish (Firelight #2) by Sophie Jordan
H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin #3) by Patrick O'Brian
(Click on the link to go to Goodreads)

I didn't like Firelight very much, but I'm liking Vanish more...though just barely. The writing is really throwing me off and I still don't like Jacinda, but at least there's a lot more Cassian!

I've just barely started the O'Brian, but darnnit, they'd better get their prize money or I'm going to be reaching into the book and strangling some of those dirty admirals.

Miss anything last week? Click here to read a Recap

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Spotlight List: Dystopian Classics

Dystopian Classics

What does it take to be a dystopian? Lately the definition has shifted to include a much broader range of topics, but at its core, a dystopian is a society that appears to be all roses and sunshine but in reality it's a hot mess of social control. Generally, I find the most effective dystopians are the ones that tie back to what's happening right now in our own world. The following books were setting the dystopian stage long before the Uglies series or Delirium were even a thought.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Release Date: April 26, 1993
Pages: 190
Goodreads Page

I don't think you can really make a list of dystopian classics on a YA book blog and not include The Giver. Hailed as one of the few books kids actually enjoy reading in school, The Giver has been opening the eyes of kids for over a decade. I don't know when this cover was released, but it makes the book look so much more exciting than the cover with the old man (though it lacks the nostalgia of the old man cover).

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Release Date: 1953
Pages: 179
Goodreads Page

While not my favorite Bradbury book (The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man are much better), I do very much enjoy and recommend Fahrenheit 451. With the perfect setup that's sure to spark anger in readers against the dystopian society (what book lover doesn't feel horrified at the idea of burning books?), Bradbury crafts a story that calls to mind a whole host of questions. Good for discussions, Fahrehheit 451 may take place in the future, but it speaks to many concepts that we deal with right now.

1984 by George Orwell
Release Date: 1945

Pages: 300
Goodreads Page

I've never been able to sit down and read this book cover to cover because, honestly, it's kind of boring. I have read all, or at least most of it, in bits and pieces over the years. The writing is so dry that I struggle to keep my eyes open. But...this is THE dystopian and is a must-read for any fan of the genre. You probably don't even realize how many phrases or ideas that we spit out as anecdotes or references actually originated from this book. Big Brother, newspeak, doublespeak, "We are not at war with Eurasia," the Memory Hole--this is all from 1984. What makes this book so chilling is that most of it describes things that were already happening, but just magnified through Orwell's invented technology.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Release Date: 1932
Pages: 268
Goodreads Page

This is another one that's super dry, but worth reading.Whereas Orwell saw the dystopian world as a government oppressing the people, Huxley envisioned a world gone wrong as a result of vice and technology. With a cynical view of "the masses," Huxley's dystopian society is one of our own making--one that we happily embrace for its technological advancements, easy living, and extreme entertainment. Written in the 1930s, it is interesting to guess at what Huxley would have to say about our world today.

The White Mountains by John Christopher
Release Date: 1967
Pages: 195
Goodreads Page

I read the first book in this series as a school assignment, but I loved it so much I sought out the sequels on my own (The Tripods Trilogy + prequel). I've read the trilogy a few times since then and it holds up every time. As you can probably guess from the cover, this one is a little different from the other dystopians on the list. Invading aliens serve as the oppressive government, but don't be scared away if sci-fi isn't really your genre. Fans of the Uglies series would probably love this story of a boy and his friends who rebel against their oppressors and fight to free humankind. Fast-paced and with characters I love, the Tripods Trilogy is not one to be overlooked.

What are some of your favorite classic dystopians? Have you read any of these books? 
What makes a dystopian scary to you?

Want to see more Spotlight Lists? 
Click HERE to see more of my lists

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (29)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we all feature upcoming books we're eagerly anticipating.

I've altered things a little to include one book that hasn't come out yet and one that has already been published but I still haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman

Goodreads description of Born Wicked (February 7, 2012):

Cate Cahill and her sisters are considered eccentric bluestockings—a little odd, a little unfashionable, and far too educated for their own good. The truth is more complicated; they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it could mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave. Before their mother died, she entrusted Cate with keeping them safe and keeping everyone, including their father, in the dark about their powers. When her father employs a governess and Cate begins to receive notes from her missing, presumed-mad godmother, her task becomes much more difficult. As Cate searches for answers in banned books and rebellious new friends, she must juggle unwanted proposals, tea parties, and an illicit attraction to the new gardener. Cate will do anything to protect her sisters, but at what cost to herself?

Why I want to read it:

Witches. Plain and simple I like books about witches. Banned books, searching for answers, rebellious new friends, and a class-crossing romance just makes Born Wicked sound even better!

Product description of Thirteen Days to Midnight (April 12, 2010):

You are indestructible. Three whispered words transfer an astonishing power to Jacob Fielding that changes everything. At first, Jacob is hesitant to use the power, unsure of its implications. But there's something addictive about testing the limits of fear.
Then Ophelia James, the beautiful and daring new girl in town, suggests that they use the power to do good, to save others. But with every heroic act, the power grows into the specter of a curse. How to decide who lives and who dies?
In this nail-biting novel of mystery and dark intrigue, Jacob must walk the razor thin line between right and wrong, good and evil, and life and death. And time is running out. Because the Grim Reaper doesn't disappear. . . . He catches up.

Why I want to read it:

 It sounds like a fast-paced adventure. The storyline also sounds original and I like that it's told from the perspective of a guy.

Have any of you read either of these books? Would you recommend them? 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Posting at The Book Base

Today I am participating in an interview over at 
The Book Base!

 You can click on the link to see some of my favorite books as a child, which characters I would invite over for a dinner party, and other bookish responses.

You can also see how much I suck at answering questions that ask for my top favorites!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Review: Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 336
Received: ARC from author
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Emily is sick and tired of being a middle sister. So when she gets an assignment to describe what she'd change about a classic novel, Emily pounces on Little Women. After all, if she can't change things in her own family, maybe she can bring a little justice to the March sisters. (Kill off Beth? Have cute Laurie wind up with Amy instead of Jo? What was Louisa May Alcott thinking?!)

But when Emily gets mysteriously transported into the world of the book, she discovers that righting fictional wrongs won't be easy. And after being immersed in a time and place so different from her own, it may be Emily-not the four March sisters-who undergoes the most surprising change of all.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted's winning confection will appeal to fans of Little Women as well as anyone who enjoys a modern twist on an old favorite.


I'm breaking out the pom-poms

There's no question about it, I'm a hyperventilating, cheering, hand-flapping clapping, total fangirl of Lauren Baratz-Logsted. I fell in love with her Gothic suspense The Twin's Daughter, adored her girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy boarding school romp The Education of Bet, and I had a laugh-out-loud blast with her latest, Little Women and Me!

WARNING: What kind of Little Women fan are you?

I may be totally wrong here, but I think people who love--or are at least familiar with--Little Women are the readers who will get the most out of this book. Now, you don't need to have read the book cover to cover (I haven't! I know, for shame). Just watch a movie version (I HIGHLY recommend the 1994 version with Winona Ryder and Christian Bale) and you'll be all set (are English teachers everywhere cringing at my recommendation to ignore the book?).

Now for the fans, what kind of fan are you? Are you the type who adores every single aspect of Louisa May Alcott's masterpiece and you cannot allow even the tiniest criticism of her genius work?

Or are you able to accept some friendly digs? Because, I mean, look, as much as I loooove the story, there's definitely room for a little good-natured mockery. Getting a copy of Pilgrim's Progress and some advice on how to improve your character as a Christmas present? LAME-O, Marmee! Am I right? And as cool and awesome and free-spiritedly amazing as Jo can be, her shtick can get a little annoying, right? Talk about bossy and over-dramatic! But I love them.

So, ok, if what I just said above gave you a serious case of the eye-twitch and you're ready to reach into your computer and strangle me for my blasphemy, then don't even consider reading Little Women and Me. You won't like it.

But, if you were nodding along and maybe even cracked a smile, then you so need to get your hands on a copy of this book! You know fractured fairy tales? Think of this as a fractured classic.

What to expect

Get ready to run through a significant portion of Little Women as Emily lives the events of the book as a fifth March sister. It was like taking a nostalgic romp through the highlights of one of my favorite stories with a sarcastic and thoroughly modern teenager keeping up a running commentary on the whole thing. To say it was funny is an understatement. I was constantly either laughing, smirking, or snickering throughout the whole experience. I kept exclaiming, "That's so true!!" at all of Emily's snarky observations.

Emily isn't exactly a perfect girl herself, though. Her fatal flaw is jealousy, and wow does she do some stupid, pig-headed things because of it! As a result, I had a hard time liking her at times. But you know what, jealousy makes us do stupid things, and Emily is a teenager, not a saint. As much as I found her frustrating sometimes, I also loved her for her totally real and honest reactions. Some of her actions and thoughts weren't very attractive, but I have to admit that they were relatable.

As Emily butts heads with Jo and criticizes Amy (though, come on, Amy so deserves it), she also sees how she can behave in a very similar manner. Ah ha! The light bulb comes on. You can see the lessons coming from a mile away, but Emily doesn't. Sometimes this tactic can be frustrating as you're sitting there impatiently waiting for the character to just GET IT ALREADY, but I didn't feel that way at all with Little Women and Me. I loved watching Emily blunder through things and then eventually, finally, make the connections. Dare I say I even felt a bit like Marmee, patiently waiting for her darling daughter to connect the dots?

What NOT to expect and where that fifth star went

So I was happily following along with the story when I suddenly realized how few pages were left. There was all this important stuff that still had to happen in the original story and I wanted to continue along with Little Women: The Version Hilariously Annotated by a Modern Teenager, but then it ended! Now, ok, the ending makes sense and I do see why it had to end there, but I was having so much fun. More is more for me, and I wanted more. I wanted to run right through to the end where Jo and Professor Bhaer confess their love and kiss under the umbrella (and, yes, I know this wouldn't have worked at all. I mean, what would Emily do, hide in the bushes and watch like a creepy stalker? No, but I bet she would have had something funny to say about it).

The ending was also just a touch too abrupt for my tastes. Maybe it's because I was so immersed in the book, and maybe it's because of the episodic nature of Little Women that makes an ending sort of come out of the blue a little anyway, but I didn't feel any lead up to the end. I'm a reader that needs to be coddled. Maybe I don't need quite as much coddling as The Lord of the Rings (that had, what, like five different endings??), but I need a gentle nudge and slowing down to let me know that things are going to start wrapping up soon. This was more of a BAM! Ok, we're done!

I also would have liked to have seen a little more resolution with Emily's life. Just a few scenes to show her more fully applying the lessons she learned. Instead we're more left with her acknowledging the lessons and an assumption that she will act on them, but we don't get to see that happen as much as I would have liked.

Finally, I wanted a little more explanation for how Emily got sucked into the book. Really lay it out for me. Hit me with the obvious stick. I kept waiting for a fairy godmother to pop out and explain the phenomenon to her, but no such luck.

Now, ok, I know I'm knocking the ending a little, but I also have to say that the Big Reveal is SO cool! I never would have thought of it, but Lauren Baratz-Logsted's solution is incredibly creative and I can totally buy it. Lauren is an absolute genius!

Bottom line

Reading this book felt like inviting a snarky friend over for a sleepover and watching Little Women together while keeping up a running commentary of modern teen impressions. So it was pretty much a snarky giggle-fest. I may have been a little disappointed with the ending, but part of that disappointment stems from how much fun I had. I feel like the party is over and now I'm dreary because I know I'll have to wait a whole week before I can invite Emily over for another sleepover party. Except there won't be another sleepover party because this is a standalone book and I'm kinda bummed about that.

Maybe Emily can get sucked into another book? Please? If she does, then I am SO there.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

I'm not sure which cover will be on the final version, but this is a photo of my ARC

Do you have any questions about Little Women and Me that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Discussion: Making Money on Your Blog

Let's be honest here, it would be nice if blogging made you money, right? I mean, sure, we all blog because we love blogging, but why turn down the opportunity to make money doing what you love?

Though some bloggers can make a lot of money, book blogging isn't exactly a lucrative niche. Maybe you'd make enough to pay for a few giveaways or a domain name. That's good though, right? Except...apparently this can be a pretty heated issue with strong opinions on both sides.

How do you feel when you see a blogger making money off their site?

In my travels I've come across a few different reactions.

The Negative Reactions

Sellout! The basic idea here is that you started blogging because you were in it for the books, but then you sold your integrity to make a buck. Can you be trusted anymore? Do you still care? Personally, I think it's pretty obvious when a blogger cares about their blog, and I don't think that's tied to money.

Greedy! This one's pretty similar to Sellout. The assumption is that you only care about making money. Your blog (and your readers) doesn't actually matter to you outside of being a means to earn cash. Again, personally I think it's clear when a blogger loves blogging, regardless of whether or not they're making money from it.

Beggar! Usually seen when someone has a donation link. The idea is that the blogger set up their blog as a way to beg you for money. Gimme gimme gimme is their motto!

The Positive Reactions

Good For You! This is the "I like you and I'm happy you're successful" response. This is usually the response I have whenever I see my blogging friends making some money doing what they love doing. 


It's a deal! This is the flip side of a donation button. The donation button is nice because then I have the option to donate when I feel they've been particularly helpful to me (and when my wallet allows, which it doesn't right now!). Introduce me to my favorite book ever? Host a particularly spectacular event? Teach me something useful? Sometimes it's nice to be able to say thank you with more than words.

How are you making money, anyway?

I've also noticed that the reaction can sometimes be tied to the money making method the blogger chooses. Here are a few common methods:

Amazon Affiliate! If you're an Amazon Affiliate, you may receive a small percentage of the sale price if someone clicks on a link to Amazon through your blog and then buys something from Amazon's site. Usually this is a pretty unobtrusive way to advertise because a reader isn't bombarded with a bunch of ads and only sees links they would probably find useful and are book-related anyway. For me, I buy my new books through Amazon, so I figure if I'm going to buy them anyway, then why not help out one of my beloved bloggers in the process? Only problem? Some people really don't like Amazon. There are other affiliate options out there, but I don't know much about them. Do you?

 Advertisements! Advertisements are probably the form of money making I would find most annoying. They're really obvious and often interrupt the flow of the post or clutter up the sidebars of a blog. Lucky for me, I use Adblock Plus, which blocks all those pesky advertisements from showing up on my screen. If I didn't use this software, ads might seriously deter me from reading a blog because they can just be such an eyesore. Especially if they're animated.

Donations! Another major form of revenue generation I've seen comes from donations. I don't mind this because it's usually a small button that doesn't take up much space and leaves the choice up to me. I like it when the blogger writes something nice and "No pressure," but it turns me off when their message is flashy and very "GIVE ME MONEY PLEEEEASE!!" 

So what's your opinion? Are you happy for the blogger? Do you still trust them? Would you still visit their blog?

What forms of advertising do you dislike? What forms do you like? Do you use any of these methods on your own site? If so, do you recommend it?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recap 7/16 to 7/22

In case you missed anything, here's a recap of what was posted Saturday, July 16th through Friday, July 22nd. 

+ Announcement about email alerts
+ DNF review for The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann


Ward Against Death by Melanie Card
Plain Kate by Erin Bow

(Click on the links to go to my reviews)



How to Increase Blog Readership with Search Engines

What's Your Status?

A meme created by Zakiya from Butterfly Feet Walking on Life where we recap our reading week. Feel free to visit her site and link up your own What's Your Status Posts. Here's how my week went:


(Click on the link to go to Goodreads)

I should not have read this book. I've already read it (about fifteen times) and I have a gigantic stack of review books and another gigantic virtual stack of review e-galleys, not to mention my promise (that I'm actually enjoying) to my fiance that I would read the Master and Commander series (which is 20 books long!). 

So what in the world was I thinking rereading a book when I have all this obligatory reading staring at me and making me feel overwhelmed with stress? Well, because I was feeling overwhelmed with stress. So I turned to an old favorite for solace and I had a fantastic time doing it. So there.

The main character Cat is one of my all time absolute most favorite characters ever. Ever. He may even be my MOST favorite character ever created. I've read so many books on the sole basis that the MC sounded like he might be a little like Cat, but so far no one has even come close. This is the second book in the series, but each book is a standalone and I actually read this book first.

Currently Reading

Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin #2) by Patrick O'Brian
(Click on the link to go to Goodreads)

Yeah, still. I'm really enjoying it, but it's like a 500 page Jane Austen book with ships. It's not hard reading, but it's not easy reading either.

Did Not Finish

 Received: ARC from publisher
Page 74 of 390

This is the THIRD time I've tried reading Lisa McMann's books (Wake, which I finished but didn't like very much and Cryer's Cross, which I also DNF-ed). I feel like Lisa McMann is a beautiful round-peg board, and I'm a square peg. I just don't think we mesh very well, but I'm not sure exactly why.

The story starts out briskly enough, but then sort of died off for me and I had a really hard time focusing on what was happening. I just didn't care. None of the characters had differentiated themselves at all for me, and by page 74 that seemed to me like a lot of reading to know zip about the characters. I had zero feelings about any of them. They could have been tortured, killed, or crowned kings and found everlasting love and I would have felt about as much emotion as I feel for watching paint dry. I just didn't get it

The world building didn't work for me either. There wasn't any explanation for anything. Now, granted, I read a small percentage of the book, so I'm sure there's plenty of explanation later on, but for me at this point it made about as much sense as a dream. Which is to say, it made no sense, but I got the impression that I was just supposed to go with it and not try to question it too deeply. I don't usually do well with things like that. 

That goes along with the whole feeling of the book, too. It felt very much like a bedtime story a parent would create for their children. Fun, but thin and simplistic where you're just supposed to go with it. Except that I wasn't having any fun. I was bored and irritated. 

But...lots of people are LOVING this book. I really wouldn't use my reaction as a basis for forming your opinion of whether or not you should read this book. I can't explain why, but I'm just really not the right kind of reader for Lisa McMann's writing style.

Email alerts

I've been super busy this week and haven't had time to sent out email alerts for comments. I'm sorry! These are the posts that I have responded to as of now if you'd like to check them out:

Guest Posting at A Backwards Story!
Cover Review: Fairest of All
Book Review: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Book Review: Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep
Waiting on Wednesday (27)
Spotlight List: Fantasy Authors I Should Have Read...
Recap 7/9 to 7/15
In My Mailbox (23)
Book Review: Ward Against Death by Melanie Card
Book Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow
How to Increase Blog Readership with Search Engines

Miss anything last week? Click here to read a Recap

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to Increase Blog Readership with Search Engines

How to Increase Blog Readership with Search Engines

Part 2 of the series 
How to Attract Readers to Your Blog

What You Will Learn

You spent days (or weeks! Months!) setting up your blog, perfecting your design, and writing quality content…but you have no readers! Before you can even begin to worry about developing a following, you first need to let the world know your blog exists. But how do you get your name out there?

I've been asked by a number of people how I network my blog to attract readers. To answer that question, I’ve written a series of Blogging Tips and Tricks posts. In each post in the series I will outline a few methods for attracting new readers to your blog.

Previous posts in the series: 

4 Ways to Gain Readers Using Comments 

Let's Do This!

Method 2: Make Your Blog Visible to Random Searches

Register your blog with popular search engines:
Those links lead to the pages where you can submit your blog's URL. Odds are you've already been picked up by them, but just in case you haven't you should go ahead and register your blog with those search engines.

I get a significant percentage of pageviews from random searches.

Increase your SEO

Registering your site isn't enough. Your blog might show up in search results, but odds are you'll be buried on page 20+ and no one will see it. To bump your blog up higher in the search results, you need to utilize SEO (search engine optimization). 

Check out these posts to learn how to take advantage of SEO:

Register your blog with popular blog directories:

These are the directories I am registered with, though there certainly are more out there. Feel free to link more directories in the comments and I'll update this list to include them.

I get a moderate amount of pageviews from these sources.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series where I’ll go over a few more tips on how you can attract readers to your blog!

The form is anonymous, so please don't feel shy at all! 

These tips and tricks posts are a bi-monthly feature, so it may take a little time to answer your question, but I WILL answer it!

I'm certainly not an expert, but I'll try my hardest to explain what I do know and research what I don't know.

Click here to read previous How To Posts 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (28)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we all feature upcoming books we're eagerly anticipating.

I've altered things a little to include one book that hasn't come out yet and one that has already been published but I still haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Jennifer Van Der Berg would like you to know that the book ostensibly written about her—Born to Be Extraordinary by Eileen Codlin—is a bunch of bunk. Yes, she had a fairy godparent mess with her life, but no, she was not made into a princess or given the gift of self-confidence, and she sure as hell didn't get a hot boyfriend out of it.

Here's the REAL scoop . . .

Why I want to read it:

I love "real scoop" kind of stories. You know, where the narrator presents you with a rosy truth and then tells you the real deal, which is usually a lot less sunshine and moonbeams but is also usually filled with humor (and a happily ever after despite the snarky truth). That this disclosure story happens to deal with fairygodparents and hints at being a fractured fairy tale makes it sound awesome!

Product description of The Amulet of Samarkand (September 30, 2003):

Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five and sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the "ultimate sacrifice" for a "noble destiny."

If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn't tough enough, Nathaniel's master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs...Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.

Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine.

In British author Jonathan Stroud's excellent novel, the first of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, the story switches back and forth from Bartimaeus's first-person point of view to third-person narrative about Nathaniel. Here's the best part: Bartimaeus is absolutely hilarious, with a wit that snaps, crackles, and pops. His dryly sarcastic, irreverent asides spill out into copious footnotes that no one in his or her right mind would skip over. A sophisticated, suspenseful, brilliantly crafted, dead-funny book that will leave readers anxious for more.

Why I want to read it:

I've had this series on my TBR for years. I even own all three books. It looks like one of those MG/YA action/adventure/fantasy series that appeals to both boys and girls, and I love those kinds of stories. I'm really looking forward to getting to know Bartimaeus. He sounds like he'll leave me laughing out loud. 

Have any of you read either of these books? Would you recommend them? 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
A.K.A. Wood Angel in the UK 
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 314
Received: Library, now own
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.


There are some books that are so perfect, so emotional, that mere words can't do them justice. Plain Kate is one such book. The lyrical writing sucked me in from the very first page, but it is Kate and her cat Taggle that have stolen my heart. I finished this book in record speed due to the smooth pacing, lyrical writing, and engaging plot and characters. Unlike most books in the YA market lately, Plain Kate is a standalone and not part of a series.

In the beginning

From the very first line you'll know that this is a fairy tale. It is not a retelling, but it is instead a story that can stand on its own among all of the great fairy tales. I'm not usually the type of reader who cares overly much for writing style and I only really take note when it is particularly great or especially bad. Plain Kate falls solidly at the top of the former category. Erin Bow's writing made me wish I was a child again so I could hand this book to my mother and ask her to read it to me.

Though her writing is beautiful and atmospheric, I think the best word to describe it is emotional. I can't recall a time where I had such an instant connection with a character as I did with Kate. I loved her in that fiercely protective, inexplicable way that a parent loves a child--regardless of who they are or what they do. My love for her only grew further as the story went on and I began to know her as a strong, determined, loyal, and brave woman.

Oh don't worry about me, I'm just sobbing my eyes out

So it was from the very first chapter that my heart was already firmly lodged in my throat and tears were already pricking my eyes. Because this is a fairy tale, and we all know what happens to parents in fairy tales, right?

And that is just the beginning. Oh but Erin Bow is a cruel, wonderfully amazing writer. She puts poor Kate through so, so much. My heart just broke again and again for Kate, but I was utterly captivated by her journey. Prepare yourself though. Kate's story is dark and disturbing, not unlike fairy tales pre-Disnification.

The one difference between Plain Kate and a fairy tale is that Plain Kate contains so much more depth than your average fairy tale. The story is intricate and multi-layered with an enthralling mystery and a resolution that I did not see coming at all.

And you know by now how I feel about characters, right? Oh my gosh, how can I even explain these characters? Every single one was perfectly, beautifully, heartbreakingly rendered. Each had so much depth and backstory. Unraveling their histories and seeing how they were all connected together was fascinating. Linay, the man who barters for Kate's shadow and sets the story in motion, was a complex man who plays the role of the villain but is really so much more.

I haven't mentioned my absolute favorite character yet. That would be Taggle, Kate's talking cat and the "heart's wish" that she receives as payment for her shadow. Taggle is...amazing. I don't usually love animals that talk, but I ADORE Taggle. He truly was Kate's heart's wish and the way Erin Bow wrote their relationship was absolutely heartbreaking and perfect and beautiful and just...beyond compare.

Seriously, don't read this in public

Some books need to come with a warning not to read them in public because your emotional response will be 1) Uncontrolable, and 2) Embarrassing or difficult to explain to strangers. So I'm warning you now: DON'T READ THIS BOOK IN PUBLIC! Particularly the final quarter. Was I sobbing my eyes out before? Ok, that was nothing. I was BAWLING by the end.

Because this is a fairy tale, you can kind of guess what's going to happen sometimes. Certain things are inevitable and I read those scenes like an angry child, stubbornly digging my heels into the ground and then collapsing on the ground kicking and screaming in protest (not literally though, I didn't embarrass myself that much in public).

*FYI, I was just asked by one of my patrons if everything was ok because my eyes are all glassy with tears as I'm writing this and remembering those scenes. See what I mean about the seriousness of that warning?

But I rallied and read beyond those scenes, picking myself up like Kate and continuing on despite the pain. And it was so worth it. By the end, I was still crying, but my tears had turned from tears of anguish to bittersweet tears of acceptance and hope. I don't usually like to say much about the endings of books, but I have to say that this ending is the best possible ending ever. Erin Bow is simply amazing.

And they lived happily ever after

I hope that if you read this book that you can feel even a fraction of what I'm feeling. It is a gift and I want to give it to you. I'm so deeply moved. A number of my library patrons read this book for their mother-daughter book club and I couldn't think of a better choice.

If I still haven't convinced you, then maybe Krystle can. It was her amazing review that made me pick up Plain Kate when I did and I can't thank her enough.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Plain Kate that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Review: Ward Against Death by Melanie Card

Ward Against Death by Melanie Card
Release Date: August 2, 2011
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Pages: 306
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley 
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Twenty-year-old Ward de’Ath expected this to be a simple job—bring a nobleman’s daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good-bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can’t be a surgeon—the Quayestri already branded him a criminal for trying—so bringing people back from the dead it is.

But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her.

However, nothing is as it seems—including Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive…


Best couple ever!

Ok, here's the thing you need to know about Celia: She's an assassin. I was a little afraid that based on that blurb, she'd be a whining damsel. But she TOTALLY isn't. Not even close. I also wasn't expecting her narration, but when chapter two rolled around and her voice was the one telling the story, I practically crowed with joy. I loved seeing the story through her perspective. This really helped give depth to her character and she scores highly on the WWMCD test. 

Though her constantly changing feelings about Ward got a little wearing after a while (make up your mind already, Celia!), I liked that there wasn't a hint of insta-love at all and instead their relationship was of the hate-love-hate-love-hate-love variety. Maybe there was a little too much back and forth, but I'll take that any day over the dreaded insta-love.

Ward is a different story. He is the second narrator and while I was expecting this to be more his story, he is often overshadowed by Celia's larger than life personality. I felt like I only truly got to know Ward when he was alone. Also, where Celia scores highly on the WWMCD test, Ward ranks a bit lower. He still rates well, but sometimes it seemed like Melanie Card was trying to make him too many things at once. He felt a little less consistent than Celia--but only a little. I did very much like what I saw though. Ward is a quiet scholar, but he's also not afraid to take risks in the pursuit of greater knowledge and doing what is right.

So why the "Best couple ever!" title? Because the strength of these two is when they're together. Though Celia does have a tendency to overshadow Ward, they both bring out qualities in the other that are better than when they're alone. In a lot of ways they remind me of Will and Alona from The Ghost and the Goth series by Stacey Kade. They're opposites, they bicker, and they're not afraid to call one another out. But they also care and it's so sweet. I get the feeling their relationship will be even more fun to read about in the sequel and I can't wait to find out. 

What a wonderful world

Oh world building! One of my favorite things about the fantasy genre is the opportunities for world building, and Melanie Card does a fantastic job at creating a world that is both inventive and plausible. She weaves in so much--politics, magic, religion, history, professions, guilds--and then she ties it all together to create a world with incredible depth and possibilities. I really liked learning about the world and this held my attention just as much as the mystery and characters.

Except she doesn't nail it. She almost nails it. I get the sense that this world is fantastically formed in her head, but she's only transcribed 80% of it here. Now sure, I know some of it we'll learn about as the series unfolds and that is natural and fine, but it sometimes felt like I was on a movie set where everything seems very real until you realize that everything is just a thin plywood facade. If there was just a little more explanation about the world--just a tiny bit more time spent on "stage setting" and fully fleshing everything out--then it would have been amazing.

Well, who killed her?

This question is the driving force of the book and kept me turning the pages. Each chapter sees Ward and Celia come a little closer to the answer. Though this isn't quest fantasy, things almost read like a quest story with Celia and Ward sent in first one direction, and then another and another, in search of the truth. I was never white-knuckling it, but the pacing was brisk and steady and never suffered any lulls.

But this brings me to another "almost." The plot was almost perfect...until the info-dump at the end followed by the easy-peasy resolution. Things were cooking up to Something Big...and then wrapped up like a 30-minute sitcom. It was still fun, but I was a little disappointed with how easily everything was resolved.

Bottom line

Though plagued by "almosts" (Ward, the world building, the resolution), even "almost" was good enough to keep me entertained and make me anxious to read the sequel. There's so much potential, and I have faith that Melanie Card will take those "almosts" and do her ideas justice in the future. I think it's all in her head and it must be brilliant. I just hope she lets us in on all the details in the next book.

With the way Ward Against Death ends I imagine it will have a sequel, though I don't yet know when it will be published It will be published in December 2011! The ending is open enough to lead smoothly into the next book with the next "mission" set up, but the main story is wrapped up nicely. No killer cliffhangers!

One final caution: this is much more of an adult/YA crossover than straight up YA. The characters mention sex in a much more mature manner and the overall vibe is more like an adult book.  

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Ward Against Death that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!
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