Saturday, October 29, 2011

In My Mailbox (28)

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 few weeks. 

*To avoid spoilers, I haven't included any of the Historical Fantasy Jubilee books I've received for review and giveaway*

For Review

I love historical fiction! This one looks like it will be nice and detailed. Or maybe I just love the cover! This is an adult title.
  The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
Another beautiful cover, another historical fiction title. This one is set on and after the sinking of the Titanic and sounds like it involves romance, scandal, gossip and an intrepid dressmaker at the center of it all. This is also an adult title.

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
I think this is an adult book, but Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study series are also considered adult books, so I'm thinking this might be another YA/adult crossover? It's about a girl who can take diseases away from sick people, finds herself hunted, and then is picked up by a band of rogues (!!) with an "enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own". Powers to make me swoon, perhaps?

Tempest by Julie Cross
Time travel, male protagonist--yup, I'm interested!

My Very Un-Fairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski
This book looks SO adorable! Fractured fairy tales are my weakness. This one is toward the top of my TBR.

Slayers by C.J. Hill (Janette Rallison)
The idea of dragon slayers was enough to get me interested. Then I found out that C.J. Hill is really just another name for Janette Rallison (who I LOVE) and I got even more intrigued. THEN I read an interview with Janette Rallison at The Bookworm is Here! where she described Slayers as an action-adventure story with enough romance and comedy to satisfy her old fans and I knew I HAD to read it!

Click to make larger

I first heard about this one when Robin LaFevers gave it a five star rating on Goodreads. Now, I've loved both Grave Mercy and Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, both of which Robin wrote, and I've perused her Goodreads shelf enough to figure we have pretty similar tastes in books. That plus the summary and a male main character made me desperate for this.

I loved The Fourth Stall, which introduced kid-detective/mob boss Mac. When I finished reading that book I said I hoped there was a sequel. Now there is!

Mermaids! This was a super quick read with a sweet message and a fairy tale feel. Look for a review soon (like, November, yeah, I accidentally snapped a picture of one of our Historical Fantasy Jubilee books! See, I'm terrible at keeping secrets).

Thank you Ballantine Books, Fiewel & Friends, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Mira, St. Martin's Griffin, Walden Pond Press, Doubleday, Scholastic Press, Bloomsbury, and NetGalley!


Click to make larger

Ashfall by Mike Mullin
Won from Princess Bookie and Mike Mullin. Thank you!

I'm a sucker for a good survival story. Seriously. If I had my way, I would turn my house into a fortress stocked with enough toilet paper, canned food, and ammo to comfortably make it through even the worst zombie apocalypse. The fact that this is a Yellowstone volcano-induce apocalypse makes it about ten times scarier than zombies because, hey, you never know.

Aphrodite the Diva (Goddess Girls #6) by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Won from Cynthia Leitich Smith, Joan Holub, and Suzanne Williams. Thank you!

I love this series! We already have a copy of this in my library, but I'm going to lend this copy out too because it's always checked out. Those bookmarks will be gone in about 60 seconds when I put them out at my library on Monday. The girls go nuts for this series. And that necklace? OOOoo that will be a hot item! I think I might just have to suggest a new craft activity so tears don't flow because there's only one. Either way, you know who is going to be the goddess come Monday when I bring in this swag? Small, that's who.

Also a big thank you again to Alex at A Girl, Books and Other Things for introducing me (and consequently my library) to this wonderful series!

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, October 28, 2011

Recap 10/22 to 10/28

In case you missed anything, here's a recap of what was posted Saturday, October 22nd through Friday, October 28th. 

+ Have you noticed my new Historical Fantasy Jubilee button?
(top left sidebar) 

And be sure to check out Ruby's post to help you prepare your wardrobe for the Event of the Season!

+ Ashley from Basically Amazing Books has won the audiobook copy of Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan!

+ There's still time to enter to win a copy of A Dog's Way Home by Bobbie Pyron




Miss anything last week? Click here to read a Recap

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to Display Labels/Tags

How to Display Labels/Tags

Part 2 of the series
How to Keep Readers and Increase Pageviews

What You Will Learn

You've been following the series How to Attract Readers to Your Blog, but now that you have caught the eye of more readers, how do you keep them coming back to your blog again and again? How do you get them to read more than just the one page they landed on?

To answer THOSE questions, I've put together another series for you: How to Keep Readers and Increase Pageviews! Like the previous series (which is still ongoing--don't worry, I still have a ton more of tips and tricks to share), this will be a multi-part series broken down into bite sized chunks designed to reduce stress and overload and instead make improving your blog a quick and easy process.

Previous posts in the series:

How to Use Labels (Tags) to Increase Blog Traffic

Let's Do This!

How should you display your labels/tags?

There are three main methods for displaying labels:

Cloud: Your labels are organized in a big "cloud" of words, with the more frequently used labels displayed in larger fonts. Usually the labels are organized alphabetically, but they can also be displayed by frequency.

Pros: Very visual. Quickly gives a snapshot of the type of labels used on the blog and their frequency of use. Moderate to very easy to use if a reader is casually browsing your labels. You can limit the number of labels displayed to target particular pages.

Cons: Can become very large if you choose to display a lot of labels. Moderate to poor to use if a reader is looking for a specific navigation label.

My label cloud at Amazon

List: Your labels will be displayed in a list (usually alphabetical) down your sidebar. Sometimes there will be a number next to each label indicating the frequency of that particular label's use. Users can control which labels are displayed in the list.

Pros: Good for displaying infrequently used tags, resulting in possibly increased pageviews of pages that might otherwise be buried. Provides an index of all of your posts (if you include all labels). Can be organized to display your most popular posts or posts you would like to drive more traffic toward (I almost always check out these lists if they're short). Can be used as a Table of Contents.

Cons: Crazy long list! Personally, I don't like the way these label lists look when the blogger includes every label they've ever used and I tend to ignore them. To me, they appear cluttered and give me an information overload.

My fake label list (I don't actually have one on the blog)

Drop-down Menu:  This is what I use here at Small Review (check under "Table of Contents" on the left sidebar) and I have organized it to be more of a navigation tool than a label list. This format is often organized alphabetically, but can also be organized by frequency of use. The blogger can choose to display all labels, or only those they select.

Pros: Conserves space and reduces clutter. Can be organized (as I have done) to serve as a Table of Contents, which can be a useful navigation tool. This is also helpful for me on my own blog when I'm looking for a type of post or the frequency of particular types of posts.

Cons: Less "in your face" than other types of label displays, which could mean less frequent click-throughs.

Should you display ALL your labels/tags?

No, you should not. At least, that's my preference.

You don't want to overwhelm your readers with a gigantic list of every label you've ever used in life. So while you may create a million different labels, only display in your label list the labels/tags that you think would be most relevant for people trying to search through your blog.

Plus, what's the point of displaying all your labels? Most labels will only be used once or twice, especially on a book blog (author's names, for example).

But maybe you want people to be able to search for your posts by author! Well, I'm of the opinion that there are better ways to go about using those labels. For example,

This is a snapshot of my Review Index. See my poorly drawn "arrow" pointing at the link "River of Time series"? That link is a label link! If you click on it, you'll be taken to all of my posts that have been tagged with the label "River of Time series."

See the second arrow? It's pointing to an author's name, which is another label link. In my Review Index, every author's name is a label link, and if you click on it you'll be taken to all of my posts related to that author (reviews, Spotlight Lists, if I did an interview with that author, cover reviews, etc).

What format do you prefer to view labels? What pros and cons of the different methods have you found? Do you ever look through labels on blogs? What format are you more likely to browse through?

I am by no means an authority and these are just my personal opinions. There are no right or wrong ways to display your labels.

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 Tips & Tricks Posts 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (37)

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.

Melody Burning by Whitley Strieber
Ivy's Ever After by Dawn Lairamore

Goodreads description of Melody Burning (December 6, 2011):

Beresford doesn’t remember much about his past or how he came to live in the chutes and crawl spaces of the posh high-rise that shares his name. But when rock star and teen sensation Melody McGrath moves to an apartment on the fiftieth floor, he knows he has to be near her. Although she doesn’t realize it, Melody is threatened by more dangerous forces than her manipulative stage mom and the pressures of life in the spotlight. The owner of the glamorous building has been hiding a fatal secret within its walls, and Beresford puts all his plans at risk. Will Beresford and Melody be able to escape with their lives (and love) intact? Bestselling author Whitley Strieber makes his young adult debut with this pulsing romantic thriller.

Why I want to read it:

I'm not totally sold that this is the book for me, but I also can't deny that I'm intrigued. What are those dangerous forces? What is the fatal secret? How does Beresford play a part? 

Goodreads' description of Ivy's Ever After (March 16, 2010):

Full of humor and high adventure-and plenty of slightly skewed fairy-tale motifs-this frothy, fractured fairy tale will delight young readers.

Once upon a time in the kingdom of Ardendale there lived a spirited princess named Ivy, who had no interest in being rescued by Prince Charming, and an undersized dragon named Elridge, who was better at solving word puzzles than breathing fire. Sailing into this world on a ship made of whale bones came Romil, a handsome prince with dastardly designs on Princess Ivy and her kingdom. Ivy and Elridge, both disappointments to their families, join forces to try and thwart Romil's evil plot. In the process these traditional enemies become fast friends, discover hidden strengths, and earn the respect of all who know them.

Why I want to read it:

This is a lot more my speed. Frothy fractured fairy tale? TOTALLY WANT (I'm digging the alliteration, too). Give me spirited princesses and dragons (even undersized dragons) any day.

Pretty sure this one is MG.

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review: Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions.

But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.


Six reasons I loved Tuesdays at the Castle


I thought Tuesdays at the Castle was going to be all about Celie, and while Celie is the main focus (the third person narration has a focus on her), her older brother and sister are just as important.

I loved this! The interaction between the siblings was sweet and fun. I actually loved Celie's brother and sister so much that I would read the story all over again told from each of their perspectives.

2. Pogue 

This is a MG book, so the romance is really, really minimal (like, only implied), but Pogue is where it's at and his devil-may-care, charming and flirty personality makes him a character to watch.

Maybe we could get a book told from Lilah's perspective so I can get more Pogue (Pogue has a little thing going on with Celie's older sister Lilah)? I could go for that!

3. A character who owns a pile of puppies 

Puppies! I'm firmly in the camp that believes puppies make everything better.

4. Celie

She gets a sleepover party invite! Celie is everything I want in a MC--she's inquisitive, determined, and she so gets the value of secret passageways.

And, yeah, maybe after watching the requisite scary movie at our sleepover party we'd both pull out our childhood stuffed animals that we told all our friends we got rid of ages ago but really we didn't. But that's ok because we both understand that sometimes nothing can offer comfort like that old stuffed animal friend.

Basically what I'm saying here is that Celie may be super awesome for standing up against some pretty rotten characters, but she's a real girl with courage AND fears and I could totally relate to her while also admiring her.

Plus, she's a princess, so there's automatic points for that.

5. Castle Glower

If I hadn't already been sold on reading Tuesdays at the Castle because this is a Jessica Day George book and I'll read anything she writes, that castle that magically adds new rooms and features would have cinched the deal.

Half the reason I read so many castle/mansion books is because I get to explore big houses! The idea of a castle that is constantly growing and changing and adding new cool secret passageways (can you tell I have a thing for secret passageways?) and magical objects is just so full of win that I think they need to invent a new level of awesome just for Castle Glower.

The fact that the castle is also effectively a character in its own right who loves the royal family just makes the whole thing explode with awesomeness even more. Do you remmeber Nana from Peter Pan? You know, the dog who watches over the children? Imagine if she was a castle and could create magical objects. Pretty neat, right?

6. Political intrigue

This is a MG book, but I think the political intrigue was still pretty entertaining. I really wished I could reach into the book and start slapping the bad guys. They cook up some nasty schemes, and I liked how new layers were peeled back, slowly exposing their duplicity.

Of course this is a MG book, so none of the bad guys got a (well deserved) actual skewering, but Jessica Day George gave me plenty of opportunities to laugh at their comeuppances.

And, while I knew everything would work out in the end (it's a Jessica Day George book--she never fails to give me the Happily Ever After I want), there were a bunch of times where I was so wrapped up in the characters' plights that I was practically plunged alongside them into the depths of despair wondering how in the world they were going to fix everything.

Stars off?

I'm kind of just a tensy little bit of an impatient reader (which is probably the biggest understatement of the year). So the slower beginning made me a little antsy. It wasn't like nothing was happening, but it felt like there was a lot of waiting around in the beginning.

Pogue also gets sent off on a quest-type mission and I'll admit that I pouted and may have even stomped my foot a little when I realized *I* wasn't tagging along.

Instead I was stuck in the castle (which, yeah, I know as far as consolation prizes go this one wasn't half bad. But, but, I missed out on a QUEST, with Pogue! It kinda felt like getting stuck at the kiddie table when all the grownups are discussing juicy secrets).

Bottom line

I am a fawning, pom-pom waving fangirl for Jessica Day George, and Tuesdays at the Castle just reminded me again why. Somehow she always manages to spin a cotton candy confection of fluffy happy goodness with a captivating plot, endearing characters, and seriously bad villains.

Lucky for me, Tuesdays at the Castle is just the beginning! There will be at least two more books about Celie and her magical castle (and her brother and sister? And Pogue? I hope!)

But, don't let that scare you off because Tuesdays at the Castle can totally be read as a standalone. In fact, if I hadn't read on Jessica Day George's blog that there would be sequels, I never would have thought there was more to come (but I am SO so looking forward to more!)

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Tuesdays at the Castle 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/Goodreads.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review: The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 319
Received: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court.  But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection.  Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.

Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks.  But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control - she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.

A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.


We're on the road to nowhere

The story starts off quickly enough with Sinda having the news of her non-princess status broken to her in the very first chapter. This is good. 

What wasn't so good was the 100 page digression that happened next. As if that weren't frustrating enough, this is a digression of suck. I don't mean to say that it wasn't well written, because it was (the whole book is), but rather that this period in Sinda's life sucks. 

And you guys know me, right? I like happy sparkly things, not dreary sucky things.

Sinda takes about 100 pages to wallow in the facts that she's useless when it comes to non-royal tasks, she has no friends in the village, and even her aunt doesn't like her all that much. Oh, and she learns she's a pushover who does nothing but meekly sit back and take whatever life throws at her without making a peep. Yay.

Sure, this is an important lesson and is the impetus for the whole rest of the book. But Sinda learning this lesson is the sole point of the 100 page Detour to Sucksville and I can't help but pout over the fact that this section was so long and dreary and all for just that tiny, little lesson. 

The gigantic chapters didn't help make this section go by any faster, either.   

Oh there you are, Good Book!

If you're like me and the word "impatient" is an understatement when describing you, then please try to push through that beginning. Because after all the Blah, Blah, Blah of the first part, there's actually a really awesome story here. 

After Sinda's disastrous time with her aunt, she decides to go back to the village by the castle and see if she can get accepted into the college of wizards. This is when the story gets better. 

I loved every single character introduced from this point on, particularly Sinda's eccentric tutor (a lady wizard! We hardly ever see lady wizards!), Kiernan (love interest, we do meet him earlier), and Orianne (princess that replaces Sinda). 

They each had such sweet personalities, though I wish they were a little deeper than they were. Orianne and the lady wizard were such intriguing characters, yet I feel like I only scratched the surface of getting to know them. 

The romance was also of the type I prefer. No, there wasn't any hate turned love, but it was a slow burn. There's no insta-love, broody stranger, or love triangles in sight! It's just a sweet, slow realization between two people who have been friends all their life. Kiernan's loyalty and devotion to Sinda was the kind of sweetness that makes me want to clasp my hands to my chest, sigh, and let out a big AAAWWW.

The plot made me happy

Usually it's the characters that keep me reading, and while I did like these characters, what really kept me hooked in the story was the mystery. Most of this latter part of the book is spent with Sinda and Kiernan as they search for all of the clues to piece together a plot that is over a decade in the making. 

Eilis O'Neal wove such a fantastic story with all sorts of twists and turns. Do you like courtly intrigue? Vengeance? Prophecies? Dastardly plots? Murder? Oh boy, then are you in for a treat!

What's even better is that I didn't ever feel like I had read this story before. Everything was so fresh and original while still comfortably slipping into the beloved and familiar world of YA fantasy. 

But wait, it gets better: NO CLIFFHANGER! Not only that, but there isn't even a sequel. Just this wonderful standalone story that wraps up perfectly and left me totally satisfied. (But if there was a sequel, I would totally read it.)

What I wish happened

If the 100 page detour in the beginning was completely cut out and those pages were instead used to flesh out the characters just a little more, then I would have Special Shelf-ed this book.

Looking at what the book actually is though, the characters were just a little too undeveloped and, well, you can see how hung up I am over that slow start. I also wasn't 100% in love with Sinda. She was a little too weak and filled with low self-confidence for my tastes, even after she learned her lessons.

This is a debut though, so I have no doubt things will only improve from here for Eilis O'Neal. I will most definitely be keeping an eye out for whatever she publishes next and I really hope it's another fantasy--the genre could use more authors like her. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The False Princess 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.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Recap 10/17 to 10/21

In case you missed anything, here's a recap of what was posted Monday, October17th through Friday, October 21st.

+ Giveaways and a chance to be in a book trailer!




Want a chance to be in a book trailer?

It's that time of year to dress up and pretend to be someone exciting, so why not record yourself while you're at it?

Spencer Hill Press (the publishers of Half Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout and the Ganzfield series by Kate Kaynak) are running a contest to be featured in their upcoming book trailer for Daniel Cohen's Masters of the Veil.

Interested? Click here to learn more!

Miss anything last week? Click here to read a Recap

Friday, October 21, 2011

Author Interview: Bobbie Pyron + Giveaway (US & CA)

I am so happy to welcome Bobbie Pyron to Small Review today! Bobbie is here to talk about her inspiring publication journey (which I asked about because I'm a total snoop and I love getting the inside scoop!) I was both touched and heartened reading Bobbie's post, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

You can also check out my review of A Dog's Way Home.

Following My North Star

One day several years ago, I was hiking in the mountains with my dogs, Teddy (a Shetland Sheepdog) and Boo (a coyote mix), when the idea burst into my brain for the novel that would eventually become my second book, A Dog’s Way Home. A girl named Abby lost her beloved Shetland Sheepdog, Tam, after they competed in an agility competition in late fall in Virginia. I knew the dog would have to find his way four hundred-plus miles through the winter wilderness of the Blue Ridge Mountains to get back to “his girl.” I knew that, despite the odds and despite her parents belief to the contrary, Abby would never give up on her and Tam being together again. I knew all this (and more) when the dogs and I got back to the trailhead where my car was parked. As soon as we got home, I began to write.

Eight months later, I had a completed first draft of the book. I was very pleased with what I’d written, and my critique group assured me it was good. So, I took the next logical step: I sent my story out into the world. I sent the manuscript to editors and agents, and I took it to workshops and conferences to be critiqued. They more or less said the same thing: you “can’t” write a book for kids in this format. What had I done? I had written the book’s chapters in alternating points of view. Abby’s chapters were in first person. Tam’s chapters were in third person (third dog?). The critiques, editors, and agents said kids just wouldn’t “get” how the book was done! Some of the rejections said they connected more with Abby’s story, others said they wanted only Tam’s story. Couldn’t I please write it in a more conventional form, they asked?

I wrung my hands and lost faith in my own North Star. They must be right, I thought. What do I know? So I tried to re-write the book in a more conventional format. It felt so, so very wrong on every level. The story demanded to be told the way I’d originally written it. With a resigned yet resolved heart, I put the book away.

Now, I’m not one for clichés, but here’s one I will forever live by: it only takes one yes. At the encouragement of one of my critique group members, I queried an agent she’d recently heard speak. With very little hope of a good outcome, I queried her and sent her the first 50 pages of the manuscript. She asked to see the whole thing. Still not allowing myself to get hopeful (I’d been down this road too many times), I sent her the rest. Within a few days, she emailed me and said she loved the book and wanted to represent me! And most importantly, she believed in and trusted the way the book was written.

I won’t kid you. It took a while to find an editor who also believed in the way the book was written. Every now and then, my agent and I would toy with the idea of changing the format, but we never did. Oh we did make some rather interesting changes in Abby’s story, namely moving her from her safe, predictable world in the mountains of North Carolina to big city Nashville. When my agent suggested this drastic change for Abby (and her parents) I was resistant. What about Tam? He was, after all, on his way home! But she was right. Once I dug into the changes, I had a grand time with it. Not long after those revisions were made, my agent brought me that one other “yes” I’d been waiting for. Tam and Abby’s journey found a home at Katherine Tegen Books. In its original format, I might add.

I get a lot of fan email and talk to kids at school about A Dog’s Way Home. None of them can imagine the book being written any other way. They all find the two parallel stories equally compelling and absorbing. They relate to Abby and they cheer for Tam, and they cry and laugh with both. And that’s exactly the way my inner North Star guided me to write their story.

Bobbie Pyron calls A Dog's Way Home "my own personal love letter to all the great, classic dog books I've read and loved--and to all the dogs I've loved too." As a part-time librarian, Bobbie enjoys sharing dog stories and books of all kinds with readers.

You can visit Bobbie online at

--from the jacket flap

Have you ever been in a situation where other people caused you to doubt your original path? What did you do? How did things turn out for you? I'd love to hear your stories!

Can you think of any other books that would not have worked as well if their narration style had been changed?

Bobbie Pyron has generously provided a copy of A Dog's Way Home to give to one of you! The giveaway is open to US and Canadian addresses.

Click here to fill out the form!

Info for the giveaway:
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • You must have a US or Canadian mailing address (or know someone with a US or Canadian address where the book can be sent)
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • Your address is not required, but including it will help with sending the book out to you sooner
  • If an address is not provided, the winner will have 24 hours to reply to my email with their address before a new winner is chosen
  • The giveaway will close November 2nd. The winner will be announced Friday November 4th in the Recap post

Be sure to check out all of the other tour stops to learn more about Bobbie, A Dog's Way Home, and for more chances to win!

The Wormhole Oct 3 & Oct 4
Pragmatic Mom Oct. 5                                          
A Patchwork of Books Oct.6 & Oct. 7
ReaderGirls Oct. 11 & Oct. 10
Mozi Esmé Oct. 12                                                               
Allison's Book Bag Oct. 13 & Oct. 14
Book Twirps Oct. 14                                          
The Brain Lair Oct. 17 & Oct. 18
In The Pages Oct. 19                                         
Small Review Oct. 20 & Oct. 21
Books and Needlepoint Oct. 24
Mad Moose Mama Oct. 24               

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: A Dog's Way Home by Bobbie Pyron

A Dog's Way Home by Bobbie Pyron
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 321
Received: Review copy provided by author (for blog tour)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

One late fall afternoon, a tragic highway accident leaves eleven-year-old Abby and her beloved Shetland sheepdog, Tam, stranded at opposite ends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Though each is determined to be reunited with the other, the days separating them turn to weeks, then months, and dangers and changes fill up Abby's and Tam's lives. Will they ever find their way back home to one another?

Classic in its themes and contemporary in its telling, Bobbie Pyron's A Dog's Way Home is the unforgettable tale of the many miles, months, and mountains that separate two loyal friends—but that can't possibly keep them apart.


There seems to be an endless supply of animal stories where the creature conquers great adversity to be reunited with the love of its human companion. A Dog's Way Home did not stand out in the genre for me, but it did warm my heart, which is exactly what a book like this should do.

Rocky start

A Dog's Way Home alternates chapters between Abby's first person narration and Tam's journey (narrated in the third person). At first I wondered why Abby's sections were there and if they could possibly be interesting. Maybe it's because I'm a dog lover, but I wanted to focus on Tam's journey and I was bored and frustrated for the first quarter whenever the focus shifted back to Abby's life.

The Abby parts were especially annoying to me in the beginning (I get it, you want your dog back. You miss him. You HAVE TO DROP EVERYTHING AND FIND HIM NOW!), which I'm sure makes me sound cold hearted. But I'm not, I swear!

Really, I can totally empathize with Abby and if I was in her position I would move mountains to get my dog back. But when reading a book? It got kind of annoying hearing the same thing over and over in each chapter. BUT...

More than expected

After a little while Abby's chapters started to get more interesting as her own journey began to take shape. Tucked between the dog story is a contemporary book about family and friendship that contained unexpected depth, heart, and insight.

While this may sound like a cluttered plot, Bobbie Pyron skillfully wove the threads together to make a balanced and well-paced story with the contemporary sections beautifully complementing the animal journey.

I don't love contemporary issues like this so I wasn't in love with it, but it was nicely done. These Abby chapters were filled with enough plot and depth that they could easily stand on their own without the Tam parts (but I'm glad the Tam parts are there too).

Little puppet made of pine

Though I did warm to Abby's chapters, I never warmed to Abby herself. I like her because I can connect with her over our shared love of dogs, but other than that she actually irritated me. It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I didn't click with her, but I think part of it is that she didn't ring entirely true to me.

To me she read more like an adult trying to sound like a kid than like an actual kid. The other children were less fleshed out, but they also felt a little off and I had a hard time connecting with or deeply caring for any of them. In contrast, Abby's parents, the other adult characters, and Tam all felt a lot more genuine and I cared for all of them.


Poor Tam goes through horrible experiences. Now, ok, I didn't expect a cakewalk here, but I was hoping for something more on the level of Homeward Bound (Disney's G-rated movie) than the more realistic bleeding and broken puppy I got.

It wasn't all a downer and Tam does encounter a lot of heartwarming help along the way, but prepare for something a little more PG than G.

The worst for me was an event that occurred on page 112. I almost DNF-ed the book right then and there (though I'm glad I didn't). If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to just skip right over chapter 20 entirely. Animal softies like me might wish to do the same.

Bottom line

A Dog's Way Home was a solid animal story and I'm happy to have read it (even if it did make me miss my dog like crazy). It is clear Bobbie Pyron is a dog lover and she writes about dogs--both from their POV and the POV of those who love them--with care and insight.

A Dog's Way Home is likely to be a hit with animal and contemporary lovers. A good fit for the classroom, though probably better suited for older elementary to MG readers. Adult readers might appreciate the development of the parents.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about A Dog's Way Home that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Click here to read Bobbie Pyron's guest post and for a chance to win a copy of A Dog's Way Home!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (36)

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.

My Very Un-Fairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski
A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Goodreads description of My Very Un-Fairy Tale Life (November 1, 2011):

"You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They're lies. All lies."—Twelve-year-old Jenny has spent the last two years as an adventurer helping magical kingdoms around the universe. But it's a thankless job, leaving her no time for school or friends. She'd almost rather take a math test than rescue yet another magical creature! When Jenny is sent on yet another mission, she has a tough choice to make: quit and have her normal life back, or fulfill her promise and go into a battle she doesn't think she can win.

Why I want to read it:

This book sounds positively made of win! I've been pining over it ever since it was a tiny little blurb with no cover. We've got fairy tales, humor, adventure, battle! I'm thinking I have a pretty cool fairy godmother who cooked up this book for me and planted the idea in Anna Staniszewski's brain because it just screams READ ME, SMALL!! I'm pretty sure this is a MG book.

Goodreads' description of A Curse as Dark as Gold (March 1, 2008):

Upon the death of her father, seventeen-year-old Charlotte struggles to keep the family's woolen mill running in the face of an overwhelming mortgage and what the local villagers believe is a curse, but when a man capable of spinning straw into gold appears on the scene she must decide if his help is worth the price.

Why I want to read it:

Are you sensing a theme today? Yes, I am hopeless in the face of fairy tale books. They call out to me and I find myself ignoring basic things like feeding myself and sleeping in order to devote all my time to reading as many fairy tale retellings as I can.

This retelling is about Rumpelstiltskin and if my feelings for Elizabeth C. Bunce's fantasy book Starcrossed or my book soulmate Sierra at Yearning to Read are any indication, then I think I'm going to love A Curse as Dark as Gold.  

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

Click here for a chance to win an audiobook copy of Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan.
Not sure if you're interested? Click here to read my 4 star review.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: Just Your Average Princess by Kristina Springer

Just Your Average Princess by Kristina Springer
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 208
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Jamie Edwards has loved everything about growing up on a pumpkin patch, but ever since her cousin Milan Woods arrived, things have really stunk. Jamie can’t imagine it was easy for Milan to leave her life back in Los Angeles and move to Average, Illinois, population one thousand. But it’s kind of hard to feel sorry for her since (a) Milan’s drop-dead gorgeous; (b) she’s the daughter of two of Hollywood’s hottest film stars; (c) she’s captured the attention of everyone in town, including Danny, Jamie’s crush since forever; and (d) she’s about to steal the title of Pumpkin Princess right out from underneath Jamie!


Swapping charms

I read the first chapter, closed the book, and thought to myself, "Kristina Springer, will you be my BFF?" Or do I mean Jamie? I think I mean both because both Kristina Springer's writing style and the character she has created in Jamie are totally ME.

There are some characters I want to swap BFF charms with because they're so kick butt, or kind, or entertaining, or otherwise awesome. Jamie is that rare character I want to invite over for a sleepover party because she's so the type of friend who will finish my sentences or know exactly what I'm thinking without my having to utter a single word.

When she remarked on how a compliment about her hair from her crush (who she's too shy to actually talk to) would totally warrant a diary entry, I knew Jamie was a kindred spirit.

But what does that mean? Jamie isn't snarky like the characters I usually gravitate toward. She's sweet, kind, and innocent. She's the kind of girl who would give her mom a hug in front of the whole school.

With all that sweetness you might be thinking, "Oh gag me now" and maybe I would have too, but Jamie's first person narration is so open and genuine that I couldn't help but love and relate to her. With the over-abundance of jaded, tough-as-nails girls populating YA books lately, it was also nice to read from the perspective of someone as nice, family-oriented, and "clean" as Jamie.

You know this story...or do you?

Just Your Average Princess is pretty much just your average story. Girl with secret troubles moves from her glamorous city life to a small town. At first she's totally grossed out by the "quaintness" of it all, but she comes around and everything ends with character growth and a group hug.

Except the main character of Just Your Average Princess is not just your average main character. Jamie is not the girl who moves and adjusts and typically stars in this story (that would be her cousin). Jamie is the nice family member who the usual MC clashes with and eventually embraces.

I liked seeing the story from this new perspective. The twist in character focus helped take a been-there-done-that story and turn it into something a little different. The plot is still pretty predictable (I had Mean Cousin's secret pretty much pegged from the start), but I liked Jamie so much that I didn't mind traveling down this well-worn road with her.

Bonus points for

The two best friends who support Jamie and warmed my heart. Yummy sounding candy apples and pumpkin lattes (thank goodness I read this during Dunkin' Donuts' pumpkin season). The cute guy (sweet MG-level swoon). The emphasis on family (THANK YOU FOR MAKING THE PARENTS MATTER!)

Also points for the pumpkin farm Jamie lives on. I know, pumpkin farm?? But I was actually totally into seeing what it was like to live on a farm like Jamie and watch everything that went into that type of business.

Plus, she has a catapult that they use to chuck pumpkins at things. Tell me that's not cool?

Where did the star and a half go?

The too-quick personality change of Mean Cousin. I think I let this slide mostly because I've read so many books from the mean cousin's POV that I felt like her motivations were made more gradual and apparent than they actually were. But really, I wish it had been less of a switch flip and more of a slow turn around.

As much as I love Jamie and as much as I really did enjoy the story, I didn't connect with it in that Special Shelf way. Not much actually happened, there weren't any scenes that made it stand out for me, and I don't see it sticking with me for long. It also wasn't as funny as I was hoping it would be.

Bottom line

Just Your Average Princess was a totally wholesome read that I would give to both my YA and MG library girls. It wasn't fast-paced (or slow), but it was the perfect amount of pages to tell the story. Jamie was someone I immediately liked and I wish there were more characters like her in YA.

I was reminded a lot of Janette Rallison's books, with the similar moral messages, light and clean events, convincing character growth (Jamie's), and sweet romance. This was my first introduction to Kristina Springer, but I'll be sure to check out more of her books in the future.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Just Your Average Princess?
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 and/or Goodreads.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Audiobook Giveaway: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan (US)

I reviewed Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan (click the title for my review) last month and I am still thinking about all of the twists and morality questions raised in this startling dystopian. Wonderfully, I have an audiobook version provided by Macmillan for giveaway to one of you!


Info for the giveaway:
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • You must have a US mailing address
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • Your address is not required, but including it will help with sending the book out to you sooner
  • The winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen
  • The giveaway will close October 26th. The winner will be announced Friday October 28th in the Recap post

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Feel free to grab our teaser button!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Small News: Blogging Break

I'll be away from:

Today, October 1st until Tuesday, October 18th

I'll have TWO giveaways, an author guest post, and reviews for you when I come back!

Why will I be away? 

Because I'm preparing for the Super Secret Project my Super Secret Co-host and I are putting together for you! 

(you'll get a hint in a few days)

I hope you like it and I'll miss all of you!

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