Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick

Title: Draw the Dark
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Copyright: Oct. 28th, 2010
Pages: 328 (Hardcover)
To Buy:
Obtained From: NetGalley

There are things in Winter, Wisconsin, that people just don't talk about. 17-year-old Christian is one of them. Ever since he was little, he's had the ability to draw other's thoughts and memories, perhaps even influencing their actions. But sometimes, he has no control over his power. Lately, he's been having vivid dreams where he inhabits the body of a child in the 1940s. One night after one of these disturbing visions, he wakes up to find that he's been blamed for painting swastikas on the side of a barn. Punishment for this event leads him to meet Winter's last surviving Jew and uncover one more thing that people just don't talk about: the day the Nazis came to town. Christian' ghostly visions lead him to uncover a forgotten murder from 1945 that could forever change the town of Winter if revealed. Steeped in mystery, Draw the Dark is a dark fantasy that blends elements of a thriller to create a rich story about reclaiming the forgotten past.


The main issue that I had with Draw the Dark was that Ilsa failed to properly explain the supernatural elements of her world. The reader is given snippets of information throughout the story which are enough to piece together the basics, but still, every time there was a scene where some information of significance came up it concluded prematurely with an incomplete thought or a flashback. Even though these flashbacks were entertaining and crucial to the overall storyline, a proper explanation of the rules of the world would have been nice since there is some genre bending that goes on. Things that should have made sense were often confusing, and Christian's abilities were unclear. Yes, he can tap into people's memories and draw the visions of their past, but somehow his power is also connected to the "Sideways Place," an alternate reality that he can tap into with his drawings? I end that sentence with a question because I'm not even sure if that was the case.

There were pieces of this story that I think worked very well. Though Ilsa took some liberty with the research and historical elements of this book, watching Christian try to solve a murder that took place in 1946 was really interesting and I learned a lot about POW camps in the US after WWII. In addition, Christian was a great character, and Ilsa does a good job describing his transition from a boy to a young man. He starts out as an outsider, feared and scorned by the residents of Winter for his odd behavior and artistic talent (he has a thing for drawing creepy eyes). As a result, he's a bit of a Debbie Downer and doesn't do anything to befriend anyone around him (even when they extend a kind hand). This made him hard to relate to at first, but his emotions and thoughts felt so real and dripped with such lonliness that it was hard not to feel bad and cheer for him towards the end when he decides to set aside his depression and take control of his problems and power.

Really, I think the book just needed a tighter editing job. There IS a great story here, but it was a bit hard to find. Elements of a thriller, murder mystery, historical fiction, and paranormal fiction are combined to create a completely new experience for the reader. Seriously, I have no idea how you would categorize this book since it was so unique, but in a sense, Ilsa's innovation got crushed by the weight of everything she tried to accomplish. Will there be a sequel? I hope so. Ilsa certainly left it open for a second book, and I'm very curious to see if she expands on this "Sideways Place," that seems to be connected to Christian's power. Overall, it was bit of a disappointment but an interesting read nonetheless, and one that I'm not soon to forget. (Especially since it takes place in Wisconsin. As a native Sconnie, I love it when my state is mentioned!)


Say What, I Was Nominated?!

Dudes and dudettes, I'm proud (and a little shocked) to announce that I was nominated to be on the ballot for the Best New Blog of 2010! Seriously, I didn't even know that I had been nominated, so whoever nominated me, THANK YOU. I finished my last final yesterday so coming home to hear the news was a wonderful pick-me-up! I'm still in awe over it.

If you'd like to vote for me, fill out the form at Mindful Musings. Heck, even if you don't vote for me, you should still head on over there and vote for somebody! There are a ton of really great blogs listed, and each and every one of them deserves your vote. :D You can vote twice; once for the Best New Blog of 2010, and once for the Best Blog of 2010. Don't think its worth your time? Well, everyone who votes gets a chance to win their choice of a book from The Book Depository courtesy of Natalie. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal if you ask me. If I could vote a gazillion times, I would!

So once again, thank you very much for all of your love and support over the last few months. I'm honored to have each and every one of you as a follower, or even just as a random visitor. It means a lot to me and is one of the reasons why I keep at this blogging thing.


Also, If you look over to the side bar, you'll see that I'm quickly coming up on 100 followers. You know what that means, right? 100 FOLLOWER GIVEAWAY! I'll be holding a contest soon, so keep your eye out for more information. It probably won't begin until after the first of the year (I'll be on vacation in FL from Christmas Eve till New Year's Day), but you can get a head start by following my blog on Twitter, Facebook, and by adding me as a friend on Goodreads. (Following me will count for extra entries). I've been collecting a lot of neat things over the last few months (including signed copies of books) to giveaway so hopefully there will be at least one prize you're interested in winning. Anyway, more to come soon, and thanks again for all of your support!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

Title: Shadow Hills
Author: Anastasia Hopcus
Publisher: Edgemont USA
Copyright: July 13th 2010
Pages: 400 (hardcover)
To Buy:
How obtained: Bought at a bookstore

After her sister's tragic death, Persephone "Phe" Archer has been haunted by a series of disturbing dreams. Hoping to make sense of her sister's death, she enrolls in Devenish Prep in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts--the subject of her sister's final diary entry.

Once she steps on campus, Phe realizes that there's something very different about the place. Not only does Shadow Hills' history contain an unexplained epidemic that destroyed the town in the 1700s, but its modern townies seem to posses eerie supernatural powers. Even Zach--the gorgeous stranger Phe meets in a cemetery and immediately feels connected to--seems as if he has something to hide. But the more questions she asks and deeper she digs, the more entangled Phe becomes in the haunting past of Shadow Hills and finding what links her and her sister to this town might just be the end of her.


First of all, I'd like to take a moment to dedicate this review to Kristina over at the Frazzled Book Nommer. She has been--literally--waiting months to read this review. (Ok, you can stop bugging me now. ;D)

I really wanted to like this book. Really, I did. I mean, think about it: Mysterious epidemic? Townies (Phe's word for the Shadow Hill natives) with supernatural powers? Creepy dreams that connect Phe to the town? Sounds epic. The whole mystery intrigued me and I was looking forward to seeing how it unfolded. But that's the problem--there was no unfolding to be done. Phe solves the mystery behind Shadow Hills (roughly) a fourth of the way into the book, and the plot is taken over by a fairly familiar style of YA romance minus a lengthy period of courting: Girl sees Guy in her dreams, Girl meets guy in real life, Girl thinks Guy is hawt, Guy thinks Girl is hawt, they get together and, after deciding that they can't stand to be apart from each other, combine their super special awesomeness to defeat a bad guy. The End.

Now, I am a fan of romance, but only when it is done well and the relationship is interesting. Though it is clear that Phe and Zach are made for each other, there is no challenge that they must overcome to be with one another, and nothing to produce roadblocks in the way of exchanging their love. Even Zach and Phe's powers don't keep them apart, which was kind of disappointing because Phe's powers are unique and make her a 'special snowflake,' even among the townies in Shadow Hills. While Zach's powers are rooted in science, Phe's powers fall on the mystical side of things, and in this case I don't think the blending of the two worked well because the differences were not exploited to their full potential. The lack of conflict between them made parts of the book...well, boring, for lack of a better word. Eventually the two stumble onto another mystery (somebody is murdered on the school grounds) towards the end of the book, but by then the action felt almost out of place.

Though the novel is well written (I really enjoyed Hopcus' writing style) and concludes solidly, there were still a lot of lingering thoughts about Phe's newly-discovered powers and her connection to Shadow Hills. I'm assuming Hopcus did this to leave room for a sequel, but--and I feel bad for saying this--I'm not sure I'll pick it up. However, I know many fans of the paranormal genre will enjoy this book because what it does offer is unique to the genre. It just didn't turn out to be my cup of tea, especially since I was expecting something much different than what was given.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Follow Friday (5) & Book Blogger Hop (6)

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at the Parajunkee's View. Every week, book bloggers have a chance to connect and check out each other's blogs. Check it out to sign up and participate, or just check it out to check out some great blogs! This is my fifth week participating. This week's question:

What are you studying in college?

I'm a junior studying English with an emphasis in Creative Writing (fiction). If my school offered it, I'd probably dual major as an English and Library and Information Studies student. They offer the cooooooooolest classes about children's and young-adult literature. Talking about trends and themes in those books gets my blood pumping, you know? I had the opportunity to take a class on children's lit this semester, and absolutely LOVED it. I'll probably apply to a LIS graduate program after I graduate. Maybe Simmons? I dunno. Anyone out there have any recommendations? I know all about UW Madison's LIS program, so no need to tell me about that. (Now you get three guesses to guess where I go to school and the first two don't count.) :P

Book Blogger Hop

And if you do one Follow Meme, why not do two? The more the merrier! This is my sixth Book Blogger Hop.

The Book Blogger Hop is a meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books. Like Follow Friday, It's a place for book bloggers to connect, and "hop" from one another's blogs to get to know each other. Check it out to sign up and participate! Even if your blog doesn't get listed this week, you can view other people's blogs and make some friends. :P In addition, Jennifer also asks a question to kick off the conversations. This week's question:

What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?

Ooooooh, this is a tough one. On one hand, I can't really get into a story if I don't care about the main character. But then again...I could be reading about the most interesting person in the world but be totally bored out of my skull of nothing happens to him/her/it. I think it really is a combination of the two. All of the great stories have characters with strong voices and engaging plots. After all, when you read a book, you read it for the whole package, right?

To all of you returning visitors, thanks again for stopping by my blog, and to all you new visitors, welcome! If you leave a link to your website I'll be sure to check it out over the weekend. Until then, happy Friday! I hope everyone's holiday planning is going well. I dunno about you, but I am sooooo behind on my shopping. I'll have to brave the weather and coffee-stimulated crowds to get some stuff this weekend.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: Chaos Walking #1
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright: May 5th, 2008
Pages: 496 (paperback)
To Buy:
Acquired from the library

In a world where everyone can hear each other's Noise, there is no privacy. No lies. No silence. At least, that's what Todd Hewitt, the last boy in Prentisstown, has grown up believing. But when he and his dog, Manchee (who's thoughts he can hear as well) stumble upon a pocket of silence in the swamp, his world is turned upside down. Now, without completely understanding why, he must flee the town in order to keep the silence a secret.


I really, really, REALLY enjoyed reading this book. A thriller at its finest, The Knife of Never Letting Go's plot is dark, mysterious, and action packed. Todd's transformation from a whiny, bored, and somewhat selfish boy is really well done. He is the kind of character that you start cheering for towards the middle of the book rather than right from the beginning, and Ness couldn't have done a better job with the narration. Narrated in first person, the gritty style of it reflects the bleak state of the world. Some words are spelled phonetically, extending the idea that Todd can't really read. He narrates like he hears, and often breaks the fourth wall to directly address the reader (usually to tell us to shut up our own Noise), bringing the reader into the story. In addition, the other characters' Noise is expressed with scratchy, overlapped writing, sometimes covering the whole page to describe the chaos. It made this book sort of like a picture book, and overall created a very unique reading experience.

Though I admit that the ending was somewhat depressing and unsatisfying, I can't lie and say that I didn't see it coming. After all, this is a dystopian novel, and nobody is allowed to be happy until the very end of the series (its like writing law 101). The Knife of Never Letting Go leaves the reader with an awful cliffhanger, which is to be picked up as soon as book two begins. The good news is that readers will not have to wait a year to continue the series because the books are already out (thank gods). Regardless, it was an excellent novel, and one that I highly recommend to those who enjoy the genre.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Terrier by Tamora Pierce

Title: Terrier
Author: Tamora Pierce
Series: The Legend of Beka Cooper #1
Publisher: Random House
Copyright: Oct. 24, 2006
Pages: 592 (Hardcover)
To Buy:
Acquired from the Library

Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, commonly known as the "Provost's Dogs," in Corus, the capital of Tortall. To the surprise of the veteran "Dogs," and her fellow "Puppies," Beka requests duty in the Lower City. The Lower City is a tough beat, but its nothing she can't handle. After all, its where she grew up. But when Beka's magical informants--which include dust spinners and flocks of pigeons that carry the voices of the dead--reveal the deaths of eight missing citizens, she realizes that she's stumbled on an underground conspiracy that is bigger than her or her assigned Dogs could have imagined. Someone in the Lower City is terrorizing its citizens into submission and silence, and now its up to Beka and the Guard to figure out the identity of this new underlord before the death toll rises and more people disappear.

Hundreds of years before Alanna ever drew her sword, Tortall had another heroine named Beka Cooper. This is the story of her legend and her legacy...


As a die-hard Tamora Pierce fan, I'm sort of ashamed to admit that it took me this long to get around to reading Terrier--especially since it takes place in Tortall, my all time favorite high fantasy world. But later is better than never, right? And thank the gods. I was reminded of why I fell in love with Pierce's stories all those years ago.

For those of you familiar with Pierce's work, you'll be happy to hear that once again she has created a medieval world rich with detail unique to the realm of Tortall. All of her characters are memorable, and the dialogue is saturated with slang and specialized jargon. In fact, its so saturated that it was like reading an entirely different language. Thankfully, Pierce was kind enough to provide her own Rosetta Stone: Tortall Edition at the back of the book, and eventually I came to enjoy the soldier's colorful (and when I say colorful, I mean colorful) language. Though it did some time to become accostomed to, I felt like the vocabulary used gave the characters a certain kind of depth that made them sound more authentic, given the nature of this world and its rules.

Though the line between good and evil in the Lower City was very thin (unusual, given the nature of Pierce's other books), Beka was a delightfully balanced main character. The girl was incredibly level-headed, focused, brave, and persistant in everything that she did, not to mention forgiving. Though she believes in the law above all else, she doesn't entirely condemn those around her that do what they need to do in order to get by (so long as they don't hurt those around them). Beka's pragmatic way of thinking was very refreshing for the YA genre, and I couldn't help but understand and approve of the logic in every one of her decisions. It was easy to see bits of of Alanna, Daine, and Kel in her character (characters from Pierce's other Tortall series), but yet she was completely original.

However, the one thing that I wasn't terribly fond of was the diary format that the novel was written in. Beka's entries are long, and because of the way that they're written it was easy to forget that I was reading something that Beka wrote. For most of the time, I felt like I was reading just a regular ol' first person narrative. That's not to say that the writing was bad--no, no, it was really very good--but I don't think the book would have lost anything if Pierce had just decided to forgo Beka's time stamp. I dunno. Maybe I'm just biased since I'm so used to the style of her other Tortall books, which are written in the third person perspective.

Overall, I really enjoyed returning to the realm of Tortall, and felt that the plot that Beka stumbles upon was the perfect way to introduce the reader to the trials and tribulations of the Lower City of Corus. I was completely immersed in the investigation, and found myself guessing 'whodunit' up until the very end. I am so glad there there are more books in the series, because only one book with Beka just wouldn't be fair. I cannot wait to read Bloodhound and find out what's in store for her next.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

In My Mailbox (2)


IMM is a weekly meme hosted by
The Story Siren. The idea is to post what books you got this week, be they a gift, prize, from a bookstore, from the library, or from a publisher to review. The purpose is to let other people know what books are on your radar and encourage blogger interaction. :3 This is my second week participating!

Ok, so I cracked this week and bought books. I had told myself that I wasn't going to buy anything until after the holidays, but I'm weak and caved less than a few days after I had promised myself I wasn't going to open my wallet. Le sigh. At least I'm really happy with what I bought.

Books Bought:


Matched, by Ally Condie

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

3/4 of The Shamer Chronicles, by Lene Kaaberbol

Books Received in the Mail:


I'd Tell You That I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You, by Ally Carter

Books From The Library:


Bloodhound, by Tamora Pierce

So many books, so little time! I'm about three chapters into Matched right now, and loving it so far. Anybody else pick that up this week? What other books fell into your loving arms? Leave a link to your IMM post and I'll check 'em out! Happy reading everybody~

Friday, December 3, 2010

Follow Friday (4) & Book Blogger Hop (5)

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at the Parajunkee's View. Every week, book bloggers have a chance to connect and check out each other's blogs. Check it out to sign up and participate, or just check it out to check out some great blogs! This is my fourth week participating. This week's question:

What do you do besides reading/reviewing as a hobby?

I do a lot of things. I write fiction, draw cartoons, watch movies (like, Harry Potter), play RPG video games (Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Tales of Symphonia, and Ace Attorney mostly), think about dinosaurs, hang out with friends, eat food, stalk Kristina, think more about dinosaurs, watch Bones, watch videos of octopi on this one:

That is one awesomely awesome octopus.
So yeah, I pretty much do whatever when I'm not reading!

Book Blogger Hop

And if you do one Follow Meme, why not do two? The more the merrier! This is my Fifth Book Blogger Hop.

The Book Blogger Hop is a meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books. Like Follow Friday, It's a place for book bloggers to connect, and "hop" from one another's blogs to get to know each other. Check it out to sign up and participate! Even if your blog doesn't get listed this week, you can view other people's blogs and make some friends. :P In addition, Jennifer also asks a question to kick off the conversations. This week's question:

What popular book and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?

I actually can't think of any hyped books that I haven't enjoyed recently. Well, wait, I take that back. I'm not sure if it was hyped around the blogosphere, but I didn't really enjoy reading Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus. It was getting pretty good reviews on Goodreads, so I assumed I was going to enjoy it. But I was disappointed in the end because the mystery that was advertised on the jacket of the book got solved quickly and then put on the back burner so the plot could focus on the main character's love life. A shame, really. The mystery was so cool! Anyway, I plan on writing a review about it this week, so you can get the whole scoop then.

So what about you guys? What do you do in your free time besides blog and tweet about what you read? What books have you been recently disappointed with?

To all of you returning visitors, thanks again for stopping by my blog, and to all you new visitors, welcome! If you leave a link to your website I'll be sure to check it out over the weekend. Until then, happy Friday, and go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows p.1 if you haven't already!

Zombies vs Unicorns by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier

Title: Zombies vs. Unicorns: The Anthology
Author: Holly Black, Justine Larbalestier, Garth Nix, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Naomi Novik, Carrie Ryan, Margo Lanagan, Maureen Johnson, Diana Peterfreund, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, Cassandra Clare, Kathleen Duey and Libba Bray
Publisher: McElderry Books
Publication Date: Sept. 21st, 2010
Pages: 415 (Hardcover)
To Buy:

I'm not usually a fan of short story anthologies and normally wouldn't bother to write a review for one, but Zombies vs. Unicorns was so much fun to read that I couldn't help myself. You'll have to forgive me for not writing a proper summary like I normally do, but really, its pretty straight forward. The title says it all. But for those of you who would like a little more background... Zombies vs. Unicorns started out as an internet argument between Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier over which was better: zombies or unicorns? Black argued in favor of unicorns and Larbalestier argued in favor of zombies. Then some of their author buddies joined the debate, and they decided to write a bunch of short stories to try and prove which of the two creatures was better. Thus, Zombies vs. Unicorns: The Anthology was born. I'm not going to summarize every single short story that shows up in the anthology because if I did, you'd be sitting at your computer all night, and we don't want that. Especially when you could be spending your time reading them.

The quality of writing presented throughout the anthology was top-notch, and it was interesting to see how some of everyone's YA fiction authors tackled the short story format. (Personally, I was really excited to read Scott Westerfeld and Cassandra Clare's stories.) Many chose to put a unique spin on the traditional conception of each creature, creating a smörgåsbord of tales that will delight readers with any kind of taste. Not into brain-sucking zombies? Well, maybe you'll enjoy reading about zombies falling in love. Think pretty, rainbow-farting unicorns are lame? Well, maybe you'd prefer to read about killer human-eating unicorns. Really, as I mentioned before, there's a story in here for everyone. In addition, the narration in between the stories by Black and Larbalestier was hilarious. They pretty much created a new definition for the term, "inside joke." Really, listening to (er, technically, reading) them argue about zombies and unicorns was probably the best part of the book, and, believe it or not, both teams made very convincing arguments to support their case.

Because there were some stories I liked more than others I'm not going to rate this book. But just know that from page 1 to 415, I couldn't stop smiling. I highly recommend Zombies vs. Unicorns to anybody who's seeking a good gut-clenching laugh.

Oh, and as a side note, I'm totally Team Unicorn. Anybody care to challenge me? I'll gladly take you on!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Title: The Lost Hero
Author: Rick Riordan
Series: Heroes of Olympus #1
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Date of Publication: Oct. 12, 2010
Pages: 557 (Hardcover)
To Buy:


After saving Olympus from the titan lord, Kronos, Percy Jackson and his friends must rebuild Camp Half-Blood. But the danger is far from over. Rachel, the camp's new Oracle, delivers a bone-chilling prophecy for the next generation of demigods:

Seven Half-bloods shall answer the call
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

Now, in the camp's darkest hour of need, Percy has gone missing, and three new demigods believed to be part of the chosen seven have emerged. Jason, Piper, and Leo, all students at the Wilderness school are attacked by a freak storm and brought to Camp Half-Blood. Now Jason, who doesn’t remember anything about his life, Piper, who’s nightmares reveal that her father’s been missing and is great danger, and Leo, who carries with him a dangerous secret, must try to find Hera, queen of the Gods in order to stop the new enemy that has emerged.


Fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series will adore the The Lost Hero. Riordan has managed to continue his beloved series while completely putting a new spin on things. Though the adventure follows the traditional "Percy-Quest" pattern where the kids have only a few days to find something for the Gods and stop the world from imploding on itself (figuratively speaking, of course), it is significantly more complicated. Not only are there Greek gods and monsters, but now the demigods of Camp Half-Blood have the Roman equivalents of their parents to deal with in addition to other not-so-well know figures of myth such as Medea and the Roman wolves. I was wondering if Riordan was going to include them at some point, so I was thrilled to see that I could put the knowledge I gained in my Greek and Roman mythology class to good use. Though anybody will be able to pick up this book and understand the myths and legends referenced in the text, it helps to know a little bit about the original stories in order to really appreciate the significance of the details in the writing. Once again, Riordan has done an excellent job of keeping his facts straight, at least to the extent of my knowledge.

It was sort of surprising to see that this time around, Riordan decided to tell his story between three characters, and in the third person perspective instead of first. The chapters rotate in sets of two for each character and continuously move the plot forward. I loved it. Normally I get frustrated because when authors skip between characters, they have to go back in time, or reexplain what's going on in that particular character's life. But not Riordan! He doesn't bog down his chapters with going back in time. He revisits details, but only enough so the reader can understand how a particular character feels about a particular event. Speaking of characters, I also loved how balanced the three of them were! Pardon my language, but Jason kicks ass, Piper kicks ass, AND Leo kicks ass. The three of them together were a great team and its easy to tell that without one, the other two would not have succeeded in surviving their fist test. Personally, I found Piper and Leo’s stories much more interesting than Jason’s, even though he was supposed to be the “main” character and the real "lost" hero of the story. I think I felt this way because Jason’s memories were missing for most of the book and he is focused on trying to figure out who he is, so we don’t really get a sense of his whole personality. By the end of the book this changes, so I’m sure he’ll be more interesting in book two, which, excuse me for fangirling it, but OMG I cannot wait for. That's the downside of reading epic books from epic series. They take FOREVER to come out. Le sigh, next October can't come fast enough!


8/8 Tentacles

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Turkey Day!

Well, I’m thoroughly stuffed. After a full dinner and four slices of pie (don’t judge; you haven’t tried my mom’s pecan pie), I think I’m about ready to pass out. But before I do, I just want to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I’m very thankful to have each and every one of you readers and followers out there. Talking with all of you has really been the highlight of my year, and, as cheesy as it sounds, without you I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. I’ve learned so much about books, blogging, publishing, and networking that I’m amazed my head hasn’t exploded yet. I’ve made tons of friends, a super-spectacular stalker freind (*stares at Kristina*) and have finally found a place where I can talk about books without feeling like a total nerd. 2010 has been a great year so far, and I can’t wait to see what's in store for the rest of the year.

In addition to being thankful for all of you, I'm also thankful that the following people are in my life:

I’m thankful for my mom and dad: They have always been there for me, and I know as I continue down the winding path of life they will continue to support my unhealthy obsession love for books. My mom even told me to “forget” about spending money on a Kindle because Santa “might” bring me a Kindle this year if I’m a good little girl.

I’m thankful for my brother, Ben: Though we’ve sort of been at each other’s throats this year, I’m thankful to know that he’s there to talk to about wrestling with bears and Toy Story 3. I didn’t realize how much I missed him before he left this August to attend college in Montana, and am very proud of the man he’s becoming. Not to mention that he is also surprisingly supportive of my blog. He rarely reads, so to know that he’s curious about how many reviews I post, who I talk to, etc. is great. I’m also thankful for the fraternity brothers he’s made friends with, because they’ve helped him mature miles these last few months.

I’m thankful for my two best friends: They make life fun and inspire me to become a better person. ‘Nuff said. Who else will go with me to a midnight showing of Disney’s Tangled (Allie, ILU, and Happy Birthday...for like the 10,000th time!), or be willing to go to four different bookstores in one night (Kori, I've finally started reading the Dresden Files!)? The bottom line is that they're awesome, and someday the three of us are going to be starving artists in New York.

Also, for sort of an odd twist, I'm thankful for J.K. Rowling and all of the video production people that worked on the Harry Potter movies: After seeing HP and the Deathly Hallows this week, I finally realize and can appreciate how much HP has impacted my childhood. Though I'm excited for the last movie to come out this summer, I'm also sad that its going to be over. I’ve stuck with the series since the beginning, and will always remember waiting for my acceptance letter on my 11th birthday. Though I never received that letter (le cry), may that kind of magic never leave this world.

I could probably list another 10 or 20 people, including the professors that I pay to inspire new ideas and thoughts in my head, but I'm starting to slip into a food-induced coma. Just know that I love you guys. So what are you thankful for? Post a comment and the link to your blog and I’ll check it out over the weekend! And now, a lulzy turkey picture to make your night:


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Interview with Tony Bertauski

Good day to you, lords and ladies! Please join me in warmly welcoming a good friend of mine, Tony Bertauski, author of The Socket Series!

What was your inspiration for writing the Socket Series?

I can’t get my daughter to stop reading. My son, though, he hates to read. I mean haaaaaaaate. When they were younger, I wrote some stories just for them. It became a project where we would come up with characters and a plot. My daughter loved it. My son, he hated it even more than reading. I eventually dropped it, but continued Socket on my own. He was just a compelling character that wouldn’t leave my head.

How did you come up with the new pieces/forms of technology that appear in the story?

Most of the technological elements in the story are extensions of things we already have. Think about it, how long before the whole phone concept is just integr

ated into our nervous system so that we see, feel and hear it? I don’t feel like anything is a stretch, really. I wanted everything to have some plausible element to it, like Yeah, that could happen. Many of the things I utilize are, to some degree, already in existence. There’s talk of nanobots that imitate blood cells, of technology that can record our entire lives, of back-reflecting gear that make things seem invisible.

Accepting who you are and friendship seem to be major themes in your book. Did you have a specific message you wanted to send to the readers?

I think I found Socket so compelling because of my own personal history. I’ve been practicing Zen for the past twentysome years. Before that, life didn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, something many people can relate to. Especially teenagers. I wanted Socket to be entertaining, but most of all I wanted it to contain some elements of the human struggle and the spiritual journey it contains. Lastly, I wanted it to be an attractive story to reluctant readers, especially boys, so it’s quick-paced, gritty, and real (hence, the cursing).

One of the themes apparent in books 2 and 3 is where does technology cross the line? At some point, if we have the ability to start repla

cing our body parts and blood cells with technology, to enhance our mind’s ability to analyze and remember, then when do we become just an imitation of our true selves? And if we’re able to manipulate our environment, our bodies and minds to do whatever we want, then who decides what we should be and what we should have? Our thoughts? Is our species enlightened enough to make those decisions?

Ultimately, Socket Greeny begs the timeless question: Who am I? And do I matter?

Do you wish you could stop time or read people's thoughts?

No. Noooo, no, no. Socrates once said, “The measure of a man is what he does with power.” I’m not far enough along in the human journey to accept that kind of power. I’m not sure anyone is.

What was your favorite part to write in The Discovery of Socket Greeny?

I’ve often compared writing to the joy of reading, only with writing you control the plot and the characters and you feel them, celebrate with them and mourn with them at a much deeper level. The great writers are able to take that story out of their heads and convey those emotions to the reader. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following Socket through the last couple of years. And it’s nice when readers can come along for the ride and experience it at some level, too.

What was the most difficult part about writing The Discovery of Socket Greeny?

For me, learning how to write. My first several drafts, in hindsight, were horrible. Over the years, I’ve gotten better through study, editorial assistance and practice, but it’s always hard to judge whether the writing is any good. Even if someone likes it, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s well-written.

Tell us a bit about your writing process. (This can be anything, from how long your write each time you sit down to work to what you like to drink when writing)

I’ve heard it explained there are two schools of fiction writers: those that use an outline and those that let the blank page lead them. Honestly, I can’t imagine writing with a blank page ahead of me. I start with an outline of where the story should start and end. Sometimes the details are very hazy, but at least I know where the story is going. In most cases, it turns in one direction or another before I get through the outline, but it works for me.

With time, I’ve learned to trust a subtle instinct when I write, something that tells me it’s not going in the right direction. That’s when I stop. Sometimes a new direction comes to me in a few days or weeks, but I know it when I feel it. Sometimes the words or scenes just unfold in my head on their own, like they just needed time to work themselves out. My wife can tell when I’m “writing” in my head, whether we’re eating or going for a walk. I guess something of a zombie look comes over me.

I can only write for a couple hours at a time. I don’t have the stamina of a Stephen King. After awhile, I start rushing the scenes and it becomes frustrating and poorly written. Usually, I need the house to be empty to really enjoy it, and that’s not often. Writing is a lonely business and can feel isolating to family, so I keep it in perspective.

Did you learn anything while writing? (Research related, about yourself, writing style, etc.)

The best thing about writing is learning how to handle rejection and criticism. It’s a great mode of personal growth. Any creative expression requires growth. Sometimes it’s hard not to take personally, but it’s the most important aspect to writing. The best feedback is usually the hardest to hear.

I think my strength as a writer is my voice. I’m not always the most articulate. I like it to feel real. That’s why my characters curse. High school kids don’t call each other poopyheads and fart-smellers. At least not where I grew up. I get why authors like Neal Shusterman write clean. His books are for middle-grade and YA. If he cut the language loose, he’d lose ½ his audience. I get that. I’ve always respected authors that write with honesty. I don’t pay my bills with my writing, so I can afford to call an asshole an asshole.

Did you have a favorite sci-fi series as a kid? Do you have a favorite sci-fi series now? (TV or book)

I grew up reading my grandfather’s endless shelves of science fiction. While I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore sci-fi guy, I’ve always found that genre more appealing than anything else. Dune was a fantastic journey. And movies like Blade Runner and The Matrix exemplify my fascination with intelligence and the human soul.

If you could go back and change anything about your book, what would you go back and change?

As more people read it, I start to see patterns in their experience that highlight the weak points in the book. The hardest thing about writing is that you have the story in your head and you are never, ever afforded the luxury of the beginner’s experience. As the author, you already know all the details so you completely lose the reader’s perspective.

What are you working on now?

I’ve had a novella lurking around my skull for quite some time featuring a character named Drayton, which is a new twist on a compassionate sort of “vampire” thing. It’s not really YA, though, given some of the graphic scenes. Lately, I’ve been spending time writing memoirs (not meant to be released to anyone) and finishing The Legend of Socket Greeny, the last book in the trilogy. I’m looking forward to having the Socket story complete since it’s been in the works for so many years.

Thanks a lot, Tony! For more information about Tony and his work, please visit his webpage at Also, for more information about the first book in The Socket Series, please check out my review.

In My Mailbox! (1)


Whoooooo, I've decided that for the first time ever that I'm going to participate in the In My Mailbox! IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. The idea is to post what books you got this week, be they a gift, prize, from a bookstore, from the library, or from a publisher to review. The idea is intended to let other people know what books are on your radar and encourage blogger interaction. :3

Haha, it figures that the first week I decide to participate I actually don't get any books in the mail. But I did go to the library to renew my card, after which I went crazy and picked up these books:

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Mississippi Jack and My Bonny Light Horseman
(Both part of the Jacky Faber/Bloody Jack series)
by L.A. Meyer

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Beka Cooper by Tamora Pierce and Parsifal's Page by Gerald Morris

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The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

And last, but not least:


The Agency by Y.S. Lee

I'm excited to read all of them, especially the Jacky Faber books. I've been looking for them for a while now. What did you get in your mailbox this week?