Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: Scary School by Derek the Ghost

*A copy of the book was provided to me for review purposes by the author. Thank you!

I've often inquired whether those who read my blog would object to the idea of my reviewing things outside of the scope of YA fiction. At the same time, I have never actually went through with this. Until now. Scary School, by Derek the Ghost, is a Middle Grade novel. Personally, I really enjoyed this book. But as both a reader and a writer I did have to recognize certain differences between this and the books that I normally read here at I Write, I Read, I Review.

This is not a bad thing. But it is something I want to make abundantly clear in this review, since my responsibility is just as equally to my readers when I review something as it is to the book itself. So, why don't I stop rambling and tell you about this book? I actually think that a lot of you might enjoy this as long as you realize what you are getting yourselves into before you turn to page one.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
You think your school's scary?

Get a load of these teachers:

Ms. Fang, an 850-year-old vampire
Dr. Dragonbreath, who just might eat you before recess
Mr. Snakeskin—science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
Mrs. T—break the rules and spend your detention with a hungryTyrannosaurus rex!


Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch


The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost!
Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends—including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf—and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky!

Scary school definitely *is* funny. That was actually one of the deciding factors that kept me turning the pages and that held my attention the most vividly as I read this book. I generally do appreciate humor in the books I read, but truthfully it's not something I often go out deliberately looking for. I usually prefer drama, and emotionally driven conflicts. But I stand behind what I said when I responded to Derek's request, and the book proved me right: "I think this is exactly what I need right now."

If you read this week's IMM, you know my grandma had to get testing done because she has been having strokes. Something lighthearted and fun like this was an absolutely perfect fit, and great company, since I could not sleep. I've written about mood effecting book enjoyment before in some of my Book Blogger Confession articles, and it was definitely at work here. 

But there is more to my feelings about the book then my mood at the time that I read it. The writing in Scary School is very clear and simple, with just enough of everything to balance it all out. It took me a bit to get use to the lessened weight on dialogue. I tend to primarily read romance and as a whole that genre tends to (by necessity!) be dialogue heavy. 

Something that I really thought was neat about this book, that I haven't seen in any of the YA that I have read, is that it contained a very unique narrative that combined a central plot with short stories about various teachers and students. This worked well for Scary School because of Derek's writing style. Which, I must also add, seemed very authentic since the character is suppose to be an 11 year old ghost. It struck a perfect balance between being true to the character and not sacrificing being a well written book to do so. In short, I didn't feel that the book was "dumbed down", and there were some very cleverly done humorous moments that I'm not totally sure the younger readers may necessarily catch right away. (I particularly liked what happened to Freddy in Mrs. Fang's class, but I'll say no more for fear of giving away spoilers...) 

The Characters:

Because of the unique structuring of the book, I must admit that I did not feel as strong a connection with our lead character, Charles Nukid, as I would normally expect from most novels. But, once again because of the structure of this book, I don't think it did as much harm here as it would in most stories. 

The reason for this is that every time the story veered off a little to give us a short tale about varying inhabitants of Scary School, they were all so interesting, unique and original that I didn't mind the diversions. What happened to Dr. Dragonbreath's class? Awesome. Anything involving Principal HeadCrusher was great. And I particularly liked Petunia's story as well. (There were way too many great characters to list them all, and my preference for the teachers may be due to my own age.) My point is that this story was about more then Charles and in large part the other people at Scary School tended to grab my interest and run with it wherever they felt like going, and I was happy to tag along.

Since this book was narrated by Derek, yet he was generally not an 'active player' in the things that he was narrating, it kept a certain level of distance between the reader and characters. This was not necessarily a bad thing -- it reminded me of the Green Forest books I loved as a kid, actually -- but it's not a writing style that I've seen often. I'm not overly familiar with whether this may be more in-use for MG, but I know I haven't seen it in YA. 

This structure may take a little getting use to, but if the reader has just a little patience and lets it do it's thing, I think most will be quite happy they stuck around. There is some very fresh imaginative stuff here that makes the book very worth reading. 

In General: 

Scary School ended up being very different then what I thought it would be, but that did not stop it from being a fun, original and exciting read. (In the name of honesty: when I think 'magic school books', I think Harry Potter. This is a very different -- but yet again, equally fun in it's own right -- book) If you are looking for some spooky fun, this comes highly recommended. I think I'll have to pick up a copy of this to give to my niece. I think she'd really enjoy it, too. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In My Mailbox (Jan. 28th)

In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren where we get to share all of the fabulous things that we bought, borrowed or received this week.

So, how has everyone been? If you didn't see my previous post here at I Write, I Read, I Review I've been a "tad" busy. I thought things were finally shifting back to normal -- I was even going to do a vlog for IMM this evening. But as they say, life gets in the way. It appears that my grandma has been having mini-strokes all day and we are going to have to take her to Kingston General Hospital tomorrow. So things are still a bit shaky here, unfortunately.

On the bright side, I have received or purchased a few fabulous new books in the last couple weeks. Care to have a look? Read on below. :)

For Review:

Telesa: The Covenant Keeper
by Lani Wendt Young
When Leila moves to her new home, all she wants is a family, a place to belong. Instead she discovers the local ancient myths of the telesa spirit women are more than just scary stories. The more she finds out about her heritage, the more sinister her new home turns out to be. Embraced by a Covenant Sisterhood of earth's elemental guardians - what will Leila choose? Her fiery birthright as a telesa? Or will she choose the boy who offers her his heart? Daniel - stamped with the distinctive tattoo markings of a noble Pacific warrior and willing to risk everything for the chance to be with her. Can their love stand against the Covenant Keeper?

A thriller-romance with a difference. If you enjoyed Twilight, then you will be enthralled by Telesa as it blends the richness of Pacific mythology into a contemporary young adult love story that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.

This book sounds extremely interesting. I love magic systems that involve the elements, and I love discovering new places in the world that I am not familiar with. Having been very impressed with how Colleen Houck handled introducing me to India in Tiger's Curse, I could not resist checking this out after reading a sample. What I've read so far is very well written and definitely grabbed my interest.

Scary School
by Derek the Ghost
You think your school's scary?

Get a load of these teachers:

Ms. Fang, an 850-year-old vampire
Dr. Dragonbreath, who just might eat you before recess
Mr. Snakeskin—science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
Mrs. T—break the rules and spend your detention with a hungryTyrannosaurus rex!


Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch


The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost!

Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends—including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf—and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky!

I have a lot going on right now, as you can well imagine from what I wrote at the beginning of my post. So when Derek contacted me about reviewing his book and I took a look at it and couldn't stop laughing, I quickly decided this is probably exactly what I need right now. I just got the file for my Kindle a few hours ago, and I am already half way through. I'm not ready to give a final rating or anything here, but I can tell you that for *me*, I was definitely right. Writing the review for this one is going to be fun. :)

I Was Given:

Cracked Up To Be
by Courtney Summers
Perfect Parker Fadley isn’t so perfect anymore. She’s quit the cheerleading squad, she’s dumped her perfect boyfriend, and she’s failing school. Her parents are on a constant suicide watch and her counselors think she’s playing games…but what they don’t know, the real reason for this whole mess, isn’t something she can say out loud. It isn’t even something she can say to herself. A horrible thing has happened and it just might be her fault. If she can just remove herself from everybody--be totally alone--then everything will be okay...The problem is, nobody will let her.

This was one of the books on my Christmas wish list and I'm pretty sure that this was sent as a My Bookworm Santa gift. Many thanks to the person who sent it. :) I have wanted to read this for ages. I'm really looking forward to it. :)

I Bought:

Shopper's Drug Mart
Shopper's Drug Mart
Shopper's Drug Mart
Value Village

The first three books were purchased at Shopper's Drug Mart when I went grocery shopping with my parents and my brother in Kingston. They had books for 25% off and I'm sure that by now you all know that I can't resist buying books that are on sale. Thoughts on each book:

Crescendo is something I have definitely taken a chance on. I own Hush, Hush but I haven't finished it yet. Hopefully this ends more happily then it did with Fallen. We shall see. If it doesn't fair well, I am sure there is a local library here that would be happy to take them.

Switched, as a writer, is something I could not pass up grabbing. I was already interested in the story, and when that is added to seeing just what Amanda Hocking came up with, this had to come home with me.

Misfit is a book I've heard good things about from friends. Most notably, I noticed that Aeicha over at Word Splunking liked it, as did Darkfallen over at Paranormal Wastelands. I've had books in common with both in the past so when I saw this on sale I basically went 'why not?'.

Lastly is a copy of City of Glass. I already own City of Bones and City of Ashes, and now that I have read and enjoyed Clockwork Angel I will be getting to those sooner rather then later, I'm sure. So for two dollars I could not resist rescuing this.

So, do you have any thoughts on the things that I received? Did you get anything totally awesome that you think I'd like to see? I hope that this week has been good to you. :) Have a great day! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hey, Kat! Where Have You Been?!

I've been abducted by aliens. True story. Okay, wait. I'd better back up and start from the beginning, huh?

Some of you may remember me saying that I got my copy of Star Wars: The Old Republic a few days before Christmas. And I was doing a pretty good job of balancing that and this. But now my boyfriend has it, too. Which means we *finally* have something to do together. (We're long distance) So I've been on here a lot with him.

I've also, honestly, needed the break to recharge my batteries. Everything I was reading was in danger of blurring into one mass ball of text. Please note that nothing I have reviewed has suffered from this. But when I noticed this I decided to take a break from reading so much, and if you don't have anything new that you've read, updating a book blog becomes ... difficult.

Please don't worry! I'm not going anywhere. :D But for the time being, I am probably going to be posting less then I was in the fall. During October and November, this blog was pretty much *all* I did. Which, at the time, was totally fine and I was happy that way.

But between Star Wars, being in a new singing contest and doing edits for Moon Dance, my time is a bit more spread out. Which is good, in a way, as it should prevent me from getting completely burnt.

So, with that said, I bet you're wondering what I'm going to be doing in the near future? I suppose you guys deserve that, considering the almost two weeks of silence.

Right now I am reading Destined by Jessie Harrell. So you can look forward to my thoughts on that within the next few days.

I should be putting up an In My Mailbox post this weekend. I finally have a working camera again and hopefully this one will not break after two uses. (I have to admit that made me angry...)

I'm planning to organize some kind of My Book Boyfriend contest for Valentines Day, so stay tuned for the details on that when I iron them out.

Anything I was scheduled for -- such as being part of the Blue Sky Days blog tour and the Miss World blog tour, will go off without a hitch like it would at any other time.

Anyway, I hope that everything is going good for you guys! Jay's actually out right now so I'll likely be making the rounds and leaving some comments once I make a cup of cocoa. Have a great day!

By the way ... Anyone interested in a review of Star Wars: The Old Republic? I know it's not a book, but I'd be happy to give some feedback if people are curious. :)

Review: My Beating Teenage Heart by C.K. Kelly Martin

*This book was provided by the lovely people at Random House, through their Bookurious site's Blog It Forward program.

It's interesting having someone send a book to you, rather then simply picking one up from the bookstore yourself. It can be a very uplifting, or at times very awkward, experience. I had heard of My Beating Teenage Heart before I received it as part of Blog It Forward, it was even on my list. But truthfully, all by itself it's not likely the type of book that I would have immediately put at the top or been drawn to. I usually focus on reading and reviewing books with a central or fairly central romantic theme, and while there is a bit of couple stuff here that's not the main focus of this book.

How much I would have missed! This book is absolutely fantastic and manages to tackle some very challenging situations with grace, honesty and style. Read on to see why I feel that My Beating Teenage Heart is an absolutely fantastic read that is not to be missed.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Ashlyn Baptiste is falling. One moment she was nothing—no memories, no self—and then suddenly, she's plummeting through a sea of stars. Is she in a coma? She doesn't remember dying, and she has no memories of the life she left behind. All she knows is that she's trapped in a consciousness without a body and she's spending every moment watching a stranger.

Breckon Cody's on the edge. He's being ripped apart by grief so intense it literally hurts to breathe. On the surface, Breckon is trying to hold it together for his family and his girlfriend, but underneath he's barely hanging on.

Even though she didn't know him in life, Ashlyn sees Breckon's pain, and she's determined to find a way help him. As her own distressing memories emerge from the darkness, she struggles to communicate with the boy who can't see her, but whose life is suddenly intertwined with hers. In alternating voices of the main characters, My Beating Teenage Heart paints a devastatingly vivid picture of both the heartbreak and the promise of teenage life—a life Ashlyn would do anything to recover and Breckon seems desperate to destroy—and will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, John Green, and David Levithan.

There are two central questions being asked at the heart of this book, and both seem very worth investigating. The first, as shown through Ashlyn, is "What happens when we die?". How many centuries have we, as a species, wondered this? I love books that explore this theme, because there is so much that can be done with it. And I feel that C.K. Kelly Martin's take on their being some type of space between life, death and what comes next was really interesting.

It also lined everything up for the second major thing being explored, which is how do we move on when we lose someone we love? And (in the case of Breckon) forgive ourselves for a self-imposed crime? The guilt that he felt over the death of his little sister was absolutely heart wrenching, and I was dying to know just *what* he felt he had done from pretty much word go.

That's another thing that made the book great, though. Usually with a mystery inside of a book we see people trying to solve it and it's an external thing. In the case of My Beating Teenage Heart, the characters themselves were the mysteries -- for Ashlyn remembering who she was and for Breckon letting the reader find out what exactly happen to his sister. This made for some very effortless page turning. We had a power out while I was reading this and I was literally using my iPod as a light source because I didn't want to put the book down.

The Characters: 

I found Ashlyn to be a likable and gutsy heroine. I don't get to use a word like that about a (mostly) contemporary book heroine often and that made her refreshing. I loved watching her sort through her own past and stand, watching and wishing for a way to help, as Breckon's grief threatened to weigh him down. As she slowly came into her own and began to be able to do things I cheered for her. Despite her own loss -- death even -- she was determined that she would find a way to help him. For me, it isn't so much a question of her succeeding or not that made her heroic, but rather her willingness to be there for another when she was trapped in a time of great need herself.

That's not to say that Breckon is the lesser of the two characters, weak, or anything like that. The complexities of his character -- and the absolutely "Oh, no he *didn't!*" revelation that is shown near the end of the book, which I'm not going into! -- will have you thoroughly convinced that despite everything he goes through here, he is totally worth fighting for. And ultimately, that he is a fighter himself, who is destined to move on from what is holding him down. Writing a character who is drowning, and making sure that the reader doesn't suddenly decide that drowning him would be alright, is challenging. C.K. Kelly Martin takes this challenge head on and succeeds.

The rest of the cast is equally solid. We see, through Breckon's parents, varying levels of coping with grief. His beat friend Ty and girlfriend Jules are both great. And who can't help but love a book with a pomeranian named Moose? Not me, that's for sure.

The Romance: 

As I stated earlier, this is not a love story (at least of the romantic kind -- there is certainly a thorough exploration of other types of love.). However, I have to give credit where it's due. I feel that the relationship between Breckon and Jules was handled very well here. It added a layer of depth to a much larger story and was used to great effect to show how everything that was happening was changing multiple aspects of Breckon's life. (As well as helping Ashlyn recall hers.)

In General: 

There are really only two ways that a book like this can go for me. Either it's totally awesome and I love it and I end up thinking an author had a stroke of genius writing it. Or I'm frustrated by it and it ends up getting used as a frisbee and potentially breaking my TV. My Beating Teenage Heart is the former of these two scenarios. It's honest and real where it needs to be, it has a cool hint of what might lie beyond which does not take away from the 'reality' of the book, and despite the sorrow facing its characters, it is ultimately a message of love, forgiveness and hope. I can't praise this high enough.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Blogger Confessions (2)

Welcome to the very first Book Blogger Confessions, a meme hosted by Karen from For What It's Worth and Tiger from All-Consuming Books on the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, to discuss some of the frustrations that are unique to book bloggers.

Q: Have you ever had reading/blogging slumps? How do you work through them or work around them?

I think that controlling this issue is about knowing the things that can cause a block or slump and then developing solutions to combat them. All of this must also be taken with a grain of salt if there are things about an individual that would not fit with them, of course. Anyway, here are some of the blocks and slumps I've either faced or worried about, as well as the solutions I have used or planned on using if they happen to me.

1. Pressure Makes Reading Not Fun

Last BBC I talked about making sure you don't yes yourself out. If you do, odds are you will end up here. Running around like a crazy person with a schedule of reviews, events, etc. longer then an elephant's nose is bound to wear anyone out. A candle that burns twice as bright lasts half as long. It might seem totally glamorous to have something amazing up on your blog every day, but the upkeep can be totally killer, and sometimes what it can kill is your desire to actually sit down and read.

Remember, odds are you started your own slice of the blogesphere because you love reading. Remembering to value your love of reading is not just a key ingredient in book blogging (in my opinion), it's the core ingredient. Is it important to get things done if you promise you'll do them? Absolutely! But that is why knowing your limits and sticking to them is important. Most of us aren't getting money out of this -- our blogs are labours of love. Knowing what you love about blogging and working with that is vital.

2. "But I Just Read Four Books About Zombies..."

It's been said that variety is the spice of life. That is good advice, and it applies just as much to book blogging as to anything else. Making sure that you are getting enough variety -- in the books your read, in what you are posting on your blog, in making sure you aren't neglecting things outside of your blog -- is key to keeping things in balance. 

I have a lot of trouble with this one. I go on a "kick". I want to read dystopian fiction. Or I am really interested in a certain series, or mythology, or author. Or I'm really into something else and it messes with my blogging. (Working on Moon Dance, or playing Star Wars: The Old Republic both come to mind.) A lack of balance can go beyond mere blocking and actually lead to burnout. 

3. Your Mood Is Just As Important As Your Reading Schedule

Are you reading what you want to read or what you have to read? One of the things I've learnt about myself is that I can block my reading if I have deadlines looming but there is another book, not for a deadline, that I'd rather be spending time with. Even if you are more comfortable with dealing with deadlines then I am, making sure you have time to read things that are of your own choosing is important. It can keep this from feeling like some type of an obligation. 

4. All Work And No Play...

Reading and reviewing are without question the heart and soul of book blogging. But there is room for other things, like taking part in events, hanging out with friends on twitter, doing memes, etc. I think that overall it boils down to doing everything at your own pace and in whatever ratio you are comfortable with. Some people review a book a day, some review a book a week. I think that knowing you are enjoying your blog is more important then keeping up with blogger X or trying to fulfill some imaginary quota you've made up for yourself. 

5. Sometimes You Just Need A Break... 

Sometimes there is nothing to say except that life gets in the way. Pressure from work or school. Just not feeling as deep an interest at the time. Being interested in pursuing something else. There are a thousand things that might make someone need to step away or at least step back. I think that it is wiser and more courageous to be able to admit this then to trudge on half heartedly doing something. 

Anyway, those are the issues and thoughts that I came up with. What are your thoughts on being blocked? Feel free to share. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

[Blog Tour] Destiny's Fire by Trisha Wolfe -- Review + Guest Post + Giveaway!

Today it is my pleasure to share a review of Destiny's Fire, a guest post from author Trisha Wolfe, and a giveaway of an ebook copy and a bookmark. Many thanks to A Tale of Many Reviews Book Tours for having me as part of this tour. I've had a lot of fun with this one!

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)

It’s the year 2040, and sixteen-year-old Dez Harkly is one of the last of her kind—part of a nearly extinct race of shape-shifters descended from guardians to the Egyptian pharaohs. Her home and her secret are threatened when the Council lowers the barrier, allowing the enemy race to enter the Shythe haven.

As the Narcolym airships approach, Dez and her friends rebel against their Council and secretly train for battle. Not only is Dez wary of war and her growing affection for her best friend Jace, but she fears the change her birthday will bring. When Dez’s newfound power rockets out of control, it’s a Narcolym who could change her fate… if she can trust him.

Dez’s guarded world crumbles when she discovers why the Narcos have really come to Haven Falls, and she's forced to choose between the race who raised her and the enemy she's feared her whole life.

Something that immediately grabbed me about Destiny's Fire, and that I truly appreciated and loved, is that Trisha Wolfe is very good at blending the "normal" part of her characters' lives with the more "holy crap what's happening" moments. This is something that I feel is extremely important and that I am always pleased to see in paranormal / urban fantasy / dystopian etc. fiction. Why? Because it shows us what the characters are trying to save; that there is a world worth fighting for. It is the human element that makes the fantastical conflict of a novel of this nature matter. Without this, it can all get very pointless. So, loud and emphatic bravo.

The next bit of praise that I'm going to give? Great world building and species design. You don't see many books that work with Egyptian mythology, to begin with, since it can be really complicated and confusing. And even less start with that as a basis and create something fresh and original -- yet easy for the reader to follow and connect with -- as the Kythan are. There are many people who will complain about the importance of the characters' eyes in this book. But eyes are a window to the soul, they are something we all understand, they are expressive, and that is why they are so often utilized in this fashion. (Or perhaps this is slightly a bias since I've done it in my own work? I'll leave that to people's opinions. But I really do feel it depends on how its used, and that it is well used here.)

I liked the balance between description and dialogue. It made for a well balanced pacing that had no trouble holding my interest. I'll admit -- I'm always a little nervous when I sign up for a tour if it's not a book I was already following; one that "looked interesting" so I signed up. I can tell you without hesitation that Destiny's Fire grabbed me from word go and didn't let go until the end. While this kind of 500 mph reading experience can be a bit dizzying in its intense focus, I personally find it thrilling. The more quickly I am getting through a book, the more eager I generally am to see what is happening. Especially since I read first and foremost for fun. It works sort of how food does for me, I suppose. *laughs* And if we're going to compare to food, this is a peanut butter cup. It blends a lot of individually great elements together and succeeds in creating an ultimately better whole.

The Characters: 

Dez rocks. She is strong yet vulnerable. I love how Trisha introduced her to us and showed her strength, her friendships and then her world, before finally showing us what she is struggling with -- and has been struggling with long before we ever knew her. Which succeeds in allowing us to see the 'soft underbelly' of the character, while not suddenly weakening her unintentionally. I liked how she tended to keep her spirits up and how she could be reasonable *or* fierce and passionate as the situation required. She is truly a fully constructed character and the kind of heroine I always enjoy seeing more of in books within this genre.

Jace and Reese are both worthy love interests and they make great foils to each other. The tension between them, as well as between each of them and Dez, adds a lot to the story outside of the 'normal' and the 'oh my gosh everything is going insane'. I like the fact that Trisha left both characters as being viable to root for and worth rooting for, too. I get very annoyed when only one of the guys in a love triangle is even remotely interesting and there is no fear of that here.

Lana and Nick rounded things out, providing friendships for Dez that were free of romantic (or romantic interest) complications. I like how well Trisha made them stand out and how interesting the friendships were shown to be, especially in light of Dez's situation.

The Romance:

I've already said more then I intended to about this, and I really don't want to ruin things for anyone. So I'll repeat: interesting love triangle? Check. Swoon-worthy guys? Check. Although I must say that it was Reese that had my interest, personally. Likely because I normally don't go for the 'best-friend-who-wants-to-date-the-girl'. Or it could be that the name Jace is just so heavily associated with The Mortal Instruments? I'm not 100% sure, but it was something I immediately noticed and since I've been thinking about reading those the timing might honestly have just been off for me.

I also want to say that the romance does not weaken Dez. It also doesn't make her seem cold and empty. The fact that she doesn't just instantly pick someone is covered relatively well so that the reader does not feel the need to just shake her and tell her to do something, already. While I felt she was a good match with Reese, I would be foolish to overlook the years she has had to build a friendship with Jace, regardless of anything she may have kept from him. This is always something that is a concern where a love triangle is involved, in my opinion. Glad to see it was addressed here.

In General: 

I had a lot of fun reading this book. It was a very 'smooth' experience. I didn't feel like I had to push myself through it, which is a concern when I am given a PDF for a review (my Kindle does not like them.) Reading on the computer can sometimes give me a headache if I do it for long periods.

So, should you check out Destiny's Fire? Absolutely! If you like strong heroines, great world building, interesting love triangles and books that are really hard to put down this should be a great fit.

My Writing Cave
by Trisha Wolfe

I really do have a cave. I joke about it on Twitter, but it’s a real place where I hide. My bedroom is setup so I can move from space to space if I get antsy. Which happens often. My life is just so glamorous. I’m telling you. It’s shocking how cool I am. And I’m about to let you guys into the awesome that is my writing life.

I usually start off the morning writing with my cup of coffee, propped up in my bed. This is my favorite place to write. It’s lame, but too long in a chair and I get all backache-y. (Notice how hard I work with Twitter in the background)

When I’m writing a book, I write pretty much all day. I can’t do that thing where people discipline themselves to write a certain amount, and then go on to have a life away from their writing life. The story I’m working on consumes me, and I talk to my characters. So after a while I have to get up and walk, grab a Coke, then move to my desk area. (My son got me slippers for Christmas because he said I never wear “regular” clothes. I’m always in pajamas)

After that, I try to do some housework, which fails, and I go back to writing. My characters are demanding and I don’t get to take many breaks. But I do have my little purple chair that I can cart around the house and plop on the floor so I can actually leave my cave.

But in the end, I always retreat back to the cave. It’s the place where I’m left alone to create. Especially when the husband and kids (I only have one, but it’s plural because the neighborhood kids live here, too. Yes, all of them) come in, demanding to be fed. Who do they think they are? Pfft.

About the Author
Trisha Wolfe is the author of the YA Steampunk/Paranormal Romance DESTINY'S FIRE. Her published short stories have appeared in YA literary journals and Fantasy magazines. UNVEILED is her first novelette and part of a Dystopian series releasing TBA. She’s written four books in the past two years, and is currently working on the sequel to DF and a new project. She’s represented by Lauren Hammond of ADA Management.

 So, now you've read the interview and know I think the book is great. You've read the absolutely fantastic guest post which showcases Trisha's personality and gives is a glimpse into her life. I'm sure you're totally dying to win a copy of Destiny's Fire. Right? Right? Well, here is your chance. :)

To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment with your e-mail and an answer to the following question:

Q: What is your opinion on love triangles? 

Want extra entries?
-- Become a GFC follower on Trisha's blog
-- Like Trisha's Facebook Page
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*Note: Links to all of these are listed above.

If you think that is awesome, wait til you see the grand prize. For a shot at this, make sure that you visit A Tale of Many Reviews on January 18th.

In addition to this Egyptian / steampunk styled necklace (isn't it pretty?!) the winner will also receive a print copy of Destiny's Fire, a Destiny's Fire bookmark and a signed Destiny's Fire bookplate.

Good luck, everybody!

Want to see where the tour has been and where it is headed?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Six Month Blogversary Winners!

So it's taken me forever, and there have been a few minor setbacks, but I am finally ready to announce the winners of my six month blogversary giveaway! First up, I would like to take a moment to thank all of you who participated and waited so patiently for me to get this sorted out. Now, let's draw some names, shall we?

Winners of one of the books I listed via Book Depository:


Winners of an eBook from those I listed:

Kat C
Elizabeth L
Michelle @ Book Briefs


As always, winners have been e-mailed and have 72 hours to get back to me. If I don't hear back from the winner(s) I will draw new names to fill in those spots.

Didn't win this time? No need to feel bad! I have plenty more interesting giveaways planned for the near future. Good luck next time!

Waiting On Wednesday (7)

Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's can't wait to read it selection is...

Blue Sky Days
by Marie Landry
A year after graduating from high school, nineteen-year-old Emma Ward feels lost. She has spent most of her life trying to please her frigid, miserable mother - studying hard, getting good grades, avoiding the whole teenage rebellion thing - and now she feels she has no identity beyond that. Because she spent so many years working hard and planning every moment of her life, she doesn't have any friends, has never had a boyfriend, and basically doesn't know who she is or what she really wants from life. Working two part-time jobs to save money for college hasn't helped her make decisions about her future, so she decides it's time for a change. She leaves home to live with her free-spirited, slightly eccentric Aunt Daisy in a small town that makes Emma feel like she's stepped back in time.

When Emma meets Nicholas Shaw, everything changes - he's unlike anyone she's ever met before, the kind of man she didn't even know existed in the 21st century. Carefree and spirited like Daisy, Nicholas teaches Emma to appreciate life, the beauty around her, and to just let go and live. Between Daisy and Nicholas, Emma feels like she belongs somewhere for the first time in her life, and realizes that you don't always need a plan - sometimes life steers you where you're meant to be.

Life is wonderful, an endless string of blue sky days, until Nicholas is diagnosed with cancer, and life changes once again for Emma in ways she never thought possible. Now it's time for her to help Nicholas the way he's helped her. Emma will have to use her new-found strength, and discover along the way if love really is enough to get you through.

Some of you probably know that I am taking part in the tour for Blue Sky Days. But I see no reason that I shouldn't be able to give the book a bit of WoW love this week, when I feel it needs it most. 

Why I Want It: Or more appropriately, perhaps, why I'm so excited to read it? A better question might be why wouldn't I be? ;) This is a love story. I'll admit the presence of cancer here makes me nervous, as it does whenever it rears its head in a novel. But it fits with the sort of things I've felt like reading lately. Plus Marie is a friend. Doesn't mean I won't be honest about the book, but it does make it rather neat to be reading it and taking part in her tour. Did I mention romance? *laughs* 

I'm pretty confident that this is going to be great. I'm actually planning to start it the day it launches -- along with being around for the launch party -- provided we don't go out to dinner. (January 17th is my mother's birthday. We hope that will bring good luck to the book.) 

Anyway, I've rambled enough I think. :) Are you excited for Blue Sky Days? What did you pick for your Waiting on Wednesday selection this week? I'd love to know! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

So this is my first book by Cassandra Clare. I know, a lot of you are probably sitting there and going "What?!". Or perhaps, "But, Kat! You've talked about City of Bones before." Yes, that is true. But have you ever heard the phrase "We got off on the wrong foot."? That applies here, was years ago, and (thank God) was an opinion I kept to myself. It was also (shockingly!) formed based on others opinions rather then from reading a book. So I am viewing this as a fresh start.

There are several little trickling events that lead to me reading Clockwork Angel. It started, actually, with wishing I'd had the book when Mundie Moms -- who hosted a great chat with Leigh Fallon a few months back -- did a read-along of the book. I really should have gotten this and participated. *sigh* Anyway, the next thing was Joanne from The Fairytale Nerd recommending it. I've gotten to a point where I listen to her when she suggests stuff to me. She suggested Tiger's Curse and The Iron King and I loved them both.

The last straw, of course, was my kryptonite, which is being a shopaholic. I picked up Clockwork Prince because it was 30% off at WalMart and the cover is so pretty! (Yes, even I can succumb to cover lust now and then...) That sorta pinned me in. I couldn't just have another book lying around for no reason. (Seriously, when I talk about a TBR pile I literally *mean* a TBR pile...) So when I went out on Boxing Day, this was tops on my must buy list. And thanks to assistance from the fabulous people at Chapters, I got it.

Now, I know that's a lot more preamble then I tend to give when I review something. I hope some of you enjoyed it. For those looking to get to the heart of the matter, here is my review!

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

The book immediately drew me in. This was an absolute Godsend because I must tell you all, I was very nervous to start this one. I don't read a lot of historical, or even 'borrowing from history' fiction -- rather strange since I actually love history -- and I also had the baggage I talked about at the start of the review to deal with. I was very anxious to find out what I would think of this book. What would my take on it be?

Well, I didn't end up with a lot of time to worry about any of that. I was immediately drawn to Tessa as a character and I felt deeply for her situation. I was horrified at how she was tricked and from there I felt like I was walking beside her as she began to navigate London and the people that she met and spent time with there. 

I think that the pacing in the book was very solid, and liked how Cassandra Clare had no trouble shifting between scenes that were more focused on driving the plot and more laid back (plot wise) scenes that were more focused on the growth of the character. I especially liked how she also never really allowed a scene to be strictly one thing or the other. There was an almost dance-like quality to how everything moved forward. This lead to me reading a 476 page book in one day. I think the last time I did that was back in August with Divergent. 

As someone who has not read The Mortal Instrument books I was curious as to whether I would have trouble understanding what was happening here. But yet again, I felt that Cassandra did a great job of making sure that things made sense and were well explained without bogging the story down. I do have to say that I was a bit taken back by how many different types of supernatural beings populated the story world, but since Cassandra seems careful not to overload these on the reader all at once my fears were quickly put to rest. 

Another thing that I thought was really great was how she set things up and then had them become important later on. I don't want to list any of this for fear of ruining the book for other readers. Surely I'm not the only person left on earth who hadn't read this? (If you haven't, seriously, go do that.)

The Characters: 

I found Tessa to be a likable heroine. She is not, at least in this book (perhaps hanging out with Shadowhunters will rub off later?) a get-up-in-your-face-and-kick-butt heroine, but she had a spine, she had smarts and she stuck to her guns about what she wanted. I liked the fact that she could be both strong and vulnerable. I liked the fact that she stood up to other characters who were capable of fighting without fear that she should not do this. 

I also found it endearing watching her struggle between trying to be a 'proper' Victorian lady and accepting that she might not be a warrior, but she definitely has a warrior spirit that -- when push comes to shove -- will not just lay down and die. Writing a heroine who is not immediately physically heroic in a fantasy tale and making her come across as strong is *hard* and I have to give Cassandra Clare a huge round of applause here because she succeeded admirably with Tessa. 

Will was 'alright'. He is not really my kind of hero, although I am intrigued to know more about his past and I must be honest and tell you that if I know more about what makes him the way it is -- and if I see him grow past this and become something better and stronger -- he could have potential. I found his interactions with Tessa frustrating more then anything and considering the way he behaved I honestly don't get what she sees in him. I would also love to know what the heck the conversation at the end of the book was about, but I can say no more then that without risking the review, so I'll zip it.

But that's totally okay. Because along with Will we get Jem and oh my God I am obsessed beyond words! Jem may well be the sweetest most utterly charming hero that I have ever had the pleasure of reading about within a paranormal or fantasy novel. I found the fact that Jem has a disability and continues to fight despite the cost absolutely heartbreaking. But as I came to understand why (sorry there, my lips are sealed!) it only made me respect him more. I also loved how he managed to have such a sweet, kind personality despite all that he has been through and is currently going through. 

Normally I'd just give a nod to the rest of the characters in a book and be done. But not here. The rest of the cast -- Charlotte, Henry, Sophie, etc. are all just as equally fabulous and interesting to read about as our leading lady and her two love interests. This is what blew me away and kept me completely riveted. Clockwork Angel possesses some of the finest characterization that I have ever had the pleasure to read and I found myself deeply connected to these people and their lives. I laughed with them. I wanted to throw things at them at times. And I cried with them when bad things happened. That's the mark of a truly gifted storyteller. 

The Romance: 

Tessa, you silly silly girl. This is the one area where I am terrified that we don't see eye to eye. Or perhaps you just don't see? I'm not sure. Will is an immature dork and Sophie is totally right -- as is right here right now he is totally not worth your love. 

Jem, on the other hand? I'd trade you places in a heartbeat! (And considering all the crap I know you go through, and how big a wuss I know I am? That's saying something!) 

I will say this about the love triangle. I don't "know" who is going to end up together. It's not the sort of thing where it's blatantly obvious and one guy is totally wasting his time. Jem makes it clear to the reader that he notices Tessa, but he never really makes it clear to her. And she doesn't seem to be all that clued in regarding this sort of thing. 

The fact that I've actually taken a side is kind of surprising to me. I usually stay out of these sort of things. But I am so totally in awe of how amazing Jem is as a character that I can't maintain my neutrality. (Seriously, if you haven't read this yet, I once again urge you to do so. I want to *talk* about all of this but that's not what this post is for...) 

So, how did I like the romance in Clockwork Angel? Let me put it to you this way ... It's only an absolutely insane amount of self-discipline -- and the knowledge that the *next* book is ages away -- that keeps me from immediately reading Clockwork Prince to see what happens next. And I mean it's-sitting-on-my-bed-and-I-could-open-it-right-now-if-I-wanted-to tempted. 

In General: 

Do I sound just the slightest bit hyper in this review? Good! Because this book completely grabbed me, hook line and sinker, and I want to make sure that is abundantly clear. This was a book that was an absolute joy to read, the kind of story that makes me glad that I am a reader and a book blogger and that reminds me of all the reasons why I do all of this crazy stuff and run this blog.

So, do I recommend Clockwork Angel? Well ... Do birds fly? Do fish swim? Do I love Pizza Hut's breadstix with cheese? (That's a loud and emphatic yes, for those who don't know me well.) Clockwork Angel combines a strong willed memorable heroine, a fascinating mythology, and an epic adventure into a whole that will leave you unable to put the book down. A strong suggestion: Don't start this one with the intention of shortly going to bed. 

Fifth Recipient Of...

1. Tessa proves you don't have to be physically strong to be a strong and capable heroine.

2. Jem is a distinct and memorable love interest who proves that a sweet and caring guy can win over (this) reader's heart. (Seriously, he is such a refreshing change!)

3. Careful blending of both mythology and historical details so that they enrich the overall flavor of the tale.

4. An intriguing plot that creates as many questions as it answers, making me absolutely itch to tear open the sequel. 

5. This book had a can't-put-down factor that made me read the entire 476 page thing in a single sitting. That's not the way I normally read a book! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Two people, from two different worlds socially, who are going to fall in love despite all other circumstances. Knowing that this was the driving force behind Legend, how could I not be dying to read it?

I've heard that Marie Lu was inspired by Les Miserables and wrote Legend to see if a story like this would translate well into a more modernized (or in this case perhaps even futurized would be appropriate) setting. While I am not overly familiar with Les Miserables, I feel that Legend is an absolutely fantastic novel that is definitely worth your time and attention.

Now, let me tell you why...

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias' death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

The first thing that needs to be said about Legend is that I love the dual point-of-view and the reason for that is not the different font colors. It's not even simply getting the two different perspectives, which I usually view as a plus anyway. What makes the dual point of view in Legend so captivating and vital is that the way that the plot is structured allows the reader a before and after of the events of the story. We see Day's love of his family. We see June and Metias' closeness and affection as brother and sister. And we feel each character's grief, shock and panic as their world is torn apart.

The novel puts the reader in a position of being an investigator, or perhaps even a member of a jury depending on one's perspective. While the plot unfolds we continue to receive new facts and make new discoveries, both about the characters and the world they inhabit and each of their individual situations and goals. And we are subtly offered the chance to weigh in and to take a side, or to simply stay neutral and see how the tale will flesh out. 

The book is broken into two parts and by the time that we get to the second odds are that each reader's mind will be relatively well set one way or another -- only to be further rocked with more revelations and ultimately a thrilling conclusion that both allows Legend to be a novel in it's own right and to set it up so that a sequel can be written. To say I was well pleased with the plot structure is an understatement. I thought that the overall execution of plot, pacing and revelation -- the art through which we learn of this place and its secrets -- was expertly crafted. I was never bored and my mind was constantly reeling, although never to a point that I was ignoring what I was currently reading. Brilliant.

The Characters:

Of course all the fine plotting and pacing and world building and overall scheming means nothing if the characters do not make the reader care. Fortunately, despite their repeatedly stated super-intelligence, I found June and Day equally compelling and my heart went out to each of them in their own way. 

Life on the streets and knowing a great deal more about the truth of the Republic then most has turned Day into a young man with a strong knack for survival. I like the fact that Day clearly had his own code of morals and that Marie Lu took the time to make it clear to the reader at every opportunity that Day did the things he did for the good of him, his family, Tess, etc. His compassion, general sense of honor and sense of remorse when something bad happened kept him a very human character to me, despite his smarts and the very inhumane world that he inhabited. I was immediately intrigued and ultimately smitten. Nice work here.

June made a fantastic parallel and was a terrific heroine. Rich and accustomed to luxury and comfort, we see her misbehaving during the beginning of the tale and watch her slowly become truly aware of the world that she lives in as she experiences loss and witnesses losses that happen to others. I like the fact that for once in a YA it was actually the female protagonist who needed to go through a tremendous amount of change of any real fashion, that she had to reevaluate her perceptions of the world so that she could actually get to the truth of the thing that she had to learn the truth about. (Her brother's murder.) The fact is, this book is very much about falling to the earth and rising up again on an internal level as far as June is concerned and I think Marie Lu did a great job of pulling this off. It could also be pointed out that perhaps Day represents street smarts or 'working man' intellect whereas June represents academics and how it can blind us to the world. 

The rest of the characters were good but I do wish they'd been given a little more meat / depths / development. I didn't get a strong enough overall sense of the villains reasons for what they were doing, the purpose of the experiments going on, etc. and that can be problematic. Hopefully this will be addressed more carefully in the next book. A powerful connection to the villain(s) of a book is every bit as important as a connection to the hero / heroine. The fact that I am flatly referring to characters as villains rather then antagonists further emphasizes my lack of connection with them. (I don't want to use exact names, either, since it could ruin someone's experience with the book.) 

The Romance: 

The love story here was very smartly done. And no, that's not said tongue in cheek as a mockery of the characters' intelligence. There is time and effort taken during the early stages of the story to show Day and June's lives before they intersect, and part of that is showing the reader each character's romantic background (or relative lack thereof). I think this was very clever and that, yet again in parallel, this allowed the story to progress as it did.

I felt that the attraction between the characters, especially as the story progressed and facts came to light, was very believable and that it made sense. There was no instant sense of "this is the love of my life!", which would not have worked here. Instead, the characters do feel a sense of attraction, a certain draw toward each other, but it takes time for them to react to and act on it. And even that does not immediately seal their complete loyalty to each other or make them give up on their individual goals.

What I really like about the love story in Legend is that the way that the characters come together and are pushed apart -- yet still within enough proximity for the story not to go flat -- allowed the romance / attraction to grow alongside the characters themselves as individuals. What they feel for each other does not control the entire book, but works alongside, and sometimes even against, everything else that is going on. The last thing I will say is that I liked the fact that their feelings for each other, in my opinion, drew out the best in each of them. This is not always the case in a YA love story and I was glad to see that it was so here. 

In General: 

Is it a safe bet to say that I loved Legend? Absolutely. So much of the story hinged on whether or not June and Day were interesting, likeable and able to be related to. And for me they were. I have heard some complaints that their intelligence was unbelievable, or that if they were so smart they should not have made the mistakes that they did. But this, in my opinion, assumes that intellect makes someone immune to human error. And that intelligence is an overall and generalized thing. As I said earlier, there are different ways in which someone can be smart. On the other hand, I will say that the amount of intelligence the characters truly possessed, based on an evaluation, was questionable. That sort of testing is generally too rigid and I think that Marie Lu did the right thing in how she made June and Day have distinct strengths and weaknesses despite their "smarts". 

So, is Legend worth your time? I think so. If you like a love story with people coming together from two completely different lives, practically two different worlds, you will probably love this just as much as I did. I can say with great confidence and certainty that I am anxiously awaiting the next book!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Busting the Blogger Blues

This event is hosted by Ruby's Reads and Small Review. Thanks also go to Michelle from Book Briefs who tweeted about it. I might have missed this otherwise.

I'm going to write in response to the big blogger questionaire. There are definitely some areas that I have advanced further in then others. But I feel that I do have some general advice I would like to share so the questions regarding that seem like they would be worth answering. I'm going to take part in both events, though, because in truth I feel like I am somewhere in the middle. I'm not brand new -- the blog is nearly seven months old -- but I'm a far cry from being a really big blogger either. The fact that I'm actually good with that now -- and that I know what I want from my blog -- is a large part of why I'm choosing to answer the way that I am. 

Q: When did you start your blog?

A: I started my blog on June 8th, 2011. It originally began as a random blog for the sake of having a blog, since most of my friends on Absolute Write had one. When I reviewed The Hunger Games and Summer on Fire in late July / early August and got such a positive response I decided to focus it more. The name I Write, I Read, I Review comes from the fact that I am a writer with a book blog. I'm currently in revisions for my first novel, Moon Dance. Interesting fact: my book blog helped me find critique partners for my book.

Q: Do you ever still feel like a newbie?

A: Absolutely! I think that the moment I ever fully stop feeling like a newbie -- which to me means feeling I have something left to learn -- will be a day I do myself a great disservice. I still get yeses *and* nos from NetGalley requests. I get excited about every comment that is posted on my blog and every blog related e-mail I get. I suck at managing my TBR pile. I still haven't mastered the art (or science, maybe?) of scheduling things in advance (I know how to do it. It's getting it done that is the problem!) I still wouldn't dream of contacting a publisher about reviewing something (other then via NetGalley.) ... The list goes on and on.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you've faced so far? Have you made any mistakes other bloggers can learn from?

A: The hardest thing for me is telling people no. I like being told yes about things, and so I figure that others do, too. But here is the truth: for every thing to which you say yes, you are silently telling something or someone no. And all too often, the people we give the silent no to are ourselves. Balance is the key if you want to stick around. There are too many books in this world for one person to try and read them all. And each month's new releases and requests are the exact same story: there is just no way it can all be done.

In my review policy and process pages I state that time is the real resource that readers have to realize they are expending when they read books. My other hobby is gaming. It is expensive and it can be time consuming. But if I put the same amount of money into books that I put into a standard game, it equals out to anywhere from 32 to 48 hours of entertainment, depending on the books I buy. (I'm talking abouit standard priced paperback or hardback books. $10-$15 per, with an average reading time of 8 hours per book. The number gets insane if we start talking Indie stuff.) Time is a far more precious commodity then money, too. Why? You can earn money back. Once time is used, there are no exchanges or refunds. 

The same thing applies to blogging. Each component takes up time and as a blogger, the most vital thing to decide is where you want to invest that. What are your passions? What do you want your blog to bring to the world? Do you want to spend 3 hours a week blogging or 30? Being honest with yourself and producing something that you are satisfied with -- or better yet, proud of -- is the greatest challenge, in my opinion. Being able to look yourself in the eye about what your doing is vital. You are your first and last audience for anything you write. If you aren't loving what you are doing, find out why and do something about it. The most important thing about your blog is *you*. You are the one constant, the one variable, that no other blog on the net can reproduce. 

Q: What did you find the most discouraging about being a new blogger? What did you do about it?

A: I've gone through phases with regard to this, so I'll point out a few things here.

-- I couldn't find a blog design that I was totally satisfied with. I am relatively good with HTML but I don't have any training in CSS, which is the guts of most blogs. I can make minor alterations, but generally when it comes to big stuff I am clueless. Fortunately, if you are willing to learn there are people willing to teach. For instance, my lovely berry pink quotes are CSS that is from a tutorial done over at Parajunkee's View as part of Book Blogging 101. 

-- If I don't post every day, every hour, every minute, all my readers will disappear. Figuring out how often you want to post is likely something that will take time and effort to balance. I went from being a fairly laid back blogger to blogging about everything I could get my hands on. Now I strive to blog about the things that matter to me. Would I love to receive ARCs for every book *I am excited about* and be on blog tours for all the authors whose work I obsess over? Sure. But would that leave me time to help other Indie authors? Time for my family, friends and other hobbies? Time to discover new books and authors I love? Time for my own writing? Probably not. Which leads us to...

-- If I'm not reviewing an ARC, nobody is going to care. Ready for the truth? I get more discussion by naturally reviewing books that I already wanted to read then I have gotten for anything I have reviewed ARC-wise. And I have noticed this a lot when looking at reviews on other bloggers sites, too. (Please not that when I say this, I am talking about other bloggers who *appear* to be at about the same *stage* of blogging that I am.) Why is this? There are many reasons. Some people do not like reading reviews of books they have not read yet. Many ARC reviews are extremely vague to avoid ruining the book being reviewed. And since less people have read the book, and more people are trying to protect its contents, there is less room for discussion in general. Relax, chicken little! The blogesphere is not going to think you have demon pox for not drowning in a swamp of ARCs. 

Q: What do you find most encouraging about being a book blogger? 

A: I love the community! As I said earlier, my background is primarily as a gamer. Which means that I am often the solitary girl in a jungle of guys. They don't care how fascinating the role reversal characterization of Katniss and Peeta is in The Hunger Games. They wouldn't understand, or likely notice or feel, the absolutely sizzling chemistry between Daemon and Katy in Obsidian. And they would probably either be confused over or outright laugh at my latest book boyfriend crush, which is definitely Jem from Clockwork Angel (<3!). 

I'm certainly not saying there aren't any great male YA book bloggers out there. Benji from The Non-Reluctant Reader, Adam from Roof Beam Reader and Kevin from Try This Book On For Size all immediately come to mind. But there is no getting around it -- the large majority of blogs that I follow and blogger friends I've made are fellow ladies. And as someone who has spent the large majority of her life with only or primarily male friends, this is an interesting change and in some ways quite a learning experience. It's so nice to be able to have a blog that is done in swirls of bubblegum and berry pinks with hearts and butterflies and not have it be viewed as a weakness! *laughs*

I love how often we unite about things, whether it's through events like this one, or memes like IMM or Top Ten Tuesday, or advice columns like Book Blogging 101 or to support a noble cause like You Give = We Give. For the most part, the book blogging community seems to be committed not only to raising up the books that it loves, but also the bloggers who love them. That's something to be proud of, ladies and gentlemen alike. 

Q: If I Could Write A Letter To Me... (What 5 things would you tell your newbie self?)

A: Alright, here we go:

1. Read first, blog later! I wish, wish, wish I had read and written reviews for ten books before I started to seriously promote my blog as a book blog and get people reading it. Why? Because I'm always behind! And there really seems to be no way to ever catch up. (I won't lie: there are still days I'm terrified that if I don't post something that all my readers will disappear. I'm always secretly afraid that people will stigmatize my blog as being a memes & giveaways only blog, which seems to be viewed in a very bad light. That's a whole other topic for a whole other time, though.) 

2. Make sure all your social media matches up! If you haven't started yet, set all that stuff up first. You can do this while you're taking pauses from r&ring those ten books. You want Twitter, facebook, e-mail, klout, etc. to all connect properly. In my case half of my stuff is Kathy (Ann) Coleman and half is Katallina. 

3. Find a central image to tie all of your stuff together! It can be anything, really. My friend Krystle uses a red butterfly, and Giselle uses a coffee / expresso cup. A lot of bloggers use the really cute avatars from Parajunkee designs (I'm seriously thinking of getting one of those, past self!)

4. Take some requests, but leave room for life, too! While there is something to be said for grabbing hold of every opportunity that you get, what do you do once you get them all? If you end up feeling tired, frustrated and blocked then you've probably taken on too much. "Know Thyself" may be the most well known quote from the oracle, but "All things in moderation" isn't too far behind it. 

5. You are the U in Unique! There will come a day when you will have to decide between honesty and what you think can *maybe* make you famous. Remember that you are the thing that makes the blog unique. Being a successful person mist come before the desire to be a successful blogger. Because if you don't have the former, you won't do any good if you achieve the latter. "Honesty is my policy, fairness my guide." it may sound a bit deep or serious, but I do really mean it. You need to make sure that you remain you. If you take nothing else away from my post, *please* let it be this. This is important. 

Q: What do you like most in blogs you've read? Have you tried to replicate it?

A: I've found a lot of the memes and features I take part in, and events I have participated in, thanks to the blogs that I follow. I have certainly taken some things that I have seen, such as likely quote boxes or making sure that every post I do has an image for the "You might also like..." addon that I have at the end of my posts. But while I use other blogs to find out what is going on, I do my best to make sure that I put my own spin on everything that I touch. If I just copy what someone else did, it means I didn't really do it. It shouldn't be here. 

I am extremely careful about using things I find from others or that are inspired by others. I would rather give someone credit for their part in an idea -- such as Marie from Ramblings of a Daydreamer when I did the Keeping it Real Reading Challenge, or Working for the Mandriod with regard to the categorized approach of Lets Talk About Love -- then not credit someone and have someone mistakenly feel that I stole another blogger's idea or copied them. 

The only thing I can think of that I wish I *could* be brave enough to replicate from other blogs is the way that bloggers unite to create events. Shyness in contacting others about things is still one of my greatest weaknesses and one that I will hopefully someday get past. 

Q: What do you dislike about blogs you have seen? Do you try to avoid it?

A: Please be aware that this question, and its answer, are very subjective. 

Music that auto-plays. This annoys me to no end. It's totally cool if you want to have a playlist with music that I can click on, or if you want to do something where there is a video with something you like. But anything that automatically puts sound through my TV makes me want to get off a site as quickly as possible. I am a nightowl and I leave my volume on low, but constant sound that I don't want can still wake family up. Or mess up anything I might already have playing. Or just irritate me. By the way, it also tends to slow the way your page loads, which is never a good thing.

Anything that is a pop up that I need to click shut. Those programs that offer award points? *bang, bang, shoot, shoot* and I don't remember what blog had it, but there was a twitter bird that I thought was totally cute til it started flying down the page as I scrolled and landing amid the blog's main text. It was likely because I had the blog zoomed in, but still ... I think it might be the sole most annoying thing I have experienced in seven months of blogging and I hope never to encounter it again. It drove me nuts! 

I am potentially guilty of two, possibly three, major offenses. Many people feel that my current header is pixelated. (I actually left white around the letters on purpose.) Some people feel that my blog is too bright and that the background I have is too busy. (Others love it. So do I.) And some people feel that a blogger who likes having things in their side column should run a three column blog. My blog is two columns because I don't have to have it zoomed out as much and I can still see the whole thing -- including my background -- this way. 

The big thing I tend to be concerned with being accused of, as I said earlier, is the "Oh, it's just a memes and giveaways blog" stigma. It never occurred to me that I should check the balance of content on blogs that I read. I have always just used the thing at the bottom of google and scrolled through what's been posted, clicking on what I want to read, or going through linkys for events or memes I like and finding blogs that way. 

I've actually found that the race to make sure I have two reviews up every week, no matter what, was really dampening the whole thing for me. There are some weeks where I might read five books. There are others where I might read one. How and what I read should not be dictated out of fear of being a "meme" blog. (Especially since I like memes just as much as I like reviewing and anyone who thinks this has likely left a long time ago.) 

Right now, for instance, I have three books read and ready and I'm working on reviews for them. One should have went up on Tuesday. It didn't because I'm sick, I overslept and I didn't feel up to doing the video review I want to go with it. Anyway, enough on that! 

Q: How did you bring your blog to the attention of so many people? 

A: Let me ask you a question in return: are you looking to get big numbers, or are you looking to get people who visit (and comment) consistently. Because the advice I would give you is different depending on the goal that you want to achieve. 

If you want big numbers, join giveaway hops. My blog gained nearly 250 followers in October when I took part in three Halloween hops. People like free stuff, and they don't tend to mind clicking ***a FEW*** buttons for a shot at it. Make sure that you use stuff like Twitter, groups on GoodReads that have space for giveaway advertising, Contest Girl, the giveaway group for BookBlog.ning, an event announcement on goodreads, etc. to promote it. 

If you want consistent readers, you'll need to work harder. Get out there and take part in events and memes to make sure people know about your blog. Make sure you tweet your posts, but also take time to get involved with others on twitter by joining conversations. Follow other bloggers, authors, publishers, etc. and don't be afraid to speak up! Visit blogs and leave *intelligent, well thought out comments*. "Great review!" is nice, but it really doesn't encourage any further discussion. On the same token, when you post something consider whether it will invite others to leave comments. Do you ask questions? Seek opinions?Say things that might make someone want to say something back? This stuff takes time, but as the weeks turn into months, you will find your blog growing and you will notice certain "faces" popping up in the comment section. 

Q: How did you get your first ARC / first ARCs? 

A: When it comes to mainstream publishers, I have had the most success using NetGalley. Since most of my requests -- ones I make or made of me -- tend to be electronic I purchased a Kindle to make my life easier. (Looking back I partially wish I'd purchased an e-Reader with a touch screen. I generally have to decline PDFs because they do not work well when paired with my vision and the 5 way button that a Kindle uses.) 

I have won a few ARCs in giveaways. If someone is doing a giveaway for a book you are dying to read, enter it. :) What do you have to lose? 

The largest majority of my requests come directly from authors, though. And while I don't always say yes --  I've become very, very cautious about what I accept --  I am always deeply touched that someone would like me to read their story and share my thoughts about it with the world. When I do say yes it is generally having read a sample of the work and feeling confident that I will at least enjoy it. Which, for me, is as it should be. I don't have time to read something I am not connecting with. And if I realize I have made an error 100 pages into a book and it completely isn't working for me (or worse...) I think I am doing someone a greater service by contacting them and telling them it is not for me, rather then pretending I read it and writing a review. 

That's why, for the most part, I either stick to reviewing stuff I purchased or I do everything I can to make sure I have some idea what I'm getting into before I accept a review request. I treat every book, whether I buy it from a store or not, as if I have (or am going to). Because one of the things I've learnt since I started book blogging is that there is no such thing as a free lunch -- or a free book. When I started looking at every book as if I was going to buy it I started making much smarter decisions and found that what I decided to do was a lot more balanced when dealing with authors and publishers. 

You still there? I'm impressed! Thanks so much for sticking with me through all of that. I had no idea how lengthy this would end up being. I hope that some of the things I have said are of assistance, or at least get you thinking. Every blogger gets the blues every now and then. The big secret, the answer to all prayers, is to remember that once you can answer "What's wrong?" the next question should be "Okay. So what can I do about it?". 

To quote Josh Groban, "Don't give up ... You are loved."

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