Saturday, September 27, 2008

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes dives right in where City of Bones left off. Evil Shadowhunter Valentine has escaped, but when murdered Downworlder children turn up unexpectantly, everyone wonders if he is behind the attacks. Through this, Clary has to confront her changing relationship with Simon, while Jace is still a jerk and her mother is still in a coma. It seems like Clary's life will never be back to normal, especially when the Inquistitor comes to investigate and targets Jace. When the time comes, Clary must use her Shadowhunter blood and look inside herself for hidden powers to help save the day.

I still can't believe how amazing this trilogy is! As soon as I finished City of Bones, I went and got City of Ashes from the library. I definitely liked City of Bones better, but City of Ashes really delivered, especially the major cliffhanger at the end. The one thing I really like about the Mortal Instrument trilogy are the characters. Like I said before, every character is so complex. Especially Jace, who seems like a jerk on the outside, but has a gentler side, too. He uses sarcasm a lot, but you know that he would do anything for the people he cares about. Sometimes characters would do things I didn't agree with, but I understood every action because Cassandra Clare writes her characters so magnificently. Overall, a wonderful book.

City of Glass will be released on March 29, 2008.

8 out of 10.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Clary Fray had no idea that her life would drastically change when she went to the Pandemonium Club in Manhattan with her best friend Simon. While dancing among fog and strobe lights, Clary witnesses a murder by three teenagers with crazy tattoos, wielding strange weapons. If that wasn't weird enough, she is the only one that can see them. When the teens discover that Clary can see them, they reveal themselves to be Shadowhunters, members of an alternate world that hunt demons. Suddenly Clary is thrust into the Downworld when she herself is attacked by a demon and her mother mysteriously disappears. To unlock the secrets of her past and find her mother, Clary must assist the Shadowhunters Jace, Alec, and Isabelle to locate an important magical tool, the Mortal Cup, and keep it from the clutches of an evil Shadowhunter.

Oh. My. God. That is only way to describe this book. It was amazing! I'm generally not a big fan of fantasy, but I absolutely loved City of Bones. Cassandra Clare does an excellent job of creating this alternate universe that co-exists with ours, one that humans are not aware of. The book had thrills, drama, humor, romance, and twists and turns that kept you flipping the pages until the end. I practically had to pry myself away from it so I could finish my homework. Everything is told in great detail, and I felt like I was experiencing everything along with the characters. The characters, by the way, were awesome. Everyone had a unique personality and a real in-depth-ness to them. Even the shallow characters weren't that shallow. Clary is the ultimate heroine, plus she has red hair like me, which makes me love her even more. I claim Jace, the hot and sexy demon hunter, as my new boyfriend and Simon made me laugh almost every other page. The only thing stopping this book from being a 10 is the big twist at the end. Those who've read this book know what I mean. I wasn't too happy about it, but I have to admit, it made the book more interesting. I can't wait to see what Cassandra Clare has in store for us in City of Ashes.

9.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Author Interview: SarahBeth Carter

Wow, I am so excited! The first author interview on Simply Books! And right on time for Book Bloggers' Appreciation Week. So the author I interviewed was SarahBeth Carter, and she wrote Meeting Lizzy, which is being released Friday, September 19. I reviewed Meeting Lizzy a few months ago for Flamingnet and you can read my review here.

SarahBeth's Bio

SarahBeth is the author of LJW Publishing's first fiction book: Meeting Lizzy. She can't seem to stop reading and at times it seems that writing is her only form of effective communication. SarahBeth graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in English Literature followed by a slew of previous majors that she thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with. She's married with two kids and sometimes wonders if she has come home to an insane asylum, but then...isn't that normal? She someday wants to spend the night in an Irish castle and possibly, if it's allowed, touch one of the stones at Stonehenge.

About Meeting Lizzy

What was your inspiration for the book?

I can remember the exact moment at which Meeting Lizzy began. I was driving home from a night class at ASU in the rain. The freeway was pretty empty and I was enjoying the drive and the sound of the rain. I turned the radio on and was flipping through stations. One song mentioned domestic violence and another mentioned the age old question of identity from a teen perspective. That’s really all it took for my overactive imagination to jump right in and fill the rest of the drive home with the first scene that unfolds in the prologue. I jumped on the computer and started typing as soon as I got home.

How did you create the characters Cy and Lizzy? Were they based on real people?

Cy and Lizzy weren’t based on real people, but Cy and Lizzy do feature random quirks and traits of people I know. For instance, Cy’s buffalo wing eating technique came straight from my husband, Justin. (Sad, right?) And I have personally made the mistake of trying to get from point A to point B barefoot during an Arizona summer which also finds its way into the story. I’m a firm believer in fiction reflecting reality, but I always feel pretty safe in my musings since actually recreating a person I know on paper would be next to impossible. There are so many perspectives of a person that I won’t ever get to see. I only see what they give me and that’s going to be totally different than the person they give their husband, their mother, their teacher or a stranger on the street.

The book's plot revolves around teen dating violence. Why did you decide to include this issue?

Domestic violence has always been a haunting issue for me. Not because I’ve been personally affected by it, but because it seems like one of the most confusing, terrifying and hopeless situations I could ever imagine finding myself in. I’ve always been in awe of people strong enough to stand up when the person they depend on for strength when they’re running low becomes the person pushing them down. I hope that I could be one of those people, but imagination can only take you so far and even then…imagining something and actually doing it are two very different things.

The more I got into the story the more I realized that violence in teen relationships is a wider spread issue than the general public realizes. I hope that I did a decent job of portraying the situation and that someone, somewhere will read the book and use their new awareness of teen dating violence to recognize it in a friend who needs help or to avoid falling into an abusive relationship themselves.

Now that the book will be released in less than a week, how do you feel? Nervous? Excited? Happy?

Nervous and excited about covers it, I suppose. Every now and then I’ll have a giddy, “I did it!” moment: when I see my book on a shelf, when I get an email from a stranger who loves the characters as much as I do, when a random post pops up online discussing the storyline presented in Meeting Lizzy and recommending it to other readers. It’s an amazing process and I’m so glad I’ve been able to have the experience.

On Writing

What is the hardest part about the writing process?

The hardest part of the writing process for me is when the initial character and story rush ends and I’m left with the basic story and someplace to go and a lot of blanks when it comes to exactly how I need to get there. The easiest way for me to get over it is to print off everything I’ve put down and cut it into pieces. Then it’s a huge jigsaw puzzle on my office floor with blank pieces for the spots that need something new or a transition, etc.

Do you have any weird quirks about writing? For example, you can only write when it's dark outside.

I do almost always write when it’s dark outside. I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that it’s dark. I think it is more the fact that it’s a time during which I can have total control over my environment because no one else is in it. All my favorite people are asleep that could normally distract me from my train of thought. Strangers don’t normally knock on my door in the middle of the night and phone calls are rare. I’m the only one that disrupts the silence and that’s the main requirement for me when I’m writing.

How do you combat writer's block?

When I’m stuck I’ll gather songs and make a playlist that reminds me of the characters I’m working with or the situation I’m trying to get down on paper. It usually works for me, but I have to admit that sometimes it just doesn’t. Sometimes I just have to turn off my computer, put my notes down and spend my writing time going out to a movie with the girls instead. Distraction is a fabulously effective fall back for writer’s block.

Getting To Know You

What was your favorite book growing up?

One of my favorite books growing up was The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I also really loved Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. Luckily, I’m absolutely fine with re-reading so I can still enjoy them today.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I actually did always want to be a writer. I wanted to be an artist, too, so I’m at a 50% success rate. But I’m totally good with that!

In your bio, it says you "experimented" with different majors before settling on English Literature. What other majors did you experiment with?

When I think of my range of majors I have to laugh. Let’s see if I can hit all of them for you. I believe I actually declared most of the majors at one point or another, but some may have changed before I put any official paperwork through: Exercise Science, Dance, Nutrition, Architecture, Speech & Hearing Science and then…English Literature! Not really that many really, but definitely plenty! My first inclination was English Literature, but I had several people advising me that it wouldn’t be a smart choice and that it would really limit me when it came to using my degree to get a good job after graduation. I should have gone in to talk to an English Literature counselor from the beginning. It’s really one of the most versatile degrees you can get; it can lead in so many different directions that you’ve got a lot of options.

Just For Fun

If you were on a deserted island, what one movie would you bring?

Love movies…and this answer would change frequently, but at the moment I’m thinking “Disturbia.”

Tell us a random fact about yourself.

I am third in a family of seven children.

Any last comments?

Thanks! It was fun running through your questions.

Thank you, SarahBeth! If you want to more information on the book, click here, or if you want to visit SarahBeth's blog, click here.

Death By Latte by Linda Gerber

Aphra Connelly is back and ready for action in this thrilling sequel to Death By Bikini. She decides to visit her mother in Seattle, but the feeling in unreciprocated. Aphra's mother Natalie is practically upset that she's there, and Natalie's partner Joe hates Aphra even more. So when Seth shows up, unannounced, demanding his ring back, Aphra feels like she has no control over her life. And suddenly things get worse. When Joe is found dead, poisoned by a hot cup of joe (pun intended) Aphra and her odd group of family and friends must flee in order to save their lives.

This book, like its prequel, was an exciting read. I felt like Death By Bikini was rushed, but Death By Latte was more evenly paced. Aphra remains the cute and clever heroine, and now we get to see Aphra's mom, who was absent in the first book. Certain things annoyed me, though: like how Aphra couldn't stop mentioning her lifeguard and first aid training in her narration. Take it from someone who's certified in both plus other things; you don't think about it all that often. I know, I know, she was in a situation where that training could have come in handy, but still. Also, I hate when writers constantly use such sentence structures as "I wondered if Stuart's perception of her [Natalie] as independent kept him from offering to help her with it. I wondered if I should. Offer, I mean." For some reason, it drives me crazy! So any authors out there, refrain from this please! But besides those two minor annoyances I really did like the book and can't wait for Death By Denim.

7 out of 10.

Release Date: Tomorrow! (Sept. 18)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

BBAW Interview: Dewey from The Hidden Side of the Leaf

When Amy from My Friend Amy started this whole Book Blogger's Appreciation Week, she emailed us to ask if anyone wanted to interview a fellow Book Blogger. I said yes, and my interview partner was Dewey from The Hidden Side of the Leaf. You can read her interview of me here.

1. How did you get started book review blogging?
I started my blog because I wanted a place to write about my reading. I didn't expect to have an audience (at first I didn't even have comments turned on) and I didn't expect to become involved in the book blogosophere. But now I participate in all sorts of blogging activities, and I'm really interested in book bloggers as a community.

2. What do you like the most about blogging?
I think what I like most is making new friends. But I also really like all the free books that come my way and hearing about good books from other bloggers.

3. What are your favorite books and/or genre?
My favorite genre is probably what is known as literary fiction, although I don't really like that term. I have so many favorite books that I wouldn't know where to start. But I think that my favorite book I've read so far this year is Purple Hibiscus.

4. If you could meet one author, who would you meet and why? Probably Margaret Atwood. I heard her speak once, and it left me wanting to ask her a thousand questions. She's just such a brilliant person, and I love the way she thinks.

5. What advice would you give aspiring book reviewers?
I hear people belittling their own ideas by saying they can't review books or don't have anything interesting to say. I think they should just trust in themselves and know that their reactions are just as meaningful as anyone else's.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Book Bloggers' Appreciation Week (!!!)

So today marks the first day of Book Bloggers' Appreciation Week. I'm excited; aren't you? Simply Books has several treats to commemorate this wonderful week.

Tomorrow I will be posting my interview with Dewey from The Hidden Side of the Leaf.

I will be posting reviews of Death By Latte and City of Bones.

And finally..... (drum roll please)

My first author interview with SarahBeth Carter, who wrote Meeting Lizzy!

I'm not sure exactly when everything will be posted, but definitely sometime this week. So keep checking back!

Anyway, I gotta go because I have a ton of homework and want to watch Gossip Girl at 8.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Eva Underground by Dandi Daley Mackall

Eva Lott is a normal teenager in the late 1970's. She has an awesome boyfriend, is on the varsity swim team, and it's her senior year of high school. But when Eva's father wants her to move to Communist Poland to aid a radical underground movement, she becomes a not-so-normal teenager. While there, Eva plots to get back to the United States, but something happens. It seems that Poland has grown on her, despite the cold baths and unappetizing food she has to endure. As her friendship with Tomek, the handsome translator, blossoms, Eva comes to embrace Poland, and learns that the definition of home has many meanings.

I read this book a few years ago and decided to read it again because I loved it so much. It's one of those quick, 200 page books that you can read over and over again. Even though the book could be longer, it's such an interesting story: a teenage girl goes to Communist Poland to aid an underground movement. Who could resist something like that? It even has romance, and I love it when an author can weave romance into a plot and make it realistic. Overall, just a cute book and a fun read.

8 out of 10.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Lee Fiora is fourteen years old when she is accepted to Ault Boarding School in Massachusetts. The brochure features state-of-the-art classrooms, a beautiful campus, and smiling students enjoying the freedom that boarding school offers. All this convinces Lee to leave her hometown in Indiana and attend this prestigious school. But when actually there, she feels alienated from the weathly students because she has a scholarship to pay for her tuition. As the loner, Lee becomes an observer of her classmates and learns a lot about race, gender, and the inequality that plagues many people.

I both liked and disliked this book. Impossible, you say. But not really. At some points I felt a real connection with Lee: she would say something funny or she would discover some untold truth, and I would really like the book at those parts. But other times Lee drove me crazy. Her status as a loner never appealed to me and I couldn't relate to Lee when she would pity herself. Most of the time she didn't even try to make friends. Sometimes when she discovered said untold truths, it would be something I didn't agree with, furthering distancing me from her character. Despite this, I geniunely enjoyed reading about the boarding school, Ault. I felt like I attended the school and was even reminded of my public high school when Lee talked about things that made Ault unique (for one, the way the students would extend roll call, and therefore shortening first period, by making silly announcements). Now that I'm finished the book, I still can't say whether I liked it or not. But I can say that you should give the book a chance, and maybe you won't be as undecided as me.
6 out of 10.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Blog Update

So today was my first day of school! Yay! Haha, no, I'm not really that excited. I'm a junior now and I heard it's supposed to be the toughest year. Greeaat. Anyway, I just wanted to come on here and say that I am going to be extremely busy from now on. I have tennis in the fall and then swimming in the winter, plus other school activities. I'm going to try to post reviews as soon as I can, but there might be long lapses of time where I don't post anything. So I just wanted everyone to know that I'm still here and you can still keep checking in for reviews and the like. I'm almost finished Prep, and that review should be up sometime this weekend.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Teen Tuesday

I just made my debut over at Teen Tuesday, which is a blog where book reviewers talk about what's going on with their blog. It's a really great way to see what the other bloggers are reading and what contests they're holding, etc.

I just talked about my recent reviews and the books I have to read. If you want to check out the blog, here's a link:

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

The elite and wealthy of Manhattan in 1899 live glamorous lives that the lower classes can only witness in the gossip pages of the newspaper. Most of these people enjoy the secure status that money and privilege brings, except sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland, whose status is far from secure. When they discover that their fortune is dwindling, Elizabeth finds herself making a terrible sacrifice in the name of family duty. Other socialites Penelope Hayes and Henry Schoonmaker, and maid Lina Broud are in the background, waiting to take the top spot that Elizabeth now occupies. So when Elizabeth's carriage overturns by the East River and she disappears, many wonder is something more sinister is behind the accident...

The Luxe was an excellent book. I was reading it while vacationing at the beach, and could not put it down! My sister kept wanting me to do things with her, like go into the ocean or walk along the beach, and I kept saying no just so I could read. It's very much like Gossip Girl, except it takes place in 1899, which makes it even more interesting, in my opinion. The characters were all great, and I loved learning about how the elite in Manhattan spend their days. There was suspense, romance, twists, everything that makes a book wonderful. I can't wait to read the next in the series, Rumors!
8 out of 10.