Friday, March 30, 2012

Show Me More of What I Love! in YA ~ Let's Talk {5}

Click here to see Let's Talk!

I'm so excited that Melissa at i swim for oceans likes discussion posts because sometimes I get chatty and have things to say. Melissa has opened her Let's Talk event up to the rest of us and I'm excited to be a part of it. Thanks, Melissa! 


According to Melissa:
"Let's Talk will feature questions or prompts, which I will answer too. Love it or hate it, weigh in or don't, it's my hope that Let's Talk will at least get you thinking...and maybe even get you discussing with the rest of us!"

This week's question

What do you want to see MORE of 
in YA books?


Hmmm...where to start.
Cause this COULD get long. 
No, I'll keep it short... 
cause I really DO love YA
the way it is. 

Links in book titles take  you to my 
blog posts/reviews for each book.


1. World-Building. I love it when a world is built for me. That's what world-building means, right? Creating a world....Anyway, I want to be able to visualize where my characters are, what things look like, the smell of the air, the way things sound. I read a ton of Fantasy/Sci-Fi and Dystopian/Apocalyptic books, so a great world is key. I can get by without a great world if I have to but man-oh-man if an author has built something spectacular for me to feast on, it just elevates the book exponentially to me. I can think of a ton of great examples of world-building, but here are a few that I've read lately that I've loved: 


Fever by Lauren DeStefano 
Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

2. The Freshy-Freshy. I love it when an author takes a central idea - something already popular - and gives it his or her own spin. I don't mind reading similar elements across a genre, but I really want to see something with an author's own unique stamp. I think we all do, right? These aren't all of them, but here are a few examples of recent books I've read with what I'm calling The Freshy-Freshy


Incarnate by  Jodi Meadows - awesome reincarnation story
Cinder by Marissa Meyer - super fun genre mash-up


Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi - incredible use of writing style to illustrate a fragile mind: run-ons, 
strikethroughs, no commas, repetitive phrases, poetic prose
Pure by Julianna Baggott - the most unique & disturbing 
& thought-provoking apocalyptic story I've ever read

3. Illustrations. Just, more please! No explanations required. 


A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

 ** I want to see more people reading Indie/Self-Published Titles. **
I know, I know - everyone has their own opinions about why they will/will not read them. But you guys, some of the Indie stuff is AMAZING. Some of the Indie stuff is as good or better than the Traditionally published stuff. That's all I'm going to say. There are lots of bad ones, there are lots of good ones. Here are some of the good ones I've read lately: 


Arson by Estevan Vega
Ashes by Estevan Vega 
(review coming soon - link is to Goodreads)
Exiled by M.R. Merrick


On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves
(not technically YA, but there's crossover appeal)

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Okay friends, 
What sorts of things would
you like to see in your favorite genres? 


OR...do you have opinions 
on the books I have pictured here...

Let's talk about this! 

Bloggiesta: I Want In...Now What I've Done!

Hosted by Suey & Danielle

BLOGGIESTA.



Okay, so I've spent literally ALL weekend on this blog. Now, I am a slow worker and there isn't much crossed off of my list but THAT'S OKAY you guys. I've done a TON of stuff that wasn't on my list. I've finished a few of the minichallenges. And I'm gonna keep working. 


Also, I still don't know what the heck SEO and MetaTags are. I won't lie. That is TOO MUCH of a job for this girl for only three days. 


Let's check out what went down on the blog this weekend

  • HELLO NEW DESIGN! It looks great, no? Thanks to the fabulous  Jacinda from The Reading Housewives for ALL of her help. She took time out from her Bloggiesta list to help with this - which wasn't even on my initial list but was still important to me. 
  • I got a blog button. Again, thanks to  Jacinda from The Reading Housewives for this. That girl is awesome. I was able to put my own grab code on it by using a post by Hafsah from IceyBooks
  • I put up social media icons and figured out how to make them link back to me (took forever!). I used this blog post to help me and it worked! So yay! 
  • I made a header for my Facebook page since it switched to the new timeline. Sometimes I have problems with my posts flowing over, but I'll figure that out. (The thumbnails don't want to show up.) It really looks nice, I think. 
  • I sat up Friday night cross-posting a few reviews to my Goodreads that had been left out. I typically do these when I post them on my blog, but had left some off lately. I did this in the middle of the night because it spammed my facebook peeps' walls (Goodreads flows over if you have it on your timeline, which I do). As I figured, I got some weird messages about it. (At least I didn't spam them during the middle of the day, right?) I also cross-posted a few reviews to Amazon that needed to go there. YAY!
  • I updated my Review Policy and added a Contest Policy. 
  • I took a thing or two off of my sidebar and rearranged a little bit. I still think it needs some work since I added back the social media icons and blog button. But I can keep working on this. 
  • I set my blog up with dlvr.it which wasn't the most necessary thing in the world for me, but will be nice for those posts that go up at weird times when I'm not able to tweet them immediately. I can always remove it if I don't like it since I typically use bit.ly and am happy with it. 
As I look at this list, it really doesn't seem like all that much - but I'm still very happy with my results. I told you guys I'm a slow worker. This is absolute evidence of that because I've barely even left my seat since Friday afternoon (except to watch Firefly for a little while as I worked on the blog last night).

There are a ton of other things I wanted to do, and as I wander around everyone else's blogs I will see even more things that I want to do. So they will just go on the list...which I won't follow. Bloggiesta, for me, really is nice but three days isn't long enough for the stuff like SEO and Tags. It'll take me much longer to figure those out, but I am committed to it. And I'm very excited to use WLW on a blog post when I do one. I think that will end up being my favorite thing I've learned once I really get going with it. I spent all of my time doing cosmetic things and cross-posting instead of writing posts because that wasn't something that I am very behind on. 

Thank everyone for their help in answering questions (especially Jacinda) and thank everyone that stopped by and looked at things for me when I asked them to. Y'all are a great community and I'm so glad to be a part of it. Now I'm gonna spend the next few days wandering around looking at everyone else's blogs post-bloggiesta. 

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I'm gonna do it, you guys. I'm gonna do Bloggiesta for real. I've thought about it all year and I'm just gonna do it. Why? Because I need to do ALL THE THINGS to my blog and more. Plus all my bloggy friends are doing it and they are always teaching me things so I figure I should learn a thing or two or twenty this weekend. 

Here's the deal: I'm SURE I'm the last person to sign up. But I'm TOTALLY okay with this. I'm sure they'd love to have me! 

The Details: 
When:  March 30 - April 1 
What: Spend as much time as you can during this time 
working on your blog - your own TO-DO list - 
and learn from others in the process 
Why: Because I need to and it looks fun. And I need to. Ha!

I'm not exactly sure how many hours I will be able to devote to this, but hopefully my family will help me carve out plenty of time. If not, I'll shut myself up and disappear for three days. (I'm joking.) I'll participate as much as I can! 

I HATE making lists, but apparently that is one of the goals of this thing. So I will make a list but I'm not sure how well I'll stick to it. Here goes: 

My Bloggy To-Do List
  • Make sure all reviews are cross-posted to Goodreads and Amazon.
  • I need some buttons for my blog. Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc. And a blog button wouldn't hurt.
  • I need to spiffy up my Facebook page BIG TIME and make it work for me. 
  • What the heck is SEO? I'm not even joking. I have TRIED to understand it but DO NOT. Somebody help me! 
  • Meta Tags? WHAT? That's another one I don't know about. Oh dear heavens. I have my work cut out for me this weekend...
  • Figure out WLW & thanks to Jacinda from The Reading Housewives, I will probably be a pro at it before the weekend is over. 
  • I'd love to get a little further ahead in scheduling some stuff, if I can. 
  • I have an event planned for May (hmmm....) and I need to get some stuff rolling for that. 
  • ALL THE OTHER THINGS I need to do. 

Everyone has started without me, so I'm gonna get going. I'm hopeful, oh-so-hopeful that I'll come out of this a little smarter about tech-y stuff and a better blogger. I guess we'll see on the other side of this weekend, right? 



Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Thoughts On: Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream

Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream
Published by HarperCollins

Publish Date: March 6, 2012
320 Pages
Source:  HarperCollins/TLC Book Tours
World renowned artist and sharp-tongued wit Clementine Pritchard has decided that she’s done. After flushing away a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions, she gives herself thirty days to tie up loose ends—finish one last painting, make nice with her ex-husband and find a home for her cat. Clementine plans to spend the month she has left in a swirl of artworld parties, manic work sessions, and outrageous acts—but what she doesn’t expect is to uncover secrets surrounding the tragedy that befell her mother and sister. In an ending no one sees coming, will we lose Clementine or will we find her?  -(summary from author's website)


Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream


My Thoughts:  I knew going into this book that Clementine was contemplating suicide - even going as far as planning it out meticulously. I found myself very caught up in the countdown of days, 30 to be exact...and as her ending approached, I was very curious as to whether Clementine would stick to or plan or not. 


Let's talk about Losing Clementine for a moment:


1. The Characters
  • Clementine: A manic-depressive yet vibrant and wildly talented artist. Clementine has decided that she is tired of living under the weight of all of her daily medicines, so she stopped them all, and she feels GREAT! Well, she feels great most of the time - until she has "black days." During these days she literally doesn't move for blocks of hours at a time, even going without eating or getting up to use the bathroom. Clementine has gone to great lengths to make sure that her death will go off without a hitch, inconveniencing everyone as little as possible. Losing Clementine is a telling of how she uses her last thirty days to tie up loose ends in her own way. ~ I loved Clementine as a character - how developed she was despite making a few stupid and rash decisions, decisions that I can't understand because my mental health is not in the same shape hers is. She even made me laugh quite a few times. 
  • Secondary Cast: There's a great secondary cast to support Clementine and help build her story, including ex-husband Richard (who I really liked), her assistant Jenny (I still haven't decided it I really like her or not.), and her father Jerry Pritchard (who I didn't like at all). There are others as well. None are as developed as Clementine, of course, because this is her story, but they each added depth and supported Clementine's character (without even really knowing her secret), and I appreciated that as a reader.
2. The Story. Losing Clementine is an adult contemporary fiction novel that tackles a really tough subject, I think, but in a unique way. We know from the beginning that Clementine is through with living life and is ready to end it - and we know that we are going to read about her final thirty days, so hopefully we're prepared for that. The way the author chose to write this particular story was interesting - a bleak and dark subject matter written with some humor and bright color. It's strange, really, that I almost found myself rooting for Clementine to accomplish her goal of ending her life rather than seeking out help - which is totally opposite of how I would be in real life. This really showcases the talent of this particular author - that she was able to fully immerse me in the life and mind of Clementine so well that I was living life in her messed-up and odd little world, and cheering for her in a weird sort of way. After having finished the book, it sort of feels a little weird to admit that to everyone, but I mean it as completely complimentary to the author

3. The Structure. I loved the way Losing Clementine is set up, as a final countdown. Each chapter represents one day in the countdown towards Clementine's last day, starting with the first chapter labeled as "30 Days." As a reader, the closer and closer I got to her final day - despite being a bit apprehensive just in case she went through with her plans (because I had grown attached to her) - I read faster and had to know if she was really gonna do what she intended. 

4. The Cover. I was drawn to a beautiful cover yet again, everyone. This cover art is eye-catching, with the mixture of yellow and gray and teal blue, and I feel like the picture represents the story well. Great job. 

5. The Ending Does Clementine go through with her plans? Or not? After becoming attached to her character and becoming invested in her story, was I happy with her choice? Well, I had to read the ending twice to make sure I had it right the first time...I'll leave you all with that...


I really liked Losing Clementine and would recommend it to other adult fiction-loving readers. I might even recommend it to older young adult readers who tend to love books with issues. I would tend to caution readers who have had to deal with suicide issues in their life or in their family because there are certainly instances in the book that might trigger some painful memories for them. 


Despite the dark underlying subject matter, I think the author was able to write this book so that it was much more lighthearted, bright, and humorous than I initially thought it to be. I enjoyed reading it quite a bit and often found myself laughing or smiling at Clementine and some of the crazy things she did. On the other hand, there were also a few times that I did nearly tear up when she would have manic episodes or "black days" and I would have to experience those times along with her... 


Ultimately, Losing Clementine is an emotional read and a very interesting book. I found Clementine to be a very quirky, real, and complicated character - much like a real-life person who carries issues very similar to hers. Even so, I loved her and was able to quickly connect with her through her humor and her antics, and I feel that other readers will be able to connect with her as well. I would recommend this book for older YA and adult audiences due to content. 

Losing Clementine will appeal to fans of

Adult Contemporary Fiction
Stories with Issues/Mental Illness
Character-Driven Stories
 Stories with Art: Painting

Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream
 is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours! 

                                                           TLC Book Tours
***FYI: Book Club Girl will be 
interviewing Ashley Ream on April 10 at pm EST HERE!***


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Wanna Stay Home & Read THESE Books...


Click HERE to check out Top Ten Tuesday 
at The Broke and the Bookish

I'd Skip Anything & Everything
To Stay Home To Read
These Books/Series

These are in no specific order, you guys! 




Arson by Estevan Vega
Ashes by Estevan Vega 
The Forsaken by Estevan Vega


Estevan is on my instant-read list. That means if he writes it, I'll read it. Period.
I'm reading Ashes right now and HOLY BATMAN, you guys
I'm having to make myself read it slowly so I won't miss the good stuff. 
If you love thrillers, you need to be a fan of Estevan Vega. 
He's legit and these are solid recommends. 

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A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick 

Robert Goolrick is another of my instant-read authors. 
I LOVED A Reliable Wife. So, so much. 
When my copy of Heading Out to Wonderful gets here, I will ignore you all. 
That is a promise. 

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO READ THIS? 
I'm reading this now. Slowly. It is so doggone amazing, I can barely handle it. 
About two-thirds through, I'm CERTAIN that this will be one of my favorite books EVER. 


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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
I'm listening to this book now. I don't even have words suitable for my love for it. 
Plus it is read by the amazing Nick Podehl. His voice is LIKE BUTTER
I could curl up in a ball and listen to Nick read Pat's words for the full 28 hours straight
and not be bothered at all by this. Not at all. Have mercy...both the story and that voice.

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The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
Hounded, Hexed, Hammered, and Tricked
(also Trapped and Hunted out soon)


I WANT TO READ THESE BOOKS SO, SO BAD!
(CRIES, WAILS, SOBS, FLAILS) 
Soon. Very soon. I'm working on it. 
And I am SO VERY EXCITED. 
I mean, LOOK AT THOSE COVERS you guys. Gah.

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The Chaos Walking Trilogy (will make almost all of my lists)
The Knife of  Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness


This gal is a ridiculous Patrick Ness fan girl. That is all. 

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Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller

I looooove Donald Miller. I've read Blue Like Jazz four times. 
I own three copies of the book because I hand it out like candy. 
Yeah. I'd stay home all day to re-read his books. Total fangirl. 
(plus these books are so fun and discussable over chips & salsa)

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Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry
Flesh & Bone by Jonathan Maberry

Zombie books with awesome covers? Yes, please. 
I've read one Maberry book and loved it. 
I need to catch up PRONTO.

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(author name links to Goodreads)

OF COURSE I'd play hooky to read these books. 
You probably would too. Duh. 

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Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry
The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry
The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry
Assassin's Code by Jonathan Maberry


While I'm catching up on the above-listed Maberry books, 
I figured I'd play hooky with these too. 
I'm SO FAR BEHIND on his stuff. 

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(author name links to Goodreads)

I need to catch up on these too. 
Um, because I loved the first one. Yes. 


I think I went over by a longshot. 
Oh well! It's MY list.
There are plenty of others that I didn't mention. 

WHAT ABOUT  YOU? 
What's on your list? 
Did I leave something off 
that I should've included?




Monday, March 26, 2012

...On A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Published by Candlewick Press

Publish Date:  September 27, 2011
215 Pages
Source:  Library
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting — he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. 

The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. 

From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd — whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself — Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined. 
 -(summary from Goodreads.com) 



A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Shout-Out to Lisa @heylisarenee at LisaisBusyNerding.com 


My Thoughts:  You guys, who am I kidding? Anyone who is familiar with this gal knows I am a Patrick Ness fangirl like WHOA. He shares my status of "favorite" with none other than John Green. I was introduced to the fabulous Patrick Ness by the fabulous Lisa the Nerd, and I will be forever thankful to her for this, because Ness' Chaos Walking Trilogy has left an imprint on my heart that I can't explain with mere words. 


I was walking through my library a couple of weeks ago and nearly fainted when I saw that they finally bought a copy of A Monster Calls. As it was brand new and still behind the circulation desk, I literally did the point-and-grunt in the general direction of the library staff. Unable to speak, my rock star library dude grabbed it for me, scanned it, and put it in my bag. These are things I should have been able to do for myself, but we ARE talking about my friend Patrick Ness here.... (I digress.)


So then I make it home, take the book out, and stare at it for awhile...KNOWING that it will make me cry. I've read the other bloggers' sob stories with this one. What's with me and the sappy books lately, friends? I don't know! I even talked about this in an IMM video blog (in which Allison chuckled laughed at me). But it's okay. I can also laugh at myself. I KNEW I wouldn't make it through the book dry-eyed. So I began to read it v-e-r-y slowly in hopes that I could minimize the damage to myself and those around me. 


Did it work for me - reading it v-e-r-y slowly? 
Did it minimize the tears? 
Let's find out. 

The first thing you need to know is this
Like I said earlier, I'm a HUGE fan of Patrick Ness. 
It all started with a little series called Chaos Walking. 
Being such a huge fan of the work of this author, it makes it hard to form coherent sentences that are anything other than a gush-fest. So you'll just have to trust me. In my opinion, the man is a writing genius. He is very good at his craft and his skill is superior. His stories are excellent and are executed brilliantly. Patrick Ness writes about things, too, that are important and relevant - not fluffy and puffy. While fluffy and puffy are fun, the stories of Patrick Ness aren't always fun. This is one of the things I love about his work. I'm just a huge, huge fan. 

The second thing you need to know is this
When I said I read this book slowly, I mean like 10-15 pages at a time. SLOWLY. 
As a reader - even at my age - I haven't figured out how to handle huge chunks of emotion. When I read books by this author, I feel huge chunks of emotion and I know others do too. For me, the best way to handle this is to read it in very small doses. This is precisely how I handled Monsters of Men (Book 3 of Chaos Walking Trilogy) and accordingly, this is how I handled A Monster Calls. It was the best thing I could have done. 

Reading tiny bits lets me take in a little at a time and really let it sink in. I love this author so much that I don't want to miss a single thing that he writes. I know that is a lofty goal in reading - to not miss any details - but I have learned that I can avoid it as much as possible by reading certain books the way I do. (PLUS it let me spend some time on the awesome illustrations in this book.) 


The third thing you need to know is this
The illustrations are some of the best I've ever seen. 
As if the story isn't excellent enough on its own, we have illustrations by Jim Kay to make it even better. Like, in a different league. I am not exaggerating to say that I spent as much time looking at the detail in the pictures as I did reading the story. 


  

The fourth thing you need to know is this
Your heart will break for Conor at least a dozen times. 
The monster comes to see Conor and is surprised when Conor isn't scared. He isn't frightened at all because what lives in his dreams is more frightening than anything at all, so how can this monster scare him? The monster comes back again and again, promising to tell Conor three stories. Upon completion of the third story, the monster says, it will be time for Conor to tell his story, his truth...

Meanwhile, Conor's mom's cancer is progressing. Conor denies this with the ferocity of a child in denial yet we as readers are able to see exactly how advanced things truly are. And our hearts are broken. Conor is also bullied by schoolmates, which is heartbreaking. Conor's father, who lives in America with his 'other' family, doesn't really pay Conor the attention that he desperately needs - cries out for, really - and our hearts are broken. And his own grandmother, his mom's mother, doesn't really understand him - the two butt heads almost nonstop. Conor doesn't seem to have a friend in the world, except for the monster


When it became time for Conor to tell his story, his truth, my heart broke over and over with every word. 

**********************************************************

As always, Patrick Ness weaves in the complex with the seemingly simple. He takes this monster - this big, scary monster - and manages to make him something that isn't scary at all. What Conor learned from him, I also learned from him. Doggone it, Patrick Ness and your way with words...

In the end, I was speechless and emotional. Unable to move, even. This story is so gripping and full of truth and painful and heartbreaking. But OF COURSE it is, you guys! Of course. Nobody else writes with such beauty. Nobody else can make reading something so horrific such a wonderful experience. 

Bottom line: If you are one of the ones that has read this book already, I completely understand all of the emotion you warned me about. I knew it was there, but I have been an active participant now. If you haven't read this book yet, I would love for you to pick it up and read it: not only because I am a ridiculous fan of this author, but because this story deserves to be read. It's amazing and brilliant and all things Patrick Ness. 

Have you read this book yet? 
Thoughts?
NO SPOILERS!! 

**I do think reading this book slowly minimized the tears. 
Well, that and finishing it the day after I finished The Fault in Our Stars
I did tear up, but I think I was all-cried-out.

 
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