Saturday, December 31, 2011

FIVE Challenge: Favorite YA titles for 2011

It's the last day of the Top 5 challenge! In this case, I'm going a little bit past five because there I do have more than five favorite titles. I read way too many great YA books this year. So, without further fanfare and in no particular order because again, how can I do that, here are my Favorite YA titles of 2011! You'll have seen some of these on previous Top 5 Challenge posts too.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: There's not much left for me to say about this title except that if you haven't read it yet, do it. You will not regret it. I almost let this story pass me by and I would have regretted that. Puck and Sean will steal into your soul a bit.

Amplified by Tara Kelly: It's a story of music and embracing a dream you've held onto since forever. Jasmine is a memorable character and I discovered some new bands by reading this story! It's got an epic vibe to it, the cover is excellent, and the story just shines with potential.

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan: Again, this is a story that almost passed me by. I waited until the very end of the year to read it. However, once I started I could not put it down. There is truly something magical about this book.

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan: I loved this sci-fi title. It reminded me of Battlestar Galactica and everything I loved about that show. The struggles that are developed in this story are both realistic but edgy because hey, it's happening in space! I really liked the main character, Waverly, and her bravery and courage makes her stand out as a character to remember for me.

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt: A title that was overlooked by many this year, this is the story of a girl whose father has just been diagnosed with MS. It changes their family dynamic and it changes Payton. What makes this story so darn memorable is that, like all the books I've mentioned, the characters stand out, particularly Payton. I related to her OCD tendencies, her love for her family, and her sunny disposition being shattered. There is just a lot to like in this book.

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder: There's just something about female characters for me this year, they really stood out and Cam is no exception. Her struggles with life and death made my heartache on every single page. It's not an easy story but it's one that will make you think about your own reality and if you are perhaps making the most of your life (only not in the preachy, saccharine way I just described it in this sentence, lol). 

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman: Yeah, this book, it's not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination but it's a vital story to be told and I liked how Sarah Darer Littman approached it with honesty and sensitivity.

Clarity by Kim Harrington: This was just an enjoyable story for me. Not perfect but lots of fun and I think that's why it remains one of my favorite books of the year. It was just a lot of darn fun to read, even with some of the more serious elements.

And that's that! My FIVE Challenge is complete! But I'd love to know what YOUR favorite books of 2011 were so if you have posted your own lists, let me know in the comments. I want to see what else everyone is raving about. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

FIVE Challenge: 5 Great YA Bloggers of 2011!

There are so many excellent YA blogs out there. I really want 2012 to be a year when I continue discovering some new blogs and connecting with new bloggers. But for 2011, here are five bloggers I really admire, whose hard work shows up on their blogs every day. They impress me with the quality of their reviews, with the fun they have with their blogs, and with the professional yet personal stance they take on not only their blog but also on Twitter and Goodreads.

The O.W.L : Outrageously Wonderful Literature from the Middle Grades. Jill keeps me informed on all things middle grade and has been a good resource for me to better my reading expertise for my middle grade library readers. I like the features her blog offers, particularly books geared for boys as sometimes boys stump me at work. I like the interviews and just the friendly town her blog offers to readers.

If for some reason you HAVEN'T visited The Book Smugglers yet, what is stopping you? They review YA, romance, and speculative fiction and they do it with panache and honesty. I always respect their reviews, even if I don't agree with what they've said about the book. And the variety! Their blog is filled with a wonderful variety of guest posts, interviews, special weeks devoted to certain topics. This blog is a reader's paradise.

As I've started to get back into the swing of listening to audiobooks, I've been on the prowl for blogs that highlight and talk about audiobooks. Good books and Good Wine has a great selection of audio reviews. They are informative and honest and funny too, something every review should be. I've found several great listening suggestions via April's blog.

As a librarian, Awful Library Books makes me laugh but also realize with chagrin how behind some libraries are with weeding. Seriously, these books should not be on the shelves of any library. It is good for laughs but it's also a painful reminder for those of us working in libraries how important it is to have up to date collections that reflect the community and that you know, have correct information (please don't have medical books from the 1980s or heck even 1990s on your shelves!). I enjoy visiting this blog immensely.

Reading Everywhere has a both a librarian bent and just a general book lover bent to it. I enjoy the reviews, I enjoy the discussions. Heck, I just like the clean layout that she uses. It's nice to see more teen services librarians blogging!

In the new year, I'd really like to find more books that highlight picture books and early reader books so if you have any good suggestions, please let me know!

Who is your favorite blogger of 2011? 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

FIVE Challenge: 5 Most Anticipated Titles for 2012

I've been hearing about 2012 titles since way back in May 2011, if not earlier. It's amazing how the publishing world already has so much of it's next couple of years arranged and ready to go. That being said, there are definitely several titles I am looking forward to reading in 2012 but here are my Top 5 Most Anticipated Reads of 2012!

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. I absolutely LOVED Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. It was one of my favorite books of 2010. So, I cannot, absolutely cannot wait, to get my hands on this book. I'm probably over hyping it in my head but seriously, I just cannot wait. This book comes out on May 8, 2012.

Burn for Burn, Ashes to Ashes, and Fire with Fire by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. I couldn't find covers for these books but these are two of my favorite YA writers. I cannot wait to see what their collaboration brings. I know it's more supernaturally set which is sad because I'm not really a paranormal reader. But that being said, I have to trust these writers. The first book, Burn for Burn (I think that's the first book) comes out sometime in 2012.

Perception by Kim Harrington, the sequel to Clarity. Remember how much I loved that book?? SO MUCH! It was one of my top debuts of 2011! To say I'm excited for this book is an understatement. It comes out on March 1, 2012 which just cannot come soon enough for me.

The List by Siobhan Vivian. FORTUNATELY, I've already had the chance to read this book and wow, readers,  you are in for a treat. This book is probably Siobhan Vivian's best book to date. It leaves you scarred. I cannot wait to buy the finished copy though. There is just something about owning books I truly, absolutely loved that is special. This book comes out on April 1, 2012 so keep your eyes peeled for it.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller. I've heard amazing buzz about this book already from very trusted sources so that makes me even more excited to read this book. There's just something about the war torn protagonist that gets to me time after time. This book comes out on June 19, 2012.

Honorable mentions:
In Honor by Jessi Kirby. I liked her debut, Moonglass, so I'm excited to read her sophomore effort. Another story that has a war angle to it, In Honor comes out on May 8, 2012.

Bitterblue by Jessi Kirby. I have been craving this book for years it feels like and it finally, finally seems like 2012 will be the year it is published. Cashore hooked me with Graceling and Fire and I hope she can work the same magic. This book comes out in May 2012 also!

What books are YOU most looking forward to reading in 2012? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FIVE Challenge: 5 Great re-reads, 2011

I am not all that prone to re-reading YA books because there are way too many NEW YA books I need to read still. But that doesn't hold the same for romance. I re-read my romance books over and over, sometimes just passages, and sometimes the entire book. They go so much faster than YA stories sometimes. So, romance books will be the focus of this FIVE Challenge but don't let that deter you! I'd love if you'd pick up one of these books and give it a try.

I adore Deirdre Martin's contemporary romances and her February 2011 book, Icebreaker, is another stellar story from her. Not only do I love hockey and hockey heroes, but I loved how grounded in reality this book was. Job issues, potential family issues, and differences of living locations all came into play when it came to Adam and Sinead. There was no easy happily-ever-after for these two but instead, theirs is a story grounded in  the realities of making a relationship work in today's world which is not easy.

If you aren't reading Victoria Dahl yet, WHY? She is fabulous and Bad Boys Do is a great example of just why. Two characters who really shouldn't be so well matched discovering that they have a lot in common. Jamie is a bad boy king but he is looking to be something more and Olivia helps him, just as he helps her unleash her inner sex goddess. I loved the dialogue, the dates, and the back and forth will they finally fall in love or not. This makes for a great re-read because there are so many amazing scenes between them that I just wanted to see again.

I actually kind of got back into Nora Roberts, at least a little bit this year, and it's all because I re-read my favorite trilogy of hers, the Three Sisters Island trilogy. Dance Upon the Air is still my favorite Nora Roberts book and it's because I get to see this lovely little island come alive! If I had to pick an imaginary place to live, Three Sisters would be right up there next to Hogwarts. If you haven't read this series yet, I highly recommend it!

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker. This is one of the few YA books I've re-read this year. There is just something about Lacey's struggle with religion, with her family, with a boy, that really stood out to me. Not many YA authors tackle religion and spirituality and I applaud Ms. Walker for giving it her very best. This is a book that makes you question yourself and your own beliefs and hopefully come out the other side a bit stronger and more resolved.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. While I cannot say I've re-read this book in its entirety, I have gone back to certain phrases and passages I really enjoyed. The races on the beach, the chilling scene when a sea horse comes to Puck's small house and almost kills the cat. The love that Puck and Sean feel for Thisby marks every page and I know that for me, THIS is a book that will become a YA re-read. I can easily see myself reading it again next year and reveling in the beauty of the language and the utterly lovely romance that becomes part of the story.

So those are my five re-reads of 2011! Do YOU have a book you've re-read in 2011? Please share in the comments, I'd love to know what it is!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

FIVE Challenge: 5 Great Covers, 2011

There is no doubt I'm really just not a cover person. I know the saying is "you can't judge a book by it's cover" but honestly that doesn't work so much for me because I'll read just about anything. That's not to say a cover from the 1980s wouldn't leave me appalled now but as a whole, covers on shelves just don't catch my eye. I leave covers to That Cover Girl. That being said, these are the five covers of 2011 that did jump out to me. All for the good in fact.

Bunheads by Sophie Flack. Isn't this a gorgeous cover?? Seriously, I remember seeing it BEA and I was immediately interested. I love the ballerinas in their tutus and just the grace and delicacy of this cover.

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan. It's eye catching and while I don't think it gives you a good look at what the story is actually about (well, it kind of does), it also leaves you in awe. You wonder what is going on with those two figures highlighted in the headlights. I think Holly Goldberg Sloan got very lucky with this cover.

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. This is an adult book. It's so-so, but I do like the cover. It's kind of goofy, I'll grant you, but all that white and then the bouquet of flowers actually works for me. I wanted to read it when I saw the cover so I think the cover artist did his or her job.

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen. I still haven't read this book but again, all the white speak to me. I like covers that are clean and this is a clean, pristine cover. It makes me want to find out what is inside in the hopes there is something to be found beyond the white brilliance. And the shoes hanging is a nice touch. Just a little bit of flavor to get you hooked.

In Trouble by Ellen Levine. I just like the old-fashioned feel of this cover. The blue tones and the loneliness of it all. It's not particularly beautiful but it's evocative. I haven't heard the best thing about the book itself but I do like the cover.

Overall, it seems like 2011 was kind of a bad year for YA covers. I really struggled to find covers that truly did anything for me whatsoever. But these are a few that were at least interesting to me.

Did I miss out on an amazing YA cover of 2011? Please let me know because I'd love to see what amazing covers you were impressed with?

Monday, December 26, 2011

FIVE Challenge: 5 Great 2011 Debuts!

There is no doubt that once again the field of new authors in YA was stellar. There were so many excellently written books by new authors that deserve recognition. Unfortunately, I can't recognize them all but I do want to point out some of my favorite debut books read this year. You'll probably have heard me talk about some of them at one point or another (after all, what's the point of liking a book if you can't talk about it continuously??). I've linked to my reviews so you can get more information about exactly why I loved the book. Here are my Top 5 Great 2011 Debuts!

Divergent by Veronica Roth. There's just something about this book that was engrossing for me. I loved the world Veronica Roth built. I thought it was scary and interesting. I feel like there is a split in the YA community about this book. Either you loved it or you hated it. I definitely fall squarely into the love it category. It wasn't always the most original but it kept me captivated and I am eagerly anticipating the second book, Insurgent.

Saving June by Hannah Harrington. Man oh man, this book! It made me weep, it made me laugh, and it made me sad and  happy. It was a whole range of emotions I could not be pulled away from. I suppose this could be an "issues" novel but what it really is is a story of two sisters who are pulled apart and pulled back together by one sister's death. It's heart wrenching and it's damn good. Seriously, read my review. It's just one of those books that sticks and leaves an impression, leaving the reader changed.

Clarity by Kim Harrington. It's got a tough talking protagonist who just happens to have a little psychic power. It's got murder, it's got a couple of cute guys and it's got that special oomph that turned this book from just yet another supernatural book into something more special. I had a great time reading this book! It's been optioned for a TV series which is SO EXCITING because I can so see this as a great Veronica Mars-esque TV show. Make this happen!

I'll be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Full review to come but I loved this story of coincidences, happenstances, rose colored glasses and the harsh realities of life. This is the story of two brothers who are connected out of desperation, fear and love. It is wonderful!

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner.  It's just a wonderful story of friendship, loss, and a journey for answers. I don't even know how to articulate how much I connected with this story. It's a smaller story but it packs a punch and it just made me breathless but in a wholly relatable way. It's sad but it's not hopeless and that is the best kind of sad.

I did participate in The Story Siren's Debut YA Author Challenge again this year and not only did I meet my goal but I exceeded it!. There were so many amazing debut books this year but out of them all, these five stand out the most to me.

What were YOUR favorite debut books of 2011?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Favorite romance titles of 2011!

I can't let the end of the year past me by without reflecting on some of my favorite romances titles of the year. You'll have to wait another few days to find out what my favorite YA titles of the year were but in the meantime, you can see what romance titles I absolutely loved this year. So, in no particular order, here are my favorite romance titles of 2011.

Icebreaker by Deirdre Martin. Hockey hero. A heroine who is not about to let him step all over her hopes for a family. Combustible chemistry. A lawsuit. The stage is set for a great story and it is! It's real and visceral and hopeful.

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh. To say it feels like I've been waiting forever for Hawke and Sienna's story in Nalini Singh's Psy/Changeling series is an understatement. But 2011 brought the epic Kiss of Snow and it is a doozy of a love story. Finally all that simmering tension come to a climax (um, several in fact, lol). As usual, the world of the Psy/Changeling characters is utterly engrossing. I cannot wait for the next installment.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. It's a romance from the guy's perspective and it's wonderful. It's not particularly steamy but it doesn't need to be because what it gets right, the evolution of friendship into something more, is special and poignant. And hilarious too!

Bad Boys Do by Victoria Dahl. Yeah, a hot bartender sets the stage for this steamy romance. Always expect the erotic with Victoria Dahl!

Real Men Will also by Victoria Dahl. A businessman is about to become very unbuttoned and improper. Steamy as sin but with a great storyline backing it too.

Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook. The follow-up to The Iron Duke, this is a wonderful adventure all of its own. Zombies, airships, a heroine who takes no prisoners when it comes to people hurting those she loves. This book kicks ass.

Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt. The book I was waiting for all freaking year. It did not disappoint. I absolutely adored Mickey and Silence's story. It was heart-pounding sexy.

Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh. I just cannot get enough of this writer and this book shows why! As different from her Psy/Changeling series as it is possible to be, this world of vampires and angels is addictive.

When I look back and see that only 8 romance stories, out of the over 180 books I've read this year, have made the list, that seems a bit disheartening. But not every book can or should be a favorite. These books stand out because the writing, the characters, and the story lines are excellent. If you need more reasons to pick them up and start reading, I am happy to give you more!

Cover Reveal!

If you're anything like me, you've been eagerly anticipating Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker. It comes out on May 22, 2012 (woe is me, that's so far away!) but in the mean time you can see the beautiful cover this book is getting.

She is one lucky author! Isn't this cover gorgeous?? I love all the pink. (I'm a total pink girl!)

If you haven't yet, add it to Goodreads!

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life. 

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now. 

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart? 

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a book that wowed me. I found it to be an absolutely lovely reading experience. It's one of those stories where I did wear my rose-colored glasses because somehow I knew in my gut that things would work out for these characters and I was so very relieved when that happened. Not in the ways I expected necessarily but in other ways that made the story fabulous.

Synopsis: Raised by an unstable father who keeps the family constantly on the move, Sam Border hasn't been in a classroom since the second grade. He's always been the rock for his younger brother Riddle, who stopped speaking long ago and instead makes sense of the world through his strange and intricate drawings. It's said that the two boys speak with one voice--and that voice is Sam's. Then, Sam meets Emily Bell, and everything changes. The two share an immediate and intense attraction, and soon Sam and Riddle find themselves welcomed into the Bell's home. Faced with normalcy for the first time, they know it's too good to last. (

There's something powerful about making visual connection. Sometimes there is just a WHAM of recognition, of immediate connection between two people. It's not always romantic but it can be powerful and important in the future. This is one of those stories, where Sam and Emily share a glance and that's all it takes. They are on that road to something together. Yes, their story is filled with coincidences, missed connections, connections that come back to haunt or help the main characters, and an array of what could be unbelievable moments. But somehow instead, it just felt magical to me.

I think partly what kept me believing in this story is the fact that Sam and Riddle, his younger brother, have a hard life. There is no denying that. Their father has severe mental health issues and these two suffer for it. Sam and Riddle are not alone however. I've known way too many teens in real life who struggle with parents who cannot be parents for whatever reason. Sam has had to become Riddle's father figure, the person Riddle can reach out and it is a responsibility too many teens are having to shoulder. This is real life as clearly as real life can be. This is not something Holly Goldberg Sloan made up. No rose-colored glasses are going to fix this situation.

So did I want things to become better for them? You bet I did! And thus, adventure ensued. Watching these two boys change, watching the entire Bell family change, all for the better was simply wonderful. Sam and Riddle have a lot of baggage and they bring it into a world that has been rather pristine for the Bell family but wow, do these characters impact each other.

The multiple viewpoints lead to a layered and complex story, a rich adventure in storytelling. Each narrative plays a part and even if you meet the character for a very brief time, they have something to contribute to the overall story arc. Heck, there is even the "voice" of a bear in this story. Holly Goldberg Sloan takes chances but I feel it completely pays off. This book proves to be mesmerizing. At first glance, it doesn't necessarily seem like a story that will be anything all that different but then you dive in and that magical spark that takes you away to other worlds, other settings is totally present in I'll Be There. It is a debut here in 2011 and it is one I'm so glad I read. I would have been sorely sad if I had let 2011 pass me by without digging into this book.

Like I said, truly mesmerizing and that great combination of unbelievable and reality mixing to create wonderful storytelling.

I'll Be There is currently available.

Other reviews:
Anna Reads reviews I'll Be There
Abby the Librarian reviews I'll Be There
The Frenetic Reader reviews I'll Be There

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

FIVE Challenge: Top Fives of 2011!

At this time of year last year, I was struggling with how I wanted to structure my end of the year posts. Then I saw this awesome feature from Adele of Persnickety Snark. Top Fives! Here are her words from last year about this feature:

From December 21st to 31st I posted daily on different elements of YA. I chose my top five titles/series/moments for each day. It was purely subjective / opinion based but I thought it would be fun to share my thoughts on YA for the year.  I am doing the same for 2010.  

I really liked this way of creating my favorite reads from 2010 and I'm going to do it again this year! I don't actually know if she is doing it but I like to give credit where credit is due and this was not my idea. Here are some of the possible categories:

5 Great Debuts
5 Great Covers
5 Great Series
5 Great Re-Reads (books you've LOVED so much you went back for more)
5 Most Anticipated (2012 titles)
5 Hopes for YA in 2011
5 Great YA Movie Deals
5 Great Author (in the flesh) Moments
5 Great YA Bloggers
5 Great Miracles that Occurred to Get Me Reading More ______ (choose your genre)
5 Best Titles for 2011 (which I double because 5 was too hard). 

I've bolded the categories I am most interested in. So, in the coming days, look for some Top 5's from me!

Review: Welcome Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell

Welcome Caller, This is Chloe is Shelley Coriell's 2012 debut novel. I was interested in the synopsis when I read it but unfortunately, the story as a whole did not work for me. Or it was more like all the elements in the story came together but not enough to interest me so it was a book I would read, set down, pick up, set down, without really settling into the story.

Synopsis: Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home. (

There were so many competing elements in this story that it was hard for me to focus on Chloe and her story. There are the misfits she befriends in the radio station, there is her grandmother's struggle to remain independent even as her Parkinson's was changing her life, there is the mysterious Duncan and his mysterious issues, there is the fate of the radio station, and there are the two girls who were best friends with Chloe all her life but then drop her for what I felt was very lame reasoning. It was all so very much. I wasn't surprised Chloe was so confused and frustrated with her life because it was not very stable.

I wanted to like Chloe more than I did. I wanted there to be a bit more depth to her but mostly I just saw her bright personality, her ability to make others laugh, but I didn't find enough below the surface to make me genuinely care about her. She's not a terrible character but she kind of falls into the what you see is what you get category for me. On the other hand though, I did like her close relationship with her family, particularly her grandmother and mom. It was nice to see a family that truly loves each other, even if that love sometimes turns into anger and silences. That is real life after all.

Chloe and her Grams are very close and that was one of the stronger elements of the story. The friendship and love between them was both painful but also honest and nostalgic. Chloe is having a hard time seeing her grandmother becoming basically older and she doesn't know how to deal with it, just like Grams doesn't. There were a lot of hard heads in this story that needed a reality check. (And as a weird side note, I found it particularly odd that the grandmother's previous job was as a blogger and she then helps Chloe set up a blog for the radio. Maybe because I don't know any older bloggers but this just seemed like a fake way to make Chloe's grandmother "hip" but instead came off very odd.)

I think I expected this story to be more FUN than it actually was. There are several serious issues going on in the book but I expected to get more of the radio vibe, the Queen Chloe of the Universe scenes. Instead, there is a lot of rather sad and depressing plots layered into between the fun. This book wasn't what I was expecting but I don't think that's a necessarily positive thing for me. I was never able to delve too deeply into the issues because there was just so many things going on that the story lines all fluttered on the surface, with little emotional depth to them. I didn't care enough about Duncan's (Chloe's crush) mysterious problems because the reveal happened so late in the story and then he virtually disappears from the ending that I felt nothing for him.

I did like learning a bit more about the inner workings of a radio station. That part I found fascinating, particularly since radio seems to be evolving. I liked seeing how the high school students dealt with this medium, how they produced their own shows and how they took charge of this station and made it theirs. However, a twist at the end I found particularly disappointing and again, made the story just seem like something it's not. The cover does not scream issues to me. And in this book a lot of odd problems creep up.

Overall I just was not very enamored with this story. It did not move me and it didn't make me feel strong emotions, at all. I was kind of a meh read overall and while I tend not to always want to review "meh" books, I feel there would be enough interest in potential teen readers, given all that is going on in Chloe's life (and how much goes on in the real lives of teens) that it is a book that could work for other readers. The radio aspect is particularly interesting and fits the topic of students getting involved in "the arts" or at least a more creative outlet other than sports. There is an audience for this book and I think the bright cover may catch eyes also.

Welcome Caller, This is Chloe comes out from Amulet Books/Abrams in May 2012.

ARC provided by Around the World Tours.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sarah's Obsessions, 2011!

So, Kelly of KellyVision has this awesome feature called Things I'm Obsessed With! I thought I'd take a page out of her book and do a things I'm obsessed with, 2011 edition! These are the things that made me laugh, smile, tear up, and just truly enjoy 2011.

2011 was EASILY the year of the royal couple for me. Kate and Wills made 2011 amazing. I really enjoyed watching their wedding. I still love seeing and hearing about all their escapades. I cannot wait for this couple to become pregnant. I want them to be happy together forever! AND, get this, in January, Princess Di's dress is coming to the Mall of America! I am planning on going to see it. It will keep my royal obsession going strong into 2012.

I discovered my love for Cougar Town! Courtney Cox has never been better and this is a great cast. I don't know what I can tell you to get you to watch this show but it's a travesty how ABC has treated this show. It's funny and poignant and FUNNY. Watch it!

Nalini Singh! I've loved her books for several years now but this year I went through a serious re-read of the Psy/Changeling series. It's one of the few amazing paranormal romance series still going strong. The rest have jumped the shark but Nalini and her books are still going strong. If you haven't had the chance to read her yet, I cannot recommend her highly enough.

Dan Radcliffe! The last two Harry Potter movies were fabulous. Seriously, I have very, very few complaints they were just that good. And then I got the chance to see him live performing in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying which was one of the highlights of my BEA week. He was funny and a good singer and just made me smile. He'll always be Harry Potter to me but I can honestly say that he's finally becoming something else too, a really talented actor.

Yeah, I keep going back to TV but for a good reason. There is some awesome stuff on TV right now and The Vampire Diaries is one of those things. You will rarely see me talking good about YA vampire novels but give me this tv series and I am blown away. Week after week it entertains me and it is FILLED WITH HOT MEN! Like, so many hot men.But it's also really entertaining. Seriously, great story lines.

There's no doubt I've always loved Paul Rudd but for some reason this year I really, really started to LOVE HIM EVEN MORE! If he would go onto a few episodes of Suburgatory my life would be made! He is funny, he makes fun of himself, and he is just so darn cute. I kind of think if you don't like Paul Rudd, well... there's something wrong about that.

Ballet stories! It started with Bunheads and since then I've kind of been on a ballet/dancing kick. I know of at least one more ballet inspired story coming out in 2012 but I hope more are to come. There's just something about this topic I find fascinating. Perhaps it's because I loved the Baby-Sitter's Club so much and you know, Jessi was a ballerina. Who knows! I am just enjoying hearing about this art that there is no way I could ever do but enjoy nonetheless.

Funny amazing women! Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy, Emma Stone, Mindy Kaling, and more. Women who are making remarkable things happen in books, movies, and TV. Bridesmaids was one of my favorite movies of the year. I've always loved Melissa McCarthy (way back from her Gilmore Girls days) and Amy Poehler gets better and better each episode of Parks and Recreation. It's so nice to see women (beautiful, healthy, and happy women) doing awesome things in the world of entertainment.

Harry Potter! Okay granted, I've kind of been obsessed with this series since it first came out but with the opening of Pottermore this year, with the last two movies, and with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, my obsession grew anew. There's just something about this world, these characters, and the happiness I get from them that makes this obsession feel just as new as when I first started getting into this series.

Those are my major 2011 obsessions! It's been a great year for reading, movies, and TV for me. So much awesome out there it's hard to keep up or find time for it all but I do what I can. :) In the coming days, look for some of my Best of 2011 book lists!

But in the meantime, tell me about some of YOUR 2011 obsessions?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Author Interview with Avery Sawyer!

I'm very excited today to bring you an author interview with Avery Sawyer, the author of Notes to Self. She's written a few middle grade books but this is her debut YA title. Here's a little info about it:

Two climbed up. Two fell down. 

One woke up.

In the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury, Robin Saunders has to relearn who she is and find out what happened the night everything changed.

Intriguing, right? You can read the first chapter on Goodreads. And to get you even more intrigued by the book, please see what Avery has to say about Notes to Self, researching the book, and what her self-publishing experience has been like so far.

1. Notes to Self is a definite departure from your Teashop Girls series. What inspired you to write for an older audience?

I found myself wanting to dig into some deeper themes and more sophisticated insights on the part of my main character than I ever had with Teashop. Though the first draft of Notes to Self was middle grade, its tone just wasn't working with a main character who was only 13. Robin was clearly older, and she'd been trying to tell me so for over a year before I finally listened to her and fixed the draft. Sometimes writers have to trust where a book takes them, even if it's into completely new territory.

2. What kind of medical research did you have to do when writing Notes to Self?

The medical research was really interesting. I read an amazing book called ANOTHER DAY IN THE FRONTAL LOBE, which was written by a brain surgeon, as well as several other first-person accounts of people living with and recovering from a brain injury. I emailed with a friend of a friend who'd had this kind of injury as well. I tried to read as many essays and other materials as I could on the subject.

I ultimately realized that the injury suffered by my character had to be fairly mild because I wanted the book to be more about self-discovery in general than brain injuries specifically. Robin is lucky in the book. Many people going through what she did suffer far more and have a longer journey back to healing.

3. Notes to Self seems to be your first self-published endeavor. How did that experience go? Was it more difficult or more freeing than working with traditional publishers?

It is both freeing and terrifying. I didn't expect to enjoy cover design as much as I did, so that was really cool. I kind of want to hang out a cover design shingle and create book covers for other authors...that's how much I loved it. Fonts are fascinating.

To answer your question more specifically, however, putting something out into the world without the collaboration I'd been used to with my editor at a New York house was very new and strange. Fortunately, my best friend is an excellent editor and insightful reader. She and I worked on the book together over the course of about a year and I got to replicate that editor-author relationship closer to home. In addition to my main "friend-editor" (who I did pay, by the way), I also had several other readers offering insights and feedback. I feel this book is one of my biggest accomplishments as a writer, so I didn't want to shortcut the editing process.

4. What kind of character is Robin?

She's introverted and standoffish. She only has two close friends, so when one of them is seriously hurt, it's a crisis. She's one of those people who is a bit skeptical of life in general. It takes a brush with death to change her thinking and see all the possibilities that being young and alive can bring. She's a self-absorbed kid who starts to grow. She is, in a lot of ways, me.

5. How did you get the idea for Notes to Self?

My fiancé Brad said the 25 THINGS ABOUT ME Facebook meme would make a good novel. I agreed right away, and so did my agent. Something like 5 million people had participated in the meme (myself included, with great relish).

I began thinking about a reason someone would want to revisit their 25 THINGS. After several G-chats with various friends, I landed on the idea that my main character didn’t know who she was anymore, and the concept of a traumatic brain injury grew from that.

6. If readers are anything like me, they probably have a pile of books waiting to be read. What would you say to convince someone to move Notes to Self to the top of the reading pile?

I keep hearing from reviewers that the book is different than other things they've been reading. It's got a sweet romance, but it's not about romance. It's got a tragic beginning, but it's full of hope. One reviewer on Goodreads said, "I love a good emotional roller coaster of a book--the kind of books that tugs on your heart-strings and makes you so engrossed in the characters' well-being that you can't stop turning the pages."

I think that's what we all want as get into someone else's mind for a time and see what it's like in there. Welcome to mine. ;)

7. When you're not writing (for teens and younger, phew, you're busy!) what do you do to relax and have fun?

I am indeed busy as a writer, but I do have a lot of fun. I love going out to eat or having dinner parties with friends, reading (just finished SMALL TOWN SINNERS by Melissa Walker...very good), traveling, shopping, working out, wedding planning and playing with my cat, the inimitable Maine Coon herself, Ramona.

Thank you so much for being here today Avery! I'm very excited to get the chance to read about Robin's journey. In the meantime, if YOU want to read Notes to Self, it's currently available as a Kindle Ebook.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

The Disenchantments is Nina LaCour's second novel. Her first book, Hold Still, was a Morris Award Finalist in 2010. That's a lot of pressure to live up to I would think. Fortunately, for this reader anyway, I haven't read her first book yet (I own it, just haven't gotten around to it) so in my mind, I have nothing to compare this book with. And that's good because The Disenchantments worked for me most of the time but there were moments where I wanted to kick something.

Synopsis: Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next? (

First off, I LOVE this cover. It has a retro vibe to it that I just love. I want those sunglasses, badly. The retro works because a lot of what takes in this place has a distinct retro feel to it. The music the group listens to, what they travel in, and the people they meet all contrive to give this book a not quite contemporary feel to it. I want this cover hanging in my living room, that's how much I really like it. It reminds me of Reality Bites for some reason.

Apparently out there in the big world of publishing, there is a new thing called "New Adult" literature floating around.. I learned about this at The Reclusive Bibliophile's blog, so check it out. Let me just say it now, if "New Adult" is the term that is being used, it stinks, big time. Seriously, it's lame. However, The Disenchantments does fit into this category. Three out of the four characters have just graduated high school. They are on the brink of being adults, or at least trying to be adults, and they don't quite know what that means. This book is a definite exploration of that. So while I don't like the term "New Adult," I think this book fits into that grouping.

Now, back to the book. Things I hated: Bev. Or at least, I hated her for the majority of the book and I think it's because so much of reasoning for ditching Colby was unexplained for so long. Yes, I was able to figure it out on my own but I wanted something more from the author, some clue I was on the right track and that Bev wasn't this big bitch who was hurting her best friend, Colby (a guy, in case you didn't get this from the synopsis like I didn't), big time. Her story line ended up being a bit of a let down even though I did like the way she reconciled with Colby. That felt true to what their friendship had been, at some point.

But Bev is really it. I just had a hard time with her character and found her to be the weakest link in the story line, particularly given Colby's rather cliched longing for her. I wanted him to be over her, stat, but as with any young love, it's not that easy and I think the aftermath was far from cliched, was heart wrenching and for Colby, made him examine his own character and what he wanted from life, outside of being with Bev.

I also really liked that The Disenchantments were kind of a letdown, music wise. But that didn't matter because what they enjoyed was just making music, using their minor talents to have fun and enjoy themselves, to pay homage to the female bands they were so enamored with. I think Nina LaCour summed it up nicely: "We all want to feel something, we want to be someone to one another." (p. 271 of the ARC edition, NOT final). This group was not in it for money, they were just passionate about music and I think that's a good message to send. That it is possible to truly enjoy something (whether it's music, or art in Colby's case) without having to use it for profit. Rather, to just enjoy it for the sheer wonder and happiness it brings to you. And that's how I felt with the Disenchantments and their band. Yeah, they kind of were no good but they enjoyed doing it and that counts.

I love road trip stories. I think road trip stories tend to have an exaggerated sense of wonder and amazement to them and I find that happened in this book too. However, that's not a bad thing. Road trips are all about stepping out of real life and embracing the wonder and the uncanny around you. Colby, Bev, Meg, and Alexa met some very interesting people, played in some very dismal places, experienced really amazing coincidences, and got the chance to see the lives of others around them. When you're driving a turquoise VW Bus named Melinda, you have to expect the unexpected and the most mundane and that's exactly what these teens got.

There is a real sense of trying to figure out where to go from here too. Colby feels it more than anyone since his plans to travel Europe with Bev are dashed by her college acceptance. His journey of uncertainty felt authentic to me. He threw all his hopes into one basket only to have it shattered on him. But he's not down for the count. I like that he persists in bugging Bev about why she would do this to him. He doesn't let up. He knows he deserves answers, even if they aren't what he wants to hear.

So yeah... I enjoyed this book. It's rather imperfect really and I know I'm not seeing it as critically as I should. But it left me feeling so much. Things I can't exactly put into words but made me think of how I felt at that stage in my life, how I still feel. Is this really it? Going to work day in and out, hopefully starting a family? But truly, is that it? Shouldn't there be something wondrous breaking up the monotony? I was just left with so many feelings at the end and I think Nina LaCour did a great job of harnessing both nostalgia and reality to make The Disenchantments a success, for this reader anyway.

The Disenchantments comes out on February 16, 2012 from Dutton Books.

Other reviews:
Peace Love Books reviews The Disenchantments
Collections reviews The Disenchantments 

ARC provided by Around the World Tours.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Author Interview & Giveaway: Meet Wendy Wunder!

Heather Parker Photography
Today I am very excited to bring an interview with debut author Wendy Wunder! She is the writer of the very fantastic (SERIOUSLY fantastic, read my review!) This is one of my favorite books of 2011 in fact. I loved the miracles versus medicine ideas that ran throughout and I enjoyed the characters immensely.

And now I get to bring some of that excitement to you! I have a fun interview with Wendy so please read on.

1. The miracles and coincidences in this book really reminded me of the magical realism so many of my favorite Latino writers draw on in their stories. Did you have any particular inspiration that helped to create the sense of magic that runs throughout the story, in spite of Cam's circumstances?
Oooo.  I love those Latino writers too. Allende and Garcia Marquez...I don't think I pulled it off quite as well as they do :) , but the trick to magic realism, I think, is having the magic evolve from the realistic details of the characters' lives. And I like that you used the word 'coincidences'.  Paying attention to coincidence is something that yoga has taught me.  When I see a lot of coincidences coming together in my life, I believe the universe is trying to tell me that I'm on the right path. I tried to manufacture some coincidences for Cam, so that she knew she was doing the right thing.

2. Cancer is such a tough topic to write about though I found Cam's story to be very approachable. How much research and perhaps personal feeling went into creating Cam and her struggle with cancer?
Luckily, because I was working within the parameters of "magic realism" instead of straight up realism, I was able to skirt around some of the true harsh realities of living with and dying from cancer.  My father died at 61 from esophagael cancer and my cousin at 33 from breast cancer, so those feelings of loss are embedded deep inside of me.  I was able to draw on some of that emotion, but at the same time distract myself from it by shifting the focus of the story off of the disease and on to the probability of miracles.

3. Promise, Maine, is a very special place. Have you had the chance to live in a city that creates that kind of magic and wonder within its city limits?
Well... I grew up on a New Jersey.  So I had this magical childhood where I was usually barefoot and playing in the woods/water.  We could walk out our back door and jump in to the lake, go fishing...when we were teenagers we had our own motor boats and we water skiied all the time...In the winter we could just throw on our ice skates and walk across the lawn to the world's largest wooded ice rink. All while living 45 minutes from Manhattan.  So my childhood was magical in a natural beauty kind of way.  But Promise is based very loosely on my college roomate's hometown, Belfast,Maine.  She used to take me up there on vacations from school and it was like no other place I'd ever experienced in its quaintness and quietness.

4. Do you have a favorite scene or moment in this book that stayed with you, even as you turned in your final draft?
There is one joke that cracked me up so much as I was writing it that I had to get up and leave my table at the library so I wouldn't disturb the other people working there.  I won't tell you what it is, but that's the first time I laughed outloud at my own writing.  That seems a little maniacal...actually.  To sit there cackling at your work like a mad scientist.  But it was definitely a catharsis for me as I was working with difficult material.

5. This book remains incredibly hopeful despite the situation Cam is going through. How difficult was it when writing this book to keep somewhat of a balance between miracles and the harsh reality of cancer?
My family has always used humor, often self-deprecating humor, to help them wade through difficult times, so the balance between humor and tragedy is sort of a natural state of being for me.  My life has always been tragically funny.  Or comically tragic.  (go ahead... ask around :)  So that's the balance I can naturally strike.  If I had a "world view," I guess it would be tragicomic.  As far as plotting the ups and downs for Cam, I felt like as long as she had her family with her, she was going to be alright.

6. How did you learn you were going to become a published writer? Was there a great celebration after?
Um... I learned on a phone call.  And then my daughter probably asked me to get her some apple juice and we got on with our day.  Since then, though, there have been many celebrations.  An endless array of virtual and face to face celebrations which my friends and family are probably sick and tired of!

7. Outside of writing, what are some of your hobbies? How do you like to relax and unwind?
Well, there's yoga.  And skiing.  And doing fun things with my daughter.  And reading. And watching bad reality tv.  And facebooking way too much.  And, because you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can't take the Jersey out of the girl, there's the shopping. :(  I'm not proud of that one.

Thank you so much Wendy! I know for sure that Wendy did some great things with humor and tragedy and it balanced itself very nicely. But there were tears from this reader so be prepared!

You can find out more about this book at places all over the internet including The Probability of Miracles Official Site, and The Facebook Fan Page for Probability of Miracles.

If you want to find out more about Wendy Wunder herself, Follow her on Twitter or Find her on Facebook!

Still not convinced to try the book? Watch the trailer! It's beautifully done and may just give you that extra push to visit Promise, Maine, (in the book) yourself!

Have I convinced you that you want to read this book yet?? Well I have exciting news! One lucky person (U.S. resident only) has the chance to win a signed copy of The Probability of Miracles! 

All you have to do is fill out the form below.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

End of the Year Book Survey

I saw this fun meme over at KellyVision and I thought I'd do it. I remember it circulating last year this time of year and wanting to do it then too. I'll have more in depth end of the year posts coming up but here's kind of a quick overview of my reading and blogging experiences in 2011.

1)  Best book read in 2011.

I don't have necessarily one best book of 2011. There are several stand-outs for me including The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner and Amplified by Tara Kelly. I don't want to give every best book away here quite yet as I'll have several end of the year posts talking about my favorite books. On the romance side of things, Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh was definitely one of my favorites this year.

2)  Most disappointing book.
There were definitely some books that were very disappointing or just plain awful such as Sass & Serendipity. The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer was one big bag of disappointment too. Didn't live up to the hype by any degree of the imagination.

3)  Most surprising (in a good way) book of 2011.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. I had pretty much written her off as a paranormal YA writer which just doesn't really interest me but then she does something amazing like The Scorpio Races and wows me. Truly, truly wows me.

4)  Book you recommended most in 2011.

I think that would be The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (loved this book!) and Clarity by Kim Harrington which I also thoroughly enjoyed.

5)  Best series you discovered in 2011.

Hm... I'm not sure actually. While I liked several books that seem to be the beginning of various trilogies I'm not sure how likely I am to actually continue with them. I want 2012 to be the year of the standalone!

6)  Favorite new authors you discovered.

Sophie Flack, Kim Harrington, Jessi Kirby, Anna Sheehan

7)  Best book that was out of your comfort zone.

Maybe Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick? I can't think of one definitively which is a problem in itself. Definitely need to explore more books out of my comfort zone next year.

8)  Most thrilling/unputdownable book in 2011.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. (Yes, I keep coming back to this book!)

9)  Book you anticipated most.

I was on tenterhooks to get Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins during ALA so perhaps that one.

10)  Favorite cover.

Covers as a whole do not do much for me honestly and not one is popping to mind at the moment.

11)  Most memorable character.

Nick from Pull of Gravity. His story is still stuck in my head. I truly enjoyed and appreciated the journey he went on for his friend Scoot.

12)  Most beautifully-written book.
The Scorpio Races. Again. But seriously that book is knock down beautiful in its prose.

13)  Book that had the greatest impact.

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman. That book... it packs a wallop and a hard lesson.

14)  Book you can’t believe you waited so long to read.

The Scorpio Races. I remember when it came out and I just brushed it off but more and more of my trusted reviewers were raving about it so I finally had to cave and I'm so glad I did.

15)  Favorite passage/quote:

I have some quotes scattered throughout my reviews but I cannot remember anything off hand.

16)  Most likely reread in 2012

I'm more of a romance re-reader than a YA re-reader. There are some romance stories that I need to read again and again, or at least some of my favorite passages.

17)  Biggest WTF moment

Hm... Don't have much for this one.

Book blogs

1)  Favorite new blog

That Cover Girl. I visited sometimes last year but this year I really got into seeing these covers come alive. This is really the only site that can make me care about the artwork for books. I love the interviews with the cover artists because they give me a look into the book that I normally would not get.

2)  Favorite review that you wrote

I'm not actually quite sure. The only ones that are leaping to mind are the reviews I wrote for books I did not like.

3)  Best discussion you had

I'm more of an observer.

4)  Most thought-provoking review or discussion

I've got nothing here.

5)  Best event that you participated in

BEA because I got to meet so many awesome people but ALA was just as much fun.

6)  Best moment of book blogging

Getting random emails from authors who have read your reviews and wanted to comment on them to you, personally. Even if they don't always agree, I've always enjoyed the feedback and comments I get from authors. Everyone has always been gracious and that really tells me what a great community YA writers are.

7)  Most popular post on your blog

According to Google Analytics, New York, New York! YA Literary Inspiration has tons of hits.

8)  Post you wish got a little more love

Any of them? I'll take comments on anything, lol.

9)  Best bookish discovery

Some of the fun apps I've downloaded to my iPad that correspond with books. They've been a lot of fun to experiment with.

10)  Reading challenges or goals

I only participated in the Debut Author Challenge and I met my goal.

Looking ahead

1)  Number one priority in 2012

A new feature for the blog!

2)  Book you are most anticipating

I've been lucky enough to read two books that I was greatly anticipating: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour and The List by Siobhan Vivian (READ IT!).

3)  Hopes in reading/blogging in 2012

Here are all my blogging and reading goals for 2012.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Audition is the debut book from Stasia Ward Kehoe. It's another ballet based book and wow, did it suck me in. Perhaps because I believe there's a little bit of a ballerina in every girl (and in plenty of guys too) that makes reading books set in the world of ballet is a way to relieve that dream, long after we've all had to give up on ballet.

Synopsis: When high school junior Sara wins a coveted scholarship to study ballet, she must sacrifice everything for her new life as a professional dancer-in-training. Living in a strange city with a host family, she's deeply lonely-until she falls into the arms of Remington, a choreographer in his early twenties. At first, she loves being Rem's muse, but as she discovers a surprising passion for writing, she begins to question whether she's chosen the right path. Is Rem using her, or is it the other way around? And is dancing still her dream, or does she need something more? This debut novel in verse is as intense and romantic as it is eloquent. (

This book stands out to me because unlike Bunheads, where the protagonist clearly loved ballet and wanted to become the best, Sara is very confused. Yes, she is passionate about ballet but not nearly to the extent of her fellow classmates. She loves pasta and pastries. She does not want to become sick because she won't eat. She is constantly questioning if she has it in her to truly make this her career, her life. I think these are all very legitimate concerns because so much of high school and college is learning what you're good at, learning what you may want to do for a good portion of the rest of your life. Sara is starting that already and she is just not sure if ballet is what she wants.

This is a novel in verse and I'll be honest, I tend to shy away from those because I don't think I get enough of the characters, of the world, but that isn't the case here. Poetry and ballet complement each other so beautifully that it seems the obvious choice to have written Audition in verse rather than prose. The confusion Sara feels leaps off the pages as she feels her parents have abandoned her to this new world, but yet she is does not want to seem like a baby. The aches and pains of ballet are also painfully detailed through the poetry. Never quite feeling good enough, no matter how hard you try. Even the experience of exploring sex for the first time, realizing that the guy, in this case Remington, is not the devoted suitor Sara wishes he would be. I felt Sara exploring herself (through ballet, through having sex, through her writing) were all adroitly handled in this book. Sara did come alive, more so than the other characters. However, this did not hinder the story for me because I felt like this was truly Sara's struggle and I didn't really want anyone else getting in the way.

The steps and leaps of ballet work really well with this book. I'm not all that familiar with ballet though I do recognize some of the positions and I really liked how Stasia Ward Kehoe used those positions in the poetry, lending it a fluidity and grace that I expect from ballerinas, but with the backbone of hard work, muscle strain, and short tempers that I would also expect to see. This was an incredibly readable story, one I would hand to people that also tend to dislike novels in verse. I'm not their biggest fan and I actually think Ellen Hopkins ruined the form for me, but in the case of Audition, this book worked. I was incredibly engrossed and the pages just flew. 

And hey, it's the first book I've read in awhile that has a Sara (without an H, totally the wrong way to spell it, but whatever :) ) as the main character that I didn't hate! Usually I end up despising Sara's because they are awful people. Seriously, it's the rare "Sara" that I've met who I actually like. Yes, this has nothing to do with the book but I figure it's crucial to point out nonetheless.

Also, as a romance fan, the romance angle was incredibly forgettable except for the fact that I liked how it gave Sara new ways to explore herself and her life. Sex in this case was truly a door opening to her, letting her feel new things, test herself, and realize that she has more power than she thinks. This is in some ways an audition for Sara to get to know herself and in that metaphor I thought she excelled tremendously.

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine reviews Audition
The Hiding Spot reviews Audition
Good Choice Reading reviews Audition

Reviewed from library copy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Romance Roundup: December 2011

Here are the romance books I reviewed that came out this month:

Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins
Yankee Doodle Dixie by Lisa Patton
The Christmas Gift by Darlene Gardner
To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

Did you read any romance titles in November that you'd like to rave about? Please feel free to share!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blogging and Reading Goals, 2012

From my point of view, 2011 has been a successful blogging year. I think my followship has grown and even if I don't get comments on every entry, I believe my reviews are still getting out there into the community. Nonetheless, blogging will always be a work in progress. I have some goals for 2012 I want to see fully developed on my blog with the great hope that it will continue to grow my blog readership, my own views of the blogging and reading community, and to continue to develop my discerning reading skills (and my writing which is still just so-so). So with that in mind, here are some goals I hope to accomplish in 2012 in regards to my blog.

1. Read more from my backlist book. My hope is that once a month I can read and review a backlist title, something that was published in 2010 or earlier. I do this very little on the blog and there are so many "older" titles that still deserve a readership. I figure even I can accomplish one backlist title a month.

2. Read something outside my comfort zone. To be a better librarian and frankly, a more well-read citizen, I really need to read something outside my comfort zone (which would be YA contemps, romance, and some YA dystopians and historicals). I'm not sure exactly what form this will take. I know I've started listening to audio books again which was definitely outside my norm for several years. But I hope to try to read light fantasy or sci-fi, something that I can use to help my career also, to better serve the kids and teens that walk into my library. I hope to do this once per month also. 

3. Stop reading a book when it doesn't work for me! I know a lot of readers have 50-100 page limits. Not me, even when a book is absolutely terrible, I keep reading. It's just been a habit I've gotten myself into, and not necessarily a healthy reading habit. Many of the blogs I admire  (Dear Author, The Book Smugglers) have DNF categories. This is something I need to become more accustomed to. I have so many books to read that I should not be wasting what precious little free time I have on books that aren't working for me.

4. Just say no to ARCs! This really relates more to the fact that I have such a backlog of books to get through than anything else. I have not even read half of the galley copies I got from BEA and ALA back in May and June. But yet I spent all this money mailing them home, only to have to then move them from Colorado to Minnesota, and still they sit there. I'm not doing that again. While I do have plans to attend ALA in June, I won't be going galley crazy. If there is something I really want, I won't stop myself from getting it but I cannot keep picking up so much. This goes for publicity companies sending me books too. Just say no. It works for drugs it will now work for books for me.

5. Try to develop an original feature. I really don't have many original features on my blog. I mostly do reviews with a smattering of library talk thrown in for good measure. I don't really participate in too many memes either so there isn't a whole lot of content outside of reviews. I keep hoping a great idea will strike me but I'm happy to collaborate on a new feature with another blogger if anyone has any ideas. I realize how important other content is (outside of interviews and guest posts even) so I really hope to develop something in 2012 that can be a new reason for visitors to come to this blog. I want to become more of a presence in the blogging community and I'm hoping a better developed feature will lead to that goal.

6. Read so much more! In general, I just want to read more and not stress about the blog so much. So what if I don't have new content every day? I'm only one person. I'm sorry but it's just not feasible for me to always have something on the blog, much as I strive to. And next year, working on a new YALSA committee will also take up more of my time so there is a chance blogging may be a little less prolific.

7. Comment more! Yep, it's that goal every blogger sets. But my hope is that I can leave one comment per day on a blog. More would be wonderful! I hope to reach outside the blogs I already do comment to and make connections with blogs I've always admired. There are so many great blogs out there and I know how happy I feel when I get new comments, I definitely want to share that feeling with other bloggers.

8. Read 200 books! Yes, that was my goal THIS year but I'm still about 28 books short and I doubt I'm going to read that many before January 1 rolls around. I will do it next year, I will! (I think I can, I think I can!).

As of now, those are my seven main goals. I don't want to go too crazy and have so many goals that I can't accomplish any of them. I think these are worthwhile goals to pursue. And hopefully I can say at the end of 2012 that I accomplished all of them.

In the mean time, here's Stella wishing you a happy holidays! Look for some best of lists in the reminder of the year, best of Sarah lists I mean.


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