Notice for Review Requests

I receive review requests weekly. However, my personal schedule is hectic and I no longer review actively. (I also manage another blog called The Toronto Cafe and Food Blog). I do read every request sent but I apologize in advance that I do not reply to them all.

If I do take on a request, I will forewarn that it may take some time before I can review it. I am now looking to review adult fiction and self-help books instead of young adult fiction because I have grown out of it. If you are to request a review for either adult fiction or self-help, I will more likely to give it a shot.

In the meantime, Stop, Drop, and Read! serves as an archive book review blog. When I have the time, I may post a review. Thank you for understanding.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My [Late] Monday Mailbox & [No] Music Machine (Aug 31/10)

Mailbox

Bookmooch

Princess Princess vol. 4 by Mikiyo Tsuda

Review

Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Z by Michael Thomas Ford
Maid Sama! vol. 2 by Hiro Fujiwara
Deadman Wonderland vol. 2 by Jinsei Kataoka Kazuma Kondou

Currently at university orientation/frosh week! A bit busy so will try to post last contest for blogoversary soon!

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gitty Daneshvari: Suggestions, not advices

Gitty Daneshvari, Author of The Makedown and School of Fear

I am not one for giving advice (mostly because I tend not to follow it no matter how sound) so instead I am sending you a list of three suggestions as you prepare to enter college.

1. Don’t eat your roommate’s food, even if they tell you it’s ok. Eventually this will really annoy them. Plus, this will lead to them eating your food, which will of course inevitably irritate you. Play it safe and keep separate pantries.

2. Don’t buy papers online. While I never did this, a roommate of mine did, and the results were wholeheartedly disappointing. She bought a paper by a person who was actually MORE intellectually challenged than she was and received a C-. There are also dire consequences both morally and educationally to doing this, but you already know that.

3. Don’t sign up for a credit card when you don’t have a job. There were always booths near my college bookstore each Fall where eager faced people tried to explain the importance of building credit at a young age. Trust me it can wait until you have a job.

~~~

I love Gitty's hilarious adult novel The Makedown that I highly recommend! You can read the review of it here! You can win her latest tween novel, School of Fear, today!

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Lori Culwell: Things I wish I knew back then

Lori Culwell, Author of Hollywood Car Wash

Things I Wish I Knew Back Then

I was just talking to one of my friends from high school (who I’m still friends with even now), mostly about how the more time goes by after high school, the more a couple of things happen:

-- You look back at the high school version of yourself and think “what a bonehead.”

-- You stop making such a big deal out of everything because, frankly, you’ve seen most of it before and you know that eventually things get better.

I don’t mean to be blasé in my attitude toward high school students, because frankly, I find today’s teenagers to be much more mature and worldly than I ever was. In a way I guess that’s also kind of sad, because whereas I had years to marinate in life experience before I did anything like, say, start a business, or write a blog, or have a real relationship, it seems like everyone is doing all of those things these days, all before they get out of high school. That’s too fast, man! I didn’t do any of those things in high school (at least not successfully) because, as I have mentioned, I was a bonehead back then.

Actually, if I have to be honest, I feel more like myself now than I did back then, mostly because I have a better handle on my emotions. I can actually laugh at things that are ridiculously frustrating. If there is an emergency, I’m pretty confident I can figure out a solution. I have done things like get books published, work at jobs for long periods of time, buy real estate, and travel to many and various locations. I have driven across the United States—by myself.

Here are some other pieces of insight I wish I could have told myself back when I was 17:

1. Calm down. No really—calm down. Things are going to turn out ok.

2. Relationships are important. Don’t take people for granted. If you have regrets later in life, they will be based not on material things you did or didn’t do/ get/ achieve, but on time—time with people, with loved ones, with friends. That is the one thing you never get back. Take the time. Do nice things for people when you think about it.

3. One day, you might face a hard choice on the road of your life, and there will actually be no clear right answer (no matter how many people tell you to “trust your gut”). If this occurs, the solution is simple: take the option that is the shortest and least painful, put your head down, and do the time. The lesson: sometimes things just suck, and then they don’t.

On the bright side, the more years you get in your rearview mirror from high school, the more opportunities you have to reconnect with people who meant something to you then (and who mean something to you now). That is one of the things I love most about the internet—everyone is connected in a way we never have been before, and really, it’s good to still be friends with people who met me when I was a bonehead. It is even nicer to know you again now that I am an even better version of myself.

~~~

I absolutely adore Hollywood Car Wash! An amazing novel that I highly recommend! Read my review of it here.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gayle Nobel: Ready to launch

Gayle Nobel, Author of Breathe & Co-author of It’s All About Attitude

The end of high school is the beginning of the rest of your life! Now what?

What if you left high school and there were no college opportunities waiting for you, no job possibilities, and you had no ability to express yourself and make a choice regarding what you might want to do with the rest of your life?

I am writing about my son Kyle. He is 26 years old and severely affected by autism and several other developmental issues. He was able to stay in high school until the age of 21 because he was in special education. After that, I was left to figure out how to create a meaningful life for him. Unfortunately, the options are very limited for adults with special needs.

It can feel overwhelming because it seems like we have to know everything all at once rather than just taking the next best step. As a parent, it’s scary too because we know we will not always be around to make these important decisions for our child.

At the risk of giving away the ending, here’s a piece from my newest book, Breathe.

Epilogue

Ready to Launch

Throughout this book, I have endeavored to provide you with oxygen-rich tools to help you love and live well with your child. I hope you have found them valuable and useful.

Yet, as I write this final chapter, I realize I have left one very big challenge unaddressed – launching our children from the nest. When will they be ready? When will we? Where will they go?

These are tough questions. I wonder when Kyle will be ready to launch. More accurately, I wonder when I will be ready to launch Kyle.

With my daughter, Rachel, there is no question. She is ready to launch. With college graduation just behind her, she is beginning her adult life. She has worked hard to get to this point, and I am excited for her. Even in these uncertain economic times, her future is bright with opportunity. I don’t worry about her. I have full confidence that she is prepared to face the world and will thrive wherever she ends up.

With Kyle, I am frequently asked whether he will be able to live independently. Kyle does not have the skills or the judgment to take care of himself, so the answer is no. I do not have the same confidence in Kyle’s future as I do in Rachel’s.

This is a scary place for me, and one I have not delved into very deeply. I am not yet ready to launch Kyle, but am keenly aware that the day will come when, ready or not, I must face the decision. Where will he live, and who will take care of him? These are the questions that remain tucked away for future consideration.

So, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I hope for the best, trusting the answer lies in the future. With so many children being diagnosed these days, there will eventually be a flood of adults who need supported-living situations -- new opportunities that have yet to come into existence.

For now, Kyle waits on the launch pad, and I stand firmly beside him. I release the need to know right now. When the time comes, I trust I will be able to let go and allow Kyle to move forward with grace and ease. In the meantime, I hope, pray, and trust.

Oxygen-Rich Tool

Here is what I have to offer you: hope, pray, and trust. Believe that the best will happen for your child. Let go. Love. Most importantly, breathe.

Gayle Nobel, Bio

Breathe is poetic, yet practical: not just for parents of children with autism, but as a guide for living and parenting.

Gayle Nobel is the coauthor of It’s All About Attitude: Loving and Living Well with Autism and author of Breathe: 52 Oxygen-Rich Tools for Loving and Living Well with Autism.

She holds a BA in Special Education, and directed an intensive home therapy program for 11 years for her autistic son Kyle, who is now 26. During that time she trained over 100 volunteer therapists and aides in the attitude she writes and speaks about.

Originally from New York, Gayle is an author, inspirational speaker, and also a sister to a 50 year-old brother with autism. Her book, Breathe is for anyone wanting to move beyond the autism cure books. She offers support, inspiration, and hand-on tools in every chapter for living well with life's challenges. To learn more visit http://www.autismwithattitude.com.


~~~

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Giveaway: The Blood Confession by Alisa M. Libby


Title: The Blood Confession
Author: Alisa M. Libby
Description: Erzebet Bizecka lives in a remote castle in the Carpathian mountains, the only child of the Count and Countess Bizecka. Born under the omen of a falling star, Erzebet is a child of prophecy: the predictions of a scryer tell of a child whose days will end quickly, or whose days will have no end. As a teenager, Erzebet strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young village girl, Marianna, but even her dearest friend can not understand her overwhelming fears of growing older and losing her beauty. The only one who does understand her is Sinestra, the beautiful, mysterious stranger who visits Erzebet and assures her that there are ways to determine her own destiny. With the Biblical passage “The life of the flesh is in the blood” he successfully lures her into a dark world of blood rituals in order to preserve her youth and beauty for eternity. But will the blood treatments—exacted from willing servant girls—be enough to keep her safe forever? How far will Erzebet be willing to go to sever her life from the predestined path God has chosen for her?

~~~

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My Monday Mailbox & Music Machine (Aug 23/10)

Mailbox


Review

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
The Imposter's Daughter: A True Memoir by Laurie Sandell

~~~

Music Machine

Title: We No Speak Americano
Artist/Band: Yolanda Be Cool & DCup
Language: Italian
My Thoughts: Heard this randomly on the radio one day and just got hooked! Such an awesome to wag your fingers and dance to! I so want to go back to the past with this song.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Robin Wasserman: Happily ever after

Robin Wasserman, Author of the Skinned Trilogy and Seven Deadly Sins series

HAPPILY EVER AFTER

So I’m told I’m supposed to offer advice about life after high school. Just one thing: I don’t have any. Except possibly: ENJOY.

You’re talking to someone who spent her teens psychotically desperate to get into college and her early twenties psychotically desperate to get back there. So I’ve got plenty of advice about what to do in those situations (although I guess most of the advice boils down to: This too shall pass). But as far as I’m concerned, college – despite all the melodramatic lows that go along with the many (let’s just say metaphorical) highs – is, after the tyranny and monotony of high school, pretty much a ridiculous paradise of free choice.

The whole point of life after high school is that, unlike in high school, no one can tell you what to do.

Your life is suddenly your own. Everything terrifying, exhilarating minute of it.

That said, I have to admit that as an embarrassingly huge pop culture addict, my life post-graduation wasn’t entirely my own. I’m not saying I modeled my college life after Saved By the Bell: The College Years . . . but I’ll admit there are a select number of pop cultural entities that pretty much shaped my entire understanding of life after high school. So in that spirit (with the full knowledge that I’m dating myself), a list:

1.
How I Got Into College

2.
The Freshmen

3.
Can’t Hardly Wait

4.
Dead Man on Campus

5.
Wear Sunscreen

6.
Conan O’Brien’s Harvard Commencement Speech

7.
Back to School (Because the only thing that could improve college would be the presence of Robert Downey, Jr.)

8.
PCU; (starring a manic, pre-Entourage Jeremy Piven)

9.
The Secret History

10. And, of course one of the all time greatest college movies . . .
Real Genius (You thought I was going to say Animal House, didn’t you? Apparently, you didn’t know me in high school. The linked-to clip, one of the greatest scenes of the movie, should fill you in.)

~~~

You can read my review of Skinned here and Crashed here. I can not wait for Wired!

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Artist Arthur: Show up and participate

Artist Arthur, Author of the Mystyx series

LIFE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL – SHOW UP AND PARTICIPATE

For ten years you’ve done nothing but fantasize about this moment in time. I say ten because kindergarten and first grade you’re still too young and excited about doing something other than sitting in the house or daycare all day to realize what you’re getting into. So you’ve gone through elementary with the huge crayons and recess, migrated on to middle school with your first social cliques and changing clothes in a room full of girls for P.E. and then ventured into the pre-adult emotional rollercoaster otherwise known as high school. All the while there was an adult, a teacher, there every day telling you to just show up and participate and all would be well. What in the world were they talking about?

Well, doesn’t matter because now you’re finished!

Yaaaayyy!!! Party like a rock star for about a week and then you’ll wake up one day and wonder, what now?

If you’re like me you spent the last ten years just trying to make it through to the next day, making future plans wasn’t really high on your priority list. And your parents, what the heck happened to them? Why aren’t they smiling at you in the morning asking if you’ve had breakfast anymore? Welcome to life after school!

I remember enrolling for college and thinking, “Ugh, didn’t I just finish with school.” I wasn’t eager to sit in another classroom and yet, I wasn’t in the mood to party anymore. I just generally didn’t know what to make of this new stage in life. The years following are sort of a blur to me now, but what I carry with me everyday is the fact that I am not now who I was then. Sounds way too philosophical right? I know, that comes with age too. LOL But what I’m trying to say is take the time to grow up. As with those twelve years of school you found out who you were and the limits you had during that time. Now there’s an entirely new landscape in front of you, how you navigate it is going to be tricky. There’s no textbook and not a lot of guidance that you’ll be willing to receive at the moment. But if you’re lucky you’ve learned something about yourself in your last twelve years and that’s what will mold you in the years to come.

Life after high school can be exhilarating, scary, uncertain and sometimes candidly cruel, but there’s gold at the end of the rainbow. Happily ever after is attainable. You just have to show and participate to get there.

~~~

Read my review of Manifest here. A cool series for paranormal lovers!

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meridi Myers: Summer work

Meridi Myers, Author of Titus and Atreus

Adventures of an Impoverished High School Graduate

There are a lot of good things about going away to college for the first time. There’s the freedom of being on your own and (finally!) being away from your parents; there’s the fun of meeting a whole host of brand new people; and of course the excitement of (hopefully) studying something that interests you. There’s one thing, however, that is not so good:

Paying for all of the freedom, fun, and excitement that is the college experience.

Okay. So it wasn’t really that bad for me; my loans and scholarships covered most of the major stuff. But I was faced with living expenses. I needed to furnish my dorm room; I needed ridiculously expensive textbooks; and most importantly, I needed to eat. (My college allotted us a certain number of meals each week, but I knew it wouldn’t be nearly enough for me. I have the metabolism of a hummingbird, and get very cranky when my blood sugar levels drop.)

That meant that to cover these new living expenses, I would need to find a summer job after graduating high school. Unfortunately, most places are not looking to hire a seventeen-year-old for two months out of the year. I spent weeks applying for jobs and was about to concede that my dorm room would consist solely of a bare mattress, when a friend of mine discovered a place that was not only hiring, but was hiring just for the summer. Whoa! Sounds perfect, right? I thought so too.

I got the job at the Girl Scout camp. I’m not sure what the requirements were, or if there really were any at all, but I passed the test. I was thrilled to have a place to work for the summer, and even more thrilled that I’d be working alongside two of my high school friends, who’d also applied and been accepted. I’d spend the next couple of weeks making funky lanyards and bottle cap belts, and by the end of it, I’d have a good chunk of change to spend as I pleased. It was going to be a piece of cake! I already knew how to take care of kids (I have a much younger brother whom I babysat all the time), I liked being outside, and I sort of enjoyed being crafty. I had all the makings of world-class camp counselor.

Needless to say, my illusion of the job being a cakewalk was soon shattered. Allow me to condense my experience into two lists: The Good—or, the perks of being a camp counselor—and The Bad—or, reasons why I will never ever be a camp counselor again.

The Good:

1) Free, all-you-can-eat Girl Scout cookies. (Okay, this might count for two points. . . . Maybe.)

2) Having an income for two months.

The Bad:

WARNING: The following list has not been exaggerated in any way. Proceed with caution.

1) Never receiving the “required” week-long training to become a camp counselor, since you applied after training ended.

2) Forgetting what “air conditioning” even means.

3) Relocating 20 seven-year-old girls to a new lodge at midnight because there is a bat—that may or may not have rabies—flying around your current shelter.

4) Waking up to find your sleeping bag covered in ice crystals because the temperature inexplicably plummeted overnight.

5) Having to start a fire in a thunderstorm in order to make dinner for yourself and your troop. (I’m absolutely not kidding about this. It really happened. And yes, by some stroke of luck, I did get that fire going, damn it!)

6) Carrying a four-year-old up a steep half-mile long hill because she’s too young to be at camp and can’t walk it herself. (Seriously, parents, what are you thinking?)

7) Asking one of your girls to please wear her bug repellent before she goes hiking, and having her respond by going into a completely unwarranted meltdown.

8) Having to teach six girls how to row a boat when you yourself have had no prior rowing experience.

9) One word: outhouses.

10) Rarely seeing either one of your high school friends because they were never given the same schedule as you were.

11) Trying to comfort crying, homesick scouts (that are not even yours) before they wake the rest of the tent up and start a chain reaction that you know you will not be able to control.

12) Being woken in the middle of the night because one of your girls is getting sick and needs her medication ASAP. (But, of course, you’re not allowed to carry her medication on your person, which would be the smartest and most convenient thing to do; no, it must be left at the hospital tent, which is, of course, on the other side of camp.)

13) The unidentified, but definitely large and dangerous, creatures watching you from the woods, waiting to spring as soon as you leave the tent at 4AM to pee. (Don’t laugh! That camp was creepy after sundown.)

The Bad list could go on.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much about my experience, though; after all, I accomplished what I originally set out to do: get a job and make a little money. I weathered through the seven weeks of hell—I mean, camp—and when August finally came around and I was on my way to college, I had my textbooks, extra money on my meal card, and enough décor to furnish half the rooms on my floor. And I had a nice tan. ;)

Congrats, Diana, and best of luck with all your post-high school adventures!

~~~

Read my review of Titus and Atreus here! A great fantasy novel I definitely recommend!

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Giveaway: Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert


Title: Ballads of Suburbia
Author: Stephanie Kuehnert
Description: Kara hasn't been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad-boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park....

Amid the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.

~~~

This is an amazing novel that I highly recommend! Read my review of it here.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

My Monday Mailbox & Music Machine (Aug 16/10)

Mailbox

Given

Fade by Lisa McMann

Review

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Low Red Moon by Caitlin R. Kiernan
The Julian Game by Adele Griffin
Finding Family by Tonya Bolden
Blood Feud by Alyxandra Harvey
Where the Truth Lies by Jessica Warman
The Other Countess by Eve Edwards
Frostbite by Richelle Mead
Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Wow, it's been awhile since I have received so many to review. I look forward to them!

~~~

Music Machine

Title: No Playboy
Artist/Band: Nine Muses
Language: Korean
My Thoughts: A new group has debuted yet again. But the unique part is that the members are much older compared to other music groups. But they show great talent despite their age and I am addicted to this song at the moment.


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E. Van Lowe: I'm smart!

E. Van Lowe, Author of Never Slow Dance with a Zombie

I'm Smart!

In the iconic film, The Godfather Part II, when Fredo Corleone is confronted by his kid brother, and mafia chief, Michael, for going out on his own, Fredo lashes out.

"I'm your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!"
"That's the way pop wanted it," Michael cooly replies.
"It ain't the way I wanted it!" Fredo decries. "I'm smart! Not like everybody says..."

Of course, everyone in the audience knew, Fredo was an idiot.

Back when I was in high school in the inner city, being smart was not a badge of honor--not if you wanted to be hip, and cool, and in. Back then, intelligence was a curse. Somehow my peers had rigged it that being smart was a sign of weakness. And because I was smart, and had dreams, but still wanted to be accepted, I became a Fredo.

In elementary school I was quick to raise my hand, happily answering all my teacher's questions. But by the time I was in the seventh grade, amidst taunts of "teacher's pet," and "brown nose," my hand steadily came down.

By the ninth grade, knowing many of the answers and just sitting there was getting old. So, I did something to keep myself entertained, and (hopefully) to step up my popularity--I became a wise-ass. Now, when my hand went up in class, you could feel the energy in the room shift. Small smiles and giddy looks appeared on the faces of my classmates as they wondered "what the heck is he going to say now."

When my geometry teachers was explaining a tangent, my hand shot up:
"Yes, Mr. Van Lowe?"
"What does a piece of fruit, shaped like an orange, have to do with geometry?" I asked, my voice indignant. Yes, I know it was juvenile (I was fourteen), but it got the desired effect. Laughter all around. Of course, it meant detention for me (since I'd been warned several times about my answers), but it was worth it. I was welcomed into the bad boys, the jocks, the hip kids. Everyone thought I was so funny.

The toughest part of this charade is that I still had to get good grades, or I was going to get killed at home. When my teachers handed back my test papers, I would look at them, and then crumple them into a ball. Sometimes I'd glance at my classmates with a twinkle in my eye and say: "I got a ten. I was shooting for a zero, but I got my name right." More laughter. Everyone assumed I was failing--which I wasn't.

There was a gorgeous girl in my history class named Beverly. Beverly was late for class every day, and she was so ditzy. I usually don't go for the dumb type, but when Beverly wore tight skirts to school, she got my fourteen year-old juices flowing. I wanted to hang out with her. But talking to Beverly was like talking to a brick. She was that dense. Still, I dreamed of Beverly being my girlfriend.

One day in class, my history teacher was in a particularly good mood. The class, as a whole, had done much better on his most recent exam than he'd expected.

"And, of course, our best student always gets an A," he said, stopping by Beverly's desk. A hush fell over the class as we all awaited the punch line. But there wasn't one. He handed Beverly her test paper and moved on to the next student. She sat silent, the look on her face saying it all--sheer and utter embarrassment.

Well I'll be. Beverly was a Fredo.

I was elated. This was my in. I could be smart around Beverly. We could be smart around each other. One day after serving detention, as I was leaving school, I saw her. The corridor was empty--just her and me. My heart began pounding in my chest.

"Hi."

"Hi."

"I'm a writer," I said. It was all I could think of to let her know I was a Fredo, too. She shot me her ditzy look. I wanted to say: "It's okay. I know you're smart. And I don't care."

After several moments of me babbling about something to keep her from walking away, she said: "I'm going to medical school." Our eyes met. Mine filled with hope that gorgeous Beverly was going to be my girlfriend; hers held a warning.

We hung out a few times after that, but she never allowed me to get too close. She worked extra hard to win her ditzy rep back in history. Then she graduated with honors, and went on to a good college. I don't know what became of Beverly, but I'm sure she did well for herself.

Isn't it amazing what peer pressure can do to a kid? High school is tough enough without having to pretend you are dumb. But that's what me and Beverly, and I'm sure many others did to survive. I hope things have changed.

By the way, what the heck is a tangent, anyway?

Yes, I know. I'm still trying to be funny. Old habits die hard.


END

~~~

Read my review of the hilarious zombie novel Never Slow Dance with a Zombie here.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Perfect by Sara Shepard

Title: Perfect
Author: Sara Shepard
Age Group: Teens
# of Pages: 298
My Rating: 4/5

Continuing from the second novel in the Pretty Little Liars series, the girls are in trouble...yet again. Hanna is chasing after Mona, trying to win her best friend back. Except things keep screwing up. Spencer who uses her older sister's paper back in high school as her own for class ends up being nominated for a prestigious award. Could she take it back before she wins it? Emily ends up being exposed to the world about her sexuality by A and she is ashamed. She must do a program that will "fix" her, but will it work? And Aria can not suppress her feelings for Ezra, even with a great boyfriend at hand.

Once again, Sara Shepard brings another gripping continuation in the Pretty Little Liars series. What I am glad most about this novel is the fact that it wasn't intense with drama compared to the last two. Yes, things still happened but it wasn't too insane. It agitates me to know that I am far from finishing. I really don't want to go through so many volumes just to figure out the ending.

I have to say, I actually have a favourite part in this novel. [POSSIBLE SPOILERS] When Hanna ends up being ditched by Mona, a classmate named Lucas steps in to be by her side while everyone else laugh at her downfall in popularity. In this one scene, he takes her to go on this hot air balloon ride. She ends up telling him what was going on and there is just so much peace and relief in the scenery that I couldn't help but love it. [SPOILERS END] I didn't have a favourite character up until now, which turns out to be Hanna. Even though she puts on that bitchy facade, she is still that insecure girl from many years ago. I just hope she completely sheds the fake layer of hers or I think I would be really peeved.

I wonder what will happen next...?

Review copy provided by HarperCollins Canada.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Deadman Wonderland by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou

Title: Deadman Wonderland
Mangaka: Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou
Age Group: Older Teens
Series is: Ongoing with 7 volumes
Volume(s) Reviewing: 1
My Rating: 4.5/5

A decade ago, the Great Tokyo Earthquake destroyed everything. One of its survivor, Ganta Igarashi, is now in middle school. While he is in class, a mysterious man suddenly appears out of nowhere and kills off everyone! Being the only one left to live through the ordeal, Ganta is charged guilty with murder.

Ganta gets sent to a strange prison called Deadman Wonderland, which is also an amusement park. Trapped in a place where he could die any moment, he must find a way to clear his name. He has also developed a new power ever since the incident of the deaths of his classmates. One he does not understand. In Deadman Wonderland, there is the fun, the horror, and the survival that all must be lived through. Who's there to trust?

While reading the first volume, I was reminded of a young adult novel I reviewed months before called Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith. The protagonist was also set up by a bunch of mysterious people to frame him as a murderer. He ended up in a unique prison as well. Prior reading this, I had no idea what to expect of Deadman Wonderland since I never really came across reviews for the series. I was definitely excited to continue on once I finished the manga.

Ganta runs into many problems while at Deadman Wonderland. You can see him being exposed in many different situations and as he reacts to them, revealing more about his character. Every chapter adds mystery and more excitement to the plot. The biggest thing that is driving me to continue this series is to see how it ends for the protagonist and the reason behind everything that is happening to him. With so many betrayals and near death experiences, you can't help but cross your fingers for Ganta. The only thing I worry is the length of the series. To be able to keep a story exciting and going beyond five volumes can get difficult because it could start to slack. I don't know how far this series will go but I believe in Japan they are currently in the makes of the eighth volume. I hope it stops there or very soon.

I highly recommend this series so far to shonen fans and those who likes action/horror in general. But I think many manga fans can definitely enjoy Deadman Wonderland.

Review copy provided by HarperCollins Canada.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Lee Bantle: A letter

Lee Bantle, Author of David Inside Out

NOTES TO MY NIECE ON HER EIGHTEENTH BIRTHDAY

Dear Anne:

An eighteenth birthday is a turning point in life. Not only are you recognized in law as an adult, but it marks the year in which you will leave behind day-to-day life with your family, go off to college and begin a new period of great independence. For me, it was a long-awaited moment. I was so eager to get out of the house and away from the parental eye always looking over my shoulder.

I did not actually leave home until my sophomore year in college, which was, I think, a mistake. You cannot immerse yourself in college life or get the full value out of it when you are commuting from home each day. Living on campus changes the dynamic in a dramatic (and fun) way. Even if you choose to go to a local school, I hope you will live on (or near) campus from the start. Your parents will miss you greatly when you move out, but I think they are free from the worry that you are leaving while still in need of their supervision. You have shown yourself to be reliable and mature beyond your years. Which isn’t to say that you will never do wild and crazy things during your college days. I hope you will. But, I have faith in your uncommon good sense.

As you ponder which college to attend, I will throw in my humble opinion. I have always regretted going to a large state school. I suppose the education I received was adequate, but it was too huge, too impersonal, and too close to home. In comparing notes with others over the years, those who rave most about their undergraduate experience went to small, private colleges in pastoral settings. For reasons not hard to discern, this type of college promotes bonding among the students, close interactions with the faculty, and freedom from outside world distractions.

While college is a means to a degree and a career, it can be so much more than that. It presents a unique opportunity to spend four years pursuing knowledge and meaning for their own sake. I’m afraid that I was rather goal-oriented in my undergraduate days. What curriculum requirements had to be satisfied? What books did I have to read and what papers did I have to submit to get A’s? (One teacher actually wrote a note to me which said: “good understanding is more important than good grades.”) Looking back, I wish I had spent more time steeped in art, music, philosophy and literature, all of which ennoble and make sense of the human experience. There are only so many chances in life to sit under a tree on a weekday afternoon reading George Elliot or Henry James (to name two of my favorite novelists) and then to discuss their writings at seminar. Good grades and graduation will come naturally to you. Forget about them and seek out understanding. (If your bent is toward science, I would certainly encourage that. But physics and chemistry need to be balanced with a little Emily Dickinson.)

Life at college is, of course, highly social. Many say it is the best time in life. I am not so willing to write off everything that comes after, but I agree that those years were a highlight. I still have close friends from college. Perhaps you are a little more shy than I was, but no matter. If you look, you will find your soul mates. I hope you will seek out people who are very different from you as well as those who come from similar backgrounds. It is fascinating to learn how people of different races, ethnicity and national origin perceive life. The more time I spend in New York City, the more enthralled I become with its diversity or what former Mayor David Dinkins called our “gorgeous mosaic.” I am sure you have encountered diversity in your high school. College will increase the opportunity to find it.

And if you really want to meet a lot of people from far flung places, why not spend a semester or a whole year studying abroad? At the very least, you should plan some travel in and around the United States and beyond during your college years. (It wouldn’t bother me if you took off a year from college and knocked around Europe or South America. This would also make for a great year following graduation.) The coming years are your time to see the world--before the obligations of career and family take hold. I don’t understand why people who have spent virtually every friggin’ moment of their lives in the Twin Cities are so self-satisfied. Every Minnesotan should be required to spend a summer on one of the coasts and a summer abroad before inertia lands them in a three bedroom split level in the suburbs. Don’t let this happen to you. Explore the world before you decide where to settle down.

College is a time to experiment, to sample the unknown, to try out new behaviors, new ways of thinking. I received a Christmas card this year from my friend, Gary, who is an artist. It was a big yellow sheet of construction paper which had two large words printed on it: “Be Bold!” I can think of no better words of encouragement to give a freshman leaving for college. Take risks. Lots of them. Talk up during class discussion. (It gets easier after you have broken the ice a few times.) Invite that student from the Ivory Coast out to tea.. Go to a meeting of Anarchists for a New Social Order. Knock on the door of that cute boy in your dorm. Be Bold!

Anne, I could go on, but I’ve probably already given you more advice than you wanted (and certainly more than you asked for). I can’t believe you are all grown up and planning to leave for college. I remember, like it was yesterday, looking at your bald head and laughingly calling you the moon baby. Now you are an adult. The thought of you going off to college is so exciting. I think you are going to love it. I know you are going to excel. I look forward to hearing about it.

With love,

Uncle Lee

~~~

Click to read my review of David Inside Out here! This is actually the first LGBT novel I have read. And it's pretty good!

Lee wants you guys to know that he and Lauren from Shooting Stars Mag came together to make a new blog called Lets Get Beyond Tolerance, where it focuses on LGBT themes. Stop by! http://letsgetbeyondtolerance.blogspot.com/

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Giveaway: The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood


Title: The Poison Diaries
Author: Maryrose Wood
Description: In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .

Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill.

When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . .

~~~

I absolutely adore Maryrose's Morgan Rawlinson series! Click her name in this post's hashtag to read my reviews. (They are onne of the rare books I actually re-read over and over again from time to time.) I look completely forward to her new series and lucky for you guys, one of you can win a copy of The Poison Diaries! Be sure to visit www.poisondiaries.com for more info!

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To enter, answer the following:
If we define “poison” as anything that’s not good for you if you have too much of it, leave a comment describing your favorite poison!

Giveaway Item(s): A signed copy of The Poison Diaries
# of Winners: 1
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Amanda Ashby: Care what you wear!

Amanda Ashby, Author of You Had Me at a Halo and Zombie Queen of Newbury High

Finishing High School (or When Nice People Make Bad Clothing Decisions)

When Diana first asked me to take part in her blogoversary, I was thrilled, not just because anyone with an alliterated name is okay by me, but also because finishing high school can be hard work (actually, so can blogging for that matter) so I just wanted to say a big congrats all round!!!!!

Anyway, since the theme is about what happens after you finish school I thought I’d better take a trip down memory lane. The time was 1985 (does that date me?), the place was the western suburbs of Brisbane, Australia and the mood was positive. After all, not only had I managed to get into the University that I wanted to study English and Journalism, but I also had a whole summer of fun in front of me. Of course there was the small niggle that none of my close friends were going to the same University as me, but for most of that summer, I just ignored it. Another thing I ignored was what I should wear for my first day. Now this isn’t as strange as it seems, since I spent my entire school life having to wear a uniform so the idea of being able to wear whatever I wanted, was slightly foreign. It was also when things started to get messy.

You see not all of the eighties was about Wham T-shirts and leg warmers and when I was a teenager there was quite a lot of gothic/second shopping going on so on my first day, I lovingly picked out my outfit. It went something like: some old boxer shorts worn as regular shorts, a retro mustard-colored polo shirt that I’d found in some charity shop for about fifty cents, with a pair of leather gladiator sandals and my favorite ancient leather belt (which, for the record, I still own). Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I headed off to my first day, excited about joining the liberating, bohemian environment of Uni (as we called it in Australia).

Unfortunately, turns out that no one else got the memo and when I arrived (friendless remember) I discovered that everyone else was wearing big hair, big shoulder pads and those stupid silver fob chains that were so popular back then. In other words, in a sea of yuppies I looked like something that Kurt Cobain’s cat might’ve dragged in. Humiliating doesn’t even come close to cracking it and I was pretty close to wishing that I was back in the safety of High School again.

Thankfully, by the end of the day I had the good fortune to meet my wonderful friend Delia, who didn’t even come from Brisbane but somehow already managed to know EVERYBODY. Anyway, for whatever reason she seemed to think it was perfectly normal to wear retro mustard polo shirts and boxer shorts for the first day and the more we hung out, the more I discovered that between those yuppies in their chambray shirts and matching brogues, there was actually loads of other weirdly dressed students, all excited to finally be able to express themselves anyway that they wanted to. By the end of the month we had managed to get quite a group together and we all spent the next three years having the time of our lives—something we still reminisce about now!!!!!!

So my advice to anyone leaving school and taking their next step. Be brave. Be fearless. Wear weird clothes and meet your own Delia and Co. Trust me, it’s worth it!

To be with a chance to win a copy of Zombie Queen of Newbury High or my first novel, You Had Me at Halo, just tell me about your worst ‘first day’ outfit ever!!!!!

www.amandaashby.com

~~~

Read my review for Zombie Queen of Newbury here! A very light and funny novel for zombie fans!

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