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Archive for June, 2011

13 Gifts by Wendy Mass

Posted by Caitie F on June 30, 2011

Title: 13 Gifts
Author: Wendy Mass
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Will Be Published: September 2011
Rating: ++++

Summary (from goodreads):

When Tara, a self-proclaimed shrinking violet, steals the school mascot, a goat, in order to make some friends with the popular crowd and gets caught, she gets herself in a heap of trouble. In addition, her parents decide that instead of taking her on their summer trip to Madagascar to study the courtship rituals of the Bamboo Lemur, she must go stay with her aunt, uncle, and bratty cousin Emily St. Claire in Willow Falls.

Tara thinks it’s a good time to start over; she’ll be turning 13 after all, so she might as well make the best of it and perhaps even attempt to break out of her shell (in a non-criminal manner). What Tara doesn’t know is that this charmed town has something big in store for her on her 13th birthday. It’s not a typical birthday. But then again, nothing is Willow Falls is exactly typical!


I adored Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life so when I saw Wendy Mass was signing at BEA I made sure I was there early! The book doesn’t come out until September, but I wanted to share it now so everyone else can get excited about it!

Wendy Mass seems to know that birthdays are really important to kids, especially their 13th birthday. This is her second book revolving around a deadline of turning 13, and it adds a layer of excitement and suspense.

There is also a mystical aspect to the book. There is a mysterious old woman who loves to give school students tasks to complete…and if they don’t she usually threatens dire circumstances. The fantastical element makes the book more fun to read and opens limitless possibilities.

The plot is also a lot of fun. Tara (and her friends) have to find 13 different items, all of which seem random and unconnected. It turns out they lead to more excitement and adventure for the entire town!

While the fantasy and the birthday is fun, what really makes this book are the characters and the relationships. Tara has moved around her entire life, so she is always on the outside of groups and doesn’t really know how to make friends and depend on others. Luckily, she is given a chance to make some real friends and learns what it is like. She is smart, kind, and it is so much fun to watch her grow.

All of her new friends are realistic and I think kids will be able to see themselves in someone. There is the sweet and nervous David, getting ready for his Bar Mitzvah, without his father by his side. He was my favorite character because he is so mature for his age and is the key for Tara and her journey.

It was another great book by Wendy Mass. She proves, once again, that she understand the middle grade audience. I am really glad I can give this to my husband’s middle school classroom!

Find this one for the 11-14 year old in your life!

Posted in Review, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 14 Comments »

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Posted by Caitie F on June 26, 2011

Title: The Magicians
Author: Lev Grossman
Hardcover:  402 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult
Year Published: 2009
Rating: +++++

Summary (from goodreads):

Quentin Coldwater is brillant but miserable. He’s a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he’s still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.

Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he though it would.


This book took me a LONG time to read. According to, I was reading it for a month! Well, it wasn’t really a month because I took a break to read some library books, but it was a good 2 weeks of reading, which for me, is a lot. It took a while, though, because I loved it so much. It is such a dense book, but dense in a good way. There is creativity throughout and it just had to all sink in. Reading it was truly exploring a new world. I haven’t felt like that about a book since Harry Potter.

Which makes sense. When describing it, I have said it is like Harry Potter for adults. And it truly is for adults. There is sex (but not graphic), drinking, drugs, and darkness. Lots of dark and twisty (and a little timey-whimey). But it is brilliant. The writing is brilliant, the magical world within our world is brilliant. The storytelling is brilliant. Wow, I just loved this book!

I thought it was great how all of the little stories that were told throughout tied to the bigger picture. A story told on page 150 came back in the 300s in a big way, which always impresses me with a story. There is also a lot of really well-written foreshadowing, some of which I caught and some that I didn’t until the end of the book. When I finished yesterday there was a lot of “Oh! That connects with…” which is making thinking about the book so much fun!

For all of the darkness, there is also quite a bit of humor – including Harry Potter humor, which was always my favorite.

Apparently this book is very polarizing, either people loved it or hated it. I don’t understand hating it, but everyone has different tastes!

Not, the book isn’t perfect, though I still gave it five stars since it was just so much fun to read! There isn’t much of a plot until the last 150-200 pages. It is character and world building before that. Usually that would bother me, but Grossman has created such a wonderful world and characters that I didn’t mind at all!

I am going to say it though: I liked Quentin. I have seen people comparing him to Holden Caulfield, but I don’t agree with that assessment at all. Holden was a whiney little brat. I understood where Quentin was coming from. He was depressed, but I saw where it came from. HE let people in his life and made his own family at Brakebills and beyond, since his family life was so screwed up. Yes, he makes mistakes along the way, and some of those mistakes make him a jerk, but I think it makes his character more interesting and relatable.

If you are interested in seeing what would happen if regular people could be Magicians, and think this sounds like it is fun to read (which it really is!) check out this book!

I got a signed copy of The Magician King  at BEA and can’t wait to read it (though I may need to let Jason read it first, so he needs to finish Game of Thrones).  Lev Grossman was a really nice guy and I need to check out all of his other books. The next book comes out in September.

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Juno’s Daughters by Lise Saffran + giveaway

Posted by Caitie F on June 18, 2011

This is a good summer read!

Title: Juno’s Daughters
Author: Lisa Saffran
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Plume (Penguin)
Year Published: 2011
Rating: ++

Summary (from goodreads):

Jenny Alexander has sought refuge from a troubled past on a tiny, verdant island, off the coast of Washington state. Surrounded by the cold water of the Puget Sound, she does her best to raise her girls, innocent Frankie, and thrill-seeking Lilly, in a tight-knit community of eccentrics and dreamers.

The island bursts open each summer with the arrival of actors leading the annual Shakespeare production. A handsome thespian from New York reawakens Jenny to long-buried desires. As the intensity of rehearsals builds toward the live run of The Tempest, a potent mixture of actors, islanders and tourists, besotted by verse and swept up in the romance of the theater, spills the enchantment of the play into the lives of the players.

When Jenny finds her daughters caught up in a “brave new world” of love and heartbreak, she is ultimately thrust into a command performance that will resonate in all their lives.


Since this isn’t a rave review, I will break it into two parts

What I Liked:

I loved the Shakespeare references and all the talk of Shakespeare in the book. I am a fan and really enjoyed The Tempest when I read it, so it was really cool to read a book that had a whole island enthralled and excited by the Bard.

I also loved the setting. It is on a small island that can only be reached by ferry. The setting was fun, vivid, and made me want to visit the islands off the coast of Washington, a place I was never interested in before.

In addition to the great setting, the characters that lived on the island were really interesting and realistic. There were characters who loved it and others that can’t handle it. They were also a tight0knit community and everyone cared about each other. That aspect made for a better plot and made me care about some characters that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I also love the end. The last 50 pages were amazing.

What I didn’t like:

Jenny, the main character. She has all of the issues of single, middle aged women that is irritating. She doesn’t like nice guys and wants someone more “daring”. She is an irritating parent (but I won’t go into why, there are lots of spoilers there). I did not find her likable, unless she was dealing with her younger daughter, Frankie. Luckily, the other character made up for it a little.

Some of the plot points. Lily trying to seduce a middle-aged man even though she was seventeen was creepy and I didn’t think it was handled well.

That said, if you really like women’s fiction, I would give it a chance!

I am giving away a copy to a reader. Leave a comment that says you want to be entered and make sure you include your email address.

Contest ends June 28th.

US and Canada only.

One extra entry for a tweet (please include a url to your tweet!)

Good luck!

Posted in Review, Summer reads | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Huntress by Malinda Lo

Posted by Caitie F on June 14, 2011

Title: Huntress
Author: Malinda Lo
Hardcover: 371 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company (Hachette Book Group USA)
Year published: 2011
Rating: +++++

Summary (from goodreads):

Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.


Malinda Lo’s first novel Ash was a beautiful retelling of Cinderella set in a distinct fantasy world. While that book was good, her sophomore novel Huntress was great.

It is set in the same fantasy world, but is centuries earlier, when the fay and human are still separated and the world has a much different culture. I could see what the world was like and really understand motivations due to the culture and circumstances in this novel, which made it very fun and exciting to read.

There are so many things at the core of this book: choosing your own path instead of following the path given to you by your parents or elders; fighting for the people you love; and the love and relationship between Kaede and Taisin. The romance felt genuine and exciting. Taisin has a vision where she sees that she will love Kaede, so the reader knows from the beginning that it will happen, which makes the journey to that more enjoyable to read.

I loved how there were multiple perspectives throughout the book. It mostly went between the two young women, but every so often it went to side characters. I thought this was really effective because it showed that Kaede’s father was not a villain like she sometimes portrayed him or that another character had more going on inside their head than others noticed. It made side characters come to life.

I actually got to see Malinda Lo at BEA at the Teen Author Carnival in a panel about kick-ass heroines. I got to hear her talk about how one of her characters is a kick-ass heroine from the beginning and the other grows into it. That was the case and watching Taisin growth into a strong female made me excited. Kaede is pretty kick-ass from the beginning, but she also grows stronger and into even more of a strong woman as the book progresses. I am really glad i got ot see Malinda talk about the importance of strong females, because it brought even more to the book to look at it from the perspective.

I absolutely adored this book it solidifies my place as a Malinda Lo fan!


Posted in Review | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Velva Jean Learns to Drive Giveaway!

Posted by Caitie F on June 9, 2011

I absolutely adore this book, as you can see in my review and I am so happy that I can pass the book along to one of you!


All entries must be received by June 20th 11:59 EST
Must be US or Canada (Sorry international readers!)
To enter, please leave a comment on this post letting me know you want to be entered
You do NOT have to be a follower and do not have to include email in the comment, since it is part of the comment system.

You can get one extra entry for tweeting, just leave your tweet URL in the comment!

Good luck and I cannot wait to pass this excellent book on to someone else! Thanks to Penguin for sending me a copy!

Posted in Contest | 2 Comments »

Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven

Posted by Caitie F on June 9, 2011

Title: Velva Jean Learns to Drive 
Author: Jennifer Niven
Paperback: 404 pages
Publisher: Plume (Penguin
Year Published: 2009
Rating: +++++

Summary (from goodreads):

Before she dies, Velva Jean’s mother urges her to “live out there in the great wide world”. Velva Jean dreams of becoming a big-time singer in Nashville until she falls in love with Harley Bright, a handsome juvenile delinquent turned revival preacher. As their tumultuous love story unfolds, Velva Jean must choose between keeping her hard-won home and pursuing her dream of singing in the Grand Ole Opry.


Velva Jean Learns to Drive is a stunning piece of historical fiction, set in pre WWII Appalachia. With a strong voice, a vivid setting, and a a cast of characters so vivid that I expect to run into them doing errands, it is the kind of book you won’t soon forget.

A lot of times, especially when it comes to women in my generation, we forget how far our gender has come in less than 100 years. Velva Jean was expected to listen to her husband no mater what and just settle down, marry, and have babies, She was even told by her sister that her dreams were too big and were a waste of time. Luckily, Velva Jean has others around her who love her and believe in her. paired with an inner strength that pushes her.

As many who read this blog know, I am not a religious person. This book had a very interesting take on religion and what it means to one individual be saved.  Watching Velva Jeans’ personal faith grow and change was one of the most interesting and thought-provoking aspects of the novel. I think those who enjoy Christian fiction/general crossovers will appreciate her journey and will be left with several things to think about. Others, who are more like me, will be happy that a message isn’t being pushed upon us and that it lets readers form their own ideas.

Velva Jean Learns to Drive also made me grateful for the support I have in my life. Velva loses her mother at a very young age, but has a large, loving family that looks out for her. One of her brothers is only two years older than her, but provides some of the most sage advice and insights on her life. He challenges her in a way only a brother can. She also has a caring and supportive grandfather who is willing to stand up for what is right and always believes in her, even if she is only 18 and a woman. The care and respect that he gives to all of the women in his life is a great contrast to many of the other men in the novel and time period.

The final thing I want to touch on in the novel is her husband, Harley. He does not start off as a mean man, Velva is much too smart for that. He is kind and loving. Their relationship may not be complete equality, but it is close. After an accident, he changes, becomes harder, and starts to be what we would call emotionally abusive today. Then, he was just being a husband and holding dominion over his wife. Watching Velva Jean see what he was doing and not being okay with what is expected showed a strength and power that I bet was more common than we would believe.

This was an absolute joy to read. I am really excited that Velva Jean Learns to Fly is coming out September 30th this year. That gives you plenty of time to read this book first!

I am giving away the paperback copy that was given to me by the publisher in the this post! Good luck!

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Posted by Caitie F on June 6, 2011

This is a fun summer read!

Title: Graceling 
Author: Kristin Cashore
Hardcover:  470 pages
Publisher: Harcourt
Year Published: 2008
Rating: +++++

Summary (from goodreads):

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone


Since this book released, I have picked it up over a dozen times. The cover is just stunning. I could not just walk by it without stopping. I loved the concept and wanted to read it for a while, but just kept putting it off. I should have known that was just a silly thing to do.

I am fangirling over this book a little. I enjoyed every second of reading it and when I was doing other things, I wanted to go back to reading.

Katsa is the definition of a girl who kicks ass. There is something with names starting with Kat, because she reminded me of Katniss, but she was even tougher and deadly. Throw her into the Hunger Games bubble and no one would stand a chance!

She isn’t just strong because of her Grace. She has trained, worked hard, and educated herself more than she ever needed to. She stands up against her uncle and won’t allow him to use her as a tool. She stands up for the people of the world and does everything she can to help. She also will help others become stronger and teaches them how to protect themselves. She may be my favorite female character of the year.

She also sticks to what she believes in, even if it is not popular. She does not want to marry or have children. While most people scoff at her and say it will never work, she stands her ground and finds ways (and people) who respect her decisions and work with her. This makes it a very different romance with the charming, strong, and secretive Po. Everyone tries to make them something they are not, which adds another layer to the tension. It is a sweet and exciting love, but it does not take away from the action-packed book full of mystery and suspense of the rest of the book.

The idea of having a Grace was something that drew me to the book and did not disappoint. That everyone could see that who was special made it harder for all involved and added some interesting situations and conflicts. Some of the Graces were funny, shocking, or made me envious! The cooking Grace would be quite useful!

I loved every page of this book and cannot wait to read the next book!

If you could have a Grace, what would you want? I can’t decide!

Posted in Review, Summer reads | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Get Rid of Books Summer Challenge!

Posted by Caitie F on June 5, 2011

I am late to the news, but the WSJ article about YA is disgusting. Find out more about this by heading to twitter and going to #YAsaves. Also, check out this blog post by Nicole from Word For Teens – I could not say it better so I won’t bother .


So instead, this Sunday I will post about a new “challenge” I am doing.

I have too many books. Three shelves, with two of the double stacked, plus three stacks of arcs. At least two shelves are books that I will read once and then give away. I just need to read them! Lucky for me, there is now a challenge to help me!

It is hosted by Pop Culture Junkie

This is how it will work:
Starting today June 4th until September 4th do whatever you need to to get rid of some books, I don’t care where they go, donate them, sell them, pass them on, have a contest. Whatever you feel comfortable with (please don’t tell me if they go in the garbage though I might cry!) and keep track of the number of books that are no longer in your possession.
At the end of the challenge and give final tally, we will do this on the honor system. And whoever has gotten rid of the most books over the summer will win a book (Under $20 and something I can easily purchase in the US, and US only for shipping), yes totally against our point I know, but that’s how I roll!
So here is how I will do it. I will stop using my library other than the book i am currently reading and the three I have on hold.
I ❤ my library, but it keeps me from reading what I have. So from now until the end of this challenge I will read my own books…and then give them away. Arcs will all be giveaways on here (unless they have been promised to others). Others will be a mix of giveaways, selling on Amazon, and donating to schools or other places.
My goal is to get rid of 35 books!

Posted in Challenges | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Peril at End House by Agatha Christie

Posted by Caitie F on June 4, 2011

This is a great summer reading book!

Title: Peril at End House 
Author: Agatha Christie
Hardcover: 252 pages
Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
Year Published: 1932
Rating: +++++

Summary (from goodreads):

A vacation at the Majestic Hotel in the Cornish countryside is just what Hercule Poirot thinks he needs…until he meets Nick buckley, the lovely young mistress and End House. When several near-death accidents befall Nick in a short period of time, Poirot suspects foul play. It’s a race against the clock to protect Nick from the next and possibly fatal blow, and find out who, or what, is behind her bad luck.


This is my third Christie book (which have all been Poirot by coincidence) and I loved it! Her writing is brilliant and beautiful. The mysteries are suspenseful and exciting. I never know who it was. Ever. I though I had it pinned right away and it was obvious, but I was wrong. My suspicion had committed a crime, but it was not attempted murder.

Since I have read a couple Christie books, I have talked to a lot of mystery fans about her…and it turns out they have not read anything she has written! I am trying to push them to try because she is so brilliant. They will also find, like I have, that they have been missing references all of their lives! Other TV shows and movies have so many little nods to Christie, it is just astonishing once you realize it!

It is so interesting to read mysteries that are back in the early 1900s. Some things never change. This book has drugs, cut brakes, forgery, and plenty of “accidents”. I could completely see it taking place in modern times, which I think is just another reason why Agatha Christie was so brilliant!

I will say that as I read reviews on goodreads, people who read a LOT of her books were able to figure it out right away…which could be annoying and make the rating go down, I am sure. Since I am still a newbie, I do enjoy it.

One last thing. Did you know that the Poirot book are in a specific order? I didn’t think it mattered until this book. Apparently, there were references and even some characters that were in previous books. I don’t really mind that I am reading out of order though and don’t think I will make an effort to go in order. I’ll just prepare to be entertained and mystified with each book!

Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie book? Do you have a favorite contemporary mystery? Let me know in the comments!

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

BEA Panel: The Arc of Publishing

Posted by Caitie F on June 3, 2011

I wanted to share some of what I learned at the great panels I went to during BEA with all of my readers. This was probably the most interesting panel, and the panel I got the most out of, so I won’t be able to cover it all. I will be able to talk about some of the highlights. This was a panel of good news though!

This panel was run by Skott Klebe.

Whether is is book publishing, technology firms, or any other business, there is a usual curve (at least for the successful ones). They start out low, have a sharp increase, then level off toward to the top, slowly declining over time. It is called an S curve and looks something like this

Publishing is the same way. Most companies have a series of these curves to keep going up and up and up, by one of two ways. They either get new customers OR get customers reading things in different ways. For the second, it is ebooks. The big scary E word that many think will ruin publishing.

But it won’t and there is one key reason. ebooks have changed HOW people read, but it isn’t gaining new readers. It is still true that about 10% of people buy 90% of books. That 10% is the group buying ereaders. Maybe you are getting 5% more just because they are the kind of people who want the latest gadget, but a lot of them are getting the books that are free. There is a big chunk of the population that only buys one or two best sellers a year. They aren’t getting ereads or reading ebooks. The ebooks may even be at the top of the s-curve already.

The real goal of publishers should be to get that 10/90 split to be a little better. Maybe get 15 or 20% of readers buy 90% of books. Diversify and excite people not just about the Harry Potters and the Twilights, but about more so they buy more books.

The other big thing that was discussed is the self-publishing for ebooks. Skott talked about the people who have made it really really big in self publishing, But he also talked about how for each of those, there are hundreds or thousands of people going nowhere with their self published ebooks. Yes, they are cheap so people will try them out, but here is teh big question.

How many bad $3 ebooks must someone read before they stop buying them? Yes, it is only $3…but pay for five bad ones and you are out one or two publisher published ebooks. Or you are out lunch. Or what you pay to have your kid added to your cell phone plan. People will not tolerate too many bad self-published books. The other thing that people will get more wary of is good reviews on self published books. We all have friends and family that would give us a good review no matter what if we asked them to. And is a pretty anonymous place. It is not like a blog or facebook where you have a name and identity attached to it. There are plenty of people who have reviewed one thing and one thing only. Maybe for their family and friends. I think people will get more wary of the reviews and try to find more out on who is saying a book is great before they try it.

As I said before, there are self published authors on Amazon barely scraping by. Skott talked about how these authors will do what has been done since publishing started. A couple that are barely getting by will come together and hire a designer, since covers do sell books. Then they will hire an editor to help make their book a little better now that more people will notice it. Then a publicist so they can get it out there more.

Suddenly, and independent publisher is born. Then they were consolidate with others who have done the same thing to a larger indie. Suddenly, they are bringing out more and more books and a year and authors are contacting them to publish their books. So they become larger. Then they have a couple of books that go huge and writers that get agents and book deals from the big six. The big six see what they do and like it, and suddenly they are bought out and become an imprint.

Publishing is all about the large publishers consolidating and letting things go. It is a cycle that has gone on forever, and it will continue in this digital age.

I hope you could make sense of this panel and I was able to share some great information with you. I am excited about the direction publishing is going.

Thanks to Skott Klebe for running such a wonderful session!

Posted in BEA, Publishing | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »