Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Post of 2010!

As I'm writing this, there's about 26 hours left in 2010. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in a chair at my grandma's attempting to hold back tears and remember good things that had happened in 2009 and making plans to make 2010 better.

Unfortunately, 2010 began with tears (over something that know seems so stupid I want to slap myself) and, well, it didn't get much better than that.

I'm not one to write personal posts on this blog or, well, anything not related to books, really, because for one, my parents are strict about things like that and two, my life isn't all that exciting. But, I can safely say that 2010 sucked for me. A lot of it was that normal teenage crap...boy drama, friend drama, family drama...all of that lovely stuff that comes from being a teenager but a lot of it was more than that, like coming sososooo close to losing my little brother, who just happens to be the most important person in the entire world to me. (It's been months and he's okay now but I can barely even think about it without tearing up. I love that kid.)

I also have a habit of taking on more than I can handle, procrastinating, and then stressing about it until it becomes a health problem, and I did that a LOT this year. I set super-high expectations for myself every year and this year I did more than normal. For example, I'm taking 10 classes this year and at least 2 of them are honors classes and others require a LOT of reading/writing. That alone is hard work but then I decided that I needed to be perfect, that every single grade I got had to be at least a 95. The result was a lot of stress and growing hatred for classes I originally adored.

I also started or continued a lot of projects this year...this blog, PAYA, Brightly Woven Fan, a sekrit project for an author, a teen advisory board for my library, and I attempted a few others. Every time someone asked me to do something, I said yes. Because of that, EVERYTHING suffered, including this blog, which makes me sad, because I feel so strongly about some of the projects I started.

That said, when 2010 decided to be good to me, it was REALLY good to me. 2010 brought the first annual PAYA Festival which was just...fantastic. Words can't even describe how I felt about it. I'd worked for so long and so hard to pull it off and it was just amazing. I feel no shame in admitting I was really proud of myself that night.

2010 also brought ALA, which was my first major book conference. Those three days can also be referred to as some of the best days of my life. I can honestly say I've never enjoyed myself as much as I did at ALA. I met some of the most amazing people I've met in my life and so many authors that I look up to - Stephanie Kuehnert, Laurie Halse Anderson, Elizabeth Scott, Ellen Hopkins, Jeri Smith-Ready, etcetc - and got to hang out with James (of Book Chic) and Tiff (aka the best librarian in the world) and it was just SO MUCH FUN.

I also got a car (that I can't drive yet).

Those three things are honestly the only amazing things I can remember about 2010 and I still have a lot of leftover feelings about the bad things, so tomorrow I will be writing a long letter about all of everything I hated then I'm going to burn it and move on. Hopefully it won't be too hard to make 2011 better than that.

Normally, I would spend tonight and tomorrow writing a very long list of resolutions and goals for 2011 but, I realized that might be my problem. My expectations are always set too high. So, my one and only resolution for 2011 is just to live and enjoy life. It's time for me to quit wishing things were different and wanting to be more and have more and just ENJOY IT.

How did 2010 treat you? What are your resolutions? Anything you're looking forward to in 2011?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of 2010 Survey!

I'm stealing this from Jamie at the Perpetual Page Turner.

1. Best book of 2010? Oh geez, this is hard...for paranormal, I'll have to say Shade by Jeri-Smith Ready and for contemporary, it's a tie between Sea by Heidi Kling and Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala. Oh! And Last Sacrifice. <3 Ooh! or Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore! Or...well, let's just say there were a LOT of awesome 2010 books!

2. Worst book of 2010? Hmm....does A Tale of Two Cities count? I had to read it for history class and it was horrid.

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010? I have no clue. I don't tend to finish books that I'm not loving and there wasn't any book that I was looking forward to that I remember disappointing me.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010? Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready! I accepted the pitch from the publicist because I generally like paranormal, then pushed it up on my list when I found out I'd be meeting Jeri at ALA. I ended up staying awake to read it on the way down to D.C. instead of reading like I'd planned too.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010? Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert. If you've been following my blog/Twitter for long, you know that's my all-time favorite book. I'm constantly telling people to buy it and my answer to "What's your favorite book?" or "Do you have any book suggestions?" is ALWAYS Ballads!

6. Best series you discovered in 2010? Vampire Academy! I know, I know, I was late! But I read these books this summer and could NOT put them down. I FLEW through the first 4 and begged for the 5th and was the first to get the final one from my library. I'm a total Dimitri fangirl!

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010? Jeri Smith Ready! I absolutely ADORE her now and a bunch of Tenners, like Amy Brecount White, Holly Cupala, etcetc.

8. Most hilarious read of 2010? This is a tough question! I'd have to say...probably The DUFF by Kody Keplinger. I adore that book so much!

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010? Last Sacrifice, hands down! Crescendo was great too - I read both of them straight through!

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010? Last Sacrifice, for sure!

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010? This is so hard because there's SO many fantastic covers out there...I'd have to say SEA by Heidi Kling. I love the blues!

12. Most memorable character in 2010? Dimitri, most definitely. <3 style="font-weight: bold;">13. Most beautifully written book in 2010? Tell Me a Secret by Heidi Cupala, for sure.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? Oh lord, this is HARD. I really want to say Ballads of Suburbia because my god, that book changed my life, but I read that last year. So...I don't know! There were some great books that made me think but I can't think of any that hit me quite as hard as Ballads did last year.

15. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read? Vampire Academy! Oh, those books are SO amazing! Also, Sweethearts by Sara Zarr!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Hiatus!

Hey everyone,

I just wanted to let you know I'm taking a short break for the holidays. I'll be back in 2011 with a bunch of new features.

I'm looking for someone that can make me a layout so if that's you, send me an email! harmonybookreviews[at]yahoo[dot]com.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays everyone!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Enticing Sites and A Giveaway

I absolutely adored Entice and Bloomsbury USA has a very fun Facebook fanpage set up here. They have some great extras so if you enjoy the series, definitely check out out. Also check out the trailer, which I've embedded below.

Finally, Bloomsbury has graciously offered ONE copy of ENTICE for someone to win in a giveaway.


1.) Leave a comment below and tell me why you want Entice.

2.) "Like" the NeedPixies site on Facebook and tell me in your comment for an extra entry.

US ONLY. No P.O. boxes.

Ends January 10th.

Entice by Carrie Jones

T​itle: Entice

Author: Carrie Jones

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA


Zara and Nick are soul mates, meant to be together forever. But that's not quite how things have worked out. For starters, well, Nick is dead. Supposedly, he's been taken to a mythic place for warriors known as Valhalla, so Zara and her friends might be able to get him back. But it's taking time, and meanwhile a group of evil pixies is devastating Bedford, with more teens going missing every day. An all-out war seems imminent, and the good guys need all the warriors they can find. But how to get to Valhalla? And even if Zara and her friends discover the way, there's that other small problem: Zara's been pixie kissed. When she finds Nick, will he even want to go with her? Especially since she hasn't turned into just any pixie. . . She's Astley's queen.

My Thoughts:

Until I read ENTICE, I forgot how much I adored this series. It's fun and scary and romantic and has a spunky kick-butt main character and I just can't get enough.

E​ntice is the third book in the series and due to that, it's almost like a continuation of CAPTIVATE. That's not necessarily a bad thing because we get to a lot of answers and a lot more questions but don't expect a definite conclusion of the story. Another thing about Entice is that a lot of the plot involved Zara trying to get to Nick, failing, and then putting more people in danger. It happened so many times that in that aspect, it was predictable.

What I absolutely LOVED about Entice is that we got to learn a lot more about the characters. Issie, Dev, and Cassidy all become more developed as the importance of their roles increase. And Astley...oh, Astley. I love him. He is so dimensional and bad and I should hate him but he's actually rather sweet. I love how we got to see more of the different sides of him - the good, the bad, and the heartbreaking. I like Zara too, particularly her kick-butt-ness but she annoyed me at times. We also get introduced to more pixie characters and I'm excited to hear more from them.

Overall, Entice was a fabulous edition to the series. I flew through it and I cannot wait for Book 4!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Books Make Great Christmas Presents: Realistic Fiction

Below you'll find a bunch of my all-time favorite realistic fiction books that would make great gifts!

1.) Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert
Perfect For: Older teens and some adults
Why It's A Great Gift - Ballads of Suburbia is my all-time favorite book. It's one that I continue to recommend over and over even though I first read it over a year ago. If my house burnt down, my signed copy of BALLADS is one of the first things I'd grab. Which is all to say - Ballads of Suburbia is a thought-provoking, emotional, honest, AMAZING book. It sugarcoats NOTHING and is just the perfect book for anyone.

2.) Beautiful by Amy Reed
Perfect For: older teens
Why It's A Great Gift - Beautiful is along the lines of Ballads of Suburbia in that it talks about drugs and suicide. However, it's much shorter and not quite as hardcore. It'd be the perfect gift for a teen that loved Ballads or isn't quite ready to read something as hardcore as Ballads.

3.) After by Amy Efaw

Perfect For - Teens, even some adults, with open minds

Why It's A Great Gift - After covers some sensitive material - babies being left in dumpsters. Even more sensitive is the fact that the mom of the baby is a teenager and claims to not know she's pregnant. It's a topic that most people have strong opinions about but After does a great job of showing the OTHER side to the story. Because of that, After is a great read for a teen that wants to be challenged.

4.) The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter
Perfect For - Teens
Why It's a Great Gift - It's great for teens that enjoy their romance but want something with a little more substance. It's fun and cute but also well-written and not at all a fluffy novel. Plus, it's got "Snowball" in the title.

5.) Break by Hannah Moskowitz
Perfect For - Teens, especially boys
Why It's A Great Gift - Honestly, there is no other book like Break out there. It's quick-paced and heartbreakingly honest. The main character is a boy that is on a mission to break all of his bones. While that may sound disturbing, I guarantee you'll be so sucked into the book you won't think so. It's the perfect book for boys, especially reluctant readers.

The Lost Saint by Bree Despain

T​itle: The Lost Saint

Author: Bree Despain

Publisher: Egmont USA

Summary: The non-stop sequel to The Dark Divine delivers an even hotter romance and more thrilling action than Bree Despain's first novel. Grace Divine made the ultimate sacrifice to cure Daniel Kalbi. She gave her soul to the wolf to save him and lost her beloved mother. When Grace receives a haunting phone call from Jude, she knows what she must do. She must become a Hound of Heaven. Desparate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot - a newcomer to town who promises her that he can help her be a hero. But as the two grow closer, the wolf grows in Grace, and her relationship with Daniel begins to crumble. Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace becomes prideful in her new abilities - not realizing that an old enemy has returned and deadly trap is about to be sprung. Readers, raveous for more Grace and Daniel, will be itching to sink their teeth into The Lost Saint.

M​y Thoughts: The Dark Divine was one of my favorite books of 2009, so you can imagine how excited I was to read The Lost Saint. And, quite honestly, it went above my expectations.

The Lost Saint is like many other 2nd-in-a-trilogy books in that it develops the characters and leaves behind much of the intense romance that just flows along nicely. For someone, like me, who lives for the heartbreaking romantic scenes, this can be bad. But, Despain did a great job of turning The Lost Saint into much more than a romance story and still keeping the romance-lovers happy.

I love how the characters evolved in this story. Grace is not the perfect pastor's daughter anymore and Daniel isn't some tortured soul that thinks he's not good enough. The range of supporting characters grows as well. The plot also takes a few turns that I definitely did not see coming and I loved it.

The Lost Saint adds so much to the tale of Grace and Daniel. Fans of The Dark Divine are sure to love it. I can't wait for the final installment!

I've included the book trailer below. I'm not usually into book trailers but this one is outstanding. If you aren't excited for The Lost Saint yet, this is sure to get you there!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Discussion: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Book Discussion is going to be a new, occassional feature I have here where instead of reviewing a popular book, we can have a discussion about it. Spoilers ARE allowed so please be aware when you read the post and reader interaction is encouraged!

Today, I'd like to discuss Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick which is, of course, the sequel to Hush Hush. It released in October and I finally had the chance to read it two days ago. I literally read it in one night, I dropped EVERYTHING until I finished it.

Obviously, I was a fan of HUSH HUSH. I felt that it was compelling and I was definitely sucked into the tale. It was the first angel book I read and I loved it. I saw where the people who hated it because of Patch were coming from but I don't think the author was promoting that we all go find creepy boyfriends. Really, without Patch, the book would have been crap. Yes, he's not the ideal boy but his creep-factor added a LOT to the book.

Crescendo was...intense. I honestly thought that Patch was the bad guy. I really did. I didn't want it to be but all of the signs were pointing to him. So when it ended up being Rixon, I was completely SHOCKED. Also, the whole thing with her dad was incredible. The last page left my mouth hanging out.

I love how Nora grew as a character. She wasn't one of those characters that just went along with whatever her bf said, even if her instinct said to run. She stood up for herself.

I want the next installment NOW. What's going to happen to Patch? How long until the archangels find him? What are the Nephilim (if I spelled that right) going to do to the fallen angels?

What did you guys think of the book? Love it, hate it? What do you think is going to happen in the next installment?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Update on Guatemala

As I posted about a few days ago, I have the opportunity to go on a trip to Guatemala. It's the trip of a lifetime and I'm absolutely ecstatic to be going.

Unfortunately, I just found out that the first payment, which is due the beginning of January, is double the amount I was expecting. If I don't get that first payment in, I'm unable to go on the trip. EDIT: I made the first payment!!! But I am still short on money to get my passport, which I need ASAP, and more payments will be due soon!So I'm asking anyone who's willing to please help me get there. Any contributition, whether it's $5 or $10 or more, puts me that much closer to being able to go. In addition, I'm still offering the services mentioned in my previous post and if anyone has anything else they'd like to me to do, please contact me.

I've added a "Donate Now" button on my side bar that takes you directly to Paypal if you're interested.

Thank you!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Siren by Tricia Rayburn

T​itle: Siren

​Author: Tricia Rayburn

Publisher: Egmont USA

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Vanessa Sands is afraid of everything--the dark, heights, the ocean--but her fearless older sister, Justine, has always been there to coach her through every challenge. That is until Justine goes cliff diving one night near the family's vacation house in Winter Harbor, Maine, and her lifeless body washes up on shore the next day.

Vanessa's parents want to work through the tragedy by returning to their everyday lives back in Boston, but Vanessa can't help feeling that her sister's death was more than an accident. After discovering that Justine never applied to colleges, and that she was secretly in a relationship with longtime family friend Caleb Carmichael, Vanessa returns to Winter Harbor to seek some answers.

But when Vanessa learns that Caleb has been missing since Justine's death, she and Caleb's older brother, Simon, join forces to try to find him, and in the process, their childhood friendship blossoms into something more.
Soon it's not just Vanessa who is afraid. All of Winter Harbor is abuzz with anxiety when another body washes ashore, and panic sets in when the small town becomes home to a string of fatal, water-related accidents . . . in which all the victims are found grinning from ear to ear.

As Vanessa and Simon probe further into the connections between Justine's death and the sudden rash of creepy drownings, Vanessa uncovers a secret that threatens her new romance, and that will change her life forever.

My Thoughts: This was the first book I read by Tricia Rayburn and the first book I've ever read about sirens and I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised. I had high expectations going into this book and thought I knew what to expect but what I got was something completely different. Something unique with a lot of potential.

I loved the world that was built. It was the perfect book to read when it was snowing and I was dreaming of summer. I could easily picture the town and the places that the characters went, especially the one diner. I also loved how the truth about the sirens came out and all of the quirky things connected to that were revealed.

Unfortunately, I couldn't really connect with the characters. I couldn't feel the emotion coming through, even in some of the more emotional scenes. I felt like we only get a slight glimpse into the characters. I could never figure out why Vanessa felt so attached the Simon and because of that, their relationship fell flat.

However, this is the first in a series and I think that as the series continues, the characters will become more and more alive. I feel like this could develop into a series that everyone is excited for and I can't wait to read more by Rayburn!

BMGCP: It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder

One of my favorite middle-grade books is It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder (who also happens to be one of my favorite authors.) It's fun, cute, and the perfect read for any time of the year. Tweens, particularly girls, are sure to fall in love with the story and lucky for them, a companion will be coming out next year.

Other Options:
Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies by Erin Dionne. I reviewed this book back on my old blog and it's still a favorite of mine. It's great for any tween and even better for those tweens that are starting to become weight-conscious.

The Wedding Planner's Daughter (and sequels) by Coleen Murtagh Paratore. I fell in love with this series a few years ago and even though I'm technically to old to enjoy it now, I still find myself waiting for the sequels. These books are laugh-out-loud funny and a quick read. Paratore's other book, The Funeral Director's Son, is a great pick for boys as well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Help Me Get to Guatemala!

The opportunity to travel to the small, mountainous town of Joyabaj, Guatemala with a few of my classmates has recently been presented to me. It's an amazing opportunity, one that could potentially be life-changing, and I'm EXTREMLY excited to be going. We spend 10 days there, going to school with the teens to learn and teach, do community service in the afternoon, go to one of the famous markets, and explore ancient Mayan ruins.

(This is the school we'll be attending.)

Unfortunately, the trip is rather expensive and the deal with my parents was that if I wanted to go, I had to pay for it myself. I had to get creative with my ways of raising money, so I've come up with these services.

For Authors:

1.) I'm having shirts printed up to promote books. These shirts will be worn by me and at least 4 of my friends in all different parts of Pennsylvania and other states. I've done this before with websites and businesses and it provides a great conversation piece where the person wearing the shirt can talk about the books and spread the word.

For a donation of $10, I'll have the title of your book and your name ("Book X by XYZ") on the back of all the shirts. For a donation of $30, I'll print the cover of your book and any other info you want (like the date it releases, etc) on the front of ONE shirt.

I'll be doing my best to create a design that is eye-catching and benefits everyone a great deal.

2.) Advertising on my blog. I'm offering advertising spots for countdowns, covers, or any other blog gadgets I can add to my sidebar for $5 for two weeks. I average over 1,200 views each month so quite a few people would be viewing the advertisement.

For Everyone Else:

1.) Manuscript Critiques. Critiquing manuscripts is one of my favorite things to do and for a donation of $15, I will critique a manuscript up to 80,000 words. For a donation of $20, I'll critique a larger wordcount. My critiques are an over-all critique where I comment on things such as characterization, plot, dialogue, realistic-ness, slow parts, and anything that you'd like me to focus on. I am very thorough with my critiques but I do not focus on line-by-line.

If you're interested in any of these or would like more information, please email me at harmonybookreviews[at]yahoo[dot]com.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Lost Saint Giveaway!

The eagerly awaited sequel to The Dark Divine releases next month but in the meantime, I have a copy of the coveted ARCs to give away! (A review with my thoughts will be coming soon but let me just say that it's AWESOME!)
To Enter:
Leave a comment with your email.
Extra entry for being a follower. (Tell me so in your comment.)
Ends December 7th.
US entries only!

Monday, November 22, 2010

BMGCP: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

One of my all-time favorite books is Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken and I think that any fantasy fan will agree that it's amazing. There's plenty of magic and battles but also romance which makes it perfect for every reader. Even better, if you buy a copy now, you can be entered to win a bunch of things.

Other Options: Other by Karen Kincy, for the paranormal fan looking for something new, and any book by Tamora Pierce for the fantasy fan.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

BMGCP: The Clearing by Heather Davis

As Day One of Books Make Great Christmas Presents, I'm featuring one of my favorite historical and time-travel books, The Clearing by Heather Davis.
The Clearing is both historical and a time-travel novel. It's short and once you start the story it's hard to put down, making it ideal for reluctant readers. I think adult fans of The Time Traveler's Wife would also enjoy it. My full review is here.
Alternative: Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klien. It's a great historical romance for the historical fan. One of my all-time favorites.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Books Make Great Christmas Presents

Christmas is my favorite type of year. In my house, we celebrate starting...well, now. My grandma just decorated her house because we celebrate Christmas with my little cousins at Thanksgiving.

I love buying presents. I feel the need to buy things for EVERYONE and I put a TON of thought into each gift. 90% of the gifts I give are either homemade (not necessarily by me) or books. Books make amazing Christmas presents. But, sometimes, it's hard to decide what ones to buy.

That's why I'll be running a feature between now and Christmas featuring different books that would be great Christmas gifts for absolutely everyone.

In the meantime, what are your favorite books to give as gifts?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

T​itle: Fixing Delilah

Author: Sarah Ockler

Publisher: Little, Brown

Summary: Things in Delilah Hannaford's life have a tendency to fall apart.

She used to be a good student, but she can't seem to keep it together anymore. Her "boyfriend" isn't much of a boyfriend. And her mother refuses to discuss the fight that divided their family eight years ago. Falling apart, it seems, is a Hannaford tradition.

Over a summer of new friendships, unexpected romance, and moments that test the complex bonds between mothers and daughters, Delilah must face her family's painful past. Can even her most shattered relationships be pieced together again?

Rich with emotion, Sarah Ockler delivers a powerful story of family, love, and self-discovery.

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored Sarah Ockler's previous novel, Twenty Boy Summer, and I was eagerly looking forward to Fixing Delilah so when I picked up a copy at ALA, I was ecstatic.

Fixing Delilah captivated me from the first page. It picks up at a spot where it's impossible to not wonder what's happening and that alone keeps you flipping the pages. Each chapter presents you with new questions and unncertainities. What really happened? Why does no one speak of her grandma? I was so into finding out what the answers were, that I barely put the book down.

One of the many things that makes Ockler an amazing author is her ability to effectively write complicated and realistic relationships. The relationships between Delilah and her mom, her mom and her aunt, Delilah and her not-boyfriend, Delilah and her friends, her mom and her grandma and everyone else are each so well-written and the core of the entire book. Each of the characters themselves are like real people - there's no perfect boy or good-two-shoes girl in Fixing Delilah. The story honestly and accurately tells the story of a broken family and does it very, very well.

Fixing Delilah did not disappoint and Miss Ockler is certainly earning her place as an author to look out for.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Title: The Duff

Author: Kody Keplinger

Publisher: Poppy


Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

My Thoughts: You're either going to love or hate The Duff. I loved it.

My favorite thing about the story is the characters, Bianca and Wesley especially. Most books feature characters that the reader can relate to and sympathize with. Not Keplinger. These characters are people you're going to want to hate. Wesley is your typical player that everyone who isn't sleeping with him loves to hate and Bianca is sarcastic and cynical, sometimes to the point where she's downright mean. Neither of them are people I would want as friends. But man, they totally ROCK the story. It's so realistic because these are REAL characters. They have multiple sides to them, just like real people do, and there's just something about them that makes you want to keep reading.

Keplinger kept the plot upbeat while also tackling some tougher subjects. There's a lot of dry humor in the story, which I loved. However, there's also some tough subjects presented - self-image, divorce, drunk parents, etc - and Keplinger did a good job of handling them. I felt like more time could have been spent on them but in my opinion, this wasn't necessarily a heavy issue book. The issue of self-image was the most heavily tackled, considering the book is called the DUFF or, The Designated Ugly Fat Friend, and Keplinger's take on it is unique and not necessarily what the reader would expect.

There were times when The Duff truly surprised me. I thought I knew what Bianca was going to do and then the book took a completely different route. I loved that, as well as the intense scenes between Wesley and Bianca.

Overall, I absolutely adored The Duff. I wish that certain parts had been developed slightly more but even so, it managed to keep me up half the night until I finished reading. I am thoroughly looking forward to whatever Keplinger comes up with next!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

4 Things

1.) Yes, I've been a little MIA lately. School is insane. I have no clue why I took 9 classes, especially when half of them are honors courses or require extensive writing. Insane.

2.) I finally revealed a secret project I've been working on for a loong time! Check it out here! There's even a contest for spreading the word.

3.) The 2010 Fall PAYA Auctions have started! There's a bunch of signed books up right now, including a signed copy of Will Grayson Will Grayson, and all of them would be FANTASTIC Christmas presents. The proceeds go to libraries so go bid!

4.) I started a writing blog. It's time for me to step up with my writing, so instead of just occassionally blogging about it here, I'm now on Wordpress. Head on over to read about my NaNoWriMo book!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rae by Chelsea Rae Swiggett

Title: Rae (a Louder than Words memoir)​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Author: Chelsea Rae Swiggett

Rating: 9.5/10

Publisher: HCI


Rae is beyond socially awkward.

Since she was a little girl, Rae Swiggett knew something was different about her. The sound of planes flying overhead could spark a panic attack. Being called on in class was enough to push her over the edge. She feared the unknown, life, death, people . . . even fear itself.

By the time she reached ninth grade, Rae was muddling through life in relative silence, convinced everyone was mocking her, judging her, picking her apart, bit by little bit. Rae knew she couldn't keep going on this way. She knew something had to give.

'It's a game of catch-22 I constantly play with myself. If I keep acting normal, I hope one day I will be, but every time I try, I just let myself down. I'm so entirely sick of this game.'

My Thoughts: Before I begin my review I want to point out that yes, I do know Chelsea. Yes, I consider her a friend and yes, I did meet her in person before I read her memoir. However, my friendship with Chelsea is not reflected in this review. I tried very hard to keep my friendship with Chelsea and my opinions of Rae separated.

I didn't need to worry, though, because Chelsea is a dang good writer. Out of all the Louder than Words books I've read, hers is by far the best - you can tell that writing is her passion, what she lives and breathes. I've often found memoirs hard to read because they tend to not flow as well as fiction but Rae was an exception. I often found myself getting lost in the prose and cheering for Rae and forgetting that I was, in fact, reading a true story.

Rae is also an incredibly easy book to relate to because even though it may not be on such a severe level, I'm sure we've all had anxiety about an upcoming moment or found ourselves feeling like everyone was staring at us. Chelsea's story does not stop there, though, and I definitely think it's a story everyone should read. It's not heartbreaking and probably won't give you an "Oh my god, I can't believe that happened! That poor girl!" reaction, but it will definitely give some insight, perhaps to yourself or someone you know, and, at the core, it's just a good book.

My one complaint is that at times, I lost track of the timeline. I also would've liked to see some events expanded on and perhaps more of a push on the importance of writing and books in her life. But, I also realize there was a strict word-count rule and deadline.

Overall, bravo to Chelsea for writing such a fantastic debut!

Friday, October 1, 2010

MG in a Week Fail

On Monday and Tuesday, I did great. I was exhausted but I made my wordcount and all was well.

On Wednesday, I got grounded, which meant no computer Wednesday or Thursday. No computer = no writing. I could've handwritten, yes, but I can't handwrite 5k and I would've had to retype in.

Today, I thought about finishing it. I'm at 11k. But, in reality, there's no way I can write 15k in one day.

I'm also feeling pretty crummy and just want to curl up and read.

So, MG in a Week was a fail due to my being grounded. Otherwise, I'm positive I would have made it.

Next week, I'm making it my goal to finish the book, so it will be MG in a little over a week. I think I'll try it again in a few weeks, because I came up with a few awesome book ideas yesterday that I REALLY wanna get started on.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MGinaWeek: Day Two Who knew writing could be so mentally exhausting? I made my goal of 5k by 12:30ish again today but I didn't take nearly as many breaks and I really had to push myself through the last 1k. But, I made it. With 600 extra words to boot.

I'm not going to be able to write tomorrow morning and honestly, I'm not sure where I'm going with the story. I have approximately 15k to write and while I know how the story ends and a few things in between, I'm not sure if I can stretch those things that far. If it comes down to it, I guess I can start adding in a bunch of adjectives. ;)

Today's WC: 5602
Total WC: 10695

Monday, September 27, 2010

MGinaWeek: Day One

Today was the first day in my crazy plan of writing a middle-grade novel in a week.

I can proudly say that I rocked it. I began writing around 9:30 and by 12:30, I was finished. I wrote using Write or Die set on Gentle and Forgiving modes in 10 minute bursts. Every ten minutes I was able to get out 480-600 words. I took breaks inbetween where I'd get a drink, update my twitter, check a few posts, and then get back to work. It worked pretty well. I really hope I can keep that pace up the rest of the week.

My mind is completely exhausted at this point, though, so I'm going to relax and start an awesome book. Or maybe I'll reread an old favorite. I'm not sure yet. I'd like to do a little outlining before bed, just a few notes about the chapters I plan to write tomorrow, so it's on my mind when I go to sleep.

Today's Goal: 5000
Today's Wordcount: 5092

Hush by Eishes Chayil

Title: Hush
Author: Eishes Chayil
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Rating: 9/10
Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where most Chassidim live, the rules of life are very clear, determined by an ancient script written thousands of years before down to the last detail—and abuse has never been a part of it. But when thirteen-year-old Gittel learns of the abuse her best friend has suffered at the hands of her own family member, the adults in her community try to persuade Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. Forced to remain silent, Gittel begins to question everything she was raised to believe.

A richly detailed and nuanced book, one of both humor and depth, understanding and horror, this story explains a complex world that remains an echo of its past, and illuminates the conflict between yesterday's traditions and today's reality.

My Thoughts: Hush is a completely original, completely heart-breaking novel. I praise the author for writing such an eye-opening novel.

The beginning of Hush is a little slow and confusing at first, though mostly because I wasn't sure what some of the words meant. But once the story picks up, it's impossible to put down.

It was heartbreaking to read about the guilt and silence that the main character endured and it sickens me to think the people reacted the way they did. Some of the things they're taught about the non-Jews are so unfamiliar to me and it's hard to believe that people really believe those things and also kind of sad. The narrator is so honest and raw about telling everything that it's really hard to put the book down.

Overall, I highly highly recommend Hush!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Interrupt Your Regular Posts....

...for a week of writing-related posts.

You see, I've come up with this insane idea that I'm going to write a book this week. Not just start a rough draft but to start and finish one. It might be a crazy idea, I might not be able to do it, but I'm going to try my hardest.

My idea is a MG so I'm going to shoot for 25k, which breaks down to 5k a day. That's on the low side for MG but I always write short rough drafts so it's a good goal for me.

My plan is this - do school in the morning, probably for an hour or so, then write. A few days of the week I have hour-long class chats I have to attend so I'll take breaks for them. One of the things I love about cyber-school is that I don't have to sit in a classroom for eight hours a day and I have the opportunity to work ahead, which I did. Otherwise, I know there's no way I'd be able to even attempt this. I'll write until I hit 5k or until 3:30, depending on how the day goes.

Today, I'm just outlining and brainstorming ideas, as well as reading posts on writing to get me inspired.

Tomorrow, I begin.

I can't wait. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ivy Devlin Interview

Ivy Devlin is the author of Low Red Moon, a new YA paranormal murder mystery. She's graciously taken time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for us. Check out my review of Low Red Moon below this post!

What gave you the original idea for Low Red Moon? Do you feel that Avery and Ben's story is complete or will there be a sequel?

I was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood! I thought "What if...?" and just went from there :-) As for Ben and Avery, I hope there's more to their story...

The YA market seems to be saturated with paranormal romance. Did you ever think about that while you were writing? What do you think sets Low Red Moon apart from all the other paranormal romance out there?

I agree that YA and paranormal seem to go hand in hand these days, but I didn't think about that when I wrote Low Red Moon--it was a story I felt I had to tell!

As far as what makes Low Red Moon different, I've been told my werewolves are very different! But more than that, I think what Avery goes through, and how she gets through it, is different. Not knowing a lot about YA paranormal, I didn't think of "rules" to follow or anything like that.

Name five of your favorite paranormal books and your 5 favorite paranormal boys.

I actually haven't read much YA paranormal, but I'm fond of Melissa de la Cruz's Blue Blood series, which I think is a very cool take on vampires, and I like Cassandra Clare's books a lot as well.

If you had to choose one song to describe Low Red Moon, what would it be?

Low Red Moon by Belly, of course! (It's what gave me the title!)

If you could bring one of your characters to life, which one would it be and what would you do?

I don't think I want to bring any of them to life, actually--they're all pretty complicated and I like to take things nice and easy :-)

What are you working on now? What can we expect from you next?

I've got a few things rattling around....

In your opinion, what's the easiest and hardest thing about writing paranormal?

I think it's all easy in the beginning--and then really hard when you have to start tearing up what you wrote and rewriting it. (Does that make sense?)

What advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those writing paranormal?

Go for it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin

Title: Low Red Moon

Author: Ivy Devlin

Publisher:​​​​​​​​ Bloomsbury

Rating: 7.5/10


The only thing Avery Hood can remember about the night her parents died is that she saw silver—deadly silver, moving inhumanly fast. As much as she wants to remember who killed them, she can't, and there's nothing left to do but try to piece her life back together. Then Avery meets the new boy in school—Ben, mysterious and beautiful, with whom she feels a connection like nothing she's ever experienced. When Ben reveals he's a werewolf, Avery still trusts him—at first. Then she sees that sometimes his eyes flash inhuman silver. And she learns that she's not the only one who can't remember the night her parents died.Part murder mystery, part grief narrative, and part heart-stopping, headlong romance, Low Red Moon is a must-read for teen paranormal fans

My Thoughts: Low Red Moon had a lot of potential. It could've been a fantastic novel that combined a murder mystery with paranormal romance. Unfortunately, I felt that it fell a bit short.

My main problem with Low Red Moon was that it's such a short novel. There really wasn't any room for much development of any kind in the novel, particularly in the romance. That left it feeling like Ben could have been replaced with any paranormal guy and it felt like a number of those "girl falls for a guy because he's hot and intriguing, guy has no personality" romances. While that occassionally works, I felt like this story had the potential to be so much more. I would have loved to see Ben developed more and a true romance actually take place.

However, while Low Red Moon wasn't as amazing as I would have liked, there were some good parts to it. For one, the murder mystery was well done. It really kept me guessing as to who the murderer was and I didn't figure it out until right before Avery did. The werewolves in the story were also rather unique.

Overall, Low Red Moon and Ivy Devlin definitely have potential. If you really enjoy paranormal romance, definitely give this one a try. I look forward to seeing more of Ivy Devlin!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Supporting Your Favorite Authors

One thing I've been thinking about lately is what else I can do to support the authors I love and promote the books I adore. Sure, there are the basics - buy the book, post your review, and tell your librarian about it - but after you've done that, what else can you do? I can't buy 50 copies of every book I love. Sometimes I'm not even able to buy one. But, I still want to support the author and help their book sell like crazy because it's amazing.

So, authors, what can we, as bloggers and readers, do to help support and promote you and your book(s)?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Haunted by Jessica Verday

Title: The Haunted
Author: Jessica Verday
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Rating: 7.5/10
An impossible truth. An impossible love.

After a summer spent reclaiming her sanity and trying to forget the boy she fell in love with--the boy who must not exist, cannot exist, because she knows that he is dead--Abbey returns to Sleepy Hollow, ready to leave the ghosts of her past behind. She throws herself into her schoolwork, her perfume-making, and her friendship with Ben, her cute and funny lab partner, who just might be her ticket to getting over Caspian once and for all.

But Abbey can never get over Caspian, and Caspian has no choice but to return to her side, for Caspian is a Shade, and Abbey is his destiny. They are tied not only to each other, but also to the town of Sleepy Hollow, and to the famous legend that binds their fates--a legend whose dark truths they are only beginning to guess....

My Thoughts: After finishing The Haunted, I'm left with mixed opinions, just as I was with The Hollow. On one hand, I absolutely the storyline and I'm a total Caspian fangirl but, on the other hand, I feel like the novel could be cut in half.

The Haunted has an extremely slow start. I felt like the first half of the book could almost be condensed into fifty or so pages because while a lot of it was re-introducing the characters and the story, a lot of it just dragged on for too long. I also felt like, once again, the characters never fully developed. We spend half of the novel waiting for Caspian but once he shows up, we never get to know him well. The minor but still important characters also never seemed to develop fully and I feel like the story could've been improved if we did get to see and understand them more.

That said, once the story finally picks up, it's hard to put down. The story takes some turns that readers will never expect, especially near the end. The tension and romance also picks up, which I loved. Verday managed to keep it realistic without being overly sexual or creepy (those that read The Hollow will understand the creepy part) but still keeping tension. I am officially rooting for Caspian! The ending, as I mentioned, is completely unexpected and will leave readers wanting the next installment NOW.

Overall, The Haunted was an improvement on The Hollow and I'm looking forward to Book 3!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (5)

Michelle Jaffe
December 7, 2010

Instead of celebrating Memorial Day weekend on the Jersey Shore, Jane is in the hospital surrounded by teddy bears, trying to piece together what happened last night. One minute she was at a party, wearing fairy wings and cuddling with her boyfriend. The next, she was lying near-dead in a rosebush after a hit-and-run.
Everyone believes it was an accident, despite the phone threats Jane swears were real. But the truth is a thorny thing. As Jane's boyfriend, friends, and admirers come to visit, more memories surface. Not just from the party, but from deeper in her past . . . including the night her best friend Bonnie died.

With nearly everyone in her life a suspect now, Jane must unravel the mystery before her killer attacks again. Along the way, she's forced to examine the consequences of her life choices in this compulsively readable thriller.
Thrillers usually aren't my thing - I'm too easily scared - but this sounds absolutely amazing. It also seems like it'll be a nice refresher from all the paranormal "thrillers". The cover is absolutely gorgeous, as well. Creepy, though!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Vampire Diaries Season 2 Premiere!

I rarely watch TV. We only have one in our house and it's usually being claimed by my brother or dad and there's just nothing on that I care about. Nothing, that is, except for Vampire Diaries. When Thursday rolls around, I fight for the TV. This past Thursday, which was the Season Two premiere, was no different. I absolutely adore this show! Unfortunately, none of my friends watch it so I have no one to discuss it with, so I thought I'd post about it here.
What did you guys think? I don't think it was the best episode but there was certainly a lot of twists I didn't see coming! And Damon, ahh, I felt so bad for him! Kathryn and her "I never loved you. It was always Stefan" speech. I think she was just saying that to set Damon against Stefan, though.
I can't believe Damon killed Elena's brother, even though he was wearing the ring. I'm interested to see how that affects the Damon/Elena relationship. It's not like she can totally avoid him...
The ending...whoa! Is Caroline actually dead or did she still have vampire blood in her?
What's going to happen next week??

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Clearing by Heather Davis

Title: The Clearing

Author: Heather Davis

Rating: 9​/10

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

In this bittersweet romance, two teens living decades apart form a bond that will change their lives forever.

Amy is drawn to the misty, mysterious clearing behind her Aunt Mae’s place because it looks like the perfect place to hide from life. A place to block out the pain of her last relationship, to avoid the kids in her new town, to stop dwelling on what her future holds after high school.

Then, she meets a boy lurking in the mist—Henry. Henry is different from any other guy Amy has ever known. And after several meetings in the clearing, she’s starting to fall for him.

But Amy is stunned when she finds out just how different Henry really is. Because on his side of the clearing, it’s still 1944. By some miracle, Henry and his family are stuck in the past, staving off the tragedy that will strike them in the future. Amy’s crossing over to Henry’s side brings him more happiness than he’s ever known—but her presence also threatens to destroy his safe existence.

In The Clearing, author Heather Davis crafts a tender and poignant tale about falling in love, finding strength, and having the courage to make your own destiny—a perfect book to slip into and hide away for awhile.

My Thoughts:​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ The Clearing is like no other book I've ever read. It was sweet, romantic, clever, heartbreaking, and so many other adjectives. I couldn't put it down and the ending left me with tears in my eyes.

I loved how Davis combined history and present-day without adding any vampires or werewolves or magic in there. Well, I can't say no magic because I guess certain elements ARE impossible, but not the magic we usually see in books, if you want to call it that. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​It's just kind of...there. And it works. And I loved it.

The plot managed to be completely realistic, yet completely original, at the same time. Davis did a fabulous job at making the impossible realistic and I loved that. She created characters that are easy to love and a few to hate, as well as a romance sure to break your heart. As I mentioned, the world-building was fantastic and that, along with the romance, really just brought everything together.

The ending, while almost expected, brought tears to my eyes. It's a fantastic ending to a fantastic novel and will leave you wanting to start all over again.

Overall, I highly recommend this one!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Calling All Brightly Woven Fans!

If you've read and loved Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken and want to possibly help with a sekrit project, please send an email to harmonybookreviews[at]yahoo[dot]com ASAP!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Whisper by Phoebe Kitanidis

Title: Whisper
Author: Phoebe Kitanidis
Publisher: Balzer and Bray (Harper Collins)
Rating: 8/10

I'd love a cup of coffee. . . . I wish she didn't hide how pretty she is. . . . I hope she didn't find out what Ben said about her. . . . I wish I knew how many calories were in a bite of muffin. . . .

Joy is used to Hearing Whispers. She's used to walking down the street and instantly knowing people's deepest, darkest desires. She uses this talent for good—to make people happy and give them what they want. But for her older sister, Jessica, the family gift is a curse, and she uses it to make people's lives—especially Joy's—miserable. Still, when Joy Hears Jessica Whisper I want to kill my Hearing dead, and kill me too if that's what it takes, she knows she has to save her sister, even if it means deserting her friends, stealing a car, and running away with a boy she barely knows—a boy who may have a dark secret of his own.

Whisper is an exhilarating debut novel from talented newcomer Phoebe Kitanidis.

My Thoughts: There are so many unique and awesome books releasing this year and Whisper is definitely one of them! Kitanidis combined supernatural powers, a little romance, and sister relationships to create a book that's sure to keep you entertained.

Whisper was a little slow to start but once I grew attached to the characters, I didn't want to put it down. Kitanidis did an incredible job at showing the complex relationship between the two sisters. In fact, she did a superb job with all of the relationships in the book, whether it was the mother/daughter relationship, the sister/sister relationship, or any of the other many relationships in the book. I also loved the variety of characters in the book, even though I really wanted to slap some of the supporting characters for being so ridiculous sometimes.

Overall, I recommend Whisper for those loving paranormal but sick of vampires and werewolves.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Grace by Elizabeth Scott

Title: Grace

Author: Elizabeth Scott

Rating: 9/10

Publisher: Dutton

Summary:Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.
Told in spare, powerful prose by acclaimed author Elizabeth Scott, this tale of a dystopian near future will haunt readers long after they've reached the final page.

My Thoughts: Grace is extremely different from Elizabeth Scott's previous novels. Instead of being realistic fiction, it's dystopian. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​There is no light and fun romance, as found in many of Scott's novels. Open the pages of Grace and you will find a much darker story about a girl with a desperation to live.

Grace was raised knowing she'd die murdering others. She knew it would be her job, her destiny. But then, she decides that she just doesn't want to die, that there has to be something else out there for her, and she finds herself pretending to be someone else, her life depending on a complete stranger, and running for her life. Once the book starts, the desperation for Grace to be okay and get out alive never stops. I was sitting at the edge of my seat, holding my breath, as I read the novel.

I did find a few faults in the book, however. For one, I found myself slightly confused at certain points, trying to keep the Angels and the People and who was who and allied with who straight. I was also hoping the end was longer but maybe the fact I didn't want the story to end is a good thing.

Overall, though, I highly recommend Grace. It's a fantastic novel that is sure to throw some twists you won't see coming and introduce characters you can't help but connect with. If you're looking for something different than what's out there, this is your book.

It comes out September 16 and I suggest you get a copy when you can!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (4)

Anna and the French Kiss
Stephanie Perkins
December 2nd, 2010

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris until she meets ƒtienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna and readers have long awaited?
I decided it was time to take a break from the paranormal and feature something realistic. I found out about this at ALA, when James kept talking about getting a copy. Little did I know that I'd actually heard about the book before. In fact, I followed the author on Twitter! So when I got home, I looked it up and I must say, it looks fantastic. I always love good, old-fashioned romance with real characters and real boys (not fallen angels or anything) and it looks like this will be just that! December, come faster!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (3)

Alexandra Adornetto
August 31st, 2010

Three angels are sent down to bring good to the world: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. But she is the most human, and when she is romantically drawn to a mortal boy, the angels fear she will not be strong enough to save anyone—especially herself—from the Dark Forces.

Is love a great enough power against evil?
Ooooh, angels! They're one of my favorite aspects of YA paranormal, one that I haven't read a lot about. It'll be interesting to read about not one but three of them, along with a romance! Luckily, we don't have long to wait. (And isn't the cover GORGEOUS?!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Censorship and YA

Today, I found this blog post when Ellen tweeted about it. As I read it, and a few other posts, I became more and more appalled. For those that don't know, Ellen Hopkins was scheduled to attend the Humble TeenLitFest in 2011 but was UNINVITED when "several" (five? six?) parents and ONE librarian decided to raise a fuss. Without ever having read any of Ellen's books, the superintendent decided to UNINVITE her. Without reading one of her books. Because ONE librarian and "several" parents decided her books were "inappropriate" for ALL the teens attending the festival.

Anyway see the problem here? 1.) You don't just UNINVITE someone to something like that and 2.) Why is the superintendent going on the opinion of ONE librarian?

It's absolutely, positively absurd. CRAZY. Because you know what?

NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT TO READ. NO ONE. My parents don't even tell me what I'm allowed to read yet ONE person whom most of the teens have probably never even met has the right to decide what ALL of them are allowed to read?

Ellen's books can be hard to read, I'll admit. They are not necessarily for the younger readers. But they are by no means "bad" books. They're REAL. They cover topics TEENS DEAL WITH EVERYDAY. They do NOT encourage teens to do anything bad. If anything, they shine the light and show teens WHY certain decisions are bad. (Example - Crank. Every day, we hear "drugs are bad, stay away from drugs" and maybe that will sink in for some of us and be enough but Crank? Crank shows exactly WHY not to do drugs, the repercussions of doing drugs, the good and the bad, and everything in between. It's the reality teens need to read.)

But, as I said, maybe some teens aren't ready to read about that yet. I understand and respect that, as I'm sure Ellen and everyone else does. But here's the thing - it's up to the parent and the teen to decide that. It's NOT up ONE random STRANGER to make that decision for EVERYONE.

Okay, okay, you get my point. But you don't live in Houston so why should you care? Well, I don't live in Houston either. This particular event isn't affecting me at all. I won't be there whether or not Ellen is.

This is only the beginning of the fight though. These things happen every day, all over. Books are being pulled from libraries for being written by gay teens, parents are causing a fuss all over about various books for various reasons. Teens are being deprived the chance to read books that could potentially change their lives because one or two or three adults decide books are not "appropriate" for ANYONE. It needs to stop, now. And the only way that's going to happen is if we, as the readers, the teens, the authors, and everyone else, step up, spread the word, and take a stand. THAT's why it matters to me.

Teens are not as stupid as parents seem to think. We have eyes, we have ears. We see the world as it is. Taking books away from us is not "protecting" us. If anything, it's doing the opposite. If you don't think a book is appropriate for YOUR teen, don't let them read it. But you don't know what I'M capable of comprehending and understanding, you don't know what I'M going through, you don't know what books are going to affect ME. So stop trying to take them away!

Tera Lynn Childs, Melissa de la Cruz, and Pete Hautman have taken a stand. Ellen Hopkins most definitely has. Now it's up to us.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

MIA Harmony

Just a quick note to let everyone know I'm not going to be blogging much, if at all, this week. The PAYA Festival is this Saturday and I'm going to be supersuper busy preparing.

I hope to see some of you there! There's still time to register for the workshops!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (2)

Andrea Cremer
October 19, 2010

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything--including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?
Once again, isn't this cover GORGEOUS?! I looove the shades of purple in it. Love. I really wanted to get a copy of this at ALA but by the time I got there, they'd run out of ARCs. The summary makes it sound so good, though. It definitely seems to be a unique spin on werewolves and maybe even a love triangle?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Spotlight an Old Review: Chill by Deborah Reber

Over the past two+ years, I've reviewed a LOT of books. I've decided to start "featuring" an old review every week or so. Feel free to join in!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve had to deal with stress over things like getting a huge assignment done on time, looking perfect for the school dance, and dealing with friend and family drama. You may even start your day at six in the morning and end it at midnight, trying to keep up with all 200 of your Facebook friends, as well as keep your grades up, and deal with everything else that comes with being a teenager...(To read more of the review click here)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (1)

I used to do the occassional WoW before I switched over to Blogger. With so many awesome books coming out, I decided it was time to start up again! So, today, I present you with:


Kiersten White
August 31st, 2010

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.


Okay, tell me that cover doesn't catch your eye! It has to be one of THE most gorgeous covers I've ever seen. That alone is enough to make me lust over this book! Besides the cover, the summary sounds fantastic as well. It's paranormal, obviously, but it sounds really original! I can't wait to check this one out!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt

Author: Lindsey Leavitt

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Rating: 8.5/10

Summary: When an immaculately dressed woman steps out of an iridescent bubble and asks you if you'd like to become a substitute princess, do you

a) run

b) faint

c) say Yes!

For Desi Bascomb, who's been longing for a bit of glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite C--that is, once she can stop pinching herself. As her new agent Meredith explains, Desi has a rare magical ability: when she applies the ancient Egyptian formula "Royal Rouge," she can transform temporarily into the exact lookalike of any princess who needs her subbing services. Dream come true, right?

Well, Desi soon discovers that subbing involves a lot more than wearing a tiara and waving at cameras. Like, what do you do when a bullying older sister puts you on a heinous crash diet? Or when the tribal villagers gather to watch you perform a ceremonial dance you don't know? Or when a princess's conflicted sweetheart shows up to break things off--and you know she would want you to change his mind?

In this hilarious, winning debut, one girl's dream of glamour transforms into something bigger: the desire to make a positive impact. And an impact Desi makes, one royal fiasco at a time.

My Thoughts: You know how sometimes you just need that short, fun, feel-good book that may be too young for you? Princess for Hire is that book. It's also the perfect book to give to your younger sister or cousin or that 6th grader on the bus with no friends. Basically, Princess for Hire is just a book that you should read.

Desi is a character I couldn't help but love. I mean, the poor girl wears a groundhog costume as a job! And while not all of us have an attorney for a dad, I imagine most of us have had a "best friend" turn on us and a crush that makes us feel all fuzzy inside. On that note, there's a piece of Desi in all of us, which makes the story so much fun because we've all been in her shoes. Well, maybe not in her shoes because I don't think any of us have found ourselves thrown into the a princess's life before but, you never know!

Desi's realistic-ness aside, the plot of Princess for Hire was great as well. Even though it's been compared to Ella Enchanted and the Princess Diaries, I found it to be 110% unique. I will admit that at first, I thought it was going to end up being cheesy but it ended up being everything but cheesy. Like Kay Cassidy's The Cinderella Society, Princess for Hire is a little bit of empowering, along with fun and light. Many of the situations that Desi found herself in also made me laugh out loud. The various personalities of the royal families also added humor and depth to the story.

I truly enjoyed Princess for Hire and I recommend it to anyone looking for a light, fun read!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Writing Blogs I Heart

I follow a lot of blogs. I haven't had time to read a lot of blogs. (My Google Reader has a couple thousand unread posts, at the moment.) There are a few blogs that I make sure I look at frequently, however. These tend to be writing blogs.

Author2Author - This follows 5 YA authors as they talk about various aspects of writing and publishing. They're all at different stages of their careers (Lisa Schroeder has 4 books out and some of the others don't have agents yet) so there's always an interesting variety of posts.

Kelsey Sutton's blog is full of fun writing info and she also finishes off each post with links to other writing-related posts that I may overlook. Plus, Kelsey is just plain cool and one of my critique girls, so there's no way I can just not read her blog. It's rather new, though, so you should go follow her!

Teens Writing for Teens - I don't remember to read this as often as I'd like but basically, it's a group of teens writing about writing. They have some pretty awesome advice, too.

Finally, there's a new blog on the block - the YA Lit Six. It's another brainchild of mine and, as the title suggests, there's six of us writing about writing. We have a pretty eclectic group, with the except we're all under 21 and we're all girls. But, we have two published authors, a few querying, and a few working on rough drafts. I post on Mondays so be sure to check it out!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Favorite Music: Part 1

Aside from books, one of my favorite things in the whole world is music. I'm terrible at playing it and I can't sing to save my life but I always have music playing. If there was ever a day that passed without me listening to music, I'm not sure what would happen. I've got a pretty eclectic taste, ranging from bands like Nirvana and Social Distortion to Taylor Swift and Miranda Cosgrove to Skillet and Hey Monday. The Beatles are too bad either.

I plan on starting to review/talk about my favorite cds and any new music I find but first, I wanted to share some of my favorite songs/bands.

Novocaine - Skyrocket Love. Skyrocket Love is one of my current favorite bands. I actually found them on Grooveshark, where they have an ad. As of right now, they have no album out but they have music on Youtube, including covers of various songs, and Grooveshark has five of their songs. I love them all but Novocaine is my favorite.

About a Girl - Nirvana. Stephanie Kuehnert is to blame for my Nirvana obsession. I love Nirvana. LoveloveloveLOVE Nirvana. It makes me sad that I'll never have the chance to see them perform live (not that my parents would ever let me a hundred miles near one of their concerts) because Kurt is, well, dead. I love almost all of their music but About a Girl is my favorite song. I'm not sure why, exactly, but it is.

The Middle - Jimmy Eat World. I've been addicted to this song ever since my friend Brooke sent me a tweet that said "Listen to this, it'll cheer you up." The lyrics are exactly what I need to get through a bad day sometimes and it's just an amazing song. I also adore Salt Sweat Sugar by Jimmy Eat World. (Psst, hey just takes some time...)

I'll stop there for now but look for a My Favorite Music: Part 2 sometime soon!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Title: The Body Finder
Author: Kimberly Derting
Publisher: Harpercollins
Rating: 9/10

Summary: Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.

My Thoughts: I read this book back at the end of summer and now, in March, I still remember it. The Body Finder is that good.

From the first page, I was hooked. The Body Finder is so spooky, thrilling, and all-around entertaining that you just won't want to put it down. I read this in the summer, when the sun was shining bright, but man, I still felt chills while I was reading this, and my heart was racing as the end drew near and I was trying to figure out who The Killer was. The ending was absolutely FANTASTIC and completely unexpected.

The plot was the best part of the book. It was unique, fast-paced, and what kept you unable to put the book down. The characters were also completely unique and easy to relate to. The romance, while slow at first, is realistic. It adds a nice touch to the story while never taking over the plot. 100% Team Jay!

Overall, I highly recommend this debut and I look forward to reading more by Derting.

(Harmony's note: Yes, I wrote this review way back in March and never posted it. Sorry! But everything I said still stands - TBF *rocks*!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two Exciting Things!

1.) I am now part of a group writing blog called the YA Lit Six. We're six girls blogging about writing six days a week. (I'm Monday!) So please check it out and follow!

2.) If you've been following my blog for a while, you've heard me mention PAYA before. If you haven't, it's a book organization I started to raise money and collect books for libraries across Pennsylvania. Our biggest fundraiser is a mere 25 days (!!!) away. EIGHTEEN authors will be joining together to sign books and present writing workshops. We'll also have a basket raffle (feauturing prize packs of your favorite books with cool goodies like prints from trailers and jewelry, as well as signed books from people like MEG CABOT).

There will be two writing workshops - the Listen and Critique workshop featuring six authors talking about writing then critiquing the first three pages of your WIP, and the Teens on Writing Workshop, led by published teens Kieryn Nicolas and Chelsea Swiggett. The Listen and Critique Workshop is currently $40 and the Teens on Writing is $10. To pre-register, send an email to bringya2pa[at]

You can find more information on everything at

I'm really excited for the festival and I hope to see everyone there!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez

Title: The Red Umbrella
Author: Christina Gonzalez
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 10/10
The Red Umbrella is the moving tale of a 14-year-old girl's journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro's revolution.

In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.

As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own.

Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl?

The Red Umbrella is a moving story of country, culture, family, and the true meaning of home.

My Thoughts: I must admit that I was completely and utterly impressed and blown away by The Red Umbrella. It was utter brilliance. I loved it and could not put it down.

I'd never heard much about Cuba and the Communist Revolution, except for a few paragraphs in my US History book. This didn't take away from the book, though. In fact, it added to it because I was intrigiued to find out more, not just about the characters but about the revolution itself. However, those that are familiar with the Revolution will still find the story extremely enjoyable, as Christina includes just the right amount of details to keep both parties happy.

The relationships between the characters were another thing I loved about the novel. Even though the setting and time period is different, I could still relate to the way Lucia regarded the others in the novel. Her little brother has to be one of the most adorable characters ever written about and I loved reading about their bond.
Overall, I highly, highly recommend this, even if historical isn't your thing. You won't regret it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Title: Prada and Prejudice
Author: Mandy Hubbard
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: 7.5/10

To impress the popular girls on a high school trip to London, klutzy Callie buys real Prada heels. But trying them on, she trips...conks her head...and wakes up in the year 1815!

There Callie meets Emily, who takes her in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. As she spends time with Emily's family, Callie warms to them—particularly to Emily's cousin Alex, a hottie and a duke, if a tad arrogant.

But can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, and win Alex's heart, before her time in the past is up?

More Cabot than Ibbotson, Prada and Prejudice is a high-concept romantic comedy about finding friendship and love in the past in order to have happiness in the present.

My Thoughts: Prada and Prejudice is such a cute book! I wasn't really sure what to expect going into it because I wasn't sure how it was possible to pull of timetravel and still keep it cute and fun without making it cheesy and ridiculous. I'm still not sure how it is possible but Mandy Hubbard sure does!

I had so much fun reading Prada and Prejudice. Callie is such an easy character to relate to and some of her mistakes had me laughing out loud. I must admit, though, that Alex was my favorite character. Who DOESN'T love a charming Duke? While the book was ton of fun, there was also substance to it. I loved reading about an era I wasn't too familiar with. Plus, the problems Alex and Callie and the other character's face were intriguing as well. The ending was sweet and left me with a smile on my face as well.

Overall, if you're looking for a cute, fun, and short read this summer, Prada and Prejudice is your book!