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.