Thursday, November 26, 2009

I have a new header!!!! Yay!!!!

I finally made this blog a header (using Photoshop)! What do you guys think of it? I'm not really an expert on this kind of thing so... what I did was pretty simple. :)

Hope you like it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Description from Goodreads:

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.
But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world -- and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

****

I was expecting. . .
A unique concept guaranteed to catch my interest and keep me glued to the pages

. . .then
I enjoyed the plot. I found the book packed with adventure. Yet, I still found myself spacing out while riffling through some of the pages.

All Shay wanted was to turn sixteen already so she can become pretty and be with her childhood friend, Peris. But somewhere along the way, she met Shay. And things just got a little more complicated. Now, Tally has to lead the authorities to Shay (who ran away) if she ever wants to turn pretty.

I salute Scott Westerfeld for the amazing imagery he provided. The way the story was written, it really felt like he did live there. In some books, after reading the setting of the book, we try to imagine how it would look like for real. Then again, there are those books where you get sucked in a whole new world after reading more or less a couple of lines. And Uglies is one of the latter. I guess the fact that I found myself almost nodding off at some of the parts of the book was due to my limited knowledge (and reading experience) on anything sci-fi. Yes, the hoverboards were amazing. But after reading about how Tally had to maneuver this way and that, it was like, argh. Information overload. But I blame myself for not having a vivid imagination. :p

As for the characters, I'm still not sure what to make of them. Tally comes off as brave, independent, and an overall good friend. Though there were times that I wanted to strangle her so she could just confess already! (ok, minor spoiler there). Shay was the typical-but-not (sometimes misunderstood) friend who you wouldn't want to piss off lest she becomes... er, not your friend. I'll refrain talking about the other characters since I want this review to remain spoiler free. :)

Uglies is the first book in what (I think) will be an amazing series. I love the concept, the writing was excellent, and the characters were all their own unique selves (which is always a good thing!) trying to live in this awe-inspiring world. Though, I did have some problems with some of the sci-fi aspects of the story, I'm hoping I would have gotten over those by the time I read Pretties, the sequel to Uglies.

Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Book Love: 3.5/5

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I hate spam.

In the past few weeks, I had a couple or more spam comments on some of my entries. SPAM, as in those comments which just contains links and doesn't have anything to do with the actual post?

So usually I just delete those. I don't really want to have to moderate the comments but if this keeps up, I may have to. Er, I really hope not. How 'bout you guys n gals? How do you deal with this spam business? :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

In My Mailbox (10)

*IMM is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren*

I only got three books the past week (all won from a giveaway). :)


Graffiti Girl by Kelly Parra

Raised by her single mom (who's always dating the wrong kind of man) in a struggling California neighborhood, Angel Rodriguez is a headstrong, independent young woman who channels her hopes and dreams for the future into her painting. But when her entry for a community mural doesn't rate, she's heartbroken. Even with winning artist Nathan Ramos -- a senior track star and Angel's secret crush -- taking a sudden interest in Angel and her art, she's angry and hurt. She's determined to find her own place in the art world, her own way.

That's when Miguel Badalin -- from the notorious graffiti crew Reyes Del Norte -- opens her eyes to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. She's blown away by this bad boy's fantastic work and finds herself drawn to his dangerous charm. Soon she's running with Miguel's crew, pushing her skills to the limit and beginning to emerge as the artist she always dreamed she could be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies with a shared past, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to life and art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.



Invisible Touch by Kelly Parra

Do you believe in fate?

Kara Martinez has been trying to be "normal" ever since the accident that took her father's life when she was eleven years old. She's buried the caliente side of her Mexican heritage with her father and tried to be the girl her rigid mother wants her to be--compliant and dressed in pink, and certainly not acting out like her older brother Jason. Not even Danielle, her best friend at Valdez High, has seen the real Kara; only those who read her anonymous blog know the deepest secrets of the sign seer.

Because Kara has a gift--one that often feels like a curse. She sees signs, visions that are clues to a person's fate, if she can put together the pieces of the puzzle in time. So far, she's been able to solve the clues and avert disaster for those she's been warned about--until she sees the flash of a gun on a fellow classmate, and the stakes are raised higher than ever before. Kara does her best to follow the signs, but it's her heart that wanders into new territory when she falls for a mysterious guy from the wrong side of town, taking her closer to answers she may not be able to handle. Will her forbidden romance help her solve the deadly puzzle before it's too late...or lead her even further into danger?



Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill

Girl meets boy at a car wash.
"Dog," she says.
"Dude," he says.
And probably this would have been a sweet teen romance. . . .
If Beals hadn't been sitting next to her in the car.
If Beals hadn't been a supernatural repo man looking to repossess her car.
And to possess her.
David Macinnis Gill delivers the whole enchilada. With a side of soul.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Author Interview: Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of Crazy Beautiful, a modern retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, which I reviewed recently. It has a unique approach on the retelling, and of course, it's terribly romantic!

Now, we get to know Lauren a little bit more! ^-^


1. Your book, Crazy Beautiful, is a sort of retelling of the Beauty and the Beast. What made you decide to write a fairy tale retelling?

Thank you for having me! I'd recently seen Beauty & the Beast on Broadway and I got to thinking about why of all the Disneyfied fairy tales, that's the one that's translated best to stage and screen. I decided it's because it's the only one where the male is more than just pretty window dressing for the far more interesting female. I decided I wanted to do my own contemporary version, addressing themes that are important to me: like how much of the way we treat people is based on physical appearance.

2. Do you foresee yourself writing more fairy tale retellings in the future?

Absolutely. I love talking fairy tales and classic stories and trying to find a way to make them fresh and different.

3. Your books all belong to the realistic genre. Would you ever consider writing something with a touch of fantasy/paranormal?

Actually, The Sisters 8 series for young readers aged 6-10, which I created with my novelist husband Greg Logsted (www.greglogsted.com) and our nine-year-old daughter Jackie, does have fantasy elements in it, but I'd certainly be open to writing books like that for the teen audience as well. I thrive on trying different things all the time.

4. Ok, let's get to know more about you... aside from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?

You mean there's something to life other than writing and reading??? Let's see... I love to shoot pool when I get the chance and I'm something of a TV-head. I know a lot of people who like to proudly proclaim, "I never watch TV," as though that will earn them some sort of seat on the Nobel committee or possibly automatic acceptance in Mensa. But I love TV. Some of my favorite shows are "One Tree Hill," "Smallville," "House" and "Glee," and, of course, "General Hospital."

5. Can you tell us some of your favorite books?

Some of my favorite YA authors are Lisa McMann, Alyson Noel, A.S. King, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dessen and Ellen Hopkins. I also love the classics, particularly those written by Austen and the Brontes. For 2009, my favorite YA book: Freeze Frame, by Heidi Ayarbe; favorite adult novel: Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. All-time favorite book by a dead author: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. All-time favorite book by a living author: Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Me: Yay! Another Austen fan! I'm a fan of the Bronte sisters too. :) LOVED The Great Gatsby.

6. I am totally crushing on a lot of fictional crushes. Can you tell us some of your favorites? (inspired by the post The Hot Ones Are Always Fictional)

Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby and Phineas from A Separate Peace, both of which are problematic because both, you know - well, I don't want to spoil the endings for anyone who hasn't read the books yet. Oh, and for about 20 years I've been in love with Richard Jury from Martha Grimes' mystery series. Richard Jury is smart and funny but there's also a sadness to him - I'd like to take that pain away.

7. Are you currently working on anything? Do you have something to say to the readers out there? :)

My next YA novel, The Education of Bet, is due out in July 2010. It's about a 16-year-old girl in Victorian England who impersonates a boy in order to get a proper education. As for what I'd like to say to readers out there: Thank you for reading my books! I can't promise to give you the same reading experience over and over again - since I don't confine myself to a particular genre or type of book or even style of storytelling - but I can promise to always do my best to write stories that don't waste your time, that say something about the world we live in and that are hopefully entertaining.

Oooh... The Education of Bet sounds good. I'm always up for anything set in the Victorian era! :)


Thank you Lauren for stopping by here at Reality Bites... Fiction Does It Better! I had a great a time reading your answers!

****

Don't forget to check out my review of Crazy Beautiful! And if you want to know more about Lauren and her books, go check out her site! ^-^

Friday, November 13, 2009

Audrey, Wait! - Robin Benway

Description from Goodreads

California high school student Audrey Cuttler dumps self-involved Evan, the lead singer of a little band called The Do-Gooders. Evan writes, “Audrey, Wait!,” a break-up song that's so good it rockets up the billboard charts. And Audrey is suddenly famous!

Now rabid fans are invading her school. People is running articles about her arm-warmers. The lead singer of the Lolitas wants her as his muse. (And the Internet is documenting her every move!) Audrey can't hang out with her best friend or get with her new crush without being mobbed by fans and paparazzi.
Take a wild ride with Audrey as she makes headlines, has outrageous amounts of fun, confronts her ex on MTV, and gets the chance to show the world who she really is.



****

I was expecting...
Strangely enough, I wasn't expecting much despite the large number of positive reviews I've read about it.

....then
Audrey, Wait! was a surprise - a huge, monstrous, explosive surprise! Every YA fan should read it!

I wasn't expecting much from this book because I hate break-ups. They just doesn't sit well with my true-love-believing and hopeless-romantic personality. And Audrey, Wait! started with a break-up. If it weren't for glowing reviews from other book bloggers, I would have probably kept it at the bottom of my TBR pile. Now, I'm so grateful for all those reviews as Audrey, Wait! is now one of my favorite books of all time!

Audrey is one of those characters whom you just can't help but like. She's frank and honest (without being mean). She's a good friend. She's lively (as in not boring). All these without suffering from the usual setback of other female MCs - meaning she's not a geek/nerd/social outcast. Yes, she's popular AND she's not a bi(a)tch. :) The other characters - Victoria (Audrey's quirky and crazy best friend), Jonah (Victoria's boyfriend), and James (the adorable co-worker) also helped in making the book an insanely fun and giggle-filled read.

Contrary to what I've said so far, Audrey Wait! is not all giggles and laughter. The book also depicted Audrey's growth from this fun-time-seeking party girl to someone who still knows how to have a good time but who slowly realizes the possible consequences of her actions. I even found myself shedding a tear or two over Audrey's frustrations and the unfairness of it all.

Honestly, I can't remember a thing that I didn't like about this book. Robin Benway's got pure talent and I can't wait to read more of her works!

Plot: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Book Love: 5/5

Another Great Contest (not mine)

A BookLover's Diary is having a fab giveaway! There will be 4 winners and it it will be ending on November 30. You can enter here!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

In My Mailbox (9)

Hi everyone! I wasn't able to do an IMM post last week so I'll be featuring the book that I bought w/in the past couple of weeks. :)

*In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren*


Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker

Austin music fest
Yay, summer in Austin!
Good food, good times. Fun for everyone!
Okay, living with my sorority-brainwashed cousin, who willingly goes by "Party Penny," is not exactly what I had in mind.
All your favorite bands
But the cute musicians I've met totally make up for it . . . like Sebastian. Swoon.
All ages welcome
So why can't I stop thinking about Penny's friend All-American Russ and his Texas twang??
Saturday & Sunday, from noon to midnight
Don't wait up!





Fire by Kristin Cashore (prequel to Graceling)

Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.

Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.





Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?
Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.
But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world -- and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.



Beastly by Alex Flinn

I am a beast.
A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.





Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson Book 1) by Louise Rennison

She has a precocious 3-year-old sister who tends to leave wet nappies at the foot of her bed, an insane cat who is prone to leg-shredding "Call of the Wild" episodes, and embarrassing parents who make her want to escape to Stonehenge and dance with the Druids. No wonder 14-year-old Georgia Nicolson laments, "Honestly, what is the point?" A Bridget Jones for the younger set, Georgia records the momentous events of her life--and they are all momentous--in her diary, which serves as a truly hilarious account of what it means to be a modern girl on the cusp of womanhood. No matter that her particular story takes place in England, the account of her experiences rings true across the ocean (and besides, "Georgia's Glossary" swiftly eradicates any language barriers).


That's it! FUN! FUN! FUN! What did you guys get? :)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Crazy Beautiful - Lauren Baratz-Logsted

This review was supposed to be a part of Once Upon A Week but I was so busy with enrollment that wasn't able to post it! :(


Description

In an explosion of his own making, Lucius blew his arms off. Now he has hooks. He chose hooks because they were cheaper. He chose hooks because he wouldn’t outgrow them so quickly. He chose hooks so that everyone would know he was different, so he would scare even himself.

Then he meets Aurora. The hooks don’t scare her. They don’t keep her away. In fact, they don’t make any difference at all to her.

But to Lucius, they mean everything. They remind him of the beast he is inside. Perhaps Aurora is his Beauty, destined to set his soul free from its suffering.

Or maybe she’s just a girl who needs love just like he does.


****

I was expecting...
romance, passion, lots of *sighing* (by myself) throughout the book

... then
I got my romantic part, *sighs*, not as much passion as I was expecting, but I still liked it!

Crazy Beautiful has a very unique approach in its retelling of Beauty and the Beast. For one, Lucius is just your average boy. He's not good-looking. He's not rich. He's just ordinary, but with hooks for his hands. For me, that was what made this book all the more romantic - the fact that this pretty and popular girl, Aurora, fell in love with this ordinary (and somewhat sullen) boy at first sight. I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff. :)

The book used the two main characters' alternating POVs, which is a style that I have always liked! At times, the narration from the character's perspective would just include a couple of sentences, and I think that worked in giving off a mysterious yet light vibe.

I think Crazy Beautiful is the kind of book which you'd either really like or find as just a so-so book (it depends on the reader, I guess). Luckily for me, I really liked it! :)

Plot: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Book Love: 4/5

Huge Contest! (not mine)

at Teens Read and Write!

They're giving away LOTS of great books (I really do mean LOTS)! Actually, they're giving away such a huge number of books that I can't even list them all! So you'd have to check them out (and you can join too) here!

The giveaway ends on November 15, btw, so hurry up and join! :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Once Upon A Week: Interview w/ Bri Meets Books


Hiya everyone! I have here today a fellow blogger and Once Upon A Week participant...



So, on with the interview...

1. How long have you been blogging and what got you started in the first place?

I've been blogging various places for years. Probably just a need to say something and somewhere to say it! I've been book blogging since 2007. What got me started in book blogging was I went to university, and left my long-standing job as a children's merchandise specialist at a bookstore. I missed the store, and more specifically the customers and recommending kids books to them. I started blogging to keep my passion for children's books alive.

2. So you're a big YA lover, what's your ultimate favorite YA book?

That's a hard one. I have so many. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin for its beauty and simplicity. Lessons from a Dead Girl for its ability to both shock you to the core and give you periods away from the heaviness. I don't know, honestly.

- I haven't read those books yet, but thanks for recommending it! I'm always up for a good YA book!

3. Aside from YA books, what other genres do you enjoy reading?

General fiction. Children's lit and all that it contains: picture books, first readers, etc. A little bit of science fiction and fantasy. Urban fantasy is the more preferred. Social science, I love books about girl culture, and the media.

4. Ok, I always try to ask this question:
I posted something on my personal blog, entitled The Hot Ones Are Always Fictional. Can you add more to my list?

Puck from Glee
Angel from Buffy and Angel
Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid (admit girls. you wanted to marry him when you were younger)

- Well, I wanted to marry all the princes from fairy tales way back then... LOL.

5. Since it's Once Upon A Week... which fairy tale do you love the most and would enjoy reading over and over again?

The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I don't know why.

6. If you had the chance to rewrite The Twelve Dancing Princesses, what would you change or add? Or would you like it to stay the same?

I've been working on a retelling of it forever. I'd say that once a year for several years, I pick it up and add to it. It's a lovely story, but I want it to have more depth. It feels like the princesses are props.

7. What do you like most about fairy tales?

The sense of wonder and magic. The neat little endings. The strong female characters. The way a lot of them were designed as cautionary tales for children, particularly the Grimm Brothers' collected stories, and how can still be used as reflections of our society. Who hasn't heard a foolhardy politician referred to as "the Emperor with no clothes?" etc?

- I agree. Most would think of fairy tales as just plain stories for the kids, but really, most of the time, they contain way more depth than some of the contemporary fiction out there.

Thanks Bri! Want to know more about Bri? Head on over to her lovely blog and read some (or a lot) of her book reviews and author interviews! :)
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