Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Books of the Month (9)

Books of the Month is where I recap books I received In My Mailbox, read, shared from my shelves, and plug my book reviews and discussions during the entire month. Variations of these types of posts exist on many blogs so I am not claiming credit for this idea.
Books of April

if he had been with me by Laura Nowlin
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
how I lost you by Janet Gurtler
17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen

Rotten by Michael Northrop
from Lisa at Gadgets and Books

For Review/Blog Tour/Promotion
 Fall of Night by Rachel Caine


(links to Amazon)    

Shared from My Shelves 
(books borrowed by friends)
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

(links to review/discussion)
Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Losing It by Cora Carmack 
 Geography Club by Brent Hartinger
 Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
 The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf
Bridge by Jeri Smith-Ready
magicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen

Monday, April 29, 2013

Well, I Declare: #BoutofBooks 7.0

It's time to gear up for another read-a-thon. I missed out on the Dewey's 24-Hour read-a-thon this weekend, and I haven't participated in an organized read-a-thon since December. So, it is definitely time!! 

Thanks to the lovely Amanda and Kelly, we have Bout of Books 7.0.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 7.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I refuse to list the books I "plan" to read because I hardly ever stick to that list plus I find it limiting. So the only goal I want to meet is to read at least 2000 pages and possibly get in a few rereads. There are some verse novels that deserve some attention BUT I'm not listing specific titles!! I'm also looking forward to participating in at least one twitter chat and meeting some new bloggers and readers.

If you are even remotely interested in participating, you should. It's one of the best read-a-thons around - no pressure and lots of fun!

I'll update here on my blog and on Twitter: @ActinUpwb

Friday, April 26, 2013

Love My Indie with Author Katie Kacvinsky

Love My Indie is a feature where fellow bloggers, readers, and authors share their favorite independent bookstores. I love the feeling I get when I go into an independent bookstore - like it is filled with hidden treasures just waiting for me to find them.

Showing some Indie Love today is:

Katie Kacvinsky
Author of First Comes Love, Second Chance, Awaken and Middle Ground

Outside Grass Roots Books and Music
Local bookstores say so much about the community around them. They are the heart of a community, in many ways. When you walk into Grass Roots Books and Music, in Corvallis, Oregon, you can tell what people are into around here—there are always displays on gardening, the environment, brewing beer, tasting wine, biking, and exploring.
Katie Kacvinsky with Grass Roots store manager
Bookstores are an experience; they are a place for fellowship, escape, and inspiration. My favorite thing to do with my son is buy a book at Grass Roots and go to the bakery next door, get chocolate milk and cookies and sit down and read. I love Grass Roots for its strong support of local authors and musicians, and its passion and knowledge for books. If you’re ever in Corvallis, please stop by. But plan on staying a while…a good bookstore is like a tight hug. You never want to leave its embrace.
Can you spot Katie's book?
Check out their website for more information, or to get some good recommendations:  http://www.grassrootsbookstore.com/
I'm pretty sure if I lived in Corvallis Grass Roots Books and Music would be my home away from home. Going there and then to the other local spots sounds like a great way to spend the day. I know that they have great customer service because I've ordered books from there before! Katie, thank you for taking the time to share your favorite independent bookstore. And I love your shirt!
 Find Katie Kacvinsky

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: Manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen


by Tom Leveen
Published by Random House Children's Book
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Pages: 256
Source: ARC from Author via NetGalley


(from Goodreads)
Sometimes the most dramatic scenes in a high school theater club are the ones that happen between the actors and crew off stage.

Seventeen-year-old Tyler Darcy's dream of being a writer is starting to feel very real now that he's sold his first short story to a literary journal. He should be celebrating its publication with his two best friends who've always had his back, but on this night, a steady stream of texts from his girlfriend Sidney keep intruding. So do the memories of his dream girl, Becky, who's been on his mind a little too much since the first day of high school. Before the night is over, Ty might just find the nerve to stop all the obsessing and finally take action.

My Thoughts

Sometimes the most dramatic scenes in a high school theater club are the ones that happen between the actors and crew off stage.

With this sentence, I was hooked and knew that I must read this book. Tom Leveen made me a believer in his talent with his novel Zero and amazed me even more with manicpixiedreamgirl. His writing is dynamic and honest and REAL. He draws the reader in with his character development and overwhelms us with his storytelling. Pure genius. Leveen just gets it right. 
The story jumps right in letting the reader know that the main character Tyler is caught up this imagined love affair with is dream girl, Becky, while still maintaining a relationship with his current girlfriend, Sydney. He's struggling with his need to finally tell her how he really feels because he know that it will change everything. Everything.

I loved how the story takes place in a single night with Tyler out with his friends celebrating having a story published. We get to see how Tyler comes to love Becky, but end up with Sydney through flashbacks of the past few years.  Leveen's style of writing was seemless and it felt like this is exactly how we, as readers, were supposed to see the story unfold.
I appreciated that the two girls weren’t really pitted against each other - Sydney (Syd) wasn’t a girl that you hateful girlfriend that you begged Tyler to dump, and you didn’t feel sympathy for her either when you realized that Tyler has mind on another girl - Syd was a girl who had it together. She saw the situation as it was and maintained some dignity. If anything, her poise and acceptance of this reality added to the love/hate relationship that you have for Tyler. Love him because of his devotion to this other girl, Becky, who his sister claimed was “damaged” and didn’t take advantage of her, but hated him ( well not really hated him) for jerking Syd around for so long. And Becky who seemed so unattainable to Tyler, she didn't play games with him. 

There is a genuine friendship between Tyler and Becky. At first, he is intrigued by her unusual quirkiness, but once he joins the drama club and they work on plays together - their friendship begins to become authentic. She's still guarded and doesn't let him in completely, and he doesn't ask questions that he doesn't want to know the answers to, but they become as close as they will allow themselves to be.

As much as this book had me entralled, turning page after page and unable to read it fast enough, there were moments that were difficult to read. There were a couple of moments of horrific conversations between Becky and her parents that forced me to put the book down and take a deep breath before I could continue reading. It was that affecting.

I've read many books this year that I have absolutely loved and Manicpixiedreamgirl is no different. Since I can't and won't pick a favorite, I'll just add this one to that list. (I'm pretty sure I said almost this exact same thing about Zero) Manicpixiedreamgirl is a gem of a book and one that I hope makes it into the hands of many readers. 

Disclaimer: I received this Advanced Readers Copy for review from the author and publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I did not receive any compensation for providing this review. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bridge by Jeri Smith-Ready is available now!

If you missed the news:

a Shade short story is now available!!

(from Goodreads)
Logan is barely seventeen, and barely dead. To find eternal rest, the ghost rock star must make peace with his brother Mickey, before his guilt over Logan’s death drives him to suicide.

Krista sees ghosts everywhere, but never the one she needs most. A chance boardwalk encounter with Logan turns her Senior Week party into a rescue mission. Can her own grief give her the strength to save Mickey’s life?

Loaded with bonus material, the “Bridge” ebook is the perfect introduction to the young-adult Shade trilogy—a tale of ghosts, music, and everlasting love.

 Get it now for only $.99 from Amazon
 Add to Goodreads

My Thoughts:

For any fan of the SHADE trilogy, this is a must read. When I read the series, I was all about Zach, but Logan has made me a fan. And now the only thing I want to do is reread the entire series from start to finish!

I love that it is written in verse because it lends to the story Logan is telling. And the bonus features are, well, a bonus! Read it! Loved it! Buy it!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf

The Symptoms of my Insanity
by Mindy Raf
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 18, 2013
384 pages
Source: ARC from Penguin

(from Goodreads)
When you’re a hypochondriac, there are a million different things that could be wrong with you, but for Izzy, focusing on what could be wrong might be keeping her from dealing with what’s really wrong.

I almost raised my hand, but what would I say? “Mr. Bayer, may I please be excused? I’m not totally positive, but I think I might have cancer.” No way. Then everyone at school would know, and they would treat me differently, and I would be known as “Izzy, that poor girl who diagnosed herself with breast cancer during biology.”

But Izzy’s sense of humor can only get her so far when suddenly her best friend appears to have undergone a personality transplant, her mother’s health takes a turn for the worse, and her beautiful maybe-boyfriend is going all hot and cold. Izzy thinks she’s preparing for the worst-case scenario, but when the worst-case scenario actually hits, it’s a different story altogether—and there’s no tidy list of symptoms to help her through the insanity.

My Thoughts

Straight up - I loved this book. Mindy Raf has given us an extremely entertaining and enlightening story about how one girl deals with the pressures and anxiety of high-school, home life, and maybe a little hypochondria.

It's safe to say that Izzy is very developed, physically, for her age and everyone has an opinion about it - her mother, her sister, her friends, her friend's mother, and too many boys at school. While this seems like a small part of the story, it plays a major role in who Izzy is. She's always self-aware, analyzing, critiquing, and trying to please everyone around her - all while trying to fit in, succeed in school, and be a good daughter. 
I loved that Izzy wasn't portrayed as the artsy social misfit outcast who no one understands. She has an evolving group of friends who give and take, and friendships that shift and change, as most friendships do during this time of life. I think that Mindi Raf captured this aspect of high school friendships and relationships really well.

The story is filled with a cast of characters. There is the eccentric guidance counselor, the drama-queen sister, the hot (maybe bad boy) love interest, the boy next door, the new best friend, the old best friend, and the sick, but she's not dying, mother. When listed out like that, it seems a little cliche, but all belong in the story, because they each played a role in Izzy's growth as a character.

Raf tackles a lot in this book: family illness, changing friendships, failed relationships, betrayal, jealousy, academic pressure, peer pressure, and a scandal I hoped I didn't see coming (but I did). And while it may seem like too much for one book and for one girl to deal with, I think that she (Raf) pulls it off.

Disclaimer: I received this Advanced Readers Copy for review from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I did not receive any compensation for providing this review. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Get A “Twisted Lit” Character Named After You!

In honor of William Shakespeare’s birthday (celebrated on April 23), authors Kim Askew and Amy Helmes, have dropped by with a guest blog post to announce a special contest!

Get A “Twisted Lit” Character Named After You!

We reimagined William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and “Macbeth,” with our “compulsively readable” YA books, Tempestuous and Exposure. Ever since the novels were published a few months ago through Merit Press we’ve encountered a frequent question: Which of Shakespeare’s plays will inspire your next books in the Twisted Lit series?

While we’re currently hard at work putting our own spin on the Bard’s “Romeo and Juliet” we thought we’d look to you, the readers, to help us pick the fourth Shakespeare play that will inspire our next book in the series. Got a hankering for a new spin on “Hamlet?” Love to see “King Lear” get a YA update? Would you make much ado over our take on “Much Ado About Nothing?”

Go to our Facebook page (Facebook.com/Twistedlitnovels) and write on our wall to weigh in on which Shakespeare play you’d like us to revamp next. In doing so, you’ll be entered to have your very own name mentioned in one of our upcoming books (either as a character or some other fun reference). If you’ve always wanted to see your name in print — in a YA novel, no less — now’s your chance! The winner will also receive autographed copies of our first two novels, Tempestuous and Exposure.

We’re looking forward to hearing your suggestions! (And don’t forget to follow us on twitter at @kaskew and @amyhelmes.)

* Winner will not be compensated for use of his or her name, and publication is not guaranteed. Details of plot and character used in connection with the name as it appears in the book are up to the sole discretion of the authors. Contest ends June 1.

Kim & Amy

About the Authors
Authors Kim Askew and Amy Helmes have been writing together since 2004, when they launched Romancing the Tome, a blog dedicated to their obsession with book-to-film adaptations. For more information on the books in their Shakespeare-inspired series, visit TwistedLitBooks.com.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Rocked the Drop!!!

 Operation Teen Book Drop 2013 took place on April 18th and I spent the day leaving 
books all around my town. I took the day off from work to spend the day with my husband and then I dragged him all over town with me. When I told him the plan for the day, he asked me why was I doing this, and I said: "Because I want to. Maybe someone will find a nice surprise." Then he wanted to know if I would ever know who picked up the books. 
Me: "Probably not, but that's not the point."

Gathering the Books

Getting Ready
with OMG post-its from Estelle at Rather Be Reading

Drop #1
Local Coffee Shop: This drop seemed very promising. As I walked up to leave the books, there was a girl sitting in the sunshine reading. She wasn't a teen, but a reader and I took it as a good sign.

Drop #2
Sonic Drive-In: I hoped that the lure of half-price drinks and slushies would draw in the teen crowd. (Oh and I got a Route 44 Sweet Tea)

Drop #3
The public library


Drop #4
 Starbucks: I went inside for this drop. It looked like it might rain, plus there were teenagers inside studying. I hope that at least one of them picked up this book.

Drop #5

Maybe the best drop of all!! No kidding!!
We were going to dinner at this old farmhouse that was converted into a restaurant and there were many people waiting outside in the benches and gazebos. When I went to place my final book in one of the gazebos, I came upon two teens reading!! Jackpot! One was reading a Harry Potter novel and the other was reading Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.  I asked them if either of them had read Along for the Ride. One of them hadn't so she was happy to take the book from me. I told them all about #RocktheDrop, recommended Anna and the French Kiss, and told them how they both made my day!!

I had an absolute blast participating in #RocktheDrop 
and look forward to doing it again next year.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Love My Indie with Author Tom Leveen

Love My Indie is a feature where fellow bloggers, readers, and authors share their favorite independent bookstores. I love the feeling I get when I go into an independent bookstore - like it is filled with hidden treasures just waiting for me to find them.

Showing some Indie Love today is:

Tom Leveen
Author of Party, Zero, and manicpixiedreamgirl

I love my indie bookstore, Changing Hands!

Changing Hands used to be a little two-storey place on a college-town street called Mill Avenue when I was growing up. I met Brian Jacques (the Redwall series) there once, and it was truly inspiring. Now that I think about it, I believe I model my own school visits essentially on how he presented his books that day. So this indie bookstore has been influencing me since long before I ever attempted to publish.

Changing Hands moved to another part of town, and I didn’t think much about it for awhile, not until a random visit in which my wife and I ran into one of their book buyers, Brandi. Brandi—and then the rest of the staff, like Faith, Stephanie, Eddie, Robyn, Danielle, and everyone else there—took trembly, fragile little baby-bird new-author-me under their wings and shepherded my first novel, Party, through the paces to becoming a real live book on their shelves. They do this for tons of authors. Plus their list of authors who have done events there is tremendous. For instance, if I remember correctly, they were the first store to host a newbie debut author named Stephanie Meyer. (I think there were about, oh, thirty or forty people there…)

Tom Leveen at Changing Hands in 2012 (photo credit: Alecia Brouwer)
I’ve met all of my local author friends through Changing Hands, and gotten to do great events with them over the years. The store hosts an annual event called YAllapalooza, an all-day affair with young adult authors teaching classes and hosting panels, then having a big pizza party and game night at the store afterward. They connect with schools all over town, and there’s an event there of one kind or another pretty much every single night. The ambiance is bright and welcoming, well-stocked with new and used books, small gifts, and a calendar of events to die for.

But the real standout of Changing Hands is the staff. These are readers and lovers of all kinds of literature, and they will do anything and everything to find you just the right book. I had to remind myself to even refer to them as “staff” just now, because when I go, it’s hugs all around. These are my friends, and I wouldn’t dream of launching a new book anywhere but there. It is exactly the kind of place where aspiring writers should go, because bookstores are very much a part of the publishing world. We creative types tend to forget that we’re in business, selling products. Changing Hands is the perfect synthesis of business and art.

Tom at Changing Hands for the launch for Zero (photo credit: Alecia Brouwer)  
I would still be a publishing author without this gem of an indie store…but I’d be a lonely published author!

You can (and should) check them out at www.changinghands.com and on Twitter @changinghands

Tom, thank you so much for sharing your favorite bookstore. Changing Hands sounds like a wonderful bookstore that takes care of both their authors and their readers. I will probably never have the opportunity to visit there, but just knowing that a bookstore like this exists is enough. 

Tom Leveen is the author of Party, Zero, and the soon to be published manicpixiedreamgirl 

Truth is stranger than fiction...but not as cute.
Arriving April 23, 2013 in bookstores everywhere.
Twitter: @tomleveen

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Racing Savannah
by Miranda Kenneally
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Published by Sourcebooks Fire

(from Goodreads)

Author of Catching Jordan, Miranda Kenneally’s Racing Savannah, about an underprivileged girl training to be a jockey while working in the barn at a high-stakes horse farm whose on-again, off-again relationship with the owner’s son has an upstairs/downstairs effect on race day.

Why I'm Waiting:

I was a little late to the game (or it felt that way, at least) with reading Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker and I just loved those stories and couldn't believe that I held on them for so long before I read them. I love how Miranda Kenneally's characters make appearances in the other Hundred Oaks books, but they are not part of a series. Companion novels are the best. I still have Things I Can't Forget to read, and then Racing Savannah!!    

And just yesterday Miranda shared the first chapter on her blog.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Club Discussion: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Provisions and Paperbacks, my IRL book club, recently read Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park. As I said in my previous post (you can read it here), I want to share some thoughts and ideas brought up during the book club and bring my blog readers into the discussion.

Not yet, but there will be spoilers. You have been warned.

Flat-Out Love 
by Jessica Park
Published April 11, 2011

Flat-Out Love is a warm and witty novel of family love and dysfunction, deep heartache and raw vulnerability, with a bit of mystery and one whopping, knock-you-to-your-knees romance.

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it.

When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side ... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there's that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That's because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie's suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that ... well ... doesn't quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

Flat-Out Love comes complete with emails, Facebook status updates, and instant messages.

There will be spoilers. You have been warned.

Here are some thoughts shared during our book club discussion after reading Flat-Out Love:

Flat-Out Love was another book that everyone in the book club raved about. Even before we met, I received these messages:

"I have finished the book for our next meeting and whoever picked it two thumbs up it was great.""I finished the book last night and can’t wait to talk about it Tuesday. I’ve been telling my boss lady . . . about our book club and gave her the names of some of the books we’ve read and the book we’re reading for our Tuesday meeting. She finished it in two days or something like that."

  •  Flat-Out love was nominated for our book club by our newest book club member. She wasn't familiar with the author but the book popped up time and time again as an "Amazon recommends"
  • At first it wasn't obvious what the deal was with Finn and they thought that the little sister just missed him and the Flat-Finn was just a place-holder until he returned. Other readers picked up on it pretty early on, but gave in to the idea so they could be swept up in the story. 
  • Some readers questioned if there was an incident between Finn and Celeste that kept him from coming home.
  • The banter between Julie and Matt was witty and clever, easy and immediate, and made the book incredibly enjoyable to read. Both Julie and Matt kept each other on their toes.
  • The Facebook status updates added to the story and I was always trying to figure out if true identities or motives would be revealed through the updates. Were there any obvious clues?
  • The character Seth wasn't convincing as a real possible love interest for Julie, but he is in one of my favorite scenes - when he goes back and forth with Celeste answering all of her questions about his intentions of getting to know Julie. 
  • We all loved Celeste and her quirks and mannerisms. She did seem wise beyond her years but she had dealt with a lot in her family which is what made her seem older in someways (even though she dressed very young for her age). And Julie probably identified with her so easily because Julie saw so much in herself in Celeste - her intelligence, her awkwardness, and this was why they were connected almost instantly.
  • We didn't talk about Matt's mother too much, but we did recognize that her depression played a major role in how the family interacted and how many of the decisions were made based on what she wanted.
  • Another favorite scene - after Julie is stood up by her dad, drunk dials Matt and asks, "Are you a skilled lover?" This is quite possible one of the best moments of the book.
  • When Julie sets up Matt with her friend Dana, you're not quite sure what really happened between the two of them because Dana just laughs it off. No spoilers here, but you must read Flat-Out Matt to find out what really happened
  • We don't plan to read Flat-Out Matt for book club, but we all plan to read it. (I've already read it and love the extra before and after chapters. And I was glad that it wasn't the complete story as Flat-Out Love just from Matt's POV.)
  • I personally liked reading about places I have visited when I traveled to Boston. It was pretty cool to know some of the locations described in the books and yes there are a ton of Dunkin' Donuts in the area. Reading about them made me want to go out and get a Coolatta, but unlike Boston, and more like where Julie is from, there isn't one on every other corner.
  • The Book Cover - It's cool how hints of the story are incorporated in the letters of Flat-Out Love. Some of us picked up on it, but others didn't at all. And what was so obvious, the hinges connected the letters together (and the hinges are important to the story) - I didn't even notice those at all!  
  • Flat-Out Love was a hit with the book club - it drummed up a lot of conversation (not all was captured here) and is one of those books that you want to share with your friends. There is a lot of humor, but it's not all good times. It exposes the struggles a family goes through after a huge tragedy.

       Goodreads * Amazon * IndieBound

I'd like to invite anyone to join in on the discussion and share your thoughts on Flat-Out Love!! Just leave your thoughts in the comments! 

Up next for Provisions and Paperbacks



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