Double Celebration Giveaway!!!

February 26, 2012 at 11:59 am (Giveaway) (, , , , , , , )

And yes, all three exlamation points are necessary, I promise.

Like the title suggests, I have TWO great reasons to celebrate, which means if you choose to celebrate with me, you get entered for awesome prizes.

Reason Number One: I HAVE BEEN BLOGGING FOR A FULL YEAR NOW.

That’s right, we just hit my blog anniversary! A full year of reviews and writing talk and occasional nonsensical rants. Honestly, I’m a little amazed I didn’t give up on it back when the stats were entirely dismal- I’m a positive reinforcement kind of person- but I realized I was having so much fun I almost didn’t care if other people were seeing it or not (almost- I do care about you and what you think, but I wouldn’t stop posting even if you begged me to- this is release, people). It’s also been a great form of discipline for me, to have to abide by a regular schedule of writing and posting in the midst of so much research. Y’all have been wonderful with comments and shares, so this is a huge thank you to you for supporting this effort.

And, Reason Number Two: I SIGNED WITH AN AGENT.

Yes! It’s truth! Earlier this month I signed with the Fabulous Sandy Lu at L. Perkins Agency and I’m still over the moon about it. And if I’m honest, there’s a small part of me that expects to wake up and it’s still the end of January in the query trenches (better known as Query Hell sometimes). After three years of querying three differents projects (never at the same time, that’s a very bad idea), the slush pile pushed me forward and now everything is a giant step closer to Dreams Coming True. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a LOT of work from this point out, but if you don’t celebrate the milestones, how can you really measure progress?

SO I’M CELEBRATING WITH YOU!

I have four- count them FOUR- prize packs up for grabs.

Prize Pack 1: Thieves and Spies
Heist Society, by Ally Carter
I’d Tell You I Love You But I’d Have to Kill You, also by Ally Carter

Prize Pack 2: Shapeshifters
Nightshade, by Andrea Cremer
Firelight, by Sophie Jordan

Prize Pack 3: Arranged Marriages
Matched, by Ally Condie
The Selection, by Kiera Cass (ARC)

Prize Pack 4: Swag Bundle!
-swag, some signed some not, from Kathleen Peacock (Hemlock), Jill Hathaway (Slide), Nova Ren Suma (Imaginary Girls), Sophie Jordan (Firelight and Vanish), Hannah Moskowitz (Break and Invincible Summer), Leah Cypess (Nightspell and Mistwood, Jodi Meadows (Incarnate), and Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone), and Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games).

U.S. only (sorry, but shipping is expensive and my post office is staffed with very rude people).

ENTRY RULES:
-Actual Entry: comment below and tell me what book you’re most looking forward to in 2012. Doesn’t even have to be YA or MG, just whatever book makes you dance in place wishing it would come out NOW because you can’t possibly wait until release.
-Extra Entries: (completely self-serving and shamelessly self-promoting, I admit)
-Follow this blog (if you already do, just say you do)
-Follow me on Twitter (@dothutchison ; same as above, if you already follow me, just say so)
-Tweet about this giveaway! (and include the link below)
Those are extra entries, and completely up to you whether you want to do them or not, but the option’s there. The only thing you HAVE to do to be entered is leave the comment.
-Entries accepted through Saturday, 10 March which makes it open for two weeks.

AND THANK YOU FOR CELEBRATING WITH ME!
Y’all are at least half the reason I have anything to celebrate today, and I am so grateful to you for that.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Blog Tour + Giveaway: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

January 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm (Blog Tour, Giveaway) (, , , , )

You know what this week is?

It’s Incarnate‘s birthday!!!

That’s right, this lovely book is coming all fresh and shiny into the world, and this is one stop on the release week celebration. (Don’t know the book I’m talking about? That’s okay, you can celebrate anyway, and you can also check out my review.) There are something like fifty blogs participating in this event, with all KINDS of things to do. There are games and activities, treasure hunts, Guess the Blogger, even a knitted Incarnate puppet theatre!

Some of the individual blogs (including this one!) are hosting individual giveaways, but there are also Tour Prizes.
Two runners up will win: signed hardcover of Incarnate, knitted fingerless mitts, and assorted swag.
One Grand Prize winner will win: a signed, annotated hardcover of Incarnate, knitted fingerless mitts, a Jodi-made mask, assorted swag, and a character named after them in book three (who may or may not end up dead).

Frickin’ sweet, right?

So, on to details: of the 45 blogs participating in the release week fun, 19 of us are activity bloggers. If you do the activity on each blog and fill out the included form (absolutely required), you’re entered for more points in the grand prize giveaway. Then, there’s also the Clue Hunt. You can do as many or as few of the activities as you’d like. Just keep in mind: on the blogs that have separate giveaways, you still have to fill out the form to get the extra points for the grand prize giveaway.

(For more information on the Incarnate Theatre Treasure Hunt, check out Jodi’s post)

Want a hint about the Theatre?

Intrigued?

And on to the activity!

In Incarnate, there’s a masquerade where the entire city of Heart comes together in costumes. It’s a celebration of love that transcends lifetimes and surpasses the physical form, a test of sorts to see if two souls can still find each other even in costumes that remain secret. It’s an amazing scene, one that filters through the entire story in small ways. Plus, I’ve always been in love with masquerades. It’s not just that most people don’t know who you are, or even about the thrill that comes when someone does recognize you in spite of everything. It’s the symbolism of the choice, the way those designs become reality in pieces of cloth and accessories. I think what a person chooses, and how they choose to do it, actually says a lot about them. (yes, I overanalyze things; it’s one of the reasons I love doing book reviews)

So here’s the schtick: I have a question for you, and if you answer it in the comments, you’re entered for my giveaway. Winner (chosen by random.org) will win an ARC of the book, plus a handmade Incarnate themed jewelry set. BUT, to be entered for extra points in the grand prize tour giveaway, you HAVE to fill out the form below. Have to. Non-negotiable. If you comment but don’t fill out the form, you’ll still be entered for my giveaway, but it won’t contribute to the overall contest.

And now for the question!

If you were to go to masquerade like the one in Incarnate, what would you be/look like? You can describe it, draw it, link to it, just be creative!

(as an example: I’d be a dragon. Slightly different from the dragons in Incarnate; think a bit like the covers of Sophie Jordan’s Firelight series. Fairly simple, flowing gown that swirls with movement and breezes, deep deep green, and strapless, because the collar bones and shoulders and all the way down the arms would be dusted with a subtle, shimmering green powder in the shape of scales. Subtle- I’m not particularly ostentatious, but it’s really the details that do it. I’d dye my hair for the occasion to match but it would be back from my face and tumbling down my back, with small crystals pinned in to catch the light. The scales would continue up my throat and onto the face, where it would disappear under a green scaled mask with asymmetrical curves. Simple, green wire and clear crystal jewelry, nothing to detract from the scale patterns. I love the strength and elegance and mystery surrounding a lot of the stories about dragons; some stories have them as simply creatures (like Incarnate, and in some they’re wise beasts. I love that dichotomy)

So what would you wear/be to a masquerade? Don’t forget, comment below AND fill out the form! Both giveaways end at 11:59 pm EST on 6 February, so you have a whole week!

And check out some of the other activities!
Creative Reads
Mato’s Blog
Mission To Read
Every blog has a couple of links on it, so you don’t need to go in any particular order. Good luck, and have fun!

Until next time~
Cheers~

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Dads and Types + Giveaway!

January 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm (General, Giveaway) (, , , , , , , )

Last week we talked about Moms and Types in YA and MG books; now it’s Daddy’s turn. I will give a warning with this one, though: there are some spoilers. Some of these fathers are far too tied into the story to be able to talk about without giving away some crucial parts of the books. I’ll add a little warning for the ones that seem spoiler, both before and after, so you can avoid ones you don’t want to learn yet. (and don’t forget, down at the bottom there are instructions for how to win an ARC of Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne!)

On with the show!

Daddy Calls the Shots
Also known as Daddy-as-Puppeteer. This is the type of father who so thoroughly controls his children’s lives that the kids have no say in things, may not even realize there’s any other way to live (or may rebel like crazy). Everything is planned out, everything has to go through the father, and there is no greater crime than in suggesting to this man that his children might be rational creatures capable of making their own decisions. I know there are other examples of this, but the one that towers over everything in my mind is Vaughn, from Lauren DeStefano’s Wither. This thoroughly creepy man controls everything in his house, pulls all the strings, and Linden has been raised to be so grateful for this care that he doesn’t even realize it. Vaughn is a man who feels no compunctions about doing horrible things, who fully espouses the motto “The ends justify the means”. Linden has never been taught how to be the man that could stand up to this, so Vaughn continues his reign unabated. Linden might as well be a marionette. Less successfully than Vaughn, there are dads like Mr. Sage, in Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines. Bastard much? His daughters are useful as extensions of his will, not reasonable creatures in their own right, but unlike Linden, Sydney is able to stand up to her father in small ways. Her opinions aren’t useful to him, her desires, her plans, as long as she’s an obedient daughter who will make him look good and serve his ambitions.

Not Now, Dear, The King is Busy
Not always an actual king, this is anyone in a position of authority who is persistently too occupied with affairs of state (city, business, etc) to be an active part of their children’s lives. They’re there, more or less, but there’s a distinct wall and a very strained sense of connection. Sometimes it’s unintentional- he really wants to be there but there’s just so much to do, so much dependent on him. And sometimes there are mitigating circumstances. Mayor Beckett, from Brodi Ashton’s Everneath falls into the first part of that. He wants to be there for Nikki but he isn’t entirely sure how, and being mayor and running for re-election doesn’t give him much time to figure out how to help. The Warden, from Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, is less accidental; this is a man with secrets, and part of is is trying to protect his daughter from those secrets, but most of his life is wrapped up with the prison, not with Claudia. Then there are the fathers who are using duty as an excuse. After his wife’s death, the king in Heather Dixon’s Entwined uses duty as an escape, a way to run from his grief. To his daughters’ detriment? Yes, but grief can make us selfish and the duties are real. Then there’s the king in Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns.He doesn’t have much time for his ungainly younger daughter and never has, but she’s useful as a political arrangement. He loves his daughter, something we see in small, quickly departed moments, but being king is far more his life than being a father.

I Have a Child…Somehow…
These are fathers who are somewhat baffled by the existence of their children. They know- theoretically- how this came about but they really have no clue what to do with these inexplicable children. It’s not that love isn’t there, it’s just that it’s layered into all the things they don’t understand. Like Mr. D’Angelo from Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Every Other Day. In some respects her shares some traits with the fathers listed above, that concept of always being too busy, but his distance evolves more from a basic incompatibility with his daughter. They might as well be speaking different languages on the rare occasions they interact. Lisa Mantchev’s Scrimshander holds a place on this list as well, too wild and wind-souled to understand the strange creature in front of him. Probably my favorite example, though, is Poseidon, from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. The gods (sometimes) recognize their children, but they always seem somewhat perplexed by them, too. So they may or may not point them in the direction of the camp, may or may not grant them something special to help them out on quests, but then they just kind of…leave them there.

I Don’t Understand You, But I Love You Anyway
We talk about the generation gap sometimes, that people of different age sets are basically incapable of understand each other. We simply expect that our parents don’t really understand us. Sometimes, that’s even true. For example. Gen’s father in Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series. He and his son? Very little common ground. Gen is his mother’s son through and through. But we never doubt that Gen and his father share a strong bond that survives frustrastions and different interests. It’s there in the wry conversations, the apparently grudging respect, and the true concern that marks their interactions. Then there’s King Georg in Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball. He loves his daughters, truly and deeply, but their geis puts a wall between them that he can’t penetrate. He doesn’t understand their silence, their exhaustion, doesn’t understand why they won’t trust him, but he loves them just the same and will continue to support them in the struggle he can’t begin to comprehend. Then there’s Alan’s father in Jaclyn Dolamore’s Between the Sea and Sky. He and his son stare at each other from across a wide gap of misunderstandings and secrets, but when it comes right down to it, he supports his son. Maybe it isn’t easy, maybe it’s even painful with the memories that surface, but the foundation is there and the actions reinforce it.

Fallen Idol
This is a painful type for the children involved, the worshipped father of their childhood rendered merely human in the grand scheme of things. It’s not necessarily that the father is bad- frequently he isn’t- but that he’s not the paragon of perfection that the children thought they were. First on the list? James Potter, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. James initially stands on par with Lily in the martyred perfection, but through the course of the series James gradually breaks down from that ideal to become a real person with flaws and troublesome attributes. It’s painful for Harry to realize his dad was a bit of a prat, especially as it also casts his uncle figures in a not-so-positive light. In Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, we come into the story after the idol has already fallen; Hadley’s father fell in love with another woman, tore apart their family, and- as far as Hadley can see- just expects her to be on board with all this. Hadley can’t balance his selfishness against her mother’s pain. What we actually get to see through the second half of the book is the slow patchwork process of possibly mending the relationship. It’ll never be what it was- the idol is a product of innocence- but it’s lovely to see what happens after the fall. SPOILER FOR LIA HABEL’S DEARLY, DEPARTED: IF YOU DON’T WANT A SPOILER, SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEXT SECTIONIn Dearly, Departed Nora has mourned her father for a year. She remembers standing beside his casket at the funeral, vividly remembers having to move in with her spendthrift, social-climbing, bitter aunt, and all the emotional pain that comes from his death. Then she finds out he’s still alive (sort of) and continuing to work. Bit of a pedestal smasher, that. Then she finds out even more, finds out about his work, about the consequences it had on their family long before his death. Is he a bad man because of it? Not particularly. Is he a bad father because of it? Still not particularly. But he’s not the father Nora remembers, and they’ll have to forge onto unknown, unsteady ground to find a new relationship in light of those revelations.

/spoiler

Daddy’s Trying to Kill Me
Also known as bad. These men are never going to (honestly) hold a World’s Best Dad mug or shirt. These are the dads that put their children into years and years of intense psychotherapy. Or the hospital. Or, in a few unfortunate situations, the morgue. For some of these dads, there may even be a twisted sense of love or duty, a genuine affection that simply doesn’t stand up to the fact that their children are in the way of what they want to do. First dad that sprang to mind? Valentine, from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. “Father” in this case stretches somewhat, given the circumstances, but there’s no denying that he loves Jace, in his dark and twisty and generally soulless kind of way. He actually does care about him. It won’t stop him from killing the boy, of course, because really there’s that whole destroy the Downworld thing he’s got going on, but he does love him. SPOILERS FOR ANDERA CREMER’S NIGHTSHADE SERIES, ESPECIALLY BLOODROSE: TO SKIP SPOILERS, SCROLL DOWN TO NEXT SECTIONRenier Laroche has a few Daddy-issues on both sides of the spectrum, both the better side of that gets explored a little further down. Emile Laroche is a world-class bastard, a savage and a brute who terrorizes anyone weaker than he is. In the final book in the trilogy, it becomes much more direct when Emile and Ren actually face off. It’s a series a choices and hard experiences that brought Ren to the point of being able to do that, to stand against his father to protect others, but eighteen years of father-son ties isn’t going to keep Emile from trying to win that fight, even when it comes to death.

/spoiler

More Than Average Flaws
Dads screw up. That’s a fact of life. Dads screw up, moms screw up, kids screw up, everybody screws up sometimes. Some dads just screw up to a greater degree than others. Faye’s father, in fact several of the fathers, in Sara Wilson Etienne’s Harbinger simply turn their back on their children. They give up, they let tham get carted off (or ever drop them off unawares) to the sadistic Holbrook Academy to let them be savaged by so-called caretakers. By so-doing, they actively contribute to the harm being done to their children. SPOILERS FOR JOHN GREEN’S THE FAULT IN OUR STARS AND VERONICA ROTH’S DIVERGENT: IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE THE SPOILERS, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEXT SECTION In The Fault in Our Stars, there are several times when we’re led to ponder the identity of a parent who has lost his or her only child. Are they still a parent? Can they still say they’re so and so’s parent? The answer varies by parent, really, but we do get to see a parent who has entirely crumbled in the wake of his child’s death. All identity has been lost, the very core of what he was has been stripped away, and only a vaccuum continues to suck in all the mean-spiritedness a body can hold, a poison he shares liberally. His child is dead, but he’s the husk that died in a living body. Then there’s Marcus, from Divergent, a man who presents one face to the world and another entirely to his son. It isn’t just the emotional abuse, there’s also physical abuse, the kind that batters the soul long after the visible scars have healed. A second example of those specific traits can be found in the memory of Peregrine’s father, from Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky

/spoiler

Mischief Makers Together
This is a fun group, one tied rather closely to the next group. These are the fathers that are- often but not always- friends as much as fathers to their children. Their positive influences may be debatable but the lessons they teach are important nonetheless. This kind of relationship exists where there’s a lot of common ground, where the basic personalities of those involved are similar. For example, George from Tamora Pierce’s Trickster pair. He’s supportive, mischievous, frankly devious, all things he’s taught Aly, but there’s a line between father and friend and he isn’t afraid to both draw it and stand by it. The skills they share between them used to be a game to learn, a fun father-daughter exercise, and that shows in the true enjoyment Aly has for utlizing those skills. Very similar in nature and result, though somewhat less firm on the line of distinction, is Bobby Bishop, from Ally Carter’s Heist Society series. A thief from a family of thieves, he continued the tradition with his daughter. While other fathers and daughters still at the kitchen table and talk report cards and extracurriculars, Bobby and Kat scope out a museum and talk manuevers. It’s not the most orthodox of relationships but it is a real one, built off of love and affection and concern for the other’s well-being, something we see clearly in their interactions in Paris.

Legacy Bound
The Mischief Makers are the lighter side of this same coin; where Aly and Kat continue their fathers’ businesses out of a sense of enjoyment and passion and skill (and in Kat’s case, a fair amount of family expectation/bullying), there are others tied to their father’s legacies by a bit more. For Cas, from Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood, he’s out for revenge, pursuing his father’s work for a chance to get at the ghost who killed his father. He’s good at his father’s work, no doubt, but he’s in for his father’s memory. Sean Kendrick, from Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races also follows this pattern. Not for vengeance, but to continue the work, to honor the memory.

The World and My Life
This is the type of father who will do anything for their children, even when it’s hard and the child doesn’t always understand the purpose of it. These are the fathers who sacrifice, who care more for the fate and well-being of their children than anything else. Like Arthur Weasley, from Rowling’s Harry Potter series. This is a man with seven children who has scrimped and saved and cut corners to give them the things they need, who exhausts himself trying to win a better world for them. This is a man who loves them beyond reason, even when they’re turned their backs on him, and will always be waiting to welcome them home again. Another example is Monroe, from Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade series. He will do everything he can to keep his daughter safe, as well as reclaim the child that was lost and try to ease the brutality that child has grown up in.

As before, there are definitely other examples that fit these types, as well as other types. So share one with me below! Tell me how a father from YA or MG fiction fits into one of these types, or give me an example of a type I didn’t mention. That enters you for a chance to win an ARC of Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne. Want another entry? Head back to the types of moms (shortlink at head of post) and comment there to answer the same question about mothers, and you’ll be entered twice. Giveaway will run through Saturday, 4 February!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Harbinger, by Sara Wilson Etienne

January 25, 2012 at 11:17 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Wracked with visions, Faye gets shipped off to Holbrook Academy when her parents can’t deal with the crazy anymore. Holbrook isn’t your typical school, though; student brutality is a fact of life and the goal isn’t to heal the students so much as break them and make them conform. Fortunately for Faye, her assigned Family actually has a way of looking out for each other, of supporting each other even when they all have to take the pain for it. Then they wake up filthy and exhausted, their hands covered in red like blood, and Faye’s floor has a strange design painted on it. Between navigating the atrocities of their so-called caretakers and the mistrust inherent in meeting new people, they’ll have to get to the bottom of the mystery. Except…Faye’s pretty sure handsome, full-of-secrets Kel knows more about it than the rest of them. She’s also pretty sure he’s trying to kill them, and maybe the entire world.*

I have to admit, even before I got to read a description, this was one book where the title and cover totally drew me in. I have a completely geeky love affair with the word ‘harbinger’ and have for a long time, and the cover? Just look at it! My first thought was that it’s like a tarot card (which turns out to be a pretty valid assumption), but it blends all the elements together so well that while you’re very sure the book is going to have a great deal of mystery and intrigue and danger to it, you’re not quite sure what that setting is going to be. It could be anything- fiction, historical, sci-fi, fantasy…with the bright-glowing sea and the rocky shore and the blood moon low and heavy in the sky, this cover leaves you open for anything.

Which is a good thing, because this book has a strong element of WTFery all the way through. And it WORKS. This is one of the very few books I’ve ever read where the uttery confusion of what’s going and the fact that characters are completely clueless actually works in its favor. From the first scene in Dr. Mordoch’s office, we know that separating the line between reality and appearance is going to be very difficult, maybe even impossible, but we’re placed into such a lush, vivid description of the visions that we’re pretty much okay with that. The characters are in such a welter of confusion and we sink into that chaos with them. Enough comes together at the end to give us belated comprehension, which makes for a fantastic reread when you know what to look for already.

I love Faye. Even just her narration- she’s honest and vivid, an artist that never has to tell us she’s an artist. It’s there in the way she describes things, in the words she uses to relate a thing, even just in the way she looks at things for the individual pieces of their overall shape. I love her pain and bewilderment, her betrayal, and in light of that I especially love how- until memory and purpose intrudes- she still tries to protect other people. I love the sense of loss that comes when the thing she’s feared, hated, the things that made her different, are stripped away. Maybe they were terrifying but they were also hers, part of her, and I love the ache that comes with that. She’s a good middle ground between rebellious and passive, which lets us appreciate the more extremem qualities in others.

I really enjoyed the layers and layers of complications in Kel and Faye’s relationship. Even from the first moment there’s a lot that goes into it. Complicated? Yes. Angsty? Not really. Emotions and tensions are high, they’re both used to being betrayed by others and abandoned by the people supposed to care about them, but there’s something very real about all of it, something grounded in everything they experience even over so short a time. It’s a strong bond, even when pulled taut between them with distrust, but there are reasons for that, and I love it. (I’m not going to tell you what the reasons are, though- spoilers)

The degree of brutality at the school strains credulity a little bit. Granted, these kids are mostly unwanted or given up on by their families, so their parents aren’t going to raise a fuss, but it’s hard to believe that there could be that kind of savagery (especially against minors) without repercussions. Though, granted, given the overall setting I suppose there’s not exactly much in the way of governmental oversight. The atmosphere and danger the school itself represents is important, but it’s also a little off-putting that there is genuinely nothing to act as a limit.

I would have liked to know more about the others. It’s Faye’s story, that’s true, and the relationship focus is on her and Kel, but the others of their Family unit are really quite interesting and we only get to see them in flashes. They’re separate and distinct, with individual personalities, but they’re relegated to role of crowd most of the time. They’re strong enough to band together, to stand together against outside interference even at the price of being tasered, starved, humiliated, etc, but we’re only left with echoes of the connections, rather than seeing the connections forged.

Dr. Mordoch, the head of Holbrook Academy and a not-quite-remembered figure from Faye’s past, is a monster, but she’s a monster who is at times almost sympathetic. I love that we get to see those flashes in an otherwise multi-layered repugnant personality. She truly is repulsive and what she does to the students in the claim of helping them is egregious, but I loved seeing how her guilt compounds with severe flaws to render her nearly insane. We stop just short of actually feeling sorry for her but the impulse is there- the idea that we would feel sorry for her if she were a better person.

Honestly, I think the only thing I didn’t particularly enjoy about this book was how heavy-handed the environmental message was. Is the setting believable? Aside from the brutality of the school, yes. An oil crisis has caused a severe shortage of fuel, resources are being pillaged, and communities are drawing together into cooperatives to shield against the outside world and protect what resources they have. It makes sense and it’s certainly a worthy cause and a concern, but I rather felt like I was being bludgeoned with it. Rather than being part of the book, it becomes the book.

Harbinger is a book you sink into, like floating on the ocean and gradually sinking below the waves. It envelops you completely, draws you in to barely contained chaos and a pain that stretches across time. It is, in short, gorgeous. AND- it comes out first week of February, so you don’t even have to wait for it (long).

Want to win an ARC of Harbinger? Just answer a question here and you’ll be entered to win, PLUS there’ll be another chance to enter on Sunday. Answer both questions, be entered twice.

Until next time~
Cheers~

* As a disclaimer, I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

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Moms and Types + Giveaway!

January 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm (General, Giveaway) (, , , , )

From time to time, my friends and I go back to visit a topic near and dear to our curiosity: Disney movies and the family structure. Even just looking at the animated summer blockbusters, there’s something a little strange there when you actually look at the families. For example:
Belle, from Beauty and the Beast? Dead mom.
Beast, from Beauty and the Beast? Both parents dead.
Snow White? Dead mom.
Quasimodo, from Hunchback of Notre Dame? Dead mom. We assume dead dad as well, but he could have just been imprisoned.
Aladdin? Both parents dead.
Jasmine? Dead mom.
Simba, from Lion King? Dad dies. Rather horribly.
Ariel, from Little Mermaid? Dead mom.
Hercules? At the least the really screwed up Disney version anyway? Two sets of parents.
Nemo, from Finding Nemo? Dead mom.
Tiana, from The Princess and the Frog? Dead dad.
Tarzan? Both parents dead.
Cinderella? Both parents dead.
Even frickin’ Bambi’s mother dies.

Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and Mulan seem to stand out as significant exceptions when you list them with their friends, because they actually have happy, whole family units. Where our debates usually centered was whether or not Disney had this trend on purpose, to either reach out to the broken family homes and say it’s okay you still get your happy ending someday, or if Disney studios just really had a thing against intact families, like it’s some kind of personal affront to their broken, battered, bitter hearts.

But Disney being the springboard for many improbably conversations, it got me to thinking about families in fiction. For this week, specifically the mothers.

In Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction, adult family members have a sometimes precarious position. The story isn’t about them, usually, so sometimes it’s like the parents don’t even exist. We’re aware the characters have them, we even see them peripherally from time to time, but they just don’t have much an impact. Then, other times, they’re a HUGE impact. While each mother should always be distinct from others, as every character is hopefully distinct, they do tend to fall into types.

The Departed Saint
Lily Potter. Throughout all seven books of the Harry Potter series, we’re given only the best things to hear of Lily. Even Petunia, who hates her sister, still talks about how wonderful Lily was, how pretty, how clever, etc. You never hear a bad word about her. Then, the information that overreaches everything else: she laid down her life to save her son, and her love temporarily killed the Dark Lord. Let’s face it, that kind of action doesn’t create a mother; it creates a martyred saint. There’s no flaw, no detracting deficiency, so we (and Harry) are led to see her as part of a marble pantheon of saints. Do we ever doubt her goodness? No. Do we ever doubt her love for Harry? No. But do we ever get to see her as a real person? Not really. We come a little bit closer with Slughorn’s reminiscence, with Snape’s memories, but Lily Potter is like the Dead Mommy of all Dead Mommies.

The All-Mother
This is the one who takes in strays, adopts adopts adopts, mothers everyone more or less impartially regardless of age, gender, race, or creed, the one who exists as a sort of monument to the institution of motherhood. In other words? Molly Weasley. She’s plump and a little disheveled, goes without to make sure her kids have what they need for school, and exists to mother other people. It’s not just about pampering and gushing, though, because she also lays down the hard discipline. No matter what else is going on, she can be counted on to predictable and steady, a rock who will probably make a cup of tea as soon as she can get half a hand free during the crisis.

The All-Consumed Mother
This is the type of mother for whom the entire world revolves around her son. There is absolutely nothing she wouldn’t do for her son, no matter what it was, and depending on the rest of her personality the rest of the world may or may not be invited to piss off. Narcissa Malfoy is one example of this; she’s vain and arrogant, prejudiced, perhaps bigoted, thinks herself far superior to others in terms of purity of blood, wealth, social status, and beauty, but perhaps the strongest single trait of Narcissa Malfoy is that she’s Draco’s mother. Politics? Allegiances? Screw them. She’ll forsake anything if it means keeping her son safe. You know the saying that there’s nothing more dangerous than standing between a lioness and her cub? (though if you watch enough nature documentaries you know that’s not precisely true anyway) Well, forget that: standing between Narcissa and her son is far, far worse. But there’s a less Oedipal, gentler side to the all-consumed coin. For example, the mother from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. (Forgive me for not knowing her name; I borrowed a copy and already gave it back so I can’t check it) Her entire world revolves around caring for her daughter. That is her life. BUT, she also had flashes of a life outside of it. We see glimpses of the past, but also of the future. For the present, she will do everything she can to make her daughter comfortable, to keep her as healthy as possible for as long as possible, but unlike Narcissa she knows when to let go. Her world revolves around her daughter, but she also has other stationary points to keep her focused, like a husband and something good she can do.

The What Kid? Mother
Perhaps it’s partially that teens are angsty with Mommy and Daddy Issues anyway, or it’s a reflection of the tiems, but this is one that we see a fair amount. The mother who’s so wrapped up in whatever that the fact that she has a kid or kids is an afterthought at best. The other side to that is the mother who’s so consumed with something else- work, a purpose- that the kid doesn’t always (maybe ever) get to come first. Jeanine Hathaway from Vampire Academy fills that second part. She’s a Guardian and Guardians protect, so she has only intermittent contact with her daughter, and when they do meet, neither really knows how they stand. It’s not that she doesn’t love her daughter- because she does- but that she doesn’t really know how to treat her like a daughter. Then there’s the mother from Kody Keplinger’s The DUFF, driven by a need and an emptiness that keeps her running away. She loves her children but doesn’t have it in her to be there for them. Or how about Rena Malik, from Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes? Now this is a woman who will never be nominated for Mother of the Year award, but I’ll leave it to you to learn the reason why (spoilers). Final example for now, the Queen from Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl. Cold and driven, ruthlessly pragmatic, she feels no compunction in shoving her daughter and heir to a distant marriage so she can get rid of a disappointment and name a new heir more in line with what she expects. We never particularly hear of Isi going back to Kildenree for a visit- is it any wonder why?

The Zen Mother
This is the type of mother who is ready for anything, who can be shocked only momentarily, who is supportive and loving and can usually surprise the hell out of you. Like Sally Jackson, of the Percy Jackson books. Sally has this awe-inspiring and somewhat frightening ability to wade through trouble. Smelly Gabe? It’s keeping her son safe. Minotaur? Well, she’s rescued later, so at least she got her son to camp. No matter what hurdles come her way, she clears them and adapts to the aftermath, never blaming her son, never discouraging him, and instead supporting both him and his friends. The mother from Veronica Roth’s Divergent also fits this mold. She has this beautifully (and bafflingly) serene reaction to the world, but she does what she can for her daughter and ultimately pays a high price to try to keep Tris safe. In this case, still waters run very deep. Same with the mother from Ally Condie’s Matched. Would she agree with everything Cassia’s doing? No. But she would understand the reason for it, and even without knowing the reasons she support her daughter.

The “Oh My God My Mother is Ruining My Life” Mother
Prime example of this is Jacinda’s mother, from Firelight. Is she doing what she thinks is best? Yes. Is she being extremely selfish and more than a little cruel? Yes. Is she favoring one daughter at the expense of the other? Yes, though she probably doesn’t think so. Her shortcomings, her needs, her fears, mean that she puts Jacinda through hell simply so she and Tamra can feel like they belong somewhere. It still springs from love, but a lot of terrible things do. Mabis, from Lena Coakley’s Witchlanders does a great deal to burden her son. It isn’t just that she’s pretty much insane, but the insistence and force of her fractured beliefs batter at him, place him in a position outside of both belief and disbelief, and that place can be very, very lonely. All his life she’s taught him one thing, now she’s shattering him by insisting he believe another, even though she’s railed against that course for years. Rather than caring for her children, she’s put them in a position where they either have to care for her or walk away; either way, she’s forced them to grow up far too quickly.

The “When Did My Mother Become a Real Person?” Mother
We have a tendency to think of our parents as just…you know…our parents. Their lives began when they had us, right? Eventually we learn that no, they had a full life before us and most will have a full life after we leave the nest, and some even maintain it while we’re there. It’s always a shock, that moment of realizing your parents are real people too. Especially if they’re *gulp* kind of cool. Cammie Morgan, from Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, has to come up against this more than once. Her mother is her mother, and also her headmistress, but she’s also *gasp* someone men might find desirable! And while she knows her mother was a spy, there’s something different about knowing that and actually seeing it in action. Clary Fray, from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, also comes up against the enigma of a mother with a past. In this case, it’s a mother with a hell of a whopper for a secret, but as she’s learning these pieces and trying to fit them together, she doesn’t even have the benefit of having her mother there to help. It can’t do anything but change their relationship, and they both have to come to grips with how the other is changing/has changed before they can really mend things.

This is only a sampling of types- there are so many patterns that people fit into, and some mothers that fit more than one category. Plus, there a ton of mothers in YA and MG that I haven’t gone anywhere near. BUT- if you help me fill in some holes, you could win a book that demonstrates some of the more screwed-up parent/child relationships I’ve seen recently. Comment below with either a Type and example, or an example that fits into one of the above Types, and you’ll be entered to win an ARC of Harbinger, by Sara Wilson Etienne. The giveaway is going to stretch across next week’s post about fathers, too, and you can comment on both to be entered twice. Giveaway will be up through Saturday, 4 February. Just comment below!

Until next time~
Cheers~

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Christmas Congratulations

December 25, 2011 at 12:08 am (General) ()

Today’s a day of family, no matter what holidays you do or do not celebrate this time of year. So today’s going to be brief and to the point.

Congratulations to the recent slew of giveaway winners!

From the Gift of Reading Giveawa:

Prize Pack 1: KARINA!!!

Prize Pack 2: PAOLA!!!

From the Nightspell blog tour swag giveaway:

MELANNIE and MICHELLE!!!

AND….*drumroll please*…

From the Top Ten 2011 giveaway:

TRICIA-WA wins an ARC of Under the Never Sky!!!

Congratulations to all the winners!

And happy holidays to you all.

Until next time~
Cheers
Dot

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Book Review: Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi

December 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm (Book Reviews, Giveaway) (, , , , )

In a world where the skies constantly ripple with the cripping aether storms, survivors are sharply divided: there are those who live in the multi-pod complexes, completely cut off from the oustide world, and those who take their chances out in the wilds. Aria has spent all her life in the pseudo-reality of the realms, with limited real contact and, so long as the pods hold out, shelter from the storms. She’s never been hungry or exhausted, never been in physical danger. Peregrine has spent all his life hunting the wilds to keep his tribe alive, his preternatural senses both strength and bane beneath the aether skies. Neither has ever desired contact with the other’s world.
Until.
Aria breaks all the rules to try to contact her mother, cut off from contact in another pod. Peregrine breaks into a pod to search for medicine for his dying nephew.
Now things will never be the same.

This book does an amazing job of easing you into world-specific slang and terms. Most books fall sharply to one side or the other in this arena: either they explain every piece of slang as soon as they use it so it’s all telling no showing, or they use it fluently and never explain it. This is a wonderful balance. The slang is used naturally, the first time left to stand on its own, but the second and third and even the fourth time it’s used in strong context so we understand the gist, and eventually the nuances are given a little more explicitly. Because of that, the language folds around us, bringing us into a very different world with echoes of our own.

It’s an awesome world too. It’s our world, distantly. We’re never given to know exactly what happened, what brought the aether swirling into the skies, but enough time has passed that two very distinct societies have evolved. Within the pods, life is very sterile and clean. The people are genetically designed and illness has all but been irradicated. Personal contact- the actual physical act of contact- is rare. Most of them spend every waking moment in the Realms, countless pseudo-reality realms accessed through a thought and a Smarteye. Things are only echoes there, the sense of a thing without the true feeling. It’s virtual reality taken to an unsurpassed level of integration, where the genuine reality begins to feel unreal. Outside, society has regressed to tribes striving to survive beneath the aether storms and unpredictable food sources. People have evolved in the wilds, taking on nearly supernatural sensory abilities. Loyalties are important, marriages are undertaken with a care to bloodlines, and your name helps define who you are. Half-wild, half-civilized, they’re not far off from the Savages the pod-Dwellers think them to be. Most cling to communities where others can help them survive, some wander in cannibal tribes in the wastes, while others take their chances out on their own. The details are gorgeous, not always pleasant, and fully immerses you in a sharp-edged world.

Aria has never stepped foot outside of Reverie. Her entire life has been immersion in the Realms- and her mother. Lumina is a scientist who can’t discuss her work, but she crafted her daughter’s genes to give her a glorious voice. Off at another pod for research purposes, she abruptly loses contact with Aria. Desperate to reach her mother, she agrees to something reckless, something with only a slim chance of working- and it backfires horrifically, leading to three deaths and her inceremonious exile from Reverie. Dwellers can’t survive outside the pods- there’s nothing there for them. She can feel the aether sickness working through her, a sickness that will either kill her or mutate her (maybe both). Through her journey, she learns to find strength. She has stubbornness right from the beginning but she gradually acquires a real strength that can see her through anything. Well, nearly anything. Love isn’t much a part of the pod world; it isn’t neat, it isn’t always pretty, and it can have more than a little of the sharp, fierce joy that marks a savage life. What skills she has (opera among them) she learns to use, but most importantly, she learns what the world looks like with both eyes open, rather than hiding from reality in a Realm or behind a Smarteye.

I adored Peregrine. He’s wild and fierce, as much a predator as anything on four legs in the wilds. Despite that savagery though, that hint of mercilessness that keeps him from being kind precisely, he has strong loyalties and an even stronger sense of duty. So many of his actions directly relate to his tribe, the Tides, and what he can do for their welfare. It’s constant, an everpresent thread of determination. For all that, he’s also stubborn, generally unwilling to concede, and more than a little arrogant. He’s a bad boy- easy with the women, very sure of himself- but he’s also a leader who generally cares about the well-being of his people and who would move heaven and earth to save his nephew. He’s also occasionally a little over-whelmed. That’s when I really loved him. He has all the prejudices Aria does and then some, as well as a supreme impatience for other people’s weakness, but he is utterly endearing when he has to admit to himself that he is completely lost.

This book does a really good job of balancing exposition and action. We slowly learn bits and pieces of the larger world and the history, plus teasing hints of a possibly mythical paradise called the Still Blue, a place where the aether vanishes into clear blue skies. What happens in the first pages to hurl Aria into the outside world comes back in a major way and will continue to do so, and it is a doozy. The relationship that slowly, even reluctantly, grows between Aria and Peregrine reminds me a great deal of Beatrice and Benedick- utter detestation that treads a prickly path towards mutual respect until the painful realization that respect has become something more. It’s real, full of fits and starts, uncertainties that they sometimes surpass and other times allow to cripple them. Roar and Talon are amazing side characters, fully capable of evoking a wide range of emotions, and I fully look forward to meeting the mysterious Liv. I also loved Cinder- a very, very complicated little creature who suffers under a weath of pain and loathing.

Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi, out in stores 3 January 2012. Want to win an ARC? Hop on over here and tell me your favorite book(s) of 2011, and you’ll be entered to win! (US only, open through Christmas)

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Top Ten of 2011 + Giveaway

December 18, 2011 at 2:54 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , , )

I’ve read a loooooooot of books this year. Some were re-reads, a healthy amount were non-YA/MG, but I still had a lot of books left on my list when the narrowing was done. So, thought I’d share with you some of my favorite discoveries of this year.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. You’ve heard me gush about this a LOT in the past few months but I still can’t get over how much I love this book. It’s gorgeous in every way- in story, in character, in scope…especially in language. This is a book that makes you fall in love with words all over again, a book that makes you close your eyes to savor the image painted across the back of your lids. It’s about the price of wishes, the importance of small things, about all the many, many types of love. This is a book that makes you want to tear through it, devour it whole, except you can’t- sometimes you just have to stop to absorb. This is a book that absolutely took my breath away.

Divergent by Veronica Roth. The Hunger Games changed the landscape of teen writing in much the same way the Twilight did, in creating a thirst for more within a specific genre. Where Divergent steps apart, though, is that isn’t merely a dystopian- it goes beyond its world to ask the more basic- and more important- question of who we are. Perhaps even more than that, it asks us who we choose to be. It’s a simple question but, as we learn through Tris, it’s a far from simple answer. It’s a brutal story, but in that brutality we’re forced to confront some painful truths, accept some painful facts. We- and Tris- are the better for it. This was one I read straight in one sitting, minus some necessary pauses where my managers expected me to actually work, and I can’t wait for the next one in May.

Entwined, by Heather Dixon. I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings and this is a fantastic example of why. This is a beautiful blend of the base fairy tale (in this case, the Twelve Dancing Princesses), a mildly fantasy version of our world, a historical setting, a story of manners, and a thread of superb voice that ties them all together. There’s never any question of what the foundation story is, it’s never buried beneath everything else, but it still makes the story its own. The characters are distinct and rounded, full of surprises while remaining consistent, and it’s a light frolic through an enchanting atmosphere. I actually re-read this one a couple of times through the year simply because it makes me feel better.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson. This book is squarely fantasy and yet it manages to feel historical. Its borrowed influences are so strong and so well built that we open the pages and feel transported to what could be Alhambra in Moorish Spain. The details are amazing. Things don’t just happen around us, we’re fully immersed in them. We don’t just watch the story happen; we hear it, smell it, taste it. Both the good and bad of the full sensory range. Elisa isn’t your typical heroine- she has a strong degree of self-loathing and an overwhelming conviction of her own uselessness in the face of a grand destiny imbedded in her navel. Yes, her navel. Elisa’s journey through a rich, vibrantly crafted world echoes through her internal journey for a story that’s riveting and enveloping.

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver. This is a story that starts cold and painful and terribly alone and grows into something heart-warming and cozy and ineffably beautiful. It’s about losing things and sometimes finding them- and sometimes finding something better. This is a story that made me melt over and over and over while reading it and I can’t even put into words just how much I loved it. It’s a Middle Grade but it’s one that should be read by everyone, regardless of age. At its heart this is a story about belonging to a family, no matter how unusual, and that’s something everyone should have a part of.

The Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. Yes, I’m cheating and saying a full series instead of a single book, but I just discovered the series this year and absolutely fell in love. I read the first four (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, and Clockwork Angel) straight in a row, had to wait about two weeks for City of Fallen Angels, and then promptly reread all of them to do reviews. Yes, that translates to reading all five of them twice in two and a half weeks. I’ve even read them again since. I am all about characters and I love how incredibly complex and well-rounded the inhabitants of the Shadowhunters’ world are. I also love that Clare is rather brutal to them- what she puts them through forces them to continue changing, pushes them against things they think they can never encompass, and then makes things even worse. It’s built off of amazing combinations of mythologies and no matter what, there’s always a thread of humor both bizarre and macabre (cannibal ducks, anyone?)

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. This was my first foray into the insanity that is Maureen Johnson’s everyday life, inspired largely by how crazy and entertaining she is on Twitter and partly from the fact that I went through a Jack the Ripper obsession in late middle school. I should have guessed, from the Twitter feed, that this was not a safe book to read in front of the computer- fortunately, I was able to clean all the soda from my keyboard and other than the N key being a little sticky, it’s still fully functional. Rory is hysterically earnest as a narrator but there’s a dark thread woven through the story that gives us both gravity and danger. There are times when this is edge-of-your-seat riveting. And there’s page 161. This was a fantastic entree into Johnsonland, a story that turns ghost stories on its ear with an inimitable style.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. This is an exceptional example of how characters can be defined by their environs. Puck and Sean as they are couldn’t exist anywhere other than the Isle of Thisby. Everything in this book ties back into what it means to be part of the island. You don’t belong to the island simply because you grew up there- most who live there all their lives are never so much a part of it as Sean and Puck. Between them, they are the island and the ocean and the capaill uisce that straddle the bloody foam of the surf. Absolutely gorgeous.

Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. I adore Rick Riordan, not just because I love the stories but because he’s inspired millions and millions of kids to read. But the stories are amazing too. Son of Neptune continues the grand story of Percy Jackson but also allows it to keep expanding in a world that had a lot to offer. The Roman world, for all it’s borrowed from the Greeks, is very different in execution. We’re definitely not in Camp Half-Blood, with its cozy campfires and Capture the Flag. Then again, at Half-Blood you never see what happens after they’re old enough to leave camp. I love the differences, the way we sink into this larger world, and I love how we get such a mix of emotions through the story. Riordan isn’t afraid to allow hard things to happen to his characters and from that they grow.

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff. I have a love of broken things, especially broken things that rework themselves into something lovely while still retaining all their broken history. This book is a love song to broken things, lost things, things that careen about in a constant state of half-destruction. It’s a love song, yes, but it’s also a quest and an endless journey into self-discovery and maybe, in a very hard-won sort of way, to self-love. Or at least to loving someone who loves you in spite of all your brokenness. It’s framed by religion yet is never constrained by that. It’s a frame, but not a cage. It’s beautiful and sharp-edged, full of shattered glass and shattered dreams, and clings to that tenuous, dangerous promise of hope.

What are your favorites from this year? Share below and get entered for an ARC of Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi. I’ll draw the winner on the 25th as a special Christmas surprise. (not international, sorry- that kind of shipping is expensive)

Until next time~
Cheers!

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A Reminder of the Things

December 4, 2011 at 10:41 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , )

If I’m completely honest, I am way too mellowed out by the Christmas happenings today to be able to think coherently.

This weekend had so many things!

Yesterday was the annual craft fair at the O’Dome. This thing is HUGE, over three hundred vendors, and my mom and I go together every single year. It’s the only official mother-daughter thing we do each year and I look forward to it so much. It’s really an amazing thing to see so many different kinds of crafts piled together into one space. We’ve been going so many years that we know the vendors by name and sight and they point out the stuff we wouldn’t have seen before. We see other customers we see every single year, plus other people we recognize from various places. We marvel at some of the amazing stuff on display, and- well… maybe we marvel a little over some of the really kind of ugly stuff too. We tease each other and help each other pick things out and all in all, we emerge four hours later with significantly less money.

The daughter part of me and the crafter part of me (among other things, I make jewelry) have a lot of reasons to love going to the craft fair. Here’s the thing, though- the writer part of me loves it too.

The people watching is extraordinary (and hysterical) but mostly it’s the inspiration. Every single thing on those tables? That was someone’s inspiration! We look for inspiration that results in words on a page but it’s there all around us in so many different mediums. The crafts on those tables started out as an idea- a design that they labored to translate from a picture in their head down onto paper, and from paper into some other format. Whether it’s jewelry, wook work, wreaths, candles, cloth work, soups and spices, or ornaments, or any number of other things. Every single one of those items starts with inspiration.

But between inspiration and the final product is a hell of a lot of work.

Which is why going to the craft fair always inspires me to buckle down and put that hard work into my current projects, whether they’re crafty or wordy.

Then today was the day of the Christmas trees. We put up and trimmed four of them. Four! Not all in the same house, it should be said. Here in the apartment, we have my roommate’s seven footer in front of the windows, with my three foot up on the kitchen counter. She’s haphazard in the way she decorates hers, so there are all kinds of ornaments and different types of garlands strung randomly. I’m…well, to tell the truth, I’m really frexing OCD about decorating my tree. Then over at the mother’s, we helped them decorate their two trees. It’s not that they really have the space for two trees, but more that they feel guilty if they don’t do two trees because they have SO MANY ORNAMENTS. And we add to them every year at the craft fair, plus they’re addicted to the ornaments from Cracker Barrel.

So rather than doing a typical blog today, I’m just going to give a quick reminder of the two current giveaways.

As part of Leah Cypess’ blog tour, check out my review of Nightspell. Any comment at all will enter you into the grand prize drawing across all the blogs on the tour for a one-of-a-kind, uber-cool, annotated copy of Mistwood. For my part of the giveaway, leave a comment answering the question in the post for a chance at some signed swag from both books.

The second giveaway has TWO (2!) prize packs. To enter this one, hop over here and tell me what your favorite part of this time of year.
Prize pack one includes: an ARC of Shatter Me by Tahareh Mafi, copies of Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini, fun swag from multiple authors, and a handmade bracelet (handmade by me, in point of fact, and it came out really good)
Prize pack two includes: an ARC of Shatter Me by Tahareh Mafi, copies of City of Bones and Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, fun swag from multiple authors, and a handmade bracelet that my roommate drool.

Both giveaways will be ending around the 20th (exact dates given in the posts) so be sure to check them out! US only (sorry, international shipping is prohibitively expensive).

Until next time~
Cheers~

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Blog Tour Book Review: Nightspell, by Leah Cypess

December 2, 2011 at 10:00 am (Blog Tour, Giveaway) (, , , , , , )

Four years ago, Darri’s little sister was sent to Ghostland to secure an alliance for her people, to marry their prince once she came of age. Now, time is running out and the Raellians need that alliance too much to wait, so they’re sending Darri to marry in her sister’s stead.
And it’s just the chance Darri’s been looking for to rescue her sister.
But Ghostland is unlike anything she’s known, a country where day and night is reversed, where the dead walk among the living with little to betray which they are, and a sophisticated intrigue quite different from the fierce wars of the plains people. When you can’t tell the difference between the living and the dead, it’s all to easy to become one of the dead yourself.

Back when this first showed up in the computer at work, it was titled Ghostland, and all it had as a description was a line or two about a country where the living and the dead co-exist. That, and the fact that I’d enjoyed Mistwood, was all I needed to look forward to it.

It’s one of those rare books where the setting is as much a character as any of the people walking around. It isn’t just that there are ghosts, it’s that the entire society of this country is based on that co-existence. Anyone who dies an unnatural death comes back as a ghost, driven by the need to find their murderer and avenge their death, whereupon they can fade out of this second life. But- if you can resist the impulse to find out who murdered you, or if a royal decree bans it, you can live for centuries. While ghosts in this land can be translucent and pass through solid objects and float, all the sorts of things we expect ghosts to do, they can also become solid. They can eat and drink, they can touch. Unless they let that mask of living slip, there’s very little way to tell.

And I LOVE that. Intrigue has always been a part of this court but that duality of life and death has elevated it nearly to an art form. The Ghostland court is catty and subtle, very concerned with appearances, and thoroughly unimpressed with anything outside their borders.

Including Darri.

And as long as she gets to save her sister, Darri couldn’t care less. Her sister, however, does. Callie has been within Ghostland for four years. Given the Ghostlander disinterest in external politics, she’s lived in a nebulous sort of honored hostage position. She’s changed a great deal from the plains girl she was- she had to, in order to survive in the court. She binds up her hair, something no plainswoman would do, wears makeup and overly ornate clothing and keeps herself tightly controlled so she can fit in at the court. Her family betrayed her and Darri wasn’t able to save her but that was four years ago- now being ‘saved’ wouldn’t be anything of the sort.

The family relationships in this are amazing and complicated and very, very prickly. Varis, Darri and Callie’s older brother, was changed by the wars out on the plains, becoming far more like their father rather than the indulgent brother who used to sneak in to tell them stories. He sees things in terms of reasonable sacrifices for alliance, obligation for the greater good of their people. He’s disgusted by Darri’s willingness to defy their father for the sake of something that to him shouldn’t matter. Darri is equally disgusted by his willingness to throw away family members and to betray agreements made in good faith. They don’t like each other- they don’t trust each other- but they’re both in way over their head with the Ghostlander court.

And Callie, who could help them, isn’t feeling particularly charitable to either of them. Their arrival puts her in a very poor position. All the snide comments and insults about her barbarian upbringing, things she managed to silence after years of effort to belong, are rising again and her siblings can only look ludicrous in Ghostland, with their clumsy clothing and straightforward blade politics. They have neither the elegance nor the sophistican necessary for the intrigue that surrounds them.

Oh, the intrigue. Mysteries abound in this story, who killed who by whose orders, who’s living or dead, which are the normal mysteries of Ghostland, but there are also larger secrets pressing in against the court. What is it that keeps the dead tied to Ghostland? Can it be destroyed? Controlled? What happens if a ghost tries to leave the boundaries? And, more directly bound to the struggles of court, what power plays are going on, and what alliances will prove the most useful?

This book is full of surprises, small revelations and big revelations and even ones that make you swallow hard and go Wow, was NOT expecting that. It’s a story of family, but it’s also a story of how hard forgiveness can be, about how people change. It’s a story about doing the Right Thing- and that sense of loss and helplessness when you realize the Right Thing maybe isn’t. It’s about hard choices and unexpected allies, and more than anything, it’s a story about what it means to be alive.

The reason this review is posted on a special day is because it’s part of Leah Cypess’ mini-blog tour and giveaway. At the end of the tour she’ll be giving away an annotated copy of Mistwood, her debut novel, complete with random scribblings and sketches in the margins. This is an amazing way to get into the head of a writer with her own book. Every stop on the tour will have mini-giveaways, with a grand prize winner receiving the annotated copy.

To be entered for the grand prize giveaway, the winner of which will be chosen from across all the blog stops, simply comment below.

For my giveaway- signed bookmarks for both Mistwood and Nightspell– you have to answer a question:

If you were murdered in Ghostland, would you want to find out who killed you so you could avenge yourself and fade away? Or would you want that second life?

The blog tour goes through 19 December so comments through then will be eligible for both the bookmarks and the grand prize drawing. And remember- the more blogs along the tour that you visit, the better your chance to win the annotated copy! Be sure to check out:

November 28: Guest post at Fiction State of Mind
November 29: Review at The Book Cellar
November 30: Interview at Library Mosaic
December 1: Guest Post at YA Bibliophile
December 4: Guest Post at Haunted Orchid
December 6: Interview at A Thousand Little Pages
December 7: Review at Ashely Suzanne
December 8: Review at Hobbitsies
December 9: Review at A Backwards Story
December 10: Nightspell excerpt at Arianne Cruz
December 11: Review at Penguin Girl
December 12: Interview at WhatchYA Reading
December 14: Review at Ticket to Anywhere
December 15: Review at Word Lust
December 16: Nightspell excerpt at A Tale of Many Reviews
December 18: Guest Post at Bodacious Bookaholic
December 19: Mistwood deleted scene at A Good Addiction

Until next time~
Cheers!

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