Monday, April 25, 2011

Blog tour: This or that with Janet Gurtler (Author of I'm Not Her)

It's a pleasure to welcome Janet Gurtler, author of the up and coming debut contemporary YA novel, I'm Not Her to my blog today. 

About the book:
“For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel envy…”

Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that’s okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place.

Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer.

Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates.

There are senior boys flirting with her. Yet the smiles of her picture-perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying.

Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn’t hold it together, who will?

In today's tour stop, I've asked Janet to pick out some of her preferences in a this-or-that duel. Check out her responses below.

1.  Facts or fiction?
Fiction all the way baby.

2. Hardback or paperback?

Paperback.

3.  The hot, broody bad boy or the sweet and charming surfer dude?

Bad boy.  Sigh. Do we ever learn? It’s like choosing chocolate layer cake over a nice fruit salad with low fat yogurt.  I know what I should want, but I know what I do want.

4. Beach side resort or lakeside retreat?


 I had a pathological fear of bathing suits when I was younger, which surprisingly disappeared after I was pregnant.  I guess now I’d pick beach side because I’m old and I don’t care what I look like in my bathing suit. And I do like the feeling of sand between my toes.

5. Notepad or laptop?

I love me my Laptop.

6. Beautiful book covers or beautiful book titles?

Hmm. Good question.   I’ve never really thought about it before, but I’d have to go with titles. Hmm. Interesting.

7.  Picnics or fancy restaurants?


Depends what’s in the basket, but assuming I can pick my own picnic food I’ll go with that. I’m not really into paying boatloads of money for fancy food.

8.  Boat trip or road trip?


Oh. Another hard one. I love boats, but I’ll go with road trip. Lots of napping and reading time.

9.  Reading or writing?


Hee. Depends on the day. Most days it’s probably writing.

10.  Sweet or salty?


Sweet. Preferably covered in chocolate.

11. The power to be invisible or the power to travel back in time?


Invisible. I would have some serious fun.  And I might be naughty.

12.  Board games or outdoor games?
Board.  The sports gene skipped me.

13.  Fruit juice or fruit?

Fruit   

14.   Dusk or Dawn?


Dawn

15. Fantasy or reality?

In my head or what I read? I prefer a little of both but if forced to pick I’d have to go with reality.

Thanks so much for stopping by on my blog Janet. I had a lot of fun doing these questions and loved your answers. Hooray for the bad boy! Swoon. And I would so go with invisibility as a power too.

Also, thanks to the team over at the Teen Book Scene for a spot on this tour. I really can't wait to read I'm Not Her. The book is being published around the  1st May, so be sure to be on the look out for it then.

For more information on Janet, you can:
- visit her blog and/or.
-  follow her on twitter

Be sure to check out all the rest of the tour stops, by clicking on the banner below.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book review: Amber Frost

Amber Frost
A girl shackled by the expectations of her wealthy parents, an intricately tattooed boy who is as intriguing as he is mysterious and a burning love steeped in ancient Celtic lore.


Amber Frost by Suzi Davis (ireadiwrite publishing)

18-year old Grace Lynn Stevenson has it all. She's wealthy, gorgeous, hangs out with the elite crowd and is dating the school's most popular guy.  Every girl's dream, right?

Yet for all that, she's plagued by strange dreams and a desperate and suffocating sense of loneliness that she would like nothing more than to escape from. 
Enter Sebastian Caldwood. 

Quirky, handsome and charming - Grace - in spite of her reluctance to get to know him, can't help but be drawn to the enigmatic and intricately tattooed boy.

But... Sebastian is hiding secrets.

He's older than he looks, never ages and gets what he wants simply because he wills it. In spite of his ability, he has little to no recollection of his past and no matter how much he wills it into being, remembrance continues to elude him. 

When he finds himself inadvertently beginning to remember (these moments of remembrances occurring more and more when he's around Grace), he realises that both he and Grace are tied together in more ways than one; and that there are dark, dangerous forces who would like nothing better than to destroy the powerful love and bond between them. 

My thoughts:

I first fell in love with this book when I stumbled across this on a fellow book blogger's blog. The book's beautiful title, Amber Frost, certainly brought to mind visions of beautiful snow-frosted landscapes, powdery white beauty and glistening icicles (I told you I was a sucker for books with pretty tittles).

Once I read the synopsis, I really began to have high hopes for the book. I admit to being especially curious about Sebastian and his ability as I had the feeling that his story was certainly going to be an interesting one.

And I was definitely right about that.

Unfortunately, aside from that, I thought that the novel fell just a little flat for me.

 As much as I don't mind characters being described as being beautiful, the problem I found with this novel, is that from the very beginning, we as the readers, are told and then constantly reminded of Grace's awe-striking beauty.

Paired with the fact that she is made to be aware of her beauty, but at the same time is shown to portray that she's just so tired of being seen as the beautiful, marble statue who is only appreciated because of her beauty, I personally felt that her "I'm tired of being beautiful attitude" did not really ring very true for me.

And here's why:


I think if the author had rather shown this instead of just adapting a description based narrative for this, then I might have found it a little more believable. It would also probably have influenced me to like Grace a little more than I did.

In the same way that I believe less is more, so too do I believe that in many instances showing is better than telling. And I would have definitely like to have seen more showing instead of just telling.

But, that's not to say that Grace is an altogether unlikeable character.

Because she's not. 

I couldn't help but sympathise with her coming from the rigid, wealthy and loveless household that she comes from. Frankly, her parents - especially her mother - are both horrible souls who expect Grace to live out dreams that were set out for her, instead of allowing Grace to make her own choices.

She's pretty much forced into a society that she does not want to be part of and is even dictated to about who she can and can't date.

I have to commend her for growing a little throughout the novel - something which becomes rather obvious when she meets the charming Sebastian (For me character growth and development in a novel is important, so this was something that I really enjoyed and appreciated seeing and experiencing).

I thought that I would enjoy Sebastian's back story much more and I did. In fact, his story is one of the reasons that certainly kept me reading.
 
I also thought his character was in some ways, a lot stronger than Grace's character and was one of the main reasons that motivated me into continuing this novel.

There was such a wealth of mystery around him and his tattoos, that it kept me on the edge of my seat and certainly kept me reading. When I eventually found out what they really meant, I was quite astounded as I definitely wasn't expecting it to be something so wonderfully unexpected.

There is one other aspect of the book that did bother me and it's a problem I recently had with Deadlands.

The use of repetitive vocabulary.

As I've said in my Deadlands review, this doesn't become an issue until it becomes so noticeable that you can't help but pick up on it. For me, having to read about Sebastian's voice being constantly described as lilting, musical and melodic was very bothersome for me.

But, for all this, there were some moments that really did shine through for me, and what did save the novel for me, was the twist near to the end.

Suzi Davis also has a remarkable gift for bringing settings alive and one of other my favourite aspects of the book was the beautiful, beautiful descriptions of powdery, snow-frosted settings that had me wishing I was in the book and not just outside of it.

Throughout the book, there are hints of magic, but it's really only towards the end that the Celtic element really comes out to play in a wonderfully intriguing manner that certainly makes me want to give the next book in this series a chance.

I'm a huge fan of Celtic magic, myth and legend, and admit that in spite of the various issues I had with this book, I'm definitely intrigued enough to want to give the second book in this series a chance.

All in all, I think Suzi has brought an intriguingly different aspect to the Young Adult genre, and one that I'd really like to see explored more.

A note of thanks and disclaimer: Special thanks to the author, Suzi Davis and her publishers for providing me with an e-book copy to review. The fact that I received this through the publishers in no way affects my opinion of the book.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: All you desire

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read.

Here's my pick for this week


All You Desire by Kirsten Miller
This is the sequel to The Eternal Ones - which was a book that I really, really enjoyed. This time around, All You Desire sees Haven inflitrating the awful Ouroboros Society where she has to seduce and charm Adam (remember him?) in order to find out where her best friend, Beau has disappeared to.

I must also add that I do like the cover and think it's far better than the cover for The Eternal Ones. 

Here's a full summary of the book:
Haven Moore and Iain Morrow have been living a blissful life in Rome, an ocean way from the Ouroboros Society and its diabolical leader.

But paradise is not to last.

The mysterious disappearance of Haven's best friend, Beau, sends the pair running back to New York, where they encounter the Horae, an underground group of women who have spent centuries scheming to destroy Adam Rosier.

Only they can help Haven uncover the secret to Beau's whereabouts in one of her past lives. But their help comes at a price: Haven must infiltrate the Ouroboros Society, charm Adam Rosier, and lure him into a trap.

It's a plan the Horae believe will save the world-but Haven and Iain fear that it may destroy the happiness they've been chasing for two thousand years.


What's on your WoW list for the week? I'd love to know.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Book talk: Writing negative reviews

I had every intention of posting up a book review or two this week, but for some reason (and because I'm busy writing a review of a book that, while I enjoyed, could have been a little better), I thought I'd write a post about negative book reviews.

I'm sure most of you must have come across that link that recently went viral on twitter and across the net.

Without linking to it (as I think it has already been given enough air time and because I'm pretty sure the author has by now realised just what a grave, grave mistake she made in the process), the link is a 2-star review of a self-published author's book written in a fair, constructive manner which I thought was well thought out and by no means written with the intent to hurt the author.

Unfortunately, the author took such extreme offence to the review, that she ended up lashing out at the reviewer and proceeded to barrage the reviewer's comment stream (and the people who proceeded to defend the reviewer's right to his opinion) with hate-filled comments.

To say that I (and fellow book reviewers) were shocked and a little more than taken aback would probably be the understatement of the year.

So, it's in the light of the recent events that today's subject is dedicated to navigating the precarious terrain that all of us are highly familiar with: negative reviews.

Honest but fair
I think, I can state on behalf of most book bloggers/ reviewers, that most of us don't like giving negative reviews. 

I know that I certainly don't.

My policy on reviews has always been to make a point of trying to point out both positive and negative aspects of a book and to always try and back up my claim and the reasoning behind why I feel a specific way about something that I didn't like in the book.

Honest, but polite and fair. That's always been and always will be my philosophy and it's not something that I'll change anytime soon.

You see, like the reviewer who had to deal with the negative backlash, the one thing I understand and respect is that writing a book takes a lot of hard work. 

And because of that, I commend every single author for plotting their stories, developing their characters and churning out word after word and page after page in order to form and shape the book that's taken them months (or even years) to write.

I respect that and do not want to take that away from the author. 

Still, I do have to emphasise that for all this, I believe in pointing out aspects in a novel that bothers me. I believe that it gives me insight into what I'm looking for in a novel and I believe that this form of constructive criticism helps the author to refine and hone his or her skill as a writer. 

Also, as a reviewer and a book buyer, I myself would not like to be foiled into buying a book that may or may not be as fabulous as everyone claims it is in reviews.

Not everyone will like the book
This brings me to my second point.

For every honest, constructive and fair review out there, you will find someone who will dislike the book. Books are, have been and always will be a subjective experience. It's reflective of just how many different people with different personalities are out there in the world.

There's a book for every person and just because the one person likes the book, it certainly does not mean the next person who reads it will. This is not just a point that is meant for authors, but for reviewers as well.

I've seen many reviewers get upset with the next blogger simply because they didn't love the book in the same way that they did. Now I don't want to be mean, but let me state the obvious here: there's no book law that states that I, or others are required to love the book that you love.

It's unnecessary and blatantly immature to attack a blogger/reviewer just because he or she didn't like the book that you loved. If you're an author and you're doing this, then it's certainly a sure way to commit career suicide.

And if you're a reviewer who is doing this to other reviewers, then you shouldn't be allowed to review books. It's that simple.

Being mean vs constructive criticism

Of course, there's another aspect to reviewing that one also needs to consider and that is that there is a MAJOR difference between writing an honest and constructive critique in comparison to a review that blatantly slates the author as a writer.

As a reviewer I'm always conscious of making sure that I never, ever attack the author.

Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of bloggers/reviewers who blatantly bash the author and focus on talking about the author's lack of writing skills as opposed to talking about what they didn't like about the book. Calling the author names is definitely not part of the reviewing process.

For me, you discrediting the author in such a boorish and disrespectful manner, actually just shows that you as a reviewer don't have anything constructive to say that will back up your claims as to just why you don't/didn't like the book.

It also shows that you as a reviewer don't understand or respect the writing craft and all the hard work the author has put into getting their novel out.

By all means, if you're going to write a negative review, then go ahead.

But be classy about it.

Don't be bitchy. Don't be mean. And don't hate others just because they loved the book that you didn't like. Most importantly, keep the review about your experience with the book and the book itself, not about how much you hate the author for wasting your time.

Yikes... that was quite a lengthy post wasn't it?
Anyway, what are your thoughts on negative reviews? How do you approach them? Or do you avoid them entirely. I'd be very keen to hear what you have to say.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Books people keep shoving down my throat

Yep, I'm back.

It's certainly been a while hasn't it? Still, I must admit that I am rather glad I took a bit of a breather from blogging.

I've missed being here of course (and I've certainly missed all my regular blog visitors, that's for sure), but I felt like I really just needed to take a step back and focus on things in my life that I've unwittingly been neglecting.

I've got a lot of catching up to do (which I will get to throughout the course of the week), but  in the meantime, I thought I'd do a quick post about  books that people keep trying to shove down my throat.


As a rule, I love having books recommended to me and I love hearing what other people have to say about the books that they're recommending...


Yet, I think there's a fine line between recommending and just downright trying to shove a book down my throat. Unfortunately, people in their enthusiasm, don't get that it's often their over-the-top excitement about a book that end up being one of the very things that can put people off reading a book for good.

Yes I know. That's book irony in its purest form.

But, without further ado, I've compiled and divided my books into two separate lists of books people keep trying to shove down my throat, the first being:

a - The wanted to read, but no longer want to because of incessant insistence that I should read it and...
b - The still want to read, but am waiting for the bad feelings surrounding the forced recommendations to go away.

A: Wanted to read, but no longer care or want to read

 

1. Shantaram
I'll never, ever, EVER read this.

Not even if all the world's books burnt down and this one was the only one left standing

(You can tell by that sentence just how badly I was being harassed into trying to read this).


On some level, it pains me that I feel this way because I can remember a vague feeling of actually wanting to read this before people just constantly started throwing this in my face and trying to force this book down my throat. 

That vague feeling of wanting to read that book? Forever gone.

 
2. The Da Vinci Code
Yes, can you believe it - I still haven't read this book. Nor have I watched the movie.
 

Nor am I going to ever want to.
 
Because, as much as I realise that there are people who wanted to and genuinely have read this book because they wanted to, I myself. don't want to be part of the crowd that has just read this book for the sake of being able to say that they've read the book (and so that they can join in the pseudo-intellectual debates surrounding this).

Unfortunately, I've come across quite a few of these people and this, besides the actual book hype, was a driving force behind me not wanting to read this book.

Books are meant to be read because you want to read them, not because you don't want to be left out of the discussion and hype surrounding the book. 

3. House of Night book series

I remember a time where I actually wanted to read this series. Now, well, every time I see these books on the shelves, I walk by as quickly as I can.

I suppose, people were pretty much still in Twilight high mode, but I think I already reached that point long before most did and frankly just wanted to move on.

I still love a good vamp story, but this one is one series I probably won't ever read.


There are many more that I could put under this list, but I suspect I look as if I'm just a horrible person who enjoys slating the books that other people probably loved or still want to read.

So, moving along to the next list, which I've titled the:

Still want to read, but am waiting for the bad feelings surrounding the forced recommendations to go away list.
 

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
I really, really, really want to read this.

In fact, this book is sitting on my shelf and just waiting to be read.

People have either been loving this or hating it and the fact the there is such an obvious divide (besides people trying to get me to read it at that moment) has made me hesitate a little.


When I find myself hesitating about a book, I put it on the back burner for a while - that way my opinion is not influenced by any reviews or by what people keep telling me about it.
 
I really hate it when people put an opinion in my mouth even before I've actually read the book - and I've found that way too many people have been trying to do this for Crescendo, which is why I haven't read it yet.

The good news is that this is definitely not a book I'll be putting on the don't-want-to read list, because I love Becca's writing and I loved Hush, Hush.


The next book on my list is:
 

J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series
Many, many readers out there adore this adult book series.

I've started the first book, but somehow lost interest - not for lack of loving it, but probably because I felt like that specific time I was reading it just wasn't right for reading it. 

Unfortunately, a couple of months and a few years later, I still feel this way.

Again, trying to shove this series down my throat also didn't help much.


I'm not quite sure when this feeling will go away, but I do know that I want to read it at some stage.
 

Matched by Ally Condie
A dystopian fiction novel that I've been seriously looking forward to reading. 

Yet again, the hype proved to be a major off-putting factor.

I've pretty much decided to read as little reviews for this book as possible and do think that I've now managed to reach a point where I'll be picking this up in the next month or so.


It really has taken me forever to get around to the point where I was ready to get over my issues with the hype surrounding this book, but I think I'm finally finding it in me to become excited about reading this.


That's me for now...

I'm of course quite interested in hearing about the books you won't be reading / the books you'll be putting on the back burner, so please feel free to share below.


P.S. It's good to be back.