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Hunger Games Movie Posters

These have been floating around the blogosphere quite a bit, but in case you haven't seen them, the Hunger Games movie posters are out, featuring the profile of each character.

Here's Katniss. The first time I saw the actress who would play her, I was cringing, but now, I'm really happy with the choice. She looks tough and even rather like I imagined her, especially with the dyed hair.

Gale looks so much better in this picture than he did when I first saw him in the announcement. With this view, I can believe that he'll make a good Gale.

Peeta looks PERFECT here, from the hair right down to the expression on his face.

Effie looks a bit scary here, like a dragon or something, so I'm not too sure how I feel about it. The make-up seems to fit her, though.

I'm sorry, but there's no way that could be Haymitch. It must be a mistake, right? No? Oh God.

Rue is perfect in every single way. I already know what scene I'm going to be shedding tears in.

Cato is awesome. He has this determination and hardness to his face that goes so well with his character.

I'm sorry, but there's no way this can really be Cinna. Hopefully his acting skills make up for it.

What do you think of these?

"Surrender" Cover Released!

Elana Johnson's POSSESSION now has a sequel - SURRENDER - and a gorgeous, gorgeous cover. Here they are, side by side!

Confession time: I still haven't gotten around to reading Possession (it's on my to-read list! I swear!) but I've always loved, loved, loved its cover.

While I don't think it's better than POSSESSION's, SURRENDER's cover is still absolutely gorgeous, especially with that beautifully colored bird. I'm so happy they're continuing the trapped symbolism, first with the partially frozen butterfly and now the bird in the open jar.

The only thing I don't like that much is the shadowing at the bottom of the cover because it wasn't done in the first, but that's just a small nitpicky thing.

What do you think of SURRENDER's cover? Is it better than POSSESSION's?

Follow Friday (28)

This week's question is...

If you could have dinner with your favorite book character, who would you eat with and what would you serve?

Well, I don't know about absolute favorite character, but I would love to have dinner with Max from the Maximum Ride series. She's hilarious and snarky, so it'd be awesome to enjoy that cracking wit of hers. As for what I'd serve, well, I really have no idea. Something simple, I suppose.

If you're new to my blog, welcome! Please drop your link in the comments so I can return the favor :)

The Espressologist: Review

Title: The Espressologist
Author: Kristina Springer
Release Date: October 2009
Published By: Farrar Straus Giroux
Pages: 184
Goodreads Rating: 3.50 stars

Review: Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner believes you can tell anything about someone's personality from their coffee of choice, and scribbles it down into a notebook and calls it Espressology. She starts by match-making a few customers, including her best friend Em with a cute guy named Cam, and her boss turns it into a huge holiday promotion. Everything's going well, so she should be happy, right? Except she's not... and it just might have something to do with Cam.

Just as it sounds, THE ESPRESSOLOGIST is a cute and fun read about romance and coffee, two very good things that make an even better combination. Jane is a believable and well-rounded character, and I loved reading about all the different types of coffee. It was also rather neat to see what sorts of personalities corresponded to each drink, and how it all tied in for a nice, relaxing story.

If I had one complaint, it would be that the story was on the predictable side. Of course, that's to be expected for a book like this, but I did wish there was at least some variation or something unexpected going on. Still, the predictability did lend the book a rather satisfying air, and it made the perfect read to just lie back and go through. The romance was sweet if a bit lacking in complexity, and you're sure to spend much of the book rooting for Cam and Jane to get together.

THE ESPRESSOLOGIST is everything you'd expect from the synopsis: a bit predictable but fun, fluffy, and adorable. The romance isn't the most incredible one ever written, but the story is sufficiently gripping to keep you entertained for a good two hours or so, and can easily be finished in one sitting. I would recommend this to anyone out for nice, relaxing chick lit.

Waiting on Wednesday (21)

This week, my pick is...

Reunited by Hilary Graham. Here's what Goodreads has to say: Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends.

Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3.

But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.

Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show.

Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van know as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.

But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?

How cute does this book sound? I can't wait to get my hands on it! Reunited releases June 2012. 

I Support Shine

Way back in March, I reviewed Shine by Lauren Myracle, and wrote about how much I loved it, and that made chords of sympathy strike harder when I heard about the NBA fiasco. If you're unfamiliar with that, here's a quick recap: SHINE was nominated for the National Book Award, but it turned out there was a miscommunication and they meant CHIME, and Lauren Myracle was asked to withdraw.

Like I said, I loved SHINE so it didn't surprise me in the least when it was nominated, but even when it was un-nominating and the ensuing uproar occurred, my opinion of it didn't change in the least. Because you know what? An award doesn't make a book better or worse. It's a beautiful story, and while I'm thrilled for all the lovely authors whose books won, all that matters to me is that I know SHINE is an amazing book and Lauren Myracle is an amazing author.

I support SHINE. The National Book Foundation didn't choose it, and that's okay. It's their decision, and the mistake they made was a horrible one, but nothing has changed. The book has not been invalidated, and I encourage all of you - every one of you reading this post - to pick it up if you haven't already.

Support SHINE.

King Dork: Review

Title: King Dork
Author: Frank Portman
Release Date: April 2006
Published By: Delacorte Books
Pages: 352
Goodreads Rating: 3.64 stars

Review: Tom is your typical teenager, except not really. He battles through life with a sarcastic wit, such as deprecating what he calls the "Catcher cult" - those who extol the virtues of Catcher in the Rye. But when he finds his dead father's copy of the book, notes inscribed on the margins catch his eye and he soon discovers a wealth of conspiracy theories about how exactly his father died. Even to his surprise, though, amid all the crazy hypotheticals comes a very real cover-up.

I'm not sure why, but I anticipated KING DORK to be another cliche high school story with the dorky kid everyone makes fun of and his struggle for self-acceptance amid the queen bees and cruel jocks. Oh, how wrong I was. How very, very wrong. When the synopsis says "sarcastic wit", they weren't kidding. Tom narrates everything with a healthy dose of irony and hyperbole used to excellent effect, and there is never a moment in the story that doesn't wrench your heart and make you laugh at the same time.

It must be noted, though, that I can see why this book is rather controversial. The portrayal of women was, to say the least, less than flattering, but unlike others, I don't see the problem. Tom also exaggerated to great lengths regarding school lessons, classmates, and his family members, so there's no reason to get unhappy about his exaggerations with girls. That was part of the irony, and I'm sure was not meant to be offensive in any way.

It's been a long time since I've read such an intelligent and intricate read, and there is an incredible amount to analyze in this book. KING DORK is absolutely brimming with irony, wit, and humor, all mixed in with a heavy dose of emotion. Although not very long, this novel takes a while to get through if you really want to soak up every last bit of awesome packed in here, but it's worth it. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for something "different".

In My Mailbox (34)

I was hoping some review books that are supposed to arrive soon would come, but unfortunately, they haven't showed up on my doorstep yet. However, I did get a few lovely e-books that I'm very excited to get started with.

For Review

Between the Sea and the Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore. I'm not usually much for mermaid books, but the synopsis sounds like this could be a lovely book, and the cover is, of course, gorgeous.

The Wednesdays by Julie Borbeau. I love YA, of course, but I'm quite partial to MG as well, and especially books that "strike the perfect balance of creepiness and humor, with just a touch of old-fashioned charm" (from the synopsis). I'm so there.

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman. I love murders and mysteries and creepy fantasy, so this book is right up my alley. In fact, my alley is named after this book. Well, not really, but you know what I mean.

Fracture by Megan Miranda. I'm so psyched to get a hold of this one! Altered brains and comas and death? Yes, please!

What did you get in your mailbox?

Variant: Review

Title: Variant
Author: Robison Wells
Release Date: October 2011
Published By: HarperTeen
Pages: 356
Goodreads Rating: 3.97 stars

Review: Benson thought his scholarship to Maxfield Academy would save him from a dead-beat life, but now he's trapped in a school with a razor-wire fence, video cameras watching his every move, no adults, and kids who break into groups to survive. A school where breaking the rules means death. Except he discovers a secret that means following the rules may be the most dangerous move of all.

VARIANT is exactly the kind of YA book I want to see more of. This fast-paced story was brimming with mystery and suspense so intense I could hardly bear to put it down, and it was almost all I could think about when I wasn't reading it. Several incredible twists came, and even though I did sort of see one of them coming, they definitely weren't very predictable.

In fact, this would be a five star book except for one thing: the ending. As you can probably imagine, it ended with a tortuous cliffhanger. Sometimes I feel like cliffhangers are well-suited for a book, though more often in the past than now. This was not the case here. Now I'm anxious for the next book, but at the same time, I feel like this was kind of gimmicky. I would have picked up the next book anyway even if this ended in a more wrapped-up fashion.

If you want to read a YA suspense or thriller, this is absolutely the book for you. Pretty much everything about VARIANT is perfect, from the intensity to the simple but effective writing, and my only quibble is the ending. For those of you who don't enjoy cliffhanger endings, be wary of this one, but I would still recommend reading it - trust me when I say it's worth it.

I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher. This is no way affected my review.

Follow Friday (27)

This week's question is...

What superhero is your alterego?

Well, I have always admired Rukia Kuchiki from Bleach. Smart, strong, and with a mysterious past? I definitely wouldn't mind being like her.

If you're new to my blog, welcome :) Please drop your link in the comments so I can return the favor!

Graffiti Moon: Review

Title: Graffiti Moon
Author: Cath Crowley
Release Date: August 2010
Published By: Pan Macmillian
Pages: 264
Goodreads Rating: 4.25 stars

Review: All Lucy wants the night of her Year 12 graduation is to finally meet Shadow, the elusive graffiti artist who paints the walls of the city, but instead she's stuck with Ed, the last person she wants to be with. He takes her around the city to the places where Shadow's art of loneliness, heartbreak, and love are displayed, but the harder she looks, the more apparent it becomes that she can't see what's right in front of her.

GRAFFITI MOON is, of course, a story about artwork, but what I didn't realize going in is that the writing itself is pure art. Cath Crowley weaves gorgeous descriptions that bring you right there to that quiet, beautiful night Lucy and Ed are in, and all the pages were just absolutely brimming with that rich atmosphere. Although the book is relatively slow with its emotional explorations, the story sucks you in and keeps you completely absorbed.

I've always admired novels that take place over a short period of time, and this book gets no less admiration. Even though, the story is just about a single night, the characters are revealed to such depth and such detail that you feel you know them as intimately as if you read an entire series. A wide breadth of themes were explored as well, going from friendship to love to shattered illusions and dreams, all in a sensitive and beautiful manner.

This is a book that would be lovely to be read at night, but could really be read anywhere at any time because of how deeply the author pulls the reader into the setting. Lucy and Ed are such rich, dimensional characters with complex back stories and emotional explorations that turn one night into an ageless and beautiful journey. Honestly, there's no other rating I could give than five stars and no other recommendation that to just read it.

I received a free copy of this book for review from the publisher. This is no way affected my review.

Waiting on Wednesday (20)

This week, I'm waiting on...

All These Lives by Sarah Wylie. Here's what Goodreads has to say: Sixteen-year-old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. As a child she twice walked away from situations where she should have died. But Dani’s twin, Jena, isn’t so lucky. She has cancer and might not even be able to keep her one life. Dani’s father is in denial. Her mother is trying to hold it together and prove everything’s normal. And Jena is wasting away. To cope, Dani sets out to rid herself of all her extra lives. Maybe they’ll be released into the universe and someone who wants to live more than she does will get one. Someone like Jena. But just when Dani finds herself at the breaking point, she’s faced with a startling realization. Maybe she doesn’t have nine lives after all. Maybe she really only ever had one.

How gorgeous is that cover, and how tantalizing is that synopsis? ALL THESE LIVES releases June 2012.

Reviewing Strategies

I know a lot of you guys are book reviewers one way or another (be it through a blog or Goodreads or whatnot), and I've been wondering for a while how others write for reviews. My personal process is a bit unimpressive when compared to others I know who write detailed notes and post-its on each page.

I always read books without making notes as I read along, because actually taking out a pad and jotting down notes when I'm in the middle of a story just... feels wrong to me, although I don't know why. However, I do make mental notes about character, pacing, plot, etc.

Then, once I finish a book, I use the Goodreads private notes feature to write out those mental notes. These are usually quick phrases that make extensive use of caps, exclamation marks, and other overly-expressive techniques I would really never use in an actual review. For example, a recent book I read had the following notes: AWESOMEEE CHARACTERS, but seriously, what's up with the pacing? good themes though a little generic, romance was amazing (!!!), ending = meh.

The book gets placed in a special to-review shelf, and I don't return to it until approximately a month later, when it's time for its turn on my blog. With music playing in the background (usually Panic! at the Disco because oh, how I love them), I transfer the unsophisticated ramblings on my private notes to what is hopefully a polished review.

So, how do you go about writing reviews?

She's So Dead to Us: Review

Title: She's So Dead to Us
Author: Kieran Scott
Release Date: May 2010
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 278
Goodreads Rating: 4.12

Review: Ally used to live the perfect life with the rest of the trust fund babies at Orchard Hill, but that changed when her father bankrupted her friends' parents' money. She and her mother left town and her father ran away, but now, two years later, she has to move back to town - back to her former best friends, the girls who hate her. Except there's Jake Graydon, the new boy who doesn't know about the scandal, who likes her. One problem: the afore-mentioned ex-friends, who will do anything to keep them apart.

SHE'S SO DEAD TO US opens with an original premise of a girl living in the shame of her father's actions and dealing with the open hatred of most of the town. However, although the plot sets this up to be a sensitive contemporary novel, much of the story drags along at a slow pace, and the largest conflicts are left until the very end to be hastily dealt with, if at all. The romance was lukewarm, and the book ends abruptly with an unsatisfying cliffhanger ending unsuited for the genre.

This is not to say the reading experience was wholly negative. Kieran Scott explored a variety of intriguing themes in a relatively in-depth manner, and Ally was a sympathetic and well-rounded character. She fits squarely as a protagonist that readers can root for, from her strength in bearing everything that has fallen upon her to even the honest flaws and insecurities.. Even when other characters sometimes lacked dimensionality, she remained as alive as any other person off a page.

While ultimately disappointing with its off-kilter pace, Kieran Scott demonstrates her great potential through SHE'S SO DEAD TO US. Her ability to come up with a unique premise, likeable and real protagonist, and excellent themes are all clearly demonstrated through this novel. Even though I would not necessarily recommend this particular book, I will be waiting to read other future books by her.

Cover Reveal: Girl of Nightmares

I was scrolling through my Reader feed and saw this, and I just stared at it. When I started to continuing scrolling, I just had to stop and go back up, and this continued for a while. I love love loved the cover of Anna Dressed in Blood, but this - this is just perfect.

The eerie red destruction, and the way she's extending her hand out like that, as if she's both beckoning to you and offering to take your hand, is just amazing.

What do you think of this cover?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Review

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Release Date: September 2011
Published By: Little, Brown
Pages: 420
Goodread Rating: 4.49 stars

Review: Karou is human, as far as she knows, but she's far from ordinary. She was raised by Brimstone and three other chimaeras, speaks numerous languages, and disappears from the real world to collect teeth for Brimstone for a mysterious purpose she doesn't know. But when she's cast out of that world, she faces not only a terrible mystery but a love with the angel Akiva. She learns of a violent, unknown past behind her, but will she live long enough to regret it?

This is so far from the stereotypical paranormal romance novel that I don't even know where to start, so I guess I'll begin with the most notable aspect of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE - the writing. Laini Taylor spins gorgeous turns of phrase and rhythmic sentences that had me at once enraptured and full of writing envy. The prose was beyond beautiful; she could have written four hundred pages about grass growing and I still would have loved every word of it.

The premise and plot was fascinating, with a plot twist at the end that made my heart ache. But if there was one aspect I didn't like about this book, it was the ending. It ended so abruptly at a cliffhanger that felt wrong. To me, it seems that a novel like this should stand alone to some extent; it doesn't need a gimmicky cliffhanger to make readers want to go to the next book. This bothered me so much that I ended up dropping a star for that very reason.

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE is a book everyone should read, paranormal romance fan or not - actually, especially if you're not, because this book can redeem every paranormal you disliked. The prose reads like poetry, and my only complaint would be the ending. Regardless of that, though, I'll still be picking up the sequel when it comes out.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. This in no way affected my review.