Rss Feed

Someone Else's Life: Review

Title: Someone Else's Life
Author: Katie Dale
Release Date: February 2012
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 485
Goodreads Rating: 3.97 stars

Review: When Rosie's mother, Trudie, passes away due to Huntington's disease, and her pain is only intensified by the knowledge that she has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease herself. But when she tells her mother's friend about her plans to get tested, Aunt Sarah reveals that Trudie was not actually her mother. Shocked and devastated, she tries to track down her mother by hitching along on her ex-boyfriend's gap year, and what she discovers leaves her with an agonizing decision to make - one that will change her life.

I originally picked this book up because the summary sounded enticing. After all, I enjoy "issues" books - novels that explore certain deep issues such as family death, illness, abuse, etc. - and there's nothing I like more than a good, emotional read. Unfortunately, I found SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE to be ultimately disappointing and not really what I expected it to be. It was difficult to relate to the characters and so I had trouble experiencing much sympathy or emotion.

Although the summary doesn't make this obvious, the novel is told in alternating points of view from Rosie and another girl, Holly. It was not the fact that there were different POVs that bothered me, but rather the POVs themselves. I tried to relate to Holly, but she was just so selfish and entitled that I couldn't help but hate her. All she thought about was herself with no respect for Rosie's recent tragedy, and I wanted to slap some sense into her over and over.

Rosie herself wasn't exactly a cakewalk either, although she was better than Holly. I disliked that she was so dense when it came to her on-again, off-again ex-boyfriend Andy, and she could have used a good dose of sense herself, like Holly. Still, her parts were more tolerable than Holly's, and I didn't actively dislike her.

SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE opened with an interesting premise, but the characters were just impossible to relate to. Holly bothered me a good deal more than Rosie, and her occasional stupidity drove me insane throughout the novel. I'd still look into future novels by the author because the writing itself was nice; it was just the characters that annoyed me.

Catching Jordan: Review

Title: Catching Jordan
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Release Date: December 2011
Published By: Sourcebooks
Pages: 281
Goodreads Rating: 4.00 stars

Review: Jordan Woods isn't your average girl. After all, she's the captain and quarterback of her school's football team, and she's not even close to being distracted by the presence of hot jocks. To them, she's just one of the guys, and that's fine with her, so long as she gets an athletic scholarship to college. But suddenly, there's a new guy, and he might just claim her starting position... and her heart.

CATCHING JORDAN, just like Jordan Woods herself, isn't your average young adult book. Sure, there's a girl and a hot jock, but that jock isn't the quarterback - she is. I loved that this novel broke all the typical clichés and left something bright and new in its wake. I'm about as far from athletic as you can get, but I was still able to relate to Jordan, and I suspect anyone can, because while she's not your average teen girl, she still shares many of the same insecurities and flaws that everyone does.

I also appreciate that the author didn't try to sugar-coat what it's like to be in a position like Jordan's. She wasn't actively discriminated against by most people in her life, but she still faced many saddening situations, such as when it came time to get athletic scholarships. Her dream college, University of Alabama, intended only to keep her a poster girl without giving her any play time, and while something like this absolutely shouldn't ever happen, it was realistic. Jordan faced obstacles that allowed her to grow and mature as a character.

That said, she wasn't always the perfect protagonist, and there were quite a few places where she was acting a bit on the thick side. She couldn't pick up on very obvious things, and it definitely started to grate on my nerves after a while. There were several points in the story when I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her until she started to see the obvious.

All in all, CATCHING JORDAN is an enticing read with a unique premise and a rich cast of characters. It unabashedly explores important themes without skimping on character development, even if Jordan occasionally acted stupidly to the point of irritation, resulting in a fun read with an important message. I'd recommend this to anyone, especially if they don't usually enjoy sports stories, as was the case for me.

Dark Water: Review

Title: Dark Water
Author: Laura McNeal
Release Date: September 2010
Published By: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 287
Goodreads Rating: 3.50 stars

Review: Pearl knows her uncle regularly hires migrant workers to tend to his grove of avocado trees, and she's never paid much attention to them... until Amiel. Dark, mysterious, and unable to speak, he draws her to him, and after finding his makeshift home by the creek, she falls into a precarious friendship and romance with him. Then the wildfires strike. She knows he's trapped in direct line of the fire, and she splits from her family to save him, even though it means risking everything.

As much as we talk about the elements that make a good book, from plot to characters to pacing to avoiding clichés, there's one attribute that's vital to stories, yet sometimes overlooked: the writing itself. Once in a while, I come across the rare book that has writing that simply shines, and luckily, DARK WATER is one of those books.

The gorgeous words flow like a melody twining through the pages, and it's as if the novel is one long poem from the first word to the last. This is the kind of prose that makes you feel hazy in an absolutely good way and gives you the urge to mark every other phrase with a bright yellow post-it note. You can take any random passage and that right there is pure, brilliant poetry.

The one thing that should be noted about this novel is that the plot is very slow-moving. This isn't something that bothers me, but I know that some don't prefer the more atmospheric, drifting-along type of books, and if you're one of those, then DARK WATER most likely isn't for you. The plot is fairly simple here, with the writing driving it to its depth.

All in all, DARK WATER was a beautiful novel with some of the most gorgeous writing I've ever read and a story that moved at a lovely, slow pace. The ending completely tore me apart, and just for that, I want to read the author's other books so I can have my heart torn into tiny pieces again. This is a book I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys slow-moving but gorgeous stories.

Waiting on Wednesday (43)

This week, I'm waiting on...

Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate. Here's what Goodreads has to say: Sixteen-year-old Evening Spiker lives an affluent life in San Francisco with her mother, EmmaRose, a successful geneticist and owner of Spiker Biotech. Sure, Evening misses her father who died mysteriously, but she’s never really questioned it. Much like how she’s never stopped to think how off it is that she’s never been sick.

That is, until she’s struck by a car and is exposed to extensive injuries. Injuries that seem to be healing faster than physically possible. While recuperating in Spiker Biotech’s lush facilities, she meets Solo Plissken, a very attractive, if off-putting boy her age who spent his life at Spiker Biotech. Like Evening, he’s never questioned anything...until now.

Solo drops hints to Evening that something isn’t right, and Emma-Rose may be behind it. Evening puts this out of her mind and begins her summer internship project: To simulate the creation of the perfect boy. With the help of Solo, Evening uncovers secrets so big they could change the world completely.

How awesome does this sound? I can't wait to pick up this book! Eve & Adam releases October 2, 2012.

How Fast Do You Read?

I tend to read a bit faster than average, but certainly I'm not as fast as some of my friends or fellow book bloggers, so I was intrigued when I found the Staples Read Speed tool. The test is pretty simple: it gives you a short passage that you read at your normal speed, and when you're done, you hit "finished". Bam, there's your reading speed.

According to this test, I read 482 words per minute, which is 93% above the national average. This means I can read War and Peace in 20 hours and 18 minutes, The Lord of the Rings in 16 hours and 33 minutes, and the Grapes of Wrath in 5 hours and 52 minutes (...although reading it certainly felt like a lot more than that...).

How many words per minute can you read?

Giveaway: Cat's Day Off

Read a full interview HERE with Kimberly Pauling and Stacy Whitman, the author and editor respectively from Tu Books of Cat's Day Off!

Cat Girl’s Day Off is the newest release from Tu Books and I’ve gotta be honest, I absolutely adored it! I didn’t want to put it down! I was literally constantly snickering every other page or so and then there were moments where I just cracked up! This is one of the funniest, the funnest, and the most action packed joy ride of a book! Seriously, loved this book! I’m telling you that even if you aren’t a cat person, I’m not – I’m terribly allergic, you will adore this book.

 And today, for the first time, I get to interview both Editor and Author for an inside look into how this great book got to be published. So I’m very happy to present today’s interview with Kimberly Pauley, author of Cat Girl, and Stacy Whitman, Editorial Director of Tu Books.
And here on my blog, we're having a giveaway for a copy of Cat's Day Off! This giveaway is available to INTERNATIONAL entrants, and there's another chance to win a copy over at iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books

Struck: Review

Title: Struck
Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Release Date: May 2012
Published By: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux BYR
Pages: 373
Goodreads Rating: 3.93 stars

Review: Mia Price is a lightning addict, and Los Angeles is one of the few places she's felt safe from her addition. That is, until a freak electrical storm causes an earthquake that destroys the city. Two cults rise to power, and both believe that she is the center of their opposing prophecies, the secret to the earthquake and to the powerful storm yet to come. As she questions who to trust and what to do, she begins to realize that she may have to release the full force of her power for the good of the city.

STRUCK begins with, well, a strike. More specifically, it crashes down on you with a jolting premise and an opening line ("My name is Mia Price, and I'm a human lightning rod") that is sure to grab anyone's attention. The concept itself of a lightning addict is intriguing, and it was fascinating to read about her strange addiction to being struck by lightning until her skin scars. I'm not so sure if I'm exactly eager to race out into the next thunderstorm, but the sense of wonder and otherworldly beauty of the experience was clearly conveyed to the reader.

The idea of cults were fascinating as well. It's not often that I get to read a book featuring one of them - let alone two! - so naturally this was a big selling point for me. It was scarily realistic to see the way so many people got sucked into them in the face of the great disaster and, for all intents and purposes, apocalypse they were facing, and there were definitely several scenes that made me shiver.

One aspect that I didn't like so much, however, were Mia's actions. For the most part she seemed to be perfectly intelligent, but on multiple occasions, she made some choices that were, well, a far cry from living up to that intelligence. I don't want to say what exactly I'm referring to in order to avoid spoilers, but if you've read the book, then you probably know which parts I'm talking about.

Overall, STRUCK was a fast-paced and intriguing novel with the twin fascinating concepts of cults and lightning addicts. Mia does make some dumb choices but remains a relatable character. With a deep look into the nature of humanity in a post-apocalyptic world, this book is for anyone who enjoys apocalypse without the clichés.

The Rivals: Review

Title: The Rivals
Author: Daisy Whitney
Release Date: February 2012
Published By: Little, Brown
Pages: 352
Goodreads Rating: 3.83 stars

Review: Alex is now the head of the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students acting as a judicial force for the student body, but a case has sprung up that she doesn't quite know how to deal with: a prescription drug ring. There's no victim but plenty are hurt by it, and each new piece of information drives a wedge between herself and everyone she cares about. As she unravels the layers of deceit, she discovers that her search for justice may reveal more about herself than expected.

I read the first novel in this series, The Mockingbirds, and while I enjoyed it, it wasn't anything particularly special and lacked a certain power and depth that I wanted to it. In contrast, although it's not going to make my best books of the year list or anything, I found THE RIVALS to be much more powerful and a bit harder to put down than the first book, by a wide margin.

The premise itself was intriguing. It can be hard to continue making a series like this feel fresh once the initial excitement over the beginning premise is over, but Daisy Whitney managed to write a sequel that has an even more tantalizing concept than the first one. All the other cases dealt with by the Mockingbirds had been very simple and clear-cut in terms of who was hurt and who was the bad guy, but a prescription drug ring is significantly more complicated. Who's the victim? Who's the perpetrator? The case was wrapped in further levels of complexity as layers upon layers of deceit were revealed to exist in the school.

Even more than the premise, though, I loved that various themes were explored to much more depth in this book, making it a more interesting and fulfilling read overall. Apart from the obvious themes of cheating and justice, interpersonal relations between the characters were dug into without feeling like a soap opera in the least, and Alex had a fantastic introspective voice that showed her growth in maturity from the first novel.

All in all, THE RIVALS was a fresh and brilliant sequel to The Mockingbirds that brought plenty of fascinating themes and a brand-new premise to the table. From the new depth to the thoughtfully-written characters, this book is one that's near impossible to put down. If there's a sequel to this one, I'm definitely picking it up!

Irises: Review

Title: Irises
Author: Francisco X. Stork
Release Date: January 2012
Published By: Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 288
Goodreads Rating: 3.35 stars

Review: Sisters Kate and Mary are as different as can be. Kate is Stanford-bound aiming for an MD, while Mary just wants to stay home and paint. When their oppressive father suddenly passes away, they find themselves confronted with too many choices in their newfound freedom, and everything hinges on their mother's life - whether she lives, and what's worth living for.

IRISES was a novel that was at once sweet and sad. There were moments in the book that were simply heartbreaking and made me want to reach out and hug both Kate and Mary as they struggled through their difficult trials and tribulations, but at the same time, there were heart-warming themes of sisterhood, family, and growing through the grieving process worked in with the story.

One theme that I didn't expect was the religion. I hadn't realized that their father was a deeply religious man who tried to instil the same values in his daughters, so that came as a bit of a surprise to me. As an atheist, I sometimes feel a little uncomfortable and out of my depth when reading books that heavily focus on such themes, but I felt the amount in this book was tasteful and appropriate. It added to the story without coming across as too much for people like me who are non-religious.

Although there wasn't anything I found technically wrong with this book, as you can see, I only chose to give it four stars instead of five. This was because despite the emotional writing and story, there were never really any places that could move me to tears or really bring out a hefty display of emotion. I was touched, and the book was very good, but I was never profoundly affected and the book never quite crossed over into "stellar".

All in all, IRISES was a lovely and bittersweet story detailing the trials undergone by two sisters who have their differences despite their love for each other. With well-written characters, deeply explored themes, and a resolution that is satisfying without being candy-sweet, this is a novel for anyone who enjoys contemporary dealing with heavy issues.

Waiting on Wednesday (42)

This week, I'm waiting on...

Splintered by A. G. Howard. Here's what Goodreads has to say: For sixteen years, Alyssa Gardner has lived with the stigma of being descended from Alice Liddell -- the real life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's famed novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But cruel jokes about dormice and tea parties can’t compare to the fact that Alyssa hears the whispers of bugs and flowers ... the same quirk which sent her mother to a mental institution years before.

When her mother takes a turn for the worse and the whispers grow too strong for Alyssa to bear, she seeks the origins of their family curse. A set of heirlooms and a moth tied to an unusual website lead Alyssa and her gorgeous best friend / secret crush, Jeb, down the rabbit hole into the real Wonderland, a place more twisted and eerie than Lewis Carroll ever let on.

There, creepy counterparts of the original fairytale crew reveal the purpose for Alyssa’s journey, and unless she fixes the things her great-great-great grandmother Alice put wrong, Wonderland will have her head.

How awesome does that sound? I love these sort of magical realism books, and the description of the real Wonderland sounds incredibly cool. Splintered releases January 2013, which is too far away!

Have you heard of this book? What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Wanted Tour: Tens List and Giveaway

Here today for the Wanted tour is the author, Heidi Ayarbe, with a Tens List AND a giveaway! Here's what she has to say!

This, I think, is a catch-22 question because not only does the tens list tell readers a lot about who I am, but what I choose to do the tens list about tells even more. It’s a very David Letterman thing, isn’t it? I could write about the top ten reasons thongs and high heels should be outlawed. I could write about the top ten novels that have impacted me the most (zzzzzzz … Actually, I like to know what people’s top ten are, but it can be boring and intimidating and repetitive and slightly snooty, too.) Hmmm … so. The topten? How about the top ten reasons I write?

10. I love the SCBWI community and community of children’s writers, bloggers, librarians, reviewers and more. What wonderful, open people that inspire me and keep me going.

9. I make good cappuccinos and lattes. (A skill all writers should have.)

8. I love “what if” … the basis of all great stories. What if, for example, a high school bookie starts to gamble … and lose? What if a high school soccer star had OCD, and was trying to keep the secret from everybody? What if a young girl’s father is sent to prison, and her only hope of not going into foster care
is finding a long lost aunt? What if a 15-year-old boy shoots and kills his best friend?

7. I miss the Oxford comma.

6. Reading has been one of the greatest joys of my life – getting lost in the magic that unfolds between the covers of a book.

5. I love creating people in words that I wish I knew in real life.

4. I love the challenge. I haven’t had to work my brain so hard ever. Writing, I believe, is learned – a skill we have to work on every day to get better. I don’t believe in that whole muse-inspirational thing. I do believe that some people have a vocation for it, but to write, you need to work your tail off and become a master of the skills needed to pull a novel together.

3. I learn every day because everything … I mean EVERYTHING … has to be researched from the time the sun rises in Nevada in October to how many steps it takes to run one and a half miles if you’re a 5’10” adolescent boy running approximately seven-minute miles.

2. I love words. The difference between vehement, fervent, passionate and intense matters to me.

1. I get to spend all the time I want with my daughters. I have to work really REALLY weird hours, of course, but it’s the best exchange ever. (My brain doesn’t go mushy from talking about, well, the inappropriate body functions four-year-olds love to talk about … All. Day. Long. because I get to use it for other, perhaps less gross topics, after hours.)

And now for the giveaway! Up for grabs is a swag pack and a signed copy of Compulsion!

All Things Asian: Conclusion

After planning this event for so long, I can't believe it's finally over. All Things Asian was just as great as I'd hoped it would be, and it was amazing reading and learning about all the incredible authors, bloggers, and readers who add diversity to the young adult book world.

So, I'd like to thank everyone who wrote a guest post, or interview, or contributed to a giveaway, or commented on the posts, or read the posts, because each and every single one of you helped make this event the best it could be!

All Things Asian Interview: Kat Zhang

Today stopping by we have Kat Zhang, author of What's Left Of Me.

What are some of your favorite books?

Well, recently, I just finished A STORM OF SWORDS so I've got the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series on the mind. I put off reading these for the longest time because multi-POV epic fantasies aren't usually my thing, but everyone kept saying I had to read them, and I'm so glad I did! As far as books I have loved since I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the His Dark Materials series, as well as ENDER'S GAME. I loved SABRIEL, too. 

What do you look for in a book?

I think characterization is the most important thing I look for, followed closely by writing. I jokingly tell friends that I'll forgive a lot in a book for a pretty turn of phrase, and I am always envious of people who write characters so compelling I'd basically pay to read about them locked in a white room for 300 pages. Well, maybe not ;) But almost! I like books that surprise me, that are willing to deviate from the norm, with characters I love and love to hate and sometimes both at once. 

What made you choose to write the genre you do?

I don't think I ever necessarily sat down and decided "Okay, I'm going to write YA." When I first started writing, I was mostly reading YA, so I suppose it made sense that I would be writing in the same genres I was reading. On the other hand, a lot of the themes common to YA books--finding a place for oneself, becoming independent, first experiences, etc--are ones that both resonate with me and interest me. Plus, I love the YA community and readership!

What are some of your oddest writing habits?

I like to write in the dark, haha. I need to get one of those laptops with a backlit keyboard. I also write best between sundown and sunup (probably in part because of that writing-in-the-dark thing). Unfortunately, much of that period between sundown and sunup is also known as you-should-be-sleeping time...

If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be?

Hmmm. To be entirely cliche, I've always wanted to fly :)

What advice would you give to another writer?

Keep writing. That's really some advice that will carry you through every step of this process, I think. Can't seem to get an agent? Keep writing. Can't seem to sell a book? Keep writing. Fretting about revisions? Keep writing. Worried about reviews? Keep writing. If you keep writing, you can only get better.

On the other hand, getting caught up in the Need To Be Published rush can be stressful and frustrating, and I think it's a good idea to step back from time to time and try to remind yourself it's not all about where you're trying to get--you started writing because you love it (right? I think!), and that's important. 

Would you say you appreciate Asian inspired literature more, less, or the same as other literature?

It depends. I do think I can be more critical of some Asian inspired literature, especially books that deal with things I've experienced personally, like being a first generation Asian-American. That doesn't mean I enjoy it any less, though, and I think being more critically minded about something that's more personal to you is common. A doctor would probably be more critical of medical dramas, for example, and writers complain about unrealistic depictions of the publishing process in fiction. On the other hand, I'm very interested in fiction dealing with Asian history, especially history I know people in my family lived through. 

Do you think there needs to be more diversity in young adult fiction?

I do, but ideally, I'd like for there to be more diversity in YA fiction without having the book then be labeled as "Ethnic Lit" or "LGBTQI Lit" or what have you. I think we need more books where characters are what they are, and of course that may affect their story, but it isn't the whole of their story at all. 

Do you feel like your Asian heritage influenced your writing at all?

I want to say "Yes, of course," because my Asian heritage has helped made me me, and "being me" is the biggest influence on all my writing ;) 

But going into specifics, like "Yes, because being Asian has exposed me to ___" or "Yes, because being Asian has taught me ___ ," is something I have more trouble with. It's difficult to say whether or not I might have seen/learned these things otherwise.

Thanks for stopping by!

All Things Asian Guest Post: Cleo

Today we have a guest post from Cleo of Booklopedia!

Between the ages of 10 and 13, I had the AMAZING opportunity to live in China for about 3 ½ years. I’m actually half Chinese and half Korean, so being able to live in the country that my dad grew up in was really cool, even though at first it took a lot of crying and thinking that my life sucked to get me to agree, although it was never my choice.

The reason why I had to move was because of my dad’s job. He started a business there and was always in China, so my parents decided that it would be right for the whole family to move to China, and that’s when my China adventure started.

I didn’t go to a regular Chinese school, where you supposedly had to go to school on Saturday and all that jazz, but an international school where I got to meet people from various cultures. I even met some of my best friends there, even though one of them is actually originally from California, just like me, and the other one lives in Pennsylvania, but I still have some from countries like Taiwan, Singapore, and Germany.

Visiting the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors were really cool experiences as well, and when you live in China, you go to these places so many times that you eventually get tired of them. For example, over the summer, we went back to visit China for my grandpa’s 90th birthday, and my sister’s friend came to visit us while we were there. She wanted to go to the Great Wall of China really badly, so we had to go, and let’s just say that after climbing that wall around 5 or 6 times, you get really tired of it.

We also got to celebrate the major holidays such as Chinese New Year, which we actually got a week-long vacation for. Fireworks would light up the sky and firecrackers could be heard in the background. It was a loud but insanely cool holiday, once you got past all of the noise of course.

A lot of people have this misconception that China is dirty and that the people are uncivilized… That’s basically all they see and hear. Most of it is true, like the streets could be a little cleaner and the people could stop littering and spitting on the sidewalk, but the culture is amazing and the people are incredibly nice. I remember waving to random people that were working on a construction site next to my school, and they would wave back smiling, totally making my day.
There was also this Ancient Cultural Street where you could get really cool Chinese arts and crafts, like edible sugar art and your name painted in a cool calligraphic way.

Overall, it was an incredible experience, and looking back, I thought I was incredibly dumb for crying those millions of times before I left to make the big move because when I had to move back to California, it was tears all over again. I would give like my left arm and right foot (of course I’m just kidding though ;) ) to go back to China and relive the experiences that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to enjoy!

Thanks for that great post, Cleo! Your experiences in China sound fascinating!

To follow the rest of the event, go to our All Things Asian event page for all the posts and giveaways! Click HERE to see more awesomeness. (And no, you don't have to be Asian to participate!)

All Things Asian Interview: Cleo

Today stopping by we have Cleo from the awesome blog, Booklopedia!

What were your favorite books as a kid?

I was a big fan of Sharon Creech as a kid and read most of her books like Walk Two Moons and Ruby Holler. I also read some of the Little House on the Prairie books and the American Girl books.

If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be?

I would LOVE to fly! I think it would be amazing to be able to get from place to place by just flying and not having to learn how to drive a car (which I’m learning right now… And let’s just say that it’s a struggle to try and park straight). The feeling of freedom must also be amazing and the view would be extraordinary!
What is your opinion of spicy food?

Me + spicy food = 不好 (not good in Chinese). I probably took after my dad because my mom and all of my other siblings are generally pretty good with spicy foods. They’ll eat kimchi, spicy tofu stuff, and they love it. I, on the other hand, can’t really handle the spiciness. If you catch me eating a spicy dish, you’ll probably also catch me chugging a glass of milk.

Do you think Asian characters and/or authors are prominent enough in young adult fiction?
Personally, I don’t think that Asian characters and authors are very prominent in young adult fiction. Looking at my books right now, I can only think of about 4 or 5 books out of over 100 books that I own that have Asian characters, or somewhat Asian characters. Out of all the authors, I only have about 2 books written by an Asian author. So, I think that this is an area that could probably be improved on because I think it would be cool to spread the Asian awesomeness in young adult fiction!

How close would you say you are to Asian culture?

I’m pretty close with my Asian culture. I’m actually half Chinese and half Korean so I get the best of both worlds. I celebrate most of the traditional Chinese holidays, like Chinese New Year and the Moon Festival, and some of the Korean traditions. My mom also makes Chinese or Korean home cooked meals every once in a while, too :)

This or that:

Egg rolls or sushi? Sushi all the way!
Ramen or dumplings? Dumplings :)
K-pop, J-pop, or Mandopop? K-pop? It’s the only one I really know and occasionally listen, too, although I can’t say that I’m a fan of it.
Chopsticks or fork? Fork! Apparently when I use chopsticks, it makes my dad nervous since I don’t know how to use them the “right” way.

Thanks for stopping by, Cleo!

To follow the rest of the event, go to our All Things Asian event page for all the posts and giveaways! Click HERE to see more awesomeness. (And no, you don't have to be Asian to participate!)

All Things Asian Interview: The Golden Eagle

Today we have the Golden Eagle here for a great interview!

What do you look for in a book?

I look for strong protagonists, believable antagonists, a well-built and detailed world, and, perhaps above all, a plot delivers plenty of twists and turns.

You're stuck on a desert island, and you have your choice of one type of food, one music album, and one book. What do you choose for each?

Fruit, Bach’s Greatest Hits, and the dictionary. The last because then I can better create my own stories in my head. ;)

What got you into blogging?

Reading other blogs. I didn’t know much about the blogging community (other than it existed) before I visited a few, lurked, and started commenting occasionally. After a few months of that I decided to start my own blog.

What is a completely random fact about yourself?

I’ve been dancing for seven years. There was a break of a couple years, but I got back into it in 2010 and am currently en pointe.

What advice would you give to another blogger?

Blog about what you want to blog about, whether that’s books, writing, games, personal projects, whatever. We’re all unique, and that’s reflected in each person’s blogging style.

If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be?

Flight. :) I chose The Golden Eagle as my pseudonym partly because eagles are such amazing fliers.

Do you think Asian characters and/or authors are prominent enough in young adult fiction?

Not quite. Though Asian characters and authors are growing in numbers, they’re still few and far between compared to white characters/authors.

Do you think there needs to be more diversity in young adult fiction?

Yes. The more varied YA is, the more perspectives and opinions, the better, I think.

What is your favorite Asian dish?

Sesame chicken.

What is your favorite Asian book character and why?

My favorite character is Ai Ling from Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon. She has weaknesses and faults, but like any good character, those are counterbalanced with positive traits; in her case, a determination to see things through.

Would you say you appreciate Asian inspired literature more, less, or the same as other literature?

I treat Asian inspired literature the same as other literature. If it’s written well, I’ll enjoy it, but if not then I’ll dislike it as much as any other fiction.

Thanks for stopping by!

All Things Asian Interview and Giveaway: E. C. Myers

Today here we have E. C. Myers, the author of the fantastic novel Fair Coin! At the bottom of this interview is a great giveaway, so keep an eye out for that!

What made you choose to write the genre you do?

I go wherever the story demands, and it was clear early on that Fair Coin had to be a young adult book. I always had a teenage male protagonist in mind, and I don’t think the story would have the same meaning if an older person acquired a wishing coin; an adult book with the same premise would probably be more about looking backwards and fixing mistakes, instead of looking ahead in life and embracing possibilities. I was more interested in a character that was learning the consequences of his actions in the moment instead of dealing with them years later after living a life of regret.

But I hadn’t read young adult fiction since I was a teenager, so before I started writing Fair Coin, I read all the YA I could get my hands on. I rediscovered my love for the genre and the broad range of experiences, themes, characters, and backgrounds it offers. Though I’m well past my teenage years, questions of choice, identity, and finding your place still resonate with me as a reader and writer; exploring these big questions in the books I read as a kid had a huge impact on the person I am today, and I’m still examining them in the books I’m writing now.

What do you look for in a book? 
I look for big ideas and quiet moments, high personal stakes, honesty, and experiences that are very different from my own. I love a story that grabs hold of readers and lets them imagine another world, another life, another perspective. Most of all, I look for characters I can relate to or care about, who respond in interesting and illuminating ways to extraordinary events, whether it’s a science fiction story about saving the universe or a teenager discovering something new and important about herself or the world around her. I look for genuine connections and relationships between characters and heartfelt emotion. I want to be entertained or moved or pushed into thinking about something in a surprising way.

What is your opinion on spicy food?

Spicy food is the best food, and any food that isn’t spicy can be fixed. I recently discovered Sriracha, and I’m getting a lot of use out of it. For a while I even considered carrying around capcaicin spray like a character does in Cory Doctorow’s excellent YA book,
Little Brother, but I haven’t quite reached that extreme. Yet.

Do you think there needs to be more diversity in young adult fiction? 
Definitely. Always. I understand that marketing concerns make some publishers hesitant to take chances on books that represent different races, genders, and sexual orientations in fiction, at least in their main characters, but I think YA is one of the most honest forms of literature out there, and ignoring the rich diversity of readers is disingenuous. Teenage readers can handle non-white protagonists, different cultures, and “non-traditional” family structures, I promise you. We should all trust our readers. All they want is a good story, well told and with interesting, relatable characters — and I think one of the best ways to deliver the latter is through a broad selection of perspectives.

Sometimes we read to recognize ourselves in fiction, and sometimes we read to become someone else entirely. By limiting books to a narrow perspective, we may be shaping a limited, artificial worldview in the kids reading them. I think the only Asian character I remember in books when I was young was Claudia Kishi in The Babysitter’s Club. I always thought she was my favorite because of her quirky, artistic personality, but now I wonder if I was identifying with more than that.

I’ve realized that after a lifetime of reading and watching television and movies, my own “default” for fiction characters, as a reader and a writer, is white male. I’m certain that’s fairly common and that has to change. Worse still, I didn’t think the lack of Asian characters bothered me much until I saw the Pixar film Up, which features Russell, a young Japanese boy; I was surprised by his appearance and by how happy it made me to see an Asian lead onscreen, in a role that wasn’t about him being Asian.

So yes, we do need more diversity in YA: in book covers, in content, and even in the authors writing it. It’s always good to offer more perspectives and experiences to young readers. Truth is, we still need wider representation everywhere.

How close would you say you are to Asian culture? 
Not as close as I want to be, and feel I probably should be. My mother is Korean, and because she raised me I was exposed to the food and some traditions, which are fine things but are still fairly superficial aspects of the culture; I don’t know much about Korean history or the people’s deeper beliefs and customs. Despite studying the language in college for a couple of years, I still don’t really speak or understand it, though I can at least read Hangul. Mostly.

A couple of years ago, I researched modern life in South Korea when I decided to write a fantasy story set in contemporary Seoul. I was surprised by all the differences in the Korean mindset and how foreign their customs seemed to me. Even though I claim Korean heritage, I had the uncomfortable impression that I was “appropriating” my own culture for fiction. A lot of this is from growing up in America without much contact with other Koreans. I didn’t have any Korean friends until I went to college. I self-identify as an American, but I’d like to learn more about what it means to be Korean. I’m working on that.

What is your favorite Asian dish?

Whatever’s on the plate in front of me, but I’m partial to kalbi (Korean barbecue), chapchae, and kimbap. I also love fried dumplings!

Do you enjoy anime or manga? If so which ones?

Oh yes, but I have fallen really far behind anything remotely current. I tend to favor anime over manga, and some of my all-time favorites — again, mostly older stuff — include Kimagure Orange Road; Irresponsible Captain Tylor; Future Boy Conan; Now and Then, Here and There; Haibane Renmei; Cowboy Bebop; and Full Metal Alchemist. Of course, I love almost everything Studio Ghibli produces, especially Whisper of the Heart, Laputa, and Mononoke Hime. Some of my recent favorite anime films are The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars. Almost all of these are also very good YA stories.

Do you feel like your Asian heritage influenced your writing at all?

Of course it does. Whether or not I’m conscious of it, the experiences I’ve had because of it are part of me, and they influences the choices I make in my life and in my writing, and particularly how I shape my characters and portray their interactions with each other.

The most obvious influence on Fair Coin is in Jena Kim, who is half-Korean, just like me. I didn’t go out of my way to show lots of Korean things in her house or have her talk about it in casual conversation, because that doesn’t reflect the way I grew up. You can identify with a culture without letting it define you. But her background is a little more prominent in the next book, where it felt more appropriate to address it in how people respond to her appearance and her family.

Ephraim is also of mixed heritage: He’s half-Puerto Rican and half-Irish. I find that I’m interested in writing about characters that straddle two worlds, without quite fitting in either. There’s a sense of alienation that comes from other people categorizing you in a certain group that you don’t feel you really belong in. So I like to engage with questions of identity and perception and the difficulty of choosing your own place in the world, regardless of how you look or how others treat you.

Thanks for stopping by!

E. C. Myers is also giving away a great package to one lucky winner, open to the US and Canada. Enter to win a signed copy of Fair Coin, bookmarks, post cards, AND a package of chocolate coins!

All Things Asian Interview and Giveaway: Vivian

Stopping by today is Vivian from Confessions of a Vi3t Babe! At the bottom of the interview is a GIVEAWAY!

What do you look for in a book?

I definitely like a book with romance, although that doesn’t have to be the center theme. It has to be a good romance though, with a swoon-worthy guy, the kind of guy you can only get from books. I also like books with a strong female lead. I’m so tired of those “damsels in distress” characters that are so clueless and powerless. I generally lean towards paranormal, but contemporary is great too.

If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be?

I would love to have telekinesis. The ability to move objects would come in handy on those lazy days or when I have to lug around heavy objects, plus it’d help me since I have a baby who likes to cling to me 24/7.

If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be?

I’ve been on this Vanilla Fudge Swirl kick for the longest time, tastes so good with just the right mix of vanilla and chocolate, which is how I usually am, a mix of things.

What are some of your favorite books with Asian characters?

Well, since I just started getting into YA, and reading in general, within the last year or two, I haven’t really read too many books (due to time constraints), but I did manage to read a couple books with Asian characters in it. Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Legend by Marie Lu are standout books that I think everyone should read. Regardless of the Asian characters, I loved the story and the writing, the Asian theme was just an awesome bonus.

Do you think there needs to be more diversity in YA fiction?

Yes! I keep saying how I wish there were more Asian-specific books, also, more Asian writers. I’ve been following more Asian writers on Twitter and checking out their books, and I’m happy that the numbers are growing, but there could always be more!

What is your favorite Asian dish?

I love a nice, warm bowl of Pho (a Vietnamese Rice Noodle dish). Beef or chicken is fine, but I just can’t get enough of it. I could eat it everyday! It’s so good, perfect for cold weather, or to cure a hangover, LOL.

Do you enjoy anime or manga? If so, which ones?

I do. My favorite would have to be Sailor Moon, a childhood classic, but I also love Chobits, Fushigi Yugi, Love Hina, Fruits Basket, etc. A lot of oldies, I know, but I haven’t had time to see any new ones.

This or that:

Egg rolls or sushi? Egg rolls, not a sushi fan at all.
Ramen or dumplings? Ramen, but it’d have to be the spicy kind!
K-pop, J-pop, or Mandopop? K-pop, love me some Taeyang!
Chopsticks or fork? Chopsticks! I even use them to grab chips, crackers, or
anything to avoid getting my hands dirty, LOL!

Thanks for stopping by!

Enter for a chance to win an awesome swag pack provided by Vi! It includes an Everneath bookmark and tattoo, Pretty Crooked bookmark and stickers, a Team Adam pin from If I Stay by Gayle Foreman, and a signed bookplate by Amy Plum, author of Die for Me. All these are pictured at the left!

Enter through the Rafflecopter below!

All Things Asian Interview and Giveaway: Kristen Simmons

Stopping by today is Kristen Simmons, author of the fantastic Article 5, for a great interview and an exciting giveaway!

What made you choose to write the genre you do?

I’ve always loved survivor stories – end-of -the -world stuff especially. Everything from zombie-apocalypse/Walking Dead stuff to Man vs. Wild to all of the great dystopian literature out there. I wanted to write the kind of book I liked to read - something with danger, excitement, and romance.

Young adult fiction often features protagonists' awkward moments. What are some of the most awkward moments of your teenage years?

Oh my. Some of these I’m not sure I can relive. Is it enough to say that there was a period of time where I had braces and glasses, was in the band and in Girl Scouts (yay to both btw!), had decorating issue, in that I always needed multiple scrunchies in my hair, and for some strange reason wore only spandex pants? These are troubling memories.

What are some of your favorite books with Asian characters?
Shout out time: I recently had the opportunity to read an early copy of STORMDANCER by Jay Kristoff (St. Martin’s Press, 2012), and holy cow. His female protagonist, Yuki, is tough as nails. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her adventures in Jay’s feudal Japanese Steampunk setting. Don’t miss this book when it comes out!

Do you think Asian characters and/or authors are prominent enough in young adult fiction?

I don’t. In fact, I don’t think I can recall the amount of young adult books I’ve read with an Asian lead on more than one hand…that’s concerning.

Do you think there needs to be more diversity in young adult fiction?
Absolutely. I would love to see more books with protagonists from all different backgrounds, mixed heritage included (like me, and like Chase, my male lead in ARTICLE 5!). I’d also like to see more couples of mixed ethnicity – like my husband and I!

Kristen Simmons is kind enough to be giving away a signed copy of Article 5 to one winner and bookmarks to four others! Enter through the Rafflecopter below!

All Things Asian Interview: Cara Chow

Here for a fantastic interview is the lovely Cara Chow, author of Bitter Melon, a novel selected for the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction List. This book features an Asian teenager struggling with her restrictive and controlling mother, who has mapped out her life against her will.

Young adult fiction often features protagonists' awkward moments. What are some of the most awkward moments of your teenage years?

In high school, I had a crush on my sophomore English teacher. (Anyone from my high school who may be reading this will probably recognize who this is—oh well.) I admired him a lot because he was so erudite and gentlemanly. He was also a feminist. Our Norton Anthology featured only male writers, so he made us read a long list of books written by women. Whenever we made eye contact, I thought, “Can he see my feelings on my face? Don’t be so obvious. Don’t smile so big. Don’t blush!” Of course, thinking that only made it worse. Everyday, English class was this strange mix of bliss and torture.

About twenty years later, I reconnected with him. I was doing some research for Bitter Melon and needed to track down my speech coach to ask her some questions. I knew that the two would be in touch and hoped that he could get me in touch with her. I was nervous at first about calling him, but I’m so glad I did because now we’re good friends. He attended the reading I did for the sisters that taught at my high school, and I always try to visit with him whenever I’m in town. Our relationship is very different now than when I was his student, but the love and respect I feel for him remain the same.

What made you choose to write the genre you do?

Actually, it was not a conscious choice. When I was writing Bitter Melon, I did not have a specific kind of audience in mind. I just had a story I wanted to tell. When it came time to look for agents, I decided to target the young adult market because I had heard that it was doing better than the adult fiction market, and my book happened to feature a teenage protagonist. Though I did not plan on writing for a teen audience initially, now I feel so blessed that it turned out this way because teen readers—and the teachers and librarians who support them--are such a candid, passionate, and supportive group.

What do you look for in a book?

For non-narrative nonfiction, I look for good organization and clear and accessible prose. I also look for books that feature information that can either improve my life or add to or alter my understanding of the world.

When it comes to fiction or narrative non-fiction, I look for four things: good characters, good prose, good plot, and meaning. It is hard to find all four in one book. Some books have beautiful prose, but there is no suspense and the scenes are episodic, causing me to wonder where the story is going and to lose patience with the book. Some books have a pretty good plot, but the characters are not three-dimensional, and I’m not taken on an emotional journey that makes me see life in a new way. It is very rare for me to find a book that has all four elements, but when it does, I find myself stealing time to read that book. When I finish it, I’m sad that the journey had ended, and I’m still thinking about that book for days, even weeks, afterwards. I even have a hard time beginning the next book because I haven’t gotten over the previous book. (Sounds like I’m breaking up with someone instead of finishing a book, doesn’t it?)

What are some of your oddest writing habits?

I have a tendency to run the little heater in my office even when it is 75 degrees and sunny outside. That’s because I have chronically cold hands and feet. Strangely, this problem correlates not only with temperature but also humidity—the problem is a lot worse when the humidity is low. Unfortunately, I live in Southern California, which has a very dry, and sometimes windy, climate. To make matters worse, my house tends to run on the cold side. When my fingers get cold, I can’t move them nimbly across the keyboard, and I like to type fast. Ironically, it’s 60 degrees right now, but the heater is off because it is overcast and humid, so my hands feel warm.

Another way I keep my hands warm is by drinking hot tea while I write. I use a glass or ceramic mug, so I can warm my hands against the hot cup. I also drink tea as a substitute for coffee. For over a decade, I couldn’t sit down in front of the computer without a cup of coffee. When the writing got tough, when I was sleepy and couldn’t think straight, when I was scared that I would never finish Bitter Melon, my coffee was my little cup of courage. Unfortunately, coffee irritates my digestive system. It also makes my hands shake. But I couldn’t quit cold turkey (I tried—those attempts lasted about ten seconds). So I had to switch to a good English tea, which I doused with sugar and cream. Several months later, I downgraded again to a Chinese tea with no sugar and cream. Now I fill one tall mug with Chinese tea, and every time the cup is half empty, I add hot water, so I trick my brain into thinking that I’m drinking eight cups of tea. As virtuous as that sounds, I still fall off the wagon and drink coffee when I’m feeling exhausted or stressed. Then I end up with stomach problems, and then I go through the weaning process all over again.

What fictional character do you relate the most to and why?

When I first read this question, I was thinking about all fictional characters, and I got stumped. Days later, I thought of this question in terms of characters in my book, and then I had answers. The number one question I get asked is, “Is Bitter Melon autobiographical?” To some degree, yes. Like Frances, I grew up in San Francisco in the 80’s. (I actually have a video montage on my website that features places in San Francisco where scenes from Bitter Melon took place.) Like Frances, I also went to Catholic school, competed in speech, and had an inspiring speech coach. I also had a difficult relationship with my mother at the time. I wrote what I knew, so by definition, Frances is probably the character I relate to best.

Now that I’m a mother, I’m learning that I can also relate to Gracie too. Those who’ve read the book may gasp because Gracie is Frances’s controlling, manipulative, and abusive mother: the ultimate Tiger Mother. I’m not raising my son the way Gracie raised Frances (at least we hope not!), but I now understand the frustrations that drove Gracie’s behavior. Strangely, I had been working on Bitter Melon almost a decade before my son was born, so on a subliminal level, I must have understood Gracie long before I became a mother.

If you could have any supernatural power, what would it be?

When I first read this question, I started imagining all these different kinds of super-powers to decide which one I would like best. Should I fly? Should I become invisible? Should I read people’s minds? Should I have miraculous healing powers? Then I started to think about what my life would be like if I had these powers. If I wasn’t bound by the rules that limited other mortals, would I ever be tempted to use my powers in a bad way? Would I be disturbed and burned out by the ethical issues associated with having these powers? How would it change how others related to me and how I related to them? Ultimately, the gift would become a burden, even a curse. So in the end, I’d be better off putting those imaginary powers right back in the Pandora’s Box, locking it, and throwing away the key.

Do you think Asian characters and/or authors are prominent enough in young adult fiction? Do you think there needs to be more diversity in young adult fiction?

Asian-Americans are slowly becoming more visible in young adult fiction, and that is a good thing. What is really telling is that characters of Asian descent are starting to be depicted in ways that are not specifically Asian. A good example of that is the character of Cho in the Harry Potter series.

That said, I would like to see more diversity, not just for authors and characters of Asian descent but also for authors and characters from different ethnicities, geographical areas, spiritual backgrounds, and sexual orientations.

How close would you say you are to Asian culture?

Not as close as I should be. I am a first generation Chinese-American, or more specifically, I am part of the 1.5, or knee-high generation, because I came to the US when I was three. You would think that I should still retain a lot of my ancestral culture. However, my circumstances have really taken me away from that. As a grade school kid, I was already speaking English and not Cantonese because I wanted to fit into the mainstream culture. Nonetheless, I lived in the
Richmond District of San Francisco amongst a large extended family, so I was still surrounded by the language and cultural customs.

This changed when I moved to the Los Angeles area for college. I tried to “get back to my roots” by attending a Hong Kong Students Association meeting on campus, but no one wanted to talk to me because I was too American, so I ended up not joining. My roommates were Vietnamese-American, so I ate Vietnamese food and learned Vietnamese ballroom dancing. I joined a Korean martial arts club and became friends with a few Korean-Americans. After college, I worked for the Japanese American National Museum and learned a lot about Japanese-
American history and culture. I eventually married a Japanese-American and moved to a neighborhood that is mixed and has few if any Cantonese people.

The bottom line is, since moving away from my family, I’ve become more multicultural but less Chinese. I have no one with whom to converse in Cantonese or to celebrate Chinese traditions like Chinese New Year. I can’t even cook Cantonese food because my dad never taught my sister and me how to cook his special dishes. You couldn’t even guess by looking at my house that Asian people live here. When people encourage me to teach my son a second language so he can retain his heritage, I point out that neither my husband nor I are fluent enough in our respective languages of origin to be good teachers. All Chinese that culture, wiped out in just one generation. Pretty sad, huh?

What is your favorite Asian dish?

Anything my dad makes. But I also love sushi and sashimi.

Do you feel like your Asian heritage influenced your writing at all?

Absolutely. If it weren’t for my Chinese-American heritage, there would be no Bitter Melon. It is the cultural gap between Frances and her mother that informs the conflict between them. Frances is torn between the her American values, which tell her to find herself and reach for her dreams, versus her Chinese values, which tell her to obey her mother at all costs. Also, there is so much Chinese and Chinese-American culture sprinkled throughout the book. It is in the
characters’ language, their food, how they decorate their homes, and even how they dress.

Thank you so much for stopping by!

To follow the rest of the event, go to our All Things Asian event page for all the posts and giveaways! Click HERE to see more awesomeness. (And no, you don't have to be Asian to participate!) And don't forget to check out That Hapa Chick and iLive, iLaugh, iLove Books today for more posts!