Why Even Slow Internet Is Awesome

Ah, my Saturday ramblings.  At least I managed to load Blogger today.  My slow internet amazes me with it's snail pace.  It really does.  It will get fast again - I promise - but until then I must live with mainly text and preparing for when I can post everyday like I used to.

On the hacking:  Everything is officially back to normal.  I have my regular email back, and you can feel free to send messages to it without any issues.  I'm going to transfer as much as possible to my gmail, and once the internet speeds up I'll change the blog info and everything.  Take it as a warning that if you have your email out there in any way, then it could happen.  So use password protection programs like Google's SMS so you have options if it happens again!

On other things:  Band camp finished up this week, which was another reason I was so absent.  I know the whole American Pie thing, so don't bother.  It made me ache and I could just sleep this entire weekend away if I wanted to.  So I didn't get much reading done either.  I did read:

Intertwined by Gena Showalter

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard

I actually read The Secret Year in a few hours.  It was wonderful!  Intertwined is more average-ish.  Still recommended if you need a good fun dose of urban fantasy though.

Nothing else exciting happened.  I'm finishing up some things I have to send off to people, including a guest post for Kristi at The Story Siren and a story for an academic paper that will also feature James from Book Chic.

And...Why the internet is still awesome:

This post by Steph Su is more than enough reason to prove that the internet is awesome in every single amazing way possible!!!  It's a response on racism in YA based on Asians, and it's so good and heartbreaking and shows exactly why YA publishing needs to grow.  Steph is a great friend of mine, and clearly fighting for the minorities is just one thing we share as bloggers.  So go and read it.  Like right now. 

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Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Title: Hex Hall

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Publisher: Disney/Hyperion

Seeing Hex Hall spot tons of different blogs a few months ago made me ache to read it. I love magic novels and boarding school novels and novels with funny heroines - it sounded like the perfect mash-up for me. I read it in a day and was more than happy with it. It surprised me that the hype for this book is actually grounded. The writing was funny, and the characters were some of the best I've seen in a YA novel.

The night of her junior prom, Sophie Mercer pulls off a simple little spell. A girl is crying in the bathroom without a date, and doing a love spell to get her one doesn't seem like a bad idea. It's not like she's going to kill anyone or anything. But it goes wrong. Very wrong. To Sophie's parents - a mortal mother and an absent father who is the reason she inherited her magic - this is the final straw. She has revealed herself to one too many humans and messed up one too many lives to go on living among them. So, she's sent off to Hecate "Hex" Hall, where wayward Prodigium (witches, faeries, and shapeshifters) are sent to learn how to control their powers.

Hex Hall is gothic and isolated on a remote island off the coast of Georgia. Sophie doesn't begin on the best foot - she doesn't have half the control over the powers that other students seem to have, and she gets roomed with Hex Hall's only vampire. Vampires aren't Prodigium because they are made, and are considered monsters by many in magical society. A group of three black witches try to make her a member of their coven in order to gain more power, and Sophie just tries to stay away from them. Getting caught up in a clique of snobby witches isn't the way to start off a school year.

Her roommate, Jenna, tries to help her fit in. It's hard, considering Jenna's last roommate was murdered. And found with two holes in her neck; drained of all her blood. Sophie's uneasiness doesn't seem to stop, and her first two weeks at Hex Hall set her up for a year that is filled with troubled romances, attempted murders, and the possibility that one of the members of Hex Hall is working for an elite group of Prodigium assassins.

Hex Hall's duo of Sophie and Jenna is a great way to write a series like this. Sophie is a witty first person protagonist that is frank, sarcastic, and a tiny bit perverted. She's raw and snarky and everything that is a part of being a teenager. The majority of adults write great teenagers - but they are usually a bit more grown up, a bit more like adults than kids. It's great in a lot of ways, but it seems hard for them to really capture the middling between adult and child that's being a teenager; an adult responsibility with a completely unique sense of humor. Sophie's little romance is also nicely done, and I'm glad that she isn't a complete idiot about it, and the guy himself isn't the usual stalker type.

Jenna is personally my favorite character of the entire cast, and it's for some obvious reasons. 1) She's a vampire. Vampires are awesome. I'm not just saying that because I started reading Vampire Academy and my love for them has been rekindled. They are just generally awesome. 2) She adores pink and is in many ways very girly, even though she is tougher than Sophie and more of a hard-ass. Gotta love that. 3) She's a lesbian. Seriously, a pink-loving lesbian vampire who can be a hard-ass. That is just my character. Jenna is prominent, completely important, and her sexuality doesn't matter one bit. I love that. She would be a cool character without the lesbian thing going, but it was handled really well, and that factored a lot into my opinion of Rachel Hawkins as a writer.

Writing and plotting are just as sharp as the characterization. Everything felt quick and suspenseful without being over-dramatic or cliche. Boarding school plots have such a problem with getting into the melodrama ala Kate Brian's Private series, and Hex Hall never feels like that at all. The lines are laugh worthy, and I did a lot of giggling with Hex Hall. I usually don't laugh out loud while reading a book, so that should say something about the humor level of the writing. I just loved it. The world building was also done well too. Just enough to have me interested and understanding, but never going so far into it that I felt like I was reading a textbook or a history tome. The ending was really sudden and a cliff-hanger for the next book, which will turn many readers off. I still think that it stands on its own well enough. It's not like the Blue Bloods series where cliff-hangers are major. You will be aching to read the next book, Demonglass, after you're finished though.

Rachel Hawkins has really out-done my expectations for the teen paranormal in Hex Hall. Paranormal YA hasn’t been quite this funny or vibrant before, and it made me want to continue reading the paranormal stuff. Great characters - including a well-written lesbian whom I adore adore adore - and exceptionally LOL-worthy humor make for a great debut novel that will satisfy many readers.

Cover Comments:  I love the story elements - it's great to see more story elements being added into YA covers.  It's nothing spectacular, but I'd be interested in it while shopping none the less.

Rating:  5.0 stars

Copy:  Received from Jen at Disney/Hyperion (Thanks Jen!)

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How My Account Got Hacked

Considering I lost a follower today ( I have no idea why ) I think that my weird activity may be a part of what stuff has been going on.

My Twitter account was also deleted.

You may wonder why, because I love Twitter.

My Google Account was compromised by a hacker, as well as my main email address.  I am working on recovering the main email address, and Google thankfully sent me recovery information to an undisclosed email as of now, so I can at least access Blogger and do damage control.

This is not what you want to happen, true, but it does.  This is a warning to all blog users - keep your emails tightly sealed.  I mean pull out all stops.  Have cell-phone password recovery, keep dates (at least general ones) of when you started using Google services, and have a password that seems random and alternates between letters and numbers.  I just added all of this in my attempt to fortify myself in case I am attacked again.  Recovery emails are also awesome (unless those are hacked, so ditto for other email addresses).

Now that I've given my little quickie lecture on that stuff...

My most recent review (Which I luckily had saved to a Word Document - Back up files, people!) on Hex Hall was deleted, as were some random comments (sorry to Kathy Martin, and I will see if I can fix it - thanks for commenting) and my Twitter account.  I will make a new Twitter in the next week or two and will hopefully have you guys come back on and follow again.  Le sigh.

Guys, in all seriousness, heed this as a warning.  You are not safe.  Really.  This could have happened to any blogger out there, and the results can be majorly devastating if you don't have luck or blogger friends who can help you recover contacts if you can't get to an email address.  If my hacker ever emailed you guys, or did anything to you, I'm sorry.  Not that it's my fault, per say, but it's deeply disturbing to me that someone would invade someone else's privacy like that, and you deserve some apology with it.

The blog will be back on track soon.  Band Camp is crazy, but I will have a review for Hex Hall up (again) tomorrow morning when I have a decent connection speed.  Once my internet speeds up and Band camp is over, my posts will be much better and more consistent.  I'll also be canceling Rainbow Thursday since that's another thing that I cannot handle on top of everything else.

This week has been hectic.  Crazy.  I promise I'll get back to anyone who has emailed me as soon as I can.  If you need to contact me asap, please leave a comment on the blog post, or message me through my blogger profile.  Thank you for understanding, and remember...it could happen to you.

*Update*  I found that the only time the hacker sent emails from my address was to an author and two publicists (from my other hacked email account, no less) and they were rude and demanding and totally not from me.  So...this has made me wonder.  I believe there is a good chance that this hacker is a blogger.  A blogger who does not like me.  Why else would they only target the publicists, but not bother with removing my contacts at all?  It doesn't make any sense.  I'm worried now, and I would again like to apologize if said hacker contacted you from my regular email or my gmail account.  This has me worried.

Now, fess up.  Did any of you readers do it?  I know this seems crazy, but I have to know.  Do you know anything about it?  I promise I won't get mad if you tell me now and let me restore my information.  I have a few ideas of who it may be, but I am really hoping it's not a blogger at all.  Le sigh.  And the plot thickens.

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In My Mailbox (12)

This week’s IMM will be entirely in text, because of my internet connectivity issues. It’s been raining and overcast all week, which makes the satellite provider we use really funky. Combine that with my email troubles and the general connection slow-down, and you have a situation akin to hell for a blogger. HELL. In My Mailbox was started by Kristi at The Story Siren and Alea at Pop Culture Junkie. Love them both to bits and pieces, I tell you! I’ll also be linking to reviews I did over at Dear Author, since I find that making and reposting them over here later is really, really annoying. It also leaves room for other book reviews. I usually will only do one a week over there, so it’s not that big of a deal.

For review:
Forget You by Jennifer Echols (MTV Books: SO excited to read this. It’s also lovingly signed by Miss Echols herself, and came with a neato business card. Thanks, Jennifer!!)

Bewitching Season and Betraying Season by Melissa Doyle (Henry Holt/Square Fish: Melissa was kind enough to send her books as a little gift/review thing, and I’m so excited! They also came with a Season bookmark and Season door-marker. Thanks so much Melissa!)

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner (Also sent by Melissa – I didn’t expect this at all! Gay swordsmen FTW!! Thanks again!)

Firelight by Sophie Jordan (Harper Teen: Cannot wait to read this! Dragons! Sexy boys! It cannot be bad! Thanks so much to Melissa B. over at Harper Teen for sending.)

The Golden Web by Barbara Quick (Harper Teen: I requested this a while ago, and it finally came! So exciting!! Y’all know my love for historical fiction runs deep. Kudos to Barbara and her publicist!)

Bleeding Hearts, Reap the Whirlwind, and All Lost Things by Josh Aterovis. (PD Publishing: Gay teen mysteries. Genre fiction that I haven’t tried much yet. EXCITING!! Thanks to Linda and Josh for sending them. )

Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters (Disney/Hyperion: I finally get to read the second book, and soon the third book, in the Generation Dead series. The first one was tres excellent. Thanks to Daniel and Jen from Disney/Hyperion!)

Hero by Perry Moore (Disney/Hyperion: Again, thanks go to Jen. Gay superhero book ala Hayden Thorne’s Mask series? Count me in!)

At DA I reviewed:

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Later this week I will be hosting another contest from Scholastic for 2 copies of Stolen, including signed book plates! The book just one a prestigious children’s/ya lit award over in the UK, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year!

Also enter the contest with Eliot Schrefer if you haven’t yet! I’ll be giving away 2 copies of The Deadly Sister from Scholastic. :D

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I Stole An Award

Hey readers.  You know I've been having computer/internet issues.  I'm also going to be out for a good six hours today, and don't have time to write an informative and fairly-edited post like usual.  SO, I'm stealing one of The Golden Eagle's free-for-all awards.  Mostly because I'm bored.  There is also a need for answering of teh questions.

What is your favorite book?
GAH.  You already know a lot of them, bloggies.  I'll pick a fairly new-ish one.  Hm.  Stolen by Lucy Christopher is one.  

When was the last time you read a book?
An hour ago.  I finished up Zoya by Danielle Steel. 

Have you read any of Jane Austen's novels?
Pride and Prejudice.  Not big on teh classics, but Sense and Sensibility is on my bookshelf...

What was the last book you read?
 Zoya by Danielle Steel.

If you were to write a book, what would the plot be?
Currently writing one right now.  It's high school.  There's some bad shit.  No vampires of any kind.  Sounds
good already, no?

How many times have you read your favorite book?
Uh, maybe once or twice?  Not big on rereading anything. 

Which do you prefer: reading a book, or watching TV?
Books.  Television has become less of a joy for me.  Love certain shows like Gilmore Girls, Will & Grace, The Nanny, Degrassi, ect.  But books are overall working better.

What book are you currently reading?
Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey, Masks:  Book One by Hayden Thorne, and (soon) Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.

What was the first book you ever read? (besides little learning-to-read books.)
Ah....cannot remember...*thinkthinkthink*  Distinct chapter books:  Little House on the Praire, various Dear America titles (like one about a coal miner's daughter that I loved) the Royal Diaries Anastasia book.  Ashes of Roses (tres excellent book).  

And I tag:
EVERYONE!  Because I'm cool like that.  B)

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Review: Sell-Out by Ebony Joy Wilkins

Title:  Sell-Out

Author:  Ebony Joy Wilkins

Publisher:  Scholastic Press

Sell-Out was one of those books I stumbled across online about a month or so ago, before anything really took off on the blog.  I really liked the idea of a PoC protagonist being the center of a book, especially with all of the cover whitewashing talk going on.  The idea also got me hooked; because it was about her finding herself and her heritage, but not being the usual 'I-Am-A-PoC-And-People-Don't-Like-It' kind of book.  It's a novel about a girl finding herself.  That self just happens to have an African-American living in the Bronx type of heritage.

NaTasha is nearly the only girl of color in her mainly white, middle-class suburban school, but that isn't such a big deal to her.  She has a best friend, Heather, and she does ballet with her.  A weak attempt at trying to be popular.  NaTasha would rather be on the volleyball court anyway, but Heather's such a good friend, and fitting in is something she wants to do.  Everyone in her family - even her grandmother Tilly - comes to her latest recital, where something as simple as trying to fit in turns into an event of pure humiliation for NaTasha.

If there's one thing Tilly's tired of, it's seeing her grand-daughter trying to be something she's not.  She proposes that NaTasha come and live with her for a few weeks in New York - to get a feel for where her family came from before they lived in the squeaky clean suburbs.  NaTasha would also have to help out at the local help center for girls that Tilly volunteers at every day. It isn't the best thing - she'll have to leave behind Heather, the chances of impressing the local hottie, and deal with homesickness - but NaTasha feels like she needs some time away.  Maybe it'll do her good.

What happens to NaTasha is reminiscent of the best stories about someone finding who they are and learning about their roots.  She comes to understand that the girls at the home are different, but strong in their resolve.  She doesn't fit in so well there, either.  How's a girl from the suburbs supposed to compare to a group of girls who have been in and out of juvenile hall, fights, pregnancies, abusive relationships, and bleaching their skin to forget about the names they are called day after day?  NaTasha realizes everyone has their problems - and that spending time at the home with these girls may be more helpful than she thought.  Ebony Joy Wilkins has a wonderful debut novel in Sell-Out that speaks to a tougher generation about their origins and about that equality we all share - whether we like it or not.

Before I started reading, I was worried I wouldn't like NaTasha.  I mean, the spelling alone is a little odd.  Usually weird spellings of names can be weird.  The PoC cliche of being constantly abused because of one's color was also a worry - not that it doesn't happen or that it isn't serious, but that it happens constantly from every single source.  Sell-Out manages to avoid cliches and focus on a story that's modern yet timeless.

NaTasha's journey is different.  She's not made fun of at her school in the suburbs.  They don't torture her or make fun of her skin color, or even show much care for it.  It's all about the underlying differences.  NaTasha and her friend Heather try to make her like everyone else - and the fitting in suffocates who NaTasha really is.  She tries to change her hair, and doesn't do the sport she likes just to be like the popular white girls.  What's interesting is that NaTasha, on some level, knows that what she's doing isn't great from the beginning, which is realistic and perceptive.  Usually we are given a protagonist who is amazingly ignorant of themselves.  NaTasha is smarter than that, shown by her agreement to go and help Tilly.  Her narration shows that perceptiveness, and it made me really respect NaTasha as a character.

Secondary-wise, Sell-Out is populated with a lot of fun figures.  Tilly is the classic God-Loving-Black-Woman-Who-Can-Fry-Anything character, but learning about her past makes her a lot deeper. The local hobo; the cute guy working at the bodega down the block; the beautiful girl troubled with her looks.  In each instance, Wilkins takes a character we feel like we've seen before and gives them a new face; a mature and realistic one.  I was surprised at how emotional I got over them.  They also work well in helping NaTasha find herself, and each one of them is important, which is great.

The strength in NaTasha's character really showed throughout the first-person narrative.  Plotting was handled really well throughout a majority of the book, and the writing style was great for a YA read; quick and to the point.  I liked how each girl at the home had her share of troubles and strengths - each one was a different learning experience for NaTasha, and they all had their motives and reasons for being the way they were.  It was also interesting to see the take on racism within the home - how the girls automatically separated themselves by race during a volleyball game, and how they acted like it was the right thing to do.  Despite how interesting it was, it wasn't the center conflict.  NaTasha's inexperience compared to the hardships the inner-city girls faced was.  It was a refreshing change of pace.  My only issue was the ending - it was cute, but the father-daughter relationship shown between two of the secondary characters was surprising.  I would have liked it to have a bit more solidity to it.  The relationship between a side character and one of NaTasha's crushes was also hinted at but never developed much, and I would have liked more fleshing out with that as well.

Sell-Out is an excellent debut novel that takes a deeper look into finding yourself and finding what your roots really mean.  It's not your cliche PoC-Overcoming-Prejudice story, and is an excellent addition to the YA books of 2010.  Aside from some lack of fleshing out on some parts, I really enjoyed NaTasha's voice, and found her to be a model character for readers of all ages.  Ebony Joy Wilkins did a wonderful job with this book, and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

Cover:  Eh.  The pearls have relevance to the story, which is good, but in the story it's a bracelet.  And the light cover and the white just don't work for me. 

Rating:  4.5 stars

Copy:  Received from Jen at Scholastic (Thanks so much, Jen!) 

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Author Interview: Tom Dolby (Trouble Boy)

Hey guys, I know this is actually being posted on Friday (really, really late Friday) but my internet got slowed because I used too much bandwith (one more thing I have to watch while blogging - le sigh) and it was so slow I couldn't even open blogger.  Now it's like 1am and I can work with things, so I'm posting it.  Tom Dolby is an amazing author for LGBTQ fiction, and he was nice enough to answer some questions on Trouble Boy and LGBTQ lit for me!  :) 

On Trouble Boy 
Trouble Boy – your debut novel – was all about self discovery through one’s sexuality. How did you come up with that central theme?

It was really about tracing the journey of a 22 year-old who is new to New York City. Sexuality is a big part of that journey, especially when one is gay. While the main character, Toby, is already out of the closet and has had several short relationships, he is still trying to figure out what he wants in a boyfriend. He is also grappling with issues of success and self-esteem and friendship, but certainly sexuality plays an important role in his life.

The book’s protagonist is at many times emotionally distant, and doesn’t like to confront reality. Why is this so important to his character, and how does it change as the book progresses?

Toby is a classic “unreliable narrator” and it was a lot of fun for me to play with that. He can really be very delusional in terms of his desires and his perception of the world! He is only 22 and yet he wants it all – success, sex, fame – right now! In the end, while he achieves some success, he understands that it may take a little longer than he had hoped. And he learns that he doesn’t need to base his self-esteem on who he is dating.

Where did the idea to write this book come from? Was it one that eased out of you, or did you have trouble getting it down in a manuscript?

When I wrote it, I had just moved away from New York after living there for three years after college. I had experienced many similar adventures to Toby’s, and I wanted to express those within a character. The novel came quickly because it was so similar to my own experience. While not everything in the novel happened to me (and I always get asked that!), the fact that I had a group of friends much like Toby’s certainly helped inform the novel.

How does it feel to be so critically acclaimed and compared to famous authors like Candace Bushnell? 

It’s very flattering.

What is one thing you wish you could change about the book now that it has been out and published for several years?

That’s a great question – but I don’t think there’s anything I would change. I think that what I learned is that once a book is out, it’s no longer “my book.” Everyone views the book differently – some saw it as a sweet coming-of-age story about love and friendship; others saw it as a fast-paced, sexy book about nightlife and sexual discovery in New York City. Each reader has a different experience, and that’s okay.

On LGBTQ Writing

What was the most influential LGBTQ book that you have read? That you would tell others to read?

I always recommend David Leavitt’s The Lost Language of Cranes. I’ve read it at least four times and counting.

What’s one aspect you think is vital to incorporate while writing an LGBTQ character?

I think it’s important to include some recognition of their sexuality in the sense that they do have needs and desires. While not every LGBTQ character’s story has to be about sex, I think that nearly everyone is a sexual being in some way, and that needs to be acknowledged.

In your opinion, what would you like to see more of in future LGBTQ fiction books – YA and Adult?

Mostly, I just think it’s wonderful that there ARE so many LGBTQ novels out there – and that publishers keep publishing them. Actually, the number one thing I would say (and I almost want to put this in all caps!) is that readers need to demand these kind of books from publishers, booksellers, and librarians. If they can, readers should try to BUY books as much as possible (or demand that their librarians buy them) – in publishing, what counts is sales, and the only way an author can achieve sales is for people to buy their books. And if you do borrow a book from a friend or check it out from the library, do the author a favor by telling your friends that they should read it, too! It all helps in the end, and leads to more books coming out, which is what we all want, right?

How do you think your themes affect LGBTQ readers? Are all of them good?

In THE TROUBLE BOY and THE SIXTH FORM (my novel about two 17 year-old boys at boarding school and their relationship with their female English teacher), there is a lot of frank and honest talk about sex and sexuality. I am incredibly flattered and impressed that teen readers are finding my books, and I am pleased that they are mature enough to handle these themes. Sex doesn’t have to be this big scary thing, but it’s important that readers stay safe. The kinds of things that Toby is experiencing in the book are not the kinds of things you want to be doing in your teens. So, read about it, but don’t do it! I sound like a parent, right?

How do you feel the market for LGBTQ books is changing, and do you think publishers should look into getting more books with LGBTQ characters as protagonists? 

Absolutely! What is wonderful about the boom in publishing for LGBTQ books is that there is a new generation – teen readers in particular, who were eight and nine years old (!) when my first novel came out, who are now old enough to read these books, and are demanding more of them. Like I said, you have to be vocal. Demand the books of your librarians, write to the publisher and favorite authors, write on your blog, become a fan on Facebook. Publishers need to know that the most important part of the business is readers. You guys are why we authors do what we do!

Great interview!  Thanks so much to Tom for stopping by, and for putting up with my long list of questions!  Really loved the advice he gave, and hopefully you readers take that advice to heart.  I also must try David Leavitt now *scribbles on pad*  Thanks for a great Rainbow Thursday, Tom!!  (Or Friday, as the case may be)  

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Review: Trouble Boy by Tom Dolby

 I'm starting off this Rainbow Thursday with my new button, designed by The Golden Eagle from The Eagle's Aerial Perspective (button on the sidebar - it's the one with the big eagle) and a review of Tom Dolby's debut novel from a few years back, Trouble Boy.  I had a lot to say about it, and I hope you enjoy the review, as I'll be posting an interview with Tom later in the day! 

Title:  Trouble Boy

Author:  Tom Dolby

Publisher:  Kensington

One of the biggest problems with adult novels read by teenager is that they are not accessible to someone under the age of --.  Many of the adult literary books I read, save for a few, were really well written - really well written - but the crossover appeal just stunk.  There is a type of writing that responds well with the teen psyche.  A kind of to-the-point-but-still-deep kind of style that certain writers pull off better than others.  I am always on a quest to find adult novels that can appeal to teens - especially LGBTQ ones, because there are so very few YA LGBTQ books as it is.  Besides, there are a lot of older teenagers that may want to read about older situations.  Adult to teen crossover books are important.  Ever since I've come to know about Tom Dolby, he's been on my list of authors who can cross over well.  His protagonists are young enough to appeal to teens directly, but they still carry on adult situations.  The books also tend to have more adult or complex themes, but in Trouble Boy's case, that theme relies on the narrator being in his twenties.

Moving to New York City is that next stop in Toby Griffin's life.  He's finished college and started his life as a freelance writer, and NYC is just the place to find that fame in writing that he wants.  Toby's always been cushioned by his parent's money and their dreams for him, and for once he'd like to make it on his own.  Getting a boyfriend that lasts more than a month wouldn't be too bad, either.  He meets up with some half-decent guys at a party, but no one he would date himself, and soon finds himself writing for an online nightlife magazine.  It isn't the big-time yet, but he just needs to hold it out until he can sell his gay science fiction epic of a screenplay.

Toby's problems aren't far behind him, though.  Being a nightlife writer has it's upsides: getting into bars and clubs without having to pay, knowing some fairly high-up people, and a lot of chances to find a good hook-up.  Despite all of the booze and the connections, finding a decent guy still seems out of his reach.  A string of no-name people like Real World Guy (Named after the reality show he was on for one season) and Goth Guy (who was such a mistake) as one-night stands proves that Toby needs to change things up a bit.  He begins to find himself attracted to his co-worker and clique member Donovan, but he keeps getting the cold shoulder.  There's also Cameron Cole, his dream guy.  A gay producer that actually makes gay movies.  Having a new boyfriend AND a film deal sounds better and better to Toby.  Too bad getting that guy to notice him is pointless.

Trouble Boy is the complicated story of a guy whose had it smooth for too long, and can't seem to understand what it means to be a sexual being.  It's one of relationships, and on how one cannot have a healthy one without a healthy attitude to go with it.

There are certain books that have protagonists you are supposed to find douche-baggy.  The Book Smugglers recently went over this (sort-of) with Adam Rex's Fat Vampire.  Tom Dolby meant for Toby (I find that suspicious now that the names are near each other...) to be a douchebag.  Because he is.  He's one of those characters that is supposed to get under your skin and make you think bad, horrible thoughts about pushing him down a stairwell.  Other times he'll have redeeming features and parts that will make you think otherwise.  The best characters are like that, because they are so real.  Not everyone wants to read about a douche-bag, but the entire theme of this novel revolves around the fact that Toby starts out as such.

Now, Toby's depth and sexuality is amazingly accessible for an adult novel.  There are a lot of sex scenes - nothing erotic, per say, but not something you'd give to a middle schooler if you catch my drift.  Mostly oral sex, a few times going a bit farther.  Now, while these aren't the only parts of the book, they are probably the most important ones in terms of Toby's character building.  A former roommate of Toby's once had sex with him, and then called him out as a rapist because he didn't want to admit that he could have sex willingly with a guy.  This causes a domino affect in Toby's personal life, making it nearly impossible for him to have a normal relationship, even if he doesn't know it.

Calling his one night stands by names such as Goth Boy is how he shows his insecurity.  Toby himself is a very superficial character at the beginning of the book - he judges several of his best friends based on their looks, and often makes snide remarks towards people that don't fit his bill as someone 'boyfriend worthy'.  This superficiality goes into his sex life because he feels he must label everyone and stick with his preconceptions about others.  The journey Toby goes through is about realizing that his labels are the reason he is being held back in a relationship - because the best people are the ones that he wouldn't expect.

The secondary characters were all really good - pretty complex and interesting.  Toby's narration makes them skewed, but they all retain a realistic personality.  The dynamic of Toby surrounding himself with loyal friends who are real and his failed attempts at labeling them and moving on to a more famous set - who are just as real, which disappoints him - is interesting, and really brings out the unreliability of Toby's position.  This is definitely a character novel, and it shows really well.

Trouble Boy's plot is a lot simpler, and is a standard trying-to-make-it novel.  It offers up the glam and spice of NYC at night, with the lesser parts slowly coming into view as Toby gains a semblance of reality.  For the most part the pacing is really good, but I had issues with the ending.  While Toby's lesson is learned at the end of the novel, I felt like it was severely rushed in terms of how things went.  Toby, while getting into a good relationship, just did not feel like he made the realization on his own - and the relationship itself was a little too perfect.  If Tom Dolby would have eased into the ending more, I would have found Toby's transformation 100% believable, but it felt rushed, and that made Toby's changes feel a lot less real.  I also had some minor issues with how he didn't go into detail on some things - such as how one friend of his is stuck in a BDSM relationship when he doesn't want to be and does so in the name of 'love'.  While I get that said moment helped Toby's development, I would have liked to see some resolution to it in the plot.

Dolby's debut novel is impressive.  He does a lot with characterization and overall theme that makes you think about yourself and the labels you place on others - and how that could stifle your chance to be happy.  Toby's biased narration only makes the message more vivid, and the writing is slick and stylish like the little fashion boutiques NYC is so famous for.  The ending did come on too fast and didn't feel like it worked with the pacing of the rest of the novel, but overall it's a solid debut I would recommend to LGBTQ teens.  It tells a lot about sexuality, and I know a few people that would benefit from taking a deep look at Toby's issues.  Don't give it to anyone outside of high-school, though, because there is sex.  It's important, but still, even I have morals.

Cover Comments:  I like the way it looks like one of the booths in a night-club, but other than that it doesn't do much for me.  The aversion of Toby's face from the camera seems symbolic of his actions throughout the book, though, and that's a plus.

Rating: 5.0 Stars

Copy:  Received from Tom Dolby (Thanks, Tom!)

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Interview and Giveaway with Author Eliot Shrefer

The email crisis is (slightly) less taxing, and I managed to get things set-up!  Today, Dreaming in Books is going to be a stop for author Eliot Schrefer, promoting his latest novel from Scholastic, The Deadly Sister.  While I have not read the book myself, I am borrowing the synopsis from his website for a little bit.

Abby Goodwin is sure her sister Maya isn't a murderer. But her parents don't agree. Her friends don't agree. And the cops definitely don't agree. Maya is a drop-out, a stoner, a girl who's obsessed with her tutor, Jefferson Andrews...until he ends up dead. Maya runs away, and leaves Abby following the trail of clues. Each piece of evidence points to Maya, but it also appears that Jefferson had secrets of his own. And enemies. Like his brother, who Abby becomes involved with...until he falls under suspicion.
Is Abby getting closer to finding the true murderer? Or is someone leading her down a twisted false path?
 Okay, sounds interesting to me.  His other books also sound great, such as The New Kid and Glamorous Disasters.  And some basic information on Eliot himself (also taken from his website):

ELIOT SCHREFER is a resident of New York City and a graduate of Harvard College.  A contributor to The Huffington Post and a reviewer for USAToday, Eliot has been profiled in Newsweek, New York Magazine, the New York Post, WWD, and NPR's "Leonard Lopate Show." He was selected as one of the 2007 "Out 100," and as a fellow to the Sewanee Writers' Conference. His first novel, Glamorous Disasters (Simon & Schuster), became an international bestseller. His second novel, The New Kid (Simon & Schuster), was nominated for the Lambda Literary Award. He has most recently published a non-fiction work on the SAT (Gotham Books, Summer 2008), and a young adult novel (Scholastic, January 2009).
 Here's the lovely video interview (and my first video interview on the blog)!

And now for the giveaway!

Enter to Win (1) of (2) copies of The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer!
  • You must be a resident of the US (Scholastic can't ship internationally)
  • You must be 13 years of age or have parental consent 
  • You must fill out the form
  • The contest will end July 31st - so enter before then!

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Email Issues and Delays

Hey guys - this post is really frustrating and I am freaking out as I type it.  My email client randomly changed my password or something, and I cannot access my account.  I had to make an alternate gmail account and contact customer service for the old one.  It says it can take up to ten days - TEN FRIGGIN DAYS - to get back to me, and I am pretty much screaming at myself for not doing this earlier. 

My new email is dreaminginbooks@gmail.com, and I will be transferring everything to this email account in a few days, once I get access to the old email.  It's a pain in the ass, and I want to slap my mail client for not being immediate with things.  I mean, how hard is it to verify my email account?  HOW?

Until then, please contact me at this email address.  If you guys know anyone from publishers (Becky and Jen R. from Scholastic especially) I would be so thankful if you emailed me their info again - or tell them about it.  Because I am freaking out.

Also, I was *planning* on having a special guest stop for Eliot Schrefer here on the blog today, but if I can't access my old email or contact Becky, I doubt that'll happen.  I am really beyond pissed right now.  BEYOND PISSED.

Please help.  If you can't, then, thanks for listening to this rant.  I needed it. 

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Let's Get Beyond Tolerance: A New Blog That You Have To See

Readers, you know how I feel about equality.  And about gay people.  And about equality for gay people.  I am very vocal about that kind of thing (and rightly so).  Two close friends of mine, Lauren, a publicist and blogger herself, and Lee Bantle, author of the well acclaimed David Inside Out, alerted me to a blog they are putting together with author Catherine Ryan Hyde (Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World) called Let's Get Beyond Tolerance.

Let's Get Beyond Tolerance is a blog devoted to entertainment reviews (movies, magazines, television shows, books) for teenagers.  And it's all LGBTQ themed.  You heard me.  It's like this blog, but specifically gay.  With more non-book like things.  Run by even more amazing people!  Seriously, I am excited for following this blog.  I am already a follower.  That is saying a lot, because I don't follow a ton of blogs, especially considering my tastes are pretty particular. 

I know that you follow a lot of blogs, but please take the time and visit this one.  There are so few blogs out there that are willing to devote their time and effort into supporting LGBTQ teens like this, and it would mean a lot to me, Catherine, Lee, and Lauren if you stopped by and maybe even followed..  It's just getting started, but I can already tell it is going to be wonderful. 

If you have any questions about it, contact Lauren.  Her information should be on her blog.  If not, I will get her information to you myself.  This is a wonderful opportunity to bring more equality and LGBTQ entertainment to light on the internet, and I for one am going to support it with every fiber of my blogging being.  :) 

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Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Title:  The Iron King

Author:  Julie Kagawa

Publisher:  Harlequin Teen

Faeries are an addiction for me.  The only ones I haven't read about are Melissa Marrs, and I kick myself every day for not getting in on that series yet.  Faeries are these kick ass creatures that can be amazingly beautiful, gay, and far-out personalities that can also be extremely evil and conniving.  It's like they are some of the best characters for me.  They speak to who I am.  Not to mention I find faerie heroes to be extremely sexy, but that's more of a personal matter than a literary one.   Between this border-line fetish and the amazing cover of the Iron King (seriously, I pick this thing up and just look at it sometimes) I HAD to read it soon.  HAD.  The universe was calling this book to me.  The universe has yet to lose its touch.

Having your brother replaced by a changeling isn't something you want to happen on your sixteenth birthday.  Not that Meghan Chase had any say in the matter.  Her best-friend Puck, who has been there forever, also admits to being a faerie.  Like, with magical powers and the ability to actually know what the hell a changeling is.  He offers Meghan a way out of knowing these things - about knowing that there is more to the world, that faeries really exist - with a sip of enchanted wine ala The Matrix.  Instead, Meghan decides to go and find her brother.  Puck drags himself along and shows Meghan the Nevernever, where the fae originated.

Meghan and Puck enter through the wyldwood, an area of Nevernever that isn't protected by the Seelie or Unseelie courts.  Wild fae from kelpies to goblins roam the area, and more than once they are met with an experience much too close to death for comfort.  Meghan also meets up with a new companion - a cat-like cait sith named Grimalkin that offers to take her to the Seelie court when Puck is indisposed by a hunting party.  For a fee, of course.  When Meghan manages to get into the Seelie court, she's shocked with a startling revelation about her lineage and connection to Puck. When one of the princes of the Unseelie court comes into play - and Ash is one heck of a player in Meghan's eyes - things only get more confusing. 

Ash.  Puck.  ASH.  PUCK.  I haven't ever had this much trouble choosing between a love triangle.  Usually I am tolerant of them and nothing more.  I mean, the love triangle thing is a little overdone in paranormal romance these days.  Meghan will have a hard time choosing.  Until then, I get both boys.  *cough cough*

The characterization really is well done.  Meghan is a strong character that manages to actually think more than not, and she deals with her situations like I would expect a teenager to.  Also loved the way she was more action than 'I'll wait and see what happens to me'.  Gotta love a character that actually does things.  Puck was such an adorable childhood friend and love interest for me.  His connection to A Midsummer Night's Dream was also really cool.  He wasn't an off-putting type of trickster, which was really surprising.  Normally I despise that type of personality, but on Puck it was redeeming.  Grimalkin was fun fun fun.  Knowing Julie Kagawa is a gamer, I loved the influence I saw in Grimalkin and his fae species (Final Fantasy VII anyone?)  Ash was just a sexy beast that I wanted to lick up.  Think of Patch-sexy.  Yeah.  Like that.

The plot was both wonderfully original yet derivative.  Think in the vein of Harry Potter.  There are plot references to Shakespeare, Lewis Caroll, and other famous works, and plot wise it will easily remind readers of books like Chris Wooding's Poison (girl's brother taken by changeling) and Tithe (girl is really a fae).  For being such a reminiscent book, though, readers will not mind.  What Julie Kagawa does really well is combine all these elements into a story that is decidedly her own.  Not to mention it's a lot more action packed than Tithe, and Poison pretty much had similar theme on one area.

I also enjoyed the deep thematic connections between Meghan's journey and Alice's in Alice in Wonderland, with her fae pacts equivalents to drinking the bottles and eating the food.  Of course, Meghan's a lot different from Alice, and actually has character development (Alice is unique in the sense that her journey is one that isn't supposed to change her character).  Between all of the scrapes Meghan gets in and the tension between her, Ash, and Puck, the reader will throw most of this introspection out the window and focus on the hot men and the girl that comes between them.

Writing style is also worked really well in The Iron King.  There are books and series like House of Night that employ a mass-description type of style, and there are books like The Iron King that describe much better and get more of an image for me.  Kagawa uses just enough of it to give me an image, and as one who likes description, it's appreciated, but instead of doing mass paragraph after paragraph of it, she uses a higher quality of language and metaphor that makes me feel like I'm reading a better book.  I usually don't really care how authors incorporate it, but her descriptions were a favorite part of mine.  I could imagine every scene without any trouble or question of her intentions, and that's a big deal for me.  Also, it gave me a better way to picture Ash shirtless.  Yum.  But that's off-topic.

Don't pass up this book.  I will bite you if you do.  *nom*  I haven't been this excited for a series in a long time.  Or an author, for that matter.  That should tell you something.  As would the gushing.  I am going to stop now before I make a fool of myself...

Cover Comments:  This is an orgasm cover.  There is no other way to describe it.  Just perfection.  If they ever hardcover it, I want it.  Badly.

Rating:  5.0 Stars

Copy:  Bought.  Yep, I bought it on my own. Just more proof of how great it is.

*Bonus*  Here's the book trailer.  Can this book do anything wrong?  No, probably not.

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In My Mailbox (11)

Wow, I cannot believe I'm writing this post so late.  -_-  I had a friend over and it's impolite to blog when that happens.  Being a teenager - tell me about it.  For those of you who don't know, In My Mailbox was started by Kristi at The Story Siren and Alea at Pop Culture Junkie (sorry for not recognizing Alea for the past 10 posts!)  I also note before I start this that Blogger says Alea is spelled wrong.  Blogger, you fail.

This week was a killer week for books...I got some unexpected surprises (FIRST TIME EVER) and some great series I cannot wait to dig into!

For Review:

White Cat by Holly Black (Margaret McElderry: SERIOUSLY CANNOT WAIT.  SERIOUSLY.  Holly Black has been a favorite author since I read the Spiderwick series in fourth grade.  Thank you, Nicole!!)

Zombies Vs. Unicorns Anthology (Simon and Schuster:  Edited by Holly Black.  See about comment.  Also - TEAM UNICORN ALL THE WAY BABY.  Again, thanks to Nicole.)

Rich and Mad by William Nicholson (Egmont USA:  Looks to be really cool!  I am currently obsessed with the fact that it has a chapter called 'just another loser bitch whore'.  This is a DA book - so look for a review there later in September.  Thank you Egmont!)

Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart (Egmont USA:  Historical fiction set in Pennsylvania!  Count me in!  Also for DA, also thankies to Egmont!)

Diana Comet and Other Improbable Tales by Sandra McDonald (Lethe Press:  My first surprise this week.  Looks to be good, and hooray for LGBTQ speculative fiction.  Thank-you, Lethe Press peeps.)

ghostgirl, ghostgirl: Homecoming, and ghostgirl:  Loveless by Tonya Hurley (Little,Brown:  Cannot wait to read them.  They look really cute, and I love the covers.  Thanks Little, Brown and to Tonya's publicist.)

Mackenzie Blue, Mackenzie Blue:  The Secret Crush, and Mackenzie Blue:  Friends Forever? by Tina Wells (Harper Collins:  Just read the first book.  Predictable, but really really cute!  The illustrations were also really good.  Thank you to the Mackenzie Blue team for asking me to review them!)
Boy Meets Boy, Wide Awake, How They Met and Other Stories, The Realms of Possibility, and Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan (and Rachel Cohen for Nick and Nora, too - Not Trish.  My mind has too many author names inside of it) (Knopf/Random House:  Cannot.  Wait.  Boy Meets Boy and Wide Awake are going to be so good.  I've read Nick and Nora before, but will reread at some point, as it's a killer love story.  Big big big thanks to Meg!)

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa (Harlequin Teen:  YEEEESSSSSS.  *strokes cover*  PRECIOUS.  PRECIOUS.  Thank you, Natashya!)

Evil? by Timothy Carter (Flux:  Looks to be really, really amazing.  Loving the concept, and the cover is drool worthy.  Thank you, Timothy!  Signed, too!)

I also got a really awesome surprise in the mail:  Icarus magazine!  Published by Lethe Press and edited and run by Steve Berman, it's to showcase LGBTQ speculative fiction!  I've read everything in it aside from one story that I just could not for the life of me be interested in, and it's really good!  I'll have a review up for it soon - probably Wednesday or Friday.  :)  Thank you to Lethe Press and Steve for this really cool surprise!  And for the hot cover.  *drools*

So - what about you guys?  Any similar surprises or books you got?  Comment below!  :)  And remember - no linking back to your IMM in your comment.  I love you for commenting, but that's rather rude.  Though I'm proud to say 99.9% of you readers don't do that.  Until tomorrow!

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Review: Broadway Lights by Jen Calonita

Title:  Broadway Lights  (Secrets of My Hollywood Life #5)

Author:  Jen Calonita

Publisher:  Poppy (Little, Brown)

The excitement of going to a Broadway show is something that you just can't top.  Sitting in one of those plush seats and watching the lights go down as the chorus slowly appears and belts out the opening number is just magical.  I am a theater geek, and this is one of those feelings that even reading an amazing book cannot top.  Now, I haven't read the other Secrets of My Hollywood Life books, but when someone tackles Broadway - especially an author like Jen Calonita - I HAVE to be there.

After doing the whole televison and movie thing, teen star Kaitlin Burke is ready to spread her wings.  She needs a new gig, anyway, considering she hasn't had a viable offer in months.  For a few months in the summer, she packs her bags and heads over to Broadway, where she is going to make her theater debut in a hit London play that recently came to America.  She has to leave behind her majorly awesome (and totally not famous) boyfriend Austin, which stinks, but it's only for a few weeks, right?

Despite getting this new gig, Kaitlin just can't keep out of the tabloids.  Two former friends, now pathetic D-list stars, are dissing her and her sort-of-friend and former co-star Sky.  Being famous has it's disadvantages.  But when Lauren and Ava decide to launch a complete smear campaign against Kaitlin and Sky, things are not looking so hot.  Even when Sky and Kaitlin get the chance to host SNL (which is just amazing), it ends up being about the tabloids.

Being away from Austin isn't doing anything good for Kaitlin, either.  The British boy playing the male lead in the play is smoking hot, and long distance just makes things so hard.  With the wit and observations of a seasoned professional in fame, Jen Calonita shows that being a hit Broadway star is a lot more work than it looks to be.

Famous characters can gravitate towards the amazingly annoying or the amazingly enjoyable areas.  Kaitlin is the true example of the Calonita protagonist: a pretty smart, sensible girl who is a good person, but gets caught up in the world of the famous.  She's pretty similar to Reality Check's protagonist, but it's nice compared to the usual bitch of a character we get.  Nice people CAN become famous, and thankfully we have an author that shows that.  Sky is more on the annoying end, and while I love her snarky dynamic with Kaitlin, as a stand-alone character she urks me.  Austin didn't do much for me, either, which is partly do to his absence in the book.  Other characters like her little brother Matty, and her assistant Nadine were of the same hit-and-miss variety, though I more often liked them than not.  Nadine and Rodney, the driver, were two of my personal favorites - especially for adult characters.

What Calonita hits on in the book is the balance between staying famous and preventing your career from becoming stagnant.  Kaitlin's journey to Broadway is as much about her realizing what her career is as much as who she is.  It's not a very deep point, but overall it moves the plot well.  I always like reading about fame, but the glitz and glamor of a life in NYC, singing in Broadway shows, has always been one I wanted to read more of.  The theater references were good (YAY - Kaitlin is a huge fan of Wicked!  Characters with good taste always make me happy), though I would have liked to see more of the theater scene and less of the drama going on.  The various tabloid inserts and online news stories were a nice addition, and I'm glad they weren't rewritten in the text like they were in Reality Check.  That majorly annoyed me.

My only beef with Broadway Lights was one that I experienced with Reality Check.  It was just kind of slow in some places.  Yes it was interesting and easy for me to read in long sessions, but it just didn't pop enough for it to be a really great novel.  I would have preferred more interaction with Kaitlin and Austin, and more of an examination of how hard it is to work a long distance relationship and juggle such a huge career.  Bonus points were given because she was quite realistic about Broadway.  From the general 3/4 weeks (only!) of practice before a show to the odd wages, she got her stuff down.

Fame novels that have a sense of realism and intelligence are hard to come by.  I experienced that with Reality Check, and Broadway Lights was just as consistent.  Even though I haven't read the rest of the books, I am interested in checking out the last book in the series.  I wish they would be a bit more exciting, but overall they are good light reads that have more thought and heart than the usual Teen-Girl-Gets-Famous trope.

Cover Comments:  I really like the covers for the series. Consistent, yet similar enough for a reader to know that they are in the same series almost immediately.  (Note the books do not normally have a pink border)

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Copy:  Received from Ames O'Neil at Little, Brown publishing (Thank you, Ames!)

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Twitter Has Pounced! A Look At #dearblogger

If any of you lovely readers inhabit Twitter like I do, the #dearblogger chat that opened up yesterday should be something you've at least heard of.  Now, I freely admit to adding to that chat.  However, I made sure everything I added was constructive.  After seeing this post on 'haters' over at Wastepaper Prose, I figured I'd give my breakdown of what it was like. 

I am going to be showing you a lot of Tweets and responding to them.  Where #dearblogger went right, where it went wrong - everything.  But before I start, I do want to say that if you really didn't like the conversation...then you should have just not looked at it.  People gave advice and opinions about blogging, and that's what it was for.  Ultimately, as MANY bloggers have pointed out and continue to point out, it is your decision and your blogging style.  #dearblogger was a way to discuss it and give advice to other bloggers on issues that we felt needed to be addressed.  Also, just because it SEEMS to be mean doesn't mean there isn't a level of truth about it.  Sometimes it hurts to get advice.  There were things I realized I did that made people not like my blog, and I was okay with it if it was something I cared about.  However, if it was something stupid, then I changed it.  Big deal.  My goal was to improve my blog, and I feel like I have even more tools to do so because of #dearblogger.

#dearblogger please don't review a book months before pub date. If I can't get it right away I may forget why I put it on my wishlist - From the blog Ticket to Anywhere

Irish had, in my opinion, some of the most well-thought advice.  Even if some people don't like it, it made sense.  This is a comment that I think some bloggers would take offense to, but I am endorsing it for a reason:  publishers agree with this.  Seriously.  Every time I get an ARC, I ask them when they want a review.  99 times out of 100, they want one close to publication date.  If you've done it before, no big deal, and if you still do it that's your choice.  Just remember that many professionals, not just bloggers, have this very same opinion.

#dearblogger Your black background with red text makes my eyes hurt.

This type of comment unfortunately popped up a few times.  This is clearly where the conversation wasn't so good.  However...I am being devil's advocate when I say that this is a warning.  Your blog should be readable.  Do it how you want, but more people will come if it's easy to read.  Sorry if that bothers you, but it is true.  Although this type of comment is by no means how you should hear that advice.  

One last thing, #dearblogger, don't forget that this is just advice! You don't have to follow it, you don't have to care, do what you want! -  From Harmony's Radiant Reads

#dearblogger Advice is great, but in the end you are the one in control. Blog your own way & you will find readers who love you for it. -  From English Major's Junk Food

Especially late in the game, these were the type of comments to pop up.  And this is exactly why I am really mad about people claiming the conversation was just mean spirited.  Because it wasn't.  Advice is never required or meant to be shoved down your throat, and people should understand that.  Through this conversation, I know I've improved my blog!  Even Harmony's Radiant Reads agreed, responding to Wastepaper Prose with:

@wastepaperprose It's true, #dearblogger really had some good advice and actually cleared up some questions I had about blogging!

That is the reason #dearblogger worked and is a success.  The conversation was as negative as you took it.  If you took it as people attacking all aspects of other blogs, or only giving out snarky advice, then it would end up negative, but if you took it for all the excellent advice and the willingness many of us exhibited in helping people find out what worked for them as well as for other bloggers and readers, then it worked out greatly.

Have your own opinion on the chat, but I really hope we have another one in the future, because there was a lot of stuff that many bloggers - new and old alike - would have benefited from hearing, even if it didn't work for them.  And to anyone who I may have offended - though I honestly think my advice was positive, because that's how I give advice and criticisms - I'm sorry.  But I know I helped a lot of people, too, and I think that's most important.  :)

So, any thoughts, fair readers?  What were your experiences with the #dearblogger conversation? Would you participate in the future?  Hmm?  I'd like to know your thoughts.   

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Stuff You Should Know

Some of you may wonder why the Naughty Book Kitties button is no longer on my blog.

Well, it's gone.  It's not coming back any time soon, either.

Brent and I had a falling out.  Our whole friendship wasn't so hot for a few weeks, anyway, and we just converged on each other for one final showdown, I guess, and then ended things.  With everything that's been going on, we were simply two people who had two entirely different personalities, values, everything.  Books just didn't really bridge that gap anymore.  I don't regret our two month-partnership, but life moves on and things change.

So, just continue reading both blogs.  It's sad, for me at least, but it's something that I'm sticking through.  My goals for this blog are staying how they have been.  It's open for YA authors of all types: small presses and LGBTQ books just as welcome as other mainstream stuff.  It's a shared space for readers who want book news, and authors who need a place to talk and advertise.  Even if other blogs aren't taking them.  :)

Also, I am going to use this flub-up to give my fellow bloggers some friendly-but-obvious advice on being friends with other bloggers.  This is just a little list, and I'm not saying who did what or anything.  Just, from my experience, what helps and what doesn't.

  • Don't link to other reviews or memes in the comments section unless I ask you.  Please.  Unless it's a For Fans of...Friday, post.  In that case, I love seeing what you thought of my suggestions.  
  • Don't make meaningless comments.  I love comments, but I love hearing more than a one-word response.
  • Treat each other with respect.  This isn't high-school.
  • Don't talk bad about other bloggers.  Have your opinions on review stylings and such all you like, but it's just your opinion.  Gossip is unprofessional on any level.
  • Talk with other bloggers.  We are people!  We enjoy befriending other people!  Sure, it doesn't always work out, but that's life.  
  • Communicate if you think something is off.  Think someone is plagiarizing?  Being offensive?  Tell them about it.  Don't be a flamer, but don't have concerns and then remain silent. And if you are on the receiving end of constructive criticism, take it.  Flames can be ignored.  But someone who is polite and concerned for you?  You want to listen to them.  

    Obviously this list isn't the end-all or final ruling on things.  It's just a collection of thoughts I think are really telling to bloggers and interaction between us.  Now, if you do/don't do some of these things, I'm not going to get mad at you.  :)  We all have our own styles.  A few of these ARE really heavy-handed, though.  Remember that when you talk with someone online, you are talking with a person.  People get hurt, people have feelings, and people need to interact.

    Feel free to comment if you want.  About the split.  About the list.  About that bad piece of meatloaf you ate tonight.  Anything.  Your comments make me happy, and I'd like to see some happy!  :)

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    Guest Blog: Writing A Book Using Twitter by Elizabeth Rudnick

    Hey guys!  This (rather late) Tuesday guest spot is from the lovely and Twitter-centric Elizabeth Rudnick!  Her debut novel, Tweet Heart, was really cute and innovative in telling a story through social media.  I asked her to come by and write up a guest blog, and she gave me this gem right here.

    So this is the conversation that I carried on with myself when asked to write this guest post:

    “Wait, crap, someone wants to hear what you have to say abut writing based on a new social media? Are they for serious? What do you know about that kind of thing?”

    “Now don’t be silly. You wrote an entire novel in tweets, emails, and blogs. You can do this!”

    “EXACTLY! Do you not remember how hard it was?”

    “I do remember...which is why you need to share. Let others in on the pain. It will be cathartic.”

    “Stop with the psycho babble and go back to talking to real people.”

    That is a bit of an exaggeration of course -- I didn’t really think it would be cathartic -- but in all honesty, I had a lot of those silent conversations when I began the process of writing Tweet Heart. The whole book had started with this grandiose plan. I would write an ENTIRE novel in ONLY tweets. 140 characters. How hard could it be, I asked myself while I wrote the proposal and sketched out the characters and story arc. I text a lot, and I usually manage to get my point across in far less than 140 characters. What possible walls could I come up against?

    Well, I learned pretty darn quickly that there was more than one wall. Because what I realized about two pages into the book is that while you can get dialogue across through tweets, it is not as easy to create setting and move story along. And then there was the pesky little detail that I had to remember--namely, staying true to the form of Twitter while writing a book that made sense. In the real world, depending on how many people you follow, you can be constantly barraged with tweets that might relate to you, but often are just the random thoughts of others. While entertaining to read, they don’t pertain to the “story” that you may have been crafting in the Twitterverse and more importantly, in a novel form, they would potentially distract the reader from the main story line.

    It was out of these realizations that the e-mails and blogs and advice columns found in Tweet Heart were born. I took a step back (something I am loathe to do as I tend to want to run--or type--full steam ahead) and rethink what story I wanted to tell. I knew that I wanted to do a romantic comedy, but one with heart and perhaps a bit of a quiet lesson about the way technology has changed the way teens, adults, tweens, even older generations, interact. So I decided to look at it as a screenplay of sorts. I work as an Editor and part of my job is adapting big movie screenplays into novelizations. Reading a script, you realize that a lot of the momentum of the movie comes through in the directions giving BETWEEN the dialogue. So taking that as my cue, I used the tweets as my dialogue and then utilized the other mediums as a way to push the story along. I thought, once I had that figured out, that it would be a breeze.

    I was mistaken.

    Writing in a social medium as popular as Twitter requires a lot of research, dedication, and a whole lot of character counting. It is also incredibly nerve-wracking to dedicate a book to something that is so fluid, ever-changing, and very much in the now. I wanted to make sure that the characters weren’t lost behind the hook of a tweet novel, but I also wanted to showcase how tweeting can be used in so many ways. For some it is a living diary, for others a news source, for many a gossip chain, and for all, a way to stay connected and share similar experiences with people who can stay strangers or become friends. In writing Tweet Heart, I wanted the characters to embody all those things and to do that, I had to make sure I knew what I was talking about. There were a lot of days I spent reading hashtag chains and observing the fine art of the retweet to see how I could incorporate that into the book. But it was all necessary to make the book stronger. I needed the research--and a lot of patience.

    I would say that taking on the challenge of writing in a new and emerging social medium such as Twitter was at times terrifying. What if teens really aren’t using Twitter like the studies say? (I’d say the studies are wrong!!) What if--gulp--by the time the book comes out, people are over Twitter? (I’m thinking that is not the case!). But it was also exhilarating. I didn’t take the challenge on lightly. Even now there are things I would want to improve on in another book, ways to bring more to the world, develop characters, utilize the medium more. But I think it is a really good study in creative writing.

    In fact, I was talking to a teacher at an ALA conference while on the unRequired Reading tour, and she asked how something like Tweet Heart would fit in the classroom. I mentioned that part of my inspiration was Cyrano de Bergerac and how I wanted to take that classic tale and retell it with a very modern medium. And then I mentioned how in one school I know, they have an assignment to write a novel in six words, like O’Henry did. I pointed out that this is something people can do with Twitter. Why not take Shakespeare or Hemingway (okay, that might be way hard) and “tweeterize” them? As someone who has loosely done that, I can definitely say it would push the students. Make them look at how important a single monologue can be or how an intimate conversation between two people can get distorted if something is lost in translation.

    So to get back to the point of this post (I think I digressed as soon as I started), writing in tweets wasn’t a walk in the park. But writing never is. And I think what Tweet Heart shows, or what at least I hope it shows, is that a good story is a good story in any medium, as long as you stay true to the heart of the tale and the characters you create.

    And my 140 character answer to the point of this post: OMG! I still have a headache from writing the book! #makesureyouknowwhatyouaregettingintowhenyouproposeacrazynewnovelformat

    Now that was funny.  :P  Tweet Heart really reflects the time and effort Elizabeth put in, and you guys should check it out!  Be sure to comment and let her know what you think about writing like this.  :)

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    Review: Tweet Heart by Elizabeth Rudnick

    Title:  Tweet Heart

    Author:  Elizabeth Rudnick

    Publisher:  Disney/Hyperion

    Social media is probably one of the funnest tropes that’s present in young-adult fiction. How often do you see a regular adult novel belting out blog posts, emails, and IM’s in a way that tells a full fledged story? Not very often. Books that use social media have always been fun reads for me. Some, like the TTYL series by Lauren Myracle, have become long-time favorites, while others like Heart on My Sleeve by Ellen Wittlinger fell flat. Tweet Heart is a comfortable, in-the-middle type of novel that may not live up to the success of authors like Lauren Myracle, but provides a quick, entertaining read all the same.

    Claire has just joined Twitter, the newest social media fad to hit high school, and is making the most of it. Her BFF Lottie is coaching her through her major crush, hot lacrosse player JD, while trying to find the guy of her dreams as well. Claire’s best guy friend, Will, is trying to find the courage to ask her out, but her crush on JD is making things a lot harder than they should be. And Bennett, her other male comrade, is just trying to get attention from the opposite sex. Being a Sci-Fi geek who knows Klingon and Elvish can put a damper on one’s social life.

    Things are shaky but constant, until Will decides to hatch a plan. JD doesn’t have a Twitter account, and Claire is desperate to talk to him – why not make a fake name, pose as JD, and make her happy? Bennett convinces him it would be a good idea, but only once. After that, no more speaking, comfort Claire, and maybe move past that dreaded title of friend into something more. Nothing could go wrong – could it?

    Talking to her once as JD was fine, but Claire was so happy and eager, Will just couldn’t stop at once. Before he knows it, Claire’s feelings for JD have only grown stronger. Now that school is back in, Claire, Will, and Bennett are working together on the school paper, and all they end up talking about is that jock JD. Will can barely get a break, and Claire is too excited to think straight.

    Tweets, blog posts, emails, and advice column segments make up this novel of misplaced affections and high school drama. These four friends go through everything to discover that the person you like isn’t always so great after all.

    Reviewing a book that uses social media is really difficult because I can’t talk about description or action or many other things that regular narratives have. Social media requires strong characters and dialogue to make up for a lot of those aspects, and Tweet Heart has both hits and misses with them.

    Claire and Will are a nice young-adult couple. Claire’s Get Clueless column segments were really amusing, and were some of my favorite parts of the book. I liked that she rode horseback and read, all of which made for a pretty well-rounded heroine that remained grounded when it came to things other than her crush JD. Will was a nice fit for her, and his occasional bouts of geekiness made him really appealing, though his overall personality wasn’t anything that I got excited about – not to mention I would have liked him to quite the act of playing JD sooner.

    Lottie and Bennett were my favorite of the two couples. While it’s rather cliche to have the secondary characters get together as well, they added interesting spice to the story. Lottie’s constant boy troubles were always amusing and good for a few laughs, as was Bennett’s constant references to the geek world. They brought some needed color to the book and it’s plot, and by comparison made Claire and Will’s troubles a lot easier to swallow. Bennett’s blog posts in particular were funny, and I liked that he wasn’t the typical guy friend and egging Will on to continue the charade. Having him be sensible and thinking of Claire, whose friendship means just as much to him, was nice, and broke from the bro-code mold some authors put on their heroes and their close friends.

    Dialogue between all four of the characters was usually really witty and real. Rudnick really knows how to make her characters feel like high-schoolers instead of the usual mature, twenty something character type in a teenage skin that YA has a tendency to show. This example of a Tweet conversation between Lottie and Bennett is one of my favorites:

    LotsOLove: It’s Friday and I’m in love.

    KingOfSlack @LotsOLove: Hey genius – it’s not Friday. Coming to Claire’s show tmrw?

    LotsOLove @KingOfSlack: Hey dork – I know. Was quoting a song which you would know if you listened to anything but Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

    KingOfSlack @LotsOLove: mori er

    LotsOLove @KingOfSlack: Say what? Are you throwing crazy made-up languages at me again?

    KingOfSlack @LotsOLove: Glad u don’t speak Elvish. U don’t want to know what I just called u.

    LotsOLove @KingOfSlack: I cannot understand why Claire hangs out with you.

    KingOfSlack @LotsOLove: Simple. I’m a stud muffin.

    LotsOLove @KingOfSlack: Muffin, maybe. Stud, not so much.

    The plot was nothing to really get excited about. I’ve seen it done before to various degrees, and it was a pretty average take on high school relationships. The social media format was really well done, however, and between the Tweets and the emails, I felt like the story seemed really fresh. Other than a few minor things to figure out slang-wise, everything was really easy to read, and made for a good book to finish in a few hours.

    While the plot doesn’t market itself as anything original or groundbreaking, Tweet Heart‘s use of various social media conventions like Twitter and Email makes for a fun story and read. Coupled with witty dialogue and a fun cast of secondary characters, I am really anxious to see where you go next, especially if Rudnick's next novel is in this same format.

    Cover Comments:  I like the title font, but the rest of the image is really bland for me.  Yes, I get the book is a romance, but it doesn't invoke any feelings in me.  I wonder about her possibly having a hickey after the photoshoot, but I'm pretty sure that's not what they were going for.  Pretty sure. 

    Rating:  4.0  Stars

    Copy:  Received from Jen at Disney/Hyperion.

    *Note*  This review is also posted over at Dear Author.  I wrote it, but the formatting is different than it is over here, so minor alterations and edits were made to the original review.  Nothing that changes it's tone, though.

    Hey, did you like the review?  If you're interested in Tweet Heart, you'll be happy to know that later today or next Tuesday, Elizabeth Rudnick will be guest posting on writing in social media here at Dreaming In Books!  Mark your calendars, cause it's going to be a good one.  ;D

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    Review: Invisible i by Melissa Kantor and Stella Lennon

    Title:  Invisible i (The Amanda Project:  Book 1)

    Authors:  Melissa Kantor and Stella Lennon

    Publisher:  Harper Teen

    Why is it that so many awesome books are catering to technology now?  I mean, look at Tweet Heart and the Cathy series...one writes in technology, the other uses it to further the story.  Technology is huge in the YA book world now, and The Amanda Project series is using that to it's advantage and taking some pretty interesting concepts with it. 

    Being someone's guide is a pretty tough job.  Amanda Valentino, one of the strangest people ever to move to Orion, asks Callie Leary to take on this tough job in the hopes of being friends and getting to know each other.  She teaches Callie about totems and the meaning behind many things.  They're friendship is pretty secret because they run in different social circles, but Callie can't think of a cooler person than Amanda.  When Amanda disappears, causing her to get called down to the principals office with two other people, the news isn't so hot.

    It turns out that Amanda Valentino was a lot more eccentric than Callie thought.  Nia Rivera and Hal Bennett are in the same boat as her - being accused of being friends with Amanda, and each other.  Three completely different high school social types, all connected by one girl.  And all guiding her to.  The mystery of Amanda's disappearance has these three scrambling to understand themselves and their newly discovered connection.  And to trying to discover the most important question:  Where is Amanda?

    These characters aren't exactly unique.  Callie is the popular one who really doesn't want to be popular.  Nia is the social outcast who is actually really pretty.  Hal is the once-geek now-mega-hottie who is majorly artistic and creative.  By all standards, they are nothing special.  Neither is a story that gets them together and learning to trust each other and be buddy-buddy.  What makes them stand out, though, is what they do to find Amanda.  Lennon and Kantor don't put these characters in a group therapy session or have them doing another boring school activity.  Callie, Nia, and Hal are looking for a missing enigma that helped them better their lives.  Amanda herself is probably the best character in the entire book, and she isn't actually present throughout most of it.  An enigma character is always cool to read about - think Ali in Pretty Little Liars.  What I like is that Amanda herself isn't just a bitch or a martyr - she's absolutely impossible to pin down.

    Character development, though, really shines well throughout the book.  Callie slowly grows and learns that popularity isn't great.  Framed by her and her father being abandoned by her mother months before Amanda showed up, Callie's story is about how people can change, and how one person affects another in the long run.  Her father turns to drinking and is in a depression, but she still wears a mask as an untroubled popular girl in school.  The growth is nice, and I love how I slowly grew to like Callie, instead of just immediately liking her as a narrator.  The switch to Hal as a narrator for book two has me intrigued, but I'm excited to see the same thing occur with Hal, although I liked him from the beginning.

    Plot-wise, I've pretty much covered the basics.  Overall, I liked it.  Not completely original, but done well.  The writing was good, too.  Standard fair - exciting, nothing melodramatic or annoying going on.  The flashbacks were a nice touch, and I loved the sprinkling of doodles to signify that Callie was telling her story in her Scribble Book.  What really helps the plot - and characters - is the inclusion of the website.  At first I was really hesitant about trying it, but I looked at it and skimmed around.  The small bits of each character make up some interesting thoughts and back-story about them.  Really, what makes this a great book is the fact that there is a great amount of reader interaction once you are finished reading it.  Each post has about 50 responses - some clocking in at 100 - and they make up for a whole new level of thinking on the series.  Who is Amanda?  What does she represent?  Which things are clues and which are just coincidences?  You never really know, but it makes the time following the read a much more thrilling experience.  By the end of the book, I was actually rushing to the website and wishing that I had book two on my bookshelf already.

    Invisible i was unexpected.  I thought it would be more on the lighter side, like a Pretty Little Liars/Private/L.A.Candy kind of deal, with maybe more of a tween tone.  The concept of an enigma character and the use of a website to get readers excited and thinking critically about the book and the meaning behind it really made it cool in my opinion.  Some parts were a little flat, but the amount of potential and building that I can see in the series really made it a good read.  After the first fifty or so pages, you will find this book hard to put down.

    Cover Comments:  I like the drawings and some of the fonts and word placement...but the envelope and the girl (her hair specifically) look really fake.

    Rating:  4 Stars

    Copy:  Received from Melissa and Ariel at Harper Teen.  Thanks guys!

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