Sunday, 29 July 2012

Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Rating: 5/5 barn owl heads
Release date: 3 July 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn't grow up.

Honestly, I was never a big 'Peter Pan' fan. I've never read the J. M. Barrie original, so note that I'm referring to the Disney animated movie when I say this. While I loved Neverland and its crazy characters, I didn't like the Darling children at all even as a kid, and found them pretty annoying. So when I heard of a new YA novel set in this world that focused on Tiger Lily, I was determined to read it. And the moment I read the excerpt on the back, I was hooked. It completely surpassed my expectations.

The Neverland that Anderson has re-imagined is dark and lush and detailed. I don't know how much sprang from her own imagination and how much was adopted from the original, but it's impossible to get enough of the world, written as it is in her gorgeous prose.

This is a book about loneliness: As the wild daughter of the eccentric village Shaman, Tiger Lily is both feared and respected, and she immediately connects with Peter, perhaps the loneliest of them all, who is charismatic and wild and serious and naive all at once and everything I could have hoped for in a Peter Pan. There is the heavy feeling of inevitability everywhere; you know, from the very first line and your own preconceptions of Peter, that something is going to happen, and it laced the book with a melancholy quality that had my heart pounding.

This is also a book about fear. Fear that can come from outside: sometimes obviously, in the form of shipwrecked Philip, an 'Englander' who disrupts the balance of Tiger Lily's village. Sometimes internally, in the form of Wendy Darling, who scares Tiger Lily in a way the jungle does not. There is the fear of vulnerability; of the tentative awkwardness of first love between two people who have lived a long time but are children at heart, at once impossibly brave and scared senseless.

I could go on forever. This is a book about everything I could wish for in a Young Adult novel. It's a book about being human. All the favorites are here, written with layers upon layers of complexity. Captain Hook and his right-hand man Smee are at times no worse than Peter himself. Wendy is foolish and naive and frustrating but more pure of heart and intent than Tiger Lily and Peter can ever hope to be. At one point Tinkerbell, who narrates the book, muses that fairies only have one love; that their hearts don't have the room for the emotion that human ones do. But I disagree. She is so fiercely loyal and passionate, so understanding of the hearts of others in a way that is only possible by watching it from above, that I despaired for her just as strongly as I did for Tiger Lily, and I don't think the book would have worked so well narrated by anyone else.

This was my first Jodi Lynn Anderson book, and it definitely won't be my last. It emotionally stunned me, and I don't think any review of mine could do it justice. In other words: Read this. It's quite introspective and maybe not for everyone, but give it a chance and you probably won't regret it. Tiger Lily is one of my favorite reads of 2012 so far, and it lingers like a bruise on your heart. And if you're wondering if it changed my perception of the Darling children, I would have to say no, it made it worse in the sense that I don't think I can ever look at Wendy again without thinking of Anderson's fierce, wild, vulnerable Tiger Lily. :)

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Ultimate Reviewers' Challenge!

Addicted 2 Novels

I'm excited to announce that I've joined the Ultimate Reviewers' Challenge

Starting from August,
Lena from Addicted 2 Novels, Tiger from Tiger's All Consuming Media and Karen from For What It's Worth are challenging bloggers to "post and link up as many reviews as possible"!

Here are the instructions (taken from For What It's Worth):

"For the month of August you can link your reviews on each of our blogs (our Ultimate Reviewer's Challenge posts will be up with a linky on August 1st) For every review you link you will be entered to win one of two prize packs. Each blog will have two different prize packs. At the end of the event, we'll each pick two winners for a total of 6 Ultimate Reviewer’s Challenge winners."

Check out the blogs to see the prize packs and sign up! I'm excited to take part because it's a great way to motivate yourself to read more, review and promote more books and clear your to-be-read shelf! Hope you all sign up, and feel free to give me a virtual nudge if you see me slacking. :)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Review: Blood Promise by Richelle Mead + St Vladimir's Summer School

St Vladimir's Summer School
Banner from TheFakeSteph

I've decided to participate in St. Vladimir's Summer School, a Vampire Academy read-a-long started by Steph @ The Fake Steph and Jen @ Jen Ryland/YA Romantics! Jen @ Owl-Read-It is also participating. This is actually week 4; I finally got around to reading Vampire Academy last week and decided to catch up and join in! Thanks to Grad Student at YA Fiction & Whiskey Sours for bringing this to my attention and Steph and Jen for letting me join in.

I read books 2 and 3 so quickly and in such rapid succession that I haven't written up reviews yet! Am skipping straight to Blood Promise (book #4)  for the sake of the read-a-long but will post reviews for books 2 and 3 separately soon. Here's what I thought:


Rating: 4/5 owl heads
Release date: 25 August 2009
Publisher: Razorbill, 503 pages
Goodreads | Amazon

Despite the paranormal overload, this series didn't really feel that dark to me until Shadow Kiss (book #3), where I was pleasantly surprised by Mead's willingness to kill and injure loved characters. The attack on St. Vladimir's Academy is devastating. Dozens of Moroi and dhampir are dead and Dimitri has been turned into a Strigoi - a cold, vicious, bloodthirsty vampire who has lost touch with his soul. Rose drops out and heads off to Russia to track him down, intending to free him by putting a stake through his heart. She leaves behind a hurt and betrayed Lissa and an almost too understanding Adrian, who provides her with money on the promise that she will give him a chance when - if - she gets back. A more than generous trade, if you ask me.

Blood Promise feels much darker than the first three books, and I'm glad that Mead doesn't take the easy way out by ignoring minor problems. The pressure Rose feels is palpable. It would be enough that the love of her life was turned into a soulless monster and that she's in SIBERIA with no friends and too many enemies. It would be enough that she still struggles with the darkness that surrounds her and seeps into her from Lissa and that it takes tremendous mental effort to hold the ghosts at bay. It would be enough that she still struggles with her vampire bite addiction.

But it would not be realistic. And even with all that, the high school angst of St. Vlad's still manages to trickle through to her through her bond with Lissa. She is anxious about Lissa who's anxious about Rose and fighting with Christian who's jealous of Adrian who's interested in new bad girl Avery who's corrupting Lissa and making Rose, underneath her heavy burdens, feel replaced. There is teenage angst on an epic level really befitting YA, and I loved every second of it.

The ending was heartbreaking and chilling, even if it wasn't that shocking. For some reason, throughout Rose's haze-induced stay with newly-Strigoi Dimitri, I simply couldn't believe that Mead would turn him without a loophole. That there wouldn't be a way to change him back as hinted at the end, or that he would somehow turn out to still have his humanity despite turning. I think I watch too much Vampire Diaries (and yes, I know the tv show came out after). But even though the plot twist was fairly predictable, it still left me grinning, and I can't WAIT to see where Mead takes this! 

As far as Teams go, I'm actually on the fence right now. Since I'm already on book 4, I should probably make a decision soon. Probably a little more Team Dimitri at the moment, but that's because there hasn't really been that much meaningful interaction between Rose and Adrian. I'm sure things change, though! Are you Team Dimitri or Team Adrian? 

And because this is Summer School, I'm following Steph's lead and imparting some words of wisdom:

What I learned: When you're in a foreign country, never assume no one understands you because you will end up being lectured by an old Russian gypsy woman as you try to discreetly leave the house she has opened to you. It will be slightly awkward because you plan on driving a stake through her grandson's heart.

What I also learned: There is no greater love than between a boy and his cowboy books. It transcends living/undead barriers that romantic love will not.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

List Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Rating: 4/5 owl heads
Released: 16 August 2007
Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Summary (Goodreads):

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

Richelle Mead's VAMPIRE ACADEMY is a great reminder to never judge books by their cover...or their genre. I would pass by these books in the bookstore and was always put off by the cheesy title, even as the series rapidly gained in popularity. I'm so glad to say that I was dead wrong. VAMPIRE ACADEMY is a fast-paced read that is fun and creepy in equal measure, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here are a few reasons why.

VAMPIRE LORE: I don't know how much of Mead's vampire lore is based on real folklore and how much she has created herself, but it certainly felt fresh and was a welcome change. There are Moroi, blood-drinkers who cannot go into the sun and who live under the shadow of twelve royal Moroi families. There are dhampirs, including the protagonist Rose herself, who are the offspring of vampires and humans, giving them supernatural strength and senses while being otherwise quite ordinary.

The dhampirs and Moroi have a peaceful, mutually beneficial relationship: dhampirs become guardians of the Moroi because they need Moroi to continue their species. On the fringes of society are the Strigoi, Moroi vampires who have 'turned' or been turned and must feed on Moroi blood to survive. Mead does a great job of making the reader understand the tension between the three species and how this has trickled into the high school politics of St. Vladimir's academy, where Moroi and dhampirs are trained.

I love a good mystery, and this novel had several. Rose and Lissa (her best friend and Moroi royal), are on the run before they're caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir's. Why did they run from the safety of St. Vladimir's when Strigoi are on the loose and Lissa is the last of her line? Why is Lissa being terrorized now that they're back? Mead wraps up these mysteries neatly and in a way that contributes rather than regresses the characters' development.

A SPUNKY, MULTI-LAYERED PROTAGONIST: Rose is flippant, cocky, and aggressive. She is a heroine I think would easily be labelled as 'strong' - a good fighter who is confident in her skills and her looks. But I too often find that authors make the mistake of equating 'strong' protagonists with physical strength. All the skill in the world won't make for a protagonist that lacks in complexity and humanity, and Mead really delivers. For all of Rose's recklessness, she is utterly serious about her role as Lissa's guardian and shows unwavering loyalty to her friends.

A TRULY FORBIDDEN ROMANCE: I'm a sucker for forbidden anything. And not just "you're vampire and I'm human and it can never be", because that's not good enough for me. There's an awkward age gap between Rose and her crush, Dmitri, but what works so well is the fact that they are both guardians. I won't expand any further because of spoilers, but when there is real, painful choice to be made between characters; when choosing romance conflicts with something else they want desperately or know must be done, that's when I yearn for them to be together and feel that ache. The odds must feel insurmountable, and in VAMPIRE ACADEMY, they really do.

I loved VAMPIRE ACADEMY and will definitely be continuing the series. If I were to criticize something it would be the writing, which I found awkward and unpolished at times, but it definitely didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story, and here's hoping it gets better as the series continues. If you're like me and have been holding out, give this a chance! This is the perfect summer beach read.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Liebster Blog Award!

Okay, I feel awful because I was actually awarded the Liebster Blog Award when I first started my blog by the wonderful Sydney from Words About Words, but somehow got caught up in work and completely forgot to share! Luckily, I was just tagged again by the awesome Grad Student from Young Adult Fiction & Whiskey Sours and it reminded me. Thank you both! This award is for new bloggers with less than 200 followers.

"Award winners share 11 facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who tagged them, come up with 11 of their own questions and tag 11 more bloggers with the award." (Description from YA Fiction & Whiskey Sours)

I tried finding the originator of the Liebster Blog Award to link back but it's a total dead end. I have no idea where it came from, which is actually sort of cool, so if anyone knows do let me know.

My questions, my facts and my nominees after the break!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Stacking the Shelves (3)

Stacking The Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we share the books we've bought, borrowed, received or downloaded each week!

(Links go to Goodreads)


Artemis Fowl and The Last Guardian - Eoin Colfer (My review)


Went to the library again and got these lovely books:

A Confusion of Princes - Garth Nix

The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta
Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone - Kat Rosenfield
Invincible Summer - Hannah Moskowitz

Have been wanting to read all of these! Haven't decided what I'll read first out of my library books but I have yet to read the Vampire Academy series and tons of people have recommended it to me, so I might start with that! Any suggestions?

Link me to your STS because I'd love to see what you got!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: The Assassin and the Empire (novella #4) by Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 5/5 owl heads, if that's worth anything to you
Release date: 20 July 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Goodreads | Amazon

Summary (taken from Goodreads):

Celaena Sardothien is the assassin with everything: a place to call her own, the love of handsome Sam, and, best of all, freedom. Yet, she won’t be truly free until she is far away from her old master, Arobynn Hamel; Celaena must take one last daring assignment that will liberate her forever. But having it all, means you have a lot to lose . . .

Oh gosh. I really loved this, as I did the previous three novellas, but in an angry, bitter sort of way. That ending! I sort of felt like I'd been sucker punched. What's worse is that somewhere between The Assassin and the Pirate Lord and The Assassin and the Desert I REALIZED with horror that this was going to happen but tried to push it out of my mind.

Let me explain: The Assassin and the Empire is the fourth and last novella released in anticipation of Sarah J Maas' upcoming YA fantasy debut, Throne of Glass. The novellas cover the events leading up to the start of the novel. If you've read anything about it, you probably know that the main character, Celaena Sardothien, has been serving out a prison sentence in the salt mines of Endovier when the book starts .

Because we already have some information about where the characters end up, it becomes quite obvious that certain things need to happen in the novellas to get the characters to that place. If you've read the novellas and the ToG summary, it's pretty easy to connect the dots. However, though I predicted some of the events in this novella, I didn't know how everything would go down and was desperately hoping that somehow some of them wouldn't.

They did. Quite horrifically. I'm being pretty vague and uninformative to avoid spoiling anything, but let's just say I'll have a hard time switching loyalties when Throne of Glass releases. This whole mini-series has been like watching a train-wreck in slow motion. I didn't know it was coming till book 2 or 3, but once I did, I had to continue.

Despite my frustration with what happened, I understand it. If I step back and look at the big picture - at character development, and the quality of the story - it's clear how much it helps. I can see Celaena's development over the course of the novellas and understand how she could transfrom from the girl in Pirate Lord - arrogant, reckless and full of possibility - into the cold and hardened prisoner she's described as in TOG. I find myself warily anticipating what Celaena will do in the novel now that I have seen some of what she has been through. She's endeared herself to me, and the book hasn't even come out yet. I believe this was Maas' intention, and in this sense she's done an amazing job.

There's a big, twisty unresolved thread in the novella. I don't know whether the novel will expand on it, but here's hoping it's addressed. Another entertaining, fast-paced novella that left me angry but more excited than ever for Throne of Glass' release. Why, Sarah?!

Side note: Throne of Glass was my first Waiting on Wednesday, almost exactly a month ago! So weird to think that it's been a month.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (5)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we showcase some of our hotly anticipated releases!

I have two WoWs this week! (Summaries and covers taken from Goodreads)


Release date: 1 October 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Press
On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.

Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn's only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn't for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn's mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project.

Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father's work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run---with only one place to go.

LOVE this cover + promises of monsters/witchcraft + hopefully some cool technology vs. magic contrasts. Can't wait to read this!


Release date: 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury

2012 – A star-gazing teenager discovers the planet Eden, only visible from Earth every 700 years. 
2053 – The first colonists inhabit this second world. 
2085 – Life on Earth is decimated by an alien parasite brought from Eden.
2012. Cornwall. Eden Anfield loves puzzles, so when mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school, she’s hooked. On the face of it, he’s a typical American teenager. So why doesn’t he recognize pizza? And how come he hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden the most, however, is the interest he’s taking in her.

As Eden falls in love with Ryan, she begins to uncover his secrets. Her breakthrough comes one rainy afternoon when she stumbles across a book in Ryan’s library – a biography of Connor Penrose, her oldest friend, written over 50 years in the future. 

Confronting Ryan, she discovers that he is a boy from the future whose mission is to prevent Connor from discovering a planet he names Eden, in honour of the girl he loves. A planet with a deadly virus that is destined to destroy the earth in a hundred years time.

Is it really possible to change the future?

Absolutely freaked when I saw this on Goodreads! Planet colonies + time travel + race against time + potential for tragic romance = pretty darn close to my dream novel. Helen Douglas also graduated from my university! A definite MUST READ for me. 

The ominous '2013' - no month, no date - is depressing, but fingers crossed this will be released sooner rather than later. Can't wait to see the cover! 

That's it for me this week! What are you waiting on? Link me because I'd love to see.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Review: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer

Rating: 3/5
Release date: 10 July 2012
Publisher: Puffin
Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Summary (taken from Goodreads):

Seemingly nothing in this world daunts the young criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl. In the fairy world, however, there is a small thing that has gotten under his skin on more than one occasion: Opal Koboi. 

In The Last Guardian, the evil pixie is wreaking havoc yet again. This time his arch rival has somehow reanimated dead fairy warriors who were buried in the grounds of Fowl Manor. Their spirits have possessed Artemis’s little brothers, making his siblings even more annoying than usual. The warriors don’t seem to realize that the battle they were fighting when they died—a battle against Artemis—is long over. 

Artemis has until sunrise to get the spirits to vacate his brothers and go back into the earth where they belong. Can he count on a certain LEPrecon fairy to join him in what could well be his last stand?

New York Times best-selling author and comic genius Eoin Colfer will leave Artemis Fowl fans gasping up to the very end of this thrilling finale to the blockbuster series.

While I am a big Artemis Fowl fan, the last Artemis book I truly loved was The Opal Deception (#4), as they seem to be getting progressively worse. Of course, after almost a decade of following Artemis and the gang on their adventures, there was no way I was going to stop now.

I found the first half rather boring and hard to get into. The emergency - and it's the biggest, most disastrous one yet - didn't alarm me at all. It somehow just lacked the spark of Colfer's earlier novels, and I was pretty disappointed. To be fair, the second half was much more gripping, and I was surprised to find myself getting quite emotional at the end, but that was due to my affection for the series as a whole, not The Last Guardian itself.

This just fell flat for me, like books 5-7 did. I think that after so many books, the formula is getting a little old: Mulch's flatulence saving the day, jabs at Artemis' physical weakness, Foaly's paranoia, etc. While I love these characters, nothing new is really brought to the table here aside from pretty concrete proof of Artemis' soft side, which was already clearly established in the previous novels. Opal Koboi is once again the villain, and while she was a lot of fun the first two or three times around, I'm beginning to tire of her as well. Basically, the plot felt pretty stale. The plot twists, and Artemis' ingenious plans to deal with them, were also probably the least interesting/brilliant yet, with the exception of the one at the very end.

Because this is book 8, at this point there is probably little my review can do to influence your book-reading decision. Either you've followed the series till now and will most likely feel obliged/excited to read the final installment as I did, or you haven't read them (or stopped earlier on) and won't get to this for a while. If the former, I still advise you to read it - you may like it more than I did, and as the final book it definitely deserves to be read. If the latter, I really suggest you read the first four! Though at that point you will in all likelihood want to read the rest out of sheer curiosity, and will find yourself in my exact position. All in all, the magic of the first few books is still worth it.

All in all, this was a bittersweet end to a wonderful series that probably should have ended a few books ago. Will always love Artemis Fowl and Eoin Colfer, and I'm really looking forward to reading his next series. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Rating: 5/5
Released: 14 February 2012
Publisher: Random House Children's BooksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Summary (Taken from Goodreads):

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Curiously enough, when I did a quick survey on my relatives who fall within WONDER's targeted audience (this is technically a Middle Grade novel), none were interested in reading this. At all. Based on a glimpse of the cover and my enthusiastic pitch. I was pretty surprised, and after some awkward probing received a lot of mumbled responses: "It sounds too serious" "I'm not in the mood for that kind of thing" "I don't like 'inspirational' books"...

Air quotes were used. Gazes were averted. But after a bit of pondering, I kind of understood what they were getting at; the reason behind this reluctance: people generally don't like being preached at, no matter how true or important the message. Kids, who are preached at all the time,
would be naturally reluctant when approached with a book about a boy with physical deformities, especially when my main selling point is, "But it has such a great message!" 

Thinking back, this was a reservation I had as well. In the back of my mind I was wary of being emotionally manipulated, and I am delighted to say that Palacio does none of this. In fact, the clarity required from a children's book ensures that whatever issues are put forward are dealt with in a refreshingly blunt manner, free of exhausting metaphors or tear-jerking monologues.

I loved every page. 
I was surprised by how much of a page-turner this turned out to be. WONDER is as absorbing and hard to put down as the most fast-paced thriller - one that makes you cry and laugh in equal measure. Because I loved it so much, I am also kind of at a loss for what to say in this review. There's not much to be said apart from READ IT. A couple of questions, though, if you really want more from me:

Are you... a fan of flawed, hilarious, realistic characters? 
Auggie is often wise beyond his years, seeing right through the politically correct intentions of those around him. At other times he is as young and carefree as his classmates; messing around and laughing good-naturedly at his own appearance. But he is always, always human, as are all the characters - like Via, his sister, whose point of view surprised and shamed me a little, because I had barely considered the sacrifices she makes on a daily basis to support her little brother. Like Jack, one of Auggie's new friends, who is struggling to withstand tremendous peer pressure and, like most kids his age, does not always have the courage to do so. 

Are you... a fan of good writing? If you aren't, then don't ever read this, because Palacio's writing is emotional and hilarious without being condescending, and this book has so many insightful feel-good quotes and bits of dialogue that she could start her own line of greeting cards and I would buy them.

Are you... a fan of multiple points of view, done well?? With the exception of perhaps one minor character (Justin), each point of view added so much insight into... what, exactly? 
After a bit of contemplation, it is clear that Wonder is a look not just at Auggie, but at his family, friends, neighbors, teachers: everyone he has touched. It is also clear that while his is an extreme condition, Palacio has written a stunning book about difference of all kinds, and how people deal (or perhaps don't deal) with it.

WONDER is definitely a must-read for anyone with a beating heart, and in case you were wondering, I eventually managed to force some of my younger relatives to read this. Despite their initial reservations, they loved it too. :)

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Beginner Blog Experiments: Headers + Icons

Have you ever wondered how to make clickable headers or your own social networking icons?

I am quickly approaching my one month blogoversary and have really enjoyed exploring the blogging community and messing with blog design, and as you may have noticed, I just changed my blog header!

I am not a web designer, graphic designer, professional writer, or anything that would lend my blog professional credibility, but I know how to google, and I know how to read. :) In other words:

This is not a tutorial. This is a list of resources containing other bloggers' tutorials that I followed and merged! While brushing up on my pathetic HTML/CSS skills, I found it difficult to find straightforward tutorials that taught you how to make clickable headers, so I've decided to share the ones I found that worked.

If you're a new blogger like me with nonexistent web skills looking for an easy way to make basic changes to your blog, these ones work great:

Social Networking Icons:

If you want clickable social media icons in your header, make the icons first. If you're linking already-made images or to other websites, skip to 'Clickable Headers'.

I followed Something Swanky's tutorial, "How to Create Your Own Social Media Icons using Picmonkey". Thank you!

While she links you to a great set of vector images to use for your icons, she isn't a book blogger and the set does not include a Goodreads icon. Alex Peattie, a web designer, has a set that does (scroll to the bottom). Follow her instructions using his icons instead.

Once you've created your icons with 
Picmonkey, add them to your header image in Photoshop! I don't have Photoshop, so I used Microsoft Paint, which is pretty crude but worked just fine. I literally just dragged the icons into place.

Adjust the header size to the desired width in Paint using the Resize button.
How do you know what width to make it? Go to Templates > CustomizeAdvanced > Adjust widths in Blogger to check the width of your blog and adjust accordingly. Mine is around 900 x 350 px. You'll be left with a single, unclickable image:

Clickable Headers: 

Once you've made your header on Photoshop or other similar programs, host your header on an image-hosting site like Photobucket.
A quick google search led me to Arnold Byun, a youtuber/student entrepreneur who does a pretty straightforward video tutorial:

Follow his instructions and map your image using Image-Maps! Make sure you upload your image using the Photobucket link or similar photo-hosting site, because Image-Maps doesn't host photos and the photo will eventually disappear. This site will allow you to link different parts of your header to different sites or applications like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.

Once you've watched how he does it and clicked 'Get Code' at the end, do the following to add the new header to your blog:
  1. Backup your blog.
  2. Go to Blogger > Layout
  3. Click 'Add Gadget'
  4. Add an HTML/Javascript gadget. 
  5. Paste the code you got from Image-Maps. 
  6. Drag the HTML/Javascript gadget box to where you want your header to be (presumably at the top of the page). 
  7. Remove your old header. 
  8. Check your blog and links to make sure they work.

And there you have it! This is the method that worked for me, so I hope this help!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Stacking the Shelves (2)

Stacking The Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we share the books we've acquired or borrowed to our shelves each week!

First, I've been posting less than usual because I'm out of town on a family vacation and a bit behind on my reviews, but will get on that as soon as possible! Second, I'm not a weekly Stacking the Shelves participant because I tend to get books in bulk and not on a weekly basis, but I got an awesome haul this week!


Penguin's Fall 2012 Breathless Reads slipcase, which I got from one of Jessica Khoury's giveaways. Thank you! Inside:

Venom by Fiona Paul
Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Black City by Elizabeth Richards
The Innocents by Lili Peloquin
Origin by Jessica Khoury

So far I've read Origin, Venom and Black City, and I loved them all in different ways! Origin in particular completely surprised me (in a good way), and was probably the most serious of the three. But they each definitely bring something different to the table. I'm excited to see how Falling Kingdoms and The Innocents stack up!


Brought my little cousin to the library today and picked these three up! 

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Fury by Shirley Marr

I am a huge Melina Marchetta fan (who isn't??) and started Finnikin of the Rock a while back and then got caught up with work and never finished, so I'm excited to finally read it! I've heard amazing things about both Wonder and Fury as well! 

What books did you get this week? Link me because I'd love to see! 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (4)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, where we showcase some of our hotly anticipated releases!

I have three WoWs this week that look amazing: (All information taken from Goodreads)


Release date: 2 April 2013
Publisher: Walker Childrens

Government attempts to save endangered bees by genetic modification causes their sting to induce deadly, flu-like symptoms in humans. A vaccine created in response changes children into ferocious, killer beasts. The uninfected have built a wall to keep the beasts out, & a girl has awakened on the wrong side.

While the premise doesn't sound too different from the many deadly plague novels out there, what gets me excited are the bugs! Everyone hates bugs! They're somehow scarier and seem more likely to evolve into monsters than, say, vampires. This + no mention of a love interest thus far + mystery as to how/why the girl has awakened so suddenly has me interested!

Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Rating: 4/5
Release date: 27 December 2005
Publisher: Eos
Goodreads | The Book Depository
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

"I can steal anything."

After Gen's bragging lands him in the king's prison, the chances of escape look slim. Then the king's scholar, the magus, needs the thief's skill for a seemingly impossible task - to steal a hidden treasure from another land.

To the magus, Gen is just a tool. But Gen is a trickster and a survivor with a plan of his own.

Gen, a young and arrogant thief, has been imprisoned for several months in the king of Sounis' prison for stealing (and rather publicly bragging about it) before he's given a chance to earn his freedom. The majority of this book covers not the actual theft itself, but the long, uneventful journey leading up to it. Accompanied by the magus, his apprentices Sophos and Ambiades, and a guard, Pol, they travel to neighbouring country Attolia in order to further the king's political agenda. Of course, Gen has an agenda of his own.

Okay, so this is a hard book for me to review spoiler-free because most of its impact hinges on a big twist, and I've come to the conclusion that the twist is both what I loved most and what ruined it for me a little. (Hence the one star off.) Here's why:

Megan Whalen Turner sets up the book wonderfully. It's slow, for sure, and because it's quite a short book I spent the first half impatiently wondering if they'd ever get to their destination. The long journey is devoid of the action or, you know, theft that you'd expect from a novel called "The Thief". I was surprised, but not unhappily so, to find that the battles in this book are more mental than physical. Their journey is also interspersed with quite a few stories on the mythology of neighbouring country Eddis, which, while rather interesting, had me itching to skip ahead to see if this was going anywhere. 

What had me pulling through was the knowledge that this was all setting the stage for something big. And Turner delivers. When they
do arrive, the theft is so different and dangerous from what I expected that all that build up is worth it - and this is still 50 or so pages before the ending. The stories and legends turn out to actually have relevance, and there is a mythological aspect to this book that took me by surprise and added a lot of depth to the characters and the Greek-inspired culture.

Gen was pretty awesome as far as main characters go. While I can see why Gen may be viewed as annoying, I was surprised to find his arrogance and sense of entitlement pretty hilarious. For me, this only helped to amp up the suspense. He is so calm throughout the whole thing, so
expectant, and the journey so uneventful, that you just know there's something more to his story. The whole first part of the book reminded me of a game of Cheat (or Bullshit, as some call it) - less like a story and more like a game of pretend, where everyone's putting down their cards and you know something's going on so you spend the entire time scanning them, waiting for them to mess up. 

And that, for me, was the catch:
 because I'd read such amazing reviews of this book, I knew there was going to be a twist, so I fell into the trap of looking out for every tiny clue as to what it would be and kind of saw it coming. This kind of ruined the impact for me, and I was unfortunately a bit underwhelmed given the book's overwhelmingly positive reception amongst the people I know. 

And now I'm doing the same thing by telling you that yes, there is a twist in this book, but please try, if at all possible, to let it go and not analyze it to death. Despite knowing all this, it was still a really cool, clever read, and the ending still had me smiling. Pick this one up to experience it yourself!

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