Review: FROM THE NOTEBOOKS OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCESS by Meg Cabot

Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison is a completely average twelve-year-old: average height, average weight, average brown hair of average length, average brown skin and average hazel eyes. The only things about her that aren’t average are her name (too long and princess themed), her ability to draw animals (useful for her future career as a wildlife illustrator), and the fact that she is a half-orphan who has never met her father and is forced to live with her aunt and uncle (who treat her almost like their own kids, so she doesn’t want to complain).

Then one completely average day, everything goes wrong: the most popular girl in school, Annabelle Jenkins, threatens to beat her up, the principal gives her a demerit, and she’s knocked down at the bus stop . . .

Until a limo containing Princess Mia Thermopolis of Genovia pulls up to invite her to New York to finally meet her father, who promptly invites her to come live with him, Mia, Grandmère and her two fabulous poodles . . . .

Maybe Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison isn’t so average after all!

After six years away, we’re finally back in Mia’s world! Except, of course, this time it isn’t Mia running the show but her half-sister, Olivia. Per her dead mother’s instructions, Olivia has been raised by relatives and never told that her father (whom she’s never met) is actually royalty, until one day Princess Mia herself rolls up to school in her limo and opens up a whole new world. Continue Reading →

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Cover Love #93

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In a small river village where the water is cursed, a girl’s bravery—and the existence of magic—could mean the difference between life and death in this elegant, luminous tale from the author of Parched and Audacity.

Along a lively river, in a village raised on stilts, lives a girl named Luna. All her life she has heard tales of the time before the dam appeared, when sprites danced in the currents and no one got the mysterious wasting illness from a mouthful of river water. These are just stories, though—no sensible person would believe in such things.

Beneath the waves is someone who might disagree. Perdita is a young water sprite, delighting in the wet splash and sparkle, and sad about the day her people will finally finish building their door to another world, in search of a place that humans have not yet discovered.

But when Luna’s little sister falls ill with the river sickness, everyone knows she has only three weeks to live. Luna is determined to find a cure for her beloved sister, no matter what it takes. Even if that means believing in magic…

This has to be one of the more beautiful covers I’ve ever featured on Cover Love. It reminds me a lot of Listen, Slowly in terms of color palette and the like. (Anyone know if it’s the same designer?) I love every inch of it. The huge, full moon in the center, the details in the trees with the vines and the birds, the two girls (one who is Jack Sparrow-ing it on the prow), the ripples in the water, and that creepy hand reaching out from the depths… Even if I weren’t getting a fabulous Two Princesses of Bamarre vibe from the synopsis, this book would flare on my radar because of the cover alone. Well done!

What do you think of this cover?

 

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Scheduling Tips

Recently, I’ve seen different blogs talk about scheduling, ask for scheduling tips, and generally bemoan how hard it is to remain on top of posts. I thought I’d chime in and offer tips on what works best for me. If it helps you out, great, and maybe I’ll learn something from you all in return. First, let’s talk about what I’ve done before. Then I’ll show you what I do now and what you’ll need if you want to try my way out.

When I first started this blog, I didn’t schedule posts at all. I tried to review books on Sundays (I later changed this to Mondays) and do Top 10 Tuesday posts on Tuesdays, but other than that, I did what I wanted. I’d write posts on the fly—the day before I wanted them to go up or even the day of.

Freestyling will work for you if you want to remain flexible. If you don’t have a lot of things that need to be scheduled (memes, ARC reviews, blog tours), then freestyling allows you to post whatever and whenever you please. It’s good if you don’t want to be boxed into writing a certain number of posts per week, if you like to write and publish posts immediately, or if you like to take a lot of breaks from blogging (be that due to wavering interest, busy life schedules, or whatever.)

Freestyling will NOT work for you if you need a lot of structure to stay committed, stay sane, or keep organized. It’s also not a good idea if you have a lot of promises, commitments, and plans you need to remember in the future. For instance, if you commit to blog tour spots in advance, without some kind of system, you run the risk of forgetting to write and publish your post on time. And lastly, if your life is too busy for you to write posts on the fly but you don’t want to go on frequent hiatuses, then freestyling is not for you.

About ten months into blogging, I hit a wall. My life schedule went from manageable to intense, and I knew that if I tried to freestyle, I would probably end up crying in a corner somewhere. Thankfully, I knew that the change was coming, so I made the radical switch from freestyle to hardcore prognostication. I sat down with my list of upcoming ARCs, any posts I had committed to for outsiders (giveaways, tours, interviews, etc.), and planned out two months straight. Memes were the easiest. I marked out which meme fell on which day of the week, with TTT posts already marked with their assigned topics. External commitments were next, marked on their promised days. Then I took out my reading list and marked out a rough draft of which ARCs would be reviewed when based on their release dates. Lastly, I looked at my discussion post drafts and tried to fill up any holes.

>With everything in order, then I could sit down whenever I had free time and knock out a good chunk of posts to queue. On a good day, I could write weeks of posts and just leave the final formatting details for closer to the post date. Some people are much better at this method than I ever was, though. People like Christina or Debby amaze me with all their planning and spreadsheets. They don’t just plan months out; they actually WRITE and QUEUE months out. It’s really impressive.

Hardcore prognostication will work for you if you crave structure. If you need to know exactly what’s happening weeks in advance, this is a great plan. If you love spreadsheets, color coding, or other forms of organization, odds are you’ll get along well with this method. If you’re about to enter a busy season or go on an extended vacation but don’t want to go on hiatus, you might want to switch to this method at least temporarily.

Hardcore prognostication will not work for you if the thought of planning that far out makes you feel claustrophobic. It will also be difficult if you don’t have a lot of content or commitments. This method relies on you having a list of things to post already on hand.

I’m ridiculous. I have no shame.

I kept up with the hardcore prognosticating for several months after my life eased up but soon found it too much to manage. I slipped to the point where I was frantically writing posts at the start of the week (and sometimes during the week), having planned in advance but put off the actual writing until it was nearly too late. I was able to keep on top of things, but this half-baked scheduling meant that, at best, I’d only have a day or two to rest before I needed to start planning and writing the next week. It was exhausting!

What I do now works a little better. I write my posts two weekends in advance with the help of my drafts folder and iCalendar. Okay, take this post, for instance. This post is part of the week that starts on April 19th. I’m writing it not that weekend (the weekend of April 18th and 19th) but the weekend before that, on the 11th and 12th. Psychologically, this produces way less pressure on me. I can still pound out my posts for the week in those two days, but I know that if I can’t finish one or two, I’m okay, because I have the entirety of the coming week to tweak them. I’ve also kept track of my commitments, just like when I was hardcore prognosticating, which means my meme and tour posts are already marked on my calendar. All I really have to figure out in the way of scheduling is which reviews I want where and what I want to discuss that week. (Unless it’s a New Releases week or I have an interview or something; then I allow those to have my discussion spot.)

So what does that look like on my calendar?

This is what my last month looked like. Blue posts are reviews and discussions. Green posts are memes, TTT and Cover Love for me. I don’t mark Rewind & Review on Sundays, but I should. If I had any blog tours or other scheduled events, they would be marked in turquoise. Guest posts I’ve promised to others on other sites are in orange. And any really extensive events get their own color when necessary–the Attack of the Assassins event was marked in (what else?) blood red. You can also mark hiatuses and vacations, if you like. My main concern is keeping a healthy balance between green (meme) posts and other kinds of posts. I don’t want to become too meme heavy, but they’re great fillers.

This is my upcoming month. As you can see, it’s pretty sparse. Up at the top, you have my week to come (last week for you all, as you read this.) That’s filled in prettily with two reviews (Monday and Friday), two memes (TTT and CL, with R&R unmarked), and one discussion post (my interview with Erin Fitzsimmons.) Next week (the week we’re in the middle of, as you read this) is almost done. Both reviews and my Cover Love are already written. I decided to skip TTT because the topic was too similar to one I’ve done before. All that’s left is to finish this post, and the week will be good to go. (That is, except for Rewind & Review. Since those are due on Sundays, I don’t finish them until Saturday, for obvious reasons.)

For the rest of the month, I only have my memes and two blog tour commitments mapped out. I’ll be able to fill in the review spots based on what I read in the weeks to come and my discussion posts will be pulled from my drafts and written based on what I feel like talking about. (Sidenote: Always keep a running list of drafts. Whenever you get a post idea, open up your drafts and write even just a sentence so that you’ll remember the idea for later.)

One last thing you should notice: until a post is written, proofread, formatted, and queued, I keep a “uw” before the post name on my calendar. UW = unwritten, so I can tell at a glance which posts are done and which ones still need work before they can be marked off. Though I’m writing this post now, it won’t get the uw taken off until I figure out my graphics, tag it, and plug in the scheduled date. And let me tell you, it’s really, really satisfying to delete that pesky little uw, let me tell you.

So there you have it! That’s my system. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below. Also, how do YOU keep track of your posts? Do you do something like one of the systems I’ve outlined above? Or do you do something radically different? Tell me!

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Review: LION HEART by A.C. Gaughen

Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.

Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince’s clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

Scarlet was an introduction, full of flying knives, prickly girls, and angsty love triangles. I loved itLady Thief was a meaty middle book. It looked at the darkness and pain in Scarlet and laughed throatily before turning the dial to eleven. Gone was the love triangle, but boy oh boy was the angst still there. The book hit the market and lo, the blogosphere was filled with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And Lion HeartLion Heart was a celebration, a full-throated fete with life and love, sword fights and derring-do, reunions and, yes, happy endings.

Continue Reading →

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Rewind & Review (88)

Rewind & Review

Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Stuff I Received

  • A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder (from S&S via Edelweiss)
  • Hello, I Love You by Katie Stout (from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley)
  • 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger (from Penguin Random House)

Thanks, Simon & Schuster! Thanks, St. Martin’s! Thanks, PRH! They’re all so beautiful!

Stuff I Won

  • Duplicity by N.K. Traver audiobook (from the author in a Twitter giveaway)

Thanks, Ms. Traver!

What I Read

How To Steal a Dragon’s Sword by Cressida Cowell – I am so, so nervous. The opening is scary. I think someone may actually die in this book. These books (hilarious though they are) are tense enough without actual death thrown into the mix!

3 complete internship manuscripts

2 partial internship manuscripts

Buckle and Squash: The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtauld – This is such a weird little book, and I kind of love it. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Added to My TBR

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The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine – This is an oopsie on my part. I knew about C.J.’s Snow White retelling AGES ago and thought I already had it on my TBR!

Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher – A Polish-American immigrant in the 1940s uses her charm to stay alive. Yes, please and thank you.

Unspeakable by Caroline Pignat – The Empress of Ireland disaster has been described as Canada’s Titanic. I’m all over that.

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How To Disappear by Ann Redisch Stampler – One story, TWO unreliable narrators, and a murder. Yissssssss.

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Doreen by Ilana Manaster – MG Picture of Dorian Gray retelling. Interesting…

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Alterations by Stephanie Scott – SABRINA RETELLING!!! OH MY STARS I NEED THIS!!

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23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde – It sounds like Groundhog Day meets All Our Yesterdays and will hopefully be better than the other attempts I’ve read.

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger – I don’t know why I ignored this one before. It just hit my blind spot, I guess. But I was offered a review copy and really read the synopsis, so now I’m intrigued.

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The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Bower – I want all the scuttlebutt!

Painless by S.A. Harazin – I’ve always found the negative repercussions to not feeling pain interesting. I hope this story is good.

The Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly - I thought the voice in the first para. of the synopsis was interesting, and I love the idea of two FEMALE enemies working together. Very Buffy/Cordelia, no?

This Ordinary Life by Jennifer Walkup - Honestly, I only added this so I could do the cover for Cover Love later. Preeeettyyyyyyy.

Event of the Week

Little event: I went to the Met! It was fun. I saw hieroglyphs and became overly excited. I’m going to try to visit the Met every weekend until I see it all, so be sure to follow my Instagram account for all my nerdy delight.

BIG EVENT: THE STAR WARS EPISODE VII TRAILER DROPPED!

I got to watch the Celebration panel online where the host chatted with J.J. Abrams, President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy, and members of the cast! It was so cool and, frankly, just the reassurance I needed. Sure, there are lots of ways for Abrams to screw up the movie, but everything I heard indicated that both the production team and the cast had their heads on straight.

We got to “meet” BB8, the little ball droid from the first teaser, and the three primary members of the human cast—Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, and John Boyega. They’re all still being really cagey, but we did learn a bit about each character. Daisy’s character Rey (no last name yet) is a scavenger. We meet her on the desert planet in the trailers, which is not Tatooine but Jakoo (Jakku?), a planet I know nothing about. (How exciting!) Daisy describes Rey as solitary and self-sufficient, and I’m so excited to learn more about her! John’s character is named Finn (no last name yet), we meet him when he’s in no small danger, and… yes, he’s actually a stormtrooper! That’s no disguise, folks! John won’t say whether Finn is a good guy or a bad guy, though. My bet is that he ends up being good, since John did say that Finn teams up with Oscar’s character, Poe Dameron. Other than learning that Poe is an X-wing pilot, which we already knew, we didn’t get much else… except for the fact THAT HE WAS SENT ON A MISSION BY PRINCESS FREAKING LEIA HERSELF.

DON’T THEY LOOK FANTASTIC?!

To my absolute delight, Ms. Kennedy also managed to get in a pretty good knock at the previous movies’ lack of female characters before promising that the latest trilogy would do much better. You better believe I’ll hold them to that! Also awesome? Look at our three main cast members. We have, from left to right, one Latino actor (half Guatemalan, half Cuban), one white actress, and one black actor. WOOHOO! And that doesn’t even cover other cast members still under wraps like the fantastic Lupita Nyong’o, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Dante Briggins, Miltos Yerolemou, Crystal Clarke, and Phoenix James.

We ALSO got to see old friends—Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, and Carrie Fisher—as well as a peek at the new stormtrooper uniforms. Snazzy. BUT I WAS HAPPY TO GET THROUGH ALL THAT BECAUSE IT WAS TIME FOR THE TRAILER!

I don’t think I breathed during the entire thing, especially once I saw that Star Destroyer and got gut-punched by the voiceover. Empire has an awesome frame-by-frame breakdown of the trailer.

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DNF Review: A WICKED THING and FERALS

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Intellectually, I like the concept of this book. The premise of the original Sleeping Beauty story is creepy. A girl gets cursed so hundreds of men KISS HER WHILE HE SLEEPS?!!? Augh, yuck. And then, once she wakes up, she has to live with that and the knowledge that everyone she has ever known is dead. What a sucky thing to wake up to.

Oh but I was SO BORED. Aurora doesn’t DO anything. She wanders around feeling dazed and lets everyone bully her into being their doll. And while the story may be trying to Say Things about those decisions, the intent doesn’t make it any more pleasant to read.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Blackstone was once a thriving metropolis. But that was before the Dark Summer—a wave of violence and crime that swept through the city eight years ago, orchestrated by the fearsome Spinning Man. Now the Spinning Man is on the move again, and a boy named Caw is about to be caught in his web.

Caw has never questioned his ability to communicate with crows. But as the threat of a new Dark Summer looms, Caw discovers the underground world of Blackstone’s ferals—those with the power to speak to and control animals. Caw is one of them. And to save his city, he must quickly master abilities he never knew he had . . . and prepare to defeat a darkness he never could have imagined.

Here’s another example of a book that falls into the category of “Life’s too short.” There was nothing I could pinpoint as wrong or bad, precisely. I just wasn’t grabbed. The story may have gotten interesting further on, but nothing about the prose (perfectly adequate) or the characters (nothing spectacular) invited me to find out. Life is too short and I have too many books waiting for me.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

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Cover Love #92

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It’s summertime in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.

As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose petal lips and her entrancing glow. But there’s something about her that he can’t put his finger on that makes him wonder about this intriguing hipster girl from the Village. Why does she use such strange slang? Why does she always seem so reserved and distant? And, most importantly, why does he only seem to run into her on one block near the Bowery? Annie’s hiding something, a dark secret from her past that may be the answer to all of Wes’s questions . . .

I have no idea what’s going on here or how it ties to the story, but holy cow, am I intrigued/freaked out. I love the deep, rich, sinister blue of the door and the way it fades to shadow. I love that they did the author’s name in the same font as her previous book. And that DOORKNOB. Creeptastic! I just love to look at it.

What do you think of this cover?

 

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An Interview With Erin Fitzsimmons

Today on the blog, I have a very special guest. Authors get a lot of time in the spotlight, as they should, but you know who else deserves some love? Designers! Most readers I’ve talked to are very visual browsers. We’re enticed by fresh, eye-catching covers, and these only come about the the hard work and expertise of designers. My guest today is possibly my favorite designer of all, Ms. Erin Fitzsimmons, the Associate Art Director at HarperCollins.

Odds are you know Ms. Fitzsimmons’ work quite well. She’s responsible for gems like Mindy McGinnis’s covers, Erin Bowman’s Taken series, Tease by Amanda Maciel, and many, many more. (You can check out her portfolio here.) If you’re like me, designing a cover sounds fascinating and fun but also a bit mysterious. What actually goes on in the brain of a designer? WONDER NO MORE!

Taken from her Twitter page.

 

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Top 10 Tuesday – Inspiring Quotes From Books

Hooray, another topic I’ve been looking forward to! I’m awful when it comes to inspirational quotes. I gravitate toward the snarly or the funny. Rarely do I mark the kind of lines that are supposed to make your heart swell. However, there are some that fit the bill. (I wish I could make pretty graphics for each of these. Alas, I am not that talented.) Continue Reading →

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Review: OMEGA CITY by Diana Peterfreund

Gillian Seagret doesn’t listen to people who say her father’s a crackpot. His conspiracy theories about the lost technology of Cold War–era rocket scientist Dr. Aloysius Underberg may have cost him his job and forced them to move to the middle of nowhere, but Gillian knows he’s right and plans to prove it.

When she discovers a missing page from Dr. Underberg’s diary in her father’s mess of an office, she thinks she’s found a big piece of the puzzle—a space-themed riddle promising to lead to Dr. Underberg’s greatest invention. Enlisting the help of her skeptical younger brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and Howard, their NASA-obsessed schoolmate, Gillian sets off on a journey into the ruins of Omega City, a vast doomsday bunker deep inside the earth.

But they aren’t alone inside its dark and flooded halls. For while Gillian wants to save her dad’s reputation by bringing Dr. Underberg’s secrets to light, there are others who will stop at nothing to make sure they stay buried . . . forever.

It’s a scary thing when authors switch age categories. Success in one area doesn’t automatically translate to success in another, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But guys, Ms. Peterfreund stepped out of YA (where she’s greatly pleased me) to try MG, and she knocked it out of the park. OUT. OF. THE. PARK. Continue Reading →

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