Thursday 30 April 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (13)

Idea taken from Breaking The Spine.

Flash Burnout by LK Madigan.

Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him, the other one needs him.

When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa’s long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake’s participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend. His experiences range from the comic (surviving his dad’s birth control talk) to the tragic (a harrowing after-hours visit to the morgue).

In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself.

What do you think? I love the synopsis. It sounds so intriguing and promises a mixture of emotions and thoughts. I really hope it'll be told in Blake's point of view so that I'll know how hard it is for a guy to balance his relationship with a girlfriend and a girl friend. This doesn't seem to be a triangle but I bet there'll be lots of tension here. I simply can't wait! By the way, I don't think the cover looks beautiful but somehow it manages to portray the idea of the book really well.

Get more than a flash of love and friendship in this book on Oct 19th!

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban by J.K Rowling

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Pub. Date: September 1999
Age Range: 9 to 12
Pages: 435
Format: hardcover
Source: purchased

For Harry, the Hogwarts campus has always been a sanctuary, but when Black escapes from the horrifying clutches of Azkaban Prison, all clues suggest the madman is headed for Hogwarts and Harry himself. As a result, the school starts to feel more like a prison than a sanctuary as Harry finds himself constantly watched and under guard. What's more, the terrifying Dementors -- the horrifying creatures who guard Azkaban Prison -- are lurking about the campus looking for Black. And their effect on Harry is a devastating one. Still, life at school offers plenty of distractions. Harry really likes the new teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts, Professor Lupin, who might be able to teach Harry how to defend himself against the Dementors. But Professor Snape's behavior toward Lupin has Harry wondering what secrets the two men are hiding. Harry's friend Hermione is also acting very strangely. And, of course, there is the tension caused by the ongoing Quidditch competition between the Gryffindors and the Slytherins and the never-ending bullying of the Slytherin leader, Draco Malfoy.

To be honest when I chose to accept be a part of Operation Retirement Rescue Challenge I didn't have any ideas of the books I'd review. I hardly have any English books that were released five years ago or more so I was kind of hopeless. Thankfully, HP series suddenly crossed my mind and I picked Book Three immediately.

There're so many reasons why I love HP and The Prisoner Of Azkaban. Firstly, the storyline is so much better than the first and the second book. It's more dangerous, more myterious, yet, close to a life of a normal teenager. Harry has to deal with not only an infamous prisoner who is after him, but also with ordinary problems - the Quidditch Games, the study, the permission to hang out with friends on the village. All of them make the story more interesting but still, do not bring readers feelings of burden or the likes. Actually it's super duper fun.

Secondly, needless to say, J K Rowling writing is just perfect. I love how everything flows. The scenes, vary from natural ones to fighting ones, are so real and just right. This book is like the end of a peaceful period for Harry himself and everyone in the magic world so it's really different. It doesn't have the sadness or the gloominess of death like the next ones, it ain't just innocent as the first two either. To me it's pure and nostagic. It's a nice combination of the joy and the thrill.

I especially adore the family love in book Three. It comes with such a twist that I bet no readers would think of. It's so cute to see Sirius and Harry together, all happy and warm, it also proves how brilliant the author is. Looks like she's planned all the details even from book One because it makes perfect sense, there's not a tiny flaw. One more thing to mention is the investment in fear. It leads you to understand Harry more and more, and at the same time, you can relate to yourself as well.

Thrilling, warm-hearted and fun, HP and The Prisoner Of The Azkaban will always remain my favorite off the series. If you haven't read HP and want to skip a few books to get to the end quicky, I suggest picking this one!

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday 27 April 2009

In My Mailbox (14)

Idea taken from The Story Siren.

I've got some good books last week, check them out!

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta.

Francesca battles her mother, Mia, constantly over what's best for her. All Francesca wants is her old friends and her old school, but instead Mia sends her to St. Sebastian's, an all-boys' school that has just opened its doors to girls. Now Francesca's surrounded by hundreds of boys, with only a few other girls for company. All of them weirdos--or worse.

Then one day, Mia is too depressed to get out of bed. One day turns into months, and as her family begins to fall apart, Francesca realizes that without her mother's high spirits, she hardly knows who she is. But she doesn't yet realize that she's more like Mia than she thinks. With a little unlikely help from St. Sebastian's, she just might be able to save her family, her friends, and--especially--herself.

I heard of this book from Reviewer X and it sounded pretty awesome so I decided to write to Penguin Australia and asked for a review. Surprisingly they accepted. I'm reading it right now and this book is just as amazing as I expected. It's interesting from page one! My copy has a different cover but I'm too lazy to find, I like this one better though.

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa MantChev.

All her world’s a stage.
Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.
That is, until now.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

I love books about theater and the likes so cannot let Eyes Like Stars escape : D Doesn't it sound sad and mysterious? I just wish ARCs got real covers, mine is just blank blue. But it's still good because it's a thick one.

One Butt Cheek At A Time by Amber Kizer.

GERT GARIBALDI ISN'T ONE OF those people who believe high school is the best part of life. She has a whole notebook full of rants about high school, and she's fully aware of how ridiculous the experience is, thank you very much. Gert just wants to survive the next three years, one butt cheek at a time, with her best friend, Adam, by her side - and maybe Luscious Luke attached to her lips. With a stapler. Or something. But muddling through isn't even as easy as it seems - there are geriatric parents to deal with, Homecoming festivities (admit itÑthose words just sent a little chill down your spine), crushes, ed (both sex and driving), and potential new boyfriends - for both Gert and Adam. Frank, funny, and totally unique, Gert's ready to pull on the Pants of Life and start dancing.

This book is super duper cute. The rough cover makes it look like a old diary and I like it a lot. The synopsis sounds cute too. I think I'm gonna save it for summer and read it with my best friend.

Swoon by Nina Malkin.

Sin is Coming...Prepare to Swoon!

Torn from her native New York City and dumped in the land of cookie-cutter preps, Candice is resigned to accept her posh, dull fate. Nothing ever happens in Swoon, Connecticut...until Dice's perfect, privileged cousin Penelope nearly dies in a fall from an old tree, and her spirit intertwines with that of a ghost. His name? Sinclair Youngblood Powers. His mission? Revenge. And while Pen is oblivious to the possession, Dice is all too aware of Sin. She's intensely drawn to him—but not at all crazy about the havoc he's wreaking. Determined to exorcise the demon, Dice accidentally sets Sin loose, gives him flesh, makes him formidable. Now she must destroy an even more potent—and irresistible—adversary, before the whole town succumbs to Sin's will. Only trouble is, she's in love with him.

I'm so excited to read this one. I thought I was not going to have a chance to read and review this book but I actually did! Lucky hey? The release day is nearing so if you haven't got your copy yet go and grab one. Oh did I mention that I love the cover and the characters names?

So what have you got? I hope you're drown in new books haha.

Huge thanks Anyez, Ksenia, Amber Kizer and Nina Malkin for the books. Love you all for your kindness<3

Sunday 26 April 2009

Sunday Special (13) Love Me? Then Help Me Fill This In

So, you guys may know that I've been book blogging for over three months. Everything is going on nicely to me but seems like there are a lot of things I can do to make this little online sanctuary of mine a little more enjoyable and fun to visit. Today, Sunday Special is all about YOU! I'm counting on you to help me improve Serene Hours this way or the other. Such a hard thing to do hey? No, it's really simple. All you have to do is fill in this mini survey so that I will have some ideas of what you like or what you don't really like of my blog, also, what you're expecting to see in the future. Help me yeah?

Mini survey:

1. How did you find out about Serene Hours?

2. How long have you been reading/commenting on the blog?

3. What's your most favorite feature? And the least? And why?

4. What changes do you think I should make?

5. What are the features you hope to see on my blog in the future?

You don't have to write an essay or the likes. Keep it short but enough to let me know what you want Serene Hours to become : )

Thanks in advance, love!

Saturday 25 April 2009

Roundabout by Rhiannon Lassiter

Publisher: Young Picador
Pub. Date: July 6, 2007
Age rank: Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: paperback
Source: gift from friend

Magda, Tess and Seb should never have met. Beautiful Romany Magda is a traveller - she lives just outside town on an old caravan site. Tess is her fiery best friend. And Seb is the son of a rich businessman - he lives in a big house in the city. But as Magda and Seb are drawn to each other, meeting in hidden places, breaking unspoken boundaries, their lives - and those of the people close to them - set off down unexpected paths, especially when jealous Tess discovers Seb's secret. What will Magda do when she finds out just who is responsible for trying to get the travellers turfed off the land they have inhabited for so long? The decisions all the teenagers make now will have far wider-reaching effects than they could ever have imagined ...

I actually don't have much to say about this book. I feel kind of fooled by the synopsis. When I first read it I was really exicted because Roundabout seems like a promising book - mysterious and different. Sadly, it wasn't.

The plot is very simple. It revolves around the protest against the building of a new roundabout which will definitely pose a threat to lives of a group of people - known as Travellers. The book switches between stories of four different girls and some more characters and to me it is so draggy. I have to admit that I skipped a lot of parts to get to the better ones. I think if the writer had had spent more time on one character only and told the story in a better-developed way, it could have been so much cooler. Also, because the readers don't have a chance to get acquanted with the characters, everything about them is blurry, except Tess. Sometimes things happen so fast you don't know what is going on, yet other times unnecessary things last forever. And that is another problem of the book.

I'm so sorry to say that I will not recommend this book to anyone. It has potential, too bad nothing gets to the essential point to shine.

Rating: 1.5/5

Friday 24 April 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pub. Date: March 2009
Age Range: Young Adult
Pages: 278
Format: ARC
Source: from publisher - Penguin

"Dead girl walking," the boys say in the halls.
"Tell us your secret," the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend's restless spirit.

The first moment I saw Wintergirls, I knew for sure that it would blow me away. Even though I'd never ever read any of Laurie Halse Anderson's works, I was still excited about this one because I'd heard tons of times from others how great she was, and upon coming across the summaries of her books, I felt really attracted to them. And Wintergirls just came up to my expectation. It's so different from other books, in good way, of course.

Eating disorders is something super new to me. I've not experienced such a thing in my life and no one I know or hear of is suffering from anorexia either. Wintergirls led me to a world that I was hardly aware of and I was in awe. In that world, food is forbidden, eating is a sin and being thin is an extreme obsession. Thoroughly exploiting the uses of words and metaphors, Laurie Halse Anderson slowly introduced the darkest sides of a teenager's life whose only desire was to shrink into nothingness. Her writing surprised me because even though everything seemed vague at times, it was real to me as well. On turning page to page readers will feel a kind of chill that only grows stronger and stronger. The mood of this book is not only gloomy, it's more like cold and empty.

Lia is such an intriguing character. She's not someone who you usually find in YA books. She was strange, not one of a kind we can relate or feel close to. Her life was very complicated. Her parents divorced and seemed like their care for her was only for shown; her only bestfriend Cassandra left her, later died alone in a motel aftter trying to get in touch in vain with Lia. Lia never felt alive, never felt worthy and being as thin as possible was the only way for her to consider herself successful.

I had difficulties understanding Lia at first. She really wanted to eat so why not stop counting the calories in the food and enjoy her meals? I didn't see the point of her goal of losing weight at all. Sometimes I was mad and scared of her actions at once, like she was really insane. But as the story went on and the reasons were explained, I found myself sympathy with Lia more and more. She was under so much pressure, she was haunted by Cassandra, by her broken family, by the voices inside her head. What I love best was how Laurie described Lia's emotions. They were so real and flawless that they made me uneasy, trapped and hopeless just like the poor girl.

There's something I'd love to warn you: Wintergirls is not a book for everyone. It's uneasy, sometimes heavy and creepy that you want to put it down. But of course, that doesn't mean it doesn't have any sweet moments. All the sisters scenes of Lia and Emma warmed my heart and the appearance of Elijah softened/lessened the chill, even if he didn't play much of an important role.

Intense. Unforgettable. Wintergirls is the book that will haunt you, whether you want it or not.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday 23 April 2009

Just A Quick Note

Some of you may realized and some not, but I haven't posted anything this week. There was something wrong with my internet service and I couldn't view any blogspot pages since Saturday. Now I can, but the speed is still so slow : (

I'll try to post whenever I can. Bare with me okay!

Love you all<3

Sunday 19 April 2009

Sunday Special (12) Some Help Spot The Similarities

Idea taken from Pop Culture Junkie

I've been so mad this weekend because Blogspot hates my computer. I don't know why but I couldn't log onto my account and even when I did sometimes, it just froze at the dashboard. Every blogspot pages failed to open so I couldn't visit your blogs either T___T. In case this continues, let me apologize in advance for the delayed posts as well as late replies. If anyone has experienced this before or may have any clues to solve this problem, please tell me.

Anyway back to the main topic today. More lookalike covers! Some were spotted by my fellow bloggers and some with help from the authors. So say you like them!

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Words To Live By by C.S Lewis.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.

They look so alike right? From afar I thought the pictures were the same but at close up they turned out quite different. I have a feeling that the novel cover was paid more attention to, not just the picture but how the words were arranged too. My pick would definitely be Twilight although I really like the lively pair of arms in the other cover.

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Sweethearts by Sara Zarr.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.

Look at the hearts, aren’t they cute? In Sweethearts it’s a pie (I think) and in the other those are vitamin pills, yet I still believe they’re relative covers. Both hold an aura of sadness/nostalgia/gloominess to me but I prefer Sweehearts. The eaten part makes it look softer and fun, while Boy Meets Boy is quite empty. The title is hard to spot and it’s a bit annoying.

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Keeping The Moon by Sarah Dessen.
The Earth, My Butt & Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler.

You know what I love about these two? Not only do they resemble each other but they also look as if they’re front and back covers of one book. The first was shot from the front while the second from behind. The titles were both settled on the jeans but Carolyn Mackler book is cooler in my opinion because the letters blend well with the pockets thus seem to become a part of the jeans, naturally.

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Cheated by Patrick Jones.
Right Behind You by Gail Giles.

This one is suggested by Patrick Jones himself. When I first saw these I saw no similarities at all but then my eyes spotted the lighters and I was like “Oh”. I really like the idea of these covers, they will catch the readers’a attention at once for sure. My favorite is Cheated, the glowing title as the fire is simply so beautiful.

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Slept Away by Julie Kraut.
The Secret Language Of Girls by Frances O’Roark Dowell.
Lost It by Kristen Tracy.

Feet again. Feet again. Those were spotted by lovely Steph Su : ) (thanks buddy). They don’t look exactly the same but the concept is similar. Bare feet and grass. I love these because it cools me during hot days here. And they look so summery too. What’s your favourite? I go for all!

Tell me what you think and keep an eye on lookalike covers okay. Please pray for me so I can access blogspot soon! : )

p.s Thanks to my friend Kaylie who posted this up for me<3

Thursday 16 April 2009

What Would Emma Do by Eileen Cook

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pub. Date: December 2008
Age Range: Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: from author

While juggling friendship issues (her best friend isn't speaking to her), a love triangle-turned-square (okay, maybe she shouldn't have kissed her best friend's boyfriend...but it was totally an accident!...sort of), and escalating mayhem in her small religious town (uh-oh...what would Jesus do?), Emma realizes she has to stop trying to please everyone around her and figure out what she wants for herself. It's time to start asking, "What would Emma do?"

If you take a glance at the cover and think this book is gonna be a super duper cute just like how it looks, then I assure you, you don't have to think again. What Would Emma Do is a light-hearted and fun read you will enjoy really much. But hey, don't think it's just a lovely book about this one girl kissing her best friend and how she copes with it after. It's actually more serious - it deals with other teenage matters as well, just in another way for you to take it easier.

I really like Eileen's writing style. It's fun and nice to digest. Everything flows naturally thus on reading about Emma, I felt as if I was in a informal conversation with my bestfriend instead. What Would Emma Do is just really teenage - the praying, the whining, the happiness, the sadness; all of them are pure and very relatable. The portray of feelings of love in this novel is also something the readers will dig. How the characters feel for each other is really unclear, sometimes conflicting to be exact. Well, it's so like us isn't it? Young adults always find themselves in the positions of not knowing if they're truly in love or not.

You know what's surprising about this book? The characters are not likable at all. Some of them are really annoying to be honest. Colin for example. What was his jealousy all about? And he changed his mind so dramatically that I was taken aback - I mean, you cannot like one today and like another one a few days later. It's a bit confusing. Joann, too, is not a cool one. She might be too naive but I don't like the way she treated her bestfriend. I actually like Emma though. She's not a flawlessly good girl but I'm always on her side during my read. She could be too self-centered, sarcastic and indecisive at some moments but she tried hard for what she wanted and stood up for what she believed. And her tone of narration is so funny you cannot hate her. Well, I'm not mean but even when she's sad, I still find the part hilarious.

My only problem with the book is its ending. It feels rushy. The biggest problem was solved and then BAM, it ended. I would have loved it more if Eileen had written one more chapter to tell us what happened to Emma afterwards. Some questions are left unanswered and I just can't stand that.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (12)

Idea taken from Breaking The Spine

Hate List by Jennifer Brown.

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saves the life of a classmate, but is implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things they hated. The list her boyfriend used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

I guess you've heard about this book at least once here and there right. I'm sooo in love with Hate List. I like how it approached teenagers lives in another way so even if it sounds different, it still feels super duper close to young adults. What intrigues me most is the Hate List. Don't you wanna know what it's all about and what part it plays in the crime? And how Val's life turns out to be in the end too, of course.

Have a '"hate" list for books coming out this year? Add this one into the September column!

Monday 13 April 2009

In My Mailbox (13)

Idea taken from The Story Siren.

I was so loved last week ;D. Check out all these lovely books as well as the lovely senders.

Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell.

Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn’t have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap.

Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s certain it’s the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?

I got this book from the author herself. Both Saundra and I were so happy when the book arrived because she'd never sent books overseas before; hence, was worried it would get lost. And I? I was thrilled for it turned out to be not an ARC, but a real hardcover. It looked so beautiful. This is the first Randomhouse product that landed on my shelf. Great isn't it? I even got some bookplates too. Saundra simply rocks.

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten.

Nina was beautiful, artistic, wild . . . and adored by her younger sister, Ellie. But one day, without any warning, Nina disappeared.

Two years later, Ellie can't stop thinking about her sister. Although everyone else has given up hope that Nina will return, Elile just knows her sister is out there, somewhere. If only Ellie had a clue where to look.

And then she gets one, in the form of a mysterious drawing tucked into the pages of a book. Determined to find her sister, Ellie takes off on a crazy, sexy, cross-country road trip with the only person who believes she's got a chance -- her hot, adventurous new crush.

Along the way, Ellie finds a few things she wasn't planning on. Like love. Mysteries. Lies. And something far ore shocking -- the truth.

A contest prize from In Bed With Books blogiversary. Too be honest I was so sure I didn't win (don't ask me why) so I was really surprised when I happened to get this book. It came within a week of the annoucement, with a bookmark of Breathing Cheryl had given Liviania to give to everyone who participated in the contests. I'm really excited to read this one. Even though I've checked on it before, not until lately did I realize it was about a roadtrip and I just love roadtrips. I have to mention that the book was in perfect state, which was cool because you know how tough the way from US to VN might be. Thanks to Livi for the great prize.

Madapple by Christina Meldrum.

THE SECRETS OF the past meet the shocks of the present.
Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language—but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be.

When Aslaug’s mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mother’s death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaug’s birth. About what she should do next.

About whether divine miracles have truly happened. And whether, when all other explanations are impossible, they might still happen this very day.

Addictive, thought-provoking, and shocking, Madapple is a page-turning exploration of human nature and divine intervention—and of the darkest corners of the human soul.

I was really shocked when I got Madapple. The local PO notified me that I got a package from Amazon and I was like huh? I didn't order anything from the site! But when I saw the cover of the book, I finally how it came ^^. Yup, Christina bought it for me! Perhaps it's no big deal for you yet to me it's something big, especially when the shipping fee obviously outnumbered the real cost. I was so touched *sniffs*. So, huge thanks to Christina! Have you read this one? I heard it was an uneasy book but I'm really up for the challenge hehe. Oh and beautiful cover hey?

So what've you got? Whatever was in the mailbox, enjoy reading it!
btw, thanks for commenting on my babbling for sunday special ;) i love you guys.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Sunday Special (13) How Book Blogging Does You Good (And Bad?)

It's been a slow weekend for me and I'm getting really lazy. I intended to find some more lookalike covers for sunday special, but changed my mind, and posted this up instead. I've been book-blogging for over three months and it brought me so many new thoughts and feelings. So here I am to share my experience, and hoping to hear yours too.

How it started...
I seriously never imagined I would have a book blog one day. I mean, I really loved to read and talk about books, but reviewing and connecting to authors? It was something so big to me. The first problem was I didn't have many English-written books. Second, I didn't know how to give organizing ideas on a story - when I chatted with my friends, I just simply told them the synopsis and added random comments here and there. And the worst fear of mine was...guess what? No one would read my blog. There were so many good book blogs out there, who would bother to read one of a newbie? But well, after a lot of weighing the pros and cons and finally decided to give it a try. I'm so lucky Serene Hours got visitors ^^ your love keeps my blog alive!

The good...
Let's see. Book blogging does me a lot of good. I got to get to read lots of books I never ever had a chance to, from various publishers and the authors. There's no more looking at the covers at Amazon and drooling all day. There's no more crazy contest hunting (I still hunt contests, but that as wild as I used to be haha). I actually got down and read, then later, shared my of view with other bloggers and readers. It was super duper great you know. It was so different from reading ebooks - gluing my eyes onto the screen all day only to get headache afterwards. One more cool thing was being able to lend my friends my favorite books and let them enjoy the fun.

My style of reading changed too. I used to skim and skip a lot so I usually missed the important details. Now, I read much more slowly and carefully so that I can find the great things about the plot, the characters, the writing, as well as the not so good stuff . Reading is not just for fun now. It's to learn from the authors' piece of art. You know, when you have this habit of analyzing, it'll help a lot - especially to me, who's desperately to become a writer in the future : )

So what's the best thing? Definitely meeting so many cool people! Before it all, I was really afraid of authors. Silly I know, but in my mind they were celebs and celebs were hard to get close to. Turned out I was so wrong. They were nice - most of the authors I emailed/messaged replied to me with such nice tones. They loved and appreciated their readers a lot. Some of them are very fun to talk to - for example C.K Kelly Martin and Sarah Ockler - made me feel like I was talking to sisters. And of course I have to mention my awesome blogger fellows too. You guys are awesome, I mean it, honestly. I learned a lot from you - your friendliness, your confidence and your support for everyone else. A few of you are so good with words that I'm deeply jealous. Last but not least is my shout outs to all the publicists, without them, I didn't know how to manage to get the books.

The bad...
There's the bad? Of course, nothing can be perfect. Having a blog is stressful somehow to me. I don't read that fast so sometimes it's hard to keep up with my posting schedule. With schoolwork and everything, there may be not much time for writing reviews. And it rarely happens, but there're occasions when I finish a book and seriously don't have anything to say about it. Weird right? 

Making your blog stand out is a difficult thing to do too. I got some readable features but I don't think it's enough. Moreover, I don't know if you feel it too but when I ask for review copies and be turned down, I'm always upset.

Uhm so that's how I feel about book blogging. I wanna know what you think too. If you love me, be sure to leave a comment and tell me your story. I so love to hear. Please don't say no to curious Thao<3.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Going Too Far mini review + interview with Jennifer Echols

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Pub. Date: March 2009
Age Range: Young Adult
Pages: 256
Format: paperback
Source: from author

All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far...and almost doesn't make it back.

John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won't soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won't be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge -- and over....

Going Too Far is a real nice read. I won't say I love it like crazy but it's a book that I'll remember for a while. The plot was fresh and genuine - it told about the love between a young cop and a rebellious girl who were both stuck because of the past. The places the romance settled were rather different than those in other YA books; not school, home or the likes but mostly police station and accident/crime whereabouts. This brought new feelings to the story - sometimes I thought I was reading a mixture of chick lit and teen lit. The characters were likeable too. They were quite the opposite in the beginning; one was mature, thoughtful and overprotective while the other was wild, childish and careless; yet later, they turned out to be so alike. To be honest I was annoyed by the way they acted at first but when their secrets were revealed, it made sense. Their couple moments were something you would enjoy. They werereally exciting, or should I say - hot, but never went over the top.

Rating: 3.5/5

The review is short hey? But don't worry. I'l bring you something cooler today. An interview with Jennifer Echols : ). She's been interviewed like hundreds of times at other blogs so I tried to come up with uncommon questions. I hope you guys don't get bored and go away *sniffs*

-How did you come up with the title? And the characters name?
My original title was Boy in Blue, but my editor thought it sounded too young. We went round and round with lots of titles. A railroad bridge is sort of a character itself in this book, and there’s a 1970s World War II movie called A Bridge Too Far, so I thought of the title Too Far. My critique partner thought Going Too Far might be better, and my editor liked it.

Meg is named after Meg Ryan, though she doesn’t act much like her in this book.
John was named this way. My critique partner and I were discussing interesting names. She said she went to school with a guy named John After, but everybody said his name as one word, Johnafter. I said that sounded like a terrific name for a character. She said, “No, I said John ACTOR, not John AFTER.” I said, “John After is a better character name.” So John was named because I can't hear!

-What was your first impression when you got to see the book cover? Happy? Surprised? Satisfied?
All three! I think it’s perfect for the book.

-In the book, Meg was a naughty and wild girl. She did a lot of bad things. So have you ever done anything bad before?
Of course not!!!

-What's your favorite scene from the book? And why?
Chapter 14. It’s the last scene I wrote because I originally didn’t want it in the book, but my editor convinced me.

-Which character from your books that you're most related to?
Definitely Lori from The Boys Next Door!

-Tell us something about your next book the Ex Game.
It’s about a snowboarder who challenges her ex-boyfriend to a battle of the sexes on the slopes.

-Have you read any YA books recently? Can you recommend us some?
I just finished Deb Caletti’s Honey, Baby, Sweetheart. Right now I’m reading (and loving) Susanne Colisanti’s When It Happens.

-A little game for fun
Happy ending or unhappy ending? Happy ending, always!
Good guy or bad guy? Good guy gone bad. Bad guy making good.
Black or white? Shades of gray.
Tea of coffee? Coffee.
Icecream or cake? The one that’s chocolate.
Hardcover or paperback?
Trade paperback: pretty but not overpriced!

Thanks Jennifer for dropping by. I'm so excited about her upcoming book The Ex Game. Who doesn't love stories about Ex-es? And I'm a little bit disappointed Jennifer didn't do anything bad when she was a teenager. Could have been more interesting if she've had (shhh don't tell her I said that!)

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Waiting On Wednesday (12)

Idea taken from Breaking The Spine

Devoured by Amanda Marrone.

Megan’s twin sister Remy died in an accident nine years ago, and she’s been haunting her ever since. Knowing how crazy that sounds, Megan keeps this secret to herself and tries to lead a normal life. But when she takes a summer job at Land of Enchantment to keep an eye on her new boyfriend and his lovesick best friend, Samantha, she meets fellow employee Luke who can see Remy, too. Things get even twistier because Megan’s new friend Ari is sporting a massive crush on Luke, who seems to be developing a massive crush on Megan…making for a love triangle that’s positively possessed.

Megan wants to keep her distance from Luke, but when Remy’s visions get crazy violent; she knows she needs his help. Because someone’s definitely in danger...the only question is who?

This is definite my style of book. First, the cover is really artistic and dangerous. Second, I'm really into romance and paranormal. And third, drama is love! The triangle sounds kind of fun don't you think? The book which was featured in my WOW (10) has something to deal with triangle too so I bet you can tell what I sucker I am for this stuff. Besides, I think I heard of Amanda Marrone here and there all the time but never actually read any of her books. So this may be a chance for me.

Want to be devoured? Come find the book on Sept 22nd ;)

Tuesday 7 April 2009

The Center Of Everything by Laura Moriarty

Publisher: Hyperion
Pub. Date: July 2004
Pages: 352
Format: paperback
Source: contest prize

In Laura Moriarty's extraordinary first novel, a young girl tries to make sense of an unruly world spinning around her. Growing up with a single mother who is chronically out of work and dating a married man, 10-year old Evelyn Bucknow learns early how to fend for herself.

Offering an affecting portrayal of a troubled mother/daughter relationship, one in which the daughter is very often expected to play the role of the adult, the novel also gives readers a searing rendering of the claustrophobia of small town midwestern life, as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. Evelyn must come to terms with the heartbreaking lesson of first love -- that not all loves are meant to be -- and determine who she is and who she wants to be. Stuck in the middle of Kansas, between best friends, and in the midst of her mother's love, Evelyn finds herself . . . in The Center of Everything.

I cannot confidently say people who stumble on this book will definitely love it. If you're looking for something new, exciting, full of surprise, The Center Of Everything won't do you any good. But if you love ordinary, meaningful piece of writing, you'll find it extremely interesting.

The story doesn't have a particular plot so there won't be no climax, twists or whatsoever. It simply told a life of a teenager, someone you would find kind of boring - yeah, almost nothing was special about the main girl, I have to admit. At first when I read the summary, I was so certain I'd not find any fun in this book. And what happened? When I started reading it, I just couldn't tear my eyes away.

Evelyn's teen life was the main focus of the book. With just 352 pages long, the author managed to convey everything that happened in a very logical way. The pace was always the same - not too slow nor too fast - but it never felt monotonous because Laura invested different kind of elaboration in different periods of time. Sometimes a day stretched in pages while three years had already passed by just by in two lines. The point was, nothing she wrote was meaningless. In almost every random conversation or monologues readers would, surprisingly, found the truest and most meaningful thing about life they never ever realized before. If you love quotes, you'll love this.

I liked Evelyn really much. Sure thing she wasn't an extraordinary character. Sometimes I think she was selfish, timid, unreasonable - she complained about her shoes too much even though she knew her mom was depressed, she acted like her brother Samuel wasn't her sibling at all. But what was amazing about Evelyn was that the way Laura portrayed her - it made me feel everything the girl did, like I was the one in the book. When she was pissed I was pissed. When she was sad I found myself unhappy as well. It was strange but enjoyable. Her life was very complicated, though not interesting, yet it would show you a lot of aspects - the town she lived in, the religion and politic issues, the way teenagers led their lives. And above all, learning to thrive through mistakes.

Like I said above, not all of you will love this book. But if you can, I think you should give it a try.

Rating: 4/5

Monday 6 April 2009

In My Mailbox (12)

Idea taken from The Story Siren

Not one of the greatest weeks but I'm really glad because at least I still have something in my mailbox ;0

The Center Of Everything by Laura Moriarty.

In Laura Moriarty's extraordinary first novel, a young girl tries to make sense of an unruly world spinning around her. Growing up with a single mother who is chronically out of work and dating a married man, 10-year old Evelyn Bucknow learns early how to fend for herself.

Offering an affecting portrayal of a troubled mother/daughter relationship, one in which the daughter is very often expected to play the role of the adult, the novel also gives readers a searing rendering of the claustrophobia of small town midwestern life, as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. Evelyn must come to terms with the heartbreaking lesson of first love -- that not all loves are meant to be -- and determine who she is and who she wants to be. Stuck in the middle of Kansas, between best friends, and in the midst of her mother's love, Evelyn finds herself . . . in The Center of Everything.

A contest prize from Susan's weekly LLM giveaway. The cover looks great doesn't it? I'm not really into the book judging from the summary but well, I've changed my mind now. You'll see in my review which will be posted tomorrow : ) Thanks Susan for sending me the book as well as the lovely bookmark!

Roundabout by Rhiannon Lassiter

Magda, Tess and Seb should never have met. Beautiful Romany Magda is a traveller - she lives just outside town on an old caravan site. Tess is her fiery best friend. And Seb is the son of a rich businessman - he lives in a big house in the city. But as Magda and Seb are drawn to each other, meeting in hidden places, breaking unspoken boundaries, their lives - and those of the people close to them - set off down unexpected paths, especially when jealous Tess discovers Seb's secret. What will Magda do when she finds out just who is responsible for trying to get the travellers turfed off the land they have inhabited for so long? The decisions all the teenagers make now will have far wider-reaching effects than they could ever have imagined ...

This book is a birthday present from my cousin from Australia. I've heard anything about it but hopefully it'll turn out to be a good one. I love the cover design and the summary doesn't sound really bad hey? I'm in need for some mysterious stories these days.

So how's your week? Wish me luck for the next ones because I really need it. I just found out that some publishers have recently changed their policy and they won't be sending review copies out to international addresses in the near future so I'm kinda upset : (

Oh and one more thing, thanks Jenny for picking me to be the first one for her new feature - Blog Of The Week. You're sweet *hugs*.

Sunday 5 April 2009

Sunday Special (12) Continue The Fun

Some lookalike covers I spotted last few weeks. If you're interested, read on : )

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Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume.
Becomin Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde.
Slept Away by Julie Kraut.
Life's A Beach by Claire Cook.

I found not two but four lookalike covers. It's so funny that all the ladies here are trying to show off their beautiful feet. Some of them even have same red-polished nails too. I think the first two look like each other the most since they both have their feet rest against something higher and it looks as if they are looking towards the sky. Which one is your favorite? I love the last one because it seems colorful and happier than the rest.

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Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin.
Are We There Yet? by David Levithan.

You'll see the similarity right away hey? Both are focusing on a single snowglobe, same bluish background too. I like the first cover better, the snowglobe is full and it somehow glows too. The other looks kinda boring to me.

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Story Of A Girl by Sara Zarr.
Annie's Baby by Beatrice Sparks.

They're looking out from the back (or the window) of a car, the fingers are moving in a similar way, the facial expressions say they have something that they want to share but cannot. The only difference I see is that the second girl looks a little bit bitter or meaner. I'm not into these covers much but if I have to pick I'll pick the first.

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Nineteen Minutes by Jody Picoult.
I Heart You Haunt Me by LIsa Schroeder. 

A couple holding hands, how cute it is. Yet to me there's something so sad in both of these. They look kind of nostalgic don't you think? Especially the second one with the transparent figure. My pick? I Heart You You Haunt Me.

So what's your idea?

Wednesday 1 April 2009

THE BOOK REVIEW CLUB APR - I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Pub. Date: July 2008
Pages: 352
Format: paperback
Source: from publisher- Simon&Schuster

A raw, edgy, emotional novel about growing up punk and living to tell.

The Clash. Social Distortion. Dead Kennedys. Patti Smith. The Ramones.

Punk rock is in Emily Black's blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back. Now Emily's all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home. Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn't it lead her right back to Emily?

If I have to pick one word to describe this book, it'll definitely be awesome. It intrigued me in every single way - the plot, the characters, the music, the love - all of them was mixed together, so naturally that you'll hardly recognize it takes great skills to do such a thing.

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone is not just a story about music. It's also about family, friendship, love, hopes, dreams. Basically, it's all about life - the one of a girl who grew up with ablaze passion for music and an inner desire to find her gone away mother through it. Emily Black is such a beautiful and raw character. Surly she had many wrong thoughts, she behaved badly and got herself involved things that I considered really terrible - sex, drugs, minor crimes - yet I didn't think of her as a bad one at all. Emily was just herself, she did what she did because it was part of the process of growing up. Although she was a tough girl who wouldn't be brought down by people's meanness, Emily was soft at some moments too. She always wondered if her mother left because of her, she was scared of opening her heart to anyone. That fact just made me love her even more. She was a person with strong and weak sides, with so many flaws that you could spot from very first impressions. And it was why her character was perfect.

Emily's life story was told parallelly with her mother Louisa's so it was really interesting. You would have a chance to find out everything about the poor woman in details - how she was during her teenage days, why she left the family, what she did to get on all alone. Her story gave me mixed feelings. Most of the time I sympathized her, but I was really mad sometimes because she was too cowardly to face reality and got over everything.

It would be such a big mistake not to mention the passion for music. It was fantastic. I was not a fan of rock or punk or whatever but after reading this book, I really really adored it. The meaningful lyrics would make you squeal inside, and it'd feel like really listening to the songs even without no sound. The ending was not an entirely happy one. But guess what? It satisfied me to bits and pieces. It was an open one, the kind that would leave readers with thoughts about life and hopes for the best for Emily.

It seems to me that Stephanie Kuehnert just sat there taking notes of everything that happened around her life and suddenly I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone was born because the book was extremely real. You really should get yourself a copy. It's a must read.

Rating: 5/5
it feels good to rate some book 5/5 : D