Monday, January 31, 2011

January Challenge Update

At the end of each month, I'll post an update of how I'm doing with this year's reading challenges. It'll help me stay on track. And from the looks of things, I'm not doing very well.


2011 Debut Author Challenge

Challenge: To read at least twelve young adult novels by debut authors

1. ........




100 Books in a Year

Challenge: To read at least 100 novels between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011.

1. Sold (Patricia McCormick)
2. The Running Dream (Wendelin Van Draanen)
3. Wide Awake (David Levithan)
4. Dancing Naked (Shelley Hrdlitschka)
5. Impulse (Ellen Hopkins)
6. Out Of My Mind (Sharon M. Draper)




YA Historical Fiction Challenge

Challenge: To read at least ten young adult historical fiction novels in 2011. 

1. ........



I'm also late to start this one, but will be participating in the Once Upon a Time Challenge from Crazy Book Slut.


Once Upon a Time Challenge

Challenge: To read at least five fairytale retellings or a different perspective than Disney. 

1. ........

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (3)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly Wednesday meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine Participants highlight an upcoming unpublished novel they're interested in.


Title: Crescent Star
Author: Nicholas Maes
Release Date: February 21, 2011
Publisher: Dundurn Press

Goodreads




Summary

Avi Greenbaum is Jewish and lives in West Jerusalem. Moussa Shakir is Palestinian and lives in East Jerusalem. Both are 15 years old, live without their fathers, adore their older brothers, and belong to the same soccer club. Avi commemorates the Holocaust and celebrates Israeli independence, while Moussa mourns on Nakba Day, marking the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948. Their lives are two parallel lines: they have everything in common and nothing at all. Each is oblivious to the other's existence. As they go about their daily routines in the spring of 2006, they face reminders of the conflict that has dogged the region for the past three generations - the security wall, suicide bombings, police operations, and the looming shadow of war. While navigating this legacy of suspicion and violence, they must decide what their own roles in the stalemate will be.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Title: Out Of My Mind
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Publisher: Atheneum
Release Date: March 9, 2010
Date Read: January 20 - 21, 2011
Rating: 4/5 stars
Summary
Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write.

Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you'll never, ever forget.


Review
I really enjoyed this novel. Over the past few months I've happened to read quite a few novels about mental disabilities and illness but rarely do I read one about a physical disability. There are a few teenagers at my school with cerebral palsy and I have never thought of them as people capable of normal mental function with simply a body that doesn't work. (Taking into account that  Melody's mental function is above average and unrealistic). This book changed my perspective of how I treat and relate to disabled people; I will try harder to be polite and treat them with more respect rather than just ignoring them in the hallways.

I found many of the characters in the novel to be unrealistic and one-dimensional and was originally going to give the book 3/5 stars instead, but figured that was a bit harsh due to the other wonderful aspects of the novel. I would definitely characterize this as a young-adult rather than middle-grade novel because I think young adults would be able to empathize/sympathize more with the situation looking back on our own middle grade experiences than someone currently attending that school. 


Favourite Quote: "How could she understand that I loved the song 'Elvira' by the Oak Ridge Boys when I barely understood it myself? I had no way to explain how I could smell freshly sliced lemons and see citrus-toned musical notes in my head as it played. If I had a paintbrush...wow! What a painting that would be!"


Recommended: The View From Saturday (E.L. Konisburg), Reaching for Sun (Tracie Vaughn Zimmer), Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson), Double Dutch (Sharon M. Draper), Marcelo in the Real World (Francisco X. Stork)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bloggiesta Update (2)

Day 3 of Bloggiesta! 


Yet another stellar 24 hours of Bloggiesta! As soon as I finished yesterday's post I tried to finish as many of the challenges and "to-dos" as I could. I also took some time out to reflect on how much I value my blog, how much it has changed my life in such a small way, and how I can continue blogging throughout the year with better time management. (Every weekend isn't Bloggiesta after all.)

Technically today is the third and last day of Bloggiesta, but I'd like to continue updating and tweaking today and will post my final update sometime on Monday. 

On to the updating! (I removed the ones already finished)


         1. Finish my current novel / type the review
               Done! Review is typed and waiting for Monday to arrive.


          4. Make and upload a proper In My Mailbox video (ask for help this time)
               Done! Scroll to the post below to find my In My Mailbox video. I uploaded it onto DropShots instead of Youtube or Photobucket and didn't eat as much bandwidth. 

        
          6. Start my Challenge update post for January
Done! All of the buttons as much of the updates are written as can be. I'll do a final tally on the 31st because right now, it doesn't look to productive. Oops!

          8. Encourage voters on my book lists / ask for suggestion
              Still not done. I'm not quite sure how to approach this one. I want to ask people for suggestions for my Goodreads book lists but it seems a little....egotistical, and far to soon to be egotistical. Maybe I'll save this one for later. Thoughts?

         
          11. Post about doing a "Q&A" asking for questions
                Not done. I've decided to save my "Q&A" segment for mid-February once Bloggiesta is done and I *hopefully* have more followers. 


          12. New poll in the sidebar
                Done! Vote which book I should read next!


10.5/12 Woot! I feel great! The other 2 will probably be postponed until February. I also completed another mini-challenge:


           1. Create a Google Form for a contest or survey. (Challenge Link)
                Done! The tutorial was easy to understand and follow, and I had my first form completed in no time. Because I'm fairly uncreative at this point in the weekend, the form is the same question as my poll. Feel free to answer one or the other. 



In My Mailbox (3)



3rd In My Mailbox post!

In My Mailbox is a weekly Sunday meme by The Story Siren where participants show what books/swag/movies they received this week through a store, library, or publishing house.

Video is working! Finally! I uploaded the video onto DropShots instead of Youtube or Photobucket so it wouldn't eat as much bandwidth and it worked out perfectly....Sort of. The sound somehow got a little distorted so you might have to turn up the volume on your speakers. 



Out Of My Mind (Sharon M. Draper) / Goodreads

"And do you have anything else?" (Margaret Bard & Miriam New House) / Goodreads
Audition Monologues for Student Actors (Roger Ellis) / Goodreads
Audition Monologues for Student Actors II (Rogers Ellis) / Goodreads
The Actor's Audition Manual Volume 2 (Dean Carey) 
American Theatre Book of Monologues for Women (Stephanie Coen) / Goodreads

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bloggiesta Update (1)

Day 2 of Bloggiesta! 


Last night was amazing. I must've opened hundreds of tabs checking out new blogs, completing challenges, reading about new blog updates and software, writing reviews, etc. Such an invigorating senstation, and I love the feeling of being more organized and in control of my blog. This couldn't have come a better time in my blog "life". 


Onwards to the updating! 

          1. Finish my current novel / type the review
               I started reading Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper on Thursday and had planned on finishing it on Sunday but I couldn't seem to put it down. Such a wonderful novel about cerebral palsy. I'll write a review and post it on Monday once Bloggiesta is over. 


          2. Move my winter Waiting on Wednesday from my email to drafts
              Done! Earlier this week I planned out my Waiting on Wednesday novels from this most recent Wednesday till the end of March. Yesterday I made an individual blog post for each of them and saved them in my drafts. It feels great knowing I can just hit "send" every Wednesday!


          3. Post my Impulse review tomorrow
               Done! Scroll to the post below this update to find the review. I also sat down and planned that most of my reviews will be posted on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. I really need to start getting into a routine with posting. 


          4. Make and upload a proper In My Mailbox video (ask for help this time)
               Not done. I'll tape this and upload it later this evening. I'm going to try on Photobucket instead of Youtube and see if the uploading doesn't eat up as much of my bandwidth. 


          5. Enter all the teen Goodreads ARC giveaways
Happily completed! I regularly check on the Goodreads Giveaway Page to check for new teen novels. Yesterday I entered for 15 YA novels. Fingers crossed I win one! 


          6. Start my Challenge update post for January
Not done. The last day of January I'd like to post an update on the challenges I've joined this year. I also want to join 2 new challenges so I might wait on making this post till after Bloggiesta is done. 


          7. Make my Goodreads profile public so followers can add me
               Done.....not really. I updated my profile but because I'm still under 18, Goodreads won't open up my profile for people to see my profile. However, if you'd like to add me as a friend, send me a message and say you're a follower of my blog. 


          8. Encourage voters on my book lists / ask for suggestion
              Not done. Planned for next week though! I'll be making a "list post" for one of the Bloggiesta challenges and will mention all my Goodreads lists. Stay tuned for this post probably on Thursday. 


          9. Find out if my Followers Map is counting repeat visits (eek!)
              Done! I checked my Followers Map (see sidebar) and my Blogger stats and made sure neither of them were counting repeat visits or myself. 


          10. Join at least one Bloggiesta / book blog forum
                 Done! I'm following the Bloggiesta hashtag on twitter, follow me to track my updates. I also joined 2 book blog forums: YA Blogosphere and Book Blogs Ning.


          11. Post about doing a "Q&A" asking for questions
                Not done. I've decided to save my "Q&A" segment for mid-February once Bloggiesta is done and I *hopefully* have more followers. 


          12. New poll in the sidebar
                Not done. Need a good idea for this one. I might save this one for Monday.


6.5/12 on the first night! Not bad! I also participated in a few mini-challenges from Bloggiesta headquarters:


          1. Set up an account with a StatsReader (Challenge Link)
               Done! I added The Zealous Reader to my Google Analytics account but am still waiting on the report. I also read the Blogger Stats and found out that most of my readers are from the USA and Canada, but I have a few from Europe and Asia as well. 


           2. Create a Gravatar (Challenge Link)
               Done! I had no idea what a Gravatar was and hadn't even really noticed that other people used them. After reading the post on how important they are for site advertising, I made one right away. Hopefully people will enjoy my bedazzled red antlers and head on over here!

           3. Grade Your Blog (Challenge Link)
               Done! I used a website grader to grade my blog and find out ways to improve. My grade was 23% but as new blogger after only 2 weeks of posting, I'm not that discouraged. It's better than nothing, and I can always improve. I'm looking forward to re-grading my website in 6 months to see how far I've come.

          4. Brainstorm Blogging Posts (Challenge Link)
               Done! This one was one of my favourite challenges. Sitting down to figure out where I want this blog to go, figure out the best options for blog posts, researching what other bloggers have done to entice readers, etc. was definitely an eye opener. I created a list of my ideas:




Woot! What a fantastic afternoon/night/morning so far! I'll post another update on Sunday afternoon with the next 24 hour's progress. Look for that post and my In My Mailbox post around noon!

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

Title: Impulse
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Release Date: January 23, 2007
Date Read: January 15 - 18, 2011
Rating: 4/5 stars
Summary
Aspen Springs Psychiatric Hospital is a place for people who have played the ultimate endgame. The suicide attempt survivors portrayed in this novel tell starkly different stories, but these three embattled teens share a desperate need for a second chance. Ellen Hopkins, the author of Glass and Crank, presents another jarring, ultimately uplifting story about young people crawling back from a precipice.

Review
I really enjoyed Impulse, but that was sort of expected. Ellen Hopkin's novels always manage to strike a chord with me. Most readers can relate to at least one aspect of her novel: the controversial issues, a character, a situation or setting, or simply feeling as though their diary looks an awful lot like Ellen's pages. As always I thought her use of poetry and page editing added to the feeling of the book: the strict columns helped enforce the feeling of a psychiatric ward where everything must be in its place, but it was easy to distinguish dialogue between characters. After recently seeing a play about teenage suicide I sympathized with the main characters and felt like their attempts were handled in a very mature, realistic manner. It's often shown in today's society that people attempt suicide because they are bullied or feel neglected by friends, but in fact there can be several other underlying issues. Overall, yet another stellar teen novel by Ellen Hopkins. 

Favourite Quote: "My happiest memories have no place in the past; they are those I have yet to create."

Recommended: Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher), Teach Me (R.A. Nelson), Cut (Patricia McCormick), Burned (Ellen Hopkins), Get Well Soon (Julie Halpern), Nineteen Minutes (Jodi Picoult)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bloggiesta!

Thanks to a recent post from The Story Siren, I am now participating in this year's Bloggiesta! If you are unaware of what Bloggiesta is or how to get involved, click on either of those links to find out. Basically it's a weekend of bloggers coming together to update and rejuvenate their blogs through new posts, planning ahead, new backgrounds/buttons/fonts, meeting new bloggers on forums, etc. I hope all my *few* followers participate.


For the introductory post, we're supposed to list our goals for the weekend. Here's mine:



  • Finish my current novel / type the review
  • Move my winter Waiting on Wednesday from my email to drafts
  • Post my Impulse review tomorrow
  • Make and upload a proper In My Mailbox video (ask for help this time)
  • Enter all the teen Goodreads ARC giveaways
  • Start my Challenge update post for January
  • Make my Goodreads profile public so followers can add me
  • Encourage voters on my book lists / ask for suggestion
  • Find out if my Followers Map is counting repeat visits (eek!)
  • Join at least one Bloggiesta / book blog forum
  • Post about doing a "Q&A" asking for questions
  • New poll in the sidebar

Each day this weekend I'll update with which goals I've accomplished and any new ones I come up with. Hopefully I'll have all of them completed by Monday. (Oh, and study for exams!)

If you have any suggestions or advice on my goals, feel free to leave them in the comments or message me!

Dancing Naked by Shelley Hrdlitschka

Title: Dancing Naked
Author: Shelley Hrdlitschka
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Publication Date: March 1, 2002
Date Read: January 13 - 14, 2011
Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary
Kia is sixteen and pregnant. Her world crumbles as she attempts to come to terms with the life growing inside her and what she must do. Initially convinced that abortion is her only option, Kia comes to understand that for her, the answers are not always black and white. As the pregnancy progresses, Kia discovers who her real friends are and where their loyalties lie. It is through her relationship with the elderly Grace that she learns what it means to take responsibility for one's life and the joy that can come from trusting oneself. Faced with the most difficult decision of her life, Kia learns that the path to adulthood is not the easily navigable trail she once thought, but a twisting labyrinth where every turn produces a new array of choices, and where the journey is often undertaken alone.

Dancing Naked is Shelley Hrdlitschka's third novel for young adults and her most ambitious and emotionally revealing to date. Pulling no punches, she covers some of the last taboo territory in teen fiction, sensitively and without sensationalism.



Review
Interesting novel. I've read quite a few teen pregnancy books before but this one was definitely different, mainly because it discussed so many other topics such as inter-generational relationships, homosexuality, religion, adoption, and interracial relationships. While I appreciated all these topics being discussed I felt like the novel was a bit of a mixed bag, as if the author was sort of searching for more topics to include. I had also never read a book where abortion was considered and thought that Shelley handled it quite well. I found quite a few of the characters unrealistic (such as Derek and Kia's mom) but found Kia herself to be quite realistic. She was annoying, irresponsible, attention-seeking, but I found those qualities to be quite expected from a pregnant teen (not at all insinuating that all pregnant teens act this way). 
One of the main reasons I wanetd to read this book and put it on my 100-in-2011 was because I love to support Canadian authors. Usually left in the dust while international bloggers support UK, Australian, and American authors, Canadians are dying for support beyond Canada's borders. I'm hoping to feature as many Canadian books as possible to promote them globally. All of the Canadian books I read will have a "Canadian" tag on them, be sure to check them out!

Recommended: Sister Wife (Shelley Hrdlitschka), Someone Like You (Sarah Dessen), Forever (Judy Blume), & My Darling My Hamburger (Paul Zindel). If you want more recommendations, post in the comments or send me an email!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (2)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly Wednesday meme hosted by MizB at Breaking the Spine. Participants highlight an upcoming unpublished novel they're interested in.


Title: Accomplice
Author: Valerie Sherrard
Release Date: February 21, 2011
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Goodreads

Summary
Lexie Malton is an average Vancouver teen with fairly typical issues. Her stepmother is far from her favourite person, she has a sister with special needs, and life outside the home is the usual mix of school, friends, school, and social events. But Lexie has a secret. Her ex-boyfriend, Devlin Mather, is now a heroin addict living on the street, and only Lexie knows that she's the one who put him there. Guilt makes her give in to Devlin's demands for money time and time again, even though she knows how dangerous his drug use is. Lexie finally gathers the strength to stop enabling Devlin. But when he seeks treatment for his addiction, Lexie finds herself drawn back to him, never guessing what a dark and deadly path she has just chosen. Devlin relapses, and his desperation will lead to an act that will change both of their lives forever.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (1)

I decided to take the plunge again into another meme. Hopefully by the end of this week I'll set into a rhythm: Tuesday/Wednesday/Sunday memes with a review on Monday and Friday.
 
Teaser Tuesday is a weekly Tuesday meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading where participants feature a teaser sentence/paragraph from a novel they're reading.




"These kids are the best of the worst - bright, capable underachievers. It's truly bizarre that they end up here."
- p. 345, Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
 

 
I'm about 150 pages away from the end of this book, can't wait to finish! Expect my Dancing Naked review on Friday and my Impulse review on Monday.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (2)

Second IMM post!


In My Mailbox is a weekly Sunday meme by The Story Siren where participants show what books/swag/movies they received this week through a store, library, or publishing house.


I seem to keep having problems with IMM. Last week my video wouldn't upload, this week I have no camera battery. *sigh* Very disappointing. On top of that, I only got 2 new books this week. 


Note to Self: Suck less at memes. 


Here are the covers of the two books I got this week from my local library. Dancing Naked review should be up shortly, and I'm about half-way through Impulse.



Dancing Naked (Shelley Hrdlitschka) / Goodreads



Impulse (Ellen Hopkins) / Goodreads 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (1)

Waiting on Wednesday is weekly Wednesday meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Participants highlight an upcoming unpublished novel they're interested in. 


So excited to participate! Woot!


Title: Falling for Hamlet
Author: Michelle Ray
Release Date: July 5, 2011
Publisher: Poppy
Goodreads


Summary
Falling for Hamlet retells the familiar Shakespearean tragedy from the point of view of a feisty, empowered Ophelia, who is neither suicidal nor anybody’s pushover. In a glittering world of celebrities, paparazzi, and reality TV, Ophelia navigates the minefield of teen life in a royal family gone crazy.

Wide Awake by David Levithan

Title: Wide Awake
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 12, 2006
Date Read: January 6 - 9, 2011
Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary
In the not-too-impossible-to-imagine future, a gay Jewish man has been elected president of the United States. Until the governor of one state decides that some election results in his state are invalid, awarding crucial votes to the other candidate, and his fellow party member. Thus is the inspiration for couple Jimmy and Duncan to lend their support to their candidate by deciding to take part in the rallies and protests. Along the way comes an exploration of their relationship, their politics, and their country, and sometimes, as they learn, it's more about the journey than it is about reaching the destination.

Only David Levithan could so masterfully and creatively weave together a plot that's both parts political action and reaction, as well as a touching and insightfully-drawn teen love story.


Review
Oh wow! I've had this new habit of not reading anything about the books I'm about to read so the plot and characters are a surprise. I honestly had no idea what this would be about, though I presumed LGBTQ rights would be involved at some point. Loved it! Such a range of topics from politics, gay rights activism, religion, consumerism, teenage behaviour, etc. I hope that everyone who reads this book can sympathize/empathize/relate to at least one character or situation in this novel. My favourite part was the descriptions of Kansas during the rallies, not only did it make me feel like I was present but it inspired me to participate in such rallies when I'm older. Great book!

Recommended: Little Brother (Cory Doctorow), How They Met & Other Stories (David Levithan), Keeping You a Secret (Julie Anne Peters), Brave New World (Aldous Huxley). If you want more recommendations, post in the comments or send me an email!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

In My Mailbox (1)

I've decided to take the plunge and participate in my first meme!


In My Mailbox is a weekly Sunday meme by The Story Siren where participants show what books/swag/movies they received this week through a store, library, or publishing house.


I originally made a video but Youtube said it would take over two hours to upload, so there goes that. *grumbles* Pictures instead!




 ARCs.
- Another Pan (Daniel & Dina Nayeri)
Four Seasons (Jane Breskin Zalben)
- Crash Test Love (Ted Michael) 




Library
- Wide Awake (David Levithan) *review to come*
- The Secret year (Jennifer R. Hubbard)
- What My Mother Doesn't Know (Sonya Sones)