A History of Wonder: Illustrating Yount, by Deborah A. Mills, Illustrator of the Longing for Yount Series (Guest Post)

Posted September 24, 2012 by Jana in Blog Tour, Guest Post / 0 Comments

It’s a great pleasure to have Deborah A. Mills, cover illustrator of the Longing for Yount 2-volume series, as part of the official ChiZine Publications promotional tour for the release of the concluding volume: The Indigo Pheasant. Seeing as how my blog deals with the artsy as well as the bookish, I was delighted to find out I would be hosting Deborah’s discussion and explanations of her inspirations for the imagery used in both her cover designs!

I’ve always been a firm believer in art having a purpose, and not just being done for the sake of art itself. Sure, many covers out there are lovely, but so many of them have no real purpose other than to just be pretty. Being a book cover designer myself, I absolutely love and appreciate Deborah’s designs and her very detailed reasoning behind them. Before we jump into her thoughts, let me introduce the dynamic duo behind the books!

Deborah A. Mills and Daniel A. Rabuzzi

Deborah has been carving wood professionally since 1991. She studied wood sculpture with Lorrie Goulet at the Art Students League of New York and, while living in Norway, trained with master woodcarver Erik Fridstrøm at the Viking Ships Museum in Oslo.

Daniel A. Rabuzzi, a former banker, studied folklore and mythology in college and graduate school, and keeps one foot firmly in the Other Realm. He earned his doctorate in 18th-century history, with a focus on family, gender and commerce in northern Europe. His first book, The Choir Boats, was published  in 2009, and 2012 brought about the concluding novel, The Indigo Pheasant. He has also published a number is short stories, poems, and scholarly articles covering numerous topics. He is now an executive at a national workforce development organization in New York City, where he lives with his wife and soulmate, Deborah, along with the requisite two cats.

Photo: ©Kyle Cassidy, all rights reserved
Biographical information was acquired and spliced together from both Deborah’s and Daniel’s websites.
A History of Wonder: Illustrating Yount, by Deborah A. Mills

Find out more about The Choir Boats and The Indigo Pheasant by visiting their Goodreads pages.

Daniel and I were terribly lucky to have ChiZine as his publishing house.  Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory made a dream come true for both of us when they invited me to illustrate Daniel’s Longing for Yount historical fantasy series (not to mention that they also incorporated two of my sea beast carvings into the book covers!).

Porcelain tea bowls seemed a perfect vehicle for the “Indigo Pheasant”
theme that carries through both books. I added a foreboding crack to my version.

For years, while Daniel honed drafts of The Choir Boats, we daydreamed and discussed what my illustrations might look like. Daniel created an enormous “Yount inspiration file” full of our sketches, photos, and pages torn from magazines, museum brochures and auction catalogs.  The file is full of the kinds of decorative objects that would have surrounded the characters in the books – much of it, of course, from the 18th and 19th centuries: sumptuous fabrics, carved furniture, mirrors and clock cases, porcelain tea ware and figurines, botanical prints, etc.

When I suddenly had the actual job of creating illustrations to head each chapter, I knew I wanted to use everyday objects from the world of Daniel’s characters to hint at their personalities and some key sequences in the books.  Personally, I am irked when illustrated characters in a book I’m reading don’t match the ones I see in my head, so I knew I didn’t want to show realistic “portraits.”  Following our idea of using the material culture of the period, I searched Daniel’s manuscripts for objects associated with the different characters or scenes (like Sally’s locket, Barnabas’s sandalwood box, the dolphin door knocker on the McDoon front door and the sign outside the Piebald Swan coffee house, for example) and then did lots of further research on my own.

I was thrilled to find a place to put a hippocamp mirror, having sketched many at museums and antique shows!  I think it amplifies the creepiness of the “Conjure Hands” (another of Daniel’s extraordinarily visual literary creations).

Meissen ware porcelain figurines of animals and birds were very popular in the early 1800s, so seemed a perfect way to depict some other favorite characters (Isaak the cat and Charicules the bird).

Igbo ukara cloths incorporate hands, moons, arrows, leopards, turtles
and a whole language of symbols to communicate meaning; Maggie’s
ukara also refers to her mother’s stories, Maggie’s visions, and the
mathematical formulae that are part of her magic.

In The Choir Boats, my favorite character, Maggie, appears only in “interlude” chapters, which alternate with the main story-line’s chapters.  I wanted the interlude illustrations to look different from the others, to signal the change in view point, but I didn’t have time to do something unique for each one (I thought).

Then I had an “a-ha” moment, illuminated by my research into Igbo art and history (Maggie is an escaped slave, born in Maryland to Igbo captives). I realized I could mimic a traditional Igbo artform, the indigo-dyed ukara cloth, with blocks representing Maggie’s experiences throughout the story; once I’d scanned and digitized the image, I could cut out and enlarge segments that would refer to scenes in each interlude. I’ve used a similar technique for the interlude segments of Daniel’s second and concluding novel, The Indigo Pheasant, carving one larger image into individual illustrations for each chapter head.

As a woodcarver, I could easily imagine an Igbo drum carved with moons, “the brown eye of wisdom,” warding hands and a threatening swallow-tailed owl, especially as my research showed how much meaning each of those symbols would convey in Igbo culture!

As an inveterate museum junkie, I hope my illustrations will tempt readers to step a few feet beyond the familiar and maybe explore some of the cultures and artisans who produced these amazing objects that continue to inspire Daniel and me in our artwork together.

______________________________
Comments from Jana:
Wow, Deborah! Thanks so much for taking the time to write about your inspiration for these amazing works of cover art! I’m a museum junkie as well, and actually majored in graphic design and minored in art history, so I totally and completely understand your motivations and explanations. Art was the very first visual communication among mankind, and I love that you treat it with such reverence and respect. I can see your love of what you do through your designs and your writing, and I’m just so pleased you took the time to give us a glimpse into your mind! Thanks so much for visiting today. :)

______________________________
Did Deborah inspire you to check out the Longing for Yount series? Get a taste by checking out the novel previews for both The Choir Boat and The Indigo Pheasant. And if a taste is not enough, both books are available on Amazon right now.

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Fall for You by Cecilia Gray (Mini Review)

Posted September 19, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

Fall for You by Cecilia Gray (Mini Review)Fall for You by Cecilia Gray
Series: Jane Austen Academy #1
Published by The Alpha Division on February 10, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 128
Format: eBook
Source: From the author
Amazon Add to Goodreads
2 Stars
To say Lizzie and Dante are polar opposites is the understatement of the century. He's a snooty Exeter transfer with more money than Google. She's a driven study-a-holic barely keeping up with tuition. It's obvious that Dante thinks he's way too good for Lizzie. And Lizzie knows Dante is a snob with a gift for pushing her buttons.

But things are changing fast this year at the Academy. And when Lizzie's quest to stop those changes blows up in her face, taking her oldest friendship with it, she has nowhere else to turn but to Dante, with his killer blue eyes, his crazy-sexy smile, and his secrets... Secrets Lizzie can't seem to leave alone, no matter how hard she tries...

I absolutely love Jane Austen-esque novels, so I was quite excited to read this book. While the story is light and cute, and it started off promising, there just wasn’t much to it for me. It was a very quick read, so none of the characters were extremely developed or all that memorable. The writing itself was fine, but the plot line was not strong enough for me either.

I didn’t like Lizzie very much. She came off as being mean and rather annoying. The investigative journalist aspect of her character kind of bothered me, just because I’m not a huge fan of books with this angle. It turned her into a nosy girl, shoving her way into everything. The romance was not believable, and was kind of all over the place. And… I kind of hated the school’s nickname: Jasta. I know that’s a really silly thing to dislike, but it just bugged me!

I think this all boils down to the fact that the story takes place in a boarding school, which I rarely enjoy about a book. Most boarding school characters a stuck-up and arrogant, and I really dislike reading about people like that. Also, it was short but still had a lot to cover. If there had been an extra 50-100 pages, I’m not necessarily sure I would have liked the book more, but it would have been a more solid foundation for the rest of the series. While I won’t be continuing on with this series, I would encourage Jane Austen fans to give this a try if they are looking for a quick fix. I’ve seen a lot of raving reviews for Fall for You, so maybe you’d feel differently about it than I do!

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Top Ten Bookish People I Want to Meet

Posted September 19, 2012 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 17 Comments

TTT

This week’s topic is all about the bookish people I want to meet. They could be bloggers, authors, characters, etc. I have a feeling it’s going to be hard to keep this list down to just 10 people, so you might find me cheating a little bit!

 

 

1. My Broke and Bookish Crew
I have been writing at The Broke and the Bookish for over 2 years now, and I have only met Kimberly! And I almost met Daisy when I was in Holland over the summer. I got extremely sick, though, and spent the day I was supposed to have lunch with her in bed with pneumonia. So, I want to meet alllll of them! Jamie, Lori, Daisy (we need to go shopping for sparkly things!), Jen, Julia, Kelly, Paula, Tahleen, and Bridget. Girls, we need a huge getaway. Like a cruise or something.

2. Alexa of Alexa Loves Books
I adore this girl! We’ve had fun discussing books and life… and I designed her blog for her, which was way fun. She’s one of my best clients ever. And we have the same kind of taste in books! Plus, she’s one of the sweetest people ever.

3. Estelle of Rather be Reading
I met Magan at ALA, which was so much fun! I adore Estelle. She’s so much fun to talk books with, plus her reviews are amazingly well done and her vlogs are very fun to watch. I just know we’d be great buds with lots to talk about!

4. Tracey Garvis Graves, author of On the Island
Tracey and I have become great friends over time as her book went from self-published, to Penguin published, to MGM movie rights and beyond. She’s an extremely nice person, and I think we’d get along wonderfully!

5. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games
The movie version just did not do it for me. I want to meet the Katniss from the book and ask her all about her life. Her story is fascinating.

6. Mandee from Vegan YA Nerds 
I love Mandee! She’s so sweet and so much fun to talk to. I want her to teach me all the yummy vegan recipes too!

7. Sam from Incarnate
Seeing as how he has been reincarnated so many times, I’d love to sit down and talk with him about the evolution of the world. Plus, he’s got so much life experience. I’d love some advice!

8. Lauren Oliver, author of the Delirium Trilogy
She seems awesome, and like such an amazingly funny person! I LOVE the Delirium trilogy, and would love to hear her talk all about the development of the story, the characters, and how she plans to end it all with the final book!

9. Amy from Following the Reader
We’ve chatted on Twitter many times, and I know she and I would get along SO well!

10. YOU.
Hey, you’re awesome! And I LOVE it when you stop by my blog! I know we’d have so much fun chatting about books and bookish things.

So, which bookish people do you hope to meet someday? Link me up and I’ll come visit!

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Ten by Gretchen McNeil (Book Review)

Posted September 17, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

Ten by Gretchen McNeil (Book Review)Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 18, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 296
Format: ARC
Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

Sometimes I enjoy being scared. I’m a major chicken, so I don’t read many scary books, but this one sounded too good to pass up! I was also majorly intrigued when I found it’s a retelling of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. This was totally worth being scared for. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The location is really ominous, and a character all its own. It has the power to be a breezy, sunny escape or a stormy, treacherous nightmare. In this case, it was the latter and I loved it. The descriptions had me snuggling under my blankets, hiding from murderers.

2. Gretchen is amazing at writing suspenseful passages. All of a sudden, I was a speed reader with this book. It was not because I was bored or because there were too many details. It was because everything flowed and ran into the next story elements so nicely that I almost absorbed the words rather than having to shove them in my head. It was effortless reading. 

3. Now, I have not read Agatha’s original version of this story, but the reviews I have read lead me to believe that this version sticks very closely to the original. I didn’t read anything about it having the crazy weather like Ten does, which I loved. It reminded me of Stephen King’s Storm of the Century. Very creepy, and it added a lot to the story. Just like the location, the weather was a character.

4. There were a lot of people to keep track of. Meg is the main girl and her best friend is Minnie. I had a hard time keeping track of who was who in the beginning, just because they each had an “M” name. And all the other characters blended together a bit for me, except for T.J., the love interest. Even though everyone was being murdered, though, the story focused more on the scare factor and less on the characters. I actually enjoyed that, just because it was fun to be immersed more in my feelings and reactions than the characters’ stories.

5. The murders form and are all wrapped up into a pretty crazy web of details. We learn more and more and solve the mystery right along with the characters. I was just as confused as they were. And I figured things out at about the same pace as they did, which was fun. I enjoyed that the reasoning and resolution weren’t easy. I love my details!

6. SO many twists and turns and events. It never calmed down! It just got creepier.

7. I was so scared! I could not read alone or at night, or I started to get really paranoid. This is a great book for autumn, especially for around Halloween.

All in all, everyone needs to read a creepy book every now and again. I really enjoyed this one, and would recommend it to pretty much anyone who loves a good scare. It wasn’t my favorite book in the world, but it’s definitely worth a read. And it seems to be great for all ages, since my dad just stole it from me when I was done! I really want to read Agatha Christie’s version now!

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Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally (Book Review)

Posted September 14, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally (Book Review)Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks #2
Also in this series: Racing Savannah
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on October 1, 2012
Pages: 242
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher at ALA
Amazon Add to Goodreads
2 Stars
Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

*NOTE: I read this book without reading its companion, Catching Jordan,  and was totally fine. There were no spoilers or confusing moments. Jordan and Sam do get mentioned, but it’s minimal.

I witnessed all the raving reviews for Miranda’s Catching Jordan, and was very excited to find this companion novel at ALA. I got to meet Miranda, who is extremely nice and fun to chat with. I wish I loved her book as much as I loved her, but that’s ok. I always worry that, after meeting an author, if I do not end up liking their book that it will make them feel like I did not like them. That’s totally not it. The author is great. I just did not like the book, and I’m really sad it turned out that way. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. It is brought up many times in this book that Parker is a good Christian girl. Religion is actually a very big theme in the book. Since I am also a good Christian girl, it bothered me how many times Parker went against her beliefs, and then got upset that her prayers were not being answered. She wasn’t even trying. And it’s not that I mind that she went against her beliefs. I totally get the whole “question your religion” thing. It happens a lot with everyone. It bothered me that she continually did it, though, and then got mad at others for her choices. I’m not going to go deeper into this point, just because I don’t want to spawn a religious discussion or anything.

2. I didn’t like Parker very much. Of course, a part of that is because of my first point, but I also because she came off as being a broken individual with no real desire to put the effort into piecing herself back together. There was a lot of moping and continuous bad decisions that ended up making her feel worse about herself. PLUS to compensate for her mother becoming a lesbian, Parker has decided to create a reputation for herself that marks her as a slut who “hooks up” with everyone. She’s not a strong character, and she’s not even one that young girls can look up to.

3. Brian, the assistant coach that Parker has a thing for, is completely unlikeable. I get that he’s attractive, and that getting attention for an older man is appealing and exciting. But he’s going against school rules to be with Parker, plus he is walking a very thin line legally as well. And for nothing. He’s totally using her, and she’s totally letting him. You can tell that very early on, so don’t worry. I haven’t spoiled anything. Really, this whole storyline just bugged me. I understand that age does not always matter, but when you’re dealing with the LAW and you’ve got an adult and a minor, it’s just not something I enjoy reading about.

4. I liked the supporting characters on the baseball team, and her best friend Drew. Corndog/Will (the third side in this semi love triangle) is really sweet I absolutely loved him from the very beginning.

5. I appreciated that this book tackled some heavy issues, like homosexuality. I enjoyed watching Parker and her family go through the healing process, and I really liked Parker’s mom.

6. This book is too graphic for younger readers. There were some pretty steamy scenes that I wish had been watered down more. (I mean, we read about specific body parts and descriptions of what those body parts are up to.)

Overall, the elements of this story just did not gel with me. There were so many names and things going on all over the place. I didn’t really like either of the main characters, and the supporting ones were not given a ton of attention. When all was said and done, I wasn’t even very satisfied with the ending. It was very anti-climactic. I wanted to love this one a lot. I really did. I’m still intrigued by all the hype surrounding Catching Jordan, so hopefully I enjoy that one more. :)

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Top Ten Books that Made Me Think

Posted September 11, 2012 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 7 Comments

TTT

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the other blog I write at, The Broke and the Bookish. We LOVE lists over there, and hope you do too!

This week’s topic discusses books that made me think about something regarding my life, my future, the world, etc. Some of these books caused silly epiphanies, whereas others made me really re-evaluate my life. I love it when a book makes me think.

1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This book is terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. I mean, the main character’s job is being a fireman who actually STARTS fires. His job is to burn books and the houses those books are found in. A world without books? Not only is that scary, but think of a government with that much power.

2. Night by Eli Wiesel
This is an extremely detailed and heart-wrenching look into the concentration camps during the Holocaust. I always knew that that event in history was horrific and inhumane, but my understanding was deepened even more with this book. They say history repeats itself, and I sincerely hope that “they” are wrong in this case. I felt this same way with The Diary of Anne Frank.

3. Matched by Ally Condie
If any government ever tries to tell me who I’m allowed to marry and what pills I’m supposed to take and what food I can eat I will seriously open up a lunar community and leave the planet. If you think blind dates are bad, just think of blind marriages.

4. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard 

This book made me realize that I’m pretty awesome. The main girl found out so many col things about herself on her trip, that I was actually inspired to go on one of my own. I spent 6 weeks in Europe over the summer, and let me tell you… it totally works. I never would have learned what I learned about myself without that trip.

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I swear, this book is not far off from the reality of today. It’s scary to think about kids killing each other for entertainment, but the reality of the situation is that it’s already happening.

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another book where people are not allowed to make their own choices. The world is perfect, with no war or pain. But then there’s Jonah… the one who is going to have to carry the burden of the truth alone. How would that even feel? To know all that pain and pleasure, but not be able to experience it or convey it to anyone? Wow. Talk about courage.

7. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

I loved watching these two broken people bring out the best in each other and change into better versions of themselves. It reminded me that I need to enrich my life with people who make me happy and forget trying to please those who are not worth the effort.

8. A Train to Potevka by Mike Ramsdell
The author of this book tells his story about what it was like to come from a strong moral background and go into a career as an American intelligence agent. He discusses the choices he had to made and the compromises he had to consider. I ended up thinking a lot about whether I could ever do any job that made me settle for less than my beliefs and morals.

9. Unbreak my Heart by Melissa C. Walker

This book made me really think back on my time as a teenager and how I wish I had had this book back then. I’ve identified with this books heroine so many times over the course of my life, and this book took me down a darker memory lane than usual. It was good for me, though, because it reminded me what I want out of my life and the people who are in it.

10. Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
I love the way the idea of reincarnation was discussed in this book. I loved the idea of being able to retain memories from a past life and use those memories to enrich a current lifetime. I don’t believe in reincarnation at all, but I did have fun thinking about the “what-ifs?”

So! Which books keep you up at night? Did you choose any of the same ones I did? Link me to your lists, and I’ll stop by and visit!

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Hidden by Sophie Jordan (Mini Book Review)

Posted September 5, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Hidden by Sophie Jordan (Mini Book Review)Hidden by Sophie Jordan
Series: Firelight #3
Also in this series: Firelight
Published by HarperTEEN on September 11, 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 260
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher at ALA
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3.5 Stars
Jacinda was supposed to bond with Cassian, the "prince" of their pride. But she resisted long before she fell in love with Will—a human and, worse, a hunter. When she ran away with Will, it ended in disaster, with Cassian's sister, Miram, captured. Weighed down by guilt, Jacinda knows she must rescue her to set things right. Yet to do so she will have to venture deep into the heart of enemy territory.

The only way Jacinda can reach Miram is by posing as a prisoner herself, though once she assumes that disguise, things quickly spiral out of her control. As she learns more about her captors, she realizes that even if Will and Cassian can carry out their part of the plan, there's no guarantee they'll all make it out alive. But what Jacinda never could have foreseen is that escaping would be only the beginning....

You know… I’m not sure I’ve ever read a concluding book in a trilogy and ended up really loving that book. The first book leaves you in love, because it’s the first book and that one is always the best. The second book is always a bridge to book 3, and I don’t know about you, but I always find myself not really knowing what to think of it. I always close book #2 with hope that book #3 will blow me away. It doesn’t always end up that way, though. Usually, things get wrapped up too easily or people end up with the wrong people, or people die/get hurt/change. Sadly, Hidden did not check off all the boxes on my list of wishes and hopes for the ending of the Firelight series, and I was left with empty feelings. I just felt “meh” about it. Perhaps my hopes were just too high.

Now, I’m not saying the book was bad at all! It was adventurous and suspenseful, and I really enjoyed it. New characters were introduced and old characters were expounded upon. I really enjoyed reading about the time Jacinda spent as a prisoner in the facility where draki are tested and researched. It was exciting and extremely interesting. During her time there, I got to meet draki from other clans and learn more about the species. The love between Jacinda and Will felt forced and unbelievable, and I don’t think I felt that way with the other books. Then again, I’ve always been team Cassian.

The writing was done very well, and I did enjoy the story. It just didn’t end the way I would have hoped, but trilogies/series rarely ever do. I’m definitely SO glad I got the opportunity to read this book early, though, and am definitely glad I read this conclusion to the trilogy.

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TGIF (#3): Choose Your Next Read

Posted August 31, 2012 by Jana in / 5 Comments

TGIF is hosted by GReads, and is a fun meme where we get to answer a bookish question an recap on the past week’s events on the blog. Hopefully we learn more about each other this way!
This is the last TGIF for a little while, since Ginger is taking a small break from the meme while she gets strict with time management regarding school and life. I think this week’s question is kind of a fun one! Watch me get really OCD with this answer. :P
My stack of review books is massive. If any of you remember my book haul post after ALA, you already know this. On top of that, I’ve got quite a few books from Netgalley as well as some review copies other authors and pubs have sent me. We’re talking about a lot of books here. For this reason, I implemented a pretty strict schedule.
  • ARCs are listed chronologically by release date in a Word document on my computer. These get top priority, because it’s my job to get the word out on new and amazing upcoming books! Plus, when I receive an ARC I see it as a contract that I will read it in a timely manner and post a review
  • I have another document that lists out the blog tours I committed to being a part of. These are also high priority, since the pub/author is depending on having me post on a specific day.
  • I have a third document that lists the already released books that I’ve accepted in the order I received them. These are next in line, and I read them as I have room in my schedule, and in the order I accepted them.
  • Then… I have a fourth one that lists the unsolicited books I am sent. I get to these when/if I can.
  • And then… there’s my huge TBR list on Goodreads and the unread books I purchased eons ago. I get to these if I am really lucky and am ahead of schedule on everything else.
Pretty sad, huh? I honestly never thought I’d end up doing this, and I wish I had been more selective with some of the books I chose to review. As many of you know, I just got a new job that’s really stressful for me. Reading has taken on a new meaning for me as a result. Like it was in college, it’s now become an escape for me once again and I see my strict schedule bending and flexing as I decide to pick a happy book further down my list over the heavy, sad one that’s next in line. Now that I finally have a job, book blogging is beginning to feel more and more like a second job. I can’t let it get to that point. So, I’m getting flexible. Just today I grabbed a book I REALLY wanted to read over the next book on my schedule. It was liberating! I think I’m going to do this more often. :)
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Again… That’s Totally the Same cover! (#3)

Posted August 30, 2012 by Jana in Cover Talk / 7 Comments

It’s been a while since I showed off some copycat covers, so I thought it’d be fun to write another post! I’ve gotten a lot of comments on my other posts about how stock images are cheaper than hiring a photographer for your own photo shoot, etc. I know! I promise I know this. :) I’m not pointing fingers or trying to stir up trouble. I just enjoy finding duplicates out there in the book world. :) It’s all in good fun!

Blue Skies by Catherine Anderson (Portuguese version)
Cicada by Belle Whittington

I definitely like the treatment of the image better on Catherine Anderson’s book than I do on Belle’s. Plus, I like the typography so much more. It’s not that I don’t like the second one, I just like the entire presentation of the first one more than the second.

Luna by Julie Anne Peters
Fate by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I like the colors on the second one more than the first. It’s so bright and colorful. The butterfly is more of a focal point, plus I like the way the title was tattooed to the girl’s arm.

Flirting with Boys by Hailey Abbott

The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti 
 

I like the first one more because I really dislike the big yellow box on the second one. I also enjoy it when the title has equal or more emphasis than the author’s name. “Deb Caletti” is screaming at me so much more than the title of the book. I guess that works when you’re a really well-known author, but still… The hierarchy is better on the first one regardless. :)
So, now you get to weigh in on your thoughts! Which covers do you like better? How do you feel about multiple covers with the same imagery? Do you get mixed up between books, or do you really not care at all?

 

 

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Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff that Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams (Book Review)

Posted August 23, 2012 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 7 Comments

Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff that Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams (Book Review)Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff that Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on August 21, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 240
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher at ALA
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Can a spot on a teen reality show really lead to a scholarship at an elite cooking school AND a summer romance?

Sixteen-year-old Sophie Nicolaides was practically raised in the kitchen of her family’s Italian-Greek restaurant, Taverna Ristorante. When her best friend, Alex, tries to convince her to audition for a new reality show, Teen Test Kitchen, Sophie is reluctant. But the prize includes a full scholarship to one of America's finest culinary schools and a summer in Napa, California, not to mention fame.

Once on-set, Sophie immediately finds herself in the thick of the drama—including a secret burn book, cutthroat celebrity judges, and a very cute French chef. Sophie must figure out a way to survive all the heat and still stay true to herself. A terrific YA offering--fresh, fun, and sprinkled with romance.

Have you ever been on a strict diet and then all of a sudden decide that you need to chill out and eat a little comfort food, or else you just might go crazy? Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff is my comfort food. This book is exactly what I needed to make me smile. It was an adorable, quick read with such a unique sounding storyline that I knew I would love it. And honestly, it had me at the title. I gobbled this book up like I did the delectable pizza I had in Siena, Italy this past May. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I’m kind of a reality TV junkie. I love all of it. The drama, the excitement, the fact that I’m watching real people rather than polished actors. When I read about this book, I knew we’d make a great pair. It embodies all that is reality TV, but also gives you a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes happenings that we all know hold more truth than the show itself. The idea behind the book is so fresh and unique to me. Reality TV meets young adult novel. I’m all for it!

2. The characters are all so likeable. We’ve got Sophie, the main girl, who is this sweet thing with broad hips and a love of food and her foodie family. I love her family. They’re right out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I loved that. Her best friend, Alex, being the true friend that he is, has her back and gets her on the show with a little coaxing and many pep talks. The contestants on the show (two of which become Sophie’s best friends) all fill a very specific role for a very specific character. You know how reality TV is. You’ve got the sweetheart, the villain, the brooding anti-social, etc. I really enjoyed them all, especially when they stirred up drama. The judges were all the sterotypical, dramatic judges you see on TV, and we even had Tommy who is the spitting image of The Chairman on Iron Chef. And then… there’s the hot French guy who, off camera, has Sophie swooning and daydreaming. The cast of characters was a winner in my book!

3. The FOOD. Oh my! I loved reading all the yummy-sounding descriptions of the dishes that the contestants made. Each week they were on the show focused on different genres, if you will, of food. There was a Latin week, an Asian one, a French one, a Mediterranean one, and a Pastry one. This book made me so hungry! Of course, the author included some of the recipes for these meals and desserts, so if you feel the need to satisfy any resulting cravings, you’re encouraged to do so.

4. I was worried about whether or not I would believe the excitement of the kitchen during competition time, but I did! I got really excited and read faster. It was like reading an episode of Iron Chef. I really enjoyed it.

5. The romance was minimal, but there. I really enjoyed the small glimmers of romance, but appreciated that they were not the focus of the story.

6. I also appreciated that the book was not predictable. It was not perfectly wrapped up into the obvious conclusion. It made things more realistic for me.

Overall, Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff that Made Me Famous was stinkin’ cute. It was quick, light, happy, sweet, and savory. I loved the idea, and the execution was done really well. The writing was witty, and the characters were all loveable. I’d recommend this to anyone who needs a little comfort food in their life.

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