Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Top 10 from 2011

I've sure missed my blogging buddies. This busy life is keeping me from my regular blogging, but I felt the need to at least share my favorite reads from this year. I hope you all have had a wonderful year of reading. Mine was so amazing. Apparently, I've gotten much better at picking out great books. There were so many I really loved that didn't make the list, but for me these were the best of the best.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
Stonefather by Orson Scott Card
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
With A Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

If you haven't read these, give them a try! I may have to do another post that covers the second tier. You don't want to miss those either.

Happy New Year!

Books read in 2011

1. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
2. Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
3. Matched by Ally Condie
4. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
5. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
6. Being Sixteen by Allyson Braithwaite Condie
7. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
8. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
9. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
10. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
11. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
12. Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan (Book 1) by John Flanagan (Aussie Challenge)
13. Q & A by Vikas Swarup
14. Liar by Justine Larbalestier (Aussie Challenge)
15. Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
16. The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One by Patrick Ness
17. Exposed by Kimberly Marcus (reread)
18. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
19. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
20. Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley
21. Where She Went by Gayle Forman
22. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
23. Stonefather by Orson Scott Card
24. Stoney Creek, Alabama by Jennifer Youngblood and Sandra Poole
25. The Paper Rose Club by Jennifer Youngblood and Sandra Poole
26. The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
27. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
28. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
29. Nory Ryan's Song by Patricia Reilly Giff
30. Maggie's Door by Patricia Reilly Giff
31. Water Street by Patricia Reilly Giff
32. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
33. Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
34. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
35. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
36. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (reread)
37. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
38. Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argylle
39. Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
40. Hourglass by Myra McEntire
41. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
42. Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
43. Divergent by Veronica Roth
44. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
45. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
46. Saraswati's Way by Monika Schroeder
47. The Sweetest Thing by Christine Mandelski
48. You're Wearing That? by Deborah Tannen
49. Possession by Elana Johnson
50. With A Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo (re-read)
51. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
52. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
53. Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
54. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
55. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
56. Wake by Lisa McMann
57. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
58. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Not your everyday thriller: Monarch by Michelle Davidson Argylle

Product Details
Disclosure: I was an early beta reader for this book.

Synopsis/set up: Nick is a CIA operative betrayed by someone he trusted. Now he's on the run from his enemies and his friends. He doesn't know who he can trust, and so he seeks out someone from his past who can hide him until he sorts things out. Lillian owns the reclusive Monarch Inn and a bit of Nick's heart.

What I thought? I enjoyed this book in large part because of Michelle's signature writing style:  vivid to the point of being cinematic. AND It's a page turner. If you like thrillers, it'll be right down your alley. If you don't, you may still like it. There's a nice romance, plus, it's so easy to get sucked into these characters' lives. Michelle paints them in such a way that you feel like you know them. They are fully fleshed out with backstories and complex motivations. The good guys aren't completely good, and the bad guys aren't all evil. They are human and their actions are understandable--even when they do something horrible.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Anybody out there? I'm baaaaaaaack! It's been a much longer break than I intended, but about the time I was going to start back with blogging, we got an 11 week old puppy. I'm not sure what I was thinking in agreeing to another dog, but he's adorable and sweet and pretty dang smart. 
So... He's been a great addition to the family, but it's been like life with a baby in the house. Finally, he's getting pretty well trained, and life is settling back in around me. Whew.

With my break, I found that I was getting more writing done in addition to everything else. It just went to show me how much my blogging was interfering with my writing. Soooo. I've decided to only blog once a week. If I have something burning a hole in my pocket, I might add a 2nd post on occasion. How was everyone's summer? How are you feeling about blogging these days?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Life takes charge

Hello everyone. It's always been my policy that, when my everyday life needs me, the first thing to get set on the back burner is my blog. With ACTs and my homeschoolers' needs and everything else that is popping up. I'm going to have to take a break for a few weeks. There's nothing wrong. It's just that there are only so many hours in a day. See you when I get back. I hope everyone is enjoying the beginnings of Spring! It's sure lovely around here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday's photolife--Time at the barn

Wednesday's answer and winner: It is a mounting block with two levels. If you look closely you can see the hoof prints in the gravel of the path beside it. The first to get it right was Stina Lindenblatt, but it's not just for the disabled. Using it helps keep the saddle padding, etc., in place when you mount. They're not necessary, but they're nice. I rarely used them when I was young, but I don't get on a horse these days without one.
I almost used this picture, but I thought it might be too hard. What do you think?

On to the photolife:

My kiddies (and myself for that matter) have a particular love for horsey kind. We have spent tons of time over the years at barns hanging with the horses. I don't usually take a lot of pictures there though. Sure, every now and then I will, but, when there, it's more about the enjoyment of the experience than keeping a record of it. There's just something about these amazing animals. Time with them is uplifting. It's no wonder there are great rehabilitation and therapy programs that use horses. 
My youngest with a pony she has a soft spot for.
The youngest grooming one of the sweetest ponies on the planet. She wasn't riding that day just wanted to come while her brother rode. 
I love how different riders express their individual personalities.
We find ourselves reflected in their eyes.
Application to writing? I've often wondered if I should write stories with horses. I almost included them in one WIP but ended up cutting the horse person. She was extraneous to the main plotline, and I found I only put her in because I wanted to include someone like her. That should be a clue, eh? They say you should write what you know. What do you think? Should I do a horse story?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--For the boys out there

Up for today: Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan (Book 1) by John Flanagan

Why I bought it? This question should probably be more along the lines of why I read it. I actually bought this several years ago. It was something my daughter picked out at the bookstore. Barnes and Noble--I think. I finally read it because my son kept pushing it on me.

Synopsis/Set up: 15 year old Will wants more than anything to be chosen as an apprentice to the battle school, but he's rejected for his slight size. He ends up being chosen as the Ranger's apprentice, and he's not sure he's happy about it. He learns that his natural talents and size are a perfect fit for the Rangers. It's the story of a kid finding his place in the world.

What I thought? I'm getting to be a big fan of all these Australian authors who have been showing up on our bookshelves recently. This is a fantastic read for a boy, and I didn't want to put it down either. The characters are great, fully realized with strengths and weaknesses. (On a side note: as a mom, I was glad my kids read it. The heros are the kind that I like my kids to identify with. Working hard, doing their best, striving to do what is right. But not perfect. Real.) The setting is detailed and you feel like you're really in a medieval environment. It's an engrossing, fun read. Flanagan's style reminds me a lot of Louis L'Amour--a non-western Louis L'Amour for kids and teens. Here's a great video of Flanagan talking about why he wrote this series and his writing in general.

My Rating: **** 1/2 out of 5

My Daughter's Rating (16 yr. old): ***** out of 5, She read it several years ago and kept recommending it to her brother until he read it.

My Son's Rating (14 yr. old):  ***** out of 5, "It's wonderful," he said when I asked for his comment.  He used to be a reluctant reader. (Can I tell you how happy I am to be able to say he "used to be"?) After he read the Percy Jackson series and finally realized that he could like reading, I was searching high and low for something else he would love. His sister brought this out for him and pitched it again. He bit this time and loved it. He has even taken up archery as a result of reading this novel and all the ones that follow. I recently bought 8 and 9, and 10 comes out in April.

Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, This is mostly for the violence. There's enough to make it exciting for the older boys and teens--not so much that younger boys can't enjoy it. As for language, there may have been a mild expletive here or there, but there was nothing jarring to me. I wouldn't have a problem with my 10 year old daughter reading it, but she hasn't yet. She's busy reading Rick Riordan.

Monday, February 28, 2011


I'm going to need to take a blog break this week. See you next Monday.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Being on a Panel

Wednesday's answer and winners: I was at the WNBA (not basketball but books) Panel on YA Literature in Charlotte, NC. I was actually on the panel and my illustrious co-panelists were (drumroll please) Tracey Adams (agent extraordinaire--she and her husband run Adams Literary), Beth Revis (up and coming author of Across the Universe), and Carrie Ryan (established author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Dead Tossed Waves, and The Dark and Hollow Places). The moderator was Snow Wildsmith.

As you can see, I was low man on the totem pole, and people didn't come to hear my depths of wisdom about YA lit. Even still, I hope I added a few good things and some comic relief. It was a lot of fun. Samantha Vérant was the first to list 3 people in the picture and Patti was the first to guess where. Honorable Mention to Alexa who gave every detail about where I was. Y'all are on the ball. Go check out their blogs if you haven't. There's great stuff there. N.B. Tracey Adams is Kimberly Marcus' agent and that's where I heard about the book I reviewed on Monday.

Alexa actually asked for a recap of the event and so, since I know you time is limited, rather than do a photolife post today, I'm linking you to Carol Baldwin's post about it. Wow. Lots of links. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where in the world is Lotus Girl?

The "where" may be hard unless you were there or heard about it, but you can also win by giving me the names of 3 of the people in the group shot.

Hint: There was book signing going on at the end.

If you missed Monday's book review, you really should go back and check it out. You don't want to miss this book.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--Terse and Gripping

Up for today: Exposed by Kimberly Marcus


Why I bought it? I didn't actually buy this one. It's not out until tomorrow. Disclosure: Kimberly Marcus' agent gave it to me when we were on a panel together last week and asked me to review it.

Synopsis/Set-up:  Photogirl, Liz, captures life and people in exposed moments on film. She is a senior in high school and wants to study photography in college. (Those of you who have been following this blog for a while or know me at all will understand how that was enough to pique my interest.) In the aftermath of a fight she and her "forever-best" friend, Kate, have at their monthly sleepover, their friendship seems to be unraveling. As secrets are exposed about the source of the friction, Liz is left questioning herself and all those closest to her.

What I thought? I LOVED this book, and it's not just because of the photography references (although I enjoyed those immensely). At the beginning I liked the clever ways the author put things and the spot on teen voice. As I got deeper into the story, it was as if my heart were being gripped in a fist that kept getting tighter and tighter. I'm sure my lips were thin and pale. The story is terse and gripping. It has been distilled down to its raw essence and is so compelling in its honesty that I think people will be talking about it for a long time. I found it incredibly thought provoking and enjoyed the different perspective on its hot button topic. I don't want my review to be a spoiler, so I'll stop there. Disclosure #2: I love books in verse (if they are done well), and this is in verse. Don't let that stop you from reading it, if you think you don't like that form. This is a well told story and the verse flows extremely well--like tightly honed prose with a little something extra. I'm rereading it right now, and I rarely reread anything any more. With all the great books out there, who's got time to reread? And yet! Here I am rereading. I'll grant you it is a quick read (even if you find yourself rereading certain pages over and over) but still...

My Rating:  ***** out of 5. If you couldn't already guess, I'm breaking out all 5 stars for this one. Rare for me these days, but that's how much I liked it. In fact this is one of the 3 books (that's our limit) I will take to recommend for my book club when we make our selections in June for next year's reads.

Cleanness Score: 5 out of 10. This is mostly for the themes, but nothing is shown explicitly. There are very few incidents of language and nothing super strong. This is something I think teens would do well to read, but if you are a very conservative parent, you may want to read it first. It won't take you long. I wouldn't have any problem with my teens (16 and 14) reading it, but I wouldn't give it to my 10 year old yet.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday's photolife--Aspects of an icon

Wednesday's Answer and winner: Hannah Beth was the first to get The Washington Monument. Congrats.

On to the Photolife:

When I'm taking pictures of iconic subjects like The Washington Monument, I like to capture as many different elements of them as I can.

With this view, everyone probably would have known exactly what the subject was.

This one would have been pretty obvious too.

It's good to get distance shots with other elements like the trees here.

Or up close, showing the variations in color in the surface and things like the security wires or even chips in the stone.

Here's a part that many of you may have never seen before. You have to go inside for it.

Another more obscure aspect. This is of the floor mosaic inside. I love that the stars are brass. These kinds of details are fascinating to me.

Getting up close and personal we can see what an icon is made of. Its mortar and imperfections.

Application to writing? This concept goes so well with characterization. It's important to include as many different aspects of our characters as we can to add dimension and authenticity to them. Show how most people see them. Their strengths and weaknesses. What they're like on the inside and out. What they're made of. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What in the world?

Hint: This could be a "Where in the world?" too.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--A few of my favorite love stories

Happy Valentine's Day! In celebration I thought I'd list some of my favorite books and movies with romance rather than my regular book review. I'm sure I'll leave out some great ones, but these are what come to mind today. If you enjoy a heart flutter or two, you might want to check them out.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Stargirl and Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Yeah, yeah. Whatever you say, it's still an engrossing love story.)
Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
Old Magic by Marianne Curley

Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version, but most any version will do)
North and South (Pitter pat)
Bride and Prejudice (The best spin on P and P ever! If you like musicals.)
Dear Frankie
Becoming Jane
Young Victoria
Return to me
Notting Hill
Sleepless in Seattle
The Prince and Me--not the sequels

Tell me some of your favorites in the comments.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday's photolife--UP close and wacky

Wednesday's answer and winner: It was indeed a pinewood derby. I thought the track was pretty slick. My son went to the regional and this was the track they had there. Congrats to Nisa for being the first in with the answer.

On to the Photolife:

Think about the way you take pictures of kids. Do you shoot them straight on with a smile? Are you shooting down at them with them looking up? It's a standard take for adults. I like to get some pictures like that, because it's the most common way I see them. 
BUT. It's also nice to get down on their level.
OR, if you want something with more impact get below them and shoot UP. Let them get crazy. Don't forget to get close and fill the frame with their wackiness.

Application to writing? It can be good to include different perspectives of your characters--different aspects of who they are and how others perceive them. I like to include some of the funny things they do. It can infuse your writing with humor, and every book needs a little humor--even the most serious or maybe especially those.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What in the world?

Hint: I was there for my son.

Be as specific as you can.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--Steampunkin'

Up for today: Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld: Book CoverBehemoth by Scott Westerfeld: Book Cover

Why I bought them? I had heard great things online about Leviathan, but I thought I wouldn't like Steampunk so I didn't buy it at first. I picked it up in the bookstore several times loving the cover and quality of the book. Debated it, thought about if one of my kids would like it, and put it back. Natalie Whipple raved about how good it was, so I finally decided to give it a chance. I got it up the next time I was at the Barnes and Noble. I bought Behemoth at the BN as soon as it came out.

Synopses/Set ups: Leviathan starts at the same point as WWI when Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife are assassinated. One of the main characters is their son Alek who is fleeing for his life. The other main character is Deryn, a girl masquerading as a boy to be in England's air force. The twist is that Alek is fleeing Austria in a Clanker machine (a sort of walking tank) and Deryn's ship is an enormous dirigible whale. The fun begins when their worlds (Clanker and Darwinist) collide. Here's a fun trailer that explains the difference in Clanker and Darwinist. 1:14. So not long. I love the ending line. Behemoth follows their continuing adventures. (I don't want to spoil anything.)

What I thought? Leviathan completely swept me away. The characters feel real and grounded even though the elements of the story are fantastical. The history is actually pretty accurate although there are many departures. Some of the criticisms that I heard about the book said that the characters come across a little young for their ages and the artwork (which is amazing and part of why I had to get the print books) seems to depict them that way as well, but that sort of thing didn't really bother me. The beginning is a little slow, but don't let that stop you. Once Alek and Deryn's stories merge things really take off. I loved it. Behemoth is equally well done.

My Rating: ***** out of 5 (for both), Rare 5 star books for me. These were two of my top favorites I read last year.

Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, There is a little light language and some fairly mild violence and a lot of peril. All in all, it's fairly innocuous. I'm even considering letting my 10 year old read it. It's recommended for 7th grade and above.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday's photolife--document it all

Wednesday's answer and winner: Ellis Island. (And yes I did go by it--I took that picture--but it wasn't open for tours at the time so we didn't get to go in.) Congrats to Domey Malasarn from The Literary Lab for being the first to get it right. I thought this one would be trickier. I guess my hint was a little too helpful.

On to the Photolife:

I'm a big proponent of documenting everything when taking pictures. It's kind of like when you're documenting your life including the prices of a gallon of gas or a loaf of bread the year you were born or telling stories about your dog's penchant for climbing trees (my mother had a dog that did that) or your favorite shoes in the summer. I love those sorts of details. Here's a picture that my niece took at a family get together.

I love all the details: the darkness of the foot imprints (they've obviously been well worn), the size differences (a nephew's and a niece's), that both shoes are Rainbows (an incredibly comfortable flip-flop that one niece swears by--in SC they know their flip-flops), etc.

Application to writing? It's important to give details of things that may seem trivial. It adds authenticity. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--A fairy tale twisted

Up for today: Cinders by Michelle Davidson Argylle (review requested by Mary Kay)

Literary Fantasy (Adult)

Why I bought it? Michelle is a friend, and I love her writing. I have a signed copy. (Disclosure: I did some beta reading for her on this project.)

Synopsis/set up: This books begins with Cinderella in the palace, married to her prince. Royal life is not all its cracked up to be, and Cinderella wonders if magic can result in true love. Doubts creep in and lead her in unexpected directions. Not necessarily happy directions.

What I thought? The writing is incredibly well done, and, when you think that she didn't have all the infrastructure of traditional publishing, it just goes to show what a great writer Michelle is. (It helped her get a publisher for another book and then more, so obviously it's well written.) She does vivid like nobody's business. It's one of my favorite things about her writing. It's cinematic. The story line is unique--at times cool and clever, at times infuriating. It elicited strong reactions from me often visceral. I wanted to shake Cinderella or sit down with her and give her a good talking to or a shoulder to cry on. The twists and turns keep the reader engaged and guessing. I was surprised by the the ending but prepared for it all the same. The secondary characters are well drawn and realistic--no two-dimensional, paper-thin people here. In some ways, I think of this as a fairy tale that hit reality.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5.

Cleanness Score: 5 out of 10, This is written for adults and has a some pretty tame marital love scenes and there's some war type violence. This is a dark tale and has a healthy body count. I think it's fine for older teens. I wouldn't have a problem with my 16 year old reading it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday's Photolife--editing

Wednesday's Winner: This was my first time using It was so nice. I assigned everyone numbers according to how many points they earned, then plugged those numbers into Random and voila! Today's winner is testament to blogging, tweeting, and facebooking to get extra points and so more chances to win. Congrats to Samantha Vérant.  Email me at lacmoss (at) gmail (dot) com with your address, and I'll send the book out to you. It's actually the one that Beth is signing in Wednesday's picture.

On to the Photolife:

I love a good photo shoot. I think I've told you that the k-check of the shutter snapping calms me. I can find peace puttering around the yard, lying on the ground, or cozying up to a tree capturing little moments in time. I'm actually a bit of a purist. I like the shot I take to be the final one I'm going for. BUT. Lots of them aren't. Sometimes, to get what I want, I have to make it happen on the computer.

Here's a shot from one of our recent snow storms. You should have seen the splits I did to get it. Very acrobatic. This is the raw shot. It's really nothing special, but I had the bare bones of something to work with.

Here's a cropped and doctored version. It's natural and you may prefer it, but what I wanted was to highlight the leaf.
So... In this one, I photoshopped it in layers maximizing the color of the leaf and minimizing the color of everything else. Now the viewer's eye goes straight to the leaf. Its impact is much more powerful.

Application to Writing? I think of the photo shoot as a sort of rough drafting. It's wonderful to get things right in that first draft, but not everyone has that particular knack. I have a well known author friend who writes in such a way that his first draft is his final draft (other than minor copy edits). He insists that it keeps the writing fresh. I agree (mostly). It's like getting the framing, angle, and lighting perfect in a shot when you're taking it or being able to do minor edits to get it (like in the 2nd picture). I wish I could do it in my writing, but I'm much better at taking my raw draft and layering and tweaking to craft what I want. Some effects* (like in the last version of the photo) are only available through editing. Not everyone will like it better, but some will. It all depends on what you, as the author, want.

*An example of this in writing would be things like flashbacks or interwoven plot lines.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Where in the World is Lotus Girl? (with a seriously awesome prize)

Today's picture should be extremely easy. In fact, I'll be shocked if you don't get it right after last week's posts.

The rules: This contest is for everyone (even internationally) who answers correctly not just the first to get it right. It will be weighted for those who get their answers in early (+5 for the first, +4 for the 2nd, +3 for 3rd, and +2 for the 4th) or tweet or post about it (+5--just send me a link or something for verification). The deadline is this Friday at 6 AM, Eastern Time. Oh, and to win you must be a follower.

The prize is a signed ARC of the NY Times bestselling novel, Across the Universe by the illustrious Beth Revis.

Good Luck!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday=Book Review Time--A bit of black humor

Up for today: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Why I bought it? I actually didn't buy this. I won it in a contest. Yay me! I'm so glad I did. I probably wouldn't have read it otherwise. I thought I wasn't a fan of necromancers and that sort of thing, but the blogger giving it away raved about how great it was, so I entered.

Synopsis/Set up: When goofing around at work gets out of hand and a taillight gets busted on the WRONG car, a new world opens up for Sam (full name: Samhain Corvus LaCroix--it's something, eh? and there's meaning in them there names). A world that may end up killing him. He's been an unmotivated average guy, but he discovers that he is actually a necromancer. Can he discover why his powers have taken so long to surface? Or save himself and his friends from the impending doom?

What I thought? With the title's spin on Elton John's Tiny Dancer* I figured I was in for a fun ride, but I had no idea how entertaining it would be.  It ended up as one of my top 10 favorites of 2010 (a stiff (no pun intended) competition). Sam's voice and personality carry the day: witty and sarcastic but also lovable. He is trying to do the right thing. He is just as shocked at the events unfolding around him (death, mayhem, impending death, undead pandas, a talking head, etc.) as I was, even though others take them in stride. The big strength for me in this book was the humor. It kept me laughing all the way through. I love that it's a great book for guys. There are not near enough of these out there. If you like dark humor, do yourself a favor and read this. I seriously had a hard time putting it down.

*All the chapters, as a matter of fact, are headed with song titles (or variations on them) and very clever. I laughed out loud at some of them and chuckled later about points in the chapter that applied. Most teen readers won't recognize them all though as many of the songs are older ones. (Not even my daughter, who's a classic rock aficionado, recognized them all.)

My Rating: ****1/2

My Daughter's Rating: ****3/4, She said, "I really loved the book. There were parts that could have been written better, but it was still very, very good. The humor was pretty dark most of the time, but it was a good fit for me."

Cleanness Score: 6 out of 10, This is for your older teens. There is some language, violence, and a sort of skipped-over sex scene. I did let my 16 year old daughter read it.

It was a finalist for the William C. Morris Award that honors debut YAs. A seriously amazing debut novel.

A recap of how I rate books for anyone new:
* = Complete drivel. Not worth the paper it's printed on.
** = So, so. Has some redeeming qualities but is, essentially, a disappointment.
*** = An enjoyable read but nothing too terribly earth shattering
**** = Very enjoyable. This is where I'd recommend for others to read. I'd consider buying it.
***** = So much fun reading that I can't put it down or so compelling that I can't stop thinking about it. I HAVE to own this book.
*****+ = One of my all time favorite books. I know some people would think this is over the top, but then again sometimes I am that kind of person. I won't give many books this rating though.

Cleanness Score: 
The cleanness score (CS) is because I have young family members that will read these reviews, and so I want them and their moms to know what they will get with the books I review, and I think that others of you out there picking books for your kids might like to know. (Is that enough ands?) That said--my scale is going to be from 0 to 10. 0 has absolutely nothing the least bit offensive in it and 10 is for those books that have very offensive material. (I think I can guarantee that there will be no 10s in any of my book reviews, but it will still be on the scale for gauging purposes.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday's Photolife--A launch

Sorry to be posting so late and not the full photolife post today--just a few pictures. My computer has been in the shop since Wed. morning (not long after I posted) and I just got it back a little while ago. Wow. Talk about a tough time for me.

Wednesday's answer and winner: Kudos to those of you who recognized Stephanie Perkins the author of Anna and the French Kiss. I thought the blue streaks would help. She posted last week about Beth Revis' book launch for Across the Universe and told how we finally got to meet in person. We've been blogging buddies for over 2 years. Beth and I met in person for the first time that night too. We've been blogging buddies for about 2 1/2 years. It was all very exciting. So... that's where I was. Congrats to RSJ for being the first to get it right.

Here are a few shots:

The bookstore was really cool. This is the window opposite the star scene from Wednesday's post.
Here's Beth signing my copy of AtU.

Us mugging for the camera (Thanks for taking the picture, Snow.) and Stephanie is right: Beth totally has princess hair. It looked so cool. I told Beth that we look like we could be related. What do you think?

Steph's husband, Jared, took this picture of Steph and me. Check his composition out. He's put our faces in the power spot. Thanks, man!
It was a fun time. Here's Beth enjoying her time in the spotlight. 
I'll be back next week with my regular schedule. Hopefully there will be no more computer glitches. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Where in the World is Lotus Girl?

I'm finally back. Yippee! AND it's Wednesday, so here's a tricky Where in the World? for you to get us back in the swing. If you've been paying attention to the world of books you may be able to get it right off. Good luck!

Hints: The picture on the windows is very appropriate and if you recognize the fabulous author in the lower left corner, that could help you. She was there and blogged about it.

Books Read in 2010

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (reread)
3. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
4. Paper Towns by John Green
5. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
6. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
7. Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
8. Sanctuary by Meg Cabot
9. Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott
10. Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
11. When It Happens by Susane Colasanti
12. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
13. Two-way Street by Lauren Barnholdt
14. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
15. Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater
16. Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater
17. Massacre at Mountain Meadows by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, Jr. and Glen M. Leonard
18. Fire by Kristin Cashore
19. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (reread)
20. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
21. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (reread)
22. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (reread)
23. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (reread)
24. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
25. The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
26. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
27. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
28. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (reread)
29. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
30. Runaway by Meg Cabot
31. Heist Society by Ally Carter
32. These is my words by Nancy Turner
33. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
34. Pendragon Book Ten: The Soldiers of Hallaby DJ McHale
35. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Booksby Azar Nafisi
36. Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott
37. Wake by Lisa McMann
38. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
39. Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
40. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
41. The short second life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
42. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
43. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
44. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
45. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
46. Cinders by Michelle Davidson Argyle
47. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
48. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
49. Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
50. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
51. Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush
52. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
53. This Time Together: Laughter and Reflectionby Carol Burnett
54. The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman
55. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
56. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
57. Being of Two Minds by Pamela F. Service
58. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
59. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
60. The Christmas Train by David Baldacci
61. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
62. Pegasus by Robin McKinley