Monday, May 31, 2010

The Backwards and Disordered BEA/BBC Recap Part 2

I have returned in one exhausted piece from my New York City adventures this past week at BEA and Book Blogger Convention. According to UPS, my box of plunder is sitting around in Harrisburg somewhere to arrive on Wednesday, which renders me somewhat incapable of giving much of an all-encompassing impression of my first, oh, day and a half at BEA. I was in an overwhelmed stupor for about half my time on the show floor at BEA, so I'm not sure what all is even in the box, and I was so stingy with my photo taking, that I have little to share with you in that regard, either. Until the box comes, that is. I'm hoping the box will help me to recover most of my memories of Wednesday, when I was the most stupefied by everything going on around me. That said, I just hate not writing anything up about my excellent three days of insanity (including pictures!), so I'm going to do my recap in a couple parts. And, oh yeah, backwards! Well, sort of backwards. I figure, why not start from halfway through and regale you with the first part second? If you were at BEA, and your brain was melted by all the wonderfulness like mine (still) is, I'm sure all this might make sense to you. If not, do accept my sincerest apologies for this lack of coherence.

Since the box is the source of my "problems" here and probably will be for some time, given the ridiculous amount of books contained therein, we'll start with me mailing it. At about 11 AM on the second day, I said to myself, "Self, this is getting out of hand. Nothing else will fit in this box of advance copy goodness for shipment." Shortly thereafter, self replied, "Self, I don't care. Let's just make one more pass through X and Y booth before we mail off the box. Otherwise you'll get more and have to fit them in the suitcase. Or maybe you might have to anyway, but whatever. How often does this kind of thing happen to you?" So after I made one more pass, I mailed off the box. Well, I unpacked it, and repacked it to make everything fit, and then mailed it. 44 lbs, $50, UPS. And that is all I will say about the box.

With the box mailed, I knew I had to have some willpower to withstand the call of the exhibit hall for another few hours until the Book Blogger Con reception and the show being over. Again I said to myself (yes, I talked to myself a lot in NYC, okay? You should all be glad that I went all in for my own hotel room. It got loud at times. Heh.), "Self, you and I both know that you have little to no willpower to speak of. The only way to keep you from picking up 10 more books is to stand in line for hours at a time to get only 3 books that you really really really want." So, this is what I did. I waited in lines for signed copies of Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution, Justin Cronin's The Passage, and Sara Gruen's Ape House. Later, with some skill, I actually did fit them all, plus two, into my suitcase.

See Exhibit A:

It may not look like willpower, but it is. And no, I don't know how those other two slipped in. I definitely don't know how that top one slipped in.

Having achieved this great feat, I hustled downstairs for the Book Blogger Convention Reception, where I paid for my book lust by having the (really cute) tote bag with the above pictured books yanking my shoulder off for about 2 full hours (not counting the part where I lugged it back to the Holiday Inn).

Oh wait, hold on. Exhibit B:

See, I told you it was really cute.

The reception was incredible. The large room was positively bursting with bloggers, book publicity people, publishing house people, you name it. We were all mingling in this room like nobody's business. It was an unbelievable reminder of how far book blogging has come and how many people whose lines of work involve getting books into the hands of readers have come to see bloggers as a real force for this purpose. It was at once incredibly exciting and a reminder, at least to me personally, that when it comes to book blogging, we might actually have a bigger weight on a shoulders than we realize in an age when periodicals are backing away from book reviews and promotion at an alarming rate. Even if you forget about ARCs and review copies and all the complicated trappings that sometimes come with those, we're becoming a greater percentage of the population actively keeping love and enthusiasm for books alive right now and in the future (just by being us and loving what we love!).

Anyhow, my preaching aside, I met a lot of fantastic and interesting people, of which, surprisingly few were actually book bloggers, though I do remember spending some time with a few lovely ladies of the book blogosphere: Carrie from Nomadreader, Nat from In Spring It Is the Dawn, and Sheila from Book Journey and a puppy come immediately to mind. Great conversations were had, and the time just flew by, which is saying a lot, because for introverts as I and a great many of us are, time spent mingling in a large group setting doesn't usually lend itself to time "flying by."

I wish I could say that I did something wildly exciting after that, but as it so happens, I was pretty beat, and I retired to my hotel room to eat some takeout, briefly check in on the rest of the book blogosphere, and attempt to reorganize my suitcase to accomodate the additional books...and of course, rejuvenate myself for Friday's Book Blogger Convention!

To be continued....

As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that it's getting awfully long. Now I'm thinking I shall take up three posts with this rambling of which this will be the first but actually the second under the incoherent guidelines mentioned at the beginning of this post. So this is the first post, but I'm calling it the second because if these were in any actual order, this would have been the second post. Get it? No? Okay, good.

Be on the lookout for Part 3 (which is actually the second post!) in the very near future.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Because It's Never Too Late... do what you should have done three days ago.

If you read this on a semi-regular basis, you probably know I'm doing BEA and the Book Blogger Convention this week, a good and legitimate reason for the lack of content you see here and hopefully, once I get home, a great source of content to be seen here for some time into the indeterminate future. I've been having a great time meeting so many book bloggers and publishing people and authors and all sorts of people who really love books, and it has been truly awesome. Really, if you ever get the chance to do this or make a chance to do it, it is an incredible experience! So, if all of you who are reading aren't here meeting me at BEA, I hope you'll bear with me for a moment while I write some stuff for a few new visitors who didn't lose my card. ;-)

Hi, I'm Megan, and I'm a book blogger! If I met you at BEA, thanks for stopping by my humble internet home. I'm sure it was a pleasure meeting you, and I hope to hear from you again in the future.

I work in healthcare, but my real passion is for books. I love to read and review books. I review books of all sorts from literary fiction to historical fiction to young adult and even some memoirs and other non-fiction and (cliche as it may sound) much, much more. Basically, I like to live vicariously through my reading, and whatever captures my interest is what I review here. I am always willing to consider books to review. I pride myself on thorough, honest (but fair and balanced!) reviews. If that's something you'd like to know more about, please check out my review policy.

I've been blogging here with more or less frequency since 2007, review around 40 books a year, and can also be found on Twitter. My best feature, if you can call it that, and also a good way to get a sense of what sorts of book I love are my annual Leafy Awards where I display my slightly warped sense of humor while attempting to, hopefully, honor my best reads of the year(s).

Anyhow, that's enough about me. Hope you had a great BEA (or Armchair BEA, as the case may be), and I'll see again you next week from the safety of your glowing computer screens!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Evermore by Alyson Noel (+BEA!!)

Greetings, fair readers! This has been quite a week. When I'm not at the day job, it seems like every spare minute has been spent getting ready for next week's BEA/Book Blogger Con awesomeness. As I approach next week's bookish bonanza, I find that I'm reading neither books nor blogs, and I'm obviously not doing any blogging myself. That is, until now. Really, the irony of it all is startling. Despite my scrambled brain, fevered from evenings trolling Twitter for cool BEA stuff and dashing off e-mails trying to make plans to meet everyone I can in the span of about 2 and half days, I've determined that maybe I should try to write a book review and earn my book blogging keep, especially considering that within less than a week I'll probably be putting my business card with this very blog's URL into a variety of hands who might actually have an interest in seeing me write about, like, books and reading and stuff. If, right now, you, like me, are engaged in your last minute BEA planning and have little to no time for such things as reading blog content when you could be making a New York City lunch/dinner/anything really date with your "imaginary" friends from the book blogosphere, I'd love to hear from you. I'm all for getting the most out of those 2 and 1/2 days and meeting as many bloggers as I can, so if you're a helpless procrastinator that has waited this long to make BEA plans (like me!) and want to get together at BEA, please do send me an e-mail at toadacious1 at yahoo dot com. We can exchange numbers and enjoy each other's company in very short order!

In the meantime, how about a quickie review of Evermore by Alyson Noel to remind us all what it is I do here (and enable me to finally go to the post office and mail some books out to some people who are waiting for them)?

Ever Bloom had the kind of life everyone dreams of. She's a popular girl, a cheerleader. She has a great family, a mom, a dad, a dog, and the occasionally bratty little sister. Unfortunately, a car wreck leaves Ever the lone survivor, and things are more than a little changed for her. For one thing, when she wakes up after the accident, she can see peoples' auras and hear their thoughts, and contact with them can leave her immersed in their life stories. Overwhelmed by the constant noise of unwanted information, Ever closes the door on her past and becomes a hoodie wearing, Ipod toting "freak" shunned by classmates at her new school, and happy to fly under the radar. That is, until Damen shows up. Undeniably hot, there's something different about Damen, something even more magical and mysterious than his ability to conjure flowers out of thin air. At once drawn to and desperate to escape Damen and his unpredictable overtures, Ever finds herself wrapped up in something much bigger than she could have ever anticipated.

Evermore is a book that's all about plot. The secondary characters aren't terribly well fleshed out. The writing isn't even particularly top notch. However, the storytelling is top notch. Ever's voice is compelling and sympathetic, despite an occasional tendency toward teenage whiny-ness. Damen's aura of mystery and magic draws the reader in. Evermore is most definitely a bona fide page turner with a paranormal edge that works so well as a guilty pleasure of the sort that every reader needs. Teenage readers in the era of Twilight will love, and I, myself, definitely plan to seek out the next book in the series.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Hear ye, hear ye! If you are one of the 4 people who haven't read (and probably loved and recommended) Life As We Knew It, you should really just break down and do it. In the meantime, I will attempt to review this awesome book in a way that assumes you haven't heard it all before. ;-)

Miranda is a normal teenager. She goes to school, crushes on guys, and frequents the internet forums of her favorite Olympic-bound ice skater. She has an older brother, Matt, away at college and younger brother, Jonny, who wants to play professional baseball. She lives in Pennsylvania with her mom. Her dad and stepmother are having a baby and want her to be the godmother. She worries about homework and tests. Everything about Miranda's life is business as usual and humming along more or less as planned, that is, until a meteor smashes into the moon and knocks it closer to earth unleashing natural disaster after natural disaster upon the world.

Suddenly, "normalcy" becomes extinct, and Miranda finds herself and her family living in a whole new world where survival is the only goal and concern, and any means are considered justifiable to achieve that end. Life As We Knew It is Miranda's personal story of the apocalypse as written in her journal. She chronicles the big events - the tidal waves, the earthquakes, the volcanos, but she also chronicles the often more mundane events of her daily life as she, her mother, and her brothers struggled to store up firewood and food enough to survive a long winter alone, without electricity, without anything.

Life As We Knew It is terribly powerful in a totally unexpected way. Starting out, the journal format seems like it could be a little rocky, not shedding enough light on the characters, not giving us detailed descriptions, but as the book progresses and Miranda's world devolves into chaos bit by bit, day by day, the journal has the effect of making this horrifying sequence of events shatteringly realistic. Miranda's slow and frustrating transformation from a self-centered, uncomprehending teen, to someone who will do anything to save the people she loves is profound. In Life As We Knew It, Pfeffer creates a realistic and terrifying scenario that, even though it is fiction, seems so frighteningly possible. So engrossing and believable is this book that I read it in almost one sitting and whenever I found myself being forced to put it down, I couldn't shake an eerie feeling that all these things in the book were actually happening.

And it was good. Really, really good.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Backseat Saints

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
Grand Central Publishing, June 8


Rose Mae Lolley is a fierce and dirty girl, long-suppressed under flowery skirts and bow-trimmed ballet flats. As "Mrs. Ro Grandee" she's trapped in a marriage that's thick with love and sick with abuse. Her true self has been bound in the chains of marital bliss in rural Texas, letting "Ro" make eggs, iron shirts, and take her punches. She seems doomed to spend the rest of her life battered outside by her husband and inside by her former self, until fate throws her in the path of an airport gypsy---one who shares her past and knows her future. The tarot cards foretell that Rose's beautiful, abusive husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.

Hot-blooded Rose Mae escapes from under Ro's perky compliance and emerges with a gun and a plan to beat the hand she's been dealt. Following messages that her long-missing mother has left hidden for her in graffiti and behind paintings, Rose and her dog Gretel set out from Amarillo, TX back to her hometown of Fruiton, AL, and then on to California, unearthing a host of family secrets as she goes. Running for her life, she realizes that she must face her past in order to overcome her fate---death by marriage---and become a girl who is strong enough to save herself from the one who loves her best.

BACKSEAT SAINTS will dazzle readers with a fresh and heartwrenching portrayal of the lengths a mother will go to right the wrongs she's created, and how far a daughter will go to escape the demands of forgiveness. With the seed of a minor character from her popular best-seller, GODS IN ALABAMA, Jackson has built a whole new story full of her trademark sly wit, endearingly off-kilter characters, and utterly riveting plot twists.

What are you "waiting on" this Wednesday?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

When Caitlin O'Koren's sister Cass runs away the morning of Caitlin's sixteenth birthday, leaving Caitlin, her hurt and perplexed parents, and her glowing future at Yale behind, Caitlin is lost and more than a little confused. All at once she is suddenly out from beneath her perfect sister's shadow and able to exist on her own terms. Yet, Caitlin finds that though she can now define herself, none of the people who matter are really watching. Cass is gone, and everyone else is so preoccupied with her sister even in her absence that Caitlin is just as overshadowed as ever.

Soon Caitlin finds herself traveling down some unwise and unintended paths as she tries to move forward in her life without her sister blazing the path ahead of her. She gives in to her best friend's pleas for her to join the cheerleading squad, something she starts out disliking and ends up loathing. She turns her back on the boring football star and begins dating the dark and dangerous Rogerson Biscoe. She begins smoking the drugs that Rogerson spends most of his time dealing. By the time things really go south, Caitlin is sure it's too late to get back to good. She's locked up in a nightmarish dreamland that she's powerless to escape from.

Dreamland features the excellent writing and important message that I associate with Dessen from books like The Truth About Forever. While The Truth About Forever was one of my favorites from last year, parts of Dreamland didn't quite click for me. (This part might get a little spoiler-y, so do tread carefully if that matters to you.) For the most part, Caitlin is a sympathetic and believable young narrator. It's easy to see how lost she is after Cass abruptly departs. It's easy to believe that she might get pressured into joining cheerleading and even into the party scene. However, she seems to fall for Rogerson a little too easily. She's lost and confused when she meets and lusts after him, but not so lost and confused that it seemed a believable turn of events that she would fall head over heels for him when their first "date" consists mostly of his driving around selling drugs to other teenagers at parties. I failed to see what there was to love about Rogerson from the outset, and it seems that fact made the story less believable overall. When he begins to show the rest of his true colors, the story suddenly becomes believable again, and my issues with it, for most part, cease.

Despite my occasional quibble with it, it's obvious that Dreamland is an important book exploring an important topic using a well-written story to warn about the dangers of abusive relationships. Dessen's exploration of Caitlin's growing feeling of isolation, her inability to break her silence about what's happening to her, and her guilt and shame over the situation she's allowed herself to fall into paint a realistic picture of how women of all ages become trapped in abusive relationships. It's a cautionary tale for all of us, a reminder to all women to be cautious about who they allow themselves to trust and to be vigilant when it comes to our own loved ones who might just be silently fighting a losing battle against abuse before our very eyes.