Saturday, September 25, 2010

BBAW Giveaway Winners!

So, the YAB's first contest is over, and it's time to unveil our winners! I spent hours writing all your entries on tiny slips of paper and stuffing them in a makeshift Reaping Ball à la Effie Trinket...well, no I didn't. I just used the good old computer. But that doesn't sound quite as impressive, does it? Anyway, on to our winners...

Drumroll, please.


1.  Jecca
2. Wendy 


3. Scoot

Congratulations! Emails have been sent out to our winners. If there's no reply in 72 hours, I'll have to choose another winner, so make it snappy! Now to find me some stamps...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's Kind of A Funny Story [Review]

Title: It’s Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
What They Say:
Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life, Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That's when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he's just average, and maybe not even that. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping -- until, one night, he nearly kills himself. 

Craig's suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety. Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a moving tale about depression, that's definitely a funny story.

What I Say:
If I were to write a list of things I don’t like doing, somewhere on there would be reading a book after I’ve seen its film adaptation. Maybe it’s my book snob side, but when people tell me they’re doing that, I always wonder where they were three years ago when the book actually came out. So this particular book has been made into a film (in theatres October 8) and I was determined to read it before I watched it. For the subject matter, this book was strangely funny and heartwarming. That said…

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Plot: ooh
So there’s this boy, Craig. He’s depressed. Why? He spent a year studying for the entrance exam of one of the most prestigious high schools in the country, where the elite train to become tycoons and presidents and stuff. But Craig isn’t an elite. He isn’t a genius. He’s just an average kid, and it shows at Executive Pre-Pro. His best friend smokes pot and still aces exams without lifting a finger, the girl he loves is all over said best friend, and Craig hasn’t been able to keep down a meal in weeks. As the workload and pressure at school increase, he begins to spiral into a depression which leads to a five a.m. phone call to the Suicide Hotline. And that's all before he checks into the mental hospital…

While the overall plot of this book was good, it’s clear that Vizzini wrote this story around his characters. I actually really appreciated it. Of course I like a good story, but when it comes to contemporary fiction, I feel like everything’s been done at one point or another (and if it hasn’t, it’s probably ridiculous à la Flowers In The Attic, haha). However, I feel like there are endless combinations when it comes to characters, just like there are endless combinations with real people, so I think Vizzini made the right choice here. The story, after all, is based on his own stay in a mental hospital, so his deepest impressions would have come from the people he met, not the things he did there.

Characters: ooh
I liked Craig. I could respect him. He has a whole host of problems and talks about them at length, but for the most part he doesn’t sound like a whiner. I liked how Vizzini didn’t make him total nutcase to begin with, because I don’t think I would have sympathized with him as much if he were. Not because he was crazy, but because it wouldn’t make sense for him to have been living such a normal life before; he’d seem like a brat who didn’t want help.

I didn’t not like Noelle. I did like her. But outside of Craig, she didn’t have much to her. Though, because of how the story strongly focuses on Craig, this is the same with most of the other characters, too. An upside to this is that what we do hear about every character are always their most interesting traits and best moments.

Relationships: wow
Craig and Noelle - I loved this relationship. It was so straightforward and functional. All relationships should be like this one, haha. Okay, so maybe it was the very best relationship I ever read, not at all. But I’ve read so many overcomplicated love-like stories, that this one was at least refreshing. And who doesn’t love it when the guy gets the girl at the end?

Special Features: ooh
So this whole book is written about mental problems (it’d be weird if it weren’t…). It’s interesting stuff, not that that’s a surprise or anything. Also, I’m a sucker for a kid born and bred in New York City. Also also, the boy playing Craig in the film is kind of adorable.

Parting Quotes:
“Oh. Right. Ah…are you straight?”
She sighs. “Yes. Don’t get too excited. You don’t have a boner, do you?”
"No!” I cross my legs. “No. … Do you have to wear uniforms?”
“Are you like a school-uniform pervert?”
No. Well…no.”
I love these two, tee hee.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekend Rec #4

So I was hoping to have my next book review up by today, but I forgot how hard school and work make it to just sit down and read a good book in one sitting. Sigh. So I'm reading all my books in installments now, which is slow(er) going.

In the meantime, it's the weekend, sooo let's get recommending!

Album: Caught in a Life by Donkeyboy
So Donkeyboy are a Norwegian electropop band (interesting, right?). They sing in English and sometimes border on the existential while remaining eerily upbeat. Though when I think of Nordic countries I think of this film, so maybe that's where the eerie comes from, haha.
Why Check It Out: They're something new, not sure they're like any other band I've heard so far.
Listen to a Track: "We Can't Hide"

If you've heard these guys before, be sure to leave a comment with your opinon!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW Blog Interview Swap!

As part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I got to take part in an interview with an adult book blogger from halfway around the world! Today's the day to post them up, so without further ado...

BBAW Interview 
with Judith from Leeswamme's Blog

Alice: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Judith: I'm Judith from The Netherlands and I'm in my forties. I have two sons who have just started secondary school. I used to be a software tester until recently, but at the moment I'm not working.

Alice: Many people like to read, but what inspired you to start your own book blog?

Judith: I was posting reviews on because I tend to forget what I read pretty soon and that way I could look back to check what a book was about. But then I was getting a little bored with Shelfari and also I wanted to have a broader audience.

So I started my blog. I love the sense of community there is so I'm enjoying blogging and meeting other bloggers (virtually) a lot.

Alice: What genre(s) of books do you review?

Judith: I like especially contemporary fiction (so, books that have just come out), and I do like literary fiction too, every now and then. But I'm not a book snob, and I love also chick-lit, mysteries, and dystopian books (lots of which are YA).

Alice: Of the books you’ve reviewed, which have you given the highest recommendation? Why?

Judith: There are several books that got 5 out of 5 stars. What I find important is that a book is well-written and keeps me interested. My rating is based mostly on the enjoyment I get from the book.

One of the books I gave 5 stars recently was The Crysalids by John Wyndham. It's actually a book from the 1950s but I felt like I was reading a very modern book. It's a dystopia story that is a little like The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. If you like dystopia and YA then it would be a good book to read.

I liked the ideas that the author had thought up about how the world (well, Northern America in particular) had changed after a big catastrophe. I also liked the story itself, which was about a teenage boy who is different from other people because he can hear the thoughts of some other teenager that have the same ability as him.

Alice: Are you an aspiring writer yourself?

Judith: Ooh, now you're hitting a nerve! No, only joking. I always wanted to be a writer and when I was young (ages 7-14) I wrote poems and stories. Also when I was in my twenties I did that, but recently I tried again and I just don't think I'm good enough. So I gave up!

Alice: What is your favorite book? Favorite film?

Judith: Difficult question! I really enjoyed The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which is a sort of dystopian story. I haven't really got a favorite film, but I do like films with Hugh Grant, such as Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones' Diary, Notting Hill. I think all these films are produced or written by the same person(s) so they're all a particular type of film that I enjoy.

Alice: When it comes to books being adapted into films, what’s your take?

Judith: When I like a book, I love to see what the film is like, if it's anything like the way I envisaged it. But sometimes it may spoil my memory of the book, if some things are changed or a lot different from how I thought they were.

I don't often read a book after watching the film. I will be too influenced by the film to enjoy the more detailed story in the book.

Alice: If a reader were to check out your blog, what would you say makes it unique?

Judith: I think you can never be sure what to find on my blog, as I read quite widely. It may be a review of a new book, a classic, a science fiction book, chick-lit, a mystery. Or maybe I'm taking part in a special event, like a read-a-thon or BBAW.

So a reader will often find something new and hopefully something interesting on my blog.
Also, I run a feature called Book Bloggers Abroad where every week someone from a different country tells about their life as a reader and blogger in their country. Usually they also have some pictures to go with their guest post, to make it even more interesting.

Thank you for your time (and patience, haha) with this interview, Judith! Good luck and keep blogging!

This really was a unique experience to learn more about a fellow book blogger. Check out Judith's blog for a wide array of different book reviews. And, of course, check out her interview with me while you're over there!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

GIVEAWAY!! Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

That's right, Monday starts off Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW), and the party is already in full swing here at The YA Bookshelf! How so, you ask? We're having a giveaway to kick off the week with a bang!

It's simple, really. Three lucky ducks will one of these three books we've reviewed on the blog so far (their choice!) See below:

Contest Rules:
Easy as pie! All you have to do is leave a comment with your name and email address below! US Only this time, sorry international followers :'(

Extra Entries:
+2 old follower
+1 new follower
+3 comment on a review
+1 subscribed to my YouTube channel
+1 following me on Twitter
+3 Tweeting/blogging/other (be creative!) about this contest
(leave your username or link with your comment for these last three extra entries)

Contest Ends Friday, September 24, so spread the word and swing back Tuesday for my BBAW Blogger Interview Swap!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Clockwork Angel [Review]

Title: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Infernal Devices, #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say: 
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England where something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos. Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability. What's more, a man called the Magister will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own. 

           Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: Jem, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them into a plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world, and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

What I Say:
I’m completely biased when writing about this series, because of how much I loved The Mortal Instruments. Being the first book of the prequels, I loved this one as well. Here we get all the excitement of the Mortal Intstruments with the added bonus of English wit, metal men, and a good old possible future love triangle. Sort of.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Plot: wow
So the year is 1878, and Tessa Gray has come to England. After the death of her aunt, her brother (Nate) sends her a letter and a boat ticket from London, so she expects to meet him there when she arrives. Well, that doesn’t happen. Instead, she’s kidnapped by two creepy sisters posing as friends of Nate, locking her in an old house and training her to use a mysterious power she never knew she had in preparation for an engagement to a mysterious man known only as The Magister. But there cannot be damsels without white knights, and Tessa finds hers in Will Herondale, who literally busts in to save her. Sort of. Back at Will’s home, the Institute, Tessa learns all about the people who saved her, the “people” who kidnapped her, and the person she really is. Now, what is she going to do about it?

One of the many things I love about a Cassandra Clare storyline is that you will think you know what’s going on, but then she will pull the little comfort-zone carpet out from under you and you will feel quite foolish for ever having questioned the awesome power of the Author. Clare so seamlessly unveils a world operating in secret alongside our own that I was instantly captivated and not released until the last word of the last page of this book. And, of course, the Crazy Cliffhanger card has been played here, so I absolutely must know what happens next!

Characters: wow
Tessa is my kind of girl. She’s young and perhaps naïve, sure. But it’s 1878; who isn’t? She’s a good fit for this story, because it moves at such a pace that there isn’t time for a heroine who asks too many silly questions and can’t make up her mind. She knows the plan, she sticks to it, and doesn’t freak out when the plan turns spoilerly evil (note: "the plan" is not really a plan in this case). Thought she might pull a Jessamine and pout about it, but no! I was quite impressed.

Will Herondale. What can I say? At first I thought, Oh look, it’s Wace Jayland. But it turns out he's Jace's dark side on crack. Where Jace plays the jerk with a heart of gold, Will is the jerk with a cold, dead, black heart. Now, if Jace’s snark was brought on by family issues (go read the Mortal Instruments, you know you want to), then Will’s family issues must be so much worse! And of course it’s all a big secret, so I’m sitting on pins and needles waiting to find out. Not to mention, Will is ummm gorgeous. Magnus Bane was right about black hair and blue eyes.

If Jace had a good and bad side, and Will only has a bad side, then Jem is where it has gone. He is a classic good guy. He’s a listener, he’s a little bit sensitive, he’s sympathetic, he’s pale, he’s blond, he plays music. What is not to like? Really, besides some spoilery misfortune in his past, he doesn’t have a single flaw. I want to believe it, but no character is ever perfect when it comes to Cassie Clare. I’m on to you…

Relationships: ooh
Tessa and Will - Ooh, Victorian romance. It’s so simple and lovely - oh wait, it’s not simple or lovely at all. And it’s a good thing! Will Herondale is a nut, in that you can’t just crack him open. You ('you' being Tessa) have to wear down his defenses bit by bit until he opens up to you in a moment of weakness and then proceeds to completely shut you out again. Oh wait, that already happened. Well, don’t give up! I see many bloody kisses in your future.

Special Features: WHOA.
Shadowhunters may be the coolest fictional group of earth-defenders out there. Except maybe for Torchwood. I know they might not come across as earth-shatteringly awesome without three books worth of Shadowhunter history under your belt, but trust me. Be it the Conclave or the Enclave, NYC or LDN, the Shadowhunters are made of awesome. Especially when they are strapping young men like Will and Jem.

Parting Quote:
    “So you're a Shadowhunter,” Nate said. “De Quincey told me that you lot were monsters.”
     “Was that before or after he tried to eat you?” Will inquired.
This is Will being mild and pleasant.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

White Cat [Review]

Title: White Cat by Holly Black
Series: The Curse Workers, #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:
Cassel comes from a family of curse workers -- people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail -- he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago. 

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

What I Say:
So I’ve been looking forward to reading Holly Black’s newest series for a little while now. After she was done writing about faeries, I was interested to see what Black would tackle next. White Cat has mystery, the mafia, major family issues. That said…

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Plot: ooh
So when Cassel wakes up from a nightmare hanging from the roof of Wallingford Prep’s dorm, he is pretty much expelled. It’s bad enough that he’s from a family of workers - people who can curse others with a single touch - Wallingford doesn’t need their students trying to off themselves. But Cassel’s strange dreams have a source, someone’s been working him (but who?), and he’s being followed by an odd white cat… Now that Cassel’s out of school, he needs to find his way back in. Being the only non-worker in an infamous crime family, this won’t be easy. But living among criminals all his life, he’s learned a trick or two. Though, as he begins to uncover a family secret he somehow forgot, getting back into Wallingford becomes the least of his problems.

Usually, I don’t like to read crime novels about big-talking mobsters and, well, crime. It just never caught my interest or seemed probable. This book was different, though. A contemporary twist on your Sopranos or Corleones or what have you. There are so many quirks to Black’s alternate world (and I love me some quirks, they keep things fresh) that I kept turning pages, even where the story lulled. 

Characters: ooh
Cassel is a pretty cool guy. Quick with the snark. Though for a tough, sexy kid, he gets beat up a lot. Maybe that’s just because of the whole crime family thing. Sure, he’s the hero of the story, he “saves the day”, because this is a novel. But that doesn’t mean he’s the good guy. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be the good guy. Complex, right? Haha.

We don’t see all that much of Cassel’s best friend Lila, mostly because he killed her when he was thirteen. Yeah. But we do see a few glimpses here and there, and (of course) when you’re reading an urban fantasy, no one stays dead for long. She’s our average alternative best friend, goading young Cassel into shenanigans and the like, being mysterious and such. Can’t say I actually like her as a character (she doesn’t add much to the story), but I’ll watch her develop as the series continues.

Relationships: meh
Cassel and Lila - I liked how this story didn’t center around a relationship. It gave more room for the adventure to expand. That said, it leads to the story’s relationship being pretty bad. Pre-killing Lila, the two are “just friends”, with Lila leading Cassel on while running off to hook up with his older brother. Post-killing Lila, it’s awkward and Black doesn’t touch on it at all until the end. (Yeah, I’m leaving key plot points out here to shield your unspoiled eyes, deal with it.)

Special Features: wow
Ooh, alternate universe! I really like the idea of curse workers. Of how everyone wears gloves to avoid touching people or being touched. All the politics behind it. Now that the story-as-I-know-it is over, I’m curious as to how the other books will expand on the curse worker idea. I’m actually impatient, haha. Also, check out this book’s cover. That boy is gorgeous. And the audiobook is narrated by none other than Jesse Eisenberg, making it one of my favorites ever.

Parting Quote:
"My mother wants to talk with you. She says that what you did was a cry for help."
"It was," I say. "That's why I was yelling 'Heeeelp'! I don't really go in for subtlety."

Weekend Rec #3

Album: Hello Fascination by Breathe Carolina
So Breathe Carolina is the electronic rock product of David Schmitt and Kyle Even. The two write lovely-at-times-catchy lyrics, and Kyle has the voice of an electronic angel.
Who Might Like It: Those who like electronic music, a deceptively poppy beat (i.e. Cash Cash, The Secret Handshake)
Why Check It Out: It's two-thirds dance and one-third screamo and three-thirds lovely.
Listen to a Track: "Dressed Up To Undress"

If you've heard these guys before, be sure to leave a comment with your opinon!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Duff [ARC Review]

Title: The Duff by Kody Keplinger
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
What They Say: 

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.  

What I Say:
So, this is the first ARC I've ever gotten to review, so I was excited to be delving into a book before its release date (September 7, don't forget!) Being an 18-year-old author, Kody Keplinger provides her readers with a refreshing, genuine teenage narrative and a snarky yet impactful storyline. That said...

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Plot: ooh
Bianca is the Duff of her group of friends, says Wesley Rush one night at the local teen club. The Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Bianca hates Wesley. Popular, good-looking, slutty Wesley. But the more she thinks about this Duff thing, the more she believes it. With two gorgeous blonde best friends, how can she not? She knows she'd never have a chance with a guy like Wesley - not that she'd want one - which is why when things start going downhill at home, she shocks herself by kissing him. The kiss is the perfect distraction, and she finds she wants more. One hookup becomes two, becomes three, becomes an almost daily thing for Bianca and Wesley, but she never forgets her guidelines: he is the playboy, she is the Duff, and neither of them has feelings for the other. Or do they? Also, what will Bianca do when her secret life begins to distract her from a new real relationship with someone else?

I just plain old liked this story. Sure, it's all laid out for you and the back cover pretty much gives away the ending, but I think the author knows that. This point of this story isn't if Bianca will get from A to B, it's how she does it. Knowing how it would turn out, I found myself wondering after each new element was introduced, How are they going to end up together after this? While this story probably encourages those (usually) annoying girls who think they can "change" the bad boys in their lives, I enjoyed this book too much to rant and rail about it.

Characters: wow
Oh, Bianca.  I love a solid, level-headed, snarky protagonist. She reminds me a bit of myself, and I'm sure any teen reader will see some part of themselves in her as well. Bianca is presented with hurdles in her life, but does she whine and cry and scribble about it in her diary? No, she deals with them (though one - not me - could argue the intelligence of her choices). Personally, I think YA lit could use more Biancas and fewer Bellas.

Wesley is sold to us right away as the arrogant jerkass, which he is. But (at the risk of sounding horribly cliché) there's more to him than that. Keplinger writes Wesley as Exhibit A to the argument that a person can be more than one way. It's sounds so simple, but people seem to forget it. Wesley's a jerk, but he's also compassionate. He's a bad guy, but he's a good guy, too. Just like all of us, and everyone we know,

Relationships: wow
Bianca and Wesley - While I wouldn't call it (at first) a relationship so much as a string of relations, you can't deny that these two kept me turning pages just to see how on earth they could end up together at the end. They'll have a conversation and I'll think, Oh, here's the turning point, and then a few pages later they'll push each other even further away. You start to lose hope for them after a while, haha.

Bianca and Toby - These two are the model of the perfect relationship, or what would be perfect for Bianca, before her relationship with Wesley begins to change her way of thinking. While this relationship isn't the most interesting in the book by far, it shows Bianca (and the reader) how her idea of perfect isn't the same as what she really wants.

Parting Quote:
 "I told you, I'm awesome at everything," he [Wesley] teased, putting the PS3 controller on the floor between us. "That includes video games."
... "Not fair," I muttered. "Your sword is bigger than mine."
"My sword is bigger than everyone's."