December 12, 2014

December Wrap-Up, Semi-Hiatus and Near-Future Plans

Jingle bells, jingle bells...hi!
Welcome to my last post of the year, which is basically going to look like a three-headed monster :P. Here's where I recapitulate my 2014 in blogging, list my upcoming goals, and inform you of my little leave of absence. Oh, and of course, there will be a season-greetings-filled space in the end :). So, without further ado...

Pt. 1: This Year in Blogging

So I'm past the two-year mark...blimey O_O

This is what happened on Offbeat YA during the year, broken down by number of posts, events I took part in, and books I reviewed...

November 29, 2014

Discussion Post: Are Social Media Relevant for Bloggers?

Hi my lovelies!
I've been thinking, lately. (Well, actually, I'm always thinking - a lot - but this time it was about a specific topic LOL).

[Image source]
It looks like anyone in the book blogging area has some social media handles - Twitter (a book bloggers' favourite, maybe because it's the most productive in terms of reader-author interaction), Facebook, Google +, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, you name it. Plus Goodreads and the likes of course...though those are more like personal archives for books and an easy way to get info about them than places where you get social.
Someone like me, with only a blog and a Goodreads account to her (or his) name, is a black swan.

[Image source - the caption is mine ;)]
The reason why I stay away from social media?
1. they're too time-consuming.
2. everyone talks, only a few listen.
3. more often than not, such talk is idle.
(I'm such a half-full-glass type of person LOL).

Say hello to average social media user ;D
[Image source]

I'm curious though. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I don't have the time to commit to a specific social media, but this doesn't mean I couldn't benefit from it if I did. Maybe I should find the time.
So, here go my questions for those of you who have a social profile (everyone? ^_^):
1. are social media relevant for a book blogger?
2. do they manage to convey more traffic to your blog?
3. do they really help when it comes to "befriending" authors, or are they more likely to create reasons for drama?
And in case you are like me, and stay away from Facebook, Twitter and the likes...why?

"Facebook? I don't understand that reference"
(...that never gets old LOL).
Thanks to Giphy!

November 16, 2014

Screen Time #2: "Under the Dome" (2013) - Pt. 1


Welcome to Screen Time, my own feature where I ramble about spotlight some iconic and/or favourite TV series from the '80s, '90s and 2000s!
I'm a child of the '60s *big shock*. This accounts for me fondly remembering some oldies I grew up with, or having some of them in my all-time favourite list. But don't worry, I'm not stuck in the '80s ;). There are plenty of series I've liked and followed in the most recent years...and some current favourites too. So tune in with me, and don't forget your popcorn...

Logo property of CBS - no copyright infringement intended

Genre: Supernatural, Mystery, Drama, Sci-Fi? (Edit: yes. It's now 2015, the show ended, and I'm crossing out the question mark. I wasn't really sure the show could be labeled as Sci-Fi back then, since Stephen King said they had departed from the book - see below - but now...yes. Definitely)
Genesis: Based on the 2009 book of the same name by Stephen King
Time span: 2013-current
Seasons: 2+ (26+ episodes)
Main characters & cast: Dale "Barbie" Barbara (Mike Vogel) - Julia Shumway (Rachelle Lefevre) - James "Big Jim" Rennie (Dean Norris) - James "Junior" Rennie (Alexander Koch) - Joe McAlister (Colin Ford) - Elinor "Norrie" Calvert-Hill (Mackenzie Lintz) - Sam Verdreaux (Eddie Cahill) - Melanie Cross (Grace Victoria Cox)
Story setting: Chester's Mill, a fictional town in Maine (though the show is filmed around Burgaw, Southport and Wilmington, North Carolina. Thanks to UTD Wiki for the info!)
Theme song: ??? by ???
Spin-offs and remakes (to date): None
In three words...: Claustrophobic, ambiguous, suspenseful

November 07, 2014

Blog Tour & Author Interview: B.C. Johnson ("Deadgirl")

Welcome to the Deadgirl Blog Tour!
Meet Lucy Day
Some of you may know it by know: I only spotlights books on my blog (by cover reveals, blog tours, you name it) if I really like them. I don't see the point in selling you stuff I don't believe in, or I haven't even read yet. And I only interview authors if I'm familiar with them. Having an awesome book out is also a bonus ;). 
I have known B.C. Johnson for a year and a half (as in, talked with him on Goodreads now and then. I'm not saying we are close friends or anything. And no, he never bribed me into saying wonders of his book. Not that I remember, but you know, my memory lately...). I seeked him out after reading Deadgirl when it first came out (if you want to read the story of how Deadgirl was resurrected after the original publishers liquidated their business, go here...it's gripping, a bit heartbreaking, but inspirational and energetic too). Deadgirl is still one of my favourite YA books to date, and Lucy one of my favourite heroines. After all this time, I'm proud to be part of the Deadgirl 2.0 blog tour, and to have the chance to grill B.C. Johnson with my questions ask B.C. Johnson some stuff from the top of my head. (Yeah, right. I only spent two weeks racking my brain for the perfect questions). But before I move on to the author, let's get to know his book a little better...

Title: Deadgirl
Series: TBA
Author: B.C. Johnson
Genres: Afterlife, Paranormal Romance, UF
Year: 2014 (first published 2012)
Age: 14+
Available on: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle
Deadgirl on Amazon | on Goodreads
Read my original review here

Blurb: Dead is such a strong word... 

Lucy Day, 15 years old, is murdered on her very first date. Not one to take that kind of thing lying down, she awakens a day later with a seemingly human body and more than a little confusion. Lucy tries to return to her normal life, but the afterlife keeps getting in the way.

Zack, her crush-maybe-boyfriend, isn't exactly excited that she ditched him on their first date. Oh, and Abraham, Lucy’s personal Grim Reaper, begins hunting her, dead-set on righting the error that dropped her back into the spongy flesh of a living girl. Lucy must put her mangled life back together, escape re-death, and learn to control her burgeoning powers while staying one step ahead of Abraham.

But when she learns the devastating price of coming back from the dead, Lucy is forced to make the hardest decision of her re-life — can she really sacrifice her loved ones to stay out of the grave? (Goodreads)

Interview: Hi Bobby, it’s a real treat to feature you on my blog today. Deadgirl is one of favourite YA novels, and besides, I love your sense of humour - so I’m glad to give both a spotlight.
OK, so, for those who are not familiar with your work or your personality yet – how come you took the plunge into the deadly sea of writing, particularly its YA current? 

I took the plunge because I had to - it’s all I was ever built for. I’ve been wanting to be a writer since I could put words together. It’s not even in my blood, it’s in my bones. It IS my bones. I mean, I’m no biologist so I don’t know if that’s medically accurate or not, but it feels that way.
As for YA, well, my beta reader, who also happens to be my wife, had read my first unpublished epic fantasy novel, and she told me that I wrote like a YA writer. She asked me if I knew that, and the fact was, I didn’t. I mean, I liked writing about young people, and I’m from the Stephen King school of “keep it simple, stupid” when it comes to language, but I never knew. 
Deadgirl was my first real crack at the genre, and it’s been my favorite thing I ever wrote. [...] 

November 01, 2014

Coming Soon...Blog Tour, Screen Time #2 and Discussion Post!

Hey lovelies!
I sort of missed the Halloween excitement this year. Most blogs were doing themed pieces, and I stayed quiet instead (if you don't count my review for Christopher Pike's horror novel The Season of Passage a few days ago). Maybe next year...Because I've been busy putting my next posts together lately. What about a sneak peek?


First off, I'm participating in my very first blog tour on November 7! It's about the reissue of my beloved afterlife-or-such/paranormal novel Deadgirl by B.C. Johnson. Yeah, right - that one. I may have expressed my feelings in a couple of articles, these last 18 months or so. Or in half a dozen. But who's counting.


On November 16, I'll post the second installment of my Screen Time feature. I originally wanted to do Haven, but I changed my mind, since S.5 is already on air in the U.S., and we've only seen S.4 in Italy so far. So I switched onto Under the Dome, whose 2nd season has been broadcasted here this summer, just like in America, with only a three-week delay. I hope it will make for a more interesting conversation ;).


Last but not least, I have a discussion post drafted, about social media and their relevance to the blogging world. It should go live on November 29.
So feel free to stop by in the upcoming weeks and join the fun!

October 23, 2014

Christopher Pike: "The Season of Passage"

Title: The Season of Passage [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Horror
Year: 1992 (reissued 2011)
Age: 18+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Riveting mix of genres full of tension build-up. Engaging main characters.
Cons: Outdated science (but see blurb below).
WARNING! There's some rather heavy gore, but then again, there are grosser books I think (thus spoke the woman who chickens out in front of Stephen King...). There's also the incipit of a rape scene...twice: both in the main narrative and in the story-within-the-story. But it's not the human version of a rape (more details in the review).
Will appeal to: Those who like creepy and weird stuff...and don't care about accuracy.

Blurb: Dr. Lauren Wagner was a celebrity. She was involved with the most exciting adventure mankind had ever undertaken: a manned expedition to Mars. The whole world admired and respected her. But Lauren knew fear. Inside - voices entreating her to love them. Outside - the mystery of the missing group that had gone before her. The dead group. But were they simply dead? Or something else? (Amazon excerpt)
Note: oddly, the 2011-version blurb on Goodreads talks about "a mission to rescue the crewmen of the Russian ship 'Lenin'..."...while, in the same reissue, the ship is actually called 'Gorbachev'. Nevertheless, this is what the 2011 version states: "This book was written in the 1970s, and it reflects the knowledge mankind had of the solar system at that time. For sentimental reasons, the author has decided to leave the novel in its original form; thus no effort has been made to update the story. Please accept the odd dates and the strange absence of cell phones". So I guess the ship's name is pretty much the only change that's been made...and note that Gorbachev was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, while the first issue of this book was out in 1992. And, as I said, the name stayed in the 2011 version...which is understandable, since Gorbachev made a huge mark in history.

Review: I have a three-point premise to make before I start with the actual review.
Point 1: I don't think Christopher Pike is the finest proser out there. Yes, I'm obsessed with his stuff, but I can see that his writing is often choppy and not particularly sophisticated. This alone should bring my rating down half a star at least. Then again, if I had to judge his books with this in mind, none of them would be 5-star material - but sometimes his wild ideas, and his ability to suck you into the story, atone for what his style may lack. This is one of the books where it happens.
Point 2: is this novel original? I honestly don't know. I haven't read many horror books (if not by Pike himself) or books set in space. I'm in no position to say if Pike was a pioneer in 1992 (the year this novel was first issued) or in 1977 (when he wrote the first draft). What I know is, I love this story, dark as it is, and I enjoyed each and every twist and turn of it, even those who probably were to be expected somehow.
Point 3: some reviewers were kind of put-off by the outdated science. Now, judging by this rule, we'll have to bury most works of art from the past, and pretend they never existed. Also, it's funny, because while the English definition for this genre is "scientific fiction", we use a peculiar word for it in Italian..."fantascienza". That is, more or less, "fantastic science" or "imagined science" - because of course, most of what sci-fi authors write about is pure speculation, often combined with fantasy elements...So, basically, maybe half of Pike's theories/notions about planets or space travels are outdated or incorrect. So what? It's only a made-up story. It's "fantascienza". It's a hell of a ride, and I love it as it is :).
From the very start, the book's mood is mysterious, disquieting. Both Lauren (the first woman to land on Mars) and Jennifer (her 13 y.o. sister) are somehow spooked, an suffer from recurring inner voices/nightmares. We are introduced to Lauren's fiance Terry, a down-on-his-luck journalist and wannabe writer, and the rest of the space crew - apparently, a smaller group than the Russian one who landed on Mars two years before, never to be heard from again (this choice sounds rather strange to me, but I suppose Pike decided that having only six characters on the planet would be more handy for his story - or maybe it was the NASA who opted for minimizing the risk by sending out less possible victims!).
Jennifer starts writing a story about two ancient people and their war, which is interpolated into the main plot. While the tale sounds definitely mature for a 13 y.o., we will understand later how she was able to develop it. Most of the time, I'm not a fan of Pike's stories-within-the-story (there's almost one in every book), especially because they are often a bit disconnected by the main narrative, and I can't see their point; this time, however, the second story mirrors and enlighten the first one, perfectly integrating within the main plot, though we don't immediately see why and how. And as a matter of fact, this is part of the book's charm. [...]

October 14, 2014

Two-Years-of-Blogging Survey...and Drawing a Balance

...So, my little niche on the Internet turns 2 today :).

...and starts growing a third branch :)
[Image source]

Last year, on this very day, I felt pretty alone on here. I had very little followers, and very little contact with authors or publishers either. But I was committed. For the very first time in my web-adventure history, I didn't want to let go. So I clenched my teeth and stuck with it.
It's not like I've become what you may call a successful blogger since then, but I have indeed grown, if not esponentially. I've become more involved in the community (despite my staying away from social media, if you don't count Goodreads). I've been asked to review some books (not all of which I accepted, because I only read what I want), even a couple of ARCs.
And BTW...look mama! I'm on a book cover!

Back cover of Nature's Confession - read my whole review here

I'm well aware that most bloggers have reached far more important goals in two years...but you know what? It's OK. Because they spend a lot more time and pour much more sweat on/into their blogs. Because they have the chance to buy many more books than me (and most of those are shining new). Because they post so much more than me, and have a social media presence, and probably more friends to begin with. Because they participate in lots of memes, while I don't have the time and energy to get involved in all those. Because they host giveaways, while I don't have the resources to do that.
So, like I said, it's OK - it really is. More will come for me...or maybe not. Or maybe just a little more. Which is great anyway, because I love my little niche on the Internet regardless of that :).

Now, I'm going to highlight the very best books/series I have encountered in two years of blogging. I hope you can get interested in some of these, if you haven't already...
Note: clicking on the titles will redirect you to my reviews if present.

October 07, 2014

A Reader's Quirks #3: Tips for Slimming Your TBR List Down

I'm back with a new installment of my random feature about the who, what, where, when and why of reading, where I talk about my own relationship with books/genres/authors, and ask my visitors to do the same if they feel so inclined. This could have been easily turned into a meme, but there's a reason why it didn't...I still don't see myself as an established enough blogger to host yet another meme. Even those with an impressive number of followers aren't necessarily overwhelmed with participations, so I'm not going there just yet. This doesn't mean "A Reader's Quirks" won't be promoted to meme's status one day, should it be the case. It's all up to you, really :).
A quick reminder...everyone can comment on my blog, spam or not spam. It matters to me that anyone can join the conversation. As for CAPTCHA...everyone hates it...so you won't find it here. Relax and breathe ;).
This time I'm going to talk about...

TIPS FOR SLIMMING YOUR TBR LIST DOWN

Because I've been on a destructive streak lately.
No no no. I'm still my usual kind, gentle, considerate self ;). It's just that, these latest days, I've been a reader with a mission: to reduce the size of my TBR list.

[Image from giphy.com]

To be precise, I have two different lists for unread books: a TBR (To Be Read) list and a NS (Not Sure) one. As a rule, my NS list is comprised by books I don't have enough info about yet. Maybe they will be released in some months, so they only have a few reviews (including those VERY suspicious ones by enthusiastic zealots you discover to be fellow authors). Maybe there's no excerpt from them anywhere. Sometimes, the two previous conditions don't apply, but I'm still waiting for the definitive review that will help me make up my mind. (Which may prove dangerous, because in the process, I'm likely to stumble upon a happily oblivious Goodreads reviewer who spoils the ultimate twist for me. GRRRR. Ever heard of the spoiler tag?). My TBR list usually consists of books about which I have what I consider a fair amount of info (excerpt included...because you know, writing style). Nevertheless, in the few past days, I've erased more books from my TBR list than from my NS one O_O. (I'll explain below). Some of them were even featured in my Most Anticipated Books of 2014 list and in two of my Book Blogger New Year's Challenge posts: The Book of 2013 You Are Sad You Missed and The Books of 2014 You Won't Miss. Go figure.
Now, the erasing act is crucial to me, since I buy the vast majority of my books - while it may not be a huge problem for you, if you read on an electronic device or have ARCs delivered most of the times. On the other hand, ARCs have deadlines, and even your eReader gets full ultimately. So, here are some of the considerations that have helped me decide which books to axe from my bills lately...or even before...I hope they can be useful to you, too.

***

October 02, 2014

J.L. Morin: "Nature's Confession" (ARC Review)

Title: Nature's Confession [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: TBA
Author: J.L. Morin [Twitter | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi (more precisely, Cli-Fi)
Year: 2015
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Adventure-packed book that explores serious issues from an often funny angle.
Cons: Requires some suspension of disbelief. The fable-like telling may take a bit to get used to. Multiple points of view may not be everybody's cup of tea.
Will appeal to: Those who like their sci-fi peppered with humour, but also driven by a purpose. Those who can appreciate a modern fable coupled with a (not preachy) message.

Blurb: A smart-mouthed, mixed-race teen, with the girl of his dreams, inadvertently invents living computers. Just as the human race allows corporations to pollute Earth into total desolation, institute martial law and enslave humanity, the two teens set out to save civilization. Can they thwart polluters of Earth and other fertile worlds? Along the way, they enlist the help of female droid Any Gynoid, who uncovers cutting-edge scientific mysteries as their quest takes them through the Big Bang and back. Will youth lead the way to a new way of coexisting with Nature? (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review. It's also my second ARC review in two years of blogging - but this didn't affect my opinion in any way. 
There's something I have to warn you about straight away: don't approach this book thinking the romance will play a huge part in it, like the blurb seems to imply. Or, to be precise - the romance does play a huge part in it, but mostly offscreen, so to speak. Also, this is a book that gets better the second time around. While reading the first chapters, the unusual style - almost fable-like - threw me for a loop. Not to mention, some occurrences seemed too convenient and far-fetched at first, even for a sci-fi novel. The main characters, fourteen and sixteen respectively, are supposed to be a couple of geniuses, able to create (accidentally or on purpose) living computers. That sounded like a stretch to me, to put it mildly. Then, a few chapters in, the book finally clicked for me, and I began to really enjoy the story
Boy is a 14 y.o. mixed-race teen (points to Morin for writing a diverse character without emphasizing his ethnicity) who doesn't have a name yet - in the distant-future society he lives in (I hesitate to label it as dystopian, since alas, it might come true for us) one can't be named until his/her fifteenth birthday. Valentine is the 16 y.o. daughter of a scientist, who keeps appearing in Boy's dreams, although he doesn't know she's real yet. Even when the two teens do finally meet, there's very little interaction between them, until much later in the story. Also, Boy has a half-sister, Kenza, who is a clone of their mother. Despite the sci-fi contest, plus a hint of magical realism (Boy's dreams), the family dynamics are somehow typical, up to a point (a father who works a lot and cheats on his wife, a mother who mainly takes care of the family), but we'll soon realise that there's a lot more than that under the surface. Every member of Boy's family (including a telepathic alien pet with six legs and an undisclosed number of tails that we are to meet later) will be given the opportunity to play a part in the rebirth of planet Earth and its new, eco-sustainable course. Some of these characters are unlikely heroes - take Porter, Boy's father, who leaves for a supposed pleasure-filled space trip with a soon-to-be lover, and ends up travelling through the Big Bang and back with a gynoid and meeting a few unexpected allies on old planet Earth. This adds humour to the story, and makes the scientific stuff easier to digest. [...]

September 25, 2014

Cover Reveal: "Deadgirl" by B.C. Johnson

Welcome to a very special cover reveal...

...Yes, actually, I'm teasing you a little ;)

You know, as a rule, I don't do reveals. Well, I don't do mass reveals, or reveals for books that I'm not interested in. This accounts for the one below being only my second cover reveal in almost two years of blogging :).
A year and a half ago, I contacted author B.C. Johnson on Goodreads over his first novel Deadgirl. I asked for directions about reviewing his book, since I had learnt it was out of print already (after barely a year) due to the publisher shutting up shop. Mr. Johnson told me that he was in the process of reselling Deadgirl to a new editor, plus giving the book a sequel. We have been in contact via Goodreads since - this is why I'll call him Bobby from now on ;) - and I've had the distinct pleasure to follow Deadgirl on her way to...resurrection. I've been rooting for this book to see the light of day again, for Bobby to get his well-deserved second chance at being a full-time author, and for you all to have the opportunity to love this novel as much as I did/do.
Well, the time has come now *smiles widely*.
So, here goes...

(I also signed up for the blog tour BTW. See you with more Deadgirl fangirling in November!)

Out on November 6
Deadgirl by B.C. Johnson

Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Date of Publication: November 6, 2014
Cover Artist: Andy Garcia
Add on Goodreads: Deadgirl page

Dead is such a strong word...
Lucy Day, 15 years old, is murdered on her very first date. Not one to take that kind of thing lying down, she awakens a day later with a seemingly human body and more than a little confusion. Lucy tries to return to her normal life, but the afterlife keeps getting in the way.
Zack, her crush-maybe-boyfriend, isn’t exactly excited that she ditched him on their first date. Oh, and Abraham, Lucy’s personal Grim Reaper, begins hunting her, dead-set on righting the error that dropped her back into the spongy flesh of a living girl. Lucy must put her mangled life back together, escape re-death, and learn to control her burgeoning powers while staying one step ahead of Abraham.
But when she learns the devastating price of coming back from the dead, Lucy is forced to make the hardest decision of her re-life — can she really sacrifice her loved ones to stay out of the grave?

My Deadgirl fangirling moments so far... 

Original ReviewBook SpotlightAnnouncing Reissue + Sequel

Deadgirl proud daddy ;)
About B.C. Johnson:

Born in Southern California, B.C. Johnson has been writing since he realized it was one of the few socially acceptable ways to tell people a bunch of stuff you just made up off the top of your head. He attended Savanna High School in Anaheim, and an undisclosed amount of college before deciding that weird odd jobs were a far greater career path.
This lead him to such exciting professions as: aluminum recovery machinist, lighting designer, construction demo, sound mixer, receptionist, theater stage hand, wedding security, high school custodian, museum events manager, webmaster, IT guy, copywriter, and one memorable night as the bouncer at a nightclub. He is trying very hard to add “vampire hunter” and “spaceship captain” to that list.
He currently lives in Garden Grove with his supernal wife Gina, his half-corgi, half-muppet dog Luna, and his new half-grayhound, half-living-tornado-of-destruction Kaylee. He also spends time with his two brothers, his parents, and his close friends, whose primary pursuit are usually healthy debates about movie minutiea. When he’s not working or writing, he’s been to known to pursue all conceivable geeky avenues of interest including but not limited to video games, the sort of TV shows/movies Benedict Cumberbatch might star in, graphic novels, podcasts, funny gifs, the whole thing.
He’s also been known to apply his special brand of hyperbole and mania to pop-culture humor essays for various websites that can be found on his homepage, bc-johnson.com. B.C. also has a high school noir short story called The Lancer available on Kindle.
Deadgirl is his first novel.

Find B.C. Johnson Online:

September 21, 2014

Screen Time #1: "Fame" (1982)


Welcome to Screen Time, my own feature where I ramble about spotlight some iconic and/or favouriteTV series from the '80s, '90s and 2000s!
I'm a child of the '60s *big shock*. This accounts for me fondly remembering some oldies I grew up with, or having some of them in my all-time favourite list. But don't worry, I'm not stuck in the '80s ;). There are plenty of series I've liked and followed in the most recent years...and some current favourites too. So tune in with me, and don't forget your popcorn...

Logo property of MGM - no copyright infringement intended

Genre: Drama, Musical
Genesis: Based on the 1980 MGM movie of the same name
Time span: 1982 to 1987
Seasons: 6 (136 episodes)
Main characters & cast: Lydia Grant (Debbie Allen) - Leroy Johnson (Gene Anthony Ray) - Danny Amatullo (Carlo Imperato) - Benjamin Shorofsky (Albert Hague) - Elizabeth Sherwood (Carol Mayo Jenkins) - Doris Schwartz (Valerie Landsburg) - Bruno Martelli (Lee Curreri) - Coco Hernandez (Erica Gimpel) - Christopher Donlon (Billy Hufsey) - Holly Laird (Cynthia Gibb) - Jesse Velasquez (Jesse Borrego) - Nicole Chapman (Nia Peeples)
Story setting: New York (though the show interiors were shot in Los Angeles...)
Theme song: Fame - same as the 1980 movie, only sung by cast member Erica Gimpel (who played Coco in the series) till S. 4, and by Loretta Chandler (Dusty) in S. 5 and 6. Movie Coco was played by Irene Cara, who sang the original version of the song
Spin-offs and remakes (to date): Fame L.A. (tv series; 1997-98; 1 s., 22 eps); Fame - The Musical (stage musical; 1988-current, in various forms); Fame (movie; 2009; very loose remake of the original movie)
In three words...: Artistic, energetic, heartwarming

September 16, 2014

Mystic Thompson: "Fighting Kudzu"

Title: Fighting Kudzu [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Fighting Kudzu [?] (1st of 2 books [?])
Author: Mystic Thompson [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary
Year: 2014 (first published 2009)
Age: 14+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Intense coming-of-age story. Lead has a distinct voice. Pre-teen chapters make a strong impact.
Cons: High school years are just touched over, if not for a single incident (then book proceeds on to college). Some too convenient occurrences and situations.
WARNING! A drunk parent and a death. A not-overly-graphic sex scene between two girls. And, if you're over-sensitive about animal dying in books, you might approach this one with caution - though it's only an off-screen occurrence.
Will appeal to: Those who like coming-of-age tales. Those who are interested in GLBTQ+ stories.

Blurb: In 1972 on a hot, late spring day in Georgia, five-year-old Noble Thorvald plays contentedly, alone in her suburban backyard. Her only companions...an imaginary professional football team. As she plays in her world of wonder and adventure, Noble is unaware of the challenges life will hurl in her direction - challenges that will redefine her more than once. Fighting Kudzu is the lyrical saga that traces Noble's life as she emerges into adulthood and discovers herself. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from Musa Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
A quick note before I get to the juicy part: as the blurb itself states, this is a contemporary novel, only not set in the present. It starts in 1972 and proceeeds on to the '80s - which doesn't mean an awful lot though, if you don't count some music references, the lack of cell phones and Internet, and the basic fact that homosexuality was more frowned upon back then. Having said so, the prejudice has not gone away in what we like to think of as our more enlightened era. This is a coming-of-age and coming-out story, and in that it is timeless enough. Also, the book follows Noble since when she's only five, and barely touches her high school experience, before it comes to a closure with her first year in college - which makes it a YA/NA hybrid at the very least (I don't use the MG label for obvious reasons).
Noble's story opens in a suburban garden in Atlanta. The prologue immediately draw me in: a 5 y.o. female who chooses a whole football team - the Dolphins - as her imaginary friends is not something you see everyday ;). Their made-up interaction is very touching, inasmuch as not only Noble envisions herself as the first female player in the NFL, but also relies on her imaginary fellows for support and advice. Despite her two older siblings Rachel and Chad being a bit rude - or at best nonchalant - about her, Noble's family sounds like a safe nest...at least she does have two parents living together (Dave and Mel)...but there's more under the apparently uncomplicated surface. The dad is nice to Noble, but doesn't really seem affected by what happens around him; the mom's behaviour is slightly unsettling from the start. She often treats Noble as if she were an adult, all while worrying about her having to grow up and lose her innocence. At a very early age, Mel introduces Noble to the two concept that will leave a mark on her for years: replacement (if you fail to do what needs to be done in the lives of the people you love, you risk to get discarded and replaced) and heartbreak. On the other hand, we get the sense of Mel's love for her own daughter, and some of their moments together will also stay with Noble for all the years to come, even when the hell has already broken loose. Because, the fact is, Mel will turn into an alcohol addict soon, ultimately breaking up the family (though, well, don't let me start on Dave - I can't spoil the whole book for you, can I?), and scarring Noble - the only one who refuses to give up on her - in more than a (crude) way. [...]

September 07, 2014

Natalie Standiford: "How to Say Goodbye in Robot"

Title: How to Say Goodbye in Robot [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Natalie Standiford [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary
Year: 2009
Age: 11+ (though Amazon says 8+, but I personally can't see this one appealing to very young readers)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Honest, heartfelt, quirky story. Quirky characters too.
Cons: Friendship borders on unhealthy. Jonah's family issue is a bit too extreme to ring true.
Will appeal to: Those who can relate to outsiders, or sympathize with them. Those who are more drawn to M\F friendship stories than to classic boy-meets-girl stories. Those who don't mind open and/or bittersweet endings.

Blurb: New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn't made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. Still, Bea can't quite dispel Jonah's gloom and doom - and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? (Amazon excerpt)

Note: since I only received the PDF review copy I was talking about in my latest post yesterday, I decided to revert to my original plan, and review this book first. My Screen Time feature will be up on Sun. 20. The new book I received is called Fighting Kudzu, and I hope to have my review posted in a few days.

Review: The aggressively pink cover has to go. Coupled with the title, it will manage to convince you that this book is about two teens who were madly in love once, but ultimately broke up because one of them got cold feet...or worse, a cold heart. Just as, by its appearance and title, Sweethearts by Sara Zarr - a book that has a lot in common with this one - will manage to convince you that you're about to read a fluffy romance novel that, nonetheless, will end in heartbreak. Well, in a word, no.
Mind you, I love aggressive pink. It just doesn't fit this book. And yes, both novels do feature heartbreaks...of different kinds...but not of the romance variety.
Bea is new to town. Her father's job forces the family to relocate often, which has seemingly put a strain both on Bea (who copes by becoming increasingly unattached and coldish, at least on the surface) and her mother (who takes refuge in weird or childish behaviours, not to mention in cheating on her husband). In Baltimore for her senior year, Bea finds herself drawn to Jonah, the school loner, and bonds with him over their shared love for late-night talk-radio. If Bea's home environment is not the standard of perfection to say the least, Jonah's situation is tough to start with, and it gets worse through the novel. Estranged from his father since his retarded twin brother Matthew died (along with their mother), Jonah will uncover a painful truth about his family, and in his despair, he will start a moody cycle of clinging to Bea and cutting her off. Of course, the title gives away most of the ending...but (like it often happens with works of arts) it's not about the destination - it's about the trip...
I did like the concept of this book. While I usually cringe at the mention of the new-girl-or-new-boy-in-town (such a cliché...which usually cues dating-and-saving-the-world-together, or more often, she-is-suddenly-experiencing-weird-stuff-only-he-can-explain), the relationship here is offbeat, and not of the romance kind. Bea's family is not conveniently absent, though I can't say they're aware of what goes on with her. The school clique is average, but not stereotyped like in most books - you know, the classic Mean Girls Club or something along those lines. Someone for Bea's class will even manage to surprise her...The radio callers are a nice touch, though not all of their personalities sound very believable to me. Bea's voice is fresh, original and genuine. The coming-of-age aspect is nicely done. Now you get to know what prevented me to give this book 5 stars... [...]

September 01, 2014

I Swear, I'm Not Procrastinating (A.K.A. A Legitimate Introductory Post - A.K.A. The 100th Post!)

Yeah. September is here already. I promised a comeback post for the beginning of the month. So, since this isn't it, I can see my...uh...three or four readers raise an eyebrow. Very, very high.

"You ARE procrastinating, girl."

But no, I'm not making excuses and diserting my blog for another month - just because, well, it's still summer, isn't it? And I'm not writing a filler post. I HATE filler posts. I just mean to let you know that the first installment of my new feature called "Screen Time" will be up on Monday 15, and it's going to be - like my friend Kate from Midnight Book Girl would say - "the Finnegan's Wake" of posts. So, prepare to scroll and scroll, down and down, and wonder if you've stumbled on a bottomless post...Also, I decided to start my feature paying a tribute of love to the series I grew up with and I still cherish more than any other (that accounts for the post being so friggingly LONG)...Fame. Which means the '80s. Some of you probably weren't even around at the time, but I hope you'll be curious enough to read my post - or maybe you have seen Fame in reruns, so you're not so clueless. Right?

"Fame?...
I don't understand that reference."

(Image source)

Anyway, forgive me if you can ;). I assure you that the upcoming installment of my feature will take you back to the present again - actually, it will be about a current series, which is likely to end in 2015, but has two different finales planned ahead just in case...Who guessed? Feel free to toss some titles down in the comment section!
I haven't decided yet if "Screen Time" is going to be a monthly or bimonthly feature, since it involves a ton of research (yes, I've seen the shows, maybe more than once...but I can't possibly remember everything that occurred on them, and I need pics, links and all sort of references). Bimonthly, I guess. It really amounts to a ton of work.
 

To tell the truth, I meant to post my first "Screen Time" a week earlier, but I have been offered a book to review...and, since it sounds like something I might like, I accepted. All I can say for now is that it's a re-release, in a new and improved version (and with a different ending), of a book first published in 2009. Its new appearance in print is scheduled for Sep. 5, and I should be able to post my review around that day or a couple of days later...if I receive the PDF in time, that is. Because apparently it's not ready yet. Anyway, my planned review for How to Say Goodbye in Robot will have to wait, I guess. Also, I hope to be able to spotlight another new book release soon. Well, technically, this book isn't new either, since it came out in 2012 - and I loved it. (Afterlife book, it goes without saying. Or was it? Because, um...it was and it wasn't. I'm so cryptic *insert evil grin here*). But after some misfortunes in the publishing department (it sucks when you put your first book forth and the press goes out of business shortly afterwards - doesn't it?), the book in question found a new home and is ready to win more fans over...not to mention, getting a sequel. So, I'm basically preparing to fangirl about it...again. Wait, I don't fangirl? Oh, shucks.

Me? Like this? You must be nuts. Too much sweating involved.

A small piece of bookish news, too. I'm sure that many of you know this already, but I thought I'd share all the same, for those who don't. The announced sequel to one of the YA literary cases of 2013, All Our Yesterdays (my review here) has been cancelled. Apparently, Cristin Terrill decided she couldn't produce a second installment that would equal the first one. I applaud her decision - it was honest, not to mention gutsy. For those who liked A. O. Y., though, this is not the end...read the new companion short story here.

Plus, a completely unrelated question - have you noticed my new avatar?

No, don't get excited now. She's prettier than me ;).

I finally decided I needed to reveal a bit more of myself...besides, I was kind of fed up with my old profile image...Well, to be completely honest, the fact is that I found myself randomly surfing the net one day, trying all the available cartoonize-yourself/doll-yourself free sites (not so many, to tell the truth) just out of curiosity. And I was frustrated with their lack of options for things that really matter (like hair), or their habit of over-simplifying the design. One of the sites I tried was Face Your Manga, and I got something that came closer to what I look like...but still not close enough. So I imported my image into the wonderful free program Photofiltre, made A LOT of little adjustements...et voilĂ . Much, much better. Sorry for not smiling, but I couldn't find the right smile in the F.Y.M. database, or design one. So, that's me (approximately) when I don't smile. You'll have to live with that ;).

Last, but not least, this was my 100th post!

Here's to many more!
(Image source)

So, see you next week, my exquisite beauties!

[Note: all gifs by Giphy unless credited otherwise].

August 04, 2014

...Did I Say Blog Hiatus?! Well, I've Been Plotting and Scheming...

I've just found out there's no such thing as a blog hiatus.
Because I've actually been spending my blog-free time coming up with new blog ideas and prepping my next articles O_O.

Image source

(Well, just a tiny portion of my time...but still. It's not like I forgot that I have a blog, like I expected to).

So...just a small post to advise everyone out there that:
  1. I'll be back in September (extended hiatus LOL. I'm feeling so lazy. On the other hand, like I said, I'm actually working on my comeback...);
  2. my next review will be for "How to Say Goodbye in Robot" by Natalie Standiford;
  3. I plan on writing a new post about Bloglovin' soon (a rather funny inside story involving myself); and
  4. I will launch my new feature in the first week of September (comeback post)!
About point 4. One of my favourite things in the world - aside from books and music, that is - are TV series. Surprisingly, my tastes in books and shows are almost completely divergent. While I greedily read YA, I can't bring myself to watch serials whose characters are younger than 20-30 (with a huge exception that I'll tell you about in the very first installment of my feature). While afterlife books are my favourite sub-genre, I only like my ghosts messing with the living on paper (yes, I'm saying I've never warmed to Ghost Whisperer). While I adore written sci-fi, I rarely find it alluring on TV (sorry, vast army of Doctor Who fans. Please don't hurt me. Pretty please?). While I'm a huge, huge, HUGE fan of classic thrillers (Agatha Christie and the likes), I need my TV mysteries to be well-rooted in the present time (C.S.I. and the likes)...on the other hand, I wouldn't find it satisfying to read a C.S.I. type of novel and watch a murder mystery set in the '30s, or even in the '60s. Simply, there are things that work for me in a format and not in the other. Anyway, like I said, I watch a good number of TV series (while I'm not a fan of movies)...and I noticed many other bloggers do. So I thought, how about letting my love for these shows shine on my blog as well? and maybe having the chance to discuss them with my fellow bloggers? That's why I'm going to launch a not-book-related feature called "Screen Time". Stay tuned LOL.

Logo preview!

How did July go for y'all? Where you on holiday? or sweating (and maybe swearing too hehe) at work? I've been working all month, but it wasn't overwhelming or anything (thank you, oh air conditioner). Just plain old routine. Summer makes me tired though. I'm lucky this hasn't been a particularly hot one so far in my corner of the world (what about yours?). Anyway, I'm looking forward to my usual August-week-off (from the 11th to 17th). It's not like I'm going anywhere, but I'll be home and resting, which is nice. So, well, talk to you later. Have a great month my lovelies!

July 06, 2014

Virtual Holiday (Better Known as Blog Hiatus)

Hi my lovelies!

No, that's NOT me
(Image source)
After a not particularly hot beginning, summer is officially here. And I'm not going on holiday :(. However, I decided I could afford a virtual vacation at least. Now, most of you are probably younger (much younger...) and haler (much haler...) than yours truly. Anyway, to me, summer is a beast. The more I grow old, the more the heat fatigues me. Add job and housekeeping to the mix, and I'm knocked to the ground. And my mind screams for mercy too. It's not easy to form coherent sentences - and in an acquired language at that. So, I decided to take the month of July out (I don't know about August yet, but I wouldn't want to be MIA for too long). I'll still visit blogs and comment on them, and of course I'll respond to emails or comments on my own blog if there are any, and I'll be haunting Goodreads as usual ;P - only I won't post, unless something massive (like winning a giveaway prize or being offered the book of my dreams to review - yeah, right) comes along. Also, I plan on using part of my free time to help a friend with a project of hers - I promised to months ago, but so far I've done very little, and I feel guilty.

So, basically, here's where I wish you all a spectacular summer and say farewell till August (hopefully)...Stay tuned! :)

June 28, 2014

Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner: "Perfection" (ARC Review)

Title:  Perfection [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Mad World (3rd of 6 books)
Authors: Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner [Mad World site | Erin on Goodreads | Troy's site | Troy on Goodreads]
Genres: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Year: 2014
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Quirky, refreshing look at magic, woven with a peculiar mythology. Interesting, not stereotypical characters. Surprises and mysteries.
Cons: Some occurrences are a bit too convenient. Astrid and Max's voices sound a bit similar or too mature sometimes. Some characters get less screentime than the others. A lot happens and you feel compelled to read on without giving everything the chance to sink in.
Will appeal to: Those who liked Wakefield and Tunnelville but craved for more action...and more (awesome) magic.

Blurb: Following months of living on the streets of Boston, the Wakefield escapees have found a temporary shelter to recoup in after barely escaping from Arlington Station with their lives. As the troubled teens grow closer and rely on each other for survival, they know the inexhaustible Dr. Lycen is on the hunt. When he shows up on their doorstep, some of them flee to Perfection, a turn of the century living museum that holds more than its fair share of secrets. Those who travel to Perfection find a new home that promises safety and stability. But is a dangerous adversary pulling the strings behind the scenes? (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novel from the authors in exchange for an honest review. And...*drum roll*...this is actually my very first ARC! (Huge thanks to Erin and Troy for trusting me with it!). But I'm confident you'll be able to realise that my review wasn't biased...since it's next to impossible to fake enthusiasm when one writes the kind of reviews that yours truly writes :). Here goes...
You probably know by now that I don't read many popular series, but from what other reviewers say, even the best of them often tend to lose momentum as the story progresses. Well, that's not the case here. The Mad World series has reached its third installment, and I've been pleasantly surprised to see it grow and get richer and more layered with each book. Also, I was able to spot a subtle difference in each one of them. While Book 1 was more "contemporary meets paranormal" (which is the main theme of this series, since it focus on a bunch of kids who don't all have special abilities), Book 2 - though mainly dealing with survival in a hostile environment - had a wider urban fantasy angle, and now Book 3 provides a stronger magical feel, besides being more on the rural fantasy side. Now, since Mad World is, in the words of its authors, a "double trilogy", this means that we're only halfway through the story - and still the vein is well far from running dry
As usual, we mainly get a double POV from friends Astrid and Max, though the book has a prologue and epilogue by Dr. Lycen (the teens' nemesis) and is interspersed with chapters where Karen (Astrid's aunt) tells her own side of the story. As the book begins, six of the original Wakefield escapees are living in a temporary shelter that is literally across the street from where they lived before - so I wonder why it takes Dr. Lycen so much to find them (especially since they make a living with their magic tricks in the metro...). But he ultimately does, of course...though a character from Book 2 makes an unexpected comeback and manages to take them to Perfection, a protected village somewhere near Boston where a bunch of magicians live. Max's old dream has come true at this point: since one of them has made a last-minute decision to follow a different path, only five of the kids actually reach Perfection. But is the turn of the century living museum as safe as it seems?
A lot happens in these 300-something pages. We are introduced to many new faces, and even meet some old ones. Most of the Wakefield escapees get unexpected character development, especially when it comes to their powers. There's so much cool magic in this book...animated origamis, a quilt that can trap memories, a painting that can advise you of your impending death (I'm not going to spoil this one...it sounds creepy, but it's also highly original and fascinating), a place that's not really there (and now we get an explanation for the moving tower in Book 2), and much more. Also, we get a closer look at the different kinds of magic, and learn more about Mentalists and Elementals - not to mention the reasons behind the Hickory Group, an ancient, shady organization bent on containing magic and not letting it be exposed. Of course, magic has its dark side as well, and we get plenty of it. But in the midst of all this, the authors don't lose sight of the human interactions, especially when it comes to Astrid and Max's friendship and her budding romance with fellow escapee Lawrence. Mind you, the latter is a slow-burning fuse, so don't expect any instalove syndrome to rear its ugly head ;D. [...]