March 31, 2011

Interview with Christine Hurley Deriso

tI’m happy to welcome Christine Hurley Deriso to the blog, she's the author of Then I Met My Sister, and she's joining us today for a little interview!

TIMMS


Let’s jump right into the questions. Can you tell us what Then I Met My Sister is all about?

It's about 17-year-old Summer discovering the diary her sister kept the summer before her death. Summer has always idealized Shannon, who died before she was born, but the diary exposes the full dimensions of a girl who seemed perfect but was far from it, just as all of us are. The diary also unearths long-buried family secrets, ultimately helping Summer understand both her family and herself better.

What was the most difficult part of writing this story about sisterly -dynamics and secrets?
The protagonist in the book, Summer, is very guarded. I am, too. The challenge was to convey Summer's self-protectiveness while still letting the reader know what was going on in her head. I didn't nail it out of the gate; when my editor read my first draft, he said, "Let us into her head! We need to know what she's thinking!" I had to dig deep to open that door, both for Summer and myself, but it ended up being one of the most fulfilling and self-revealing experiences I've ever had.
Christine
Out of Shannon and Summer, who are you the most like?
I'm definitely most like Summer ... nonconforming, irreverent, unconventional. I was an underachiever in school like she was, feeling I couldn't live up to the standards of my high-achieving siblings. I rationalized that I was too deep to be concerned with mundane pursuits like grades or trophies, but deep down, I didn't really believe I was up to the challenge. I'm proud I had the courage to march to a different drummer, but I wish I'd had more faith in myself. I taught Summer the lessons I wish I'd learned at her age.

How it was different to write Then I Met My Sister to your other books – geared toward younger readers?

The characters in this book are more complicated and multidimensional than characters in my tween novels, simply because they're older and more experienced. This book deals with more mature subject matter, but never for exploitative or sensational purposes. I try to treat both my characters and my readers with a great deal of sensitivity and respect.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

Once I'm immersed in a novel, I no longer feel like I'm writing it. I almost feel like I'm reading it ... discovering it as I go along. It's as if the story and characters existed before they found their way into my head and I'm plucking them from the universe. It feels transcendent ... sublime ... profound ... incredible.

Are you up for some random questions? I like to tackle the timeless questions of what’s your favorite:
TV show? What Not to Wear.
Food? Pasta.
…. Color? Turquoise.

Thanks so much for visiting A Girl, Books & Other Things.

--

Then I Met My Sister
About the Book: 
Shannon has been the backdrop of my life since the moment I was born.
Summer Stetson lives inside a shrine to her dead sister. Eclipsed by Shannon's greatness, Summer feels like she's a constant disappointment to her controlling, Type A momzilla and her all-too-quiet dad. Her best friend Gibson believes Summer's C average has more to do with rebelliousness than smarts, but she knows she can never measure up; academically or otherwise.

On her birthday, Summer receives a secret gift from her aunt; Shannon's diary. Suddenly, the one-dimensional vision of her sister becomes all too solid. Is this love-struck, mom-bashing badass the same Shannon everyone raves about? Determined to understand her troubled sister, Summer dives headfirst down a dark rabbit hole and unearths painful family secrets. Each revelation brings Summer closer to the mysterious and liberating truth about her family,and herself.

If you want to know more about this story, check out the other stops of this Blog Tour @ The Teen (Book) Scene

Alex

March 30, 2011

Books Read in March

Challenges

Okay! Update time!

You can see my running list of books read so far in my Books of 2011 tab in the navigation bar above, so I'll just run a tally here:

Books read this month: 21
Books read so far: 49
Out Do Yourself Challenge (2011/2010 ratio by this month): 49/32
Out Do Yourself Challenge so far: 49/121
100+ Challenge: 49/100
Aussie YA Challenge: 3/6
Contemporary Romance: 7/10
Historical Romance Challenge: 5/12
YA Reading Challenge: 18/50

And that's my month in books!

What say you?Alex

March 29, 2011

Book Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

Last Little Blue
WARNING: There will be spoilers regarding 13 Little Blue Envelopes

At First Sight: A few months after traveling through Europe following her beloved - and deceased - Aunt Peg's crazy instructions and having the adventure of a lifetime (see 13 Little Blue Envelopes), Ginny Blackstone is back home trying to write her application essay for college - the big one, about an experience that changed her life - and she knows there is only one thing she could write about: Her Aunt Peg's 13 Little Blue Envelopes quest, but she has no idea where to start.

So when a message pops in her inbox, showing a picture of the last envelope - the one that was stolen before she could read it - and then a message from someone called Oliver, urging her to go to London to retrieve the letters, Ginny jumps at the chance, deciding to spend the rest of winter break with her newly discovered uncle Richard in London. 

But once in there, things get complicated. Ginny's summer fling/kind of something guy Keith might be dating a beautiful girl named Ellis; Oliver has his own agenda for the last blue envelope, which sends Ginny into another insane quest, this time as part of a strange foursome.

Second Glance: Reading The Last Little Blue Envelope was kind of like getting reacquainted with an old friend, and from page one I was quite willing to follow Ginny on a new adventure. The beginning was a bit up and down, kind of drawn out, but once the book hit it's stride, it was very enjoyable. 

I actually loved the two new characters introduced, Ellis and Oliver, though the later was a bit of an acquired taste. Surprisingly, I wasn't a fan of Keith's in this story but oh well. I liked Ginny, I could see how she had grown up from the last book and it was great getting some closure to the story (it sort of always bothered me not knowing what was in the last envelope). 

Did wish that there was more of Richard, he's kind of my favorite character, actually.

Bottom Line: I think that fans of the first book - and of Maureen Johnson in general- will love the book. I do think it can be read on it's own, but you'll probably enjoy it a lot more if you read 13LBE first.  The Last Little Blue Envelope comes out on April 26th, 2011.

Favorite Quote: "Those are the giant snowmen of Carnaby Street," her uncle Richard explained. "Festive and disturbing, just the way we like it here. Don't look them in the eye."

starstarstarstar
Alex

March 27, 2011

At the Movies: Enchanted

Enchanted
Enchanted is the story of Giselle, a girl on the verge of getting her heart desire: to marry her prince charming... until her Prince's wicked stepmother shoves her down a well and she ends up in modern-day New York City - but she might as well be in Mars since NYC is so different from her fairy tale world of Andalasia.

Confused and wearing a massive wedding dress, Giselle wanders the city until she meets Robert and his daughter Morgan. Morgan instantly takes a liking to Giselle, who represents all those fairy tale things her practical father is so against. Robert is not a bad guy, he adores his daughter, but he and Morgan's mom didn't part in the best of terms, and he is a divorce lawyer so he wants to encourage Morgan to be more practical so she doesn't get hurt like he did.

Still, at Morgan's urging, Robert lets Giselle stay with them while she waits for Prince Edward to come for her - even if he is dubious there is a Prince Edward at all. He can't help like Giselle, even though her being there is complicating things with his long-time girlfriend Nancy.

Meanwhile, Prince Edward, thanks to Giselle's best friend Pip the Chipmunk, finds out that someone sent Giselle to an strange land, so he follows her, with every intention to bringing her back, so they can get married and live happily ever after. 

But seeing life with Morgan and Robert, is changing Giselle's fairy tale perception of things, much as she still believes in true love. 

Enchanted is my go-to feel-good movie. I love it. I think I saw it four or five times at the cinema, and when it came out I made my dad buy it right away. For me, Enchanted is the best of two words: a great romantic comedy and a great good, ole fashioned Disney fairytale - it even has an amazing animated opening sequence.

I loved Amy Adams and James Marsden as Giselle and Prince Edward, because they play these cartoons-come to life with such aplomb, never becoming a joke - they are funny because they absolutely believe the things they say, but they don't go into parody. They are both naive but well meaning. And Patrick Dempsey as Robert was great too, a more reserved and practical sort of man but with a good heart and a hidden romantic streak. And the little girl that played Morgan was a darling. 

Another thing that I love is that, though it retains many 'Fairy Tale Commonplaces', it also shows how impractical some of them are - like Giselle's massive dress. And I love the compromises that both Giselle and Robert make. Giselle has to become more practical to remain with Robert and Morgan (though she's still dreamy and fun and likes to sing at the drop of the hat), and Robert becomes softer, more willing to believe in happy ever afters because he found his. 

Plus, it has big musical numbers and great songs. I even own the sound track of this movie and I'm not one to buy soundtracks, the songs are just so much fun.

A and Personal Favorite Personal Favorite
Alex

March 26, 2011

Book Gossip 26 - Announcements

Wow! I hadn't done one of these in a while!

But two things happened in the last few that made me want to write another book gossip post!

Lost in Time
First, a few days ago,  Melissa de la Cruz announced that the still untitled Book Seven of The Blue Bloods series, will wrap up the current narrative arc and bring conclusion to the Mimi - Jack-Schuyler storyline that we started with. She said that there might be more books in the same universe, but you know, conclusion finally!

I do love this series but I was starting to feel like the plot was stretching thin. 

Lost in Time (book six) will be released in October 4th, 2011, with book Seven coming sometime in the Fall of 2012. 

For more details, you can check Melissa de la Cruz's site.


Finnikin
And then, just yesterday, Melina Marchetta (she who writes the most amazing books you will ever read) posted the first description of her upcoming release Froi of the Exiles, which is coming out in Australia this October, on her blog.

  
Three years after Lumatere is united, Froi has adopted the ways of his new homeland, dividing his days between rebuilding the kingdom and training with the Queen’s Guard. Until a mysterious man arrives with a promise that he can grant a young assassin access into the palace of Lumatere’s enemy: to kill the King of Charyn. 
  
But once inside the secretive kingdom of stone, Froi is forced to protect the half mad Princess Quintana and her unborn child who will be the first babe born to Charyn in eighteen years.  And in breaking his bond to his beloved Queen Isaboe and Finnikin, Froi may just be the one to bring peace between two kingdoms and find out the truth to his past.
Sounds interesting, and even though I only Liked Finnikin, I'll still read this, I'm sure. No cover yet, though, and it will probably won't be published in the US until 2012, but I'm still pretty excited about it.

Also, Happy Birthday to Melina Marchetta - her birthday is today (or was today? since it's already another day in Aussieland?) Anyway, Feliz Cumpleaños. 

Alex

March 25, 2011

Retro Friday (7) - Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath

Retro Friday
Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! 

This week I chose Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath

Texas DestinyAt First Sight: The last place Houston Leigh wants to be is waiting for his brother Dallas' mail-order bride at the train station in Forth Worth, but since Dallas busted his leg, it fell to him to pick up the woman and embark on a three-week journey back to his brother's ranch. 

Amelia Carson left Georgia behind, hoping to leave all of her bad memories of the war there, and to start a new life with Dallas. They had been corresponding for a year by the time he proposed, and she was happy to have this new chance in life. She didn't expect to met Houston instead.

Houston who is taciturn and moody, who was so scarred by the war - both physically and emotionally - that he hasn't felt worthy of any kind of happiness in the last thirteen years.

Giving one step forward and two backward, they start their journey and get to know each other. The more Houston knows Amelia, the more he wants to please her and make her happy and give her the best, and to his mind the best is his older brother - a war hero and considerable land owner, not to mention handsome and stable - much as Houston starts to want Amelia for himself. 

Amelia set out to marry a man, but then she found herself giving her heart to another, even though he didn't seem willing to take it. 

Second Glance: Texas Destiny is the first of the Texas trilogy by Lorraine Heath about the Leigh brothers, and I adored it. 

I had been told this was a definite hanky read, and it was, I lost count of how many times I teared up, it was just so heart wrenching seeing Amelia and Houston struggle with their feelings and their fears and all the misunderstandings and problems that stood in their way.

About half of the book is taken by the trip Amelia and Houston make, where it's just the two of them and I really felt like I got to know them, more importantly, like they got to know each other; and I loved seeing that. Then they reach the ranch and the dynamics between the three of the brothers and Amelia were lovely to see, how much they needed her for different reasons - though Austin, the youngest brother, was mostly looking for a mother figure, since his Mom died when he was very young and he's only 16. 

Plus, I really got a sense of the period - about ten years after the end of the North/South war - and how difficult things were then.

Bottom Line: Both a love story and the story of a family trying to heal itself, Texas Destiny is a great launch of a series that I can't wait to read.

Favorite Quote: "Houston was beginning to wonder if Dallas had broken his leg on purpose just to get out of wearing this silly scrap of cloth. It wouldn't do to anger the woman before she became his wife.
      Well, Houston wasn't going to marry her so he could anger her all he wanted, and he wasn't going to wrap flowers around the crown of his brown broad-​brimmed hat.
      No, ma'am. No, sir."

starstarstarstar1/2Personal Favorite
Alex

Book Review: Healing Hearts by Taryn Kincaid

Healing Heats
I don't much care for this cover
At First Sight: Emma Whiteside is angry and in dire need of help. Ever since her brother died during the war a year ago, her life has been going from bad to worse and now she has reached the end of her rope as her father has disappeared, leaving her to deal with ever growing debts. 

Her only comfort comes from blaming everything on Adam Caldwell, Viscount Riverton, the man who - when she was but eight years old -she made promise her to wait until she was old enough to marry him, and the official in charge of her brother when he was killed. 

Now Adam is back, hurt and damaged, both physically and mentally, but driven by a desperate need to make things better for Emma. 

Second Glance: Healing Hearts is a short, cute romp of a story. It's a very short novella, perfect for a nice hour or two reading. The characters were nice and likable but I do think the over all story would have benefited from more length as to develop everything more.

As it is, it was a cute and quick read - everything happens over the course of a day -and I really liked that Emma and Adam knew each other from before, so it was easier to believe their interactions.

Healing Hearts was published by Carina Press - imprint of Harlequin - which specializes on digital first books, so this one is only available in electronic formats as of now.

Bottom Line: For the short story that it is, I enjoyed it a lot. Simple, cute and surprisingly steamy. 
starstarstar1/2
Alex

March 24, 2011

Anime Addiction: Vampire Knight

Vampire Knight tells the story of Yuki Cross, a student at the prestigious Cross Academy, which her adoptive father runs. She and her adoptive brother/best friend Zero are members of the Disciplinary Committee whose main job is to keep the Day Class students away from the Night Class students since these ones have a secret: they are all Vampires, and it's imperative that stays a secret.

Yuki knows a little about them, when she was just a small child, the leader of the Night Class, Kaname, saved her from a rough Vampire, that's her first memory. Kaname was the one who brought her to Mr. Cross when he discovered she had no memories. 

Zero also knows about Vampires, but he has no liking for them; he and his family were hunters before a vampiress caught with them and killed everyone else- including Zero's twin -but him.

There are many secrets in this story and it's sequels, this is just the first part, and I have to be honest and say that when I started it I though the first few episodes were SO boring. But I stuck to it, mostly because I was intrigued by Zero, and the story does pick up toward the end.

The design of the characters and the series over all is beautiful, and that's the first thing that drew me to it, in the end, I found it to be a worthy series, and lots of people seem to really love it - I only liked it but I'm Vampire prejudiced. By far I think Zero is the best character around, and learning his story was what made this series for me.
Alex

March 23, 2011

Book Review: How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks

How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire
At First Sight: Roman Draganesti has been indulging on a bit of  "woe is me" time for a while now, he's old and feeling slightly messed up about being a vampire, particularly since something happened with a human some, oh, 140 years ago. So he was in one of his darks moods when a couple of friends arrive with a prototype of a new product Rom's enterprises could sell on the Vampire Digital Network. 

After 'testing' the prototype, he ends up in the very undignified position of having lost a fang and being in bad need of a dentist. And so he stumbles into Shana Whelan, who was covering the night shift at a 24/7 dental clinic. Shana Whelan is in deep trouble, not long ago she witnessed a massacre -where her best friend died - and now she's hiding under a new identity thanks to the witness protection program. 

But it seems like her past is catching up to her, and that Rom is the only one who can help her, since the people after her aren't the run-of-the-mill Russian Mobsters.

Second Glance: I can't honestly say that I liked this book very much, maybe because it was the first book of the series and the author was trying to set up a lot of things at once, and introduce both a lot of characters and the dynamics of her vampire-universe. 

The characters are likable enough and there are parts that can be really funny but I felt like the pace of the story was very off. The plot felt both stuck and convoluted at times, mostly because I felt there were chapters were nothing happened, that the characters stayed stuck on one single situation for several chapters rather than flowing and that took dynamism away from the story.

Bottom Line: At times over the top, and at times going in circles,  How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire is funny story, but it's not my favorite and I don't think I will be turning a fan of this series.
starstarstar
Alex

March 21, 2011

Book Review: Things You Either Hate or Love by Brigid Lowry

Love or hate
At First Sight: Georgia is fifteen and obsessed with going to see her favorite band, Natural Affinity, in concert. She has a mental love affair with the band's lead singer Jakob and currently is basing her whole life on going to see him.

This prompts her to get a string of jobs - each worse than the last -  even as other things in her life start to complicate, like the fact that she's growing apart from her best friend Mel.

Family and personal drama just keeps pouring over her as she tries to stick to her plan to see the band.


Second Glance: Things You Either Hate or Love  is what I would describe as a quiet book where nothing much happens. I usually don't mind, I'm all for Slice of Life stories, but I have to say that I could never really connect to Georgia, that - though at times she could be very funny - I grew tired of her inner monologue about how she's fat and how her family is all crazy. Also found the treatment of the death of her father when she was four a little strange, something about the tone didn't quite seem right.

Aussie Cover and Title
Plus, I never really grew to like anyone in her inner circle, I particularly didn't like her best friend Mel. I don't know why.


Bottom Line: With an uneven pace and a bit all over the place, Things You Either Hate or Love is an unremarkable book that I can't see myself re-reading.

starstar
Alex

March 19, 2011

Book Review: The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson

Reluctant HeiressAt First Sight: Born in the gutter, Guy Farne worked and studied his way out Newcastle and into becoming a self made millionaire. His only ties to his old life are his name, the lack of shame he feels for his origins and the love he feels for his foster mother Martha

If not for his three employees - his secretary, his assistant and his driver - he hasn't opened his heart to anyone since he was 20 years old and studying in Vienna, where he feel in love with a rich young woman whose family refuses his first offer of marriage.

But in the ten years since - and on the verge of his return to Vienna, a few years after the end of World War I - her runs into this woman and decides he will lay the world at her feet. Once in Vienna, he starts to do this buy purchasing a castle where he will host a grand house party to re-introduce his fiancée into high society. 

The once owner of the castle is a diminutive princess called Tessa who, faced with the fact that she can't support the castle, decides to give her aunts leave to sell it, hoping the money will serve to settle them in a comfortable style. Meanwhile, she tells her aunts she's 'studying music' in Vienna, but really she's the under wardrobe mistress as an opera house. No one there knows of her royal blood and she's happy leaving it at that, believing that music makes everyone equal and that it's an honor to slave away at the opera house, just to serve the music. 

A series of casual encounters forges a sort of friendship between Guy and Tessa, he's fascinated by her guileless openness and is surprised by his need to protect her. Tessa just likes him and wants him to be happy. But the untold truths linger just below the surface until they can be hidden any longer.

Second Glance: I started The Reluctant Heiress thinking I would like it a lot, having read many of Eva Ibbotson's books - some I loved, some I hated - I had high hopes for this one, since the plot reminded me in a vague way of A Countess Below stairs - house party, snotty fiancée, hidden identity - but I ended so disappointed in this book.

It started so well! The first few chapters are all about Guy and I really felt like this was more his story, even though the book is titled after her, and they are lovely. A quick, to the point prose, describing the facts of his life up to his second arrival to Vienna and the purchase of the castle. Guy was so interesting and the descriptions of Vienna and the Austrian country side were lovely. 

But then we meet Tessa, and I first I liked her but soon something began to irritate me about her. She's innocent and naive and almost saccharine (as, lets be frank, are most of Ibbotson's heroines), but she lacks all common sense and survivor instinct; she's happy to hide the fact she's a princess, almost ashamed of it, and she lets everyone in the opera house boss her around and walk all over her in the name of "art", she works for free too. 

And that's another thing too, I only liked one out of the extensive cast of characters from the Opera House - Little Heidi, a dancer friend of Tessa's - half the time I couldn't even keep them straight and they all so openly took advantage of Tessa that it was shameful. The director of the company in particular was so annoying.

Guy I understood, even when I didn't agree with him, even when he refused to see the evident, I liked him and I understood him. But Tessa? She fell into the dreaded, most awful category a heroine can fall into: Too Stupid To Live.

Bottom Line: Read this book for Guy, for the descriptions of Vienna, for the light hearted YA-ish historical fiction story that Guy's part is. Skip it if you take Heroine-suckiness personal.
starstarstar
Alex

March 18, 2011

Retro Friday (6) - Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

Retro Friday
Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! 

This week I chose Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen , which is an old favorite of mine. I was actually surprised I had never reviewed this book, what with the number of times I have read it!! Anyway, where we go. 

current
Current Cover
At First Sight: Halley and Scarlett have been a dynamic duo for most of their lives. Scarlett as the outgoing, bubbly one and Halley as her quiet side quick. 

But the summer before junior year everything changes. Scarlett falls madly in love with Michael Sherwood and when he dies Scarlett world seems to crumble, and the balance of their friendship shifts, requiring Halley to be strong for the two of them for the first time in their lives.

But Michael's death was just the beginning and, on the heels of it, his best friend Macon suddenly starts hanging around Halley and her fascination with him furthers the chasm that has been growing between her and her mother. Then Scarlett finds out that she's pregnant, and Halley starts actually dating Macon and their world starts to spin out of control faster than either of them is prepared for.


Second Glance: I can't express how much I love this story even though Macon is probably my least favorite Dessen Boy (more on that later). The strength of it, for me, has always been Scarlett and Halley, the nuances of their friendship and how, even though Halley is the narrator, is really the story of her and Scarlett and the baby. I also love the different dynamics each of them have with their mothers and each other's mother (Halley getting along better with Scarlett's carefree mother than her own, and vice-versa)

Now, Macon. I don't know what it was, maybe because it had been a while since the last time I sat to read Someone Like You cover to cover, but I could notice now subtle things that made me suspicious of Macon from the beginning, and it's really great to see how Sarah Dessen builds his character up, making him seem perfect to Halley at the beginning, this boy who belonged with someone more popular, more outgoing more everything, a boy Halley thought she wasn't right for, that made her felt lucky he had chosen her; and then how things changed, and he began to fall from the pedestal where Halley had put him. 

This time around, I also wondered more about Michael. It was funny how I keep finding new things each time I read this book.


Bottom Line: I adore this book, I remembered I used to read it every couple of months when I first got it, I just couldn't resist Halley and Scarlett's story, a story about first loves yes, but mostly about friendship - about the choices we make and the promises we keep in name of that friendship. Definitely a book I think everyone should read.


Favorite Quote: "The truth was I knew, after all those flat January days, that I deserved better. That I deserved I love yous and kiwi fruits and flowers and warriors coming to my door, besotted with love. I deserved pictures of my face in a million expressions, and the warmth of a baby's kick under my hand. I deserved to grow, and to change, to become all the girls I could be over the course of my life, each one better than the last."
Left: Original Cover / Right: Brit Cover
starstarstarstar2/3Personal Favorite
Alex
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