i kissed a zombie, and i liked it

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | | 27 comments

Just so you know, I didn’t kiss a zombie, and I certainly didn’t like it. Did that come out wrong? You got the idea, anyway. Me + zombies + physical contact = not happening. BUT. I am still Team Zombie. From a distance. Make that a long distance…behind some shatterproof glass and barbed wire. Yeah. In this case, the blog post is actually the book title, so everyone’s safe.


I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked It is a fun, farcical take on YA literature, teen trends, pop culture and the vampire craze that has swept the nation. I know you’re saying to me, “VAMPIRES? When did that happen? ‘Cause I thought this was a pretty obvious zombie book.” You’re right (you always are). But you know what? It’s a two-for-one deal.


Algonquin “Alley” Rhodes, the high school newspaper’s music critic, meets an intriguing singer, Doug, while reviewing a gig. He’s a weird-looking guy—goth, but he seems sincere about it, like maybe he was into it back before it was cool. She introduces herself after the set, asking if he lives in Cornersville, and he replies, in his slow, quiet murmur, “Well, I don’t really live there, exactly...”

When Alley and Doug start dating, Alley is falling so hard she doesn’t notice a few odd signs: he never changes clothes, his head is a funny shape, and he says practically nothing out loud. Finally Marie, the school paper’s fashion editor, points out the obvious: Doug isn’t just a really sincere goth. He’s a zombie. Horrified that her feelings could have allowed her to overlook such a flaw, Alley breaks up with Doug, but learns that zombies are awfully hard to get rid of—at the same time she learns that vampires, a group as tightly-knit as the mafia, don’t think much of music critics who make fun of vampires in reviews…


Oh, this book is HILARIOUS. And scathing. Which is part of why it’s hilarious. It’s like that hipster zombie novel I linked to a while back, or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s not serious in any way, shape or form. It’s a novel-length joke, and a good one at that. Despite the ribbing I received from my friends for the title and the cover, I took this one out in public, because I just couldn’t stop giggling or reading passages out loud. Adam Selzer's writing tickles my funnybone. Let me give you an example:


Watching a vampire make out with an idiot is kind of like going to the farmers' market and noticing just how many farmers have lost fingers in on-the-job accidents. Even though it's kind of disturbing, it's impossible to look away.”


And that’s only the first page. Lovelovelove this book. Not that it’s GOOD, mind you. I mean, it’s hilarious, but it’s not Shakespeare. And the pop culture references that made me laugh most won’t stand up over time. But it’s absurd and honest about it, and I don’t regret spending my time or my money. I think anyone who appreciates the lighter side of life will like this one. Warning: not for Twi-hards or those who like their reading material deadly serious (yes, pun intended). IS recommended for: all the rest, especially if you need a laugh. With a side of unabashed fun. And ridiculousness. Yep.

teaser tuesday (43)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 | | 24 comments
It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:


Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page. Post two (or more) sentences from that page, along with the title and author. Don’t give anything vital away!


“It was short, approximately four feet nothing, its skin a pale grey colour, and rough, like old tarmac on a road. Its eyes were big and round, reflective and multifaceted, and from its nose and mouth dribbled a pale brown liquid that looked for all the world like engine oil. I reached the obvious diagnosis.”


-p. 139 of Kate Griffin’s A Madness of Angels

three hundred followers later… (giveaway)

Monday, June 28, 2010 | | 110 comments

I know that the number of followers or facebook friends you have isn’t supposed to be tied up with your self-worth, but I do get a little thrill every time I see a new blog follower. I’m just not on facebook enough to care about that that deeply. Besides, I can tell when you’re my real friend, versus someone I met once. Hint: It’s when you feed me. Or buy books for me, or…wait, that’s dangerous territory! But…it’s kind of true.


This weekend I passed the 300 followers mark on the blog, and I danced a little on the inside. I also may have danced on the outside (no one was hurt, I swear!) because I went to the ALA annual conference. ALA stands for American Library Association. They’re the awesome people who run American libraries, hand out the Newbery and Caldecott awards, and have ridiculously great conferences.


At ALA I met several authors I admire and picked up many books I’ve been anticipating. I also met some really cool librarians while waiting in various signing lines. I’m serious, these ladies GOT IT. I could talk to them about all the books I love but feel guilty about reading, and the reactions of my friends to my book problem (I swear, I won’t buy any more this month!), and about the hazards of being a book-loving traveler. Denver, Alabama and National Geographic (you know who you are), I heart you! Thanks for making me laugh.


Another highlight was Toni Morrison’s keynote speech. That lady? Is elegant, entertaining, intelligent, beautiful and very, VERY cool. The way she phrased things, the cadence of her speech, reminded me very much of my own grandmother, who is a gracious, wonderful person. So Toni’s speech for me was awe-inspiring on the one hand (she’s TONI MORRISON, people!), and comforting on the other. I only hope that when I am old I can look back and realize that I have done something beautiful and reflect on it with half the aplomb of either Toni or my Nana.


BUT! Back to the books. There were many. In fact, there were too many. My eyes were big, and my shoulders weak. There are only so many tote bags one girl can carry, all right? I eventually dropped books off at a FedEx holding area on one end of the Exhibit Hall. Overnight. And then I took the box plus another bag home via taxi the next day. *sigh* At least I live within taxi range!


Followers, these books are for you. I am going to give away them away to two winners in the US or Canada, and there will be an additional $40 Book Depository spend spree for one of my international friends. How it works: the first winner will pick 5 books, and the second winner will get the rest. International winner will let me know which books they want ($40 or less, no pre-orders), and I’ll buy. Sound good? Check out the selection:


The DUFF by Kody Keplinger (ARC)

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher (ARC)

Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti (ARC)

Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles (signed ARC)

Grace by Elizabeth Scott (signed ARC)

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (signed ARC)

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain (signed hardcover)

Siren by Tricia Rayburn (signed hardcover)

Ash by Malinda Lo (signed hardcover)

The Daykeeper’s Grimoire (Prophecy of Days) by Christy Raedeke (paperback)

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken (hardcover)

-----


To enter:


Leave a comment on this post telling me the book you’re looking forward to most in 2010. Also let me know if you're international or domestic. Followers only, please!


Please include a method of contact. Giveaway is open internationally. Comments will close on July 16 at 11:59pm EST, and I will notify the randomly selected winners via email.


Good luck!

a trip through the mirrorscape

There’s a pattern I’ve noticed in middle grade novels marketed to boys. It goes something like this: extremely bright but under-appreciated boy is suddenly accepted to special school, where he discovers he has unique powers/abilities. He then goes on to make a couple of key friends, confound the bullies, and save the world in truly adventurous fashion. Of course, the most popular series that follow the formula are the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson’s Olympians. One of the newest entries into this oeuvre (if you want to call it that) is Mike Wilks’ Mirrorscape.


Enter the Mirrorscape - an amazing world limited only by the artist's imagination… Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, Melkin Womper is apprenticed to a master painter, Ambrosius Blenk. Son of a village weaver, Mel is over-awed by the master's richly colored and vividly detailed paintings. He is particularly amazed by the colors, because there are no colors back home. To have color in your life, you have to buy the Pleasure, and the sinister scarlet-robed Fifth Mystery own the rights to such Pleasures.

Soon, Mel and his new friends Ludo and Wren find themselves caught in a power struggle between the Mystery and the master. One that involves stepping through paintings into a world where the bizarre is commonplace and all logic is irrelevant. A world where angels, pyramid mazes, imaginary monsters, talking houses and - most importantly - the simple paintbrush all combine to form a hugely original and deeply compelling fantasy.

This is a thrilling adventure filled with fantastical creatures in an incredibly visual secret world.


Mirrorscape is set in one of the most interesting and truly awesome fantasy worlds I’ve read about recently. Wilks uses patently gorgeous language to describe color and other visual stimuli. The creature descriptions beg you to enlarge your imagination. And the plot is pretty interesting too – it moves at a fast clip towards adventure and everyone getting their just rewards.


And yet…the story lags at times. Why, you ask? That hero/protagonist/wunderkind – Mel – is a prig. No, really. And where the heroes of the biggest bestsellers in middle grade boy books overcome that challenge and learn humility, compassion and other ‘real person’ qualities, Mel seems static. He’s just GOOD. It’s like he pops onto the page as a perfect person and doesn’t need to grow from his adventures. Sort of annoying, you know?


Despite an inability to connect with the main character, I kept reading this one almost compulsively. It’s just vivid with description and fantasy and actually interesting side characters. The angels mentioned in the summary are rather hilarious, if I do say so myself. And I’ll be looking out for the second book, too. Weird how that works, isn’t it? Just goes to show that it’s possible to detest a character and yet love the world he’s in enough to keep going. Superb world building, Mr. Wilks!


Recommended for: fans of the middle grade boy-adventure genre and those really interested in world building, visual description and unique fantasy worlds.


This might be cheating a little, but I'm going to count it toward the Horns and Halos Reading Challenge.

changeling

Friday, June 25, 2010 | | 8 comments
Alyce at At Home with Books is hosting a weekly feature where she highlights one of her favorite reads from the past and encourages others to do so as well.

First off, I want to say that I’m super excited today, because I get to meet Alyce IN PERSON! She’s in town for a short while, and we’re heading to dinner with some other DC-area book bloggers (many thanks to Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit for organizing it!). I’m sure we’ll talk about our favorite reads. If I end up looking not-haggard – which would be rare for a Friday night – I’ll post photos. No promises!


As a huge fan of alternate universes or worlds just ‘sideways’ of ours, I was primed and ready for a book about ‘New York Between.’ So when Delia Sherman’s Changeling showed up on my Amazon recommendation list a couple of years ago, and bargain-priced to boot, I ordered it with alacrity. Luckily for me, the book didn’t disappoint.


A determined heroine, a quest adventure galore!

Neef is a changeling, a human baby stolen by fairies and replaced with one of their own. She lives in "New York Between," a Manhattan that exists side by side with our own, home to various creatures of folklore. Neef has always been protected by her fairy godmother until she breaks a Fairy Law. Now, unless she can meet the challenge of the Green Lady of Central Park, she'll be sacrificed! Neef is determined to beat the rap but time is running out…


Changeling is one of those children’s books that works just as well for and will appeal just as much to adults as to children. I loved the cover artwork for this one, but beyond that I didn’t have any expectations, except to hope that it would be awesome. What an entertaining read! It’s dark without being too dark, and Neef, our heroine extraordinaire, is silly sometimes but not stupid, and the adventures are precarious but fun. In other words, it’s the balance that works. I thought it was also rather hilarious in parts, as Sherman takes real-world landmarks, changes them, and then slips them into a ‘between’ world in inventive ways. It’s a solid re-read for whenever I need a bit of whimsy.


Recommended for: fans of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and anyone up for a romp through a New York City you think you might, but do not quite, know. Perfect for fantasy and fairy tale aficionados of all ages. Also for those of a more literal persuasion who might enjoy a dunking in the fantastic as long as there’s lots of adventure. And of course, for the young at heart.

where’s a sequel when you want one?

The Book List is a short and fun meme that allows you to share books with the blogosphere and make a list. Who doesn't love lists (quiet, you!)? It is hosted weekly by Rebecca at Lost in Books.

This Week's Topic is: 3 books you wish had a sequel


I’ve never been one to beg for a sequel, even if the ending of a book seems ambiguous. I just let my imagination have free reign and savor what is actually written. But if I have to choose – and I do for the meme – I’m going to choose old favorites. I’ve imagined new endings for these books countless times as I’ve reread them over the years, but I’d love to know how the authors themselves envision their continuing stories (it they do at all).


1. The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle


Whenever people say they like ‘contemporary fiction’ best, I wonder a bit, and try to place a book that I love in the genre. Inevitably, I end up with this one. I wouldn’t mind knowing how Ginny and Caulder and Smitty end up, because I love them all so much.


2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman


As Neverwhere as a book ends, another adventure is already beginning for its characters. I’d love to follow the Marquis and all the other zany denizens of this novel on further adventures in London Below. I’m sure they’d be hilarious, dark, frightening, and joyous by turns.


3. Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery


I will admit that I’ve always been a bit miffed that there wasn’t a follow-up book for this title. I mean, didn’t L.M. WRITE in series? I had that thought tucked away somewhere…oh wait, it’s a natural expectation, seeing as she wrote how many Anne books? *le sigh* Magic for Marigold leaves off in Marigold’s early adolescence. I know it’s too late now, but I’d love to know how she was meant to grow up, and maybe even grow old.


Can you name three books that you wish there were sequels for?

tartlets. need i say more?

Creativity is not my strong suit. I mean, sure, I can generate a new idea every once in a while. But I don’t work that way naturally (or easily). This is why I’m not going to be a famous novelist, even though I love books more than almost anything. I could surprise myself, I suppose. *hopes and wishes*


Conversely, I’m great with a prescription, an assignment, an analysis, and a recipe. I do love a good recipe. All the instructions are right there, and the only thing that matters is to follow the steps. Of course sometimes things go off track, you forget to set a timer, or the yeast won’t rise. BUT! If everything works like it should and you follow the directions, you’ll get something pretty edible, and mostly awesome, at the end.


Now, pair that with new bakeware, and life gets really fun. My roommates and friends are lucky, lucky people. They’ve been eating well these past couple of weeks, including this latest example: fruit tartlets.


Lemon Cream Cheese Fruit Tarlets


INGREDIENTS

Crust:

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening (I used butter)

1 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt (I left it out because I used salted butter)

2 to 3 tablespoons cold water


Filling:

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup lemon curd

1/4 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups assorted berries or sliced fruit

1/3 cup apple jelly, melted (optional)


DIRECTIONS


Pre-heat oven to 475˚F. In medium bowl, cut shortening into flour and salt, using pastry blender or fork, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (I actually just make sure the butter is REALLY cold, and then dice it into tiny pieces with a cold, sharp knife – then I stir it with flour). Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring with a fork, until moistened and dough begins to hold together. Gather dough into a ball.


On lightly floured surface, roll dough into 10-inch circle. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter (or the mouth of a regular drinking glass), cut dough into circles. Prepare pan by coating with extra shortening and a sprinkling of flour on top of that. Press circles into tartlet pan (or a mini cupcake pan). Reroll remaining pastry dough if needed. Prick pastry thoroughly with a fork to prevent puffing.

Bake 5 to 7 minutes, until golden; cool. In medium bowl, combine cream cheese, lemon curd and sour cream; blend well. Spoon 1 tablespoon filling in bottom of each tartlet. Top each with fruit. Brush fruit with melted apple jelly (optional). Makes 12 tartlets.


Recommended for: a cool summer treat, making life look harder and more elegant than it actually is, and – as always – impressing the heck out of whoever it is that needs impressing. Or to cover up for a not-so-great entrĂ©e. But, you know. Stuff happens. *grin*

waiting on wednesday (3)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | | 6 comments

I’m participating today in "Waiting On" Wednesday. It is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, and its purpose is to spotlight eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.


I found this Charles de Lint title through Voracious YAppetite, a new-to-me blog with sweet suggestions of books to look out for. I’m a fan of de Lint most of the time, and I read all of his titles to find out whether it will be a love/hate thing. So I’ll definitely be waiting for this one, and hoping it’s as awesome as it sounds. The Painted Boy comes out on November 11, 2010 from Viking.


Jay Li should be in Chicago, finishing high school and working at his family’s restaurant. Instead, as a born member of the Yellow Dragon Clan - part human, part dragon, like his grandmother - he is on a quest even he does not understand.

His journey takes him to Santo del Vado Viejo in the Arizona desert, a town overrun by gangs, haunted by members of other animal clans, perfumed by delicious food, and set to the beat of Malo Malo, a barrio rock band whose female lead guitarist captures Jay’s heart.

He must face a series of dangerous, otherworldly - and very human - challenges to become the man, and dragon, he is meant to be. This is Charles de Lint at his best!

teaser tuesday (42)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 | | 23 comments
It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page. Post two (or more) sentences from that page, along with the title and author. Don’t give anything vital away!


“‘Any girl with a dowry is told from the day she’s born that she has to marry just the right person for just the right reasons at just the right time.’ She grimaced. ‘All you can hope for is that he’s got teeth. And hair.’”


-p. 52 of Jessica Day George’s Princess of Glass (ARC version)

where i'll be next weekend

Monday, June 21, 2010 | | 5 comments
That's right, folks. I'm heading to the American Library Association's annual conference this weekend! Just to clarify, I'm not a librarian (oh, I wouldn't mind being one...not at all). But a national conference to celebrate libraries, which are pretty much my second home, seemed too fabulous to pass up. And then there's the fact that I live one mile from DC, setting of said conference. Umm, yeah. No reason NOT to go, you understand? Also, favorite authors + books = scary awesome. That's not even a theorem, that's REALITY.

Are any of you going to be at ALA?

how my blog got its name, or, happy father’s day

Sunday, June 20, 2010 | | 17 comments
I’ve gotten a couple of questions over time about my blog name. Queries such as: How did I come up with it? Does it have a story? If so, will I share? I’ve put off answering until now because I felt that such a special story deserved a special day.

First off, my real, full name IS Cecelia. My friends have called me a variety of nicknames over the years, but mostly I’ll answer to anything in the vicinity of my name, even on occasion to ‘Cynthia’ or ‘Sylvia.’ It’s lovely to have a special, old-fashioned name, but it is a bit difficult for remembering and orthography.

Secondly (for this story’s sake), I came by my love of reading via my family. My mom, though not a big reader herself, was very conscientious about reading aloud to my siblings and I every day. We went through dog books, horse books, Narnia books, adventures and fairy tales, and even a scary tale or three. She read aloud most mornings and some evenings, and on camping trips. I think that was absolutely fantastic, and part of the reason I’m such a bookworm today.

But there were also a couple very special moments in my childhood when I remember my dad reading aloud to me. It didn’t happen often, so that made it all the more memorable. My dad worked from 6am to 4pm every weekday so that he could be home with the family in the afternoons and take every other Friday off. He came home tired most days, but he was always kind, patient, and generous with his time.

You may have already guessed this, but the title ‘Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia,’ is adapted from the title of children’s book The Adventures of Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish. That’s because I remember my dad reading the book aloud to me and substituting my name with Amelia’s every time. When the absurdly literal title character was mentioned, she became Cecelia Bedelia. I must have been six or seven years old, and I thought that that was the height of fun. My dad was telling me a silly story, he was reading it to ME, and for me. Those moments were so special that even now they make me tear up.

So this blog, in a way, is dedicated to my dad. He’s a great man, and a great father. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

a matter of magic + giveaway

Alyce at At Home with Books is hosting a weekly feature where she highlights one of her favorite reads from the past and encourages others to do so as well.

Patricia C. Wrede has written some seriously lovely fantasy novels, and I believe she qualifies as one of the pioneers of the YA fantasy movement. Of course, I might be biased. I quite honestly adore everything she’s ever written. In college I forced a friend to read the Mairelon the Magician and Magician’s Ward books, because she said she’d liked Dealing with Dragons. That conversation started because I’d posted ‘None of this nonsense, please,’ above my dorm room door. Those were the words that Morwen the witch had painted on her house, if you’ll recall (and if you haven’t read Dealing With Dragons, Lord preserve us! I’ll mail you a copy if you win the contest. HUSH – yes, there’s a contest! Wait for it.).


I don’t remember her reaction being quite as enthusiastic as I’d hoped for, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm, and I’ve tried to get them into the hands of many a young person since, and even a few not-so-young persons as well. The problem with Mairelon and Magician’s Ward (and her title Snow White and Rose Red, for that matter) is that they haven’t been in print continuously. And when they are in print, they sometimes have ugly covers. It pains me to say it, but it’s true. So when I learned that Mairelon and Magician’s Ward were being reprinted TOGETHER, in a beautiful new package called A Matter of Magic, I was understandably elated.


When a stranger offers her a small fortune to break into a traveling magician’s wagon, Kim doesn’t hesitate. Having grown up a waif in the dirty streets of London, Kim isn’t above a bit of breaking-and-entering. A hard life and lean times have schooled her in one lesson: steal from them before they steal from you. But when the magician catches her in the act, Kim thinks she’s done for. Until he suggests she become his apprentice; then the real trouble begins.

Kim soon finds herself entangled with murderers, thieves, and cloak-and-dagger politics, all while trying to learn how to become both a proper lady and a magician in her own right. Magic and intrigue go hand in hand in Mairelon the Magician and Magician’s Ward, two fast-paced novels filled with mystery and romance, set against the intricate backdrop of Regency England."


Both of these stories follow Kim, a cross-dressing feisty street-dweller in an alternate-history England. That’s a mouthful, eh? So what’s alternate about it? Why, magic, of course! Kim has a tendency to get into scrapes, and her adventures (and those of Mairelon), are fun, fast-paced, a touch mysterious and always entertaining. Previously both titles were marketed to middle grade boys, but I can vouch that there’s enough there to make the teenage girl contingent swoon a bit as well.


Recommended for fans of Marissa Doyle’s Bewitching Season and Betraying Season, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, and any of Wrede’s other titles. There’s the same strand of humor and adventure and liveliness that runs through the rest of her works. Definitely for fun, and definitely for YOU (Yes, you. Don’t try to hide.).

------


It turns out it’s your lucky day – I’m giving away THREE copies of A Matter of Magic!


To enter:


Leave a comment on this post telling me which time period you’d add magic to (and if you’d visit it, of course!).


Please include your email address or another method of contact. Giveaway is open internationally. Comments will close on July 2 at 11:59pm EST, and I will notify the randomly selected winners via email.


Good luck!

Newer Posts Older Posts Home