Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer a la Donna: In pictures! With sassy captions!

Since May, when I bought my house with Future Husband, my life has largely revolved around going here:
Ahh, home improvement stores. Glamorous, huh?

I've been constantly doing this:
No, not counting money. Spending it in huge chunks.

In order to do spend hours doing awesome things like this:
Removing 1,000 square feet of 2 layers of hideous wallpaper, backing, and glue.

And eventually, this:
^ That smile is a LIE. ^
Give it another 200 square feet of walls and her pretty fuschia tank top will be spotted with paint and she will CRY.

And also this:
Bet no one told her there was poison ivy in the yard. No one told me, either.

And this:
I also peeled crusty yellowed contact paper from each and every shelf in the house.

And sometimes... I felt like doing this:
Especially when the carpet installers scuffed and dirtied my beautiful, just-painted walls.

But once all that was done, we got these:
(That's my actual sofa and accent chair.)

And these:
(My actual bedroom set.)

And then we did this:
(Not that the boxes are unpacked or anything...)

And suddenly, I had me one of these:

Time to relax? Nahhh.*
Time to continue wedding planning!

The (actual) bridesmaid dresses:
(In a gorgeous indigo, with peach as my primary color.)

And the wedding dress:
(Not mine, just in case Future Husband reads this post. Mine's much prettier. I picked this one for the model's expression.)
"Is that a feather coming out the back of my head? I'm feeling Botoxed."

To relax, I've been Netflixing TV shows like...
(Both HIGHLY recommended! Warning: Addiction likely.)

But with all that I've been doing since May, you know what I haven't been doing much of?
And it's time to get back to that.

* Ok, I did go to the beach ONCE to decrease the pasty of my skin (you could nearly see through me).

So how have you been spending your summer? Commiserate in the comments ... or let me live vicariously through your awesome adventures.

Legal stuff squeezed wayyyyy at the bottom: Where'd I get all those pictures? Click on them to see!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sara Goes to Comic Con: Saturday

Whew! Are you getting tired of reading about Comic Con yet? Because I know by the time it got to Saturday--which was our last day there--I was definitely feeling wiped!

But, because Comic Con is such a crazy and unique experience, I refused to sit by and let it pass by my hurting, swollen, feet and my aching, book-carrying back.

We got to the Con pretty early, so our friends and Husband could get in line for various exhibit hall related things, and I could get in line to try to snag a ticket to the Rick Riordan limited signing. I was pretty nervous about this, since he was a doing a signing on Saturday and Sunday, but we'd only be there Saturday, which meant it was my only chance to get him.

I was in line around 8:15, for a line that was supposed to start moving at 9:15. (I was in the actual line, too, the roped off part and everything, instead of Thursday, when I tried for tickets to a different session and was out the door, down the three flights of steps and then looped around!)

9:15 comes...nothing.

I have moved up some because at this point people are getting out of line for other things.

9:47...mob mentality takes over. People start chanting "Let us in! Let us in!" and become generally irate and angry. At one point I was pretty sure they were just going to through the little ropes corralling us together aside and full on flash-mob security.

(To be fair, a lot of these people were waiting for tickets to see Mythbusters, not Rick Riordan. I guess MythBusters has a lot angrier fanclub than Percy Jackson.)

Finally at 10, they let us in, and I managed to snag a ticket the first time around. Huzzah!

I had a little time to kill before my panel, so I went...where else? Say it with me, now: the
Penguin booth! And I was just in time to get in line to see Kathy Reichs, who was signing ARCs of her new YA series, Virals, which is due out from Razorbill in November and will feature a main character of Tory Brennan, Temperance Brennan's niece! (If you're not familiar with Kathy Reichs, she is a forensic anthropologist-turned-author who writes the books the TV series Bones is based off of.)

I hadn't heard much about this series before Comic Con, but I'm pretty excited about it--it sounds like a cross between Bones and Animorphs and X-Men, which are just about three of my favorite things ever.

After meeting Kathy Reichs, it was off to my back-to-back panels: Reading With Brains (Zombie Fiction) and Fang Girls and Fang Boys: The Popularity of Vampire Lit.

When I think of zombies, I mostly think of zombie movies--both the slowly, shambling zombies and the fast running zombies, and quality movies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. Turns out, there's a lot more to zombie fiction than undead flesh-eaters!

All the panelists agreed--if you want to love zombies, you have to start by loving George Romero, who basically founded zombie movies, and some of the panelists argued, the modern zombie in its entirety. They were split, however, on what exactly a zombie looks like--some said the slow, shambling zombie was the only way to go, while some of them wrote running zombies. (Personally, I find running zombies a lot more terrifying, although that might be because I'm a slow runner...)

Some of the highlights of the panel included: Max Brooks (whose father is Mel Brooks!) is hilarious! I and think it's a little unintentional, which makes him even funnier. Seth Grahame-Smith explained that writing Pride & Prejudice and Zombies was hard not because of trying to insert the zombies--he felt like they should have been there all along--but trying to mimic Austen's language and rhythm. Walter Greatshell actually named his creatures Xombies, because they were so far off the traditional path. He also made them blue, because their bodies lack oxygen! And Ryan Mecum prefers to write about his zombies in haiku form.

I think my favorite find of the panel, though, was Joan Frances Turner's novel Dust, which is due out from Ace in September. It all started with the statement, "That person is somebody's mother," and she ended up with a zombie story...with a zombie protagonist! I know I'll definitely be picking this one up when it comes out.

Then, it was time for Fang Boys and Fang Girls! Featuring the lovely: Richelle Mead! Rachel Caine! Charlaine Harris! Heather Brewer!

When this crew walked into the room, you would've thought Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie were with them--the crowd went nuts. Unlike the zombie panel, I was already pretty familiar with a lot of the vampire fiction that was represented on the panel, but it was still interesting listening to what authors had to say--specifically since they spent some time talking about what's next for them!

Two the YA authors up there--Richelle Mead and Heather Brewer--both have series coming to an end this fall (Vampire Academy and The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod), but both assured us we have plenty to look forward to, including some spin-off series. Heather is working on two series right one--one is totally new, called Slayers, and the other is set in the Vlad Tod world and will take place in the summers in between the school years of the Vlad Tod books.

(To the left, a pic of Heather Brewer and Rachel Caine!)

Richelle has another 6-book VA-world series in the works with Razorbill, in which side
characters will become main characters, and she told us that Rose will have cameo appearances. (She also confirmed that she has no plans to write a companion novel, showcasing the events of the VA series through Dimitri's eyes.)

(To the right, Charlaine Harris in black and Richelle Mead!)

Oh yeah, she also told us about how Vampire Academy is being made into a graphic novel...and then world-premiered the cover!
(image snagged from Richelle's blog, go there for more info!)

Isn't it gorgeous? I love how bad-ass Rose looks, and the way they've placed all the characters. Not to mention, uh, Dimitri's totally hot. Yum.

After the panel, I went to the autograph signing, where I snagged a omnibus of Rachel Caine's first two Morganville books, and had Heather Brewer sign two more Vlad Tod copies (for you guys!).

After the vampire signing, I had a little time to kill so I went to (of course) the Penguin booth. And I'd gotten up my resolve. I was going to ask for any other free books they might still have about that I could give away on the blog. (And deep down, I hoped that meant a box set of the Penguin Five!)

My experience at the booth went down something like this:
Then, it was finally time to stand in line for Rick Riordan! I, of course, had managed to forget my copy of The Red Pyramid back at the hotel. Figures. I carry around dozens of books every day, and I manage to forget thebook for one of the most exciting signings there! No worries, though--I bought another one. Plus, maybe one...okay TWO...copies of The Lightning Thief.

If you're looking at this picture of Rick Riordan and going, "gosh, he looks so nice!" then you would be right. He was totally sweet and willing to sign three things for each person. You could tell he was genuinely excited to be there, which was awesome. Plus, there were TONS of kids in line, which made me really happy to see them jumping up and down and getting so excited to meet an author they like. Personally, I was really happy to finally get a chance to meet him, since the past two times he's been in Philly I missed him.

After the Rick Riordan signing, I scuttled over and got in line for my last signing of Comic Con--China Mieville. He was on the Twisting Genres panel on Thursday, and I was excited to meet
him and have him sign my books for me. I got Kraken and UnLunDun because both of them have a turned-on-their-head London as the setting, and me and London are likethis. We're very tight. You might say we're exclusive.

(Also, China has the most gorgeous accent ever. I wish he would just follow me around and talk..about anything...all the time. Mm.)

(Isn't he sexy as he fiddles with something in his hands?)

So, that was where my official Comic Con journey ended. At least, the book part of it did. I actually ended up waiting in line for 4 hours after this (and by "waiting in line" I mean "sleeping like a vagrant sprawled on the line") to get into the main hall--Hall H--where are all the big movie stuff premiered. And I would've gotten in way sooner, had there not been a stabbing in the Hall! Husband was inside when it happened, and relayed the blow-by-blow to me through text message. It turned out that there was some issue between two guys over seating, and of course, the logical reaction to something like that is to stab the other person with a pen NEAR THE EYE.

Because of what happened, some of the panels ran back to back and they didn't let anyone, so I waited, cold and hungry and alone, in the dark, until I finally got in to see Kevin Smith (and Husband gave me his sweatshirt.)

So, that's it. I hope you enjoyed hearing all about Comic Con! If you can make it, it's definitely a pop-culture-lover's paradise, from books to TV to movies to comics to anything else you can think of!

Also, like I kept mentioning, I have SO MUCH SWAG AND FREE BOOKS. Which means you should be on the lookout for multiple awesome giveaways coming up in the near future!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sara Goes to Comic Con: Friday

Unlike Thursday, Friday wasn't packed with panels and autograph signings. It was actually a pretty slow day book-wise, so I figured it was a good time to hit up all the book booths and just wander around the exhibit hall.

The exhibit hall, if you've never been to Comic Con (like me, before this trip), is MASSIVE. The aisles start at 100 and go up by 100s (100, 200, 300, and so on) and they go all the way to 5500! And they're not short, either. Not to mention there's a whole section called Artist's Alley that's also down there, and that part isn't even numbered! You could easily spend your entire day--or entire 4 days--down there and still miss something.

The other thing you should know about Comic Con is that even if you come with a group, it's nearly impossible to stay with them. Unless you're all on board with the exact same stuff, you eventually have to split up. On Thursday, I said ta-ta to my husband at 8am, and didn't see him again until the Scott Pilgrim panel that night at 6pm! So, we figured we would wander a little together in the exhibit hall on Friday morning.

So, I started off my day seeing some pretty cool, non-book things.

First, we went to the DC Comics booth, where husband got his picture with Batman and Catwoman.

I also saw:

And this R2D2 wandering around.

I also saw:
This awesome giant banner for Vladimir Tod, which reminded me it was time to start hitting up the book booths--starting with Penguin, of course!

At the Penguin Young Readers booth (for more about how awesome Penguin is, check out my post about why I heart them) I checked out all the sweet swag, and picked up a purple Vlad Tod bag.
Pictured above: Sample chapters from The Penguin Five, their Destination Elsewhere series, sample chapters from the first Vampire Academy, and free Vampire Academy tattoos (and this was only half of the table!)

They were also giving out ARCs of Matched by Allie Condie (due out November 30th) and Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (due out October 19th), which of course I picked up right away.

From there it was onwards to booths by Avatar Press (where I met Max Brooks, author of World War Z, who was super nice and funny, and I picked up his new zombie graphic novel for the husband), Disney Book Group, Little Brown, Harper, Random House/Del Rey, ACE/ROC (Two of Penguin's adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi imprints), Simon & Schuster, and San Diego's own Fantasy/Sci-Fi independent bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy, which was in charge of moderating most of the book panels and were also doing a lot of the book signings in conjunction with different book groups. Definitely go check out their website--even if you don't live in the San Diego area, it's useful for seeing what Sci-Fi/Fantasy books are coming out soon, plus you can order signed first editions and some other cool stuff online!

While circling the booths, I found out that Heather Brewer would be signing at Mysterious Galaxy, and Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl would be giving out signed ARCs of Beautiful Darkness (the much anticipated sequel to Beautiful Creatures, due out this fall!) from the Little Brown booth! Of course, I needed to attend both.

Heather Brewer was super nice, signing Vlad Tod #1 and #2 for me, as well as a poster that will be part of one of our upcoming giveaways. For mentioning the FNC blog, I also managed to snag a super-exclusive Vladimir Tod beach towel!

Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl had a huge line (thankfully I was near the front of it!) and because they needed to move through it quickly, they were only signing ARCs of Beautiful Darkness. I figured I'd take a shot, though, and they graciously signed my copy of Beautiful Creatures too! Yay, matching set!
The talented ladies who are making the Southern Gothic hot again.

With my backpack once again totally loaded down with books, I figured I'd make one more round back to Penguin Young Readers (what? I was going that way anyway!) before heading out of the exhibit hall. And I'm glad I did, since I picked up an ARC of The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (coming out September 21st) there! I asked Mardie, one of the Penguin reps there, when they'd be giving out copies of Sapphique (sequel to Incarceron, which I'm so excited about!) and she graciously dug through the boxes and gave me one right then! Score!

After that, it was time for some food, and then I was off to the What's Up With Penguin Panel, run by executive editor for Ace/Roc Anne Sowards, another editor for Ace/Roc, Jessica Wade, and marketing coordinator Mardie Cohen (who I'm pretty sure thought I was full-on stalking her by this point.)

Left to right: Anne Sowards, Jessica Wade, Mardie Cohen. Sorry I couldn't snap a better photo, I was so focused on the books! (You can also see the stacks of ARCs in front of them that they gave away!)

The Penguin panel was awesome--I learned about a lot of the new Ace/Roc stuff coming out (which I don't know as much about, spending most of my time in the YA section) plus some more information about the Penguin Five, Richelle Mead's Last Sacrifice (which they are sadly not doing ARCs of :( ), the final Vlad Tod, the new Robin McKinley, and lots more cool stuff! They also gave out TONS of ARCs and t-shirts and tote bags and another one of those super-exclusive Vlad Tod towels!

After the Penguin panel, I was pretty pooped (like the alliteration?), but I only had time to check my 100lb backpack and Vlad Tod tote, because I needed to change and head across the street to the Hard Rock Hotel, where Penguin was having their FangFest party.

FangFest was being held here, which if you click on the link, you can see just how awesome and vampire-y the place--called 207--looks.

Now, if you're like me, you're not much of a nightclub person, you would rather watch Disney movies than go out to a bar (or a party, if you're under 21), and you generally are not known as "party person." Which means you rarely get to say things like "I'm on the list."

Me? I've NEVER been somewhere even remotely exclusive. FangFest? It was exclusive. Like I walked through a velvet robe exclusive. Like I got to say "I'm on the list" exclusive!! (Can you tell how nerdy and excited I am about this? This is exactly why I'm never on the list.)

If you're wondering how the husband and I got invited to something so exclusive like FangFest, the answer comes in two parts. A of all, the blog helps a lot. Like I mention in my Penguin post, they're super-friendly to bloggers and definitely understand the importance of the free viral marketing that bloggers provide. B of all, I may or may not have an insider connection. I'll keep you wondering ;)

Inside FangFest, I will proudly say that I totally squeed!! and was a total fangirl. The husband was lovely and supportive, but just didn't understand. After all, he'd been at the big movie panels all day and had seen people like Eva Mendes, Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, Paul Bettany and Stephen Moyer. And here I was, going "Omg! That's Michael Bourret! He's Heather Brewer's agent! That's Tim Travaglini, senior editor at Penguin!"

Here I am at the party, being overly excited and holding up my Vlad Tod bag. And husband. Pretending to understand the fangirlness of it all.

I also spotted: Heather Brewer, Charlaine Harris, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Patrick Rothfuss, and others.

Did I talk to them? Uh, no. Well, I talked to Heather Brewer for a few minutes about her cool gargoyle backpack. I also mistook Heather Brewer's teenage son for the model on the front of the Vlad Tod covers, because they look TOTALLY the same. (Heather revealed in the vampire panel on Saturday that she says her son is her real life Vlad Tod, so I guess I wasn't that off-base!)

But mostly I just stood with the husband and squeed and was way NotCool. I did, of course, talk to Mardie Cohen, because a) she's nice and b) like I said, I kind of stalked her the whole week.

I also spent a bunch of time talking with a lovely blogger from BookYurt, which is an awesome book blog that gives you reviews, book updates, success stories, book-to-movie information, and lots of other stuff. Plus the woman who runs it is super nice, and we found out we were kind of YA soulmates, both being in love with Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore, and feeling violently angry over the film version of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

I felt weird trying to talk paparazzi-style photos of the people there, so instead I took some snazzy faux-artsy photos of things. Behold!

All in all, the party was awesome, and we headed back exhausted (and possibly still squeeing.)

I give Penguin and Comic Con a thumb's up! (Also, you can see my sparkly get-me-into-FangFest-bracelet.) (Which I may or may not still be wearing.) (No, I took it off.) (That's a lie, I'm a dork, I'm definitely still wearing it.)

Stay tuned for Saturday, the last day at Comic Con for me, plus some final pictures of all the swag I hauled in, and stories of my amazing Tetris-style packing that brought it all back to the east coast!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sara Goes to Comic Con: Thursday

So, for those who might not know, Comic-Con International is a SUPER huge convention held in San Diego each year. Over 100,000 people attend! (That's a lot of people.) While its main draws are the fact that major movies get previewed there first (like The Avengers, Thor, Captain America, Harry Potter, Green Lantern, and Green Hornet, to name a few from this year), and that you can get some sweet spoilery goodness for some of your favorite TV series (True Blood, Chuck, Vampire Diaries, Bones, The Big Bang Theory, etc.), AND that in the massive exhibit hall you can find all sorts of cool & crazy things, a lot of which are exclusive to Comic-Con, there is also a TON of book stuff going on!

Comic-Con started on Wednesday with Preview Night, which I didn't have tickets for, so I was up first thing on Thursday to start the adventure!

Thursday was packed with some sweet book panels. I started off my morning with a panel called "The Power of Myth." On the panel.... (drumroll please!)

If you read through that list and went, "Amber Benson? Wasn't she Tara on Buffy?" then you would be right. Apparently she's also now a Sci-Fi/Fantasy author with Ace, and writes the Calliope Reaper-Jones series.

Anywho. The panel was really interesting. These days, when anyone goes "myth?" the knee-jerk reaction of most is to go "Percy Jackson!", and while I love me some Percy Jackson, it was nice listening to some other perspectives and other ways myth is used in story creation.

It was also cool hearing from a mix of YA Authors and more traditional adult sci-fi/fantasy authors, and learn about some new and different books!

Of course, after the panel, I rushed to the autograph session and bought way too many books, and got them all signed. Yay!
Power of Myth autograph signing! From left to right: Lev Grossman, Michael Scott, Amber Benson, Esther Friesner, Les Klinger

Next up was the panel called Once Upon a Time, which was all about writing epic fantasy, which I heartheartheart. This panel included Lynn Flewelling, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Megan Whalen Turner, Brent Weeks and Christopher Paolini.

This panel spent most of its time talking about how to balance epicness and non-epicness in your story. They also talked a bunch about Mary Sues! Megan Whalen Turner was the first to admit that she loves Mary Sues and doesn't think they can be all that bad. The overall conclusion about balance and Mary Sues was about earning it in the story, and keeping things relatable. If you main character is Totally Awesome to start with, then you need to put them in situations the reader can relate to. If everything else but your character is Totally Awesome, then make sure your character is relatable. There has to be some sort of in for the reader, a little handhold to pull on to start the journey, or else they'll be lost in the abyss.

(Possibly my favorite part of this panel was when Patrick Rothfuss referred to himself as a "feral writer" because he didn't study it in school and doesn't have a critique group or anything. Personally, I'm happy being a domesticated house-cat writer, because I don't know what I would do without the FNC!)

Even though I kept telling myself that every book I bought needed to get home somehow, I still managed to buy a whole slew of novels at the Epic Fantasy signing. And who knows, maybe I bought one or two for one of you guys? ;)

Alas, there is no rest for the weary, and I was soon off to my final panel of the day, the Twisting Genres panel. This one featured China Mieville, Justin Cronin, Naomi Novik, Daryl Gregory, Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Robert Masello, Keith Thompson and Scott Westerfeld. I'll admit it--the only author whose work I've read on this panel is Scott Westerfeld's, although I've seen China Mieville's new book Kraken around and think it looks interesting. But really, I was just there because I heart Scott Westerfeld.
Here's Keith Thompson (L), the illustrator for Leviathan and Scott Westerfeld (R), looking deep in thought.

But, I was pleasantly surprised--I think this panel turned out to be the most interesting of all! If you like your cheerleaders mixed with zombies, or your westerns mixed with the apocalypse, or your historical fiction mixed with dragons, then these are the authors for you! Each one is all about taking one genre/subject matter and mashing it together with something that seems like it shouldn't fit--and then working the magic to join them together. It definitely gave me pause and made me think about what two genres I would like to see together. (I think I like the historical fiction mixed with the fantastical best.)

Also, as a bonus, Scott Westerfeld showed a bunch of the gorgeous artwork from Leviathan, done by Keith Thompson, and previewed some of the things we will see in the sequel, Behemoth! (Which he pronounced Buh-heh-muth, rather than Buh-hee-moth.)

I ended my day with the Twisting Genres autograph session, where I only bought a few books because my backpack was already bulging and I could barely lift it!

(I actually ended my day by going to the Scott Pilgrim panel, which was awesome and hilarious and totally star-studded! I didn't know anything about Scott Pilgrim before Comic-Con, but it's one of the most successful graphic novel series out there right now, blending all things geeky and wonderful. Definitely go check it out!)
Here's Michael Cera, who is playing Scott Pilgrim in the upcoming movie, and is totally adorable.

Stay tuned for Friday, aka Super Awesome Penguin Party day!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why I Heart Penguin

There are SO many reasons I love penguins. They're my favorite animal. They make quality animated movies about them, where they do totally normal penguin things, like surf. And dance. And sing. Plus, they're ready for any occasion! They're always appropriately dressed.

Plus, baby penguins look like this:

BUT, when I say I heart Penguin, I'm actually talking about Penguin Group USA, specifically Penguin Group Young Readers.

This post is a big THANK YOU to all the amazing people from Penguin who attended and manned the Penguin Young Readers booth at Comic Con--from the marketing people to the editors to the authors to the everyone else I forgot to mention.

Now, of course there were other publishers at Comic Con that had booths. I visited all the booths. All of the people working there were very nice. But Penguin--they went beyond nice into true awesomeness. How am I so sure, you ask?

Exhibit A: Free Swag.
I got a TON of free swag (no worries, details and giveaways to follow!). All of the booths were handing out something, like buttons or little flyers about upcoming books or bookmarks. Penguin had those too. They also had free sample chapters of The Penguin Five (The Eternal Ones, Nightshade, The Replacement, Matched, Sapphique) in booklets that gave you the first chapter of each. They also had a marketing packet called Destination Elsewhere, which gave you the first chapter from: Crossing Over by Anna Kendall, Eon by Alison Goodman, The Foundling's Tale by D.M. Cornish, The Painted Boy by Charles de Lint, Pegasus by Robin McKinley and Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. They had other booklets that had the first five (five!) chapters of the first Vampire Academy. (Again, to be fair: there were some other book booths giving similar items out, though I didn't feel like it was with the consistency of Penguin.)

They also were giving out these:
(Photo from Penguin website)

Of course, tons of other places (book booths and otherwise) were giving out tote bags. But this was the only tote that I got that wasn't made from that weird thin weave that those reuseable grocery bags are made of--know what I'm talking about? These were full on cotton tote bags, that came in a different color each day. (I collected purple, orange and blue.)

They also were giving out full size posters--I picked up Vlad Tod and Pegasus, and I wanted a Vampire Academy, but was afraid it wouldn't survive the plane trip home.

Exhibit B: The Generous ARC Giving.
Just walking past the Penguin YR booth, I picked up copies of Matched, The Replacement, and Nightshade, which they just set out for people to take. They were the only booth I saw giving out quality ARCs, not copies of extra books lying around that needed moving. I really wanted copies of Pegasus and Sapphique, but I didn't see them out there. So I asked, hoping they would tell me about what time they planned on putting them out so I could stalk them. Instead, the woman (Mardie, who was SO NICE!) said "Oh, hold on" and dug through boxes under the table specifically to get me copies of both! And these are huge books--she definitely could have let me fend for myself, and that would have been totally fair. But she didn't--she went out of her way to make sure awesome Penguin books were getting into the hands of the reader.

Exhibit C: The Blog Lovin'
Heather Brewer (author of the Vlad Tod books) did a signing one of the days. I picked up Vlad Tod #1 and #2, and I also had a poster that I wanted her to sign. She signed the books to me (btw, Heather Brewer, also awesome and SO NICE!) and I asked her not to personalize the poster. "It's for my blog," I told her. "I'm going to give it away." There was a Penguin rep standing behind her who overheard and said, "You have a blog?" and I told her I did. She told me to go back to the other Penguin booth and ask about the super-secret towel. So I did. And once again, lovely Mardie actually brought me INTO the Penguin booth (a feat in itself, considering how much stuff I was carrying by this point!) and went digging through boxes again to produce a Vlad Tod beach towel! She asked me to put it right into my bag, because they'd only brought a few (like 5!) to the Con. And she gave one to me! Just for being a blogger and liking Penguin! This towel appears to be truly exclusive--I google image searched it and couldn't even find a picture. But I'll tell you that it's white with the Vlad Tod smiley on it in multiple colors, and awesome.

So, fast forward to my last day at the con (Saturday). Penguin had already given me SO MUCH (not to mention everything I picked up at FangFest, the exclusive Penguin party I was invited to--but that deserves its own post), and by this point Mardie knew me by sight. But, because I love Penguin, and because I love all of you guys, I figured I could give it one more shot--press my luck just a little. Penguin had been so nice so far, why would they stop now? So I mentioned to Mardie that I had a blog, and was looking to give away some books, if she had any. And she gave me this!:
This is a box set of The Penguin Five, with ARCs of their five biggest books coming out in the next five months. I'd seen these box sets sitting on their table all week, and I'll admit I seriously coveted them, but I never imagined they would GIVE me one. It's so shiny! And boxed! (And a pain in the butt to pack, but that aside.) And she gave it to me, and then SHE thanked ME. Mardie, this wonderful Penguin marketing woman who had just put me on ARC cloud nine, thanked ME for blogging about the books. I babbled on about how awesome Penguin was and thanked her and went totally fangirl. But I'm not ashamed. They totally deserved it.

I'm proud to be a Penguin fangirl. They (they = authors, marketing, editors, everyone from the person who goes on coffee runs to those in charge of the imprints) are made of awesome. Rock on, Penguin!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Winner of THE EXTRAORDINARY SECRETS OF APRIL, MAY & JUNE! (Plus, 3 awesome links for the non-winners.)

After 275 entries, we have a winner for our ARC of Robin Benway's THE EXTRAORDINARY SECRETS OF APRIL, MAY & JUNE!

Paula McLaughlin!

Thanks to all who entered!

If you're NOT our lucky, lucky winner Paula...*
- For kick-butt inspiration: The Rejectionist on form rejection. 
- If you're feeling optimistic: TWO chances to win Maggie Stiefvater's LINGER! 

* Ok, Paula can check out the links, too.

Comic-Con 2010!

Hope everyone enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater week! I actually had to come home and catch up on the whole thing, because I wasn't able to read any of the posts because I was in San Diego for the week for Comic-Con 2010!

This was my first time, and let me tell you, I was not prepared for just how EPIC the whole thing is. The short version of my time there: Husband and I went with one bag, and came back with four (bulging, super heavy!) ones.

I took a bunch of pictures, and took some notes at some of the awesome panels I went to. Plus, of course, picked up tons of cool stuff to give away on the blog!

So, in the next week, be on the look out for a Con wrap-up, including information about (but not limited to!): Richelle Mead, Rachel Caine, Heather Brewer, Megan Whalen Turner, Rick Riordan, Scott Westerfeld, and Christopher Paolini!

Plus, some pretty awesome stuff about the following books: The Replacement, The Eternal Ones, Matched, Pegasus, Nightshade, Sapphique, Virals, Beautiful Darkness, Vladimir Tod.

PLUS, I'll tell you about the exclusive Penguin party I attended, and fangirled over seeing Heather Brewer, Richelle Mead, Charlaine Harris, plus super-cool behind-the-scenes types such as Tim Travaglini and Michael Bourret!

And did I mentioned there will be give-aways coming up in the future? Because there totally will be.

(Btw, there are so many awesome things mentioned in this post, I don't even have enough space to tag them all in the labels!)

Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Outtakes from the LINGER quad-review!

And for our last post of Maggie Stiefvater week...

We must confess: we didn't post EVERYTHING we typed in our Google Chat during our epic LINGER quad-review.

We cut a bunch of silly comments to each other (noted in parenthesis in between actual reviewing) and random tangents on everything from nachos to Twilight ... until now. (Dun dun dunnnn...)

Ever wondered what it would be like to attend an FNC gathering? Brace yourself.

Arguing over the preferred cover color of the third book in the trilogy, FOREVER:
Frankie: Definitely need some tissues for this book--preferably in a green box to match the cover.
Sara: And the text! Have you seen LINGER in stores yet? The text is green!
Donna: * pets covers * They're soooo pretty!
Frankie: I hope FOREVER comes in purple...just saying.
Sara: Yes!
Donna: Red!
Frankie: No!
Janine: Purple
Frankie: Only Cool colors
Donna: But it'll be SUMMER! Hot! Red!
Frankie: And totally breaking the scheme of cool colors!
Donna: Blue = winter, green = spring, red = summer
Sara: Ohh.
Janine: no. yellow=summer
Frankie: You are so wrong
Sara: Way to go, Donna. I totally missed that.
Janine: but yellow wouldn't work
Sara: You're kinda right.
Donna: but they won't make a yellow book
Frankie: yellow would be hard to read. I hope the cover designers are listening. Not to Donna though.
we wants purple.

* Does this remind you of anything? Perhaps the classic Sleeping Beauty scene with Fauna and Merryweather fighting over what color to make Aurora's dress?

On nacho-y goodness, Twilight comparisons, and Gchat hating Donna:
* This whole beginning, Donna's kicked out and no one knows. Maydayyyyy!
Sara: (Yay, nachos!)
Frankie: (I wish someone would bring me nachos)
Frankie: You guys are going to bite my head off...but Beck reminds me a lot of Carlisle Cullen.
Sara: Dude.
Janine: AHHHHHHH! You're right! Yikes.
Sara: (hold on guys, donna's not getting the chat)
Janine: But I envision him with olive toned skin. And dark hair.
Frankie: Maggie I think once mentioned McDreamy playing him---so now I picture him like that.
Sara: (wait, pause! pauuuuse!) 
Janine: (ok)
Frankie: (this is soooo funny, we need to do it more often)
Janine: (i luv heluvagood cheese!)
Donna Gambale has left.
Sara: (okay, donna's going to leave and someone needs to reinvite her cause I don't know how)
Donna Gambale has joined.
Frankie: (YAY Donna's back)
Sara: (Donna can you see us? Can you hear us now?)
Donna: (whew!)
Janine: so Beck could totally be a Cullen
Frankie: (oooh I'm with you)
Janine: ya know, cuz Cullens like nachos too
Frankie: LOL Janine you are so random
Janine: Would that be a non sequitor?
Frankie: But seriously!
Janine: yes, seriously
Frankie: He infected Sam on purpose when he was a kid! And Sam is the poster child for DO NOT WANT!
Sara: So really, Sam's Rosalie.
Frankie: Yep!
Donna: Ok, Twilight aside OVERRRR! THIS IS NOT REVIEWING! teehee

And just how often does Sara cry? 
(Special extended scene from the quad-review, now with nachos!)
Frankie: Can we have a copy of FOREVER, now?
Janine: Please? With nachos on the side?
Sara: I cried like a baby at the end of LINGER. I cried so much I had to text Frankie about it.
Frankie: Oh yeah, I remember that!
Donna: You ALWAYS cry, Sara.
Sara: I do not! Well, maybe I do.
Frankie: You kind of do
Sara: A little bit.
Frankie: Or a lot.
Donna: But this was EXTRA crying, right?
Sara: It was pretty intense.

Hope you had fun reading the outtakes, because we had an awesome time quad-reviewing!
And this wraps it up for Maggie Stiefvater week! Whee!

Miss any previous posts?
Monday: Announcement of Awesome!
Tuesday: Repost of SHIVER co-review and our first Maggie interview
Wednesday: New Maggie interview and epic LINGER quad-review!
Thursday: Giveaway of an ARC and hardcover of LINGER
Friday: Repost of LAMENT and BALLAD reviews

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review of BALLAD by Maggie Stiefvater - Repost

Squee! Im so excited for this repost because Ballad is one of my favorite books of ALL time! Mostly for one reason: JAMES!

Enjoy the rest of Fairy Day at Maggie Stiefvater Week!

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater is the sequel/companion novel to Lament, read its review HERE!


Remember us, so sing the dead, lest we remember you

James Morgan has an almost unearthly gift for music. And it has attracted Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and then feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. James has plenty of reasons to fear the faeries, but as he and Nuala collaborate on an achingly beautiful musical composition, James finds his feelings towards Nuala deepening. But the rest of the fairies are not as harmless. As Halloween—the day of the dead—draws near, James will have to battle the Faerie Queen and the horned king of the dead to save Nuala's life and his soul.

Maggie has really gotten her story telling technique down in Ballad. She stepped away from a single narrator (like Dee in Lament) and had Ballad told in alternate points of view (like Sam and Grace in Shiver). Ballad is told by James (Dee's best friend, super hot bag-piper omg I'm in love with you) and Nuala, a leanan sidhe fairy who is kind of a psychic vampire or a succubus stealing years off of men's lives in return for being their muse and inspiring amazing works of art or in James' case, beautiful bagpiping music. We also get to be a little bit in Dee's head by seeing some of her unsent text-messages to James.

I only have two complaints about Ballad:

1) It made me WISH that Maggie had written Lament in the same way. I'd love to have seen parts of the story from Luke's point of view!

And 2) This isn't so much a complaint as it was really hard to see the change in Dee's character from Lament, though if you know what happened in Lament, it's understandable.

But now onto the gushing.  I have a crush on this book! I do! It's just so lovely, there is nothing like Maggie's command of language. The romance is....Maggie Stiefvater romances are in their own category. She has this way of taking the most mundane moments and stretching them into something epic. The result is her characters are so realistic, I forget they are being written by a writer. They just are, they feel pain, they bleed, love, laugh, cry, and I'm right there with them. The love in her stories feel true. What else is great? Her stories are thoroughly character driven and they have to make tough choices, and it's their choices I think that take them to another level.

In Ballad James is working through his feelings for Dee, working through his feelings for Nuala, and also issues with his own self-worth, life as an artist, mortality and the mark he will leave on this world-all things that whether you are an artist or not yourself, you can relate to.

What's also great is James never feels like Dee. Maggie is great at writing disctinctive voices and including little gritty subleties that let you know a boy is narrating or a girl.

Seriously, I just completely fell in love with James, and I want more. I really hope that we will get to read more about Maggie's fairies soon. All of Maggie's books definitely have a spot in my re-read pile. Ballad was fantastic!

Hope you enjoyed the repost and don't forget to enter the Linger/Linger contest!

Review of LAMENT by Maggie Stiefvater - Repost

Maggie Stiefvater Week continues! Did you enter the Linger/Linger contest yesterday? All week we've been giving a ton of LOVE to Maggie's wolves. But today its all about the faeries. And not fairies. Enjoy!

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. She's about to find out she's also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. When a mysterious boy enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of nowhere, Deirdre finds herself infatuated. Trouble is, the enigmatic and conflicted Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin—and Deirdre is meant to be his next mark. Deirdre has to decide if Luke's feelings towards her are real, or only a way to lure her deeper into the world of Faerie.

Lament was Maggie Stiefvater's debut novel, and man can this woman write (well I knew that already because of Shiver, but still, it's amazing to read such a well done debut).

I was absolutely enchanted with Deirdre, the MC. Maggie has a gift for creating heroines that are incredibly relatable and sympathetic, yet are able to retain their own personalities, interests and hobbies (there are no Mary Sues in the world of Stiefvater). Deirdre suffered from extreme stage fright at the start of the story, unsure of herself, her talent, her self worth, but by the end...WOW! And what makes her transformation so satisifying was just how hard she worked to get there. I also love the fact that she could hold her own against those who tried to overpower her or who may have started off more powerful, like...

Bad boy fairie assasin Luke...HOTTIE in the worst (ie best) way possible. What I love so much about the boys in Maggie Stiefvater's stories is although they sort of jump onto the page with all the qualities and traits of an alpha male, they are basically just super sweet guys that fate has thrust into a role they weren't ready for. They are vulnerable and despite their usual supernatural advantage...they come across as equals with the heroine, allowing her to take charge when necessary.

I was totally enraptured with the love story. The lyrical nature of the romance drew me in, giving me butterflies in my stomach and breaking my heart just as easily. I couldn't get enough of Luke and Deirdre....let's just say that Fairie Nookie can give Werewolf Nookie a run for its money...that'd be an interesting smackdown.

The plot twists and intrigue in Lament continually develop through the course of the story, and while Maggie writes these rapidly page turning plots, her execution of the story is so lyrical that while you want to race through the pages and jump to the end, you are forced to slow down and fully appreciate the language. Seriously, read this book you will not be dissapointed, actually, you will love it!

I should mention that besides falling for Deirdre and Luke, I totally have a crush on James, the best friend, bagpiper. I loved every moment he came onto the page-everything he said was unexpected, funny, original and memorable. He was totally awesome that he deserves his own story and luckily for him and me and you...James does get his own story in Ballad, the companion to Lament.

Stay tuned! Ballad's review will be reposting soon and it's about James, one of my biggest YA crushes ever!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Linger/Linger Giveaway!

OMG have you guys heard that Linger debuted on the New York Times Best Seller List at #1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YEAH Maggie!


And now...2 of our lucky followers will win copies!

We are giving away 1 arc of Linger, and 1 finished copy!

The contest is open internationally and the rules are SIMPLE!

All you have to do is comment below on Linger--tell us if you've read it, if you want to read it, what you're looking forward to, what your favorite part was, did you picture Cole looking like James Franco--anything---though please warn if you're going to include spoilers.

Oh and follow us please:-)

Otherwise that's it. We are SUPER appreciative and grateful if you want to spread the word, but that's not required. And don't forget to check out the rest of Maggie week!

Contest Ends Friday July 30, at 11:59PM.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Maggie Stiefvater Interview

Yay! Everyone give a great big Hi and SQUEEE to Maggie Stiefvater for stopping by today to answer some questions. In case you're behind, it's Maggie Stiefvater week at the FNC and we're featuring all of our archived Maggie interviews, book reviews and general love. But today is all brand new!

Check out our quad-review of Linger.

And now...onto the questions!

1. The FNC is pretty partial to the original bathtub scene in SHIVER (talk about emotionally amazing and powerful stuff!) and we know it was one of your favorites. Is there a scene in LINGER that stands out as your favorite?

Oh, I am very cheerful about every bathtub scene in this series. Do you know that the first bathtub scene was a total accident? Well, that whole plot line -- Sam and his parents -- was never supposed to exist. In the very first draft of Shiver, I was writing along and Grace was standing over Sam’s hospital bed, and she noticed scars on his wrists. And I was like -- “wait, what? There are scars?” Because sometimes, as a writer, there are these weird moments where the story just unfolds without you, and you can go with it or you can chop it out and get it back on course. So I decided to go with it. I decided that surely Sam was an emo-boy so he just couldn’t hack life as a werewolf and had tried to kill himself. But when I went to type Sam’s next line of dialog, instead of explaining his backstory, he said, “My mother did this one. My father did this one. They counted backwards so they’d do it at the same time. I still can’t stand to look at a bathtub.”

And Grace and I both went: O_O.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of angst, so as an author, I love the bathtub scenes in each of the books. And also there is a scene with Cole and a deer in Linger that I’m very, very fond of.

2. What was the hardest part of writing LINGER?

Starting it. I didn’t want it to just feel like I was rehashing the events of Shiver, and I knew that I could get away from that by shifting attention onto one of the new wolves Beck had made, but I didn’t really know who this person was. I kept scrabbling, trying to figure out how to get into this story, and suddenly there was Cole and life became so much easier.

3. As you were writing, did anything about the plot or your characters deviate from the direction you were planning and surprise you?

Oops. I, um, seem to have already answered this one. The thing is, I usually know my final scene, my beginning scene, and some key scenes along the way. And then I just take that and run with it, so I get surprised all the time. Most of this is pretty explicable but there are those moments, like when Sam refused to go with the backstory I’d devised for him, that completely change the book and delight me -- a rare moment when I get to experience then novel as a reader instead of a writer, because I had no idea what was going to happen.

4. Writers are dying to know--how many drafts does it take for a Maggie story to go from rough draft to the amazing lyrical brilliance of LAMENT, BALLAD, SHIVER, and LINGER?

Ha -- you know I just did giant blog series on revision, right? It really depends on the book. Some books take a lot - Shiver was 8 months of editing. Linger was 1. Forever will be somewhere in between. Sometimes you just see your vision more clearly at the beginning. Other times, you have to dig it out with a chisel and hammer. Doesn’t make you any better of a writer to only have to do one draft.

5. What aspect of LINGER, or scene, or feeling or idea are you most excited for your readers to take away from the story?

I am very excited and nervous to see what readers think of Cole’s character arc. He’s the scariest roller coaster in the park.

6. I know Cole's kind of a...well, not the nicest guy on the block, and I LOVE Sam, but...can I get Cole's phone number?

Oh, well, see, I’m not nervous any more. And no, you may not have Cole’s number. He wouldn’t be good for you. I hear Officer Koenig’s single, though. Beck, too, if you don’t mind the shedding.

Haha! Thanks, Maggie. So...I'll be waiting for Beck's number then. Thanks SO much for stopping by!

Stay tuned...tomorrow we'll be giving away an arc and a finished copy of Linger!

The Epic LINGER Quad-Review!

Last year, the FNC introduced the co-review -- a two-person, conversational book review -- because when two of us love a book, we both want to review it! So what happens when all four of us love a book? We bring you... THE QUAD-REVIEW!

And continuing with Maggie Stiefvater week, we're quad-reviewing LINGER!!!!

In Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabel, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.
At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love—the light and the dark, the warm and the cold—in a way you will never forget.

The Spoiler-Free Quad-Review
(Courtesy of Google Chat)
Janine: We're so excited to Gchat review LINGER!

Donna: This is a first for us, but we figured – an awesome book with four narrators (Grace, Sam, Isabel, and Cole) deserves four reviewers!

Frankie: Why don't we start with our newest member of the pack: Cole! He’s sexy.

Sara: I love Cole! He's a different sexy than Sam.

Frankie: And the anti-Sam.

Donna: Cole is a Maggie bad boy. Meaning, he has significant depth and is redeemable.

Janine: And mysterious.

Frankie: Though Cole and Sam have a similar arc, don't you think? They both need to be saved and both are trying to hold onto one form -- Cole-Wolf, Sam-Human.

Sara: That's a good point, Frankie -- the two sets of stories -- Grace/Sam and Isabel/Cole -- feel very different when you read them, but they actually kind of mirror each other. And I have to say, while I love Grace and Sam, I really dug the whole Isabel/Cole thing.

Frankie: Which is what made them work so well, and kept the entire text fresh.

Donna: Yes! SUCH chemistry. Maggie gave us the passionate, will they/won't they, new couple chemistry, AND the Sam and Grace steady, established love chemistry.

Sara: And it was nice getting inside Isabel's head. She was really engaging as a secondary character in SHIVER and I liked having her come to the forefront in LINGER.

Donna: Isabel intrigued me. Falling for a wolf after her brother died trying to un-become one? Complicated. Plus, Isabel's dad keeps trying to kill Cole...

Sara: OMG, Isabel's dad. Her dad is like the Professor Umbridge of Mercy Falls.

Donna: hahahahaha

Janine: Cole and Isabel are raw and their histories are so loaded. Makes for great tension! And I love tension. Not to mention their complicated motivations.

Donna: Their story was woven very well into the Sam and Grace storyline though, with them dealing with Sam’s permanent human-ness and Grace’s hidden illness. It flowed naturally.

Sara: Yeah, and it was nice to have more people for Grace and Sam to interact with.

Donna: Expanding their world.

Sara: It made Sam and Grace’s relationship less insular and more real. Something else I liked about LINGER was the chance to get to know Sam more. We really only knew him as NotWolfSam in SHIVER, whereas now we're really getting to know him as HumanSam.

Janine: Very true. How about we switch from discussing characters to pacing?

Sara: I thought the story was paced well. I was dubious of four narrators at first, I have to say. But I think it really pulled the story along.

Janine: That's very serious and literary analysis-y of you, Sara. :)

Frankie: It did, and what Maggie does well with the multiple narrative structure is calls off all bets on who is around at the end. With a first person narrator, you kind of know they live.

Donna: True, I never once got bored with middle novel syndrome. Though LINGER definitely acts as a bridge between SHIVER and FOREVER, it has its own plot.

Frankie: One you had to race to the end for! And that ending....OH!

Sara: The ending was so crazy! We can't say too much, obviously. But the pages...they were a'turning!

Frankie: I know! No spoilers, but...WOW! The end makes me cry—I’ve read LINGER twice...and it gets me every time.

Donna: Final thoughts?

Frankie: LINGER was fabulous. Can we have a copy of FOREVER, now?

Janine: Please? With nachos on the side?

Sara: I cried like a baby at the end of LINGER. I cried so much I had to text Frankie about it. It was pretty intense.

Janine: So was the ending!

Donna: I didn't anticipate it, but when I looked back on the book, it made sense, and it was building throughout.

Frankie: Ok everyone say one word that sums up LINGER. Go!

Donna: LINGERing! Ok, I cheated. Uh, lyrical!

Sara: Lasting!

Frankie: I was waiting for someone to say that. Longing.

Janine: Intense.

Frankie: Way to break away from our use of alliteration. But nice word choice!

Janine: Lintense.

Sara: Nice.

Donna: And on that lintense note, you need to go out and buy LINGER! The FNC agrees – it’s lawesome!

Alright everyone, hope you enjoyed our first quad-review! 

Add your LINGER thoughts in the comments, and stay tuned for an all-new Maggie Stiefvater interview posting later today and a GIVEAWAY of an ARC and hardcover of LINGER tomorrow!
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