Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE by Gabrielle Zevin

I was really excited to be on the blog tour for All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin because it sounded like exactly what I needed to get me out of my dystopia funk. I mean, check out the Goodreads summary:

"In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidentally poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family."

No big brother. No evil government to overthrow. No insta-love. In short, none of the elements that so many dystopias out right now are riddled with and that I was running out of energy for. This book was definitely was I was looking for.

Zevin's 2083 NYC felt more like the past than the future, which I thought was a really cool twist. With so many things becoming illegal, and rations and taxes being placed on ridiculous amounts of things--like water!--it didn't have the high tech feel that so many in-the-not-too-distant-future books have. Plus, there was a healthy dose of things that hadn't changed--kids still going to school, cafeteria food still being disgusting, teachers still not understanding, and the politics of high school--kept this imagined future firmly rooted in reality and made it easy to imagine and relate to. The things that Zevin changes are subtle, like chocolate being illegal, which makes this dysoptian version of New York seem eerily plausible. Even though New York is so iconic and easily recognizable, Zevin didn't skimp on the world-building, which makes this book shine.

Now, enter the Mafia. I have a confession to make: I think that mafia is really cool. Not in a sleeping-with-the-fishes is cool way, but the whole concept of a created family and the internal politics that go along with being crime bosses is something that has fascinated me for a long time, so I was super pleased that it was a big part of this book. The mafia aspect also helped give this futuristic book a neat old-world edge to it, that felt very original and engrossing to read.

Of course, my favorite part of this book was our headstrong MC, Anya Balanchine. Even though she's the middle child, she's really the person in charge--her and her older brother & younger sister live with their grandmother, who's bed-bound and only half-there most of the time. Because of some head trauma he endured as a child, her older brother isn't fit to be in charge of them. So it falls to Anya. Anya handles this with a great combination of nails and grace--which is how she handles pretty much everything in her life--and that's why I loved her. Anya was like a combination of Katsa from Kristin Cashore's GRACELING and Anna from Stephanie Perkin's ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS--half all fire, ready to beat down whoever looks at her (or her family) funny, and half the girl-next-door you secretly want to be.

This book is out now, so hop on down to your local bookstore or favorite website and order it now! And then order one for your friends. Holiday giving season is just around the corner, after all!

Thanks to Smitten with Books Arc Tours for my review copy of this book!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

LEGENDary review and two-ARC Thanksgiving giveaway!

Next week, as you laze about in a post-Thanksgiving food coma*, feeling as though you'll never be hungry again, why not read a book so chock-full of action that you'll feel like you're burning calories via osmosis?

Marie Lu's debut YA novel, LEGEND, is the perfect dystopian novel to pull you out of your tryptophan-induced haze.

Why? The description on Marie Lu's website should be enough to convince you:
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

But just in case you need a little more convincing...

Back in August, I gobbled up LEGEND in about two days.

Oh hey, cheesy Thanksgiving pun!

To be honest, I was a little leery of reading a dystopian with such buzz and so many starred reviews (was I setting myself up for disappointment?), but I wrote this post to tell you why I think it's worth the read! Without a doubt, LEGEND sucked me in, and the post-civil-war Republic that Lu created intrigued me. (For the violence-averse, be forewarned that the Republic's methods are brutal -- this is a truly villainous, sinister government.)

Primarily, though, I enjoyed the contrast between Robin-Hood-esque criminal mastermind Day and drinks-the-Republic's-Kool-Aid military darling June. Two prodigies with two opposing viewpoints and motives made for a unique read, and the teen genius element reminded me of Millicent Min and Jarod from The Pretender. I'm interested in seeing June and Day's relationship progress to a more nuanced level (LEGEND didn't provide much time for that, considering that June's hunting Day for much of it).

Looking forward in the series, I'm personally fascinated with the idea of the U.S. as we know it broken into separate, warring countries (though let's keep that safely in fiction, ok?), so I can't wait to learn even more about the neighboring "enemy" nation in the next book.

Lastly, I want to tip my hat to whoever decided to print June's and Day's narrations in different colors. I'm a fan, and I especially love that it was in my ARC, which made it feel all fancy. Just saying.

Marie, congrats on a great debut!

Are you ready to read LEGEND? It comes out November 29th, but from now through Thanksgiving Day (11:59pm EST) you have a chance to win one of two ARCs in an international giveaway right here! PLUS... each winner gets a SECRET ARC! There's something to be thankful for! (And we're thankful for the lovely Penguin folks at BEA, who provided our ARCs! We <3 Penguin!)

Have you read or reviewed LEGEND? Leave your thoughts and a review link in the comments! (Oh, and this is the first time we're using Rafflecopter instead of Google Docs for a giveaway, so let us know what you prefer!)

* For non-US readers: I know you won't be celebrating Thanksgiving next week, but all you need to do to get that Thanksgiving feeling is by eating more in one day than you ever thought you could eat...and then going back for seconds. Presto! Food coma!

Monday, November 14, 2011

LIESL AND PO + secret ARC giveaway winners!

The two lucky winners of our LIESL AND PO (and secret ARC) giveaway are...




If you are the Allison! or Katie! who is the winner, you will receive a lovely email informing you of your good fortune! (And if you're not sure why they should be excited about winning, then you totally haven't read my review!)

And if the odds weren't in your favor for this giveaway, here's the awesome Hunger Games movie trailer to assuage your sadness.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hunger Games movie trailer MONDAY!!! Set your DVR, people!

Good Morning America is debuting the Hunger Games movie trailer on MONDAY!!!!

CLICK HERE for full article.

My DVR is set!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Double your NaNoWriMo productivity by writing blind.

"Write blind" sounds like a metaphor, but I mean it literally. As someone who's eyesight (or lack thereof) places me perilously close to legal blindness, I know how much blurred vision can change your perspective.
This week, I accidentally discovered how something as simple as taking off my glasses helped me double my productivity. (Never fear, 20/20 vision-ers! I have a solution for you, too!)

The scenario: I tend to procrastinate for about 40 minutes of Butt-In-Chair time before actually writing, and then when I do begin, I putz along, writing a couple sentences here or there, rereading the previous writing session's work, and generally getting distracted. I have the attention span of a goldfish, and it's NOT PRODUCTIVE. I wear much-needed glasses, and I took them off for a second to rub my tired eyes.

How I see the world.
Specifically, how I see this post without my glasses.

That's when the moment of genius (or insanity) occurred.

I left my glasses off, poised my fingers over the keyboard, and kept typing, my words appearing as black, blurred lines on the white page. Within an hour, I had 1,150 words written. I don't know about you, but that's my best possible pace.*

Why in the heck did this work?

Sure, I felt a little wonky in the brain, but thinking about it afterward, it became quite obvious why this method was a success.
  • I couldn't see the word count at the bottom of my screen, so I didn't stare at it woefully as it increased in teeny, tiny increments (and then decreased drastically as I deleted entire paragraphs).
  • I couldn't read what I'd written before (unless I squinted and leaned in til my nose nearly touched the screen, aka Insta-Headache), so I had no choice but to barrel forward.
  • I couldn't obsess and analyze over my writing as it was happening. Once my Constant Internal Critic had nothing to criticize, my writerly instincts took over.
  • I couldn't see... anything. My little Safari icon didn't tempt me. Twitter, Gmail, Blogger, Tumblr, Pandora, random Google searches, and Facebook stalkerage all ground to a halt because they were basically invisible. The distractions disappeared.

I tricked myself into doubling my productivity. And let me tell you, when I put my glasses back on and saw that new word count, it felt awesome.


Q: But Donna, I have perfect vision! Don't leave me hanging!
A: First of all, I hate you a little bit, especially if you wear non-prescription glasses because they "look cute." Ahem. Envy aside, you can create-your-own-nearsightedness by faux-blurring your page. The key is that your text document is unreadable: Make the font super-small and change the color to a light gray. Voila!

Q: I'm not quite the ASDF-JKL; typing whiz. I need to see the keys while I pick at them with two fingers!
A: Either get super cozy with your keyboard so the letters are visible, or act like a 20/20 vision-er, and follow the advice above!

Q: In a box of Animal Crackers, why does only the monkey get to wear pants?
A: I'm not sure, but the hippo wants to know. He has his hippo dignity, after all. (Bonus point if you can identify the reference.)

Your turn!
What's your quirky (or perhaps normal) method of increasing your productivity? And just how bad is your vision? (Between severe nearsightedness, astigmatism, and a partially-detached retina, I'm an opthamologist's worst nightmare.) Leave it in the comments!

* Aside: Though some of my fellow FNC-ers signed up for NaNo, I haven't, but this month is most definitely DonnaMakesSeriousProgressOnHerNovelMo!

Monday, November 7, 2011

ENTHRALLED giveaway winner!

The lucky winner of ENTHRALLED: PARANORMAL DIVERSIONS (ed. by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong, signed by Melissa Marr), plus a bonus secret novel, is...


(And check out her book blog, The Hollow Cupboards -- isn't that such a cool name?)

Never fear, if you weren't our lucky winner, you can still win one of two ARCs of Lauren Oliver's LIESL AND PO!
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