Sunday, April 26, 2009

In My Mailbox [5]

Inspired by Alea and hosted by Kristi ...

There wasn't an In My Mailbox post last week because I didn't get any books. :(
Actually, I didn't get any books per se this week either, but as I did get some blog related (namely reading/photography) swag, I figured I'd share that instead.

Evernight Academy T-shirt
*Picture from Zazzle: Evernight
I won this in Claudia Gray's STARGAZER Contest #6, in honour of Stargazer's release (sequel to Evernight).
*Thanks Claudia!


Heart Pendant
Awhile ago, Twist Tie came in first in the New Models category of a photography contest over at DeviantART, and I won this from Amy. Isn't it darling? You can check out more of her handmade jewelry at her Etsy store (Pretty Lemur).
*Thanks Amy!

Twist Tie by =deltay on deviantART

What did you receive in the mail this week?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

17 Again Review

From New Line Cinema, starring Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, and Matthew Perry, comes 17 Again . . .

What would you do if you got a second shot at life? Class of 1989, Mike O'Donnell is a star on his high school basketball court with a college scout in the stands and a bright future in his grasp. But instead, he decides to throw it all away to share his life with his girlfriend Scarlett and the baby he just learned they are expecting. Almost 20 years later, Mike's glory days are decidedly behind him. His marriage to Scarlett has fallen apart, he has been passed over for a promotion at work, his teenage kids think he is a loser, and he has been reduced to crashing with his high school nerd-turned-techno-billionaire best friend Ned. But Mike is given another chance when he is miraculously transformed back to the age of 17. Unfortunately, Mike may look 17 again, but his thirtysomething outlook is totally uncool in the class of 2009. And in trying to recapture his best years, Mike could lose the best things that ever happened to him.

Firstly, it's Zac Efron. Ahhhhhh! (Yes, this probably is part of the appeal that will probably have teenyboppers flocking to this movie.) That aside, definite kudos to the kid for portraying teen Mike O'Donnell beautifully - I was pleasantly surprised. Now, I do have to admit that when the movie started off with the cheerleaders' sequence and Mike (Zac) jumped in and started dancing along with them, I seriously feared for the rest of the movie. No. Really. Luckily, that one HSM reminiscent moment was just that - a slight glitch, if you will.

Zac has definitely picked the right movie to establish himself as an actor outside of the massive High School Musical franchise - a perfect combination of humour, teenage-ness, and seriousness. Leslie Mann's portrayal of Scarlett O'Donnell was credible and well done. Thomas Lennon - gosh, that guy was hilarious as Ned Gold.

In fact, the humour element was very well carried out throughout the film; lots of moments of barely contained snickering, even more moments of flat out laughing. Inject some adorable "aww" moments, and you've got 17 Again. Sterling Knight was quite the one to watch, in his role as Alex O'Donnell. Anyone else find his freckles adorable? ;)

The deja vu, oh the deja vu. Very cleverly incorporated scenes of past vs. present, for sure. Now, there were definite moments of cliche, awkwardly disturbing instances, and scenes that lacked realism - no way, did that really just happen? - or - pssh. As if. Yeah, right. - but if one is able to suspend disbelief long enough and just go along with flow without thinking too much, it works fine.

Overall, 17 Again is an enjoyable, light-hearted humourous watch with just a touch of contemplative elements. Rawr.

Blog Awards

The One Lovely Blog Award from the supersweet Liyana over at LiyanaLand!, and the awesome Steph Bowe over at Hey, Teenager of the Year. Thanks a bunch, ladies! =)

---Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers.

The Let's Be Friends Award, also from the friendly Steph over at Hey, Teenager of the Year. Thank you, Steph!
The Splash Award, from the fantastic Dahlia of Dahlia's Eclectic Mind, and the awesome Maggie of Musings of a Fledgling Writer. Thanks a bunch for the sweet award, ladies!

*I shall have to come back with the nominations later. =(

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fade Review

So, I actually read Fade weeks ago, but as it was a for-fun read, I haven't gotten around to writing up a review until now. And yes - I broke down and read it without having read Wake first - I know, bad me - but maybe that'll offer a slightly different perspective. And I hadn't meant to - I was just going to take a quick peek, but then... well.

Fade - Lisa McMann
For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They're just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.
Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody's talking. When Janie taps into a classmate's violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open -- but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie's in way over her head, and Cabe's shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.
Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability -- and it's bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a dream catcher sealed, but what's to come is way darker than she'd feared...

With Fade, Lisa McMann has achieved yet another Bestseller. And it's easy to see why. Diction choice is highly selective and effective - no extra words are wasted here. The choppy, fragmented sentences give a feeling of action, of things happening quickly, of being drawn in and carried along with the events as they're taking place.

Fade is written in present tense - not altogether shocking, a lot of books nowadays are - but it's third person present tense. And that blew me away. Somehow, despite that, McMann manages to captivate the audience's attention and offer a sense of immediacy with the characters. Double the accomplishment.

You know a writer's got skill when they recognize the rules, and bend those rules to their will - while still maintaining an effective narrative. Fragmented sentences from a unique perspective tell an enthralling tale in Fade. Characterization of Janie and Cabel was brilliantly done; a sense of immediacy was maintained throughout the majority of the novel. Although there were moments of hindrance due to the tense, these were minor and negligible. Captain is a well rounded, likeable mentor.

The suspense in Fade is simply masterful; so thick and viscous. Although there are certain aspects of the plot twists that could be predicted by more observant readers clearly watching out for foreshadowing, that doesn't really lessen the impact. The wait for vision to return, the loss of feeling in limbs...

It's all there; you just have to be willing to see it.

Plot was fast and action packed - and Janie is a very strong female protag; always a plus. It deals with real issues with credible characters, only adding to the realism. Fade is a suspenseful, chilling ride. Fade. Fantastic.

*Gone, the third book in the trilogy, is scheduled for release by Simon Pulse in February 2010.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bad Girls Don't Die Review

Bad Girls Don't Die - Katie Alender

Alexis Warren thought her life was a typical kind of dysfunctional - her parents have marriage troubles, she's having a hard time finding her niche in high school, and her thirteen-year-old sister Kasey has a creepy doll obsession.

After a bonding session with her little sister, Alexis's life sprials from typical dysfunctional to mysteriously dangerous. Kasey's erratic and unpredicatable behaviour is starting to get seriously freaky - random eye colour changes, odd old-fashioned laguage usage, and not remembering events. And why is the house acting so glitchy too?

Alexis wants to blieve it's all in her head, but when the inexplicable events turn life-threatening, Alexis knows she's the only person who can stop Kasey; but what if that green-eyed girl isn't even Kasey anymore?

In Bad Girls Don't Die, Katie Alender
has spun a chilling tale. Alexis is an intriguing character - seemingly sterotypical at first, but after delving into her personality and throughout the course of the novel, she's animated, unique, and defies classification. A spunky rebel with pink hair and a flair for photography, her snarky and at times slightly sarcastic tone provides an amusing narration.

"To me, taking digital pictures is like finding something. But working with film is like making something." - Alexis Warren (Alender 88, ARC edition).

I don't know, Alexis - being one who works mainly in digital, I'd say that with post-processing and whatnot, digital photography can be making something too. ;) Alexis holds appeal, drawing in the reader with her quirky imperfections, making her all that more realistic. (That, and the fact that I've had pinkish/red hair at one point too.) In fact, I kind of wish I had the guts to go around sticking bumper stickers on the teachers' cars in the lot as well.

Overall, characterization throughout the novel was consistently beautifully done. Megan, Kasey, her parents - all hold attributes that we can all probably relate to, on some level at least. Carter is dreamy and a geniunely nice guy - the kind which [female] readers will definitely wish they knew, and [male] readers would want to be. Alender's impeccable skill in characterization definitely comes to light upon closer inspection of how her characters seem to fit the typical sterotypes at first - the cheerleader, the rebel misfits, the overachieving nice guy - but as the story progresses they come out of the woodwork and show how they transcend these flat classifications.

Personally I would have liked to see a big more sha-bam in the argument advertised in the teaser on the back of the book, a little more action in the climax, and a little more development in Carter and Alexis's relationship, but Bad Girls Don't Die manages to take on enough of a timeless quality that it's pretty much negligible.

Now, Bad Girls Don't Die - ghost story, right? Wrong. It's that, but it's also so much more. Sure, because of that paranormal aspect there are things involved that can't be avoided; but Alender has managed to put a unique spin on it through plot twists and beautiful characterization. Diction choice was well done, and credible. So what else is Bad Girls Don't Die? Well, it's definitely chockful of mystery. And this is definitely a well woven one - it keeps you guessing and tosses in red herrings - all in a setting that could very well be next-door.

With great flow, beautiful characterization and intriguing mystery, Bad Girls Don't Die is definitely an April release to be checked out. If you scare easily, unless you plan on finishing the novel in its entireity, I suggest not starting late at night. Whoosh. The book transcends classification as much as its characters transcend sterotypes - a brilliant debut for Alender.

*Bad Girls Don't Die will be released by Hyperion on April 21st, 2009.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In My Mailbox [4]

Inspired by Alea and created by Kristi ...

The Received
Bad Girls Don't Die - Katie Alender
For review
Alexis thought she led a typically dysfunctional high school existence. Dysfunctional like her parents' marriage; her doll-crazy twelve-year-old sister, Kasey; and even her own anti-social, anti-cheerleader attitude.

When a family fight results in some tearful sisterly bonding, Alexis realizes that her life is creeping from dysfunction into danger. Kasey is acting stranger than ever: her blue eyes go green sometimes; she uses old-fashioned language; and she even loses track of chunks of time, claiming to know nothing about her strange behavior. Their old house is changing, too. Doors open and close by themselves; water boils on the unlit stove; and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough to see their breath in.

Alexis wants to think that it's all in her head, but soon, what she liked to think of as silly parlor tricks are becoming life-threatening--to her, her family, and to her budding relationship with the class president. Alexis knows she's the only person who can stop Kasey -- but what if that green-eyed girl isn't even Kasey anymore?

*ARC - Release Date: April 21, 2009 - Hyperion

The Bought
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Pretty self-explanatory - I'm sure most of you have already heard about this.

Well, I finally broke down and bought this. I'm glad I did; even the HB price was definitely worth it. Really looking forward to the sequel.


The Chrysalids - John Wyndham
The Chyrsalids is set in the future after a devastating global nuclear war. David, the young hero of the novel, lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists, always on the alert for any deviation from the norm of God’s creation. Abnormal plants are publicly burned, with much singing of hymns. Abnormal humans (who are not really human) are also condemned to destruction—unless they succeed in fleeing to the Fringes, that Wild Country where, as the authorities say, nothing is reliable and the devil does his work. David grows up ringed by admonitions: KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD; WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT.

At first he does not question. Then, however, he realizes that the he too is out of the ordinary, in possession of a power that could doom him to death or introduce h im to a new, hitherto unimagined world of freedom.

Anthem - Ayn Rand

Rand's protagonist, Equality 7-2521, describes a surreal world of faceless, nameless drones who "exist through, by and for our brothers who are the State. Amen." Alone, this daring young man defies the will of the ruling councils and discovers the forbidden freedoms that prevailed during the Unmentionable Times. In other words, he finds and celebrates the power of the self. In doing so, he becomes the prototypical Rand hero—a bold risk-taker who shuns conformity and unabashedly embraces egoism.

What did you haul in this week?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Winning means fame and fortune.
Losing means certain death.
The Hunger Games have begun...

Disclaimer: I have noticed that there tends to be a slight lag time between my finishing a book and typing up a review - mostly because it's easier to be objective after some distance from initial impressions. I may come back and make slight changes to this, as it's been mere hours since finishing THG.

Literally, I must be among one of the last in the blogosphere to read The Hunger Games, so originally I hadn't been planning to write a review. But. After I broke down and picked up a copy at Chapters - and devoured it - I just had to write some thoughts down. Bear with me if it's a little incoherent, as it's more of a ramble of contemplations than an actual review. We'll call it a pseudo-review.

Firstly, Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games is an absolutely breathtaking masterpiece. I seem to be on a bit of an dysfunctional futuristic sci fi rampage these days, what with reading Anthem, The Chrysalids, and researching 1984, Brave New World, and the like. And The Hunger Games completely blew me away with its originality. That's not to say every single concept was entirely unheard of previously (hearing the premise before reading, it reminded me of Gloria Skurzynski's The Virtual War Chronologs), but the execution was definitely Collins's own.

The voice was excellent. It was distinctive, wry at times, with dispersed bits of dry humour - which is quite the feat, considering the fact that this is a book about survival by killing other kids your age. The tense - present - was barely noticeable. In fact, half the time, it was like the words fell away and the immediacy offered just brought the reader that much closer to Katniss because of the barely noticeable tense. I mean, with most books, on some level you're aware that you're simply reading the story. But with The Hunger Games, there were moments where the words just fell away and it was like actually being immersed in the story. And the flashbacks! Wow - incorporating backstory like that, in such a form, without making it seem like an infodump - that in itself is a huge accomplishment, which is more than can be said for a lot of others.

The characterization of Katniss was excellent. I enjoyed the fact that her shortcomings were realistically portrayed in an endearing way. Especially the way - epitome of show, don't tell, as far as writers' advice goes. The flaws seemed natural, not purposely fabricated to escape Sue-dom, but simply part of who she is. She's a spunky one. (And alright, I may be slightly biased, having slight feminist tendencies at times, seeing as how Katniss is such a strong female lead.) In contrast, there were slight moments of too much perfection coming from Peeta Mellark at times, but viewed from Katniss's narration, these hardly made a noticeable impact.
However, throughout the novel, Peeta's name kept bothering me. And I couldn't figure out why. But now I have - Peeta. Does that not remind you of pita bread? The baker's son? If that was indeed what Collins was going for; ingeniously sly.

Let's face it. Most of us probably have not experienced the things that Katniss and Peeta have; going without food, being beaten for burning bread, and certainly not the Games themselves. Such is the skill of Collins, being able to pull the audience in, allowing them to emphathize with something so different, so remote. Diction choice just had to extra zesty zing.

The premise also brings up a lot of interesting concepts. We have to admit it - with the way media is going nowadays, I mean honestly, reality t.v., there's not a lot of thinking involved. Purely entertainment value, right? Somehow, Collins took this concept, tossed it into a crock-pot with the whole Gladiators concept, and churned out something so deeply thought-provoking. Is our society already headed in such a direction?

And it's not blatantly thought-provoking either; it's one of those novels that creeps up on you, subconciously starting a thought process that continues into conciousness. While being an entertaining read, especially how even in such dire situations, she is able to inject spasms of humour. The Hunger Games is utter brilliance.
I have no idea how I'm going to wait until September 1st for Catching Fire - it feels so far away. I really want an ARC - especially with that ending...

Phew-wee. And I really want to talk about this, without worrying about spoilers. If you've reviewed/read this, drop me a link or comment?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Twitter Bandwagon...

Oh no. I've gone and done it now.

I've gone and...

Twitter as Lucid Conspiracy.

Who all's already there?

On another note, I've been nominated by the awesome Aimee over at
Book Dork for the Proximity Award again. Thanks Aimee!


Break Apart Her Heart by =deltay on deviantART

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Interview: Jaclyn Moriarty

I'm really excited to share this next interview, because Jaclyn Moriarty is an author whose work I exceptionally enjoy. The Year of Secret Assignments is definitely one of the more memorable books I read when I first started getting into YA. And I have gone back to it a few times as well, because the characters and storytelling style were just that awesome. Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie were also highly enjoyable reads. She currently splits her time between Sydney, Australia, and Montreal, Canada. She has just completed her new book, very exciting. And without further ado, Lucid Conspiracy presents...

Where do your ideas for writing come from?

Sometimes I lie on the floor, close my eyes and listen to music. Sometimes I ride around on the ferry on Sydney Harbour and look at the water. And sometimes I listen in to other people's conversations in cafes.
Ooh, those all sound relaxing and inspiring! Do you find certain characters harder to write than others?

I've just finished writing a new book in the Ashbury-Brookfield series, and it has some characters from earlier books, including Lydia and Emily. For some reason, it always takes me a while to get into Lydia's head. I think it might be because she is complicated and secretive. On the other hand, I find Emily easy to write - she always seems to have something to say. The difficult thing with Emily is getting her to shut up.

That's very exciting! I kind of like Lydia's secretiveness; she's quite mysterious. What would you say is one event that changed your life utterly and irrevocably?

Having a baby.

If you couldn't write, hypothetically, what would you do instead?

I suppose I would go back to being a lawyer, but that would make me cry. I used to want to be a teacher, or a psychologist, or an astronomer.

All very interesting aspirations! I'm glad you chose to be a writer though ;) What do you do when inspiration is lacking (i.e. the muse has gone on vacation)?

Run up and down the stairs, eat chocolate, listen to music, or just sigh and start googling the names of old boyfriends.

What advice would you give to other young aspiring writers?

Don't worry if you find it difficult to finish your stories, or if you haven't got anything published yet. It can be a good thing to shift between stories for a few years - it helps to develop your style and imagination. Every now and then make yourself finish a very, very, very short story, just to remind yourself that you can. And you've got your whole life to get published.

Well said! Name three things you couldn't live without?

the ocean, blueberries, Charlie (my little boy).

Words of wisdom - give a quote you live by?

My mother's philosophy is that you should take on any problem with relish, throwing everything you've got at it until it's solved. My dad decides what he wants to achieve and then makes it happen, ignoring the problems completely. I think they both have a point, but I would like to add that you should give yourself lots of treats along the way.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

In My Mailbox [3]

Inspired by the fabulous Alea and meme'd by the awesome Kristi...

I received my Surprise Shrinking Violet Prize Pack, which was super exciting. Really awesome stuff; the little notebook and card are adorable. Getting lip gloss and bath bubbles from Victoria's Secret made me feel all
grown up ;) And isn't the guitar/boombox/CD/casettes design just so
retro-chic? Love it.

I also got three autographed book plates from Cynthea Liu for The Great Call of China, and a bookmark & receipe card. As well as a Paris Pan takes the Dare postcard thing.

Speaking of which, pop over by her blog, I believe she's offering Paris Pan bookplates in honour of her upcoming release!

*Thanks Cynthea!

Mates, Dates: The Secret Story - Cathy Hopkins & Ten Stations - Jenny Valentine

A double book in honour of World Book Day.

*Thanks Jenny!

Buffalo Gal - Laura Pedersen
Buffalo Gal is Laura Pedersen's memoir of growing up in Buffalo, New York, in the 70s. She describes her upbringing in a cold, quirky town with humor and just the right amount of nostalgia. From the drab institutional architecture to the folly of owning a white car in a city prone to lake-effect blizzards, Pedersen paints an entertaining picture of life in a place where winter lasts nine months.

Badger Books!

Ranger's Apprentice 6: Siege of the Macindaw - John Flanagan
In this desolate northern fief, where can Will find the fighting men he needs to overcome the traitorous Sir Keren and his band of criminals? Across the border, the fierce Scotti tribesmen are waiting for the signal that Castle Macindaw is in friendly hands, and the way is clear to mount a full-scale attack. Time is running out. Will's courage and ingenuity - and the arrival of an old friend - may be the only things that stand in their way. Will is determined to rescue Alyss - even if it means laying siege to an enemy castle!

So what was in your mailbox this week?

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Past vs. Present

When it comes to tense in YA literature, do you have a preference between past or present tense?

It seems that there is a greater range of popular books out there that are written in present tense. Recent ones that come to mind include Wake, Fade, The Hunger Games, etc. to name a few.

Now, traditionally I've been more of a reader of books written in past tense. (Heck, there was a time when I wouldn't even be able to read past the first chapter in present tense!) I think the first (most memorable) book/series I read written in present tense was Libba Bray's The Sweet Far Thing.

And now, I'm actually quite comfortable with it. In fact, I'm even considering employing the present tense for my next WIP (yes, The Kevlar Moustache has been, for all intents and purposes at the moment, completed).

Is this an actual trend towards this direction in the YA publishing industry, or just something I hadn't really picked up on before? Because it seems like these books are doing well nowadays.

So, what are your thoughts on this issue, do you have a preference for one over the other? Do you think the market is naturally transitioning in this direction? Are there specific pros and cons between the two?
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