Just Because

Hello Readers!

It’s been a while readers. A while since I participated in a giveaway hop. A while since I hosted my very own giveaway here on my blog. So I figured why wait until another hop rolls around, why not just host my own giveaway – right here, right now!?

Two lucky readers will win one of these prize packs:

Prize Pack #1:

A (used) hardcover copy of Ally Condie’s Matched, and an assortment of bookmarks.

Prize Pack #2:

A (used) copy of Elizabeth Scott’s Miracle, and an assortment of bookmarks.

Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only (sorry, international shipping is pricey) and will run from Thursday September 27th (noon) through Thursday October 11th (noon).

Entering is simple: leave a comment on THIS BLOG POST ONLY telling what your favorite book is (of all time) and why. In order to qualify for the giveaway, only comments posted before noon on October 11th, 2012 will be eligible to win one of the prize packs. Two winners will be selected randomly via random number generator, and will be contacted via e-mail. So, when leaving a comment please make sure to leave a valid e-mail address.

Good Luck! And Thanks for entering!!

Book of the Week: The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and Mark Fearing

Published: 2011 by Schwartz & Wade

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

This is a retelling of one of my most favorite stories: the three little pigs

The robot is so BIG that he doesn’t always fit on the page.

The three little aliens don’t get lost and happen to wander into the robots lair, instead mama alien pushes them out of the nest.

I love the aliens names: Bork (who’s a girl btw), Gork, and Nklxwcyz (which I haven’t a clue as to how to pronounce).

Bork’s little ruby-red boots remind me of another famous pair of ruby shoes.

As they fly through outer space each try to find a planet of their own to call home.

Bork finds herself a small rover in which she could tour her new red planet. The red planet obviously matches her red boots.

Gork find a satellite in which he could circle the rings of his new home.

Meanwhile Nklxwcyz (the sensible one) finds a home on a blue planet that he hopes will blend into the atmosphere, keeping him safe from the big bad robot.

Nklywcz is a handy little alien – he builds his own house on his own blue planet.

The big bad robot is quite terrifying. He has five, yes FIVE, eyes. Besides the five eyes thing, he also flies.

The little aliens are always looking out for one another, no matter how far away they are.

I love how the aliens have to wear space bubble helmets when they’re out and about in space. I also love how they wear jet packs too.

The big bad robot doesn’t huff and puff, he clinks and clanks, pounds and punches, his way in.

Little Nklxwcyz’s house in unsmashable.

When they defeat the big bad robot, he explodes and lights up the night sky like it’s the 4th of July.

As Gork says “It’s awesome!”

I love how this book is a fun opportunity for kids to learn about space and/or science.

Even though this book isn’t full of scientific facts and figures I would totally consider it a science book.

I loved just how fun this book was. As an adult it took me back to my childhood and back to my favorite bedtime stories.

The illustrations were pitch perfect – not only did they compliment the writing, they brought the writing alive.

The writing was simple, strong, and really drives the story.

This book would make a great bedtime story … for kids of all ages.

 

The Catastrophic History of You and Me

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

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Soon to be sixteen year old Aubrie “Brie” Eagan’s life was a charmed one. She had a parents she loved and a younger brother she adored. She has three best friends who she not only confided in, but considered sisters. She had Jacob, her adorable boyfriend who she loved more than anyone else.

But that was before. Before Jacob broke up with her. Before he told her that he didn’t love her anymore. Before Her heart stopped and split into two separate pieces. Before she died of a broken heart.

Now stuck in an afterlife known as Forever, Brie must find the strength to get through the five stages of grieving: denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and lastly acceptance.

With the help of lost soul Patrick, Brie relives memories she thought were lost forever. She seeks revenge on the people who have hurt her most. And before she knows it, she finds out that Forever isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Will Brie survive Forever? Or will she become a lost soul doomed to stay put in her own little slice of heaven?

Jess Rothenberg’s debut novel, The Catastrophic History of You and Me, is a too long tale of one girls afterlife.

The Catastrophic History of You and Me has an extremely catchy premise: girl dies of a broken heart – literally – sending her to an existence in an afterlife called Forever, to grieve. Unfortunately though, the book just did not live up to the jacket’s summary.

There were too many inconsistencies within the pages of this book that, as a reader, I found it to be unbelievable. For example, at one point it’s explained that Brie could never, ever go back to her old life to change the events that lead to her demise. Not ever, not even for one day. Yet at some point, that is exactly what happens. This made everything that happened in between those two points seem, well, pointless.

As a reader, I also took issue with the fact that this book was close to four hundred pages. It didn’t need to be. There were so many things going on that it actually bogged the storyline down. What should have been a fun, fast read turned out to be a tediously long one.

One thing that doesn’t bog down this book is its characters. Really, only main character Brie and angel sidekick Patrick dominate the pages of The Catastrophic History of You and Me. Brie, I found, often times to be whiny and down right annoying. I get exactly why she’s bitter – she’s sixteen and dead. But it’s not enough to excuse her self-absorbed behavior.

There is one character who I adored: Patrick. He is the shining light of the entire book. Patrick is a well crafted character who balances out self-absorbed Brie. Readers will find themselves swooning over Patrick. Not just because he’s described as a Top Gun Tom Cruise, but because he’s laugh out loud funny. In fact, it’s Patrick that makes readers think twice about Brie.

But here’s the thing about The Catastrophic History of You and Me: it was well written. Rothenberg’s writing is what really drives the story. It was Rothenberg’s writing that made me stick with Brie and the cast of characters featured within the pages. The Catastrophic History of You and Me is full of quick-witted comebacks, funny cheese-tastic nicknames, and ’80s music references that will have music fans singing along

I wanted to love Rothenberg’s The Catastrophic History of You and Me. I would have settled for simply liking it. But the reality is: there were way too many faults for me to ignore.

Princess Academy

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
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When the King’s priest decrees that Mount Eskel, a small mountaintop village, is the home of the future princess all the young girls are abuzz with excitement. For most of the villiage girls it means trading in a cold mountain to live in the lush green lowland. It means never having to worry about trade or food? It means a secure future for them and their families.

For Miri, the smallest of the Mount Eskel girls, this news doesn’t bring excitement or joy. Always eager to prove her usefulness, for Miri this means leaving the only home she’s ever known and loved to move into the Princess Academy – a school set up to better the “unknowing” mountain girls. It means leaving the only home she’s ever known and loved.

But it’s there, at the Princess Academy, where Miri realizes just how useful she is – not only to the academy but to all of Mount Eskel. She learns to read, write, and the rules of trade – all lessons she could teach to the people of Mount Eskel. Besides those things, it’s there that Miri learns how much he mountain means to her, and how much she means to her mountain.

Will all of Miri’s hard work pay off? Or will Miri sacrifice the chance to be princess for her beloved Mount Eskel?

Written by acclaimed author Shannon Hale, the Princess Academy is a heartwarming story of the world and one’s place within that world.

Hale’s writing is exquisite. And what makes it so it the imagery conjured up from the text. The character’s are realistically created. Miri and Britta will feel more like best friends readers have grown up with, rather than characters in a story. Mount Eskel pops off the page, so much so readers will be able to hear the query speech the text often refers to, will be able to feel the cool mountain air whip across their face as they read.

Beyond the vivid descriptions, Hale’s writing has a lyrically poetic tone to it. Each chapter flows seamlessly into another. Beyond this, as a reader, I especially loved the chapter openings: songs depicting the events of the chapter. These songs aren’t tell all, but add a another complex layer to the Princess Academy.

Within the pages of Hales the Princess Academy readers will face hardships, adventure, love, and a life alongside the well crafted characters. When it seems that Danlan has turned their backs on Mount Eskel, reader’s will find themselves rooting for the mountaintop village.

Readers will especially root for Miri, a true heroine, that readers will learn from and look up to. She’s determined to make life better for, not only herself, but all the people she loves and cares about. Miri is brave. She stands up for what she believes in, even if standing up opens the closet door for punishment. Miri is smart. It’s her quick wit and even quicker thinking that gets her and her friends out of trouble.

Readers may judge the Princess Academy solely on the title. It’s a “girl” book full of fluff and frills. But the reality is this: it’s far from fluff and frills. It’s a rough and tough kind of book that suited for all readers – no matter of age, size, or gender.

The Princess Academy is a great read that will leave readers wanting more. And luckily for readers the second installment – The Princess Academy: Palace of Stone – has just recently been released.

Book of the Week: Squid and Octopus Friends for AlwaysThe

Squid and Octopus Friends for Always by Tao Nyeu

Published: 2012 by Dial Books

Reason why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

I love that there are four stories featured in this one picture book.

These four stories are all unique and all are extremely fun.

The stories featured in this picture chapter book are: The Quarrel, The Dream, The Hat, and The Fortune Cookie.

I love how Squid is a knitter and Octopus an artist. They are both creative and inspiring (inspiring at least to me being that I can’t knit, not create anything art wise).

Squid has a pet fish (that lives in a fish bowl…of course!) and Octopus has a pet lobster.

I love how the first story show that friends will disagree sometimes, and that’s okay. Even if you do quarrel a bit.

Even though friends disagree this first story also shows that some silly quarrel isn’t worth losing a good friend.

Friendship always triumphs in the end.

The story illustrates how we all view the world differently. Why? Because we’re all different and unique.

Lesson learned: agree to disagree.

I love how Squid and Octopus quarrel over such silly things. Squid insists they wear socks, while Octopus insists they wear mittens. I think this shows that most squabbles among children are often silly.

Even though the stories are told with a squid and octopus as the main characters, the stories are relatable and realistic.

The second story, The Dream, takes readers on an adventure through Squid’s dream.

He dreams he can fly high in the sky, he dreams he’s the world’s strong squid able to life a whale above his head, and he dreams he has x-ray vision and is able to see inside the sea cruise line.

I love how this story shows readers how sometimes we don’t see all the good and super aspects  that live inside of ourselves. Sometimes it takes a good friend to point it out to us.

Octopus isn’t a good friend … he’s a GREAT one.

The third story, The Hat, reminds me of the story of Chicken Little. However, instead of the sky falling, a cowboy boot falls from the sky above.

I love what Octopus’ friends think the cowboy boot is. He things it’s a hat, one friend thinks it’s a soup bowl.

The sight of an octopus wearing a cowboy hat is funny. Laugh out loud kind of funny.

The pet lobster wears a fedora.

Not only sea creatures are found in Squid and Octopus’ underwater world, but other creatures like a white bunny wearing swimming flippers, a scarf, and snorkel goggles are also present.

The story celebrates the characters differences yet still manages to show their similarities.

The last story, The Fortune Cookie, I think shows the risk one takes when cracking open that fortune. To quote Octopus “Well, the fortune could be good or the fortune could be bad.”

Squid inks himself (and Octopus)  out of fear of a bad fortune.

Doing something with a friend is always more fun.

I love how these two friends make an adventure out of anything and everything. Like opening a fortune cookie for example.

The book as a whole is amazing. I love how imaginative it is.

The writing is superb. Author Tao Nyeu’s writing is vivid and colorful. Besides that it is super smart and does not underestimate her potential young readers.

I love how the whole book is illustrated in various shades of blue, green, white, orange, and yellow.

The illustrations are beautiful, and to be honest they are what drew me to the book in the first place. Readers will find skilled artistry among the pages.

I think this is a book true art loves will really appreciate.

Shootin’ the Breeze With Tessa Gratton & Brenna Yovanoff

I’m admitting it here and now – I’m not a lover of short story anthologies. That is, until now. And it’s all in thanks to the Merry Fates – Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff. Through their short story collection titled The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories. (If you haven’t read my review than you should check it out here)

But my love or lack thereof for short stories is neither here nor there. It really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I adored The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories. This collection not only inspired me but provoked a lot of, well, curiosity. Armed with questions,  I knew what I needed to do.

I reached out to two of the three Merry Fates – Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff and asked if they’d be gracious enough to spare some time to answer a few questions for all of you, my fellow readers.   They graciously agreed and below you will find all their answers to my burning questions!

BookBandit (BB): Can you tell us about yourself, and about yourself as a writer?

Tessa Gratton (TG): I’ve been writing since I was very little, though took breaks in high school in college where I focused more on acting and the politics, and am (of course) a life-long reader. I’ve lived in three different countries and visited Asia and Europe pretty extensively. I love having adventures and learning about people.

Brenna Yovanoff (BY):  I was homeschooled until I was 15, which gave me a lot of time to work on the things I was interested in. I’ve been writing since I was pretty young, but didn’t seriously consider the possibility of doing professionally until I was in my early twenties. Once I decided that I was going to be a writer and it was nonnegotiable, I spent a few years learning how to finish novel manuscripts and how to revise, and writing a flock of short horror stories on the side.

BB: The Curiosities is an anthology of short stories. What’s the biggest challenge you faced, as writer, writing said stories?

TG: The sheer number of them – we started out writing a short story and publishing it on our website every week. I’ve written around 80 short stories in 4 years, and that is so so so many ideas. It was very hard keeping them interesting, fresh, and fun. (Sometimes I failed.)

BY: I think if we’d said ahead of time that we were going to publish an anthology and so we each needed to write ten stories, it would have been a lot more challenging to follow through on. Even though as a group, we’ve written easily over two hundred stories, each individual story still happened a week at a time. I think the fact that it was a sustained effort kept it from becoming unwieldy.

BB: The Merry Sisters of Fate started originally as a blog where you would post your stories for the world to read. Was there is fear that someone would take your work? Where there any reservations you had with the idea of The Merry Sisters of Fate from the get go?

TG: We weren’t worried about people stealing. It rarely happens, and once we put them on our website, we had published them and they were under our copyright. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and even if somebody stole an idea, they’d write it so differently it wouldn’t matter. I had no reservations at all – it was a thrilling challenge!

BY: I honestly don’t feel like the issue of someone taking our work ever really came up. I think the biggest worry early on was whether the blog would be something we could sustain, because committing to a story a week is a pretty big undertaking and it’s one of those things where you don’t really know for sure that you can do it until you try.

BB: Do you have any plans or intentions to expand upon any of the short stories you wrote within the anthology? Any plans or intentions to turn them into full-fledged novels?

TG: Several of my stories are already involved in my future novels – I used the place as a playground to have fun in worlds I was working in already. There are two of my other stories in particular that will definitely be novels some day!

BY: I think most of the stories in the collection offer a least the possibility of expansion—some character to borrow or world to explore. While I don’t know that I would ever use any of these stories verbatim, there are definitely characters and situations I’d like to see more of. I’d like to write more about the kids with the really sketchy magic powers, for instance.

BB: What have you learned, writing wise, from you fellow merry fates?

TG: Brenna has always been excellent at creating atmosphere with a few perfectly chosen words, and Maggie can tell you everything you need to know about a character in a few sentences. I’ve tried to learn their techniques for that.

BY: From Maggie I think I’ve learned to be a lot more economical in my characterization, and thanks to Tess, I think I’m much, much better at world-building than I was starting out.

BB: Each of the stories within The Curiosities starts out with intros, how was it decided who would write which intro?

TG: Oh, very haphazardly. We went through and picked the ones we wanted to do, and any left-overs we fought over.

BY: Honestly, the process wasn’t very scientific—the three of us basically sat in different corners of a room and read through the manuscript, then called out the titles of the stories we wanted to introduce. We didn’t have a rule about only one person being allowed to introduce each story, either, so it really could be whichever ones we felt like talking about, and that’s why we’ve doubled up on some of them.

BB: I love The Curiosities layout, it feels very personal, almost like a journal, with bonus commentary and illustrations. Did you have any input in the book layout and design? Was it always your intention to present The Curiosities in a way that feels so personal?

TG: We designed the whole book ourselves! Either from scratch, or with extensive input. Our editor and the publisher let us basically do everything. We always wanted it to be fun and as interactive as possible.

BY:  We definitely knew from the beginning that if we were going to publish an anthology of stories that were already available online, we wanted the end result to have a little something extra. From early on, we talked a lot about the idea of margin notes and the possibility of using some sort of mixed media or visual component. Our editor at Carolrhoda, Andrew Karre, was the one who found us the special digital pens that let us write directly on the paper manuscript.

BB: Speaking of illustrations, one of which was depictions of your personal work space. Do you feel that your work space has any affect on your writing?

TG: I’ve trained myself to be able to work anywhere – I think it’s important not to be trapped in a routine that means I can’t work at any time and any place. So… no! Though I do prefer to have windows, and my office is all windows.

BY: Honestly, I think the answer to this is going to be way different for everyone. I don’t actually have any sort of dedicated workspace. I like to write in coffee shops and places that are a little bit busy, but I also write from the kitchen table and the floor and my couch, and on airplanes, so it’s hard to say whether the actual location has a real impact for me.

BB: If The Curiosities could be described by a musical play list, what songs would be on this list?

TG: Oh, I really can’t answer this. I am NOT musically inclined and rarely listened to music when I was writing Merry Fates stories. I’m sure, though, it would be very eclectic.

BY: Ooh, this is a tough one! I’d say the playlist would have to have at least one song by The National, and probably some Florence + the Machine, and maybe A Perfect Circle. Also, the Silversun Pickups. And Firewater, but mostly just because I really like them.

BB: Of all the stories featured in this anthology, which story would best describe you as a writer? Which on do you think would best describe your fellow Merry Fates?

TG: Mine would probably be “Death Ship” or “Date with a Dragon-Slayer.” For Brenna, I think “The Madness of Lancelot” or “Cut,” and for Maggie it would be “A Murder of Gods” or “The Last Day of Spring.”

BY: A story that’s the most representational of my general aesthetic is probably “Girls Raised by Wolves,” or maybe “Auburn.” Maggie’s is almost certainly “A Murder of Gods,” or else “Heart-Shaped Box,” and for Tess, I think it would be “Death-Ship,” or “Date With a Dragon Slayer.”

BB: Can you tell about any new and upcoming projects?

TG: I have a book out on August 28th called The Blood Keeper, a stand-alone companion to my first book. It’s about curses and monsters on the Kansas prairie. In May my new series begins, called Songs of New Asgard with the first book The Weight of Stars. It takes place in the United States of Asgard, an America founded on the tenets of old Norse religion instead of Christianity. There’s muscle cars and high school, trolls and trickster gods.

BY: My next novel is called Paper Valentine.  It’s a serial killer story with ghosts, and will be out from Razorbill/Penguin in January.

BB: What advice could you offer to aspiring writers?

TG: Go out and have adventures! Travel and learn about how people live and what they feel! That will make your stories real.

 BY: My biggest piece of advice is probably just to read a lot (lot lot lot), and also to learn to finish things, which was something that for me definitely took awhile.

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A BIG Thank You to both Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer a few questions for The BookBandit Blog! It is greatly appreciated!