Serving in Thailand

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): While She Sleeps by Billy McLaughlin

(I was in charge of the mural painted at the orphanage. I did not paint all of it (heaven's no). The idea was mine and I made sure it got finished. But I did draw the elephant). :)

Adventures in Thailand - the list

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Shine by Vienna Teng.

Thailand is an amazing, wonderful place. It was so incredible to have the chance to have my eyes opened in so many ways. Not only in culture and climate, but also how blessed I am. Granted, on first glance it doesn't seem like I have much. Jobless, having no luck finding a job, in the midst of a slew of personal situations. But I am here in America (and that has never struck me so profoundly as when I left this place to come back and realize how blessed we are), and I am able to be here, writing this to you. That is something amazing in and of itself.

So to share with you some of my experiences of my most amazing adventure there, I thought I'd kick this off with an "interesting list" post. :)

-We were lucky enough to have running water where we were staying, but even that came with a catch. The waste processing plants in Thailand are not able to deal with paper products of any kind. That includes toilet paper. So instead of the toilet, we had to put it in the waste basket. That took some getting used to. :) But at the orphanage, where I spent most of my time, they had no running water for the bathrooms, and you had to use a bucket filled with water next to the toilet to "flush." That was a humbling experience.

-It is humid there. Like, I would be surprised if it ever dipped below 65 degrees at the coldest part of night. Living in a desert, I never quite got used to that. If I had stayed at my internship at the Smithsonian through the summer, I might have been a little more prepared.

-I also lost most of my appetite while over there. I think a lot of it had to do with the heat and humidity. Rice became my best friend ever. I love rice. ^_^

-I had a coconut about as fresh as you can possibly have it. A beautiful woman from the jungle invited us to her home. She had a coconut tree growing right next to her house (not a far stretch in the middle of the jungle, and we were, literally, in the middle of the jungle). She pulls out this twenty foot stick with a hook on it and pulled us down a coconut. A butcher knife and four strokes later (she was amazing) we were drinking the freshest coconut milk you can have. We also scraped out the inside and sprinkled it with a very rough sugar. It was slimy, but very good (and you so know, coconuts are ripe green, not brown like we get them).

-I rode an elephant. A real live elephant. On it's neck. It. Was. Awesome.

-I saw a spindly black and neon green spider larger than my face. That was not awesome.

-The place we were staying was next to the ocean, perhaps my favorite place to be in the world. That was very awesome. It made me so happy to hear it every time we came "home," every time we ate, and basically every time we were outside.

-A lot of my friends jumped off a waterfall in a National Park, along with the kids in the orphanage. I was the happy photographer. ^_^

-I grew to have a greater appreciation for seafood while over there. For anyone who knows me, that is huge. I may actually even try and seek it out more now.

-Coconut milk soup is fantastic. Especially with chicken and wild herbs.

-Thai people do love their karaoke. And we grew to love it too. And some of us even became tolerable to listen to, considering the language barrier ;) (I have video of it too. I'm hoping I can upload some up here).

-I had an amazing time serving the people of Thailand. It is so cool to be WriterGirl, but every once in a while, it is even cooler to be a real hero in someone's life. That was the best part, by far.

WriterGirl defeats kryptonite for the WIN.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor (I couldn't help myself).

Just had to come on and tell you that I'm on the mend. Can't tell you how happy I am. Not completely better, but I'm on the upswing. At least I'm not sleeping like a lion anymore. (Here's a picture of me on my deathbed):(And if you can't tell, that little box next to my hand is tissues). :)

And as I look back on it, I realize that this was no ordinary virus. This was a direct attack against my superpowers as WriterGirl. How, you may ask? Easy - my kryptonite. Yeah, that's right. Books. At first I was telling myself "wait, I didn't buy any books! I wasn't even near any books in Thailand!" But that's not exactly true.

You see, I have a strange little habit of mine. I love collecting books from all over the world. It started when my twin went over to Switzerland for a study abroad during our birthday and I told her to bring me back a book from there as my present. She brought back Don Quixote. Very cool, right? It has some awesome illustrations too. So now I'm trying to do that wherever I go. But in Thailand, I ran into a problem. The only bookstores I could find had books only in English. Now, don't get me wrong. I like Twilight as much as the next girl, but I can buy that in English in the US (but a Thai Twilight would have been awesome).

I even looked in the Foreign Language section. No dice. They had French, and German, and Italian, but no Thai (I found supreme irony in that last part). But I at last found a small collection of books in Thai. Where, you may ask? 7-Eleven. Yep. The slurpee place.

Do I know what they say? Nope.

Do I care? Double nope.

Here they are, don't they look cool? (and look at the writing, it is so so cool. I also bought a CD of Thai pop music that I have no idea what they're saying, but it is so much fun to dance to.) :)

So yes, I've concluded that buying those books is really what weakened my super human defenses and made me sick. But now I'm stronger than ever. No kryptonite book can keep me down. See you all Monday!

I think I'm dying *cough*

Current Theme Song (aka what's currently playing on my ipod): Junigenmukyoku (full version) by Hari Kunihiko (Twelve Kingdoms soundtrack).

Sorry for the lack of posts. My uber-determination to stay healthy in Thailand seems to have caught up with me. And I seem to be on perma-jet lag, which isn't helping matters. I've come down with something really bad, and so I've ordered myself to bed rest until I'm better. This is the first time I've been up today, and I'm going back to bed as soon as I finish this. So wish me luck, and I'll be back soon. I promise. But the good news is - I totally kicked my Google Reader's butt. Boo-ya. Who read all 791 blog posts? Oh yeah baby. Methinks a snoopy happy dance is in order.

Pictures, stories, reviews and interviews are coming! :) Now kindly excuse me while I pass out with a jug of orange juice.

I think I can, I think I can, I know I can... I think.

Current Theme Song (aka what's currently playing on my ipod right now): It's the end of the world as we know it by R.E.M (wow- oddly appropriate).

586 left to go. I can make it if I close my eyes really hard. I WILL read all these posts (or at least glance at all of them)! Luckily for me, I have a box full of chocolate that was sent to me for my birthday. It has enough chocolate in it to hold out Fort Henry for a month. Which makes me happy. ^_^ So, I'm off again. Wish me luck *straps on my army gear* Heather, over and out.

Ack! Help... me...

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Drought by Vienna Teng.

791? 791!? How do I have 791 blog posts to read? You guys are way too good at what you do. Forget it. I'm going to sleep. I plead jet lag.


Breathe. I can do this. Baby steps. One bite at a time, right? Okay, one down, 790 to go.

Pray for me.

I'm BACK!!!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Moment by Aiden.

I am so happy to be back in the United States and see my family again, and of course this little blog. And I'm so glad to see the auto-timing thing worked for the guest posts, and I'm even gladder that they got so many wonderful responses! Those guys are really amazing. They really pulled through when I couldn't possibly do this on my own. I humbly thank you all again.

So, many stories to tell, and even more pictures to share (I rode an elephant! Can I say - pure awesomeness?). But first to get cracking on all that I've gotten behind on in two weeks, namely email and some fantastic blog posts. So glad to be back everyone!

Guest Blogger - YAthenaeum!

Thanks so much to Heather for having us on her blog! We’ll apologize now, we’re writing this our last week of school with finals so it’s not the best, but we hope you enjoy this little inside to our blog!

Well, the first thing I’ll say is our story of how the blog started. Here’s the fairy tale version in all its obscurity:

What if I don’t want the storyteller version?

Well, then here’s the other: So, not this November, but the one before it, Julie was getting extra credit to go to some event and Erika had seen that Libba Bray was coming to Books & Books in February... So, Erika went up to the event coordinator, Emily, and asked for the exact date and time of the event. Emily gave Erika her e-mail and said to e-mail her if she had any ideas. Well, Erika did and dragged Lorena and Julie with her to make them a reality. We wore costumes, made Gemma’s necklace, made bracelets for Book of a Thousand Days (It was one of the events with both Libba Bray and Shannon Hale, which by itself is amazing).

Brigitte is an old friend of Lorena’s so she came to the event as well and began helping us. It was incredible! Books & Books liked it too because we were then asked to help at more events and pretty soon we became their Teen Girl Posse.

Over the summer we organized an amazing Breaking Dawn release party and after that was done, Erika felt bored. So, she thought “We should have a blog.” You see, Erika tends to have these crazy ideas that in the end just mean more work for Lorena. And with that the blog went into formation. It took us forever to think of a name, though YAthenaeum was actually one of our first ideas, but we weren’t sure pronunciation-wise. In the end, we gave in to the word’s demands and the blog became YAthenaeum and we became The YAthenaeum Team. Lorena (see told you, more work for Lorena) painted the banner on the blog, and designed the page, and we were off. We’ve been blogging ever since the end of September progressively gaining popularity and recognition.

We also now have a twitter (YAthenaeum- thanks to Erika’s random ideas. Lorena, Brigitte, and Julie are scared of what she’s going to think of next.

What can you find on our blog?

Contests, YA and children’s Books & Books events, recaps of said events, reviews, random things, any YA thing you can think of basically…

Where do we get our ARCs?

Recently, well, not too recently anymore, we began getting e-mails from publishers and people asking us if we’d like to review them and of course we said yes. This list includes HarperTeen and Lerner. We also have been getting them from Books & Books, who gets them because they are a bookstore, the entire time. Then, like normal obsessed readers, we’ve won some through authors’ contests as well.

Want to know a little about us individually?

Well, below find the ARCs we each have, plus a link to our very first review! It brings back memories… Even if those memories were only about 8 months ago… Also, you can find a short intro for each of us, if you click the picture of us on the right hand side bar of YAthenaeum.



First Review- My first review was Paper Towns by John Green! It was also the first review on our blog and was a combination post. So, here you will find a Q&A with John, my review, as well as tour information that is no longer relevant. I loved (still love) that book!



First review- Oh wow, my first review had been of The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Now I know what you’re saying, that definitely is not a YA book, but that had been the last book I had read before it was my turn to post. And it had been (still is) too amazing not to tell everyone about it.


ARCs: (I just want to point out that being Erika’s sister means she takes most of the ARCs, though she does let me read them.)

First review- I have an obsession with owls, so getting the ARC of Scat by the author of Hoot was a dream come true in itself. But Scat lived up to it’s expectations! Though it may be leaning more towards children’s, it was still amazing. Being the youngest, I’m always given the younger books, but in this case I didn’t mind.



First review- I was never too big a fan of YA literature, so to find something that I would read for my first post was a challenge all on it's own. Eventually Lorena got me to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and really it was just an amazing book. I think harder than getting me to read it, was writing a review to sum up how I felt about it.

Hopefully it was slightly entertaining! Thanks again to Heather for having us here.

-The YAthenaeum Team

Feature Fun Friday - World Traveling

I have traveling on the brain right now (in fact I'm probably on a plane somewhere in the middle of the pacific, or in a layover somewhere in Singapore). Because of that, I really can't think of a single book video to show you. So instead I'm going to show you one of my favorite YouTube videos of all time. It's called "Where the (um...) Heck* is Matt?" Strident, you can pay for my world travel any day. :) I'll think of an awesome dance, I promise. See you guys Monday! I missed you tons.

*Note: not "heck" :)

Guest Blogger - The Story Siren!

Book blogging was still pretty new when I started, well at least I think it was in my little piece of the blogosphere. Initially I had a personal blog, where I blogged about my boring life, mentioned books I was reading and movies I'd seen, the usual. I was hitting the library up every week. I have a problem.

It wasn't until I'd stumbled upon an actual book blog (The Page Flipper) that I had a light bulb moment. There are people out there that love books as much as me! So, The Story Siren was born. A place for me to share my thoughts on something that I love. If you would have told me two years ago when I started TSS, that it would be what it is today.... I wouldn't have believed you. Not that I doubt myself, but I had no ambitions for my blog, it just was, what is was, a book blog.

Honestly, I don't know how I do it, or even how I did it. I still don't have any idea what I'm doing. I've always been a big reader, finishing one, picking up another, so it wasn't really hard for me start blogging and have content to put up. It's the writing part that I struggle with. I'm not a writer. I'd like to be sure, but I know I'm not. Thankfully blogging is about more than just writing.

I'm still working on balancing my life, reading and aimless hours on the internet. I'm not a big television watcher, so that frees up some reading time. But I also don't want to neglect my family because my nose is stuck in a book 24/7. I also have a day job, I wish I could stay at home all day and read, but unfortunately blogging doesn't pay the bills... (will have to figure out how to make that work.) On good days I can read three books a day. But that's a good day, and there aren't many of those! It can be overwhelming at times when I look at my review pile, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I get lots of email asking how I get my books, and rather than go into detail on that, I'm going to post a few links here of posts I've done on the topic. (How do you get all those books?, How do you get all those books? Part two) I also get a lot of emails from new bloggers on how to improve their blogs, and I always point them to some blog tips posts I did.

Something I've learned through this whole process is that blogs evolve. You have to find things that work for you. Just because something works for another blogger, doesn't necessarily mean it will work for yours. Do what your comfortable with and watch your blog evolve. It's supposed to be fun, if it's not fun then it's not worth doing. Just to prove that blogs evolve, take a look at my very first review. My style is totally different now then when I first started out. It's not better or worse, it's just different, I found something that worked for me and stuck to it.

I hope to continue blogging for as long as I enjoy it. If it eve comes to a day that it feels like a chore I'll probably throw in the towel, although I don't really see that happening. It's a great community to belong to! I love meeting new bloggers, feel free to drop me an email at thestorysiren(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Thanks Heather for having me! I admire Heather's ambition to help others, that is so awesome! Be safe!

The Story Siren

Guest Blogger - Readings of a Teenage Tree!

I've always been a reader. Everyone in my family reads, so I've always been surrounded by people who could easily spend the entire day in Borders or Barnes and Noble. We all read different things, though. My dad reads horror, my mom reads fantasy, my older sister reads classics and retellings of classics, and my little sister reads chick lit. Me? I read whatever I can get my hands on (with a few exceptions). The differences in our preffered genres, however, meant that there wasn't really anyone that I could talk to about what I read.
Then, I got to high school and became friends with someone who read as much as I do, though not always in the same genres. She was the one who first introduced me to book blogging. I figured, what the heck, I'll start a book blog to keep track of the books I read. And thus, Readings of a Teenage Tree was born.
The first book I reviewed was Homefree by Nina Wright ( It's a short review, and doesn't even have a summary of the book! I didn't even start adding summaries until my third review, and I still don't have an "official" grading system. I just say what I liked or didn't like about the book without worrying about structure or anything. In a lot of ways, my blog is still about me, instead of catering to other people, and my reviews really show that at times.
I've had a couple of people ask me how I can so many books so quickly. The answer? A horrible guidance counselor. No, seriously. My school schedule for this past year got messed up so I ended up with a full-year study hall. This left me plenty of time afterschool to read. Not to mention that I would read between classes, during classes, during lunch, and on the bus to and from school. I guess my trick is to just find any spare second that I can to get a few more paragraphs read (though being a fast reader does help!).
I haven't gotten any ARCs yet, unless you count one from Random Buzzers, but that's fine by me. I didn't start my blog to get free books so I'm not annoyed that I'm not being sent any. Most of my books are library books or I buy them myself. I think I have an advantage over other people because I'm on the YA book selection committee at my library, so I can usually guarantee that my library will get the books I want to read, haha!
In terms of my blog itself, I'm still really at the point where I'm stunned that people read what I have to say! But I suppose that that's one of the great features of the book blogging community. People tend to pick up on new blogs and really encourage them, at least in my experiance. There's no feeling of having to live up to the expectations of others, because it's just about what you think.
I'm so glad that I started Readings of a Teenage Tree because its just been such a great experiance to be involved in a community like this. My parting words of wisdom would have to be to just forget about what others think or expect and read what you want, review how you want, and run your blog the way you want to. Good luck and happy readings to you all!

Guest Blogger - Steph Su Reads!

My ARC Pile

…Is currently packed away in half a dozen boxes in my move from my house to my apartment near school for the summer, and I can’t put them on my bookshelves yet until I attach them to the wall (the shelves, not the books, silly). Ergo, I don’t have a picture of my shelves to show you. *the audience boos and hisses at this inauspicious beginning to a guest post* However, I WILL promise to load pictures of my bookshelves up sometime in the future, because those are always fun to look at!

My First Review

I wrote my first review in 2006, to submit to the site YA Books Central. I actually wrote about 10 reviews at about the same time, but THE first was most likely THIS LULLABY by Sarah Dessen, which is still one of my favorite books. (Here’s the link on the YABC site.) Aaaaand after rereading it it’s clear that my reviewing style has not changed all too much in three years! I did, however, used to place a lot more emphasis on the synopsis, with only a paragraph at the end of my own thoughts, which were often professional sounding, and lacking in any first-person pronouns. (Yeah, that’s how the big-shots do it. Don’t mess.) Now, of course, I’ve begun to understand that the synopsis is actually not part of the review at all, and thus the actual review part has gotten much longer.

The first review that I posted on my blog, brand new this past January, was BAD KITTY by Michele Jaffe. Looking back on it kind of makes me laugh. The actual review was so short, and the synopsis so long! There were no numerical ratings! I don’t think I said anything useful (although Lenore seems to think so)! That’s how we newbies rolled, I suppose. (It also didn’t help that I probably wrote that review back in 2007 or so, when I first read the book.)

Changing Voices (in Reviews)

Maybe it’s just me, being very easily influenced. Or maybe it’s human nature—the “mirror” effect, as my psychology professor likes to call it, where we unconsciously mimic others in conversation, in order to conduct empathy. Whatever it is, I do it in my writing as well. I’ll read a book with flowing, lyrical language, and find myself using that very same writing style in its review. Or I’ll read something that makes me laugh so hard I bang my head against the edge of my desk as I fall out of my seat, and my review will be chock-full of snarky side comments.

Take my review for Beth Kephart’s UNDERCOVER for example. Beth is one of those rare authors whose words, according to me in my review, “do not conjure up vivid scenes involving the characters and their predicaments; instead, they push the boundaries of language and remind us of the multidimensionality of words—that language is not simply a means to a message, but rather a form of art itself.”

I mean, whoa! Hel-LO??! Do I sound like I’m writing a dissertation on her book or what?? What crazy power does Beth have that her words cast a spell over me and conjured those words out of my fingers?

Now let’s look at my review of AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green, who is my author crush (but don’t tell his exceedingly kind and beautiful wife that). I wrote that “AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES is one of those rare books that is more than the sum of its parts combined. It's about acceptance, storytelling, self-confidence, finding someone you can show your private habits to. Oh, and it's also about footnotes. Lots of footnotes.” Okay, admittedly it is not half as hardy-har-har hilarious as John Green’s writing, but hey. I think it pretty sufficiently—for a 17-year-old girl’s words, anyway—captured the overarching importance of John’s books while bringing in a bit of his trademark humor.

(And, look, I’m doing it again. Changing my writing style from one author’s lyricism to another’s snark.)

So of course I wonder why I am so susceptible to some authors’ writing style that I adopt it as my own when writing my review of that particular book. And I realized that it’s not ME being defective. And the authors are certainly not “at fault” either. It’s just because that is the natural human response to something so huge, so inspiring, so beautiful that it changes your life. That’s how good books are to me. I can put the book down and hours later still be stuck in a trancelike state of worship, the words in my head flowing together stylistically like the author’s. When I read the ending to Libba Bray’s THE SWEET FAR THING (the final book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy), I cried nonstop for hours, yet felt at peace afterwards because I knew that was how the story had to end. And every time I reread any of Megan McCafferty’s books about Jessica Darling, I turn into the super-smart, super-snarky, yet ultimately nerdy and loving girl that I’ve always dreamed of being.

In short, yes, humans may be “malleable” for the sake of empathy, but we absorb great books and great writing in much the same way we are shaped by the influential forces that make us who we are today (e.g. parents, friends, other role models…). I may not feel like I completely understand myself most of the time, but I’m completely happy with the way I can change as good books—both old and new—flow in and out of my life.

Links for your reference, in case it doesn't show up above:

This Lullaby -

Bad Kitty -

Lenore's blog -

Undercover -

An Abundance of Katherines -

The Sweet Far Thing -

If you could let me know when my post will be up that would be great. Thank you SO much for letting me be a part of this. I look forward to reading what everyone else has to write. :)

- Steph

Guest Blogger - Shooting Stars Mag!

I never started out to have a book blog. I’d come across a few webzines that focused on music and I thought it would be nice to start my own. With the help of a few online friends, I began Shooting Stars Magazine and we set off to promote the music we loved and wanted others to know about: The City Drive (now just Danny Smith), Envy on the Coast, Close to Home, etc. (All good bands by the way if you want some new stuff).

As I continued, I noticed a lot of book blogs through myspace and I thought it was great since I’ve always loved to read. I figured why not focus on all forms of entertainment then? Why does Shooting Stars have to only be about music? So I went ahead and added books to the mix and then movies and tv shows. There’s even more than that these days, but those are the main items you will find if you peruse the blog.

It’s been a lot of fun “meeting” people: authors, book reviewers and book lovers alike, musicians, actors/actresses, and even the ones behind like the scenes like publicists! I hope to continue with Shooting Stars for as long as I can and I hope to get bigger and better as time goes on. This August will be my two-year anniversary and I think I’ve come quite a long way since I began.

To be honest though, it does get hard. It’s mainly me these days…I always refer to it as a “we” because Keaton is still my partner in crime though I do most of the work and I think you all talk to me more than you do Keaton. It’s a lot of fun though, like I said, and I wouldn’t want to stop doing it just because it gets hard and tiring sometimes. It comes with the work I guess, and yes, it is work. Everything I do takes time, but I hope that people enjoy it and find new things by reading what I write. That’s the main thing. I’ve always loved to spread the word about things. When I’m a fan, I want others to be too.

At the moment, I’m 19 years old and just finished my first year in college. Yeah, it’s a bit hard juggling school, family/friends, and the blog…as well as whatever else comes along, but I do it. I do it because I want too, I do it because I love talking to people, I do it because it’s different and interesting, and I do it even though I don’t get paid and it’s just my own willpower making me do it. But like I said, I do it. All of us bloggers have to feel the same; otherwise, what’s the point?!

I’m sorry that I couldn’t include a picture of my ARC’s or piles of books, but I can include the first book reviews that I did for Shooting Stars Mag. And the one and only comment we got? (On blogger, I mean) Yeah, some anonymous person dissing the fact that we are on a blog but call ourselves a magazine (more like a webzine really, but it doesn’t matter…) and even saying our layout was bad (I forget what the old one even looked like.) J

Thanks for having me!!

Guest Blogger - My Favorite Author!

MyFavoriteAuthor was started almost a year ago after my book club friends and I had some really fun discussions about the books we were reading. Instead of a once a month meeting to discuss one book that we read over the last 4 weeks, I was talking almost daily with various members of the group about several different books we were reading in common. I thought I was sooo original in starting a book blog! hahaHA! But I’m glad that I wasn’t the first one with the idea to blog about my favorite books and authors.

We now have 3 bloggers at MyFavoriteAuthor – SpeedReader (me), Aubrey and PageTurner. We are all adults and moms and unabashedly proclaim our love of YA lit. We don’t read and review so that teens can find good books – we do it because WE love to find good books and want to pass on our favorites to other adults looking for something good to read. It just so happens that YA books have almost exclusively captured our attention, so that’s what we blog about.

I have found some of the most amazing books through the book blogs that I follow. I think the best way to find interesting books to read is by the recommendation of another person who you find to have similar to taste . . . not that I need any help adding more book to my To-Be-Read pile that is more than just a little bit out of control. I guess it’s a good thing I read so fast?? Or maybe I read so fast in order to keep up with my TBR list? That’s kind of like asking which came first – the chicken or the egg?

At any rate, in the spirit of finding new great books, here are some of our favorite authors at MyFavoriteAuthor:

Authors that first got us hooked on Young Adult:

* Stephenie Meyer (Twilight Saga, The Host)
* Shannon Hale (The Books of Bayern, Book of A Thousand Days, Princess Academy)
* Scott Westerfeld (The Uglies series)
* Libba Bray (Gemma Doyle Trilogy)
* Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely series)
* Melissa de la Cruz (Blue Bloods series)
* Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments series)
* Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle)

Authors who sent us our very first ARCs:

* Saundra Mitchell (Shadowed Summer) ** Our very first ARC!!
* Sarah MacLean (The Season)
* Kurtis Scaletta (Mudville)

Authors whose book signings we’ve attended:

* Jessica Day George (Princess of the Midnight Ball, Sun Moon Ice and Snow, Dragon Slippers series)
* Julie Berry (The Amaranth Enchantment)
* Laurie Halse Anderson (Wintergirls, Speak, Twisted, etc)
* Angela Morrison (Taken By Storm)
* Shannon Hale (see above)
* Sara Zarr (Sweethearts, Story of A Girl)
* Mettie Ivie Harrison (The Princess and the Hound, The Princess and the Bear)
* A.E. Cannon (The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love)
* Emily Wing Smith (The Way He Lived)
* Aprilynne Pike (Wings)

Authors we have loved reading and reviewing:

* Lisa Ann Sandell (Song of the Sparrow, A Map of the Known World)
* Sydney Salter (My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters)
* Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy series)
* Claudia Gray (Everynight series)
* Joyce DiPastena (Loyalty’s Web)
* Deva Fagan (Fortune’s Folly)
* Erin Dionne (Model’s Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies)
* Lisa Mantchev (Eyes Like Stars)
* Cyn Balog (Fairy Tale)
* Carrie Jones (Need)
* R.J. Anderson (Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter)
* Emily Whitman (Radiant Darkness)
* Lucienne Diver (Vamped)

I’m sure that I’m leaving someone off the list!! But if you’re looking for some really excellent books to read, this should give you a great place to start. If you’ve read all these books already and are looking for something new, then head on over to MyFavoriteAuthor! We’ve still got lots more books to read and review!

Feature Fun Friday - When Author Meets Character (Inkheart)

Ooooh, you can't believe how excited I've been to show you this video. It comes from the movie Inkheart, where characters really come to life. This scene is where the author of the story sees one of the characters he's written (and it is a shirtless Paul Bettany! I die happy now). His reaction is so wonderful, because if I could ever see one of the character's I've written, I know I would react just like this. So full of longing and wonder. However, I probably wouldn't say his last line, but it is so hilarious. Please ignore the subtitles. This was by far the best quality version in both audio and video. Unless you're Croatian, of course. Then by all means, read away :)

Have the best weekend ever!

Guest Blogger - Reading Keeps You Sane!

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to do a guest post Heather! This is my first one! I have to say I do love your blog.

Heather gave me full freedom on what I wanted to write about. So I was on Skype the day that I wrote this and I was asking my blogging buddies what I should write about. They said, of course, to write about how awesome they are. My first instinct was to say no because who wants to hear about the friendships I have made? But then I thought about it. And it made a lot of sense to do it--to talk about how awesome the people who blog and who I talk with are.

I think the main reason I feel so comfortable in this online community is because I can actually be myself. I don’t have to worry about if my hair is messy, or if I stink (which I never do!), and I never have to worry if people think I’m weird or whatever because they aren’t there to judge me. They are there to talk to me about books.

I first started talking to bloggers almost a year after I started my blog. Before then all I did was email them occasionally and comment on blogs. But then in December, I was lucky enough to start chatting with Carol of Bookluver-Carols Reviews and we just never stopped chatting. It was first just about books, then maybe about TV or other entertainment, but then we really got to know each other, and I knew about who she was as a person and she knew who I was. We became really good friends and I am so glad that we have, she has helped me through some tough times, and through some times where I just needed to talk. She has become an honest friend to me, a freaking fantastic friend. I am completely glad I got to know her.

I then started to talk with a few other bloggers who had gmail and who I had exchanged emails with, and therefore was able to chat with them on chat. Khyrinthia was one of those people. Though she was hardly ever on gchat, we talked enough and I became friends with her. She is also a freaking fantastic friend. I also started talking with Yan a little bit, not as much but still, I got to know her, and her hilarious personality. Yan has become a friend too.

Around mid-March Carol told me to get Skype. So I did. It was one of the best things I honestly ever did.

On Skype I made even more friends. I got to know Liv, Hope, Amber, Jordyn, Sarah, and Zoe. Along with Khy and Carol--who were also on -- and a ton other bloggers who I’ve talked to, but not necessarily as much as the rest.

I have gotten so many friends after starting my blog. And many of you probably don’t know this, but I didn’t have many friends at school. I wasn’t close to anyone. I had only been at my new school for a year and I was really needing to be able to talk to somebody and all of you, all of you freaking fantastic friends, have helped me in more ways then you will ever believe.

Okay, honestly. Tonight I came into this to write about how awesome my online friends are, and I ended up writing something that is so emotional on how I got the awesome friends that I have.

What I really want to say is to anyone who is reading this: You can find friends anywhere. I never knew that my most best friends would be people I have never even met in real life. But they are. I talk to these people every single day. I don’t think it’s been a day since I got Skype that I haven’t talked to one of them.

I guess this all ends with the fact that I got my blog. It started because of my blog. My blog changed my life. And if I didn’t have this blog, which brought all these amazing, or scratch that, AWESOME friends along, I don’t know where I’d be. Probably not anywhere happy.

First Review ever: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Neffenegger.

Guest Blogger - Everead!

I only do it to keep myself sane. If I didn't read, I think I would probably go crazy. I've seen how I get when I haven't made time for myself to relax and read -- trust me, it's not pretty.

I've also been bitten by a social bug. For the same reason I can't go to bed until every other opportunity for conversation (person, computer) has gone to bed, I can't not talk about the books I read. I'm certain that this disease informs some of my reading.

I like to read what's being talked about -- that way I can get in on the conversation. So when I started reading author blogs and book review blogs that were mostly discussing recent releases, that's what I began picking up.

One blog led to another and I won a little giveaway on author James Dashner's blog: my first ARC! Since then the books have kept coming. Whether I was winning them in random contests or getting boxes of them in the mail from the Cybils, they've been coming in a fairly steady stream. Most of the books on these two shelves came to me by mail.

Have I read them all yet? Sadly, no. But I've read and reviewed many of them, and I'm still going strong. Heh, of course the only reason I can write this post now is because the baby's asleep.

Anyway, you'll find all kinds of fun stuff on my blog, I hope. Mostly it's book reviews that Ashley and I put up, but there are event reports and author interviews and lists and pictures and random stuff. You'll find it all at Everead. My earliest reviews are found at Jacob and Alysa.

Happy reading! And if you've got a book you love and want to post about it on my blog, send an email to with the subject "guest review," and I'll see what I can do.

Guest Blogger - Presenting Lenore!

I had never even heard of a book blog until March 2008 at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy. I hadn’t read a lot of YA recently either, except the Lemony Snicket series, the Artemis Fowl series and a few classics. But in Bologna, and especially at the SCBWI pre-Bologna conference, I was surrounded by YA authors and aspiring authors, and it was from them that I heard about book blogging and about Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series.

Of course, I didn’t hear about Uglies until the conference was over and I had missed my chance to meet Westerfeld himself. But I did buy the series as soon as I got back, read them, fell in love with them, and blogged about them. My first blog review ever: The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield.

And then I was hooked. I found other book blogs, got recommendations from them, and bought more YA books. I also started looking into where I could get ARCs to review and found LibraryThing and several other programs. Not that I would ever do this now, but I also e-mailed a couple of authors and asked if I could interview them and promote their books. Shannon Greenland took a chance on a newbie and sent me all four of her Specialists series books to review.

As I look back at over a year of book blogging, at over 100 reviews, many fun author interviews, big contests, and tons of friends made, I could say I owe it all to Bologna, to Westerfeld’s genius, and to the amazing community of book bloggers who makes all the hard work seem worth it. Thank you!

[Heather's insert] And what's better than a picture of Emmy posing with the Uglies series? :D

Guest Blogger - The Book Muncher!

What to Do with All Those Books

First of all, I’d like to say how honored I am to have been asked to
participate in this, so thanks Heather! And now onto the rest of the

As a book reviewer, I get a lot of books. Most of them I get for free,
from publicists, authors, and various reviewing programs. These books
account for the bulk of my incoming books. Yet despite receiving so
many books every month, I still occasionally shop for books by myself
(ah, gift cards!). And that equals almost too many books and nearly
overflowing bookshelves.

Getting lots of books at once is an exciting experience. It’s like my
birthday when I receive even just a couple of packages of books. I
just love opening all the packages to see what books I’ve gotten. At
the same time, though, it can be a little overwhelming.

Now, Rachael, how could getting and having so many books be anything
but amazing?

I generally know what books to expect in the mail since I only
sometimes request titles from publishers to review and keep track of
which ones I’m getting from which program or author. But sometimes, I
get books from various publicists that I didn’t request. Again, this
is good and bad, good when it’s a book I’ve been really wanting and I
finally got it, but bad if it’s a book I’m not really interested in.
When I receive books from publishers, I feel obligated to review them,
even if it’s not something I really want to read. But then, when I get
other books I’m more interested in, I push these new titles to the
front of my “to review” list and let the other ones collect dust at
the back of my shelf.

And then later on, I feel bad for not reviewing these books earlier.
Although, mostly, I want to read another book. I do eventually get to
them…usually. But I bet I still have some books to review from at
least a year ago.

Anyway, reviewing is pretty awesome with getting all those books.
Awesome, because a book lover like me thrives in a book filled
environment. Unfortunately, I don’t think my bookshelf agrees. I would
absolutely love to give away some of these, in contests, or trading
with other reviewers. Unfortunately for that, my wallet does not

So, I guess my bookish appetite could stand to be dieted.

But I highly doubt that will happen anytime soon. I love reading and
reviewing way too much to let my (almost) excess of books and lack of
shelf space bother me too much. And I generally find a way to give
away some of my books, to friends, cousins, the self-sponsored
contest, or the library.

What it really comes down to is this: things always work out. So even
if I don’t read that many books during AP season, I still have so many
reviews scheduled to make up for that since I read super fast during
the summer or when I don’t have that much homework. Even if I don’t
request this book that I really want from so-and-so, I still have so
many other books to read. Even if my initial reviews kind of sucked (I
mean, now that I look back at them…), my writing has greatly improved.
Book reviewing is one of the most stress-free things in my life. I
write reviews because I enjoy reading, and if other people can
appreciate or enjoy that, then my job has been well done.

First review ever: Cherry Heaven by L.J. Adlington

Feature Fun Friday - What Can You Do With A Poe Bust?

The ever-hilarious John Greene graces us with a new video about all the different things you can do with a Poe bust. Having won the Edgar Award for his novel Paper Towns, he sets out to answer this very question...

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

The Big Unveiling!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Mayday! Mayday! by Cavalier.

I hold that everyone has a story. You get to see a little of my story here while I chronicle my secret adventures and undercover life as WriterGirl, but I want to highlight other stories, your stories too. But I thought I would turn things on its head. Instead of highlighting authors, here we'll be shinning the spotlight the reviewers, that astounding invisible force of awesomeness. My hats (and I have several) go off to you for all you do. So for the next two weeks you will be hearing from 10 amazing bloggers who read and write some of the best YA blogs anywhere. Some you will know very well, some may be unknown gems to you. I recommend you check them all out and get to know a little more of their story.

I'll be back in two weeks, wish me luck! And I'll have more pictures here than you can shake an elephant's leg at. Be excellent to one another.

My clothes now smell like gasoline.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): I Woke Up In A Car by Something Corporate.

Final preparations are underway for my humanitarian aid trip to Thailand. This includes making sure no mosquito finds me attractive in any way, shape, or form. When I went to get my shots *shudder at memories* they recommended a very powerful repellent that is to be used one clothes only (they were very specific on that point. You should have seen the directions. Do you remember my adventures in oven cleaning? Yeah, those rubber gloves came right out again - less than three lines into the directions. Did you know to get rid of the spray bottle, I have to call and consult my solid waste management for instructions on how to dispose of it? Yipes. And this stuff is going on my clothes?). So if a mosquito lands on me, that dude has serious issues. I don't care how much I look like a tropical flower.

Here is to one of the most awesome adventures of a lifetime that I could ever hope for. Everything I've been doing to get ready for it is so completely worth it.

Don't I look like death with that bottle in my hand? (And you can't really see it from this angle, but I totally have a camo shirt and bandanna on. I put them on just for this). All I have to say is "Die malaria-infested mosquitoes, die!"


Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Claustrophobe by Katie Todd.

We made a new friend today. He was hanging out in my living room, in the white curtains. He was a lively fellow, particularly when I tried to introduce myself. Of course, we didn't on so well once I tried to put a glass cup over him. Can't really blame him for that though. But it was for his and my own good. It wasn't him, it was me. It just wouldn't have worked out between us.

So my twin and I spent a very interesting (and rather tense) ten minutes trying to figuring out how to get a very mad hornet out of the glass and into freedom so that the second he was out he wouldn't try and seek revenge on us and all our descendants. Our brilliant plan was for one of us to stand in the middle of the front yard and fling it toward the street (and away from us), while they would then bolt in the opposite direction toward the house. One of us would remain inside to slam to door closed as soon as the other was clear. Guess who was the lucky one to fling our friend? Yeah, love you too twin.

But it went off surprisingly well. He was so happy to be free of his glass prison, he didn't look back even once. This was reported from my twin, of course. I wasn't looking anywhere but toward that door. So yay for new friends and new adventures. :)

In the name of charity

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Ghosts Under Rocks by Ra Ra Riot.

Since we've been talking charity these past few days, I wanted to point you to some awesome charities much closer to home. And they are going on right now too. I love it when people help other people.

First is being done over at Rebecca Allen: A Nerd at Peace (which may take the cake for the coolest name for a blog this week in my book). They are doing a YA Charity Read-a-thon this weekend for the Fourth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge. They will be devouring as many YA books as they can in a 48-hour period, and you can sponsor them for how many books they read. It's an incredible undertaking. All of their proceeds they earn are going to Room to Read. You can read the full details of their adventure on their blog.

The second is from Shooting Stars Mag. For a birthday present, she wished for several simple things, one of them to look at her own amazon sampler compilation. All of the artists generously donated a song to the album (which is running under $10). All of the proceeds go to the PKD Foundation, a disease her mom has and is thus very close to her heart.

Just some ways to help out and spread the love to have warm fuzzy feelings yourself. Lots of entries to come tomorrow.

Wearing bright cheerful colors confuses your enemies.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): La Serenissima by Loreena McKennitt.

Oh happy day! (I'm singing that, by the way). For those of you who don't know, I am leaving this Saturday for a two week adventure in Thailand. We are going to be doing humanitarian aid for those hit hardest by the tsunami. Even years later, they are still feeling the effects. We're building up a school, hosting a health fair, and teaching little kids English. I am thrilled to be going. And so I'm packing! I've been crazy-busy trying to get everything I need (and I'm still so far behind. Tomorrow is the day to hunt down all the things I don't have. I've been scouring my house for a spare flashlight. Seriously, you think those things wouldn't be hard to find).

Because we are going to be doing a ton of heavy outdoor work and I didn't want to ruin any of my regular clothes, I went out and bought a mini-wardrobe especially for the trip! Imagine that, buying a wardrobe to ruin on purpose. But I was thrifty and waited until I saw Old Navy had $3.00 shirt sale. I don't care where you are, that's a sweet deal.

But by the time I got there, most of the shirts had been scoured. So I aimed only for size S. After that, I wasn't picky. But I got some very "green" t-shirts, which I thought oddly appropriate for a humanitarian aid trip. I bet some people in my team are going to be thinking I went out and bought them on purpose like that.

See? Shirts. Look at those chipper colors. :D Don't they positively exude warm fuzzy feelings? (Also on top paperback copies of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. I've been dying to read the rest of them but I've held back. I had to have something to read on the 18-whatever-hour flight, right? And look how thick they are. I'm positively giddy with excitement. I don't like paperbacks, but I had to make sure I didn't care if they got ruined. They'll be world travelers with me!)

I swear, I look like the postergirl for humanitarian aid in this thing, don't I? (I have to admit, I think this is pretty awesome get-out). And the best part is, I'm leaving them there for the Thai kids to use after I'm done with them. Yay for double useful happiness! ^_^

Thanks so much for your support everyone. The guest blog posts I have received have been phenomenal. I can't wait to unveil what I have planned for here while I'm gone. But I'm strong. I can wait until Thursday. I think.

P.S The title for my post comes from the 101 Things I would do if I was an Evil Overlord. :)