Saturday, April 30, 2011

2 Cover Reveals

This week, 2 of my favorite authors revealed covers for upcoming books. I wanted to share them because I'm just so excited.

First is the cover of The Death Cure, third book of the Maze Runner Trilogy, by the wonderful (and hilarious) James Dashner:

The Death Cure will be published on October 11. 
It looks like it's going to be awesome.

The first two books in the series (both fantastic):

And second is Midnight in Austenland, the second Austenland book by the amazing Shannon Hale:

(isn't it beautiful?)
Midnight in Austenland will be published January of 2012.

There are a lot of great books due to come out in the fall. I'll write a post talking about the ones I'm most excited about. These two are at the top of the list (although Midnight in Austenland is not coming out until January - I'm excited anyway)

By the way, I started a new story on my second blog, The Bookbird and the Wordgirl. Click here and check it out.

Friday, April 29, 2011

PicaReads is 1 Year Old!

Happy belated blogoversary to me!

I just found out not five minutes ago that PicaReads had its blogoversary last Friday (the 22nd). I was planning to do something fun and special for it, but I didn't know the exact date until a few minutes ago. As it turns out, I was doing something fun and special for my blogoversary but didn't know it at the time. Friday night I was listening to five of my favorite authors speak. I think that's the best blogoversary party ever, especially for a book blog. Over this weekend I might bake a cake to celebrate anyway. (And because any excuse for cake is good.)

I thought I would post a few stats from my first year as a blogger:
  • I've posted 125 posts, and written 130.
  • I've written 37 book reviews.
  • I've completed 2 challenges - PBM and March Merriment.
  • I've read 158 books, including most of my favorites. 
  • PicaReads has been viewed 4,758 times.
    • 4,372 of those views have been from the U.S.
    • The next largest viewership comes from Canada, with 119 views.
I'm off to celebrate!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ridiculous Book Reviewers

I'm all for everyone having their own opinion about books and I encourage people to shout those opinions to the world (why else would I have a blog like this?), but every once in a while I come across a "review" that makes me roll my eyes and ask myself how a person who reads books for fun can be such a bad writer.

This came up today when I was looking through books I might buy (because I really need more books - yeah, right) and one review said: "waist of time"

That's it. That was the entire review. Seriously, people?

Browsing around, I found a couple other such reviews. I probably shouldn't care as much as I do, but I feel like people who love to read who are evaluating and giving their opinion on a work of art composed of language should at least pretend to care about language. These people sound like they haven't had an English class in their lives. What gives them any right to criticize literature when they can barely write themselves?

Conversely, not everyone is out there to write stellar reviews. Perhaps they were just jotting down a few general reactions and forgot to proofread. I might be ranting about something not worth ranting about.

I suppose it's just my pet peeve (one of them, anyway). What do you think about these kinds of reviews?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, 14th Edition

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I am doing a slightly different version of Teaser Tuesday. Since I go through books so quickly, I'm going to put a quote from any book I've read in the past week.


"As he did, his eyes fell on the horrified, half-stunned face of Edward Kelly.
     Bochad-Bec gave the sorcerer a grin of fiendish glass and ran along the fallen branch." - Snow White and Rose Red, by Patricia C. Wrede

"'What are you learning?' Sophos asked.
     'To keep my mouth shut, I hope.'" - The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner

"The first thing she made was a belt with a crude design of a white bear. Those were her two passions: weaving (or sewing) and exploring with her imaginary white bear." - East, by Edith Pattou

"Today there wasn't time to go home and I hadn't thought to pack a lunch, so I had to brave the cafeteria. ... The least offensive entrée in the place was a chicken salad - rubbery chicken reclining on a wilting lettuce bed." - Yearbook, by Ally Condie

"'Yessir,' Norbert answered, ready to fulfill his duty as Postal Worker Number Three. 'Mighty glad to help.'" - The Journal of Curious Letters, by James Dashner

"Diribani glanced around. The women lingered within earshot, but their backs were safely turned." - Toads and Diamonds, by Heather Tomlinson

Thanks, Logan

Sorry for not posting much recently. I keep looking at my blog, thinking "What? Haven't I posted something by now?", start writing a post, and get distracted/ have to go do something else.

But I have to post about this weekend, because it was great. My dad and I flew to Logan, Utah to see five of my favorite authors speak. (More info in this post) I got there about an hour early and spent the time helping set up, which was incredibly fun. Then people started filling into the auditorium, and I joined them, having saved a seat for myself when I first arrived. (This turned out to be a great idea, because the auditorium was packed. Apparently the people who organized this event were expecting a couple hundred people to show up. They were wrong - there were over 1,000 people.) We sat down to hear the authors speak. This was the highlight of the night. They were hilarious. I could not stop laughing. They talked for about an hour, and then there was book signing. Of course, with 1,000 people, signing took a very long time. But it was so much fun. The entire time I was practically jumping up and down. My parents wouldn't let me take all of my books on the plane, but I brought 1 or 2 from each author, and I got them all signed. The event wasn't over until 11:45. During that time, I met and got signatures from all five of the authors (who were all so nice), made friends with the person behind me in line, bought 2 books (The Journal of Curious Letters, by James Dashner, and Yearbook, by Ally Condie), read Rapunzel's Revenge twice, and read about 100 pages of Yearbook. I, for one, was incredibly happy that the signing went on for so long. I loved every moment of it. Thank you, dad (for taking me and waiting in 2-hour-long lines), thank you, wonderful authors, and thank you, Logan.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


by Scott Westerfeld
Start Date: 6 April 2011
End Date: 9 April 2011
312 pages (paperback)
Published September 7th 2009

Summary (from Goodreads):
A year ago, Cal Thompson was a college freshman more interested in meeting girls and partying than in attending biology class. Now, after a fateful encounter with a mysterious woman named Morgan, biology has become, literally, Cal’s life.

Cal was infected by a parasite that has a truly horrifying effect on its host. Cal himself is a carrier, unchanged by the parasite, but he’s infected the girlfriends he’s had since Morgan. All three have turned into the ravening ghouls Cal calls Peeps. The rest of us know them as vampires. It’s Cal’s job to hunt them down before they can create more of their kind. . . .

Bursting with the sharp intelligence and sly humor that are fast becoming his trademark, Scott Westerfeld’s novel is an utterly original take on an archetype of horror.

My review:
I have found that I can count on anything on Westerfeld's to be great. Peeps was by far the creepiest of the bunch, but it was really fun to read. Set in modern day New York, vampirism is an STD that needs to be controlled by agents like Cal. He didn't chose this, but he is responsible for capturing those whom he infected and Morgan, the woman who infected him. The chapters switch between Cal's narrative and short segments talking about real-life parasites. This may sound weird, but the parasite chapters were some of my favorite parts of the book, and definitely helped me bridge to gap between the the fantastical elements of the story and the reality it happens in.

I have to mention that this book is not as appropriate for everyone as most of the books I read. I'd call it PG-13. There's nothing graphic, and as far as I can remember no swearing or anything of that sort, but the entire premise has to do with sexuality, which is mentioned throughout the book. But I refuse to read anything too bad (I never finished Oscar Wao), so nothing that I review on this blog is going to be something readers need to be overly cautious about.

Overall, I thought this book was original and exciting. I had fun reading it. Cal is witty and Westerfeld's world is easy to immerse yourself in. Recommended for high schoolers.

Judge this book by its cover!

Word Clouds

My newest favorite toy is creating word clouds on Wordle. It's a writing tool that sorts words by size depending on how often they're used in the text. It helps authors figure out when they're overusing words. It's also extremely fun. I decided to make a word cloud for my most recent review here on PicaReads, which was The Invention of Hugo Cabret (from way back at the beginning of April - I can't believe it's been that long since I've done a formal review!)

Click to enlarge
I was pretty surprised by the results of my Wordle-ing. I knew I used the word "book" quite a bit - I am talking about books, after all - but seeing it visually makes me think I overuse it way more than I thought I did before. There were actually a ton of words that made me look twice at what I had written.

Anyway, I thought that would be fun to share. I highly recommend checking out Wordle; it's lots of fun and soon you start wanting to make Wordles out of everything (I even turned one in as part of a project in class today). More posts will be coming soon - I'm in the middle of a couple of reviews that will hopefully go up by the end of this week.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Judge a Book by Its Cover - Peeps

When browsing various blogs, I came across one called Kaitlyn in Bookland that has a feature called Judge a Book by Its Cover, where she posts various versions of book covers and talks about what she likes and dislikes about the various covers, independent of the story. I thought this could be a fun idea, so I'm going to try it out for PicaReads. Comment with your thoughts!

The first book I'm going to compare covers for is Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld. I don't know exactly what the different covers are, so I'm going to make up my own names for clarity's sake.

1. "Flower Petals" - this is the one I have.

2. "Eye"

3. "People"

4. "Australian Cover" 

#1(Flower Petals) is pretty, but it doesn't really have the creepiness that the other covers have. Generally this would be a good thing for me, but the story warrants a certain amount of creepiness. Also, you'd think that the flower petals have something to do with the story, which they don't. Part of me kept waiting for the flowers to come into it, and they never did. Now, if there was a cat, that'd be a different story, but perhaps a bit too spoilery? (spoiler, highlight to view). However, I do like the spray-paint look of the author's name (although I'd prefer the title to be bigger) and the foreshadowing with the grate, although he doesn't technically go down any grates in the book.

#2 (Eye), however, is taking the creepiness a bit too far for me. If my book had that cover, I wouldn't want to open it. That said, for many readers that probably wouldn't be the case. Part of Eye that I do like is the contrast of the color block and the fairly simple text at the bottom with the picture at the top. 

#3 (People) is probably my favorite cover of the bunch. I usually don't like people on the covers of books because I like to imagine the characters based on how they're described in the text rather than how they look on the cover. However, this cover really captures the creepiness of the story without overdoing it, includes parts of the story without giving anything away, and is interesting to look at graphically. 

#4 (Australian Cover) takes a close second to "People". I really like the cityscape in the background and how the bluish white of the face is reflected in the title and and parts of the city. Actually, I think all the colors in this one work really well. This cover would be by far my favorite if the person didn't have so much makeup under their eyes. If that had been done in a way that wasn't so obviously makeup,  I would like it a lot more, but thats what draws my eye every time, and I don't really like it. So it pushes this cover into second place for me. 

My favorite cover: "People". What's your favorite?

P.S. Review of Peeps coming soon!

[EDIT: Looks like I was a bit lax researching for the different covers of peeps; I found three more.  I'll make sure to get all the covers next time.

5. German Cover - "Peeps" (not sure what the subtitle says)
[EDIT: I looked it up; as far as I can tell, it's a quote from the book: "so pretty I had to eat him"]

6. & 7. Canadian Covers (The title "Peeps" is also used in Canada)

Read my review of Peeps!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Squeaky Books - 2 Rants

Squeaky books is a wonderful book blog with tons of clear, well-written, and convincing book reviews as well as many giveaways and various events. Enna Isilee, the author, is incredibly funny and insightful. Anyway, yesterday she posted a rant against paranormal romance (not against the idea, but talking about the various parts of the genre that have been repetitive, disappointing, and just plain silly). I found that I totally agreed with her, and that I've been avoiding the genre for many of the same reasons. After reading this post, I moved on to her rant against romance-fueled books (where if you take out the romance, there isn't much of a story). This one made me literally laugh out loud.

I love reading rants. They're just so great. I'd highly recommend checking out both of these. And just looking through Squeaky Books - It's a great blog.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, 13th Edition

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I am doing a slightly different version of Teaser Tuesday. Since I go through books so quickly, I'm going to put a quote from any book I've read in the past week.

"Boy promptly fell against the tripod, which dripped hot stuff on the spilled powder. The cellar filled with big purple bubbles." - Unexpected Magic, by Diana Wynne Jones (almost done with this, finally!)

"Lace shrugged, her fork twirling, the last strands of spaghetti on her plate trailing like a satellite picture of a hurricane. 'It wasn't even that hard.'" - Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld

"'I meant a favor,' Pigeon said.
     'I seldom grant favors, and certainly not in exchange for bribes.'" - The Candy Shop War, by Brandon Mull

"The girls scrambled to their feet, and for a few moments the cottage was a whirl of locating baskets, straightening linen caps, donning extra petticoats, and tucking up the top layer of their skirts as to keep the hems out of the dust.
     They set out as soon as the girls had finished." - Snow White and Rose Red, by Patricia C. Wrede

Monday, April 11, 2011

Amulet, Book 4

... is now available for pre-order. It will be released on September 1, 2011. Kibuishi says that book 4 is "by far the best one in the series, and it is definitely the one that we have put the most effort into creating. It features a large cast of new characters and a large collection of beautiful new environments, including various locations inside the flying city of Cielis. The story delves deeper into the history of the stonekeepers, and the characters grow quite a bit during the journey."

I'll definitely post about it when it comes out. Meanwhile, here is the cover:

"The Last Council"... dun dun dun. Sounds exciting!

Click here to read my review of the first three books.

I'll keep posting about upcoming releases. So many fantastic books are coming out in fall 2011. It's going to be great!

Until tomorrow,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Super Author Visit!

This is the most exciting thing I've heard about in a long time. On Friday April 22, in Logan, Utah, not one but five amazing authors are coming to speak. Shannon Hale, Ally Condie, James Dashner, Brandon Mull, and Jessica Day George - all favorite authors of mine - are doing a visit together. And according to James Dashner, Nathan Hale will be there as well. And I'm going to go hear them! I'm so incredibly happy.  If you live anywhere remotely close to Logan, or if you can convince your parents to let you fly to Utah (like me), this is going to be an awesome event.

[UPDATE: I just got some more information about this event: The library  has the largest meeting room in Logan, Utah - seats 80 people. They expect 300 people for this event. They will broadcast the event to the other rooms in the library. Book signings will take place at 5 stations in the library and yes, you may bring your own books for signing. Yay!]
[UPDATE AGAIN: They expect so many people that they are going to move locations to the auditorium at the Mount Logan Middle School.]

March Merriment Giveaway - WINNERS!

Hello, dear readers.

So guess how many people entered for the giveaway?


Yep, exactly zero people entered to win two of my favorite books ever. To say I was surprised would be putting it extremely lightly.

So I've decided to make what could be a crushing disappointment (does no one care enough to enter? Do I have a bad taste in books?) into a great opportunity.  I am donating both of these books to the library. You can click here to read my post about how great libraries are, and so now I'm going to do my part to help out and give them these two books.

So the big winner of the March Merriment double-giveaway is: The Los Angeles Public Library! I'll get the books over there as soon as I can and I'm sure they'll be on the shelves in no time. (Who knows, maybe I'll be the one to shelve them!)
Until tomorrow, with some BIG NEWS!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Reminder

Hi people - just a reminder, you have until tonight at midnight to apply for the giveaway. Click here for information and the entry form.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

By Brian Selznick
Start Date: 31 March 2011
End Date: 31 March 2011
533 pages (Hardcover)
Published 1 March 2007
Genre: Graphic novel, historical fiction

Summary (from Goodreads):
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

My review:
If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be unique. I've never read anything like it. The entire book is a combination of full-page pencil illustrations and text. In Selznick's words, it is "is not a exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things."

I've had this book on my to-read list for quite some time, but never actually bought it. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that I'm less likely to try something I'm not sure I'll love when I'm buying books online. When I'm actually holding the book, I'm much more likely to be adventurous with the books I buy - and most of the time they are the ones I enjoy the most.  Anyway, I finally bought this book (in the store) and I'm so glad I did. When I got it, I had no idea what I was in for.

I sped through the story, torn between wanting to know what happens next and trying to examine each beautifully drawn illustration.

A part of the story that I found interesting but many readers might have missed was the particular combination of pictures and words to show Hugo's development as a character. Toward the beginning, the story is told mainly by pictures, with bits of text  every once in a while. The first 22 pages are entirely illustration. However, as Hugo changes as a character, his story is told more and more with text and less with pictures; although the pictures are still there, the story is expressed more through the text.

Recommended for middle and high schoolers, especially if you enjoy graphic novels and remember the wonder of picture books.

The Notebook
Also, I wanted to put out a reminder that the giveaway is open until this Saturday (the 9th) at midnight. Scroll down to see details and enter. 
Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, 12th Edition

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I am doing a slightly different version of Teaser Tuesday. Since I go through books so quickly, I'm going to put a quote from any book I've read in the past week.

"Mother kept on buying cornflakes because it said on the packet: Made from the finest natural ingredients. But one can get tired of cornflakes quite easily." - Unexpected Magic, by Diana Wynne Jones

"Every day, in a million ways, we share information about ourselves, whether true or false, through our appearance.
     No one better understands the philosophy of fashion better than Collins' fictional character, Cinna." - The Girl Who Was On Fire, edited by Leah Wilson (Excerpt from "Crime of Fashion", by Terri Clark)

"'We still have a few minutes before curfew,' he says. 'Do you want to come talk on the steps with me?'" - Matched, by Ally Condie

"More than anything, he wanted to be alone.
     When he could hear only the sounds of distant Glader conversations, as well as faint echoes of bleating sheep and snorting pigs, his wish was granted; he found the junction of the two giant walls and collapsed into the corner to rest." - The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

"On Hugo's birthday, his father took him to the movies as he usually did, and he gave him one of the notebooks as a present.
     Meanwhile, Hugo's father became obsessed with getting the automaton to work." - The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

"He rose toward the sky, and the pain exploded anew, fresh and raw. Then his wish to pass out came true and darkness washed his troubles away." - The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner

"She closed her eyes again. Ai Ling conjured her father in her mind, guiding her hand as she wrote calligraphy." - Silver Phoenix, by Cindy Pon

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Girl Who Was On Fire

Edited by Leah Wilson
Start Date: 26 March 2011
End Date: 3 April 2011
224 pages (Paperback)

With this book, it's not so much that I enjoyed it - which I did - but I think this is an important book for anyone who was read the Hunger Games trilogy. It both reminded me why I liked the Hunger Games and addressed the deeper issues of the trilogy in relevant and meaningful ways.
     I was initially overwhelmed by Mockingjay, and after finishing it, I intentionally stayed away from all things Hunger Games. However, I saw this book in a "Monday's Muse" post on The Secret Adventures of WriterGirl and it sounded really interesting. I'm glad I tried it.
     The book consists of thirteen essays addressing different aspects of the trilogy in a larger context, whether that is why the series is so popular in the first place, comparing the Hunger Games to books such as 1984, putting the trilogy in a historical and political context, or discussing the use of media as a power tool. Each essay is insightful and opens up new ways to think about the series that I had never considered. They also adress current issues that readers can easily connect to. For example, when I finished reading last night, this one passage kept running through my head:
      "After her triumph in the Hunger Games, Katniss finds it difficult to stay herself. Her heroism, which begins in authenticity and solidifies in skill, comes under fire as soon as she slips into a public persona, first as a victor of the Games and then as the Mockingjay, face of the rebellion. Readers can likely relate  to Katniss' struggles to reconcile her personal and private lives, as they also have public profiles to maintain.
     It started with blogs; now, through social media, anyone who is active on the internet creates a digital projection of themselves for public consumption. We are all stars, all heroes in our own online productions. What does this do for our authenticity? It destroys it." - Reality Hunger, Ned Vizzini
It takes The Hunger Games and turns it around so that you end up thinking about yourself and your life as well as Katniss'. If you only wanted to think about Katniss, you could just reread the series, but these essays take it further than that.

This collection is recommended for anyone who has read The Hunger Games - whether you enjoyed it or not, it gives the entire trilogy so much more depth that it's worth reading.


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