BOOK HUNGRY: A Twitter Book Club -- Beauty by Robin McKinley

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 5:00 AM in , , , , , , ,
So the official book for October's reading was my responsibility, and, you guys?  I almost caved under the pressure.  I do not like choosing books for other people unless I know them REALLY REALLY well.  That means the only people I don't majorly stress over when I'm asked to recommend books are my mom and my best friend.  That's it.  And "don't majorly stress over" can be translated into "I'm only mildly anxious."  And since all of you are readers, I'm sure you know how often people assume that all books are equal opportunity good, and that you, as a reader, must know which ones are the good ones and can share that secret with them so that they don't have to waste their time or something, sorting through all the other books until they stumble across those gems.  In other words: I get lots of requests to recommend stuff.   And it is total torture.

In my opinion, books are like presents. Everyone likes a good present, right?  The classics are usually like those educational presents that your great aunt gets you for Christmas.  I mean, yeah, it's probably good for you, and you'll likely end up appreciating the learning experience or whatever, but they're rarely truly fun. Science fiction is like those tech gifts that always end up on those magazine lists adamantly declaring that they're the must-have for men, despite the fact that there's no reason women wouldn't like them too (and often do), whether it's a GPS or Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Searched (the lovely story about a delightful young girl who grows up to become a spaceship).  And romance novels therefore have to be the generic "girl" gifts of nice smelling soaps, either bland, nice enough, and ubiquitous, like a Danielle Steele novel, or delightfully, unexpectedly rich, the fancy chocolate of "girl" gifts: J.D. Robb.  I'm going to go with J.D. Robb over Nora for the fancy chocolate because I think Eve and Roarke are just as likely to appeal to guys as Godiva is.  The key is picking what you know that specific person will appreciate and making sure you label all the boxes correctly.  I mean, your brother is probably less likely to appreciate that Mary Engelbreit pressure cooker, and your mom likely won't get as much use out of that book on So Gross! facts, you know?

So, back to the book club, and the daunting task of choosing something for everyone to read.  Of course everyone reassured me multiple times that this is about expanding our horizons and you should never try to pick something that everyone will like, and that you should just try to choose something that you think everyone should be exposed to, and of course I promptly ignored that advice because what is this, school?  This is supposed to be fun.  I was all set to choose Robin D. Owens' Heart Fate when one club member mentioned that she doesn't enjoy reading any graphic love scenes, so I double checked, and the love scenes were a touch more graphic than I remember, so I nixed that idea.  Though it's a delightful book, for anyone who really likes a slightly different romance novel, with some unexpected depth to the story.  That particular series is fun, though you don't have to read them all to get what's going on, but that book in particular stood out for me.

So now that you guys all have context for why I chose what I chose, and since reading is all about context, I felt compelled to share.  You're welcome. 

I chose Beauty by Robin McKinley, which no one else had read, and which I reread at least once a year.  This is the book I choose whenever I need some comforting, or snuggling under the blankets on a rainy Saturday morning, and it's just really well done. It's lyrical and lovely, and immerses you immediately into the world and pacing of the fairy tale. She has a gift for writing animals, and making the magic in an atmosphere fairly shimmer off a page, and I love her for it. She doesn't reinvent the wheel or anything, but sometimes the basics done really well can be even more enjoyable, and she nails the rhythm of old-fashioned storytelling so well that even when she writes completely original works (like the absolutely delightful The Blue Sword), you can almost swear you've heard the story years ago, candles flickering beside your bedside, as your mother told it to you while playing with your hair until you fell asleep.  I also like that because this book is called Beauty, and not Beauty and the Beast, we get a more well-rounded look at Beauty herself, and the life she leads that made her the person she is, until she stumbles into magic and quietly breaks a curse.  I thought the real magic should come through during the love story section, and it does. That helps make that part of the book feel more special, more magical, and more complete in the transformation from where she was (boring "plain" Honour, normal girl with normal hard knocks) to where she ends up (magical in-love "Beauty," fairy tale princess). The contrast works for me.  I liked that we get to spend so much time with her, really understanding where she comes from and how she, specifically, fits as The Beast's love interest. I just loved the down-to-earth-ness of her, the contrasts of her life, the eventual magic, the sistery-goodness of the early parts of the book (I only have a brother so they can dwell on how awesome it is to have a sister all the livelong day, as far as I'm concerned), and the seriously great animal characterizations (Greatheart fangirl in the house!).

Normally slower pacing annoys the crap out of me, but when McKinley uses it, it feels less like it's about being slow and more like it's about style--especially since this story is about the telling, and not particularly about the plot. We're all familiar with the basics before the story even starts, and there's no real surprises here.  I personally find it really relaxing, since it adds to the otherwordly fairy-tale-ness of it all for me, by just kind of immersing me in the experience of the story.  Basically, this book is like getting into a really hot jacuzzi. You kind of ease into it slowly, and each muscle relaxes as you do--but you can't just plop down and feel more relaxed. It's the process of doing it that gets you where you want to end up.

Have you guys read it?  What do you think?

Or if you'd prefer to see what the rest of the book club thought, feel free to visit them:



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It's My Birthday!

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 8:34 AM in , , ,
Hi! It's my birthday, so I have a very busy day planned, which includes fun things like shopping, books, movies, manicures, makeup, killer unicorns, happily taking a day off work, going out to dinner with my mom, and closing out the day with some awesome Vampire Diaries flashback action!  I believe this is referred to as a perfect day.  And I am psyched.

But I'm also still a little unsure about how I'd like to celebrate it with friends.  Should I make everyone come with me to paint some pottery?  But that gets expensive and then you have to go back to pick up your masterpiece.  I can't do anything at my house, since my best friend is allergic to my kitties.  Should I make everyone go to the park and ride the carousel and sit at a picnic table and eat cake?  But then you're opening yourself up to be subjected to wandering mariachi bands (no, I'm not sure why they solicit people at the park for money, but it is very awkward to tell them that you're uninterested and make them go away.).  I'm leaning the most towards having everybody meet up for brunch at this nice restaurant that overlooks the valley, where you can sit for hours outside (or inside, but why would you?) eating delicious buffet foods (served with champagne!  That way you know it's fancy.), which is also a little expensive, but has the added bonus of being time-flexible, which is a serious plus in a terrible traffic town like this. 

So I'd like to solicit your opinions.  What's the most fun birthday party you've ever attended, either your own or a friend's?

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BOOK HUNGRY: A Twitter Book Club -- Gods In Alabama

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 2:00 AM in , , , , , ,
I'd like to welcome you guys to the second official Book Hungry: A Twitter Book Club blog entry.  September's book was Cynthia's pick:

GODS IN ALABAMA by Joshilyn Jackson!

I have to admit that I was curious about this one since I won a copy of BACKSEAT SAINTS in a contest (yes, I entered a contest for a book I knew nothing about mostly because I am competitive and LOVE winning, but also because I heart books), and at the time, Cynthia gushed about how much she loves Joshilyn Jackson's work, and that GODS IN ALABAMA was not to be missed.

I thought the book was really well done, too.  The rhythm of the writing, and the sounds of the setting, it's all so vivid that you're almost immediately immersed into Arlene's world.  I haven't been to Alabama in 15 years, or Georgia in at least 6, and yet I could practically feel the heat and smell the kudzu of the South, you know?  Also, cicadas are seriously gross--like, so, so yucky, and this reminded me once again, vividly, about why I hate them so much.

The other thing that Jackson excels at is characterization.  I thought Burr was terrific and sweet if at times wrongheaded, and Lena was hilarious, and sometimes so painfully honest that I was uncomfortable and wanted her to quit sharing.  I thought Florence was such a strong character that it's impossible not to like her, even though we're privy to her mild racism and multiple animal killings.  It's written in such a way that it's supposed to be horrific, but Florence's steel shines through her magnolia so frequently that it's hard not to relate to her, and the challenges she faces--she refuses to be pitied.  Clarice, who so easily could've been a cliche, was lovely.  It's completely understandable why she's Lena's favorite cousin.  And Arlene's first crush is sometimes so completely charming that the sweetness and the awkwardness of everything should be painful, but somehow isn't (no worries though, creepy awkward pain abounds--the book is definitely not all sweetness and light).  The only character who kinda felt cartoonish to me was Rose Mae, especially modern-day Rose Mae, but it didn't impact my appreciation for the writing in any particular way.  I felt awful for the young Arlene and her disturbing fantasies, but I appreciated that the twists in the story were just as slippery as Lena's way of thinking, and how Lena developed into the sort of person she is in modern-day Chicago becomes clearer with each additional detail we learn of young Arlene's past.

This is very much a book you'd find on the Fiction shelf, rather than the Romance and YA sections which are where I usually kick it, but sometimes it's fun to branch out and take a breather from my usual fare.  I find I don't usually engage emotionally with more literary novels, but I do readily slip into my more distant analytical cap and can analyze the text and appreciate the construction of the work, and it usually gives me some fresh perspective on something I'm writing as well, since it's harder for me to slip back out of that pattern of thinking.  And this book really is very well done.  Jackson describes it rather perfectly as "Southern fiction seasoned with a dash of literary murder mystery," and if that sounds like the sort of thing that appeals to you, I think you'll definitely appreciate this book.

If you'd like to see what the rest of the club thought:


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Random Quotes and Contest Entry

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 10:28 PM in ,
While looking something else up, I randomly stumbled across some fairy quotes, and they tickled me so much I feel compelled to share them with everyone else:

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."- Albert Einstein

“The tooth fairy teaches children that they can sell body parts for money.” - David Richerby

I hardly think Evie will mind me sharing those, which brings me to the second part of this catch-all post.  My entry for Kiersten White's contest!  I left my entry to the last minute because I am a procrastinator, not because I didn't want to give even more people a heads up.  I solemnly swear. (And P.S. If you haven't read this yet, you're missing out.  It's sweetly adorable and charmingly delightful, and I just want to hug it.  So sometimes I do.)  

Paranormalcy has been super busy at my house, and here is the pictorial evidence:

Paranormalcy enjoys a late-night snack!

Paranormalcy makes new friends!  Aww.
Paranormalcy travels the world! Because...well, work is work and it needs doing.
Seriously.  Paranormalcy makes lots of friends and is terribly popular all of the time.
But most importantly, Paranormalcy has her picture taken with a cute pink camera!  Yay!  

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Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 2:00 AM in , ,
I AM SO EXCITED! I seriously love this show.  I missed the first two episodes last year (because I was busy getting pushed around by nuns and discovering Italian delicacies like French fry pizza), caught the third, thought it was all right, watched the fourth episode...and was completely hooked by the end.  I hesitated to tell people at first because I never thought I'd get into yet another vampire show after Buffy and Angel, but the fourth episode wasn't a fluke.  From that point on, the show has been a solid, shocking, awesome, heartbreaking, and gorgeous roller coaster of fun.

I'm really into Stefan, who's surprisingly emotionally mature for a 162 year old vampire attending high school (I'm actually being serious right now).  He's tortured and gorgeous, as is the law,  but he also has a dry sense of humor and a genuine need to be a good person.  I love that he does what's right because it's what's right, NOT because he thinks it's something that his girlfriend would want him to do.  Though she would, of course, since she's a genuinely nice person herself.  But he's complete in himself and has committed to his beliefs for a very long time.

But even better than enjoying the super hot male lead?  I'm really into the female lead too!  Elena genuinely cares about her family.  She even has friends, that she actually hangs out with sometimes, and she genuinely cares about them too!  Crazy, I know.  And even better than that?  The people on this show actually communicate with each other.

I know I just blew your mind, so I'll give you all a moment to recover.

Yes, there are secrets galore, and sometimes they write things that they shouldn't in their diaries, but when the going gets tough, and the stupid would keep things to themselves in order to land themselves in deeper trouble later?  Yeah, these characters actually talk about things, take backup, notice when something seems like a bit too much of a coincidence, and because it bears repeating: they actually talk to each other.  Just like real people would!  I love it.

And the entire cast is fabulous.  Okay, so sometimes I get a little bored with Elena's younger brother Jeremy, but considering the fact that within a very short period of time -- meaning just about a year -- he's lost his parents and, not just one, but two girlfriends (lost them as in all four are dead, not misplaced.  Just to be clear.)...I'll forgive him for being emo.  But I just hope he knocks it off with the self-medicating soon because it's hard to watch.

Then there's Matt, Elena's genuinely-a-good-guy ex, whom she's friends with because they've been friends their whole lives, and because she's actually a smart girl and dated a nice boy.  There's her best friend Bonnie, who's gorgeous, tough, and -- she recently discovered -- a witch.  Caroline, who by rights should be nothing more than just the usual blonde vampire bait, who knows nothing about the supernatural world all around her, is so delightfully charming that she ably represents the human population and why they should be protected.  There's Tyler, with all those tantalizing anvils dropped all over the place that he's either a werewolf or about to become one.  And finally, there's Damon, fun fun (pretty!) Damon, who, much as he wishes he didn't, has a good heart buried deep -- really really deep -- beneath his sardonic vampire exterior.  As much as he protests any goodness, as little patience as he has with his brother Stefan's human ways, he's a better person than he wants to be, for all the murder and truly horrific crimes he may commit.

Oh yeah, that's the other thing: Bad guys on this show?  They're actually bad, but so often complex.  And there are a number of guest stars that I fell in love with over the course of one episode that I wish we could have back, but we can't.  Because when you're dealing with vampires, sometimes death, and the sheer finality of it, needs to be made explicitly, heartbreakingly, clear.  And evil is evil and shouldn't be discounted.

The pacing of this show is one of its biggest charms.  It's so ridiculously fast that often you look up at a commercial break and can't believe how little time has passed because there's so much that has already happened.  It's truly delightful.

So yes, this is not just another vampire show with a love triangle at the center (It's kinda a love quadrangle, for all that Elena and Katherine look identical...).  It's a complex, messy, romantic, family drama with all kinds of twists and turns and heartbreak and betrayal.  Plus vampires!  They're like your gift with purchase.  Repercussions and hurt feelings that linger over the decades can get surprisingly messy, it turns out.

And now Katherine the awesomely badass vampire who started it all when she thought "hey, why choose between two pretty pretty brothers when I can have them both?  Forever?" is back.  And I cannot wait to see what she does.  Especially since, as Elena's ancestor and doppelganger, she has a lot of avenues open to her to seriously mess with everyone however she sees fit.

Um, so what are you guys all doing tonight?  Because I'll be hanging out with my TV and the CW around 8:00 to enjoy the premiere.

These pictures are included to entice you, so that I have a wider circle of acquaintances with which to discuss my favorite pretty show.  Just so we're all clear.

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VACATION - Paris! Rome!

My friend Abby is heading off on what is bound to be a fabulous trip to Italy soon, and I started to reminisce with her about my trip to Italy last September.  That whole trip was bananas, and every time I turned around, something crazier was happening.  It was all very hilarious, if confusing and/or uncomfortable at the time.

I should probably mention that the week before I left was hellish, since I got into a car accident, and therefore didn't have access to my car as I tried to get all my last-minute stuff under control (and deal with the insurance people which turned into this whole long extremely ridiculous mess), AND I was putting in 12 hour days at work to prep for the almost two weeks I'd be gone, and so by the time we finally left for the airport (at 3:00 am by the way), I felt like I hadn't slept in years, even if technically I'd slept for four hours the two nights previous, if not at all that night.  Then began the world's longest trip to Paris from Los Angeles by way of Houston and London, which necessitated an airport change in London, so we took a bus, enjoyed some delays, and finally arrived in Paris 26 hours later.  I was beyond delirious.  I didn't sleep at all, except for maybe ten minute catnaps while sitting on the floor of the last airport waiting for them to announce what gate they were going to move us to, but I was so terrified I was going to miss the announcement that it was hardly restful.  I have never been so tired in my life.  So what did we do bright and early the next morning?  We went to Disneyland Paris!  Obviously.  Where I got soaking wet in a couple of freak thunderstorms.

We decided to close out the evening with some slightly more high-brow entertainment, so we bought tickets to see one of the Spectacles at Versailles.  It's this crazy fireworks and water show that they put on at the Neptune fountain, and each year there's a different story.  They decided to tell the story of Cyrano de Bergerac while we were there, and you should all be impressed to note that while everything was in French, my six years of Spanish and two weeks of French class paid off because I was able to translate about 90% of our program fairly easily.  Note, however, that this is an outdoor show, at night, and it was BEYOND freezing.  The locals knew this, and wore heavy jackets and brought lots of blankets.  We did not.

After a little while, though, the show became so mind-boggling, that I could no longer focus on my sheer physical misery.  Apparently, Cyrano decided to help make the children of the moon, or something (look, it was in French, okay?  Also, it was a French play.  I wasn't expecting it to make tons of sense), but there are some things that are just universally understood when told through charades, and one of those things is the act of making babies.  First, the light up lady, uh, encouraged Cyrano's interest to grow, shall we say, and then Cyrano returned the favor, and then they got super friendly from behind, and then their friends joined in, and now I know what a light-up seven-way looks like!  Thanks, France.  The children sitting behind us found this all to be the most hysterical thing EVER, and I could not blame them because  I couldn't stop laughing either.  Trust me, the picture here doesn't do the spectacle justice (there really are people inside those light up costumes, and they're suspended by wires over a ginormous fountain.).

By the time we reached Rome, though, I had developed a full-blown head cold.  Very mysterious as to why, I'm sure.  So I did the sensible thing, walked into a farmacia, and bought some medication from a nice pharmacist who spoke not a word of English, as I mimed all my symptoms due to my supreme lack of Italian.  This makes for hilarious times for everyone, including the other visitors in the farmacia.  But whatever on earth it was that I was taking, it did make me feel moderately better, if extremely photosensitive (I was neon red for the rest of the trip), so we decided to call it an early night by visiting the restaurant across from our hotel and having some pizza.  By the way, I'm fairly certain that every restaurant in Rome is some sort of pizzeria, even the fancy ones.  That's the sort of thinking I can get behind.  However, once we reached the restaurant, we learned that our favorite sausage potato pizza wasn't an option due to lack of potatoes.  We mimed our sadness at this.  Our waiter (who is now one of my facebook friends as I am clearly some sort of international ambassadorial genius, obviously) offered to make it up to us by serving a sausage and french fry pizza.  You guys?  FRENCH FRY PIZZA.  I can pretty much die happy for having experienced this awesome thing.  We had French fry pizza for three out of the next five meals in Rome, as you do.

This is me awaiting French fry pizza. Also? Advertising Coke. 
Also? Crazy high on mysterious Italian cold meds. Please note my fuzzy facebook friend.

And as we were leaving Rome and a nun body-checked me at the train station (because of her terror at possibly being caught in the malfunctioning people-mover--I'm assuming she had adrenaline-enhanced strength or she missed her calling as a linebacker because I went flying) and my first instinct was to protect the French fry pizza (I was successful, no worries--and it was for the road, okay?  No judging.), I realized that traveling is possibly an even more character-driven experience than writing.  Which must be why I enjoy it so much.

What's the most hilarious thing that's happened to you guys while traveling lately?

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Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 8:15 AM in , , , , ,
I have been not-so-patiently awaiting the release of MOCKINGJAY, and since I received my ebook release at 9:15 last night, I of course put off sleeping until I was finished.

Now I'd really like to discuss it, but I refuse to spoil anyone who doesn't want to be spoiled, so I'm going to make the comments section of this blog post a spoiler area and restrict my thoughts to there.

If you've read MOCKINGJAY and feel compelled to discuss, please join me!

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BOOK HUNGRY: A Twitter Book Club -- Hunger Games

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 2:00 AM in , , , , , ,
While chatting with friends on Twitter one day, we started discussing Hunger Games and how awesome it is, and how everyone should read it, and next thing I knew I somehow ended up in a book club.  I've never been in one before, but so far it's been pretty delightful.  So I'd like to welcome you guys to my first official Book Hungry: A Twitter Book Club blog entry.  August's book selection, you may ask?

I write young adult fiction.  I consider it my homework to be well-read in the genre (side note: yes, I do indeed assign myself way more fun homework than school ever did).   I was aware that Hunger Games was immensely popular, and yet, I held off on reading it for several reasons.  I knew it was part of a trilogy and that the series finale hadn't been released yet.  Because of some early childhood disillusionment awaiting Melanie Rawn's The Captal's Tower (the wait's going on 14 years now, and yes, book two ended on a cliffhanger), I know it's not a guarantee that the third book in a series will ever actually be written.  But mostly, I'd read the blurb for Hunger Games and it sounded absolutely horrible.  Harry Potter aside, I don't generally trust crowds to pick out the best books, and reading the blurb for Hunger Games was like reading a checklist of everything I find uninteresting.  Dystopias tend to be a touch depressing and bleak, and often feature really whiny characters.  Not to mention I'm really not into Survivor, or reality television (outside of dance shows), or hunting.  Even the cover for the book seems rather stark and militaristic and off-putting.  So I found myself standing in Barnes & Noble one sunny Saturday holding a copy of Hunger Games in one hand and a copy of Shiver in the other.  Both books are popular and well-reviewed, both books I'd been putting off reading for a long time, both were on my homework list.  I finally decided to read the first chapter of each, and whichever was more interesting would be the book I'd buy.  I sighed and started Hunger Games first.

Eighteen chapters later, I looked up and realized I wasn't actually in Panem, but sitting on the floor of Barnes & Noble crying my eyes out in public.  And I didn't care.  I couldn't even gather sufficient willpower to go and purchase the book and finish reading it at home.  The ten minutes it would take me to accomplish that would be entirely too long to go without knowing what's going to happen next.  So I finished the book.  Then found a copy of Catching Fire, purchased that, dragged myself home, and read straight through that book too.

These books are fantastic.

I have a theory that Suzanne Collins' background as a screenwriter is what has honed her capacity for economic storytelling, and that that is what enables her to draw such extremely dynamic pictures in very few words.  Her pacing is top-notch.  Her characterization, almost always through action, is impeccable.  It's often through one quick image of a person as seen through the lens of Katniss's point of view, just a gesture a character makes, and you just know who that person is.  That's the sort of thing that's extremely helpful for an actor reading a script, and it's the sort of thing that's extremely delightful to experience as a reader.  I have to give credit, again, to the ridiculously adept world building she does here because I never once felt like Katniss lived in a vacuum.  I was always aware that there were other people with other things going on, things that Katniss had no idea about, but that you can sense even through the tight first-person point of view.  For instance, I have a feeling that certain factions intended to use Katniss as just a symbol for something, and like the mockingjay, she took on a life of her own as a competitor in the 74th Hunger Games.  I think it's important to remember that she is, essentially, still a child, and she got caught up in something extremely complicated.  I'm really curious about what the rebellious adults are up to.  Even though this is young adult fiction, adults are present, they have agendas, and they're complicated and twisted by the world they live in.  Katniss is an extremely visible figure because of her identity as a tribute, but the visible figures are not always where the heart of a rebellion lies.  And as we've seen, you have to be a master of strategy to pull off a win in Panem.  I want to know more about this world and all the players in it.  And I want to spend more time with Katniss, whom I just adore.

Katniss, for me, was simply a delight.  I read tons of romance, and that's usually my favorite thread in a story, but here it was almost a distraction.  Katniss is such a survivor, and most of that is due to the fact that she's extremely pragmatic and very in touch with her common sense.  She's flexible and logical, and yet impulsive and, at times, oblivious to those around her.  At heart, though, she's so grounded and comfortable with who she is and what's important to her that she doesn't really care about offending other people when she knows she's right.  She'll fight for her beliefs with everything she has.  Because when it comes down to it, if she's willing to fight for something, she sees no reason why she shouldn't commit everything to the effort.  When these boys start getting all emotional, she's at times a touch exasperated, and I'm 100% on her side.  I just love her.  I love her protectiveness of her sister, her clearheadedness, her ability to think outside the box, and her determination to survive.  She's just awesome, and such a great guide into this world.  The people around her, Gale, Peeta, Haymitch, Rue, Cinna, even Effie, are such great foils to her.  I love them too.  I may be Team Gale as far as the romance goes, which is interesting to me since he's actually not very heavily featured in the book, but Peeta is such a decent person that it's impossible not to like him.  Which is the precise problem that Katniss has with him, of course.  Liking people is not exactly one's best strategy in the arena.  And Katniss is not interested in shooting herself in the foot when it comes to keeping herself alive, but she's a good person, and that can conflict sometimes with acting in one's self-interest.  It took me a bit to warm up to Haymitch, but after a little while I realized that his way of surviving and coping with the cards life dealt him was really the only option he had, and as a man honed by the Hunger Games, he was going to survive.  He's the tragic figure that absolutely refuses to allow you to pity him, and it's fascinating realizing how much he really does have in common with Katniss.

I could seriously go on forever about how much I love these books.  There are so many moments that are well done.  And so many things that made me cry (apparently respect and dignity are triggers for me, which...now I know what will cause me to burst into tears in public, so I guess we all learned something).  And even the covers make sense to me now, and looking at them all in a row, and seeing the progression from dark to light, from symbol to freedom, fills me with hope -- just from looking at freaking pictures of the covers, you guys.  But that's just it, once you get drawn in by all the subtleties that add so much depth to these books you'll wonder why it took you so long to read them in the first place.

So I'll leave you with this: This book is seriously great, and I think you won't regret reading it.  But maybe don't read the synopsis before you start.  Just dig in.  Believe me, it'll save you considerable mental anguish about how much you're not going to enjoy if if you just skip it in the first place.

And I CANNOT WAIT for Mockingjay. :^)  But then, clearly patience was never really my strong suit. (5 more days!!!)

Please feel free to check out the reviews from the other members of the Book Hungry book club below.  And if you're unfamiliar with any of their blogs, know that all these ladies are extremely nice and friendly, and despite the name of our club, none of them are capable of biting you over the internet.

So have any of you read Hunger Games?  What did you guys think?

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Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 11:37 PM in , , , , ,

And the winner of this delightful prize is:

Isn't it delightful?  Look how artistically that prize is arranged on the carpet for your visual pleasure.  You're welcome.

Anyway, this post is about the winner.  So back to her.  It's:

Suze!  Congratulations!!!  If for some reason you feel unable to perform your duties as the winner (this mainly includes providing me with a mailing address and savoring sweet victory), please let me know, and a first runner up shall be selected.

Thank you everyone for participating!  Seriously.  I greatly enjoy the competition in the comments and the fact that MOST of you do the math for me.  I promise I'll do another one of these really soon.  I still have lots and lots of books from RomCon looking for a good home, I swear.

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Happy Birthday, Mom!

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 11:39 AM
This is for my mom because it's her birthday today (made using http://sketch.odopod.com which is awesome fun if you haven't tried it):

I'm wishing you have a day as awesome as this:

Or maybe this:

Hard to choose. :)  LOVE YOU!

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Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 5:55 AM in , , ,
Remember how I said we'd do the next contest on Monday?  Remember how I didn't quite specify which Monday?  Yeah... sorry about that.  Anyway, at Suze's request, we're going to do historical romances next, which means the prize is:

Ta-da!  These books.  Including:

- Laura Kinsale's The Prince of Midnight
- Laura Kinsale's Uncertain Magic
- Laura Kinsale's Midsummer Moon
- Laura Kinsale's Seize the Fire

And the good news is that since Tawna won these in the last contest (which is nicely fitting since they're from her own Sourcebooks), you likely won't have to compete against her apparently extremely formidable luck.  The rules are as follows:

1. Leave me an email address in the comments of this entry at which to contact you if you win. This one's important, guys.  And the only step that's actually required. (+1 point) [Note: If you feel uncomfortable leaving your email address, just let me know an alternative method of contacting you. Like Twitter DM or something.  That's a perfectly acceptable substitute.]

2. Follow this blog. (Already a follower? +2 points!! New follower? The link's in the column to the right. +1 And hey, welcome!)

3. Follow me on Twitter. (Already a follower? +3 points! If you're new? +2!)

4. Tweet this contest. (+1 point - I'll go with the honor system here. You don't need to provide a link.  But you can do this step as many times as you like.  No, really, you can.  Don't let me limit you.)

5. Blog about this or otherwise write something getting the word out. (+4 points!)  And I have to say, I really enjoyed y'all's blogs last time.

6.  Add up all your points for me. (+1 point)

That means you can have a max of twelve entries/points in the contest, or a minimum of one.  Make sense?  If you do something that's worth more points, cool!  Delete your earlier comment with your old points total, and make a new comment with your new points total.

By entering into the contest, you agree that you are over the age of 13.  Also the contest is limited to the United States and Canada (Sorry, other international friends.  I am hoping to win the lottery soon, and at such time shipping will no longer be a concern.  So here's hoping I win soon.  For your sakes.).  Contest opens now, and ends Wednesday, August 18th, at 5:00 pm PST

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RomCon! Books Edition - BIG OL' CONTEST - WINNER!

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 6:07 PM in , , , , ,

All right, it's time to announce the winner of my first giant book giveaway.  As a refresher, the prize to be won is the following:

I used this web site to pick the winner because it looked like the most fun.  (Apologies if your name wasn't capitalized.  After entering everyone 10 times, or however many points you had, my fingers started getting tired).  So without further ado, the winner is:

Tawna Fenske!  It seems crazy since she's bragged about how lucky she is in the past, and yet, apparently it's not bragging when it's true.  Congrats, Tawna!  I'm sending you an email now.

Thank you so much for entering, everyone!  I seriously appreciated it, and it was really fun for me to do, but I do apologize that I set it up so that we all had to wait for way too long.  Next mini contest is a historical romance one, and will have a much quicker turnaround, promise.  That should go up on Monday.

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Re-Create A Cover Contest - Entry

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 7:08 PM in , ,
Princess Bookie is hosting an awesome contest over at her blog.  All you need to do is recreate Mandy Hubbard's cover.

I'm totally laughing right now because Mandy's cover is awesome and I love it, plus I don't own Photoshop.  But I AM committed to winning cool books AND a My Little Pony, so I did what I could using images stolen from Google and Picnik.

The description of Mandy's book, as stolen from Amazon because I am all about the copy and pasting today, goes a little something like this:

Kayla McHenry’s sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla’s secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin’ do.
Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year’s supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla’s wishes-past appear, they take her on a wild ride . . . but they MUST STOP. Because when she was fifteen? She wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her. And Ben is her best friend’s boyfriend.

So anyway, here goes.  My original entry for the recreated cover is (left here for posterity since I've made edits to the entry):

And here's my modified submission, since we were allowed more time.  I decided to continue the manic theme, but threw in a touch (just a touch!) more polish:

Yes, I know it is amazing.  Because I have thrown absolutely everything but the kitchen sink into this sucker.  It's okay.  You guys may go ahead and tell me you love it anyway. ;^)

P.S. This is the picture I wanted to use SO BADLY, but I couldn't figure out how.  My gift to you:

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RomCon! Books Edition - BIG OL' CONTEST

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 10:16 PM in , , ,

Okay, so I've been winning a lot of books lately (all the RomCon books totally count because I won the tickets for that too), and so I think it's time I share the wealth.  The box of books from the conference has finally arrived and what that means for you guys is: A contest!  Whoo!  I have a number of doubles, so I think the best option is to do one grand prize (that'll be this entry) and then a number of smaller prizes over the next few weeks.  Because to be perfectly honest, I'm awful at getting to the post office and shipping things.  So let's not test me all at once with that.

What's the prize?  Why, it's some fancy loot from RomCon, including but not limited to the things pictured below.  There will likely be a few extra surprises in there:

- Laura Kinsale's The Prince of Midnight
- Laura Kinsale's Uncertain Magic
- Laura Kinsale's Midsummer Moon
- Laura Kinsale's Seize the Fire
- Brenda Novak's The Perfect Murder
- Jeaniene Frost's Destined for an Early Grave
- Kristan Higgins The Next Best Thing
- Linda Lael Miller's McKettricks of Texas: Tate
- Judith Arnold's Meet Me in Manhattan (Advanced Reader's Copy)
- Samhain Publishing T-shirt
- RomCon 2011 mouse pad
- RomCon pen
- RomCon tote bag

To make it the most fair for people who are already followers, and who have assured me they're totally cool with me just giving them the prize, I think we'll go with a points system.  So, here's how to snag some points to enter:

1. Leave me an email address in the comments of this entry at which to contact you if you win. This one's important, guys.  And the only step that's actually required. (+1 point) [Note: If you feel uncomfortable leaving your email address, just let me know an alternative method of contacting you. Like Twitter DM or something.  That's a perfectly acceptable substitute.]

2. Follow this blog. (Already a follower? +2 points!! New follower? The link's in the column to the right. +1 And hey, welcome!)

3. Follow me on Twitter. (Already a follower? +3 points! If you're new? +2)

4. Tweet this contest. (+1 point - I'll go with the honor system here. You don't need to provide a link.  But you can do this step as many times as you like.  No, really, you can.  Don't let me limit you.)

5. Blog about this or otherwise write something getting the word out. (+2 points!)

6.  Add up all your points for me. (+1 point)

That means you can have a max of ten entries/points in the contest, or a minimum of one.  Make sense?  If you do something that's worth more points, cool!  Delete your earlier comment with your old points total, and make a new comment with your new points total.

By entering into the contest, you agree that you are over the age of 13.  Also the contest is limited to the continental United States (Sorry, Territories. And international friends.).  Contest opens now, and ends Friday, August 6th, at 5:00 pm PST.

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RomCon! Authors Edition

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 10:46 PM in , , , , ,
I have a confession to make: before RomCon, I only had one signed book, and it was one that the author coerced me into buying when she spotted me at Borders and proceeded to personalize it for me. Since the book is significantly awful (think literal bodice ripper, with multiple episodes of head trauma, passing out, sexy starvation, and imprisonment), my BFF Liz and I trade it back and forth as an entertaining gag gift.

However, when we saw the list of authors who would be coming to RomCon, and how many of our favorites were on there, we kinda geeked out.  I mean, NALINI SINGH! I love her.  And it turns out, she really is the sweetest, and she speaks with a great accent, so she's both entertaining and fun to listen to.  And just to make it really clear: I think she is the bees knees and ridiculous levels of awesome.  So I told her so, multiple times.  And then she was in the room two doors down from ours, and we had to make sure she understood that we just loved her, but were not psycho or stalking her, since it is, at times, a fine line.

The other author we were really psyched to chat up was Julia Quinn, and she was just fabulous, fun, and friendly.  I arrived a little late to her intimate chat (because Liz arrived after I did and was having issues with the hotel not recognizing her name and refusing to send a shuttle to pick her up from the airport), and Julia was great, and kindly disregarded my emergency texting throughout the session.  Then she stayed afterwards and chatted with us, since Liz arrived at the very end, and I think Liz is an even bigger JQ fan girl than I am. She signed all of our books and took hilarious pictures, and was just generally as lovely as can be.  Lovely enough that I'm willing to share this extremely unflattering, but hilarious, photo:

Luckily, we also took a normal picture:

Then there was the opportunity to meet new-to-you authors, or rather, many opportunities to hang out with any and all authors, some of whom were new to you.  Two of my favorites were Meagan Hatfield and Jessa Slade, whom I hung out with during the Build a Hero workshop, which was extremely fun.  We sat around brainstorming the perfect paranormal hero, as a group, for two hours. Which means basically just giggling and making smart literary choices.  You can see a glimpse of some of Team Awesome's work (and my handwriting!) at Jessa's write up here.  It turns out that many of the characteristics that are popular in designing a hero are being tall, dark, handsome, and scared of matches.  Who knew?  Our hero, Shikar, came in second place (perhaps because he lacked that fear of fire?), but only because we weren't allowed to vote for our own hero.  Our group was by far the largest and felt the strongest about him, but we were foiled by that last-minute rule. Oh, well!  It was still a blast, and Shikar was awesome.  As was our entire group.  Seriously.  This might have been my favorite activity.

I met so many authors, so many of whom were just so lovely, that I feel compelled to go out and buy their entire backlist now.  I mean, I ended up on the shuttle with Elizabeth Hoyt, Cindy Gerard, and Lori Foster going over to the hotel from the airport.  It was just that kind of trip, with tons of unlimited access to authors.  In that particular case, Elizabeth was lovely and introduced me to everyone and we chatted about conventions and her daughter, and how difficult it can be to pack for these things.  I ended up accidentally stalking Cindy Gerard for awhile on Friday, running into her at almost every activity, until we just started laughing because we kept ending up at the same tables.  When we went to the book signing on Saturday, which we were told in advance we were only allowed to bring three of our own books to, I was expecting lines.  Nope, not at all.  Just more author hanging out time!  It was so awesome.  I apologized to Jo Beverley for accidentally sleeping through her intimate chat, and she laughed, forgave me, and gave me some stickers.  Elizabeth Boyle was adorable, and got so excited at meeting two other Elizabeths that she insisted on taking an Elizabeth picture with us.  I wish I had thought to take one too, but I was distracted in the frenzy of having so much fun.  Nalini Singh chatted with us for awhile, and revealed the cover art for Archangel's Consort (it's gorgeous).  She'd also had the foresight to buy some sparkly purple pens for the occasion, so all her dedications are extra fun (and personal - she wrote different funny things in each book I had her sign).  Anna Campbell is so much fun, and has such infectious energy, that you can't help but be giggly and cheerful when hanging out with her. I chatted with one of my new favorites, Veronica Wolff (who writes paranormal Scottish historicals, straight Scottish historicals, and has an upcoming vampire young adult series! Also, her middle name is Elizabeth, so she is clearly awesome). I briefly spoke to Jeaniene Frost and sat with the lovely Meljean Brook for a bit, and it was all just so surreal and awesome that I don't think I can properly describe it.  And so many of the authors felt the same, I can't tell you how many confessed how excited they were to meet Christine Feehan (who was also fun and awesome).

Basically, I'd recommend this conference for the authors alone.  They were all so fabulous and wonderful, and I met so many awesome new people, that the whole trip was more than worth it.

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Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 11:47 PM in , , , , , ,
So I went to RomCon this past weekend, and it was absolutely fantastic, full of hilarity and awesome times.  As with most awesome times, I went with my friend Liz.  I'm sure some of you have picked up on that recurring theme by now, since y'all strike me as a group with really great reading comprehension.  And since tons of stuff happened that I'd love to chronicle, I think I might make this a two-part post.  Or maybe three part.

Our journey started several months ago, when we wondered if there were a super girly convention that we could attend, along the lines of the Star Trek convention in Vegas, and we concluded that romance novels were just about the girliest subject about which one could convene.  So we plugged in Romance Convention into Google and discovered the inaugural RomCon this year in Denver.  It sounded like exactly what we had hoped for and we started to get giddy.  Then we saw that tickets were $125 each, plus the cost of travel, hotel, and food.  So we rethought that plan.

Fast forward a few months, and I managed to win two tickets to the event from Sue Grimshaw, the Borders Romance Blogger, on Twitter, and our summer vacation plan was back on.  The planning went through several variations, but eventually it all ended up working out, and the experience was absolutely amazing.  Have you ever imagined what it would be like to just sit, and chat, and hang out with your very favorite author(s) for hours on end?  Then take home tons of books, many of which are personalized with hilarious messages?  Then you have imagined RomCon.  It was just really great, and I'm so glad that we got the chance to go.

So I think I talked myself into making this a three-post topic, so for now I'll leave you hanging about the authors and the books, and just give you a taste of how fun and funny the actual event was by reliving it through pictures:

More hilarity to come.  Stay tuned!

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Petals and Thorns - Review

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 8:05 PM in , , ,
When my friend Jeffe Kennedy asked if anyone wanted an ARC of her lovely new ebook Monday night, I immediately said that I did.  I don't actually think I'm capable of saying no to free books, but free books written by friends that feature the Beauty and the Beast archetype?  Yeah, I'm definitely not strong enough.  And to ensure that her contractual obligations are fulfilled,  I agreed to write a review of Petals and Thorns, her erotic novella under the pen name Jennifer Paris.  (Side note: Isn't her cover super pretty?)

More after the jump:

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Being Awesome, Flash Mob Style

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 9:35 PM in , , , ,
So my best friend and I have this symbiotic relationship where we fully support each other's awesomeness, and being more awesome, and doing awesome stuff.  Essentially, we are committed to enabling awesomeness within each other.  Because we are so dedicated to this idea, we've been doing some fairly hilarious things lately, like flash mobbing.  If you've never seen a flash mob, check out this one, which is one of my very favorites:

So you get the idea, right?  Basically a group of people "spontaneously" start dancing and then wander off.  I LOVE flash mobs.  I watch almost as many of them as I do cat videos on YouTube.  So when my BFF learned about a flash mob featuring songs by Lady Gaga (whom she adores), we were all over it.

Despite some disorganization in the prep and rehearsal process, the first one turned out pretty darn awesome, I must say.  You can see me at the 3:25 mark and my BFF at the 4:27 mark. She's wearing a white hoodie because she's crazy smart and wanted it to be easy to spot ourselves in the crowd.  We're in the bottom left in the aerial shots:


P.S. I have no idea where that camera was.  Despite appearances, it really was not all up in my grill.

A couple weeks later, we received an email offering us the opportunity to reprise the awesome at a top secret Hollywood party.  Figuring we already knew the choreography and that there would be free food, we figured why not?  And that is how we came to be part of the flash mob at the Hollywood Reporter Key Art Awards honoring Sylvester Stallone.  Sadly, the video of that event is NOT awesome, so I won't inflict it on you guys.  But it was still fun to do, and we DID walk away with this awesome picture, so it was totally worth it:

What have you done lately just because it's awesome?

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Twilight Eclipse Premiere

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 12:10 AM in , , , , , ,
Okay, I just got home from my fifth event of the week, and I'm rather partied out, I think.  I'm at the point where nothing sounds better than comfy pajamas, snuggly kitties, and a nice stack of books.  Though to be fair, that plan ALWAYS sounds good to me.  Anyway, sorry I didn't get to this recap sooner.

Basically, premieres, like most Hollywood parties, take a LONG time, but this one in particular really took forever.  I left work around 2:00, ate something (which was really smart), got dressed, and then met my friend Edyta at her house to do hair and makeup.  By the time we finally got through the traffic and arrived downtown, it was about 5:30. 

Now, this shindig was huge, and there were a lot of people everywhere, but it was definitely not the best organized event I've ever been to.  By the time they finally located our tickets and got Edyta to the red (actually black) carpet, it was around 6:30.  While she did that, I hung out with the swarm of publicists and took pictures as I waited for her.  There was basically a sea of people in every direction, and most were pretty psyched, giddy, and quite loud.  Which was rather fun. Excitement's definitely contagious.

By the time we got inside the theater, it was about 7:00, which was when the movie was originally scheduled to start.

There was plenty of that chewy popcorn that is kind of gross, but also kind of addictive, like the kind that comes in those decorative tins at Christmas.  That was being served in Eclipse-themed novelty cups, and sodas were available.  And that was the only food to be had in the theater.  You also weren't allowed to leave if you wanted to come back inside.  So I ate a lot of chewy popcorn. Finally scored an Edward on the third cup.

Inside the theater they had three screens, and the two on either ends were showing the people still doing the red carpet outside, namely the stars, as well as clips of people arriving earlier in the day.  And I have to point out that Rob was the first of the big three to arrive, around 6:10 or so, and he was gamely signing autographs until they all finally entered the theater (around 8:30).  That's a lot of signatures, guys.  I also enjoyed the effect some enterprising cameraman had achieved of blacking out the moon that was visible between two buildings, creating an eclipse with some pretty epic Photoshop skills.  Terribly funny the first time I saw it.  Still pretty amusing the 327th time they showed it.  Once the stars were hustled inside, they finally showed the movie to a pretty responsive crowd (read: LOTS of cheering and giggling).

Once the credits rolled, we hiked across the street to the after party, which was pretty amazing.  In the outdoor section, they had about ten sandbox-size samples of the sparkle meadow, which pretty quickly became my new favorite thing on the planet.

Since it was about 11:00 pm at this point, we were starving, so we were definitely looking around and admiring everything, and it was all really spectacular, but our real focus was finding the food.  Inside, they had recreated the mountains and the full moon, including snow and trees, complete with the occasional flurry of snow, they had a number of ice bars, and most importantly, a lot of little buffets set up.  But the best part was that they went for a HS cafeteria theme with the food, meaning little cartons of milk and those segregated trays, and lots of delicious comfort food that you'd find on any high school menu, like mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, french fries, fried chicken, etc.  Just, you know, actually good, as opposed to what you'd find in said random high school.  Personally, I couldn't have been more thrilled at the decision to forgo fancy haute cuisine, since I might actually be the world's pickiest eater.  Dessert, of course, offered up some candied apples, but also a sundae bar, some sort of ice cream treat, cupcakes, cookies, chocolate-dipped pretzels, and a brownie pudding.  It was all intensely awesome.

After we ate and were feeling friendly again, we did a tour around the inside, chatting people up and taking pictures.  Amusingly, most of the people there were women, as very few guests felt compelled to bring their husbands/boyfriends, since Twilight is obviously best enjoyed with your gal pals.

Rob Pattinson, by the way, was still swarmed by a long line of people wanting to chat, take pictures, and or get him to sign something.  Definitely the most in-demand guest, from what we could tell.

Since by this point it was around midnight, we decided to take a few more pictures with the sparkle meadow and call it a night.  It was terribly fun, but also a really long day.  I finally fell asleep around 2:30 by the time I got home.

As for the movie itself, I'm a bigger fan of the movies than the books, since I think Melissa Rosenberg is basically an adaptation genius.  She's somehow able to remain extremely faithful to the books, while also significantly increasing the inclusion of a plot, and losing many of the moments that made me extremely angry in the books.  I'd say this particular movie is probably the most action-oriented one so far, while still focusing on the romance.  There were a couple of scene transitions that felt a little odd to me, but overall, I have to say it was pretty good (minus the Edward/Seth werewolf fistbump, which would've been just too much awesome if they'd included it, I suppose).  If you go in expecting Eclipse, that's pretty much what you walk out having witnessed, so I'd say it was a success.  For those curious, here's a really spot on review from Variety.

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