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As readers, bloggers, bibliophiles, and book lovers, we all know the power of a (not so) beautiful cover – because, admittedly, we judge books by their covers. There’s no shame in that. Covers are partly marketing tools, so our general immediate feelings regarding an ugly or pretty cover are, essentially, productive feedback.

But I think there’s something we’re leaving out of this equation: Titles.

Titles are just as much marketing tools as covers, especially when no cover is present. This, of course, refers mostly to online book browsing/shopping, but could be applicable to outdated publications. Cover or no cover, I believe a title is important. This post over at The Guardian thinks so, too. (I enjoy the bit about there being a “‘samey title’ virus” and that each genre or age category has title trends.)

If you haven’t already noticed, YA novels tend to have short, sweet and simple titles. Heck, most are just one word. (Divergent, Delirium, Bumped, Rampant, Matched, Wither, Twilight, etc.) Going by one word alone, do you really have any idea what the book will be about? I’m betting no, and that’s all right, because we’re not supposed to. One-word titles are some of the best attention grabbers; they’re mysterious and draw you in. There’s a reason they choose a word like Twilight and not, say, Star (it just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?).

At the same time, longer titles can be just as mysterious, but not necessarily as captivating upon first glance. In my own experience, longer YA titles often first elicit curiosity from me.  For example, when I go through a recently published list of titles, these longer ones stand out to me, but don’t exactly get me too excited: 37 Things I Love (in no particular order), Flora’s Fury: How a Girl of Spirit and a Red Dog Confound Their Friends, Astound Their Enemies, and Learn the Importance of Packing Light, The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, etc. Do I know what these books are about because their titles are longer? No, and again, that’s all right. I have a bit more to go by though, and can make some educated guesses.

Even though longer titles don’t impact me as greatly as shorter titles, it doesn’t mean I rule them out. I just approach them both differently. It’s because of this that I think titles are just as important to evaluate as covers. Plus, you typically can’t have one without the other – they’re a package.

How do you feel about titles? Do you think covers are more important?

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photo credit: slightly everything via photopin cc

When I’m not reading, blogging or doing homework, I’m cooking. Cooking is a lot like reading and writing: it brings ingredients together to create a single dish that tells a story of flavors, family, friends and experiences. And just like with books, you don’t have to be the creator. Sometimes we’re all just looking for a little eye candy. So here’s a little food for thought!

I don’t know if you all know this, but I’m a total foodie. A foodie is “someone who has an ardent or refined interest in food.” Cooking is all about discovery for me – seeing which ingredients work well together, what flavors can be created, and what new foods can be tried. So now I’m bringing this discovery to TGR!

Every Monday I’ll be sharing a new food find, recipe, and of course, some eye candy.

This week: Sushi vs. Sashimi

Ah, sushi. What ever would I do without you?

You all probably don’t know this, but I love sushi. Don’t get me wrong: it took me a while to get into it. I’m a bit late to the sushi-loving bandwagon, you could say. I’ve only been eating it for a few (okay, more like five) years. And even now, I’m still not as adventurous with it as I’d like to be. coughcough Can’t go wrong with a California roll, right? coughsushinovicecough.

I’m kidding. I don’t eat only California rolls. I’ve tried eel and salmon and tuna and octopus and sea urchin, too. But while I’ve tried all these different rolls and all these different flavors, for the longest time I was ignorant to the difference between sushi and sashimi.

I knew that what I ordered was – and is always – sushi, because I ordered under the sushi menu headings. But every time I’m out, I hesitate, scanning the sashimi list, wishing I knew what in the hell it entailed. Thankfully, now I do.

Sushi uses cooked vinegared rice. So your normal rolls – which do have their own technical terms (like nigiri and maki) – typically fall under “sushi.” Perfect example is the above picture.

Sashimi is raw meat (usually fish) served on its own. Like the picture to the right.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of eating a slab (even if it’s thin) of raw fish kind of terrifies me, for several reasons. I don’t think I’d like the slimy texture or the flavor, and need I mention the health risk? Call me paranoid, but I don’t think even if I wanted to eat sashimi I’d be willing to eat it just anywhere. I do still hope to someday try it, but for now I’m perfectly content with ordering those heavenly little squares.

Although, now that I think about it, I’ve had raw tuna in rolls before. But that hardly counts. It’s so tiny!

Have you ever had sashimi? Any tips for a sushi/sashimi novice?

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What did I miss? {6/17 – 6/24}

Jun
24

4 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Memes, What did I miss?

What did I miss? is a new feature here at The Grammarian’s Reviews. I thought it was about time I feature weekly updates and highlights from both here and other bloggers. So let’s get on with the recap!

Pros/Cons of teens in YA lit — I can’t always take their whining, but this is how they win me over.

[review] Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer Hubbard — If you enjoyed 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, this is right up your alley.

Blog bullying? — My thoughts on Twitter negativity.

Grammar Bit #15 — “Peek,” “peak,” and “pique” all have different meanings. Have you been using them correctly?

Whip it Up Mondays — Two words for you: Twinkie cupcakes.

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I didn’t read this week as much as I would’ve liked. Any time I settled down to read, I was restless and disinterested. It didn’t help that  having to wake up early and walk to work every day in a relentless heatwave made me wiped by the time the afternoon rolled around. But I managed to get in Try Not to Breathe, which I’d bought a little while ago. I also devoted a few nights to prepping an upcoming project that I’m very excited about!

Then, in the midst of the work week, it hit me like a ton of bricks: it’s almost July. JULY, people! My summer is half over! I’m a little bummed that I haven’t done anything special and that I don’t know anyone at my internships this year. (I think they think I’m a hermit.) So I’m hereby vowing to set aside at least one day for something special – perhaps a day at the beach, or NYC. I’m aiming to feel like I’ve gotten away and been on vacation, without really having gone on vacation. Think it’s doable?

How important are covers? — Amanda talks about being in denial about valuing book covers.

Audiobooks: love ‘em or hate ‘em — Anne discusses her issues with audiobooks.

Sex? …Or violence? .. Or BOTH? — The gals at We Heart YA tackled the ever-present concerns of accepting sex and/or violence in YA novels. How much is too much? Is one more acceptable than the other? It’s a hot debate, complete with polls!

Peanut butter & honey cookies — Cecilia shared this recipe for the EASIEST COOKIES EVER.

College blogger? Not a problem — Nicole typed up a spiffy How To post to help college bloggers get a grip on reality and blogging.

Julep nail polish — I didn’t know it existed. But it was love at first sight when I saw the bright, summery color in Megan’s post. (note: I love painting my nails.)

Is THAT what he looks like? — YA author Lauren Bjorkman talks about how male love-interests in YA novels tend to be all-out beautiful.

Show your love for YA Contemps! — Liz is co-hosting a Contemporary Summer event – and, as you all know, contemps are my favorite reads.

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I couldn’t help but notice, as I was perusing Goodreads, that a lot of the books I’ve read recently have featured much younger characters than I typically go for. Being that I’m no longer in my teens, I’ve found that the older I get, the less I’m able to tolerate and/or relate to younger protagonists (usually from ages 12-16). It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just that I can’t stand their pettiness, drama, and immaturity all the time.

I prefer a more mature read, and in the YA circuit, that usually means the novel takes place the summer before college, or in the Junior and Senior years of high school. But I’m starting to find that I can still enjoy YA books with younger characters – that, if done in a truthful way, rather than overdone and making a spectacle of everything, it’s not so bad.

Books like The Fault in Our Stars, Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters, The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, and Try Not to Breathe are examples of recent reads that I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the characters’ young ages. With none of them being older than sixteen, I expected nothing short of mood swings, chat speak and first kisses. But what I got was so much more than that. While an innocence is maintained, explored, or broken in each, it’s their ability to push beyond the stereotypes and immaturity that makes them stand apart. None of these younger teenage characters are exceptionally special (like, say, Harry Potter) but they capture your attention anyway; they bring you down to their level of understanding, then show you what they can become.

They transcend their given ages. And that, I think, is the magic of a good YA book with YA characters.

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Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard

Ryan spends most of his time alone at the local waterfall because it’s the only thing that makes him feel alive. He’s sixteen, post-suicidal, and trying to figure out what to do with himself after a stint in a mental hospital. Then Nicki barges into his world, brimming with life and energy, and asking questions about Ryan’s depression that no one else has ever been brave enough—or cared enough—to ask. Ryan isn’t sure why he trusts Nicki with his darkest secrets, but that trust turns out to be the catalyst that he desperately needs to start living again.

MY THOUGHTS:

It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing about Try Not to Breathe that’s good when all of it is good, down to its characters, plot and writing.

Like many YA books dealing with suicide, Try Not to Breathe takes place after the suicide (or, in this case, suicide attempt) itself. As the reader, you stick around for the reveal of the details of Ryan’s attempt, of Nicki’s motives, of Ryan’s family’s guilt. And when the reveal happens? All I can say is Wow. Each thing that beats down Ryan, that keeps him behind his “glass” is so unexpected, but not in an out-of-this-world way; it’s instead in a very, very painfully realistic way.

Hubbard captures both the innocence and magic of Ryan’s and Nicki’s youth, exploring the miniscule negatives that spawn and grow in teenagers’ minds. Ryan’s perspective is limited when it comes to himself, but leaves little to the imagination regarding his parents and friends, so you’re never left wondering or hanging. It’s this closeness to the characters that’s so appealing and effective – no matter how little their problems seem at face-value, you end up coming to an understanding that you didn’t think would be possible. You’ll probably want to give them a hug. I know I did.

The only downside for me is Ryan’s recurring need to be reassured through touch. While at first touching (no pun intended), it grew stale very quickly, as if the message it presented was being drilled into my head. I wanted this aspect of him to linger, but not in such a way that his story seems to rely on it. If left me wanting (or expecting) more from him.

But, most importantly, this is a book to savor, not rush through.

[side note: This was one of the few books I was able to actually read while also listening to music. I found that it worked really well with “Something In the Way” by Nirvana, and “Wonderwall” by Oasis.]

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Blog bullying?

Jun
20

17 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

If you have a blog, you most likely also have a Twitter account. Even if you don’t have a blog, you most likely have a Twitter account. Tweeting is the new mini (micro) blogging. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s painless. ….Or is it?

Book bloggers follow a whole mess of people, ranging from publishers to authors to fellow bloggers. This, in turn, creates a mixture of formality and informality. And, unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t quite run like Facebook. People will see what you tweet. But you all know this, don’t you? Given some past situations regarding bloggers and authors, we all know the risks of mixing business with pleasure, and vice versa. But what about with other bloggers? How do you handle that? What if someone badmouths you? What if someone steals your content? What if you’re ignored?

Don’t worry. It happens to the best of us. (You know, if any one group of bloggers can be considered the “best.”)

Negative tweets about blogging usually stem from seeing newly created or poorly designed blogs. And while your first reaction might be something along the lines of, Oh my God why would ANYONE use that font?! or I can’t see a damn thing on this crazy background, that’s probably not what you should be tweeting. After all, new bloggers have feelings, too. It’s better to be helpful than insulting.

Of course, other negative tweets arise from different situations.

The problem with these negative tweets is that they add up. Maybe not even literally. Depending on the severity of the tweet, one alone could make someone turn away from blogging. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s a shame. This community has lost some really great people.  Sure, there are always new people to be found, but it’s not the act of people turning away from blogging that’s the problem. It’s when they turn away from blogging as a result of poor Tweeting (or negative feedback).

I won’t get into specifics, but our community had a really bad bashing case on its hands with the fallout of a certain acclaimed blogger. Whether you searched the name of the blogger or a related hashtag, there were insults everywhere. And whether that blogger deserved it or not (everyone’s opinion differs), it created one big snowball effect and resulted in bloggers going against one another. Some couldn’t take the drama, so they split and hightailed it out of the community for good.

And after seeing a negative Tweet regarding my own site tonight, I had to wonder: Is this what blogging is coming to? Is this what our community is coming to? I’d like to think not. I’d like to think that as much as we get shaken up, we just as easily brush it off. But I do know that, having been blogging for almost two years now, I notice more negativity now than I did when I started.

But I have faith in this community and all its members. So remember to think before you Tweet! We all work hard. Let’s focus on that instead.

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Grammar Bit #15.

Jun
19

9 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

“This book really peeked .. peaked .. piqued my interest.”

Don’t be shy now. Whether you’re guilty of committing this grammar slip-up or not, we’ve all seen it at one point or another. It tends to appear quite often when discussing books. The problem here is that these three are homophones – words that sound the same (and may be spelled the same) but differ in meaning.

 

the breakdown

peek: to look or glance quickly or furtively, especially through a small opening or from a concealed location; peep; peer.

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peak:

  1. the pointed top of a mountain or ridge.
  2. a mountain with a pointed summit.
  3. the pointed top of anything.

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pique:

  1. to affect with sharp irritation and resentment, especially by some wound to pride: She was greatly piqued when they refused her invitation.
  2. to wound (the pride, vanity, etc.).
  3. to excite (interest, curiosity, etc.): Her curiosity was piqued by the gossip.
  4. to arouse an emotion or provoke to action: to pique someone to answer a challenge.

 

Think you can keep them straight?

*All definitions from dictionary.com

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photo credit: slightly everything via photopin cc

When I’m not reading, blogging or doing homework, I’m cooking. Cooking is a lot like reading and writing: it brings ingredients together to create a single dish that tells a story of flavors, family, friends and experiences. And just like with books, you don’t have to be the creator. Sometimes we’re all just looking for a little eye candy. So here’s a little food for thought!

I don’t know if you all know this, but I’m a total foodie. A foodie is “someone who has an ardent or refined interest in food.” Cooking is all about discovery for me – seeing which ingredients work well together, what flavors can be created, and what new foods can be tried. So now I’m bringing this discovery to TGR!

Every Monday I’ll be sharing a new food find, recipe, and of course, some eye candy.

This week: Twinkie cupcakes

I’ve got a confession: I love Twinkies. It’s true. Those stuffed, golden Hostess cakes get me drooling every time. I know they’re awful for you, and I know I’m otherwise more of a proponent of eating healthier alternatives. But these are childhood favorites for me – even moreso, I think, because I grew up not being allowed to eat them very often.

So it’s really no surprise that when I found this recipe for Twinkie cupcakes, I made it my mission to make them ASAP.

And let me tell you: they taste SO. GOOD. These cupcakes do Twinkies every bit of justice and then some. And there’s nothing wrong with indulging every now and then… right?

Just promise me you won’t run away when you see how much butter goes into these things.

INGREDIENTS

twinkie cupcakes

  • 1 box yellow cake mix, plus ingredients on back of box
  • 1 small box sugar free/fat free instant French vanilla pudding mix (note: I used regular because my grocery store didn’t have the sugar free/fat free kind, and it was fine.)
  • 1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow fluff
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons very hot water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin tins with about 20 paper liners. Set aside.
  2. Prepare cake mix according to package directions, stirring the box of pudding mix into the cake batter to blend. Portion batter evenly among muffin cups, about 2/3 full, and bake for approx. 15-18 mins or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, then core out the cupcakes’ middles with a sharp, small paring knife, careful not to cut through the entire cupcake. Eat or discard centers. (note: I ended up saving the centers, or at least the tops of the centers, to plug/cover the filling.)
  3. First, dissolve the salt into the hot water and allow to cool. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the marshmallow cream, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract until fluffy. Beat in the salt water. Mixture should be light but not as stiff as frosting.
  4. Scoop filling into a resealable plastic bag, seal tight, and snip off a corner of the bag. Pipe the filling into each cored cupcake, filling just to the top. Refrigerate cupcakes while you prepare the frosting. (note: I’m going to stop right here. Yes, these cupcakes are also meant to be frosted with an icing similar to their filling. But it requires another stick of butter, and another jar of Fluff, and more powdered sugar. I just couldn’t do it. It seemed like overkill. And while I’m sure they taste good with the icing, they’re delicious even without it. Plus, the way I rationalized it for myself is that Twinkies don’t have any icing outside either. So hah! But if you want to go ahead with the icing, you can find the recipe for it at the above link.)

So what’s the final result look like?

Well, as I tweeted the other day, it looks like this:

I stuffed my Twinkie cupcakes and then re-capped them so they weren’t just open pockets of filling. When I started having less and less of the filling, I simply stopped coring the cupcakes and spread the filling on top, as icing.

And then I dove in. The good thing is you can eat these cupcakes two ways: right after you fill them, ’cause then they’re all full of gooey goodness, ready to burst, and after you chill them in your fridge, ’cause then they’re like your traditional Twinkie. Total win-win.

If my picture isn’t exactly making your mouth water, then you might want to look at this picture from The Domestic Rebel’s site. Cue drooling ………. now:

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What did I miss? {6/10 – 6/17}

Jun
17

6 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Memes, What did I miss?

What did I miss? is a new feature here at The Grammarian’s Reviews. I thought it was about time I feature weekly updates and highlights from both here and other bloggers. So let’s get on with the recap!

[review] Every Day by David Levithan — You probably already love Mr. Levithan. Well, this will only make you love him more.

Let’s talk ARCs — My thoughts on ARCs and their popularity.

[review] Grace by R Rodriguez — My first one-star review. (I think.)

Top 10 Beach Reads — My personal top 10 fun, guilty pleasure beach reads.

Whip it Up Mondays — How to make your own popcorn at home without all those icky preservatives and fake butter.

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This was a bit of a spontaneous reading week for me. I never intended to read Grace or Every Day, but they showed up in my inbox and I just couldn’t resist. I never packed all of my TBR books to take with me to my internship, so right now e-books are actually the most convenient and easily accessible.

As some have noticed, I took down my Follow Friday meme post. I’ve decided to take an indefinite break from Follow Friday and TGIF (or any other weekend memes that may appear). To be honest, while they increased traffic to the site, they never really left me with very many new followers, if any. Most times it’s just been people coming by, leaving spam-like comments that they leave on every other person’s FF/TGIF post, without a care in the world about what I do. I realized that, while the memes were supposed to be leaving me happy about connecting with the community, they were actually upsetting me; they became “filler” posts. But like I said last week, I’m trying to make The Grammarian’s Reviews more content focused. And to do this, I think it’s best to stay clear of these for a while.

Feeling pressured from book hype? — Kelly addresses the pros and cons of book hypes, and how your expectations can either be met or left hanging.

Cialina reviewed Flirting in Italian — I’d been very much looking forward to reading this one. It sounded perfect for summer. But then I found out it was a total dud. Bummer.

BEA Recap — Mandi over at Never Too Fond of Books recaps her week at BEA. But what separates her recap from the rest is the priceless doormat picture.

Book Trailers, yea or nay? — Anne at Creativity’s Corner discusses the inner workings of book trailers and how they are used to attract readers.

Can you judge the quality of your own work? — Jennifer Hubbard, an author I immediately fell in love with, briefly questions the act of judging your own writing.

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REVIEW! Every Day by David Levithan.

Jun
16

10 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book reviews, Four Stars

Every Day by David Levithan

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

MY THOUGHTS:

Mind is blown.

I didn’t think Levithan could handle the subject and concept of love any better than he did in Boy Meets Boy and The Realm of Possibility. But he did.

It’s interesting that the book’s description claims A is a “he,” when, in fact, A is, in a way, an ambiguous narrator. It’s a tricky, touchy structural aspect, but works rather seamlessly; I never got caught up or confused about A’s gender. A simply existed to me, and the way the plot carries on allowed me to trust this style of narration.

As far as characters go, A is consistent. Although waking up in another person’s body every day, A manages to maintain “his” own personality while also putting forth each person’s personalities as well. Some are more interesting than others, but they’re all their own persons, and there’s always something to be learned from them. Rhiannon is a more predictable character, but not unlikeable; she complements A really well. If anything, I would’ve preferred to learn more about her on a personal level; I wasn’t satisfied with the majority of the information about her being gathered by A, because A is often too preoccupied with her beauty.

Every Day is a love-at-first-sight kind of story, testing every internal and external struggle a relationship can withstand. It’s not always cute, and it’s not always upsetting. It’s wholesome. It’s about having hope and doing what it takes to be with the one you love, no matter their appearance. There’s a lot to be taken from this story, a lot that needs to sink in. While it reads easily, the words eventually stick together, clogging your thoughts, making you think.

In the midst of this beauty is a darker side, though. One that I wasn’t expecting. For me, it’s a bit too out of place, and left me unsatisfied with the ending. I needed more information.

But Levithan’s writing is the star in all of this. It’s so emotional, so raw, so real, so touching. Even when he’s being blunt, he’s caring.

Every Day is a mishmash of What ifs and everything that’s both wrong and right in the world; it’s a story that encompasses so much more than this one life.

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