Thursday, June 30, 2011

No More Amazon Associates

Thanks to a new law signed by our idiot governor, Jerry Brown, I will no longer be a participating member of the Amazon Associates program.  The law seeks to collect sales tax from out of state online retailers like, and goes into effect tomorrow (Friday).  To minimize their connection to the state of California, has discontinued all associates programs for any resident of the state effective immediately. 

Don't get me wrong, I love living in California, but our state government is screwed up.  And I even work for a state agency!  I could go on and on about the reasons why this law is stupid, why our government is too bureaucratic to see the simple solution to our problems, and why the state is going to heck in a hand basket, but this isn't a politics blog, so I will get back to the point. 

In the past I had used the very, very small commission from Amazon links (averaging about $3 a month) to help pay for shipping for contest prizes and other financial costs with running this blog.  Thank you to everyone who supported me through your use of these links.  It has meant the world to me, and I hope you'll continue to support the blog in the future, even just by reading and leaving comments.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm talking just to myself...

From today on, there will be no more new links.  I will be looking into the possibility of a different affiliate system, so if you have any ideas, please email me or leave them in the comments below.  Otherwise I can't afford contest prizes as often, and I don't want to take that away from my readers.  At this point I will be leaving Amazon links found in older posts, as well as the Amazon search boxes because I still find Amazon is often one of the cheapest way to buy books, and I still support them even if I'm no longer an affiliate.  The disclaimer on the bottom of every post will change as well.  I will probably start linking book descriptions to Goodreads, just as a way for people to read reviews of a book. 

If the law ever gets repealed, changed, or I move to a different state then things may change.  And I will certainly let everyone know of that change if it occurs.  But since I don't see any of those happening in the near future, this is the way it stands now.  Thank you again to everyone for your support of this blog in the almost 5 years I've been doing this.  I sincerely couldn't have done it without you.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Battle: Round 2 Series 1 Winners (Part 3)

Day 3 of our Series 1 Round 2 bracket winners brings up to halfway through. So what winners will we have today?

Bracket 10:
John Belushi Is Dead by Kathy Charles VS. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Judged by Erica of the The Book Cellar

This was an interesting match up.  Some Girls Are definitely was a love/hate book with our Round 1 judges, and John Belushi was truly an "overlooked" book for me... I had never even heard of it before!  Erica had her work cut out for her, and it wasn't an easy task.  Erica is one of our returning judges from last year, but even experience as a battle judge didn't solve the problem of which book to choose.  Here's what she had to say about the process:
"Let me tell you, this was no easy feat! I thought it would be a simple decision, like I thought my decision last year was as a judge, but that was not the case. I fell in love with both stories and the characters. When I finished I debated and debated, going back and forth between the two."
So much personal debate and thinking later, which book moved on? The winner is...John Belushi Is Dead by Kathy Charles!  I have to say, this is one of my favorite covers in the battle.  Guess it's time to see what's behind the covers as well.  John Belushi Is Dead by Kathy Charles will move on to Bracket 17 where it will battle against Stravaganza: City Of Masks by Mary Hoffman during Series 2.

Bracket 11: 
The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan VS. Stork by Wendy Delsol
Judged by Jamie from Three Cheers for Literacy and Crystal from My Reading Room

Here was a bracket with two books that probably couldn't be more different.  And yet, they were both highly praised.  Furthermore, our two judges battled ill health and the distractions of Disney vacations (lucky!) to bring this decision to you lucky battle followers.

Here's what Judge Jamie had to say about the winning book:
"What I liked about [the winning book]:
-The way she uses her language is so awesome. Seriously, I'm in love with the writing.
-The book is written in the first person, and I can remember the main character's name afterward. (This is an actual standard by which I judge first-person narratives, by the way.)
-[The] pop culture references make me happy."
Can you guess which of the two books made the cut? The winner is Stork by Wendy Delsol!  Which has a very awesome looking sequel coming out in October, by the way.  Stork also got many glowing reviews from our Round 1 judges, so this was a decision that I at least guessed (one of the only one's I've predicted so far).

Bracket 12:
Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein VS. The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
Judged by Jasmyn of Jasmyn's Stuff and Christina of Reading Extensively

If I was nervous about other brackets, this one probably took the cake.  Ophelia was definitely a Round 1 judge favorite, making it to the Top 10 in over half of their lists.  On the other hand, The Hollow Kingdom was my absolute favorite book for many years ever since I read it in my senior year of high school.  Which book would win?

Judge Christina had to say this about the winning book:
"This book was a winner for me because of its creativity, the main characters...the writing style, and the way the story drew me in. This is certainly a book I overlooked"
And Judge Jasmyn adds this about the other contender:
"I don't want to turn anyone off from the book too much though. I don't think there was anything actually wrong with the story, writing style, or characters. And I have to admire the way the author was able to keep all the facts...straight and fit it into [the] story just right. It just wasn't a book for me."
So which book made it? I'm super excited to announce that it was The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle!  Now it will move on to Series 2, where it will be matched up with Stork to battle out for a spot in Series 3.

As always, check out the judges full posts to see all the details.  We have three more brackets to announce, so keep an eye out for more winners coming soon!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Book Battle: Round 2 Series 1 Winners (Part 2)

Ready for more winners? Then you've come to the right place. It's time to announce a few more winners from our Round 2 brackets. Which book will come out victorious? Will there be more upsets? Who is the favorite to win? Read on to find out...

Bracket 7:
StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce VS. Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kristen Miller
Judged by Fantasylover from A Fangirl's Mind and Kristen of Bookworming in the 21st Century

I'll admit I had quite an interest in seeing how this bracket turned out.  I enjoyed once of Elizabeth Bunce's earlier books, and Kiki Strike is one of my favorite middle grade books (although the second one is better).  So which one would come out on top?

Here's what Judge Kristen had to say about the winner:
"I absolutely fell in love with this book. The writing is fantastic and the author does a excellent job of drawing you into the story quickly and reveals a little of Digger's past slowly over the course of the book. The characters were unique and intriguing, especially the bad guys. I really remembered their names even if the characters were minor. The plot itself twisted and turned and really widened into this huge plot that made me glad to find out that this is a series."
And Fantasylover adds:
"But on the whole, this book is fantastic and I don't know why it didn't become more popular. It has a great fantasy world-building that I adore, the writing is fantastic, there's a great sense of humor to it, it explores shades of gray, there are secrets and twists that I wasn't expecting as well as political intrigue and a sense that something big is coming."
Which book are the talking about?  The winner is...StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce!  So I'll admit I was a tiny bit disappointed to see Kiki go, but I haven't read StarCrossed yet.  If it's that good, I think it needs to go to the top of my TBR list.

Bracket 8:
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher VS.  Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner
Judged by Erika of Moonlight Book Reviews and Jessica from Nisaba Be Praised

This was another bracket I had my eye on.  I recently finished Threads and Flames myself and really enjoyed it.  And while I hadn't yet read Whale Talk, the judges from Round 1 who did read it highly praised its virtues.  So which one did the judges pick?

Judge Erika had this to say:
"We decided on [the winner] for it had the most emotional intensity and a story we thought needed to be told. I actually cried during the novel and as we know that doesn't happen often. I wish it was required that everyone read this book!"
And Judge Jessica adds:
"It's a bit unfortunate that Erika and I have similar tastes in books, really, because it meant that [one book] was an underdog from the start. Besides identifying more with [one book], however, I felt that [the other] a bit more well known. [The winner] needs more attention than it's received, and that's why we've chosen it to move on."

Both emotionally charged books, so which one was the one who came out on top. Perhaps you already guessed, but the winner is...Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner!  My sentiments are pretty much the same about Threads and Flames, so I'm happy to see it move on.  Sounds like Whale Talk was very good too, so maybe it's due for a resurrection in Round 4?  We'll have to wait and see...

StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce and Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner will both be moving on to Bracket 16 in Series 2, where they will go head to head with each other.

Bracket 9:
Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy by L.A. Meyer VS.  Stravaganza: City Of Masks by Mary Hoffman
Judged by Raspberry and Trackgeek of Two and A Half Booklovers

Have I mentioned how many of these brackets I was anxiously watching.  Again, one of my favorite books (City of Masks) coming up against a book I've heard nothing but praises about.  These two were pretty evenly matched.  Two great adventure stories, one a historical fantasy, and one a historical... uh... historical.  This bracket was also unique in our judging pairs, with the husband and wife from Two and A Half Booklovers teaming up to judge the two books.  So which did they pick?
"It was incredibly difficult - as you can see, both books frequently got similar grades in each category. However, one was slightly better overall..."
Sounds like a difficult choice! So which one slightly edged out over the other? The winner is...Stravaganza: City Of Masks by Mary Hoffman!So I'm happy with the result, and then yet again, sad to see Bloody Jack go. Perhaps that's another book that will reappear later on...

If you'd like to see what final category made City of Masks land on top, make sure you click through to read the full post. And check out all the other judges' posts too. There's some great writings out there, and you might find a new favorite blog.

More decisions coming tomorrow!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Battle: Round 2 Series 1 Winners (Part 1)

So despite a little delay, here's the winners for Series 1 of our Round 2 brackets!  I'm going to be splitting these up over the next few days so no one gets overwhelmed by all 12 on one day.  There were some excellent brackets this time around, so without further ado, here we go!

Bracket 2:
Keturah And Lord Death by Martine Leavitt VS. The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
Judged by Lieder Madchen from Songs and Stories

A bracket with a fairytale flair!  I've been meaning to read Keturah for ages now, and managed to get my hands on The Grimm Legacy last October and really enjoyed it.  This is one of those brackets that was hard for me to watch since I badly wanted both books to move on.  A difficult decision for our judge!

Here's what our judge had to say about both books:
"The plot [of one book] was good if a little confusing at times with twists and turns but nothing truly surprising, but mostly it was the characters and setting that made the book so much fun. I have handed this book off to both of my sisters and I am sure they will enjoy it as much as I did."
"[The other book] was an interesting read and I really enjoyed it, but I don't think it would be for everyone. It is frankly rather strange."
So which book won?

The winner for this bracket is...The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman! It will be moving on to Series 2, where it will come up against

Bracket 3:
Kathleen's Story (Angels in Pink) by Lurlene McDaniel VS. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Judged by Rachel from Jacob's Beloved's Books and Chloe from YA Booklover Blog

Just like our last bracket had a fairytale flair, this one seems to be all about contemporary books. Both were books I'd never heard before, and Kathleen's Story came highly recommended by our Round 1 Judges.  So an easy decision, or maybe a hard one?

Here's what Judge Chloe had to say about the two titles:
"While [the first book] was fun, romantic, and simple, it was nothing that special, and I know both myself and Rachel felt let down by the ending. Either way, I still enjoyed the book... But then I picked up [the other title], and it completely blew me away!"
And Judge Rachel adds:
"While the [winning] book does technically fit into the genre of YA, I really believe that everyone should read this book. I have never read anything like this, and hopefully I will remember to encourage my children to read this when they are old enough!"
So which book came out on top? Was it the Round 1 judges' favorite? Or the underdog?  Well, the winner for this bracket is...Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper!

Bracket 4:
The Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda VS. Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro
Judged by Bookworm1858 from A subjective journal of what I've read and seen

You may have notice that Bookworm1858 sounds a little familiar.  She was one of our fastest readers for judging in Round 1, and kindly agreed to help judge Round 2 as well.  When her partner had to withdraw from judging, she shouldered even more of the judging burden.  So she's a judging superstar!

But what about the books?
"This was a tough bracket to judge because on the one hand, we have British, dark, action, paranormal, intersections of history and religion; on the other hand, there is American, light, comedy, romance, teenage angst. Totally different, right? But what it came down to was how connected I felt to the characters, which only happened in [the winning book]."
Which book has more connecting characters? The winner is...Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro Whoa, that was a bit of an upset I think! I certainly didn't see it coming! This book will be moving on to Bracket 14 in Series 2, where it will be going up against Bracket 2's winner, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.

That's it for this first roundup.  Keep an eye out in the next few days for the rest of the decisions.  And don't forget to click through on the links to all the judges' blogs to read their full posts.  There's a lot of great discussions out there!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Roundup Delayed... but still coming!

So I know the winners for Series 1 were supposed to be announced this week.  And if you follow any of our judges' blogs, then you probably already know many of the winners!  Unfortunately, I've been dealing with computer access issues this week, and although I can check my email at work, Blogger is not so friendly to the internet filters.  Add in a few other brackets I've been trying to chase down results for, and it's been a busy week! 

So... the round will start coming out tomorrow.  I will be chasing down everyone's posts, so if you haven't seen all (or any) of the winners yet, look for those coming starting tomorrow, and I promise this time.  :)  Meanwhile, our Series 2 judges are busy reading, so before you know it there will be more winners to announce. 

Here's hoping the technology just agrees with me this time...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

2011 Bracket Announcements

As brackets are judged, the winners will be announced here.  So if you're looking for a one-stop post to find battle winners, this is a good one to bookmark!

This battle is going to be intense! Some of my favorites are in these lists, and yet they all can't win. But who will come out triumphant?

Series are listed in chronological order, so scroll to the bottom for the newest updates.

Series 1
Bracket 1:
Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund VS. Intrinsical by Lani Woodland

Bracket 2:
Keturah And Lord Death by Martine Leavitt VS. The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

Bracket 3:
Kathleen's Story (Angels in Pink) by Lurlene McDaniel VS. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Bracket 4:
The Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda VS. Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro

Bracket 5:
Polly and the Pirates, Volume 1 by Ted Naifeh VS. Storm Thief by Chris Wooding

Bracket 6:
Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth VS. Song Of The Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

Bracket 7:
StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce VS. Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kristen Miller

Bracket 8:
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher VS. Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

Bracket 9:
Stravaganza: City Of Masks by Mary Hoffman VS. Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Bracket 10:
John Belushi Is Dead by Kathy Charles VS. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Bracket 11:
The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan VS. Stork by Wendy Delsol

Bracket 12:
The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle VS. Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein

Series 2
Bracket 13:
Intrinsical by Lani Woodland VS. The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

Bracket 14:
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper VS. Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro

Bracket 15:
Storm Thief by Chris Wooding VS. Song Of The Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

Bracket 16:
StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce VS. Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

Bracket 17:
Stravaganza: City Of Masks by Mary Hoffman VS. John Belushi Is Dead by Kathy Charles

Bracket 18:
Stork by Wendy Delsol VS. The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

Series 3

Bracket 19:
Intrinsical by Lani Woodland VS. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Bracket 20:
Song Of The Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell VS. Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

Bracket 21:
Stravaganza: City Of Masks by Mary Hoffman VS. Stork by Wendy Delsol

Series 4

Bracket 22:
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper VS. Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

Bracket 23:
Stravaganza: City Of Masks by Mary Hoffman VS. StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce (revived this round)

Series 5 (final round)

Bracket 24:
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper VS. StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Battle: Round 2 Offical Starting Line!

Yikes! This is what happens when I'm creating a post and forget to hit the "publish" button. This one has been sitting around for almost a week!

So, although belated, this is the official starting line for Round 2 of the 2011 YA Bloggers Book Battle! Our 24 finalists from Round 1 have been organized into brackets, and a panel of 22 judges is currently reading their hearts out to try and pick a winner for each bracket. If you'd like to see which books are matched up, you can check out the bracket graphic below (click to make it bigger):

In case you need a little more clarity, here's how the whole thing will work: Each pair of judges has been assigned a numbered bracket. Each bracket has two books assigned for those judges to read. At the end of two weeks, each partnership will pick a winner. One book will move on, one will not. The one that moves on will become part of a bracket in the next round and will have a chance to move on or not depending on what the new judges decide.

While the judges complete Series 1, there won't be a lot of battle action going on. But once winners have been chosen, I'll be periodically posting the winners. So if you're waiting to see what happens, start checking back every few days in about a week.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Quick Reminder for Round 2 Judges

Just a quick note to any Round 2 Judges....

If you previously signed up to judge Round 2, and  you have not gotten an email from me confirming your spot in the last two days, then you are not currently signed up to judge.  Please send me an email right away at shadyglade(AT)mail(DOT)com to let me know. 


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Book Battle: Round 2 Ready to Go

After about 10 hours of collective work, the brackets for Round 2 have finally been organized!  Today is the official kickoff for the reading period of Round 2, so keep your eye open today or tomorrow for the announcement of the brackets.  Judges are being sent confirmation emails throughout the day, and I'm just waiting for some of those confirmations to come in before announcing anything. 

Meanwhile, there are still 8 spots left if anyone has not had the opportunity to be a judge and would like to be.  Just send me an email and let me know you want to participate. 

Let the battle begin!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Random Day 6: Two for the Price of One!

Okay, so it is 11:34 p.m. on Friday night and I am changing my plan for today's (Saturday's) post. I had originally intended something completely different to share today, but I just found something and I had to share.

This comes to you again courtesy of my brother, who is just as much of a Disney nut as I am. And he likes Star Wars too. And yes, it is a Disney YouTube thing again. But stick with me for a second.

For those of you who don't know, Disneyland and Walt Disney World just got brand new revamped versions of Star Tours (the Star Wars themed simulation ride in the Disney parks). There are some pretty funny Star Wars themed commercials out there, but this one has to be my favorite.

Darth Vader goes to Disneyland:

My favorite part? Taking a lightsaber to the ghosts in the Haunted Mansion. Oh, and when he's watching the princess float in the parade with the Mickey balloon in his hand while the two stormtroopers have on their classic Mickey hats. I just about died laughing.

So if you scroll down a bit you'll see the entire post I had originally planned for today's date. So you get two bits o' random entertainment for the price of one!

Orignal Post:

Today is Day 6 of the Week o' Random Entertainment. 

For today's video I have something a little different.  One of my favorite Sunday comic strips is Pearls Before Swine by California cartoonist Stephan Pastis.  The series features anthropomorphic animals Pig, Rat, Goat, and Zebra as they bring animal life to suburban living. 

One of my favorite running gags is Zebra's next door neighbors the crocodiles.  Being natural predators, they are constantly trying to kill Zebra.  But they are also incredible stupid, which leads to some pretty funny situations.  A few Pearls Before Swine strips have recently started being animated, including these two, which are some of the best croc strips:

And that concludes our Week o' Random Entertainment.  I hope you enjoyed yourself at least a bit and I didn't bore you all too much.  Come back tomorrow for the kickoff of Round 2 for the 2011 YA Bloggers Book Battle!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Random Day 5: Muppets!

We're winding down the Week o' Random Entertainment, with today's entry as number five. 

I know I've featured a couple of the Muppet videos before, but I don't think I've posted this before and it's one of my favorites.  It's like the greatest YouTube spoof ever.  Not much left to say, so I hope it makes you laugh as much as it does for me:

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Random Day 4: One Man Disney Movie

Welcome to Day 4 of the Week o' Random Entertainment.  I saved one of my favorites for today.  A friend tipped me off on this one, and I've been meaning to share it with you for awhile.  Here is the One Man Disney Movie.  Yes, it's another Disney clip, but I couldn't resist.  Disney is in my blood, you know.  ;)

This is Nick Pitera, and although he has lots of videos on YouTube, this is my favorite.  He's recorded himself singing the same set of Disney songs 6 different times, so it looks like 6 different people.  His vocal range is super amazing, and I like the arrangement too.  This is one you'll want to watch more than once so you can pay attention to the other "characters" facial expressions when they're not singing. 

Bonus points if you can name all 9 Disney movies too. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Random Day 3: Harry Potter Puppet Pals

Today is Day 3 of the Week o' Random Entertainment, and today's feature is actually book-related.  Sort of. 

Have you heard of the Harry Potter Puppet Pals?  Probably a lot of you have.  But if you haven't, and you're a Harry Potter fan, this is definitely a group of videos you should see.  Today I present my favorite of the Harry Potter Puppet Pals features: The Mysterious Ticking Noise