Thursday, June 27, 2013

Scrap Metal Blog Tour: Blurb and Music

Scrap Metal by Alexi Raymond and Jennah Scott
Liquid Silver Books, available where e-books are sold July 8, 2013

Hey there, readers! Today I'm happy to be one stop on the blog tour for Scrap Metal, the upcoming novel by Alexi Raymond and Jennah Scott. This super steamy adult romance isn't the kind of book I usually feature here on The Fuma Files, but Alexi and I are friends and it's fun to mix things up a bit every once in a while. Check out the blurb and cover:

Not one to settle down, Angelica Rousseau never thought she'd consider planting roots in the small town of Kimmswick, Missouri. When her art speaks to her - and gives her a reason to get up close and personal with body shop owner, Ryker Talcott - sticking around starts to have appeal.

Ryker has had to deal with a lot of personalities and has found that custom orders for women almost never end well. Especially when the women are as picky and confident as Angelica. This time it's different. He's never met a woman like her. She rivals his confidence and has the attitude to back it up.

When the past threatens their future, Angelica and Ryker have to decide what's more important - their own promises to themselves, or the love they both feel for each other.

Now I've gotten to read an excerpt from this story and Whew! It's a scorcher. Between the part I got to read and this blurb here, I decided to come up with a mini-soundtrack that I think captures Angelica and Ryker's personalities.

Gretchen Wilson - Redneck Woman - Okay so honky-tonk may not be Angelica's thing, but attitude and refusing to apologize for the fact that she goes after what she wants is. And with a setting like Missouri, maybe Angelica will be letting out "a big 'hell yeah'" by the end?

The Runaways - Cherry Bomb - With lyrics like "Hello world, I'm your wild girl," I have no doubt that Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, Sandy West, and Jackie Fox speak to Angelica's soul.

Flogging Molly - Drunken Lullabies - This Irish Punk band fits with Ryker's attitude about custom orders from women, "Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess," but I'm not sure he'd actually play this music in the shop.

The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang - This song has a decidedly classic rock sound to it, the kind of thing I'd have on in the background while I'm working on something else (say, in a body shop) I think Angelica and Ryker could both connect to this - "here's where the angels and devils meet."

Teddybears - Yours to Keep - Neither of these characters strike me as particularly sentimental, so this is the closest I think they'd ever come to an almost pop love song saying how they feel. It's not quite conventional, and neither are they.

So that's it for this mini-playlist! Hope you liked it and if you're into steamy stories, then check out Scrap Metal by Alexi Raymond and Jennah Scott. Presales are currently available via and it comes out in e-stores on July 8th.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday Words: Conference, Here I Come!

With the American Library Association's Annual Summer Conference kicking things off tomorrow in Chicago, I'm a little bit all over the place.

For starters, I am SO excited! I've been a member of the ALA and its YALSA branch for 2 years (Young Adult Library Services Association) and am really hoping to get more involved in committees and the organization as a whole. This is the first time I have ever been to any type of conference for anything and I'm thrilled for the chance to network and connect with other people in my field. I loved getting to do that in library school, so for 20,000 of us to be all in one convention center has the potential to be pretty darn epic. I'm staying with a few other book bloggers/librarians and one of them is also a newbie, so hopefully the veteran will be able to help us figure out how to make the most of these next four days.

However there are plenty of jitters that have been steadily growing in the last few days. Mostly because there are lots of questions that I am having trouble finding the answers to. Things like, how do I get there? Even though I just live in the suburbs, it turns out that McCormick Place isn't exactly the easiest place in the city to get to (oh Chicago, why did you build a HUGE convention center that isn't exactly near CTA busses or trains? You're killing me here). Then there's been the scheduling, trying to figure out what sessions to go to and where they are. The business cards I ordered online didn't arrive yet, which means  I just had to redesign and order more from a local store and pay more to get them made today. And then with author signings, can I bring my own books or should I buy there? How does that work?

And I should really start packing, but what to wear?? (Besides comfortable shoes - those are ready to go!) Ahhh!

I have no doubt that next Wednesday's post will be full of love for ALA, librarians, the field, the people, the places, the books (I'm hoping to get my hands on an ARC or two - there's only one I REALLY want but I'm going in open minded). It's going to be a blast. I just need to get there first.

Comments (and advice!) welcome, and as always, happy reading!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hope and Helplessness: Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (Grisha Trilogy #2)
Henry Holt, 2013

*ARC won in a giveaway hosted by Brittany at The Book Addict's Guide - thank you!*

Since this post is about a sequel, some spoilers are inevitable. I'll try to keep them to a minimum, but you have been warned.

Brace yourself for a fantasy that's certainly not afraid of delving into the dark side. In Siege and Storm, the second installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy, readers are plunged back into a world battling power, greed, and the Darkness itself.

Alina and Mal make a run for it and try to escape her life with the Grisha and role as the Sun Summoner, but their freedom is short lived. Before long, they're both back in the world of the Darkling and the next step of his plan: obtaining a second amplifier for Alina to make her powers even greater so he may continue to exploit them. Alina finds herself more torn than ever before - power and the Darkling call to her as like calls to like, but there's also the kind of person she wants to be and the love of Mal, the one person who wanted her just the way she was. Enter a privateer with plenty of secrets, an ancient legend of an impossible saint, and a royal family with a small war going on among themselves and you have a sequel that hits the ground running and never stops.

While I absolutely had to inhale the first book in this series Shadow and Bone, with this sequel I took my time. By doing so, I was able to see things differently and could actually pause to contemplate and consider the choices made in this story. The setting continues to be enchanting and specific - world building is one of Bardugo's strengths. She also provides a cast of characters in which the secondary players are all as distinct as the protagonists. And if you want action, you're in luck. Plenty of battles, mysteries, fights, and questions come page after page keeping readers on their toes.

Another thing that this book does quite well is proving that a character does not have to be likable to be the lead. Don't get me wrong, I like Alina. I envy her strength and her strive to do more, her willingness to sacrifice herself in more ways than one if it means a chance at saving Ravka. But there were also plenty of times where I wanted to slap her, to plead with her to reconsider because she was making a huge mistake, sometimes blinded by her desire for power, other times by love. In this way, Alina is incredibly complex and realistic - it's why I'm hardly surprised at the success of this series or why so many people connect to it. Mal continues to be the boy who has claimed my heart, mostly again because he is far from perfect, but I also was completely charmed by Sturmhond, the privateer with an agenda of his own who is much smarter than anyone gives him credit for. I truly hope to see more of him in book 3.

All in all, this was a fantastic followup to a tremendous book (which was a debut novel at that - that fact still blows me away). If you're looking for fantasy, then look no further.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Leigh Bardugo's Website
Leigh Bardugo on Twitter

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday Words: What High Schoolers Read

Last week, NPR put up an article (click here to read it) commenting on on what high school students today are reading and highlighted two main points. First, they claimed that students are reading books intended for much younger people based on the Accelerated Reader system, and secondly they reported that except for Shakespeare, classics are being abandoned in our classrooms in favor of more accessible reads that are less challenging.

I was unaware of this article until yesterday when booktuber (someone who talks about books on YouTube) Rincey of Rincey Reads posted a video discussing it. She makes some understandable points in her video, but there were two general, seemingly innocent questions that left me thinking. For one, there's the mentality of 'shouldn't we just be glad that people are reading?' and 'why can't teachers find a balance between classics and more accessible reads (such as YA)?'

They seem like simple questions, but they're actually incredibly complicated. But this is what I spent four years in college and another two years in grad school for. It's why I became a librarian. Because this is a serious issue that is often misunderstood. It's why I scrapped my plans for yesterday so I could instead write a script, film a video, edit it, and upload it so I could throw in my two cents. (If you're interested, it's at the end of this post - what I'm about to talk about may make more sense if you watch it first.)

To take on the first question of shouldn't we just be glad that people are reading, in a general sense the answer is yes. I fully support recreational reading at all ages. However, in schools, it's not that simple because there's accountability. There are bench marks and standards that must be met, and in some cases funding could be on the line should students not perform adequately.

There's also the point of college and life readiness. True, not everyone goes to college, but studies show time and again that the strongest predictor we currently have of people's future success (and yes, that's a broad statement) is their ability to read. Reading never goes away, it is a skill needed no matter where this life takes you. While US education in the last few decades - especially since the Space Race - focuses heavily on math and science, it is my firm belief that constant pushing for more engineers won't matter if none of them can read. I come from a family of math and science people as are many of my friends, and while I'm a lone bibliophile among them, they will all tell you that being able to read is an integral part of what they do in the lab, in design, as computer science, electrical, mechanical, and bio engineers.

That doesn't mean everyone needs to take AP English classes in high school to succeed, but reading challenging texts critically does actually provide people with transferable skills. This brings us to the second point of what is being read in English classes. First of all, this varies across the country. Every school, district, city, state, region has their own way of doing things, but in my experience to say that Shakespeare is the only classic being taught in schools anymore is false. Classics from centuries long past as well as modern classics whose authors are still with us today are very much still a part of English classrooms. Are these texts always easily accessible to students? No. They're usually challenging in terms of content, language, vocabulary, and structure. As one teen mentioned in the comment section of my video, he just wants to be entertained by a story and liked the book 1984 until his teacher started to 'brainwash' the class and analyze it to death. I know it can feel tedious and obnoxious, like teachers are trying to suck all the fun out of reading, but that's not the case. Studying literature is about digging deeper, asking questions that go further than mere plot. It's not always fun - believe me, I know. I have an English degree - but again, those critical thinking skills can be used beyond classrooms.

So if students have to analyze text, can more modern literature and even YA be an option? Absolutely! Why isn't it happening more in classrooms? Because developing curriculum isn't just up to a teacher - there are a lot of people who get input and make those decisions. Also, money. There are lots of great new titles out there, but who is going to pay for them? For the library, I can buy one or two copies, but not an entire class set.

It's a lot to think over, especially to teachers and students over summer vacation, but these questions never go away. I'm passionate about finding a solution, that's why I'm a teacher and librarian, but it's a long and winding road ahead of us.

What do you all think? Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

From the Heart: Thanks for the Memories

Thanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern
Harper, 2008

*Received copy from Anne at Living in a Fairy World as part of the Genre Swap Project - Thank You!*

In recent months, I've been supremely bad about reading adult fiction. I know there's a lot of good stuff out there, but I think a lot of it stems from nervousness. What if I'm not clever enough anymore? What if I can't keep up? What if I'm bored?? For these reasons and more, I took part in the Genre Swap Project in which YA and adult booktubers on YouTube were paired up and we sent a surprise book to our partners. Thanks for the Memories was what I got, and over the next few days of reading, I was so happy to dive back into a "grown up" book.

A few months ago, Justin, a divorced art history and architecture professor who uprooted his life in Chicago so he could be closer to his nearly grown daughter in London, did something that was truly from the heart for the first time in a long time: he donated blood. Sure it was to impress a woman, but still, he gave and it felt good. Not long afterward, Joyce had an accident, falling down the stairs in her Dublin home causing her to have a miscarriage and loose a lot of blood. Luckily she got a transfusion and health-wise, she's as good as she can be. But now Joyce's mind is full of memories that aren't her own. She can speak languages she's never studied. She's doing things that have never appealed to her before and she can't explain why. It seems like serendipity when Joyce and Justin's lives dance around each other and their stories unfold, but did Joyce get more than just blood from Justin that day?

Ahern's novel has a little bit of everything I like. There's the European setting (London and Dublin, mostly), the flawed characters, a dash of magical realism that keeps everyone on their toes, and even some art history. Most people might categorize this as chick lit, but I wouldn't slap that label on. After all, Justin's story is half the book. This is a cute and clever idea that builds off of one twist in the universe and unfolds at a steady pace. Was it a bit predictable at times? A little bit, but I never minded because it was never exactly what I was expecting.

If you're in the mood for ordinary life with a dash of the slightly fantastical, give Thanks for the Memories a read. I'm so glad Anne sent this my way and it's made me excited to get back into the adult sections of the bookstore and library.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Cecilia Ahern's website

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wednesday Words: Book Buying Ban

Not that I've actually been buying a whole lot of books lately, but my TBR pile is out of control to the point where I'm actually really overwhelmed. This stack of books has been staring me down for months and I'm determined to power through it.

Hence, my self imposed book buying ban (with the exception of ALA at the end of the month) until I can get more of these titles under my belt. It's overwhelming at the moment, but I'm going to keep positive! I aim to read at least one book a week (hopefully more like 2) and I think that's an attainable goal. Now here's where you come in: any of you have strong feelings about what to read next? My book jar full of titles is at the ready, but if you've read any of these and have opinions, positive or negative, let me know!

My unread books are as follows:

  • Rockoholic by CJ Skuse
  • Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson
  • Underworld by Meg Cabot
  • The Casual Vacany (started, need to finish) by JK Rowling
  • The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  • Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
  • In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl
  • In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve
  • Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear

And yes, they're all books written by women. I know. I really want to read more by male authors, but first I need to get through this stack.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Loss and Love: When You Were Here

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
LB Teen, 2013

*ARC provided by LB Teen - Thank You!!*

Daisy Whitney is no stranger to writing stories that pack an emotional punch, and she does it again in her latest novel When You Were Here.

Danny has lost almost everyone in his life who he has ever loved. His father died a few years ago, his sister has basically abandoned their family, his girlfriend who he's loved since they were kids broke up with him out of nowhere last fall, and most recently his mom died. Despite her hopes of seeing his high school graduation, she fell short. Pain doesn't even begin to describe it, but a sliver of hope comes in the form of a letter from Japan. When Danny gets a letter from the woman who took care of his family's apartment in Tokyo, he decides to travel to the place he and his mom loved most of all to connect with her memory and make peace with how she lived and when she died.

This book took me a while to get into, but once I opened myself to Danny's reality, I was captured by this story. First, the things I liked. By far my favorite character was Kana, an almost-but-not-quite-Harajuku girl who wrote Danny the letter and becomes his friend as he stays in Japan. She is fun, a beautiful blend of old traditional and new boldness, and her insightful nature into both Danny and his mom added so much. I wish she were real so I could hang out with her. Also, the setting of Tokyo was incredibly done. I don't know much about Asia but that didn't matter. Whitney paints with her words, making me able to perfectly visualize this place, how it looks and how it feels. While I feel like I'm constantly seeing Europe as a setting for YA, Tokyo was a breath of fresh air. Thirdly, this story is told entirely from Danny's point of view which is something I don't feel like we get a whole lot of in contemporary YA. Whitney does a strong job showcasing that yes, teenage boys can have feelings and even love and need and miss their moms. That relationship was so beautifully complicated and lovely and sad and wonderful, making a completely solid core for this story.

However, like I said this story took me a while to get into, mostly because it felt cruel and almost unrealistic that so many horrible things could happen in Danny's life. This fact is something that is actually addressed in the story, but there were still more than a few times when I found myself thinking "really? There's more? Hasn't he had enough?" Also, there were two characters/plot lines that I didn't feel particularly added a lot. One was the character Trina - to me, she could be cut completely. The other was actually Danny's relationship with is sister Laini. I thought this situation was interesting, but there wasn't quite enough there for my taste. I would have liked to see more, to have Laini be a more continued presence rather than only showing up for her part to be resolved or simply removed all together.

All in all, I was completely moved by this story. The writing style is exquisite and the overall tone and feel of it reminded me very much of that of Laurie Halse Anderson or Gayle Forman. This is a book that explores tough feelings, so if you're not afraid of going down that road, then this is absolutely the book for you.

And now, time for a giveaway! One lucky winner (US only - sorry!) will win this ARC. Check out the Rafflecopter form and good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Daisy Whitney's Website
Daisy Whitney on Twitter

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Where's Your Bookmark? (27)

My thoughts on When You Were Here, the latest novel by Daisy Whitney. If you like the writing styles of Gayle Forman and Laurie Halse Anderson, this book is definitely for you. Thanks for the ARC, Little Brown Teen! My written review will be posted soon along with a giveaway opportunity =)

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Impossible Choices: Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Viking (Penguin Group), 2012

Hardcover copy provided by Penguin - Thank you so much!!

I'm making my way back into the world of adult fiction slowly but surely, not to say I'm abandoning YA. I'm just expanding my range a bit and what makes that possible is fantastic crossover novels like this one. Me Before You is a piece of contemporary fiction meant for adults, but teens can also get plenty out of this heart-wrenching story.

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl in an ordinary town with an unexceptional life that gets turned upside down when the cafe she works at closes and she loses her job. Desperate to work both for her sanity and because she has five people counting on her wages, she eventually takes a job with Will Traynor as his caregiver. This man used to have a big life - motorcycles, running his own business, plenty of women, travel, adventures - until an accident made him a quadriplegic and stuck him in a wheelchair, unable to do anything for himself. While they initially butt heads on just about everything - he's stubborn and mean, she never seems to do the right thing - they eventually come to need each other. Will pushes Lou to expand her horizons and live her life to the fullest; Lou makes Will laugh again. But when Lou learns Will has a secret and plans, she fights as hard as she can to show him he still has a life worth living.

It takes quite a lot for a book to make me cry, and this one had me gasping and choking down sobs. My heart took up permanent residence in my throat. Lou's journey is one that plenty of people can empathize with: she plays it safe, sticks inside her comfort zone, knows what she's afraid of and doesn't push it, and she tries to please her family even though it feels like all they do is make fun of her even though her little money is what helps them get by. And then there's Will who has been dealt a terrible hand in life. This novel gives an incredibly in-depth and aching look at what it's like for quadriplegics.

I felt for both of these characters. I could see things from each of their points of view and why they thought the things they did and made their choices. I was lucky enough to take a class when I was a senior in high school called Social Implications of Biology (essentially, an ethics in science course), and many of those lessons came back to me while reading. The struggle between Will and his family, Will and his doctors, Will and the world, even Will and Lou all came down to choices: Just because Will has lost his ability to move, does that automatically mean he gave up his ability to choose what his life is like? Who's to say how we measure quality of life and if one's life is 'good enough'? What makes a life worth living?

This book is built on big, complicated, difficult questions that many of us are lucky to not have to face in our lives. To me, that's all the more reason to think about them. Just because something isn't pleasant doesn't mean we should turn away. I loved this book even as it broke my heart page after page. My only regret is that it's been sitting on my bookshelf for so long and I didn't read it sooner - it was simply incredible.

Comments welcome, and as always, happy reading.

Jojo Moyes's Website
Jojo Moyes on Twitter

Armchair BEA 2013 Day 6: Wrapping Up

graphic by Nina at Nina Reads
And here it is, the end of another online adventure with Armchair BEA.

Today's topic is a broad one in which the organizers basically said we can fill in the blanks, are there any genres that we haven't discussed in the past week that we think ought to have gotten some time. All in all, I think that a lot of genres and topics were touched on so in that light, I say it's been a success.

There are two areas that weren't given their own 'topic days' though that I always want to know more about but don't seem to get discussed too often (or just not in great detail). First off, what do other bloggers out there do about the genres they don't read? For example, in my Blog Policies section of this site, I state that I read mostly YA but generally not thrillers or horror. Do others out there push their boundaries in that regard, and if so, how?  Sure this is a hobby for most of us that's supposed to be fun, but does anyone else out there fear pigeon-holing themselves by not being open to all of it? Anyone who looks through my reviews archive can see that I have a definite 'type' when it comes to the books I read (or at least the ones I review), but I'm working hard to change that. For example, I've been in the world of YA for so long and I'd love to start reading more adult literary fiction, but I don't even know where to start sometimes.

So there's that.

Point number two that I think a lot of bloggers would appreciate is if people discussed how they go about getting ARCs/review copies. To veterans, this is common knowledge and they have connections, know who to email to get on mailing lists, go to conferences, etc. But how did you start? Or how can we help each other out? Sites like ARCycling are great, but how can we have more of that where we can help each other out, especially newbies. In this light, the 'exclusivity' feel of the book blogging community is felt the most. I've been doing this for a while now and in many ways I still feel like I'm on the outside waiting to learn the secret handshake or something.

Just a few thoughts, but again, overall I thought Armchair BEA went very well this year. It's always a fun week and it's one of the few times this blog gets a boost in exposure. If you like what you've seen here, please subscribe or follow me on Twitter @mfumarolo. And if you have an ARC of something fabulous, definitely let me know =)

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Armchair BEA 2013 Day 5: Keeping it Real and Children's/Young Adult Literature

graphic by Nina at Nina Reads
Almost done! It's Armchair BEA Day 5!

Keeping it Real
How do you keep readers coming back for more? It's the question of the day that Armchair BEA organizers have posted, and it's one I'd really love to know the answer to because this blog is a tiny one, but I still want to keep the readers I do have interested. I know that giveaways, commenting on other peoples' blogs, tons and tons and tons of self-promotion are key, but are there any other tips people out there have that are maybe less traditional/conventional which have gotten positive results?

To me, blogging is about honest. Like I said in yesterday's post on ethics this can be accomplished without being mean, but blogging is me telling the world 'hey, this is what I think.' Maybe someone will hear and pay attention and maybe no one will, but at least I'm offering up my voice, my opinion, my thoughts and feelings. It's the same way I feel about voting: you don't get to complain about the outcome of an election if you didn't even participate in it. That doesn't mean everyone should blog about everything, but if there's an area that you're interested in, passionate about, or have a lot of opinions on and want in on the conversation, then I say find a way to make it happen. Just remember to do so carefully because you never know who's out there and the Internet is forever, there are no take-backs once you post something, even if you take it down it's never really completely gone.

Children's/Young Adult Literature
It's a question I'm asked all the time: why do I read primarily books for teenagers when I'm a grown up? It's a fair question, too. Basically, I think that YA literature is particularly fascinating because it gives us characters whose lives are already complicated by the fact that they are teenagers. It's a complicated time, being not a child but not an adult. Throw in another aspect on top of that to really get a plot rolling and you have the potential for great stories. Sure an adult having cancer and falling in love can be epic, but when it's two teenagers it's happening to like in John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, you get situations that are unique to the teenage part of our lives. And yeah, adults can take vacations in the summer time, visiting beaches and friends, but one reason I love Sarah Dessen's novels and especially her book Along for the Ride is that there's a certain kind of magic in a summer vacation being between school years, between too young and old enough, and in that book between high school in college. People only get to have that summer once in their whole life.

And those are just contemporary books. YA goes in any and all directions in terms of genre, no question too big, no stone unturned. That's why I've said it before and I'll say it again: young adult is not a genre, it's an age group. And at that age, who didn't feel at least a little bit invincible at least once? It's great storytelling that brings me back to my own teenage years, and that's why I continue to read and write YA.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!