Sunday, December 30, 2012

All You Need is Love: Ask the Passengers

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Little, Brown 2012

*Copy provided by Little, Brown - thank you!*

When readers first meet Astrid Jones, she's sending love to the passengers in the planes that fly over her home. She sends it up to those people and the heavens and beyond because she is convinced that she doesn't need it here.

"But it feels good to love a thing and not expect anything back. It feels good to not get an argument or any pushiness or any rumors or any bullshit. It's love without strings. It's ideal."

Because here on the ground, love seems to be so much more complicated. Her mother is hypercritical. Her little sister wants nothing to do with her. Her father's new favorite past time is getting high. And Astrid is a keeper of secrets, both her own and her friends'. Because in their small town, being gay is probably the worst thing a person can be. And Astrid isn't even sure if she is, exactly. All she knows is that she loves Dee, the girl she's secretly been dating for months.

Some people will probably be quick to label this as an LGBTQ book, or a 'coming out' book, and it is, but it's so much more than that. Astrid is asking big questions of herself and of people in general, in part because of her sexuality but also due to the fact that she is a bright teenager and is also making fantastic connections to Socrates (whom she refers to as Frank) in her high school humanities class. And that's the bigger point of this novel to me: labels are so confining, and they have a tendency to benefit the labelers rather than the subjects of the labels themselves. Again, Astrid says it best:

"Why does everything come with a strict definition? Who made all these boxes?"

I read this book over the course of an afternoon and an evening. I had every intention of spreading it out, wanting to savor it, but that simply wasn't an option for me. Astrid's insights and her struggles captivated me, and while I wasn't sure if she would get the happily ever after I felt she deserved, I wanted to know that she would at least be okay. A.S. King's writing is magical realism, not fairy tales, and here I felt that she did all of her characters justice. The story was incredibly realistic, Astrid and her supporting cast are incredibly human, and the challenges presented in this novel are all very much a part of the world outside of fiction. It all breaks my heart and restores my faith that with each passing day, if we can learn to love like Astrid, then there's still hope, and that's a very big thing to have.

I don't really know what else to say about this book other than I'm so happy it has come into my life. While it didn't hit me with quite as much force as Vera Dietz (which remains my favorite King novel), Ask the Passengers worked its way into my heart with a simple honesty and makes me think and love in new ways. I cannot thank A.S. King enough for such a gift.

And so, I'll wrap up this review by saying I highly recommend this book and leave you with these brilliant words:

"Dude, what matters is if you're happy. What matters is your future. What matters is that we get out of here in one piece. What matters is finding the truth of our own lives, not caring about what other people think is the truth of us!"

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

A.S. King's Website
A.S. King on Twitter

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday Words: Getting Organized

No real big thoughts for you in this edition of Wednesday Words (what with the holidays and all). Just two pieces of news:

1. The Wednesday Words Archives are finally up! Click on the link in the header bar and you can see a list and links to all of my previous ramblings.
2. I've just joined the world of Tumblr. There are admittedly a lot of book-related posts over there, but it's also a bit more random and just things I like. Maybe it will become more focused or subject-oriented as I use it more, but right now I like that it's all over the place. You can check it out over at butinmyotherlife.tumblr.com.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my obscenely big to-read pile that is currently feeling just a bit insurmountable. eek!

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Monday, December 24, 2012

December Book Haul

In which I share the books I've either checked out from the library or have been lucky enough to acquire!



And check out the blog post my friend Liza wrote on our Novel Cuisine Luncheon here!

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Feeling Daring?: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010

Dash and Lily are both New Yorkers, but in the city that never sleeps with a couple million residents, that hardly makes them neighbors. Yet each of them find themselves abandoned by their families at Christmas time and both are book lovers who frequent The Strand bookstore. It's there that Dash comes across a seemingly innocent red notebook with a few dares Lily has written inside. And so sets off a chain of events and hijinks across New York City for two teenagers during winter break.

I had no idea what to expect with this novel. All I knew was that I loved the film adaptation of one of this pair's previous novels, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, a few years ago; the premise sounded cute; and I've enjoyed the previous Levithan books I've read.

Also, we have five copies in my school's library and they are always checked out. And THAT is saying something.

So when a copy was finally checked in, I snagged it up and really enjoyed this holiday treat. I particularly love reading stories about nerdy teens, which I use as a compliment for both of these protagonists. They're smart, generally good kids who don't always make the greatest choices but are just getting used to figuring out this whole growing up thing and how life works. It was charming, and sure, at times I was cringing but only because while not everything going on was exactly realistic, the feelings that accompanied more than a few of these events were spot on.

All in all, I probably couldn't have picked a more perfect book serendipitously this time of year. A contemporary, urban, slightly dorky adventure was sweet and smart and is great for boys and girls and readers of all ages.

So Happy Holidays, comments welcome, and happy reading!

Rachel Cohn's Website
David Levithan's Website

Friday, December 21, 2012

Where's Your Bookmark? (18)

Love is the spirit of the season, so in honor of that I'm talking about Ask the Passengers by A.S. King.


Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wednesday Words: Finally Featured!

It was a totally ordinary Friday until I opened my email. There were the usual coupons and ads and that sort of thing, but then there was something that stood out. Something I never saw coming and while it's probably not a huge deal, I'm still really excited.

The paperback edition of Cinder, the first book in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, comes out next month. Now, I loved this book. Seriously, check out my review of it from earlier this year. I'm not usually huge into science fiction, but this kick-ass sci-fi retelling of a fairy tale in which Cinderella is a cyborg blew me away. And I'm hardly the only blogger and reader who felt this way.

Now something really cool that MacMillian, the publisher, has decided to say thanks to us bloggers in a way that is just as bad-ass as the story itself: with a page printed in the back of the paperback copy naming our blogs. Ahhh! I'm pumped. I'm stoked. I am (insert another incredibly enthusiastic and ecstatic adjective here)! I mean, half of my last name will be between the covers of a New York Times bestselling novel.

Which is why I'm now proudly displaying a new badge over in the sidebar. Thanks to all the people at MacMillian for this incredibly kind gesture, and seriously, if you haven't read Cinder yet, you really should. The series just keeps getting better (I know this because I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Scarlet, the sequel coming out in February, 2013).

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Project for Awesome 2012

Not a book related post, but still something that means a lot to me. Every year on YouTube, the Project for Awesome takes place in which people make videos to raise awareness about charities and causes they feel are important. This is my first time participating as a vlogger, and if you could take the time to watch, I'd really appreciate it. As much as I love books, I love music just as much and being in music programs has shaped much of my life, which is why for this year's video, I talk about VH1's Save the Music Foundation.



Thanks!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Reading Wonderland: Let it Snow

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
Speak, 2008

With the holiday season upon us, some people are much more into the spirit than others. Some people can't get enough, others can't wait for it all to be over.

Whatever your leanings may be, if you are a fan of YA Let it Snow is still a treat, especially at this time of year. Powerhouse authors Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle join forces to create a world and characters who lives are all altered by a freak blizzard on Christmas Eve. The three tales are each distinct in voice and style, but still manage to be woven together into a delightful holiday treat.

Maureen Johnson kicks things off with a girl named Jubilee ("no I am not a stripper") who is sent to her grandparents' house at the last minute for the holidays, only for her train to get stuck in the storm. She ventures out into the frosty night towards the Waffle House and ends up getting to know a charming stranger. John Green picks up next, chronicling the treacherous journey across town towards the same Waffle House. Tobin was told there would be cheerleaders awaiting them, but the last thing he expected to find that night was love with an old friend. And finally Lauren Myracle wraps things up with the tale of Addie, a girl who has a tendency to think the world revolves around her and as a result she's lost the boy she loves, but there's nothing quite like Christmastime and a teacup piglet to help her grow and change.

I was so smitten with this book that I had originally borrowed it from my library, but then went out and purchased a copy for myself before I was even done with the first story. It's a seasonal sampler from some of my favorite authors, and I almost wish there could be a sequel picking up on New Year's Eve or something. The characters grow on you quickly, every story has a strong arc, and I alternated between laughing out loud and feeling a pull at my heartstrings.

Let it Snow is a great new addition to my personal library, and I look forward to reading it in the years to come, whether or not the weather outside is frightful.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dear Cassie Cover Reveal and Excerpt!

Internet, I am so excited about what I get to share with you today: the cover of Lisa Burstein's upcoming novel Dear Cassie, an excerpt from the book, and news about a contest that you won't want to miss if you're an aspiring writer! So let's get right to it, shall we?

Part I: The Cover and OFFICIAL Blurb!

What if the last place you should fall in love is the first place that you do?

You'd think getting sent to Turning Pines Wilderness Camp for a month-long rehabilitation "retreat" and being forced to re-live it in this journal would be the worst thing that's ever happened to me.


You'd be wrong.


There's the reason I was sent to Turning Pines in the first place: I got arrested. On prom night. With my two best friends, who I haven't talked to since and probably never will again. And then there's the real reason I was sent here. The thing I can't talk about with the guy I can't even think about.


What if the moment you've closed yourself off is the moment you start to break open?


But there's this guy here. Ben. And the more I swear he won't - he can't - the deeper under my skin he's getting. After the thing that happened, I promised I'd never fall for another boy's lies.


And yet I can't help but wonder...what if?


I don't know about you all, but I'm completely in love with this cover. Between the muted colors and the text on top of a stunning and simple photograph, it reminds me of the old adage 'actions speak louder than words,' except I'm sure Cassie's words will pack a punch, too.


Part II: An Excerpt!

We kept walking on the lake trail, the bullfrogs croaking. There was also a humming in my ears from the nicotine.

It could only be from the nicotine. It had nothing to do with being outside, at night, alone with Ben. It had nothing to do with Ben coming to the cabin and taking me instead of Nez and it definitely had nothing to do with the stars above us shining like they were the sky's tiara.


I stopped on the trail and looked up, taking them in, when all of a sudden bright colored lights exploded in the sky - fireworks, one after another, on top of each other, huge kaleidoscopes of light, like sparkling rainbow spiders.


"How did you know?" I asked, my voice going softer, like if I talked too loudly they would stop. It was so beautiful, after weeks of so much ugly.


Ben turned to look at me, the colored lights in the sky turning his skin pink, blue, green. "I'm magic." He shrugged.


I geared up to tell him to fuck off, because that was some corny-ass shit, but then I realized that he really kind of was. In that moment he was able to actually make me forget being me.


"I would try to kiss you," he said, "but I'm afraid you'd kick me in the balls."


"I probably would." I laughed, the sky filling with noisy color like paint launching from a giant popcorn popper. "But like I said, it wouldn't be about you."


"I guess I'll have to figure out how to make it about me," he said, taking off his boots and socks and standing. "Come on."


"There is no way I am getting near that water again," I said.


"I'll make sure nothing happens to you," he said, holding his hand out to help me up."


I looked at his palm, open, waiting, just wanting to hold mine. For once, I didn't think about anything except that there was a cute, sweet, smart-ass boy standing in front of me with his hand out.


I pulled off my boots and socks and took it.


We stood at the lakeshore, our hands still clasped, the water licking our feet, fireworks decorating the sky.


I turned to him. He was looking up, his mouth open in wonder like he was trying to swallow the moment.


It was definitely one worth keeping.


Part III: A Contest!

To celebrate Dear Cassie's cover reveal, Lisa is hosting a truly exceptional contest and wants you guys to share diary entries of your favorite fictional characters. ANY character - from books, TV, movies, whatever - and write a 500-750 word entry from their point of view. The top 5 will be selected, people will vote, and the favorite will be published in the final version of Dear Cassie - Yup! Right there IN THE BOOK, published with the author's name!! The other four finalists will win $20 book buying gift cards. Interested? Send in your entries to prettyamystories@yahoo.com by January 1st because voting for the top 5 will start January 7th with the winner being announced January 14th!

It's a lot for one blog post, but all of it's fantastic! Thanks to Lisa and the people at Entangled for letting me be a part of this and I wish nothing but good things for Dear Cassie.


Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!


Lisa Burstein's Website

Lisa Burstein on Twitter

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday Words: Boy Crazy

Someone I work with recently found my YouTube channel, which led to this individual finding this blog. And while they thought it was pretty cool that I do book reviews as a hobby (not many people I work with actually know about my own writing aspirations), constructive criticism came in one remark: Why so many girl books?

Now I know many may have the gut reaction of 'hey! There are no girl books and boy books! They're for everyone!' but still, I got to thinking. I mean, I do have a tendency to read books with a romantic bent typically targeted at girls, but were my selections really so unbalanced between men and women writers?

Turns out, YES. Since starting this blog, I've posted on books by 39 women writers. I've only posted on books by eight different men. Yeah, that's right. EIGHT.

Not exactly a shining example of equality. Now granted, the blog is a hobby. I write reviews and ramblings on the books that I read for fun or that publishers are kind enough to send me (which doesn't happen very often - yet?!). So when I get time, I like to get swept up in a dash of love because I'm a hopeless romantic.

However, I'm constantly the one going on and on about how necessary it is for readers to challenge themselves, to think outside the box and try new things. And while reading books written by men is hardly something new to me, I do want to make a more conscious effort to branch out from my favorite genre of contemporary and realistic fiction. Take that as my blog new year's resolution.

But what about you guys. Do you guys tend to stick to one genre, or even gender, when it comes to your book picks? Let me know - Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

In Conclusion: Reached

Reached by Ally Condie
Dutton, 2012

Cassia's world was once small and safe in the Society. But then she fell in love, started to learn the truth, joined the rebellion known as the Rising, and now in Reached, the conclusion to Ally Condie's dystopian Matched trilogy, readers finally get to learn if the freedom she dreams of is finally within her grasp.

Building off of the second book, Crossed, which was told from Cassia's and Ky's points of view, this third book added another narrator in Xander, the boy who Cassia was Matched with. While I understand why Condie waited until now to let readers into his mind, a bigger part of me wishes it could have come sooner as he has long been one of my favorite characters in this saga.

On the whole, this conclusion to the trilogy left me wanting more. After all, Matched was a novel that completely and totally blew me away while Crossed had the second book slump in my opinion. I was willing to get past that, though, because it's a fairly common trait in a lot of trilogies. I had high hopes for Reached and while I thought it was very well written, the story left me unsatisfied. The strong emotional connection I had with this series initially just wasn't there like it used to be. The science aspects of the story were an interesting addition, but sometimes I felt like I was being given more than I needed which caused the space to suffer.

Series Catch-UpOverall, I'm glad I read this book. I know I would have been disappointed to not see this series through to the end. However, and I really hate saying this, but this novel just didn't seem to do it for me, whatever that intangible it is. You can bet I'll continue to read Condie's writing in the future, though, and I look forward to whatever her next project is.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Ally Condie's Website
Ally Condie on Twitter

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Where's Your Bookmark? (17)

In which I discuss the winter wonderland of Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.


 Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wednesday Words: Seasonal Books

My thoughts this week are on what I feel are best described as seasonal books. Oftentimes with Christmas or holiday leanings, these stories aren't ones that are typically bought or checked out other than during December. So I'm curious - how many people actually read these books, or are they just coffee table items we place out once a year or impulse buys that get dusty with each passing season?

I'm usually pretty indifferent. When I was little I was all over it, but as I got older I found some of them to be just this side of hokey or cheesy. I love the holiday season, which only puzzled me more about why I wasn't liking books that took place right now. To me, it's a question of balance, and it was an area that many of the books I found were lacking in. Too religious or too gimicky or too sappy or too ridiculous, plus it had to stand up to my usual standards, too. I thought I was done with seasonal reads for good.

But right now, I'm so happy to be proven wrong and that, like any other time of year, it's just a matter of finding the right book. I recently read Let it Snow, a collection of three holiday romances by YA superstars Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle (yes you can expect a video and review to be posted here very soon). In short, I loved it. It has that spark and spunk and balance I was looking for. I checked it out from my library and hadn't even finished yet before I went out and bought myself my own copy because I could already tell this would be a new favorite of mine. I can't wait to keep reading it over and over again this holiday season, especially now that Thanksgiving has passed and it's legal for me to listen to Christmas music, too.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Water and Wishes: The Springsweet

The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell
Harcourt, 2012

As a participant in this year's Series Catch-Up Challenge hosted by The Book Addict's Guide, I'm excited to post my first review of my selections for this endeavor!

In The Springsweet, Saundra Mitchell takes readers from the exciting city life of Baltimore to the wide open spaces of the Oklahoma Territory. While many might consider this novel to be more of a companion to its predecessor The Vespertine, I'd disagree. Zora, the protagonist of this story, is a secondary character in the previous book and without having read that, I would not have understood what exactly drove her west in this novel. Therefore, if you haven't read The Vespertine, stop reading this post now because some spoilers are about to happen.

Series Catch-Up
Zora is seventeen and has suffered more loss in the last year than she has in her entire life. First her beloved Thomas, her fiance, dies and shortly afterward she gets word that so has her best friend and cousin, Amelia. Miserable in Baltimore, she moves to the tiny frontier town of West Glory to help her young widowed aunt. But leaving the past behind isn't so simple, especially when handsome Theo de la Croix has followed her west with the hopes of finally courting her after longing for her from afar. He'd be a proper match, but there's also Emerson Birch, a young farmer who may be a bit rougher around the edges with deep secrets, but has completely captivated Zora. As her suspicions and feelings for Emerson grow, she discovers a unique talent of her own: the ability to sense water underground, an incredible talent especially in these unforgiving lands.

Mitchell does a great job weaving together a well feeling story that's interesting to follow in this series that's a great blending of historical and slightly paranormal fiction. I must admit that I had a harder time getting into the first book in this series, understanding these people with elemental abilities and how exactly they worked. However, since I already came into this book with an understanding, I felt like the story got off to a better start. My biggest criticism, though, is that the ending felt a bit rushed. Mitchell has a beautiful build up to the characters and their environment, and while I know not all loose ends can be tied up because the sequel is due out next year, the ending was very abrupt in my eyes. This was a very fast read, finishing it in only a few days, and I wish I'd gotten around to reading it sooner.

If you're looking for historical fiction with a dash of the supernatural that's also a quick read, check out The Vespertine series. Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Saundra Mitchell's Website

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday Words: NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up

The end of the month is only a few days away, so for those people participating in National Novel Writing Month, the question is this: are you going to hit 50,000 words by Thursday at midnight, thus giving you a successful 'month of writing dangerously'?

For me, I'm lucky enough to say the answer is yes. I became a winner yesterday, completing the last 4,000 words I needed to hit the magical 50K mark. It was exhausting. My story started as one thing and managed to morph into something quite different, and I'm not really sure that I mean that in a good way. But despite sitting here almost a month ago declaring that I didn't care if I became a winner as long as I wrote everyday, I got an incredibly poor, wandering, void-of-dialoge, most of a first draft done in just 27 days.

It's madness. And so if I do decide to participate in the future, now that I've done this twice I have a much better idea of what my writing needs if I really want to feel successful at the end of the month.

1. Plan ahead! Coming up with an idea two days before just doesn't work with me. I've been writing fiction now for several years - I am without a doubt a planner, not a pantster.
2. Set a daily goal. It doesn't have to be a word count (in fact, maybe it shouldn't be because for me, tangents are much more common when I just need to get to the next number). Say "I want to finish this scene today" or "I can't stop/take a break until I've introduced this character."
3. Write (almost) every day. I want to say everyday, but I can honestly say that since I finished my draft yesterday, there's no way I'm going back to look at it tonight or for a while. Nor should I feel guilty for not writing on things like national holidays. A person cannot be "on" 24/7 - breaks aren't bad. Permanent breaks are. Just keep writing a priority and let people know that, too, so they don't infringe on your 'hobby time' or whatever.

So that's how I'm feeling about NaNoWriMo 2012. Will I be back for it in 2013? That's anyone's guess...

And here's a video I made expressing my joy =)
Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nothing Normal About Her: Paranormalcy

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Harper Teen, 2010

Oh, what wouldn't Evie give for a normal life? Ever since she was a toddler, she's been living with the International Paranormal Containment Agency, all because she has the one-of-a-kind ability to see through the through the glamours that magical creatures use to make themselves appear normal to humans. Plus she has a demented faerie for an ex-boyfriend, she's falling for a new boy who is a shapeshifter, and she finds herself caught in the middle of an ancient faerie prophecy that could result in the total destruction of all paranormal creatures around the world.

I was recommended this series by several students of mine at the school where I work. These girls were horrified that I hadn't read it yet and insisted that despite my reservations due to paranormal-overload the last few years, White's story was one worthy of my time.

Paranormalcy is a great selection for the younger teens in your life, perfect for those especially in their freshmen or sophomore years of high school. No swearing, no sex, a believable amount of action in this interesting world that has been built, and a fun premise. White has written an entertaining paranormal story that does have some romantic elements, but that's hardly the whole point (cough cough Twilight cough cough). Evie is a girl who longs for normalcy and is actually faring pretty well given her extraordinary circumstances. The relationships in her life clearly mean a lot to her and I felt a lot of empathy in her search for answers and desire to do the right thing, especially as it becomes clear to her that her paranormal world is even further from normal than she ever could have realized.

All in all, it's a cute story and a series I could see myself picking up again in the future if I happen to see copies of the sequels Supernaturally and Endlessly are on library shelves. If you're looking for a light paranormal read (or the young teen in your life is), then this is probably the book for you.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Kiersten White's Website
Kiersten White on Twitter

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday Words: A Thank You Note

With tomorrow being Thanksgiving here in America, many are amping up for days filled with turkey, football, family, and friends. But there's more than that when it comes to this holiday, just look at the name. It's the perfect time to reflect on what we have to be thankful for.

I have a very long and personal list of the many things in my life for which I am grateful, but since this is a book blog, I shall keep my topics here confined to the area of literature. It's still so incredible to me that I only came to know the world of YA in spring 2011 . But in my almost two years, I've been exposed to authors and words, characters and situations that have taken me on emotional roller coasters. I've met bloggers who share my enthusiasm, authors who inspire me, and fellow writers who I can root for and they can root for me as we try to accomplish that crazy goal of getting published. It's a lot, but it's filled with love, and I'm grateful for my part in it, however small a cog I am in the grand scheme of things.

So this year, this blog post is a thank you note to you readers. Thanks for sticking with me, for your patience, and for your comments. And thank you for sharing yourselves in this crazy little world that is the Internet as well! I'm so lucky to have found this, and while books have always brought me solace, now they also bring me connections beyond just those of imagined communities.

I also plan to send out thank you notes to a few of the authors who have particularly influenced me in the last few years. Some I've met and some I haven't, but all have changed parts of me in ways that my words will probably fail to express, especially compared to the extraordinary powers they possess over language. I'm not usually one to send fan-mail, but to me thank you notes are so much more than that. I can hardly ask for comments here and not send my own kind words and thoughts back into the universe as well. Wouldn't want to upset cosmic balances or anything like that.

So those are my Wednesday Words and my Thanksgiving Thoughts. May you all have a happy and safe holiday!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

From Theory to Practice: The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything by J.J. Johnson
Peachtree, 2012

*Book provided by publisher via Armchair BEA - thank you!*

Sarah Jones's life was turned upside down when her best friend Jamie died a few months ago in a freak accident that she blames herself for. In the time SJD (Since Jamie Died), Sarah has become snarky, pushes people away including her sweetheart boyfriend, cuts class, and the only thing she seems to love anymore is her dog, Ruby. When a minor mishap leads Sarah taking a job at a Christmas tree farm run by a man with a tragic past of his own, she discovers that the physical labor helps her deal with her emotional pain.

This book felt like I actually only got half of a story. For the first half of the book, readers are seeing what happened to Sarah that has made her this way - grumpy, mopey, the reason her parents her fight and her brother hates her - and that's all important, I understand that all that background is important. However, I didn't feel like the plot really got moving until about halfway through when Sarah starts working at the tree farm. That was when she finally starts to move forward and we see a growth in her. But then since the setup took so long, I found the ending to be a bit on the unsatisfactory side, like there's another half of this book that they forgot to print that really ties up more of what happened to these characters and the situations they're currently in.

The writing was fair, definitely snarky which was the author's intent. I did find it a little weird that Sarah had no problem talking about sex and admits that she's a bitch a lot of the time (her word, though I'd agree with it), but then the most derogatory thing she ever calls someone is a jerk or a dork and is constantly saying how 'ninja' someone is - her term for cool. It just wasn't the most consistent voice in my mind, however, Sarah is grieving so maybe that played a role...I'm not sure.

All in all, I really wanted to like this story. When I read the initial premise, it sounded like something that was right up my alley, but it just didn't quite hit the right notes with me. I still plan on reading J.J. Johnson's previous novel, This Girl is Different, at some point if I get the chance, though.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

J.J. Johnson's Website

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Words: Why YA?

It's a very dangerous and powerful question to be asking. It's also one that I can't believe I haven't taken the time here to answer before, especially since this is 99.9% a young adult book blog.

But then Beth Revis posted that she's having a contest for lots of amazing autographed books (learn how you can enter here!), and to enter, one must attempt an answer to the question "why YA?"

Now I must confess that I didn't start reading YA until fairly recently, at least not consciously. I adored Meg Cabot's books as a teen and have been a voracious reader my entire life, but I was never aware that there was actually a whole section of the library or bookstore dedicated to other books like hers, books that were specifically written for people my age. I was an AP Literature student in high school, where we were told that we could handle the Canonical Literature, the big stuff, the heavy hitters that a lot of adults wouldn't get within ten feet of if they could help it. And I liked a lot of it (my love for Jane Austen's work runs deep and true) but there was always that disconnect. Those books were about grownups, and while I was bright, I simply wasn't a grownup yet.

But then the beautiful world of library school happened. I took children's lit and loved it, and my professor Dr. Loretta Gaffney was amazing. When I found out she was teaching a YA lit course the next semester, I signed up without a second thought. And suddenly, my eyes were open. I knew I loved working with teens and wanted to continue to do so, but who knew there were such great books out there for them too!

It nearly killed me when I realized so many of these books I was falling in love with had actually been published when I was a teenager, but I never knew it. John Green's debut novel Looking for Alaska was published in December, 2005 - I was a high school senior. Sarah Dessen's first book, That Summer, came out in 1996 - I was 8 years old and could have been reading that and her subsequent books in my teens rather than in my early 20s.

So why YA, and why now? A lot of it feels like making up for lost time. Many of these books could have been my very best companions during my teen years, and so many of the incredible books coming out now have the magical ability to transport me back to those memories and that mindset. I'm only 24, so I'm not so far removed, but it's enough perspective to make me appreciate YA in a new way. It all boils down to the wisdom of JK Rowling via Albus Dumbledore: Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels, but old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.

Another significant part of it is the awesome power that comes with being a teenager, a power I didn't realize I had possessed until those years were behind me. YA explores it so well: infinite possibility. YA lit, like young adults themselves, can go in any direction. No question to crazy, no situation too outrageous, and characters and readers are challenged to rise to the occasion. And I love that, and I miss that, and these books reignite that fire in me to push a little further, be a little weirder, because if that's who I am, then rock on. YA lit has taught me that. Being a book blogger and becoming a part of this incredible community where I get to meet fellow writers and bloggers, and learning from the words and smiles of published authors has taught me that. Becoming a librarian who struggles with writing her own manuscripts, hoping to someday see my name on bookshelves too, has taught me that.

And there aren't enough words in the entire universe to fully explain how incredibly grateful I am for all of it.

So I hope that's some sort of satisfactory answer to Beth's question. It's long and rambling, but I hope my enthusiasm comes through =) Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Corsets & Clockwork: Part 3



I'm currently making my way through Corsets & Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances (Running Press, 2011). I'm new to all of the authors featured in this collection as well as the world of steampunk, so this has been an interesting read so far.

Story: The Airship Gemini
Author: Jaclyn Dolamore
Summary: Conjoined twins Faith and Patience are making their final voyage on the cruising Airship Gemini where they have worked as part of the entertainment. They have no desire to be separated, but may not have a choice when they learn the mysterious and magical Dr. Connell is on board.
Thoughts: The premise for the story intrigued me, and I liked it at the start, but then Dolamore threw in one twist too many for my taste and took things from fantasy to farcical. Had it not been for one element, I would have liked this story a lot more, but as it is, this story just wasn't for me.

Story: Under Amber Skies
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Summary: Zosia lives in Poland and her father invents things to help fight the oncoming Nazis. When Nazis come after her in town and it's not safe for her to go home, Zosia, aided by Inek (the neighbor boy she loves but her parents dislike), tries to find her family with the help of her father's inventions.
Thoughts: Now THIS is a great short story, and I can't wait to check out what else Snyder has written. Just enough twists to keep characters and readers on their toes, and the situation actually felt plausible and realistic. I wish the story could keep going!

Story: King of the Greenlight City
Author: Tessa Gratton
Summary: In a land where each of the six ruling families have magical power over one of the main elements, Ever discovers that in addition to his familial command of fire, he can also fly. Going against all warnings, he seeks the advice of the Titan in the Greenlight City.
Thoughts: Gratton weaves a magical world and story here that makes your heart swell with beautiful feelings, and then she's not afraid to squash it. But there's still a bit of sparkle? This tale is perhaps the least steampunk-ish one lately, but it has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and I cannot wait to read more stories by Gratton over at The Merry Sisters of Fate and in the Sisters' latest collaboration, The Curiosities.

So that's it from me this time around. Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wednesday Words: Books I Love About Love

Yesterday was election day in America, which means that today the country has mixed feelings. I understand, but I say let us unite around the fact that all the awful political ads and phone calls are finally over! Let's think about good things! Let's talk about love!

I originally intended for this post to be on five books I love about love, but I can't limit myself to so few. I'm a hopeless romantic who lives vicariously through characters. And so, I instead offer up the five categories that books I love about love tend to fall in to.

1. Jane Austen
Jane's heroines and heroes are all flawed, and it's for this reason that her books and stories hold such a special place in my heart. All of her characters have to work for it, love never comes easy, and it's why I believe that even after the story ends, they could make ever after happen. Her stories are still relatable and have stood the test of time. My personal favorites? Pride and Prejudice, in my opinion the greatest love story of all time, and Persuasion because Anne Elliot and I are kindred spirits.
2. Inspired by Jane
And then there are the books inspired by Jane's books! According to Jane by Marilyn Brant is almost tearily close to my life - a girl from the Chicago suburbs who loves P&P, went to school three hours south of the city to become a librarian and then became one at her old high school library - and so brilliantly written. Austenland by Shannon Hale is so completely fun and blends the old and the new in a totally adorable and slightly sassy way.
3. Shakespeare
I have an English degree, so this one is hardly a surprise. Reading Shakespeare can be challenging, but watching it is magical to me, especially the comedies. I did my high school senior thesis on Much Ado About Nothing and have studied The Taming of the Shrew on multiple occasions - the original romantic comedies that so many of today's stories 'borrow' from =)
4. Contemporary YA - Part 1*
So much love here!! First and foremost, there's the brilliant mind of Stephanie Perkins - Anna and the French Kiss makes me feel butterflies every single time because I see so much of myself in Anna. And the story, I mean, come on! Paris and accents and it's just magical!. At the same time, Lola and the Boy Next Door is delightfully eccentric. If Cricket were the boy next door to me, I'd be in love too.
5. Contemporary YA - Part 2*
Then there's Sarah Dessen - where do I even start? Along for the Ride is one of my favorite YA books and the first one of hers I ever read. Her books make me want to take a roadtrip to Lakeview and Colby and never shy away from real life, and the boys she writes are the guys I wish had gone to my high school or college. Heck, I'd love it if I could find them out there in the world now!
* - I've been lucky enough to meet both of these ladies and hope the opportunity to do so again will come my way - they're both incredibly nice and genuine and fantastic! When I write, these women are my role models. To say they inspire me doesn't even come close.

And there you have it! So spread some love, comments welcome, and as always, happy reading!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hell-Bound: Girl of Nightmares

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
Tor, 2012

I typically shy away from any sort of stories that aim to be scary or full of horror. I don't have the stomach for it, and my overactive imagination usually twists these tales into things that keep me from being able to sleep at night. However in the last year, I discovered Kendare Blake's chilling Anna Dressed in Blood and I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn't just blood and frights, but an actual character driven story and it was great. So when the sequel finally hit my local library's shelves, I couldn't wait to read Girl of Nightmares.

It's been several months since Cas has said goodbye to Anna Karlov, the cursed ghost he fell in love with and who sacrificed herself to save him and his friends. Moving on is proving to be damn near impossible, especially since Cas is having horrific visions and nightmares, seeing Anna everywhere in the most gruesome ways. He knows something has gone terribly wrong, that the girl he loves has ended up in a twisted Hell, and despite what everyone else says, he believes there has to be a way to make things right again.

Blake does a great job with this book of building off what we already know. We learn more about the mysteries that surround the ancient knife Cas's family has used for generations to to kill unruly ghosts, and this story isn't just about his relationship with Anna, but with his Mom, Gideon, and Carmel and Thomas. Cas may be the hunter, but what he does effects so many others, and I loved that this theme got more attention in this book. There were plenty of moments that gave me goosebumps and situations that made me squirm - exactly what a horror story should do, but it wasn't so much that a pansy like me was put off.

My only criticism of the book is the ending - it came too soon. The majority of the novel is a really fantastic build up to one event, but then to me the event came and went disproportionally fast and the ending was just there. Perhaps there is to be a third book in this series (as of now, there's nothing listed on Goodreads to suggest that), in which case, this choice will make more sense. If not, then I'll just say the conclusion felt a bit rushed to me, especially since the story takes a great pace of setting things up.

If you like horror and ghost stories that aren't anything like Casper's friendly fare, Kendare Blake's books are for you. And even if you're not into scary books, I say give it a shot. As I said, I'm a lightweight when it comes to horror, but there's more to the story going on here than just gore.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Kendare Blake's Website
Kendare Blake on Twitter

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Words: New Goals for NaNoWriMo


I sit here writing this half in a state of shock that I actually signed up...again. I mean, just glancing at my calendar, November is already going to be insane. I had these EXACT same thoughts last year, and NaNo almost killed me. I mean, I got to 52,000 words by the end of the month, and finished my first draft of that story in mid-December at around 61,000 words. And I haven't looked at that story since, and I swore I'd never do it again.

So of course, here I am. I fully blame my friend and fellow aspiring writer, Sarah - she's a dangerous influence on me.

For those of you who may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. The goal laid out by the people who run this free, online event is simple: participants aspire to write the first draft of a novel, at least 50,000 words, between 12:00am November 1 and 11:59pm November 30.

It's crazy sounding to be sure. That's about 2,000 words a day. And it's a first draft, which aren't usually particularly pretty in the first place. Attempting such a feat is madness, but last year I tried it for the first time and I 'won' - but was it really winning if I haven't looked at that story since? The experience was so draining that by the end I wasn't inspired, I was exhausted. Some people do their best, feel their most productive work done by this insane deadline, but it's just not for me. I tried it, but that's just not the way my best work works.

So this year, I'm coming into NaNoWriMo differently. My goal isn't to finish a first draft in 30 days. I know me. I know my writing style. I know that will NEVER happen because if it does, I'll just have 2 manuscripts sitting on my computer hard-drive that I'll never take a second look at instead of one. This 30 days for me will be about carving out time every day to write. To get to know my characters. To build a world and get lost in thoughts and reaffirm my need to write, and it's a good way to show that to others too. So you kids should feel free to let the insanity begin. I'm just along for the ride.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Life Lessons: 52 Reasons to Hate My Father

52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012

How many of us have ever had the thought that if only we had more money, life would be a little bit easier? Best keep that thought to yourself around Lexington Larrabee because while money can buy a hell of a lot of things, simplicity and happiness aren't on the menu. Lexi would know better than anyone - she's the daughter of a self-made multimillionaire who is never around, but at least his credit cards are, and when she turns 18, she finally gets access to her own $25 million trust fund.

But after yet another unfortunate incident that could damage the image her father has worked so hard to build, Lexi gets some nasty news on her birthday instead of the check she's been dreaming of her whole life: no trust fund until she completes 52 different low-paying jobs, one for every week of the year. For the first time in her life, this spoiled heiress will actually have to work, and all of it is happening under the supervision of Luke, the really attractive but totally annoying intern her dad has hired to basically babysit her. As the trailer says, being an heiress is a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

From the very first time I ever saw the trailer for this book, I knew I HAD to read it! What a fun premise for a contemporary novel! Lexi is the girl everyone loves to hate, and she's not exactly likable. She starts out completely self-centered and out of touch with reality. But as the novel goes on and Lexi takes on different jobs and meets new people, readers get to see a different side to this party princess. You see how all the money in the world can't replace one or both parents, and that having houses all around the world is very different from having a real home. As the 'why' behind Lexi's behavior becomes clear, it doesn't excuse her past behavior, but it makes it much easier to empathize with her and want her to succeed.

Luke is also a great sounding board for Lexi. He is her polar opposite - he's had to work tirelessly for everything in his life, he looks up to her father (whereas she despises the man), and he actually believes that she's capable of doing things when the rest of the world only laughs at her. She may hate him at first, and he wasn't exactly her biggest fan, but I really liked how the relationship took its time unfolding.

The 52 jobs themselves are also like characters, drill sergeants that push Lexi to the absolute brink but they build her into a much stronger version of herself that she probably never imagined could exist. Major props here to Jessica Brody for getting creative with the many awful, disgusting, boring, and very necessary jobs that she puts Lexi through. It made me think back to my own days as a store clerk and cashier when I was in high school - not exactly the most fun, but I still learned a lot there.

All in all, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father is a great Saturday, curl up in bed on a rainy day kind of read. If you like Meg Cabot's style, I have no doubt you'll like Jessica Brody's, too (Meg even blurbed this book on the cover!). The story is fun and doesn't take itself too seriously, and it has a nice arc that's not especially complex. This is the first book by Brody I've read, and I hope to check out her other titles, too.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Jessica Brody's Website
Jessica Brody on Twitter
Jessica Brody on YouTube

Friday, October 26, 2012

Where's Your Bookmark? (15)

In which I talk about Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, the sequel to her chilling novel Anna Dressed in Blood.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Words: Series Catch-Up Challenge

One of the many great things about books and publishing is that there are constantly new ones coming out, begging to be read and loved and discussed. All genres, all sizes, stand alones and series, oh my!

One of the downside of books and publishing? See above. So many books, so little time.

It's easy for books you want to read to keep getting pushed to the wayside in favor of something newer, that "to-read" pile growing ever larger. I know it's something I struggle with - I currently have 111 books on Goodreads listed as "to-read"and every once in a while, I actually find myself weeding that, going through "am I actually ever going to read this? Will I ever actually get caught up?" It's sort of sad and a little exhausting, but there are only so many hours in a day.

Series Catch-UpAll of this adds up to why I love a challenge that Brittany over at The Book Addict's Guide is hosting: The Series Catch-Up Challenge. The premise is simple: pick a series (or two or three) that you want to get caught up on, then between November 1 and December 31, do your best to make it happen and post reviews! If you check out her blog, the 'rules' are simple enough and I think this is just the kick in the pants I need to finally get a few of those books on my list read.

My goals for the challenge are small, mainly because I don't want to bite off more than I can chew (and there are more than a few stand-alone novels I also want to read). So I'm going with the following books:

  • Frozen Heat (#4 in the Nikki Heat mystery series, the novel spin-off (sort-of) of the ABC show Castle)
  • The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell, the second book in her Verspertine trilogy. I've had this one on my bookshelf for forever and I know I'd probably finish it in a few days!
  • And thirdly, the Paranormalcy trilogy by Kiersten White. I bought the e-book of the first one for my nook a while back, and if I like it, I hope to read the whole series - they sound really good!
So those are some of the series books that I hope to read and post on before the end of 2012. I hope you check out The Book Addict's blog for more info and great reviews, too. 

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Magic and Mystics: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic, 2012

*E-Galley provided by NetGalley - Thank you!*

It must be a truly fantastic place inside Maggie Stiefvater's head. Seriously. Those creative juices must be flowing full speed because that's the only explanation for her complex and completely imaginative stories. Combine those ideas with a richly detailed, ever so slightly twisted writing style, and you have knock out novels and a force to be reckoned with. I first fell in love with Stiefvater's writing earlier this year with The Scorpio Races, and I'm blown away again by The Raven Boys, the first book in a planned 4-book series called The Raven Cycle.

Blue Sargent is a teen in a house full of women who are real psychics and clairvoyants. Nothing about her life has been normal, except maybe for the fact that she has no special abilities of her own. So on St. Mark's Eve when she goes to take the names of the spirits who walk by, spirits of those who are to die in the next year, she's shocked when she can see one of them for the first time: a teenage boy, Gansey. This can only mean one thing: she will either love him, or she will kill him.

In a novel that alternates between Blue's story and Gansey's, a richly detailed world is built. Gansey and his three best friends, Ronan, Noah, and Adam, all attend the local private school and he is obsessed with tracking ley lines and locating a long dead Welsh king. Eventually, their lives intersect and the journey is a magical and frankly, kind of strange, one. And I mean that in the Best possible way. Weird is wonderful, and Maggie does a fantastic job with this from top to bottom.

There's not much I feel I can say about the story itself without fear of spoilers, so I have to be more general. I'll admit that it did take me a bit to get into this story - once the two story lines combined, things started making a lot more sense and the pace picked up, so if you're not grabbed at first, hang in there. Stiefvater does a fantastic job with establishing clear voices for every primary and secondary character (every woman in Blue's household and every one of the Raven Boys in incredibly distinct and interesting with his or her own quirks), and her attention to detail is exquisite. The only time too much detail could be seen as a criticism is at the end, and only because so much is happening at once and the story is setting itself up for book 2. I had to go back and reread it, and once I did, I was good to go!

This novel is a magical combination of contemporary and fantastical elements, and I feel so lucky to have been able to read an advance copy. This is my first experience with a Stiefvater series, and for the most part I would say that it held up to the hype. You can bet I'll keep reading The Raven Cycle in the years to come.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Maggie Stiefvater's Website
Maggie Stiefvater on Twitter

Friday, October 19, 2012

Where's Your Bookmark? (14)

In which I talk about 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody.



Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Words: Character Connections

It will never cease to amaze me how much of an impact fictional people can have on my life. Perhaps it's the result of being a naturally shy person who took to reading at a very young age. I had trouble reaching out to people, scared of rejection, and so my closest companions were the characters in the books I read.

As far as I'm concerned, books are the closest a mere mortal like me will ever come to being a Time Lord like in Doctor Who. The Doctor told Amy Pond in their very first episode together, "So, all of time and space. Everything that every happened or ever will. Where do you want to start?" The same could be said when you walk into a book store or library - imagination is endless, and any book could take you anywhere. And characters are like companions as we get to see it all through their eyes, always there when we need them.

But eventually, every character's arc comes to an end. While they will always be in the pages or on the screen for when we need them, their story stops. A few weeks ago, I watched as my two favorite Doctor Who companions - Amy Pond and Rory Williams - appeared in their final episode with my favorite Doctor. I started watching the show when these three started on it, then went back and caught up on previous seasons. I was introduced to the Whovian universe through their eyes. But now these two actors are moving on to other things, so their characters have said goodbye. And I ache over it. I feel as if I've lost two friends. It's hardly the first time I've felt this way. When the final Harry Potter book came out and I finished reading it less than 24 hours later, it was like there was a void. At least in these cases, I was mostly okay with how things were wrapped up both times, but that element of sadness is still there.

And then I feel silly. I mean, these are Characters. In Fiction. As in, not real. Made up. Imaginary. John Green makes the point in The Fault in Our Stars: "We are speaking of a novel, dear child, not some historical enterprise...They're fictions...Nothing happens to them... But to be perfectly frank, this childish idea that the author of a novel has some special insight into the characters in the novel...it's ridiculous. That novel was composed of scratches on a page, dear. The characters inhabiting it have no life outside of those scratches. What happened to them? They all ceased to exist the moment the novel ended."

It makes sense. The rational part of me knows this. But the emotional, not so much (which is quite something considering the emotional attachment I felt to Green's characters in that book). We as people build emotional connections where and when we can, and crazy as it may be, I miss them and mourn the end of a book or a series or a story arc. Because to me, Albus Dumbledore, another amazing fictitious man, put it best: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" Of course these people never really walked the earth or traveled the universe in a TARDIS. But that doesn't mean the story doesn't matter or that it had any less of an effect or my feelings any less real.

So here's to the characters who have that amazing power to make us suspend the rules of reality, who make us feel and despite the fact they are fiction, still manage to be the best friends. And a huge thanks to the writers who share them with the world (and the actors who bring them to life). I can't speak for others, but I know I appreciate it. They all gave and give this shy girl a bit of hope.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reinventing a Classic: For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Balzar & Bray, 2012

I was 19 years old the first time I ever read Persuasion by Jane Austen, and this novel is a perfect example of the right book at the right time. While I love Pride & Prejudice, the story of Anne Elliot, a quiet girl who suffers silently because she tried to do the right thing and it resulted in her sacrificing her heart was one that I felt an instant connection to. This girl and I were kindred spirits, and it's a book that means a lot to me.

So when I heard there was a retelling coming out last spring, I was skeptical. However, I had no need to worry - it became very obvious to me early in For Darkness Shows the Stars that Peterfreund loves Persuasion just as much as I do.

Elliot North is a second daughter of a proud, horrible Baron, making her a Luddite, the upper class which rules ever since a genetic experiment gone wrong led to the Reduction. Luddite's reject technology and "playing God" and are to care for the lower classes who suffered. But for Elliot, the lines between right and wrong became severely blurred after her mother died and the boy she loved from a lower class, Kai, ran away. He wanted her to come with, but she chose to stay behind and care for the people who counted on her. Now, four years later, hard financial times have pushed Elliot to renting one of her family's estates to the Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders which includes the man who now goes by Captain Malakai Wentforth. She still loves him, he seems to detest her, and again circumstances arise forcing her to choose once again between what she was raised to believe or to put her trust in the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.

This book just does so many things right in my opinion. Elliot is a strong girl who struggles with her choices - everything about her world has become shades of gray. She cares deeply about the people on her family's estate, and they generally care very much for her as well, knowing that she's doing everything she can to keep them safe from her father. The writing is rich enough to give vision of this world, yet never burdensome in its attention to detail. I loved the sci-fi twist on how the class system is not just a matter of titles, but also genetics and science. Without giving away any spoilers, I'll simply say that I was so completely satisfied with this adaptation. While I would have liked a bit more towards for the end from Elliot and how she was able to overcome her stance on one particular but very important issue, I still loved this book and it is a beautiful homage to Austen's original.

If you are a Jane Austen fan who embraces adaptations as well as the originals, then For Darkness Shows the Stars is a must read.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Diana Peterfreund's Website

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday Words: Fall Rush

Fall is a particularly busy time of year for me and a lot of other people I know, though I feel like I'm saying that at practically any time of year. Maybe it just feels busier because it's a classic case of wishing I were doing other things instead of All The Things. Work is busy, there are tons of reading initiatives going on this month from Banned Books Week to Teen Read Week, and I have a great stack of books in my room that I can't wait to read, but there won't be time until I get through this weekend.

October is also a beautiful month as the world around me bursts into vibrant oranges and reds, and being inside feels positively criminal. I want to curl up with an afghan, a hot drink, a flannel shirt, and read a great story! Or better yet, write one!

SinceNovember is National Novel Writing Month for a lot of people, October might as well be National Novel Writing Prep Month. Outlines are being made, character names thought up, settings and random questions being researched all in the name of getting ready to pump out 50,000 words over the course of 30 days. Now I did NaNoWriMo for the first time last year and I was a winner. My 61,000 word manuscript consumed me, and in a lot of ways practically killed me. I stuck it in the metaphorical drawer once December came around and haven't looked at it again since. So this year, my November will instead be Get Back Into The Habit Of Doing Creative Writing Every Day Since I've Been Slacking Lately And Life Got A Little Bit Nuts There Month.

Oh, and much more reading. That too. And hopefully more Where's Your Bookmark? episodes will be coming your way as well.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Corsets & Clockwork: Part 2


I'm currently making my way through Corsets & Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances (Running Press, 2011). I'm new to all of the authors featured in this collection as well as the world of steampunk, so this has been an interesting read so far.

Story: Deadwood
Author: Michael Scott
Summary: Martha is traveling by airship west to California and meets the mysterious JW during the flight. When the ship makes an unexpected stop in Deadwood, South Dakota, the pair both believe that it's hardly the pleasant pit stop the crew claims it is.
Thoughts: Yeehaw! Scott has steampunk mashing up with a classic American western in this short story, and it was a really fun one! There's a lot of great action and banter in this story, and the conclusion was neatly done, being both tied up as well as open enough for future adventures between Martha and JW. This story makes me want to check out Scott's other works.

Story: Code of Blood
Author: Dru Pagliassotti
Summary: Chiara sneaks out of the house for the Festival of the Ascension and a night of fun, but her world and all of Venice is turned upside down when Napoleon's troops show up. Only a secret and mysterious organization known as the Guild and the apprentice Pietro can help her save her home and her grandfather, the doge of Venice.
Thoughts: This was an interesting story, and I was especially excited since I've actually been to Venice, but for whatever reason it just didn't grab me. This was definitely more on the fantasy side of things, and the characters just fell a bit flat in my opinion.

Story: The Clockwork Corset
Author: Adrienne Kress
Summary: When her childhood best friend, the boy she loves, is summoned to battlefront in the ongoing war, Imogen disguises herself as a boy and runs away to join the army, determined to keep him safe.
Thoughts: This story was cute, if a bit on the predictable side. Imogen was raised as a tomboy, and it's a good thing too because it gives her just the skills she needs to be able to pass as a boy in the army and participate in a mission to save her beloved Rafe. I liked this story well enough, and was more than fine with the fact that it was a short story because if this had been a novel, I would have been disappointed.

So that's it from me this time around. Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

1 Year Blogoversary & Giveaway!

On October 2, 2011 I had a brilliant idea. Why not start a blog to talk about the books I'm reading and share my opinions on book related things? I had absolutely no idea what exactly I was getting in to, but it's been fun nonetheless!

Over the last year, I have published 127 posts (including this one). I have met amazing other bloggers and writers. I have hosted a giveaway. I have entered the world of YouTube, become slightly addicted to Twitter, and fell in love with the incredible power of story telling and its ability to unite people in imagined as well as literal communities all over again.

My blog is a small one by anyone's standards, but I'm still proud of it, and a blogoversary is more than a good cause for celebration in my humble opinion. That's why YOU, dear readers, have the chance to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Maggie Stiefvater's latest novel, The Raven Boys, the first book in her planned Raven Cycle quartet. The usual rules apply (must be at least 13 years old and live in the US, etc. - see my blog policies for the whole list) - just fill out the Rafflecopter form below and check out your opportunities to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you all for your support, may the odds be ever in your favor, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Corsets & Clockwork: Part 1

In the spirit of trying something a little different and due to the fact that my crazy life lately means less time to be reading novels, I've decided to have sort of mini-reviews from time to time as I make my way through short story collections.

I'm currently making my way through Corsets & Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances (Running Press, 2011). I'm new to all of the authors featured in this collection as well as the world of steampunk, so this has been an interesting read so far.

Story: Rude Mechanicals
Author: Lesley Livingston
Summary: Quintillius Farthing loves the theatre and working for his uncle, but is frustrated by the dismal future he sees coming of his chosen profession. When a mysterious man builds an Actromatron to be the perfect actress and revive the theatre, he challenges Quint to direct her.
Thoughts: What a weird and fantastical concept! The story and situation is built up well, and I could empathize with Quint's desire for love and art. While I felt like the story's ending was a bit on the abrupt side, that's not uncommon with short stories. There was a twist I predicted, but it played out alright.

Story: The Cannibal Fiend of Rotherhithe
Author: Frewin Jones
Summary: Silka, a half-mermaid half-human unaware of her aquatic heritage, makes her way from the small town where she's never been allowed to leave her house to London, searching for her true love and eating men who try to harm her along the way.
Thoughts: This is not a story for the squeamish, that's for sure. Readers learn all about Silka's twisted beginnings with a cruel father, and I actually came to sympathize with her a bit as the story went on. Not that I condone Silka's eating people, but it wasn't entirely her fault. The voice was gritty and the story provoking.

Story: Wild Magic
Author: Ann Aguirre
Summary: Pearl has been born into the aristocracy and with magical abilities her family would rather pretend didn't exist, but when a boy named Pick tells her she is the key to helping the lower (and magical) class, she learns to control her abilities, celebrate what makes her different, has adventure, and falls in love.
Thoughts: I was so disappointed when this story ended because I loved it! This was perhaps the most 'traditional' romance in the collection so far, and Aguirre did such a great job building Pearl, her world, and this incredible situation. This story was less steampunky than the others, but was still very Victorian and I wish I could know what happens next!

So that's it from me for this time. Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday Words: Platonic People

It's hardly uncommon for teenage girls come up to me saying they're looking for books with romance. With YA lit today, it's a fairly easy order to fill. I feel like every other book on the shelf in our YA section has some sort of element of romance tied into it even if it's not the primary focus of the story. Even stories that aren't really 'romances' have it somewhere (a la Hunger Games and Divergent - it's the end of the world, but there's also kissing!)

Which brings me to my point: where have all the platonic people gone? Where are the books where guys and girls are just friends? Is it even possible, or were Harry and Sally right when they declared that guys and girls could never really be friends because sex always gets in the way? When I do see platonic friendships in YA lately, I feel like there's always some sort of twist on it. A guy and a girl are friends because one or both of them are gay, one or both of them are in relationships with other people, or they say they're just friends but clearly there's something else going on there.

I'm looking for recommendations, people, and writers out there, I'm looking for answers. Can platonic teen/young adult/new adult friendships happen in stories in lieu of romantic relationships, or would that be asking too much? Now I love romance and happy endings as much as the next reader, believe me, but as I get older, I realize this is a type of story I'd love to read and can't seem to find anywhere!

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Soul Searching: Inbetween

Inbetween by Tara Fuller
Entangled Teen, 2012

*Copy provided by publisher via NetGalley*

Ever since she was in a car crash two years ago that resulted in the death of her father, Emma has been a magnet for accidents, each of which come closer and closer to claiming her life. But Finn, a reaper who has been sent to collect her soul not once but twice, refuses to collect this time and devotes himself to keeping her alive. The two of them falling in love isn't just against the rules, but Finn is willing to do whatever it takes to keep Emma alive, battling the evil he accidentally unleashed on her life and willing to sacrifice the only thing he has left - his soul.

I've always been interested in books that explore 'what happens after we die' questions, so naturally this book was right up my alley. At first I found myself a bit frustrated - Fuller takes her time letting readers in onto the intricacies of what exactly Finn and Emma's situations are and how the business of souls, life, and death all work. I'm a reader who likes knowing more of the basics earlier on so I can then build off of that. However, as I kept going with the story, I can absolutely see why Fuller keeps you in the dark. For one piece of information in particular, it just makes its reveal that much more powerful.

Emma and Finn are both interesting characters facing unimaginable circumstances. Fuller did a really great job thinking about each of them in multiple dimensions, and her transitions between the chapters told from Finn's perspective and Emma's are seamless, allowing for you to see how each of them are dealing with this battle that goes beyond the usual stakes. I would have liked to see equal depth given to the secondary characters, but hopefully that will come with the next installment of the series.

Overall, I thought the story was okay. It was a quick read with an interesting premise, and I see this series as having potential. I wasn't blown away, but I could also see myself checking into book two eventually after it comes out and seeing what happens to Emma and Finn next.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Tara Fuller's Website
Tara Fuller on Twitter 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Words: High Hype Pressure

Read this book! You will LOVE it - everybody who's anybody does! Anybody else out there feel like this is an awful lot of pressure not only for a book to live up to, but also for people to love it as much as we're told we ought to?

It's a complicated feeling for me when it feels like everybody else seems to be totally in love with something that for whatever reason just doesn't spin my wheels. So many of my friends in high school thought The Catcher in the Rye was most amazing. Me? I kind of thought Holden was a phony, though I'll admit that when I read it a few years later, I didn't dislike it quite as much as I did the first time. But I hate admitting to people that I didn't care for it. I mean, it's a Classic and I'm a librarian. How could I NOT like this book? Simple: I just don't, and that's okay... Right?

I'm finding this happening again lately as I'm getting ready for the film adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by rereading the novel. Now I like this book. I like this tale of a freshman boy who is lost and a loner and finds friends and gains a feeling of belonging. But as I'm rereading, I find myself questioning if I really liked it so much the first time around, or did I just convince myself I liked it more than I did because it got so much hype? I mean, I'm rediscovering that Charlie is a kid with a lot of issues on his plate. Maybe it's because this time around, I'm reading it as a teacher and someone who works with teens. I'm identifying very strongly with his English teacher, Bill, and looking for warning signs. But I know better than to say this to some of my friends for fear they might slap me upside the head.

So long story short, I want to pose a question. What books have you read that you feel just didn't live up to the hype in your eyes, or did you feel pressured to like because 'everybody else does'?

Comments, comments please! I'm really interested to know people's thoughts on this!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Debut with Flash: Struck

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
Farrar, Straus and Giorux BYR, 2012

I'll say this for the debut author class of 2012: they are absolutely blowing me out of the park again and again and again. Struck, the debut novel by Jennifer Bosworth, is one of those books. The premise is incredible, the story has intense world building that is also remarkably realistic, and I've been telling everyone I know 'you have to read this book!'

Meet Mia Price: lightning addict. She's a human lightning rod who has been struck more times than she can count, and her affliction is the whole reason she, her mom, and her brother moved to Los Angeles in the first place - it barely rains there. But then the earthquake happened not so long ago, leaving the entire city in devastation. Rance Ridely Prophet, a televangelist with a large cult called the Followers, has announced the world will end in three days. There's also the Seekers, a group of people who want to take down Prophet and the Followers at any cost. Both sides have prophecies indicating that Mia is a central player in all of it. It doesn't seem to matter to anyone that she wants nothing to do with any of them - all she wants is to keep her family alive - but she also desperately wants to trust Jeremy, a stranger who says he wants to protect her. When the end of the world is on the line, Mia must risk everything to try to save what she loves.

Not since Katniss Everdeen have I come across such a strong protagonist. Mia is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her mother (who is suffering from PTSD) and her brother safe. She has an incredible ability that she'd rather not use because she hates bringing pain to others. She is incredibly complex and a survivor in every sense of the word.

Bosworth's world building here is also impecable. I've only been to LA once, but I have very little doubt that this is what the end of the world would look like there. The situations that arise and the fears that consume people within these pages are all incredibly realistic, as are the wide range of reactions.

Readers will be kept on their toes as they make their way through this story. Primary and secondary characters are all fully flushed out, and Bosworth does an especially good job with Jeremy in my opinion. All in all, this book has action, big questions, big emotions, and the fate of the world is on the line. I was blown away by this novel, and I cannot wait to see what Bosworth comes up with next.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Jennifer Bosworth's Website
JenniferBosworth on Twitter

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Haul

I'm not usually one for making a whole lot of book purchases (or win books) since I get most of what I read from the library, but the last couple of weeks proved to be an exception!


Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday Words: YA the New Chick Lit?

Earlier today, I came across a thought provoking article on BuzzFeed posing this very question: Is Young Adult Fiction the New Chick Lit? It's an interesting concept, and one that I inadvertently touched on a few weeks ago when I talked about the growing need for a New Adult genre. When it comes to chick lit, maybe I'm still not quite at the right age to be able to fully relate to it. Or maybe I'm just too jaded. I get annoyed reading about these protagonists in their mid-20s, living fabulously in a big city with a pretty decent job as someone's assistant, weekends filled with a bursting social life and their biggest problem is finding Mr. Right.

I mean, come on. Really? I'm 24 and I can honestly say that while I have been incredibly fortunate in my life, it doesn't look anything like that.

But I have no problems escaping into the world of YA for quite a lot of my fiction choices (which you probably already know if you're reading this little blog of mine haha). Because I've already survived my teen years somehow. I can relate to that level, or at least that age and time in my life. It can be messy and feel complicated (especially once you live through what comes next) and there are constant highs and lows you have to navigate. And thank goodness there are so many talented writers out there writing for young adults who refuse to believe that teenagers and fans of these books can't or don't want to handle the tough stuff, the big questions. It's simply not true and we know this because the bar is continually being raised and pushing the limits of genres time and time again.

So for me, I guess the answer is yes, YA has filled the void that a generation before me probably would have satisfied with chick lit. And I still hope that the emergence of New Adult happens and happens soon as a type of literature more in line with what other 20-somethings like myself can find on bookshelves, with protagonists and stories we can relate to.

But what do you all think? Comments are always welcome, and happy reading!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Pirate's Life for Her: The Dust of 100 Dogs

The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
Flux, 2009

In the 1600s, teenager Emer Morrisey has already seen more than most have in a lifetime, which isn't a surprise since she's become one of the most successful and feared of pirates. But a hard life grows harder when on a beach in Jamaica, just after having buried her treasure so she can return to it later, the love of her life is killed and Emer is cursed to live 100 lives as a dog before she can be human again. Three hundred years later, she's reborn as Saffron Adams, her memories from all her lives completely intact, and with one goal in mind: get back to that beach and reclaim what's hers.

Awesome premise, right? In her debut novel, A.S. King set the bar high and leads readers into the fantastic world of magical realism. It's a story telling trope that isn't so commonly used, but when King utilizes it, it blows me away time after time.

The story has not one but two protagonists in Saffron and Emer - they are two very different girls, but Saffron is in a unique situation in that while she holds all of Emer's memories, she's not exactly Emer. Reincarnation is a tricky business, after all. They each have different goals and personalities, but are undeniably linked. The novel goes back and forth between each girl's story, building up to how each of them have lives leading to a Jamaican beach. Portions of the text are also dedicated to Fred Livingstone, the reincarnation of the Frenchman who cursed Emer and killed her love all those centuries ago.

All in all, I really liked the book. It's a fun premise, Emer and Saffron are both incredibly well rounded and deep characters, and there's light shone on parts of history that I never really thought about before (such as Cromwell's invasion of Ireland). As usual, King is never afraid of taking on the things that others may deem too gritty or unpleasant for readers to want to explore, and I admire that. She is a rockstar, standout author in my mind because she never underestimates her audience - in fact, she challenges them to rise up. If I'm honest, though, I wasn't in love with this story the way that Please Ignore Vera Dietz completely consumed me. I enjoyed it, I'm glad to have read it, but some books just take a tighter hold of you than others, I suppose.

If you want to dive into the world of magical realism, pirates, strong girls, and stories that refuse to paint the world in black and white, then I highly recommend giving The Dust of 100 Dogs a read.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

A.S. King's Website
A.S. King on Twitter