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

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.


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 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