Friday, September 30, 2011

Best of the Bunch: September 2011

Best of the Bunch is a meme hosted by Lyrical of Lyrical Reviews, where we highlight our favorite read from the past month--our "hot pick, top read, must-put-it-on-your-reading-list-immediately book."

My favorite read in September was "Uncommon Criminals," by Ally Carter (read my review here). It was so ridiculously fun to read. I loved the characters and the hijinks and the witty dialog . . . I loved everything about it, really. It's the sequel to "Heist Society," which was my Best of the Bunch pick for last month. I'm not big on sequels, so I was worried "Uncommon Criminals" wouldn't live up to "Heist Society," but it totally did. And, even better, you don't have to have read "Heist Society" for this one to make sense--it's an awesome adventure all on its own. If you haven't started this series yet, you really, really need to!

-"The Piper's Son," by Melina Marchetta (my review)
-"We'll Always Have Summer," by Jenny Han (my review)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (11)

Book Blogger Hop
Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books.

“In honor of Banned Books Week, what is your favorite banned or frequently challenged book”?”

My favorite from 2010-2011 list is "Speak," by Laurie Halse Anderson. I think rather than banning this book, it should instead be on reading lists for high schools. It portrays the effects of sexual assault on victims so vividly, and I think sexual assault and bullying are subjects that should be discussed more often in schools.

My favorite from other years is "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee. This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I've never understood why there are so many people against it. My guess is because it has a story line of a black man assaulting a white woman. If that's the case, I think it's actually a good idea to study the book in high schools, since it can be used to explore pre-civil rights race relations.

Don't forget to enter my Heck-yes-it's-my-birthday Giveaway! Open until September 30.

Follow Friday (13)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q. What book that hasn't been turned into a movie (yet) would you most like to see make it to the big screen, and who would you like cast as your favorite character?

I think "Heist Society" and "Uncommon Criminals," by Ally Carter, would translate really well into movies--they're funny and full of action and have fantastic characters.

I also think "Dash & Lily's Book of Dares," by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, would be awesome as a movie. All that running around New York during Christmastime doing crazy stuff would be so much fun to watch.

I really don't know who I would cast--the only teen actors I'm familiar with are from Disney Channel shows/movies, and while I love the Disney Channel stars, I'm not sure I love them enough to want them cast in anything outside the Disney Channel.

Don't forget to enter my Heck-yes-it's-my-birthday Giveaway! Open until September 30.

Review: Epic Fail

Epic Fail, by Claire LaZebnik. The summary:
At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:

As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school--not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.
Everyone who’s read this book has been raving about how cute it is--and they’re totally right. This is the most adorable and fluffy book (sounds like a kitten…) I’ve read in a while. It’s a modernization of “Pride and Prejudice,” so of course it’s completely predictable for anyone who’s ever read the book or seen the movie. But it still manages to be a lot of fun to read. I don’t really know why that is. Usually predictable books get on my nerves after a while, but this one never did--I think it’s probably because although I knew basically WHAT would happen, I didn’t know HOW it would happen.

The characters are super likeable, if a little superficial. I love Elise (the Elizabeth equivalent). She’s sarcastic and funny and down to earth. I would totes be friends with her in real life. And I liked how close she and her sister Juliana were, although I did think they were the kind of close that can only be found in fiction. Having six sisters myself, I pretty sure it’s impossible for Elise and Juliana to go for as long as they do without fighting, no matter how close they are.

I also loved watching the development of Derek (the Darcy equivalent). He seems like a total jerk at first, but as I found out more about his life as the son of famous actors, I could get why he acted the way he did. And I liked that he and Elise actually spend some time together and get to know each other, unlike Elizabeth and Darcy in P&P. It made their relationship more believable.

Overall, this was a light and clever adaptation. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone--I mean, a 10-year-old could read this and not find anything objectionable in it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable for those of us who enjoy a good YA romance--I mean, it’s “Pride and Prejudice” after all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Springsweet

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

The Springsweet (The Vespertine #2)
by Saundra Mitchell
17 April 2012

The GoodReads summary:
It’s a long way from Baltimore to Oklahoma Territory. But Zora Stewart will go any distance to put the tragic events of her sixteenth summer behind her. So this city girl heads to the tiny frontier town of West Glory to help her young widowed aunt keep her homestead going.

When another Baltimorean shows up in West Glory, Zora couldn’t be more surprised. Theo de la Croix made the long trip out west hoping to court Zora, whom he has long admired from afar.

But Zora has developed an attraction to a rather less respectable fellow: Emerson Birch, a rough-mannered young "sooner" whose fertile land is coveted.

As Zora begins to suspect that there may be more than luck behind Emerson’s good land, she discovers an extraordinary, astonishing power of her own: the ability to sense water under the parched earth. When her aunt hires her out as a "springsweet" to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora feels the burden of holding the key to something so essential to survival in this unforgiving land.

Even more, she finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water. Maybe, in the wildness of the territories, Zora can finally move beyond simply surviving and start living.

A) I'm so in love with this cover! B) This book sounds so ridiculously fantastic. This is only the second YA novel I've seen set in the old west (with the other being "13th Child," by Patricia C. Wrede), and I love westerns, so the setting's definitely working in this book's favor. Plus it's got some magic going on, which only makes me want to read it more. I haven't actually read "The Vespertine" yet, but as far as I can tell, this book has different main characters. So hopefully if I don't get around to reading "The Vespertine" before this one comes out, I'll still be fine.

Don't forget to enter my Heck-yes-it's-my-birthday Giveaway! Open until September 30.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mini-Review: By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead

Mini-reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but am too lazy or too busy to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I liked from the book.

By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead, by Julie Anne Peters. The summary:
Daelyn Rice is broken beyond repair, and after a string of botched suicide attempts, she’s determined to get her death right. She starts visiting a website for “completers”--www.

While she’s on the site, Daelyn blogs about her life, uncovering a history of bullying that goes back to kindergarten. When she’s not on the Web, Daelyn’s at her private school, where she’s known as the freak who doesn’t talk.

Then, a boy named Santana begins to sit with her after school while she’s waiting to for her parents to pick her up. Even though she’s made it clear that she wants to be left alone, Santana won’t give up. And it’s too late for Daelyn to be letting people into her life…isn’t it?

National Book Award finalist Julie Anne Peters shines a light on how bullying can push young people to the very edge.
Obviously this book was a bit of a downer; it deals with suicide and bullying and self-hatred, and since it’s all from the first-person perspective of Daelyn, it’s pretty intense. It was a bit like watching a car wreck for me--really tragic but I couldn’t look away. Since I’ve been lucky enough not to have to deal with the issues Daelyn does, I found it kinda hard to connect with her; sometimes I really didn’t understand her way of thinking or her motivation, and that made it tough for me to empathize with her. And I felt like the resolution at the end was too rushed, which is a little sad because I felt like after all Daelyn’s been through, she deserved way more than that. Overall, I think this is a book that should be read, because it deals with tough subjects that I don’t think get brought up enough, but it’s not exactly the easiest book to read due to the intense subjects and emotions.

The quote, p. 67:
I wish I could tell my parents, “If you want to help me, help me die.”
I wonder, Are they required to fill out a 24-hour suicide watch form? Is The Defect at home? Check. Is It alive? Check.

Why did they bother with the corrective surgery on my throat anyway? Waste of money. They threw away, or hid from me, everything with sharp edges, or breakable. Picture frames. Pottery. Did they think they could suicide-proof this place?

I want to tell them, “Chip, Kim, there is no way to suicide-proof a person.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Hourglass

Hourglass, by Myra McEntire. The summary:
For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.
So honestly? I’m not sure how I feel about this book. There were so many things that drove me crazy, and admittedly I was tempted to give up a couple times. For one, the writing was definitely not my type--it was a little too melodramatic for my tastes. I was seriously rolling my eyes at least once per page. Like this description of Michael:
His black hair was on the longish side--no help there either. Casually sexy, but no definitive style. I focused on his face. Clean shaven, but I’d bet his five o’clock shadow was heavy. Wickedly arched eyebrows accented long-lidded dark eyes. Olive skin suggested Mediterranean ancestors, and his defined cheekbones were congruous with the angles of his face. The exception was his very full mouth. His lips disturbed me.
HIS LIPS DISTURBED ME?!? Do you see what I’m talking about?!? I really cannot handle over-the-top writing. It’s the one thing guaranteed to turn me off a book.

And, in case you couldn’t tell from the excerpt above, this book has a major case of insta-love going on. Admittedly, there’s an explanation for why Emerson and Michael are crazy about each other from the start, but that doesn’t explain why Kaleb, Michael’s friend, falls for Emerson immediately too. It was seriously getting ridiculous. Especially since I wasn’t particularly fond of Emerson. I really could not see why these two smokin’ hot guys were so in love with her.

But the book did have redeeming qualities. The plot itself was pretty interesting actually--even if it didn’t get started until three-fourths of the way through the book. And there was one plot point towards the very end that I definitely did not see coming, so I totally loved that. Another redeeming quality was Emerson’s brother and sister-in-law. They were such good people. It takes a lot of love to deal with someone with as big of problems as Emerson has. Oh, and of course the two hot guys mentioned above didn’t hurt. Even if it did annoy me that they were both in love with Emerson for no reason.

Overall, this wasn’t really my type of book because of the writing and the whole insta-love thing, but I am glad that I didn’t give up on it. The last fourth of the book really saved it, in my opinion. I probably won’t be picking up the sequel, but if you’re more of a paranormal fan than I am, this book might be more to your taste than it was to mine.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Follow Friday (12)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q. Do you have a favorite series that you read over and over again? Tell us a bit about it and why you keep on revisiting it?

I'm not generally big on series--something about the same characters and the same plot book after book tends to annoy me, especially in YA fiction. But I do love the Twelve Houses series, by Sharon Shinn. It's a fantasy series that follows a band of friends, some of whom are mystics and some of whom are king's soldiers, as they fight to keep the royal family from being overthrown and to save the kingdom. That's a crappy summary, I know. I promise the books themselves are much more interesting than that.

I love the Twelve Houses books because they all follow the same group of friends, but each book focuses on a different character. So I love that I don't get tired of the characters, because I get to spend time with a different one each time. Also those books all have such great romances going on. I'm the type who always needs at least a vaguely romantic story line somewhere in the plot, and the Twelve Houses books have adventure and fighting and magic PLUS swoony romances.

Other series I like:
-The Sevenwaters series, by Juliet Marillier
-Lady Julia Grey series, by Deanna Raybourn
-Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede
-The Bridgerton series, by Julia Quinn

Don't forget to enter my Heck-yes-it's-my-birthday Giveaway! Open until September 30.

Review: Moonglass

Moonglass, by Jessi Kirby. The GoodReads summary:
Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.

While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.
Generally, this book reminded me a lot of “Stay,” by Deb Caletti--a girl and her father move to a beach house years after the mother has died, and the girl starts to deal with the emotional repercussions of mom’s death. But where “Stay,” also deals with the main character’s crazy stalker ex-boyfriend, “Moonglass” stays completely focused on the main character (Anna) trying to finally come to grips with her mother’s death.

There really isn’t much plot in this book, to tell the truth. There’s the main plot of Anna learning more about her mother, and the secondary plotline of her budding romance with local lifeguard Tyler, but nothing ever really happens action-wise. That didn’t bother me since I love teen-angsty books and I felt like the book was short enough that it didn’t cause the book to drag, but I could see where it could bug other, more plot-oriented people.

For some reason I really like Anna’s relationship with Tyler. Which is maybe a little surprising since he’s a bit of a blah character. I think what I like about it was that Anna had to work to get his attention. A lot of times in YA contemporaries, the guy immediately notices the girl and gets all flirty right away. But with Anna and Tyler, she notices him first, thinks he’s hot, then proceeds to put herself in situations where he’s sure to see her, like sun-tanning in his lifeguard area and going to the lifeguard party. So their relationship isn’t maybe as cute as in other YAs, but I think its development is definitely one of the more realistic and natural ones I’ve read in a while.

Overall, I liked this book, but it was pretty low key, so I could see where it might not be other people’s cup of tea. But if you do like books that are bigger on character development than plot, definitely give this one a shot.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Born Wicked

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1)
by Jessica Spotswood
7 February 2012

GoodReads summary:
Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

This is exactly my kind of book. Witches, mysteries, forbidden romance . . . and did I mention witches? I'm not always a fan of paranormal, but I've always loved books about witches. I'm not really sure why. Probably because of Morwen in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patrica C. Wrede.

But I digress, I'm really looking forward to this one. It just sounds like it'll be an engrossing read. Plus the cover is SO PRETTY. And I'm willing to forgive a lot in a book if it has a pretty cover . . .

Don't forget to enter my Heck-yes-it's-my-birthday Giveaway! Open until September 30.

Review: Imaginary Girls

Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma. The summary:
Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
First off, I really liked the writing style, that’s for sure. It was crisp, but at the same time haunting and beautiful. And I enjoyed the paranormal element of the city of Olive submerged in the reservoir, with its population of people who refused to leave and by sheer power of will managed to survive underwater. And even more than that, I love the uncertainty of Olive--it’s never quite clear how much is true of the stories Ruby tells about it and the things Chloe imagines. And I really loved the idea that Ruby could control a whole town through sheer force of will. There’s a part where she tells Chloe that it’s not magic, and it really isn’t--it’s Ruby being Ruby. Ruby’s one of the strongest, most unique characters I’ve read about in a while.

But two things tripped me up with this book. I’m pretty sure the author did them at least semi-intentionally, but they bothered me all the same. The first is Ruby’s relationship with Chloe. I think it’s amazing that they have such a tight, close relationship, but at the same time I found it a little . . . creepy? Like, Ruby’s doing what she’s doing to protect Chloe, but it’s so controlling and stifling. And it’s worse because Chloe doesn’t seem to notice. She’s so wrapped up in Ruby that she doesn’t care that she’s not living her own life--she’s only living the one Ruby wants her to live. Which leads me to the second thing that bothered me: Chloe isn’t much of a character. It’s like she’s only an extension of Ruby and only exists as a vehicle to tell Ruby’s story. And, I don’t know, I just think main characters should be more memorable than that.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book, but it’s not one that I’m going to be reading again and again. It was kind of a disconcerting read, and it never really left me feeling satisfied. That would usually bug me, but since I have the feeling that’s what the author intended, I’m okay with it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Siren

Siren, by Tricia Rayburn. The GoodReads summary:
Vacationing in Winter Harbor, Maine, is a tradition for Vanessa and Justine Sands, and that means spending time with the Carmichael boys. This summer, Vanessa is determined to channel some of her older sister’s boldness, get over her fear of the ocean, and maybe turn her friendship with Simon Carmichael into something much more.

But when Justine goes cliff-diving after a big family argument, and her body washes ashore the next day, Vanessa is sure that it was more than an accident. She is more certain of this, when she discovers that her sister was keeping some big secrets and Caleb Carmichael’s gone missing. Suddenly, the entire oceanfront town is abuzz when a series of grim, water-related accidents occur, with the male victims washed ashore grinning from ear to ear.

Vanessa and Simon team up to figure out if these creepy deaths have anything to do with Justine and Caleb. But will what Vanessa discovers mean the end of her summer romance, or even life as she knows it?
This book did not suck nearly as badly as I thought it was going to. That is my basic feeling about it. I really had low expectations of it based on the fact that 1) I’d never heard anything about it, 2) it’s YA paranormal, and I am not a big fan of the genre, and 3) it was recommended to me by my sister (and we tend to have WAY different tastes in books). But it ended up being fairly alright--and maybe even enjoyable. Actually, I think “engrossing” is the best word to describe it; like, I had issues with some stuff in the book, but I still couldn’t put it down.

I really enjoyed the writing style of the book--it was unobtrusive and not as over the top as some YA paranormals can be. And the author just straight up knows how to tell a good story: it starts out so normal, then slowly you get pulled into the world of Winter Harbor and its crazy weather . . . and, oh yeah, the SIRENS! This is the only book I’ve read that deals with sirens, so this is terra incognita for me, but I totally got sucked into the whole beautiful-women-luring-men-to-their-deaths mystery. I do wish, though, that we were given more insight into the sirens--like why they’re doing what they’re doing and how. Because as they are now in the book, they’re cool, but also sadly flat.

Vanessa was a pretty likeable main character. Easy to relate to. Normal. She did start getting on my nerves after a while with her constant “I’m afraid of EVERYTHING,” but by the time it really started getting annoying, the plot had shifted (and gotten WAY more exciting), so it stopped bugging me. Simon was a kinda boring love interest, but he didn’t frustrate or bug me either, so that’s good, I guess.

And the book’s got a beach house. What is up with all these books recently taking place at beach houses? I swear, every other book I’ve read lately takes place at the beach. It makes me start thinking a beach house would be awesome, even though I know I HATE the beach. This is how reading messes with my mind.

So overall, this wasn’t a book I’m gonna run out and buy for myself or anything, but I did end up having fun with it. There were a few character and plot issues, but nothing to really turn me off. So if you’re looking for a good end-of-summer paranormal, give this one a shot.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (10)

Book Blogger Hop
Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books.

“As a book blogger, how do you introduce yourself in your profile?”

Hmmm...I think I pretty much fail when it comes to my Blogger profile. I guess I never really though it was super important, so mine is just really general and basic. I don't think it's that important that readers etc. know everything about me, since it's my opinion of books that they're probably coming to my blog to read rather than coming because they have a burning desire to know more about me as an individual. But who knows? Maybe after reading everyone else's responses to this hop question, I'll be motivated to make my profile more detailed.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Follow Friday (11)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q. It's that pesky magic book fairy again! She has another wish: What imaginary book world would you like to make a reality?

Wow, for once the FF question didn't stump me--hands down I would pick the world of any of Sarah Addison Allen's books (Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, The Peach Keeper). They all take place in the South (North Carolina, maybe?), in friendly small towns where magic is a part of life. But it's not like Harry Potter magic. It's more subtle. Like books that always turn up when you need them, and wallpaper that reflects your mood, and coffee choices that reveal your personality, and food that changes how you're feeling, and a sweet-sense that always lets you know when there's sugar nearby. It's magic that's a part of normal life--it's the magic of the everyday variety. And I love it so, so much. I would definitely pick that world to be real out of any others that I can think of.

Don't forget to enter my Heck-yes-it's-my-birthday Giveaway! Open until September 30.

Mini-Review: Supernaturally

Mini-reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but am either too lazy or too busy to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I liked from the book.

Supernaturally, by Kiersten White. Sequel to Paranormalcy. The summary:
Evie finally has the normal life she’s always longed for. But she’s shocked to discover that being ordinary can be . . . kind of boring. Just when Evie starts to long for her days at the International Paranormal Containment Agency, she’s given a chance to work for them again. Desperate for a break from all the normalcy, she agrees.

But as one disastrous mission leads to another, Evie starts to wonder if she made the right choice. And when Evie’s faerie ex-boyfriend Reth appears with devastating revelations about her past, she discovers that there’s a battle brewing between the faerie courts that could throw the whole supernatural world into chaos. The prize in question? Evie herself.

So much for normal.
I’ll admit I was a little disappointed by this one; I loved “Paranormalcy” so, so much, and I was hoping that “Supernaturally” would be just as good. I mean, it was fun to hang out with Evie (“oh bleep!”) and Lend again, and I’m definitely still keeping Evie on my list of literary bffs because she’s so snarky and down to earth. And I did enjoy meeting Jack and getting to getting to know Arianna (I think that’s her name) better. But I felt like this sequel didn’t have much substance--like it was all filler and the whole time was spent with Evie discovering stuff rather than things actually happening. It was kinda like getting cotton candy when all I really want is double-fudge mocha ice cream--fluffy and sweet but nowhere near as satisfying.

The quote:
Since school started a month ago, there hasn't been a single catfight. No wild parties where the cops got called, either. And as far as masquerade balls and moonlit rendezvous and passionate kisses in the hallways, well, all I can say is Easton Heights, my former favorite TV show, has taken a serious hit in my estimation.

I still think lockers are awesome, though.

Don't forget to enter my Heck-yes-it's-my-birthday Giveaway! Open until September 30.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Saving June

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

Saving June, by Hannah Harrington
336 pages
22 November 2011

GoodReads summary:
Harper Scott, trying to come to terms with her perfect older sister June's suicide, takes a road trip and finds love with a mysterious boy who had a connection to June--and may know more about her sister's life and death than he's telling.

I don't know what it is about road trips, but they make for awesome books. So I'm totes excited for "Saving June," especially since all the pre-release reviews have been pretty favorable so far. Also, I love this cover. The girl creeps me out a little, but I love the faded-photograph feel it's got going on.

Don't forget to enter my Heck-yes-it's-my-birthday Giveaway! Open until September 30.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Uncommon Criminals

Uncommon Criminals, by Ally Carter. The summary:
Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend--the gorgeous Hale--and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.
I was so nervous going into this book. I LOVED “Heist Society” so unbelievably much--so that, paired with the fact that I’m usually disappointed with sequels, made me start this one with caution. But by, like, page 5, all my fears were put to rest. I fell right back into Ally Carter’s world without any effort at all, and I was so happy to be back with Kat and her gang.

I adored Kat in the first book and I liked her just as much in this one. She didn’t loose any of her appeal, and she’s just as funny and brave and smart in this one as she was in “Heist Society.” And her crew is back in this book as well--Gabrielle, Simon, Nick, Angus, Hamish. And Hale, of course. Where would these books even be without Hale? Hale is as completely wonderful in this book as he was in the last, and I never get tired of admiring the way he’s always there for Kat, no matter what.

The heist in this sequel is a ton of fun as well. It was full of twists and turns, and it never seemed to go the way I predicted. Which is a good thing. It got to the point where I couldn’t tell what were mistakes and what was part of the con and who was on which side, and I love every second. I did have to reread the ending to get what finally happened, but after I did I was like, “Ally Carter’s a freakin’ genius!”

So, yeah, in case you couldn’t tell, I loved this book just as much as the first one. Maybe even a teensy-weensy bit more, just because the con was more drawn out so you get to see more action. And you don’t even need to read the first book for this one to make sense. Obvs I think you should read both, but I’m just saying if for some reason you can’t find a copy of “Heist Society,” “Uncommon Criminals” is a perfectly lovely place to start too.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: The Piper’s Son

The Piper’s Son, by Melina Marchetta. The GoodReads summary:
Melina Marchetta's brilliant, heart-wrenching new novel takes up the story of the group of friends from her best-selling, much-loved book Saving Francesca - only this time it's five years later and Thomas Mackee is the one who needs saving.

Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.

But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle's death.

And in a year when everything's broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.
In the interest of full disclosure, Melina Marchetta wrote one of my all-time favorite books, “Jellicoe Road,” so I’m maybe just a tiny bit biased when it comes to her books. But not that biased, because her other books are all ridiculously awesome in their own right. Marchetta’s just one of those straight-up, undeniably talented writers. And “The Piper’s Son” is AMAZING. Lemme just say it again, in case you some how missed it: AMAAAAAAAZING.

It was a fairly painful book to read, to be honest. Tom and his family are hurting so much from what’s happened to them, what they’ve done to each other, and what they’ve done to themselves, that it made me ache for them. And sometimes I couldn’t see how they would ever get over the things tripping them up and find their way back to being the close family they were. But that just made every little step they made in the right direction that much more powerful.

There are two stories in this book: Tom’s and his aunt Georgie’s. Really, sometimes I just wanted to strangle Tom, because he can be such a tool. He would just do or say stuff that had me going, “What is WRONG with you?!? Why are you doing/saying that!?!” But fortunately, Tom’s an innately likeable character, so that combined with his ability to recognize he’s being a jerk and feel sorry about it, totally redeemed him in my eyes. Georgie, on the other hand, I loved from the beginning. The whole storyline with her and Sam was so bittersweet and worth it (chapter 29—holla!). I could’ve read a whole book just about those two. Which is not to say I didn’t love Tom’s story, because I did, I just liked Georgie’s a tiny bit more.

But, yeah, this book was so powerful. It deals with forgiveness, guilt, family, friends (Tom’s friends are so, so awesome—three words: Brisbane road trip), fixing past mistakes, and a whole bunch of things that combine to make this book so completely wonderful. And it’s not just a superficial attempt to deal with these themes, either—it’s not completely tied up with a bow at the end or anything. It all feels so REAL.

So definitely read this book. It’s classified as YA, but I don’t know if I’d put it in that genre since Tom’s 21 and Georgie’s 42. But no matter the genre, this book is for sure worth the heartache. Because, you know that feeling you get when a book does something so perfectly that it kinda feels like you’ve got butterflies in your stomach?—this book gave that feeling so many times.

P.S. This book is a companion novel to “Saving Francesca,” but you don’t have to have read that one to understand this one. But you should read “Saving Francesca” anyway, since it’s fantastic.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Heck-yes-it's-my-birthday Giveaway

Guess what! It's my birthday in only 9 DAYS!!! The thing I love most about my birthday is getting presents, so I thought I'd give you guys a present too, cuz I figure everyone probably loves presents as much as I do. So I'm giving away two books: a copy of "The Iron King," by Julie Kagawa (Iron Fey series #1--everyone and their mom loves this series) and a SIGNED copy of "Enclave," by Ann Aguirre (this book is intense, guys)! Which means there'll be two lucky winners. And you don't even have to be a GFC follower.

Just fill out THIS FORM. (Make sure you read the requirements/rules at the top). Giveaway over.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (9)

Book Blogger Hop
Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books.

“Many of us primarily read one genre of books, with others sprinkled in. If authors stopped writing that genre, what genre would you start reading? Or would you give up reading completely if you couldn’t read that genre anymore?”

I read almost exclusively YA, so if I couldn't read that anymore, my reading habits would definitely have to change a lot. I've only been reading YA for the last 6 or 7 years, but I seriously cannot imagine my reading life without it! The other genres I read besides YA are chic lit, romantic suspense, and women's fiction, with a few romance novels thrown in (apparently I have super girly reading tastes). So I'd probably end up reading way more of those genres. I also might try to get back into straight-up mysteries, since I was really into those in high school. But basically, even if my precious YAs were taken away from me, I'd still find something to read, cuz I love reading way too much to ever stop.

Follow Friday (10)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q. Have you ever wanted a villain to win at the end of a story? If so, which one??

This one's hard for me, since I tend to read a lot of contemporary YA, which doesn't usually have straight-up villains. Usually the "villains" in those books are whatever issue the main character is dealing with.

The only villain I can think of that I got attached to was Ty from "Stolen," by Lucy Christopher--and that was more of a messed up Stockholm Syndrome type of attachment. Cuz on the one hand he's hot and kinda nice, but on the other he's a CRAZY KIDNAPPER. So it's not like I actually wanted him to win, but at the same time I kept thinking, "Maybe this will turn out to all be a big mistake, and he'll turn out to be a good guy in the end!" Which obvs doesn't happen, due to the fact that he's a crazy kidnapper. So, yeah, obviously I've got mixed feeling about him as a villain. You can read my review of "Stolen" here.

Review: Forgotten

Forgotten, by Cat Patrick. The summary (from GoodReads):
Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that's left is a note telling her about a day she can't remember. The whole scenario doesn't exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can't seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can't make sense of, she realizes it's time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting--before it destroys her future.
The premise for this book was fascinating, actually. Someone who can remember the future but not the past? Awesome. But it took me pretty much the entire book to figure out how London’s memory works. I was so confused for at least the first half of the book, because there’s not a part where London helpfully explains how her memory works and why it’s that way. And I’m still not sure I completely understand it--like, she doesn’t remember events from the past, but she does remember skills like how to do math or whatever. And she remembers most people in her life, but only because she recognizes them from the future. And she won’t remember the future memories from yesterday, unless she remembers them again. Or something like that. Seriously I was SO confused. I still am, kinda. No wonder London writes EVERYTHING down.

This book has a romance, but since London and Luke are together from almost the beginning of the book, there’s pretty much zero romantic tension. But I did think it was fascinating how because of a whole thing involving London not being able to remember Luke from the future, each day she wakes up essentially meeting her boyfriend for the first time. How weird would that be? But apparently between her notes and the fact that Luke’s a total hottie, London doesn’t mind the fact that she keeps forgetting him.

The only major issue I had with the book was that there wasn’t really an overall driving plotline to give the book tension and direction. It was mostly London working out stuff about her memories. I guess there were two plot lines--one involving a family mystery and one involving a friend in trouble--that kinda acted to give the book a sense of purpose, but I didn’t think either one was well-enough developed to give the book the definitive direction it needed.

But overall, I did end up enjoying the book. I was kinda confused for most of it, and the lack of a driving plotline made it seem to drag on at parts, but the concept was interesting enough to keep me reading. I don’t know if there’s going to be a sequel, but I probably wouldn’t pick it up if there was. However, I would pick up another book by this author, because she’s definitely creative and I liked the writing style.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Past Perfect

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

Past Perfect, by Leila Sales
322 pages
4 October 2011

From GoodReads:
All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.

Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it…

I really enjoyed Sales' other book, "Mostly Good Girls," which was basically one of the most HILARIOUS books that I've read in a while. I don't know the author, but I suspect I was somehow the basis for the main character in that book, because she is totes almost EXACTLY like me. So needless to say, I'm really excited for Sales' next book to come out.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mini-review: Once Was Lost

Mini-reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but am either too lazy or too busy to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I liked from the book.

Once Was Lost, by Sara Zarr. The summary:
As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy into the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reasons to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI, and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town goes missing, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.

In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed--about God, your family, and yourself--is transformed.
Sara Zarr is one of those authors who tends to write books (“Story of a Girl,” “Sweethearts”) that I appreciate but don’t fall in love with--like, I enjoy them once but don’t read them again, or if some asks me I’ll be like, “It was good” but I don’t go out of my way to recommend them to everyone I meet. And “Once Was Lost” falls into that category too--it was good, but we’re not setting a wedding date or anything, ya know? But it was definitely a solid book--well-written, great characters, tough issues--and I honestly can never figure out why I don’t adore Sara Zarr, since those are all the things I love in a book; we just don’t click I guess. I thought it was pretty gutsy for Zarr to deal with teen spirituality, since it’s a subject most YAs don’t ever deal with; and Zarr deals with it fairly well--it doesn’t feel like the author’s pushing one way or the other about religion, but still Sam’s struggles feel honest and understandable. Overall, a really great book, especially considering it deals with religious faith, a fairly taboo YA subject; the ending was maybe a little too perfect, but since I like happy endings I was willing to overlook it.

The quote, pg. 100:
All I can do is nod. He touches my hair. I look at him. Considering everything, he might actually be doing his best. I’m disappointed but also know that if I really thought about it, I could probably come up with at least as many times he’s kept his word as times he hasn’t. Most of all I want to believe--in him, in God, in our family--the way I used to. It used to be that there was always one of them I could count on. If Dad was lost in his work, Mom and I had each other, even if it wasn’t perfect. If Mom was lost in her drinking, Dad would pull us together and get us back on track. And I was always sure God hovered around there among us, somehow.

Right now it’s like we’re three islands, and nothing but oceans between us.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Review: We’ll Always Have Summer

We’ll Always Have Summer, by Jenny Han.

First off, there are some minor spoilers in this review. I don't think it's anything beyond what you’d already know from reading the summary, but still, if you haven't read the previous two books and don't want to know anything about what has happened/will happen, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now, the summary:
Belly has only ever been in love with two boys, both with the last name Fisher. And after being with Jeremiah for the last two years, she’s almost positive he is her soul mate.


Conrad has not gotten over the mistake he made when he let Belly go even as Jeremiah has always known that Belly is the girl for him. So when Belly and Jeremiah decide to make things forever, Conrad realizes that it’s now or never--tell Belly he loves her, or lose her for good. Belly will have to confront her feelings for Jeremiah and Conrad and face a truth she has possibly always known: she will have to break one of their hearts.
I don’t know how I feel about this book. On the one hand I love it, because it’s got some of my favorite fictional people in it--Belly, Jeremiah, Conrad--and I can’t ever get enough of them. Jenny Han just makes them feel so REAL. You see their silly sides and their good qualities and their annoying habits. You see the depth of their friendship and the pain they put each other through. You see why they’ve fallen in love and why they’ll never get over it. You see everything about them.

But on the other hand, gah! this book was just so ridiculously painful to read. In the two previous books, there was definitely a love triangle going on, but it didn’t feel so monumental to me, since they’re basically just kids. But in this book, I hurt for everyone involved. Because Jeremiah and Conrad both love Belly so, so much, and she loves them both too--just in different ways. She’s been dating Jeremiah for two years and what she feels for him is honest, but at the same time, she still has real feelings for Conrad. And they’re adults now (well, 18 to 20--so not REAL adults, but still, they’re technically adults), so their decisions have that much more consequence. They’re making decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives. And the whole time I wanted them to make the right choices, but even I didn’t know what I thought the right choices were.

After reading the second book (It's Not Summer Without You), I was totally on Team Jeremiah, but I will admit that Conrad grew on me in this one. Maybe it’s because parts of the book were from his perspective so I got to see behind his mask a little, but I could finally see some of what Belly sees in him. I still think he’s kind of a jerk and that he’s unfair to Belly at times, but overall, I started to like him. I won’t say who Belly ends up with in the end, but I will say that although it was bittersweet, I was ultimately satisfied with what happened. And that the joy in the last little chapter kinda basically made up for the rest of the book being so painful.

Basically, I think I maybe loved this book, and I thought it was a good conclusion to the series. If you haven’t read this series yet, I definitely recommend it. Like, go read it already!

And p.s., here’s my favorite quote. I just couldn’t resist including it. It’s from the very beginning (page 12, actually), so it won’t spoil anything that wasn’t already revealed in the summary:
I watched him make his way through the crowd, feeling proud that I could call him mine. My boyfriend, my Jeremiah. The first boy I had ever fallen asleep next to. The first boy I ever told about the time I accidentally walked in on my parents doing it when I was eight. The first boy to go out an buy me Midol because my cramps were so bad, the first boy to paint my toenails, to hold my hair back when I threw up that time I got really drunk in front of all his friends, the first boy to write me a love note on the whiteboard hanging outside my dorm room.

You are the milk to my shake, forever and ever. Love, J.

He was the first boy I ever kissed. He was my best friend. More and more, I understood. This was the way it was supposed to be.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In My Mailbox (8)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, where we show off the books we got this week.

Purchased by moi:
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride
All I Ever Wanted, by Kristan Higgins
Dead until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
Living Dead in Dallas, by Charlaine Harris

I'm so, so excited to start the Sookie Stackhouse books! I've heard really great things about this series, so when I saw the first couple at Borders for 60 percent off, I knew it was time to give them a shot. Have any of you read them? What did you think?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (8)

Book Blogger Hop
Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books.

“What are you most looking forward to this fall/autumn season – A particular book release? Halloween? The leaves changing color? Cooler temperatures? A vacation? (If your next season is other than fall/autumn, tell us about it and what you are most looking forward to in your part of the world!)”

Book-wise, I'm most looking forward to the releases of "Lola and the Boy Next Door," by Stephanie Perkins (Sept. 29), and "Shatter Me," by Tahereh Mafi (Nov. 15). Other than that though, I'm not looking forward to fall, because I HATE cold weather, and fall means it's going to be winter soon. I'm a summer girl all the way--if it's not 80+ degrees and sunny, I'm not happy with the weather. So as soon as fall hits and I need a jacket to go outside (that's anything under, like, 72 degrees for me), I pretty much stop going outside except to go to work and run errands. And don't even get me started on Halloween. Ug. I'll stop now, though, because I sound like a crotchety old woman.

Follow Friday (9)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

Q. If you could change the ending of any book (or series), which book would you choose? Why and to what?

Mockingjay, a.k.a. the end to The Hunger Games series!!!!


I HATED the ending to Mockingjay. Seriously!!! Ug. There were so many things I wanted to be different, with numero 1 being that I really hated that Prim died. I mean, WHY THE FACE!!! (High five to anyone who got that Modern Family reference) The whole reason Katniss does the Hunger Games is to save Prim, then she dies at the end anyway?!? WHYYYYYYY???

And 2, I hated that Collins cut the final action scene so abruptly. It was getting so awesome and exciting and then, WHAM, she cuts to, like, sometime in the future. I have no idea why she cut out what would have been the most climatic scene. I mean, isn't that usually the most important part?

I won't go on and on about all the other things I didn't like about the ending to Mockingjay, but if you want to read my review, you can find it here. And actually, I did like the book overall, it was just the ending that killed me.

Mini-Review: Stay

Mini-reviews are where I write about books that I want to mention but am either too lazy or too busy to write a full-length review for. I say what I thought about the book in 5 sentences then share a quote I liked from the book.

Stay, by Deb Caletti. The summary:
Clara's relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it's almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he's willing to do to make her stay.Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won't let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....
I love Deb Caletti, but her books can sometimes be a bit hit or miss for me; I’m happy to report, though, that “Stay” was 100 percent hit—I really, truly, and thoroughly enjoyed it, and it’s now probably one of my favorite of Caletti’s books. Clara, the main character, despite having a crazy stalker ex-boyfriend, was totally likeable and easy to relate to, and she made it so painfully clear how someone so normal could end up in such a screwed-up relationship. And her relationship with her dad was straight-up amazing—there’s a plethora of terrible or absent fathers in YA fiction, but Clara’s dad was funny and caring and involved, and I found myself looking forward to the scenes with him in them. Like Caletti’s other books, this one was full of gems of wisdom that had me nodding my head and going, “That’s SO TRUE!”—Caletti has some serious insight into what makes people tick. So overall, a completely awesome book; it maybe dragged a little in the middle, but as soon as things with Finn picked up and the drama with Christian got more intense, I didn’t want to put it down.

The quote, p. 179:
Finn helped the passengers off the boat, lending each his hand. He trotted over to me when he was finished. Every time I saw him it was the same. He was the same. He was his same, easygoing self with his wide smile and shy eyes. He didn’t become other, surprising things. I had realized what a great thing sameness was. You wouldn’t think it, but it was true. There was a shelter in certain rhythms—seasons and tides and boats that went out and came back in, people who were steady, who kept steady hands on the rudders.I guess that’s what safety is.
Sameness you can count on.
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