Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Best of the Bunch: November 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."

For once I didn't even have to think about my answer. Scorpio Races (read my review here) was by FAR my favorite book this month. It was perfect in every single wonderful way. There wasn't anything that I didn't like. And believe me, I don't say that about very many books. Puck is so spunky and stubborn and brave and absolutely fantastic. And Sean--I don't think boys get any sexier than him. I loved the writing, and the plot and pacing were exactly right. GO READ THIS BOOK!

Waiting on Wednesday: Catching Jordan

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

Catching Jordan, by Miranda Kenneally
1 December 2011

The GoodReads summary:
What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though - she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team... and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.

I don't even like football, but I still really want to read this book. It's been a while since I've read a really GOOD contemporary YA, and I'm hoping that this one will be it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Dearly, Departed

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel. The GoodReads summary:
Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead--or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria--a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible--until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead--and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.
I thought the world created by the author was really fascinating. It’s set in the future, but the people have decided to live like in the Victorian age--except with modern-ish technology. Plus there’s a whole capital city versus rural clash going on. Not to mention the human versus bad zombie versus good zombie conflict. So, needless to say, this book had a lot of interesting stuff going on, and I thought the world-building was pretty tight and unobtrusive.

My only real problem with the book was the characters. Well, not the secondary characters. I loved Chas, Tom, Dr. Samedi, Dr. Chase, etc, and thought they were fairly hilarious. Especially Chas. I would totally read a whole book just about Chas. And I guess I did like Bram, the lead zombie/love interest. He was pretty great actually. But Nora . . . I just thought she was basically boring. I mean, she doesn’t DO anything the whole book except get kidnapped. All the fighting was done by either the zombies or Pamela. Pamela’s the one who really annoyed me out of all of them. Seriously, everything that girl said or did had me rolling my eyes and asking, “WHY?!?!” It was one of those situations where you know you should probably like someone, but you can’t, no matter how hard you try.

The book was a lot longer than I expected. That’s not a bad thing, just an unnecessary one. I felt like a lot of the length was added by the 5 alternating perspectives. I just don’t think some of the perspectives, like Victor’s and Wolfe’s, were necessary--the stuff that happens in them could easily have been summarized in one of the other perspectives.

Overall, this book wasn’t quite what I wanted. The plot and setting were good, but too many of the main characters bugged me in one way or another. I’d still recommend it because it’s well done, despite my hang-ups--I just don’t think I’ll be reading the sequel.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin. The GoodReads summary:
Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.

So after taking a full 24 hours to gather my thoughts on this book, I finally feel like I might possibly be ready to write a review. When I initially finished the book, my thoughts and feeling were ALL over the place--so much so that I honestly couldn’t decide whether I liked the book or not. It’s hard to decide if you love something when it messes with your mind so totally. But I think I’ve decided, that yes, I did like this book.

Character-wise, I didn’t ever really feel like I connected with Mara. It wasn’t that she was unlikable--it’s just that such crazy things are going on that I couldn’t relate to her at all. I kept wondering what she was like before the accident, and I have that feeling that I probably would’ve liked THAT Mara. The non-crazy one.

Noah has an English accent, which was kind of all I needed to like him. But through most of the book, I couldn’t figure out why he was so single-minded in his pursuit of Mara, when A) she’s CRAZY, and B) she kept pushing him away.The reason he’s so into her is eventually explained, but not until the very end.

This book did a fantastic job at the whole psychological thriller thing. There were so many times when I couldn’t tell what was real and what was in Mara’s head. I really couldn’t put this book down, and that was mostly because it simultaneously intrigued me and gave me the heebie-jeebies. I couldn’t stop reading until I found out how it all went down.

I feel like almost every review I’ve read for this book mentions a certain scene with the swamp and the alligators and how it really threw them off. I agree that the scene is confusing at first, but it does get explained later, so I’m not really sure what all those people were talking about. Based on those other reviews, I was expecting something much weirder in that scene, so I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. Well, maybe enjoyed isn’t the right word--it was so intense and weird and confusing that “enjoyed” just doesn’t seem like the right sentiment. So maybe I’ll just say that this book was completely gripping, and I’m glad I read it. I’ll definitely be reading the next book.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Books: The Thanksgiving Edition

I'm thankful for books. Really. Seriously. Truly. Without books, I wouldn't be even remotely the same person. I wouldn't be me. I mean, the first thing out of my mouth when people ask me to tell something about myself is "I love to read." My love of books defines me--maybe a little too much at times, and other areas of my life have probably suffered because of it. But nevertheless, reading is an integral part of who I am, and I am infinitely grateful for the books I've read.

Thanksgiving has got me thinking about which books have influenced me the most--which books have really and truly shaped who I am. So here's the list, roughly in chronological order:

-“The Ordinary Princess,” by M.M. Kay: This was my first favorite book, and I read it until the cover fell off. Then I read it some more.

-“Talking to Dragons,” by Patricia C. Wrede: My older sister first read this to me, and then as I got older, I read the rest of the series myself. Although it’s neither the first nor the best of the series, “Talking to Dragons” was the first fantasy I read, and I’ve loved the genre ever since.

-“The Little House on the Prairie” series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder: My friend and I read these books at the same time in 5th grade. It was my first experience reading books and discussing them with someone else, and I haven’t been able to stop talking about books since.

-“Little Women,” by Louisa May Alcott: This book was my favorite book throughout middle and high school. It was the first “classic” I ever read, and it showed me that genre didn’t have to be scary and unapproachable.

-“Beauty,” by Robin McKinley: My older sister gave me this book as a birthday present and launched me solidly into the world of Robin McKinley. I don’t think there’s any other author that speaks to me quite as well as McKinley.

-“The Princess Diaries,” by Meg Cabot: This is the book that started my love for YA fiction. Before, the only YA books I knew about where of the "Sweet Valley High" variety--not that I didn’t love those, but “The Princess Diaries” showed me there were books out there about teenagers I could relate to.

-“Jane Eyre,” by Charlotte Bronte: “Jane Eyre” . . . how can I possibly explain my love for this book? Jane--reserved, practical, and plain, yet immovable in her desire to do what’s right--was one of the first characters I could both relate to and admire at the same time.

-“All the Pretty Horses,” by Cormac McCarthy: This book was my first introduction to unconventional writing styles. I barely remember the storyline, but it taught me how to read books that step outside the box.

-“The Poisonwood Bible,” by Barbara Kingsolver: This one taught me that women can write as well as men do--and in this case, can do it better.

-“The Sun Also Rises,” by Ernest Hemingway: My first Hemingway. That’s all I need to say, really. The man practically ruined me for all other writing styles.

-“To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee: I didn’t read this book until college, but it immediately became one of my all-time favorites. The narrative voice is just so incredible, the story so wonderful, and the characters so lovable--who could ever forget the Finches?

-“The Book of Bright Ideas,” by Sandra Kring: With a single sentence, this novel completely changed how I deal with people: “Don’t judge people for what they’re doing until you know why they’re doing it.”

What books are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The List

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

The List, by Siobhan Vivian
336 pages
1 April 2012

GoodReads summary:
An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

Why I want this book: A) The summary sounds really great, obvs. B) See that girl on the cover on the middle right? Pretty sure I've worn that exact outfit. C) I like trying to figure out how to pronounce the author's first name: Siobhan. See-o-ban? Shob-han? See-ob-an? The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pre-Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Oh. my. freaking. heck. you guys. This book was craaaaaaazy. And I haven't decided if it was in a good way or not. Or if I liked this book or what. So since I only finished this book like 10 minutes ago, there's no way my thoughts are gathered enough to write a coherent review (just ask my roommate, who I flipped out over this book to). So I'm going to give myself a day to calm down and then write my review tomorrow.

But in the meantime, all I have to say is AHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: Past Perfect

Past Perfect, by Leila Sales. The GoodReads summary:
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….
So on the one hand this book was cute and adorable, just like everyone said it was. Chelsea is funny and easy to relate to. And I love that she has a fantastic best friend--I mean, their goal for the summer is to become ice cream connoisseurs. How awesome is that? And I totally enjoyed the colonial reenactment village, which is a little weird for me, since in real life, they freak me out a little. But it made such a fun and unique setting for the book.

But on the other hand . . . I just didn’t get WHY Chelsea and everyone else were so invested in the “war” between the two reenactment villages to the point that people get injured and Chelsea starts lying to her friends. The whole time, I was just like, “WHO CARES?!?! It’s just a GAME!!!” And I feel like my inability to understand why the war was so important kept me from really loving this book--I rolled my eyes a few times too many to be able to claim that I thought this book lived up to all the hype.

But like I said at the beginning, I did generally enjoy the book--it just wasn’t quite all that I hoped it would be. And maybe it’s just my own fault for not being competitive enough to understand why winning the war was so important. So I still would recommend this book, but I think I would recommend Sales’s other book “Mostly Good Girls” a little more.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Follow Friday (20)

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

Question: Letter to Santa: Tell Santa what books you want for Christmas!

My book wishlist is currently over 200 books long, and I would love to get ANY (or all!) of them for Christmas. But right now my top picks are

-Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi
-The Near Witch, by Victoria Schwab
-Unearthly, by Cynthia Hand
-Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare

What books do you want for Christmas?

Review: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. The GoodReads summary:
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition--the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
I don’t know where to start, you guys. I really don’t. Because this book was . . . perfect. Or, at least, it was a perfect Karen book. It was so, so amazing, and I’m having trouble finding the right words to describe it.

I think the thing that got me right from the start was the writing. It’s GORGEOUS. I read “Shiver” by this same author, and I honestly didn’t notice the writing. I heard everyone talking about how much they loved Stiefvater’s writing style, but I just didn’t get what they were talking about. But with this book, I so get it. It’s pitch-perfect for the story and practically had me tasting the salty air of the island.

Puck was the best protagonist I’ve seen in a while. Prickly on the outside, but a truly good person on the inside; a bit unsure of herself at times but brave when it matters. She was a heroine worthy of Robin McKinley, and I don’t say that lightly.

And Sean. Holy smokes--SEAN. Jonah Griggs will forever be my number one YA love, but Sean comes SO close. He’s quiet and still and strong. He doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone, because he knows who he is and what he wants. I have a thing for the strong, silent type in fiction, and Sean was everything I could’ve asked for.

I also have a thing for horse books, which is yet another way this book was perfect for me. Not only are there normal horses in this book, but there are capaill uisce--carnivorous water horses that are ferocious and dangerous and yet so beautiful. And with the deft way Stiefvater writes about them, I honestly wouldn’t be half surprised if they turned out to be real.

Read this book. Seriously though--read it. Because I didn’t even begin cover all the things I loved about this book. It’s not a fast-paced book by any means, but it had plenty of parts that had me forgetting to breathe and unable to tear my eyes from the page. I honestly didn’t want this book to end, and that’s not something I say very often.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Masque of the Red Death

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

Masque of the Red Death, by Bethany Griffin
320 pages
24 April 2012

The GoodReads summary:
Everything is in ruins.

A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club--in the depths of her own despair--Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for--no matter what it costs her.

I took a gothic lit class in college where we studied A LOT of Edgar Allen Poe. And my favorite story by far was "Masque of the Red Death." So needless to say, I'm super excited for this retelling to be released. Even if I didn't love the story the book's based on, I would still want to read this one because the summary just sounds so flat-out AWESOME.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. The GoodReads summary:
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
Honestly? This book wasn’t at all what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it--it just wasn’t what I thought it would be. Well, I mean, the first half was. But the second half? I did not see that coming. Ug, I’m trying to find a way to explain this without spoiling anything, but it’s harder than I thought. But basically, there are kind of two stories going on in the book, and the second story caught me off guard because I didn’t realize there would be a second story or that it would involve so much fantasy.

And now that I think about it, not that much really happens plot-wise in the main Karou story. Not that I’m complaining--I liked the book the way it was, but I think it was more about learning information and setting the stage for the next book.

I loved how unexpectedly amusing this book was. It’s not really a humorous story, but Karou is just funny. I’d be going along, getting drawn into the intense stuff happening and then Karou would say or think something that had me smiling so hard.

I actually kinda feel like what made me like the book was a collection of small things rather than any overarching thing about the book. Like, more than just flat-out loving the book, it’s more that there were so many little elements that I liked that it all added up to me enjoying the book. Does that make sense at all? Anyway, here’s a quick list of the things I adored that I can think of off the top of my head:

-Karou’s blue hair
-Making little wishes with scrupies
-Zusana’s marionette ballet
-Akiva’s eyes
-EVERYTHING about Akiva
-How by the end, the title makes sense

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. I’m maybe not as in love with it as everyone else seems to be, but I did like a ton of things about it, and I’ll definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Vampire Academy, books 3–6

“Shadow Kiss,” “Blood Promise,” “Spirit Bound,” and “Last Sacrifice,” by Richelle Mead

So . . . yes, I did in fact read books 3 through 6 of this series back to back. I was originally planning on spacing it out and reading some other books in between, but I got sucked in and didn’t want to stop. So I decided to give my thoughts on books 3 through 6 all at once, since they’re all jumbled together in my head anyway.

One thing that I really love about this series is the flow of it all. Each book has really great pacing, but on top of that, the series as whole moves from one book the next so seamlessly. Honestly, at this point, I can’t remember what happened in which book, because the divisions between them are so smooth.

I also really liked Rose’s evolution throughout the series. I could legitimately tell that she was maturing as the books progressed. For someone who frustrated me so much in the first book, she certainly gained my admiration by the last one. Along the same lines, I loved watching Lissa evolve as well. She’s so weak in the first book, but with each book she gets stronger, and by the final one I just wanted to cheer for her.

Richelle Mead does a fantastic job keeping the romance between Rose and Dimitri fresh and interesting in each book. Every time I started another of the books, I was convinced that it would be the book where Rose and Dimitri’s relationship would fall flat. But just when I was convinced that Mead couldn’t develop their relationship any further, she would pull out a plot twist that kept things going. And the tension between those two was really well done no matter the situation they were in.

And Adrian . . . I have mixed feelings about that kid. On the one hand I loved his refined, devil-may-care attitude, but sometimes I felt like he just needed to grow up and get a grip. So I’m excited to see how his character develops in the Bloodlines series.

Oh, and I ADORE Abe.

So, yes. Read this series! I wasn’t sure for most of the first book how I felt about it, but by the end of it, it was basically a straight shot from there to book 6 for me. And I’m not even a fan of vampire books, so it’s saying something that I’m as in love with this series as I am. Needless to say, I’ll be picking up Bloodlines soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Follow Friday (19)

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

Question: In light of 11.11.11 and Veteran's Day tell us about your favorite solider and how he or she is saving the world. Fictional or real life.

My favorite fictional soldier is Brigan from "Fire," by Kristin Cashore. I guess I just admire how he's super selfless and responsible and how he's willing to put his own desires below the needs of his country. Also, he's hot.

Choosing a real-life favorite is harder, because there are so, so many awesome people who have served their countries. But the one that comes to mind is from this story I was researching for work recently about a solider during the Vietnam War who worked with a scout dog. And the soldier extended his tour of duty twice just so he could stay with the dog. Maybe I was just feeling really emotional that day, but that story seriously almost made me cry.

Review: The Peach Keeper

Guess what, guys! Sometimes I read adult books. I know, right? It's crazy to think a world exists outside of YA fiction. But sometimes (okay, fairly rarely) I branch out. So here goes:

The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen. The summary (it's a bit of a novel in and of itself):
It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.
What is there to say about "The Peach Keeper" besides I love it? 'Nuf said.

Who am kidding? This is me talking about a book, so of course it's not 'nuf said. But seriously, you guys, I fell 100 percent in love with this book. And no, I'm not even going to try to be objective when talking about it. I mean, it's SARAH ADDISON ALLEN, for pete's sake. I love all her books whole-heartedly, and this one is no exception.

The best thing about Sarah Addison Allen books is how they make you feel--like you're laying outside in the grass on a perfect summer day; like you're talking to your best friend; like you're falling in love. ARGH! I can't even explain it. Just read one of Allen's books and you'll know what I mean.

"The Peach Keeper" doesn't deviate from the mold of Allen's other books, but I'm completely okay with that, because it's a fairly perfect mold made of warm-fuzzies and sugar-sweet romance and hints of magic. Sarah Addison Allen books top my list of comfort reads, and it's no mystery why.

Like I said, I can't be objective about this book. I can't focus on plot arcs and character development, because of how the book makes me feel. So I guess I'll just say that I didn't have any issues with the plot and the characters were lovely (I pretty much fell in love with Sebastian). I know that doesn't do the book justice AT ALL, but I don't know what else to say. Who cares about holes in the plot or insufficient character motivation when the book manages to take you to a world where the magic is both a little wistful and a little impish, the romance is filled with just the right amount of yearning, and the themes are all about growing up into who you want to become without completely leaving behind the person you were.

And yes, I did in fact read it straight through in one sitting.

Haven't you gotten my point yet? READ IT!

FYI, other books by Sarah Addison Allen:
-Garden Spells
-The Sugar Queen
-The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink

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

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink, by Stephanie Kate Strohm
8 May 2012

The summary:
Libby Kelting had always felt herself born out of time. No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-around history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum. But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset. Her cat-loving coworker wants her dead, the too-smart-for-his-own-good local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, her gorgeous sailor may be more shipwreck than dreamboat — plus Camden Harbor’s haunted. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem.

This one sounds super cute! It reminds me a little of "Past Perfect" by Leila Sales, which is definitely a good thing. The cover isn't my favorite, but it's not the worst I've seen by far.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The deal breakers

After reading this post over at Forever Young Adult, I started thinking about what my deal breakers in YA fiction are. So here we go: the things that make me reject a book before I even finish reading the summary.
-terrible cover (I know you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but . . . I totally do. All the time.)
-vampires/werewolves/fallen angels/fairies (okay, there are some exceptions to this, but if it's of the Twilight-over-the-top-I'm-in-love-with-this-strange-creature-for-no-reason variety, it's 100 percent a no go for me)
-cliques (because I just don't like reading about mean girls)
-cancer/terminal illness patients (honestly, I just don't care . . . and I hate crying over books)
-ridiculously light/fluffy/whimsical plot (when there's nothing substantial to hold my attention, I start skimming/skipping after the first chapter)
-Christian/inspirational themes (because I believe in a separation between church and literature)
-a focus on plot rather character (news flash: I'm all about character development, folks)
-excessive teen drinking/drug use/partying (although, I guess technically, all teen drinking/drug use is excessive)
-sequels (I can't stand series. I just don't have that long of an attention span for characters and plot lines)
Maybe that's a lot of things, but since I still find plenty of YA fiction that meets my criteria, I don't feel bad at all.

And while I'm thinking about it, here are my deal makers--the books I automatically pick up:
-amazing cover (duh)
-death/suicide (morbid, but true)
-secrets (because they add tension and lies and conflict and fear and other things that equal character development)
-first person, present tense narrative voice (well, first person in general, but combine that with present tense, and I'm a goner)
-cute, un-shallow, non-creepy boys (double duh)
-book lovers (because I like reading about people like me)
-honest romance (none of this "I saw him and fell in love even though he's a jerk and there's absolutely no reason for me to like him" biz; gimme some conflict)
What are your deal breakers or deal makers?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: Because of Wynn-Dixie

Because of Wynn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo. The summary:
The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of War and Peace. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar. Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends, and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship--and forgiveness--can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm.
Yes, I know this is a children's book, and usually I don't read very much of that genre. But seriously, I had to post about this one because I'm in LOVE.

I remember picking up this book when I was younger and, based on the cover and the fact that it was about a dog, not wanting to read it. But recently I was at the book store, saw this book, read the first page, and KNEW I had to read it. It's a children's book, so it only took me, like, 45 minutes to read it, but they were pretty much the best 45 minutes of the day.

This book is so good! I kind of hate the term "heart-warming," but that's exactly what this book was. I can't even tell you how in love with this book I am. It was just so absolutely wonderful. Opal and Winn-Dixie are so lovable, and the other characters are as well. It's a whole town of truly awesome people. AND THE DOG DOESN'T DIE! That almost automatically makes this book a winner for me.

So, really, if you haven't read this one yet, take 45 minutes and do it. I can pretty much guarantee you won't regret it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Follow Friday (18)

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

Today's Question is something new, an activity. We want to see what you look like! Take a pic with you and your current read! Too shy? Boo! Just post a fun pic you want to share.

Oooooookay, here are the disclaimers for these photos:

1) I had just finished making a music video with my roommate when I took these pictures (why yes, we ARE in our 20s and still making music videos like we're 14...). So, just FYI, I don't normally wear sequin dresses or have my hair looking like a hot mess.

2) For a fairly normal looking person, I have a remarkable inability to take a good picture. I always end up looking so weird.

So first, the normal picture--to make my mom happy (because she always says I make too many crazy faces in photos):

And now the one of me trying to make a kissy face (because the book is "Cold KISS." GET IT!?!? I'm soooo clever!) (Also, with a kissy face like that, it is a huuuuuge mystery why I don't currently have a boyfriend...):

Mini-Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

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.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. The GoodReads summary:
Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?
I’m in love with this book--it’s so ridiculously much fun to follow Lily and Dash around New York at Christmas. I really enjoyed Lily and Dash. They’re a little more self-aware and articulate than real teenagers probably are, but they have their fair share of problems and self-doubt too; and though they don't always deal with their issues in the best ways, you don't doubt that they learn a little more about themselves from their mistakes. And I really love the narrative voices--Cohn and Levithan have created these characters that just talk and sound like the quirky, awesome people they are. I totally recommend reading this book during the holidays this year--in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m going to re-read it for Christmas.

The quote:
Imagine this:

You're in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You get to the section where a favorite author's books reside, and there, nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines sits a red notebook.

What do you do?

The choice, I think, is obvious:

You take down the red notebook and open it.

And then you do whatever it tells you to do.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

200-Follower Giveaway Winners!

The winners of my 200-Follower Giveaway are

Dani @ Refracted Light (Signed Tempest ARC)


Jessica @ Book Loving Mommy (Signed Firelight)

Congratulations, you guys! And thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway and spread the word. You all rock!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King. The summary:
Vera's spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she's kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.
All I have to say is "Please Ignore Vera Dietz," you let me down. You let me down hard. I usually don't write about books I really didn't like, but apparently the magnitude of my disappointment has made me a little more whiny than usual. So here we go.

I was so excited to read "Please Ignore Vera Dietz," by A.S. King. It was one of the Printz Honor books for 2011, and I've had really good experiences (aka I fell in love) with Printz books in the past ("Jellicoe Road," "The Book Thief," "I am the Messenger," "How I Live Now" . . . all fantastic). The summary even sounded like my kind of story--the kind of book that makes me giddy with its promise of depth, character development, and self-actualization.

But the book fell completely flat for me--and believe me, I was trying my hardest to like it. It's just . . . there was zero character development: Vera is a good girl who *minor spoilers* starts drinking and hallucinating a lot then stops drinking and decides to clear her friend's name. The end. *end spoilers* She really never changes at all. Plus, Vera was not exactly the most exciting person to be stuck with for 336 pages--she never came to life as a character and wasn't easy to connect with. You never really get inside her head.

There were some redeeming qualities to the book, though. Vera's developing relationship with her dad, for instance. And her friend Charlie--who even though he's dead, manages to be a more interesting character than Vera.

This book just made me grrrr. So really, if you want a book much better at dealing with death, read "The Sky is Everywhere"; if you want a book about revealing secrets, read "Thirteen Reasons Why"; and if you want a book with character change, read "Before I Fall."
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