Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Best of the Bunch: February 2012

Best of the bunch is hosted by Sally at Always Lost in Stories. Its a monthly meme where we post about our favorite book from the past month.

My favorite book I read in February was Texas Gothic, by Rosemary Clement-Moore. It was just such a light, fun mystery. And I loved Amy, the main character, so much--she was just my type of heroine: snarky and sarcastic but down-to-earth and not annoying at all. Plus, I really liked the whole family of witches thing the book had going on, cuz I've always had a soft spot for books about witches. And seriously this book had the most hilarious first chapter ever. I really hope there's going to be another book about Amy's older sister or cousin or something.

Runners up:
-Catching Jordan, by Miranda Kenneally
-The Reluctant Heiress, by Eva Ibbotson

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review fail

I was planning on posting a review today, but . . . (secret revealed) I've fallen way behind on my reading. Too many other distractions, I guess. Plus, I spent the weekend reading a (gasp!) non-YA book, which put me even further behind. At least it was a good book, though. I don't know if any of you guys read the Lady Julia Grey mystery series by Deanna Raybourn, but it's fantastic. I just finished book 5 (The Dark Enquiry), and it's just as great as all the other books in the series. It never fails to amaze me how the author can keep the characters interesting and still developing 5 books in. So really, if you like mysteries or Victorian England, I totally recommend this series.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: Don't Stop Now

Don’t Stop Now, by Julie Halpern. The GoodRead’s summary:
On the first day of Lillian’s summer-before-college, she gets a message on her cell from her sort-of friend, Penny. Not only has Penny faked her own kidnapping, but Lil is the only one who figures it out. She knows that Penny’s home life has been rough, and that her boyfriend may be abusive. Soon, Penny’s family, the local police, and even the FBI are grilling Lil, and she decides to head out to Oregon, where Penny has mentioned an acquaintance. And who better to road-trip across the country with than Lil’s BFF, Josh. But here’s the thing: Lil loves Josh. And Josh doesn’t want to “ruin” their amazing friendship.

Josh has a car and his dad’s credit card. Lil has her cellphone and a hunch about where Penny is hiding. There’s something else she needs to find: Are she and Josh meant to be together?
This book is so ridiculously refreshing. I thought I had its number from page one, but I so didn’t. I mean, look at the summary. Doesn’t it just seem like your typical road trip book with two teens, their burgeoning romance, yada, yada, yada? But it all unfolded in a completely different manner than I expected, and Josh and Lil’s relationship certainly did not progress the way I thought it would. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I don’t want to ruin anything, but seriously, I just wanted to hug this book for being so much more than a YA cliché.

I liked Josh and Lil a lot, but more as characters than I would in real life. Let me explain. They’re both perfectly friendly and likeable people, but they have the kind of really close friendship that would always leave other people on the outside. Like, they’d be those annoying people who are always finishing each other sentences and laughing at inside jokes and talking about things that only really make sense to them, making everyone else essentially as a third wheel. So yeah, that quality about them kinda annoyed me in the book, but since I didn’t actually have to experience it first hand, I could deal.

As usual, this book made me want to take a road trip. I’m not really a spur-of-the-moment road trip type--I’m too much of a planner--but after reading this book, I wanted to do it anyway. Josh and Lil just make it look like so much fun. They don’t even pack anything--just decide they’re going across the country and leave right then, stopping wherever they think looks interesting. It was awesome.

The only thing that really annoyed me about this book is how Lil keeps lying to the police about not knowing anything about her friend’s disappearance. Hasn’t she watched any crime dramas? Doesn’t she know it’s never a good idea to lie to the cops? But maybe that’s just my healthy respect for authority speaking.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. At first I wasn’t sure how I’d like it, because it initially seems like it’s going to end up being a cliché. But it totally isn’t. It ends pretty perfectly and left me with that wonderful feeling of “Yeah, the author got it right.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Favorites: Jane Eyre

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some non-YA books I love.

Which book?
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte


Summary? (from GoodReads)
Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed. With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte's innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers...

When did I first read it?
High school

Why did I first read it?
I was on a classics kick in high school, so I worked my way through the classics section at my local library. Thus, I discovered Jane Eyre.

What did I think about it then?
I thought it was sooooo romantic. I hadn’t read a romance like it before--it was darker and more serious than Jane Austen and infinitely more challenging than the crappy selection of YA my library had. Plus, I really connected to Jane. She’s just an ordinary person, but she always does what she thinks is right no matter how hard it is.

What do I think about it now?
Now I think Mr. Rochester is a total jerk. Seriously. But I still love him, because Jane loves him. And I still adore this story--I adore it in all its forms: the book, the movies, the musical, the spin-offs . . . they’re all lovely. I just . . . really like Jane. She’s kinda one of my literary heroes. And I still think the romance is swoony. And the crazy wife in the attic only makes the book even better.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: No and Me

No and Me, by Delphine de Vigan. The GoodReads summary:
Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life—and that of her parents—all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No’s presence forces Lou’s family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together when No’s own past comes back to haunt her?

Winner of the prestigious Booksellers’ Prize in France, No and Me is a timely and thought-provoking novel about homelessness that has far-reaching appeal.
This is the second book I’ve read recently about teen homelessness, but it couldn’t be more different from “Don’t Breathe a Word.” “Don’t Breathe a Word” is so immediate and gritty, while this one is much more removed--after all, everything is filtered through the narrator, Lou, who befriends a homeless girl rather than experiencing life on the streets firsthand. But that filter doesn’t make this book any less powerful; rather, it gives it depth and a different perspective--Lou’s a 13-year-old genius, so her observations are this weird mix of insightful and naive.

The book is translated from French, and it really made me wish I could read French. The language is so stark and powerful in English, so I can only imagine it would be even more so without the translation process. The writing style in this book is simple and straightforward yet so beautiful. You get this perfect picture of who Lou is just from the way it’s written. There’s very little dialog in the book, and I think it works really well that way since it keeps us firmly in Lou’s perspective. The understated writing also makes the issues the book deals with--homelessness, abuse, family, friends, love, grief--so much more powerful. This isn’t the type of book that needs literary flourishes to keep your attention.

The relationship between Lou, the 13-year-old who’s as mature as an adult, and No, the 18-year-old who’s childlike in many ways, is bittersweet. They are both alone in their own ways, and the friendship they form is beautiful. But it’s also painful, because No’s messed up, and try as she may, she can’t quite seem to escape her past.

The only hang up I have with the book is the relationship between Lou and Lucas. Lou’s 13 and Lucas is 17. I can see why she would be crushing on him (the allure of an older guy and all that), but I can’t really figure out why Lucas is interested in her. I mean, Lou hasn’t even gone through puberty yet and is basically still a child. It came off as kinda creepy to me. Maybe it’s a French thing?

And as one last thing, can I just say how much I adore Lou? She's resilient and brave and totally my hero.

Overall, this is a powerful, beautiful book that I completely recommend. It makes you think, it makes you smile, and it makes you grateful for all the good things you have in your life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Code Name Verity

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

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
327 pages
15 May 2012

The GoodReads summary:
Oct. 11th, 1943--A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

While I'm not always a big fan of historical novels, I am semi-obsessed with World War II. Plus, this one sounds like it's going to be heart-wrenching and so GOOD. So needless to say, I'm majorly looking forward to this one.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: The Espressologist

The Espressologist, by Kristina Springer. The GoodReads summary:
What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?

With overtones of Jane Austen’s Emma and brimming with humor and heart, this sweet, frothy debut will be savored by readers.
Do you ever read books and wish they were real? That was totally me with this book. This whole “espressology” thing has me fascinated. I mean, figuring out people’s personalities based on their favorite coffee then matching them up with people who have complementary tastes? That’s, like, the coolest thing ever, and I so wish it were real. And seriously, this book had me craving coffee--well, coffee-flavored candy or ice cream, since I don’t drink coffee, but still. It also had me wanting to start hanging out at my local coffee shop.

This book was short and sweet. And I’m not kidding about “short”--it’s 180 pages, and I think I read the whole thing in less than 2 hours. I do wish that the book were a little longer. That would give time for more relationship development between Jane and Cam, because as it is, he’s in the book for a total of, like, 3 pages, so I had a bit of a hard time understanding why they liked each other so much. But that wasn’t a big enough deal to keep me from liking the book. I think the author did pretty well getting a whole story in such a short book.

Plus, it’s a modernization of Jane Austen’s “Emma.” Plus, the main character’s name is Jane, which is one of my favorite names. Plus, it has hot guys and awesome friends. It’s a win-win situation all around.

Seriously, you guys, this book would be perfect to curl up with on a rainy afternoon or something. It’s cute and undemanding and just left me thinking, “Awwww.” Don’t go into it with unrealistically high expectations, because the book never tries to be more than it is--a short YA romance--but do give it a shot sometime. It’ll most likely give you warm fuzzies.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sometimes Blogger makes me grrrrr

Recently I haven't been able comment on any blogs that are based in Blogger (including replying to comments on my own blog), no matter what "profile" I try to use to comment. So that's why I haven't been commenting on some of the blogs that I normally do. I'm still reading them though! I keep hoping that this problem will magically sort itself out, because I have zero idea how to fix it. Has this happened to anyone else before, or does anyone have ideas of how to fix it?

Review: My Life Undecided

My Life Undecided, by Jessica Brody. The GoodReads summary:

Okay, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, but I’m sorry, I’m feeling a bit melodramatic at the moment.

Here’s the deal. My name is Brooklyn Pierce, I’m fifteen years old, and I am decisionally challenged. Seriously, I can’t remember the last good decision I made. I can remember plenty of crappy ones though. Including that party I threw when my parents were out of town that accidentally burned down a model home. Yeah, not my finest moment, for sure.

But see, that’s why I started a blog. To enlist readers to make my decisions for me. That’s right. I gave up. Threw in the towel. I let someone else be the one to decide which book I read for English. Or whether or not I accepted an invitation to join the debate team from that cute-in-a-dorky-sort-of-way guy who gave me the Heimlich Maneuver in the cafeteria. (Note to self: Chew the melon before swallowing it.) I even let them decide who I dated!

Well, it turns out there are some things in life you simply can’t choose or have chosen for you--like who you fall in love with. And now everything’s more screwed up than ever.

But don’t take my word for it, read the book and decide for yourself. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scream in frustration. Or maybe that’s just me. After all, it’s my life.
Before I get into anything else about this book, can I just say how jealous I am that I wasn’t the one who thought of having a blog that polls my readers to make my life decisions for me? Unlike Brooklyn, I don’t usually make bad decisions, I just have trouble making any decisions at all because I way over think my options. So needless to say, I was totally in love with Brooklyn’s blog idea.

I liked the narrative voice, and the story was cute and fun and everything, but I just couldn’t quite get over how predictable the book was. I mean, yes, all contemporary YA romances are pretty similar at their core, but some of them manage to still surprise me. This one, I knew pretty much exactly where it was going and how by the end of the first 30 pages. And I swear, if I read one more book where the main character has to volunteer at a nursing home and ends up befriending the grumpiest resident, I’m going to scream.

The other thing that got to me about this book was Brooklyn herself. I realize that she’s only 15, and I’m sure I was totally self-absorbed at that age too, but that didn’t make reading about her bad decisions, naiveté, and self-centeredness any easier. She’s always whining about how much her life sucks, when A) her life is perfectly fine, and B) the things that suck about her life are totally her own fault. But at least Brooklyn realizes that she tends to make crappy decisions--it’s more her refusal to think about anyone besides herself that annoyed me.

Overall, I think I would’ve liked this book if only Brooklyn hadn’t annoyed me so much or so often. The writing was totally engaging and the overall story was fun--I just kept getting distracted from those by how much I wanted to throttle the main character.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Favorites: Sarah Addison Allen

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some non-YA books I love.

Yes, I realize that today's favorite "book" is actually an author. But since I hands-down wholeheartedly adore every single book she's written, I decided to post about them together.

Which book?
"Garden Secrets," "The Sugar Queen," "The Girl Who Chased the Moon," "The Peach Keeper"--all by Sarah Addison Allen

Contemporary women's fiction

When did I first read it?
The first Sarah Addison Allen book I read was "The Sugar Queen." I read it in 2010. After I finished that one, I went back and read "Garden Secrets" almost immediately. Then I read "The Girl Who Chased the Moon" and "The Peach Keeper" as they were released (2010 and 2011, I think).

Why did I first read it?
I was introduced to Sarah Addison Allen's books by a review of "The Sugar Queen" on Angieville. She just made it sound so good that I knew I had to read it. Then once I read "The Sugar Queen," I was thoroughly addicted, and I knew, come hell or high water, I would be reading her other books.

What did I think about it then?
When I finished "The Sugar Queen," I knew I was in love. Allen's just such a talented writer, and her stories are these perfect blends of magical realism, Southern charm, and gentle romance that made me smile and swoon as I read them. I stayed up way past my bedtime reading each book.

What do I think about it now?
I still love these books as much now as I did when I first read them. I think they top my list of comfort reads that I go back to again and again. And I've gotten a bunch of other people addicted to them too, because I recommend them all the time. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd probably go with "The Girl Who Chased the Moon," but they're all perfectly lovely.

Have you read anything by Sarah Addison Allen? What did you think?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: Liesl & Po

Liesl & Po, by Lauren Oliver. The GoodReads summary:
Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable.

Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.
Okay, so basically, it was a nice story, but I didn’t like it as much as I feel like I should’ve. Maybe it’s just that it’s been so long since I’ve read a middle-grade book that I don’t know what to expect from the genre. I just . . . expected more from this book since it was Lauren Oliver.

Liesl and Po and Will are all likeable characters, but I never connected to any of them. (My favorite character by far was Bundle, the cat/dog--I totes want a ghost pet now.) Plus, the story is a bunch of circumstances and things that go wrong that all happen to work out in the end for no discernable reason. And that tends to annoy me, so I found myself skimming sometimes. I also thought there were a lot of loose ends. Like what happened to Mo’s sister? And what’s Po’s backstory? And what happens to Vera? And what happens to Liesl’s fortune? There were just so many things that weren’t ever explained, and it drove me kinda crazy.

It’s still a fun story, though. And it’s definitely well written. I think I just wanted it to be deeper and more thorough, and maybe that’s expecting too much from a middle-grade book. I have no idea. Anyway, I’m not saying it’s not worth reading, I’m just saying it didn’t live up to my hopes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: My Life Next Door

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

My Life Next Door
by Huntley Fitzpatrick
14 June 2012

The GoodReads summary:
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen year old Samantha wishes she was one of them… until the day Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything.

Jase can sense that his beautiful neighbor is missing something in her sterile home, and as the two fall fiercely in love, his family makes her one of their own.

But when the bottom drops out of Sam's world, which perfect family will save her–and will her perfect love survive?

Set among the haves and have-nots of a coastal New England town, My LIFE NEXT DOOR captures the angst, the heartache, and the raw-nerve emotions of first time love—and biting loss.

While I'm a little worried that this book might have some insta-love going on, overall it just sounds like its going to be a really good, slightly more serious contemporary YA. Just how I like 'em.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: Texas Gothic

Texas Gothic, by Rosemary Clement-Moore. The GoodReads summary:
Amy Goodnight's family is far from normal. She comes from a line of witches, but tries her best to stay far outside the family business. Her summer gig? Ranch-sitting for her aunt with her wacky but beautiful sister. Only the Goodnight Ranch is even less normal than it normally is. Bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.
Even though the reviews I read about this book were kinda mixed, I still knew that it would be a book I would totally enjoy. Isn’t it weird how that happens sometimes? And I was proved right about liking it from the first sentence: “The goat was in the tree again”--I don’t know what else I could ask for in a first sentence. The whole first chapter is probably one of my favorites that I’ve read recently. Let me give you a teaser: it involves Amy chasing a cow out of her yard in her underwear and (of course) running into a hot cowboy while she’s doing it.

I loved Amy so much. She’s one of those characters that I know without a doubt I would be friends with if she were real. She’s funny and sarcastic and level-headed; she’s confident and brave without doing completely reckless things (and the reckless things she does do she has a reason for). Ben is a hot cowboy, so that’s pretty much all I needed to know to fall in love. He’s cranky and uptight (for fairly good reasons), but he’s always a gentlemen and he’s there when it counts. And hooray for no insta-love! Amy and Ben argue a lot throughout the book, but it’s, you know, the sexual-tension-building kind of arguing, so I was on board.

This book was a mystery/ghost/witch story--which I was so, so happy about. I love mysteries, and I’m always glad when they pop up in YA. This was more of a Scooby-Doo or Nancy Drew kind of mystery though, so don’t go into it expecting a complicated and suspenseful mystery where you don’t know who the bad guy is until the very end.

Overall, I really liked this book. Amy was such a great character (and she graduated from high school, so it’s older YA--yay!) and I never got tired of her or annoyed. The mystery was a lot of fun and I loved that Amy and her sister are witches. Basically, this book was a win all around for me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: The Reluctant Heiress

The Reluctant Heiress (previously published as “Magic Flutes”), by Eva Ibbotson. The GoodReads summary:
Being an heiress in 1920s Austria with nothing but a broken-down castle to your name and nary a penny in your purse could be frustrating for anyone but the Princess Theresa-Maria of Pfaffenstein. “Tessa,” however, is thrilled with her situation, as it allows her to concentrate on her love of the arts—and no one in the Viennese opera company need know that their delightful and charming under-wardrobe mistress is really a princess. But when the dashing self-made millionaire Guy Farne arrives at the opera in search of suitable entertainment for his high society guests, Tessa realizes that there may be more to life—and love—than just music. But while the attraction between them in undeniable, Guy’s insufferable snob of a fiancée only solidifies Tessa’s determination to keep her true identity a secret. Yet, after a chance meeting with the handsome Englishman, Tessa’s reserve begins to melt, and she starts to wonder if it’s not too late for a fairytale ending…
Have you ever started a series or read a book by an author you haven’t read anything by before and just wanted to smack yourself for not reading the book earlier? That’s pretty much how I feel about “The Reluctant Heiress.” I read Ibbotson’s children’s books (Which Witch, Island of the Aunts, Secret of Platform 13, etc.) when I was in elementary school, but I never got around to reading her YA-ish ones. And now I’m kicking myself, because “The Reluctant Heiress” was so great and I have a feeling that Ibbotson’s other ones are just as good.

I think what I came away with most of all from this book is a reminder of what a fantastic storyteller Ibbotson is. There are books that are so realistic and current that you feel like you’re in the story yourself, and then there are books like this one--books that have you wanting to curl up with some hot chocolate and just get lost in the skill of the storyteller. Ibbotson tells a story in a way that’s interesting and clever but at the same time completely comforting. And when I say “clever,” I’m not kidding--this book had me smiling at the constant wittiness of the description.

I also loved how Ibbotson created a world where I felt at completely at home, even though I know next to nothing about 1920s Austria. And she somehow managed to do it without an overabundance of description.

I loved the characters so much. Tessa is perhaps more kindhearted and selfless than anyone would ever be in real life, but she’s so humble about everything that you can’t help but adore her anyway. Guy reminded me a bit of Mr. Rochester from “Jane Eyre”--which is a good thing, but like Mr. Rochester, his faults were pretty easy to see (like his annoying tendency to jump to conclusions). But even more than I liked the main characters, I loved the secondary ones. Tessa’s aunts and Guy’s foster mother are some of the most likeable backup characters I’ve seen in a while. And I admire how skillfully Ibbotson is able to gently mock and make fun of her characters without detracting from their good qualities--that takes a lot of talent as a writer, I think.

Overall, I adored this book--Ibbotson is just such a skilled storyteller. And I guess it’s a good thing after all that I’m just now getting around to her YA books--it means I have a bunch of great already-published books to read.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Favorites: Little Women

So I’m going to try out something new and see how it goes. On Fridays I’m going to start posting a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. This will give me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and let me post about some non-YA books I love.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. The (really short!) GoodRead’s summary:
In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy come of age while their father is off to war.
When did I first read it?
I read it for the first time in elementary school--probably around 4th or 5th grade.

Why did I first read it?
I don’t really remember. I think it was probably one of the books my teacher had in the classroom “library.” I seem to remember reading it at the same time as my friend.

What did I think about it then?
I loved it, and it became my favorite book up through high school. But I think at the time I liked it mostly because it made me feel smart. It was the first classic I’d read, and it made me feel superior to my classmates, who were reading Goosebumps or whatever. (I was way more of a book snob back then than I am now.) My favorite character was Jo--I felt like I could really relate to her, although now I’m not sure why, since I’ve realized since then that we’re not all that similar.

What do I think about it now?
I still adore this book, but I think it’s more of a nostalgic love than anything else. I mean, it’s been 10 or so years since I read it last. But despite the time that’s passed, there are still a bunch of scenes that I remember perfectly. In fact, this book was such a part of my reading identity growing up that I remember parts of the book practically as if they’re my own memories--like Amy falling through the ice, Jo taking Beth to the seaside, the girls playing Pilgrims Progress, etc. I’m kinda scared to reread this book actually, because I don’t think it could possibly live up to my memories of it.

Have you read “Little Women”? What did you think?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Don’t Breathe a Word

Don’t Breathe a Word, by Holly Cupala. The GoodReads summary:
Joy Delamere is suffocating...

From asthma, which has nearly claimed her life. From her parents, who will do anything to keep that from happening. From delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out.

Joy can take his words - tender words, cruel words - until the night they go too far.

Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe... if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late.

Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the meaning of love, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength.
Every once in a while after I finish a book, I have no idea what I’m going to say in my review. I just sit there thinking about the book and drawing a blank. And that’s how I felt about this book. Don’t get me wrong--it was an amazing, powerful book, but I just feel so . . . out of my league or something. I mean, what do I know about homelessness and abuse and chronic illness? Pretty much nothing, that’s what. So this book kinda overwhelmed me a bit, just because there wasn’t much I could relate to.

The writing was fantastic, though, and maybe that was part of my problem. It all felt so gritty and real, and it made my stomach hurt to realize that all the terrible things that happen in this book happen in real life. I never quite connected to any of the characters--it’s not that they weren’t likeable, it’s just that their lives are so hard I think I was worried that it would break my heart to get attached to them.

Apparently this is going to be a really short review, because I’ve been sitting here in front of my computer, just staring at the screen, trying to put my thoughts into words. But I’m failing miserably. Don’t take that to mean that this book isn’t worth reading--in fact it’s the opposite. This book is so worth it. Just, I don’t know, brace yourself or something, because it’s going to hit you like a punch in the gut.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Golden Lily

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

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)
By Richelle Mead
19 June 2012

The GoodReads summary:
Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she’s been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California–tasked with protecting Moroi princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formerly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary Alchemist.

But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie, and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age-old Alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and the sense of what it means to truly belong. Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi—the fiercest vampires, the ones who don’t die. But it’s her fear of being just that—special, magical, powerful—that scares her more than anything. Equally daunting is her new romance with Brayden, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else—someone forbidden to her.

When a shocking secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney’s loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she's supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she's been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.

Should she trust the Alchemists—or her heart?

Yes, I came a little (a lot!) late to the Vampire Academy game, but I think I made up for my tardiness with the depth of my obsession with it. And so I was freakin' ecstatic that Bloodlines was really good too. So guess what? I'm dying for The Golden Lily to come out. Cuz I want to hang out with Sydney and crew some more.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: Catching Jordan

Catching Jordan, by Miranda Kenneally. 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 of 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 starting position... suddenly she's hoping he'll see her as more than just a teammate.
Contemporary YA is my favorite, but I haven’t been reading much of it lately and the ones I have read I haven’t had much luck with. So I was a little wary going into this one, especially since it had been getting such rave reviews--we all know how dangerous the hype monster can be. But while I’m not saying this is my new favorite book or anything, I will say it’s the best contemporary I’ve read recently.

The thing that got me from the very first page is Jordan’s narrative voice. She’s so down-to-earth and blunt and funny--she just sounded like a real person. And I loved her personality too. She’s a total tomboy and completely “one of the guys,” but she’s also compassionate and kind and a great leader. She’s a confident and kick-A quarterback, but she has her own set of insecurities and worries that keep her easy to relate to.

One of the things I liked most, besides Jordan, was her friendship with her fellow members of the football team. I only have one brother and not that many guy friends, so seeing Jordan’s easy friendship with her teammates was like getting insight into a whole new world for me. Plus, the guys, while still being, you know, pervy high school guys, are such solid friends--they’re there for Jordan when she needs them and aren’t the sexist jerks football players are so often portrayed as in YA.

There’s kind of a love triangle, but not really. I don’t really know how to explain it, but if you’re the type to avoid books based on love triangles, you don’t need to worry about it bugging you in this book. Neither Ty or Henry really won me over completely--they both had a few too many characteristics that annoyed me--but I’m happy who Jordan ends up with.

Overall, this was a great contemporary YA. If you’ve been in a bit of a reading slump recently, I’d definitely recommend this one. And don’t worry if you’re not a football fan--I’m not, and I still had a perfectly lovely time with this book.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: Stork

Stork, by Wendy Delsol. The GoodReads summary:
Sixteen-year-old Katla LeBlanc has just moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota. As if it weren’t enough that her trendy fashion sense draws stares, Katla soon finds out that she’s a Stork, a member of a mysterious order of women tasked with a very unique duty. But Katla’s biggest challenge may be finding her flock at a new school. Between being ignored by Wade, the arrogant jock she stupidly fooled around with, and constantly arguing with gorgeous farm boy and editor-in-chief Jack, Katla is relieved when her assignment as the school paper’s fashion columnist brings with it some much-needed friendship. But as Homecoming approaches, Katla uncovers a shocking secret about her past — a secret that binds her fate to Jack’s in a way neither could have ever anticipated. With a nod to Hans Christian Andersen and inspired by Norse lore, Wendy Delsol’s debut novel introduces a hip and witty heroine who finds herself tail-feathers deep in small-town life.
I think what I liked best about this story was how unique it was. I mean, the usual elements of YA were there (new town! insta-love! mean popular kids!), but it was based on Nordic folktales, which made it feel different from the plethora of mythology-based YAs that have come out recently. I found the whole stork society (yes, “stork” as in the storks who bring babies) fascinating. I do wish we could’ve spent a little more time with the society, and that Kat could’ve learned more about her role, but I’ll just have to take the time I got, I guess. I also loved the quirky old ladies in the society--nothing livens up a book for me more than quirky old people, as oxymoronic as that may sound.

I really enjoyed Kat--I think we could be friends in real life. She was sarcastic and funny and not annoying at all. She managed to take all the changes life threw at her in stride, without getting all mopey and woe-is-me. Yay!

Her relationship with Jack wasn’t my favorite ever--mostly because it was one of those “yes, I hated you yesterday, but today I love you!” situations. Plus, Jack acted really weird for most of their time together. There was definitely a reason why he was acting like that, but I don’t know why Kat never thought his behavior was strange--I would’ve been like, “Dude, what is going on with you?” pretty much after the first time he freaked out.

The big, climactic end scene seem really random and out of the blue to me. At the end of it, I was kinda like, “Wait. What just happened here? And WHY did it happen?” I have the feeling it was the author’s way of leaving something open for a sequel, but I would’ve appreciated it if she had worked up to the climax a little better.

Overall, the book wasn’t perfect, but I ended up really enjoying it--mostly because I liked the Icelandic folktale aspect and thought Kat was a fun character. Basically, there were enough things that I liked that I was willing to overlook the things that I didn’t. So if you see the book, pick it up--I think it’s worth a read.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: The Sweetest Thing

The Sweetest Thing, by Christina Mandelski. The GoodReads summary:
In the world of Sheridan Wells, life is perfect when she’s decorating a cake. Unfortunately, everything else is a complete mess: her mom ran off years ago, her dad is more interested in his restaurant, and the idea of a boyfriend is laughable.

But Sheridan is convinced finding her mom will solve all her problems--only her dad’s about to get a cooking show in New York, which means her dream of a perfect family will be dashed.
Here’s the thing--it was kinda hard for me to concentrate on the things that I liked about this book, because Sheridan annoyed me SO much. She’s honestly one of the most self-absorbed main characters that I’ve seen. She never thinks about anyone other than herself . . . ever. It’s always me, me, me. Yes, her life has challenges--her mom abandoned her and her dad wants to move away from the town where Sheridan grew up, but seriously, Sheridan never once tries to see anything from anyone else’s perspective--she doesn’t realize that other people have struggles too. She made me want to scream.

Okay, so now that I’ve gotten that bit of whininess out of my system, I’ll move on to other, more positive things. I generally liked the other characters. Her grandma is pretty great, even though everything out of her mouth is a Texas cliché. It took me a little while to understand Sheridan’s dad and why he was acting the way he was, but once I did, I liked him a lot. He makes some mistakes, but it’s clear that he really loves Sheridan. Jack, Sheridan’s best friend, felt a little flat to me, but he was sweet and a good friend, so it didn’t bug me too much. I really liked that Ethan, the boy Sheridan starts dating, isn’t automatically a jerk just because he’s popular--he has some jerk-ish qualities but he has some good ones too.

I loved the whole bakery/restaurant thing the book had going on. It made me so hungry while I was reading. And I like that Sheridan decorates cakes. I feel like, for some reason, not many YA characters have hobbies, but Sheridan does, and she totally rocks at it.

Overall, I think that if I could overlook Sheridan’s selfishness, I would’ve thought it was a cute book that does a pretty good job at dealing with family dynamics. But . . . I really cannot get over my dislike of Sheridan, so I probably won’t ever be re-reading this one. I’d read something else by the same author though.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Froi of the Exiles

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

Froi of the Exiles
by Melina Marchetta
13 March 2012

The GoodReads summary:
Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home . . . or so he believes. Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been taken roughly and lovingly in hand by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper with a warrior's discipline. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds in its surreal royal court. Soon he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess in this barren and mysterious place. It is in Charyn that he will discover there is a song sleeping in his blood . . . and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.

So I'm not super fond of the cover, but who cares?--it's a new Melina Marchetta book, for crying out loud. I just read Finnikin of the Rock and totally loved it. So believe me when I say I was ecstatic to find out that the next book is coming out in only a month and a half. And I'm really curious to see how it goes, because Froi was kinda a love-hate character for me.
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