Sunday, October 31, 2010

In My Mailbox: So Much OMG!

From Publishers: THE DRAGON'S APPRENTICE, sent to me by Simon & Schuster, is most likely going to end up finding a lovely home in someone else's personal collection. However, the ARC of Courtney Summers' upcoming FALL FOR ANYTHING was sent to me by the author's publicist at St. Martin's Press and, you guys, I'm not sure how much more excited I could be about this book. I'm a huge fan of Courtney Summers and this is the first time I've gotten a chance to read one of her books before it comes out. She's absolutely amazing and OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG so much excitedness!!!! In all honesty I feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to receive an ARC of this novel and can't wait to let you guys know what I think of it. :)

Won: I'm really excited this week because both of these books are debuts and I absolutely love reading debut novels. It's always so great to find a new author whose writing you love. I won POSER from Scholarberry and THE MOCKINGBIRDS (which, like FALL FOR ANYTHING, I am so omg omg omg omg excited to read!! I think the premise is amazing and love that it's somewhat inspired by the classic TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which is one of my favorite books) from Bri Meets Books. And, you guys, look at that cover. Stunning.
I'm incredibly excited about the books in my TBR pile... now I just need to hurry and finish the last 300 or so pages of GWTW so I can read them!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oct. 28-31 Blog Hop (Book Wishes)

Book Blogger Hop

What's one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?

I'd love to have the new color Nook that BN just came out with, but more than anything I'd just love to have the money to buy all the books on my list. I realize this is a really boring answer, but isn't that what all super-intense bookworms want? MOAR BOOKS OM NOM NOM like I am the BOOK MONSTER and I EAT THEM FOR LUNCH. That said, I'm really happy with the books I have on my shelves to read, especially lately. There is so much good stuff out there to read and honestly I think that how selective ("picky") I am about what I read, along with the fact that I don't finish books I don't like, really allows me to focus on the books that are really amazing. Sure, I read some less-than-stellar ones, but more than that I read tons of books that I absolutely love, that I can relate to, that resonate with me in some way. And I love that.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Five: The Website Edition!

  1. T.H. Mafi's brilliant, insightful, hilarious and breathtaking blog. In all honesty, Tahereh is my absolute favorite blogger and one of my favorite tweeps. She's unfailingly kind, adorably sweet, and just as zany and spazzy as I am, which is a quota few people fill. SHE IS ALL KINDS OF WONDERFUL. Plus, she runs QUERYPOLITAN, which gives her FIVE THOUSAND BONUS POINTS.
  2. Dinosaur Comics is the one webcomic I read every single day. It's super-funny and if I had the time I could spend hours just hitting the refresh button. T-rex is one of a kind and I do love him so. 
  3. Hulu. Because, obviously I love television. Watch Parenthood. Watch Community. Watch 30 Rock and The Office and oh my goodness, don't judge me for watching so many shows.
  4. The YA & Children's page of TV Tropes. As a whole and with some minor exceptions, TV Tropes is an absolutely awesome website full of internet-y and fiction-y goodness, but the YA page is especially awesome for us YA fans. EVERYONE SHOULD GO AND ADD MORE BOOKS TO IT PLEASE BECAUSE YES.
  5. Hyperbole and a Half, but come on, internet, don't even try to pretend you don't read this. It's too hilarious to not.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Enchanting. (Yes, I have to talk about this...)


I bought Taylor Swift's newest album on Monday and I'm sneaking a review/discussion of it into the blog because, hey, Taylor Swift is like... she's like the Sarah Dessen of the music business.


The album as a whole is, not gonna lie, pretty impressive. She has some serious writing chops and the sound of this album is a bit different than her last. It's a mix of country, pop, and what radio stations will blandly call "soft rock." There's a few super-slow songs and one incredibly angry anthem (that I love) and together everything works really well.

1. Mine -
The radio completely overplays this song as far as I can tell and by the time the CD came out I was already sick of it. The sound is a lot like "Love Story" and really so is the "story" of the song. That aside, I'm actually listening to it now that I've got the full album, and it's a good song. Overplayed, a bit cliche, but definitely a strong song with solid writing.
2. Sparks Fly -
This is actually an earlier song. I found it on YouTube around the time her first album came out though it was never officially released until now. It sounds a bit like "Mine" and "Love Story" - her typical style, but the melody is slower and there's just something about it that really captures me. There are some incredible lines ("I'm captivated by you, baby, like a fireworks show") and on a personal note the song itself sounds like it fits perfectly in the novel I'm currently writing.
3. Back to December -
I have mixed feelings about this song. On the one hand it's incredibly beautiful, both the words and the melody, and on the other hand it just feels like there's something missing, at least for me. Maybe because with most of Taylor Swift's song there's something in them I can relate to, some line or image that sticks in my mind and touches my heart, but with this one there's nothing. It's beautiful, but the personal connection I have to so many of her songs just isn't there. That being said, objectively I have to admit that it might be one of the strongest songs on the album.
4. Speak Now -
I actually bought this song before the album came out and then proceeded to listen nonstop like a madman. I kind of, um, love it. There's a slightly different sound here that I can only describe as metallic, but not in a bad way, more like there are a lot of wind chimes around. That makes no sense. Apoloys. There are a few particularly great lines here ("It seems that I was uninvited by your lovely bride to be") and the song as a whole, though slow, has an energy to it that would usually only be found in a faster, higher voltage song. Plus the whole idea of "speak now..." at a wedding has always been really fascinating and interesting to me, so I love that there's a song about it.
5. Dear John -
OH. MY. GOODNESS. This song, it blows my mind. It's just so good, so powerful, so amazing. Taylor's writing is usually pretty spot-on, but with this song she just took it to a whole other level and every line is incredible. The song itself is probably the slowest (and longest) on the album, with lots of soft guitar chords and instrumentals to back up the brilliant vocals. Even if you don't buy the album, this is a song you should definitely give a listen to. It's quite possibly the best on the album.
6. Mean -
This is one of the faster, angrier songs on the album and the more I listen to it the better I like it. The tune and lyrics are wonderful and I don't really care "who" it's supposed to be about because as a song it stands alone as a very strong track. Also, I love that it's one of the more "country" songs on the album and that it doesn't exactly go along with her normal, expected sound.
7. The Story of Us -
On the one hand this kind of sounds exactly like "Mine," and "Love Story" - Taylor Swift's typical song and sound. But on the other hand there's something extra here, an energy that her other overplayed-on-the-radio songs don't have. So I'm still a little undecided on just how much I like it.
8. Never Grow Up -
With every album she comes out with there's always one song that makes me cry, and this is the crying song for this album. More than anything else, this sounds like a lullaby, and I love it. There's so much great about this one: the lyrics, the lullaby feeling of it, the vocals, the everything. It might not be the BEST song on the album, but it's definitely up there.
9. Enchanted -
I'm not so sure about this one. It's beautiful, sure, but it also sounds like the kind of song that could too-easily become annoying or overplayed. The sort of song that's easy to tune out and doesn't make a huge impact even when you do hear it. Part of the problem, I think, is that the song is so long and I sort of lose interest pretty on. That said, when I do really listen to it I realize how pretty the song really is, which is a lot pretty.
10. Better Than Revenge -
Uhhh. HOLY COW WHAT THE WHAAAAT!!?? This is a totally different sound than most of what she's done before; definitely the angriest song on the album and also easily one of the best. Imagine an Avril Lavigne song written by Taylor Swift and you have "Better Than Revenge." There are some lines that are absolutely hilarious and great and so great. (That said and as much as I love this song I hope that I'm never able to say of myself, "There is nothing I do better than revenge.") (But really, credit where credit's due - Taylor Swift is AWESOME AT REVENGE. AND ALSO SONGS.)
11. Innocent -
Alright, I really love this song. I think it's great. The sound is quiet and slow and a bit like "Enchanted," except catchier.  I think it's a song everyone can relate to and I don't care what or who it was written about; it's a great song, period.
12. Haunted -
I've listened to this song at least five times already and it has made absolutely no impact on me. It's pretty, I guess, but I couldn't pick it out of a line up and there's really nothing to say about it, sadly. (I really don't know why I have no thoughts on it, but I always forget it exists.)
13. Last Kiss -
Most of the songs on this album are kind of long and on a lot of them it works, but this is another, like "Enchanted," where it could have stood to be a bit shorter. It's a slow-moving, very pretty song, but one you actually have to listen to in order to hear it. It's an incredibly unobtrusive song. 
14. Long Live -
This song isn't exactly a different sound for Taylor Swift, but it's definitely more mature. Another really, really great song that's kind of quiet and unobtrusive, at least until you get to the chorus. The song is amazing and I could be wrong, but I think it might be the first of her songs to deal with this subject. Whatever it is, I adore it. SO MUCH SO MUCH SO MUCH LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. MANY HEARTS. <3 <3 <3

On the whole, this is an incredible album. I'd describe it as enchantingDefinitely better than her second (Fearless) and maybe even better than her self-titled debut, which I loved from the first time I heard "Tim McGraw."
Best Songs: "Dear John" and "Back to December"
Worst Songs: "Mine" and "Haunted"

My Favorites, In Order:

  1. Long Live
  2. Better Than Revenge
  3. Dear John
  4. Never Grow Up
  5. Speak Now
  6. Mean
  7. Sparks Fly
  8. The Story of Us
  9. Innocent
  10. Last Kiss
  11. Back to December
  12. Enchanted
  13. Mine
  14. Haunted

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Stuff I Don't Read

I'd just like to reiterate - for publishers, publicists, authors, and anyone else who might be interested - that I do have a review policy posted on this site. Read it if you want, but lately the most important bit of information for you to know is that I DO NOT READ FANTASY OR PARANORMAL. There are very few exceptions to this rule (TWILIGHT and THE PRINCESS BRIDE are the only ones I can think of) and as much as I love reviewing YA books (which is a lot) and occasionally having the chance to read certain books that maybe aren't out yet or that I wouldn't have picked up otherwise, I am not going to review your fantasy/paranormal book. Both because I don't want to and because I would be the worst possible reviewer for it. I know next to nothing about the genre, the vast majority of the books either bore me or confuse me. So it's nothing personal and this doesn't apply to science fiction or dystopian, both of which are genres I'm trying to explore more lately.

The only reason I mention it now is because most of the emails I get from authors or publicists, and also quite a few of the books I receive for review fall into this category, and I hate to have you waste your time when I know there are so many other bloggers/reviewers who absolutely adore fantasy and paranormal.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top 10: Books That Made Me Cry

I really wanted to put this list in order like I did with these lists, but it's proving too difficult so instead I'm listing them by genre. 

1. Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell
There are plenty of times in the course of this book that I have cried (or nearly cried), but **spoiler alert** Melanie's death definitely takes the cake. The first time I read it I experienced a brief, all-encompassing hatred for a book and author that would do that to such an incredible character. It's a testament to the writing here that I always feel like the characters on the pages are real people.
2. Little Women
Louisa May Alcott
The best way I can describe how I felt reading a certain part of this book is to simply tell you that it belongs in the freezer. Hopefully you all get the reference.

3. For One More Day
Mitch Albom
This book, about a man who tries to kill himself and instead finds himself face-to-face with his mother (who died years earlier) is heartbreaking. Truly Mitch Albom's entire goal in life is to make people CRY LIKE BABIES, and out of all of his books this is the one that's made me cry the most, especially when I got to the end and found out who the story was being told to. 

4. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
John Boyne
The ending. Oh, the ending! 

5. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Ann Brashares
Every book in this series has its heartbreaking moments, but I think the first book takes the cake. To be honest, I didn't cry the first time I read this. I sniffled a little maybe, but the true impact of this book and of Bailey's death didn't come until the second time I read it, maybe because by then I'd read all of the other books also. In any case, the character of Bailey and her story throughout this first book is incredible and heartbreaking and so many tears my goodness I am incapable of doing anything but crying.

6. Splendor
Anna Godberson
This book is in a different category than the others on this list. While most books that make me cry are beautiful and have incredible stories that stay with me and characters that grow and make me proud to know them and authors I admire, this one... isn't that. Despite my everlasting love for the Luxe series and its characters, the ending here threw me for a loop and when I cried it was because I was completely heartbroken and angry at the way the author left things with her characters. I finished this book and then proceeded to, in a rare moment of anger, throw it across my room and sob for, like, ever. So much unhappiness here.

7. Twenty Boy Summer
Sarah Ockler
In this story of grief, it was the fact that Matt died of a heart condition that got me. Unlike other deaths, in other books, this one seemed incredibly personal.

8. Stop  Pretending
Sonya Sones
This book about a family dealing with mental illness is... well, it's amazing is what it is. There were so many little moments here that were tear-inducing, not to mention the subject matter itself.

9. Bridge to Terabithia
Katherine Paterson
I know I've talked about this book before in other Top 10 lists, but it really is one of the most amazing, sad, and beautiful novels I've read. For such a slim book, it really packs a punch.

10. Kira-Kira
Cynthia Kadohata
Something about this book - maybe the sisters' relationship - made it incredibly sad for me, possibly even sadder than it was "supposed" to be. When I finished reading it I just remember thinking this book is amazing, now where are the Kleenex? I have to stop crying. This is actually one of the few books that I absolutely love but have only read once because I'm a little afraid of how sad it would make me to reread it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review: Alexis

I find it difficult to review memoirs - partly because my typical rubric doesn't work, and partly because it seems so very rude to "review" someone's very personal experience. At the same time, however, this is still a book I most definitely have things to say about. Part of the Louder Than Words series (which are memoirs written by teenage girls), this book is the story of Alexis, an adolescent who finds herself the victim of an online predator. The tag line - "MY TRUE STORY of Being Seduced by an Online Predator" tells you everything you need to know before opening the book.

Alexis tells her story in a very straight-forward manner, writing of how she came to be friends - and then seemingly more - with an online acquaintance who was twenty years older than her (and married). As a reader we know, of course, that this "friendship" is so horribly wrong omg from the beginning, but the honesty of Alexis' emotions and the naivete of her thinking allows us to go along with it while also reminding us, constantly, that this is real. The writing here is okay, not exceptional, but it's Alexis situation that really keeps the reader hooked into the story - it's so horrible that it kept me reading, cringing, and hoping that Alexis would come out okay in the end.

As this is a book specifically about online predators, it's very much an "issue book," and this becomes glaringly obvious in the last couple of chapters, when the message is hammered home so much that it felt like a, "...and the moral of the story is..." which I have mixed feelings about. In a novel it would have been annoying and I'd have felt robbed of part of the story, but in a memoir like this it was obvious that the message was there not only because of the subject matter but also because it's such a personal story for the author. One thing I did find myself wishing the book had more of is dialogue, which is always tricky in a memoir but without it sometimes the book felt like an extremely long personal essay... which wasn't exactly a bad thing. If you're interested in the subject matter, I definitely recommend this one.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In My Mailbox: Teen Memoir

Won: One of the books from the Louder Than Words teen memoir series, from The Book Scout. I actually took a break from GONE WITH THE WIND to read this since it's such a quick book, and the review will be up tomorrow.

Is it odd that it only took me one week to realize I don't like including music in IMM? Since this is a book blog, I think I'll stick with books.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Blog Hop (Where?)

Book Blogger Hop

Where is your favorite place to read?

I definitely like to read on my bed or outside when it's sunny, though really I'll read anywhere.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reading Habits of Jordyn

This meme was found here, and if you want to answer the questions please leave a link/comment so I can see your answers!

What have you just read?
The last book I read was VIOLENCE 101, by Denis Wright. 

What are you reading now?
GONE WITH THE WIND, by Margaret Mitchell. My favorite. <3

Do you have any idea what you'll read after that?
Probably THE AFTER LIFE, by Daniel Ehrenhaft. Either that or I'll take a quick detour and read an old BSC book. :)

What's the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
This is actually a book I willingly read and I kept going thinking it would eventually get better and turn into a redemption tale (the title kind of leads you to believe this...) and the reading of it would be validated in the end. No such luck. HOW TO BE GOOD, by Nick Hornby.

What's one book you always recommend to just about everyone?
Well, HOW TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by Harper Lee if by some amazing amazement you've avoided reading it so far. But other than that, THE BOY IN THE STRIPED  PAJAMAS, by John Boyne, is kind of my catch-all recommendation and a really great book to boot. The less you know going in, the better.

Is there a book you absolutely love but for some reason people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don't like it at all?
Well, SERAFINA67 is one that most people just haven't heard of or found interesting enough to pick up. Of the three people I've had read it, two liked it and the third (my own sister!) absolutely hated it. But other than that I can't really think of anything though there are definitely plenty of books I love that not many people seem to have read, which is sad.

Do you read while you eat?

Do you read in the bath?

While you watch movies or tv?
I have before, generally during movies I'm not at all interested (which, to be fair, is most of them), but I generally don't. And reading during one of my awesome tv shows would be horrible!

While you listen to music?
Yes, sometimes.

When you're on the computer?

When you were little did other children tease you about your reading habits?
In fifth grade the other girls who sat at my table (a bunch of 11-year old mean girls, seriously) didn't believe that I was actually reading our assigned reading because, "nobody can read that fast." Maybe I should have been flattered but really they were just annoying and incredibly mean about it. Other than that, I was never teased in a mean way.

What's the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn't put it down?
Uhm. This doesn't actually happen to me. If I read late into the night it's because I can't sleep and I'm bored, not because the book is so great. But the last book that (despite me reading during the daytime) evoked this same feeling was SEA, by Heidi R. Kling. I swear I had things I was going to do that day besides read.

Have any books made you cry?

**also: the formatting on this post is all wonky. apoloys. i just can't get it to work right.**

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ninja Baby

Uhhh... so in last week's Friday Five I talked about a REALLY AWESOME VIDEO and then completely forgot to link to it BECAUSE I'M A THINKER.

So here's the video.

And it's hilarious.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Playlist: The Apollo Soundtrack

Here's the first playlist I've made for my current WIP (work-in-progress), the novel I've been struggling through the first chapter of this past weekend. As for the songs, there's only one I couldn't find on YouTube (at least, not sung by the right person...). The video for the Ke$ha song is one of the weirdest things I've seen in my life, and the video for "Paparazzi" is just scary and disturbing so I didn't even link to it. And all the songs are great, naturally. :)

(And yes, the working title for my WIP is The Apollo Soundtrack. I'm sure that'll change, but I love the title so much that I'm really going to try to keep it.)
  1. Your Love is My Drug, by Ke$ha
  2. Paparazzi, by Lady Gaga
  3. Heard It On the Radio, by The Bird and the Bee
  4. Stay Beautiful, by Taylor Swift
  5. Insomniatic, by Aly & A.J.
  6. One Sweet Love, by Sara Bareilles
  7. Thinkin' About You, by Britney Spears
  8. I Try, by Macy Gray
  9. Fall to Pieces, by Avril Lavigne
  10. The Hat, by Ingrid Michaelson
  11. Bottle It Up, by Sara Bareilles
  12. Complicated, by Avril Lavigne
  13. I Won't, by Colbie Caillat
  14. Hello, Goodbye, by The Beatles
  15. Metamorphosis, by Hilary Duff
  16. When I Think About Angels, by Jamie O'Neal
  17. Help!, by The Beatles
  18. Brand New Key, by Deana Carter
  19. I Won't Disagree, by Kate Voegele
  20. King of Anything, by Sara Bareilles
  21. Devil in Me, by Kate Voegele
  22. Fallen For You, by Drake Bell

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In My Mailbox: Introducing... Music!

So I saw someone else doing this and it seemed like a good idea to me, so from now on my IMM posts will include books and music that I've gotten in the past week.

From Publishers: Razorbill sent me this one and SERIOUSLY SERIOUSLY SO EXCITED ABOUT IT OMG OMG OMG. I completely geeked out when I opened the package. I'm very excited for a straight-up sci-fi in YA. This one comes out in January, so the review won't be posted for a while (and hopefully I can resist reading it until closer to the pub date, too).

Gift: Korianne sent me this one when she mailed back the Get Smart disc she'd borrowed. AND WOOOO YAY SO HAPPY. The former glory of my BSC collection is once again being realized... slowly. (Also, this totally has a shiny cover, even though you can't tell from the photo.)

Bought: I was really really really hoping Taylor Swift's next album would actually sound like country music, the way her first album did, but it's not looking like it. That said, I'm a little obsessed with the song Speak Now and have listened to it SO MANY TIMES. And the Kesha song is the first song on the playlist for my current WIP. It just fits in so perfectly.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Five: Books, Music, and Starbucks

  1. The theme of this week has been, "Where is my ipod cord? I used it just yesterday; where did it goooo? It is GONE GONE GONE WHEREVER COULD IT BEEEEE???" Right now my ipod is on red and I don't know where the cord is. Plus, I had another cord, one that actually wasn't all frayed and broken, but my dad stole it and now it's GONE FOREVER because he lost it. So yeah. Current crisis.
  2. Also if you haven't seen this video yet, there is something wrong with your internet habits. IT IS SO CUTE AND SO FUNNY AND SO GREAT.
  3. Dude, Urkel (or whoever played Urkel - does he actually have a real name? I mean, he must) is guest starring on the episode of Psych I'm watching right now. Also one of the guys from Keenan & Kel. Just thought you should know that. Also: what's up with this Abigail chick? She's okay and all but NO NO DO NOT WANT. 
  4. Know what I like? I like those Salted Caramel Hot Chocolates from Starbucks that they have during the fall. WHY DO THEY ONLY HAVE IT DURING THE FALL? To torture me, personally?
  5. Speak Now, by Taylor Swift. I have possibly listened to this song like A MILLION BAZILLION times in the last couple of days. Obsessed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Debut Review: Violence 101

Denis Wright

I'm really not sure how to feel about this book. I don't exactly like it, but I don't dislike it either. The story is set in New Zealand and follows Hamish Graham, a 14 year old boy who has been in school after school and has landed at Manukau New Horizons Boys' Home because, as he puts it, "sometimes I do very violent things." The first half of the book chronicles his arrival at New Horizons as well as his misdeeds in the past, while the second half of the novel follows him as he attempts to prove himself by climbing to the peak of a mountain. Parts of the novel are told from Hamish's point of view through journal entries, while the rest is in third person -- sometimes following him, sometimes the adults in charge of him.

It's an interesting novel, to say the least. Hamish is incredibly violent, bordering on sadistic, obsessed with military leaders of the past such as Alexander the Great. He's also amazingly intelligent, logical, and thinks he's sooo much better than the "stupid people" he's surrounded by. (Honestly, having read this book directly after finishing Cormac McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN, he reminds me a lot of a younger version of the Judge, which just freaks me out.) To say that I didn't like Hamish would be an understatement; he seems to embody many of the qualities I detest in people -- namely that he's incredibly arrogant and judgmental. His journal entries were in turns boring (the essays on his military heroes) and annoying. Though he definitely makes some real growth throughout the novel, especially in the last twenty pages or so, he was still the same ole Hamish at the end of it all. I'm pretty sure I was meant to come to understand him, and in some ways I did, but for the most part he seemed remarkably like a psychopath throughout the entirety of the book and I couldn't muster up sympathy for him.

Aside from the protagonist, there were some very interesting adult characters in the novel, most notably a coach named Toko who has come to teach at the boys' home for unknown reasons after leaving the army, and Trev, a character whose attitude towards Hamish is the most refreshing though he only gets a scene or two in the book.

The story is very interesting and compelling, especially in the first half of the novel as the staff at New Horizons struggles to find a way to deal with Hamish. Additionally, the topic of troubled boys is covered well, however I can't help but thinking (and hoping!) that Hamish is not a typical case. I would have much rather read about one of the other boys in the home -- possibly the selectively mute boy Noel, or Victor, the brute. It seemed to me that Hamish was undoubtably the least likable and least relatable character to write about, and the book suffered for this.

One of the most peculier things about this book is, having finished it, it doesn't seem like a YA novel to me. True, the protagonist is a teenager, but about half of the novel is focused on the adults in his life, there are no other important teen characters, and -- most importantly -- it reads like a case study of troubled teens. Not only is Hamish the sort of teen character who does not consider himself a teen, but the book itself is written as if the audience in mind is - specifically - adults interested in the topic of teen violence and delinquency. It's educational, but not as entertaining as it should be.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Top 10: Books You Have to Read at Least Once

I tried to limit this to strictly-fiction books, but there was one memoir I couldn't help but include. If you haven't read these books, definitely add them to your list. Most of them are pretty short and a lot of them are children's books, so it's not as if reading them is a huge time commitment. In my opinion, these really are the books that everyone should read.

1. The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
One of the best books I have ever ever ever ever read. It's survived so long and been translated into so many languages and is at the top of this list for a reason. The story here, the childlike wonder and possibility contained in this small book is truly amazing, and to say I love it would be an understatement.

2. To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee
Honestly if I had to choose a book as the definitive Great American Novel, this would be it. Anyone (like, ahem, me) who wasn't forced to read this in ninth grade english is really missing out if they don't pick up a copy on their own. Boo Radley is one of the most iconic literary characters and Atticus Finch is one of lit's greatest heroes, not to mention the writing, story, and significance of the title is absolutely stunning.

3. Tuesdays With Morrie
Mitch Albom
The one memoir I couldn't leave off of the list, this book is truly one of the greats. No matter how inevitable the events, it will make you cry, and it will make you look at things in a different light. Mitch Albom is a great writer in any of his books, but this one is a special sort of masterpiece just because of what it is: life's greatest lessons, from a dying man.

4. Once There Were Giants
Martin Waddell and Penny Dale
Okay, so apparently this book is out-of-print. Never mind, you can maybe (hopefully?) find it at a library at least. In any case, it's one of those great-but-sad children's picture books, in the vein of LOVE YOU FOREVER, only much more happy and I'm pretty sure this book came first. Anyway, it's seriously great.

5. Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
This is another book that, if you weren't assigned it in school, you missed out. It's about censorship, thought, society, family, war... all that good stuff, all wrapped up in a tidy little compelling story. It's not the most uplifting, it's not the most depressing, but it is very thought-provoking and really just a great and long-lasting book that everyone should read. (Or, if you're really not going to read it, at least see the movie, which isn't half bad.)

6. Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Dr. Suess
Dr. Suess really needs no explanation.

7. The Phantom Tollbooth
Norton Juster
There are a few books on here -- and this is one of them -- that I fear won't affect you quite the same way if you read them as an adult. This is one of the greatest works of and about imagination that I've read. It's a sort-of fairytale beginning with a cardboard tollbooth, and really is just a flat-out wonderful children's book and I hope you all read it when you were ten years old.

8. Bridge to Terabithia
Katherine Paterson
OHMYGOODNESS I LOVE THIS BOOK. There are two chapters here titled "The Fastest Kid in the Fifth Grade," and the second one had me crying my eyes out. If by chance you don't know what this incredible book is centered around, I won't ruin it for you, but if you do know you've probably read the book and know just how great and amazing it is. Though the movie is incredibly good, it still doesn't do justice to the actual book. Which, no matter how old you are, you should read if you haven't yet. Katherine Paterson is a master and this book is her best masterpiece.

9. The Rules of Survival
Nancy Werlin
As you might be able to tell from my blog, there is a LOT of really incredible and amazing YA out there. But as for a book that everyone should read, it's this one that takes the cake. This book -- a story of child abuse and survival -- is heartbreaking, shattering, and insanely intense. It's also, because of the narrator's perspective and the way the story is framed as letters to his younger sister, absolutely beautiful and amazing. 

10. [Insert Your Choice Here]
[Splendid and Talented Author]
Everyone, I think, should have at least one book that they love. And not just that they love, but that they can't help rereading time and time again, that seems to change with every reading. A book that almost feels alive for how much it grows with you, changes you, and seems just as incredible (if not more) on the fifth reading as it did on the first. I have a few of these books, but right at the top of the list is the incredible epic that is GONE WITH THE WIND.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


After watching this incredible video I made the mistake of reading a few of the comments. NEVER READ COMMENTS ON YOUTUBE; THEY'RE DEPRESSING AS ANYTHING. While a lot of people were very supportive of Jackson's message, there were a few who still think that illegally downloading books is A-Okay, generally for the following reasons:

If a person really legitimately doesn't have the money to buy a book and can't find it at the library or borrow it from a friend, it's okay to use downloading as a last resort.
This is a ridiculous argument. I'm sorry, but it is. We're talking about BOOKS, and no matter how great the book is, you won't die without it. It's not a necessity. It's. Just. Not. The reality is that a writer being able to continue publishing books depends on how good the sales are. If you're downloading a book instead of buying it not only are you in essence stealing money from the author, but you're also making it harder for them to be able to continue publishing books, ie. making it that much harder for them to keep their job. The fact that you can't afford to buy a book does NOT give you license to illegally download it.

If someone really loves the book, does it really matter how they got it? or Isn't it better to have someone love your book but have read it illegally than not have read it at all?
This is a strawman. Whether or not you like the book is irrelevant to the topic of book piracy and, aside from that, if you really like the author's work there's even more reason for you to NOT STEAL IT.

People "steal" music all the time -- it's no different downloading books.
Um, yeah. Stealing music = also wrong. But aside from that, as Jackson mentioned, the record business is not the same as the publishing business.

It's not like the author is going to literally starve if someone illegally downloads their book. Besides, can't you just get another job to support yourself?
I ACTUALLY SAW THIS IN THE COMMENTS. *headdesk* This is so ridiculous of an excuse that I'm not even going to bother tackling it -- seriously, if you have to go that far to make what you're doing okay, it's obviously NOT OKAY.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Geek Charming

Robin Palmer

When Josh, an aspiring film student and future director, sets out to make a film about the popular kids at his Beverly Hills high school, Miss Popular herself is the topic of his film. Dylan Schoenfield, whose father owns a fricking mall, is the very definition of the word "snob." She's everything you expect your stereotypical popular high school girl to be: smug, vain, conceited, and incredibly shallow and superficial. When the two of them meet and start working together, Josh is determined to make a "fair and balanced" documentary, which means finding some shred of relatability and humanness in the designer-clad Dylan. For Dylan, Josh is an annoyance her daddy is forcing her to put up with and she's totally shocked to learn that "Geek Boy" isn't as horrible as she thought. He's actually kind of... sweet? And normal?

GEEK CHARMING, told in Dylan and Josh's rotating first-person viewpoints, is set up as your classic "opposites attract" story. In the first few chapters Dylan is even more annoying, self-centered, and shallow than you could possibly imagine. That, and she seems incredibly stupid. I mean, seriously, if you have a boyfriend of two years who REFUSES TO TALK TO YOU, there's obviously something wrong. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. So yes, Dylan got on my nerves; in the first scene all I wanted was for someone to come up and push her into the fountain her purse had fallen into, maybe slap some sense into her.

As for Josh, he was like a Wikipedia of film facts and incredibly motivated and dedicated to his goals. He was portrayed as the Ultimate Geek, which is why I was so surprised to find how absolutely boring I found him. While Dylan was superficial and conceited in the beginning, she eventually showed more depth and ultimately grew as a person while our "geek charming" was... dull. There was nothing about him that we didn't know from the beginning and aside from a superficial makeover from Dylan, he didn't change in any meaningful ways throughout the book. I hate that I couldn't like him more, but he just wasn't a compelling character.

What I did love about this book - despite the stereotypes - was the relationship that grew between Dylan and Josh. Under the guise of Josh's film project, a friendship develops and I can honestly say that it's one of the most refreshing boy/girl friendships I've read lately, made more so by the fact that they're so different from each other. And though I thought I knew how this book was going to go from before I finished the first page, the ending surprised me (in a good way) despite the abruptness of the conclusion. All in all, I enjoyed this book. It probably could have been a shorter book for what the story was, but it definitely had its awww moments, and the relationship that grew between the two main characters was awesome.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In My Mailbox: Science Fiction, the South, and... Violence?

There was no IMM last week because there were no new books to talk about, BUT THIS IS THIS WEEK AND THIS WEEK THERE ARE BOOKS OHHH YES. But first let's all take a second to realize that today is 10/10/10, which is pretty awesome just because IT IS.

From Publishers: An ARC of VIOLENCE 101, by Denis Wright, sent to me by Penguin. It seems quite a bit darker than my typical read, but it also looks terribly interesting, so that's good.

Borrowing: I'm trying to read more science fiction, so my friend gave me these to borrow. The novel looks kind of intense and intimidating (but I haven't started it, so I really can't say) and I'm super-excited about the book of short stories, because there has to be SOMETHING in there I'll really like.

Gift! Of course I've saved the best for last. My mom bought this one for me and I cannot wait until I have time to tackle this epic. BECAUSE I LOVE IT SO MUCH BEST BOOK EVERRRR WIN WIN WIN WIN.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Blog Hop: Oct. 8 - 11 (Yum!)

Book Blogger Hop
This week's blog hop question, from Crazy For Books, is,
What's your favorite beverage while reading or blogging, if any? Is it tea, coffee, a glass of wine, or something else?
ICED TEA. Favorite drink ever of any times, because it's awesome. (Right now though, it's three in the morning and I'm drinking hot chocolate. Yummm.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Five: Reading, Writing, and Book Trailers on Hulu

  1. This has not been a good reading week. First I read a book that was thoroughly depressing (not YA), and now I'm reading a too-gory and very confusing book for literature class. I have just a couple of days to finish it and I really, really don't want to. But, um. Have to.
  2. I'm currently in the fourth season of LOST and the second season of Psych. They're both fantastic shows and Psych has surpassed Castle as my favorite crime show, because THAT'S HOW GOOD IT IS. (Also this season of Castle is actually not so great thus far, sadly.)
  3. I'M WORKING ON A NEW NOVEL. I haven't actually done much work yet - mostly just the first playlist, character names, and a rough idea of what's going on. This means that the spy book is on hold for now and for who knows how long. I'm super excited about the new novel (which is actually an old idea) but I have a lot to do before I even get to start writing it. Character bios are difficult.
  4. Hulu is playing trailers for books. The Fallen Angels series, by J.R. Ward. Has anyone heard of this series? Why are they playing trailers for it? I've never seen a book trailer on tv (or Hulu) before, except one James Patterson novel. So just wondering what that's about.
  5. I finally got Sara Bareilles' new CD, Kaleidoscope Heart, and it's every bit as amazing as I was hoping it would be. Incredible.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


So I committed to doing the THE PRINCESS BRIDE read along, hosted by Chrisbookarama. And then, of course, a couple of days after deciding to do it I realized I might not be able to.

For the first time in years (literal YEARS) I'm reading four books and once, and four books is just too many. I like to stick to one at a time, generally. And THE PRINCESS BRIDE is one that I could actually decide to not read since it's not for school.

SO WE'LL SEE. I still really want to do the read along with everyone else who is doing it, so hopefully I won't give up. It's not as if it's a difficult or even particularly long book... it's just kind of being the straw that broke the camel's back right now.


More interesting post soon, really.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tween Tuesday: My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours

Kristina Springer

This book is friggin' cute. When Tori's (newly rich) best friend, Sienna, comes back from her fabulous summer vacation with highlights, low lights, french-tipped nails, and a too-good-to-be-true long-distance boyfriend named Antonio, Tori misses the old Sea. The girl who was seriously shy and unabashedly dorky. Tori knows the boyfriend is a lie and, unsure of how to deal with her "new" old friend, she makes up a fake boyfriend of her own. Sebastian Colander, who's everything Antonio is and even more. As awesome as this premise is, the book is even awesomer. More awesome. Whatever. Tori, Sienna, and their new, popular friends are fully-fleshed out characters. For once the popular girls aren't mean or snobby -- just well-liked. And though Sienna's transformation is sudden and extensive, she doesn't turn into a snotty brat who forgets all about her best friend just because her family has some money now. Tori's (divorced) parents are also well-developed and the adorable relationship she shares with her father is definitely one of the best I've seen in a YA or MG book. He's actively involved in her life despite her not living with him. I get so used to (and sometimes bothered by) YA books where the protagonist is like so totally annoyed and embarrassed by her parents that it was refreshing to read a book where that wasn't the case. Tori's younger than the average YA protagonist and this is a middle grade novel, but even so, not all teenagers hate their parents.

The setting here, aside from one memorable scene, is fairly forgettable and non-important. And as much as I would have loved an incredibly vivid setting, it really didn't impact the book very much. More important is the plot, which turns in unexpected and wonderful ways as Tori's "boyfriend" becomes more and more impressive and Tori herself becomes more and more confused and lost next to her dazzling and transformed best friend. There's a great subplot here with two of the popular girls who suddenly befriend Tori and this is honestly one of the best parts of the book -- watching Tori's friendships apart from Sienna. My only real complaint here is that I wished the ending had a bit more to it and that everything wasn't tied up so neatly because I was left feeling like there should have been more.

All in all though, this is a great YA/MG book. (I believe they're "officially" calling it YA, but it's much more in the MG age range to me, so that's what I'm going with.) It's awesome and adorable without being cliche, fun and quirky without falling into predictable territory. A fast, fun, all-out awesome read.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Top 10: Fictional Characters

I attempted to put this list in order like I've done with previous lists, but it's so difficult! You can think of it as being in order if you want, or you can just assume that after the first one (or two) it doesn't really matter because they're all amazing.

1. Agent 99
Get Smart

Greatest character ever. And, well, I tried to write something about how and why she's so absolutely incredible, but nothing happened I think I just sat here at the keyboard typing best ever best ever best ever like ten times. BEST EVER. OH BUT ALSO UM UM I HATED THE ANNE HATHAWAY VERSION BECAUSE WAY TO COMPLETELY CHANGE THE BEST CHARACTER EVER SERIOUSLY NOW, PEOPLE WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

2. Maxwell Smart
Get Smart
OH GOODNESS. The shoe phone, his insistence on using the Cone of Silence, the obliviousness that is trademark, how he's clumsy and bumbling and a brilliant spy at the same time? Maxwell Smart is just the best. I mean, HE HAS AN INVISIBLE WALL IN HIS APARTMENT AND HE SLEEPS IN A SUIT AND AND AND... there are no ands. His best friend is a ROBOT. He's a well-known secret agent, how is that not an amazing contradiction in terms? Also, the Craw. Also, Harry Hoo. Also also also, people routinely throw grenades into his apartment and people always show up and then die because they've been poisoned and he just goes about his routine like la-di-da, just another day in the life! Because that's the kind of character he is.

3. Captain Kirk
Star Trek
Do I really need an explanation for this one? I mean, what's cooler than flying through space and fighting aliens? (The only acceptable answer here is either: "fighting KAOS, obviously," or "nothing, der.") You guys, there is LITERALLY a motivation poster of Captain Kirk with the caption, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am. So yeah. I'm pretty sure "Kirk" is one of the synonyms of "awesome." That seems legit, right?

4. Frankie Landau-Banks
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Um, can I be as amazing as Frankie, please? She's the ultimate I-want-to-be-her YA girl. And not because she has such great adventures, or because there are guys fighting over her, but because she is just so incredible. The pranks, the Wodehouse, the secret society stuff, and thinking about feminism without going to the extreme on any one side. She's just awesome. Can we all agree that Frankie grows up and becomes a spy? Because, OMG YOU GUYS, Frankie is just like a younger Agent 99!! This is SOLID GOLD FACT. Frankie = 99. YES.

5. Spencer Martin
the Scarlett series
Honestly it's sad if I even have to explain this one to YA fans. Spencer Martin is everything that's right with humerous, contemporary YA. The awesomeness of his character starts on the very first page of SUITE SCARLETT and then never lets up. He's a loving brother, a struggling-but-determined actor, and he makes fun of people named Chip because seriously who names their kid that? But more importantly? HE'S HILARIOUS AND GREAT and [number one] it's nice to have a lovely and funny brother-sister relationship at the forefront of a story and, [number two] a book of just ALL SPENCER ALL THE TIME would be great, actually. There doesn't eve need to be a plot or anything. (And just wondering, but does he remind anyone else of the Spencer from iCarly?) 

6. Peeta Mellark
The Hunger Games trilogy
Peeta Mellark is, without a doubt, the best part of The Hunger Games trilogy. Even when he's thrown into a ruthless pit of death (the arena), he's still loyal and loving and protective and MY GOODNESS, YOU GUYS, HE'S JUST SO SELFLESS. He is a symbol of hope and love. LITERALLY THAT IS WHAT HIS CHARACTER IS and how can you not love that? Peeta is steady and reliable and incredible throughout all three books and this, when everything else is messed-up and disturbing, is the best thing ever. 

7. Topher Brink
Topher Brink is like Spencer Martin if Spencer Martin were a genius scientist working for an evil corporation instead of a recently-famous actor. In other, more succinct words: Topher Brink is amazing. He's the brains behind the mind-wipe and personality-implanting technology in that creepyweird show, Dollhouse. He's smart and hilarious and creates havoc and cracks jokes and seems to have no morals until suddenly he does and then it just gets better and better and better until he goes completely nutter because that's what happens when you bring about the end of civilization, apparently. BUT OH GOODNESS HE IS JUST SO GREAT I JUST LOVE HIM SO MUCH AND I WON'T SPOIL THE ENDING FOR YOU BUT OMG OMG OMG OMG.

8. Diana Holland
Luxe series
Excuse me for saying this, but Diana Holland is boss. And I don't even use the word boss like that, but she so is. I love her so much that I'm willing to overlook the tremendous mistake she made at the end of SPLENDOR and allow her to have her rightful place on this list. She's a society girl who doesn't like the rules, who breaks them at every turn, who has her own inner fire and spunk and remains true to it. She's incredible and it was worth reading the Luxe series just for her journey... (though I still can't get over the ending, and I never will.)

9. Serafina
While a lot of the other female characters on this list are ones I want to be more like, Serafina is the one I actually am like. It's a testament to something, I'm sure, that both friends I've given the book to commented on how much the spastic writing reminds them of me. But it's more than that. Serafina's a little insecure, more than a bit on the crazy side, and is emotional in the same way that I am. Her insane blogging is the kind of stuff that goes on inside my head (and on my Twitter) every. single. day., and for this I love her.

10. Charlie Pace
Uhhh, last night I finished season three of LOST. It was epic sad and I don't know why my favorite characters are always killed off, but Charlie is... well, bloody brilliant. From heroin-addict/rockstar, to one of the first people kidnapped by the Others, to baby-snatcher, to hero, he's pretty much consistently been the best part of the show. He has a lot of heart and as much as I love this show I'm not quite sure how the rest of the seasons are going to be without him on the island.