Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 2011 on the Blog

The Last LIttle Blue Envelope
Della Says: OMG!
Invincible Summer
Wild Child
Back When You Were Easier to Love
In the Shadow of the Lamp
The Time-Traveling Fashionista

I also listed ten random things, books featuring sisters, covers I consider perfect, and my ten fictional BFFs. I also started a series on YA for those who don't read YA - so far I've covered both chick-lit and literary options on the YA shelves.

In a more serious tone, I discussed finally reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and shared a scar story.

Also, sorry it's taken a while, but I have responded to the comments of my last couple posts. I don't say it often, but thank you so much to everyone who takes the time to comment on my blog; it means a lot to know that people are reading and reacting to my posts. :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

In Which I Confess Some Issues...

I like historical fiction the same way I like coffee: in theory. As an idea, both are fantastic. Coffee brings to mind keys clacking on a keyboard, books being written, people coming together and having conversations. However, it tastes like bitter. Historical fiction brings to mind history only interesting and full of people whose lives I actually want to know about. In reality, however, I frequently end up lagging through the book, either giving up or having to force myself to keep reading.

The problem is not that these books aren't good. Oftentimes they're written incredibly well, with interesting characters. The problem is the fact that I get bored easily. The plots of historical fiction are often slow-moving, with language that makes for a slower read than I generally like. It's sometimes a struggle for me to stay interested in a novel that takes me a week or longer to get through.

With most books (contemporary, memoirs, science fiction, dystopian, etc...) it takes anywhere from one to forty pages for the story to grab me. With historical it's not unusual for me to keep pushing through the 100 page mark and still -- despite me knowing it's a good book with great characters and plot and I should be interested by now! -- not really be into the story.


So, all of you fans of historical fiction -- enlighten me, please. What is the draw? And even more than that can you please recommend some great books for me? Also: what genre do you have problems with, despite really wanting to like it?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

YA for Those Who Don't Read YA - Literary Edition

Literary - Novels with a more literary style are a difficult sell in YA as there's typically less plot and more pretty words. Personally, I am a huge fan of the pretty words. My own writing style is fairly literary, in fact, and though the literary genre has a reputation for being boring or pretentious, not all of them carry this mark. And the ones that don't are, in my opinion, some of the best books out there. So for you fans of Literature, here's some YA to fit the bill.

1. Stay
Deb Caletti
Chronicling the aftermath of an abusive and obsessive relationship, Stay has the power of a solid plot and the beauty of incredible writing. Set in a beach town populated by quirky characters and rocky seas. It's a breathtaking, beautiful read with a strong sense of setting and relationships. 

2. Other Words for Love
Lorraine Zago Rosenthal 
With a fuzzy, polaroid-picture feeling to it, this book is the best of literary fiction. A protagonist who often feels alone, dealing with internal and family struggles, dealing with growing up and changing throughout the course of the novel. It's beautifully written and Ari is a character I found myself quickly relating to. Not to mention that cover just screams literary beauty!

3. This is What I Want to Tell You
Heather Duffy-Stone
This is one of those books that seems to have been forgotten. I don't know of many who read it which is a shame, as it's absolutely brilliant. Told in the rotating POV of a set of twins dealing with changing relationships and newfound realizations, there's a ton of strength in this story. Though it's not terribly plot-driven, there are some very raw and impressive events handled extremely well and I do hope that a few more people find and read this one.

4. Along for the Ride
Sarah Dessen
I would say that all of Dessen's novels have a literary leaning to them, but Along for the Ride might be (at least one of) the most literary. Set in a beach town, Auden (named for the poet -- le sigh) finds herself insomniac, sometimes taking care of her much-younger sister, sometimes making female friends for the first time, and sometimes wandering the streets at night with a boy with similar bad sleeping patterns. 

5. Invincible Summer
Hannah Moskowitz
As impossible as it is for me to decide how I feel about this book, there's no denying that it's both literary and beautiful. Set during four summers at a beach (are we seeing a pattern here?), the story is character-driven and infused with philosophy and setting and so so so much incredible writing.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - Sisterhood Everlasting

I hardly ever do a Waiting on Wednesday, but I can't not talk about this one. I absolutely loved the first four in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and am insanely excited and nervous about this fifth installment that picks up ten years later. As much as I love these girls, it's going to be hard to deal with them not ending up where I wanted them to. I have high hopes for this novel but a huge fear that it won't live up to those hopes. In either -- any -- case, I can't wait to read it when it comes out in June.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review - The Last Little Blue Envelope

This review contains spoilers for 13 Little Blue Envelopes.
After the thirteenth little blue envelope was stolen, Ginny figured her adventures were over. However, when an anonymous guy named Oliver emails saying that he has the last letter, the adventure starts again as Ginny joins Keith, his new girlfriend Ellis, and Oliver in order to find Peggy's last piece of artwork.

I liked 13 Little Blue Envelopes, but I didn't love it. The sequel, however, is a much stronger read and I enjoyed it quite a bit more. Unlike the first book, there's a steady cast here that lends stability and heart to a very plot-centric story. As she tries to figure out what happens after high school, Ginny's also being blackmailed by Oliver, traveling Europe to pick up the various pieces of Aunt Peg's last masterpiece, and navigating the tricky relationship between her and Keith. At the end of 13 Little Blue Envelopes they were "kind of something," but now Keith has a girlfriend (the incredibly nice Ellis) and instead of telling Ginny, she's left to discover it on her own. The relationship between Ginny and her uncle Richard is a big part of the story this time around. The life Ginny has in Europe, with Richard, shows so clearly what a big part of her life exists across the pond and I absolutely loved it.

The actual plot was great. This time around there are only three places that Ginny has to visit, which makes for a much more relaxed pace and allows for a lot of setting description and atmosphere that really set the stage. Ginny's inner journey was possibly even more interesting than all the traveling and hijinks she got into, if only because there's such a sense of resolution here. Not only is there the closure that comes with being able to read the last letter from her aunt Peg, but also a sort of resolution with Keith and not only an ending, but also a new beginning as she reaches the end of her journey. The ending of this book really is the best sort in that it resolves the current story but leaves open a lot of hope and possibility for Ginny's life from this point forward. And in this way the book not only finishes the story of the envelopes, but also signals the rest of Ginny's life as she contemplates college applications and what her life holds after graduation.

It was great. If you've read 13 Little Blue Envelopes, you probably already want to read this book -- but if you haven't and you're a fan of contemporary YA, Maureen Johnson, or even just quirky coming-of-age novels, I definitely recommend reading it. (Though it does make more sense if you've read the first book before this one.)
The Last Little Blue Envelope comes out TODAY!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cover Perfection

For a while now I've been thinking about covers and how a lot of times the cover a book has doesn't really convey the essence of the story. Because that's what I love: the essence of the story. And it's difficult to capture that with a visual image, but when it happens it makes me insanely happy inside. I'm one of those readers who, as sad as it seems, is scary dependent on covers. When a cover is bad I don't want to read the book, no matter how many great things I've heard about it (I usually move past this, though) and when a cover is good I want to read the book no matter what.

Here are a few of my favorite, most spot-on covers. Ones that are not only gorgeous, cute, or wicked funny, but that -- above all else -- portray the story inside.

The paperback (if that is the final cover for it) of this book is, dare I say it? Just as amazing. I love the feeling of hope through tribulation that comes through in this cover; it's absolutely brilliant and fits the novel so perfectly. On the paperback I love the addition of the girl and the trees it the distance; same feeling, just a different image.

There's something undeniably creepy about this cover. Though I personally love it I know quite a few people who've found it scary. Which makes sense: it's a minimalist image but there's a hint of violence here that's just so incredibly well done for what the novel is about. This, like the cover above, is one of those covers that -- while gripping -- doesn't have quite the same effect until you've read the book. (And seriously - GO READ THIS BOOK.)

Something about the torn-and-taped paper dolls on this cover (as well as the chipped nail polish) perfectly portrays what the book is about: a girl with a messed-up family, trying to patch things up with her mother. The great thing about this cover is that it gives you an idea of the story and what lies ahead even before you turn that first page.

Just like with Fixing Delilah, this cover gives an idea of what the story is about. There's so much more to this book that just a girl planning her wedding while still in high school, but that's definitely the central idea and the cover portrays that perfectly. Even without reading the blurb for this book I knew I wanted to read it just because of the evocative and interesting cover.

Alright, a special mention to this book's cover because even though it doesn't really tell you what the story is about, it references a very specific part of the book and its events in a perfectly eerie way. Sure, it screams SCI-FI!, but it does it in a way that's personal to the book and its story, not generic to the genre as a whole. This, I love.

What about you? What covers do you think perfectly portray the story inside? And what do you think of my choices?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In My Mailbox - Actual Mail!

Part of the reason I haven't been doing IMM lately is because while I review the vast majority of books (at least YA) that I read, I didn't want anyone to see a book, notice I didn't review it, and then come to the conclusion that I hated it or anything.

I may be over thinking that? I'm not sure. In any case: I do review most of the books I read. But there are so many reasons for the ones I don't review -- yeah, maybe I didn't like it. But also maybe I couldn't figure out the right words for the review or I waited too long and then forgot so much of the book. Unless I get a book specifically for review, I no longer feel like I have to review it.


Bookswap: Of course I wanted to read the fourth (and final?) Ruby Oliver book. This is the one series of books that me and my sister both love, so I actually got this for her. But of course I had to read it first because I'm nice, but not that nice.

Gift: This one I'm really excited about as the author/my friend Chelsea sent it to me. WOOT! And the topic is one I'm super interested in and I'm excited to read her story and see how she handled it. This is one of those that I may or may not review. Reviewing memoirs is hard enough as-is (I had a very difficult time with the last Louder Than Words book I reviewed), but the added fact of Chelsea being a friend makes it even more difficult. But in any case, I am super jazzed about finally reading it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

YA for Those Who Don't Read YA - Chick Lit Edition

I keep giving people in my life books to read. And most of those people do not typically read YA. However, the great thing about YA is that it's a huge, multi-faceted genre with plenty of sub-genres for readers who are usually more inclined to pick up a different sort of book.

So to start out, books for those who love:

Chick-Lit/Women's Fiction - Chick Lit gets a bad rap, mostly because of articles like this that consider it a "lesser" book genre. But hey, guess what other genre gets a bad rap? THAT'S RIGHT! OUR BELOVED YA! With the idea that it's all paranormal love triangles and glossy headless-girl covers, both Chick Lit and YA are bestselling underdogs (hooray for paradoxes!) of the literary world.

And when the two meet it's pretty awesome. So, for those Chick-Lit-inclined readers in your life, here are some great choices from the little sister genre of YA.

1. 13 Little Blue Envelopes & The Last Little Blue Envelope
Maureen Johnson
Though she also writes some paranormal and fantasy, many of MJ's books have a decidedly chick-lit-adventure twist. For example 13 Little Blue Envelopes and its recently-published (and totally worthy) sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope. The books follow Ginny Blackstone as she navigates Europe guided by letters left to her by a recently-deceased and incredibly-whimsical aunt. While there's a nice dose of romance here, the story is primarily focused on Ginny's humor-infused journey around a foreign land. (And, if I do say so myself, the sequel is even better than the first.)

2. The Ruby Oliver Novels
E. Lockhart
Ruby Oliver is cute, funny, quirky, obsessive, and a little bit off her rocker. The anxiety-suffering heroine begins her four-book series when, after her boyfriend dumps her for her (now ex-) best friend, she's sent to a shrink who tells her to list all the boys she's ever liked. And so The Boyfriend List is born, along with the enchanting adventures of a girl who doesn't ever seem to realize how awesome she is to those around her.

3. Sean Griswold's Head
Lindsey Leavitt
In a lot of ways, this is the best sort of Chick Lit book. It's sweet, funny, and warm-hearted. It has a truly nice cast of characters, from the girl trying to deal with her dad's MS by focusing on, yeah, the head of the boy who sits in front of her in math class, to the boy (Sean Griswold) who happens to be attached to the head, to the family going through a tough time. I feel like this is a book that many will pass by just because it's a bit quieter, a bit less stand-outish than others -- but trust me, it's well worth reading. 

4. The Lonely Hearts Club
Elizabeth Eulberg
Beatles-infused and delightfully full of girl-power and strong female friendships, this is the story of what happens after, when the love of her life breaks her heart, Penny Lane swears off guys and starts a girls-only club committed to being strong and happy without boyfriends. And the description -- trust me -- does not do the book justice. There's real heart here, along with a heroine that you can't help but cheer on as she fills her life with the best people around and tries to find a balance between love, friendship, and self.

5. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
Carolyn Mackler
Don't let the title or the cover fool you; this book is well-deserving of its Printz Honor. Virginia is an extremely realistic character who struggles with weight, family, and her own perception of herself and those around her. Though lighthearted in tone, there are some bigger issues at play in this novel and they're handled exceptionally well.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Review - Della Says: OMG!

Keris Stainton
Hachette Book Group UK

After kissing Dan (the boy of her dreams) at a party, Della's most prized possession -- her diary -- disappears. She's almost convinced it's somewhere in the house when snippets of it end up showing up in strange places. On Facebook, for instance. As she enters a relationship with Dan and offers advice on her best friend's complex love life, Della also has to wonder who stole her diary and who hates her enough to taunt her with her deepest secrets.

I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to review this book because as much as I liked it, there were definitely a few things that threw me for a loop and I'm not sure if it's because of the book or the culture differences between the United States and Britain. But more on that later.

The characters here, both teens and adults are well-crafted and multi-dimensional with the possible exception of Della's older sister, Jamie. Della's transformation from a shy and self-conscious character into a more mature and confident girl was realistic and well-written. Her best friend, though decidedly more outgoing, is not your typical YA best friend; she's honestly supportive of Della's choices and interested in her well-being, which is a theme running throughout many of the characters, from Dan to Della's parents to the guy she works with. Though I found this refreshing, it also got a bit too much for me at times. There's a huge attitude of do whatever you feel like, everything is just dandy in this book and it was extended so far that I sometimes found myself scratching my head. One scene in particular had a couple of Della's friends honestly confused as to why she might be so devastated to have her journal circulated in such targeted, hurtful ways; they seemed to think that she shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed and while this is a great attitude in theory, the idea that she would be fine with having her very personal thoughts out in the open just blew my mind.

Another thing that surprised me, and I'm not sure if this is a cultural thing or not, was the attitudes regarding sex. Most of the characters had a very laissez-faire view towards sex. Her parents took for granted that Della would be having sex with her boyfriend of just a couple weeks and though I loved the family's openness to discuss such touchy subjects, their conversations seemed more buddy-buddy than between parents and their daughter. The teenagers in this book (especially Della and Dan) have very mature romantic relationships, both in the physicality and the emotional steadiness; it was difficult to buy that there would be that level of commitment in such a new and young romance.

The ending here was a bit abrupt and there wasn't a ton of build-up to the reveal of who stole Della's diary; the story is much more focused on Della's growing relationship with Dan and her friendship with Maddy. Though there were, as I mentioned, a few things that startled me about this novel, I loved the characters and it was an absolutely adorable story. Being, you know, not-British, I found all the Brittisms (that's a word, right?) so charming and fancy.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book to Film: Why the Same Story Doesn't Always Work

This past weekend me and my sister watched Flipped -- the movie based on the book by Wendelin Van Draanen. I'd heard mixed review on this one, from "absolutely adorable" to "meh" to "one of the worst movies of the year," so I basically had no idea what to expect. But, being such a fan of the book, I had reasonably high hopes (NOT expectations).

The movie was exactly like the book. And by this I mean that so much of the dialogue (maybe even all of it?) was taken directly from the book. The voiceover narration was straight from the book and all of the characters were accounted for. Aside from being set in the 1960s (I don't think there was anything in the book about it taking place 50 years ago), the story of the movie was play-for-play exactly like the book.

Unfortunately, what works so well in the book doesn't really translate as well in the movie. A book is black shapes on a white paper -- with this story a split-POV is needed to show the thoughts and feelings of both Bryce and Juli. In a book there are no lingering looks or cameras panning or atmospheric music. But guess what?

THESE THINGS ARE ALL AVAILABLE TO MOVIES. And the fact that this movie didn't take advantage of those things was disappointing to me. Though my sister loved the movie, I thought it was sweet-but-seriously-lacking.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review - Invincible Summer

Hannah Moskowitz
Simon Pulse
Everything important in Chase's life happens in summers. Summers at the beach, with his always-fighting parents, the older brother (Noah) who won't stop running away, his over-sexualized younger sister (Claudia), and deaf little brother (Gideon). Summers are about playing in the ocean, crushing on the girl-next-door, and being perfectly innocent. However, over four supercharged summers everything changes (and stays the same): Chase ends up in a seriously messed-up love triangle with the older girl next door (Melinda), the cracks in his family become more and more apparent, and the "perfect" facade of these summers crumbles.

As for a review, I don't even... I can't even... I DON'T KNOW, YOU GUYS, I JUST DON'T KNOW. This book was beautiful and incredibly strongly written, but I'm not sure that I can honestly say that I liked it. Because more than being beautiful and having all those perfect elements I love in a book -- family, love, wanting, waiting, growing up -- it was incredibly, amazingly depressing. But more on that later.

The main character, Chase, been shoved into the role of "oldest brother" due to Noah's habit of running away and because of this Chase is always watching everybody. He misses Noah when he's gone, worries about Claudia's too-revealing clothes and too-sexy attitude, watches his fighting parents and his deaf younger brother as the cracks in his family get bigger. Though we're told over and over again that all the parents do is fight, this is so rarely seen that the tension -- at least in this arena -- was difficult to feel. Amidst this, the all-sex-and-no-feelings relationship he falls into with the summer girl, Melinda, is so obviously a bad idea. She's much older and sort-of dating his brother Noah; despite Chase's loyalty to his brother (and the fact that he really doesn't even like Melinda), this relationship stretches through quite a few summers of the book, past the point where it seems like it would normally be resolved.

Noah's habit of running away was a huge part of the novel, and one of the best. He disappears for days at a time, misses birthdays and other important events, and seems to only have room to truly care about one person. That person, coincidentally, is Chase, who feels like he's been missing his brother forever but somehow manages to love and get along with him in spite of all the ways he messes up. The deaf brother, Gideon, is one of the more central characters in the book just in the fact that his hearing-impaired status affects each member of his family a bit differently. In a book with so many characters and events, the character of Gideon is the glue that holds them (at least somewhat) together.

This book was, as I said before, beautifully written. Pretty words, gritty scenes, and a setting that feels exactly like the most stifling days of summer. But in spite of this, it was also pretentious and sometimes tiresome. The writings of Albert Camus play a huge huge huge role in the novel, almost as if the whole thing is just a vehicle for Camus quotes. Chase, Noah, and Melinda have entire conversations that consist solely of these quotes and the three of them find meaning in every line he writes, relating it to their life, their summers, and the beach that holds everything for them. For those who are fans of Camus or of the super-literary style, this might work perfectly. For me I found myself wanting to scream at the characters, tell them to use your words! Your own words!

As for the ending, I hate to give too much (or anything) away, but saying that it was sad is a little bit like saying the sun is hot: a gigantic understatement. And while the actual events of this fit perfectly with the rest of the book, it's the overwhelming feeling of it that gets me. This is not a happy book. The storylines are dysfunctional in that way that would be fine if the characters had the strength to carry such storylines -- but they don't. These characters aren't under-developed, but they are incredibly pretentious and, more than that, helplessly, hopelessly sad. I don't think there's one happy character in the entire book and it really seems as if nothing that ever happens will fill them up or make them truly happy. These characters seem almost destined to a life of despondency.

There's a part of me that loves this book so much. But there's another part of me that just... doesn't.

*ARC received at ALA.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Ten - Fictional BFFs

In no particular order...

  1. Tibby Rollins - The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
  2. Bronwen Oliver - I Now Pronounce You Someone Else
  3. Diana Holland - Luxe
  4. Bethany - The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading
  5. Ari Mitchell - Other Words for Love
  6. Cisco - Flirt Club
  7. the Bean - Flirt Club
  8. Penny Lane - The Lonely Hearts Club
  9. Serafina - serafina67
  10. Mallory Pike - BSC
You guys, I did want to go into detail and explain why each of these characters should be my fictional best friends, but then I realized that entailed discussing friendship and that is kind of a sad subject for me.

Which makes no sense, I realize.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review - Wild Child

Mike Wells
When his best friend Brie is hit by a speedboat while swimming in the lake, Kyle's sure she's dead. There's no way to survive a blow like that. But when Brie reemergest from the water a few minutes later, she's strangely energetic and her wounds are already closing up. Brie has found a green water at the bottom of the lake that seems to have healing powers. Soon, Kyle and Brie are on the run from government officials who want their discovery -- to make things worse, Brie's health is fading fast the longer she stays away from the green water.

This book is straight-up sci fi; the story starts up right away with a minimum of backstory. Kyle and Brie aren't the most compelling characters by themselves, but their relationship is interesting enough to pull me into the story and their bond does a good job of grounding what is an incredibly unbelievable story. Unlike most scifi I've read, this one takes place in our world and as impossible as it is to believe this "green water" heals and gives the ability to breathe underwater, I accept this part of the story wholeheartedly because that's how Kyle reacts.

That said, though I bought into the premise of the green water, this story still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Not only are we left to wonder just what, exactly, the green water actually is, but also: who are these government agents? Why is Kyle so sure they're bad? Why do they want the green water so badly? This is a super-short novel and because of that there are certain aspects -- like Kyle's relationship with his dad -- that aren't fully developed. In most cases, this is fine; the story is focused exclusively on Kyle, Brie, and the mysterious green water that Brie is dying without.

For me, this biggest issue with this book is the sudden, bizarre ending. I had to read it a few times just to be sure what I thought happened actually happened. This ending seems to come out of nowhere and apropos of nothing, but that's not entirely a bad thing. For a novel, it's definitely a head-scratcher, but this entire book reads less like a novel and more like a very long short story, where unresolved questions and sudden endings are more common. And for that it works well.
This book is published as an eBook for both the Kindle and the Nook. 

*ebook received from author

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review - Back When You Were Easier to Love

Emily Wing Smith
Dutton Children's Books
Having moved from a college town in California to the super-wholesome, super-Mormon, ruled-by-conformity city of Haven, Utah, Joy latches on to the one guy who isn't just like everybody else. Zan is smart, gorgeous, and so over everybody in Haven. And, sooner than later, he's also over Joy. He graduates early, changes his cellphone number, and heads off to college leaving Joy not-quite-dumped, but definitely without the boyfriend she was sure she was meant to marry. Still obsessed with him and seeking closure, Joy convinces Zan's former best friend, Noah to road trip to California in order to find Zan and get the answers she's looking for.

This book was super-cute, let's get that out of the way right off the bat. It's funny, nice, sweet, and squeaky-clean. I'm honestly a little surprised it's being published as mainstream YA fiction just because there's so much Mormonism in the story and I know that's going to put off a few readers. And those that aren't put off by this might be a bit confused in some parts. Though the author does a good job of explaining most of the more Mormon-specific details, there were still a few times when I found myself just the smallest bit out of the loop.

There were a few things about this book that seemed a bit off-kilter and out of line with the characters. Though Joy's journey as she tries to make sense of her break up with Zan, the boy she thought was perfect, is sweet and funny, it often seems a bit contrived. A suspension of disbelief is needed in order to buy into Joy and Noah both lying to their parents and roadtripping out-of-state by themselves. (Not to mention that all of Joy's friends went along with this plan.) These don't seem like characters that would skip a boring class, much less leave town with a member of the opposite sex. It's easier to believe coming from Joy, whose obsession and lingering questions over Zan seem to be clouding her judgement, but it was a real stretch to believe that super-good, super-popular, super-duper-duper Noah would go along with her.

However, in spite of these flaws I absolutely enjoyed this book. Not to give too much away, but Zan was 
such a jerk and there's a nice contrast between his personality and the personalities of Noah and the blind-to-reality Joy. There are a few subplots here regarding Joy's feelings on moving to a town like Haven and the friends she's made, and these are wrapped up nicely in Joy's story as she makes the journey from obsessing over Zan and refusing to move on to... well, driving out to California and having to confront the boy she thought she loved.

The ending seems a bit abrupt and I wanted at least a couple more pages of wrap-up, but in all this book was far from disappointing and I recommend it for anyone who wants a sweet, funny, wholesome story of what happens 
after first love ends.Back When You Were Easier to Love is set to be released April 28, 2011.

*Received ARC at ALA.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scar Story

Yesterday's Road Trip Wednesday over at YA Highway asked the question: What is the story of your best scar? And I know I'm a day late, but I couldn't help tackling this topic.

My scar is a pale and faded line, from almost-collar-bone to almost-belly-button. I see it when I change and when I shower and when I look in the mirror. I could cover it up all the way if I wanted to, but wearing necklines that high just because of a scar seems ridiculous. It is healed skin, flesh cut open and sewed back together. Scar. Zipper. Live saver.

It is always, always reminding me of what I am and who I am and what has happened. Underneath the scar, my heart beats. It beats steady, reliably, stronger than expected but weaker than hoped. The story of my scar is not funny or outrageous or extreme because I did something dangerous and got cut or bruised or burned. I did not crash a bike, touch a hot iron, or crack my head on concrete trying to dive. I am so much more boring than that.

I used to hate this scar. It's the only one that isn't completely covered by shirts and I was thirteen and fourteen and fifteen and horribly awkward and I wanted to be just the same, just like everyone else. I didn't want people looking at me because I didn't know how to explain without sounding moronic or brave, of which I am neither. Plus, it hurt. Not the scar itself, but all it reminded me of. There's that trying-to-hard quality to my voice when I say I had heart surgery when I was younger. I try on this oh so casual tone, like it's no big deal. Like oh, that doesn't matter. No biggie.

This scar is not my sole defining quality, but it is also not a small thing. It is there. It is a piece of me. It is a reminder of needles and tubes and medicine and hospital beds and breathing and not breathing and fear fear fear, pray pray pray. It is brokenness and healing and growing, being patched up and on my way. It is faith and luck and being scared and being saved. It is my own story, my own history.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review - In the Shadow of the Lamp

Susanne Dunlap
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
After being fired from her job as a parlormaid, young Molly Fraser stows away aboard the ship carrying Florence Nightingale and her nurses to Crimea. The work is horrifying and the hours are long, but Molly is determined to make her family (especially her mother) proud. She finds herself falling for a young doctor in spite of the strict rules Mrs. Nightingale has against her nurses socializing with the men. But the doctor isn't the only one she has feelings for -- there's also a boy from home who's joined the war in order to be closer to her.

I'm a bit torn over this book. On the one hand, I did like it and it was an interesting look into the character and legacy of Florence Nightingale. However, on the other hand there were parts of Molly's story that didn't seem to fit or ring true to the character.

Molly is a strong-willed character who manages to not only stowaway aboard the ship carrying Mrs. Nightingale's nurses, but also convince Nightingale to let her stay on as a nurse despite being much younger than the others (as well as untrained). Molly is determined to make her mother proud and pay back the money she borrowed to make the journey. I loved this version of Molly; she was smart, talented, and determined to make something of herself in spite of being turned out into the street after being betrayed by someone she thought was her friend.

However, as the story goes on a couple of different romantic storylines develop. In spite of the strict rules against socializing with the men, a romance grows between Molly and one of the doctors. At the same time, she finds herself contemplating marriage to a soldier she's known for quite a while. For me, this derailment into a romance-focused story really took away from the story of Molly becoming a nurse as well as changing her from a character who cares about following the rules and learning from Mrs. Nightingale, to breaking the rules and sneaking away. If it had seemed like she really had strong feelings for either of these men, maybe the effect would have been different, but that's not how it came across.

This book has a wonderful historical setting and backstory, as well as shedding light on Florence Nightingale and the early beginning of modern nursing practices, but the romance aspect got in the way of the rest of the story for me. However, I'm not generally a big fan of historical fiction, so this book may be better for those who do enjoy the genre.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Someone Finally Read Speak

There are some books that I read because I want to and some books that I read because I feel like I should. Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak definitely falls under the second category. Though I'd read a few of Halse Anderson's later books (Twisted, Catalyst, Prom, and -- my favorite -- Wintergirls) and I'd heard tons of praise for Speak, I'd never bothered to read it. It falls under the category of: books I always meant to read.

After the whole Wesley Scroggins debacle last year, I meant to read it even more. When it showed up at my used bookstore I had to buy it. Eighteen pages in, I understood why this book is considered a contemporary classic, the beginning of the YA genre as we know it today. And it's not because the book tackles such a huge topic, one that hadn't been talked about much (at all?) before in books for teenagers; it's because that, while sullen, angsty, withdrawn, and dealing with something huge, Melinda manages to be something of an everygirl. Written in a very stream-of-consciousness style, Melinda's dry-toned observations on everyday high school life are spot on. Despite being a rape victim and outcast, her outlook on life is, to a degree, the quintessential teenage angst.

I mean, she's depressed, no doubt. But there's something in her voice -- her concerns, her lack of confidence, the fact that nobody listens to her paired with her observations on everything and everyone -- that speaks to every teenager. And there's something in the story -- a mix of the everyday trials of Being A Teen and the Big Issue that Melinda's dealing with -- that seems to lay the foundation for the YA we know today.

This is all to say that:
1. I'm so so glad I finally read Speak and
2. even more importantly, I'm so grateful that Speak was written and published in the first place.

If you're a YA reader (and especially a YA reader who also writes YA) who has somehow managed to go this long without reading Speak, I really urge you to.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Sister Books

The book I'm working on rewriting and revising is about two sisters and in the spirit of that, here are a few YA books* that feature great sister relationships.

1. That Summer
Sarah Dessen
Honestly it's the rare Dessen book that doesn't have a sister relationship in it, but I definitely have a soft spot for this one. The messy relationship and misunderstandings that exist between Haven and her older, wedding-crazed sister, are lovely and poignant to me. Other great Dessen books with sisters include Dreamland (where a sister running away is a catalyst for something much worse), The Truth About Forever (where this relationship is in the background of everything else), and Just Listen.

2. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (series)
Ann Brashares
I have much more than one issue with the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies, but the main one is definitely that Lena's younger sister Effie wasn't a part of them. In the books, the relationship between beautiful Lena and her younger sister Effie is, if not a main plot, at least a major subplot. There's a lot there and despite being in the background for most of the time, the relationship these two share and Lena's thoughts and feelings toward her younger sister ring absolutely true and wonderful. The push-and-pull of Lena, Effie, and Lena's friends is brilliant. These two are definitely one of my favorite sets of sisters in literature.

3. Wither
Lauren DeStefano
Though not sisters in the traditional sense of the word, Rhine and her sister wives are easily my favorite part of this book. Within an incredibly strange situation that none of the girls particularly wanted to end up in (except maybe the youngest), these three form some intense and complicated friendships that mirror those of any sisters.

4. The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June
Robin Benway
If I had put this list in any kind of order, this book would most likely be up at the top. The voices, feelings, and relationships of these three sisters are authentic and at the forefront of the novel. Their dialogue is funny and sweet and just like conversations between actual sisters. I love it, I love it, I love it.

*Also, in a related note, I'll be reading Nova Ren Suma's novel Imaginary Girls soon and that is also about sisters. I'm so excited!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review - Stay

Deb Caletti
Simon Pulse
At first, everything is amazing. Christian is gorgeous and super-attentive, exactly the sort of guy Clara wants to be with. That is, until his devotion to her grows into something else and he becomes more possessive and jealous, eventually stalking her after she breaks it off with him. Now, Clara and her dad have rented a summer house on the beach just to get away from him. In this little town, completely cut off from her old life, Clara hopes Christian will stay away from her for good, but her overwhelming fear makes her wonder if the distance between them will really stop his obsession.

I felt like this book was the anti-thesis to all the my-boyfriend-loves-me-so-much-he-stalks-me, Twilight-esque books out there. Clara and Christian have an intense relationship right from the get; there's an instant connection and the word soul mates is tossed around almost carelessly. They "love" each other. They're completely wrapped up in each other. However, as their relationship grows, so does Christian's jealousy. He doesn't want Clara to talk to other guys, look at other guys. He checks up on her when they're not together, just to make sure she's where she said she would be and not cheating on him. He gets angry too easily and this anger fades into a desperate neediness too quickly. When they break up and he starts stalking her, the fear is palpable. He emails, calls, and shows up at her house uninvited.

The story switches between past and present, telling the story of their relationship simultaneously with what happens after Clara and her father move to the sea for the summer to get away from him. While I wished that the past/present sections were marked, the story flowed well enough that it wasn't jarring for me. There's a lot of descriptive language in this book and a lot of times I felt like it slowed the story down, but at the same time there was so much tension in the story and this balanced out the slowness of it to a good degree.

The setting of the sea plays a bit part of this book and it's written beautifully. Though the overriding symbolism of the ghosts seemed a bit overplayed at times, the actual setting and atmosphere of the seaside town Clara and her father come to is great, as is the various ways that this setting plays into the plot of the story.

Clara and her dad have exactly the sort of father-daughter relationship I've been waiting for in YA. There's an obvious love and ease between them; when Christian starts going crazy, Dad is right there for Clara; he even even changes their life around to give both his daughter and himself some peace of mind. The relationship between them is so easy and such a huge part of the book, which I absolutely loved this. While there were some revelations near the end that I was unprepared for and that at first felt out of place, these things came together and made perfect sense by the conclusion. Things here are, thankfully, not tied up so neatly with a bow and while I wasn't quite satisfied with the ending, which felt rushed and a bit too easy compared with the rest of the story, I do like how Caletti left things overall.

I didn't expect to, but I loved this book. Love love love. It's lyrical and creepy, all-too-honest and believable, and written with such great tension and realistic characters. As I said earlier, I definitely recommend it for those readers who have grown disenchanted with the insta-love of many YA novels.

*ARC sent by publisher for review.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


  1. One of my classes this week met at BN in the children's section and one of the girls made some comment about how lame it is for 20-somethings to be sitting in the children's section. Hmmph.
  2. I keep having to fold clothes. Because I keep doing laundry. I swear, I never think these things through.
  3. At this point my novel is basically a scramble of chapters that don't really flow from one to the other because OMG YOU GUYS, DUAL POV IS HAAARD. Also one of my main characters kind of has a potty mouth. OMG.
  4. I am in love love love with this picture book. LOVE, I TELL YOU.
  5. Reason #53 I love Twitter: a few weeks back I had a conversation with ALLY CARTER (!!!) and an editor from Egmont (!!!) about Friday Night Lights. How else could that ever ever happen?
  6. And speaking of Friday Night Lights, I tried so hard to watch the movie. It had Tim McGraw in it! And Connie Britton! And that guy who plays Buddy Garrity! But... I fell asleep. Partly this is because I was super-tired and partly because the movie just wasn't that interesting to me. 
  7. Also, I recently watched about half of The Switch, which also wasn't interesting to me and I ended up watching The Cosby Show instead. (The Pixar Story, on the other hand, is great. Definitely recommended for all of us creative types.)
  8. Have listened to "The Golden Age" by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour about forty times in the last couple of days. It's the song from that beer commercial with the magician/dancer guy and the karate man. And it's awesome.
  9. A while back my mom bought me a dream journal, but I keep forgetting to write in it in spite of having incredibly detailed (and often very weird or terrifying or... bizarre) dreams. I would tell you about them because I really believe my dreams are interesting, but I'm trying to remember that the rest of the world maybe doesn't agree. BUT THEY SO ARE.
  10. I really want to watch iOMG. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review - The Time-Traveling Fashionista

Bianca Turetsky
To the chagrin of her mom and best friend, 12 year old Louise would rather wear "old" vintage clothes than shop at the mall. When she attends a vintage clothing sale hosted by two eccentric women, she finds a beautiful dress that she thinks will be perfect for an upcoming school dance. She tries it on, against the advice of the sellers, and is instantly transported to the early 20th century. In the body of a famous actress and on board a dazzling cruise ship, Louise is determined to enjoy being someone else for a while until she finds out that the ship she's on board is the Titanic and she has to find a way to get back to her real life before the shipwreck.

Louise is a likable main character and her story is an enjoyable one. The history theme is interesting, especially as Louise's interest in the history of the Titanic grows, though I'm not sure how accurate many of the scenes set aboard the ship are in terms of societal norms and dialogue. Louise's growing relationships on board the ship, especially with her maid, are interesting and fun to read about but because Louise is from 2011 and the other characters are stuck permanently in 1912, there is a necessary distance between them that will probably keep readers from getting too emotionally invested in anyone other than Louise. One of the most fun parts of the book was seeing Louise's thoughts while on board the Titanic -- she was humorous and somewhat believable in her reactions to finding herself trapped in the past.

Fashion and the history of fashion really is a huge part of this book and while I'm overwhelmingly fashion illiterate (that's a thing, right?), the story is great for girls who love vintage clothing and are interested in its history. There are quotes from iconic designers, descriptions of clothing that goes deeper than merely stating the brand, and pictures that in the final edition will be full color.

Though from everything I've read this book is being marketed as YA, the writing style and the 12 year old protagonist both seem a bit young and personally I think the book will appeal much more to pre-teens and younger teen girls than it will older teens.

*Recieved ARC at ALA.

Monday, April 4, 2011




*This, of course, must be sung to the tune of Friday. SORRY SO SORRY.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

Review - Wither

Lauren DeStefano
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Set in a nearby future where, due to genetic experimentation, males only live to age 25 and girls to 20, young children are routinely orphaned, extreme poverty is everywhere, and the threat of a young girl being kidnapped and sold into a polygamous marriage to those few wealthy men is common, Rhine is one such child bride. At the age of 16 she finds herself married to Linden, a frail and willowy 21 year old whose first wife and true love is quickly dying at the age of 20. Along with her two sister wives, Jenna (age 18) and Cecily (13), Rhine is expected to take the place of Linden's first wife.

This is unlike other books marketed as dystopian that I've read. While there is a worldwide issue, the story is much more focused on Rhine being forced into a polygamous marriage than it is the crisis of everyone dying so young. As this is the first in a planned trilogy, it's entirely possible that the short lifetime will become a bigger issue in the next two books.

Rhine is a wonderful character with a surprisingly fleshed-out history that really added to the understanding of who she is and the decisions she makes. Likewise I loved her two sister wives and the relationships she had with each of them. While Jenna is beautiful but stubborn and hates their husband, young Cecily is ecstatic about her rich new life and eager to fit into her new role. Each of these characters (as well as their husband, Linden) changed throughout the course of the novel and I loved reading about them. To be honest there was a part of me that wished this story had been told through each girls' perspective just because I liked Jenna and Cecily so much.

Unfortunately, while I loved Rhine's relationships with her sister wives, the relationship she had with Linden came across a little lukewarm to me. Her feelings towards him often seem a bit wishy-washy and she seemed oblivious to a few key things that seemed fairly obvious to me. I felt that her fond feelings for him were a part of the story just to provide something of a love triangle between Linden, Rhine, and Gabriel (the servant boy she falls for) and this didn't ring true to me. Although as an aside, this may be due in part to the fact that I thought the slow development of Rhine and Gabriel's feelings was incredible and I really loved him as a character.

Aside from the characters and their relationships, the plot here is one that definitely kept me on my toes. There's a genuine darkness and sense of dread to this book, which is as much a mystery as it is dystopian, and I found it difficult not to skip ahead to the last page (don't worry, I didn't!) to find out how it ends. The ending, while offering hope, seemed almost too easy and didn't bring a real satisfaction to the rest of the story. While this is the first in a trilogy and I'm sure the various mysteries will be unraveled in the next two books, I am of the opinion that a first book should be able to stand on its own and unfortunately I don't think this one does.

*Received ARC at ALA.