Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 2011 on the Blog

I reviewed:
After the Kiss
Restoring Harmony
Small Town Sinners
Mostly Good Girls
Life as We Knew It
How to Say Goodbye in Robot
It's Not Summer Without You
We'll Always Have Summer

I also did a few discussion posts, on the crazy things that happen on screen as opposed to on the page (read Jenny's comment, please, as I think she hits the nail on the head) and the problem of my reviews.

List-wise, I shared my ten most underrated books, twenty bookish questions, and started my new "ace list" feature.

I've also updated my trade list page. Some of these books (the non-ARCs) are probably going to be heading to the used bookstore soon if nobody wants them. (If you do want one but don't have anything from my wishlist, still let me know because I might just send it anyway.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Ten: Books I Wanna Read

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish (Top Ten Books That are On the Top of My TBR List for Fall) is one I'm taking in a different direction. As far as books currently on my shelves to read (which is what I consider my TBR list), I don't have much more than that. And my wishlist has books from ALL OVER THE PLACE on it, but still I'm going to talk about the top books on my wishlist and maybe this will motivate me to actually acquire and read them? OH, PLANS!

Five Not-Yet-Out Books (in no real order):
1. The List
Siobhan Vivian
(April 2012)
It may or may not interest you to know that the last Siobhan Vivian book I read was her debut, which was so so so great and everything, but now I feel bad about not reading her other books. This one sounds incredible though and I'm so jazzed about it already.

2. A Million Suns
Beth Revis
(January 2012)
AHHHHH!!!! I have more excitement and hopes for this trilogy as a whole than I maybe ever have for a series, and definitely a non-contemporary series. I think the overall story is going to end up great.

3. The Disenchantments
Nina LaCour
(February 2012)
I liked LaCour's first novel (Hold Still) so much that probably she could write an alphabet book and I would buy it. I don't even care what this book is about, really. And look at that cover! Those sunglasses! That title! OMG.

4. Being Friends With Boys
Terra Elan McVoy
(May 2012)
This one doesn't even have a cover on Goodreads yet. That doesn't matter; the book itself sounds so so so so awesome and right up my alley. I cannot say in words how excited I am for it. 

5. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Jennifer E. Smith
(January 2012)
Again, this sounds like exactly my cup of tea. Love, awesomeness, airports, a novel that takes place in a day (LOVE THOSE) etc etc. I've already heard such great things about it. WANT WANT WANT.

Five Published Books (in no real order):
6. Songs for A Teenage Nomad
Kim Culbertson
I am a total sucker for playlists and soundtracks, which is why this book sounds so incredibly appealing to me. It's actually one I've been meaning to read for BASICALLY FOREVER and I should... yeah, I should do that. (I always feel guilty when I'm really excited and wanting to read a book and then I never do it.)

7. What Alice Forgot
Liane Moriarty
This grown-up book by the sister of Jaclyn Moriarty (The Year of Secret Assignments, anybody?) sounds deliciously hilarious, if that's a thing. And also a little bittersweet. Life! Amnesia! Memory loss! Want want want want want.

8. Are You Going to Kiss Me Now?
Sloane Tanen
This book, about a girl who ends up trapped on a deserted island with some of her favorite celebrities, sounds like at best it'll be STUPENDOUSLY HILARIOUS AND AMAZING and at worst amusing, neither of which are bad. It's flown in a bit under the radar and I need it in my life.

9. Dreaming of Amelia
Jaclyn Moriarty
You guys, I didn't even know this book existed until one of you lovely commenters (who was it? I don't remember) told me about it. And it seems like a difficult book to get (out of print maybe? hard to tell), but that just makes me more determined. I'll probably read this book I found out about last week before any of the books I've known about for years. 

10. In Zanesville: A Novel
Jo Ann Beard
Sara Zarr mentioned this one on her blog, and really that's all it takes. But it's also about best friends and ordinaryness and it sounds absolutely perfect for me.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Review: Divergent

Veronica Roth
HarperCollins Childrens Books
In a future-world Chicago, the city is closed off from the rest of the world and divided into five factions, each one honoring the quality they feel is the best way to live. Beatrice (Tris) Prior was born into Abegnation (the selfless), but at 16, after taking the aptitude test, she must choose for herself which faction to live by. Choosing anything other than Abegnation will mean leaving her family forever, but after years of trying she still isn't as selfless as she should be. So she chooses Dauntless (the brave), a faction that has always fascinated her, and soon realizes that life as a Dauntless is more difficult than she expected. She first has to survive initiation, a feat in itself, and survive well enough to avoid being cut from Dauntless and living among the factionless - society's outcasts.

I'm not usually very particular when it comes to world-building, but the society in Divergent didn't work for me. While I loved the idea of the different factions (Abegnation = selfless; Amity = peace; Erudite = intelligence/knowledge; Dauntless = bravery; Candor = honesty) I found it difficult to believe that so much of the population was easily sorted into one particular faction or that it would be so easy to be defined solely by one quality. This world was extreme; there was no balance. Being brave doesn't mean you can't also be honest, selfless, intelligent, or even peaceful. These qualities are not at odds with each other yet here, they are. When Tris' aptitude tests come back inconclusive and she's labeled "divergent" (meaning she fits into more than one faction), I was amazed that being Divergent was so rare. It was hard for me to get past the extreme views put forth by the characters of Divergent.

Tris, who has been raised in the selfless faction of Abegnation, chooses to be brave and leave her family. She says it's because she's never been selfless enough for Abegnation, and this is true: she's not selfless. In fact, at times I found it startling how selfish Tris was, especially during her initiation into the new faction. Dauntless is a faction that appreciates an extreme, often dangerously stupid sort of bravery. There are no rails on hallways towering high above the ground and the initiates must fight each other until one is unconscious and one is the victor. It felt senseless, like violence for the sake of violence, and Tris slipped into the role of cruel Dauntless initiate a bit too easily. While I liked many of her new friends (especially Christina, who came from the faction of Candor - honesty), Tris herself was difficult for me to root for and I suspect this may have been partly because I find it so difficult to relate to her. The selfless faction might not be the first I would choose, but the faction that leaps onto and off of moving trains would definitely be last on my list. However, as the book goes on, Tris grows as a character. In an ironic twist, choosing to be brave ultimately teaches her how to be selfless and by the end I could easily see why so many readers love her.

The story of Divergent hinges on the different factions, however the majority of the book is taken up by Dauntless initiation -- it's exciting, but I often wondered what it was building to and since I didn't particularly care for Tris, it was difficult to stay engaged in the book. The real story doesn't take off until the last 80 or so pages (the last fifth of the book). This is a lot of build up, yes, but for many readers it will be worth it not only because those last 80 pages are so intense, but also because the build up is also so full of action and adventure. For me though, it ultimately fell flat. It took too long for me to really care for Tris and even when I did I wasn't sure I liked her. The romance with Four wasn't as captivating as I wanted it to be and though there were some seriously great moments with Tris' friends, it wasn't enough. I wanted more from this book - or maybe just different - than what I got. I wanted to really understand why everyone in this world finds it so easy to take on one personality trait above all others and why Divergence was so rare. I wanted to be 100% behind Tris, but I never truly agreed with the choices she made. I wanted to connect with this book, but I couldn't. As much as I love the idea of the factions, the story itself wasn't nearly as captivating as the idea of it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In My Mailbox: Verse.

Bought: This book has always sounded really interesting to me, but it didn't hit my MUST READ list until I found out it's written in verse. I LOVE books written in verse and am especially excited to read this one because I haven't read anything by Lisa Schroeder before.

And today! A question! What is your favorite novel written in verse?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: We'll Always Have Summer

Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
This review includes spoilers for the first two books in the Summer series - The Summer I Turned Pretty and It's Not Summer Without You.

I'm a little torn by this book. Picking up two years after the end of It's Not Summer Without You, Belly and Jeremiah are now established as a couple and Conrad is on the other side of the country. However, when Belly and Jeremiah decide to get married at the end of the summer, Conrad realizes that he's losing Belly for good. Whereas in the second book there were chapters told from Jeremiah's POV, this time Conrad had a few chapters from his perspective. As with Jeremiah's chapters before, I loved this and really think it lent more understanding to Conrad's character and some of his past actions.

This book - at least in the beginning - was so different from the previous two Summer books. It begins with Belly, Jeremiah, and Taylor (Belly's best friend) at college and it takes quite a while for the setting to even approach the beach. Because of this and the fact that for so long Conrad wasn't around, the book felt off-kilter to me. I love Belly and Jeremiah, of course, but so much of this book took place during their "normal" lives which took away some of the spark that these books have. The real story, for me, began when Belly, Jeremiah, and Conrad ended up at the beach house as Belly and Jeremiah plan their end-of-summer wedding. Conrad's feelings for Belly make it difficult for him to be around the happy couple even as Belly, having moved on from him, is completely oblivious.

There were a few things here that disappointed me, if I'm being honest. While Jeremiah was always a carefree, goofy guy, that's taken to an extreme in this book as he becomes a total frat boy. Previously he was sweet and responsible, however he seems to have morphed into a more uncaring character. At many points during the book I sat there wondering what had happened to sweet, wonderful Jeremiah, and I felt as if the author had made him less likable for the sake of the love triangle, in order to show Conrad in a better light and put the Jeremiah/Belly relationship in question. I missed the old Jeremiah and was disappointed with his character this time around. I often felt that Jeremiah and Belly, though I'd been rooting for them to get together, lacked chemistry.

Belly's still naive, still stubborn, and once again it feels in some ways like she's trying to catch up to the boys. Or, in this case, keep them. Her summer family has dispersed with Conrad attending college in California and their summers at Cousins having fallen by the wayside. There's a nostalgia for the old days and while it often seems as if Belly might not feel it, it's shown in the characters' interactions and the infrequent flashbacks. The emotions here are just as crisp and all-consuming as they are in the previous books, a quality that I absolutely love. Belly's world has widened and no longer belongs only to her summer family but still the scenes with them are the sharpest and best in the book.

I feel compelled to mention that though this book had a few faults that bothered me, it was still excellent. The ending itself was absolutely perfect despite not being what I was expecting.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Twenty Bookish Questions for the Lazy Blogger

I found these questions by way of Leeswammes' Blog and because I love lists/memes and am kind of at a loss for what to post lately, I decided to answer them also. YAY FOR ANSWERING STUFF!!!

1. What book has been on your shelf the longest?
I... have no idea, but there are two I can think of that I've had since I was five. The first is Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic, that my aunt gave me. And the second is the (sadly out-of-print) Once There Were Giants, which was from my mom when I was a little snapper. If I've had any books longer than that, I can't think of them.

2. What is your current read, your last read, and the book you'll read next?
Currently reading: The Unfinished Angel, by Sharon Creech
Last read: The Future of Us, by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Next read: I'm not sure yet.

3. What book did everyone like and you hated?
I can think of two books, but I'd rather not say them. I will say that they both belong to my favorite genre and maybe you know what they are?

4. What book do you keep telling yourself you'll read, but you probably won't?
Firefly Lane, by Kristin Hannah. I've had this one on my shelf for most of this year and I keep telling myself I should read it next (I pretty much never buy books and then not read them), but it's just so big and the few pages I read of it didn't immediately pull me in. So. You know. It could sit there for a few more years, honestly.

5. Which book are you saving for "retirement?"
I don't... even understand the question.

6. Last page: read it first or wait until the end?
Oh goodness. Blogger confession: I used to be horrible about this. I pretty much always read the last page first. It took me, I don't know, a few YEARS to realize that this was ruining the books for me and now I definitely don't do it.

7. Acknowledgements: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside?
OMG HOW IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION!!?? I love the acknowledgements. Love. Them. I can't imagine why a person wouldn't, honestly.

8. Which book character would you switch places with?
Forever? Or just for a short period of time, like a day or a week? Because I don't think I'd switch places with anyone forever, but if it could be a week I'd be Penny Lane, from The Lonely Hearts Club. I'm so jealous of her great friendships.

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)?
Oh yes. More than one. serafina67 reminds me of ME. Sweethearts reminds me of a a few of my favorite-ever people.  Flirt Club reminds me of my Horizons class in middle school. I Now Pronounce You Someone Else reminds me of another person I love. Some Girls Are reminds me of a former friendship. All Alone in the Universe reminds me of many points in my life. Do I need to keep going? Because there are a ton. Many more.

10. Name a book you acquired in some interesting way.
I've actually gotten quite a lot of books in interesting ways, but the first that comes to mind is The Year of Secret Assignments. I found it years ago at a used bookstore - bought it, read it, loved it, but figured I'd never reread it, so I re-donated it to the bookstore. Fast-foward a few whiles and the bookstore is in a new location but amazingly, nobody has bought the book. So after much deliberating, I bought it again. I BOUGHT THAT BOOK TWICE. FROM THE SAME STORE. THE SAME EXACT COPY.

11. Have you ever given a book away to a special person for a special reason?
But of course! But mostly the special reasons are just "I want you to read this." (I'm a complex individual, I know.)

12. Which book has been with you to the most places?
Whenever I go out of town I take my Bible with me, but I honestly don't travel much, to say the least. I've also taken Red with me quite a few places.

13. Any required reading you hated in high school that wasn't so bad ten years later?
Ugh. If in six more years I love any of the books I hated having to read in high school, hit me with something. Please.

14. What is the strangest item you've ever found in a book?
Nothing that strange, really, just notes mostly. Scribbles. I wish I could find something awesome in a book.

15. Used or brand new?
I prefer brand new books of course, but I'm not that picky. I do like my books to be in good shape, but I'll take either. Some books are actually better with some wear and tear.

16. Steven King: literary genius or opiate of the masses?
Why are those the only choices? In fairness I've only read one of King's novels (The Long Walk), but I'm not sure I'd categorize him as either of these things. Though he is brilliant, story-wise.

17. Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?
A Walk to Remember, for sure. I adore the movie but really really wasn't a fan of the book; I haven't read a Nicholas Sparks novel since, but I continue to watch and love his movies. And I know there have been others (very, very few), but I can't think of them right now.

18. Conversely, which book should have never hit the silver screen?
There are many, but I'll go with Sarah Dessen's novels. How to Deal was a poor, poor imitation of what makes her books so great.

19. Excluding cookbooks, have you ever read a book that's made you hungry?
Anna and the French Kiss -- all those breads! I just... I love bread. Like, a lot. A LOT.

20. Who is the person whose book advice you'll always take?
I have to say Khyrinthia, from Frenetic Reader. Our book tastes don't exactly match up, but she's scary-accurate at predicting whether or not I'll like a certain book. Her advice is always warranted.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: It's Not Summer Without You

Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
This review includes spoilers for The Summer I Turned Pretty, the first book of Jenny Han's Summer series.

A lot has happened to Belly and her summer boys since we last saw them. Belly and her one true love, Conrad, had a sort-of romance that ended badly. More importantly, however, Susannah's cancer killed her. So this summer, there's no Cousin's Beach and Belly's spending her time enduring best-friend Taylor's attempts to help her "get over" Conrad and come back to the land of the living. But Belly isn't just mourning her relationship with Conrad, but also Susannah, the woman she used to wish was her own mother. And when Jeremiah calls out of the blue, telling Belly that Conrad's skipped out on his summer classes to bum around at the beach house, she immediately joins him in bringing Conrad back. But Conrad's actions are more complex and this summer of loss is more complicated than Belly could have expected.

Unlike the first book in the series, this one isn't narrated solely by Belly; there are also short chapters narrated by Jeremiah, which was surprising, but allowed for a greater understanding of these characters and their world. For the first time we see - from one of the brother's POV - the feelings that Jeremiah has for Belly and, in a small way, the way that the rest of the characters view her. While in the first book Belly often comes across as whiny and sometimes babyish, it's clear that she's matured in the months that have passed. Though there's a part of her (a large part, sure) that wants to get Conrad back and is still hopelessly in love with him, she's at the summer house more to help and support the boys than anything else. The loss of her unique relationship with Susannah has hurt and changed her, which we see here when she repeatedly steps up to the plate to help her summer family despite the complex and often hurtful emotions under the surface. Belly is no longer the baby, and she's no longer playing catch-up.

The things that were great in the first novel - the setting and crisp emotions - are just as great here. There's a sense of nostalgia and bittersweet longing as Belly, Jeremiah, and Conrad come together despite the past. Belly's relationships and personality is more rounded-out now that her best friend, Taylor, is a bigger part of the story and we get to see a larger part of her life. While I would have expected this to dull the impact of Belly's emotions, it instead serves to highlight them and even make them more understandable. We now have a history with Belly and her summer family, which makes it so much easier to understand her complex, obsessive feelings when it comes to the boys, especially Conrad. Jeremiah's narration adds another level to this novel; now we have not only what Belly thinks and feels, but also Jeremiah. It makes things clearer and adds to the complexity and emotional intensity of the ongoing story.

In the first book, I always felt that there was something of a disconnect between the characters and the reader; in this book, that disconnect is gone. Now we know these characters and their world; it's not foreign or strange, and it's so much easier to fall into the story, fall in step with Belly and Jeremiah as they head off to rescue Conrad from his own self-destructive behavior.

It's no secret that I often have problems with sequels or series, especially in the contemporary genre. But this one? Not only is it a worthy successor to The Summer I Turned Pretty, but it makes for a completely emotional and engrossing ongoing story. When I read the first book I didn't quite understand why it was being written as the start of a series instead of a stand-alone, but now that I've read the second one I'm amazed by how well the series works. It's brilliant and I'm so excited to read the third and last book. As for the love triangle aspect of the series, I think it's painful and emotional, but also really beautiful and true to the characters and their world. Han has written such believable and heart-aching dynamics that it seems completely reasonable and somewhat unavoidable to have a love triangle emerge.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Sorry no book post today but MY MIND IS TOTALLY SPAZZING OUT AT THIS.

Waaatch it!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: How to Say Goodbye in Robot

Natalie Standiford
Scholastic Paperbacks
Bea's (crazy?) mother has accused her of being a robot and Jonah, the boy she meets on her first day in a new school, is called a g-g-g-ghost by fellow students. And he does, with his pale skin and white hair and habit of not talking to others, seem like a ghost. The two of them forge a friendship based on secrets and the late night call-in radio show they both love. They're freaks, but they're freaks together. This is a love story, but not quite a romance, that in some ways reminds me of Sara Zarr's Sweethearts and in other ways reminds me of The Perks of Being A Wallflower. It's weird and sometimes that weirdness is incredibly wonderful, but other times it's not.

Very rarely do I come across a book that I honestly don't know my feelings for. It's happened before, with Invincible Summer, and it happened again with this book. Bea is more than a little offbeat and her chicken-obsessed mother is even stranger, but Bea's weirdness is relatable. She sort of seeks out strangeness and when she finds it in Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, she goes a little off. She's not in love with him, but she does love him and the two of them, together, make up their own little universe. This all-encompasing friendship is something I have no issues with and it works well except when it doesn't. Because while Bea's offbeat and strange, there's a desperation and sadness to Jonah that permeates the novel and this gives their relationship an imbalance I was uneasy about. Bea drops her plans on more than one occasion to be with him whereas he has a difficult time keeping even pre-planned commitments to her and when he does want to be with her it's always spur-of-the-moment, on his own time. It wasn't that he didn't want to be there for her, but more than he was in some ways incapable of it. And while I understand that, I can't quite get past the fact that this is exactly the sort of friendship that makes me uneasy and upset.

Aside from the imbalance in their friendship, the wacky world created here felt absolutely organic. I loved the Night Lights radio show and found the transcripts from it some of the best parts of the book in a quietly comforting way. The places Bea and Jonah go, including a bookstore/bar and a party for people from the future, are weird in a really great way and seeing this world so different from Bea's life at school or with her dysfunctional parents, was one of the most amazing parts of the book. There were certain things in the story that I wanted more of - for instance the character of Walt was a favorite of mine and I wished he were a bigger part of the story while at the same time realized that if he were it wouldn't have had the same feeling or plot.

This is a book that almost seems to be from a different world. Robot Girl (Bea) and Ghost Boy's (Jonah) adventures are wonderfully, incredibly quirky, and the ending was one I didn't see coming but in retrospect seems almost obvious. My biggest issues were with the far-from-perfect friendship that both Bea and Jonah idealized, but I realize this probably won't be as big of an issue for others.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In My Mailbox: GOODIES.

Book Trade: I've been wanting to read Before I Fall ever since I read the first bit of it through a Kindle sample and I'm glad to have it on my shelf now. It's a thicker book than I was expecting and WOW it's pretty. I'm hoping I love it as much as others seem to have. And Possession is another start of a dystopic trilogy; something about the whole "good girls don't walk with boys" thing really appeals to me.

For Review: I actually requested an ARC of The Future of Us and am so so excited to read it. Plus I have a total fascination with the box it came in. My sister already read the ARC (yes, I let her read it first) and I think she liked it. I also got a paranormal title, Bloodlines, in the mail. I put that one on my book trade list because I DO NOT REVIEW PARANORMAL.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I FINISHED THE NOVEL I WAS WORKING ON. I mean, I finished the draft at least. Now what I'm doing is REVISING another novel. SRS REVISION TIMES, guys.

This means that I am even more of a nutcase than normal. The levels of insanity are off the charts. And I sort of feel bad for my parents and sister because they're going to have to put up with me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: Life As We Knew It

Susan Beth Pfeffer
Harcourt Children's Books
When a meteor crashes into the moon and knocks it off course, a bit closer to earth, things start going haywire. Overnight the climate changes so dramatically that Miranda and her family are stockpiling food and blankets, preparing for the hard times ahead. On both coasts there's flooding and there are lengthy lists of the dead, but Miranda and her family are safe - at least at first. Told through Miranda's diary entries, this is the story of the end of the world as we know it. It's a startlingly simple concept, with scary realistic results as Miranda's mother becomes obsessed with having enough food and the rule quickly becomes: family - and only family - first.

I can't believe I waited so long to read this one. Though Miranda's personality is a bit of a mystery, this is still a great book. Unlike most of what I read, it's very much plot-driven and it doesn't matter so much who Miranda and her family are as much as how they get through. The reactions to the earth's sudden emergency are realistic and, thank goodness, smart. Miranda's mother immediately fills up the car with gas, pulls her children out of school, and concentrates on getting as much food and other necessities as possible. Better safe than sorry.

At first, Miranda thinks her mother's crazy; there's no way they'll need this much food, or long underwear, or so much medicine. But her disbelief quickly changes as instead of getting better, the planet gets worse. Soon she's cut off from all of her friends, everyone she used to know is a stranger while her world is narrowed to include only her mother, two brothers, and the elderly neighbor they consider part of their family. Everyone is deciding what matters most and how to best survive, and sometimes the choices of others put Miranda at odds with them. There's a religious subplot that I can only explain as strange, but with one exception I was surprised by the realistic actions of these characters. This is very much a story of family and survival in the hardest of times, and there's little to talk about because everything was done so well. It's definitely a disturbing and scary little book, but not enough to stop me from recommending it. The characters are pushed to their limits and while it's unsettling, there's a certain comfort in the way they handle things and the reflection of ourselves in them. There's a theme of the importance and strength of family running through this book that gives it heart.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Ace List

Because I like to be a bit different, ace list is the name I gave to my favorites shelf on Goodreads. And now it's the name of a new, irregular feature on the blog, where I talk about the things I'm currently loving and/or a little obsessed with. I'm basically stealing Clementine Bojangles' Lists and Procrastination feature and changing the name. BUT NO WORRIES, I TOTALLY HAVE HER PERMISSION.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes 
I'm going to be honest here and say that probably about 79% to 84% of movies I watch I don't actually like. And most of them I don't finish. I have high standards when it comes to movies, but I really wanted to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes and you guys, it. was. awesome. AWESOME!! Not quite what I was expecting and the first have of the movie was definitely a slow build, but I really do think it's a near-perfect origin story and if all movies were that good the entertainment world would be a better place.

Pretty much everyone I mention this to seems to laugh, but I am dead serious. I've watched the show on and off for years and it's not until the last couple of seasons that I feel like it's really started to be something good but OMG is it awesome. As far as tween/teen shows go, nothing will ever ever top Lizzie McGuire (nothing. ever.), but iCarly is at least playing in the same ballpark. It's just so funny and hilarious and cute and sweet and you guys in four years Virginia and West Virginia will merge to form one huge Virginia. (Honestly, there's a part of me that thinks every Jim Parsons fan should watch the last episode, just for his from-the-future character.)

"So Close," by Jennette McCurdy
THIS IS MY JAM. As in, I've listened to it 44 times in the past two days. FORTY-FOUR TIMES. My goodness. (But really I love all of Jennette McCurdy's songs and I really hope she comes out with a full album.) Also, you should go listen to "Generation Love," which is another great song of hers and much less teen-pop than this one. OH WAIT SORRY 46 TIMES, JUST LISTENED TO IT AGAIN.

WHAT? Two movies on this list? Crazytalk! But, um, yes. Because I just watched this last night and it's so so good. Like an awesome fairytale mixed with an awesome romantic comedy. And then, of course, the frying pans. "Frying pans! Who knew, right?" It's on Netflix. Watch it.

The box that my ARC of The Future of Us came in
I mean, I'm crazy excited about the book too, but for some reason this box has really captured my attention. I have no idea why. I mean, it's possible I have some strange psychological problems but I REALLY LIKE THIS BOX. It's splendid. I'm quite fascinated by it. AND I LOVE IT.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: Mostly Good Girls

Leila Sales
Simon Pulse
At her super-competitive all-girls prep school, Violet Tunis struggles to get the grades she wants in order to get into her first-choice college, but it's not always easy. Still, she always has best-friend Katie to commiserate with, no matter their differences in wealth (Katie's rich), looks (Katie's gorgeous), or grades (Katie easily gets all-A's). In their junior year, however, it's starting to feel like the differences go even deeper, like Katie doesn't think the same things or want the same things anymore. This book, told in short, vignette-style chapters, is the story of Violet and Katie's junior year.

And it's hilarious.

Violet is a smart, sarcastic, witty narrator with a knack for making anything funny. Despite her perfectionist nature and goals that include getting into a top college like Harvard, Violet's a relatable and wonderful character you can't help but cheer for. Her friendship with Katie seems ironclad, but is tested when Katie keeps the results of her SAT a secret and later starts doing and wanting things that Violet can't understand. For Katie, whom everything comes so easily to, every success feels like luck. For Violet, who tries so hard, every success feels like the end of a long battle. In spite of this, the girls have a tight friendship and Violet's love and loyalty to her best friend is always apparent.

I loved this. It's so easy to stereotype characters, especially smart and pretty prep schoolers, but Violet and Katie defy the stereotypes you'd expect. They're more complex and more interesting than the good, nice girls they're supposed to be and this theme of being nice, being good above all else, is a big theme as the setting - the fancy Westfield School - becomes a larger part of the story. There are some big issues at play in this funny story. Themes of success, happiness, friendship, and expectations are all explored. And though the book has a slow start when it comes to the heft of the plot and themes, they're nevertheless handled well and nothing in Violet and Katie's friendship feels forced or stilted. The more secondary characters are less developed, but it's okay; the story is so focused on Violet and Katie that the quality never suffers.

The only problem I really had with this book was that the ending - parts of it at least - came off as sudden and unnecessary. I wanted a bit more resolution than I got and a couple of plot points ended in ways I didn't see coming, ways that didn't seem to fit. However, I would read this book again in a heartbeat. In some ways it's a high school version of Flirt Club, which we all know I love. I really recommend it, especially if you're in the mood for a funny and friendship-positive book.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Crazy Shenanigans in Books vs. Movies and Television

Last month I read Susanne Colasanti's latest novel, So Much Closer. In it, a girl finds out her longtime crush is moving to New York City, so she follows him there and enrolls at his new school in the hopes that he'll notice, and fall in love with, her. It's not a bad book, but the entire time I found myself thinking about how unbelievably unrealistic the whole thing was. I mean, really? It just seems crazy. The whole time I was thinking about how insane this character is and how I couldn't believe what she was doing.

It just wasn't very believable.

And then Saturday night I watched television. More specifically, I watched iCarly and then Legally Blonde, both of which I love. In the first, a girl checked herself into a mental institution because she likes a boy. And I assume everyone has seen Legally Blonde, but on the off chance you haven't, she follows her ex-boyfriend to law school in order to become a lawyer so that he'll go out with her again and ask her to marry him. Now, these things are equally as unbelievable as the plot of So Much Closer, but I accepted them so much easier. A mental hospital? From vapid sorority girl to law school student? No problem.

And the craziness doesn't stop there.  In Pushing Daisies, a character joins a convent to get away from the guy she's in love with (and also there's a dead girl who's never recognized by her family, but that's another type of crazy); Lizzie McGuire passed for an Italian pop star for, like, a long time. And I easily went along with those things.

So why is it that the most unbelievable (and, let's face it, usually pretty stupid) things happen in a TV show or movie, but when similar things happen in books it's so difficult to get past? All of the shows and movies I mentioned? Love them. The book? Well, the idea that The Office references were so obscure people wouldn't get them was my breaking point.

There is something wrong here, some disconnect between the fictional stories we see on television and the ones we read in books. Is it because the on-screen stories are comedies while most books aren't? Maybe, but even those books that are comedies couldn't get away with the type of storylines and character choices we see here. There are some things not even Scarlett and Spencer Martin can make believable and realistic.

And if it's not comedy, what is it? Is it easier to accept that worlds, though they look like our own, are their own universes when those worlds are shown on screen instead of in pages? Is it easier, somehow, to nitpick books? Are story mediums like television and movies more about escapism, whereas books are about relating? I don't know, but the more I think about it the more interesting the question becomes.

What do you think? Is it easier for you to accept the crazy things characters do if those characters are in TV/movies instead of books? And why?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Small Town Sinners

Melissa Walker
Now that Lacey Anne, good church girl extraordinaire, is old enough to get a "real part" in her church's annual Hell House, she tries out for one of the more emotional roles - that of the Abortion Girl. At first what she wants (an awesome Hell House) is simple, but when she finds herself attracted to a boy her dad might not approve of and realizes she doesn't agree with all of her dad's decisions, the black-and-white way Lacey Anne views the world starts to shift. I hadn't heard of a Hell House before hearing about this novel and finding out about them was a bit jarring, to say the least. The basic premise of a Hell House, if I understand it right, is a sort of "haunted house of sins" to try and scare people away from sin and into following Jesus. And this Hell House is especially gruesome. So to be honest, knowing what this book was about and that the main character was a very strict good girl, I was wary going into it. I have a hard time with characters who do a 180 when it comes to personality or beliefs and was afraid that the increidbly-good Lacey Anne would fall into that camp. So I went into this book with some hesitation.

If I'm being honest, I almost didn't review this book; the main character (especially in the beginning) reminds me so much of a girl I was best friends with for years and it was hard for me to get past the many similarities. That said, my original expectations for the characters - particularly that best friend Starla Joy was going to be a rebellious girl who didn't live up to Lacey Anne's good-girl standards - quickly went out the window. Lacey Anne's friends, aside from some mild, superficial differences, are as squeaky-clean as she is. They've all signed abstinence pledges, the girls wear purity rings, and everyone gets along well with their families. Lacey Anne's dad is the Youth Pastor and she's never had a reason to disagree with what he says or believes.

But as the church begins to prepare for its annual Hell House, Lacey Anne finds herself rethinking some of the things she'd always taken for granted. She feels a kinship to the new boy in town, despite the fact that he says the Hell House isn't his thing and despite her father not approving. Ty, she reasons, is a good guy. He goes to church, he lives his life right... but he also makes her question issues that her and her friends had always taken for granted. He makes her think. There was a lot in this book. Not only Lacey Anne's romance and questions of faith and religion, but other sub-themes that shone. Are all sins equally as bad? Is doing drugs as bad as murdering? There was also a sub-theme of gender inequality and double standards that I absolutely loved.

What struck me most about this book is that despite dealing with very heavy, controversial topics (abortion, homosexuality, religion, etc) the story never feels message-driven. It's always very much about Lacey Anne, her changing faith, and the friends she cares so much about. The characters aren't stereotypes and despite their often black-and-white views, there's a very human element to everything that happens. And while I initially expected Ty to be the quintessential "bad boy," he was anything but. He was thoughtful and loyal and believed in both God and questioning. Without giving too much away, I think that Ty is one of the best love interests and characters I've come across in quite a while. His relationship with Lacey Anne is sweet and realistic.

This book brings up a lot of questions that Lacey Anne must deal with and I loved that although her faith was tested, she was determined to persevere and answer the questions for herself. However, I do wish that there had been some indication of where she stood - by the end of the book - on certain matters. Questioning is wonderful, but sooner or later you have to find answers to those questions and while I understood and appreciated why things were left open-ended (for starters these questions take quite a while to sort out), I found that I did want a little more resolution.

Honestly though, that's a small thing and this was a great book that dealt with the topic of religion fairly and faith positively. Whatever your beliefs, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this thought-provoking and well-written book.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Gift: Thank you SO MUCH to Liz over at Consumed By Books for sending me this one. I've heard great things about it. Also, does the cover remind anyone else of a shampoo ad?

Book Trade: I have a long-standing love of books written in verse and always love to see how it's done. After reading Hooked, which also tackled the subject of teen pregnancy, I'm looking forward to reading a book written in verse on the same subject. 

Bought: I've been trying to slowly accumulate every Series of Unfortunate Events book and was able to get two more this week, which means the shelf for them is BECOMING QUITE FULL. Also a bunch of other books I am seriously seriously seriously seriously excited about. Another Terra Elan McVoy book! And Sharon Creech! AHHHHHHH!!!! I would say more stuff about these books but I am very very tired, so you'll have to make do with some shiny covers instead.

Friday, August 12, 2011

this post is full of filler!

I'm in the midst of writing this draft of the spy book and I've put myself on a reading hiatus until I reach 55,000 words. Ideally this won't take too long since I'm already at 50,000 words, but the reality is a bit different.

In reality I keep looking at the book I have stashed in my nightstand basket - Mostly Good Girls - and wishing the novel would just write itself already. I mean, I already wrote 3,000 words on Wednesday, what more can the novel possibly ask of me? I MEAN MY GOODNESS. FIVE THOUSAND MORE, ARE YOU KIDDING? (I am trying not to think about the many thousands after that.)

This is why the blog has been a bit iffy lately. But I do have things! To mention!

Like for instance, I AM ON SPOTIFY. You should find me and my lovely playlists (including the main one for the spy book) by searching "spotify:user:jordynface". YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT, I KNOW HOW TO FIND PEOPLE ON SPOTIFY. I am listening to a lot of Greyson Chance lately.

Also also also also also also my brain is kind of fried thanks to all the writing and also generally having TEH CRAZIES. So there's that.

Also I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes and it was awesome so you should probably go see it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Restoring Harmony

Joelle Anthony
Putnam Juvenille
In the year 2041, the world's economy has collapsed and the United States, in part due to its reliance on oil for so long, has fared even worst than most. Sixteen year old Molly McClure lives in a farming community in British Columbia, but when her pregnant mother gets sick and needs a doctor, Molly has to travel to the United States in order to bring her grandfather -- a doctor -- to the farm to help. A bit of bad luck in the beginning of her journey quickly leaves her with almost no money and even less understanding of how things work in the crumbling city. Adding to this is the fact that her grandfather doesn't want to go to Canada and the resourceful Molly has a struggle on her hands.

Though set in a bleak world where organized crime has more power than the citizens or government, Restoring Harmony has a plucky, almost cheery feeling to it thanks in part to the Pollyanna-esque Molly who finds a way to solve most of her problems by playing the fiddle. She's a resourceful and determined girl, yet in spite of this it was difficult to connect with her. Like many of the other characters, she lacked spark. Much of the cast populating this book felt a bit flat, as if their personality was entirely determined by the role they played in Molly's journey.

The story itself has an old-timey feeling to it, which could be confusing but was also kind of charming as it's easy to imagine Molly's world as a sort of post-apocalyptic Little House on the Prairie. The economy is mostly reliant on bartering and the technology, a little more advanced than our current technology, took a backseat to Molly's farm-girl inginuity. The world Joelle Anthony has written is easy to imagine as the trajectory of our own world and while this should be chilling, there's a certain comfort in the story, brought on by the old-fashioned feeling as well as the fact that none of the trouble Molly finds herself in ends up being that big of a deal. At no point in the story did I have any doubts that Molly would succeed. The trouble she finds herself in, even with a few bad guys in a Mafia-like criminal organization, is often hardly a stumbling block. Part of this is that Molly's a smart girl, but mostly she ends up being lucky as there always seems to be someone nearby to save her or, as happens once or twice, she's easily let off the hook. This gave the realistic world a very unrealistic story and, in spite of how hard Molly worked, gave the impression of her as a very naive and lucky heroine.

The relationship between Molly and "Spill," the guy who repeatedly helped her and her family also gave a different vibe than I think it was supposed to. It's quite a while before we know how old Spill is (20) and though Molly is 16, both her naivety and personality (as well as the book's writing) made her seem a lot younger. If I hadn't known her age I would have thought she was somewhere between 12 and 14, which gave the relationship with Spill more of a little sister-big brother feeling than anything romantic. The very young feeling, as well as the adventure aspect, made the book feel more suited to MG than YA. Though the book wasn't one I strongly connected to myself, I'd recommend it to fans of adventuresome Middle Grade novels as well as those who want a quieter type of post-apocalyptic fiction.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Hooked

Catherine Greenman
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
When Thea Galehouse meets Will Weston, she falls headlong into love with the quirky, handsome, and smart senior. Their relationship becomes serious, surviving Will meeting her parents (hard-nosed part-time-realtor mother and success-obsessed father) and starting college. When Thea ends up pregnant she finds herself unable to go through with the abortion that everyone expected. Her and Will's parents help them financially so that Will can continue to go to school and later, when a fight with Will shakes her to her core, she finds herself accepting help from the one person she never expected: her distant, workaholic father. The plot here is one that covers a large amount of time (three or four years, I think) in relatively few words (the book clocks in at less than 300 pages).

The fact that this book does cover so much time, and not all of it during Thea's teenage years, reminded me quite a bit of both Other Words for Love and I Now Pronounce You Someone Else. The similarities between the three books may be few, but they certainly stand out. Thea's family situation at the start of the book is an unenviable one; since her parents' divorce years ago her dad has remained "married to" his job and weekends with him consist of waiting for him to come home for dinner and enduring discussions about her less-than-stellar GPA and college aspirations. Her mother, on the other hand, is a bit of a free-spirit, but a stubborn and opinionated one. She expects her daughter to share her very firm opinions on family, work, sex, and appearances. Since Thea and her mother are close, I tried hard to empathize with or even like her mom, but just couldn't do it. She was off-putting. Her tactless judgements of others (from Thea's best friend Vanessa to her father) were startling and made me wonder how on earth she didn't get into more fights with Thea, who seems to almost-but-not-quite agree with her, at least in the beginning.

The secondary characters, even when I didn't like them, had unique and strong personalities. But Thea was a mystery. It's easy to see what she values, what she loves, and later on what she wants, but at the end of the novel I still had no idea who she was. At one point Will tells her that she's "weird" (in a good, smart, quirky way, apparently), but there's little evidence of this. There's not much evidence to point in any direction as far as personality is concerned and while I'd expect that to make this book a Did Not Finish, her story was heartfelt and entertaining enough to keep me reading. Thea's love for her even-unborn son, Ian, is obvious and overwhelming. She constantly worries about losing him, doing that very Mom-ish thing of imagining all the worst scenarios. Yet when he is hurt, she's incredibly level-headed and capable, doing what she needs to do to help him. Thea may not be the most fleshed-out character, but even as a teenager she's a great mother.

Much of this book is predicated on the basis of a fight Thea has with her boyfriend, Will. And while it would be a spoiler to discuss the specifics, I will say this: it seemed unrealistic. Not the fight itself, but Thea and Will's response to it afterward. An comment that seemed very obviously prompted by anger and worry set a chasm between the two, sending Thea back to her surprisingly helpful father. It seemed unrealistic, but then at other times I could clearly understand Thea's responce. If not her actions, at least the feelings behind them. Her father, who is set up as a distance, workaholic who doesn't care what his daughter wants if it's not in line with his expectations of her, turns out to be not only more helpful than her mother, but also more concerned and loving - sometimes in a way Thea doesn't quite understand - than I would have imagined. Their rocky relationship is one of the things that makes this book one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Other relationships are less explored. I wanted more from Thea's changing friendship with her best friend Vanessa and sometimes wasn't sure what to think of the romance between Will and Thea. Though it's obvious they love each other,  the lack of personality on Thea's part (and sometimes Will's as well) makes the relationship one that isn't felt as strongly as I would have liked. I would recommend this to readers looking for a YA that tackles some traditionally non-YA topics (motherhood, for instance).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Ten: Most Underrated Books

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is underrated books and in the spirit of that I'm going to try not to talk about the same underrated books I've talked about a million times before. Because there are so many underrated books I love and I think it's time to spotlight some of the lesser-praised ones here on the blog.

1. Scribbler of Dreams
Mary E. Pearson
This was the first (and best!) Pearson book I read. A Romeo & Juliet retelling, featuring Kaitlin Malone and Bram Crutchfield -- sworn enemies who just can't help but fall in love. Classic retellings, even books based loosely on classics, are a hard sell with me but I absolutely adore this one - maybe because I've never read or seen Romeo & Juliet? In any case, I loved the characters and their starcrossed love story.

2. Feeling Sorry for Celia
Jaclyn Moriarty
I hope this one isn't as obscure as I think it is, because it's an absolutely brilliant book. The first of Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield books, it involves a girl who has run away to the circus and her confused best friend, forced to write to a Complete and Utter Stranger. This book is right up there with the second in the series (The Year of Secret Assignments) as far as greatness goes, but unlike that book this focuses in much more narrowly on one set of pen pals.

3. I Can't Tell You
Hilary Frank
After concluding that talking just leads to trouble, Jake's conversations with others, including his best friend, include entirely of doodles and scribbled notes. I'm such a sucker for books told in this sort of format and this one felt true-to-life with a story I loved.

4. How to Build A House
Dana Reinhardt
To escape the fallout of her dad and stepmother's divorce, Harper joins a volunteer home-building project in a region wrecked by a tornado. This book is so sweet with a story I definitely wasn't expecting and characters whose problems felt entirely real and difficult. 

5. Cheating at Solitaire
Ally Carter
This is the only non-YA book on the list and OH MY GOODNESS IT IS JUST SO GOOD DESPITE THAT EMBARRASSING COVER. Ally Carter's (yes, that Ally Carter) debut novel is a romance novel about a self-help guru-celebrity whose claim to fame is her books touting the positives of choosing to live the single lifestyle. And then she falls in love. And it is all kinds of cute and heartwarming and Julia James is such a great character and sadly this book is out of print but if you happen to find it somewhere, anywhere, do yourself a favor and read it. You're welcome.

6. Peaches (series)
Jodi Lynn Anderson
Published in the midst of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, this three-book series of friends who come together during the summers on a peach orchard is - dare I say it? - quite possibly even better than its more-successful  counterpart. The southern girls of this series - Birdie, Leeda, and Murphy - were overshadowed when the books came out, I fear, but their story of friendship sharp, compelling, and even a little bitter-sad at times. I love it. Love love love.

7. The Kid Table
Andrea Seigel 
The story of six cousins, narrated by one the family fears might be a psychopath, is my kind of story. Full of family get-togethers, the push-and-pull of family relationships, and way-beyond-quirky characters.

8. The Naughty List
Suzanne Young
A cheer squad that doubles as a crew of spies. NEED I SAY MORE?

9. The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading
Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance
The tale of a geek girl who makes the Varsity cheer squad and catches the attention of her basketball-star crush. OMG, so much love. Cheerleaders and geeks galore and a know-it-all boy, plus the best opening line in the history of YA. 

10. After the Kiss
Terra Elan McVoy
When Camille kisses Becca's boyfriend, the two girls who've never met become connected in a way they aren't even aware of. As Becca deals with the painful breakup that comes, Camille's dealing with her always-on-the-move family and unable to set down roots and trust her new friends. THIS BOOK. OMG. It combines some of my favorite elements (including unorthodox narration styles) and tells the slow, quiet, emotional story of these girls SO INCREDIBLY WELL. I love these characters and this story this book. Love.

If you haven't read any of these books, you really should get on that.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Imperfection of My Reviews

So recently I read this book and OH MY GOODNESS, it was sort of like listening to Band of Horses and drinking hot chocolate with salt and caramel. In other words, I loved it. If I'd reviewed the book according to how I felt about it, there would have probably just been a picture of me hugging the book. Because there are those books you just want to hug, right? (I am not crazy.)

The thing is though, I try hard not to review books based purely on how I felt about them, because not only is it often hard to turn feelings to words, but more importantly, I'm not reviewing just for me. I'm reviewing for other readers who may or may not have the same tastes as I do, who might know nothing about the book, who might love that book or might love one that I couldn't stand. I don't want to say this book was good and this book was bad, but rather here's what you should know about this book and here's what I thought was done well, not well, different, etc. This means that even when I absolutely love a book the review is sometimes/often more neutral, more... even-keeled.

If the pace is slow, I mention that. If the writing style is one not everyone will appreciate, I mention that. Same if the dialogue feels stilted or subplots feel contrived.

But I'm also going to mention if the relationships are great, if there's a well-written family element, if the writing is beautiful. And often, for me, these things will far outweigh the weaker points. But I'm not every reader; I'm just me. Which means that the books I love don't always get perfect reviews. And the ones I don't love sometimes get better reviews than I'd give if I were going off of just how I feel about the book.

This doesn't mean my reviews aren't honest, because they are, 100%. But they're also more logical and thought-out than how I instinctively feel toward the books. They're critical. The books I absolutely love, regardless of review, are in bold over here. (And, of course, on my ace-list shelf on Goodreads.)

And what about you, fellow book bloggers? Do your reviews always reflect how you feel about a book or is there sometimes discrepancy?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In My Mailbox: & some other stuff.

Gift: Strangely, two authors sent me copies of their books this week. One is an ARC with a note that I don't have to review it (which is why it's listed as a gift instead of review copy) and the other's a hardcover of a book I'd actually recommended on that other blog I had for about a month earlier this year (REMEMBER???) and then talked about a lot on this blog. 

Review: This one is a bit awkward because I was CRAZY EXCITED to get this book in the mail -- I'd been looking forward to reading it for quite a while -- but ended up not finishing it. A well-written book that just didn't click with me, though I'm sure it will with others.

Bought: First of all, my used bookstore finally got Water for Elephants in, which my mom and I both want to read. It's sort of cheating including it because it's technically my mom's book, but still, I'm definitely going to read it. And second of all... Coke or Pepsi 3. YA writers (aspiring or published or what-have-you), these Coke or Pepsi books (I have the two previous ones as well) are excellent excellent for getting to know your teenage characters. The questions in them aren't the hefty things you MUST think about when writing a character's story, but the smaller and more entertaining details that make for a convincing, non-cookie-cutter character. I absolutely love them.

You may have also noticed there's a new page on my blog, for books I'm trying to get rid of. I hesitated on doing this for quite a while, but I now have a couple of piles of books stacked on top of my bookcase that I know I'm just not going to end up reading or rereading or I have more than one copy. Some of the books (recent releases I was sent for review) I really want to go to other bloggers who have an interest in reviewing them, but older copies, books I bought myself, books that came in any way other than for review, are up for anyone. 

I know there are other bloggers who periodically do trade lists and if you want to link to my blog feel free. Wait. I mean if you want me to link to your list, leave the link in the comments here (or on the page itself) and I can link to others from my trade page. If that makes any sense at all.