Sunday, April 28, 2013


My blogging lately has not been up to snuff, for various reasons. Mostly it just seems so daunting. I went for months where I wasn't blogging simply because I didn't have the time and energy, and now I find myself at a loss for what to post about. I still love writing reviews and making lists, but I no longer have the inclination to write posts as often as I used to, at least not with the quality that I always wanted from my posts. It takes a lot of time and a lot of thought and while I constantly want to post book-related thoughts, pictures, lists, and reviews, it often seems like what I want to post isn't worth an actual blog post.

Also, I've been fielding tons of spam comments, which has me terribly annoyed with Blogger altogether, as does the fact that I always have a hard time including pictures in my posts.

Also I've been browsing tumblr quite a bit... (can you tell where this is headed?)...

and while I don't want to give up book blogging (I've grown quite attached to it), the idea of shorter posts, of being able to post just a picture or a quote without feeling like I'm just wasting a blog post, really appeals to me. I don't love that tumblr doesn't have a built-in comment system, but I am seriously considering switching over to a shiny new book blog on tumblr.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

review: if he had been with me

Laura Nowlin
Sourcebooks Fire
A few things to start off with, the first being that I really don't know how to review this book. It sits in extremes for me; there was a lot I loved, but there was also a fair amount that didn't sit well with me and at least one scene that I skipped over entirely. Secondly though, author Laura Nowlin is an incredible writer and I'll definitely be looking for whatever she publishes next.

If He Had Been With Me is a story stretched out over four years, of Autumn and Finny, who used to be best friends but aren't anymore. Though they were inseparable all through middle school, it's now high school and pretty-but-weird Autumn has formed a close knit group with other misfits while Finny (Finn, to everyone but Autumn) is athletic, preppy, and popular. Despite the closeness of their families and the fact that they spend every major holiday seated around the same kitchen table, Autumn and Finny don't seem to have much in common anymore. Finny's dating a popular girl while Autumn has a long-term boyfriend, king of the misfits. Of course, it's obvious to the reader, if not to Autumn herself (the book is from her POV) that she belongs with, and is in love with, her boy-next-door, Finny. And though it's inevitable that Autumn eventually comes to this conclusion on her own, she spends an inordinately long amount of the book with Jamie, being in love with him. Or at least trying to convince herself that she's in love with him. The two have plans to get married, buy a house, have kids, and though Jamie's all in, it's obvious that Autumn is only in because she regards her feelings for Finny as a fantasy that can never come true; in real life, good-enough is all you get, she reasons.

Autumn is not a very happy person. (I could get into more detail about this but it would ruin certain aspects of the book and its plot, I think.)

This is an incredible sort of book. The writing is amazing, the characters are so, so well done, and the whole thing has a very hazy, beautiful but inevitably tragic feel to it. The book's strange attitude toward sex (it wasn't entirely casual, but it wasn't really not-casual either, so I'm having a hard time landing on an accurate word for how this book handled the issue) bothered me, and I found myself skipping certain scenes, one in particular. This is not a book about sex, but it did play a role in the story. In addition to this, Autumn's insistence that she's in love with both Finny and her boyfriend Jamie bothered me. It reminded me of all the reasons I hated the movie Doctor Zhivago. For much of the book Autumn remains oblivious to her own feelings toward Finny, and this got old, especially the longer she stayed in her lukewarm relationship with Jamie. Autumn is a needy character, but for some reason it took quite a while before I realized just how needy.

Though part of the ending is obvious from the beginning (almost from the title, really), but another part of the ending came as a shock. For those who've read the book, yes, it was definitely foreshadowed, but I found it hard to believe that such a sweetly beautiful book would actually take that route. I root for happy endings, and this one shook me. Though it's possible to view the ending in a hopeful way it's hard for me to move beyond Autumn's actions and reasoning. So like I said, this was a difficult book for me. It's a well-written and beautiful story with love as the huge, overarching theme. But there were aspects of the book that bothered me -- it wasn't enough to make me abandon the book, but definitely enough to affect my feelings toward it -- and the ending felt both obvious and incredibly, incredibly depressing. (And in at least one respect, unrealistic.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tuesday Ten: Mean Girls Rewind

Alright, this week is a Broke & Bookish top ten REWIND week, and I've missed a lot of weeks but am going to go with top ten Mean Girls from fiction.

1. Scarlett O'Hara
Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell
There's no way for me to make a list of literature's mean girls without having Scarlett right at the top of it. As much as I love Scarlett (and I do, I really do), she's kind of awful to other girls. It's somewhat forgivable because her life is a total complete mess, but really when you get right down to it Scarlett's a very young, immature, selfish girl who's used to getting her own way and not sure how to deal with disappointment. Of course, the course of the book changes her but it's quite a long time (and many super-sad deaths) before she realizes how awful she's been to those who love her.

2. Lina Broud
The Luxe series
Anna Godberson
Ugh. I can't even pretend to like Lina. She's just awful.

3. Hilly Holbrook
The Help
Kathryn Stockett
For obvious reasons.

4. Anna Morrison
Some Girls Are
Courtney Summers
I know that the main character, Regina, also fits squarely into the "mean girl" category, but there's one big difference between her and Anna: Regina knows she's been a mean girl. She hates it about herself. Anna, on the other hand, enjoys it, and that's the scariest, meanest part of all.

5. Shay
Uglies series
Scott Westerfeld
I don't know about this one. I don't entirely (or at all, really) remember how the relationship between Tally and Shay ended up ending... were they friends or enemies in the end? I do know that I never really liked Shay and there always seemed to be a not-nice edge to her all through this series.

6. Samantha Kingston
Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver
If this were a list of "reformed mean girls," Sam would make the very top of the list. She went from being a character I loathed to one I loved and admired, which is no easy feat to pull off.

7. Nicola
Wicked Jealous
Robin Palmer
Nicola is the stepmother in this modern retelling of Snow White. So, you know, she's not the most loving of characters (to say the least).

8. Mandarin
Like Mandarin
Kirsten Hubbard
Alright I know that Mandarin is supposed to be this amazing wild child girl, but really she's selfish. And she reminds me of so many fast-and-furious friendships that only ended in shipwreck (much like Grace and Mandarin's friendship here). So she might not be mean exactly, but she's definitely bad news.

9. Bianca Piper
Kody Keplinger
Oy. If I get started on this one I'll never shut up.

Aaaand I'm leaving #10 empty because I had a hard enough time coming up with nine mean girls. The truth is, many books/characters that would fall into this category I don't end up finishing. But agree with my choices? Disagree? Thoughts?

Monday, April 15, 2013

review: this is what happy looks like

Jennifer E. Smith
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was a really good book, but I wasn't floored by it the way so many others seem to have been. I liked it a lot, but didn't love it. Still, when I first saw This is What Happy Looks Like on Goodreads with a comparison to You've Got Mail, I put it at the top of my must-buy list. (YGM is my faaaavorite movie of all times ever.)

And let me tell you: for me, This is What Happy Looks Like blows The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight out of the water. The story (told in alternating third-person perspectives) of a girl in small-town Maine ending up an accidental e-pen pal to a boy whose identity she doesn't know is great. Of course there are plenty of opportunities for internet safety speeches here, but the book doesn't take that direction because this is a book about sweet and unexpected love. Ellie and Graham follow the You've Got Mail rules of not revealing anything personal in their letters (although Ellie does accidentally let the name of her town slip), which means that when Graham shows up in Ellie's hometown to shoot his new movie she has no idea that this is the boy she's been emailing. And Graham has no idea that for Ellie, being in the spotlight seems like the worst thing in the world. The secret of Ellie's camera-shy personality is one that in other books could have come across as overly dramatic or heavy-handed, but here is handled exactly perfectly well. Her reasons, when they come to light, aren't as deep and dark as they could have been and fit in well with the rest of the book, with her and her mother's reaction to Graham's fame.

I've said multiple times that a book has to be more than just "cute" or "entertaining" to make me really fall for it, and based on that and how utterly sweet this story is, you'd think this would be an easily forgettable book for me. But it's not. This is What Happy Looks Like is the best sort of romance; it's sweet and funny. The characters are loveable. The more unrealistic aspects are more than made up for by the fact that the emotions felt by these characters are so utterly relatable. These are the most universal of feelings: love, friendship, infatuation. And This is What Happy Looks Like relies on these themes/feelings (along, of course, with Jennifer E. Smith's great writing) to make the unrealistic premise work really, really well. It's a sweet, adorable, wholesome romance that I totally fell into. In short: I loved this book. It's the best sort of YA romance and if this review doesn't seem to do it justice it's just because beyond omg so cute so good awwwwhhh!!! there's really no better way to describe or explain how I feel about this book.

(Also you can note that this is the first five-star book I've read in all of 2013. Step it up, year.)

Friday, April 12, 2013

my fan-made playlist for this is what happy looks like.

My review of Jennifer E. Smith's new book, This is What Happy Looks Like is coming up next week but for today I made a playlist for the book, full of songs that I think capture the bubbly, lovey, happiness feeling of this story.

Woot. Here is.

And, in case my writing is too tiny for you to read -

Walking on Sunshine - the Aly & AJ cover
I'm Into Something Good - The Bird & the Bee
I Am A Heart - Hey Ocean!
Boom - Anjulie
Kiss You - One Direction
Drunk - Ed Sheeran
Little Numbers - Boy
Homeless - Dia Frampton
Something More - Aly & AJ
Today Was A Fairytale - Taylor Swift
Everything Has Changed - Taylor Swift with Ed Sheeran
I Want to Hold You Hand - The Beatles
Accidentally in Love - Counting Crows

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

tuesday 10: books i read before blogging

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is top ten books I read before I started blogging, and here's my list.

1. Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell

2. The Truth About Forever
Sarah Dessen

3. Bloomability
Sharon Creech

4. Bridge to Terabithia
Katherine Paterson

5. To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee

6. Feeling Sorry for Celia
Jaclyn Moriarty

7. Stop Pretending
Sonya Sones

8. I Was A Non-Blonde Cheerleader
Kieran Scott

9. Lost It
Kristen Tracy

10. Uglies
Scott Westerfeld

Monday, April 8, 2013

review: eleanor & park

Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin's Griffin
I'd heard wonderful things about Eleanor & Park. Heard that it was great and beautiful and painfully good, really. But I tend to regard these books that get rave reviews with a certain amount of suspicion; still, reliable fellow bloggers loved this book so I thought -- hoped -- that I would, too.

It didn't quite turn out that way. Eleanor & Park is well-written, no doubt about it. It's an angsty, awkward story of first love set in the 80s. And it is beautiful, at least in parts. The slow-then-quick falling of Eleanor and Park into love adds to the general feeling of desperate, inevitable angst. But Eleanor & Park is not only a love story; it's also the story of Eleanor's horrible home life. The stepfather who kicked her out once (for a whole year) and who now rules and abuses her family -- her mom, as well as  her four younger siblings. There's a constant sense of fear and danger surrounding Eleanor's life, one that gives the rest of the book an uncomfortable edge. This isn't just, as the front cover claims, a love between misfits; it's also the story of a desperate teenage relationship at odds with emotional and physical abuse.

Though I enjoyed the story between Park and Eleanor, and the dynamic of Park's family (especially when it came to Eleanor), neither of the characters really made that big of an impact on me. I liked them fine, but it was the details of their story that I really enjoyed: the comic books and music they shared, their phone conversations, and how incredibly nice Park was to Eleanor, especially in the beginning when he didn't have to be.

That said, there were some things in this book that didn't sit well with me. The headlong, hasty rush into True Love felt... well, not-quite-true. It felt immature. Like teen love, sure, but not the sort of teen love that would last. Aside from that there was also quite a bit more vulgarity in this book than I was expecting. I was taken aback by the very liberal use of cuss words, especially when neither of the main characters spoke like that themselves. And though I used to think that cussing in books wasn't something that especially bothered me, this book proved me wrong; the too-often-used vulgarity put me off a book that I otherwise would have enjoyed quite a bit more, though I may be in the minority here.

There was a lot to love about this book, not least of all it's solid writing and the natural way the story was allowed to progress. But there was also quite a bit I could have done without, such as the cussing, the immaturity that was supposed to pass for maturity even in the eyes of the adults in the novel, and the fact that I didn't care enough about either of the main characters.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

review: take me there

TAKE ME THERE Carolee Dean
Simon Pulse
I started Take Me There with high hopes. Despite the fact that the cover and back-page summary made it seem like an opposites-attract romance, it quickly became clear that this was really the story of a teenage boy determined to turn his life around -- and I liked that theme. Dylan Dawson Jr. is 17 and has already been in juvie, already been involved in a chop shop and associated with a gang. But now he's out of juvie, along with his best friend Wade, and he's determined to go straight. To not wander down the same path his dad -- who's on death row for killing a cop -- went down. But when the gang finds him again they make it difficult for him to stay on the straight and narrow and one night, through no fault of his own, he ends up on the run. From the gang member that's after him and the cops that are probably looking for him. He heads for Texas, where in less than a week his dad will be executed. Dylan has to know if the badness inside of him is something he was born with, something impossible to outrun, or if it's something that can be changed. He has to know the truth of why his dad is facing execution.

(Oh yeah, and also he can barely read. That's important too. Although he loves poetry and has memorized many of them (and even creates his own), actually reading is incredibly difficult for him.)

It's obvious from the first page of this book that Dylan is essentially a good guy. He wants to turn his life around and is doing everything he can to make sure that happens. His romance with the beautiful, rich Jess was alternately incredibly sweet and incredibly unrealistic. But despite what the summary would lead you to believe, his love for Jess is only part of Dylan's story -- more important is the road trip he takes with Wade to see his father again and get answers to his questions. The answers (and even the questions themselves) quickly become more complicated as Dylan realizes that the reason for his father's incarceration isn't nearly as cut-and-dry as he always thought. It's clear, too, that Dylan's dad is a good guy. He is repentant and trying in so many ways to right his wrongs. There are huge themes of repentance, forgiveness, mercy, and justice running through this novel.

Which is why the ending was such a colossal dissapointment. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that up until the novel's conclusion I was for the most part enjoying this novel despite the few issues I had. (Most of my issues up until this point had to do with 1. the quick escalation of Dylan and Jess' relationship in a certain chapter, as well as how unrealistic much of their relationship felt on Jess' side, and 2. how heavy-handed the link between illiteracy and criminal activity often felt.) However, I felt that the book's ending was at odds with the story that came before it, taking the important themes that the book had explored so well and tossing them aside for a possibly-realistic, but definitely discouraging ending.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

the minimalist approach to books.

My family is in the midst of moving, so yesterday me and my mom were discussing minimalism. You know, get rid of all your belongings, one fork one plate one bowl sort of thing. And we were talking about what we could get rid of if we needed to -- could you get rid of your knickknacks? Your piles of notebooks? Old toys? Books? Gadgets? Basically: how much do we love this stuff? Because we shouldn't love any of it so much that we couldn't get rid of it if we needed to.

And I have a lot of books. They're all books I love, or at least really really like, and I'm glad I'm not in a position where I have to get rid of all of them, but I know that if I had to I'd be okay. My books are not the most important thing in my life.

But. Something else I think about sometimes: not getting rid of all my books, but the hypothetical situation of what if I could only keep a few? Five? Or ten? What if I had to fit my life into a suitcase or a couple of boxes? Which books would make the cut? Obviously there'd be my Bible, and a notebook. But I'm talking novels, memoirs, etc. You know.

So as of now, here's my list:

  1. Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta - because it's such, such a personal story for me.
  2. Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr - again, so personal, and one i tend to reread fairly often.
  3. Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins - this one has plenty of my own notes in it and it's a sweet book that would obviously make whatever situation i'm in where i can only have ten books more bearable.
  4. serafina67, by Susie Day - favorite ever ya novel. i need my fictional personality doppleganger with me.
  5. The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss - just so incredibly beautiful.
  6. Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell - my favorite book.
  7. Bloomability, by Sharon Creech - another personal pick, and one that brings me back to my childhood.
  8. Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech - another brilliant book.
  9. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee - i just love this one.

Alright, excellent counters will notice that there are only ten books on that list. My last spot is open. And honestly, making that list was harder than I thought. Not because I wanted to keep all of them, but because there were very few where I felt like oh, I need this book. And even though I've often been known to refer to my books as "my friends," and I do love having shelves full of my favorite books, I think it's a good thing I didn't have too hard of a time imagining getting rid of most of them.

But now I ask you -- ten books only: which ones would you keep? And would you be able to do it?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

tuesday ten: fiction crushes

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is "top ten fictional characters i'd have a crush on if i were also fictional." Alright, first of all this topic supposes that all fictional characters somehow live in the same universe. Which, okay, I guess I can go with that. FictionLand! Where all your favorite characters live and breathe.

Also, I'm keeping this limited to guys from books. And there's only eight. And yes, I know this post is late in going up.

1. Peeta Mellark
Hunger Games (series)
Suzanne Collins

2. Adam Kent
Shatter Me
Tahereh Mafi

3. Kurt Brodsky
Joshua C. Cohen

4. Chris
Love and Other Perishable Items
Laura Buzo

5. Cole Archer
Isla Neal & Martin Leicht

6. Xander Carrow
Matched (series)
Ally Condie

7. Alpha
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
E. Lockhart

8. Spencer Martin
Suite Scarlett (series)
Maureen Johnson