Friday, 29 April 2011

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

What Happened to Goodbye
Sarah Dessen
Penguin Young Readers Group
[May 10, 2011]

Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean's become a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean's ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?


I should start by saying: This is Mother Effin' Dessen. So, clearly it's awesome.

But besides that, this is probably my favorite book of hers.

Mclean was really, really relatable. The whole idea of having different lives everywhere she goes. It's totally true. I'm a different person in school, out of school, around family, around my parents, around my siblings...we all have many different faces. Mclean just takes it to a whole new level.

Dave was probably my favorite Dessen boy. He was sweet and funny and lovely, even though things at home weren't necessarily normal.

I loved the plot, with all the little details in the side characters and other romances and the family dynamic throughout the book. All of it was slightly overdramatic, but otherwise realistic. Wonderful.

I wish I could give you guys a better review but
A) This is Sarah Dessen
B) I'm writing this a month after reading...yeah.

Just know I absolutely adored this book, my favorite Sarah Dessen book, and it's not straight up chick lit, so I think everyone should read it. EVERY. ONE.

--Julie

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta


The Piper's Son 
by Melina Marchetta


Summary: Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.

But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle's death.

And in a year when everything's broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

Melina Marchetta's brilliant, heart-wrenching new novel takes up the story of the group of friends from her best-selling, much-loved book Saving Francesca - only this time it's five years later and Thomas Mackee is the one who needs saving.
Dear Melina Marchetta,


Sincerely,
Me.

Melina Marchetta is one of my all time favourite authors. You'll be aware of that if you've been reading this blog for a while -- I mention her a lot, and her books are among the books that I compare others too...if a book can make me feel half as much as one of her books can, then I will love it.

This book reminded me why that is. It reminded me why she is one of my favourite authors and why I put her and her book, Jellicoe Road (my favourite of hers), up on a pedestal where I worship it for being one of the best books I've ever read and wish I had even a fraction of the talent she has when it comes to writing books.

The Piper's Son is amazing. It didn't knock Jellicoe Road off of the top spot for my favourite book of hers, but it is a very close second (and JR now has some company up on the metaphorical pedestal that I've put it on).

Her books are like complex jigsaw puzzles. Confusing at first; the characters are beautifully broken and as you read, it's like piece by piece, we get to see them be put back together and by the end, the initial confusion is worth the beauty of the bigger picture. Her endings are perfect, they're not forced or flawless, they're just...hopeful and raw and real, the cracks are still there but the characters have all come together in a way that leaves them a little less broken than they were in the beginning.

Melina's writing is one of my favourite things about her books. She doesn't just create these amazing complex characters (and really, these characters were brilliant, I loved them all so much) and plots and relationships between the characters, she writes beautifully too. I was using a piece of paper as a bookmark while I read the book, and every time I came across a quote I loved, I would tear a bit off of the paper and leave it to mark the page...by the time I was finished the book, the paper I was using as a bookmark was tiny and there were little scraps of it scattered all through the book. I posted some of my favourite ones on tumblr, like these ones:

"Maybe she’d always been there. Maybe strangers enter your heart first and then you spent the rest of your life searching for them."

"The grief hits her hard one day. The way it can’t be controlled. The way that yesterday can be good and so can the day before, and so can the week and fortnight before that, but then today comes and she’s back to zero. How she can’t type words into her computer or even press the inbox for her mail. The effort it takes to walk. How words can’t form in her mouth and how her blood feels paralyzed."

"He does that a lot. Speaks quietly. It’s almost as if he believes that if he raises his voice, she’ll notice that he’s around and then she’ll remember the past and tell him to get lost. So these days, he speaks quietly."

This book a companion novel to Saving Francesca - I remember really liking that book, some quotes from it have stuck with me, but it was so long ago that I read it, that I had pretty much forgotten what happened in the book and details about all the characters, aside from the basic plot. Even though I forgot so much about Saving Francesca, it didn't take anything away from this book, so I think maybe it could be read as a standalone without reading SF.

It's hard to review this book. It's been more general fangirling of Melina Marchetta than getting specific about The Piper's Son...but no matter what I write, it wouldn't do my feelings on the book justice, so I'll leave it at that. The book was amazing, I will read anything this woman writes - seriously, if she had written Breaking Dawn, she probably has enough talent to turn even that into a literary masterpiece instead of just...a disasterpiece. O.o

Later.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent
by Veronica Roth


Release date: May 3rd (Julie got a copy from the US publisher, so she'll have a review up nearer the release date, that way we're not posting reviews of the same book at the same time)

Summary: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
I am in love...with a book.


I would marry this book if I could, it was that awesome.

Okay, so maybe not quite that much (although -- isn't there a woman who married a wall? why not a book?), but really the book was beyond fantastic. I think it may even be my favourite dystopian book, or at the very least, it's tied with The Hunger Games.

I haven't felt this total adoration for a book in what feels like ages and I've missed that feeling, that feeling that reminds me why I love reading so much (I mean, I've loved books in the past year, but then there are just some that are a whole other level of awesome and this is right up there with the best of them).

For the first five chapters, I liked the protagonist and the writing and was hooked on the plot, but I thought the world was kind of ridiculous. In other dystopian novels, I could believe the worlds they created, I could believe the world could go wrong like that and that society could end up that way...and for the first five chapters of this book, I wasn't getting that and if I don't have that feeling when reading a dystopian, I probably won't like the book. I thought the world was just silly.

And then on the fifth chapter, it clicked into place. The world made sense and the book was just - wow.

I really can't put into words all the things I loved about the book, because I actually think I loved everything about it, what I mentioned above was the only negative that comes to mind and even that disappeared after five chapters.

The characters were amazing. I want to keep Four and know Tris, and I want to be friends with Will and Christina and give Al a hug and a lecture. I want a big brother like Caleb, because even though he wasn't in the book too much, he was awesome. And I would really, really like Peter, Drew, Molly, Marcus and Eric to be real - just so I could beat them up a little for being awful. I just loved all of the characters (even the bad ones because I loved to hate them).

The romance in the book was perfect. And I don't mean that in the cliche way -- I mean, it was just the right amount. I cared about the characters individually and wanted them to be together and the romance wasn't over the top. It was a subplot, not the focus of the story and I think that is my favourite kind of romance (just like in the Harry Potter books or The Hunger Games - it's there, but the romance isn't the entire plot, you could cut it out and still have an amazing story, while there are some books that, if you remove the romance crutch, they can't stand on their own).

I'm really tired right now, because I stayed up very late (or early, depending on how you look at it - past 5am) reading this, so that's all I can think to say about the book. It was epic and I pity whatever book I read next, because this one is a tough act to follow. Go read it. Seriously.

And...now that I'm done fangirling, I'm going to go cry or something, over the fact that I don't have the sequel to read right now.
Later.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Abusing My Power...Again

I'm out of places to link this and I'm technically in 18th place (well...19th if you're looking at the number of votes, BUT THE WEBSITE STILL SAYS 18th), but I wanna do better. I don't know if it affects the editor's voting at all, but it can't hurt to do better, can it?

Yes, I'm doing this again. Because I want this shot at publishing.


Read it (should you choose to), give it some stars (preferably 5), log into facebook. Comment if you wish. And it's okay if you've voted before, as long as that vote wasn't cast today! Just a minute of your time to help me make a dream come true.

--Julie

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

The Vespertine
Saundra Mitchell
Harcourt Children's Books
[March 7, 2011]

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

Wonderful. Magical. Amazing.
I read this book probably over a month ago, so I'll review this the best I can.

When I read this, I was in the middle of a book slump. No book could engage me properly. But this book came pretty damn close. 

Amelia was a fantastic character. Strong and independent and kinda ballsy, but in the best possible way. And I loved Nathaniel. He was kind of dark, even for me, but he was still a great guy for Amelia.

Which leads me to the romance. Thrilling. Wonderful. Beautiful. The romance is the only thing that really sticks out in my mind (besides a few things that are spoiler-y. ;]) and it's just...GUH. So, SO wonderful.

Really, I liked everything about this book. And I'm super excited for the sequel. And I HIGHLY recommend it, especially if you liked A Great and Terrible Beauty or if you just like historical fiction or if you just like magic. Fabulous book overall!

--Julie

Sunday, 24 April 2011

In My Mailbox (66)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie.

Happy Easter! Or, Happy Passover! Or...just Happy Sunday!

Very busy week this week, for me. Very random, but I was glad I could be home to get them all as they came. Much more exciting for me.


For Review:
Dark Eden by Patrick Carman
Corsets and Clockwork edited by Tricia Telep
Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Won:
XVI by Julia Karr

Thanks to HarperTeen, Simon and Schuster, Running Press, and Julia Karr!

What's in your mailbox this week?

--Julie

Lanna:

It's 2am and I just got home from my friends like an hour ago, and I'm tired so this is going to be a lazy post - just lists, no pictures of covers.

For review:

Exposure by Therese Fowler
Wild/Illusions by Aprilynn Pike

Exposure is an adult novel, I think, but it has teen characters in it and YA appeal. Haven't read the first two books in the Wings series, so I'll probably give Wild (UK title, US is Illusions) away, or maybe wait until I can read the first two. 

Bought:

Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Dawson's Creek: Omnibus 1 by Jennifer Baker, et al
Dawson's Creek: Omnibus 2 by K.S. Rodriguez, etc.

I'm craving another epic dystopian after reading Divergent, so maybe Enclave will deliver. And I'm a big nerd for Dawson's Creek, so I figured I'd try the bind ups of books written to go with the show (couldn't find the goodreads links for the DC books, they're pretty old).

Later.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Falling in Love with English Boys by Melissa Jensen

Falling in Love with English Boys
Melissa Jensen
[December 23, 2010]
Speak

Sixteen-year-old Catherine Vernon has been stranded in London for the summer—no friends, no ex-boyfriend Adam the Scum (good riddance!), and absolutely nothing to do but blog about her misery to her friends back home. Desperate for something—anything—to do in London while her (s)mother’s off researching boring historical things, Cat starts reading the 1815 diary of Katherine Percival her mom gives her—and finds the similarities between their lives to be oddly close. But where Katherine has the whirls of the society, the parties and the gossip over who is engaged to who, Cat’s only got some really excellent English chocolate. Then she meets William Percival—the uber-hot descendant of Katherine—and things start looking up . . .

This book was fabulous and funny and adorable.

I loved the mix of history and modern times. It kind of reminded me of Revolution in that aspect, but this was a lighter version. And it's England, not France. Both the Katherine and Cat had these fascinating stories and I wanted more of both as I read. I'd start reading Cat's and wanted Katherine's, then I'd get to Katherine's and want Cat's.

I loved the romances developing in both stories. They were both totally adorable, though somewhat predictable. William was so sweet and wonderful to Cat. I don't remember Katherine's as well because I read the book like a month ago, but I remember loving the story.

Cat can be a bit annoying and shallow at times, but there was always Katherine's story to balance it out. And Cat develops a lot as a character throughout the novel and becomes far more manageable. 

Overall, it's a cute, fun read. Not the best book I've ever read and not mind blowing, but as long as you take it as it is, it's really enjoyable.

--Julie

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why
Jay Asher
Razorbill
[October 18, 2007]

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

I'm not sure I can give this a proper review, so I'm going to tell you what I know instead of my thoughts.
I know it was a quick read. I sat down to read a few chapters and ended up reading nearly 200 pages. So then I simply had to finish the last bit. It was less than a hundred pages, only another hour. My mindset was constantly "Well, who's next on the tape? What if this is Clay's tape? Who's next and what did they do? One more person won't kill me."

I know that I had a physical reaction to the book. I first finished it and I couldn't really think. I couldn't comprehend things the way I normally do. For a few moments, I even felt physically sick. When that passed, I tried working out and suddenly got inspired for a new story idea of my own. When I sat down and started writing it, I realized my arm was shaking. I went back to work out more and realized my whole body was shaking. I kind of felt like I was having an out of body experience.

I know I was totally absorbed in this book from beginning to end and after. When I wasn't reading, I thought about reading. When I was finished, it kept bouncing back, either the story directly or the story it inspired me to work on.

This is a book that haunts you. That gets under your skin. A book you have to think about. And then you have to think about yourself. 

It's not an easy read and it's not a happy read and there's no real happy ending. But it's an important read, I might even call it a necessary read.

I think I loved it, but I don't know. I definitely didn't hate it. I can't even try to tell you exactly how I felt about it. All I can do is tell you that what I've written is what I know and you'll have to make your own conclusions from that.

--Julie

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

In Which I Abuse My Power

So, there's this contest. It was a short story contest where we had to rewrite a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream and the public votes to narrow it down to 20 projects and then from those 20, 5 will be picked by editors at HarperCollins to either be published in an anthology (a legit anthology. That you can BUY IN A STORE.) or get an iSomething.

Obviously, being published is the more awesome prize here.

Which is why I wrote this story. And you know, entered the contest.

Scariest thing I've ever done, by far.

But remember, light 5 sentences ago when I mentioned the voting process? That's where you come in.

I'm a procrastinator, which means I put my short story up about 6 hours before the deadline and therefore there's only a week for me to get enough votes to be in the Top 20. And I would love it if YOU would vote. I'd really prefer it if you'd vote on MY story, but really voting's just a good thing in general.

A vote is giving the short story a rating using the stars at the bottom. I know 5 stars counts as a vote, I'm assuming 1 star, well, doesn't count. But 5 stars is the only thing I KNOW counts for a vote, so you should probably go with that if you want to vote for a story. You can vote once a day, every day until voting closes on April 26. And yes, you do need a facebook account for this. Just log in and you can vote. Your information is NOT accessible after that.

I'm not saying you have to vote for my story and if you do, I'm not going to give you some kind of prize. It's just something that means a lot to me and I'm sure it'll mean a lot to the other entrants and EVERY vote will mean a lot to the Top 20.

So, go vote if you like. If you choose to vote and not read or read and not vote, feel free to do so. Go read some of the entries and maybe vote on them, too. Here's a direct link to all the entries if you don't want to read mine or don't want to be biased or whatever.

Congrats for making it through this whole, rambling mess of a post and thank you if you read/voted/commented on my story!
--Julie

P.S. you should also vote for Erin Lynn Jeffreys Hodges's story! Just saying.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Supetys


Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys


Summary: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

This book was...heartbreakingly beautiful. That's the best way I can think to describe it. The writing, the characters -- it was just amazing.

I want to talk about the characters, but I don't even know what to say about them. They were all realistic, flawed, brilliant and awful in their own ways and I cared about them as if they were real (or in some cases, hated them as if they were real).

Reading the book knowing that, although these characters are fictional, these things actually happened is like a heavy feeling in your heart as you turn the pages.

Sometimes it's easy to read a book knowing it's just a story...you get caught up in it, you care about the characters, but when you finish the last page, you can still be comforted by the knowledge that they're just characters, it isn't real. But this was real. Real people were put through this, maybe not these specific characters in the book, but it still happened. Stalin did have all of these innocent people deported and treated like criminals - worse than criminals...they were treated like they were less than human.

Because of that, when you finish that last page, there isn't that reassurance that it's just a story. And the book was so much more powerful and had a much bigger impact because of that.

The book really made me think, too. About all of the people in situations like this. It seems like a black and white issue; good and bad. But even the Soviet soldiers were people and yes, some of them were genuinely awful...but some of them, maybe they were just scared or brainwashed to believing they were doing what was right for their families, their people, and their country. It's easy to view the Soviets as monsters, but it's not that simple, there's this gray area.

I like that the story made me think about that more, there was a specific scene in the book that made me really realise that and also made me love the main character even more, because of the compassion she showed in that moment.

It made me wonder what I would have done. If I was on the Russian side of things, would I have given into that cruelty out of fear? If I was one of the people being deported, would I have been strong or weak? Would I have lived or died, would I have had enough will to live to keep fighting for life? Would I be too proud to go to extremes just to stay alive in the hell they were put in? I genuinely don't know.

I love books that make me think.

When I was finished, I closed the book, calmly set it down in front of me and then just sat there numb for a few minutes. Then I cried; for the characters, for the real people that these horrible things actually happened to...I have so much respect for the people that survived and sympathy for the ones that didn't.

The only negative thing about the book I can think of is the ending. On one hand, the ending was beautiful and well done...but, it left too many strings left untied, too many questions unanswered and in a book like this, not having those answers matters more. If she wrote another book about what happened in the time jump between the last chapter and the epilogue, then that would be awesome, because it would give the closure that the ending of this book didn't bring.

But even that negative thing links back to how amazing the book was...if it wasn't such a good book, then I wouldn't care so much about what happened to the characters and all of the hows and whens and whys of how they got the ending that they did.

I'll stop rambling now, this review turned into more me talking about what the book made me think about than the book itself, oops. But yeah, the book was amazing and I really recommend it, it's a story that deserves to be known.

Later.

p.s. Being the cover-whore that I am, this has to be mentioned, the cover is gorgeous. :)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

In My Mailbox (65)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie.

Julie:
Lots of fun stuff in the mail this week!


For Review:
Rise by Stefne Miller

Bought:
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (not mentioned in video because I was kind of frazzled at that point. And I loaned it out to a friend since I've already read it as an ARC, which made it easy for me to forget.)
A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

Gifted:
Poster
The Body Finder bracelet
Pins
Card

Mucho thanks to Stefne Miller and Suzanne Lazear for the awesome sent this week! 

--Julie

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams

Miles from Ordinary
Carol Lynch Williams
St. Martin's Griffin
[March 15, 2011]

"Imagine Anna Quindlen or Sue Miller turning her attention to writing a young adult novel, and you have an idea what [Williams] has done for early teen readers…" —Audrey Couloumbis, author of the Newbery Honor Book Getting Close to Baby

Thirteen-year-old Lacey wakes to a beautiful summer morning excited to begin her new job at the library, just as her mother is supposed to start work at the grocery store. Lacey hopes that her mother's ghosts have finally been laid to rest; after all, she seems so much better these days, and they really do need the money. But as the hours tick by and memories come flooding back, a day full of hope spins terrifyingly out of control....

“No one can get inside the head and heart of a 13-year-old girl better than Carol Lynch Williams, and I mean no one," said James S. Jacobs, Professor of Children's Literature at Brigham Young University, of her breakout novel, The Chosen One. Now this award-winning YA author brings us an equally gripping story of a girl who loves her mother, but must face the truth of what life with that mother means for both of them.

  This book was very unique. Very different, in a good way.


The writing is different than most things I've read. Something about it was...simpler? I guess that would be the right word. It was simplistic and a bit jarring when you first start, but good over all.

The story was somewhat suspenseful and mysterious. There are some things you don't learn for a while and one scene in particular made my heart pound. Despite the slower pace, I still had to keep reading.

I want to say more, but I'm at a loss. It's not like anything I've ever read before and I'm not even sure what I can say without spoiling it. It was the day in the life of a teenage girl with a not so normal/stable home. A story about how she's haunted and grieving and she's kind of alone in it all because she has to be the grown up.

Is this one of my favorite books of all time? No. But it was a good, solid read. A read that I enjoyed. Something new and refreshing and just plain different. And sometimes, that's what you need. 

--Julie

Friday, 15 April 2011

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg


Prom and Prejudice
by Elizabeth Eulberg


Summary: After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London.

Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have money. Clearly, Will Darcy is a pompous jerk — so why does Lizzie find herself drawn to him anyway?

Will Lizzie’s pride and Will’s prejudice keep them apart? Or are they a prom couple in the making? Whatever the result, Elizabeth Eulberg, author of The Lonely Hearts Club, has concocted a very funny, completely stylish delight for any season — prom or otherwise.
I loved this book. It was fast paced and pretty much made of adorable. One of the first things I said to Julie when I signed onto MSN today was this:

Lanna says:
Prom and Prejudice was awesome. I was going to read one chapter before going to sleep at like 4am. I didn't sleep. I read it all.

The story wasn't, well, original. The Pride and Prejudice formula has been done more times than I can count and this is a modern version that follows pretty closely to the original, but I really loved it. It's one of my favourite retellings of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy's story that I've ever encountered (I say "encountered" instead of read, because I'm referring to movie retellings too).

Honestly, there isn't much I can say about the book. It was fun and if you know how the Pride and Prejudice story goes, then you know the majority of the plot already but it's still entertaining to read even though you know what is going to happen.

I still loved all of the characters that I usually love; Lizzie, Will, Jane, Gorgiana, Charles. The characters that normally annoy me still annoy me: Caroline and Colin and the character that I love and love to hate is still the same too: Wickam. The book was short but the characters were written well and I cared about what happened to them.

Basically, the book was really good. It's the perfect quick read to recharge your batteries with after being in kind of a reading slump or between more intense books. If you like Pride and Prejudice, definitely try it...and if you don't like the original, maybe this retelling will work for you.

Later.

p.s. I just realised something: I was thinking about how I would rate the book. And I realised that if I was rating it based on how much I enjoyed it and just...as a light read, then I'd give it about 4.5 stars. But if I was rating it more - in general, in comparison to greater books, it would just be more average, about 3 stars. It reminded me why I rarely rate books, because the rating is all about what you're comparing it against.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

A Very, Very, Very, Very, VERY Happy Blogoversary to Harmony!

I'm sure many of you know my lovely, Harmony. She started blogging at Harmony's Radiant Reads a year ago today and has blossomed since then. 

She's dedicated to her blog, despite a hectic schedule. She's funny and smart and her reviews are great. Harmony's kind and a fantastic writer and an epic gift giver. She's generous to the point of ridiculous sometimes, as well. ;)

Harmony's one of my best friends and the best critique partner I've ever had. I'm so, SO glad I "met" her and get to talk to her every day. She keeps me going and inspires me. And someday, I hope to meet her in real life. There will be squeeing and jumping and hugs, I'm sure. 

But for TODAY, you should go and follow her blog and enter her contest. Congratulate her on a year of fabulous and wish her another year more.

--Julie

Now that Julie has done the whole words thing, I am now going to do an interpretive dance a visual interpretation... 



Well, not YOU...your blog.
Um...so, yes:

And this concludes Lanna's contribution to the post. 
Harmony is awesome. :)


Later.

Reasons You Should Pre-Order Hourglass by Myra McEntire (Or at least enter her contest)

Today marks 2 months to the release of Hourglass by Myra McEntire. You may have, somehow, heard me gush about this book. If you're totally bored of me gushing, skip to the end of this post. If you're not? Let me gush some more.

1. In the very first chapter, you read about Southern Belles and plastic surgeons. Kind of. You'll get it when you read it. But I now believe all books should start this way.

2. Emerson is pretty freaking badass. I say that a lot, I know, but this girl is LEGIT. She has a BROWN BELT. And girl is not afraid to use it.

3. The book is my drug. I SWEAR there is CRACK embedded in the pages. It's one of those books where for three or so chapters you say "One more chapter, just one more chapter," and then eventually you say "Eff It" and just read. That homework? Not as important. Dinner? Not as important. The house is on fire? Fine, but I need to finish this chapter! (As I'm writing this, it's 12:36 and I have school tomorrow. But I'm considering reading more of the book.)
4. The romance. OH DEAR GOD THE ROMANCE. There's some epic sexual tension in the book. It's all smoldery and hot and they hold hands and it's like "OH DAMN. OH DAMN. Is it hot in here? You guys burning up? Damn, I need a fan." At the same time, they're rather adorable together.

5. Michael Weaver. I love him the way I love my darling Mr. Darcy. He's romantic and caring and over-protective, but not in that creepy/super jealous way. In that "It doesn't matter if you can take care of yourself, I DON'T WANT YOU TO GET HURT" kind of way. He made my Swoon-worthy Boys list. It's possible I'm keeping him in my room now. Maybe.

6. Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark Snark with a cup of sarcasm on the side. I love me some snark. Especially well done, just plain FUNNY snark.

7. There's some serious mystery in the book. Even when I knew what happened after reading it once I'd be like "I...I...I MUST KNOW HOW THIS TURNS OUT!" Part of me felt like face-palming since I already KNOW, but I also know it's PERFECTLY NATURAL for Hourglass.

8. SO FREAKING FUNNY. I used 60 neon-colored post its to mark bits that made me laugh and while rereading, I've found MORE parts that made me chuckle and I wish I had more post its. But I'm pretty much out of them and I've lost them. But I think it's safe to say I giggle at least 75 times while reading this book.

9. IT'S GOING TO BE SHIMMERY. That's right. SHIM-MER-Y. Which almost makes me think of a MERMAID. There's none in this book, but it's A MERMAID-Y COVER! (I swear, I'm NOT on drugs. Really...) (But, fer serious this cover is blow-my-mind gorgeous.)

10. As gorgeous as the cover is, somehow what's inside is EVEN BETTER. It's seems kind of unbelievable and maybe just a tad impossible. BUT TRUE.

11: When you reread it? It gets even better.

Now that I've given you ALL THESE REASONS to pre-order Hourglass, here's another option. Myra's currently holding a CONTEST where YOU CAN WIN A COPY. Just go here.

OBVIOUSLY if you don't win, you should pre-order. Because I've already told you how fabulous this book is.

And if you're not going to believe me NOW and pre-order it, you'll just have to read my review in June and then go out and buy it.

(If, for some reason, you STILL DON'T BELIEVE ME, there's also this post from Danielle at Frenzy of Noise! And this one from Danielle at Overflowing Shelf! And Harmony at Harmony's Radiant Reads posted about it here!)

--Julie

***That's not the final cover, but the final cover isn't posted many places online and therefore, I can't get you guys a good, clear version. It IS on Myra's blog. Did you see it? It's up there^

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

DNF: The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

DNF = Did Not Finish. To sum up: books that I started but can't bring myself to finish are piling up and causing some sort of block in my reading habits...so I'm going to put them in my DNF pile and I need to write my reasons for that to make it "official" that I've given up on them (if I didn't review them, then my stubborn nature would keep letting them irritate me).

The Lying Game
by Sara Shephard


Summary: I had a life anyone would kill for.


Then someone did.

The worst part of being dead is that there’s nothing left to live for. No more kisses. No more secrets. No more gossip. It’s enough to kill a girl all over again. But I’m about to get something no one else does—an encore performance, thanks to Emma, the long-lost twin sister I never even got to meet.

Now Emma’s desperate to know what happened to me. And the only way to figure it out is to be me—to slip into my old life and piece it all together. But can she laugh at inside jokes with my best friends? Convince my boyfriend she’s the girl he fell in love with? Pretend to be a happy, carefree daughter when she hugs my parents good night? And can she keep up the charade, even after she realizes my murderer is watching her every move?

From Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Pretty Little Liars books, comes a riveting new series about secrets, lies, and killer consequences.

Let the lying game begin.
I liked this book. The reason I couldn't finish it wasn't because I didn't like it. It was just the wrong time to read it...books like this, they're fun and they should be quick reads. The fact that I could only get halfway into the book then couldn't bring myself to pick it up again (I'm talking more than a week passed after I put it down) proves that I was in the wrong mood to read this kind of book.

It started off really good, the idea of the story is really interesting, although I did kind of need to suspend disbelief to get over certain aspects of it (shockingly, not even the dead narrator was the issue - it was Emma being Sutton). It was just when it got to the part about Suttons life that I couldn't read anymore.

Emma is an interesting character, I liked her a lot. And as the narrator, Sutton is interesting...but her life was just so - shallow. Shallow friends, shallow life and total fakeness. I didn't care what happened to her -- I cared about Emma, but when she was in Suttons life, the story lost the depth it could have had and just became one of those far fetched-but-fun books that don't really have much meaning to them.

Again, I only got half way through the book, so maybe it changed, I just wasn't into where it was heading and it didn't seem like it was going to turn into some literary masterpiece.

And that's fine - not everyone book has to move me or be powerful and inspiring, they don't always have to have some deeper meaning or get under my skin or having me laughing out loud or bawling my eyes out...it's okay for books to just be mindless entertainment. It's like shows/books like Gossip Girl - they're fun, they can be addictive but they don't go too far beyond that.

The point is, I'm just not in the mood to read something like that right now. I want an amazing book; I want another Looking for Alaska or The Sky is Everywhere or Hunger Games, something that will become an all time favourite. So I'm benching this book right now and I will pick it up again at some point and finish it, when I'm in the right mood to read it.

I don't really need to do what I did with Chime, linking positive reviews of it, because I did genuinely like this book and I really do recommend it, from what I read of it, it's good -- it's just bad timing and I can't finish it now.

Later.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

DNF: Chime by Franny Billingsly

Explanation of why this is a "Did Not Finish" review: There are about 7 or 8 books that I've started but can't bring myself to finish. I can't keep letting the books build up like that...it's gotten to the point where putting off reading those specific books has halted my reading almost completely, I just avoid reading anything -- my To Be Read pile is way too big for me to be doing that.

So I've decided to remove a few of them from my reading pile to DNF and I'll review what I have read of them and explain why I couldn't finish them and all that (the reason I'm even posting reviews of them at all, is because if I don't, I won't be able to push them off my to read pile...the review makes it more official for me and lets me move on).

Anyway, onto the review:

Chime
by Franny Billingsly


Summary: Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.

Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.
I was sent this one to review a while ago. It sounded interesting and the cover is gorgeous, but it's probably not one I would have chosen to read on my own...in the end, the pretty cover convinced me to give it a chance, not the summary.

I admire the uniqueness of the story, it was very odd and I loved Franny's writing. Something about it is so distinct and oozes personality. And sometimes good writing is enough to keep me reading...this time, it just wasn't. I only made it about a third of the way into the book and was bored out of my mind.

The protagonist was interesting. But I didn't care about her. I didn't care about the other characters or why they were the way they were or what had happened to them in the past...I just did not give a damn at all. And I hated the plot -- the parts that didn't bore me just gave me that WTF? feeling.

Now, a third of the book isn't enough for me to judge whether I would've hated the entire plot -- it could've picked up and totally turned around, becoming amazing. There are a few books that have done that for me and I've seen a bunch of good reviews of this one (I'll link a few at the end), so maybe it did get better. But the thing is, when you're bored and you hate the plot and you don't care about what happens/happened to the characters, there isn't really much incentive to keep turning the pages.

Parts of the book did manage to make me laugh, like a scene where the main character gets extremely excited over some paperclips, but the rest of it just dragged along and couldn't hold my interest. I tried to finish the book, but it just was not happening (and I don't just mean I sat down, read a third of it, then gave up - I could only push myself to read about a chapter at a time, and reading it dragged out for a few weeks when it normally would only take a few hours for me to completely finish a book).

As I already mentioned, I've seen good reviews of the book, so this isn't about the book exactly -- I was just not in the right mood to read it or it just wasn't my cup of tea. I might pick it up again some other time and give it another chance, but for now, it's being moved into my Did Not Finish pile so I can clear up the traffic jam it was helping cause in my TBR pile.

If the summary sounds interesting to you, then check the book out - the writing is really good and you might not have the same issues I had with it, I'd still recommend giving it a chance (and here are some positive reviews of the book if you're still unsure).

Later.

p.s. Hopefully I will get back to reviewing more frequently, now that I'm sorting the block in my TBR pile. =P

Monday, 11 April 2011

An Interview with Lisa Cach

You read my glowing review of Wake Unto Me yesterday, and now we have Lisa Cach on the blog as part of her blog tour! 
 
Let's get straight to the interview.
 
1. If you could be any fictional character, who would you be and why?
    Auntie Mame!  She loved life, and wasn’t afraid to live it.  As she would say, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”



    2. I think your cover is absolutely gorgeous. What are your thoughts on it?
    If I saw it in a bookstore, I’d pick it up.  Which is, after all, the whole point of cover art!  I wish more of the hero’s face was showing, but otherwise I think it’s romantic and evokes the feeling of the story.



    3. When did you start writing? Is there a certain time you realized you wanted to be an author?
    English was always my best subject, but I was probably around 16 or 17 when I started getting the idea that fiction writing – in some form, whether for movies or novels or whatever else might be out there -- was what I wanted to do.  I was not one of those wunderkinds who writes all the time and has three novels under her belt by the time she’s 12.  I just loved to read, and I was good with written words, and wanted to use them in my career.  I didn’t fully recognize that I wanted to write novels (as opposed to scripts, or short stories) until I went to graduate school for a semester, studying professional writing at the University of Southern California; the writing program was dissatisfying for me, and I left after the first term, but I did start writing my first romance novel while I was there, so I guess I have to thank them for something!


    4. What's your favorite part of being an author?
    Ah, being an author:  how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  I love working from home, love being my own boss, and I love love love that I get to use my imagination to create my work.  Sometimes it seems a little insane, like when I wrote a romantic novella with zombies in it.  Really?  This is my job, to combine zombies and romance?  Fabulous!!!


    5. Can you share anything about your future projects?
    My agent is in talks with a publisher right now for a sequel to Wake Unto Me.  I’ve also got four other story proposals out there, making the rounds.  It’s almost certain I’ll do the Wake Unto Me sequel; I hope I also get to do at least one of the other stories.


    I would definitely, DEFINITELY love a sequel, myself! 

    Thanks so much for stopping by today, Lisa! And thanks to the Teen Book Scene for hosting the tour!

    --Julie

    Sunday, 10 April 2011

    Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden


    Tomorrow When the War Began
    by John Marsden

    Summary: When Ellie and six of her friends return home from a camping trip deep in the bush, they find things hideously wrong -- their families gone, houses empty and abandoned, pets and stock dead. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in the town has been taken prisoner. As the horrible reality of the situation becomes evident they have to make a life-and-death decision: to run back into the bush and hide, to give themselves up to be with their families, or to stay and try to fight.

    I've owned this book for a while, I bought it as soon as I saw the movie trailer for it sometime last year, but I never got around to reading it until I was sent a copy of the movie tie-in cover for review.

    I really loved the book. Honestly, it's not the kind of book I'd normally read, I need to be in a very specific mood to even consider buying a book like this (unless romance sounds like a major part of the story - sad, but true) but I'm really glad I read it.

    The plot of the book was awesome and I love how situations like that manage to show humanity at its best and its worst (and yes, I'm aware this is fiction, but it's true for real life too). It reveals peoples cowardice and their courage. You never really know how strong you are until you're put in a situation where you're terrified and you find out how you'll react (it really had me wondering what I would be like in their situation, would I be brave or turn into a quivering ball of fear? Would I fight or hide or give up? I like to think I'd be brave and strong, but I honestly don't know for sure, I don't think anyone does).

    That was my favourite thing about this book. It really made me think and it showed how wars can change people and show what they're capable of. One of my favourite quotes from the book says it best (and there were quick a few pages with paper place holders to mark quotes that I loved):


    "I guess true courage is when you're really scared but you still do it."

    The book is really exciting and the characters managed to be realistic but totally kick ass at the same time. They argued, they annoyed each other, but they cared and got along too - they made jokes and lost their temper, they weren't perfect...they were just like regular teenagers in an irregular situation and the situation pushed them to their limits, but it didn't change them to the point where they didn't seem real anymore - the realness of the characters was consistent throughout the book and I loved that.

    I can't really think of much else I can say about the book without ruining it. I could talk about the scenes that I loved most, but that would totally spoil the book for you, so I probably shouldn't do that. I guess I'll just leave my review at that: the book was awesome, go read it.

    Movie trailer, for anyone who hasn't seen it (also works as a pretty decent trailer for the book too):






    Later.

    In My Mailbox (64)

    In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea at Pop Culture Junkie.

    Lanna:


    For Review:
    The War on Destiny by J. Sciancalepore (this one sounds really interesting and I love the cover in person)

    Bought:
    City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
    Annexed by Sharon Dogar
    Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
    Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach
    Born at Midnight by C. C. Hunter
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

    What'd you get this week?
    Later.

    Julie:

    Things have been really slow book wise, but that's probably for the best, honestly. And hey look, a vlog (A vlog that took almost 5 hours to upload and, as you'll be able to see, is only 5 or 6 minutes long. That's how much I love you)!


    For Review:
    Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer
    Everlost by Neal Shusterman (Quick Story: We were home when the mailman dropped this off and my dad went out to say hello and get the mail from him. The mailman was on the steps, then kind of came back to the door and said "Just wanted to be sure everything was there." My dad brings in the mail and throws two packages at me and I realize that the mailman was talking about one of my packages. The envelope for this book had been cut open. It was very clean and precise. The book was in there, as was the note (shown in video), so I HOPE nothing else was in there. But clearly the Wannabe-Thief has no good taste.)


    Bought:
    Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

    So, what'd you get in YOUR mailbox?

    --Julie

    Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

    Wake Unto Me
    Lisa Cach
    Puffin/Speak
    [March 31, 2011]

    A haunted castle, a handsome young man dead for four hundred years, one heck of a scary portrait of a witch, and a treasure hunt -- not to mention a princess for a roommate! -- all await 15 year old American girl Caitlyn Monahan when she earns a scholarship to a French boarding school.

    There are secrets behind the stone walls of Chateau de la Fortune, buried for centuries along with the mystery of who killed Raphael, the charming ghost who visits Caitlyn at night. But as Caitlyn unearths the history of the castle, nothing scares her as badly as the secret she learns about herself, and the reason she was chosen to come to the Fortune School.

    And nothing breaks her heart as badly as falling in love with a dead guy.

    This was a beautiful, beautiful read. I completely adored it.

    The romance was SO well done. It was a bit of an insta-love, which is usually annoying but...it just WORKED here. Maybe because of the ghost-ish-ness, maybe because of the shortness, I don't know. It just worked.

    This book is also quite the mystery. The main character was getting so confused about certain things, *I* was getting confused. It really messed with my mind trying to figure it out, which was kind of refreshing.

    I really loved all of the characters in this book. They all had some depth to them, even if they weren't super important, and they were all important to the plot. For the most part, they were supporting of our star-crossed lovers, as well, which is always important.

    The book was a little predictable, I kind of saw the ending coming quite a ways off, but it's not predictable in that "Really? Really, it's that...why am I bothering to read this?" way. It's predictable in the "This is gonna happen, how we gonna get there?" kind of way. And maybe not everyone sees it coming and I'm just weird? That's always possible too.

    All in all, this was a really, really good book. I kind of loved it. It got me in the mood for most ghost-y/time travel stories and made me crave some real, good, romance. I highly recommend it and since it IS out in paperback, if you don't like it, it's not a massive set back. But you'll like it, 'cause I said so. So go, buy it and then I can get my sequel. We ALL win then, yes?

    --Julie

    Saturday, 9 April 2011

    A Note/Apology

    So, I've kind of sucked at reviewing lately. Most reviews you've seen from me lately were written months ago. And I can't explain why.

    I love working on the blog. I've been working slowly on this one post that I'm SUPER excited about and I want to do discussion posts and I've got a number of reviews to write.

    But I'm utterly blocked.

    I can't think of a discussion post and when I sit down to write a review, the tab just sits there. It's like I just can't do anything that I *need* to do or *want* to do (except that one post). 

    Sadly, the rest of the month will probably continue this way for me. I have AP tests the first week of May we're already prepping for and I'm tired ALL the time. I go to bed late on Sunday, then need a nap Monday, then go to sleep late Monday night and the cycle continues. Soon, it'll start effecting my reading time because sleep IS usually more important than reading.

    I'm going to try to post more reviews soon and I'm doing the read-a-thon today so I'll have more stuff TO review, but I don't have any guarantees at this point.

    Maybe I'm just kind of burnt out on blogging? Maybe my mind's just too jumbled? Maybe I'm just too tired? I don't know. But I DO know I'm determined to be back to reviewing and writing discussion posts after my AP tests. And at least Lanna's fairing better than I am lately.

    So it's a note, an apology, and a warning of what's possibly coming up. But, the real point of the post? I can't make myself sit down and write a review, but I hate how long it's been since we last posted something. Which means you guys get my crap-explanation.

    --Julie

    (P.S.: It's also almost 1 am and I still need to work out and plan for the read-a-thon. Otherwise I'd be more creative/fun with this...or try to write a review.)

    (P.P.S.: This is JUST FOR ME. I can't speak for Lanna.)

    Thursday, 7 April 2011

    Gettin' My Read On

    So, Saturday is the April edition of the 24 hour readathon. I've only done one other read-a-thon and it kind of failed. Especially because I had several dud books.

    This time, a book that doesn't hook me in 50 pages is dumped. I need to get GOIN' guys. No time for "meh" books.

    I'm torn as to what I'll read. I've got umm...7 books that I've started and abandoned, but it also seems like the ideal time to tackle sequels, but what about those review books and books I've had on my pile since 2009? So, I'll be winging my pile, probably updating this post every once and a while.

    So, feel free to join on! You don't have to be a blogger to do so. And it starts at at Noon GMT time (8 am for EST, 5 am for PST, etc...). I don't know that I'm starting AT 8 am because I tend to stay up late on Friday nights, but it's possible. And I'll definitely be sleeping since I have church at 9 am and my mom wouldn't want me sleeping through that! So that cuts it down to maybe 16 hours total for me? Sucks, but what can you do?

    And yeah, that's it. One of these days my review block will break and I'll get you guys good reviews again...I hope. Then these "filler" posts will stop happening.

    --Julie

    Wednesday, 6 April 2011

    700 Followers Contest - CLOSED

    NOTE: Contest extended until Friday the 22nd of April...

    Seeing as we hit 700 followers a little while ago, we decided we would have a contest.

    It's going to be our usual "Pick Your Poison" style - where we give you a list of books and the winner gets to choose which one they want. There's 15 books to choose from this time; Julie picked five, I picked five and then we have five that we both love. (Well, technically there's more than 15...you'll see what I mean on the form.)

    You don't need to be a follower of the blog to enter (although, of course we would appreciate it if you were, but we'd rather you follow the blog because you like what we post, not because of a contest). You do need to be at least 13 to enter, a rule I keep forgetting to mention.







    Later.

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