Thursday, September 30, 2010

September Retrospective

This month I reviewed:
CATCHING FIRE, by Suzanne Collins
MOCKINGJAY, by Suzanne Collins (loved it!)
THE DUFF, by Kody Keplinger (wasn't a fan)
TOP 8 and WHAT'S YOUR STATUS?, by Katie Finn (liked the second one much more)
SO MANY BOYS, by Suzanne Young (so cute!)
THE LIMIT, by Kristen Landon (kind of slow-going, but good)
3 WILLOWS, by Ann Brashares (meh)

I also continued my love of top ten lists by telling you guys my top ten contemporary middle grade novels and favorite series. I explained my reviewing method and shared one of my favorite playlists with you guys.

Question! Do you guys like the music/playlist posts I occasionally do?

**Retrospective was initially started by Steph, of Reviewer X.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


1. Head over and read my YA Lit Six post for today. I don't usually link to them (usually, honestly, I forget), but this week I need your splendified advice.

2. I've changed the blogs on my blogroll. I realized that the blogs that were on there weren't exactly the ones I read routinely, so I've made it UPDATED and FANCY-LIKE with the new blogs. Check them out, because they're awesome.

3. I like new Twitter. I feel like the only one, but I think it's really shiny and spiffy.

4. This video. You'll probably learn stuff. And stop embarrassing yourself. (As a side note, I really do hate it when people say they "could care less." It's a pet peeve. It's like when people answer "do you mind?" with "yes" when they mean "no.")

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Worst Kind of Book

I just finished the worst kind of book. And I feel sort of strange about saying that because not only was the book good, but it was also beautiful. There were these moments of searing, lightning-bolt insight and lots of quotes I need to copy down into my quote-book.


But it wasn't great. I didn't love the characters, often I didn't even like them, and I didn't entirely enjoy the story. But it also wasn't the sort of book that I didn't like enough to stop reading it. I kept going, even though it wasn't enjoyable, and there came times when I just wanted to hurry the heck up and be done with it.

I read the whole thing. 326 pages, two days, and there are a grand total of six (6!) quotes I absolutely adored, must write down. But there were so many other words in the book, words that bogged me down, that almost felt like a chore to read.

I was stuck with the worst sort of meh book -- one that's not bad enough to put down, but not good enough to be enjoyable.

So that's my worst kind of book: what's yours?

*Note: The book wasn't YA or MG, so it won't be reviewed here. Sorry.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sometimes People Just Aren't Nice

(advance warning: apoloys* for the personal post. sometimes it can't be helped.)

[The little girls] pick separate spaces of grass and focus on the dolls they've brought with them while their moms talk. I hope they stay away from each other, because odds are good one of them has the making of a total bitch and the other will become that bitch's total bitch.
Because that's how it works. Mostly.
Some Girls Are, by Courtney Summers (pg. 168)

So back when I was working on this blood, sweat, and tears article, I made a list. You may have noticed by now that I adore lists. And though I can't tell you what I originally called this one (because, you guys, I named names), we'll now call it

(also, thanks to Becca for helping me with this, and also for being one of the good guys. If friends were secret agents, she'd totally work for CONTROL.) (I'm sorry, sometimes I can't help but make Get Smart references.)
  1. Other people (people you trust) comment negatively on how your friend treats you.
  2. Your friend makes you feel bad (ugly, unsure, etc.) about yourself.
  3. You're afraid to tell your friend certain things because of how she will react.
  4. Everything is about her. Every conversation revolves around her and her problems or accomplishments.
  5. You change yourself to be friends with her.
  6. You fight. A lot.
  7. You feel like you have to be there for this person. When you cancel plans or avoid their calls, you feel guilty because you feel a responsibility to her, as if her well being depends on you.
  8. Your friend lies to you.
  9. Whenever you talk about her to other people, you find yourself complaining.
  10. She frequently ditches you or cancels plans, making you feel like a backup friend.
  11. You feel depressed, sad, angry, or discouraged after hanging out with or talking to her. Even if you can't quite figure out why, trust me that this is a bad sign.
  12. She drains you emotionally.
  13. You don't actually like your friend.
  14. She tries to control you. (What you do, who you hang out with, etc.)
  15. She's there for you when times are bad, but it seems to be more of a schadenfreude thing. (Or, conversely, she's there when things are good but disappears when you need her most.)
I'm posting this for a few reasons, most of which have to do with MY OWN ISSUES OH WOES and don't really fit on this blog, but also because I feel like this is something a lot of women -- young or old -- go through. (I don't mean to stereotype, but I honestly don't think it happens so much with guys.) I'm a big proponent of books that show honest friendships, both the good and the bad. I think a lot of times we underestimate the work it takes to maintain a friendship and it's easy not to realize that a bad friendship can be incredibly similar to an abusive relationship.

Can you relate to any of this? What do you think of deeper, personal-type posts on here occasionally?

*apoloys means apologies. It's a word I made up.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In My Mailbox: Fake Boyfriends, Road Trips, and Sisters

I'm finally finally finally participating in IMM. This might become a weekly thing or I might decide I don't like it but WE'LL SEE. I do love talking about the books I have to look forward to though.

Bought: I found both of these at the cute little Friends-of-the-Library used bookstore I go to. They're both mainstream (ie. "adult") novels and I actually went in looking for something - anything - by Jennifer Weiner, but since I couldn't find anything I grabbed these. The first I bought because I've read another of Nick Hornby's books and absolutely loved it, and the second because I have a soft spot for stories about sisters. I'm in the middle of reading it though, and it's not quite what I was expecting/hoping for.

Bookswap/Bookmooch: Geek Charming is something I've been eyeing with interest for a while and I'm a big Daniel Ehrenhaft fan. What I really want to read is his new one, Friend is Not A Verb, but this one also looks super-good. (Uhm, they all look super-good and if you haven't read Tell It to Naomi then you really should.)


Won: From Free Book Friday Teens, this looks like an incredibly awesome and cute middle grade. Plus, LOOKIT THAT COVER, YOU GUYS!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blog Hop Sept 24-27 (Reading & Reviewing)

Book Blogger Hop

When you write reviews, do you write them as you are reading or wait until you've read the entire book?

I actually went into my review process pretty in-depth over here, but just to quickly answer the question... I wait until I've read the whole thing. It would bother me to make notes as I'm reading. (Aside, of course, from marking favorite quotes.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Five: Serafina, Star Trek, and Revisions

There are quite a few bloggers who do something like this on Fridays, most notably the mucho talented Sarah Dessen, and since I don't think anyone has "claim" to this particular meme (correct me if I'm wrong though), so I'm STEAAALLLING IT.

huzzah! observe the theivery!
  1. I'm rereading the hilarious and sweet and incredibleamazing SERAFINA, by Susie Day. (You might know this book as BIG WOO if you're outside of the U.S. Or, like mostly everyone, you probably don't know this book and THAT IS FOR SHAME!!) This is one of my favorite books, I'm seriously disappointed by the number of people who haven't read it (the only people I know who have read it have been friends I've forced it upon... KHY, GET READING!!), and seriously go find yourself a copy. The reading of this book makes me more insane and crackyheaded than I even normally am so SOZ BOUT THAT.
  2. JUST RECENTLY WATCHED STAR TREK (2009) OMG. I love Star Trek. It is maybe too awesome for words. What is with the 60s that they had SUCH GREAT SHOWS (Gilligan's Island, Star Trek, and of course Get Smart). And why is the reboot of Star Trek sooooo good (also: Chris Pine as Captain Kirk.) while the reboot of Get Smart is so NOT? I spammed Twitter like crazy while watching the movie, so thanks to my followers for putting up with two hours of hashtag-startrek tweets.
  3. TWO EXAMS NEXT WEEK and that's all I'll say about that because I don't enjoy talking about school.
  4. Am revising (rewriting) the spy book, which is sort of called SPY CHICK. I've switched the tense/POV from third person past to first-person present and then to third again, so we'll see how that goes.
  5. I had the song "Original Prankster" stuck in my head for most of today, and it reminds me ever so much of the Pranksmen on 30 Rock. YANNO. Also my TV shows are coming back and I love television.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Top 10: Series

I promised more top 10 lists, didn't I? Well, starting from the top I'm going to be tackling the topics over at Random Ramblings Top Ten Picks meme. (When I come up with more of my own topics, I'll post those, too. I'm such a sucker for top 10 lists.)
  1. Baby-Sitters Club, by Ann M. Martin. It's not the most consistent, not the best writing, not the best anything, but it is one of my great literary loves. It was the first series I was hooked on that wasn't somehow, in some way, related to school. These were my trashy novels (ha!), the books my mother disapproved of, the characters I couldn't quite believe and still loved. The BSC was my obsession and, like so many of my obsessions, I haven't quite gotten over it yet.
  2. Luxe, by Anna Godberson. Despite the fact that the last book in the series, SPLENDOR, was the single most disappointing book of my young life, I love this series. It's incredible. Though it's been compared numerous times to Gossip Girl, there's a certain flair here, a spark that only comes with really, really great books. There are lines in these novels that struck such a chord with me when I read them and continue to hit close to home long after. The characters here, their lives and choices and how the story unfolds is just amazing.
  3. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, by Ann Brashares. Come on. It's sort of iconic, right?
  4. Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket. One of the most inventive, imaginative series out there. This is the type of series that the first time you discover it, the first time you read the books, is pure magic and though it never seems quite the same in subsequent readings, that magic, wonderful feeling stays. The feeling of discovering something amazing, something completely different.
  5. Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins. MOCKINGJAY might just be the best YA novel I've ever read and on the whole I loved the entire journey from heart-aching beginning to the painful end. Collins is a master of world-building and setting, and as a result this is one of the best series out there.
  6. Suite Scarlett, by Maureen Johnson. Though this series isn't over yet, the books are definitely some of the most hilarious and crazyawesome that I've come across. It helps, of course, to have Spencer Martin (love!) as a main character, but it helps even more that Johnson's trademark internet-humor is here and even if the rest of the series was crap (it isn't) that alone would probably carry it.
  7. Peaches, by Jodi Lynn Anderson. Less well-known than the traveling pants series, this is another story of friendship, love, and heartbreak. And though it's lower on the list, in a lot of ways I prefer it. The characters have less epic storylines, but the setting is so incredible, the character's growth is so real, and it's such a gem of a series that it's a bit sad it never got the large readership it deserved.
  8. The Naughty List, by Suzanne Young. Another series that isn't finished yet, this is a funny, cute, cute series. Spies, cheerleaders, and skeezy boyfriends make for a winning series here. Seriously, reading these books is like eating a piece of pie. MADE OF RAINBOWS AND SUNSHINE.
  9. Uglies trilogy, by Scott Westerfeld. One of the first dystopian series I read, it's an incredible and futuristic read. The characters are sharp, the world-building is sharper, and nothing here feels lacking.
  10. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer. Yes, seriously. Because as much as the last book sucked and as much as I hated Edward and thought his relationship with Bella was completely abusive, I loved the emotions of this book. And, yes, I loved Bella.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Part Two: Girls in Pants (The Third Summer of the Sisterhood)

Back when Ten Cent Notes was a Wordpress blog, I started a series of posts on The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants series. It's taking me absolutely forever to reread these books and write the posts, but I am doing it. As this is a discussion type of post, it should go without saying that there are SPOILERS for the first three books in the series.

Book: Girls in Pants (The Third Summer of the Sisterhood)
Pages: 123-233
Topics: Favorite?, Good Carmen, Lena and Paul, Tibby Hides, Sick Bee, Quotes

Like I said before, in my mind I always remembered this book as being my favorite in the series. In rereading it though, I'm not quite sure that holds up. The book is good, no doubt, but all books in this series are good. What I'm remembering more than anything, I think, is how much I loved the rediscovery of Bee and Eric's relationship. Aside from that, I'm not entirely connected to the stories in this book. Carmen's always been the character I'm least connected too, and it's even less in this book. Though I love Lena, her story didn't quite capture me in this book like it does in the others, and I adore Tibby, but her story here takes a long time to really get going for me. So, is this book my favorite? Probably not.

Good Carmen:
I find it so great that Carmen has this idea of herself as being a horrible person and thinks that all the times Win (the guy she likes who works at the hospital) sees her doing good deeds are just aberrations. Like, those times don't matter. It's a little hilarious to me because of all the girls, Carmen is the one who always has the most struggle with good and bad. She has a temper, she acts out, she says things and does things that hurt others and that she doesn't mean, but she's always trying, trying, trying to be good and yet she never sees this. She refuses to give herself a break.

Lena and Paul:
It's no secret that I wasn't a fan of the Lena/Kostos relationship; I never liked them together, never thought he was good for her, and was disappointed at the way their story ended up in the last book. (For more of my thoughts on Lena and Kostos, you can visit this post.) Anyhow, I always sort of wanted Lena and Paul to end up together. I realize that much sadness might just be a recipe for disaster, but throughout the books it did seem like Paul understood Lena better than anyone else, at least anyone who wasn't Bapi. There was a certain amount of hope for them in the second book, but it pretty much gets destroyed here, or at least pushed aside in a way that makes me feel like the books missed out on what could have been a really great storyline.

Tibby Hides:
I adore Tibby. She reminds me of myself. And though her story does take quite a while to get going in this book and the reader is never quite sure why she feels the way she does, or does the things she does, it starts to come together here. I have no words to explain Tibby except to say that a lot of her struggles are my own struggles and on a very basic level I connect with her. There's a scene in this book with her climbing out onto the apple tree outside of her window, and it's like a culmination of everything she's been struggling with and feeling since her younger sister, Katherine, fell out of that same window. And I can't explain it, but it just reminds me that there are so many different layers to these characters and the story as a whole - a million different ways for readers to connect to the books.

Sick Bee:
Eric taking care of Bee when she gets sick is one of those rare events in these books without which I feel like the book couldn't have gone the way it did. Bee's story has always been my favorite of all four girls, and the fact that her relationship with Eric comes back to the forefront in this book is - I think - one of the best things about her story. Unlike the other girls, Bee's story has always been a combination of the present with the past, and whereas in other books the past is her mother's past, here she's finally dealing with her own issues, the things in her past that have everything to do with her, and I really think that over all, Bee's transformation and change throughout the books is the best of any of the girls.

The truth was, she had never felt so overwhelmingly drawn to anyone. In the two years since they'd seen each other, she had questioned this particular magnetism Eric had for her. Was it real? Or was she so caught up in a mania of her own making that summer in Baja that she had imagined it?
Seeing him again this summer answered her question. It was real. She responded to him the same way, even though she was different. (page 131)

Listening to her friends' voices felt like hearing a familiar symphony, with one instrument coming in and layering atop another. The way the cadences linked and harmonized made her feel safe. (page 135)

How sad it was, Carmen thought, that you acted awful when you were desperately sad and hurt and wanted to be loved. How tragic then, the way everyone avoided you and tiptoed around you when you really needed them. (page 216)
1. Which character do you feel most connected to? For me it's always been a split between Tibby and Lena.
2. Do you have a favorite book throughout the series? I used to think this was my favorite but now I don't know.
3. Favorite quote?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tween Tuesday: 3 Willows


A traveling-pants-esque novel for younger girls, 3 WILLOWS has a promising premise. Three girls (Jo, Polly, and Ama) became best friends on a fateful day in third grade when their parents forgot to pick them up from school. For years the girls were incredibly close, but by the end of eighth grade (when the book picks up), the three have drifted apart. Jo's en route to being high school royalty, Ama's well on her way to following in the footsteps of her Princeton-bound older sister, meanwhile Polly seems to be the only one holding on to the friendship both other girls have given up on. Unlike the girls with the magic pants, these three have already drifted apart and this book is much more about them each coming to their own realization over the summer before high school -- who they are, who their friends are, and what's truly important to them.

I had hopes for this book, I admit, because Ann Brashares original series is so good, so inspired. This offshoot, however, seems to lack that spark of magic inherent in the traveling pants series. The characters here, despite their very different stories, roles, and personalities, don't seem all that defined. Jo has the most depth, with the backstory of her dead brother and parents going through a separation, but even with this the three girls' voices mostly tend to blend into one. And though there are a few stand-out relationships (Jo's summer romance has a certain amount of spark, as does Polly's relationship with her mother towards the end of the book), for the most part nothing here really jumps out.

This book does bring back some of our old favorites from the Traveling Pants series (most notably Effie, in a less-than-stellar role for a character I utterly love) and pays homage to the sisterhood in a few ways I wasn't expecting, but it always feels a bit tacked-on. Like a spin-off television show that failed to deliver on its promises.

This dull, overall feeling of meh carries over into the rest of the novel. The book definitely isn't what I'd call "bad" in any way, but it's also not so good. It just sort of is. An enjoyable enough read, especially since it goes quickly, but not a title to put at the top of your list. Young girls (and the rest of us) would be much better of reading (or rereading) the Traveling Pants series.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm only a little crazy, and this is my SPEAK.

this is a post in response, and in support of laurie halse anderson's censorship post. (You don't need to read the first post to understand this one, but it's definizzie helpful.

There is a certain passage in Samantha Schutz's I DON'T WANT TO BE CRAZY that felt as if she had pulled my own deepest fears and then, with the skill of a writer, told me exactly what to do to combat them.

I had (have) panic attacks. The first time I thought I was going to die. After that they got easier; I knew what was happening. But still they came, even after I read DON'T PANIC and learned about the fight-or-flight emergency response. I could (can) control my breathing, my reactions, but I couldn't (can't) always stop them from happening.

I'm at school and something, some tiny little thing, sets off the anxiety inside of me. It's a dark room, the only light coming from the art projector, and I'm in the first row but it doesn't matter. I have to get out of there. I'm spinning, dizzy, so much dizzier than I normally get, and my eyesight is fuzzy. My heart -- I feel it beating in my chest -- is fine. It's the rest of me that's out of whack.

Another time I'm at home. At the grocery store. Doing schoolwork. Watching television. And they keep coming, over and over, all the time and then, later, less frequently. Finally much less frequently. They get smaller, less terrifying. But then a big one will come and, all over again, knock me over.

I'm dying. I'm going crazy. Oh gosh, what is wrong with me?

And then I read this book, about a girl dealing with anxiety disorder, and so many things started to feel like they might be okay. Like maybe I wasn't completely insane, maybe this wouldn't last forever, maybe I wasn't the only crazy person. This book? The particular passage in this book?

It didn't save my life, but it saved me. It showed me (because in truth, I had forgotten) that I was braver, stronger than the anxiety. That my life was bigger than the panicked thoughts in my head, the blurred vision and shaking hands. It reminded me, again and again, that I had been through worse and I would get through this and I would not give up, because whatever insanity I was feeling inside would not win.

Books do that. They help us when we forget how to help ourselves. For me, it was I DON'T WANT TO BE CRAZY. For others it might be SPEAK, by Laurie Halse Anderson, or TWENTY BOY SUMMER, by Sarah Ockler, or any one of hundreds of brilliant, insightful books with a thimble full of questionable material in them. I don't think that every book is an incredible beacon of light and hope, and I know if I had children there would be some books I might not want them to read. But I also know that, if I were a parent, I would want to be the one making those decisions, and I wouldn't want a book that might be the exact right thing for my child to be pulled from library shelves because it mentions sex, or drugs, or cussing. Looking at what's wrong in a book, or what you don't agree with, is an incredibly narrow viewpoint. Look at the whole book. Look at what it is, what it says, not just what you're afraid it might be saying.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Me and the Greats: Not Exactly BFFs

I like the idea of reading great literature much more than I like actually reading it. I'd love to be one of those people whose favorite authors are the great dead ones who were only truly appreciated after their deaths and whose works have endured hundreds of years, still studied in university classes today.

But I'm not that person.

Sure, there are a few classic literary tomes I adore. GONE WITH THE WIND is my favorite novel and I've got a huge fondness for THE GREAT GATSBY, but mostly reading "the greats" feels a lot like work.

Right now I have Franz Kafka's THE METAMORPHOSIS next to me. The story itself is only something like 43 pages (and no, I haven't read it yet), yet on the very first page there are four (four!) footnotes, explaining things like the origin of the protagonist's name and what a "normal human room" looks like. And I'm so very sorry, but I honestly don't care about a discussion of the term "monstrous vermin." Seriously. I get that it's a vermin. A monstrous one.

And this, probably, is why I fail. Because I like stories and I really don't care too much about the rest of it, generally. I mean, yeah, obviously I run a review site so I do care about the elements of writing and what makes a story great (or not so great) and ideas and inspiration and all of that, but literature-analysis-y type stuff? I feel a bit lost. It becomes a lot more like homework (which, I understand, it is homework) and it really makes me want to not read it.

So what about you guys... do you like reading great literature? Do you like reading it for school or are you one of those rare people who reads it for fun? And, because I honestly do have an interest in "the greats" (as much as readings for school and analyses annoy me), what are some classic works of literature that I should read?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blog Hop Sept 17-20 (Bloggy Buddies)

This week's blog hop question (hosted by Jennifer, of Crazy for Books) is:

In honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, let's take time to honor our favorite book bloggers.

I have quite a few book blogs that I visit frequently and love reading, but for this post I'm going to highlight the best of the best... one blog that I've been reading forever and another that I just recently discovered.

Adele, of Persnickety Snark. In addition to running one of the best book blogs out there, Adele is also a fan of Friday Night Lights and many other awesome TV shows (that I love, too.) Her discussion posts are always thought-provoking and amazing, and her book reviews are unfailingly honest. She's one of the few bloggers that really goes into detail with her reviews and I know that when I click over to read her opinions she's being 100% honest. Not only do I love this because I know I can trust what she says, but she's also a great role model for me in writing my own reviews.

Forever Young Adult. I just recently discovered this blog and OMG, IT'S AMAZING. Funny, witty, and altogether brilliant. Though I've only read their most recent entries, there's a big part of me that wants to just dive in and read THE ENTIRE ARCHIVES because the site is so great.

So, who are your favorite book blogs/bloggers?

Friday, September 17, 2010

BlogFest 2010 Winner

I realize I should have posted this a bit earlier, but the winner of my BlogFest giveaway (ARCs of ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS and VIRALS) was Sharon S. I've been in contact with her and the books are shipped.

so that's cool. =)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review: Mockingjay (spoiler free!)

Suzanne Collins

Looking at MOCKINGJAY objectively is going to be nearly impossible. For me, for you, for anyone, I think, if only because it's such an emotional novel. Love it or hate it, there's no way to get through these four hundred pages unscathed, without having some sort of extreme emotional reaction. Some have said this book broke their brain. Others describe it as the Mockingjay hangover or Post-Traumatic-Mockingjay-Disorder.

Yes. I am writing this the day after finishing the book and I agree with the above. It broke my brain. I'm in a post-Mockingjay haze and attempting to write a review. So please, bear with me.

First, as if the extraordinarily high score above wasn't clue enough, you should know that I love this book. I think it's brilliant, I think it ended the trilogy perfectly, and in fact I think it was the best of the bunch. I love it so much that a mere 10 of 10 seems like a low score. Honestly, I wish I could break the rules of math and give it a 12 on the "fangirly" scale.

Of course the premise and plot are continuations of the first two books in the series, but this time things are different. Katniss Everdeen, after breaking the force field surrounding her second Hunger Games, has been rescued by District 13. While Peeta Mellark is captured by the Capitol, the rebels are asking Katniss to become the Mockingjay -- the symbol, the face, of the revolution. Agreeing to this means working for District 13's president, who isn't exactly the biggest fan of Katniss, but it's also the only way she can save Peeta and the rest of the victors. And the only way she can kill President Snow. This book puts us in an entirely new setting -- not District 12, not the arena or the Capitol, but instead District 13, underground, and the various poor districts where the revolution is being fought. The atmosphere, mood, and setting is clearer than ever in this book. Between the ruins of Katniss' and Gale's home, the stark and strict District 13, and the fighting, every place we visit in this book is so incredibly intense. Full of emotion and desperation, I'm not sure I've come across a book that did a better job of showing setting.

In this book, Katniss really grows into herself. Unlike in the previous books, now she has some power (although maybe not so much as she'd like) and is much less unsure and wishy-washy than before. Yes, she still goes back and forth on some issues, but when she does her motivations and confusions are much clearer. There was, surprisingly, only one point during this book that I wanted to throw it across the room. And, in hindsight, I believe there was more at play in this moment than was clear in the scene itself. (Those of you who've read the book may know what I'm talking about.) Since this is the one book that doesn't feature the Hunger Games, we get to see Katniss with the people she grew up with. This means that her and Gale's relationship is pushed to the forefront, the relationships with her mother and Prim are revisted in more detail, and we really get to see the love she has for the place she grew up. Throughout THE HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE, Katniss was so incredibly independent that it was really hard to see the feelings she had for her family. She was often impatient with her mother and though she took her sister's place in the Games, we really didn't get to see much of this relationship. In this book, that was remedied. We get to know the sisters' relationship, as well as getting to know Prim as her own character. It was also nice getting to know Gale better. I'm not a Gale fan and always felt that his relationship with Katniss was closer to that of a brother or cousin than boyfriend, but that said, I loved really being able to see the history that the two of them had together before the Games.

As for Peeta and what happens to him in the last installment, there's not much I can say that isn't a spoiler. I will say that there is a new (and very painful) component to the Peeta/Katniss relationship. And yet, as painful and awful as it was, I think it played out perfectly, especially as we got deeper into the story. That said, this book is definitely not about Gale v. Peeta. Yes, that is an element, and one that Katniss struggles with. But it's not at the forefront. It shouldn't be at the forefront. Katniss, Gale, Peeta, and everyone else in this incredible book, are dealing with a war and the consequences of war. There's not a lot of time for teenage love here.

Throughout the entire series, I had some pretty big problems with Katniss. I wasn't sure I ever liked her. As compelling as she was, it wasn't her that made me want to continue the series after THE HUNGER GAMES. It was Peeta, it was the twists that happened along the day, it was her world that sucked me in. And while MOCKINGJAY still didn't make her my favorite character ever, it did an impressively good job of redeeming her in my eyes. In this book, she had emotions. She was conflicted, but it was understandable. On the whole, she wasn't cold, and when she was you could see why. With the exception of one scene, one heart-wrenching, what-the-hell-are-you-doing-Katniss!!!?? scene that boggled my mind, I liked Katniss. For the first time I felt like I understood her. (And that one scene? I think Collins leaves it up to us to figure out what we think was going through Katniss' mind at that point, and what I think was happening behind the scenes redeems her, if that makes any sense to you.)

This series ended perfectly. This book ended perfectly. Collins did the seemingly-impossible in that she wrote a real, true-to-the-story ending that only made me love the series more. She stayed true to what she'd set up previously and somehow made it work unbelievably well. Honestly, the ending might just be my favorite part of the entire series.

If you've read MOCKINGJAY, I'd love to discuss it with you!! Please keep comments spoiler-free, but feel free to email me!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tween Tuesday: The Limit

Kristen Landon
In this middle grade dystopian novel, we meet Matt. A young, brilliant math geek whose not-so-brilliant parents have gone over their "limit" -- the government-imposed debt limit. What this means for Matt is that he's sent away to a workhouse to help pay off the debt until his family gets back under the limit. What he's expecting to be a child slave camp is actually pretty cushy; he tests into the Top Floor, which is reserved for the smartest kids who do the most difficult work, and suddenly he has everything he could want. New clothes and gadgets are just a click away and he's free to spend most of his time playing sports or video games with his fellow Top Floors. But, as with every dystopia, all is not as it seems. Children on the other floors are having massive headaches, sometimes even seizures, and when his own sister ends up suffering a seizure when she arrives at the workhouse, he becomes convinced that something bad is going on around him. This, along with the fact that he's forbidden to leave the top floor or go outside, pushes Matt to risk everything to discover what's really happening in the workhouse.

This was an enjoyable and interesting book, however I did have some issues with it. The main problem I had was that it took a long time to really get going -- it was well past the 50 page mark before I felt like I had to finish it. Page 137 to be exact, which is nearly halfway through the book. There's a lot of set up here that I doubt many kids would sit through (just like I almost didn't). The characters are likable however, as with much else in this book, it took a long time to get to know them. For much of the book I wasn't sure who, aside from Matt, the main characters really were, and though the relationships are believable and well written, I did feel a lack of connection since everything exciting happened so late in the book. To be honest, pacing was an issue throughout (which knocked major points off of what was an otherwise very interesting and captivating plot), with the first half of the book nearly at a stand-still and the ending coming very quickly, skipping a few scenes I would have loved to see, and going right into what read like an epilogue.

There's a clear message of delayed gratification and living within your means here, although it seemed out of place since that wasn't quite the evil badness that these Matt and his friends were up against. Also, as much as I believe that life lessons can be woven into books well, this one seemed a bit heavy-handed in its message that seemed more fit for teenagers and adults than children in the first place -- though I could be wrong on that. Still, as unsure as I was of the message, the plot of this book had me hooked once it finally got going, and I admit that I read a few pages during school when I really should have been paying attention to class instead. In the end, despite the pacing problems it had, I'm so glad I read this book because I really did enjoy it, and while I wouldn't recommend it for reluctant readers, in some ways it reminds me of the SHADOW CHILDREN series form years back, and I think dystopian fans will be glad they read it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Top 10: Contemporary Middle Grade Novels

A while back I listed my Top 10 contemporary YA novels, which in addition to being incredibly fun and giving me the chance to think about a few of my all-time favorites, got me thinking about other favorites. Specifically the books I had to leave off of that list because they're middle grade. There are some truly incredible middle grade novels, and here's my list. Of course, I had to leave out series, which just gives me an excuse to make more lists. (So, yes, you can look forward to more Top 10s from me.)
  1. ALL ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE, by Lynne Rae Perkins. As far as sad and heartbreaking reality, this book has it covered. From the very first chapter, when the main character tells us that Maureen used to be her best friend, this story tugs at the heartstrings. One of the most difficult topics to find good, honest stories about is the breakdown of a friendship, and Perkins tackles it perfectly here. There's no great tragedy or harrowing, emotional scene, yet this book has touched my heart like no other and every time I read it I have the same wonderful, complex reaction all over again.
  2. BLOOMABILITY, by Sharon Creech. My goodness. If you haven't read Sharon Creech, you haven't really read anything. This book is simple and complex all at once, with vivid characters, and incredible setting, and a story that's impossible to describe. It's about possibility, it's about the here and now, it's about being completely and absolutely alive. And it's wonderful.
  3. FLIPPED, by Wendelin Van Draanan. This is the sweetest, simplest, most beautifully-crafted young love story. From the very beginning, when Julianne crashes in with her muddy shoes and socks, disrupting Bryce's perfect life, to the ending that feels so perfect after so many years, this is one story that's so great and so sweet I just wanted to hug the book after I finished it. This was, quite honestly, maybe the only novel me and my best friend could agree on when I was younger, and for that reason alone it was special.
  4. HEARTBEAT, by Sharon Creech. There's so much about Creech's writing that's so perfect. This novel-in-verse paints incredibly vivid pictures of the people and things populating the main character's life. Her sick grandfather, pregnant mother, and the best friend who's confusing when he never used to be. The book takes one brief glimpse into the life of a twelve-year-old girl and, like no book I've seen before, makes it profound and confusing and beautiful and relatable.
  5. THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY, by E.L. Konigsburg. This was one of those books that didn't look like much. The cover had a strange color, the story wasn't altogether clear, the four character's timelines came together and apart and sometimes confused me. But then everything came together in these surreal, that-would-never-happen moments that were so acutely real it didn't matter how unbelievable they were. I learned about calligraphy, tea, sea turtles, and the answers we give when we don't know the real answer.
  6. CRISS CROSS, by Lynne Rae Perkins. There's no way to describe this book. There's really not. Incredible comes pretty close though.
  7. THE EGYPT GAME, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. We learned about ancient Egypt in middle school and I was obsessed. The mummies! The pyramids! Everything was so weird and strange and out of the norm. And then I read this book. And there were these kids who were also obsessed with Egypt, and suddenly it was like the coolest thing ever. The best story, the most awesome setting. Just everything about this book had me hooked.
  8. THE GIRLS, by Amy Goldman Koss. Mean girls for pre teens, this book wove a story I felt I knew intimately. The cold shoulder, the knowing you did something wrong even though you don't know what, the blank, seeing-through-you stares of girls who you used to think were your friends. Like ALL ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE, this was a story I knew inside and out, and to see it written there on the page was nothing short of amazing.
  9. THE MOFFATS, by Eleanor Estes. To be honest, I read this ages ago. I found it in the dusty old stack of the library I practically grew up inside of. I don't remember the story, but I remember the family and I remember feeling like it was the most incredible, enchanting thing ever. I read the book, returned it, and I've never seen a copy of it since, but it remains one of the best books I've ever read.
  10. SNAP!, by Alison McGhee. This book made me cry so much. It's such a... well, such a story. It's the type of book that, for me, there's just no words for. It's like the ink, the pages themselves, are made of sadness. And yet, for all that, there's a feeling at the end like I was better for having read it. Like it was hopeful, if get-me-the-tissues sad.
So, what books are on your list? Have you read any of mine? (If you do decide to make your own list -- and I hope you do! -- link me to it so I can check it out.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Debut Review: The Duff


In an attempt to escape her crappy home situation, cynical and snarky Bianca Piper begins a no-strings-attached enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley Rush, the infuriating guy who informs her that in her group of friends, she's the Duff. The designated. ugly. fat. friend. The premise here is interesting and refreshing, a brand-new take on the age-old themes of self-esteem issues and romance. Except in this story, far from being a hopeless romantic, Bianca doesn't believe in love. At least, not for teenagers, not after getting hurt years earlier by a guy she truly cared about. While I really liked the idea of this premise, the plot didn't quite match up. The story moves at a nice pace, but ends up seeming very bare bones -- as if there was supposed to be more happening than we actually saw. There are a few very important subplots here, including her screwy family life and the self-esteem issues she has around her two best friends after being called "the duff." Ultimately though, the friendship issues are hardly explored until near the end of the book, and though her family's situation rapidly deteriorates, it's really not all that bad when she begins her fling with Wesley. Her mother is gone a lot (a lot), but Bianca honestly doesn't seem to care except for the hurt her dad is feeling, and I think this would have played out so much better if we'd been able to know Bianca's family a bit better. Our main character is such a jaded, cynical girl that even though we know she cares about her family and friends we only know this because we're told -- it rarely ever comes through fully in her actions or words.

I'm sure many readers will like the cynical Bianca Piper, but for me it was a bit too much. She crossed the line between snarky and mean too often and though she obviously cared deeply about what was going on with her dad, in most respects she was very self-absorbed, opinionated, and judgmental. Despite the fact that I actually liked many of the secondary characters, including her two best friends, I couldn't help wondering why they would hang out with Bianca, who continually avoided them, blew them off, lied to them, and ignored them. As someone who's had too many friends who did that exact thing, this rubbed me the wrong way. I realize, of course, that the main character and her relationships in this book weren't meant to be sweet, happy, and worthy of a cheesy romantic comedy, but going so far in the other direction pushed me away. There are a few wonderful scenes between Bianca and her dad (one in particular), but their relationship is never explored enough to really make it stand out or outweigh many of the other relationships in the book.

There are quite a few themes here, most of them related to labels (such as "duff" and "slut") and self-esteem issues. While these are good messages and I'd love to read more books dealing with them, the way they were handled here didn't make them appealing. The themes are heavy-handed and far too obvious, culminating in this feeling like A Book With A Message. However, despite being annoying, the handling of the themes fits in perfectly with Bianca's in-your-face personality and narrative voice.

But, okay, let's take a break from all this negativity. The setting here? Impressive. Though the always-bland school setting detracts from it a bit, the contrast between Wesley and Bianca's houses plainly shown without being over-the-top or in-your-face.

All-in-all, this book with the so-cute cover was a disappointment. Important relationships seemed skimmed over. Bianca was unlikeable in many ways; despite the family issues the book had no emotional resonance, and the themes were overwrought. Though the premise was new and refreshing, and the setting was well-written, it wasn't enough to carry -- or save -- the book.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

BlogFest 2010 GIVEAWAY!! --Closed--

BlogFest 2010, hosted by A Journey of Books. Head over to that blog for the full list of participating blogs (over 250!) Plus, don't forget about the huge BlogFest 2010 grand giveaway. Head over here and click on the Tracking Site link so you can keep track of which BlogFest giveaways you've entered and be entered into the massive giveaway.

So! About my giveaway!

up for grabs: ARC of ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS and ARC of VIRALS

how to enter: just fill out this shiny form! extra entries for being a follower and tweeting the giveaway


one person will win both books.

the giveaway is open to those with a US mailing address ONLY.

giveaway is open through the weekend -- it ends September 12th, 2010 at midnight pst.
the winner will be announced on the blog and notified by email.

Click on over to the next BlogFest blog and giveaway, Patiently Waiting Books.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: Catching Fire

Suzanne Collins

WARNING: there's no way to review this without ruining HUNGER GAMES. And it's difficult to review without spoiling the book itself, so a lot of important things will (out of necessity) be left out of this review.

After winning the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are back at home in District 12. Living in her new home in Victor's Village and richer than she could have previously managed, Katniss' life should be perfect. But because of her, uh, unorthodox solution to surviving the Games, she's on President Snow's short list. While Peeta's affections for her are obvious and undying, Snow doesn't quite believe that what Katniss did was prompted entirely by love. Apparently some of the other districts -- the larger, more desperate ones -- are beginning to act out in rebellion, and Katniss is the unwitting symbol of this rebellion.

And while Katniss is trying to convince President Snow of her great love for Peeta Mellark, aware that any uprisings in the surrounding districts will be pinned on her, the Hunger Games are once again afoot. And, as the third Quarter Quell, this Game comes with specific instructions -- ones that drag Katniss even closer to the danger around her.

The setting here is, as it was in the first novel, pretty amazing. Collins really does a brilliant job of world-building in this trilogy, and Katniss' new living situation comes at a sharp contrast from the poverty she endured during the first book. Themes here are different but just as pronounced as in the previous book. Instead of her own survival, Katniss is suddenly worried about Gale, Peeta, and her family's survival. Her own life means nothing if she can't protect the ones she loves. The plot moves quickly, covering much more space than the first book and though nothing important is left out, it does leave the reader (in this case me) wondering about all the things we don't know that happened in the large chunk of time the book covers. The ending is surprising and -- though I rarely say this -- completely out of nowhere. I'm so glad to have the last book in the series because otherwise I would be going crazy right now.

The one real problem I had with this book was Katniss. While many of the other characters -- Peeta especially -- were incredible, Katniss disappointed. In the first installment we saw her develop into a very multi-dimensional character, full of loyalty and love even in the midst of a horrific battle. She was smart, savvy, and although her situation was despicable, it was easy to root for her. In CATCHING FIRE, however, this spark seems missing. She comes across as not quite know what she feels or what she wants, and as a result ends up acting oblivious and incredibly distrusting even of those who are obviously on her side. Her choice between her own life and a rebellion is a difficult one, but the fact that she seemed to constantly be going back and forth on this (and other issues -- see: Gale, Peeta) was annoying and definitely didn't endear me to her. By the end of the book -- especially in the end of the book -- I wasn't quite sure what to make of Katniss. I wanted to like her, but ultimately I didn't. I'm really hoping that the Katniss from book one will be back in the last installment.

Overall, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy felt exactly like the second book in a trilogy. An exceptionally well-executed second book, with an incredible premise, themes, setting, and surprise ending, but still a second book... a link between the set-up of the first and the punchline (so to speak) of the last. And of course if you liked HUNGER GAMES, this should be on your list.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: What's Your Status?

Katie Finn

I don't think there's ever been a greater difference in my feelings between the first and second books in a series than with this one. The first book, TOP 8, fell short in nearly every aspect. This one brings the awesome. The book picks up a couple months after the end of the last book, with everyone in full Prom-preparation mode. The favored social-networking site in this one is Status Q, a Twitter-esque knockoff linked up to the character's Friendverse profiles. As in the last book, the Assistant Headmaster, Mr. Trent, is keeping tabs on Madison's profile and becomes angry and concerned when he sees that she's publicly announced the fact that she has the Hayes Crown in her possesion. The Hayes Crown is the school's heirloom, used to crown the Prom Queen, and Madison's been trusted with delivering it to the hotel where the Prom is set to be held. (As an aside here, Mr. Trent drove me absolutely crazy in this book. He disabled the accounts of students whose statuses he didn't approve of, used the location function to make sure students weren't late to class, and in general totally ignored freedom of speech. Did anyone else get this?)

Of course, things don't go as planned. When Madison procrastinates in getting the crown to the hotel, an old enemy seizes the opportunity and manages to steal it, prompting Madison and her motley crew of friends and almost-friends to plan a whole Bond-esque heist to get it back. The crew includes not only her closest friends, but also nearly everyone we met in the first book (well, all the good guys at least), which causes the book to be much more action and ensemble-oriented instead of being all about Madison. The plot is done well and moves at a great pace, coming together almost perfectly in the last few climactic scenes. Unlike in the last book, where so many of the characters seemed unlikeable, the characters here are more developed and more realistic. Though Lisa still has an annoying habit of breaking into French, most of the annoying and/or stereotypical habits from the first book are incredibly understated here. As for Madison herself, she seems to have grown up a bit -- she's more realistic, more mature, less annoying, and altogether mellowed out. Having learned from her madcap chase when her profile was hacked in the first book, she really thinks things through this time and the book is much better for it. The best secondary characters from the first book are really pushed into the spotlight here, new relationships develop, and there are plenty of subplots that continually run into each other -- and all of it is done well.

Though there are plenty of things in the novel that are difficult to believe (like, why would a public school have a priceless crown as an heirloom? that they use to crown the prom queen?), but it's easy enough to overlook those things for the sake of the story. The setting here revolves nearly entirely around Prom and pre-Prom madness, which makes for an excellent setting and feel, especially as the characters are all dressed up in formal wear and attempting to pull of a heist. There's something about this that really sets the book apart from other chick-lit and Prom stories. The voice here is believable and though there's a lot to keep track of, everything works together really well.

Reading TOP 8 definitely gives you a sense of who these characters are and what their lives are like, but this book can easily stand on its own and it's definitely not necessary to read the first before diving into this one. On the whole, this is a very enjoyable, fun, fast-paced book that puts its predecessor to shame.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Books for Keeps

One of the most interesting parts of FAHRENHEIT 451 (yeah, I'm still thinking of that book) was spoiler alert!! the ending, when it was revealed that many of the old readers Guy Montag met in the wilderness had memorized different books, waiting for a time when they might be able to be transcribed again and in the meantime they were able to keep alive books that everyone else had forgotten. Some people had memorized different books of the Bible, some memorized the great works of literature, philosophy, and plays.

So I was thinking,

what book(s) would you memorize, if you could, if there were no copies left and you had to preserve the writing for the future? (And, of course, you had a memory good enough.)

The books I want to preserve would be the book of Psalms and THE LITTLE PRINCE, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. (Of course, the second would be difficult to preserve without the pictures.)

Anyhow, what books would you want to preserve?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tween Tuesday: Mary Anne Saves the Day (A Graphic Novel)

Since my blog focuses mainly on YA, though I do read a few MG books and would love to talk about them also, I'm going to be participating in GreenBeanTeenQueen's Tween Tuesday whenever I have a Middle Grade novel I want to talk about.

For my first Tween Tuesday post, I'll be talking about MARY ANNE SAVES THE DAY: A GRAPHIC NOVEL. This is the updated, graphic novel version of one of the first books in the Baby-Sitters Club series. And since it doesn't fit into my normal review system so well (one of the negatives of having such a strict reviewing system I suppose) I'm going to do something a little different this time and not stick to the typical rubric.

This book is a short, cute read. The main conflict here is the four members of the Baby-Sitters Club getting in a huge fight that causes them to avoid each other in school and take turns answering the phone at club meetings so that they don't all have to attend. While separated from her friends, shy Mary Anne meets Dawn Schafer, a new girl in school who just moved from California. The girls form a fast friendship and discover their parents actually knew each other in high school. Though the original story of this book is decades old, I'm still loathe to give anything away to readers who maybe haven't read it and want to read the graphic novel adaption. But suffice to say, Mary Anne is put in some sticky situations and forced to make some mature decisions without the help of her friends and at the same time makes a new friend for possibly the first time in her life.

The pictures in this book are absolutely adorable and the essence of the girls (especially Mary Anne, with her hair in two braids) seems to be captured very well. I did find myself wishing that Claudia's outfits were a bit wilder, but it's possible that she was still relatively tame in those early books. The technology has also been updated, with Mary Anne surprised that Dawn has a DVD player in her room (as opposed to the VCR player that it was in the original book). While these changes jarred me a little as an original reader of the series, they do make sense for an updated story and obviously it wouldn't bother younger readers.

One of the best things about this adaption is that the whole "chapter 2" is skipped. Chapter 2, for anyone who doesn't know, was the chapter in BSC novels set aside for introducing, in completely formulaic fashion and generally with nearly the exact same wordage for each book, the club and its members. Losing that was wonderful and it makes the story move so much quicker and smoother.

I definitely recommend this for pre-teen and young teen girls, especially reluctant readers or others who might be captured by the comic-book format. Also older readers might want to flip through this one; it's a nice, fresh update of the books we love so much and I found myself wishing more of the books (instead of just the first four) were going to be adapted into graphic novels.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reviewing Like A Madman

Adele, from Persnickety Snark, did a post on how she reviews and invited the rest of us bloggers to also share our processes.

So, TA-DA! here is my process.

Before anything else, I read the book. I take mental notes while I'm reading, but I don't write anything down. Because obviously I think I'm the memory woman. Mentally, I take note of if the book takes a while to get going and when it hooks me. I note the characters that don't seem real, the pacing and plot holes, the feel of the setting. Basically everything. As much as I love reading for fun and not thinking about any of this stuff, I naturally read as a writer and that comes in handy when I'm reviewing -- even if it is annoying at times.

I write the review very soon after finishing the book. Sometimes the same day, but always within one or two days. Since I keep all my notes in my mind it's easy to forget things if I wait too long. Plus, reading other books before reviewing the last one kind of muddles things up for me. It's like brain overload.

When I sit down to write the review, I go through my rubric first and give a score for each of the book's elements. This is the basis of my whole review, because otherwise what I write would end up being too subjective and not objective enough. Thinking about things in concrete, numbered, terms really helps to focus my review.

I don't write drafts of my review before posting it, but I do a lot of reading over and revising. I try to start with a general statement about the book -- what I was or wasn't expecting, if the book surprised me in a good or bad way, etc. -- and then move onto discussing other things. I don't post summaries, mostly because I explain the premise of the book in the review so I don't really see a need for it. After I finish writing the review I read it over, clarify what needs clarification and revise so that everything runs smoothly and the review is cohesive. My reviews are often pretty long, which I'm sure means that there are people who won't read them. But I also think that if you're interested in a book, you'd rather read a longer, more in-depth review than one that's only a paragraph or two long. Plus, I have lots of thoughts. Usually more than even end up in the review.

So, that's basically it. How do you write your reviews? Do you like shorter or longer reviews? Do you read my reviews?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The "Best Ever" Award!!!

This is what happened today. You may have seen some squee-ing over on my Twitter. But because it was just so exciting and wonderful I feel the need to do a blog post.

I'm was reading CATCHING FIRE. I was about halfway through, getting more and more nervous by the second. I feel like this trilogy is like if they took that one scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory -- the one where everyone's in the creepy tunnel? -- and stretched it out over three books, added in "The Lottery" and the Roman colosseum, gave it a plot and some stellar writing, and then sold it to us. It's gut-wrenching and despicable, but I keep waiting for some redemption for the unwitting victims of this society.

So yeah, I was nervous. And my sister was sitting next to me, asking me to go to the mall with her, and I pushed the book over at her, told her to read the last page for me. I used to do this. Used to read the last page of a novel to find out how it ended before I got there.

I just wanted to know if it ends horribly. (Which, I kind of figured it did. I mean, we're not to the end yet.) So Taylor read the last page and then she told me the last sentence, which got my brain into a horrible tizzy of course. And she said, "Well, after you finish this one you'll definitely want to start the last one right away."

Cue the agony. Because I didn't have the last one and I also didn't have any money to buy it with. I know, I know, I knew this when I bought the first two. But it didn't seem to matter as much before I'd read a single word of HUNGER GAMES.

Later, after we'd gone to the mall and were back home again, Taylor showed up in my room practically bouncing. "Okay, you seem excited," I said. A master of the dead pan, am I.

Then she pulled me up, pushed me out of my room and down the stairs saying that she had to show me something.

You guys.
You guys.
There was a wrapped package sitting halfway down the stairs.
While I was in Barnes & Noble she'd gone to Walmart and, yes, bought me MOCKINGJAY. And then didn't say a word about it until we were home and she'd wrapped it for me.


Debut Review: Top 8

Katie Finn

As you probably know if you've been following my blog for a length of time, I'm a big fan of books that heavily feature the social networking/internet aspect. I think it can be a wonderful setting and form of storytelling. Unfortunately, this book fell short of the mark. The premise here is promising: Madison MacDonald comes home from an internet-free family vacation to find her Friendverse (Facebook + Myspace) account hacked in the worst way. The hacker not only broke up with her boyfriend and posted the worst pictures of her online, but also shared her friends' deepest secrets with her hundreds of friends, and managed to break up the school's It Couple. Though Madison's best friends believe her when she says she's been hacked, not everyone else does -- and besides, the damage is done.

Things begin to really falter when Madison embarks on something of a wild goose chase, accusing anyone who seems to have an issue with her without much proof backing her up. The pacing is good, but the plot gets repetitive quickly as it becomes obvious that Madison is going after the wrong people and seems to have blinders on when it comes to many of the things going on around her. Characters -- as well as their relationships -- are not as fleshed out as they should be. Madison comes off as very surface-deep and somewhat stereotypical. Likewise her romantic relationships don't seem to have much substance and are based primarily on physical attraction without much else. A few of the secondary characters are very well developed and realistic, however they're sadly overshadowed by Madison and other main characters.

Though a strong sense of setting feels all but absent here, themes are done well in a book that is mostly mediocre. The main theme we're presented with is that of gossiping and being a trustworthy person, although there's definitely a sub-theme (haha, that's not a word) that deals with not letting your online life and profile ruin or rule your life. Especially as so much can be misconstrued, even amongst the people you think you're close with. On the whole, this was a mediocre book, though I know plenty of other reviewers disagree with me as I've seen many good reviews of it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blog Hop: Sept 3-6 (Cover Judgements)

Book Blogger Hop

This week's Blog Hop question (hosted by Jennifer, of Crazy for Books) is about covers:

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Absolutely. I'm such a sucker for a pretty cover (and especially pretty fonts). This really comes into play whenever I go to a bookstore, especially a used bookstore where a lot of the book are in not-great condition. I love the ones that have nice, modern-looking covers. One thing that really annoys me with book covers (and yes, I realize this is done for a reason) is when the author's name is bigger than the title of the book. It happens a lot with big-time authors and even sometimes in YA, especially with some of Sarah Dessen's books and, most notably, the paperback version of AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES, by John
Green. This has always bothered me and though I know the author has nothing to do with it and it probably is very good advertisement, especially if the author is well-known, I'm more likely to buy a book where the title is the focus, not the author's name.

As for what I do like in book covers?
  • Fonts. Pretty fonts, that is. I like Helvetica (dear Helvetica, I love you.) and fonts that look hand-written especially. (example: THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY)
  • Simple, conceptual designs. There are many I can think of for this one, but I like the unobtrusive, eye-catching pictures that give a hint to what the book is about. (examples: SCRAMBLED EGGS AT MIDNIGHT and THE UNWRITTEN RULE)
  • Matte finish. Hey, I like a shiny book cover as much as the next person, but not if "shiny" means "every fingerprint is going to show." That's just annoying.
To be completely honest, and just to show how much I love pretty covers, I own a few books that I don't even like but I constantly find myself wanting to reread them just because of how beautiful the cover is. So yeah, I judge the covers. It doesn't come into play when considering what I think of the story and writing, but in choosing what to buy it definitely does.

What about you? Do you choose what to buy based on covers? What do you love (or hate) in covers?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Playlist: The Book I Never Wrote

One of you lovely readers (Hey, Jennila!) asked me to do another music post last week, and now here I am to share with you one of my absolute favorite playlists. In my iTunes it's called, Playlist for book I never wrote (though really this playlist is highly personal and all about me.)

All of the songs here are lovely and beautiful and breathtaking, but if you can only listen to a few, let it be Fly (Nick Drake), Fearless (Colbie Caillat), and either of the songs by Lights.

  1. Always, by Switchfoot
  2. Fly, by Nick Drake
  3. Breakable, by Ingrid Michaelson
  4. Melancholy Astronautic Man, by Allie Moss
  5. Under the Weather, by KT Tunstall
  6. Let Me Try, by Hope Partlow
  7. Live Like You're Dying, by Lenka
  8. Warning Sign, by Coldplay
  9. Life is Wonderful, by Jason Mraz
  10. I Go to the Barn Because I Like the, by Band of Horses
  11. Zebra, by Beach House
  12. 1234, by Feist
  13. July Flame, by Laura Veirs
  14. Breakin' at the Cracks, by Colbie Caillat
  15. Heartbreak Warfare, by John Mayer
  16. Lions!, by Lights
  17. If I Could, by Jack Johnson
  18. Who Says, by John Mayer
  19. The Listening, by Lights
  20. Fearless, by Colbie Caillat
  21. Needle in the Hay, by Elliot Smith