Friday, December 31, 2010

FIVE: Favorite Characters of 2010

Today's official topic is best YA books of 2010, but because my top five list is going to be posted on iheartdaily in early January, I decided to go with a different list: favorite characters. I expected this list to give me a hard time, but instead it wound up being ridiculously easy, because as it would happen I already knew which characters I loved most this year.

1. Peeta Mellark
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay
In a world of children-killing, deception, and a vicious war, Peeta manages to be good. I don't mean interesting, I don't mean nice or sweet, though he is those things -- I mean good. He holds firm to what he believes to be right and protects the one he loves even as he has to fight tooth-and-nail for his own survival. In all honesty he could give such legendary "good" characters as Melanie Wilkes and Beth March a run for their money and he's earned a permanent spot as one of my favorite characters ever.

2. Bronwen Oliver & Jared Sondervan
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else
I tried not to let myself include any pairs in this list, but in the case of Bronwen and Jared it just didn't seem right to include one of them without the other. Because although Bronwen is kind, loving, and long-suffering and although Jared is sweet and old-school gentlemanly, what makes these characters memorable is the way they are together. Bronwen and Jared bring out the best in each other; they make the other one both happier and more interesting. So of course, I had to list them together.

3. Milo
Fall For Anything
Milo is an incredible character. Walking on eggshells around his best friend since the death of her father, he manages to be enigmatic and at the same time completely supportive. Milo is the friend everyone needs, the one who cares so much and so deeply, the one who you just know is on your side no matter what. And it's how much he cares, more than anything else, that makes him an incredible character.

4. Edie Reeves
Fall For Anything
Oh, Edie. I just wanted to give her a hug and be like you will be okay, promise promise promise. Edie is lost, confused, sad, and utterly, utterly vulnerably human. It's rare to find a character who is such an honest portrayal of painful and personal emotions as Edie is, and for this I love her.

5. Cassia Reyes
Cassie wins the award for "Best Character Journey." Her growth from the beginning of the book, before she's Matched and before her grandfather's death, to the end of the book after everything has happened, is an incredible one. What makes it even more incredible is the way Cassia handles everything, the way she seems to grow and mature and become whoever it is she's going to be with each new event or trial that she faces. I feel like Cassia isn't really a fully-formed character just yet, but that by the end of her saga she'll be whoever it is she's meant to become. And it'll be awesome.

an explanation for numbers 2-4, namely why did Bronwen and Jared share a space while Milo and Edie didn't?
It's not because Bronwen and Jared are a couple, or because I needed to narrow the list down to just five spaces. It's because while Edie and Milo are both amazing characters on their own, Bronwen and Jared don't become amazing until they're together. Explain'd.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

FIVE: Books That Had A Personal Impact

For me, reading is an intensely personal thing. There's not much better than finding a book, character, or even just a passage, that I can truly relate to and that seems to speak to me. I love books that help me understand people better, understand myself better, or, best of all, give me that aha moment. You might know what I mean: Aha, I'm not the only one! That feeling.

Here are five books I read this year that became incredibly personal to me, in no particular order. Warning: Mild spoilers below.

1. I Now Pronounce You Someone Else
Erin McCahan
I mentioned in my review of this book how much I hated Bronwen's mother. But there's more to the story than that. I hated the way her mother treated her, the way she didn't seem to like her and sometimes didn't even seem to love her. As if Bronwen was this annoyance that she had to deal with and she should just make herself as unobtrusive as possible. I hated that she made Bronwen feel as if her needs, wants, and opinions didn't matter. The way she totally neglected her. I'm lucky enough to have an amazing family -- parents that I get along well with and who are completely supportive and a sister who is my best friend. I have always known that what I want and what I think is important to my parents and have never been made to feel unloved or neglected. But I know that not everyone has that. And I know that sometimes what's even more painful than outright abuse is the more insidious neglect of a son or daughter. It's possible to be neglected even with a roof over your head and food in your stomach. It's possible to be unloved in a seemingly perfect and normal family. And it sucks. This book reminded me so much of someone I know who did grow up in that kind of family and, yes, it helped me understand them a little better.

2. Some Girls Are
Courtney Summers
I know I've already talked about this book so much on the blog, but it warrants another mention. In the last two years I lost two people who I considered my best friends, including one whom I had been best friends with for a decade. And by "lost" I don't mean that they died. I mean that we were friends and then we weren't at all. Both of the friendships had been bad for me and by the time they ended I realized that. They were extremely toxic friendships that made me stressed, sick, feel bad about myself, and second-guess a lot of the things I said or did around these friends. I didn't (thank goodness) go through the type of bullying that happens in this book, but I still had friends who didn't understand me, who thought they knew how I should act and what I should say and what I should wear. Friends who lied to me. Who gave backhanded compliments. Who made me a very confused and messed up person. I'm not blaming them; I truly think that some people just don't work as friends, but no matter where the blame lands the fact is that they were very, very bad friendships and I saw that experience of toxicity reflected in Regina and Anna's friendship and it helped me realize - again and again - how important it is to get out of those types of relationships, whether they be romantic or platonic.

3. Mockingjay
Suzanne Collins
I don't know what it was about this book, but it really and truly blew me away. It was, in my mind, the perfect ending to the Hunger Games trilogy, but more than that it was just really, really amazing. It broke my brain. It gave me a reading hangover. It showed me how powerful a book can be. I don't know how to explain it except to say that it had been years since I had read something that - through sheer force of story - made me feel so much. It's so rare for a book to come along that I not only love and think is amazing, but that somehow seems to reaffirm the power of the written word and of story. And the fact that this happened in the genre I adore, the genre I want to write in (YA, not dystopian) is even more amazing to me because it proved that YA matters and made me proud to be a part of the YA community. I know it sounds crazy, but Mockingjay made me a little crazy.

4. The History of Love
Nicole Krauss
I'm going to be honest here and tell you that it's rare for me to find a mainstream novel that I love as much as most YA. A lot of the mainstream or literary books I read leave me with a 'meh' feeing. This book is the exception. As the title says, it's about love. About all kinds of love, from romantic to friendship, to family. Everything. And there's something about this book that's so incredibly beautiful, so raw and honest and amazing. As if a little piece of my heart fell into place when I read this book; it's that good. The writing is beautiful, the stories are great, but it's the raw, raw emotion that really got me. It made me so happy and so sad both at the same time. It's one of those books, one of those reading experiences, that there really are no words for.

5. The Unwritten Rule
Elizabeth Scott
This book touched on a couple of issues for me, but the main one was, unsurprisingly, the friendship between Sarah and Brianna. Though the situation with me and one of my friends was completely different, this book helped to explain everything I'd been trying to explain to myself about what went wrong in that friendship. In a lot of books someone is right and someone is wrong and friendships either last forever or fall apart and the girls end up enemies. They don't always show that sometimes the friendship needs to end but it doesn't mean that your feelings for that person end. It doesn't mean you don't still care about them and want the best for them. There's a lot of confusion that goes along with ill-fated close friendships, and this book did an excellent job of laying that confusion bare for the reader.

Fall for Anything, by Courtney Summers

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

FIVE: Great YA Bloggers

I restrained myself from including author blogs on here or blogs that are primarily concerned with the writing or publishing aspect of YA. These are all YA book blogs -- the ones that I absolutely adore and read every single post from.

1. Frenetic Reader (khyrinthia)
In addition to being an incredibly sweet and funny individual, Khy's blog is also great. For the most part we have very similar reading tastes (if she's read a book I haven't she can usually guess if I'm going to like it or not) and I love that she posts every single day. Sometimes the posts are just her random, book-related thoughts, sometimes they're reviews or more in-depth posts, but I always love reading them. And usually afterwards I want to just comment OMG KHY YOU'RE AWESOME!!! Plus, I love the quirkiness.

2. Forever Young Adult (many bloggers)
I don't know how it took until just a few months ago for me to discover this blog. Aimed at YA readers who are "a little more A than Y," this is a sharp and funny site full of reviews, lists, and lol-worthy Flowers in the Attic recaps. (I will never read that book. Their recaps are more than enough for me.) Though my reading tastes don't always match up with theirs, I read all the reviews just for the abundance of funny.

3. Not Enough Bookshelves (Alexa)
Ages ago Alexa had a personal blog that I loved to read (back when I had my own personal blog) and her book blog was much less frequently updated. However, having rediscovered the book blog just this month I've realized that it's COMPLETELY AWESOME. The writing is great and there's something very genuine and heartfelt about her posts that keeps me coming back and incredibly interested in what she has to say.

4. Persnickety Snark (Adele)
Adele is sort of like my book-blogging hero. Not only are her reviews incredibly well written and thought-out, but she often is able to say just what I was thinking much better than I could ever say it. Additionally I love that she seems to operate a bit outside of the typical realm of YA blogs -- she's a little offbeat, a little different, and always does her own thing. She talks about books that nobody else is talking about and posts thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion posts instead of merely echoing what others have said. Though the future of her blog is a bit TBA right now, she's definitely inspired my blogging.

5. The Story Siren (Kristi)
This blog has interesting posts, good reviews, discussion posts that actually spark discussion, and a "Dear Story Siren" feature that's incredibly helpful to lots of bloggers. Not to mention Kristi's spearheaded the whole In My Mailbox meme and is hosting the Debut Author Challenge for the second year in a row. Really, her blog speaks for itself: she's helpful, humble, and incredibly nice while running one of the best YA blogs out there.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

FIVE: Great Author Moments

To be perfectly honest I don't go to enough book events to have five author moments from 2010 alone, so instead this is a lineup of author moments from my life. In a (hopefully-but-probably-not) chronological order, here they are...

1. Cindy Pon's book launch for Silver Phoenix
The kicker here is that I've never read Cindy's book, but because the launch was close to me and I wanted to buy a copy to giveaway on my blog and because my buddy-buddy-roo Khy was going to be there, I went. And I had a fabulous time. Not only is Cindy Pon an incredibly incredibly sweet person, but her book launch was a ton of fun. There was people! And books! And Khy video taped it!

2. Gayle Forman's event for If I Stay.
This event was a little further away from me, but it was for a book I'd heard awesome things about and I'd actually had some email correspondence with the author (what about? I DON'T REMEMBER). In any case, I decided to skip out on my last couple classes of the day and drive to the event, which was a couple hours away. I was operating on about four hours of sleep that day and had to blast Lady Gaga on repeat to keep myself awake on the drive up. The bookstore was this adorable little children's bookstore in the middle of a very western-y looking town and Khy was there (me and Khy live a few hours apart so we end up going to book signings together fairly oftentimes) and other people were there and Gayle Forman was wonderful. I'd missed the "reading" portion of the event, but she had a Q&A where she answered some questions about the book and afterwards I bought a copy of the book (which, btw, is wonderful and I can't wait for the sequel) and got to talk to her for a while. The message Gayle Forman wrote in my copy of If I Stay when she signed it is absolutely the best note from an author I've ever gotten in a book and I loved meeting her. I loved driving out and blaring Lady Gaga, loved the event and meeting the author and hanging out with Khy, and I loved driving back home, happy and exhausted, after a completely awesome day.

3. Sarah Dessen's signing for Along for the Ride.
It's no secret that I love Sarah Dessen's writing. The Truth About Forever was my first introduction to YA literature -- the book that made me love reading it and want to write it. Since then, I've accumulated every Dessen novel there is and read most of them multiple times. So of course I had to meet Sarah Dessen when I had the chance. I went to the signing/reading with Cindy Pon and had a wonderful time. I did meet Sarah Dessen and talk to her for a couple seconds, though of course I don't remember what I said and I'm sure whatever it was, it sounded stupid.

4. John Green and David Levithan's signing for Will Grayson, Will Grayson.
I haven't read Will Grayson (or much by Levithan, really), but John Green is one of my favorite authors. An Abundance of Katherines made me laugh the way few books have been able to do and Paper Towns is just incredible. Seeing how many people were at this signing was awesome, of course, as was meeting John and hearing him talk about his books. The event was livestreamed (wait... is that a word?) and me and Khy were sitting right next to the computer; a couple of other bloggers said they could hear us talking before the event really got started, which I found hilarious.

5. Heidi R. Kling's meet up for Sea.
This wasn't an actual event. How un-actual was it? There was no reading or official signing, and the bookstore hadn't even gotten their shipment of Sea in for it. But it was awesome all the same. For one thing, it was at the bookstore in Downtown Disney, which gave me a supergreat excuse to drive out to Disneyland (I don't love driving, but I do love Disney) and it was basically just Heidi Kling and a bunch of bloggers sitting and talking. Heidi is every bit as wonderful and friendly as you'd expect her to be and I had a blast talking books with people like Khy and Catt in real life, as well as browsing the bookstore shelves and comparing which books we'd read.

& now five authors I'd love to meet but haven't yet:
Courtney Summers
Maureen Johnson
Susie Day
Lynne Rae Perkins
Sarah Ockler
(and, of course, lots more)

Monday, December 27, 2010

FIVE: Books I Didn't Read

Every year there are more books that come out and sound fantastic than I actually read and this year was no exception. There might have actually been more this year just because I paid more attention to the pub dates of books. So here are five books published in 2010 that I wanted to read this year but didn't. (Yes, hopefully in 2010 I'll read them all.) I'm limiting this list to books that (1) are YA and (2) I knew about for a long time. For some of them since before they even had covers or titles, but at least since before they were published.

1. Anna and the French Kiss
Stephanie Perkins
Quite honestly this book has been hyped so much and I'm not 100% sure I'd like it, but I want to read it anyway. Because it kind of does sound fantastic and I haven't heard of anyone not liking it (it would just figure for me to be that one-in-a-million) and not only did John Green totally fanboy over it, but he also said it was like him and Maureen Johnson had a baby book. And uh, I think we can all agree this would be the greatest thing ever. 

2. Friend is Not A Verb
Daniel Ehrenhaft
I'm a huge fan of books related to social networking and have absolutely loved a few of Ehrenhaft's other novels, so I was really hoping to read this one when it came out. However, of course by the time it was published I had all but forgotten about it and when I remembered it I couldn't find it in my BN, which is a sadface. Now it's the end of the year and I still haven't read it.

3. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Morgan Matson
I love road trip books and this one has one of the best titles I've come across. I don't typically buy hardcover though, and this book is still not in paperback. (It hits me now that the cover to this book and the one above it are startlingly similar.)

4.  A Match Made in High School
Kristen Walker
I feel bad for this book. It was originally set to come out in 2009 and the pub date apparently got pushed back. I was so excited to read it last year but by the time 2010 rolled around and it was finally published there were other books I wanted to get to that suddenly seemed more interesting and this one got pushed aside. 

5. A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
Emily Horner
I absolutely love love love the premise of this book and have been wanting to read it for ages. I think I heard about it before it even had its final title. I haven't seen it in stores at all (le sad), but I still really really want to get my hands on a copy.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: Bright Young Things

Anna Godberson
Bright Young Things follows the story of three young girls living in New York City during 1929 -- the Jazz Age. The story opens with Cordelia Grey and Letty Larkspur - two small-town Ohio girls - catching a train to New York City. While Letty hopes to become an actress or singer, Cordelia hopes to find the father she never knew. Once in the city, the girls' paths diverge as Letty winds up working in a speakeasy and Cordelia manages to find her rich, bootlegging father. She also meets the third focus of the book, Astrid Donal, a young socialite in love with Cordelia's half-brother.

As excited as I was about this book, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I loved Anna Godberson's previous Luxe series so much and because the two are so similar it's difficult to read Bright Young Things without comparing the two. The setting here is incredible, capturing the glamour, ritz, and precarious balance of the time. It's absolutely beautiful and throughout the story there's this feeling of this can't last, as if I was just waiting for other other shoe to drop because I knew the perfection of these character's lives would have to end sooner or later. And this, as it turns out, is sort of the problem with the book; everything seems too perfect and for much of the novel it remains that way. There's a lot of set-up and backstory here and while it gives the book a laid-back, glitzy feeling, it also means that the book eventually starts to drag.

Each of the characters is different and unique, from starry-eyed Letty to tough-as-nails Astrid. However, in spite of that I felt a lack of connection with them for the most part. For the most part I didn't feel myself emotionally invested in Astrid or Letty's stories and while I loved Cordelia I found it difficult to swallow a few of the decisions she made, especially after traveling so far to find her father (if you've read the book you may know what I'm thinking of here). The relationships in this book were also a bit less than what I was hoping for. Though each girl had a love interest throughout the story I found it difficult to really root for any of the pairings and the book's focus on them really slowed it down for me.

To call the voice of this novel flawless might be a stretch, but not much of one. Godberson has a true gift for writing passages that manage to be sad, beautiful, and hopeful at the same time and there are certain lines here that I thought were absolutely perfect. Overall, this is a glitzy, glamorous, and slow-moving novel that, as great as it is, really does feel like the first in a series, which is a something of a drawback. There's a lack of connection to the characters and relationships, however there's also a huge sense of possibility and what-will-happen-next here that really raises the book up.

*this review is part of the Teen {Book} Scene Tours

Saturday, December 25, 2010

FIVE: Most Anticipated 2011 Titles

1. Delirium
Lauren Oliver
I've just heard awesome things about this and the premise of it is wonderful. I haven't read a ton of dystopian novels, but a lot of them -- especially this one -- are really sounding great lately.

2. Where She Went
Gayle Forman
I'm not typically a big fan of sequels, but I absolutely adored If I Stay, and the whole idea of this book being from Adam's POV is amazing. Can. Not. Wait.

3. Invincible Summer
Hannah Moskowitz
Moskowitz's first novel was incredibly different from a lot of what I read, but I really loved it and I'm excited for this one. I'm such a fan of YA novels about family and Break handled the subject so well.

4. What Happened to Goodbye
Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen. Need I say more?

5. Imaginary Girls
Nova Ren Suma
In addition to having one of the best titles and most beautiful covers I've seen in... well, ever, probably, it's also a story about sisters which I love. I really liked Suma's middle grade novel and I'm really excited for her YA debut.

Friday, December 24, 2010

FIVE: Great Rereads of 2010

1. Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell - I read this for the first time in eighth grade and for years after I would read it every. single. year. And then I racked up library fines and didn't own a copy and somehow or other three or four years went by without me getting to read it again. This year though, my mom made good on her promise to buy me a copy and I read it again. It's my favorite novel and every time I read it I notice something different, something more, which makes it one of the most dynamic reading experiences I've ever had.

2. serafina67, by Susie Day - I love this book so much. It's the You've Got Mail of books, meaning that I'll read it (or even just some of it) when I'm not feeling well and don't have anything else to read or I just want a comfortable, familiar, friendly book to read. The protagonist reminds me a lot of myself (almost too much) and how the book is written is pretty much how things go on in my mind: ie. completely crazy. 

3. Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler - So beautiful, so heartbreaking, so amazing. I had to read it again.

4. The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen - This is not only the first YA book I read, but also the one that made me realize this is the genre I want to write in. Dessen is a master of PUTTING WORDS TOGETHER IN NICE WAYS and this is her best work in my opinion. The story, characters, and language is so great.

5. Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins - I hadn't read this one in quite a while, but decided to read it again this year after making my list of favorite Newbery winners. It's a strange, slow-moving story, but absolutely wonderfully written and beautiful. It tells the story of that awkward place between childhood and adolescence better than any other book I've read and (at least for me) this awkwardness carries on way past the particular age. 

Now, five books I want to reread this coming year, though I don't know if I actually will or not:
Paper Towns, by John Green
Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr
The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson
Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Snap, by Alison McGhee

Thursday, December 23, 2010

FIVE: Series on My List

I'm not a big fan of series. Either I don't read them because I really honestly like stand-alones better, or I feel like if I buy the first I have to buy the others and I'd rather not make the commitment. I don't think I've read five different series this year, so instead of listing the five best I'm going to list five series I want to read/finish.

1. Matched
Ally Condie

2. Summer
Jenny Han

3. Delirium
Lauren Oliver

4. Confessions of Georgia Nicholson
Louise Rennison

5. Gallagher Girls
Ally Carter

Some of these are series I've already started reading but there are more books out than I've read, and others are ones I haven't even started yet but really really want to.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FIVE: Favorite Lines of 2010

The official FIVE for today is covers, but I was a little unsure of how to tackle that one so instead I'm going with something I absolutely love from books: great lines. Here are five favorite quotes from books I've read (or reread!) this year, in no particular order.

Envy, by Anna Godberson
She thought of Henry and Diana on the stoop, gazing at each other with the confusion and sadness of two puppies who have just stumbled into their first puddle and not yet come to understand what has happened to them.

Girls in Pants, by Ann Brashares
They were growing up. It was inevitable. But please, God, she couldn't do it if it was a trade-in. She couldn't strike the bargain if growing up meant drowning out the friendship that stood at the very center of her life, the thing that gave her strength and balance.

serafina67, by Susie Day
If I was a movie then that is what would happen. But things don't get cured and mended and tidied up like that. I am not cured and mended and tidied up either.

The Treasure Map of Boys, by E. Lockhart
I know they're not getting divorced or anything, but when your parents argue it makes the whole universe seem like it's tipping, like everything could change if they got mad enough at each other, like the world isn't a safe place.
And of course, that's true, isn't it? The world is not a safe place.

Envy, by Anna Godberson
[Diana] went to her window and looked at all the twinkling windows and above them all the faint stars. How many false impressions lived out there? she wondered. How many hearts broken through carelessness and failures of nerve?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FIVE: Best YA Debuts of 2010

1. The Mockingbirds
Daisy Whitney
To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the most beloved books in America. I've yet to meet a person who doesn't love that book. There's a balance of Truly Great Characters and Right v. Wrong that's impossible to ignore. With her debut novel The Mockingbirds, Whitney pays tribute to the great classic by not only tackling a heavy issue (date rape) and having justice always at the forefront, but also by the obvious and wonderful references to the classic that are sprinkled throughout the book. Though The Mockingbirds stands very well on its own, it works much better if you've read To Kill A Mockingbird beforehand. In either case, an incredible book with a great message, story, and characters.

2. Sea
Heidi R. Kling
Oh, Sea. One of the most unique and original premises I've come across in a long time, this book is definitely one-of-a-kind in the best way possible. Kling manages to not only write a wonderful tale of grief and love, but also weave together one of the best cross-cultural novels out there. With an emotional connection that's impossible to ignore and an incredibly atmospheric setting, Sea is one of those books that I genuinely wish everyone knew about. It's just that great.

3. The Naughty List
Suzanne Young
In one of the best subversions of stereotype, Young's The Naughty List mixes cheerleaders, espionage, and cheating boyfriends to create one of the sweetest books yet. With its sugar-sweet heroine, shades-of-grey questions of morality, and omg spies!!, this is not only refreshingly original, but also just plain awesome.

4. Tweet Heart
Elizabeth Rudnick
Told primarily through tweets, Rudnick's debut Tweet Heart is a cute story with a premise old as time (the old boy-likes-girl-who-likes-another-boy thing) and a cast of characters that are wonderfully quirky. I'm a sucker for stories told in interesting ways and the online drama of Tweet Heart is both adorably awkward and wonderful. Plus, you guys, there are just so many Star Trek references. (Never doubt my geek cred.)

5. I Now Pronounce You Someone Else
Erin McCahan
The story of a high school girl who gets engaged and spends her senior year planning a wedding, I Now Pronounce You Someone Else tackles a subject rarely mentioned in YA, and it does it well. Not only is the love story super incredibly wonderful, but the realism and pain of the situations that our protagonist finds herself in is handled really well. This novel covers not only teen marriage, but also the complex world of family dynamics, and what it means to be yourself versus what it means to be an Us. A story that I highly recommend.

Have you read any of my top 5 picks? If so, what did you think of them?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Fall for Anything


This book is something approaching perfection. After Eddie Reeves' father, who the rest of the world knew as a once-famous photographer, commits suicide, Eddie finds herself trapped in a world of grief. Her mother is catatonic, her best friend seems to be pulling away from her, and Eddie's hands are cold. No, numb. No, dead. Ever since that night, ever since the unthinkable happened, Eddie hasn't been herself and the question that plagues her, follows her around no matter where she is or what she's doing, is why. Why did he kill himself? What was so horrible, so unbearable that he couldn't stand to face it anymore? In her determination to answer this question, she meets an older guy, a student of her father's who seems to be hurting just as bad as she is and maybe together they can answer the horrible question. And then maybe -- maybe things will start to make sense to Eddie.

This premise is one that has been done a million times. The death of a parent, suicide of a loved one. It's good, but it's nothing special. However, it's Summers' unique writing and incredible knack for emotion that brings this book into a category all its own. Eddie's pain at losing her father, her confusion about the best friend who won't answer her questions, and the frustration at her mother who's hurting just as bad, comes through loud and clear. Eddie is a quiet, somewhat off-kilter girl whose only real friend is the boy she got "stuck with" in the second grade and whose lack of purpose is in itself a character trait. The relationships here are incredibly written. Instead of being bogged down by description, certain details describing characters or relationships seem to be very purposely added in, giving the relationships a very complete, very real feeling without belaboring the point. I absolutely loved the relationship Eddie and Milo (her best friend) shared, as well as how perfectly her feelings toward her mother's friend came across. It was incredible how much, despite the plot itself not being something I have experience with, I could relate to and understand Eddie Reeves.

The storyline involving the mysterious, older photography student is one that could have easily fell off the tracks and instead seemed almost perfect. The things Eddie does, the ways she reacts and the people she seeks out just fit this heavy grief that she's carrying around and as a reader you feel for her even as you want to scream at her. Culler (the photography student) is the sort of character that is, to a certain extent, open to interpretation. He's carrying his own grief, yes, but he also seems to have a menacing air about him, as if there's just something horribly off, and it adds an edge to this sullen story.

This book is so perfectly about not only grief, but questions of love and responsibility and who can you possibly rely on when your whole world is tipped upside down, shaken like a snowglobe. The setting accents this perfectly, as Eddie and Milo wander around their one-horse town that acts as a backdrop to the seeming impossibility and helplessness of Eddie's situation. Bottom line: this book is incredible and amazing. It's insanely well-written and the story itself has definitely set up residence in my heart. I absolutely love it and recommend it. If you found Courtney Summers' earlier books too harsh or just haven't bothered to read anything by her yet, start with this. It's such a departure from Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are, while still bearing many trademarks of a Courtney Summers novel. Read it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In My Mailbox: Used Treasures

Bought: Though I never finished watching the movie, I've heard great things about The Time Traveler's Wife so I'm excited to read it. And ever since reading another of Robin Palmer's books (Geek Charming) I've been wanting to get another of her books. I'm hoping Cindy Ella is as cute as it sounds.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Here Comes the Endings

My mind is very full today. Full of the series I'm working on the last chapters of (you may know it as LOLSI or you may not know it at all), series endings in general, and many, many questions.

I'm not a fan of series, as a rule. And I say this knowing full well that there are many exceptions to that rule. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Uglies, Peaches, The Hunger Games, and Luxe are just some of the series I absolutely adore. Plus, as we all know, I'm television-holic, and tv shows are a type of series.

But the endings almost never seem right to me. In books series and in television shows there often seems to be something missing, something not quite right. With the rare exception of Mockingjay I can't think of many endings that I really loved (and I know that for many people Mockingjay was a huge disappointment). Either the ending kills the series (ahem, Twilight), doesn't really give a sense of completion (here I cite the incredible BSC books), or there's just something I didn't like about it. My favorite couple didn't get together, a major element was out of place, or a couple I specifically didn't want together ended up riding off into the sunset.


This is when the end of the series kills the series. Storylines spiral out of control, the rules of the established universe are tossed out the window, and there are pages and pages of readers going wth is happening here? In this case it's not just one element that's out of place, but many elements. These types of endings are the ones that most often prompt readers to go let's just pretend that didn't happen, shall we? They're the endings that ardent lovers of the series sometimes have no problem "divorcing" from the rest of the story.

This, unlike the above ending, is where there's one specific element that ends in a way you don't agree with. The hero of the story ends up with the wrong love interest, your most beloved character dies a tragic death, or a choice is made that you just can't wrap your head around. In a way, this type of ending can be even worse than the first because if the whole thing were a mess you could easily write it off -- but there's that one thing! That one horrible, awful element that you just can't wrap your head around. This is also one of the more common (and subjective) types of endings out there, especially when it comes to love triangles and there are just as many members of TEAM NICE BOY as there are TEAM BAD BOY.

This is when the ending isn't really an ending. When, despite being a planned end to a series, it just feels like another book/chapter/episode. I'm going to take a stab in the dark here and say that this most commonly happens with series that are very episodic, where even the big things that happen are wiped away or forgotten by the next installment. And though that explains the lackluster ending to a certain extent, it still doesn't make it any better for the audience that wants a satisfying ending to their beloved series.

Let me make it clear that this type of ending is on a whole different level from the first three. Because unlike those series where the ending is controlled by the writers and editors/producers, the missing ending is one that just doesn't happen. The series is cancelled and it has nothing to do with the planning on the part of the people directly involved in the series. It's easier to think of examples for this type of ending in television (hello, Firefly and the oh-so-tragic Pushing Daisies), but it also happens in book series and it's often a much more quiet death. RIP to lost endings everywhere.

And now I have to get back to writing my own series ending, which hopefully won't fall under any of these categories. But while I'm gone: what's your opinion on series endings? Which is the worst type and did I forget about a type?

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Saddest Ending of All Times & Ever

A while back Adele, from Persnickety Snark did a post on the marriage of Jo and the professor (surely he had a name, right?) in Little Women. In it, she asked us what elements or events in a certain book are things that we just can't move past. When I first read her post I thought that, for me at least, there wasn't really anything I could think of. Generally, even if I don't agree with how certain characters end up or how a storyline goes in a book, I trust that the author knows what he or she is doing. After all: it's not my story; it's the author's.

And then, when Anna Godberson's new novel Bright Young Things arrived in my mailbox, I remembered. That one book, that one thing that I just can't get over. And I wish the book I cared that much about was a classic like Little Women, but it's not. It's the last book of Godberson's Luxe series -- Splendor.

Let me backtrack.

A couple of years ago I bought the novel Luxe. I don't remember why exactly, because I'm not usually a fan of Gossip-Girl type books or historical, but the cover was so beautiful and it was in paperback at Wal-Mart and I wanted something to read. And to say that I loved it would be an understatement. Luxe completely pulled me into its chaotic, glamorous, gossipy pre-20th-century world. I went out and bought the second book in the series (Rumors) the day after finishing the first book. Incredibly, I loved the second book even more. The characters! The intrigue! The twists and turns! In all honesty, the Luxe series just got better and better...

...and then I got to the fourth and last book, Splendor. And not to spoil anything for those of you who might read it, but do you know what the last couple of chapters did to me? They destroyed me, that's what. Characters I had held my breath for and cheered on since the beginning got endings that I was wholly unprepared for. What went down as one of my favorite YA couples of all time didn't end up together. Can I help it if, in my mind, I still imagine that they wound up together? Even if the ending doesn't support this theory at all? Because that ending? Let's just say IT WAS NOT SMILES TIMES IN THE LAND OF JORDYN. There was much anger. And sadness. And omg I cannot get over it. (Yes, I read the author's explanation of the ending. It did not help how sad it made me and how not-right it seemed.)

Now. Let us think of happier things, shall we? Whoever can tell me where the reference "we are not smiles times" comes from IS THE WINNER. (Of what? Of WINNING, der. Bragging rights.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fantastic Underrated Reads

Last week I asked what books you think haven't gotten the attention they deserve here on the blogosphere (and also from other reviewers and readers). A few of you answered and mentioned:

straight-to-paperback books in general, Dani Noir (by Nova Ren Suma), which I reviewed here, A Little Wanting Song (by Cath Crowley), Restoring Harmony (by Joelle Anthony), Harmonic Feedback (by Tara Kelly), and Jaclyn Moriarty's novels. It's easy, especially as someone who reads a lot of book, publishing, and author blogs, to become really interested in the books that already have a lot of interest. Matched. Bright Young Things. Anna and the French Kiss. Bestsellers and sure-to-be-bestsellers.

But what about the other books I've discovered and loved that aren't getting that attention? That maybe people would read, if only they heard about them or knew some about them? I love those books.

So today here are a handful of books I've read this year that are so much better than the attention they didn't get. Seriously. AMAZING.

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June, by Robin Benway
Benway's debut novel, Audrey, Wait! got tons of attention when it came out. People loved it. Her second book, however, seemed to fly in a little under the radar, which is a shame because it's just so good. For me this story of sisters with superpowers (I KNOW!) was even better than her previous novel. It was adorable and funny, told in rotating POVs from each of the three sisters, and instantly became the sort of book I just wanted to gush over like crazy. I definitely recommend it.

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, by Erin McCahan
This debut novel, which I saw very few reviews or posts about, is brilliant. I loved it. It's a love story in which a girl gets engaged while still in high school, sure, but it's not just about that. There's just as much here about family ties, who we want to be vs. who we are, and the missteps we all make. Once again: it's brilliant. Sweet and smart and heart-touching and I hope you all read it.

The Lonely Hearts Club, by Elizabeth Eulberg
This debut was actually published in 2009, but it took a while for me to read it. Still, I'm so glad I did because this book? Is. So. Awesome. Full of Beatles-references, positive-but-not-unrealistic depictions of friendship, and a feisty kick-butt heroine it's impossible not to root for. It's cute and memorable and deserves to be read. And then read again, just for the fun of it.

My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours, by Kristina Springer
Okay, sure, it looks like a cute and fluffy tween read. And to a certain degree it is. But Springer's Middle Grade debut is so much more than that. It's about what happens when a best-friendship changes and the lengths we'll go through to "keep up" with friends who seem to be racing ahead of us. Unlike so many other YA/MG books, there's a very realistic and awesome relationship between the protagonist and her parents, who though being divorced are both involved in her life. In nearly every way this is not only an adorable read, but also a truly great one.

Have you read any of these books? What are your under-rated books that you'd like to recommend?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


An FYI for readers:
I actually review more books than you'll find on this blog. I've recently begun reviewing every book I read on Goodreads, which means that I have reviews for The Pact, The Giver (which fits this blog but was a reread), Among Schoolchildren, and The Bright Forever. The reviews for these books are much less structured and thought out than what I put on the blog: it's basically just my thoughts on the books.

Also, my finals are over.
Thank goodness.
Let's celebrate with this LiveLavaLive video.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reading Challenges and Non-Challenges

Lately I've seen a bunch of great-sounding reading challenges crop up in the book blogging community. The Historical Fiction Challenge and Debut Authors Challenge are two that have caught my eye as sounding really great. But I didn't join either, though I definitely thought about it, and the reason for that is tied up in my opinions/feelings on reading challenges.

For me, reading challenges are kind of like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) -- a great, fabulous, wonderful idea that I absolutely love but that doesn't work for me personally. Years ago when I first started book blogging (a blog that is now dead dead dead), I joined one or two challenges. I made a list of the books I was going to read and then... only read about half of them.

Not because I didn't want to, but because it just didn't happen. I ended up interested in books, authors, or genres that I hadn't expected when I joined the challenges. What I wanted to read changed and I found myself less interested in some of the books that were a part of the challenge.

The best part of reading is finding something you love.

The worst part of reading is being forced into it. Now, I realize that a reading challenge isn't exactly the required reading list for a lit class, but sometimes it has that same feel: I have to read something. I have to read a certain amount of something. 

I wish they worked for me, but they just don't. Instead, my reading goals are non-challenges. Vague reading hopes for the future.

I want to read and review debut authors. I absolutely love debut novels and a big part of this is the fact that I know every debut I read is going to be completely different. Every new author brings a fresh perspective and a different style of writing to the table. I love finding new books and authors.

I want to read more dystopian. I wasn't a super-huge dystopian fan, but over this past year I have found a few books that have made me fall in love with the genre. Candor. The Hunger Games. Fahrenheit 451, which I reread this year. I have Matched on my shelf right now and have a few more dystopian series I'd love to get my hands on. I'd also like to discover some new ones that I maybe haven't heard of or been interested in yet.

I want to find some YA (or MG) science fiction. Yes, please. I've been fangirl-style excited about Beth Revis' debut novel Across the Universe ever since I heard about it. I'm a sci-fi fan when it comes to movies and television, but I'm a tad bit (read: extremely) picky about the genre and have had a hard time finding sci-fi books that I'm really interested in and love. I'm hoping that changes soon because I have a serious fascination and love for the genre, even if I am picky about it.

I want to read more internet-style books. Especially ones that are text- or Twitter-based.

If you have any suggestions of books that fit into any of my non-challenge categories, let me know. Also: what's your opinion on reading challenges?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Writing: Super-Snazzy New Idea

From the results of my oh-so-scientific poll over there on the side, it looks like most of you would be cool with a few writing-related posts here on Ten Cent Notes. So I'm making Mondays my talk-about-writing day, though I might not post on it every week as I really don't want this to turn into a writing blog.

The idea came out of nothing. That's how it happens; I'll be driving (as i was with this one) or eating or talking to someone and then --  boom! Idea. Right there. I keep a list of the ideas in a sticky note on my computer and they range from a thought-out premise to just a few words that shouldn't make any sense at all. Usually I can put the idea up for later. I made it a habit to finish the drafts I start a long time ago, so there's not a lot of leeway to hop around from project to project. Plus, it might sound crazy, but it actually takes a really long time for an idea to sit in my brain long enough to actually be ready to write. Sometimes this is only a week or so and sometimes - usually - it's much longer. Months. Years. 

So I made a little note to myself about this idea and went tralalala over to work on my current WIP (work-in-progress), Apollo.

Except that this idea will not go away. The main character refuses to shut up, the first line is just sitting there and it is so good. I can't stop thinking about it. I've gone looking for visual inspiration on we heart it, I've heard songs playing and thought that completely fits this story! Except, it's not a story. It's only an idea and the logical, rational side of my brain knows this. It is a premise, a first line, an imaginary protagonist that I want to be best friends with. (And yes, I fully realize that all protags are imaginary. But I mean even more imaginary. Like, she doesn't even have a name yet.)

I want to work on Apollo, I really do. But this idea has just swooped in like SUPERMAN TO THE RESCUE!! and will not leave me be. I don't know how to get rid of it. I like it so much I'm starting to hate it for distracting me. And I can't get rid of it which means I don't know what to do. I have to finish this draft of Apollo before I work on anything else. So I'm thinking of making the new idea (which really needs a working title) my new side project. Although making it a side project means that it won't be given the forethought and (most likely) editing that my main projects get. So I have a DECISION TO MAKE.

Anyway. If anyone knows a good way to kill an idea or at better yet, cryogenically freeze it for the future, let me know. Also, fellow writers -- what do you do when hit with a shockingly good idea that just won't leave? Do you abandon your current project? Save it? Write both at the same time? Go insane?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In My Mailbox: Blog Tours

From Publishers: Both of these books are for tours; I've never participated in a blog tour before, but now I have two scheduled in the next month, which I'm kind of excited about. I absolutely loved Anna Godberson's Luxe series so I'm really happy to get a chance to review the first book in her new series - Bright Young Things.

Bought: AHHHHH!! So so so excited about this one!!! Those extra exclamation points are NEEDED, guys. I've been wanting to read Matched like crazy for so long, practically before I even heard about it honestly. IT'S SO PRETTY! SHINY! I'm in love with the cover and really excited about reading it. (First though, I'm going to have to calm down.)

Also: I'm looking to find some more great YA book blogs to follow, so I'd love it if you guys could recommend some of your favorites to me and leave the links in the comments.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Best YA Couple of 2010

Alexa, over at Not Enough Bookshelves, is doing a countdown of the best couples in YA for 2010 and I thought I'd share my favorites. For her, it's a countdown to Christmas and for me it's just one Best-of-the-Year/End-of-the-Year post.

I thought I'd have a bunch of couples to choose from, but looking at my Goodreads shelves and the reviews I've written... there really aren't many romance stories on there. Sure, I read a few, but the ones I really loved weren't focused on romance and the most realistic, incredible characters had dynamic stories that don't fall under the category of romance. For the most part the best couples weren't even couples. Or they were, but not until the very end. Or they weren't, but I thought maybe sometime in the future they would be. Yes, I know this is fiction.

So with all of that said, the best YA couple of 2010? (Warning: spoilers for a certain book/series after the jump.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm Asking YOU.

For starters: there is this snazzy little poll in the sidebar of my blog that I'd love for you guys to answer. I have a lot of writing-related thoughts bubbling up in my brain and I'm anxious to know if you guys want those THOUGHTS IN BLOG FORMAT FOR YOUR READING INFOTAINMENT.

Second: Beth Revis is having an amazingly epic contest of epic to celebrate her debut novel, Across the Universe.

Now, today I just have a quick question for you guys: what book(s) do you think haven't gotten the attention they deserve from readers/bloggers/reviewers/etc.? Oftentimes I feel like there's a sort of hive mindset to the blogging community and, for one reason or another, EVERYONE will be talking about the same book at the same time, heaping praise upon it and recommending it oh-so-highly while other deserving books sort of get forgotten. What do you guys think about this? (I would do a better/longer post on it and maybe soon I will, but right now I'd just like your reactions.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Analysis of Some Girls Are

A semester or so ago, for a Child Development class I was taking, I had to write an analysis of a book that dealt with an issue we'd covered in class. I chose the issue of bullying and analyzed Courtney Summers' second novel, Some Girls Are, tying the bullying in the book into our class curriculum and my goals as a future teacher. I'm reposting my analysis here in honor of Courtney Summers' third novel (Fall For Anything) which is incredibly amazing and comes out December 21st -- be on the lookout for my review of that. 
This post includes spoilers for Some Girls Are.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


 I don't generally make lists of the books I want, because more often than not I never read most of them. BUT TODAY I AM MAKING AN EXCEPTION. Because guess what? There are some books I really really really really want and must find! Must not not read!

A Good Boy is Hard to Find, by Suzanne Young
(the third in her Naughty List series)
...because I love this series so so much.

It's Not Summer Without You, by Jenny Han
(the second book in her Summer series)
...gahhhhhh want.

Change of Heart, by Shari Maurer
...thank you to Jamie for recommending this one to  me. It sounds perfect.

Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
...I've heard nothing but great things.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

How to Say Goodbye in Robot, by Natalie Standiford
...yeah, I know, it's been out forever. Still want.

Don't Judge A Girl by Her Cover and Only the Good Spy Young, by Ally Carter
(3 & 4 in her Gallagher Girls series) feed my love for espionage!

Rae, by Chelsea Rae Swiggett
...which I really should have read by now.

Just Don't Fall, by Josh Sundquist
...which sounds funny and sad and so great.

Sleepwalk With Me, by Mike Birbiglia
...who is only the funniest funny guy of ever.