Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Falling in Love with English Boys

Title: Falling in Love with English Boys
Author: Melissa Jensen
Publisher: Speak (Penguin Group)
Pages: 272
Pub Date: December 23, 2010
Format: ARC (pilfered from ARC shelf at work...shhhh!)

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

When I picked this book up, I figured it'd be a mindless, formulaic, chick-lit read. You know, one where girl goes somewhere new, girl meets charming boy, charming boy likes her, they have some sort of fight, and then at the end things are hunky-dory by some bit of fateful magic that doesn't really exist. In some ways, that's what Falling in Love with English Boys is. But I don't want to trivialize it, because it's better than that. 

What saves this book from being just another teen chick-lit is debut author Jensen's humor, wit, and command of two very different writing styles. Although the story is primarily about Catherine Vernon, it is also the story of Katherine Percival, an 18-year-old girl living in 1815, and believe you me, the girls have WAY more in common than just their first name. 

My favorite aspect of this book is that it is told in diary form throughout. Jensen writes as both Catherine in present day and Katherine in 1815, and she handles the stylistic transitions brilliantly. She also does a fantastic job of bringing a girl from the oh-so Romantic-seeming era of the early-1800s, where everyone is supposedly demure and charming and Elizabeth Bennett-y, and made Katherine Percival seem like a real person who gets mad and is insecure and a little more boy-crazy than she probably should be. It was really refreshing, actually, and made me feel like less of a basket-case. (Ha!)

Now it's time to talk about the boy: William Percival. Will is British. Will is smart. Will is funny. Will is caring. Will will inherit a title. (!!!!!!) Will is sort of perfect. Okay, I'll stop with the short sentences. Overall, Will did the job as the leading man just fine. And though he had all the requisite characteristics and charms, I wanted more . . . I don't know, edge or passion or a motorcycle. Hell, I would have settled for a drum set. I like my boys a little rough around the edges, and I think Will could have used just a dash of that "you-know-I'm-bad-for-you-but-you-just-can't-say-no" salt. 

Anyway, the book is bouncy and light for the most part, but Jensen also throws in some plot curveballs that remind us just how random and unfair life can sometimes be--this is esepcially showcased in Catherine's friendship with Elizabeth, a gorgeous and politically-minded girl from a Muslim family and in Katherine's brother, Charles, who is among the troops who fought the Battle of Waterloo. Although both are minor characters, you learn to love them, and their stories bring a sense of reality and weight to the otherwise plucky story. 

Overall, Falling in Love with English Boys is surprisingly fun and extremely charming. It's a little reminiscent of Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson series, which I am still mourning the finale of, and made me laugh a lot. It's a quick, light, but worthwhile read if you're in the mood for a little British romance, both modern and Austen-ish. And let's be honest, girls (and boys!) like us are almost always in the mood for a little British romance.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Beauty Queens

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 400
Pub Date: May 24, 2011

From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island. 
Teen beauty queens. A "Lost"-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.--Goodreads

Just . . . read the description. I know you skipped over it.



HOLY COW THIS SOUNDS GOOD!! And that cover?! I am SO IN.

Bonus for y'all: I may have done one or two pageants back in the day. Here is a photo. Yes, I am holding a trophy. (I won a trophy!) 

I was never normal. Even back in high school when I was still pretending to be. 

Aaaaanyway. So there's my pick for this last Wednesday of my 23rd year. Treacherous islands and bitchy girls. Mwahahahaha. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open Call for Harry Potter Lovin' Guest Bloggers!


Next week I'm heading down to sunny, lovely, amazing Orlando, FL with ma mere to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

This means that I will be gallivanting and pretending to do magic instead of blogging.

But since there are so many of us who lovelovelove Harry Potter, I thought it might be fun to have a Harry Potter-themed week next week on this here blog and to have some lovely and talented guest bloggers blog about HP. Which means!. . .

I need some guest bloggers. Four to be exact.

So! If you would like to be one of them, leave me a comment or give me a shout on Twitter by replying to @bethanyelarson.

Top 10 Tuesday: Bookish Pet Peeves

This week's Top 10 Tuesday (hosted by the lovely ladies at The Broke and The Bookish) question concerns bookish pet peeves. At first, this baffled me--I was all like, "I love books, nothing about them ever bothers me." And then I realized that that is a humonstrous lie. The more I thought about it, the more pet peeves I realized I had. It's quite the list actually. So I've broken it up by category. And I've added some pictures to illustrate. And I use CAPSLOCK and itals a whole helluva lot. Because apparently I feel very, very strongly about the bookish pet peeves I didn't realize I had until a couple days ago...haha.

Alright, ladies and gents, heeeeeeere we go!

Story Elements

1. Historical Time Travel

2. "Creative" Names
I have no problem with "creative" names if there is a reason for the name to be creative--the mom is crazy, the dad is obsessed with Greek mythology, the character is named after some ancient relative with a ridiculous name, etc. But when a character is named Calypso or Indigo or Bunny for absolutely no reason, I just can't deal with it. I don't know why.


3. The Twilight-endorsed/ Twilight-centric covers
I know it's a marketing ploy, but it PISSES ME OFF. I think it literally makes my blood boil. I was actually in a bookstore not long ago, and a woman asked me if she should buy her teenaged niece Wuthering Heights or Pride and Prejudice, and she pointed at the books with the now-famous black, white, and red covers and the stupid "Edward & Bella's favorite book" graphic. I said "You should get her both books, and throw in Jane Eyre for good measure," and followed up my suggestion by begging her to buy an edition with a different cover. She did. I'm that good.

4. Endorsements
You know those blurbs that are sometimes on books that say "This is a world I'd love to live in!" or "A wonderful debut from a dazzling new talent!" and is credited to some famous author/reviewer? I hate those blurbs. Loathe them. I want to smash them with a hammer. I also hate them on movie posters. (Apparently I just hate endorsements.) At least my hate is steadfast.

In the Bookstore

5. Judgmental Booksellers
Yo, I'm buying books. I'm supporting publishing and your bookstore. DON'T YOU DARE pass judgment. (Unless you're the Judgmental Bookseller Ostrich. Then it's fine.)

6. Disorganization
I super like indie bookstores. And I actually like bookstores with a decent amount of clutter, you know the ones that reek of "crazy book/cat lady who only drinks tea"?--those are fun. But the ones where nothing is labeled and there are just stacks and stacks of random dusty books in random dusty piles and not even the proprietor of the establishment knows where anything is, make me CRAZY.

7. The Shelf-Blocker
You know that person who grabs seven books from a shelf and then STANDS there and flips through all of them, all the while blocking the shelf so that no one can get to it and acts like they can't see you/hear you coughing awkwardly? I DESPISE this person. I wish a pox upon their house when I see them.

At the Library 

8. Writing in books
 If I own a book, I will mark that bitch up. I'll highlight, underline, write in the margins, and flag pages. If I buy books as a gift, I write my own personal dedication on the title page. So, I am not AT ALL opposed to writing in books. But I AM opposed to writing in library books. Maybe this is hypocritical, but it's still true. The last thing I want when I check a book out from the library is someone's doodles or thoughts written in. (Unless, you know, they're good. Haha!) To be honest, there have been a couple times when I've decided to share my enthusiasm for a quote or passage or whatever with another Queens Library patron, but I write it on a sticky note and put it inside the book before I turn it in.

9. The Careless Alphabetizer
There are few things worse than asking a librarian/consulting the online catalog, being told by human/computer that the book is available to be checked out, happily bouncing over the shelf to get the coveted book, and then . . . Where THE F@$K is it?! And you look at the shelf above. The shelf below. You look three times. You walk farther down the aisle, knowing that it won't do any good. Then you go find a library worker, who is normally a volunteer, to ask if they know where it might be. And then they do what you just did. And, if they're nice, they go look in the "back room" for it. They normally don't find it. That leaves you, annoyed, and bookishly unsatisfied. Grr Argh.

10. Due Dates
Normally due dates don't bother me, but I'm currently suffering from the my-TBR-is-growing-and-my-library-books-are-due-but-I-haven't-read-them-yet fever. Due dates are no longer my friend.

So that's my listy-list! Feel free to share your bookish pet peeves in comments or on the Twitters!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why I Hate Historical Time-Travel Books

In yesterday's review of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, I proclaimed my disdain for books that involve historical time travel. This outburst has elicited a bit of a response via the Twitters, and several people have asked me "Why, why, why in God's name why do you not like books about time travel?" [Just to be clear, that isn't an actual tweet I received. But if it were, that person would receive 1,000 gold stars.] Since it takes more than 140 characters to explain, I'ma do it here.

First of all, I want to make it very clear that I don't hate books about time travel. I hate books about historical time travel. The difference is that in historical time travel, the main character, typically from present day travels back in time through some sort of portal or dream or magic to a time period that he or she is studying/way into/has some sort of importance for them. (Sometimes it's a historical character who comes to modern times, but that is more rare.)

This sounds like a great idea, right? I mean, who hasn't daydreamed about seeing Classical Rome in its heyday or looking at Impressionist paintings in a French salon or going to a Bob Dylan concert in the '60s? It would be an amazing experience, one that we would never forget. But the difference here is that we know what happens after that day--we know how its all going to go down. And that knowledge, though great, is kryptonite for the historical time traveler (HTT).

You see, typically, the HTT and all of his (or her) modern sensibilities ends up wreaking havoc on the lives of the people in whatever century it is that he (or she) travels to, makes a complete and total ass out of himself (or herself), and then at the end realizes that he (or she) misses his (or her) life back in his (or her) own time period, but he's (or she's) learned something that he'll (or she'll) never forget. Huzzah.

Now, if that was all that happened, it wouldn't be so bad. But normally there are a couple narrative devices thrown in for funsies that just really aren't okay. Most notably, the love story in which a person from modern times falls in love with person from olden times and then there's a crisis--does modern person stay in olden time, or does olden person come to modern time, or do they just call it a day? No matter which solution the author chooses, it's never quite a "happy" ending--one of the characters has to give up quite literally everything they have ever known to be with the other person. Another problem that can arise in this sort of story is the "I ended up marrying my great great grandfather, which means that I'm my own great great grandmother" as exhibited in the classic American film Kate & Leopold. It's just creepy.

Another weird narrative device is the one where the HTT ends up helping invent something/solving a problem/finding the answers to something that he/she has been pondering or working on. This is especially true in mystery novels where the HTT is trying to solve a mystery, hits a dead end, travels back in time, and just so happens to run smack into the VERY PERSON that they need to run into to solve the mystery. This is just ridiculous. And if it ends up that the HTT used their modern knowledge to help invent some sort of great thing, it's kind of rude to history--it's basically saying "Hey, you, historical person. You weren't smart enough to figure this out. No, siree. A time traveler obviously helped you do this."

This actually happens in Revolution [Prepare for SPOILERS]--Andi meets the oh-so influential composer she's writing her thesis on, and he listens to her iPod and is really into the very musicians whose music he informed through the music that he has yet to write when he meets Andi, which basically means that she introduced him to the musicians that were inspired by him, but now he is inspired by both them and by music he has yet to write. Which means!, Andi is the person who is responsible for the piece of music that she considers to be so fantastic because she's the one who introduced him to the musicians who were inspired by the music he has yet to write. It's nonsensical! Okay, it's a little romantic. But mostly, it's nonsensical.

I'm sure that there are those of you out there who are thinking "All of this sounds cool. You're just no fun." And maybe that's the case. But I think the main reason why I hate historical time travel books is because I always come away from them really, really unsatisfied. Maybe it's because I know I won't ever be able to do it. Maybe it's because I feel weirdly protective of history and don't want it tampered with. Whatever the case, I seriously dislike historical time travel.

If you need some convincing of my position, just watch the BBC mini-series Lost in Austen. You'll understand afterward.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Review: Revolution

Title: Revolution
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 472
Pub Date: October 12, 2010
Format: Library book

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break. 
PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape. 
Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.--Goodreads

While reading Revolution, I was awestruck. Donnelly spins an intensely tragic, raw tale of two girls in two different times, but whose stories are the same. Both are hurt, angry, and desperate in a way that I hope to never know. Both want to act, want to make a mark, and want to go out with a bang. I couldn't get enough of it. I was racing through this book, praying my lunch breaks at work wouldn't end so that I didn't have to stop reading. But, of course, they would end.

So last night, I canceled my plans so I could go home and finish this book. (I'm not joking about that.) I read and read and read, and then, about 100 pages from the end, something happened. All of a sudden, Donnelly was using my LEAST FAVORITE narrative technique--the historical time travel.

I know what you're thinking--'But, Bethany, did you not read the summary of the book? It plainly states that "the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present."' Yeah, I got that, but I didn't think it was going to be literal. I mean, Andi is crawling around in the mothereffing Parisian catacombs while reading a diary from the French Revolution. That's pretty terrifyingly present if you ask me.

Anyway, after spending so much time and energy and emotion with Revolution, I found myself getting angry. The book had been so informed and smart  and tonally solid and heart-wrenchingly beautiful that I didn't think it could go wrong. But when I got to the part where Andi enters the catacombs and starts talking to the "hot goth guy," I found that a conversation I'd had with a co-worker was coming true--she asked me how I was liking this book and I said, "I love it. I'm a little obsessed with it. But I'm afraid it's going to go to a weird time-travely place, and I really, really don't want it to go there." And as I sat there, at 1:00 AM, devouring this book, I realized that that's EXACTLY where it was going.

I was pissed.

I called my boyfriend and RAILED against it. I cussed the book in English, French, and maybe Pig Latin. He said, "Wow, you must really like this book to be so mad about this. Just calm down and finish it." [Mr. Bethany is sort of great.]

So that's what I did. And as I kept reading, I realized that while Donnelly did use the hated historical time travel technique, she also did something different with it, something that left it open to interpretation. So I'm going to interpret it as NOT historical time travel, and that makes me a much, much happier Bethie.

Overall, this book is fantastic. It's beautifully crafted, extremely well-researched, and has a V for Vendetta vibe to it. So, if that's your thing, or if you're a historical fiction nerd and Francophile like me, then you will adore this book. But I'm warning you, this book is not for the faint of heart (or stomach)--Donnelly spares no disgusting detail when describing the conditions of the French Revolution and there are a couple places that were a little hard for me, the girl with a History major and French minor, to get through. But hopefully that won't stop you from RUSHING to get this book. And if you do, clear your calendar. You won't be able to put it down.

Friday, March 18, 2011

TGIF: Cover Lust

This is my first week doing TGIF, a meme hosted by Ginger over at GReads!, and the question she posed is this:

What are your favorite book covers?

This is quite the question, non? No matter what people say about the publishing industry and the downward spiral of print books and blah blah blah, there is nothing quite as exciting as walking into a bookstore (or library or friend's place or passing a stranger reading in a park) and spotting a cover that immediately grabs your attentions and forces you to walk toward it. I'm pretty sure I've felt that way toward more books than I have men. Just sayin'.

But, there are lots of pretty covers. Too many for a single blog post! So, for me, a cover that is memorable is one that requires thought, and, in a weird way, one that requires that I have an emotional connection with it. And I'm not talking an emotional connection with the words that are housed inside the cover--I'm talking the cover itself. It needs to resonate with me on its very own. [All of a sudden I feel like I'm taking this too seriously. Oh well, no looking back now!]

Anyway, enough of my rambling, let's get started, shall we?

My first pick is a cover I'm sure is going to be a popular choice for this TGIF. It's the iconic, haunting cover for The Great Gatsby created by Frances Cugat. It took me a looooong time to understand how perfectly complex, and perfectly ironic, this cover is. It's genius. In fact, I like the cover more than I like the book!

Alright, it's no secret that I have a slight obsession with John Green. But my obsession with him, and my obsession with the cover for Looking for Alaska, designed by Linda McCarthy, are two entirely different beasts. When I first picked this book up, I vaguely knew of the fantastic Mr. Green, and had zero idea what this book was about. But that didn't matter. All I wanted to know was why the candle had gone out. Did someone blow it out? Did it go out on its own? How long had it been burning? I HAD TO KNOW. And now that I know, this is one of those covers that gives me chills. LOVE. IT.

The next (and last! If I didn't stop myself at three, I'd still be writing this blog post.) is a very recent cover, but one that I just can't stop thinking about--the cover for Saundra Mitchell's The Vespertine, designed by Regina Roff. I seriously find myself thinking about it while I'm at work. Or watching TV. Just all of a sudden, in my mind, there it is being all gorgeous and mysterious. Like the Looking for Alaska cover, this one has a story all its own--who is this girl?, where is she going?, at whom is she looking or?--or wait--from whom is she running? It's just amazing. 

Alright, them's be my picks! Let me know what your favorite covers are, and allll about your weekend plans, in comments! TGIF!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review: Wings

Title: Wings
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 294
Pub Date: April 6, 2010
Format: Library book

Laurel was mesmerized, staring at the pale things with wide eyes. They were terrifyingly beautiful—too beautiful for words.
Laurel turned to the mirror again, her eyes on the hovering petals that floated beside her head. They looked almost like wings.
In this extraordinary tale of magic and intrigue, romance and danger, everything you thought you knew about faeries will be changed forever.--Goodreads

Faeries have never been my thing. I honestly don't know that much about them or their lore, and, if I'm being completely honest, I probably wouldn't have ever picked this book up if it wasn't for the Goodreads book group I'm in. This was their pick as a group read for March, sooooo I read it.

So, okay. The basic plot here is that the main character, Laurel, has moved to a new town when her parents decide to open a book store. Then she discovers that she is a faery--this happens when Laurel all of a sudden sprouts petals, that look like wings, from her back. It's important to note that they are petals, because in this series, *SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT* faeries aren't genetically people--they are plants who look and act and feel like humans. Anyway, Laurel befriends a very sweet and scientifically-minded boy named David who thinks that she's the cat's pajamas, and she doesn't really know what she thinks about him, at least romantically speaking. All the while her parents are trying to sell their old house/land and are having difficulty getting a buyer. Then when they do get a buyer, Laurel has a weird, weird, super weird feeling about him, and turns out that--surprise!--the land she grew up on belongs to the faeries and she has to make sure it isn't sold to someone who is not a faery. Get it? Goooood.

I found the first half of the book achingly slow. It was all about Laurel adjusting to life in her new high school (she had been home schooled), and it was literally "Laurel sucks at biology," "Laurel has weird eating habits" [OMG major sidebar--Her eating habits are this: she eats raw fruits and veggies and drinks Sprite. No, the play on words is not lost on me here. Anyway, while reading all about her raw foods diet, I was scarfing down chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and enjoying every second of it. I did not once feel guilty.], "Laurel is really pretty," "Laurel is still getting used to this whole school thing," "David is paying Laurel attention and she's not sure why," for about half the book.

That would be a-okay with me if the main character was interesting. Laurel is definitely different, but there's just something so squeaky clean about her--there's no edge, and once you realize that she's a faery (which is never really a mystery) there's nothing all that mysterious about her.

Things finally started to heat up when Laurel meets another faery, Tamani (boy!), who is the first character in the book that isn't completely vanilla. Although I like David, and find him very sweet, he's boring. I assume that in the trilogoy, that's his role--he's the sweet, safe choice while Tamani will be the edgy, more seemingly-exciting choice.

Anyway, the book kept going, and I kept reading, and then finally there was some much-needed action thrown in about 3/4 of the way through.

But my favorite part was when Tamani briefly (so briefly!) explained the history of faeries to Laurel. This included Avalon (!!!), King Arthur (!!!!), Merlin(!!!!!), and King Oberon (!!). Like I said earlier, faeries aren't really my thing, so maybe this is typical in the faery-canon and is old hat for all you faery genre readers, but I TOTALLY DUG this part. I really wished that all of that had come earlier in the book. In fact, I wish the editors had cut out a lot of the adjusting to the new school, sucking at biology stuff, to insert more faery history stuff. But then again, I was a history major in undergrad, so maybe I'm biased. ;)

As the book started to wrap up, the last couple pages kind of force a love triangle--not that it wouldn't have come by itself--I'm sure that it would have. While reading there is definitely a discernible romantic tension between David-Laurel and a more sexual tension between Tamani-Laurel, but I figured the love triangle would come to fruition in the second book. Instead, it was thrown in at the end of the first book, and to me, felt very very awkward.

Overall, Wings was a quick, light read, and since finishing it, I've found myself wondering about where Pike took the story in the next book. I'm not necessarily in a rush to read the next one, but I'll definitely put it on my list of things to-read.

In the meantime--if you are a faery genre lover, I would love to have recommendations for some books! Leave 'em in comments s'il vous plait!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Magnolia League

Title: The Magnolia League
Author: Katie Crouch 
Publisher: Poppy (Hachette Book Group)
Pages: 368
Pub Date: May 3, 2011

After the death of her free-spirited mother, sixteen-year-old Alex Lee must leave her home in northern California to live with her wealthy grandmother in Savannah, Georgia. By birth, Alex is a rightful, if unwilling, member of the Magnolia League, Savannah's long-standing debutante society. She quickly discovers that the Magnolias have made a pact with a legendary hoodoo family, the Buzzards. The Magnolias enjoy youth, beauty and power. But at what price?

As in her popular adult novels, Crouch's poignant and humorous voice shines in this seductively atmospheric story about girls growing up in a magical Southern city.--Goodreads

Okay, I feel like there's something y'all need to know about me. I am Southern, I love that I am Southern, and I will read just about anything set in the South. So, obviously this book is on that list. 

My trip to Savannah, March 2010
However. This book is extra super-special because not only is it set in the South, but it's set in SAVANNAH, which is breathtaking, and definitely one of my favorite places. But a book needs more than just a fantastic setting, (At least most of the time. I'm sure there are exceptions.) and The Magnolia League seems to promise more than just Spanish moss and weeping willows--it's about both a debutante society and a hoodoo family! I mean, c'mon. Rich, entitled, Southern bitches + creepy magic = Yes, please!

I am counting down the days for this one! You best believe I have it marked on my Google calendar. 

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Top 10 Literary Characters I'd Want as Family Members

This week's Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the lovely ladies of The Broke and The Bookish) is allllll about family. But of the fictional sort. While making this list I definitely learned a thing or two about my preferences in the types of people I tend to feel familial toward. Let's see if you can pick up the pattern...

Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce my totally fictional, totally uncanny literary family.

1. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)--Father
He's the perfect dad. Moral, non-judgmental, fights for equality and justice, and is a marksman. Greatest dad ever. 

2. Rachel Morgan (Gallagher Girls series)--Mother
She's a spyyyyyyy. And she's gorgeous. And A SPY.

3. Fitzwilliam Darcy(Pride and Prejudice)--Husband

4. Flavia de Luce (Flavia de Luce series)--Daughter
I looooove precocious Miss Flavia. She's smart and British and fearless and funny and great. I really hope that one day I can use those words to describe my daughter. (Especially the British part!)*

5. Ron Weasley (Harry Potter series)--Son
I can't help it. I love Ron. He's just the best. And if I ever have a son, I want him to be an affable British ginger who can do magic.

6. Aunt Peg (13LBE & LLBE)--Aunt
How I would LOVE to have an aunt as awesome as Ginny's. Deceased or no, this woman is fantastic. Her adventurous attitude, generous spirit, love for life, and general wackiness is everything that an aunt should possess.

7. Sirius Black (Harry Potter series)--Uncle
I feel like this needs no explanation.

8. Dumbledore (Harry Potter series)--Grandfather
See sentiments above and multiply them times one thousand. ;)

9. Tessa Gray (The Infernal Devices series)--Grandmother
I LOVE Tessa. And how awesome would it be for her to be your grandma? All of those stories of steampunky London and Will Herondale. Yes please!

10. Zora Stewart (The Vespertine)--Cousin
I'm not really sure why, but I felt so drawn to Zora in this book. Maybe she reminds me of someone I know? I don't know. But what I do know is that I would love to have someone as fun and sweet and loyal as Zora in my life.

So what have we learned from this little experiment? That I am an serious Anglophile. God help us all (and, as always, save the Queen!) if I ever make it to the UK. Not that I would kill the Queen. It's a play on words...oh nevermind.

Let me know your thoughts on my fictional family, and tell me all about yours, in comments!

*Sorry Nick (boyfriend w/ American accent), but if we ever decide to have kids, we have to raise them in the UK.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Title: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 342
Pub Date: March 25, 2008

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14: 
Debate Club. 
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.” 
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school. 

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: 
A knockout figure. 
A sharp tongue. 
A chip on her shoulder. 
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston. 

Frankie Laundau-Banks. 
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer. 
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society. 
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. 
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them. 
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her. 
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done. 

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16: 
Possibly a criminal mastermind. 

This is the story of how she got that way.--Goodreads

This is the first book I've read  by Miss E. Lockhart's and OMG IS IT GOOD. I love everything about secret societies and find boarding schools fascinating--there's just something so romantic in the notions of both, don't you think?--so because of my already established love of the subject matter, I felt like I was preternaturally destined to like this book. However, the quality of the writing and the vividness of the characters exceeded my I'm-going-to-like-this-no-matter-what expectations, and made me crave this story. I seriously couldn't put it down. (I mean that. I didn't even take bathroom breaks. TMI?)

 Before cracking the spine, I thought The Disreputable History was going to be a story about a girl who inadvertently found out about a secret society, and then exploited her knowledge of it to blackmail the members. But what I got was an intelligent story about a girl who refuses to have her ideas and knowledge ignored. Which is so much better than what I thought I was getting in to.

The book is essentially about a girl, Frankie, who returns to her fancy-pants boarding school for her sophomore year, after a summer of physical change so drastic that Matthew Livingston, the perfect senior she crushed on throughout freshman year, doesn't even remember her. She finds herself being pursued by Matthew, and upon her invitation to a by-invitation-only event that paired her with Matthew, is welcomed into his friend group, including the charming, yet poisonous Alessandro "Alpha" Tesorieri.

After about a month, Frankie realizes that Matthew and his friends are part of a secret society called the Basset Hounds, a group that her father was also a part of. After learning that she knows something that the Bassets don't, she seizes the opportunity to slyly insert herself into the group.

In a lot of ways, this book really reminded me of A Separate Peace. But more than that, it reminded me of one of my favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls. In it, Logan (who is very much like Alpha, but has a little Matthew in him too) tricks Rory into joining a secret society at Yale called The Life and Death Brigade. Not only did the plot of The Disreputable History remind me of this episode, but many of the male characters in the book reminded me to Logan and his group of care free, gallivanting, word-obsessed friends.

But, in the character of the eponymous Frankie is where the genius of the book really lies. I love that Lockhart crafted a smart, crafty, assertive, strong female character, who doesn't let institutions or men or boyfriends or even other women dominate her or change her ideas. But more than that, I love that Lockhart inserted Frankie into a good ol' boys institution and in the middle of a friend group with the good ol' boys mentality. However, despite her gumption and wisdom, Frankie is still a teenager with a boyfriend whom she is obsessed with, so there are moments when she is submissive and does exactly what he wants her to do, but overall, she stands her ground. And when she decides she's had enough of being lied to, she takes matters into her own hands, and leaves an impression on everyone in her life that is absolutely not delible.

If you haven't read this book, I highly, highly suggest it. It's the best book I've read thus far this year! 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review: Angelfire

Title: Angelfire
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 464
Pub Date: February 15, 2011
Format: Galley via NetGalley

In the first book of Courtney Allison Moulton's Angelfire trilogy, we're introduced to Ellie, a seemingly normal high school girl who is struggling with her classes, her relationship with her father (whom I've decided is pure evil), and her intensely vivid nightmares. But other than that, her life is pretty normal--she has friends, she goes to parties, and she loves to shop. Then she meets Will, the mysterious and gorgeous new guy in town. As she keeps running into him, she can't shake the feeling that she knows him. 

Then, on the night of her seventeenth birthday, all of Ellie's nightmares come to life when she goes for a midnight stroll. Will activates her powers and her sight of The Grim plane, and she is thrust into a world of killing demonic reapers, creatures that kill humans and send their souls to Hell. 

The basic premise is very Buffy--girl is chosen, girl's powers are activated, girl struggles to hone her powers,  girl is awesome. But where Ellie differs from Buffy is that she will always exist--not that she can't be killed, but that her soul is reincarnated every time she is killed, and Will always finds her  to awaken her powers on her seventeenth birthday. But Will expects Ellie to just remember how to fight and kill the reapers and sundry other demons, as well as the history of her past lives. Unfortunately for Ellie, and  for Will, her memory is not intact, and the lack of it turns out to be problematic. 

Which brings us to darling, sweet, amazing Will, who is (get ready for Buffy references!) Giles and Angel all rolled into one yummy character--he is Ellie's intensely loyal guardian who also happens to be in love with her, despite the fact that he is forbidden to be in love with her, which makes for some deliciously angsty moments between the two of them. But Will isn't an entirely glum character--though he can be super brooding, he can also be pretty funny and is seriously sexy. 

When Will and Ellie find out that Bastian, this trilogy's big bad, is trying to find the Enshi, a super ancient evil something-or-other than can destroy souls, the two of them take it upon themselves to find it and destroy it before Bastian gets ahold of it. Which creates A LOT of demon drama. 

The book is primarily centered around the balance of good and evil. The supernatural characters in this series are sprung from either Heavenly angels or Fallen angels, and the divide  between Heaven and Hell is discussed often. However, the book doesn't take itself too seriously--there are several teenage parties, including one of the most kick-ass sounding Halloween parties ever, and the dialogue is witty and believably teenaged. It's a fun read, and if you like Buffy and The Mortal Instruments, then this is a book you'll definitely enjoy. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Desperately Need More Men (from Books) in My Life

While staring at the mountain of books stacked on my dresser, I realized that all of them had something in common.

They all feature female main characters.

This would be a bigger issue if I was reading the same kinds of books, but I'm really not. Sure, most of them are YA, but I have everything from paranormal to historical fiction to mystery to romance. I kid you not when I say that ALL OF THEM are lady-centric.

Now, part of this makes sense. I am of the lady persuasion (in case you were wondering), so it can be argued that I naturally migrate toward books about "people" I have something in common with. Apparently this thing is being female.

Another notable commonality is that the majority of these books are written by women. And women writing female characters makes perfect sense--you write what you know. I'm not saying that women are incapable of writing great male characters because I am ABSOLUTELY NOT saying that. Hello, female writers have blessed us with Jace, Cassel, the Salvatore brothers, MR. DARCY, and a slew of swoon-worthy others. I'm just saying that it makes sense for women to create female main characters and then, from there, surround them with amazing male characters.

But I digress.

What this all boils down to is my desire to read more books about male main characters. And if it's a book written by a man, awesome. If not, that's awesome too. So, I implore you, dear reader, to suggest books about dudes for me to read. Because I desperately need more men in my life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Bright's Passage

Publisher: The Dial Press
Pages: 208 pages
Release Date: June 28, 2011

Henry Bright is newly returned to West Virginia from the battlefields of the First World War. Grief struck by the death of his young wife, and unsure of how to care for the infant son she left behind, Bright is soon confronted by the destruction of the only home he's ever known. His only hope for safety is the angel that has followed him home from the trenches of France and now promises to protect him and his son.
Together, Bright and his newborn, along with a cantankerous goat and the angel guiding them, make their way through a landscape ravaged by forest fire towards an uncertain salvation, haunted by the abiding nightmare of his experiences in the war, and shadowed by his dead wife's father, The Colonel, and his two brutal sons. -- Goodreads

If I had only read the jacket copy/summary of this, and had no idea who Josh Ritter is, I doubt I'd pick up this novella. Well, that's not necessarily true--anything that has a "cantakerous goat" in the description is something I would pick up on principle. However, it's not just the cantankerous goat that has me itching to get my hands on this sucker. The draw for me, is the author.

For those of you who aren't acquainted with Josh Ritter, let me quickly introduce you--he's my favorite singer/songwriter, other than Bob Dylan. His songbook is full of beautifully-written, emotional, imagery-laden stories bursting with American history, folklore, and, at times, pop culture. But not of the Britney Spears sort. Praise God. 

Based on my knowledge of his songwriting skills, it just makes sense that the man should write a book, and I  am SERIOUSLY excited about reading it. Because I'm obsessed with his music (...and his smile...), I feel that I can say with a good amount of certainty that I will be obsessed with the book as well. And if you're interested in Bright's Passage, and you should be, you can download the first chapter (!!!!!) here.

If for some reason you are a crazy person and you aren't interested in this most-probably-amazing novella, at least check out the videos below. You won't regret it. 

Before you go, let me know what book you're oh-so impatiently waiting on in comments, so that I can add them to my Goodreads shelf. Yay books! 

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blog event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top 10 Dynamic Duos

This week's Top 10 Tuesday (hosted by the ladies at The Broke and The Bookish) is all about dynamic duos--those great literary couples, friends, enemies, siblings, and rivals that you just can't get out of your head. Check out my Top 10, in no particular order, and let me know who your favorite literary dynamic duo is, in comments!

1. Elizabeth Bennett & Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride & Prejudice)
 Greatest couple ever? Yes. Definitely yes.

2. Alex & Jonathan (Everything is Illuminated)
This one might be a little weird, but I loved the unusual, hilarious, educational, and deeply understanding friendship that grew between Alex and Jonathan in this book.

3. Sarah & Becky (A Little Princess)
 This story is one of my all-time faves, and I love love love the beautiful friendship between Sarah and Becky.

4. Katniss & Peeta (The Hunger Games trilogy)
Every girl needs someone as constant and pure and loyal as Peeta in their lives. Although I wanted to slap Katniss every now and then, I found the relationship between these two to be vibrant in how real it seemed.

5. Felicity Merriman & Elizabeth Cole (Felicity series from American Girl)
I am obsessed with colonial America, and grew up absolutely in love with the American Girl series in general, but especially with the stories of Felicity Merriman. (Partly because of the time period, and partly because she was also a red head with freckles.) The friendship between passionate, impulsive, independence for America leaning Felicity and demure, sweet, loyalist Elizabeth was amazing. They were two young girl growing up in such a tumultuous (but exciting!) time, and found a way to remain best friends despite their families' political differences. LOVE IT.

6. Tiny & Will Grayson (Will Grayson Will Grayson)
I thought this friendship was hysterical and sweet and refreshing and great.

7. Sherlock Holmes & Watson (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)
If there is a smarter, more hilarious, and quippier friendship than the one between these two, I don't know if I could handle it.

8. Q & Radar (Paper Towns)
John Green is the best at creating hilarious friendships. I loved the banter between Q & Radar in this book and desperately wished that I knew someone whose parents collect something hysterically racist.

9. Harry Potter & Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter series)
This was actually the very first "dynamic duo" that popped into my mind. And, yes, there are great relationships/couples/friendships in this series, but I would argue that the relationship that is most dynamic is the one between Harry & Voldy. Argue with me if you wish. ;)

10. Clary & Simon (The Mortal Instruments series)
Yes, I do love Clary & Jace together, but I have a huge soft spot for Simon. I love the best friendship between him and Clary. And, really, how lucky is she that gets to have BOTH Jace & Simon in her life?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review: You Killed Wesley Payne

Title: You Killed Wesley Payne
Author: Sean Beaudoin
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Relase Date: February 1, 2011
Pages: 368
Genre: YA, Mystery

When hard-boiled seventeen year-old Dalton Rev transfers to the mean hallways of Salt River High to take on the toughest case of his life. The question isn't whether Dalton's going to get paid. He always gets paid. Or whether he's gonna get the girl. He always (sometimes) gets the girl. The real question is whether Dalton Rev can outwit crooked cops and killer cliques in time to solve the mystery of "The Body" before it solves him.--Goodreads 

I sooo, sooo dig this book. I love old school, pulp, detective novels and movies, and this book is definitely a modern take on that style and genre. The main character, Dalton, fancies himself a detective, and takes a case where he has to solve the mystery of who killed Wesley Payne, a student at Salt River High, which is basically the scariest sounding high school I've ever heard of--everyone is part of a clique that not only has a specific angle, but also a racket, and is comprised of smooth-talkin', cold, business-only kind of teenagers. The girls fall into two categories: kick ass femme fatales and doe-eyed blondes with a secret, and the guys are all just crooked--not one of them is genuine and nice. (Okay, well maybe two of them are.) 

The main character, Dalton, is a weird mix between Jason Schwartzman' s affably puckish character on Bored to Death and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's determined, so-serious-its-scary character (who gets beat up a lot) in Brick. [Sidenote: If you haven't seen Brick, you should watch it.] Dalton has good detective instincts, but he relies on detective novels (that won't necessarily help him in real life) to guide him in his investigation. However, the kid has cajones and the ability to make himself believe that he's confident and tough. As he learns, those two traits will get him pretty far. 

The most striking thing about the book is the language. It evokes the prose in old school pulp fiction novels, full of sass, gumption, and cheekily subtle turns of phrase. And for those of you who aren't as familiar with the vocab, never fear! There's a glossary in the back. 

But language isn't the only throwback in this novel. The book follows the typical pulp fiction story arc, full of melancholia, disappointments, twists, turns, surprises, and double-crossings. It's a fun read that ends very differently than you think it will, and it keeps you guessing and surprised the entire time. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Entwined

Title: Entwined
Author: Heather Dixon
Pages: 480
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.
The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.
But there is a cost.
The Keeper likes to keep things.
Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.--Goodreads

There's something about a book cover with a gorgeous ball gown, a lush forest, and a Gothic castle that just makes me giddy. So despite the fact that many of the earliest reviews of this have so far been lukewarm, I am still gonna give it a shot and, if nothing else, stare at the cover and pretend the book is great!

 I'm also really intrigued by this whole having eleven sisters thing. I have one sister and though we get along, I can't imagine having eleven siblings! Especially sisters! Can you imagine the chaos? And the clothes? And the bitchy fights?! However, if they're stepping through an enchanted passage to dance in a silver forest, I'm thinking that they probably get along juuuust fine.

What books are you (not so) patiently waiting on? Let me know in comments!

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.