Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Bunheads

Title: Bunheads
Author: Sophie Flack
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 304
Release Date: October 10, 2011

As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet. 

But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah's universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other "bunheads" in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?—Goodreads


Okay, for those of you who weren't aspiring ballerinas when you were younger and/or aren't obsessed with ballet, let me explain. 

Sophie Flack used to dance with New York City Ballet. Back in 2009, the company started laying off dancers. She was let go, (sad.) and subsequently interviewed by the New York Times and Time Out New York (this article has really cool video with it!) about life after dance. And now she has written a BOOK.

Sophie Flack warming up at the barre. Photo (c) New York Times.
 *puts on old pointe shoes and a tutu. flounces about.* (You think I'm kidding. I am NOT.) 

Let's be honest here. If someone is going to write a YA novel about life as an aspiring professional ballerina, it should be someone who lived that life, n'est-ce pas? 

I am PUMPED to read this one. *pirouettes excitedly*

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tune In Tuesday: Incubus

Let it be known that I really, really, really like Incubus.

In fact, it is fair to say that they are my favorite band.

And, you know what? They have a new album coming out next month. *squeals a little*

(Which means they are going on TOUR this summer!!!! *squeals a lot*)

The first single from the new album is out, and I heard it on the radio for the first time yesterday, and it was EXCITING.

I might have freaked out a little while ordering a sandwich at Subway, and asked the dude making my sandwich if he could turn up the volume on the radio. He politely refused.

Anyway, HERE is the VIDEO for their NEW SONG!!!!!! Bask in the beautifulness that is Brandon Boyd! (And, you know, in how good the song is.)

Mmmm. Brandon Boyd.  (And, you know, the song.) Wanna see more pics of him (and the other Incubus guys)? YES?! I thought you'd say that! *grins*



More Brandon you say?!

Okay, fine. If you insist.

I sort of like them a whole dang lot. And I really like their new song. And I am EXCITED about seeing them on tour this summer! 

Are there any summer concerts you're looking forward to? I want to know what they are! 

All photos taken and owned by Bethany Larson. 

Tune In Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the wonderful Ginger at GReads!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Angel Burn

Title: Angel Burn
Author: L.A. Weatherly
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 450
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Format: Review copy from publisher (Thank you!)

Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself does. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil.—Goodreads

Angel Burn is a lot of things: a paranormal romance, a road trip novel, a coming-of-age story, and, I'd argue, a dystopian satire. It's full of evil angels, power plays, personal agendas, and some very kick ass action scenes. While that sounds like a whole lot of things that could potentially NOT come together, the story is very well-plotted and very cohesive. 

The book centers around Willow Fields, a girl I immediately like solely because of my devotion to all things  related to Buffy, but learn to super like when she starts fixing cars and reading people's minds. After she gives a not-so-happy-ending type psychic reading to a very popular girl in school who has been "blessed" by seeing an angel, Willow finds her life turned upside down. 

You see, in this sort of dystopian world, angels feed off of the auras of humans, depleting them of their health, but the humans believe that they've had a divine experience and find themselves irrevocably devoted to the Church of the Angels, a nation-wide mega-church with maybe the most devout members ever. 

Then there are the Angel Killers, people who know that the angels are actually bad news, and who have devoted their lives to finding and killing the angels before the human race is laid to waste. The other main character of Angel Burn, Alex, is one such person, groomed to kill angels from the sweet age of five. 

So how do the two main characters meet? As it turns out, Alex has been hired to kill Willow. But once he meets her, he realizes there is something very different about her, and can't bring himself to do it. Instead, the two find themselves on the run across the country, being pursued by not only evil angels, but the Church members who have been charged with a fatwa-like duty to kill both Alex and Willow if spotted. 

While I ultimately really enjoyed this book, the first hundred pages or so were really hard for me to get through. I found the story unfolding very slowly and didn't think that the book needed the moody scene-setting and world building that it has. However, in the long run, I was very glad that I had the background information, though I think the page count for it could have been cut in half. 

My other gripe about the book is that it's told from multiple perspectives, and in different points of view. When you're reading from Willow's perspective, everything is first person, but when it shifts to Alex (or another character, Jonah's) perspective, it's suddenly third person. This will happen in the middle of chapters, which is probably the reason for the different points of view, but I found it very distracting and halting. 

However, there are a lot of things to really like about Angel Burn, and I found myself endeared to it not just because of the Willow's name, but because it mentions TWO places I've lived in—Syracuse, NY and Arkansas! I was all kinds of excited about this, because, I mean, it's a little rare to have two places you've lived listed in the same dang book. Then, as it turns out, the author, L.A. Weatherly, is an Arkansas native! *does happy dance* 

So, if you're looking for a book that you can really invest in, and that has a very rich, detailed, inter-woven plot, with a bit of paranormal thrown in, Angel Burn is absolutely the book for you. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

TGIF: Summer Reading

I got two and a half hours of sleep last night. It's been raining, like, all week. I sort of feel like a groggy version of Eeyore.

But at least it's Friday. Which means Miss Ginger over at GReads! has a question for me to answer. And it's sunny and happy. So that's nice.

Summer Love: Where's your ideal place to take a summer vacation & get lost in a book?

Okay! Ideal place to take a summer vacation would have to be . . .  my bed. All I can think about right now is my bed. But no. In all seriousness, I was never really a summer vacation kind of girl. Nor am I a beach kind of girl. So I guess that my ideal vacation spot is somewhere in the woods, perhaps next to a nice lake, in a cabin with a porch. I would like to read on that porch with a glass of sweet tea (or wine) to accompany my books and my view of the lake.

HOWEVER. Since I will not be taking a summer vacation this year (well, I'll be taking small weekend trips to, like, theme parks and potentially the Newport Folk Festival!!!!!) I can tell you my favorite place to read in NYC.

The glorious, amazing, unparalleled Central Park.

I'm sort of obsessed with reading here in the summer. And being here in the summer. Also, in the autumn.

So yeah! Those are my spots! I hope that everyone is having a way-less-than-Eeyorey Friday than I am, and that you have an amazing weekend! Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Juliet Immortal

Title: Juliet Immortal
Author: Stacey Jay
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Release Date: August 9, 2011

These violent delights have violent ends 
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, 
Which as they kiss consume." 
—Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare 

The most tragic love story in history . . . 
Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn't anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.—Goodreads

When I first saw the title of this, I rolled my eyes and thought "People REALLY need to get over Romeo and Juliet." 

But the cover is just so pretty and I thought, "Hmm. I really like the color of that dress." And then my eyes wondered up to the tag line below the title. 

Do you see it?

It's intriguing right?

So I read the jacket copy and was like "oooOOOOOOMG! THIS IS AWESOME. STACEY JAY (who is a fellow Arkansas native. Just sayin'.), YOU ARE TWISTED AND I LOVE IT. "

I am DELIGHTED this book pits Romeo and Juliet against each other. I want it to be angsty and angry and intense and violent. Yes. I really do. (If you are confused as to why I want the protagonists of one of the "most romantic" stories ever told to fight each other, click here.) 

Anyway. Juliet Immortal is going to be awesome and I am oh-so glad that my eyes liked the color of the dress on the cover and stopped to linger on it, making it possible for me to discover that this book will exist in the very near future. *grins*

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tune In Tuesday: The Civil Wars

So. There's this band that I was recently introduced to. *twirls hair around fingers*

They're called The Civil Wars.

I kind of have a major crush on them.



It's a little out of control.

I am not kidding about that. I'm seriously crushing on this band, and I have NO FREAKING IDEA how I hadn't heard of them before now, especially since their debut album came out in FEBRUARY.

I feel so behind. *hangs head in shame*

But I am SO SO SO glad that I've finally been introduced to them.

If you haven't heard of them before today, hopefully you're glad to be introduce to them as well. :)

So damn good, right?! RIGHT.

And they are playing the Newport Folk Festival in late July. WHO WANTS TO GO WITH ME?!

Tune in Tuesday is hosted by the wonderful Ginger at GReads! Check her out. She's great. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review: Die for Me

Title: Die for Me
Author: Amy Plum
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 341
Release Date: May 10, 2011
Format: eGalley via NetGalley (Thank you!!)

In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier's parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life—and memories—behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate's guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he's a revenant—an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.—Goodreads

Everything about this book is romantic: the setting (Paris), the boy (Vincent), and even the concept of revenants (people who died saving someone else and now spend their undead lives continually saving other people) is deeply, desperately romantic.

Unfortunately, I'm not a very romantic kind of girl. 

While author Amy Plum does a fantastic job of setting scenes and tone—so much so that I was sitting there thinking OMG SEND ME TO PARIS NOW NOW NOW (There's a scene involving a tarte tatin that had me looking up the nearest French patisserie/boulangerie to me. Thank God I live in NYC.)—I wasn't really in love with her characters. The main character, Kate, is a bit of an emotional mess. It makes sense—girl lost both of her parents and then was whisked away to Paris to live with her grandparents—but she honestly spends the majority of the book crying, and not just because she is grieving her parents. I really tried to be sympathetic. I even tried being empathetic. Neither worked. I mostly just wanted to shake her and tell her to stop crying. (Lesson of the day: I am a heartless bitch.)

The love interest in the story, Vincent, isn't much better. Yes, he's romantic, and yes, he's all kinds of paranormal-sexy, and really sweet to Kate, but the instalove is super intense. Like. Twilight intense. And he does that Edward Cullen thing where instead of letting Kate into his life and explaining the dark, complicated parts to her, Vincent tries to keep her on the outside because that is "going to protect her." That got on my nerves too.

But! Not everything about this book annoyed me! There are three things I really enjoyed, other than the Parisian setting:

1. I really loved Kate's relationship with her sister, Georgia. Although Georgia isn't necessarily in the book all that much, her scenes brought a much needed life and energy and sisterly understanding/handling of Kate to the story.

2. Ambrose. He's another minor character, but...he's Southern! So I like him on principle.

3. There is a whole bunch of fencing in this book. FENCING!!!

Overall, I wish this book had had less crying, more fencing, and had allowed a little more time for the relationship between Kate and Vincent to grow. Plum obviously has the writing chops and ability to create intriguing, richly detailed, beautiful stories and I loved reading her descriptions of Paris (and the desserts.). I just wish I had loved the characters as much as I loved the setting.

Friday, June 17, 2011

TGIF: And I Quote

For this sort of disgusting, humid, rainy Friday in New York, Ginger over at GReads! has asked:

What are some of your favorite book quotes?

Oh, boy. Do I like book quotes. I'm the crazy girl who is constantly trying to find a scrap of paper or typing furiously on her iPhone whilst reading because I love writing down and keeping quotes that I find from books. But that makes this particular question a little hard because I have SO MANY.

So I will limit myself and only choose four. :)

"They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn... —Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I'm a little obsessed with the Beat generation writersin fact I wrote my undergraduate thesis on them—and this particular quote gives me chill-bumps every single time I read it. Obsessed. But not as much as these people.

"Run mad as often as you choose but do not faint."Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

So, apparently I really like the word "mad." Who knew?! But of Austen's works, I really, really love Mansfield Park. I love Fanny Price and her wit, and I love the political ramifications of the novel, and I just love it. And I love this quote.

"If I don't shut down my brain soon, my imagination will take off so far about what could be with this guy, that nothing will ever just be."—Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

Holy cow THIS QUOTE. I'm such a planner, but I also have the tendency to get ahead of myself, especially when it comes to relationships. When I read this quote y'all, it was like a freaking siren went off in my room. I felt like it was directed at me, and just so resonated with me. And now, every time I meet a guy, I think of this quote so that I don't let my imagination get ahead of reality.

"One must always be careful of books," said Tessa, "and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us."—Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel

Hooray bookish quotes! :)

Alright, so them's my quotes. Since I am a quote collector of sorts, feel free to share your faves with me in comments!

I hope y'all have all had a fantastic week and are looking forward to a bright, shiny weekend full of FUN! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: Girl Wonder

Title: Girl Wonder
Author: Alexa Martin
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 304
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Format: Electronic Galley via NetGalley (Thank you!)

As if transferring senior year weren't hard enough, Charlotte Locke has been bumped to lower level classes at her new school. With no friends, a terrible math SAT score, and looming college application deadlines, the future is starting to seem like an oncoming train for which she has no ticket.
Then Amanda enters her orbit like a hot-pink meteor, offering Charlotte a ticket to something else: popularity. Amanda is fearless, beautiful, brilliant, and rich. As her new side kick, Charlotte is brought into the elite clique of the debate team—and closer to Neal, Amanda's equally brilliant friend and the most perfect boy Charlotte has ever seen.
But just when senior year is looking up, Charlotte’s life starts to crumble. The more things heat up between Charlotte and Neal, the more Neal wants to hide their relationship. Is he ashamed? Meanwhile, Amanda is starting to act strangely competitive, and she's keeping a secret Charlotte doesn't want to know.
Talented newcomer Alexa Martin delivers a poignant story of first love, jealousy and friendship, where the ups and downs of senior year have never been so complicated. What else can Charlotte do but throw her hands up and ride?--Goodreads

From the minute I started Girl Wonder, I felt a bond with the main character, Charlotte. I was her in high school—the smart, hard-working girl who knows she's smarter than her standardized test scores say she is; the people pleaser whose biggest fear is disappointing others; the girl who desperately wants some social mobility in the hierarchy of public high school popularity; the girl who will do anything to get the attention of THAT guy.

Yeah. I was her. In fact, the parallels between me and Charlotte are a little uncanny. I felt as if I was reading my own high school story, which made it actually kind of hard to get through—I wanted to go into the book, sit Charlotte down, and tell her all the things she should do to "fix" her problems. But since she's not really real, all I could do was read and sort of re-live all my crazy high school days.

*le sigh*

My favorite thing about this book was actually Charlotte's relationship with her family. In fact, it's familial issues that are at the center of her problems—Charlotte is constantly striving to please her father, a newly published author garnering massive critical acclaim for his smutty novel; trying to be more like her mother, a literature professor; and comparing herself to her little brother who is a boy genius. In an effort to better herself, Charlotte feels that she needs to befriend people who will make her better: enter Amanda, the confident, daring, manipulative frenemy and Neal, the perfect, gorgeous, but entirely selfish guy. Charlotte is immediately taken with both of them and works to get close to them; as the self-proclaimed older version of Charlotte, I immediately hated them both with a burning, fiery passion and labeled them both as bad news.

But Charlotte did not label them as bad news. [The high school version of me wouldn't have either.] She wants so badly to be a part of their group that she puts herself in terrible situations, lets people take advantage of her, and continues to feel horrible about herself. In fact, she's so obsessed with impressing Amanda and Neal, that she is blind to the incredible guy who is so into her he can hardly breathe. I wanted to shake her. But I could not.

Overall, Girl Wonder is a classic case of girl-gets-in-over-her-head. Charlotte's life has to completely unravel for her to figure out how to put the pieces back together in an order that is right for her. To be entirely honest, if I hadn't felt so close to the character, I probably wouldn't have been as invested in this book—it's a fairly typical coming-of-age story. However, it's an accurate portrayal of not only teenagers getting in over their heads, but of the many factors weighing on them—peer pressure to have sex and experiment with drugs, familial pressure to get into the "right" college, and learning how to handle situations that there is no way to control. Debut author Alexa Martin does a great job of showcasing just how hard it is to grow up. If only it was that easy to actually grow up.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Withering Tights

Title: Withering Tights
Author: Louise Rennison
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 288
Release Date: July 1, 2011

Wow. This is it. This is me growing up. On my own, going to Performing Arts College. This is good-bye, Tallulah, you long, gangly thing, and hellooooo, Lullah, star of stage.
Tallulah Casey is ready to find her inner artist. And some new mates. And maybe a boy or two or three.
The ticket to achieving these lofty goals? Enrolling in a summer performing arts program, of course. She's bound for the wilds of Yorkshire Dales—eerily similar to the windswept moors of Wuthering Heights. Tallulah expects new friends, less parental interference, and lots of drama. Acting? Tights? Moors? Check, check, check.
What she doesn't expect is feeling like a tiny bat's barging around in her mouth when she has her first snog.--Goodreads

Oh my giddy God, it's a new Louise Rennison book.

I love her. It's no secret that her Georgia Nicholson series is one of my favorites of all time.

I still miss it terribly.

But now Miss Rennison is writing NEW THINGS. *squeals*

And it comes out soony, soony, soon, soon. And it sounds GREAT. And I am EXCITED.
[That said, if you are a blogger/publishing friend who has a copy that you either a) want to loan me, or b) want to send me to review, I would appreciate it mucho, and would probably name a stuffed animal after you.]

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: Hourglass

Title: Hourglass
Author: Myra McEntire
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pub Date: June 14, 2011
Pages: 397
Format: Fire & Ice ARC Tour (Thank you SO MUCH!!)

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?--Goodreads

With Hourglass, debut author extraordinaire Myra McEntire balances science fiction, romance, and a coming-of-age story in one seamless, effortless package. McEntire's prose are conversational, funny, and completely packed with Southern colloquialisms—something that makes my little Southern expat heart go pitter-patter—and she crafts and develops characters so fully that they seem to transcend the page.

The fabulously named main character, Emerson, is quite possibly one of my favorite female protagonists, oh, ya know, ever. (Really, she's right on up there with Elizabeth Bennett, Anne Shirley, and Georgia Nicholson.) She's sure of herself despite not knowing what she's capable of, she's full of a soft Southern toughness that proves she can take care of herself, but also draws people to her, and she is sarcastic and witty in a way that is endearing and not alienating. The mystery surrounding her ability to see things from the past just makes her all that more intriguing, even if it does mess with her head and make her go a tidbit bonkers from time to time.

But Hourglass isn't just about Emerson—in addition to some very Doctor Who-esque sci-fi stuff, there's also a boy. Michael Weaver, the Hourglass consultant that Em's loving and attentive brother, Thomas, hires to help his sister work out her visions of things from the past, is a little, well, disarming. He's young, handsome, mysterious, and has a more-than-professional interest in our (awesome) main character. AND he's a man who knows how to apologize. Ladies, take a lesson from this book—a man should always bring flowers, preferably pink peonies, when apologizing.

But the great thing about Emerson is that, though she admits to her only friend, Lily, that she and Michael have an instant chemistry and that he is very attractive, Em doesn't even think about her romantic feelings for him until the book is almost over. In fact, Em kind of avoids him for a good bit of the book because she's a little freaked out by him. Because of the intensely traumatic things she has been through—and often sees—Em finds it hard to trust people, and refuses to let herself succumb to Michael's charms despite the fact that she wants to. She's a smart girl, that Emerson.

Now that's not to say that there aren't any steamy, sexual tension laden passages—there definitely are. Michael will have you all swoony and on his side, and then BAM. McEntire introduces you to Kaleb, another member of the intriguing Hourglass organization.

Oh Kaleb.

Where Michael is level-headed, careful, and self-less, Kaleb is. Mmm. He's the bad boy. Me likey the bad boys. He's everything a girl shouldn't want in a guy—the exact combination of troubled, reckless, charming, and physically intimidating that just makes a girl lose her head, let down her guard, and get her heart trampled on. But Emerson seems to be just the girl Kaleb needs to get him out of his downward spiral, which makes for some delicious sexual tension between the pair.

When we realize exactly what it is Emerson can do—and how she fits in with the Hourglass organization—we also realize that Michael has a secret agenda that involves our lovely Miss Emerson. A secret agenda that involves some very large, very severe risks, and that requires a lot of sacrifice on one person's part.

By the end of Hourglass, not only will you be BLOWN AWAY by the intricately plotted story, but you'll be so in love with the characters that you'll miss them. McEntire leaves Emerson in a place where she has both learned more about herself and is more confused about herself than ever. You'll be satisfied with the story, but yearning for the next book in the series . . . which doesn't come out until next year.

It's going to be a loooong year.

Y'all. I've really refrained from writing this entire review in all caps and exclamation points and random characters to convey my excitement. So now I'm going to allow myself to freak out a little.


*dances around the room, with book*

I want to kiss it. In fact, I have kissed my finished copy of it. Several times. Perhaps I should marry it.

So now I will re-read Hourglass until I have it memorized, and will pimp this book until you have ALL read it. Because it is THAT good.


In fact. I love it so much that I'm going to guy buy a second copy and do a giveaway!

If you want to WIN A COPY of Hourglass (and you do), fill out the form below!

[Giveaway is now closed. But if you want a copy (and you do), you can purchase Hourglass here.]

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Trailer: Hourglass!!

So. I'm kind of obsessed with Hourglass. 

I've read the dang book, and this trailer STILL gives me chills!

Love it.

Review: The Twisted Thread

Title: The Twisted Thread
Author: Charlotte Bacon
Publisher: Voice (Hyperion)
Pages: 352
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Format: Galley via NetGalley (Thank you!)

When beautiful but aloof Claire Harkness is found dead in her dorm room one spring morning, prestigious Armitage Academy is shaken to its core. Everyone connected to school, and to Claire, finds their lives upended, from the local police detective who has a personal history with the academy, to the various faculty and staff whose lives are immersed in the daily rituals associated with it.
Everyone wants to know how Claire died, at whose hands, and more importantly, where the baby that she recently gave birth to is a baby that almost no one, except her small innermost circle, knew she was carrying.
At the center of the investigation is Madeline Christopher, an intern in the English department who is forced to examine the nature of the relationship between the school s students and the adults meant to guide them. As the case unravels, the dark intricacies of adolescent privilege at a powerful institution are exposed, and both teachers and students emerge as suspects as the novel rushes to its thrilling conclusion.
With The Twisted Thread, Charlotte Bacon has crafted a gripping and suspenseful story in the tradition of Donna Tartt s The Secret History, one that pulls back the curtain on the lives of the young and privileged.--Goodreads

The Twisted Thread is a murder mystery of the calm variety. Nothing necessarily sneaks up on you, you aren't wracking your brain trying to figure out who-done-it, nor are you ever sitting with a pit in your stomach because of the incredible suspense. Instead, the story unfolds quietly, and when the facts are all finally presented at the end, you find yourself relieved to know what happened and ready to move on.

Although I liked how the story played out, I found it very slow-paced. I think it's just an issue with my attention span, because Bacon's prose are lovely and the characters she crafts are very well-developed, but there were many times that I just couldn't focus on the book. My mind was everywhere BUT the story and I'd find I was just staring at a page for ten minutes, thinking about other things instead of reading.

I think part of my inability to focus was the fact that the story is told from multiple characters' perspectives. Typically I really enjoy multi-perspective books, but in this one, I was only really interested in two of the the perspectives, and when those characters weren't narrating, I became disinterested.

There were also times where I thought that certain characters and details were going to come back into play in a major way; I'd read it and think "Ah ha! I bet that's super important!!" and then I'd never hear from that character again, or that seemingly important detail never made a comeback. I was sort of annoyed that I never felt the satisfaction of having my hunch be validated. Maybe that is my issue with this book—your hunches and suspicions are never really justified or discounted because it's NOT that kind of mystery. It's simply a story of what happens to the people in a small, class divided town when a wealthy girl is murdered and her secret baby disappears.

Overall, The Twisted Thread showcases Bacon's rich, detail-filled writing and highlights her ability to create a very believable world of both the haves and the have-nots. It's definitely not a book for those who want an action-packed, shoot 'em up mystery with a swanky detective, but if you're in the market for a well-plotted book that slowly unfolds, The Twisted Thread will be right up your alley.

Friday, June 10, 2011

TGIF: YA Saves

So, this has been a fairly fraught week in the YA world. On  Saturday, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Meghan Cox Gurdon who decided to assess the state of YA literature and determined that it's too dark and too violent and gives troubled teens ideas of how to off themselves or otherwise wreak havoc on their lives.


So naturally, Ginger over at GReads! has asked:

How do you feel about the "dark" books filling our YA shelves today?

They don't bother me one bit.

I hate censorship. I hate when people want to discount or water down the teenage experience. And I hate when people point fingers and talk shit about things that they haven't properly researched.

Luckily, the WSJ is a respectable newspaper, and have published a seriously moving piece written by YA author Sherman Alexie, who wrote The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. Go read it. It's awesome.

AND NOW I'm going to go prepare for my sister to come to NYC this weekend. I hope y'all have all had freaking fantastic week and that your weekend is going to be as much fun as mine!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review: Beautiful Creatures

Title: Beautiful Creatures
Author: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 563
Release Date: December 1, 2009

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.--Goodreads

So there were a couple things about Beautiful Creatures that really surprised me:

1. It's from a boy's perspective! I guess that because the jacket copy starts with Lena, I just assumed she'd be the narrator. But NOPE! I was very pleasantly surprised by the male voice and really, really liked Ethan as my narrator. Yay BOYS!

2. The density of the Southern-ness. This book is SO SOUTHERN. The speech, the food, the superstition, the fashion, the attitudes, the heritage--all of it is spot on. The setting feels so damn authentic that I actually Googled to find out if Gatlin, SC is a real place. It isn't. :(

Other than the setting and ambience of the book, I super enjoyed this, which surprised me. I've been on a, well, not an ANTI paranormal kick, but a reluctant-to-read paranormal kick. But, every time I went to visit the ARC shelf at work, I felt like I was drawn to this particular book, so I just decided that I was going to read it.

And I am so glad that I did.

Because of the high page count, I was a little concerned that I'd get burnt out or bored while reading this. But, as it turns out,  the plot unfolds beautifully--it's mysterious and intriguing and gives you just enough at just the right times to keep you turning to pages. And there are definitely a couple "OMG!" moments. (e.g., when you finally find out about Macon. I did NOT see that coming!!! I was on the train coming home from the City when I read that part and I gasped so loudly that the guy next to me took his headphones off to ask if I was okay. Yeahhhhh.)

But what REALLY made me enjoy this book was the lovely use of Civil War "history" and genealogy as driving sources. Southerners are so steeped in their own history and have such a pride of place and family, that the importance placed on the history of both place and family was really the glue that made all of the other components in the book work. Had this book been just a paranormal love story set in the South, it probably would have fine, but it definitely wouldn't have felt nearly as authentic and, in a way, real.

Overall . . . I loved Beautiful Creatures. It's very well-thought out, it's beautifully paced, and it's just one of those books that is so rich and lush in both character and setting that you can get lost in it. So basically: Love it, love it, love it. I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel and spend some more time with Ethan and Lena in Gatlin! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Lola and the Boy Next Door

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Books
Pages: 384
Release Date: September 29, 2011

In this companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss, two teens discover that true love may be closer than they think
For budding costume designer Lola Nolan, the more outrageous, the outfit - more sparkly, more fun, more wild - the better. But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins move back into the house next door.
When the family returns and Cricket - a gifted inventor and engineer - steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.--Goodreads

So, this is going to sound terrible, but I wasn't necessarily super-interested in this book until a couple days ago. Don't get me wrong--I really like Stephanie Perkins as a writer, and I really enjoyed Anna and the French Kiss, but for some reason, the jacket copy of this didn't grab me.

And then I read Stephanie Perkins recent blog post about this book. To quote the Q& A-style post,

"Exactly how tall IS √Čtienne?

My lips are sealed. But, yes, I assure you that he's shorter than Anna. I had a great joke that revealed his height in Lola and the Boy Next Door, but I cut it due to pacing issues. Maybe you'll see the joke in Isla and the Happily Ever After? Hmm . . .

Also, YES, that means what you think it means. If you're thinking it."


I'm kinda kicking myself for not making the connection (via setting) earlier. Normally I'm on top of that sort of thing. But, I will say that that made me a very happy Bethie when I read it and now I am SUPER EXCITED to read Lola.

In September. *le sigh*

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

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: It's All About the Setting

 For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, the lovely ladies at The Broke and The Bookish have us  contemplating setting--all of the real or imaginary places we've loved reading about.

In no particular order, here are the first ten settings from novels that popped into my head when pondering this list:

1. Hogwarts (Harry Potter series)
It's a castle. With paintings that speak to you. And secret rooms that have requirements. And staircases that change their layouts. And turrets. It's just SO COOL.

2. Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women (Gallagher Girls series)
I want to go to spy school. Real bad.

3. Pemberley (Pride and Prejudice)
It's grand. It's opulent. It houses Mr. Darcy. It could be a freakin' shack, and if Mr. Darcy lived in it, I would go to there.

4. Any book set in Nineteenth-Century London
Obsessed. It's sort of an issue. I spend far too much time thinking about nineteenth-century London.

5. Any book set in London
Let's be honest. If it's set in London, I'll read it.

6. Claudia's Room (Baby-sitter's Club series)
When I was younger and thoroughly obsessed with this series (I definitely wrote fan letters to Ann M. Martin) I thought Claudia's room was just the best place ever. It seemed so comfy and warm and inviting. And there were always snacks.

7. Cassie Clare's New York City (The Mortal Instruments series)
I think the way Cassandra Clare uses New York City is brilliant. Not only does she capitalize on real places in the city as set pieces, but she changes your perception of them. Never again will I go to Central Park and think of the pond as just a pond.

8. Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia series)
I was sooo in love with these books as a kid. I should probably re-read them. But I remember being so struck by the detail of the world C.S. Lewis created that I would find myself writing short stories where I would make up characters that would find the wardrobe in present day and climb through to find Narnia. Yeah. I did that.

9. Radar's House (Paper Towns)
 This is maybe the most awesome, most hysterical, most random set piece in a book EVER. I love it. I love John Green for thinking of it. And I really hope that somewhere, Radar's house exists. 

10. The Hundred Acre Wood (The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh)
This is basically the happiest place I can think of. And there's a new Winnie the Pooh MOVIE coming out NEXT MONTH! Wheeeeee!

Bonus: I've always thought it'd be fun to have characters from one very particular genre of book be placed into another very different genre of book--like taking the characters from Pride and Prejudice and  dropping them into Middle Earth or something. I guess that's more of a mash-up type of thing, and that it probably exists somewhere, but I definitely think it'd be fun to read.

Did I miss your favorite setting? Let me know what it is in comments!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

YA Saves: A Word on the Importance of YA Novels

In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled "Darkness Too Visible" Meghan Cox Gurdon tackles the question of "Is YA fiction too dark?" She cites real life examples of how parents in various places have walked into book stores or libraries looking to buy or check out a book for their teenagers, only to leave without a pick, or becoming upset by the cover images they find because they think that every YA book is either too paranormal or too violent or too profane for their perfect children to read.

While Gurdon presents her opinion in a well-thought out, well-worded way, she obviously only looked at one YA shelf in her local book store. I know for a fact that the Barnes & Noble in Elmsford, NY, which I visit weekly, has a shelf with a sign over it that reads "Tough Stuff for Teens," and holds many of the novels Ms. Gurdon references in her article. Right next to the Tough Stuff shelf, is another with a sign that reads "Teen Paranormal." Then, across an aisle are the REST of the YA novels, from The Hunger Games to The Gallgher Girls to The Mortal Instruments to single titles, some much thematically heavy than others.

While I was reading the article that has offended many YA authors and readers, enough so to start a Twitter hashtag that reads "YAsaves" and features hundreds of stories of those who have turned to YA novels in times of need, or for a boost of self-confidence, or who learned that life is better than they think it is because of a YA book they read, I thought to myself, "If I had kids, would I react in the same way that these parents are reacting to some YA books?"

While I'd love to say that I would be a parent who allows their kids to read anything they want, I think there are some books out there that I absolutely wouldn't let my younger teen read. Not that I wouldn't EVER let them read it, I just would want them to wait until they are a little more mature, or have begun to form their own ideas and opinion on certain topics. However. That is a decision that needs to be made by PARENTS on a book-by-book and kid-by-kid basis.

For example, when I was 15, I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I loved it. My 12-year-old sister wanted to read it, so she took it from my bookshelf and started it. Now, even at 15, I discussed what I was reading with my mom. Once she realized my sister was reading it, she FLIPPED OUT, and wanted to take it away from her so she wouldn't be exposed to some of the themes in the book. However, she didn't. My mom knew that if she banned my sister from reading that book, she'd only want to read it more.

So she let her finish it, and then sat down with her so they could have a conversation about the more adult themes in the novel. From there, my sister started reading significantly darker and more adult books, like those written by Chuck Palahnuik, and my mom, despite her distaste for them, would do the same thing she did with The Perks of Being a Wallflower. They would discuss the book at hand and how my sister felt about and thought about it. While I realize that not all parents will sit down and do what my mother did, I think that is a BEAUTIFUL way to monitor what your kids are reading.

Anyway. The bottom line is that YA books are important. If they weren't, Ms. Gurdon wouldn't have written the article. Teenagers and adults alike flock to YA books because of how they present ideas and situations--they aren't pretentiously written and they don't judge their audience. No matter the subject matter or genre of young adult fiction, I've found that YA books are the most honest, the most open, and the least biased when it comes to presenting ideas on "tough stuff," whether it's homosexuality, suicidal thoughts, dealing with death, or combatting loneliness. I think that it's wonderful that YA publishers are publishing books that grapple with these types of topics, because they are topics that teenagers a) deal with, and b) are interested in.

In the article, Ms. Gurdon writes,"If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is." What I want to know is, what would Ms. Gurdon like to see YA writers write about? Because if the answer is fluffy stories of how great the world is, and how happy people can be, then she is living a very sheltered and deluded life.

Friday, June 3, 2011

TGIF: Sharing the Love, Book-Style

Wow, it's already Friday. It's already June. How did THAT happen?!

Well for this very sneaky first Friday in June, Ginger over at GReads! has asked:

Do you share your books w/ others? Who was the last person you sent a book to?

I am a big, big fan of sharing books with others. Let's be honest, books can get a little bit expensive, and if you don't live near a library with kick ass funding, it can be a little difficult to get your hands on all of the books you want to. So if I know that I have a book that a friend of mine is interested in reading, I'll send it along to him/her so that someone else can enjoy the book, instead of it sitting all lonesome and unused on my bookshelf. 

I'm also totally in love with the Bookswap feature on Goodreads. I have acquired many a book in the last couple of months through it, and have purged several of my books using it as well. If you're not familiar with the feature, the name Bookswap is a little misleading--you're not loaning your books out, you're giving them away. If a person is interested in the book(s) you list, they say so, they pay the shipping, you receive the shipping label, ship it, and voila! They have a new book, and you have a new spot on your shelf for something new as well! 

So second part of the question! The last book I loaned to someone was Divergent, which I left with my mom in Arkansas. And literally two days before that I let a co-worker borrow the Clockwork Prince teaser thing I snagged at BEA. :)

So! Since you all know about my love of sharing, feel free to check out my "books I own" shelf over at Goodreads and let me know if there's something you want to borrow! [Just FYI: I'm less inclined to loan out signed copies of books. But if you convince me that you are super trustworthy, I'm willing to do it.] Maybe you'll have something I'd like *cough The Name of the Star or The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer* and we could do a little swap-aroo. 

That's it from me this week! I hope you've all enjoyed your short week and that you have a fantastic weekend! 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Review: Divergent

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Pages: 487
Release Date: May 3, 2011

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

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

Divergent is one of those books that I find hard to review. The prose are clean and simple, the story is perfectly plotted and well-paced, the characters are well-developed, and, well, it's a great read. Despite the fact that it's almost 500 pages, I almost read the entire damn thing on a plane. At 6 AM. When I should have been sleeping on the plane so I wasn't exhausted when I got off the plane. But I made the mistake of reading while waiting for take-off, and then, all of a sudden, I realized we were landing. 

It's that kind of book. 

Okay, let's see. Other than being well-plotted and cleanly written/well-edited, I think what I liked most about the book was, well, Four, the main male character in the book. He's strong and confident and masculine and smart in the way that only guys who are the kind of guys you want to be a better woman for are. In fact, he might be the most mature male I've ever met in a YA novel. He's steady and sure of himself and, just, a rock. He may not be the most charming or warm or happy, but he is steadfast. That just might be the sexiest quality ever. Anyway, the development of the relationship between Four and Tris, the actual main character, is just the best. It's slow and a little bit unsettling, but a lotta bit satisfying.  

But outside of the one character, y'all, this book is solid. I know I've already said it, but it really is one of the best plotted books I've ever read. At no point does it feel like it's lagging or repeating information or using words just to take up space. Every sentence propels the story forward and every detail is purposeful. And the story is pretty good too. ;) 

Oh. Another thing. I haven't really mentioned the AUTHOR yet have I? Well, her name is Veronica Roth, and she is a twenty-two-year-old wunderkind. She's the kind of person who makes me look at my life and think "I have a Master's degree in Journalism and a half written novel saved to my computer. WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!" Not that I dislike my life. I really like my life. But. Yeah. The girl is good at writing books. 

Okay, time to wrap up!

Overall, this is a book that, despite it's lengthier-than-normal page count, is a quick read due to its brilliant writing, plotting, and solid characters. I enthusiastically encourage you to read it. But only when you have a day to devote to it, because, I promise, you won't be able to tear yourself away.