Friday, April 29, 2011

TGIF: The Stand Alone vs. Series Smackdown

Wanna hear something weird? This is the LAST Friday in April!

And for this last Friday in April, Miss Ginger at GReads! has posed the following question:

Stand Alone vs. Series: What's Your Stance?

This is actually something I've never really given a lot of thought to. But now that I'm thinking about it, I do tend to read books that are a part of a larger series. Off the top of my head, I am currently in the midst of reading The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices, The Curse Workers, the Angelfire series, and The Gallagher Girls books...there are probs more than that, but I've been watching the NFL Draft all night and my mind is NOT currently focused on books. Anyway! I think the reason I'm attracted to book series is because I really get to know the characters. I'm able to invest in them and their world, and I grow with the characters throughout the books. I can obsess about them and add the next book's release date to my Google calendar and get into discussions with other fans (or non-fans) about the books, too. There's something deliciously intoxicating about the buzz that surrounds series.

HOWEVER.

Some of my favorite books, both in general and thus far this year, are stand alone titles. There's something really nice about reading a book cover to cover and having that sense of finality that comes at the end. There's not an annoying cliffhanger or a huge amount of time you have to wait just to get the next book in the series. It's over and done with and you know how you felt about it and that is THAT.

In sum, it's not like I choose what to read based on whether or not it's part of a series. I'm the worst smackdowner ever.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review & Author Interview: Geek Fantasy Novel

Title: Geek Fantasy Novel
Author: E. Archer
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pub Date: April 1, 2011
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover

What happens when a science geek and magic collide?
Be careful what you wish for. Really. Because wishes are bad. Very bad. They can get you trapped in fantasy worlds full of killer bunny rabbits, evil aunts, and bothersome bacteria, for example. Or at least that's Ralph's experience. He's been asked to spend the summer with his strange British relatives at their old manor house in order to set up their Wi-Fi network. But there's much more to it than that, of course. It's just that nobody told Ralph. He's a gamer, sure. But this game is much stranger--and funnier--than anything to be found on his xbox.
He is a geek. This is his story. -- Goodreads

This book is not AT ALL what I expected. I thought it was going to be a cute little foray into geek culture, (with which I am very well-acquainted) a romp through a world full of comic book in-jokes and World of Warcraft references. While Geek Fantasy Novel has those, as well as fire-burping bunnies, the book is soooo much more than that--it's smart and meta and inventive and full of SAT words and freakin' layered--there are TWO narrators! Not that it's a hard book to read; it's definitely not that. It's just, well, to be completely honest, waaaay better than I thought it would be.

The main plot is that Ralph, a super geeky kid living in New Jersey with parents who are anti-wishing, is recruited by his aunt to come to England for the summer to help set up their WiFi network. While there, he reconnects with his cousins, Cecil and Daphne, and his half-cousin (is that a thing?) Beatrice. He also meets his other aunt, Chessie, who, as it turns out, has the power to grant wishes. However, these wishes have to be acted out via a quest that the wishee must complete.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, as is normally the case with magic, not everything is what it appears to be, and loopholes are abundant. With Ralph attempting to save each of his cousins from their careless wishing and terrifying quests, he wreaks havoc on the age-old profession of narrating quests and causes quite the stir in his family's otherwise quiet life.

After I read this book, I could not stop thinking about it. I enjoyed it so much that I just had to speak with the wonderful, talented Eliot Schrefer, who is, in fact, E. Archer, about the book! So I did! Check out my interview with Mr. Schrefer after the jump!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Texas Gothic

Title: Texas Gothic
Author: Rosemary Clement-Moore
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: July 12, 2011

Amy Goodnight's family is far from normal. She comes from a line of witches, but tries her best to stay far outside the family business. Her summer gig? Ranch-sitting for her aunt with her wacky but beautiful sister. Only the Goodnight Ranch is even less normal than it normally is. Bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.--Goodreads


Y'all, I haven't been home [Arkansas] since Christmas. I am hella-homesick. NYC is great and wonderful and amazing, but it's not home. So lately I've been devouring books that are somehow connected to the South whether it's the setting, the author's hometown, or just the tone of the book. Not surprisingly, I was hooked as soon as I heard the title of this. 


Despite the fact that I would have read this book regardless of the jacket copy (above), I'm really excited about this one! I'm not normally drawn to books about witches, but a book with a ranch and a hot neighbor cowboy as well as witches? Mhmm. I think I will. 


Bonus: THAT COVER. The colors! And, is it just me or does the model look a bit like (super gorgeous) Kate Walsh?


So that's my pick! If y'all know of any other Southern-centric books, throw 'em at me (Literally if you'd like!) and lemme know what you're waiting on in comments! 


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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope

Title: The Last Little Blue Envelope
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pub Date: April 26, 2011
Pages: 304
Format: ARC


*IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIRTEEN LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES, THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS* 

Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny's backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.
Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he's found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.--Goodreads

If you are anything like me, which is sick of being stuck inside due to rainy weather and full of wanderlust, then Maureen Johnson's The Last Little Blue Envelope (LLBE) is both a blessing and a curse. While it's so much fun to spend some time with Ginny in London again, it's torture to read about her trips across Europe. I. Want. To. Go. To There. NOW. 

In fact! I think some enterprising travel business type person should create a Little Blue Envelope tour company so all of us crazy book people can go on a scavenger hunt throughout Europe.

But I digress. 

When I heard that there was going to be a sequel to Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes (TLBE), I was actually surprised. It seemed as if TLBE ended where it needed to--Ginny completed as much of the task as she was able to, she found her Aunt Peg's artwork even without the last envelope, and everything seemed hunky-dory. Regardless of my reservations about the sequel, I do love Maureen Johnson, so when the ARC of LLBE landed on my desk, I squealed loud enough for my boss to come out of her office to investigate why I made a crazy high pitched noise. 

Despite my girl crush on Ms. Johnson and my love for Europe and my severe wanderlust, I never loved TLBE the way I wanted to, and while reading, I found that clouding my thoughts about LLBE. Don't get me wrong--they are both wonderful books. The writing is great, the story is amazing, and the books are super-duper fun to read. But there was always something about them that kept me from just loving them completely. It wasn't until I reached the almost the very, very end of LLBE that I realized what that thing was. 

Ready for this?

That thing is Ginny. Yes, she's the main character, but she isn't necessarily the easiest character to know. Sure, you know her likes and dislikes and taste in boys, but, at least for me, she always had different reactions than I expected her to have--not that a character should always act the way I think they should; I just found her reactions totally baffling and her rationale totally unsound. What I realized while reading LLBE is that there's a reason for that.

We are meeting Ginny as a teenager--she is still figuring out who she is! Lucky for us, we have Aunt Peg, from beyond the grave telling us who Ginny is. This crazy, brilliant, eccentric woman gives us more insight to Ginny than Ginny does because Ginny doesn't know herself yet. But Aunt Peg did know her, and she saw not only who Ginny was, but who she had the potential of becoming. It's a truly beautiful thing.

By the end of LLBE, Ginny has not only traveled most of Europe, but has met a wide array of characters--some good, some not so good, some we already know, some who are new--and can say that, if nothing else, she now knows way more than how to avoid getting a backpack stolen on a beach. She has started to know herself.

So, despite the fact that I didn't think Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes needed a sequel, I'm so glad that Johnson wrote The Last Little Blue Envelope. It's the rest of a story you didn't even know you wanted the rest of. There are few things as satisfying as that. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: Bumped

Title: Bumped
Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Harper Teen)
Pub Date: April 26, 2011
Pages: 336
Format: Galley via Net Galley (Thank you!)

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. 
Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and had never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job. 
Harmony has spent her whole life in religious Goodside, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that “pregging” for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from. 
When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. -- Goodreads


When I first heard about this book, I was intrigued and disgusted and totally into the idea of it. I'm one of those girls who has never, ever wanted to be a mom. I don't like little kids--I don't know how to deal with them or talk to them or act around them. I personally find the idea of pregnancy revolting. (Think about it--there is a person growing inside of you, living of off you for nine months of your life. Like a parasite.) Now, you can probably imagine how I feel about all of those horrid reality shows about pregnancy--from "I didn't know I was pregnant!" to "Obese and Pregnant" to "Teen Mom." 


So, imagine my complete and total delight when I read the "Dear Reader" page of this book, in which McCafferty states that her disgust with how pregnancy, particularly teenage pregnancy, is constantly either glorified or vilified made her want to write a novel exploring the question, "What would happen if only teenagers could reproduce?" 


I did a happy dance, and immediately fell in love with the book. 


McCafferty takes a seriously believable look at how society as whole views and treats pregnancy, celebrity, and technology. In her novel, becoming pregnant as a teenager is the best thing that could happen to you because, more often than not, both "parents" are getting paid to give birth. Compensation comes in the form of thousands of dollars toward college tuition for both the girl and boy involved, plastic surgery for the "mom," and the best, most comfortable pre- and post-natal care possible. Then on the flip side, religious  people (called Churchies) who are against "pregging for profit" are so radically conservative that they, for the most part, have isolated themselves so far from society that there is almost no way someone raised in that environment could leave and function in "normal" society. 


While reading the novel, the events taking place don't necessarily seem that extreme. Sure, it's weird to think of girls signing contracts at the age of 13 to produce kids for a couple, but the girl is doing it because she wants to--no one is forcing her. For me, it wasn't the idea of "pregging for profit" that was uncomfortable, but the social pressure surrounding it. McCafferty does a superb job of creating a culture that crudely celebrates both sex and pregnancy--for example, tween girls run around wearing shirts that proclaim "Born to Breed," or sport "FunBumps," bellies that make the wearer look and feel pregnant. The girls in high school who aren't preggers idolize those who are. In one particular scene, a male "celebrity" shows up, and teenage girls throw themselves at him, quite literally begging him to get them pregnant. It's both darkly comedic and truly terrifying. 


Another major player in this novel is technology. Everyone is connected to the MiNet, which allows everyone everywhere to know exactly where and what and who everyone else, everywhere else is doing. It's basically like streaming reality TV that's actually, you know, real. In fact, at no point does anyone in the novel talk about watching TV or movies or reading for pleasure--they just log into the MiNet for entertainment purposes. 


Although Bumped is very obviously a satire, and has many laugh out loud moments, it's also a little bit terrifying. It's a supremely intelligent look at society's obsession with celebrity, pregnancy, and technology, and is a dystopian world that is much more realistic than many others I've read. If you're the kind of person who likes your dystopia satirical yet believable, you'll definitely enjoy Bumped.

Friday, April 22, 2011

TGIF: Gettin' Down & Dirty

I don't know if y'all feel this way, but this has been a crazy long week over in Bethie-land. Work has been stressful, my roommate's family (including a toddler) is in town and staying with us, and I keep forgetting to bring my book to work so I can read on my lunch break.

However. It is Friday, glorious Friday. And since this particular Friday is Good Friday, I have my fingers crossed that the office will close at 3:00 and I can go home and veg a couple hours earlier than normal.

Anyway. This question of the week from Ginger at GReads! iiiiiis:

Explicit Material: How do you feel about explicit language &/or sexual content in YA books?

My answer is super simple: I love it. 

I don't find anything offensive or wrong with cussing or a sex scene.  Let's be honest, it's not like teens aren't cussing and developing/exploring their sexuality. They are. It's all part of growing up, and I feel like being crass and a tidbit promiscuous it's a vital part of being a teenager. Call me a heathen if you must, but I actually think a YA novel WITHOUT a couple cuss words and a smutty scene is strange, and more often than not, unsatisfying.

That being said, I don't want to pick up a YA novel and be accosted by F-bombs and raunchy, overwrought bedroom scenes--if I want that, I'll go to the romance section. Or I'll just re-read everything by Candace Bushnell

If you are interested in some YA novels that involve cussing and sexy times, but aren't raunchy, I will point you in the direction of:

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Looking for Alaska by John Green 

I'm such a cheerleader for these books, I know. BUT THEY ARE GOOD.

I hope everyone has a great Friday, and a fabulous weekend! Happy Easter! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Two Moon Princess

Title: Two Moon Princess
Author: Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Pub Date: June 16, 2010
Format: Galley via Net Galley (Thank you!)

In this coming-of-age story set in a medieval kingdom, Andrea is a headstrong princess longing to be a knight who finds her way to modern-day California. But her accidental return to her family's kingdom and a disastrous romance brings war, along with her discovery of some dark family secrets. Readers will love this mix of traditional fantasy elements with unique twists and will identify with Andrea and her difficult choices between duty and desire.--Goodreads

Sometimes, I find myself craving a good romantic fairy tale. In times like these I usually turn to movies or television, but I had heard pretty good things about Two Moon Princess, and decided to give it a go, expecting it to be pretty run-of-the-mill--you know, something I could mindlessly read, that would satiate my fairy tale appetite. What I ended up getting was straight up lovely coming-of-age story with a really sweet romance intertwined in it.

When I first started this one, I was a little nervous--the tone is a little, well, naive. I tend to like my leading ladies sassy and cynical, and while Andrea is definitely courageous and daring, she's not that great with the one-liners. But after reading for awhile, I realized that subtly-pointed zingers don't really belong in a medieval kingdom. Once I readjusted my expectations of the book, I realized just how much I was enjoying it.

In fact, Two Moon Princess is very reminiscent of a lot of the stories I read when I was younger. Not that this is a childish book, but the prose are very simple and the vocabulary is very accessible. It's definitely a book that anyone with the ability to read could enjoy. I don't feel like there are too many books like that out these days.

Overall, this book not only quenched my fairy tale thirst, but exceeded my expectations. If you're in the market for a well-plotted, well-imagined story, with a little bit of soul-searching and a lot of action, definitely check this one out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Plain Fear: Forsaken

Title: Plain Fear: Forsaken
Author: Leanna Ellis
Pages: 424
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pub Date: August 1, 2011


Hannah Schmidt pines for Jacob, the boy who saved her life. But Jacob is gone, buried. Levi Fisher loves Hannah. But he knows how much Hannah loved his brother Jacob. He also knows the troubling event that took Jacob out of their lives.

So when a stranger named Akiva comes into their community, he carries with him two secrets: he is, in fact, Jacob. And he is now a vampire.

When secrets are revealed, Hannah must choose between light and dark, between the one she has always loved and the new possibility of love--a decision that will decide the fate of her soul.--Goodreads

Hi, my name is Bethany. I'm mildly fascinated with the Amish. I'm mildly obsessed with vampire-stuff. (I know, cliché. But I've been a vampire fan since I was, like, born. Ask my mom! I scared her when I was little because I liked them so much!) 

When I first heard about this book it was one of those, "Hey, did you know that there's a Amish-vampire romance coming out? Isn't that WEIRD?!" And I said "WHAT?!!!!! SIGN ME UP!!!!!" And they said, "Really?" And I said "Really." 

Now I have to wait until August. (AUGUST!!!) 

*waits*

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

Friday, April 15, 2011

Where She Went Giveaway Results!


I am super excited to announce the winner of my FIRST EVER book giveaway!

So, without further ado, the winner of the amazingly fantastic Where She Went by Gayle Forman is . . .

*drumroll*

Entry #4, Annie! Congrats Annie!! I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did! :)

Winner was picked at random via the website random.org

TGIF: I Want to Go to There

The sun is shining. Birds are singing. There's a nice breeze blowing. AND ITS FRIDAY! *does happy dance*


In addition to this exceptionally gorgeous day, Ginger over at GReads! has asked an exceptionally fun question:

 If you could live in any fictional setting in a story, where would you go?

My immediate response to this is Hogwarts from Harry Potter



I mean, who in their right mind WOULDN'T want to go there? It's all castley, and magicy, and secret passageway-y, and awesome. But, then, I thought to myself "Self, you can come up with a better answer than Hogwarts." (Which isn't true. Hogwarts is the best. But I can come up with other alternate fictional settings I'd want to live in.) So! Let's say that I can't go to Hogwarts, for some God-forsaken reason. Here is my other choice for the fictional setting I'd like to live in. 


*thinks*


Camelot. 

Think about it: Knights. Round Tables. Wizards. Epic Battles. (We won't think about the parts where people died a lot and didn't bathe very often...k? K.) KING ARTHUR. Yeah. I think Camelot would be awesome to see in all its medieval glory. 

So what have we learned about me today, reader? That I like castles. :)


Now, what about youuuuuu? Tell me all about the fictional setting you'd love to visit and have a fantastic Friday!!



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Name of the Star

Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin Teen)
Pub Date: September 29, 2011

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. 

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.--Goodreads


Alright, y'all. There's something you need to know about me: I'm obsessed with serial killers. I think they're horrifying and deranged and awful, but also truly, intensely fascinating. I read a good amount of true crime, I own every season of Dexter, and I'm pretty sure that if I could go back and re-do undergrad, I'd be a criminology major. Needless to say, I find Jack the Ripper obscenely interesting. 


Keep that in the back of your mind for a moment. 


Now consider my love for miss Maureen Johnson. I think she's lovely and funny and wicked-smart. I've liked all of her books thus far, but I've never necessarily been in love with them. I'm pretty sure The Name of the Star is going to be the book to change that. 


I know that sounds premature, but I'm serious. This book has everything I like! Boarding school? Check. London setting? Check. Southern female MC who is named after a Gilmore Girls character? Check. Serial killer(s)? Check. Yep. That's everything. The only thing that could POSSIBLY make it better is if there was an adorable puppy in it. Or a Mr. Darcy appearance. (OMG! What if Mr. Darcy's ghost were the serial killer?! Has someone written that Pride & Prejudice spin-off yet?! Because I would READ IT.) 


Anyway. This book seriously sounds like it is all kinds of up my alley. I would make the claim that I somehow divinely inspired it, but who are we kidding here. What I can tell you with a very large amount of certainly is that I will pimp the hell out of the book for the next few months. Be prepared readers. I will brainwash you to the point that you will pre-order this sucker seven different times. *smiles over tented fingers* 


Now go about the rest of your Wednesday-business, after you tell me all about the books you're not-so-patiently waiting on.  


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

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Want to See as Movies

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely, lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish. The topic du semaine this time around is the books I want to see as movies. This was actually a little more difficult than I thought it would be, because the first five books that jumped to my mind are already in development to be films! So I guess that means I have good taste? In that case, "Yo! Movie directors! Make the books listed below into movies, ya dig?" 


I think they do. And hopefully you will too! 



1. Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
This is basically a giant, international scavenger hunt. Like the Amazing Race, but with teenagers. Mostly I want to look at different parts of Europe and the lovely, accented men they have to offer.


2. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
This is one of my faves from my childhood and I so so so want to see it on the big screen. Technically, there is an animated version that came out in the '70s, but I've never seen it. If you have, lemme know if it's good. Oooohhhh IMBD tells me this is in development for a release in 2013!! Hooray!



3. The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
I like spies. Especially girl spies. Especially girl spies who have charming boy spies chasing after them. Want to see it. (I believe this has been optioned to be a film...but...that doesn't necessarily mean it'll happen.)


4. You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin
In my review of this, I actually compare it to Brick, a fantastic teenage-centric film noir. But, I think You Killed Wesley Payne is different enough from Brick that it would stand on its own. And there really need to be more contemporary films noirs. At least, IMHO.



5. Vixen by Jillian Larkin
1920s Chicago? I'm in. Bonus: Marcus Eastwood.


6. Paper Towns by John Green
I know this one pops up on, like, every list I make, but I love it so. And c'mon. You know you want to see a house decorated in solely black Santas.



7. Angelfire by Courtney Alison Moulton
I don't think society will ever get enough of stories about hot teens and demons/angels, and I think Angelfire would be WAY better than a lot of movies in the genre that have come out recently. Plus, it's a little reminisent of Buffy. I like Buffy. And I like this book. LET'S MAKE THIS A MOVIE, PEOPLE!



8. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Alright, I know people intensely love The Mortal Instruments, and I do too, but I actually prefer The Infernal Devices. And since we all already know that City of Bones is being made into a movie, I figure, why not go ahead and start on Clockwork Angel?



9. Geek Fantasy Novel by E. Archer
This book is so much fun! (My review will be up sooooon.) It's a little bit coming of age, a little bit fantasy, it's super smart and super funny and I think it would translate well to the film if done in a sort of Monty Python storytelling kind of way. Does that make sense? If not, GO READ IT. Then you will understand.


10. Falling in Love with English Boys by Melissa Jensen
I really don't know if this would translate to film well or not because of the narrative shifts between the present and the 1800s, but I think it'd be fun to see! Also, it's set in London. I'll see pretty much anything set in London.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin Teen)
Release Date: December 2, 2010
Pages: 384
Format: Purchased


I bought Anna and the French Kiss on a whim. I'd heard it was really cute, and it's set in France, and Stephanie Perkins has blue streaks in her hair; all of those things combined sounded pretty good to me, so I said "What the hell," and just bought the book before I'd read it. This probably doesn't seem like a big deal to some of you, but for me it's a huge deal. I typically only buy a book if it's a) by an author I super like or b) I've read it before and know that I like it. 

Lucky for me, I'm glad I bought the book. 

Despite the sort of confusing, but cute title, Anna and the French Kiss isn't really about kissing. (I mean, there is kissing, but it's not the focus of the book.) The plot is that Anna Oliphant, a fairly typical American girl, is suddenly yanked out of her fairly typical American life and sent to boarding school in Paris. She is upset by this. I did not understand that reaction. I would have been jumping for freakin' joy. But, I've always been a Francophile and don't understand those who aren't. Anyway, she's shipped off to Paris, and then the book follows her throughout her senior year, adjusting to life in France. (le sigh)

During Anna's first lonely night in the dorm, she ends up befriending her neighbor and is adopted by her group of friends, which includes the French-British-American guy with a girlfriend, Étienne St. Clair. Anna and St. Clair become fast friends, and Anna grapples with what her real feeling about him are--Is he just a friend? Is she in love with him? Does it even matter since a) he has a girlfriend, and b) they'll both be headed to college next year? Although that sounds a little cloying, I promise you it is not. In fact, it's a surprisingly realistic portrayal of senior year, despite the oh-so romantic location. 

Sooo let's talk about the eponymous Anna. She is a main character (MC) that I actually really, really like. Many times, I find myself sort of bored with MCs, and liking the supporting characters much more. I'm not sure why this is, but it is. However, that was not at all the case with Anna. She's a female character who is funny, smart, confident, and career-oriented. She's not perfect by any means, but she's someone who felt real. 

In fact, I think Perkins did an amazing job when writing all of the characters in keeping them feeling like people the reader could actually meet and know in real life. I deeply appreciate that all of the characters have flaws, both in physicality and personality. Anna, though described as very pretty, has a large gap between her front teeth and a bleached white streak in her dark hair. (Not that that is unpretty, it's just not typical of a female MC.) And the love interest, Étienne, is a short dude who is deathly afraid of heights. Although these are little details, they really made the characters memorable for me. 

Another part of the book that really resonated with me was when Anna returned to the States for Christmas break and realized just how much she had changed since going to Paris. If you've ever studied abroad or gone to camp or to college or had any kind of experience that was pivotal in your life, and then tried to share that with your family and friends who haven't experienced that, you'll know exactly what I mean by this--it's that moment where you're desperately trying to make them understand just how great a story is or how amazing these new people in your life are, and it just isn't translating. Perkins did an AMAZING job in capturing this and I felt that those chapters were when I really decided to like the book. 

Despite the fact that I really enjoyed this, I did feel that it ran a little too long--not that I was ever bored with the book, but I remember thinking, "Okay. This book could go on forever. There's no end in sight!" And this is a REALLY minute thing, but it really bothered me that Anna, an aspiring film critic, had no idea that Paris is the city where film criticism was born. I know that most 17-year-olds don't know that, but...still.  You'd think that someone who wants to be a film critic would have at least Wikipedia'ed it? No? I'm being too harsh? Okay. I am mollified.

Overall, this book is delightful and charming and will ignite your wanderlust in a very, very intense way. I was seriously looking up airline prices by the middle of the book. (Le sigh) So if you're looking for a fun, contemporary read, I wholeheartedly recommend this one. And when the travel bug starts calling your name, let me know--we can be travel buddies! 

Friday, April 8, 2011

TGIF: Emotional Reading

People, it is Friday, which means it is almost the weekend, which means I can lock myself in my room and read City of Fallen Angels without being interrupted by things like needing to sleep and work.

But before the glorious weekend begins, Ginger over at G Reads has asked:

Do you get emotional when you read? Which books had you in tears?


I quite literally laughed out loud when Ginger sent the question to me because I had JUST posted my review of Gayle Forman's Where She Went, (enter my giveaway!) which I sobbed through. So, my answer is YES I get super emotional when I read. Probably too emotional. For some reason, books really get to me.

Anyway, I've made a list of notable books that have made me cry. I hope it makes you, um, not cry.



First Book I Remember Crying Through:  Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne.
I think I was actually around six when I read this, and I vividly remember taking my book, tears streaming down my face, and running to my mom's room so I could tell her about it. She just listened to me babble on about Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear, and bemoan the awful process of growing up (I'm SUCH a Peter Pan. Even to this day.), and then she made me hot chocolate. She is the best mom EVER. 


First Book to Make Me Cry in Class: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
There I was, sitting in my AP Lit class as a sophomore in high school in the first week of school. We had a surprise substitute, which meant we had a "reading day," but I was already caught up with where we were supposed to read to, so I read on, and got to a very sad part where a character I liked mucho was killed, and thus, I cried. Uncontrollably. I am not one of those people who is an attractive crier. I get all splotchy and my eyes basically swell shut and my nose somehow gets bigger. It is BAD. I was mortified.


First Book to Make Me Cry on an Airplane: Stop in the Name of Pants by Louise Rennison
So, this explanation is a bit weird because the Georgia Nicolson series is HYSTERICAL. But, there's a place in this book where a character thinks that his/her beloved pet is going to die. I'm very much a pet person, and it really got to me. So there I sat on an airplane, willing myself to not cry. It didn't work. The flight attendant tried to comfort me, and I had to tell her I was crying over an impending fictional pet death. Turns out that the pet doesn't even die.



First Book to Make Me Cry So Hard it Gave Me a Migraine: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
I lost my ever-lovin' mind reading this. That whole part where you turn pages and only the names of months are listed = escalated tear spillage with each page. The whole adrenaline-junkie bit [you know, the one that is oh-so laughable in the movie?] made me bawl. And--OMG--when Alice comes to get Bella and take her to Italy because of her vision? Forget it. I know some of you are thinking, "This girl is emotionally unstable," and let me defend myself for a moment. I read this book DIRECTLY after a really, really tough break-up and I had been SO ANGRY with him and the whole situation that I hadn't let myself work through it. So New Moon was my catharsis.

Now that you have proof that I am a crazy lady with haywire emotions, I hope that you have a tear-free weekend full of joy and laughter and sunshine and rainbows and chocolate. TGIF!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pub Date: September 27, 2011

Mara Dyer doesn't believe life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.                                                                                                                                    
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is.     

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. She's wrong.--Goodreads

Mostly, I dig the title. I am a sucker for titles full of foreshadowy drama. I actually saw the title to this book first. And then I looked it up on Goodreads and saw the STATEMENT COVER and read the description and just thought "Yes, Yes, YES!!!!"

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Hmmmm?

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review & Giveaway: Where She Went

Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Books
Pub Date: April 5, 2011
Format: ARC, sent from publisher (Thank you SO MUCH!!)

This is one of those books that I don't even really know how to "review." I don't even really think of it as a book--it's more of an experience. It's emotional, it's physical, it somehow reaches down into your body and demands a reaction. I didn't even realize I was giving it a reaction until I was crying so hard I couldn't read for the tears.

Yep, people, this is a book that will make you emo. But also warm and fuzzy, in a weird, teary way. And despite the fact that I have no idea how to convey how beautiful this book is, I will try.

The sequel to the heart-wrenching If I Stay (told from Mia's perspective), Where She Went (told from Adam's perspective) picks up the story of Mia and Adam three years after the accident, after the grief has been accepted, and after the pain has dulled. Or at least, that's what Adam thinks. But when an aggressive and enterprising reporter tries to find out who the "real Adam Wilde" is (his band, Shooting Star, is now legit and he is super famous), she digs around in his past and makes the connection that he and Mia went to the same high school and were more than just friends, a fact that both he and the band have bent over backward to keep out of the press. After a response in typical rock star-style, Adam storms out of the interview and into the streets of Manhattan.

As Adam walks to blow off steam and clear his head, he just so happens to find himself in front of Carnegie Hall, where Mia just so happens to be playing that very night as part of the esteemed Young Artists Series. And because Adam is a masochist, he buys a ticket to see her play, and then she invites him backstage, and then. *eyes glimmer with knowing*

I refuse to tell you, because you, reader, are hereby charged to get thee to the nearest bookstore and buy at least two copies of this book, because you will WANT to give it to someone. And you'll want your own copy. (Duh.) Anyway, to give you a hint of what was going on with me while I was reading, here are my tweets from the night I read this book. (read from the bottom up. Or don't. You choose!)



Yeahhhhhh. This one is a doozy. I read both If I Stay and Where She Went in one sitting each, and for some insane reason If I Stay didn't affect me as much as Where She Went did. It's a perfect sequel. I mean that. And I really don't know what else to say.

Oh, yes I do! If you are in or around NYC tonight, the brilliant Gayle Forman is having a release party at the Brooklyn Barnes & Noble from 7-9. Yes, TONIGHT! I will be there, with bells on. Rachel from Bookshelf Lust will be there toooooo. So, come hang out with us. We're fun.

Top 10 Tuesday: Book Covers I Wish I Could Redesign

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely, lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish. The topic du semaine this time around is book covers we wish we could redesign.

Oh boy. I'm about to hate on a bunch of books that I like (or will probs like) a whole, whole, whole bunch.

But before I begin, I would like to say this: I am not a graphic designer. I can barely do more than crop a picture in Photoshop. I have the UTMOST respect for cover and jacket designers, because their jobs are HARD. I can't imagine doing it because there are just so many dadgum people to please and an entire audience to attract and...that's just a lot to deal with. Anyway. I just wanted to say that before I viciously attack some covers.

But now that it has been said, the claws are officially coming out, WOLVERINE-STYLE.



1. White Cat by Holly Black
First up is White Cat, a book whose words I adore, but whose cover I think looks so damn cheesy. I'm pretty sure it's the red cover smoke's fault...although I like that it covers his eyes. And I want to fix the dude's hair. Hmm. Maybe if it was just the cat I'd like it more? [But then that would be misleading because people would be all "KITTY!!!!!!" and then give the book to their 7-year-old niece and then all hell would break loose.] I don't know what I would do with this. Maybe if it was just the cat's face and it was staring out at you unblinkingly so that it's a bit creepy. Sure, that would work. (Right?)


2. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
I love Maureen Johnson. LOVE HER. And I am SUPER PUMPED about her upcoming mystery/thriller The Name of the Star. But when she joyously revealed the cover, I was SO DISAPPOINTED. I don't necessarily know why I'm disappointed, but I am. I think I'd be happier with it if the guy was not shadowy, and was, like, standing over her or ominously chillin' in the background. But I wouldn't want to see his face. But, then again, I only have the vaguest idea what this book is about, so maybe once I read it this cover will make more sense. But then...doesn't that kind of make the point of the fact that there is a cover image moot? Le sigh.



3. City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
I know, I know I'm officially a social pariah. This cover made a humungo splash and everyone was oh-so happy with it . . . but I think it's weird. The colors aren't attractive, and it's a strange deviation from the other books in the series because of the presence of two people on the cover and the fact that you can see Clary's face. I realize that I'm in the minority here, and that's alright. If I could redesign it, I think I'd just have Simon on the cover. Yeah. SIMON. *crosses arms over chest, gangsta-style*


4.  Angelfire by Courtney Alison Moulton
First of all, the chick on the cover looks like a girl I know IRL whom I dislike greatly. Second of all, there is weird cover smoke. I apparently hate cover smoke. (except for on Looking for Alaska. That cover smoke is INSPIRED.) Other than that, I like it. If I were going to redesign it, I'd probably just have her with the awesome weapon-thingamajigger and a black background. The pink in the title and her lovely red hair would really pop then. And she would look all foreboding and badass. :)


5. Paper Towns (Hardcover version) by John Green
I ALL KINDS OF DISLIKE THESE COVERS. Yes, the plot of the book is driven by the disappearance of a girl, but. I don't know. These just turn me off. The only reason I read the book is out of my devotion to one John Green (heyyyy there) and I'm glad I read it because it is AWESOME, but if I knew nothing of Mr. Green, I would have never, ever, ever picked this up. That being said, I ALL KINDS OF DIG the paperback cover.



6. Stupid, rotten, no good Twilight one-off covers
*shakes with rage*


7. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (paperback) by E. Lockhart
When compared to the hardcover version of this book (right), the paperback design looks sophomoric. The hardcover design is subtle, cheeky even, while the paperback looks cheap, dumb, and like every other book about a girl in a boarding school ever written. Except this particular girl apparently doesn't own a brush. I love this stinkin' book so stinkin' much that I don't want people to pass it by due to the horrid, horrid paperback cover and their inability to see beyond the cover. Why couldn't they just use the hardcover art as the paperback art?! *BETHIE ANGRY* *begins to turn green*



8. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
I really, really wish that the bottom half with the blurry faces that make it seem like dude man is sucking on girl's cheek would go bye bye. If the text was centered, and the background was just black or gray or some such color I'd probably like it more. Although it would need some sort of brighter accent color, huh? For, you know, color accenting purposes. Maybe have something music-related on the front? Or if it were an ipod and the screen had the text on it?! Oh God, that's bad. People, that, RIGHT THERE, is why I edit text and do not design images.



9. I Am Number Four by [mothereffing] Pittacus Lore
This cover is dumb. Just put Alex Pettyfer on the front and be done with it. (I think they did do that with the movie tie in cover? I didn't pay enough to attention to find this out. Nor do I care enough to Google.) I don't know why they didn't do that in the first place--it's not like they didn't know he was cast when it was being published since mothereffing James Frey sold it as both a screenplay and as a book at the same time, and then when the screenwriters made edits, he made edits to the manuscript like that was just fiiiine for him to do. *begins to turn green again*

10. My head hurts from thinking about James Frey. So, I'm going to quit and go to my happy place (currently: with Anna and St. Clair in Paris.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Review: Red Glove

Title: Red Glove
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pub Date: April 5, 2011
Format: Galley via S&S Galley Grab


Y'all. Holly Black is awesome. I loooved White Cat, the first book in the Curse Workers series, and couldn't wait to get my hands on Red Glove. When it came up on Simon & Schuster Galley Grab I squealed and hit download so quickly Superman would have been impressed.

Red Glove launches the reader back in to the gritty, slick, double-crossing world of New Jersey, where Cassel is helping his mom run cons. He's disgusted with the whole set up, and particularly with his mom, who, at the end of White Cat, cursed Lila Zacharov (aka the girl he's desperately in love with, who happens to be the daughter of a worker mob boss) to love him. Unfortunately, Cassel doesn't want forced, fake, blind love. He wants the real thing. But that worry takes a back seat to the rest of his problems when his brother Phillip is murdered by a mysterious lady wearing red gloves.

Shortly after the funeral, both the Feds and the elder Zacharov start courting Cassel, who is the rarest form of worker--a transformation worker, to work for them. Then, just for funsies, his middle brother, a memory worker, proposes that the two of them go into business with a different worker mob. Instead, Cassel decides to outsmart them all, and solve Phillip's murder, just to spite them.

That all sounds like a whole bunch, right? Right. But while reading, it's obvious that Cassel, like most high school seniors, is struggling with two BIG decisions. 1) What to do about Lila, whom he desperately wants to be with, and 2) What to do with his future--does he go to college? Join the FBI? Join a mob? Although most seniors aren't juggling the last two, Black writes it in a way that is reminiscent of the future-decision-making-process everyone has to face. Sure, the decision Cassel is grappling with is grittier, but, in truth, it's really no different than the issues any other high school senior is facing. That quality helps keep the book feeling real instead of paranormal or fantastic (in the fantasy genre sense of the word.)

So, now let's talk about Lila. I think Lila is awesome and compelling and great. Even under a freakin' love spell, she tries her best to remain her own person, she tests boundaries, and she pushes buttons. You just can't help but love a girl like that. And though through the entire book I wanted to bonk Cassel on the head with something heavy and tell him to stop being mean to Lila and give them a chance, because--who knows?!--maybe after the curse wears off, she'll still love you (Yep, I'm definitely a romantic. Not really sure when that happened, but there it is.) and you can live happily ever after, running a worker mob, [THIS IS ABOUT TO GET A LITTLE SPOILERY] I liked what happened after the curse wore off even better. If Lila and Cassel can't be together, then they should be nemeses. Yeeeessssssssss.

Stylistically, I find it fascinating that Black writes the Curse Workers books in a way where the plot escalates and thickens and twists, without the reader realizing exactly how escalating and thick and twisty the plot really is. It wasn't until I was trying to explain the plot to my mom that I figured out "Hey. This book is freakin' complicated." Normally I can feel the pacing or the action accelerate, but in this series, I just read along and then all of a sudden I'd find that I had been holding my breath or turning pages (well, pressing the turn page button on my eReader) so rapidly that I had cruised through 50 pages in less than that many minutes. I don't know how she does it, but I looooove that she does.

Overall, Red Glove is a fantastic sequel. It moves the series along in the direction I thought it would go, but in an unexpected way, and the character development is phenomenal. When I reached the last page, I thought "It's gonna be a long, loooong year waiting for the next book."

Random Observations
1. I looooove that Black adds in nods to her fellow authors in her books. In this series, there is a very minor character named Jace and a major character whose last name is Wasserman.

2. I own a pair of red gloves. While reading, every time the gloves were mentioned, I could only envision my gloves. 'Twas creepy.

3. There's a character who goes to ARKANSAS in this book!!! I'm from Arkansas! *hugs self in glee*

4. There's a character named BETHENNY in this book!!! My name is Bethany! Different spelling, but still!!!! *jumps up and down*

Friday, April 1, 2011

Guest Blog!: Why Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire Helped Me Grow Up

For the past week I've been in Orlando, visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and other theme parks). To celebrate that joyous event (as well as my birthday), my plan was to have a week of Harry Potter-ness on this here blog, but that plan was THWARTED by the evil, evil hotel I was staying at because they DID NOT HAVE WIFI. It was weird. I was confused. But I could not change it.

But now I'm sitting in the Orlando airport (BTW, the call letters for the airport are MCO, so in my mind I call it the Mickey & Co. airport.) and THEY have WIFI for FREE DOLLERS. I like that. 

So, at long last, here is the lovely guest blog written by the lovely Farrah from I Eat Words. After you visit her blog,  you should follow her on Twitter, for she is awesome. 

LET THE GUEST BLOG COMMENCE!

Many people listen to a song and are brought back to a certain point in their life, whether it was a bad breakup or an enjoyable vacation. For me, I grew up with Harry Potter. When I re-read each book, I’m taken back to a certain time in my life. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire means more to me than just 734 pieces of paper. When I read it, I’m 12 years old again. 12 is a good age, because it’s before you start worrying about your looks, what people think, or how cool you’ll be in middle school. And that’s the thing. The fourth book address issues and problems of growing up inside the world of the three main characters. Aside from the action and adventure, J.K. Rowling takes the tension and angst of being 14 and presents it perfectly.

A lot of things happened when I was 12. I lost my best friend to the popular crowd months after we’d both read and gone to the midnight release of the 4th book. I was still a nerdy bookworm, swimming in a transition stage between middle school and elementary school. I saw girls attempt to wear makeup, talk about boys, and even cry over them. I didn’t understand what was happening, and because I’m known to re-read my favorite books, I lost myself in Harry’s world again. That’s when I first started to realize that my world and Harry’s weren’t different at all. I mean, sure I was still hopelessly awaiting my owl, letter, broomstick, but the issues of fights, friendships, and dating and clearly presented in this book because that’s usually the age when things begin to change. And I was noticing them. I had fights with my friends just Harry and Ron fought. I stammered around guys my own age just like Harry did when he spoke to Cho Chang.

The thing is, I knew it wasn’t going to get easier. J.K. Rowling put these small tensions in the book for a reason—they’re relatable to even us muggles. So even though I didn’t find a wide open door of clarity, the fourth book helped me realized people change, grow, and even act different because, *hello*, those wonderful things called hormones are kicking in. And I may have not understand even little thing about teen angst when I was 12, but I was glad I wasn’t the only one going through it. In fact, I knew that somehow, even though all the broken hearts, angry words, and fragile friendships, I’d be okay. And I am. So even though 12 came with a lot of good and a lot of bad, I’m still sucked back into those memories when I read The Goblet of Fire. There isn’t any book or song in the world that can define who you are, but it sure helps when you can get lost in both.

By Farrah

Blog: www.ieatwords.net