Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Fine Art of Truth or Dare

Title: The Fine Art of Truth or Dare
Author: Melissa Jensen
Publisher: Speak
Pages: 272
Release Date: February 16, 2012

Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that’s just fine by her. She’s got her friends— the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She’s got her art— and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing. Still, it’s hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before. But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they’re dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?—Goodreads


Ok, I'm a sucker for things that have to do with art because I'm a big art history nerd. So as soon as I saw this cover and the title I knew that I was just INTO this book. And then I saw that it's written by Melissa Jensen and I perked up even more because she wrote Falling in Love with English Boys, which I found to be super charming and fun. 

From the description, I'm not quite sure if the actual game of truth or dare has anything to do with the book, but, really, who cares. The title is adorable and the cover is adorable and I like the name Ella and I like the French language. 

Basically, I can't wait to read this. Even if it is to just stare at the cover. 

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tune In Tuesday: Even More 90s Jams!

It's official: 90s jams are the best.

They're fun and sometimes hilarious and they allow us all to be nostalgic about things from our (well, my) childhood.

And my childhood included a lot of country music.

So, here are a couple of my fave country jams from the '90s. *fingerguns*

Listening to this song as an adult, I realize just how cheeky it is. It makes me like it that much MORE.

I used to BELT this sucker with  my mom on road trips. :)

Yeah, this song is still good. It is also perhaps the reason why I'm a proponent of daily wine consumption.


Ok, I'ma stop now. Hopefully I've demonstrated that if you EVER need a recommendation for a 90s country song, I'm the girl who can give it to you.

Happy Tuesday!

Tune In Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Ginger at GReadsBooks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reactionary Reading: Shade & Shift

Writing book reviews can be really, really hard. Lately, it seems as if some of my favorite things about books, or some of my gut reactions to things that occur, don't make it into my reviews either because they don't make sense in the "review aspect" or because I don't want to give things away.

However, I recently wrote a review for both Shade and Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready and for some reason I couldn't get the tone of the review to capture how much fun I had while reading the books.

So I've decided to publish my reading notes. Yep, that's right—I take notes as I read. Typically I use those notes to help guide me when I'm writing reviews, but sometimes (I think) my notes are really, really amusing and very in-the-moment. They include everything from favorite quotes to my gut reactions to tangential musings, and sometimes provide absolutely no context to what is actually happening in the book. Suffice it to say, they are kind of random.

But BE WARNED! I have gone through and redacted major spoiler information. (Yep, just like the government does.) If you've read the books, or if you don't care about being spoiled, feel free to highlight the redacted portions so you can read the text. (It's like a game! Sort of.) But there might still be minor spoilers involved. So if you're the type that hates knowing things before you read, DO NOT PROCEED. And please keep in mind that this is all in good fun and are just my thoughts and opinions. 

All right, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let's get this show on the road!

May I present, my reading notes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tune In Tuesday: More 90s Jams

More 90s you say?

I'm good with that.

Let's keep last week's theme up and turn to the soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann's FREAKING FANTASTIC 1996 film version of Romeo + Juliet. People, this soundtrack holds up.

First and foremost, it features Radiohead's "Talk Show Host" as Romeo's theme throughout the film. As much as Radiohead probably wouldn't like this, this incredibly gorgeous, haunting song was my introduction to their music.

But Radiohead wasn't the only crazy awesome band featured on this soundtrack. There's also this darkly catchy tune by Garbage. 

And now for something a little less moody just plain fun: The Cardigan's "Lovefool," which played on the radio all the dang time and annoyed the hell out of my mom, and is still awesome.

Aaaand now that I've stopped dancing, I desperately want to watch this movie. If you've never seen it, you should definitely look into it picking it up or Netflixing it or straight up buying it. Because it is and AWESOME film. And the music is AWESOME. And Paul Rudd is in it. (As well as, you know, pre-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio.)

Tune In Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Ginger at GReadsBooks.

Friday, August 19, 2011

TGIF: The Reviews I Didn't Write

Well hello there.

This week, Ginger at GReadsBooks has asked:

"Have you ever read a book and not wanted to review it? Are some books too personal that we want to keep our thoughts our own?" 

 There are actually a bunch of books I've read and then decided to not review. Most of the time it's because I've either not been sure what to say or I didn't really have anything to say, if that makes any sense. 

I'll give you an example(s). 

I'm a huge fan of the wonderful Miss Cassandra Clare and really love The Mortal Instruments series, just like the rest of the YA-reading world. So when City of Fallen Angels came out back in April, I devoured the book. But when I finished, there had been SO MUCH buzz and discussion and chatter about COFA that I realized a) other people had already said the things that I thought about the book, many times better than I could, and b) I had nothing interesting or original to contribute to the discussion. And so I read it, tweeted about it a bit, and then moved on. 

Melissa de la Cruz's Blue Bloods series is another good example. I only recently read them and I LOVE them. OMG. But I never reviewed them because a) they'd been out for YEARS, and b) I wasn't really even sure how to go about reviewing them. My review would basically have said, "So, there's this series about vampires/angels, but it is also sort of Gossip Girl-ish in approach, and I totally dig it." However. I will probably post a review of Lost in Time when it comes out next month, even if the review is just "AJFKDJFIUIOELH$#**%^%& I LOVE THIS SERIES." *grins*

Another group of books I've never really written about on this blog are books that aren't considered YA. For example, I recently read Kathryn Stockett's The Help and Lev Grossman's The Magicians. While I probably wouldn't have reviewed The Help, as I'm glad I read it but don't necessarily have much to say about it, and I actually do have thoughts on The Magicians . . . but I'm not sure if it necessarily fits in with the tone and audience of this particular blog? But, then again. It's MY blog. So maybe you'll see a review of The Magicians on here in the next week or so. Who knows!

So. Yeah. I tend to post reviews of books for which I have concrete thoughts—good or bad—that can actually be explained in a mostly coherent manner. And I've never come across a book that was too personal for me to write about. At least not yet. But I'm fairly forthcoming about stuff like that, so I don't necessarily think that would be an issue for me. 

Anyhow! The moral of the story is I tend to not review books that I either like a whole bunch or don't know how to review. Because, let's be honest, sometimes you just think "I liked it." or "I didn't like it." and that's all there really is to say. 

I hope y'all had a freakin' fantabulous week and that you have a very relaxing weekend planned! TGIF! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: Shade and Shift

Titles: Shade and Shift
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Dates: May 4, 2010 (Shade);

Love ties them together. Death can't tear them apart.
Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last.
Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.
Well, sort of.
Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.
It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary is so understanding—and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.
As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart...and clues to the secret of the Shift.—Goodreads

After hearing soooo much about these books (and the Scottish slice of mancake that is Zachary) I finally, finally, finally read the first two books in the Shade series by the Twitter-loving Jeri Smith-Ready.

After finishing Shade, the first book in the series, I was actually sort of . . .  not in love with the book the way I wanted to be. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but  I wanted Logan to just freaking pass on already and let Aura get on with her life (preferably with Zach, the most patient teenage boy ever written). And then I felt bad for feeling like that because if MY boyfriend up and died, and I had the option of having him around forever as a ghost, I really don't know what I would ultimately want. Anyhow, by the end of Shade I actually found myself much more interested in the storyline regarding Aura and Zach's project on The Shift than I was the love story aspect.

And then I read Shift. And holy cow did this book change things for me. The second book in the series deals much more with the idea of The Shift and the logistics of how and why it happened, thus satiating my desire for that—and you learn more about Aura's mother, who died when Aura was three, but left behind a very frustrating journal, full of missing pages, describing her time in Ireland about a year before Aura was born. In just this regard, I enjoyed Shift way, way more than I did Shade.

But onto the love story aspect. Logan is still around in Shift and actually plays a big role in helping Aura and Zach with their project as there are some DISCOVERIES that are made because of Logan. And though Aura still struggles with her feelings throughout the book, because who wouldn't, I actually liked the way Smith-Ready handled it. It's very obvious that Aura is torn, and that if Logan was still alive she would absolutely be with him, and wouldn't have thought twice about Zach. (Feel free to argue with me about that in comments.) But because Logan isn't alive and needs to pass on, Zach is definitely on Aura's mind a lot. However, she doesn't really pursue him until she resolves her lingering feelings for her lingering ghost of a boyfriend.

Alright, so other things in these books:

I have to talk about Logan's siblings, specifically Dylan. Although I do like Mickey and Siobhan, I adore Dylan and he really, really stood out in Shift. About halfway through, Aura decides to ask Dylan to go to prom with her, and though that seems a little weird (I mean, he's her dead boyfriend's little brother) he ended up being the best prom date EVER. Dylan is definitely the stand-out character for me.

However! I also really love Megan, Aura's best friend and girlfriend of Mickey. Megan is the kind of girl who would have no qualms about getting in a fist fight to defend her friends. She's kind of a hard ass, but she's really funny and has a Yoda puppet (!!!) and is just an all-around incredible friend.

And now we discuss the music, which plays a huge, huge role in this book. So huge, in fact, that Miss Smith-Ready has playlists for the books on her website. You should check them out because they are great. Logan's family, the Keeleys, are all uber musical (except for Dylan) and before Logan died were in a very successful Irish punk band. So, music is discussed a whole bunch. And there is a reference to Mumford and Sons. And I want to borrow Smith-Ready's iPod and steal all her music.

Oh! You also need to know that Zach wears a kilt to the prom. It's AWESOME.

Overall, these books are solid and actually very different in tone than are a lot of YA novels. Smith-Ready is great at crafting characters who are flawed, but still loveable (i.e., Mickey. And Logan. And, actually, Aura.) And though Zach is the most "perfect" of the characters, he's not a YA male who is so perfect that he could never actually exist. (There's hope for us accent-lovin' ladies yet!) So yeah. I like these. And I'm VERY excited to read Shine!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Black Heart

Title: Black Heart (Curse Workers series)
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: April 3, 2012

Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy. 

But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.—Goodreads

I. Love. This. Series.

When the lovely and wholly fantastic Miss Holly Black posted the first teaser from Black Heart on Monday, you best believe that I sort of . . . freaked out. It's not even a long quote. It's a blip, really. But it's a lovely, gorgeous, effing incredible blip that will make you want to devour the other two books, White Cat and Red Glove. (And, really, you probably should. Well, not literally devour. Whatever, y'all know what I mean.) Anyhow, the takeaway is this: I want to read this book real bad. And not in April. Which seems hella-far away, since it's, you know, currently August. *le sigh*

What books are you waiting on this week? Lemme know in comments!

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tune In Tuesday: 90s Edition!

Alright,y'all. I really, really, REALLY like music from the '90s. Which actually makes this Tune in Tuesday a little tough for me because there are just so many frakkin' songs to choose from.

So, I think . . . I think I shall pull up my "90s Jams" playlist on iTunes and let iTunes randomly choose the song for me. (I really love that iTunes can make decisions for me.)

Ooooh, iTunes chose a good one! Ok, so now that I know the song, I'll give it a bit of an introduction.

This song is from the soundtrack of Reality Bites, a film I think is maybe the most 90's-tastic movie around. [I admit, THAT is a very bold statement. I think I mean most 90's-tastic in terms of attitude and tone] It captures the angst and uncertainty and the "oh-wow-growing-up-sucks" part of growing up and finding out that life after college is a really insecure place to find yourself. And this song really captures that as well. So, without further ado, here is the wonderful Miss Lisa Loeb.

And now I will give you a BONUS VIDEO of an entirely different genre. Because I FEEL like it. *grins madly*

If that doesn't have you chair dancing, I don't know what will.

Happy Tuesday!

Tune In Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Ginger at GReadsBooks.

Friday, August 12, 2011

TGIF: Author Block Party

On this gloriously cool August Friday, Ginger at GReadsBooks has asked:

If you could gather a handful of authors to hang out with, who would you choose?

I'm going to go ahead and say that this is pretty much the greatest thing I have ever thought up. After some serious deliberating about my oh-so exclusive guest list, what I decided is that I would have an author sleepover, with a stringent "No Boys Allowed" rule. [Obviously, boys will be crashing this very girly party.]

So, without further ado, here is my incredibly fantastic guest list and the items they have been assigned to bring:

Maureen Johnson: Bringing jars, and perhaps Sherlock. And Felicity Disco!! Felicity Disco can come tooooo.
Holly Black: Bringing some sort of hilarious costumes for all of us to wear. If they must, they can be themed.
Cassandra Clare: Bringing snacks.
Libba Bray: Bringing her glass eye and a keyboard.
Myra McEntire: Bringing DRINKS. She gets to choose what sort.
Michelle Hodkin: Bringing a Ouija board. We will just STARE at it and not actually USE it.
Jeri Smith-Ready: Bringing her iPod.
Stephanie Perkins: Bringing crafts. I don't really know if she's crafty, but I think that maybe she is, and I bet her crafty ideas would be adorable.

And at this sleepover, we would eat snacks and drink whatever sorts of beverages Miss Myra brings, and watch a lot of Doctor Who. And the boys (John Green, David Levithan, George R. R. Martin [I figure, every party needs a surly man with a beard!] and then the author ladies' respective fellas) would crash the party, and fun would be HAD. And it would probably end up all over Twitter and Youtube, since my invitees tend to like to post things on those sorts of Internet-y places.

So that's my author party list! I hope that y'all have all had a great week and have a luxuriously relaxing weekend to look forward to!

TGIF is a weekly meme hosted by Ginger at GReadsBooks.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publisher: Simon &  Schuster
Pages: 450
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Format: ARC, borrowed from Ginger :)

Mara Dyer doesn't think 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 mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.—Goodreads

When I first heard about this book, I was immediately clamoring to read it. I was obsessed with the title and the cover and that description—the combination of the three were just beckoning me to read it. And then some blogger friends got a hold of ARCs and they read it, and had very, very mixed reactions. While I'd love to say that others' reactions to books don't influence how I think about them, it just isn't true. So I was a little nervous to read this.

Turns out, I had absolutely nothing to be nervous about.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is effing incredible. Michelle Hodkin is a writer after my own heart. The dialogue she writes is witty and snarky and sort of nerdy, but in a geek-chic sort of way, and her scene setting skills are faaaantastic. The woman can write suspense so intense that you end up holding your breath without realizing it (Seriously. I had problems breathing while reading this.) and then she can have you laughing your ass off. And her sexy scenes? Lord have mercy.

Which brings us to Noah Shaw. Noah is straight up sex: witty and charming and reckless and BRITISH-ACCENTED and not afraid of a fist fight. But he's also the kind of guy who completely understands the sexually-charged thrall he holds over basically everyone, and somehow that makes him all that more attractive instead of insufferably douchey. In personality, he reminds me of Logan Ecolls from Veronica Mars, if Logan had a British accent. There's no way I'm going to do Noah justice, so I'll leave it at this—Noah Shaw is one of the most swoon-worthy YA males I've ever read.

But Noah isn't the only well-written character: Hodkin introduces a very diverse cast, featuring characters you immediately love (Jamie!!) and those you hate with such a passion that you want to reach into the book and choke the bitches yourself. And it would be SATISFYING, lemme tell you. Suffice it to say, you'll like them, even if you hate them.

While the characters are incredibly crafted, what really drives The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is the shroud of mystery that hangs over the book and the eponymous Mara Dyer. While I loved loved loved my reading experience with this book, at no point did I necessarily feel like I had a perfect grasp on what was happening. In fact, on more than one occasion I had the inkling that I was in the midst of an Inception-style, multi-layered world.

But that doesn't mean I ever felt confused. Hodkin weaves in enough intrigue, suspense, and what-the-effery to keep things feeling off-kilter, but not so much that I wanted to throw the book across the room and leave it there. My biggest hang-up while reading was that as I was nearing the end of the book I kept thinking "But I have soooo many questions! There's no way I'm going to feel satisfied with the ending!"

And while it's true that not all of my questions were answered, the book ends on a GINORMOUS cliffhanger that will make your head spin and your eyes bulge out. Now, normally I'm not a fan of the cliffhanger ending—I'm not a supremely patient lady, so I don't enjoy waiting that year or so for the next book to be published. But this cliffhanger is strangely satisfying: it answers questions, but also opens up a whole other can of worms for you to process and discuss with others. *hint hint*

To illustrate the OH-HOLY-CEILING-CAT-WHAT-JUST-HAPPENEDness of the ending, here are my tweets from directly after I finished:

I love this book more than is probably healthy for a person to love a book. But I do not care.

Overall, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is one of the most satisfying books I've ever read. It's wonderfully paced, features incredibly dynamic characters you want to spend more time with, and includes a plot that is so twisty and confusing and compelling that I couldn't help but become completely, totally absorbed in it.

Now, while I can't promise that you'll share my enthusiasm for this book, what I can promise is that at the end, you'll look like this:

And it is SO. WORTH. IT.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Fault in Our Stars

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 272
Release Date: January 10, 2012

I love John Green.

I love John Green's books.

I will read anything he writes.

And you should too!

Now listen to him talk about it.I can promise that you'll fall slightly in love with him. It's ok. Just accept it.

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

Friday, August 5, 2011

TGIF: This is Personal

On this first Friday of August (AUGUST!) Ginger at GReadsBooks has asked: 

Which books have affected you on a personal level and lingered in your mind long after you closed the pages?

Well. You see. I'm the kind of person who really delves into books. Meaning, I have a tendency to over-involve myself with the characters. I get so involved that I feel like I KNOW them, and, sometimes, I find myself adopting their attitudes and/or speech patterns. I know. It's weird. But I never said I was normal. 

But, what this all means is that there are a lot of characters or entire books that have really resonated with me while I was reading. But the ones that have STAYED with me? They're a whole different breed. 

1. Mansfield Park—Jane Austen
As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, it was Mansfield Park that really made me an Austenite. It's in this book that Austen's grasp on not only gentility and society shine, but her knowledge of politics and social commentary comes through as well. I guess it can be argued that all of her works have an element of politics in them, but this one REALLY does. And it's the one I point Austen critics to when they admit they've never read it. And Fanny Price is an incredible heroine—strong and smart and steady, even when she doesn't feel like she is. In fact, when people ask the always fun hypothetical question "If you could be a literary character, who would you be?" I often say Fanny Price. <3

2. Georgia Nicholson series—Louise Rennison
This series shows up on basically every list I make, but it's because it means so much to me. If you've read the books, then you're probably thinking, "Bethany . . . what?" And I know. These books are goofy and silly and so stylized in dialogue that some people may be put off by them. But you know what? I lurve them to the point that I have incorporated a lot of the words Georgia uses into my everyday vocabulary. (e.g., Mariachi-a-go-go. I only refer to Mariachi music as Mariachi-a-go-go music now.) Anyway. I just have a really special place in my heart for these books about a super goofy British girl. I started reading these when I was still in high school, a place where I was really confused about who I was as a person, and Georgia was the first character to make my super goofy ass feel as if it's ok to be super goofy. So, BIG HUGS for Georgia and the hilarious Ms. Louise Rennison.

3. If I Stay and Where She Went—Gayle Forman 
These two books, man. They are intense. And though I only read them for the first time earlier this year, probably everyone I know has heard me talk about these books. When people come to me for book recommendations, these two ALWAYS come up, no matter the age/gender/interests of the person who is asking.   They are just incredible. The story is arresting and the writing is so vivid that it's hard to not get personally involved in these books and completely swept up in the story of Adam and Mia.

4. Harry Potter—J.K. Rowling 
I'd be remiss not to add these to this list. I'm not gonna say much, because other people before me have waxed poetic about these books in much more sophisticated ways than I ever could. But. Well. Y'all know. These books are just special. They leave a mark (ha!) on everyone who reads them and Ms. Rowling deserves every damn royalty penny. 

5. Looking for Alaska—John Green
This is another book that shows up on almost every stinkin' list I make about books, but really, this one is important to me. My sister introduced me to the Green brothers' vlogs back in . . . Lord, 2008. From then on, I've been hooked. But, when I realized John is an author, I dashed out to get Looking for Alaska. I had no idea it was a YA novel. I had no idea what it was about. I just knew that I found John to be a very intriguing, funny, intelligent man and that I wanted to read his book. It did not disappoint me. In fact, I think I'll credit Looking for Alaska as the book that got me back into reading YA. I was so impressed with the style and tone he uses in his writing that I was like, "I have GOT to start reading YA again, if this is what YA books are like now." And thus began my reintroduction to the YA genre. And now I have a this here bloggy blog. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: The Name of the Star

Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin)
Pages: 370
Release Date: September 27, 2010
Format: ARC from Fire & Ice (Thank you so much!)

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

It's no secret that I have a ginormous crush on Miss Maureen Johnson and all of her wacky awesomeness. It's also not a secret that I haven't necessarily loved her books in the past.

The Name of the Star changes that.

Y'all. This book is GREAT. And I'm not just saying that because I like the author so dang much. I'm saying it because I'd be reading and I'd put the book down and think "Holy Buddha, this book is good." And then I'd text people or tweet and then go back to reading. And then I realized I was getting close to the end, and I couldn't put the book down because I was glued to it, but I didn't want to finish. It was an issue. But finish it I did. And let me just say . . . it is one of my favorite books I've read this year.

So here's why I liked it, in LIST FORMAT. Because I like lists.

1. Rory Deveaux
Rory is joining the ranks of female main characters whom I super like. She's funny and confident and has a quirky-ass sense of humor. For example, instead of getting embarrassed or feeling awkward when a snobby girl insinuates in front of a bunch of people that Rory is out of her league at Wexford, the British boarding school she enrolls in, Rory plays up her Louisiana accent and sarcastically quips about how she's never owned a pair of shoes before. I would have NEVER done that at seventeen. Hell, I probably wouldn't have the lady balls to do that now. Anyway. She's awesome and I luff her.

2. Jazza's Pink Piggy Mug
So, Jazza is Rory's roommate at Wexford, and she is the epitome of what I think a sweet, quiet British girl would be like. She is studious and serious and loves Jane Austen. And she has many tea mugs, including a pink piggy one. I like that one the mostest.

3. The Boys
Okay, so as in any YA novel, (also, anything EVER) there are boys. Namely, Jerome, Stephen, and Callum. But the boys in this really take a back seat to Miss Rory and, of course, the legacy of Jack the Ripper. I actually really liked that about this book. The book isn't a romance—it's about a girl and what she knows and how that knowledge is going to perhaps get her killed. Now that doesn't mean there aren't funny or sweet or touching moments throughout the novel—there definitely are—but those things are used for comedic or romantic relief from the super tense and creepy moments. So. Hooray for boys, but also hooray for them not being distracting.

4. The Use of Society's Obsession with the Macabre
So, I think part of being human is being fascinated by sick, twisted, horrifying things. It's something that is both disturbing and terrifying, but it's still true. I think it's a coping mechanism—the only way we know how to process sick, twisted, horrifying things is to learn as much as we can about them so that we can maybe understand them.

Anyway, Johnson uses this sick facet of human nature and does a superb job both exploiting and explaining it. She captures the fear, paranoia, obsession, and disbelief that society feels when a deranged serial killer in on the loose, both in the past and in present day. She also does a great job describing the ways people might "cope" with those situations—there's lots of sitting around TVs and theorizing and drinking and making light of it all and trying to capitalize on Rippermania by selling cheap baubles and merchandise to tourists. And there's also a lot of freaking out. Because this is a creepy book. *grins*

5. The Research
Johnson did her homework on what London was like in 1888, when the original Ripper was terrorizing Whitechapel and uses it in a way that informs the plot, but doesn't weigh it down. She adds in details and suspense that is so vivid it feels real—you feel like you're watching the CCTV surveillance or walking through the streets with the characters instead of just reading about them.

But it isn't just the historical research that's impressive—it's the way Johnson conveys her knowledge of being an American in London. Although Rory is quirky and funny and fun, she's still a fish out of water. On several occasions Johnson mentions that Rory's British friends talk about TV shows or celebrities that Rory has never heard of, or they use phrases or colloquialisms that have to be explained to her. Though it's not a huge part of the book, it happens just enough to make Rory and her world all that more believable.

You know else I like about this book? Everything.

This is by far my favorite book by Johnson—it's the perfect balance of creepy and funny. But more importantly, it's really, really well-written and well-edited and well-researched. And. Yeah. It's damn good.

I can't wait to get my finished copy so I can read it AGAIN.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick

Title: Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick
Author: Joe Schreiber
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Release Date: October 25, 2011

Perry Stormaire is a normal high school senior– he is busy applying to college and rehearsing with his band –until he agrees to go to the prom with the Lithuanian exchange student who is staying with his family. It turns out that Gobi Zaksauskas is not the mousy teenager that she seems but rather an attractive, confident trained assassin. Instead of going to the prom, Perry finds himself on a wild ride through the streets of New York City as Gobi commandeers the Jaguar his father lent him for the prom in order to take out her targets. Perry learns a lot about himself – and ends up with some amazing material for his college application essays.—Goodreads

This sounds like SO. MUCH. FUN.

Why, you ask?

1. Surprise! Lithuanian assassin. Awesome.

2. "Wild ride through the streets of New York City"? FANTASTIC.

3. "Jaguar his father lent him for the prom" . . . wait what?! What father in his right mind would LEND his Jaguar to his son. On prom night, nonetheless. Unless this father never went to prom, or doesn't remember what it was like to be a teenaged boy, or has never seen a movie about prom, or does not care what happens to his Jaguar. And then maybe that makes sense.

Mostly, this sounds sort of like Nick and Norah on crack. And with guns. And high speed chases. Which means I am SO IN.

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

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

Title: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 352
Release Date: May 10, 2011 (paperback)

Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew—just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road—diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards—this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself.—Goodreads

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour seems to be one of those books that EVERYONE loves. I picked it up on the recommendation of Ginger at GReadsBooks, and then that recommendation was echoed by basically every book blogger I talk to on Twitter, so I had very, very high expectations.

Which actually ended up being a problem. I had such high expectations that when I started it I expected incredible, amazing, explosive greatness right from the get-go. Which, of course, is a silly thing to expect because that is HARD to do. But expect it I did, and at first I was a bit disappointed.

I didn't immediately love Amy, and while I really felt for her situation, I thought she was being kind of a brat about the whole refusing to drive thing. [I'm heartless, I know.] And while I did like Roger pretty much immediately, I don't like his name. I think this is because Roger was the bully on Doug. [I'm serious. I really think that's why.]

Anyway, this book really had to woo me. Lucky for it, I tend to like 1) road trip novels and 2) fast food.

Which brings me to the point that there is SO MUCH AWESOME FAST FOOD IN THIS BOOK. Ok, so what you maybe need to know about me is that I'm a very, very unhealthy eater. It's not that I dislike fruits/veggies/healthiness, it's just that fast food tastes so damn good. And I fancy myself a sort of fast food connoisseur. My first job was working as a carhop at a Sonic Drive-In. I know the difference between Hardee's, Carl's Jr., and Jack in the Box. I've been to In-N-Out Burger, Shake Shack, and Five Guys, and know which burger I like best out of those three. And I have a deep love for Chic-fil-A, which I can't get in stupid NYC. (Well, technically there's one in an NYU cafeteria. But I would have to sneak in and then be surrounded by NYU students. Both of those things are kind of annoying.)

So, suffice it to say, I really, really enjoyed the fast food shop talk and reading about a Sonic/Chic-fil-A virgin's first time enjoying Sonic/Chic-fil-A. :)

But other than the fooood, what really made me like this book were the many fantastic characters Amy and Roger met along the way from Point A to Point B. Although I could probably write pages and pages about all of the minor characters, I will not subject you to that. Instead I will highlight three (well, four. But two sort of go together) of the ones I loved the mostest.

1) Bronwyn: First of all, her name rocks. Second of all, she's the sort of girl who just intuitively understands what another girl needs, be it a hug, a make over, or a whole new suitcase of clothes. Hooray Bronwyn!

2) Cheeks and Walcott: Love these boys. Love them, love them, love them. They were both just really dang friendly and warm and welcoming, in that way that makes you feel like you've known them both for forever. I like that. And Walcott provided my favorite quote of the book!

"Aren't you taking this Kansas thing a little far?"
"No," Walcott said simply, rolling down his sleeve. "It's my home, man. You've got to have pride in your home. You are where you're from. Otherwise, you're always going to be lost."

Hooray Cheeks and Walcott!

3) Lucien: Oh my, Lucien. He is the perfect southern gentlemen and I want to call him mine. And if I ever have a son, I want him to be just like Lucien. That is all. Hooray Lucien!

Overall, this book charmed the pants off me. Not only did I end up really liking both Amy and Roger, but I loved the journey they took together. And that's really what a road trip novel should be about, isn't it?