Thursday, 31 May 2012

In Defense of Insecurity

Let me start off by saying this is kind of a response to a really well done post about insecurity in teen characters. "Kind of" as in I read this post and thought about it and decided this might be a good discussion topic although I could also be horribly wrong. Either way, I liked this post. You should read it.

Cicely makes the point that a LOT of characters in YA are insecure. They don't like themselves until they get a boyfriend and then everything's magically okay and they're desirable because they have a boyfriend. I'm not going to argue this fact, because it is true in many cases. 

However, I don't agree that we need less insecure main characters. I feel like we have a lot of very strong, confident female characters in YA. Many of them have some kind of insecurity and in many cases, they move past that during the novel. If anything, I would say we need more insecure female characters. Because you know what?

Authors are doing insecurity wrong.

I'm seventeen years old. And I can't tell you when I last felt the slightest bit of confidence about anything I've done. I can't tell you when I last looked in the mirror and liked what I saw for more than 20 minutes (as one of my walls is just two mirrored closet doors, this isn't a crazy statement. It's just that my reflection is ALWAYS right there.) I don't recall ever feeling good about myself or when I was really happy. I don't know how to take compliments other than to shake my head and try not to tell the person they're crazy.

What does all this mean? My insecurity isn't a temporary thing. It's not about one specific part of me. Maybe it started as me feeling unsure about one aspect of myself, but it's leaked into every aspect of my life. Almost everything I do, no matter how confident I should be in what I'm saying, I never am.

I don't like volunteering answers in class because on occasion, I'm wrong and I don't even want to take that chance that what I say won't be the right answer. I hate trying clothes on with a passion because every time a pair of jeans doesn't fit, I feel like a failure. Before school, I only give myself half an hour to get ready. Half of that time is spent making sure my outfit won't make me stand out or look fat and my hair's okay and my pimples are covered up. I'm afraid to make jokes because I worry people won't laugh or it'll offend someone and God forbid I offend someone because I feel like none of my friends actually like me as it is and I don't want to chase them away for good. I'd rather have friends that secretly don't like me or that I don't particularly like than not have anyone to talk to during my free time in class. And I can't even get friends, so why would a boy ever want to kiss me or date me or love me?

And not even my personal life, but my semi-professional life as a blogger? I've considered myself a book blogger for 2 and a half years, though technically it's been more like three years. But I still almost always fear posting a discussion post. What if nobody reacts? What if I got too personal? What if nobody agrees with me? What if I just sound like a lunatic because am I ever really coherent? Writing this post was easy, but posting it is a whole different issue. I won't keep going because I already wrote a whole post on some of my blogging insecurities over a year ago. If anything, I've gotten less confident since then. 

Most of these things sound pretty irrational, don't they? But this is what insecurity can look like. And how often do you see these kind of feelings in YA books where it actually is part of the plot? How many times do we see a female character talk about how insecure she is in things besides her appearance? Being insecure, at least for me, is not a choice. It's not something that will sometimes bother me. It's something that bothers me all the time. So if a character's supposed to be so insecure...why doesn't it affect her most of the time?

I know YA books have a lot going on and I know that we want to show girls that they can be strong and independent (even if the books don't always actually do that). But isn't it just as important to tell girls it's okay to be this crazy insecure? Isn't it just as important to tell them that their appearance isn't the only thing that doesn't matter?

Honestly, I don't know if my behavior is a normal thing. I have a lot of friends who are comfortable with who they are. I have some friends who are comfortable with themselves for the most part except for their appearance. And there are books out there for my friends to relate to. But me? Not so much.

There's all different kinds of insecurity and all different levels. And all of those should be represented for teen girls who are reading YA. I'm not saying that their insecurity should be a focal point in the novel or that it should be a plot. To be honest, I wouldn't want to read a book that was strictly about a girl getting over all her self doubt. But I don't think it should be something strictly talked about when the girl's looking at herself or thinking about the fact that she'll never get a boyfriend.

But still, what I want isn't that simple.

Despite all of my problems that seem like they would be super obvious, they're not. I don't walk around telling people how vulnerable I feel and asking do I sound stupid, is my hair okay and dear God don't let there be a stain on my ass again. I can fake confidence like a boss. My heart beat increases rapidly as I try to talk to someone I don't know or just someone I don't talk to often. I use laziness as my excuse not to go talk to a teacher or guidance counselor about something just because I'm afraid they won't give me the answer I want or the words won't come out right. A lot of attention makes me want to cry because what if I look like a mess or have a stain?, but public speaking has become - by necessity - something I've learned to deal with doing and to some extent, enjoy. I'm always terrified, but I'm not hiding behind my hair and refusing to speak my opinion and my thoughts in class. I don't want people to know I don't believe in myself, because what if that turns me into a target? What if nobody will like what they see? What if my parents start insisting I need therapy and drugs and God knows what else before I'm ready? No, I'd prefer to pretend everything's fine and dandy thank you much and why yes my hair does look pretty today, doesn't it?

So what am I asking for? 

I'm asking for variety. I'm asking to see more girls who actually are insecure when they claim they are. 

I'm asking for insecurity to be real, but I'm not asking for these girls to just stare awkwardly when somebody tries to talk to them (I only do that sometimes). A girl - or a guy, for that matter (even if I've only said the word girl in this post. Let's be fair, this can be true for guys too, even if they won't admit it)  - can doubt every word that comes out of her mouth without being unable to talk to an attractive person or a crush. 

And I'm asking for YA authors to make it okay for teenagers to not like some or most or all of them. Because one thing I've never heard from people I talk to about my insecurities? That it's okay for me to doubt myself a lot and dislike myself some (or a lot) of the time. Maybe once characters (and real teenagers) know it's okay, it can become a bit easier to start moving past it because we're not so caught up in worrying if we're crazy for feeling how we do.

--Julie

P.S. Part 1: Yes, teenage boys and adults and maybe even infants can also be insecure. But I'm a teenage girl and most YA books are from the perspective of teenage girls, so that's the root I went with. But this can probably apply to any age group or gender.
Part 2: My insecurities listed above are actually an improvement on what they used to be, largely thanks to the YA Community. Having found a group of people like me and having people believe in me has helped quite a bit. I'm now at a point where it's much less self loathing and more self doubt, which is healthier in my opinion. So yeah, you can be even more insecure than I am. Probably.

Lanna's response to Julie's post (purely because it got too long to post in the comments):
I think insecurity is definitely normal. People tend not to see themselves as others see them, and we spend so much time with ourselves (stating the obvious, I know), that every little flaw is magnified even when other people either don't see it or barely notice it or it just doesn't matter to them.

When we were younger, my best friend was crazy insecure - she is really, really pretty and she acted so confident (to the point where she got a reputation as being slutty before she had even so much as kissed a guy)... but she refused to leave the house without make-up on or her hair done (first time we met one of our guy friends, she literally hid her face and refused to let him see her until she put make-up on, she wouldn't join in water fights in summer because the make-up would come off). And she wore way, way, way more make-up than she needed - and it wasn't vanity, it was insecurity.

My cousin is really pretty too and she would spend literally about half an hour in a dressing room with one pair of jeans trying to decide whether to buy them - again, it wasn't vanity, it was insecurity. She looked great in the jeans, but she looked in the mirror and saw them as making her look fat. She burned her nose once with straighteners and even after the burn faded to the point where it wasn't even noticible, she still looked in the mirror and saw it and would feel the need to cover that part of her skin with concealer every time she left the house.

A photographer/person on tumblr that I think is awesome, she's genuinely one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen - but she doesn't like her smile because she thinks it makes her face look chubby.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that insecurity is normal and everyone has insecurities, even people who come across as confident, even people who are so beautiful that you can't imagine them looking in the mirror and seeing something different. I know I'm definitely insecure about so much.

And this got really long, but to get back on topic a bit: I think the reason insecurities aren't often shown to their full extent in novels is because, well... it's annoying to read. It's frustrating seeing someone be down on themselves in real life, and it's even worse reading it in a novel because you're stuck inside their head - you just want to shake the character and tell them to stop and to see themselves as the people who love them do.

Insecurities are realistic, but it's one realistic aspect that I don't think I like to read in novels. When Bella Swan or America (from The Selection), for example, call themselves plain or not pretty - it's just frustrating to read about, it often doesn't come across as genuine insecurity because insecurity is often irrational or seems irrational in other people.

Like you (Julie), thinking your friends don't genuinely like you - I think you're brilliant, so I find that hard to believe (even if I do believe that you genuinely think that). Or when you see someone you think is gorgeous and they're self-deprecating on their looks, it's hard to accept that they actually look in the mirror and don't like what they see.

I don't think books could teach people that insecurities are okay, or help people not be so insecure because insecurity is one of those things that each person has to find a way to come to terms with themselves and reading about it doesn't quite sink in in a way that can be applied to them on a personal level (and in novels, when insecurities seem to fade when someone gets a boyfriend, it's because in real life, sometimes having someone love you and want to be with you or be your friend does help overcome insecurities or dim them a little...it's like, "This person is amazing, I love and trust them. I can't be so bad if they love me too, right?").

I don't think I'd want books to teach people that it's okay to not like themselves, or parts of themselves, because while that is normal... it shouldn't be okay. People should look at themselves and see the good things first, instead of the bad, they should see the good as outweighing the bad and realise that the rest of the world probably doesn't see them in the negative ways they see themselves. Normal shouldn't make it okay. You feeling the way you do, it's normal (although, maybe a bit more extreme than some peoples insecurity)... but it isn't okay that you feel that way because you're amazing and I wish you'd see yourself that way too, even just a little bit.

Later.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King

Please Ignore Vera Dietz 
by A. S. King 

Summary: Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to? 
 So this book was a bit awesome. I kind of avoided reading it for ages and I wish I had read it sooner because it was really good.

 The writing/writing style was really great. It had switching POV's and I hate that in general, but it didn''t bother me in this and it had a bunch of scenes that should've been dull (like filler stuff about her pizza delivery job), but just weren't. The way it was written kept it interesting and didn't drag.

The characters - they were the kind of characters who were very flawed with equally flawed relationships and they felt more realistic and likeable (or in some cases, hateable) because of that and I found myself rooting for them to do the right thing or for things to work out okay for them. Vera and Charlie's relationship was messed up, but in spite of all the bad things, I still wished it would've worked out for them (which makes it even sadder because you know from the very first page that he died and that they didn't get a nice happy ending like they deserved).

The story really surprised me, the plot surprised me and I was so not expecting it to be about what it turned out to be about and it's weird, it felt like just a contemporary novel even though it had some paranormal-ish aspects to it... the execution of it, I could never tell if it was in her head or if it was supposed to be real but it felt like it was real while reading (can you tell I'm trying to explain without spoilers and I'm failing epically?).

But anyway, basically, I really liked the book. I'd probably rate it 4.5 stars out of 5 (could've been either 4 or 5, the 4 because it kind of felt like I read it at the wrong time, was in the wrong frame of mind so things that should've really upset me or made me cry just didn't or 5 because it was genuinely awesome but I'm not sure if that...disconnect from real sadness was a problem with me, just the mood I was in, or if it was a disconnect in the book).

Later.

p.s. it says on the cover that it's a Printz award honor book or something like that - I think I need to read all the Printz books because I've loved all the ones I have read (Jellicoe Road and Looking for Alaska are on my favourite books list and they both won).

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection
by Kiera Cass


Release date (UK): June 7th 2012

Summary: Thirty-five beautiful girls. Thirty-five beautiful rivals…

It’s the chance of a lifetime and 17-year-old America Singer should feel lucky. She has been chosen for The Selection, a reality TV lottery in which the special few compete for gorgeous Prince Maxon's love.

Swept up in a world of elaborate gowns, glittering jewels and decadent feasts, America is living a new and glamorous life. And the prince takes a special interest in her, much to the outrage of the others.

Rivalry within The Selection is fierce and not all of the girls are prepared to play by the rules. But what they don’t know is that America has a secret – one which could throw the whole competition… and change her life forever.
So I saw a lot of negative reviews of this book and went into it with low expectations because of that, but I actually enjoyed reading it. It wasn't perfect and had it's flaws, but it was entertaining and did make me kind of care about the characters (at least, it made me care about the romance).

As a dystopian novel? It wasn't really anything special. The world building was lacking (not much detail about the world aside from a few information-dump type scenes that weren't particularly great) and it was kind of unconvincing in some aspects (like the world ending up like that and I didn't buy America's reason for entering the selection, it seemed kind of silly - it was written in a way that made suspension of disbelief difficult, maybe the sequel will be better in that way).

But as a YA romance? It worked.

It was fun to read and I liked the interactions with Maxon and America (I hate the names in the book though - there were only a few exceptions) and I'm actually kind of torn on who I want her to end up with. On one hand, I would really like her with the prince, but then... Aspen was good too. 

I can't think of much more to say about the book than that. I liked it, it kept me amused for a few hours and I want to read the next book. I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5.

I really hope the TV show adaption actually happens because it's one of those books that I think I'd love as a TV show (like Pretty Little Liars or Gossip Girl or The Lying Game, where I am addicted to the shows even though I didn't love the books). 

Later.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Book Haul (119)

Julie:

So...so this is two weeks in books. Yeah, I know it's kind of dull in my inbox/mailbox, isn't it? I mean, I guess it's a good thing since I've got that whole college thing coming up and PLENTY of books to read as it is but...I liked having those surprise packages in my mailbox when I got home, or that awesome email from Netgalley/Edelweiss about a new book approval. Ah well.

Gifted:
Soulless by Gail Carriger
(thanks Catie!)

Egalleys:
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Bought:
The Hunger Pains by The Harvard Lampoon

And there you go. I already read Let's Pretend This Never Happened, and y'all...this book is HILARIOUS. Seriously, pick it up. But only if you're over...I dunno, 14ish? It's very much of the adult, which is why it's, you know, an adult book. Swearing, drinking, drugs, lots of talk about girly parts...yeah.

ANYWAY, thoughts on these books? What did you guys get?

--Julie

Friday, 25 May 2012

In Your Room by Jordanna Fraiberg

In Your Room
Jordanna Fraiberg
Razorbill
[October 16, 2008]

Molly and Charlie have fallen head over heels in love- even though they've never met. Molly is a fashion-conscious city girl in L.A. Charlie is an earthy, mountain-biking dude from Boulder, Colorado. Each of them has big plans with their respective friends for the summer, until they discover that their parents decided to swap houses!

Luckily there's no amount of homesickness that a bit of snooping can't cure. Charlie and Molly begin crawling under beds and poking around in closets to find out a little more about each other, and they like what they find.

Can Charlie and Molly's long-distance romance survive jealousy, misunderstandings and the thousand miles between them?

MTV's Room Raiders meets You've Got Mail in this sweet, old-fashioned love story for the digital age. . . .
This book? Five kinds of adorable.

I loved Molly and Charlie. They were both sweet and fun characters. I loved how much they changed while they were spending time in each others rooms. Both were kind of single minded with this is what I like and I can't believe I'm leaving it for a summer thinking. But they spent a summer talking and learning and having new experiences and they came out better for it.

I loved their relationship too. It was honest and real and their looks honestly didn't matter and I thought that was wonderful. How many times do we read a book and hear about how attractive the love interest is? Isn't that always how the relationship starts? Well that wasn't an option in this book, which made it immediately stand out.

Charlie and Molly also had some family/personal problems that were touched on, too. That kinda balance is always good, you know?

I know this is a pretty crappy endorsement, but I read this in February, so it's kind of blurry in my memory. I DO know that I loved this book a whole lot and y'all should pick it up.

--Julie

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

Unbreak My Heart
Melissa C. Walker
Bloomsbury USA
[May 22, 2012]

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

This book gave me a lot of The Feels.

So, first my schpeal on cheating. It's really not okay and I hate when characters do it. It's never ago and it frustrates me. However, in this book? It made a good point. Technically, Clem was never REALLY cheating with her best friend's boyfriend. Of course, it was still wrong, but was it as bad as I thought at first? Nope. And this book also raised the good point: Why is she the only one at fault? This wasn't a one-sided thing, the boyfriend was just as much at fault as Clem. Yet he's forgiven and still dating Clem's best friend, but Clem can't even get her best friend to talk to her. Why is this fair? Why do we treat the two so differently? They both did an equally bad thing, so how can we punish them differently? It was a good question, and I'm glad Melissa Walker looked at it.

At first Clem bothered me. Yeah, I got that she was upset and needed to be brought out of it. She was just so horrible to her family and they only wanted to help. But she developed a lot. She grew up a lot. She started to move on and then I really liked her. She was nice and fun and just a good person. I liked meeting this Clem a whole lot more.

And James? James was freaking awesome. He was a genuinely good guy. He was goofy and happy and lovely and I just wanted to hug this kid so badly. Also, I want to see his hair color. Because it sounded interesting. The romance was fun and adorable and just so cute. I didn't want it to end. James and Clem are simply fantastic, guys.

One of my favorite things about this book, beside the romance and the characters, was the fact that there was so much more. Clem and James both had family issues and that was a big part of the plot. Probably a bigger portion than the romance. I liked seeing the different problems and how they were dealt with. And I really appreciated the fact that Unbreak My Heart had a lot of layers. 

Overall, Unbreak My Heart was pretty freaking amazing. It had romance, awesome characters, development, family issues, friend issues, good questions...a ton of aspects that make a great novel. Sometimes it was light and fun, but sometimes it was a bit deeper. Definitely one to pick up this summer!

--Julie

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Book THREE in the Hourglass Series!

Y'all know I don't usually do this but the news was finally announced and nothing else was on the blog for today and it's a Myra McEntire book why are you questioning my actions?

Today, Myra announced that book 3 in the Hourglass series is coming out in the summer of 2013! You can read the whole announcement with the title and whatnot here:


And she also blogged about it a bit here:


I'm trying not to mourn the fact that there will be no ARCs and I have to wait until next June. TRYING SO HARD. It becomes harder to do when I think about all the things that happen in Timepiece. But...I'm gonna manage. Most likely.

And for those of you going to BEA, Myra will be signing paperbacks of Hourglass and Egmont will have Timepiece posters. I'm not cursing out my college for keeping me from BEA inside my head. Not at all.

--Julie

Monday, 21 May 2012

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

There are some spoilers in this review for the sake of giving examples. Some details and a couple of non-spoilery scenes are discussed.

Of Poseidon
Anna Banks
Feiwel and Friends
[May 22, 2012]

Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen-literally, ouch!-both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom . . .

Told from both Emma and Galen's points of view, here is a fish-out-of-water story that sparkles with intrigue, humor, and waves of romance.
I was sure I was going to love this one, I really was. Mermaids! A release date on Boy's birthday! Pretty cover! Macmillian as a publisher! Super nice author! So much potential!

I was really, really let down.

Emma and Galen were okay on their own. Most of the time. But as a couple? They had a horrible relationship. He would request that she do something reasonable. Example: She had a stalker they could sense in the water. He asks her to stay out of the water when he's not there. Does she listen? Not only does she not listen, she gets angry at him. She yells at him. This isn't the only instance where this happens. I'm happy that a female character wants to be independent but...really?

And Galen? Galen also has issues. He's ridiculously over protective. There's this part where he's texting and calling Emma repeatedly and she's deliberately ignoring it because she's on a date and she's mad at Galen. So, he then follows her on her date. Which is going to take place an hour away. And he threatens harm repeatedly to Emma's date for being a nice guy and telling her she doesn't have to go with Galen. By time Galen gets Emma home, they're a couple again. That's not okay. You don't stalk people. It especially bothered me because the reason he was bothering her wasn't time sensitive. Her grandma wasn't dying and he wasn't trying to bring her to the hospital.

There's also a lack of logic in this book. For example, it's established pretty early on that Emma can talk to fish. It's something she's aware of basically from the time she finds out she's a Syrena. Talking requires oxygen. But there's a couple instances where Emma mentions being afraid to not hold her breath underwater and they're always mentioning how she's learning endurance for holding her breath. I'm not sure how you can talk and hold your breath at the same time.

There was also this alternation is perspective. First person for Emma, but third person for Galen. It was kind of confusing and kind of annoying going back and forth. I don't mind switching characters, but I like my books in first OR third, not both.

Despite all this, it wasn't a totally horrible book for me. I did really like two of the side characters, Rachel and Toraf, and I would love to read more about them. I also liked the idea of this story. What the summary doesn't mention is that there are two kingdoms and because Emma is of Poseidon, she's supposed to marry the king of the other kingdom and the king happens to be Galen's older brother, Grom. And he has to marry Emma because the girl before her who was of Poseidon - and also Grom's love - died years before in a mine accident. I found that pretty interesting. Is Emma really going to have to marry Grom? If not, who will he have to marry? The ending was also a really big cliffhanger that made me want book 2 desperately. I kind of wish I had decided not to finish this book because now I really want to make it through the next one despite how much it'll annoy me.

So...yeah. Of Poseidon was not the right book for me...but I might be picking up book 2 anyway.

Positive Reviews:

--Julie

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Historic Saturday: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity
Elizabeth Wein
Hyperion Books for Children
[May 15, 2012]

Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.
Code Name Verity was one of those books where I wasn't sure it was for me. World War II fascinates me as something that happened in history, but I tend to avoid books that take place during it because they just don't interest me. They tend to tackle the same topics/ideas over and overs with slight variations. But everyone was raving about this one and it sounded different, so I thought I'd try it. And while I'm not going to sing its praises from the rooftops, I did really enjoy it.

I have to put in a bit of a disclaimer. I read this as an egalley on my Kindle and I'm not sure what it was, but the formatting was really wonky. And that did effect my experience reading it, I know that. I almost feel like I can't judge it until I read a finished copy, so I can read it properly. So...yeah.

I really liked reading about Maddie and Verity's story. I liked how Verity told it and how there were always these little surprises. Sometimes I could guess it, but not always. I really, really liked the twist that comes a little more than half way through the book. That was wholly unexpected.

Code Name Verity is an emotional story. Everyone I've heard from has talked about the tears, oh the tears! I never cried, but I was pretty freaking close. It wasn't what I expected to be teary about either. I certainly felt emotionally drained by the end of the book, though. Very much like I did after Mockingjay.

If anything, I would say I want more. I want to know what goes on after the book ends. I want to know how things turn out for our characters as the war wraps up and even beyond then. I have some suspicions, but I just wanna know if I'm right.

Elizabeth Wein knows how to tell a damned good story. She knows how to make things tense and high stress and mess with your head. She knows how to make your heart break and she knows how to make you smile.

Overall, Code Name Verity was unexpectedly amazing. I really wish I could've loved it the way everyone else did, and maybe if I reread it as a physical book with all the proper formatting, I would. I strongly encourage you to go and pick up a copy of this book and read this book.

--Julie

Friday, 18 May 2012

From What I Remember... by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

From What I Remember...
Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Hyperion
[May 15, 2012]

KYLIE: Tijuana WHAT? I should be putting the finishing touches on my valedictorian speech. Graduation is TODAY, and is this a wedding band on my finger.

MAX: It all started with Kylie's laptop and a truck full of stolen electronics Okay, it was kind of hot, the way she broke us out like some chick in an action movie. But now we're stranded in TIjuana. WIth less than twenty-four hours before graduation. Awesome.

WILL: Saving Kylie Flores from herself is kind of a full-time occupation. Luckily, I, Will Bixby, was born for the job. And when I found out she was stuck in Mexico with dreamy Max Langston, sure, I agreed to bring thier passports across the border--but there's no reason to rush back home right away. This party is just getting started.

LILY: I just walked in on my boyfriend, Max Langston, canoodling with Kylie Flores, freak of the century. Still, I can't completely hold it against him. He NEEDS me. It's even clearer now. And I'm not giving him up without a fight.
I kind of loved this book? I think?

Let's talk about our characters. I was really worried that so many points of view would make the story disjointed or weird, but it didn't really. Yes the story would've been perfectly fine with just Kylie and Max's perspective, but I liked hearing from Will and even Lily was interesting to read about. I really loved Kylie and Will and Max definitely grew on me. I understood Lily, but I still didn't particularly like her. I don't think we were supposed to. All four of these characters grew a lot from their experiences in the book and I loved seeing that.

The story itself had a lot of layers. Every single character had personal issues going on and the this happened to add to it. Their personal issues affected how each one of them acted and decided on things. Everything was necessary and tight and they were all interesting. Two of them were pretty different from the norm, one was kind of different, and one was fairly common but important. I really liked all the stories and it affected the main story. Nothing was simple, but nothing was unimportant either.

One aspect that would usually bother me is that Max technically cheated with Kylie. And to some extent, it did. But it also bothered Max and Kylie a lot. They weren't being totally thoughtless and when they were, it was usually because there was a lot of alcohol involved. I'm not saying that makes it right, but it didn't seem as horrible as it would've if they didn't feel bad and they weren't drinking. This also added to Lily's character. It gave me some more sympathy for her.

This story was also really well written. Each narrator had their own style so they weren't easy to mix up. They were subtle differences, but they were definitely there. And I was engaged from beginning to end. I didn't want to put it down whenever I was forced to for silly reasons like sleep.

But honestly guys, I really, really enjoyed this book. Maybe I loved it? It might be too soon to tell. I do know that this is a book I want to buy for my shelves and it's one you should all read.

--Julie

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Right and the Real by Joelle Anthony

The Right and the Real
Joelle Anthony
Putnam Juvenile
[April 26, 2012]

Kicked out for refusing to join a cult, seventeen-year-old Jamie must find a way to survive on her own.

Jamie should have known something was off about the church of the Right and the Real from the start, especially when the Teacher claimed he wasn’t just an ordinary spiritual leader, but Jesus Christ, himself. But she was too taken by Josh, the eldest son of one of the church’s disciples, and his all-American good looks. Josh is the most popular boy at school too, and the first boy outside the drama geeks to give Jamie a second look. But getting her Dad involved in a cult was not part of the plan when she started dating Josh. Neither was her dad’s marriage to the fanatic Mira, or getting kicked out, or seeing Josh in secret because the church has deemed her persona non grata.

Jamie’s life has completely fallen apart. Finding her way back won’t be easy, but when her Dad gets himself into serious trouble, will Jamie be ready to rescue him, and maybe even forgive him?

So, cults right? Religious cults. Creepy and weird and make me feel icky. But I also find them fascinating. I was intrigued by the premise of the story and remember hearing a lot of good things about Restoring Harmony, so I decided to try this one.

I really liked it while I was reading, but there was no major wow factor for me. It might just be me because as much as I've been enjoying what I read lately, most of them lack that special something that makes me fall head over heels, obsessively in love with them. I read it like a week ago, and already it's pretty vague and the main character's just another character in my head. I can't tell you what makes her unique.

I can tell you I liked some of the side characters, the people that help Jamie out. I loved watching her relationships and interactions with them. For me, that was the more interesting aspect of the book. The fact that one of those relationships was a romantic one is not the only thing that made me feel this way, promise.

It was also well written. I'd definitely be open to reading more by Joelle, I just don't think this was the right book for me.

--Julie

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Discussion: E-books/readers - A Change of Opinion

This probably won't be an interesting discussion at all, I was just curious to see if anyone else has had a change of heart about the whole e-books/e-readers thing and to see if anyone agrees with me about the sense of ownership thing when it comes to ebooks - so yeah, if you don't want to read the post, you could just skip down to the questions.

Okay, back when the whole e-reader thing started becoming a big deal and there was the whole e-books vs. "real" books debate going on, I was very firmly anti-ebook.

I mean, it didn't bother me if other people chose to have an e-reader and read e-books, but it was something I personally didn't want to do. But my opinion has changed since then and so have the opinions of some people I know (like my two best friends who both bought Kindles).

I still prefer physical books to ebooks, but I'd totally be open to having an e-reader now and I love sites like Netgalley (although I don't review many books on there -- mainly because I don't have an e-reader so to read the books, I have to read them on my laptop which is just full of distractions and a pain on the eyes).

My attachment to physical books is mostly down to nostalgic/sentimental reasons - it feels more like...reading, when it's done with a book that you can hold in your hands and feel the pages and feel the weight of it and really see the progress you're making than it does with an ebook.

My only real issue with ebooks now is that they seem to often be more expensive than physical books (or the same price - at least the ones I've looked at have been)...which wouldn't be so bad, except that when I have an ebook, it doesn't feel like I OWN the book. Books on my shelves, I look at those and feel like they're mine but with ebooks I don't...it always feels like I'm just borrowing them, that they're temporary.

I never include ebooks in book hauls and all of the ebooks that I own never get added to the books I own on Goodreads or Shelfari. Basically, I just wanted to see if anyone else has had a change of heart about ebooks that were against them before.

Discussion questions: 

1. Ebooks and ereaders: yay or nay? (And why?)
2. Has your opinion on them changed at all?
3. When you have an ebook, does it feel like you own it?

And I'll stop rambling now.

Later.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Gilt by Katherine Longshore Releases Today!

Just a reminder that Gilt by Katherine Longshore, which I ADORED, releases today!


Don't forget to grab this one today!

--Julie

Monday, 14 May 2012

When Lightning Strikes by Meg Cabot

When Lightning Strikes
by Meg Cabot

Summary: Jess Mastriani was misunderstood by her teachers and had a crush on the local bad boy, but that didn't mean she was trouble. But trouble found her when she survived a lightning strike and discovered that a newfound talent had been bestowed upon her.

Now, whenever she sees a picture of a missing child, Jess knows exactly where he or she is when she wakes up the next morning. Reuniting lost children with their desperate parents is one thing, but Jess must choose whether to use her power for good...or for evil.

I don't have a lot to say about this book, so the review will be pretty short (at least in comparison to my usual rambling reviews), but yeah - I really loved it.

I won it in a contest years ago and it's just sat on my shelf unread for all that time and I wish I had read it sooner. I think the reason that I didn't is that a lot of Meg Cabots books (her older ones anyway) have the most awful covers* that are all cartoonish and like the book is aimed at 12 year old girls and the covers really don't do the content of the book justice (I know, I know, we shouldn't judge a book by its cover and I do know better but it's hard not to sometimes).

The book was awesome - it was cute and fun and left me wishing I had the rest of the series to read right away. The main character is fiesty and bad ass and likeable and I loved the relationships in the book and the side characters (especially Rob - he's pretty awesome).

The plot wasn't incredibly mind blowing or anything, but it was good and kept me hooked from start to finish. If you liked The Mediator series (which I absolutely adore), also by Meg Cabot, then this series will probably do it for you too - it has the same charm that those books have with the loveable characters and entertainin plot and they're really quick reads that are perfect for reading if you're not in the mood for something heavy.

 But yeah, that's all I have to say about the book. I'd probably rate it 4 out of 5 stars (it would be 5 out of 5 if I was just rating it on enjoyability, but if I'm comparing it to other books that just totally wow me then this book isn't quite that good...my rating system is weird, I might need to rethink it - and I'm rambling, sorry).

Later.

*The cover that I have is one of the awful cartoonish ones (as shown above), but there's bind-ups released with new covers and there's some other versions too that are a bit less terrible. While the newer covers aren't anything special, I do like them better than the cartoon ones and would cringe less having to read them in front of people.

Bout of Books: A Readathon

So, there's this awesome week-long read-a-thon called Bout of Books happening this week, the 14-20. As I've now got a crapload of free time, I fully intend to do this.

I don't have any specific goals, other than to read more. I've been averaging 3 or 4 books a week, so I'm aiming for 5 or 6, maybe even 7! But I'll just be listing as many as I feel necessary. I have a lot of books I need to get to!

Ideas for My Reads This Week:

Ambitious? Maybe, but I can dream, right? These are pretty much all review books and short, fun contemporary books. So, we'll see how it goes. Most of the updates will be on my twitter/goodreads (goodreads is connected to twitter, linked in the sidebar), but if you guys want updates here, I'll add them as small updates at night. 

Anyone joining me in this?

--Julie

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Books of the Past Week (or...Three Weeks)

We've chosen not to continue calling this post In My Mailbox. We're not comfortable doing it considering everything going on. But it is not plagiarism to call it something else because Kristi herself has said she got her idea from somewhere else, so we do give credit to Alea at Pop Culture Junkie. We also give credit to all the YA vloggers who have been doing Book Hauls for years and years.

Week 1: Not enough books
Week 2: Enough books to do a vlog, too exhausted by family stuff
So, now we're on week three.
WARNING: GUSH FESTS AHEAD.



Egalleys:
Timepiece by Myra McEntire (wsdghsaoighsngjsng YES YESYES YESYESYESYES. Already read. LOVEDLOVEDLOVED)
The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe
Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie
Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Throne of Glass by Sarah .J. Mass

Gifted:
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (signed)
[Thanks Brent!]
Everneath by Brodi Ashton (signed) + a crapload of swag
[Thanks Suzanne!]

Gifted/For Review:
...Timepiece by Myra McEntire (this showed up about three days after I finished reading the egalley. YAY timing.)
[MYRA <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3 Eternal thanks]

For Review:
Defiance by C.J. Redwine(love beyond all words. love. obsessive love.)
Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London
Stunning by Sara Shepard

Puchased: (*coughs*)
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
How to Ruin My Teenage Life by Simone Elkeles
Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers

Ebooks Purchased:
Tainted by Temptation by Katy Madison

...Yup. But I mean, it's three weeks worth! (And maybe there's a reason I'm not showing you the freebies...)

How have you guys been doing book wise?

--Julie

Friday, 11 May 2012

Shopping Bookish

(Giving all credit to The Perpetual Page Turner for this post. 1.) Because she did a post like this and 2.) She linked me to Etsy. It's all her fault I got reobsessed.)

I can be kind of an Etsy-addict. Around Christmas time is when it first happened. I needed a Hunger Games gift for my friend. Things went downhill from there. Time passed, I stopped. But then last night...last night things went bad again. So, in order to justify the hours I spent on Etsy, I thought I would share the bookish things I found and said "NEED. ALL OF THE NEED WHY AM I SO BROKE/CREDIT CARD LESS?"

The Austen-Inspired

It's not a secret that I'm an Austen fan, mostly Pride and Prejudice. So...this section's a little out of hand.


 For My Mates at Hogwarts

 Because let's face it, we're YA lovers. Where would we be without our beloved Potter?



May The Odds Be Ever In Our Favor

...Yup.


Divergent

Because...because I found stuff.


Etc.

For none of the above:


I'm going to leave it there for now. Anything catch your fancy? Anything you've found on your own?

--Julie

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Books I've Read But Won't Be Reviewing (4)

It's that time again! And more YA for you! I know we've kind of been slacking, but today I'm taking my AP test so after this, I should be back to reviewing normally tomorrow, if not by next week.

There are a couple sequels in this post, so watch for spoilers!

On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God
Louise Rennison
HarperTeen
[May 28, 2002] (??)

Fourteen-year-old Georgia Nicolson is back in British author Louise Rennison's irreverent, laugh-out-loud sequel to the Michael L. Printz Honor Book Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. Written in diary form, these truly hilarious books chronicle the often minute-by-minute, very dramatic, and significant flip-flops of a teenager's psyche.

7:18 p.m.
My eyes are all swollen up like mice eyes from crying. Even my nose is swollen. It's not small at the best of times, but now it looks like I've got three cheeks. Marvelous. Thank you, God. 9:00 p.m.
I'll never get over this.
9:10 p.m.
Time goes very slowly when you're suicidal.
What tragedy has her so distraught? Her parents have told her she's moving to New Zealand just when she's managed to snog (kiss--look it up in the glossary) the SG (Sex God, a.k.a Robbie). This is of course not the only source of drama in Georgia's eventful life. Her half Scottish wildcat, Angus, who is the size of a small Labrador, herds the poodles next door and terrorizes the neighborhood. Her little sister, Libby, who is slightly mad, stores her "pooey knickers" and her scuba-diving Barbie doll in Georgia's bed. Her mother (from whom she inherited her orangutan eyebrow gene and possibly her "gigantic basoomas") is clearly inhabiting Earth solely to make her life miserable, and even her best friend Jas is "half girl, half turnip."

I think, originally, I intended to review this whole series together, but since I'm not sure that'll work, I'm just gonna mention when I read them here instead.

Divergent
Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegan Books
[May 3, 2011]

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

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

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

The only reason I'm not reviewing this is because it's a reread and I've already reviewed it. And so has Lanna. I was getting ready for Insurgent and also I LOVE this book. The day after I finished my reread, my mom asked to borrow it. So, you know, mom win.

Insurgent
Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegan Books
[May 1, 2012]

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Can we talk about the perfectness Veronica Roth writes? I mean...dear God. I read this monster of a book in a few hours. SO, SO, SO, SO, SO GOOD guys.

At the Bride Hunt Ball
Olivia Parker
Avon
[May 27, 2008]


To Snare a Bride . . . 

To Gabriel Devine, Duke of Wolverest, the bonds of marriage are nothing more than shackles. But if he's to remain a lifelong bachelor, that leaves only his younger brother to carry on the family name. Inviting the "ton"'s most eligible ladies to an elegant ball, Gabriel is certain any one of them would be all too eager to become the next duchess and provide an heir--leaving Gabriel to continue his ecstatic pursuit of pleasure. 

To Catch a Rogue . . . 

Her social-climbing stepmother would give anything to have Madelyn Haywood betrothed to a future duke. But Madelyn believes the brothers Devine to be nothing more than heartless rogues--especially Gabriel, whose rakish reputation precedes him. He is nothing more than a slave to passion, and she will not be conquered by his caresses---and yet his wicked ways tempt her so . . .

 This was cute and fun. I really liked this one and I think I'll need to pick up more Olivia Parker books.

The Earl Next Door
Amanda Grange
????
????

Marianne thought her new neighbor, Lord Ravensford, would be a gentleman, but she was sadly disillusioned. Mistaking her for a lightskirt, he offered to make her his mistress, insulting her beyond measure. Equally, Lord Ravensford had desperately wanted to convince her of his respectability. Then danger and intrigue make them join forces, and they find themselves caught up in a desperate adventure that swept them to the shores of revolutionary France. But was it necessity that had brought them together, or was it something more?

Honestly, I was disappointed in this. I've read one of Amanda Grange's other books and it was good, but this one just wasn't as well written. I did really enjoy the story itself though.

So, there you go. I've already got another book for the next post, so it won't be too long!

--Julie

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