Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments
by Rainbow Rowell

Summary: "Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . "

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?
So...I think Rainbow Rowell is another one of those authors who could write the phonebook and somehow make it wonderful. I loved Eleanor & Park and I loved Fangirl even more and, while it wasn't as amazing as those two, I loved Attachments too.

The book was well written (seriously, there were a lot of quoteable scenes), and it was funny and adorable but still managed to feel kind of...real? Yeah. And she somehow managed to make something work out that would've just seemed creepy or weird if it was written by someone else.

And I loved the characters. Sometimes Lincoln's story dragged a little bit, but even then it wasn't bad. Beth and Jennifer's emails were my favourite part though, we got to know these two characters so well just by seeing some of their emails to each other and it was awesome (the fact that the emails reminded me of emails my best friend and I used to send each other while she was living in Edinburgh made me smile).

And the nostalgia...ljbvlh. Now, I wasn't an adult in 2000. Hell, I wasn't even a teenager yet, but I remember it. I remember that new year (my friends and I had a millenium sleepover/party--there was much drama) and I remember all the fuss leading up to it and I remember that time (that time before everyone seemed to have a mobile phone and a computer or laptop, before everyone was so connected via the internet). It was nice reading a story that took me back there.

I think that's all I really have to say about the book. If you haven't read a Rainbow Rowell book yet, go do it, because her books are awesome (she's definitely on my insta-read list now).

I'd rate it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty 
by Rosamund Hodge

Summary: Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
Almost everyone else seems to love this book (including Julie, and you can read her review here), but something about it--or a lot of somethings about it really--just didn't work for me.

I really didn't like the first half of the book. The second half was better, but still didn't do much for me (I did like the very end of the book though). The pacing was kind of off. A lot of the story felt really repetetive and the monotony didn't break until maybe the last quarter of the book.

Basically, I was bored through quite a lot of the story, and that was probably my main issue.

One of the worst things was that this is one of those stories that has a twist that the reader figures out easily within a few chapters and then we have to put up with the main character being oblivious to something that should be blatantly obvious (or at the very least something she considers) for the majority of the book, which is pretty dull to read about and when it's not dull, it's just frustrating.

The world: it was creative, there's no denying that, I just didn't like it. Sometimes when I'm reading a story and it's good, I'll get so caught up in the world that it becomes this real, vivid place in my mind without me even trying but this one was just a mess of details in my head that I had to force myself to put together and form some sort of picture. I don't know if it was the way it was written or the world itself, I just didn't enjoy much of the world at all.

The writing: again, it wasn't bad. It was actually quite lovely and there was some really nice quotes in there, but I think my issue with this links into the world thing--there was a lot of description of the settings, the history of their world, all that sort of stuff and I felt thoroughly bored through most of those parts and as nice as the writing was, it wasn't enough to make me interested.

The characters: I didn't really like any of them, at least not consistently. There were brief moments (very brief) when I liked Ignifex and Nyx, but I was mostly indifferent to the former and annoyed by the latter.

Nyx was just a really irritating narrator to me. Her feelings may be understandable but that didn't mean it was entertaining reading page after page of her flip-flopping emotions. I get why she'd feel the way she does, but it didn't make it any less annoying to read.

Another annoyance was the fact that she kept describing herself as a cruel/bad person and Ignifex even says it too and it's something consistent throughout the book...which wouldn't bother me, except it felt very tell instead of show.

Nothing she does or says made her seem cruel or like a bad person. The things we're probably supposed to think of as making her cruel really just made her seem human and she always seemed more good than bad (being annoyingly contrary aside). I'm fine with morally ambiguous characters, I just didn't think Nyx was one even though it seemed like she was supposed to be?

The romance: Didn't love it, didn't hate it, it didn't make me feel much of anything really (except dislike for the attempt at a love triangle). I wasn't convinced they actually loved each other until the last chapter or two, but even then...no. Plus, it's kind of hard to feel emotionally invested in the romance when you don't give a damn about the characters.

I hate how negative this review is, because the book is not awful and I didn't hate it, and I do understand why other people would love it. Maybe my high expectations for the book played a part in my overall opinion, I don't know.

I still recommend reading it if it sounds like something you'd like, because you'll probably be in the majority that loves it, but don't let the hype give you sky high expectations. That way maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed like I was.

I'd rate the book 2.5 out of 5 stars. But I do want to read whatever the author writes next, because I think it might just be this book I have an issue with and there were definitely elements of this book and her writing that I could love in a different story.

Later.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Twist Me by Anna Zaires

Twist Me
by Anna Zaires
Summary: Kidnapped. Taken to a private island.

I never thought this could happen to me. I never imagined one chance meeting on the eve of my eighteenth birthday could change my life so completely.

Now I belong to him. To Julian. To a man who is as ruthless as he is beautiful – a man whose touch makes me burn. A man whose tenderness I find more devastating than his cruelty.

My captor is an enigma. I don’t know who he is or why he took me. There is a darkness inside him – a darkness that scares me even as it draws me in.

My name is Nora Leston, and this is my story.
This review will be long (probably), ranty (definitely), and discussing rape. So, if that bothers you then maybe stop reading now? (tl;dr version of the review is that I didn't like the book.)

I saw this book show up on my goodreads feed because someone on my friends list gave it a glowing review.  It was described as a new adult book (which I've been meaning to read more of) and it has 165 five star reviews, 144 four star,  and 62 three star...only 20 were in the one or two star zone (sounds promising, right?).

I think I can safely say now that I pretty much disagree with the majority of those people. 

I kept reading the book in the hopes that I would find whatever it was that inspired all these high ratings, but for the first 3/4 of the book...well, I had so many issues with it that it's tempting to just angrily mash the keyboard and call that my review. 

The last quarter of the book? That's the only somewhat redeeming part but even that had things that made me so angry that I would've tossed the book across the room had it not been an e-book.

I'm not going to talk about everything that bothered me about the story, I'll just explain the small part that I did like and the one major thing that I hated that ruined the whole book for me.

I'll start with the positive: the last quarter of the book was fast paced and filled with action that kept me hooked (and there was way less of the awful sex scenes). If the thing I hated about the book had gone a little differently then it would've been okay but because it happened the way it did, it tainted any good parts. 

Although, it really bugged me that there wasn't mention of Stockholm Syndrome in the last part and that people kept commenting on Julian's attractiveness (professionals who, in those circumstances, should not say that to a victim or someone they suspect to be a victim of sexual assault).

Now, the thing that I hate: "questionable consent"

There was a disclaimer at the end of the summary for the book, warning that the book wasn't a traditional romance and saying that it included themes of questionable consent (click here if you're unsure of what would be considered questionable consent). 

Now, because the summary and reviews made it clear that this was a book about kidnapping (reviews described it as a "classic fall-in-love-with-your-kidnapper" story and "slightly dark romance"), I assumed that meant that Stockholm Syndrome was what made it questionable. SS definitely puts any sexual relationship into the questionable consent zone (and I've read books like that before).

The last quarter of the book, I'd say their relationship was kind of in the questionable consent category. But before that, the majority of the scenes were rape. Nothing "questionable" about it...the first sex scene was definitely rape.

If a girl says no, it's rape. If she is crying and begging the guy not to do it, it's rape. If he threatens her or the life of someone she cares about if she doesn't do what he wants, it's rape. If he makes it clear to her that he will do what he wants no matter what she says, it's rape. If she tries to run away and he won't let her leave, it's rape. Even if he makes it physically pleasurable for her or her body reacts to him unwillingly, it is still rape. Even if the guy is attractive or the girl is attracted to him, if she says no, then it is still rape. If the girl, after failing to make him back off with words or fighting or running, stops struggling, that doesn't mean it's not rape.

There is nothing "questionable" about a lot of the scenes in the book, it was rape.

This wasn't just a story about a girl falling for her kidnapper, it was a girl who fell for her rapist (although, she didn't fall for him, it was Stockholm Syndrome). And that ruined the book for me, because it was described as a romance (one of the reviewers even said she loved Julian and that he's the kind of character girls would want as their "book boyfriend" which I find utterly bizarre...I wouldn't consider a rapist to be a "book boyfriend" worthy character, and that's just one of his issues).

Now, I'm not a prude. I can read things in a book that I don't like without it ruining the overall story for me. But romanticized rape is different.

It made me really angry to see it called "questionable consent" as if that were some euphemism for rape. If a summary is going to include a disclaimer or some sort of trigger warning, or if someone wants to read or write a story about that, then fair enough, but call it what it is. 

When you don't, it just perpetuates the rape culture that says if a girl is physically attracted to a guy or if she has an involuntary pleasurable reaction to the act or if she stops struggling then it's not rape, which is not even close to the truth (seriously, if the story was exactly the same but he was described as being unattractive, I think people would have a wildly different opinion). 

There's even a character in the book, Beth, who acts like it's not rape even though she should know it is, she thinks that Nora should be grateful for what's happening to her (at one point, she even says that Nora is "very lucky to have someone like Julian" and she says that he wouldn't have to force a woman, as if the idea that he's a rapist is so ridiculous, even though she knows it's happening). Maybe the character was just screwed up but if that was the case, the book should've acknowledged that better.  

And, it didn't even make sense that Julian would do that to her at all given his back story. The kidnapping...I could understand him being that kind of crazy, but when his and Beth's back stories are revealed it just becomes baffling that he would turn into a rapist too (unless his attitude is "it's only okay when I do it" which is just ljnkfhblkb).

Just so we're clear, I'm not attacking the people that liked the book or the author, because I know writing something or liking it in fiction doesn't mean you condone it in real life and they're probably all lovely people. It's just, the reviews were the main reason I read the book and I was just baffled at the things they said--or didn't say--after having read the book myself (which is why I'm mentioning them).

I guess my issue is sort of two issues. It bothers me that the story, the disclaimer, and the reviews, don't properly acknowledge well that Julian is a rapist (I probably wouldn't have read it if I'd know that). And the fact that he raped her made me unable to like the book, because it was supposed to be a romance (a dark/twisted romance, sure, but romance all the same--it's like seeing a book about domestic violence being portrayed as romantic).

I thought Fifty Shades of Gray was bad, this was fifty shades worse. I'd rate it 1 star out of 5. If you still want to read it, that's fair enough, but just be warned that it's not just "questionable consent" in the book, it's rape most of the time so you can go into it knowing what to expect.

If you want to read a book that portrays Stockholm Syndrome really well, maybe check out Stolen by Lucy Christopher instead (I was kind of expecting this book to be a sort of New Adult version of Stolen).

Later.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty
Rosamund Hodge
Balzer+Bray
[January 28, 2014]

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

I know I'm partial to Beauty and the Beast retellings and to Persephone retellings (because I think this is a decent comparison to a Persephone retelling moreso than Graceling), but oh my God guys. Oh. My. God. Even knowing the Beauty and the Beast/Persephone stories as well as I do, I still wasn't totally sure what to expect since there were enough twists to really freshen the story. 

There's also a bit of a love triangle, but both guys might be truly horrible or decent guys, but you really can't tell. I think that was my favorite thing about this book. Nyx, Ignifex, this other love interest? They're all super morally ambiguous. There is no clear line that says this character is good and this character is bad when it comes to them. It was a really fascinating look at characters and people and it really made me think about how we see right and wrong and the decisions people make. Just thinking about it makes me want to reread the book right now.

Seriously though, Nyx is an incredible character. She makes genuinely bad decisions with good reasons and she makes good decisions with not so great reasons and she's stubborn and selfish and she makes no apologies for it. She's also incredibly big hearted and loving and strong. I loved everything about this poor girl.

And the story? It was such a creepy take on the Beauty and the Beast castle and world and I would read a whole nother book just on the world and how it came to be. I would read all the books set in this world forever. And it was such a unique, wonderful twist on this classic, much beloved fairy tale. I've never seen anything like it and I'm kind of heartbroken that I probably never will again. This is easily one of those books where I wish I could forget I read it once and read it again for the first time.

And the writing is SO ADDICTING. I read this way early when I really shouldn't have been reading and I had such a hard time putting it down. It was nearly impossible. And she weaved in all these incredible little things that just made the story so enthralling. Ugh. Just ugh. So ugh.

This book is probably now one of my all time favorites. Like, Pride and Prejudice, Hourglass style favorite. I've already recommended it several times...before it released. Go read it. Immediately. This isn't a question, this isn't a "if you like..." No. This is a go read it. Don't do anything else with your life until you've read this book. Seriously.

(Unless you're like Lanna. But her review will explain soon.)
--Julie

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Sound of Letting Go Blog Tour

When Audition first came out, I had Stasia Ward Kehoe on the blog for her blog tour then and I was able to gush over Audition. I sadly can't gush over The Sound of Letting Go yet, but fortunately, Stasia is back to talk about her connection to her new protagonist and music.

How much of fiction is autobiography? That’s a question often asked of those of us who write contemporary YA. Are we living out our teen angst on the page? Are the stories we tell pretend…or real?

Yes.

And, no.

And, of course.

And, not at all! Stephen King says, "Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

I can’t speak for others but, for myself, fiction is an act of creatively pulling together my experiences, my dreams, things I worry about, things I am proud of, things I observe and wonder at, and every other element that is me, into a form called a verse novel.

My first book, AUDITION, was about a dancer. I grew up a ballerina and, sure, snippets like how to pin up a bun and sew ribbons onto pointe shoes all came from first-hand experience. Yes, I did suffer from shin splints. No, I did not take up with a choreographer. Yes, I have danced some of the variations I describe in the novel. No, I was never a Snowflake in the Nutcracker. Writing this novel was an exploration of many of the feelings and concerns I had as a young dancer writ large, on a much more dramatic edge than I ever really lived. Ah, the freedom of the pen!

SO, about DAISY, the main character in THE SOUND OF LETTING GO…

I was about to say that she is not as close to me as Sara, my first protagonist. But that wouldn’t be true. It’s just a different kind of connection. Different threads. Different angles of perception. No, I do not play the trumpet. No, I do not have an autistic brother. However, yes, I did grow up in a small town. And, yes, I have a family member with psychological issues—though, not autism.

Because Daisy is a musician, I listened to a lot of music while writing her character. Here are a few songs that connect me to her: http://thesoundoflettinggo-daisy.blogspot.com/

And, culled from paparazzi photos, a few images of the sort of girl I imagine when I tell her story:

Taissa Farmiga 


Elle Fanning 


Stasia Ward Kehoe’s second novel, THE SOUND OF LETTING GO is available now from AMAZON, B&N, INDIEBOUND and wherever books are sold. She also spends too much time on Pinterest where, if you’re so inclined, you can see her celebrity-dream-cast for all of the characters in THE SOUND OF LETTING GO.

ENTER TO WIN…a signed first edition of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO, one of four different TsoLG Swag Packs, or a pair of author-designed custom Keds sneakers (size 8):

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

  --Julie

Sunday, 16 February 2014

What I Wish I Knew: A Follow-Up 3.5 Years Later

In June 2010, just six months after we got serious about blogging, we did a series called What We Wish We Knew. It started because I wished I'd known it's okay to say no to ARCs and I asked other bloggers for their inputs and what they wish they had known when they began blogging.

I probably don't need to say it, but my thoughts as a blogger of 6 months and my thoughts as a blogger for over 4 years? Not really the same. The idea of saying no to ARCs seems like it's not even something to consider. It's obvious to me now, though it hasn't stopped me from saying "yes" to way more than I can really handle. But there are other, way bigger, things now.

I wish I'd known how much blogging was going to take over my life. I spent a lot of years blogging and having most of my friends be on the internet, not meeting any of those friends until I came to college. I still haven't met my best friend and I still don't know when I will. I also still haven't met Lanna. Yet these girls, and some guys, were my social life in high school because I didn't really have friends who got me there, and are my social life now, because when I can't find them online, there's someone in the city I can see in person. I now spend more time with blogging friends than with school friends. My bedroom in my first ever apartment has more books in it than anything else, not counting the two boxes and half a bookshelf filled in the other room. Most of my social events revolve around books. Blogging even lead to me finding the career I want and two jobs I love. Blogging has touched my life in every way, even when I'm not really doing it myself.

I wish I'd known how much I would love blogging. I adored it for several years, and I still love to do it now when I have the mental and physical energy to do it. Finding the motivation and the time is a challenge now, but every once and a while, I get both and I get to blog and I'm reminded how much fun it is and how much I get out of it. It's almost like an addiction at times.

I wish I'd been better at saying no from the beginning. Not just to ARCs, but to blog tours and cover reveals and other events. I sometimes feel like they're an easy out and use them to fill up blog space when I don't want to be creative. But they can get boring sometimes, and I just wouldn't say no. I wouldn't say no to a publicist because I didn't want to risk the connection I was building with her. I wouldn't say no to certain book events I wasn't feeling up to because I felt it was important for me to be there. I wouldn't say no to certain extra curriculars related to blogging because I thought it was good to have that extra thing. I don't have any regrets about this blog or my social life or my extra curriculars, but I know that every once and a while, I do things that don't make me happy and don't need to happen. And I wish I'd learned to say no early on, so it would be easier for me to do it now.

I wish I'd known how important my identity as a blogger was to me. I'm always afraid that if I lose that bit of identity, I'll lose everything that came with it. The blogger friends and author friends and publicity friends. The ability to go to special events. The "numbers" that are so important. The access to books. The always interesting inbox. And a lot of that would probably get lost if I were to quit blogging, and that's terrifying to me. It's been my life for so long, how do I just stop? How do I not be a blogger any more? And it's silly because my biggest fear is definitely losing friends, but that's also the least likely thing to happen.

I wish I'd known to take advantage of the chance to learn time management. It certainly seems like I should have been learning a lot since we were blogging pretty consistently for years while going to school, but for some reason, college made it so much harder. And then I started being social. And then I started working. And I just keep adding things to my plate and I'm kind of managing my time well, but not really. If I had been an even better blogger than I was from the beginning, I would have forced to learn. And it wouldn't be such a challenge.

I wish I'd been a consistent commenter. I very rarely commented unless I had to for some reason, and now I don't comment at all. I tweet. And it's so absurd because I've always known how much comments mean to me and how much I love comments and how permanent they are compared to tweets that can be horribly hard to find and keep track of. But I'm now so far away from that habit I should have built from the beginning, that starting to do it feels weird and awkward and impossible. 

As a baby blogger, how the blog looked and how to reply to review requests and all of these little things seem so important. But now, they really don't. We haven't had a blog makeover in years. I don't reply to 90% of review requests, because if people can't read my policy, why should I bother? The bigger picture is so much more important to me.

I'm so grateful, all the time, for blogging and what it's taught me and the community of people I've been brought in to. And my wishes for past me basically boil down to learning even more from the opportunity when I had the time and being even more in the community. I don't have a single regret about what I've done with this blog (well...maybe one), and I think that 15-year-old Julie did an awesome job handling things...but the perfectionist in me looks back and can't help but think how much more potential I had. 

Still. We did well, 15-year-old Julie. We did really well.

--Julie

Book Haul 167

At some point, I will say I'm going to be better about doing these and actually mean it.

From Work:
Plus One by Elizabeth Fama
Cress by Marissa Meyer
I got ARCs of both of these from my office because Ksenia is wonderful. I've already ready both and will probably put up my thoughts on these over the summer.

For School:
Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (This is actually for a class I'm not taking on Children's Publishing [I was going to take it, but had to redo my schedule] but since I have money I can only spend at my school's bookstore and a lot of people wouldn't buy it there, I grabbed one.)
Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Purchased:
Vanish by Sophie Jordan (paperback from Strand)
Starstruck by Rachel Shukert (hardcover from Strand)
Something Real by Heather Demetrios (hardcover purchased at launch party at PowerHouse Books)
Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne (bought with gift card from Barnes and Noble clearance)
Easy by Tammara Webber (bought with gift card from Barnes and Noble clearance)
The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo (bought with gift card from Barnes and Noble clearance)
Everyone Worth Knowing by Laura Weisberger (bought with gift card from Barnes and Noble clearance)
Soulless the Manga: Volume 2 by Gail Carriger (bought at B&N)
Soulless the Manga: Volume 3 by Gail Carriger (bought at B&N)
Changeless by Gail Carriger (bought at B&N)
The Unbound by Victoria Schwab (bought at B&N)
Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi (bought at B&N)
Frostbite: The Graphic Novel by Richelle Mead (bought at B&N)
Shadow Kiss: The Graphic Novel by Richelle Mead (bought at B&N)
Eona by Alison Goodman (bought at B&N)

EBooks:
On the Fence by Kasie West (egalley from Edelweiss)
Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski (egalley from Netgalley)
Never Too Late by Rhonda Helms (egalley from Edelweiss)
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen (egalley from Netgalley)
Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg (egalley from Netgalley)
Grim edited by Christine Johnson (egalley from Netgalley)
Royal Pain by Danielle Doolittle (won in twitter contest from author)
Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (egalley from Edelweiss)
The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes (egalley from Edelweiss)
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy (egalley from Edelweiss)
Royally Lost by Angie Stanton (egalley from Edelweiss)

Otherwise Acquired:
A Long Way from You by Gwendolyn Heasley (ARC from Gaby)
Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley (ARC from Gaby)
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Faith Erin Hicks (Roommate saw I'd gotten Friends with Boys and then shoved this one at me to borrow)

Also, here's my shelf of books from ALA Midwinter if you missed those. 

Hi, my name is Julie and I have a problem. (There's actually two more unsolicited review books but I can't muster up the energy to go look up titles/authors, so they'll have to wait.) 

So, yeah. Someday, I'll learn my lesson. And stop acquiring books. But I have already read 7.5 of these, so it feels less awful that way, right? Plus, all my extra subway time = more ebook reading time, which has been lacking a lot in the past couple months. But where do I begin?

--Julie

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Solving for Ex by Leigh Ann Kopans

Solving for Ex
Leigh Ann Kopans
[February 11, 2013]


1 crush on your best friend +
1 gorgeous, scheming new girl +
1 Mathletics competition =
1 big mess

SIMPLIFY.

Ashley Price doesn’t have much in life after being bullied so hard she had to leave her old school to live with her aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh. But the camera she borrowed from her best friend and secret crush Brendan, and her off the charts math abilities, make things a lot more bearable. Plus, since Brendan is the captain, making the school Mathletes team should be easy.

But when gorgeous new girl Sofia rolls in and steals Brendan, Ashley's place on the team, and her fragile foothold on the Mansfield Park Prep social totem pole, it’s on. Sofia is everything Ashley left her old school to escape. The only thing Ashley didn’t count on is Sofia’s sexy twin brother Vincent.

Vincent is not only the hottest boy in school, he’s charming, sweet, and he’s got his eye on Ashley. He’s also not taking no for an answer. There's no real reason Ashley shouldn't like Vincent, but with the
battle lines being drawn between her and Sofia, Ashley’s not sure which side he’s on. Or which side she wants him to be on.

She does know Sofia is trouble with a capital T, and she’s determined to make Brendan see it.

SOLVING FOR EX is a YA contemporary romance that remixes Mansfield Park as Clueless meets Mean Girls in a crazy mix of high school society, mathletic competition, and teenage romance.

I want to tell you all a lovely little story, but first, let's take a moment to appreciate the cover for Solving for Ex. Isn't it adorable and quirky and unique and it actually relates to the contents? Isn't that magical? I love this cover. A lot. A lot a lot. Like, I need to work on getting this on my shelves, not just my Kindle, levels of a lot.

Now, story.

Once upon a time, a girl named Julie was taking a class on Austen. In said Austen class, she would be reading Mansfield Park for the first time, the only Austen she hadn't at least tried to read. This girl also had a friend, Leigh Ann. Leigh Ann was publishing a Mansfield Park retelling and offered to send an eARC. So, Julie came up with a genius plan. She would read a few chapters in Mansfield Park, then read enough chapters in this retelling to catch up.

Then one, she said screw it and sped through the retelling because she stopped caring. The girl still hasn't finished Mansfield Park, but she did write her final paper on it.

But in all seriousness, I loved Solving for Ex. I knew enough when I started to have a decent idea of where it was going, and then I Wikipedia'd the plot of Mansfield Park for class purposes, so I REALLY knew where this was going, but it didn't stop me from kind of loving the "bad" characters. And it didn't make me want to smack the good characters who made stupid mistakes as much. I knew ALL of it, yet it still seemed like a surprise.

Leigh Ann has this amazing ability to craft characters. They're always incredibly well rounded, no matter who they are or what their role in the plot is. And her main characters, like Ashley, are wonderfully flawed and realistic and have these really good character arcs. I loved Ashley and my heart broke with her and healed with her and felt how amazing Vincent was and how evil Sofia was and felt what an oblivious idiot Brendan could be.

This is also a testament to her mad writing skills. Knowing what would happen and who these characters were didn't take away from the story. I still sat in a bath tub for several hours and just read and read and read until I finished, homework and other responsibilities be damned. They're so well written and so engaging and addicting that I just want to keep reading, no matter what else is going on outside me and my book.

And the romances. Oh the romances this woman can write! It was swoony and adorable and sometimes awkward and painful to watch. Leigh Ann really gets teenagers and how romances can work in a way that some authors just can't manage. It's realistic yet sigh-inducing and so much fun to read.

As an adaptation, Solving for Ex is pretty loyal to the book, but it doesn't keep the same darker tone that Mansfield Park has, since it is once of the darkest and most somber of Austen's books. It really does have that modern, Mean Girls-esque vibe to it. It's fun and tragic and awkward and nerdy and just so painfully real. I've probably said too many times how real it is, but it's true

So, honestly, if contemporary YA is your thing? Read it. If Austen is your thing? Read it. If excellent books are your thing? Read it. It comes out today and it's amazing and you're missing out if you don't pick it up today. I loved it intensely and I'm so, so glad it's finally out there for the rest of the world to read.

--Julie

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Book Haul (166)

Lanna:
So...it's been a while. I've been meaning to post more, but I've just not been reading much (not for lack of trying, I have been reading, just not finishing the books I read). But, I'll try to post more in the next few weeks, and until then, here's a book haul...

For review:
Looking at the Stars by Jo Cotterill - Only the dust jacket is in the picture because I started reading it (not loving it just yet, but hopefully it'll get better and I'll have a review up soon).
The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

Bought:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - I've never really had any desire to read this or Lord of the Rings, but people keep going on about how awesome they are and I really liked this edition and it was really cheap, so...
This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
Books 1-3 in the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh -
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
The Two Pearls of Wisdow by Allison Goodman - This is the adult title for Eon.
Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder (this is the second book, I did buy the first but it's not here yet)

I got a few more but they're either 1) not here yet, 2) at my mums or 3) on my Kindle, which I can't be bothered getting out of my bag right now. So, yeah, that's (almost) all the books I've gotten since...whenever I last did a book haul.

What books have you gotten recently? Read any of these ones?

Later.

Monday, 3 February 2014

And Suddenly I Was in Philadelphia

I've known ALA Midwinter was going to be happening in Philadelphia for probably a year, give or take some months. But I'd always been like "Nah, not gonna happen." Then as January started, I began thinking, you know, maybe. It's not expensive - $30 for bus tickets, $35 for entry - and doesn't really come this close to New York very often. And the trip was pretty short too. 

Thursday before ALA started, as I walked with some friends who were going, I declared that No, I wouldn't go. I had enough books and didn't need to spend the money.

Then I got home and decided if I got enough work done around the apartment and on a freelance project, I could go.

Then I got up Friday, realized pretty much none of that work was happening, and bought my bus ticket down, deciding I'd go for Saturday.
NYC at sunrise through a very dirty bus window

By time I went to bed, I had a ticket down, suitcase ready, and a change of clothes/pajamas/other necessities in case I decided to stay the night and go Sunday too.

After a long night of stressing, trying to buy my ticket to ALA online, then having my card rejected many times, and more anxiety, and then three hours of sleep, I got up at 5 am to eat, finish packing, and head to the Javitz, which was about where my bus was doing pick ups to leave at 7:15. Of course, my subway took 15 minutes to arrive, so I had no time to grab a little extra food and something to drink for the ride.


Book sorting!
Two very restless hours later, I'd read about 40 pages of a book and pulled into Philly. I kind of navigated the subway system and began switching from "I'm on a trip" mode to conference mode. This included sitting on a bench in the subway, emptying somethings out of my almost-entirely empty rolling suit case, and throwing in some things from my travel tote. I was finally able to get to a CVS near the convention center for a giant ass water bottle and some pretzels, found my way to the convention center, got myself registered, checked my bag, and was on the floor by 10:30.

My most exciting finds of day 1

I had like five different people I wanted to find, so of course the first person I accidentally found was a publicist I'm friends with. I eventually found my friends and then some more of my friends and then some more of my friends. I stayed until almost 5, so I basically spent 6.5 hours walking in circles and sometimes sitting.


But seriously. Amazing.
I crashed with some blogger friends and we sorted books and ate pizza (Gaby, Jen, Jeremy, Jeffrey...we are going back for more pizza, right?). It was basically the best pizza I've ever had. It was almost as fun as actually walking the floor itself, and it got bonus points for the lack of moving.

We were up bright and early the next morning to get to the floor. We only brought two rolling suitcases to enforce limits on ourselves, and got some breakfast. We were there early, but a lot of librarians were going straight in since they had Important Librarian Stuff to do. There were maybe 30 of us standing by the doors by time 9 o'clock came around. 


Did I mention it snowed Saturday?
And it was more of the same. We walked in circles, talking to publicists and other bloggers and librarians. I actually took a lunch break this day since it was a lot slower and went to the Reading Terminal Market. It basically has every food on the planet, so of course I got beef stew and salad. I also got to eat one of Jen's famous cupcakes and OMG guys they live up to the type. But really, why isn't there something like this near Javitz? Why isn't there ANY food that's not from a cart near Javitz? Step up your game, Javitz. Step. Up. Your. Game.

Anyway, I returned to the floor and circled a bit, then got my number for the Rainbow Rowell signing. They had finished copies of Eleanor and Park as well as Fangirl, so you could get one or the other signed as long as you had a number. You didn't even HAVE to stay in line, but many of us did because we got to sit for like 45 minutes. They ended up starting the signing early, which was nice, and I got a copy of Fangirl signed for myself to match my signed ARC. I also ended up getting a copy of Fangirl for Christmas from my parents, and since my roommate also loves Fangirl, I can give her that copy and now we don't have to continue randomly petting the ARC from time to time.
Philly through a dirty window. Equal opportunity, here.

We circled the floor a couple more times, but my bus was at 6 and I had to go back to the hotel, pack up, get a cab, and get to the bus station by like 5:45, so me, Jen, and Gaby left at 4:30. I didn't even get to say good bye to some people (I misssssss you and your awesome hair, Valerie!). 

I did a super quick repacking and was ready to go by 5, sat around for 10 minutes, then went downstairs for a cab, got to the bus station, and boarded my very, very crowded bus. I got back to New York around 8, hopped on a subway (which was kind of a terrible idea because I had to pull this rolling suitcase down two flights of stairs), and was home before 9. I went through the bag with my roommate and she has already put 5 on her desk to read.

I'm writing this on Thursday, and it's the first off day I've had. Since getting back, I started classes, which are now Mondays from 11-6 and Wednesdays from 11-9. I have gaps, in which I usually eat lunch, try to do some assistant-y stuff and try to do some editing stuff and sometimes try to watch Veronica Mars. Then, I don't remember if I've mentioned this, but I'm an intern at a publishing house this semester, and I do that on Tuesdays and sometimes Fridays. So, it's been constant work and being social and I spent a lot of today sleeping and not talking to people and eating food that's bad for me.

This is also basically all of the pictures I took while at ALA. There's one picture I took when consulting someone for directions, one other picture of the terminal, and a bunch of other NYC/Philly skyline photos I took in like 10 seconds. I was just too busy having fun to take any pictures or video inside of the convention center and I never take pictures with other people.

Honestly, I loved ALAMW more than BEA. There were less bloggers/authors for me to see, but it was so calm and laid back. There was a lot of room to walk without bumping into anyone and a couple of times we just sat at a column and made camp, even though said column was in the middle of the floor. I had a ton of time to just talk to people. On Sunday alone, I had at least 3 conversations that lasted 5 or more minutes, one with a favorite author, Jacklyn Dolamore, and some with publicists. 

That was the other thing, I could actually talk to publicists and see what they were excited about. At Random House, we even got to talk to an editor about their titles, which was especially nice since I feel like I never hear about most Random House titles. There was plenty of time to just chat with people and take it easy and I got to meet people and see old friends and it was all so lovely and calm and quiet, even if I was still exhausted after.

Another reason I think I preferred ALA is that there was a chance for title discovery. ALA was a day shorter than BEA, yet I actually took home a couple of more books at ALA than I did at BEA. There weren't specific drop times where you had to stand in a line/crowd for twenty minutes in advance to have a chance at grabbing a copy. They would put out books gradually, as space opened up. If they had just put down a bunch and there were a number of people around, people would help pass books to you if they were closer to the table. There wasn't pushing or shoving or wondering if you'd just wasted half an hour. And a lot of the times, instead of waiting for a drop, I could ask if they had a title and usually if they had it, they were happy to give it to me. And if I was with a friend and a friend asked for a book, they'd usually bring out copies for however many people were in our groupage, and in many of those cases, I hadn't heard of the book before, but my friend and the publicist's interest sparked mine. And since there were so many books on display and publicists had time to chat, I learned about SO many new titles. In that most excited list from day 1, I hadn't heard about two of them before, but saw them and had the chance to ask about them. 

That's one of my favorite things about conferences, discovering new books. And having so much time to actually do that made every bit of spending money and sleeping on a floor worth it.

I didn't get a picture of all the books I got since...I never saw them all together. Even when I packed to go home, three got in my tote bag in case I could read on the bus. I did compile a shelf on goodreads, though I feel like it might be missing one, and I have no idea what that one is. Maybe I passed it on to someone else before leaving? Maybe I miscounted? WHO KNOWS. And as a heads up, since so many of my NYC friends were at ALA and able to grab the same books, this could mean contests if I can't find a school/library to get them to. And probably on my twitter since I'm too lazy for full blog contests (link in the sidebar).

So, yeah, that was my ALAMW. I still love and will go to BEA, and I've been told this wasn't the norm (ALA Annual is apparently much bigger and someone else told me this ALAMW seemed quieter), but ALAMW, lemme know when you're back in the area, mmk? I'll be there.

--Julie

Saturday, 1 February 2014

From Page to Screen (7)

So normally I forget to do these posts until most of the news is months old, but there's a few updates that made me fangirl quite a bit, so...yes.

Trailers and clips:
  • I'll start with the obvious one here. The trailer for The Fault in Our Stars was released yesterday:
I think it looks brilliant (normally I can be kind of nitpicky with adaptations of books, especially books I love, but this is one of the only ones that I can't think of anything negative to say about so far...so, hopefully the full movie will live up to the awesomeness of the trailer). Thoughts?
I'm kind of less optimistic about this one, some of it makes me cringe so much (any scene with the Mia actress really), but maybe it won't be so bad.
  • The trailer for the Outlander TV show, based on the book series by Diana Gabaldon was released. People keep saying how great those books are, but based on quotes I've read I would probably throw it out the window within the first few chapters because of the attempt at writing Scottish accents phonetically (why, why, why must authors do that? *headdesk*), but the show might be interesting. We'll see.
Stills/set pictures:
  • First look at the movie adaptation of The Giver.
  • Some stills/pictures from the set of Fifty Shades of Gray and a teaser poster were released, to save actually having to find them, I'll just link this sites tag for the movie and if you're interested you can scroll through them (as much as I adore Jamie Dornan, the movie looks as bad as the book).
  • And this is probably ridiculously old but I didn't even realise they were making a movie of this book until recently...set pictures/stills from the Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List movie, based on the book by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan were released. I can't find a good site to link to see them all, but this tumblr has some and a google image search will show you loads too (you can check out the cast list here if, like me, you hadn't seen it yet).
  •  I'm not sure if I've mentioned this one before, but the book Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern is being
    made into a movie starring Lily Collins and Sam Claflin and a bunch of pictures from the set and stills and the poster have been released. It looks really cute.
  • There may or may not have been some Divergent stuff released (I know soundtrack info was), but so many stills and stuff have been released that I lost track of it all a while ago. Check here for new stuff about that movie. 
  • There's a new still from The Maze Runner movie.
Rights sold, casting updates, and that sort of thing:
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys has been optioned to be a movie (and is being written by the writers of Like Crazy, which should be interesting). Apparently it'll get a name change though, so it won't be mixed up with the Less Awesome Shades of Gray. But anyway, khvbkdhb, I approve.
  •  The book Still Alice by Lisa Genova is being made into a movie starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart.
Other TV stuff:
  • So I started watching this show, Bitten, and it's based on the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong. It's interesting so far. I'd actually be tempted to read the books based on the show, if there weren't so many of them (a series with 4 or 5 books is my limit these days and even that is pushing it, so when I see a series has 13 books then I'm out).
And that's all I can think of, but there's probably stuff I'm forgetting. If you know anything I've missed, let me know in the comments and tell me what you think of these trailers and things (assuming anyone reads these posts, that is). :P

Later.

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