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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's book I want to read is:


Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns home two years later, a precarious and deadly balance waits. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

Imaginary Girls is a masterfully distorted vision of family reminiscent of Shirley Jackson, laced with twists that beg for their secrets to be kept.

DOES NOT THAT SOUND AWESOME! Seriously. I love it love it love it. I've been excited about this one for . . . nearly a month. Yeah, that sounds underwhelming, but it doesn't come out until June 2011 so it's not like it's been knowaboutable (not a word!) for a while. Anyways, there are so many things awesome about this one. Plus the cover is totally freaking epic and the awesome Julie Strauss-Gabel is the editor! WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!

Publishes with Dutton Children's Books on 14 June 2011.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I need to review more/Beautiful Creatures

I need to review more.

I haven't had time this month, due to NaNoWriMo (I still have about 1500 words to write today!), and the month prior . . . well, other than school I really haven't much of an excuse. There's been a lot going on, is all I can say.

Some caveats before I start the review:

(1) I can't think of a title for this review or the blog. So for now it's titleless. I hate all the old titles, so . . . yeah.

(2) Um, my Beautiful Creatures review has some cursing in it. I don't usually curse on this blog, but I was pissed while writing this one, so . . . yeah. If you don't like it, I'll sum the book up for you at the bottom of it, swearing-free. Same with spoilers -- again, at the bottom.

(3) Said review was posted on Goodreads as well, so it may have some references to this that are weird. Disregard them.

Beautiful Creatures (mild spoilers!)


(from flap)

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate [NOTE FROM REVIEWER: Though you might not be able to tell from the summary, Ethan is actually the main character. Go figure.], who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.


Ethan. Now, I know not everyone did. Some people--many on Goodreads, as a matter of fact--are all "He's not like a real teenage boy, he likes girly stuff and sounds like a woman, blah blah etcetera" and to them, I want to say: Fuck you. Stereotype much? Because honestly. The people who are saying this are generally not teenage boys, and being one, I have to say, your attempt to distance yourself from "paranormal trash" is annoying. Because that's what many detractors of this book are all about. Not all--some people honestly don't like it/hate it/think it's bad, and I respect that, everyone should have their own opinion, freedom of speech, rah, rah, rah, people who know me know that's one of my biggest things--but many of them. They don't want to be associated with anything 'Twilighty,' so when something comes along that the Media At Large considers 'Twilighty,' they scurry over to Goodreads to post scathing reviews about how THE GUYS ARE ALL PUSSY WHIPPED AND GAY and THE PLOT IS NONEXTANT and GO READ and GRAAH GIANT SQUID OF ANGER. I call this the Schema Effect, and will in all honesty refer to it as such tons of times throughout this review so remember that.

Okay, end rant. But honestly, I think just because Ethan liked stuff that the status quo said was off-limits and had a tendency to sound rather mature doesn't mean he's 'unrealistic.' And anyone who believes that, in my opinion, is bullshitting themselves.

Okay, maybe end rant now.

But really. He was an awesome character and I liked him. On with the show.

The writing style. If you'd given me the book w/o telling me it was written by 2 authors I would never have suspected a thing. It really melded together, which was good because I LOVED IT. The writing was just . . . good. At times a bit choppy, but that was tied in with the pacing (see below). The authors, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, have a real gift for detail, and they only go into over-detail about clothes once or twice (the only part of the book I found a bit unrealistic, though that's just my opinion and you can obviously have your own). In summation, the writing just made it that much easier for me to practically inhale huge chunks of the book at a time. (And I mean huge. Like, 75 pages in one sitting. Usually I don't favor reading TONS AT ONCE but it was impossible because this book is ADDICTIVE!)

The mythology, for lack of a better word. And you know I'm lacking one because that's a really bad word to use. : ) I liked how the authors kind of did a spin on existing supernatural creatures--with Macon, for instance, and all the Sybils and Thurmaturges and whatever Aunt Del was and the Naturals and the Cataclysts. I liked it. (running out of words)


The LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT thing. I mean, I'm not sure that I disliked it, but it kind of irritated me. I admit, I'm a bit guilty of the Schema Effect--HYPOCRITE, I know, but hear me out. What I mean is that this happens in many paranormal books. Twilight counts even if it's not exactly first sight, because damn, if you believe that was a realistically formed relationship, see a therapist, please, or an analyst. (But not both -- Arrested Development references FTW!) Shiver counts too, because hey, IT DIDN'T COUNT WHEN YOU WERE DIFFERENT SPECIES. And on and on and on. I really wish someone would present a realistically formed relationship in paranormal YA, one that takes time to form, with or without a Sarah Dessen Plot Arc (Boy and Girl Meet, Grow Into Relationship, Get Into Argument, 'Split Up,' Girl Learns Very Important Life Lesson, Boy and Girl Have Touching Reunion Scene, Boy and Girl are Together. I love you, SD, but don't think we haven't noticed this in--like--six of your books. Maybe more).

The length, kind of. Because in some ways it was too long. I think this was more of an issue of pacing, though. January and November were COMPLETELY skipped over, which in some ways I didn't have a problem with, but the first week takes up maybe 200 pages, and they're already IN LOVE by then. I think if the authors had taken time to set up the relationship, weaving that into the plot, it would've seemed less choppy at times.

The ending. This ALMOST ruined it for me, made it a 3.5 or 4 star instead of a 4.5 star. But I loved it too much. Still, I kind of hated it in a way. ***SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS***

Basically, I really loved this book, and for a first novel it was really really really really good. (Morris Award finalist FTW!) Some problems with pacing, true, but overall--

Just read it already!!!

Read Beautiful Darkness, out now from Little Brown BYR.

Writing: 8/10
MC(s): 10/10
Other Characters: 8/10
Plot: 9/10
Ending: 5/10
Cover: 10/10

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover? 5 out of 5 - It's brilliant.

Little, Brown BYR
December 1, 2009
576 pages

Bought in person at Barnes and Noble, but read the first 150ish pages in a book from my school library.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Absolute Whiteness (note: lots of parentheses here)

Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I should go out of my way to read more YA books with people of color in them. After all, I understand how important it is to show racial parity in literature (parity meaning equality in this instance, not the amount of times a woman has given birth or any of the other varied definitions). Definitely. But the truth is, I don’t consider Race/Ethnicity of Character when choosing what I read. If anything, the font the book’s set in has more impact on me deciding to read it. (Okay, bad metaphor—people who know me know that I’m obsessed with fonts and typefaces. This is the main reason I haven’t read The Dark Divine yet—what were you THINKING, Egmont?)

Now on to the story.

Earlier today, I was looking through all the books I’ve read this year (70 so far) and I started to notice something. So I opened a Notepad, clicked ‘Show side by side’ and started typing the names of the main characters of all the books into the text box.

This is what I found:

Of the seventy books I’ve read this year, seven had at least one main character (meaning a person who narrated the story if it was first, or who the story centered upon if it was third—I’ve yet to read a second person story this year) that was stated to not be white. This includes biracial, Hispanic, African-American, Asian, etc. I guessed on one of the seven (The Eternal Smile—I think Janet is Asian, though if she’s not make that six), and a further two were unstated (Grace, though I’m fairly sure she’s white, and Girl Coming In For a Landing, which actually told us nothing about the MC, not even her name). Three of the books were in the same series (Magic or Madness by the brilliant Justine Larbalestier). Two were graphic novels (one a Printz Award winner, American Born Chinese). One was a National Book Award finalist (Jumped), and the last (And Then Everything Unraveled—I believe she’s half-Indian [as in FROM INDIA, not Native American] with somewhat darkish skin, though I read the book in May so I kind of forgot some parts of it) doesn’t really have any defining characteristics other than that it’s quite good. Additionally, Katniss Everdeen (if you don't know what book series she's from, go buy The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsNow read it. Now read it again and come back and TELL ME HOW AWESOME IT IS, AND HOW, BY PROXY, THE WORLD HAS A BIT OF HOPE IN IT AGAIN. Or something) has a rather ambiguous race/ethnicity, though it's noted she has . . . not darkish skin, but . . . brownish? Olive was the word I heard used once. You hopefully know what I mean, because if not I'm seriously probably going to get massacred by the blogosphere. *gulp*

At any rate . . . the rest were white.

If I made a mistake, I made a mistake (I most probably did--I'm not too good with listmaking) but still. Seven out of seventy, give or take a few.

Just something to think about.


Sunday, August 22, 2010


So the site ReadingTeen is having a great contest where you can enter to win one of many AWESOME ARCs! (Think Grace, The Mockingbirds, Beautiful Darkness. You. Nightshade (which I already have--thank you, Penguin!). The Eternal Ones!) Enter HERE!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Extraordinary Secrets
of April, May and June

(If you're wondering AMJ is the book in the middle between Sh*t My Dad Says and Hot x: Algebra Exposed. Yeah, I know, but it's the front of the store.)


(from flap)

Around the time of their parents’ divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood—powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose?

April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds—everyone’s but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they’ll always have each other.

Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.


I loved this book. I came into it with high expectations--maybe the highest ever for any book except HP7 and Will Grayson, Will Grayson--
and they were all met. It's not very often you can say that. Benway has created a well-written and hilarious book that's also compulsively readable--I finished it in half a day. Each sister has her own unique personality--April's a bit of a control freak, May is sulky and sarcastic, and June's Ritalin-peppy--which is good because all too often in 2/3/4-person-narrated books the characters all sound kind of the same (I'm talking to you, you-know-who-you-are). The dialogue is always frenetically witty
(mild spoilers)

I didn't even look up from my computer. "Oh, he's just the best," I informed. "After we study together, we're gonna go to the soda fountain and share a malted. It'll be dreamy! What about you? Have you banged Julian yet?" (p. 115)
and all the characters--even the minor ones--are genuine. I can't praise this one enough. HIGHLY recommended.

(Another thing: some people may think of this one as a 'paranormal' book? It's not, not really. It's more a 'regular-girls-with-powers-that-ruin-their-lives-somewhat' book. EITHER WAY IT ROCKS.)

If you haven't already you must read Benway's debut Audrey, Wait! It's the epic as well.

Writing: 9/10
MC(s): 10/10
Other Characters: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Ending: 9/10
Cover: 10/10

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Cover? 5 out of 5 - Love it. Seriously. I just . . . love it.

August 3, 2010
288 pages

Bought off, sorry, PREORDERED off

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Heartbeat


(from flap)

Ellen loves Link and James. Her older brother and his best friend are the only company she ever wants. She knows they fight, but she makes it a policy never to take sides. She loves her brother, the math genius and track star. She is totally, madly in love with James, his face full of long eyelashes and hidden smiles. "When you grow out of it," James teases her, "you will break my heart." Ellen knows she"ll never outgrow it. She'll always love James just the way she"ll always love Link. Then someone at school asks if Link and James might be in love with each other. A simple question. Link refuses to discuss it. James refuses to stay friends with a boy so full of secrets. Ellen"s parents want Link to keep his secrets to himself, but Ellen wants to know who her brother really is. When is curiosity a betrayal? And if James says he loves her, isn't that just another way of saying he still loves Link? My Heartbeat is a fast, furious story in which a quirky triangle learns to change its shape and Ellen, at least, learns the limits of what you can ever know about whom you love.


My Heartbeat has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the, ah, least best books I read this year. Make no mistake--it is somewhat well-written. Freymann-Weyr is quite talented and I thoroughly enjoyed two of her other books: The Kings are Already Here and When I Was Older. My Heartbeat was a book I had very high expectations for (it is a Printz Honor book after all). Unfortunately, I just couldn't properly connect with it, plus a plethora of other things. The three parts:

1) It was boring. I felt much of the book lacked substance and Freymann-Weyr just didn't make me care about the characters--the exception being the scene with the bribe: it was the one truly amazing scene in the whole book!--so that when the book eventually wound down to its (weak) climax and conclusion I was relieved.

2) The characters spoke unrealistically. Ellen thought like a 34-year-old for much of the book; sometimes when used sparingly this effect works (I've only seen it done once and that was a stretch) but not here. James, Link, Ellen, even the parents were unrealistic. Some minor characters like Adena and Polly seemed realistic but also flat, 2-D and pretty much...bleh.

The whole book was 'bleh,' really.

3) The sex was completely unneccessary. Just saying. I mean, it just . . . didn't add much to the book.

Verdict? My Heartbeat could've been really good. There were a few passages that were truly well-written. But ultimately, the book just dragged. On and on and on and on. And when you can say that about a 154-page book, that's a whole new kind of sad.

Well, then you're obviously not me. In all seriousness, I would heartily recommend the other books by this author I've read (When I Was Older and The Kings are Already Here) whether you liked this book or not. Both are excellent books.

Writing: 7/10
MC: 3/10
Other Characters: 4/10
Plot: 5/10
Ending: 3/10
Cover: 2/10

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Cover? 1 out of 5 - I'm just going to say it outright: THIS COVER SCARES ME.

Houghton Mifflin
April 29, 2002
160 pages

Checked out from library.

God Is In the Pancakes

(note: I received this book as part of 1 Arc Tours.)


(description from ARC)

No one is more surprised than fifteen-year-old Grace Manning herself that she likes her job in the local nursing home. But that has everything to do with her relationship with one of the residents, Mr. Sands, an ex-Marine with Lou Gehrig's disease. He keeps up with Grace's witty banter, teaches her to play poker, allows her to give him a mohawk, acts as a father figure . . . and one day, cheerfully asks her to help him die. Grace tries to avoid the wrenching decision, first by praying for a miracle, and then by stuffing herself with pancakes. Soon she's running away from all feelings, including the new ones she has for her best friend, Eric, who suddenly seems to have a lot of female admirers. But Mr. Sands continues to get worse, and Grace knows this decision is too important to ignore . . .


First off: I mentioned it once, but I probably need to mention again that I received this book as part of the site 1 ARC Tours, where ARCs are sent around to different people and then back to the owner . . . well, just click on the link if you want to know more. Anyways, I received the book 7/10 and really need to mail it today but first I need to find a box or something because I don't think I can afford one of those bubble mailers . . . okay, rambling. On to the book.

God is in the Pancakes starts off with a jolt. The plot is set up in the first chapter, which was a bit refreshing after reading quite a few "oh, let's follow our boring characters through a whole day of, er, exploits"-type books. Like most of my reviews this one is split into 3 parts:


I cannot stress how important this is. When a would've-been-good-(or at least mediocre) book drags on and on, it can really make the book a lot less good (or mediocre). God is in the Pancakes moves at a quick pace and does not suffer for it.


For the most part, the more main characters (Grace, Mr. Sands and his wife, Grace's mother, etc.) were well-delineated, and though a couple of the more secondary characters seemed rather stock at times, it fit their roles in the book, if that makes any sense. Furthermore, the relationships in this book were amazing. Grace and Mr. Sands' friendship is well-drawn and believable, especially the passage where Mr. Sands explains to Grace why he wanted to keep her a secret from his wife. The way Epstein uses parallels to show Grace that she needs to have a better relationship with her mother, the further (romantic) dilemmas faced by Grace throughout the course of the book, all of it fits into the plot well. Grace herself is a brilliantly drawn protagonist: realistic, funny, sardonic, and unsure of herself. She's deeply flawed and has practically no clue how to operate in 'the real world' and never is it more apparent than in the scenes where she grapples with whether to 'help' Mr. Sands or not. Grace's eventual decision surprised me a little, as did the eventual conclusion, but it all felt real.


I bite down on the inside of my lip. "I don't really think handing out celebrity magazines qualifies as Christian."
"The Lord works in mysterious ways."
(p. 122, uncorrected proof. NOTE: Per Dial Books' requirements I must indicate that my review is based on an uncorrected text, etc.)
Yeah... sorry if you were expecting something deeper.

Verdict? God is in the Pancakes is thoughtful, funny, sad and ruminative, with a heroine forced to make a possibly life-altering decision. Ultimately, the book asks many questions of the reader, most importantly: How far would you go to help a friend?

Donut Days by Lara Zielin
I could say something like "both are about GOD" but really it's more like "this one's about donuts instead of pancakes." I mean, come on. WHO DOESN'T LIKE DONUTS?

Writing: 8/10
MC: 9/10
Other Characters: 8/10
Plot: 9/10
Ending: 10/10
Cover: 8/10

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover? 4 out of 5 - The cover is okay. Nothing special, really, but the pancake is nice. And it makes me want pancakes. Mmm, pancakes...

Dial Books
May 15, 2010
272 pages

ARC received from 1 ARC Tours

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Giveaway! someone else

First Novels Club is doing a giveaway of the much-anticipated (especially by me) The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June here:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Say the Word (aka Real! Live! Reviews!)

Say the Word

Yes, I am writing an actual review. Don't adjust your television set.


Dredging up the past can knock the present right off balance.

The world expects perfection from seventeen-year-old Shawna Gallagher, and for the most part, that’s what they get. She dates the right boys, gets good grades, and follows her father’s every rule. But when her estranged lesbian mother dies, it’s more than perfect Shawna can take. Suddenly, anger from being abandoned ten years ago is resurfacing along with Shawna’s embarrassment over her mother’s other family. As she confronts family secrets and questions from the past, Shawna realizes there’s a difference between doing the perfect thing and doing the right thing.

Shawna’s honest and relatable voice will draw readers in and hold them until the last page in this coming-of-age story. Jeannine Garsee has delivered a compulsively readable second novel, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson.


Like I am wont to, I loved this book. (Don't worry, I have two negative reviews being cleaned up as we speak for those of you who heart schadenfreude.) There are many reasons for this. I'll split them up:


This 360-page book had 121 chapters. Many of them were just one or two pages. Seriously. How can you not love that?


Jeannine Garsee has done something amazing with Shawna Gallagher. She has made her real. Real does not necessarily mean politically correct, or sure of anything, or even sure of herself--but she is real. Shawna has been struggling with the issues surrounding her mother for years. She doesn't think about it much, at least until the events of STW. When it all begins everything comes surfacing up and it's like an explosion of emotion. Shawna is surprisingly wont to say-- or at least think-- what's on her mind, and sometimes, thanks to all the issues she has, it's harsh, as evidenced in one scene during her mom's funeral when she says several harsh things about gay people. She does this a lot-- not really near the end but especially near the start. Yeah, she isn't perfect. But you're still rooting for her, because she is genuinely a good person-- something that becomes clear in the book's final pages when she...well, she does something I personally think is awesome.

The other characters were amazing, too. Shawna's best friend Lee Lee, Fran (aforementioned lesbian partner) and her sons Schmule and Arye, even Shawna's asshole father were all brilliantly delineated. I really, really hated Shawna's dad and with any luck you will too. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money squandered in endless pursuits of personal pleasure! (Credit to Libba Bray for that last sentence.)


The plot really worked. I can't explain this without giving away tons of spoilers, but I felt as if it always had flow.

Some subplots didn't work--the romance seemed forced, for instance. And the ending! Wow. I've heard mixed reviews of it--some people loved it, hated it. Personally I loved it: I felt it was the only way the book could've ended satisfactorily.

So here's the verdict: Say the Word is a well-written, thought-provoking book filled with wonderfully delineated characters. Shawna is an awesome protag who, with any luck, you'll like from page one, despite her many (and there are many) flaws. Eventually, by the end, she learns a lot and so do we.

Come on, short chapters!

Wild Roses by Deb Caletti
Caletti's writing style is similar (enough) to Garsee's-- if more ruminative-- and both are about parent issues, like all of Caletti's (and Sarah Dessen's) books seem to be.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Honestly, I just wanted to take this opportunity to 'market' WGx2, per se. Seriously. READ IT.
Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott
Again with the parent issues. A lot shorter, though.

Writing: 9/10
MC: 10/10
Other Characters: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Ending: 8/10
Cover: 9/10

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover? 4.5 out of 5 - This is an okay cover. For all intents and purposes it works, and the girl facing out reminds me of Shawna's description. I don't know who the other person is, though--Shawna's mom? One of her 'personalities?' It's kind of left up to interpretation, which really works here.

Bloomsbury USA
March 17, 2009
368 pages

Checked out from library.