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Friday, January 31, 2014

Something Real by Heather Demetrios | review

'"So everyone's observing everyone all the time, which means we really don't know who the real version of anyone is?"
"Yeah. And so basically, Big Brother doesn't have to watch us because we're watching each other..."

Something Real by Heather Demetrios
Get It | Add It
416 pages
Expected publication: February 4th 2014 by Henry Holt BYR
Winner of the 2012 PEN New England Discovery Award!

There’s nothing real about reality TV.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.

Something Real is a pitch-perfect coming of age story about finding yourself and your voice, and how much that struggle is compounded when all eyes are on you. I had a feeling I would like this one, as reality TV and the obsession with celebrity is something that freaks me out, frankly, and I think is ripe for the exploring through books like this. Fortunately, I wasn't wrong - Demetrios' story and characters easily won me over, and her humor and engaging style, and sharp understanding of human nature, made this one enjoyable and surprisingly affecting.

Now, I'm going to try to not go totally off on a tangent when I say this, and I mean it as a good thing, so bear with me, but: this book kinda had me a little depressed. It's not that it's a saccharine, traumatizing, emo-fest; the book retains its sense of humor and sort of 'Ugh, my life' tone, keeping it relatable and believable, and just generally readable. But because it was so believable, it brought to life one of my least favorite things about the modern age, and that is the stifling, piranha-crazed mess that is our obsession with celebrity culture and its (apparent) lack of privacy.

The anonymity of the internet and the constant feed of images from other people's lives has given us license to take the playground bully phase into our adult lives with impunity; one look at the comments section on youtube, gawker, reddit, etc. will tell you that people don't blink an eye when it comes to laying bare their most vile, callous, unasked-for and uncalled-for opinions for the world to see. They do so gleefully. People will post anything, from one extreme to another, about every last aspect of a person's life - a complete strangers life - including the most vile things you could ever say about a person; they will put this all into writing and make it a concrete, shareable released unto the world, with a total lack of any feeling of guilt or empathy. When people speak out against these things, there is always, always, an avalanche of comments to the effect of They signed up for this, she knew what she was getting herself into, he's more than compensated for this, etc etc, as if any of that is an excuse to treat human beings the way we do. We shrug and say, Comes with the territory, as if this is an unavoidable evil.
As if we don't decide what "the territory" is, as if we don't decide what type of people, what type of culture we want to be.
As if going about your LIFE on the day to day gives people the right to harass you, your children, your friends, family and barest acquaintances just because your WORK happens to be in the public sphere.
And it's so pervasive - it's thoroughly inescapable and it warps us all. I don't watch celebrity news shows, read the gossip mags or blogs, and yet I can still tell you who's dating who and I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY.
THIS is the dystopia of our time. We live in 1984, and it is of our own choosing.

My god, I sound maudlin. But to have a soul-stealing spotlight like this thrust on you from an early age - from any age, frankly - and to know you can never escape it - never, truly never - has got to make you feel defeated. To be your own brand, to have to make every move of your life calculated to suit that brand...it's disheartening and dehumanizing, and it pervades everything. It's CREEPY. And then heaped on that, the guilting and shaming if you dare to disrupt the flow... It just makes me sad. And tired. I felt real empathy for Bonnie™. She's not even real, yet I was kinda stressed for her. I was sad for her. I was sad for the real people like her that bite off more than they can chew when it comes to life in the spotlight, or find themselves unwittingly (or unwillingly) thrust into it. I suppose there are worse things, bigger problems to worry about in this world, but we can't choose what freaks us out, and paparazzi feeding frenzies freak me out. It makes me feel claustrophobic. And then, expanding beyond the paparazzi into everyone having to have - and express. Vocally - an opinion, and it just makes me feel disheartened.

 And yet, this is something we seem to welcome, to strive for. Hell, I'm just a blogger and I'm told to think about "my brand." I'm just a random girl on the internet talking about books and people don't hesitate to comment on my looks/weight/voice/clothes, ask to see my tits (and an inordinate amount of requests to see my feet, WTF?), and any other thing they feel comfortable with saying behind the anonymity of a computer screen. And that, I think, is what's at the heart of why this bothers me so much - if all it takes is a little anonymity for people to behave the way they do, then that's what we really are at our most base, and it doesn't even take much digging to get there. This behavior exposes us. And Heather Demetrios holds up a mirror to that and, through Bonnie™, shows us what we value versus what we should; how we should treat people versus how we do.

And so, yeah, I wasn't supposed to go off on a tangent, but all of that. That's what made me feel a little depressed, just really, really sad reading this book. It put a face to all of those things that have always sort of eaten at me, and the inescapability and manipulation in the story (and its sheer plausibility) all worked together to make this more powerful and affecting than I thought it'd be.

...all of this makes it sound like I sit around all day, stressing out over the fishbowl lives of celebrities. Guys, I'm really not. I'm not that neurotic, I promise. So, MOVING ON, basically what I'm trying to say is it was good and it felt real, and it made me feel, which always makes me rate a book higher in my estimation, and makes it more memorable to boot. I fully believed Bonnie™ as a character, as well as pretty much all of the people she was surrounded by. Some made my skin crawl, some made me have hope - she really nailed the characters. Bonnie™ has a strong voice and sense of humor, and Demetrios deals with difficult subject matter in a non-cloying way. She explores relationships, decisions and choices really well, keeping it all relatable, and very realistic. Bonnie™'s doubts of whether she's doing the right thing, whether she should just go with the flow, whether she's causing more harm than good by trying to stand up for herself, etc., ring very true, and the myriad ways people react to what she's doing, how people (complete strangers, those closest to her, everyone) treat her and have opinions on her was sadly realistic and perfectly captured.

The pressure and the fishbowl and the emotional blackmail - all of it felt true and heartbreaking, and made the book memorable.  But lest you think its a depressing sobfest, it's not; it manages to always be engaging and often surprisingly light-hearted, with the emotional peaks and valleys that signal a well-plotted book and a good understanding of human nature. And though it made me sad, it's also an empowering book. It's about finding your voice, finding yourself, and not being afraid to embrace that. It made me sad because clearly I'm more neurotic than I'm willing to admit, but it's also funny and smart and sexy and triumphant. There was never a time where I felt it fell flat or had a weak spot. The revelations, manipulations, and peeks into the family dynamics are well-placed to keep the tension, and looooong story short, I think Heather Demetrios is one to watch.

Jesus, why did it take me so long to get to that?
I might have some deep-seated privacy issues...

Oh, also: you should totally go check out this guest post from Heather. You know you want to.

Friday Face Off / Cover Reveal: The Truth About Alice

Today's FFO is kind of an interesting one, 'cause it's 1/2 Face Off and 1/2 cover reveal. The cover in question is Jennifer Mathieu's The Truth About Alice, which recently showed up in my mailbox (yay!) with a sticker over the very lovely cover (left) saying that it was not the final cover. I was curious why, as I actually quite liked the cover, and wasn't sure why they felt the need to change it, but then EW released the actual cover yesterday (hence the "Entertainment Weekly" watermark on the cover), and ZOMG IT'S PERFECT AND I LOVE IT.
Not to bias you, or anything...
Anyway, the synopsis for the book is below, in case you'd like to check it out or use it to make your decision, but basically - do you think they needed a 'new' final cover, or would you have stuck with the old? Which would you rather have on your shelves?
Which one did it better?

Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.

Last Week on FFO: The US and UK versions of Lauren DeStefano's Perfect Ruin went head to head, and after a lot of comments about big heads, the US cover easily won the Face Off. I would like to note, though, the author's opinion on this one:
So... Winner? 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Something Real Blog Tour | guest post from author Heather Demetrios!

I think 2014 is going to be the year of debuts for me, 'cause I have a lot of debut authors in my stack and on my wishlist, and what I've read so far I've not only liked, but loved. This includes Heather Demetrios' contemporary debt, Something Real, which skewers our reality TV obsession and fixation with celebrity (something that, frankly, has always kinda freaked me out). I loved it, so of course I'm super happy to be kicking off the blog tour! I'll be sharing my thoughts on this funny and affecting book tomorrow, but until then, Heather has stopped by to teach us how to survive if, like her main character, you find yourself one among many.

Top Ten Tips For Living With A Baker’s Dozen

Think your family’s bad? In my debut novel, Something Real, Bonnie™, my main character, is one of thirteen kids in her family. As if that isn’t miserable enough, they’re also the stars of Baker’s Dozen, a Jon and Kate Plus Eight kind of reality show that Bonnie™ was literally born on. After seventeen years of having her sisters steal her clothes and her brothers break her stuff, Bonnie™ has learned a thing or two about how to deal.

1. Make sure your bedroom door locks…from the inside

The only way to get any peace of mind is to rig your room to keep the barbarians out. These days, this probably includes your mom. Having your own space to take a few deep breaths and go to your happy place is absolutely necessary when cameras are recording everything from what you eat for breakfast to how many minutes you’ve spent in the bathroom. It’s also kinda nice for secret trysts with your boyfriend or bitch sessions with your best friend slash older brother.

2. Label Everything

Beth Baker-Miller, a.k.a Mom, is nothing if not meticulously organized. You’d do well to take a tip from her and put your name on everything you own (and I mean everything). Try and prove that your arch-nemesis of a sister didn’t steal that tube of lipstick you just bought or that you’d called dibs on that last carton of yogurt in the fridge. Sticky labels and Sharpies are your friends.   

3. If the bathroom’s free, take a shower

I’m sure you can imagine just how hard it is to get a hot shower when a million other people are living in your house and there are only two bathrooms. My recommendation? Become an early bird. I guarantee you that no one is going to be taking a shower at five in the morning. Then you get to stay in as long as you want. Bonus: you’ll also be the first to the coffeepot.

4. Keep a stash of snacks in a super-secret hidden location

Think you’re gonna have a full stomach after fifteen people have eaten dinner? Dream on. The key is to eat as fast as you can so there are seconds (which there won’t be) and then finish up with a bag of chips or a Snickers bar hidden under your bed. Which leads us to…

5. Hide Things

Have a diary you want to keep secret, a note from your boyfriend, or a naughty Harlequin romance you stole from your mother’s bookshelf? Invest in a safe or a find a really good hiding place. Otherwise, you can look forward to embarrassing revelations (which will be aired on national TV, of course).

6. Bite Your Tongue

If you have a sister who’s really good at pushing your buttons—and, chances are, if you have twelve siblings there will be at least one who knows how to piss you off—do your best not to give into the temptation to snark back at her. Not only will she totally make it look like you are the irrational one, she’ll be certain a camera’s around when she does.

7. Thank God you’re not one of the younger kids

There are a few perks to being one of the oldest and this includes not having to wear hand-me-downs. Remember that shirt you spilled a cherry Icee on in fifth grade or the ugly snow boots your mom made you wear until you outgrew them? Of course you do—you see your younger sisters wearing them all the time. It’s the little things.

8. Be the first to sign up for weekly chores

Because, for real, how much would it suck to clean the bathroom? Or do the dishes? With fifteen people living under one roof, the last thing you want to do is clean up after them more than you already do.

9. Accept bribes, engage in blackmail

Being a part of a family like the Bakers is akin to attending a UN summit every day of the week. Each person is a country with its own agenda and, in some cases, its own army. The only way to survive World War III is to make use of bribes and blackmail. That means you have to keep your ear to the ground—having the dirt on your siblings is better than cold hard cash.

10. Accept that babysitting is your new job

You can try to fight it, but the truth is, you’re going to be babysitting—a lot. There are only three things that will get you through this: caffeine, caffeine, and caffeine.
Follow these tips and repeat after me: there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home. Then grab your keys and get outta there.

Something Real by Heather Demetrios
Get It | Add It
416 pages
Expected publication: February 4th 2014 by Henry Holt BYR
Winner of the 2012 PEN New England Discovery Award!

There’s nothing real about reality TV.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.

Heather Demetrios, originally from Los Angeles, now lives in Brooklyn and various imaginary locales. She is the recipient of a PEN New England Discovery Award for her debut YA novel about reality TV stardom, SOMETHING REAL (Macmillan/Henry Holt), and is the author of the upcoming EXQUISITE CAPTIVE, a smoldering fantasy about jinn in Los Angeles (#1 in the DARK CARAVAN fantasy trilogy from HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray), both out in 2014. She is currently working on her second novel for Macmillan, a love story about a young combat veteran and a girl trapped in their small town, both struggling to escape the war at home. When she’s not hanging out with her characters, Heather is working on her MFA in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shatter Me Wrap-Up & February Voting! | #WednesdayYA Book Club

Alright, we're at the end of the first month's #WednesdayYA book club, and before I get into final thoughts, I just want to say that I love that so many of you like this idea and want to be involved! You guys rock, and I love chatting book with you. ^_^

Now, on to my final thoughts on Shatter Me. I talked a bit in my Instagrammin' post about how polarizing this book can be - not because of any controversial subject matter, or any of the things that would normally make people have very strong reactions for or against a book.  This one will win fans and haters in droves purely because of the writing, which (weirdly) isn't something we tend to talk too much about with most books.
 I think this is mostly because to many readers, "good" writing draws you along and makes you flip pages in a way that's unobtrusive - we know it's good because nothing sticks out as bad. Occasionally, a book will come along where people do talk about the writing as much as the plot, and that's generally when the style is strongly poetic (example: Laini Taylor); Mafi's style is also a very strong, bold statement of style, but its quasi-emo stream-of-consciousness prose is the type to either lure people in or make them absolutely loathe it, and for me, the book vacillates between these two extremes. There were times I both loved and hated the style within the same sentence. After this month's twitter chat, I know I'm not alone in this. There are people who love it, eat up every single word. And then there are people that hate it, find it the purplest thing to ever purple.
But for all the extreme reactions out there, I think there, who find themselves somewhere in the middle - thinking Shatter Me is sometimes really poetic and lovely, and sometimes overwritten to the point of being eyeroll-worthy - but it is always, always memorable. And I think that was the goal, honestly. The dystopian aspects of this book are really second fiddle, not just to the romance, but to the story itself  - to the writing, to the style. The novelty is in the telling, and not in some freshly told dystopian knockout, or unique stand-out characters.

Other thoughts?
  • Everyone in the twitter chat wanted a bit more...moreness? In general, we liked it enough to want to read book 2 (even in cases where we found ourselves not liking this all that much), but we all felt there was just something missing, at least a little bit. But that wasn't enough to keep us from being curious about the rest of the series, and all the things we've heard...
  • Liz wanted the purple jumpsuit and she pictured Warner as Dr. Horrible, so I'm not sure her opinions can be trusted...
  • Speaking of Warner, we were...intrigued by him and his potential as a character, even if we didn't really get the Team nonsense yet. I've always liked a good antihero, and Warner has the potential to both be a really good one and bring out some antihero qualities in Juliette, which I find interesting. For now, I remain on the fence about both Warner and Adam, and vaguely eye-rolly about the fact that, well... spoilers, I guess, but I'm curious to see how the dynamics between the three of them unfold.
    Also, I've heard it gets quite smexy.
  • Where are all the ladehs? I know that for all intents, there are really only 3 characters in 98% of this book. But a few of us during the chat questioned where the women are in this world...
  • One last point, about the character of Juliette: I want to see her a little more insanse, honestly. She's been in isolation for nearly a year, which is itself enough to make a person go literally crazy, but on top of that, she's never had any affection. She's never gotten to know human touch. I feel like this should manifest itself more in the present. And though I like how eager for touch and sex she is, I also feel like there should be some hesitancy, even some contradiction. She should hunger for it, for human connection, but also be a bit freaked out by it, I think. Eh, I dunno, just thoughts I had while reading...
And that was Shatter Me. If you've read it or ended up reading it for WYA, please let me know what you think in the comments! I feel like this one provides a lot of opportunities for discussion, so I'm curious to know what you guys felt while reading this, and/or after you'd processed a bit. 

And now that shiny Shatter Me is a thing of WYA past, it's up to YOU to decide what we read for February's #WednesdayYA! 

Liz and I were feeling some fantasy, so here are 3 fantastical picks (and we've heard good things about every last one!); check 'em out and then cast your vote for February's book club pick!

Get It | Add It
In the good old days, magic was indispensable. But now magic is fading: Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world’s last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as . . . Big Magic.

SISTERS RED by Jackson Pearce
Get It | Add It
Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris--the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.
Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls' bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett's only friend--but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they've worked for?

UNSPOKEN by Sarah Rees Brennan
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Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Poll is closed, winner will be announced in the February #WednesdayYA intro post

Cast your vote and then make sure to come back next week when the winner is announced and we begin another month of #WednesdayYA!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BOOK HAUL: January 2014!

So, I definitely had to stare at the "title" section for a minute, 'cause I kept wanting to put January 2013.. HOW is it 2014 already?

Anyway, here are the awesome, exciting new books that made their way to my shelves this month. They've been building up into a nice little stack, so since the shiny new computer came in, I thought I'd make use of it! (Which, if you watched my Stack of Five, you'll already know! =D )
Let me know what you think in the comments, and of course, thanks for watching!

Pride & Prejudice scarf (ok, not a book, BUT STILL) from Her Awesomeness, Ksenia
My Last Kiss | Bethany Neal
The Truth About Alice | Jennifer Mathieu
One Man Guy | Michael Barakiva
The Undertaking of Lily Chen | Danica Novgorodoff
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy | Karen Foxlee
Stolen Songbird | Danielle L. Jensen
Angelfall | Susan Ee
All Unquiet Things | Anna Jarzab
Rose and Bones | Francesca Lia Block
Wildwood | Colin Meloy
Brimstone | Rosemary Clement-Moore

Monday, January 27, 2014

Stack of Five (15): Fairy Tales

My brain has switched into fairy tale mode, so this month's theme is fairy tale inspired. Vote in the comments for which 1 of these books you want me to read and do a video review of for the 4th Annual Fairy Tale Fortnight!
(Please note, the full review will be held until FTF in April, though I will tell you guys briefly what I though in my Feb Rewind, of course!)

Voting will be open until the end of January, and the winner will be announced in my February TBR. Only your first vote counts, so choose wisely!
To find out more about the books to help make your decision, please visit the links below. Thanks for watching!

Also - Yes, I know, BLACK BARS. Got a new computer and wanted to test out the webcam. Whyyyyyyyy do they always record in 4:3 aspect ratio? WHO STILL USES 4:3?! There's one more webcam vid coming before we get back to our regularly scheduled camera, so just be patient! =D

Beauty | Nancy Ohlin
The Brides of Rollrock Island | Margo Lanagan
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy | Karen Foxlee
The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland & Cut the Moon in Two | Catherynne M. Valentee
Sorrow's Knot | Erin Bow

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Chat: BEST OF 2013!

Everyone's been asking for this, so here you go: these are my absolute faves of 2013!
I'm not sure why there are random blackouts at the end - I guess these books were just too awesome for the my computer to handle... (And speaking of, did I mention I ordered a new computer, 'cause...totally did. THANK GLOB.)
Anyway, links to all the books, and my review if there is one, can be found below.
Let me know what you think, and what some of YOUR favorite books were last year, in the comments!
Thanks for watching!!

Godmother | Carolyn Turgeon [review]

Strands of Bronze & Gold | Jane Nickerson [review]

Austensibly Ordinary | Alyssa Goodnight [review]

Across a Star-Swept Sea | Diana Peterfreund - review to come!

Fractured | Teri Terry [review]

Sekret | Lindsay Smith [review]

Lips Touch: Three Times | Laini Taylor [review]

Liar's Moon | Elizabeth C. Bunce - review to come!

Antigoddess | Kendare Blake [review]

The Real Boy | Anne Ursu [review]

The Princess Curse | Merrie Haskell [review]

Siege | Sarah Mussi [review]

The Winner's Curse | Marie Rutkoski - review coming in February!

Cress | Marissa Meyer - review to come VERY soon! =D

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Face Off: Perfect Ruin

Ohhhkay, it's been ages since we've had a Face Off, so...my bad. But whatever, it's back now, and the throwdowns must go on! This week I'm featuring a cover pairing I just came across a couple of days ago, when I was tweeting out a link to the book as a kindle daily deal. (I don't even have a kindle; I like to save you guys money, yo!) The book is Lauren DeStefano's Perfect Ruin, which I've seen around everywhere, and yet had never seen the UK edition in all of my internetsing. I was so startled by the contrast, actually (and the weird similarities), that I had to see what you guys thought.
So below you'll find the US and UK versions, respectively. Though both feature side profiles of a pensive-ish girl* with one arm crossed over the other, and both have pretty neat (though totally different) fonts, they have very little else in common. Though I like both, I have a definite favorite, which I want to pore over for all the little details - but which do you guys prefer? Which would catch your eye at the bookstore, and which would you rather have on your shelves? In short,
Which one did it better?

*Does anyone else see Lorde and Dianna Agron in these cover models? I swear, that's all I see...

Last, er...year on FFO: Three different versions of Kim Harrington's The Dead and Buried went head to head, but the votes really only came down to two: the special edition US Scholastic Bookclub version, and the UK's totally overhauled-and-renamed version. It was a close call, but in the end, the ominous special edition just barely won out.
Winner ---------->

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Reading from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi | #WednesdayYA

It's time for more #WednesdayYA! For those of you who've been following along, our first book pick was SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi. We'll get to our final thoughts next week, but for now, here's a reading of the entire first chapter, in which I had to get a little creative - but I had a lot of fun with this one! Hope you guys do, too. =)

Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you want to read along with the #WednesdayYA book club, please do! You can join us for a twitter chat about this book TONIGHT, 22 Jan., at 7:30 EST! Or follow along & join in whenever with the hashtag #WednesdayYA!

about the book:
SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi
Get It | Add It
Dystopia/Sci-fi, 338 pages
Published November 15th 2011 by Harper
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jamie's A-to-Z Survey (finally!)

Aaaaaages ago, Jamie did this awesome post called the "A to Z Survey," and I loved it and wanted to get in on the fun and share my A-to-Zs with you. I finally got around to starting a response last fall, and got about 1/2 way through before the Dark Ages that was the end of 2013, when everything got pushed to the side and forgotten about.
But I knew I wanted to circle back around to this one, 'cause I still find it really interesting and fun. So even though it's been forever since Jamie's original post, here's my response to the

Because it was started in October and just now finished, the answers are a bit of a mix of old stuff and new... It was kinda fun for me to look back on, actually! Anyway, check it out, let me know what you think, and let me know the answers to some of your faves in the comments!

Author you’ve read the most books from:
 Mine is listed as Kaoru Mori, but I'm sure if we're being strictly literal, it'd be someone like RL Stine or Christopher Pike, or any number of series authors I read as a kid. I'm okay with going with Kaoru, though - I love her, and have read her manga multiple times. (I mean, Victorian maids? What's not to love?!)

Best Sequel Ever:
Hmm. I think I'd have to go with Days of Blood and Starlight, which not only made me love it (surprisingly more than DOSAB), but also felt like exactly what it needed to be. No sophomore slump there!

Currently Reading:
I'm in the middle of roughly a million things (sort of. Maybe.), so: almost done with Demonglass and Sorrow's Knot, have started The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland... and should probably have finished one of them up, but then this happened:

What's a girl to do?
Edit: This post was started in October, and I don't want to change many of my answers from then, but this book has long since been finished and loved. I am now currently reading this.

Drink of Choice While Reading:
To be honest, if I'm engaged in the book, any drink will probably go forgotten. But if I do have something to drink with my book, it probably has to match in some way. Certain books need tea, Fall books need hot cocoa, etc.
Fun side note, for my bookclub, we rotated who brought snacks/drinks each month, and for my month, when we read Poison Study, I made "Pick Your Poison" mixed drinks. I made a bunch of different fruit purees and concoctions, and all kinds of additives, and we added them to green-tinged lemonade. Yum! They were stored in vials and test tubes labeled with the names of poisons from the book; it was really neat, one of my favorite bookish moments. We recreated this when we brought Maria to town and had a dinner with her - only we added alcohol and served them in jolly-roger votives as shot glasses. ;)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shatter Me read along update: Instagrammin' | #WednesdayYa

I had originally intended to post an excerpt vlog of Shatter Me for you guys today as part of #WednesdayYA, but my camera has run away, so I'll just have to save that for next week (which is also when we're having our twitter chat!).
I've been documenting my #WednesdayYA reading on Instagram, so since there's no vlog today, I thought I'd share that with you instead. Click through to see some of my favorite (and not so favorite) quotes from Shatter Me, and my thoughts so far!


Monday, January 13, 2014

Sekret by Lindsay Smith | review

It's finally time for me to review November's Stack of Five winner, SEKRET by Lindsay Smith. I normally wouldn't review a book quite so early (this knock-out debut doesn't come out until April), but I had a Macmillan Spring Catalog-themed Stack in November (which is when they showed up, so they were all calling my name!), and you guys voted for Sekret, so Sekret you shall have!

I'll make sure to remind you guys to pick this one up when we get closer to that April release date, but until then, here's what I thought of the book you guys most wanted me to read in November.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

About the book
SEKRET by Lindsay Smith 
Get It | Add It
Historical Thriller/Sci-Fi, 337 pages
Expected publication: April 1st 2014 by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children's
From debut author Lindsay Smith comes an espionage thriller with a dash of both history and dystopia.

Yulia's father always taught her that an empty mind is a safe mind. She has to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia, especially because she seems to be able to read the minds of the people she touches. When she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power where she can trust no one.

She certainly can't trust Rostov, the cruel KGB operative running the psychic program. Or handsome Sergei who encourages her to cooperate with the KGB. Or brooding Valentin who tells her to rebel against them. And not the CIA, who have a psychic so powerful he can erase a person's mind with his own thoughts. Yulia quickly learns she must rely on her own wits and power to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Girl Who Chased the Moon | Book Spine Poetry (2)

Time for more Book Spine Poetry!

This one actually took me a bit, 'cause it wasn't what I'd intended to do. I had 2 separate bsp piles running through my head, and when I went to pull the books for them, I realized I was missing a key book for each, because they've been loaned out to friends (and strangely enough, they're both by Kendare Blake. They've taken all my Kendares!). So I'll have to do those later...

Instead, I had to kind of change tacks and go in a new direction, and I ended up with a 'poem' that's short and sweet and a little full of whimsy. Maybe it's because Bonnie and I are in the pre-planning stages for the 4th Fairy Tale Fortnight, I dunno, but this one has a definite fairy tale feel to me...

Check it out, and if you're inspired to do your own book spine poetry, tweet me a link or tag me in it on instagram!

The Girl Who Chased the Moon 
I shall wear midnight.
A blue so dark, so silver bright -
Strands of bronze & gold, brightly woven,
Fairest of them all...

The books: The Girl Who Chased the Moon / I Shall Wear Midnight / A Blue So Dark / So Silver Bright / Strands of Bronze and Gold / Brightly Woven / Fairest of Them All

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cover Reveal: Perfect Kind of Trouble by Chelsea Fine

Coming soon...

Amazon | B&N | iTunes
Contemporary New Adult, 336 pages
Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by Forever
Daren Ackwood is a bad boy with a mysterious past. He’s the kind of guy who knows he can get any girl he wants. Kayla doesn’t do bad boys—in any sense of the word. They have a tendency to leave scars and dust trails in their wake, and Kayla isn’t running short on either. So when Daren rolls up to her father’s funeral in his shiny sports car, Kayla knows she needs to keep her distance during her brief stay in this tiny God-forsaken town. She’s here to take care of her father’s will, nothing more. The trouble is, Daren doesn’t see it that way. And he usually gets his way.

Chelsea lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where she spends most of her time writing stories, painting murals, and avoiding housework at all costs. She's ridiculously bad at doing dishes and claims to be allergic to laundry. Her obsessions include: superheroes, coffee, sleeping-in, and crazy socks. She lives with her husband and two children, who graciously tolerate her inability to resist teenage drama on TV and her complete lack of skill in the kitchen.
Find her on

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Xmas Book Haul | 2013

So...finally got around to editing the Xmas book haul I promised you! By now I think you've probably seen most of these anyway, but not quite all, and not quite like this, so enjoy and thanks for watching! =D

FROM LIZ - thanks, Liz!
Conjured | Sarah Beth Durst
Black Helicopters | Blythe Woolston
Hot Air Balloon necklace from Elaina Louise Studios

FROM KSENIA - thanks, Ksenia!
Delilah & the Turkish Lieutenant | Tony Cliff
The Cute Girl Network | Greg Means, MK Reed & Joe Flood
Boxers & Saints boxed set | Gene Luen Yang
In the Age of Love and Chocolate | Gabrielle Zevin

FROM EVIE - thanks, bestie!
Pride & Prejudice tote

The Cute Girl Network guest blog, "Mr Collins & the Cute Girl Network"
Delilah Dirk guest blog, "Coming to My Sense (and Sensibilities)"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Introducing: the #WednesdayYA Book Club!

Awhile back, Liz from Consumed by Books and I realized that we have a lot of the same books. A lot. And both being overly-enthusiastic uber-nerds, the only clear choice was to read them together. So we began bouncing around ideas of what we'd like to read and when, and hey, wouldn't it be fun if...

Of course, we had to involve you guys. That's what book nerds do best, right? We push and we talk and we club it up. We even have the book hangovers to prove it...
And so we present to you:

Why "Wednesday YA"?
  • Because on the first Wednesday of every month, the selection for that month will be announced and you all will be invited to grab a copy and read it with us! [Obviously we're behind a week on this one. Holidays!]
  • Because on the last Wednesday of every month, we'll wrap up discussions for that month's book, take a look back at any shenanigans, and get the ball rolling for the coming month.
  • Because on the remaining Wednesdays, we'll do...something. There will be twitter chats with the hashtag #WednesdayYA (see, it's hashtaggable!), and other random stuff like excerpts, vlogs, quote seshes, whatever. Every Wednesday, there will be something related to that month's book.
  • Because... reasons. I like alliteration, okay?
How do I become part of the book club?
  • If you want to take part, then take part! Read along, join in the discussions and twitter chats, post about it on your own blog/vlog/vision board - whatever you want to do!
    Don't want to take part anymore? Don't.
    Didn't finish the book? Stop by and tell us why! We're open to a good vent sesh.
  • This is totally cazh! Everyone is welcome, and there's never any pressure. This is just something Liz and I wanted to do, and we thought we'd invite you along for the ride. =)
What are the books you're going to be reading?
  • Those will be announced as we go. I know some of you like Boy Scout-levels of preparedness, but the reason we're doing it month by month is that we want to keep changing up how books are chosen, and we want you to be part of the process! Sometimes we'll have polls, sometimes we'll draw a book from a hat - who knows!
    But I can tell you this month's book, and it's:

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Dystopian/Fantasy, 338 pages
Published November 15th 2011 by Harper
Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

I have a feeling a number of you are going to be pleased by - or at least, interested in - this choice. It's been the topic of a lot of conversation, it has legions of fans (and maybe as many haters), and it nearly won the last Stack of Five vote. I'm definitely curious to dive in and see what Liz and I make of it!

So, wanna join our Cool Kids Club Wednesday YA Book Club? Grab a copy of Shatter Me (or feel free to chime in if you've already read it!) and join Liz and I every Wednesday (or whenever you can) for #WednesdayYA!

*Okay, I'm done shortening words now. Promise. There was a moment, but it passed... 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

DEFY by Sara B. Larson | review

Say the words "gender-bending epic fantasy" and which lil' ole blogger pops into your head? Probably this girl. So Sara B Larson's gender-bending epic fantasy debut should be an easy win for me, right? 

Defy by Sara B Larson
Get It | Add It
Fantasy, 336 pages
Expected publication: January 7th 2014 by Scholastic Press
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

I hadn't heard of Sara B Larson's debut, Defy, until it showed up in my mailbox, which is shameful of me, because I'm normally pretty on top of anything that even hints at the phrase "gender-bender." (I blame this almost completely on Tamora Pierce, and probably a little bit on movies like Rocky Horror, Ladybugs, To Wong Foo and Just One of the Guys. My formative years in a nutshell, friends.) So even though I had no plans to read this, and a whole stack of other things that needed to be read instead, I promptly sat down with this one almost immediately upon opening the package.
And for all my high hopes and a fairly strong start, I was sadly disappointed.

Defy was an oddly confused piece of writing. It doesn't know if it wants to be the next big smexy romance novel or a straight-forward epic fantasy, so it tries to do both, and fails. 'Hot and bothered' just doesn't work as well when there are more pressing concerns like fighting for your life. Now, I've always been one to say that romance still has a place - maybe even more of a place - when the setting isn't all that conducive to a romance; people still fall in love in the middle of wars. Emotions are heightened, life seems short, and people carpe the hell out of their diems. But... if that's the case you wanna make, then that mentality, that forced, manic, precarious vitality has to be represented and believable. And those other concerns, like war and death and hurt, loss, pain, anxiety — they need to intrude, need to make up a bulk of the characters' thought-space, even. Otherwise, it makes your characters seem vapid and self-absorbed, and all of the potential tension in your story (beyond the sexual) goes right out the window. If they don't legitimately fear for their lives, we won't. If they only care about the ills of society in a cursory way, when forced to, we'll either stop caring about the world, or stop caring about the characters. (And by we, I mean me, but I'm guessing some of you, too.)

Defy felt like a lot of potential, wasted. And I don't just mean the more dire aspects of the society, and the seriousness of the situation. Even Alexa's disguise as Alex felt wasted. Larson does have talent that tries to rear its troublesome head, but beyond the lack of depth and the apparent obviousness of Alexa's disguise (who doesn't know? I think just adults, who presumably are too busy or too obtuse to pay attention to anything around them...Like the fact that one twin matures from boy to going-on man while the other remains sexless and ambiguous. Or the fact that one twin (the not-boy one) seems to spend most of his/her time openly leering at all of the sweaty dreamboats in his/her regiment...), I just felt like there needed to be more follow-through, follow-all-the-way-through, in Defy. There needed to be some psychology, some cause-effect, and all those fundamental hallmarks of good world & character building. Two apparently-straight boys are in love with someone pretending to be a boy - shouldn't there be...a grappling with confusing feelings? As a woman in a society where women are forced into brothels to be brood mares for the army, shouldn't their be some real hatred and bitterness? More distrust, more paranoia and caution in regards to the "disguise," or some acting-out, and even some self-loathing for being a member of the Army that helps prop up this institutionalized sex trafficking? Though there was a scene - a single scene - of disgust for the world Alexa lives in, I can't say that it was really more than set-up for a pivotal moment of the book -- a means to an end, and not a real analysis or condemnation of the world. It was well-done in the moment, and then relegated to the d-plotlines once again.

There were things that should have been explored and capitalized on, that should have had a greater share of the focus, over faux drama and twu wuv. So Alexa's the best fighter ever, and she's maybe magic ooh ahh. She's also smart and resourceful (one assumes), so let us see some more of that. She shows moments, but let's have more than moments; let's have that be the bulk of the narrative instead. Not confused longing and a lip-service condemnation of the serious ills of the world, before getting back to the Very Urgent Business of who's hotter, the prince or the pauper? I try not to get too moral when it comes to a book and how it presents its story -- I generally don't feel authors have some sort of "responsibility" to...well, anything, really, other than the story they set out to tell. But as amoral a reader as I am, I couldn't help but be bothered by the shock tactic of using the forced prostitution of children as an easily-discarded frame for a story about how Alexa's milkshake swordplay brings all the boys to the yard.

Now. I've gone very negative, and some of that may be the wine talking (but probably not), so I do want to say that some of this I just saw as rookie mistakes. The story could have done with a lot of lengthening, which, beyond making more depth likely, would have allowed for more of an exploration of some of these difficult plotlines. The timeframe is very compressed, and if you're rushing to get your main characters alone in the woods together so they can get their angsty-flirt on, you're bound to neglect some of the more troublesome aspects of the story. They're just not as fun, amirite? The story as a whole would have benefitted from a slower pace, and I know I'm not the only one who thought that:

And while we're talking about rookie mistakes, even though it seems silly after the more serious stuff: the names! What was with the names? They were so jarring to me; every last one of them seemed like something the author thought sounded cool, and not at all like something that fit the world being built. Cultures have patterns, languages have forms and cadence and a feel to them, and these things all make part of a believable world. Names are a much bigger part of that than you'd think, because they represent the characters who are our 'in' to the world, and therefore represent the world itself; you can't have:
This one is Frenchish, and this one's English-like, this sounds kinda Spanishy, and ooh, this sounds "exotic" and maybe a little ethnic, so that's perfect - let's toss them all together into my insular, isolated world! Perfect! No one would ever believe they didn't develop organically as an extension of the culture and language of a people! *pats self on back* 
Choosing something with no real rhyme or reason other than it sounds badass is something a budding writer does in middle school. You gotta murder your darlings, baby, and you gotta make sound decisions rather than "cool" ones. I just had to get that little rant out of the way, 'cause it bothered me...

BUT, all that said, it is very fast-paced, and managed to be engaging even when it was getting under my skin. I saw enough in it that I would read the follow-up, even if it won't be high-priority; there is talent there, it just wants developing, and I'm curious to see what Larson does in the future. And I think I'll get that chance, as I have a feeling Defy is going to find a very devoted audience. (In fact, judging from some of my GR friends' reactions, it already has.) No matter how much we all rail against it and its predictability, there's always a huge market for love triangles; everybody wants to be Team Somebody. Defy will have that in spades. It's just the rest of it - all of its other bookness - that failed to deliver. It's probably a good "epic fantasy" for people who don't actually like epic fantasy, but want to feel like they're reading one - it gives you the bare bones of such a thing, with some vaguely jungle-ish world-building, looming war and atrocities, and mad swordplay skillz, but in the end, it's really just a standard YA love triangle dressed up in epic fantasy's clothing, like a child wearing her mother's heels and playing house.


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