Monday, March 25, 2013

eleanor & park

by rainbow rowell — published february 26, 2012 — st. martin's griffin

Two misfits, one extraordinary love. 
It's 1986 and two star-crossed teens are smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you'll remember your own first love--and just how hard it pulled you under.

 A cross between the iconic '80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel.

Park is a short, Asian, karate-practicing student, while Eleanor is an overweight, wild-red-haired, mens-tie-wearing-and-curtain-tassels-used-as-ponytails older sister of many kids. They meet on the bus one day when Eleanor, the new student, tries to find a place to sit, and Park begrudgingly slides over, not speaking, to let her sit down so she doesn't get yelled at by all the other kids. Their relationship begins with her reading his comic books over his shoulder, and one day, he lets her borrow one. It's about halfway through the book before they actually speak to one another.

Now, while I don't necessarily think they're star-crossed like the description says, I loved that they weren't typical ordinary protagonists. And they also weren't "quirky but still normal enough to be kind of cool." I mean, Eleanor was straight up WEIRD. As in, I found myself wondering why on Earth she would wear curtain tassels as hair ties (I mean, WHAT?). 

But I loved the challenges they were presented with. The fact that it was a struggle for Park to stand up to the people bullying Eleanor was real. It wouldn't just be an obvious thing, and he struggled with it, and I loved that about him. They both just seemed like realistic characters more than "star-crossed lovers."

I also admired Eleanor's character. She was uncomfortable with herself, uncomfortable with her size and struggled with letting Park touch her. She also had a lot of family issues going on, and she handled them realistically, as well as well, for someone of her age. She seemed to take on a mother role to all her siblings, taking care of them when she needed to.

My only super downside to this was that there didn't seem to be a definite plot line anywhere. There was sort of a climax, but I was definitely bored with the stasis of this novel, and the fact that nothing really happened other than the relationship between Park and Eleanor. I felt like the book never really built up to anything. So I would have liked a little bit more action, but it wasn't too bad.

While this definitely was not in the "Looking for Alaska" ranking like the description says, it was still a poignant and lovely book of two teens struggling to grow up as two individuals in a town that didn't really want them to be individual. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

gone south

by meg moseley — published may 7, 2013 — multnomah books

Having moved frequently within her native Michigan, Tish McComb is thrilled to move to Noble, Alabama, and buy a house built by her great-great-great-grandparents shortly after the Civil War. She hangs their ancient wedding portrait in the parlor where it once hung and dreams of finding a sense of home. But she soon learns her ancestors were carpetbaggers whose legendary misdeeds make the town hostile toward anyone named McComb. Tish isn't the only one who feels the sting of rejection, though. When an influential citizen disowns his prodigal daughter, Tish offers her the acceptance they've both been denied. But everything goes south when the wayward daughter doesn't straighten up. Tish can't decide if she should challenge her incorrigible houseguest by drawing a line in the sand, or write words in the sand and dare the prodigal's father to throw the first stone.

The thing that most surprised me about this book was how many levels and story lines there were. But they weren't difficult to follow. I really enjoyed learning about all the different characters. First, there's Tish, who moves to Noble. She takes in Mel, a young girl who is disowned from her family. She grew up in Noble, so she knows a lot about the town. Then there's Calv, the man Tish bought the house from, who feeds a dog named Daisy that always shows up on Tish's porch, who belongs to George, a guy who runs an antique shop with Calv. And George eventually hires Mel. Each character has his or her own backstory and plot line, but they also interact with one another superbly. George and Mel have such an interesting relationship, but Mel and Tish have such a different one. I truly feel like I got to know how each of their relationships with one another worked.

On top of the character interaction, the storyline crossovers and weaving worked so well. I was so impressed at how the stories drifted apart and then back together, all at once, and sporadically. Moseley expertly wove together all the layers to create a complex and compelling novel. I was never lost or confused about who was where during a particular scene or what was going on. 

There was also an air of mystery to it regarding the past McCombs. We don't really find out a lot about them until midway through the book, and even then, their history is still a little cloudy. But as the story gets deeper and Tish gets deeper into Noble, we slowly discover more. Secrets and facts were revealed precisely when they needed to be, and it was suspenseful, but not keeping us in the dark so much to be irritating. The perfect amount of intrigue.

I also loved Calv's character, even though he was kind of a side player. I feel like he was so human, quick to judge, changing his mind and perception, and always giving treats to Daisy. These characters were just so real.

I have to say, I had no idea this book would be so complex or interesting on first glance. But by chapter 5, I was hooked, and couldn't put it down.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

pretty little liars

pretty-little-liars-girlsokay guys, here’s the deal.
i have an addiction. and it’s bad.

i love pretty little liars. i’m not even ashamed. there is so much about this television show to love that it’s difficult to explain exactly why i love it so much. allie is deliciously evil. spencer has gone off her rocker, but not really, but sort of, and i’m convinced she’s going to lose her mind even more next season. i can’t even explain how mad aria makes me, but i love her so much i don’t care.

so here’s my question:

the books? i’ve never read them, and recently, i’ve been thinking that i might want to. how are they? does the show follow the books? and are the books farther than the show? or has the show gone away from them? and most importantly, are they worth it? will they give me more insight to what’s going on?
let me know!


Monday, March 4, 2013

the nightmare affair

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.
Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.
Then Eli’s dream comes true.
Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.
first up is the cover — AWESOME. i love the silhouette illustration. so this book immediately got cool points with me. and on top of that, i was hooked from the first page - holy crap, so entertaining. i don't know if it was just me, but it was lines like this that i just found hilarious. yes, i know they were cheesy, but they were freaking funny.
"I approached the side of the bed. The occupant was lying on his stomach. Go figure. The subject — I refused to think of him as a victim — was almost always on his stomach. At least this guy didn't sleep in the buff, too. Not that the red boxers hid much. The sight of his naked back stunned me. It was so perfect.... He was by far the sexiest dream-subject I'd encountered and I fought off an urge to run away. Not that I preferred my subjects to be ugly or anything, but something in the middle would've been all right."
this was in first few pages, so i really got into arnett's writing style right away, and it has so much character. it kicked right off and I loved that. there were a few passages throughout the book, here and there, of annoying explaining, saying, "oh! this is how this works in my world." but i was okay with that. easy to move past.
the whole idea of a Nightmare was new to me, and i love the magic spin on something different than all the other things that are the same. and though i was able to guess the ending, the plot still kept me jumping around. i was involved enough that i finished this in about a day and a half. yes, that quickly. the characters developed quickly, but well. I also was very impressed with how the main character handled the deaths of people she knew — it wasn't too heroic or too girly, it seemed realistic to what someone actually might do.
another personal favorite line:
"if sarcasm were butter, you could've spread him over toast."
WHAT? who writes like that? exactly. this book was hilarious. i loved the relationship between Eli and Dusty, even though it seemed a bit cliche and ridiculous at times. i also really liked her feminist siren friend, selene, who wants people to stop objectifying sirens. this was just one of the many quirks that made the whole novel pretty great.
overall, i was pretty impressed with the whole thing. it's been a while since i've been so into a book i just had to finish it immediately, and this one did it. it was a nice little magic, murder mystery sort of thing. i loved the ending, and i'm definitely hoping we'll see more of this, maybe in a few more books, because this one, overall, felt very explainy. i feel like the world was too detailed and we were given too many explanations for just one book. this was something arnett planned out for a while and should continue to use it. because i loved it.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

play on

by marilynn halas — published february 19, 2013 — 4 sunflowers media

In the final moments of Danny's life, everything comes into sharp focus. He won't miss being a soldier, he won't miss Afghanistan, and he won't miss the war. As he closes his eyes, he knows what really matters: his family, his home, and his guitar.

A few years later that guitar falls into the hands of a kid from New York named Dillon, and it is just about the only thing that feels right in his life. The more he plays it, the better he feels — until he starts to feel that someone is watching. his suspicion is confirmed when he hears a southern drawl coming from out of nowhere, teasing him about a bad G chord.

Channeling the ghost of the guitar's former owner is weird enough, but there are other unsettling notes — fragments about death and remembering and warnings, and now Dillon doesn't know what to do or where to turn. Is Danny a friend or a threat? The only thing Dillon knows for sure is that the old guitar in his room is the ket to everything. Dillon has no choice: he must play on.

I couldn't find a picture for this one, so sorry about that. I think this book had great potential. It seemed like a really cool premise, and I wasn't too turned off by the weird ghost attached to the guitar. The plot picked up pretty quickly as I began the book, so it wasn't slow or drawn out, which was good. I also liked the beginning of the plot lines.

However, once the book got going, after the whole ghost business, Dillon has these dreams where he gets all bloody, and then all of the sudden, everyone is thinking, "oh! this must logically be because of string theory!"


So they start involving a lot of physics, which is fine, but string theory isn't even a solid concept yet, so I found most of this really unrealistic and unbelievable. Then, after that, they start tying it to Elvis and time travel and it seems like they're trying to mix Lost with Back to the Future. And on top of that, there's some DNA swapping. It was just entirely too many plot lines for me to follow/be interested in. I wanted them to just stick with maybe, the time-traveling ghost one. I think all the other ones on top of it were just too much.

Like I said earlier, it definitely had potential, and it was a really interesting concept, so I'll be interested to see what else Halas writes in the future, it just seemed a little too much for my taste.

win a book!

now you can win your own copy of Emily Murdoch's IF YOU FIND ME.

A few rules for the contest:

This is only open to the US and Canada (sorry international folk!)
Fill out the form below before March 26, the books release date!
A winner will be chosen at random! Good luck!

There are some things you can’t leave behind…
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

That Time I Joined the Circus

That Time I Joined the Circus by J. J. Howard
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Keywords: circus, road trip, friendship
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley  

A music-obsessed, slightly snarky New York City girl, Lexi is on her own. After making a huge mistake — and facing a terrible tragedy —  Lexi has no choice but to track down her long-absent mother. Rumor has it that Lexi’s mom is somewhere in Florida with a traveling circus. When Lexi arrives at her new, three-ring reality, her mom isn’t there…but her destiny might be. Surrounded by tigers, elephants, and trapeze artists, Lexi finds some surprising friends and an even more surprising chance at true love. She even lucks into a spot as the circus’s fortune teller, reading tarot cards and making predictions. With humor, wisdom, and a dazzlingly fresh voice, this debut reminds us of the magic of circus tents, city lights, first kisses, last heartaches, and the importance of an excellent playlist.

i’ve got several things i want to run through about this book. when it kicked off, i was immediately hooked. couldn’t read it fast enough. the chapters begin with some song lyrics, and i knew i was going to like this book because i LOVED all the selections. my taste in music exactly. the chapter titles were also hilarious, one of which being “things were going pretty well for about a minute, so it was time for a mean but gorgeous guy to start yelling at me for no reason.” i loved the clarity they provided, and it made me get excited for the chapter to come. another thing i loved right off the bat were the alternating chapters between present day and the previous summer. this allowed howard to only reveal bits and pieces of why lexi’s friendships were in shambles and she was so defensive. i also thought howard got lexi’s new york personality wonderfully. one of my favorite quotes?
"I'm a music snob, and proud of it. I'm a New Yorker; smugness is my birthright." (and from an entirely different chapter) — "It takes a long time to make the perfect playlist. I don't believe in that little Genius button they have on iTunes. That's cheating."
the writing was just funny, and i loved the one-liners. i also really liked lexi’s character for the most part. other than the weird name-changing business and the fact that she’s a little “my life sucks.” i mean, i can forgive her for the most part because her dad died and her mom’s nowhere to be found and she had to quit school and her life actually does kind of suck.

Other characters I loved? Jamie and Nick. they appear later on in the book at the circus. these are two friends she meets there, and they are each funny and lovely characters in their own way. and i’m not going to say who this is, but i loved this:
"Was he flirting with me? Or did he just have so much male charm that the excess just flailed out of him and landed on any girl who happened to be there?"
it’s great! i was totally into the whole book. UNTIL THE END. I CANNOT EVEN DESCRIBE HOW PISSED I AM ABOUT THE ENDING. like the last 40 pages. i loved the way the whole thing was going, and i am just frustrated how everyone dealt with the whole situation. and i can’t say much more without giving it away, though i am still just so sad. and mad.

but it’s still definitely worth the read. a nice quick one with humorous writing and pretty awesome characters. and i suppose maybe i was supposed to be mad about the ending? (i don’t think so, though. i hated what happened. ergh.)