Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Book Drinks: You Don't Remember?

Welcome to a special holiday installment of Friday Book Drinks! This is a regular feature I created where I pair cocktails with books I'm reading because, you know, drinks are great! See more of my Friday Book Drinks posts.

It's been a really long time since I've done one of these posts, but I wanted to get back into it with a new release from next week, and I have a special giveaway if you stick here until the end!
This week I have paired Liana Liu's The Memory Key with a Long Island Iced Tea! You may ask why? Seems like a weird pairing. The Memory Key is about a time in the near future when a form of Alzheimer's has affected almost everyone on the planet. It's a strain called Verget's, and scientists have come up with a key that is implanted in people's brains to load their memories onto so they don't forget about their own lives.

Obviously LITs are the drink of all drinks, and if you have too many, you can forget about everything you've done that night! (See what I did there?) This recipe is pretty cool because it spices it up with some homemade cola syrup, but if you're lazy like me, you can just go buy some cola syrup and add it in anyway.

And in all seriousness, even though I made light of the book and drink, I think it's great that books like The Memory Key are pulling issues we have in today's health to bring them to light and raise awareness about what it's like to be affected by this disease.
And as a thank-you for sticking around through this post, I have an ARC of The Memory Key, which is published on March 3, to give away to a lucky US reader! Just fill out the form below!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Best Friend, Maybe Review

My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 320
Keywords: summer, vacation, friendship, weddings
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley (thank you!)
Goodreads | IndieBound
Colette has been bored and lonely ever since her best friend, Sadie, dumped her the summer before they stared high school. She tries to be perfect for everyone left in her life: her parents, her younger brothers, her church youth group, even her boyfriend, Mark. But Colette is restless. And she misses Sadie.
When Sadie tells Colette that she needs her old friend to join her on a family vacation to the Greek Islands, one that leaves in only a few days, Colette is shocked to hear their old magic word: need. And she finds herself agreeing.
Colette tries to relax and enjoy her Grecian surroundings but it’s not easy to go on vacation with the person who hurt you most in the world. When the reason for the trip finally surfaces, Colette finds out this is not only a fun vacation. Sadie has kept an enormous secret from Colette for years...forever. It’s a summer full of surprises, but that might be what Colette needs.
I feel kind of neutral about this cover. I don't totally love the typeface used, but I think the image is really great for the book.

The stand-out quality of this book is its relationships. The characters are insanely complicated and complex, and that's what I loved. Everything about the dynamics between characters was realistic and layered. Nothing was black and white between the two friends, especially. They had a falling out earlier in their lives, but Colette still felt tied to her former best friend. So when she asks for help, Colette is compelled to travel with her, even though they had issues in the past.
The book is full of second-guessing and confusion, and it rang true to how friendships work in real life. They are complicated and confusing, especially in high school when you are figuring out who you are and what you want.
I also liked Colette's background — she was from an extremely religious family that dictated her every move, and it was strange and disconcerting to read about that kind of lifestyle. That's not something I grew up knowing, and I feel fortunate my parents are so loving and kind to all. But there are so many people in different environments raised to have opinions, and the characters worked hard to change that mindset. It was difficult to read, but important since it resonates with a lot of people right now and things they might be learning from home.

I have to say, I pretty much knew where this story was going from the beginning. That didn't make me like it any less, but the big reveal that was supposed to happen didn't shock me because I knew what was going on.

I think the only thing that truly bothered me was the beginning of this story and how unreal Colette's relationship with Mark seemed. They didn't really talk to each other, they didn't communicate, and both of them seemed unhappy. Yet, she seemed devastated when events happened and the story moved along. It didn't seem like a relationship that would cause turmoil because there didn't seem to be feelings in the first place.

This was a solid book about the complicated nature of relationships — romantic, friendships, and family. All are featured prominently in the book, and no interaction is black and white. It's all in the middle, and the characters seem more realistic because of that.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Love-A-Thon 2015: High Fives

This is the fifth mini-challenge of the 2015 Love-A-Thon! The event is hosted by Alexa Loves Books and tons of blogs across the interwebs are participating, so hop around a lot and let people know what you think! See my other love-a-thon posts.

This is the final mini-challenge! Yay! (Except not yay, I'll be sad when the Love-a-Thon is over!)
This post is called High Fives, or five things I'm really excited about right now! I'm just doing one thing for each category, not sure if others are doing five for each, but that seemed like a lot for me!

Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
I recently finished this one (review to come), and I love how Anderson crafts complicated and complex relationships between her characters. It also made me long for summer and to be back home on the farm instead of in New York City in the cold and ice. Yes, I would rather be on a farm. Even though it's cold there now, too. I'm dreaming of summer, y'all!

Miranda Kenneally
I know a TON of people are going to be shocked that I'm just now getting into her books. I was blown away by Breathe, Annie, Breathe, and I finally got an NYC library card, so I checked out Catching Jordan and am loving it. I'm 100% sure she's going to be an auto-watch author for me. I just don't have the space to auto-buy quite yet, but when I get settled, you can be sure she's on that list. (Side note, I went to link a review for BAB and realized I NEVER REVIEWED IT. That's a shocking moment for a blogger. Can't remember if I never reviewed a thing. Yikes.)

Are we really surprised? You can kind of tell based on the stuff appearing here, even. I started my life as a heavy high-fantasy reader, then switched to a gothic magic sort of vibe, then contemporary, then a brief dystopia phase when Mockingjay first came out and I was at camp, and it's been a smooth contemporary feel from there. Also, having left home and being in the snow makes me look for happy, sunny books. I just don't think I'm emotionally equipped to handle other stuff right now.

Mab is Mab
I follow a TON of blogs, and it took me a while to pick. I wanted to pick a lesser-known blog to give it some love instead of the big mainstream ones we all love (I still love you all just as much! I swear!). This girl's blog is amazing. Not only does she talk about books, but she also loves stationary and design, and she's participating in a Project Life challenge, so she's always got cool photos and snippets of things she's done throughout the week.
Go check out her blog!

Bookish Stuff:
Rifle Paper Co.
I'm going to make this one count as bookish stuff because it's paper! And they have a few of the really gorgeous editions of Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, etc.But I'm also really into stationary and mail (I do send handwritten letters quite a bit, and I love using quality stationary). I love this notepad they have featured!

Do you still write handwritten letters and send mail? What's your favorite genre to read? Do you mood read like I do hoping that the fictional beaches will replace all the snow? 

Love-A-Thon 2015: Book Photos & Shelfies

This is the fourth mini-challenge of the 2015 Love-A-Thon! The event is hosted by Alexa Loves Books and tons of blogs across the interwebs are participating, so hop around a lot and let people know what you think! See my other love-a-thon posts.

This post is all about photos of books. It can be favorites, shelfies, book tags, or anything else! I thought I would share some photos of my Instagram account, which I post to a ton, so you should hit the follow button! (I'm SO close to 300 followers, it would make my whole month if I could get over that number!) So hit the little camera at the top of that sidebar ----->. :)

A photo posted by Cassie P (@happybooklovers) on
Me as a tiny child at a book event for Arthur at a Barnes & Noble when I was little! Once a book nerd, always a book nerd.

A photo posted by Cassie P (@happybooklovers) on
Sometimes I pretend I'm going to read, and then I watch Criminal Minds instead. Oops!

A photo posted by Cassie P (@happybooklovers) on

This is what happens when I go into a bookstore and accidentally can't decide what to buy, so I purchase stacks of books.

A photo posted by Cassie P (@happybooklovers) on
And lastly, my bookshelf from home. I miss home so much because that's where all my books are!

What did you think of these bookish photos? Do you have some? I want to see, so leave me links if you did this mini-challenge too!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Love-A-Thon 2015: Quotable Quotes

This is the second mini-challenge of the 2015 Love-A-Thon! The event is hosted by Alexa Loves Books and tons of blogs across the interwebs are participating, so hop around a lot and let people know what you think! See my other love-a-thon posts.

This post is all about bookish quotes. Well, I took a little inspiration from Pop! Goes the Reader's post showcasing beautiful prints with quotes on them, and I wanted to share two of my favorites with you. I've linked to their pages, and you can purchase them!

Aren't these beautiful? The first one is actually made by the girl who designed the poster for the John Green "Paper Towns" quote that didn't actually come from that book (which was a super interesting video to watch, if you haven't seen it. Green addresses it and how society misattributes stuff all the time and that no one correctly checks on things or sources when on the Internet.)

Do you have some favorite book-related quotes or quotes from books that you love so much you'll never forget?

Love-A-Thon 2015: Valentines for Bookish Stuff

This is the second mini-challenge of the 2015 Love-A-Thon! The event is hosted by Alexa Loves Books and tons of blogs across the interwebs are participating, so hop around a lot and let people know what you think! See my other love-a-thon posts.

This post is all about the love, love, love! So let's get the mood started correctly and hit play on the song below:

Next, for my bookish valentines, I've decided to make some valentines for authors who have penned some of my favorite romances between characters. I made these graphics myself, so don't judge too hard. :)

(because HOORAY for ghost/human romance!)

(Some people will probably argue with me about this "happy" part, but I totally think it was.)

(The awkward-at-dating group needed to be accounted for in books! Finally!)

What are some of your favorite character romances? Which authors would you write valentines to? Let's talk in the comments!

Love-A-Thon 2015: Book Spine Poetry

This is the first mini-challenge of the 2015 Love-A-Thon! The event is hosted by Alexa Loves Books and tons of blogs across the interwebs are participating, so hop around a lot and let people know what you think!

This was kind of challenging for me, the Book Spine Poetry. It was really only challenging because I recently moved to NYC, and I came with a backpack. Which means no books. Well, that's a lie. I brought 2, bought a few since, and have had a couple ARCs delivered. But still, I was working with like 8 titles.

A photo posted by Cassie P (@happybooklovers) on
This is what I have with me! Is there anything you can make out of the book spines? Be more creative than me! Let me know in the comments!

So instead of taking a photograph of books I have for this challenge, I perused the Goodreads for a while and came up with these YA titles to use in a book poem. I made a graphic for it instead of using the real books, with the spines to coordinate with the real titles.

Titles used in the making of this book spine poem:

Do you have any suggestions from the books that I do have in my collection? Let me know in the comments!

Love-A-Thon 2015 Kick-Off!

Welcome to the 2015 Love-A-Thon, hosted by the lovely Alexa Loves Books! Last year, I sort of participated in that I did a few of the mini-things and chatted on Twitter A LOT. But I was getting ready to graduate and finishing up my last semester of college and being Editor-in-Chief of student publications, so I didn't really have time to do any big posts.

But this year, I'm out of school and unemployed! (Trying to stay positive) So I plan on doing the full challenge, and I'm going to try and do EVERYTHING! (I'm waiting on a schedule for a part-time job, so we'll see if I end up having to work over the weekend, but as of now, schedule is wide open!)

The first kick-off post is an introduction to me! Don't forget to head over to Alexa's blog and visit others who are participating! The goal here is to spread the blogger love, so leave a comment below, and I will try my hardest (I am nervous saying promise), and I promise! to get over to your blog for some happys!

1 & 2 : About Me
I'm Cassie, a midtwenties gal just trying to make it in publishing. I'm currently blogging from NYC, but I just moved here a month ago from Louisville, KY. I moved trying to make it in the industry (I AM available for full-time editing work, just saying). My dream is to work in children's book publishing, either on the editorial teams or working with illustrators and coordinating deadlines and getting the artwork to the correct places.

3 & 4 : About the Blog
I did a much longer post about the history of Happy Book Lovers last year, but the general story is that this started out as a MYSPACE PAGE (I know, right?) where my friend and I, freshmen in high school, wanted to talk about books that made us happy. Hence, Happy Book Lovers. We started a little book club and passed our favorites around (mostly Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen), and we all left little notes in the margins. I still have these books, and I adore them to pieces. My copies of the Mediator series are almost falling apart and have little hearts and doodles and handwritten note pages (before texting was a thing, or even cell phones really) to one another.

5 & 6 : What I Read & What I Blog
I mean, duh YA. I feel like that's most of us. I read pretty much anything though, and I'm open to all kinds of suggestions. Recently I've been reading Rabbit Back Literature Society, and I've also been getting back into middle grade (revisiting my love of Wendy Mass and exploring her new books since I've been 10).

Most of my posts here are reviews, but I also do a series called Happy Book Stuff, which is stuff from the interwebs that I've decided I have to own (all bookish stuff). Another series I do is Reshelved, which is books I DNFed, but I give a summary of who I think would like it. It's my way of saying, sorry I didn't like you, other people might!

I've got a wide variety of stuff here like collages inspired by books, a series about discussing issues in books/the book world, and a bunch of other stuff. I've got all the follow buttons up at the top on the right, just saying.

7 & 8 : Best Blogging Experience & Favorite Part About Community
I'm not really sure, to be honest, if I've had a best blogging experience. I've never been to BEA or other conferences, I don't live by other bloggers (well, I didn't in Louisville), so I've never met anyone. We also don't get a ton of signings.

I do, however, have a lot of favorite parts about the community. I tend to steer clear of drama stuff happening (I mean, I'm so far from it that when people say they hate the drama because of what just happened, I'm usually 100% oblivious to whatever event made people sad), so my community is mostly people being great and fun and wonderful. I have done the Secret Santa organized by Jamie for 2 years now, and it's one of my favorite things to do. Everyone is always so generous and thoughtful, and I love doing that!

9 : 5 Books I Can't Wait for in 2015
These are going to be five pretty big ones, probably. I'm sure I will discover underrated ones along the way, but I don't really hear a lot about them ahead of time.

Since I moved, I don't have ARCs with me, but at home I have copies of The Fill-In Boyfriend, No Parking at the End of Times, and The Start of Me and You, all of which I am very excited to read. You can tell I'm on a contemporary kick.

10 : Underrated Book You Should Immediately Read
GUYS. If you learn nothing else from this post, remember this book:

People that are looking for a truly wonderful friendship book, this is it. These teens meet through a nightly radio talk show, and it's generally hilarious.

11 : Which book boy or girl would be your book BFF?
Kenji from Shatter Me or Uriah from Divergent. They're both super fun-loving and always up for an adventure, which I love. They're also great friends, and I'd love to have them to hang out with!

12 & 13 : Other hobbies & stuff I Like to Buy
I am really interested in a lot of stuff. I always have been. I knit and crochet a lot of blankets, and I marathon a MILLION television shows (recently I re-ran Veronica Mars, and I've started watching Parenthood, Supernatural, and a few of my past favorites are HIMYM, Gilmore Girls, Parks & Rec, the Office, and I'm a diehard SNL gal).

I'll buy anything that's home goods and cutesy. Like, I have a whisk shaped like a squirrel and a hedgehog cheese grater. I also collect weird lamps. I like a lot of different stuff like that. I'm also really into paper. Any kind of scrapbooking paper that I think is pretty, I'll buy for later use.

14 : At a party, the DJ suddenly changes the song – and it’s your song. What song would be playing?
I never know the answer to this. Right now, I'm really into Manic Monday by the Bangles (yes, I'm THAT girl who listens to another era's music). The Decemberists' new album is pretty stellar. But I don't know if I have a song for me. Possibly "When I Grow Up" from Matilda. Actually, I'm feeling more confident. That's the answer.

15 : Pick out either a book you want turned into a film/TV show, or a film/TV show you want turned into a book.
Also don't know the answer to this. Can we just all agree Veronica Mars needs to come back to TV now that it has a book series? Can that be my answer?

Comment below so I can visit your post! What did you think about my intro post? Anything stand out? Let's talk! It's all about talking this weekend!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Veronica Mars: Book Review Edition

Today's the day when we take a break from regularly scheduled programming and talk about something extremely important: Veronica Mars. (Complete with some VMars gifs because why not?)

If you haven't watched this gem of a television show, I beg you to stop immediately reading this post and go watch the show. There is a movie and now two books, but the show comes first, and it's only three seasons long, so you'll fly through it.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'm going to talk about the first of the two books that have recently been published.


The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
Release Date: March 5, 2014
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 324
Keywords: mystery, murder, marshmallows
Format Read: paperback purchased (hell yeah!)
Goodreads | IndieBound
Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She's traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.
Now it's spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is not a simple missing person's case. The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica's past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

The book picks up about two months (?) after where the movie leaves off. I was looking forward to getting a snarky, first-person noir narrative like we were so used to with the show, but it's written in third-person. Still, it's told from Veronica's point of view, and even though it's in third-person, it still feels so familiar, and I love the voice it was in. I could hear Kristen Bell sometimes when I was reading the book, and that truly made me happy.

The mystery was a good one, and I've heard that this was one of the plot lines Thomas wanted to explore had the show not met its untimely demise (damn you, cancelling gods). I'm not sure how true that is, but that's what I've heard. I was definitely into the plot line, and though VMars being able to show up to a high school/college party unnoticed in her own town (come on, everyone knows everyone, and it's 10 years later. How is she not picked out?), I loved seeing some of the classic character, like one who puts on 3 different personas through the night to get what she wants, and the girl who argues with the sheriff (still not her dad, it's Lamb's brother? I think brother). 

Okay, let's talk about my favorite guy. There was not enough Wallace in this book for me. I mean, yes, he was there in several scenes, but it wasn't the classic sidekick I came to love. There's never been a fictional platonic relationship I love more than VMars and Wallace. They're the greatest, and I just wish we could have seen a little more of it (I'm holding out hope for book 2!)
I know a lot of people say that Logan was the character they wanted to see more of, and I agree that he was not in the book as much as I thought he would be, but he never really won me over on the show (GASP, I know, I'm sorry, but it's true). I know there was probably supposed to be a lot more due to the abrupt cancellation, but as it stands, he's not my fav. So his lack of appearance didn't bother me.
As far as the others (MAC! She's the best), we see pretty much everyone, so it was happy and nostalgic to read about those that just didn't give us enough info in the movie (Weevil shows up too, don't worry), and it was horrible (the good kind) to see the characters we hate again (um, Lianne anyone?).

For the most part, I was incredibly happy with how this worked out. And as a book, it was pretty great. Solid plot, quick pace to the stories, and very readable dialogue. I didn't feel like I already knew what was happening (the mystery is a totally new plot line, so that helped get a fresh start to everything). I am ready to read the second installment, and I'm hoping it won't be the last, because I've enjoyed what I've read so far!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Red Queen Review

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 383
Keywords: royalty, rebellion
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
Goodreads | IndieBound
Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood--those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.
To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard--a growing Red rebellion--even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.
Do I really need to say anything? I am absolutely into the cover, it's gorgeous. Even my ARC is extremely pretty, and if the finished book looks the same inside, I love the typeface as well.

It was fast-paced and always twisting, and I felt like there were 10 different things always happening, which was a good thing. I never felt lost or confused, and I enjoyed the quick pace. I think it all depends on the kind of reader you are—I've heard a lot of people say they think it moves slowly. However, if you read fantasy a lot, this one does move quickly for a fantasy.
I also liked the different elements in this story, blurring the lines of genre. I feel like it mostly fits into fantasy, but because the Silvers' powers are based in genetics, and they can manipulate water or fire, or they have super strength, or they can control others with their minds, it vaguely leaned toward the science fiction category. Books that challenge these lines are always fun to read, and I never quite know what to expect, which is a good thing.

This is what made the book, in my opinion. The slow getting-to-know-the characters and then in an instant everything changes. This happened multiple times, and I have to say, even though I was warned along the way (by the book) I refused to acknowledge certain things and was still shocked toward the end (if you've read it, you know). I think it was a totally big switch, and I don't quite buy into how quickly it happened, but it was surprising and made for an interesting twist nonetheless.

I have a couple minor hesitations about this book. The main one is that everyone seems to feel like it's a story they've read before. For me, it definitely screamed the Selection series. While it was more war-heavy, it was still about a girl from the lower part of society thrust into spotlight and royalty, and she's got to learn everything from scratch. The dystopian trend in this one was heavy, and I could definitely see where the book was headed generally.
I also didn't buy into a lot of the relationships. I feel like Mare and Maven were the only ones to spend enough time together and to actually talk when they were together for me to believe in their relationship. Kiljorn, the warrior from her home, was an old friend, and I loved their friendship (and wanted it to remain just that, but I'm always all about platonic relationships). I didn't buy into Mare's struggle with Cal simply because he wasn't in enough of the book for me to get that.
But even with my minor questions, this was still an extremely solid book, and I can for sure say it's on my radar for books two and three.

This was a really good one, and I was incredibly angry at the end because I was NOT AWARE this was part of a series (can we talk about cliffhangers and now I have to wait until NEXT YEAR to read the second?). But it's one I'll keep on my radar and definitely recommend to others.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Swoony Books for Valentine's Day

Looking for something to read all day long today? (I promise I won't ask why) But if you are, you've come to the correct place! Obviously you could do a re-read of Stephanie Perkins' magical series or stick with a classic like Fangirl, but if you're looking for a little more under-the-radar swoony books, here's several you could give a try.


Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
Release Date: April 8, 2014
full review

This is a classic Southern Belle story of a girl figuring out how to manage her boyfriend, school, cotillion, and oh yeah, becoming a Paladin. Turns out she's in a long line of ancient guardians tasked to protect a family. And the guy she has to guard is not exactly on her radar for awesome.

This was a quick read for me (so it's like 400 pages, but I read it in one sitting), and I cannot wait for #2, Miss Mayhem, which is due out in April, so you'd be catching up and prepping for the sequel. It's a funny, action-packed book perfect for binging all day long.


As You Wish by Jackson Pearce
Release Date: August 25, 2009
full review 

Let's talk about cutest genie story line ever. Main character Viola accidentally summons a genie after being heartbroken about her breakup with her boyfriend. She's scared to wish at first because she doesn't want to make a mistake, so instead, her and Jinn (the genie) develop a good little friendship. Before long, it's turning into something else, and now Viola is scared to wish, but for entirely different reasons.

This one goes all the way back to my first year of blogging (I read it more recently because I got SO many books when I first started, it was impossible to keep up). If you're looking for the happiest, campiest, cutest story, this one is it. There's definitely some insta-stuff going on, and it's a little bit younger than some mainstream YA, but overall, it's got my thumbs up for being a quick and adorable read.


The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt
Release Date: May 6, 2014
full review

Holly just wants to honor her Grandpa after he dies, and he leaves his Vegas wedding chapel to her. He also leaves her a letter with instructions that she's running the business, and to ask for help from Dax, the son of another chapel owner, who, coincidentally, is the family's enemy.

Let's be honest, this book was basically made to be read on a day like Valentine's Day. It's about weddings! I also genuinely love Leavitt's writing, and she makes the story so real and funny that I felt like this crazy wedding chapel family was my own. We never really think about the people that live in Vegas dealing with the tourists who come in and get married. This was such a fun side of that dynamic, and there's definitely a swoony little romance that happens, so you won't be disappointed!

What are you reading today? (Or for those of you that aren't, what are you doing?) Have you read any of these before? Let's talk in the comments!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Hostage Three Review

Hostage Three by Nick Lake
Release Date: November 12, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Pages: 369
Keywords: seaside, vacation, family, pirates
Format Read: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads | IndieBound
The last thing Amy planned to do this summer was sail around the world trapped on a yacht with her father and her stepmother. Really, all she wanted was to fast-forward to October when she’ll turn
eighteen and take control of her own life.
Aboard the Daisy May, Amy spends time sunbathing, dolphin watching and forgetting the past as everything floats by . . . until one day in the Gulf of Aden another boat appears. A boat with guns and pirates – the kind that kill.
Immediately, the pirates seize the boat and its human cargo. Hostage One is Amy’s father – the most valuable. Hostage Two: her stepmother. And Hostage Three is Amy, who can’t believe what’s happening. As the ransom brokering plays out, Amy finds herself becoming less afraid, and even
stranger still, drawn to one of her captors, a teenage boy who wants desperately to be more than who he has become. Suddenly it becomes brutally clear that the price of life and its value are two very different things.
I picked the cover I liked most to feature, though I still think it could be powerful without the girl on the front. The other cover is more of a thriller-style with a yacht, and it looks like a book my dad would pick up, which isn't bad. But the story is more about the growth of people with the piracy as a plot device rather than the plot driver. So I felt the other cover just didn't fit. If the girl weren't on this one, I would really like the cover a lot.

Nick Lake writes an excellent book. I liked this one quite a bit more than There Will Be Lies, though I still did like that one a lot. Amy was such a dynamic character with many qualities to like and hate. Those are the kinds of characters I love. She was very human. Angry at her father for not paying attention to her, she pierces her face and dresses elaborately and is always looking for ways to piss him off, because at least he'll react to her. Though some of her actions seem childish, she's still recovering from her mother's suicide years earlier, and she is internally trying to cope with that. So while it may seem like she's a spoiled brat, she still has quite a few issues she's working through as she figures her life out.
That is, until their ship is taken over by pirates. Lake also made the Somali pirates relatable, which isn't a sentence I thought I would write before I read this book. Lake dove into their backgrounds and why exactly they became pirates — most of them would prefer to not be holding people hostage on their own ships. Amy's bond with Farouz was an interesting one; not one that I thought made a lot of sense, but I think that was the point. That sometimes feelings don't make sense.
I truly enjoyed the diversity and the richness that were the characters in this book, and that's what I liked so much about his newest one, too.

This is one of the only books I can truly say I really didn't know where the story was going. I mean, I had a few ideas, and I wasn't completely shocked and gasping all the time, but I genuinely was interested to see where the story was going because I truly wasn't sure.

None, really. It was a great read, really riveting and compelling. I loved seeing the different personalities and learning about just how different my world is versus some of these characters' worlds.

A great read all around for any age. This would be a good one to lend a friend who doesn't really read YA and is skeptical of its ability to bring up big issues and tell a truly suspenseful and compelling story.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

2015 Youth Media Award Winners: News & Thoughts

I've always loved the awards season for books, and I always feel tied to the Newbery Award books in particular because of a project I did when I was in 4th grade.

I decided one summer that I was going to read EVERY SINGLE Newbery Award-winning book since the beginning. I had my mom take me to the library, and after a lot of arguing with the librarian on why I needed a children's book from 1932 to be available to me, I was able to convince her to start ordering those that were missing for the children's department. And I did it! I even made a little presentation about it at the end for my parents. I was a supremely cool child. 

Recently, I've really wanted to catch up on my award books, particularly in the Newbery series, but I also want to start keeping the others on my radar as well. It's just other books that I would like to some day read. 

The winners were announced Monday morning, and after a lot of screaming and general excitement for Jandy Nelson, I wanted to feature all the winners and give you a run-down if I've read them yet. 

   JOHN NEWBERY MEDAL - for most outstanding contribution to children's literature.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Goodreads | IndieBound
Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse.
I haven't read this one — it wasn't even on my radar until now, but I'm definitely putting it there. While stories in verse are not really my thing, I love that this book could definitely grab some young boys into the reading world. I know working at the children's bookstore, it was difficult when parents and grandparents came in looking for something to get for a young boy that wasn't really into reading and liked sports and playing outside and running around rather than sit down to read a book. Not that girls won't love this too because I was definitely a sports kid. I'm just excited that this book might help pull in more young readers.

   CALDECOTT MEDAL - for most distinguished American picture book

The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat
Goodreads | IndieBound
This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and-at long last-is given his special name: Beekle.
Also since working in the children's bookstore, I've discovered how much I adore picture books, and I'm sad I'm not at the store anymore because I moved. I want to read this immediately because it looks so lovely. From the pictures I've seen on the internet, the illustrations look beautiful, colorful, and truly fitting with what the story is.

   CORETTA SCOTT KING Author & Book Awards - African American writers & illustrators

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Goodreads | IndieBound
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. 
I have listened to an audio book of this one, and I can confirm it's wonderfulness. Even though I'm not a verse person at all, this book felt like so much more than just a story of a girl told in verse. It's raw and emotional and brutally honest. I don't know what it's like reading the book, but listening was an amazing experience. It felt like the girl was telling me the story, and she was sitting next to me, letting me know the importance of the things that had happened to her and her family.

Firebird by Misty Copeland
Goodreads | IndieBound
A young girl whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl's faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.
This book is beautiful. It's one we recommended to a lot of people over the holidays in the bookstore, and I'll still recommend it. It's such a great tale for all young girls to help improve confidence and belief in themselves to do what they've always dreamed of doing.

   PRINTZ AWARD - for excellence in literature for young adults

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Goodreads | IndieBound
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways.
Okay, I bought this the day it came out. My hardcover is shiny and pretty. And it's been sitting unopened on my shelf ever since. I mean, then I moved, so a lot of my books are no longer accessible to me for a long time until I get settled, so I have a pretty good reason. But a ton of bloggers I love and trust have raved about Ms. Nelson's work for a long time, and I totally know she's deserving of this based on her previous works.


Obviously these aren't all the awards that were given out, but these are the main ones that a lot of people are wondering about, and some of the only ones with one winner. Lots of them have multiple honorees, and I just didn't want to put together a mile-long post about them, though I will leave the official link here so you can check out the honorees and other winners. 

Have you read these books? How do you feel about the winners and runners up?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period Review

If a Tree Falls At Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko
Release Date: September 1, 2007
Publisher: HMH Young Readers
Pages: 224
Keywords: middle school, bullying, popularity
Format Read: paperback
Goodreads | IndieBound
Kirsten's parents are barely speaking to each other, and her best friend has fallen under the spell of the school's queen bee, Brianna. It seems like only Kirsten's younger science-geek sister is on her side.              
Walker's goal is to survive at the new white private school his mom has sent him to because she thinks he's going to screw up like his cousin. But he's a good kid. So is his friend Matteo, though no one knows why he’ll do absolutely anything that hot, blonde Brianna asks of him.
But all of this feels almost trivial when Kirsten and Walker discover a secret that shakes them both to the core.

Simple, understated, and great. A lot of the toils of middle school revolve around the lunch room (and high school too). Where to sit, who to sit with, who sees you sitting with those people, what you eat, etc. The title was very fitting and not 100% cliche and obvious, which makes it fit perfectly. Also the uprooting of the tree and everything familiar plays a big role in this book.

This book dealt with remarkable topics I forgot were covered in middle grade books. Ostracism, racism, fat-shaming, economic status-judging. And those are just a few of the issues that appeared. It was difficult for me to read at times because of the behavior of some children, which ultimately stemmed from their parents.
I identified quite a bit with Kirsten (minus the crazy rich people house stuff, I grew up on a farm). She's overweight for her age, and all the girls in her class pick on her for that. She doesn't really have a friend group, and the one friend she had in years past is suddenly running with the "cool" crowd. This throws her for a loop, so when Walk, the new kid, is extremely nice to her, the two are able to bond because they don't really have anywhere else to go.
I think this book would be a really great one for kids this age to read. It brought up so many important topics that need to be discussed, and Choldenko did it in such a way that highlighted how terrible some of the characters were being.

One would think there wouldn't be a huge shock factor in a middle grade, but the big reveal at the end was one I could not have forseen when starting this book. There was a little bit of lead up, but I was definitely surprised.

It was a little weird at times reading in the dual POV because Kirsten's chapters were told in first person, and Walk's were told in third person. It really took me out of the story. I felt like since we got to hear Kirsten's thoughts from her, we should be able to hear Walk's from him and not from some omnition narrator who isn't present to tell Kirsten's story.

Super important topics for young people to discuss and observe. Diverse cast of characters who were all dynamic, imperfect, and trying to fit in, which made this book incredibly real and honest.