2015 Challenges

Well friends, I had such a great time with the 2014 Outdo Yourself Challenge that I want to find a couple more to do this year!

Here are my challenges, along with my goals:

2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

2015 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge
Hosted by Brianna at The Book Vixen

So last year I really REALLY outdid myself. My official 2013 count was 9, and it looks like my 2014 count is going to be at least 50. This challenge was exactly the kind of jumpstart I needed to get myself reading again. I don't know that I'm gonna try TOO hard to outdo my total again, because there are a lot of other things in my life that I need to focus on besides just reading, so I'm gonna stick with the lowest level right now.

Level: Getting My Heart Rate Up
Goal: 51-55 books

2015 Newbery Reading Challenge

Newbery Reading Challenge 2015
Hosted by Julie at Smiling Shelves

I feel like I've been doing a lot of cotton candy reading lately. This next year I want to try to read more books with substance, and one of the places I'm gonna start is with Newbery winners. Julie grades on a points system - 3 for Newbery Medal Winners, 2 for Newbery Honor Books, and 1 for Caldecott Medal Winners. I'm not shooting for quantity as much as substance, so again, I'm choosing the lowest level. For now.

Level: L'Engle
Goal: 15-29 points

The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015
Hosted by Shellyrae at Book'd Out

I also want to diversify. I feel like I constantly read the same book over and over these days, so in the interest of not doing that... here I am. Shellyrae has picked out several genres, and I get to pick a book for each one.

Goal: 12 books, one in each category

I Love Library Books 2015
hosted by Gina at Book Dragon's Lair

So those of you who know me in real life (or pay very close attention, because I've mentioned it on the blog a couple times now) know that I recently moved to Bangladesh. Which, among other changes, kind of restricts my access to paper books. I have what I brought with me, and I know of a couple "libraries" (community shelves where people just leave what they want to share). So thank goodness for my Nook, and thank goodness for OverDrive! Luckily I still have a library card from the States, and I can use it to check out ebooks on my library's website. (Or else I'd have to plan on paying Barnes and Noble a fortune in Nook Books.) I've been here for a month, and I've already checked out four. So I'm really excited about Gina's challenge to read books from the library. Even though I already know I'm gonna use it plenty, I DO still have a ton of books on my Nook that I own and want to read, so like my other challenges, I'm gonna start small and reserve the right to go up a level (or two) later.

Level: Early Reader
Goal: 9 books

Wish me luck, guys! I'm really excited for 2015!

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

Summary: HOW HAD MRS. OLINSKI CHOSEN her sixth-grade Academic Bowl team? She had a number of answers. But were any of them true? How had she really chosen Noah and Nadia and Ethan and Julian? And why did they make such a good team?

It was a surprise to a lot of people when Mrs. Olinski's team won the sixth-grade Academic Bowl contest at Epiphany Middle School. It was an even bigger surprise when they beat the seventh grade and the eighth grade, too. And when they went on to even greater victories, everyone began to ask: How did it happen?

It happened at least partly because Noah had been the best man (quite by accident) at the wedding of Ethan's grandmother and Nadia's grandfather. It happened because Nadia discovered that she could not let a lot of baby turtles die. It happened when Ethan could not let Julian face disaster alone. And it happened because Julian valued something important in himself and saw in the other three something he also valued.

Mrs. Olinski, returning to teaching after having been injured in an automobile accident, found that her Academic Bowl team became her answer to finding confidence and success. What she did not know, at least at first, was that her team knew more than she did the answer to why they had been chosen.

This is a tale about a team, a class, a school, a series of contests and, set in the midst of this, four jewel-like short stories -- one for each of the team members -- that ask questions and demonstrate surprising answers.

Review: So it's been years and years since the first time I read this one. I remember liking it a whole lot, and when I saw the NookBook on sale on Barnes and Noble, I jumped at the chance to get it.

I'm not sure it was as amazing as I remember it? Like, I like the premise, and it's well executed and stuff. But... I dunno. It felt a little simplified, maybe? Like it was written for children, perhaps? (Heeeeyy....)

It does have elements of which I'm a fan, though. Quiz-bowl teams, which brings back fond high school memories. A ragtag group of friends. And I liked the way they helped their teacher get her confidence back.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, i-own-it, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, my-kind-of-woman, thought-provoking



Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Summary: "Tessa Gray should be happy—aren't all brides happy? Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa's heart, will do anything to save her."

Review: Soooo... ok. Done with that, then.

So I actually read Clockwork Prince almost three years ago, which explains why I was so confused while reading Clockwork Princess. Apparently it didn't make TOO much of an impression, because I really don't remember it very well. Clare handled the exposition well, I thought; there was just enough that I still caught most of what was going on, but not so much that it would have been annoying if I'd read the first two books recently (which is something I also liked about the Mortal Instruments series, come to think of it).

I don't really know what to say about this one though. I think I'm kind of over the whole Shadowhunter thing. I mean, I wanted to finish the book, and it was enjoyable, but I didn't feel a whole lot of emotion while reading it. I was just finishing it for the sake of finishing it.

I wasn't very invested in the Jem/Will/Tessa love triangle. I think Jem had a lot more personality earlier in the series, maybe? (Like I said, it's been a while.) He was really vanilla in this book. And there was a lot more tell than show in his relationships with Will and Tessa; they all spent a lot more time talking about their relationships than actually having them.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-ya



Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith

Summary: When 22-year-old aspiring journalist, Emma Cohen, is forced to flee the comforts of her NYU student life, she maneuvers an internship from her father at his newspaper in Rio de Janeiro. There, Emma is immediately swept into a major news story--and a life-threatening situation--when a famous jungle environmentalist, Milton Silva, is mysteriously murdered. Emma must now enter the Amazon rainforest with her father to investigate; both awed by the enormity and beauty of the Amazon, and appalled by its reckless destruction. Not only will Emma have to brave the primal world of the Amazon, she must fight to survive the kidnappers, villains, corrupt activists, and indigenous tribes that lay in wait along the ever-twisting trail of the murder case. Stretched to the brink, it s up to Emma, her father and the dreamy news photographer, Jimmy, to unravel the mystery and live to tell the tale. Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffith is a spectacular debut Young Adult novel. Griffith's powerful rendering of the Amazon rainforest forms the perfect, wildly exotic backdrop for this extraordinary tale of a young urban woman coming of age in the midst of intense conflict.

Review: Soooooo... yeah, not that impressed. I wasn't that interested in Emma as a character, although she does have qualities that are interesting. She's ambitious, she's curious about the world, and she's anxious to prove herself as a journalist. On the other hand, her obsession with Jimmy (and specifically, with hooking up with him) got pretty boring pretty fast. Griffith tries to give Jimmy some depth, what with his medical backstory, but really his sole purpose in this novel is to solve Emma's problems. Oh, and be eye candy, of course. (Not to mention that they fall In Love after what, a week or two?)

Speaking of Emma's problems, they all seem to be solved fairly easily. Despite the rich atmosphere of the setting, the stakes never feel terribly high. Even though the characters are constantly pointing out the horrible dangers the jungle poses, nothing TOO dangerous ever seems to happen. Even the climactic final act wasn't too stressful for me, because a convenient deus ex machina arrives to save the day.

I did like the setting, though. Despite the fact that she didn't do too much with the danger of the Amazon in terms of the story, Griffith clearly did a TON of research on the Amazon's flora, fauna, and peoples. The setting is definitely the book's strongest asset. In fact, the characters actually do face quite a bit of danger from the Amazon, but because the jungle itself always feels so ominous, the plot seems pretty tame in comparison to the scary possibilities.

One final thing: I try not to be too much of a pearl-clutcher; if there's content in a book that I don't like, I generally just ignore it. But frankly, I'm really sick of "New Adult" novels with college-age protagonists that are all about sex. As this genre becomes more prevalent, I hate seeing that strong sexual content seems to be a requirement. This book isn't an exception; although it isn't entirely about sex, but it has a few really graphic scenes, which cost my rating of it a full star.

One more final thing: I wrote all of the above several weeks ago, and today I got an email from the publisher about the copy of the book I read. According to the her, the ARC I read was edited for publication. The sexually explicit scenes are being tamed down and/or removed. To which I say, Good for you, Astor + Blue Editions. Good for you.

Goodreads Shelves: fluffy, is-this-a-kissing-book


I received a free ARC from the publisher, Astor + Blue Editions, in exchange for an honest review. Amazon Burning is available now.


Guest Review: Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

This review is brought to you by my amazing sister, Kelli. You can find her on her blog and on Goodreads.

Summary: When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

Review: I desperately wanted to give this 5 stars because I loved the ending, but Ileni was seriously SO woe-is-me pity party for so much of the book that I just couldn't round my 4.5 stars up.  Having said that, her self-pity is pretty much the only thing that really annoyed me, and that was all internal.  To the outside, she presented a pretty kick-a$$ heroine who was haughty and powerful.  And I loved that despite her admittedly crappy position, in the final evaluation, she acted from a position of strength and reasoning rather than her feelings of betrayal, anger, and sorrow.

And I'll go ahead and admit up-front that for some reason I'm a sucker for stories with assassin main characters.  Books like Throne of Glass, Graceling, Poison Study, Grave Mercy are all 4- and 5-star books for me.  But the heroine isn't an assassin, and in fact is pretty disdainful of the assassins.  It's interesting because in reality, I think murder is horrible, too, so I can easily relate to her.  The author's timing is well-done as she introduces more facts and plot-points to develop Ileni's sympathy for their position.

This is clearly a first in a series, but I felt there was sufficient closure to not be considered a cliff-hanger.  There's more story to tell, but I look forward to reading it in another book rather than feeling like I was cheated out of the last half of the story.

The part of the book that made me want to stand up and cheer is actually on the last page or two and would be a huge spoiler, so all I can say is that I wanted to call all my friends and rave about this book and demand they go read it so I could talk about why without spoiling a huge plot point.  So go ahead and read it, then hit me up and see if you can guess what I loved.



Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Summary: Scott Pilgrim is dating a high schooler.

So begins the epic tale of Scott Pilgrim and his quest for true love. Over six episodes, Scott will have to battle the seven evil exes of Ramona Flowers, the girl who's been rollerskating through his dreams. Not to mention holding down a job, helping his band find success, and getting over an evil ex of his own.

Review: Ok, so this might be the first graphic novel I've reviewed on the blog? I dunno. Anyway, my husband is a big fan of the movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, so we decided to read the books together. Technically this is a six-volume series, but the story is so cohesive that I'm gonna go ahead and just write one review for the whole thing.

Aaaand, I think I'm gonna do this in two parts:


So I really liked it. Scott himself is (admittedly) dumb as a post, but charming, in his way, and also played for laughs.  The story is so fun, and I loved seeing flashbacks and explanations, and the fact that it's a graphic novel meant I didn't have to waste time watching/reading fight scenes. I like the art style, and I especially liked how the girls weren't all drawn as skinny waifs.


So I'm gonna say this now, and hate me if you dare: I'm not really a Michael Cera fan. And I'm especially not a fan of him as Scott Pilgrim. He wasn't as likable as in the books, and definitely not as cute. If I could have chosen, I would have cast Chris Lowell:

AmIright? Yeah, ok, I know that Piz is probably the least liked Veronica Mars character. But seriously. The hair. The boyish charm. You guys.

The other characters were cast perfectly, I thought. Especially Kim Pine.

I really loved the music in the movie. They constantly used tracks from video games, and it was perfect.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, be-proactive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-a-movie, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman



Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Summary: Lincoln is kind of drifting through life-- uninspiring degree, living at home with his mom-- when he takes a job at the local paper, enforcing the company internet policy. Which involves reading the emails of employees, to make sure that personal emails are not exchanged through company email accounts.

Jennifer and Beth are friends who work at the paper, who don't have high opinions of the internet policy. But they don't realize (or care) that their emails are being read by Lincoln every night.

Lincoln knows he should report the girls' violation of the internet policy. But as he gets caught up in their lives and their friendship, he starts to like them and their emails. And that's when things start to get messy.

Review: Ok, I've never read a Rainbow Rowell book before, but maybe I will? I don't know much about Eleanor and Park, besides the fact that everybody seems to think it's amazing, but I've seen the synopsis of Landline and it doesn't seem like my cup of tea. So... I dunno. But I did LOVE Attachments. (PS. I keep thinking of Rainbow as a boy's name? And I have to keep reminding myself that Rainbow Rowell is a woman? Am I the only person who has this problem?) (Also, is it annoying the way I end sentences that are clearly statements with question marks. Would it help if I end questions with periods.) (Maybe I am a little tired right now. I'm sorry.)

Anyway, as I was saying, I LOVED Attachments. In fact, I kept reading the exchanges between Beth and Jennifer and thinking, this is the kind of conversation I have with my sister all the time. (And told her so. Ad nauseum.) They were witty, cute, friendly, and supportive. These girls are obviously good friends, and they are smart and clever and tough and awesome and I wish they were friends with me.

As for Lincoln, though. In the beginning, I was kind of bored of the Lincoln chapters. I was a LOT more interested in the email conversations. About halfway through, though, Lincoln became more interesting. He started getting as bored with his life as I was, I guess. I appreciated that, though. I like how he began to grow and change and try to figure out what he wanted his life to look like.

The ending was a little, I don't know. I don't know how I wanted it to end. (I guess I didn't.) It was as satisfying an ending as I could have wanted though. So yeah.

So if you're a fan of books with email/IM conversations (which I am), or books where people get their crap together (which I am), or books with lots of movie/music references (which I am), you should read this one, because you'll love it.

(PS. Beth is a movie reviewer, and she mentions that she automatically gives a movie an extra star for having a wedding scene in it. Which is awesome because there are two wedding scenes in this book.)

(PPS. For your enjoyment, here is one of the shorter email exchanges:

"From: Jennifer Scribner-Snyder
To: Beth Fremont
Sent: Wed, 09/01/1999 1:14 PM
Subject: Do you want to hang out tonight?

     I need a break from Mitch. He's still in a funk about our successful use of birth control.
     Beth to Jennifer: Can't. I'm finally going to see Eyes Wide Shut.
     Jennifer to Beth: Ech. I don't like Tom Cruise.
     Beth to Jennifer: Me neither. But I usually like Tom Cruise movies.
     Jennifer to Beth: Me, too... Huh, maybe I do like Tom Cruise. But I hate feeling pressured to find him attractive. I don't.
     Beth to Jennifer: Nobody does. It's a lie perpetuated by the American media. Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts.
     Jennifer to Beth: Men don't like Julia Roberts?
     Beth to Jennifer: Nope. Her teeth scare them.
     Jennifer to Beth: Good to know.")

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, be-proactive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman



Cress by Marissa Meyer

Here's the deal: So after the dust has settled from the ending of Scarlet, the characters aboard the Rampion find themselves blinking at each other and asking, "Now what?"

Enter Cress.

Cress has lived in a satellite for the last seven years. She only knows one person. She's never had a haircut. So basically, Rapunzel in space.

When an attempt to rescue her from her goes awry, our band of heroes finds themselves separated once again, this time (mostly) on Earth. And as Kai prepares for the most hastily thrown together Big To-Do ever (really? two weeks? shouldn't it take that long just to negotiate, I don't know, the date? not to mention that high profile of a wedding should ACTUALLY be starting with an engagement party) (but we've already established that my opinion of Ms. Meyer's take on interplanetary politics is low), Cinder has to find a way to stop the wedding. Because, you know, of Levana's tyranny. It has nothing to do with how she feels about him, nothing at all, la la la.

My opinion: So I am loving these books. And I love that they keep getting better. I feel like so many series and trilogies start strong, then get worse as the series goes along. Is that because authors take years and years to write the first book, then send out queries and get agents, and THEN write books 2 and 3 and so on? (Seriously, do they do that? It would explain a lot.) Anyway, The Lunar Chronicles does NOT read that way. They start slow and build, and each one is better than the last. I had owned Cinder for quite a while before I picked it up at the library, liked it a lot, and went home and finished it on my Nook. And I liked Scarlet even more, and Cress is just the best one so far.

For starters, Cress herself is so adorable. As you know, I read this book picturing Avery from Dog With a Blog as Cress, and I think it was a good choice. She was so cute and sweet! So hopeful and naive, and excited about the world around her, and even though she was idealistic and wanted so badly to fall in love, she grew and learned enough not to do anything hugely stupid.

As I predicted, it was different to see Captain Thorne through Cress's eyes than Cinder's. While Cinder saw him as opportunistic and cheesy and a little smarmy, to Cress he was brave and heroic. And it was actually great for me as a reader to have both of those perspectives, because blending them together helped me create a more realistic idea of an actual person, who is cocky and charming, but also insecure and a little vulnerable. I liked seeing him grow more and more protective of Cress, which (when avoiding Cullen-level creepiness) is such a sweet expression of affection, in my opinion.

(I did roll my eyes, a little bit, when we found out that [SPOILER ABOUT CRESS'S FAMILY]. I mean, does the world have to be that small? Can't a random person you meet who happens to be trapped on a satellite for seven years just be a random person? But no, not in book world, apparently. Oh well.)

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, excuse-me-half-the-book-is-missing, fluffy, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman



Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Summary: Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Review: I think... I think I'm addicted to these books. Seriously, I have wanted nothing more than to read Cress since the minute I finished Scarlet. It's $8.89 on both Kindle and Nook, which is a lot more than I'm willing to pay for an ebook (and a lot more than I paid for the first two Lunar Chronicles), but if the hold list at the library weren't so short, I'd be sorely tempted. On to the review, though.

Confession: I'm not into "Little Red Riding Hood." Even though her song is one of the best ones in Into The Woods, I'm just not feeling it. The story itself is just "meh" for me, as are most retellings I've read/seen. It's just... yeah, not my thing.

But Scarlet was pretty great. Despite the source material (which, ok, I ignored enough to be surprised by a couple of the twists in the story -- *shame*), the plot had me riveted. I was expecting to be so focused on Cinder's story that following Scarlet's story would be boring to me, but I was equally entertained by both. Neither felt weaker than the other, which was refreshing (and rare, in my experience).

The only weak link, as it were, was Kai's chapters, since Kai, at this point, is frustratingly ignorant of important spoilers information, and therefore is not informed enough to make good decisions. Bad intelligence, people. It's a killer. (But this is a spoiler-free zone, never fear. I don't mean "killer" literally. Or do I??) I was happy, though, that he seemed to have acquired another advisor (even though the existence of a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-type character was already implied (yeah, I looked up what that person is called in the US military)).

Anyway, as for new characters in the story, I love Scarlet. She's tough, loyal, trusting, a little naive, a little too impulsive. A great person to have around in a fight, but also not afraid to show weakness. Fantastic.

Wolf was hard to get a handle on, which is intentional, so props there, and I'd never want to date him, because, baggage. But I appreciate that Scarlet does? So good for her.

I really like Captain Thorne, though. Maybe Meyer tries a little too hard to make him "charming", but I think that tune will change when I see him through Cress's eyes, don't you?

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, excuse-me-half-the-book-is-missing, fluffy, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-ya



The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

Review: I am surprised by how much I like this one! I've read Pivot Point and Split Second, so I wasn't actually expecting that much in terms of character development and plot, but after reading this one I might go read them again!

I LOVE that Caymen talks about her weird dry humor - and then actually displays a weird dry sense of humor! I would have known that about her even if she hadn't pointed it out constantly, and I appreciate that. I like that she doesn't change herself for Xander, despite how much she likes him.

I like that I (pretty much) remembered Caymen's name after reading this book. That's a bit of a pet peeve with me, when books are written in the first person and you can't remember the main character's name afterwards.

I also loved Caymen and Xander's quest to "discover themselves," as it were. I love that Caymen comes up with creative and interesting answers to Xander's "career days," even though she can't jet him off to Vegas or borrow a penthouse suite.

I wasn't too into the way Caymen was preoccupied with Xander's wealth, but considering her background and her mom's attitude towards it, it was understandable.

Also, because of how the town where they live is described as Haves vs. Have Nots, I kept wanting to picture it as Neptune, California.

You're welcome.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-ya



We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Summary: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Review: I don't... I don't know what to say.

I was actually on a reading kick; I was pretty much obsessed with reading. I couldn't/wouldn't stop. As soon as I finished a book I found a new one. It lasted about a week. Because then I read We Were Liars.

I'd been excited to read it pretty much since I heard of it. I've read all of E. Lockhart's other books; Frankie and Ruby hold very special places in my heart. And when she said this book was different from all of her other books, boy did she mean it.

I was actually pretty on board with it. I liked Cadence's metaphors and imagery, and I liked how she could use her flashbacks to understand sinister meanings behind seemingly innocent conversations she'd participated in.

But the ending... was horrible. Like, the events. I know it sounds overdramatic, but I think a little part of me died. Honestly, I wish I'd just looked it up on Wikipedia and found out how it ends. (Both because going into it knowing would have made me pay attention to certain things, and also because I would have been prepared. Honestly, I probably should have seen it coming, but I really really didn't. You're welcome, Reader/Author Contract.) (I just looked it up, and it's not on Wikipedia. But I could have found a way. Should have...)

Anyway, now I'm having a hard time finding a book I'm willing to read. I need something light and fluffy, but not crappy. Pancakes, as opposed to cotton candy. As it were. Any suggestions?

(In all fairness, my reading kick also got derailed because I recently obtained this, and it's been eating up all my free time. TALK about an addiction...)

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, pretentious



Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Summary: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Review: Ugh, can we please stop having "big twists" that the audience figures out in the first chapter? Seriously. There's this big "reveal" that happens pretty much in the last 5 pages, and literally every single person who reads this book heaves a huge sigh and is like, "yeah, I already knew that, thanks." Not to mention that this "big twist" is hinted at in the summary of the book! Can we stop doing that? Please? #kthxbai

*steps off soapbox*

Now that that's out of the way, what a cute book! Futuristic, cyborg retelling of Cinderella. I am totally down with that. I knew I'd love it, but I'm not sure why I hadn't read it sooner.

Cinder was pretty adorable. She's tough and capable, but also loyal and sweet. And even though she lies to Kai, by not telling him she's a cyborg, I can understand why. And the two people in her "family" (I don't know if I legitimize her domestic situation by calling it a family, but you know-- the people she lives with) that she loves and are nice to her (her younger stepsister Peony and her android Iko) are actually people that I would like, too. (As opposed to Annoyingly Sweet characters -- it's always nice when the protagonist's friends are actually likable.)

Kai is also cute... to a point. I like his crush on Cinder, and I imagine that the reason he pursues her for so long is the whole "Thrill of the Chase" thing guys are always talking about in books and movies (and in real life sometimes, to be fair). But... for a prince, especially the heir to the throne, he seems to have a lot of free time on his hands. I mean, shouldn't he be meeting with ministers and governors and heads of parliament all the time? And why does he seem to only have one advisor, who ALSO has tons of free time (as evidenced by the fact that he has enough time on his hands to attend EVERY meeting Kai takes)? And shouldn't Kai, as heir to the throne, already have received a TON of training in leadership and diplomacy and management and stuff? And how, in some post-apocalyptic world in which there are only six countries left on Earth anyway, did we manage to keep an actual, honest-to-goodness monarchy, with rulers who are more than just ceremonial heads of state? Wait-- that might actually explain why Kai has so much free time. But if so, shouldn't his Prime Minister be the one negotiating a peace treaty with the moon?

And while we're on the subject of politics, I found Levana's diplomacy to be... well, pretty horrible. She invites herself to his palace with absolutely NO notice, makes demands of Kai's police and security forces, attempts to discipline his servants (with corporal punishment, no less -- not just bad diplomacy, but also super tacky), and tries to arrest his citizens! And then tries to maintain the charade that she might not declare war. Sorry, honey, but you pretty much already have.

However. Once I suspend my disbelief on the subject of politics, the book was quite riveting. I LOVED all the Cinder/Kai stuff, as is my way, and was super excited by the story -- it turned into quite a nail-biter. I'm excited to read the rest of the series.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, excuse-me-half-the-book-is-missing, fluffy, funny, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-ya



Casting Call: The Lunar Chronicles

So I'm actually ahead on the blog (for once), so you probably don't know yet about my obsession with The Lunar Chronicles. But I am a tiny bit obsessed.

So today we're going to have a small casting session. 

Full disclosure: I only just started Cress yesterday, so apparently there are some characters I haven't met yet?


In my head, Cinder looks like this:

Battlestar Galactica-era Grace Park, who is too old and I don't think Cinder is Asian? Anyway, in my mind it's who she looks like.


Jordan Rodrigues, AKA Christian from Dance Academy.

When thinking about Scarlet, I find that looks-wise Debby Ryan is a good fit. Except I've seen too many episodes of Jessie, and that girl gets. on. my. nerves. So instead,

I think Shailene Woodley has the right blend of toughness and sweetness to pull off Scarlet. And even if she IS Hollywood-skinny, she doesn't look like a stick.

Cress, who is young and adorable, I picture as:

G. Hannelius, the adorable girl from Dog With a Blog.

Captain Thorne I kind of want to cast as Wes Aderhold, except that I can't handle him after he was so creepy as Wickham, and also he's a LOT older than my choice for Cress (who in real life is 15). So let's go with

Spencer Boldman, who is tall and has the kind of smile that would make girls swoon over a felon. As I said, I haven't finished reading Cress, so I don't know how that dynamic is gonna be, but I'm comfortable with this age gap (he's 22). She's at the age where she WOULD crush on a guy this old, but they're close enough that I could be convinced that it's not creepy. In a couple years, that is.

Heck, I think I'm gonna cast Wes Aderhold after all. As Wolf.

He's age-appropriate for Shailene, good at being soulful and a little dreamy, and also enough of a creeper that you never quite know which side he's on.

And Levana, who is described (before she opens her mouth) as looking sweet and innocent:

That's right. Gigi Darcy herself. I went there.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Can you think of a better Cinder, maybe one who looks like she might actually be Allison Paige's niece? Tell me in the comments!


The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

Summary: Based on the Emmy Award–winning YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Twenty‑four‑year‑old grad student Lizzie Bennet is saddled with student loan debt and still living at home along with her two sisters—beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. When she records her reflections on life for her thesis project and posts them on YouTube, she has no idea The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will soon take on a life of their own, turning the Bennet sisters into internet celebrities seemingly overnight.

When rich and handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck‑up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets—and for Lizzie’s viewers. But not everything happens on‑screen. Lucky for us, Lizzie has a secret diary.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet takes readers deep inside Lizzie’s world and well beyond the confines of her camera—from the wedding where she first meets William Darcy to the local hangout of Carter’s bar, and much more. Lizzie’s private musings are filled with revealing details about the Bennet household, including her growing suspicions about her parents’ unstable financial situation, her sister’s budding relationship with Bing Lee, the perils of her unexpected fame, and her uncertainty over her future—and whom she wants to share it with.

Featuring plenty of fresh twists to delight fans and new readers alike, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet expands on the web series phenomenon that captivated a generation and reimagines the Pride and Prejudice story like never before.

Review: Ok first of all, if you like Pride and Prejudice but haven't seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, go and watch them. Now. Seriously.

Here, here's the first one. All you have to do is click on it:

You're welcome.

So now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the book.

I wasn't sure I'd like it. After all, book adaptations of Pride and Prejudice are pretty much a dime a dozen. Between zombies, modernizations, sequels, murder mysteries, Downton Abbey-ification, you name it, there are probably hundreds. But LBD was what I put a LOT of energy into obsessing over for the two months while I was in Korea by myself. So I went ahead and pre-ordered the book.

I was surprised by how much I liked it. I don't know why, because the writing in the videos is great. But I pretty much loved it. It was really great at telling the story without just writing description in between dialogue taken from the videos. I mean, for the first half, that was easy, because the videos are mostly just recaps of stuff anyway. Not a lot of action actually happens on screen, so it was nice to see it "on screen", as it were, in the book.

The second half had a lot of added material, which I love, because it included more Darcy. And it was a great way to include a lot of little things from Pride and Prejudice that didn't make it into the webseries.

Usually I'd like to try and talk about the book on its own, apart from the videos, but I don't know that I can in this case. The videos are such a big part of the book (including links to the videos themselves, so you can see exactly where they fall in the story. This is the only time I've ever been tempted to buy the Nook tablet, bc the links didn't work on my iPad.) that I can't really separate them. The book does tell the whole story, though, so if you're staunchly anti-YouTube, you'll still know what's going on. But you should watch the videos.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-a-movie, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-ya, thought-provoking



The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Summary: Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith's new novel shows that the center of the world isn't necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

Review: So... am I getting old? Because while the story in this novel is cute, I feel like I'm not quite as charmed by it as I should have been.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm a fully grown adult. Or the many times I moved away from friends (and boyfriends) during my own adolescence. But I kind of want to give Lucy and Owen a talking to. One that boils down to "get over it, my young friends."

Does that make me old?

I'm a little preoccupied with the question.

Anyway, despite their weird kind-of-relationship thing, I liked the book. I liked Owen and his dad's (heartbreaking) story; their journey towards healing from Owen's mom's death was strong storytelling. And I liked Lucy's story and how her relationship with her parents plays out. (Although stories that end with "if you'd only asked, I would have..." tend to break my heart a little bit.)

Overall, once I got over the way their relationship makes me want to yell at some kids and tell them to get off my lawn, I rather liked it.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, fluffy, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, pretentious



Guest Review: Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

This review is brought to you by my amazing sister, Kelli. You can find her on her blog and on Goodreads.

Summary: Amy Goodnight knows that the world isn't as simple as it seems—she grew up surrounded by household spells and benevolent ghosts. But she also understands that "normal" doesn't mix with magic, and she's worked hard to build a wall between the two worlds. Not only to protect any hope of ever having a normal life.

Ranch-sitting for her aunt in Texas should be exactly that. Good old ordinary, uneventful hard work. Only, Amy and her sister, Phin, aren't alone. There's someone in the house with them—and it's not the living, breathing, amazingly hot cowboy from the ranch next door.

It's a ghost, and it's more powerful than the Goodnights and all their protective spells combined. It wants something from Amy, and none of her carefully built defenses can hold it back.

This is the summer when the wall between Amy's worlds is going to come crashing down.

Review: Rosemary Clement Moore writes the wittiest interactions between characters.  This book might be worth a read simply for the scene with the cow.  Hilarious.  Add in the quirky supernatural family, a sweet romance, a mystery, and a ghost, and this is probably my favorite of her books to date.



Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins and Jamie Hogan

Summary: In her Bangladesh village, ten-year-old Naima excels at painting designs called alpanas, but to help her impoverished family financially she would have to be a boy--or disguise herself as one.

Review: As I'm preparing to move to Bangladesh in a few months, one of the things I'm doing is reading books about it. I'm reading books for older people, like A Golden Age, but I'm also reading as many children's books about Bangladesh as possible, because a) I can read children's books faster and b) there just aren't that many books about Bangladesh out there.

Rickshaw Girl was good. Written at about a 2nd grade reading level, it tells a story of Naima, who is crazy frustrated by gender restrictions. She desperately wants to help her family earn money, but she can't because (in her village at least) girls and women don't work or earn money. Despite how predictable her story is, I was happy to see her find a role model by the end, who helps her overcome gender roles in her community by giving her a chance.

I could feel the love Naima and her family have for each other, and my heart broke with Naima when, in the process of trying to help her family financially, she accidentally makes it worse.

Overall, I feel like this book helped me gain a perspective for what life is like in rural Bangladesh. I think it would be a great story to share with kids (and grown-ups) who want to learn about and understand other cultures.

Goodreads Shelves: be-proactive, bechdel-test, my-kind-of-woman, thought-provoking



The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Summary: An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

Review: Ok, I'm of two minds about this one. One the one hand, I liked it. It was a quick read, and I liked Prenna and Ethan's relationship (for the most part). For the first half or so, I kept comparing it to Pivot Point and Split Second, in that it was a story about a community of outsiders who had to blend in to the Normal World while keeping secrets about their identities. And I liked The Here and Now's discipline better, and its Big Brother-ish vibe.

In the second half of the book, though, things fell apart a little bit. For starters, all of a sudden Prenna and Ethan are In Love?? After avoiding him for two years and doing her best to maintain emotional distance, now all of a sudden they flip a switch and they're soulmates? I'm a little skeptical that a teenage boy would put so much energy into pining over a girl who is a self-confessed "expert liar" and never tells him anything about herself.

Speaking of which, for a girl who's had Being Undercover drilled into her continuously for the past four years, she does NOT think on her feet. (Or at all, really. But I'm ok with a person being Book Smart and not Street Smart. Common sense, after all, usually isn't.)

Also, really? The security that's kept over them is based on lies and fear, sure. But they put together a group of people to migrate to the past based on finding people who were passionate about going back and preventing the plague... and then are surprised when those people try to change the past? Maybe you should have started with stupider people, is all I'm saying.

And the plot itself... confused me. I could follow it on its (fairly predictable) way, but a few plot holes bothered me, and I think a couple of things that don't have satisfactory explanations are camouflaged by time-travel paradoxes.

I felt like Brashares was trying to put a lot into the emotional impact of the book, which was fine, as far as it went. I liked her descriptions of Feelings; they worked ok. But without a solid narrative to hold them up, I just wasn't as invested in the feelings of the characters.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, fluffy, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, pretentious



Guest Review: Reboot by Amy Tintera

This review is brought to you by my amazing sister, Kelli. You can find her on her blog and on Goodreads.

Summary: Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

Review: I wanted to love this book.  You read the summary; how could this book not kick A?  I'm still not entirely sure how, but the fact is that it failed to deliver.  She took an amazing concept and just phoned it in.  It's well-written, but pretty superficial.  I can accept that it's YA, so she chose to not go as in-depth as something written for an older audience, but it still read as top-level.  It wasn't totally egregious, though, until she managed to cram about 200 pages worth of material into the last 50 pages.  When I realized how close I was to the end, I assumed it had to have a cliff-hanger because there was no way to resolve the issue.  Wrong.  She resolved it by telling the story like I read my kids their fifth bed-time story.  Having said that, at least it wasn't a waste of time.  Still worth a read, but I wouldn't move it to the top of the pile.



The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Summary: Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?

Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.

Review: So... I dunno. I'm kind of "meh" on it. It took me about three weeks to really get into this book (or if it didn't take three weeks, it certainly felt like three weeks), which says to me that I just... I dunno, didn't care? About the characters? Question mark?

Josephine's story took a long time. Like, all of her narration is pretty much made up of one day. So while her story was interesting, it was pretty slow going.

And Lina... Ugh, I was pretty apathetic about Lina. In her defense, so is she. But still. She's young and still trying to figure herself out. But at the same time, as a person, I didn't find her terribly interesting.

The writing, though. Maybe it was a little over-descriptive, but it was also beautiful. So even though it was a cumbersome read at times, it was enjoyably cumbersome.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, fluffy, my-kind-of-woman, nook-book, pretentious



The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Summary: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Review: So this is actually a reread for me; I read it for the first time last year, while I was taking a blog break. My first impression, those many moons ago, was that it was just ok, but I admitted that I did get emotionally invested enough to cry.

This reading was a little different, maybe because I was enough removed to observe more. I didn't cry this time around (a point of pride, perhaps?), but I did appreciate the wit more. (Side note: I've watched so many vlogbrothers videos in the last year that the first couple pages were narrated in my head by John Green himself. Which I found to be hilarious.)

I liked everything better pre-Amsterdam, which makes sense because everything after Amsterdam is a huge downer.

Also, I understand that "Okay, okay" is like their Thing, or something, but pointing out that something is poignant doesn't really make it so. Maybe it just bothers me because the first I ever even heard about this "Okay" thing was in the comments of a Lizzie Bennet Diaries video, and I resented the fact that what sounded to me like perfectly normal dialogue that I myself have used HUNDREDS of times in my life is all of a sudden some special reference just for Special John Green Fans. Like, ok, nerdfighters are great and stuff, but now you OWN the word "Okay"? Seriously? So then I read the book to find out what all the fuss is about, and as explained by the book, it's pretty much a huge letdown. Because they just say "Okay" to each other all the time. That's literally all there is to it.

ANYWAY, another thing I liked was how Augustus talks about Hazel looking like Natalie Portman, because the movie just came out (I haven't seen it yet, but I hear it's good) and Shailene Woodley, who plays Hazel, totally does look like Natalie Portman. Good casting, guys. Way to go.

So all that being said, if you like sad books about kids who have cancer and fall in love, or if you like clever, snappy dialogue and don't mind sad books about kids who have cancer and fall in love, you should give it a read.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, funny, i-have-the-ebook, is-a-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, thought-provoking

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