Sunday, October 30, 2011

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

First up, I'm really sorry about the video quality this week! I used the webcam on my computer, and for most of the video it doesn't match up with the sound. Sorry guys!
Secondly, did you see the series of 5 reviews Sera posted this week? Scroll down our main page to check them out - they are some great YA books.

What did you get this week? Let me know in the comments!


Friday, October 28, 2011

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

“Life can be long or short, it all depends on how you choose to live it. it's like forever, always changing. for any of us our forever could end in an hour, or a hundred years from now. you can never know for sure, so you'd better make every second count. what you have to decide is how you want your life to be. if your forever was ending tomorrow, is this how you'd want to have spent it?”

Losing someone you love is hard enough without being there to watch them disappear before your eyes. Hard or not, this is exactly what happens to Macy Queen when her father dies of a heart attack as she watches helplessly. Macy’s older sister grieves by bawling her eyes out for days. Macy’s mother avoids her pain by working nearly twenty-four hours a day. Macy copes by falling for the guy who has all the answers, who has somehow managed to become perfect. For over a year she copies her boyfriend Jason’s every move and goal becoming a straight A student, active in extracurricular activities, and a model daughter, but then Jason leaves for the summer to go to Brain Camp. Suddenly, Macy is left to her own devices and filling in for Jason at the library where the other employees (both female versions of Jason) seem to go out of their way to make her miserable. Everything seems to be going as well as can be expected until an email from Jason blows her world to pieces: I think it’s best for us to take a break from our relationship, and each other, until I return at the end of the summer. It will give us both time to think, so that in August we’ll know better whether we want the same things or if it’s best to sever our ties and make this separation permanent. After reading this email a spur of the moment decision and a twist of fate find Macy signing on to join the Wish catering crew, an unlikely group that just happens to include the sawoon-worthy Wes. Macy eventually discovers that Wes is also on a break from his girlfriend and the two develop a strong friendship, bonding over their non-relationship statuses and a seemingly never-ending game of Truth (the only rule, you have to tell the truth). When the end of summer starts looming closer every day, questions start to race around Macy’s head. Should she get back together with Jason? What will happen to her friendship with Wes? Why does it feel like she’s finally alive for the first time in years?

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen is brilliant. I’ve only ever read one of her other books before (Lock and Key, also highly recommended), but I loved that one too. Sarah has a way of dealing with powerful emotions issues and family crises without making them depressing or overly melodramatic. Her characters are real and relatable and her writing is beautiful. Honestly, authors like Sarah make me wish I was still a “young adult” so that I could have discovered her at a younger age. Her stories make you think about a variety of topics but always seem to leave you with a sense of hope. I loved the subplots in this book, especially; they came together so beautifully by the end. This book will make you take a long look at death, grief, family, love, friendship, truth, flaws, luck, life, choice, infomercials, junkyard art, prison records, and how sometimes finding perfection means accepting that you’ll never have perfection.

Sera’s Rating: 10/10 stars

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pure Red by Danielle Joseph

“I, Cassia Bernard, do solemnly swear to find pure red—my passion—this summer. Dad's passion is art. When he's painting, no one can reach him, not even me. My mom's passion was the ocean. She said the ocean allows you to see whatever you want to see. That was one of the last things she ever said to me...”

Especially for someone who usually feels adrift, meeting someone with a passion—a true purpose for their life—can be unsettling. Living with someone like that is downright depressing if, like Cassia Bernard, you can’t seem to find your own guiding force. Remembering how she used to like playing pickup games of basketball, Cassia joins the summer league in hopes of discovering a love for the game. Not too far into the season, though, she suffers a bad sprain and is forced to sit it out while she recovers. During her recovery, she decides to take a ceramics class and finds something else that may call to her. While all this is happening, she’s dealing with a best friend in the gushing, obsessive new-relationship phase, her perpetually clueless father who gets so wrapped up in his art he forgets to come to her games, and Graham—a new boy who worships Cassia’s father, the famous artist, but doesn’t seem to see Cassia for herself. Will her father ever come out of his own mind long enough to really connect with her? Will Graham ever be able to see past her father long enough to ask her out? Will she ever find her calling?

Like Indigo Blues, Pure Red is more about the characters than the action. Again, I enjoyed Danielle Joseph’s prose and think she has an amazing talent for phrasing. I especially enjoyed the constant use of color and the way Cassia interpreted everything by color—including the opposing teams of the summer league. The characters were interesting and well written and although I would have enjoyed more doing, that’s not always necessary. I think the main reason this book couldn’t get to the four-star mark for me is Cassia’s passion. She states herself that finding her passion will be her goal. Honestly, the buildup was so heavy through the whole book that I really wanted an epiphany moment. I wanted everything to come together like puzzle pieces magically flying into place as she realized, “Oh, goodness! How could I have been so blind!” I didn’t get that. In fact, less than a week after reading it I had to go back to the book to make sure she actually had found her passion at all. I remembered the things she had been interested in, but the realization had been so quiet and subtle that I didn’t feel as though it meant as much to her as it should have. I liked Graham who turned out to be even more interesting at the end of the book than I thought he’d be, but her father annoyed me. That, however, was probably only because it would have driven me crazy to have my only parent be as disconnected and scatterbrained as he was. There were a couple of side characters that I felt went nowhere, but the ones that stuck through to the end made for a very interesting bunch. I recommend the book especially to anyone who likes art or color. It’s also always interesting to read something set in my area of the world (the story takes place in Miami). Overall, a good read, but I expected more from it.

Sera’s Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Indigo Blues by Danielle Joseph

“When I found out that ‘Indigo Blues’ hit number one on the Billboard charts this morning, I ran to the bathroom and threw up. Then the toilet lid smacked down on my nose. Now, at the insistence of my mom, I’m zoning with an ice pack on my face.”

Think about the worst rumor anyone has ever spread about you and then imagine that someone turned that rumor into a song and it became a hit single overnight. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. This is Indigo’s life.

Told from alternating points of view, Indigo Blues shows what happens to both the songwriter and the muse after a breakup inspires a hit single. Adam Spade’s band Blank Stare is the newest craze and all Adam can think about is Indigo. She won’t return his calls or texts, but she never leaves his thoughts. For Indigo, this seems like the peak in her sudden rise to infamy and even though Adam has ruined her life he still won’t stop calling her.

It’s hard to give a better description because, honestly, not much happens. The story centers around Indigo and Adam’s relationship as Adam struggles with newfound fame and attempts to write a song that will live up to the standards ‘Indigo Blues’ has set and Indigo tries and fails to stay out of the limelight. Indigo finally gives in to one of the numerous requests for an interview and agrees to go on TV with Adam to put to rest all of the rumors surrounding the song.

To be honest, I found Indigo annoying. She whines and complains but doesn’t actually do much. And plus, the thing she’s complaining about is something most girls are searching for everyday: a guy who is completely in love with them. She broke up with Adam after they’d been dating a few months not because he was mean, a cheat, or a liar but because he was too devoted. Really? Give me a guy like that any day. I liked Adam better, but could see in his tendency to clinginess an insecurity that would ruin all of his relationships. Still, I thought he grew as a character more than Indigo through the book. I probably could have dealt with all this if there had been more of a conclusion to the story. Did Adam and Indigo find closure or a way back to each other? You could argue it either way.

The prose itself read well and there were some very pretty phrasing, but overall, I liked Shrinking Violet a lot more.

Sera’s Rating: 4/10 stars

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph

“Might as well admit it—I’m shy. Not the kind where you blush when someone compliments you, but the kind that results in feelings of nausea when meeting new people. When I was little, I thought I was Shy Adams. People would ask my name, and my mother would immediately answer for me, “She’s shy.” She even did it three weeks ago when we met up with some of the radio people at a restaurant.”

Feeling uncomfortable in front of strangers is a feeling I know well, but not even I am paralyzed at the thought of speaking out loud. Teresa (who most people call Tere) Adams’ is. She has one friend but might as well be invisible to the rest of the school. But her silence hides a voice stronger than anyone would suspect and a dream of one day becoming a radio DJ and sharing her love of music with the world. Or at least South Florida. It’s a dream that suddenly looks closer to reality than ever before when one of the DJs at her step-father’s radio station quits. After a fight with her extremely confident, appearance-obsessed mother, Tere surprises even herself by voicing this dream aloud and asking Rob for a chance to host the now vacant show. She starts out helping at the station, interning and observing the afternoon DJ, but eventually she gets a lucky break and is allowed to co-host the evening show. On air, Tere becomes Sweet T, the confident girl with the sexy voice who couldn’t possibly be shy, silent Tere Adams and she makes sure it stays this way by swearing everyone at the station to silence on her identity. Which is why everything at school continues mostly as normal. The one exception is Gavin, Tere’s new crush who just happens to be one of her partners on a project that combines two of her worst nightmares: working in a group and a presentation in front of the class. A long presentation. Gavin is astonishingly understanding, heartbreakingly cute, and a music buff so falling for him is not a shock, but how easy Tere finds it to talk to him is. Entire sentences are uttered in his presence, even after Tere finds out that Gavin listens to her radio show. It’s only when the afternoon DJ comes up with the brilliant idea of auctioning off Sweet T as a prom date to the winner of a songwriting contest that things begin to unravel. Can Tere survive the revelation of her identity? Will she be paralyzed on stage in front of her entire school when she meets the contest winner in person? What if the guy hates her? What if he doesn’t? Should she tell Gavin the truth?

Shrinking Violet was adorable in so many ways. I rooted for Tere every step of the way and the way she talked about the bands she loved made me wish they actually existed so I could look them up. You don’t have to know anything about music to appreciate this story, though. Tere’s struggle to overcome her own shortcomings can translate into anyone’s life. The rest of the characters too—love ‘em or hate ‘em—are unique and well written. Her mother, for example, makes me extraordinarily grateful that my mother is nothing like Tere’s. Their relationship if fraught with difficulties and arguments, mostly from the fact that they exist on completely separate wavelengths. Like Tere herself, though, their relationship grows and changes from beginning to end.

Well written, engaging, and littered with random bursts of incredibly poetic prose, I really enjoyed Shrinking Violet and highly recommend it.

Sera’s Rating: 10/10 stars

Monday, October 24, 2011

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

“When someone you love dies, people ask you how you're doing, but they don't really want to know. They seek affirmation that you're okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires (its three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that's about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will).”

During the span of the average life, most people will fall in love and everyone will experience loss. Very few people will find love and then lose it almost instantly before the age of sixteen. This, however, is exactly what happens to Anna just after her life-long unrequited crush on her best friend Frankie’s brother Matt suddenly becomes requited. They share one glorious month of stolen kisses, secret glances, and midnight rendezvous and then on the way back from an ice cream run, Matt falls victim to an unknown congenital heart defect. Both Anna and Frankie’s families are devastated by the loss, but since they hadn’t yet revealed their no one knows how hard his death hit Anna. As Frankie’s parents retreat into silence, Anna becomes Frankie’s rock, her comfort, and her caregiver. She makes sure she eats, sleeps, and even tries to protect her from the trouble Frankie seems determined to get into. It isn’t until a little over a year after his death that this strange status quo is finally upset when Frankie’s parents decide to resume their family’s yearly vacation to Zanzibar Bay in California. Frankie unilaterally decides that they will conquer twenty boys in twenty days and that by the end of the trip Anna will have divested herself of the albatross hanging around her neck—her virginity. Anna goes along with this plan in theory, still holding onto the secret of her relationship with Matt and feeling guiltier about that secret every day. Theory clashes with reality when she meets Sam and starts feeling for the first time since Matt’s death. Does this mean she’s forgetting Matt? “What is the statute of limitations on feeling guilty for cheating on a ghost?” she asks herself.

Less about grief and more about coming back to life, Twenty Boy Summer catalogs Anna’s return to life. It covers friendship, trust, truth, death, grief, secrets, forgiveness, family, swimsuits, sunburns, sneaking out, virginity, and the fact that no matter how hard you try you can’t make someone else okay—they have to do that for themselves. Sarah Ockler tackles these questions through Anna’s eyes and you see all of her pain, her guilt, the loyalty she feels toward both Frankie and Matt, the pull of her new feelings for Sam, and the overwhelming pressure all this places on her shoulders. Ockler’s lyrical and at times profound prose guides you through the twenty days Anna and Frankie spend at Zanzibar Bay. Highly quotable, pieces of Twenty Boy Summer can be pulled out of context and applied to so many lives and so many situations. I was highly impressed by the quality of the writing and the beauty of some of Ockler’s phrasing. I felt as though she also did a good job showing how people react differently to loss, how differently people grieve. The only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the ending—this, however, is probably a highly subjective point and I can easily see how many people would disagree with me. Overall, Twenty Boy Summer is more than worth the read and Sarah Ockler is an author to keep on your radar for the years to come. I have a feeling her talent with words is only going to get stronger.

Sera's Rating: 8/10 stars

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In My Mailbox

It's Sunday morning, so of course it's time for In My Mailbox! IMM is a meme started by Kristi at the Story Siren, and is a way of sharing which books you received this week.

What did you get this week?


Friday, October 21, 2011

Hello, Bibliophiles!

Years ago in a wonderful internet forum, a girl named Sera met a girl named Emily. They became friends, joined by a few common obsessions, and eventually Emily invited Sera to join a blog she'd started called The Book Bundle.

"Sure!" Sera said. But then life got in the way, as life often does, and Sera never actually posted on Em's blog. (Yes, Sera is me. No, I don't know why I started this in the third person... O.o?)

Anywho, it is long overdue, but I am finally, officially joining The Book Bundle team! My entries will be cross posted on my personal blog Incandescent which covers a range of topics revolving around the literary world and little bits of randomness that I throw in just for the entertainment value.

Next week I will be posting my first book reviews, one a day for five days, but for now here's a bit of current news from the young adult fiction world:

It's already all over the internet, but more publicity is not a bad thing, especially in this case.

Visit the official site here.
Lauren Myracle was recently honored by the National Book Awards for her novel Shine, a story about a young sleuth who investigates a hate crime. Allowed to bask in the glory for only a few scant days, she was soon told that the announcement had been a mistake. The book they'd actually meant to nominate was Chime by Fanny Billingsley. Blamed on some sort of internal error (rumor has pinned it on either phone static or conspiracy), it still didn't stop the foundation from asking the unbelievable: “I was asked to withdraw by the National Book Foundation to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges’ work,” she explained to the NY Times.

Um... Excuse me?

Talk about adding insult to injury! Is her book really so far below your standards that you can't even leave her as a nominee, National Book Award judges? Yes, I'm talking to you. Do you not realize that this whole mess probably would have blown over and been forgotten if you had simply left Shine as a nominee?

Now, I have not read Shine (in fact, I honestly didn't even know it existed before this), but I've added it to my to be read pile. In fact, I think not winning the award has done Shine more good than winning ever could have done. Not only will the book's readership grow, but the National Book Awards has agreed to donate $5,000 (five times as much as she would have received as a winner) to the Matthew Sheppard Foundation, a not-for-profit aimed at "encouraging respect for human dignity and difference by raising awareness, opening dialogues, and promoting positive change."

The recap? Lauren Myracle walks away from this fiasco with dignity, the respect of the literary world and the media, and $5,000 for a charity that obviously means a lot to her. The National Book Awards judges look like total jackasses, have spent five times the amount they usually do for this single prize, and ruined the "integrity" of their precious award.

Lauren 1 - National Book Award Jerks 0

Want to read more? Here are some blogs and news articles I've found about Shine's withdrawal:
Lauren Myracle tells it like it is on Huffington Post
Libba Bray (Pardon Libba's French ;) )
Julianna Baggott
TIME Entertainment
The Guardian
LA Times
NY Times

Want to donate to the Matthew Sheppard Foundation? Click here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I only got two books this week, so no video. I've been doing a lot of reading for classes, and haven't been reading so much in the evenings, which is when I normally get caught up in books.

"River Marked" by Patricia Briggs, which is the most recent book in the Mercy Thompson series - I've been wanting to read this for a while now! I'm about half way through, I hope to get a review up of this one early this week.

"Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins - book 2 in the Hunger Games trilogy - I read THG for the first time last week, and had to get book 2 as soon as possible. I've started it, but it had to get bumped down the TBR pile because other things are due back in the library soon *sigh*. I'll get to it as soon as I can. I don't think I'm going to review THG after all, because most people are already very familiar with it, and I don't have that much time for reviewing just now - I need to get myself more organised!

I also got a couple of ebooks for review this week:
"Legacy" by Molly Cochran, which is supposed to be about witches, and sounds pretty cool. It's from Simon & Schuster's 'galley grab' program.

"Hold Me If You Can" by Stephenie Crowe - I've almost finished this, but it doesn't come out for a while, so I'll hold off posting the review until the release date. From Sourcebooks, via NetGalley.

What do you think of any of these books, if you've read them? And what's in your mailbox this week?


Friday, October 14, 2011

Mini review: Flirt, by Laurell K. Hamilton

*Sometimes I don't have much to say, but still want to talk about a book, so I'll do a mini review instead*

Title: Flirt
Author: Laurel K. Hamilton
Publisher: Headline (UK)/Berkley (US)
Release date: 2010
Source: library
Notes: book 18 in the Anita Blake series. Novella.

Description from back cover: I am Anita Blake, vampire hunter and necromancer, and when I meet with Tony Bennington, who is desperate to have me reanimate his recently deceased wife, I feel sympathy for his loss. After all, I know something about love, and I know everything there is to know about loss. But I also know that what I can do as a necromancer isn't the miracle Tony thinks he needs. The creature that I could coerce to step out of his late wife's grave would not be the lovely Mrs Bennington. Not really. And not for long.
I have been relaxing just a bit with the men in my private life. The affectionate warmth of being with them seems to bring out something softer in me, a sense of safety I can almost trust. They do love me; that part is for ever and for sure. But flirting with feeling safe is a dangerous thing...

My thoughts: I'll be honest, I didn't really like this book. I think it's because the pacing doesn't quite work for me. At the start of the story, we get to see a bit of a normal day for Anita. She meets an awkward client, then goes out for lunch with Micah, Nathaniel, and Jason, and they flirt a little with one of the waiters. Then she has a second awkward customer in the afternoon. The similarity of these two scenes made the second one a little boring, and while it's kind of interesting to see some of the people Anita meets in her everyday life, I don't think it was really necessary to show both meetings. A couple of weeks pass before the next chapter, and suddenly the action starts, with Anita being kidnapped. I won't spoil who does the kidnapping, but they threaten Anita that if she doesn't cooperate, they will shoot one or several of her men.

I really felt like what happens from that point on in the book happens far too quickly for the length of the story. The consequences are too big for the series - I feel like, if Anita is continuing to add to her 'menagerie' of people to feed from, then it deserves a bigger book, and we should have been able to meet this character a little more before what happened, happened. I guess my overall feeling is, I don't like the outcome at the end because of the speed things happened.

I give this book 4 out of 10

Sunday, October 9, 2011

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

Sorry I only got one review up this week, and a mini one at that! This week coming will be better, I promise!

What did you get in your postbox/mailbox this week?


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mini review: Rules of Attraction, by Simone Elkeles

*Sometimes I want to talk about a book, but don't have much to say - at those times I'll do a 'mini review' with just a few thoughts about the book*

Title: Rules of Attraction
Author: Simone Elkeles
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
Release Date: October 2010
Source: won from Book Chick City

Description: Carlos Fuentes isn't happy about leaving Mexico to start the "new" life his older brother, Alex, has planned for him. Carlos liked his freedom: living life on the edge and carving out his own path - just like Alex did.
Kiara Westford doesn't talk much; preferring instead to shut the world out. And when Carlos bounds into her life she struggles to understand him and his wild ways. Carlos is sure that Kiara thinks she's too good for him, which is just fine because he's not interested anyway, right? But when they finally open up to each other, the connection they fell shocks them both. Can the overcome their fears and realise that sometimes opposites really do attract?

My Thoughts: I did enjoy Rules of Attraction, possibly more than the first in the series, Perfect Chemistry. It's not really the sort of thing that I would usually pick up, but I was pleasantly surprised by both books.
I thought Carlos was really annoying at the beginning of the book - he's just so rude to Alex & Brittany (Alex's girlfriend), the kind of rudeness that I just don't like in other people. I was so glad when he started to appreciate what people around him were doing to help him, and started being a little nicer.
Kiara on the other hand is someone I could immediately relate to. She is the quiet girl in class who likes to wear baggy t-shirts and go hiking at the weekend. I found her much more likeable than Brittany had been in Perfect Chemistry. She's the sort of person I would have been best-friends with in high school because we're very similar. I was very glad when Carlos started to realise how nice she was, and to notice that she was pretty, too.

A sweet story with interesting characters, Simone Elkeles' "Rules of Attraction" is an enjoyable, quick read, even if the final ending is a little predictable. I give it 5/10 stars.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

In My Mailbox

Welcome back to In My Mailbox! IMM is a weekly meme from Kristi at The Story Siren, where you can show which books you got this week.

I'm sorry about the static sound on this - I really have no idea what that's from.

Please do check out the reviews further down the page as well!

And what did you get in your mailboxes/postboxes this week?