January 30, 2013

The Carrie Diaries Read-Along

Welcome to Queen Ella Bee Reads and Harley Bear Book Blog's first ever read-along!

How did this all come about, you might ask? Well, both of us were talking about the new Carrie Diaries show on Twitter the other day. We quickly discovered that we both wanted to read the book since the show's pretty cute. As such, we decided to do a read-along.

Here's the sitch:

- The Carrie Diaries Read-along begins at Monday, February 4th, 2013, 12:00am EST and ends on February 12th, 2013, 12:00am EST. The goal is to read 5 chapters a day. At the end of each day, updates will go up on our blogs. But here's the tricky bit: we're taking turns with posting our daily mini updates. Meaning, on day one, the update will apear on Harley Bear Book Blog, on day two, the update will appear on Queen Ella Bee Reads and so on and so forth. At the end of it all, we'll both we posting reviews on our blog AND we'll be doing a guest post on Story Crush (!!!!)

- You don't have to be a blogger to join us, but IF you are, you should do some kind of post for the read-along and link up. If you aren't a blogger, just leave some comment love so we know you're reading with us! Sharing is caring, you know.

- WHY should you draft a post to tack onto the linky, you ask? Because at the end of it all, there will be a GIVEAWAY! Anyone can enter, but if you link up you'll be able to enter for MORE chances to win a book that's been turned into a TV show of your choice (ex: The Carrie Diaries, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, etc.).

- The linky closes down on February 12th, 2013, 12:00am EST so make sure to link up before that.

- If you make up your own post for this readalong, whether in a kick off post, update post or review-of-the-book post, feel free to grab the button from the top of the page, just make sure to link back to Harley Bear Book Blog (the artist in residence). Also feel free to use the little blurb a above but please, please, PLEASE make sure to link back to both of our blogs/give credit. There's a lot of plagiarism going around. Don't be apart of it.

So if you think The Carrie Diaries TV show is AH-freaking-dorable and have been meaning to dig into the book, we'd love for you to come read with us!

Happy Reading!

Gaby and Melissa


~ To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. DO NOT enter using the comments.
~ You must be 18 years or older or have a guardian's permission to enter.
~ The winners will be chosen randomly. Once chosen, the winners will be emailed. They will then have 48 HOURS to respond, otherwise another winner will be chosen.
~ This give away is open to all countries the Book Depository ships to. Make sure you qualify before entering!
~ I reserve the right to disqualify anyone who tries to cheat the system. I WILL be checking the winning entries.
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Waiting On: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler (9)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: The Book of Broken Hearts
Author: Sarah Ockler
Release Date: May 21st, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.
Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.
Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?
Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak... unless her sisters were wrong?
Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.

[Summary Source: Goodreads
I love Sarah Ockler very, very much and therefore I will be reading this book.

So what are YOU waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments below!

January 29, 2013

Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters Ever (8)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
Guys, I'm the kind of girl who will get so very angry with a person for totally legitimate (and not so legitimate) reasons, take a nap, run into said person and COMPLETELY forget I was ever even mad at them. I'll be mid-big-smiley-hugging-greeting before I remember I'm supposed to be giving them the cold shoulder and then all of my righteous (or not so righteous) anger is completely invalidated. So you can imagine how hard it is for me to think of my Top Ten Must Frustrating Characters Ever. But I'll try.

1. BELLA FREAKING SWAN from The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
Okay, this was one was easy. She makes me soooooooooo mad for a bajillion reasons. Mostly because she's the lamest protagonist to ever exist. But also because she actually wants to die for a boy. For realz. Guys. This girl singlehandedly sets women's rights back like 100 years. Now, I'm not such a huge feminist all the time and I occasionally want to tell Lindy West to just sit down and chill, but even I cannot stand for Bella's uselessness. But I think you all saw this one coming.

2. Edward Cullen from The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
I think it's important to note that I'm not only anti-Bella but anti-Edward too. He's a creep. There's really nothing appealing to him except his money and the fact that he literally dazzles. If I ever met him I'd probably turn around and run right into Jacob's arms because he's warm. And alive. Which clearly make him the superior choice.

3. Ron Weasley from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
OKAY HEAR ME OUT. In book 4, right at the start when he gets all shirty with Harry, I got all shirty with him and I don't think I ever got over it. Ron, I strongly believe redheads are soulful, lovely people, but you ruined it by being disloyal to Harry. Loyalty is number 1 in my books and there's nothing your hair color can do to fix it, so get over yourself, stop breaking my heart and HELP YOUR FREAKING FRIEND.

4. Clary from The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare
I know people really like this series but I don't and I kind of just want to shake Clary a lot of the time. It's like, bro, really, stop pining after Jace and leading Simon on and GET SOME ANSWERS WOULD YOU?

5. Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I want to punch her for a lot of this book. And yet, this book is still in my Top Five Favorite Classics. So y'know, this just goes to show that I can love a book even though I want to punch the characters.

6. Adelice from Crewel by Gennifer Albin
I just read and reviewed this one, so it's really on my mind. She did NOTHING for like 350 pages and I'm still all kind of mad and frustrated with her. Not to mention she's super needy on the guy front, which is frustrating on an entirely new level.

7. America Singer from The Selection by Kiera Cass
I think she makes me angry because she has the ultimate good guy and even though she KNOWS IT she still basically treats him like garbage. I think I can generally stomach it when girls behave poorly when they don't know how great a guy is, but once they do and they still act awful, it's too much for me.

8. Albus Dumbledore from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
I don't really want to get into this, mostly because I think everyone disagrees with me here, but Dumbledore made me very mad for most of that series. Yeah, he has some great, wise one-liners, but he also let Harry rot at the Dursley's for 10 years, knew ALL OF THE THINGS that could have actually helped Harry in Hogwarts but didn't tell him because he wanted to perserve the childhood he effectively destroyed when he left Harry at 11 Privet Drive AND couldn't be bothered to do a background test on ANY teacher in his school ever before hiring them. And those are just my top 3 issues. I get his role and all that, and I suppose at this point in my life I appreciate him as a character, I just can't forgive him for letting a tiny baby go through 10 years of emotional abuse only to put said grown-up baby through 6 years of DANGER AT EVERY TURN.

9. Emma from The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
I wanted to love this book. It sounded so amazing. But Emma kind of ruined it for me. Granted, I don't know what I would do if I were in her place, but the whole time I just wanted to be like "SO KISS ALREADY" and have it over with.

10. Ana from The Fifty Shades Series by E.L. James
I can't think of anyone else who truly makes me angry, so I figured I'd bookend this post with the obvious choices: Bella and her twin, Ana. I recently skimmed Fifty Shades because my library has the eBook and I was like: Why not? I'll tell you why not: Ana's ridiculous and there's not even really a story there. The end.

My list consists mostly of a few characters I love despite how much they annoy me sometimes AND a whole slew of people who I'm super thankful only exist in fiction because: LOOK AT YOUR LIFE, LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES. Who's on your list? Is it also a mix? Let me know in the comments below!

January 28, 2013

Review: Crewel by Gennifer Albin

Title: Crewel (Crewel World #1)
Author: Gennifer Albin
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Page Count: 368
Source: Borrowed from the New York Public Library
Rating: Nope. Not for me. At all.
Enter a tangled world of secrets and intrigue where a girl is in charge of other’s destinies, but not her own.

Sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has always been special. When her parents discover her gift—the ability to weave the very fabric of reality—they train her to hide it. For good reason, they don’t want her to become a Spinster — one of the elite, beautiful, and deadly women who determine what people eat, where they live, how many children they have, and even when they die.

Thrust into the opulent Western Coventry, Adelice will be tried, tested and tempted as she navigates the deadly politics at play behind its walls. Now caught in a web of lies and forbidden romance, she must unravel the sinister truth behind her own unspeakable power. Her world is hanging by a thread, and Adelice, alone, can decide to save it — or destroy it.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

I saw this one in the library, recalled someone on my Twitter-feed writing a positive review for it and so I grabbed it. It sat on my nightstand for a while but I finally decided to read it, even though I was getting a bad vibe from it. Truth is: I probably should have just returned it unread.

Let's break this down:

Hold onto your deerstalkers, nerds, this one's a rant-y doozy.

First of all, the world building's not too convincing. I think I vaguely grasped the concept when Loricel was explaining stuff to Adelice (it's the MATRIX, Neo), but I still can't really describe what weaving looks like. I can't even tell you what pages to turn to in order to cobble together some semblance of what weaving looks like. I mean, at every turn it seems we're reminded that Adelice ISN'T practicing her skillz or learning how to harness her massively important talent instead of someone telling us how all of this fantastically awesome sounding stuff really works.

So what does happen in this book if not Adelice learning how to use her gift? A lot of misogynistic, patriarchal pageantry. I feel like this goes back to the shoddy world-building, but I don't understand how the men are in charge when the women are the Crewelers and Spinsters (i.e. the people who run The Show). If anything, this should be a world of Amazonian-esque women. But even if it somehow made sense that women should be subservient to men, the rampant sexism and homophobia in this book are outwardly offensive. A lot of books contain these elements, but I feel like this book kind of just beats you over the head with it, almost like it wants to indoctrinate you instead of encourage you to cheer the characters on as they work their way through this terrible scenario. It's honestly a little disturbing.

But world-building issues aside: The characters. Every single one of them was entirely black and white. You could draw a chart with columns. One side titled "Good Guys" and the other titled "Bad Guys". They're all completely one-dimensional and I don't really care for most of them. But to explain my feels for all of the characters to you, I put everyone into their own columns myself.

The "Good Guys":

Adelice wants her sister back and to maybe save the world? She's kinda snarky and demands some answers, which is nice, but ultimately she just gets wrapped up in pretty dresses and boys and just lets this story happen to her until she has NO CHOICE but to take charge. I mean, she knows what the government is capable of, how can she just SIT there and not even TRY and think up an escape.

Enora, well, that's a tragedy that falls kind of flat.

The boys. Ugh. Guys. Can I tell you? I saw that twist coming really early on. Also, can it please be noted that I totally don't understand why there had to be a love triangle. Seriously, she just kisses Erik and then completely forgets about him. It's almost like the boys are one person instead of two. But I will say that if I had to pick one, I'd pick Jost. His character is way more compelling than Erik's.

As for "The Bag Guys" (AKA: The Authority Figures):

Cormac wants to be Prime Minister at any cost. But what ARE those costs? It might help if I understood the government in any way shape or form. But seriously, could you be anymore generic?

Maela... I don't know what Maela's angle is. Does she want Cormac? Does she want Eric? Does she want world domination? What's really terrible is that even though she doesn't seem to have any direction she has plenty of ambition (the only female in the book with ANY) and she's made to seem like some kind of deranged psychopath who maims teenagers and throws them into cells when they're misbehaving. So basically she's a Disney villain. Which means she's totally evil, has no redeeming qualities and we're all obliged to cheer when she's done away with.

Pryana is the rule abiding hussy we all have to hate because she's awful to Adelice for indirectly killing her sister, clinging to powerful politicians, and supposedly being a scheming monster. Don't even get me started on the parody of a character because I will probably end up throwing something and that could end poorly.

I think the only one here who throws me for a loop is Lorciel, but that's because she just kind of steps aside and lets everything happen, both for the people in the good column and the bad column. So really she's just a placeholder.

This whole book basically boils down to bad world-building and more or less non-existant character motivations. There's a lot of potential, I think, especially for Adelice, and there's a TON that could actually motivate her (let's start with her parents and sister, shall we?) and some of it FINALLY hits her at the end. But it was too little, WAY too late for me. Maybe the ending of this book shows some promise for this series and the ONLY reason I'd pick it up when it comes out is because I want to see what happened to Earth (PS: saw that plot twist at the end coming, too). And because I generally need to finish a series. I'm terrible at abandoning series and DNF-ing books. It's a curse, really, no gift to be seen.

The long and short of it?

Plot? What plot? Nothing even really seems to happen until the VERY END.
World Building: I couldn't even tell you what Weaving looks like and it's the base of the story. Literally.
Character Development: Why do they want what they want? I don't know. What do they even want? Besides for Jost and Adelice's familial motivations, I have absolutely no idea.
Prose: It just didn't do anything for me.
Would I Recommend This Book?: No. Really, no. Maybe if you're curious grab it from the library but only the last, oh, 75 pages or so were in the least bit interesting.

January 27, 2013

Review: 37 Things I Love by Kekla Magoon

Title: 37 Things I Love
Author: Kekla Magoon
Release Date: May 22nd, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Page Count: 224
Source: ARCycling
Rating: ★★★★☆
Ellis only has four days of her sophomore year left, and summer is so close that she can almost taste it. But even with vacation just within reach, Ellis isn’t exactly relaxed. Her father has been in a coma for years, the result of a construction accident, and her already-fragile relationship with her mother is strained over whether or not to remove him from life support. Her best friend fails even to notice that anything is wrong and Ellis feels like her world is falling apart. But when all seems bleak, Ellis finds comfort in the most unexpected places.

Life goes on, but in those four fleeting days friends are lost and found, promises are made, and Ellis realizes that nothing will ever quite be the same.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

When I won this book in an ARCycling session a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea what it was about. I liked the way the title sounded and, under pressure, I put it on my list. When I won it, I looked it up on Goodreads and decided my gut is a genius. This book might be short, but it sure is something.

Let's break this down:

Ellis is this hapless teen who's just finishing up her sophomore year of high school. It's like, all of the bad that could possibly happen to her happened to her and it's so very terrible awful. Her father's been in a coma for two years, her best friend's kind of a witch with a capital B, her mother's disconnected and connected all at the same time and everything else is just... lacking.

I love Ellis because, even though her problems are so much bigger than any of my problems have ever been, I can still totally relate to her. The terrible friend situations she finds herself in are so familiar that all I want to do is swoop in and somehow make it better, just like I used to wish someone would do for me. But then, as the book goes on, it becomes clear that a magic solution isn't the right solution for Ellis (something I also learned and constantly re-learn over the years). There is no boy who swoops in and makes everything better, no spell that makes the bad best friend suddenly realize what she has. Even reconnecting with Cara doesn't somehow make everything better. If anything, it complicates just about everything (I only saw that particular plot twist coming like 30 seconds before it happened and I was still like: WHOA).

I guess sometimes I do get mad at Ellis (and Collin) for staying friends with Abby, but there are reasons for it - not reasons I love, but reasons I understand and would probably make allowances for myself. And I really love Cara. She's so... interesting. I know, that's not very descriptive, but she's kind of this quiet, soft character that floats through this story, kind of there, kind of not and she just seems so wonderful and complex even though her character isn't totally explored.

And that's my big issue with this book. I feel like there are SO VERY MANY things that could have been explored, but they just weren't. Kekla Magoon stuck to the driving force of this book (Ellis's father's death), which was lovely, but I would have loved to see a little more from the secondary characters. Abby felt totally flat, Cara had so much potential and, honestly, I felt like Evan really didn't have a point at all, except as a half-hearted red herring. I will say that it's possible I feel this way about the secondary characters because a lot of their relationships with Ellis are so very loaded and full of whole other book-long story plots, but these plots are pushed aside in order to tell the story of Ellis and her father.

Which is okay, I think, because the many sub-plots made the whole thing feel more like real life and less like a book. As in, in real life, if I told you a story about 4 days of my life, maybe you'd catch the end of a major drama but if I was honest with you and told you everything, you'd also find yourself hearing about something else that's not totally resolved yet. Because that's what life is: a series of chaotic events. Kekla Magoon clearly knows that. She doesn't pretend that's not the case by creating a story arc with an un-messy ending. There's no such thing as an un-messy ending. So even though I want more or fewer messy subplots, I think intellectually I know it's just how this has to be. I just wish some of the secondary characters were better utilized.

Anyway, just because this book maybe took on a little too much doesn't mean it didn't deliver. I definitely shed a few tears towards the end. The whole thing was really very moving and I loved, loved, loved how the chapter titles fit in, so if you have enough time to fit this slim little novel into your life, I would get to it.

The long and short of it?

Heavy and meaningful.
World Building: This is real life: messy, no clear conclusion and, occasionally, absolutely tragic.
Character Development: With Ellis it was top notch, but everyone else felt a little thin/neglected to me.
Prose: Wonderfully lyrical.
Would I Recommend This Book?: I did just say you should fit this one in, didn't I?

Have you read this one? If you haven't, I think you should. If you have, how did you feel about all those sub-plots? Let me know in the comments below! 

January 26, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (8)

"Stacking the Shelves" is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews
I'm pretty sure I've said this a million times already - I even wrote a discussion post about it yesterday - but I'm abroad now and, as such, my life now revolves around e-books. As such, this week's Stacking the Shelves is all about my e-books stash. I didn't get most of these books this past week, but I also never posted about any of them, so that's what you guys get this week. 


1. Caly's Piece by J.M. Miller
This was the first ever book an author asked me to review. I haven't gotten around to it yet but since I'm all e-book oriented now, I know I will!

2. Fire by Heather James
Another e-book sent for review. I love fantasy, so I'm all excited about this one.

3. Playing Nice by Rebekah Crane
I've already read and reviewed this one. I've also interviewed Rebekah and set up a giveaway of her book (both e-book and finished copy). Go check out the review (HERE) and the interview/giveaway (HERE).


4. The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
I only borrowed one e-book from the library this past week and that's because I'm doing a read-a-long with Melissa from Harley Bear Book Blog. We both started watching the CW show and decided that we MUST read the book as well! Our kick off post goes up tomorrow, but basically we'll be reading 5 chapters a day starting February 4th. Since there are 35 chapters, we'll be done in a week. So if you just started watching the show like we did and I want to check out the source material, you have a week to scrounge up a copy of the book and join us! And please join us, because, well, the more the merrier!


5. The Goddess Hunt by Aimee Carter
This one was free at some point, so I snagged it joyfully.

6. The Goddess Legacy by Aimee Carter
I have a hard copy of this one at home, but it's the only Aimee Carter book I can't find through my library in e-book form and I need to read it before I dig into the ARC I won the other week - I thankfully had the foresight to not forget that one at home. So yeah. I bought this one.

7. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
There was an e-ebook sale on this one a while back. I've had my eye on it for a while so I decided I had to have it.

8. Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
It was a sale of Miranda Kenneally e-books. So I bought both of them. For like $2. It was brilliant and I regret nothing.

That's all my e-books so far. I'm pretty sure I have about 10 hard copy books with me, but I think they've all been featured in previous Stacking the Shelves, so there's no need to repost now. Not to mention that this is Stacking the Shelves: E-Book Edition, not E-Book and Some Hard Copy Books Edition.

What books did you guys pick up this week? Any e-books? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

January 25, 2013

Traveling with Books

Fact: I don't like coffee. I just like saying Coffee Clutch in my best and deepest New York accent. Considering I'm a New Yorker, I'm pretty freaking good at it. So I've got my tea and I hope you have your heated beverage of choice, because it's time to gab the day away.

My last two discussion posts were about the viability of print books/the practicaliy of e-books and the uses of libraries. This discussion takes the mere conversations that are those discussions and turns them into a real life situation.

How? You might ask (yes, I am channeling my inner infomercial).

Well, as some of you already know, I hopped on an airplane this past Monday night, London bound for two months and then Israel bound after that. I know, you're jealous, I would be too. But here's one thing you shouldn't be jealous of: the very few books I was able to stuff in my bag before I ran out of room and weight. Two suitcases, 100 pounds - however you put it, it's just not enough for all of the pretty clothing AND all of the books. And I'm not one to sacrifice clothing, even if it means I get to have all of the pretty books with me.

After crying about it for a week, my brain kicked into overdrive and figured out a solution I, as a lover of the actual, physical book, don't love but now cling to like its the answer to all of the questions in the world: e-books. My wonderful iPad is going probably going to see just as much of Europe as I will. We're both VERY excited, I assure you. Don't get me wrong, I'm not HAPPY about this. I'm all about having an actual book to tote around with me and I wish I could bring 50 books with me, but realistically, I could only fit about 10. So portability and weight are what make my iPad disturbingly invaluable to me on this trip, despite my desperate attempts to keep myself surround by printed books.

But then there's the question: where do I get the e-books to read on my iPad? Obviously I could buy them, but I don't really want to buy e-books of books I already have hard copies of at home. Furthermore, London? I'm told it's a really expensive city. So as much as I LOVE to read, I'd rather spend my cash on being the biggest tourist ever.

The answer? That's right, THE LIBRARY. Guys. Talk about life saver. I can download e-books from my library directly into my Kindle Cloud reader. It's maybe the greatest thing that has ever happened on the interwebs. I actually checked my TBR books on my shelves against the library e-book database in order to assess which books I needed to shove into my bags and which I would be able to download from my library. Is it wrong that this makes me feel like an evil genius? If so, I don't really care, because I do and that's just the way it is.

So really, in the event that you thought my last two discussion posts were rhetorical, know your wrong and enjoy my evil genius. *insert evil laugh here*

Do you often find yourself separated from your books for long periods of time? How do you deal with your separations anxiety? Let me know in the comments below!

January 24, 2013

Review: Playing Nice by Rebekah Crane

Title: Playing Nice
Author: Rebekah Crane
Release Date: January 3rd, 2013
Publisher: In This Together Media
Page Count: 209
Source: E-Book Provided by Author
Rating: ★★★★☆
Martina "Marty" Hart is really nice. At least, that's what people think.

It's Marty's junior year at Minster High. Minster's a small town where making great grades, smiling pretty, helping old people, running the new-student Welcoming Committee, and putting up decorations for all the dances - including the totally awful Hot Shot fall hunting celebration - gets you... what? Marty's not sure. Instead of dreaming about a sororities-and-frats future at nearby University of Michigan, she's restless, searching for a way out of the box her controlling mother and best frenemy Sarah have locked her in. When Lil - don't call her Lily! - Hatfield transfers to Minster, Marty gets her chance. Lil's different. She smokes, wears black, listens to angry punk records, and lives in a weird trailer with her mother. Lil has secrets - secrets that make her a target for all the gossiping and online bullying Minster can muster. But so does Marty. And Marty sees something different in Lil. Something honest.

Something real.

PLAYING NICE is the achingly true story of a girl who's been following the rules for so long she's forgotten who she was when she started. It's about falling in love with the wrong people and not seeing the right ones, about the moments in life when you step out of line, take a chance... and begin to break free.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

I had a lot of fun reading this book. It's really honest and really returns to the fundamentals of YA contemporary. As in, it's not about jet-setting, nor is the main character's sole focus somehow finding the love of her life. No, Playing Nice is an introspective commentary on Marty's life and the most important secondary character ISN'T the love interest, but the best friend who facilitates Marty's personal growth - something I don't think is generally done now-a-days. 

Let's break this down

Marty. I'll start with Marty since this book is truly all about her. I mean, maybe it's a little bit about Lil, but, personally, I think it's more about how Marty develops based on her interactions with Lil. But I digress. Marty. At the beginning of the book she comes off as really rigid. There are rules, she is nice, this is how it goes. I can't say whether or not I believe a person like this could exist in real life without figuring out at some point that, no, it's not really possible to always play nice, but that's the facade Marty holds until she meets Lil. Lil is this bad girl - not the first bad kid Marty's met, by any means, but the first one she's been challenged to be nice to. And nice girl Marty's never one to turn down a challenge.

But, the result of Marty's kindness isn't exactly what she thought it would be. Instead of Lil getting acclimated to her new school, Lil helps Marty get acclimated with the idea of being the person she really is instead of the person everyone expects her to be. It's not an obvious shift. To be completely honest with you guys, I never really saw any Marty's actions coming. Does that make sense? As in, something would happen to her, but I could never guess what she was going to do next. Which just goes to show that this whole change was not only outside of the reader's control but also outside of Marty's, which makes the whole thing feel really organic and really believable. I think the only thing in the book that was truly predictable was Marty's best friend's reaction to the change. But the way that turns out even surprises me at the end.

I also really want to talk about Lil. Lil is your typical "bad girl" at first glance, but it turns out she really has a reason for her behavior - which isn't all that bad, if you really think about it. It's just that she's more open than everyone else and, in a small town, that equals bad. Anyway, that reason for Lil's behavior? I partially guessed, but the rest of the reason - the worst of it, really - makes the whole book worth reading a second time. Rebekah really didn't hold back with that portion of the plot. In fact, she doesn't really hold back at all. Even when Marty is trying to keep her nice-girl thing going for her on the outside, her inside is totally candid with the audience.

My only issue with the book is that as much as I really like the honesty, I'm not sure I totally loved all the sex - in thought or in conversation. I get it, they're teens, but I wish it was a little more subtle. I don't know, maybe I'm just sensitive to that stuff. But it really didn't bother me too much, considering how strong and important the character development and message of this book are.

Speaking of the message of this book: there are a lot of them. Some come from Marty, about being true to yourself and all that jazz. Bits also come from Alex, who's the sweet, patient jock (Okay, he doesn't really serve up any monumental messages, but he's so CUTE I have to mention him SOMEWHERE). Others come from Lil, when it comes to dealing with the consequences of someone else's actions. I would also say Matt even sheds a little light on the classic bad boy persona, which I really enjoyed. And then there's also Lil's mom and Marty's mom. They obviously both have very different sets of circumstances to deal with to be sure, but their values don't necessarily conflict. What I mean to say is that they both want to keep their families together. They both want to have everything be the best it can possibly be. Granted, it seems as though Marty's mom is marginally more successful than Lil's mom, but it's a similar, common and honest maternal instinct, even if they express it in two entirely different ways.

I feel like that last paragraph didn't make very much sense unless you've read the book, but the desire to understand what I'm talking about should be enough to convince you to pick up Playing Nice. I mean, who doesn't love a good, life-lessons, personal development, non-preachy, contemp YA novel? Or rather, I do, therefore you should too! :)

The long and short of it?

Unpredictable - very much an attention grabber.
World Building: Plausible: the small town that can't accept anything different. It's been done a bunch, but it's not always as convincing as it is in Playing Nice.
Character Development: The absolute best part of the book. All of the characters develop logically and do what someone in their position WOULD do, even though it's not necessarily what a typical YA book would have them do.
Prose: Sometimes gets a little awk with all the mentions of sex, but mostly pretty fluid.
Would I Recommend This Book?: This return to a more classic YA approach is truly refreshing and definitely worth your time.

I feel like this book's a little under-the-radar. Not to mention it just came out. But in the event that you've read it, how do you feel about it? Did the characters impress you the way they impressed me? Let me know in the comments below!

**IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Yesterday I posted and interview and giveaway for Playing Nice. So go enter to win a FREE COPY of either an e-book or finished copy of the book. Really, why wouldn't you want a free book?**

January 23, 2013

Interview + Giveaway: Rebekah Crane

Rebekah Crane fell in love with YA literature while studying Secondary English Education at Ohio University, but it wasn't until ten years and two daughters later that she started to write it. Inspired by her past students, growing up in Cleveland with its fabulous musical theater community, and music of all kinds (particularly the Avett Brothers), she created PLAYING NICE. It is her first published novel, but having an unbridled imagination, it's not the only fantasy world she's lived in (just ask her husband). She now lives in Colorado, where the altitude only enhances the experience.

Find Rebekah: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook

**A tremendously huge thank you to Rebekah for agreeing to this interview and giveaway. I send many neurotic emails just to be clear on absolutely everything and she has been JUST WONDERFUL. You guys should all read PLAYING NICE for her wonderfulness alone. But if that's not enough of a reason, read the interview, enter the giveaway and keep an eye on my blog for my review of PLAYING NICE, which should be up tomorrow! Now onto the good stuff.**

Queen Ella Bee: When you were Marty's age, did you ever imagine you would one day publish a novel? 

Rebekah Crane: No way! I wasn't even in Honors English. In college when I told my mom I wanted to be an English teacher, she laughed (very lovingly) at me. My older sister has always been the book nerd. BUT I have a very strong imagination. Always have. I think that's what ultimately pushed me to write. I needed to get stuff out of my head and onto paper. Turns out, I'm actually pretty good at it.

QEB: What authors were you biggest inspiration?

RC: Stephen Chbosky opened the door for me to the YA genre. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER changed my life. It's still my favorite book. Jane Austen is my romance idol. Mark Twain is just a GOD. (Can you tell I was an English teacher? I love the classics). But John Green, he's my modern day, "please let my writing career be half of what his is" inspiration.

QEB: What is your favorite genre/book within YA? (Feel free to be as vague with that as you'd like. I know I would be!) 

RC: It's hands down THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER. I'm a total geek for this book.

QEB: Do you anticipate writing another book? If so, do you think you'll stick with contemporary or branch out?

RC: My second book, ASPEN, is set to release next year at this time. It's a YA contemporary, black comedy about a girl struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after getting into a fatal car accident the summer before her senior year. It sounds very serious, but I promise, it's actually quite funny.

QEB: How hard was balancing writing and rest of your life? Do you have any secrets, tips or tricks to share?

RC: I'm an anxious person by nature, which lends itself to writing and taking care of two little kids. And I love to write, so making time to do it is a priority. Luckily, I have a VERY supportive husband who helps out a lot... and a baby-sitter who comes twice a week. My secret is to LOVE writing so much so that you'll let the laundry sit in the dryer a bit longer than usual so you can crank out a few more pages.

QEB: At the beginning of PLAYING NICE, Marty is described as "the nice girl". How would your high school classmates describe you?

RC: This is an interesting question... I think people who knew me on the surface in high school would probably think I was the "nice girl". People who were my friends knew I was nice, but also that I have a very dry, rough side. In high school, my mom once told me that I have a sharp tongue. My younger sister likes to say that if I was a character in Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT, I would be forced into Candor. She's right.

QEB: In your bio, you say a lot of PLAYING NICE is influenced by your students. Is any of it influenced by your own high school experiences? If it's one of the embarrassing parts, you don't have to say, but just know that this is a judgement-free zone ;)

RC: I loved high school. I met my husband in high school. :) Nothing in Playing Nice is specifically "my experience", but I will say that the friendship piece with Marty and Lil is influenced by how much I love my high school girlfriends. We would drive around in the Cleveland Metro Parks, blasting music, and it felt like the time of our lives. I did puke in my boyfriend's ear once, a very Marty-esque move, but he married me anyway. And every girl has a Matt Three-Last-Names somewhere in her past. *winks*

QEB: If you could pick one character from PLAYING NICE to be an actual person in real life, who would you pick?

RC: Alex. I love Alex.

QEB: Ooooh I love Alex too :)

On a more serious note, though: PLAYING NICE deals with a lot of very important issues like bullying and vicious gossip. Have you ever encountered something like what Lil and her mother had to deal with (whether it's something that happened to you or just something you witnessed)? What advice would you give someone in that situation?

RC: I managed to escape high school pretty unscathed. Thank goodness. My sister was not so lucky. It broke my heart to see what she went through. It still breaks my heart to this day. My advice is similar to Alex's words to Marty: people can be assholes, but that's not true for everyone. Find people who understand you, who love you for you. Fight against bullies by knowing yourself so well that you never stoop to their level. Dumbledore said, "There is a time when we must choose between what is right and what is easy." Have the confidence to do what's right, which most of the time happens not to be easy. And love yourself beyond people's words. Love is not solely defined by our words, but more so by our actions.

QEB: And finally: Is there anything you want your readers to know about you that they couldn't look up somewhere on the World Wide Web?

RC: I sleep with my eyes open. Its true. So does my daughter. It's super creepy.

QEB: Creepy indeed. *Edges away slowly*

No, just kidding, you're wonderful (and I'm sure your daughter is too).

Well, that's all the questions we have time for. Thanks again and again to Rebekah for stopping by. Now, I suggest the rest of you scroll down and enter the giveaways, okay? You definitely want to read this book!

Don't forget to check out Playing Nice, available now!

Martina "Marty" Hart is really nice. At least, that's what people think.

It's Marty's junior year at Minster High. Minster's a small town where making great grades, smiling pretty, helping old people, running the new-student Welcoming Committee, and putting up decorations for all the dances - including the totally awful Hot Shot fall hunting celebration - gets you... what? Marty's not sure. Instead of dreaming about a sororities-and-frats future at nearby University of Michigan, she's restless, searching for a way out of the box her controlling mother and best frenemy Sarah have locked her in. When Lil - don't call her Lily! - Hatfield transfers to Minster, Marty gets her chance. Lil's different. She smokes, wears black, listens to angry punk records, and lives in a weird trailer with her mother. Lil has secrets - secrets that make her a target for all the gossiping and online bullying Minster can muster. But so does Marty. And Marty sees something different in Lil. Something honest.

Something real.

PLAYING NICE is the achingly true story of a girl who's been following the rules for so long she's forgotten who she was when she started. It's about falling in love with the wrong people and not seeing the right ones, about the moments in life when you step out of line, take a chance... and begin to break free.


~ To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. DO NOT enter using the comments.
~ You must be 18 years or older or have a guardian's permission to enter.
~ The winners will be chosen randomly. Once chosen, the winners will be emailed. They will then have 48 HOURS to respond, otherwise another winner will be chosen.
~ The e-book raffle is INTERNATIONAL while the hardcover raffle is US & CANADA ONLY. Please don't enter the raffle for the hardcopy for PLAYING NICE if you live outside the US & Canada. It will only lead to sadness.
~ I reserve the right to disqualify anyone who tries to cheat the system. I WILL be checking the winning entries.

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Waiting On: The Program by Suzanne Young (8)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: The Program (Program #1)
Author: Suzanne Young
Release Date: April 30th, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them

[Summary Source: Goodreads]
This book sounds D-A-R-K dark and I am INTERESTED. 

So what are YOU waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments below!

January 22, 2013

Top Ten Settings I'd Like To See More Of (7)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
Fact: A lot of the books I love most are my favorite books not because of the setting but because the author writing the books is a genius. That being said, it'd still be pretty cool to see some books in different settings. Or rather some books that will take me on a very different adventure than I've been getting in my recent books. So here's my list of 10 different places I'd like to see more of in books. Who knows? Maybe some awesome author will see this and decide I'm their muse. I'd totally be down for that.

I'm really enjoying this resurgence of fairytale retellings but: PLEASE SOMEONE WRITE A YA RETELLING OF PETER PAN. It can be a story of Wendy getting kidnapped by Pirates in the 1600s ala Pirates of the Caribbean or whatever else. I don't even care. Just write it.

Speaking of pirates, I would like a YA book about pirates. I don't know how it would look, but I'm INTERESTED.

There have a been a whole bunch of Greek mythology themed books popping up across YA-land over the last few years, but I'd love to see more wholly based on Mount Olympus. As in, no more new people, just the standard gods told in a new way. That'd be pretty cool.  

You heard me. I want a book set in middle-of-nowhere Canada. And please let there be some Northern Lights involved in that magic right there.

5. THE 1950S
I would love a Pleasantville/Grease-esque book. It doesn't have to have the strange fantastical event, but that'd be pretty cool if it did.

What I mean by this is made-up-lands. I want more High Fantasy. I've got Seraphina and such, but I would like more, please. Man, I'm greedy.

Okay. Hear me out. I didn't think I would love Cinder because of the Cyborgs but I totally did, so I'm kinda curious to see if this could be a thing and if it might work better for me than vampires.

I feel like there must be more of these than I know about, but if there can be tons of books about our world meeting the apocalypse, I feel like there should be some more books about the end of Atlantis.

Is that a setting? Not so much. Do I care? Abso-freaking-lutely not. Time travel creates so much possibility. Even if you skip the Doctor Who-like aliens, there are so many ways a time traveling series can go. So really what I'm saying is that I would love to see a YA version of The Magic Treehouse. Please.

Shakespeare, Bronte, Dickens... I don't have a specific author in mind but I waaaaaant it.

As you can maybe tell, I love a good retelling and I greedily want more. What do you greedily want more of? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

January 21, 2013

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) 
Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: June 5th, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Page Count: 358
Source: Borrowed from the New York Public Library
Rating: ★★★★☆
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha... and the secrets of her heart.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

I really don't know how I didn't know about and read this book sooner because I loved it and I want more of it right now. Right now. Remind me: why is waiting a thing?

Let's break this down:

I think my favorite thing about this book is that it doesn't waste any time. The reader gets a little backstory at the beginning - just enough to situate a girl - and then you walk right into the Fold with Alina and Mal and things just START HAPPENING. And these things that happen? They're pretty amazing. That is to say, the plot is pretty amazing. I mean, warring countries, magic, orphans, romance... please, I will take more of that, thank you very much. The whole book is just so tragic and thrilling and makes me all of those feels that keep me coming back to books for more. 

Now, after discussing all of the plot love, I think it's worth mentioning that high fantasy is my favorite because of the amont of creativity it requires from the author. You have to build every since element of the the universe, map the whole thing out, know everything about it and only then can you write a story about it. What's really interesting about Leigh Bardugo is that she chooses to create this whole society based on Russian culture. This structure is highly imaginative and exciting and I LOVE it. 

Or rather, I love the idea of it, but I don't love how iffy some of the name/miscellaneous other choices are. I'm not Russian nor do I pretend to even know very much about Russian culture (therefore these inconsistencies didn't bother me TOO much), but if you're gonna incorporate a culture that much, things should be a little more put together. As in, there are some male/female last name troubles and a couple of other name/terms used that don't quite make sense in the scheme of the book. But like I said, I'm not personally offended, I only know it's a thing because I have a friend who speaks Russian and when I told her the protagonists name, she asked me if I meant Alina Starkova, not Alina Starkov, which led to some confusion followed by me learning a little Russian grammar.

My other somewhat small irritation with this story is how things go down at the end. I didn't quite buy how Alina saves the day. I really enjoy all of her self-realization throughout the whole book (stellar character development, really), but I'm not sure I totally understand how she pulled off that ending. It TOTALLY made sense earlier in the book when Alina finally figures out what's up with her Grisha powers, but it didn't really make sense at the end. Although, much respect to Leigh Bardugo for writing an ending that I didn't totally accept and yet somehow still love oh so very much. I mean, I'm pretty sure I would have either been really mad or totally lost if it the book ended ANY OTHER WAY.

I suppose I should now talk about the characters. There isn't a single one I don't love. I'm obviously all about Mal but HI THE DARKLING. LET'S BE FRIENDS. Or maybe not because you're a little cray and I'm not sure how I feel about that. But either way, I looooove. And then there's Alina. She's really such a brilliant protagonist. Even at the beginning when she was all frail and blah I loved her and then she transforms into this amazing, luminous being (sorry, I live for puns) who makes such a wonderful heroine while still be entirely relatable. I just can't get enough. And Mal. I'm really just going to leave it at "and Mal" and expect you all to just get it.

So. I've already mentioned how much I love Leigh Bardugo's mad story-telling skillz, the amazingly intricate plot of this story and ALL of the characters. But there are two things about this book I LOVE that I haven't gotten to yet:

1. THE PLOT TWIST, THE PLOT TWIST. Please. Guys. Ugh. I didn't see that coming even for one second.

2. The obvious and yet somehow MASTERFUL way this book juxtaposes good (light/The Sun Summoner) and evil (dark/The Fold) in a new, inventive, exciting way that isn't in any way stupid or derivative. The whole book is (among other things) an intelligent conversation of the balance between good and evil and all that wonderful deep stuff that I LOVE.

The long and short of it?

Brilliant. Seriously. I could gush about it, but I already have.
World Building: Wonderfully lush, if maybe not totally fact-checked.
Character Development: Everyone in this book really, serves a purpose, grows into their own and is entirely likable in their own way. Which is pretty impressive.
Prose: Pretty magical, just like the story.
Would I Recommend This Book?: I took this one out of the library and then later bought it. WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU?

Did some of the Russian/that ending bother you as well? Or was it all amazingness for you like the rest of the book was for me? Let me know in the comments below!

January 20, 2013

Review: Ditched by Robin Mellom

Title: Ditched: A Love Story
Author: Robin Mellom
Release Date: January 10th, 2012
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Page Count: 277
Source: Borrowed from the New York Public Library
Rating: ★★★★☆
Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. That said, she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her.

Ian, who always passed her the baseball bat, handle first.
Ian, who knew exactly when she needed red licorice.
Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom.

But when Justina is ditched, figuratively and literally, she must piece together--stain-by-stain on her thrift store dress--exactly how she ended up dateless...with only the help of some opinionated ladies at the 7-Eleven.

To get the whole store, Justina will have to face the boy who ditched her. Can losing out at her prom ultimately lead to finding true love?

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

Oh boy. From the very start of this book Justina is a hot freaking mess. I actually feel bad for her and her sad, dress-matching shoes. But after I spend a couple of pages mentally saying "oh honey" at just about every turn, I begin to realize that I'm kind of "oh honey"-ing myself. The stubbornness, the assuming, the making a mess of just about everything... well, I'm still pretty good at all of that, even though I try REALLY HARD to keep it together. And that's the beauty of YA. I might be 23 years old, but deep down inside I'm still just like Justina, the nervous girl who just wants prom to be perfect even though I don't think anyone's every really had a perfect prom (and if you did, I just don't want to hear about it. Seriously. Go home.).

Let's break this down:

The beginning of this book is really compelling. It starts early in the morning with Justina getting ditched on the side of the road in a stained prom dressed looking like she had the worst night of her life. Consider me and the ladies in the 7-Eleven totally hooked. 

Okay, I'll admit it, even though I find Justina totally relatable, there are times when I'm like "yo, bro, stop being so FREAKING annoying." I'm citing moments like her sudden alcoholism, her obsession with this perfect kiss and a couple other bits and bobs that I won't mention since I don't like spoilers. But other than that, I'm WITH this girl. I laugh with her, cry with her and cheer for her at the very end when things, inevitably, get straightened out.

And then there's Ian, whom I love. To be completely honest, there were totally times when I was like: you are not a real boy, do not lie to me. He's so sweet, kind, thoughtful, absolutely adorable and very un-boy-like. But then, when he sorta kinda actually does ditch Justina at prom, you're like, oh, he's all of these wonderful adjectives but he's also entirely clueless, which puts him squarely back into the real boy category.

Of course, there are other characters in this book that I adore: Justina's well meaning mother, Mike, Other Mike, Serenity, Bliss, Gilda, Donna and even Allyson, who, in the end, just wants someone to LISTEN to her, which is something I think everyone on the planet wants. But I think my favorite moment in the whole book (besides the scene at the tattoo parlor at the end, OBV) is with the pastor who walks into the 7-Eleven. Donna asks him why all men are scumbags and he's just like: "A man's behavior is often a reflection of the way he's been treated by a woman." And then I was like: O_O. I stopped reading after that and thought about all of my friendships with boys for a good 5 minutes. That pastor man (or rather, Robin Mellom) really knows what up.

Anyways, aside from awesome characters and sick knowledge bombs, the whole plot of this book was one of those crazy wild rides. I cringed at a lot of the stuff Justina does (aka when she gets annoying), but mostly I just felt for her. She gets jerked around and ditched and even molested a little bit on her prom night, which is supposed to be this hugely magical night. It's miserably miserable and because I relate to her so strongly, I got a little weepy and started yelling at the book a little bit. Then the prom-story chapter would end and we'd switch back to the 7-Eleven-present chapter and Donna and Gilda would start calling everyone scumbags for me and shove food at Justina and I somehow felt just a little bit better until the end came around and brought me my closure.

So really, what I'm trying to say, is that Robin Mellom hooked me, made me feel all kinds of feels (annoyed, thoughtful and otherwise) and then brought me some solid YA closure. I like. You might like too.

The long and short of it?

Plot: Proms are the worst, so this is all totally plausible.
World Building: A super sweet boy and a neurotic girl? This is high school, so yeah.
Character Development: Okay, at times I want to yell at Justina, but mostly I love everyone.
Prose: Clever, sarcastic, witty - I like.
Would I Recommend This Book?: Yes. Unless you really hate prom, instead of hating the actual event but loving books about it like I do.

Tell me about your prom. Was it as terrible as Justina's? Did you LOOOVE it? Would you want to read a book about said event or leave it to reality? Let me know in the comments below!

January 19, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (7)

"Stacking the Shelves" is a weekly feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews
This week was an exciting book week for me: my first ever ARCycling win arrived, as did an ARC of The Goddess Inheritance that I won through Twitter. And then a bought a few more (OBVIOUSLY). 


1. 37 Things I Love by Kekla Magoon
My first ARCycling win! I'm so excited read (and review) this one - it looks really interesting. Many thanks to the lovely ARCycling ladies. Your hard work, dedication and list making skills definitely do not go unnoticed by this blogger!

2. The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter
I was on Twitter back in December and all of the sudden Aimee Carter sends out a Tweet saying the first 5 bloggers who email her will win an ARC of The Goddess Inheritance. Yeah. I was ALL over that. 


3. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi
I've been debating whether or not to pick this series up for a while but then I did and now I need more. Always more.

4. The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell
I LOVE high fantasy so when this one came out, I just knew I had to have it.

5. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
On Wednesday I dragged myself out of bed, went down to 47th and 8th and entered my name in the lotto for Peter and the Starcatcher. It closes on Sunday and I knew that if I didn't catch the Broadway prequel to Peter Pan I would regret it forever. I won, I saw, I laughed, I cried. Guys, it was amazing. Peter Pan has always been a favorite of mine, but this just renewed my undying love of the Disney classic. So I decided that picking up Jodi Lynn Anderson's prequel was the next obvious choice!

6. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Another book I've been debating whether or not to buy. And then I did. I'm exciiiited.

7. Remembrance by Michelle Madow
I can't remember how I stumbled upon this book. I think I was just browsing the BN website and I found it, liked the premise, stuck it in my cart and bought it without thinking. I try not to impulse buy anymore, but it appears I can't quite kick the habit.

That's my haul for the week. What did you pick up? Sound off in the comments below!

January 18, 2013

Why Not Take it Out of the Library?

Fact: I don't like coffee. I just like saying Coffee Clutch in my best and deepest New York accent. Considering I'm a New Yorker, I'm pretty freaking good at it. So I've got my tea and I hope you have your heated beverage of choice, because it's time to gab the day away.

Now is when I tell you a short story about my Library History, followed by a couple of reasons why borrowing books from the library is THE BEST IDEA EVER. And ridiculously important to boot. After that, we shall have a discussion. I like discussions.


My family has a summer house out on Long Island. We'd spend every weekend out at that house when I was a kid and, on at least one afternoon of each weekend, we'd head over to the local library. I used to take stacks and stacks of books out of that library. And, if memory serves, it's because of the NYTimes best seller list displayed at that library that my older sister and I first got into HARRY FREAKING POTTER (whatever, NBD, it's not like I obsessed over that series FOREVER). My mother put her name on the hold lists for books 1 and 2, just weeks before book 3 came out. It was magical, whether I got my Hogwarts letter at 11 or not (spoilers: I didn't >.<).

After that, once I entered Middle School, I started going to my school librarians for references. That's when I fell in love with everything Tamora Pierce (MORE MAGIC. MORE). My school library didn't have the best selection, so I took out what I could there and filled in the gaps with some help from my parents and Barnes & Noble. I can't remember why I didn't spend more time at my local library. The New York Public Library has an astoundingly large collection. I guess I was just kind of enamored with the idea of owning all of my books. I didn't want to ever have to give them back, y'know? 

For a good, long while after my introduction to Tamora Pierce, I didn't really set foot in a library unless it was for school. But then I spent the summer between sophomore and junior year of college taking summer classes up in Boston. I'd brought a couple of books up to school with me and I'd bought a few more on top of that over the year. Moving everything between apartments at school and back to my home in New York was getting heavy and annoying. Not to mention my roommates that summer were really into the going to the library. So I took my license and a Netflix envelop with my name and address on it to the library and got myself a Boston Public Library card (yet another impressive library collection). 

That summer I'd take a couple of books out at the time, but I wasn't as library-addicted as I used to be as a kid. I took out books I knew I didn't care to have my shelf, books that I would read or even just skim and return them. Then, the winter of junior year, I went through a terrible book buying slump. I bought maybe 6 or 7 books in a row and I didn't love any of them. I was so FRUSTRATED. I hated spending money on books I didn't love and then having to either return them or find room for them on my book shelves even though I really didn't feel like they belonged there (I seriously hate both of those things. A LOT).

With this frustration proving a non-stop bother, I started taking more and more books out of the library when I got back to school. And, even though I will always love owning books best, I fell back in love with the library. I would take out books, read 'em, return the ones I didn't totally love and buy the ones I did. It was great. I was saving money, helping library circulation and ultimately supporting authors I truly love. I even started using the library website to help me keep track of my TBR, currently-reading and read lists (I didn't start with Goodreads until a few months ago). And then, when I moved back to New York this past summer, I got myself a library card there and the rest, as they say, is history.

But my full force return to the library isn't just because of my irritation with spending money on books I don't absolutely love. Upon returning to New York, I realized just how much my local libraries were suffering. Blame it on the recession, governmental priorities or whatever else you want, there just isn't enough funding for libraries. Yes, donations help, but it's also about taking books out of the library. That's how the great and wise people who work at libraries know what books are popular, what types of books to acquire for the library in the future and proof that there's a real need for the library in the first place. I know, I know, you're one person, it doesn't matter, blah, blah, blah, but GUYS I think I've taken like 100 books out of the library in the last year alone. That definitely makes a difference (and it SERIOUSLY helped me save some money - hi again there, ya pesky recession).

So whether you have some cash lying around to fork over to your local library or are looking for a way to save money, please, please, PLEASE go support your local library. I usually put books on hold on the library website and then go over to pick them up, but my public library system also has a surprisingly large amount ebooks and audiobooks you can download instantly to your ereader or wherever else, which is pretty freaking amazing if you ask me.

What's your library story? Did you get into amazingly magical authors like J.K. Rowling and Tamora Pierce because of a librarian? How do you support your local library? Do you take out books, ebooks, or audiobooks? There are so many things I want to know, so fill in the blanks for me in the comments below!

PS: Didya like all my rhyming in that last sentence? I thought about that one for a little bit, so I hope you did.

January 17, 2013

Review: You Have Seven Messages

Title: You Have Seven Messages
Author: Stewart Lewis
Release Date: September 13th, 2011
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 304
Source: Borrowed from the New York Public Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
It's been a year since Luna's mother, the fashion-model wife of a successful film director, was hit and killed by a taxi in New York's East Village. Luna, her father, and her little brother, Tile, are still struggling with grief.

When Luna goes to clean out her mother's old studio, she's stunned to find her mom's cell phone there—charged and holding seven unheard messages. As Luna begins to listen to them, she learns more about her mother's life than she ever wanted to know... and she comes to realize that the tidy tale she's been told about her mother's death may not be the whole truth.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

The other week I was at the library picking up some books on hold. I stopped to check out what my tiny little branch had on the shelves. This book was one of my impulse pick-ups. I'd never heard of it and I didn't even check Goodreads. I just liked the sound of the plot and so I grabbed it. Unfortunately, I didn't love this one the way I thought I would. I wanted a contemporary mystery and instead I got something much different.

Let's break this down:

So I thought this book would be a mystery. I love a sleuth-y teen (re: Veronica Mars). This book was not that. It's more a coming of age story. Which, don't get me wrong, I LOVE. Luna's a sweet girl who REALLY grows into her own throughout the course of the story. She's a truly compelling character and I want her to figure her life out. But I feel like a lot of her life situations are kinda unrealistic and maybe even a little contradictory.

Okay, so I'm not a celebrity's kid and I don't know any celebrity's kids, but I feel like Luna's life doesn't make any sense. One minute her father's all up in her face about where she is and her taking the subway, like a responsible parent. Then the next minute he's leaving her and her kid brother with a woman he met like two minutes ago while he goes on a business trip. Not to mention he sends Luna on her own off to Italy for a couple weeks to be lightly supervised by her uncle (whom I love, but who's also insanely irresponsible with his niece). Don't the rich and famous have au pairs, nannies and other miscellaneous hired help to watch after the kids? I mean, Oliver does, so I'm not sure why Luna wouldn't.

I'm also never entirely sure about the timeline. I get that it's been a year since the mother's death but wouldn't Luna's father be smart enough to do something with that apartment if he had something to hide? I don't know. I just feel like this story would be WAY more plausible if it had taken place sooner after Luna's mother's death. And, as mentioned before, I kind of wished there'd been more of a mystery. Luna's resourceful and clever. Even though this book is more about her growth as she listens to the messages and finds out the truth about her mother's last days, I just kind of wish there'd been something more for her to solve.

Furthermore, I feel like the last year since Luna's mother died is important to the storyline but isn't really utilized. The family dynamics were kind of muddy and this could have been cleared up with more flashback-y kind of stuff. Ugh, and then there's this: I'm never entirely sure how old Luna's brother is or why said brother never seems to be important to his parents, just to his older sister (that's a way more minor point than the others mentioned in this paragraph, but it IRKED me).

But going back to Oliver for a quick second - he's adorbs, do NOT get me wrong, but I don't totally get why he's all flighty in this book. It's sort of explained but not really. Either way, I think his relationship with Luna is super sweet and one of the redeeming features of the story. There's a mystery I wanted solved. Mostly because the other mystery - the death of the mother, isn't really a mystery and it falls kind of flat.

I don't know guys. I really, really liked Luna's character development. I also really like Daria and Oliver. And I think Tile's a cutie. But this plot seems to fight with itself a lot. Luna's an adult, but no, she's a child, and then no, her father is lying to her and acting all cold but really he's a great dad... these inconsistencies go on much more than I'd like. But if you're focus on Luna's growth throughout, this story really is very compelling and worth the read, if not the purchase.

The long and short of it?

Plot: Strangely conflicted.
World Building: The confusing lifestyle of the rich and the famous potentially mis-represented?
Character Development: The redeeming aspect of the book. Luna really carries the show here and she does it spectacularly.
Prose: Earnest, just like the story itself.
Would I Recommend This Book?: Not worth the buy but it could be an interesting library borrow.

So tell me, have you read this one? Did you get the timeline better than me? If you did, could you help a girl out? Pretty please?