Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Adorkable by Sarra Manning

Adorkable by Sarra Manning
Reviewed by Maggie: May 31, 2012
Published May 24, 2012 by Atom
Goodreads • Buy now at Book DepositoryKindle
Preorder paperback at Amazon

J'adork. I know I was just THIS BOOK GETS ME-ing about Holier Than Thou but... this book gets me! Adorkable gets the online me -- the one who tweets and tumblrs and blogs and pins. If the last sentence makes no sense to you, this book may not be for you because one of the things I love about Adorkable is that it doesn't feel the need to explain all that. You either get it or you don't.

Jeane Smith gets it. She's a 17-year-old student and blogger who runs a mini online empire based on all things adorkable. #4 on The Ad♥rkable Manifesto is:
Suffering doesn't necessarily improve you but it does give you something to blog about.
Jeane is smart and sassy. She's Jessica Darling meets Tavi Gevinson. Tavi, for those unfamiliar, is a fashion blogger who at 13 was sitting front row at fashion shows around the world and featured in magazines, including French Vogue. Now 16, Tavi turned her Style Rookie blog into Rookie Magazine and even got Jon Hamm to contribute to her 'Ask a Grown Man' series.
No big deal. Jeane Smith has a million followers on Twitter and is flown around the world too. Tavi and Jeane also both had gray hair at one point.

Michael Lee, on the other hand, doesn't get it. Who cares about online popularity when you're actually popular, right? He's the Big Man On Campus -- perfect looks, perfect jock, perfect family. He's also half-Asian, which made me very happy. The main thing upsetting his life is his girlfriend, Scarlett, who is suspiciously spending a lot of time with Jeane's boyfriend, Barney. And there's nothing adorkable about Barney -- he is a straight up dork. Michael decides to confront Jeane about her boyfriend, and thus begins a series of encounters, both online and in real life.

I freakin' loved this book. At first, I was hesitant about the dual points of view because the male voice wasn't convincing. Michael says something about Jeane's "fugly face" and immediately an image of Regina George popped into my head. Thankfully, this was short-lived and Manning got Michael's voice. The star, though, was Jeane. She was as infuriating as she was endearing, but she cracked me up. My notes at one point were just a series of LOLs.

There are so many things that I loved, but on the top of the list is that Jeane isn't secret pretty, meaning she sees herself as a dork while the rest of the world sees her as some supermodel. This is such a tired trope. Jeane is short with some wobbly bits, and she's totally fine with that. That doesn't affect her sex life because -- NEWSFLASH -- 17-year-olds have sex lives! Jeane says:
I wound myself around him and in that moment I just wanted to be closer still, even if it meant climbing inside him like he was a sleeping bag, which actually doesn't really work as an analogy and makes me sound like some kind of sick serial killer who likes to wear my victims' skins.
There's also mention of female masturbation, which actually is a newsflash to Michael. Oh boys.

Adorkable gets how we interact now and the disconnected connectedness of those social networks. Manning sums up their appeal with this line:
This was what I loved most about Twitter: riffing on utter nonsense with a complete stranger who turned out to be on the same bizarro wavelength as me.
The tone of the high school characters is also perfect, or totes perfect. Adorkable is a cute, contemporary story that won't give you a toothache (copyright: Cher Horowitz). Now read it so we can tweet each other about it!

Rating: 4/5 stars.

For British Eyes Only
Twat count: 4
This is something we do on our Saturday Night Skins sessions on Wear The Old Coat. You can read how it began here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Adventures in the Bargain Book Bin: May 30, 2012

By Noelle

I admit it: I spend at least a couple hours a month in the Amazon Bargain Book section.  I generally look for hardcovers under $8,  paperbacks under $5 and e-books under $4.  Just in case clicking through 100 pages of book links isn't your thing, here is what caught my eye this time around.

It's all ebooks all the time this time around with plenty of Kindle deals to be found:

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini • Goodreads
Kindle edition - 99 cents

Wander Dust by Michelle Warren • Goodreads
Kindle edition - 99 cents

Hourglass by Myra McEntire • Goodreads
Kindle edition - $1.99

Spinning Out by David Stahler Jr. • Goodreads
Kindle edition - $1.99

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake • Goodreads
Kindle edition - $2.99

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi • Goodreads
Kindle edition - $2.99

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers • Goodreads
Kindle edition - $2.99
Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday • Goodreads
Kindle edition - $2.99

Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley • Goodreads
Kindle edition - $2.99

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bookmark Binge: May 27, 2012

Haven't gotten enough of...

Anya's Ghost?
Check out Vera Brosgol's website for additional Anya artwork and more! There's even a kickass Katniss rendition. I'm kinda tempted to buy the Anya Rock print in the shop.
There's also Brosgol's FAQ which includes this video of a start to finish digital drawing.
Here's the book trailer too.
Don't take my word for it, read YA author Cory Doctorow's review.

Oh look at all these links lying around...
To all of you who think I'm joking with my Tomorrow series Ellie survival lessons, check out how YA saved a 13 year old's life. (via Bookshelves of Doom)
Readlists: bundling web pages, articles etc into a e-book to read later on your Kindle.
Mandee and Trinity report back from the Her Dark Materials Tour featuring Kirsty Eagar, Lucy Christopher and Margo Lanagan.
Speaking of road trips, here's a cool interactive map of the road trip in Paper Towns.
It's not often that Florida gets something right but Lilli Leight sure did with her Giving Library.

Coming soon--what we're reading and/or theory

Let's be honest...hopefully everything I didn't read/review last week the last few weeks. 

My Spurs are playing in the Western Conference Finals this week! :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Review by Noelle: May 25, 2012
Published June 7, 2011 by First Second
Goodreads • Buy on AmazonBook Depository

As if it being five o'clock on a Friday of a three day weekend isn't exciting enough, I found a blue library envelope on my doorstep this afternoon with a brand spanking new copy of Anya's Ghost inside.  Guys, it is GORGEOUS. I'm talking Golum "my precious" impersonation inspiring gorgeous.

Less than an hour later, I'm at the last page and officially have a new favorite YA graphic novel.

Let's get this out of the way first: Anya Borzakovskaya is awesome. She's got the normal teenage insecurities going on and her desire to blend in is compounded by being a Russian immigrant.  She looks around her and sees skinny, blonde and effortless perfection compared to her love handles, cultural heritage and social awkwardness.  She's negative and snarky, so focused on conformity she's unable to appreciate the unique aspects of her life and the good things that come with it.

Anya may think her greatest wish is to go unnoticed but in reality she's just looking for someone who can understand what she's going through.  She never expected to find that someone at the bottom of a the form of a 90 years past dead ghost of a teenage girl.  But does her new best friend understand her as well as she seems? Is assimilation worth giving up autonomy? Are your wants and needs more important simply by having the distinction of being yours?

As I mentioned, it's the Friday of a three day weekend so I'll keep this short, but Anya's Ghost is a real keeper. Brosgol deftly accomplishes so much in so little space. There is an economy of text but an abundance of meaning.  The message is wonderful.  The illustrations are engaging.  The heroine is spectacular.  The more I learned about Anya the more I celebrated the differences she despised.  I really enjoyed and highly recommend this book.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo

Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo
Reviewed by Maggie: May 24, 2012
Published May 1, 2012 by Allen & Unwin
Goodreads • Buy at Fishpond

This is how you start a new genre. Holier Than Thou ushered in "New Adult" with a bang, and I'm going as far as to say that thus far, it's the Best Book of 2012.

I had mixed feelings about Laura Buzo's Good Oil, now titled Love and Other Perishable Items in the States, and nervously pre-ordered Holier Than Thou. I figured if I didn't like it, I could pass it on to the Fishpond fearful. Now? You'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands! (Hello, random people who came to this page expecting to see Charlton Heston. Gotcha! Now read this book.)

My best friend just finished The Hunger Games and called me in a post-reading wondrous daze. "What is it about YA? What is it that appeals to so many people?" For me, I find in YA what I'm not getting in a lot of contemporary adult fiction -- a connection. Sure I'm technically an "adult", but I still think of myself as a girl and I'm still trying to carve out my niche professionally and personally. I don't care about weddings and babies and fertility issues. I'm sure I will in the future, but as of right now, those topics are irrelevant and unappealing. One element missing from YA that I find in adult lit is the career aspect. Laura Buzo examines all the elements I love about YA and the one I love about adult lit in Holier Than Thou.

Holier Than Thou is about Holly, a 24-year-old social worker. The book opens with Holly and her co-worker being called to a client's house. They arrive too late. Then we jump back to a year earlier when Holly and her boyfriend Tim sign the lease to an apartment and move into their very first place. This is where the story starts -- on an exciting and hopeful note. The first apartment without parents! We jump back a little further to Year Ten, when much of Holly's current social group was formed and the year that her father died. Rather than be confusing, I liked the structure and how we learned of the different people and events that influenced who Holly is now. Who is Holly now? She's most of the people I know.
"How did this become my job, my life? I can't remember what I was supposed to be doing . . . but surely this wasn't it."
Holly has a good but stressful job, a solid relationship with Tim, and lifelong bonds with her friends. She's "Wozza" to them, or "Woman of Steel", the girl who stoically handled her father's cancer and death even as her mother broke down. So what's the problem? This is where Buzo really shines. This is a new adult, someone who's just entered the work force, who has to decide whether to stay on the path she's started on because she'll be on that path for the next 40 years. She's someone who, after barreling through high school and college and post-grad, is finally examining her motivations. She's in a serious relationship but is this The One? There's the guy who got away -- who she talks about to the guy she works with.

Speaking of the guy she works it, she finds she's talking to him... a lot. While YA deals very well with losing friends and friends moving away, what it doesn't cover is how work affects those friendships you've had forever. While you're in school, you're pretty much on the same level as your friends. Being a student and studying is your career. Once you graduate though, that's when who you think you are is really tested. Your ideals don't always pay the bills. Or you find your dream job is more of a nightmare. Some friends flourish in their chosen field. Some friends end up stuck. Slowly, a separation begins to form -- nothing major, just little things like someone making more money. Instead of introducing your friend with who they hope to be ("This is my friend, Kim. She's pre-law."), it's now who they are ("This is Kim. She's a lawyer."). It's a subtle difference that can work its way into group dynamics. Work colleagues are suddenly the group you encounter most, and they're the ones who understand without explanation why you've had a rough day. It's telling that the title of the book refers to Holly's work nickname, "Hollier-than-thou", and not Wozza.

Holier Than Thou is an amalgam of the best of YA and the best of adult lit. I responded to it more than any book I've read this year and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

Favorite passage: "A nurse and social worker took fifteen minutes out of their shitty thankless job in the roughest corner of town, sat on a couple of milk crates drinking coffee, flopped their real selves out on the cement and both liked what they saw."

Recommended listening: Reynje created a fantastic playlist that was the perfect accompaniment to this book. In addition, I love Long Highway by The Jezabels.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bookmark Binge: May 20, 2012

Haven't gotten enough of...

A Straight Line to My Heart?
Fun fact: Bill Condon got a one day trial at a paper and ended up staying for 10 years.

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour?
Watch a video of Morgan Matson chatting about the book.
In case you missed it, I made Roger's roadtrip playlists into a grooveshark compilation.
Some fun interviews with Matson: Books Complete Me and Chick Loves Lit.
A Flickr compilation of The Loneliest Highway in the World.

Oh look at all these links lying around...
Mindi Scott on concert field trips in the name of establishing character voice.
Via bookshelvesofdoom a breakdown of the year in YA covers with awesome infographics.
Flavorwire's 30 Gorgeous and Innovative bookshelves.
Once again Flannery schools everyone in the art of the book event recap.
Pretty much the best In My Mailbox ever? We think so.
What characters would you start to resemble if you really are what you read? (via YA Highway)
I kind of wished they'd saved this cool cover effect for a different book.
Belle's Bookshelf and the search for a non-cheesy wedding reading.  Any suggestions? (CONGRATS Belle! :D)

Coming soon--what we're reading and/or theory

Maggie: (To review this week! Maybe. Hopefully.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Reviewed by Noelle: May 18, 2012
Published May 4, 2010 by Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
Goodreads • Buy on AmazonKindleBook Depository

I've read enough YA road trip themed books lately to consider myself a bit of an expert on the subject.  In fact I've noticed that there are a set of rules for the Road Trip Novel--rules that if followed can overcome the cliches to make something truly special.  Rules that if ignored can bring down the whole book.

First things first, a Road Trip Novel needs a believable reason for a teenager to drive across the country with a complete (but extremely hot, natch) stranger.  The catalyst for the road trip can be the hardest part to pull off.  Do it successfully and the readers are in for the ride and more willing to overlook the plot contrivances that make up the genre.  Do it wrong and the reader wants to turn the car back around and go home.

Often times the catalyst is a life-changing event: a death in the family, leaving for college,  a leisurely grand tour of Midwest tourist traps on the way to see if your kinda sorta friend was actually kidnapped or just ran away.  Ahem. Like I said, some options work better than others.

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour follows the first option.  After the death of her father, Amy's family scatters across the country.  Her brother gets shipped off to rehab, her mom takes a new job in Connecticut and Amy is all set to join her after school lets out for the summer.  There's only one problem: Amy's mom needs her to drive the family car from California to Connecticut and Amy doesn't drive anymore--not since the accident.

Enter Roger, childhood neighbor home from college and en route to Philadelphia to spend the summer with his dad.  And whaddya know? Roger has the requisite valid drivers license, stacked iPod and boyish good looks mandatory for the job.

Rather than follow the itinerary and booked hotel rooms set out by Amy's mother, both Amy and Roger agree for personal reasons (hers involving visiting landmarks relevant to her dad and his involving visiting landmarks relevant to his inability to get over his ex-girlfriend) to ditch the plan and go out on a detour neither will forget.

The second key to the success of a Road Trip Novel revolves around the three C's: cuteness, (plot) contrivance and cliches.  For one to be a success, the first C has to outweigh the last two and for the most part Amy and Roger's Epic Detour does just that.  It is undeniably cute.  I finished it with a big ol' smile on my face....and then I sat down a few days later to write a review and instead of all the cuteness, reality kept butting in with questions like:
  • What grade felony is it to transport a minor over state lines without the permission of her guardian?
  • Do Jeep Liberties have THE best gas mileage of all time?
  • Why why why would you pick Krystals over BBQ in Memphis? 
  • Doesn't Matson realize you cannot "sip" a Dairy Queen Blizzard without either the use of a microwave or bursting all the blood vessels in your eyes? (This came up in the middle of a pivotal (MAKEOUT) scene and I swear I heard the record scratch sound effect in my head. I couldn't get over it.  Ask Maggie about enduring my five paragraph email ode to Blizzards.)
But while some of the details didn't hold up under cross examination and when you actually list out all the cliches (honeymoon suite! makeover! sharing a single bed!) they seem a little much, Matson totally nailed the feelings behind a Road Trip Novel.  The strange conversations around mile 750 feeling.  The only you and I saw that happen feeling.  The camaraderie.  The food.  The MUSIC.  (That's a link to all of Roger's playlists compiled into one Grooveshark list---before I realized there was already one on Spotify. Yay productivity circling the drain!)

In the end, Amy and Roger are just too likable and Matson's writing is just too charming to ignore. And that's why, while the book is predictable and pretty generic in it's choices, it is still a heckuva lot of FUN.  Rating: 3.5/5 stars.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: A Straight Line to My Heart by Bill Condon

A Straight Line to My Heart by Bill Condon
Review by Maggie: May 17, 2012
Published August 1, 2011 by Allen & Unwin
Goodreads • Buy at Fishpond • Book Depository •
Preorder at Amazon

I know, you're not supposed to judge books by their covers. But publishers need to quit false advertising their books too. You put a smiling girl in a rainbow shirt on the cover? Excuse me for expecting a smiling girl in a rainbow shirt inside the cover.
(Language in video is hilarious but NSFW)

When there's a disconnect between the cover and the book, I usually feel a disconnect with the book itself. A Straight Line to My Heart, with that gorgeous cover and cutesy title and main character named Tiff, started off in line with my expectations. There's a meet-cute, a love interest, etc. However, it quickly veered away from the cute and toward a deeper, more poignant story that exceeded my expectations. This is the rare case where despite the misdirection of the cover, it didn't affect my enjoyment of the book at all and I found myself unexpectedly loving this book.

A Straight Line to My Heart is about Tiff, recent high school graduate and wannabe reporter. She's the type of girl who says things like,
"If you can't get a boy, get a book, that's my motto."
Basically, I instantly liked her and related to her. Her world consists of Reggie, her adoptive father, Bull, her adoptive brother/father figure, and Kayla, her best friend. I expected Davey, the boy she meets-cute at the library of all places, to quickly become the center of that world. Thankfully, Bill Condon takes my expectations and shoves them where the sun don't shine. (Forks?) Davey is a thought, for sure, but Tiff's reality is that she's a high school graduate without college prospects. Her one prospect is an internship at a local paper, where she's immediately schooled by a wizened oldtimer named Shark. This is a slice of life story about the different elements that affect your life: family, friends, colleagues, work, and yes, that person you want to be more than friends with.

What I really liked about this book is that there is such a strong sense of family, but "family" isn't a mother and a father. It's Reggie and Bull. Reggie isn't even Bull's biological father but his stepfather. However, a lack of bloodline or traditional roles doesn't mean there's less of a family dynamic. Tiff actually has one of the best relationships with her family that I've seen in YA. After Bull says good night to her one night, Tiff thinks,
"We must have had a thousand moments like this, being together and happy. Not one of them stands out from the rest. I suppose it's like eating chocolate. You love it at the time, but after you've licked the last trace from your lips, it's just gone. 
I turn on my computer and write about today in my journal, so I can keep it."
It's such a simple sentiment but is loaded with so much feeling. That's how I would characterize the whole book really. There were so many little moments throughout the book that I loved. The ending was another little moment, but a big one to Tiff, and it was perfect.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Monday, May 14, 2012

YA Authors... Like A Boss!

2nd May, 2012: Melina Marchetta writes a post on goodreads where she mentions the possibility of an event in LA.

2nd May, 2012: Maggie writes a comment to said post on goodreads where she shamelessly throws herself at Melina, begging her to hold an event in LA.

4th May, 2012: Melina responds. LIKE A BOSS.
There's a reason why she's called The Queen. And I will bet on the Goddess of Blood and Tears every day of the week! Is anyone else planning on going to Comic-Con and/or stalking Melina around LA?

Dance Party: In Honor

We haven't had a dance party in awhile and we both just finished In Honor by Jessi Kirby and thought--- any excuse to put dancing + Rusty in the same daydream, right?  We'll give you a moment.

Setting the mood:  Carry On My Wayward Son, Free FallingGod Blessed Texas, On the Road Again, Hello Darlin'.  And don't forget to read Maggie's review!

We'll get you started with our song picks and then you guys can fill out the form below to submit your requests.

There are some really poignant scenes in this book, but there are also some silly sugarcoated moments. I'm going for the silly, sweet song that I would blast at full volume on a road trip. And make Rusty sing along to.
Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen

So I'm totally picking the song that makes everyone realize they're one tequila shot away from drunk crying but oh my god it really IS like it comes and goes in waves, man:
Comes and Goes (in Waves) by Greg Laswell

Your turn! The request line is open.  Have you read In Honor? Tell us which song NEEDS to be on the soundtrack.  Haven't read it yet? What is your fave road trip song? Favorite Texas song? Favorite Tim Riggins song? We want to hear it:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bookmark Binge: May 13, 2012

Haven't gotten enough of...

In Honor?
Jessi Kirby does the rounds of the Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit (a web ring of YA authors) and
...chats with Jennifer Echols about where she finds inspiration as well as her latest reads.
...chats with Gretchen McNeil about her writing process and her casting choices for Honor.
Enter to win a signed copy of In Honor at Alice Marvels.

Matthew Quick's Boy21 playlist is an actual chronological soundtrack for the book.
Quick talks about Boy21's cover evolution over at Melissa Walker's blog.
Matt de le Peñreviews Boy21 and talks basketball novels in the New York Times.

Oh look at these links just lying around...
Have you seen The Avengers yet? Check out this Avengers YA Reading List.
Via bookshelves of doom: A collection of Where the Wild Things Are inspired artwork.
This warms our book spreadsheet loving hearts: How to Make a Series Bible at YA Highway.
FYA ranks the hottest cartoon characters (Team Dmitri and Mako all the way--Noelle)
Laini Taylor's How to Write a Novel.
So excited that John Kenn Mortensen's Post-It Monster illustrations are now in book format.

Coming soon--what we're reading and/or theory



Thursday, May 10, 2012

Summer Lovin'... Had Me a Blast

When I found out Jenny Han, Jessi Kirby, and Morgan Matson were kicking off their Summer Lovin' tour in LA, I immediately re-read Flannery's recap of the YA or Bust! tour to get tips.
  • Arrive early
  • Bring a camera to record the authors
  • Take notes
I was reminding myself of those tips as I peeled down Ocean View Blvd at 7pm -- for a 7pm signing. Luckily, the event hadn't started yet. The Once Upon a Time bookstore in Montrose was packed by the time I got there. I was planning on using my phone to record the authors, but, uh, I forgot to charge my spare battery and had just enough juice to get text updates about the Spurs-Jazz game from Noelle. (Thanks, Noelzy!) And because I know you're dying to know, yes, the Spurs won. :) The only other camera I had was my Fuji Instax, so yeah, no video. As to the third tip, notes... I fully intended to take them. On to my faulty memory recap!

The first thing I noticed was just how stylish each author was. Jessi was rocking a sundress and boots (no, they weren't red, but they were very cool), Jenny had a cute dress with killer heels (very Carrie Bradshaw), and Morgan wore a shift dress and flats that Zooey Deschanel would bat her eyelashes off for. Each author introduced herself and then read a passage from her book. Morgan started it off with a passage from her new book, Second Chance Summer, which was the only book I hadn't read, though I definitely plan to. Jenny read from We'll Always Have Summer, which was just released in paperback with a special bonus -- Conrad's letters. Jessi read from In Honor, which I had just devoured the day before.

After the reading and before the Q&A with the audience, Jenny decided they needed to play Marry, Date, Kill. The choices? Voldemort, Nagini, and Dobby. Ha! Before I give you their answers, I'll give you some time to ruminate on what your answers would be.

*************************** PINKY, ARE YOU PONDERING WHAT I'M PONDERING ***************************

Jenny, the instigator, made Morgan answer first. Morgan decided to kill Nagini, date Voldemort, and marry Dobby. Her explanation: You can't date a snake and Dobby is the sweetest.

Jenny answered her question next and decided to kill Nagini, date Dobby, and marry Voldemort. Explanation: She would marry Voldemort and change him.

Jessi decided to kill Nagini, date Voldemort, and marry Dobby.

The next round of Marry, Date, Kill was even better. Choices? Peeta, Gale, and... Finnick! Dun dun dun! I think the audience actually gasped when Jenny made Finnick the third option.

Morgan: Date Finnick, Marry Peeta, and Kill Gale.
Jenny: Date Finnick, Marry Peeta, and Kill Gale.
Jessi: Marry Gale, Date Peeta, and Kill Finnick.

Jessi's answers got the most reaction from the audience and the other authors. When Jessi said Gale was her favorite, Jenny responded (paraphrasing), "What's there to love? He's barely even IN the first book!" Morgan said that she was glad there was a table between her and Jessi. Jessi, though, stood by her man. I knew Jessi would pick Gale. I mean, hello, have you read In Honor? Anyone who owns this shirt would love Gale.

The Q&A followed, but really, how can you follow Marry, Date, Kill? This is my excuse for not remembering the questions -- except my own that is. I asked who they would cast as Finnick (because that's the question I ask everybody). Some suggestions were tossed out, like Chris Hemsworth, but Morgan wondered if that would be "too much Hemsworth." If I had taken notes, this is where I would have written "THERE CAN NEVER BE TOO MUCH HEMSWORTH."

After the Q&A, the wonderful staff at Once Upon a Time got us cupcakes. This was in addition to the swag provided by Simon & Schuster.

At the table, each author also had a little something for us. Morgan had Second Chance Summer postcards, Jenny had Burn for Burn chapter samplers, and Jessi had bottle cap keychains with a picture of a boot. I actually brought dduk, a Korean rice cake, for Jenny because that's how we Koreans roll (and I thought it would be funny). I got my books signed, including my Burn for Burn ARC. I was worried that only books purchased at the store would be eligible for signing, but Once Upon a Time is the coolest bookstore ever and they said that as long as we bought one book from them, we could get as many signed as we wanted. I ended up buying 5 books. They gave me the books in a reusable tote and I nearly exploded from the You've Got Mail / Shop Around the Corner of it all.
I had a lot of fun at this signing and loved meeting other bloggers, like the girls from Read Now Sleep Later. Alethea and Thuy even had these gorgeous bookmarks for their blog, which I shamelessly asked for. I will definitely try to attend the next signing at Once Upon A Time for Marissa Meyer (Cinder) on June 7th. Come!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick
Reviewed by Noelle: May 9, 2012
Published March 5, 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Goodreads • Buy on AmazonKindle 

Finley's entire life is basketball and he trains tirelessly even though he's nowhere near the best player on the team.  As his dad says, effort can outwork talent.  Basketball consumes his every waking thought and he wouldn't have it any other way.  Without basketball and the team he'd have too much time to remember all of the things he's desperate to forget.  Russ is new to town, a basketball phenom whose love of the game died with his parents.  Now he's calling himself Boy21, saying he's an alien life form and obsessed with outer space.  Can Finley do as his coach asks and somehow help Russ, even if it means giving up his hard earned starting spot?
"Sometimes a player's greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team."
--Scottie Pippen 
"No matter how good one player is defensively, he's only as good as his help defense." (source)
And that is exactly what Boy21 is about---except Matthew Quick isn't talking about basketball.  He's talking about life.  Sure, basketball brings Finley and Russ together and at different times and in different ways it acts as a savior for both boys.  But as all consuming and amazing and beautiful as it can be, both Finley and Russ are forced to experience how tragedy can make anything insignificant--even your heretofore reason for living.  Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you love something.  Real life has a way of changing your priorities and when it does, it's the team you have around you that counts.

All of Matthew Quick's trademarks are here: rough neighborhood, sad histories, finding (non-romantic) love in a hopeless place, unconventional friendships and support systems, a tragic event, and behind it all a hope so earnest it's almost hard to endure.  

There's a shift in direction between the first and second half and I think there is some confusion created by the change of focus.  Some decisions and conclusions seem very abrupt.  Still, there's much to love about Boy 21, especially the relationships between Finley, his dad and Pops and Finley and Russ.  Like Sorta Like a Rock Star, the ending is a little too convenient to seem wholly realistic but by the time you get there you are so won over by the protagonists that you are willing to forgive just about anything to believe good things can happen for them.

You might not know this about me but I'm a huge basketball fan.  Obviously I loved reading such a well done basketball book.  It's fitting though that I finished this book the same night I watched my favorite team get eliminated in the NBA playoffs.  But instead of being bummed, thanks to Matthew Quick, maybe tonight I'll go out on my porch, look at the stars and think about things bigger than basketball.

Rating: 3.5 stars with an inclination to round up to 4 stars.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Review: In Honor by Jessi Kirby

In Honor by Jessi Kirby
Reviewed by Maggie: May 7, 2012
Published: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Goodreads • Buy at AmazonKindleBook Depository

My unofficial title for In Honor is 33 Shades of Blue. This isn't mommy porn; this is straight up Maggie porn.

There are a lot of reasons to read In Honor -- likable main character, road trip to California, scuba diving (who knew it could be so hot?), and some really beautiful images of nature. But really, there's ONE main reason:
Tim Riggins.

Before I digress, and I will digress, let's talk plot. In Honor begins with our main character, Honor, at the funeral of her beloved older brother, Finn. 18-year-old Finn, the high school football star who rejected his college football scholarship to enlist in the Marines, died while serving in Iraq. A few days after he dies, Honor gets a delayed letter from him written months before his death. This isn't a meaningful, symbolic letter written while in the trenches because a) there aren't any trenches in Iraq, and b) this isn't a paranormal romance where the characters know when they're going to die. Rather this letter is more along the lines of a you-always-complain-about-me-never-writing-you-any-letters-so-here's-a-letter letter.

However, as a surprise, Finn included two tickets to see Kyra Kelley, Honor's all time favorite singer, in California. Finn closes the letter by telling Honor to put her feet in the ocean and tell Kyra Kelley about "her handsome older brother." Honor knows this isn't some final dying wish of his, but as a way to hold on to him, she chooses to interpret his letter literally. All you readers who complain about how underdeveloped parents are in YA, this isn't a problem here. The parents are killed off way before the book starts. (Is it wrong to put a smiley face here? Yeah, probably. Okay, moving on...) For Honor, losing Finn isn't just losing a brother, it's losing her only family. This makes her impetuous decision to drive alone from Texas to California, without telling anyone, to see a concert believable. Sure, she's grasping at straws but you can understand her motivation. However, she doesn't end up making the trip alone. Enter Rusty.
Rusty was Finn's best friend. They did everything together from the time they were 5 years old, including rebuilding a classic Chevy Impala. However, when Finn decided to enlist instead of going to college together, their friendship cracked. This is why Honor is surprised when she spots Rusty at the funeral. What doesn't surprise her is that there's a beer bottle wrapped in a paper bag at his side. He spots her the next day as she's preparing to leave for California in the Pala, and he invites himself along. This is where the story really begins.

Now let's get back to #33. This is why I love YA. Jessi Kirby unabashedly loves Friday Night Lights and Tim Riggins and unapologetically writes him into her story.
Picture of Jessi Kirby posted by Heidi Kling on Twitter.
Look at the shirt! How can you not love her?
However, such is her talent that it doesn't read like fan fiction -- or my diary. Tim is the base, and the face and the voice (at least in my head), but the character is Rusty. There are times when Rusty says or does something and it's just that much hotter picturing Tim Riggins saying and doing it. Including talking about foot sweat. It cracked me up when Honor, after having shared a beautiful moment with someone else, is walking through the woods pondering the sweetness of lif--OH HAI, SHIRTLESS RUSTY. Can you blame her? Not even when Rusty says things like,
"There's a lot they like about me, H, but it doesn't have much to do with football. Or conversation."
I put a "33!" in my notes here. Speaking of my notes, I needed to buy a bigger pack of Post-it flags. And the "HO HU" is actually "UH OH" and it refers to tequila. Most of those notes refer to Riggins-worthy moments, but my favorite notes involve Finn. I loved Finn, or rather the memory of him. If you've read Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer, the sibling relationship in In Honor rivals that. I sobbed through Twenty Boy Summer, but In Honor has a much lighter tone with notable poignant moments. There are two endings in this book. The first one, I loved. I thought it was true to the characters and as it should be. The second ending... I didn't need. Don't get me wrong, it was SUPER cute, but I didn't think it was necessary. There are some predictable scenes but overall, I really enjoyed where this book took me. And for Honor and for me, it's about the journey, not the destination. 

Rating: Riggins would tell you to read this book. 4/5 stars.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bookmark Binge: May 6, 2012

In case you haven't gotten enough of...

Graffiti Paris?
Fafi, one of the artists in Graffiti Paris, has a new book and is on tour. Next stop, London. 

The Tomorrow Series?
The film version is now online through Amazon and Netflix.

Burn for Burn?
Jenny Han is touring with Jessi Kirby and Morgan Matson. Summer lovin'! (CA only)
Burn for Burn has a tumblr that will be updated with information.

Look at all of these links just lying around...
Wear The Old Coat features a day in the life of the lovely Leanne Hall.
A new favorite tumblr: Underground New York Library.
Read the first chapter of Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan.
YA Highway and appoggiatura characters. Can anyone think of more YA examples?

Coming Soon -- What We're Reading and Reviewing...In Theory


Some YAA news:
We decided it might be nice for both of us to be able to take part in Twitter conversations at the same time (genius, right?) so we did a little Twitter housekeeping this week.  @YA_anonymous will be the blog account and author/book news etc.  Maggie's YAA twitter account is @YAAMaggie and Noelle's YAA twitter account is @YAANoelle.  Thanks for following! Tweet you later, alligators.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Review: Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Reviewed by Maggie: May 5, 2012
Published: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Goodreads • Preorder at AmazonKindleBook Depository

"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

"Oh, here go hell come."
-Calvin Tran

I love revenge stories. Whether it's Edmond Dantes in Count of Monte Cristo or Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill, there's just something about characters who say, No. Not anymore. Not again. 

In Burn for Burn, we meet three characters -- a princess, a basket case, a brain. The chapters alternate between their points of view as we discover how they end up on a collision course of revenge. The book opens on Mary Zane, who is on the ferry to Jar Island, returning home after an extended, self-imposed absence. Mary's story is the most mysterious. Not only does she have secrets, but her secrets have secrets. Lillia Cho is pretty and popular, a girl used to getting what she wants though her wealthy family ensures she doesn't want for much. However, none of that prevents her from getting what she doesn't want. Kat DeBrassio is a townie, a local determined to get off Jar Island after years of rumors reducing her reputation to trash. She's had to deal with tougher problems though, like losing her mother, so these rumors -- and the source of them -- don't get to her. Until they do. Each girl is set off by events to act, to no longer be passive recipients of other people's shit.

From the beginning, as "the mist breaks into lace" and Jar Island is unveiled, it had my attention. This novel is, for lack of a better word, delicious. Revenge is so sweet. ...But there's a reason why Confucius has been around since Before Christ. What happens after the wheels have been set in motion and you discover you didn't have the whole story? Or that your target changed for the better? Or even if the source of your humiliation is as bad as you think, how low do you go? There are so many shifting layers to this story. A huge part of that is due to the well-drawn supporting characters. The line between friend and foe, which seems so sharply drawn at first, becomes blurry as we learn more about the characters, and I found my sympathies ping-ponging from side to side.

Mary, Lillia, and Kat each have their own motivations and are determined to mete out consequences as they see fit. It cracked me up when Kat got stuck in the bureaucracy of it all though.
"As amped as I am about doing this, it's sort of annoying. I mean, basically my whole night is going to be spent doing this crap."
Zombies have shown that there are really only two certain things in life: taxes and bureaucracy. There aren't any zombies in this story, but there is a paranormal element. I hesitate to mention it because the minute people hear that word, it's either an immediate turn on or turn off, and really, it's just one layer of this multi-layered story. Even better, not one of those layers is a love triangle. There is love, but in this book (the first of a planned trilogy), friendships are the most explored relationships. Considering this book was written by two best friends in Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, I'm not surprised. I've never read a Siobhan Vivian book, though I plan to now, but I read Jenny Han's Summer Series last year. While I liked it, the main character felt a little young. That is not an issue in Burn for Burn. I was rubbing my hands together after the first few chapters.

Bonus points: Non-stereotypical minority main character! Lower-middle class characters. Rally girls, which reminded me of Friday Night Lights. That gorgeous cover, which depicts the characters pretty accurately.

I was surprised by how much I liked Burn for Burn. It hit the right notes of friendship, revenge, and anticipation, and I just sunk my teeth into it. The writing between Han and Vivian is seamless. I imagine it was perfected over years of sending texts and emails back and forth as only BFFs can. As I said immediately after I finished the book, I hope Han and Vivian gave each other one of these because they deserve it:
I'm going to be a bit of a figure skating judge on my rating because you can't give the first performance a perfect score, especially when you know the second one can be even better. Overall, this was a very exciting start to a trilogy and Book 2 is going on my "frenzied anticipation" list.

Rating: 4/5 stars. 

I received this copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received. Just as an aside, when my grandmother tasted the Thanksgiving turkey I had spent hours slaving over, she said, "It's not as good as last year's (catered) turkey." When I looked over at my mother, she said, "Well, she's right. And you gained some weight, didn't you?" Being honest is embedded, for better or for worse, in my genetic code.