Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater

I like the whole Tinkerbelle thing going on here. This series has such great cover art.

I like the whole Tinkerbelle thing going on here. This series has such great cover art.

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel. (Goodreads)

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer:

If you have not read The Raven Boys, or The Dream Thieves, first off, I’m sad for you. Second, I cannot be held responsible for any spoilers that might get spoilery and possibly spoil things for you. You have been warned.

Let’s catch up:

Maura is gone. Totally up and left and no one seems to know where to find her. Adam still has this weirder than weird connection with the Cabeswater that I don’t think even he understands. Blue still wants to kiss Gansey’s face off but, you know, based on everything she’s been told, it could kill him soooooo maybe now’s not the time. Gansey, unaware that Blue believes she will one day cause her true love’s death, pines for her too, his loyalty to Adam the only thing keeping him away. All the world is still a little bit in love with Gansey—except Ronan (oh, Ronan), who has it bad for Adam. Blue’s family is still as quirky as all get out, and they, along with Blue and her Raven boys, continue to search for the mysterious Glendower. They enlist outside help in the form of some new, interesting characters, and some new bad guys start sniffing around, making life even more difficult. You following?

That’s the main thing with this series, a series I LOVE. I have a hard time keeping up. The characters are amazing. Each book tells the story, with a slightly heightened focus on another character. And the whole idea, the whole setting—all of it—it’s totally bananaballs, but in, like, the best way possible. However, trying to keep it all straight –BECAUSE SO MUCH HAPPENS and SO MUCH OF IT IS ABSOLUTELY CRAZY–is difficult. The writing is incredibly gorgeous, as the previous two have been, but take my advice and read the first books again. Or at least skim them.

All things considered, this installment was very, very it good. I’d say it was my least favorite of the three so far, but it maintained the spirit of awesome we’ve come to expect from Blue and the boys. Definitely read it, be prepared for a few WHAT THE WHATS, and know that the end will, like its predecessors, leave you hanging on like a yo yo (see how I did that? I made you want to listen to a Wham song).

Crush Intensity: 4.25/5 Anxiously awaiting book four. The last one. Sob!

Thank you to Netgalley and Scholastic for giving me an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

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OMG It’s Been a Month

Sooooo, it’s been a while. I’m sorry. I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet. I’m still reading, still writing, still love blogging, but I’ve definitely fallen behind.  One thing I didn’t spend this past month doing? NaNoWriMo. Nope. Didn’t happen. As I mentioned previously, I did do something kind of funny: I reread Twilight.

Twilight

Yep.

It had been about five years since the last time I’d picked it up. Before that, I’d read it about three times. Back then I was like most people; I was sucked in. I loved Edward, I was engrossed in the whole love triangle, and I hated Bella and Jacob in equal parts (Bella, you can’t be in love with two people. You can’t). So, imagine my surprise when I caught a showing of the film version of my least favorite book in the series, New Moon, over the Halloween season, and I said I’m going to read that series again! It was a strange desire, but hey, I went with it.

Twilight First Kiss

Here’s what I learned: I still hate Bella. Really, she’s so self-deprecating and such an Edward worshipper that I feel she and I could never truly be friends (it’s essential that I at least respect all of the heroines in my books). I don’t hate Jacob yet. In fact, I forgot that I…wait..liked him in the first book. He was sort of endearing and sweet. I still felt super-wrapped up in the whole who is this crazy hot Cullen dude who keeps staring at Bella like he simultaneously wants to kill her and make out with her? That was fun to read again. Not fun? Bella’s snore-inducing descriptions of her nightly dinner-making. Seriously, how did I get past that five years ago? How did no one see fit to cut that out of the books? I still really liked Alice (when she hugs Bella and comments that “she does smell good”, LOVE). But the rest fell short for me. It wasn’t because I knew what was going to happen (hello, I spend half of my time rereading books to the point that I can practically recite them. It’s about the build up sometimes and not solely the outcome), it was more or less because Bella really has no personality. And Edward–it hurts me to say this–he felt a little blah. A completely, stalkery, devoted blah, but blah just the same.

So that’s my reread take.

But then I reread a fabulous book I hadn’t picked up in about two or three years, Jellicoe Road. Now, hold up. I’m not comparing the two books. Even I know it’s unfair to compare a Melina Marchetta book to anything else because she is vastly superior to most writers…but I am comparing experiences. Like I said, I’ve read Jellicoe Road several times, but it had been a couple of years for me since the last time. I am happy to report that this one did not disappoint. In fact, I had the same love–if not a deeper love, a more profound connection–with it this time around. Of course, that is due in part to the ever spectacular

JONAH EFFING GRIGGS

but it’s also because of the magnificent writing, because of the beauty of the story, the angst, the pain, and the humor. Taylor Markham is everything a protagonist should be: flawed and frightened, brave, smart, and equipped with a beautiful heart. She’s a total, crazy enigma at times. She feels so real. She’s broken and yet she embodies such strength and character. I love her connection with Jonah, not just the romantic one (le sigh), but their history, their intensity. And I love the friendships in this story, both the ones in Hannah’s manuscript and the ones Taylor forges. My copy has so many dog-eared pages, and in re-reading it I found that I cried in all the same parts, I swooned in all the same places (maybe more), and I sat on the edge of my seat still waiting and hoping for all to turn out well. I was, once again, truly sad when it was all over again. This is one of those rare books I wanted to climb inside and relive again and again.

Jellicoe Road

Now, I think books like Twilight and Jellicoe Road both need a place on my shelf. And I fully intend to reread the rest of Bella and Edward’s story, as well as all of Marchetta’s work. They’re different stories, different depths for different moods, but I found it interesting to read one after the other. In one case I was wondering why I ever loved it (I still like it, despite how much I make fun of it at times), but in the other, I wondered how I could go even two years without reading it. It left a little hole in my heart, as though that book belongs to me and me alone. It was a reminder of all I loved about it and more…all I love about reading.

 

Selective Collective: Interview with Kasie West

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Welcome to The Selective Collective, the feature where my blogging pals and I choose a new book and discuss every element, from page to page, start to finish.

Our book this month is  On the Fence by Kasie West.

On the Fence

She’s a tomboy. He’s the boy next door…

Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she’s got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she’s falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high. (Goodreads)

This book is adorable. I couldn’t put it down. So many great characters, such a sweet romance, and a strong protagonist–it had everything.

This month, I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing the fabulous lady who created it all, Kasie West:

YA Crush:  I loved On The Fence, especially Charlie and Braden’s late night meetings by the fence. In your opinion, what is it that makes falling in love with the boy next door seems so perfect?

KW: He’s right next door! There’s just something romantic about that. Knowing you could walk right outside and run into him. Or walk out in the middle of the night and have a chat at the fence. The chance of running into him at all times is high and this makes a perfect set up for falling in love.

YA Crush: Charlie is a beautiful, intelligent girl who happens to love playing (and watching) full contact sports. Even better, she’s good at it. At times it seems as though she has to choose between being a typical girly girl or the girl who can quote baseball stats and play tackle football. Do you think this is a problem many girls face?

KW: I think in general people have gotten better about accepting all types of personalities. But yes, I do still think that sometimes there’s this idea that if you know too much about sports, you’re not a normal (whatever that means) girl. I think sometimes we put ideas in other people’s heads too. So maybe they’re not thinking that, but we think they’re thinking that and that can be just as damaging sometimes to how we choose to portray ourselves.

YA Crush: Family in central to this story, both with Charlie’s brothers and father and in the memories she has of her mother. Without revealing too much detail, do you think Charlie would have been better off knowing the truth about her family from the beginning, or was her family doing the right thing in trying to protect her?

KW: Well, they tried to tell her the truth earlier in her life and it didn’t go well. But yes, I think she could’ve handled the truth much earlier than she figured it out. She’s a strong girl and I think it’s always better to know, even if knowing can be hard.

YA Crush:  I would love to hear your dream casting ideas for Charlie and Braden (and any other the other characters).

KW: I’m very horrible at visualizing my characters as I write them. I never have a “cast” in mind. Then when people ask me the question, I have to go scouring the internet for people I think might fit. So let’s see, maybe Stephen R McQueen for Braden and for Charlie Catalina Sandino Moreno.

Steven R. McQueen (OMG I LOVE The Vampire Diaries!)

Catalina Sandino Moreno

Catalina Sandino Moreno

 

 

YA Crush: What is the writing process like for you? Are you inspired by real people and events from your life? Do you come up with an idea and run with it, or do you work through it in your mind for a few weeks or months first?

KW: It’s different for each book. Sometimes I’ll think of a character first and develop a plot around that person. Occasionally I’ll see a setting and think that it would be the perfect place for a book. And a few times I’ve thought of the plot first. Whichever way it comes to me though, I always let it simmer in my mind for at least a few weeks before I dive into the idea.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Kasie!

Special thanks to Harper Teen, who graciously provided e-galleys of On the Fence, to all of the members of The Selective Collective.

Please be sure to visit my amazing blogging partners and check out their features today.

The Book Addict’s Guide- Charlie & Braden’s Date

Gone Pecan-Author-Roundtable Discussion

The Grown Up YA- Review

Teen Lit Rocks- Page to Screen

 

THE GIVEAWAY:

Harper Teen is giving away a copy of On the Fence to one of our lucky readers. Just leave a comment telling us if you’re a “girly girl”, a sports girl, or both. The winner will be chosen using Randomizer. This contest is open until 9PM PST 8/4/14. US residents only.

 

 

 

 

What To Wear to a Harry Potter Birthday Party

Soooooo, my birthday is this month and lordy, it’s a big one. Like, there’s a four and a zero in there, which is super-weird because I totally remember when my parents were that age and man, I thought they were OLD.

But that’s not my point, really.

My point is, my birthday is Harry Potter themed. This is really all I know because my husband and Vee (the the evil genuis of amazing birthday parties) have planned it for me and a few of my dear friends. And most of it, other than the details on the invite, is a secret. This is what I know:

 

1. There is Harry Potterness- Is this a word, you ask? Why yes, I believe it is. My invitation came via owl mail, y’all. I KNOW. I mean, it was a super-cute balloon delivered by Miss Vee, and yeah, I almost cried because it was a little Hedwig.

Owl Mail

2. There are teams. And our teams are divided into houses. I am Gryffindor, nerd friends. My husband is Ravenclaw. Know what that means? If this is a competition, he will not be able to benefit from the nerd awesomeness of his wife because IT IS ON.

Hogwarts

3. There will be drinking. The party, which begins at my house  (referred to as platform 9 3/4. EEEEEE), starts with a cocktail hour. Not that I’m Frank the Tank or anything. It’s a rager if I’m having two drinks. BUT STILL. Cocktails make it seem more like a grown up party.

Platform 9

In summary, this will be the party every ten year-old boy (and me) wants, but with booze.

 

But I have to wear my team colors. And we’ll be out by the beach, so it will be slightly chilly (for Southern California. Work with me).

So here’s what I’m thinking:

Fitted White Ribbed Tank

Fitted White Ribbed Tank

Snug Bootleg Jeans

Snug Bootleg Jeans

Black, light-weave, 3/4 length sleeve boyfriend cardigan

Black, light-weave, 3/4 length sleeve boyfriend cardigan

 

Basic black ballet flats

Basic black ballet flats

 

Gryffindor Scarf

Gryffindor Scarf. Because yes, I have one.

 

Owl necklace. My ode to Hedwig (I looked for a lion, the mascot of Gryffindor, to no avail).

Owl necklace. My ode to Hedwig (I looked for a lion, the mascot of Gryffindor, to no avail).

I shall give you a party update next week!

 

Have a great weekend!

Defy

Defy by Sara B. Larson

DefyAlexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect? (Goodreads)

The Story:

To save her from an uncertain future as a woman under the rule of their king, Alexa’s twin brother convinces her to live as a boy. Together they serve in the king’s army as personal guard to his son, Prince Damian. Alexa, now known as Alex, becomes adept at living as a man, even rising the ranks to be considered the fiercest warrior among her group. She earns the respect and trust of her counterparts as well as of the Prince himself, who keeps her close as a favored guard.

Even though Alex is strong and wise, she can’t outdo a powerful sorcerer who enters the castle one night, taking the Prince, herself and her fellow guard, Rylan, captive. It seems as though she and Rylan will be unable to save the Prince as they’re marched through the jungle toward an ominous future. Through this journey Alex struggles to keep her identity a secret and has to hide her attraction to Prince Damian. She’s not entirely sure who she can trust and she has to be on her game, ready to fight at any given moment.

My Thoughts:

I really liked this book. In fact, I was very puzzled to read some of the negative reviews I saw on Goodreads (they’re not all negative. Most are very good).Yes, there have been comparisons made between this book and the story of Mulan. I get it. Girl dresses up as a boy and lives life as a soldier. But that’s the end of the similarities there ( I think. I’m no Mulan expert, trust me). To me, there was something here that reminded me a tiny bit of Graceling. Maybe it’s because Alex was a very strong heroine, both in her moral character and in her physical abilities, much like Katsa.

In any case, I thought Defy, apart from any comparisons made, was an excellent book. There is a lot here, between Alex’s story as she hides her true identity, the Prince’s family and his story, the kingdom itself and the corruption that lives there, and of course, the dear friend Rylan who’s in love with Alex (he knows she’s a girl). At its heart, Defy is a love story. There are great moments of tension and kissing, there are questions about loyalty and where Alex’s heart should go. I loved every part of it, from the fights, to the uncertainty about who to trust, to the actual romance. This was a good ride.

Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 This one is fun. I’m eagerly anticipating more.

Thank you to Net Galley and Scholastic for providing me an e-galley of this book!

Final Note:

I don’t normally read GR reviews unless my friends have written them, but again, I was astounded at some of the things people where saying about this book.

In the beginning we find out that Alex, in changing her identity, is saved from the fate of every other orphan girl of the kingdom: life in a breeding house. This where the corrupt king and those men who truly serve him, rape and harm young girls in order to breed future soldiers. It horrifying to read and imagine, but that’s clearly how it’s meant to be perceived; that’s how the author conveys it. At no time does it seem like Larson is glorifying that portion of the story or is saying that’s all women are good for, in fact, in Alex’s life she’s showing that women have great strength and potential. Alex is the strongest soldier, able to beat anyone. Yes, she internally lusts after the hot shirtless prince more than once. Know why? She’s a teenage girl. With…gasp…hormones. Her attraction to a guy doesn’t make her any less of a strong woman. It doesn’t affect her ability to do the right thing. On the contrary. Alex can be all girl, can fall in love (or lust) with a boy and still kick ass.

I thought Larson very clearly showed the difference between women who are oppressed by men and women who are able to fly free. This book is obviously not a vote of support for rape or breeding houses. It’s not saying that girls can’t be around guys without drooling overt their shirtless abs. It’s a story. Simple as that. And a good one. But I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Stepping off the soapbox now.