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.

 

The Taking

The Taking (Book #1) by Kimberly Derting

 

The TakingA flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own? (Goodreads)

 

The Skinny:

After an argument with her father, Kyra sees a blinding light. She wakes up later behind the local Gas N Sip with no memory of where she’s been. After she stumbles home, she finds out that she’s been missing for five years. In that time Kyra hasn’t aged a day. She has the same bruise she got goofing around with her best friend the night before she disappeared. She looks the same–but she feels different. And worse, her whole life is unrecognizable. Her parents have divorced, her mom is remarried and has another child, and her dad has gone over the edge, drinking and rambling conspiracy theories about alien abductions that sound closer to The X Files than reality. Kyra’s boyfriend, Austin, and her best friend are now twenty-two and away at college,  in love with each other, living the life she was always supposed to live, bought together by the mysterious disappearance of Kyra. Now, her only friend is Tyler, Austin’s little brother. The last time Kyra saw him he was thirteen years old, but now he’s grown, he’s mature, and he’s trying to help her ease into her new life.

 

My Thoughts:

I was really excited to read this because I love Derting’s series, The Body Finder. Or, more specifically, I love Jay Heaton (so I had some high swoon hopes here). Unfortch, this book didn’t do it for me.

I was completely enticed by the whole alien abduction angle. I’m not a believer in that sort of thing, but I’m normally mesmerized by shows like Ancient Aliens and the like–mostly because there is a level of crazy there that is so sincere I have to respect it. I also thought the idea of Kyra coming back to her life five years later–physically unchanged, but her life in total dissaray– was very interesting. And yeah, the whole thing with the boyfriend and best friend hooking up? I’m not going to lie, it caught my attention because it’s so plausible that they’d fall in love from clinging to each other when they believed Kyra was gone for good.

The problem for me is that, while this book had great potential, it fell really short of my expectations. Kyra’s dad has spent her five year absence going crazy and delving into the online forums of those who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens. And when he tells Kyra this, she blanches, of course. But other than reiterating the bright light they both saw the night she vanished, Derting doesn’t really go into detail about what exactly convinced him he was on the right path.  I think I would have preferred to be pulled in to that world. Instead, she focused on Kyra and Tyler. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a good romance and Tyler is a solid character (I had a tough time with the younger brother thing, mostly because there is no way I would have ever gone out with my boyfriend’s little brother. Gross), and there are some good moments  between these two. But Kyra, WHO HAS NO IDEA WHERE SHE’S BEEN FOR FIVE YEARS, spends an awful lot of time thinking about Tyler, and grinning like a fool, and thinking about how she shouldn’t be thinking about him, and being mad that her boyfriend and best friend are together, and thinking about Tyler more. I don’t know, I just think that realistically, she might have bigger things going on. Things progressed too quickly with Tyler, especially when, early on, we’re asked to believe that Kyra and Austin are hopelessly in love.

There is obviously a big mystery surrounding Kyra’s disappearance, including two people following her. One is just some random, strange dude, and one is an agent from the NSA. While I found this all to be very cool, it went so slowly (wedged in between moments with Tyler and moments where Kyra wandered around her house aimlessly) and then suddenly, it took off and I felt like I got an information overload.

Funny enough, the agent following Kyra around reminded me of the guys from The Matrix.

The MatrixThat is totally how I pictured him.

In short, I was very disappointing in this book. It had potential, and while it wasn’t terrible (there were moments I couldn’t put it down), it wasn’t great.

 

Crush Intensity: 2.5-3.0/5

Where’d I Get It: The library

 

The LA Times Festival of Books…a week later

screenshotSo, not last weekend, but the weekend before, some of my book club buddies and I drove out to the beautiful USC campus and attended the amazing event they host, The LA Times Festival of Books. It’s nerd heaven, you guys. In fact, as we waited in line for different events, we were noting that some of the people there were so odd and quirky that we felt  cooler than we once thought ourselves to be.

But only a little.

The funny thing is, I took this huge backpack that was killing me to carry around all day (because, people, there were books to get signed. This is serious business). I was feeling a little dorky about it (who am I kidding? I did the same thing last year, too), but then we noticed that there were people carrying two and three reusable grocery bags of books, and rolling suitcases full of books, so again, I felt a little less nerdy by comparison.

The festival itself is huge. There are tons of publishers, independent bookstores, book groups (Jane Austen Society of North America, rock on with your I Heart Mr. Darcy bags), author panels and book signings. Not to mention food trucks. And crepes, you guys, which made me think of St. Clair and Anna and that is never a bad thing.

The big event this year was John Green. I goofed up and was not able to get tickets for his Q&A, so we decided to attend his book signing afterward. Along with every other person at the festival.

JGCROWD1

Yeah. But that’s only part of the line. It wrapped around.

JGCROWD2

And around…

JGCROWD3

Aaaaaand around

JGCROWD5

So, as much as I LOVE John Green and was dying to meet him, we did this instead:

WINE

And then we all felt much better about the whole thing. Line? What line?

Along the way, we met Rainbow Rowell (finally!), who was so sweet. It was fun to chat with her a little about the Eleanor & Park movie and how exciting it is that she’s writing the screenplay. She also had the cutest manicure that was Fangirl themed. So you think I remembered to snap a picture? Nope, sorry.RR ME

 

Then I got to met E. Lockhart, where she finally signed my copy of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, as well as the copy of her forthcoming book, We Were Liars (which we’ll be reviewing next month with The Selective Collective). You can’t see it in the picture, but she was wearing green tights. So funky. I loved it.

ELOCKHART

We also attended a panel with Tahereh Mafi. She is so cute a tiny with the warmest, spunkiest personality. Her hubby, Ransom Riggs was there in the audience, and then sitting right beside her during her book signings. They are such a super-cute couple (sorry, I know I’m using that word a lot, but THEY ARE!).

STALKERS

Thanks to a mutual friend, our book club now refers to him as Handsome Ransom because, hello.

And, just so you know, this is what happens when you’re dying to meet an author FOREVER, and you finally get to take a picture with them:

MAFIIn fact, it was really funny because she made a comment just before the picture about how she always sees awkward shots of herself online. Nope, that would be me this time. Whatever! I’m still so psyched I got to meet her.

The day ended with a bang because we were literally the last people in line to meet Laini Taylor. Honestly, I think we were the last people at the entire festival, but it was worth it. Laini was so gracious, even though I’m sure she was exhausted. She had on bright pink tights to match her hair, and she couldn’t have been nicer.

LAINITAYLOR

There were so many authors there the next day: Elizabeth Eulberg, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Leigh Bardugo, and Tamara Ireland Stone (who was so sweet on Saturday and was e-mailing back and forth with me so we could meet up and get my books signed), but we didn’t make it out on Sunday because we were so wiped out from our big day.

Oh, well, there’s always next year!

 

LA Times Festival of Books 2014

Festival of Books

 

All right, who here is a Southern California person because OMG did you see the author list for The LA Times Festival of Books?  It’s freaking amazing. It’s even better than last year (which is huge because last year I got to meet Gayle Forman and Sarah Dessen. Hello, YA Heaven is a real place).

You have to check out the list. There are so many great authors. I mean John Green. And Elizabeth Eulberg, and Lauren Oliver, and Tahreh Mafi, and E Lockhart. And I’m freaking out because there are like 17 authors I want to become best friends with meet. And I’m beyond excited because, well, John Green.  And yeah, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Ill be embarrassing myself because:

a) I’m socially awkward

b) I’m a huge nerd

c) I’ll be with my books club and

d) There will be wine

But I still can’t wait!

Is anyone else planning on going? It’s at USC (which truly has a gorgeous campus, I must say) on the weekend of April 12 and 13th. Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

 

More Than This

More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than ThisA boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this. . .(Goodreads)

The Story:

From the first pages of this story we know one thing for certain: Seth, our protagonist, dies alone in the freezing ocean, his skull crushing with a final blow against the rocks.

But he wakes.  He remembers dying. He can vividly recall that final moment when he knew it was over–yet here he is, wrapped in some strange gauze and bandages, lying face-down in the dirt of his childhood home in England. It’s not the place he was living when he died, but it’s a place he remembers well, a home he shared with his mom and dad and his little brother before tragedy stuck and they packed up to begin a new life in America. Seth doesn’t know why he’s here, but he seems to be very much alone. His days are now empty and his dreams are full of the life he once lived, the pain and guilt he suffered all too vivid. He wonders if this is truly the end for him or if it’s some kind of personal hell and he grapples with the reality of his life before versus his life now, seeking answers and searching for the truth.

My Thoughts:

Patrick Ness is an incredible writer because his stories build so slowly, patiently giving us each detail, letting us in further until–before you even realize it–you’re in love. You’re invested all the way, clinging to those last shreds of hope with the characters you now love so completely. That’s how I felt when I read The Chaos Walking trilogy (easily one of my favorite books series of all time) and that’s exactly how I felt when I read Seth’s story.

There’s a definite melancholy tone to this book. Seth’s life hasn’t been easy; his trials have not been simple. And while he lives in a family that certainly loves him in the most general sense of the word, you see an overwhelming grief in his parents that translates into an overall apathy toward their eldest son. It’s incredible that when comparing Seth’s life after death to his dreams about his actual life, the loneliness on both sides is palpable, and in that it’s heartbreaking.

There is little I can tell you about the actual story but this: stick with it. There are several twists, there are moments when you think you have it all figured out only to realize…no, you’re wrong again. I think the point here isn’t where Seth has ended up after his death (though that is a big mystery and an interesting part of the story), it’s how he became who he is, what makes him feel and do the things he does, what drives him. As with everyone, the answer is love, and pain, and curiosity, and that journey is what I found to be so intense and sad and beautiful. I definitely cried and I ached for these characters and in the end I loved this book.

Crush Intensity: 5/5 Of course, it’s Patrick Ness

Where I Got It: The library

Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm ( The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and StormHunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. (Goodreads)

Let Me Explain:

You know, sometimes there are certain books where you just can’t find the words. This seems odd, especially for someone who feels the need to blog, someone who must e-mail and text her friends about kissing scenes and swoony moments and the WHAT THE EFF things that make me want to pull out my hair sometimes. I mean, I’m someone who hunts people down in bookstores just to talk to them about the novels they’re picking up.  But you guys, I read this book in May and I haven’t been able  to form a coherent string of sentences about it. And I’m thinking it’s not going to happen now.  Just warning you.

Suffice it to say, it you have not read the first book in this series, Shadow and Bone…WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? Get on it! Otherwise, consider yourself warned.

The Gist:

Alina and Mal have escaped that sexy, sexy Darkling after outsmarting him and crossing the True Sea. They take great pains to hide her identity as the Sun Summoner, but no amount of hiding can keep the Darkling from her. He exhibits this strange new trick, an ability to communicate with Alina no matter where she may be. It’s frightening and striking, this power he still has over her. And she realizes she can’t ever truly escape him or who she is. She and Mal return to Ravka with some new allies, hoping to finally defeat him. Instead it serves to suck Alina deeper into a world that Mal isn’t a part of. It drives a wedge between them and Alina is left with a painful choice: her destiny or her love (and yes, lust) for Mal.

My Thoughts:

I read this almost six months ago and it was fabulous. In fact, I’d read it again if I had it…but I keep loaning my copy out because it’s that good. Siege and Storm does not suffer from any sort of sophomore slump, which is good news considering the first book was so well-done and seemed to be hard to match. The world of Ravka is still vivid and unique and we have an opportunity to get to know certain characters better this time around. I especially enjoyed the conflict between Mal and Alina, which hurt, but man, I could really understand where each of them was coming from. My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen more of the Darkling. I know it’s wrong of me to hope that he and Alina will meet in the corner of a darkened room and have a serious makeout session–but that doesn’t keep me from longing for it.  And I feel guilty saying that since I really love Mal, but the Darkling just has that quality about him that makes him so appealing. I can’t even explain it.

Crush Intensity: 4.75/5  Leigh Bardugo has created such an insanely beautiful, mysterious world in this great series. I can’t wait for the next book.

Special thanks to Macmillan for sending me a copy of Siege and Storm in exchange for an honest review.

Book Club Pick: Gone Girl

Some of you may know that I am in a fantastic book club with some of my lovely, wine-lovin, bookworm friends.  As with most books clubs, we take turns choosing books and hosting. Sometimes we spend tons of time dissecting the book and other times we spend five minutes talking about it and the rest eating/drinking/having girl time.  I love these ladies for a plethora of reasons–for going to see City of Bones with me so we can cringe at JCB’s hair, for loving the LA Times Festival of Books as much as me, for sharing that intense need to talk about a book immediately after–but one of the things I most appreciate is that they help me expand my horizons. I’m a YA girl by nature (no, really) and I rarely read an Adult fiction unless it’s one I know I’ll love or unless I need to see the movie. But my book club has YA and Adult Fiction fans.  And they have fabulous taste in books.

Over the past couple of years we’ve read books like Nefertiti, The Middle Place, Defending Jacob, The Sky Is Everywhere (guess who picked that), and Unravel Me (um, chapter 62. You know you were thinking the same thing), to name a few.  These have been fabulous books, and while this is normally a YA blog, it seems such a waste not to share the great books I’m discovering because of these awesome ladies.  So each month–unless it’s a book I’ve already reviewed–I’ll share our latest pick and my thoughts with you.

And this month, holy crap, it’s a doozy.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet? (Goodreads)

The Story:

Nick is that guy. He’s handsome, has a gorgeous wife–the works. And he and Amy, his charming wife, are totally in love until gradually, piece by piece, they lose their grip on their marriage. Nick loses his job as a writer in NY, Amy’s job and most of her trust fund soon follow. The two relocate from their brownstone to a cookie cutter mini mansion in Missouri, where Nick grew up. His mother is dying of cancer and his horrendous, verbally abusive father is now in an adult care facility. Nick borrows the last of Amy’s money to open up a bar with his twin sister, Go, to try to start a new life after dragging her to that town, away from her beloved family, friends and city life.

When we meet Nick, he and Amy are preparing the celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. She’s planned a treasure hunt for him–something she does every year–and he doesn’t have the heart to tell her he doesn’t love her anymore. He goes to work as usual, only to come home hours later to find that the house is in shambles and Amy has gone missing, most likely abducted by an intruder. As the story unravels, more and more clues point to Nick as the perpetrator, and the series of lies he keeps telling the police aren’t helping his case. Meanwhile, we get to know Amy through the diary entries she’s made over the course of her relationship with Nick. It paints a dark picture of their marriage.

And then the second portion of the book comes and you, along with me, go, um, excuse me but WHAT THE HELL????

But that’s all I can tell you because I don’t want to ruin anything.

My Thoughts:

This book was excellent. It was crazy, which I’d heard, but crazy in a different way than I expected. I was waiting for a big DUM DA DUM DUM crazy, a Bruce Willis Has Been Dead The Whole Time And You Never Saw The Signs kind of shocker.  That’s not what happened at all. Part of the craziness is revealed quite early on (at the end of the first third of the book). The rest is just an absolutely brilliantly masterminded story of total insanity. Before that, I was completely sucked into the book. I mean the first pages are of Nick describing his wife’s skull and the contents of her brain. Hello, creepytown, right? And Amy hasn’t even disappeared at that point.  The first portion is all about describing the undoing of this couple, a normal, happy, blissfully in love twosome, whose relationship begins to crumble. If you’re like me, you’ll get enveloped in some of these sweet moments they have and sadly, you’ll enjoy watching it fall apart. And then some serious sh*t goes down.

Amy’s disappearance is a mystery and there are so many moments I wanted to absolutely punch Nick. He makes such bad decisions, he lies, he does stupidly inappropriate things, but I found myself wanting to believe in his innocence, wanting to find that person out there just crazy enough to kidnap his poor, sweet wife and exonerate the anti-hero I found in Nick. And Amy, well, there just aren’t words for her and her sad little diary.

Warning: There are lots of people who love the book but hate the ending. I will admit that I was stumbling, wondering if my Nook was acting up, when I realized there were no more pages. For a little while that ruined it for me. Then, hours later, I had this revelation and I decided the ending was sort of brilliant.

Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 You should read this book. I’m so glad I did. If my book club hadn’t chosen it, I would never have picked it up. It was a great read.

Source: I bought this for my Nook for $4.99. Score!