Friday, January 29, 2016

Review of Truth or Dare: 20 Tales of Heartbreak and Happiness

Truth and Dare: 20 Tales of Heartbreak and Happiness
Truth  Dare is a collection of short stories confirming the truth we all know-- high school is painful--and written for those who dare to be different. These edgy short stories are told from the point of view of the quirky, cool, but not necessarily popular teens, who are dealing with all the pressures of growing up--school, friends, music, relationships, parents, and just plain fitting in.This collection features some of the hottest writers in the teen genre, including: Jennifer Boylan, Sarah Rees Brennan, Cecil Castellucci, Emma Donoghue, Courtney Gillette, A.M. Homes, Jennifer Hubbard, Heidi R. Kling, Jennifer Knight, Michael Lowenthal, Liz Miles, Saundra Mitchell, Luisa Plaja, Matthue Roth, Sherry Shahan, Gary Soto, Shelley Stoehr, Sara Wilkinson, Ellen Wittlinger, and Jill Wolfson.

Overall, I enjoyed this short story collection. Love is a subject worth talking about with teens, especially since the teen years are the first time falling in love for a lot of people.  I found this collection to be very hit or miss.  Instead of trying to talk about all twenty stories, below I've discussed a few that really stood out to me.

"Iris and Jim" by Sherry Shahan

As far as short stories go, this one is incredibly close to perfection.  The descriptions are amazingly well written and even though this story is only about 10 pages, you immediately get right inside the characters' heads.  If the content of this story doesn't haunt you, you'll remember it for how well it's written.

"Never Have I Ever" by Courtney Gillette

I assumed right away that I'd feel a deep connection to this story because like the main character, I went to a writing workshop when I was in high school, and it was hosted by the school where I inevitably went to college.  Gillette constructed a good story and good prose, but her characters all felt a little bit off to me--like she doesn't actually know how teenagers interact with one another.  I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say this helps add some diversity to this anthology, and I appreciated that.

"Dirty Talk" by Gary Soto

This one is all about a girl who learns how different she and her best friend really are, and a how a person's upbringing affects the type of person that they become.  The message in this one was extremely heavy-handed, as in slap in the face heavy-handed. It also made some pop culture references that are not going to stand the test of time.  There was an okay idea, but it was poorly executed, and it won't do well with actual teenagers.

"Somebody's Daughter"by Shelley Stoehr

A short story about three girls who go to a party, and who do want to party--drink, do drugs, and have sex. It doesn't end well.  There were a few moments in the beginning where parts of the writing felt unrealistic, but it really came together at the end.  This one will probably ring true for a lot of readers, sadly.

"Rules for Love and Death" by Ellen Witlinger

A story of a girl whose crush, who she rarely spoke to, passed in a car accident.  Witlinger's story had a lot of astute observations about love and sex.  I also thought it was a really accurate depiction of what high school crushes can be like.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

End of Year Survey: 2015 Survey

I’m a little late to the game here, but I wanted to take a chance to do the End of Year Survey that Jamie creates every year (she also created the lovely graphics that go with it!).  I’ve already talked about my favorites books of the year, and now I want to take some time to talk about things that maybe weren’t on the list, but deserve some mention. Here we go!

Number Of Books You Read: 105
Number of Re-Reads:
One physical, three audio                                                               
Genre You Read The Most From: 
It’s probably about equal between fantasy, sci fi, and paranormal stuff

1. Best Book You Read In 2015?
(If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2015 release vs. backlist)

I actually wrote a whole post about this!  Check it out here.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

This is a hard one! My biggest disappointment was probably The Girl With all the Gifts by M.R. Carey. I just didn’t expect the story to take the angle it did and I had kind of hoped for something original. I was also not a huge fan of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, but adult thrillers aren’t always my jam, so that’s not really surprising at the end of the day.  I also really wasn’t into Legend by Marie Lu, but I can be pretty particular when it comes to dystopian novels.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  
It’s All your Fault by Paul Rudnick. The way it’s written is very in your face.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I absolutely adored Changeless, the second book in the Parasol Protectorate series, and I started encouraging a lot more of my friends to read that series.  I even gave my friend Liz Soulless for her birthday!

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

Starter: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater or A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Sequel: Changeless by Gail Carriger and Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Ender: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

Without a doubt, Hilary T. Smith. Wild Awake was one of my favorites this year. I can’t wait to read A Sense of the Infinite.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I started reading a lot more comic book trades! It’s hard to say if Ms. Marvel or Saga was further from my comfort zone, but I adored both.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Definitely Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, which I stayed up way too late to finish.

9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, because I want to read the rest of the series!

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

How do I choose? So many good ones! For strong female protagonists I loved Nimona from Nimona and Gabi from Gabi, A Girl In Pieces.  For love interests I loved Beast from Dark Triumph and Max from The Start of Me and You. Evret from Fairest was also fascinating.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

Without a doubt Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith.  If you don’t understand what people who struggle with mental health go through this will be a very eye-opening read.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?
Probably Gabi, A Girl In Pieces.  It had me thinking a lot about race, feminism, and privilege. Bad Feminist was also an important read for me because it made my feminism much more intersectional.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read? 
 Fairest by Marissa Meyer, which I read later because I took the time to listen to the audiobooks of the first three books.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?
For all that I have kissed before, I have never felt anything like this. It is as if I have swallowed a tiny piece of the sun, its warmth and light reaching into every corner of my soul and chasing away the shadows.
-Robin LaFevers

Maybe she had come into the woods and slipped into the life she was supposed to have had, if no one had wanted to give her up.  Maybe the woods are where people found each other.  That is what happens on journeys—the things you find are not necessarily the things you had gone looking for.
-Anne Ursu

Maybe we all need ships to hold our dreams, to be bigger and steadier than we could ever be, and to ground the mystery when we cannot, to keep it safe even when we have lost everything.
-Hilary T. Smith

People are like cities: we all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is a postcard glimpse of a floodlit statue or skyline.  Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.
-Hilary T. Smith

There is an art to irritation that only few of us can achieve.
-Gail Carriger

And then finally the magic flowed, but not the same way as when the Dragon’s spell lessons dragged it in a rush out of me. Instead it seemed to me the sound of churning became a stream made to carry magic along, and I was standing by the water’s edge with a  pitcher that never ran dry, pouring a thin sliver line into the rushing current.
-Naomi Novik

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?
How I did this: Went to my read books on Goodreads and sorted by page number and just looked for what I knew I read this yeaer that was the shortest and longest.

Shortest: Serpahina: The Audition by Rachel Hartman (No surprise as this is really more of a short
Longest: TheMarvels by Brian Selznick 

17. Book That Shocked You The Most
(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Saga has a lot of shocking moments, as does Fairest.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Either Beast and Sybella from Dark Triumph or Max and Paige from The Start of Me and You. 

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Probably Nimona and Ballister Blackheart from Nimona or Hazel and Jack from Breadcrumbs. Both of those relationships are beautifully complex.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Shadow Scale, Dark Triumph, and Fairest!  All so incredible.

21. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  My feelings on it were pretty neutral.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

Max from The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord. My high school self totally would have gone for him!

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley!  It reminded me of The Night Circus but for a middle grade audience.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

CircusMirandus and Uprooted without a doubt.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson! Go pick this up right now if you haven’t already read it.  It is fantastic.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

I think Shadow Scale made me tear up a bit, but I think that was it!

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

I know it didn’t come out this year, but When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

I don’t know that I had any soul crushing books, but The Devil You Know had me thinking long and hard about how our society treats women.  Drama also reminded me somewhat of my middle school years and hit me right in the feels.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?


Baba Yaga’sAssistant by Marika McCoola

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.  I hated how this one handled mental illness and grief.

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?

 I’m a really big fan of Twirling Pages, especially Alexandra's Instagram!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

 I was pleased by the discussion that my review of I Was Here by Gayle Forman brought about.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

 My Love-A-Thon questionnaire!

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

 The Love-A-Thon was so much fun!  Seeing Meagan Kaufman and Amie Spooner twice was a lot of fun, but I also enjoyed meeting Emery Lord and Trish Doller, and attending the NoVa Teen Book Festival.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?

It was pretty cool being able to start reviewing for School Library Journal. That falls more under my professional life but when you’re a librarian, your bookish life and your professional life get pretty tangled up.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I fell out of my routine and then for a lot of reasons (moving! NaNoWriMo!) and struggled to get back into it.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

 My review of The Start of Me and You got lots of views!

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

 I’ve been a terrible poster and comment leaver this year, so I’m not going to run around demanding more love.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I discovered the bookstore Bridgeside Books in Vermont. My boyfriend’s sister owns it.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I set out to read 110 and I still read 105 which is still a good number.


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?

Dumplin by Julie Murphy. I loved Side Effects May Vary and have heard nothing but good things!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?

I’m really looking forward to The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, and This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab.

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman, Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer, A Court of Mist andFury by Sarah J. Maas.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016?

Getting back on a regular posting schedule would be great, and I always want to read more, since I’m nowhere near running out of books to read.

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

I just started When We Collided by Emery Lord and so far it’s very promising.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Top 12 Favorite Books of 2015

Here are my top 12 books of 2015!  I haven't gotten around to reviewing all of them, and I've been focusing more on my young adult reviews.  I highly recommend that you check all of these out if you haven't already.  I prefer not to make separate lists for new releases and backlist books, because I tend to read a mix of both. Here are my favorites of the year.
This was a fantastic follow up to Seraphina.  I absolutely love the world Hartman has built and the characters she's created.  Shadow Scale gave me so many feels.
I enjoyed Grave Mercy, and Dark Triumph absolutely blew me out of the water.  The plot was fantastic and I loved learning more about Sybella's character.  I also swooned a lot over Beast.
I love Merrie, and I really wanted to read this one once it won a Schneider Family Book Award.  Haskell's novel is a wonderful, fairy tale-esque story that is absolutely deserving of that honor.

An early chapter book that I found absolutely heartwarming.
Doller's latest went in a different direction from her other books in that it's a thriller.  I was a tiny bit dubious going in, but it was absolutely fabulous.  I love what a feminist story this turned out to be.
Smith's debut is not only gorgeously written, it's an accurate portrayal of mental illness.  I wrote down so many quotes from this book that I adored.
I enjoyed Soulless, but I just thought that Changeless hit the nail on its head with its humor and storyline. I loved all of the devices Carriger included and the fact that I was left wanting more once I put this one ended.
Roller Girl is probably the most fun graphic novel that I've ever read.  It's a vibrant story about roller derby, determination, and friendship.
A fairy tale like graphic novel about villains and monsters.  This one had an urban fantasy feel to it and was full of moral complexities and a kickass female protagonist. To say I adored it would be a massive understatement.
As soon as I started this I totally understand why it got as many awards and honors as it did. I loved this story for its diversity, its poetry, its unflinching honesty. This is also a fantastic story if you want to read about food.
To be fair, I think of Gay's novel as a feminism primer.  I've always thought of myself as a feminist, but Bad Feminist made my feminism much more intersectional.  I really liked the fact that some of the essays included personal anecdotes, because I think personal experiences often lead people to become feminists.
Could also be titled, "If you think Levana is cray, wait until you meet her sister!" Levana's backstory was emotional and fascinating, and I loved learning more about Lunar. It's worth noting that you definitely don't want to read Winter (which I'm working my way through now) until you've checked out Fairest.

So those are my favorite books that I read in 2015!  I highly recommend checking them out if you haven't already. I want to know what your favorite books of the year were, so let me know in the comments below!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Where I've Been In 2015

I can hardly believe that my last post of 2015 was in July.  Yikes.  I’m sure a lot of you thought I’d given up on blogging.   I don’t think I have. I still want to review books, and I want to post discussion posts.  At times I wonder how relevant I am to the book blogging community.  I don’t take stunning Instagrams or make flawlessly edited YouTube videos, and I’m not constantly churning out clever features with stunning graphics that I designed myself.  But I enjoy reviewing and talking about books with you guys, and I’m lucky enough to still enjoy reviewing and talking about books at work, too.  I don’t talk a lot about my personal life, and when I sat down to write this post, I set out to explain what happened in the last third of the year to make me disappear.  At this point, though, I think it makes sense to just talk about what I did in 2015.

I remember feeling like January went on forever, which is weird because looking back at my Instagram, there were fun moments to it! Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner came to D.C. and I met them.  My best friend, her mom, and I also went to New York City for MLK weekend.  Our adventures included visiting an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, seeing Matilda on broadway (my dream), and going to the Death Becomes Her exhibit on Victorian mourning attire at the Met.  I also took a few hours to meet up with Estelle and Ksenia and visit Books of Wonder, where I finally bought a copy of Open Road Summer.

February was not my favorite month.  It started off with me having a great program for the kids at the library, and turned into a pipe bursting at my branch, which meant that I had to work at other branches in the system while the issue was fixed. I started reviewing for School Library Journal during that time, which was exciting!  I review picture books, middle grade, and young adult for them.  February was also the month I dove back into the world of online dating. On March 11th, a Wednesday, I went on a date with this guy named Seth.  We wound up going on a second date that Friday and realizing, yeah, we wanted to be in a relationship with each other. 

Right before I met Seth I went to NoVa Teen Book Festival for the first time where I attended lots of
panels and got books signed by Jason Reynolds, Marie Rutkoski, Rachel Hawkins, and Matt de la Pena. April included my birthday and was also the time of year when I started regularly visiting my favorite comic book store. I was also trying to train for a marathon that was supposed to be in September, but I gave up on this endeavor in June because while I like going on 7-8 mile runs, it took up a lot of time and was bringing me zero joy.

May brought about a lovely road trip to Ohio with three good friends for our college reunion. I went to Kenyon and absolutely adored it, and it was so nice to be back for a few days and see everyone again.   The other big news of the month was that after about five and a half years, my brother and his now fiancée finally got engaged!

June brought Emery Lord, Trish Doller, A.C. Gaughen, and Tiffany Schmidt coming to D.C. on tour.  I also attended my friend Kaitlyn and Aaron’s wedding.  I finished June and started July in Maine, where I vacationed with my family in Acadia National park.  My mom is from Maine and I always wanted to go to Acadia, so it was great to finally live that dream. I definitely recommend it if you can ever go. Shortly after returning from Maine, I got to see Taylor Swift in concert!  I’d always wanted to see Taylor in concert but had never had the chance to go before, so I was thrilled to go, and it was an amazing show.  Seth and I also went to Vermont for a weekend because both of his sisters were around, and we spent a relaxing weekend seeing a few sights, visiting Bridgeside Books, which his sister owns, and eating delicious food.  

Otherwise, the rest of July and August included a baseball game and a visit from my dad.  Seth and I had started talking about seriously looking for an apartment together in the fall, but had been browsing a bit earlier for fun and because D.C. rent is crazy high. One day in August we looked at an apartment that not only looked gorgeous, but was smack dab in between our two workplaces.  We were the first people to see it and were quickly approved.

I feel like I spent all of September either packing or working.  My books wound up taking over fifty boxes, and I just own a lot of stuff. I feel like I kept throwing stuff away and still having heaps I needed to pack.  We moved at the very beginning of October—a four day weekend involving movers, a trip to Ikea, and lots of furniture assembly.  We felt very fortunate that our cat made herself comfortable in the new place right away.  In fact, it feels like I spent a lot of October unpacking, but later that month we also went to a Renaisssance Faire and two of my friends came into town. We also had a pretty cool Halloween adventure. Earlier in the month I’d also gone to see Libba Bray, Daniel Skovron, and D.J. Older at Politics and Prose, an event so crowded I didn’t take pictures.  I also enjoyed setting up an amazing home library, if I say so myself.

In November, we had a housewarming. Leigh Bardugo came to town.  I went to an event with Becky Albertali and I.W. Gregorio. We cooked and ate a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner came back into town in December.  Seth and I had been talking
about starting the new year off by getting a second cat, but there was a kitten on the humane society’s website that we fell in love with upon meeting and adopted. We had just enough time to get her settled and help our older cat adjust before it was time to head off for Christmas with both of our families. It was so nice to see Seth’s family and mine, and I was relieved when we didn’t get stuck in Newark while getting ourselves from Vermont to Minnesota.  The past few days of 2015 found us getting ready to spend a quiet New Year’s Eve together.

I hadn’t realized what a busy year 2015 was until I sat down to type it out. Maybe in 2016 I’ll get better at balancing a fitness regime, work, and a social life.  Maybe not. We’ll see where blogging takes me in the coming year.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review of Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Stolen It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him.

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.

Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist - almost.

(Summary from GoodReads)

Stolen is not an easy book to put down.  It's the story of a girl who may or may not want to escape her captor, and there also aren't really chapters or breaks, making it easy to read large chunks straight through.  Christopher has crafted a beautiful, twisted story that stands out in my mind because of the stunning prose.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of Stolen is the landscape. Christopher's Outback is a place that is remote, beautiful, and terrifying with descriptions so vivid that you can almost feel how dry the entire place is. It's the type of place that you almost want to visit to see how beautiful is, yet you don't want to go there for fear you'd become trapped and die.

Reading about Ty and Gemma is hard. We get some backstory on Ty, and it's supposed to help us understand why he might act the way he does. While in real life it seems that a person can have Ty's life experiences and then go on to do the things he does, it wasn't believable in this case.  It felt like Christopher crafted character who is both caring and a threat and suddenly needed to give him a reason to be that way.  Gemma has complex feelings for Ty, and I thought Christopher was going to crash and burn and write a horrid and disingenuous ending to their relationship, but man did she nail it.

At one point Gemma describes Australia as "so different and beautiful. I can never get it out of my mind," which is exactly how many readers will react to Stolen.  It's gorgeously written, but also an interesting, in depth look at two people.  I'm eager to reread this one and continue to pick apart all of its layers, meaning, and beauty.
Other reviews:
The Broke and the Bookish
Clear Eyes Full Shelves
Wear the Old Coat 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review of Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow

Sorrow's Knot
In the world of Sorrow’s Knot, the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry and nearly invisible, something deadly. The dead can only be repelled or destroyed with magically knotted cords and yarns. The women who tie these knots are called binders.

Otter is the daughter of Willow, a binder of great power. She’s a proud and privileged girl who takes it for granted that she will be a binder some day herself. But when Willow’s power begins to turn inward and tear her apart, Otter finds herself trapped with a responsibility she’s not ready for, and a power she no longer wants.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

Several things about Sorrow's Knot caught my attention when it first came out.  I'd heard good things about Erin Bow's books, but I was also intrigued by the setting and the magic.   There are a lot of things that Sorrow's Knot does well, but it's not a story I fell in love with.
I'm not sure if I preferred the writing or the characters in this book, because it is beautifully written.  I also got pretty attached to all of the characters--Otter, Kestrel, Orca, Cricket, and Kestrel.  They were all distinct and full of genuine emotion, talent, and at times, pain.  Bow weaves a storytelling element in throughout the novel, and although it's good, it felt as though it could have been done better.
I struggled a lot with the magic system in this book.  It was mildly interesting and I understand why Otter had her ups and downs with it, but the inexplicable spark that would make this book click for me just wasn't there.  A lot of good and bad things happen throughout this story and I never quite felt like the pacing or timing was right.  I wasn't fanatical about where the story ended.
Readers seeking a quieter, thought-provoking folktale type story with a bit of fantasy might enjoy Sorrow's Knight. While there is a lot of emotion behind this story, Bow's pacing and worldbuilding are always just off enough that this isn't a story that truly stuck with me.  I went into this story with a lot of expectations, but even without those, I'm not sure I would have been satisfied.

Disclosure: I received an electronic galley of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Other reviews:


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