Monday, January 30, 2012

Guest Post by Ivy Adams & Giveaway (The International Kissing Club Blog Tour)

Today we have Ivy Adams/Emily McKay here for a guest post on China! This post is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for The International Kissing Club by Ivy Adams. You can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops of the blog tour if you'd like to know more about The International Kissing Club!

Around the World in 80 Kisses Smooch Stop #63

Feature on China by Emily McKay

The sad truth is, I don’t have much to say about China. Or rather, there’s not much I could say that you couldn’t read dozens (or thousands) of other places on line. China is vast and diverse. It’s practically its own continent. Besides, I’ve never been there. A blog post from me about China, would be like a haiku about War and Peace by Adam Sandler. Just a bad idea all around.

But what I can talk about is Mei and her experience in China.

Occasionally, we have people ask why we decided to write a character who had been adopted and why we chose to have Mei have been adopted from China in particular. (Btw, by “we” I mean Tracy, Shellee and myself, the three friends who wrote IKC.) I don’t remember why we picked China in particular, but I do remember that we decided very early on to have one character who was adopted and searching for her parents.

When we were plotting the book, we started with the title. Although the title was cute and charming, we didn’t want the book to be vapid or frivolous. We knew we wanted one girl to be in it for the kissing, one who was in it for more serious reasons, one who just wanted to get out and one who had to stay at home. If you’re sixteen, what’s more serious than finding out about your birth parents? Than finding out who you are?

When the three of us writers divided up the characters, Mei was the one we all shared. Some of the early chapters were written together. Literally with all three of us huddled around tables at Starbucks while we dictated and debated. Once we got Mei’s voice down, we divvied up chapters by our strengths. Both Shellee and Tracy are great at setting, so they did the chapters when Mei first arrives. (Plus Tracy’s husband travels to China on business, so she had the inside track there.) Shellee writes great heroes, so she got to write Mei and Guiran’s farewell. Tracy writes fabulous kisses, so she wrote the fountain scene. So by default, I ended up writing the scene where Guiran and Mei visit the Social Welfare Institute where Mei lived before being adopted by the Joneses.

I started my research the way I always do, with hours of procrastination. I spent days on end reading blogs of adoption stories. Hundreds of families have posted their stories on line. I gotta tell ya, it was not for the faint of heart. I sat down that first morning with my laptop and cuppa joe. Seven minutes later I was blotting my eyes on my sleeve. It wasn’t long before I was working my way through a box of Klenex. There are amazing stories out there. Heart wrenching stories of love and hope and fear ... all the stuff that makes up parenting of any kind. Looking over and over again at those sweet kids. Knowing they found homes and families. Seeing the siblings who welcomed them into their lives. Man, it gets to you. I dare you to read those blogs without crying. I dare you.

You might wonder why I kept reading them. I did days and days of grueling research. But I never quite found what I needed. I needed pictures. Lots of them. Sure, all the adoption blogs had pictures, but they were mostly of the cute kids. I needed shots of the SWI. The people who worked there. The street the SWI was on. That’s the kind of thing I needed and despite all my efforts (and probably two boxes of Klenex), I just didn’t find it online. I know. Shocking right? Not all research can be done online.

Ultimately, I had to step out of my comfort zone. I had to talk to an actual person.
Luckily, I know several people who have adopted kids from China. I just didn’t know any of them well enough to say, “Hey, can I see all your pictures from this important and intimate time in your life?” But I made myself do it. I asked. People always amaze me with their generosity and openness and this experience was no exception. I got great info from more than one family. I hope I did justice to their generosity.

In the end, I’m so glad I asked for help, but I’m also thankful for all the mom’s online who share their journeys. It was worth the three boxes of Klenex. (Yes, it was three.)


Now tell me the story you’ve read lately that’s had you pull out your hankie in the comments (leave your email so we can contact you) to be entered to win the Around the World In 80 Kisses daily and weekly prize and also become eligible to win the Grand Prize, a Kindle Fire. For a list of all our Smooch Posts you can visit and earn more entries to win, visit us here.

The International Kissing Club by Ivy Adams
(Amazon | Goodreads)

The International Kissing Club by Ivy Adams is the story of four best friends: Piper, Cassidy, Mei, and Izzy--the misfits of Paris, Texas. Their whole lives, they’ve dreamed of escaping small-town life and seeing the world. So when Piper is the victim of an embarrassing prank that goes viral online, she gets the idea that the girls should escape via the school’s international exchange program, in search of fun, love and internet redemption.

Emily McKay, Shellee Roberts and Tracy Deebs write under the pseudonym Ivy Adams. They shop, gossip and watch movies in Austin, Texas.

This or That with Ian from Chance to Dance for You (Chance to Dance for You Blog Tour)

Today we have Gail Sidonie Sobat  here for a character interview with Ian from Chance to Dance for You! This post is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for Chance to Dance for You. You can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops of the blog tour if you'd like to know more about Chance to Dance for You!

Sunrise or sunset?
While sunrise is often the beginning of Ian’s dancing day, his preferred romantic time is sunset and the hours after sunset because of the secretive nature of his romance with Jess.

Half-empty or half-full?
Ian is a half-full kind of guy. He sees his life and his art—dance—in terms of potential, not lack.

Summer or winter?
Summer! Winter poses hazards (icy sidewalks and streets!) for a dancer who aims to be professional.

Vanilla or chocolate?
Chocolate. Ian is definitely not into white. He thinks there’s too much white in the world, like dead white guys, horridly racist white shopkeepers, architecturally controlled white neighbourhoods, etc.

Cats or dogs?
Cats. They’re more acrobatic and like dancers.

Coffee or tea?
Ian hates coffee, but never objects to a nice cuppa hot Rooibos.

Outdoors or indoors?
Ian loves the outdoors, but so much of dance is performed indoors in rehearsal studios and on stage, so if he had to choose, he’d pick indoors.

Being in a crowd or being alone?
Soloist! Ian longs to be a principal dancer in a major professional ballet company, though of course he understands that “company” means teamwork and pulling together.

Being able to change the past or living with your mistakes?
Living with mistakes. Ian is all about growing and learning from the past, then moving onwards.

Superpower: Being invisible or flying?
Flying! It’s all about the grand jeté!

Jeans or sweats?
Sweats fit best over dance clothing.

Polka dots or stripes?
Stripes, because that’s how the rainbow appears, and Ian has definitely embraced the rainbow.

Thanks for the great answers, Gail!

Make sure to check out all the other tour stops, and keep your eye out for Chance to Dance for You, which will be released on May 1st.

Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Ian lives in a suburb where everything's the same. The houses are the same; the cars are the same; the families are the same; and their aspirations are the same. But Ian is different.
Openly gay in his bigoted high school, Ian doesn’t exactly fit in. But he's not worried— he's been training in dance for a long time and soon he'll be able to leave town and train to become a professional. Then he falls in love with Jess, the high school quarterback.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In My Mailbox #43

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where you can talk about the books you bought or received this week.


Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic

I had the dream again. The one where I’m running. I don’t know what from or where to, but I’m scared, terrified really.
Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. But in the short time he has left there’s one thing he can do: He can try to help the people he loves live—even though he never will.
It’s probably hopeless.
But he has to try.

I actually already got this book last week, but forgot to put it in the IMM post. Anyways, I've already read it, and will have a review up soon!

The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
(Amazon | Goodreads)

It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail,his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future. By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.

I loved Thirteen Reasons Why (like everybody else), so of course I'm reading his next book. I haven't read anything by Carolyn Mackler, but I've heard great things about her. I have to say, though, I like the US cover better than the UK one!


Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman
(Amazon | Goodreads)

It's the summer before senior year and the alluring Angel is ready to have fun. She's not like her best friend, Inggy, who has a steady boyfriend, good grades, and college plans. Angel isn't sure what she wants to do yet, but she has confidence and experience beyond her years. Still, her summer doesn't start out as planned. Her good friend Joey doesn't want to fool around anymore, he wants to be her boyfriend, while Angel doesn't want to be tied down. As Joey pulls away, and Inggy tours colleges, Angel finds herself spending more time with Inggy's boyfriend, Cork. With its cast of vivid and memorable characters, this tale from the Jersey shore is sure to make some waves.

Jersey Angel sounds like the perfect summer read!

For review:

Crazy by Amy Reed
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Connor knows that Izzy will never fall in love with him the way he’s fallen for her. But somehow he’s been let into her crazy, exhilarating world and become her closest confidante. But the closer they get, the more Connor realizes that Izzy’s highs are too high and her lows are too low. And the frenetic energy that makes her shine is starting to push her into a much darker place. As Izzy’s behavior gets increasingly erratic and self-destructive, Connor gets increasingly desperate to stop her from plummeting. He knows he can’t save her from her pain… but what if no one else can?

I got Crazy for review because I will be taking part in the blog tour this summer! I've heard great things about Amy Reed, so I'm excited to finally read one of her books!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Title: Jumping off Swings
Author: Jo Knowles
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 230
Release date: August 11th 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. Touched her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their "one-time thing" is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result. Told alternately from each character’s point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one fragile girl’s life — and the realities of leaving innocence behind.

First sentence:
I can still feel a trace of his warm lips on mine as he slips away from me and fumbles for the door to his father's van.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really liked Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles (review), so I was excited to read another one of her books. Still, I wasn't sure whether or not I would enjoy this one as much, since the idea isn't as unique as Lesson from a Dead Girl's, and I was a little worried about how the author would handle four distinct points of view, just because I usually prefer only one or two narrators. However, the different perspectives turned out to be what I liked best about Jumping Off Swings, and I ended up liking this one even more than Lessons from a Dead Girl!

The writing is what makes this whole thing work. Jo Knowles's writing is incredible, so beautiful. She manages to create a great atmosphere - even though the plot isn't the saddest story ever, the sad but beautiful atmosphere gives the whole novel a tragic feel. It's the kind of writing that can make you start bawling at any moment, no matter what's going on, just because of the sadness and beauty of it all. Jo Knowles's writing reminded me of Courtney Summers and Sara Zarr - all three can get me to burst out crying with just a few sentences.

Like I said, I'm not usually a fan of more than two narrators - it's really hard to give multiple narrators disctinct voices. But Jo Knowles made it work, and I could develop feelings for each character. I really liked how the narrative made us think of different ways of looking at the issue, and I enjoyed seeing how one problem affected these all characters differently.

Ellie's a conflicting but well-written character. At times I wanted to shake her and make her stop being so stupid and trustworthy and stand up for herself, but for the most part, I felt for her. Her feelings about the pregnancy are portrayed really well, and that made me understand the issue much better than other teenage-pregnancy books have. I wanted to hate Josh, but I just couldn't. In the beginning, he was easy to hate, seeing how he treated Ellie and all, but after seeing it his way, you can't help but feel for him, too. Caleb is my favorite character of the four - he's just so sweet! I found myself always looking forward to his chapters. Corinne is the only character I thought was lacking some depth. She's easy to relate to and a good friend to Ellie, but really, that's all she is. I would have liked to know some more about her as a person, seperate from Ellie.

Another thing I enjoyed in Jumping Off Swings is the depiction of different family situations. Each of the narrators has a differenty home life, but none of them have it easy. I really liked seeing how these family issues affected the characters.

Also, I love the cover of Jumping Off Swings! It portrays the atmosphere and beauty of the story perfectly. I really liked the scenes at the playground and the metaphors connected to the swings and all of that - I love when a cover has such a strong connection to the actual story.

With atmospheric writing and four distinct narrators, Jumping Off Swings tells the story of how one choice can affect each person differently. It's a beautiful portrayal of love, friendship and growing up.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bookish Anticipation #10

Bookish Anticipation is a feature I do every once in a while to spotlight future releases I'm excited for. You can check out more Bookish Anticipation posts here.

The Summer of No Regrets by Katherine Grace Bond
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: May 1st 2012

The day Brigitta accidentally flings herself into the lap of a guy she’s never met, her friend Natalie is convinced he’s Trent Yves, egotistical heartthrob-in-hiding. Brigitta hopes he’ll hide far away from her. But Trent wouldn’t be the only missing person. Since her grandparents both died, Brigitta has felt lost—especially with her dad refusing to talk about them. When the boy, who calls himself Luke, is nearly eaten by a cougar, Brigitta finds herself saving his life, being swept into his spectacular embrace and wondering if she wants Natalie’s fantasy to be true. But as she comes to know him, Brigitta realizes she wants more than an idol. And she may not get to choose.

Nothing Special (Stupid Fast #2) by Geoff Herbach
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: May 1st 2012

Felton Reinstein thought he had it all-a great girlfriend, an athletic scholarship in the bag, and football friends he could totally count on. Wrong! Like an elephant storming a house of cards, it all comes crashing down. And it's Felton's fault. Turns out his little brother has taken an impromptu road trip to Florida (aka desperate flight from all the talented people) to make a bid for stardom (aka fronting a hotel rock band with escapees from a retirement community). What's a big brother to do but help pick up the pieces, even if it means giving up all the status, all the glory and once again facing a life of nothing special.

The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: May 10th 2012

Elizabeth Margaret—better known as Em—has always known what life would contain: an internship at her father’s firm, a degree from Harvard and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is that it’s not what she wants. When she gets the opportunity to get away from it all and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em pursues her secret dream of being a chef, and she also learns that her family has kept some significant secrets from her, too. And then there’s Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can’t resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels she is living on her own terms for the first time.

Smashed by Lisa Luedeke
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: August 21st 2012

Maine high school senior Katie Martin is set to win a field hockey scholarship until her life is derailed by drinking, a car accident, and an angry classmate.

Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff that Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: August 21st 2012

Can a spot on a teen reality show really lead to a scholarship at an elite cooking school AND a summer romance? Sixteen-year-old Sophie Nicolaides was practically raised in the kitchen of her family’s Italian-Greek restaurant, Taverna Ristorante. When her best friend, Alex, tries to convince her to audition for a new reality show, Teen Test Kitchen, Sophie is reluctant. But the prize includes a full scholarship to one of America's finest culinary schools and a summer in Napa, California, not to mention fame. Once on-set, Sophie immediately finds herself in the thick of the drama—including a secret burn book, cutthroat celebrity judges, and a very cute French chef. Sophie must figure out a way to survive all the heat and still stay true to herself.

Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: August 14th 2012

Three weeks ago I tried to run away from home. Now all I want is to go back.
When troubled Taylor Truwell is caught with a stolen car and lands in court for resisting arrest, her father convinces the judge of an alternative to punishment: treatment in a juvenile psychiatric correctional facility. Sunny Meadows is anything but the easy way out, and Taylor has to fight hard just to hold on to her sanity as she battles her parents, her therapist, and vicious fellow patients. But even as Taylor struggles to hold on to her stubborn former self, she finds herself relenting as she lets in two unlikely friends-Margo, a former child star and arsonist, and AJ, a mysterious boy who doesn't speak.
In this striking debut, Laura Lascarso weaves together a powerful story of anger and self-destruction, hope and love.

Just Flirt by Laura Bowers
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: June 19th 2012

A secret blog brings a summer of lies, lawsuits, and love to a self-proclaimed Superflirt and her rival at a struggling campground. Serious relationships suck. So Dee Barton, self-proclaimed Superflirt, is planning to spend her summer putting the moves on the guys who come to stay at her family's campground. Flirting is fun and makes everyone involved feel good—which is pretty much the exact opposite of her relationship with her toxic ex-boyfriend, Blaine. Sabrina Owens's summer plans include keeping her over-the-top karoke DJ mother in check, maintaining her status as the queen of the popular crowd--and being the perfect girlfriend to Blaine. Dee and Sabrina hate each other. But when they're both drawn into a frivolous lawsuit, they must team up and embark on a risky, flirt-filled plot to set things right again.

A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: June 5th 2012

Whitley Johnson's dream summer with her divorce dad has turned into a nightmare. She's just met his new fiancee and her kids. The fiancee's son? Whitley's one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin' great.
Worse, she totally doesn't fit in with her dad's perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn't even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she's ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn't "do" friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn't her least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

While He Was Away by Karen Schreck
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Release date: May 1st 2012

When Penna Weaver’s boyfriend goes off to Iraq, she’s left facing life without him. As summer sets in, Penna tries to distract herself with work and her art, but the not knowing is slowly driving her crazy. Especially when David stops writing. She knows in her heart he will come home— but will he be the same boy she fell in love with?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Guest Post by Emily M. Danforth (The Miseducation of Cameron Post Blog Tour)

Today we have Emily M. Danforth here for a guest post! This post is part of The Teen Book Scene's blog tour for The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth. You can find out more about the tour here. Make sure to visit all the other stops of the blog tour if you'd like to know more about The Miseducation of Cameron Post!

These are character book picks by Cameron, the main character of The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

I think that, as a younger reader, Cameron Post would have been a big fan of the storytelling of Roald Dahl. She would have appreciated his fantastical situations and often grotesque adult characters and almost always resourceful kid characters, like eponymous heroine Matilda Wormwood from Dahl’s novel Matilda. Then, after the death of her parents, Cam would appreciate Dahl’s fiction even more, particularly the way it so often encourages—or seems to encourage—readers to conclude that in some instances certain parents or guardians don’t always know what’s best for the children they care for. And, in the most dire of those situations they actively make things decidedly worse for the children they care for. (Examples include Matilda’s parents, certainly—but also most of the parents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with the exception of the Buckets; and the loathsome aunts in James and the Giant Peach; and several more I’m blanking on, at the moment.)

As a teenager I think Cam’s continual process of self-discovery would lead her to all kinds of novels. In the book she actually reads and responds to Rita Mae Brown’s seminal lesbian bildungsroman Rubyfruit Jungle. (And to any readers unfamiliar with Rubyfruit, I recommend it highly: Molly Bolt is an often hilarious and always compelling protagonist.) I would imagine that she’d also stumble upon (perhaps because of Lindsey’s influence) and be moved by novels like Nancy Garden’s Annie On My Mind or even Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.

She also would find much to admire in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Carson McCuller’s The Member of the Wedding, and of course: Catcher in the Rye. (And I hope that she would eventually get around to reading John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, if only because Jane Fonda (the character in my novel, of course, not the actress) quotes from it at length while they’re both at God’s Promise.)

And because I’m answering as if Cameron could pick books from today (even though my novel takes place twenty years ago), I’ll add Nick Burd’s wonderful The Vast Fields of Ordinary; Julie Anne Peters’ Keeping You A Secret; Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home; Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep; Jacqueline Woodson’s Hush, and Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet. Finally, I can see Cam getting pretty excited about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and the subsequent Lisbeth Salander novels in that series.)

Make sure to check out all the other tour stops, and keep your eye out for The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which will be released on February 7th.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
(Amazon | Goodreads)

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief she’ll never have to tell them that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl. But that relief soon turns to heartbreak, as Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and not making waves, and Cam becomes an expert at this—especially at avoiding any questions about her sexuality. Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. To Cam’s surprise, she and Coley become best friends—while Cam secretly dreams of something more. Just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, her secret is exposed. Ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure who that is.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters

Title: Keeping You a Secret
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers 
Release date: May 4th 2005
Pages: 250
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance; LGBT
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:
As she begins a very tough last semester of high school, Holland finds herself puzzled about her future and intrigued by a transfer student who wants to start a lesbigay club at school.

First sentence:
First time I ever saw her was through the mirror on my locker door.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Julie Anne Peters's By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead (review), so I had high hopes for Keeping You a Secret. Unfortunately, Keeping You a Secret fell flat for me. Maybe it's because of my high expectations, but I felt underwhelmed by every aspect of the novel.

I loved Julie Anne Peters's simple but elegant writng in By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, but her writing didn't work for me in Keeping You a Secret. Compared to By the Time You Read This, it felt amaeur-ish and choppy. It just doesn't flow as nicely as it does in By the Time You Read This.

What annoyed me most is the preachiness of the whole novel. Of course a book like this should send a strong message of acceptance, but I think it was overdone. There are so many times when Holland goes on and on about how important it is to accept everybody for who they are and to do something about all the hate and homophobia in the world, even though, at least in the beginning, it doesn't fit to her character at all. It seemed too much like the author was directly telling the reader to be more tolerant instead of letting the story carry the message, especially since that took from the authenticity of Holland's character.

Holland as a character is just okay. For the most part, she's easy to relate to, but there are a few things that really bugged me about her - like I said, the preachiness made her voice somewhat unrealistic, but there were other issues, too. For example, I didn't get her problems with her mother in the beginning at all. Her mother keeps pushing her to apply to the best colleges, but Holland isn't sure she even wants to go. That would be fine, but she never does anything about it - even if she doesn't want to go to college, she needs to figure out what she wants to do, since it's her last semester of high school. How she went on and on about how annoying her mother's nagging about college is bugged me - I wated to shake and make her take charge of her life, instead of floating along doing nothing and blaming others.

Cece's character is just okay, too. Actually, she as her own character is fully-developed and complex, but I didn't get her either because of her relationship with Holland. The romance is way too insta-love-y for me. I mean, I guess it makes sense how Holland is so fascinated by Cece in the beginning, since she's never met anyone who's as open about their homosexuality before. Their chemistry in the beginning, before they get together, is well-done, too. But once they get together, their relationship moves way too fast. How they say they love each other after just a few days and always talk about how incredibly important the other one is to them, planning their whole life around each other and saying they couldn't live without the other one... all of that just didn't seem realistic to me.

That being said, I did like some of the seconday characters and sub-plots, for example Holland's relationship to Faith, her stepsister, and her friends Kristen and Leah. It was interesting to see how differently people reacted to Holland's coming out. I also liked reading about such a strong LGBT-community.

I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as I thought I would, but maybe that's just because of my too high expectations after reading By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead. Many aspects, like the fast development of the romance between Holland and Cece, and the preachy tone of the novel, didn't work for me. Still, I wouldn't say it's a bad book - I could see this being of great help to someone who's going through something similar to Holland's situation. But if you haven't read anything by Julie Anne Peters, I would suggest starting with By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead and not Keeping You a Secret.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In My Mailbox #42

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren where you can talk about the books you bought or received this week.


Split by Swati Avasthi

Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $3.84, and a secret. He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school, and a new job, but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind—his mother, who is still trapped with his dad, and his ex-girlfriend, who is keeping his secret. At least so far.
Worst of all, Jace realizes that if he really wants to move forward, he may first have to do what scares him most: He may have to go back. After you’ve said enough, after you’ve run, after you’ve made the split—how do you begin to live again?

Split sounds amazing, and I'm really excited to read it. I have to say, though, I like the hardcover cover a lot better than the paperback one.

Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

Joy Delamere is suffocating. From asthma, from her parents, and from her boyfriend, delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out.
Joy can take his words—tender words, cruel words—until the night they go too far. Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe...if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late.
Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the meaning of love, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength.

I already finished this one and really liked it!

Grace by Elizabeth Scott
(Amazon | Goodreads)

Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom. In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train crawling through the desert. Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.

I love Elizabeth Scott, and Grace sounds really different and unique!

Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
(Amazon | Goodreads)

NAOMI AND ELY ARE BEST FRIENDS. Naomi loves and is in love with Ely, and Ely loves Naomi, but prefers to be in love with boys. So they create their "No Kiss List" of people neither of them is allowed to kiss. And this works fine - until Bruce. Bruce is Naomi's boyfriend, so there's no reason to put him on the List. But Ely kissed Bruce even though he is boring. The result: a rift of universal proportions and the potential end of "Naomi and Ely: the institution." Can these best friends come back together again?

I really enjoy the collaborations between Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, and this one sounds like a fun read!

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Mercy Lily by Lisa Albert

Title: Mercy Lily
Author: Lisa Albert
Publisher: Flux
Release date: October 8th 2011
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Mama has slowly been losing herself to MS. After traditional treatment fails, she takes bee sting therapy, administered by Lily, to alleviate her pain. Lily is trained as a veterinary assistant, so she can easily handle the treatments. What she can't handle is what happens when the bee sting therapy fails and it becomes clear that Mama wants to die. One beautiful summer day, Lily's mother asks her for the most impossible thing of all—mercy. They live in Oregon, where the Death with Dignity Act allows a patient to make the decision to end their own life. While navigating first love, friendship, and the other normal worries faced by high school sophomores, Lily also has to choose: grant Mama's request, or cling to Mama's fading life for all it's worth.

Goodreads description:
Parkfield High School's courtyard swarms with students as I walk the mossy path to my bus stop.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I was really excited to read Mercy Lily. Physician-assisted suicide is a fascinating topic by itself, and a mother asking her daughter to let her go seemed like such a great idea for a novel. However, the actual book fell flet for me, and I  was pretty disappointed.

What first drew me in with Mercy Lily - the assisted suicide storyline - turned out to not play an as important role as I'd thought. I thought Mercy Lily would be mainly about Lily having to decide whether or not to let her mom go, but really, Lily's mom has already decided for herself to deny treatment and ask for the medication to leave this world. Lily doesn't need to decide whether or not her mom will go; she just needs to decide whether to support her mother in her decision or whether to stay mad at her mom for giving up. And while that in itself wouldn't be a bad storyline, it's not what I expected from Mercy Lily.

Lily's character fell flat for me, and I can't even explain why. She should be easy to feel for, having already lost her dad and now losing her mom, but it just didn't happen. Her thoughts and feelings are underdeveloped, in my opinion, and I don't feel like I ever really got to know her. That made me feel removed from the whole story, so much so that I didn't cry at all, even though the story itself is tragic (and I'm a huge crybaby, normally).

The writing is, well, okay. Mostly, it's beautiful, and I really enjoyed the symbolism and all that, especially the description of the lilies. But the dialogue didn't work for me at all - it's unrealistic and just strange.

The storyline with Lily's former friends fell flat for me too. Everything about how they all used to be friends, their falling out, and their slowly working out their problems now seemed kind of pointless to me. The characters are flat, especially Trent, and the development is much too fast to be realistic.

There is one thing I loved, though, and that's the role animals play in Mercy Lily. I really enjoyed reading about the dog, the horse, the rest of the farm animals, and even the spider -  they all felt like actual characters, which was probably my favorite aspect of the book.

I know most of what I've said in this review is negative, and technically, there are a lot of things wrong with Mercy Lily, but somehow, this book still had an impression on me - I don't really know what it is, but for whatever reason, the novel is kind of beautiful and peaceful. I'm kind of confused on what to make of the whole book, so I don't know whether to recommend it or not. What I do know, though, is that what I thought would be great about Mercy Lily - the discussion of physician-assisted suicide - fell flat, so you shouldn't expect too much from that.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Faking Faith by Josie Bloss

Title: Faking Faith
Author: Josie Bloss
Publisher: Flux
Release date: November 8th 2011
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:
After a humiliating "sexting" incident involving a hot and popular senior, seventeen-year-old Dylan has become a social outcast—harassed, ignored, and estranged from her two best friends. When Dylan discovers the blogs of homeschooled fundamentalist Christian girls, she's fascinated by their old-fashioned conversation themes, like practicing submission to one's future husband. Blogging as Faith, her devout alter ego, Dylan befriends Abigail, the group's queen bee. But growing closer to Abigail (and her intriguing older brother) forces Dylan to choose: keep living a lie or come clean and face the consequences.

First sentence:
School was the same sort of hell every day.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was kind of wary of reading Faking Faith, like I always am when it comes to books dealing with religion. No matter what direction you're going, it's always a tricky topic. Books dealing with religion can go either way - I either love them or hate them. And while I didn't love how religion is handled in Faking Faith, it turned out to be a really fun read!

I was immediately pulled in by Faking Faith. Just like Dylan, I was intrigued by the blogs of these Christian fundamentalist girls. Before reading this one, I thought it was kind of weird that she turns to these blogs, and I didn't get how she would even come across something like that. But while reading, it made sense, and it turned out I was just as pulled in by that world as Dylan is - I wanted to know everything Abigail's life.

Dylan is a good character, easy to relate to, even in the beginning. Reading how she describes how she went out with Blake, the guy who ended up posting naked pictures of her online, it should have been easy for the reader to think of Dylan as some stupid girl who trusted a guy who acted like he cared for her. But somehow, the story works - she knows she was stupid and freely admits it, and that made me feel for her instead of roll my eyes at her stupidity.

Abigail's character is conflicting. My feelings towards her are similar to Dylan's - in the beginning, I thought she was completely crazy and didn't understand her at all, but after we get to know her more, I ended up really feeling for her. Asher, Abigail's older brother, is, well, okay. What we do know about him I liked, but I would have liked to know a lot more about him and his history.

Now comes the part of this review I've been dreading - the religion-part. For the most part, the topic is handled well in Faking Faith, and luckily, the author's not trying to shove her opinion down our throats, which I can't stand. But at times I think the book is a little too against Christianity - I don't agree with Abigail's belief, but Christianity itself is not a bad thing, and I would have liked to see some more of that in the book. The way it is, it felt a little too much like the author or narrator was condemning Christianity altogether.

I found the ending a little too happy, and I don't think it's realistic how much suddenly changes for the better.

Even though I feel like some aspects in Faking Faith are lacking, this is a really fun book. The topics are fascinating, and the whole concept is different from anything I've read before. I recommend Faking Faith if you're looking for a quick, fun read!
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