Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

Title: And We Stay
Author: Jenny Hubbard
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: January 28th 2014
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.
This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Even though I wasn't too big  a fan of Jenny Hubbard's debut, Paper Covers Rock, I wanted to give And We Stay a try because it sounded like the dark contemporaries I usually enjoy. Sadly, though, my feelings about And We Stay were pretty much the same that I'd had about Paper Covers Rock: Jenny Hubbard's writing is really good, but I just couldn't connect with it.

I think part of the problem is that the novel is written in 3rd person present. 3rd person present is always a hard sell for me - there's been a couple of books that have been able to pull it off, but it usually makes it really hard to connect with the characters. Especially for a story that focuses so much on understanding the main character's thoughts and living inside her head, I thought that 3rd person present was just kind of a strange choice.

The pacing and the random flashbacks contributed to my feeling detached from the story as well. It almost feels like there are two separate stories in And We Stay: the flashbacks to what happened between Emily and Paul, and Emily's new life at boarding school. We get to read about both parts of the story in detail, even if the story of Paul and Emily is out of order and in random flashbacks throughout the novels. What is missing, though, is the connection between the two, the story of how what Emily has been through is affecting her now. When I read the synopsis of the novel, I expected the book to show how Emily is struggling with her past and how she ultimately moves on, but I didn't really get either of those things from the novel. Emily's feelings are underdeveloped, and I didn't get to witness the character growth I was hoping for.

The characters are also disappointing. Since I couldn't connect with the story, I couldn't connect with the main character Emily, and she stayed a very bland character for me. The story hints at issues between Emily and Paul, so I wanted to see more of a development of Paul's character, Emily's grief and understanding of Paul are never really elaborated on, so he stayed one-dimensional as well. K.D. and Amber, Emily's friends at boarding school, had potential and seemed like intriguing characters, but we never really get to know them, either.

I also didn't love the poetry in And We Stay. This is really just a personal preference, though, since I'm not a big fan of poetry in general. The synopsis claims that And We Stay is written partly in prose and partly in verse, but I don't really think that's accurate: the story is written in prose, and we have Emily's poetry in between chapters. For me, all the stuff about poetry and about Emily Dickinson's life were kind of boring, but I know those parts could be interesting for someone who enjoys poetry more than I do.

And We Stay just isn't the book for me. It's very literary and the writing is good, so if you enjoy literary YA and poetry, this might be more your thing. But I felt very detached form the story and the characters, so I just never really got into it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Love Drugged by James Klise

Title: Love Drugged
Author: James Klise
Publisher: Flux
Release date: September 8th 2010
Pages: 306
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA - thanks!
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Fifteen-year-old Jamie Bates has a simple strategy for surviving high school: fit in, keep a low profile, and above all, protect his biggest secret--he's gay. But when a classmate discovers the truth, a terrified Jamie does all he can to change who he is. At first, it's easy. Everyone notices when he starts hanging out with Celia Gamez, the richest and most beautiful girl in school. And when he steals an experimental new drug that's supposed to "cure" his attraction to guys, Jamie thinks he's finally going to have a "normal" life.
But as the drug's side effects worsen and his relationship with Celia heats up, Jamie begins to realize that lying and using could shatter the fragile world of deception that he's created-and hurt the people closest to him.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I love the idea for this novel! A drug that could "cure" homosexuality - that's crazy; scary, even. The idea is fascinating, and I was very excited to read Love Drugged. Sadly, though, the novel didn't turn out as great as I'd hoped - I had issues with the characters and the plot development, which made it hard for me to really enjoy this novel.

The characters were my main problem with Love Drugged - they're severely underdeveloped. I never got a clear grasp on Jamie as a person - to me, there wasn't much to his personality other than being gay. Of course that's the main focus of the novel, but I would have preferred a more complex character with actual interests and character traits. The same goes for Celia: she didn't have enough of a personality and seemed to just personify the beautiful, popular girl. She seemed more like a plot device than an actual person. Wes is an interesting character, but I don't think his experience is fully developed, and we don't know enough about his situation for me to really take anything from his storyline. The family storyline is just as underdeveloped: the set-up is interesting, but stays very one-dimensional because it isn't elaborated on enough.

One thing that bothered me about the novel is its focus on sex. That feels very strange to write, since I usually appreciate books that address sex openly and honestly. In Love Drugged, though, it felt overemphasized to me. The only way that Jamie is characterized as gay, and the only way he wants to "turn" straight, is in relation to sex; the relationship aspect is never addressed. It bugged me that the only problems Jamie and Celia have in their relationship stem from Jamie's refusal to have sex with her, especially because they're only freshman in high school. The issue of sex should of course be addressed within this context, but I had hoped that Jamie's homosexuality had been discussed in the context of relationships as well.

I enjoyed the plot in the beginning - seeing how Jamie is dragged into this relationship, and how that works within the context of the "cure" is interesting to read about. However, over the course of the novel, things got a little too crazy. Especially the ending - what happens at Celia's house - seemed melodramatic and unrealistic to me. The happy end that follows, too, seemed too happy and dramatic.

Despite all of these issues, I still really enjoyed exploring the idea of Love Drugged. Even though the novel is far from perfect, the message is an important one. I do recommend Love Drugged, if not for the plot and characters, simply for the things it will force you to think about.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Interview and Giveaway with Holly Schindler (The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky Blog Tour)

I'm so excited to have Holly Schindler here for an author interview and a giveaway today! This post is part of the blog tour for The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, Holly Schindler's new MG.


1. Your previous books, A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT, are very different in style, but both seem to be written for the more mature YA readership. What made you want to try your hand at MG next? Was it difficult to change your style to match the younger audience?
You’re absolutely right—my YAs really are pretty upper-end YA. Oddly enough, the MG is also pretty upper-end as well! Actually, I initially drafted THE JUNCTION as a picture book. Auggie wasn’t the artist—Gus was. In that first version, Auggie didn’t even have a name. We were simply looking through her eyes as she described her Grampa Gus, the folk artist.
The response I got from editors, though, was that the subject of folk art was too advanced for the picture book readership. I was encouraged to turn the concept into an MG novel. So really, THAT was the biggest challenge—not figuring out how to write a middle grade after devoting my attention to YA, but figuring out how to take a 1,000-word story and turn it into a roughly 45,000-word novel, complete with several main characters and subplots. Finding the right structure was the toughest part of that revision process; Auggie’s voice was the easiest part—it always flowed completely naturally.
2. What does the title THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY mean to you and why did you choose it?
The simplest answer is that Gus and Auggie literally live on the corner of Sunshine and Lucky streets.
But the deeper meaning is that of all the characters I’ve ever written, Auggie is by far the sweetest, most positive, sunniest character of all of them. When she gets sent to a new school, though, she feels anything but lucky. Her heart also breaks when her best friend, Lexie, befriends a junior member of the House Beautification Committee, but that positive attitude of hers still has her believing that she and Gus can turn their house into something beautiful—and show that House Beautification Committee up—all by reconstructing rusted old pieces of trash, turning them into something new.
It’s after Auggie discovers her own artistic talent that she realizes just how lucky she really is to be with a grampa that allows her to explore her creativity in such bold ways.
So on the deeper level, I feel like the title also kind of sums up Auggie’s disposition, and her journey toward feeling “lucky.”
3. What comes easier to you, description or dialogue?
Metaphorical writing comes the easiest—or maybe it’s what I enjoy the most. I can’t say enough about how much I love putting together a pretty turn-of-phrase. Dialogue comes next, after description, in terms of ease of writing.
What comes hardest is physical description of action. When I was in college, “genre” fiction was a bad word. It was considered “lesser” fiction. But I can guarantee that there’s nothing harder than depicting physical action through words in a way that makes a scene come to life. A physical scene that flows easily, without getting bogged down in too much description? Seriously tough.
Comedy’s tough, too—another genre that’s often considered “lesser” when placed next to drama. But comedy is seriously hard. Especially on the page. So much of comedy is timing—you’ve really got to work to make sure your sentences or description are punctuated and phrased in a way that gives them a sense of “timing” as well. Again, tough stuff.
4. Without spoiling anything, can you tell us what was your favorite scene to write in THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY?
It’s not so much a scene but a quirk of Auggie’s. In order to cope when she loses something—whether it’s her best friend or her much-loved school—she pledges to only miss three things about it. If she just misses three things, she says, she’s not overwhelmed by sad feelings. I think that shows a great deal of Auggie’s sweetness and positive energy…
5. How do you go about naming your characters?
There’s no real magic formula for picking a name. When I started writing the picture book version of THE JUNCTION, the name “Gus” appeared just as easily and quickly as the image of Gus’s face. (When you read the book, you’ll find that Auggie and Gus share something in common in regard to their names…)
Naming a character isn’t quite so different as naming a child (or a pet). You just kind of look them over and decide what sounds right to you. You have to be pretty careful with different or unique-sounding names. I think a lot of new authors try to invent names as special as their characters are. But you have to trust that your character’s words and actions will make them far more special than any “unique” name ever could.
6. For someone (like me) who reads mainly YA and only the occasional MG, what MG reads would you recommend (aside from your own)?
I’m the administrator of Smack Dab in the Middle, an MG blog. We have a handful of regular bloggers who are incredible MG authors; we also do guest posts and interviews with MG writers, as well as interviews or posts with other kid-lit pros: we’ve interviewed editors, illustrators, even a PW reviewer! It’s a great place to become acquainted with all things involving middle grade literature. Follow along with us at 


As part of the blog tour, Holly is giving away two signed bookplates and bookmarks! This giveaway is open until January 29th. Enter using the form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the tour, and keep your eye out for The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, which will be released February 6th.

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler
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August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time. Auggie’s talent for creating found art will remind readers that one girl’s trash really is another girl’s treasure.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Review: A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

Title: A Midsummer's Nightmare
Author: Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Release date: June 5th 2012
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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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.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I love Kody Keplinger's books! Her writing is addictive, her characters are engaging, and the way she addresses sexuality and real issues in such an honest way always impresses me. I had a couple of problems with the plot in A Midsummer's Nightmare, and the story is very predictable, but I still really enjoyed it.

Whitney is my favorite thing about this novel - she's such an intriguing character! The party girl with daddy issues may not be the most original character in all of literature, movies, and TV, but she is unique in YA, where the quiet-nerd trope is so common. Whitney doesn't always make the best decisions, and she does complain a lot, but that never bothered me because it makes her character realistic, and because Whitney will be the first to admit it when she's acting selfish. I found her very easy to relate to, and her cynical voice provided an entertaining narrative.

The plot is somewhat formularic and the events are mostly predictable, but I didn't really mind that much. It was enjoyable to accompany Whitney on her journey, even if it was obvious from the start where that journey would end. Kody Keplinger's style is always entertaining and makes up for a predictable story. The addictive style is what kept me turning the pages and made me finish this book within a day.

The only storyline I didn't enjoy as much is the romance. Part of it is the fact that the romance is a budding relationship between future stepsiblings, which didn't sit right with me, not just because they will be stepsiblings soon but also because of the consequences of them potentially breaking up. The chemistry between them is pretty good, but definitely not good enough to justify that. Even more so than the stepsibling aspect, though, the implied message of their relationship bugged me. I really wanted to see Whitley work out her issues by herself, or at least relying on her family and friends instead of needing attention from guys. The fact that romance is such a big part of her character growth didn't sit right with me. The development of the plot conveys the message that in order to become a better person, Whitley needs to stop hooking up with random guys and be in a committed relationship instead. That's a message I can't agree with - drinking and hooking up with people isn't intrinsically bad; to me, the problem is rooted in Whitley's issues that motivate her to do these things, and the way that she thinks she can use alcohol and her sexuality to solve her problems. I had hoped that Kody Keplinger - who usually addresses issues like this in such a great way - had emphasized a message like that more, instead of antagonizing Whitley's lifestyle itself.

Those issues aside, A Midsummer's Nightmare is a great book. It's not the most original or unpredictable story, but with addictive writing, engaging characters, and a somewhat-positive message, it's a book I really enjoyed. I can't wait for the next book by Kody Keplinger!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Title: Every Day
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release date: August 28th 2012
Pages: 322
Genre: Young Adult; magical realism
Source: Bought a signed copy at Books of Wonder!
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Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Every Day is not the type of book I usually read. I tend to stick to contemporary, but because I'd heard such great things about David Levithan and enjoyed a couple of his collaborations, I decided to give one of his solo books a try. The idea for Every Day sounded intriguing, but I was still afraid it would be too out there, too close to paranormal for me. I'm so glad I didn't let that stop me, though, because Every Day turned out to be one of the best books I've read in a while.

The idea, even if it sounded strange at first, is pure genius. A main character that wakes up in a different body and life every day opens up so many opportunities to explore, and I love how it forced me to think about so many different issues. The variety of people and lives that A inhabits over the course of this novel is remarkable, and many of them made me think and question my own opinions. I found the chapters that forced me to think about the borders between body and soul especially interesting, like the time A is suicidal, the time A is a drug addict, and all the times that provoke questions about gender. Because of the unusual situation, A has a distinct perspective on life that is fascinating to read about.

What I loved most about this novel, aside from the genius idea and plot, is David Levithan's writing. He manages to address all of these issues, without ever sounding preachy - they're just a natural part of the story. In between these serious issues, David Levithan manages to switch to a more lighthearted style that let the reader get to know A better. The writing flows so nicely that you will want to finish the whole book within one sitting. (Note to self: Don't start great books during finals week.)

I'm not sure what to make of the romance in Every Day. In a way, A's love for Rhiannon seemed too insta-love-y for me, and A's feelings can be considered exaggerated considering how little they really know about each other. If you think about A's situation, though, it does sort of make sense - having switched bodies all his life, he has never known anyone for more than a day, and desperately wants to form a connection with someone, which plays into why he cares for Rhiannon so much. I enjoyed seeing Rhiannon struggle with this unusual relationship, because even though you might judge her for her sometimes close-minded views in regards to her relatinship with A, I know that I wouldn't have reacted any better and that her issues are most definitely realistic. I still wish, though, that Rhiannon's character had had some more depth to it outside of her relationships with Justin and A.

Despite those smaller issues, Every Day is a new favorite of mine. It made me think and question my own values in regards to issues of body and gender, and I know A's story will continue to stay with me. This is an amazing novel - I can't recommend it enough!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bookish Anticipation #32

Bookish Anticipation is a feature I do every once in a while to spotlight future releases I'm excited for. It was inspired by Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday. You can check out more of my Bookish Anticipation posts here.

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
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Release date: May 20th 2014
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is used to getting what she wants, and when her boyfriend Jason breaks up with her for no reason, what she wants is to win him back before the start of their senior year. Lainey and her friend Bianca check the interwebz for tips and tricks, but the online dating advice is all pretty lame.
Then the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. Didn't someone once say that love is a battlefield? Jason isn't going to stand a chance once Lainey and Bee go all Zhou Dynasty on him...

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
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Release date: May 13th 2014
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal
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Release date: June 10th 2014
Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss—the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died—is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn’t a suicide as everyone assumes. She can’t remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she’s worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend. If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she’ll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made—good and bad—that led to her last kiss. 

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown
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Release date: May 6th 2014
Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents.
In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.

The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer
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Release date: May 6th 2014
Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.
But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.
So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily's and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.
As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.

There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos
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Release date: April 15th 2014
Mark knows grief. Ever since the accident that killed his twin sister, Grace, the only time he feels at peace is when he visits the bridge on which she died. Comfort is fleeting, but it’s almost within reach when he’s standing on the wrong side of the suicide bars. Almost.
Grace’s best friend, Hanna, says she understands what he’s going through. But she doesn’t. She can’t. It’s not just the enormity of his loss. As her twin, Mark should have known Grace as well as he knows himself. Yet when he reads her journal, it’s as if he didn’t know her at all.
As a way to remember Grace, Hanna convinces Mark to complete Grace’s bucket list from her journal. Mark’s sadness, anger, and his growing feelings for Hannah threaten to overwhelm him. But Mark can’t back out. He made a promise to honor Grace—and it’s his one chance to set things right.

Now & Forever by Susane Colasanti
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Release date: May 20th 2014
What if your boyfriend was the world's biggest rockstar?
Sterling is crazy in love with Ethan. Not only is he the sweetest boy she's ever met, but he's an incredibly talented guitarist, singer, and songwriter. And since forever, he's believed he has what it takes to be a star.
When Ethan becomes an overnight sensation, he's thrown head-first into the glam world of celebrity-and so is Sterling. Before she knows it, she's attending red-carpet premieres, getting free designer clothes, and flying around the country to attend Ethan's monumental sold-out concerts.
It's a dream come true...but whose dream is Sterling living? And what do you do when "forever" comes to an end?

Exile by Kevin Emerson
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Release date: April 29th 2014
Catherine Summer Carlson knows how to manage bands like a professional—she’s a student at the PopArts Academy at Mount Hope High, where rock legends Allegiance to North got their start. Summer knows that falling for the lead singer of her latest band is the least professional thing a manager can do. But Caleb Daniels isn’t an ordinary band boy—he’s a hot, dreamy, sweet-singing, exiled-from-his-old-band, possibly-with-a-deep-dark-side band boy. And he can do that thing. That thing when someone sings a song and it inhabits you, possesses you, and moves you like a marionette to its will.
Summer also finds herself at the center of a mystery she never saw coming. When Caleb reveals a secret about his long-lost father, one band’s past becomes another’s present, and Summer finds it harder and harder to be both band manager and girlfriend. She knows what the well-mannered Catherine side of her would do, but she also knows what her heart is telling her. Maybe it’s time to accept who she really is, even if it means becoming an exile herself. . . .

What books are you anticipating this week? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

3-Year-Blogoversary & Giveaway!

Paperback Treasures is three years old today!!!

I can't believe it's been three years already. This past year has been a pretty good one for the blog - I'm still not posting as much as I did within the first year because of college-y things, but I feel like I've gotten a better hang of it this year than I had last year. (At least I didn't forget my own blogoversary this year!) I've been trying to get back into the social part of blogging, which I'd abandoned for too long, and that's definitely something I'm going to keep working on this year. If you've stuck with me despite the sporadic posts and dropping-off-the-face-of-the-Internet during parts of the semester, thank you so, so much - it really means a lot to me to know there's actually people out there that read these random things I post on the Internet. This blog has enabled me to share my love of books with more people than I could have in real life, and that's why I'm so happy with this blog, and hope to keep doing this for a long time!

And of course, to celebrate my blogoversary, I'm hosting a giveaway! Hoping for another year of great reads, I'm giving away your choice of one of the books I'm most looking forward to in 2014. Here's what you can choose from:

(I don't know why the bottom part of the picture got cut off, and I'm too lazy to redo it. If you can't tell what the books are, just ask me and I'll post a list of titles!)

Giveaway rules:
- Must be 13 or older to enter.
- Open to wherever Book Depository ships (check here if you're not sure whether it ships to your country).
- Open for three weeks; giveaway ends February 3rd at midnight.
- The winner will be contacted by e-mail. He/she has 48 hours to respond, or a new winner will be chosen.
- I am not responsible for items lost or damaged in the mail.

Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bout of Books Wrap-Up!

Bout of Books

Today was the last day of Bout of Books 9.0!

I read these four books this week:

1.Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
2. Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards
3. How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler
4. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I had challenged myself to read 7 books, so I didn't entirely succeed. But I'm still happy with the amount of reading I did, considering how busy my week was.

What did you read for this readathon?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Publisher: Quirk
Release date: June 7th 2011
Pages: 352
Genre: Young adult fantasy/mystery
Source: Bought a signed copy at Books of Wonder!
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A horrific family tragedy sends Jacob 16 to a remote island off Wales, to the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, where he finds unusual old photographs. The children, one his grandfather, were more than peculiar, perhaps dangerous, quarantined for good reason - and maybe still alive.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was a bit of a random choice for me. To be honest, I only bought it because Books of Wonder had a signed copy and I can't resist signed books, ever. It sounded interesting, but not like what I usually enjoy, simply because of the fantasy aspect. I was really hoping to step out of my comfort zone and love this book despite it being something I don't normally read, but sadly, I just couldn't. The characters lacked depth, the worldbuilding confused me, and I just wasn't emotionally invested in the plot.

I started out really enjoying Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. The beginning is set in the real world, and I liked getting to know Jacob as a character before all of this happened. The mystery, before getting to the island, is intriguing - the photographs are creepy as hell, and the whole idea of these possibly magical children fascinated me. I especially liked not knowing how much of this is true and how much of this is part of Jacob's imagination, since the possibility of a mental illness is hinted at throughout the first part of the novel. Jacob's interactions with his grandfather, and the possibly magical stories he tells, are interesting as well.

However, once the mystery of the orphanage is revealed, the book went downhill for me. My main problem is the worldbuilding. Maybe it's because I wasn't invested enough in the story, but numerous aspects of the world Miss Peregrine's is set in didn't make sense to me. For example, how do the ages of the people in the time-loop work? In parts of the novel, the children are referred to as children that need protection, play games, and just generally act like children. But in others, they mention how their minds are 80-something years old even if their bodies haven't aged, which just didn't match up. The whole thing about the wights and the monsters didn't make sense to me either - I just didn't understand the backstory and their motivation.

Asides from the worldbuilding, the characters are what bothered me most about the novel. The children's peculiar abilities are fascinating to read about, but it seemed to me that their characters were reduced to their abilities, and we never really find out anything about them. This goes for all of the children at the home, with the exception of Emma. Emma's character, however, caused a separate set of issues for me: Emma is Jacob's grandfather's ex-girlfriend, and now Emma and Jacob are romantically involved. I know there's more to their relationship, but I just couldn't see past that - I'm sorry, but there is nothing that could make that anything but creepy to me.

The ending frustrated me. Even if I didn't really enjoy the plot, I was looking forward to some sort of explanation and conclusion. Sadly, though, that never came. The ending is unresolved and a total cliffhanger - I'm assuming this is supposed to be the first in a series!? While of course I understand the point of cliffhangers, it frustrated me, since I'm not planning on reading a sequel to this if one does come out.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children just wasn't for me. I'm sure one reason I didn't enjoy this one is because it's so much harder for me to connect with a fantasy novel than with a contemporary one. But even asides from the fantasy story, I was disappointed by the worldbuilding and character development. I do recommend it if you're looking for something unusual and creepy just because I love the idea and the photographs, but I personally didn't really enjoy the novel.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Review: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Title: Ask the Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: October 23rd 2012
Pages: 296
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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Astrid Jones copes with her small town's gossip and narrow-mindedness by staring at the sky and imagining that she's sending love to the passengers in the airplanes flying high over her backyard. Maybe they'll know what to do with it. Maybe it'll make them happy. Maybe they'll need it. Her mother doesn't want it, her father's always stoned, her perfect sister's too busy trying to fit in, and the people in her small town would never allow her to love the person she really wants to: another girl named Dee. There's no one Astrid feels she can talk to about this deep secret or the profound questions that she's trying to answer. But little does she know just how much sending her love--and asking the right questions--will affect the passengers' lives, and her own, for the better.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A.S. King is one of the biggest names in literary YA, and Please Ignore Vera Dietz is one of my favorites, so of course I had high expectations for Ask the Passengers. Sadly, though, those expectations weren't exactly met - i's a pretty good book, but I just wasn't as impressed as I'd hoped.

I had a hard time relating to the coming-out story. Part of it is because it's hard for me to picture a town as closed-minded as Unity Valley. On a rational level, I know towns like this exist, but I still have a hard time believing it simply because I grew up in and have only known a lot more liberal environments. I know a story set in an environment like Unity Valley must be relatable and helpful for some people, but since I've met barely any people that are as homophobic as the majority of Unity Valley, people's issues with homosexuality in Ask the Passengers just seemed overdone to me. That made it hard for me to understand why Astrid didn't want to come out of the closet: I found it especially strange that she didn't want to tell her best friend - who is also gay - about her sexuality. I know this makes me sound insensitive, but as someone who is used to a very liberal environment, it was simply hard for me to relate to the struggle of coming out in such a closed-minded small town, and therefore hard to understand our main character Astrid.

Astrid's relationships with the secondary characters aren't bad, but I didn't love any of them as much as I wanted to. I didn't really get Astrid's romance with Dee: to me, it felt more like the book just needed a girlfriend for Astrid to make the story work and less like Dee was her own character. I never felt like I really got to know Dee, and I didn't see the connection between her and Astrid that the story claims they have. I was especially confused about the thing that happened with Kim - it seemed significant to Astrid's and Dee's relationship, but then it was just never brought up again.

The family set up seemed interesting: Astrid's overly controlling mom, her disinterested dad, and her younger sister that is trying to fit in at school with those that are tormenting Astrid. Astrid's relationship with each of them is addressed in some way, but I wish we had gotten to see some further development in their relationships. The same goes for the passenger's stories: I really liked the set up, and I enjoyed seeing little glimpses of their lives, but I didn't really see the point because there is no further development of their stories.

A lot of the hype around Ask the Passengers is about how it's such an original and inspiring story. And honestly, to me, it just... wasn't. It didn't seem all that original to me, and I had a hard time relating to Astrid, even though I can see how the story would be inspiring for other readers. Ask the Passengers does have a nice message of acceptance, but it was just somewhat underwhelming to me, especially because of my high expectations from AS King.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Bout of Books 9.0

Bout of Books
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 6th and runs through Sunday, January 12th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 9.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team
Bout of Books 9.0 is here!!! I'm so happy Bout of Books is having a readathon that is entirely during my winter break, where I'll have lots of time to read. I'm going to be working, so I won't be reading the entire time, but I hope to get as close as possible!

I'm hoping to read these 7 books for Bout of Books:

  • Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
  • How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler
  • Requiem by Lauren Oliver
  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman
  • Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards
  • The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Books read:

1.Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
2. Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards
3. How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler
4. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I will be updating this post with my progress, and I will also be updating on Twitter.

Are you participating in the read-a-thon? What are you planning on reading?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

My New Treasures #23

My New Treasures is a semi-regular feature here at Paperback Treasures to showcase all the books I received over the previous week (or however long it's been since I've last done one of these). It was inspired by Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I broke my NetGalley-requesting ban this week, and couldn't resist getting these four books:

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira - I just finished this one and it's AMAZING. A new favorite of mine. Can't recommend enough!

The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry - this one sounds right up my alley; cute but serious at the same time!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - I've heard nothing but great things about this book (and the rest of E. Lockhart's books!), so I can't wait to read it.

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard - the premise of this one reminds me a little of Hate List by Jennifer Brown. I love dark contemporaries that tackle hard issues like this one!

What books did you get this week?

Friday, January 03, 2014

Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Title: Heartbeat
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Release date: January 8th 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA - I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.
But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.
Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.
Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?
My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

I love Elizabeth Scott. Her writing is so versatile - I will read her books no matter what genre, and they will always be good. It's impressive how Elizabeth Scott's writing can adapt to so many different styles, going from emotional to lighthearted and back again. And of course, the writing is what's best about Heartbeat, too - it is absorbing and reads quickly and gives so much heartfelt emotion to this story.

I'm not sure what to make of the characters in Heartbeat. I disagreed with Emma about 90 percent of the time, but I did understand her. The same goes for the secondary characters - there's no one I really identified with or even liked, but Elizabeth Scott always made me understand where they were coming from and even feel for them.

The idea for the family storyline is great. It's a fascinating concept, to think about what decision to make in a situation like this one. Like I said, I didn't agree with Emma, but I didn't agree with her stepdad either; it was hard to try to decide whose side I would be on in a situation like this.

The romance storyline is okay. I didn't love it as much as the family part of the novel, but I did enjoy it. I liked the concept, and I liked getting to know Caleb. But I think the relationship between Caleb and Emma could have used some more depth, more of a connection asides from the grief.

Heartbeat isn't my favorite of Elizabeth Scott's books, but I did really enjoy it. With evocative writing, dynamic characters, and a unique idea, Heartbeat is another solid read from Elizabeth Scott.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Releases January 2014

Happy new year, everyone! Let's see what books the first month of 2014 has to offer...

New releases:

See Jane Run by Hannah Jayne

Release date: January 1st 2014
Riley Spencer never thought twice about keeping secrets from her parents--not big ones, at least. They didn't need to know that her math tutor was also her boyfriend and that cocktail dress she "borrowed" from her mom would be back before she missed it. But when she finds a birth certificate with the name Jane O'Callahan wedged inside her baby book, Riley must face the reality that her parents are the ones who might be lying to her.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
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Release date: January 7th 2014 
For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? 

Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler

Release date: January 7th 2014
Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother -- whose name her dad won't even say out loud. That's why meeting Siobhan is the best thing that ever happened to her...and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she's everything Emma is not.
And it may be more than Emma can handle.
Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It's more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop...

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Release date: January 7th 2014
Meet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.
Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.
When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.
No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
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Release date: January 7th 2014
Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.
Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.

Fake ID by Lamar Giles
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Release date: January 21st 2014
My name isn’t really Nick Pearson.
I shouldn’t tell you where I’m from or why my family moved to Stepton, Virginia.
I shouldn’t tell you who I really am, or my hair, eye, and skin color.
And I definitely shouldn’t tell you about my friend Eli Cruz and the major conspiracy he was about to uncover when he died—right after I moved to town. About how I had to choose between solving his murder with his hot sister, Reya, and “staying low-key” like the Program has taught me. About how moving to Stepon changed my life forever.
But I’m going to.

Anything to Have You by Paige Harbison
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Release date: January 28th 2014
Nothing should come between best friends, not even boys. ESPECIALLY not boys.
Natalie and Brooke have had each other's backs forever. Natalie is the quiet one, college bound and happy to stay home and watch old movies. Brooke is the movie—the life of every party, the girl everyone wants to be.
Then it happens—one crazy night that Natalie can't remember and Brooke's boyfriend, Aiden, can't forget. Suddenly there's a question mark in Natalie and Brooke's friendship that tests everything they thought they knew about each other and has both girls discovering what true friendship really means.

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
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Release date: January 28th 2014
Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.
But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.
Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.
Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?
Minders by Michele Jaffe
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Release date: January 30th 2014
Q: If the boy you love commits a crime, would you turn him in?
Sadie Ames is a type-A teenager from the wealthy suburbs. She's been accepted to the prestigious Mind Corps Fellowship program, where she'll spend six weeks as an observer inside the head of Ford, a troubled boy with a passion for the crumbling architecture of the inner city. There's just one problem: Sadie's fallen in love with him.
Q: What if the crime is murder?
Ford Winters is haunted by the murder of his older brother, James. As Sadie falls deeper into his world, dazzled by the shimmering pinpricks of color that form images in his mind, she begins to think she knows him. Then Ford does something unthinkable.
Q: What if you saw it happen from inside his mind? 

Back in her own body, Sadie is faced with the ultimate dilemma. With Ford's life in her hands, she must decide what is right and what is wrong. And how well she can really ever know someone, even someone she loves.

New in paperback:

The List by Siobhan Vivian

Release date: January 7th 2014
It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up. This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two. 

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Release date: January 7th 2014
It's one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for - gasp - the wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she's the queen of following rules and being prepared. That's why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her ... well, pocket. Julia also believes in fate, and that Mark, her childhood crush, is her MTB - her meant-to-be.
But this spring break, Julia's rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: thrown from a window) when she's partnered with her personal nemesis, class clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts ... from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to live a little along the way. And thus begins a wild-good chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.
Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

Then You Were Gone by Lauren Strasnick

Release date: January 7th 2014
Two years ago, Adrienne’s best friend, Dakota, walked out of her life. One week ago, she left Adrienne a desperate, muffled voicemail. Adrienne never called back.
Now Dakota is missing, and all that remains is a string of broken hearts, a flurry of rumors, and a suicide note.
Adrienne can’t stop obsessing over what might have happened if she’d answered Dakota’s call. And she’s growing more convinced each day that Dakota is still alive.
Maybe finding and saving Dakota is the only way Adrienne can save herself.
Or maybe it’s too late for them both.

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

Release date: January 28th 2014
When Tripp Broody’s mom takes away his guitar, the 9th grader signs out the school guitar to use on odd days in Music Practice Room B during his lunch period. But Lyla Marks, the perfect cello player who uses the same room on even days, begins to leave notes in the guitar case along with bad vibes. At first, the two seem to have nothing in common. But there’s something about the scratched old guitar they share, and the music that they create in the little room, that enables them to reveal the secrets—and discover the scars—that connect them.

What January releases are you most excited about?
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