Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1)
Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Expected publication: January 27th 2015

A new series of global proportions -- from master of intrigue, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter.

This exciting new series from NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Ally Carter focuses on Grace, who can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world, and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.

Now, at age sixteen, she's come back to stay -- in order to solve the mystery of her mother's death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.


NEW ALLY CARTER SERIES!

That is all. Carry on. 

In all seriousness, Ally is the master of  YA thrillers - no one plots a book like she does. She's definitely on my auto-buy, immediate-read list, and this book looks to have the same jet-setting adventure and girl power that I loved so much in the Gallagher Girls series (which really got better as it continued) and the Heist Society series. Ally knows how and when to put the feels pedal on, then pull the brakes and U-turn into action. I can't wait for this series, especially because I helped name a character!

Are you also a huge Ally Carter fan like me? Are you desperately waiting for ALL FALL DOWN? Are you into YA thrillers? What's on your "waiting impatiently" list this week? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

Under A Painted Sky
Author: Stacey Lee
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin Canada)
Expected publication: March 17, 2015

A powerful story of friendship and sacrifice, for fans of Code Name Verity

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.


At first glance, this looks like a totally out-of-left-field pick for me: it's historical, it's about something I know nothing about (the gold rush and the Oregon Trail), and I've never been a huge fan of cowboys. But as a Chinese girl who wanted to be a musician in high school, I was immediately drawn to Samantha's story.

Add to that a ton of adventure, and what sounds like an amazing friendship, and well, at the very least, I'm intrigued. All of the elements in the synopsis for Under A Painted Sky are supposed to work together, and I am so darn curious as to how author Stacey Lee is going to pull this thing off.

Also, how often do you hear about a YA western? Um, never? The early Goodreads reviews for this book are amazing, and I'm looking forward to delving into something completely new for YA.

Are you interested in reading UNDER A PAINTED SKY? Are you into westerns and cowboys? Do you sometimes read a synopsis, and like me, just want to read the book because you need to know how the whole thing is going to work? What are you waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You the Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson (website | twitter)
Publisher: Dial (Penguin Teen)
Source/Format: ARC from BEA14
Publication date: September 16th 2014
My rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars. 

A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell

Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.


Review:

I don't think I can properly review this book without just throwing flails and gifs and barbaric yawps into the air. It's that lovely, that exquisite that any review I write will just pale in comparison to the writing in the book. That said...I want you to read this book, so I have to try.

P.S. I borrowed all the quote gifs from Penguin Teen, because who doesn't want to see more of that gorgeous cover?!


I'll Give You The Sun is probably the most literary and imaginative YA novels I've ever read. Everything works - the writing is expressive and nuanced, with unique imagery. You can really tell that Jandy Nelson thought and thought, and thought again about every word in the novel. Every metaphor, every description fits in with the themes of breaking and remaking, family and relationships, art and inspiration. It's an incredibly tight novel, and it's one that could easily have been placed in the literary fiction section of a bookstore.

The themes of I'll Give You The Sun are explored exquisitely - and the plot follows in a very sophisticated manner. This is a definitely a form-follows-function book - but it's done so damn brilliantly that you'll be in awe. The premise/form of the book is that Noah and Jude, fraternal twins, each have their own side of the story, Noah at age 13 and Jude at age 16.  As a reader, we see both sides and how mistakes and choices change and shape each of them. The brilliance comes through how each reveal is made - to the reader and to the characters. And what makes the book even more complex is how each of those reveals follows the themes of breaking and remaking, of splitting apart and coming together that shape the characters and the novel.

The characters and relationships between them are full and clearly realized. I already mentioned the premise of the book, but let me just say that Noah and Jude are probably the most flawed and complex teen characters I've read EVER. I honestly can't think of more broken, fragile and alive characters that exist in YA fiction. We get every crazed, messed-up thought in their heads, all of their stupid actions, all of their esoteric behaviors...and it's just gorgeous to behold.

I'll Give You The Sun has one of the most realistic - and sexy - LGBTQ relationships I've ever read. This sounds weird to say, but in most YA I've read, I've never had to fan myself at a gay relationship - maybe that says more about what I read than what I don't read. This book, however, had what I imagine to be a very realistic gay relationship in its teens, and it's tumultuous and hard and beautifully steamy at a few moments.


The portrayal of art and the way it touches people will leave you inspired. I am probably the worst artist in the world (I can't even draw a straight line), but I was amazed and gratified by how art shapes the characters, how it changes and hurts them, and how it strengthens them. Art is almost like a secondary character in this book, and the way that Noah and Jude create and destroy is not just a metaphor for what they do but it almost turns into a way of living for them.

The romances are soul-crushing and soul-illuminating. Here's the thing: when Noah and Jude meet their respective partners, it's pretty much instantaneous intrigue. It's not quite total insta-love, but it's close. You guys know how I feel about insta-love (and one of them is a bad boy!)...but somehow, Jandy Nelson's writing can break all my rules and make me believe. I'm just going to give you one unbelievable passage, and you tell me you're not intrigued and kind of in love:
I know he's taking a hundred pictures, but I don't care anymore. A hot series of shivers is running through me as he continues clicking and saying: Yes, thank you, this is totally bloody it, perfect, yes, yes, sodding hell, God, look at you. It's like we're kissing, way more than kissing. I can't imagine what my face must look like.
 "You're her," he says finally, putting the cover over the lens. "I'm sure of it."
"Who?" I ask.
But he doesn't answer, just walks down the aisle toward me, a lazy, lanky walk that makes me think of summer. He's completely unwound now, went from high gear to no gear the moment he covered the lens. As he approaches, I see that he has one green eye and one brown eye, like he's two people in one, two very intense people in one.


Jandy Nelson perfectly understands how closely entwined joy and sadness are. Guys, Jandy Nelson KNOWS. She understands why exquisite happiness is sometimes achieved only through understanding loss. She understands how grief can engulf and change and break a family, and how art can save and remake us.  I don't know how else to explain the mingled feelings of happiness, bittersweet joy, and infinite sadness that engulfed me while reading except to say that Jandy Nelson is the YA Walt Whitman.

The Final Word: 


I could go on and on about I'll Give You The Sun, but honestly, it won't hold a candle to the book itself. If you like literary novels, if you want all the feels, this book needs to be on top of your TBR list. Read it now. Bask in the beauty. And then give it to a friend, because a book this good demands to be shared.

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is out now. Are you reading it or will you be reading it soon (read the first 55 pages here!)? Are you into literary books? How about art in books? Have you read Jandy Nelson's first book, The Sky is Everywhere (I haven't, but I will be soon)? Is that not one of the most gorgeous covers you've ever seen? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

We Can Work It Out (The Lonely Hearts Club #2)
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Expected publication: January 27, 2015

 When Penny Lane started The Lonely Hearts Club, the goal was simple: to show that girls didn’t need to define themselves by how guys look at them, and didn’t have to value boyfriends over everything else. Penny thought she’d be an outcast for life…but then the club became far more popular than she ever imagined it would be.

But what happens when the girl who never thought she’d date a good guy suddenly finds herself dating a great one? She doesn’t need a boyfriend…but she wants it to work out with this particular boyfriend. And he wants it to work out with her.

Only, things keep getting in the way. Feelings keep getting hurt. Words keep getting misunderstood.

Penny Lane worked hard to declare her independence. Now she needs to figure out what to do with it — and how to balance what she wants with what everyone else wants. In We Can Work It Out, Elizabeth Eulberg returns to the world of her first novel, The Lonely Hearts Club, and gets to the heart of how hard relationships can be…and why they are sometimes worth all the drama and comedy they create.


I had to change my entire Waiting on Wednesday because the cover of We Can Work It Out was revealed, and I liked it and The Lonely Hearts Club so much that I knew I needed to feature it this week!

First of all, tell me you're not all humming this:



Right? The Lonely Hearts Club was a really, really cute debut, full of girl power and music. But sometimes when you read a book, you feel a little unsatisfied at the end even though the ending is perfect for the book. That's how I remember feeling about The Lonely Hearts Club way back when I read it - it had so many Beatles references, it was such a fun book, there's an adorable romance...but what happens after that? What happens to the Lonely Hearts Club if their President is...not lonely?

That's why I'm so glad that Elizabeth Eulberg is tackling Penny Lane and her romance AFTER they get together...because I think that's the more interesting story. Eulberg has sensitively talked about teen romance and girl power in her last few books, and I think this one is going to really sing (sorry, sorry).

Also, Eulberg is publishing a whole set of FREE sequel novellas in the lead-up to We Can Work It Out, and they have adorable covers and equally great sounding synopses...



Are you excited to read WE CAN WORK IT OUT and the other sequels? Have you read The Lonely Hearts Club? Are you into cute contemporaries with a lot of girl power? What's your favourite Beatles song? What are you waiting for this week? Hit the comments and let me know!

Want to win a Sept 2014 new release? Stop by my giveaway!

Monday, September 15, 2014

GIVEAWAY CONTEST: Win a September 2014 YA, middle-grade, or new adult book!


Happy September, guys! It's been awhile since I've done one of these hops, but there are so many amazing books coming out this fall that I couldn't deprive you. =)

You know the drill: I'm giving away one young adult, middle grade, or new adult book released this month. In the interest of not making myself crazy, I'm only posting covers for the ones I'm super interested in reading, but feel free to comment with your own choices!




                 My review of Falling into Place           My review of Jessica Darling's It List #2

                         My review of I'll Give You The Sun  Blog tour post for The Art of Getting Stared At


Review to come this month!               Review to come this month!





Rules:

  • Giveaway open internationally provided you can receive shipments from The Book Depository.
  • You're welcome to choose a book I didn't mention here as long as it's a September 2014 YA, MG, or NA new release.
  • I will not be responsible for lost or damaged packages from The Book Depository or Amazon. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.


Author: Emery Lord 
Publisher: Bloomsbury (Penguin Canada)
Expected publication date: March 31, 2015 

Following her pitch-perfect debut Open Road Summer, Emery Lord pens another gorgeous story of best friends, new love, & second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics, The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

I haven't finished my review yet of Open Road Summer even though I read it way back in May, and there's a big reason: it's probably one of my favourite books of the year, and possibly of the last few years, and a book like that doesn't just get a review - it gets a lot of thought and a full-on essay from me. =p A truly heartfelt book, ORS floored me with its honesty and writing from the heart. The friendship and romance in that book were arrestingly good so I can't help but be on the edge of my seat waiting for Emery Lord's sophomore title. 

Plus, just look at that gorgeous cover! It perfectly evokes all-the-feels, summer, and contemporary...and you guys know I love those things! Look out for my review of Open Road Summer soon, and in the meantime, swoon over that synopsis!

Are you guys waiting for THE START OF ME AND YOU, too? Have you read (and fallen in love with) OPEN ROAD SUMMER? Isn't that cover amazing? What are you waiting for this week? Sound off in the comments!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Harry Potter and the 2014 Re-Read: Books 1-4 (SPOILERS)

At the beginning of the year, Michele from Just A Lil Lost and a few other bloggers decided to do a Harry Potter re-read. I started with the first book, but never got around to reviewing or doing any of the subsequent months.

Then, last week, Melissa from YA Bookshelf started reading the Harry Potter books for the first time. I can't tell you how jealous I was - you only get to read for the first time once, after all! So I decided to read along (at last!), and give a few of my thoughts, since Goodreads and my blog didn't exist when I first read the books.

Please keep in mind that these are totally spoilery mini-reviews - for fans only.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling:

 

 -There's so much Dursley in this one! I'd forgotten about how Harry talks to the snake at the zoo!
-The scene setting is brilliant, as are all of the red herrings that Rowling throws in, and the little pieces that will come back in later books (centaurs, anyone?)
-I still have the same feeling about how, if you see a Nimbus Two Thousand in Act One, Harry will inevitably have one by the end of the book (see: Prisoner of Azkaban/Firebolt).
-There's a lot more Hagrid than I remember, too - he really was kind of a father figure to Harry, Ron, and Hermione at the beginning, wasn't he?
-Hermione is amazing and I'm so glad Rowling gave us such a brave, brilliant know-it-all for a female character
-The ending reminded me of A Wrinkle in Time the first time, and it still does - the fact that love is the answer, always
-Harry Potter might be my book boyfriend. I totally had a crush on him throughout the series, and that feeling is still there - he's just so darn good, without being a douche about it!


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling:


I definitely noticed that this book is a bit more descriptive than I like...maybe because I'm an adult reader. Also, the middle plods a bit - the lead-up to finding out about the Chamber of Secrets should have a more foreboding, uneasy sense, but it felt weighted down by plot. Still, very, very creepy, especially when we first meet Tom Riddle through the diary...I can't believe I didn't notice just how dark this book is the first time (I *was* reading on a plane), what with the Deathday Party for Nearly Headless Nick, Aragog the spider, the blood on the walls...yeesh. The ending is actually terrifying.

That said, so many clues for later books in this one...very impressed by the number of seeds planted in this book that will come back later. Dumbledore's final speech to Harry about how it's our choices that define us, not our abilities, seems far more potent now, knowing what we know about his history.


Read the rest of my review on Goodreads



Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling: 

 

I remember now why Prisoner of Azkaban sold me on the whole series. This is the book when Harry starts to really look around and realize that the outside wizarding world isn't as good as it seems, that they have problems just as the Muggle world does. Where the book prevails is that it never gets preachy about doing the right thing, and you always believe Harry's character as authentic, despite him being very innocent and pretty near to perfect.

I'd forgotten just how big a fight Ron and Hermione are in during this book over Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, and Ron's rat Scabbers. You can definitely see shades of how much Hermione and Ron care about each other and how it might turn romantic. I loved how this book also gave us a larger glimpse into some of the people who will play a bigger role in Harry's life later. You really see who Cedric Diggory is and his sense of fairness when Harry lost himself because of Dementors during their Quidditch game. I liked how Ginny, while still crushing on Harry, is starting to be revealed as a funny, sarcastic young woman with a lot to say. It's obviously a deliberate choice on Rowling's part to show how Harry is starting to notice more about the people around him as he grows up. 


Read the rest of my review on Goodreads


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling:


The second time around, I think I liked Goblet of Fire much more than Prisoner of Azkaban, and would argue that it has the strongest structure and delivers the most in terms of making this coming-of-age story into something epic. 

I had forgotten (again!) about the big fight that Ron and Harry have over him being the Triwizard Champion, and how it was a long time coming. I had also forgotten about Hermione's teeth being cursed, and then shortened back so she doesn't have buckteeth! I loved how much this book focused on those aspects of growing up and friendship. And of course, I really enjoyed all the hints at Ron and Hermione's burgeoning romance.

If I have a criticism, it's that the Quidditch World Cup scenes at the beginning lasted far too long, as did some of the middle scenes with Harry training. That said, Harry's training for the tournament becomes the practice for his showdown with Voldemort at the end, proving what Dumbledore says at the end of book 5 - that in choosing Harry as his foe and constantly underestimating him - to the point of putting him through the tournament - Voldemort has also equipped Harry with the very tools he needs to defeat Voldemort.

I can't talk about this book without talking about the brilliant ending - the Cup as the Portkey, the way Harry and Cedric take the Cup together, the deaths, the rebirth of Voldemort from Harry himself, the speech, and yes, the beautiful moment of Priori Incantatem. I remember being completely enthralled by the latter scene during my first read. My second read was different only in that I felt ALL THE FEELS this time. 


Read the rest of my review on Goodreads


Have you read the Harry Potter books? Have you re-read them recently? What do you think of them, given time and space and less hype? Were there moments that I talked about that you remembered? Sound off in the comments, and look for more mini-reviews of the rest of the series soon!

Monday, September 8, 2014

"All These Things I've Done" Early Review: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Falling into Place
Author: Amy Zhang (website | twitter)
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (Harper Teen)
Source/Format: ARC from BEA14 
Expected publication date: September 9th 2014 (tomorrow!)
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

Review:


So many publishers and bloggers recommended this one that it was at the top of my BEA list - and I'm so grateful that I've read it.

You've probably heard the premise by now. Liz Emerson is a queen bee at her high school, the kind of popular Mean Girl that you have legitimate reason to hate because she destroys lives, her own included. The book starts with Liz's attempt to commit suicide. What happens before, during, and after is told in fragmented pieces throughout the book.

The narrator of the book is an onlooker, someone who has followed Liz's life for a long time. I think the identity of the narrator is supposed to be a bit of a twist, but honestly, it's not much of one - and it doesn't need to be. Whether you guess who the narrator is or not is not the point. What's interesting about the narrator is the voice and insight he/she gives to Liz's story.

This is a book written by an author who is wise beyond her years. I am completely floored that author Amy Zhang just graduated high school, and wrote this novel in high school. I'm even more impressed that the writing is not only honest and poignant, but also quite literary. The form of the novel follows the themes perfectly. The starkness of her writing strips all of her characters bare, down to their most secretive, knowing places, in bald contrast to the very public nature of Liz herself.

Because while Liz is your typical Mean Girl who drinks and makes out with lots of boys and is truly nasty, she's also a desperately lonely person. I know a lot of bloggers said they couldn't connect with her right away. She's not the kind of person you feel sorry for. She pretty much defines the Me Generation. She certainly doesn't have the nerdy life that I had in high school. And yet, the more you get to know her, the more you see her as a girl with so much potential and heart. Everything that has happened in her life has led her to this.

I feel like I'm spouting cliches here. But this book moved me and surprised me. I expected it to be very dark and depressing...and at certain points, it was. But with every moment of darkness, there was another fragment that gave us more of a clue to Liz's character, and those pieces were fascinating to behold. The mystery of her character is what compelled me to keep reading.

Falling into Place is, at its heart, a character study of a deeply depressed and lonely person. But Zhang takes it up a notch and builds in very strong, layered secondary characters, especially in best friends Julia and Kennie. They are so much a part of who Liz is and what she became. What's even more fascinating, though, is how people around her who didn't know her that well also added to Liz's character. The guy who called the ambulance. The kids who are playing cards at the hospital waiting to hear her diagnosis. The teens she bullied. Liz is not just the sum of her own parts, but what she's touched and influenced throughout the years, and we see, again and again, how little ripples can change and shape a person.

Bonuses:


Physics: Can I just applaud Zhang for using physics in such a clever and distinct way? I don't think I've ever seen a science thread written like this before, and it's quite brilliant. It's not going to make you say "Wow, science!", but it will, like the rest of the book, make you contemplate your own actions.

Stunning Writing: I mentioned already that this is a very literary book, but I couldn't finish this review without adding in a quote or two, because the writing is just beautiful:

"When she threw her head back, she could see the sky bending away from her, and it seemed closer than usual. As though if she tried, she could snag a star on her fingernail, but she didn't move."

"It struck him that perhaps she thought just as many thoughts in a minute as he did, felt just as many emotions, inhaled and exhaled just as he did. And it was then that he began to fall in love with her for the second time, for the same reason that he had picked up his flute again: because he believed in broken things."

The Final Word


Falling Into Place is a book to read when you need to look at life as clearly as possible. I didn't cry at this book. Maybe you will. I was too busy thinking and processing and trying to figure out how to hold on to both the feeling I got while reading, and the feeling that I can be better, stronger, and kinder, with my own life.

FALLING INTO PLACE comes out tomorrow! Will you be picking up a copy? Have you been anticipating this one like I have? How dark or poignant do you like your YA? Are you as amazed as I am by the age of the author? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dear Teen Me: The Art of Getting Stared At Blog Tour: Guest Post by Author Laura Langston

Hey guys, today I'm excited to be part of the official The Art of Getting Stared At Blog Tour! I didn't have time to read the book (too many BEA ARCs!), but I really wanted to be part of the tour for this book because I think it addresses self-esteem and appearance issues that we all faced - and still face - as teens and adults.

Here's more on the book!

Author: Laura Langston
 (website | twitter | facebook)
Publication date: September 9, 2014

After a school video she produced goes viral, sixteen-year-old Sloane is given the biggest opportunity of her life – a chance for a film school scholarship. She has less than two weeks to produce a second video, something with depth, and she’s determined to do it. The trouble is she has to work with Isaac Alexander, an irresponsible charmer with whom she shares an uneasy history.

On the heels of this good news/bad news opportunity, Sloane finds a bald spot on her head. The pink patch, no bigger than a quarter, shouldn't be there. Neither should the bald spots that follow. Horror gives way to devastation when Sloane is diagnosed with alopecia areata. The autoimmune disease has no cause, no cure and no definitive outcome. The spots might grow over tomorrow or they might be there for life. She could become completely bald. No one knows.

Determined to produce her video and keep her condition secret, Sloane finds herself turning into the kind of person she has always mocked: someone obsessed with their looks. She’s also forced to confront a painful truth: she is as judgmental as anyone else…but she saves the harshest judgments for herself.


On a Personal Note: 


Penguin Canada asked me to talk about one thing I wish I could tell my teen self about body image/self esteem. Where do I start? I was definitely not a pretty teenager; I had braces, terrible glasses, and no matter how much I spent on my clothes or my hair or my body, I always felt like it didn't look quite right. If I started losing my hair like Sloane, I don't know what Teen Me would have done, because I already felt like a secondhand version of what was cool - a really artificial knockoff. 

In high school, it feels like everyone is holding you up to a magnifying glass and you can't hide anywhere. It's like you're one of the giant people in Gulliver's Travels, and the cool people are little Gulliver, seeing all the gross parts of you.

The thing that I've realized is that EVERYONE FEELS THIS WAY. And most of the time, they're too busy scrutinizing themselves to see all of those things you see as imperfections. The people who do see them, and pick at them? Those are the people who are so scared that you'll see their imperfections that they have to shift the focus to you.

What I would tell my teen self is this: You are the only person who is scrutinizing yourself this closely. You are the only person who sees every tiny pore in your skin, every little pimple, every scar. No one else is looking this closely, and if they are, it's because they're scared. You can't control other people's reactions to you, but you can control how you feel about yourself. And no matter what anyone else says, you should own YOU. Do what you love, wear what makes you happy, and smile at yourself in the mirror.

I hope Sloane learns to own it in this book. I hope she stops judging herself so harshly, like I did in high school. And I really hope that she doesn't let her disease stop her from becoming the filmmaker she can be. 

On that note, because I'm a huge movie buff, I asked author Laura Langston to tell us a bit more about Sloane's favourite movies.

Guest Post: Sloane's List of Must-Watch Films

by Laura Langston


Sloane loves documentaries and wants to become a documentary filmmaker, so her picks are strongly influenced by her love of film making itself. Having said that, she also likes to laugh and she has a romantic streak too. Her picks in no particular order are:

See What I’m Saying (a documentary referenced in The Art of Getting Stared At)

Project Nim (a thought-provoking documentary with some dramatic re-creations and animatronics)

Juno (romance and laughter with heart)

Rise of Planet of the Apes (for its amazing special effects & because it’s set in her hometown of San Francisco)

Shrek (her favorite movie as a child)

Thanks, Laura! That's definitely an eclectic list of movies. I think I'd enjoy getting to know Sloane.

Here's more about Laura:

By the time she hit Grade Four, Laura Langston knew she wanted to be a writer. So did the teachers. It was the persistent daydreaming and invisible friends that tipped them off. Since Laura grew up knowing no writers – and consequently didn’t know how to be one – she became a journalist instead. The trouble is, journalists are expected to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

But making stuff up is way more fun. So eventually Laura traded one notebook for another and today she writes books for tweens, teens, children and sometimes adults.

When she’s not writing, reading or walking her Shetland sheepdogs, Laura can be found spying on people in the grocery store or twisting herself into a pretzel in yoga class.

To learn more, visit www.lauralangston.com. Follow her at www.facebook.com/LauraLangston.Author

THE ART OF GETTING STARED AT comes out on Tuesday, September 9th! Will you be picking up a copy? What would you tell your teen self about body image and self-esteem? What would you do if you started losing your hair? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink" Early Review: Jesslca Darling's It List #2: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Friends, Foes, and Faux Friends by Megan McCafferty

Jessica Darling's It List 2: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Friends, Foes & Faux Friends (Jessica Darling's It List #2)
Author: Megan McCafferty (website | twitter)
Publisher: Poppy
Source/Format: ARC from BEA 2014
Expected publication: September 16, 2014
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars. 

Jessica Darling is getting the hang of seventh grade -- finally! While her old BFF, Bridget, is busy talking (nonstop) about her new boyfriend, Burke, Jessica tries to fit in with her new friends, Sara, Manda, and Hope. The IT List instructions from her sister, Bethany, and an epic slumber party may help Jessica secure her spot in the cool clique, but does she even want it?

Megan McCafferty's It List series introduces readers to Jessica Darling, an unabashedly brainy seventh grader who stays true to herself, even if it means being (totally not) cool.


Review:


This is the second book in Megan McCafferty's middle-grade Jessica Darling series, and it's just as full of heart as the first. Jessica is just as innocent, witty, and feisty about friendship as she was about popularity.

The premise is similar - Bethany, Jessica's beautiful, much-older sister, has yet another list that guarantees that Jessica will be able to navigate friendships in her middle school years. The problem? The list is, once again, written in Bethany-speak, and leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In Jessica's case, that usually means the wrong interpretation and a lot of fumbles and embarrassing moments.

What It List #2 perfectly conveys is that confusion that happens when your friends are changing and puberty is hitting, and you don't know how to bridge new and old friends. I don't know a girl in the world who won't identify with Jessica and her attempts to navigate friendships - it's that real. And even if Jessica does go to extremes in her ideas of how to solve friendship problems, it's all done with such heart and innocence that you just want to hug her.

It List #2 also has amazingly accurate descriptions of girls' mind games, and how they hurt and change people. Truth be told, it reminded me a lot of the movie Mean Girls, because the representation of just how these games are played is so spot-on:

"The worst part about the nastiness Manda and Sara and Dori and Bridget were spreading about each other? Well, besides the fact that I was at the center of it? Some of the smack talk--just a teensy little bit--was possibly true. I could see how Dori and Bridget might envy Manda's persuasive personality or Sara's all-knowingness. I understood why Manda and Sara might wish they had boyfriends like Dori and Bridget or a friendship that went all the way back to crib. 
I just wish they didn't have to be so mean about it."

What I liked most about It List #2 is that it isn't preachy about how to navigate these problems, and there really are no right answers. Jessica gains a lot of wisdom about how to be a friend, but I think what she ultimately comes away with is more of a feeling that it is OKAY for friendships to change, and it's okay for her to not understand. She can just let people be and try her best to be a good friend.

Of course the other thing about It List #2 is that it's advances our characters, turning them into the people they are and will be in the original Jessica Darling series. Manda and Sara are kind of similar to who they will be in Sloppy Firsts, but Jessica's friendship with Hope and some of the cross-country team girls deepens in this book.

And, like in the first book, there are definitely some interactions with Marcus Flutie. I really don't want to spoil these, but let's just say that Tween Marcus is a very accurate representation of who he will turn out to be in the later books - even more so in this book than in It List #1. The friendship between Jessica and Marcus is absolutely adorable and like a true fangirl, I totally gobbled it up.

Bonuses: 


The Giggles: Like the original Jessica Darling, this series had me laughing out loud quite a few times - the things that happen are so out there, especially when they

Wisdom Comes With Age: If you're a fan of the older Jessica Darling novels, you know that Jessica's grandmother Gladdie is, like, the coolest elderly person in fiction. I was SO happy to see her in this installment, and she is just as hip, and wicked smart about life as she was in the original books, with an added bonus: younger Gladdie BAKES. I am desperate for her recipe for Jessica BARlings!




The Final Word: 


If you love the original Jessica Darling series, reading these books will give you so much joy and insight into the characters and how they came to be - it's definitely a fun, light, and quick read for fans. But beyond that, It List #2 left me wishing that I'd had these books as a guide to my tween life when I was a kid. As a 10-13 year old, you need a dose of reality and to know that it's totally normal to not understand what's cool, and what isn't. I really hope there are librarians, teachers and parents out there who are giving this to pre-teens - I think it will help a lot of young girls through middle school.

Recommended for: Tweens who are starting junior high and trying to navigate girl friendships, major Jessica Darling fans

Are you interested in reading JESSICA DARLING'S IT LIST #2? Are you a major Jessica Darling fan like me? Did you have run-ins with friendships and mean girls in junior high? How did you solve them? Let me know in the comments!