Archive for January, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Discussable* Books

* I’m not entirely sure that’s a real word, but I’m too tired to look it up now.

This week (please ignore how I skipped several weeks since last time) for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is books that would be good for a book discussion.  My list includes books that I’ve gotten to discuss and were great, books I will be discussing and am looking forward to, and books I would love to discuss.  In no particular order…

1.  Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
All of my answers to Top Ten Tuesday may include Harry Potter.  Everytime I re-read any of these books…or even think about them for longer than one minute…I think they’re amazing and want to talk to someone about how intricately woven they are.

2.  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
If you’ve read this blog at all in the past, you may have seen me reference this book before.  Because it’s AMAZING and my favorite adult book EVER.  I’ve actually gotten to discuss this before and while it was a good discussion, pretty much everyone else was like “eh, it was ok.”  😦

3.   The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I’ve discussed this book officially 2 times in a true book discussion and have another one coming up in March.  Can I just say it: I am burnt out on The Hunger Games!  *whew*  But it does make a good discussion, and next time the discussion is with adults, so should be interesting.

4.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I read this a few weeks ago and instantly wanted to talk about it.  I am so sad that it will not come out in paperback for at least a year and therefore cannot be a true book discussion that I lead or co-lead for a long time.

5.  Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
One of my coworkers and I started a book discussion group for adults (and teens) who want to read YA books.  I would LOVE to do Beauty Queens, but again, waiting for paperback.

6.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
We actually just discussed The Book Thief with our new book discussion group for adults reading teen books and it was a great discussion.  Even though I kind of hate the book (please don’t hate me!), the adults were pretty into it.  Particularly when it came to what the colors symbolized and why it is a teen book.

7.  Chime by Franny Billingsley
So even though I was confused by this book while reading it and wasn’t sure I even really liked it, I cannot stop thinking about Chime!  It has a lot of fabulous elements and I desperately want to re-read it for a true discussion about its narrator, writing style, and fairy tale-esque qualities.

8.  When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
It’s been awhile since I’ve read this, but I definitely remember loving it.  It’s definitely the kind of book you want to go back instantly and re-read, which I think means it would be great to discuss.

9.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This one is FULL of ’80s references and nerdiness.  I read it for a discussion with some friends, and it was great – both the book and the discussion.

10.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
After seeing Midnight in Paris, I really wanted to read or re-read books of the jazz era.  The Great Gatsby is at the top of my list since I haven’t read it since sophomore year of high school and remember nothing besides a car crash and a green light.  (I think?)  If it were part of a book discussion, I would definitely pick it up.  Anybody interested??  (I wish I hadn’t missed when the nerdfighting community read it this summer.)

What books do you want or love to discuss?

– Jill

A Review of Sorts

I realized a few days ago that I have really slowed down on my reading in the past few months. Maybe I’ve just been too tired to stay up late reading like I usually do. Whatever. So my goal for this year is to read more. Also to keep track of what I read, so that I can do fun look back posts like Jill. To start off, I’m posting this kind-of-review. Mostly I’m just going to talk about these books I just read.

The first two books that I have read so far this year just happen to be by the same author, Leila Sales. I read her first book, Mostly Good Girls, first.

I have a confession to make. When I was reading this book, I didn’t really like it. In retrospect, I think that’s because I kept expecting something really scandalous to happen. I don’t know why though. It’s like I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop and it never happened. So then what is this book about? The book follows high school junior Violet as she tries to get good grades (straight As, actually), get the boyfriend of her dreams, and not have her school’s literary magazine, of which she is the editor, suck. But what the book is really about is Violet’s friendship with Katie. I think part of the reason I disliked reading this book is because I kept thinking how much I’d rather be seeing things from Katie’s perspective. To me, Katie is the much more interesting half of this pair of best friends. Katie is always coming up with awesome projects for her and Violet to do, like creating mazes for her dog and timing him, or becoming pool sharks. On top of that, throughout the book, Katie gets more and more defiant and angry, but Violet just kind of ignores this.

I struggled with Violet. I wanted to smack her upside the head a lot. Mostly because she kept ignoring all these signs that something was not right with Katie. Also because she was jealous of Katie. I kept wanting to yell at Violet and be like, “Look, we both know Katie’s awesome, but there’s no reason that you both can’t be awesome.” Sure, Katie gets a perfect PSAT score. But it’s not like she can help it. Why should she have to dumb herself down just to keep a friend? That’s not cool. Not that Violet would ever suggest that, but you can definitely tell that Violet may have thought that a stupider Katie might have been better at one point or another. But her jealousy wasn’t what really bugged me about Violet. It was that she was whiney about her grades. She kept saying that she wanted to get straight As, blah blah blah. But then there would be times when she didn’t bother to finish her homework, or thought she should be studying and then went out anyways. And the whole time I was just like, do your dang homework! Gah! How hard is that concept? If you do your homework, you’re much better prepared when the test on that subject material rolls around. But I guess I’ve been out of high school for almost ten years now, so what do I know?

Now that I’ve just told you why I didn’t like the book, I have to tell you that I actually do like this book. I had to sit on it for a while but I’ve come to appreciate just what Mostly Good Girls did. Like I said, nothing terribly scandalous happened. But then this wasn’t an action driven novel. It was more about the characters and their journeys. I think that if I had gone into the book knowing that it was character driven, I would have enjoyed it while I was reading it. But overall, I can safely say that I really do like this book. I wish I could tell you why I ended up liking Violet, but that’s really the whole point of the book and I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who do end up reading it.

The second book I read was Past Perfect.

First things first. How cute is that cover! Super cute! The only reason I read Mostly Good Girls was because I wanted to read this book. But! My library branch didn’t have Past Perfect and so while I was waiting for them to transfer it over I read Mostly Good Girls because they DID have it. Past Perfect is about Chelsea and her summer working at Essex Historical Colonial Village. You guys. She works as a colonial era re-enactor! How cool is that!? Way cool. I’ve always wanted to do something like that, but I didn’t grow up close enough to any places that could have employed me. Chelsea gets to dress up and pretend to be someone else from a different time all summer! And on top of that her best friend is working there this summer, too! Tons of fun! Wooo! Oh wait. Chelsea’s ex-boyfriend, Ezra (I kept picturing this totally emo teenager), is also working there this summer. Which is totally not cool, because Chelsea isn’t over him. But! But! There is a war on! And Chelsea is second-in-command! Which is way awesome. Except then she meets one of the super cute and totally crushable enemies. And everyone knows you shouldn’t fraternize with the enemy! The war has been going on ever since Reenactmentland opened up right across the street from Essex. Reenactmentland is all about the Civil War, and they’re so passionate that they soak their coat buttons in urine just so it looks more authentic. Dedication, right there.

This book was super fun to read. Not only did I get to learn about what it might be like to be a re-enactor, but there were snippets of history all over the book. So I learned stuff too! Double whammy. It’s hard to beat that. Also, did I mention super crushable enemy boy? Because that was fun too. Chelsea’s got a pretty awesome BFF, Fiona, too. Together they are also spending their summer becoming ice cream connoisseurs. Ice cream! Yes! Who wouldn’t want to do that? Also, there’s a really cool scene where Chelsea finally lets herself remember what a jerk Ezra really was/is.

So to recap: I liked both books, but definitely liked Past Perfect better. My recommendation would be to start with Past Perfect, and then if you liked that, then read Mostly Good Girls. I will be watching to see what Ms. Sales’ third book will be. I definitely can see her becoming one of my favorite authors in the future.



Top Ten Tuesday – More Books Please!

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.  A lot of blogs I follow also play along, so I’ve decided to join.  Hopefully it’ll be a fun easy way to start blogging again.

This week is Top Ten Authors I Wish Would Write Another Book.

1.  J.K. Rowling – I’m pretty sure she’s on everyone’s list, and honestly I don’t know if anything else she would write would live up to HP7, but I’m willing to take that risk.

2.  Meg Cabot – Ok, Meg Cabot’s pretty busy still writing books, but honestly I’d love more Allie Finkle.  I think she’s done with #6 and that makes me sad.

3.  Michelle Cooper – Have you all read A Brief History of Montmaray and The FitzOsbornes in Exile yet?  Do it!

4. (Avert your eyes Jen!!!)  Stephanie Perkins – Isla and the Happily Ever After has been pushed back to 2013 to make a better novel, which I respect, but I sure wish it were easier to pop out more books.

5.  Jon Scieszka & Lane SmithThe Stinky Cheese Man, Math Curse, Squids Will Be Squids, etc.  Together is where they belong.  Collaborate more often!

6.  Rick Riordan – He’s practically as prolific as Patterson (when you remove the co-writers), and we’ve established his books are candy.  I wouldn’t mind getting cavities for more Percy Jackson.

7.  Ally Carter – I am officially declaring Ally Carter the female Rick Riordan.  In that her books are also like candy.  More Gallagher Girls and Heist Society please!

8.  Melanie Watt – I’m pretty sure if there were 100 books about Scaredy Squirrel, I would read them ALL.

Hmm, well that’s only 8, but since it’s my first Top Ten, I deem that ok.

What would you put on your list?

– Jill

Jill’s Reading Roundup 2011

Happy New Year everybody!  Now that the 2011 is over, it’s time for my annual reading roundup!

Books read:  108 (including one on audio)
Pages read:  24,434 (not including picture books)

Book Breakdown
Picture Book: 31
Juvenile Fiction: 15
Juvenile Nonfiction: 5
Young Adult Fiction: 41
Young Adult Nonfiction: 3
Adult Fiction:  7
Adult Nonfiction: 6

In 2011, I read more adult books because I started attending one of the adult book clubs at my library.  I also reread my top 4 favorite books – 3 for book discussions!  I reread the entire Harry Potter series, which was an amazing decision, to gear up for the final movie, several Rick Riordan books, because they’re as addictive as candy, and near the end of the year, to prepare for the Dr. Seuss exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, I read a bunch of Dr. Seuss books.


Best Contemporary YA (all of these will be books I read in 2011, not necessarily new in 2011)


I read both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door and loved both!  Maureen Johnson’s The Last Little Blue Envelope was also an extremely satisfying sequel.




Best Nonfiction Read in 2011:

Both of these were actually kind of surprisingly good.  Lauren Conrad’s Style covers a lot of different areas like makeup, how to pack, essential items for your closet, etc.  I would have loved this when I was a teen.  OK, let’s be honest – I love it now.  I was really impressed with how the book was put together – great pictures, topics broken down into easy-to-read paragraphs – and the writing is very encouraging.  This is a great book for teen girls.

Harry Potter: Film Wizardry surprised me because I kept hearing about Harry Potter: Page to Screen (which I haven’t been able to get my hands on yet) and assumed that one would be much better.  Film Wizardry is a great tribute to the movies.  It’s pretty well organized, has lots of interesting facts I didn’t know, and has a TON of great pictures and even some added pull-out features, like the Marauder’s Map and programs for the Quidditch World Cup and Yule Ball.


Best Historical Fiction

I’ve already gushed about greatness that is Michelle Cooper’s Montmaray series.  Please go read them!  I don’t think they’re getting the attention they deserve.  This is the second one and I loved it even more than the first.  How often does that happen?



Funniest Book

Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens is hilarious.  I was looking forward to it since I saw the cover and heard it was basically Miss Teen USA + Lost + Libba Bray.  There’s lots of crazy things going on in this book, including jabs at reality tv, commercialism, beauty products.  I’ve also heard that the audiobook is amazing, which I totally believe since it’s read by Libba Bray.



Best Cover

This is one of my favorite covers of all-time.  It’s just so creepy!  I love this book for the incredibly creepy pictures.





Best Dystopia

This is an older adult book, and it is so good.  I included it when I booktalked dystopias at a high school.  It’s lighter on the science fiction that dystopias tend to be now, but it still has that government controls all feel.  I highly recommend it.




Best Picture Book

One of these is obviously pretty old, but I have developed a new appreciation for The Lorax.  “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” is my favorite line.

Grandpa Green did come out this year, and it’s gorgeous.  I’d expect no less from Lane Smith.



Most Gorgeous All-Around Book

Conor’s mom is sick with cancer and he has been having nightmares lately. Then at 12:07 each night a monster comes. Soon it tells Conor it will tell him 3 stories but after that Conor must tell the monster (which resembles the yew tree near their home) a story- the truth about his nightmare. Through the stories, scenes with Conor & his mom, his grandmother, and his dad who moved away to America with his new family, as well as Conor’s interactions with a bully and his no-longer-a friend Lilly, we see Conor start to understand that the monster was called not to heal his mother as Conor first thought, but to heal him.

The etchings within this book really add to this already gorgeous book.  At the Mock Printz discussion I attended, we easily voted this our winner.  I hope the real Printz committee does too.


Best “I’m not sure what’s going on but I’ll go with it” Book

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Chime by Frannie Billingsley, but even after I’ve had time to think about it, I’m still not sure what genre to really put this in.  Is it historical fiction?  Science fiction?  Fantasy?  We discussed this at the Mock Printz discussion too, and people really emphasized the fairy tale aspect.  All I know is that Chime is a beautifully and uniquely written book.  The story is told in a twisty-turny way that makes the plot kind of confusing to follow, but I loved the way it was written.  Give it a shot, but consider yourself warned- it may be more challenging than most.


Best “Jumped on the Bandwagon” Book

If you were paying attention to anything this year, you would have known that EVERYONE and their MOTHER was reading The Help.  I doubt that any of our many copies have ever been on the shelf.  I hadn’t really been interested in reading it though because, for one, I don’t really read adult books, and two, it was tough to get ahold of.  But when I was in Florida on vacation this summer, my teenage cousin asked if I had read it, and when I said no, she pushed it in my hands and told me I had to.  And as soon as I started, I was quickly drawn into it, and couldn’t put it down.  I really enjoy historical fiction, and I think this does a good job of capturing the heaviness of the Civil Rights Era.  I haven’t seen the movie because it seems from the previews that the movie doesn’t match what I felt the book conveyed.  Maybe I’ll watch it someday.


Best New Series

Percy Jackson is one of my favorite series, so I am on board with continuing his story in whatever way possible.  This year I finally got my hands on the first two in the Heroes of Olympus series.  While I think these two were a little too lengthy, I did enjoy them.  Let’s face it, it’s Rick Riordan, how can I NOT enjoy them?




Nerdiest Book

Not only does this book have a clear goal, is filled with action and excitement, but it’s LOADED with 80’s pop-culture and video-games references.  It’s been getting a lot of buzz, and I really enjoyed it, even more than I expected.  If you’re even remotely nerdy, particularly in the technological sense, you’ll like it.  Easy as that.





So…what great books did you read this year?

– Jill