just what it sounds like…reading as a religion

Realistic Fiction

YATV

What. Am. I. Going. To. Do!!!!!

It’s the crappiest part of the tv year!  All my favorite shows are just minutes away from their season finales or they are taking ridiculously long hiatuses so they can make it to May Sweeps with new episodes left. Dumb!

To make me feel better about all this tv sadness, I am going to share some of my favorite YA-inspired tv shows.

GOSSIP GIRL

GOSSIP GIRL

Gossip Girl

This one’s currently on a break, but it’ll be back in April.  Thank goodness!  This one is all about the DRAMA.  If you’ve been living under a rock, here is the scoop:

Lost of rich kids living in New York City and getting into all kinds of trouble.  (I was going to say their were some not so rich people, but even the Humphreys are now shacking up with the Van Der Woodsens.)

This is one that I initially loved.  Over its four seasons, I’ve gone back and forth on this one.  There is definitely a lot of drama and lots of intrigue.  But, I can only take Lily and Rufus getting into the same fight so many times.  However, this show is more about the young’ins and they are crazy.  They have been through every ridiculous situation out there (drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, long-lost siblings, almost-incestuous relationships, mean girls, class issues, corporate espionage, secret societies, death, car accidents, missing persons, backstabbing, banishment, amnesia, and on and on and on).  However, I’m a little tired of the constant relationship back and forths and am often annoyed by the couplings.  Can Serena please be with someone…anyone… for more than 2 episodes? 

Still, I love this show.   It divulges quite a bit from the books (as any tv show based on a book does), but it is really addictive.  You can’t help but be jealous of the gorgeous clothes and the gorgeous people.  I will continue to watch it as long as it’s on, but I can’t guarantee I won’t be shaking my head thinking, “This. Is. Ridiculous.”

Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars

This one is currently running, but we only have 3 episodes left this season.  Pardon me while I shed a tear. 

Four high school girls reconnect after the death of the 5th member of their group, Allison.  When they start receiving messages from a mysterious A who knows things only Allison knew, they get caught up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse and start to realize Allison might not have been the person they thought she was.

This show makes me so tense.  I am dying to know who A is and who killed Alli.  I haven’t read the books, but I have read spoilers online.  Still, there is no guarantee that the show will follow the storyline of the books. 

The primary antagonist of this show is the mysterious A character.  He/She only speaks to the girls through various non-verbal messages (text, email, post-its, etc.)  A’s threatening messages usually involve some sort of blackmail about the many secrets the girls hide (a mom who stole money from work, a student-teacher relationship, being a lesbian, parents who cheat, past relationships with sister’s boyfriends, etc.) 

Hints online suggest that we might find out who Alli’s killer is by the end of season.  Are Alli’s killer and A the same person?  That’s one we’re going to have to wait a little longer for.  Also, showrunner I. Marlene King insists they are going to keep A’s identity secret as long as possible. 

This one is definitely a puzzle, but I’m enjoying trying to figure it out.  Even if it doesn’t sound like you’re thing, check it out.  At least for the opening credits.  Some of the best I’ve seen in a long time!

And Now….the Granddaddy of them All….

Vampire Diaries

Vampire Diaries

VAMPIRE DIARIES

Probably the best YA-based tv show on right now.   Also, currently on a break.  I hate you CW.  Look for it again in April.

The town of Mystic Falls, VA seems to be a magnet for all things supernatural (Vampires, Witches, Werewolves).  Lots of pretty teens deal with keeping the supernaturals a secret, while also trying to protect all the people they love.

Popular human Elena Gilbert seems to be the center of everything.  She is torn between her love for two vampire brothers.  Stefan, the good one, is her boyfriend.  Damon, the bad one, loves her but is fighting his urge to be a better person.  I am definitely a Delena shipper.  These two are just two hot to not be together.  (Plus, Stefan seems to have much more chemistry with new vampire Caroline.)  Add in the fact that both brothers used to be in love with the vampire Katherine, who is the greatxabunch grandmother of Elena and who could be her twin, and you have some serious drama.

As you watch the show, you discover that Mystic Falls has a long history of supernatural connections and the present is no exception.  Everything that has happened over the course of history seems to have built to the present, where Elena struggles to figure out how it is all connected to her.  As she tries to figure out the mysteries of the past, the present seems to be ever on the tipping point of all out supernatural destruction of one sort or another.

This one is very sexy and very bloody.  I hope it stays around along time.  Unlike every new character on the show.  Who seem to have a 2-episode max before they die.

All in all, I love me some YA-inspired tv shows.  All the drama of a good YA book with tons of yummy actors.  I’m gonna be on a boat for the next week, so I’ll be taking a little break from my tv.  My DVR will be waiting patiently for my return.

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An Evening with Brontë, or Why My Birthday was Super Awesome!

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger Final Cover

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger Final Cover

So, I haven’t been around and there is a sad reason why.  I’ve been reading a lot, but it’s all been pretty mediocre.   And I don’t want to share mediocre with my loyal readers.  But, all that’s about to change.  Friday was my birthday and I decided to celebrate in my own way.  I read two FABULOUS books!  Bonus: They both have ties to the brilliant Brontë sisters (and covers that irk me.)

First, I want to share Kody Keplinger’s The DUFF.  This debut novel was written by the author when she was a 17-year old senior in high school.  I have crazy respect for her for that.  Anyway, 17-year old protagonist Bianca Piper is the DUFF or so she is is called by school playboy, Wesley.  Wesley tells her the DUFF is the Designated Ugly Fat Friend and every group has one.  Even though B hates everything about Wesley and is way too smart to fall for his game, pressures in her life cause her to seek distraction in the form of an enemies with benefits relationship with him.  As she tries so hard to run away from her problems, Bianca may find one more thing she can’t handle…somewhere or someone that makes her comfortable and happy.

Bianca is an awesomely entertaining protagonist…totally brash and off-color and so real for it.  I love that she’s not afraid to tell Wesley exactly what she thinks of him.  She’s also not afraid to admit that girls can use guys just as easily as guys use girls.  She has this crass wit that will leave you doubled over in laughter.  The relationship between Bianca and Wesley is painfully beautiful in its intense teenage emotion.  The author’s voice is highly believable and relatable to any person who has experienced the poisonous nature of teenage emotion and the feeling that life is burying you.  Readers will find themselves rooting for Bianca to find peace with her self and to find serenity in the chaos of her life.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger ARC Cover

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger ARC Cover

While I often read what some refer to as Pop Tart books, this novel is pretty intelligent.  Fans of classic literature will find well-placed allusions and allegory to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter.  I will warn, however, that this book does not stray from bluntness.  I am quite against censoring what people are exposed to, but for those who care–the language and sexual content in this novel would probably earn it an R-rating.

Look for The DUFF to hit stores in early September.  On a side note, I have to share my thoughts about the book’s cover.  The final cover showcases a freckle-faced dirty blonde with too-blue eyeshadow and a big bubblegum bubble.  After reading this book, I have to say this just doesn’t fit Bianca to me.  Bianca is harsh and edgy and this cover just screams early Britney Spears.  Bianca is not a tween-queen wannabe.  I wish they would have stuck with the cover on my ARC.  I thought this cover was gorgeous.  The cover model with dark hair, blunt bangs, and no makeup seems much more appropriate.  Her pursed red lips and piercing blue eyes have this perfect combination of loneliness with a tough exterior.  But hey, cover design isn’t up to me.

Jane by April Lindner

Jane by April Lindner

On to a book with a much bigger and obvious Brontë connection–Jane by April Lindner.  This novel is presented as a modern retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.  Given that it would be a very subjective topic, I will not address whether classics should be retold or whether this a good retelling.  I am just going to share my thoughts about the book on its own.  I LOVED IT! I could not put this one down, which was so welcome after reading a string of mediocre titles.

Jane Moore is down on her luck.  A tragic accident claimed her parents’ lives and forced her to drop out of a prestigious college.  She goes to a nanny agency in search of work, so that she may save up the money to go back to school.  Being intelligent and unphased by popular culture, she becomes the perfect candidate for a position at wealthy rockstar, Nico Rathburn’s, estate.  Once at Thornfield Park, she quickly develops a close bond with Nico’s daughter, Maddy, and in turn Nico, himself.  In a world that seems perfect from the outside, Jane is forced to confront the many secrets hidden inside.  Jane must decide what it means to be successful in life and what she’s willing to give for love.

Jane is an admirable protagonist.  She is independent and level-headed, always doing what she thinks is right and doing what she has to do for herself.  I love how she calls Nico on his crap (he does too.)  Readers will enjoy watching Jane soften and open up to those around her.  There are many lessons about life and love to be learned along with Jane as she finds her way in the world.  Nico is equally as likable.  A girl can’t help but be intrigued by a sexy, tortured rock star.  Plus, he’s adorably loving of his daughter.  Female readers will find themselves swooning over Nico and wishing they were Jane.

I thought that the writing of this book was refreshingly intelligent and well-worded.  I enjoyed being challenged by the vocabulary, but that might be my nerdy side coming out.  It was also deeply beautiful and moving.  I found myself crying on many occasions and overwhelmed with emotion throughout.  Fans of romance will enjoy this modern classic.  I enjoyed every minute of it.

Jane is coming to a store near you in October.  On a cover note here, as well, my ARC cover was plain–a pink title on a solid pastel blue background.  Amazon shows a cover with a girl in a sweater and flowy skirt walking on a foggy plain at dusk.  I hope they change this cover.  If not, please don’t be fooled by this photo!  It is more reminiscent of the original Jane Eyre, than the rock and roll retelling in Lindner’s Jane. Jane Moore is a rock star’s nanny in New England.  She does not go running forlornly across the plain. EVER.

All in all, it was a good birthday!  I especially enjoyed curling up in bed with these two great reads.  I highly suggest you check them out when they are released.  Happy reading!


Heartbreakingly Beautiful, or Why Tragedy Can Make a Person So Endearing

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

O.M.G.

I am totally reeling after reading Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James.  This fast-paced psychological thriller is intense, but I loved every moment of it.

17-year old Katherine Patterson has suffered a terrible tragedy. (I won’t share it here because, although I had some idea of what happened prior to reading this novel and some reviews give it away, unraveling all the details of Katherine’s past is one of the most suspenseful aspects of this novel.) But, Katherine has moved to the city to start a new life.  Her many attempts at remaining alone and aloof are easily squashed by the beautiful, exciting Alice, who wants to be her friend.  Katherine, who has spent a long time being sad and avoiding any traces of her old party-girl lifestyle, is easily persuaded to take up Alice’s fun and relaxed ways.  But is Alice really as carefree as she seems, or does her beautiful exterior only hide terrible secrets?

This book is so many things at once–thrilling, seductive, touching, intriguing, scary.  Told in alternating settings of past present and future, readers of this novel won’t be able to help but wonder if Katherine will ever overcome the tragedies of her past or if she is destined to end up far worse off.  This novel will hook you from the opening page and keep you guessing throughout.  I couldn’t put it down.

This book was published for adults by Random House, under the Bantam imprint.  When it was promoted at the Random House Fall Preview for adult titles, it was mentioned that it would also appeal to young adults.  Upon reading it, I found that it would definitely be appropriate and appealing to the young adult reader.  The underlying path of the story finds the 17-year old protagonist coming to terms with what it means to grow up.  I would recommend this to a certain type of young adult reader.  However, I will warn those of you reading this review that the novel is quite dark.

I was prepared to tell you to look for it on August 31st , as that’s what my advance copy claims it’s release date to be.  However, upon doing a little further research, it turns out that this book was actually released last week.  Lucky you! You should really go out and get yourself a copy.


Thirsty for Blood, or why Pale is the New Tan

Vampire novels: dark. creepy. romantic. sexy. mysterious. exciting. intriguing. funny.

Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney

Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney

WAIT.

Funny?

They are if they’re about a nerdy kid pretending to be a vampire to get girls.

I just finished reading my advance copy of Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney.  In Meaney’s debut novel, 16-year old Finbar Frame seems to be the underdog of underdogs.  Not only does he have to deal with a twin brother who seems to be the reincarnation of a Greek Olympian, he’s allergic to the sun and knows more about girly pop culture than any teen boy looking for a girlfriend should.  Yes, that’s right.  He’s allergic to the sun.  While Flynn initially considers his diagnosis of solar uriticaria to be another one of the many unfortunate circumstances of his life, a chance encounter with a vampire-obsessed girl on a train gives him a bright idea.  He’s pale.  He’s brooding.  He’s gonna become a vampire.  Armed with every vampire novel he can find at the library and a handful of True Blood DVDs, he sets out to become Finn, super sexy and suave vampire.   Hilarity ensues as we watch Finbar try to assume his new persona and see if he can use it to land the girl of his dreams.

I found the premise of this novel hilarious and intriguing and in reading it, I was not disappointed.  My only issue with this novel is that while some of Finbar’s girlish  references and actions are believably explained by the fact that he spends most Friday nights at home watching chick flicks with his mother, at times they surpass even this explanation, making Finbar seem more girlish than necessary.  However, we can all find a little bit of ourselves in Finbar, that part that goes to drastic lengths to be happy with yourself or to make someone like you.

Overall, I enjoyed this book for a lazy summer afternoon.  It’s about time someone took to mocking the vampire-obsessed culture.  (Although, I will admit I sometimes fall into that crowd.)

Look for Bloodthirsty to hit shelves in October.


Summer, or Why This Mountain of Books Has Taken Over My Room

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

So, miss me lately?  The end of the semester is always a rough time, but now it is summer which means lots of time for reading.  I went to the library to stock up on reading material and came back with enough to entertain a small country for a year.  It’s overtaken my room slightly, but good news for you–this means lots of new reviews.

To start us off, a review I’ve been promising for awhile with a very appropriate summer setting.

Title: Dairy Queen

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The Story As It Is: D.J. Schwenk is your typical teenage girl…..well not so much, actually.  Raised on a farm, she is the only girl of four children.  She intends to spend her summer taking care of the farm for her injured father.  Unexpectedly, a rival football coach and family friend sends his  backup quarterback to work at Schwenk farm for the summer, so he can learn some work ethic.  The boy, Brian, is more hindrance than help to D.J. and her younger brother, who have grown up knowing the toughness of farm work.  As Brian begins to learn about what it means to work on the farm, he and D.J. grow closer and hatch a plan.  D.J., an athlete herself, who accompanied her two older brothers, both football stars, as they trained in previous summers will be Brian’s new football trainer.  Romance blooms as the two work to make Brian the starting quarterback.  What will happen when their secret gets out and everyone knows D.J. trained the enemy?  And what will happen when Brian finds out that D.J. has been keeping a secret all her own?

The Story As I See It:  This book was really refreshing.  It provided a nice break from some of the depressing books I’ve been reading lately.  D.J. is not your average girly-girl.  She’s a little tougher and very likeable for it.  This books presents romance in a new way, as D.J. is more of a tomboy and an athlete than the typical protagonist of a romance novel.  Sports fans will enjoy the insight into Brian and D.J.’s football training.  Teenage girls will love to read about the pair’s blossoming romance.  All teenagers can relate to the novel’s exploration of being your own person in the face of your family, friends, and community.  D.J. asks the reader to consider an interesting question:  Are we all just cows, following in line, never striking out to make our own mark on life?

Verdict: If you’re looking for a fun book for a sunny day, or even for a rainy one, pick up this book as a light read.  D.J. is an interesting protagonist and you won’t be able to wait for the following two books (The Off Season, Front and Center).  I’m in the third book of the trilogy right now myself!


The Meaning of Thirteen, or Why I Made This Awesome Podcast

So, this one’s all about a class assignment.  But, I promise that there are some awesome books within.  Basically, I had to book talk three books like I would as a librarian for a teenage audience.  The tricky part is that it had to be recorded as a podcast.  This is my first foray into podcasting, so be gentle.  Anyways, it needed to have some kind of general topic or theme.  Being the nut that I am, I couldn’t just pick any old theme.  So, I came up with what I consider to be an awesome idea: Books With the Word Thirteen in the Title

I know it’s probably not nearly as exciting to you as it was to me when I had this epiphany.  So, I’ll get to the point–what books did I choose?

Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman

Well if you’ve read my blog previously, you will know that I already reviewed Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and loved it!  That was my starting point.

From there, I added Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman.  I’ve had an advanced reading copy of this lying around since October.  I loaned it to my teenage brother and he told me it was awesome.  For some reason, probably general lack of time, I’ve put off reading it.  All I have to say is, boy, I wish I’d read this sooner.  Exciting and thrilling!  Totally great new take on the current trend towards the supernatural.  This book just hit the shelves last week and I am glad to be able to recommend it.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Rounding out my podcast, I added something for those of you that prefer sunnier reading–Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.  In this book, Ginny finds herself traveling alone through Europe following a mysterious trail of letters that her dead aunt has left for her.  Along the way, she finds adventure, romance, and littleof herself.  This one is definitely ‘awwwwwww’-inducing.  So of course, I loved it–despite its slight cheesiness.

So, without further ado, if you would like to listen to my podcast it is located at: http://readligion.podbean.com

Enjoy!


Reason to Live, or Why Death is So Hot Right Now

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

When I decided to read the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, I did a little background research first.  I did not realize what a hot topic death, especially suicide, is right now in young adult lit.  A quick look at Amazon gives me a ton of hot books about this topic.  So, what do I think? I think this is a tough subject, but a lot of people deal with it—more than we may realize.  I think exploring this subject in literature is eye-opening and healthy.  It might even help some people who are really struggling.  And why is this topic so hot?  I’m not really sure.  Maybe, it’s because it’s kind of a risqué subject.  Maybe it’s because of the recent surge of interest in the supernatural and the creepy and in turn, an interest in death. I don’t know.  Anyways, I read Thirteen Reasons Why and I really enjoyed, so maybe it’s just that the strong emotions related to death and suicide make for really good literature.

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why

Author: Jay Asher

The Story As It Is: Clay Jensen receives a mysterious package containing 7 tapes with sides numbered 1 through 13, the fourteenth side unmarked.  On the first tape, he hears the voice of his crush Hannah Baker telling him he is one of the thirteen reasons she committed suicide.  During one long evening, Clay makes his way all over town and through each of the tapes—finding out a lot of things about Hannah’s life that he never knew.  As he listens to the tapes, Clay realizes the importance of every action one takes and how they might affect people in ways you can’t even see.

The Story As I See It: As a reader, I felt so bad for Clay.  I could feel how much he was hurting.  He only wanted to know Hannah better.  How could he have been the reason she killed herself?  Going on the journey with him was really exciting and emotionally-moving.  Reading Hannah’s audio narrative is like talking to a ghost.  It is kind of creepy, but also really effective in drawing you into the story.  You will not be able to put this book down, wanting to know each of Hannah’s thirteen reasons.  By reading this book, I felt myself considering the affect I have on people.  Even sometimes when I feel invisible, I am affecting people in some way.

The Verdict: This book is definitely rough on the emotions.  Hannah is pretty blunt about the events in her life and how she feels.  In the end, however, it is a totally worthwhile read.

So, after reading about this, I’m pretty interested in reading some more of these trendy books about death:

  • By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
  • Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson