Monday, November 17, 2014

An Apology, an Explanation, and a Goodbye (For Now) From Rachel

Hi guys. So you may have noticed that this blog has been looking a little empty lately. First of all, I'd just like to apologize for totally falling off the grid without an explanation. I didn't intend to disappear like I did, but there have been a lot of changes in my life lately that have resulted in my extended absence.
The most important change I'm facing right now is the transition to adulthood. Somehow, I have managed to make it to age eighteen, and the past few months of my life have been all about adjusting to this new part of my life. This transition hasn't been incredibly sudden or dramatic, but I have been dealing with thoughts of "holy crap I'm an ADULT?!" on a daily basis, and it's making me think about my life in a different way. I'm realizing that I have changed a lot during my years in high school, and I have grown and matured quite a bit. This blog began when I was fifteen, and here I am three years later, with different ideas and opinions and tastes in all aspects of my life. I'm a different person, and I'm no longer sure how this blog fits into who I am now.
Along with the adulthood thing, I've been focused on the idea of college lately. I've been wanting to go to college for most of my life, so it's always been this goal I've worked towards, but in a big picture, one-day-I'll-go-college kind of way. Now, here I am, applied to my first choice school in a binding contract that feels a bit like selling my soul for an education, waiting to receive a letter that will determine the next few years of my life, and I'm terrified. I've stressed myself out and worked my butt off for the past several years to impress colleges and do everything I can to get out of high school and into an environment in which I'm happy, and it seems like all of that hard work has come to an end. The application is in, and there is nothing I can do now but wait.
Never before in my life have I not had any idea where I would be a year from then. For every year before this one, I always knew that I'd be in the next grade of school in the same town I've lived in for all of my life. Now, I have no idea where I'll be in a year. I know a few places where I hope to be. But I don't know anything for certain, and anything could change depending on an acceptance letter or a rejection letter or finances.
While I'm struggling to accept the fact that I have reached a pivotal and terrifying point of my life just before everything is about to change, I'm also becoming aware of how different I've become in the past few years. That's where this blog comes in.

When I started this blog, I was fifteen. I was obsessed with Jace from The Mortal Instruments and I loved to scream about books with my friends and I frequently showed up at author signings with shirts covered in poorly-painted quotes from books. I was young and immature, which was fine, because I was fifteen and fifteen-year-olds are allowed to be immature, but the point is that I was different.
Now, I still love The Mortal Instruments and I love to talk about books and I think authors are the coolest people ever, but my tastes and opinions and ideas and standards have all changed. Reading is still a major part of my life, but not in the same way it once was. I'm trying to expand my reading tastes and move on from the YA bubble, and I'm trying to focus on my writing and learn how to improve my craft, and I'm trying to figure out what kind of books I do love now.
Because my reading tastes have changed, my experience with blogging has changed as well. I've started to notice that I no longer get excited about the idea of advance readers copies or the sequels to series I've been reading for years finally being released. It's not that I don't care about these things anymore; it's just that I care about them a lot less than I once did. Blogging was a fun part of my life for a few years, but I think I'm over it now. I don't mean to say that I don't see the value in blogging or that I hate it, I just think that maybe it's not "my thing" anymore.
Blogging was "my thing" for so many years, and I'm glad I had that experience, but I don't think I need that escape from "real life" anymore. Talking about books online is fun, but I'm also starting to meet people with whom I can talk about books in person, and to me, that's way better. I simply don't have much interest in reading Top Ten Tuesdays or Waiting on Wednesdays or reviews to books I don't know much about. I'm tired of feeling stressed-out about my ginormous stack of review books I'm supposed to get to, and the even larger stack of books I bought because I wanted to keep up with the trends of the book blogging world. These things don't hold much appeal to me anymore, and I'm ready to move on from them. I don't mean that I'm going to leave the blogging world entirely and stop reading blogs and stop reading the books that bloggers love to talk about, but I'm definitely going to take a step back and view the blogging world from a bit of a distance. I don't like that reading makes me feel stressed out and overwhelmed. I don't want to focus on how many books I read and how fast I read them and how I'm doing on my Goodreads Reading Challenge. I don't want to feel pressured to keep up with other bloggers in the books I read and reviews I write. I just want to read because I love it and I want to write because I love it and I want time to live my life outside of the blogosphere.
This post is getting a little long and rambling and disjointed, but hey, that's what I do best. :)

What I mean to say with all of this is: I'm kinda confused. I've loved blogging for so long, but I'm starting to change my mind. As a newly-eighteen-year-old, I'm well aware of the fact that changing my mind is totally normal, but I've never been particularly fond of straying from my routine, so this is difficult for me. 

I don't want to officially say goodbye to blogging, because I'm not totally convinced this is goodbye for me. I may very well decide to start this up again, once I feel a little less confused and a little more excited about the idea of blogging. Maybe I'll come back to Read Write Ramble, or maybe I'll start a new book blog one day. At this point, I don't know what my plans are, but I'm trying to accept that and just see what happens. For right now, I've decided to continue this extended absence and keep my distance from this blog. So, this is it for the time being.

While I won't be around on this blog, I have no plans to stop making videos on my YouTube channel (although I do have plans to start making more non-book-related content), and I'm sure you'll still be able to find me on Twitter. I also did start a new blog. There's not much there yet, but I think I might make it into a place where I can share my writing and posts about my life, with the occasional book or maybe even music review thrown in. So if you'd like to follow me to those other locations, I'd be glad to have you. :)

I know I'm not the only blogger who has been absent from this blog lately, and while I've explained my reasons to you, I can't speak for Megan or Katherine. I'm not sure if they intend to continue blogging or not, but whatever happens, I know we'll have no trouble remaining friends. If they decide to continue this blog, I wish them the best of luck. Perhaps I'll return one day, or maybe I'll just pop in now and then, or maybe I'll just stay away.

If you've read all this, thanks. I appreciate it, and I hope you're having a great day/week/month/year!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (47)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
From Goodreads:
There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.
Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel

I am so excited for this book! I  love the Raven Cycle series so much and in less than a month, 3/4 of the books will be out in the world! I am so excited to see what happens, but I am also not excited to wait another year for the last one. But really I don't care. I just can't wait to read this one! 

What are you waiting on this week? Leave links to your WoW posts below so I can check them out!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Books and Songs (2)

Sometimes, when I listen to a song, I think it matches up perfectly with a book I've read. And sometimes, when I read a book, I think it matches up perfectly with a song I've heard. This feature is all about showcasing some of these books and songs that I think fit together really well.

BOOK: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
SONG: How to Save a Life by The Fray
Step one, you say, "We need to talk."
He walks, you say, "Sit down. It's just a talk."
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
'Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defence
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along

Pray to God, he hears you
And I pray to God, he hears you

WHY: This book/song match-up is pretty straight-forward. The book is about suicide, and so is the song. This song reminds me of the way Clay felt when he learned about Hannah's death and listened to the tapes. He felt guilty, like he should have been able to stop her or save her in some way. But he didn't know how to save a life.

Also, it makes sense for this book and song to be matched up because they have both made me cry a ridiculous amount of times. I don't think it's even possible to experience either of these stories without crying.

What do you think of this book/song match-up? Do you have a better song for this book? A better book for this song? Let me know down in the comments!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Covers: The Bad (Rachel)

Hello everyone and welcome to part two of Book Covers: The Good, The Bad, and The Girls in Dresses, in which I will share some of my favorite and least favorite book covers. You can find my last post here. Today I'm going to share The Bad!

It is an unfortunate reality that sometimes, bad covers happen to good books. While I don't let bad covers affect my decision to read books, I really wish that some of my favorite books would get better covers!

Like I mentioned in my post about the good covers, I'm not a fan of couples on covers. The Just One Year cover bothers me because the couple is totally unnecessary. I mean, having a couple on the cover doesn't make much sense when you consider the actual subject matter of the book. And the Pushing the Limits cover is a little too steamy for a book that I want to carry around in public. When I got the hardcover of Pushing the Limits, I immediately removed the dust jacket because I disliked it so much, only to find this underneath:

image from Katie McGarry's blog

I know it might be a little surprising to find the Anna and the French Kiss cover on this list. Well, honestly, I don't like this cover. It's super cheesy and looks like something I, with my extremely limited design skills, could have scraped together in a few minutes. It cheapens the book and makes it look less awesome than it really is. However, this cover has become iconic, and I've grown to associate it with the book we all know and love, so I've gotten used to it. 

This is the cover for Lair of Dreams, the sequel to The Diviners, which I featured in my good covers post. Yes, there was a cover change, and yes, I am very upset about it. This cover is stupid and it looks like the cover of an adult novel, which is bad because everyone knows that young adult books are supposed to get the pretty covers so that the teenagers see something shiny and buy it.

The Truth about Forever

Do I really need to say anything about the Obsidian cover? I mean, come on! This cover is just embarrassing. It makes the book look like it's a bad erotica novel, when in reality it's a fun, action-packed story about aliens. And The Truth About Forever cover really bothers me. What is up with the random bracelet?! It would make sense if there was a bracelet like that in the book, but since there isn't, I don't understand why someone thought this weird photograph of a weird bracelet would look perfect on the cover. (Although, to be fair, the wishbone charm is relevant, so that's something, I guess.)

An Abundance of Katherines has had a few cover changes over the years, and I have no idea why this version was ever thrown into the mix. Just...why? What about this cover is appealing? It's so boring and weird and what's up with the close up of that girl's cut-off head? I'm also including the entire Vampire Academy series in my bad cover list because look at those covers and find one that's not terrible. I DARE YOU. I've also seen a few slightly different versions of these covers, but rather than making big, significant changes, the only thing that's different is the specific position of the models. So basically, every version of the covers look like this and I HATE IT. (Although, the newest cover designs made to coincide with the movie release are not terrible.)

And that's it for my Bad Covers...for now. Let me know what some of your least favorite covers are down in the comments!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rachel Rambles About Burn for Burn

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian (Burn for Burn #1)
From Goodreads:
Postcard-perfect Jar Island is the kind of place where nobody locks their doors at night, where parents can sleep easy, knowing their daughters are tucked away safe and sound in their beds. But bad things can happen, even to good girls . . . and sometimes, the only way to make things right is to do something wrong. 
Lillia used to trust boys, but not anymore. Not after what happened this summer. And she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her little sister from the same fate. 
Kat is over the rumors, the insults, the cruel jokes made at her expense. It all goes back to one person--her ex-best friend. Someone needs to teach her a lesson, and, with Lillia and Mary behind her, Kat feels up to the task.

Four years ago, Mary left Jar Island because of a boy. But she’s not the same girl anymore. Now that she’s got friends who have her back, he's going to be in big trouble.
Three very different girls who come together to make things right. Will they go too far?

I picked Burn for Burn up on a lazy summer day when I needed something entertaining to breeze through, and this book turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. Burn for Burn is dramatic, exciting, and a whole lot of fun.

Burn for Burn gives off some strong Pretty Little Liars vibes, which is a good thing, considering Pretty Little Liars is such a fun show to watch. Both Pretty Little Liars and Burn for Burn are over-the-top, ridiculous, dramatic, and completely addicting. Just like entire seasons of Pretty Little Liars are meant to be binge-watched from the couch in a single weekend, Burn for Burn is meant to be devoured in just one day or one sitting. 

Let's be real here, Burn for Burn isn't exactly a high-quality story. It's not terribly original or thought-provoking, but that's okay. I like that Burn for Burn doesn't pretend to be something it's not. Burn for Burn embraces its not-entirely-realistic high school stereotypes, its silly teenage girl antics, and its somewhat predictable storyline. Burn for Burn is a comfort read--the book you turn to when you've had a rough day and need to lose yourself in a story for a good few hours. It's the book you turn to when all you need is a story that will make you want to keep turning pages. 

I didn't feel particularly connected to any of the main characters, but I actually appreciated the lack of emotional investment I felt. It made it easy for me to distance myself from the story and just watch the shenanigans ensue and the craziness unfold. Just like I'll enjoy catching the occasional episode of Pretty Little Liars and being sucked into the story without caring about something bad happening to any of them, I was able to enjoy this book without loving the characters and getting all worked up over them.

I love that Burn for Burn is about a group of girls taking matters into their own hands and kicking some ass. Sure, the pranks are a little silly and juvenile at times, but they're teenagers! I really liked reading about strong girls who decide to not only stand up for themselves but to take it to the next level and get some epic revenge on the people they aren't too fond of. I think each of the girls has a valid and interesting reason for wanting revenge, and I loved reading about the process of scheming and plotting to putting things into action to watching the results. I was always eager to see what they would do next, and while I didn't particularly like any of the characters, I was totally intrigued by their actions and curious about whether their pranks would go according to plan.

I also really like the setting of Burn for Burn. The island is very much its own world. It's secluded and set apart from mainstream society, which makes the people on the island a close-knit group. This type of dynamic always makes mysteries way more interesting, and I think the setting works really well with this story. In addition to the setting, there is a slight paranormal twist in this book that makes the story approximately eight thousand times more fascinating. I seriously just love that this book gets crazier and crazier with each turn of the page.

Overall, Burn for Burn is a fun, fast book that I couldn't put down. It entertained me and kept me hooked for a few hours, and when it was over, I found myself interested in reading the second book but not terribly concerned with the outcome. This book is not a bad book at all, but it's definitely a comfort book as opposed to a thought-provoking book. Next time you're feeling stressed or sad or upset and are looking for a story to escape into (assuming you've already finished watching the latest season of Pretty Little Liars), pick up Burn for Burn. It will suck you in from the first page, and you'll lose yourself completely in this fun and dramatic story.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Megan's September TBR

So I've never been very good at TBRs in the past. I make a list and then end up reading none of it! But this time since I've got a lot going on and haven't finished a book in a bit, I thought I would at least give you guys a sense of what I'm reading!

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Like everyone else in the world I'm OBSESSED with Anna and Lola and I couldn't wait for Isla to be released. I haven't had a chance to read it with everything going on in my life but it is definitely next up on my TBR and I know once I start I'll probably finish it in a day!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
I also got a finished copy of E. Lockhart's newest book at BEA which I have heard nothing but good things about. I can't wait to get to this one and find out what all the hype is about!

The rest of these are ARCs that I received at BEA which come out in September. I'm trying to finish them all before or close to when they come out!

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Afterworlds at BEA and as it is one of my most anticipated reads of the year I will definitely be finishing it before it comes out in the end of September!

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
This book sounds like an amazing and heartbreaking story about two twins who have lost the ability to be on the same page.It's dual narration which is always interesting and I've heard really good things so I can't wait to check it out!

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang
HarperCollins was dropping ARCs of this at BEA and I was super excited to get it! When I first read a description of this book and saw that it was described as appealing to readers of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher I was sold! Those are only some of my favorite authors so I knew this was a debut that I couldn't miss!

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
When Cassandra Clare and Holly Black first announced they were writing a middle grade series together I literally jumped up and down screaming. Nothing could be more perfect than these two working together on a series! Then when Katherine and I accidentally stumbled into an ARC drop of the first book at BEA we were so thrilled! I can't wait to devour this one!

Blackbird by Anna Carey
I've never read a book in the second person before and I love Anna Carey so this one was a super exciting find at BEA! I started reading a few pages of it in line and loved every second of it. I'm sure that once I pick this one up I'll fly through it!

Rooms by Lauren Oliver
Even though this is an adult book, I'm super excited for it because it's Lauren Oliver! She's not only one of my favorite authors, but one of my writing idols! I'll read anything she writes, regardless of it being YA or Adult.

Made for You by Melissa Marr
This is the last book on my list of things that I'm going to try to read this month. I've read one of Melissa Marr's other books, Wicked Lovely, and I really liked it. I'm excited to see how she applies her writing talent to a more contemporary story!

Looking at this list it looks like it may be a bit ambitious to fit into one month with everything I have going on, but I'm going to try my best! There are also a few other September ARCs that I have, but these are the ones that I'm most anxious for so I'm going to try and read them first. It also looks like I have some really great reads ahead of me!

What are you planning on reading in September? Have you read any of these yet? Let me know what you thought or what you're planning on reading in the comments below!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Katherine Rambles about The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

Witty, sarcastic Ethan and his three friends decide to take down the reality TV show, For Art's Sake, that is being filmed at their high school, the esteemed Selwyn Arts Academy, where each student is more talented than the next. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art's Sake.But then Luke—the creative force behind the poem and leader of the anti-show movement—becomes a contestant on the nefarious show. It's up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school. Along the way, they'll discover a web of secrets and corruption involving the principal, vice principal, and even their favorite teacher.
One night when I spent too many hours on Goodreads I came across this book and added it to my to-reads. I planned on reading it at some point, but when I saw it sitting on my library's shelve on the way out I decided to grab it. I then added it into the pile of books I had and brought them home. It was one of the best spur of the moment decisions I've made.
The book focuses on a small group of friends that reminded me of my own. They are even as talented as my friends too! Luke and is a talented writer and the the group's "leader" in the vigilante acts. Elizabeth is part of the graphic design classes in the school and Jackson works in light design. Each of the friends have their specific talent, where Ethan plays trumpet and takes drawing classes, but does not exceed at either. Each character shines separately and together, they are amazing! The story is told by Ethan who begins to tell the reader many ways of how the story could begin. The first and probably my favorite, details his entrapment in a school locker. The story is starts in a fun way and tries to follow the attitude throughout.
The show For Art's Sake is very interesting as well. It's corrupt, just like most of reality television. The story shows how twisted the show gets. During the story there are only a select number of contestants that are competing for a scholarship. The competition is intense, and though the main characters do not compete I was able to see how hard it would be to try and balance the show as well as attending a rigorous arts academy. 
I really loved the friendship in this book! It's not focused on romance which is nice, though there are a few cute almost things. The group start to write this epic poem to try and shed some light on the show. As a reader I never saw the finished poem but the beginning of each shows an excerpt from it which was awesome. They work towards spreading this message in the best ways. Jackson's house is where all planning or just hanging out occurs. It's a totally interesting location because of all the pets named after condiments. Like really, every single pet is named after a condiment. Baconnaise the heroic, genius, loving gerbil, Honey Mustard the golden retriever. Really it's the best.
I just really loved all of these characters, even when I was mad at them. I loved all of their quirks like Ethan's love for tricolons, his sisters' love for Candy Land, Jackson's love for math. I love them all. This book made me think a lot too. Like what or who would you give up for success or what is the most important within our life. I feel like I've learned a lot.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rachel Rambles About The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
From Goodreads:
National Book Award-finalist Adele Griffin tells the fully illustrated story of a brilliant young artist, her mysterious death, and the fandom that won't let her go.

From the moment she stepped foot in NYC, Addison Stone’s subversive street art made her someone to watch, and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more. I conducted interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—and retraced the tumultuous path of Addison's life. I hope I can shed new light on what really happened the night of July 28.
—Adele Griffin

*A copy of this book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for my participation in a blog tour.*

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is unlike anything I've ever read. It's dark and gritty and unsatisfying in the best way possible.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is about a teenage artist named Addison Stone who dies one summer at age eighteen. This novel is composed of stories about Addison told by her family, friends, and fans. The novel jumps around from one story to another, with different characters and different perspectives shedding light on Addison's life. The format is unlinear, with a collection of stories that take place at different points on Addison's timeline, so the reader has to gradually piece everything together as new details are revealed.

Not only is this book intriguing and mysterious, but it also touches on a lot of heavy topics. Addison's struggles with mental illness make this story a dark and gritty one, not to mention her death, which is the main focus of the novel. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone definitely isn't a fun and light book to fly through in one sitting. I think this is the kind of book that should be read in small doses, so the reader has lots of time to think about it.

Even though Adele Griffin assures readers that Addison is entirely fictional, the book reads like it's nonfiction, so its easy to get caught up in the drama and forget that you're not reading the tragic biography of an artist who died young. The format and topic of this book make it seem like it's a true story about a real girl named Addison Stone, and at times, it's hard to believe that The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is actually fictional. One of the most interesting things about this novel is that it includes a lot of photos of Addison, her friends, and her art, and the photos definitely make everything about Addison Stone's life feel more real. When reading, it is rare to be able to attach a face to a name, but The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone gives you a real girl to match the description of Addison. This format makes the reading experience much more unique and interesting than it would be without the pictures.

Art plays a big role in this book, and I love the glimpses of the "art scene" Addison becomes a part of when she moves to New York City. I'm not an artist, but I was totally sucked into the intriguing, gritty world of artists in New York. The "art scene" is a very rich setting and community that comes across so vividly through various characters' descriptions. Art is a huge part of Addison's life, and it's a huge part of the book, too. Addison's art is very creative and unique and unprecedented, as is the format of the story, so Addison's art and the format of this book are reflective of each other.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is dark, mysterious, and unlike anything I've ever read before. Adele Griffin has created something amazing here, folks. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone blew me away, and I recommend this book to anyone looking for a story that is totally different from anything else in the Young Adult category.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rachel Rambles About Isla and the Happily Ever After

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
From Goodreads:
From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Warning: There are no spoilers for Isla and the Happily Ever After in this ramble, but I compare it to Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door quite a bit, so if you haven't read those, I recommend staying away. And also you should read them because SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

You all know how much I love Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, right? RIGHT?! Well, just as a reminder...I'm obsessed with them! ANNA and LOLA have been two of my all-time favorite books ever since I read them a few years ago, and I've been eagerly anticipating Isla and the Happily Ever After for what feels like FOREVER. Needless to say, I had ridiculously high expectations for Isla and the Happily Ever After, and I am thrilled to report that Stephanie Perkins did not disappoint one bit.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is a story that stands completely on its own, meaning that you don't have to read ANNA or LOLA to appreciate it. This book is not cluttered with references to the other books, although it does focus on two characters who were introduced in ANNA. You could totally read Isla and the Happily Ever After without knowing anything about the stories of Anna and Lola, which is really awesome. I'm glad Isla and Josh have their own story, because I think it would have been easy for Stephanie Perkins to put in so many references to her other beloved characters that Isla and Josh would be overshadowed. But that doesn't mean the characters from ANNA and LOLA don't make cameos in ISLA, because THEY SO DO. Anna, Lola, St. Clair, and Cricket all pop into the story and it's WONDERFUL. I think fans of the previous two books will be satisfied with the cameos, and if you're anything like me, you'll be squealing with excitement when their names pop up on the page. 

I also love the settings in Isla and the Happily Ever After. Half of the book takes place in Paris at the school Isla and Josh attend, while the other half takes place in New York City, where Isla and Josh live. Both cities are charming and magical and rich, and Stephanie Perkins writes about them in such a way that makes the reader want to live there, or better yet, makes the reader believe he or she already does live there. I love the way these cities play into the theme of identity surrounding Isla and her indecision over what to do after high school because she feels torn between two places she calls "home."

While Anna and Lola both have very strong senses of who they are, Isla is a little more confused. She does not have their confidence or their specific goals and dreams. Isla struggles with insecurity and trying to figure out what she likes and is good at, and I really enjoyed reading about her character's journey throughout the book. I love that Stephanie Perkins portrays this extremely common case of identity struggle in Isla and the Happily Ever After. Isla's problems are ones that many teenagers can relate to, and I appreciate the honesty behind Isla's indecision and cluelessness about what comes next for her.

As usual, Stephanie Perkins also writes about a complex and fascinating group of secondary characters. Isla's best friend, Kurt, is a character whose voice isn't heard from often enough in Young Adult literature, and the messy friendship between Isla and Kurt feels raw and realistic. Isla's sisters, specifically Hattie, also receive a lot of character development despite the fact that they don't have all that much "screen-time" in the story.

I love that the romantic relationship in Isla and the Happily Ever After goes in a different direction than the romantic relationships in ANNA and LOLA. The conflicts in ANNA and LOLA come from the characters' inability to just realize they love each other and get together already! but the conflict in Isla comes from external forces in the relationship. Isla and Josh get their crap together pretty early on, and they don't spend too much time playing the does-he-like-me-should-we-get-together-I-don't-know-what-to-do game, which is super refreshing, but it also means that other things have to happen in their relationship in order for there to be conflict. I really like that the conflict comes from unexpected places in this book. It's a nice change from ANNA and LOLA.

Another difference between Isla and the Happily Ever After and its predecessors is that the romantic relationship in ISLA is at a different stage than the ones in ANNA and LOLA. The other books are all about the couple trying to get together, and everything in the story leads up to "the big kiss," but in ISLA, readers get to see the relationship progress beyond that. This means that ISLA has the steamiest and most abundant make-out scenes of all the books. :D

Finally, let's discuss Josh. I thought he was an intriguing character when he was introduced in Anna and the French Kiss, but I fell in love with him in Isla and the Happily Ever After. He has the whole tortured-artist vibe going on, and his classmates view him as a kind of slacker/goofball, but he is actually incredibly intelligent, talented, and charming. There is a lot going on with him, and he just feels like a totally realistic teenage boy. Also, everything about the graphic novel is AWESOME and I'm happy it plays such a big role in the story.

So those are just some of my super intense and passionate feelings about Isla and the Happily Ever After. I think my favorite of these three companion books is still Anna and the French Kiss, because Anna and St. Clair will always occupy a special place in my heart, but I'm not sure I can pick a favorite between LOLA and ISLA just yet. (LOLA has an unfair advantage right now seeing as I've read it like eight times more than I've read ISLA, so I'm trying to be as unbiased as possible.) If you loved Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, there is no doubt in my mind that you'll love Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

BLOG TOUR: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone (Rachel)

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
From Goodreads:
National Book Award-finalist Adele Griffin tells the fully illustrated story of a brilliant young artist, her mysterious death, and the fandom that won't let her go.

From the moment she stepped foot in NYC, Addison Stone’s subversive street art made her someone to watch, and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more. I conducted interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—and retraced the tumultuous path of Addison's life. I hope I can shed new light on what really happened the night of July 28.
—Adele Griffin

This blog tour isn't your typical blog tour! Instead of featuring reviews, interviews, or guest posts, bloggers were asked to get a little more creative. On this tour, over 50 bloggers are sharing stories about Addison, tributes to Addison, fan art of Addison, poetry inspired by Addison, or whatever else they can come up with! Obviously, none of us actually know Addison since she's a fictional character, but that doesn't mean we can't pretend, right? I'm so happy to be a part of this fun, creative, and unique blog tour, and I definitely recommend checking out the other stops if you haven't already!

I wrote the following piece from the perspective of a character of my own creation who knew Addison Stone. This piece is from a former classmate of Addison's who wishes to remain anonymous, and it's the transcript of an interview. I really enjoyed reading this book (expect a review soon!) and it was so much fun to write this piece. If you haven't read the book yet, you should definitely add it to your to-read list, but in the meantime, feel free to read this transcript because there aren't any spoilers.

ANONYMOUS: Addison Stone was in my first grade class. Before she came along, I had been the most artistic one. I was creative and talented and special. All the students knew it. All the teachers knew it. And I loved it. I loved feeling like I was better than everyone else. I was a seven-year-old on this wild power trip, and I flaunted my artistic talents like a total brat. Before Addison showed up, I would always spend recess beneath a tree with piles of paper and colored pencils spread around me, and usually an audience would gather to watch me draw.

I remember feeling so proud of my art, and I would create pieces special for my classmates. They would marvel at how good I was and I'd have this gigantic smile on my face because I knew that I had a achieved a position of power that normal first-graders rarely reached. 

And then Addison--well, she was Allison back then--came along and ruined everything. I mean, sure, in hindsight, I needed to be knocked down a few pegs. But Allison--I mean Addison--just came out of nowhere and knocked me clear off the ladder, and I was flabbergasted.

It didn't happen immediately. I mean, at first, Addison was just a normal first-grader. She was new to the school, but so were all of us really, and she just fit in with the class the way any first grader would. At first, no one noticed anything special or different about her. It wasn't until we'd already been in school for a few weeks or maybe months that Addison started producing these art projects and doodles and drawings and people started realizing that she was good. Once everyone started noticing Addison, they stopped noticing me. Suddenly, it was all about Addison. My little drawing sessions on the playground came to an end because no one wanted to watch me draw anymore. "You're not as good as Addison," my classmates would tell me matter-of-factly. And then they'd shrug and go play tag on the other side of the playground while I sat underneath my tree by myself.

At the time, I hated Addison more than I'd ever hated anyone or anything in my life. She took everything from me and she didn't even notice or care. My art could never compare to hers, but she was so deeply unapologetic about her talent that I don't think she even realized what she was doing. And that just made it worse. Like...she didn't even have to try and she was a thousand times better than me. The jealousy just kept eating away at me throughout that entire school year, and I would come home and cry to my parents every day.

Eventually, it got so bad that my parents decided to move to a new school district so I wouldn't have to keep seeing Addison every day. We left Peacedale the summer after first grade and settled into a town only about forty minutes away. I had a fresh start at a new school and once again became the best art student in school. It was far enough away that I never had to see Addison again--well, at least until she started getting famous. I couldn't ignore her memory when her face and art were plastered all over the internet. I think a part of me hoped that as she got older, her art would become less remarkable, but of course she had to produce these stunning pieces that had the art community practically vibrating with excitement.

Once she got famous, there was no avoiding her, and every time I read an article about her I would be instantly transported back to first grade. She forced me to relive all these terrible childhood memories, and I mean, I know it's not really her fault that she's so good and I'm nowhere near as good as her, but I can't help but hate her for it, you know? Maybe that makes me a terrible person, but...whatever. I couldn't stand her, and I hated her even more for becoming famous. I know she's probably a nice person and all, and she's obviously very talented, and I feel kinda bad saying all this stuff about her since you're not supposed to say mean things about dead people, but...that's my story. That's my Addison Stone story.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out the other stops on this blog tour to read pieces from other characters' perspectives, tributes to Addison, and more!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Random Ramble: Feeling Overwhelmed and a bit Crazy (Megan)

This blog post is going to be much more personal and self-reflective than I usually am on the blog, but maybe that's an okay thing. Maybe in order to understand my opinions on books and other things it helps to know me a bit better. Or maybe not. Maybe you think this is stupid and I should just go back to happily fangirling over books. That's okay too, and I will; just not today.

As I've mentioned a few times before, I'm going to be a senior in high school come September. This comes with a whole whirlwind of of emotions I don't feel at all prepared to handle. On the one hand, I'm deliriously happy and relieved. One year left! Then it's on to college and the rest of my life. A lot of times I can stay in this positive side of things, but other times I can't even fathom how to get there. 

See, I've never dealt with change well. Even the smallest detail like changing my phone case can be a big deal for me. I'm sentimental and I get attached not just to objects but to people, places, routines, and feelings. I get attached to the way my life has been going and how I've been feeling. When something changes, it sucks and I can get really stressed out, actually to the point of tears and break downs if its a massive change. 

Usually, small changes are manageable. Since life is ever changing, fluid, and rushing past I know I can't just dig in and stay the same. I'm not different than anyone else. I'm bobbing in this crazy current too. Lately though, my life has been all change. Suddenly it's not just another summer, but my last summer, the last real family vacation, my last pre-season for soccer (although admittedly this is not really a bad thing). Everything is the last something and I don't know how to handle it. It feels like as soon as I get over one change, another one slaps me in the face. I want to enjoy what's happening around me, but I can't stop seeing how different my entire life is becoming all at once.

The only thought I have is that I'm going to blink and it will all be gone. I'll graduate, my friends and I will say goodbye, at least temporarily, and go to college, probably not in the same place. I know it has to happen just like I know college will be great and I'll make new friends who will bring wonderful new memories. But I'm not ready for any of that yet. I'm not ready to be a senior. 

It feels like my life is a car speeding out of control and I need to pull the emergency brake, stop for awhile, rest, prepare, and the move on. But life isn't my Kia Soul. It doesn't have an emergency brake conveniently in the center console. There is no slowing down, no reverse, only forward motion. I'm not really sure how to deal with that.

This has basically been a long rant with no real answer. I didn't write it hoping you could give them to me either. I'll probably hate myself for posting something so full of angst years from now (if I even post this). I also know that future me will probably read this and be glad none of these things mattered in the end as I'm cringing in embarrassment. I won't feel like this anymore and this will be some embarrassing memory, a bad story to tell. These feelings will be totally insignificant. 

But right now, they matter. Right now as I write this at midnight in August while I should be sleeping, this is how I feel. And you know what? I feel just a bit better because I acknowledged my feelings and breathed life into them by writing them down. More than anything else that is why I am a writer. To put feelings on paper, to cope, and to help myself. Whether or not anyone else reads it or ever cares comes second. Always.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Katherine Rambles about Landline

Landline by Rainbow Rowell 
From Goodreads:
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.Maybe that was always beside the point.Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .Is that what she’s supposed to do?Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?''

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Landline when I went to BEA. I was really excited to read this and when I finally did, I read it in one evening. I was not let down. This book was as great as Rainbows YA novels. I have not yet read Attachments her other adult novel so it was my first experience, and it was great! It was definitely different from the YA stories since it focused on different parts of the character’s lives, but I was still able to relate to it. Though the topics were different they were executed wonderfully and some of the heavier parts in the story were done just as well, just like in some of the Eleanor and Park scenes.

I loved each character dearly in the book even the characters that were only in a few scenes! And oh my details! The details and the little character quirks were the BEST! There were little details about the romantic relationships and the friendships and the family dynamic and they were SO great. I just loved every second of it.

Georgie is a screen writer with her best friend Seth for a family sitcom. The scenes in the office were great. Seth, Scotty, and Georgie made a great team and the scenes where they planned their new show were some of my favorite. I also loved all the references to older TV shows like M*A*S*H and Barney Miller. I also loved Seth so much! The banter that the group had was very engaging and entertaining. 

Georgie's family is very eccentric and entertaining as well. Her mother wears low cut bedazzled shirts and has two pugs, her step-father was their pool cleaner and her sister was still in high school. I loved that Heather and Georgie were still able to get along and talk about things without focusing on their age difference. Their dynamic was great always kept me on my toes. 

When  I first meet Neal I loved him. Just the first few descriptions were great. My thoughts kept changing as I read the book. All the flashbacks between Georgie and Neal from when they fist met during college and the continuous encounters they had after made me fall in love with their relationship. I saw that everything they had wasn't perfect, but it made their relationship real. I just have a real soft spot for Neal.

Now to the time travelly, not time travel parts of the book. They were great too. Georgie starts using her telephone from her childhood room, and when she calls her husband he answers from another time. The phone is magical! It’s very complex and a little stressful, and great. I just wish there was more about the phone. I just want to know how it worked and if there were any consequences!

I really enjoyed this book because it was something different then I usually read and the characters were so real. I definitely recommend for you to read it! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rachel Rambles About Let's Get Lost

Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
From Goodreads:
Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost. 

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most. 

There's HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love. 

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila's own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you're looking for is to get lost along the way.

Let's Get Lost was one of my most anticipated books from BEA 2014, and I am happy to report that it did not disappoint at all. In fact, Let's Get Lost exceeded my expectations, and I think it's going to become one of my new favorite books.

If you've been around this blog for awhile, you know how I feel about road trip books. I absolutely love them! I'm not sure what it is that appeals to me so much--the physical journey paired with the emotional journey? the shenanigans that always ensue? the traveling to new and exciting places?--but I just can't resist a promising road trip novel. I was beyond excited to get into this book, but I wasn't prepared to fall in love with it so quickly and so strongly. Let's Get Lost captured my heart on the very first page, and I knew within the first ten or so pages that it was something special.

Let's Get Lost follows Leila around as she drives all over the United States in her little red car. Along the way, she meets four different teens, and the story is told from each of their perspectives. When Leila enters these characters' lives, she affects them in ways neither the characters nor the reader could see coming. But this book is not just about the people Leila meets; it's also about Leila's journey. Leila starts out as an enigma, an unexpected but not unwelcome presence in her new friends' lives, but throughout the novel, the reader gets to know Leila better and unravel the mystery surrounding her.

At the beginning of this book, Leila gives off some strong manic-pixie-dream-girl vibes, so it was refreshing to have that illusion shattered as the story continued and the reader got to see the story through Leila's point-of-view. All five of the main characters in this story are thoroughly developed, complex, interesting, and unique people, and I enjoyed the format of this book. Rather than getting an entire book from one character's perspective, the reader gets to experience little snippets of each character's lives. Even though each character only gets a short section of the book, I was impressed by how easily I was able to develop connections to them. For the short period during which I was in each of their heads, I felt like I knew the characters and could relate to them really well. This novel is driven by the characters, and, while each character has a different story to tell, all of the stories are intertwined by Leila's presence in their lives, so the novel flows smoothly and the stories feel like they go together. Also, though each section is pretty short, nothing feels rushed or cut-off. Adi Alsaid manages to tell a full story about each character, so nothing feels unfinished when you jump into the next story.

Let's Get Lost is both fun and heartwarming. There are plenty of adventures and shenanigans and hilarious encounters, but there's also a deeper, more emotional undertone. I was expecting the fun side of this book, but the more serious side was a pleasant surprise. This book seems like it's going to be super light and fluffy and yay-let's-go-on-a-road-trip!, but it's actually so much more than that. It's still a fast and entertaining read, but it has some deep and emotional elements to it.

Let's Get Lost impressed me more than I thought it would. I fell in love with this story and these characters, and I will definitely be rereading this book sometime soon. If you love character-driven books about road trips, there's no doubt in my mind you'll enjoy this book. Let's Get Lost has earned a spot on my favorites shelf, and I can't wait to see what Adi Alsaid writes next.