Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bookanistas: Burn For Burn

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is home to charming tourist shops, pristine beaches, amazing oceanfront homes—and three girls secretly plotting revenge.

     KAT is sick and tired of being bullied by her former best friend.

     LILLIA has always looked out for her little sister, so when she discovers that one of her guy friends has been secretly hooking up with her, she’s going to put a stop to it.

     MARY is perpetually haunted by a traumatic event from years past, and the boy who’s responsible has yet to get what’s coming to him.

     None of the girls can act on their revenge fantasies alone without being suspected. But together…anything is possible.

     With an unlikely alliance in place, there will be no more “I wish I’d said…” or “If I could go back and do things differently...” These girls will show Jar Island that revenge is a dish best enjoyed together.

When I was younger I was in love with a book series by Katherine Applegate called Boyfriends/Girlfriends, which was republished in the '90s and renamed Making Out. I LOVED this series! I hadn't thought of it in years, but within the first chapter of Burn For Burn I was reminded of this series and how much I loved it. Just like the Boyfriends/Girlfriends books, Burn For Burn takes place on a tiny island that can only be reached by ferry and is populated by a group who has grown up together and known each other (and each others' business) forever. I love that incestuous small town vibe...made even smaller by the fact that they are on a little island. If you were a fan of Boyfriends/Girlfriends in the '80s or Making Out in the '90s, I bet you'll love this one. 

You'll also love it if you love vigilante revenge stories. The three unlikely friends in this book team up to get revenge on the people who have wronged them, and it's always fun to see the tables turned on a bully. Both Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han have always done an excellent job at capturing honest teen feelings, and this book is no exception. Their treatment of revenge is realistic and rings so, so true, which is to say that not everything works out perfectly for our girls, and that's part of the fun. 

If you take one look at the cover, though, you'll know what my very favorite part of this book was. That's right...ASIAN MAIN CHARACTER! I love you, Lillia, and I love that they put your gorgeous face on the cover of this book. I know people worry about how to properly portray non-white characters when it comes to writing. I'll give you a this book and look at Lillia. She's an awesome, awesome Asian character. I loved being in her head, I loved reading about her, and I can't wait for the next book to see what else she has going on. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me...I'm Still A Late Bloomer

I've always been one of those YAY IT'S MY BIRTHDAY PAY ATTENTION TO ME types of people. I celebrate the entire week, I have as many parties as I can trick people into attending, make a big deal about the whole thing. But as the years go on I am getting less and less excited about my advancing age. I guess we have ideas about where we will be at certain points in our lives, and while I've always embraced my status as a late bloomer, well, I guess it's starting to hit me that I have some catching up I should be doing. 

I know I shouldn't worry about what everyone else is doing or what milestones people are checking off, but, honestly, it's hard not to...both in writing and in the rest of my life. Most days I use people who are ahead of me to keep me pumped up or to make me thankful for the things I have. But on these days of reflection like today, I tend to mope around and think about the things I should be doing. 


I'm not usually Introspective Jess on my birthday. I'm usually Party Jess. But Party Jess is getting old, and she can't really party like she used to. Thinking is the only thing I can do these days without throwing out a hip. 

This past year has been an amazing one for me, and I don't want to brush off the awesome. It's been there in abundance, even though other things have been sucky. And even though I continue to have challenges, I also have amazing opportunities. I have so many chances to make this coming year of my life the best one yet. 

So I'm going to try. I'm going to try worry about having fun and being awesome-er than ever and not focus on the things that other people are doing or getting or having that I'm not. And I'm going to try not to worry too much about getting old. 

Perceptive, warm, and charming, you are well-liked for your playful qualities, but you are also very grounded and can be practical and serious in your pursuit of success and management of your life. Your image is important to you, and you always try to keep things aboveboard. Your stamina and endurance are notable. Famous people born today: T. S. Eliot, George Gershwin, Serena Williams, Olivia Newton-John, Linda Hamilton.

If you like my photo, the pre-doctored version was taken by the lovely and talented Courtney McManaway

Monday, September 24, 2012

What's Up, Monday?

I've been so busy! Want to know what I've been up to?

1. Writing. I am five scenes away from finishing the draft of my WIP. I am very excited about this. Hopefully I can finish this up some time this week and move on to revising the crap out of this thing.

Oh, crappy first draft. Y U so bad?

2. Eating. I decided to cut out carbs and sugar from my diet on Labor Day, and I've been doing a great job of filling my diet with all kinds of fresh, yummy veggies and lean meats. The best part is that I don't crave anything, I'm eating small portions and staying full, and I have so much more energy. I've already lost quite a few pounds (including my extra Paris baggage), and I feel fantastic.

I've finally embraced the yummy salad

3. Working Out. My work bff (who I no longer actually work with, but whatevs) and I got a groupon to our local CrossFit gym and we are trying it out for two months. CrossFit is a seriously gnarly workout that makes me cry every single time. I've been sore to the point of discomfort almost every single day since we started, and I'm currently rocking these awesome bruises on my biceps from a kettlebell workout that have me looking like the husband has been shaking me by the shoulders. I've never worked out so hard in my life. The jury is still out on if I'm going to join the gym when my groupon's very expensive and I really don't know if I can hang for the long haul.

This is SO not me...obvs

4. Teaching. I'm about a month in to my new job teaching middle school and it has been...a challenge. There are a lot of big differences between middle school and high school that I wasn't really anticipating, so there has been a big learning curve over the past few weeks. I'm really hoping that I find my groove soon.

From my Instagram feed after a particularly challenging day

5. Hanging Out. Yesterday I went to the launch party for TEN by Gretchen McNeil, which was so much fun. Gretchen is just a rad person, and it was great to see the huge crowd that came out to support her. I also got to hang out with my favorite local writing friends and catch up over coffee and red velvet TEN cupcakes. I was a total fail at taking pictures, like I have been lately, but trust was a good time.
The only picture I managed to take. There were more people behind me, too!

6. Reading. I've had a lot of Bookanista recommendations lately, and I have lots more on the horizon. I've been reading so many great books lately, and I can't wait to tell you all about them! I'm a little intimidated by my TBR pile, and it keeps getting longer and more awesome, but I guess that's one of those good problems to have.

7. Keeping Busy. Between writing and working out and lesson planning and doing MFA stuff, I haven't had a ton of free time. But you guys know me, that's the way I like it.

What have you been up to lately?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bookanistas: The Raven Boys

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. 

But Gansey is different. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little. 

 For as long as she can remember, Blue has been told by her psychic family that she will kill her true love. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

This book, you guys. THIS BOOK.

So, you may recall that I was wary about Maggie Stiefvater's last book The Scorpio Races and that I even put it down. It took lots of convincing for me to pick it back up again, but in the end I loved the crap out of it. After that I decided to just TRUST Maggie. If she was going to write about emo shapeshifting wolves or magical killer horses from the sea or whatever the heck this book was going to be about, I was just going to go with it and know that she is going to take me on a wild ride I was going to love.

I was right to trust her. I didn't even bother reading what this book was about. I just jumped in head first and loved every single second.

I don't even know what to say about The Raven Boys. I loved it so, so much. The story, the characters, the writing, all of it. It was different and amazing and I wanted to live in this magical world and never come out.

Just read it. Trust Maggie like I do. She won't steer you wrong. I promise.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today...

Corrine Jackson is shouting about SUCH A RUSH

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Parisagram - My Instagram Photos From Paris

I realized that I never really finished giving the update on my Paris trip because life got in the way of blogging. I shared the beginning of my trip with the husband, but I still had 10 more days in Paris for my MFA program residency (which was amazeballs). I was sorting through my photos to find out what to share, but I think the best glimpse into my trip is found in my Instagram feed. (Apologies to those of you who follow me on Instagram and have seen these already. But it's PARIS...they don't get old, right?) I tried to post a photo a day from the various places I went and things I did.

My first day back in Paris, the husband and I went to visit the Eiffel Tower before he left and went back home. The sky was very dramatic that day. 

Reid Hall, where we met pretty much every day for classes. I loved our classroom space! There was a lovely courtyard where I liked to eat and read and catch up on Twitter between classes.

My favorite place in Paris - Jardin du Luxembourg. Our hotel was on one side of this garden and Reid Hall was on the other side, so I walked through this garden every day on my way to and from classes. On days I had some free time I would take a book and read in one of those chairs while soaking up the Paris sunshine. 

One night some of the girls and I went out exploring and got a little lost, so we pulled out our map and tried to figure out where we were. The second the map came out of our bag, this Parisian woman stopped and offered to help us find where we needed to go. I know Parisans have a reputation for being rude to Americans, but every single person I encountered there was so nice and helpful! I have so many stories of nice people in Paris helping me out. 

A full orchestra in the Metro stop. I saw them a few times, and they always brought a smile to my face. 

A visit to the Lourve...we had to check out Mona Lisa. It's so funny the way this painting is treated like a celebrity. Especially when there are other daVincis on the wall that no one is even stopping to look at.

I love visiting Shakespeare and Company, the famous English-language bookstore. I went a couple of times. This time I hung out in the poetry corner reading all of these notes, wishes, and secrets that people left behind. (I left one, too.)

View of Paris from the top of the Pompidou Centre, the modern art museum. It was a lovely day. It was about 8pm when this was taken. My favorite part of being in Europe in summer was the loooooong days. 

I'm not big on modern art, so I didn't think I would like the Pompidou Centre much. But I found a few pieces I really enjoyed, including this weird thing. 

The gardens at Versailles. I wish I would have had more time to explore. It was unbelievably beautiful here. 

I totally had a favorite crepe stand. It was around the corner from the hotel, and we all went there pretty frequently. Savory crepes, sweet crepes, fresh cookies, Coca Cola Light, they had everything I needed there. 

The Thinker at the Rodin Museum

The view from the window of my hotel room. I loved this view so much, and all of the noisy street sounds that I fell asleep to every night.

Our last night we did a little Paris By Night tour that included a Seine cruise and then a stop by the Eiffel Tower to see it all lit up. 

My very last day in Paris my flight didn't leave until late afternoon, so I wandered around one last time. I stopped by Pont Zero so I could make a final wish to return. I loved Paris so much, I know I have to get back there at some point. Hopefully soon. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Unedited Bookshelves

Last week the lovely ladies of YA Highway posted their unedited bookshelves, so I thought I would do the same thing today.

I live in a tiny shoebox of an apartment, so there isn't a lot of room for me to display my books the way I would like to. I have three shelves right now, but they are totally overflowing.

Shelf 1:

This is my YA series shelf, or authors I have many books by, or signed books. The books on the very top are my current TBR books.

Shelf 2:

Most of the books are here. This shelf is really deep, so all of the shelves are double stacked, which you can sorta see on some of them. I hate that because I like my books to show, but it's also nice to be able to hide some of the Idiot's Guide to Whatever titles I have creeping around.

Shelf 3:

This is newer, so of course I took it over right away. My hardcover Harry Potter books are over here, along with my ALA ARCs that I still need to read. Oh, and cookbooks.

I wish I had a better, more attractive way to display all of my books...maybe one day when I get a place that isn't the size of a shoebox I can spread them all out. A girl can dream, right?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bookanistas: Unspoken

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

I have no idea what made me request this book from NetGalley, because it's not something that I would typically like. And even after my request was approved, it just sat on my ereader for months. I honestly didn't think I was going to read it. But something made me decide to check it out anyway and OMG I am so glad I did because I ended up loving this book so hard I can't even handle it. I guess there's something to say about stepping out of your comfort zone every once in awhile.

Let me tell you what I loved about Unspoken:

1. The humor. This book was so freaking funny. Every single page had something witty that made me laugh. All of the characters had their own amazing sense of humor, especially Kami and her dad. I literally LOL-ed so many times while reading this book. And this is smart humor, too. My favorite.

2. The very complicated relationship between Kami and Jared, the voice in her head. I LOVE me a complicated relationship, and what these two have going on is as complicated as they come. I don't really want to say too much because watching this friendship evolve was seriously the highlight of this book for me. But just know that these two made me feel every possible feeling throughout the course of this book.

3. The cast of characters. All the people in this book were so awesome. Kami's friends and family and how she interacted with all of them and the unique relationship she had with each was all so REAL. Better than real.

4. Kami. This girl is amazing. First of all, she's Asian, and you know I love the Asian characters. She's also smart and strong and she wants things and she goes and gets things and she doesn't lose her drive or her focus when things start getting weird with Jared and she's unapologetic for her quirks and she tells people what to do and she just gets sh*t DONE. I loved Kami, and I wish there were more characters out there just like her. She's rad.

This book is also very gothic and magicky, if you are into that sort of thing. But even if you aren't, this book is so full to the brim with good stuff. It's the first book in awhile that I wanted to start reading again the second I was finished.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today...

Corrine Jackson adores ADORKABLE

Katy Upperman raves about  NOBODY BUT US

Tracy Banghart tells the truth about IF I LIE

Monday, September 10, 2012


I saw this on Kate Hart's blog, and I figured I would play along today

The new album from The xx. It's not out until tomorrow, but they've had it streaming for the past week. I haven't been able to stop listening to it! It's not as dynamic as their last album, but all of the songs are so perfect for my WIP right now. The more I listen, the more I fall in love.

Here's the streaming widget, so you can check it out. I'll be buying it for sure tomorrow.

An ARC of Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook. Thanks to my awesome friend Katy for sharing it with me. I'm only a few chapters in, but I am loving it so far!

Awkward on MTV. I can't get enough of this show! It's smart and funny and so real and I watched the entire first season in one night and now I'm doing a re-watch. There are just not enough episodes to satisfy me.

Guidance Counselor Valerie is my Spirit Amimal

It doesn't hurt that Beau Mirchoff, the actor who plays Matty McKibben, is super easy on the eyes.

Uh...was I saying something?

thinking about
My WIP. I was in a weird spot with it and with my writing. But then I got feedback on my first 13 chapters from my MFA mentor and she gave me so many compliments and made me feel so good about my story that it really got me all pumped up again. It was just what I needed to hear. She gave me lots to work on, too, but I am the kind of writer / person who needs constant cheerleading mixed in with the critique, otherwise I manage to convince myself I'm a big waste of space. So yesterday I dove in and wrote 2,500 new words, which I haven't done in a long time. I'm really just anxious to finish this draft, and I'm annoyed that so many life things have gotten in the way of the progress I want to make.

A finished draft. I want this more than almost anything at this point. (Well, it's second only to that gif above coming to life in my living room.)

That teaching middle school would start to get easier. I don't know if I'm cut out for this grade level. I'm having fun, but I really want to get to a place where the fun outweighs the part where I want to cry all the time. Hopefully soon.

making me happy
Little Gunner, as usual. He's the light of my life.

Happy Monday, friends!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bookanistas: Every Day

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

I am a huge David Levithan fangirl. I love all of his books, I love his writing, and I think he's just an amazing person doing so many great things for the world of YA. I had really been looking forward to this new one of his because it sounded a little different than his other books, and I always love things that are a little different.

This is one of those books that you can't stop thinking about. It really does stay with you, and it will pop into your head days, or even weeks, later and it won't go away. There's really so much to it and so much about it to love. 

My favorite part of this book was how it looked at gender. That plot blurb above? It's a little annoying because there is one sentence where it refers to A as "he" and A isn't a he. A is just A, with no assigned gender. Sometimes A is in a male body and sometimes in a female body, but A is always the same person, and when A falls in love with Rhiannon, it's love for who she is, not who she is + the fact that she is a she. 

So, yes, this is a love story. But it's also an identity story, and the two are woven together so gorgeously, with that David Levithan way of wording the simplest of life's truths in this way that makes you stop and hold your breath and run your fingers over the page. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Have I Got A HUMP Day Book Recommendation For You...

So, my friend Melissa is pretty damn awesome and special. She writes YA as Melissa Landers (ALIENTAED, her debut YA sci-fi about alien love is coming from Disney Hyperion in February 2014) and she writes contemporary romance as Macy Beckett. Her debut romance, SULTRY WITH A TWIST, is coming out from Sourcebooks in October.


Sourcebooks is featuring SULTRY WITH A TWIST in September, and you can get the ebook version NOW.

I snagged my copy the other night, as you can see here:

I devoured this book all in one night because I was having such a blast reading it. Romance isn't my normal genre, but Melissa is so freaking FUNNY and she writes such awesome characters, I think I might have to check out more books like this one. (You hear that, M? I think you may have converted me!)

If you want to see what I mean about the funny, check out this anti-trailer she made for SULTRY...

Anyway, I'm not usually all promote-y, but I LOVED this book, and if you guys are fans of adult contemporary romance that is smart and funny and has awesome characters and is super HOT, well, I think you should check it out. (And if you don't want the ebook / don't have an ereader, you can always pre-order your hard copy.)

Happy Hump Day, everyone!