Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bookanistas: BITTERSWEET

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last...

This is another one of those books that I read awhile ago, loved, and then never got around to raving about. Well, better late than never, that's what I always say. Just because it's been a few months since I read BITTERSWEET doesn't mean I love it any less!

I really think Sarah Ockler is writing some of the most perfect contemp YA out there, and I don't feel like she gets the recognition she should be getting. This book was just the perfect blend of self-discovery and sweet romance with a dynamic main character and a well-rounded cast of side characters. It truly has everything you could want in a book.

And the cupcakes! Oh, the cupcakes! I've seen some books try to make a "thing" for the main character, but Sarah Ockler NAILS it in this book. Each chapter starts with a description of one of Hudson's delicious creations, and her cupcake making is truly part of her and not just a hobby stuck on to a character to make her unique. In fact, every part of Hudson feels so real, it's like she could walk off the page and glide out on to the ice and you wouldn't even question it.

My only issue with this book? I'm a born and raised Southern California girl, and the descriptions of upstate New York in the winter made me so cold! Oh man, the setting was so perfectly described, and such a part of the story, but so much so that I actually felt like I needed to put on a puffy coat to read this one. Brr.  

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

Christine Fonseca  marvels at MIND GAMES by Kiersten White
Shelli Johannes-Wells  explores ESSENCE by Kimberly Derting
Elana Johson  is gaga for GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFever
Stasia Ward Kehoe discusses THE DIFFERENT GIRL by Gordon Dahlquist
Katy Upperman  wonders at IF I LIE by Corrine Jackson
Nikki Katz  celebrates THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

YA Book Club: Just One Day

It's time for the March meeting of the YA Book Club hosted by Tracey Neithercott. Today we are discussing JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman.

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

I knew I would love this book. I loved IF I STAY and WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman, and a book about travel and lost love is right up my alley. But I had no idea that I would connect to this book on such a profound level. It really is one of those books for of the books that brought up feelings I didn't even know I carried around. 

1. I know the feeling of falling in love with Paris. This summer I had the amazing opportunity to spend almost three weeks in Paris, both with friends and with my MFA program. I'd been there once before, a few years ago, and I arrived expecting I would like it okay, but thinking that the London leg of my trip would be the one where I really fell in love. I couldn't believe how wrong I was. I liked London, but Paris. Paris wrapped its arms around me and pulled me in so hard, and it's never let me go. When I was there this summer, I just felt like I was at home. Even though I don't know any French and couldn't really communicate as well as I would have liked, I was just met with warm, friendly people at every turn. Not at all the negative stereotypes I hear about French people at all, just people who welcomed me and helped me and wanted me to be happy in their gorgeous city. I loved the food and the people and the culture and the atmosphere and it just absolutely became a part of my heart in ways I can't even explain. I think every place you travel to becomes a part of you in some way, but I can't even really explain the role Paris plays in my heart now.

My time in Paris was very different from Allyson's, but I get her. I get how a place and an experience can impact your life the way it does for her. I wish I would have been able to travel to Paris when I was her age, but I don't know if I would have ever returned. And maybe that would have been okay.

This summer for my MFA residency, I'm going to Ireland. I'm thinking about going to Scotland first, because I've never been. But as I plan, I'm also wondering if I can find a way to get back to Paris again while I'm over in Europe. Every Saturday morning I turn on PBS and watch Rick Steves in Paris and wonder when I'm going to be able to walk those streets again. Because it's not about if, it's about when.

2. I know the feeling of having a short, passionate, life-changing relationship with someone you hardly know and spending months and months after wondering if your brief encounter meant as much to them as it did to you and realizing that because of them, your life has changed so profoundly and you don't really know how to deal with it all. That's pretty much all I'm going to say about that, but this experience changed me, and I can see how it changed Allyson. I can completely understand why it leads her to do all the things she does through the course of this book, and reading about her sort of felt like living it all over again.

This book touched me like few books have managed to do, and I absolutely can not wait to see how the story wraps up from Willem's point of view in JUST ONE YEAR.

Who else read JUST ONE DAY? What did you think about it? And be sure to head over to Tracey's blog to visit the other posts participating in book club today!

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Life As Of Late

I know what you're thinking! Hey, Jess! I know you've been trying to make us think you've been blogging by posting book reviews every week, but that's not quite the same. Or maybe you're not thinking that because you've been fooled by my trickery. I don't know. But, yeah, I've been posting a lot of book reviews and not much else. I know, I know. The thing is, well...well, let me give you a glimpse inside of my brain for the past month or so.

*types up blog post*

Hm. This is too whiny. I can't post this. 


*stares at the wall*

*picks up a book*

*puts it down*

*stares at inbox*

*makes no move to answer any emails*

*types up blog post*

Nope. Too complain-y. 


*picks up a book*

*puts it down*

*types up blog post*

Nope. Too depressing. 


*Types up another blog post*

Too boring. Zzzz.


*watches Lizzie Bennet episode 98 about 700 times*

*picks up a book*

*puts it down*

*considers working out*

*keeps sitting*

*opens Word doc*


I'm a funk. A writing, reading, life funk. And I can't seem to shake myself out of it. So, yeah, forgive me for not really blogging. Believe's better for all of us that way.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bookanistas: TAKEN

There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

It's pretty awesome when a friend of yours has a book coming out, but it's also pretty scary. I mean...what if you don't like it? It's always a possibility, you know? Well, I was pretty ridiculous to have that worry when it came to my blog and Twitter buddy Erin Bowman's new book TAKEN because it was fantastic. This book was a total thrill ride from beginning to end, with twists and turns that kept me turning the pages like crazy.

My favorite thing about this book? I thought I had a pretty good idea where it was going to go...and then it veered sharply off of that track and into surprising territory within the first 100 pages. The more I read these days, the less I feel truly surprised, and I loved that this book really did take me to places I never expected and kept me guessing all the way through.

Then there's Gray, the narrator of the book. Oh, Gray. I love books from a male POV, and Gray's voice is authentic without being too much. Being in his head throughout this book is a total treat, and his loyalty and general badassery make him one of my favorite YA boys of the year so far. I can't wait for book 2 so I can get more Gray.

I'm not going to lie...I've had a bit of dystopian fatigue as of late. But TAKEN was fun and surprising and I feel like a jerk for ever doubting that I would love it. I guess my friends just really are that good.

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

Tracy Banghart revels in ROMEO REDEEMED by Stacey Jay
Corrine Jackson is redeemed by HOPELESS by Colleen Hoover
Stasia Ward Kehoe connects writers with WriteOnCon
Shannon Messenger celebrates upcoming spring reads

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bookanistas: ALIENATED Cover Love!

I'm all about celebrating the awesome accomplishments of my amazing friends over here. One friend I've had the pleasure of doing a TON of celebrating for is the ridiculously talented Melissa Landers, who just keeps kicking butt all over the publishing world. Not only does she have a funny YA sci-fi romance coming out in early 2014 from Disney Hyperion, but she also has a super steamy adult contemporary romance series currently out from Sourcebooks as well as a new romance series on the way from Penguin, all from her alter-ego Macy Beckett. This girl is unstoppable.

But remember that funny YA sci-fi romance? Well, now it's time to celebrate Melissa's gorgeous cover for that book, ALIENATED. Have you seen this beauty yet?

Interplanetary relations have never been more exciting! The first in a funny, romantic YA sci-fi series.

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy loves, but for the future of her planet.

I love everything about this cover. The colors totally pop, and I love that we can see both Cara and Aelyx's worlds. And, of course, we can see that Aelyx is an alien of the "beam me up, hottie" variety, and not so much of the little green man type.

Melissa is doing some celebrating of her own by giving away an ARC, so go check out her giveaway. But if you win the book, you better share with me!

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

Elana Johson thinks MAGISTERIUM is magical
Shelli Johannes-Wells  is wild for POISON
Katy Upperman  shares her passion for ELEANOR AND PARK
Nikki Katz adores OUT OF THE EASY

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bookanistas: My Life Next Door

A gorgeous debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another

One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.

It's been a while since I read this book, and it just dawned on me that I never posted about how much I love it! Fans of contemporary YA...this book is as close to perfect as you can get when it comes to contemp romance. 

First of all, no love triangle. Personally, I don't mind love triangles at all. But, since they seem to be a thing that bugs people, you'll be happy to know that there isn't one in this book. Second, no "omg does he like me or not let's have a misunderstanding about it" angst. Again, I don't mind it, but it seems like people do, and it's really refreshing to read a YA book where the couple gets together pretty early on in the book and the story follows the building of their relationship rather than the discovery of their feelings for one another. Third, both Samantha and Jase are pretty mature characters who make thoughtful decisions, and I generally didn't want to toss them out the window for doing dumb things as I sometimes find myself wanting to do with some characters. 

Then there is Jase's family, the Garretts. They gave me major anxiety every time they were on the page, because large groups of people tend to do that (yes, I know I'm a teacher, but that's different), but that tells you a lot about how REAL this family was. They explode out of the book and into your life in a way that few side characters in books have managed to do. 

If you missed this book when it first came out, it's not too late to find it and give it some love. It's an awesome, awesome contemporary romance that just might change the way you look at what is out there in YA. 

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

Katy Upperman is thrilled with TAKEN

Elana Johnson has fallen for LET THE SKY FALL