Happy Esther Day!

Hi everybody! Happy Esther Day!

Esther Day Banner(I already said that in the title of the post, but I’m saying it again anyway. Also, I completely forgot I’d already scheduled a blog post to publish today, so that’s why there are two in one day. Oops.)

For those of you who don’t know, Esther Grace Earl was a Nerdfighter and a huge Harry Potter fan. She also became good friends with bestselling young adult author John Green, who dedicated his book The Fault in Our Stars to her. Esther greatly inspired the book, and while it is not her story, she is now a published author herself. She died of thyroid cancer on August 25, 2010, at the age of 16, but one of the many legacies she left behind is Esther Day.

Esther was a big fan of the Vlogbrothers, the YouTube duo of John Green and his brother, Hank. Before she died, John told Esther he and Hank wanted to celebrate her birthday (August 3rd) through Vlogbrothers videos as long as they were able. The videos on that day could be about whatever she wanted. Esther finally decided that she wanted those videos to celebrate love for family and friends–a Valentine’s Day for everything besides romantic love, when telling someone you love them might not be as easy.

So, in honor of Esther Day, here is a compilation of 7 books/series that feature strong love between family and friends, all of which were thoroughly enjoyable. ūüôā

1. This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl, with Lori and Wayne Earl

Well. I suppose this was kind of obvious.

This Star Won’t Go Out was published just last year, and consists of excerpts from Esther’s journals, stories, and artwork. It also includes essays from her family and friends, and throughout the book, the love between Esther and those surrounding her is strikingly evident. It’s a testament to the power of love and family and friendship, and I strongly, strongly recommend you read it. Esther’s voice is intelligent and kind and completely her own, and it’s not something you want to miss out on. (Review here.)

2. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Okay, so this one might be ever so slightly obvious as well. Love is without a doubt one of the biggest parts of Harry Potter’s story, from the night Voldemort gave him that scar to the end of it all. Over the years, readers get to watch as he forges bonds with his friends, his teachers, and so many other people in his life. I think the Golden Trio has one of the most enduring friendships in literature, to be honest, and it’s certainly fun to read about.

3. Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

Betsy and Tacy met when Tacy’s family moved onto Hill Street, and they’ve been nearly inseparable ever since. The book follows the pair as they embark on childhood adventures, including climbing the big hill by their houses and enduring the first day of school. I really enjoyed reading this when I was little, and I think I may have attempted to make some Betsy-and-Tacy-inspired paper dolls at some point. . .maybe. Either way, it’s a great story about friendship for younger readers, and maybe some older ones, too.

4. The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick

This series is so fun and addictive to read. Emma, Jess, Cassidy, and Megan are all very different, very unique girls. They would never all be in the same social circle at school. But then they all get roped into joining a mother-daughter book club, and stuff gets ever so slightly crazy. The girls’ friendship grows as the series moves forward, and I remember enjoying these so much when I first read them. A lot of the books focus on the girls’ bonds with each other and with their families, and they’re a definite recommendation. (Review here.)

5. The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley

This was one of my favorite book series when I was younger, and it still is. When Sabrina and Daphne Grimm’s parents are mysteriously kidnapped, they have to go live with their grandmother, a grandmother they had believed to be dead. And while they’re still reeling from this stunning change of circumstances, another bomb is dropped–they’re descended from the Brothers Grimm, whose fairytales are actually, um, true. They’re basically living in a town full of fairytale characters. A lot of the series focuses on the bond between the sisters as they deal with their new lives and attempt to find out what happened to their mother and father, leaning on each other and their new friends for support. There’s a lot of sisterly/familial love, and the series can really suck you in. And then there’s the witches. (Review here.)

6. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

The two princesses of Bamarre couldn’t be more different–Princess Addie is shy and afraid, while her sister Meryl is brave and harbors dreams of being the country’s heroine. But when illness strikes Meryl and endangers her life, Addie’s the one who has to embark on a quest to try and save her sister, before it’s too late. The book revolves around Addie and Meryl’s love for each other, and Gail Carson Levine could very well be one of the best fantasy writers around. It’s original and well-written, and I definitely recommend it. (Review here.)

7. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity is about a lot of things, but I think the most integral part of the book is the friendship between two young girls helping in the WWII effort. One of them has been captured by Nazis in France, and the book is partially told through her confessions to them. She tells them of how she met her best friend, Maddie, working her way through the story of their friendship to explain how she ended up where she is. “It’s like falling in love, discovering your best friend,” the narrator writes. It’s probably one of the most striking stories of friendship I’ve read in a while.

When Valentine’s Day rolls around every year, a lot of people say “I love you” to their spouses, their fiances/fiancees, and their girlfriends or boyfriends. But sometimes (or a lot of the time), saying it to your friends, or your family, isn’t nearly as easy. I think it’s become something that just isn’t done a lot of the time, for fear of awkwardness, or just because something’s holding people back. Esther Day is meant to counteract that–to encourage people to say “I love you” to the people who matter in their lives. Esther Earl lived her life with a lot of love and caring for those close to her, and I think Esther Day is a very fitting way to celebrate her, not to mention love itself.

So, happy Esther day! Thanks so much for reading and supporting this blog, and I hope you all have a lovely Sunday. ūüôā Don’t forget to be awesome!

TSWGO BannerBookish Quote of the Day: “Saying you love someone is a good thing.” –Esther Earl

P.S. If you’re curious, both banners were made with the website Pic Monkey, which is a pretty cool tool for editing photos, making designs, etc. I don’t think I managed to get the exact shade of Esther Green, but oh well.

The Distance Between Us

Hello again! Today’s book is The Distance Between Us by Kasie West, which is an adorable and clever contemporary romance that I gobbled up in less than a day. With good reason.

At the center of this book’s story is Caymen Meyers, a seventeen-year-old fountain of sarcasm who spends most of her time either in school or helping out in her mother’s porcelain doll shop. Caymen can’t say doll-selling is a passion of hers, but when times are tough and she and her mother are behind on their bills, she’s trying to help out as much as she can.

Enter Xander Spence, who, as Caymen observes, is rich and reeks of it. Caymen’s believed practically all her life that the rich can’t be trusted, and she doesn’t see why Xander should be any different. But just when it looks like Caymen’s changing her mind, it turns out she has even more to deal with then she thought.

I love Caymen to pieces. When I say she’s a fountain of sarcasm, I mean it. Her first-person narration is so much fun to read, and her dry, hilarious sense of humor never gets old. But she’s also smart and kind and flawed, and all in all an awesome character to read about, as is Xander.

Xander and Caymen complement each other so well, bantering and poking fun at each other constantly. They’re adorable and perfect, and Xander’s also a great character all on his own. He’s funny, human, and yes, occasionally clueless, but always entertaining on the page. It was so enjoyable to watch as he and Caymen played off one another and found common ground, despite their very different situations. I cared so much that I physically/audibly reacted at several points while reading. These two got me in the feelings.

All of the characters are just as well-realized and wonderfully written. Caymen’s best friend Skye is delightful and sweet. Like Caymen, I was somewhat suspicious of Skye’s boyfriend Henry, but he grew on me as the book moved on. The characters are one place where this book really shines, just like that oh-so-bright-and-summery cover.

The plot and setting are both great, as well. I was completely taken into Caymen and Xander’s worlds of dolls and benefit parties, and the plot took me by surprise several times.

Overall, The Distance Between Us is a sweet and smart contemporary that was so, so much fun to read. I look forward to reading more of Kasie West’s books, but oh, do I fear for my productivity.

Hope you all are having a great day, and happy Sunday!

P.S. I do have one burning question: Did anyone else look at that cover and go “Where the heck is her other leg?” Or was that just me? IT LOOKS LIKE SHE HAS ONE LEG OKAY.

Bookish Quote of the Day: “I know he’s asking for my name, but I don’t want to give it. The first thing I learned about the rich is that they find the common folk a distraction but would never, ever want anything real. And that’s fine with me. The rich are another species that I observe only from a safe distance. I don’t interact with them.” —The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Prisoner of Night and Fog

Hi everyone! Hope your week is going well. As you can probably see, today’s book¬†Prisoner of Night and Fogis¬†Prisoner of Night and Fog, written by debut author Anne Blankman. (I’m actually reading something on my summer reading list, yay!) Oh, did this give me a lot of feelings. Let’s get started, shall we?

(I had to fill up three pages in a composition notebook in order to get my thoughts somewhat organized about this. Let’s just hope it turns out coherent.)

Prisoner of Night and Fog is set in Munich, Germany, in the early 1930s–a tumultuous time, to say the least. Our heroine, Gretchen M√ľller, is described on the book’s flap as a “Nazi darling,” and it’s a pretty accurate term. Gretchen is the daughter of Klaus M√ľller, a man who threw himself in the path of gunfire to save Adolf Hitler’s life, sacrificing his own in the process. Now, Gretchen is part of her “Uncle Dolf’s” inner circle, fondly referred to by him as “my sunshine.” Her life is by no means perfect or glamorous, but it’s survivable.

And then a Jewish reporter named Daniel shows up and swiftly turns everything upside down.

Daniel believes that Gretchen’s father’s death was by no means the heroic sacrifice everyone has been led to believe–instead, Daniel thinks Gretchen’s father was murdered. Of course, Gretchen doesn’t want to believe this, but it soon becomes clear that Daniel’s claims may hold more truth than they did at first glance.

As the two investigate Klaus’s death, Gretchen finds her views on National Socialism changing, and discovers that Adolf Hitler isn’t the kind, indulgent “uncle” he’s always seemed to be.

This book seriously sucks you in. I felt fully immersed in Gretchen’s world, to the point where to stop reading felt like lifting your head out a thick, book-induced fog. Anne Blankman brings 1930s Munich to vibrant life, from the beer halls to the money struggles to the different flags of political parties sprinkled throughout the city. I could really envision Gretchen’s world as I read, and the research done was evident.

And I didn’t want to stop reading. Not only was I immersed, but I was also really invested, and I had had HAD to know what happened next. Taking a break seemed almost out of the question. “Oh, I should probably eat. . .oh, I should probably get dressed. . .oh, I think there’s someone trying to break into the house. . .” >keeps reading<

(Okay, so I’m exaggerating a LITTLE.)

Anyway.

Another thing about this book is that holy crap the stakes are HIGH. The reader can feel how dangerous Gretchen’s situation really is, and I felt myself getting tense and anxious several times while reading. Because not only does she have Nazis and freaking HITLER to deal with, there’s also her brother, Reinhard.

Reinhard kind of blew my mind; he is completely unlike any character I’ve read about before. Gretchen is capital-T terrified of him, and with good reason (I felt terrified a good number of times, too). Every scene he was in, I was waiting for him to go off, like a bomb. He’s such an intense character, possibly even more so than Hitler.

Speaking of characters, I really liked both Gretchen and Daniel (stay together forever please and thank you). Gretchen is brave and clever, and the author definitely brings her inner and outer struggles to life. Daniel is passionate and intelligent, and I was very struck by how fierce he is. He wants to discover the truth, no matter what happens.

And then. . .Hitler. One of the many words I would use to describe Prisoner of Night and Fog is “gutsy,” not least of all because of the inclusion of Hitler as a prominent character. Gretchen’s Uncle Dolf gives us Hitler in many different forms–the indulgent father figure, the fierce, manipulative politician, the horribly, horribly evil man and all his different facets. Dear god, my skin is crawling just thinking about it. I can’t even imagine attempting to write a character like this, but Blankman pulls it off with substantial talent. Seriously.

As for the plot, it was very well done as well. While I didn’t feel like there was as big an element of mystery as the synopsis might lead you to believe, it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of the book itself. I felt like the culprit was somewhat obvious, but I also felt like it had to be that person; that they were the only person who would make sense, plot-wise. Overall, the plot is very well-written and original, just like everything else about the book.

Prisoner of Night and Fog stays with you long after finishing. I didn’t feel like I could start another book after I finished it, because I was still so invested in the characters and their struggles. I HAD to know what comes next, and I feel like I should still be reading it. I really, really loved this book guys. The writing is excellent–Anne Blankman certainly knows how to turn a phrase–and the plot and characters are as well. I need the sequel, badly.

I think that’s about it for today. If you’re interested in reading another review of this book, Gillian over at Writer of Wrongs published one here, and you can see the book trailer below. Hope you have a great rest of the week!

P.S. The Powell’s website still doesn’t have an image for this book, so if you want to buy it you can do so here (or purchase it from your closest indie bookstore!). Image credit goes to the author’s website, which is here.

Bookish Quote of the Day: “A cry hurled itself from Gretchen’s throat before she could snatch it back. ‘Don’t hurt him!’

She froze. What had she done?” —Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

To Be Read: Summer Edition

Hi everyone! It’s summer! A time for ice cream and beaches and getting sucked into books instead of doing your summer homework. And, despite the fact that it’s almost the end of July, this post is about what I want to read before school doors open once again (>muffled sobbing<). So, without further ado. . .

1. PrisPrisoner of Night and Fogoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

This book sounds unlike anything else I’ve read. It centers around Gretchen M√ľller, a seventeen-year-old living in pre-WWII Munich. Gretchen is a “Nazi darling,” as the book’s summary proclaims, but all her beliefs are challenged when she meets Daniel, a young Jewish reporter. After hearing great things about this and then spotting it at the library, I couldn’t resist. (Image credit goes to the author’s website, because the Powell’s Books website didn’t have any image for it, hmph.)

2. Revolution by Deborah Wiles

Guys! It’s the sequel! To Countdown! And it’s about Freedom Summer and it’s like if a scrapbook and a novel got together and had the best baby ever.

(Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.)

3. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I’ve been meaning to read this ever since I saw the Wishbone episode about it, I kid you not. Now that someone’s been kind enough to lend it to me for the summer, I really have no excuse. I just hope Catherine Morland gets out alive.

 

4. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

This book got a rave review from the awesome book blog Writer of Wrongs, and it sounds great. Lara Jean has a box of love letters, one for every boy she’s had a crush on. Of course, those letters have never been sent. . .until they are. And as if that doesn’t sound interesting enough, I really love that cover for some reason. Prettttyyy.

5. Everything in the Percy Jackson universe, by Rick Riordan

Yep. EVERYTHING. I haven’t read any of the Percy Jackson books in forever, or anything after the first two books in the series that comes after that, The Heroes of Olympus. Now that Heroes of Olympus is ending this fall, I figure I better get a move on. Will I finish all of them before the summer is out? No way. Let’s just hope I don’t get sucked into the Rick Riordan Vortex, never to return.

6. The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce

Yet another series I haven’t read in forever. One of these days, I’m just going to dive back into Alanna’s world of sword-fights and magic and everything else. You know, if my heart hasn’t been ripped out by Rick Riordan first.

 

I’m sure I could think of more books to add to this list if I tried, but I think I’d better stop here, before it grows to the length of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend, and with that I shall bid you adieu!

P.S. Any special books on your summer reading list?

P.P.S. I just finished rereading the novel The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette, and as a result I am kind of a mess. It was like watching the “Doomsday” episode of Doctor Who all over again. HISTORY WHY YOU DO THIS TO ME.

Bookish Quote of the Day: “One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” –Writer Jeannette Walls

 

We Were Liars

Guys. Guys, it’s We Were Liars. I have been waiting for this book for months. MONTHS. AND NOW I HAS READ IT.

And, y’know, promptly had my brain broken.

I have a question: Why do all the good books hurt?

This book. This freaking book. I swear I’m going to try to be coherent about it, but I’m not making any promises.

We Were Liars is narrated by seventeen-year-old Cadence, the oldest grandchild in the rich Sinclair family, a group of square chins, stiff upper lips, and old-money Democrats. Where:

No one is a criminal.

No one is an addict.

No one is a failure.

Cadence spends her summers on Beechwood Island with her extended family. There, she and three other residents form the Liars, a group including Cadence, her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and Johnny’s best friend, Gat. “Most years on the island, we’ve been trouble.”

Their time at Beechwood is described as a “summer idyll,” a time of blueberry pie, swimming, and excursions to nearby Martha’s Vineyard. But something happened during the Liars’ fifteenth summer there. And Cadence can’t remember it.

When Cadence returns to the island when she is seventeen, things are very different. She has migraines that feel like a witch beating her head with an ivory goose. No one will talk to her about what happened. Her grandfather is losing his mind, and one of her beautiful aunts wanders the island at night. The other one cleans obsessively.

The Liars are still there, but they too are hiding things from her.

Like Colette at Refuting the Intolerably Stupid, I’m¬†wary of¬†telling you anything too in-depth about this book. Even the summary on the book itself is vague and secretive. Cadence’s world is one of murky waters, in a family that isn’t nearly as beautiful as it looks.

E. Lockhart has really delivered with this one. The characters are unique and well-written, and Cadence’s voice as a narrator is also very good. Believe me when I say this is unlike any other book I’ve read. Cadence seamlessly slips between prose and poetry, even slipping in short, clever variations on fairytales. I was curious as to how this would play out in the book when I first heard about it, but it¬†really, really works. It’s all very telling and only immerses the reader more in the Sinclairs’ world.

Not to mention the prose. God, I don’t even know if that’s what I should call it. E. Lockhart writes unapologetically and originally, working in images in a way that I’ve never seen before. In a way, even the writing is shocking.

The plot. This is the part where I really feel like I can’t tell you much. There are some novels (like Code Name Verity) where the plot is so well thought-out and insane you’re left sitting there in your armchair/bed/TARDIS wondering what the heck you just read and how the author came up with it. That is what We Were Liars feels like. It’s a maze of questions and hidden answers, until you get to the end and think you may fall over. The plot is amazing. That’s all I’m going to tell you.

I still can’t deal with this book. It’s crazy and original and my god, does it get intense. I almost feel like I should warn you, because it gets serious. It gets insane. I was kind of a wreck when I was getting towards the end, and my parents can vouch for me. It’s the kind of book that can knock you over. I loved it.

Then again, I could be lying.

Bookish Quote of the Day:

“It tasted like salt and failure. The bright red shame of being unloved soaked the grass in front of our house, the bricks of the path, the steps to the porch. My heart spasmed among the peonies like a trout.

Mummy snapped. She said to get hold of myself.

Be normal, now, she said. Right now, she said.

Because you are. Because you can be.” —We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

After Tupac and D Foster

This books, guys. Oh, this book. Emotions. Emotions.

Obviously, the title of said book is After Tupac and D Foster, written by the lovely Jacqueline Woodson. The book is narrated by a young girl living in Queens, right across the street from her best friend, Neeka. And one day, when she and Neeka are sitting on a stoop, D Foster turns the corner and enters their lives. And then, well. Nothing is the same.

The girls become close friends, sharing stories, experiences, and, of course, music. Specifically, the music of Tupac Shakur, a songwriter and¬†rapper who seems to understand them. But D is a puzzle–she “roams,” as she likes to call it, walking the streets of New York City. “I saw all the trees and got off the bus and just starting roaming over this way,” she says when she first meets them.

Neeka and her friend don’t even know her real name.

As the story progresses, the girls grow. They turn into teenagers. They get into arguments, they laugh, they listen to Tupac. They worry together when Tupac is shot. And then he’s shot again–just a little while after D disappears, spirited away by a mother who’s ready to try again. And the first time our narrator talks to D in ages, it’s when D calls, saying, “Hey, girl. Our boy ain’t gonna make it.”

The characters in this book. God, I loved the characters. I just want to make everything better. I want to give Neeka’s brother Tash a guy he’ll love and who’ll love him back. I want to erase his jail time, because he shouldn’t have been imprisoned in the first place. I want to help Neeka to be the somebody she so badly wants to be. I want to protect Tash’s brothers–when he tells them never to end up where he is, it just hurts.¬†Tash knows some people¬†are going to judge them before they even open their mouths. And finally, I want to put the two halves of the nameless narrator together, for her to find herself in all those books she’s reading all the time.

And God, D. I want to hug D. I want to wrap up the life she should have had and put a bow on it and give it to her for her birthday. D is awesome, and she’s¬†been through a lot. When she tells her friends about her mom wanting to try again, I felt a physical something in my gut. Jacqueline Woodson’s characters are so well-written and real, and I love them so much. They’re strong, and they’re human.

I also love THE WRITING. Trust me when I say that this author is a GREAT writer. Her prose flows and the voice of the narrator is so strong. I feel like I should post like five quotes or something, just to show you. So if there’s more than one quote at the end of this post, you’ll know why. The writing is freaking awesome.

Tupac and D Foster is definitely a book I recommend. It’s a fairly quick read, but it packs a lot of feeling and awesomeness into those 100 and something pages. It’s a truly great book, and I intend on checking out more of Jacqueline Woodson’s books soon.

Also, because it would be a sin to write a review of this book and not to link to some of Tupac’s music, here’s one of the two songs mentioned in the beginning of the book:

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day everybody!

Bookish Quotes of the Day:

“It’s like he sees stuff, you know? And he knows stuff. And he be thinking stuff that only somebody who knows that kinda living deep and true could know and think.”

“It’s because we black and we kids and he’s black and he’s just a kid–even though he’s twenty-three–and every single song he be singing is telling us a little bit more about what could happen to us and how the world don’t really care . . .”

“The summer before D Foster’s¬† real mama came and took her away, Tupac wasn’t dead yet.”

P.S. The part with Tash and his brothers also made me think of this amazing poem by Javon Jones:

10 Books You Should Read

Hi everybody! So a little while ago John Green made a YouTube video in which he recommended 18 books he thought viewers probably hadn’t read. Carrie Hope Fletcher did a similar video on her YouTube channel, too, and it looked like fun, so. . .

(These aren’t necessarily books you probably haven’t read; they’re more books that I think are fun/awesome/really good that more people might want to read.)

1. The Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson

OK, yes, I realize that this is a series, not a single book. But these books, guys. GAH. I’ve talked about The Name of the Star before, but I just recently finished its sequel, The Madness Underneath, and MY FEELINGS. WHY. WHY WITH THAT ENDING. Just. . .just WHY. Anyways, these books are terrific, and ever so slightly addictive, so I highly suggest you read them. Then we can cry together. (It may not be a good idea to read them right before bed, though. At least with The Name of the Star.)

2. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman

If this book looks familiar, it’s probably because I’ve reviewed it before. Climbing the Stairs tells the story of Vidya, a fifteen-year-old living in India during WWII. Vidya’s country is going through a period of upheaval–protests are taking place, and people are refusing to accept the racist attitudes of the British that are occupying their country. Vidya herself has her own worries. She wants to go to college, but there’s also the possibility that she will be married off before she gets the chance. And then something terrible happens, and her family has to go live in the traditional home of their relatives, where men and women are separated by a forbidden flight of stairs. Padma Venkatraman’s writing is insanely good, as are her characters and plot. Plus, her new book, A Time to Dance, was just recently released. EXCITEMENT.

3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Oh, this book. Pranks. A boarding school. Basset hounds. Secret societies. It is SO GOOD.

Frankie Landau-Banks attends Alabaster Preparatory Academy, a boarding school in northern Massachusetts. Her freshman year wasn’t exactly illustrious, but this year is going to be different–especially when Frankie gets involved with the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, an all-male secret society to which she is not allowed to belong. But Frankie is smart (not to mention somewhat cunning), and then. . .stuff happens. It’s cleverly written and imaginative, and have I mentioned that I just CAN’T WAIT for E. Lockhart’s next book, We Were Liars? Yes, I know¬†it comes out May 13th, but patience is NOT MY STRONG SUIT.

4. The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots by Carolyn Meyer

If I had to name my favorite writers of historical fiction, they would probably be Ann Rinaldi and Carolyn Meyer. Carolyn Meyer’s books are most likely what caused me to fall in love with reading about major figures of history, like Elizabeth I and Marie-Antoinette. Her books span years, taking the reader from her subjects’ childhoods to¬†their adult years, encompassing betrayals, romances, and inheritances of various thrones. As you can probably tell, this one centers on Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. Trust me when I say these books can suck you in. Meyer makes the characters come to life, and writes very, very well. I also love her quartet of books on various women of the Tudor family (starting with Patience, Princess Catherine), Loving Will Shakespeare (about Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway), and The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette. I admittedly didn’t really like Victoria Rebels all that much, but those previously mentioned I loved. (Review here.)

5. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Well, yes, technically this is a series. But STILL. The first book is Dealing with Dragons (earlier review here), in which the reader is introduced to Princess Cimorene, who is pretty sick of this whole roytaly thing. She’s not allowed to fence, she’s not allowed to learn magic, and all in all she finds it extremely dull. So dull, in fact, that she runs away to live with a dragon. The adventures of Cimorene and those she meets continue throughout the series, involving slimy wizards, troublesome knights, and cherries jubilee. Patricia C. Wrede writes cleverly and imaginatively, and I especially love Cimorene’s attitude. These were some of my favorite fantasy books when I was younger, and I very well may reread them someday. I think they’d be enjoyable at any age. (I also really like the book Wrede wrote with Caroline Stevermer, Sorcery and Cecilia. It’s set in Regency England. And there’s magic.)

6. Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes

I’m also thinking about rereading this, seeing as I first read it so long ago, and really, really liked it. Tortilla Sun tells the story of Izzy, who is spending the summer with her grandma in New Mexico while her Mom is doing research in Costa Rica. As Izzy explores the village and makes new friends, she learns more about her culture and her family, also while trying to solve the mystery of her father’s old baseball that reads simply, “Because. . .magic.” Jennifer Cervantes’s writing is truly awesome, and at the time I wondered why more people didn’t know about it. I’ll probably be checking it out again soon. ūüôā (Review here.)

7. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Okay, so I have mentioned this book numerous times. But if you have any interest at all in reading about an eleven-year-old girl living on a somewhat lonely estate in 1950s England, who also has an acute interest in chemistry and gets involved in solving murders quite a bit, then this is probably for you. Flavia de Luce loves chemistry, particularly poisons, and in the sprawling estate of Buckshaw that she shares with the rest of her family, that’s probably what she likes to¬†deal with¬†best. And then a dead man turns up on the doorstep, and things get exciting. Flavia has a great voice, and the plot and the characters are just as awesome. Not to mention the covers, man. Plus, it’s a SERIES.

8. Monster by Walter Dean Myers

If you haven’t read Walter Dean Myers, YOU ARE MISSING OUT. This is the first book I read by him, and it definitely shows why he was the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2012-2013.¬†Monster centers around Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in jail for murder. The story is told through Steve’s journal entries, a script¬†he’s writing for a movie, and the occasional photo, taking the reader through his trial. It’s striking and intelligent and imaginative, and just GO READ IT. AND BE ENLIGHTENED. Carmen is pretty amazing as well.(Review here.)

9. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

So you might have thought the amount of gushing I can do over this book had hit its limit. But apparently, nope! NEVER. Because this is probably one of the best books I have ever read. Told through the lives of a number of gay boys, and narrated from the perspective of the gay generation that came before them, Two Boys Kissing is filled with wonderful use of language and intenseness and beauty and ugly and just freaking read it GOD.

10. March: Book One by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

I can’t believe I haven’t written a review of this yet, and I definitely need to get on that soon. March is a graphic novel about the civil rights movement, shown through the eyes of Congressman John Lewis, one of its foremost leaders. It takes the reader from his childhood to his older years, offering a remarkable and unique perspective on the movement and life during that time. Lewis is a great storyteller, and Nate Powell’s pictures add a whole new element to the book, which is probably one of the most striking ones I’ve ever read. It’s awesome and wonderful and you should READ IT.¬†Now. And when does the next book come out?

So, there you have it. 10 books I think you should read. I suppose that’s it for today. And if you actually made it to the end of this gargantuan post, congratulations! It really just kept getting longer and longer. . .

Anyway, I hope you all have a lovely Friday! The weekend is almost here. Take heart.

Bookish Quotes of the Day: “There is no Frigate like a Book/To take us Lands away.” —There is no frigate like a book (1263)¬†by Emily Dickinson

P.S. Also This Star Won’t Go Out. And absolutely any book by Gary D. Schmidt (because he’s amazing).

How to Love

Hi everybody! I hope you all are having a lovely Sunday evening! Spring break has come and gone, the week after spring break has come and gone, and, yes, I have kicked myself off Tumblr and YouTube and am posting something. Weeeeeee!

Ahem. Anyway. Today’s book is How to Love, written by Katie Cotugno!

Serena Montero has been crazy about Sawyer LeGrande for so long it’s practically engrained in her DNA. It’s never going to happen, of course–Sawyer is cool, popular, a friend of the family’s with a half moon necklace. Never gonna happen. Never. Nope. NO.

But, somehow, in some insane way. . .it does. (Cause where would the story be otherwise?) Sawyer and Reena are dating, or something like it. Maybe. It involves kissing? It’s all very complicated, and not even Reena is sure what is going on, what they have.

It is MESSY. MESSINESS ABOUNDS. LOOK AT ALL THE MESSINESS.

And then. . .Sawyer leaves. Zip. Reena is left behind in their small Florida town, a place she’s always wanted to escape. And she’s pregnant.

BOOM.

This is not the way she envisioned her life going. Especially when Sawyer returns, completely out of the blue.

I really like it when books just suck me into a whirlwind–like a tear-through-the-thing, totally-just-meant-to-read-a-few-pages, I-should-probably-do-homework-now whirlwind. (I mean, this isn’t good for my productivity. But oh well.) And How to Love delivers. Oh, it delivers. You probably shouldn’t read this if you have a big project due or something.

First of all, this book is fun to read. Obviously, the subject matter isn’t exactly fun–there is angst, fighting, issues to work through, etc. But the experience of reading it, of gobbling it up and getting sucked in like that–that was fun.

Cotugno tells the story through alternating chapters, those set before Sawyer’s disappearance and those set after his return. We’re introduced to Reena’s family and friends: Her best friend, Allie, her restaurant-owning father, the hilarious and wonderful Shelby. (I like Shelby. A lot.) The characters are awesome. I love how well-done and well-written they are, and how much originality they have. And even though I disliked some of them at least once while reading, it didn’t interfere with my reading experience as a whole. Yes, they can all be jerks sometimes, but that didn’t really cause any problems where my enjoyment of the book was concerned. The characters are human and unique, and they’re awesome.

I also love the little touches Cotugno adds, and the way she writes–the way she describes things, the way she writes about emotions in this great way that doesn’t sound flowery or pretentious. She had me interested from the first sentence:

“I’ve been looking for Sawyer for half a lifetime when I find him standing in front of the Slurpee machine at the 7-Eleven on Federal Highway, gazing through the window at the frozen, neon-bright churning like he’s expecting the mysteries of the universe to be revealed to him from inside.”

When I say this book can suck you in, it can suck you in. I didn’t want to stop reading. How to Love is a really, really good book, and I definitely enjoyed reading it. ūüôā

I suppose that’s it for today. Sorry if this is a little lacking compared to my other posts, but I hope to get back in the groove and to be posting more often soon! I hope you all have an awesome night!

Book Quote of the Day: “I felt so incredibly, unforgivably stupid, was the worst part–the lamest kind of stereotype, the dumbest kind of fool.” —How to Love, by Katie Cotugno

P.S. If you visit Katie’s website, you can find some more of her awesome writing. It kind of makes me desperate for another book. Fingers crossed!

Catalyst

Psst. Guys. Hey, hey, guys. You. Yes, you, staring at your computer screen. HEY.

Midterms are over.

THANK YOU DUMBLEDORE!

Now that those horrible, ugh-worthy things are over, guess what that means? LONG WEEKEND! READING! WASTING TIME ON THE INTERNET! AND A BLOG POST FOR ALL YOU LOVELY PEOPLE!

Whoops. Sorry for the caps attack.

Anyway, as you have no doubt noticed, this blog post is about Catalyst, written by Laurie Halse Anderson. Which I started to read completely by accident. You know, when you pick a book while you’re waiting for something and you’re like, “I’ll just read a few pages.” And then, inevitably. . .

Yep. I was hooked. I had to finish it. So let’s jump right in: A summary!

(Be glad my review summaries aren’t like the summaries I have to write for school. Because it appears that I have an issue with a thing called brevity.)

The star of our story is Kate Malone–a senior in high school with a sharp mind, a sharp wit, and an even sharper desire: To get into MIT. Honestly, there isn’t even really a choice in the matter. Because it’s the only school she’s applied to.

No, really.

As the days tick by and she waits for her letter (her acceptance letter), Kate is getting by¬† fine. Really. So what if she can’t sleep? A person can get loads of things done in the night when everyone else is snoring. She’s fine. She’s got great grades, she’s got Chemistry, she’s got her friends and boyfriend.¬† She’s got running. It’s all good, great, she’ll have that letter any day now.

And then everything just kind of goes a little crazy.

The Litch family’s house catches on fire. Kate ends up sharing her room and home with Teri Litch, who made a habit of beating her up in elementary school. College is still hanging over her head. At least Mikey Litch is an adorable little bundle of joy.

And just when stuff is starting to look maybe a little bit better. . .it all blows up again. Only even more.

One of the things that really struck me about this book is Kate’s voice as a narrator. I love it. More than anything, I think that’s what made me want to keep reading after I sat down and read those few (17?) pages. There are some really, really, really golden lines in there, and the way Kate narrates is very uniquely hers. Her attitude is so much fun to read.

The characters are all well written, and Kate’s friends, Travis and Sarah, were definitely fun and unique. The plot was well done, too, and Anderson added a number of little touches and other conflicts, which made Kate’s community and world seem all the more developed and real. Kate’s problems with her father, Reverend Jack Malone, for example, or the little snippets of science and math references, because those subjects are both a big part of Kate and her life. The way the book is formatted is also really cool, containing snippets of science and chemistry terms that are fully integrated into the book itself. I don’t particularly like science, and I found it neat.

So, all in all, Catalyst was a really good read, and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’ve enjoyed more of Anderson’s work. Actually, her new book, The Impossible Knife of Memory, has just been released!

I hope you’re all enjoying your long weekend, and guess what? Guess what?!

The 3rd season of Sherlock premieres in the U.S. tonight.

If you need me, I’ll be sobbing and fangirling in the other room. No doctors are needed, but cookies are always appreciated.

Bye!

Bookish Quote of the Day: “Sweat trickles along the bones of my face and licks my neck. Running, sweating, evaporating. . . I’m distilling myself in the dark: mixture, substance, compound, element, atom. The ghost is getting closer. Run faster. Push beyond the wall, push beyond my limits. My chest is flayed open; no lungs to breathe with, no heart to pound. The air flows around and between my shiny bones. My skin is silk. I take it off when I get hot. . .

I wish I never had to stop.” —Catalyst, by Laurie Halse Anderson

P.S. If any of you are interested in Vidcon, which is a convention for YouTubers and vloggers, the video below has a great idea for it. (The video she made previously that she mentions can be found here.) (She’s a great YouTuber!)

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons

Happy (late) New Year! Here, 2014 is being kicked off with the book Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, by the talented Ann Rinaldi.

Phillis Wheatley, as many of you probably know, was a young girl brought over from Senegal, Africa, in the 18th century. Bought by the Wheatley family in Boston, Massachusetts, Phillis works for the Wheatley’s daughter, Mary, as her personal slave–until it is discovered that she can read.

After that, Mary’s brother Nathaniel begins to tutor Phillis, teaching her Latin and Greek and helping her to improve her reading.

And then she writes a poem. And things really change.

Soon, Phillis is reciting for the Wheatleys’ dinner guests, visiting various bookstores and printers throughout Boston, and is even sent to London. (All against the backdrop of the colonists’ growing discontent with British rule.) She meets a string of well-drawn characters, from Aunt Cumsee and Prince, fellow slaves, to Benjamin Franklin.

I love this book. So much. I haven’t read historical fiction in a fairly long time, and this was definitely a good one to go with. It pulls you in and won’t let you go, and I really loved Phillis’s voice as the narrator. She’s honest, telling the reader her thoughts as a new arrival in America, an ocean in between her and her past home and freedom. At one point she says, “It seems you are not permitted to murder a slave woman. Not even in America.”

Ann Rinaldi definitely paints a convincing picture of Phillis’s life, from childhood to being an adult. The story of her voyage on the slave ship is shown in all its unimaginable brutality, and her struggles with freedom and the desire for it are drawn really well. The author doesn’t gloss over Phillis’s struggles, and the way she writes is addictive.

It might make you cry. It will give you lots of feelings. It’s really amazing.

Phillis is a great character, and I loved the complexity with which Rinaldi details her struggles and conflicts: Should she want freedom? If free, how would she be able to survive? Would it be better if she just stayed with the Wheatleys?

Really, do the Wheatleys even value her as a human being?

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons is definitely one of my favorite historical fiction novels of all time, and I definitely recommend it. It has happiness, sadness, big questions, and great characters. And, of course, poetry.

Literary Quote of the Day: “I could scarce contain my own excitement. The more I wrote, the more excited I became. I felt like Columbus must have felt when he just discovered America. Only the land that I had sighted was myself. In a way, my own way, I was free.” —Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons, by Ann Rinaldi

P.S. Some other great books by Ann Rinaldi are A Break With Charity: A Story About the Salem Witch Trials and Brooklyn Rose.