Lies We Tell Ourselves

Hi everyone! Whoa it has been a while. Things got a little crazy at school once AP tests hit, but at long last they are over! I finished a book for the first time in ages and it was lovely. And speaking of books, I do have quite a bit of reviews to catch up on. So let’s get to it, shall we?

As you can probably see, the book of the day is Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. This book was so good it made my post about my favorite books of 2014, and with plenty of reason. It’s high time it had a review all of its own.

Sarah Dunbar and Linda Hairston have never met before, but that’s about to change. Sarah, a high school senior, is one of a group of African American students integrating Jefferson High School in 1959. Linda, a white senior also attending the school, is the daughter of one of Davisburg’s most prominent segregationists. For obvious reasons, the girls do not get along. But when they’re forced to work on a school project together, they find themselves developing feelings for the one person they never wanted to have feelings for.

One of the reasons I loved this book so much was that I didn’t want to put it down. Talley times the plot so well that there was always something that kept me turning the pages, wanting to know what happened next. I had to find out where the characters were heading, what would happen to Sarah and Linda and everyone else. And I still wanted to know what would happen, even after I read the last page and the covers were closed. I was still so invested in the characters and their lives.

The characters are another reason I enjoyed this book so much. Sarah and Linda are both very different, with very different backgrounds, but they’re also somewhat alike. Sarah is well behaved, the constant good girl, but she’s also tough and brave in a way that I loved. Linda is smart but totally misled by her father and the constant racism around her, her views warped by that ugly vortex. As the girls argue and battle, they both learn things from each other, in a way that feels very real and genuine. There’s so much more to each of them than meets the eye. Watching them grow closer and fall for each other was something I loved reading about, and part of me wants to go back and experience it all over again. The side characters are terrific as well, and Sarah’s friends Chuck and Ennis just make the story better, as does Sarah’s friend Judy.

Lies We Tell Ourselves is not a light book by any means, but it is also a great one. It encompasses many things–from racism to fear to accepting yourself–but Talley handles it all in a way that only makes it harder to put the book down. It’s the kind of book I finished and immediately wanted more of, and I can’t wait to read what Talley publishes next. Part of me is still hoping for a sequel. 🙂

Have a great week!

Bookish Quote of the Day: “We always had plenty to say, even if we were shouting it. Even when she was wrong, there was a certain pleasure in correcting her. In seeing the way her face creased when she tried to think of how to answer me.

Talking to her came naturally. Like breathing.” —Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

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. 🙂

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!

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.

My Favorite Books (Of 2013)

New Year's Fireworks
2014 is coming!

Hi everybody!

I’m a little late with this, aren’t I?

Actually, more like mammothly late, but I suppose I’m nothing if not a chronic procrastinator. And generally lazy. It’ll probably say that on my headstone. (Just kidding. I’m immortal, duh. It would also say that I spend too much time joking at the beginnings of blog posts.)

But, here it is! These are some of the books I read this year that I really, really loved. It’s probably a little late to get them as presents (>looks sheepish<), but if you fancy a trip to the library while you’re on vacation, then by all means. . .

Here we go!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Why yes, we are starting with the obvious!

Eleanor & Park is not only one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year, it’s one of my favorites, period. It features two outsiders on a school bus, and comic books, and music, and love, and I could go on forever about its various awesome traits. It’s one of those books where I couldn’t even sleep after finishing it, because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The characters are all marvelously written, and Rowell has a way of writing that is seriously addictive. REALLY addictive. See also: Fangirl.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

I couldn’t read this book right before bedtime. That should say something.

At the center of The Name of the Star is Aurora Deveaux, a.k.a. Rory, who is just starting to attend a boarding school in London(!). And, on the same day she arrives in England, a murder is committed. But not just any murder–this one appears to be an imitation of one of the Jack the Ripper murders from way back when. But the murderer isn’t going to stop there, and neither is Rory after she thinks she sees the man who might be responsible. Complete with gore, mystery, romance, and FANTASTIC characters (seriously, I love the characters), this book is definitely one I really enjoyed. (I’ve just started Devilish, too, and so far it seems just as good.)

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

You know how I said Rainbow Rowell’s writing is addictive? Well, Walter Dean Myers’ is, too. Monster tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenager in New York City who’s on trial for murder. Told through Steve’s journal entries, a script he’s writing, and the rare photo, the reader is shown a detailed, eye-opening look at what it’s like to be in jail, especially when you’re as young as Steve. It’s just really, really, really good, as well as striking. I’m pretty sure Myers might be one of the best writers around. Ever.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

This book was kind of like watching the Sherlock mini-episode yesterday–it filled me with feelings that I did not know what to do with, it consumed a large amount of my thoughts, and it made me want to bawl. Oh, and it killed me a little inside, that too. But in a good way! In a really really good way!

Two Boys Kissing tells a number of stories, and it doesn’t focus on any one character or couple–there’s Avery and Ryan, who have just met; there’s Neil and Peter, who have been dating for a while; there’s Harry and Craig, who are trying to set the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss. . .and then there’s Cooper, who doesn’t really have anyone but his computer and phone and the Internet. Narrated in a very particular and enlightening point of view, this book is just filled with revelations and stories and GAH GAH GAH. (No, really, that’s how I felt while reading it.) (For good reasons.) And as if the great plot and characters weren’t enough, the writing itself is enough to make you want to cry. Go. Go read it. Go read it now.

Carmen by Walter Dean Myers

Now, I know what you might be thinking: “Hey, she already has a book by this guy on here!” Well, see how I now have two? That means you really have to read him now!

Carmen is a modern-day retelling of the opera of the same name, set in New York City. Told in script form, and even containing musical scores, it’s a really cool way of telling the tragic story. It goes pretty fast (definitely pretty fast), but the characters and the story are all great. (I especially love Carmen. She’s just so much fun to read.) I love the settings and the imagery, too, and it all just combines to make something really enjoyable and well done. Walter Dean Myers is just amazing. Hey, you, you! Go read it.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I have professed my love for John Green many a-time, and I have also now professed my love for David Levithan. And now look! A book! Written by both of them! Both!

In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, each of these authors writes from the point of view of one teenage boy–both named Will Grayson. When they meet one night in Chicago, each of their lives goes a little. . .insane. Or, at least, becomes rather different.

Both John Green and David Levithan are insanely good writers on their own, and I loved their characters and the plot. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is hilarious, but it also has a measure of seriousness too, as well as some really, really good quotes, about everything from best friends to depression. (Pretty much all the books on this list have amazing quotes.)(“Some people have lives; others have music.”) So, I’m going to tell you what I’ll probably tell you about any of either of these guys’ books–read it! Now! Soon! Soon-ish! ASAP!

Please?

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Ah, Good Omens. The funniest book ever written about the end of the world. Period.

I brook no arguments.

Possibly my favorite parts of this book (okay, definitely my favorite parts of this book) are Crowley and Aziraphale. (Who I ship as much as I ship John Watson/Sherlock.) Crowley is a Bentley-driving, sunglasses-wearing, mischief-making demon. Aziraphale is a book-loving, cocoa-drinking angel. They’re pretty much one of the best duos ever written about. They also don’t want the world to end.

This book is about how they attempt to prevent that from happening, and along the way, the reader is introduced to a number of interesting and rather singular characters. For instance, there’s Shadwell, a Witchfinder Sergeant. There’s Anathema Device, a psychic. There’s Adam; he’s the Antichrist. All of these characters are hilarious, they’re written really, really well, and the plot is great, and do you see where I’m going with this?

So those are some of my favorite books that I read in 2013. I hope you all are having a great holiday, and here’s to all the books coming out in 2014!

Bye!

P.S. Here’s a really, really amazing video to look at and pass around:

P.P.S. Terry Pratchett has said that he would like Benedict Cumberbatch to play Aziraphale if Good Omens were to be adapted into a movie. >freaks out<

Stolen

Hi everybody! So, today’s post focuses on the book Stolen, written by Lucy Christopher. Which I had been planning on reading for forever, and I finally did it! Yay me!

16-year-old Gemma needs a break. She’s stuck in an airport in Bangkok, she needs some space from her parents, and she needs a cup of coffee. So, seeking to remedy two of these problems, she heads for the nearest coffee-shop while her parents wait for her to return. Here’s the thing:

She doesn’t.

Instead, she’s swept away to the Australian desert with Ty, a strange man who insists he was “saving her.” A man with see-through blue eyes and a way with the land. Terrified and confused, Gemma must learn how to survive in this strange new world, where it is only her and Ty, and there is no one around to rescue her. But, gradually, the baffling question arises: Does she really want to be?

This actually might be the only book I have ever read that is written in the second person, and it definitely works. Gemma addresses Ty as she tells us her story, and it’s really a unique and interesting book to read. The characters are well-written and captivating, not to mention the plot, which is really original. The writing is great. Gemma’s voice is unique and definitely enjoyable to read, and the point of view offers an interesting perspective. (My god, the ending. The ending. . .and the climax might have had me freaking out a little bit. Or more.)

All in all, Stolen is a book I would definitely recommend, and I highly suggest you go take a look. Everyone have a great day! (And I’m sorry this is a little bit shorter than usual!)

Literary Quote of the Day: “You saw me before I saw you.” –Stolen, by Lucy Christopher

P.S. Have a look at the amazing book trailer, which will probably convince you to read this more than I ever will! 🙂

P.P.S. Rest in peace, Lou Reed.

The Name of the Star

Now, before I start, there is one very very very important thing you should understand about this book: SCARY SCARY SCARY SCARY SCARY DO NOT READ LATE AT NIGHT SERIOUSLY DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

Phew. I’m glad we got that sorted out. Now. . .

As you have probably noticed, this book is titled The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson. The main character of this story is Rory Deveaux, who is just arriving in London from Louisiana to attend a difficult boarding school there. And London is starting to become very exciting–violent, gory murders imitating those committed by Jack the Ripper are popping up around the city, and that has to be just a little noteworthy.

While at first Rory isn’t that interested, that changes soon enough, especially when one of the murders takes place just a bit too close to home. And here’s where it gets really strange. . .Rory saw a man lurking around that night. She talked to him, even. But even though her roommate was right there, Rory was the only one to see him.

And you have to admit, that’s just a bit suspicious.

As the murders continue, the people of London are alternately terrified and curious, or both, and Rory’s left to try to solve the mystery of the strange man she saw. Not to mention why she saw him and no one else did. Oh, and it’d be nice if she could stay alive, too. That would be rather nice.

I’ve already established that this book is definitely creepy, but it is also definitely good. The characters are unique, and the plot is nice and suspenseful. It’s well-written, and while it would occasionally take me a while to really get into things, it was pretty hard to get out once I did. I’m definitely going to check out the sequel soon!

ALSO, as I have mentioned before, this book is very scary, and it has descriptions of gore and violence as well. It’s still a really great book to read, and I liked it a lot, but you should probably keep those things in mind when deciding if you’re going to read it. Anyway, that’s about it! Have a great day everyone!

Literary Quote of the Day: “Fear can’t hurt you. When it washes over you, give it no power. It is a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you.” —The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

Eleanor & Park

GAH. THIS BOOK. THIS. BOOK. Ergasmergh. Just. . .just ergasmergh. Really.

OK, collecting my thoughts, collecting my thoughts, gimme a sec. . .JUST ONE SEC. . .OK. I think I’ve got it. Let’s do this.

So, just a little while ago I started hearing really good things about this book. It’s currently being featured on Figment (a writing site for teenagers), and has gotten a ton of good reviews. (Including one from John Green, might I add.) So I decided to get it from the library and read it. (Plus, look at the cover art. That is some EPIC cover art.)

Eleanor & Park, written by the talented Rainbow Rowell, is the story of two sixteen-year-olds that meet one day in 1986. Eleanor has just moved to Omaha and needs a seat on the bus. Park is the only one who lets her sit down, very reluctantly so. Eleanor, well, she’s weird. You can tell. And Park, as one of the very few Asian kids in his entire school, already doesn’t fit in. And some chubby, oddly dressed redhead isn’t really going to make life easier for him. So he plugs in his Walkman and drowns everything out. Eleanor doesn’t talk to him, and he doesn’t talk to her.

Gradually, though, they do start to interact a bit. It starts with comics. It gains speed with music. And before you know it, they’re in love.

The one thing that really stuck with me about this book was the characters. Not just Eleanor and Park, but the others as well. Eleanor’s only other friends at school, DeNice and Beebi, are funny and extremely likable. The other kids on the bus, as well as the schoolteachers, are striking and unique. But Eleanor herself was probably my favorite character. In the second chapter, when she’s deciding to brave the bus and the merciless kids who tease her, and thinks, “Oh, fine. The children of hell shan’t go hungry on my watch,” I immediately thought, “I love her.” Her sarcastic comments are some of my favorite moments throughout the whole book. The things she and Park go through together are also amazing, and some of the things they say to each other might have made me actually stop reading and go, “Squueeeee!” Because they were–and are–that fabulous. And squee-inducing.

And though the ending might make you cry, or at the very least make you want to eat a whole tub of ice cream, reading this book is just so incredibly worth it. The main characters, though imperfect and not your oh-so-conventional pretty-girl and pretty-boy couple (which is great, because I wouldn’t like them nearly as much), will have you cheering for them the whole time. And their story is one that is entirely worth your time. So read it. Excuse me, I need to go eat some ice cream now.

Literary Quote of the Day: “‘The least boring Batman story ever, huh? Does Batman raise both his eyebrows?'” –Eleanor in Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

P.S. If you STILL aren’t totally convinced that you HAVE to read this book, take a look at John Green’s review in the New York Times.