Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: The Elite

The Elite
by Keira Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 23rd 2013
Source: Library
Add it on Goodreads 
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn't sure where her heart lies. When she's with Maxon, she's swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can't dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, she is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over - and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she's made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she's struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

If you're like me and you enjoyed The Selection because of it's cattiness and endless drama, then you'll be sorely disappointed in The Elite. I didn't really expect anything more from this book other than fluffy drama set in a pseudo dystopia, but gosh this one really disappointed me. There was one cat fight. One. GIVE ME SOMETHING TO WORK WITH HERE KEIRA CASS!!!

I really didn't mind the characters so much in The Selection. Sure, Maxon was a bit too vanilla, and Aspen was well, an emotionally manipulative jerk, but America was basically so bland I couldn't care less what she did. This time around? Oh goodness this girl got annoying really fast. I don't watch The Bachelor so I don't really know what happens on that show, but I feel like it's pretty much always the guy calling the shots. In The Elite, it's America calling the shots and being a bitch about it. You know that Katy Perry song Hot n' Cold? Yep, that was America.

She spent the whole book toying with Maxon's feelings, and then got all jealous and pissed whenever she saw him hanging out with any of the other girls. Plus on top of that she couldn't decide which guy she liked better, Maxon or Aspen. It was literally every other chapter that she changed her mind.

Maxon was putting everything on the line and saying "say the word and we'll be wed!" and America's all like "I can't be the princess... BUT I DON'T WANT ANYONE ELSE TO HAVE MAXON HE'S MINE STEP AWAY BITCH!!!!"

Yep, it was awful.

As for the guys I am solidly on team "America get's killed by the rebels and Aspen and Maxon go off into the sunset marrying girls that are much more worthy of their love." THEY DESERVE BETTER THAN AMERICA. SO. MUCH. BETTER.

Ultimately The Elite was really disappointing, especially for someone like me who read it simply for entertainment/drama purposes. It was pretty much entirely composed of America whining, and one of my favorite characters got tossed to the wind. While this event did cause the only good drama in the story (if you could call it good drama), it also left the queen as the only interesting character and she was not around nearly enough to save what could have been.

Oh and did I mention that there's also one of those awkward "Did you, you know do it? What was it like?" *wink wink nudge nudge* type scenes which I thought was hilarious and terrible all at the same time. That stuff just does not translate to the page well. Authors take note.

I'll still be reading the final book in this trilogy, but my expectations are way, way down. Plus, I'm secretly hoping that America will get blindsided by a semi-truck and we'll never hear from her again. Too much to hope for? Darn it.

Julia :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

The Program
by Suzanne Young
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 30th 2013
Source: Library
Add it on Goodreads 
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane's parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they'll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who's been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone - but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He's promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they've made to each other, it's getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in.

When I first read the summary of The Program I thought it had so much promise, but at the same time I knew that it was the kind of story that could go one of two ways: It could either be a thought-provoking look at what can lead to teen suicide, or it could be a dystopian novel that completely exploits it's subject matter. Unfortunately, The Program turned out to be the latter.

If I were to sum up The Program in one word it would be angst.


The first third of the novel is almost entirely made up of the two protagonists, Sloane and James, having an angst off. They were both so emotional, yet unemotional and they spent all their time talking about how depressing their life was. To be honest it made me feel depressed just reading about it.

And then Suzanne Young went and decided to have the only character I actually liked commit suicide. To make matters worse, this particular suicide was pretty much just used as a plot device to get Sloane and James into The Program. I was not a happy camper guys. Not a happy camper.

As the book progressed it was pretty much just more angst, on top of more angst, with a side of, what else, ANGST. "I'm going to forget James." "James is going to forget me." "James will never love me again." "MY LIFE IS OVER."


The plot finally did pick up, but only about 2/3rds in and by then it really wasn't enough to save the story for me.

I've talked a lot about how the angst was just too excessive in this novel, but that certainly wasn't the only problem. In fact that wasn't even the main problem though I've harped on it the most in this review thus far. The true problem with The Program is that it took several extremely serious subjects, suicide and sexual abuse amongst other things, and instead of dealing with them in a respectful manner it turned them into plot devices for YA dystopian fodder. Nothing in The Program is even close to being scientifically or medically sound, and it pretty much makes a mockery of suicide and mental illness. Don't even get me started on the sexual abuse factor!

I hoped (though I probably should have known better) that The Program could be an intelligent look at teen suicide. Instead it's a bloated dystopian novel that is full of teen angst and uses difficult subjects as nothing more than plot devices. There was so much potential but nothing came of it. It makes me sad. :(

If you want to read a dystopian novel that's heavy on angst and light on smart, thought-provoking content, then I'd give The Program a read. Otherwise I would skip it.

Julia :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Super Six Sunday: Those book series that I STILL need to read!

Super Six Sunday is a new meme hosted by Bewitched Bookworms and inspired by The Broke and the Bookishes Top Ten Tuesday.

This week it's all about the book series that I need to finally read. I'm so glad this popped up as a topic because I've been planning on doing a post about this for awhile now and just haven't gotten around to it till now.

When I first started my blog Matched was just coming out and I remember there was so much hype surrounding it. I totally bought into the hype so, not surprisingly, it ended up falling a bit short for me and I never got around to reading Crossed or Reached. I'm sort of on the fence about finishing this series. On one hand I'm really curious to know what happens and if it got any better, but on the other hand I don't really want to waste my time on a series that isn't worth it. Thoughts?

This is sort of embarrassing for me to admit, but I haven't actually read all of the Chronicles of Narnia books. Crazy right? I'm pretty sure I've only read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (because who hasn't?), and Prince Caspian. I also think my mom read The Horse and His Boy aloud to my sister and me when we were kids, but that doesn't really count. The reason I haven't read these is because after listening to Focus on the Family's radio dramas of the books so many times (seriously, they're amazing) I sort of feel like I don't have to anymore. Of course, I don't really believe that, but the content of the radio dramas is pretty much all dialogue and descriptions straight out of the books so it's almost like reading them. I'll get around to finishing this series eventually, I just haven't yet. I WILL READ ALL OF THEM, I PROMISE!

Because I'm such a huge fan of The Hunger Games I of course want to check out Suzanne Collin's other popular series the Underland Chronicles. Anyone of my lovely followers a fan of this series? I love the concept of it, and I've heard really good things. It's just that longish series tend to scare me off, especially when they're all already published. Everything seems so much more manageable when it's just one book a year you know? 

This series has been recommended to me by a bunch of my friends and on top of that I totally I love the concept behind it. I just haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I REALLY NEED TO THOUGH. The blend of magic, con-men, and mystery sounds so awesome! Also, I'm pretty sure that we can all agree that Holly Black is amazeballs. I really need to devote some time to reading these!

I read The Lost Hero and really enjoyed it, but I have yet to read The Son of Neptune and The Mark of Athena. The thing with this series is it's like my book intimidation kryptonite: the books are huge and I'm two books behind. Fortunately there is still time for me to catch up a bit before The House of Hades comes out, but not much. I should probably take advantage of that time before it's too late and at least read The Son of Neptune. 

I want to read this series SO BAD. You have no idea how bad I want to read it. I also want it on my shelf even though I haven't read it yet. The covers are just amazing, I love the fact that Scott Westerfeld got a special illustrator to help bring the books to life, and everything about it sounds so awesome. I really do have to read this series pronto. In fact I should probably put Leviathan on hold at the library right now.

So those are my top 6 book series that I still need to read or finish. What are some of the book series that you've been procrastinating on? Do we share some of the same ones, or are yours completely different from mine?

Julia :)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cover Comparison: Sarah Dessen Edition

This cover comparison has been brewing for months now (I'm pretty sure Russell from The Habermann Press suggested do it sometime last year. WHOOPS.) but now it's finally here. YAY!

In all honesty the reason why I decided not to do this comparison till now is because I wanted to wait till the summer because Sarah Dessen's books are quintessential summer reading. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I can be a horrible procrastinator. Okay, so maybe it's partially because I'm a horrible procrastinator, but let's just forget about that....

As you guys probably know (unless you're living under a rock somewhere which I highly doubt since you're on the internet reading this blog) all of Sarah Dessen's books got cover redesigns last year. Yep, every last one of them. I'm sure you've seen at least some of these new covers already but lets take a good look at them and the original covers.

                                                                Original Covers

                                                         New Covers


Original Covers: I'm a big Sarah Dessen fan so to me these covers are classic. I've read every one of Sarah's books when they bore these covers so it only makes sense that they hold a special place in my heart. Along for the Ride and The Truth About Forever are my two favorites, but I feel like This Lullaby and Dreamland both have pretty timeless designs. That being said I do have to admit that some of the other covers look a bit outdated and were probably in need of a revamp.

New Covers: The first thing thought pops into my head when I see these new covers is that almost every one of them looks super photoshopped and staged. I don't know what it is about the way these covers are edited, but they just look so sterile to me. Regardless I do love some of them. The Lock and Key cover? Perfection, and to be honest probably one of my new favorite book covers.  However, I feel like some of the other covers are just lacking. The Truth About Forever, What Happened to Goodbye, and That Summer just don't hit home for me. I feel like their original covers represented their story much better, but whatever.

So Who Wins? In this case I really can't pick a definitive winner. For some of these books I definitely prefer the original cover, while for others I absolutely adore the new cover. However I must admit that across the board I love the gorgeous coloring of Sarah Dessen's name on all of the new covers. They got that right!

Instead of telling me which set of covers you like best like you normally do, this time I want you guys to let me know which of Sarah Dessen's book covers, old or new, are your favorite! I'm super curious to hear your responses and see if we share cover favorites. :D

Julia :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Book Review + Giveaway: A Really Awesome Mess

A Really Awesome Mess
by Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Publication Date: July 23rd 2013
Source: ARC from the Publisher (Thanks Egmont!)
Add it on Goodreads
Justin was just having fun - a lot of fun - when his dad found him and a girl in a compromising position. Add that fallout to his parents' divorce, a handful of Tylenol, and a pumped stomach, and it's clear that Justin is at rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of the family. Adopted from China, her parents and sister look like Ralph Lauren catalog. Emmy definitely doesn't. After a naked photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens to remove the man parts of the boy who shared it all on Facebook.

Enrolled at Heartland Academy - a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues - Justin and Emmy join a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. Their goal - to bust out of the school for a night of epic fun and in the end, they might just call each other friends. 

I feel like this cover does not do this book justice. After all, it's just some boring cafeteria tray with a fork on it, and this book is so much more than cafeteria trays and forks. SO MUCH MORE.

A Really Awesome Mess is a story of friendship, reform school, love, a state fair, and pigs. Yep, you read that right, pigs.

You'd be surprised how important pigs are in this story.

Emmy and Justin are two teenagers sent off to Heartland Academy, Emmy because of online bullying, and Justin because he accidentally on purpose tried to kill himself. Neither teen wants to be at reform school, but neither one has a choice. Slowly the two come to realize that Heartland Academy isn't as bad as they thought it would be. Sure, they have psychoanalyzing therapists and people watching their every move, but on a whole it isn't too bad. With the help of their anger management therapy group they may just come to enjoy being at Heartland Academy, and they may just discover that life is beautiful, even when it's hard.

A Really Awesome Mess shines because it's honest. It's probably the most honest portrayal of teenagers that I have ever read in a YA novel. In fact, sometimes I felt like it was a bit too honest (porn was discussed about 5 too many times) but I still appreciated the honesty. Too often authors skirt issues and just sort of brush them under the table or they decide to sort of sprinkle them into their story without doing enough research to actually do them justice. That is not the case with A Really Awesome Mess. Not only was everything dealt with in a super upfront fashion (absolutely nothing was watered down), but there was also no hint of disrespect for anyone who deals with the same issues, and that's saying a lot for a YA novel.

A Really Awesome Mess also has a whole slew of fantastic characters. Each one was multi-faceted and brought just the right touches of humor and depth to the story. The way the characters conversed and interacted reminded me a bit of a John Green novel, minus the slightly unrealistic narrative that normally plagues his books. Yes, I love John Green and all of his books but I'll be the first to admit that teenagers do not really speak like that. These characters on the other hand use language that is much more characteristic of the average teenager. On the protagonist front, Emmy was a super sarcastic spit-fire. I loved her spirit and her stubbornness, even if it did tend to flesh itself out in unhealthy ways. As for Justin he was pretty much the perfect mix of jerk and nice guy; the classic teen dude that you love to hate, but eventually can't hate anymore because he's so damn loveable. As for the supporting characters my favorites would have to be Jenny, a selective mute with a huge love for pigs, and Wilbur, a pig escapee from the state fair because hey, I love pigs.

I just have to give mad props to Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin for pulling off the dual narrative of this novel so well. I'm not sure if they wrote for a specific character (Trish writing Emmy's chapters and Brendan writing Justin's) or if they wrote for both, but regardless Emmy and Justin each had their own unique voices and it was easy to tell the two of them apart. I love dual narrative when it's done right, and this was definitely done right.

I also just have to mention the setting of Heartland Academy because as awful as that place sounded, Cook and Halpin also managed to make it sound like fun. No one really wants to get sent off to reform school, but the camaraderie of the characters and the shenanigans they all got into made it seem like the kind of community I would want to be a part of. The characters were that awesome.

Oh and even though there is a bit of romance in this book, it was definitely not of the insta-love variety. HALLELUJAH.

All in all, A Really Awesome Mess is a really awesome book. It's honest, hilarious, and the best contemporary I've read all year. If you're a fan of John Green, or other dual narrative books like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist then I definitely think you'll love A Really Awesome Mess.

Now it's time for the giveaway! And believe me you definitely want to win this book. Heck, I wish I could win my own giveaway for this book. :P

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Super Six Sunday: My favorite summery book covers!

Super Six Sunday is a new meme hosted by Bewitched Bookworms! This is my first time joining in with this fun new meme. Maybe I'll make it a habit. :)

This week's theme is all about summery book covers, and boy do I have a lot to say about this because I am a huge book cover fanatic.

This book is pretty much the epitome of the perfect summer beach read, so of course it's cover had to be on my list. It's simple, yet still manages to give off that beachy summer vibe. Plus, I've always been in love with the stylized title font. 

Yes, I do realize that I'm sort of cheating by putting all three of these books in the same category, but they're all Sarah Dessen so I figure it's okay right? Out of all of the covers for Sarah Dessen's books these four seem the most summery to me. I particularly love The Moon and More cover (can you say, summer beach house vacation?) and the original Along for the Ride cover. My reasons for liking the original Along for the Ride cover may or may not have to do with biceps.... :P

This cover totally reminds me of those late summer nights gallivanting about town with friends. Not that I've ever actually done that (I'm such a home body) but it makes me want to do that. Other cover designers should be taking notes because I absolutely adore the way the font is overlaying an image. More covers should look like this!

I just love this book and it's cover. First of all, the color scheme is gorgeous. Orange is my favorite color so I'm a big fan of sunsets on book covers. Secondly this cover totally has that easy breezy summer feel to it. It also feels strangely nostalgic, which makes sense considering what the book is about. Overall I just really love this cover and it totally makes me want to head off to a vacation house on a lake. 

I absolutely adore this cover! I do realize it's practically the same design as the Second Chance Summer cover, but I prefer this one for some reason. I don't know about you guys, but seeing this cover makes me really want to head to the beach with my besties. I really need a good beach day! 

This is hands down my favorite summery book cover. I am such a sucker for this book (if you like summer camp books read it) and I think the cover is just awesome. It encapsulates the summer camp vibe perfectly and just looking at it makes me want to immediately pack my bags and head down to camp, even though I'm too old to go to camp anymore. Why is there no such thing as college student summer camp? Oh right, that's called being a camp counselor. Why am I not a camp counselor?

So those are my six favorite summery book covers! Well, technically eight if you count the extra Sarah Dessen one's, but who cares, that's a technicality.

What are some of your favorite summer book covers? Leave them in the comments below and be sure to link me to your Super Six Sunday post so I can check it out!

Julia :)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What makes a book "intimidating"?

This past week my Bloglovin feed was overflowing with Top Ten Tuesday posts all about intimidating books. I loved going through all of them and seeing all the different books people found intimidating (I particularly liked leaving comments trying to convince people to read LOTR...), but the biggest thing that stuck out to me was that there are so many different reasons readers get intimidated by a book. When I think of why I'm intimidated by books, I normally just think of size, but reading other blogger's lists made me realize that there are way more reasons for why readers can fear a book than I ever even realized.

So what makes a book intimidating?

That's the thing, you can't just put book intimidation into a box. There are countless reasons why a book can be intimidating to a reader, and the reason any one book is intimidating can change depending on which reader you're asking. 

It's also important to note that being intimidated by a book is not the same thing as being disinterested in a book. Both are similar, but there is one huge difference. 

The difference between disinterest and intimidation

Being intimidated by a book means you actually want to read it, you're intrigued by it, but you just can't seem to push yourself to start reading it because of a variety of reasons. For example, I want to read Moby Dick, but I'm just too intimidated to start because I've heard it's boring and long.

Disinterest on the other hand means that you're not interested in a book at all. Like being intimidated, it could be because of a variety of reasons, but unlike intimidation you're not intrigued by the plot, story, or characters. Not even a little bit. For example, I know that Fifty Shades of Grey is really popular right now, and I know a lot of people are reading it, but nothing about the story intrigues me and I just don't want to read it. Period.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about a few of the reasons that people can become intimidated by a book.

Oh my freaking gosh THAT BOOK IS HUGE

Size is the biggest intimidation factor for me, as witnessed by the Does Size Matter post I did a few months ago. If a book is absolutely ginormous (like War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy) then I am so intimidated. Huge books scare me, and it's especially bad when the type is small. If a book is huge you can bet I'll put off reading it for as long as possible, if not forever. I'm clearly not the only person who feels this way because a huge number of people were citing length as a reason for book intimidation in their Top Ten Tuesday posts. What is it about length that's so darn scary? For me it's the fact that I know it will take me so long to finish. Plus, there's always the fear of not finishing the book at all. I'm the kind of reader who finishes every book they start (okay, 99% of the books they start) and because of that I hate starting a book and never finishing it. There's something so unsatisfying about it, and I honestly feel like a failure every time I do it. That's the biggest reason why size is intimidating to me.

But what if I don't like it?

I was really surprised by the number of people who listed hype as a reason  that a book intimidated them. I was even more surprised that Harry Potter was one of the main culprits of hype intimidation. Maybe it's just because it was banned in my house as a kid, but as soon as I turned 18 I jumped on reading Harry Potter, hype be damned. Personally, hype never really plays a role in whether or not I'm intimidated by a book. Does it raise my expectations? Yes. But does it make me intimidated? No. In fact I'd say that hype normally makes me even more excited to read a book or series. However, I can understand why someone would be afraid that a book or a series couldn't live up to it's hype. That being said, I think everyone should just dive in, hype or not. You'll never really know if you'll enjoy something unless you try it! And if something doesn't live up to the hype or you don't enjoy it like everyone else, big deal. At least you tried. :)

That book is just too (insert adjective here) for me

Too sad, too edgy, too sexy, too violent, these are all things I saw people saying about books in their Top Ten Tuesday posts. I find this element of intimidation interesting because I would normally put books with too much of something in my disinterest category, not my intimidated category. I think it's strange and a little bit sad that some people will avoid reading books simply because they're afraid it might be too sad or too edgy. I think one of the best things about reading is being able to experience those kinds of emotions and having the chance to become educated on difficult subjects. I think if you're really interested in a book you should read it, regardless of the content and what emotions might arise because of it. For all those people out there who are intimidated by The Fault in Our Stars or The Book Thief because of their content, read them. Regardless of the crying that these books might cause I promise you the truth they hold are worth every tear.

So those were the three big reasons for book intimidation that really stood out to me. Size and the fear of not finishing a book are the two elements that really play into my book intimidation. What about you? Do you get intimidated by size like me? How about hype, or a book having too much of something? Or are there other reasons that lead to your book intimidation that I haven't even thought of yet? 

Julia :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday [24]

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking The Spine. The purpose is to spotlight upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating.

This week I am dying to read To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before
by Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
April 22nd 2014
 To All the Boys I've Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hit it in a box under her bed. But one day, Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters...

First and foremost I just love this cover. The title in the handwritten sharpie font? PERFECTION.

Secondly, when I was in grade school my little brother sent a letter to my crush telling him I liked him. Looking back now I think it's hilarious, but when it happened I was so, so, embarrassed. I'm so curious to see how this type of situation is approached fictionally and for a character who is obviously not in grade school like I was. I just love the concept and of course I'm a huge Jenny Han fan so I can't wait to see what she does with it.

Last but not least:

The protagonist is a hapa!!!! 

What books are you guys waiting on today? Be sure to let me know and link me to your WoW post in the comments!

Julia :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Switch to Bloglovin' Giveaway!

So this may just be a really lame attempt at bribing you, my lovely readers, but everyone likes bribery right? Right?

I hope so. 

Basically this is a giveaway specifically to get you all to follow me on Bloglovin' or any other type of RSS feed reader, because as of today GFC and Google Reader are gone. I so appreciate everyone who reads my blog and I'd hate to lose any of you because of Google's craziness!

If you already follow me on Bloglovin' or another reader you can enter the giveaway without doing a thing. If you don't follow me yet, just click on the link below, hit follow, and voila, you can enter the giveaway!

If Bloglovin' isn't your style you can also enter by following via email (box for that is on the right sidebar) or any other type of RSS feed reader.

What is this giveaway for you ask? Any book you want from the Book Depository worth up to $15! And yes, this means that the giveaway is open internationally so all my lovely readers regardless of location can win. YAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Like I said earlier, I love each and every one of my readers and I can hardly believe that people actually follow and enjoy my little blog! Each view, comment, and subscriber means the world to me. I love you all and I wish I could bake everyone cupcakes, but because I can't I'll just leave you with this gif of cupcakes instead:

Sorry for making you all hungry. Or is it just me that get's hungry watching that gif?

Julia :)
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