Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: Queen of the Night by Leanne Hall

Queen of the Night by Leanne Hall
(This Is Shyness #2)
Reviewed by Maggie: March 31, 2012
Published February 27, 2012 by Text Publishing
Goodreads • Buy at Fishpond or Text • Kindle

Almost immediately after finishing the first book and leaving Shyness, I found myself thinking, "We have to go back!" This Is Shyness (and okay, Wolfboy) pulled me into its trance with its strange, enchanting lullaby and I awoke from the dreamy, all night adventure with a contented smile. When you have a night that special, that magical, it's safer to keep it encased in your memory. There, it's protected and lives forever. But would you rather have one perfect night with Wolfboy or risk shattering that memory for another chance to see him? Me, I'd take that risk every single time and I'm so glad Leanne Hall did as well with Queen of the Night.

Queen of the Night picks up 6 months after Nia left Jethro a note with her number -- 6 months where they haven't seen or spoken to each other. Why am I calling them by their given names instead of the names they gave themselves? Like Jethro says,
"I look at Nia. I can't think of her as Wildgirl now that she's in front of me. That name belongs to that first night."
I love this. It simultaneously acknowledges what was, what isn't now, and what can be. Hopefully. There is a lot of hope and longing in this book, and it isn't just Nia and Jethro's. It's also Paul's, Wolfboy's friend and Wildgirl's dance partner from Shyness. Nia may have left Wildgirl behind with Wolfboy, but she took Wildgirl's take-no-prisoners attitude with her. After 6 months of radio silence from Wolfboy, she says,
"I thought I'd have to wait until I finished school and moved out to change my life, but then I decided to start changing it immediately. [...] I'm sick of being patient, so here's my new theory: boys can go to hell. I'm going to focus on my schoolwork and get the best grades possible. I don't need anyone or anything to interfere with that."
See, girls? This is how you deal with rejection, not with blank pages in your life. Jethro has also recalibrated his life without Nia. However, that doesn't stop him from remembering Wildgirl's advice and reconnecting with Ortolan and his niece, Diana. It also doesn't mean that he's stopped thinking about Wildgirl.
"It seems to be getting more difficult to forget Wildgirl the more time passes by. That's the opposite of what's supposed to happen."
In contrast to Nia and Jethro's mutual longing, you have Paul. Paul broke up with his girlfriend months ago, but unlike Nia and Jethro, he refuses to even try to move on. Also unlike Nia and Jethro, Paul's girlfriend has directly and knowingly rejected him. Unable to accept reality, Paul seeks assistance from the ever present shadier elements of Shyness. Paul retreats further and further into another type of darkness and away from himself. When the story starts, Paul is beyond Jethro's help and thus Jethro finds himself calling once more for Nia -- and actually hitting send after dialing the numbers.

I absolutely loved this book. Whereas Shyness skewed more toward the fantastic, Queen of the Night is an equal blend of reality and dream, hope and disappointment, light and night. It doesn't try to recapture the lulling enchantment that was so special about Shyness, but rather walks you back hand-in-hand while fully conscious. And reality? It can be just as magical and unforgettable as a dream.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

This concludes our week in Shyness. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. And Leanne?

Friday, March 30, 2012

YAA Confessions: I'm a Fictional Band Groupie

Just an example of how our brains are hard-wired over here at YAA: we went from browsing this Etsy store to "Personalized? Obviously we're getting a YA band name!"  

Fresh in our memories and hearts we naturally thought of Wolfboy's band from Leanne Hall's This is Shyness/Queen of the Night.  (Sorry 'bout your band name, Adam Wilde.)

Ta da! Our version of YAA BFF secret bat signal bracelets and a tribute to our Shyness/The Long Blinks fandom all in one:

If you need us, we'll be working at the merch table at Wolfie's next show.  See you there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

YAA Soundtrack: This Is Shyness/Queen of the Night

By Noelle

I know you might be shocked, but the very same girl who sends you 6am tweet updates to remember to vote in the DJ Duel likes to make soundtracks for her favorite books too.  You never saw that coming did you.  Now not every book merits a full-fledged soundtrack---that's what our DJ Duels are for--but if you scroll through my favorite books on Goodreads, chances are I have a soundtrack for them in my iTunes.  And like any music-obsessed person, I live to force my favorite songs on others.  Ask my sister.  I once circled the block three times so she would "get to" (sister mandated air quotes right there) listen to the entire song playing on whatever mix CD I was playing over her conversation attempts.

Ahem. Yup, I'm that person. 

Buuuuut, just in case there are any other playlist aficionados out there who enjoy making and listening to book-themed soundtracks, YOU'VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE!  I will occasionally be posting links to playlists from my personal soundtrack collection.

First up is my soundtrack for Leanne Hall's This Is Shyness series. For this soundtrack I picked songs I thought had a Shyness-vibe of the settings (the streets, the clubs etc) or the people (the Kidds, the dreamers etc.) and as you will be able to tell, I'm unable to resist a good title pun/nod.  I'm weak, people.  You're lucky I couldn't find a Tarsier song.

You can listen to the playlist on Grooveshark by clicking here or check out the tracklisting and liner notes below:

1. Nightcall - Kavinsky: Like I could even resist---it starts with a howl, how perfect is that?
2. DLZ - TV on the Radio
3. Howlin' for You - The Black Keys: OH YES I WENT THERE.
4. Your Lips Are Red - St. Vincent
5. What You Do To Me - Blackroc feat. The Black Keys
6. Breaking it Up - Lykke Li
7. You Know What I Mean - Cults
8. Sleepyhead - Passion Pit
9. Eye - The Smashing Pumpkins
10. Wolf Like Me - TV on the Radio: OH YES I WENT THERE x 2.
11.  Midnight City - M83

Thanks for listening! Hope you had fun with my This is Shyness/Queen of the Night soundtrack.  How'd I do?  Do any of you make your own book-themed playlists?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

YAA Art Projects: This Is Shyness

By Noelle

In my original Goodreads review for This Is Shyness, I mentioned that while I was reading it, it evoked a distinct visual style in my mind:
Do any of you visualize scenes of books while you’re reading them? I often do and while I was reading This Is Shyness, my visualization was in the neo-noir, graphic novel style.
Well, I kept thinking about it afterwards and when I read Queen of the Night I could no longer resist the urge to give it a go...and this is what I came up with:

(click for larger)

Introducing the Wildgirl and Wolfboy of my imagination! That Queen of the Night quote was one of my favorites of the series and I thought it summed up Shyness perfectly.

I drew this in Adobe Illustrator and had so much fun making it.  Thanks to Leanne Hall for creating such a fascinating world in Shyness.

Early Review: The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Reviewed by Noelle: March 27, 2012
Published April 17, 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
(Noelle received an ARC of this book via the publishers on Netgalley)
GoodreadsPreorder on Amazon

When I saw that Netgalley described this book as a combination between Catherine, Called Birdy and Braveheart, I promptly elbowed everyone out of the way to get to a computer and press "request".  I'm so glad I did.

It's true, I have a soft spot for medieval smartasses and Cecily, one of the protagonists, indeed reminds me of Birdy with her acerbic wit and sometimes spiteful sense of humor. Over-dramatic and spoiled, Cecily is sure her life is over once her father moves the family to Wales---either she'll die of boredom or be murdered by the "savage" Welshmen.

Gwenhwyfar (Gwinny), Cecily's new Welsh servant, once aspired to be the lady of the very house Cecily is moving into but has now been relegated to second class citizen status under English rule. Underfed and overtaxed, Gwinny and her family are impoverished and struggling to survive.

This beautifully well-researched novel takes place during a volatile time.  Tensions between the native population and the occupying forces are building to a dangerous intensity and the two protagonists are smack dab in the middle of it.

This also struck me as a story about different kinds of rage--Cecily and Gwinny are both driven by it.  Cecily has the anger of entitlement.  To her, social slights and indignities are akin to actual persecution.  Meanwhile Gwinny has the rage of loss and suffering and feels the injustice of the oppressed.  She is starving and under constant threat of violence to her and her loved ones.  

Both girls are keen on justice.  But they are working on entirely different measurement scales.

The story is told from both girls' point of views and both voices are extremely charismatic.  The first three quarters of the book heavily focus on Cecily's voice and I thought the point of view emphasis was genius, especially when it flipped at the end.  It was an extremely clever choice by the author in that it drew the reader to empathize with Cecily when it wasn't always so easy.  By spending more time with her, Cecily's daily trials and tribulations and bratty yet hilarious behavior drew you into her character and made you eager for her to grow past her ignorant cruelty.  When she made any headway toward understanding, the reader leapt at the chance that this could all work out! She's going to learn her lesson! Kumbaya will be sung by all!

When Cecily and the reader realize that her small steps toward enlightenment are merely drops in the ocean of the gulf between the two protagonists' worlds, the shock is viciously effective.  Lessons are learned, but in ways I never expected and the last quarter of the book is a whirlwind of consequences.  

"Justice for those who deserve it."  The titular wicked and just aren't mutually exclusive and the result is a story captivating from beginning to end.  I highly recommend it.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: This Is Shyness by Leanne Hall

This Is Shyness by Leanne Hall
Reviewed by Noelle and Maggie: March 26, 2012
Published August 2, 2010 by Text Publishing Company
Goodreads • Buy at Fishpond or Text

Long has paled that sunny sky: Echoes fade and memories die. 
--Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

This Is Shyness starts off like a typical YA story, with an underage girl trying to sneak into a bar with some friends, who then spots a broody, hot guy at the end of the bar. And then he howls. This begins a madcap, all night adventure involving tarsiers and kids hopped up on sugar. Oh, and it takes place in a town where the sun doesn't rise.

Noelle: One definition of surreal is: “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.” That about sums up this book perfectly. There’s a dream-like quality to the entire book and it works much like a dream on the reader, lulling you into accepting as fact all of the bizarre and quirky fantastical elements of Shyness without batting an eye. I got swept away by the weirdness, submerged in the surrealism.  My acceptance gave my reading experience a Through the Looking Glass feel, whimsical, strange, unsettling but enchanting. 

Maggie: It felt like Graffiti Moon + Before Sunrise after Hayao Miyazaki has run it through whatever magic machines they have at Studio Ghibli. It is delightfully odd and surreal, yet grounded in the very real emotions of Wolfboy and Wildgirl. I loved Wolfboy, by the way. I expected the brooding, howling hot guy in black to be a stereotypical alpha male who pulls the tabs off his Foster's with his teeth. Instead, he's the guy who thinks "I'm not sure if I'm looking at her too much or too little" while grasping his beer glass. 

Noelle: Oh, Wolfie.  And Wildgirl is such an excellent heroine too.  Unable to stand up for herself the way she wants to in her everyday reality, Wildgirl is delightfully self-assured and no-nonsense in Shyness.  It's almost as if all of the broken rules in Shyness free her to be herself.  She's looking for an adventure and she'll get it too.  Luckily, the reader gets to go along for the ride. 

Maggie: Definitely. And even though it takes place in Wolfboy's world, it requires Wildgirl's "real" world knowledge, like the layout of the housing flats. What I love about that is that it anchored Shyness. Instead of an alternate world, it felt like another, hidden layer of Melbourne -- one that I'd be able to find if I looked hard enough. 

Noelle: Yes! I thought the power lied in that much of the world of Shyness was based in reality with just a few masterful tweaks.  The small details really made the magic.  Okay, the sun never rising might not count as a small detail, but still.  The setting might get trippy at times but the truth behind Wolfboy and Wildgirl's emotions is what made it so believable. 

Maggie:  A book that combines the headiness of an all night adventure with the imagination of a dream.  Rating 4/5 stars. 

Noelle: A fallen suburb where the sun never rises, a boy who howls, a girl who wants to escape if just for one night, shady people, shady places, shady pasts. Um, hell yes.  Leanne Hall makes magic. Rating 4/5 stars. 

Programming note: The world of Shyness stayed with us long after we were finished reading and ended up inspiring us in many different ways.  Which ways you ask? Stick around the blog this week to find out!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

YAA Confessions: I've Become One of THOSE People

By: Maggie

You know those people who dress up in costume for midnight movie releases? I've always been on Triumph the Insult Dog's side of that divide.

And then came The Hunger Games.
Yes, Suzanne Collins has turned me. This is the bracelet (found on Etsy) I wore to the midnight release. I found another bracelet first, which had finer detailing, but it was also $50. That's 4 books! Luckily, I found the option above for only $5.99, which is definitely in my price range.

If I'm dressed as Effie Trinket at the Catching Fire midnight release, you'll know... This is where it all started.

DJ Duel Results: Blood Red Road

Our DJ Duel results post has fallen a few days behind but I'm sure you all used the extra time wisely to vote, DIDN'T YOU?  I'm so proud.

Let's review:  
Last week we both chose songs for Blood Red Road by Moira Young:

DJ Maggie chose "Goodbye Earl" by The Dixie Chicks because Saba takes like her vengeance served with a side of cage-fighting. 

DJ Noelle chose "The Story" by Brandi Carlile because y'all it's epic quest lyric beltin' out time. 

And the winner with 80% of the vote is....after the jump!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Adventures in the Amazon Bargain Book Bin: March 23, 2012

By Noelle

I admit it: I spend at least a couple hours a month in the Amazon Bargain Book section.  I generally look for hardcovers under $8,  paperbacks under $5 and e-books under $4.  Just in case clicking through 100 pages of book links isn't your thing, here is what caught my eye this month.

Those who thought I was exaggerating about $2 hardcovers last month won't want to miss this month's finds!  Warning: Some of these have extremely limited available quantities.


The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness • Goodreads
Kindle edition - 99¢
Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines • Goodreads
Kindle edition - now marked down to 99¢


The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2) by Patrick Ness • Goodreads
Hardcover - $7.60

Punkzilla by Adam Rapp • Goodreads
Hardcover - $2.21

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta • Goodreads
Hardcover - $7.20

The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie • Goodreads
Hardcover - $2.72

Chasing Boys by Karen Tayleur • Goodreads
Hardcover - $6.80

More hardcovers, paperbacks and my What The... Book Find of the Month after the jump!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Reviewed by Maggie: March 22, 2012
Published February 16, 2012 by Dutton Children's Books
Goodreads • Buy at AmazonKindle

Something that 18-year-olds and potheads have in common (if they're not one in the same) is that they think everything they say is so DEEP and PROFOUND. The problem is that I don't belong to either group.

The Disenchantments is the story of four friends and bandmates who hit the road after three of them (Colby, Bev, and Meg) graduate from high school. Colby, the lone boy, is our narrator and manager of the Disenchantments. On the eve of the trip, Bev tells Colby that despite their plans to visit Colby's mom in Paris and then backpack around Europe for the year, she's going to college instead. To further complicate matters, Colby has been in love with Bev since they were kids. Nothing like awkward tension and feelings of betrayal to kick off a trip.

Needless to say, this wasn't the light, fun road trip book I was expecting. It was my own fault because I saw the cover, read "road trip" in the summary, and assumed it would be FUN in the SUN! Still, throw France in a story in any shape or form and I'm usually appeased. Unfortunately, I didn't feel engaged in the story until page 246 -- of a 307-page book. For the majority of the book, I felt little connection to the characters. Colby's DEEP 18-year-old thoughts just made me roll my eyes. For example:
We drive past a lumberyard, full of a forest's worth of felled trees. I slow as we pass it. It's almost too big to comprehend.
Okay, homie. He's not the only one emo-ing out, although he does have the best reasons. Alexa, the band member with a year of high school left, gets a splinter in her foot. But to a 17-year-old, a splinter is not just a splinter.
She says, "The world is against me."
Inevitably, when you put 18-year-olds in a room or car together, they come to MEANINGFUL and PROFOUND realizations.
"It's hard."
"What's hard?" I ask.
Bev shakes her head, as if the answer is too big to put into words.
Finally she says, "Growing up."
And there is nothing any of us can say to that. It feels too true for a response.
I was mid-eye roll until I thought back to 2am conversations with my roommates freshman year. Let she who is without self-importance cast the first stone, right? As insufferable as some of the Disenchantments' musings were, they are the typical musings of the age group. The story took a Graffiti Moon-esque turn on page 252 and my interest raised tenfold. The 50 pages that end the book are where the story should've started. That story, and the story that begins at the end of the book, is one I would've loved reading. There is an audience for this book and these characters, but unfortunately it wasn't me.

Final verdict: 3/5 stars.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reading Reconnaissance: Update

By: Maggie

Last week, I said I'd update you if any of the preorder prices went down. Well, ALERT!
Preloved by Shirley Marr is back down to $15.11 at Fishpond. Whoever said stalking never pays off, well, they were right. Don't do that. EXCEPT when it comes to books. Now look at me -- you can't see me but I'm waving around the $3 and change I saved. Dollar, dollar bill, y'all! Hey, $3.50 can get you some great ebooks, like Finnikin of the Rock. Another favorite of ours, The Knife of Never Letting Go, is only 99¢. We may be book hoarders, but we're book hoarders with a budget!

Review: Faking Faith by Josie Bloss

Faking Faith by Josie Bloss
Reviewed by Noelle: March 21, 2012
Published November 8, 2011 by Flux
Goodreads • Buy at Amazon

Oh...let's see. Joining an online community based on a specific interest, making unexpected connections with people you've never met in real life, becoming so immersed in this community and its friendships that you make your own blog...nah, I wouldn't know anything about that.   Bloss describes this compulsion so uncannily (and hilariously) in Faking Faith that I was onboard right from the start.  The power of an online obsession.  The rush of community acceptance.  The need to be involved and matter--even to an obscure corner of the internet.  Bloss hits all the right notes.

Her heroine, Dylan Mahoney, has discovered that social ostracization really does wonders for your blog browsing time.   After a series of seriously misguided but cringingly familiar life decisions, Dylan has dropped her entire life--hobbies, friends, extracurricular activities--for the opportunity to date a popular, handsome Grade-A douchebag.  And just when you think her bad decisions have reached their peak, out comes the webcam.  Dylan is promptly dumped and her entire existence reduced to a Google search result of "sexting" and "girl attacks Benz with golf club".

Dylan spends her newfound free-time doing what else? Scouring the internet.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Oh, the lure of internet boredom.  The sites you'll go to, the blogs you'll read.  My RSS feed and I know this compulsion well.  (One day I might take up stained glass and soldering or live on a ranch. You just never know.)

Dylan eventually stumbles across a link to a blog run by a home schooled fundamentalist Christian girl and becomes fascinated with the contrast to her current life.  Her recent troubles have led Dylan to question her family's emotionally distant dynamic and whether her unsupervised freedom to make such humiliating mistakes was really such a benefit after all.   Her voyeurism evolves into an obsession that drives her to create an alter ego Faith and start a blog of her own in the community.

She is drawn to the alpha-blogger of the genre (there's always one above the rest, right?) and finds herself truly connecting with the girl.  I laughed out loud at Dylan's description of the buzz of finally being acknowledged by the queen bee herself.  After suffering through the social desert of being a high school outcast, Dylan welcomes the connection and treasures the friendship that develops with Abigail-- so much so that she plans a trip to stay with Abigail and her family.

This is where some suspension of disbelief becomes necessary.  It's hard to believe that Abigail's family wouldn't gain permission from "Faith's" parents for starters.  For another it is one thing to blog about baking and milking cows like you know what you're doing.  It is quite another to pull off a charade of farm chores in front of actual professionals for two weeks.  Thirdly, it's hard to believe Faith was never required to bust out a Bible verse once or twice.  Bloss handled Dylan/Faith's blunders pretty well, but also had Abigail's family give her quite a generous amount of wiggle room.

Speaking of Abigail's family--HOLY ALMANZO WILDER, Asher!  I was not---NOT--prepared for this amount of swoon in a book about fundamentalist Christian bloggers.  Abigail's brother Asher is  A sweet, sincere, soulful farm boy? damn.  (Sorry.)  I loved everything about Dylan learning to trust that not all boys are Grade-A douchebags.

Objectively, I'd give this somewhere around 3.5 stars.  There are plenty of funny, intriguing and tingly moments and I sped through this book in one sitting.  There are also some aspects I wish had been more fleshed out.  I would have liked a contrast to Abigail's dad in their community.  I also felt the ending was rushed and too simplified to wrap up the story like it deserved.  Yet I was seriously entertained by descriptions of Dylan's internet life, intrigued by the details of Abigail's family and their lifestyle, charmed by the scenes between Abigail and Faith and straight up giddy over Dylan's interactions with Asher.  When it's time for Dylan to admit to her deceptions, I definitely felt the stakes.

And for that reason, along with a comprehensive investigation into the amount of objectivity vs. the amount of squees given, I rate this book 4/5 stars.  Definitely check it out if you get the chance.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

YAA Confessions: Vacation-Style

By: Noelle

I'm back from vacation! Did you guys miss me?  Did you even notice I was gone?  Heh.  I was halfway across the world for the last 8 days, but hopefully between Maggie and some queued posts YAA continued to keep you entertained.  Here's what I did on my vacation---YAA-style!

First up, I found my new favorite reading spot in the entire world.  It only takes a 12 hour flight to get there!
The photo isn't doing the depth-perception justice so let me explain: That's a bench on top of a cliff at Shipwrecks Beach in Kauai, Hawaii.  Amazing right?  I'd spend so much time up there it's not even funny.  What better place to contemplate what would happen if Tom Mackee and Adam Wilde met.  Or if Frankie Landau-Banks and Ruby Oliver were college roommates.  You know, the important things.

While I was exploring Kauai, I also stumbled across:
Talk Story Bookstore: the Western-Most Independent Bookstore of the United States!

And then just to taunt me:
You might think 3887 miles seems like a lot but it's the closest I've ever been to Australia.  So close, yet so far, Ed & Lucy.

And I might just have to change my results for the last Goodreads survey because I just couldn't resist this fancy Hawaiian bookmark:

I found a huge pile of library books on my doorstep when I got home and although I resisted swan-diving in Scrooge McDuck style, the reviews and posts will be back to normal very soon.  Thanks for all of the wonderful comments on my queued posts while I was gone. 

Speaking of Hawaii, does anyone know of any YA books set there?  That bench is just asking to be a part of a pivotal scene, am I right? 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Reading Reconnaissance: March 16th Edition

As Ellie's dad in the Tomorrow series said: "Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted." And good thing, too. We'd hate to think the countless hours spent hard at work, scouring Goodreads, searching blogs and updating our TBR spreadsheets (sad but true) were a waste of time. Now we want to save you time by breaking down recent and future book releases. 

By Noelle 

Here are a few upcoming releases that have caught my book-wandering-eye (from longest to shortest wait until the release date):

Bad Hair Day (Kate Grable #2) by Carrie Harris (Delacorte Press -  November 13, 2012): Goodreads • Preorder at Amazon 

Kate is back! To save the day! With SCIENCE!  Those werewolves (?) better be keeping up with their Chem homework or Kate is gonna mop the floor with their fur.

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (Balzar + Bray - June 12, 2012): Goodreads • Preorder at Amazon 

I haven't read any Peterfreund before but like I can even resist Jane Austen's Persuasion + Genetic Experiments!  The only thing that gives me pause is the YA age conundrum.  Deciding not to run away with your 14 year old boyfriend just doesn't create the same angst as Anne Elliot refusing Wentworth's marriage proposal, y'know? Still.  I am so there.
In Honor by Jessi Kirby (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing - May 8 2012): Goodreads • Preorder at Amazon 

I may or may not have added this book solely based on the amount of times its reviews show up in my purely-hypothetical "Tim Riggins" google-alert.  *cough*

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig (Angry Robot - April 24, 2012): Goodreads • Preorder at Amazon 

Just look at that cover.  Ahh, I WANT IT.  GIVE IT TO ME.  Oh, and the blurb doesn't sound too shabby either: "Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides. But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try." FYI: This one isn't YA to my knowledge.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Gracie Faltrain Takes Control by Cath Crowley

Gracie Faltrain Takes Control by Cath Crowley
(Gracie Faltrain #2)
Reviewed by Noelle and Maggie: March 15, 2012
Published March 1, 2006 by Pan Macmillan Australia
Goodreads • Buy at Fishpond 

Gracie is back and...going through some growing pains.  She is facing new bruising competition on the soccer field, Jane has gone radio silent, Alyce needs a serious social intervention and then there's that problem of Martin's mom staying MIA....Gracie won't be sitting on the sidelines for this one.  She's got the solutions to everyone's problems, whether they know it or not!

Noelle: Thank goodness for the final book in this series' title or else I would have completely bit off all of my fingernails reading this installment! Gracie is the same lovable, exasperating, headstrong, force to be reckoned with she was in The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain but cranked up to a million.  I loved how Cath Crowley made Gracie such a TEENAGER with the selfishness and self-centeredness of adolescence and the good intentions of someone who thinks they have it all figured out.  The way Gracie's problems and solutions took precedent over any other viewpoints was perfect teenage tunnel-vision. Doesn't everyone know it all at age 16?  But boy, did Gracie run that fine line of the end justifying the means (at full-speed dribbling a soccer ball)!

Maggie: She was a total steamroller, but with the best intentions! That's the part I really related to. Like, she adores Alyce, who is now her best friend, and wants other people to love her too. AT ALL COSTS. Even Alyce's. I totally saw Gracie and Alyce as the Grade 11 version of Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins from Parks and Recreation. Alyce likes a boy?
Gracie has been playing with and against the boys since she was in Grade 7, so I understood how her me-against-the-world mentality seeped into all aspects of her life. I loved the dynamic between Gracie and her nemesis, Annabelle.

Noelle: Exactly! You still root for Gracie because even when you're reading from behind your fingers out of second-hand embarrassment, you know her domineering decision making is coming from a good place.  You can't look away even though you know it might get ugly.  I love how Gracie's misguided meddling just multiplied until you just knew that when the other shoe dropped it would register on the Richter scale.  And did it ever.  Once I saw that Gracie wouldn't be able to escape the aftermath unscathed I was so excited to see her character growth.

Maggie: I think if you went through the status updates of everyone who read this book, you'd see the exact moment (32%) where everyone goes, "Noooooooooo!" It's like the part in Knife of Never Letting Go -- you know which part.

Noelle:  I honestly never expected Ness-like stress levels in a Gracie Faltrain book! I was so unprepared.

Maggie: I think that's also the make or break moment for people reading this book. The ratings are all over the place, and even with us, you gave it 3.5 stars whereas I gave it 5.

Noelle: I went back and forth between 3.5 stars and 4 stars for almost a week after reading it.   I think I was almost overly invested in Gracie as a character because I took some of her decisions so personally that I had trouble forgiving her even though I understood why she did it. 

Maggie: I love that Cath Crowley took Gracie there, to the point of nearly being unforgivable because it felt real and true to Gracie's character. She needs to touch the hot stove to know not to touch it.

Noelle: After reading the final book and loooooving it, I value what happened in this installment so much more. The effect is so worth the cause in this case.  In the end, I decided to round up and give Gracie Faltrain Takes Control 4 stars.  I'm really interested in seeing what you think of the final book of the series, Maggie.

Maggie: I can't wait. I'm trying to hold off -- okay, hold off a little at least -- because after this, I'll have read every book Crowley has written. And there isn't a release date set for Howling Boy yet. I love Gracie's world though. We haven't even discussed Martin yet! Martin is seriously in my Top 5 crushes. What made this book 5 stars for me was that all the actions, however unlikable, felt true to the characters. I can't wait to see where the story goes in Book 3. ....................................... Okay, held off enough. Starting now.

Noelle gave it 4/5 stars
Maggie gave it 5/5 stars

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

DJ Duel & Dance Party: Blood Red Road

Here's how our DJ Duel and Dance Party works:  We each choose a song to represent our book of the week.  Our song choices can be based on the lyrics, the style, a nod to a certain scene or an overall feeling associated with the book.  We'll post the songs here and let our readers vote for their favorite along with suggesting songs of their own.  After voting is complete a week later, we'll have a kickass playlist to put on our Spotify!

This week our book is Blood Red Road by Moira Young.  Here is the Goodreads summary and Noelle's review if you want to refresh your memory.  Okay let's do this!

DJ Maggie: I knew I wanted something upbeat but with a twangy, country feel, and since my knowledge of country music is limited to The Dixie Chicks, I went with Goodbye Earl.
Why? The sisterhood of the traveling kickass female cage fighters takes care of its own. They're fiercely loyal to one another. A threat to one is a threat to all. And the Tonton? HAVE TO DIE! Na nana na naaaaaa!

Lyrics like whoa: Right away Mary Anne flew in from Atlanta / On a red eye midnight flight / She held Wanda's hand as they worked out a plan / And it didn't take long to decide / That Earl had to die / Goodbye Earl  

DJ Noelle:  I was all over the place (Soundgarden, The Toadies) in my runners up but in the end I picked The Story by Brandi Carlile.
Why?  I'm choosing to interpret the lyrics as being about Saba's relationship with her siblings, not between her and the romantic lead.  Saba goes through so much to save her brother and learns to value her relationship with her sister along the way.  Plus the entire novel is one huge journey, in distance and maturity.  And I just love when that second verse hits, I can't lie.

Lyrics like whoa: All of these lines across my face / Tell you the story of who I am / So many stories of where I've been / And how I got to where I am [...] I climbed across the mountain tops / Swam all across the ocean blue / I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules / But baby I broke them all for you [...] No, they don't know who I really am / And they don't know what I've been through like you do

It's time to vote!

Thanks for voting! Now it's time for your song requests.  What other songs do you think should be on our Blood Red Road playlist?

Have a theme song for the Free Hawks?  A perfect song for Saba and Jack? Do you know the perfect walk-on music for Saba's gladiator arena entrances?  Or an ode to Nero the crow?

Let us know! Leave your song suggestions in the comment section below.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Blood Red Road by Moira Young
(Dust Lands #1)
Reviewed by Noelle: June 30, 2011.
Published June 7, 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry
Goodreads • Buy at Amazon • Buy at FishpondKindle

I thought this was fun as hell. First of all, as you all know, I adore a good adventure road trip tale. I just love 'em--the stranger the people/lands, the shittier the conditions and the steeper the hardships, the better! There's nothing more entertaining to me than a bunch of random personalities dependent on each other for survival while they are saving the world/defeating evil/[insert epic quest here]. So obviously I was pretty on board after reading the story blurb. Yet, I've been burned in the past so although I was eager, I withheld my full-fledged enthusiasm. 

But then I discovered that not only was Blood Red Road an adventure quest/road trip but it was based on hillbillies in a post-apocalyptic world AND featured a heroine with an anger management issues, a girl gang of revolutionaries, an enigmatic dark knight, a Flynn Ryder-esque hero, and the best dang animal sidekick I've seen in awhile (a crow! that plays dice! and "aint much fer huggin"!) and.....OH HELL YES. 

The heroine was awesomely flawed. A couple times I recoiled with a “DAMN, cold!” to some of the doozies Saba lobbed at her sis but then I imagined being responsible for the physical safety and well being of a 9 year old where the best possible outcomes could be dying of thirst and the worst possibilities included slavery, cage fighting for your life and oh yeah, HELL WORMS. I’d probably lose it once or twice at dear lil' sis myself. 

There were a few things that bugged (the totally unnecessary piece of jewelry for one) but for the most part I could easily overlook them because the story as a whole was such a fun ride. 

I'm not sure if it's a sign that ---ack!--I've lived in the South too long or what, but the dialect didn't bother me one bit. While this book is the first of a series, it has a full and complete plot and could stand on it's own. After reading so many first books that bury you with "this is a trilogy!" exposition, I appreciated Blood Red Road so much. I look forward to the rest of the series.  (Even though reading the sequel's title made me do this.) 

Sidenote: You MUST check out this amazing interpretation of the Free Hawks by foralllove.

Rating: 4/5 stars.