Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mini Reviews : New Adult Novels

New Adult or NA novels seem to be taking over ! Every week it seems like more and more are being released and this week I take a peek at two NA novels.

The Space Between by Victoria H. Smith
This New Adult novel follows the relationship of a pair of 19-year-olds from two different sides of Chicago; Derek, the privileged adopted son of a Senator and Lacey, a struggling opera prodigy from the wrong side of the tracks with a mother dying of cancer. When these to meet in a blaze of passion, they have to overcome racism, class and their own family to be together. Seeing a romance that focuses on a biracial girl and Korean guy was definitely a first for me and I liked that Victoria wrote about this type of relationship. The plot relies a lot on insta-lust and I was kind of annoyed of how Lacey is constantly described as desert with chocolate eyes and caramel skin. Falling on the steamier side of NA, so there are quite a few scandalous scenes. This is the first in a series, so I'll be interested to get the other ones if I stumble across them. Also how great is this cover !-  

If You Stay by Courtney Cole

Pax Tate is a selfish, trust fund baby with an addictive personality and Mila Hill is an orphaned artist living a quiet life with her sister. Their first encounter is anything but romantic when Mila discovers Pax overdosing in his car. This gruesome  meeting unravels into a NA story that is the rather standard good girl meets broken bad boy with a fair share of steamy moments. The story packs on the melodrama and angst with everyone having dark secrets. After about the third revelation  it started to feel a bit... soap operatic ? This book also has healthy a bit of slut shaming, which I think I'm just getting used to in YA/NA fiction at this point. I don't know if this is done to create foils for the main female characters, but if you are an openly sexually active female, chances are bad things will happen to you. If you want an angsty, steamy romance this may be your kind of book. I think this story had  a lot of potential in the beginning, but if you've read any kind of NA before this story will seem generic. Also,a  month after reading it, I barely remember anything about it.  ★ + .5

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Book Review: Marly's Ghost by David Levithan

Join Kat as she reads and reviews the works of David Levithan
from his debut novel to his National Book Award longlisted novel, Two Boys Kissing

  • Pages: 176
  • Genre: Adaptation/ Paranormal
  • Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
  • Publication Date: December 1, 2006

In Marly’s Ghost, David Levithan collaborates with illustrator and author Brian Selznick who is best known for his book The Invention of Hugo Cabaret. Together the authors remix the story and illustrations of  Charles Dickens’ classic novella, A Christmas Carol into a modern day Valentine's Day tale.

This novel is a little different from most Levithan novels because it is essentially a packaged novel.  In the back of the book Levithan discusses how this novel came about because he was approached by two Penguin editors to write a Valentine’s Day spin on A Christmas Carol. Once he had a theme down, he describes how he sat down with the text of the original and worked piece by piece to create Marly's Ghost. Because this novel sticks so close to the source material and borrows much of the language from it  has a different feel than Levithan's previous books. 

 Dicken's Christmas curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge, is reimagined as Ben, an apathetic 16-year-old, who believes love is humbug since of the death of his girlfriend Marly, the replacement for Scrooge's dead business partner Jacob Marley.  Tiny Tim is also included in the new characters, and is now a freshman couple Tiny and Tim.

If you know the relative structure of A Christmas Carol you can pretty much guess the general plot structure of this novel. The night before Valentine's Day Ben is visited by the ghost of Marly followed by the spirits of Valentine's Day past, present and future

Like the original story, the book is really more of a novella than a full length novel. It's only about 160 pages, but once you count in the illustrations and large page margins it is probably shorter than that. 

This novel isn't really the typical Levithan novel, but it is interesting in that it gets back to Levithan's writing roots. In most of his appearances he discusses how he started writing by writing Valentine's Day stories for his friends, some of which are in his short story collection, How They Met. So, in a sense I think this could serve as an introduction to what some of Levithan's shorter form writing looks like

This story is great if you are looking to read more about classics revisited, but not top on  the list of  Levithan novels I would recommend. 

A #NewBookTrend ?

While reading through the 2014 publisher catalogs (book nerd problems)  I noticed something interesting about two 2014 novels.
Sourcebooks Fire
Simon Pulse

Both #scandal by Sarah Ockler  and #16thingsithoughtweretrue by Janet Gurtler use the Twitter hashtag style in their titles. Of course both of these books have stories that  center around social media,  but I think the choice to use the Twitter hashtag style is interesting.

Now hastag  titles (outside of Twitter) isn't new, musicians have done it quite a few times, for example Will.i.am and Justin Beiber's song #thatpower. This is mostly  done  to make the songs trend on Twitter and I wonder if these  #hashtag  books titles are trying to generate some of the same buzz ?

What do you think of  the use of  #titles ? Do you think we will see more in non-social media themed books?

For more extra #lulz check out this hilarious video with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake !

Monday, November 18, 2013

Build A Blog On A Budget : Blog Design

I don't know what it is but I'm always on the lookout for a deal. I wouldn't call myself frugal but whenever I can save a few dollars or get a great product for an amazing deal I do a mental happy dance. With that in mind I decided to great a mini blog series on how I Build A Blog On A Budget. Here I'll share the tips and tricks I use to blog like a pro with little to no budget.

* UPDATED 8/7/15 with more goodies !

Design & Graphics
Content is always key when it comes to blogging, but adding a few extra graphics can help give your blog that personal touch.

Features hundreds of gorgeous and mostly free stock art. Be sure to read the licenses to see what is and isn't allowed!
Cost : Free (read licenses)

Sxc. Hu
Looking to add some free royalty-free stock images, this is the place to look.
Cost : Free (read licenses)

I love this site! It is a modge podge of Free resources  Everything from blog tutorials to printables
Cost : Free 

This is the place to find hundreds of fonts. They are constantly updated and you can spend hours browsing.
Cost : Free 

It's not Photoshop or Illustrator but Inkscape can help you create cute customizable graphics, blog buttons or banners. Don't know where to start ? you can find 100 of tutorials at http://inkscapetutorials.wordpress.com/
Cost : Free 

Pre-Made Blog Layouts
This is where I got our first blog layout from! There is so much variety and you can mix and match headers and backgrounds!
Cost: Free

Search Blogger or Wordpress templates and you'll find a ton of variety. Etsy has multiple graphic designers with tons of pricing options, so you can find exactly what you need.
Cost : $15 - $30
Personal Faves ! : 17thAvenue Designs  , Vefio Themes and GlamBlogs

Clean and trendy designs. This website has a blog design for every budget. They include both Wordpress and Blogger.
Cost : $15-50$

An artsy graphic design website that features some amazing freebies as well as blogger templates. It also features some premium tutorials and resources for free.
Cost : Free

You would be surprised how adding just a background to your blog can make it stand out. 
Cost : Free

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stacking The Shelves Vol. 6

When Shannon over at River City Reading pointed me to BookSaleFinder.com I was so excited to see a library book sale was happening in our area this weekend ! I'd been to a few where I found maybe one or two books, but at this sale I  found all these amazing books for $6.25.

  • Deep Kiss Of Winter by Gena Showalter and Kresley Cole (Paranormal Romance novellas)
  • A Fest of Crows (#4) Games of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  • Tears of A Tiger by Sharon Draper (my favorite version of the cover)
  • If I Stay by Gale Forman
  • Monster by Walter Dean Meyers
  • The Man Who At The 747 by Ben Sherwood (I read this in high school, so I want to re-read it)
  • Shadow Kiss (#3) by Richelle Mead 
  • Dream Lake (#3) by Lisa Kleypas 
  • A Curious Incident of A Dog In The Night by Mark Haddon
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (They are making this into a mini series on Starz and I've heard good things)
  • Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (One of my faves of D-Brizzle)

I also grabbed The Book Thief from TJ maxx. (in case you were wondering if my Build a Blog On A Budget Post really works)

And of course Kat ordered Champion (Legend #3) when it was released along with The Night Film by Marisha Pessl

What did you get ? Leave links !

Friday, November 15, 2013

Audiobook Review: Will Garyson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Join Kat as she reads and reviews the works of David Levithan
from his debut novel to his National Book Award shortlisted novel, Two Boys Kissing

“It's hard to believe in coincidence, but it's even harder to believe in anything else.” 
― John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“i think the idea of a 'mental health day' is something completely invented by people who have no clue what it's like to have bad mental health. the idea that your mind can be aired out in twenty-four hours is kind of like saying heart disease can be cured if you eat the right breakfast cereal. mental health days only exist for people who have the luxury of saying 'i don't want to deal with things today' and then can take the whole day off, while the rest of us are stuck fighting the fights we always fight, with no one really caring one way or another, unless we choose to bring a gun to school or ruin the morning announcements with a suicide.

― David LevithanWill Grayson, Will Grayson

  • Release Date: April 6th 2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Publisher: Dutton's Children (Penguin)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson is probably David Levithan's most well known co-authorship and served as my introduction to David Levithan 2 years ago. I'd liked John Green's vlogbrothers channel and decided to start reading his books. I got what I expected from Green's writing, but Levithan's just blew me away. It reminded me of how unique and diverse the voices in  YA writing can be. For Days of David Levithan, I did a re-read of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but decided to switch it up with the audiobook

Will Grayson,Will Grayson  is told in the alternating perspective of two 16-year-olds named Will Grayson,each leading separate lives unknown to each other. Until faith and a little bit of bad luck has them cross paths. From that moment the story unravels as each Will Grayson is forced to examine everything they thought they knew about love, relationships and coincidence.

 Green's Will lives by two strict rules to avoid unfortunate things from happening; 1. Don't care too much and 2.Shut Up. The only problem is his "very large", "very gay" and  serial dater best friend, Tiny Cooper, who has a "pathological inability" to follow any of these rules. Levithan's Will Grayson is still in the closet, apathetic and living with depression. His only close relationship is with his long distance boyfriend, Issac and his school friend Maura, a girl he says is "the kind of friend i enjoy swapping doomsday scenarios with....  not, however, someone who makes me want to prevent doomsday from happening"

Levithan uses  an interesting narrative technique for his Will, he writes all of his sections in  lowercase letters and IMs. In an interview in the back of the book, Levithan explains that he does this because his Will Grayson sees himself as a lowercase person and is more comfortable communicating in this way. While it is jarring at first, the format made it easier  to keep up with the shift in narration. But format aside, Levithan's writing in this novel is some of my favorite. Will's narration felt so genuine and had a stream of consciousnesses feel. I rarely laugh at books, but his Will's hyperbolic and strange sense of humor actually made me laugh out loud.

I was a little weary of going into the audiobook because this book has a lot of moving parts, but MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl did an amazing job. MacLeod Andrews probably had the biggest challenge. As the narrator of  Levithan's Will  because so much of his  perspective is  monologues and rants with no adverbs. Andrews really had to add in his own inflections to the words. He also had to narrate a lot of IM sessions, which has it's own challenges. At one point, he made a kind of choked, shocked sound to something during an IM session and it turned out that is the audiobook's interpretation of !!!! and ????

But, the audiobook works in one very interesting way. A big part of the plot involves Green's Will's best friend putting on a musical about his life. So, during the musical numbers and song sections,  Nick Podehl actually sings the song lyrics, which brought them to life more for me than when I was reading them.

What I really like about this book is the way it explore male characters in YA. Often, YA fiction showcases male characters as flawless, impenetrable brooding heroes, but this book creates a more varied male experience; they are allowed to be self-conscious and emotional. It explores the depth and importance of male friendships and I think is what sticks with a lot of readers. The only issue I really have with this book is that one or two of the jokes were toeing the line of offensiveness.

Whether you want to get into John Green or David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson is an excellent book to start with. It has some amazingly complex characters, a healthy dose of humor centering around a great set up.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Interview with Debut YA Author CJ Lyons !

When Jess and I were at BEA, one of the books we heard about from Sourcebooks was Broken by CJ Lyons and it sounded amazing.When Sourcebooks asked us if we wanted to interview CJ, we jumped at the chance !

Broken tells the story of  15-year-old Scarlet Killian, who lives with a rare heart condition that could cause her to die of a broken heart at any moment. Scarlet decides its time to try something she has never done before; go to high school.

1. Quick, describe your book in six words !

CJ: Girl dying of a broken heart…literally!

2CJ, you are a bestselling author with your adult thrillers. How is writing YA different from writing adult books ?

CJ: I can actually go a lot darker and edgier with the YA books—and be so much more emotionally honest than in my adult novels. Grownups usually read more for straight entertainment and escapism while kids also enjoy the vicarious thrills of facing the worst possible moment and surviving.
I loved writing BROKEN so much that I’ve already written a second YA—this one much darker and aimed at a slightly older age range since it deals with the more mature theme of sexual coercion. Our working title is DAMAGED (that might change) and it’s due out next year.

3. Do you have a playlist when writing?

CJ: I always listen to music as I write—usually headbanging rock, like Godsmack, Mudvayne, Tool, Led Zeppelin, Slipknot, Dead Sara, Metallica, etc.

But while I was working on BROKEN my usual playlist wasn’t working—I think because Scarlet’s character is so sheltered and naïve compared to my usual kick-ass heroines and heroes. So I actually listened to a lot of Celtic music (Whirligig, Amergin, Gaelic Storm—and of course had to include the Drop Kick Murphys to get my headbanging fix, lol) as well as classic Nirvana and the sound track from the Hunger Games (my first exposure to Taylor Swift)

4. How does your character, Scarlet relate to your niece, Abby who suffers from Long QT ? 

CJ: Scarlet’s character is loosely based on my own experiences as a pediatrician. I diagnosed my niece, Abby, with the same congenital heart condition, Long QT, when Abby was only twenty minutes old and BROKEN is dedicated to her.

Watching my niece refuse to allow her disease to define her was such a contrast to some other patients’ parents who would insist on making their child’s disease (most not life-threatening) the center of the child’s world that I couldn’t help but wonder what would it be like to grow up being treated as a “patient” all your life, or worse as the “dying girl,” rather than ever having the chance to figure out who you really were, dying or not.

What better disease to give a character like that than something rare and hard to diagnose and treat like Long QT? Of course, Scarlet is nothing at all like my niece (the best adjective to describe my niece would be “fierce” whereas Scarlet is very naïve and used to being controlled by the adults in her life) but by having Scarlet start the story as someone unsure of who she really is as a person, it makes her struggle and transformation as she faces the truth behind her illness all the more powerful.

After all, it’s easy for someone strong to stand up to bullies or uncertainty or injustice…but how does a kid who has lived all her life in a hospital, basically just waiting to die, learn how to be a hero and find her destiny?

About CJ: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.Winner of the International Thriller Writers’ coveted Thriller Award, CJ has been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday).
Learn more about CJ's Thrillers with Heart at www.CJLyons.net

Monday, November 11, 2013

Entangled Launches a New Adult Line !

It's become clear to both Jess and I that New Adult is becoming a hot topic in the YA community. So, when Entangled reached out to us to help launch their New Adult line we were more than happy to !

Entangled Embrace is Entangled's New Adult line, launching today with three fantastic books! If you are looking for something new and mesmerizing, embrace the endless possibilities that this brand new Entangled Publishing new adult line offers!

Trouble Comes Knocking by Mary Duncanson

A girl who can’t forget…

Twenty-two-year-old Lucy Carver is like Sherlock Holmes in ballet flats, but her eidetic memory is more albatross than asset, and something she usually keeps hidden. When she notices that something’s amiss at her dead-end job, she jumps at the chance to finally use her ability for good. That is, until, a man is murdered, and she becomes the target of the killer.

A detective on his first case…

Detective Eli Reyes is overbearing, pompous, way too hot for Lucy’s own good, and seems as determined to ruin her relationship with her boyfriend, John, as finding the murderer. He brings Lucy in on the case, thinking she can help him get to the truth, only to cut her loose when he realizes he’s gotten far more than he ever bargained for.

A past that won’t go away…

When memories from her childhood invade her present, Lucy discovers a mystery bigger than she could have imagined. With the killer still after her, and Eli nowhere to be found, she takes things into her own hands, determined to expose the truth no matter what—before trouble comes knocking…again.

Hushed by Kelley York

Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn't protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he's never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn't matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another. Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed.

Then along comes Evan, the only person who's ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.

But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer's committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn't get what she wants...

And what she wants is Evan's death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

Definitely, Maybe in Love by Ophelia London

Her theory of attraction is about to get a new angle...

Spring Honeycutt wants two things: to ace her sustainable living thesis and to save the environment. Both seem hopelessly unobtainable until her college professor suggests that with a new angle, her paper could be published. Spring swears she’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that happens.

Whatever it takes, however, means forming a partnership with the very hot, very privileged, very conceited Henry Knightly.

Henry is Spring's only hope at publication, but he's also the über-rich son of a land developer and cash-strapped Spring’s polar opposite—though she can't help being attracted to the way he pushes her buttons, both politically and physically. Spring finds there's more to Henry than his old money and argyle sweaters…but can she drop the loud-and-proud act long enough to let him in? Suddenly, choosing between what she wants and what she needs puts Spring at odds with everything she believes in.

Definitely, Maybe in Love is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice that proves true love is worth risking a little pride.


To celebrate the launch of the new line, Entangled Embrace is giving away a Kindle Fire, an iPod Shuffle, and a $25 B&N Giftcard!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Build A Blog On A Budget : Books ! Want/Need

Running a book blog can get expensive, so we've come up with some money-saving blogging tips ! A big part of any book blog budget are, of course, the books ! With all the discovery between  Stacking the Shelves and Waiting on Wednesday, you might wonder how to turn your wish list into a TBR pile without breaking the bank.

On The Web

Overstock.com offers a lot of discounts for  designer and brand name items, but did you know they also have great deals on books ? Members of Club O (19.95/year. . . cheaper than B&N membership) receive free shipping and get 15% back on some purchases.

Better World Books
Better World Books is an online used book store with a conscious. A percentage of each book sale is donated to help promote literacy. You can find older and newer titles, but the best deals are on backlist titles. A great place to start if you need to get a backlist of a series. Also, free shipping worldwide

Trade, Borrow, Repeat

The great thing about the  book blogging community is that we are always finishing and starting new books. Here are just some places you can trade/borrow for books you've been wanting.

Around the country local libraries are going digital.  Check with your local library to see if they have a catalog on Overdrive. This platform allows you to borrow e-books and audiobooks from your computer, tablet or smartphone. Since you don't have to go to the library to return them  it will also save you the gas (and the late fee).

In Store

TJMaxx & Marshalls
I'm amazed every time I walk into one of these discount stores and  find about 4-6 newly released popular titles for 20-40% off.  Recently, I've spotted Bone Season, Divergent and Cuckoo's Calling.

If you are feeling lucky you can check out your local Goodwill to see what's been donated in their book section.You might not find newer releases, but you never know !

Do you have any tips for scoring great deals on books ? Let us know in the comments ! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book Review : I Am Messenger by Markus Zusak

  • Release Date: October 1st 2002 (AUS) / May 2006 (US)
  • Pages: 357
  • Publisher: Random House (Knopf)
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
Synopsis: Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.That's when the first ace arrives in the mail. That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

I seem to be on a roll with these Australian books. This is the third one I've read after Finnikin of The Rock and Graffiti Moon. Originally published in 2002, I Am Messenger made its US debut in 2006, just a year before Zusack started climbing the bestseller's list with his runaway success The Book Thief.

19-year-old Ed Kennedy is complacent in his average life. He drives a taxi by day, lives in a cheaply rented shack with The Doorman, his dog and plays cards once a week with his friends. It all changes the day Ed stops a bank robbery. The next day the ace of diamonds arrives in his mailbox with three messages for Ed to deliver. One card at a time, Ed learns the difference one person can male.

I had a hard time getting into this book at first, but once it got rolling it was amazing. What could be a formulaic plot, turns into something deeply interesting as Ed sits at the lives of different people. Zusak is a phenomenal writer and I like his style in this book. Ed's first person narration has an awareness of the reader and there are times where he takes down the 4th wall, which isn't something  I've seen in a lot of books.  Zusak will also break words or sentences and into separate paragraphs and I like the flow it adds to the book. Like this section where Ed is sitting next to his crush, Audrey:

"Our feet dangle.
I watch them, and I watch the jeans on Audrey's legs.
We only sit there now.
Audrey and me.
And discomfort.
Squeezed in, between us.
She soon says, "You're my best friend, Ed."
"I know."
You can kill a man with those words.
No guns.
No bullets.
Just words and a girl."

Speaking of Audrey, the only thing I'm on the fence about in this book is the romance. Ed's love interest, Audrey is never developed to the extent that Ed's other friends are and they all have pretty equal page time. Her only characteristics are that boys like her (except for she and Ed's mutual  male friends oddly enough) and she is a cab driver. I just wish she had been developed a little more, she didn't even get a last name like everyone else.

My favorite part of this book has to be the experience of following along on Ed's journey.We are with him as he receives these mysterious cards, decodes the meaning of who the card refers to and  finds the right  way to help the people he meets.  

I Am Messenger is completely cerebral read, tinged with humor and a universally inspirational message

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday Vol. 16

It's been a while since I've done a WoW, but I've been looking a at the 2014 catalogs over at Edelwiess and here are some books I can not wait for.

The Lonesome Young by Lucy Connors (April 2014)

The Rhodales and the Whitfields have been sworn enemies for close on a hundred years, with a whole slew of adulterous affairs, financial backstabbing, and blackmailing that’s escalated the rivalry to its current state of tense ceasefire.
And now a meth lab explosion in rural Whitfield County is set to reignite the feud more viciously than ever before. Especially when the toxic fire that results throws together two unlikely spectators—proper good girl Victoria Whitfield, exiled from boarding school after her father’s real estate business melts down in disgrace, and town motorcycle rebel Mickey Rhodale, too late as always to thwart his older brothers’ dangerous drug deals.

I'm not the biggest contemporary reader, but I like the Romeo/Juliet aspect of this novel

The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson (June 2014)

A runaway teen stumbles into the P.I. business and must deal with the fallout of looking for people who don't want to be found . . .
Robert "'Cali" Callahan is a teen runaway, living on the streets of Venice Beach, California. He's got a pretty sweet life: a treehouse to sleep in, a gang of surf bros, a regular basketball game...even a girl who's maybe-sorta interested in him.
What he doesn't have is a plan.
All that changes when a local cop refers Cali to a private investigator who is looking for a missing teenager. After all, Cali knows everyone in Venice. But the streets are filled with people who don't want to be found, and when he's hired to find the beautiful Reese Abernathy, who would do anything to stay hidden, Cali must decide where his loyalties truly lie.
At only 240 pages I'm curious to see how this story plays out

Noggin by John Corey Whaley (April 2014)
Travis Coates has a good head…on someone else’s shoulders.
Listen—Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t.Now he’s alive again.Simple as that.
The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but Travis can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he’s still sixteen, but everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she’s not his girlfriend anymore? That’s a bit fuzzy too.
Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, there are going to be a few more scars.
I'm intrigued by this high concept novel, It  makes me think of Neal Schusterman's Unwind.

Manor of Secrets (Jan 28th 2014)

It's DOWNTON ABBEY for teens! Gorgeous gowns, handsome boys, delicious intrigue, and upstairs-downstairs drama collide in the British countryside of 1911. 
At The Manor, nothing is as it seems...
Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance.
Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn't sure she possesses the courage--or the means--to break free and follow her passions.
Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives...forever.
You had me at Downton Abbey

- Jess !

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Audiobook Reviews: The David Levithan and Rachel Cohn Novels

Join Kat as she reads the works of YA author, David Levithan
from his debut novel to his National Book Award shortlisted novel, Two Boys Kissing. See more here !

I'm pretty sure David Levithan has more "and" credits than any other YA author. He has co-written with popular YA authors including;  Brian Selznick, John Green and Andrea Creamer. I'll be exploring these books in the next few weeks, but I'm starting with his most frequent partner in crime; Rachel Cohn, a veteran YA author herself. 

  Cohn and Levithan write stories that are all about romance and love, but their unique storytelling methods bring something new to the genre.Their writing aesthetics work wonderfully together and I really hope we see more from them in the future. This week I have reviewed the audio book versions all of their collabs.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2006)

"The Cure. For the Exes ? I'm sorry, Nick. You know. Will you kiss me again ?" 

This the  first and maybe most well known Cohn and Levithan collaboration thanks to the 2008 film 
adaptationThis book tells the story of two straight edge (no drugs, no alcohol) Bridge and Tunnel 18-year-olds fresh off breakups. Nick is the guitarist and only straight member of a queercore band currently called the Fuck Offs and Norah is the daughter of a music executive who self proclaims she can be a badass  and an insufferable music snob. They meet at a NYC punk club when Nick needs a pretend girlfriend and end up spending the night together.

Cohn and Levithan switched off writing chapters and from interviews it looks like they never knew where the story was going until the other one sent in a chapter. I could kind of feel this because the story did wander at times.

In the audio I really loved Norah's narrator, Emily Janice Card, when I looked at the physical book I saw there were a lot of ALL CAPS THOUGHTS! from Norah which were interpreted  well. Nick's narrator, Kirby Heyborne,  is a favorite narrator for me and did an amazing job as well. While the audiobook is good you do miss some of the more stylistic pieces of the narrative. Like when a character named Thom tells Norah his name is with an H, so Norah refers to him a Thom or how Nick refers to a the drag queen/bouncer at a club as Tony/Toni/Tone because he isn't sure which one it is.

But, I have to say I think Cohn's Norah came off as a more complex and interesting character than Levithan's Nick. He just didn't  have much personality beyond being a nice guy who kept getting dumped by his exes. Norah was a mix of snark, angst but also very vulnerable. In the span of the book we get a picture of here as a student, daughter, friend and girlfriend and we don't get that from Nick.

Nick and Norah is an excellent story, edgy and fun with all the buzz and excitement of potential love.

Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List (2007)

"Ely, I want. You, me, the rest of it. I want someone to make it work, and I don't know if it can be me. Because I'm so uncool and so afraid."

I feel like this is the Cohn and Levithan collaboration that you hear the least about and has some less-than-stellar review on Goodreads, but it was my absolute favorite of the three.

NYU freshman Naomi and Ely have been best friends and neighbors their whole lives. Born and raised in the Greenwich Village they have done it all and seen it all. Their more than friends less than lovers relationship seems impenetrable until Ely kisses Naomi's boyfriend, Bruce the Second. Naomi is heartbroken, but not for the  reasons you think...she's mad because she is in love with Ely.

Unlike Nick and Norah, where the authors each took a POV, this novel has multiple character POVs and each author just took a turn writing a chapter alternating between whichever character they felt came next.

The titular characters, Naomi and Ely, are both the life of the party and ultra confident characters and  it's interesting to see these characters also deal with their insecurities as they discover life apart from each other. We get to see this relationship break up not only from Namoi and Ely's perspective, but the perspective of a wide set of side characters.

This full cast audiobook is pretty amazing. I'll admit, I'd probably like this book less if it wasn't for the audio. Cassandra Campbell, who does Naomi is becoming one of my favorite female narrators because she does male voices well. I actually liked her Ely, better than the narrator (Kirby Heyborne, I believe) who did Ely. 

This book seems to have a lot of negative reviews from readers and I can see why, the characters are all pretty unsympathetic and the plot relies on Naomi not being able to get over the fact that Ely is gay, which is kind of annoying. Also there is a lot of f-bombs in this book. In 230 pages it is dropped 50 times ( I checked the ebook) and I'm sure it's even more in Nick and Norah.

Less of a romance more of a relationship story about how we relate to ourselves and the people around us
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (2010)

"Please return the notebook to the handsome gumshoe wearing the Fedora hat."

Dash and Lily are two very different New York City teenagers whose lives become entangled by a red Moleskine notebook.Together they search for the meaning of family, love and the power of words.   I reviewed this book last year, the full review can be found here. This is last book currently published from the duo. This book is interesting for a lot of reasons, but I think it's kind of fun how  both Levithan and Cohn are Jewish, but wrote a really great Christmas story. After reading the other two books, I've noticed that in this novel, Levithan and Cohn seem to have wondered away their usual character profiles. Levithan's Dash is a loner, straight laced and introverted as opposed to his usual stuck in the middle of it all characters. Cohn trades her usually angsty, outspoken females for the cheerful and slightly manic pixie dream girl  Lily. We also get a lot more family relationships in this book than we have seen previously. The audiobook narrators do a great job in the audiobook, but I felt like at time Lily's narrator sounded a little whiny and like a little kid at times.


  • All of these books are connected by the writing on the bathroom wall in a club each character visits.
  • The relationship between Lily's brother, Langston and his ex is similar to the relationship of Noah and his ex in Boy Meets Boy.
  • Dash and Lily bring back Klezmer music, which comes up in Are We There Yet ?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Maggie Stiefvater's The Dream Thieves Sigining

A few weeks ago, Jess and I made a last minute day (well, evening really) trip down to Virginia Beach to see Maggie Steifvater on The Dream Thieves tour. 

I'd never been to the  Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library
library, where the event was held, but I was very impressed. The library had a nice auditorium for the event and even decorated the library with balloons and ravens for the visit.

We were a little late and a  crowd of about 50 people were already in the auditorium. It's obvious Stiefvater has a pretty diverse fanbase. There were readers of all different ages and even a few male fans--which can be kind of rare at YA events.

Stieifvater has a very free-spirited and fun personality, she has so many funny stories to tell. During the signing portion she took the time to talk to everyone and she always had a smile on her face. Because I'd already read  The Dream Thieves, I  purchased  two of her other novels, Shiver and The Scorpio Races.

After the signing, we of course had to take pictures with her car, which she painted to mimic  Kavinsky's car in The Dream Thieves


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