natl-book-fest-20151So this year I was very lucky and got the opportunity to attend the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.  A friend of mine was already going for her job and offered to let me tag along.

I have some pretty awesome friends.

So first of all we got to hang out in D.C.  Which I love.  Seriously, one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to.  So much history and culture and gorgeousness!

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I mean, check out that amazing D.C. architecture!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First of all there was the plane ride…

20150904_070105Where it looked like the plane was being held together with duct tape (special plane tape I know, I know, but still.  not super comforting.)

Which is why it was a good thing that I had my traveling snacks!

20150904_103634Just the essentials.

So we got to D.C. and hit the hotel.  Which, it turned out, was smack in the middle of Chinatown.

20150905_230458Can you tell?

Then it was off for a quick stop at National Mall where we strolled through the sculpture garden:

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And hit the Natural Museum of Natural History:

Rawr!

Rawr!

Older rawr!

Older rawr!

You can actually watch real life scientists working inside the museum which I think is wicked cool!!!

You can actually watch real life scientists working inside the museum which I think is wicked cool!!!

Indoor beehive that lets out into the mall so the bees can come and go and help keep the nearby flower gardens going!

Indoor beehive that lets out into the mall so the bees can come and go and help keep the nearby flower gardens going!

It's a blob of rock!

It’s a blob of rock!

That? Oh that's just the Hope diamond. No big whoop...

That? Oh that’s just the Hope diamond. No big whoop…

And then there was this guy:

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Neat, fun, nerdy story about the elephant.  Saw the Smithsonian tweeting about him earlier that day because he’d been off display for a while getting a new base to stand on.  He’d just gone up that day!  Even going to D.C. I never actually thought I’d be there, seeing him in person.  Or tweeting about it and having the Smithsonian tweet back at me!!! How cool is that?!?

Okay, so I’m a huge nerd, but at least I know and accept that.

Then we took a stop at the art museum (for like 30 minutes…)

Hmmm......

Hmmm……

Why do almost all women in old artwork constantly have to have their boob hanging out? Surely this is not how women of the past used to read....

Why do almost all women in old artwork constantly have to have their boob hanging out? Surely this is not how women of the past used to read….

Totally studied this portrait of Marie Antoinette in British Art at UTA! Go Mavs!

Totally studied this portrait of Marie Antoinette in British Art at UTA! Go Mavs!

So really, how many times have you seen this statue of Romulus and Remus? I mean, it's pretty much the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the story and now here it is! Right there in person!

So really, how many times have you seen this statue of Romulus and Remus? I mean, it’s pretty much the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the story and now here it is! Right there in person!

Then it was off to the hotel to get cute for the night, but first, a quick stop in Canada!

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I have a friend from Canada so when we were passing right next to the embassy and had the chance to send a selfie from Canadian soil, how could I pass up the chance?!  Eh?

More next time on the gala event (which was so awesome!) and the festival itself.  See you then!!!

I really need to learn how to take selfies...

I really need to learn how to take selfies…

So last time I left you Miss Pony had been cleaned up, gotten her hair curled and colored (at least half of it), and her new paint job started.

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So here she is after a completed paint job.  I realized after I’d already done her tail that I should maybe wait on the hair until after the painting.

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Thus the bags.  Also had a problem with the paint. It scratches off duper easily.   Not great for playtime.  So I tried a few (like 5) coats of Mod Podge, but that left Miss Pony feeling all sticky.  Also not good for play.
So I slapped on the sandwich baggies to protect her hair and added several coats of clear spray paint.

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Tadaaaaaa!  The paint stays in place and now it’s time for more hair!

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I decided that in doing the tail I’d made things harder by not making sure my stripe of hair went around the outside of the curl.

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Made sure to do better on that this time!

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And here she is all completed!  I may not be the world’s foremost horse-painting artist, but my niece loved it and thats all that counts, right?!

So about four months ago I went with a friend to the by-the-pound Goodwill and picked up this beauty for my niece:

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Awesome right?  Who doesn’t love Barbie horses, even when they’re knockoffs?
So it had some marks and dirt and the hair was a fluffy tangled mess as you can see.  I’ve been meaning to clean it up before giving it to her, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it.  But then yesterday I felt inspired….
Not just to clean it up, but to play around with cleaning it up.  I mean, look at that nice, blank canvas!
So first I started with the hair…
Ran to the store for some cheap (but fragrant) fabric softener to do the Pinterest thing so I could comb through the hair.  It worked! Sort of….
Didn’t get a picture because my hands were covered in softener and water, but I think that horse lost half it’s tail in the combing process.  But I got it as detangled as possible.
While I was browsing for doll hair techniques, I came across a way to curl barbie hair.  So of course I had to try it on the horse….
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Tadaaaaaa!  Look at those awesome ringlet curls!   Pony got her hair did!  Now here’s hoping that will detract from too much brushing, because I don’t think pony can handle it!

So got the body clean with a bit of Comet, and then it was time to play with the tail some more.

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All I did was take 3 permanent markers and color a strip down each ringlet.  Not super easy on some,  and it did unravel them a bit, but I still think it looks awsome.
Now it’s on to painting!
As you can see here

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The eyes were the only thing with color so I fixed up those by removing a lot of the original paint with fingernail polish remover (which also worked great when the marker got into my hand and then onto the horse).  And now they look like this!

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Because who doesn’t need a little sparkle in their eye? Right?

Now it’s onto the rest of the body.  Not sure yet what all I’m going to do, but so far I’ve got this

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I’ll keep you updated as I go!!

 

I know, I know, I’m late on this and I haven’t posted anything in a while.  Sorry about that.  But today I feel productive and like getting on top of things so here it goes.  In not any too particular of an order…

1.VAMPIRES!!!!!!!!!

The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black

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In case you don’t know already, I LOVE me some Holly Black.  Actually got to meet her at the Austin Teen Book Festival in 2013 when she was promoting this book.  I figured, Holly Black plus vampires?  How can a girl resist? 🙂 Imagine a zombie apocalypse, but replace the zombies with vampires.  Unlike zombies, however, vampires can think and hunt and now that everyone knows about them the government has set up coldtowns where the infected (and anyone that chooses to go) can live.  Oh, and once inside, you can never leave.  Why would anyone choose to live there?  Well Tana decides after she attends a  party and wakes up the next morning to find everyone else has been slaughtered by vampires.  Well, everyone except a super-hot vampire chained to a bed and her twit of an ex-boyfriend who may or may not have been infected.  Oh fun. Great cast of characters, interesting, different look at a world full of vampires.  Only Holly Black can write a book like this one. 2.Favorite conclusion to a series? The One by Kiera Cass the one If you haven’t started this series you totally need to get started NOW!  I got hooked on this one by a friend of mine.   The best description I’ve heard of it is it’s like the Hunger Games (minus the bloodshed) meets The Bachelor (minus the bloodshed).  Fun, smart characters, and finally a love-triangle series where going into the 3rd book you’re 100% sure who the main character (America Singer) should pick, but you don’t actually know if he will pick her.  Great conclusion to a wonderful series.  And another author I got to meet on a Dark Days tour where I got this book and had her sign it to one of my best friends who gets home from her mission in 4 weeks!!!!  But shhhhh, don’t tell! It’s a surprise!) And if you haven’t checked out EpicReads’ videos with Kiera, you totally should!  She’s adorable and hilarious! 3. Favorite middle grade series? The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet by Tom Angleberger jabba Okay, so this is not the first one in the series, or even the only one I read last year.  Also read Darth Paper and Fortune Wookie last year, but this one was the most recent so I’m using it.  Deal. These books are great; some of the best middle school characters I’ve come across in a while (not that I read a ton of middle grade).  Plus they’re all tied together in an epic battle against cheesy, bad learning programs sent in by a dominating administration that’s surely been aligned to the Dark side for years.  And the only way to rebel?  With origami Star Wars puppets of course!  Duh!

4. Contemporary book that hit me the hardest

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

hate list

We’re all familiar with school shootings, especially if you went to high school in the late 90s like I did.  (I did actually have to explain “Columbine” to a confused 15 yr old the other day.)  But this story is told from the perspective of the girlfriend of the (late) shooter in the aftermath of the attack.  She stopped the killings.  The killings she now has to come to terms with because how much of a role did she play in encouraging Nick?  That Hate List they made that’s all over the news, it was just talk, right?  She’s not at fault…right?  And if all the horrible things everyone tells Valerie about her dead boyfriend are true, if he was never any good as a human being, then what does that say about her?  Can you ever really move on from something like this? Really fascinating character study of Valerie and the people she has to deal with in the wake of a tragedy.  Kept me reading well into the wee hours.  Finished it in like a day I think.

5. Favorite book I loved that everyone else seemed to hate?  (or at least throw across the room?) Allegiant by Veronica Roth

allegiant

Now don’t get me wrong.  I get why people were upset with this one.  But after avoiding all the online freakouts it was still hard not to guess that something bad was going to happen.  All the responses were either “I cried ALL NIGHT LONG” or “I threw this book across the room!!!”  So yeah.  But I feel it was an appropriate ending for all the characters and totally in keeping with their personalities.

Well, I say that, but really there’s one twit that really should have been shot in the head.  Not the one that got a fresh start, but yeah…that other one?  *chic chic*…POW!  Right in the face.  I hate that kid.

But either way, I still love this series and this book!

6.The most intense dystopian I’ve read in a long while

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

murder compelx

The murder rate in town is higher than the birth rate.  How crazy is that??  And there’s no leaving town and if you don’t get a solid job on your first try you’re done and have to scrounge for everything you get.  Meadow is wicked intense–the kind of girl that makes you think you could actually have a chance of surviving and intense, bloody, violent dystopian society if you train like freaking crazy for it.  I like it.  It makes me feel proactive.  I hate all the female characters that have all this time to deal with the terrible circumstances they live in or are about to face and then don’t do anything about it.  At least Meadow doesn’t just sit around waiting for someone to kill her.  She acts out.  Good for her.

7.Favorite new (to me) author discovery

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

beauty queens

So oh my goodness I loved this book so much.  Now it does contain some bad language and there are some sexual encounters and a variety of sexual preferences addressed in the book, so if that’s not your thing, be forewarned.

BUT!  This book was hilarious.  I listened to it on audiobook and Libba Bray read it herself and it was like crack.  I hated to get out of the car when I had to be places because that would mean I’d have to stop listening.  No fair!

How to describe this book?  Beauty queens, dessert island, Sarah Palin knock off, reality show pirates, secret government plots, exploding face cream, commercial inserts, loss of sanity, self-discovery, and communist dictators with a stuffed lemur as their 2nd in command.  Yep.  All that.  Crazy, fun, twisting ride.  Loved it!

8.Can’t bring myself to read the last one yet because then it will be over!

Hell Week by Rosemary Clement-Moore

hell week

I love this whole series.  It’s Veronica Mars meets Buffy meets Nancy Drew.  Maggie Quinn is fun and snarky and nosy and fights demon spawn from hell.  What’s not to love?  Plus, gotta respect the love story.  Sure, her and the boy basically got together by the end of the last book, but does that mean they stay together automatically?  Life still has to go on, people are busy, and boys are confusing.  Really…I need to just read the last one already.  I forget how much I love these until I start talking about them…Next on my TBR list!!!!

9. Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

side effects

So funny story, true story… I’d seen this book on Tea Time with EpicReads.  It’s a girl dying of cancer, but not in the sad way.  Oh no, she first needs to get revenge on everyone she feels has wronged her.  Grrrrr…

Except, oh wait.  Now the cancer’s in remission.  Frick.

(Though she uses another word 😛 )

So I was telling my writing club kids all about it and how it sounded so good and then somewhere in it I realized, “Hey!  I know that girl!”  Yep.  Met Julie at a writing conference and she helped me with my pitch before I met with my agent!  So yeah, I have a bond with this book.  Can’t wait for Dumplin to come out next!  (Not in the same storyline.  Just Julie’s next book…)

10. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

5th wave

So. Freaking. Good.  They’re already making it a movie and the series is done yet!  I love stories where it’s like “Oh no, the aliens…have already invaded and taken over just about everything.  You’re screwed.”

All of the characters were appealing, all had an interesting story to tell.  And can I tell you how much I have a crush on this cover?!?  Seriously, if you haven’t yet, find it in hard cover and just feel how soft it is.  Sometimes I pull it off my shelf just to feel it.  It’s that soft.

Don’t judge me.

11.  Because like a good amp, I too go to 11. Sort of.  Both of these books had a similar theme, and I couldn’t pick between them so they get to share the #11 spot together.

Gated by Amy Christine Parker                   and               The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

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So both of these books are about girls living in religious cult compounds and their exposure to the outside world.  In Gated Lyla follows Pioneer, a captivating leader who will protect them all from the upcoming apocalypse–when the rest of the world will all die.  In The Chosen One Kyra (they even have similar names) lives in what is clearly a FLDS-type of community (not that hard to recognize when you’re Mormon) with a family that must follow their religious leaders no matter what.  Both face arranged marriages, Lyla to a friend she has no attraction towards and Kyra to her 60+ yr old UNCLE.  Talk about your gross!  Both girls face similar circumstances with different results and both are compelling reads.  How do I separate them???

And my bonus books.

Favorite Non-fiction

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

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This girl is like the rock star of education and women’s rights.  I tear up just thinking about how awesome she is.  Don’t ever forget the blessing it is to live in countries where girls can do crazy things like own property and read a book without getting shot in the face.  Never take it for granted.  Be your own rock star.  Live without fear.  Stand up for others and for yourself.  You are amazing.  Remember that always.

Favorite rereads Here I’m picking 3 very different books.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

love that dog

You.  Will. Cry.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

life as we knew it

Are you prepared for the apocalypse?

and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Do I even have to mention who wrote it or even show the cover or tell you why I love it??  No, but I’ll do at least 2 out of 3 of those.

by J.K. Rowling

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So what were your favorite books last year?  Or recently?  You read any of these?  Let me know in the comments below!!!

barbie-careers
Okay, so this is my rant for the day…
People have been ragging on Barbie since I can remember for all kinds of thing. People are acting like it’s news that she’s not anatomically proportional, but I’ve got news for you: I learned that as a kid. And now, people are protesting and petitioning the Girl Scouts to end their partnership with Barbie/Matel because of unrealistic body image issues.
I’m sorry, but enough is enough.
Have you SEEEEEEEEN the other dolls out there? If you haven’t, go image search Bratz, Monster High, Fairy Tale High, or any of the others and tell me how they’re anatomically correct. (Not to mention some of the scandalous outfits and completely anti-girl-power messages I’ve seen on some of the boxes.)
And yes, as a girl was it a sad day when I realized I would never grow Barbie’s Class A rack? Lol, sure, but if it wasn’t Barbie it would have been something else. I hit puberty in the 90s – The Land of Silicone. While I realize that some girls do get some body image issues from Barbie, I would argue that with everything else out there, a lot of those girls were probably going to get those issues anyway. The point is that they GET OVER them. Get stronger. And move on.
Which brings me to the last point of my little rant. Barbie taught me to be strong and do what I want with my life. Sure, every year you’re going to get the newest Swimsuit Barbie out, and sure, some of them are only there to fill cross-promotions with things like Spongebob or Troll dolls (back in the day), but Barbie also does a TON of other things. Growing up I watched Barbie be a teacher, lawyer, equestrian, paratrooper, ambassador, firefighter, astronaut, chef, photographer, politician, screenwriter, cheerleader, and of course, princess. She did all kinds of amazing jobs that weren’t just “girl jobs” and taught me that I could be those things, too. When I wanted to be a zoologist, I remember seeing Barbie be one. Now that I’m working on becoming a published author, I can think back on those days I played with Barbie and two dozen of her friends with my sister and our friend A.J. Just ask Rachel – we did NOT play normal games. Barbie to Ken ration in our house was like 5 to 1, so Ken usually played twins or triplets, with all sorts of awkward misunderstandings in between. There were earthquakes, floods, relationship dramas, friendships, and (my favorite) bridges going out and leaving the hot pink limo suspended so that everyone had to climb across the car to safety. (Not everyone made it on those times. We had many casualties!) Looking back now I can safely say that some of my best training for creativity that has lasted into adulthood was not just the books my mom was constantly buying for us, but sitting secluded in our shared room, working out amazing (if completely unrealistic and drama-filled) stories for our Barbies to go through. While I have no problem with the desire for the existence of a more realistic-looking doll, I don’t think that pressuring the Girl Scouts into NOT joining with Barbie to yes, cross promote, but also encourage girls into a completely worthwhile organization is the way to fix anything. (And yes, I was a Girl Scout, too. All the way up to 4th grade.)
Thus concludes my rant. Thank you for your time 🙂
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So I’ve been thinking about this on and off for a little while now, and then I had a conversation a few weeks ago that made it stick in my mind even more.

If you know me, you know that I’m quite the Pinterest frequenter, and of course I pin book things all the time.  Well, one of the things that pops up in my feed is bookcase pictures.  Some are cut into really neat shapes or painted in cool ways, but all too often I get pictures like this:

bookcase 1

Neat, right?  Behind the stuff on your shelf, you can see a map of the world painted.  Well, sure, if you only own a couple dozen books.  But my bookshelves look more like this:

IMG_3904You know what you can see behind my other books?  MORE BOOKS!!!  Yeah, I don’t really have enough space for you to see a cool design back there or a bright splash of color…

(P.S. Click on any of the pictures – that aren’t of my bookcases – to get to the seller or, in the case of the next pic, the blog it comes from!!)

And that brings me to the next picture…

bookcase 2

Again, pretty color, and again, not that many books.  A lot of the pictures that pop up through Pinterest are like this, too.  They show you really cool ways to organize and decorate a book case.  I mean, look at all the cool picture frames and nicknacks and sculpture pieces and organizing baskets that Kate @ Centsational Girl girl did!  She’s got a knack for finding great deals and putting them together in creative ways to make awesome stuff.

And I’ve seen a ton of posts about what shelf should house which nicknacks, which one for picture frames, and which one for books.  Which ONE for books???

Um, here’s my bookcase with nicknacks and picture frames…

IMG_3906They’re all tossed together up there on the top shelf, while everything else is stuffed full of books!  Again, if you look closely, you can see the second row behind the first on each of the shelves, and if you look not too closely you can see the books I don’t have room for stacked on top of the others!

As far as organization?  MOST of the books up front are the ones I haven’t read yet (with maybe 4 or 5 exceptions).  The ones at the back are the ones I’ve already read, but might want to reread or loan out.

Or how about this shelf?

IMG_39091. This used to be a microwave stand

2. The bottom door broke off so I ghetto-rigged it…

3. Organization goes as follows:  Books to the left of Lovecraft are ones that need to be loaned the next time I see the person they’re intended for.  Books from Lovecraft right are ones I haven’t read yet.  All those books you see on top?  Yeah, those are all the ones that other people have loaned me that I need to read and get back to them.  (That stack plus my loaners are missing some because they’re sitting on my table in a bag, waiting to go to Anne tomorrow!  Hi Anne!!!)

Oh, and behind the dark curtain of a door lie the books that I disliked SOOOO much that they’re going back to Half Price.  They stay hidden until I get a big enough stack 🙂

And then there are the bookends.  I LOVE bookends!  They’re so nifty and inventive!  Just check these bad boys out!!!

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But again, what would I do with those?  Bookends are made for people with a few books siting on a decorative wall shelf.  Not for me.

OR for people that want just a few books sitting in the middle of one shelf of a bookcase.  And I think we’ve established by now that that’s not me either.

IMG_3910Which brings me to my last bookshelf.  Yes, there ARE some DVDs taking up one whole shelf in there, GASP!  And candles, puppy pic, piggy banks, a pen jar…  But this shelf has ABSOLUTELY no organization beyond that!  When I was discussing bookshelves with my friends they were all lamenting that they wouldn’t know what to put on a bookshelf, because they didn’t know what books would be pretty enough to display.   Um…display?  Believe it or not, I did mini-tidyups on all 4 of these bookshelves before snapping pics of them!  To me, a bookshelf should be a display of all the things you love to read (that you didn’t download onto an ereader).  And if you want pretty books, buy hardcovers and take the slipcovers off.  But really, when you read/buy/trade/borrow/write as many books as I do…ain’t nobody got time for that!!

So what do you guys do?  Are your bookcases all nice and pretty?  Do you have just a dozen or so books, sparsely placed among nicknacks and artwork?  Or are you like me, and constantly running out of space on your shelves and begging for more??? (My husband is building me another one, by the way, I just don’t know where to put it!!)

Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below!!

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A little white paint and now I have two custom ornaments to match my dogs!

So turns out, I read a lot of books in 2013.  I mean a LOT.  62 in fact, according to Goodreads.  So what else is there to do but do a Top Ten list of my favorite reads of 2013?

Nothing, that’s what 🙂

So, without further adieu:

My Top 10 Reads of 2013 (in no particular order)

1.Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender

353 pages

Reminded me of: The Uninvited (movie)

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So this is one of those books that I put off reading for a long time.  I picked it up over and over at the book store, but for some reason it just never clicked enough for me to buy it.  But then I saw this:

I know I’ve mentioned this book trailer before, but it really is a piece of greatness, and also pretty effective since it got me convinced to finally give this series a go.

The thing is, I don’t normally do ghost stories.  A lot of time they’re just not that great and they don’t pull off what a good ghost story is supposed to do: scare you!  But this one…man this one pulled it off.  Creepy backstories, possessions, scary freaking dolls…this book is like reading a good scary movie.  Actually gave me chills and I already picked up the next one! 🙂

“I’m a giant pimple on the face of humanity.”

2. By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

225 pages

Reminded me of: Thriteen Reasons Why by James Asher, After by Amy Efaw

6 by the time you read this i'll be deadThis is another one I’ve seen floating around for a while, but I’ve never been able to find it at Half Price (with an addiction like mine, you can’t afford to pay full price for every book you want to read).

This book tells the story of a girl who, after several failed suicide attempts, has found a website for “completers”.  She signs up to follow their plan, giving her less than a month to work through any doubts she might have to finally seal the deal.  Only now, of all times, someone is reaching out to her, trying to find their way inside her severely damaged and well-built shell.  A relatively quick read, I wouldn’t suggest this one if you’re squeamish on bullying issues or, obviously, suicide.  It was definitely blunt and a bit harsh about both issues.  I felt like the story was incredibly well done, and that the potential love-interest was awesome in that he wasn’t a typical book-boyfriend.  He challenges Daelyn in ways that are so perfect and yet completely dorky all at the same time.

“Everything seems to be working.” Except me. I’m broken.”

3. Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

336 pages

Reminded me of: The Hourglass Door Trilogy by Lisa Mangum, The Witches by Roald, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (in a good way!)

6 darker stillOkay, so this one was definitely my guilty pleasure book of the bunch.  One, it’s got a boy trapped in a painting, the idea of which has freaked me out ever since watching the movie adaptation of The Witches when I was a kid.  That, and you have some mystical, passionate romance going on with awesome gowns and a hunky, troubled boy.  I mean, who doesn’t love that??  Really, it’s not THE most amazing book ever, but if you like paranormal romance, the heat in this one will bump it up a while star level on your own personal scale.  Trust me 😉

“I was in love. With a two-dimensional object. A mute in love with a painting. Lovely. Just lovely.”

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth

501 pages

Reminded me of: Twilight and The Hunger Games (This series is the next big thing in YA movie adaptations unless they screw it up!)

6 Divergent_16So yes, I finally broke down and got around to reading this book, and of course I loved it.  Still haven’t made my way into the sequel, mostly because I’ve been reading other things, but a little bit because I’m still scared of how this series will end.  Too many people were NOT happy with it.  That said, the first book was fast-paced, intense, unique, had GREAT sexual tension and adventure.  And I have to say, unlike Harry Potter where you read it and most people immediately lean towards Gryffindor because that’s where your main character lives, this book almost immediately made me say no.  No.  I will NOT be Dauntless.  I like to NOT jump off of buildings and get beat up, thanks! 🙂

“Peter would probably throw a party if I stopped breathing.”

“Well,” he says, ‘I would only go if there was cake.”

5. My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

319 pages

Reminded me of: Prom Dates From Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore, Beastly (movie.  Haven’t read the book yet.)6 my fair godmotherFirst of all, I LOVE stories where a superficial character gets the chance to make something more of themselves.  So many of the YA books (especially paranormal) are about the deep, misunderstood, loner outcast.  I love a good story where someone who’s never had to try that hard in life gets the opportunity to become something more and then takes it.  That is Savannah.  It may not be easy going the whole way, but it’s worth it to ride to the end.

Besides wonderful ways in which the title works as a double entendre (Chrissy isn’t a wonderful fairy godmother, just a fair one.), this book is absolutely hilarious.  Don’t believe me?  Have a couple of quotes:

“Adults are constantly telling teenagers that it’s what’s on the inside that matters. It’s always painful to find out that adults have lied to you.”

or “Aren’t fairy godmothers supposed to be nice and make you feel better about yourself?
She rolled her eyes.  “No, you’re confusing fairy godmothers with sales clerks.”

And finally: “…elves who write the memoirs of teenage girls have the unfortunate habit of returning to the magical realm with atrocious grammar….and for no apparent reason occasionally call out the name Edward Cullen.”

See?  Fun and quirky 🙂

6. Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore

322 pages

Reminded me of: My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

6 prom dates from hellAs I’ve mentioned before, the reason I finally got around to picking up this book is that the author was coming to our Teen Writing group at the library and I wanted to read something of hers before she got there.

And again, I absolutely loved it and should have started this series a long time ago!  Maggie Quinn is one of the most entertaining, sarcastic characters you’ll ever meet.  I seriously don’t think I’ve laughed as much over a fictional character since reading Percy Jackson.  The story moves at just the right pace, and has just the right amount of action.

“My major vice is sarcasm with a side of caffeine addiction.”

7. The Dead by Charlie Higson

484 pages

Reminded me of: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, Everlost by Neal Shusterman

6 the deadSo I love every book in this entire series, but the only reason I’m picking this one over the others is that it was the first one I read (even though it is the 2nd in the series.)  Also, this one is the first book I’ve read in a long time that reminds me of Everlost, which has become perhaps my favorite YA book of all time.

The series follows groups of  kids around London as they fight off a zombie plague that has hit only those 16 and older.  The books also layer in interesting ways, some happening right before or right after the ending of the previous book.  The series is also an example of head-hopping done right, with the audience getting to experience the story for all different sides, which makes the action scenes (which happen a lot!) that much more dramatic, and makes things that much more shocking when one of the kids dies (which also happens a lot).

And if you’re not a big fan of gore in your zombie books, this one is a good choice, because even in the gross parts you can generally skip to the next paragraph and you’ve missed absolutely nothing but the gross stuff 😉

“Even after everything that happens, when the whole world changes forever, when everyone knows that the video wasn’t a hoax but the start of something terrible, people remember the Scared Kid. His poor frightened little face.

It’s like the last thing everyone saw before the lights went out.”

8. The Selection by Kiera Cass

352 pages

Reminded me of: I think the blurb on the book does it best: It’s the Bachelor meets The Hunger Games. (Even though I don’t watch the Bachelor…)

6 the selectionSo I’m a little annoyed at my friend for getting me interested in a series that hasn’t freaking completed yet!  Now I’m sitting around, like thousands of others, waiting for The One to come out so I can finally see how this thing turns out!!

The reality TV aspect of a search for a princess was a neat twist to your classic love triangle story.  Now you’ve got a girl that’s trying to compete for a prince that she’s not even that interested in.  And while you want to hate Prince Maxon for some of the shenanigans going on around the castle, you also have to remember that the poor kid is learning how to date for the first time on national television.  No pressure!

Also the awkward moments and misunderstandings in this series are just generally funnier and better written than most that you run into in these YA romances.  Definitely a good read, but I’d understand if you want to wait until the last one comes out.  Heck, maybe things will finally work out with the CW and they stinking pick up the pilot for this series! (They’ve turned two pilots down so far…)

“I hit your thigh!”
“Oh, please. A man doesn’t need that long to recover from a knee to the thigh.”

9. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

242 pages

Reminded me of: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

6 the statistical probability of love at first sightNow, while I may want to kill my special friend for getting me interested in The Selection, I guess I’ll have to thank her for getting me hooked on this lovely little stand-alone.

Honestly I almost never read contemporary YA.  If it’s just a book about how to find a boyfriend or what snarky things the group of mean girls is doing at school, I’m probably not interested. (Honestly, the only thing to get me interested in a Sarah Dessen book was listening to her talk about how the boyfriend in Dreamland starts beating on his girlfriend and I went, “Ooh…I should read that!)  But with this book it’s not just a love story about a boy and girl who meet on a plane, it’s also about both of them coming to grips with incredibly difficult father issues, and learning what it means to make mature decisions about your own life.  I mean, Hadley’s on her way to be a bridesmaid for the woman that was her dad’s mistress and is about to be his wife.  Can you blame her for being grumpy and not wanting to go???

Really touching and poignant.  Good, fast read!

“It’s one thing to run away when someone’s chasing you. It’s entirely another to be running all alone.”

10. Variant by Robison Wells

400 pages

Reminded me of: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Pulse by Patrick Carman

6 variantAh, Variant.  Can you say “Holy freaking plot twist, Batman?!?!?!?!”  Seriously, I can’t even begin to describe to you how awesome this plot twist is and I can’t tell you about it or it will ruin everything.  It’s like when I had to convince my friend to read Catching Fire because the games were the only part of The Hunger Games that she even liked!  I had to just promise her that the plot twist in the middle would make it all worth it.

Trust me, this one’s worth getting to.

So this one’s (initially) about a boy selected to go to a super-cool private school, even though he’s a nobody foster kid.  Except, oh wait, there’s no adults here and everyone’s trapped upon penalty of death.  Oops.  Did we forget to mention that in the brochure?  Now Benson has to navigate your typical high school cliques, with the added bonus that if you make a wrong move you might end up in detention…where you die.  No biggie, right?  Then, and oh my freaking goodness, there’s a huge plot twist and everything gets turned on it’s head!  Ahhhh!  Read it and we’ll discuss! 🙂

” ‘This isn’t one of those scare-you-straight schools, is it?’ I asked Ms. Vaughn, as we passed through the heavy chain-link gate. ”

And of course I can’t JUST do 10 books!  I did reread a few books this year, but my favorite that I reread was:

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

340 pages

Reminded me of: The Dead by Charlie Higson, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

6 everlost-coverOkay, so I won’t go on and on and on and on and on about this book, even though you know I could.  But this year I decided to reread this book and I’m seriously glad I did.  Not only did I get to meet the author of said book in person (EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!), but it also solidified in my mind a question.

One of the author panels at the Austin Teen Book Festival asked this question:  If you could be any character in YA, who would you be and why?  Of course there was a Hermione in there and a couple more interesting ones, but as I sat there thinking about it I realized, I actually had an answer for that one. I actually had an all-time favorite female character of my very own:

Ally the Outcast.
Seriously.  I love her spunk, I love that she doesn’t take the partyline for an answer, and I love that she knows right off the bat that Mary Queen of Snots is not to be trusted.

This is a clever and fascinating story of children trapped as ghosts, and it offers explanations from every thing to what happened to the Twin Towers when they fell to why you see ghost repeating the same actions all the time.  If I’m lucky, someday I’ll write something as awesome as this 😉

“And next to Allie, the screamer, once more reminded of his job, began to wail in Allie’s ear. Reflexively Allie clapped her hand over his mouth. “That,” she said, “is totally uncalled for. Don’t do that again. Ever.” The screamer looked at her with worried eyes. “Are we clear on this subject?” said Allie. The screamer nodded and she removed her hand.
“Can I scream a little?” he asked.
“No,” said Allie. “Your screaming days are over.”
“Darn.” And he was quiet thereafter.”

And, since all of these so far have been Young Adult books (I know, shocker), here’s my favorite adult book read this year:

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

290 pages

Reminded me of: The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy, Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

6 brain on fireThis book is the true story of a girl that went from being relatively average and normal, to acting like a schizophrenic, to a practical waking coma all in the course of a month.  And the bizarre thing is that Susannah Cahalan doesn’t remember any of it.  She’s had to piece things together from friends and family, doctors, and tapes of her in the hospital, recording her outbursts and randomness for Susannah to uncover later, like an archeologist discovering bits of someone else’s life.  Really a fascinating read, and a little scary to tell you the truth.  You never know when your health might utterly fail you, and this book definitely makes you think about it.

“Someone once asked, “If you could take it all back, would you?”
At the time I didn’t know. Now I do. I wouldn’t take that terrible experience back for anything in the world. Too much light has come out of my darkness.”

DECEMBER
30 Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.
Dr. Seuss

seuss-big_12
DECEMBER
31 There are far, far better things ahead than those we leave behind.
C.S. Lewis
cslewis

DECEMBER
16 Jimmy Dugan: Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!
Doris Murphy: Why don’t you give her a break, Jimmy?
Jimmy: Oh, you zip it, Doris! Rogers Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pig shit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry?
Evelyn Gardner: No, no, no.
Jimmy: Yeah! NO. And do you know why?
Evelyn: No.…
Jimmy: Because there’s no crying in baseball. THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! No crying!
A League of Their Own

16 league fo their own
DECEMBER
17 These are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equaled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.
Alfred Hitchcock

alfred
DECEMBER
18 If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.
Gustav Mahler

16 Gustav-Mahler
DECEMBER
19 Sheldon: I made tea.
Leonard: I don’t want tea.
Sheldon: I didn’t make tea for you. This is my tea.
Leonard: Then why are you telling me?
Sheldon: It’s a conversation starter.
Leonard: That’s a lousy conversation starter.
Sheldon: Oh, is it? We’re conversing. Checkmate.
The Big Bang Theory

30 big bang theory
DECEMBER
20 A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books.
Chinese Proverb
DECEMBER
21-22 Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.
Michael Crichton

16 michael crichton
DECEMBER
23 The first draft of anything is shit.
Earnest Hemmingway

16 ernest hemmingway
DECEMBER
24 Narrator: A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really… “Do the stars gaze back?” Now that’s a question.
Stardust

stardust
DECEMBER
25 It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

16 Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer's_Stone
DECEMBER
26 Now I existed solely thanks to the quantum paradox, my brain a collection of cubits in quantum superposition, encoding truths and memories, imagination and irrationality in opposing, contradictory states that existed and didn’t exist, all at the same time.”
Robin Wasserman, Crashed

16 crashed
DECEMBER
27     “Why does it say she has three hundred and twenty friends?” Josh asks. “Who has that many friends?”
Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, The Future of Us

2future
DECEMBER
28-29 So long ago, I don’t remember when
That’s when they say I lost my only friend
Well they said she died easy of a broken heart disease
As I listened through the cemetery trees
The Wallflowers, “One Headlight”