DNF Reviews: Contemporary Edition

Maddy Spier has been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls.

Gabe can’t imagine skating with anyone but Maddy, and together they have a real chance at winning some serious gold medals. So, he’s determined to keep thinking of her like a sister. After all, he’s never had a romantic relationship that lasted for more than two weeks.

But when their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?

The Boy Next Door was my very first Swoons Read, and I sincerely hope it’s not representative of the imprint as a whole, because it was NOT swoony. I went in with such high expectations. Best friends and skating partners fight their feelings for each other? ADORABLE. The beginning lived up to the premise, too. We get a cute moment with tiny Gabe and tiny Maddy being adorable best friends then jump to the present where Maddy attends practice with Gabe and their expression-mangling coach Igor.

I started feeling uneasy about the time I realized that both characters already knew they loved each other. Sure, Gabe was at least trying to fight it, but there was no cluelessness , no squee-worthy Freudian slips, no sudden revelation, no life-changing epiphany. Maddy decides to make a hard sell for Gabe’s affections, which is fine, but wow, the execution left me cringing. Have some self-respect, woman. I knew I was in for a hard ride when she tells Gabe that she loves him… sixty-two pages into the book!! He’s already made it very clear that he doesn’t want to date her, and she’s declaring her undying love. Dude.

And just when I thought I couldn’t get any more uncomfortable, Gabe turns Maddy into a friends with benefits AFTER she declares that she doesn’t want to be like all the other girls Gabe goes out with (aka one night stands and friends with benefits.) She becomes his secret, someone he scratches an itch with in private and then practically ignores around friends and family. He stops thinking of her in terms of his best friend and the one person he trusts and cherishes most in his life and thinks of her in terms of body parts.

I wanted to shake them both. Maddy, girl child, he does not love you. He is using you to get his jollies. He refuses to acknowledge your existence as something other than a friend despite treating you in a very unfriendly manner. Gabe, pig boy, grow up. You say you care about Maddy? Don’t want to break her heart? She’s your best friend, your other half? Then bleeping care about something other than her tight bum and perky chest, yeah?

I pushed myself to keep going, hoping against hope that the story would turn around, but had to quit about the time that Maddy started doing a strip tease for Gabe in her bedroom window. This is not romantic. This is not swoony. Shae out.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.

Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.

Nngh. I thought the plot description sounded pretty cool. Two kids whose parents had an affair piece together their broken lives by becoming friends and falling in love? How quirky!

More like an ABC Family movie, one of those awful, soap opera-y ones where no one acts like a rational human being. First of all, the story starts the day that Abram and Juliette meet in a drugstore and decide to hang out. Why? Who knows! Personally, if my parent had an affair with a boy’s parent and said parents both died in a car crash together, said boy would not be my first choice as a random hang-out buddy. I was really looking forward to seeing a glimpse of what their lives were like before the truth came out and how both the truth and the car crash changed everything and then how both teens decided to cope with the aftermath. Instead it was like five pages of aftermath a year after and then BOOM! They’re totally hanging out in each other’s houses.

Not that I think a different setup would have gotten me to click with these characters anyways, but it couldn’t have hurt. Really, I don’t understand either protagonist at all. Abram’s voice felt off to me somehow. His words were too stilted, and his hobby of being Juliette’s creepy stalker boy was really off-putting. Like, he literally watches her every move, documents her every facial expression. It’s creepy. He takes medication for depression and… hallucinates? I think that’s what was going on in one scene. I’m not sure.

Juliette, on the other hand, faked ADHD to get meds after her mom died, calls her parents by their full names when describing them, and has some SERIOUS boundary issues. For instance, the very first time she goes to Abram’s house, he passes out on the couch, she admires his bare butt for a minute or two, and then she lets herself into his parents’ bedroom and starts throwing away all his dead dad’s stuff! AND ABRAM IS OKAY WITH THIS!

Add in the casual ableism (“… that one time I got all retarded…”) and racism (“that asian over there,” judging said girl “slutty” on sight), and I was 100% done.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

Knitting is a man’s game.

After an incident regarding a crossing guard and a bottle of Martini & Rossi (and his bonehead friends), 17-year-old worrier Ben Fletcher must develop his sense of social alignment, take up a hobby, and do some community service to avoid any further probation.

He takes a knitting class (it was that or his father’s mechanic class) under the impression that it’s taught by the hot teacher all the boys like. Turns out, it’s not. Perfect.

Regardless, he sticks with it and comes to find that he’s a natural knitter, maybe even great. It even helps ease his anxiety and worrying. The only challenge now is to keep it hidden from his friends, his crush, and his soccer-obsessed father. What a tangled web Ben has weaved . . . or knitted. 

You know movies like Home Alone or A Christmas Story with their awkward, sad sack boy protagonists and their awkward, somewhat nasty families? You know that kind of humor, the kind that’s based on the premise of “Everyone’s horrible and you’re horrible and everything in this movie is designed to make you squirm and feel slightly sick until you laugh?” Yeah, I hate those kinds of stories, and unfortunately, that’s exactly the kind of story this is.

I was kind of hoping Boys Don’t Knit would really challenge gender roles. I pictured Ben as an average teenage boy who works to accept that his stereotypical teen boy activities don’t clash with knitting as much as he thought. But the Ben in my head is not the Ben that I got. Ben is… well, he’s annoying. And awkward. And irritating. Basically, Ben is what would happen if you took an eighty-year-old woman (loves stamp collecting and The Antique Roadshow), added a heaping helping of “boys will be boys” testosterone-fueled thoughts (objectifies EVERY. SINGLE. WOMAN., including his middle-aged teacher with the snaggletooth), and distilled them all into Ritchie Tyler from The Pagemaster. Yeah, he’s THAT kind of nerd.

Basically, Boys Don’t Knit stuck me inside the head of a pervy, annoying dweeb and expected me to like it. Nopety nope nope.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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Top 10 Tuesday – Books I’d Read In An MWT Book Club

Happy happy joy joy! Today’s TTT prompt was all about book club books, but we were allowed to make up our own book club and then populate the list accordingly. Being who I am, I immediately created the Megan Whalen Turner Appreciation Book Club, a work of beauty that should totally exist in real life. I am in dead earnest about every single book on this list, so I strongly suggest you all start reading ASAP. Continue Reading →

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Review: THE WINNER’S CRIME by Marie Rutkoski

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

ABANDON ALL HAPPINESS, YE WHO ENTER HERE, FOR THIS BOOK IS NOTHING BUT PAIN.

Seriously, that’s it. That’s the whole review. Pain and suffering. You thought The Winner’s Curse hurt? Oh my child, you know nothing. I think I made maybe six notes for the entire book, and at least half of those were simply to mark new names so I wouldn’t forget later. Honestly, it’s hard to write when you’re rolling around in agony.

Note: Spoilers for the first book coming up. Continue Reading →

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Rewind & Review (77)

Rewind & Review

Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

*rolls around in good books* *wallows in epic television* *gives away evan more good books*

Stuff I Received

  • Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen
  • Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt (both from Bloomsbury)
  • Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein (from Disney Hyperion)
  • Joyride by Anna Banks
  • Tuck Everlasting (40th Anniversary edition) by Natalie Babbitt
  • Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson (all three from Macmillan)
  • Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (from RandomHouse via NetGalley)

Thanks to Bloomsbury, Disney Hyperion, Macmillan, and RandomHouse!

What I Read

 Trust Me, I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer – Already wrote my review. Check it out!

All That Glows by Ryan Graudin – This was a reread, and thanks to the Golden Globes, I kept picturing Eddie Redmayne as Richard. I approve.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan – My first Kane book, and I’m LOVING it so far!

I’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil – Started great, ended with a sad trombone noise. Review to come.

Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen – ASDFGHJKLKJHGFDSA MY HEART. Review to come.

A Court of Thorn and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – *zips lips* Review to come.

Event of the Week

PEACE OUT GIRL SCOUTS #byebyeHealthpark

A photo posted by Shaelit (@shaelit) on

Twooooo big events this week. First, I quit my job! Woohoo! It was sad saying goodbye to everyone, but I can’t wait to get to New York and dive into the publishing world. Anyone who wants to hang out, give me a nudge and I’ll let you know when I land. We can swap phone numbers!

The second big event is one I don’t have a picture for yet, because I’m still in the middle of it. As part of my moving preparations, I got to go visit my college roommates, which is always an event to remember. I love that I have such close friends even so long after graduation.

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What’s Your Winner’s Curse?

Everything has a price. Be it money, time, energy, or something else, everything costs something. In finances, advisors often talk about opportunity costs. The $10 you pay for that fancy bistro sandwich that you eat and then push out later in the day could have instead been spent on a gorgeous paperback that you carry with you for the rest of your life. (But you also need to eat, so the bite of an opportunity cost goes both ways.) Energy and emotion spent rereading The Winner’s Curse could have instead been spent, I don’t know, watching a lush ASPCA commercial over and over. (But oh, it’s such a beautiful pain.)

Honestly, opportunity costs is a concept I wish I’d never learned. I am a notorious skinflint. I pinch a penny until it screams for mercy. So when the brains over at Macmillan gave me a prompt for the book tour, I cringed: What is your winner’s curse?

“The winner’s curse” is another economic term that actually jumpstarted the entire series for Marie Rutkoski, as she explains in the preface to the first book in the series. The idea is that in an auction, if a bidder becomes too committed, they will continue to bid in order to win the item but end up paying more than the item is actually worth. It’s a fascinating psychological phenomenon that is explored through Kestrel and, to some extent, Arin in both books. My problem as a cheapskate is that I purposely aim to get the best deal possible, making a winner’s curse type situation my worst nightmare. Willingly falling under the winner’s curse is a nightmare. But for the sake of argument, here are a few things I could see being worth the winner’s curse:

My family/friends

I think this is pretty common for most people. The human race as a whole can be pretty stupid, but everyone has someone they’d go to war for. My level of commitment and involvement varies based on my ties to the person in question, but by the time a person reaches family level (either through actual familial ties or by being such a good friend that I’ve figuratively adopted them), and I will be your personal, fauxhawkified bouncer. Make my baby sister cry and I will break you. Disrespect my mother and you can see yourself to the door, sir, and make it snappy before I decide to help you out.

 Justice

I’m a rules person. I like rules. I like it when right and wrong is clearly defined and expectations are bluntly stated. I like knowing where I stand in relation to everyone else. I like fairness and equality and seeing the spirit of the law being honored just as much as the letter of the law. Rule-breakers drive me nuts, as do stupid rules that weaken whatever code of conduct they’re a part of.

Many times, my anger over a lack of justice circles back to my friends and family, because I can see those broken rules eventually hurting those I love, or I can put them in the place of the people being wronged and boy do I get fired up.

Books

Oh, books. Books are the one loophole to my cheapness. Some days my mom can’t get me to buy a new blouse to save my life, but give me a book sale, and I go hog-wild. I love to own them, to see them on my shelf with their pretty spines, to have them close at hand and ready at a moment’s notice. Granted, I try to limit my book buying to good sales and moments when I have a gift card at hand, but still. I buy a lot of books.

The first two might cost me friends and acquaintances who disagree… well, and so might the third, but I think the cost is justified. Do I really want to hang around people who don’t value the things I value? I don’t think so.

But what about you? What would YOU pay too much to have?

Tell me in the comments below and enter to win a copy of either The Winner’s Crime or The Winner’s Curse (your choice). Don’t worry. All it will cost you is a couple seconds of your time and (once you read the book) a whole lot of delicious squeeing and heart-clutching. The price is worth it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the rest of the tour for MORE chances to win, see the official Winner’s Trilogy website for more news about the trilogy, and watch out for The Winner’s Crime to hit shelves March 3rd!

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Why You Should Watch The 100

Once upon a time, a wide-eyed blogger went to BEA and got a whole stack of books. One of those books was a slender, white volume about criminal kids in space sent to explore a radioactive Earth. The blogger did not like the book. Fast-forward a year and some change, and the book is now a TV show. All of Twitter has gone mental over said TV show. The wide-eyed blogger was confused and wary. She gave into peer pressure. She watched the show. And now she’s going to school y’all on why you need The 100 in your life.

Seriously, I’m kind of obsessed with this show. I blame Gillian and her Bellarke tweets. (I’ll explain what a Bellarke is later.) The very brief synopsis is that Earth was destroyed by a nuclear war and the survivors fled to space and have orbited around Earth in a massive space station called the Ark. Now, decades later, the Ark is running out of air, so the Council has jettisoned 100 teenage criminals to the ground as guinea pigs to see if Earth is survivable. There are so many exciting twists and turns and plot threads that spin out of that basic concept, and I don’t want to ruin them all for you, but here are just a few reasons why I love this show. Continue Reading →

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Review: SOULPRINT by Megan Miranda

Alina Chase has been contained on an island for the last 17 years—whether that’s for the crimes of her past life, or for her own protection, well, that depends on whom you ask. With soul-fingerprinting a reality, science can now screen for the soul, and everyone knows that Alina’s soul had once belonged to notorious criminal, June Calahan, though that information is supposed to be private. June had accomplished the impossible: hacking into the soul-database, ruining countless lives in the process.

Now, there are whispers that June has left something behind for her next life—something that would allow Alina to access the information in the soul-database again. A way to finish the crimes she started.

Aided by three people with their own secret motivations, Alina escapes, only to discover that she may have just traded one prison for another. And there are clues. Clues only Alina can see and decipher, clues that make it apparent that June is leading her to something. While everyone believes Alina is trying to continue in June’s footsteps, Alina believes June is trying to show her something more. Something bigger. Something that gets at the heart of who they all are—about the past and the present. Something about the nature of their souls.

Alina doesn’t know who to trust, or what June intends for her to know, and the closer she gets to the answers, the more she wonders who June was, who she is, whether she’s destined to repeat the past, whether there are truths best kept hidden—and what one life is really worth.

If you want to get technical, I actually read Soulprint in the waning days of 2014. However, as the book won’t be released until February, I claim it as a 2015 book and already anticipate it showing up several times on my End of the Year Survey. Yes, it was that good. Continue Reading →

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Review: TRUST ME, I’M LYING by Mary Elizabeth Summer

Julep Dupree tells lies. A lot of them. She’s a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at Chicago’s swanky St. Agatha High, where her father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, sends her to so she can learn to mingle with the upper crust. For extra spending money Julep doesn’t rely on her dad—she runs petty scams for her classmates while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.

But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and her father gone, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, and her loyal hacker sidekick, Sam, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has at stake, Julep’s in way over her head . . . but that’s not going to stop her from using every trick in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her. Because that would be criminal.

I am such a sucker for con stories. Honestly, all a description needs is a whiff of a con, theft, or other form of illegal trickery to lure me in like blood to a shark. Of course, since I’m such a fan, con stories can be hit or miss for me. In this case, Trust Me had the dubious distinction of being both a hit and a miss. Continue Reading →

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Darcy and Pan and Eyre, Oh My!

I want to talk about a fantastic thing that is happening in the book community. Two years ago, Hank Green, Bernie Su, and Jenni Powell started a feed on YouTube called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD). Together with carefully selected actors, writers, assistants, and artists, they set out to retell Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a modern day vlog (video blog). There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of LBD or even watched some of the videos, because the series completely took off. The series was Kickstarted into a DVD, the actors went onto parts in other (non-web) arenas, and the feed was changed to Pemberley Digital, a fictional company that then retold other pieces of classic literature.

Wait, perhaps I should explain what I mean by a literary web series. Okay, some vocabulary. First of all, what is a web series? A web series is basically what it sounds like—a series of sequential videos that tell a story that is posted for public viewing on the web. Or, to quote Wikipedia:

Generally, the best place to find web series is YouTube, but they can technically be found anywhere online where videos can be saved and shared. Technically, a literary web series means any web series about a piece of literature, though really when most people talk about web series, they mean something like LBD—a scripted conceit in which a piece of literature is visually retold and reimagined in the modern day.

LBD changed things. I don’t know whether literary web series were a thing before, but they definitely are now. Companies and individuals alike are trying their hand at retelling a familiar piece of fiction in visual form for a wide audience. Whether or not literary web series were a thing before, they are A Thing now.

I tried to explain to my mom why literary web series are such an amazing thing, and the best explanation I could come up with was the ingenuity involved. This isn’t a bunch of high school kids wandering around in period costumes, drinking tea, and talking with bad accents. What a good literary web series attempts to do is take a beloved, familiar tale and recontextualize it in the modern era. So for instance, in the original Pride and Prejudice, we read about Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five daughters of a poor landowner and his meddlesome wife, and Ms. Bennet’s ever-changing relationship with the haughty and misunderstood Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. It’s a wonderful, romantic story set in the 1800s and full of scandal, romance, and witticisms. In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, we hear Elizabeth’s story from Lizzie herself as she attempts to record everyday life for her thesis project in grad school. In this story, her best friend is Charlotte Lu, is a film student who agrees to help her with the project, Bing Lee is a Harvard medical graduate, and William Darcy is a young, business-minded entrepreneur with a penchant for newsboy hats.

It’s so exciting to see how your favorite characters and scenes will be reimagined. Maybe Darcy’s cousin is actually black and named Fitz Williams. Maybe Lydia is a rambunctious redhead with a social media addiction. Maybe Mr. Collins is actually a geeky guy with a neckbeard. Maybe Kitty Bennet IS AN ACTUAL CAT.

Recently, I set about collecting all the literary web series I could find so that I could check them out at my own pace. I was tired of hearing about some amazing, new retelling and then forgetting before I could watch. And oh my gosh, what a fiesta that opened up. By my count, there are at least FIFTY literary web series being produced in some form at this very moment.

You can check out the entire list here, but I just want to pick out a few I’ve enjoyed and some I’m excited to check out.

Ones I’ve Watched:

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Duh. Of course. Watch it NAOW. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Emma Approved

This retelling of Emma is produced by Pemberley Digital and follows Emma Woodhouse, head of the matchmaking and lifestyle division of the developing Highbury Partner’s Lifestyle group. Basically, she’s Yenta meets the guy from The Kid. I love this retelling pretty much entirely for Knightley. Mmmm, Knightley.

East & West

East & West is a retelling of North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell, a.k.a. one of the most romantic stories you will ever read/watch in your entire life. Unlike the previous two series, this one seems to be produced by two individuals, and amateur individuals at that. However, it’s so lovely. There are only three videos up right now, and the only character we’ve met so far is Maggie Hale, but she’s lovely and has a wonderful accent. I have very high hopes for this series.

Ones I Want To Watch:

Elinor and Marianne Take Barton

Of all of the Sense and Sensibility retellings on the list, this one seems to be the most promising. It’s a bit amateur, but that’s okay. They have accents.

The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy

Confession: I think Peter Pan is creepy and more than a little sociopathic, and I think man-child characters are annoying. However, I watched the first episode of this retelling and both laughed and “awwww”‘d, so I’m definitely going to give it a chance.

The Autobiography of Jane Eyre

So the first video is really, um, emo hipster-ish, but I watched the second video, and it’s pretty nice. I’ve heard good things on Tumblr, and I can’t wait to see how they do Mr. Rochester and his history (*cough cough*).

Nothing Much To Do

I am not normally a Shakespeare person, but I’ve heard amazing things from Tumblr, and I liked the first episode. And oh my gosh, you guys. SHE’S A KIWI. Hi, my name is Shae, and I have an accent obsession.

In Earnest

This guy is cute. He has an amazing smile. The channel art implies that boys in suits may be a regular fixture. I’m in.

Some that aren’t out yet that interest me:

The Misselthwaite ArchivesThe Secret Garden retelling. Yay! Coming January 23rd!

Masked – Oooh, a Scarlet Pimpernel retelling. Yes, please. Coming Summer 2015!

Project AoGGAnne of Green Gables! Gilbert Blythe! GIMME! Coming… soon?

What about you, my people? Which of the series on the list have you seen? Which are your favorites? Are there any retellings you’d give your right arm for?

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