Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: "A Christmas Carol" Classic a Month #12


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
3 out of 5 stars

My final classic for 2012! I am so proud of myself for actually following thru with this particular goal. I've found (and refound) several new favorites and I almost feel edumacated lol. I will definitely be continuing it next year and I think I'll try another Jane Austen in January. So...how did I feel about this Christmas classic? It was kind of meh but I'm glad I read it. I don't think it would have been so "meh" if I wasn't so familiar with the story already though. It is a good story, full of meaning and symbolism and all that stuff but...all I could picture was Scrooge McDuck and Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit.

Scrooge is a curmudgeonly old man and quite wealthy. He has worked himself into such a pit of bitterness, that no one can pull him out. He sacrificed the love of his life, thinking his wealth and fortune and business would make him happy but as his nephew points out, it has not.

"Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough."
"What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."

For those who don't know the basic story (if anyone?): Scrooge is visited Christmas Eve night by his old business partner, Jacob Marley, who has been dead 7 years that day. Marley's ghost tells Scrooge that he will be haunted by Three Spirits and that he'd better pay attention or he will be doomed to haunt the Earth like Marley, wrapped in chains and tormented by his evil deeds. Scrooge is freaked, goes to sleep, and is woken at one in the morning by each of the three Spirits: The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. They each show him things about himself that he'd rather forget or not know at all. How he used to be happy, grew greedy, lost his family and loves, became the bitter old man he now is, and what will happen if he continues on this path.

Honestly, if you watch the Jim Carrey movie version, it's the closest adaptation I've seen in a while and you'll get the same feeling as reading the book. I loved old Fezziwig and the Spirit of Christmas Present was pretty cool, even with his whorly chestal hair and those icky kids under his robe. :p Christmas Past creeped me out in both the book and movie, too fidgety and the high-pitched voice made my skin crawl. Tiny Tim made me teary-eyed, bad and good. When Scrooge finally learns his lesson and vows to change, it made me cheer. The hope and joy he feels makes you want to change too, be a better person, give more, feel more. And I guess that's the whole point of this story, isn't it?

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach." "God bless Us, Every One!"

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas-Bookmas!

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday and enjoying your time with your loved ones (genetic or chosen). And I also hope you get lots of good books and the time to read them! :) I will be on a mini-break this week (because I didn't get my butt in gear ahead of time lol) but I hope to be back bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (I don't really have a tail) the first of the year.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyous Bookmas!!

Click to make bigger!
(click here for links)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Special Throw-Back Sunday Poem: "Yo Quiero Una Gata"

My senior year of high school, I decided I wanted a cat. Really, really bad. We'd had dogs before, but I wanted a cat. So, to convince my parents to get me one, I decided to write a poem. In Spanish. And, hey, it worked! :) I got my KuKu kitty a few weeks later and then we got two more cats in the subsequent years...turns out my whole family loved cats too. Now, as always, I'm not saying this poem is any good lol...but that's what makes it fun. Hopefully. Enjoy! (This was really hard to type in Spanish btw!)


Yo quiero una gata.
Una vaca gata
con los ojos verdes.
Yo quiero una gata.
Una negra gata
con se llama "Mojo".
Yo quiero una gata.
Una bonita gata
con largo pelo.
Yo quiero una gata.

I want a cat.
A cow cat
with green eyes.
I want a cat.
A black cat
with a name "Mojo".
I want a cat.
A pretty cat
with long hair.
I want a cat.

1-18-98

Thursday, December 20, 2012

TILT: Bookish Christmas Trees

Things I Love Thursday is going to be Christmas themed for one more week! :) How about some bookishly awesome trees? These are all from Pinterest, which as you may know, is hard to get links for. I've gotten (almost) all the links for the crafty book page trees, but have left the book sculptures out...but there are lots and lots of different book trees out there, if you are interested in making your own! (And I'd love to see pictures if you do!)

Click to make bigger!!
(if you do not want your picture on here, please contact me 
& I will take it down immediately!)

Starting in top left corner, clockwise:

Stacked Paper Christmas Tree on Scrapbook Abundance

Folded Book Pages Tree on Unknown?

Shimmering Stacked Trees on Martha Stewart (of course)

Paper Trees in Pots on Handmadeology

Sparkle Christmas Trees on Joyworks

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favorite Books of 2012

I thought this week's Broke & The Bookish Top Ten Tuesday topic would be easy, until I realized how many awesome books I've read this year! So, I'm letting Goodreads decide. :) Here, in rating & then date order, are my Top 10 favorite books of 2012 (excluding rereads & BSC books).

1. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery 5/5 stars --loooooved it!!

2. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher 5/5 stars --this was one that I decided I couldn't review, but it is such a moving, heartfelt story it still deserved 5 stars.

3. Sweet Thursday and Cannery Row by John Steinbeck 5/5 stars (Winter of Our Discontent and Tortilla Flat both got 4/5 stars) --I was so pleasantly surprised by my new found love for Steinbeck this summer. I'm considering tackling one of his larger books next summer.

4. Saga: Vol 1 by Brian K Vaughan 4/5 stars --I just read this one last week, by my dad's suggestion, and really enjoyed it. It takes a bit to get into, but I can't wait to get the next volumes from him. According to Goodreads, this is an "epic space opera/fantasy comic book series...which depicts two lovers from long-warring extraterrestrial races." Sounds awesome, right? It is!

5. Soul Screamers: Vol 1 by Rachel Vincent 4/5 stars --I just got the 2nd volume yesterday in the mail and I am sooooo excited to start it!

6. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han 4/5 stars --I read this one in an evening (late Saturday night, party animal) and it enchanted me and broke my heart a little.

7. Echo by Terry Moore 4/5 stars --a great sci-fi graphic novel with hints of romance and friendship.

8. Cinder by Marissa Meyer 4/5 stars --I just finished this one a few days ago. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next books (but not the long wait!) but...I didn't think it was THE book of the year like most people. :/

9. Key Trilogy by Nora Roberts 4/5 stars --it was nice to read some straight romance books again this summer and this series was a great one!

10.Endless Summer (2 books in one vol) by Jennifer Echols 4/5 stars --this felt similar to Jenny Han's series, but in a happier time, if that makes sense. More lightheartedness and scheming. These also helped introduce Echols to me as a new favorite author.


And the runner-ups that all had 4/5 stars as well...so many great books this year!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: "Shay's Story (Uglies: Graphic Novel #1)"

Shay's Story (Uglies: Graphic Novel #1) by Scott Westerfeld
3 out of 5 stars

I think this graphic novel, like the Vampire Academy, is best as a follow-up to the original series. If you enjoyed the Uglies series, I would absolutely recommend this. I'd say these would work well as a stand-alone too, unlike VA. This gn gives us most of the same story as book 1, but is told from Shay's point of view so we get some new story as well. I really enjoyed reading about her beginnings with the Crims, the kids that pull pranks on Pretties. And also her adventure to the Smoke and her relationship with David.

But. There's always a but. I felt like the drawing was lacking. Well, not the drawing itself, that was fine. But the execution of the drawing, if that makes sense. The whole point of this series is to show the huge difference between the Uglies and the Pretties. In the graphic novel, there is no difference. Okay, some of the kids are kind of average looking and Tally has weird hair, but Shay looks just like one of the Pretties with her super-long, gravity-defying hair. She looks exactly the same to me in the end when she has the operation. So that was irritating. It's not a deal-breaker for me though, so I'm excited to read the second book. And this is a super short review, so how about a few more pictures?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

TILT: Bookish Christmas Ornaments

Christmas-themed Things I Love Thursday continues this week with bookish ornaments...

(if you do not want to be linked, please contact me!)


Book Page Rosette Christmas Ornament by NeonLoveDesigns --I wish I could make those tiny roses. This is so cool!

Itty Bitty Book Ornament by WaterMarkBindery --so cute, it looks just like a real journal!

Book Ornaments by Moondropshop --I loooove these...you get a set of 9 and they're totally customizable. I would probably do the Harry Potter books lol...plus Anne of Green Gables and ....I don't know what else. :)

Pages of Book Covered Christmas Ornament by CraftyLady2420 --so simple and fun! And cheap enough that you could buy a whole bunch for a full book-themed Christmas tree!! Oooh...that would be fun.

And a bonus ornament from Sears...kind of expensive, but very pretty. And glittery. I like glittery.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review: "Kristy's Mystery Admirer: The Baby-Sitters Club #38"

Kristy's Mystery Admirer: The Baby-Sitters Club #38 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars

"Who is sending Kristy love letters?" I'll give you a hint...it's not Shannon Kilbourne. And it rhymes with "Cokie Mason"...oops, did I give it away? ;) This book was basically a repeat of Mary Anne's Bad Luck Mystery, just with Kristy this time. Kristy starts getting love notes from a secret admirer with sickening sweet poems and heart stickers (which she kind of likes) and she thinks they are from Bart, so she asks him to the Halloween Hop. Very forward of her. He says yes, they start hanging out and talking on the phone more, he walks her home from several of the Krushers/Bashers games, it's all good. (Except, you know, her liking girls and all.)

Then the notes turn sinister: "violets are blue, blood is red, I'll remember you when you are dead." And one has fingernail clippings in it, g-ross. Kristy freaks out and goes thru all sorts of scenarios: Bart's a psychopath (so she and Shannon both start ignoring him completely), someone is trying to kidnap her because her stepdad is a millionaire (even though it would be easier to steal Andrew, Karen or Emily), etc...all but the obvious: that cow Cokie Mason wanting revenge for last Halloween. Seriously, they even talk about it at lunch and a meeting one day, but don't even connect the dots!? "Remember last Halloween when this exact same thing happened? Gee, I wonder what this new thing is?" D-U-M. 

Okay, let's pause the sarcasm for a moment for What Claudia is Wearing: [Claudia is] a real fashion plate. Talk about distant. Her clothes are so distant. (That's a word my friends and I made up to mean supercool. [And to use approximately 60 times in this book.]) Claudia is the most interesting dresser I know. She is always wearing things like Day-Glo high-top sneakers, cut-up jeans, off-the-shoulder sweat shirts (sometimes torn), and friendship bracelets.

(click here for details)

Okay, so Kristy goes on ignoring Bart, coaching the Krushers, and freaking about the notes. Bart finally corners Kristy at home and demands to know what's going on. Kristy comes clean and shows him the notes, which he blushes and admits to...but only the nice ones. He has no idea where the other ones came from. Then, at the Krushers vs Bashers World Series (which is only one game btw and not technically a "series"), Cokie Mason and her skank BFFs show up, which is highly suspicious to Kristy. Duh, you think? Cokie says she is there to cheer Kristy on, because she's (Kristy) looked kind of down all week. Kristy says she's not down, she has a boyfriend and Cokie is like, "Uh yeah right?" Kristy's reply: "We plan to spend our lives together." What??? Lol...Cokie says some smart aleck remark about "eternal togetherness" which finally clues Kristy in that Cokie wrote the notes and she smacks her around...okay not really, she just says that she's going to tell the whole school it was Cokie. But, wouldn't that embarrass Kristy too? Anyway, Cokie slinks off, Kristy tells everyone she's not in danger of being kidnapped, a few people cheer, the Krushers actually beat the pants off the Bashers, Bart & Kristy go to the Halloween Hop as lobsters & Bart kisses Kristy in the middle of the dance floor. ZOMG!! And the BSCers + Shannon the human have another sleepover at Kristy's McMansion. The End.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Authors New to Me for 2012

This week's The Broke & The Bookish topic is all about new authors...to me. I thought I read more new authors than this, but I kind of had to dig.

1. John Green--I jumped on the bandwagon when TFIOS went crazy at the beginning of this year, but An Abundance of Katherines was my actual first John Green book in March. I have read TFIOS now, but I still need to review it. And I definitely want to try more of his books soon.

2. Jay Asher--The first book I read by Asher was The Future of Us, and while I liked it, it didn't blow me away, so I wasn't too sure about trying his other books. But then I decided to give Thirteen Reasons Why a chance. I am so, so glad I did. That book touched my heart and moved me so much, I don't think I would even be able to properly review it.

3. Jane Austen--It seems crazy that I had never read any Austen before now, but it's true. My very first "Classic a Month" back in January was Pride & Prejudice and I think I will start 2013 off with Sense & Sensibility. :) I have a feeling I will soon become one of those Austenites lol.

4. Rachel Vincent--The Soul Screamers series has apparently been out for a while, but I just found it this year. I really enjoyed Volume 1 and just (2 minutes ago) finally ordered Volume 2 on Amazon! :) It's a great, original paranormal series and I can't wait to see where it goes.

5. Jennifer Echols--even though I haven't reviewed any of the 3 books I've read this year by Echols, I really enjoyed them and have heard lots of good things about her other books. I'm excited to read more by her, if I can just find them! (They've been notoriously hard to find in the store for me!)

6. Jenny Han--another that I haven't reviewed yet, but I absolutely adored The Summer I Turned Pretty and enjoyed the 2 sequels as well. I read the first in one (long) evening and it made me cry like a baby, so you know it's good lol.

7. Bianca Turetsky--a great middle-grade, semi-fantasy, semi-historical author that I think is good at getting kids (girls) more interested in history. I'm really looking forward to more Time-Traveling Fashionista books!

8. LM Montgomery--okay, yes I've only read 1 book so far, but let me tell you...I am hooked. Anne of Green Gables was s'marvelous and the only reason I'm waiting to get the others is to see if I get them for Christmas lol. (hint hint!!)

9. John Steinbeck--this is really a rediscovered new author for me, but my "Steinbeck Summer" showed me several new sides of this author and I am so glad my sister recommended him to me for a classic.

10.Haruki Murakami--I don't think I'll ever have the full plot of 1Q84 figured out, but it was for sure one of my favorites of the year. (Another I still need to review gah!) I've heard so many great things about this author and his quirky writing skills, so I will be picking up more of his work in the future for sure.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Review: "The Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette"

The Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette by Bianca Turetsky
3 out of 5 stars

Although this sequel was not quite as good as the first Time-Traveling Fashionista, I still enjoyed it. The styling of these books is exquisite...gorgeous covers with equally pretty hard-bound books underneath and the illustrations throughout add an extra star to the story easily. My sister has threatened to steal this book for her room as well lol...I need to just go buy her some "pretty" books sometime!

It's a year after Louise's first adventure and she is still just as obsessed with vintage clothing and their stories, but she's also growing up and starting to like *whispers* boys more. Her BFF, Brooke, is turning 13 and Louise has to find the perfect outfit for her party and she knows just the place...the Traveling Fashionista Sale is back in town. She's a little apprehensive about it at first, because what if she goes back in time again? Or worse, what if she doesn't? Her dad has just lost his job and her parents can't afford to send her on the school trip to Paris, so of course, all she wants to do is go somewhere, do something, be somebody. This, more than anything, pushes her to the vintage sale and encourages her to try on a satin blue ball gown, even though the eccentric old ladies (sisters?) tell her not to try this particular dress. Louise is immediately transported back to 1770-ish France and into the body of Gabrielle, close friend of one Marie Antoinette. At least she didn't go back as Marie, although, according to the history section at the back of the book, Gabrielle didn't fair much better.

The descriptions of Petit Trianon (the castle "playhouse" of Marie and her friends), the fashions (Marie was the leading lady in those days), and the decadent food all help transport you back to that time. It also helps that I'm listening to the French Pop station on Accuradio while writing this hah! While the descriptiveness is still top-notch, the story itself is a bit lacking. Louise seems unsure of what's going on a lot of the time; considering she's already been through this once before, this seems odd. She tries to make Marie change her excessive spending and help the people of France, before she loses her head, but as on the Titanic, there's no use. There is a pleasant surprise though, when Louise/Gabrielle discovers another Time-Traveling Fashionista (or two?). I look forward to hearing more about the other specially chosen children in future books. Overall, this is a good sequel and I would recommend it for those interested in fashion, history, Paris, etc...with the caveat that they maybe read some true-life books on the events as well and learn how things actually happened. Turetsky bends the truth to suit her story-telling, which is fine, but sometimes the truth can be just as interesting. And now I'm done lecturing, how about a pretty picture to end this? ;)

(click here for links)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

TILT: Jewelry for Bibliophiles

Things I Love Thursday is continuing with the holiday gifts...how about some special jewelry made just for us book lovers? :)



Stack of Books Locket by 1LuckySoul --this one is actually sold out right now, but it looks like they bring it back quite often. Plus, there's lots of cool Hunger Games & Harry Potter necklaces too!

Reading Definition Silver Bracelet Cuff by COGnitiveCreations --this bracelet is really awesome...I love the curve of the band and the open book on top!

Wire Wrapped Book Worm Ring by 1ofAkinds --so cute and simple! I'm totally jealous of their skills: whenever I try to do any wire work, it just ends up looking like twisted intestines lol. Hey, maybe I should sell intestine rings!? Nah....

Alcott Pendant Charm by HomeStudio --I love this quote, it perfectly describes me lol.

Bonus Links: This Shakespeare Charm Bracelet by Sophiesbeads is so pretty. I love the colors they used for the books & be sure to check out the rest of their shop! (Harry Potter!!)

And....planning on asking your bibliophile for her bookish hand in marriage? Guarantee she'll say yes if you use this Sterling Silver Literature Book Ring by MAVAStyle. :)) That's like, wow.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: "Anne of Green Gables" Classic a Month #11

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
5 out of 5 stars

Okay, so one of my online crafty friends mentioned this book a while back and how it was her favorite and so good, etc. It intrigued me, since I've never read it, so I picked it up last time we were at HPB. I got bored with Romeo & Juliet (which was supposed to be my November classic) so I started reading this and got totally hooked. By page 11, I was giggling out loud, thanks to this quote: "Matthew dreaded all women except Marilla and Mrs. Rachel; he had an uncomfortable feeling that the mysterious creatures were secretly laughing at him." By like page 33, I was telling my sister it was the best book ever. And when I reached the ending, I was crying and wondering why no one had ever made me read this before. Seriously y'all, I don't know why it took me so long. I can't wait to get the other books, but I'm worried about where it will go after the ending. Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself. What if some of you haven't read it yet either?? Let's start from the beginning and maybe I can convince you to try it! :)

Here's what I knew about this book before I started: there was a red-headed girl. Named Anne. And she lived on/in something called Green Gables. Heh. Oh and it's really old. The book is set in the early 1900s in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island in Canada. I didn't even know it was in Canada. It starts out with Mrs. Rachel, the town gossip, seeing Matthew Cuthburt going into town in his nice clothes unexpectedly. So she goes over to Green Gables, the Cuthburt's farm, and talks to Marilla to find out the news. Now, let me tell you first off, so you aren't totally shocked like I was: Matthew and Marilla are brother & sister, not married. You may be laughing at me, but I was totally flabbergasted. I didn't find this out til after I'd finished the book and was reading other reviews on Goodreads. I just don't understand this, how do they know? It's never mentioned, that I can remember, and I just went back and reread the first 10 pages to see if I missed it. I can't remember the last time a book shocked me like that. Anyway, Marilla tells Rachel that they have decided to adopt an orphan boy to help Matthew around the farm, because he's getting older (both are in their late fifties-sixties). Rachel thinks this is the most ridiculous idea ever, mostly because they didn't talk it over with her first. Marilla is just like "whatever, we're doing this, get over it."

Matthew gets to the train station and is dismayed to find a knobby-kneed, red-headed, freckled, little girl where his boy is supposed to be. Wait!! I just found where they say they're siblings...the train guy says it. Okay, I feel better. ;) Alright, so there was apparently some kind of mixup and there's this girl waiting for Matthew instead of a boy. He can't exactly leave her there, especially because he would have to explain what happened and he can't really talk to girls (like Raj on Big Bang Theory), so he decides to just take her home and let Marilla handle it. The girl is Anne (saw that coming, didn't ya?) and she is 11 years old and woo-boy, is she a talker. She talks nonstop nearly the whole way home, about anything and everything. But it's not irritating chatter like some people, at least not for Matthew. He quickly becomes enchanted with the imaginative young girl and decides, in his quiet way, that he wants to keep Anne. I mean, really, how could he not after this:

Oh, it seems so wonderful that I'm going to live with you and belong to you. I've never belonged to anybody-not really.

Marilla, of course, takes a little more convincing. She is a strict, no-nonsense, sensible woman and has no use for a flighty, dreamer girl like Anne. But she is also kindhearted, strong, loyal, and has a sense of humor deep down. And she's eventually won over by Anne's charms and agrees to let the girl stay. But she is going to raise her right, by Gosh, and Matthew has no say in the matter. Which is okay by him, now he can spoil her every now and then without worrying about it. I really love both Marilla and Matthew as much as Anne. Matthew was an instant love; he's just so quiet and shy and dependable, you can't help it. When he decides to buy Anne a new dress with puff sleeves, so she can be just as (if not more) pretty as the other girls, he just about broke my heart with his sweetness. Spoiler for the end of the book (highlight to read): I figured at least one of the siblings would die by the end of the book, but I thought it would be Marilla. So when Matthew died suddenly, I was so sad. I had tears in my eyes for the rest of the book. I grieved with Anne and Marilla, and like Anne says I can't cheer up — I don't want to cheer up. It's nicer to be miserable! /end spoilers

I didn't expect to love Marilla too, but she turned out to be such an important character, I'd say second only to Anne, that I started looking forward to her thoughts and actions too. Maybe because I read this as an adult I was able to sympathize with her more and see her side of things. She didn't want this child in her life, but there she was. She was determined to make a decent human out of her, no matter what, and love didn't always equate into that. But Anne's tenacity, dramatics, and love of life all made Marilla love the child just as much as Matthew did. 

She makes me love her and I like people who make me love them. It saves me so much trouble making myself love them. (Marilla didn't actually say this quote, but it still works for her and me!)

I've talked so much about the characters already, but what about the story itself? It's a simple one: the trials and tribulations of an energetic child growing up in a small country town. Anne is incredibly smart, even with her upbringing, and she obviously loves making up stories. People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?” I think anyone with a big imagination is bound to be smarter than average, don't you? Anne is sent to the local school and immediately makes friends and enemies. Diana lives on the farm closest to her and the two girls become best friends and "kindred spirits" from their first meeting. Or before their first meeting, on Anne's part. I was so pleasantly surprised to see their friendship last the entire book, with no fights. Maybe that'll change in later books? I hope not. 

And then there's Gilbert Blythe. A handsome young man who makes the mistake of calling Anne "Carrots", bringing to everyone's attention the one thing she hates most about herself...her flaming red hair. Anne vows to hate him forever (after smashing him over the head with a chalk tablet hah!!) and she succeeds for a good four years or so. She's got determination, I'll tell you that. They get into a sort of competition over the years for best student, both at the tiny school and at the larger teacher's certification school they both attend at age 16. I'm very intrigued to see where their relationship goes in the future, obviously there will be some sort of romance, but I'm sure it will be fraught with tears, laughter, and dramatic fights. Oh, I can't wait. ;)

“It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Want Santa to Bring Me

Aw...I like this week's Top 10 topic on The Broke & The Bookish! :) I always ask for books for Christmas and gift cards to bookstores and I have about 80 books on my to-buy list, so this should be pretty easy.


1. The rest of the Anne of Green Gables series --I just read the first one last week for the first time ever and OMG I LOVED IT!! I started out reading Romeo & Juliet for my November classic, but then I picked this up in the middle and ran with it. I don't care if the rest of the series is the same (although this box set is very pretty lol), I just want the rest! I'll be reviewing the first one this week too, so yay!


2. Soul Screamers Vol 2 by Rachel Vincent --after I reviewed the first volume the other day, it really made me want to get the next. It just came out recently, but I can't find it in the stores arg!! I'm about to order it on Amazon lol.

3. Fear (Gone #5) by Michael Grant --is this out in paperback yet? I hate buying a series in different formats but I hate waiting too.

4. The Absolute Sandman Vol 3 by Neil Gaiman --a gorgeous, huge, heavy set of the Sandman comics. I have the first 2 and have been waiting to reread them, but OMG there's 5 volumes ugh. More waiting.

5. The Mark Reads Harry Potter books by Mark Oshiro --Mark read HP for the first time in 2010, one chapter a day, and posted his thoughts along the way. It's awesome and hilarious and heartbreaking.

6. Delirium's Party: A Little Endless Storybook #2 by Jill Thompson --this is the 2nd in Thompson's Little Endless, based on Neil Gaiman's, and I love it just as much as the first!

7. The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols --I read her Boys Next Door double book over the summer and loved it and then read the snippet of this one in the back. It intrigued me but now I can't find it anywhere, even the library.

8. Frostbite: Vampire Academy Graphic Novel #2 by Richelle Mead --just cause I want to see if I like it more than the 1st.

9. Last Breath: Morganville Vampires #11 by Rachel Caine --cause I really want to see what happens next.

10.Unwholly by Neal Shusterman --I really enjoyed Unwind and I keep meaning to pick this one up, but I haven't.


Don't forget to check out my Christmas book giveaway! Ends tomorrow! :)

Review: "Lords of the Underworld" & "Black Dagger Brotherhood" #9's

These two books/series fit together nicely, so I thought I'd review the latest ones I've read together. Both were #9, which is even nicer. I like symmetry. :) I'll do a quick overview for each series and then review the actual book, just in case you haven't read or heard of them. And if that's the case, I would definitely recommend them to fans of YA paranormal who are maybe looking for a more "adult" story. Because, while these are both considered paranormal fantasy, they are very much adult books with "adult" relations. Woo. Lol...

Lords of the Underworld by Gena Showalter
The Darkest Seduction #9
4 out of 5 stars (3.75/5 for the series overall)

The "Lords of the Underworld" are a group of immortal men (and a few women) who were, at one time, warriors for the Greek gods. They did a bad, bad thing and let loose the demons from Pandora's Box. As punishment, they were each stuck with a demon for eternity. What kind of demon, you ask? Well, violence, disease, death, pain, doubt, lies, and disaster are a few. Fun times, right? It took the lords several centuries to get themselves and their demons under control, during which there was lots of destruction and mayhem on Earth. Of course, there are Hunters constantly looking for them, trying to get their demons back into Pandora's Box. But if they are killed without the box there, their demon is set free on the world again. That's no good. So the Lords and Hunters are constantly fighting, naturally. Throw in some Greek and Titan Gods and some other magical creatures occassionally and that's pretty much the main conflicts of the stories.

A small group of the Lords have settled in Budapest, in a huge, old castle on top of a cliff. They've got top-notch security and are relatively happy living in seclusion...until all these girls start showing up and they start pairing off, one by one. Each book centers on one of the Lords and his "happily ever after". How romantical. And that's pretty much all you need to know if you haven't read these yet. So, spoilers abound after this! ;)

This story focuses on Paris, that sexy, hair-tossing, pheremone-releasing warrior possessed with Promiscuity. Yowza. Paris' demon is nicknamed Sex because he needs it to survive and he doesn't care who helps him. He also has the unfortunate liability of only being able to "bed" a person once and only once. Luckily for him, he's not riddled with Promiscuity and Disease...or Procreation lol. Until he met Sienna, a Hunter, a few books back. She's the only one he's been aroused for more than once and is now convinced she is his better half. Only problem is, she's kinda dead. Or was. He's been looking for his girl for a few books now and has taken his search to the Heavens, where it's rumored that Cronus, King of the Titans, has her stashed.

Paris meets up with Viola, another Immortal, to try and get some answers about Sienna. Viola is cursed with Narcissism and quite annoying at first. She "screeches" (tweets) on her pink, glittery phone all the time...the concept is bad but this quote made me giggle like a teenager lol. "Lord of Sex is filthy and looking to score. I'm not interested, but should I help him rack up points with someone else?" But she kind of grows on you after a while, especially when she starts annoying all the Lords left back at the castle. Lots of things happen at the castle, including Galen (one of the "bad" guys) stealing Ashlyn, the super-preggo wife of Maddox. Viola kind of helps Legion, the little demon girl, and grows a little in the process. I'm sure Viola will find her "one true love" by the time the series is over. Kane maybe? That's the only problem with this series...she keeps introducing more and more characters. Is the series ever going to end??

Anyway, Paris finds Sienna pretty quickly, with the help of William (who might be some sort of God and has truly awesome hair) and Zacharel (an angel determined to keep Paris & Sienna apart). There's lots of steamy scenes between the two and also some mega fighting. Oh and did I mention the steamy scenes? ;) I think what made this book so great (besides the steaminess lol) was that it wrapped up most of the ongoing plotlines by the end. I was actually pretty surprised by the ending and while doing this review, I've reread most of the book lol so I'm really looking forward to the next one now. But alas, it won't be out until next year. Bah.


Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward
Lover Unleashed #9
3 out of 5 stars (4.25/5 for the series overall)

This series is about vampires, so it's kind of been done to death (get it? death? heh), but these are some seriously bad-ass vampires lol. And hawt. We start out with 6 "brothers" who have fought together for centuries and are reluctantly led by Wrath, the last purebred vamp left, who also just happens to be mostly blind. Not that you would know it, because dude knows all kinds of stuff and still fights with his brothers. They all have weird names like Phury, Zhadist, Rehvenge, Vishous, etc...and lots of new made up words like "doggen" (servant), "Shellan" (female mate), and such. It takes some getting used to, but it's not too bad. They are very modernized vamps though: huge high-tech mansion with massive amounts of security and lots of fancy cars with rap/rock music blasting.

The Brotherhood's enemies are Lessers...gross, pale guys who smell like baby powder. Uck. I hate the smell of baby powder and yes, I know I'm like the only person in the world probably who does. ;) These Lesser guys gave me the serious heebies. The brothers fight on the streets a lot, saving the city from evildoers, killing the Lessers, and then they go clubbing in their "shit-kickers and leathers". Woo. Some of the brothers have already been mated at the beginning of the series, but for the most part, each one gets his own book and HEA. Since this is a "Brotherhood", this series is obviously mostly about the boys, but this latest book is technically about a female warrior. And I can't say much more, so on to the spoilers!

I say technically, because the better half of the book is taken up with finishing off Vishous' previous story and is actually what bumped it up a star for me. Payne, Vishous' twin sister, is the leading lady in this book, but...eh. Her and Manny's story just didn't do much for me. I, like pretty much everybody else, was mostly just interested in whether Vishous & Butch would go "there" and when we were going to get to see some Quinn & Blay action. Not really a spoiler: They kinda did and not for another 4 months bah.

Payne has been kind of flash-frozen for a really long time by her mother, the Scribe Virgin. (A kind of Goddess, religious-type, all-knowing person for the vamps.) She is obviously a little peeved at Mom and decides to take her aggressions out in her training fights with Wrath. But then she gets seriously hurt, Wrath freaks, and brings her back to the mansion so Ghost Doc Jane (Vishious' lady) can help her. Jane can't do everything though, so she decides to go to her former, human, boss Manny. Only problem is, Manny thinks Jane has been dead for a year and is still grieving over his friend. When Jane shows up, it takes Manny a minute to freak out, but once he gets over his shock, he's on board. And of course, as soon as he sees Payne, he's like "mine mine mine". Whatev. Don't these guys ever go on a few dates first, see where things lead, let the relationship mature?

So, Manny does his best to fix Payne but she's pretty much paralyzed from the waist down and is so depressed she considers killing herself. Manny has had his memory erased after the surgery but it's having bad side effects for him and he starts going downhill too. The only thing saving him is his racing horse and the dreams he keeps having about the mysterious black-haired chick. Jane convinces Vishous that Manny is needed for Payne's recovery, so he's brought to the mansion and the two start falling in love. Yuck. ;) Having been locked up for hundreds of years, Payne doesn't know much about anything, especially s-e-x. Manny uh...teaches her a few things and they find out that thru uh...pure happiness...she kind of glows and starts healing her legs. So there's lots of teaching and lots of pure happiness and lots of healing going on here.

Of course, Vishous is pissed and says "no way. I'm the man of the family. You can't date a human. Blah blah blah." Manny pretty much agrees and tells Payne they can't be together. She goes out into the city, fights some Lessers, and gets kidnapped by these rogue vamps called the "Band of Bastards". Yeah, really. They're apparently going to be big in future books and technically, they're bad guys, but I don't think that'll last for too long. This felt like a middle book for me...sort of combining two parts of the story, building up to new storylines, but not really going anywhere. Hopefully the next one will be better.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Special Throw-Back Sunday Play: "The Bubble Barrier"


I thought it'd be nice to do another throw-back Sunday post today. :) This is a play I co-wrote in 6th grade, I believe. And it's quite morbid lol...I'm not sure what the assignment was or what our grade was, but I like to think we did well. Sure, let's go with that. At least I used pretty pink and purple ink. And bonus points for these names, right? Hah!

The Bubble Barrier

Narrator-Because of the extreme air pollution on Earth today, Density Mauve, Tranquility Black, Auchasia Red, and Felicity White move to an underwater bubble barrier near the Great Barrier Reef. As their journey begins, they are making their bubble home.

Density-I want the curtains to be mauve.

Felicity-I don't think so darling, they're going to be white! (Felicity exits right to get the food.)

Tranquility-Black is always a nice change.

Auchasia-I think they should be blood red.

Density-Fiddle-dee-dee, there aren't any windows!

Auchasia-Therefore we need no curtains, Dense!

Tranquility-Come on you guys. Don't argue! The food will be here soon! (The three girls cross to stage left and sit at a table as Felicity enters with four plates of hot food.)

Density-Goody-goody gumdrops! Here she comes with our dinner!

All to Density-Duh!

Felicity-Is everyone's steak alright?

Auchasia-(biting into steak) Hey, wait a minute! Mine's cooked. You know I like mine very raw!

Felicity-Oh, I'm truly sorry!

Auchasia-I'm going to get another steak...raw! (Auchasia exits right and the girls continue talking.)

Tranquility-I bet she brings us back some Dr. Peppers. She's so thoughtful!

Density-Yeah right! (Auchasia comes back in with a raw steak and four Dr. Peppers.)

Tranquility-See, I told you so Density! (They finish eating and, suddenly, they begin to feel sick.)

Felicity-I don't feel so spiffy, you guys!

Density-Who cares about being clean! I feel sick!

Auchasia-She means she feels sick! (They suddenly pass out and a strong, green smoke fills the room. When they wake up, there are bubbles on their stomachs where flesh used to be.)

Felicity-For heaven's sake! I do believe we've been poisoned by the food.

Tranquility-Let's go check it out! (very slowly, they exit to the cellar, where the food is kept.)

Density-I don't think I'm going to make it you guys!

Auchasia-Look over there! (Pointing towards a wall.) What's that stuff dripping through the wall?

Felicity-Something has eaten straight through the barrier!

Density-I wonder what it is......I'll taste it and see!

Tranquility-No, don't! It could kill you!

Auchasia-Oh, come on! Can't we let her?

Felicity-That wouldn't be too grand of us, now would it? Auchasia, you're so interested in knowing what it is, you taste it!

Auchasia-No way!

Density-Wait a sec! I feel brain power coming on! Why don't we just smell it?

Tranquility-Obviously, you don't feel much of it! Yeah, if we smelled it, we'd probably get a big buzz and make matters worse!

(As they are standing there thinking about what to do, water flows into the room, and they all drown.)(Soon the sharks come, and try to eat them, but the acid makes them taste horrible, so the sharks leave. Then the acid eats the rest of their deformed bodies.)

The End!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Giveaway!

Time for another giveaway woot woot! Okay, no more wooting, sorry. :) There is going to be 1 winner for 2 sweet books, both Christmas/wintery related plus whatever Christmas goodies I can find around the house lol. These are 2 of my favorite books and I hope you will like them too and maybe check them out, even if you don't win! This is open to eeeeeveryone this time, US and International, so be sure to enter! And what exactly are you winning here?

First, is a cute little middle grade book called Confessions of a Bitter Secret Santa. Yes, I know it looks kind of cheesy, but I promise it's a cute story! Noel is a young girl who loves Christmas usually, but this year is kind of the pits. Her mom is preggers again, they aren't doing any of their usual traditions, her crush doesn't know she exists, and she gets a bad partner in her English class' Secret Santa project. And to top it all off, her Secret Santa is not living up to her expectations...can she make Christmas merry and bright again?

And second, The Thing About Jane Spring, which is one of my favorite books. My sister, the nonreader, adores it too. Jane is a tough, no-nonsense lawyer who is happy with her life...except for one part. She can't get a man and she has no idea why. In the middle of an old movie marathon during a snowstorm, she gets the answer: Doris Day always got the guy. So, being an "all or nothing" kind of gal, she decides to do a complete lifestyle change. We're talking makeover, her voice, her attitude, her home, everything. Will Jane get her man? Was he already there and she didn't even know it? What will her military father and brothers think?


And here's how to enter and rules:

1. Must be 18 years or older OR have your parents' permission, since you know, I'll need your address.
2. This is open to everyone!
3. You must be following my blog and/or my twitter (@SeeJennRead) to enter
4. Comment on this post (tell me your favorite Christmas/Holiday book!) 
OR RT my Twitter message for this contest to officially enter. (I will check to see that you are following me.)
5. One comment/Twitter entry per person please. (I will count the blog & Twitter entries in order by the time stamp.)
6. Contest will run from Noon CST Friday, November 30, 2012 thru Noon CST Tuesday, December 4, 2012. I like short and sweet giveaways. :)
7. I'll use Random.Org to pick a number to coordinate with the amount of entries and winner will be announced on Wednesday around 3:00 pm. 
8. I will ship the winner's package out on Thursday (provided I have the address) and provide a tracking number if needed. Package will go out priority shipping if within the US. Once package is shipped, I am not responsible for replacing lost or stolen.
9. If I do not receive the winner's address within 2 days, I will pick another winner and so on.
10. When the winner receives their books, they must read them thoroughly and enjoy the holiday fun. :)

Please feel free to email me at seejennread@yahoo.com or Twitter message me @seejennread if you have any questions!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

TILT: Book Lover Gifts!

It's a few days less than a month away from Christmas...are you prepared? Yeah, me neither. But don't worry! I've got lots of fun gift ideas for the book lovers in your life for the next few Things I Love Thursday. Or, buy them for yourself from your husband/wife/kids/boss/BFF. And don't forget to thank them! ;) What's your favorite non-book gift to get for a reader?



Persuasion Book Scarf by Storiarts --this is so neat, my sis actually found it on Pinterest! Be sure to get it fast though, because it looks like they sell out very quickly! (They may be taking custom orders again sometime next year too, so bookmark the site!)

Book Lover eReader Cover on Amazon --if I ever got an eReader, I would definitely get one of these! So  sneaky lol.

Books Candle on Assouline --mmm...book smell. :)

Love Books Tote by AijoEcoTotes --I love that the books are saying "love" and the cute fabric!

(found on wordpainting; not sure of original source...
if you know, please contact me & I'll fix!)


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: "Dawn & The Older Boy: The Baby-Sitters Club #37"

Dawn & The Older Boy: The Baby-Sitters Club #37 by Ann M Martin
2 out of 5 stars

Ugh. This book should have really been called "Dawn & The Pedophile". Seriously, this guy looks about 35 on the cover. He's supposed to be 16. O.o And the inconsistencies on the cover are really bad this time. The scene this is showing from the book: there was no mention of random kids wandering around, Dawn did not have his jacket on, they both ate grilled cheese sandwiches, and oh yeah, he didn't look like her dad!! Lol...

Okay, so the BSCers are at Kristy's McMansion, having a sleepover and trying out new hair and makeup styles. Stacey is fixing Mary Anne's hair and I don't know if I've said this before, but Stacey can be a real b-----. Mary Anne isn't crazy about it and Dawn says it looks nice, but she doesn't have to wear it that way every day. "She should. It's a big improvement," Stacey said flatly. Whoa. What's with that? I think her diabetes is (are?) making her cranky. The girls finally go to sleep, Kristy under her "fluffy pink quilt" (um consistency checkers? Kristy wouldn't be caught dead with anything fluffy or pink in her room!). The next morning, Mary Anne wakes everyone up at 11 because Kristy's parents are cooking breakfast for like 16 people and it would be rude to keep them waiting. Whatever Mary Anne. They don't bother getting cleaned up, because it's just Kristy's brothers and sisters. Um, wouldn't Stacey at least have made herself presentable since she had such a huge crush on Sam? 

So of course, there's this hot new guy sitting at the table and Dawn falls in LUV with him immediately. He's hot, eating granola, and from sunny California!! They are total soulmates. The girls quickly back out of the kitchen, making some lame excuse about leaving the curlers on upstairs lol. They take about an hour to make themselves presentable, but luckily the guys are still there and Dawn has a conversation with Travis, the hot old(er) guy. He tells her that she should wear blue all the time because it brings out her eyes. Um, red flag #1. Oh and at the very beginning, we have a What Claudia is Wearing! Ready? 

Claudia's one of those people who can wear anything and get away with it. Today, for example, she had stuck to two colors: black and white. Black cotton bib overalls over a white turtleneck with a shiny black patent leather belt looped around her waist. Black suede ankle boots and white cotton socks. Long black hair swept off her face with giant white plastic barrettes. Anyone else would look like a penguin in that get-up, but Claudia looked great. "What do you think?" she asked, holding up a white hoop earring next to her face. "Too much?" "Maybe just a little." The earring was the size of a doorknob. 
(click here for details & links)

So Dawn is totally obsessed with Travis now and tries to bring him up in every conversation possible, much to Kristy's annoyance. Because she has no use for boys lol. Then, the next weekend, Travis shows up at Dawn's house (red flag #2), in his car, and talks to her (mostly about himself, #3) and gives her a necklace and hair combs (4). Then he tells her she should wear her hair pushed back off her face & maybe get a haircut (5-6). This guy. *Shakes head* Bad things.




The side story in this one, which just happens to coincide with Dawn's story, is about James Hobart, who is still having trouble with the local boys. He has written a play (pretty awesome for an 8 year old) and wants to rehearse it, along with his two younger brothers and the super-talented Perkins girls. Oh and Chewy, the monster-sized, lovable dog that always gets in trouble, is the star of the play. That sounds smart. So they're practicing, when James' friend, Zach, shows up. You remember Zach, right? The jerk who made fun of Susan, the autistic girl? I guess he showed up again, after all. I think they changed the spelling of his name though, lol. Zach tells James that he is never going to get friends if he doesn't stop being such a weirdo and playing with girls. And he needs to spend more time with the guys on his skateboard and stop calling his mother 'mum'. James tells him off the first time it happens, but the second time he goes along with Zach and abandons his play. Which prompts Mary Anne to write this long, stupid letter in the club notebook to Dawn comparing the two situations. Really, Mary Anne, that is not what the club notebook is for. 

Okay, back to the semi-stalker relationship. Travis picks Dawn up after school one day (what are we on, #7?) and she goes with him, without talking to her mom. They go shopping, he picks out her lunch (8), buys her some earrings and almost convinces her to pierce her ears again! (OMG #9!) When Dawn gets home, her mom & Richard are waiting for her and are not happy, to say the least. Richard thinks it's absolutely ridiculous for Dawn to be dating a 16 year old, and her mom thinks it might be okay, but doesn't like all the attention he is giving her. They agree to let her see him again, as long as they meet him first.

But that doesn't really matter because Kristy drops a bomb at the next BSC meeting that Travis is hooking up with this hot, red-headed lifeguard at school (who likes to wear trendy outfits like Claud & Stace, like a white cotton flight suit) (red flag #whatever, it's too late for this dude). Dawn is devastated and does what any self-respecting teen would do...she follows the couple one afternoon after school. She's pissed when he takes the girl to the same restaurant and store that they went to, but she's horrified when they make a detour to make-out on a park bench. He never did that with her! Dawn tells the whole story to the BSCers and they feel bad for her, but don't think it's that big of a deal, since they weren't really going out. Mary Anne tries to make her feel better by telling her about Logan's cousin, Lewis, who is going to be visiting in a few weeks (foreshadowing) and might want to meet Dawn. Dawn's like, whatev, how could I like a boy when I've been with a man hah. 

Dawn decides to confront Travis about what a giant rhymes-with-poosh he's been and how she doesn't have to change, because she's totally awesome. Of course, he doesn't think he did anything wrong, because that's how giant pooshes are lol. But Dawn feels better and starts to get a little interested in this Lewis guy, because Mary Anne wrote him all about her. (That's not invasive at all.) And the end...until we see Travis on the news for molesting some girl. :P

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2013

This week's Top10 was actually kind of hard for me...I couldn't find a lot of new releases that I knew for sure that I was going to read. Maybe I was looking in the wrong lists lol. So, I decided to split it into the 5 new releases that I know I will read and then 5 series that I want to start in 2013 and I'm sure some of those will probably have new books too. I actually have the first books in these series too, so I need to get cracking! Lol...

1. Isla & The Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins --I've already seen this on several lists this morning and I am just as excited as they are about it!! :) I loved Anna & Lola so much and I think I'll have to a reread before Isla comes out! That will be a perfect birthday month!

2. Just One Day by Gayle Forman --also on lots of lists, I've already heard great things about this.

3. Light: Gone #6 by Michael Grant --even though I haven't read the 5th one yet (waiting for paperback), I still can't wait to hear how this amazing series ends.

4. Lords of the Underworld #10 by Gena Showalter --I love this series so much, so I'm always anticipating the next one.

5. Black Dagger Brotherhood #11 by JR Ward --I still need to pick up #10 in this one, but I am soooo looking forward to #11. :) Also, look for a review of BDB & LOTU #9 in the next week lol.

6-10 Series that I want to start. :) These are all such pretty covers...do you ever display your books? How? I feel like some of these should be shown off somehow.  Hmm...I will have to think on that.



Delirium                                 Cinder                            Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Wither                                                            Gemma Doyle 

ETA: Dang, I forgot to add my Important Announcement! Come back this Friday for news of a Christmas giveaway!! :D It will be open to everyone, everywhere so stay tuned!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: "Echo"


Echo by Terry Moore
4 out of 5 stars

Ah...Terry Moore. One of my favorite graphic novel authors. When my dad loaned this to me back in the summer, it took me a while to actually pick it up (mostly because the complete edition weighs about 15 pounds), but once I did, I started falling in love with Julie and Ivy and the rest. The drawing and style is very reminiscent of Strangers in Paradise, which is always a good thing to me. But it did make me want to go read those again.

This is essentially a story about three women saving the world from total destruction. There is a lot of science talk which went way over my head most of the time, and quite a bit of violence, but the relationships and back stories made up for that. Annie is a scientist working on a special project, an alloy suit that gives her all kinds of special powers, but once she gets most of the kinks worked out, her higher-ups decide that she is a liability and kill her. Or so they think. Annie's boyfriend, Dillon, also plays a big part in this story as he tries to find out what happened to her.

Julie is a young woman who is not having a good time in life right now. Her sister, Pam, is in a hospital after losing her children and her touch with reality, her husband wants a divorce because she is too damaged, and she has a mysterious box in her closet that holds some deep, dark secret which WE NEVER FIND OUT. Seriously, I marked it down half a star just for that. Julie is out in the desert taking pictures, when she is swept up in Annie's death and her life suddenly gets a lot more interesting.

Ivy works for the government in a very special capacity and is hired to bring Julie in before she messes things up even more. But as Ivy gets deeper into Julie, Annie, and Dillon's lives, she starts to realize that she may be working for the wrong side. She's also got a little girl named Lulu to worry about. Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? It's hard to tell at first. While I enjoyed the overall story immensely, the ending was so rushed and under-explained, that it forced me to mark it down that other half a star. But even with that, this is still an excellent story and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Middle Grade Trio! "11 Birthdays" "A Corner of the Universe" "Elsewhere"

So I decided to review a few books in one here, because there's only like a month and a half left in 2012 (how??!) and I'm still reviewing books from May. :[ I'm going to try my hardest to get all caught up here by the end of the year, so let's get started shall we? These are all probably considered "middle grade" books, but I would suggest the 2nd and 3rd with a warning: they have some serious subject matter and are tear-jerkers, big time. If you have a sensitive child, you may want to read first to see if they can handle it. Before we get into that though, let's start with a happy little book. :)

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
4 out of 5 stars

This was such a cute, quick read. I actually read it sitting at Barnes & Noble one afternoon. I know, bad, I should go buy it. I probably will eventually, because I just realized there are 2 more books in this little series, centered around the magical town of Willow Falls. :)

Amanda and Leo were born on the same day, at the same hospital and have been best friends ever since they met again at their first birthday party. Fast forward to their 10th party, which they had together as usual, until Amanda overheard Leo saying some ugly things to a couple of guy friends about her. She is devastated and vows never to talk to Leo again. One year later, she has kept that promise...until their 11th birthday.

Amanda knows her birthday is going to be horrible this year, especially after she hears about the fabulous party Leo is going to have. And she was right: her mom has convinced her to have a costume party, she has to wear a horrible itchy Dorothy costume with shoes that give her blisters, she has a pop quiz in class, she totally humiliates herself at gymnastic tryouts, and hardly anybody shows up at her party that evening. Even worse, the few that do show up leave early to go to Leo's awesome shindig. Poor kid. I had a sleepover for my 15th or 16th (I can't even remember now lol) birthday and invited 4-5 of my best girl friends over. I planned all this fun stuff, my mom made awesome food, we laid out blankets and pillows all over our huge living room, we had dishes of candy all over the place. And only 1 of my friends showed up. The others got sick or grounded or forgot or something. I was very sad. But that 1 girl became my BFF for the rest of HS so that was good. :)

Anyway, Amanda goes to bed that night just happy that the day is finally over. Until she wakes up in the morning and finds her SpongeBob birthday balloon staring at her. Again. And she goes downstairs to birthday greetings from her parents. Again. At first, she thinks this is some stupid joke, but when she realizes that they really think it's her birthday again, she gets a little worried. And when all the same things happen that day, as the day before, she gets upset. And when the same thing happens again the next day and the next, she gets downright frantic. Is she the only one stuck in this loop? How and why did this happen? How the heck does she get out of it?

A Corner of the Universe by Ann M Martin
2 out of 5 stars

This book started out decent, but it ended not so great for me. I'm going to be pretty spoilery, so if you are interested in reading it after the first two paragraphs, stop reading there! :) It's set in 1960 (but was published in 2002) and centers around Hattie, an 11 year old girl who lives with her parents in their boarding house. She loves her small town and the odd inhabitants of her home and even refuses to go on summer vacation with her best friend so she can roam around town on her own. Hattie is enjoying her summer, when it is disrupted by the arrival of an uncle that she never knew she had, and everything changes.

Adam is 21 years old and, according to her parents and grandparents, "different". He has mental problems (it's implied that he is autistic) and has been living at a state school since Hattie was a little girl. Adam is a happy young man, except where his mother is concerned (who isn't? hah! JK!!) and becomes fast friends with Hattie. She learns how to handle his mood swings and minor behavior issues (up to a certain point) and the two have lots of fun together.

Hattie is a very shy young girl and doesn't have many close friends, so when a carnival comes to town for the first time ever, she is excited to meet a young girl named Leila there. Leila works with her family at the carnival and gives Hattie (and later Adam) the backstage pass tour. Hattie and Leila spend most days together and one evening they decide to bring Adam along (sneaking him out of his mother's home). They have a wonderful time at first but it ends badly when Adam has an "episode" on one of the rides and ends up having to go into the hospital. This is around when the book starts turning from a light, interesting read into a darker, more serious book.

Hattie is worried about Adam but she's also in huge trouble for sneaking him out and is forbidden to go back to the carnival, not even to say goodbye to Leila. She hates how everyone treats Adam like a "freak" but doesn't know what to do about it. One day, Adam shows up at her house with flowers for one of the boarders, a young woman named Angel Valentine. (That is a lovely name btw.) Adam has developed quite a crush on Angel and while she hasn't been mean or rude to him (even after catching him staring at her chest repeatedly) she also hasn't explained to him that they do not have a relationship and never will. When Adam goes up to Angel's room and opens her door without knocking, he and Hattie are shocked to find Angel on the bed with her boyfriend, who has his shirt off. (That is as explicit as it gets.)

Adam runs off, crushed, and Hattie is incredibly disappointed in Angel, whom she has always looked up to as the cool older sister. Later, the grandparents call and ask if Hattie has seen Adam because he has disappeared. Of course, she hasn't and they end up calling the police and searching all over. Finally, they get news, but it's not good. Adam hung himself in his parents' garage. Honestly, I was very shocked by this turn of events. Especially by Miss "Happy Endings Only" Martin. The suddenness made me cry and it just got sadder as Hattie had to deal with her grief and Adam's funeral and everything after that. This was a moving book for sure, but I didn't think the suicide was necessary for her to make her point.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
3 out of 5 stars

Okay, if you got thru that book and you still feel like crying, then this is the one for you. :) This may be considered more of a YA novel, as it does have some sex talk and the whole book is about death. Liz is/was 15 years old when she was struck by a hit and run driver and killed. But her story doesn't stop there. She wakes up to find herself on a boat called the SS Nile heading to a place called "Elsewhere". At first she goes thru some serious denial (get it? deNILE? Hah!), of course, and it takes her a long time to adjust.

She is helped along, slowly, by her grandmother Betty, who greets her at the Elsewhere docks. Betty explains where she is and how things work now: everyone ages backwards now from their current age until they reach zero, when they are sent back down the river to Earth as a new baby. Liz is horrified to realize she will never reach 16, get her driver's license, fall in love, and all kinds of other things. Once she finally comes to terms with her new "life" though, she realizes that she can still be happy, get a job, and even fall in love after all.

This is a pretty heartbreaking story, obviously, but the part that got me the hardest was the dogs. The story opens with a short paragraph told from Lucy's point of view, who is Liz's dog. Lucy is so sad and all she can do is lay down in Liz's room and pretend she has gone off to college and will be back soon. :(( I don't know why that part makes me cry, but it does. Our first dog was named Lucy (my sister got to name her, after I Love Lucy), when I was a kid, maybe that's why. Lucy and Liz are reunited though, towards the end of the book, when Lucy is an old dog in Elsewhere. Also, Liz gets a job helping dogs find new families in Elsewhere and she meets Sadie, a sweet dog who decides that Liz is her new human. Sadie ages backwards, just like Liz, until she is a tiny pup and then sent back up the river. Gah, more tears!! The book does end on a more upbeat, optimistic note, so it's not all sad tears all the time. Lol...just most of the time!