Friday, June 29, 2012

…On Just Listen by Sarah Dessen + GIVEAWAY!


Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak/Penguin
Publish Date: April 6, 2006
383 Pages
Source:  My Bookshelf

Last year, Annabel was "the girl who has everything"—at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf's Department Store.This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen's help,maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends. –(summary from Goodreads)

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

My Thoughts
:  I finally read my first Sarah Dessen book. I know, I know... sometimes I do actually think I've been living under a rock. I'm just gonna get right to my feelings. 

The first thing you need to know is this:
The ONE, yes one, way I think I could relate to Annabel Greene
is through her tendency to close herself off and not share her thoughts.
Annabel tends to be quiet, not to talk too much, and I like this.
 
I don't really think I'm introverted but I do tend to close myself off from the vast majority of people and not reveal too much of myself. Is this intentional or accidental? Probably a little bit of both, depending on the situation, the event, who I'm talking to, all that stuff. I think that sometimes the world talks too much and very rarely, if ever, listens. So sometimes I just don't bother. 

I may be wrong, but I think Annabel feels the same way, to a degree, and she shuts herself off from everyone around her. Part of the reason she does this is because of her past traumatic experiences and part of it is because she is just tired of hearing everyone else talk and their own problems (like her family). Annabel has a ton of difficult things going on (that she hasn't shared with anyone) and sometimes talking about it all is just too much to even consider when you already bear the weight of everything. Plus, I believe Annabel feels like she doesn't have a strong enough voice, or even a voice at all. I found this to be one of the saddest things about the entire book. 

Friends, don't yell at me - but I just did not find Annabel to be an extremely likable character. Or rather, I just had a really though time connecting with her outside of her quiet self. Either way, I may change my mind tomorrow, or maybe some of you will change my mind in talking about this book - and that is totally okay. Feel free to talk to me about Annabel and YOUR feelings about her, please. Despite my weird feelings about her, I love love love the pairing of Annabel and Owen, and the friendship/ relationship that formed. It wasn't easy but it was strong. Those two played so well off of one another and in real life, that kind of thing is, I believe, totally possible. Still, I really wanted Annabel to perk up a bit and find some gumption but by the time she did, the book was basically over. 

Oh! You guys, I'm so sorry for being so hard on Annabel, because I know lots of you love her and this book so much! The poor girl went through a such rough time, but she knew what she needed to do about every situation that came up - she just couldn't find it in herself to take any action. I wanted Annabel to be stronger, to have some faith in herself, to DO something. And for the purposes of her emotional well-being AFTER everything, Annabel did need to reveal a little of herself to somebody (even though I support her being quiet and inward in the other areas of her life). Does any of that make any sense at all? Quite possibly not.

Let's move on...

The second thing you need to know is this:
I. LOVE. MUSIC. So, so much.
So YAY for this book having a music-loving character in it... 
...and not just a person that turns on the radio and listens to whatever is currently playing. Owen Armstrong loves music. Like, really loves it. I can relate to that so much. When I hear music that I like (not on the radio), I want to know more about the people making that music: where the band is from, how many albums do they have, are they touring currently, when can I see them live, etc. These are all very important questions to me. I also like to listen to a very wide range of music (not only music with banjos in it, which may surprise one of you out there). I really feel like Owen is this kind of guy too, except much more and way cooler. I feel an oddball connection with him in the way of music, and I liked him instantly from the moment I read that he always was listening to his iPod. Because Asheley + iPod = BFF.  

Unrelated to the music, but totally related to Owen: I loved that Owen was always honest and he was a talker. I loved that he kept mostly to himself and he didn't apologize for being himself and the mistakes that he has made. What a great, great character! Owen was without a doubt my favorite part of Just Listen. 

The third thing you need to know is this:
Y'all, we have talked about these issue books before. 
Asheley does not like intense issue books.
The cover does not scream ISSUES INSIDE
!!! at me.
After reading this book, I'm nervy.
I have been saying FOREVER that I need to get on the Sarah Dessen train. Even before I wanted to read more contemporary YA books, I felt a responsibility to support this North Carolina author. It took much too long for me to read a Dessen and I thought I was doing okay by picking this one up. The cover shows a girl listening to an iPod, which is basically ME. Always. It looked safe! Except that this story was intense. 

Again, y'all, I do not like intense stories. 
If there is intensity, I need to know it beforehand.
I did not realize it before reading and now I feel all weird and twisty. 

After finishing the book just a little while ago, my nerves are still torn up. I can't deal with stuff like this in the books. I mean, Just Listen was a really GOOD book. And I'm super proud of myself for finally being able to admit that I've read a Dessen. But there was some stuff in here that made my heart pound in not-great ways. 

Is this something that I need to prepare myself for with all Sarah Dessen books? Because I've read one other Dessen blog post for another book and it sounded pretty intense too. TELL ME, friends. 

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Just Listen is an issues book with a pretty cover! There are so many issues in here. I'm not even gonna stress myself out by listing them. Don't get me wrong - they're all really well done, well-written. This author knows how to appeal to her target audience by writing her target audience excellently, I think. But this story, y'all - sometimes I cringed, sometimes I wanted to cry, and sometimes I was just mad with my fists balled up. Sure, there was some romance, but in this book it just was not enough for me to counteract all of the intensity I felt with all the bad stuff going on (even though I fell for music-loving Owen like crazy).

Most of the time, I can read a book, suspend my belief (when necessary) and just accept a story as the author created it. Rarely do I despise characters, but there were two characters in this book that were just awful to me. I couldn't see past their horrible-ness to read them for the sake of the story. I kept getting caught up on all of the drama they were causing, the pain they were causing people, and the horror of the situations surround them. Just, ugh! I don't know if the author meant for it to be that way or if I just did that to myself, but those two kind of got the best of me.  

So many times in Just Listen I would read good characters making terrible decisions - and I couldn't do anything to change their minds or help them out. IT WAS SO STRESSFUL FOR ME. I CANNOT DEAL WITH THAT INTENSITY. One bad decision leading to another leading to another, and through everything, Annabel keeps her mouth shut and breaks further and further down until she melts down. Even with Annabel's parents - I was just like MOM AND DAD, GET A GRIP! OPEN YOUR EYES! 

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On a positive note, the things about Just Listen that I liked - I really liked. I loved Owen so much. I loved Rolly and Clarke. I loved the music and the ever-present iPod and all it represented so much, you guys will just never know. And ultimately, Annabel did have a little bit of forward movement or progression of character toward the end, THANK GOODNESS. I think, though, in terms of everything else, I just need to read another of this author's books before I can call them 'amazing' or any other super awesome adjectives. After finishing this book, I feel something, but I'm not really sure what it is. 
Just Listen will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary
Issue Books: Anorexia, Rape, Bullying
Some Romance: No Triangle, Slow-Burn
Stories Containing: Music! 


Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
is currently available for purchase. 

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Have you read Just Listen? 
Talk to me about it! 

What is your favorite Sarah Dessen book? 

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GIVEAWAY!
I’m giving away a PAPERBACK copy
of JUST LISTEN!

(International)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck! 


Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Thoughts On: Lie by Caroline Bock + GIVEAWAY!


Lie by Caroline Bock
Published by St. Martin’s
Publish Date: August 30, 2011
224 Pages
Source:  Finished Copy from publisher

Everybody knows, nobody’s talking. . . .
Seventeen-year-old Skylar Thompson is being questioned by the police. Her boyfriend, Jimmy, stands accused of brutally assaulting two young El Salvadoran immigrants from a neighboring town, and she’s the prime witness. Skylar is keeping quiet about what she’s seen, but how long can she keep it up?

But Jimmy was her savior . . . .
When her mother died, he was the only person who made her feel safe, protected from the world. But when she begins to appreciate the enormity of what has happened, especially when Carlos Cortez, one of the victims, steps up to demand justice, she starts to have second thoughts about protecting Jimmy. Jimmy’s accomplice, Sean, is facing his own moral quandary. He’s out on bail and has been offered a plea in exchange for testifying against Jimmy.

The truth must be told. . . .
Sean must decide whether or not to turn on his friend in order to save himself. But most important, both he and Skylar need to figure out why they would follow someone like Jimmy in the first place.
(summary from Goodreads)

Lie by Caroline Bock

My Thoughts
:  Lie is one of those stories that was really intense yet also gripping, which kept me from being able to put it down. It was short, which was a good thing, because it kind of had me in knots while I was reading. It is the story of a crime, an awful hate crime, how everyone involved was affected, and what they chose to do about it, if anything.

1. The Story. Jimmy Seeger and his friends go "beaner-hopping" every Saturday night. At first, this started out as something they just did for fun. No one was supposed to be hurt. But on this particular Saturday night, things got out of control. And this time, Skylar and Lisa Marie were there to witness it.

Jimmy and Sean were the only two guys riding this week. They pulled up alongside two men walking on the road, Arturo and Carlos Cortez, and viciously beat them. There was a weapon involved, and Arturo was seriously injured. As in, intensive care, seriously. Carlos suffered minor injuries and was treated and released.

Jimmy and Sean were arrested, of course. In talking with Skylar and Lisa Marie, they all decided that no one would say anything. They would lie. "Everybody's knows, nobody's talking" became their mantra. Even when Skylar and Sean started to break down and feel the guilt, Jimmy and Lisa Marie kept reminding them of their deal - lie. Lie! Lie. Not guilty, right? Right?

2. The Characters. The story is told from a lot of perspectives. This sounds daunting and exhausting but I think it works out okay in this case. It gives a very well-rounded point-of-view of everyone, or at least nearly everyone, touched by this crime. These are the four main players: 

  • Jimmy Seeger. Jimmy is a charismatic, smart, 18 year old high school honor student. A natural born leader, everyone says. Other students want to be just like him. He excels in football and baseball. Jimmy has a huge chip on his shoulder about immigrants coming into America and taking what is "ours" - our land, our jobs, etc. Jimmy speaks these ideas to anyone that will listen, and his charisma is such that people around him start to speak that way too and even believe that way in some instances. Jimmy dates Skylar Thompson. 
  • Sean Mayer. Jimmy's best friend. Sean is a follower and wants to be just like Jimmy. Only 17, he is a baseball teammate of Jimmy's. Son of one of the local members of the Board of Education, Sean has had an easier life than Jimmy, but he is still impressionable. He lives next door to Skylar. 
  • Skylar Thompson. Jimmy's girlfriend. Skylar is a smart girl, but she's mostly identified as Jimmy's girlfriend after fading away into almost nothing after the death of her mother months ago. Her father buries himself in his work, in his grief, and Skylar buries herself in Jimmy. Skylar used to be a great student, smart, pretty - but now she only thinks of Jimmy constantly because to her, he saved her life.  
  • Lisa Marie Murano. Skylar's best friend and neighbor. Lisa Marie lives across the street, I think, and has been friends with Skylar and Sean for years as they've always lived near each other. Lisa Marie is very concerned with her social status and less with more important issues, although she has a special place in her heart for Skylar since her mother died. Lisa Marie has an odd crush on Jimmy and this becomes obvious as the story unfolds, although it is never really outright mentioned. 
3. The Setting. Lie took place on Long Island, in a community that appeared to be middle/working class, perhaps. Not too rich, not too poor. It appeared to be a melting pot of race, from how the story reads, depending on where you are on the island. (After reading the author's notes at the end, this story is based on a true story that occurred in or around Long Island, Brooklyn, and rural Pennsylvania several years ago.

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I don't want to break the story down much more than that, because I think to do so would be an injustice to the story. First of all, I was not familiar with this crime called beaner-hopping and had to do some research. If I understand it correctly, this is when people go out looking for a Hispanic-appearing person or immigrant to attack. This is venomous, toxic hate. That is plain and simple. And that is what happened in Lie. Jimmy Seeger had opposition to illegal immigrants in America, so he took his hate out on anyone who simply had the appearance of one every Saturday night when he went out with his friends. In Lie, one of the problems with this was 1) that Jimmy's friends were not only begging to come along and participate, 2) but that they were also boastful about it. They were like a gang of hateful racists, and Jimmy was the leader, the natural born leader. Sean was so impressionable, such a follower, that even though he didn't feel this way deep down in his heart, he was guilty by association and because he followed right along with Jimmy. But guilty is guilty, and he still participated, and his guilt ate him alive throughout the story. 

Skylar Thompson was a wild card from the very beginning. She had never fully adjusted to anything after the death of her mother and had no real parental support at home. All of her support, all of her love and strength - it came from Jimmy. She spent all of her time with Jimmy, and now he is being held in prison and she has no access to him. She is being told to lie for him for something she knows is absolutely 100% wrong and his fault. Still, she loves this boy and is stuck on what to do. Lie largely deals with her coming to a decision on whether or not to tell the truth. 

Sean Mayer is another wild card. He is not yet seventeen and still has a chance at a "normal life" if he confesses. He can still go to college and make something of himself, move beyond all of this. But he's struggling with the mantra they all agreed on - "Everyone knows, nobody's talking." He promised Jimmy, and Jimmy is his best friend. 

It's really tough to read Skylar and Sean struggle so much with something
that is so obviously simple to me, the reader. Tell the truth.

Then there are the other perspectives, the other points-of-view: Arturo's mother. The high school principal. A policeman working the case. Jimmy's father. Skylar's father. The baseball coach. Some of these are heartbreaking and some are enraging. 
Lie is not one of those books that I hugged when I was finished. But I will say that it is really excellent and I love how it was written. It broke my heart. It fueled my righteous anger. It made me sad, so very sad. It is one that should be read and for that reason, I'm going to pass it onto one of you guys so I can guarantee that somebody will read it. 
Lie will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary
Issue Books: Hate Crimes
Multiple Points-of-View

Lie by Caroline Bock
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you, St. Martin's!

HATE BREEDS HATE, YOU GUYS.
Read books like this every now and then.
Be aware of what some people are going through. 

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GIVEAWAY!
I’m giving away my PAPERBACK copy of LIE.
Please read it and talk about it, maybe share it with someone else.
This book is fiction, based on stuff that happened RIGHT HERE
in America and it is NOT OKAY.
 

(Open Internationally)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

…On Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig + GIVEAWAY!


Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig
Series: Pretty Crooked #1
Published by HarperTeen
Publish Date: March 13, 2012
368 Pages
Source:  ARC from publisher

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?
–(summary from Goodreads)


Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig


My Thoughts:  Pretty Crooked was a story about theft. And popularity. And bullying. And a blog. And one or two cute boys. There was a lot of stuff going on in this story, but it was always fun and never too overbearing. When it was over, I enjoyed it but I think I have a few more questions than when I started because those blasted cliffhangers get me every time. 


The first thing you need to know is this:
This is a heist book: robbing from the rich, giving to the poor.
It's kind of a play on Robin Hood. 
Now, I knew this when I started reading Pretty Crooked. But it took me a while to figure out where the Robin Hood part started. There is some story to be told first, and I almost grew impatient with that. Sometimes I can be an impatient gal - particularly where something awesome like Robin Hood is concerned. Once it starts, though, it's totally a Robin Hood story. 

Willa is the Robin Hood character. She is the take-from-the-rich-to-give-to-the-poor kinda gal. There is a ton of time spent before these moments laying groundwork for why she does this. I had plenty of time to decide if I felt okay about it or not, and you will too. Just know that it takes a little bit but when she starts, BAM! that girl takes robbing from the rich very seriously

The second thing you need to know is this:
This is a story of poor-girl-turns-rich
and now she is suddenly popular. 
Willa's mom suddenly came into some money and gone are the days of living the rougher life - they've moved to Paradise Valley, Arizona. Willa now goes to Valley Prep, a very exclusive private school attended by the most rich and beautiful people she's ever seen. New to being rich, Willa really doesn't know how to pull it off at first. She's lucky to befriend Cherise, who sort of takes Willa under her wing. The problem with this is that Cherise is part of the ultra-exclusive Glitterati, which is the most popular/beautiful/snobberific/awful bunch of girls at school. It takes Willa a while to realize that while this glamorous life is certainly more fun and awesome than her previous life, it comes at a cost. That cost is hurtful to those around her. 

For Willa, this is a struggle. Being poor and unpopular is all-too-familar to her, as she's lived that way for her entire life before Valley Prep. However, Willa doesn't want to say or do anything that could put her in the warpath of the Glitterati either. Why? Because of the ValleyBuzz. 

The ValleyBuzz is a Gossip Girl-style anonymous blog in which people from Valley Prep can post anything they want anonymously about anyone from their school. They use it to degrade, make fun of, and horrify anyone who is less than them in any way: less beautiful, less wealthy, less smart, less popular. Doing anything to make the Glitterati angry is a sure-fire way to end up front-page news on ValleyBuzz, thereby battering and bruising your social life for the rest of your days at the school. 

The third thing you need to know is this:
This book is quick and funny and a light read
- not to be taken too seriously -
but there are serious undertones to the story. 
The whole time I was reading Pretty Crooked quickly and snickering at the funny parts and at the funny cover, I kept thinking to myself CYBER-BULLYING! THEFT! JUVENILE DETENTION! CYBER-BULLYING! SELF-ESTEEM ISSUES! RICH KID GUILT/POOR KID BLUES! CYBER-BULLYING! and a dozen other topics that I probably learned about through after school specials or on ABC Family channel movies. 

The things that the Glitterati does are wrong. They are mean and hurtful to a lot of people, and everyone knows it. Nobody wants to stand up to them because they are scared of them. In essence, the Glitterati are bullies. The ValleyBuzz is a website that does nothing but torment and bully innocent people. What Willa does to try and improve life for people is wrong. This story is fun - everyone loves a fun caper story, you guys - but there is a serious message that is being sent out here. Well, several serious messages. And I think it a good idea for readers to pick up on them. 

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Pretty Crooked was a fun story. It was a little different than the YA contemporary stories I've been reading lately. I enjoyed it; it was very quick-paced and funny at times. While easy and breezy to get through, I liked that there was something meaty underlying everything. There still seems to be some ends that are not wrapped up - a bit of mystery surrounding a couple of things - but I'm guessing these things will be resolved nicely or give a great starting point for Pretty Sly, which is projected to release in (I think?) March 2013.

Willa is a great character. She's a flawed girl, which is basically exactly right for someone at her age. Weren't we all flawed in high school? (Heck, aren't we all flawed now?) YES. But Willa wants so desperately to make things right for the people being wronged that she decides to take matters into her own hands, and things get a little out-of-control. I liked her, though. She has spunk and determination and she's brave. She just needs to learn to think before she acts. 

I was a little thrown-off by the absence (or rather, under-development) of romance in this book. I think it might have been nice to see a little more. There are two possibilities of romantic interests for the next book, which leaves it wide open for a potential love triangle. At the end of the book, Willa has her sights on just one of these boys, but she threw some pretty strong hints out about the other. We just won't know for sure until the next book. 

There's also this wide-open other story line that isn't developed fully...yet. I honestly don't really know much to say about it. At the end of Pretty Crooked - the very end - there are a couple of clues about it, but once again we have to wait until Pretty Sly comes out. 

I think fans of heist/caper stories and YA mystery stories will enjoy Pretty Crooked. Be warned, though: it is not a standalone. There are several things left wide-open for exploration or perhaps jumping-off points in the next book. And the ending is definitely what I would call a cliffhanger. Still, it was a fun book to read and I think people will really like Willa and her stand on bullying, despite the fact that she lost sight of the bigger, better picture for a short time (which we all can do sometimes). 

Pretty Crooked will appeal to fans of
YA Contemporary
Stories Containing: Heists/Capers
This is a series!
Kinda-sorta a play on Robin Hood.

Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you HarperTeen!

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GIVEAWAY!
I’m giving away my ARC of PRETTY CROOKED!
(International)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck! 


Monday, June 25, 2012

Welcome Lauren! to the {Outlander Readalong, Week Two}


I want to do something special this morning and introduce another reader to our Claire & Jamie party!


Everyone welcome Lauren to the Outlander Readalong

Lauren is absolutely one of my favorite people to discuss books with. She literally discusses books, y'all. We talk daily, and all over the place. And since she has been wanting to read Outlander, this is a most excellent time for her to do so...right when she can do it along with us! Perfect timing, right?

As Lauren isn't currently blogging, I have invited her to please, please officially join our ReadAlong by posting her answers here on my blog. So for the duration of the #OutlanderRA, you will see both Asheley's answers & Lauren's answers weekly. Because this week is the official Introduction Post for Lauren, there are two Outlander Readalong posts on my blog today. Please be sure to visit them both because they are different.

Everyone make sure to give Lauren a very warm welcome! 
She has caught up to where we are currently and is loving the story of
Frank, Claire, and Jamie so far.

I am so very excited and honored to have her here on my blog, sharing her answers with this awesome group. 

Welcome, Lauren!! 

1. Claire has been given the task of healer at the castle. She must adapt her nursing skills for the time and learn what herbs and etc will cure each particular ailment that is presented to her. Do you have any home remedies that were passed down to you (cure for a cold, bee sting or what have you)? 
No. I’m pretty much a failure in this area. If I ended up stranded in the 18th century, I’d be no help whatsoever. I don’t know anything about herbs or botany or home remedies. Although I find it interesting THAT plants and herbs can be used for healing; I don’t care enough to want to learn which ones they are. And honestly, this information isn’t really needed today. I don’t seem myself having to go out into the woods to collect plants and create medicines. Though if the amount of post-apocalyptic and dystopian books out there is any indication of what’s to come, maybe I should rethink this. 
2. What do you think would be the biggest challenge of living in the past? (Clothing, hygiene, food, etiquette, or etc)
Um. Everything? I love studying the past – I was a history major in college – so learning about life Scotland in the 1740s is fascinating. But I don’t think I could live it. I definitely would not be as adaptable as Claire. She’s amazing. She’s barely stumbled over anything. The hygiene and lack of bathroom facilities would completely ruin me. And I don’t eat seafood, so herring every day? I couldn’t do it. Plus I would need extensive coaching on their clothing and etiquette practices. There’s no way I could just jump right into life over 250 years ago. 
3. Do you have a favorite character, scene, or quote so far? If so, share it with us.
Jamie as favorite character, for sure. Though, I feel like we haven’t spent enough time with anyone besides Claire and Jamie for me to really care enough about any of the other characters (except for Dougal whom I don’t love). Also, I do like Colum a great deal. He possesses a personal strength that I really like. 

So many good scenes already! The wedding was sweet. And I liked when Claire and Jamie schemed to free the boy from the plinth. I love seeing them work together. It shows how great a match they are. I just want to tell Claire to hurry up and fall in love with Jamie! 
4. What do you think about the addition of the blood bond in the wedding ceremony? Is this something you would do with the one you love? 
I’ll admit to finding something morbidly romantic about the blood bond and oath (and possibly, to getting excited that it makes Claire even more bound to Jamie than Frank). But in real life, I can’t imagine doing it. And I think I’d find it way over the top (and freaky) if I witnessed anyone performing the ritual at a wedding. Hey, my sister’s getting married this summer. Maybe I should suggest it? 
5. Are you reading along closely with the scheduled chapters or are you ahead or behind? 
I started a bit late, but worked to catch up quickly, despite the density of the text and adapting to the Scottish speak. I’m having a hard time not reading ahead! I’ve never tried a read-along, but I’m going to do my best to stick with the schedule. It was pretty hard to stop after this section, and I did read chapter 15, but that’s it. 
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Here's the remainder of the schedule: 

July 2nd
Questions for chapters 15-21 answered &questions announced for chapters 22-28 on Into the Hall of Books

July 9th
Questions for chapters 22-28 answered & questions announced for chapters 29-35 on Logan E. Turner

July 16th
Questions for chapters 29-35 answered & questions announced for chapters 36-41 on The Reading Housewives

July 23rd
Questions for chapters 36-41 answered on Gone with the Words.
The end.  

Lauren, Welcome again.
I'm so thrilled and honored to have you on my blog! 

~Ash

Oh Jamie, My Jamie! {Outlander ReadAlong Week 2}

Welcome to Week Two of the Outlander Read-Along everybody! Carrie from Stalking the Bookshelves has written some excellent questions! 

These come from Chapters 8-14.

The Questions for Week Three will come from Jess at Tangled Up In Blue and can be found on her blog today. 

The Twitter hashtag for this event is #OutlanderRA, so tweet while you read. That's half the fun, people!

Week Two: Alrighty! 

1. Claire has been given the task of healer at the castle. She must adapt her nursing skills for the time and learn what herbs and etc will cure each particular ailment that is presented to her. Do you have any home remedies that were passed down to you (cure for a cold, bee sting or what have you)? 
Y'all this is gonna be embarrassing for me, because I'm the nurse in the group. So I feel like I should have the wonderful answer like OF COURSE, LET ME LIST ALL OF THE THINGS THAT I KNOW THAT ARE AS AWESOME AS CLAIRE! But NO! I don't. 
Asheley, RN: FAIL. Don't you guys go and try to make me feel better about this either. I should know more. Claire can fix up people in different centuries. What if I get transported back to the 1800's??? Those soldiers can kiss it goodbye, cause Asheley only knows 1) labor & delivery, which will profit them nothing and 2) no home remedies EXCEPT FOR...
Liquor and honey for a bad cough. It totally works, y'all. Drink some if you have one of those hacky coughs that won't go away, and OH YES your cough will go away. Then you'll fall face forward onto whatever surface is in front of you. (My father-in-law feeds me peach brandy now and it has just about the same effect, but I don't consider that a home remedy.) 
I love y'all, but I'm thoroughly embarrassed at my answer to this question. But it is an excellent question, Carrie. And I still love being able to connect to Claire through her nursing skills!  
2. What do you think would be the biggest challenge of living in the past? (Clothing, hygiene, food, etiquette, or etc)
Oh my gracious! Well, first of all, I like to be clean. C-L-E-A-N. So I'm not sure how I'd feel about not being able to wash my hair thoroughly - with good shampoo. I can't stand a dirty scalp. Also, I can't stand feeling like I stink. I may be overly obsessive about this, so in order not to embarrass myself, I'll just leave it at that. Hygiene is a good one, Carrie! 
Also, I'm gonna be flat-out honest and say that I am quite in love with my internet access. I can do without it for a time. But you guys, I would totally miss you all if I couldn't get on here and talk about books with you. And speaking about that, WHERE ARE THE BOOKS? *gasps* I certainly don't see Claire and Jamie reading books like Julie Kagawa's awesome stuff or anything by Patrick Ness!!! I'm gonna venture out on a limb and guess these people in the 1700's hardly can fathom the definition of dystopian literature or paranormal/urban fantasy (or am I wrong about that?). I don't even think I need to elaborate on the book thing. 
In order not to take up too much space on the interwebs, I think I should just say that I would miss everything. That's the plain, gosh-honest truth. But first and foremost, I wouldn't like stinking. Claire has mentioned more than once about "musky" men. Um...no way. I like my men clean. Ick. And I have to shave my legs every single day. EVERY. (Y'all are gonna think I'm a freak.) 
3. Do you have a favorite character, scene, or quote so far? If so, share it with us.
 WELL, since we technically haven't gotten to Chapter 15 yet...*cough*ahem*cough*... 
I am super partial to the part when Jamie told Claire his real name. All five parts of it! Why? I. Do. Not. Know. But I found that to be profoundly sexy. Like a prelude to the GOOD STUFF. I read it over and over silently and then out loud! Oh my gosh, I'm such a dork! Oh my goodness! (Y'all know what I did then? I went to facebook to my IRL friend ANNA and messaged her about it! *blushes* It's true. OVER A NAME. - This is not the first time in a book I've fallen apart over a character revealing his true name.)
So I guess to answer the question correctly, it was in Chapter 14, and the answer is when Jamie says, "James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser." All it took was that  name and I melted. For serious.  
4. What do you think about the addition of the blood bond in the wedding ceremony? Is this something you would do with the one you love? 
OOOH. Good question, Carrie!  
This came sort of out-of-the-blue for me, because I'm not aware of the customs of this time and this area. They mention that it is a pagan custom, which would certainly make it something that I wouldn't necessarily know. However, I can GUESS that there is some symbolism in it, although I could be wrong...
Claire is married to Frank, but the marriage (as we know) is a bit wonky since they were separated and then brought back together...but Frank is preoccupied all the time. We've all expressed our concerns about Frank and Claire being able to connect, and we've all mentioned that we basically connected immediately with Jamie (at least I think I remember that we all felt that way). This blood bond seems for real, you guys. Frank and Claire have no mention of having a blood bond binding them together. So IF Claire travels back to her regular time, to Frank, she will still be married to Jamie also and also bound to him by blood, which is a bond that is certainly (at least symbolically) stronger than the bond she has with Frank. 
Did I love the blood bond? It was a little unusual because it isn't MY custom and I haven't heard of it before. However, I can certainly see its significance in the story, and I LOVE the fact that Jamie and Claire are bonded beyond just a legal agreement. 
I'm very interested in seeing what everyone else thinks about this. 
Would I do this? In this day and age, and given the customs and beliefs that I follow, a blood bond isn't necessary because a marriage is a covenant that already isn't to be taken lightly, which is basically what I think the blood bond would be establishing. I think to do it this day and age, and in this part of the world, would be symbolic or taking part in an older or cultural ritual. I did not do that when I was married. I merely spoke words, and by golly they were enough! 
5. Are you reading along closely with the scheduled chapters or are you ahead or behind? 
Another excellent question by Carrie, and at the most perfect place in the book to ask.  
Y'all, I have been hearing that Chapter 15 was the GOOD STUFF I was waiting for. Now, I've not been keeping it a secret that I wanted to read the GOOD STUFF. So did you all honestly think I was going to stop at Chapter 14? NO WAY. I am not reading ahead because I don't have time to read ahead with the other blog event that I have going on at the moment. But cutting us off at this point - I just HAD to find out about Chapter 15. And GOOD GRACIOUS ALMIGHTY HOLY BATMAN, I'm glad I did. 
Answer, I am not reading ahead. But I read Chapter 15. When I pick the book back up this week, I will start back with Chapter 15. Meaning I will read Chapter 15 more than once. Yessirree. GOOD STUFF in that there chapter. 
Y'all can laugh if you want. I'm a big, adult girl and I've been waiting for it. Like I told Jess @gonewiththeword - I can put the book down now that I've finished Chapter 15. The story may as well be complete.  Stick a fork in me, I'm done. GOOD STUFF, yesssss.  
 At this point, I am head over heels for Jamie Fraser. 
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Here's the remainder of the schedule: 

July 2nd
Questions for chapters 15-21 answered & questions announced for chapters 22-28 on Into the Hall of Books

July 9th
Questions for chapters 22-28 answered & questions announced for chapters 29-35 on Logan E. Turner

July 16th
Questions for chapters 29-35 answered & questions announced for chapters 36-41 on The Reading Housewives

July 23rd
Questions for chapters 36-41 answered on Gone with the Words.
The end.  

Don't forget to visit Lauren's questions here on my blog today!
She's just joined the ReadAlong! Let's welcome her!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Thoughts On: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry


Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry
Published by Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: July 31, 2012
384 Pages
Source:  NetGalley/Harlequin Teen

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.
–(summary from Goodreads)


Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry


My Thoughts:  You guys, I loved Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry. I loved it to the tune of staying up until around 3:00 AM to read and then getting up the next morning and immediately finishing it.

Echo Emerson is one of those female leading characters that has a few issues. Something has happened to her in her past - something she doesn't remember - and all she wants to do it piece that day together. Everyone seems to know what happened but her! She's in counseling and therapy, but still that day is like a gaping black hole. Her father and therapist agrees that she should remember on her own, piece by piece. She just...can't. All she wants is for life to be normal again. Echo wears long sleeves all the time, even in the warm weather, because she has scars on her hands and arms. Some of her friends from before the event have long forsaken her, although one or two have remained close. She's a beautiful girl, with beautiful red hair. She's a wildly talented artist and she's smart in her classes. Her smarts help her land the job of tutoring bad boy Noah Hutchins.

Noah is the stereotypical high school bad boy. He has a reputation for loving the ladies and does nothing to try and change that. He's handsome, very handsome, and quite sure of himself. He hangs out with some of the more questionable students at school, and for that reason, Echo and her friends are a little unsure about her tutoring assignment with him. To Echo, it's a means to earn some much-needed money. Echo had no intentions of falling in love. Neither did Noah.

Noah is in counseling as well. He is part of the foster system after he lost both parents in a house fire a few years ago. Noah is a smart boy, but he had some problems with a few of his previous foster placements, and he was just never able to recover socially from this. He sticks with his counseling because he wants his family to get back together - Noah has two younger brothers that are placed with a different foster family, and it is only through his counseling and rehabilitation that he is allowed supervised visits with them. Noah doesn't really want to be in love - he doesn't want to be committed to someone, but he can't help but be taken by this girl's beauty - inside and out. He sees past her scars. With her, he feels normal.

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Both Echo and Noah are broken individuals. Both have issues that they have to work through and move past in order to succeed and move ahead in life. Lucky for both of them, they have a counselor (the same counselor) that is invested in them as people, that truly cares about their future, about their welfare, about their outcome being a positive one. I love that the counseling sessions were written into this story, and I love that the counselor was so developed. However, I'm not sure I have ever read about counseling exactly like this - counseling in such a way as it was written in Pushing The Limits. This counselor had her hand in practically every aspect of the lives of Echo and Noah, including Noah's younger brothers' lives, and it was really very interesting to me. In the story, it proved to be a positive thing and worked out really well for everyone involved. I don't have social work experience, so I wonder if such things like this program exist in the real world.

The horrors of what happened to Echo were tough to read. The horrors of what happened to Noah were tough as well. But their relationship with each other, although strained at times, was really great. They helped each other out because they understood that what was normal for other people just was not normal for them. I love the way the author made this a theme of the book, because that is so true in life, even for some of us that do not have counseling appointments of social work consults regularly.

The romance between Echo and Noah was awesome. There was no triangle, really. Once Noah had his sights on Echo, there was no other girl for him. And Echo struggled with this because she had some issues with trust because of the missing pieces of her past. This gave itself over to a wonderful slow-burn romance that intense and just pure lovely, you guys. 

And you guys know how I love characterization! The secondary characters in this book were really good. I felt like I knew some of them from back when I was in school. Some of them were funny, some were horrible, and some were just great. Noah's little brothers stole my heart. And I'm still thinking on Echo's parents - I'm not sure what to think about them just yet.

In terms of contemporary, this is definitely a romance, but it came with issues. Fans of contemporary YA romance will love it, but it isn't easy-breezy all the way through. The payoff is there, though, if you give it a try. I absolutely loved it. I couldn't put it down. This is a fantastic debut by author Katie McGarry and I will be sure to pick up more of her work as it becomes available.

Pushing The Limits will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary
Romance: No triangle! Slow-burn!
Stories Containing Issues: Family Issues
Recommended for older YA readers or YA-loving adult readers.

Pushing The Limits
by Katie McGarry
will be available for purchase on July 31, 2012.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you NetGalley and Harlequin Teen!

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Will Pushing The Limits
make it to your wish list? 


...On Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe
Published by Viking Juvenile
Publish Date: October 13, 2011
458 Pages
Source:  Library 


When high school junior Sara wins a coveted scholarship to study ballet, she must sacrifice everything for her new life as a professional dancer-in-training. Living in a strange city with a host family, she's deeply lonely-until she falls into the arms of Remington, a choreographer in his early twenties. At first, she loves being Rem's muse, but as she discovers a surprising passion for writing, she begins to question whether she's chosen the right path. Is Rem using her, or is it the other way around? And is dancing still her dream, or does she need something more? This debut novel in verse is as intense and romantic as it is eloquent. –(summary from Goodreads) 

Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe

My Thoughts: A few days ago I talked about another contemporary verse novel that was not the most uplifting of books but yet I loved it so much. In the comments, I noticed that a few people said they didn’t think it was the book for them and while I understand this, I still want people to give verse novels a try! So on a whim I decided to throw another one into the mix for this contemporary month event. Voila! Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe – it's not nearly as heavy and it has dancing in it!
The first thing you need to know is this:
This is not my first verse novel.
This IS, however, my first verse novel that
wasn't gut-wrenching, in-your-face intense. 

Audition was actually almost a little on the lighter side, comparatively speaking. Don't get me wrong, friends - there were some things in there that were not whipped-cream-and-cherries-on-top light - but they weren't doubled-over, oh-my-goodness intense either. Now that I've read both, I still love them both. There's something just absolutely amazing about a free verse novel that is just intensely different than a prose novel. 

Basically, I didn't read this one with my mouth hanging wide open, clutching my stomach in disbelief, or with my hand over my mouth in shock. Audition just didn't contain that sort of story. It was really kind of nice. 

The second thing you need to know is this:
This girl loves to dance.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may already know this. 
Can I dance? Nope. But I make it a daily practice!
Why? Because it makes me happy. 
How does this relate to Audition? I'm so glad you asked that question! 

Sara leaves her home way up in the Northeastern US to go to a prestigious dance academy in New Jersey where she'll learn dance for real because she's thinking she wants to pursue dance as a career. Sara goes to school every day and then leaves directly from school to attend dance practice for several hours, every day. InAudition, I read about Sara's practices, her routines, her struggles, her victories, and everything she goes through and learns about herself in this process. We read through approximately one year of Sara's life. 

I've never actually read a book about dance schools or dancing before. I know of a few out there, but this was my first. I'm not a trained dancer, I just like to bust a move - there's a difference, you see. I was fascinated by this dance culture, by the terminology, by the movement and the music and the cut-throat competition behind it all.  

Now, going one step further...I enjoyed reading about it in verse format. No fluffy speech and extra verbage. It was just the words and the dancing. I loved it. 

The third thing you need to know is this:
If you haven't tried a verse novel,
I'd love for you to pick up one and give it a try. 
There is something different and interesting and fun and strange and satisfying about reading free verse, you guys. When you read the intense books, like any of Ellen Hopkins' books or Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams, the verse format makes it easier somehow if you have any reservations at all about the tough subject matter. I personally am not the biggest fan of the tough issue books - my blogger friends know me well enough to tell me when a book just isn't for me - but I know that if the same book came in verse, I could probably handle it better. Does that make sense? However, there are books out there like this one or anything by Lisa Schroeder that the rest of you guys would probably like just fine. And there are other verse novel too. Ask in the comments for recommendations if you want to try one! Some people won't like them, but I love them. You'll never know if you don't at least try!

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Sara is a great character that, interestingly enough, becomes developed pretty fully even through the sparse language in the verse. The language used by the author is really beautiful and describes all of the events of the story really well. In my mind, I was watching Sara dance, picturing each move as she danced with or without her dance partner. 
Today he will life me into the air,
Hold my hand,
Support my back,
And make me more beautiful
Than I could ever be alone -Kindle 671/2931
There is also more to the story than the dancing! Sara is in school, so she struggles to maintain her classes and studying while dancing - this part is obvious. But, as we can guess from the cover of the book and the description, she soon falls for a guy. But not just any guy, this guy just happens to be a dancer as well - a choreographer with her group. Sara begins hanging out with Remington, going over to his apartment, spending time alone with him, and soon her priorities shift a bit. So we start watching Sara question exactly which things are important to her.

While Sara questions everything - dancing, friendship, love, her relationship with Remington - she begins to write, and very well. Sara realizes that she loves writing a lot. Maybe as much as dancing. 
Audition is the story of Sara taking a year of her life away from home to figure out exactly what it is she wants to do with her life. She isn't in college yet - she's attending high school in another state, a rare and wonderful opportunity. Sara tries out a few things, has some great life experiences, and ultimately makes a decision toward a path that she believes is the best for her. 
The fact that all of this is gleaned from a verse novel - and a debut at that - is amazing to me. I loved this book. There is so much power behind the words of this author. She made her words beautiful in the places where they should be, and yet she used her same words to show the real world of the dancers - the jealousy, the extreme dieting, the blisters, the damage to their young bodies. Every idea and image we read is perfectly portrayed with just the exact amount of words, as is the way with verse, and I thought it was brilliant. I loved it.Audition was a great verse novel for someone who wants to try one that isn't too heavy.
Audition will appeal to fans of:

YA ContemporaryNovels-in-Verse 
Romance - no triangle, slow-to-develop

Stories Containing: Dance, Creative Writing
Recommended for Older YA Readers & Adult YA-Loving Readers

Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe
is currently available for purchase.

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Have you ever read any verse novels?
Do you have any favorite verse authors?


 
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