Friday, March 30, 2012

10 reasons I watch Vampire Diaries Season 3 because of the Originals

In Vampire Diaries season one, Damon got the honors of being the sole reason I tuned in weekly. Season two, with Vampire Barbie in her prime, Caroline was crowned.

Season three? It's the season of the Originals, without a doubt.

Without further ado...


1. Backstabbing, frontstabbing, and torture, oh my!
Considering that they're willing to stab one another into hundreds-of-years-long coffin comas, it's no surprise that they don't hesitate to maim, torture, and decapitate humans, werewolves, and other vampires.
Klaus: You people seem to respond best to violence.
Episode 10 - The New Deal 
Finn (about Klaus): He stored us in boxes.
Episode 18 - The Murder of One
Rebekah: Why don't you sit down and shut up before I ruin everything by ripping your head off?
Episode 15 - All My Children
Rebekah dislikes her torture sessions being interrupted.

2. Thoroughly Modern Mikaelsons
After being in a coffin for centuries upon centuries, they're totally nonchalant about technology. Cars, cell phones, credit cards....yanno, electricity..... unfazed. These Originals sure can adapt. I mean, check out their pre- and post-coffin hair!

Why hello, Elijah.
No matter the century, Rebekah has awesome hair.
Finn...well...he didn't get the best Mikaelson genes.
And we can't forget Klaus's lion's mane...

3. They're so fashionable.
From throwing lavish balls to being spiffy in everyday life, the Originals surely know how to dress.
Rebekah: There has to be more to this dress.
Stefan: There’s not.
Rebekah: So women in the 21st century dress like prostitutes, then? I got dirty looks for wearing trousers.
Klaus: You wore trousers so women today could wear nothing.
Episode 4 - Disturbing Behavior

4. Good? Evil? Who cares!
Remember in Season 2 when Elijah was the unkillable, super-scary vampire who decapitated Trevor with a swift headsmack? And now he's all noble and swoony and Klaus is the bad guy (who's actually just lonely)? Yeah, don't bother keeping track.
Klaus: We can sit and eat, or I can reach down your throats and pull out your insides. The choice is yours.
Episode 13 - Bringing Out the Dead
Klaus (about Rebekah): My sister has gone missing.
Damon: Cute. Blonde bombshell. Psycho. Shouldn't be too hard to find.
Episode 10 - The New Deal
Elijah: Mother made us vampires. She didn't make us monsters. We did that to ourselves.
Episode 15 - All My Children
Here, I got you this heart.

5. Originals - They're Just Like Us!
Sure, they're immortal, thousand-year-old bloodsucking fiends, but they just want to be loved.
Klaus: All you have to do is get Stefan to stop decapitating my friends.
Episode 11 - Our Town
Sage: Please don't tell me that you and Rebekah are friends.
Damon: Not unless you count hate sex.
Episode 17 - Break on Through
Caroline: I'm too smart to be seduced by you.
Klaus: That's why I like you.
Episode 15 - All My Children

6. They're obscenely wealthy.
After a thousand years, they have no problem buying (and compelling people to renovate) mansions and throwing lavish balls with less than 24-hours notice.
Caroline: I've never really been anywhere.
Klaus: I'll take you; Wherever you want. Rome. Paris. Tokyo?
Episode 14 - Dangerous Liaisons
7. They're (almost) unkillable.
White oak tree or no white oak tree, linked or unlinked, the Originals have years upon years of compulsion prowess and super strength. They make for fun villains, and they're keeping the Mystic Falls Villain Body Count Per Episode lower than it's ever been before! (The Mystic Falls Victim Body Count, however, is thriving.)
RIP Finn.

8. They prove that age doesn't bring maturity...
... Or end sibling rivalry.
Rebekah: This house has enough men rolling around in it.
Kol: Just like you, Rebekah.
Episode 15 - All My Children
Courtesy of Price Peterson's hilarious recaps.
Rebekah: I am not a brat!
Klaus: A thousand years of life experience says otherwise.
Episode 4 - Disturbing Behavior
9. They shake things up.
Truth is, Mystic Falls is a one-restaurant, one-bridge, one-waterfall town, and Katherine can only do so much damage. (PS - I miss Katherine!) Thrown in a posse of hot, super-powerful vampires with minimal morals, questionable motives and ever-changing loyalties, and you have yourself one heck of a party.

10. 'ello. Me name's Rebekah.
Let's face it. I'm an American. I'm swayed automatically in favor of anyone with a foreign accent. I vote that they stick around in Mystic Falls.
Again, Price Peterson is a genius.

But to be fair, Damon and Caroline have had their shining moments of awesome this season....
Elena: Where's Damon?
Caroline: Probably off somewhere doing bad things to good people. What? Consider me the honesty police.
Episode 4 - Disturbing Behavior
Damon (mocking an old Stefan diary): Dear Diary, a chipmunk asked me my name today. I told him it was Joe. That lie will haunt me forever.
Episode 16 - 1912 

So who's your favorite Original? I'm torn between Elijah and Rebekah. Leave some Original love in the comments!

*Thanks to for assistance with the quotes!

Monday, March 26, 2012

10 Reasons I LOVED The Hunger Games!

It's taken me awhile to put my thoughts together beyond just....GAH! LOVE! EEEEH! AAAH! OOOOH! And you know, like actually say things in an intelligent way.

Well, as intelligent as I ever say anything. And so here are the top ten reasons why I fell absolutely head over heels in love with this movie and went to a midnight showing like a crazy person and then saw it again very close to midnight two nights later (in no particular order).


Cinna! Cinna! Cinna! And did I say Cinna? Ok seriously! Cinna was one of my favorite characters in the books but Cinna when he's played by Lenny Kravitz? OMFG! Here is how much I love Cinna Kravitz...
I am fully prepared to write a YA novel with a character based on Cinna Kravitz, practically starring Cinna Kravitz, dedicated to Cinna Kravitz all for the teeny tiny possibility that the book is made into a movie and will thus star Lenny Kravitz. Seriously dude, you need to be in every movie ever made ever! LOVE!

2. The Capitol

Don't get me wrong, I HATE the Capitol, but WOW! The filmmakers nailed the visuals here and the feeling and the attitude. I was so mesmerized and creeped out all at once by their attitudes and fashions and behavior. Actually, they reminded me a lot of what I imagine Hollywood to be like--totally insane and superficial. And all the plastic surgery and fashions we're getting into lately...guys, we are not so far away from the cat woman in Mockingjay. Just saying...

The movie had two amazing subtle moments to show just how magnificent and horrific the Capitol was. The first came when Katniss first stepped onto the train. I mean, here she was starving, going out every day hunting for meager bits of food to spread among her family and Gale's, and then BAM. There is suddenly a disgusting array of overly decorated sweets--far too many for any one person to eat, and a TOTAL waste of resources and money.

The other moment came when Haymitch was watching another family gift their children with toy swords. The children were delighted and proceeded to run around pretending to fight--like it was a game...for kids... Ironic. Meanwhile he can barely get enough money together to send Katniss a life-saving bowl of soup. The art reflecting life in this movie is just out of this world.


Oh my goodness, PEETA! To be honest, I had a really hard time getting behind Josh as Peeta. Something about his look kind of bugs me, and he looks so much younger than Katniss and is obviously shorter, BUT... Josh so has the spirit of Peeta down that I don't care anymore and I just love him! There were so many great Peeta moments, but the one that sticks out the most in my mind is right after he's been reaped and he's in the car with Katniss and Effie and looking out the window. His lower lip collapses and he has this look of total anguish like "I just saw my family and home for the last time EVER and I'm about to go die in the most brutal way imaginable but I WON'T cry" that kills me and just sold me on him as Peeta for life. Plus you know, there's the way he runs, and kisses and...exists.

4. Rue

Rue was so perfectly cast and adorable times ten and had so much personality and sweetness that I just HOPE you become a super huge movie star and we see a lot more of you in the future! She killed it! I don't even know what else to say. She WAS Rue!

5. Book to Screen
I'm not sure if I would call this the best book to film adaptation of all time, but if I were to make a top ten list, you better believe this would be on it. Maybe even a top three. The feeling of the book was here. The emotions of the book, the characters, the look, the feel, the dialogue, EVERYTHING was there. There were only a few tiny nitpicky things missing (Gale hoisting Katniss onto the stage and saying, "Up you go, Katnip" as well as District 11 sending Katniss bread. But in the end, the additions (seeing Seneca Crane work the games and President Snow being President Snow and Haymitch cutting deals) improved the story in a lot of ways. Which brings us to...

6. Seneca Crane
The extra scenes with Seneca were brilliant. Seneca was brilliant. His beard was brilliant. I just loved every part he was in so much--despite wanting to strangle his neck at the same time that he was gleefully thinking, hmmmm let's have a fire explode right where Katniss is running as she tries not to die. And that last scene with him and the berries---fab!

7. Haymitch
Oh Haymitch, how much do I love you? Not only was his inner turmoil clearly bobbing just beneath the surface, as well as his apparent disgust but acceptance of his place as a member of the Capitol, but he was such a great mentor, and provided some much needed comedic relief.  And you know who else cracked me up?

Nuff said!

Thank you, Elizabeth Banks for coming to work everyday in the hair, makeup and clothes of a crazy person! Manners!

9. The Cave
Katniss joining up with Peeta and helping him to the cave to protect him and take care of him was one of my favorite parts of the book AND the movie. My only complaint was it was too fast. I wanted moar cave time, more kissing, more everything because I just loved it so much. And I was so happy to see that small moment where Gale is watching back home and looking utterly distraught but trying not know, at least she is alive! So well done!

Jennifer Lawrence you killed it! Every single scene from taking care of Prim, to going hunting with Gale, to that look of horror on your face when Prim's name was called to your passionate plea to volunteer as tribute to your total shell shock at being on stage and realizing what you've done to...ok, basically I could just run through every scene of the entire movie. This was an utterly amazing performance and I am a total Jennifer Lawrence fangirl! I even read somewhere that during filming somehow a hornet's nest got dropped on set and the actress who plays Rue was getting stung until Jennifer picked her up and ran her to the car. Seriously? She IS Katniss! Every. Single. Moment. Was. Amazing.

My excitement to see Catching Fire knows NO bounds! I cannot wait!

What did you guys think? Favorite moments?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lucky Seven Book Review #6: JANE by April Lindner

I've been on a reading binge lately, and I've been lucky enough to have read seven excellent books that you definitely should bump to the top of your TBR list. (And five of them are from debut authors!) Here's a brief recommendation of the sixth of the seven, and happy reading!


Jane (April Lindner)
(Little, Brown; Oct. 2010)

Summary from Goodreads: Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

Thanks to the best high school English teacher in the known universe (hey, Ms. Lewis!) I fell in love with poor, plain Jane Eyre. This modern retelling of Jane's story manages to not only capture the essence of the first (a very specific atmosphere and tone, no easy feat), but to also bring it to modern times.

In JANE EYRE, there was a gorgeous subtlety to the interactions between Jane and Mr. Rochester as their relationship progressed, and Lindner kept that subtlety in the modern version. Of course, there were some changes to the story, but they all felt in tune with the original, too, and helped JANE stand on its own merit.

All readers, familiar with the original or not, can appreciate how Team Jane this book is. Yes, it's a love story, but it's primarily a story about a quiet girl with unfortunate life circumstances who tackles every setback with grace and inner strength.

It may sound silly, but Jane Moore has principles and integrity and a wicked independent streak, and to maintain those standards, she makes heartbreaking decisions. But she's also warm and caring, and willing to give her whole heart to people who earn that privilege. (If Jane were real, I'd totally want to be her friend.)

JANE is her story, and it's one well worth reading.

The verdict? Yes. Whether or not you're a fan of the original, pick this one up and become immersed in a great novel. It came out in 2010, so I was a little late to the party, but I'm so glad I went!

Fingers crossed this ARC
will be at BEA! I'll stand in line
for this one!
Bonus! First off, JANE is April Lindner's first novel, so she's an honorary FNC member. Secondly, she's an English professor at a local university, so yayyyy awesome Philly-area authors! And last but not least.... her second book is called CATHERINE. Yep, a modern retelling of the most torturously awful/epic romance ever, WUTHERING HEIGHTS. If she pulls that one off as well as she did with JANE, I'm an April Lindner fan for life!

Further evidence: Check out these reviews from The Book Butterfly and Forever YA!

Check out the other books in the Lucky Seven!
Book one: THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN by Erin Saldin
Book three: UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
Book four: WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE by Sarah Dessen
Book five: GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers

Stay tuned for the final book of the Lucky Seven: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ally Carter and Rachel Hawkins Signing

Last night Donna and I got to meet up with bloggers Jena and Bonnie to go see Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls, Heist Society) and Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall) who are currently on tour.
Bonnie, Donna, Me and Jena 
Ally and Rachel
And it was SO much fun! Ally and Rachel were really cute telling us how they got off on the wrong train stop in Philly. They knew they were spending the day in Philadelphia, but were supposed to get off in Trenton--which everyone around here KNOWS is in New Jersey, but they didn't. Which I had to say--was hilarious and endearing. Really--if you've never been to're not missing much.

They answered a lot of questions from the audience, but here are a few fun tidbits.

Ally always writes about the only girl in a family that has an unusual, male-dominated family business (spies, thieves) and thinks it's because her family has a cattle ranching business.

Rachel started making up intense heavily plotted stories with her barbies, setting up highly intricate scenarios. And OMG this was ME! As faulty as barbie's look is--I used to set up whole WORLDS with my barbies and usually had some kind of soap opera I'd return to every day.

(Donna addition) Rachel's line was so hilarious I had to write it down: "You didn't want to play Barbies with me because you could not step to what I was bringing."

Rachel based the estate Sophie stays at in Demonglass on the same building used as Pemberley Place in the Kiera Knightly Pride and Prejudice. She ordered a guide book and grounds book and after writing Demonglass, she watched a video tour walking through the building and realized she knew it inside and out and felt like she was seeing the house she imagined living in for so long come to life.

After their talk and Q&A, I had Rachel sign my books (I'm going to another Ally Carter signing tomorrow, so I decided to wait on her). And Rachel was SUPER fun and cute in person. I've been following her/interacting with her online for awhile and she was just as sweet and funny in real life as you'd expect her to be.
Rachel and Me
All in all it was an awesome night! I kind of wanted to just hop on tour with them and hang out more--and also help them navigate Philadelphia and the rest of PA. If they're coming to your town or near your town, you should definitely check them out.

And now...I have books I must read!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lucky Seven Book Review #5: GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers

I've been on a reading binge lately, and I've been lucky enough to have read seven excellent books that you definitely should bump to the top of your TBR list. (And five of them are from debut authors!) Here's a brief recommendation of the fifth of the seven, and happy reading!


Grave Mercy (Robin LaFevers)
(Houghton Mifflin, April 2012)

Summary from Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully underprepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

GRAVE MERCY was one of those books that, after I saw the cover and summary and read an excerpt, I emailed the other FNC ladies with the link, about 50 exclamations points, and the line, "I MUST have this ARC." And thanks to the generosity of Joanne at My Brain on Books, I got one!

I finished GRAVE MERCY in just two days, and I loved it. The book overall has more of an adult feel, a la FIRE, in that Ismae (the main character) is in her teens, but because it's set in medieval times, she's technically an adult and acts/is treated as such. (If this were put in the adult section, no one would bat an eye.)

The awesome? Ismae is trained by nuns to be an assassin, a "handmaiden of Mortain" (the god of Death), carrying out his will. So. Awesome. (And hence, the badass cover.)

The main plotline involves political intrigue (totally absorbing, with plenty of suspicious characters and secret backstabbing), and the secondary plot involves her falling in love with a swoonworthy guy named Duval whom she may or may not be ordered to kill.

And when torturously (and delightfully) slow attraction builds between Ismae and Duval, it never overshadows the political plot, which I loved. (Same as UNDER THE NEVER SKY.)

Much of the book involves Ismae learning to trust herself and her instincts on how to serve Mortain, especially when the convent orders her to do things that are going against what she believes is right. This classic coming-of-age internal conflict makes this book perfect for the YA crowd, and as a bonus, Ismae is completely relatable as a main character.

The verdict? Preorder this book, so that you can read it right away when it comes out (less than 1 month!).

Bonus! There's going to be a companion novel (sequel?), focusing on another one of the young assassins trained at the convent. Sign me up for an ARC!

Further evidence: It got starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus!

Check out the other books in the Lucky Seven!
Book one: THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN by Erin Saldin
Book three: UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
Book four: WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE by Sarah Dessen

Stay tuned for book six of the Lucky Seven --- JANE by April Lindner!

And if you're in the mood to win a book, check out our giveaway of the awesome debut FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lucky Seven Book Review #4: WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE by Sarah Dessen

I've been on a reading binge lately, and I've been lucky enough to have read seven excellent books that you definitely should bump to the top of your TBR list. (And five of them are from debut authors!) Here's a brief recommendation of the fourth of the seven, and happy reading!


What Happened to Goodbye (Sarah Dessen)
(Viking, May 2011)

Summary from Goodreads: Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move---four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.

Sarah Dessen books are like my YA reading happy place, and WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE is no exception. Sarah is a queen of contemporary novels, with pitch-perfect voice, the right touch of humor, and an emotional heart that really resonates in a non-cheesy way.

In WHtG, I started out pretty neutral on the protagonist, McLean, but with each passing chapter I became more and more understanding of how her past shaped her into someone who's uncomfortable and even afraid of being who she is.

The framing of the story keeps it interesting -- rehabbing a failed restaurant, building a tiny model of the town, an addiction to college basketball -- and her family is flawed in totally normal ways that make you root for them to pick up the broken pieces, even when you understand how much they've hurt each other.

Sarah's also given McLean an envy-worthy group of new friends (Deb! Be my BFF!) who frequently made me smile, plus an oh-so-cute crush interest named Dave --- just enough incentive for McLean to break down the walls she's built around herself. (Sarah's awesome in real life, so no wonder she writes such appealing characters!)

Basically, Dessen has done it again, and you should totally check out WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE.

Audiobook aside: I listened to WHtG as an audiobook, and I totally loved the narration! Definitely recommended.

Further evidence: Reviews from Steph Su Reads and Forever YA

Check out book one of the Lucky Seven: THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN by Erin Saldin
Check out book two of the Lucky Seven: THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES by Wendy Wunder
Check out book three of the Lucky Seven: UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi

Stay tuned for book five of the Lucky Seven --- GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers! 

And if you're in the mood to win a book, check out our giveaway of the awesome debut FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lucky Seven Book Review #3: UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi

I've been on a reading binge lately, and I've been lucky enough to have read seven excellent books that you definitely should bump to the top of your TBR list. (And five of them are from debut authors!) Here's a brief recommendation of the third of the seven, and happy reading!


Under the Never Sky (Veronica Rossi)
(Harper, Feb. 2012)

Summary from Goodreads: Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered. This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as The Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

Truth be told, when I initially saw this book, the cover (though accurate to the story) made me think "strange Hollywood premiere / wind in my hairrrrrrr." Thank goodness I know better than to let that stop me from reading a book, because I totally loved it.

UNDER THE NEVER SKY is a fun, delightfully readable post-apocalyptic novel with terrific characters (alternating 3rd-person narration), strong worldbuilding (just enough explanation and backstory), and plenty of action. I basically flew through it in one sitting. 

And the best part? The slow-developing romance---Aria and Perry's hatred and mistrust of one another doesn't even transition to anything positive until halfway through the book---doesn't overshadow the adventure.  ::Cue choir of angels::

I was a big fan of the fact that Rossi's characters had strong and clear motivations, and that she didn't throw in extraneous situations just for the sake of danger. Also, the characters' abilities to survive in such a dangerous landscape seemed plausible. Aria started out completely helpless in a foreign, dangerous place, and I enjoyed watching her inner strength develop into outward capability, also. Basically, she kicks butt.

Overall, the book is addictive, and the ending is satisfying, but it leaves an obvious opening for a sequel --- which I can't wait to read.

Veronica Rossi gets an honorary membership with the First Novels Club with this excellent debut!

Further evidence: Reviews from Parajunkee and ForeverYA.

Check out book one of the Lucky Seven: THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN by Erin Saldin
Check out book two of the Lucky Seven: THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES by Wendy Wunder

Stay tuned for book four of the Lucky Seven --- WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE by Sarah Dessen! 

And if you're in the mood to win a book, check out our giveaway of the awesome debut FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS!

Friday, March 9, 2012

On giving your main character an awesome group of friends. (Guest Post by debut author Meredith Zeitlin)

My absolute favorite part of Meredith Zeitlin's awesome debut FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS was the positive portrayal of a strong, loyal group of friends. Too often in YA, girls are shown as backstabbing enemies or catty frenemies, or at the least, much less appealing to have than a guy friend. Also, few YA protagonists have more than one close female friend.

For writers, adding multiple fully-realized characters without taking away from the MC's story is a tall order. Meredith Zeitlin pulled this off with much success, and she's here to tell us how she did it!

One of the scariest things for me about my freshman year was starting at a brand new school where I didn't know a soul. Getting good grades, being cast in a play, making the sports team you want... those things all pale in comparison to finding someone to sit with at lunch or tell your secrets to. And for Kelsey, who has so much enthusiasm and so much bad luck (a lot of it of her own making, of course), I wanted her to always have a really strong foundation supporting her. Without her friends' encouragement, she probably wouldn't be able to pick herself up and keep going in the wake of disaster after disaster.

It was important to me that each girl really have her own story, her own specific personality, her own family background, and her own way of speaking. That's one of the things I worked hardest on, and I hope I was successful. But of course, each girl also serves a purpose in the protagonist's – Kelsey's – journey.

Em is Kelsey's Jiminy Cricket. She's the quiet and shy one, but she's also Kelsey's rock. When they have a fight for the first time, the bottom really falls out from under Kelsey. Em centers Kelsey in an important way: sometimes when you're outgoing, you forget that it's okay to sit quietly sometimes. Em is that reminder. She also sticks to her guns; for example, she absolutely doesn't drink alcohol, and she doesn't let anyone make her feel bad about that. That's a key thing for Kelsey, who gets really wrapped up in what other people think, to see.

Cassidy is the most like Kelsey herself, and because of that they tend to butt heads the most. They both have strong opinions and like to be in charge of the group, but they also balance each other out, because they can't BOTH be in charge all the time, right? Cassidy has a very different home life than Kelsey, though, and because of that she tends to act out more. As a result she gets her way a lot more often. This drives Kelsey nuts and also reminds her to be compassionate – despite all her complaints, Kelsey knows she's pretty lucky when it comes to her family and support system at home. Cass doesn't really have that.

JoJo is the friend who does her own thing and never seems to face any repercussions for being different or boldly charging ahead. Kelsey both envies JoJo's easy-breezy life and cannot fathom how to be that way herself. JoJo never seems to be insecure about anything – how is that possible?! Of course, JoJo has her own journey, but in most things she is truly confident and comfortable with herself. Kelsey looks up to her, but JoJo never looks down. That's a pretty amazing friend to have.

Based on this picture, wouldn't you
want to be friends with Meredith?
Overall, I developed these characters to act as a unit. The group doesn't really work without all the members, and there's security in that. It also makes it essential for the girls to look out for each other which, especially in a new environment like high school, can be hard to remember. Friendships change, grow, and sometimes end – I wanted Kelsey to see that this was in fact a possibility, and work really hard not to let it happen. For Kelsey to truly appreciate her friends, she has to worry a little bit about losing them, and that happens too. But ultimately, despite all the ups and downs, the boys and the fights, the differences in handling things and misunderstandings, the girls end up facing the world together. Which makes each of them, but especially Kelsey, really lucky.

(By the way, I did make amazing friends in high school and never had to sit alone. In fact, many of the characters in the book are named after wonderful girls – okay, women – that I'm still super lucky to be friends with today.)

Thanks, Meredith! Love the insight!

If you haven't already, be sure to enter our giveaway for FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS! (Or just hop on over to the post to share your favorite --- or most embarrassing --- moment from school.) 

If you'd like to stalk Meredith (in a friendly way, of course), follow her on Twitter @zeitlingeist or check out!

Tomorrow, I'll resume the Lucky Seven book reviews with Veronica Rossi's UNDER THE NEVER SKY!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lucky Seven Book Review #2: THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES by Wendy Wunder

I've been on a reading binge lately, and I've been lucky enough to have read seven excellent books that you definitely should bump to the top of your TBR list. (And five of them are from debut authors!) Here's a brief recommendation the second of the seven, and happy reading!


(Razorbill, Dec. 2011)

Summary from Goodreads: Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine - a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it's undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingoes in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe - in love, in herself, and even in miracles.

A debut novel from an immensely talented new writer, The Probability of Miracles crackles with wit, romance and humor and will leave readers laughing and crying with each turn of the page.

Side note -- LOVE this cover.
So perfect for the book, too!
Few books make me both laugh and cry, and what I especially loved about THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES is that I never knew which reaction a scene would elicit. Though TPoM centers around a girl with incurable cancer, it never edges into the overly maudlin, here-this-scene-will-make-you-cry "cancer book" territory. I never pitied Campbell (the MC), but I grew to love her from the dry wit and sardonic pessimism that a life with cancer --- and years of cancer treatment regimens --- will give you.

And Promise, Maine. I love it when settings are their own characters. Promise is a wonderful, magical little town where Cam's mother brings them because it's rumored that miracles happen there, and that's exactly what Cam needs to live. Plus, Promise gave me a scene with a donkey named James that literally made me stop reading for a minute because I was laughing so hard. Wunder included just enough magic realism in the story.

And then the tissues. No spoilers here, but a few moments made me cry and one made me weep --- and a few times my eyes welled up in furious anger that Cam got stuck with such a crappy, unfair lot in life. That shows that Wunder did her job well; Cam was a real person to me, and I loved reading her story. Congrats to Wendy Wunder for an incredible debut (and honorary membership with the FNC!).
Further evidence: TPoM received a starred Kirkus review ("irreverent humor, quirky small-town charm and surprises along the way"), and check out this glowing review from The Story Siren.

Check out book one of the Lucky Seven: THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN by Erin Saldin

Stay tuned for book three of the Lucky Seven --- UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi! 

And if you're in the mood to win a book, check out our giveaway of the awesome debut FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lucky Seven Book Review #1: THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN by Erin Saldin

I've been on a reading binge lately, and I've been lucky enough to have read seven excellent books that you definitely should bump to the top of your TBR list. (And five of them are from debut authors!) Here's a brief recommendation the first of the seven, and happy reading!


The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin 
(Arthur A Levine, Feb. 2012)

Summary from Goodreads: Erin Saldin's The Girls of No Return is a lacerating young adult debut about girls, knives, and redemption. The Alice Marshall School, set within a glorious 2-million acre wilderness area, is a place where teenage girls are sent to escape their histories and themselves. Lida Wallace has tried to negate herself in every way possible. At Alice Marshall, she meets Elsa Boone, Jules, and Gia Longchamps, whose glamour entrances the entire camp. As the girls prepare for a wilderness trek, Lida is both thrilled and terrified to be chosen as Gia's friend. Everyone has their secrets – the “Things” they try to protect; and when those come out, the knives do as well.

THE GIRLS OF NO RETURN is a highly compelling issue-esque book that isn't an "issue" book at all -- it's set at a school for troubled girls (who aren't quite troubled/criminal enough for juvie), so the problems are varied but not in-your-face, since most are kept secret or revealed in pieces.

All the characters, including the main character, Lida, are complex and imperfect and thoroughly believable, and Lida's POV/narration is so flawed and dense at times that I wanted to reach through the book and shake her -- which definitely means that Saldin did her job well. There are some scenes where the emotional manipulation going on is so pitch perfect I literally felt my insides twist up in disgust.

Though TGoNR isn't action-packed in the traditional sense, it's a deftly emotional pageturner. (Did I just use that phrase? Yeah, I did.) I never found myself bored of the story -- actually, I kept making excuses to pick it up again to read "just a little bit more." Without a doubt, TGoNR is a stellar contemporary debut. (And Erin's now an honorary FNC member!)

Further evidence: Two starred reviews, from Booklist ("this psychological mind-bender is raw, gripping, and deftly rolled out by a writer-to-watch") and Kirkus ("a smashing debut.")

Stay tuned for book two of the Lucky Seven --- Wendy Wunder's THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review and Giveaway! Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters

Reasons why you should read debut author Meredith Zeitlin's totally charming and funny book, FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS (Putnam, Mar. 1st):

Super cute cover, right?
The main character, Kelsey Finkelstein, is the real deal. She is the essence of a high school freshman -- optimistic, funny, self-absorbed, prone to crushing on boys, and straddling the line between still being a middle school kid and venturing into full-on scary/awesome teenagerdom.

Admittedly, Kelsey's cooler than I was as a freshman (parties didn't exist to me til at least junior year, and there certainly weren't any boys who wanted to kiss me), but her life is pretty average. Normal family (loving and a little quirky and oftentimes annoying), great group of friends, decent social life, everyday problems --- but FRESHMAN YEAR makes those things interesting and fun and oh-so-relatable.

With all the epic epicness of OMG instalove in upper YA, it was a breath of fresh air to read about a girl with a hardcore crush (on an undeserving jerk, FYI) but who is not blind to the buffet o' boys that the world offers her. She has romantic interactions (both positive and negative, to varying degrees) with FOUR separate guys in this book... and NONE are portrayed as the be-all, end-all to her world.

My favorite, favorite part of FRESHMAN YEAR was Kelsey's group of friends. First off, the ups and downs of their relationship far overshadowed any boy drama in the book (for this alone, I want to hug Meredith Zeitlin). They're unique without being stereotypically quirky, and I loved the realistic, ever-changing dynamic of the girls as they grew up and apart and together again. Plus, how they argued and got mad at each other was hilariously spot-on with how girls fight in high school.
Photographs by Meredith Zinner.

Remember when you were fourteen, and your biggest problems were that your crush wasn't crushing back and there was a mean girl on your soccer team and your mom made you buy dorky clothes and your little sister was driving you crazy? Yeah, Kelsey has those. Plus, she's dealing with issues like how far she wants to go with boys, how to let her best friend know that it's ok if she's a lesbian, and how to handle alcohol at a party. All of this is included with humor and depth and no preachy message (or judgment) whatsoever.

In conclusion, Kelsey rocks. FRESHMAN YEAR is funny and breezy with subtle depth --- and it's exactly what I'd recommend to a 12-to-14-year-old girl who's outgrown middle grade novels and wants something she can relate to. For the rest of us, it's just a good time! And for Meg Cabot fans, it's like THE PRINCESS DIARIES without the whole princess thing.

Stay tuned for an awesome guest post by Meredith Zeitlin, and enter the giveaway below to win a copy of FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS! And it's available now, so put it in the shopping cart of your book-buying website of choice so that you're all ready to buy a copy of your very own if you're not the lucky winner.
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