Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Favorite Music: Part 1

Aside from books, one of my favorite things in the whole world is music. I'm terrible at playing it and I can't sing to save my life but I always have music playing. If there was ever a day that passed without me listening to music, I'm not sure what would happen. I've got a pretty eclectic taste, ranging from bands like Nirvana and Social Distortion to Taylor Swift and Miranda Cosgrove to Skillet and Hey Monday. The Beatles are too bad either.

I plan on starting to review/talk about my favorite cds and any new music I find but first, I wanted to share some of my favorite songs/bands.

Novocaine - Skyrocket Love. Skyrocket Love is one of my current favorite bands. I actually found them on Grooveshark, where they have an ad. As of right now, they have no album out but they have music on Youtube, including covers of various songs, and Grooveshark has five of their songs. I love them all but Novocaine is my favorite.

About a Girl - Nirvana. Stephanie Kuehnert is to blame for my Nirvana obsession. I love Nirvana. LoveloveloveLOVE Nirvana. It makes me sad that I'll never have the chance to see them perform live (not that my parents would ever let me a hundred miles near one of their concerts) because Kurt is, well, dead. I love almost all of their music but About a Girl is my favorite song. I'm not sure why, exactly, but it is.

The Middle - Jimmy Eat World. I've been addicted to this song ever since my friend Brooke sent me a tweet that said "Listen to this, it'll cheer you up." The lyrics are exactly what I need to get through a bad day sometimes and it's just an amazing song. I also adore Salt Sweat Sugar by Jimmy Eat World. (Psst, hey just takes some time...)

I'll stop there for now but look for a My Favorite Music: Part 2 sometime soon!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Title: The Body Finder
Author: Kimberly Derting
Publisher: Harpercollins
Rating: 9/10

Summary: Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.

My Thoughts: I read this book back at the end of summer and now, in March, I still remember it. The Body Finder is that good.

From the first page, I was hooked. The Body Finder is so spooky, thrilling, and all-around entertaining that you just won't want to put it down. I read this in the summer, when the sun was shining bright, but man, I still felt chills while I was reading this, and my heart was racing as the end drew near and I was trying to figure out who The Killer was. The ending was absolutely FANTASTIC and completely unexpected.

The plot was the best part of the book. It was unique, fast-paced, and what kept you unable to put the book down. The characters were also completely unique and easy to relate to. The romance, while slow at first, is realistic. It adds a nice touch to the story while never taking over the plot. 100% Team Jay!

Overall, I highly recommend this debut and I look forward to reading more by Derting.

(Harmony's note: Yes, I wrote this review way back in March and never posted it. Sorry! But everything I said still stands - TBF *rocks*!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two Exciting Things!

1.) I am now part of a group writing blog called the YA Lit Six. We're six girls blogging about writing six days a week. (I'm Monday!) So please check it out and follow!

2.) If you've been following my blog for a while, you've heard me mention PAYA before. If you haven't, it's a book organization I started to raise money and collect books for libraries across Pennsylvania. Our biggest fundraiser is a mere 25 days (!!!) away. EIGHTEEN authors will be joining together to sign books and present writing workshops. We'll also have a basket raffle (feauturing prize packs of your favorite books with cool goodies like prints from trailers and jewelry, as well as signed books from people like MEG CABOT).

There will be two writing workshops - the Listen and Critique workshop featuring six authors talking about writing then critiquing the first three pages of your WIP, and the Teens on Writing Workshop, led by published teens Kieryn Nicolas and Chelsea Swiggett. The Listen and Critique Workshop is currently $40 and the Teens on Writing is $10. To pre-register, send an email to bringya2pa[at]

You can find more information on everything at

I'm really excited for the festival and I hope to see everyone there!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez

Title: The Red Umbrella
Author: Christina Gonzalez
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 10/10
The Red Umbrella is the moving tale of a 14-year-old girl's journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro's revolution.

In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.

As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own.

Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl?

The Red Umbrella is a moving story of country, culture, family, and the true meaning of home.

My Thoughts: I must admit that I was completely and utterly impressed and blown away by The Red Umbrella. It was utter brilliance. I loved it and could not put it down.

I'd never heard much about Cuba and the Communist Revolution, except for a few paragraphs in my US History book. This didn't take away from the book, though. In fact, it added to it because I was intrigiued to find out more, not just about the characters but about the revolution itself. However, those that are familiar with the Revolution will still find the story extremely enjoyable, as Christina includes just the right amount of details to keep both parties happy.

The relationships between the characters were another thing I loved about the novel. Even though the setting and time period is different, I could still relate to the way Lucia regarded the others in the novel. Her little brother has to be one of the most adorable characters ever written about and I loved reading about their bond.
Overall, I highly, highly recommend this, even if historical isn't your thing. You won't regret it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Title: Prada and Prejudice
Author: Mandy Hubbard
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: 7.5/10

To impress the popular girls on a high school trip to London, klutzy Callie buys real Prada heels. But trying them on, she trips...conks her head...and wakes up in the year 1815!

There Callie meets Emily, who takes her in, mistaking her for a long-lost friend. As she spends time with Emily's family, Callie warms to them—particularly to Emily's cousin Alex, a hottie and a duke, if a tad arrogant.

But can Callie save Emily from a dire engagement, and win Alex's heart, before her time in the past is up?

More Cabot than Ibbotson, Prada and Prejudice is a high-concept romantic comedy about finding friendship and love in the past in order to have happiness in the present.

My Thoughts: Prada and Prejudice is such a cute book! I wasn't really sure what to expect going into it because I wasn't sure how it was possible to pull of timetravel and still keep it cute and fun without making it cheesy and ridiculous. I'm still not sure how it is possible but Mandy Hubbard sure does!

I had so much fun reading Prada and Prejudice. Callie is such an easy character to relate to and some of her mistakes had me laughing out loud. I must admit, though, that Alex was my favorite character. Who DOESN'T love a charming Duke? While the book was ton of fun, there was also substance to it. I loved reading about an era I wasn't too familiar with. Plus, the problems Alex and Callie and the other character's face were intriguing as well. The ending was sweet and left me with a smile on my face as well.

Overall, if you're looking for a cute, fun, and short read this summer, Prada and Prejudice is your book!

Monday, July 19, 2010

ALA Recap: Saturday

I was lucky enough to be able to attend my first-ever book conference, the American Library Association (ALA) conference this past June. Unfortunately, I was stuck with only my phone as a camera and, as a result, I have 0 decent pictures. But, I thought I'd do a write-up about my experience either way.

ALA technically started on Friday night but since my parents had turned my vacation into a family vacation, I spent Friday afternoon at the zoo and Friday night in Old Town, Alexandria. That was okay, though, because Old Town is one of my favorite places EVER. It's a very historic town and there's even original cobblestone streets. They even offer ghosts tours, though I've never been daring enough to take one - maybe next time! Anyway, Old Time is just GORGEOUS and you can walk down to the water front, where there's people doing all kinds of crazy things to make money. My little brother got a crocodile made out of a balloon.

Then, we went to Ben and Jerry's. Going to Ben and Jerry's has basically become tradition for me every time I go to Old Town. The last time I was there, I ordered a HUGE cone, that was literally bigger than my hand. This time, I just got a small Chocolate Therapy (which I talked about with the cute boy at the register!). It was delicious.

Anyway, the next day, Saturday, was ALA. This was my first ever conference and I was pretty nervous but also EXTREMELY excited. By the time we drove into Chinatown, where it was held, I was practically jumping in my seat. When the building (which was HUGE) came into view, I couldn't stop myself from texting James in excitement. (Seriously, guys, this building was the biggest building I've ever been inside. EVER.)

Since there was SO much going on that day, and I'd bore everyone to tears if I talked about everything, I'm just going to talk about some of the highlights of my day.

-My aunt and I registered then headed downstairs to find James. I ended up wandering around for a while because he kept moving but I did eventually find him. Our first stop was Malindo Lo's signing. I almost didn't buy myself a copy, then I realized a hardcover was only $5, so, of course, I had to buy a copy.

-After that, James and I got in line to see Kami and Margie, authors of Beautiful Creatures. Karen Kincy, author of OTHER (which is fantastic, btw), ended up in line behind us. Then Christina Diaz Gonzalez came by with Danielle Joseph (I think. I know Danielle was there but I think someone else was too?). We all chatted while we waited which made the line move a LOT faster.

-We stopped by the end of L.K. Madigan's signing, where I picked up a copy of The Mermaid's Mirror. My awesome librarian friend Tiff, Amy Brecount White, and Holly Cupala were also there. It was exciting to FINALLY meet Amy because I've talked to her online a lot and she's been super supportive of PAYA from the start. I didn't know Holly well but I must say she is one of the sweetest people I've ever met! (And she wears the cutest dresses!)

-James and I decided that we'd just stay in the exhibit hall for lunch so we went to what we thought was the only place to get food (it wasn't). I ended up paying $10 for a CHEESESTEAK. I almost cried. Seriously. $10. for a piece of bread, a slice of cheese, and crushed up steak slices. INSANE. We couldn't find a table without people and both of us were too shy to just sit down at a table with random people, so we ended up eating on the floor. Then I informed him that I NEEDED Starbucks so we went upstairs and waited in line for like half an hour just so I could get my Double Chocolate Chip Frap. (It was soooo worth it!!)

-We then went to the Laurie Halse Anderson signing. The line was INSANE and I can honestly say that if it had been anyone but Laurie, I would not have waited. But, it was LHA so I did. Cheryl Rainfield and her publicist stopped by while we were in line and we ended up talking to them for a while. Cheryl is so nice! I can't wait to read SCARS. At this point I was getting super-hyper because I was excited so I have a feeling James was ready to hit me over the head, just to get me to shut up. Anyway, I ended up buying a copy of Fever 1793 and getting an ARC of Forge (This made me SOOO happy, because CHAINS is my favorite LHA book.) When it was my turn, Laurie looked at me and went "Haven't I met you before?" and I was like "Yes! In Haverford" and she was like "Oh right! At the signing with Sarah and all the other authors." Then we chatted about the class I'd taken on her and how she really had put a lot of thought into the science tips and vocab included in Catalyst. She totally won me over, though, when she agreed that it was total crap when teachers made you write 9 sentences on a one sentence tip for a three page chapter.

-One of the things I was most looking forward to was meeting Stephanie Kuehnert. Ballads of Suburbia is my all-time favorite book and I was so psyched to finally meet Stephanie in person. By mid-afternoon, no one had seen her and I was starting to worry because a group of us were going out to dinner that night but I couldn't remember if I'd told Stephanie that the time had been changed. So James and I literally walked the entire hall looking for her. James had to leave at that point because he was going to another signing. Since he had to go on the metro, I ended up carrying around his bag of books too. Luckily, I ran into Tiff who was like "Oh, didn't you see Stephanie's tweet? She told you like two hours ago they were in the hotel room watching the World Cup".

-After that, my aunt and I decided to head out. We walked around Chinatown and went into a few shops. Then, it was finally time for dinner - which was what I'd been looking forward to for the whole day.

Tiff, James, Sarah, some other librarians and their husbands, Amy Brecount White, Holly Cupala, Stephanie Kuehnert, Jeri-Smith Ready, my aunt, and I all met at the Austin Grill for dinner. James and I were some of the first there so we went outside to wait for Stephanie and Jeri. I was really excited/nervous about meeting Stephanie and when she finally got there, I was totally fangirling on the inside. I think I acted pretty sane on the outside but seriously guys, it was like a Twi-hard meeting Stephenie Meyer. I wanted to jump up and down and squeal. Because let me say it again - Ballads of Suburbia is absolutely AMAZING. It changed my life and I was meeting the author of the amazingness. So yeah. I was absolutely ecstatic.

Since there were so many people at dinner, we basically got split into two tables - the librarians & husbands, then the authors, James, me, and my aunt. I sat between Stephanie and Jeri with my aunt and James across from us and then when Amy and Holly got there, they sat at the end of our table. Dinner was completely awesome. We talked about so much and it was just tons of fun. Stephanie and I talked about the Nirvana obsession she started for me and Columbia College Chicago, which is where she went and where I want to go. After hearing her talk about it, I want to go to Chicago. NOW. Then Jeri and I talked about Shade, which I had just finished reading the day before when I read it instead of sleeping in the car on the way down to DC. Amy and Stephanie are both coming to PAYA so we talked about that, too, and I managed to convince Jeri into coming up as well.

Unfortunately, at that point, it was getting late and my parents and brother were still at my aunt's so I had to leave before anyone else. I can honestly say that day was one of the best days of my life, though!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

Title: The Cinderella Society
Author: Kay Cassidy
Publisher: Egmont
Rating: 9/10

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Jess Parker survives by staying invisible. After nine schools in ten years, she's come to terms with life as a perpetual new girl, neither popular nor outcast. At Mt. Sterling High, Jess gets the chance of a lifetime: an invitation to join The Cinderella Society, a secret club of the most popular girls in school, where makeovers are the first order of official business. But there's more to being a Cindy than just reinventing yourself from the outside, a concept lost on Jess as she dives tiara-first into creating a hot new look.

With a date with her popular crush and a chance to finally fit in, Jess's life seems to be a perfect fairy tale. That is until the Wickeds—led by Jess's archenemy—begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers her new sisterhood is about much more than who rules Mt. Sterling High School. It's a centuries-old battle of good vs. evil, and the Cindys need Jess on special assignment. But when the mission threatens to destroy her new dream life, Jess is forced to choose between this dream realized and honoring the Sisterhood. What's a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn't want to wear it anymore?

My Thoughts: The Cinderella Society is one of the most original books I've read. At first, I was a little unsure about it because I've never been a fan of sororities and the Cindys are basically a highschool sorority. However, the more I read, the more I fell in love. I would love to have the opportunity to be in a group like that.

Jess is a character that I think most teenage girls will be able to relate to. She's definitely a girly character but she has a strong personality. You'll find parts of yourself and others in the supporting characters, both the good and bad ones.

I also love how Cassidy added elements about each character's lives that weren't necessarily happy but managed to still keep the book uplifting and light.

Overall, I highly recommend The Cinderella Society, especially for those that need a girl-power boost. I look forward to any future books by Kay Cassidy, whether in this series or not.

Monday, July 5, 2010

One Night That Changes Everything by Lauren Barnholdt

Title: One Night That Changes Everything
Author: Lauren Barnholdt
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Rating: 9/10
Summary: Eliza is in a full-blown panic. Her notebook has been stolen—the one that lists everything she wants but is afraid to go after. And the absolute worst person in the world has it: her ex-boyfriend, Cooper.

Like it’s not enough Cooper was lying to Eliza for their entire relationship, now he and his friends are blackmailing her. They’re giving her just one night to complete the most humiliating tasks on her list or they’ll post her secrets online—including the ones that aren’t just about her.

Eliza’s sure of only one thing: she isn’t going down without a fight. Cooper may have what’s left of her dignity, but she’s not the only one with something to hide …

A hilarious and sweet teen novel by Lauren Barnholdt, the author of two-way street

My Thoughts: One Night That Changes Everything is a book that I could absolutely not put down. I loved every minute of it. Barnholdt has created an absolutely unique story with characters that bounce off the pages. The idea of a notebook where you write down all of your fears is really intriguing from the start and I think a lot of girls, even guys, will be able to relate to Eliza's fears.

The story takes place over the course of one night but it's a very eventful night. There's never a dull moment in the story and it's nearly impossible to figure out what's going to happen next. The fears Eliza has to face are each so different from each other. Some will leave you laughing and others will leave you gasping.

My one complaint with the story is Eliza's friends. She goes on about how amazing they are but in reality...well, they seemed to be pretty crappy friends and that's not something she ever realizes. However, that could just be my personal opinion on what a "real friend" should act like. Otherwise, I adored the characters. Eliza is strong, indepenant, and funny. And Cooper...well, Cooper is Cooper. We'll just leave it at that.

If you're looking for a quick and fun summer read that has some depth, One Night That Changes Everything is your book!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

Title: Shade
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: 9/10

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan’s band playing a crucial gig and Aura’s plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend’s life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan’s sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He’s gone.

Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and talk to ghosts.

This mysterious ability had always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan’s violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because Dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.

It doesn’t help that Aura’s new friend Zachary is so understanding — and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura’s relationship with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura’s heart . . . and clues to the secret of the Shift.

My Thoughts: Sick of cliche paranormal romances with werewolves and vampires but still loving paranormal and romance? Yeah, me too. That's why I loved Shade so much. It's paranormal and there's definitely romance, but it's anything but cliche and there's no vampires or werewolves to be found.

Smith-Ready combines music, legend, boys with very cute accents, with ghosts and romance and gives you a novel you will not be able to put down. Ghosts are something that are starting to become more and more popular in the YA genre but I guarantee the ghosts in Shade are nothing like you've ever seen before. I love how Smith-Ready brought together elements like the star positions and stonehedge to create an amazing paranormal element.

Another favorite part of the novel was the characters. Each character had a completely unique personality and added so much to the novel. There's Logan, who has a quick temper and often makes stupid decisions but can be loving and, even better, is in a band. There's also Zachary, who has an adorable accent and does the sweetest things. (Team Zach all the way!) Aura also has a distinct personality and even though she's very different from me, I loved her. The minor characters were also multi-sided and I never had the problem of not remembering who was who.

Overall, Shade was a fantastic novel. I'm desperately awaiting the sequel and I totally plan on reading Jeri's other novels!