December 31, 2012

Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle {Review}

Publisher: Speak
Publish Date: October 2, 2008
Source: Gift/Own
The weather outside is frightful, but these stories are delightful! When a huge blizzard (that doesn't show signs of stopping) hits, Gracetown is completely snowed in. But ven though it's cold outside, things are heating up inside, proving that the holiday season is magical when it comes to love. In three wonderfully (and hilariously!) interconnected tales, YA stars John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson create a must-have collection that captures all the spirit of the holiday season.

Let It Snow is basically the most perfect holiday book ever. Could you really expect less from 3 amazing authors, though? First, I'll break it down into the tree stories.

The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson
Take hilarious shenanigans, Christmas, and romance; mix them thoroughly and what do you end up with? Magic, I tell you, magic. I can't even count how many times I laughed out loud while reading this. I could read a whole book about Jubilee because she's unintentionally hilarious. Plus, she's the type of girl who'll trudge through 5 feet of snow by herself to go to a Waffle House and that's the type of girl I like to read about.
Her relationship with Stuart is good even though they had a lot of unnecessary miscommunication at the end. They start out as strangers (Stuart seeming a little more strange upon first glance) in a Waffle House then progress to friendly jabs at each other, and finally they realize that being together is kind of nice. Basically what I'm saying is that it all felt really natural except, you know, for the fact that the first night they met she slept on his couch...

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green
Mr. Green presents a familiar situation: guy friend and girl friend both like each other but neither realizes. Part of me was always going “Tobin, you idiot! Can you not see the googly eyes Duke is making and the massive elphant-sized hints she's dropping?!” But no, because I've totally been there. Before my (now) husband and I started dating I'm pretty sure everyone in the entire town knew we liked each other but could we see it? Hah, not a chance. So Tobin and Duke's relationship was predictable, but that didn't diminish its cuteness.
I liked that even though there were three (well, technically four, but he was mostly just on the phone) friends the third didn't just become a third wheel left out in the cold. JP (said third friend) was hilarious and had a great relationship with both Duke and Tobin and the story certainly wouldn't be the same without him.

The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle
Myracle's story wasn't the laugh-out-loud hilarious type like the other two, but it kind of ended up balancing everything out. Now, it's pretty obvious within the first couple pages that this will be a coming-to-terms-with-the-fact-that-you-need-to-change type of story, but again, predictability isn't always a bad thing.
I didn't really understand Addie. All the people closest to her are telling her she's self-absorbed and she refuses to listen and just rattles off all the problems with her life instead. Plus, why in the world would you break up with someone if YOU are the cheater and your other half DOESN'T want to break up? I just don't get it. That's kind of the point of Addie, though. She's dramatic and just does things but you get to see her grow into a better person by the end.

One of the best things about this little trio of stories is the way you get to watch them all come together. At first it's just a few references to people or happenings you heard about before, but then it all builds up into this giant avalanche of crossing paths and you see how everyone affected everyone else. It's pretty neat and (for the most part) believable too.
The Nutshell: If you want a cute, funny winter read by some awesome authors then you simply must pick up Let It Snow
Pages: 352
Series: No
Rating: Direct Hit

December 17, 2012

Across the Universe by Beth Revis {Review}

Publisher: Razorbill
Publish Date: January 11, 2011
Source: Bought/Own
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was o mere computer malfunction. Someone -- one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship -- tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could have never seen coming.

GAH! That ending! It was perfect in the way that it wrapped things up, but it just left me with such a bittersweet feeling.

So here’s the deal: Across the Universe is brilliant. So all those people that have been telling you to read it? They weren’t lying.

If I had to pick out one thing about the story that was my favorite, it’s that there’s not really any romance. When I saw that (gorgeous) almost-kissing cover I just knew Amy and Elder were going to get it on. It just so happens that I was wrong, though. Oh sure, there’s a spark there, but the story isn’t about the romance and I loved that. The non-romance means I can go around waving this book in everyone’s faces without having to worry if they’re romance haters or not.

Which leads me to what the story is about: secrets. Lots and lots of secrets. And mysteries galore! Sure, I knew about the whole “Godspeed is a ship built on lies” tagline, but I didn’t fathom just how many lies Revis was going to manage to shove into it. Every time I thought I had something figured out I was faced with another plot-twist or mini-mystery. I admit that for a while towards the beginning I was like “MORE secrets?! When do I get some answers?!” but I assure you that they’ll come and in the meantime there’s plenty of crazy stuff to keep you occupied.

I’m really hoping we get to see more of the science behind Godspeed in book two. It didn’t really have a place in Across the Universe because of everything else that was going on, but I still love learning about (fictional) science.

And can I just say that the Season seriously creeped me out? Because it really, really did.
The Nutshell: Across the Universe is a fantastic read. If you’re looking for something with minimal romance, fantastic characters, and a great story full of mystery then you’ll definite find it in AtU.
Pages: 398
Series: Across the Universe #1
Rating: Direct Hit

December 16, 2012

Have Your Cake and Read it Too (4)

Have Your Cake and Read it Too is a weekly feature that will take a book and pair it with a food whether it be savory or sweet.

1 Concert
2000 Miles
3 Ex-Best Friends
Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends.
Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3.
But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.
Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show.
Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van known as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.
But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?

What's the one thing a road trip needs? Snacks, of course! Gas station junk food is good (believe me, I love it as much as the next person), but if you're looking for something a little more healthy then making your own snack mix is a great option.

Sweet & Salty Caramel Snack Mix
Recipe from Our Best Bites

6 cups graham cracker cereal (like Honey Grahams)
1 cup honey roasted peanuts
1 cup salted cashews or macadamia nuts
1/2 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup light Karo syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups Pretzel M&Ms (about 1 large bag)
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or wax paper and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Toss together the cereal and the nuts in a large bowl and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, and Karo syrup and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it begins to boil. Allow to boil for 2 minutes (3 if you’re at a high elevation) and then remove from heat. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Drizzle the caramel mixture over the cereal/nut mixture and stir quickly to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. When the caramel mixture has cooled but isn’t solid yet (just a few minutes), add the Pretzel M&Ms and toss gently to combine. Allow to cool completely before serving.

December 15, 2012

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross {Review}

Publisher: EgmontUSA
Publish Date: April 10, 2012
Source: Library
Mirabelle's past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents' tragic deaths to her guardians' half-truths about why she can't return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday -- and discovers a world she never could have a imagined.
In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems -- the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who's a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.
But fairy tales aren't pretty things, and they don't always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own...brothers who share a dark secret. And she'll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and and hidden thorns.

Looking at the cover of Kill Me Softly you probably aren’t imagining the story inside to be so dark (despite the blood), but it is. Oh, by golly, it is. Incredibly, deliciously dark.

The first third of the book wasn’t so awesome for me. I spent it being astounded by Mira’s stupidity and unwillingness to question things. I mean, I understand Felix has magic working on his side, but come on. He’s 21, you’re a few days shy of sixteen and you just crawl in bed with him after a few hours spent together? Where is your brain, Mira?! And then when everyone is telling her he has a curse she’s all “but this is true love and you wouldn’t understand!” instead of digging a little deeper to find out exactly what this curse is.

BUT, then things start to clear up. Then we start learning about the curses and the fairytales, and let me tell you, it’s pretty gruesome. It’s one thing to read the fairytales and think they’re dark, but it’s another to think about applying it to life today. And I absolutely love how Cross weaved the fairytales into modern life.

Then there’s Blue. Oh, Blue. I kind of loved him from the start even though he acted like a complete jerk for a while. The poor guy is just so tortured and selfless. If you’re looking for a noble knight in hiding, look no further than Blue.

Felix, on the other hand, always just felt a little slimy to me. And, in my opinion, he is, but I’ll let you make that decision for yourself without ruining anything ;]

Mira became a much more complex and likable character by the end of the story which I greatly appreciated. Instead of continuing on the lovesick puppy path she starts to actually question things and search out answers.

I’m feeling pretty torn about the ending, though. On the one hand, I loved it. On the other, well, let’s break it down:
-- Umm, hello, what about Felix? It alluded to the fact that he’d need to be killed, but we’re just going to end the story with him wandering around with his head intact? Not cool. I was really looking forward to seeing a fight with him.
-- What about our poor knight, Freddie? I know he already knew Mira didn’t like him that way, but what is he supposed to do with his life now? He’s spent years looking for his princess and when he finds her she runs straight into the arms of another guy. That definitely deserved some follow up.
-- The elusive parents? I know it’d be long and complicated to build a relationship between them and Mira, but all I’m asking for is one little meeting. I just wanted to meet them!
-- What’s up with her fairy godmothers saying something about fairy prison? They act like we should know what rules they broke and what trouble they’d get in instead of just telling us. Not cool.

I know I can’t have everything, but that’s a lot of stuff to introduce only to leave unanswered.
End spoilers

The Nutshell: If you love your fairytales dark then you’ll definitely like Kill Me Softly. The story is complex and fascinating and it’ll really make you question right and wrong (at least, it did me).
Pages: 336
Series: No
Rating: Direct Hit

December 9, 2012

Have Your Cake and Read it Too {3}

Have Your Cake and Read it Too will take a book and pair it with a food whether it be savory or sweet. For now, it'll be sporadic, but depending on how much you guys like it, it may become a usual thing :]

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”
So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

I love that this book is all wintery. If you have some peppermint bark along with some hot cocoa then I'm pretty sure your enjoyment of Dash & Lily's would exponentially more.

Peppermint Bark
recipe from Food Network


  • Crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
  • 2 pounds white chocolate
  • Peppermint flavorings, optional


Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Combine candy cane chunks with chocolate (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired.) Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle.)

December 8, 2012

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman {Review}

Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publish Date: April 10, 2012
Source: Library
It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.
But the next morning, it was still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend, Adrianne, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also -- according to the police, to her parents, to everyone -- a murderer.
Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that may not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

The Book of Blood and Shadow is one seriously crazy, twisty adventure. There were so many plot twists you’d think it’d be hard to keep up, but the story actually flowed in a fantastic way.

This is a whopper of a book, so let’s break it down:
Nora – Flawed, but in a good, believable way. This girl has dealt with some serious tragedy in her life, so I don’t blame her for being pessimistic. She was also headstrong and stubborn; unwilling to let anyone do anything for her. The fact that she was unwilling to ask for help may seem stupid, but I actually admired that in her.

Max – I felt kind of on the fence about him most of the time. I could see why Nora liked him and how she reasoned away his moody side, but I can’t deal with moody and I don’t appreciate guys snapping at their girlfriends just because they “get that way.” I didn’t hate him, but I also didn’t really like him.

Adriane – Sometimes I liked her and sometimes she just seemed so damn full of herself. Plus, her and Nora had kind of a strange relationship.

Just because I complained about the characters doesn’t mean they weren’t great in the story :]

This is one crazy storyline, guys. Just when you think you’ve figured it out BAM there’s another twist you never saw coming (or, at least, I didn’t see coming). I kind of like that the story starts about by telling you Chris is dead and then backtracks and gives you a little of what happened before Chris was murdered. The backtrack made it possible to get to know Chris and a little of why he died without it having to just be info-dump or telling instead of showing.

I loved the story. I loved everything from Latin translations (although, I could’ve done without Latin/Czech/whatever that wasn’t translated throughout the book) to the idea of this crazy machine hidden away in Prague that does who know what. Everything was mysterious enough to keep me going but Wassernan also provided enough answers I didn’t want to pull my hair out from all the not knowing.

My one complaint is all the religion talk. It probably won’t bother most people since it’s not the preachy kind. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Norah doesn’t believe in any type of religion so since they’re searching for some religious artifact, you can imagine how often she’s preaching her non-belief. (I know I said it wasn’t preachy, but it isn’t what people normally think of as preachy.) I completely understand why the questioning was important to Norah’s character, but I just wish it wasn’t so “God could not exist and whoever believes in him is kind of stupid” all the time.
The Nutshell: If you’re looking for a good cross-country mystery then The Book of Blood and Shadow is definitely your book. There’s so many plot-twists I can just short of guarantee (because I can’t guarantee anything :P) you’ll never be bored or figure out the story early on.
Pages: 448
Series: No
Rating: Direct Hit

December 7, 2012

Liked and Shared {3}

Liked and Shared is a new feature I'll be trying out. Basically, I find something I like and share it with you guys!

Oh, Donna. She may not be my favorite companion, but she does have some really good scenes and this is definitely one of my favorite.

December 6, 2012

Bewitching by Alex Flinn {Review}

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: February 14, 2012
Source: Library
Bewitching can be a beast...
Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Other didn't.
I go to a new school now -- one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I'm not still here because I'm stupid; I just don't age.
You see, I'm immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years -- except for when to take my powers and butt out.
I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banned from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the "Titanic" life boat? I don't even want to think about it.
Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn't get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl -- and it isn't an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start...bewitching. 

Bewitching is one majorly fun read. This book gave me that swelling heart/goofy grin feeling in the end. Sure, some parts were a little cheesy and it was chock-full of fairytale elements, but would you really expect anything less?

I love that though we have the whole “evil stepsister” thing going on it’s not a normal Cinderella story in the least. In fact, Emma often refers to the fairytale in comparison to her situation and questions whether she or her sister would really be the “evil stepsister.” I also really love the Emma doesn’t let her anger get the best of her and wish her sister the worst complexion on the planet and an instant 10 sizes added to her waist. She thinks about it sometimes, yes, but she never really wants it to happen which makes her pretty fantastic :]

I really like the way Kendra gets to interject every now and then giving her own opinion on the situation. Plus, the stories from the times she meddled in others lives in the name of helping were fantastic. It was fun to make the connections with what fairytales the stories were related to as well as see some (heavily “touched up”) history.

The Nutshell: If you’ve read some of Alex Flinn’s other fairytale retellings such as Beastly and A Kiss in Time then I can almost guarantee you’ll love Bewitching. This isn’t just one fairytale retelling, it’s a big mashup that has little self-contained stories inside of it. This is a fun read, but it’s also a story that focuses on relationships from those of a girl and her first love to a daughter and her father.

Pages: 336
Series: Kendra Chronicles #2
Rating: Hit

December 5, 2012

Cover Lover {65}

Of course we all know you should never judge a book by its cover, but do we ever really listen to that?
Cover Lover showcases eye catching, intriguing, and beautiful covers.

This week's Cover Lover goes to Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak
Publish date: October 2, 2012
I basically love everything about this cover. The coloring is gorgeous with the little water-looking-spots and deeper blue silhouettes. I love that the "Emily's Dress" portion looks like typewriter letters while the rest is in lovely white cursive. This is one cover I can say I would definitely put a poster up of without knowing anything about the actual book. And is it just me or does the scarf make her look extra mysterious?

December 4, 2012

Top Ten Books I'm wishing for under my tree

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week there's a category and everyone participating lists their "Top Ten" in that category.

This week's topic is: Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me 

1. Complete Fairy Tales and works of Grimm  B&N classics
1) tThey're gorgeous 2) I haven't read the Hans Christan Andersen fairy tales OR the works of Grimm, so I'm hoping having these gorgeous ladies would solve that problem.

2. Complete Harry Potter hardcover set
How sad is it that I don't own any of them at all? I borrowed them from my husband's parents (we were still living at home) when I read them so sadly I have none.

3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green
So I can finally have all the John Green books and read TFiOS (I wanted to read his books in chronological order.)

4. All the Fullmetal Alchemists I don't own
I found a whole bunch on clearance at Half Price one time, but now I just desperately want them all but I'm not quite willing to pay $5 or $10 each when I'm still missing about 20...

5. The rest of the Gone series by Michael Grant
I only own one of the books and it's not even the first. So every time I'm all "Jeremy (younger brother) you should read these books!" he asks if I have them and I have to go pout in a corner.

6. The Lost Hero and The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
I love these books and I sadly don't own the first in the series or the most recent. It makes The Son of Neptune look pretty lonely on my shelf.

7. (and while we're at it) The entire Percy Jackson series
Considering my love for this series it's really sad that I don't even own one of the books.

8. Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
I've been waiting for this one basically all year and now it's been out for two months and I still haven't read it! It's a tragedy.

9. The Island of Silence by Lis McMann
When I read The Unwanteds earlier this year I immediately fell in love and have been looking forward to the sequel ever since. Sadly, though, I still don't own it nor have I read it...

10. Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth
We won't even discuss how sad it is that I don't own either.

December 1, 2012

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti {Review}

Publisher: Viking JuvenilePublish Date: May 31, 2012Source: Library
Noelle's life is all about survival. Even her best friend doesn't know how much she gets bullied, or the way her mom neglects her. Noelle's kept so much about her life a secret for so long that when her longtime crush, Julian Porter, starts paying attention to her, she's terrified. Surely it's safer to stay hidden than to risk a broken heart. But when the antagonism of her classmates takes a dramatic turn, Noelle realizes it's time to stand up for herself -- and for the love that keeps her holding on.

When I read the description for Keep Holding On I couldn't help but think I'd be left annoyed by Noelle and her decisions. Sometimes I did just want to grab her by the shoulders and tell her like it is, but she had a friend that did a pretty good job of it, so I understood where she was coming from in those instances even more. Instead of being super annoyed with Noelle, my heart went out to her.

I went to a small school that didn't really have any bullying. When I say small, I'm talking pre-K through 12 in one building. There was a few groups of outcasts, of course, but for the most part, everyone was either friendly or indifferent to each other. So, I've never experienced anything like what Noelle went through. I can't even fathom the cruelty she dealt with. She skipped lunches at school for fear of the torture that'd be inflicted on her because of how poor she was. And her home life was no better. I honestly hated her mother. She was cruel to Noelle in every way possible: yelled at her for simple things, blamed her or their poor situation, rarely fed her or kept any food in the house, and even stole her money. I was itching to call child services despite the fact that it was, you know, fictional...

And then there's Matt. Stupid, idiot Matt. Anyone could see how crappy of a guy he was, but after so many years of torture and being ignored by nearly everyone around her, Noelle can't help but be pulled in by all the attention. Well, the secret attention. Every time she explained his secrecy away I just wanted to go

It hurt to see her go through all that when she really wanted Julian anyway I hated seeing her push him away just because she was disappointed in her life and thought she wasn't worth it.

Keep Holding On is my first Colasanti book, but it definitely won't be my last. She handles bullying in a way that made me want to get up and do something to change it. I felt for Noelle so much and the thought of real life kids dealing with that stuff makes my heart hurt.

The Nutshell: Keep Holding On was not the story about a stupid girl who can't see what's best for her that I expected. Colasanti pulls out the big guns with bullying and really makes you feel for Noelle. If you're in for a story about a girl with a tough life and her journey towards loving and respecting herself then you'll love Keep Holding On.

Pages: 224
Series: No
Rating: Hit