Monday, April 25, 2016

North Texas Teen Book Festival 2016

This weekend was the 2nd annual North Texas Teen Book Festival. Honestly, after last year's issues with the signing lines, I wasn't sure I wanted to go. But my middle sister, the book nerd, said "yes, absolutely!" so I said okay. Then she double booked her weekend and ended up not being able to go lol. So I was kind of wavering back and forth on if I should go or not. Then the organizers announced they were doing "Fast Passes" this year, for $100 to see 10 authors (or $200 for 25, an outrageous amount in my opinion), and were giving away 2 passes. I entered the contest, with this pic below, and won! So my fate was set. :)
(click any pics to make bigger!)

It's kind of awkward going to this kind of event by yourself, especially if you're super quiet and older than most of the people there by a good 15 years like me. But I still had fun. I got there around 9:30 and headed to my first panel: "Boarding Pass", all about traveling books and experiences with Adi Alsaid, Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, Kristen Rae, and Jessica Taylor (pic below). The young girl sitting in front of me freaked out because Gayle Forman smiled at her lol. It was really great seeing that enthusiasm throughout the day. The organizers said there were probably 8,000 people there, mostly teens. It was kind of insane at times. And with those numbers, unfortunately there was at least one group that needed a little more discipline than they were getting. For the most part though, everyone was polite and friendly and very, very excited.

My next panel was "Book Boyfriends" with Jessica Brody, Ally Carter, Sarah Dessen, Julie Murphy, and Amy Spalding (pic above). This was a great group and a lot of fun. Julie Murphy had the quote in my opinion: "fat girls like to makeout too." Yeah. Also, there was a Baby-Sitters Club reference!! Which I'm sure most of the room didn't get hah. Amy Spaulding cited Logan Likes Mary Anne as her first book crush and her belief, as a teen, that every day there was the possibility of a new guy moving to town and falling in love with her. Totally. After this panel, I needed a break from the crowds and the huge escalator lines, so I stepped aside to take a selfie, as one does. (I wore my "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good" tshirt.) Then I headed downstairs to buy my books at the Half Price Books shop (again, not half price, very irritating). I had brought 2 books with me and bought 3 others. Unfortunately, they sold out of one of my wants, Jessica Brody's Boys of Summer, but I'm sure I'll pick it up soon. My sister was kind enough to bring me lunch too so I wouldn't have to pay the exorbitant hamburger prices.

Heading back into the fray, I really wanted to go to a graphic novel panel but I got there too late and the room was already full so I went to a "Daring Reads" discussion instead. I'm kind of glad I did, because it reminded me that I wanted to buy Lori Goldstein's Becoming Jinn too. "Books that Rock!" featured Gayle Forman talking about her hot musician boyfriend/husband and Gordon Korman making lots of punk rock references that went over all the teens' heads lol. And that was my last panel. There were at least a dozen others that I wanted to go to, but they were so packed in each hour it was nearly impossible to choose.
(volume up on this one, down on the second)

Gayle Forman and Libba Bray did the closing keynote and had an epic rap battle that was both ridiculous and hilarious. And also quite touching, showing how much they love and need each other as author BFF's.

And then it was on to the signing hall, which was once again not well thought out. :( I am almost positive that I would not have stood in that line if I hadn't had the Fast Pass. Luckily, I did though and got to meet Gayle Forman, Rachel Caine, Lori Goldstein, and Faith Erin Hicks. They were all incredibly gracious and wonderful. Gayle remarked on my super old copy of If I Stay and Faith said that she had no current plans for a Friends With Boys sequel but it was always in the back of her head. (We can still hope!)
(book pic features my brand new bicycle! :))

Since I only used 4 of my 10 passes, I decided to head outside to the end of the line and give my remaining 6 away to someone else. I looked around and approached 2 girls who only had small stacks of books in their arms. They were beyond overjoyed when I gave them the passes and that made the end of the day perfect for me. :) So there you have it, my full day of books and authors and teenagers! I hope this wasn't overly long and you enjoyed reading it...I always enjoy reading about others' author experiences so I hope it's the same for you!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review: "The Pastures of Heaven"

The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck
4 out of 5 stars

Steinbeck can do no wrong in my opinion. (Even The Pearl and The Red Pony, which I had to mark down for killing so much, are still literary masterpieces.) He has unequivocally become my favorite author. This little book of short stories is no different. The passion and love that Steinbeck has for his home town of Salinas, California shines thru on the pages of many of these books.

The layout is similar to that of Cannery Row, short chapters on various people in the small town and the escapades they get up to. But all of these stories center around one family, the Munroes, who move into the old cursed Battle farm. They manage to remake the farm into something prosperous and are good people but somehow they manage to bring bad luck to their neighbors and friends without even knowing it. Jobs become tedious, love affairs go awry, homes catch fire, and people even die.

“Maybe your curse and the farm's curse mated and gone into a gopher hole like a pair of snakes. Maybe they'll be a lot of baby curses crawling around in Pastures of Heaven.”

Unlike Cannery Row, there is not an optimism to these stories. These people get worn down and broken and it's sad to read about. *spoilers ahead* My favorite story (and the saddest in my opinion) was about Pat Humbert, a 30-something year old man who lives with his elderly parents until they die. He inherits their family home but cannot bring himself to make any changes or even enter the sitting room that his parents inhabited each day. He closes it up and ignores the ghosts that haunt him at night, by going out to town and joining all the groups he can find. Even though he joins these groups and participates, he is still on the sidelines, rarely interacting with others unless they do so first. One day, he overhears the young and lovely Mae Munroe (of the cursed Munroes) mention how beautiful the outside of his home is and this sparks an energy in him to remake his home and himself, so that he may eventually court the girl. He starts with the sitting room and tears it apart, freeing the ghosts inside. He becomes obsessed with redecorating, even looking at magazines at the library. He finally finishes and declares himself ready to greet Mae. But when he goes over to her home, he discovers the family celebrating her engagement to another young man in town. And he is heartbroken. He returns home and is repulsed by all his effort, claims the home is dark and unutterably dreary, and refuses to step foot into the house again, sleeping in the barn instead. That is where his story ends.

After the bare requisites to living and reproducing, man wants most to leave some record of himself, a proof, perhaps, that he has really existed. He leaves his proof on wood, on stone or on the lives of other people. 
This deep desire exists in everyone, from the boy who writes dirty words in a public toilet to the Buddha who etches his image in the race mind. 
Life is so unreal. I think that we seriously doubt that we exist and go about trying to prove that we do.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Author Meetings: Morgan Matson & Marissa Meyer

I've been to two different author signings/talks this year already so I thought I'd talk about them in a bit more detail here. (As opposed to the quickie posts on Facebook and Instagram.) Also, I'm going to the NTTBF again with my middle sister in April and I'm super excited about that! If you're in the DFW area, you should definitely go. :) Gayle Forman will be there!!

Okay, so at the end of January, my local library was having a "Daring Reads YA Panel". Jessica Brody, Lori Goldstein, Jenny Martin, Julie Murphy, and Morgan Matson were discussing their new & upcoming books and also what it meant to "read daringly". I 100% went just for Morgan Matson because I absolutely love her books, but I really enjoyed the panel overall. Julie Murphy is self-deprecating in a humorous way (at one point she covered her head with her jacket because she couldn't believe what she had just said) and I went away with a list of Jessica Brody's upcoming books that I wanted to buy. Also, there were cupcakes yum! (A book event with cupcakes is the best book event, in my opinion.) I got my copy of Amy & Roger's Epic Detour signed and picked up a couple of cute buttons. No pictures with Morgan, but she was so nice, as were all the authors even after I confessed I'd never read any of their books! It was a very nice, mellow event with just the right amount of people.

Unfortunately, the next signing I went to was NOT a nice, mellow event. A week after the above, Marissa Meyer was coming to the library and obviously, I wanted to go. I loved The Lunar Chronicles and very much wanted to pick up her short story anthology, Stars Above, which was going to be for sale at the event. My first sign that this was going to be a bit more crowded was that I had to get a numbered ticket for the signing ahead of time. I got to the library 2 hours early and picked up my ticket...numbered 253 O.o There ended up being well over 400 people and that library is just not equipped for those kind of crowds. They had the 2 big conference rooms opened up but they were absolutely packed in and there were STILL people who had to sit in the lobby and just listen to Marissa! I felt so bad for them, except the girl we heard shriek in the hall when she won the giveaway lol. And they sold out of the books before Marissa even came out so I ended up going to Half Price Books afterwards to pick it up. I'm not sure if I'll go to another event there, especially if it's ticketed.

Now that the bad stuff is out of the way, let's talk about Marissa. She was awesome and gracious and funny and if you get the chance to see her, you should. (Just get there super early!) She told the true story of The Little Mermaid which is sad and gruesome and I discovered that I've been saying Iko wrong all this time. It's EE-ko not Eye-ko. I hate when that happens. And she also told us a bit about the new graphic novel series she's writing, featuring excited!! Oh and when she came out, we all sang Deep in the Heart of Texas to her (because "the stars are bright" lol.) Obviously I didn't wait around to get my book signed (I gave my ticket to some girls in the lobby who were in the 300+) and this is the only picture I got of her. The Lunar banner behind her was very cool. 

So that's the 2 events I've gone to so far this year. It's funny how into author events I've gotten in the last year. (Check out the "Author Signing" tag below to see them all.) I am still very choosy about what books I get signed, they really have to mean something to me and be something that I will treasure. And I'm not going to get a whole series signed, that just seems crazy to me. (But to each their own.) But I've really enjoyed listening to the authors talk about their work and personal lives. I can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Review: "Mary Anne + 2 Many Babies: The Baby-Sitters Club #52"

 Mary Anne + 2 Many Babies: The Baby-Sitters Club #52 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars

This is the one where Mary Anne finally becomes a teenage statistic and Logan is super excited. Oh, no wait, that's not right. She just becomes obsessed with babies and it's kind of weird. Dawn and Mary Anne start the book out by having a snack (healthy of course, for Dawn) and talking about those twin girls at their school that are like Mar-Car teens and their new baby brother. This gets them thinking that their parents could have another baby and Dawn's mom is totally young enough still. Then they discuss a new class they have to take, Modern Living, which is kind of like Life Skills. "it's important that we explore and experience the realities of being an adult in today's changing society." So, they get married and have to carry around an egg baby and create a budget and such.

Before we go into all the ways that is wrong, let's head over to the BSC meeting and get What Claudia is Wearing. A typical Claudia outfit might include a sequined shirt, stirrup pants (maybe black), low black boots, dangly turquoise earrings, and ribbons woven through tiny braids in her hair. And she wouldn't forget sparkly nail polish.
(click here for details & links)

Okay, back to baby-ville. Mary Anne gets a job sitting for twins Ricky & Rose from when they took that infant-care class a while back. (Trying to remember which one that was so I can link it...ah, it was The Baby Parade one, blegh.) She has tons of fun the first time, dressing them in cute frilly outfits and showing them off to the neighbors like they're her kids. Later, she & Dawn get caught by their parents talking about baby names and get shut down real quick. No babies here.

And over in Modern Living, Mary Anne & Logan get married in class and she's totally embarrassed by it. This book is actually kind of refreshing, almost a "Very Special Episode" book. The teacher explains their assignments: "Despite how old or young you may feel, the truth is that you are now biologically capable of becoming parents." Wow, I wonder how many complaints this one got back in the day? Probably not as much as it would now. Although they kind of ruined it when the four remaining boys had to be paired up together and freaked out, not wanting to be the "wife". They have to discuss money & finances, decide if they could be financially independent (at thirteen years), and take care of egg babies just like they're real children. (I feel like they've done this already too? Can't remember. *Checked: guess not.) They get a rude awakening when they find out a 2 bedroom apartment is $2000 a month (which I find really hard to believe, back then). And when they find out how hard it is to watch an egg baby 24/7.

Mary Anne takes their baby (Sammie) with her to sit for the twins because "how much harder could three babies be than two?" Famous last words. The twins cry a ton and she gets pretty frazzled juggling 3 kids. That doesn't stop her from marking up the baby section in the Kumbel (Sears?) catalog later that night with Dawn. And they get caught again by their parents. Things start to go sour (not literally) for Mary Anne, Logan, and Sammie. They argue over who takes her and when they try to have a normal date night at the movie, they end up nearly squishing and losing Sammie, and get in an argument. Their whole class is falling apart really: divorce, lost egg babies, unable to finish the project. Good life lessons here, people. Mary Anne gets a double lesson when she has to care for the twins again, who are teething, drooling monsters.

In other sitter news, Kristy gets paired with the reprehensible Alan Gray but is pleasantly surprised when he takes the assignment seriously and even names their egg son, Izzy. I think Alan is actually really smart but hides it behind the pranks and sarcastic remarks. Maybe his parents put too much pressure on him and this is why he acts out. Okay, anyway, they create an "environment" for Izzy, giving him a mini piano and science charts and stuff. Alan calls Kristy on her sitting job with the Papadakises' to check up on him and they discuss his social development for so long that the real kids take off with Izzy and she doesn't even realize it. Stacey, on the other hand, is totally meh about her assignment and thinks it's a waste of time. But at least she realizes she doesn't want a kid any time soon, so I guess she learned her lesson. Mallory and Dawn have to deal with the Pike kids wanting in on the egg experience, which ends with half a dozen broken eggs for poor Mrs Pike.

In the end, everyone learns their lessons, no one wants to have kids, and they're all excited about the next course-Health. (They even mention Sex Ed...whoa, slow down there ghost writers!) Mary Anne & Logan go way overboard and write a 32 page, single spaced, paper on their project. And then Mary Anne & Dawn's parents almost give the girls a heart attack by having a sit-down talk with them about babies...but they were just telling the girls they could get another pet. Crisis averted.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Review: "Special Christmas: Sweet Valley High Super Edition #2"

Special Christmas: Sweet Valley High Super Edition #2 by Francine Pascal
4 out of 5 stars

Am I actually reviewing a Christmas book in March? Yes, I am, because I wrote it that long ago and I suck but I really wanted to get this review up still.

Before Reading: I was pretty excited to read a Christmas special *at* Christmas time. I've never read this one either, so it was all new to me! I always picture the twins with long (at least waist length) hair so the covers always throw me off.

The Main Plot in 50 Words or Less: It's Christmas time. Everyone is excited. Until the evil Suzanne Devlin shows up and ruins everything. Or does she?

The Second Plot in 20ish Words or Less: Liz can't wait to see Todd, who moved away to Vermont. (I haven't gotten to that plot yet, obviously.) Jessica wants to be Miss Something-or-Other Sweet Valley and so does Lila.

Opening Lines: "I give up." Mr Collins laughed, crossed his arms, and leaned back against his desk. "No one should ever try to teach English the day before Christmas vacation!"

Closing Lines: But Elizabeth's heart was too full to answer. It certainly was, she thought happily. Everyone was together, safe and healthy and glad. Christmas had arrived at last!

Best WTF Lines: [not too many this time, surprisingly!]
"I can't imagine Christmas in a cold climate. Poor Todd-stuck up north with all that snow!"

"It never hurts to stay involved with the prettiest, most fun-loving bunch of girls in the whole school."

Happenings in SV: It's Christmas time in Sweet Valley and the twins are ready to have "the best Christmas ever". Although they never really say how or why it's going to be the best? Elizabeth is in charge of passing out Secret Santa partners. Every. person. in. the. school. gets a Secret Santa. How does that possibly even work?? It would have been way more believable if it was just their grade or even just their English classes. Yeah, no way.

Todd is coming back from Vermont for 2 whole weeks and Liz is ecstatic. But the visit turns kind of weird and awkward. Suzanne Devlin is also back in town, but she wants to make amends for her last visit. The twins don't believe it for a second and are determined to make her visit miserable. Suzanne is hiding a big secret though and eventually wins over everyone, even Jessica, just in time for Christmas.

Jessica and Lila both want to be Miss Christmastime in the parade and scheme and connive their way thru the season, as usual. Jessica's Secret Santa gives her amazing gifts and she's convinced it's the hot new foreign exchange student, Hans. It, of course, turns out to be nerd boy Winston Egbert.

Fashion Icons: But that day they were wearing matching outfits-navy cotton skirts and light blue short-sleeved sweaters that showed off their tans perfectly. Even the gold lavalieres dangling from their necks were identical-presents from their parents on their sixteenth birthday.

[This is long but it's a good one!] Jessica was dressed as an elf. She was wearing kelly-green tights and green slippers with curled-up toes and bells jangling from their tips. She had made a strange little suit out of a green plastic garbage bag, cutting leg holes in the bottom and arm holes in the sides and stapling the whole thing up at the shoulders. Something-probably newspaper, from the look of it-was being used as stuffing to make her look round. Underneath the sack she wore a red long-sleeved T-shirt. There was green paint on her face. "I need some sort of hat," Jessica announced calmly, ignoring the looks on her brother's and sister's faces. "What's the matter?" she added, taking a small green plastic tomato basket out of the trash and tying long red ribbons on each side. "Hasn't either of you ever seen an elf before?"

Suzanne was too distracted about the night's party to realize she had never looked so beautiful in her entire life. The blue velvet dress she had borrowed from Elizabeth had a high neck, edged in cream-colored lace. It made her look like the heroine of a Victorian novel. A simple strand of pearls at her throat completed the look.

Elizabeth looked terrific in a shimmery, peach-colored dress with spaghetti straps. And she herself was wearing her new blouse with a pair of black satin pants. [This is to the Christmas party. Is it just me, or should these outfits be switched?]

Twin Hijinks: Not many hijinks in this one. The twins do dress identically to go take a Christmas portrait for their parents. My sister and I did that once (not twins though). It was a great gift.

Other Thoughts: It was a little weird reading this one, because it's ahead of where I am in the books. I've only read up to #19, I think, and I totally didn't remember Todd moving away!  I haven't read about Suzanne yet either, but she sounded horrid. I have to say though...the whole "I have multiple sclerosis" "oh wait, no you don't, you just had mono all this time!" thing was kind of ridiculous. I still teared up. Whatever.

The Next Book*: Not one since it's a Super Edition!

*(not necessarily what I'll be reading)

Friday, March 4, 2016

Book Haul: Christmas+

Time for another haul post! This is from Christmas to now...I was pretty good between my last haul post and Christmas apparently. I'm trying to "read my shelves" again because last weekend, I realized that the book I was currently reading, and had checked out from the library, was also on my bookshelf. Oops. (click pics to make bigger & check out the details)

First up is Christmas family knows me so well! The newest Saga, Baby-Sitters Club, and Winter? Great! Plus an owl coloring book? Perfect! I also got the Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone Illustrated Edition (shown in last post). I really hope they make the entire series, does anyone know if they plan to?

Next up, I went thrift store shopping with mom & sis on mom's birthday and came away with an excellent stack of books! (Plus a stack of romance books for mom.) The 2 Steinbeck & The Bell Jar are from Half Price Books, but the rest I found at the thrift store. Some classics, some romances, and even a Christmas anthology... score!

In January, I won this amazing stack of classic books from Forgotten Bookmarks. They are lovely and smelly, just like old books should be. :) This gorgeous edition of The Scarlet Letter almost makes me want to try reading it again. (Bad memories junior year.) And you should definitely check out their Facebook or Twitter, because they do giveaways like this and of their own published books each week! (Not sponsored, I just really like them.)

Next up, more single issue comics (I'm addicted, I tell ya!), graphic novels, and a random Half Price Books trip. I'm reading The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street right now and it's really good! I'm so excited to read The Boy Most Likely To, hopefully this month. I really enjoyed My Life Next Door, it was almost a 4 star read, and can't wait to get back into that world.

And last up, a mini library haul, which I still have out. (Heavily edited due to sunshine, but isn't the view pretty?) We Were Liars blew my mind (as I'm sure it has most of you as well), PS I Still Love You was sugary sweet, Hold Still left me kind of cold unfortunately, and Brown-Eyed Girl is the latest book in the Travis' family, which I have loved and can't wait to read.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Update Part 2: A new year!

Oh hi, more picture updates yay! Since the beginning of the year, I've read 25 books already. Not too shabby. And my cat has been on or around me for nearly every book. :) I've really gotten into the single issue comics (which I do NOT count towards my Goodreads goal, discussion?) I even had to come up with a new filing system because they were crowding my bookshelf. I got these clear open-top file boxes from Container Store and the boards from Amazon (I tried cutting my own but it was a huge pain) and they fill it in nicely. I am loving all of these pictured below but am always up for suggestions! I'm not totally comfortable in my local comic book shop yet, but getting there. (Except game night, that was scary.)

I'm really loving Jem and already bought the first volume of it. You should definitely check it out! And look at this lovely watercolor from Helena Rose, I can't wait to see where it goes.
Twilight Sparkle is my spirit animal pony

In non-comics, I finished The Lunar Chronicles series (LOVED)...oh wait, that's kind of comic news too, because Marissa Meyer just announced recently that she's going to continue the story in graphic novel form with Iko! I finally read We Were Liars and was blown away. I decided to read the Bridget Jones series because the 3rd movie is coming out this year. I read the first 2 way back when they first came out and just rediscovered the 1st movie a year ago, so it was fun to dive back into this world. And I related to Bridget a lot more this time around lol.

I squealed over the new Harry Potter play book news, like everyone else. (It's not a prequel.) Are you going to buy each edition as it comes out or wait for the final, polished version? I also discovered a fanfic story that's been very enjoyable so far. After the End by Sugar Quill is set after the war and takes liberties on who actually died and who lived (which I, personally, am happy about).

I went to the Dallas Museum of Art and picked out some new bookshelves. :)

And I had fun taking super nerdy pictures lol.

That pretty much brings us up to the present! I'm currently reading The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street at work and the 12th Black Dagger Brotherhood and the 53rd Baby-Sitters Club book at home. :) So, now it's your turn! Update me on what you're reading right now, what your best read of the year is so far, what I should read next, anything.