Review Archive

Ten Things I Love About Half Bad by Sally Green

18079804Half Bad
by Sally Green
March 4, 23014
Viking Juvenile
Source: Gifted to me by the uber generous Lauren @ Love Is Not A Triangle
THANK YOU, chica!

Synopsis

Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy’s struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.

You can’t read, can’t write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.

You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.

You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.

You’ve been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.

All you’ve got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

Easy. (Goodreads Summary)


My Take On It

I’m not sure how I first heard about Half Bad–it was sometime late last year I think–but I knew when I read the synopsis that I HAD to read this book. Witches? Hello—they ARE my first love in all thing paranormal. And the fact that it was a male POV was just icing on the cake, friends. And then when all the praise for this book starting coming in from across the pond…it was a done deal after that. Half Badwas officially one of my most anticipated reads of 2014.  Luckily my super generous and very cool friend Lauren was able to snag me an extra copy of this beauty (and it a beauty isn’t it…look at that gorgeous cover) at ALA and I set about reading immediately. Have I mentioned how awesome my friends are? SO AWESOME.
Anyway, I got the book and read it in about a day. The verdict? I really, really enjoyed it. After reading I engaged Lauren and Jen, another bloggy friend who had also recently read it, in an email discussion. It turns out that all three of us shared very similar feelings about Half Bad. In fact, Lauren and Jen each wrote a collaborative review post on their blogs that is fabulous. Click on their names to read their take on this book.
I feel like doing a top ten–there was a lot I loved about Half Bad and this might be the perfect way to review it.
The Top Ten Things I LOVED about Half Bad
1. The protagonist Nathan
I really, really liked Nathan. I know some reviewers are a little more hesitant to jump on board with this guy–but I found the whole “Am I good or am I bad” question to be really compelling. I had so much sympathy for Nathan. Because of the way Half Bad is told–and I’ll discuss this a little more next–we get see how awful his life has been as the son of a White witch and a Black witch. And not just ANY Black witch–the Mack Daddy, baddest of the bad Black witches. As such, Nathan’s and outcast and I will always, always have a soft spot for this type character. Nathan’s not perfect–he does some questionable things and makes some poor decisions but that is what makes him so much fun to read. I see a lot of growth for Nathan as this series progresses.
2. The manner in which the story was told
Half Bad is interesting. It starts out being told in present time–and Nathan’s present happens to be imprisonment in a CAGE in Scotland. So right from the get-go things are INTENSE.
The second part has Nathan recalling back his past–and this is the part where we learn all the details about Nathan’s history. During this section we meet his grandmother and sisters and brother. We are told what happened to his mother. We also learn about his father–whom he has never met but who is well known for his notoriety. We watch him enter school and meet a girl who becomes his first love. And we also learn just how he ended up in that cage.
After these first two parts the reader is taken back to Nathan’s present–back in the cage– and the story remains in this tense for the remainder of the book.
Now I know this seems kind of strange–kind of an odd way to relay a story—but, for me at least, it totally worked. I’m not always a fan of the narrative jumping back and forth in time in the books I read–it usually confuses me at some point–but here is didn’t at all. I liked that we got to witness Nathan’s childhood and the events that lead to where he finds himself presently. I liked that it felt more like showing than telling written this way. I can’t say that this technique would always work but in this case it did.
3. POV
This naturally leads me to POV and perspective. The beginning of the book–the very beginning when we learn that Nathan is being held captive in a cage– is told in 2nd person POV. Nathan speaks in terms of “you”, as in “You wake up and remember where you are.”  I know that 2nd person POV is a tricky perspective to write and to read. Many readers aren’t fans of this tense.  I’m not one of those readers. For whatever reason, I totally was able to switch back and forth as Nathan switched from 2nd person POV in the beginning to 1st person POV for the remainder of the book. So much of this book is introspective, the reader getting a bird’s eye view into Nathan’s mind and mental state. The parts where he is imprisoned, and some parts where he is on the run, are periods of isolation for him. It just made sense to me reading those in 2nd person POV, almost as if he was talking to himself (because really he has no one else to talk to) and we the reader are listening in.
4. The FABULOUS secondaries
Ok, this is where Half Bad really shined, IMO. There are a lot of characters in this book– and most of them are written so darn well. I’m thinking about Arran. And Celia. And Ellen. And Rose. And GABRIEL. And old Mary. And Gram. And Mercury. And Marcus. And Trevor and Jim. So MANY great, great characters. You know, if you read this blog, how I feel about my secondaries. To say that they are important to me or that I’m mildly obsessed with them is an understatement. And Sally Green did not let me down in Half Bad. I love Nathan–but I have to say–there are a few secondaries that rival my feelings for this protagonist. If I had to pick a fave, it’s a tie between Ellen and Gabriel. 🙂
5. Alternate history and world building
Ok, I’m a giant fan of alternate history books. And great world building goes hand in hand with this, right? The premise of this book is that witchcraft is very much alive and kicking, and has been for thousands of years, although it is hidden from all non-witches–the fain–who make up the majority of the world. Green has written a unique mythology into the origin of the witches in Half Bad but the gist if it is this: There are White witches who use their powers for good and Black–who don’t. Of course these two factions are at odds with each other. The White witches are presided over by a council. This council keeps track of the White’s lineage but also keeps records of all half codes–or half breeds–witches that are of mixed heritage–part White and part Black or part White and part fain. Half code whets, witches under the age of seventeen who have not come into their powers yet–are also documented and registered. When a whet comes of age they are given three gifts along with the blood of a witch relative–with these gifts the whet becomes a full-fledged witch and develops his/or her special gift. Gifts can range from healing to shape shifting and beyond. And gifts can be stolen by other witches.
Nathan is a half code. His mother was a White and his father was a Black. But no one is sure which side Nathan will fall on once he comes of age. And the White council watches him very closely.
I think that the world building in Half Bad is done pretty well. There are some gaps and there are some lingering questions–BUT. I feel like Green is doing a pretty great job at relaying this information on to the reader. And I feel like more will be revealed about this world as the series goes on.
6. White witches vs. Black witches
So the crux of the story is about these two types of witches. One set, who is perceived as GOOD, and another who is perceived as NOT. Nathan is unique–as far as he knows, he’s the only half White/ half Black witch– at least in his part of the world.  And what I liked is that Nathan gets to spend time with both White and Black witches in Half Bad. Everyone wants to know which way Nathan will go but, as is usually the case, not everything is–wait for it–black or white.  As Nathan gets to know these two different groups it becomes obvious that there aren’t clear cut lines between good and bad–and it amplifies the suspense wondering who Nathan should trust and who might be out to betray him.
7. The mysterious father figure
From the outset we learn that Nathan’s father Marcus is the biggest, baddest Black witch of them all. He’s like the Charles Manson of Black witches. He’s loathed. He’s feared. He’s this legend of pure evil. And Nathan has never met him. Nathan feels a sort of morbid curiosity for this man–but gradually that curiosity grows into something more–not affection really—because how can you feel affection for a) someone you’ve never met or spoken with or b) a monster? But when faced with the task of possibly aiding in the capture of his father, Nathan reacts unexpectantly.
I won’t spoil anything here–but I will say that I am VERY intrigued by this character and anxious to learn more. Is he truly the villain the world makes him out to be? Or is he possible anti-hero material? Oh, how I love a good anti-hero. It’s anyone’s guess at this stage of the game but I am very, very curious.
8. This seems familiar somehow
It was probably a quarter of the way into Half Bad that I began to feel like there was something familiar about this story and these characters. Good witches and bad witches living unnoticed among humans. Outcast parent-less children. Half breeds. Moral dilemmas. A Voldemort-esque super villain. Does any of this sound vaguely familiar?  I was totally, totally getting a Harry Potter vibe as I was reading. After I finished reading it was one of the first things that I remarked on to Lauren and Jen in my email. And yes, they noticed it too.
Now listen, this is NOT a Harry Potter rip-off. There are some similarities but this is a totally different story. But if you like Harry Potter and if you’re a fan of those things that I mentioned then I think you might really like this about Half Bad too. For me it was almost like slipping back into familiar territory. I didn’t feel like it was a hack job–it felt almost nostalgic to me. The point is, I enjoyed the familiarity.
9. The romance is NOT the focus–for now, anyway
There is a romantic plot thread in Half Bad–but it’s certainly not the central focus. And for me, this thread was the weakest and least developed part of the book. I’m not a major fan of the love interest, her motives are really unclear at this point in the book and I feel a disconnect from her that may be due to this, or maybe I feel this disconnect for other reasons.
What I do like about this romance being kind of iffy is that I’m hoping it means that there is room for new developments (maybe even a new love interest) in the next few books. Am I advocating a love triangle? No, not really. Am I hoping for an alternate love interest? Yes, maybe.
Now, if you have read Half Bad and want to hear a very interesting theory that Lauren came up with about the possible direction Half Bad could go in romantically speaking,  head over to her review and check out the SPOLIER section. Lauren has hypothesized a fascinating theory that I am hoping holds water. REALLY HOPING.
10. Lots of unanswered questions and therefore lots of potential
Half Bad is not an absolutely flawless book. The pacing is a little off–and there are a ton of dangling plot threads and holes. But this is the first book in a planned series of three (or is it four? I’ve seen both) books and I feel that, like most first books, Half Bad is setting the reader up for what’s to come. Laying the groundwork. Introducing characters. Defining conflicts (well, sort of) And also leaving the reader in the dark about a number of things. And you know what? I am TOTALLY cool with this. Why? Because I see so much potential in this series. I see so many different directions that this series could go in–and I know there are as yet unseen directions waiting for me to discover as well. It makes me excited as a reader.
So. Is Half Bad a book for YOU?  Do you like alternate history and  fantasy? Are you a fan of the outcast character on a journey of self discovery? Do you like characters that face moral dilemmas and questions about identity? Are you interested in books that host a cast of really interesting and well-crafted characters? Do you like romance but appreciate that it doesn’t overtake the entire focus of the story? Do you like books that make you question the whole good vs evil trope and everything in-between? If you answered yes than you should pick up Half Bad and give it a look. I do think it is the start of what could be an epic new fantasy series.

Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop!

splashintosummerfixed

Summer is here!! Well at my house it is, anyway! 
So to celebrate the start of summer I am joining with
I Am A Reader, Not Writer & Page Turners Blog 
and giving away one of these awesome May releases.
I have read one of these, own one other, and covet them all!
So the rules are simple:

  • this giveaway is US only
  • you must be 13 years or older to enter
  • the only required entry is that you follow my blog by GFC, RSS, Email Subscription or Linky. Check out my right sidebar to do any of these.
  • there will be extra entries available for anyone interested
That’s it! Just fill out the rafflecopter form below and good luck! Have a great summer:))

Book Review: Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglein

12849229Cold Fury 
by T. M. Goeglein
Putnam Juvenile
July 13, 2012
313 pages
Source: Library Thing 
Early Reviewers Program

Synopsis
Jason Bourne meets The Sopranos in this breathtaking adventure

Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance–until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It’s a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies–a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense–hidden in its pages the secret to “ultimate power.” It’s why she’s being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

Action packed, with fresh, cinematic writing, Cold Fury is a riveting and imaginative adventure readers will devour.(Taken from Goodreads.)

Opening Line

My name is Sara Jane Rispoli.

My Take On It

A little about me: I’m the girl who will always sit down and watch the AMC marathon showings of The Godfather (I AND II). I’m a sucker for The Sopranos, Good Fellas, Donnie Brasco, Casino, The Untouchables, heck, I even liked Married to the Mob. I’m a total History Channel nerd and I love any kind of mob related documentaries. So trust me when I say that if you, like me, are a fan of anything mafiaesque in nature, you are going to love Cold Fury. And if you are a fan of a kick ass heroine, then you are going to love Cold Fury. If you are a fan of non stop action in your reads, you are going to love Cold Fury. If you have ever lived in, visited, or just had a general fascination with the city of Chicago, you too are going to love Cold Fury. If you like fast paced thrillers interlaced with a supernatural vibe, YOU are going to love Cold Fury. And if you like hints of romance with the potential for more, then yes, you are going to love Cold Fury as well.

So let’s start with characters. I think Sara Jane Rispoli might be one of the most likable protagonists I have encountered. On the one hand she is very much the typical teenage girl. She stresses about school. She worries over her appearance. She wonders if she’ll ever fall in love. She feels lonely and isolated at times. She wants to go to her high school dance. On the other hand, Sara Jane has been living a lie. Her very close knit family is harboring a secret, one that breaks wide open when her mom, dad and little brother are abducted. Luckily she’s equipped to handle it because our girl Sara Jane, for all her vulnerability and self doubt, is one serious bad ass. First off, she’s a fighter. As in she has trained as a boxer. Guys, I LOVE this part of Sara Jane, and the scenes where she trains with Willy (who is just one of many cool characters in Cold Fury) and the scenes where she actually puts that training to use, are beyond awesome. I’ve seen heroines with sword skills and martial art skills but I think this may be the first book I’ve read with a heroine who boxes. It’s pretty clear that the author knows a thing or two about this sport and it was fun to read. And Sara Jane has got an awesome sense of humor to boot.There are loads of memorable lines in Cold Fury. 
Alongside Sara Jane are a cast of colorful characters. I’ve mentioned Willy, her trainer, but there is also her friend Doug who reminds me a bit of a toned down version of Tiny Cooper from Will Grayson, Will Grayson (that’s a HUGE compliment in case you are wondering.) There is Max Kissberg (aw, love that name!), Sara Jane’ potential love interest. And by the way, while there are hints of future romance in Cold Fury, it definitely takes a backseat to other aspects of the book. I’m a romantic, I like it in my reads, but in this case, I was okay with the minor role it played because I can tell that there will be more in upcoming installments.
There’s also Sara Jane’s family. Though already kidnapped by the time of the story’s start, we meet her dad, mom and her brother Lou through flashback scenes. We also encounter her Uncle Buddy and his detestable wife Greta. But Sara Jane has an extended family as well, the family that comprises The Outfit, and these are some of my favorite characters in the story. We meet Knuckles, head of The Outfit’s muscle, I know he’s supposed to be scary, and he is a bit, but mostly I found him to be a hoot. And there is a brief glimpse of a character who I think is sure to play a larger role in upcoming books: Tyler Strozzini, head of the Money division of The Outfit. There are scores of other memorable players at work in Cold Fury that I loved, Billy, aka Bully the Kid, from Sara Jane’s school, Police Detective Smelt, and of course the bat-shit crazy psychopath who is hunting Sara Jane down. This guy is UBER creepy for a variety of reasons. I can’t go into too much detail here but I will say that all of these characters are unique and well developed. Goeglein does an impressive job of juggling a large cast of players without confusing the reader in the slightest.

But what about the plot? One word: amazing. And inventive. Oh, that’s two words. But you guys, this story is so chock full of twists and turns, PLENTY of “Ah ha!” moments abound and even more “Whoa, didn’t see that coming” moments as well. Other than the first few chapters, where Sara Jane relays the past events leading up to the present, the story moves along at a very brisk pace. Boredom was definitely not a issue. And did I mention  that I love mafia history and documentaries? Well T.M. Goeglein has definitely done his research. There is so much history written into this story, it felt like a crash course on mob lore, and I totally, totally LOVED every minute of it. Whether it was  the details of Al Capone and other Chicago mob bosses, or the glimpses of speakeasy’s and tales of Prohibition, or the mysterious Capone Doors spread throughout the city, I gobbled it all up. After finishing the book I was immediately on my computer looking everything up just to see what was truth and what was fiction. I dare you to read this book and not find yourself curious to learn more about this part of America’s history.

And then there is the setting. I’ve never been to Chicago but it is very, very clear that Goeglein loves this city. I think it rocks when an author can take a setting and craft it so carefully, so lovingly, that it becomes a character unto itself. Stephanie Perkins does this with Paris in Anna and the French Kiss, Laini Taylor does this with Prague in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Beth Kephart does it with Barcelona in Small Damages, and T.M. Goeglein definitely accomplishes the same with Chicago in Cold Fury. I felt like I had walked those streets, sat in those diners and smoky bars, and rode to the top of the skyscrapers right along side Sara Jane.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises to me was that Cold Fury has a definite supernatural element to it. This part of the story is very subtle but that’s not to say it’s unimportant. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a really cool, unique inclusion, and it adds that extra ‘oomph’ to the plot itself. I enjoyed this part of the book, and it’s definitely one of the things I look forward to reading more about. In fact there are many occurrences in Cold Fury that screamed FORESHADOWING to me, which is all sorts of cool in my opinion. Every time I came across something that set those alarms off  in my head I jotted it down in a notebook. Guys, that book is full!  And this supernatural aspect reminded me of another mafiaesque series I adore: Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. If you are a fan of those books you should definitely give Cold Fury a try.

So in conclusion, Cold Fury was a wild ride. I love the people, I love the storyline and the history behind it and I love the action and kick butt heroine. I thoroughly enjoyed it’s unique premise and all the surprise elements that were included. And I appreciated the cleverness of the story and the seamless writing style of the author. I can’t wait to see where T.M. Goeglein takes us next.

4.5/5 Stars

Back from baseball and My Top Ten Jail Bait Book Boyfriends

I’m back from my son’s baseball tournament and ready to roll with a Top Ten Tuesday post! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve participated in one of these and since this week was a freebie, I thought I’d feature a topic near and dear to my heart: Swoon Worthy Book Boys!

This week’s Top Ten was inspired by a post I saw recently on one of my favorite blogs, Cuddlebuggery. The post,  10 YA Love Interests I’m Probably Too Old to Swoon Over, which was featured on June 9, 2012, got me thinking about my favorite YA book boyfriends who are WAY too young for me to obsess over, but of course I do anyway:)

I should probably say that there might be some spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t read the books below, you may want to proceed with caution. Ok, let’s go!

10.  Four from Divergent by Veronica Roth

I remember reading Divergent last year and positively falling for Four (I REFUSE to call him Tobias, even after he was referred to that throughout the entirety of Insurgent.) I love those strong and silent types, especially when they are mysterious, bold, brave, seemingly fearless, smart as all get out and appear to be nothing but cold, hard and logical but in reality are super duper passionate and sensitive. Sigh. Love you, Four.

9. Rowan from Wanderlove  by Kirsten Hubbard (Click for my review:)


What’s better than a bad boy, ladies? A reformed bad boy. Meet Rowan: adventurous, world traveler extraordinaire and the perfect match to Bria Sandoval, a gal in dire need of a change. So I have a monumental weakness for bohemian backpack boys. I dated a few back in the day, and there is something so appealing about a wandering soul who lives totally in the now. If I was in my twenties again I would hunt Rowan down and follow him to the ends of the earth.

8. Dimitri from The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead


Oh, Dimitri Belicov. I loved you when you were good and I loved when you were despicably bad. Honorable, loyal, determined, protective, and a total bad ass, Dimitri is the epitome of the big, powerful, alpha male romantic lead. Plus he’s Russian, which is totally hot, and he speaks with an accent when he says “Roza”. Swoon.
7. Cole St. Clair from The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series by Maggie Stiefvater

Say hello to Cole St. Clair, the first of several bad boys on my list and an archetype I will never, ever tire of. I said it once and I’ll say it again: “Got to love a bad boy.” So what makes Cole stand out in a sea of book bad boys? Well, he’s a bonafide ROCK STAR for one. Musician bad boys are the BEST, people. And even though he is cocky, sarcastic, and addict, and a total man whore, he’s also a freaking genius, like, Mensa smart. When he starts going into all this molecular, genetic scientific jargon I swear my knees turn to jelly. Rock star + genius + bad boy =smoking hot!

6. Alex Fuentes from Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles.
Why Alex from the Perfect Chemistry? Is it because he is the perfect bad boy, arrogant and sarcastic and totally passionate?  Or is it because this is a Romeo and Juliet/ West Side Story retelling? Or perhaps is it because even though he runs with a gang, he’s totally dedicated to his family and and his friends? Or maybe because he rides a motorcycle (double swoon…)? It could be all of those, but the thing that puts Alex Fuentes at #6 on my list is because he is ‘muy caliente.’ Holy crap, if Alex Fuentes called me ‘chica’ I would be putty in his hands. He, and this book, is hot. Like pants on fire hot.

5. Travis from Something Like Normal by Trish Doller.
This is the first entry on my list in which the swoon worthy guy is actually the narrator of the book. And what a difference that can make! If I wasn’t front and center in Travis’ head while reading this book, he may not have made such an impression on me. But, oh, how he did. Of all the guys on my list, Travis seems the most REAL. He could be the boy next door to me, you, anyone. He’s not only sexy as hell, he has some irresistible qualities. First, he loves his mama. This is a pretty attractive quality in my opinion, it’s right up there with liking kids. And second: he wants to be a better man. He knows he’s done some pretty stupid things in his past, and he’s ready to make some positive changes. Maturity is a big turn on. Oh, and he’s a marine. Yeah, guys in uniforms are definitely hot.

4. Etienne St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins AND Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

You didn’t really think that this list would be only 10 boys, did you? C’mon, narrowing it down to 10 is HARD. Youknow I am going to cheat a little here and there. Case in point: #4 is a tie between Etienne St. Clair and Augustus Waters.

Why Etienne? Well, first off he’s French AND British. So he has the double whammy of sexy accents. He calls her “Ah-na”, swoon! I love Etienne because he’s such a genuinely good guy. Sure, he’s pretty indecisive (enough to make me want to pull my hair out sometimes) and he’s a terrible flirt, but oh, my gosh, when he looks at Anna, he reallylooks at her. Stares in fact. DEEPLY. And I love that he and Anna are friends first. Taking it slow and letting it all build up can be the most delicious torture! He’s short and a nail biter yet I still fall for him every time. He’s perfect in his imperfection. Plus, never underestimate the power of good hair:)

Why Augustus? Uh, have you read The Fault in Our Stars? Could there be a more profound, sensitive, honest, ROMANTIC, soul of a poet, live-life-to-it’s-fullest-and-never-look-back, person than Augustus Waters?? What’s so awesome about Gus is that he doesn’t have time to play silly games, he says what he feels every time.  You guys, I think he might be one of the most beautifully written characters in all of literature. LOVE HIM. Period.

3. Kaleb from The Hourglass Series by Myra McEntire

K to the LEB! Hello, let me introduce myself. I’m Heather and I am the self appointed president of the Kaleb Ballard Fan Club. So of all the bad boys on my list, Kaleb is my fave. Like Travis, we get a first hand account of all of Kaleb’s awesomeness because he is the narrator of Timepiece. And like the rest of the bad boys on my list, Kaleb has all the typical qualities: he’s cocky and arrogant, he’s sarcastic and snarky, he’s a total man whore, and like Cole he’s got some issues with addiction. Plus he is a total pretty boy, in a ripped, tattooed and pierced kind of way:)  But Kaleb, as an empath, is also super sensitive and selfless. I fell in love with Kaleb in Hourglass, that bad boy vibe he was working was irresistible. But in Timepiece Kaleb begins the transformation to reformed bad boy, which is also damn sexy because he’s now got the whole ‘trying to be a better man’ vibe working for for him too.  I love everything about him. Oh, and he cooks! And he wears an apron that says “Kiss the Cook.” Damn, he’s fine.

2. Marcus Flutie from The Jessica Darling Series by Megan McCafferty
Marcus. Flutie. Marcus has it all. All of the aforementioned character traits found on this list. Bad Boy, check. Reformed bad boy, check. Musician, check. Poet, check. Romantic, check. Sensitive, check. Smart, check. Wandering, bohemian soul, check. Plus he’s totally devoted to his woman in every way. He does have the tendency to branch off into the strange and zen like, but I can forgive him that because when Marcus is there, he is THERE. He is totally present and in the moment. He has a maturity and wiseness to him that is unusual to find in a YA read. And it has been SO awesome to get to know him over the course of three books. I have been waiting to read the final two works in the series because I just don’t want my time with Marcus to be rushed, that’s how much I love this boy and am invested in this story! And can I just say that the romance/ love/ sex scenes between Marcus and Jessica are amazing.  Every time I read those three words: You. Yes, you., my heart skips a beat.
 

And my Number One Jail Bait Book Boyfriend is….
1. Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
 
Until very recently my #1 jail bait book boyfriend would have easily been Marcus Flutie. Then I discovered theholyhorsesunfreakingbelievable enigma that is Joe Fontaine. Joe Fontaine is PERFECT. And for as much as I love and revere the bad boy, Joe is as sweet and as nice as they come. So what makes Joe so special that he earned the #1 spot on this prestigious (ha!) list? Why, I’d be happy to tell you!
  • He’s BEAUTIFUL. Long and lanky with miles of legs. He has a mop of silky black curls on his beautiful head (CURLS!) And don’t even get me started on his eyelashes. Bat. Bat. Bat. If you have read the book, you know what I am talking about. And he has this megawatt smile that he is always wearing. Sigh. So. Perfect.
  • He’s a musician. No, scratch that. He’s a musical genius. And not just ONE instrument. He plays the French Horn, clarinet, guitar (sighs loudly) and probably a bunch of other ones I forgot after it is mentioned that he plays GUITAR. And he writes music. Not lyrics. MUSIC. He composes it. He writes a song for Lennie. In two parts. Good golly that’s hot.
  • He’s half FRENCH. He speaks to Lennie in French sometimes. He lived in Paris. Need I even say more?
  • He is SO freaking romantic and passionate. His heart is like an open book. He calls Lennie John Lennon. That sounds weird but when you read it, it ROCKS.
  • He makes an entrance in the darkest of times and encounters the most broken of people, and he has the near magical ability to just lift them up and help them find their way out of it.

 

Reading about Joe took me back to my first love, all those butterflies and giddy feelings, all those feelings just, whoosh! come racing back and it made me feel like a sixteen year old girl all over again. Gah, he is just so amazing, I’m totally and completely joelerious (yes, that is a real term.) Put it this way, after I finished reading The Sky is Everywhere (and the review is coming, I swear) I immediately went online to try and find an image of what I imagined Joe to look like. I know, I know. ‘Quel dork.’
And because 10 11 is just not enough, here are a few Honorable Mentions:
  • Lucas from Easy by Tamara Webber 

I just read this book and it rocked. Lucas is a perfect blend of sexy and sensitive wrapped up in a protective, bad ass package. And he rides a motorcycle:)

  • Jake from Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Jake is a total music snob but gosh, is he uber sexy.

  • Dexter from This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Dex is the quintessential geeky musician. He’s adorably dorky yet hip and completely endearing. Favorite Sarah Dessen male lead EVAH:)
That’s it! Congratulations if you managed to swim through this total gush-fest of a Top Ten! Think I left anyone off? Who would make your list? Leave a me a comment below and let me hear your thoughts!

I Don’t Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation…Why I Love the Bad Girl in YA Literature

Ode to the Bad Girls

This goes out to the bad girls. The girls who were never called ‘sweet’ or ‘nice’, the ones no one ever dreamed of bringing home to meet their parents. The girls who had attitudes, who dressed slutty or punk or different. The girls that dance on tables even if they’re wearing skirts, the girls that go out at night wearing clothes that resemble lingerie, the girls who never had a problem getting into the bars even without an ID. For the girls that drank all the guys under the table without breaking a sweat. 

This is for the girls who slept with guys who had girlfriends, the girls who hooked up with the guy their friend was in love with, the girls who were unashamedly only looking for a fun night with no strings attached. This is for the girls who know how fun men are, but how much more fun it is to mess with them. This is for the girls who flip-flop between being teases and sluts for only reasons they will know, for the girls who dumped a guy because he was ‘nice’.  For the girls that played the field and won the game.

I didn’t write that little ditty (here is the source ) but I love it because it perfectly sums up one of my favorite archetypes in literature, especially YA literature: the bad girl. 

We all know about the bad boy, and I love him too, but I have to also admit to being as fond, if not fonder, for his kissing cousin, the bad girl.

Bad girls are not to be confused with the mean girl archetype.

And they are not to be confused with the bad ass/ kick butt heroine girl archetype.

Bad girls are a different animal altogether. I mean, what’s not to love about a bad girl in literature? Bad girls, like their male counterparts, are FUN. They have attitude. They usually have a great sense of humor. They are confident (or are they?) And above all, they are UNAPOLOGETIC about their actions. Who are some of my favorite bad girls from YA literature? Here are a few…

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Remy is the quintessential ‘bad girl.’
She’s snarky, she’s smart, she likes to party.
She’s a serial dater. Remy’s motto?
Love ’em and leave ’em fast.
That way you no one gets hurt.

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Meg is an awesome example of a bad girl.
She looks the part, she’s sorta punk rock,
complete with blue hair.
She has sex for kicks, not for love,
and she has no problems with breaking the law.
Mostly she wants out of her small town life.
Who, she wonders, in their right mind
would want to stay?
The Believing Game by Eileen Corrigan
Greer might just be the baddest of bad girls,
so bad she ends up in a high end reform school.
She’s a kleptomaniac, anorexic,
sex obsessed teen who has hit rock bottom.
Until things get worse.

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
Parker likes to kiss guys. A lot.
And she doesn’t really have any issues
with letting the world know it.
In fact, she WANTS the world to know it because maybe then they’ll forget
that her mom just came out as a lesbian.

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Harper’s bad-ness seems to derive from her need to stand apart from her ultra good girl sister, June.
She’s snarky, petulant, and can be kinda fierce.
Then her perfect sister commits perfect suicide
and everything changes.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

Whitley likes to PART-Y!
She’s got a reputation and that’s all good with her.
She can’t wait for college where she’s sure everyone will be JUST LIKE HER.
But things get a little complicated when her latest boy toy turns out to be more
then the one night stand she had in mind.

It seems to me that the bad girl isn’t as prevalent as the bad boy in many of the books I read, and I often wonder why? When I decided to write this discussion I thought about bringing up the differences in how readers view the bad girl and the bad boy in books. I thought about the double standard that bad girls face. I thought about why most YA bad girls are written as ‘bad’ because something ‘made’ them that way. All the bad girls I mentioned above are ‘bad’ for a reason: family issues, a traumatic event in their life, or a personal loss. But bad boys on the other hand, are often ‘bad’ just because. Just because they CAN. This is definitely NOT a new topic by any means. But being a reader of YA literature, it’s a topic that I think about often because it’s so present in the books I read.

And all that got me thinking about another favorite book and author interview I did recently that had a great bad girl protagonist. One of the author’s answers in particular struck a chord with me.

The Flyleaf Review: One of the things I loved most about Drain You was the character of Quinn Lacey because she is not your typical YA heroine. She’s an unapologetic slacker, she manipulates her parents and friends to serve her own means, and she juggles not one, but three different guys through the course of the book. To me, Quinn is written almost like a stereotypical “bad boy” and I LOVED that. I think her flaws make her character more authentic and that there is a little bit of Quinn in all of us (whether we want to admit to it or not.) When you were writing Drain You did you think about how very different Quinn was in regards to other female leads in today’s YA literature?

M. Beth Bloom: Absolutely. That was in fact my inspiration for the book. Female leads in so much fiction – particularly YA – drive me CRAZY. Women characters aren’t typically allowed to be as three-dimensional as men, and I’m here to change that. Quinn is a total bad boy, not in the rebellious way, but in certain immature and obnoxious ways – just like I feel like I was and many of my friends were. And why is it that men are always the ones stringing women along when that’s usually NOT how it is in adolescence? We’re the far more sketchy gender at that age!

I love that Bloom answered my question that way. And of all the books I’ve mentioned, only Drain You’s protagonist perfectly emulates the prototypical bad boy. Quinn is a bad girl just because she can be. Just because she wants to be. I for one, think that’s pretty darn awesome. I would love to see more female protagonists break through the stereotypes that dictate what’s “appropriate” behavior for girls and boys.

What do you think? Would you like reading more “unapologetic-and-bad-just-because-she-can-be” books? Or do you think that type of female character would be too inaccessible to most readers and someone they would have a hard time connecting to or empathizing with? Not sure? Head over to author Keirsten White’s (Paranormalcy, Supernaturally and Endlessly) 2010 post I’m Hot for Your Stereotype, where she plays around with gender stereotypes. Then come back and tell me your thoughts on the bad girl in YA literature!

Want to read more? My pal Jen has some things to say today about this topic as well! Head over to Jen Ryland/ Ya Romantics’ Bad Girl Post and read all her thoughts on the subject!

The Monthly Wrap-Up – March Edition (3)

Books Read:

Heather:

Burning by Elana K. Arnold
Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
The Fever Series (1-5) by Karen Marie Moning
Darkfever
Bloodfever
Faefever
Dreamfever
Shadowfever
Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry
Something Real by Heather Demetrios
The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt
The Luckiest Girl by Beverly Cleary
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Miller

Marlene:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Jewel of the Thames: A Portia Adams Adventure by Angela Misri

Books Reviewed:

Heather:

Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen
#16thingsithoughtweretrue by Janet Gurtler
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M.G. Buehrlen
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutoski
The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz
Sekret by Lindsay Smith
Half Bad by Sally Green

Marlene:

Of Beastand Beauty by Stacey Jay
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Jewel ofthe Thames: A Portia Adams Adventure by Angela Misri

Top Book of the Month:

Heather:

Yeah–no way can I go with just one:

The Rosie Project-
This is the ULTIMATE feel good read. Perfect if you have been reading a lot of heavy, angsty, gut-wrenching fiction. I adored it.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters-
I was SO lucky to get an e-ARC of this book–one of my most anticipated of the year. Words to describe it?
Ambitious. Swoony. Unexpected.
That’s all you get until my spoiler free review next week 🙂

Maybe Someday-
I wasn’t even thinking of reading this book to tell you the truth–it only very recently became known to me. Then my friend Lauren read and said although it wasn’t a book for her, she thought it might be for me. It was. But it’s the musical accompaniment by vocalist Griffin Peterson that makes this book so memorable and a top read for me.

Marlene:

Side Effects May Vary is my top read this month! The snarky, self-destructive, selfish, and manipulative Alice won me over somehow. Her complexity demanded attention, and my goodness, she had mine! Alice decides to embrace life when she’s diagnosed with leukemia–by seeking revenge on those who’ve wronged her and enlisting her childhood best friend to help. If this doesn’t sound like the book for you, don’t worry, Alice does some nice things too. Though she’ll infuriate you a lot, this girl is worthy of redemption. You might have to dig a little to see it, but it’s there. What I really enjoyed about Julie Murphy’s debut novel is how it pushes boundaries. We’re given a heroine who carries emotional baggage; someone who doesn’t know who to talk to or how to express her distress in a healthy manner, so naturally, her destructive behavior is messy and offensive. But you know what? This story packs so much truth about how confusing and chaotic life can be and how imperfect humans are, and I enjoyed it. Win!

Leading Character of the Month:

Heather:

Again, no way I’m going with one.
Here are my top three and why I chose them:

Most development and growth in a character: Liraz from Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Most pull at your heartstrings character: Don from The Rosie Project
Most enigmatic character: Jericho Barrons from The Fever Series

Marlene:

Anna Oliphant from Anna and the French Kiss. Can I just say that I want to be Anna’s friend? Because I do! Anna is taken out of her comfort zone and shipped off to Paris to finish off her high school career. At the beginning, Anna is scared and unsure, but she totally rises to the occasion, makes friends, and eventually navigates the streets of Paris on her own! I don’t know if I could ever be so daring, but in this story, we slowly see how independent Anna becomes. She aspires to become a film critic. She has a great sense of humor, is shamelessly clumsy, and is self-aware. Sure, Anna makes a few (romance related) mistakes along the way, but don’t we all? Love is a tricky thing, and sometimes, it takes dating a few frogs before discovering what a prince looks like. Was that cheesy? Yes. Yes it was. But I don’t care. This story is a feel-good kind of story, and Anna makes it all worthwhile. (So does Etienne, but you know, this section is about Anna). 😉

Most Memorable Quote/Excerpt Read This Month:

Heather:

I read a lot of great books with memorable quotes and excerpts but these two from The Chapel Wars are sticking with me:

“Hey Ho.”

“”If looks were America and ugly was Los Angeles, this boy was comfortably Kentucky. West Virginia when he smiled.”

Lindsey Leavitt, The Chapel Wars

Marlene:

I highlighted about 40 passages in Murphy’s novel. I truly enjoyed her writing style, it was both fluid and real.

I didn’t want the easy kind of love, I wanted the crazy love, the kind of love that created and destroyed all at the same time. – Anna

Julie Murphy, Side Effects May Vary