26 September 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Yay! It's MHLit's first Waiting on Wednesday!* Waiting on Wednesday, if you are unaware, showcases a book we can't wait for.

This week, we can't wait for THE CASUAL VACANCY by J.K. Rowling.

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. 

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war. 

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils... Pagford is not what it first seems. 

And the empty seat left by Barry on the town's council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?**

Marketed as "blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising," I'm actually nervous for this book. J.K. Rowling wrote the story that not only defined my childhood and shape my personality, but the story that defined and shaped my generation. We - those who were born 1987-1990 at least - literally grew up with Harry. Personally, my age group (23-year-olds) began reading Harry Potter in 4th grade and finished as we graduated high school. Harry has been apart of my life for about 10 years -  longer for so many of my friends.

We are all going to read this book. We know it. J.K. knows it.

Personally, I think that's a lot of pressure.

While I can't wait to read it, I also do have to wait until December due to some must-read library books. Although. I may just spend Thursday trapped in my room reading it non-stop. That's what I did with Harry. While this is no Harry, it's still J.K and SO MANY people I know will be reading it.

I'm nervous. I'm nervous for the story and for the fandom and whether or not it will be good and if we'll like it.

There's a reason J.K. almost decided to write her next story under a psudoname. There's a lot of pressure.

I'm also REALLY curious about this story. The cover is... well, the cover. We don't understand it yet. The title is confusing to what we know. The summary is vague and our only known character is dead. J.K. has, ONCE AGAIN, messed with our head. And for that, I'm excited.

So now I ask you, what will you be doing at midnight?

Me? Yeah, I'll be cuddled in bed with my Nook, reading a J.K. book.

*Waiting on Wednesday is a blog meme started by... someone. Not us. Someone else started it. Thanks!
**Summary provided by Amazon.com

24 September 2012

Kelly *finally* Reads: Anna and the French Kiss

WARNING: This post kind of contains spoilers. This is not a normal review - this is a blog about a book.

For the past two years, I have heard nothing but AMAZING things about Anna and the French Kiss. I heard so many AMAZING things, that I even bought it last year and put it on my TBR bookcase. When friends and other book nerds found out that I haven’t read Anna yet, I would get yelled at. This wasn’t just, “what?! you NEED to read it!” This was, “WHAT!?! YOU NEED TO READ IT. RIGHT NOW. GO HOME AND READ IT.” So on my vacation, it became the first book I opened. Well, maybe it got too much hype over the past two years, but I wasn’t amazed as my friends clearly were. Granted, it has been hyped for me for TWO YEARS. I was expecting near-perfection. Everyone told me how realistic it was and how it was such a perfect love story. “Perfect” and “amazing” is what they were saying, but I didn’t think it was perfect or ah-maz-ing. I thought it was a good, and yes, realistic, romance novel - naive girl, “perfect” boy and all.

Anna Needs a Logistical Lesson

Okay, seriously, was Anna born minutes before the book started? I couldn’t believe some of her dumbness. Are girls this dumb now a days? How could you not think there would be movie theatres in a WORLD CITY? I’m sorry, do you know how to use the internet? That bothered me.

I was also SO ANNOYED at how naive she was about St. Clair’s feelings for her and what was going on in Georgia while she was gone. Maybe it’s because I’m older and a little more worldly than her, but she annoyed me a LOT. I would KILL to spend a year in France. Sure, I wouldn’t want to miss my senior year either, but this was the opportunity of a lifetime. I think my age plays a huge part in me not liking Anna. I'm 23 and she's 17. There is a maturity difference. But I think 17-year-old Kelly would have been pissed at her, too, for being that upset about this opportunity.

Overall, Anna was VERY believable. I liked - no, loved that. She didn’t have a great relationship with her parents, but she didn't hate them. Her relationship with her best friend was almost identical to how Laura and I talk. I loved that she didn’t just like movies, she was passionate about them and ran a blog - every aspect of her was whole, down to her brother’s obsession with Star Wars. She was so real that the story felt more like a movie or television show than a book. John Green does that for me and I’m glad Stephanie did that, too. Her writing is truly fantastic.

But St. Clair...

Just let me roll my eyes at all the cheesiness that came along with St. Clair.

Okay, I’m done.

That’s all I’m saying on the subject.

Where is this damn french kiss?

First of all, I loved Dave. I wanted Anna to GET IT TOGETHER with her brain so badly and date him sooner. Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but what 17-year-old is? I loved him. I love how he flirted with her and asked her out and he was so great, until he was a 17-year old. Stephanie’s story had perfect realism (except for how dumb Anna was sometimes and even that is debatable realism). The ups and downs of the story were 110% possible for Anna and her life. Except how pretty she was. I don’t think she was pretty with the gap in her teeth. But maybe that’s just me. Whatever. She was the main character so OF COURSE the guys liked her.

Still, the french kiss is in the freaking title. I don’t think Stephanie could have waited longer for this damn kiss. I was SO HAPPY every time Anna and St. Clair got closer to being together. At the very end, I was so upset at Anna for being mad that St. Clair ran after Meredith and then still didn’t come to her. I knew what he was doing. So why was she so DUMB? I’m sorry, but she was DUMB.  

Yes, I liked it, so hand me Lola.

I did enjoy Anna and the French Kiss. It was everything I love in a contemporary YA romance. There was a cute (and British! -ish) boy, there was a girl, there were complications and there was an awesome kiss in a french graveyard. Plus, Stephanie Perkins can write. I always appreciate an author who can write round characters in believable situations set in awesome cities. I laughed, I teared up, and I screamed when we FINALLY got that french kiss. I will recommend it and I may even read it again one day. I’m excited to get and read Lola, as I think it will be better. Stephanie’s stories have an originality to them that’s hard to come by these days. I see contemporary YA becoming so much more realistic than it was ten years ago. I’m glad I read it. Was I amazed as you all seemed to be? No. But that’s hype for you.

19 September 2012

The Diviners: This Book Has Shirtless Boys

The Diviners by Libba Bray
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September 18, 2012)

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls ad rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. and through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first. (summary courtesy of amazon.com)

Laura: So, Kelly...What did you think of The Diviners? Wasn’t it just perfect?

Kelly: I read 137 pages. *hides*

Laura: WHAT?

Kelly: IT IS LONG (578 pages long, in fact).


Kelly: I have this thing about backstory... it tends to bore me. I *know* it is necessary, but it bores me. I will say that Libba properly puts you in the 1920’s though.

Laura: She does indeed! And while there is a lot of backstory, you do end up needing all of it. Which you will find out...When you FINISH THE BOOK.

Kelly: Yes, yes. OTHER BOOKS were calling my name. But the backstory is all necessary. I see that. Libba does a great job of introducing all the characters and the occult... THINGS that occur.

Laura: And you do need all of that. It is VITAL later. You cannot forget who your characters are, because each independent storyline ends up intertwining as the book progresses.

Kelly: Sometimes I thought she jumped a little too quickly. I had to remind myself that Memphis was in Harlem while Evie was Upper East Side with Theta.

Laura: And I have to say, it really helped that I read this book right after visiting New York City, because I would have had no idea where people were. And I would have thought they were a street away from each other, and it is actually a bigger city than that...

Kelly: Oh, yes! It is a BIG ISLAND. There should have been a map in the book.

Laura: We both have the ARCs...so it possible that there is a map in the finished copy. Someone with the hardcover will have to tell us if that is so in the comments (Imagine, Reader, I am staring pointedly at YOU). Maps are good. I like maps in books. Especially when I have never been to a place! And when walking across my hometown is barely a two mile trip.

Kelly: I am not a map person. I tend to just WANDER. But sometimes I need them in books, because I cannot see the place where I am. Even in The Name of the Star, though I have been to London, the map helped. There was a map. Right?

Laura: I think maps should be standard literary practice. Although I hate them and can barely read them in real life. And there is totally a map in The Name of the Star. I just checked for you.

Kelly: And that is why I love you. Sometimes there should be maps! Not always. But sometimes, the map helps. Especially when you have multiple characters scattered around the city.

Laura: Also if you are Thomas Hardy and you make up your own geography, despite the fact that you use real settings. Stupid Hardy, ungeography-ing England to suit his evil purposes...

Kelly: Um... okay. We should focus. Characters! Evie! She is so 1920’s it almost hurts. I loved it, but I could never have been friends with her.

Laura: I spent the first half of the novel wanting to hit her with an occult antiquity in the museum. She really needs a good clout in the head with a heavy object. It will ground her, and cause her to maybe be less...airheaded. Or traumatic brain injury. We don’t want that, though.

Kelly: No. Because she is very important. I see that. Libba did well in the backstory showing how the characters relate to their powers. I’m excited to see how they’re going to use them to solve the murder.

Laura: YES. You will love it. You will love watching all their stories intertwine. And you will love Henry, who is my favorite. KEEP READING FOR HENRY!

Kelly: I will! Henry seems sweet, but it seems out of place that his character is so openly gay. I feel like that wouldn’t happen in the 1920’s.

Laura: You’re probably right about that. But the reason he’s so open with Theta will become CLEAR as the story progresses. My mystical powers of foresight tell me this.

Kelly: So tell me more about the plot! I feel like Libba has primarily concentrated on the character’s backstory and I have only graced the surface of what’s going to happen.

Laura: NO SPOILERS. But you are right. The focus of this book seems to be primarily to introduce you to everyone and show you how their powers are going to make MAJOR THINGS happen in the coming books. However, you will get to enjoy lots of SCARY MURDEROUS OCCURRENCES and eventually, you will find sleep impossible.

Kelly: Oh, my goodness, yes! The murder was VERY SCARY! I just kept screaming at my book. It’s like what you do while watching a scary movie. But then we get the Law & Order side of the story, which I always love!

Laura: Get used to the scary feeling, Kelly. IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE. You will stop sleeping. And you will jump at small noises and never walk alone anywhere ever.

Kelly: I do not do well with scary. This is why I read romances. NOTHING BAD HAPPENS IN ROMANCES. Or John Green books. Except for killing amazing characters.

Laura: Nothing bad happens in romances? Like Romeo and Juliet, that was a happy story for you?

Kelly: TRUE LOVE! HE KILLED HIMSELF TO BE WITH HER. But in my teenage love stories, there is rarely brutal murder. I like it this way.

Laura: Brutal murder/suicides, Twin. Murder/suicides. But really, you will get your love story as you continue reading. There is a fantastic love triangle. Well, love QUADRANGLE, as the story continues. All the peoples, they love each other.

Kelly: I LIKE THE LOVE STORIES. I see it already. Sam Lloyd and Evie. Mabel and Jericho. LOVE. I NEED THE LOVE.

Laura: Now what you need to do is take those names, and throw them in a hat, and shake the hat around, and dump the names on the ground. Because it is not so simple. LOVE QUADRANGLE. Plus hot and shirtless boys, Twin.

Kelly: Shirtless boys? YOU DID NOT TELL ME THIS. I need to carry on now. Any story that has a shirtless boy is a GOOD STORY.

Laura: I AGREE. Now go read!!!

Kelly: OKAY!! *flies away*

Laura: Since Kelly is now... gone, you guys should watch this amazingly funny (drunken) review of The Diviners.

18 September 2012

Happy Book Birthday!!

There is nothing Kelly and Laura love more than new books! Happy Book Birthday to these amazing books that we love/can't wait to read!

BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOOD by Gabrielle Zevin
     The follow-up of ALL THE THINGS I'VE DONE is finally here! We picked it up at BEA '12 and love Gabrielle Zevin! 

BURN FOR BURN by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian 
      This book was a hot BEA '12 book, missed by Laura and Kelly. But three girls after revenge? Nothing could bring us more joy! Burn for Burn is by two amazing authors and is sure to be a great read. 

      The sequel release to HOLD ME CLOSER, NECROMACER! Laura was lucky enough to get her hands on an ARC of this book, and it is a glorious mix of hilarity and soul-crushing terror. Poor Sam never gets a break. Unless shattered bones count...

TEN by Gretchen McNeil
       No electricity, no phones, no internet, and no ferry? A house-party gone bad is just the start of this horror YA novel. 

       The Girl of Fire and Thorns series continues! Elisa may have been a hero when she saved her people from a horrible sorcerous army, but now she must follow a trail of long forgotten and forbidden clues in a quest to save her people from a threat that is far greater than she could have realized. Plus there is Hector, and he is swoonworthy. Laura adored this book and can't wait for you to read it so she can talk about it!

WHAT'S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang
       Yay! A debut author who was buzzed like crazy at BEA, for good reason! Laura loved this book and can't wait for the next installment. Kat is so sweet and she's still in college! Congratulations!

THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater
       Another amazing book by Maggie. She's a writing machine and we got the chance to meet her at BEA '12! This book blew Laura away! Blue Sargent has known her whole life that she will kill her true love, and then she meets Gansey, and THE CREEPY AWESOMENESS HAPPENS. Really, you have to read it.

THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray
        Four young adults are blessed with powers in 1920's NYC. Libba's new book is thriller + historial fiction with a dash of paranormal. At close to 600 pages, Laura couldn't have dreamed of a better book. Come back tomorrow to see our discussion! 

Which books are you going to read? Tell us in the comments below! 

17 September 2012

The NEW Magic Hoodie Literary Society

First of all, we want to apologize for another gap in our blog. We appreciate all of our followers and readers, but the fact is, it’s hard to keep up a blog, go to work, go to school, go to internships, apply to grad school *and* have a social life. For this, we are forever sorry we do not have infinite amounts of time to devote to this blog.

As you all know, earlier this year Bailey and Kenzie left the blog for personal reasons. This brought our “staff” down to two, Laura and Kelly. We realized we would need to take on more work, and during BEA ‘12 we discussed the future of the Magic Hoodie Literary Society.

We knew that we did not want to end MHLit. We love it and we love you. We love what we do. Second of all, we wanted to turn it into more of a literary society, not just a review blog. That means numerous things. While you will still see reviews of YA books, you’re also going to see SO much more.

There’s going to be Waiting on Wednesday, In My Mailbox, Book Boyfriends, Best Of lists, interviews with our favorite authors, contests [hopefully], and a new recurring post that Kelly will start THIS Friday.

Laura and Kelly are VERY excited for the new chapter of MHLit. We are open to new ideas and if something we do stinks, tell us. We want to make it more of a literary society where YOU are included in the conversation. PLEASE leave us comments down below and if you would like to be a guest reviewer or blogger, don’t hesitate to ask!

We’re gonna get the ball rolling with a joint review of THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray on Wednesday [hopefully, if Kelly can read fast enough]! The Diviners is out TOMORROW, so don’t forget to buy yourself a copy!  

05 June 2012

BEA Love! - Day One

Hello from NYC!

We've been having a fabulous time together! There has been talk of the future of MHLit, books, twindom, and so much more. If you go onto Kelly's blog or Laura's blog [click over there. on your right!], you can see our adventures from yesterday.

Today, we are slightly exhausted and really just want to sleep.

And sleep should happen.

Really. It should.

But it won't.

Not until we tell you our favourite pick ups of the day!


Matched, by Ally Condie.
The Diviners, by Libba Bray
Out of Easy, by Ruta Sepetys
Because It Is My, by Gabrielle Zevin


I have to pick one?

The Diviners, by Libba Bray
Out of Easy, by Ruta Sepetys
12.21, by Dustin Thompson.
The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater

It would make sense that twins would pick two of the same books. Because we are twins. We OBVIOUSLY got lots of other books that you will hear about soon, especially here, but for now, we're sleeping.

Kelly's BEA book count: 24
Laura's BEA book count: 24

01 June 2012

Pre-BEA Tips!


By tomorrow night, I will be sitting next to the beautiful Laura who I share this blog with. And in FIVE DAYS, we will be at BEA. How awesome is that?

So in a PRE BEA MADNESS FREAKOUT, I am taking a break to write you all a post. Laura and I are VERY excited for BEA for multiple reasons. We cannot wait to meet tons of authors, get TONS of ARCs to review for you all and FINALLY meet each other.

While I am now a BEA-veteran, Laura is not. So I share some tips for her and for you all.

1. WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. BEA begins at 9am every day and ends at 5pm. You walk for about 95% of that time. Comfortable shoes is a MUST.
2. Dress business casual. You're still at a publishing conference. Be professional.
3. Bring business cards and/or your resume. You're going to be meeting people who want to follow you on twitter and read your blog. Have that information ready for them.
4. BRING SNACKS. Seriously. I don't think I had any time to eat last year. It's called the BEA diet.
5. You get a LOT of books. They hand them out like they're candy. Due to this, bring a small suitcase. It costs a few dollars to check, but it's so worth it when you have 20 books and you're shoulder is going to fall of after a block.
6. Pack a water bottle. Caffinee. The cafeteria in Javitz is overpriced and packed with people.
7. Interact with EVERYONE you meet. You never know who's around.

8. Make a schedule. Find out who is signing when and where and write it down. So you can see everything you want to and not miss anything because you just didn't know about it.
9. While following this schedule, just jump on random lines. Free books. Seriously. That's how I got six DoS&B.
10. GO TO PANELS. Listen to what the publishers are saying. Look at the trends. Don't just be a blogger that blogs, be the FIRST blogger to blog.

Okay, I lie, this is the MOST important,
11. HAVE FUN! It's a long day [or three days]. Go meet authors. Discuss blogging. Pick up free books, even if you donate them later. Smile.

Always, always smile.

22 May 2012

Our Society Changes... Again.

Dearest followers and readers,

We are sad to announce that Kenzie has also decided to leave our fair blog due to her personal life and academic commitments.

With this second change to our ranks, we have decided to take this opportunity and re-vamp the site a little bit. You'll still see reviews, but you'll also see some other fun posts and possibly a new full-time reviewer and a guest reviewer or two.

We are also covering BEA! How exciting! We're really very excited for a number of reasons. First, we're finally going to be meeting each other! Then, we get to spend the week meeting other bloggers, discussing YA lit, and getting our hands on juicy ARCs. During this week, we will be discussing our ideas and plans for MHL.

Never fear, for as long as there's books, we will be reading them.

Best Wishes,

Kelly and Laura.

p.s. A HUGE thanks to Kenzie and Bailey for doing all the design work they have for our fair site. We do not have the knowledge they have. So we thank thee.

15 May 2012

Friendship Lost = Book Love

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9/13/11)
Review by Kelly Lucas

In this high school-set psychological tale, a tormented teen named Evan starts to discover a series of unnerving photographs—some of which feature him. Someone is stalking him . . . messing with him . . . threatening him. Worse, ever since his best friend Ariel has been gone, he's been unable to sleep, spending night after night torturing himself for his role in her absence. And as crazy as it sounds, Evan's starting to believe it's Ariel that's behind all of this, punishing him. But the more Evan starts to unravel the mystery, the more his paranoia and insomnia amplify, and the more he starts to unravel himself. Creatively told with black-and-white photos interspersed between the text so the reader can see the photos that are so unnerving to Evan, Every You, Every Me is a one-of-a-kind departure from a one-of-a-kind author.*

DL Rocks.

Every You, Every Me was dauntingly beautiful and terrifically scary. David Levithan has such a way with words. He can take a simple plot and a simple character and turn it into one of the deepest books I have ever read.

All we know is that Ariel is gone. We don’t know how, we don’t know where. We just know that she’s gone and she’s left Evan, her best friend, and Jack, her boyfriend, in the wake of it all. When Evan begins receive the mystery photos, he wants to find out who is sending them. Jack just wants to move on. But from what, exactly? What happened to Ariel? Every You, Every Me is a mystery worthy of Margo Roth Spiegelman of Paper Towns** by John Green.

Just like Margo, Ariel haunts every page of this book. She’s there, but she’s not. Evan is our narrator and he is very troubled by the disappearance of Ariel. Matched with photos by Jonathan Farmer, Levithan really brought Evan, Jack, and Ariel to life quickly and fully. I cared about these characters from page one, even though I knew nothing about them. That is the beauty of David Levithan’s writing; it was the heartache of friend lost that I connected to.

This is annoying.

I love how David Levithan really attempts to go outside of the box with his writing. He writes so differently and is constantly creating new ways to tell a story. With this story, I learned that he and his photographer, Jonathan Farmer, “wrote” the book together. Levithan would get a picture from Farmer and write a bit, then ask for another photo. New and innovated; that’s David Levithan and that’s why I love him.

About half of the book has its narration striked through. This technique was very different than what I am used to. I understand that Levithan wanted the reader to know these thoughts of Evan’s but Evan wanted to take them back. Unfortunately, it annoyed me. The effect was done well, but done a lot and I just didn’t like it. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t love the book, though.

Still a Must-Read

Evan’s voice and his journey to find the messenger of the photos and our journey to figure out how Ariel disappeared was brilliant. Truly, truly brilliant. I’m not a fan of mysteries, but this was not a traditional mystery, it was a contemporary mystery. And it was Evan’s mystery; we were just along for the ride. He sought out the clues, which were far and few. The answers to his questions just led to more questions. Kind of like LOST, but with better writing. There are times when I knew what happened to Ariel, but then I would turn the page and Evan had me recanting those thoughts.

Unlike most of Levithan’s books,
Every You, Every Me moved a little slowly. Yet, by the time you hit the climax, it’s a straight drive home. I loved the ending and the “solving” of the mystery was not what I expected. Levithan has never disappointed before and he did not disappoint me again. This book is a must-read for anyone who loves DL, loves contemporary mysteries, or had loved a friend and lost them.

*Thanks, Amazon!
**If you haven’t read Paper Towns, you should. Margo is a mystery herself, which is why Ariel reminds me of her.

17 April 2012

A Change for MHL

Hey, Guys.

The Magic Hoodie Lit Society is going through some changes.

One of our great girls, Bailey, has chosen to bow out of MHLit in order to dedicate her time to her academics. While we’ll miss her a lot, we wish her the best with her studies and encourage her to do her best.

In her absence, we’ll still be writing reviews and updating just as quickly as we always have. We still love all of our followers and hope that you will continue to read our posts.

Thanks for being so awesome!

10 April 2012

Black Heart Left My Heart Racing

Black Heart by Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry Books, April 3, 2012)
Review by Kenzie Helene

Nearly two years since the series began, we are finally getting the magnificent conclusion to Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. Now, if you haven’t already read White Cat and Red Glove, you should leave this review, since it will contain spoilers for the first two books. But your lack of preparation for Black Heart can be fixed! All three books have been released, so it’s the best time to launch yourself into this brilliant series.


Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.

But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.*


Red Glove left Cassel -- and us --in a few too many awkward situations. Shandra Singer is in trouble for making the governor of New Jersey fall in love with her. Lila has joined her father’s mob gang. And meanwhile Cassel and Barron, Cassel’s older brother, have gotten involved with the Feds. Left with this big mess to clean up, I eagerly awaited the arrival of Black Heart. On April 3rd, I woke up early, headed straight for the bookstore, purchased my copy, and was a 87 pages into the novel before classes swept my time and attention away.

In my opinion, Black Heart is the perfect ending to this series. Not every character got their happy ending (or, at least, the ending that would have made them the happiest), but even the complicated ones are heartwarming. Cassel’s dysfunctional relationships with Barron and Shandra held the most interest for me-- seeing the family dynamic change through their interactions and discoveries in Black Heart was great.

Holly Black is an undeniable master of back story, so the characters in the Curse Workers series have never been flat, and yet she manages to add more depth throughout Black Heart. The new motives and emotions that emerge from characters who had minor roles previously offer the reader a more engaged experience during this last book.

The plot is spectacular, not that anyone would expect less from Holly Black. Every time I thought I had a grasp on Cassel’s intentions, he’d turn ‘em around and leave me with my jaw on the floor. It isn’t just Cassel, though. Every character seems to have secret, unexpected plans, and I wanted to facepalm several times for not jumping to the right conclusion the first time... or second time... or third time.

While the end pairings were predictable, the journey to get there was more than worth the trip.

I’m sad that I don’t have anymore Curse Workers books to look forward to now, but I’m certainly happy with how things work out for Cassel, Lila, Sam, and Daneca. I’ll just have to keep rereading these great books, while I wait for new genius plots from Holly Black.

*Taken from Barnes and Noble Website.

27 March 2012

Legite Librum!

Even the cover is MYSTERIOUS
The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman (Random House, April 10, 2012)
Review by Laura Beutler

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 all still true: Chris was dead.  His girlfriend Adriane, 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, according to her parents, according 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 might 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.

I read the description of this book and thought...This is MY KIND OF BOOK. And I was right. From the first sentence to the last, I was caught up in Nora’s story and her search for her friend Chris’ killer. What makes The Book of Blood and Shadow especially interesting is the way in which Nora’s story is told. There are two main plot arcs within The Book of Blood and Shadow. One is narrated by Nora, explaining how she first came to study the Lumen Dei (which is a book on alchemy dating back hundreds of years) with her friend Chris and his roommate, Max. The other is that of a young woman, Elizabeth Weston, who lived in the 16th century and also studied the Lumen Dei. Nora learns about Elizabeth by translating Elizabeth’s letters. Through them, she is able to discover more about the Lumen Dei than any living scholar. By the end of the book, Nora and Elizabeth’s stories have proven to be linked.

Above all, The Book of Blood and Shadow is a mystery. The Lumen Dei, or The Book, as Nora’s professor refers to it, is a mystery. No one knows what secrets the Lumen Dei contains, but for centuries, scholars have worked to make sense of it. Nora and her friends are no different. They begin to study the Book as part of a college class. In the process, Nora discovers what she thinks is a clue in one of Elizabeth’s letters. The next thing she knows, her friend Chris is dead and the police think it was Nora’s boyfriend, Max, who killed him. But no. Nora doesn’t think that’s true. She thinks--she knows--that Chris’ death is her fault. She gave him the Elizabeth’s letter he day he died, and she’s certain that information contained in the letter could finally make sense out of the Lumen Dei. She thinks someone must have wanted to find out the truth hidden in Lumen Dei enough to kill for it, so Nora goes to work tracking down Elizabeth’s clues in an effort to find Chris’ killer. Plot twists abound, and by the end of the novel, figuring out who Nora can trust is as difficult as forming gold out of lead*. A lesser writer than Robin Wasserman would not have been able to pull off a plot this complex, but she does it beautifully.

I tend to love books in which a character’s research is an integral plot device. I can just hear all of you out there saying, “What on earth is this girl talking about?” or “Gee, she’s a whole lot weirder than I thought she was.”  I’ll explain myself a little better. Nora needs to find out who killed her friend Chris. Since Chris’ death is wound up in the history of the Lumen Dei, Nora needs to work out what the Lumen Dei exactly IS in order to save Max from jail, her best friend Adriane from the crazy, and probably her own life. And to do that, she needs to do lots of translating. The effect of all this research-related amazingness is a book told across time, through several voices.

“But Laura,” you say. “That sounds boring! Why should I read a book about translating a book?”

1. Because I said so.

2. Because it is freaking amazing. The characters, with all their different motivations, are captivating, and there are plot twists left and right. That is a recipe for greatness.

3. Because any book that opens with the sentence, “I should probably start with the blood,” cannot possibly be boring. So there.

Nora’s translations take her across Europe and lead to lots of MURDER. This is why Kenzie should pay attention in her Latin class instead of tweeting and reading fanfiction. Hear that, Kenz?

I also love Latin. I like my languages good and dead, which is too bad, because that makes it a whole lot harder to learn them (The closest my high school came to offering Latin was Spanish. Spanish and Latin are not the same. Not even close). The instant Nora described sitting down with her father for Latin lessons, I was hooked. Robin Wasserman made Nora and her father’s love of Latin transcend the page. Nora uses Latin as an escape from her home life and the grief she feels after the loss of first her brother, then her friend Chris.

When I finished reading this book (on my Kindle thanks to NetGalley), I immediately pre-ordered a copy of my very own so I could pet it and cherish it and put it on the Favorites Shelf. So, to say I strongly recommend The Book of Blood and Shadow would be a bit of an understatement. Robin Wasserman really raised the bar with this book. I look forward to see what she comes up with next!

* That’s an alchemy thing.

13 March 2012

76% Chance of Likeability

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Site by Jennifer E. Smith (Poppy, 1/2/2012)
Review by Kelly Lucas

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.*

It’s 6:56 Eastern Standard Time (11:56 Greenwich Mean Time) and Hadley is running late. As you open the first pages of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jennifer Smith drops you in middle of JFK and at the beginning of Hadley’s adventure to London. Then she misses her flight to London for her father’s second marriage - by four minutes.

These four little minutes [as our handy synopsis tells us] change the path Hadley thought she should be on. Hadley now gets to meet Oliver, who is British and on his way to London as well. In an act of British kindness, Oliver helps Hadley with her bag and the two start to get to know each other in JFK. Over the course of their seven-hour flight, they begin to learn about each other, their lives and the conflicts concerning their trips.

Obviously, the two start to fall for each other. The title kind of gives it away. I was pleasantly surprised at how witty Hadley and Oliver are. From their first conversation all the way to their last, the two banter like they’ve known each other for years. Oliver’s humor specifically hooked me into this story. He’s charming (and British) and funny (and British) and so kind (and British). Smith captures his voice so well. She uses the slang that an 18-year-old British boy would use. I loved that. Without even checking, I know Smith has either spent a lot of time with British people or done her homework very well.

Hadley’s adventure takes place over a 24-hour period - from JFK to the end of her father’s wedding. Fortunately for us, we get to see a lot of Hadley and Oliver learning about each other. It’s the first flirtations of a relationship that always make me smile and Smith has written it well. Unfortunately, detailing this 24-hour time period became a little boring towards the end. Once Hadley and Oliver went their separate ways, Hadley became a whiny 17-year-old. I was aching for more Oliver, and more Oliver/Hadley banter.

Hadley on her own is not that appealing. While I understand she is trying to survive a very difficult situation, I would have thought she’d be more mature about the situation. After her parents divorce, she helped carry her mother through the ordeal. Maybe it’s because I never had to deal with divorce or re-marriage, but I couldn’t relate to her. All Hadley talked about and flashed back to was the divorce, how angry she was at her father for leaving, and the re-marriage. I hate calling characters flat, but she is. Hadley often recalls the moments that lead to her flying to her father’s second wedding, but we really don’t get to learn too much about Hadley. The only way I can describe her is an angry teenage girl. She hasn’t even been overly heartbroken to need Oliver to sweep her off her feet. Smith does a lot of telling, and not too much showing.

By the time I realized this, I was 170 pages into the book. Smith hooks you in early and only briefly unhooks you. I did not find this to be the case with Oliver. He, just like Hadley, is going through a difficult situation. Unlike Hadley, he chooses to focus on her and not on himself. As the 24 hours progress, Hadley [and I] uncover Oliver. His flaws only make him real, instead of an idealised kind British boy you happen to sit next to on a very long flight.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Site is sweet, charming, and a quick read. But I loved the idea of the story more than I actually loved the story itself. I don’t know if it’s worth the $18 a bookstore will charge you, but if you happen to miss a flight by four minutes and are stuck in an airport, you might as well pick it up and enjoy the ride.

*Plot synopsis taken from Amazon.com

28 February 2012

Get Your Cupcakes!

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler (Simon Pulse, 1/3/2012) 
Review by Bailey Kelsey

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances, a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life—and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last....*

This is not a novel to be read without an adequate (and by adequate, I mean approximately 3 dozen) cupcakes on hand. Why? Because each chapter begins with a very delicious cupcake description, a cupcake for every possible problem life throws your way. If you don’t have access to delicious, cupcake goodness, you’ll be in agony for the rest of your reading experience.  


The first fifty pages of this book packs in quite the back story, and it’s one of the few books I’ve read with a prologue that is completely necessary. And let me let you in on what the synopsis doesn’t tell you (and don’t worry, it’s all right there in the prologue): Hudson’s dashed dream is Olympic-level figure skating and the big betrayal is her father cheating on her mother, which ends in divorce. 

In a series of fortunate events, Hudson’s life collides with Josh’s, a high school hockey player who desperately wants her help on the ice. But instead of coaching  just  Josh, Hudson ends up teaching all the Wolves how to skate better, the linchpin in their ten-year losing streak. In return, she asks for undisturbed ice time so she can put a routine together for a skate competition that comes with the higher prize of a $50,000 college scholarship. 

While bits and pieces of this plot seemed entirely convenient, I’m old enough to know that life does have a tendency to throw what one wants or needs into the mix at eerily precise moments. Of course, what one wants or needs isn’t always compatible. While reading, I found myself continuously doubting which path Hudson should take. 


Hudson is a high school girl, the local Cupcake Queen, and under the bizarre impression she can hold the aforementioned title and remain under the radar of her peers.  Her voice, as a first-person narrator, was typical of most other female first-person narratives I’ve read in YA. The action carried more of the story than her narration did. 

I must admit to being continuously frustrated by Hudson’s party line: I am not selfish. Or rather, her tendency to change the subject / offer excuses when other characters made a point to mention to Hudson her increasingly selfish behavior throughout the story-arc. This isn’t to say this particular characterization is not spot-on, and there is a very good Moment of Self Realization towards the end that I enjoyed immensely because of this characterization. But still, it’s annoying and a reader should be prepared to want to smash a few of Hudson’s cupcakes in her face. 


Much of this book references back to Hester Prynne, and I have no idea why. Yes, Hudson is reading The Scarlet Letter in her English class; yes, plenty of high school girls have felt condemned and ostracized by their peers. But those connections are weak, and often actually missing several larger Points of The Scarlett Letter, and doing nothing to add depth to either the plot of this novel nor to the character of Hudson. There were a few moments where the out-of-place Hester references almost made me stop reading. I feel a need to admit to that here.

The ending (the final two chapters, specifically) made the entire read worthwhile, though. Ockler leaves certain plot lines unfinished.  These plot lines represent realities that Hudson must accept, as they are, for her to make a giant leap in personal growth. I won’t spoil whether Hudson does or doesn’t understand what she’s facing at the end, but that the option is left up to the character, and not easily solved by the author, was especially meaningful. 

*Plot synopsis taken from BarnesandNoble.com